Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Jes Macallan
Jes Macallan
Photo: Dean Buscher (The CW)
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One of the big but not always tremendously obvious strengths of Legends Of Tomorrow is its ability to anchor everything, even the really bonkers stuff, in character—and to make sure the things its characters are confronting are, for lack of a better term, terribly human. Sara Lance has to sort out her relationship with death and guilt while possessed by the Death Totem. Ray Palmer confronts his own feelings about violence and redemption by racing around in Germany with Damien Darhk, all while trying to outrun another Damien Darhk. Zari deals with her need to push people away afte Gideon traps her in a time loop (and Gary in a trash compactor). The death of Stein led to young Stein and Beebo. The list goes on. Pick a halfway decent episode of Legends, and that story, no matter what it is, will be rooted in character. If the writers of Legends Of Tomorrow could turn the final chapter of Crisis On Infinite Earths into a character piece, then they can make anything a character piece.

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So on the one hand, the thoroughly delightful “Miss Me, Kiss Me, Love Me” is about moving various pieces into place for the rest of the season: Behrad, “Z,” and the totem; Ray and Constantine debating salvation and goodness, and Constantine deciding what to do about Astra; Sara, who (thank god) doesn’t have to grieve anyone this week, tracking down the ‘Encores’ and rejoicing that they are not, in fact, the result of the Legends screwing something up. (Though, technically, isn’t it sort of Constantine’s fault?) But it’s also a story about freedom, about being untethered from whatever is narrowing your choices—and in Ava’s case, it’s about how that very thing can really, really suck.

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It’s an odd thing to say about an episode in which John Constantine drops into a lousy American accent, Sara Lance speaks fluent film noir, we meet the new and apparently very famous Zari, and Ava gets wasted and sings Bell Biv Devoe in a Hollywood nightclub, but “Miss Me, Kiss Me, Love Me” is a fairly subdued hour of Legends Of Tomorrow (by Legends standards only; The Flash could never.) It’s both eventful and all about what comes next, and despite the exuberant energy that propels it forward, it’s a little light on the what-the-fuckery that usually fuels that particular engine. (Again, only by Legends standards.) That’s not a complaint, and it’s still such fun to watch, but the writers seem to have saved their big zany Legends energy for that final act and Jes Macallan’s big turn behind the microphone.

In that way, it feels a bit like Legends circa season two—and that’s probably a good thing. Every season of Legends since the first has been a fun, wild, unpredictable affair, but each has also had at its core that same focus on character. That was still true in season four, but there were some fumbles, and in hindsight, perhaps an overreliance on the batshit crazy stuff. (Never take the batshit crazy stuff away, ever, please, I’m begging you.) It’s too early to say if “Miss Me, Kiss Me, Love Me” is an indication of a greater course correction, though the last act points to more subtle character stuff in the future—but a slightly less zany Legends is, at the moment, most welcome.

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The A-story, while entertaining, feels like a means to an end, a chance to let us see how well Ava is adjusting to her new status quo. (The answer is ‘not well.’) As with the last couple seasons, the Legends seem to have a new type of entity-of-the-week to track down, swapping out last season’s magical creatures/beings for escapees from hell they’re calling ‘encores,’ come to earth to put souls in Astra’s bank account. This week’s is Bugsy Siegel (Jonathan Sadowski), a notorious gangster in old Hollywood who’s returned from the dead, much to the consternation of his seemingly terrified girlfriend Jeanie (Haley Strode), who hires the weirdos she finds in her private eye’s office to help protect her, despite the fact that one has a cop’s face and one has an obviously fake American accent. Sadowski and Strode are both very good, the former conveying a kind of relaxed dastardly assurance, the latter a steely reserve; each plays well off their most frequent scene partner (Caity Lotz and Matt Ryan respectively).

Good as they are, though, the real meat and potatoes of this hour comes from Jes Macallan and Tala Ashe and the seemingly unrelated stories of Ava and Zari. Ava’s doing something we rarely talk about but see in life all the time: she’s mourning the way her life used to be, set adrift now that almost everything—her home, her job, her goals, her influence, the balance of power in her relationship—has changed. She is where Mick often is, on the bench, something the show has only occasionally acknowledged but which, if Dominic Purcell’s final exchange with Caity Lotz is any indication, will become of greater importance moving forward. In Mick’s eyes, Ava is free, able to do whatever she wants, unburdened by responsibilities. In Ava’s eyes, that’s hell. She’s not free. She’s lost in the woods.

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Zari, on the other hand, isn’t lost—not until the final moments of the episode, anyway. She’s simply following the path that stretched out in front of her once she became “dragon girl.” Original recipe Zari desperately wanted to bring her brother back, and it’s certain that our first Zari would be overjoyed by the switch, but all is far from well with her. Her parents are unimpressed by her accomplishments, which it seems she had to wrest from the hands of some predatory creep at a young age, and she’s now wildly successful by any standard, but she’s not the dryly funny, doughnut-eating super-hacker of old. Her relationship with her parents is obviously complicated. Her connection with her brother is antagonistic. She’s suspicious and resentful, and it’s hard to blame her for either—and it’s just as hard to imagine that, even with all that money and all those resources, she feels all that free, either. She’s just, like Ava, doing the best she can with the life in which she finds herself.

That’s a line you can draw to Astra as well, and to Jeanie—like I said, great character stuff going on here—and it’s perhaps no mistake that Ray invokes Nora when talking to Constantine about his options moving forward. Like these three women, Nora’s circumstances pushed her in one direction and it was very hard to veer off that path, but she managed it; Ava, who was literally created to be a Time Bureau superstar, has been essentially heaved off her path and onto a new one. We don’t talk about grief as something that happens when your life changes dramatically often enough as a society, but that’s what Ava’s doing here. Some people grieve by getting bangs, some take up new hobbies and habits, some just ride it out. Ava chooses to grieve her through what we’ll call imagined karaoke—an act that’s also her attempt to excel in her new role as a back-bencher on her girlfriend’s team. How like Legends to make sure that her cathartic moment is also a very funny, very awkward one, and how like it to make sure that, in the final moments, we connect the dots thematically between two stories that might otherwise seem totally isolated from each other. Zari, shoved off her own path and onto a timeship, lets out an unholy scream, and Ava, sleeping it off, adds in another chorus of her own.

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That’s good, smart, funny, deeply empathetic writing. Sure, there was no demonic nipple, no giant Beebo, no terrified George Lucas. There were just people feeling stuff, as they traveled in time. Legends might be all about the wild stuff, but it’s about that emotional stuff, too.


Stray observations

  • My new favorite Legends runner is Constantine putting gross things in his mouth and the Legends getting squicked out by it.
  • In the interest of total transparency, Haley Strode and I have a very good friend in common and were both at that friend’s wedding a few weeks back. We don’t know each other, I didn’t realize it was her until I checked the cast list, and I wrote this review before I made the connection. Anyway, small world, big Legends.
  • Jeanie Hill and Bugsy Siegel.
  • Different interpretation, similar vibe.
  • Episode MVP: It’s so good to see Tala Ashe back on the show so soon, but come on, this is the Jes Macallan show, make no mistake.
  • Why the fuck not?: Bum, bum-be-dum, bum-be-dum-be-dum, POW!
  • Line-reading of the week: Does Zari’s scream at the end count? It should. Great scream. If not, let’s go with Ray’s “Oh, thank you!” when Jeanie says he has a cop face.
  • Gideon, what’s the most meta moment?: “Forget it, Ray. It’s Burbank.”
  • Season five episode title ranking: 2. Miss Me, Kiss Me, Love Me 1. Meet The Legends. A boring list now, but just you wait.
  • This week’s Legends in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend song form. We’ve all been there, Ava. Grieve however you like.

Contributor, The A.V. Club and The Takeout. Allison loves television, bourbon, and dramatically overanalyzing social interactions.

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