The great character actor (and voice of Mallus) helps save history. No, really!
Oh, Legends. You sure love your Tolkien.
In this case, though, it’s more about Respected Character Actor John Noble — hey, maybe someone on the writing staff’s a huge fan of Fringe? Good for them! — than it is about the Lord of the Rings. And Noble’s not the only fun addition to the adventure this week: The hour begins with some of the Legends heading to 1979 to save a young Barack Obama, while the rest of the team must stop Amaya from saving her village in 1992 Zambesi. (They’ve discovered that she took off to change history, but if she does, she could allow Mallus to finally escape his prison.)
But first, Barry. Gorilla Grodd has arrived in 1979, and he’s intent on killing Obama before he ever becomes a politician. (Grodd uses the line “Make America Grodd Again,” and if you listen closely, you can hear an entire writers’ room cackling to themselves. I’m guessing someone stopped them from giving Grodd a red hat and all.) Just as Grodd is about to choke the life out of poor young Barry, the Waverider arrives, and Mick shoots Grodd with fire, while Ray shrinks Grodd enough to fit him inside a jar. They then wipe Barry’s memory clean, and back to the overarching plot they go!
And that overarching plot has really heated up. Mallus’ cage has begun to break, and it’s showing: Nora can feel his arrival, but when Damien faces her, we see from her shadow that she’s taken a new form, into something grotesque and huge and with wings. Nora’s barely holding on to herself — Grodd’s failure meant that Mallus’ prison couldn’t completely open — and seeing how he’s losing his daughter, Damien grows worried. His doubts take over, and soon enough, after wishing her farewell, he switches sides, appearing on board the Waverider to plead for help.
Meanwhile, over in Zambesi, Amaya is rejecting help. Nate and Wally try to appeal to her, but Amaya says that she needs to prevent the genocide of her people at all costs. She wants to get rid of the warlords, and she tells the men to stay away. Later, Nate and Wally see the older Amaya of 1992 being celebrated by her people, and preparing to pass on her totem to her daughter. But when she prepares to do so, her daughter never appears: Instead, Kuasa appears to tell her that her daughter Esi won’t be coming, and the older Amaya sadly announces that her daughter has rejected her destiny.
Well, maybe not so fast. The young Amaya is still around, and she’s sure she can talk Esi into accepting her fate. It’s a struggle Damien’s also having: He set a huge plan into motion, and now he’s unwilling to accept that the end of the road means the death of his daughter. And so, on board the ship, he offers the Water Totem as a gesture of good faith (and in a way, an F.U. to Kuasa…) and explains that they now have a common enemy. Sara’s not so sure and even tells Mick to kill Damien on the spot, but Ray, soft-hearted as always (and in particular for Nora), shuts that plan down, telling them they should think it over.
And Sara does. She speaks with Ava, and says that the hardest thing to do is to let the killer of her sister live. (She also advises Ava to talk to Rip about the fact that she’s a clone, but for now, Ava’s “prioritizing the mission.) Without any others to turn to, Sara seeks out Obama again, hoping for more insight. He advises her to remember that they’re all human, and after she wipes his memory clean, she returns to put a plan into action.
Sara gathers the team and tells Damien that she’ll help him under one condition: After it’s all over, she’ll kill him. He agrees, but now what?
Now…enter John Noble. Ray comes up with a slightly insane Legends-only plan, to visit actor John Noble on the set of Lord of the Rings in New Zealand in 1999 and have him record lines as Mallus that he’ll, in his shrunken Atom suit, deliver inside Nora’s ear. Yeah, this is the show getting as meta as it can: Noble voices Mallus, so of course when Mick watches Lord of the Rings, Ray notices how similar Denethor (as in, Noble) sounds to Mallus. Don’t overthink it. (Next: “This is crap”)
John Noble’s not too thrilled with the proposition when Ray, dressed as a PA, arrives to have him record his lines. But he does so anyway, only after chiding the script for being “crap.” And Ray, armed with the lines, accompanies Damien to visit Nora, flies into her ear, and plays the recording, which amazingly convinces her that she has to talk to the Legends. Sort of. She eventually figures out it’s a trick, but once she’s on the Waverider, Damien traps her and strips her of her magic, at least for the time being. When he speaks to her, he apologizes for failing her, for leaving her alone after his “death,” and for realizing too late that his plan, well, sucked. But it’s no use: Mallus simply tells Damien that Nora is as good as dead.
Damien then has an even tougher conversation with Sara. He tells her that he regrets everything he’s done, that he wishes he could take it all back. He even apologizes for killing Laurel, because back then, he didn’t know what love meant. He even compliments Sara, telling her that she overcame all that darkness to find love again.
If only he know how much of a struggle that love has been. Right at that moment, Ava’s finally talking to Rip about being a clone, only to grow even more dismayed when Rip lets slip the fact that he’s used other Avas before because he’s needed good agents. In fact, she’s the 12th Ava he’s used. And perhaps won’t be the last…
Over in Zambesi, the younger Amaya has a heartfelt talk with her daughter, explaining that while bearing the totem is a lot of pressure, she can handle it just as those before her have. Everyone has wavered in their role as the totem bearer, Amaya explains, and finally, Esi accepts that she must bear her totem after Amaya and therefore protect the village. Nate and Wally, though, have a different idea: Nate decides they have to grab the totem themselves, but when he tries to steal it, the older Amaya wakes up and stops him. She doesn’t recognize him, but he’s able to show her pictures proving their relationship and his story of time travel. With that revelation, Nate realizes that the older Amaya must have at some point erased her memory — a sad truth Amaya says is the only way she could possibly have left Nate behind.
After all that, though, they still haven’t come any closer to preventing Mallus from escaping. In fact, on board the Waverider, Zari tells Sara that she can’t find any loopholes at all, and that the village still has to be destroyed — sorry Amaya! — or else Mallus will be freed.
That’s when Sara comes up with yet another insane idea, though this one has much greater consequences than having John Noble record a few lines: She explains that perhaps the only way to defeat Mallus is to do it face-to-face, which means they have to let him out of his cage (where he’s been feeling just fine, gotta gotta be down — SORRY) and use their six totems to fight him. Rip immediately bristles at the idea, because the last time this happened, Mallus wasn’t defeated; instead, the death totem betrayed the rest of the bearers. Hasn’t fixing history taught them to learn from it?
But Sara’s intent on following through, especially after Damien says he’ll wield the death totem and ensure their success. Ava, rightly, points out that this makes it all an even worse plan and, realizing no one else agrees with her, not even Rip, she leaves on her own to go back to the Time Bureau. Sara tries to follow her and tell her she loves her, but Ava rejects her and her love and her crazy idea…and leaves.
Now all they have to do is make sure Zambesi falls and to arm themselves. Esi waits for the warlords, while Ray and Wally inform Amaya and Nate of the plan. On the Waverider, they split up the totems, with Nate taking the Earth Totem and Ray taking the Water Totem. And Damien visits Nora one last time with his Death Totem in hand, and this time, she says she’s made a mistake and begs for her life, telling him that she’s still fighting Mallus. But Damien, that’s not Nora…not anymore.
Still, Daddy Darhkest can’t help himself when the hour comes to help the Legends in their final step. They bring Nora to Zambesi and wait for Esi to defeat the warlords and ensure Mallus’ release, but when nothing happens, Sara asks Rip to find out what happened. He discovers through headlines that Zambesi was still destroyed — but not by warlords. It was destroyed by Grodd.
Yup: Damien released Grodd because he thought that might help him save Nora after all and perhaps keep Mallus from taking her over completely. But again, it’s all too late. After Nate uses the Earth Totem to save Esi from Grodd, Damien releases Nora, only to be literally stabbed in the back by Sara, and to lose the Death Totem to Ray. And now that Nora’s freed, so too is Mallus. As the entire crew runs outside, they watch as Mallus takes his true form, with poor Nora ruined.
Though the hour required one too many minds being changed on a dime, it’s still a devastating ending that once again backs the Legends into what seems to be an inescapable corner just before the season finale. I’m excited to see how they get out of their mess this time — and I’m guessing Ava will be back soon enough. Stay strong, Sara!