[Review] Legends Of Tomorrow Episode 3×04: “Phone Home”

written by Kate Spencer

SPOILER WARNINGS ARE IN EFFECT

Get your shoulderpads, legwarmers, and Members Only jackets ready; we’re heading back to the 1980s to save the timestream from another anachronism! …it’s parachute pants, isn’t it? I knew those things didn’t belong.

Ivy Town, 1988. Young Ray Palmer runs through a government facility only to be cornered by Smith (remember him from last year’s crossover?). Little Ray tries to swipe Smith’s keys and the other agent shoots him.

Back on the Waverider, in the “present” – the relative present from the team’s perspective, I mean – Ray tries taking the Legends through team-building exercises since they have a new member. Zari has the team figured out, though: Stein wants to be off the ship, Nate and Amaya are Ross and Rachel, Mick has been drunk since breakfast, Jax is wondering if Zari is single, and Gideon is upset about Zari hacking her. Spot on. Also, the Waverider has only one bathroom, yet like a hundred secret rooms and compartments? What the hell, Time Masters? Ray suddenly vanishes from history during a trust fall exercise…because he died in 1988. Is that all it takes to get out of a team-building meeting? I’ll have to remember that.

They travel to 1988 to prevent Little Ray’s death and, upon arrival, present-Ray fades back into existence because someone played Earth Angel They set out to go undercover, suiting up in ’80s fashions that hurt my eyes. Ray is positive about the experience since he gets to revisit his hometown and Zari is baffled by the positivity. They all tail Little Ray and there’s a funny moment of Nate standing by a DeLorean saying “Now this is a time machine.” They don’t see anything out of the ordinary until Ray peeks in his younger self’s bedroom window, where Little Ray is feeding candy to “Gumball” – a baby Dominator.

Stein, meanwhile, is acting suspiciously, which is always a bad sign. Jax thinks there’s something to what Zari said about Stein not wanting to be on the ship, so he and Mick go snooping. They find a room converted into a lab where Stein has built a communicator that works across time. Jax and Mick come to the logical conclusion: Stein is working for the Time Bureau! …Wait, what?

Ray has a plan: the next day while his mom is at work and Little Ray is at school, they’ll kidnap the Dominator. Wait, they arrived on October 30th, 1988 and Little Ray was leaving school when they saw him. October 30th was a Sunday in 1988. How big of a nerd is Ray that he’s going to school on Sunday? Amaya and Nate pose as animal control and wait outside while Ray and Zari break into the house to get the Dominator, who they find in Little Ray’s closet among some stuffed animals. This is going to be full of E.T. references, isn’t it? I’m fine with that; I’m just asking. Little Ray stayed home from school though, so Zari hides under the bed and Ray shrinks down to…Littler Ray.

This episode is getting confusing.

Little Ray puts on Singin’ In the Rain. Mick says he prefers Fiddler On the Roof and I love the synchronized turn and stare that Stein and Sara do when he says this. A car pulls up outside and Nate asks Ray over the comms if he knows anyone who drives a green station wagon with fake wood paneling. Yeah, literally everyone in the ’80s. No, it’s Ray’s mom….who Nate thinks is hot. Mrs. Palmer scolds Little Ray for skipping school. Amaya and Nate go to the door with their Animal Control cover.

NATE: “Is there a cougar on the premises?”

NATE, NO.

Little Ray slips out with Gumball and Atom-Ray (who Little Ray thinks is a toy) in his bag. Zari runs after him, but Little Ray is afraid she’s just going to take Gumball away. She tries to appeal to Little Ray’s imaginative mind by playing along with his Camelot roleplaying, but they’re all captured by Smith and his government goons.

Sara tracks the signal of another time ship to a playground where she’s attacked by Gumball’s mother. Momma says Sara knows what she’s looking for. “Breath mint? Dermatologist recommendation? Reese’s Pieces?” I love Sara being snarky. I love Sara being snarky to a powerful alien even more. Mominator reads her mind to get the information she needs.

Stein tries to steal the jump ship, but Jax and Mick are waiting for him. Mick breaks the jump ship so he can’t leave. They accuse him of being in league with the Time Bureau. Stein just wants to get home in time for the birth of his grandchild. They can’t take the jump ship anymore, so they steal the Waverider.

The government goons use a scrambler to painfully block Gumball’s mental powers. The opening scene of Little Ray searching the facility plays out, only this time Ray and Zari save him before he’s shot. Little Ray wants to save Gumball, but Ray refuses, giving his younger self a tough love lecture about how he needs to stop seeing things in such an idealistic light and living in fantasies. Surprisingly, it’s Zari who steps in and encourages Little Ray’s imagination. She also promises they’ll save Gumball.

Worried that Mominator is going after Mrs. Palmer, Nate goes to the door again, still posing as Animal Control. Heh, wouldn’t it be funny if Nate turned out to be the father of Ray’s brother Sidney? Mrs. Palmer answers the door and starts seducing Na–OH GOD I WAS KIDDING! I TAKE IT BACK! Phew, it’s just the Mominator posing as Mrs. Palmer. I was really worried for a second there…oh yeah, Nate is in danger. I guess that’s bad. Amaya tackles Mominator and they escape, but not before Nate has kissed a Dominator…and he liked it.

Nate…just no. Always no.

The Rays and Zari free Gumball, and Little Ray’s positive outlook is rewarded when he turns off the device inhibiting Gumball’s abilities. Instead of killing them all, Gumball makes the government agents sing and dance to “Good Morning” from Singin’ In the Rain.Yeah, I lost it at this point. They run outside and steal a couple of bikes OMG ARE THEY GOING TO DO THE THING? Zari activates her totem to lift the bikes that she and Little Ray are riding and they Do the Thing.

Took almost the whole episode for them to get there, but wow, that was worth it.

When they land next to the others, Nate gets the reference to E.T., but Zari asks “What’s E.T.?” 2042 sucks. 2042 sucks real bad. Gumball is returned to Mominator after a tearful goodbye from Little Ray (which also prompts some tears from the Legends).

Stein makes it in time to welcome his new grandson “Ronnie” into the world. The Legends then take Little Ray out for trick-or-treating in their superhero costumes, including Zari, who sports a modernized version of the Isis costume. Back on the ship, Jax comes to Ray with an idea. He’s seen that Stein belongs with his family, so he wants to break up Firestorm.

This was fun! I loved the references to E.T. like the closet scene and of course the bicycles. The show does things like this really well, as we saw last season with “Raiders Of the Lost Art.” This episode gave me some new perspective on Ray which I hadn’t really considered before. He never lost the childlike wonder and optimism of his youth, and that’s why he is the way he is today. It actually fits with him being an inventor, because for a creative person, having that imagination and viewing all of the possibilities that could exist can be really important. Sure, Ray has to save himself from being erased from time, but visiting his hometown is exciting for him too.

On the less optimistic side of things, we have Zari, who grew up in a dystopian world where metahumans, religion, video games, and candy are all outlawed. Truly the bleakest of futures. It’s not hard to see why Zari would find Ray’s optimism so puzzling because there’s not a lot going for people in her future. That’s why seeing her marveling at blue skies, smiling children, and picket fences is so heartwarming. Seeing her playing along with and encouraging Little Ray was cute, and when she drags the other Legends out to go trick-or-treating, it shows that maybe there’s a bit of joy and positivity in her which 2042 couldn’t stamp out. If the previous episode made me like Zari, this one made me really like her. I hope she sticks around for a while.

Lastly, I should mention the Firestorm subplot. I read recently that Victor Garber would be leaving the series this season, and they’re writing a decent out for Martin Stein. He’s a father and a grandfather now, and Stein deserves a retirement. How that will play out with Jax and Firestorm remains to be seen, but there is some comic precedent for Firestorm being only one person. Jax could go solo, find another partner, or be a hero another way. Last season, we saw Jax fighting off an entire group of soldiers with no powers, just his wits and some improvised traps. Anything is possible. Speaking of anything being possible…

Next time: Vampires, I guess? Fine, whatever. We had Confederate zombies last season.

Legends Of Tomorrow airs Tuesdays on the CW at 9 ET/8 CT. Kate can be reached on Twitter @WearyKatie.

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