Despite their ability to travel forward and backwards through time aboard their trusty time ship, the crewmembers of the Legends definitely seem to have far more fun when it comes to the past. After spending last week in a dire dreary future setting to pick up their latest team member, the crew heads back to the 1980’s for a fantastic homage to E.T. starring a little Ray Palmer and a baby Dominator. As was proven with the P.T. Barnum episode earlier this season and with ones like the George Lucas last season, going to the past is where the writers also have the most fun and really stretch their writing chops to the fullest.
Unlike many entries into the nostalgia realm lately what makes what Legends has been doing work is that they know when not to do too much. While there is a sly reference to Aliens, the episode is fully just an homage to E.T. pulling from that film (even allowing that film to be referenced by Nate at one point) to explore Ray and his eternal optimism and cheery nature that he uses to push past a lot of the hard things that happened to him in life. Who else would be so cheery as to see a baby Dominator alien as a pal? It’s through this character development and exploration that the writers are able to temper the more silly parts of the episode so that the series does not just become too silly. This balance of fun and serious is something that The Flash is trying to recapture in it’s current series which makes the two shows a good complement for one another as a back to back block of fun hero adventures.
Meeting a younger version of one of the crew is nothing new to the series as Doctor Stein did the same thing twice before, and just like in that case it’s given us a deeper insight into that characters. Seeing Jack Fisher’s even more optimistic and cheery version of Ray next to Brandon Routh’s still cheerful but more pragmatic adult version who has seen a lot of things was very interesting. Despite everything that adult Ray has gone through and the mess that young Ray just encountered, and the loss he experienced with the baby Dominator Gumball leaving, both still are able to keep up the cheerful demeanor. It’s a carefully constructed process honed over the years as a way to deal with the world and feeling like he’s never truly fit in.
At it’s heart though the episode was just a fun love letter to 80’s Spielberg and his film as the young Ray bonds with the baby alien. It’s hard to not have fun when the episode has a baby Dominator bobbing along to Singin’ in the Rain, Mick revealing his love of Fiddler on the Roof, Nate looking for a cougar that is Ray’s mom and then making out unknowingly with a Dominator and likeing it and even Zari helping recreate the flying bike scene from E.T. with her powers. It’s also not often that the bad guys are defeated by a mind controlling baby alien making them do a number from Singin’ in the Rain.
Building plot and following the season storyline is fine and required, but honestly it was nice to have a week off from the Time Bureau and big bad shadowy evil that is coming for the team. Having Rip’s people show up every single week to belittle the crew and just get int the way is something that will quickly get old if it’s not tempered by these episodes that just let the crew do their thing. While they were evil the Time Masters at least mostly didn’t figure into what the crew was doing till almost the end of season one. Also have to give the writers props for following up on the big crossover from last season in a fun way that didn’t diminish the threat that the Dominators presented in the past and still could in the future.
Despite knowing it was coming, it’s bittersweet to see the threads that are starting to come together in regards to Professor Stein’s upcoming departure. It will be a shame to see Victor Garber gone from the series as he brings so much as Stein, but at the same time the way they are going about his leaving is great. After causing an aberration in time that created a daughter that he never got to see grow up, it’s fitting that Stein be able to leave the team soon enough to go see his grandson Ronnie (a wonderful tribute to the departed Ronnie Raymond) grow up and actually be part of his life. At the end it’s not quite clear how Ray and Jax will be able to separate Stein and Jax from their Firestorm matrix dependency upon one another, but hopefully it maintains the aspect of fusing two people together to be the hero and doesn’t just leave Jax able to wield the abilities alone. It’s doubtful that even Ray would have the knowledge to sever that when other smart, even smarter than himself, minds could not do so. Likely they’ll find a way to release Martin from the bond and find someone else to replace him which will add another new face to the crew. Until that happens, we get to enjoy Garber’s Stein for awhile longer.
After a bit of a shaky slowdown episode last week, Legends of Tomorrow regained it’s hold on being probably the most fun of all four Arrowverse series this week. Unlike the other shows that have one central protagonist surrounded by other important characters, this series can have a lot more fun and do crazy things because it’s a true ensemble piece. Even if someone had a lesser part one week because of plots for others, you know that they’ll have some big or fun moment the next week. It definitely allows the writers a lot more freedom than with the other shows where they have to make sure not to ignore Barry or Oliver or Kara for too long. This week we got aliens, next week is vampires, this show is a super fun ridiculous ride that I don’t want to ever stop.
Score: 10 out of 10