blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

Legends of Tomorrow (2016) s07e05 – It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Scientist

When I read Matt Ryan was leaving “Legends of Tomorrow” as John Constantine but returning in a different part, I initially assumed it was Constantine-adjacent. But it’s not. Even after he started showing up in the opening credits photo roll—“Legends” does a speed-roll of the regular cast without text—and then appeared in every episode’s “starring” list; it seems like a very weird CW “you’re a regular but not getting paid for every episode” deal, I figured it’d have something to do with Constantine.

But this episode, when he finally shows up as a socially awkward, shy, and goofy scientist who can’t stand up to boss Thomas Edison (Chris Britton)? Well, it seems reasonably settled. Ryan really is playing a new character. It also has me wondering if his Constantine being retired means they’re trying for another movie.

Either way, Ryan’s new character is a fine addition. The rest of the cast keeps confusing him for a different departed “Legend” of yore, which becomes a fun running gag. There are high stakes this episode, ones it actually goes about resolving instead of dragging out for half the season, and the first act of the season seems to be coming to a close. Five episodes in seems a little late for my tastes, pacing-wise, but it was worth the wait. Especially once they stop messing around and reveal why Amy Louise Pemberton is so worried about getting to the team in New York.

Because they’re going to blow up after stealing Ryan’s time machine prototype, a fact Pemberton always possessed, had presumably told Olivia Swann and Lisseth Chavez about at least an episode ago, maybe two episodes ago, but the audience is just now finding out. It’s kind of a bummer they used such an eventually obvious, cheap device, but it’s also a fun subplot for Pemberton, Swann, and Chavez in this episode. They’ve got to get to New York by tomorrow and are running two weeks behind, so Swann casts a luck spell, and they have all sorts of adventures. It trades entirely on the trio’s considerable charm.

Especially since the main plot ends up being so heavy. After a fun introduction to Ryan’s new character, setting him up as a comic foil for Caity Lotz, it becomes this dire race against time—literally, of course—as Lotz has to save the team from her own impetuousness.

There’s also some relationship stuff for Tala Ashe and Nick Zano. Not high drama, but compelling and a nice side bit for Adam Tsekhman’s shipper gag. “Legends” is very good at being self-aware, maybe never more so than with Tsekhman, who just gets it.

The episode’s a little disappointing, if only because it’s such an excellent done-in-one time travel episode; the finale is a little too cryptical. The audience knows more about the season villain than the heroes, but the heroes know more about the next stage than the audience. It’s like they forgot to include an establishing shot somewhere.

Very solid direction from Andrew Kasch, and Lotz and new Ryan have good chemistry. The concept’s strong, even if the landing is rocky.

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