Superheroes in a Dangerous Time, or Fear and Loathing in the Arrowverse

Legends of Tomorrow: Monsters are People and Vice Versa

Or “Monsters, Magic, and Stifling, Easily Corrupted Bureaucracy”
Image: CW

The Plot

Last season, the Legends were able to defeat a time-demon named Mallus, but to do so, they had to break him out of his temporal prison. Problem was, as pointed out by their pal John Constantine (who I am so glad to have back full-time for the first time since his show got cancelled four years back), Mallus wasn’t the only thing to escape. Magical creatures have escaped from Hell and are now scattered throughout history. A heart-eating unicorn is on the loose at Woodstock, a less-than-kind Fairy Godmother is up to trouble at the Salem Witch Trials, a shapeshifter gets into trouble with the crown jewels in the dawn of the punk era…

Call it “Fantastic Beasts and When to Find Them.” I can’t believe nobody else is doing that. Let me name things, people!

The Legends, now working as a task force of the Time Bureau, head out to find these magical menaces, but there are a few complications. First, the Time Bureau finds itself under close scrutiny by the US government (specifically, Nate Heywood’s stern father Hank, played by Back to the Future’s Tom Wilson); second, a demon named Neron has his own plans for the magical creatures (and his old pal Constantine); third, those first two things are not unrelated; and finally… not every magic creature is all bad and deserves to be sent back to Hell, as they learn from that shapeshifter I mentioned, right as she gets stuck in the form of ex-Legend Amaya Jiwe, allowing actress Masie Richardson-Sellers to stay on the show in a fun new character with a fun new accent.

The Metaphor

Turns out that while unicorns can be bloodthirsty killers and Fairy Godmothers can be wicked witches, wolfmen can be kind and loving when not provoked, and minotaurs just like a nice song. Charlie the shapeshifter teaches the Legends that not all magical creatures are monsters, even the ones that look it.

Yes, literal monsters wouldn’t be a great metaphor for, say, immigrants, the same way mocking racism with POC represented by literal cavemen has some flaws, but the real modern-world metaphor really kicks in in the back half, when villains are exposed and plots revealed.

Neron the demon is using fear of magical monsters to conquer both Hell and Earth. Possessing a convenient tech-genius body, he reveals the existence of magical creatures to the world, convinces people to be scared of them, and gives out an app to help report monsters in your area. The terms and conditions of which pledge your soul to Neron.

The terms and conditions of Adobe Photoshop might do the same thing, you don’t know, you never checked, that’s their point.

And from there, he begins harvesting fear itself. Does this sound familiar? Spurring the masses to fear a group because they’re different, then using that fear to their own ends? Does it remind you of basically everything every right-wing, nationalist party does? Neron creates a problem, then sells the solution, and all he asks is your devotion and your soul.

The Villain

Neron does come from the comics. They didn’t go with a comic-accurate look, but that’s fine, that’s very fine, Neron was introduced in the 90s and you can tell that from everything about him.

Yikes.
Image: DC Comics

Which do you bust on first, the mullet or the anklets? It’s comedy lock-up.

Neron needs to possess people to operate on Earth, so there isn’t one actor playing him. He’s more of a malevolent force, working so far behind the scenes we only briefly glimpse him for about half the season before he settles into a final host body. But “Grab a bunch of souls, raise my profile, conquer Hell and maybe Earth” is pretty textbook Neron.

The Solution

I’ve avoided some spoilers, like who Neron’s imprisoned love is, because I’m holding out hope some of you watch this… but their counter-attack is to build a magical creature theme park, with a super-hero show based around learning to love monsters, and a minotaur plays James Taylor songs on guitar and it was ridiculous and yet moving, which is this show in a nutshell. By building Heyworld, the magical theme park Nate had imagined as a child (that his father never forgot), they attempt to show the world that magical creatures aren’t that scary. And in the end, love does conquer all… albeit at a cost.

Random Thoughts

Legends of Tomorrow might have the most cast turnaround of any Arrowverse show, with only four out of ten original cast members remaining (including the voice of Amy Pemberton as their ship’s AI). But they’ve always been good at creating new loveable characters to take the place of the departing heroes. Until this season. Charlie the shapeshifter is fine, I’m good with her, but Mona Wu, the monster-loving romance nut? Much less so. I’ve nothing against the actress, Ramona Young, but with all of the late-season-three cast (except Kid Flash) back, John Constantine joining the team, and Time Bureau director Ava Sharpe and formerly evil sorceress Nora Darhk promoted to series regulars, was there room, or even a need for a new original character? Mona feels… unnecessary. She contributed two things to the story: discovering that something was amiss at the Time Bureau, and ‘shipping whatever couple was in the spotlight that week. The Time Bureau stuff could easily have been done with Nora and Nate (or Ava, which could have spared us a poorly motivated, tacked-on, two-episode breakup between her and Sara Lance), and the ‘shipping was usually perpetual comic relief Time Agent Gary Green’s department. Gary’s fine, but I don’t need two of him.

She’s not an actively bad character, like Punisher’s Hardly Quinn or Rat-Faced Lewis, but she just didn’t add much, and they spent so much time in the second act making her a major character.

Sure she increases their racial diversity (A non-evil Asian main character! Between her and Supergirl’s half-Indian Brainiac Five, the Arrowverse just inched past Marvel Netflix!) but man, do not give the people shouting “tokenism” ammo like that.

Note for the larger internet… please note how I expressed my frustrations with Mona without a) attacking women, b) attacking Asians, c) whining about daring to give superheroes complex love lives, d) throwing around the phrase “SJW,” and most importantly e) harassing Ramona Young off social media for the crime of taking an acting job. It is, in fact, that easy to criticize a writing choice without being an asshole. It’s not Ramona’s fault that they didn’t sell us on her character.

I had a comparison to the WWE’s struggles to put Roman Reigns over but it’s gonna take a lot of explaining and we’ve already run long. Other thoughts!

  • Ramona Young plays Mona on Legends on the heels of playing Ramona on Santa Clarita Diet. That’s weird. That’s a weird trend. In terms of only playing people with your name, she hasn’t hit full Tony Danza levels yet, but… weird.
  • Victoria Souter plays Jane Austen’s sister in one episode, meaning Legends of Tomorrow and Writers’ Circle have a guest star in common!
  • Three years after his last appearance, Casper Crump briefly reprised season one nemesis Vandal Savage in the finale, and it was shockingly delightful.
  • The cast is now majority female, which I am incredibly fine with (I adore Courtney Ford and Tala Ashe, they’re so funny), but also majority original characters. It may say “Based on characters appearing in DC Comics” in the credits, but that’s only true for five out of eleven right now.
  • Real-life spouses Brandon Routh and Courtney Ford continue to have incredible on-screen chemistry, romantic or comic.
  • Heatwave is spurred to protect Richard Nixon from a bug that forces people to tell the truth because it ruins his presidency, which means no All The President’s Men, which means Robert Redford’s career never takes off, which means no Sundance Festival, no independent film, and most importantly, no artful nudity. Hey, whatever gets him moving.
  • Heatwave also has a heart-to-heart with the creator of Godzilla about examining our fears through art. For an episode that involved a three-breasted warrior woman fighting a giant octopus, it got deep.
  • I am so upset this show won’t be back until Next. January. Argh.

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