If you truly love the characters, don’t they deserve a great ending?
It’ll be interesting to see how “Romeo V. Juliet: Dawn Of Justness” plays when this season of Legends Of Tomorrow has concluded. Will we remember it on its own, or will it be linked with the big episode that came just before? In many ways, this hour—a little more rushed, a little less daring than its predecessor—feels like the second half of a two-parter, the giddy and unabashedly sentimental coda to the loftier “Mr. Parker’s Cul-De-Sac.” In that way, it’s reminiscent of another prominent Legends farewell story—the one-two punch that was the finale of the Crisis On Infinite Earths crossover and the introduction of “Beebe The God Of War.” In that case, Victor Garber’s Martin Stein actually exited the series in the first of those episodes, while the emotional heavy-lifting arrived in part two in totally chaotic and weird Legends fashion. And this episode is much the same—the real ending happened last week. “Dawn Of Justness” is just the sad, wild goodbye.
As such, it’s not without its stumbles. But they’re minor (and do nothing to diminish the episode’s tremendous appeal), and it’s possible that with distance these excellent hours of television will feel like two halves of a greater whole. If that happens, it’ll all be one long goodbye to Courtney Ford’s Nora Darhk and Brandon Routh’s Ray Palmer (especially the latter) and all those little flaws will matter a lot less.
There’s no encore this week, but the season storyline marches on all the same, as the Charlie-endorsed search for the pieces of the Loom Of Fate (sorry, that’s some MacGuffin talk early in the recap) brings the non-book-club members of the team to Shakespeare’s London. It is, even by Legends standards, a pretty flimsy excuse for a very specific destination in time; the show retcons in a longstanding friendship between Charlie and Shakespeare by saying she didn’t want to drop names. We also get a few scenes between Astra and the Coin Maker, who’s beginning to seem increasingly important (and who apparently owns the infernal version of a Pensieve.) Those scenes resonate a bit with the main storyline thematically, in that Constantine is looking to rewrite Astra’s life, which means separating her from her family (the Coin Maker, who raised her). We also move the Mick storyline along, as he drunkenly spills the beans to his fellow Legends at Ray’s impromptu bachelor party, then later has a heart-to-heart with Mona, who also lets him know she considers him a father figure. Good stuff, if brief.
But the real story here is the long goodbye to Ray Palmer, which ingeniously manages to be about both the past and the future. It’s a vintage Legends storyline, centered mostly on them screwing things up in a major way—that bachelor party results in the team getting so drunk that they have a major brawl in which Ray’s ATOM suit rockets around the room by itself and hits a dude in the nuts, and when a wasted Nate inadvertently flashy-things the team instead of William Shakespeare, the similarly drunken members of book club suddenly realizes the title they’re reading has changed to Romeo V. Juliet: Dawn Of Justness. (Just deliciously shady.) And how is it ultimately resolved? Without Ray, but with the Ray Palmer spirit. The episode shows us both how it started and how it will continue, even when Sweet Ray Ray’s no longer bumming around the Waverider, hoping to start some team-building exercises.
Even that, though, isn’t the real storyline. Clever and thoughtful though it may be, all the Shakespeare stuff is just a means to an end, a way to connect one great love story to another. It’s hard to imagine a more fitting tribute to the sincerely beautiful friendship between Nate Heywood and Ray Palmer than once again unabashedly embracing the romance of it all. It’s not queer-baiting; there’s no undercurrent of sexuality. It’s never been about that. The Ray/Nate friendship has always been unusual in that it’s centered on two men who take obvious delight in each other, who talk about their feelings and have no qualms about showing affection, who constantly make each other happy and challenge each other to be better. You can absolutely be in love with friends without ever having that love be traditionally romantic. They are bros, pure and simple, and it’s swooningly romantic.
“It’s a weird thing with friendship. It starts because you need each other, and then if you do it right and help each other grow, you need each other less,” Nate tells Sara near the end of the hour. That’s what book club did for those ladies, and it’s what Nate and Ray did for each other. But it’s also the kind of line—one of several in this episode—that seems to be as much for those writing it and those at home hearing it as it is for the story. Take that line up at the top of this review—“If you truly love the characters, don’t they deserve a great ending?”—which is both a convincing argument for Shakespeare to go ahead and scrap the ATOM suit from his stage directions and a message from the writers directly to us. Take Nate and Ray saying “this sucks, but I love you.” It’s all from the heart, and the rest is incidental.
The writers of Legends Of Tomorrow sent off one of TV’s softest boys and his purest bromance by having Nate Heywood embrace one of the great romance tropes of all time—the race to the airport. They gave Ray and Nora a happy ending, which Romeo and Juliet never got. (They also gave Nora a pony.) And they gave the audience an hour to sniffle through, an extended chance to say goodbye to a terrific character and a wonderful performance. To Ray Palmer and his green juice. The Waverider won’t be the same without him.
- Another week in which including quotes is futile. Incredibly quotable episode.
- So... are they setting up a Constantine/Zari/Nate love triangle?
- Episode MVP: Silver medal to Nick Zano, extended victory lap to the great Brandon Routh, who hits this one out of the park in every scene. I hope we see him (and Courtney Ford) back in the Arrowverse from time to time, but I also can’t wait to see whatever they both do next.
- That said, some very nice moments from Dominic Purcell.
- Moments of sob: Basically everything Routh did; the entire balcony sequence, that goodbye with Gideon, Mick getting up and setting out the green juice and enough glasses for everyone.
- Why the fuck not?: Giving the sexy firefighter multiple lines of dialogue for no reason.
- Line-reading of the week: “Nora and I are going to Bermuda-Bahamas.”
- Gideon, what’s the most meta moment?: I mean, the entire episode is meta commentary. If forced to pick, the Riverdale time-slot reference. No, wait, gotta be Nate asking why Mercutio doesn’t just Steel Up again.
- Season five episode title ranking: 7. Miss Me, Kiss Me, Love Me 6. Meet The Legends. 5. A Head Of Her Time. 4. Mr. Parker’s Cul-De-Sac. 3 and 2 (tie). Slay Anything and Mortal Khanbat. 1. Romeo V. Juliet: Dawn Of Justness.
- This week’s Legends in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend song form. Here’s Shakespeare.