Spare the team bit, all right? I work alone.
Way back in the halcyon days of, ah, October, commenter The Left Hand of the Son of Coul recommended that a Why the fuck not? of the week be instituted as a regular feature for these Legends Of Tomorrow reviews. It was a good suggestion. Week in and week out, this bonkers little television show has offered strong contenders for the category. Ray turned into a pig and then turned back into a man while being cradled in Nate’s arms while the latter stood in front of his father, asserting his value and independence. Ray Palmer kidnapped a royal corgi, which then got a mohawk. Garima came to life. The list goes on. Yet Legends never stopped rooting the madness in the inner lives, relationships, and histories of its characters, and so none of the silliness managed to capsize the Waverider.
Frequently the madness has been the result of the team, its powers combined, stumbling onto a nutso situation and solving it in the weirdest way possible. But here, it’s mostly (though not entirely) the result of the team forgetting a key lesson from Horror Movie 101: Never split up. In defense of the Legends, they mostly have solid reasons for parting company. There’s a real need for an A Team and an... Other Team, Sara and Ava are absolutely capable of taking care of themselves, and Zari does actually try to keep the... Other Team together. But John Constantine, who works alone, who won’t wear a comm and doesn’t want backup, he has other ideas. Spare the team bit, all right? I work alone.
And now Zari’s a cat. Are you satisfied, John?!
The main perk of having friends with loads of time-travel experience—including a few acquainted with one Barry Allen, who has made this exact mistake about once a season—is that they can warn you off stuff like this, mate. It’s actually pretty brilliant, the way the Legends writers room have simply embraced the fact that at least half the people who spend any significant amount of time on the Waverider are going to want to change the past to save a loved one. It was, after all, Rip Hunter’s reason for bringing the team together in the first place. But every other time, something or someone has convinced the grieving party to keep it together. Not this time, though. John Constantine changes everything by saving the man he loves, and it seems we’ve now entered a timeline we’ll call... Crasspoint.*
For all the delights of “Hell No, Dolly!,” up to and including its very title**, that cliffhanger just might be the high-water mark. But what makes it so terrific is that it doesn’t come out of nowhere. When you look at the season so far as a whole, it all build to this moment. Constantine’s arc is the most obvious, but even Ray Palmer’s mustache has its roots early in the season, when Ray tried so hard to deny how he feels about Nora. Ava’s clone thing has been simmering for quite some time, and it makes perfect sense that her need to keep things in control would clash with Rory’s whole deal. (Throw Garima and her three breasts in, and things get even more interesting.) Zari’s transitioned from the person needing someone to keep her from doing whatever she wants with the timeline to keeping others from doing so. They subverted the Mona storyline they’ve been teasing all season in the most unexpected way possible. All great.
And to cap it all off, “Dolly” mostly corrects the issues of last week’s episode by tying all those threads together in the most interesting way possible, and by keeping one storyline a little light—one that’s best in small doses (the one with the talking doll, voiced by Paul Reubens of Pee-wee Herman fame). It gets its points across quickly. Marie Laveau isn’t a serial killer, but the crimes of Mike the Spike get pinned to her because she’s a woman of color (Black and Native American) with power; the perpetrator is actually a killer doll; Marie’s story is linked to John through his lost lover, Dez; the ginger’s just looking for the bathroom.
It helps that, in addition to subverting tropes (and showing us two loving same-sex couples laying passionate smooches on each other), Grainne Godfree and Morgan Faust’s writing for this episode packs in about a joke a minute without ever abandoning the pathos Constantine’s tragic backstory places at the foreground. That’s thanks in no small part to Matt Ryan’s harrowing performance and April Mullen’s playful but sincere direction. Even Mona and Konane’s blooming romance carries some weight, and Mick and Ava’s fight at dinner certainly does. It all matters, even the silly stuff, and each story builds to the same conclusion: Everyone’s locked into some kind of battle when things go very, very wrong.
If you wrote down every single thing that happened in this episode, it would seem too ludicrous to be taken even a little bit seriously. Come on, the final battle is against a puppet version of a dearly departed team member, none of this should work. Yet all that why the fuck not? works, because it springs from a place of honesty and a willingness to investigate the emotional underpinnings of all the what-the-fuckery. It’s nuts, but it’s not random. It’s crazy, batshit crazy, like a fox.
* I’m workshopping it.
** Updated season four episode title ranking — 7. Witch Hunt (too on the nose), 6. Dancing Queen (disappointing lack of disco, bonus for surprise appearance of the queen), 5. Tagumo Attacks!!! (love the exclamation points, dinged for lack of cheesy pun), 4. Tender Is The Nate (needed more F. Scott Fitzgerald, made me giggle), 3. Hell No, Dolly! (no musical numbers? You’re killin’ me, writers), 2. Wet Hot American Bummer (still laughing, weeks later; for a fun bonus, imagine Constantine doing Paul Rudd-style cleaning), 1. The Virgin Gary (solid contender for best Legends title, though nothing will ever beat Guest Starring John Noble). Next week’s episode is called Legends Of To-Meow-Meow. Expect it to rank high.
- Why the fuck not?: As mentioned above, there’s just no point in picking one, so let’s go with a few little things and one big one. Gary negs. Gary gets triggered by high school. Ray has Gideon grow him a mustache. Rory teaches Garima one word, and it’s BEER. Oh, and the dybbuk inhabits the grief-therapy puppet version of Martin Stein. And then Zari turned into a cat.
- Line-reading of the week: “Gentlemen, gentlemen, gentlemen! I mustache you to calm down.”
- Gideon, what’s the most meta moment?: “Oh, Nate, my boyfriend! And my crazy gang of best friends!” See also: Crasspoint (Daftpoint, maybe?) results in Zari turning into a cat, which feels like a very affectionate dig at The Flash.
- Neron (note: possible information about future events, as that link leads to information about the character from the Hellraiser comics).
- Arrow corner: An episode with some definite highs, the rapport between Oliver and the former members of Not Team Arrow chief among them, and a terrific hallway fight—but then they had to go and do that ending. I’m tired, man. Still, it’s striking how much better the writing of the relationships is this season, and I’m enjoying the hell out of future Dinah (and as always, Not-Laurel.)
- In case you need a refresher: