Tala Ashe, Caity Lotz, Brandon Routh, Adam Tsekhman
Photo: Dean Buscher (The CW)

Some people ask “why?” It’s a good question, a fundamental part of the whole who-what-where-when thing. More people should ask “why?” More television writers should, certainly. It’s a question that’s key to a well-crafted story. It’s essential, indispensable. Legends Of Tomorrow’s writers ask it, to be sure. But the question that serves both them and their fictional team best is this one: “Why the fuck not?”

As in, “Heart-eating hallucinatory unicorn from the darkest realm? Why the fuck not?”

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Beebo, the God of War: Why the fuck not? “Return Of the Mack”: Why the fuck not? Cast member John Noble appearing as noted actor John Noble circa Peter Jackson’s Lord Of The Rings so that Ray Palmer can record him saying something in the voice of the time demon Mallus, which is the character he plays on the show: Why the fuck not? It’s served the series incredibly well since the start of the second season, that little question, granting Legends a devil-may-care attitude and irresistible sense of playfulness. That question somehow turned what was once the weakest show in The CW’s DC lineup into its most consistently entertaining (though Black Lightning nips at its heels, albeit with a considerably weightier tone). And that question—and the people doing the asking—has done managed that feat without sacrificing fealty to character, narrative, or emotional resonance. After all, Beebo came to be a god in the hands of a young Martin Stein, whose older self sacrificed his life for a friend in the episode preceding. Legends does not mess around, except for when it’s messing around.

There’s a whole bunch of messing around in “The Virgin Gary,” but as with “Beebo The God Of War” and other episodes of its ilk, the hijinks aren’t the only things on the menu. This is a premiere that nimbly sets the stage for the season, all while making plenty of room for My Little Pony jokes, mysteries, drug trips, and no less than seven bona fide rock legends. Yet at the end of the episode, what’s revealed is a cleverly crafted story about family and belonging, about home and happiness. The Legends go to Woodstock, and what do you know—it’s all about love, man.

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The first obligations of any season premiere are to pick up the threads of the previous season while setting up whatever’s to come in the season ahead. “The Virgin Gary” gets the job done in both respects, letting us know the new status quo—no more dragons, last anachronism handled, all well with Sara and Ava!—in the early minutes before disrupting that status quo. Boom, you’ve got a season. Time to go demonic monster (or werewolf) hunting, time for Sara to find a work-life balance, time for Constantine to suck it up and join a team already.

For a lot of shows, that would be quite enough for a premiere. But Legends, always a lot less simple than it seems, does quite a bit more here. Even the episode’s biggest off-note—the abrupt shift from Zari and Ray talking about Ray’s connection with Nora Darhk to Zari watching her mother and confessing her conflicted feelings about not being able to warn her and save the family—still fits perfectly with the theme and adds something potent and affecting to the proceedings. When even the negatives are a positive, you know you’re doing something right.

Still, for all the scenes of Constantine (a great addition to the cast, as played by Matt Ryan) putting up walls and talking shit, Ava and Sara talking about putting a U-Haul on the Subaru, Ray and Zari unpacking their issues, and Nate and Mick heading to see the D.C. Heywoods, it’s the why-the-fuck-not that’s the big draw. And that’s because, after individually chasing a time disruption to Woodstock, the team finds not Nora Darhk, nor a dragon, but a hippie-killing unicorn with sparkle sauce that makes the team trip balls. The CW’s relatively meager effects budget is actually just what the doctor ordered here—that unicorn isn’t remotely believable but it is extremely magical, and when they switch to just a plain ol’ horse, it looks even better.

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The trips are good, too. Ranked: 1) Mick sees Axle, 2) Ray sees Nora, 3) Nate sees his dad (Thomas F. “Biff Tannen” Wilson), 4) Zari sees love everywhere, man. But mostly it’s a unicorn-fighting show, with poor Gary (Adam Tsekhman) serving as unicorn bait. Jerry Garcia, Jimi Hendrix, and Janis Joplin help, too. The climactic final fight isn’t quite on par with Beebo fighting Mallus, or with the Death Witch edition of Sara Lance fighting everyone, but it’s good, funny stuff with a great ending. And it makes clear that, for all Constantine’s talk about people who care about him getting killed, the person in question would have been toast without a little help from his friends. (Beatles reference!)

This isn’t the most inventive episode of Legends Of Tomorrow. It’s not the funniest, or the most emotional. But it’s all of those things, and a great premiere besides. If this is the level at which Legends will be operating this season, we’re in for a wild ride—no sparkle sauce required.

Stray observations

  • Just look at Sara Lance’s face up in the review box. That’s a why-the-fuck-not face if ever I saw one.
  • Hi there, I’m Allison Shoemaker, taking over for the indispensable Oliver Sava. I can’t boast his comics expertise (who can?), but I do know an awful lot about fictional time-travelers! Thanks for reading and hope to see you back this season. Also, always happy to swoon over Captain Lance, gush about Ray-Ray, and ponder what Wally’s doing on his sabbatical over on Twitter.
  • This is Twilight Sparkle.
  • “Never met an Englishman I haven’t wanted to punch in the face” vs. all the talk of doing the same thing for four years—which is the better meta Legends moment? (Dominic Purcell is British.)
  • “Did Constantine get you to squeal?” “I wish.”
  • Does Mick Rory, of the Central City Rorys, like sandwiches? “You bet your ass I do, ma’am.”
  • See you next week!

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