Legends of Tomorrow boss unpacks finale's two 'bittersweet' exits, teases season 6's aliens
Warning: This article contains spoilers from the season 5 finale of DC's Legends of Tomorrow, "Swan Thong."
Sisqo and the Smell helped Legends of Tomorrow bid adieu to two characters Tuesday night.
In the CW superhero drama's cleverly titled season 5 finale, "Swan Thong," the Legends successfully destroyed the Loom of Fate — but that didn't fix everything because because Lachesis (Sarah Strange) followed that up with Gideon-powered watches that told humans what to do. Taking out the new system and freeing humanity, of course, involved a final battle against some Encores set to Sisqo's "Thong Song," which is the type of galaxy-brained set piece Legends loves to give us.
Unfortunately, the team also suffered a few losses shortly after their victory. First, Behrad (Shayan Sobhian) started dying because of Zari 1.0's (Tala Ashe) continued existence in the present. So, Zari 1.0 went back inside the Air Totem to save her brother's life, meaning Zari 2.0 will be sticking around for season 6. After that tearful farewell, the Legends attended a performance by the Smell, led by Charlie, who announced she was leaving the Waverider. Put another way: This was Maisie Richardson-Sellers' last episode of Legends of Tomorrow.
As if those departures weren't enough, Sara (Caity Lotz) was abducted by aliens as the Legends left the Smell's show — and none of the team noticed. Thus, the team will be down a captain when season 6 begins. (Pray for Ava!)
Below, EW chats with co-showrunner Phil Klemmer about the finale's many twists and what's to come in the alien-focused sixth season.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Each year you guys deliver these wild finales. How did writing this season's finale compare to previous ones?
PHIL KLEMMER: I don't know if it's got the most moving parts, but we had to say goodbye to two characters. We knew that Maisie was looking to leave the show, and we knew that we had to say goodbye to Zari 1.0. So it does become a real math equation, making sure all the stories get their due. Then there's also that panic moment where you're like, "Have we made it fun enough? Have we made it outlandish enough?" Because you never get more than 42 minutes. I think we had that 11th-hour panic, "Is it too gloomy? Is it too heart-wrenching? Oh man, Sisqo to the rescue!" Just having that Smell performance at the end. I think that's the trick of how you can make things both really emotional and really delightful at the same time and not have it feel completely discordant. I don't know, it makes me hope that next year we can make a finale just totally simple and small-scale, because they are really hard to do.
So just to confirm: Was this actually Maisie's last episode, or is she simply returning as a different character next year like Tala did?
Maisie's got a career she's pursuing now. We would love to have her back at any occasion, but at the same time we're just thrilled to see what she has planned for herself as a filmmaker. We've been talking to her for years now about what her sort of five-year plan was, and she has more direction and ambition as a twentysomething than certainly I do as a fortysomething. She's like a force to be reckoned with, and we just wanted to not stand in the way of all the things she wants to do. Man, we'd love to have her back for a little check-in, but also we're super-excited just to see where she goes with her career.
Did you know she was leaving the show when the season began?
We knew this would be Maisie's [final season] well over a year ago, which is great because it allows you to have everything be working toward that point of separation. Man, when she takes the mic at the punk club, it's really wonderful! It's nice when you can handle it as gracefully as we could, because it's super-bittersweet.
You've had several original songs on the show. How did you pick Mister Parker's Cul-De-Sac's theme song to be the one that got the punk rock treatment?
I'm totally blanking on whose idea it was, but it was clearly the right choice. James Eagan [wrote] the lyrics in the episode with Mister Parker. I guess it encapsulates our show. Like a punk song, it sounds brash and kind of cacophonous, but if you listen a little bit more closely the lyrics are just about [how] circles are like friendships that never end. [Laughs] That's Charlie basically screaming she's gonna remain a Legend forever, and I think [it's] pretty great upon closer inspection our show does have more heart than goof most times.
Talk to me about how you chose between Zari 1.0 and Zari 2.0.
It wasn't until we had seen Tala performing against herself in the totem that we realized how different the two characters were. It was just kind of theoretical, but once we saw her do it, we were like, "Oh man, we have to mine this a little bit more deeply." It is such a shame that technically that's such a difficult thing to pull off because if not for that, I'd have 'em both on the show. I'd keep 'em because I find them both so delightful. Obviously that's why we could hardly decide which one would go back in the totem at the end of this episode, because we love 'em equally.
Was the decision to put Zari 1.0 back in the totem only due to budgetary reasons? How did you pick which Zari to keep around?
It would probably kill Tala Ashe to do all of those makeup changes constantly and having the poor camera crew do little motion-control tricks and split-screens and all the rest of it — it's tremendously painstaking, so yeah. I guess the thing is, we really didn't get to explore much of the Behrad-Zari 2.0 brother-sister relationship. In the beginning, it was a little contentious and then Zari 2.0 kind of worked her way into the Legends' hearts, but then Behrad died. They haven't really existed in that bro-sis [place]; like, I want some bickering siblings on this show. That was the promise of bringing Behrad onto the show. We haven't given them a chance to just exist as co-equal adult siblings, and that's really fascinating to me — like how people bring their baggage from their childhood. Even when you're an adult, it's just like a weird thing you share with your sibling. They can take you back 20 years in an instant, and just the way it can be the most powerful bond and the most fractured one as well. I guess that's why we decided to keep 2.0, because she's the one who knew Behrad her entire life. I just want to get them to that neutral space and see how they deal with sharing a totem. You know, figure out what version of Wonder Twin powers are.
Why did you decide not to pair up Zari 2.0 and Nate romantically?
At first, we really thought we were going to explore this romance between Nate and Zari 2.0, but then we realized that's kind of screwed up. You don't fall in love with the physical embodiment of a person. Yeah, geez, he's certainly going to be attracted to Zari 2.0, but she's a completely different person based on her different experiences. That was a real epiphany to us. We had those moments where they would be intrigued by one another, but we're like, "That's not how love works." Having Zari 1.0 make her appearance and having that connection with Nate is proof: Yes, the other version of you was kind of like a mirage, and now that I've got the real you back there's no substitution.
Nate has no lost so many people: Amaya, Zari, his father, his grandfather, Ray. In season 6, how are things looking for him? Is he in store for a win of some sort?
[Laughs] Not that he's gonna give up on love, but with Sara being kidnapped by aliens at the end of the finale, you can imagine that Ava's gonna be in a rough spot starting next season and it seems like Nate is uniquely qualified to be there [for her] having experienced so much loss himself, and giving Ava the strength to believe that her separation from Sara won't be forever. I really like the idea that Nate can be kind of that platonic, I don't know, like a stand-in? Again, I always think about the Legends as a family, and Sara and Ava are clearly the parents. With one parent gone, I like the idea that Nate is a bit of a goofball and a bit of bro sometimes, but that he's really gained some real wisdom and he would be able to support what's missing.
When you were looking at season 6 and thinking, "We've done aberrations, anachronisms, encores, magical creatures. What should we do next?" what made aliens, and I hate this pun, the next frontier for you guys?
I think we like them because on the surface they were so stupid. You get to this fatigue at the end of a season where your mythology becomes very complicated and your bad guys' plans, you know, take a lot of explanation and they become a little heady when you start talking about free will and Fates, and you're just looking for a palette cleanser. To think about little green men with laser guns who just want to rule the world, you know, Marvin the Martian kinda shape, you're like, "Yes, that's what we need!" Not having to understand who our villains are on any kind of emotional scale means we can focus on the emotional stories of our characters, but then it's just a story of how do we kick these guys' asses.
I'm sure, guaranteed, that we'll find a way to humanize and find the emotional complexity of Marvin the Martian [laughs], and by the time we get to the finale, we'll have to spend like half our time realizing they weren't so bad, they were just misunderstood. At this moment, we want to keep it real simple so that we can find the complexity with our characters. We'll totally screw it up, I'm sure.
Did you consider having another musician take that Sisqo spot, or was he the first one you considered?
Sisqo was the first guy. I can't remember if we ever panicked and started to come up with a list of second choices. It was pretty much too late by the time we asked him to come do it. We were days away from production. Sisqo really saved our butts. If he had said no, it would've been such a bummer. Not only did he say yes, but he came like ready to do the work. He brought his dragon microphone. He brought his white leather outfit. He was looking, apparently, ageless. That was a nice perk, that Sisqo showed up looking exactly like he did in '90s music video. Man, dynamite. Ten out of 10.
Easiest guest star to book! No hair or makeup needed.
Yeah. And just like for the morale on set. You know, you're really hanging on a thread by the time you get to the finale of a superhero show. Once people start whispering that Sisqo is on set, all of a sudden everybody is super-giddy and super-starstruck, and all of sudden you're like, "This is gonna get us across the finish line. We accidentally are geniuses."
DC's Legends of Tomorrow will return midseason 2021 on the CW.