Each season of Legends of Tomorrow pits the team against a new monster-of-the-week threat, usually caused by some mistake one of the Legends made in the season previous. This year, it’s the Encores – evil people sent to Hell, given a second chance to wreak havoc on Earth. The Encores thus far have been historical figures, but it’s not always easy to fit a historical figure into a silly comic-book story. So this week, we’re off on a genre jaunt as the heroes face a legendary serial killer. Spoilers follow for “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow” Season 5, Episode 3, “Slay Anything.”
This week’s story begins with a man in the electric chair and an old woman bawling in agony as he dies. The killer is Freddy Meyers, the Prom Night Slasher, and he’s been resurrected to rain blood on his old high school’s 15-year reunion. Even if you’re not a horror fan, you probably get the reference in his name. It’s a fun way to signal how the episode is going to if you haven’t been paying attention to the previews.
Back on the Waverider, John Constantine is trying to slip out unnoticed, but Sara, like any good captain, knows what’s going on on her timeboat. While John acts like his usual edgy self, Ray pops out and suggests to the team the idea of getting to the Encores while they’re kids. Instead of trying to kill them, change the timeline so they never end up in Hell in the first place. Of course, we know that time has ways of correcting itself from stuff like that, right?
Before they can get too deep, though, Nora Darhk appears in full Fairy Godmother attire–the curse she picked up last season is still holding, forcing Nora to wear cornflower blue everything, all the time. Her rigorous schedule/curse is keeping her from having free time with Ray, but he’s also the best, so he’s very understanding.
At the other end of the ship, Nate and Behrad are trying to wrangle Zari. I have to give it to Tala Ashe. The doubles other actors have had to play across the Arrowverse on Supergirl, Batwoman, and Black Lightning have all been one-shot characters.
This version of Zari has persisted for two episodes, though, and it seems like she’s not going away. Instead, timelines will merge and this Zari will become the Zari we know and love. But Ashe is using the time to experiment with this new version of Zari. She’s varied in lots of subtle ways that get down to little vocal intonations that make it easy to differentiate the two despite them having the same face (and being literally the same actress). Superhero shows can get pretty hamfisted and hammy at times and the actors don’t always get to stretch. It’s fun to see them get to do stuff like this.
The Secret Lives of Legends
One thing that Legends has gotten very good at, though, is giving its characters internal lives. Like, what does Barry do when he’s not being The Flash? What does Kara do? They’re almost entirely consumed by their hero lives. No one on these shows has hobbies. Except we know that Mick Rory is a talented romance author and that Ray and John Constantine play D&D with Gary. And now we know that Ava Sharpe, the straight-and-narrow ex-Time Bureau director, is head-over-heels for serial killers.
Ava Sharpe hosts a podcast called the Stab Cast, where she ranked our villain Freddy as #5 on her all-time top serial killers list. Nate, being a sucker for knowledge and trivia, has the cast playing before the scene is even over and finds out that the Stab Cast has a mattress promo code of “Laceration,” because if a podcast doesn’t have a mattress promo, is it even really a podcast?
The team heads back to 2004 to the night of the what would be Freddy’s 15-year high-school reunion where we find out that Mick Rory went to the same high school as Freddy but, thankfully, was not responsible for the young man’s turn. The writers have already admitted what a mistake it was to not have a young Mick and Leonard Snart appear in this episode. Interestingly, Mick Rory’s actor, Dominic Purcell, was born in 1970. He would’ve graduated high school around 1988/89, and his 15-year reunion would’ve been right around 2004. That has to be intentional, right?
While Mick is cringing, Ava is fangirling out. She’s at the scene of a notorious murder. She can’t help herself even as people traumatized by the murder are within earshot. Before the Legends can get a grasp on the situation, we find out that Freddy has already killed Tiffany, the Final Girl from his original spree, and made a display out of her on stage. The Legends lay chase, but find out that Freddy’s special ability following his return is powerful telekinesis.
Back in 2020, we find John and Gary heading back to John’s house only to find… John? No – it’s the shapeshifter Charlie, played once again by Maisie Richardson-Sellers. When John steps away, Gary asks Charlie if she can shapeshift into John again, which isn’t weird at all.
The rest of the team heads back to 1989. They want to try Ray’s suggestion: stopping things before they start. They find Freddy looking every bit the future serial killer: lanky, pale, sweaty, clothed in ill-fitting garb. Socially awkward as can possibly be, and bullied for it, to boot. But then the prettiest girl in school, Tiffany, asks him out. All the makings of a Carrie situation. I found myself wondering if the Time Idiots were actually the cause of Freddy’s spree for a bit. Also, Ray’s indoor aviator glasses are killer.
Grody to the max
Back in 2004, Ava and Sarah are facing off against the killer. Despite being skilled martial artists, they don’t have any psychic powers. They’re pretty helpless. As they watch, the killer opens a locker, stuffs a girl in, and then crushes the locker until blood pours out. Jeeze.
In 1989, a nervous Freddy Meyers prays for help, summoning none other than Fairy Godmother Nora Darhk to his side. Freddy asks Nora to grant him the wish of… a dope suit. His unflattering, ill-fitting brown number is replaced with a snazzy green suit, and things seem to be going pretty well. Until the bullies that were trying to Carrie Freddy out Tiffany as a formerly-willing participant in their prank.
Nora asks Freddy, if he could do one thing to fix the night, what would it be? The answer is, of course… a hip-hop dance with pyrotechnics. Nora ruins the bullies’ Carrie moment by turning the sweaty gymsocks they were going to dump onto him into a wave of glitter. Unfortunately, the killer has somehow made his way back to 1989.
The show plays with our expectations here. The Prom Night Slasher was Freddy’s mother all along. Back in 2004, the Slasher kills Mick’s old flame, and he responds by pointing his new flame at her, burning off her mask before she immolates him. Wounded by Freddy separating from her, she donned the mask to kill those who would take him away. The initial incident just happened to work out as an excuse that gave Freddy reason to take the fall for her. When he was executed, she died of a heart attack; she was the one who was resurrected.
The show calls back to the finale of the first season here, and I’m not sure if it’s intentional or not. That season had the Legends fighting Vandal Savage (no relation to Savage Opress from Star Wars) by attacking him in three separate time periods “simultaneously.” Similarly, the final showdown between the Legends and the Prom Night Slasher takes place simultaneously. Ava and Sarah are excited to be the Final Girls while Freddy’s mother is trying to do her dark work despite Freddy’s successful night.
Behrad shows up and stops her with his air totem bracelet, effectively stopping her from dying in 2004 and undoing the things she did that night.
Woven through this, we get more time with Zari. She doesn’t like who she is, but Behrad rightly points out that she’s turned herself into a media empire before she’s even 20, while he–as far as his parents know–has been stuck in business school for five years. She’s the successful one, and his parents baby him because they don’t know if he can stand on his own. This give Zari a confidence boost that drives her to break out of the lockdown on the Waverider. She gets a flash of her old self as she touches the computer and a sort of temporal muscle memory kicks in to let her hack her way out. She ends up getting off the ship in 1989, which is why Behrad showed up in the first place.
The story ends with a fun high school scene where the Legends wave to 2004 Freddy Meyers, a well-adjusted adult who ended up marrying Tiffany. John takes steps toward rescuing Astra, the person responsible for the Encores. The other Legends get their pictures taken at Freddy’s 2004 prom while Mick makes time with his now-not-dead old flame, Allie.
The Bearable Lightness of Legends
I have conflicted feelings about just about every Arrowverse show. I love all of them, but they do dumb stuff. Legends is the only one that does dumb stuff on purpose, and it’s easy to love the show shamelessly as a result. This plot is decidedly silly, but the show finds space for nuance in it. Characters are given room to grow and even one-shot characters get satisfying arcs.
Legends of Tomorrow has an overarching plot, but it doesn’t hang over the show like a buzzkill the way it can with the other shows. The lightness of Legends elevates the story. I wouldn’t want every Arrowverse show to be like Legends of Tomorrow, but I’m glad we have at least one.