Saturday, November 17, 2018

Legends Of Tomorrow Season 4, Episode 4: Wet Hot American Bummer

This week on Legends Of Tomorrow we get sort of an homage to slasher films (even though the episode's set in the 90s instead of 80s), as the gang hunts a monster terrorizing a summer camp.

It's a near perfect episode, marred only by an odd and illogical subplot involving Director Sharpe not knowing how to act like a kid because she's a clone. As we'll discuss later on, this doesn't make any sense and is done for "comedic" purposes only.

Aside from that I don't have any big complaints. The characters continue to be sharply defined individuals, and no one does anything overtly stupid this week, as tends to happen on other shows.

You may have noticed that Nick Zano, aka Steel, isn't in this episode. Turns out he has a pretty good excuse for being AWOL. In a recent Instagram post, Zano explained that his newborn daughter was born with a dreadful life-threatening condition, but was luckily saved by a team of skilled doctors and technicians. Because of that, Zano understandably sat out this episode to be with his family.


The Plot:
We begin with White Canary and Director Sharpe watching a horror movie called Swamp Thaaaang on TV. Canary says she's seen a ton of such movies, but doesn't ever remember this one. Sharpe checks IMDB and discovers it was based on a real life incident at a summer camp in 1995. Just then Gideon calls, saying she's detected a magical fugitive in— where else— 1995. Canary invites Sharpe to tag along on the mission for reasons.

On the Waverider, Sharpe sees Charlie in the brig. You remember Charlie— the magical shapeshifter who's now stuck in the form of ex-Legend Vixen? When Sharpe asks why they're keeping such a dangerous creature on the ship instead of sending it back to Hell, Zari makes up a story about conducting research. Sharpe seems to buy this obviously phony explanation.

Gideon tells the Legends the magic signals are coming from Camp Ogawa in Maine. Canary tells the gang to suit up, because they're going to camp.

Canary, Director Sharpe, Atom and Constantine somehow all get jobs as counselors at Camp Ogawa. They meet the Camp Director, a grouchy and unpleasant woman named Paula Cooper. She orders Chad Stephens, a young and incredibly handsome counselor, to show them around. If you've ever seen a TV show before, you'll immediately realize the gross-looking woman is innocent, and the hot guy's really the monster.

Canary and Sharpe are put in charge of a cabin full of tween girls. Canary tries palling around with them in order to gain their trust. Sharpe, who you'll recall is actually a clone with implanted memories, has no time for such nonsense and runs the cabin like an army barrack.

Atom and Constantine are assigned to a cabin full of boys. Atom tries wowing them with his nerdy Eagle Scout knowledge, but they're unimpressed. Constantine sneaks off to place a salt barrier around the camp, to protect it from supernatural threats.

That night, Lenise, a girl from Canary's group, sneaks out of her cabin and heads into the woods. She meets up with a boy named Zack, who's from Atom's squad. They're there to make out of course, and just as they're about to kiss, some... thing appears and drags them away.

The next morning Canary and Atom notice they're each missing a kid. They notify Paula, who isn't the least bit concerned. She says kids go missing all the time, and they'll eventually turn up (!).

Canary tries bonding with the girls to find out if they know what happened to Lenise. Sharpe interrupts and starts interrogating them like prisoners of war, threatening to ban them from the ice cream social if they don't talk. Surprisingly they refuse to squeal.

Meanwhile, Constantine takes a more direct route and hypnotizes the boys in his cabin. One of them mentions that Zack was supposed to meet Lenise so he could get to first base.

Back on the Waverider, Charlie hurls herself against the force field in her cell and knocks herself out. Like an idiot, Zari shuts off the field so she can check on her. Right on cue, Charlie springs up and activates the field, trapping Zari inside. Good! Serves her right for being such a dumbass and falling for a trick that wouldn't fool a five year old.

Charlie runs through the ship, looking for a way out. She's stopped by Heat Wave, who puts her back in her cell.

At the camp, one of the girls finally talks and tells Sharpe there's a monster that lives under the docks and steals children. That night, Sharpe goes to the dock looking for the creature. The rest of the Legends hang back and observe, ready to help if needed, I guess. Suddenly something rises out of the water, just as a rope tightens and knocks Sharpe into the water.

Turns out the "monster" is a mannequin, and the girls played a prank on Sharpe to get even with her for her strict and over the top rules. The girls then start calling Sharpe "Lake Beast."

The next day, Sharpe says the only way they'll ever get the girls to talk is to infiltrate their little club, which is impossible. Canary says that's not entirely true, and reveals that Constantine gave her a potion that'll turn them both into tweens. Sharpe's reluctant to try it, since she was never a kid and doesn't know how to act like one (which is bullsh*t, but whatever).

Meanwhile on the ship, Heat Wave and Charlie bond over a bottle of hooch. She tells him she was locked in an interdenominational prison for what felt like centuries, and doesn't plan on going back. She says she never stayed in one place long enough to ever trust anyone. In a rare moment of lucidity and compassion, Heat Wave tells her she has to start somewhere.

The next day, Constantine and Atom search for the missing kids. They find a large discarded skin, and Constantine consults his book of magical creatures. He says the skin belongs to a monster called a "shtriga," a vampiric witch that feeds off the life force of children.

Canary says it's up to her and Sharpe to protect the kids. She says they should take the potion and use themselves as bait to lure the shtriga out in the open, so they can send it back to Hell. Sharpe reluctantly agrees. They take the potion, but nothing happens. Just as Canary's about to curse Constantine's name, they're suddenly transformed into teens.

Constantine creates a magical will-o'-the-wisp to lead he and Atom to the missing kids. Along the way Atom mentions he's not totally unfamiliar with magic, bringing up his "relationship" with Nora Darhk. Constantine warns him to stay far away from her, as she's an evil, unrepentant witch that'll chew him up and spit him out.

Suddenly will-o'-the-wisp leads them to a spooky, dilapidated cabin in the woods. They enter it and find four unconscious kids being kept in small cages. Constantine says he needs to act quickly if he's gonna save them.

Teen Canary and Teen Sharpe enter the girls' cabin and start bonding with them. The girls soon start talking, telling them Lenise and Zack were supposed to meet in a special spot in the woods (something Constantine already found out a long time ago).

Teen Canary and Teen Sharpe head for the makeout spot to look for the shtriga. They're confronted by Paula, who looks even scarier and more hag-like than ever. She tells the girls she's got a special punishment planned for them. Just then the two "teens" punch and kick Paula, and she drops to the ground like a sack of wet laundry.

Back on the Waverider, Zari tells Charlie that the team needs her help in dealing with the shtriga. Charlie agrees to help, but says it'll cost them. She says shtrigas typically look like ugly old women, but she once knew one that appeared to be a handsome young male. Heat Wave lowers the force field and lets Charlie loose. Zari's uncomfortable with this arrangement, but doesn't have time to object.

Zari calls Teen Canary and says the shtriga looks like a beautiful dude. Just then Chad steps out of the woods and tells the "girls" to come with him.

Meanwhile in the cabin, Constantine begins a spell that'll rip the kids' lifeforce from the shtriga and transfer it back into them. Back in the woods, Teen Canary and Teen Sharpe start fighting Chad. Unfortunately he's much stronger and quickly overpowers them.

Suddenly Constantine's spell activates, and the kids' life forces are pulled from Chad. He transforms into full shtriga mode, looking like some kind of zombie-like creature. Back at the cabin, the kids' various life forces flow back into their bodies.

With the shtriga now weakened, the "girls" attack it again. Teen Canary stabs it in the chest with a large stick, and the shtriga perishes in a fiery explosion.

At the cabin, all of the kids wake up except for Randall. Constantine says he's "not losing another kid," and begins reciting another spell. He transfers some of his life energy into Randall. He wakes up, and Constantine collapses.

In the woods, Teen Sharpe thanks Teen Canary for giving her the chance to experience what it's like being a kid. As they kiss, the potion wears off.

Back on the ship, Canary's upset that Heat Wave and Zari let Charlie go. Charlie appears and says she's willing to give teamwork a shot. In the Med Bay, Gideon says she's done all she can for Constantine, but he's dying. She says the only thing that can save him now is magic. Atom says he knows someone who might be able to help.

Cut to Nora Darhk, who's working at a Renaissance fair for some reason.

• I'm puzzled as to why this episode's set in 1995. 
Since it's all about teens being attacked at a summer camp, wouldn't it have made more sense for it to take place in the early 1980s? You know, the era of Friday The 13th (which happened at Camp Crystal Lake)?

The 80s were the golden age of the slasher film, and seem much more appropriate for the subject matter.

• As the episode opens, two camp counselors are attacked by a swamp beast. Turns out this scene is actually from a movie that Canary and Agent Sharpe are watching. 

Good! I was glad that that sorry, soggy creation wasn't the REAL monster of the week!

Fortunately the REAL swamp creature, aka the shtriga, looked much, much better.

Kudos to the Legends' design team for some nice attention to detail. When Canary pauses the Swamp Thaaaang movie, we see the monster attacks the counselors at exactly the 25:01 mark— which is probably exactly where such a moment would actually occur in a real horror film! Well done!

Ten points from Gryffindor though for the info screen, which says Swamp Thaaaang came out in 1996. That seems highly unlikely. See, the A.V. Club review says the movie's based on a real life incident that occurred in 1995. But it also says the title has four A's in it because it's the fourth film in the franchise.

I know horror films are often slapped together quickly, but there's no way any studio could pumped out FOUR Swamp Thaaaang movies in a year's time!

Maybe it's possible they mean the fourth movie was based on a 1995 incident, while the previous three were completely fictitious. If that's the case, then never mind.

Oh, and the info screen lists the director of Swamp Thaaaang as David Geddes. He's the cinematographer on Legends Of Tomorrow, and guess what? He actually directed this episode (as well as three others)!

• During Canary's briefing, she says they're going to Camp Ogawa to look for a "swampy monster thing." Constantine says, "Well, I 'appen to know a swamp thing. But then again, Maine is way too far North for that muppet."

Obviously Constantine's talking about Swamp Thing here, the DC character who had his own comic that premiered in the 1970s. The comic version of Constantine did indeed guest star in the Swamp Thing book in the 80s, during Alan Moore's famous run on the book.

As near as I can tell, this is the first mention of the character in the Arrowverse. I'm assuming his mention is a nod to the new Swamp Thing series that's coming soon to DC's digital streaming service next year.

• Constantine mentions that Camp Ogawa is in Maine. That's probably a Stephen King reference, as he's famously set all his stories in the state.

• Once again, the Waverider activates its cloaking device AFTER exiting the time stream, giving anyone who happens to glance up a good look at the ship. As I say every week, this completely negates the purpose of the cloak, but what do I know?

• I honestly never thought we'd ever see Constantine wearing anything but his usual getup of trench coat and tie. The sunglasses were a nice touch though.

One minor nit: Why's Atom's shirt so sloppily untucked here? You'd think a former Eagle Scout who enjoys rules and regulations as much as he does would be wearing a perfectly pressed, starched shirt that was fully tucked in.

• I loved Camp Director Paula, what with her world-weary attitude and all. She literally doesn't give a crap about the kids in her care— even after they turn up missing! I also love the fact that she's constantly smoking on the job, and around the kids. That's something you don't see these days!

• After we're introduced to Paula, we get a quick glimpse of the camp's menacing caretaker. Obviously he's only there to make us think that he's the monster. That might have worked if he hadn't appeared in one brief scene and then completely disappeared from the episode.

Note to the Legends' writers— if you want the audience to suspect a character, you need to show them for more than two seconds of screen time.

• At one point we see Constantine creating a salt barrier around the camp, to keep the monster out. Thing is, he's pouring the salt out of a metal can that looks like it holds maybe five pounds worth. There's no way in hell he did the job with just that one can. He'd need an entire dump truck full of salt to surround the entire camp!

• Charlie tricks Zari and escapes her cell. She then runs through the Waverider's endless corridors, looking for an exit. Eventually she's caught by Heat Wave, who throws her back in the brig.

Gosh, it's too bad this futuristic time ship doesn't contain an artificial intelligence that can sense when unauthorized personnel are running loose on board.

• Speaking of Charlie, while she's in the brig she wears a standard issue Waverider jumpsuit, branded with what appears to be the ship's official logo. At least I think it's supposed to be the Waverider logo. There's what appears to be a stylized W leaning to the left, followed by a V and an R. I guess "WVR" is supposed to stand for Waverider, even though that doesn't make much sense.

Trouble is, this logo looks completely different from the one that's actually emblazoned on the side of the ship. That one's just a W and an R, which makes much more sense to me.

• So I guess the Waverider's brig must feature a containment barrier and not a force field. Otherwise Heat Wave and Charlie would probably be experiencing intense pain right about now— right before they're both knocked into opposite corners of the room!

Sharpe tries to get the girls in her cabin to tell her what they know about Lenise's disappearance, but they clam up and refuse to squeal. Meanwhile, Constantine hypnotizes his boys, and they sing like birds, telling him everything.

So why didn't Constantine just hypnotize the girls too? Because if he did, then we wouldn't have gotten the whole subplot in which Canary and Sharpe are transformed into teens.

By the way, the girls they cast as younger versions of Canary and Sharpe did a pretty good job of aping their speech patterns and mannerisms.

• The whole "Director Sharpe Doesn't Know How To Act Like A Kid" subplot in this episode makes absolutely no sense.

As she reminds us all through the episode, Sharpe is actually a service clone from the year 2213. Rip Hunter brought her back from the future, implanted her brain with fake memories and placed her in charge of the Time Bureau.

It was established in I, Ava that her false memories are so complete that she believed she was a normal human for years, and didn't realize she was a clone until told the awful truth. 

So then why does she suddenly start saying she doesn't know how to be a kid this week? She actually says "Even if it works, Sara, I wouldn't have any idea how to act like a kid because I've never been one. All my childhood memories are fake, remember?"

She literally just admitted she has childhood memories. As far as your brain's concerned, a fake memory's no different from a real one. There's absolutely no reason for her to NOT know how to act like a kid.

The writers obviously went this route for comedy purposes, but they shot themselves in the foot, as it's complete nonsense.

• Man, Paula actually did look scary in this scene (even though I knew she wasn't the shtriga)! Whenever I see a character like this in a movie or TV show, I always wonder— how do they go about casting the part? Do they put an ad in the trades that reads, "Wanted: Actor for guest spot on weekly television show. Must be ugly, overweight and able to be mistaken for a witch?"

That's basically what they're doing, right? Seems like it'd be really awkward and uncomfortable to tell someone you're hiring them because they're considered ugly in our society.

• In the cabin, the abducted kids all wake up except for Randall. Constantine says "I'm not losing another kid" and transfers some of his life force into Randall.

Wondering what all the "kid losing" talk's about? That would be from the animated Constantine series on the CW Seed. In it, Constantine encountered a young girl named Astra, who was possessed by a demon named Nergal. He attempted to exorcise the demon from her, but Nergal killed Astra and dragged her soul to Hell. This action damned Constantine as well, as his soul will also go to Hell when he dies.

• It's only her second episode, and already I like Charlie a hundred times more than the bland and uninteresting Vixen. Sure, she had a cool power, but her constant whining about fulfilling her destiny in the past got old real quick.

As I mentioned last week though, now that Charlie's magical ability's been neutralized, they're gonna have to give her some kind of special weapon or something, or they're going to have a plain old powerless person on the team.

• This Week's Best Lines:
Canary: "Swamp Thaaaang. Never heard of it. And what's with all the A's?"

Sharpe: "Okay, let me look. Okay, Swamp Thaaaang. Apparently there are four A's in the name because it's the fourth film in the franchise. The A. V. Club gave it a D+, saying, "The production design is as lazy as the action staging."
Canary: "Harsh."

Atom: "Oh, I loved summer camp. Everyone used to call me, Kid Counselor."

Constantine: "Bet you took that as a compliment, too, didn't you, mate?"

Sharpe: "Today we're going to celebrate your first day of camp by using safety and discipline, got it?"

Constantine: "Yeah, sorry to burst your summer-loving bubble, mate, but we're missing one of our young charges. His name is Zack or something." 

(I love the fact that Constantine's so unconcerned he doesn't even remember the missing kid's name!)

Canary: (discovering two of the kids are missing) "They must have snuck out in the middle of the night."
Sharpe: "Snuck out? Why would they sneak out?"

Canary: "To make out. Duh!"
(I liked Canary's drawn out little "duhhh" here!)

Paula: (when she finds out a kid is missing) "Oh, don't worry about those kids. They're gonna be just fine."

Atom: "Uh, shouldn't we mount a search party or..."
Canary: "They couldn't have gotten too far."
Paula: "Look, Freckles, this happens every year. Kids under the influence of their hormones go off into the woods at night. Just watch. They'll eventually get hungry and tired, and they'll come back. Now go out there and do some counseling."
Atom: "Well, someone gives precisely zero craps about the safety of our campers."

Boy Camper: "Last night Zack said something about meeting someone in the woods."

Constantine: "Where in the woods exactly?
Boy Camper: "A baseball field. Only, there's no baseball field out there."
Constantine: "Well, that's all right. Keep digging."
Boy Camper: "He kept talking about making it to first base with a girl. But who plays baseball in the dark?"
(The fact that the various Arrowverse series are all filmed in Vancouver really shows in this scene. The Boy Camper very clearly says "aboot" and "oot there.")

Gideon: "Ms. Tomaz, the prisoner is growing quite unruly."

Zari: "Tell her to knock herself out."
(Just then Charlie hurls herself against the containment field and appears to literally knock herself out)
Zari: "Aw. I take that back."

Atom: (while he's supposed to be keeping his eyes on Sharpe) "Guys. Guys, I think I see a Northern Saw-whet Owl."

Canary: "Ray, focus!"
Atom: "Fine. I'll save it for my bird-watching journal."

Sharpe: "Who knew kids could be so mean? They've been calling me 'Lake Beast' behind my back all day."

Girl Camper: "Excuse me, Lake Beast."
Sharpe: "And to my face."

Atom: "Why are you being such a jerk?"

Constantine: "Because you shouldn't even be out here chasing a magical creature, all right? It's too dangerous."
Atom: "Too dangerous? You're lucky you're out here with me, because I can keep us alive on bugs and berries alone!"

Girl Camper #1: "Where did you guys come from out of the blue?"

Teen Canary: "Got kicked out of Clark Cabin for putting a frog under Christi Donovan's pillow. You should have heard her scream!"
Girl Camper #1: "Cool. And you?"
Teen Sharpe: "I was kicked out 'cause I was caught reading after lights out."
Girl Camper #2: "Reading? Lame."
Teen Canary: "Uh, her counselors only thought she was reading, but really she was writing a letter to her boyfriend. He lives in France."
Girl Camper #1: "This year's counselors are the worst."
Girl Camper #2: "Especially Lake Beast."
Teen Canary: "Yeah, I heard she smells bad."
Teen Sharpe: "Hey!"
(Teen Canary shoots her a look)
Teen Sharpe: "Um, yeah, I heard she looked really funny when she fell into the water. But you're lucky she didn't catch pneumonia. That's a very serious illness."

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