It's Gorilla Grodd's kingdom, and time-travelers are not welcome
The Arrowverse sure loves Gorilla Grodd. For a villain that takes some extra work thanks to his CGI form, he sure pops up a lot in these shows ever since his debut on The Flash.
But then again, Grodd’s just a ball of fun, an allegory for the importance of environmental conservation and humane treatment of animals that also happens to make his brainwashed followers say things like, “One nation, under Grodd!” And in this episode, he also happens to cause chaos in one of the most chaotic moments in recent history: the Vietnam War at its peak, in 1967.
With Sara out of commission since her last fight against Damien Darhk, the rest of the team decides to take care of an anachronism on their own, landing on the level 8 Grodd-tacular taking place in Vietnam. Ray, Amaya, and Zari pose as AP journalists looking for the scoop on the front and learn of a “new god” the Vietnamese and stranded American soldiers have begun to worship. Their liaison, a young woman named Anh Ly, takes them to meet Grodd himself, and he welcomes them to his “kingdom” with open arms, promising to once and for all create world peace.
Of course, Grodd‘s version of world peace involves destroying humanity so he can have the planet for himself. Amaya figures this out when she tries to use the shrink ray on him, only to have him lecture her on how humans have been causing destruction ever since they began walking the Earth. After Ray and Zari fix the comms at the campsite where Grodd’s based, Zari finds files outlining Grodd’s plan to have his people murder President Johnson, who happens to be visiting Vietnam that day.
LBJ, though, isn’t the only unexpected visitor. In the jungle, Nate and Mick investigate the carnage left from Grodd’s last attack, only to get surrounded by an infantry led by a Green Beret — a decorated member of the special forces honored for their bravery — who just happens to be…Mick’s dad, Dick. Oof. The elder and younger Rory are mirror images of each other, and as much as Nate tries to convince Mick to open up and dig through his daddy issues — it’s “Operation Tough Love,” he calls it — Mick’s not so inclined. After all, he gleefully reveals to Nate, he was the one who burned his (by then alcoholic) father to death after a lifetime of being mistreated.
But just as Nate tries to speak to Mick again about his past, a man arrives at their location with several other armed former soldiers, speaking about how they’ve become enlightened (by Grodd, obviously) and would like to enlighten this infantry, too. Both sides stand their ground, but when the bullets start flying, Dick pushes Mick out of harm’s way — a move that leaves Mick thoroughly confused about how he feels toward his old man.
In fact, that night, Mick even has a conversation with Dick. Dick reveals that he keeps a list of all the men who died under his watch (it’s a way to remind himself of all he’s lost), writing it on the back of a picture of his partner, Mick’s mother. Dominic Purcell plays Mick’s bewilderment and softening beautifully in the scene, as he finds himself too speechless to do anything other than stare at the photo of his young mother printed on the same paper that sports the names of the men his father regrets losing in war. Of course, he stares a little too long, and Dick, being Dick, snatches his prized possession back.
Nate, meanwhile, notices all of this happening, and begins getting worried that Mick has gotten too distracted to continue with the mission. But just as the team finally get back on the comms and on the same page about Grodd as their threat, the threat level of the anachronism jumps from an 8 to a 10. It turns out Grodd’s plan to use the Vietnam War as a way to ignite World War III is going to become a reality if the Legends don’t stop him soon. (Next: Gorilla business)
Back on the Waverider, Jax and Stein have remained behind, still poring over how to pry Firestorm apart. Stein, at first, tries to lie to Jax, but his counterpart quickly discovers what’s really going on: Stein has gotten nowhere in his research and has instead enlisted the help of celebrated minds like Isaac Newton (not Ben Franklin, as I had originally written down in my notes — d’oh!), Galileo, and Marie Curie to figure out what to do. They make very little headway, and so when the team on the ground calls for backup, Jax is eager to go, and go alone. He tells Stein that he can do it; after all, they’ll need to get used to being apart.
It’s a good thing Jax gets off the ship: He arrives just in time to stop LBJ’s convoy from heading into a trap, a road practically blanketed in land mines. Jax plays the hero without using a single superpower, freezing a mine so LBJ can make it back to his convoy safely and even guiding the president every step of the way. In exchange, LBJ gives Jax something even better than a medal: He grants him the recipe to Lady Bird Johnson’s infamous pecan pie.
The road isn’t as smooth for the rest of the team: First, there’s Nate, who at this point can’t get through to Mick at all. Instead, he gets knocked out by Dick for trying to lead the group to somewhere other than the camp where Amaya, Zari, and Ray are located. Speaking of which, the trio there have also failed their mission into the heart of darkness. All three have been captured by Grodd’s minions, and Amaya tries one last time to appeal to Grodd. She activates her totem and channels a gorilla to match Grodd’s ferocity, while assuring him that as time travelers, her team can take him to a time where he can live his life in peace without being surrounded by humans — because humans won’t exist yet.
He appears to begin considering just as Dick Rory’s breach on the campsite begins. Angry, Grodd thinks Amaya has betrayed him and winds up thinking that it would be far better if he, a several tons-weighing gorilla, took control of the Waverider, traveled back in time, and altered the course of evolution so humans would simply never happen. He roars off, but not before Mick’s forced to save Dick and keep him out of Grodd’s way.
Dick, relieved, calls in an airstrike to handle the giant gorilla, and then rounds up all of the people found at the campsite, including Nate and the other Legends. As much as the team tries to tell Dick that LBJ is in trouble, he doesn’t believe them — not until Mick tries to stop Dick and explains to him that killing an entire group of people won’t make a single thing better. After all this time, it turns out Mick understands his father pretty well: that because of the things he did and saw in war, he grew closed off, and became a figure for the young Mick to hate because of his difficult, cold childhood. His speech makes Dick rethink pulling the trigger on innocent lives, and Mick appears to be satisfied with repairing his family’s history. And then, just because he can’t resist, he punches Dick and knocks him out.
There are literally bigger problems to take care of, anyway. Grodd has spotted the ship, which by now only carries Stein inside, and he tries to use Sara against Stein, only to have the assassin knocked out by a pan-wielding Isaac Newton. (Poor Sara.) Dick’s airstrike arrives and begins laying waste to the land, and in that moment, Stein manages a maneuver — with a lot of Gideon’s help — that tosses Grodd off the ship and into the burning wild below.
With the anachronism gone, the team say their goodbyes. Zari learns that Ahn chooses to stay instead of being offered a new place and time to go — Zari just might overcrowd Themyscira before the end of the season — and Mick comes very close to having a heartfelt chat with his father. He begins to give Dick some advice about his future child, but then grits his teeth and lets his dad go. Some things are better left unsaid; by now, Dick’s already thanked Mick for pulling him away from the dark path he was about to go on. What more do you want from this heart-to-heart?
Back on board the Waverider, some of the Legends also make sweet gestures. Amaya thanks Ray for helping her to realize that maybe she doesn’t have to murder her own granddaughter, the water witch Kuasa, because maybe Kuasa’s just like Grodd, someone made into a monster, not born one. Ray smiles, but as Amaya walks away, he looks concerned with her conclusion. A short walk away, Stein tells Jax that he’s realized that whatever happens, Jax will be just fine as an individual, because Jax has the spirit of Firestorm in him, capable of doing good without going nuclear.
And as the group gathers for Lady Bird Johnson’s pie, Sara walks in, finally free of her coma — but not free of a new bump on her head thanks to Isaac Newton. It’s a party, and everything’s alright…almost. Turns out Grodd didn’t land in the fiery jungle; no, he got pulled out of Vietnam and into a random parking lot where Damien Darhk has been waiting for him, hoping to recruit him to his cause. It’s a cause that involves the ability to time travel using, as Darhk boasts, “a single thought.” Uh oh. If there’s one thing the Legends can’t do, it’s clear their minds. I mean, even Mick Rory’s always wondering about Aruba, isn’t he?