A Púca, John Constantine tells us, isn’t a dangerous creature. It just picks up on—paraphrasing here—the energy you put out into the world. Show it anger, you’ll see anger reflected back. Approach with fear, and fear will greet. you. The danger isn’t the Púca, it’s you.
And when the Púca demonstrates tenderness, compassion, and a desire to heal, that’s not popping up out of the blue. That’s a reflection, too.
“Nip/Stuck” strands its cast in three separate locations: Aboard the Waverider beneath tons of snow and ice, dragon egg in tow; At the Time Bureau, where new cool guy Gary Green is brainwashing his fellow agents with his blinking nipple; and at a henge during humanity’s early days, where King Kon-Sten-Tyn is using a young magical creature in a cage to stoke fear and rage in his followers, who then chant variations on “straight to hell!” that would rest comfortably on a shelf next to “build the wall” and “lock her up.” (Not the subtlest Legends story, but a good one.) In each location, our heroes (minus Ray Palmer) have to reckon with the place they’re in, both literally and emotionally, in order to emerge and get to the next stage.
For John Constantine, that next stage is hell—and for Matt Ryan, being stuck (minus the nip) is a great chance to dig into some quiet, messy, personal stuff. The result is a performance that’s among the best of the season, as a long-broken man finds himself confronted with evidence that he is not, in fact, a font of destruction, damage, and nastiness, but a guy who can’t bear to see an innocent creature condemned to hell, even if it means risking something bigger. It takes John much longer than the audience to make this realization, because he doesn’t realize what the Púca is reflecting back to him. It’s only when facing off against his seemingly evil ancestor that he comes to see that even that guy, doing the wrong thing, doing a hateful thing, still at least believes he’s doing something to save the people in his care.
This is a good episode for most of its runtime, sometimes a little better than good, but in that last act it really jumps up a level, and that’s due in no small part to Ryan’s performance in his final moments before that jump. (I’m specifically referencing his work as John here; his performance as the King is fine.) The knowledge that somehow the Legends survived seems to be the spark of joy that drives Constantine to embrace the part of himself that’s not dark, that’s driven to rescue, to free, to heal. So he tips himself backward into hell in hopes of saving the soul of one Ray-Ray Palmer, human puppydog and the creator of Cards To Save The Timeline. It’s a lovely, exciting, oddly jubilant moment, the capper that proves that the Púca may have seen darkness, but also definitely saw light.
It’s unclear whether or not Gary Green will get such an assessment from anyone. On the one hand, in a broader sense, that seems appropriate. There’s been a streak of meanness in Gary for quite awhile now, particularly in his interactions with Mona, and the cruelty of others is no excuse for aiding in attempted murder. On the other hand, it’s unlike Legends to not extend compassion to its characters that aren’t literally demons, up to and including Damien Darhk, a mass murderer. Ava crediting that horrifying, staring, now devoured nipple with making Gary evil seems to indicate that he, like nearly all of the Legends, past and present, he will not be judged by his worst actions. (See also: Sara Lance, Mick Rory, Leonard Snart, Nora Darhk, Mona Wu, Zari Tomaz, Amaya Jiwe, Rip Hunter, and so on.)
But regardless, it’s another reasonably entertaining story, though Mona remains a lot and it lacks the emotional potency of the other stories, only picking up steam with the realization that, Killer Frost-like, Wolfie is her own entity and thus Mona is never really alone, and with Ava’s assertion that yes, Nora is a team player for sure. (Courtney Ford is very, very good at underplaying Nora’s satisfaction every time something like that happens.) Mostly, this is just the funny-yet-unsettling diversion story, there in part to make sure the Legends are well and truly stranded.
And so they are, without an exit and without much hope. Of all three stories, this one is the simplest. Neron-as-Ray puts Constantine in a position where he tells Sara to fire; when she hesitates, Mick doesn’t, and Gideon fires on (and misses) the pair but manages to kick off a mighty avalanche. Then they’re stuck, and Sara and Mick, the two people who’ve been with Ray-Ray since the beginning, find themselves blaming each other, rather than themselves. Legends wisely doesn’t keep them at odds for that long—and finds a way for Charlie, the team’s new peacemaker, to put on Mick’s face for a fun Dominic Purcell Spiderman-points at Dominic Purcess moment—because at this point, Sara and Mick speak the same language, and not even the mighty time-bro bond can compete with the link between three people who all had to take down Vandal Savage.
As Sara and Mick make up, they wander around in Ray’s room, finding his survival guide (with a forward by Ray Palmer). That in turn leads Sara to conclude, with the help of Ray’s words, that all that’s left to them is the enjoyment of each other’s company. So they play some Cards To Save The Timeline, and lo and behold, their warmth—literal warmth—gets them out of a jam. It wasn’t superpowers, or technology. It was them irresponsibly consuming the ship’s power, fucking off, and paying tribute to a friend that did it. That’s not quite giant Beebo-level Legends, but it is definitely their particular luck in a nutshell. They screw up for the better.
A quiet episode—and something obviously intended as a sort of bottle episode, though the one new location and typically sizable cast both fall outside the bounds of that classification—ends on a typcially WTFN note, as Tabitha is revealed to be Jane Carr’s fairy godmother from early this season. As she’s beloved by Neron, she then makes out with Ray-Ray’s mouth, and as she’s still super powerful, she bibbidi-bobbidi-boos Wolfie back into Mona, and Neron, Tabitha, and Gary steer her out of the Time Bureau with Nora hot on their heels. It’s a hell of a surprise (assuming you missed her name in the credits) and an exciting place to leave things before we get into the final two episodes.
- Púca. Seems to bear little resemblance to the creature in the episode, beyond the horns.
- Nate, buddy, you used that exact schtick with Amaya.
- Why the fuck not?: NIPNOTIZE. The most WTFN moment of the season, maybe—perhaps until Wolfie chewed it off again.
- Line-reading of the week: “FAVORITISM!”
- Gideon, what’s the most meta moment?: Lots of options this week, but I’m partial to telling Gideon there’s such a thing as too much exposition. Also very down with Snart’s jackets all smelling like sandalwood.
- Updated season four episode title ranking: 14 and 13 (tie). Witch Hunt and The Getaway 12. Dancing Queen 11 and 10 (tie). Tagumo Attacks!!! and Lucha De Apuestas 9. Tender Is The Nate 8. The Eggplant, The Witch, And The Wardrobe 7. Egg MacGuffin 6. Hell No, Dolly! 5. Wet Hot American Bummer 4. Nip/Stuck (Not quite as funny as some of the others, but perfectly captures multiple storylines in eight total characters. Like much of Legends, somehow a masterpiece of simultaneous efficiency and nonsense.) 3. Séance And Sensibility 2.The Virgin Gary 1. Legends Of To-Meow-Meow.
- Arrow corner: Oh, it’s hard to be totally objective about this, because I’m always so glad to see Colin Donnell back on the show. He and Amell were great together, but this one kind of lost me. Very glad to see the (very much expected) appearance of Kacey Rohl in the future timeline, and generally impressed by both Juliana Harkavy and Colton Haynes this week, who were very good, especially together. Still don’t care about Emiko, at all.
- Here’s this week’s Legends in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend song form.