Sometimes Legends does too much. Not as in “oh, that’s too much,” because in the best way possible, Legends is always that kind of too much. But occasionally, in its efforts to make sure every minute of every episode is entertaining and that no one is left entirely by the wayside, it overstuffs an episode. One too many stories. One too many themes. One too many why-the-fuck-nots.
Not so here. Somehow, despite the fact that the subplots could have anchored another episode, “The Eggplant, The Witch, And The Wardrobe” is perfectly balanced. Yes, it’s nutty, and silly, and wild, but it’s also something of a marvel of efficient, elegant storytelling. Almost everybody has to look themselves in the eye and face some hard truths, and yet no one’s story feels particularly short-changed. Turns out, when you put a lot of work into making sure your characters are well-developed, their relationships meaningful and complex, and their priorities both clear and shifting, you can accomplish quite a lot.
This isn’t the first time Legends Of Tomorrow has accomplished such a feat. Most of the episodes in this series mostly work—post season one, anyway—and more than a few have done what “The Eggplant, The Witch, And The Wardrobe” achieves. The most recent example: this season’s “Wet Hot American Bummer,” which, like this episode, divides the cast up into mini-teams chasing different, but linked, goals. Here, it’s all tied to Neron and his abduction of Ava. After Sara discovers that she’s missing, she grabs Constantine and the conveniently onboard Nora and head out in search of her. They find her pretty much immediately, but they’re really only finding part of her. After that, the teams shake out thusly:
- Sara goes into Ava’s own personal purgatory, while Gary creates a makeshift spa at their bedsides (but really just Ava’s bedside)
- Ray goes to tell Nate what’s happening, and helps him sort through the Hey World mess and his own grief, until they realize Neron’s held captive on board the Waverider
- Zari “womans the ship,” ostensibly keeping Mona, Charlie, and Mick in line, but really getting micro-managed as she tries to figure out what, if anything, she wants to say to Nate about their particular thing
- After sending Sara off, Constantine and Nora butt heads about what to do about Neron and which of them can be trusted, a situation later made worse by the arrival of Nate and Ray-Ray
Of those stories, the least developed is Zari’s, and she held down the fort last week. Even so, it gets the job done, keeping the four non-active Legends-of-the-week busy and making possible the wonderful scene when Mick tears a piece of paper from his typewriter and hands it to Zari—the first person to read his book—saying, “Use words.” A lovely moment, turned perfectly on its head when she replies that she will not be using the word ‘bulge.’ A perfect piece of Legends.
That’s the least of the four. The other three are excellent. The Ray-Nate story and the Nora-Constantine story become most engaging when they collide, but the Ava-Sara story is a winner, start to finish. Like “Wet Hot American Bummer,” it prompts the two of them to work through some personal hangups and relationship issues in a setting seemingly (and in this case, definitely) designed to draw out insecurities—then a summer camp, now an IKEA stand-in. Like the earlier episode, it also gives Caity Lotz and Jes Macallan a chance to do some great, messy scenework together. In both cases, it works out very, very well.
The two episodes have one more big thing in common:
It’s incredibly encouraging to see Legends Of Tomorrow utilize the time-travel and magical stuff in its DNA in order to allow these two women to become incredibly intimate with each other. These two women, one of whom never had a childhood and still hasn’t fully reckoned with how she feels about being “an AVA,” the other of whom literally died and was brought back to life, experience unknown, seemingly unreachable countries together. Sara joins Ava when she becomes a child for the first time. Ava’s there when Sara starts to process the fact that she might actually have a future. When is the last time Sara Lance thought there was even a chance that she’d grow old?
Sara and Ava’s awkwardly Gary-guided trip through not-IKEA could have been the only good storyline in this episode, and it would still place “The Eggplant, The Witch, And The Wardrobe” in the Legends hall-of-fame. Yet Nate, Nora, and Constantine’s storylines are nearly as good (again, particularly when they collide). Nate continues to ricochet through the stages of grief, Nora struggles with the knowledge that she’s not trusted by the others and with the manipulation of Neron, and Constantine literally stares into the face of the man he loved and doomed to hell. Heavy stuff. Nick Zano, Matt Ryan, and Courtney Ford all do excellent work, the Neron double-cross is expertly handled (if a little predictable), and Ford in particular really makes it feel as though Nora is both telling the truth and putting on a show at all times. A really extraordinary scene.
And now sweet Ray-Ray is possessed by a demon?!
This episode was already great by the time that dog started barking, but even when Ray came charging into that room, I didn’t actually think he’d become the vessel/victim. He’s Ray Palmer. He cannot be possessed by a demon. That’s an hell of an ending.
- Last week featured enthusiastic consent. This week featured Nora shutting down Ray so she could speak up for herself. Way to go, Legends.
- In an episode full of upsetting moments—the flashbacks to the fight in Ava’s apartment, Ava crying alone on the other side of the AS-IS door, a lot of what Nora goes through—that Nate/Ray punch really got me.
- Why the fuck not?: Ava and Sara have to put together a piece of not-IKEA furniture together so that they can progress through it to the next level of purgatory, which is mattress shopping.
- Line-reading of the week: Lots of good options this week, but come on, could it be anything but, “My dad made a deal with a demon to open a theme park.” Honorable mentions: “Yeah. Demon,” “I’ll take good care of her THEM,” and of course, “You’re straight?”
- Gideon, what’s the most meta moment?: Another category goes to “You’re straight?” The LoT writers see you, Charlie-Zari ‘shippers.
- Updated season four episode title ranking: 12 and 11 (tie). Witch Hunt (too easy) and The Getaway (same); 10. Dancing Queen (disappointing lack of disco, bonus for surprise appearance of the queen); 9 and 8 (tie). Tagumo Attacks!!! (love the exclamation points, dinged for lack of cheesy pun) and Lucha De Apuestas (exciting, to the point, also no pun); 7. Tender Is The Nate (needed more F. Scott Fitzgerald, made me giggle); 6. The Eggplant, The Witch, And The Wardrobe (One lousy Narnia reference? Still, manages to work in three separate storylines, so that’s cool) 5. Hell No, Dolly! (no musical numbers? You’re killin’ me, writers); 4. Wet Hot American Bummer (still laughing, months later; for a fun bonus, imagine Constantine doing Paul Rudd-style cleaning); 3. Séance And Sensibility (excellent); 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).
- Arrow corner: Have not had a chance to watch yet, but will update with thoughts when I have. In the meantime, discuss amongst yourselves. I hear there was more creepy whistling?
- Here’s this week’s Legends in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend song form.