Legends of Tomorrow -- "Bay of Squids" -- Image Number: LGN604fg_0008r.jpg -- Pictured (L-R): Dominic Purcell as Mick Rory/Heat Wave and Jes Macallan as Ava -- Photo: The CW -- © 2021 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Legends of Tomorrow has been a bright, steady star in the Arrowverse, walking with self-assured confidence through the most bizarre plotlines while other shows struggle to handle the most rote of comic book storylines. Even when it falters, it’s still heartwarming and entertaining. Spoilers follow for Legends of Tomorrow Season 6, Episode 4, “Bay of Squids.”

“Bay of Squids”

The Legends always manage to fix whatever situation they get into, but not before making it way worse than it was in the first place. It’s hard to tell if they’re helping or not, sometimes. This week the Time Idiots end up embroiled in the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.

Despite actor Dominic Purcell being on his way out as a regular on the show–or possibly because of it–Mick Rory’s kind of the star of the show right now. Along with the kidnapped Sara Lance, Rory is the only original member of the Legends as they were in the show’s terrible first season.

The show, both in terms of cast and characters, has long had a revolving door unlike that of almost anything else on television. Legends has traditionally done really well with goodbyes for these characters–especially so with Ray Palmer last season–but this is the first time I can remember the show asking ‘what about everyone that’s left?’

Rory tries to take charge of the operation, and it’s very strange, intentionally so. He’s wearing serious clothing, pointing at things on a table using a pointing stick; it’s all very official. But Mick is not Ava or Sara, and plans fall apart quickly as he leaves one detail after another up to chance. The end result is the American government having spy photos of a landed spaceship in Cuba, and a steel man throwing a punch.

The Usual

You can already guess how it goes after that. Ava pretends to be Russian in hopes of recovering the alien, who happens to be Gary’s betrothed, Kayla. Behrad puts on a beret and gets mistaken for Che Guevara, says he’s Che’s brother Jay, and gives Fidel Castro marijuana gummies and plays guitar for him. Rory and Spooner (who the show hasn’t really found a groove for yet) accidentally deliver a nuke to the Cuban revolutionaries. Nate and Zari go to Washington and easily insinuate themselves into John F. Kennedy’s inner circle with a couple of sports metaphors. This is standard stuff.

In fact, there’s a lot of standard Legends stuff here. Nate and Zari–the crew’s resident jock-nerd and social engineering expert, respectively–talk to a guy who is only barely trying to imitate JFK and, honestly, looks more like Ed Helms than he does JFK. Here, the show does a surprisingly good job of making things tense despite the silliness of it all. JFK has to decide how to handle the crisis, and Nate tries to calm him with sports metaphors, but the military men aren’t having it.

The climax of the show has the military men and the academic men, including Nate and JFK, playing literal football with the Nuclear Football in the Oval Office, and now it just feels like the West Wing was really lacking something. After the academics win, the head general goes outside to fire at the incoming nuke, from which Rory had managed to remove the warhead at the last second before launch, only for it to land directly on him and bury him ten feet deep on the White House lawn. It’s a funny, fast Dr. Strangelove homage that the show focuses on just long enough to make the joke work.

Their worst is still better

This is, again, standard Legends fare, and to a degree that makes this one of the less interesting episodes in a while. And yet, with that in mind, this is still heads and tails above what’s happening on The Flash and Supergirl. Even on a less exciting episode like this one, the writers are still trying to grow the characters meaningfully. For Rory, that means putting him in a fish-out-of-water situation where he’s trying to lead instead of just being a battering ram for the crew. At first, it seems like he’s self-destructing when compared to Ava’s ultra-preparedness, but in the end, Ava comes to see how Rory’s style can work for the team.

For Nate and Zari, that means getting them alone together and having Nate do something other than fawn over Zari. By the end, it seems like the show is trying to suggest that he’s seeing her as more than a shadow of his lost love and a potential girlfriend. It’s hard to believe that, because Nick Zano is quite good at making lovey-dovey eyes; time will tell if he has room to grow here.

Heatwave v. Flash

But here’s the thing. When I compare a character like Rory to say, Barry from The FlashLegends has done so much more to turn Rory into a three-dimensional person. Since the show started, he’s lost his ride-or-die bestie Leonard Snart and watched most of the people he’s considered friends move on to other lives. He’s revealed himself as a skilled writer and become a successful author under the pen name Rebecca Silver. He’s a dad who is working to be a better dad.

Meanwhile, Barry Allen, the seventh or eighth fastest man alive, feels like he basically stopped growing after he and Iris married. The show has been a hamster wheel of Barry losing his powers, getting them back, and messing with the timeline. He’s always a burdened person who makes bad decisions and then has to try to apologize for them with his actions, and things only every take the most obvious, straight path to that answer.

This season the show wasted an entire episode on having him consider doing something no one wanted him to do, only not to do it, and the showrunners made that the goodbye for one of the show’s most storied characters. This is a good time to remember that Heat Wave started out as a semi-recurring Flash villain.

It makes The Flash look cowardly in comparison. Legends is a weird, daring show that doesn’t seem to function like anything else on television. Even an episode that pales in comparison to the others can still do stuff that leaves a lasting mark on the show itself.