Usually, I’m a bit annoyed about Legends of Tomorrow (and Black Lightning, for that matter) having a shorter season than the “big guns” in the Arrowverse. This year, however, that means both those shows managed to finish their seasons. The Legends have found their groove of entertaining silliness, and this episode is crammed full of that. It’s also the directorial debut of Marc Guggenheim, long-time producer for Arrow and the Legends themselves. Desperate to protect her friends, Charlie has scattered them, not in time or space. Where did they go? The title will tell you all you need to know about “The One Where We’re Trapped on TV.”
The show opens in a very Orwellian office, filled with people in grey jumpsuits “sanitizing history.” One of the workers turns out to be sandwich girl turned beast keeper turned Legend Mona Wu. One of her coworkers starts questioning the rightness of what they’re doing, and we quickly see that Atropos rules here, and doesn’t welcome dissent. Mona goes home, passing Gary on the street as a crazy preacher type, and we get a brand-new intro. I haven’t liked the remade stylized intros all the CW shows have shared since Crisis, but this one worked. Mona gets home to some truly unappetizing food and watches a sitcom “Best Buds” which stars… Nate, Behrad, and Zari? It’s a very “Friends” styled piece, and they do a great job creating a believable sitcom in just a few moments. After some zany hijinks, and a joke about Nate, a Joey-like actor landing a role on “Arrow,” things get a bit weird (ok, weirder) when their “family heirloom” (the Air Totem) glows, and the lost Zari 1.0 possesses her later self and starts talking about their shared past. Sitcom Nate and Behrad have no idea what she’s talking about. Old Zari finally notices a door that apparently has been behind some kind of perception filter.
Exploring, the Legends find themselves in John Constantine’s home, but that, too, has changed, and their now in a Downton Abbey take-off. Constantine is a butler (the horror!) and Astra the privileged daughter of the rich family. Whatever reality warping is going on isn’t passive, and Zari and company have changed costumes and storylines to blend in. After some drama emerges, they finally get some help as John shows he’s more than just a butler, and they change realities, or tv shows if you prefer, once again. In the real (er?) world, Mona starts making some connections, links up with Gary, and starts trying to figure out how fix things.
Changing genres once again, Sara is a reasonable facsimile of Captain James T. Kirk, while Ava is somewhere between Spock and “Number One” from the original pilot (There’s a deep cut for you). Our show-hopping bunch are knock-off Klingons, with Zari trying to get through to her Captain, and the others still essentially the personas of the shows they left. They even make things more complicated with what was clearly a catch-phrase from the sitcom where this madness started. Given the nature of the Star Trek-like show, Ava and Sara accept the whole alternate reality idea without really batting an eye. While Gary and Mona sneak around the mysterious production company behind all this, things end up changing again. Next stop: Mr. Parker’s Cul-De-Sac, the Mr. Rogers parody we’ve visited before. Since Parker eventually became Ray the last time we saw this, it made me miss him again. I still don’t like the decision to lose Ray and Nora, especially as part of it seems to be to give Astra more screen time.
The finally (mostly) reassembled team ends up as special guests on Mr. Parker’s show, after a very rough transition. There are a lot of jokes, some breaking the fourth wall, as the characters try and sort themselves out, and one of them gets even more complicated. When they start getting flashbacks and remembering their prior lives, Mona and Gary are jubilant, thinking they’ve won a great victory. Which is when someone unexpected shows up with a very different spin on what’s happening. The other realities start reasserting themselves, helped along by a very un-Mr. Rogers-like song as the Legends go back to the shows they were on before. In the transition time before they fall completely back into their narratives, John Constantine makes a stunning offer for Astra, which tells us a lot about who he really is behind the magic and snark.
Mona and Gary get a crash course in what’s behind the tv versions of the Legends, and there is a certain logic to it, especially with the themes we heard repeated on the various shows. Back on their ship, Sara and Ava try and plot their next step and we finally get to see Mick… sorta. Gradually, bit by bit, the original, stubborn, Legends begin fighting back against their programming (on a few levels) and end up reunited once more. Which is apparently not a completely good thing. After a final appeal to accept something for their own good (because, yeah, that’s likely), the team moves on to whatever is waiting. Given that next episode is the season finale, I have a pretty good idea what that’s going to be. And it’s going to be ugly.
What I liked: This was a brilliant episode on almost every level. The individual shows were remarkably well-crafted, each a nod to a different cultural phenomenon. This was some really impressive writing and production. If this is Guggenheim right out of the gate, what’s he going to pull off when he gets more experience? I’m glad they brought back Mona.
What I didn’t: Mick is really getting shoved to the sidelines this season. I can understand the rumors that he’s leaving the show (actor Dominic Purcell insists he’s not). The Mr. Parker’s callback made me miss Ray all over again.
This was a shorter review, but that’s because I didn’t want to spoil some of the really great stuff they pulled off in this episode. I’m actually giving this one a 4.5 out of 5. I don’t know how they’re going to follow this, but I’m betting it’s going to be a hell of a finale.