REVIEW: Legends of Tomorrow, S3E5 – Return of the Mack

“Return of the Mack” once more showcased Legends of Tomorrow at its zaniest, but this time they finally introduced what appears to be the Big Bad of the season. Thanks to Nate’s (Nick Zano) discovery of outliers that are not quite anomalies, the Legends are roped into vampire hunting in London 1895 until they meet up with Rip Hunter (Arthur Darvill) and learn that something more sinister is afoot. Meanwhile, Jax’s (Franz Drameh) quest to separate himself from Stein (Victor Garber) hits a few snags. There was a lot to love in the episode itself, but unfortunately it also felt rushed and abrupt given the trajectory of the previous weeks.

They almost had it.

It was the small moments in “Return of the Mack,” such as Mick (Dominic Purcell) loving vampires and being tragically disappointed when he learned there weren’t any for the team to kill. There was also Nate singing his rendition of the title song only to have it recur later in the big fight sequence, not to mention the team hilariously affecting Scotland Yard accents to fool a morgue doctor. Perhaps most significantly, Zari (Tala Ashe) and Amaya (Maisie Richardson-Sellers) bonded over their totems as the former learned to accept her brother’s death and move past her guilt over it. All of these beats rely on the talented cast and the delightful dynamics that they develop week after week. But the larger arc fell slightly flat due to some pacing and logistical problems.

First, Rip introduces the idea of an all-powerful god-like being named Mallus who is responsible for some of the events Legends of Tomorrow is meant to correct this season. While this certainly raises the stakes, it also comes out of seemingly nowhere. If Rip needed Sara’s (Caity Lotz) team, then why didn’t he seek them out and instead wait for them to come upon him by happenstance? Predictably, he thinks he can handle the problem better than they can, and eventually winds up betraying the team in order to go after Mallus himself – despite the fact that Damien Darkh (guest star Neal McDonough) was in danger of being resurrected. This turn was of the disappointed-but-not-surprised variety, but at least it allowed Sara to go off on him and choose her team and herself over Rip’s personal vendettas. In a season that hasn’t given her much to do, “Return of the Mack” managed to reestablish why she’s an essential component of the Legends and even mined some of the pain of losing Laurel again.

When the psychic is too good.

The most interesting part about bringing Darkh back from the dead was the role that the mysterious Madame Eleanor (guest star Courtney Ford) played in it. We heard about her connection to him when she was cast, but “Return of the Mack” did not directly address their relationship. Instead she is a medium who channels both Mallus and Zari’s brother in separate but equally terrifying moments. She also very clearly wanted Darkh alive, but whether that is only in service of Mallus or because of her personal feelings is another matter entirely. I look forward to seeing how this character develops and what plans she and Darkh have in store, but her introduction was a little messy this week.

Once again I had a hard time with the Jax and Stein storyline, but this time for the opposite reason. It was hard to believe Stein would keep his visits a secret from the team before, and now it’s even harder to believe Jax would keep his and Ray’s (Brandon Routh) efforts to separate Firestorm a secret from Stein. Perhaps it’s ironic that two men who are psychically linked have so many issues with communication, but it comes across as Legends of Tomorrow trying to make sure they give Stein something before Victor Garber’s inevitable departure from the show. This was also evident when they had him play Stein’s great-great-grandfather, a member of the occult group trying to awaken Darkh on Mallus’ behalf. More could have been done with that casting choice, but it was fun to see Garber in a mustache regardless.

“Return of the Mack” contains many good ingredients but altogether the result had me feeling a little like Mick – disappointed that we weren’t here to kill a vampire, after all. Thankfully, there are now some threads to pick up for the overarching story of the season when it comes to Damien Darkh and his new master Mallus.

Legends of Tomorrow airs Tuesday at 9/8c on the CW.