Warning: This contains spoilers. For how to watch Legends of Tomorrow, click here.
Season 3’s premiere episode set the template for the current run of Legends of Tomorrow, which is basically that they are a bunch of loveable screw-ups who can’t do right for doing wrong. Yes, they may have saved the world from the Legion of Doom at the end of Season 2, but they made a hideous mess in the process and are now effectively on clean-up duty. With a new status quo established – namely, that they are sort-of-but-not-quite answerable to Rip Hunter’s newly formed Time Bureau – the path is clear for the show to embrace its sillier side,?as they encounter various time anachronisms each episode.
This instalment begins with Sara deciding the team needs to start with a low-level time anachronism, to show the Time Bureau that they can be trusted. They head to 1870 Wisconsin, where P. T. Barnum’s (Billy Zane) travelling circus is harbouring a sabre-tooth tiger. With Ray’s new shrink ray (or “ hyper-molecular compressor”, as he insists on calling it), it ought to be a simple in-and-out job, right? Wrong. Ray’s cat allergy kicks in just at the wrong moment, causing him to embiggen the animal, which promptly escapes.
With a giant tiger on the loose, Sara decides that they really need Amaya for this mission, so she heads to 1942 Zambesi to pick her up. However, she doesn’t bother telling Nate about this, which seems somewhat insensitive to say the least. Still, at least it means we get a flashback to the Amaya and Nate backstory that was missing last episode. It turns out that she saw footage of her grand-daughter, Mari, fighting crime as Vixen on the news, and was guilted into returning to her own time, running out on Nate on his birthday, while he was out getting chocolate-covered doughnuts. She says she didn’t leave a note because she wanted him to hate her, so he wouldn’t follow her. There’s a slight contradiction here, because surely Mari’s presence on the news indicates that everything is going to work out okay? If she had been reported as disappearing mid-fight, you could see why Amaya might have panicked. But maybe we’re over-thinking this.
Anyway, Amaya’s sudden reappearance on the Waverider throws a still heart-broken Nate into a bit of a tail-spin (again, not cool, Sara) and he goes off on a drinking bender with Ray and Jax, while Amaya and Sara are out shrinking the sabretooth tiger with Ray’s shrink ray. (It’s really unlike Legends to have a bar scene that doesn’t feature Mick, so maybe Dominic Purcell was ill that day.) Nate drunkenly reveals his steel powers to P.T. Barnum and boasts about Ray and Jax’s abilities, whereupon Barnum promptly captures and imprisons them. And, hey presto, the Level One is now a Level Eight.
The sudden escalation of the anachronism severity, coupled with a report from nerdy Time Bureau spy Gary (Adam Tsekhman), who’s been sent to monitor the Legends, is enough to summon Agent Ava Sharpe (Jes Macallan) to try and arrest them again, although, from the way the show is pushing her obvious chemistry with Sara, you suspect it isn’t going to take much for her to show up each episode. This allows the show to fulfil its unofficial remit of having a kick-ass Sara Lance fight scene in every chapter, as Sara and Ava go at it (not like that, although it clearly won’t be long) in the corridors of the Waverider. Except there’s a nice twist, in that they fight each other to a standstill and have a quick tea-break in the middle of it, where they just hang out and chat.
Meanwhile, elsewhere on the Waverider, Mick accidentally lets the tiny sabre-tooth tiger escape and it’s just adorable. He makes a token effort at chasing after it, but seems to give up, because it shows up later when the shrink ray wears off and he’s nowhere to be seen. (Given Mick’s relative lack of screen time here, you have to wonder if maybe they shot a bunch more Mick vs Tiny Sabre-tooth Tiger stuff, but abandoned it because the CGI wasn’t up to scratch.)
Back at the Greatest Show on Earth, Barnum manages to capture Nate and Amaya when they come looking for Ray and Jax. Once again, the writers have a little fun at Nate’s expense – in this case, he’s unable to “steel up” (they’re obviously not allowed to say “get hard”, even though that’s entirely literal) because he’s hungover, protesting that it’s never happened to him before, which earns a bit of a comedy side-eye from Amaya. Barnum keeps trying to get him to use his steel powers, having realised that “The Man of Steel” could be quite the draw to audiences. In the meantime, he puts Ray and Jax in a harness and makes them perform (badly) as conjoined twins, forcing Martin and Mick to stage a rescue attempt, which backfires when it turns out that Mick is afraid of clowns.
However, after Martin infiltrates the circus by posing as a clown, he manages to merge with Jefferson, meaning the show had enough money left after the sabre-tooth tiger to splurge on Firestorm effects. Firestorm duly frees Ray, conveniently forgetting that they’re not supposed to be revealing that people with superpowers exist in 1870. It’s like nobody even cares what level the anachronometer is at anymore. Meanwhile, with Barnum threatening Nate’s life, Amaya goes savage when she channels her animal spirit and nearly kills Barnum, before Nate talks her down.
With the Legends free, Barnum’s circus reputation restored and the sabre-tooth tiger returned to its rightful place in history, that just leaves room for a trio of epilogues that will be Important For Later.
In the first, Ava reluctantly agrees to a truce, for now, and nearly lets slip that Rip wants to keep the Legends around for the upcoming Big Bad they will be facing later in the season. That reduces the Legends to fits of laughter, because what could be worse than an immortal Egyptian warlord or a trio of time-travelling supervillains?
In the second, Amaya gathers the team and confesses that she’s afraid she’s losing control of her powers. In addition to the savagery they witnessed earlier, she’s feeling guilty because she straight-up murdered a group of Belgian soldiers back in Zambesi, tearing them to pieces, which was hinted at in last episode’s cliffhanger. The Legends are remarkably understanding (their response is basically “oh well, they must have started it”) and persuade Amaya to stay on the team while they work out how to fix her powers.
The third serves as the cliffhanger for this week, with an unseen Servant of Mallus (this season’s upcoming Big Bad, as named by Rip last episode) raising a woman from a lake by doing some chanting. The water-woman turns out to be Kuasa (Tracy Ifeachor), who will be familiar to fans of the animated Vixen series as Mari McCabe’s sister, and therefore Amaya’s grand-daughter. See? Important For Later.
Aside from Mick being generally under-used, this is a pretty solid episode. The humour mostly works, the character chemistry is entertaining and there’s a good balance between general silliness (big tiger, tiny tiger) and set-up for the future, particularly in the case of Amaya, whose character arc is shaping up to be central rather than a side-note. The Sara / Ava fight scene is a lot of fun too, courtesy of director Kevin Tancharoen, who has directed episodes of all four DC superhero shows (as well as Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Iron Fist) and can always be relied upon to deliver the goods where punch-ups are concerned. Tune in next time, when the Legends gain an all-new teammate!
Footnotes of tomorrow
– Despite the presence of both Billy Zane and Victor Garber, the episode only manages one Titanic reference (Martin exclaiming “Whoever built that thing should be shot!”, when he played the person in question) and doesn’t have any interaction between the two actors. Poor show, show.
– According to the Internet, one of Barnum’s strong men is based on a relatively obscure comics character called B’wana Beast. It’s a throwaway reference at best, though, because he doesn’t get any lines.
– Highlight of the week: Ray proudly claiming that he can identify 175 different types of animal dung.
Legends of Tomorrow Season 3 is available on Sky 1 every Wednesday, within a week of its US broadcast. Don’t have Sky? You can stream it live or catch up on-demand through NOW TV, as part of a £7.99 monthly subscription, no contract. A 7-day free trial is available for new subscribers.