Settling in to their newest quest, the Legends of Tomorrow are trying to find time-lost aliens, keep them from causing trouble, and find leads for their missing leader, Sara Lance. They also have to deal with evolving relationships on the team, Mick’s amazingly bad attitude, even for him, and settling their newest recruit, Spooner, as part of the team. But first, a reality singing competition. No, really, that’s a big part of “The Ex-Factor.”
Things kick off in 2045, roughly the time frame Zari and Behrad are from. Or were from, I guess. If you spend long enough on the Waverider, hopping from year to year, I’m not sure how much of a hold your original time has on you. We get introduced to the problem of the week, in this case, the powerful Lord Knoxacrillion, who gets a very twisted version of how Earth actually runs from some advertising. While he goes after his new goal, Zari and Constantine enjoy some alone time, commentary on British rock, and a lot of interruptions. Finally, Behrad portals in to bring Zari some news about her ex, which, in turn, clues them in to some changes in the timeline. It just might be, as we say, a clue.
Back on the Waverider, Zari briefs everyone on what’s changed, the future of network tv, and, unfortunately, her ex. Mick is in full grouch mode, and isn’t making the best impression on Spooner, while everyone else shrugs it off. Mick was never Mr. Sunshine, after all. On the still-unidentified alien world where they crashed, Sara and Gary are trying to avoid whoever is hunting for them, and Sara is definitely looking bad from the poison she was dosed with last episode. She gives Gary a really weird morale speech, even for this show. Oddly, IMDB insists Sara wasn’t in this episode, despite this (and several other) scenes. Actually not in the episode is Astra, who seems to have just wandered off somewhere. I’m sure that’s fine. I don’t think she was in last week’s, either, now that I think about it.
Getting us into the spirit of the episode, we see a commercial for Da Throne, a singing competition show. I have to give Legends writers and crew credit for their production value and commitment to their bits; the segments on the fake show were actually kind of entertaining. The team needs a way to infiltrate the show and prevent a murder, which leads to Zari drawing on her status as a social media influencer in this time, and some interesting bits about who the President is. Ava, Nate, and Behrad sneak inside, and end up fighting the alien. Nate and Behrad both remember they have powers, which is a nice change, although they do spectacularly poorly with the alien. They do cause enough confusion and delay that the alien, still not quite clear on what’s actually going on, agrees to compete on the show. It’s a goofy little scene, very in keeping with the general Legends vibe, and it was fun to watch.
Mick continues to throw attitude on the Waverider, and Spooner offers some insight as to why this might be. Mick, to no surprise, doesn’t seem receptive to the comments. Ava tries a brilliant plan that should have worked fine (I think she’s the team’s finest tactician), but there are some complications she couldn’t have known about. So, the show must go on, and the alien has no idea who or what a “Sara Lance” is. A nice small detail is how well the rest of the team works together in this scene, while Spooner, the newbie, is like “What the hell is going on?” In a coffee shop meeting with some weird tableware, Zari’s assistant Les-Ley, a great assistant but increasingly awful person, brings some unwelcome news. Constantine is put off by the shallowness of all this, and is generally grumpy during the meeting. Zari, who is very clever, manages to line up a solution to several problems at once, and makes an announcement that various random people go with for… reasons. Hey, it’s that kind of show.
One of the best bits for the show-in-a-show is the Host of the Da Throne, who never gets a name, not even in the credits. The guy is entertaining and pitch-perfect vapid for what they have him doing. I really kind of like his intro line of “Friends, Foes, and Neithers.” Not having anything else to do at the moment, Ava and Spooner watch the show, and Ava tells Spooner a bit more about how the Legends work. Spooner is mostly complimentary, but has some reservations about one of the team. Zari gets her turn to compete against some weird K-Pop twins we don’t actually see do much. Her number is spot on, dealing with her social media life and paparazzi. It also shows off the vocal skills of Tala Ashe, who plays Zari. Spooner shakes her head, bemused by how the group operates.
Things are not getting better on whatever world Gary and Sara are on. A large search party is coming after them, and the usually deadly Sara is far too weakened to fight. She makes Gary pull out the stops, and we see him being surprisingly effective in his new form. Never one to stay out of trouble, Sara follows something surprising she sees, while Gary makes a startling discovery about some of the enemies he’s downed. Nate and Behrad are all in on their temporary career, and Constantine gets dragged into the whole scene, much against his will. Zari gets her own surprise when she ducks a phone call and then her mother turns up in person. They have an awkward mother/daughter conversation, and, as is often the case, an eavesdropper hears something unpleasant. John bemoans his new look as being too much like Cris Angel, and gets dragged into a big celebrity interview with Zari and the Host. There’s a lot of emotional drama, and at least an attempt at explaining where Zari has been while off with the Legends. As the chaos swirls, Zari gets some unexpected help from someone.
Lost, alone, and poisoned, Sara is still formidable, and she deals with an immediate problem. In another entertaining bit, the Host interviews Lord Knoxacrillion, and they really end up having two slightly different conversations. Mick makes a rash decision that has a lot of ramifications, and gets a combination encouraging talk/shape up or ship out lecture from Ava. Mick really had that one coming. Constantine has a very disturbing conversation with Les-Lay the aide, and we learn some interesting things about her. She’s committed, I’ll give her that. Then there’s some back-stabbing manipulation that’s such a big part of so many reality shows. Even the usually mellow Behrad gets irritated enough to lash out.
All this brings us to the big final musical battle, with all the big surprises, including a would-be alien conqueror being able to sing really well, and some lyrics that clearly were meant for someone else. After some hurried, whispered conversations backstage, Zari has to improvise and does a callback to something we heard earlier. It’s not only a good number, it’s a big scene for two of them, has an impostor moment, and some unexpected backup. Especially considering I’m really not a fan of reality tv or competition shows, there were a lot of entertaining moments in all this.
The Legends save the day in their own, way off-beat style, and have a little celebration. There’s an amusing reveal cut short by casual violence, another big moment for our leading couple (on this episode anyway), and a new direction for the team’s search. Things wrap up with a final scene with Sara, who ends up someplace new with another odd situation.
What I liked: Nate and Behrad actually remembered and used their powers (for all the good it did them). The Host and even Knoxacrillion were a lot of fun. They captured the vibe of the reality tv/competition shows really well. I’m not wild about the Zari/Constantine pairing, but they’re really making it work here. They had some good scenes together. Les-Lay is horrible, but interesting.
What I didn’t: They just don’t seem to know what to do with Mick, and now Spooner. Nate’s power is so unreliable they might as well find a way to take it from him. Where is Astra? The cast is large enough that they have trouble juggling screen time and plot points. I’m just not engaged in the Sara/Gary scenes. They really seem to keep playing Gary as a one trick pony- he’s essentially Shaggy from Scooby Doo.
I liked this a lot more than I thought I would have. I’m giving this amusing insanity a 3.5 out of 5.