This week, the Legends discovered Gorilla Grodd threatening to ignite the Cold War in Vietnam, 1967. Let’s dive in:
Vietnam is not something that looms large in the British consciousness, given we wisely avoided that conflict, but its spectre is inescapable in American film and television (coincidentally, Full Metal Jacket was on TV last night). Both of this year’s big ape movies, Kong: Skull Island and War for the Planet of the Apes, pillaged from the iconography of Apocalypse Now, so it made sense for Legends of Tomorrow to beat them at their own game by really putting Gorilla Grodd in the midst of the Vietnam War.
2. Beauty and the Beast
Over the summer I wrote an essay about the cliche of blondes and gorillas on film, so it was refreshing how in this episode, with Sara in a coma, we got to see women of color like Amaya and Zari interact with a big ape for once. I was particularly impressed that Grodd wasn’t just mind-controlling his followers, and that he used to his brain to persuade Amaya he wasn’t the villain, instead of just exerting his will on her.
3. Friendly fire
What were the odds? Mick encountered his dad in Vietnam, which made perfect sense, and provides a fresh perspective on both characters. Given the infamous napalm imagery of the war, it explains how, subconsciously, Mick became enamored with fire, as that may have been the only way he appreciated his father’s service. The storyline was quietly touching, with it only being natural that a simpleton like Mick never finding time to reflect and understand his father until now. I didn’t care much for Evan Jones’s performance as the older Rory, as his raspy voice came across as an overt imitation of Purcell.
4. Speaking of…
Jax spent most of the week on his own, pondering a life of heroism without being Firestorm. I found his monologue to the unconscious Sara quite awkward, especially with the Weinstein effect now having reached these shows, and while his action hero moment of helping escort President Lyndon B. Johnson through a minefield was quite tense, I was distracted throughout by how awful the nosepiece on the actor was. I really hope this isn’t foreshadowing Stein’s departure ending Firestorm too, we haven’t had enough action from them this season as it is.
5. More cameos
Professor Stein recruited Isaac Newton, Galileo and Marie Curie to help separate him and Jax. (Zari’s not the only one taking advantage of Sara’s incapacitation.) It brought to mind the scene in The Next Generation where Data plays poker with holograms of Newton, Einstein and Hawking. What was particularly baffling was why Stein would get Galileo given he was an astronomer: wouldn’t it have been better to have a callback by bringing back Einstein?
It all leads into the episode’s rushed climax, as Grodd mind-controls Sara into commandeering the Waverider, only for Newton – who I’d completely forgotten about – knocks her out. (Isaac Newton: still the deadliest son of a bitch in space.) Now why did Grodd not notice the other people on the ship, and take control of them of too? That would have been insane, having Sara wake up and fight Marie Curie.
– Wouldn’t Amaya have recognized the name Kurtz from Hearts of Darkness?
– The actor playing Newton looked more like Leibniz.
– The unconscious Sara had way too much make-up on.
– Happy Thanksgiving!
Next week: it’s crossover time, and I’ll be discussing all four parts of “Crisis on Earth-X” with Elias and Brian.