Thursday, February 15, 2018

Legends Of Tomorrow Season 3, Episode 10: Daddy Darhkest

Legends Of Tomorrow is finally back from its mid-season break! Huzzah! Unfortunately it seems like the series picked the worst possible time to return— smack dab in the middle of the Winter Freakin' Olympics! Whose idea was that!? I'll bet the ratings are gonna be brutal this week!

Anyway, this week the show takes a horror-themed detour, as fan-favorite character John Constantine drops by for a visit. 

For the record, this makes his third appearance on The CW since his NBC series was cancelled back in 2015. He first appeared on Arrow in the Season 4 episode Haunted, and most recently popped up on Legends in Beebo, The God Of War.

It's interesting to see Constantine living on in these other series. Has that ever happened before? Has a TV character from a canceled series ever jumped networks and guest-starred on other shows? I can't think of any examples offhand. Supergirl switched from CBS to The CW, but that's not quite the same thing.

If nothing else, this episode did quite a bit of legwork to set up the endgame, as we find out Mallus, the disembodied threat who's been a sinister presence all season, is actually a powerful supernatural demon. This week we're also introduced to the concept of The Six, a group of totem-bearers who will no doubt play a big role in taking down Mallus.

This episode also gives us some much-needed insight into Nora Darhk, showing us her tragic (and confusing) backstory. I have a feeling the connection she makes with Zari this week will end up becoming very important in the season finale, and may even cause her to turn against her monstrous father. 

Daddy Darhkest definitely felt like a Discount Episode, as the script seemed to go out of its way to NOT show anyone using their powers. We got a couple shots of Kuasa using her watery powers, and Steel (?) shooting her with Cold's freeze gun, and that was pretty much it. I guess there was no money left in the budget after the big Crisis On Earth-X crossover.

This week we also get the final appearance of Wentworth Miller as Captain Cold. Unfortunately, he departs in the least interesting way possible. More on that in a bit.

Lastly, this episode made me realize just how much I'm going to miss Victor Garber as Professor Stein. His absence was keenly felt here, as his acerbic personality was like a breath of fresh air on the show. With the exception of Heat Wave, most of the Legends are pretty damned dull, and practically interchangeable. If you don't believe me, try describing Zari without mentioning her power. I'll wait... See? You can't do it! The show definitely needs someone colorful like Stein, and they need 'em now!

SPOILERS!

The Plot:
In present day Star City, "occult detective" John Constantine sneaks into a mental asylum. Inside he locates a young girl named Emily, who's been possessed by a powerful demon. As he performs an exorcism on her, she begins speaking in the voice of a Demon (which is obviously Mallus). It tells Constantine he can't save the girl, and she'll fall into his shadow realm just like Sarah Lance (aka White Canary). 
The Demon then exits the girl.

Constantine recognizes Canary's name, as he helped bring her back from the dead on Arrow a couple seasons ago. Intrigued, he wonders what she has to do with the Demon. Just then he's confronted by Dr. Moore, an unpleasant old battleaxe of a woman. He uses simple magic to distract her while he escapes.

Constantine uses his magic to track Canary to the Waverider in Central City. He warns her that she's in serious danger, as a powerful Demon knows her by name. She's pretty blase about the whole thing, informing him that the Demon is Mallus, and they've been battling him all season. She even visited his shadowy realm last episode in Beebo, The God Of War. Constantine is surprised by all this, and decides to hang out with the crew and help them defeat Mallus, if possible.

Meanwhile Atom and Zari work on some sort of anti-magic nanite gun, which I'm sure will become important sometime around the season finale. Agent Sharp appears as a Star Wars-type hologram, and tells Canary her efforts to free Rip have stalled due to Time Bureau red tape. Captain Cold overhears the conversation, and points out that Sharp has a crush on her.

The Waverider flies to Star City, where Canary, Steel, Cold, Vixen and Constantine infiltrate the asylum and find Emily. Constantine looks for an empty room so he can try to exorcise her again. Suddenly the Legends see a familiar puddle of water flow under a door. Vixen says it's her granddaughter Kuasa again. She tells the others to go ahead, while she stays behind and fights.

The Legends wheel Emily into a vacant room, as Constantine preps for the exorcism. He addresses Emily, who tells him that's not her real name. Just then Zari, who's been hacking and researching, radios the gang and says Emily's real name is Nora Darhk— daughter of Damien, and one half of the team they've been fighting all season!

Vixen and Kuasa continue to fight. For some reason, Cold tosses his freeze gun to Steel, whose power makes him the last person who ought to need help. He uses the gun to freeze Kuasa's watery form solid, much to Vixen's chagrin.

Constantine draws a mystic symbol around Nora to prevent Mallus from escaping, and begins the exorcism. Mallus takes over Nora's body and taunts Constantine again. He then waltzes right out of the protective pentagram. Nora/Mallus draws another symbol on the floor as Canary, Cold and Constantine (sounds like a law firm) chase after her. When they step on this new symbol, they're instantly teleported back in time to 1969.

Vixen and Steel carry the frozen Kuasa back to the Waverider and seal her inside the medbay. Atom tries to contact Canary and the others, but since they're no longer in the present day, they don't answer. He and Zari go to the asylum to look for them.

In the asylum, Atom and Zari find the symbol on the floor, and discover it's a time incantation. They then see Nora in the cafeteria, and ask her what happened. She admits that Mallus forced her to draw the symbol and send the others back in time. She worries that next time he possesses her, she won't be strong enough to stop him. Zari, who's familiar with such institutions, says they have to free her. Atom doesn't think it's a good idea, but eventually agrees.

In 1969, Canary, Constantine and Cold try to figure out how to get back to the future. They notice a Virgin Mary painting on the wall, that amazingly is still hanging there in 2017. Canary suggests writing a message on the back of it and hoping the Legends somehow find it and realize where they are (?). 


As they sneak down a corridor, Canary hears Mallus' voice and has visions of the walls reaching out for her. Constantine hurries her into a room to recover, while Cold goes off by himself to write the message on the painting. Unfortunately he runs into a younger version of Dr. Moore, who's actually quite attractive in this era (but no less evil). She thinks he's an escaped mental patient, and prepares him for a lobotomy (!).

Back on the Waverider, Vixen thaws out Kuasa and they have a chat. Kuasa reveals why she turned evil (she mistakenly believes her mother abandoned her when armed men burned their village) and tells Vixen spoilers about her own death. Eventually they reach an understanding, and Vixen opens the door to gain Kuasa's trust.

Just then Steel rushes in— still armed with Cold's gun, for some reason— and threatens to freeze Kuasa again. Vixen knocks him out and lets Kuasa go.

Back in 1969, Canary and Constantine hide out in an empty room. Apparently all this excitement and running around makes them horny, and they have "damaged person" sex. Oy.

Atom and Zari take Nora to a coffee shop (Jitters?). Unfortunately Mallus possesses her again, and begins wrecking the shop and threatening the crowd.

In the past, Canary and Constantine wander into a room just as Dr. Moore's about to pound a spike into Cold's eye socket. Canary knocks her out and rescues Cold. She then asks why they can't just use Mallus' temporal symbol to return to the future. Constantine says only a demon like Mallus has enough power to travel through time. 


Canary comes up with a doozy of a plan— she'll let Mallus possess her body long enough to use the symbol and return them to the present. Once they're back, Constantine can exorcise him out of her. He says it's too dangerous, but can't think of any alternatives (!).

Constantine gives Canary a potion to summon Mallus. He possesses her, as her soul appears in his shadow realm. She starts drawing the symbol in the sand. Before she finishes, she hears someone crying. It's Nora, also trapped in the realm.

Meanwhile in 2017, Mallus (in Nora's body) is about to kill Zari and Atom. Zari grabs Mallus by the arm, and he screams in pain at her touch. He hisses that she must be one of "The Six," whatever that means.

In the shadow realm, Canary gives Nora a Patented The CW Pep Talk™, which grants her the strength to return to her body (I know, this is all very confusing). Mallus is evicted from Nora's body in the nick of time, saving Atom and Zari.

Canary finishes drawing the symbol, which returns her to the real world, banishes Mallus from her body, and sends her, Constantine and Cold back to the present. Phew!

In the coffee shop, Atom and Zari console Nora. Suddenly her father Damien Darhk enters. He tells her the Legends are lying to her, as they're all terrified of her power. He tells her Mallus isn't a demon, but her savior. She decides to leave with Darhk for some reason. Win some, you lose some.

Back on the Waverider, Zari tells the Legends that Mallus said she was one of The Six. Vixen says she only knows of five totem bearers— herself, Zari, Kuasa and then Earth and Fire. Constantine says if Mallus is worried about these totems, then they gathering them all together may be the key to stopping him.

Constantine says goodbye to Canary. He then secretly tells Atom to keep working on his anti-magic gun. Cold then decides it's time to go back to Earth-19 and unceremoniously walks off the screen. Well that was underwhelming! Canary calls Agent Sharp, who tells her Rip's escaped from Time Bureau custody. Gosh, I wonder where he'll head first?


Thoughts:
• There's no opening narration this week, as we move straight into the action.


• This week's title card looks a bit different than usual...

It's pretty obvious it's meant to echo the one from Constantine's own short-lived NBC TV series. This week's episode also features a few mandolinish bars of the Constantine theme song as well. Cool!

• This episode is a prime example of what I like to call The Comic Book Movie Costume Inverse Accuracy Law. It's a fundamental rule of the universe I made up that states:
The odds of a comic book movie or TV series staying true to the source material is inversely proportional to how much I care about the property in question.
In other words, since I'm not particularly a fan of John Constantine, then of course the TV version of him looks like he stepped right off the page of the Hellblazer comic. Everything about him is perfectly duplicated, right down to the loose tie and rumpled trench coat.

On the flip side, The Fantastic Four is my all time favorite comic, and has been since I was a kid. So of course Hollywood's made three terrible film adaptations, in which the team acts wildly out of character and is virtually unrecognizable.

It stinks, but it's just something I've grown used to.

• In the prologue, Constantine breaks into an asylum and tries to exorcise Mallus from Nora's body. Mallus taunts him, saying, "You cannot save this one, Constantine. You've already failed her, just as you failed Astra." Constantine bristles as the mention of this name.

So who the heck's Astra? Good question. I had no idea, but assumed she was likely someone from his TV show. Looks like I was right.

According to the inter webs, she's a character from Constantine's own show. Astra Logue was a young girl who was possessed by a demon, and Constantine and his crew of fellow supernatural fighters came to her aid. Unfortunately the demon proved to be particularly difficult to evict. Constantine then got the bright idea to summon and even more powerful demon (named Nergal) to kick out the lesser one. The plan worked, sort of. Unfortunately before the demon left, it violently killed Astra and damned her to Hell for eternity.

This caused Constantine's group to break up, and he eventually checked himself into the Ravenscar Psychiatric Facility For The Mentally Deranged, which sounds like a perfectly lovely place to get away from the stress of everyday life.

Eventually Constantine left the facility in order to battle The Rising Darkness, which he did to honor Astra's memory.

• At one point the Waverider flies over Star City, hovers over the Asylum for a few seconds, then cloaks as it lands behind the building.

This happens in virtually every episode. Wouldn't it make infinitely more sense to cloak before they fly over a populated area, so the public's not freaked out by the sight of a futuristic timeship sailing overhead?

I get it— if the ship's cloaked then it's gonna be tough to audience to see it and follow the action. But surely there's gotta be a better way to handle this.

• There's a running joke all through this episode in which Constantine keeps trying to light up a "fag," only to fail over and over. He either can't find a lighter anywhere, his matches don't work or he's interrupted before he can light up.

I'm pretty sure this is a nod to the Constantine TV series. In the comics, Constantine's tobacco use was a defining part of his character, as he was constantly puffing away on his Silk Cut brand cigs. 

There was even a comic storyline called Dangerous Habits, in which Constantine learns he has lung cancer, and desperately tries to avoid death in order to prevent his soul from being tortured for eternity in Hell. Eventually several demons show up to collect his soul at the moment of his death, but he tricks them into healing him of his disease. This storyline was even the basis (sort of) for the horrible Constantine theatrical movie— the one starring Keanu Reeves of all people.

Anyway, when the TV series began, NBC's Standards & Practices Department informed the producers that characters CANNOT be shown smoking on network TV— therefore Constantine had to give up his several-packs-a-day habit. Because showing blood, gore, demons and little girls being set on fire is just fine, but the sight of a man smoking a cigarette... well, that just going too far.

The producers tried to work around this limitation as much as possible. They'd often cut to Constantine just as he was stabbing out a butt in an ashtray, or show him putting a cig in his mouth but become distracted before he could light it.

Apparently The CW doesn't have a problem showing people smoking. At the end of the episode, Constantine FINALLY gets to light up a cigarette on network TV! Huzzah!

• When Constantine first boards the Waverider, Heat Wave somehow mistakes him for Rip Hunter. Apparently he thinks all Englishmen look alike, and can't tell them apart. That's racist!

• Inside the asylum, the group locates Nora and Constantine prepares to exorcise her. He and Atom then have the following conversation:

Constantine: "All right, now, uh, where to perform an exorcism?"
Atom: (over the comm) "There's a vacant room in the east wing, room 237."
Constantine: "237. Allons y, Alonzo."

A couple things here. First of all, Room 237 is a reference to Stanley Kubrick's The Shining. It was the most haunted room inside the Overlook Hotel, and the one Jack Halloran warned young Danny Torrance to stay out of. It's also the name of a documentary about the meaning of the film, which is filled with over-analysis and inaccurate theories.

Secondly, the line "Allons y, Alonzo" is a Doctor Who reference, from back when the show was still watchable. The Tenth Doctor's catchphrase was an enthusiastic "Allons y!" (French for "Let's go!") which he uttered in quite a few episodes. The Doctor often remarked that he wished he'd someday get the chance to shout, "Allons y, Alonzo!" He finally got his wish in the 2008 Christmas Special Voyage Of The Damned, in which he met a character named— what else— Alonzo.

• In the asylum, Steel says he's going to help Vixen battle Kuasa. Amazingly, Cold tosses his freeze gun to Steel and says he might need it. Steel. The guy who can transform his skin into living metal. The one Legend who should be impervious to anything Kuasa could throw at him.

This was some obvious and not-so-subtle plot trickery on the part of the writers. By having Cold needlessly get rid of his gun, he was helpless when he and the others were sent back to 1969. Sloppy!

• Jesus Christ, what is it with the consistently horrible wigs on all the Arrowverse shows? Look at that sad, black floor mop perched on top of Nora's head! I've honestly seen more convincing hairpieces in Spirit Halloween stores! Fire that wigmaker, stat!

What the hell happened to the art of TV wigmaking? I don't remember noticing obviously fake wigs like this on shows in the past. Is it possible that wigs have just always looked like this, but we're just now noticing it because we're seeing them in hi-def?

• At one point Vixen and her granddaughter Kuasa have a heart to heart chat. While watching this scene, I came to the conclusion that Kuasa would make a much cooler member of the Legends than her lackluster granny. I honestly wish they'd figure out a way to reform her and keep her on the team. 

Vixen has a cool superpower and all, but she's so damned dull... It's like watching a plank of wood try to emote. I have a feeling she won't be around much longer anyway. If you'll recall, earlier this season in Freakshow she agreed to stay onboard the Waverider until she sorted out her rage/control issues, which caused her to murder a squad of Belgian soldiers. 

Oddly enough this subplot seems to have been completely forgotten at this point, so there's really no reason for her to stick around. Not to mention the fact that she has to return to her village in 1942, or else her daughter and granddaughters Mari and Kuasa will never be born. 

Add it all up and I'm betting we'll see Vixen depart in the season finale.

• This episode introduces the concept of The Six— a group of mystical totem-bearers who are obviously being set up to battle and ultimately defeat Mallus.

As concepts go, it's not a bad one, I suppose. So who are The Six? They seem to all represent the classic Earth elements, plus a couple more. So far we have Zari (Air), Kuasa (Water) and Vixen (um... Animals?). Vixen herself says they know of two others, Fire and Earth, but I have no idea who she's talking about here. That leaves one more elemental we've not heard of yet. 

The sixth element better not turn out to be Love, or I'm out!

• Looks like the Waverider's medbay got a big upgrade since Xmas. There's now a large isolation chamber in the center of it, and the entire room seems to have grown exponentially. It's yet another vast space inside the relatively tiny ship!

• Back in the Season 2 episode Turncoat, I expressed my disappointment and disgust with Steel and Vixen, who decided to ignore their mission because it was more important to have sex in a tent instead. Our heroes, ladies and gents!

This week Canary and Constantine do pretty much the same thing. Instead of protecting Young Nora or trying to figure out how to get back to the present day, they say what the hell and have "damaged person" sex instead. Once again, their little tryst is completely gratuitous, as it has absolutely nothing to do with the story, and is there just to inject some sex into the script. Feh!

• Welp, goodbye to Captain Cold, I guess. According to the producers, this episode supposedly marked Wentworth Miller's final appearance in the Arrowverse

So how'd they celebrate his departure? Fireworks? Fanfare? Epic storyline? Nope! He just said, "Time to go back to Earth-X!" and literally just walked off the set. Talk about underwhelming!

By the way, how does he get back to Earth-X? It lies in a completely different parallel universe! It's not like he can just take a cab there. Does he have some sort of dimensional-hopping device I forgot about? 

This Week's Best Lines:
Heat Wave: (seeing Constantine enter the ship) "I thought we gave the Englishman to the Time Pigs."

Canary: "That was Rip. This is John Constantine."
Heat Wave: "Skinny Brit in a trench coat. Same thing."

Canary: "Look, Ava's the kind of girl that you take home to your parents, and I am the kind you take to an exorcism."

Canary: (to an orderly, as she tries to take Nora from him) "Thank you, I can take it from here. I mean, her from here."
Orderly: "I'm sorry, who are you?"
Canary: "I'm Doctor... Yeah, I'm not doing this."
(she then knocks the orderly senseless and takes Nora)

Vixen: "I refuse to accept that my granddaughter is pure evil."
Steel: "Fine, she's 89% evil."

Atom: "Guys, I think Sara is in trouble."
Heat Wave: (who's trying to watch football) "Quiet! Haircut, take the new girl. Find Blondie, Fake Snart, and Trenchcoat. Amaya, the Med-Bay. Pretty, the library. Water Bitch stays in the freezer."
Atom: "You know, Mick, you're really showing some management potential."
Heat Wave: "Get out."

Atom: "Nate! We haven't found Sara or the rest of the team, but we did find a strange symbol."
Steel: "What's it look like?"
Atom: "Well, it looks like a circle with a line above the circle, and then there's like a U-shape coming off of the circle."
Steel: (puzzled) "A duck?"
(Zari takes a photo of the symbol and texts it to Steel)
Zari: "Welcome back to the 21st century, you Luddites."

Atom: (discussing Nora to Zari) "We can't take her out of here. We're dealing with a D-E-M-O-N."
Nora: "I'm not five. I know how to spell demon."

Zari: "So, what are you gonna order?"
Nora: "Oh, um, hot chocolate, with whipped cream and caramel sauce."
Atom: "Uh, we just got her off her meds. Do you really wanna get her hooked on sugar?"
Zari: (annoyed) "You know what? I think I'll have a donut, too!"
(I know Atom's a rabid anti-sugar crusader, but is this really the best time to get into a debate on its evils?) 

Dr. Moore: "Who are you?"
Canary: "We're also from the future. And spoiler alert, you don't age well!"

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