REVIEW: Legends of Tomorrow, S4E1 – The Virgin Gary

The common rule of thumb is that television shows get worse with each passing season, but “The Virgin Gary” proves that Legends of Tomorrow is one of the few exceptions. The fourth season premiere managed to incorporate everything from Nate’s (Nick Zano) awkward home life to Zari’s (Tala Ashe) heartbreaking memories of her mother to serial killer unicorns without once breaking its humorous stride. At the same time, Sara (Caity Lotz) worried about her relationship with Ava (Jes Macallen) in the face of the Legends’ latest mistake, Ray (Brandon Routh) worried about never seeing Nora again, and Gary worried about dying a virgin. Maybe once Constantine (Matt Ryan) joins the team permanently, he can help with that last one.

Speaking of John Constantine, his arc in “The Virgin Gary” was perhaps the one that best embodied the whimsical tone of Legends of Tomorrow while still dealing with some pretty heavy stuff. When we last met him, he was a sarcastic grump but he didn’t seem to have any immediate cares – only old wounds that had lingered since before his short-lived series began. But this time around, it’s clear that Constantine is carrying a weight on his shoulders that even Sara can’t quite understand, and it’s fascinating to watch him weave between exploiting Gary’s innocence for the greater good, for example, and coldly dismiss the idea of being a team player before being attacked by a dark and bloody demon that might drive him right into the Waverider’s open arms.

The bickering, nearly antagonistic dynamic between Sara and Constantine was offset by Sara’s doting relationship with Ava, proving that they really are better as lovers than begrudging coworkers. While the set up of either moving in with Ava or continuing to lead the Legends seemed a bit forced, seeing as Sara has a literal time machine that means she could go to work and come home with no jet lag, the two women played their roles perfectly. “The Virgin Gary” also thankfully sidestepped the landmine of letting Sara lie to Ava for episodes on end only to have it explode in everyone’s faces later. Instead, the audience was treated to one of their sweetest domestic scene yet, as Ava cooked her girlfriend dinner to prove that she loves her no matter how many times the Legends of Tomorrow break the time-space continuum.

The monster-of-the-week, as previously mentioned, was a vicious heart-eating unicorn that had taken refuge in Woodstock. It was bound to lead to a massacre if unchecked, but it still served mostly as a plot device for laughs and shrieks alike. Which works just fine for a show like this one, and it’s already a step up from Mallus (AKA the weakest part of last season). The focus was not so much on the monster, or who was behind it, but rather on the individual character journeys that surrounded the search for said master. And there was a goldmine of riches to be had there.

Nate hasn’t always had the most interesting storylines, but he’s developed a lot since his first appearance. His unlikely team-up with Mick (Dominic Purcell) this week managed to make him look even more three-dimensional, especially when Nate’s otherwise commonplace desperation for fatherly approval was compared to Mick’s desperation to have his pet rat Axl back. Nevertheless, the story ends with a touching father-son moment even if Nate is too good for his disappointing dad.

Meanwhile, Zari and Ray continue their bonding from last season and vye for the title of best friends the Waverider could ask for. Knowing that Ray is battling his feelings for Nora, Zari accompanied him into potential danger in order to keep him out of anything worse. And though it was a riot to witness Zari learning about hippie culture, “The Virgin Gary” shone brightest when Zari got real with Ray about who Nora was – as far as they know – and why his feelings might be dangerous. In turn, Ray lent her a friendly ear and comforting shoulder when she took him to visit her mom during her childhood years. Her emotional breakdown over the country her mother fought to be a part of turning its back on her was exactly the gut punch that the episode and the audience needed, grounding Legends of Tomorrow in the real world even as it soars above mundane everyday life.  Hopefully the writers continue to pair these two together as often as possible, because they always knock it out of the park.

“The Virgin Gary” may not have provided the clearest picture of this season’s destination, but fans know that where the Waverider is going doesn’t matter nearly as much as who its going with. Catch this particularly entertaining group of people on Legends of Tomorrow, airing Mondays at 9/8c on the CW.