Legends of Tomorrow recap: 'Phone Home'
Stranger Things doesn’t have a monopoly on ’80s nostalgia, and Legends can absolutely tap into the same Amblin well the Duffers do, but…well, as fun and as homage-fueled as this E.T. riff was, it didn’t quite take flight. With one too many plot twists and an arc that doesn’t deliver as emotional a gut punch as it could have, “Phone Home” had all the humor, but not enough heart.
Still, it did give the story of boy-meets-wayward-alien a poignantly Legends-y spin. This week’s adventure took the team to Ivy Town in 1988, where a younger Ray got in trouble with some suits, died, and wound up erasing his future self aboard the Waverider. As soon as the team finds out — in the middle of Ray attempting a trust fall with Mick to help the crew bond and welcome Zari — they head to a day before the events that would take little Ray’s life in order to save him from whatever threat is on his tail.
Turns out there’s no threat chasing little Ray; instead, the boy has taken the creature he encountered at the end of the last episode home with him. It’s a baby Dominator — as in, the aliens that nearly destroyed the world in the first Arrowverse crossover — and little Ray’s nicknamed him “Gumball.” They’ve bonded quickly; little Ray feeds him candy just like Elliot did in E.T., watches classic films (in this case, it’s Singin’ in the Rain because Ray loves musicals) with him just like Elliot did in E.T., and keeps him hidden from his mother just like Elliot did in E.T. Have I mentioned this episode riffs off of E.T.?
I’ll admit: It’s all very, very cute. And so naturally, a Legend screws it all up — except in this case, it’s a future Legend. Little Ray gets in the way of the Legends’ plan to kidnap Gumball when he plays hooky and nearly catches Zari and present-day Ray in the act. Zari is forced to hide under the bed while Ray shrinks inside his Atom suit to become Gumball’s newest favorite toy — and things only get worse when Ray’s mom comes home to admonish little Ray for skipping his favorite home away from home.
Amaya and Nate, dressed as animal control officers, step in to help with the situation. When Nate notices how great Ray’s mom looks (oh, come on, Nate), he can’t help but start peacock-ing when they reach the front door, while Amaya assesses the situation. Their lie about a creature in the area they’re there to check on unfortunately leads Ray’s mother to talk about how reckless little Ray is, saying things about how he fails to make normal friends and would rather spend time with his “weird” inventions — all of which both versions of Ray hears.
The criticisms discourage poor little Ray, who decides it’s time for him to take Gumball and run away. (Next: A Dominator queen gives Nate the royal treatment)
Luckily, Zari’s hot on little Ray’s heels, and though little Ray disappears for a moment, Zari finds the boy and his alien in an outpost named Camelot, honoring little Ray’s fantasies about the knights of the roundtable. With actual Ray still in Atom form, Zari listens to his advice and plays along with little Ray to convince him to release Gumball.
Trouble is, she’s not the only one who’s followed little Ray to his hideout. The suits from the cold open who run a research facility on Dominators have tracked little Ray and Gumball to the same spot, and easily take all of them to their lab. They sedate Gumball and suppress his psychic, mind-altering abilities, while actual Ray sizes back up and busts Zari out of her holding cell. They save little Ray just in time, and though Ray tries to talk his younger self out of being stubborn about saving Gumball, Zari sees how distraught the boy is and agrees to help him save his alien friend.
The three of them return to the lab, only to be cornered by the suits. Eventually, Gumball gathers his powers and uses mind control to subdue the agents, making them perform “Good Morning” from Singin’ in the Rain. They race outside, find some bikes, and make their way to meet Sara and Gumball’s mother.
Oh right, Gumball’s mom. While all of this has been happening, the Dominator queen has been roaming the town searching for her baby. And she’s created some chaos, having knocked out Sara, wrapped her in goo, and searched through her memories. Sara’s memories lead her to Ray’s childhood home, where she cocoons Ray’s poor mother in a tree and seduces Nate when he returns to check on her. Amaya arrives just in time before any R-rated cross-species occurrences begin happening, but the queen does kiss Nate, horrifying the guy and (helpfully) pruning his ego a little bit.
The queen chases Nate and Amaya as they race to meet Sara as well, and all parties arrive at just the right time — thanks to Zari helping the bikes fly, right past the moon and over the treetops — to make the exchange. Little Ray says a tearful goodbye to his new best friend, accepting that he has actual humans around him who’ll take care of him in the end. The Dominator queen scoops up her kin, and the pair disappear peacefully.
And speaking of babies and racing against time, Stein also gets to meet his grandson. He’d been working at ensuring he’ll be there for Lily when she gives birth, but because he’d been afraid that his teammates would think he wasn’t fully committed to their mission, he’d kept all of his work — namely, creating a communicator that would work across time and space so he could check in with Lily — quiet. Jax and Mick grew suspicious enough to confront him in the jump ship, but Stein convinces them he’s not working for the Time Bureau, only using the jump ship so he could visit Lily to deliver the communicator and return without disturbing anyone on the team.
With that cleared up, Jax and Mick help take Stein to Central City in 2017, borrowing the Waverider and bringing it back in time to help little Ray have the best Halloween ever. Back at home without Gumball, little Ray had been feeling quite dejected until Zari comforts him, and the rest of the team dress up in their superhero costumes to give the boy support when his bullies find him in the middle of trick-or-treating. Mick even threatens them and gets their candy and allowance — most of which, judging by the candy wrappers, wind up on the Waverider.
After all that action, Ray decides to have a movie night with Zari, who admits she, too, loves musicals. But before they can soak in Singin’ in the Rain, Jax arrives to ask Ray for some help: Having seen how comfortable Stein was with his daughter and grandson Ronnie (aww), Jax has realized that Stein, deep down, no longer wants to be a part of their bonkers mission. And so, they need to split up Firestorm. Well, looks like Victor Garber’s exit is coming soon — and that prospect, in the end, is spookiest of all.
Led by White Canary, a band of superhero misfits defend the time stream with an assortment of wacky threats in the fourth Arrowverse series.