In season 4’s penultimate episode, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow explores what happens when outcasts lose perspective.
All season long, we’ve seen the titular band of time-traveling screw-ups mistreat and dismiss Gary Green (Adam Tsekhman), which led to the Time Bureau agent making a deal with the demon Neron. Even though Mona/Wolfie (Ramona Young) managed to stop Gary from taking control of the Time Bureau with his hell-blessed, hypnotizing nipple, he still remains rather antagonistic toward the Legends in tonight’s episode, titled “Terms of Service.”
“In our penultimate episode, when Gary becomes our adversary on the show, it’s all because the Legends didn’t recognize a kindred spirit,” says showrunner Phil Klemmer. “Everybody has kept him at arm’s length. The Legends took on Mona as the newest member of the gang, and people use him and he’s often the butt of the joke. The Waverider up until this point has taken anybody who didn’t belong anywhere else. I don’t think they really offered that to Gary and now that’s come home to roost in the penultimate episode.”
The Legends’ treatment of Gary raises the question of whether or not they’ve changed. When the show started, the Legends were basically the reject superheroes (That’s partially why Rip Hunter recruited all of them in season 1), and they eventually started taking pride in the fact that they “screwed things up for the better.” However, in the past few seasons, they’ve grown and saved the day many times. In fact, now they’re even formally part of the Time Bureau.
In light of all of that, “Terms of Service” asks “What if the Legends aren’t as cool as they think they are?” says Klemmer. “The way that any kind of group of people who are just the underdogs, what happens if they get too big for their britches? We’ve had all of these successes and they’re no longer the rejects they were in the beginning.”
What’s interesting about taking the story in this direction, though, is that it almost mirrors the show’s actual journey. Season 1 didn’t receive the best reviews, but things started to turn in season 2 as the series embraced its whackier side and tried crazier things, like teaming up with J.R.R Tolkien to find the Holy Grail. That whimsical impulse blossomed in seasons 3 (“Return of the Mack”! Beebo!) and 4 (Puppets of Tomorrow! a Bollywood musical number!). As that happened, critical reception also changed, to the point that many publications, including this one, named it one of TV’s best shows, as evidenced by the many blurbs in the midseason sizzle reel.
Aske if this episode’s story was inspired by how the tide changed for Legends in the past couple of years, Klemmer says, “I think that like subconsciously there is something going on. There definitely is, whatever, art imitating life. I think the Legends as a group of actors and the Legends as a writers room and the Legends as characters all have a resonance. There is a sort of camaraderie and pride that’s predicated on the punk rock ethos of not being accepted by the mainstream and having that sort of ambivalence of wanting to be accepted but then defiantly wanting to reject it.”
He continues: “For us, it was totally surprising when everybody decided they loved Beebo. When we make those kinds of decisions, there is, in the back of our minds, this notion of, ‘People are going to hate this stuff.’ You start building the armor and being like, ‘If they don’t like, they don’t get it. They’re not sophisticated enough!’ But then when people do like it, it’s so surprising because, again, we, like the Legends, never expect people to accept us. So when it happens, you maybe get a little imposter syndrome and maybe you just want to keep yourself honest. The deepest fear is that you’d become complacent and rely on the same tricks. It would be so much better for me and the writers to be rejected for being idiosyncratic or whatever true to ourselves is, but if we got rejected for doing something that was expected of us or going to the same well too often, that’s the real fear. That’s a long way of saying I think you’re onto something by suggesting that’s where our impulse comes from.”
Of course, there’s more to Monday night’s episode than just a meta-textual story. Here’s the official logline of the hour: “With things getting out of control, Sara (Caity Lotz) and Ava (Jes Macallan) concoct a bold plan to take back the Time Bureau. But when things go awry, Zari (Tala Ashe) and Charlie (Maisie Richardson-Sellers) must work together to discover what Neron is planning. Elsewhere, Constantine (Matt Ryan), is given a tough choice on who to save from Hell.”
DC’s Legends of Tomorrow airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on The CW.
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