UK TV recap: Legends of Tomorrow, Season 3, Episode 17 (Guest Starring John Noble)
Grodd vs Obama8.5
Matthew Turner | On 20, Apr 2018
Warning: This contains spoilers. For how to watch Legends of Tomorrow, click here.
You can say one thing for the writers on Legends of Tomorrow: they certainly aren’t lacking in confidence. If there was ever any doubt that the show has found its perfect groove this season, then this episode takes that doubt, scrunches it into a ball and drop-kicks it into the stratosphere. Not only does “Guest Starring John Noble” feature Gorilla Grodd attacking a young Barack Obama, it also does an entire, ultra-meta subplot whereby the actor voicing Mallus pops up, as himself, in a crucial-to-the-plot cameo. Honestly, it’s enough to make you want to applaud.
Last episode’s cliffhanger saw Amaya hopping in the Jumpship and heading to Zambesi to save her village, in full knowledge that doing so would radically alter her own timeline. When Sara finds out, she sends Nate and Wally to 1992 Zambesi to try and stop Amaya from messing with her destiny. There’s an added urgency to the mission, because if Amaya succeeds, the resulting anachronism could free Mallus from his Time Prison and nobody wants that.
In the meantime, the Legends have their hands full with a slightly more pressing matter, because Gorilla Grodd has shown up at Occidental College in 1979 with the intention of killing a young Barack Obama. (“Barack Obama. It will almost be an honour to kill you.”) The writers get in a couple of great jokes, including Grodd saying “Make America Grodd again!” (cue the sound of an entire writers’ room tickling themselves) and Obama (a very well cast Lovell Adams-Gray) almost talking his way out of trouble by appealing to Grodd, flashing a smile and saying, “Clearly you have some grievances, but perhaps we can look for some common ground”, but the whole thing is over almost laughably quickly, especially considering how heavily Grodd vs Obama was featured in the promos. So, Grodd’s about to choke Obama to death when the Legends appear, Mick shoots fire at Grodd (“I should have wasted your hairy ass in ‘Nam!”) and Ray zaps him with a shrink ray and pops him in a jar. All that and we’re not even five minutes into the episode.
Grodd’s failure to kill Obama means that Mallus still hasn’t been able to escape his Time Prison. We know this because we cut to a worried-looking Damien Darhk, who’s watching Nora undergo a painful transformation, judging by the huge, demon-shaped shadow that falls across Damien’s face. When Grodd fails and Nora becomes herself again, Damien realises that the ascension of Mallus will mean the death of his daughter. Nora seems okay with the idea – “It’s what we always wanted…isn’t it?” – but Damien clearly has other ideas. He leaves, aware that if he helps Grodd succeed in his mission, Mallus will take over and he’ll never see Nora again.
However, instead of helping Grodd kill Obama, Damien finds Sara and Rip in 1979 and asks for their help in killing Mallus and saving his daughter. Sara is understandably sceptical, but she hears him out, especially once he offers the water totem as a gesture of good faith. (There’s also an amusing bit where the Legends are trying to secure Damien in a protective magic circle and he keeps pointing out what they’re doing wrong.) Damien tells Sara he’s a changed man and Ray supports him, telling her that he knows Damien loves his daughter. Sara: conflicted.
Sara goes for a heart-to-heart with Ava, telling her that all she wants to do is kill the man who killed her sister, but she also senses that there’s truth in what Damien says: that they have a common enemy. Ava’s not much help, pointing out the obvious and saying that they can’t trust Damien and Sara winds up throwing all the clone stuff from last episode in Ava’s face and asking her why she hasn’t spoken to Rip about it. Ava says she’s prioritising the mission. Exasperated, Sara says she’s going to talk to “someone who can think straight when the whole world has gone crazy” and ends up getting advice from, yep, Barack Obama.
Two quick asides. Firstly, it’s flat-out ridiculous how little impact last episode’s clone revelations appear to have had on Ava. She’s pretty much still the same character, even after Rip tells her that she’s actually Ava 12 (i.e. the 12th version of Ava he’s used so far) rather than Ava Prime. It’s almost like the writers are embarrassed by this plot, because so far, it isn’t going anywhere at all. Maybe that’s something they’ll wrap up in the finale, but either way, it’s certainly on hold this episode.
Secondly, it’s been said before, but it’s worth repeating just how great a job the writers have done on Damien Darhk this season. Neal McDonough has always been a lot of fun in the role, but he’s really come into his own in Season 3, to the point where the audience is genuinely on his side when he tries to team up with the Legends. Just, you know, try not to think about all those necks he snapped on Arrow and Legends Season 2.
Anyway, Obama listens to Sara and concludes that it’s only human that she would resist asking the man who killed her sister for help, even though the demon could wreak havoc across time. He also concludes that Ava is in no position to be thinking rationally because of the whole clone thing and that, in his opinion, the Time Bureau aren’t really in a position to stop Mallus anyway and the whole thing calls for a much more unorthodox approach. The show bizarrely passes up the opportunity to do a “Thanks, Obama” joke here – instead, a beaming Sara wistfully says “I really miss you”, before zapping him with the memory-zapper. (We really miss you too, Obama.)
Sara heads back to the Waverider and tells Damien she’ll help him on one condition – that when it’s all over, he’ll let her kill him, seeing as he’s supposed to be dead anyway. Damien readily agrees, once again demonstrating just how much he’s prepared to sacrifice for Nora’s life. Now all they need is a plan. They realise that they need to lure Nora aboard the Waverider, and Ray comes up with a plan: “What if I got inside Nora?” Cue: annoyed fatherly look from Damien. Ray: “Not like that!” Ray’s plan is to shrink down to micro size, fly into Nora’s ear and do a Mallus impression, telling her to board the Waverider. As luck would have it, they’re interrupted by the sound of Mick watching Lord of the Rings, specifically the scene with John Noble (i.e. the actor who voices Mallus on the show) playing Denethor. Rip remarks on the uncanny vocal resemblance to Mallus. Sara: “Gideon, who is that actor?”
Cut to: one of the most delightfully meta jokes the show has ever done. Pretending to be Peter Jackson’s PA in New Zealand, 1999, Ray knocks on John Noble’s trailer and persuades him to run through some new lines. Noble does as he’s told, though not before he’s dismissed the dialogue as “crap”. Armed with the lines, Ray and Damien carry out the plan, with Ray zipping into Nora’s head and using Noble’s voice to lure her aboard the Waverider. Once Nora is trapped inside the magic circle thingy, Damien tries to reason with her and apologises for being a terrible father, but his words fall on deaf ears, as it appears Mallus’ hold on Nora has strengthened. “One more alteration to the timeline and I’ll be free!”, he growls.
Crestfallen, Damien seeks out Sara and tells her he regrets everything he’s done and would take it all back if he could. He even tells her he regrets killing Laurel, because now he knows what it means to lose someone he loves. Not only that, but he tells Sara he admires her, because she was able to get past her darkness (remember, they’ve both been brought back from the dead) and find love again, with Ava. Man, is that some character development or what? Could you even imagine these two having this conversation a season ago? Could we get some of this sweet, sweet character advancement over on Arrow, please?
Anyway, Zari tells Sara that she’s used her time simulation thingy to run every possible scenario and – bad news – they have to stop Amaya from saving Zambesi. However, Sara remembers Obama’s advice and comes up with a more unorthodox plan, namely to let Amaya save Zambesi and then defeat Mallus using the totems, with Damien wielding the death totem.
Oh, right, Zambesi. Meanwhile, in Zambesi, Nate and Wally find Amaya and warn her about the consequences of changing her future. Wally reminds her of a little thing called Flashpoint that happened over on The Flash last season, whereby Barry changed his own history and messed things up for everyone, including changing the sex of Diggle’s baby for some reason. (Did they ever actually refer to that whole thing as Flashpoint on the show? Let’s not go there right now.) However, Nate is won over by Amaya’s obvious desperation to save her family, so he agrees to help her.
The trio track down Old Amaya (and, oh wow, that old-age make-up is really quite awful) and it turns out that her daughter, Esi (Erica Tazel), is refusing to accept the totem. Old Amaya is crushed, but Young Amaya finds Esi and talks her into accepting her destiny as a totem bearer. There’s some other stuff whereby Nate and Wally try to steal the totem from Old Amaya and Nate realises that she doesn’t remember him, meaning she must have zapped her own memory in order to fulfil her destiny. Nate: sad.
At this point, the two storylines dovetail together quite nicely. The Legends arrive in Zambesi, intending to kill Mallus with the totems once Amaya’s village is saved. Nate, Amaya and Wally agree with the plan and everything is looking good, until Rip informs them that he’s checked with Gideon and Zambesi still gets destroyed, although not by warlords anymore. Oh no. By Gorilla Grodd. Cue a fun scene where Esi takes on Grodd with Amaya’s spirit totem. It turns out that, quelle surprise, Damien has betrayed them all at the last minute, saying he would do anything he could to save Nora and this was the only way. There’s a fight, during which Damien frees Nora, telling her he’ll find her later, but Sara tells him it’s too late and Nora’s already gone.
During the fight, Damien force-flings Amaya out of the tent (they’re in a tent, for some reason) and Amaya sees Esi fighting Grodd. Nate promises her he’ll save her family and he manages to access the power of the earth totem, flinging Grodd miles into the air and thereby saving Zambesi after all. That, in turn, creates the anachronism that frees Mallus and the episode ends with the Legends and Damien coming out of the tent to find Nora transformed into a massive, horned demon. Ruh roh!
All in all, this is a pretty great episode. It has offbeat superhero action, several big laughs, a blindingly audacious meta-joke and some powerfully emotional character development for both Damien and Sara. All that and Gorilla Grodd fighting Barack Obama? Really, what more could you ask for? Come back next time for the season finale! And bring tissues, just in case they kill someone off.
Footnotes of Tomorrow
– This is a great episode for Ray. He gets tonnes of excellent lines, all of which would be worthy winners of the Line of the Episode. Highlights include yelling “Run, Barry, run!” at Obama (a Flash joke) and gleefully adding “Oh, and I met John Noble!” to Wally’s summary of the episode so far to get Amaya up to speed. However, his most adorable moment is the revelation that he’s written a song to help everyone remember Nate’s emergency codes. Altogether now: “If the code is 1-1-1, Mallus has escaped his Time Dungeon!”
– A great line from John Noble too: “Tell Peter Jackson no more chickens. I ate 4 this morning.”
– The actual Line of the Episode goes to Sara for this exchange with Obama. Barack: “Well, Barack is what it says on my birth certificate.” Sara: “Yeah, you might want to hang on to that…”
Legends of Tomorrow Season 3 is available on Sky 1 every Wednesday. 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.