Sunday, November 19, 2017

Legends Of Tomorrow Season 3, Episode 6: Helen Hunt

This week on Legends Of Tomorrow we get a so-so episode that's elevated by some fun Hollywood history, as well as a couple of wonderfully comedic performances by Victor Garber and Franz Drameh.

Garber may be leaving the show soon (probably in the mid-season break), but the show's really getting their money's worth out of him before he goes. We saw him in dual roles last week, and in this episode he plays a Professor Stein whose mind's been transferred into the body of his pal Jackson. And to top it all off, he actually gets to appear as Firestorm this week! Fun!

Did you get the subtle message in this week's episode? You know, the one that says women are totally awesome and can do no wrong, while all men are just a bunch of ass-grabbing old doody-heads who mess up everything they touch? I can understand if you might have missed this understated, nuanced theme, since you were probably busy being beaten over the head with it repeatedly.

I have absolutely no problem with the show featuring strong female characters. But not at the constant expense of the men. If the Legends producers want an all girl power show, then run off and make one. Don't undermine every single male on this show, to the point where they become caricatures who exist solely for the female demographic to laugh at them.

Still not digging Zari as a member of the team. She was great a couple weeks ago in Phone Home, but in every other episode she's appeared in she's been a big dud. Is Tala Ashe simply a bad actress? Does she not care about the show and is just phoning it in? Or is the problem with the writers, who haven't figured out what to do with her character? Whatever the problem is, I hope they solve it soon.


I also wish the writers would just spell out what the hell's going on with all the totems. How many are there, just the three we've seen? Or are there more? Where's the totem storyline going? Do the writers have a story arc mapped out, or are they just making it up as they go along?

Ever since Victor Garber announced he was leaving the show, I've been concerned about Firestorm. He's unique in comics, since— as far as I know— he's the only superhero who's made up of two people, who have to get along in order to form and control him. Take away one of those people, and he's just a Human Torch clone.


Sadly, it looks like that's exactly what they're doing. In this episode Professor Stein mentions something about separating himself from the matrix so Jackson can have full control of Firestorm. I've not heard news of any more new cast members joining the show, so it looks like Firestorm's going to be losing the one thing that made him special.

Lastly, I'm preparing a class action lawsuit against the producers of Legends Of Tomorrow. There was not one scene featuring Helen Hunt in the entire episode! Frauds!

SPOILERS!

The Plot:
Note: To try and minimize confusion here, I'm gonna refer to Professor Stein's mind in Jackson's body as "Steinson," and Jackson's mind in Stein's body "Jackstein." Clear?

We begin at a film studio in 1937 Hollywood (or more accurately, Hollywoodland). A woman slowly sashays through the Warner Bros. backlot. Apparently this woman's so beautiful that she causes all the men around her to lose their minds and stumble over one another. 


An angry director asks his assistant why actress Hedy Lamarr's not on the set of his new picture, Helen Of Troy (what a coincidence!). He then sees the mysterious woman and is so struck by her beauty, he hires her on the spot. When he asks the woman her name, she says she's Helen. Helen of Troy. Of course she is.

On the Waverider, Atom continues his experiment to separate Professor Stein from the Firestorm matrix, leaving only Jackson in control. He hooks up Stein and Jackson to a dodgy looking mechanism and activates it, and of course it promptly explodes. As the dust settles, Stein and Jackson realize their minds have inexplicably switched bodies! Stodgy old Professor Stein's consciousness is now in Jackson's young body, and vice versa! Com-O-Dee!

White Canary calls the crew to the bridge, and says they've detected a new anachronism. Steel explains that in 1937 Hollywood, an actress appeared from out of nowhere
 one who was so beautiful that movie studios literally went to war over her. Canary says they're flying there to set things right. When she finds out that Stein and Jackson have switched bodies, she benches them until they can reverse the problem.


Steel, Vixen and Zari infiltrate Warner Bros. Studios and scope out the situation. They see Helen acting in a film, and Steel says she seems familiar somehow. Suddenly a couple of stagehands begin fighting over Helen, causing her to run away in distress. Steel realizes where he's seen her before, and says there's only one woman in history who had that effect on men— Helen of Troy! Zari follows Helen, and sees her stupidly get in a car driven by Eddie Rothberg, the head of rival K & G Studios. He drives off with her as the head of Warner Studios runs after him, actually shooting at the car (!).

Back on the ship, the Legends say they thought Helen of Troy was just a myth. Steel, the resident history expert, says she was apparently real. He explains that Helen and her lover Paris accidentally set off a war that lasted for ten years, as tens of thousands of men fought to the death, all for her beauty.

Heat Wave wants to know why it's a big deal if Helen stars in a few movies. Steinson explains that Helen is defiling classic Hollywood films by replacing the original actresses. Canary agrees and says they need to capture Helen and get her back to her own time, ASAP. Gideon says Eddie Rothberg is throwing a ball that afternoon to show off his new prize actress.

The Legends infiltrate the ball and look for Helen. For some reason, Steinson gets to go on the mission this time. He notices actress Hedy Lamarr among the guests, and tells her he's a big fan. She's puzzled, saying she hasn't acted in any American films yet, and probably never will, because she's been replaced by Helen.

Zari spots Helen in the crowd and uses her wind powers to make her spill her drink on her dress. A distraught Helen then runs to her dressing room to clean up, and Canary and Zari tag along to confront her. They tell Helen they know who she is, and they're there to take her back where she belongs. Helen says she was a virtual captive in Troy, and the gods answered her prayers and transported her away. She refuses to return to Troy and goes back to the party.

Canary and Zari follow her, and see Helen standing next to her agent... Damien Darhk! GASP! He's accompanied by Kuasa, who he's apparently recruited as part of Mallus' army. Also with him is Madame Eleanor, who we met last week in Return Of The Mack. Apparently Eleanor is really Nora Dahrk, Damien's daughter (!).

Darhk makes Canary and the Legends an offer— break up the team and return to 2017 immediately, or he'll hunt them all down and kill them, one by one. Just then Heat Wave, Steel and Atom begin fighting over Helen, which starts a huge brawl among the entire ball. The Legends beat a hasty retreat.

Back on the ship, Canary informs the others of Darhk's threat. Steel says Darhk will likely try to kill them all whether they disband or not, so they might as well try to stop him. The rest of the Legends agree. Since the guys obviously can't be trusted around Helen, Canary, Vixen and Zari decide to pester Helen about leaving again.

The gals visit Helen's house and plead their case to her. Just then, groups from both Warner and K & G Studios converge on the house and fight over Helen. The brawl erupts into gunfire, and the women take Helen back to the ship with them.

On the Waverider, Helen's impressed with the futuristic technology. Unfortunately little of it's currently working, including Gideon. Steinson explains that Hedy Lamarr wasn't just an actress, she was also a scientific genius who invented much of the technological principles the Waverider was built on.


Apparently after Helen prevented Lamarr from becoming an actress, she gave up her science career as well, meaning huge chunks of the ship are disappearing because they were never invented. Steinson says they'll be trapped in 1937 unless they can restore Hedy Lamarr's acting career.

Steinson volunteers to pay a visit to Lamarr, who's now working in a studio call center. He tells her she's destined for greater things, and persuades her to quit her job and speak with the Warner Studio head. When she asks who the hell he is and why he's so interested in her, he explains that he's half of a nuclear powered superhero (!). Amazingly she seems to accept this, instead of immediately calling security as a normal person would do. As they run out of the building, they bump into the Darhk's. Damien uses his powers to immobilize them both, and senses the Stein-Jackson brain mixup, which he finds hilarious.

Just then Canary appears and challenges Damien to a duel— no superpowers allowed. For some reason he agrees, and the two have an old fashioned Hollywood sword fight. Atom, Steel and Heat Wave then arrive and begin fighting Nora Darhk (I guess they were allowed to leave the ship since they wouldn't be around Helen?) . Back on the Waverider, Vixen and Zari are keeping an eye on Helen. Suddenly Kuasa flows into the ship, takes human form and attacks.

Canary gets the upper hand and disarms Damien. Suddenly she's Force-choked by Nora Darhk. Damien gleefully explains that Canary said he couldn't use his magic, but didn't say anything about Nora. Wa-wahhhhh.

Jackstein wanders in and sees Steinson and Hedy Lamarr hiding. Lamarr, who somehow instinctively understands exactly how Firestorm works, urges the two men to form Firestorm and defeat Darhk. Steinson's horrified, saying that in their current state, merging could cause a catastrophic nuclear explosion. Lamarr bats her eyes and tells Steinson to trust her. The two men form Firestorm, but in their muddled states, he now looks like a flame-headed Professor Stein, rather than Jackson! Cool!

Firestorm blasts Nora, who releases her Force hold on Canary. The Darhk's then teleport away. With the threat ended, Firestorm separates, and for some reason, Stein and Jackson's minds are back in the proper bodies.

On the Waverider, Vixen and Kuasa are still fighting. Vixen says that Kuasa's a disgrace to everyone who bears a mystical totem (so that's like... three people, right?). Kuasa then picks that moment to reveal she's really Vixen's granddaughter. As that's sinking in, Helen sneaks up behind Kuasa and stabs her in the back, causing her to turn into water and presumably drain out of the ship somehow.

Hedy Lamarr thanks Stein for believing in her, and says she's already got a new movie role. And just like that, the Waverider's restored, as its components wink into existence again. Atom says Gideon's placed Canary into a medically-induced coma, so she can star in the big upcoming Crisis On Earth X Arrowverse crossover, er, I mean recover from her injuries.

Zari tells Helen she has to go back to Troy in order to preserve the timeline. Helen begs her not to take her back to her horrible former life. Zari researches history, and finds that her disappearance apparently didn't affect the timeline in any negative way. She then takes Helen to her home year of 1253 BC, but drops her off on the hidden island of Themyscira— home of the Amazons and Wonder Woman!

Thoughts:
• Once again, someone from the distant past falls through time, lands in the modern world and can somehow speak and understand English. This week it happened to Helen Of Troy.

They actually attempted to explain this a couple months ago in Aruba-Con. In that episode Rip Hunter explained that Julius Caesar could speak and understand English due to a side effect of time travel called "Temporal Linguistic Dysplasia." Basically it allows anyone from any time period to conveniently comprehend any language.


That's all well and good I guess, but it doesn't explain how Helen— who's from a time long before Christ instantly seems to grasp the concept of motion pictures and the ins and outs of the movie industry.


• There were lots of fun bits and facts about the early history of Hollywood in this episode. They even got the "HollywoodLAND" sign right!

The famous Hollywood sign was first built way back in 1923. At the time it was intended to promote a new housing development in the hills above the Hollywood district of LA. Originally each of the thirty foot tall letters were covered in light bulbs, and the sign would flash on and off flash in segments. First the "HOLLY" section would light up, then "WOOD" and finally "LAND." Then they'd all go off and the entire sign would flash on again, and then the whole thing would start over. 


Amazingly, the sign was only intended to be up for eighteen months. By 1924 though, the Golden Age Of Hollywood was in full swing, and the sign became an integral part of Tinsel Town, so it decided to leave it standing.


In 1949 the "LAND" section of the sign was removed, to properly reflect the Hollywood district, not the housing development. Also in that year, the Hollywood Chamber Of Commerce decided that illuminating the sign was becoming way too costly, and the thousands of bulbs were removed.


By the 1970s, the sign had begun to deteriorate, as parts of the wood and sheet metal letters fell down. In 1978, Hugh Hefner, founder of Playboy magazine, launched a campaing to restore the sign. The entire thing was replaced with forty five foot tall letters, this time made of steel.


Because knowing is half the battle!


• I really liked this episode's 1930s era title cards.

They did a good job of capturing the design of that era. Of course the title cards aren't quite perfect (you knew I'd have some problem with them, didn't you?). Back in the 1930s the letters on a card like this would have been painstakingly hand painted. This is a Photoshop job, because I can spot the "chisel" text filter a mile off.

• Atom rigs up a machine to separate Professor Stein from the Firestorm matrix. Due to comic book science, this device is made primarily of large tubes of water that bubble when it's activated. Sure, why not? 

• When Atom's device explodes, it somehow causes Stein and Jackson's minds to switch bodies. When Atom sees this, he exclaims, "Oh, pancakes!"


I'm not a hundred percent sure, but I think that's a line from one of the versions of Freaky Friday.


• Franz Drameh did an absolutely amazing Victor Garber impression in this episode. Sadly, the opposite wasn't quite true, as Garber's Jackson impression wasn't quite on point. 

Part of this may be because Jackson just doesn't have as many verbal ticks as Stein. But I think the real problem was that Garber— and the producers as well— were uncomfortable with a white man imitating a black man's vocal mannerisms on TV. Especially in our current ultra-sensitive PC culture that becomes triggered and offended by literally EVERYTHING. You know I'm right about this.

I'm betting this sensitivity issue also explains why no one questioned why there were so many people of color attending the party, in an era when there were very few black actors. And also why 
no one called the cops when a "colored" man grabbed Hedy Lamarr and ran off with her. 


We all know that none of those things would have been allowed to happen in the real 1937, but apparently these days political correctness trumps historical accuracy. Hooray for our wonderfully enlightened society.


• Believe it or not, Austrian-born actress Hedy Lamarr really was a scientific genius!

Lamarr's film career began in Czechosolovakia, where she starred in the 1933 film Ecstasy (in which she actually had a nude scene!). She left her husband and fled the country, ending up in Paris. There she met Louis B. Mayer, head of MGM Studios. He offered her a job, and she acted in films from the 1930s into the 1950s.


In WWII, Lamarr and composer George Antheil developed a frequency hopping radio technology that prevented US torpedoes from being jammed by the Axis powers. This technology is still being used today in Bluetooth devices and wifi!


Celia Massingham plays Hedy Lamarr in the episode. Eh... she's a reasonable facsimile I guess, but they could have done better. I think it's the eyebrows. Tweak them and give her a more appropriate 1930s era hairstyle, and she wouldn't be half bad.

Oddly enough, a couple years ago Marvel's Agent Carter series featured a character named Whitney Frost, an actress who was secretly an evil inventor. Frost was obviously based on the real life Hedy Lamarr.

• Speaking of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, this episode features a Hollywood director named Mr. Coleson. Different spelling, but I wonder if it was somehow an homage to Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.?


 When the Legends are preparing to move out, Steinson says he needs to use the restroom first. Heat Wave then looks thoughtful, says, "Good idea" and follows him.

Um... a couple weeks ago we learned that the Waverider only has one bathroom. Did the two go in to pee at the same time?

• Supposedly Helen's beauty is so great that it mesmerizes men, making them fight one another just to get closer to her. At one point Canary benches all the males on the team so they won't be spellbound by her.


I'm honestly surprised that Canary herself wasn't affected by Helen's beauty. She's bisexual, but prefers the ladies, right? So I was sure that right after she badmouthed the guys for letting their emotions run wild, she'd take a look at Helen and immediately act the same.


Last week I noted that the newly introduced character of Madame Eleanor was listed in the credits as "Eleanor Darhk," despite the fact she was never called that in the episode. I wondered if she really was Damien Darhk's daughter or not.

Welp, looks like she is! This week Damien introduces her as Nora Darhk, "the apple of his eye." As usual when it comes to Damien Darhk, I'm not even gonna try to figure out just when he had time to father a daughter, or if it's even possible for her to exist.

Also in this episode, Damien confirms that he's recruiting a team for Mallus— one that features evil versions of the Legends. So far he has Kuasa, who's the reflection of Vixen, Nora is the opposite of Zari (I guess?) and he's the evil twin of Canary.

• Late in the third act, Helen helps out Vixen by stabbing Kuasa in the back. This causes Kuasa to involuntarily turn to water and flow through the grating on the Waverider's floor. I hope there's a drain down there somewhere, or else she's gonna be sloshing around the bowels of the ship for the next few episodes.

• After being around Steinson for just a few minutes, Hedy Lamarr seems to instantly grasp the intricate scientific concepts surrounding Firestorm. She starts spouting technobabble about stable nuclear reactions and even quantum entanglement.

Woah, woah, woah, slow down, Hedy! This episode takes place in 1937. Was quantum entanglement even a thing back then? It sounds like a fairly modern concept. Genius or not, how the hell could she even know about something like that?

Well, I checked, and believe it or not, Einstein and his fellow scientists discovered quantum entanglement in 1935! So Hedy Lamarr really could be familiar with it! Well done, writers!

• The coolest part of the episode had to be the appearance of Firestein! The minute I saw that Stein and Jackson's minds were switched, I hoped that meant that the Firestorm persona would be too. Sure enough, it was!

• Wondering why Canary gets knocked into next week, and placed in an artificial coma by Gideon? Me too. I'm sure it's to do with the fact that she's participating in the big Crisis On Earth-X crossover event that airs in a couple weeks. Apparently Canary needed time off from her own show so she could guest star on Supergirl and/or The Flash, hence the awkward and hastily tacked-on coma scene.

• Holy DC Extended Universe! At the end of the episode, Zari takes Helen to the year 1253 and deposits her on Themiscyra, aka Paradise Island. Home of Wonder Woman!

It was a fun to see Themyscira mentioned on the show, but... how the hell does Zari even know of its existence? It's supposedly a secret, mystical island, hidden from the World Of Man. And even if she somehow did know about it, how the hell does she know the address? Did Wonder Woman go around blabbing to the world about where she's from and how to get there? Apparently it's none of our business, as the matter's never addressed.

• This Week's Best Lines:
Jackstein: "Whoa! Look at my hands. They're white."

Steinson: "And mine appear to be African-American."
Jackstein: "You can just say 'black,' Grey."

Steel: (to Steinson and Jackstein) "You're the Professor, and you're Jax! Switched!"

Canary: (sighing) "Must be Tuesday."
(OK, I get the joke here— she's saying ridiculous things like this happen on the time on the ship, even on dull, boring Tuesdays. But wouldn't it have been funnier if she'd said "Must be Friday?" As in Freaky Friday?)

Steel: "1937, Hollywood, California. A beautiful woman mysteriously appeared and threw the entire film industry into chaos. She apparently was so beautiful that both Warner Brothers and K&G Pictures went to war over her, and it got ugly, fast. Literal backs were stabbed. People died."
Zari: "Those Hollywood idiots probably had it coming."
(Oh boy, a "Sleazy Hollywood Actor/Producer/Director" joke! There's no way we'll get tired of hearing those in the next... two or three decades)

Canary: "Well everyone go put their best digs on, because we are gonna save Hollywood!"

Steel: "Yeah, until the Kardashians destroy it."

Steinson: "What's what's wrong?" 

Jackstein: "I'm wasted, man. My joints ache. I feel like I'm walking under water, and I have to use the bathroom, like, all the time!"
(sounds like the Professor needs to get himself to a urologist, stat!)

Steinson: "Hedy LaMarr. The most beautiful woman in the world. Not only is she a talented actress, but she is a genius. Brilliant and beautiful."

Heat Wave: (leering at Lamarr) "I'd do her."
Steinson: "Trust you, Mr. Rory, to take something precious and debase it."

Hedy Lamarr: "What did he mean about your other half? Are you married?"

Steinson: "Oh, you mean Jefferson. Yes, I suppose in a way we are married, too. It's hard to explain."
Hedy Lamarr: "You're a homosexual."
Steinson: "No, I'm one half of a nuclear-powered superhero, except the two of us accidentally switched bodies."

Damien Darhk: (to the Legends) "Oh, goodie. The cavalry has arrived. Oh, how I missed those whimsical outfits of yours.

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