REVIEW: Legends of Tomorrow, S3E4 – Phone Home

Legends of Tomorrow offered up a Halloween episode that was much more treat than trick. “Phone Home” started off bleak, however, with young Ray (guest star Jack Fisher) running from secret agents in 1988 only to be shot dead off-screen. On the Waverider, adult Ray (Brandon Routh) hoped to integrate Zari (Tala Ashe) into the team with the help of some trust exercises and a very reluctant Mick (Dominic Purcell). But dying in the past meant he disappeared in the present, sending the team into a frenzy trying to pinpoint the origin of this discrepancy – which they soon came to believe was a baby Dominator.

Way to a boy’s heart is through a British accent.

Right off the bat, what makes “Phone Home” work as well as it did is the chemistry between the cast. Even Ashe, whose Zari is wary about the Legends and unsure of whether she even wants a team, fits right in with the rest of the crew and plays off everyone with sparkle. This episode paired her primarily with Ray in an effort to separate his younger self from his new alien friend. She immediately showed her softer side with the child, even agreeing to role-play as Knights of Camelot with him. Ray, meanwhile, was forced to look at his childhood with new eyes and saw some of the cracks that he willfully ignored before. Thankfully things do not get too dour, and Ray’s eternal optimism is saved by his plucky former self as well as by his and Gumball’s – his affectionate nickname for the baby Dominator – shared love of Singin’ in the Rain.

Having the Dominators at all is a very cool callback to last year’s crossover, although the fact that one of them can be so easily reasoned with makes it seems like all the trouble of Heroes vs. Aliens maybe wasn’t worth it. But Legends of Tomorrow took the extra step of explicitly tying its own boy-meets-alien tale to E.T., which definitely kicked “Phone Home” up a few notches in the nostalgia meter – especially in the best sequence of the night, where they pedal flying bikes to get Gumball back to its mother. However, there were a few moments that didn’t quite land for me. Namely, the agents in question were about to not only torture a baby alien but also murder a young human in cold blood – and their comeuppance at the end is being forced to act out a beloved musical? Of course I would never want the Legends to kill them, but some kind of jail time would have been nice. Another moment that was more uncomfortable than humorous was Nate’s (Nick Zano) attempts at flirting with Ray’s mother, and often right in front of Amaya. They’re not together at the moment, but his insistence on talking about their relationship in times of crisis and of trying to extract some kind of jealousy from her are nothing short of groan-worthy. Not to mention his accidental dalliance with the Mominator – which is what Ray called the Dominator’s mother in a moment that is far superior to anything involving Nate this week.

The sweetest bean.

On the bright side, “Phone Home” also finally gave Jax (Franz Drameh) his own plot and even roped Mick into the proceedings. It wound up being all about Stein (Victor Garber), but at least it made for some new and interesting dynamics between the two characters who have been getting the shortest shrift this season. Jax could tell that Martin was hiding things from him, and enlisted Mick’s help in finding out what. Erased travel logs and the discovery of a secret lab and makeshift time-radio transmitter led them to believe Stein was ratting them out to the Time Bureau, but of course the professor would never do such a thing. Instead it turned out he was communicating with his daughter and trying to get back to Central City in time for her childbirth. As heartwarming as it was to watch Jax and even Mick join forces to “borrow” the Waverider and race Stein to the hospital, it all felt very unnecessary. No one on the ship would have prevented Martin from going to the hospital, and in fact there is no reason why a ship that travels in time should be late to a particular moment in time. But as the storyline resulted in Stein, Jax, and Mick meeting newborn baby Ronnie – as well as Jax embarking on a new mission to break up Firestorm so that Stein can be with his family – perhaps these little plot holes can be forgiven.

I must point out that Jax isn’t the only one this season who seems to consistently have great little moments that aren’t necessarily for his narrative benefit. Sara (Caity Lotz) makes for a great leader, but we have yet to get an episode in which her struggles are a focus. Of course, we’ve gotten plenty over the last two seasons so it’s certainly refreshing to let the others have a chance to shine. But I hope her plot in future episodes involves something a little more personal than running from the Time Bureau.

Legends of Tomorrow airs Mondays at 9/8c on The CW.