It’s not every TV show that can pull off a Wild West showdown in a temporal blindspot that includes pirates, a Roman legion, a gigantic Beebo, a death demon, Jonah Hex, Leif Erikson’s sister, and a Themyscira-trained Helen of Troy, but by golly Legends of Tomorrow can and did. It was a marvelous way to tie together the show’s many adventures this season and recycle some costumes to save on a budget so we could enjoy a major CG battle between a cuddle bear and a hell demon (“Malice, you idiots!”). But in true Legends form, it was also surprisingly emotional, juggling several heavy narrative storylines with its trademark joy while never becoming glib. It’s an extremely fine line to walk, but Legends landed beautifully. For those who thought nothing could top “Beebo the God of War,” “The Good, The Bad, and the Cuddly” was a real treat.
Legends of Tomorrow is (as I have written about before) the only Arrowverse show to get better with each season. The series has never been afraid to change up its focus or its cast to better suit the story. Every crew member on the Waverider plays an important part, and each role is distinct. As Captain Cold, Jax, and Stein, and the Hawks exited, the crew only became stronger with the advent of Zari, Wally, Nate, and now Constantine. Even Ava and Gary have been welcome additions from the Time Bureau rather than Rip, who never quite worked with the levity and tone the series has cultivated.
Rip has left the show before only to return, and since we didn’t actually see him perish in “The Good, the Bad, and the Cuddly” I’m not sure that he’s really and truly gone. But if he did lay down his life for the Legends then and there, it was the right time. There wasn’t much build-up to it, but then again, there didn’t need to be. Rip hadn’t been a major part of the show in a long time, but that short line — “I would very much like to see my wife and son again” — packed enough emotional punch to make the moment land. It’s that kind of narrative work the Legends does so well; because it lays the groundwork for these moments episodes and sometimes seasons in advance, it doesn’t need to force a storyline or a mini-arc to explain a particular plot point it needs to get to. It happens naturally.
The same was true of the quick death of Damien Darhk, which was almost lost in this battle-intense finale. But it was a noble death for a character that Legends single-handedly redeemed through the Legion of Doom and in his alliance with his daughter and Mallus this year. Again, the emotional build-up to that moment happened in the episodes prior to it, where it was clear that Damien cared more about his daughter than any potential power grabs, especially after her death. I have a suspicion that we haven’t seen the last of the now-alive Nora Darhk (who in real life is married to Brandon Routh!) and that’s a good thing. She and her father were responsible for a great villain arc this year, and provided us with one of the best TV moments of the year with that fight sequence set to “Return of the Mack.”
The sacrificial deaths really were overshadowed though by a few key reunions, including an alive-and-well Kuasa (in Vixen gear) and the return of Jax. While the Legends have been cruising through time, 5 years have passed for the former half of Firestorm, who is now married and has a daughter (who, for all we know, could be the mystery girl from The Flash). It was really nice to incorporate him in the finale along with almost every character we’ve met along the way this year; it was not only suitably epic, but thematically relevant for a show about a motley crew of heroes. It was a reunion, truly, of the good, the bad, and the cuddly, and if you hadn’t guessed that the team would be creating a Beebo gollum once they introduced that possibility, then you haven’t been paying attention.
The fact that the true break-out star of Season 3, Beebo — the purest good — would reappear as a kind of ninja warrior Stay Puft Marshmallow Man who is both hungry and really wants a hug, ultimately exploding (and killing Mallus) in a blue heart-shaped nuclear cloud went above and beyond all expectations. It was the marquee moment of this crazy season, and a thematically on-point, perfect way to wrap things up. Love wins, so kill ‘em with kindness!
The Aruba-set epilogue then took us back to the beginning, where everything kicked off this year, and instead of Julius Caesar it included a Constantine trolling by Gary (the set and the lighting was so distracting here, but I’ll forgive every cost-saving measure because of that Beebo fight). Sara and Ava are still working things out, Wally is fitting in great (and finally getting to use his powers the way a speedster should as part of a team), and Zari has a weird crush on Jonah Hex that is somehow adorable. But Nate also said goodbye to Amaya (and looks like the show is as well), in a way that — like with Damien’s departure — capped off many episodes’ worth of personal struggle. We didn’t need to see a drawn-out farewell from these two, because they’ve spent most of the season fighting their feelings, acknowledging them, and coming to the realization that they can’t have a future together. It was sad, but not maudlin — perfect for Legends.
So after an episode full of amazing references to Voltron, the “chicken people,” Wonder Woman, Vietnam, Blackbeard, and just about every throwaway line from the season (not to mention the sweetness of Mick remembering Ray’s song, and the hilarity of High Nate), we got a new setup for the season to come. “We broke time!” is now “We let out all the demons,” according to Constantine, and the hunt to put them back into the same realm Mallus came from is the right way for Legends to move forward. But what Legends proves above all is that drama can just as potently come from joy, triumph, and friendship as it can from sadness, violence, and death. Legends includes both sides exceptionally well, but regardless, it choose to stay optimistic — an important and crucial distinction that sets it apart from its Arrowverse brethren. Ultimately, the show’s exceptionally fun yet also narratively complex third season was a cuddly explosion of love conquering death. It was, fittingly, legendary.