Legends of Tomorrow
Credit: Michael Courtney/The CW
Guest Starring John Noble

Every week, I’m impressed by what DC’s Legends of Tomorrow manages to pull off. On paper, its galaxy-brained approach to storytelling shouldn’t be as successful as it is. Beebo vs. a dragon demon? That shouldn’t work. A Bollywood dance number in Elizabethan England? That definitely shouldn’t work. The sincere parody of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood that tonight’s episode gave us? That idea seems like it should be doomed even before it's written down. But it all works because the writers ground these wacky flights of fantasy in character and something relatable. The gloriously deranged installment “Mr. Parker’s Cul-De-Sac” is yet another example.

We begin with the ever-adorable Ray, who, with Nate, Behrad, and Gary’s help, has put together a fancy dinner because he plans on proposing to Nora (the ring is hidden in the chocolate mousse). Unfortunately, his plans go sideways with the arrival of the episode’s encore: Nora’s father, Damien Darhk (Neal McDonough), who decides to pay his daughter a visit before he does what Astra sent him topside to do (read: cause mayhem and damn souls to hell). As always, McDonough is magnificent in this role, gleefully devouring scenery and showing off his impeccable comedic timing.

Needless to say, Nora wasn’t prepared for her father. Damien assumes Nora is a powerful, evil sorceress now, and that Constantine’s mansion is her evil lair. Not wanting to disappoint her father and cause someone’s death, Nora decides to go along with the lie and neglects to tell him she’s a fairy godmother. She banishes Ray and her charge Pippa to the Waverider; makes Sara and Ava, who show up at the home intent on killing Damien with Khan’s hell sword, pretend to be her henchmen henchwomen henchpeople; and tells Damien that she’s actually dating Constantine. Damien is particularly pleased by that last bit, since Constantine is a powerful sorcerer.

Yes, this is a silly and sitcom-y setup, but there’s a lot of heart underneath it. Even though Damien was a terrible father, there’s always been a part of Nora that wants to make him proud. That’s partly why, I assume, she was willing to be Mallus’ vessel when we first met her, and it’s definitely why she immediately tries to appease her father when he shows up, even though she’s very happy with the not-evil life she’s living.

Back on the Waverider, Ray distracts Pippa with a show from his childhood: The Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood-like Mister Parker’s Cul-De-Sac (FYI: A cul-de-sac is a street that ends in a circle). Pippa resists the show at first, but eventually she comes around and learns something from it. She summons Nora to the ship and asks why she’s hiding Ray from her father. “The longer you lie about who you really are, the harder it’s gonna be when the truth finally comes out,” Ray tells Nora, who ignores his advice because she doesn't believe her father could accept who she's become.

Back at the mansion, Sara and Ava have an argument because Ava learns that Sara didn’t tell her about a job offer she received from Wild Dog (“Mr. Dog”) while in Star City. Of course, Damien is eating it all up because he loves drama. Gary finishes whipping up a potion that will rob Damien of his powers, sprinkles it on the chocolate mousse, and brings the desert course out to the table. As they start eating, Ava discovers the ring Ray hid in her mousse. Damien assumes Constantine was planning to propose and is overjoyed. That feeling doesn't last because Nora rejects Constantine’s half-assed proposal down and comes clean to Damien about the fact that she’s a fairy godmother and is in love with Ray, which does in fact disappoint her dad. Unfortunately, that disappointment turns to anger when Damien’s chocolate mousse starts bubbling and he realizes they were trying to poison him. That’s when things take a turn.

Damien goes full evil sorcerer and uses his powers to throw all the Legends up against the wall because he thinks they’ve corrupted his daughter with goodness and made something she isn’t. An alert goes off on the Waverider, which brings Nate, Behrad, Charlie, and Pippa to the mansion. Witnessing the commotion, Pippa wishes everyone into Mister Parker’s Cul-De-Sac

And poof! Suddenly Brandon Routh is doing his best Fred Rogers impression in an incredibly sincere and absurd parody that includes: Gary as the Unspeakable Train Abomination; Sara and Ava as puppets (again! shout-out to the Puppets of Tomorrow!) in the Land of Make-Em-Ups; Behrad as a messenger carrying the Safe Space Sombrero; and Nate as the freakin' sun. It’s truly insane. I don’t even know how the writers came up with this, but I love it so much. Throughout these antics, Sara and Ava make up and Sara agrees to not take the job since Ava is enjoying her time on the Waverider. Similarly, Nora finally stands up to her father and insists that she wants to dedicate her life to helping children because it helps her cope with the trauma from her childhood. It’s a powerful character moment that grounds the craziness and serves as a great continuation of Nora’s arc that started in episode 3 when she realized this is what would make her happy. Her words finally get through to Damien, who assures her that he’s proud of him.

With that drama sorted, the Legends return to the real world, where Nora not only says yes to Ray’s proposal but insists they get married that night. Cue a sweet montage ending with Damien taking Ray aside and telling he needs to think about leaving the ship if he wants to really support Nora in her job. After that funny-sweet chat, Damien starts to head out because he knows Astra will be angry with him.

Before leaving, he has one final conversation with Sara, who obviously would love nothing more than to kill him in revenge for murdering Laurel. Sure, the writers set Damien on a path of redemption before he died in season 3 and have turned him into goofy villain, but they haven’t forgotten or forgiven the terrible things that he’s done. They walk a very fine line with him that acknowledges he’s trying to be better without letting him off the hook. It’s impressive. Even more impressive? Damien’s decision to stab himself with Khan’s sword and return to hell rather than continue his encore duties.

Nora isn’t the only one dealing with daddy issues in the episode. Elsewhere, Zari helps Mick track down an internet troll who is bashing Rebecca Silver. He discovers the troll is none other than Ali’s daughter Lita, who is actually his daughter too. At first Mick thinks Lita would be better off without him in his life because of everything he’s done, but Zari helps him see that can’t be true (is a lesson that Nora’s entire arc has demonstrated, too). Here’s to seeing Mick become a father!

Grade: A-

Wall of Weird:

  • MacGuffin update: Charlie agrees to help Constantine find the Loom of Fate and use it on Astra after he promises to destroy it once they're done.
  • "I don't need a pep talk." Damien, to Ray.
  • "It's after 5 and I can use a cold one." The real Mr. Palmer, as he cracks open a beer in an episode from a later season.
  • "I thought my family was messed up, but these guys are deranged," says Pippa as she watches Mister Parker's Cul-De-Sac and realizes what she wants most is to be with her family.
  • "Brexit!" yells Damien as he flings Constantine across the room.

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