Tender is the Nate
Credit: Jack Rowand/The CW
Guest Starring John Noble

I promise I’m a good person, but I need to put this out there: I don’t like Mona.

I know, I know, I’m the worst. But is there a point to her being around? Did we need a Scott Pilgrim reject, with all her manic pixie, adorkable energy, to flit around the Time Bureau? This isn’t a knock against actress Ramona Young, who’s doing the most with the very little she’s being given, but Legends is trying too hard to shoehorn her into the ensemble at the moment without giving us a clear reason why.

Compare her entrance to Nora’s — not Nora Darhk, but Nora West-Allen — on The Flash. She was just as wide-eyed, just as in awe of our heroes, but the show was careful to use her, doling out the mystery little by little so we became invested in her and her motivations — meeting the parents — over time. Here, with Mona, I feel like I’m being hit with way too much for what amounts to very little. Oh, so she’s avoiding law school and wants to serve as the Bureau’s very own Hagrid? Fine, but what are her real motivations for any of this? I’m all for a happy-go-lucky ray-of-sunshine type character, but not when I’m wondering why she’s even there during every scene she’s in. For now, she might as well be named Plot Device.

I bring all of this up because this was the first episode this season where I felt like Legends was trying to juggle too much. Yes, this show’s entire mantra is “what if superheroes but too much,” but this hour tackled a minotaur in 1920s Paris, a group hang at the Time Bureau, an ex-Legend’s return to the ship, said ex-Legend’s daddy issues, and a budding romance between a Legend and a witch. It’s… a lot to take in.

Like Mona, I’m already late in getting to the actual recapping, so let’s start with the Time Bureau! Legends has decided to turn the corporate side of things into a workplace comedy, with Sara seducing Ava on her birthday just as Hank bursts Kramer-style into Ava’s office. Luckily, Sara dodges the boss and gets to overhear him mulling over the Legends’ insane expenses, while Mona, as the well-meaning wildcard newbie, quickly messes things up after Ava had explicitly warned her not to fraternize with their prisoners, most of all, not Nora Darhk.

And yet… Mona fraternizes anyway when Ray shows up hoping to drop off a love letter to Nora. The Bureau’s new creature caretaker slips the letter into Nora’s cell, but when Nora refuses to take it, she accidentally triggers the alarm, which draws Ava to the room and even more chaos — all of which ends up knocking out the system and trapping the trio inside for the night.

Mona, though, sees their predicament as “an incubator for friendship.” (She’s like if that one girl who wanted to bake a cake filled with rainbows and smiles in Mean Girls got ten times more screentime.) And so, she wheels in the birthday cake Sara had left behind for Ava and breaks out a bottle of rosé and initiates a hangout that… actually works, as both Ava and Nora loosen up and tell their life stories. The pair commiserate about their lives of misery, but Mona insists they stop feeling so bad for themselves — after all, Ava’s the director of the Time Bureau, and Nora’s a witch — and surprisingly, they do. Ava even playfully pushes Nora to read Ray’s letter, only for all three of them to find Ray in his Atom suit stuck to the adhesive on the envelope.

When he returns to regular size, he explains himself and admits he came to check on Nora. (Aww.) As he leaves, he repairs the system, and the three women end the night friendlier than before, with Ava even granting Mona permission to decorate and improve some of the creatures’ spaces.

It’s all super-cute, but there are higher stakes elsewhere. Like in 1927 Paris, where the Legends have headed with Hank and Nate in tow because Nate proposed a ride-along to show his father just how efficiently the Legends run and to justify their hefty expenses. Hank, of course, takes more convincing than a quick tour around the ship — during which Nate ends up spotting Charlie and getting punched in the face for thinking she was Amaya and embracing her out of nowhere.

To impress (and dupe) the boss, Sara has Charlie pretend to Amaya and has Gideon set a course to their next monster in need of stopping. Hank gets distracted by Ernest Hemingway, who has parked himself in the cafe they wandered into to try and gather information on their monstrous suspect. Hemingway is Hank’s hero — an example of “male vitality” according to Hank, which, gross — so Hank invites the author along for their monster hunt.

As it turns out, young Ernest Hemingway is toxic masculinity personified, as he dismisses Sara’s every order and doubts her abilities. (“Have you ever held a gun before?” he asks her. Punch him, Sara!) Above ground, Nate — who’s following a lead left by Salvador Dali from the same cafe — runs into Charlie, and they wind up on a double date with the Fitzgeralds (so many historically significant cameos! What is this, Midnight in Paris?) to ask them more about what they’re facing. They learn that it’s a minotaur wandering the catacombs just as Sara and the men below fail to take the minotaur out. Hank gets a nasty cut to his shoulder, and the entire team retreats to the Waverider, Hemingway protesting the whole time.

Next: Rock-a-bye, Minotaur

While Hank heals in the medical bay, Constantine figures out a way to handle the minotaur: He’s brewed a smell that will attract the beast, and all they’ll have to do is figure out a way to tame it. Fortunately for the crew (plus Gideon), Nate has studied mythical Greek creatures and figures out that the key to capturing it is to play it some music, so he grabs a lute (not “loot” — sorry, Mick) and gets ready to go, when — ugh, Hank gets in his way.

The senior Heywood simply can’t fathom why his son would want to do anything as soft as play an instrument in the face of a monster. Doesn’t he want to be like Hemingway and try shooting it with a nice long rifle? This time, though, Nate’s not about to back down; he tells his father he’s not going to try to be like him — “I’m a grown-ass superhero,” he says — and Sara chimes in to say she agrees with his plan, even if it sounds crazy.

Back at the cafe, Hemingway’s boasting about encountering the minotaur like a 1920s, non-magical Gilderoy Lockhart. Constantine works his scent, and soon the minotaur’s charging at the Legends when Nate whips out the lute and plays it a tune. Just as it’s about to fall asleep, Hemingway once again tries to take all the glory: He draws his gun and fires, causing the minotaur to wake up and destroy everything he sees. But before he can, Hank finally shows off his hidden talent — he grabs a guitar from the cafe’s stage and plays the minotaur a James Taylor tune. (“I learned it from you, Nathaniel,” he tells his son.) The minotaur collapses from exhaustion — and I do the same, from having to watch this rehash of Nate’s daddy issues plot.

Too harsh? Look, Nate’s a great character, but I think I’m done with the Nate/Hank business. If Hank’s a full-blown villain — as teased at the end of last week’s episode — then let’s just move in that direction, Legends. As much as I appreciate how much we’ve delved into Nate’s backstory this year, seeing him continually tortured by Hank is just painful for all involved, especially when the plot’s a retread of elements we’ve seen before. Aside from his issues with Nate, Hank has doubted the Legends’ efficiency and gotten over it once; why did we have to do this again? Didn’t he just add a whopping sum to the Bureau’s budget a few episodes ago?

Also, I like the idea of the Legends being threatened by the bureaucracy, but is the budget issue really the only way in? Isn’t the fact that their mission to capture monsters morally compromised — think of Charlie’s argument during her intro episode — a much more interesting question to ponder?

But anyway, at least the episode ended on a high note. I loved Nate’s idea of a pizza party — it tracks with everything we know of him as a Legend — and I felt giddy watching him reunite with Ray. Nate ended his time with the Legends sweetly: He had a touching conversation with Sara, and a nice moment with Charlie, during which he told her she’ll find a place on the team. See? This show can make super-cute without making it super-pointless.

Gideon’s findings:

  • That running gag with Gideon adding herself to the crew count? LOVED it.
  • Ray had some killer lines tonight, the best of which was the highly meta “Sounds like classic Legends hijinks to me!”
  • The idea that Hank Heywood, Ernest Hemingway fan, would not have known that Ernest Hemingway frequented Paris cafes is a bit of a stretch. I guess he skipped A Moveable Feast… His loss, I guess.
  • Am I still laughing about the lute/loot joke? Puns will always get me, so yes.
  • Next week: A killer doll! I’m terrified already.

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