Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Gary Jr. wreaks havoc on a solid Legends Of Tomorrow, but at least they didn’t buy from a breeder

Jes Macallan, Nick Zano, Tala Ashe
Jes Macallan, Nick Zano, Tala Ashe
Screenshot: The CW
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On other shows, it’s a saboteur. It’s a shapeshifter or a nefarious double-crosser, it’s someone impersonating our hero or our hero in thrall to some other entity. Maybe it’s even our hero doing the wrong thing for the right reasons—reasons which will only become clear later. But this is not other shows. This is Legends Of Tomorrow.

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So of course, the dog did it.

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There are smarter, more moving episodes of this show. There have been smarter and more moving episodes this season in fact. But “Ship Broken” is, quite simply, a wildly entertaining 42 minutes, introducing us to Sara’s new powers and furthering the ongoing conflicts of the back half of the season, all while being pure, dumb fun. The dog did it! Gary went to hell and adopted a hell hound (though at least he didn’t buy from a breeder)! That dog is the very dog that told the Son of Sam to kill people, a subject with which the host of StabCast is intimately familiar! And while it is patently absurd, the show’s anchor takes it completely seriously—the first one to figure it out, the one to try to explain it to the others, and the one who ultimately knocks the hellhound down with one perfect backflip.

This is a shipbound episode (though not a true bottle episode, by virtue of the frequent and better-than-usual visual effects) and as such, the enemy exists within. It’s not the first time. When Sara Lance was possessed by Mallus and took control of the Death Totem, not only was the enemy one of their own, she was able to capture the great fears and pressure points of her teammates. Here the vulnerability is even simpler: Nobody suspects the cute dog, everyone suspects the recent hell resident. And that’s all exacerbated by the assumptions many of them seem to make about each other. Mick’s a bad parent. Zari’s easy to manipulate. Astra’s bad news. Gary’s a mess (that one’s true). And Sara, convinced that the force that propels her to kill emerges from a cute lil’ Wishbone-lookin’ motherfucker, cannot possibly be in her right mind.

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Perhaps that angle’s nor particularly interesting to you. It’s there, and it makes the proceedings more substantive than they might otherwise be (as does Sara’s journey to accepting the nature of this reality, whether it’s temporary or permanent.) But honestly, Gary adopts the Son of Sam dog, and it brainwashed nearly every member of the Legends, and a newly-blind, future-seeing Sara Lance leads the charge to stop the dog. That’s the episode. It doesn’t need to be much more than that.

It is more than that though, even without the thematic stuff. Stylishly directed by Andi Armaganian (a frequent editor and occasional director in the Arrowverse), “Ship Broken” makes time for a few gorgeous visual moments, from Charlie’s first attempt at using the loom in “several millenia,” Sara’s first time tying on her BirdBox blindfold, Mick kicking those coins, and of course that amazing backflip. Beyond that, there’s the careful progression of Mick’s relationship with Lita, a barbed but fragile thing anchored by a deceptively simple performance from Dominic Purcell.

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It’s been quite a while since Purcell has regularly had something substantial to play. (Probably since being haunted by Snart/deciding if and how to be a “good guy” in season two? In his defense, being Rebecca Silver took up a lot of time.) The Lita storyline continues to make up for lost time, giving Purcell plenty of big comic moments to play, mostly stemming from Mick’s discomfort with all the feelings he’s feeling, but also allowing moments of genuine distress, confusion, and most shockingly, unadulterated joy. Sometimes those things are all mixed up together. It’s a suprisingly affecting storyline, funny and sweet and sad.

And in case you’ve forgotten, “Oh my god you adopted Son of Sam’s demon dog!” “And he’s making some very good points!” “Because I hate hats! I hate stupid ties! And I hate Gary!” Astra, you dick!” It’s absurd and funny, audacious and inevitable, oddly scary and deliriously weird. Another show might suggest it was the dog before pivoting to the more plausible explanation. On Legends, it’s the canine of chaos, and he’s only here because Gary thought he was cure. Can’t wait to see what Gary Junior II gets up to; one can’t begin to fathom what’s going on betwixt those floppy ears.

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Stray observations

  • “We don’t have therapists either.” “Well, we should!” Indeed. Legends ranked by need for a therapist: 1) Constantine 2) Ava 3) Gary 4) everyone but Sara (tie) 5) Sara. (Sara for sure already has a therapist. So does Zari but Sara is surprisingly well-adjusted for someone who: has died as much as she has; has lost as many people as she has; is a death witch.) Contemplating a petition to bring Dr. Linda over from Lucifer for a residency aboard the Waverider.
  • “So I really dig the whole Scrooge McDuck aesthetic but why not put your money in a bank?”
  • “The life of a criminal is a life of misery. I’ve spent years in jail thanks to some red leather freak so fast—”
  • Loom of Fate question: So... do they bring back Stein? Snart? Why just Behrad?
  • On our first sighting of the Waverider’s toilet.
  • Episode MVP: Lots of good stuff, but Dominic Purcell’s face after Lita says “Could be useful for a history test” locks this down. It’s like four facial expressions in one!
  • Why the fuck not?: Beyond the entire premise, let’s go with Astra trapping the Legends in the brig and just shrinking it smaller. Also, Ants on a Log! Also, Gary Jr. is a very nervous pee-er!
  • Line-reading of the week: “I had a vision that I killed Gary and then in real time I saved him and the fact that he is alive right now proves that I am not lying!”
  • Gideon, what’s the most meta moment?: “As far as this sorry lot are concerned, as soon as anyone stops trying to murder them on a weekly basis, they’re best friends.”
  • Season five episode title ranking: 10. Miss Me, Kiss Me, Love Me 9. Meet The Legends. 8. A Head Of Her Time. 7. Zari, Not Zari 6. Ship Broken (simple, but perfect) 5. The Great British Fake Off. 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. This was a tough one, but I assume this is Gary’s next step.

Contributor, The A.V. Club and The Takeout. Allison loves TV, bourbon, and overanalyzing social interactions. Please buy her book, How TV Can Make You Smarter (Chronicle, 2020). It’s short!

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