Thursday, April 26, 2018

Legends Of Tomorrow Season 3, Episode 16: I, Ava

There's a lot going on in this week's jam-packed Legends Of Tomorrow, as the writers realize they've got six hours worth of story left, but only two episodes to go in the season.

First up there's the startling revelation regarding Agent Sharpe. Back in No Country For Old Dads, Rip Hunter let it slip that Sharpe had a deep, dark secret. One so earth-shattering that no one could ever find out what it is.

I predicted they'd take a page from Buffy The Vampire Slayer, and we'd find out that Agents Sharpe herself was actually the mysterious Sixth Totem, which had somehow taken human form. Much the way Buffy's sister Dawn wasn't really a human girl, but a mystical key who looked like a teen.

Welp, I was completely wrong about that, but honestly my theory was about ten times more interesting than the answer we got. Just three short episodes later, the big secret's been revealed Agent's Sharpe's a clone! (cue sound of chirping crickets) 

That... that's it? That's the senses-shattering secret, that White Canary can never know? Meh. What a letdown. Somehow I was expecting something a bit more spectacular. 

Actually this revelation could turn out OK, if the writers handle it well. It's just too bad we're finding out about it now, with just two more episodes left in the season! There's no way in hell they'll be able to give this storyline the room it needs to breathe, while they're trying to wrap up the Mallus arc and conclude Vixen's lame plot.

Speaking of Vixen, if ever there was a character who was ready for an exit, it's her. Her entire backstory is dull, flat and needlessly convoluted. Each week she sits around moaning about the fact that she's in love with Steel, but if she stays with him in the present, she'll alter her past in 1943 and wipe out her entire family. 

I can't remember being less interested in a storyline in my life. The sooner she goes back to the 40s and leaves the show, the better. 

On the plus side, there was some fun interplay in this episode between Heat Wave and Zari, as she patiently tries to teach him how to use his Fire Totem, and explain why she's fasting. As near as I can tell, she's the first and only live action superhero who observes Ramadan. I'm sure the writers added that little fact to the episode to teach the audience that all Muslims aren't big scary terrorists.

SPOILERS!

The Plot:
On the Waverider, White Canary tells the Legends she's leaving the ship for some much needed R&R (to recover from her breakup with Agent Sharpe). She appoints Vixen temporary captain.

Vixen finds Heat Wave in the rec room, and wants to train him into how to use his new Fire Totem. Suddenly Steel calls Vixen to the bridge, so she asks fellow Totem bearer Zari to train him (much to her chagrin).

On the bridge, Gideon reports that Mari McCabe, grandaughter of Vixen and the present day holder of that title, has been injured and is recovering in a Detroit hospital. Vixen realizes that by staying away from the 1940s for too long, she's altered the timeline, preventing her granddaughter from inheriting her Spirit Totem.


Vixen announces she's going to visit Mari, but Steel says interacting with her own granddaughter is a bad idea, and could mangle the timeline even more. He says he and Wally will go to Detroit and make sure Mari's OK.

Meanwhile, Canary's about to leave the Waverider when Time Bureau Agent Gary Green teleports onboard the ship. He tells her he's worried about Agent Sharpe, as no one's seen her in days. Canary sighs and realizes she'll get no vacation time this week.

Canary, Gary and Atom teleport to the Time Bureau. They bust into Sharpe's office and look for clues. Atom hacks into her computer and sees her personnel files have been erased— by someone from the Waverider. They root through her trash and spot a birthday card from Sharpe's parents in Fresno. Canary says that's the most likely place to search next.

In Detroit, Steel and Wally talk with Mari's father, who assures them his daughter's OK. While there they spot Kuasa, and naturally assume she's there to kill her sister Mari. They run through the hospital after her, and eventually corner her in a supply room. Surprisingly, she tells them she's there to protect Mari, not hurt her.

In Fresno, Canary, Atom and Gary arrive at the Sharpe home. They're greeted by Pam and Randy Sharpe, an ideal couple who're almost too perfect to be true. After some small talk about Ava, Canary trips them up on their facts and realizes they're not who they say they are. The "Sharpes" reveal they're really a couple of actors who were hired years ago to pose as Ava's parents.

The puzzled Legends + Gary leave Fresno and return to the Time Bureau. There they run into Agent Sharpe, who's surprised to see them. When they ask where she's been, she lies and says she spent a few days visiting her parents. Sharpe then excuses herself and hurries off. Canary reveals that she somehow stole Sharpe's time courier, to help in finding out what's going on.

Back in Detroit, Kuasa takes Steel and Wally to Mari's gym, where they discuss the fact that Nora Darhk now has the Spirit Totem. Kuasa says she isn't a fan of her sister Mari, but would rather see the Spirit Totem go to her than the Darhks, and agrees to help the Legends.

Canary, Atom and Gary do more digging at the Time Bureau. They discover that the year 2213 is a "no fly zone," meaning it's off limits to all Time Bureau agents. Canary says that's no doubt where they'll find answers, but Gary says there's no way to get there. Access to that year is restricted to everything except the Time Bureau mothership. Cut to Canary and the others flying away in the stolen mothership! Agent Sharpe sees the ship take off and follows (Um... how?).

Canary and the others land in 2213. Oddly enough, the future doesn't seem all different from now. The only oddity is the hundreds of public servants and soldiers who all look identical to Agent Sharpe! They see a holographic sign advertising the versatile "AVA" clone, manufactured by— what else?— the Ava Corporation.

Back in 2018, Steel, Wally and Kuasa hash out a plan. Wally wants to simply ambush the Darhks and use his speed to yoink the Totem from them. Kuasa says that won't work, for reasons. She proposes using Steel to lure the Darhks to her, and somehow convinces Wally to return to the Waverider.

Canary and the others enter the AVA Corporation HQ, which must not have very tight security. They wander around until they find a clone lab, and see dozens of Ava copies being made. One of the Avas wakes up and tries to capture the group. Canary knocks it out before it can sound an alarm.

Kuasa injects Steel with a serum that dampens his powers, claiming this will help him sell the idea that he's her captive. Sure, why not? Seconds later, Damien and Nora Darhk appear, though gods know how they knew when and where to find Kuasa. Instead of fighting them, Kuasa double crosses Steel by offering him to the Darhks in exchange for the Totem. For some reason, Nora gives it to her and Kuasa leaves.

Nora, who's now fully possessed by Mallus, threatens to kill Steel unless he brings the rest of the Totems to her. For no good reason, she then saunters off. Damien then confesses to Steel that his plan isn't going the way he intended. Now that Mallus has possessed Nora, he feels he's in danger of losing his beloved daughter. Steel encourages him to keep talking, hoping to bond with Darhk so he doesn't kill him.

Canary, Atom and Gary are approached by the real Agent Sharpe, who's come to 2213 looking for them. She sees herself being replicated in the clone lab and passes out from shock. When she comes to, she begins asking what the hell's going on, and why there are dozens of her inside the lab. She then starts wondering if she's a clone as well.

Back on the Waverider, Kuasa appears and gives the Spirit Totem back to Vixen. She says she traded it for Steel, which horrifies Vixen. Kuasa says it's all part of her plan, as now she and Vixen can team up against the Darhks.

Canary and company try to escape the lab, but are stopped by an entire army of armored Ava clones. Agent Sharpe gets an idea— she finds an army uniform somewhere, puts it on and pretends to be a clone. She then marches Canary, Atom and Gary out of the building, saying she's taking them to be executed.

Suddenly the knocked-out Ava clone wakes up and says Agent Sharpe isn't one of them. The Ava army attacks, and Canary and Sharpe fight back-to-back again, somehow managing to knock out all the clones.

In 2018, Nora realizes her father's confiding in Steel and knocks out Damien. Suddenly Vixen and Wally appear and confront her. Wally attacks, but Nora's somehow able to drain his speed from him (?). Vixen tries to use her Totem, but finds that Nora's corrupted it and she's now under her control.

Kuasa enters and frees Steel. Vixen's then able to overcome Nora's magic and control her Totem. Vixen, Kuasa, Steel and Wally then demand Nora surrender. Unfortunately Nora's not intimidated, and uses her Mallus powers to rip the Water Totem out of Kuasa's body, killing her. She and Damien then teleport away.

Back on the Waverider, Zari and Heat Wave— who are still training— feel their fellow Totem-bearer Kuasa die. Heat Wave says he needs a drink.

Everyone returns to the ship. Atom uses the memory-zapper on Gary, so he won't remember anything that happened in 2213. Steel tries to comfort Vixen after her granddaugter's death. She tells him she's been away from home too long and it's time to go back. He offers to go with her, but she tells him they're through. 
Vixen enters the jumpship and programs it to go to 1992 Zambesi, in order to save her family.

Canary and Agent Sharpe reconnect. They figure out that the only person who could have wiped Sharpe's records from the Time Bureau is Rip Hunter himself. They vow to find out why.

Thoughts:
• As you no doubt already figured out, the title of this episode refers to Isaac Asimov's classic sci-fi novel, I, Robot. Except the Avas aren't robots, but clones. So it doesn't really make any sense in this context.


• At one point Steel and Kuasa argue over their plan in front of Damien Dark. Damien watches with interest, and gleefully says, "This is better than The Brave And The Bold!"

Obviously this is the name of a soap opera that exists in the Arrowverse (and one that Damien regularly watches), but it's also a little in-joke for DC Comic fans. The Brave And The Bold is a comic that's been published off and on since the Silver Age. It's content varied over the years, but for the bulk of its run it was a team-up book, pairing up both well known and obscure superheroes.

• Giving Heat Wave the Fire Totem seems like a no-brainer, since, you know, he's a pyromaniac and all. It'd be cool if the writers let him keep it, since then he'd have some actual powers, rather than just being a guy with a flame thrower. I have a feeling the Totems will all be going away in the season finale though. With the possible exception of Vixen's Spirit Totem.

• Speaking of Heat Wave, how the hell does he not weigh 900 pounds and have to use a wiping stick when he goes to the bathroom? For a couple seasons now it's been a running joke that he's constantly eating, and he literally does nothing but stuff his face all through this episode. At one point Zari even notes that he's on his fourth lunch!

Being an antihero like Heat Wave doesn't seem like it'd burned a lot of calories, and he doesn't seem like the type to hit the gym. So he ought to be wearing a muumuu and riding around in a Rascal scooter by now.

From past episodes we know there's a food replicator onboard the Waverider. Maybe Gideon programmed it to make extremely low-cal foods that still taste like the real thing.

• Gideon displays a newspaper article detailing Mari McCabe's accident. If you look closely, you can see the prop department wrote an actual story for the article, rather than just mocking up some dummy text! That was a lot of work for something that appeared onscreen for two seconds. Well done, guys!

• Canary, Atom and Gary sneak into Agent Sharpe's office, and discover someone's erased all her personal files. 

I don't quite understand the Time Bureau's file system here. For some reason each record is displayed in three separate columns. Ava's files are listed in the first column, but the second and third ones are blank. I guess that means they're missing? Why's everything in triplicate? Are the duplicates supposed to be on backup drives?

I have a feeling this was never meant to make sense, and the prop guys had to mock up a high tech, futuristic computer filing system in about ten minutes, so they came up with this.

• Canary roots through Agent Sharpe's trash, and finds a birthday card from her (fake) parents. If you look at the address, it appears Sharpe lives in Star City, which is located in the U.S.A. Hmm. What happened to the state? I guess there must be just one Star City in the Arrowverse, and the Post Office knows what state it's in.

DC's infamous fake cities have always been a headache for their comic books, as well as their movies and TV shows. Where's Metropolis supposed to be? Is it near New York City? IS it supposed to be New York? What about Gotham City? Is it a Chicago analogue? Where's Smallville? Coast City? Who the hell knows? 

The Marvel Universe never had this problem, as the bulk of their comics (and many of the MCU movies) take place in good old New York City.

• I loved this scene, in which Canary, Atom and Gary are in Fresno, and effortlessly walk through a dimensional portal into the Time Bureau. It's a very slick effect that doesn't call attention to itself, so you don't even realize anything out of the ordinary happened at first. It's all very well done. Kudos, Effects Team!

• Once again I'd like to point out how interesting and compelling Kuasa is, and how she's better than her granny Vixen in every measurable sense. I was really hoping they'd give Vixen the boot and replace her with Kuasa, but after the events of this episode that seems unlikely. Too bad.


• Canary, Atom and Gary steal the Time Bureau's mothership and pilot it to the no fly zone in 2213 Vancouver. Just like the Waverider always does, the ship's fully visible while it's in flight, but then activates its cloaking device as it lands. I've never understood this.

Why do these ships have cloaking devices in the first place? Because the crew's afraid the local populace might panic if they see a futuristic time ship land in their vicinity, that's why. So why not cloak it when it's in flight as well? Wouldn't the public freak out just as much if they saw an advanced ship flying overhead?

Maybe they never bother cloaking while in-flight because they assume everyone has their nose in their cell phone, and never looks up?

• By the way, the Time Bureau designated 2213 as a no fly zone, meaning time travelers are forbidden from Time Agents (and anyone else) are forbidden from travelling to that particular year.

We're told that "access to that year is restricted to everything except the Time Bureau mothership." When Canary and the others hear this, they simply break into the Time Bureau, steal their mothership and fly to 2213. When Agent Sharpe finds out, she immediately follows.

Um... just how the hell did she do that? If the only way to get there is in the mothership, and the Legends stole it, then how'd Sharpe travel there? Whoops!

I guess maybe we could say that as Time Bureau director, Sharpe probably has some sort of code she can punch in to allow ANY ship to travel to 2213. I suppose we could say that, but I don't see why we should.

• So why is the no fly zone located in Vancouver, of all places? Surely it couldn't be because that's where all the Arrowverse shows are filmed, so all the crew had to do was walk a few steps outside the studio and commence to shooting? Nah, no TV series would be that blatant about their cheapness!

• Isn't it amazing how the Vancouver of 2213 doesn't look all that different from the Vancouver of 2018! Funny how that worked out, eh?

• In 2213, the gang spots a holographic billboard advertising Ava clones (Version 3.0!).

The accompanying text goes by so fast you don't really have time to think about the stuff it implies. Like "Easy Financing." Um... so you actually buy the Ava clones? Doesn't that seem kind of... slavey? Apparently at some point in the next 195 years, the concept of people owning people comes back into vogue.

 The sign also touts that the Ava clones are "fully functional." Yeah, there's only one thing that could mean!

Lastly, the "Completely Safe*" line seems a bit ominous. Especially since it's followed by an asterisk (which doesn't go to any visible disclaimer!). That's never a good sign.

• Steel and Kuasa come up with a plan to lure the Darhks to Vixen's hideout. Steel poses as Kuasa's captive, while she pretends to offer him to the Darhks in exchange for the Spirit Totem.

Before the Dahrks arrive though, Kuasa injects Steel with a serum that cancels out his powers. A couple things here.

First of all, where the holy hell did Kuasa get her hands on a serum that prevents Steel from powering up? Is that something you can pick up at the local CVS?

Secondly, why in the name of Zeus' Mighty Nose Hair would he allow her to do such a thing? She makes up some lame excuse about how actually being powerless will help him sell the lie, but... it's some pretty weak sauce.

Look, I get it. Those CGU Steel effects aren't cheap, plus his reflective chrome texture likely takes forever to render. So I understand why they didn't want him using his power. But there had to be a less... ridiculous way of keeping him from steeling up. Why not just have Damien wave his hand and magically suppress Steel's powers? Boom, done! And that idea's 1000% less stupid as well.

• Hats off to Neal McDonough, who's wonderful as Damien Darhk in this episode. McDonough's always a hoot, but he was particularly good this week, as he somehow played Darhk as intimidating and yet goofy at the same time. I'm going to miss him on the show, when he's inevitably killed off for the umpteenth time.

• I mentioned it in the plot summary, but it's worth repeating. When Kuasa says she'll trade Steel for the Spirit Totem, Nora instantly hands it over to her. Without so much as a second thought!

WHAT. THE. HELL??? All season long the Darhks have been after the six Totems, and now that they finally got one, Nora tosses it away as if it's meaningless to her. I honestly don't understand her motivation here. 

• Wow, the future ain't what it used to be. In addition to 2213 possibly featuring slavery, there are also apparently no lawyers or courtrooms in the future. At one point Agent Sharpe poses as an Ava clone, and says she's taking Canary and the others to be executed. Their alleged crime? Trespassing! Gulp! Now that's cruel and unusual punishment!

• Hands down, the best part of this episode were the scenes of Zari reluctantly bonding with fellow Totem bearer Heat Wave. It's taken all season, but little by little Zari's starting to grow on me.

• At the end of the episode, Nora Darhk decides she done screwing around, and uses her magic to yank the Water Totem out of Kuasa's chest. For some reason, the horrified Legends completely freeze, and just stand there watching this grim tableau.

It's too bad none of them have any superpowers they could have used to, oh, I don't know, punch Nora in the face and knock her out to keep her from killing their sort of ally.

Also, Kuasa kept her Totem inside her body? 

This Week's Best Lines:
Canary: "I am not just walking out on the team, Ray."
Atom: "She says, as she's literally walking away."

Canary: "Someone's gonna have to fill in the role of captain while I'm gone."
Atom: (pompously) "Oh, well, uh, I hadn't exactly thought I'd I'd pick up the mantle this soon, but..."
Canary: "I'm putting Amaya in charge. (to Vixen) Good luck."
Steel: (to Atom) "Sorry about that, big guy."


Heat Wave: (to Vixen) "I got a new trick. Pull my finger."
Vixen: "What?"

Heat Wave: "Pull my finger."
Zari: "Do NOT pull his finger. Let's just say hot dogs aren't the only thing he's learned how to light on fire."
(I dunno... surely they had "pull my finger" back in the 1940s, where Vixen's from?)

Gary: (discussing Agent Sharpe's disappearance) "She hasn't been to work in a few days, which is very unlike her. I've already been covering for her, I forged her signature twice. What am I supposed to do next? Put on a wig and pantsuit and pretend I'm her?"
Canary. "No. Don't do that."


Canary: "Wow, she must've really wanted to go off the radar."
Gary: "Wait, you think Director Sharpe erased her own file? That's crazy!"
Canary: "Yeah, so is putting on a wig and impersonating your boss, Gary."
Gary: "I didn't actually do it!"

Steel: "You're sure you saw Kuasa?"
Wally: "Yeah."
Steel: "Just be on the lookout for a badass in a leather outfit. Or a suspicious puddle of water."


Atom: (confronting Sharpe's fake parents) "Why in the world would you agree to be a part of such a charade?"
Fake Mrs. Sharpe: "Do you know how hard it is to get an acting job in Fresno?"


Heat Wave: "Fasting?"
Zari: "Yeah, I'm not eating."
Heat Wave: "Trying to lose some fat, huh?"
Zari: "No, I love my body. I'm trying to observe Ramadan."
Heat Wave: "So observe it on a full stomach."
(I'm with Heat Wave! Why the hell would any god care if you eat or not?)

Atom: "What kind of person invents a fake family and backstory?"
Gary: "Well, when I was a kid, I told my friends my dad was an orthodontist. It sounded much cooler than dentist."


Gary: (seeing a future populated with Agent Sharpe clones) "I had a dream like this once."
Canary: "Yeah, me too, but mine involved less clothing."
Gary: "Mine too!"

Gary: "It makes sense they'd clone Ava. She is the perfect woman."
Canary: "Oh, calm down, Gary. She's... okay."

Gary: "Is it too late to mention my fear of things covered in sheets?"

Damien: (entering Vixen's hideout) "And what's with these vigilantes and their dark spaces It's like they're afraid of that healthy bronze look. "
(He glances over at his very pale daughter Nora)
Damien: "Oh, i...I... I didn't mean you. I... you look great, honey."

Gary: (tying up the Ava clone) "Is that too tight? I can never tell. Not... heh... that I have experience tying people up, 'cause I-I-I don't!"

Damien: (to Steel) "I'm sorry, it it's not you. It it's me. Torture just doesn't bring me the same joy anymore."

Atom: "This is the second worst attack of the clones I've seen!"

(Ouch! Take that, George Lucas!)

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