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

The Legends cannot tell a lie in a fun but rushed road trip yarn

Ramona Young, Caity Lotz, Brandon Routh
Ramona Young, Caity Lotz, Brandon Routh
Photo: Shane Harvey (The CW)
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Allow me, briefly, to talk about grades.

They’re stupid. This is a true fact. (They’re also useful to some readers, which is a big reason for their existence.) Art can’t be graded like that, it just can’t. How do you rate a flawed but affecting and notably ambitious episode when compared to a simple episode, executed flawlessly? The answer, unfortunately, is that any reviewer asked to make such an assessment has to make their own decision and lay down their own ground rules. This will probably seem infuriating to some of you, but I tend to just follow my gut and ask myself a bunch of questions. Where does this stand in relation to other episodes? What does it aim for, and what does it accomplish? How does it spend its time? How does the filmmaking work in conjunction with the writing, the plotting with the character development, the jokes with the themes? Is it fun? Is it smart? Does it stay with you?


When a show hits an upward trajectory, there comes a time when your internal scale shifts. That’s all a long way of saying this: This is a B- episode of Legends Of Tomorrow, not because it’s lackluster in any significant or concerning way, but because it’s not an A episode. My internal scale has shifted, because we’re well past a point where Legends surprises me when it’s excellent. Now it’s mostly excellent, and it’s a surprise when it’s okay-to-good.

This one is okay-to-good.

Ultimately, this is a really good thing! “The Getaway” would have been a standout in season one. I must admit that I haven’t seen much of that first season of Legends since it aired—in contract, I’ve watched season two’s “Raiders Of The Lost Art,” once a series-best episode and now a personal favorite, many times—but it’s hard to imagine a sequence in this season topping the truth-beetle making the rounds in the RV, and impossible that any of those episodes would have seen Nora Dahrk reading a Rebecca Silver novel. There are great one-liners and weird moments, the cast remains a non-stop delight, and the place the episode ultimately lands (the really impressive thing here, as its aims are pretty lofty) is exciting.

But while all the trappings that make the current Legends so much batshit crazy fun are in place (“We’re going to Disney World!” “Haven’t we been tortured enough?!”), the things that make it legitimately excellent aren’t in perfect working order. From the outside it seems a bit as though the writers had two episodes total—this one, and the last—to get to the point that ends this episode, and it’s just not enough time. It wouldn’t be enough time for Nate’s issues with his dad alone, but throw in Mona’s issues with Sara and the out-of-the-blue Nate and Zari thing and it starts to feel uncharacteristically rushed. The issue is not that it happens fast. Legends moves really, really fast (example: everyone processes their grief in one episode, and it totally works!) but whether it’s because there are too many pieces in motion, or because it’s just too much too soon, none of those developments really work.

That’s not to say the show doesn’t leave us in an interesting place. Nate believing Nora murdered the father he just made up with, placing him at odds not just with Nora, but with sweet Ray-Ray and Constantine? Exciting stuff. Mona, now a werekaupe, officially on the team? Into it. Nate + Zari? Not opposed, even if it is out of nowhere, but it’s going to take a lot more work to seem plausible. Neron maneuvering the Time Bureau? Works for me. But with once exception, most of the scenes in this episode that lead to that point don’t really work. The acting is good—Nick Zano in particular manages to balance the many, many things he’s asked to do—but it isn’t enough to sell the big to huge leaps in storytelling that occur.


The exception is Sara Lance. Caity Lotz has some kind of precise Arrowverse alchemy that makes things that should never work, work. Lotz’s big scene with Ramona Young, which despite the lackluster CGI is still a highlight, consists of little besides Sara monologuing about the things she’s learned, without the episode spending much time on her learning them. She’s irritated and upset because she’s denying what happened between her and Ava, she lashes out at Mona, she feels bad. That’s the arc. But Lotz makes it work somehow. Like Rip Hunter (RIP), Sara Lance spends a lot of her time trying to keep the Legends from totally melting down, but while Captain Hunter always did so by reinforcing the seriousness of what was happening, Captain Lance does so by reinforcing the stakes. Maybe that’s why. Whatever it is, that scene functions as intended, something that’s usually true of most (if not all) of the scenes in an episode of Legends. That’s not the case here.

All that said, that truth-beetle scene is a gem, no? It’s not the only delightful aspect of “The Getaway” either: Gary’s American Vandal moment, DJ Z, forgetting Charlie, and basically everything Nixon-related is Legends in its usual, excellent mode. There’s no reason to think the ship has veered off-course, and by hour’s end, the episode has completed the big leaps it attempted. The landings, however, are a bit messy. But hey, upside: We’ve reached a point where a good-at-best Legends is a notable exception, and that is cool as hell.


Stray observations

  • This has been bugging me for a bit: How is Adam Tsekhman not a series regular? He’s on all the time and Gary is hugely important to the alchemy of the show.
  • History lesson: Nixon did, in fact, give the “I am not a crook” speech from Disney World. Insert “The More You Know” gif here. Also, Checkers.
  • Why the fuck not?: Gary’s notecards, naturally, forgetting Charlie, also good, Nixon with no filter, also good. Not much WTFN in this episode overall.
  • Great needle-drops though!
  • Line-reading of the week: “Actually, ever since I met you, I sometimes lie awake at night, staring into the dark, thinking I am it, and it is me. Also, I don’t think Han shot first.”
  • Runner-up: “History needs you crooked, dick,” lowercase intentional because Mick totally says dick and not Dick.
  • Gideon, what’s the most meta moment?: “That’s a bit on the nose, no?” “We left subtlety back in Mexico.” [“Free Ride” plays.]
  • Updated season four episode title ranking: 10 and 9 (tie). Witch Hunt (too easy) and The Getaway (same); 8. Dancing Queen (disappointing lack of disco, bonus for surprise appearance of the queen); 7 and 6 (tie). Tagumo Attacks!!! (love the exclamation points, dinged for lack of cheesy pun) and Lucha De Apuestas (exciting, to the point, also no pun); 5. Tender Is The Nate (needed more F. Scott Fitzgerald, made me giggle); 4. Hell No, Dolly! (no musical numbers? You’re killin’ me, writers); 3. Wet Hot American Bummer (still laughing, months later; for a fun bonus, imagine Constantine doing Paul Rudd-style cleaning); 2. The Virgin Gary (solid contender for best Legends title, though nothing will ever beat Guest Starring John Noble); 1. Legends Of To-Meow-Meow (see #2). But just wait until later in the season.
  • On the off-chance that some of you here actually made the leap from the Crazy Ex-Girlfriend finale review, I’d like to welcome you with this very applicable song:

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!