‘DC’s Legends of Tomorrow’ Season 3 Episodes 4-7: Aliens, Vampires and Gorillas- Oh My!

The last few episodes of “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow” have been a bit of a whirlwind of quality, ranging from a whole lot of fun (“Phone Home,” “Helen Hunt”) to tonally off but interesting, story-wise (“Return of the Mack,” “Welcome to the Jungle”). I’ll say this, though- there’s rarely a dull moment in this DC-verse.

And while the near-constant pop culture references can range from groan-inducing (i.e. the “E.T.” stuff in “Phone Home”) to clever (Sara saying both “There is no Sara. There is only Grodd” and “Kneel before Grodd,” referencing “Ghostbusters” and “Superman II” in one fell swoop in “Jungle”), at least it’s one of the rare superhero-type shows that doesn’t take itself too seriously, which is much-needed amidst all the ones that do, which dwarf the more light-hearted ones in comparison.

Don’t get me wrong- there’s a place for dramatic takes in the superhero world, but I think we all needed a bit of a break after the onslaught of self-serious takes within the genre, and for that, something like “LOT” is the perfect antidote. It’s silly at times, to be sure, but it is often a lot of fun nonetheless. At the same time, this being the third season and all, maybe lay off the more obvious references at this point?

It’s one thing to show Nate (Nick Zano) washing a “Back to the Future”-style DeLorean, apropos of nothing- where did he even get one on the fly? – but it’s another to quote “I’ll be back” from “The Terminator” for the billionth time, you know what I mean? I’m not saying I don’t enjoy a good pop culture reference, especially if used in a sly way, as in the aforementioned examples, but get some new ones, for Grodd’s sake. Get some deep cuts in there, stat. (Enjoyed the “Nosferatu” reference in “Mack,” for instance.)

On the other hand, I suppose part of the joy of referencing stuff is knowing that people will get it, and for that, it makes more sense to have someone say “Get away from him, you bitch!” a la “Aliens” than, say, reference, I don’t know, “Silent Running” or “Logan’s Run” or whatever. But maybe give a good mix of both, for the die-hards and the neophytes alike.

Then again, what was “Stranger Things” if not a full-on regurgitation of all things 80’s? And most people- myself included- loved that, so… oh, whatever. I guess just keep doing what you do, “LOT”- just try and mix it up a little, from time to time, you know? On the other hand, I did quite enjoy the Hedy Lamar business in “Helen Hunt,” and that stuff predates my birth, so there you go. (By coincidence, I had just read some things about her recently, and she is fascinating!)

Also fun, from the same episode, was when Zari (Tala Ashe) opted to drop Helen of Troy (Bar Paly, “NCIS: LA”) off in Themyscira, aka the place where Wonder Woman hails from, which might have been a deeper cut, had the movie not been such a mega-hit. I actually prefer this sort of “around the way” referencing overall, given that you have to work for it a little more, rather than having a character practically wink at the camera and say: “You get it? See what we did there?” Maybe it’s just me.

Moving on… overall, I did enjoy most of these episodes. “Phone Home” was very much “Stranger Things”-lite, and despite being a bit on the nose at time with all the “E.T.” stuff, it was still an enjoyable (bike) ride through the 80’s. I mean, what fan of this show- or of the 80’s- didn’t get a bit giddy, say, seeing Sara (Caity Lotz) dressed up Madonna-style? Is there any look that woman can’t pull off? (Answer: no.)

Speaking of “Stranger Things,” you just know that, a la that show, “Gumball” is going to crop up on a later episode and help save the gang’s Reese’s Pieces, in exchange for the solid they did him on this ep, just as that little critter did for Dustin on that show after he helped raise him in a similar fashion.

I don’t mind that sort of world-building at all, and I’ll even let the “ST” similarities slide, if only because this show probably was already written before that one came out, so it was probably a coincidence, anyway. Also, it’s not as if both “ST” and “LOT” aren’t both borrowing heavily from the same source material, you know? (Hello there, “Gremlins”!)

I guess the main difference is, does the “new” take on this time-tested material build on the old ones, and, in this case, it was amusing enough to say yes. I got a kick out of Rory (Dominic Purcell) in this episode in particular, as he delighted in the fact that Ray (Brandon Routh) was a little criminal-in-the-making, stealing from a newspaper stand and lying to his “hot” mom (Susie Abromeit, “Jessica Jones”).

Later on, on Halloween night, Rory held up some local bullies as a sort of revenge for young Ray (Jack Fisher, “The Last Ship”): “Hand over the candy. And your allowance.” We also discovered his favorite musical (!) was “Fiddler on the Roof.” Gotta love Mick. His character was sort of meh and a bit on the ridiculous side on “Arrow,” but Purcell really grew into it and flourished on “LOT” for sure. Now he’s one of the best characters on it, and the most reliably funny. Who’d have thought it?

Nate was pretty funny as well, especially in his interactions with Mrs. Palmer, who he later sort of made out with, though he eventually realized it was actually a Dominator in disguise. “I kissed a Dominator- and I liked it!” he lamented later on, adding that he was going to need to go brush his teeth “forever.” Lol. That’s what he gets, I guess, for macking on Ray’s mom.

Speaking of wrong-headed macking, “Return of the Mack” was a bit wonkier, despite a promising premise, that had Rory getting to live out his vampire hunter fantasies. (Fun fact: Purcell played Dracula in “Blade: Trinity.”) Alas, there were no actual vampires involved, though we did get the return of none other than Damien Darhk (Neal McDonough), who was resurrected by a group of Mallus followers, led by a medium, who turned out to be none other than Eleanor, Darhk’s daughter.

Eleanor was played by Courtney Ford (“Supernatural,” “True Blood”), who just so happens to be star Routh’s real-life wife. It must have been fun for her to play someone who gets to smack around her husband and plenty of others, not to mention get her Eva Green on, in her best “possessed by a demon” shtick. Playing possessed seems like it would be a blast, if a bit on the exhausting side.

Speaking of ass-kicking, I always love to see Sara get her action on, and it’s always delightful to see what crazy outfit they can put her in on this show, and this was no exception, as the episode had her donning both old-school police uniforms and Victorian era dresses, the latter of which she did indeed have to do a bit of booty kicking in.

For an episode with so much going on- occult societies, Victor Garber pulling double-duty as both Professor Stein and his ancestor, the return of Darhk, and the reacceptance of the Legends into the Bureau and the arrest and suspension of the also-returning Rip- this one was a bit of a slog, and nowhere near as fun as one might have thought, given the initial premise. Also, continuing not to like the weird choice of the show to turn Rip (Arthur Darvill) into a bit of a dick.

Things brightened up considerably with “Helen Hunt,” which saw the gang going back to 1937-era Hollywood to fetch the legendary Helen of Troy, and return her to her rightful place- or not, as the case turned out to be. The gang also re-encountered Darhk and his daughter, along with Kuasa (Tracy Ifeachor), who Amaya (Maisie Richardson-Sellers) discovered was her own granddaughter, along with being a “psycho water witch,” as per Nate’s assessment.

However, the most fun element of the episode for me, in an episode filled with engaging, entertaining moments, was the whole “Freaky Friday” gambit, which saw Dr. Stein and Jackson (Franz Drameh) switching bodies, as it were, and each doing amusing imitations of one another, with Drameh edging out Garber by a hair by going for it more, though one can’t blame Garber for erring on the side of inoffensive.

Still, both were a lot of fun in this episode, and together helped make it one of the best of the bunch, if not the best episode this season thus far in general. Between Stein’s “hall pass” crush being Lamar, which makes perfect sense, to Jackson’s hilarious mannerisms and frustrations with being the “old guy,” this episode was pure win.

We also got a decent enough battle between the forces of Darhk-ness and our team, though I suspect the show held back just a tad, what with the upcoming two-night special event on the horizon next week, “Crisis on Earth-X.” Still, I never say no to a good, old-fashioned sword fight, as we got between Darhk and Sara, so I wasn’t complaining. It was also fitting, I might add, given the era the episode took place in.

Finally, we had “Welcome to the Jungle,” which marked the return of fan favorite, Gorilla Grodd (David Sobolov), this time in the jungles of ‘Nam, back in 1969, aka during the Vietnam War. While I enjoyed the reunion between Rory and his father, the aptly-named Dick (Evan Jones, “Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 2”), with whom he shared more than a few similarities, the episode was a bit marred by the muddled storyline- it didn’t even quite register that the anomaly in question they were chasing was Isaac Newton (Lawrence Green), who just seemed to show up out of nowhere.

Making matters worse were a couple of iffy performances from guest stars Dianne Doan (“Vikings”), who wasn’t so much bad as overtly earnest for such a goofy show, making her a bit of an anachronism in and of herself; and Peter Hall, as President Lyndon B. Johnson, who was single-handedly defeated by some of the worst make-up I’ve seen in a network show in many a moon. It was so bad, I could barely concentrate on anything else, quite frankly.

I mean, don’t get me wrong: I respect the sentiment of war being bad, but it’s hard to take that seriously when there’s a giant telepathic gorilla running around, you know what I mean? Points for good intentions, in terms of moral underpinnings, but yeah, this episode was mostly a minefield of wrongheaded ideas colliding with a few moderately engaging ones, namely the Rory daddy issues thing and a Grodd-controlled Sara, who was still recovering from a near-defeat at the literal hands of Eleanor Darhk.

We did get the intriguing bit of info at the end of the episode that Darhk had time-traveling tech that rendered something like the Waverider largely useless, with apologies to Gideon. Darhk offered it up to Grodd, after he was jettisoned off the Waverider by Dr. Stein, and nearly Napalmed to death. It will be interesting to see what Grodd does with said tech, not to mention what Darhk himself gets up to with it.

Overall, this was a decent enough run of episodes, with enough to recommend them, despite their varying faults. Much like the show itself, they could be hit or miss, but I enjoyed them for the most part, especially “Phone” and “Helen,” though even “Mack” and “Jungle” had their moments. I am definitely looking forward to the big four-episode event series next week, which I will try and do a bonus article on if I can.

In the meantime, there was enough groundwork laid in these episodes alone to have plenty to work with moving forward, from the return of Darkh and the reveal of his new team, including daughter Eleanor; to Amaya’s splintered relationship with her granddaughter and Zari getting used to the Legends’ crazy ways; as well as the presumed return of Gumball at some point. With all that going on, “LOT” has more than enough on its plate to contend with in an engaging way.

Speaking of things on your plate, have a great Thanksgiving, and I’ll see you next time!