Thursday, September 5, 2019

Legends Of Tomorrow Season 4, Episode 11: Seance And Sensibility

I'm playing catch up this month, so please excuse this dreadfully late review. I'm determined to finish the season even if it kills me.

Sigh... another week, another sub-par episode of Legends Of Tomorrow. Jesus, what the hell happened? Once Season 1 was out of the way, this rapidly became my favorite show. The first half of the season was pretty good, but this second half... oy! Rarely have I seen such a precipitous drop in quality. Honestly guys, if things don't pick up soon, I may have to drop this series.

Legends has often featured numerous story arcs in the same episode, but it's usually easy to tell which is the A Plot, the B and so on. Not here, boy! There are at least five different plotlines fighting for attention here, and I have absolutely no idea which is the central one. Is it the Atom/Nora Darhk tryst? The Jane Austen Love Vs Romance hooey? How about Constantine's confrontation with Neron? Steel discovering his father Hank's big secret?

Who freakin' knows? Your guess is as good as anyone's.

I think maybe the "Hank's Secret" plot is supposed to be the focus of the episode. I think. If that's true though, then it's severely neglected, so the episode can devote more time screen time to the big song & dance number

In fact this entire episode is nothing more than an excuse to have the cast dress up and pay tribute to Bollywood musicals.

Speaking of Hank, I was extremely pissed by the way this episode treated him, as it effectively assassinated his character— physically as well as personality-wise. Not only does his big secret run counter to everything we know about Hank, but it comes completely out of nowhere, making it even more ridiculous and hard to believe. More about this in the thoughts below.

Finally, when Hank was killed at the end of last week's episode (oh, spoilers alert!) I said not to worry, and guaranteed he'd be back. Whoops! Looks like I was wrong about that. Hey, I'm not too big to admit it when I'm wrong. His death doesn't make any sense, especially when you find out what the original plans were for the season. I'm not sure where the writers are going here or why they felt the need to kill him off. I'm starting to wonder if they know either.


The Plot:
The Legends attend the wake of Hank Heywood at his home. Zari adjusts Steel's tie before he makes his appearance. He leans in to kiss her, but she backs away. Steel's mom Dorothy blindsides him by asking him to make a speech about his father.

Meanwhile, Atom frets about what to say to his best friend Steel, because the writers couldn't think of anything else for him to do. He runs into Steel and the two friends have an awkward exchange.

In a panic, Atom retreats to a bathroom, where Nora Darhk appears in a mirror. She tells him she didn't kill Hank in last week's episode, and he's so relieved he asks her to meet him on the Waverider so they can discuss the matter in person.

Nora sneaks onboard the ship and tells Atom a demon killed Hank. He hides her until they can prove her innocence. Also on the ship, Mona's wearing a t-shirt listing famous Jane Austen characters. Suddenly the names begin disappearing from the shirt, in the most illogical way possible. 

Gideon says there's a disturbance at a wedding in Bath, England in 1802, so White Canary and Zari return to the ship. Mona begs to go on the mission, as Jane Austen's her favorite author. For some reason Canary says yes, and the Legends head back to Regency England.

The ship arrives in Bath in 1802. Canary, Zari, Charlie and Mona don period appropriate attire and wander through the city. Along the way, Zari has a meet cute with Lord Remington's Coachman, a handsome Indian man. Don't worry, this'll become important later on.

They locate the wedding in question and crash it, and see Jane Austen's there as well. As the bride walks down the aisle, she stops and says she can't go through with it because she's in love with her scullery maid. The two kiss, to the shock of the attendees. Then the groom announces he's actually in love with the bride's mother, and they kiss. Suddenly everyone in the entire church (except for the Legends) begins getting it on with one another.

The Legends wonder why the "lust outbreak" at the wedding caused Jane Austen to stop writing. Mona suggests they just ask her, while Zari says she'll check out the mysterious Coachman.

Mona and Canary visit Jane, who says the townspeople have been acting strangely ever since Lord Remington appeared. Mona says some drivel about love overcoming any obstacle, and Jane calls her a fool. Mona's so angry at this that she begins transforming into "Wolfie," until Canary calms her down. Canary suggests they question Remington.

Zari finds the Coachman and meets with him. He throws himself at her, revealing he's really Kamadeva, the Hindu god of love and desire. Sure, why not. Zari plays along for a bit and then cuffs him and throws him into the Waverider's brig. Kamadeva's impressed, as no one's ever resisted his charms.

Mona notes that her shirt hasn't reverted, meaning they've not yet fixed history. Meanwhile Atom replicates a very modest nightgown for Nora, and gives her his bed. He sleeps in a chair like a gentleman, which frustrates Nora.

Back at the wake, Steel struggles to work on his toast to Hank. Constantine finds Steel and says he senses that Hank's spirit is present in the house. Steel doesn't believe him, until a record player comes on by itself.

Back on the Waverider, Kamadeva blows a love mist through the ship. It affects the crew, as Atom and Nora go at it, Canary begins muttering Ava's name and Mona dreams of Konane. Zari fantasizes about a three-way with Kamadeva and Steel.

Everyone ends up in the kitchen, unable to sleep. Mona says she misses Konane, and Zari ridicules her for believing in romance. This angers Mona so much she transforms into Wolfie and stalks off. She visits Jane Austen, who doesn't really seem all that surprised to see a werewoman in her study.

Wolfie blames Jane for turning her into an "incurable romantic," and intends to kill her. No, really. This all actually happens in the episode. Somehow Jane realizes Wolfie is Mona, and confirms that romance is all a bunch of crap, and one should only marry for love. Wolfie's so stunned she reverts back to Mona.

Jane tells Mona she's decided to stop writing, because her books have been rejected by every publisher. Mona says she's always been her favorite author, and convinces her to keep at it. Apparently this fixes the anachronism, as it's never mentioned again. Really? That's all it took to get her to write again? A stranger telling her to keep at it?

Meanwhile, Zari confronts Kamadeva, who says he can tell she's never taken a chance on love or some bushwah. For some reason he then admits he's not really a god. His name is Sanjay, and thousands of years ago he gathered the real Kamadeva's ashes after Shiva torched him.

Zari decides to be impulsive for once and lets Kamadeva out of the brig. She grabs the vial of ashes from around his neck and they both inhale them.

Back at the wake (remember that neglected plot?), Steel fumbles through a short and awkward speech. His mother then tells him a story about Hank, saying that years ago the family planned to visit Disneyland, but had to postpone when Steel got sick. Hank then dressed as Mickey Mouse to entertain him in the hospital. Believe it or not, this becomes important later.

Under the influence of the ashes, Zari and Kamadeva decide to get married. They magically break into song, as does everyone around them. The entire cast then performs a big show-stopping (literally!) Bollywood musical number.

Suddenly Mona arrives and puts the kibosh on the fun, telling Zari she's making an impulsive mistake. This breaks the spell, and Zari comes to her senses again.

Back at the wake, which has apparently been going on for eighteen hours, Constantine senses Hank's spirit. He performs a spell allowing Hank to temporarily possess Heat Wave. Hank admits a demon approached him and offered him unlimited cash for a secret project, in return for handing over magical creatures to him. Constantine demands to know the demon's name, and Hank says it was Neron.

Meanwhile, Steel finds a secret room in the basement, and realizes it was Hank's office. It's filled with old records and a video camera. He plays a tape, in which Hank displays a picture Steel drew as a child, of a magic park. Hank says when he learned that magical creatures actually existed, he decided to build a theme park featuring them, just for his son.

Steel's touched to discover an unknown softer side to Hank, and wishes he could have known him better.

Constantine gets drunk and sees a vision of Des in a mirror. Des taunts him, then turns into Neron.

For some reason, Atom nervously wonders what he can say to comfort his best friend Steel at his father's funeral. Gosh, what a puzzler! How about something like, "Hey man, sorry to hear about your dad" and be done with it. You know, like any normal human being would do.

This is a classic example of "We Need Something For A Character To Do In This Episode, But We Can't Come Up With Anything Interesting So We'll Write Something Stupid That's Completely Out Of Character" Syndrome, that infects pretty much all Arrowverse shows.

• Credit where it's due: During Hank's wake, Steel and Zari have a heartfelt conversation in what appears to be his old bedroom from when he lived at home. Note that there's a clunky old school computer monitor on the desk. That's exactly the kind Steel would have had as a teen back in the 1990s! 

Nice attention to detail, prop guys! Well done!

• When we first see Mona, she's wearing a t-shirt that reads, "Elinor & Marianne & Elizabeth & Jane & Emma." As you might have guessed, those are all heroines of Jane Austen novels.

Just then a magical fugitive alters the timeline, causing Jane Austen to never write Sense & Sensibility. The names Elinor and Marianne immediately disappear from Mona's shirt, leaving a conspicuous and awkward blank space at the top.

Fine, so she never wrote about those characters. But why in the name of sanity would the names disappear from the top down like that? Shouldn't the rest of the names have shifted upward to take the place of the ones that vanished?

Later on the timeline changes further, erasing Pride And Prejudice. The names "Elizabeth" and "Jane" then disappear from the shirt, leaving a lone "Emma" all the way at the bottom. Again, why the frak would they vanish THAT way?

They likely used CGI to make the names vanish from the shirt. Would it have been that much more trouble to move 'em up while they were at it?

• Right after the names disappear from Mona's shirt, Gideon pipes up and says, "It appears that you're experiencing the impact of a magical fugitive."

Note that no one had time to ask Gideon what was happening
— she announced what was happening all on her own. That means Gideon's apparently like Alexa, and is constantly listening in on any and all conversations on the ship. Alllllllways listening...

• Did we skip a reel? 

The Waverider arrives in 1802 Bath. Canary, Zari, Mona and Charlie dress up in period clothing and attend a local wedding, hoping to find the magical fugitive there.

Immediately after the commercial break, Charlie's suddenly back on the ship, with no explanation. Plus she's dressed in her normal clothing again! Apparently while we weren't looking she ran all the way back to the ship, stripped off her old-timey duds and put her regular clothes back on.

I honestly had to rewind to check and make sure there weren't two Charlies, one with the gals and one back on the ship.

There is a quick line implying that Charlie went back to the ship to check the historical records, but it seems they could have just called Gideon to do that. I've no idea why the writers felt the sudden need to reposition her.

• When Canary and Mona visit Jane Austen, they're introduced by her sister Cassandra. Jane Austen really did have a sister by that name. Yay, the writers have wikipedia bookmarked!

• The Legends capture Kamadeva, who turns out to be the magical fugitive. Unfortunatley once they nab him, history doesn't return to normal and no one can figure out why. Canary says, "Well, it's too late to knock on Jane Austen's door tonight. We'll talk to her tomorrow."

Um... you have a goddamned time machine. You could easily talk to her anytime you want! Just tell Gideon to move the ship forward eight hours and talk to her NOW!

Sigh... apparently Mona's nicknamed her were-form "Wolfie." Oy gevalt.

Speaking of Wolfie, I'm probably gonna get roasted for this, but it wouldn't be the first time. During this episode it suddenly struck me that Mona's were-form bears an uncanny resemblance to... Caitlyn Jenner! And now that I've pointed it out, you'll never be able to unsee it.

•Most unintentionally hilarious scene of the episode, and possibly the season: "Wolfie" bursts into Jane Austen's study, confronts the author and roars, "Jane Austen, it's time for you to pay!" Austen cries, "Stay back, beast!" Wolfie then replies, "If I'm a beast, it's because of you! Your books made me an incurable romantic!"

If you didn't burst out laughing at the sight of a massive, ravening were-woman talking about romance, you're already dead.

It's possible that line was actually intended to be funny, but it was executed so poorly I honestly couldn't tell for sure.

• The one bright spot in this mediocre episode was the interaction between Atom and Nora Darhk. The two have a fun chemistry and are a delight whenever they share the screen.

Of course there's a reason why they work so well together— Brandon Routh (aka Atom) and Courtney Ford (aka Nora) are married to one another in real life!

• After Kamedeva's tossed in the brig, he opens his vial of magic love powder or whatever the hell it is, and blows it into the Waverider's ventilation system. The lusty dust then floats down a corridor and squeezes through the bulkhead of Atom's quarters, where it makes both him and Nora horny. A couple things here:

Apparently the Waverider's air ducts are freely accessible from the brig. Meaning any villain or monster they incarcerate there could theoretically gas the entire crew to death. That's some poor design right there.

Secondly, despite the fact that the Waverider is built to travel through the empty void of the time stream, the ship's doors aren't airtight. Hope the ship's hull's never compromised!

OK, I suppose we could give the show a pass here and say the dust is magical, and can easily circumvent any filters and seals. I suppose we could say that, but I don't see why we should.

• As I said earlier, the only reason this episode even exists is to serve as a delivery system for the big Bollywood musical number. It has absolutely nothing to do with the plot, and is nothing more than an excuse for the cast to play dress-up and have fun singing and dancing.

Now that I think about it, that's pretty much par for the course in ALL Bollywood movies. The musical interlude is always superfluous and never has anything to do with the story.

I like Bollywood movies OK, but a little of those musical numbers goes a long, long way for me. I'm also not a fan of episodes in which the entire cast is affected by some sort of magic spell and forced to sing their thoughts aloud. They've pulled this shtick at least twice before in the Arrowverse, and I'm growing weary of it.

I'd probably be less critical of the dance number if it actually had a point, and didn't waste valuable screen time that could have been devoted to the actual plotlines.

• After the musical interlude, Canary and Charlie recapture Kamadeva and walk off screen with him. I guess they took him to the holding cells at the Time Bureau? Put him back in the Waverider brig? Tossed him into the sun? Your guess is as good as mine, as he's never seen again after that.

• Steel finds Hank's secret basement office, complete with offshore records and a videocamera set up on a tripod. Steel turns on the camera, and watches Hank's video pitch for HeyWorld.

That Hank was quite the amateur director! Despite the fact that he filmed the video himself, and no one was helping run the camera, it somehow managed to zoom in on his face and cut back to a wide shot for dramatic effect at the appropriate moments! Amazing!

• I'm very confused by Hank's attitude toward magical creatures, which seems to flip-flop moment by moment.

When Constantine summons Hank from the dead, he says, "It pains me to admit it, but I made a terrible mistake. A man approached me about a deal. Unlimited funding. And all I had to do was give him access to all the magical creatures within the Time Bureau."

A few seconds later, Steel watches Hank's investor tape, in which he says, "I'm here to tell you about an exciting opportunity. When I learned about the existence of magical creatures yes, magical creatures exist I ran right home and pulled out a drawing made by my son, Nathaniel, when he was only nine years old. My son envisioned a theme park where everyone could gaze in wonder at dragons and unicorns, werewolves and minotaurs."

So Hank was secretly enthralled by magical creatures and wanted to feature them in his theme park. But he had no problem secretly turning them over to a creepy, mysterious investor who offered him unlimited funds.

Those two attitudes do not compute. It'd be like wanting to open a homeless shelter, but allowing someone to perform unlawful medical experiments on them to make it happen.

Sigh... as if the musical number wasn't bad enough, the episode doubles down on the awful and finishes with the complete and utter character assassination of Hank Heywood.

When Hank first appeared this season, he was a ruthless government bureaucrat who constantly tried to shut down the Legends, whom he viewed as unnecessary. Later on it even looked like he was being groomed as the main villain of the season.

Annnnnnnnd then at the end of this episode we find out that was all just a smokescreen, and Hank's a goofy, dad joke-spouting schmuck who wears Hawaiian shirts and wants to build a magic theme park to fulfill the childhood dreams of his adult son.

Are you f*cking kidding me?

I'm sure there are some out there who thought this revelation was a surprising and wonderful subversion of expectations. As for myself, I found it extremely jarring and out of character, and about as welcome as finding a pube-studded bar of soap in the shower. This execrable little twist reminded me very much of the god-awful Mandarin reveal in Iron Man 3

Wanna know the really unfortunate part of this little plot surprise? It wasn't supposed to play out like this!

In an interview with TV Line, Legends Of Tomorrow showrunner Phil Klemmer said the original plan was for Hank Heywood to be the Big Bad of Season 4. The idea was for Hank to abduct magical creatures from the Time Bureau and spirit them away to an even more top secret facility, where he'd turn them into an army of mystical super soldiers. Hank would then become an irredeemable supervillain, forcing his son Steel to choose between the Legends and turning to the dark side and joining his father.

Unfortunately for the viewership, that plan changed once the producers met Thomas Wilson (aka Hank), they realized what a sweetheart he was and fell in love with him. They decided they didn't have the heart to turn Hank into a straight up villain, so they altered the storyline by turning him into an accomplice of the demon Neron, who's now become the season's Big Bad. The additional plot about Steel turning evil to join his father seems to have been scrapped as well.

OK, it's nice to know that Wilson's a wonderful human being and all, but that's no reason to change direction in the middle of a storyline. You can literally pinpoint just when they decided to alter course. I'll be honest, that kick-ass original plan (Hank's magic soldier army and Steel turning bad) sounded wayyyyyyyyyyy more intriguing than the revised arc.

Then, as if completely neutering the character of Hank wasn't enough, the writers decided to kill him off in the middle of the season. WTF? If they loved Wilson so much they didn't want to make him a villain, then why the hell did they kill off his character? How is that better? I don't understand! AM I TALKING LOUD RIGHT NOW?

Legends has always been more of a character-driven show, as the plots often exist 
solely to put the heroes into amusing and batsh*t crazy situations. For the most part, the series has featured fairly consistent characterization. If they're going to star tossing that out the window too, then... the show has nothing left. 

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