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

SaraVision gets an appropriately epic test run when the Legends go Greek

Nick Zano, Maisie Richardson-Sellers
Nick Zano, Maisie Richardson-Sellers
Photo: Dean Buscher (The CW)
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There are some reliable greatest-hits in the Legends repertoire. Tributes to other films and television shows, nearly always top-notch. Lots of good zombies in their past. Basically anytime Sara Lance has to kick her own team’s ass, that’s excellent, especially if she’s also kicking her own ass. But some of the very best episodes have something richer common: A new (or not-so-new) member of the team is mistrustful, resentful, or otherwise on the outside in some way, and oneor more of the other team members butts heads with that person before finding a way to draw them into the fold. Arguably the best episode of Legends belongs in this category. The end of the second season hinged on this arc for Mick. Charlie got one. At the beginning of this season, Ava got one (sort of). “Freaks And Greeks,” credited to writers Ubah Mohamed and Matthew Maala and playfully directed by Nico Sachse (a frequent First Assistant Director for the show, here making his TV direction debut), firmly belongs in this category—because it’s time to bring Astra into the fold.

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“Freaks And Greeks” isn’t a top-tier example of this form, but it’s still plenty entertaining. Some of this comes down to a slight season-long issue with Astra, in that they haven’t given Olivia Swann much to play beyond Astra’s sneering rage and the occasional uncertain mournful streak. This is by far the best Astra episode so far, but the season hasn’t really put in the work in making her an empathetic, complex character with whom it’s easy to connect. “Freaks” goes a long way toward correcting that, but it does make the you’ve-got-a-home-now story a bit harder to sell.

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Luckily, Mohamed and Maala connect Astra’s frustration and resistance to a trio of misfits who find themselves in the customary Legends field of chaos. When the Legends realize they’ve got to retrieve the MacGuffin of the week—the Chalice of Dionysus—from a university frat house, Charlie/Clotho’s status as “Loombreaker” seems destined to get them what they need. See, the chalice is in possession of its maker, the God of Wine and Revelry himself, here living life on earth as a college “lifer” named Dion (Drew Ray Tanner of Riverdale in a solid, entertaining guest turn). His appreciation for Charlie as the goddess responsible for giving humanity back its free will gets tempered by Astra’s attempt to simply swipe the chalice, and before you know it, Astra and Charlie are forced to pledge a sorority for a chance to win temporary access to the cup.

The setting leads fairly organically to its three storylines, all of which overlap. There’s Astra and Charlie, who bomb their sorority initiation and then need to form their own sorority (with Ava, Sara, and Zari) in order to enter the chalice-winning chug contest. There’s Nate, whose longing for his college glory days (when he totally tried to make “Shotgun Nate” happen) puts him in Dion’s thrall, especially once he’s had a drink of Dion’s special IPA. And there’s Mick and Lita, who both find themselves confronting some insecurities when a bunch of rich people with whales on their shorts wind up monopolizing a college tour.

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While it’s the briefest of the three, it’s the Lita story that most successfully expresses the theme, as both father and daughter realize they don’t need to try to be someone different in order to be the best person they can be for each other. It helps a lot that Mina Sundwall remains totally delightful as Lita, and she and Dominick Purcell are great together, as are she and Nick Zano. But Mick and Lita’s scene in front of the renamed “Rory Hall” is among the episode’s best, a moment of connection totally justified by the work of the last several episodes.

Zano admirably sells his part of the story, by far the most ridiculous of the episode, but it does feel a bit as though the show is at something of a loss when it comes to poor Nate. Perhaps his connection with Dion was enhanced by his need for a new bromance in his life, now that Ray’s off the ship, but if that’s the case, it isn’t something the episode does much to explore. There’s also not much for Zari here, and since the romantic focus of the season seems to be shifting toward Zari/Constantine rather than Zari/Nate, that’s even less for Zano to play with. Still, he’s among the most game members of a very game cast, and clearly has a lot of fun playing the “hybrotized” Nate as well as Charlie-as-Nate.

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And while not all of the Astra storyline works—it’s all a little rushed, a little thin—the last act certainly does, as Charlie encourages Astra to embrace her rule-breaking self in order to rob Dion of his followers (the source of his power) via party-hijacking hijinks. Then, naturally, Sara brings it all home by using her new superpowers as they were clearly meant to be used—for an epic game of beer pong, using Dartmouth Rules.

I’d love to know how Maala and Mohamed arrived at this scene. Did they think “we’re doing a college episode, we’ve got to do beer pong, who should be their champion?” or was it “Sara’s got future-vision superpowers now, what should her first proper use of them be?” I hope it was the latter, but either way, the result is a total delight. It’s obvious that the cast and Sachse had a great time with this sequence, which is playful and incredibly stylish. It’s a clear episode highlight, a clever end to a clever hour (opening a portal inside a nightmarish frat house so they can simply decorate John’s place is both hilarious and a clever way to save money on an additional set). And while things end badly for Astra, it’s reasonable to hope that the work put in here will make Astra (and the terrific Swann) feel like a more organic part of the story as the show barrels toward the conclusion of its fifth season.

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Stray observations

  • Raise your hand if when Astra made that Molotov cocktail you yelled “BORRRRRTLLLLLES!”
  • The LoT gang have started a pre-show web series in which Adam Tsekhman (Gary) interviews the show’s writers. It’s called Before Tomorrow, and the first episode was very cute.
  • “I’m a god! I’ve just gotta keep it whimsical, bro!”
  • Other great moments: Zari hiding that fork in her bra, Lita calling Ava “Aunt Ava,” Zari selling Ava on the form-a-sorority idea by pointing out that there will be lots of paperwork.
  • Great costumes this episode.
  • Episode MVP: Maisie Richardson-Sellers had a lot of heavy lifting to do with her half of the Astra storyline and pulled it off admirably. Really fun, surprisingly affecting. Olivia Swann was great too—there’s this moment where she sort of awkwardly gives into a high-five request that’s really wonderful.
  • Why the fuck not?:  Again, the first major test of Sara’s superpowers was a beer pong game using Dartmouth Rules. Also my headcanon is that Sara got good at beer pong with Oliver while he and Laurel were together and that’s how she wound up on the Queen’s Gambit with him—they bonded over the intricacies of playing with Dartmouth Rules.
  • Line-reading of the week: “You fought a demon dog! And these people think they’re better than us because they have whales on their shorts?” Also, “That is very not tight.”
  • Gideon, what’s the most meta moment?: A couple of little things. “Don’t call us heroes, call us Deltas.” Delta Chi Sigma,” or DCS. The Animal House references. But really, it’s the Beebo GIF.
  • Season five episode title ranking: 11. Miss Me, Kiss Me, Love Me 10. Meet The Legends. 9. A Head Of Her Time. 8. Zari, Not Zari 7. Ship Broken (simple, but perfect) 6. The Great British Fake Off. 5. Freaks And Greeks 4. Mr. Parker’s Cul-De-Sac. 3 and 2 (tie). Slay Anything and Mortal Khanbat. 1. Romeo V. Juliet: Dawn Of Justness. (Put RvJ:DoJ in the Legends titles hall of fame with “Guest Starring John Noble,” “Legends Of To-Meow-Meow,” and “Séance And Sensibility”)
  • This week’s Legends in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend song form. We’re gonna call this one a tie, but I reserve the right to use “Having A Few People Over” again, so I guess this is the real pick:

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

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