John Constantine joins the team just in time to save Woodstock.
Warning: The following contains full spoilers for the Season 4 premiere of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow.
Legends of Tomorrow has been the gold standard in the Arrowverse for the past two years now. Nothing in the Season 4 premiere suggests that will be changing this year. The series is just as zany and self-aware as ever. And with the addition of a major new team member and a new supernatural conflict that’s quickly shaping up to be superior to last year’s Mallus story, it’s doesn’t look as though Legends will fall victim to the Arrowverse Season 4 curse.
For the most part, Season 3 worked in spite of the Mallus storyline rather than because of it. That definitely hurt the show in the finale and cast doubt on the idea of another season geared towards supernatural beings mucking with the Arrowverse timeline. But even though we don’t get a clear sense of who or what the big antagonist of Season 4 is going to be, the premiere already does a better job of incorporating magical elements into the kooky framework of Legends. No totems. No poorly rendered CG demons. Instead, we get a hilarious conflict about a unicorn going on a killing spree at Woodstock.
As nice as it’s been to see shows like Arrow and The Flash really hit the ground running with their new villains this year, there’s something to be said for the opposite approach as well. It’s more important for the series to establish a clear tone right out of the gate. And with all the major roster changes lately (the death of Professor Stein, the departures of characters like Jax, Wally, and Amaya, the addition of John Constantine), the single most immediate goal this year needs to be solidifying the new team dynamic.
Things are going surprisingly well on that front considering how many major characters have been lost. I definitely miss having Wally and Jax around. But if anything, the slighter smaller cast seems to work in the show’s favor. There’s a tighter, more close-knit feel to this group. Even Tala Ashe’s Zari, who took a long time to really start gelling with the rest of the team in Season 3, feels more comfortable and at home this year.
Not to mention the appeal of having Matt Ryan’s John Constantine as a series regular this time around. This is easily Ryan’s strongest showing yet in the Arrowverse. He brings his own brand of fun to the series, thanks to his hilarious, dysfunctional relationship with Sara, his freewheeling sexuality, and his generally mischievous personality. Ever since Snart was killed off in Season 1, it’s always fallen on Mick to be the team’s resident bad boy. It’s nice having a different kind of jerk serving among the Legends.
The key difference between this season and previous Constantine guest roles in the Arrowverse is that the writers are able to dig deeper into his foibles and personality flaws. Now that he’s a major protagonist, Legends can really showcase the troubled man beneath the swagger and British slang and drug-fueled threesomes. There’s a newfound vulnerability to Constantine. He’s a person who actively, even violently rejects the notion of being a part of a team. And even by the end of this episode, it looks as though Constantine joining the Legends is more an act of self-preservation than a real desire to be among friends. In short, he brings a lot to the table. Legends Season 4 may well turn out to be the continuation of the Constantine series fans have been waiting for. If not necessarily in terms of plot, then at least in terms of furthering his journey.
The emphasis on Constantine’s personal woes and Sara’s romantic drama aside, this episode is definitely Legends at its most goofy and charming. Where else can you see a group of heroes get doused in “sparkle sauce” and have a collective psychedelic freakout? What other show would feature a time traveling bureaucrat getting his nipple bitten off by a ravenous unicorn? That’s to say nothing of a storyline where Janis Joplin, Jerry Garcia and Jimi Hendrix become integral to saving the timeline itself. Watching Legends is just a pleasurable experience. It’s such a silly show and so eager to flaunt it for the world to see.
The meta-humor this week was also appreciated. For one thing, with as much as the Arrowverse has done to aggravate Wally West fans, it’s nice to at least see the characters poke fun at Wally’s disappearing act. Then there’s the extremely self-aware emphasis on the Time Bureau’s “ratings” and the ways the Legends can bend over backwards to win more fans. You can’t help but be charmed by scenes like that.
If any subplot didn’t quite work this week, it was the awkward reunion between Nate and his father (Tom Wilson). That reconciliation was a little too stilted and hackneyed for even this series to pull off. For the most part, this subplot worked better in terms of highlighting the Mick/Nate dynamic than it did in adding anything meaningful to Nate’s family background. Hopefully the series can find something more interesting to do with Hank, because I do enjoy seeing Wilson on the show.