UK TV recap: Legends of Tomorrow Season 3, Episode 9
Jax to the Future8.5
Matthew Turner | On 17, Dec 2017
The crossover episode of Legends of Tomorrow ended on a very sombre note with the death of Martin Stein. It says a great deal about the confidence of this season that they’re able to follow something as downbeat as the death of a key character with an episode as funny and light-hearted as “Beebo The God of War”. And the fact that this very silly episode also manages to also deliver genuine, heartfelt emotion without those two elements jarring against each other is extremely impressive.
Things get off to a terrific start in the cold open, which sees Young Martin Stein (Graeme McComb) attempting to buy a talking Beebo doll (the Legends equivalent of a Tickle-Me Elmo) in the 1992 Christmas rush, Jingle All The Way-style. After displaying a delightful bit of archery (scored with a bit of the Arrow theme in a nice touch), Stein grabs the last Beebo, but is thrown into the past by a Time Anomaliser (that’s what we’re calling them – we’ve not seen them in action before), as he’s running to the cashier and ends up being pursued by angry vikings.
Aboard the Waverider, it turns out that Alternate Leonard (aka Citizen Cold) has invited himself onto the team for a bit. As he never really knew Martin, this new, caring, sharing Snart attempts to help the team deal with their grief… with the aid of a Martin Stein puppet. (This is a very puppet-heavy episode.) That’s a pretty great illustration of the way the episode mixes both humour and emotion and pulls off both beautifully.
However, their grief puppet sessions are interrupted by the appearance of a Level 12 anomaly on Nate’s Time Anomalmeter or whatever we’re calling it. The Legends travel to Ye Olde Viking Times and discover that rather than leaving America, Leif Erickson (incredibly, the actor’s name is actually Thor Knai) and his sister Freydis (Katia Winter) stayed there, after receiving instructions from their god, Beebo The God of War. As a result, America is now known as New Valhalla and everyone celebrates Beebo Day on Christmas, which Sara discovers when she calls up Agent Sharpe and asks for help.
Speaking of Sharpe, we get confirmation of the suspected upcoming romance (or at least hook-up) between Sara and Sharpe, as the latter confirms “I’m not really the husband kind” in a dinner conversation with Leif. The reaction on Sara’s face basically says “Noted For Later”.
Anyway, the main plot has the Legends infiltrating the vikings (their costumes are very amusing) and attempting to steal Beebo. Mick hates puppets (which we learned during his grief puppet session), so he stomps Beebo, earning the wrath of the vikings in the process.
Things quickly get worse when Damien Darhk and his daughter show up and do a few lightning tricks, claiming to be Odin and Valkyrie. The vikings immediately start worshipping them instead, but the Legends manage to fight back, winning the day after a shrunken Ray re-animates Beebo by flying inside the doll, at which point he tries to slip in a couple of messages about Jesus, science, evolution and global warming.
The presence of Young Stein confirms a growing suspicion for the season, which is that the Time Anomalies are all connected to the Legends, somehow, since they keep meeting either their younger selves or their ancestors and relatives. Nate re-states the theory, so it’s definitely a thing and we’ll hopefully find out more about it in the second half of the season.
The episode gets a lot of comic mileage out of Beebo – the design is delightfully incongruous (although Nat points out that the Vikings worshipped trolls, so Beebo’s not far off that) and his limited vocabulary is used to amusing effect, especially when Sara imitates him – “Beebo wuvs you!” – plus it’s fun to see her and Sharpe getting along, and they make a formidable fighting team.
In the episode’s main subplot, Jax is struggling with the death of Stein and the fortuitous appearance of Young Stein inspires him to attempt a Back to the Future-style intervention, handing Young Stein a sealed letter that he shouldn’t open until 28th November 2018 (the exact date his death episode aired, in another nice touch). However, Stein has seen Back to the Future, so he twigs what Jax is up to and refuses to read the letter, re-iterating his older self’s words about having lived a good life, full of adventure and Jax needing to let him go. (Hang on, though – didn’t Stein famously confess to never having seen Back to the Future, back in Season 1? Hmmm. Maybe this new version of Young Stein – the one with a Time Anomaly daughter who wants a Beebo for Christmas – was a bit more enthusiastic about kid-friendly cinema in the ’80s? Yeah, that’s it.)
What’s really impressive is the way the episode delivers its emotional sucker punch. We had plenty of time to get used to the idea of Martin leaving, because we had several episodes worth of set-up, coupled with the knowledge that Victor Garber was leaving sometime this season. But we didn’t know that Jax was leaving, so his departure at the end comes as a real blow and is just as much of a surprise as Martin’s death. No doubt Jax will be back at some point, since Franz Drameh’s departure hasn’t been announced, but for the moment, the Legends will have to get by without him, as he realises he’ll never be able to get over Martin’s death if he stays aboard the Waverider and heads off to do his own thing for a bit. It has to be said that Drameh plays Jax’s emotional state beautifully all episode, ditching his usual persona in favour of something quieter and more introspective. (Basically, it’s an excellent depiction of depression, although it goes unstated as such.)
Jax’s subplot also gives us a further example of Zari’s rebelliousness. She reminds Jax that she found a time loophole for Helen of Troy and encourages him to disobey Sara and do everything he can to save Stein, saying that if she had the chance to save her brother, she’d do it in a heartbeat. Something tells us she’ll be getting exactly that chance in the second half of the season.
The episode’s second subplot involves Mick and “Leo” attempting to bond, with each one missing the version of their partner that they knew (Leo’s “Mickey” was also a good guy). Leo doesn’t help matters by attempting to curb Mick’s drinking, which he does by getting Gideon to make all the alcohol taste horrible. However, in the end, he accepts that Mick is who he is and that he shouldn’t try to change him. The chemistry between Wentworth Miller and Dominic Purcell is as strong as ever, which makes their bonding surprisingly touching to watch. It’s unclear just how long Miller is sticking around for (he’s also leaving the Arrowverse sometime soon), but let’s hope he sticks around until at least the end of the season and that the door is left open for his return.
It’s probably fair to point out that not everything in this episode works. There’s a weird fake-out sequence where Sara lays out her plan to defeat Darhk – on her own – and we see her follow the plan by walking into his tent, whereupon he promptly kills her. Oh noes! Except that it quickly turns out to be a visualisation of one possible outcome and the team are still discussing it. A couple of other visualised outcomes follow as the other Legends refuse to let her go in alone, until we reach a real version of the scene where the Legends win and no-one gets killed. And also Nate appears to be invulnerable to Darhk’s magic in his steeled-up form, which we’re pretty sure hadn’t been established before. Anyway, the sequence really doesn’t work, as it’s clumsily written and poorly directed and fails to achieve whatever it was that it was going for in the first place.
The other irritating thing is that Darhk’s masterplan remains frustratingly vague. What did he have to gain from the creation of New Valhalla? Was his appearance a coincidence or did he know the Legends would be there? What’s his end-game with Mallus, anyway? These are questions this episode has no interest in answering.
What we do get is, if anything, even more frustrating. At one point, during the final confrontation, Sara gets pulled into an alternate dimension, where she encounters Mallus (represented by a giant hand) and feels “the absence of love and warmth”. But then, just as quickly, Sharpe pulls her out again, a moment that goes completely unexplained. So we know that Mallus has his own dark dimension and perhaps plans to make the Earth into something similar, but not much else. Thanks for that, Legends.
All in all, despite its flaws, this is a silly but undeniably entertaining episode that delivers the perfect balance of action, humour and emotion, even if its mid-season finale cliffhanger leaves a little to be desired. Said cliffhanger involves John Constantine (Matt Ryan) just showing up on the Waverider and telling Sara that he needs her help with an exorcism because the demon knows her name, or something. As mid-season finales go, that’s less of a cliffhanger and more of a mild tease for the next episode, but you can’t have everything. Also, woe betide you if you’ve never a) watched Constantine or b) watched the episode of Arrow where Constantine brings Sara back to life. Ah, well. Come back in January for the Legends and Constantine and a demon of some sort!
Footnotes of tomorrow
– The production team clearly couldn’t afford an actual sequence, but it’s nice of them to draw us a picture of Gorilla Grodd destroying the Great Wall of China. You know, just in case anybody was wondering what he’d been up to since Damien Darhk gave him his own time machine.
– Both Thor Knais and Katia Winter are sorely wasted as Leif and Freydis. Maybe this wasn’t the episode to kick-start the Sara / Ava Sharpe flirtation? It might have been a lot more fun to have Sara being attracted to Freydis for this episode instead.
– If you ask us, the production team missed a trick by not modelling Damien Darhk’s Odin get-up on the terrible Thor costume from 1988’s The Incredible Hulk Returns.
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.