DC’s Legends of Tomorrow has turned into not just my favorite Arrowverse show but one of my favorite TV shows in general. When I found out last year that Brando Routh, who has played Ray Palmer on the show since its inception, was leaving, I was a little heartbroken. When Routh said recently that he felt his exit from the show was handled poorly, I went into this week’s episode expecting a disaster. While it sounds like Routh wasn’t quite done with Legends of Tomorrow, though, the show gave him an emotional, heartfelt exit that does everything I love about this show. Spoilers follow for DC’s Legends of Tomorrow Season 5, Episode 6, “Mr. Parker’s Cul-de-Sac.”
“Mr. Parker’s Cul-de-Sac”
The Time Idiots are fighting “Encores” this year. They’re the worst of humanity, revived by Astra. Genghis Khan, Rasputin, and Bugsy Siegel all appear on the list. But what about a guy that tried to blow up the world so that he could restart it from scratch and rule it? That’s right, kids. Damien Darhk–Arrow’s worst villain and one of Legends’ best–is back.
The nicest guy to ever live aboard the Waverider, Ray Palmer, watched his friend John Constantine nearly die of sudden-onset lung cancer earlier this season and it put a bug in his ear. In John-o’s words, Ray had decided to carpe his diem. When we join him, Ray is borrowing John’s mansion to prepare an all-out wedding proposal. Gary, Nate, and Behrad are doing what they can to help, but they have to get out of the way. Ray isn’t one for a big public event.
But just as things are ready, Damien Darhk shows up, as do Sara and Ava, the former with Genghis Khan’s hellblade in tow.
Before things can go sideways, they flip upside down. Soon, Nora has her father convinced that she’s dating John Constantine and that she’s made Ava and Sara her henchpeople. The other Legends go along with this because they don’t want to disappoint their friend. And they’re also rightfully terrified of Damien.
Nora also banishes Ray to the Waverider with her current Fairy Godmother charge, Pippa, so that he can keep her occupied while she babysits her megalomaniacal father. There, Ray talks the kid into watching his favorite childhood show, Mr. Parker’s Cul-de-Sac. If you’re not American, you may not recognize that immediately as the parody of the landmark children’s’ show Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Pippa resists at first, but just like you or I would with Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, she is lulled by Mr. Parker’s calm, warm demeanor.
Dang smart kids
When Nora stops in, the newly-enlightened Pippa calls her out, asking her why she’s hiding Ray from her father. This is where things start to come together. This whole episode is about understanding why Nora is the way she is and why she reacts the way she does when her once-and-future dead father shows up.
It doesn’t take long for the lie Nora has woven to break down. Actually, she’s the one who tears it up. But soon, Darhk has half the Legends pinned to the wall and suffocating, and he throws a fireball at John and yells “Brexit!” when he does so. The other Legends that were still aboard the Waverider at this time show up and young Pippa wishes the combatants into an episode of Mr. Parker’s Cul-de-Sac. It’s a wish, so even the all-powerful Dark Warlock Damien Darhk must comply.
The Land of Make’em’ups
Ray, of course, steps into the role of Mr. Parker. Ava and Sara are puppets once again. And Gary, poor Gary, who is afraid of trains, is turned into a train; Gary the Unspeakable Train Abomination. The show has the Land of Make’em’ups and Behrad the Bike Messenger, and the Safe Space Sombrero. Everything you’d need to make a demented Mister Rogers show is there.
With careful guidance from Mr. Palmer and the puppets, characters resolve their conflicts in record time. It’s a shortcut to do a lot of work in a short time, but it works. Sara and Ava talk through a problem that had been boiling away in the background, demonstrating to John and Charlie how to talk through a problem by communicating. Meanwhile, Damien finds himself unable to control the situation he’s in. Without the Safe Space Sombrero, the words that come out of his mouth are pure gibberish, forcing him to listen to Nora.
Nora, it turns out, has taken a liking to her job as a Fairy Godmother. Nora was raised by a demonic cult to one day be the vessel for Mallus–the demon that Damien died demolishing back in season 3–and that left her with her share of emotional scars. Helping kids figure out what they want is cathartic and therapeutic for her.
Nora can finally express to her father how worried she was that he wouldn’t accept her new life, where she has friends and helps people. Damien, meanwhile, had envisioned a particular life for her. Once he shifts his expectations, he’s able to see that his daughter is happy, and that makes him happy. That completely jives with the Damien that sacrificed himself in season 3. He ultimately wants to protect his daughter and see her happy even more than he wants to be his moustache-twirling self.
Everything works out for Nora and Ray as they have an impromptu wedding at John’s mansion with the Legends present and even Damien in attendance. Pippa releases Nora from her bond when she realizes how messed up the Legends family is and how what she really wants is to be with her own family. Damien pulls Ray aside and says that if he wants to support Nora’s work, he has to stop surfing around with the Waverider and put together a steady home.
I’m gonna miss that Dark Warlock
While Legends has gone to great lengths to flesh Damien Darhk out into a three-dimensional character, what it hasn’t done is forgiven or forgotten. Darhk killed Sara’s sister Laurel (the Laurel of Earth-1) in Arrow season 4. When he reaches out to shake Sara’s hand, he’s not surprised when she doesn’t shake back. He’s starting to realize the effects of his actions, finally. Just in time, too. Damien knows that since he isn’t causing havoc and pain, Astra is going to recall him to Hell. He walks out the door and Sara follows him just in time to see Damien stab himself with the hellblade.
It’s kind of a perfect Damien Darhk ending because it’s all at once a great sacrifice and a total cop-out. After promising his daughter he would always be there for her, he chose to unmake himself rather than be subjected to eternal torture. It’s a painful move for him, but certainly the less painful of the available options.
Daddy’s home, again
While all this is going down, the “B” plot of this episode has Mick Rory tracking down a relentless troll who has made it their life’s work to annoy his nom de plume, Rebecca Silver. When he tracks them down Jay-and-Silent-Bob-style, he finds out that his troll is the daughter of Ali, the woman he had sex with during the high school reunion/slasher story a few weeks back.
Mick’s story, since the very beginning of Legends, has been about accepting that there are people in the world who want him in their lives despite his history as a criminal, and who will keep pushing him to be better. Upon discovering that his troll is his own daughter, he initially erases her and her mother’s memory of his visit. Zari has him doubting that instinct by the end of the episode, though. To have Mick unknowingly show up as his daughter’s door and run away while Damien literally comes back from the dead and goes straight to his daughter feels right, too.
I do agree with Brandon Routh that this feels like too sudden an exit for Ray. I think the writers were likely running out of stories for him, and Ray and Nora finding happiness seems like as good a stopping point as any. But the timing is all wrong; the characters had settled into life aboard the Waverider, and neither had expressed any interest in leaving just yet. This feels like it came three or four episodes too early.
Even so, Legends did what Legends always does. It took an absolutely absurd concept and used it to get its characters talking to each other and working together. It ended up a satisfying episode and a bit of a tearjerker for a long-time Legends fan, even if I feel like it was a little bit too soon.