Saturday, November 25, 2017

Legends Of Tomorrow Season 3, Episode 7: Welcome To The Jungle

This week on Legends Of Tomorrow, the team visits the Vietnam, Gorilla Grodd returns to the Arrowverse, and Heat Wave has a family reunion of sorts.

Since this episode is all about battling Grodd in the jungles of Vietnam, I guess you could say the Legends have become guerrilla fighters! Eh? Get it? Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, I'm here all week!

Overall it wasn't a bad episode, but it suffered a bit by trying to cram way too much into its forty two minutes. There were at least three plotlines going on, and none of them got the full attention they deserved.

Grodd's storyline should have been the episode's main plot, with him standing in for Colonel Kurtz in an Apocalypse Now homage. But somehow his storyline was overshadowed by Heat Wave's reunion with his absentee father. Honestly either one could have been the focus of an entire episode. 

I'm assuming Grodd's storyline was pushed to the back because giant telepathic CGI apes are expensive, and they just couldn't afford more than a handful of scenes with him. 

I'd also have liked to have seen more of Grodd and Vixen interacting, since her power to summon the powers of any animal sort of makes them kindred spirits.

One thing we learned this week: the anachronisms aren't being caused at random. So far every one of them has involved a younger version of a team member. The team interacted with young Atom in Phone Home, Professor Stein met his ancestor in Return Of The Mack and now this week Heat Wave runs into a young version of his father.

Why this keeps happening and where it's leading, I have no idea.


The Plot:
In 1967 Vietnam, a squad of American soldiers patrols the jungle. Suddenly they're attacked by Gorilla Grodd. Oh, sorry, we're not supposed to know it's him yet at this point in the episode. Let's try that again— suddenly they're attacked by a large, unseen entity. One of the soldiers looks up in horror as the "monster" looms over him.

On the Waverider, White Canary's still in a coma after her encounter with Nora Darhk last week. Meanwhile, Professor Stein's still trying to separate himself from Firestorm. To that end, he's actually collected three of the most brilliant scientific minds from history— Isaac Newton, Galileo and Madame Curie. Not surprisingly, these three scientists from the past aren't much help in dealing with a nuclear powered metahuman entity.

Jackson checks the anachronism board and notices a Level 8 one in 1967 Vietnam. Gideon says, "Scans of the historical record reveal redacted Pentagon reports about a creature of unknown origin attacking American and Vietcong soldiers in the jungle. Dozens have disappeared without a trace." The Legends decide they're going to Vietnam to investigate.

Once in 'Nam, Atom, Vixen and Zari disguise themselves as reporters and scout around. They find Ryan Sanders, the only survivor of the squad from the cold open. When they question him about what he saw, he says, "It must have stalked us for several klicks. Took us by surprise. Whatever was out there was pure evil, and it had a message for us. Stay out of the jungle." Well, yes, that's all very helpful, but WHAT THE HELL DID YOU SEE?

Zari notices a local woman eyeballing them and approaches her. She says her name is Anh Ly, and she knows what's lurking in the jungle and capturing people. When Zari asks what it is, Anh she'll show them. Amazingly, the three Legends follow this complete stranger into the foreign jungle.

Meanwhile, Steel and Heat Wave, disguised as soldiers, sneak around the dense Vietnamese jungle, looking for the "monster." Heat Wave's surlier than usual, as he says his dad's stationed in Vietnam in 1967, and he's worried he'll run into him. Steel says that's crazy talk, as there's no way that could possibly happen. Right on cue, Sgt. Dick Rory, Heat Wave's dad, appears. Com-O-Dee!

Sgt. Rory and his squad surround Steel and Heat Wave, asking who they are and what they're doing. Steel claims to be Operations Officer Nathaniel Heywood, and Heat Wave is Officer Schwarzenegger of the CIA, and they're investigating the recent disappearances. Amazingly, Rory buys this explanation. 

Heat Wave glares at his father, and Steel says it can't be that bad, and to man up and deal with it. Heat Wave replies that he set the fire that killed his father, and never regretted it because he was an abusive alcoholic who deserved to die. Gulp! Well that took an ugly turn!

Anh Ly leads the Legends to a fortress deep in the jungle. They ask what the monster's like, and she says it's no monster, as it's stopped the fighting in her village. She says the entity is Ong Troi Moi, the New God. 

They enter the compound, and see Vietcong and American soldiers working together peacefully. Anh takes the Legends into a building, where they see Gorilla Grodd, sitting on a small throne. 

Outside, the Legends discuss what to do about him. Obviously Grodd's fallen through time somehow, and they need to return him to his proper era. They try to contact the Waverider, but can't, as their comms are being jammed by a futuristic device cobbled together by Grodd. Vixen borrows Atom's shrink ray, and says she has a plan.

Steel, Heat Wave and Sgt. Rory's squad traipse through the jungle. Suddenly they're confronted by another group of American soldiers, who say they've been "enlightened." The leader of this soldiers says the jungle now belongs to Ong Troi Moi, and orders them to surrender. They then begin firing on Sgt. Rory's squad. His men fire back, while Rory— and Heat Wave— both use their flamethrowers on their attackers. Like father, like son!

Afterward, Heat Wave reluctantly thanks Sgt. Rory for saving his life. Rory says he didn't want another death on his conscience. He then talks about his girlfriend back home, and how he'd like to start a family some day after he goes back to the World. He says he even wants kids, but hopes they never end up in a godforsaken jungle like this (more Com-O-Dee!). Heat Wave begins to realize that his dad wasn't always the monster he later became, and there may have been a reason for his ugly behavior.

Meanwhile, Atom and Zari try to deactivate the jamming signal so they can contact the Waverider. Vixen then sneaks into the throne room, intent on shrinking Grodd for safe transport back to ARGUS in 2017. Unfortunately Grodd uses his telepathic powers to control Vixen and destroy the shrink ray. He tells Vixen humans do nothing but kill one another, but he has a plan to help them find peace. When she asks how, he points to a TV playing a newscast, detailing President Johnson's visit to Vietnam. Vixen gasps and realizes Grodd plans to kill the President.

On the Waverider, the anachronism suddenly elevates to Level 10, as Gideon pulls up a future newspaper claiming Grodd's actions in Vietnam lead to WWIII! Zari talks to Anh Ly, and asks how she can follow a maniac like Grodd. Anh says she and her people are only defending their home from the Americans, and Grodd's helping them. Zari tries to tell Anh that if she wants peace, it starts with herself. Anh's then taken over by Grodd and knocks out Zari so we don't have to listen to any more of her pep talks.

Meanwhile, Sgt. Rory gets orders to take out Grodd's village. Steel hears this and realizes the Legends could get killed in the crossfire. He tells the Sargent he just received top secret orders that the fortress village is off limits, and to stand down. Sgt. Rory says he doesn't take orders from the CIA and knocks out Steel. He then asks Heat Wave if he's in or out. A brooding Heat Wave says he's in, and follows his father.

Zari's carried outside, where Atom, Vixen are other captives are being held. Grodd then appears and roars at the Legends. Vixen breaks free and approaches him, telling him he doesn't have to kill the President or start a war. She says they can use the Waverider to take him to a time before humans even existed, where he can live out his days in peace. She then summons a gorilla spirit with her totem, to calm him down and help convince him she's sincere.

Just when it seems like Grodd might take her up on her offer, the fortress is attacked by Sgt. Rory and his men. Grodd accuses Vixen and the other Legends of working with the soldiers. He realizes the Legends have a time machine, and says he plans to use it to prevent humans from ever becoming a thing. He then bulldozes his way through Sgt. Rory and his men and escapes. 

Sgt. Rory's so flustered by the sight of a giant gorilla that he orders a napalm strike on the entire village. He then lines up all the "enlightened" soldiers, the Vietcong and the Legends, holding them all at gunpoint. He orders 

Elsewhere, Stein flies the Waverider to President Johnson's location, and drops off Jackson to save him. He finds President Johnson's convoy, telling them there's a giant, murderous telepathic gorilla in the area and to turn around. Of course Johnson's guards don't believe him, and move to capture Jackson. Unfortunately the convoy's stopped in a minefield, and the guards are instantly blown up. Johnson himself steps on a trip line, and Jackson tells him not to move. Jackson freezes the mine with an aerosol spray, and manages to rescue the President.

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Atom radios Stein and warns him that Grodd's heading for the ship. Stein takes off, but doesn't see Grodd run through the jungle and leap on top of the ship. Suddenly Canary wakes up from her coma and enters the bridge. It soon becomes obvious though that she's actually being controlled by Grodd. She attacks Stein, but is knocked out by Isaac Newton (who's still onboard for some reason).

Back at the compound, Sgt. Rory says he's going to execute all the prisoners for treason. This finally causes Heat Wave to snap out of it, and he puts a gun to his father's head, telling him to stand down. Steel warns Heat Wave what'll happen to him if he kills his own dad, but he doesn't care. Heat Wave tells his dad that killing these people won't bring his men back, and if he does it, he'll never be able to look his future family in the eye. After a tense moment, Sgt. Rory realizes he's right and lowers his gun.

Meanwhile Grodd's still clinging to the Waverider as it flies over the jungle. Just then the US planes start their napalm strike. Stein gets an idea and appears to jump the ship just a second or two forward in time, causing it to disappear. For some reason, it doesn't take Grodd along with it, and he falls into the fiery jungle far below.

Back on the ship, Stein tells Jackson he has no doubt he'll be able to handle himself as Firestorm without him. Canary wakes up from her coma— for real this time.

Cut to Grodd falling to Earth somewhere. He's met by Damien Darhk, who's seemingly been waiting for him. He tells Grodd he pulled him out of Vietnam before he fell into the napalm inferno. Grodd insists he send him back. Darhk asks why have a time ship, when he could travel through time with nothing but a single thought? He then hands him a glowing yellow totem, that apparently has time traveling powers.

• We get another "song title" title this week.

I was fully expecting them to play Welcome To The Jungle at some point in this episode. After all, they played Return Of The Mack a couple weeks ago in the episode of the same name, so why not do something similar here? I'm betting Axl Rose probably wanted too much money for the rights. Plus that's a decidedly 80s song, and probably wouldn't fit in an episode set in the 60s.

 For some reason there's no opening narration this week. Maybe the episode was runningl ong and they needed the extra thirty seconds?

 When the Legends notice an anachronism in 1967 Vietnam, Gideon helpfully pulls up some redacted Pentagon files about missing soldiers.

If you look closely, the file actually is about a "creature" running rampant in the jungle, and all the redacted parts seem to refer to it being a giant telepathic gorilla. Well done, prop department!

 Speaking of giant telepathic gorillas, there's some rampant plot trickery going on in the beginning of this episode, which is used in a flailing attempt to keep Grodd's appearance a secret for as long as possible.

When the Legends question soldier Ryan Sanders about what he saw in the jungle, all he tells them is, "It was pure evil." Wow. How helpful. Why the hell didn't he just tell them he saw a goddamned giant gorilla? 

Same goes for Anh Ly. She keep jabbering away about "Ong Troi Moi," the local god. Again, why not just say, "Would you like to meet our giant telepathic gorilla warlord?"

As I said, this contrived dialogue was designed to keep the audience in the dark so Grodd's appearance would be a gasp-worthy scene. It might have worked too, if The CW's marketing department hadn't trumpeted his appearance all week.

• Grodd last appeared in Season 3 of The Flash, in Attack On Central City. At the end of that episode, Grodd was defeated by Solovar (a good telepathic gorilla) and imprisoned at ARGUS.

So... how'd he get from 2017 to Vietnam in 1967? Apparently it's none of our business, as it's never addressed. Heck, I'm not even sure the Grodd seen here is chronologically the same one that was locked up in ARGUS. This one could be from some point before that.

By the way, once again David Sobolov provides the voice of Grodd, as he's done in all his appearances.

 The instant Heat Wave said he hoped he didn't meet his dad in 'Nam, I knew he was gonna show up. I was expecting some laugh out loud hilarity between the two of them though, but their meeting quickly took a very dark and disturbing turn!

Kudos to actor Evan Jones for his performance as Heat Wave's dad, Dick Rory. Jones managed to do a pretty decent Dominic Purcell impression, growling his way through the part. This is the reverse of the way it's usually done though. Generally speaking, whoever's playing the son imitates the father, not the other way around!

Jones even looks quite a bit like Purcell, and I had no problem believing they were related.

Evan Jones also looks a bit like actor Paul McCrane, aka Emil from Robocop! In fact for a second I thought maybe he was McCrane, until I realized he's probably too old to play a thirty year old these days.

• I wondered if Heat Wave's backstory and timeline works with what's shown in this episode, and as near as I can tell, it does. 

This episode takes place in 1967, which is fifty years ago. The Vietnam War ended in 1975. If Heat Wave was born in 1977, that would make him currently forty. A hard looking forty, I admit, but I supposed he could pass for that age. We know from past episodes that in 1990, Heat Wave set fire to his house, killing his parents. If he was born in 1977, he'd have been 13 in 1990, so that works out!

 When the "enlightened" soldiers attack, Heat Wave and Sgt. Rory both use their flamethrowers against them. 

Heat Wave's flame gun has always seemed to vary in effectiveness depending on the needs of the script. Most of the time it works much like a raygun or blaster, simply knocking people over without any real harm. In this episode it functions like a real flamethrower, as we hear the anguished screams of the soldiers as they're roasted alive.

I guess it's possible his gun has different settings, so it sometimes it's deadlier than others. If that's true though, it's never been established onscreen.

• One last thing about Heat Wave before I move on. Apparently his mom was Raquel Welch!

• Lucky for Steel and Heat Wave that their uniforms don't have their names sewn onto the pockets, as is normal for army soldiers. If they did, then Sgt. Rory would have instantly known Steel was lying when he said Heat Wave's name was "Schwarzenegger."

• Once the Legends enter Grodd's fortress, they discover their comms are being jammed. Hmm. What are the odds that a jamming system built from parts available in 1967 would be able to jam the Waverider's advanced, futuristic tech? We can't even say Grodd used his superior intellect to deliberately block the Legends' signals, because he had no idea they were coming.

I suppose maybe we could say that a signal's a signal, no matter what century it's from, and ANY jamming technology could affect it. I suppose we could say that, but I don't know why we should.

• Some day I'd like to see a scene in which a crowd whoops it up by firing celebratory rounds into the air... and then has to run for cover as the ammo falls back to Earth a few seconds later. Which of course is exactly what happens when you do this.

• A big shoutout to the Arrowverse effects team, for bringing Grodd to life. He was a bit dodgy the first time he appeared in Season 1 of The Flash, but since then he's gotten better and more realistic with each subsequent appearance. He's definitely impressive for a restrictive TV budget!

• This is some hardcore nitpicking, but whatever. After Grodd announces his plan to destroy humanity, Gideon helpfully pulls up a future newspaper with an ominous headline that reads "WWIII BEGINS!"

Um... if the US and Russia started lobbing nukes at one another, would there really be anyone left to print a headline like this? I'm gonna say no.

• Professor Stein plucks Sir Isaac Newton, Galileo and Madame Curie from the timeline (!) to help him figure out how to separate himself from Firestorm. Several thing here:

First of all, it's a fun scene, but it's pretty much identical to last week's episode of The Flash, in which Harry formed the Council Of Wells (made up of various versions of himself from across the multiverse) to help find DeVoe's identity.

It also reminds me a bit of Star Trek: The Next Generation, in which Data played poker with holographic recreations of Newton, Einstein and Stephen Hawking!

Secondly, Stein's choice of scientific advisers bears some scrutiny. Galileo and Newton both lived and died hundreds of years before nuclear physics was ever a thing. Plus their areas of expertise had absolutely NOTHING to do with atomic science.

Madame Curie studied radiation and discovered a couple of radioactive elements, but even so, I can't see how her relatively primitive knowledge on the subject would be of any help in splitting Firestorm.

Surely there were some more modern scientists Stein could have abducted, like Robert Oppenheimer, Werner Heisenberg and Richard Feynman? Of course few audience members would know who any of those people were, which is probably why the writers went with the more recognizable trio we got in the episode.

Lastly, what the hell was Stein thinking, yanking these seminal historical figures out of the past? Yes, he wiped their memories before taking them back home, but what if Grodd had killed any of them when he tried to capture the ship?

• I like Legends Of Tomorrow quite a bit, but even I have to admit they consistently drop the ball when it comes to their depiction of historical characters. This episode is no exception, as their version of President Johnson is laughably bad. 

Is... is he wearing a fake nose for some reason? I guess the real Johnson had a prominent schnozz, but it didn't look anything like that!

For the record, here's what the real LBJ looked like, circa 1967. As you can see, he looked nothing like whoever the hell that was supposed to be in the episode.

• When the President blunders into a booby trap trip wire, Jackson saves him by freezing the device with a can of freezing aerosol spray.

I was gonna ask why the hell Jackson carries freezing aerosol around with him at all times, but when I watched the scene a second time I saw it was actually shaving creme. So it's plausible that someone in the President's convoy might have had a can of it in their pack.

Of course that doesn't explain why the shaving creme comes out of the can in a freezing spray, instead of as a flowing river of white glop, as such products tend to do.

Nor does it answer the question of why this particular brand of shaving creme is called "Sherpa Shorn!" What the frak does that even mean?

• Once the crisis is over, Heat Wave reconciles with his dad and says goodbye. Steel then hands Heat Wave's lighter back to him. He looks at it for a second and growls, "I don't need it any more."

Ever since Heat Wave was introduced over on The Flash, he's been portrayed as a pyromaniac. So... is this episode trying to tell us that his encounter with his dad has suddenly cured him of this condition? Yeah, I don't think that's how it works.

• In the final scene, Damien Darhk seemingly pulls Grodd from the timestream with what appears to be a glowing totem, much like the ones Vixen, Zari and Kuasa use. Is this a FOURTH totem, one we've not seen before that can somehow control time? I have a feeling we'll find out next week.

• This Week's Best Lines:
Steel: (to Vixen) "Everything okay? You're hitting the bag like it's insulting your mother, and you haven't said anything for like 30 minutes."

Vixen: "What is there to say?"
Steel: "I don't know. Talk about your granddaughter? And not the superhero either. The psycho water witch. 
Vixen: "The who?"
Steel: "Your granddaughter. I mean, I'm sure she's really not that bad." 
Vixen: "You just called her a psycho water witch." 
Steel: "Yeah, and I instantly regret it." 

Steel: "It's time for you to man up, and sort out— "
Heat Wave: "Daddy issues." 
Steel: "I was going to say unresolved grief, but let's go with what you're saying." 
Heat Wave: "You want to know why I've never seen a shrink?"
Steel: "Why?"
Heat Wave: "I don't regret killing my old man." 
Steel: "What?"
Heat Wave: "That's right, Pretty. You heard me. I let my old man burn to death. How's that for tough love?" 

Stein: "Any insights, Sir Isaac Newton? Or do I have to throw an apple at your head?"

Steel: "Do you know what's on your father's head?"
Heat Wave: "A little Frenchie hat."
Steel: "That is a Green Beret. 

Steel: "Mick? What were you doing?"
Heat Wave: "What does it look like?"
Steel: "Uh... looks like you were burning your own skin, but that would be completely insane, right?"

Steel: "We need to get out of this jungle ASAP."
Atom: "Oh, no, what's wrong, buddy?"
Steel: "Well, when Mick and I started, we were doing Predator. Then we ran into Mick's dad, and now we're doing Apocalypse Now.

Officer: "Welcome to Vietnam, Mr. President."
President Johnson: "Good lord, it's hotter than a preacher's knee out here!"
(I've never heard that saying in my life, and have no idea what the hell it means. Is it something to do with preachers kneeling in prayer all the time?)

Anh Ly: (to the Legends) "The sooner your great nations destroy one another, the sooner there will be peace. One nation under Grodd!"

Stein: "Raymond, I must have misheard you. Did you say Grodd was on his way here?"
Atom: "Sure did, man. He's planning on stealing the Waverider."
Stein: "I swear to you, if I die today because of a telepathic gorilla, I'm going to be very upset."

Stein: "Where is Captain Lance when I need her?"
(Canary suddenly walks onto the bridge)
Stein: "Sara were you just waiting for the right moment to make a dramatic entrance?"

Canary: "There is no Sara."
Stein: "What?"
Canary: "Only Grodd."
(I don't know if it was intentional or not, but this line reminds me of "There is no Dana, only Zuul" line from Ghostbusters)

Canary: "Kneel before Grodd!"
(I think we all know what that line's referencing!)

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