I called my review of last week’s episode “Goodbye Mr. Palmer.” I was mistaken about which episode was the last for Ray Palmer and Nora Darhk after reading that actor Brandon Routh felt his exit was poorly handled. I should’ve double-checked my work. And so, I apologize, because his true goodbye episode is a proper exit for the character and quite possibly an all-time great Legends episode. It has meta moments, comedy, kickass action, warm friendship, and also I cried. Literally everything I want from a Legends episode is in this episode. Spoilers follow for DC’s Legends of Tomorrow season 5, episode 7, “Romeo V Juliet: Dawn of Justness.”
“Romeo V Juliet: Dawn of Justness”
Something that sets Legends apart from other shows in the Arrowverse is the Waverider itself. It forces the characters together in a way that the other shows’ home bases never have. Star Labs, J’onn J’onzz’s Tower, the Green Arrow’s Bunker–these are all offices. But the Waverider is a home. The characters eat and sleep there. As a result, it feels like the bonds they form go deeper than those on other shows. We get more chances to see how those bonds form and how they function where normally we’re left with just the exciting, dramatic moments to bond characters together.
All of that plays out with this week’s long, tearful goodbye.
But first, you have to shower and take your morning constitutional, right? It turns out there’s only one bathroom on the Waverider, and now the crew has a socialite who likes to keep herself looking perfect every day. As Zari gets ready, a line is forming outside, and soon most of the crew is waiting. John and Charlie start to talk about their plan to collect the pieces of the Loom of Fate, but Sara puts a stop to it: “No MacGuffin talk before I’ve had my coffee.”
Legends has never been shy about being metatextual, but I always love moments like these when they come up. A favorite is the episode in season 3, “Guest Starring John Noble,” where the Legends capture real character actor John Noble and get him to fake the voice of the demon they’re fighting, Mallus. For whom real character actor John Noble provides the voice.
If you’re not familiar with the concept of a MacGuffin, it’s the object, person, or event that a story revolves around but is not actually about. It’s an item they focus on while the story tells its tale of tragedy or growth or whatever. This season isn’t about finding the Loom of Fate, but about John trying to redeem himself.
Saying goodbye is tough
Meanwhile, Ray and Nora are newlyweds and Ray has talked with Nora about leaving the ship. They know they have to go; the Waverider is something like a dormitory-meets-halfway-house for the Arrowverse’s least serious superheroes. Ray is struggling with saying goodbye, though, to Nate Heywood in particular. The two have formed a close bond in the last four seasons. Ray decides on one last mission with the team as a goodbye, and one lands in the team’s collective lap: track down the first piece of the Loom of Fate.
Ray, Nate, John, Mick, and Charlie make their way to England, 1594, to find the owner of the Loom piece: Shakespeare. It’s a pretty straightforward mission, all told, but Ray doesn’t want the mission to end. Nate talks the team into throwing Ray a bachelor party; they lie to Sara to keep the party going. Before long, the team is embroiled in an all-out brawl. Nate tries to zap the taverngoers memories but ends up zapping himself and his team in a drunken stupor. Shakespeare gives up his quest to write a classic tragedy and writes a superhero story: Romeo V Juliet: Dawn of Justness.
Back on the ship, it’s time for Book Club, where Sara, Ava, Nora, and a returning Mona gather to talk about everything but the book. They talk Zari into joining them despite her reservations. I like this moment. Each of the women talks about why having a trusted group is important to them. Nora was deeply scarred by the demonic cult her father raised her in, and Sara got an education from a guild of assassins, and so on. It’s a reminder that these characters need each other and need support.
This is about the characters, too
Talking to Shakespeare, Ray comes to the conclusion that Shakespeare rewrote the play because he doesn’t want the story to end, just as Ray doesn’t want to say goodbye to Nate. Their discussion turns into a meta-discussion not just between Ray and William, but between the writers and us. They’re trying to communicate that Ray’s story is done, even if his character isn’t. Brandon Routh has been a bright spot on the show, but it’s hard to disagree. They’ve given Ray a good arc of healing, growth, and finding love. It seems like a good place for him to step away, even if I’d love to see him stick around.
The team has to put on Romeo and Juliet’s original play after Shakespeare suffers a sudden loss of funding, and Zari reveals that she’s a classically trained actress who can pull off Romeo and Juliet like it’s nothing. Though Nate took the initial news of Ray’s departure about as poorly as us fans did, he accepts it, and the two have a tearful goodbye as John and Zari play out the balcony scene of the play.
The story closes out on two great moments. Mick is still trying to deal with the knowledge that he has a daughter out in the world and, like Zari, with the idea that people want him around. Then, the team suffers from collective insomnia and ends up wandering into the mess hall, drinking Ray’s green health drink while they reminisce about him.
I love this whole episode. The plot is silly, but it works because it makes it all about the characters and how they’re feeling and reacting. Legends first priority is to remind us that these characters are friends and that they’re eager to make more friends even of resistant people like John Constantine and Charlie. That warmth powers the silliness that the Legends get up to, and means that when a character leaves, it’s a tearful moment. I don’t get weepy during CW shows very often, but I shed a tear for Ray Palmer.