[Review] Legends Of Tomorrow Season Three Retrospective

written by Kate Spencer

SPOILER WARNINGS ARE IN EFFECT

Goodbye, Season Three. You brought us so much joy, tears, zaniness, representation, and laughter. Let’s take a look at some of the major beats throughout the season and speculate about where we might go in Season Four. Praise Beebo.

The overarching plot this season was about the Legends trying to prevent the Darhks and Kuasa from freeing a demon. Early episodes got the plot rolling a little slowly. Mallus was name-dropped, Kuasa and Damien were raised from the dead, Nora was established as a vessel for Mallus – but we weren’t told who or what Mallus was or why Damien was so interested in anachronisms. We knew early on that the totems were going to be major plot points with Amaya’s early season arc and Zari’s introduction, but none of how any of it fit together. There were hints dropped along the way, but nothing substantial, and running themes which seemed like they were going somewhere were quietly dismissed later. A big deal was made of all of the coincidences surrounding the Legends running into family or ancestors, but then we got a throwaway line about how that meant they were destined to wield the totems.

Overall, the plot had the same problems as the one last season: too much of a slow build-up and giving us information a little too late. I think the idea that time was Mallus’ prison and anachronisms were the way to free him should have been introduced much earlier on. It would have given the whole thing more of a sense of urgency rather than just wacky scenarios for the team to face every week.

Speaking of wacky, the series really leaned into Silver Age themes and crazy antics. They had a time loop Groundhog Day episode and an episode where Vikings worshiped a talking stuffed toy – not many shows embrace that sort of thing. Legends of Tomorrow has always delved into that territory, but this season it was like the writers fully embraced that they’re a comic book show, and it really works. Again, they had a goddamned giant teddy bear fighting a demon in the season finale. That’s absolute genius. With all of the magic themes and goofy stuff throughout the season, it really didn’t even feel that out of place. Sure, there’s still a lot of “OMG what is even happening right now”, but you sort of want that when a giant Beebo is doing a flip kick.

I’m going to touch on a few character arcs as best I can without making this too long because there are a lot of characters this season, not helped by introducing four new main characters, three interesting villains, two mid-season departures, and goddamn Gary.

Actually, let’s get that last one out of the way first. Agent Gary Green (played by Adam Tsekhman) shows up several times throughout the season. He doesn’t really have much in the way of his own stories or character growth, but I still enjoyed every moment he was on screen. Gary is the lovable doofus comic relief character with one of those names that’s just fun to say in an irritated voice. Gary and Ava were the faces of the Time Bureau this season and they brought life to what would otherwise be just another A.R.G.U.S. I really hope Gary comes back for Season Four.

You can’t really talk about Jax and Stein without talking about them together, and this season they were really two sides of the same arc. Jax recognizes that Stein wants to be with his family so he starts trying to find a way to enable him to do that, eventually getting Stein himself to join in. They have a tighter bond than any two members of the team – one that’s physical, mental, and emotional on top of the father-son relationship they’ve developed. The early episodes did a good job of showing that losing each other would be like losing a large part of themselves. I’m still not happy with Stein’s death, and I still find it wholly unnecessary given that they were already building to a heartbreaking departure. It would have been nice to see Jax become a solo Firestorm, a new hero, or find a place on the team without the powered heroics. Unfortunately, we also lost Jax just one episode later when he retired from the team. At least we got closure in the finale that told us Jax gets the happy ending with a family that Stein never got.

Another pair to talk about is Amaya and Nate, who are still bouncing back and forth between accepting fate by preserving the timeline and giving destiny the double birds. They both know what the right thing to do is, but they let emotions get in the way and that’s…perfectly understandable. I’m serious; it’s easy to backseat superhero and say they’re being selfish, but it’s impossible to make that choice when the end result is death, destruction, and a couple of orphans. “Selfish” doesn’t seem so bad in the larger scope. For his part, Nate does what Carter didn’t do with Kendra – he lets Amaya decide whether to give in to destiny or not and supports her where he can. Amaya herself is left with an impossible choice between her current love and the family she’s destined to have only to lose. That becomes more difficult when she’s confronted with her villainous granddaughter who blames her for her lot in life. In the end, Amaya has a bittersweet ending – she’s changed her personal future and the future of her family, but she has to say goodbye to her friends and lover.

We got to see a little of what makes Ray tick this season, mostly in “Phone Home” but also in the running subplot with Nora. It’s easy to dismiss as “Ray fell for a pretty girl”, but I don’t think it’s that at all. Ray has an unwavering optimism which told him there was still hope for Nora. Weirdly, in a way, I think the episode where he was captured also led him to believe there was hope for Damien as well. I call Ray a goober a lot, and I don’t mean it as an insult. His optimism and love of nerdy things is endearing. In his head, everything can be solved with kindness and a song, like those musicals he loves. That’s not a bad world to live in.

Weeks ago I read an article about the episode “Here I Go Again” and Tala Ashe’s performance as Zari. It’s a great article and worth a read, but I mention it here because it made me realize something: “Here I Go Again” was Zari’s ninth episode. That honestly surprised me because it had felt like she had been around for so much longer. Zari immediately fits into the show in a way that makes it seem like she’s always been there. It’s largely due to how well Ashe and the other actors play off of one another.

I love Zari so much. The dripping sarcasm, the “I give no fucks” façade which crumbles the moment she’s presented with an opportunity to care about others, and the way she makes up for a lifetime of living in a dystopian future by constantly playing video games and eating junk food. Like almost every Legend has at some point, she’s discovering her place on the team. They left a dangling plot thread about whether she can change her past and save her brother that will hopefully be addressed next season. I also like the direction they’re going with her and Wally. The two sort of developed an early brother-and-sister-like rapport with each other that really works. Wally is away from his sister, Zari has lost her brother, so they kind of fit together well in that sense.

Speaking of Wally, oh holy Beebo yes. Having him jump shows from The Flash to Legends of Tomorrow was a great move. Wally tended to fade into the background on The Flash, but the Legends writers seem to know what to do with him. Since he came in towards the end of the season, we didn’t have a lot of time with him, but he had a little mini-arc about not rushing in with his speed to impulsively solve problems. He also had closure to his breakup with Jesse Quick, which was one of his strongest moments. Like Zari, Wally fits in right away and doesn’t seem like the new guy for long. Keiynan Lonsdale is a good actor, and I’m looking forward to seeing what they give him in Season Four.

My disappointment with Mick’s lack of screen time is growing. In a lot of episodes he’s just sort of there in a scene or two to growl, make a dumb comment, or stuff his face. He did have a really good episode in “Welcome To the Jungle” where he had to confront a lot of his demons in the form of his father. It’s interesting in how different that was from Leonard confronting his dad in Season One. Leonard’s dad was always a bastard, but Mick got to see his father at a time where he wasn’t such a bad person, and in doing so a lot of guilt over killing him crept up. His interactions with Leo Snart from Earth-X were good, but disappointing. I think more could have been done with Mick reconciling his grief over his friend than was done with evil Snart last season. Still, I’m glad they gave us a heroic Snart for Mick and the audience to say goodbye to.

I legitimately looked over a list of characters just now to see which ones I hadn’t talked about yet. This season is exhausting.

Sara! Sara is awesome as ever. It was great to see her take Rip and the Time Bureau’s lack of faith in the Legends as a personal challenge. She stole the Waverider back, declared “We don’t fuck up all the time!”, promptly fucked up, and kept rolling with it anyway because it’s either time travel or retail. I relate to Sara so hard sometimes. Caity Lotz tackles a very physical role with Sara because she’s one of the team’s major brawlers, but in addition to bringing the muscle, she also brings the heart…which is also a muscle, I guess. The point is, Sara’s an important part of holding the team together, but she has her demons – both literal and figurative. This season she had to deal with not only the aspects of death in her life, but how weird her life is overall. I’m so glad they gave her a healthy relationship this season. She and Ava were a little bit of a slow burn, but the chemistry was always there. Sara needs more normal and stability in her life, and if we get a lady couple in the process, all the better.

Ava is a fun character. She’s the no-nonsense government agent type, which makes her perfect for scenes with goofy Gary or “fuck the rules, I do what I want” Sara. Of course there was her big arc in learning who she was and coming to terms with that. I don’t really know how a person should react to finding out they’re one of hundreds of clones from the future, but Jes Macallan did amazingly in showing Ava’s turmoil. Her other big arc was going from one of the Legends’ biggest detractors to one of their strongest supporters. Some might say that yeah, it’s because her girlfriend is the team leader, but even before that she started trusting the Legends with missions. She’s come to see that while they don’t follow regulations and they fuck things up for the first forty minutes of every episode, they do come through in the end. Macallan has been promoted to series regular, so we’ll be getting a lot more of Ava next season.

Rip Hunter took some weird turns this season. Arthur Darvill is still great in the role; it’s just the things they had him doing for the sake of the plot weren’t that great. In five years’ time, he formed the Time Bureau, lost all faith in the Legends, recruited and lost eleven Ava clones, and became an unsympathetic ass. I brought it up when it happened, but his complete dismissal of Director Bennett’s death bordered on sociopathic. His insistence that Ava is special seems odd considering he’s gone through eleven others, and during that conversation he almost sounds like he’s extolling the benefits of disposable agents. Rip has always been a “means justify the ends” kind of guy, but those actions went beyond the pale. In the end, he gets his moment of self-sacrifice that in some ways feels like it should have been the bookend to a stronger character arc.

John Constantine only made a few appearances this season, but he did so with his usual charm and swagger. Constantine didn’t really have an arc this season, but they reestablished some things from his original show which could come up again next season. His addition to the cast as a series regular as well as the cliffhanger at the end of the season might mean that next year we’ll be getting more supernatural elements in the show. I’m okay with that.

Okay…was that everyone? Good. Oh crap, we had villains this season too, didn’t we?

Mallus! Not a lot to talk about there. He was this constant background threat but we never really knew his grand plan or anything, just that he was focused on escaping. There was the vague assertion that he would destroy all of time, but he got Beebo’d before even beginning to put that plan into action. At least we got an awesome performance from John Noble, who would sound intense reading the phone book.

Damien Darhk was his usual Damien self this season, being utterly sinister but also kind of entertaining in a Magnificent Bastard sort of way. Admittedly, I kind of tapped out early on in Season Four of Arrow, where he was the main villain, so I didn’t get to see how he was with his family, but seeing him with Nora this season had its ups and downs. Most of the time it was clear to everyone, including Nora herself, that Damien was just using her to forward his own goals. He put his daughter in a torturous asylum and gave her over to a demon, corrupting her mind in the process. To her credit, when she wasn’t possessed, Nora seemed as stable as the daughter of a supervillain could be. By the end, Damien saw the error of his ways and he gave his life to give Nora a second chance. In some ways I hope it’s the last we see of Damien. To have him going back to his evil ways after this would make his whole sacrifice pointless. It’s also why I hope that if we see Nora again, it’s not as a villain. She’s got that second chance; let her be good.

Speaking of second chances, Kuasa got one this season as well. The character apparently died in the Vixen animated series and has come back with…well, good intentions but terrible practices. She has the same goal that Amaya does at the end of the series – save her family and her people. It’s just that Kuasa made a literal deal with the devil to do it. She gets a mini-redemption arc before her second death, then her entire history is retconned when Zambesi is saved. I’m mixed on that last part. Yeah, Amaya deserves a happy ending and to not be the tragic family member death in someone else’s superhero origin story but…wow, that leaves some plot holes. So Kuasa was never evil, never wielded the water totem, never died, never got resurrected, never served Mallus, never attempted to get the air totem from Zari, never returned the spirit totem to Amaya, never died buying Amaya, Nata, and Wally time to escape, and her death never spurred Amaya to finally change Zambesi’s fate AND OH MY BEEBO, PICK SOME TIME TRAVEL RULES AND STICK WITH THEM! I’m pretty sure that also means the Vixen series never happened and that’s sad because I’m about to watch that.

I liked this season. It was probably my favorite season so far – and yes, the giant Beebo was a factor in that – but only for what it means. It means the show isn’t afraid of doing really silly and campy stuff that sets it apart from the other DCTV shows. Some of my favorite episodes of the season: “Phone Home” for the way it delves into Ray’s history and captures some of the childhood wonder that’s made him the man he is; “Beebo the God Of War” for the absurd plot and good character moments between Jax and a young Stein; “Here I Go Again” because it’s an amazing episode that puts Zari through the wringer emotionally and gives Tala Ashe a chance to really shine; and last but not least, “The Good, the Bad, and the Cuddly” and you know exactly why so stop judging me.

What do I want next season? More of this. A lot more. Legends really hit its stride this season and figured out what tone works best for it. It’s a show about superheroes traveling through time and fixing problems – you can’t always play that seriously. Also the representation in Season Three was phenomenal with a gay alternate version of Leonard Snart, Constantine finally getting to be bisexual on screen, Sara getting a girlfriend, Ava being a lesbian, and Zari as a kickass Muslim superhero. Let’s continue with all of that. More of that, in fact. Also hurry up and make Beebo merchandise, because I will buy all of it.

Legends Of Tomorrow Season Three can be streamed now on Netflix. Kate can be found on Twitter @WearyKatie.

One thought on “[Review] Legends Of Tomorrow Season Three Retrospective

  1. I’m still fairly well checked-out of the whole CW-verse thing, but damn, this almost makes me want to peek at it again, at least the Legends part of it. Nice write-up! May all your wishes come true for S4.

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