Jane Austen and a sex god shouldn’t work. Contextualising the work of Jane Austen around both an emotionally distant main character and a new main character who wears her heart on her sleeve makes it work. Coupled with Tala Ashe’s performance, this might be the best episode of the season so far.
Season 4, Episode 11: Séance and Sensibility
Directed by: Alexandra La Roche
Written by: Grainne Godfree & Jackie Canino
Starring: Brandon Routh, Caity Lotz, Maisie Richardson-Sellers, Tala Ashe, Courtney Ford, Amy Louise Pemberton, Ramona Young, Nick Zano, Dominic Purcell & Matt Ryan
It’s easy to forget that Legends employs a similar tactic to the other Arrowverse shows in having a “Big Bad” for the season, but at least it is managing it a bit better than I have seen with The Flash and Supergirl (who constantly talk about these villains and yet spend their time fighting other smaller threats). At least the Legends are – until the end of the episode – unaware of the threat of Neron (Christian Keyes). This week’s episode of Legends takes us back to the time of Jane Austen upon discovering that a magical fugitive has stopped Jane from writing her most famous works. In amongst this, we are still dealing with the fallout of Hank’s (Tom Wilson) death, Zari’s (Tala Ashe) growing feelings for Nate (Nick Zano) and Mona’s (Romona Young) continued emotional heartbreak over Konane’s death.
It’s Tala Ashe who really shines this episode, taking the often quipping Zari centre stage to explore her emotional issues and her troubles in letting go. It’s easy to forget, considering the revolving door that is the cast of Legends, that Zari is only relatively new herself, having only joined last year. It’s a great development to the Zari and Nate relationship that up until now has seemed a little out of the blue, despite being well portrayed by both Ashe and Zano. While being pushed by the other women aboard the Wave Rider, Zari is encouraged to pursue her desires through a handsome footman in 1802, who turns out to be the magical fugitive they are looking for: Sanjay (Sachin Bhatt) who holds Hindu god Karmadeva’s ashes which cause love and lust in those who inhale it. This dust causes Zari’s inhibitions to fall and gives an indication that a lot of what Zari portrays is a front to prevent herself from getting hurt: after all, she comes from a future where any sort of attachment is a weakness and where persecution was rife. It is no wonder that under these conditions, she holds her cards close to her chest. It’s hardly an irrational feeling, and entirely in keeping with her character, who was slow to open up to being part of the Legends in the first place (indeed, it was Zari’s ninth episode “Here I Go Again” in which she actually fully committed to being in the Legends, and was the last Zari-centric episode that we’ve had). Inhaling the dust makes Zari confront her feelings for Nate as he appears to her in her sex dream, along with Sanjay – in a scene that was undeniably steamy. Following an argument with Mona, Zari goes back to confront the magical fugitive and decides to give in to more magic dust, resulting in a Bollywood-inspired musical number as Sanjay and Zari decide to get married.
Meanwhile, Mona struggles with remaining a hopeless romantic in the wake of meeting her hero Jane Austen, who spurns Mona for such silly feelings. After being reprimanded by Zari, too, Mona turns into a Kaupe and confronts Jane. This confrontation fixes the alteration to the timeline as Jane resolves to write again, and Mona intervenes in Zari’s wedding by persuading her to wait for something better than the euphoria that she feels with Sanjay while on the sex dust.
Another emotional note in this episode is Nate coping with his dad’s death. He spends the episode considering his dad to be a villain, having been part of the operation to kidnap magical creatures and experiment upon them. Through Constantine’s (Matt Ryan) help, however, Nate realises that his father was trying to do the right thing. Though Nate plans to expose his father at the wake, he soon discovers that Hank was intending on building a theme park that Nate had designed as a child, and the magical creatures were to be part of this. This makes Nate realise that he was wrong and breaks down, realising that his father was more similar to him than he ever knew (personally, I don’t find this much of an improvement, as imprisoning magical creatures to be used as entertainment sounds a bit like torture, but let’s brush past that shall we).
The final emotional turn comes from Constantine himself, who realises that Neron is possessing the dead body of his ex lover Desmond, following on from the time changing episode before the mid-season finale. Now that the Legends know about Neron, there is more of an inkling of what the season may look for moving into the last 5 episodes.
You only really realise how accomplished Tala Ashe’s acting is in every other episode as dead pan, sarcastic Zari when she really lets it all out and shines in episodes such as these. I have a real soft spot for Zari and wish that she would get more screen time moving forwards and this episode really proves my case for me.
It’s tricky to be on Mona’s side at points in this episode. While I agree that it is good for Zari to open up a bit more, I’m not sure to what extent the audience was meant to be invested in Mona and Konane’s relationship. It always seemed to be a little bit played for laughs in the connection that they shared, or at least I interpreted Mona’s love and care for Konane to be one of a human to a pet. It makes me feel a little uncomfortable that she fell in love with what is essentially half-animal. I’m still a little unsure as to how much of his brain is human and therefore where that lies on the whole consent trail, but to say that Mona is in love with him when the vast majority of their relationship was her incoherently babbling at him and him grunting in response is probably more reflective upon her relationships elsewhere in her life than there being a genuine connection. While Zari has her issues, her critique of Mona is valid: Mona does fall in love too easily, but I suppose the real question is what in Mona’s life previously has led her to that point. We have seen hints of the relationship she has with her parents, but maybe this will be explored further, though I do still find Mona tricky to warm to – even now that she has a superpower.
I love how funny this episode is. The random Bollywood musical number is simply delightful for starters, and the fact that the characters question it right before it happens before being sucked into it is hilarious. Mona’s reaction of “Wait why am I singing? Oh I’ll just go with it” gained a chuckle, though I also enjoyed how Charlie just went along with it anyway.
I love how delightfully sex-positive this episode is. Even Mona, the romantic, does not shame the suggestions that the other legends have of having sex either with Nate or with somebody else to see whether she does have feelings for Nate. It’s also nice to be having those conversations shown on screen.
It was also marvellously refreshing to see all of the female characters out in force this episode. Sometimes it’s tricky to remember that Legends actually has more females in its main cast than males, which is a far cry from the first season when only Sara and Hawkgirl (remember her?) filled that spot in the team. Indeed, even in season two there was only Sara and Amaya. Things picked up a little in season three with Amaya, Sara and Zari but they rarely hung out just the three of them and they were still overshadowed by the men in the team. This season, with the addition of both Ava and Mona, the girl unit is quite strong, and also lets us see just how different each of these women are considering the ensemble nature of the show often leads to some of them being shifted into the background for plot convenience.
It’s strange to believe that Zari has only been a character for a year. It makes me long for the days of a more stable Legend team. It was so much easier to feel attachment to a team when it felt that they offered something unique, but in the course of the last season: Martin died; Jefferson left; Amaya left; Zari joined; Wally joined; Wally left/sort of disappeared; Constantine joined; Nate sort of left; Charlie (who looks like Amaya because we love Maisie Richardson-Sellers but awkwardly wrote Amaya into a storyline corner) joined; Mona sort of joined. It’s all getting very complicated and I miss my stable Waverider Unit. It just makes each character feel like they perform a storyline function as opposed to a fully fleshed out character, and I find that very unsettling as a viewer.
While I’m harking back to days of yore, am I the only one struggling to remember when the last time anybody actually used their superpowers was? Constantine regularly uses his, but I can’t recall when Ray used the Atom suit, nor when Nate turned into steel, nor when Zari used her air totem. Sure, Mona’s frequently beasting out right now, but it’s just not the same. Considering in the first and second seasons we were constantly bursting in with frost and fire guns, flying around in small suits and cornering bad guys, this magical fugitives storyline is really giving less of a capturing bad guys vibe and more rounding up troublemakers. These are superheroes, dammit! This is feeling less like a superhero show and more just a series of odd humans bouncing around space, which is also great, but I want both.
The victim of the large ensemble cast (which was fairly well realised this episode to be fair) was Mick. I must confess, that’s not the first time that that’s happened. Mick is just sort of there inhabiting space in the Wave Rider at the moment, and I would like him to either get a meaningful storyline (other than the fact that he’s writing a novel) or replace him with somebody who will be able to have a storyline. Everybody else seems to be getting one.
Yet again, Ava is missing from this episode, but it’s a meaningful sacrifice considering the content of next week’s episode from the preview below…
I’m glad that they have figured out that it wasn’t Nora that killed Hank, but rather Neron, though it does raise the question of what will happen to Nora. Nora’s a big of a rogue character to be part of the mix, considering that she was a villain and will likely never be part of the Wave Rider. It shows the more broad approach that the series has elected to take in terms of the storylines it tells. While in previous seasons, the main cast has just been the Legends, it shows that the writer’s room also want to consider the Time Bureau in the form of Ava (and now Nate too), as well as other differing angles with Nora. It’s just tricky to conceptualise how she will fit into all of this – other than being Ray’s interest – once this storyline blows over. I can’t see her character having long term potential, and I hope they don’t pull another Charlie-esque twist where they keep the actress because they like her and therefore come up with an entirely new character for them.
On the subject of Charlie, I am really yearning for some character development from her. We really haven’t seen much of her since she joined and she hasn’t really had “her episode” yet, unless we count the time change episode that she went through with Constantine, but really that arc was more about his guilt than her emotional journey.
Séance and Sensibility demonstrates that Legends is able to construct brilliant episode arcs that successfully develop and further the characters’ journeys beyond just this chapter, but it begs the question why it does not do this every week. Were every episode of the series to be so successful at developing these characters in amongst the magical fugitives, I would be happy. Somebody send my memo the writer’s room please, as there are a vast number of characters on board the Wave Rider who need the same exploration that Zari received in this episode. Ray has become a caricature of a person who really needs some hidden depths to explain that optimism, Mick is barely seen anymore, Charlie has always been an enigma and Mona is a bit annoying at present. Work your magic, please, writers. I’m eagerly waiting!
The trailer for next week shows the return of Ava to proceedings and a sinister plan afoot in her purgatory. More exploration of the central relationship, I hope!