HALLOWEEN OF HORROR REVIEW: LEGENDS OF TOMORROW – PHONE HOME

Legends of Tomorrow (2016)

 

Starring

Victor Garber (Alias)
Brandon Routh (Chuck)
Caity Lotz (The Pact)
Franz Drameh (Edge of Tomorrow)
Maisie Richardson-Sellers (The Originals)
Amy Louise Pemberton (Storage 24)
Tala Ashe (American Odyssey)
Nick Zano (Mom)
Dominic Purcell (Straw Dogs)

Brandon Routh and Jack Fisher in Legends of Tomorrow (2016)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Jack Fisher (The Last Ship)
Susie Abromeit (Sex Drive)
Christina Brucato (The Intern)

Tala Ashe and Jack Fisher in Legends of Tomorrow (2016)Sometimes I wonder if Legends of Tomorrow will ever become too cute and lighthearted for its own good. The trailer for “Phone Home” made it seem as though this episode might go over the top, with its depiction of the team joining forces with young Ray Palmer for a saccharine-sweet spoof of E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial. But as always, the series manages to temper its goofy, earnest sense of humor with a touch of serious drama and a strong, if very dysfunctional team dynamic. “Phone Home” captures Legends at its most charming and lovable. This episode makes no bones about the fact that it’s lampooning E.T. Sure, there are plenty of other amusing references and callbacks to other films (including a great Aliens reference courtesy of Amaya), but this isn’t a Stranger Things-style mashup of all things ’80s. That said, the E.T. formula lent itself very well to this episode. The whole point was to explore the root of Ray’s inflappably cheerful and optimistic personality. Who else would befriend a hungry alien he met in a sewer pipe?This isn’t the first time an episode has revolved around the team meeting a younger version of one of their own, but it’s a trope that paid off just as well this week as it did way back in “Pilot Part 2” when Stein met his younger self and set a whole chain of events in motion. This time, it was Ray meeting himself circa 1988 (played by Jack Fisher) and realizing that maybe his childhood wasn’t as wonderful and idyllic as he remembers. That dynamic made for a great examination of the character. It quickly became clear that Ray’s cheerful positivity is less an innate quality than something he honed over years of trying to cope with a world where he never quite fit in. Fisher’s charmingly precocious take on young Ray contrasted nicely with Brandon Routh’s take on the character.Tala Ashe in Legends of Tomorrow (2016)For the most part, this episode did little to tie into the larger conflicts building this season. It did, however, build on the events of last year’s Invasion crossover by framing the conflict around a lost baby Dominator and the search for his “Mom-inator.” It’s fun to see these aliens cast in a different, less villainous light, one that fueled a predictable but charming story about a boy finding a friend at long last and adults learning not to judge others based on appearances. Definitely a low-stakes conflict, but a very entertaining one. And the Back to the Future-style struggle to prevent adult Ray from being erased from the timeline did add at least some tension to the mix.Jack Fisher in Legends of Tomorrow (2016)Mostly, though, this episode was about capturing that Spielberg-ian adventure quality and celebrating the power of movies in general. I found myself openly grinning at multiple points watching this episode. How can you not be won over by the shot of a baby Dominator nodding along to Singin’ in the Rain and kicking its feet, or Mick admitting he’s a big fan of Fiddler on the Roof or Zari using her powers to recreate the iconic climax of E.T.? But even those moments paled to the scene where the Dominator defeated the evil government stooges by forcing them to break out into song and dance. I really don’t think it’s a coincidence that two of the greatest, most spontaneous moments of brilliance on this show involve characters unexpectedly launching into song. I’m still holding out hope for a dedicated musical episode at some point.Zari’s arc is the only piece of the puzzle that left me feeling a bit underwhelmed this week. Other than exploring Ray’s background, the main goal with this episode seemed to be to strengthening the new team dynamic and making Zari feel more like a legitimate member of the group. It’s a nice sentiment, especially with Zari’s talk about people eventually finding their families, but it didn’t quite feel earned. It doesn’t seem like we know Zari well enough for her to be making that leap yet. Nor doe sit feel like the writers have quite figured out what role they want her to fill. Sometimes she’s played as the team’s wide-eyed newbie, and others more like the jaded, futuristic cynic. Either way, Tala Ashe doesn’t quite have the energy level necessary to stand alongside her co-stars Did it strike anyone else as a little weird that Zari has never heard of the Dominators before? Doing the math, the events of “Invasion!” happened 24 years before she was plucked from the future. Even if you assume that the authoritarian government in her time suppresses most media, you’d think humanity would remember its first alien invasion. Heck, it’s very possible Zari herself was alive when the invasion happened. On a sadder note, this episode began the process of writing Professor Stein out of the picture as Victor Garber gears up for a new Broadway role. It’ll be a shame to see him go, but if it has to be done, at least his exit is being handled gracefully. You can’t really fault Stein for wanting to be there for young Ronnie (a welcome nod to the late Ronnie Raymond) when he completely missed Lily’s entire childhood. And it gave us a wonderful little moment involving Stein, Jax and Mick at the hospital.Zari,_young_Ray,_and_Atom_fly_away (1)Phone Home captures so much of what makes Legends of Tomorrow the most entertaining branch of the Arrowverse. This episode delivers a lighthearted, entertaining and sweetly innocent look at a young Ray Palmer and his bond with a most unlikely new friend. The show really wears its influences on its sleeve here, but in a way that pays loving tribute to some truly classic films. With a few more episodes like this, Season 3 may soon come to rival Season 2 in overall quality.