The CW’s Legends of Tomorrow follows a time-traveling team of misfits that includes historian Nate Heywood, Rip Hunter, Vixen, Arrow’s Atom and White Canary, both halves of Firestorm, and Flash rogue Heat Wave. Recappers Matt Wilson and James Leask are on hand to deliver our Legends of Tomorrow post-show analysis, Stuff of Legends.

This week's "Fellowship of the Spear" heads into the trenches of World War I, and also basically to Middle-Earth, as beloved Hobbit guy J.R.R. Tolkien helps the team find some mystical artifacts while the Legion of Doom nips at their heels. The episode was directed by Ben Bray and was written by Keto Shimizu and Matthew Maala.

Matt: That...was a wild ride, James.

James: I am so absolutely furious at these unbelievable idiots right now. Matt, they had to work really friggin' hard to pooch this one up after basically saving the day in the first five minutes of the episode and boy howdy did they pooch it up. You absolute trash people!

Matt: And see, this is where I feel comfortable. These are the Legends I know. People just bound and determined to goof up every dadgum thing that happens. People who listen to one of their teammates talk about using a magic spear that is basically the One Ring and hear her out for a minute instead of just straight-up saying, “Get that thing away from her.”

People who take the macguffin of the season to World War I when honestly they could have met the guy they needed to and got the treasure they needed to at any other time. This is their element.

James: I half believe that if they’d had the wherewithal to take J.R.R. Tolkien to any other time in history they’d have accidentally taken him to a battlefield in World War II and not understood why everything was still all fighty.

 

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Matt, you and our readers may remember last week when I boldly heralded a new age of intelligence and emotional maturity for the Legends. I am here now, hat in hand, to say that it was an aurora borealis, entirely contained within last week’s episode.

Matt: That said, I honestly loved this one, even though our heroes were operating at peak dumbness. My notes for the cold open were just: “World War I. Okay. The blood of Christ. Okay!” Way to kick off an episode, y’all.

James: And see, I genuinely hated most of this episode. I came to it with the same excitement you did --- that bonkers opening about the blood of Christ! --- but the Mick and Amaya plots just destroyed me. I was so ready to watch the Legends inspire The Lord of the Rings using the power of misunderstanding of Grail texts and then they ruined it. They ruined it by forgetting basic human decency.

Matt: I mean, you’re not wrong. But I get it with Heat Wave. Paying off his sporadic he’s-only-available-for-a-few-episodes hallucinations of Captain Cold with actual Leonard Snart showing up edged toward being clever. And even though I wished there was more for Wentworth Miller to do, he did show up and snarl about how the armistice is over in his amazing kitty cat voice, so I can’t really be mad about it.

As for Vixen, yeah, that’s a bigger problem. Maybe if there had been some buildup over the course of the season of her being impulsive or amoral, then it’d make more sense for her to basically ask the team to turn into reality-altering villains. But as it was, it just seemed like another arbitrary choice for a character the writers have never nailed down.

James: I actually understand Amaya’s basic impulse and request to the team to help her save her people, because as limited as it was, last week’s introduction of that did set up something. And after all, this is a team whose moral quandaries about changing the timeline lasted until the moment it mattered to Stein. And then there was Mick becoming a Revolutionary War hero, complete with statue. It makes perfect sense to me for Amaya to learn about what happens to her village and family and go, “Hey guys, time to do that thing we do.”

 

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My main problem there was that all that temptation was basically just forgotten the second someone actually agreed with her and gave her the opportunity to save her people. For me, that was the real inconsistent part of the writing of her character regarding this whole plot. It mattered to her to save her people until the plot demanded that it not matter.

You’re absolutely right about Wentworth Miller meowing all his lines about the armistice and throwing a grenade into a bunch of soldiers to restart WWI, though. That was one of the few highlights of the episode for me. Around a third of the way through, my notes just became a lot of all caps yelling.

Matt: Was any of that yelling about how they all pronounced Tol-keen with like, added emphasis? I know that’s the “right” way to say it, I guess, but it all felt like a producer somewhere had a pet peeve.

James: It felt a little bit like they all got a note on the second take that they’d been pronouncing it wrong, and ended up overcorrecting.

Also, Sir Gawain didn’t find the god damned Grail. I know that’s a petty complaint about an episode that decided literally nothing about the rest of the season’s characterizations mattered, but it was in my notes and by gum I’m gonna holler about it.

Matt: Isn’t it weird that they went to for-real Camelot and didn’t meet him? It seems like there could have been some kind of setup and payoff there, but nobody here even bothers to mention that they went to Actual King Arthur’s Court.

James: It’s almost like they just didn’t really care too much and needed to mention that Tolkien in fact did write about Gawain, which I will admit was a small nice touch until they pooched it. Also: Mick calling a recently deceased soldier in World War I a loser.

Matt: That Mick Rory. Incorrigible.

 

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I did think the episode maybe laid on the “war is bad” message a little thick. Much like the “hey, slavery is bad” episode earlier this season, it was... a little too, I dunno, PBS Kids? I guess the point was to push Amaya to the breaking point, but instead it just came off as this preachy message. A show called Legends of Tomorrow doesn’t really need to inform us about the travesties of history. We know.

James: I will admit that I ran out of the room laughing to excitedly shout to my girlfriend that Rip Hunter negotiates an armistice in World War I by quoting Aragorn’s “Today is not that day” speech from Return of the King. I definitely agree that the episode got weirdly preachy about war being bad, but hey, if you’re gonna go hard in the paint and you’ve got Tolkien for an episode, go buckwild and commit a foul.

Matt: They really did get in their Tolkien references, all the way down to Stein saying “one cannot simply walk” at one point. And like I said, the spear was the One Ring. They put fire on it and words appeared!

And while we’re at it, I noticed other things that were maybe references to other things or maybe coincidences, but it made me think the writers on this show are just kind of going wherever they want with this stuff. First, there’s the message on the spear: “Born of the blood, undone by the blood.” That’s one phrase less and maybe two words removed from a direct, repeated quote in the game Bloodborne, and it had me flipping out. Again, I have no idea if it’s just a happy accident or an intentional reference, but if it is a coincidence, it’s a heck of one.

Also, the whole “an artifact that can change your biggest mistakes” plot point is also in the podcast The Adventure Zone, but I’m guessing that one is just two sets of people having the same idea. I mean, that’s basically a trope.

James: Yeah, that one was just a trope, I think. I didn’t get the Bloodborne reference, but I also huffily quit that game after being stuck in the opening area for two hours, so I’ll let you be the expert there.

In general, I think if the episode had been over the top, hammy Tolkien references and a matching performance from Wentworth Miller, this would have been an episode I rather enjoyed. And, like the Legends themselves, it was the show’s to lose. But Matt, I just got so absolutely angry when the other Legends shouted at Mick about how awful he was and they don’t trust him or like him. The guy who had literally saved their lives a minute previously, as he has done repeatedly this season. When Rip, at the end of the episode, responded to Ray’s consideration that maybe they’d treated Mick poorly by basically saying, “I guess Mick’s not a complete idiot after all.”

Is this… what Rip was like in the first season?

Matt: He was worse. Imagine even more seething contempt for people who are supposed to be your friends. That’s Rip.

And yes, you’re right. The team --- even Sara, who often sees Mick’s side of things --- was telling him to shut up and that he’s terrible way more often than they ever did before this time out. I even wrote down that Sara crimesplained heists to him at one point.

 

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The only thing that I think contributed to making it all work was bringing in a pre-Legends version of Captain Cold. By the end of last season, it was Snart who was becoming the team player with Heat Wave telling him he was getting soft. This reverses those roles, and you could argue that Snart’s influence is making Mick act differently, which in turn is making the team more aggressive toward him. But you kind of have to read that in; it’s not really obviously in the text.

James: That’s definitely good context to have! I don’t think it helps entirely, but without it, the whole team comes off as a worse version of Stein in one of the episodes where he has to learn to trust Jax for the whateverth time.

And speaking of Stein, I definitely think he came off worst in the episode. Not only was he one of the main instigators of the team turning on Mick, but he was the one person who, because he knew Mick was hallucinating Snart before, had the context to go, “Oh wait, we’re all pissed, but Mick is probably telling the truth here.”

Matt: He definitely comes off pretty weasely. Like, it’s a pretty wild conclusion to jump to if you think, “He trusts his hallucination more than us, which means he’s untrustworthy.” Like, that’d just be the equivalent of talking to yourself.

But I don’t want to focus all on the bad here. First, I want to note that the team completed a point-and-click adventure game puzzle to find Gawain’s skeleton, and that was killer. Also, there was a pitch-perfect character moment when it was revealed the Rip’s favorite candy was jelly beans. Of course it’d be jelly beans.

 

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James: You’re right, I did quite like the team Where In Time Is Carmen Sandiego-ing their way through an adventure, and Jax using his transmogrification powers to turn an Evil Time Safe into jelly beans was a nice bit of humor at the top of the episode.

Matt: It did raise the biggest question of the series, though: Why doesn’t Firestorm do that all the time? Any time there’s any threat that involves an object, Firestorm ought to be jelly beanin’ that thing up in a flash.

James: I think, in the episode, he quickly explains that it’s a power he and Stein have been “working on,” which gives a good explanation for why he hasn’t used it all the time to date, but raises some questions about how they’ll tiptoe around keeping him reasonably powered in the future. My guess is: he and Stein will just never be in the same room ever again.

Matt: They do that a lot. But they’ve been transmogrifying since last season. The only new part was the candy. I guess it did seem harder to do last season? Either way, the writers are going to have to keep them apart in separate locked chambers.

James: Personally, I think Jax should have just turned something into the blood of Christ with his powers, but that is a straight trip to cancellation town if you do something that blasphemous, I assume.

Matt: Transubstantimogrification.

James: They’d lose the Lutheran viewership!

Matt: And they need those protestants for next week, when the timeline gets all muddled because the Legion actually totally won, got the spear and performed the ritual to make it work. Let me just say that it’s an absolute delight that Nate offered the notion that maybe the Legion doesn’t know how to use the spear, and then in the next scene, Malcolm Merlyn shows up with the “instruction manual.” Then they use the thing.

James: It was a genuinely fun follow-up to them declaring in the first few minutes of the episode that Merlyn was off finding the holy manual, which until the end I just assumed was a way to explain why they couldn’t get John Barrowman for this episode.

Matt: And just what did they do with the spear? Well, for one, they gave Nate a mullet, which is pretty appropriate. Honestly, it looks like they turned the world into the part from Back to the Future Part II where Biff had that casino. It’s Biff Casino Timeline.

James: If they’re gonna try to convince me that this episode wasn’t a total mistake, I will admit that’s a pretty good place to start. We even got a shot of Thawne in a rather Biff-esque 80s douchebag suit.

Matt: I hope next week’s episode is extra Biffy. Until then!