Dominic Purcell, Tala Ashe, Maisie Richardson-Sellers, Caity Lotz
Photo: Dean Buscher (The CW)

For the first time in a strong fourth season, Legends Of Tomorrow bites off just a little bit more than it can chew—fitting, for a Thanksgiving episode. In one hour (really, 42-ish minutes), we get a city-destroying octopus with crazy glow eyes, Gary attempting to woo Mona but actually inadvertently getting her a job with the Time Bureau, Thanksgiving at Chez Heywood (Chezwood?), a continuation of the onboarding of Charlie, some cool Japanese film history and a brief crash course in the nature of monsters-as-metaphors, and Ray and Nora working together to save Constantine. There’s also some budgetary chatter and some family drama and Baba Yaga and all kinds of good stuff. Oh, and Mick Rory accepts his destiny as a novelist.

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It’s a lot. Most Legends episodes are a lot, bless ‘em. That this one feels a little overstuffed is perhaps to be expected—one show can only sustain so many sub-plots, and some of these sub-plots have sub-plots—but the positives far outweigh the negatives. Still, it’s hard not to wish that the stories traced here, each and every one of them fun and at least a little weighty, had a little more breathing room. They all fit together, but there’s not enough space. Put another way: This episode can only feed so many stories, and as a result, they’re all just a little bit hangry.

Let’s start with the storyline (and its sub-storylines) that works best. “Tagumo Attacks!!!” will make a lovely double-bill with “Raiders Of The Lost Art” when someone hosts a Legends Of Tomorrow festival someday. Like its predecessor, this one is co-written by Keto Shimizu and another writer (for “Raiders,” Chris Fedak; for “Tagumo,” Ubah Mohamed.) It similarly connects the early work of a legendary filmmaker with its time travel story, though it’s likely that fewer viewers will know Ishirō Honda’s filmography. “Tagumo” isn’t quite the romp that “Raiders” is, but it makes up for it with some heavy-duty emotional heft and a winning guest turn from Eijiro Ozak as the Godzilla director. Good monster, good story, good and themes, good performances. And best of all, it’s the perfect grounds on which to reintroduce one of my favorite Legends loose threads: Mick’s bodice-ripper.

Dominic Purcell gets a little more weight to lift with “Tagumo” than he often does, thanks to a few relatively simple scenes (by Legends standards) in which Mick confronts and ultimately embraces his identity as a writer. He also gets a handful of comedic moments that play off of self-consciousness and embarrassment, rather than aggression and irritation (Mick’s default modes). It’s excellent, entertaining stuff, and any storyline that invests in Mick’s interior life is a story worth exploring.

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Yet with all that good stuff—not to mention a fun Sara/Charlie fight with the monster and some thoughtfully explored history—it still doesn’t play as quite as rich or satisfying as all those ingredients suggest. I suspect that’s due in no small part to all the bouncing back and forth. There are some thematic links between the stories, as Honda inadvertently releases the darkness within himself while Nora embraces the light, and issues of darkness and light can (sort of) be applied to the Time Bureau story, in which the malevolent beasts are revealed to just be hungry. But while the actual cuts from scene to scene are as energetic and stylish as ever, the pace just isn’t playful and loose in that Legends way.

But the biggest issue is that, while there’s good stuff to be found in all the storylines, both the Time Bureau and Heywood plots seem to exist solely to set the table for what comes next. Nate and his father need to reach a solid place which can then be disrupted, thus raising the stakes when the truth about Project Hades is finally known. The Gary/Mona storyline, even more obviously, gets Mona in the door in a permanent way, a development that the show signaled a few weeks back. That’s all fine, but an episode in which so much is already happening is probably not the best choice for this kind of maneuvering.

That’s not true of our last major un-tugged thread. The Ray/Nora/Constantine story works because while it sets some things in motion—Constantine is well and further haunted by his past, Ray fully acknowledges his feelings for Nora, and Nora hands herself over to the Time Bureau—it’s actually character-driven, the whole way through. It’s not the most Legends-y story, or the most inventive, but it’s focused and thoughtful in a way the other stories aren’t, because it’s centered on Nora’s experience and the thoughts and feelings of those in her orbit. It’s playful, but smart, and very human.

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That’s Legends in an nutshell, and it’s this episode in a nutshell, too. But one could wish that Legends had just taken things a bit slower and left time to digest.

Stray observations

  • Why the fuck not?: Mick’s heroine Garima defeats the shrink-rayed Tagumo on a built-to-scale Tokyo set... and she, Mick, and her three breasts then bone in the ruins. Runner-up: Mick tries on more than one occasion to convince someone that he was watching porn on his typewriter.
  • Gideon, what’s the most meta moment?: “Make like a tree and leave.” Runner-up: “Sober and grounded is boring.”
  • Line-reading of the week: Gary’s “I’m so fffffffffffired.”
  • Worth considering that it’s totally possible that this episode is, in fact, over-crowded because Nick Zano couldn’t be in the previous hour.
  • Lots of you have mentioned in the comments that you wish Legends would acknowledge the fact that Sara lost a parent not long ago. Here, they come close. Just one tiny step forward and it would have been perfect, but hearing Ray call Sara “Detective Lance” was lovely and sad, all the same.
  • Sara Lance can do way better than, “I think we’re gonna need a bigger time ship.”
  • That Kaupe sure looked like Teen Wolf.
  • Glad that they’re introducing some tension back into the Heywood family circle.

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