Legends of Tomorrow: 216 “Doomworld” Review
Reviewed by Louis Rabinowitz.
Ever had that feeling that reality just wasn’t right? Have things just refused to make sense? After a tumultuous year in politics that’s put the entire world on edge with upheaval after upheaval, it’s quite natural to feel like that. But what if there was an explanation for all the darkness and insanity? What if, to name one potential explanation, reality had been rewritten by a legion of super-villains using a weapon called the Spear of Destiny?
After last week’s cliffhanger as the Legion gained hold of the Spear, Doomworld is the inevitable alternate reality episode – Flashpoint if it was deliberately written by homicidal maniacs. And in some respects, it’s not the worst world to live in. Sure, every nameable hero or vigilante is dead, and sure, Donald Trump still seems to be President and plays golf with the Reverse-Flash at weekends, but the laundry list of enormous global problems solved in this new reality make Doomworld a surprisingly reasonable reality to live in, if you’re not a Legend of Tomorrow. The episode title Doomworld does not evoke images of happiness or joy, so it’s surprising to note just how clean-cut the reality is, and just how fun it is to see this dystopia play out on screen. Doomworld dabbles in bleakness, especially in an effectively jolting final act, but for the most part it maintains the light-heartedness that’s dominated this season of Legends, making for a thoroughly enjoyable instalment that’s only held back by a handful of frustrating missed opportunities.
As the title, and the return of the red-tinged opening title suggests, Doomworld is a spotlight episode for the entire Legion of Doom. And as ever, it’s just a lot of fun to see this motley collection of over-the-top villains packed into one room and forced to share an agenda. Like the excellent Legion point-of-view episode several weeks ago, Doomworld succeeds by delving further into the backstabbing and resentment that’s an inevitable consequence of the monolithic egos of its team members. By doing so, it exposes the chief weakness of this team of villains in a thoughtful parallel with the Legends, a team that’s slowly worked out a place for each and every member that allows them to exert their own strengths; the Legion isn’t really a team at all. Each Legion member was either a Big Bad of an entire season or a recurring villain in Snart’s case, and Doomworld makes it abundantly clear that this means that each and every one is used to driving their own agendas and getting their own way, unconstrained by others.
The power struggles between each member, motivated by drastically different desires, are extremely enjoyable to watch – their conflict is like a twisted reflection of the disputes that the Legends regularly experience, only dialled up to eleven, and without the healthy emotional resolution at the end, because these people can only express themselves by plotting to, or actively attempting to, kill the other. One idea that’s continued through from that earlier Legion episode is the fundamental hierarchy in a team that’s defined by brute-force power, wherein Thawne, easily the most powerful of the lot, has risen to the top, claiming total control of their agenda by the end. Matt Letscher’s performance is as joyfully monstrous as ever, playing the unapologetic uber-villain that The Flash’s more emotional take on the character never allowed him or Tom Cavanagh to tackle with evident relish.
While the Legion fall apart throughout Doomworld from their positions of power with only Thawne left, the Legends are coming together from a place of complete and utter powerlessness. Thawne’s ‘poetic justice’ allowed us to see a fun variety of ‘what if?’ situations with the heroes that see their abilities stifled or exploited by the Legion. Yet there’s a real bone to pick with Doomworld, it’s with this conceit. This is a full ensemble episode in a way the past few weeks haven’t been, and the episode struggles to find the time to explore each Legend’s situation in depth even as some characters receive a substantial amount of focus. For instance, Doomworld makes an insightful point about the characters of the Legends in Ray’s sub-conscious creation of the memory restoring doohickey, suggesting the innateness of their heroism. In this case, it’s how Ray, in any reality, is a genius inventor almost by impulse. The same applies to Nate, whose hasty entry into STAR Labs to ask to Thawne’s help parallels the entry into Oliver Queen’s mayoral office that kicked off the season. Those are valid and interesting character beats that are exactly the sorts of insights you’d want from an alternate reality episode.
However, some characters are hugely underserved in this new reality. Jax finds himself sidelined once more in a season where he’s lacked substantial screen-time, with his memory restoration a hasty footnote resolving a situation, wherein he’s manager at STAR Labs, that doesn’t have much substance beside the brief irony of the inversion of his partnership with Stein. The same is the case for Amaya, whose big moment at the end doesn’t have enough build-up before given that she’s placed secondary to Sara in their story as the enforcers of Damien Dahrk. It’s a natural consequence of the 42-minute run-time that some aspects of each episode will be rushed, and Doomworld does enough with the concept of the trapped Legends that it doesn’t feel like a waste. It simply holds back a great episode from being the best version of what it could be, which is a bit of a shame.
Last week’s episode offered so many huge changes for Mick that it’d be remiss if the same focus weren’t placed on him here. Sure enough, Mick is front and centre of Doomworld, which covers that central question of where Mick belongs from the opposite angle. Mick and Snart’s relationship was explored plenty of times last season, but that was with a humanised Snart who had learned compassion from Barry Allen and was being domesticated further by his time on the Waverider. Doomworld contrasts a developed, more self-aware Mick with the original conception of Snart who’s solely defined by his selfish greed, and it manages to effectively puncture the image that’s dominated Mick’s psyche of the two criminals of Central City as partners fighting side-by-side. It’s effective and efficient storytelling to establish the disparity in Mick and Snart’s point-of-view in that opening bank robbery scene, suggesting that Mick finds a very different value in crime – the challenge and the cameradarie – than the simple thrill of it that Snart enjoys. While Mick’s character arc hasn’t been the most consistent this season, making its rise to prominence somewhat jarring, the last two episodes have effectively linked the comic idea of his total self-interest with the vulnerabilities that fuel that attitude, forming an interesting conversation about just where a man who rejects both solitude and complete teamwork lies.
Last week established the Legends as an exploitative force of sorts from Mick’s point-of-view, using his strength for their own gain while failing to truly take him seriously, and that forced him into the hands of Snart, a partner who offered true independence for Mick and a genuine value for his life. Doomworld’s response to this is perhaps inevitable, but nonetheless insightful – that Mick simply swapped one unhealthy partnership for another one with Snart, which uses the guise of friendship to cover the same attitudes of condescension and superiority towards him. His firm rejection of Snart’s cajoling at the end is a satisfying pay-off, asserting his own independence above all and suggesting the power of genuine emotional attachments in his life such as his respectful partnership with Amaya, which is the catalyst for his return into the fold for the Legends. It’s on the finale to explore the last piece of this puzzle, which is where Mick goes from here having rejoined a group that he turned away from with such devastating consequences. So far, it’s been a surprisingly satisfying deep dive into his character that’s been anchored by a consistently strong performance from Dominic Purcell, blending the gruffest sense of humour imaginable with a tangible loneliness that makes him impossible not to feel sympathy for.
Doomworld might be a fun and breezy trip into a hellish world for the most part, but the darkness of last week’s episode comes through in a big way in time for the final act of the episode. For the second week in a row, almost all is lost for the heroes as the Spear is finally destroyed, cementing Doomworld as a permanent reality, alongside the untimely death of Amaya at the hands of Captain Cold, leaving the heroes in the bleakest state they’ve been all season heading into the finale. It’s a surprising but not unwelcome choice to maintain this alternate reality beyond this episode instead of neatly wrapping it up within the hour like Flashpoint, which opens up opportunities for more exploration of this irrevocably altered world in next week’s episode. This show is often best when the Legends are completely up against the wall and forced into radical solutions, and the idea that they’ll have to break a key rule of time travel to solve their Spear problem by travelling back in time sets up a season finale in the new yet beloved (well, at least it’s beloved by me) tradition of Legends finales in which time is completely ripped to pieces. As for Amaya, the jury’s out. To give the episode credit, it strikes a good balance. Her death is a sad moment and a jolting shock after the optimism of the Legends getting their hands on the Spear, with an additional touch of cruelty in Captain Cold’s callous destruction of her body to make it sting all the more, but it’s also kind of abrupt and doesn’t have any repercussions beyond that scene, which leaves the door open for Amaya to come back once reality is inevitably rewritten. I’ve suspected that Amaya could be out the door by the end of the season due to her bloody destiny, but it’d be surprising if she went like this. This is one plot twist whose impact is going to rest solely in the conclusion, so it’s hard to really pass judgement at this time.
The episode ends with one final setback for the Legends. Rip’s revitalisation from his baking-centric stupor is a stirring moment, but it’s soon undermined completely by the zoom out to reveal the Waverider sitting about like a toy, miniaturised within STAR Labs. It’s a great, cruel little punch-line, and it leaves a hell of a situation for the Legends to rectify in their quest to fix reality. Everything is in place for a time-bending season finale next week that takes the Legends back to 1916 to become entangled with their past selves, and a final showdown with the Legion over the Spear. Season two has been a vast improvement from last year, and the ball is in this finale’s court to bring it home and cement Legends at the top of the pile in terms of the DC shows.
Doomworld is a blast – a tightly-paced episode that allows for plenty of enjoyable face-time with the villains as the Legion of Doom begins to buckle under the weight of its competing egos, but still manages to pivot into bleak territory for a final act that builds up an impressive sense of hopelessness for a show so predicated on fun and optimism. It fails to fully take advantage of the character development that the heroes’ situation could have provided, however, and it’s not clear whether Amaya’s death is genuinely impactful or a meaningless diversion yet.