Legends of Tomorrow 3×11: “Here I Go Again”, and general speculation
Aside from Legends of Tomorrow, all the Arrowverse shows, as well as Black Lightning, took the week off, so “This Week in the Arrowverse” will be shorter than normal this time around. And since the Legends episode aired on Monday, and I’ll be posting this Sunday, I’m not exactly striking while the iron is hot, either.
To compensate a little, after I review Legends, I’m going to add an extra section this week to speculate about where all five shows might be heading this season. There are no spoilers here, just my own speculation based on what the shows have given us so far.
“I knew it was only a matter of time before we do one of these.”
Gotta agree with Nate on that one. The “Groundhog Day episode”, where a character relives a certain period of time over and over again, the world around them constantly resetting itself, is a staple of fantasy and sci-fi television. And given Legends is a show that’s all about playing around with time, and is in love with wacky, high-concept storytelling, they pretty much had to try their hand at this.
Part of the appeal of this sort of episode lies in television’s inherent resistance to change. Modern television has become better about letting characters and their situations evolve over time, but there’s still a push to never stray too far from certain parameters, to never let the characters do things that would totally uproot the series. But in a time loop episode, none of that matters. Main characters can die, long held secrets can be revealed, the whole setting of the show can be blown up, and you can still have everything reset to normal. There’s a certain catharsis to seeing such major shakeups to the status quo occur, even if they don’t actually stick. And unlike a simple out-of-continuity adventure, it still feels like these stories matter, because there’s usually one character who remembers everything that happens throughout the time loop, and for them the events of the episode are very much real.
Surprisingly, “Here I Go Again” doesn’t lean too heavily into this. Sure, the Waverider blows up repeatedly, and we get a few hilarious deaths for our main characters (my favorite being a miniaturized Ray getting hit with a rolled up newspaper). But for the most part, not much occurs that you’d really need a time reset to undo. Even when Zari has her “fun montage”, the most disruptive things she does are play with Mick’s heat gun and pelt him with snowballs (the camera thankfully cuts away before his inevitable, and brutal, retaliation).
Instead, this episode exploits a different part of the Groundhog Day premise: that being stuck in a time loop, ironically, gives you considerably more time. In the film Groundhog Day (which most time loop episodes, and this one especially, owe a debt to) it’s never stated how many times Phil Connors relived Februrary 2nd, but it’s generally agreed to have been years from his perspective, with director Harold Ramis suggesting Phil spent over ten thousand years in the time loop.
I don’t think Zari spent millennia reliving her own personal Groundhog Hour, but it was still clearly quite a long while, long enough for her to teach herself the violin. This is how the Groundhog Day loop serves as a tool for character development. People are often slow to change; an egocentric jerk like Phil Connors or an “apathetic cool girl” like Zari isn’t going to become a better person with a deep connection to the people around them overnight. By sticking them in a time loop, though, you can have them experience ages worth of character development over the course of a single hour, making it plausible for them to have a dramatic change of heart, without their circumstances or the characters around them being changed to a similar extent by the passage of time.
Zari begins the episode largely indifferent to or annoyed with her shipmates (especially Sara) and is on the verge of quitting the team when it looks like they won’t be willing to help save her brother and prevent the 2042 dystopia she comes from. But as the time loop forces her to not only spend a great deal of time with the other Legends, but to investigate each of them thoroughly to figure out what’s causing the ship to explode, she comes to know them very well. Well enough that, when she decides to sacrifice herself to save their lives, and tells them all how they’re like family to her, it feels earned.
Which, it turns out, was the point. The “time loop” was actually a computer simulation Zari had been put in by Gideon, designed to make her grow closer to the Legends and decide to stay on the team, because Zari’s own computer simulations had shown that she wouldn’t succeed in saving her brother and her home without them. It’s an odd choice for a twist, since if there’s any show with enough time distorting wonkiness to make a genuine time loop work, it’s Legends of Tomorrow. But it fits with the overall approach Legends took to doing a Groundhog Day episode: getting meta as hell with it.
The time loop was literally designed by Gideon to help Zari’s character development, and she acknowledges that the ship exploding was just “a plot device” put there to motivate her into action, and that “time dweeb” Gary was added to the simulation just for chuckles. And when the twist is revealed, Zari gets royally pissed off at the idea of a hacky “all just a dream” resolution. We also have Nate not only referencing Groundhog Day repeatedly, but seeming to have anticipated that this is the sort of thing that had to happen to the Legends at some point. All Zari has to say is, “Groundhog Day. One hour. Ship explodes,” and he is instantly on board. He and Zari even refer to her exploiting the time loop for consequence-free hijinks as a “fun montage”.
This may very well be the most aggressively meta episode of Legends of Tomorrow yet, and that winking to the audience adds a lot of fun to the proceedings, mitigating the fact that we don’t get nearly as many wacky shenanigans as “Legends of Tomorrow does Groundhog Day” would seem to promise. I still wish we had gotten more instances of characters doing things they could only do in a time loop, but more than any episode of Legends before it, “Here I Go Again” was all about character, and at that it did a swell job.
We got to know Zari very well, of course, as she was in almost every scene of the episode and went through a dizzying array of emotional highs and lows. But her investigations into her teammates also gave us a lot of new information about them. Even though nothing from the time loop actually happened, we’re shown that Gideon wasn’t lying when she said that the simulation modeled the Legends so closely, everything it showed Zari about them was a true reflection of who they are. Some of it wasn’t surprising: we already knew the secret that Constantine told Ray, and Nate and Amaya hooking up again was only a matter of time. Sara’s fearfulness, both about progressing things with Ava and opening the changing-history can of worms again, was a nice wrinkle to add to the character. And Mick being an amateur writer of smutty science-fiction/romance comes completely out of nowhere and is a sheer, utter delight.
Legends has always thrived or failed based on mixing its insane action/adventure plots with fun camaraderie between its characters. This episode takes a break from the former to build up the latter, and it works wonders, creating a satisfying climax out of simply having Zari sit down with each of the Legends and having an honest chat. Based on the stinger, we’re going to be heading back into wild insanity on this show soon, but it was nice to take a breather for something more character focused, and I hope Legends does more episodes like this that break from its standard format in the future.
- As Zari tries on her teammates weapons and costumes, we get a brief shot of her in the Hawkgirl mask. We haven’t had a reference to Kendra in a long time.
- I know Gary wasn’t really stuck in the trash compactor, but it is funny to think of him being trapped there for however many months or years the time loop lasted, and all he has to say about the experience is, “I adapted.”
- Gary also mentions that the Waverider was going to blow up at “4:20 Temporal Standard Time”. They made a joke about “4:20”, but I’m far more amused by the idea that the Temporal Zone, a void outside of conventional time, is treated more like conventional time zone. And one that observes Daylight Savings Time, at that.
- In addition to all the Groundhog Day references, Ray compares their situation to the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Cause and Effect”, which did a similar time loop plot about a year for Groundhog Day came out, and also had the ship explode at the end of each loop.
- Based on the sound effects, when Nate and Amaya have sex, he steels up and she channels the spirit of some large jungle cat. That actually explains a lot about their relationship: sex with anyone else is just never gonna be as wild as what they can do to each other.
- We didn’t get to see the Legends’ mission to the 70’s, but aside from those amazing outfits, it involved keeping Napoleon from getting a copy of ABBA’s song “Waterloo” and finding out how the battle ended. And to stop him, apparently Ray, Sara, Nate, and Amaya all had to form a band and perform on stage. Why wasn’t this its own episode?
- I’m not sure which is the most wonderful character detail: that Mick’s writing includes sentences like “Buck wrapped his glistening biceps around his busty alien queen”, that he fills his room with a series of lethal booby traps to keep the others from finding his writing, or that he’s apparently written a full novel without ever developing past the “hunt and peck” method of typing.
- Seriously, I now want an episode where the Music Meister shows up on Legends and traps everyone in a dream world based on Mick’s sci-fi erotica.
- I kinda wish this episode had taken a cue from The Flash and had the show’s logo or something appear on screen to signal the end of the episode proper before the stinger appears. As exciting as Rip Hunter recruiting Wally West is, the sudden shift to it is jarring after the rather beautiful ending to events on the Waverider.
MVP of the Week: Gideon.
I know this was very much Zari’s episode, but Gideon is the one who made it all possible, and she so rarely gets time in the spotlight, it felt worth honoring. Plus, I laughed out loud when she said “dinky tickling”.
And now . . . rampant speculation!
Let’s start with Arrow. One of the big plots this season has been Oliver being investigated and tried for being the Green Arrow and committing, y’know, a crapload of felonies. I feel like this plot has gone on too long for Oliver to simply put the secret back in the bottle; beyond the logistics of doing so, it just wouldn’t be a satisfying resolution. My theory: the season ends with Oliver faking his death, thus clearing his name when the Green Arrow continues Green Arrowing even after Oliver Queen is dead.
This season has shown the difficulties that come from Oliver trying to juggle his duties as mayor, as the Green Arrow, and now as a father. Early on in the season, he tried sacrificing the Green Arrow, but now that he’s back in the hood, it feels like the only way to move forward is for something else to be sacrificed instead.
Oliver giving up not just his job as mayor, but his whole life as Oliver Queen, would be a major step both for him as a character and for the show overall, but not to the extent it would actually impede the show going forward. Since Oliver and Felicity are now married, Felicity would get custody of William after Oliver’s “death”, and could help them see each other as much as they want. We’ve seen with Malcolm Merlyn and Earth 2 Laurel that people the public believes are dead can still get around in Star City just fine. And, let’s face it, as the years have gone by, the number of people Oliver interacts with who don’t already know his secret has drastically shrunk. Him being unable to go out in public except when he’s in costume? Wouldn’t actually change most episodes too much.
As for Black Lightning, until recently I’d been assuming that Anissa’s powers were caused by her inheriting whatever gave Jefferson his powers. But now that she’s investigating superpowered children in Freeland who disappeared a long time ago, I’m wondering if we might find out Anissa is one of those children and was secretly adopted by Lynn and Jefferson. It would explain why her powers are different from her father’s.
Now, among Supergirl fans, it’s taken almost as a given that the season will end with Sam dying and Alex adopting Ruby, following up on her “I want kids!” thing that broke up her and Maggie. But I’ve gotten to thinking that, since we’re dealing with Kryptonian villains again, they might break out that old plot device, the Phantom Zone. If Sam ends up trapped there, she’d be effectively dead, as far as the world is concerned, and Ruby would still need adopting, but the door would be open for her to come back later.
For Legends, I’ve gotten to thinking about the nature of Mallus. It was mentioned in the series premiere that the Legends breaking time is the reason he’s a threat, and so far his actions seem to mainly revolve around making sure anachronisms don’t get solved. We’ve also seen that a disproportionately large number of anachronisms involve ancestors or younger versions of the Legends in some way, suggesting that the Legends who broke time are somehow personally connected to.
Meanwhile, we have the recently revealed fact that Zari’s touch can burn Mallus, seemingly because of her totem, with him saying she’s “one of the six”. What really intrigues me about this is that Mallus seems surprised by this. In previous interactions with Rip and Sara, Mallus has seemed perfectly well informed about who he’s talking to, but he was apparently blindsided by Zari.
This has me thinking (and I admit this is a little crazy) that Mallus might actually be the Legends. When they messed with time in the Season 2 finale, their future selves disappeared as a result of changing the past. But what if, due to time breaking immediately afterwards, their future selves didn’t fully disappear. Their souls or consciousnesses or what have you became trapped in the cracks between time, fusing into a single entity and being driven mad from the experience. The anachronisms are the result of this gestalt entity (now calling itself Mallus) trying to claw its way back into the timestream, with people from the Legends’ pasts being most affected because those are the places in time it’s most trying to get to. This would be why Mallus seemed to be ignorant of Zari: since she wasn’t part of the Legends when they broke time, Mallus would have no memory of her.
And finally, we come to The Flash, and boy do I have a whopper for you: I think that perky girl who showed up at Jitters and at the wedding is actually Barry and Iris’s daughter from the future. But, sshh, you didn’t hear that from me.
Question of the Week: Where do you think these shows are heading this season?