Monday, September 23, 2019

Legends Of Tomorrow Season 4, Episode 14: Nip/Stuck

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.

This week on Legends Of Tomorrow we get an actual decent episode, something that hasn't happened a lot in the back half of the season. Thing is, if this episode had aired during the heyday of Seasons 2 and 3, it'd be considered average at best. As part of the very uneven Season 4 though, it feels like freakin' Shakespeare.

I'm convinced part of the problem is the sudden importance of Gary Green and Mona Wu. Unlike many fans out there who actively loathe them, I actually kind of like Gary and Mona. That said, I feel they work best in (very) small doses, as supporting characters. I'm at a loss to understand their sudden meteoric rise to prominence, as they literally shove the regular cast aside.

If I had to identify the theme of this episode, I suppose I'd say redemption. Heat Wave makes a rash decision that almost kills the Legends, but makes up for it in the end. Nora's given a chance at a new life with the Time Bureau. And Constantine rises above his dark nature and sacrifices himself to save Atom.

And then there's the pointless Gary subplot that trashes my little analysis.

There's also a not-so-subtle jab at trump and his stance on immigration that I found grating and annoying. Not because it disrespected the embarrassment-in-chief mind you, but because it was so painfully obvious.


The Plot:
Atom, who's been possessed by Neron, brings Constantine to the Donner Pass in the Ice Age. He orders him to open up a doorway to Hell, so the mysterious Tabitha (first mentioned in The Eggplant, The Witch & The Wardrobe) can come through. Constantine refuses, and asks what happened to Gary Green. Neron says he's taking care of things at the Time Bureau.

At the Bureau, Nora Darhk starts her first day as an agent. Unfortunately, rather than sending her out to rescue Atom, Director Sharpe gives her a stack of paperwork to fill out. When Nora balks, Sharpe reminds her she was an evil witch, so she needs to be a team player and prove herself. Nora admits she's right.

Sharpe enters her office and finds Gary sitting in her chair. When she asks what the hell, he tells her to shut the door and says they need to talk.

On the Waverider, Steel and the others want to race off to find Atom and Constantine. White Canary says they have no idea where or when they are, and until they do they'll have to sit tight. She has Gideon search the timeline for magical signatures.

Meanwhile, Neron taunts Constantine by telling him Atom is completely gone and impossible to save. To prove it he starts to slice Atom's throat with a knife (wait, wouldn't that destroy his vessel?). Constantine turns the knife into a feather (I think).

Back at the Bureau, Sharpe exits her meeting with Gary, acting oddly. She gathers the staff and announces they're all to report to Gary's office for performance reviews. Mona asks if this is really the best time for such a thing, and if Gary's the right person for the job. Sharpe mechanically says "Gary Green is all the man we need."

On the Waverider, Steel's playing music for the dragon egg and seeing that no harm comes to it. Zari worries that he's going overboard, but Steel says he has to hatch the dragon so Atom can see it. Gideon detects Constantine's magical signature in the Ice Age, and the Legends take off to rescue him.

The ship arrives at the Donner Pass, and Neron contacts the Legends and tells them Atom's dead. Constantine tells Canary to open fire and kill them both while she has the chance. Steel says if they destroy Atom's body, they'll never get him back. Canary hesitates, so Heat Wave steps in and hits the fire button. Neron teleports away with Constantine, and the blasters cause a massive avalanche. The Waverider's then buried under tons of ice and snow.

Gideon reports that the ship's hopelessly trapped (?) and main power's almost gone (???). She says the ice will melt off the ship in eleven thousand years or so. Canary tries contacting the Bureau, but Sharpe ignores her. The Legends blame Heat Wave for trapping them, but he says when a team mate goes dark you have to end them.

Neron takes Constantine to a Celtic village near Stonehenge in 55 BC. Constantine reminds Neron that even if he did help him, the portals he generates are one way
 they lead into Hell, but nothing can come through one. Neron says that's why he brought him to Stonehenge— so Constantine can learn more powerful magic from the locals. 

Just then they see King Konstentyn arrive with his men. Constantine's surprised to see the King looks exactly like him, and Neron says he's a distant ancestor. Konstentyn's carrying a cage containing a "dangerous" magical creature he captured.

Back at the Bureau, Mona's suspicious of Gary and asks Nora to help her figure out what's going on. Nora doesn't want to rock the boat on her first day, until a fellow Agent enters and blankly states, "Gary Green Is All The Man We Need." Nora agrees to help Mona.

On the Waverider, Canary, Heat Wave & Charlie open the cargo door and try to hack their way through the ice (?). Canary says this wouldn't have happened if Heat Wave & Charlie hadn't been off scamming Romanti-Con. Heat Wave reminds Canary that she was having fun with her girlfriend instead of captaining the ship as she should have been. The two stalk off in opposite directions.

At Stonehenge, Konstentyn gathers his people, as Constantine and Neron look on. Konstentyn tells the crowd their lives are being threatened by magical creatures. He reveals a Puca (some kind of little troll-like thing) in a cage, and says it's a bloodthirsty beast that should be condemned to Hell. Constantine's puzzled, as he says Pucas are harmless. Neron tells him that Konstentyn is fanning the flames of fear, and using them to bolster his own magical powers.

At the Bureau, Mona notices more and more agents have been hypnotized. She pretends she's been zapped as well, in order to avoid suspicion. Suddenly Nora yanks her into an office and says something bad's definitely going on.

Meanwhile the temperature continues to drop on the Waverider. Steel and Zari try to keep the dragon egg warm, but end up heating up one another as they kiss. As Canary tries to figure a way out of their predicament, Gideon informs her there are only thirty four hours of power left. Charlie gets Canary and Heat Wave to make up, and they all agree that Atom would have a plan.

Nora tricks Mona into entering the a containment cell and locks her in. When Mona asks what's happening, Nora reveals she's been zapped as well, saying, "Gary Green Is All The Man We Need." Mona immediately freaks out, saying she's going to die alone in a government jail. Suddenly her hand morphs into Kuape form and scratches, "NOT ALONE" into the concrete wall. Mona realizes her Wolfie persona's with her (more on this nonsense below).

At Stonehenge, Constantine approaches Konstentyn and tries to convince him not to send the Puca to Hell. He says there's a real demon in their midst, and asks his ancestor to help banish him. Konstentyn sees a man with his own face, assumes Constantine's the demon in question and knocks him out.

On the Waverider, Heat Wave finds a book titled Ray Palmer's Survival Guide. They look up "What To Do If You're Caught In An Avalanche," but see they've already tried all his suggestions. His final piece of advice is to enjoy the time they have left with each other. Canary then orders Gideon to turn up the power full blast, saying if they're gonna die, they might as well do so in style.

Constantine wakes tied to a pillar, next to the Puca. Neron shows up and taunts him, asking if he knows what his former enemies will do to him in Hell. He says the only thing he fears is having to watch Atom and Astra suffer there. Neron asks Constantine once again to open the portal, but he still refuses. Constantine asks who Tabitha is, and why she's so important to Neron. He only replies that Constantine sent her to Hell once before (Hmmm...).

Just then Konstentyn's men arrive and bring Constantine and the Puca to an altar. Konstentyn whips the crowd into a frenzy again, and their hate and fear are absorbed into his magic (I guess?) sword. He points the sword at a stone slab, which generates a portal to Hell. Constantine and the Puca are pulled toward it.

On the ship, the Legends play Atom's Cards To Save The Timeline game while eating, drinking and generally living it up. Suddenly Gideon informs them that the heat generated by their wasteful use of power has melted the ice around the ship. The Legends take their seats on the bridge, and Canary guns the engines. The ship breaks free, and Gideon reports all systems are back online. The Legends blast off to save Constantine.

At the Bureau. Sharpe and Nora escort Mona into Gary's office. Inside, he accuses her of being disloyal and says he'll have to correct that. He opens his shirt and reveals his nipple, which is actually a bloodshot, hypnotizing eye. Mona shrieks and transforms into Wolfie.

At Stonehenge, Constantine and the Puca are about to be pulled into the portal. At the last second, Constantine uses a spell to siphon the villager's fear and use it to stabilize the portal. He tells the Puca to run, then grabs a sword and begins fighting Konstentyn. 

He tells the King he used his own magic against him, then chops off his ancestor's hand. Konstentyn vows he'll always choose his people over magical creatures, and is lead away by a villager.

Neron approaches and Constantine attacks him. Neron summons a sword of his own, and the two fight. Constantine manages to pin down Neron, and prepares to kill him. Just then the Waverider arrives, and Canary and Heat Wave see what's happening. They tell Constantine not to kill Neron, as they're not ready to give up on Atom.

Constantine's torn, but then makes a decision. He says he's going to save Atom and jumps into the portal, which now opens both ways. The second he disappears, the mysterious Tabitha comes through. As the sparks clear, we see she's actually the Fairy Godmother from Witch Hunt (!), who was banished to Hell by Constantine in that same episode.

Neron approaches Tabitha and welcomes her. She says it's great to finally be back, and she and Neron kiss. They teleport away.

At the Bureau, Gary runs from Wolfie, yelling for help. Sharpe and Nora respond and begin battling the were-woman. Wolfie grabs Sharpe and Nora by their collars and knocks their noggins together, Stooges style. They shake the cobwebs out of their heads and are themselves again. Wolfie tells them that Gary has a Hellspawn nipple that turned him evil, and bites it off.

Neron and Tabitha appear, and Gary asks them to save him. Tabitha waves her wand and instantly turns Wolfie back into Mona. The two then teleport away with her. Nora tells Sharpe to alert the Legends, while she goes after Mona.

Cut to Hell, which looks a lot like downtown Detroit. Constantine falls from the sky and lands in a dumpster. He looks around, lights a cigarette and walks off.


• Once again, the writers put more effort into this episode's title than they did the actual script. Nip/Stuck is obviously a nod to the FX series Nip/Tuck, and references both Gary's evil nipple and the fact that the Waverider spends most of the episode trapped under and avalanche.

• At the end of the previous episode, Neron (in Atom's body) grabs the unconscious Constantine and Gary and the three of them teleport off the Waverider. At the beginning of this episode, Neron & a fully conscious Constantine appear in the Donner Pass during the Ice Age. Constantine asks, "Where's the muppet?" referring to Gary. We then see Gary's in the Time Bureau, using his hell-spawned nipple to hypnotize the staff. 

Wait, what? How'd they all split up when the three of them teleported away together?

I suppose it's possible that Neron, Gary and dozing Constantine materialized in the Time Bureau. Neron then gave Gary his orders to entrance everyone there, and then he grabs Constantine and traveled back to the Ice Age— all while we weren't looking.

• The episode begins at the Donner Pass during the Ice Age. As Gideon so helpfully points out, the Pass was named after the Donner Party, named after a doomed group of settlers who attempted to go through the area in 1846. The group became trapped by ice and snow, and famously resorted to cannibalism in order to survive (although recent info suggests that didn't actually happen). 

I assume Neron brought Constantine to such an infamous local because he has a flair for the dramatic.

• The brutal weather of the Donner Pass causes Constantine to slowly freeze to death. For some reason though, Neron seems completely unaffected by the frigid temperatures. But why would that be? He's currently occupying a human body— one that isn't immune to the cold. Seems like Neron should be freezing as well.

Is this some case of mind over matter? Or is Neron using his formidable powers to protect his human host?

• At one point Neron tells Constantine that Atom's dead and can't be saved. To prove it, he starts slicing Atom's throat with a knife. Luckily Constantine stops him by transforming the knife into a feather.

What the hell? Neron spent two whole episodes trying to possess Atom. Why in the name of sanity would he try to destroy his body? He couldn't jump over into Constantine, because he needs a willing host. If he'd gone through with it and "killed" Atom, he'd have been screwed. 

I honestly don't get his motivation here. I guess maybe he knew Constantine would stop him?

• Heat Wave fires on Neron/Atom, saying "When a team member goes dark, you end them before they end you."

Looks like he conveniently forgot about all the times he went dark himself (as in Marooned, Left Behind and Fellowship Of The Spear) and the Legends didn't give up on him.

• Neron tricks the Legends into trapping themselves under an avalanche. This entire scene is a goldmine of lazy plotting and complete nonsense.

First of all, Gideon reports that the Waverider's trapped under 357 feet of ice and snow, which will melt in approximately 11,000 years.

Gosh, if only there was a member of the team whose sole "power" is wielding some sort of heat weapon. Something like a flame thrower, perhaps. If there were, maybe he could use it to help them melt their way out.

They do make a lame attempt at an explanation here, as Gideon says Heat Wave's flame gun would deplete their already low oxygen reserve. It's pretty weak sauce though. Why would it matter if their oxygen level was depleted if it meant they'd be freed a few seconds later?

Then Gideon says, "Plus, our primary temporal delineator has been rendered nonfunctional with the extreme weather."

So wait... their time machine can't work because it's cold outside? Is the Waverider a '59 Chevy?

Finally, in the third act the Legends say screw it, and decide if they're gonna die, they might as well go out in style. To that end, they order Gideon to activate full power and crank up the furnace. A bit later the Waverider begins shaking, and Gideon informs them, "Due to your reckless use of our rapidly depleting energy, internal temperature of the ship has melted the surrounding ice enough to shake the ship loose."

So... apparently this highly advanced artificial intelligence was unable to figure out that heating up the ship would melt the surrounding ice. Got it.

And by the way, are the walls of the ship paper thin? How else could you explain the fact that turning up the thermostat on the inside would heat up the outer hull?

• Poor Nora! Her Time Bureau security photo looks much like the ones I've had taken at every job I've ever worked.

Legends Of Tomorrow apparently subscribes to the Back To The Future School Of Geneology— in which every one of your ancestors and descendants looks exactly like you.

Sadly, Matt Ryan's portrayal of King Konstentyn was uninspired and so-so at best. The main problem was that the King had the exact same voice as Constantine, with maybe a few "thees" and "thous" thrown in That seems unlikely. At the very least his provincial accent should have been quite different from Constantine's modern, urban one. 

Would it have killed him to have altered his voice a bit when playing the King? Maybe Ryan wasn't crazy about playing two characters or sitting in a makeup chair for an extra hour to become Konstentyn, who knows?

• You don't have to be a genius to see that King Konstentyn's attitude toward magical creatures mirrors that of a certain orange leader in the real world.

Konstentyn gives a rousing speech to his people, warning them that dangerous magical creatures are invading their land and threatening their safety and very way of life. He even tells them, "You are truly blessed that I am here, for I alone can save you from these monsters." 

He then whips the crowd into a frenzy of fear and hatred toward the creatures, as he used their xenophobia to increase his magical powers and make himself even stronger.

Gosh, a leader who encourages his people to hate immigrants as a way to bolster his own political power. Subtle!

Look, I loathe trump and everything about him just as much as the next guy, but that doesn't mean I want a thinly disguised version of him in my entertainment. I watch Legends for fun, not so I can hear lectures.

• For some reason, Neron consistently pronounces King Konstentyn's name with a "teen" sound on the end, rather than the usual "tyne."

• A nice touch— when the Legends are trapped under an avalanche and freezing to death, they find a cache of Captain Cold's fur-lined parkas and put 'em on! Why he felt the need to have so many extra jackets is a mystery though.

While seeing the cast in the parkas was fun, it also served to point out how much Cold is sorely missed.

• When the Waverider's trapped, Canary and Heat Wave reminisce about old times. Heat Wave points out that with Atom gone, they're the last of the original team. Canary then picks up a photo of the team in Old West gear and stares wistfully at it. A couple things here:

First of all, the photo comes from the Season 1 episode The Magnificent Eight. Secondly... who the f*ck took this photo? And why? They're not even posing for it, it's a still from the episode that's been Photoshopped to look like a Daguerreotype.

• For some reason there are quite a few Star Wars references in this episode. 

— When Neron tricks the Legends into burying the Waverider under an avalanche, Canary shouts out, "It's a trap!" This is likely a reference to Admiral Ackbar's famous line from The Return Of The Jedi.

— When the Legends are playing Cards To Save The Timeline, one of the questions is "You and your team are stuck in a trash compactor in an impromptu and possibly fatal homage to Star Wars. What do you do?" That one's pretty self evident.

— When the ice begins to melt, Canary tells Gideon to fire up the engines and free them. Gideon replies, "We're running on very low reserve power. The odds of us successfully pushing through the avalanche above us are 3,720 to 1." Canary replies, "Never tell me the odds, Gideon."

Gideon's calculation of odds and Canary's go-for-it reply are virtually identical to the exchange between 3PO and Han Solo in the asteroid scene in The Empire Strikes Back.

The shot of the Waverider breaking free of the avalanche and flying into the sky mimics a similar scene of the Millennium Falcon taking off in A New Hope.

— Constantine fights his forefather and chops off his hand with a sword, much like Vader did to Luke in The Empire Strikes Back.

— Finally, just to shake things up, there's an ALIENS reference in the third act. When the hypnotized Sharpe sees Wolfie threatening Gary, she yells, "Get away from him, you beast!" This is no doubt a riff on everyone's favorite Ripley quote.

• By the way, Atom's Cards To Save The Timeline game. The game made its first appearance back in Lucha de Apuestas.

• When Mona's locked in a Time Bureau containment cell, she whines that she'll probably die alone there. Her hand then transforms, as Wolfie scratches "NOT ALONE" on the wall.

Wait, what? I thought "Wolfie" was just Mona's nickname for her superpowerd Kuape form. As if her enhanced form was simply Mona with a reeeeally strong adrenaline rush.

But now we're suddenly expected to believe that Wolfie's a completely separate entity that lives in Mona's mind, and manifests herself in times of stress. What the hell? When the f*ck did that happen?

• Sigh... this show is positively obsessed with Gary and his goddamned nipple. Although I have to admit the sight of his man-teat turning into a bloodshot eye was pretty disturbing and effective.

I love the part at the end when Gary witnesses the full fury of Wolfie, and modestly covers his offending nipple.

• So what exactly was the point of the entire "Gary Green Is All The Man We Need" subplot? The rest of the storylines had a purpose the Legends are faced with death and their familial bonds are strengthened through adversity. Constantine discovers he comes from a long line of assholes, and decides to act against type by sacrificing himself to save Atom. Even the lame Steel/Zari scenes served to further their relationship.

But the Gary plot? Bupkis! It went nowhere and accomplished absolutely nothing. In fact it's not even clear why Gary hypnotized the Time Bureau staff in the first place. 

At one point Sharpe says, "His nipple? (she gasps) Neron gave you back your nipple which became bad in Hell, which is now poisoning your mind and making you evil, and that's why you came back to the Time Bureau So that you could nip-notize everyone and Neron could take over!"

If that really was the intent, then it was sorely understated and needed to be clarified.

As is, the only apparent function of the Gary scenes was to eat up twenty minutes of airtime. 

• Apparently Wolfie's a fan of the Three Stooges. When the hypnotized Nora and Sharpe burst in, she grabs 'em both by the collar and bonks their heads together, breaking the spell! It's a move that'd make Moe Howard proud.

• In this episode we finally find out that the mysterious Tabitha is actually the Fairy Godmother, who first appeared earlier this season in Witch Hunt. I have to say I wasn't expecting that particular revelation, as I was convinced Tabitha would turn out to be a dragon for some reason.

Eh, whatever. It ties the whole season together nicely, I suppose.

By the way, I'm assuming Tabitha was named after the Stephenses daughter on Bewitched.

• At the end of the episode, Constantine sacrifices himself by entering the portal to Hell in order to rescue Atom. In the Constantine comic, he visited or was damned to Hell several times during its run.

• At the end of the episode, Constantine lands in Hell. Oddly enough, rather than the typical red stalactites and lakes of fire, this particular version of Hell looks much like a green-tinted downtown Detroit! Take that, Michaganders!

Constantine: (to Neron) "And what in that demented demon brain of yours makes you think that I'm going to open a vortex for you, eh? Unlike Gary, I've still got both my nipples, so you don't have much to bargain with."

Mona: "That's your ID picture?"
Nora: "They wouldn't let me retake it."
Sharpe: "Oh, it can't be that bad. Let me see."
(She looks at the monitor.)
Sharpe: "Uh, maybe we'll just use your photo from the wanted poster."

(Sharpe enters her office.)
Gary: "Director Sharpe. I've been waiting for you."
Sharpe: "Gary, I told you, no playing with my chair until after hours."

(Gary addresses the Time Bureau staff.)
Gary: "Thanks, doll. How are my babies doing? Let's rap for a sec."
Mona: "Is Gary cool now?"
Agent: "That's impossible."
Gary: "Now, I know performance reviews can be quite a drag, but this year's gonna be different 'cause you've got super agent Gary Green in your corner. So no need to stress unless your infraction is looking too good in that suit. Agent Reyes knows what I'm talking about!
(Agent Reyes giggles.)
Mona: "Oh, my God. I think she just swooned."
Agent: "This is a nightmare."
Gary: "So I'll be meeting with agents one-on-one, and, uh, wait till I call your name. Looking forward to some good face time."

Gideon: (reporting on Constantine's location) "He's in the part of North America that would come to be known as the Donner Pass, named after a doomed group of settlers in the 1800s who resorted to cannibalism after their food supplies ran out."
Canary: "There is such thing as too much exposition, Gideon."

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