[Review] Legends Of Tomorrow Episode 3×17: “Guest Starring John Noble”

written by Kate Danvers


There was a time when someone could ask me what this show was about and I would be able to answer them with relative ease. I could describe an episode in a self-contained way that didn’t require explaining entire season-long arcs or contextualizing mystical reality-altering spears. Those were good times.

Anyway, a time-traveling genetically-modified psychic gorilla from 2018 is trying to kill Barack Obama during his college years in 1979 because there’s a demon imprisoned in time trying to create enough aberrations in the timeline to free himself. Oh, and Amaya stole the jump ship so she could save her family from their future fate, which is everyone else’s past. Sara sends Nate and Wally to 1992 to talk some sense into Amaya, Zari volunteers to look for a loophole that might save Zambesi without altering the timeline, and the rest of the team (plus Rip and Ava) are “on Obamacare”. Sara, I love you.

Grodd is trying to “make America Grodd again”. *groan* The Legends save Obama with Ray telling him to “run, Barry, run!” *grooooaaaaan* Then they shrink Grodd down and put him in a jar. At this point I’m surprised they didn’t give him a pair of tiny cymbals.

Mallus’ ascension is temporarily halted, but Damien seems relieved. He didn’t like the look of things because Mallus was completely taking over Nora as his vessel. Nora is resolute, so father and daughter say a tearful farewell and Damien leaves to finish Grodd’s mission. He goes to 1979, where Sara and Rip have just erased Obama’s memory of the event. Damien isn’t there for Obama, though – he needs the Legends’ help to save his daughter.

Amaya, meanwhile, will not be deterred from saving her people. At a ceremony, her older self is going to present the Anansi totem to her daughter Esi. Nate takes the elder Amaya’s presence as a sign that he and Amaya don’t grow old together. Well no duh! You knew this from the start! In fact, Ray warned you when you started the relationship with her! Did you think time was going to make an exception for “ermahgrd, tru lurv”?

Little Kuasa arrives with baby Mari in her arms and tells the elder Amaya that Esi isn’t coming. Wally and Nate meet up with their Amaya outside. She wants to convince Esi to accept the totem which will change history. Wally warns against it because he remembers what happened with Barry Allen and Flashpoint. Wallace West, you are the voice of reason and sense this team desperately needs but will always ignore. Nate thinks Amaya’s plan is a great idea. She’ll talk to Esi and he’ll get the totem from elder Amaya.

WALLY: “Wait, we’re doing what?”

Wally is all of us.

Damien allows himself to be taken back to the Waverider, and even helps correct the Legends when they try to make a binding circle that Constantine taught them. Quite sporting of him. As another gesture of good faith, he hands over the water totem. Sara wants to kill Damien anyway, Rip and Ava want to incarcerate him, and Mick wants to incinerate him. Sara holds off for now and goes for a drink. Ava tries to comfort her at Rip’s insistence. Sara tells Ava to confront Rip about the clone thing but Ava just wants to put it off. Frustrated, Sara goes to the one person who can make sense of everything when the world has gone crazy: Barry Obama.

Okay, this scene is fantastic. The actor playing Obama (Lovell Adams-Gray) does a really good job of mimicking his speech patterns and mannerisms. He tells her that Ava is clinging to regulations to avoid the clone issue, that Sara herself is simply being human in her desire to avenge her sister, and that turning Damien over to the Time Bureau might not be the best idea. Before once again erasing his memory of future events, Sara tells Obama that she really misses him*. Sara is also all of us.

Sara goes back to the Waverider and offers Damien a deal – the Legends will help him defeat Mallus and save Nora as long as she gets to kill him when it’s all over. Damien agrees. Wait, what? Did he not understand the terms of the deal? On the bridge he asks if any of the little flashing screens at the console actually do anything. Sara dodges that question and sticks to planning. Nora only listens to Mallus. They need Mallus to tell her what to do, and suddenly they all hear the voice of Mallus – no, wait, it’s Denethor from Lord Of the Rings (which Mick is watching) who sounds remarkably like Mallus.

So Ray goes to the New Zealand set of the Lord Of the Rings trilogy in 1999 and knocks on the door of actor John Noble’s trailer. Posing as a production assistant, he prompts Noble to rehearse some rewritten lines involving a new character while he records. So John Noble, the voice of Mallus, is playing John Noble playing Denethor unknowingly recording audio pretending to be Mallus. Fucking meta. Also this is the second season where Tolkien has either directly or indirectly been part of the plan to defeat the main villain.

Amaya convinces Esi to wear the totem and defend the village the next day. Wally tells Nate that this plan is going to do more harm than good and warns him that, while he loves him, he will stop him if he takes this too far. I like this short scene a lot. Nate’s love for Amaya is somewhere between clouded judgment and a desire not to see Amaya hurt. Wally is far enough removed that he’s able to think more rationally, but Nate is still a good friend, so he hesitates but still gives a stiff warning. Wally then goes back to the Waverider, probably to warn everyone that Nate and Amaya are about to screw everything up. Nate tries to steal the totem from the elder Amaya while she’s sleeping, but she wakes up and kicks his ass. She doesn’t recognize him, so he shows her pictures of the two of them together. He talks her into giving the totem to Esi.

With a shrunk-down Ray in her ear broadcasting the voice of “Mallus”, Damien gets Nora to come with him to the Waverider, where she’s captured in the binding circle. Damien admits to being a terrible father and pleads with Nora, but she’s lost to Mallus.

Ava finally confronts Rip about her past. He insists she’s “special” and different from the other clones in 2213, but that’s pretty much nullified when he lets slip that she’s not even the first Agent Ava Sharpe, she’s the twelfth. He defends this by saying it’s hard to find talented agents and replaceable ones at that. Jesus Christ, Rip! What the hell has happened to this character that he so glibly uses clones as disposable agents? From his perspective, the Time Bureau was founded five years ago. In five years he lost eleven Avas?! And every time he reacted like “oh well, better get a new one”?? Even the non-clone ones don’t seem to matter to him, because a few episodes back when he watched the old director get beaten to death by Grodd he only remarked that Ava just got a promotion. He seems to have more of an attachment to that coat of his than he does to his agents. Rip was kind of cold and distant at times in the first season, but this season he’s written like a sociopath.

Sara runs into Damien in the hallway. He’s sad about losing Nora and actually seems genuinely remorseful about killing Laurel. He didn’t love anyone enough to know what losing someone was like back then and wishes he could take it back. It’s really hard to tell if he’s being sincere or manipulative. He doesn’t really have anything more to gain through deception at this point. He wonders if people can change like Sara did, but Sara is still hung up on the death totem incident. He tells her she didn’t kill her friends because of love, and that’s the only thing keeping people like the two of them from being alone. Sara storms off.

Nate asks Amaya why her older self didn’t remember him. She says the only way she would be able to leave the ship and specifically him behind is if she erased her memory. Nate pledges to stay behind for now to make sure the village is saved by Esi.

Wally lets the others know what Amaya and Nate are doing. Zari’s simulation shows that there’s no loophole – to preserve the timeline, the village has to fall. Sara has an idea about how to defeat Mallus: they let him escape! Oh, I’m getting Final Fantasy VIII vibes here. They have the six totems now, they can set Mallus free and then destroy him. Let’s see, ten minutes left in this episode, a whole other one to go…I’m gonna guess this goes horribly wrong. No no, it’s fine. The original totem bearers failed because the wielder of the death totem betrayed them. This will totes work unless Damien Darhk betrays them.

They’re going to give Damien the death totem, aren’t they?

Yep! The death totem was drawn to Sara because she shares a unique trait with Damien: they’ve both died. So has nearly everyone else if you count altered timelines and clones, but sure. Sara gives him the totem. Ava doesn’t support the plan, fires Rip (who’s backing the plan), and walks off. Sara follows her, but Ava is still hung up on being a clone, so regulations are all she has. Sara tells Ava that she loves her. Yay!! “There’s no me to love.” NO!! Ava goes back to the Time Bureau while stepping over pieces of my shattered heart.

Wally and Ray deliver the “good” news to Nate and Amaya that they have the water totem, Nora, Damien, and how they saved Obama. “Oh, and I met John Noble!” Ray is too much of a goober for this world. They still have two totems which need bearers, though. Nate’s pitch for the earth totem is that he’s a man of steel, and he used to watch Planet Earth while stoned. Sara throws the earth totem at him to shut him up. Ray talks up the benefits of water and is told to take the totem by his impatient teammates.

Nora appears in spirit form to her father, telling him she made a mistake. Damien is so going to betray them.

The Legends take Nora to the village just as the warlords attack. They ready themselves to destroy Mallus, even though two of them can’t even activate their totems. They are so bad at this. Mallus isn’t coming out, though, so Rip checks the timeline. The warlords no longer destroy the village; an angry gorilla does. In a betrayal that no one could have ever in a million years could have possibly predicted, Damien has set Grodd free to preserve the timeline and prevent his daughter’s death.

Esi fights Grodd while the Legends fight Damien, who has set Nora free to run outside. Nate saves Esi and the elder Amaya from Grodd by using the earth totem. Ray still can’t activate the water totem, but distracts Damien long enough to allow Sara to stab him and get the death totem away from him. Outside, with the village saved, Nora undergoes a painful transformation into a huge winged demon.

In the first two seasons there was always an episode right at the end that left me feeling disappointed either because everyone acted out of character or because the scope of the episode was just not ambitious enough, but I did like this one for the most part. They do use the trope where the good guys have victory in their grasp and then do something to mess it up, but no one is acting out of character. Scratch that; almost no one is acting out of character. I don’t know what the hell they’re doing with Rip. Sara has a very weird path to trusting Damien, at least to the degree that she does in this episode. Amaya’s motives make perfect sense because she’s trying to protect her people and her family. Nate is letting his love for Amaya get in the way of what needs to be done. It makes sense. It’s one thing to say “yeah, this village is meant to be destroyed so we have to let it be destroyed and let our friend die”, but it’s something else to actually do that. We’ve seen this type of conflict before, like last season with Sara wanting to kill Damien or Rip’s entire first season arc. Just because something is supposed to happen doesn’t make it easy to just sit back and let it happen.

Next time: Romans, vikings, and pirates fighting in the old west…look, nothing is going to top a psychic gorilla attacking a future president, but that’s still pretty weird.

Legends Of Tomorrow airs (temporarily) Mondays on the CW at 8 ET/7 CT. Kate can be reached on Twitter @WearyKatie.

1 thought on “[Review] Legends Of Tomorrow Episode 3×17: “Guest Starring John Noble”

  1. Everyone please take note of the fact that this was published before the season finale.

    Fear Kate and her psychic powers. Fear her.

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