REVIEW: Legends of Tomorrow, S3E7 – Welcome to the Jungle

Sara Lance (Caity Lotz) fell into a coma on last week’s Legends of Tomorrow thanks to the Darhks and their magic, but “Welcome to the Jungle” picks up in the literal jungle where soldiers are being attacked by an unseen entity. Any fan worth their salt knows it’s Grodd (voiced by David Sobolov), but he’s got a very different arsenal at his disposal now that he’s in the middle of the Vietnam War. Meanwhile, Stein (Victor Garber) is searching fruitlessly for a way to separate from Jax (Franz Drameh) while still leaving the Firestorm matrix intact. But all of these disparate story lines pale in comparison to the emotional impact of Mick (Dominic Purcell) meeting his father once again.

Just talk it out.

The plot to rid Vietnam of a Grodd-sized anachronism revolves around Amaya (Maisie Richardson-Sellers), Zari (Tala Ashe), and Nate (Nick Zano) posing as AP journalists in order to uncover the whereabouts of the mysterious creature who has stopped the fighting between American and Vietnamese soldiers by… Well, killing or brainwashing them. While Ray (Brandon Routh) pulls double duty as comic relief and dispenser of sage wisdom, both women have something to learn or teach in “Welcome to the Jungle.” Amaya has been avoiding the ugly task of processing her feelings about her granddaughter Kuasa being evil, but a run-in with Grodd reminds her that monsters are made rather than born. At the same time, Zari tries to connect with a follower of Grodd named Anh Ly. She is a young woman who, after having lost her home and family, believes the psychic gorilla will bring peace to her country. In both instances, it seems like one good pep talk manages to set things to rights in a way that’s rather anticlimactic. However, the backdrop of Vietnam doesn’t go to waste. The images and sounds of war and human horror emphasize the point that we are the makers of our own destruction without overpowering the story, even if it feels like Legends of Tomorrow doesn’t have the time or inclination to dig too deep this week.

The story in which “Welcome to the Jungle” does hit close to home, though, is the reunion of sorts between Mick and his father Dick (what a fitting name). Based on how much the show has softened Mick up over the last two seasons, you’d be forgiven for forgetting that he left his family to die in a fire at a young age. This episode brings that backstory to the forefront, as Mick struggles to reconcile the monster he knew in his childhood with the brave soldier who keeps saving his life. Nate actually makes for a good sounding board, offering both humor and compassion without taking away from the war raging in Mick’s conscience. In the end, the tensest moment of the week came from Mick trying to prevent his father from killing the so-called traitors and deserters who had fallen prey to Grodd’s telepathy. While there was no fear that Dick would actually murder anyone – after all, the Legends were among the group – it did bring up the unspoken question of how this situation might affect Mick’s home life. Could preventing his father from crossing this line mean he is less haunted when he returns to the States, and therefore becomes a better a better husband and father? Again, Legends of Tomorrow did not actually delve into this idea, but I was left wondering if changes to Mick’s time stream might emerge later in the season like they did with Stein last year.

Jax doesn’t need powers to save the day.

Speaking of Stein, he enlists the help of Sir Isaac Newton and many other great scientific minds to no avail. It seemed like he and Jax were headed for a third week in a row of pointless bickering, but thankfully their story turned a corner. In a touching scene that reminded audiences of the friendship that once blossomed between Jax and Sara, he admitted to her comatose self that he was afraid of who he would become if he lost Firestorm. And “Welcome to the Jungle” immediately gave him a chance to prove it when he was forced into action to save President Lyndon B. Johnson despite not having any powers. Through this heroic gesture, achieved with only his intellect and engineering know-how, he and Stein come to realize he will be just fine no matter the outcome. The only issue I had with this story is that it still feels like Stein is just killing time until his departure, with no real conclusion to his story.

Another quibble is how Grodd is unceremoniously removed from the chaos he’s been causing in order to further the nearly forgotten larger arc. One moment he’s taken control of Sara’s body to fight for command of the Waverider, and the next he’s been whooshed away by Damien (Neal McDonough) and offered a spot on Darhk ‘s Legion of Doom 2.0 doing… whatever it is he’s planning on doing this season. Legends of Tomorrow has done a stellar job of crafting standalone stories full of heart and humor this season, but the framework of the overall season feels like nothing more than bare bones with very little connective tissue. This doesn’t affect the week-to-week quality of the episodes, but it does beg the question of what the climax will look like.

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