[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Director: Kristen Windell
Writers: James Eagan and Morgan Faust
Starring: Caity Lotz, Brandon Routh, Tala Ashe, Dominic Purcell, Jes Macallan, Amy Louise Pemberton, Nick Zano, Matt Ryan, Adam Tsekhman, Jack Gillet, Maisie Richardson-Sellers, Aria DeMaris, Artin John, Gwen Lorenzetti, Natalie Moon, Anjli Mohindra
While the Legends pursue a terrorist in 1970s London, which forces Ray to infiltrate his ranks, Nate struggles on his first day with The Time Bureau.
More dark this week, more Constantine backstory, and a new variation on a former Legend that spiced things up. Let’s get to it.
The shock factor of Queen Elizabeth II rocking out and mooning a punk rock crowd was both funny and a “WTF!” moment for fans of The Crown. Given that punk rock is in John Constantine’s background, the writers were clever in going in the opposite direction by inserting straight-arrow Ray Palmer in the role of the guy on the inside. Given that Brandon Routh has always been seen since Superman Returns as the upstanding protagonist, it was new seeing him again, as Ray, bend the rules as he got closer to the actual story behind the latest fugitive. Out of all the crew members on The Waverider, Palmer has been the tech geek that rarely got his hands dirty, but before fake Ray suits up and opens fire, the real Ray is willing to go against his captain’s orders to aid and abet another potentially-dangerous fugitive.
In some ways, Ray has replaced Amaya as the “moral compass” that he billed her as. Where the others saw a black and white scenario, he offered shades of gray (without the bdsm with Dakota Johnson of course) to this week. It’s only because of him that Charlie is spared, but at the same time, he saddles the team with two new secrets: Norah Darhk is at large because of him, and they now have a “lobotomized” magical fugitive captive wearing the face of a former teammate. Excluding the ridiculous ink job he got, this episode showed growth in Ray’s story this season because as he’s trying to find himself, his limits are being tested.
Matt Ryan’s Constantine provides the right amount of friction that the Legends need. The onscreen chemistry between he and fellow alpha Mick Rory, played by Dominic Purcell, is hilarious to watch. They’re both rebels and hate taking orders, so they easily clash like they did in that brawl. John worked better this week because the team was in his natural element: The UK punk rock scene. The pub scene that reveals John’s backstory – up until he idiotically gets into a brawl with his own father – was very sentimental given he was discreetly hanging out with the mother who died giving birth to him.
His confiding in Zari to a point showed depth and revealed to newcomers that it’s his origin that drives him. The writers chose the right moment to reveal the actual beginning of this downward spiral, where his demons truly begin, and rightfully sampled the comic. They even made note of his past as a rocker, right down to the name of his band “Mucus Membranes.” What also worked this week was teasing the face belonging to the force that is hunting him, but having John shut himself up before he opened up too far. Ryan portrays this tortured soul masterfully and is naturally funny without even trying. Although there are layers of darkness to his character, the writers are gradually introducing those layers without overshadowing the series itself.
The character of the shape-shifter Charlie, played by Anjli Mohindra, is the perfect out-of-nowhere antagonist. The audience is easily diverted from suspecting her as the real fugitive through the most reliable occult source – Constantine – and you keep eyeing the carrot-red-haired punker as the Leprechaun. The perfect misdirection. It takes attention to detail to note that scene where Charlie steps in the rice as the director’s way of subtly teasing where your focus should be. Her backstory conveyed to Ray is understandable and sympathetic. Mohindra gives the audience a character that feels misunderstood and therefore driven to rebel, hence the punk rocker. It’s the perfect lead-in to when she is replaced permanently by the returning Maisie Richardson-Seller after Constantine freezes her in Amaya’s form.
Her choosing Amaya’s face at random gives Ray’s pleas for mercy the strength they need to change the minds of the Legends, and it’s the perfect psychological vehicle for this potential protagonist to gain their trust and maybe receive it as well. At the same time, it also provides a “ghost” of sorts on the ship; this is the face of their friend worn by someone who tried to kill him using another friend’s face. This gives Seller new material to work with; same face, but different personality. This character is once more held against her will by humans and this time stripped of her powers seemingly forever. Her presence also provides the team with possible intel as to who else escaped Hell when Mallus was defeated. It will be interesting to see when the real Amaya’s ex, Nate, returns aboard the Waverider and is forced to interact with Charlie.
The Nate and Gary scenes were cringe-worthy at every turn. I don’t know what the writers were thinking with the new “time bros” idea. There was barely a scene between those two that you want to tune in to watch. From running from a saber-toothed tiger to chasing after a humanoid carnivorous plant, it felt like a farce, right down to the latter’s entrails on their face. And the bitten-off nipple thing with Gary is a bad joke that is being stretched too far.
While the pub scene was funny with John erasing himself twice from the timeline via almost smashing his own father’s junk, the writers were trying too hard to insert comedy into this. At the risk of sounding like Sheldon Cooper, that paradox that Zari mentioned doesn’t exist and sounds farcical. It would have been cool to see John interact more with his mother besides her pouring him pints.
I understand the need to ensure this doesn’t become Constantine season two, but I feel it was a wasted opportunity. How would you interact with a woman who you only know through pictures? A mother who died giving birth to you, which your father blamed you for? That could have been more interesting than the Nate and Gary scenes. They managed to show that off brilliantly with Leonard Snart’s trip back to his childhood in season one, so I fail to see why they couldn’t do John that courtesy. Whether it’s in step with the character or not, it was a fail for the script.
Finally, the initiation scene for Ray can be filed under “What the frak were they thinking?” Forget “Haircut,” Mick; it’s the writers that have finally lost it. You’d think that the Time Bureau would crucify Ray for abducting the Queen’s dog and giving it a mohawk.
While it was hot seeing Sarah take out the Queen’s security around those dogs, the cops in pursuit of Ray felt fake; you could almost smell the plastic off the prop batons. In the real world, Palmer would never have gotten away. And can someone please tell me how Charlie managed to get his A.T.O.M. Suit on? And what became of her band?
I give this a merciful 4 out of 5 because there was more depth this week in the subplots of Ray and Constantine and the creative way of bringing “Amaya” back. The story involving John could be building into a situation that correlates wth the Legends’ new mission, and the pacing feels right. Ray’s rebelling against Time Bureau regulations regarding Charlie and Norah could have resulting consequences if they are reported or discovered by Ava.
Seeing Maisie as Charlie with Amaya’s face is a chance to both use her natural British accent and portray a completely different character that could use that psychological edge to her advantage. Again, there has to be more maturity in the Time Bureau scenes and please, less Gary; he’s becoming the Screech Powers of this show, meaning comedic potential ruined by bad writing. And again, keep your chest covered. The less nonsensical magical villain worked better this week than the head trip of the last two episodes, so I hope that we see more layered escapees that test the team in this manner.