Legends of Tomorrow: 5.07 Mr. Parker's Cul-De-Sac
After last week's messy but at times, dark episode, things get a little more focused in Mr. Parker's Cul-De-Sac. Constantine takes a back seat after his demonic fight with cancer and Nora and Ray are front and centre in this totally bonkers episode that zig-zags around in the best Legends of Tomorrow fashion. Opening on Sara and Ava, in full cowboy gear, rescuing Gary from railroad tracks, you might be mistaken for thinking this was going to be a Wild West episode, maybe even Jonah Hex might show up? Wrong. This is Legends of Tomorrow guys; never judge an episode by the opening scene…
Ray has decided to propose to Nora and with the help of Nate, Behrad and Gary (Gary is just here now, I think we need to get used to it). He has a big dinner and grand proposal planned, complete with engagement ring in the chocolate mousse. This is all to take place at Constantine’s house, the new popular set this season and everything seems to be going to plan until this week's Encore turns up; Damien Darhk. And this is where the episode goes brilliantly crazy…
When Damien turns up to see Nora, he assumes she is a powerful, evil, sorceress and that Constantine’s home is hers. Nora then goes on a fibbing spree in order to impress her father and get closure, without having to destroy his soul like the other Encores. So Nora’s fairy-godmother ward Pippa gets hidden away out of sight with Ray, who tries to keep the stroppy little girl entertained, puts on tapes of his favourite show as a kid; Mr. Parker's Cul-De-Sac. Things get progressively zany, when Sara and Ava turn up with Genghis Khan’s demon-sword from last week intent on killing Damien’s soul. Nora convinces them to instead pretend to be her hench-people so she can deal with her dad her way, which they agree to because why not? From here on the episode goes full sitcom, playing out like an episode of Frasier.
Constantine turns up to his home and Nora immediately jumps on him, claiming he’s her boyfriend – Constantine plays along. An awkward but hilarious sitcom dinner party follows. The episode is very silly but it has a lot of emotional depth and earnest heart. Neal McDonough is always great and while he was a huge antagonist for so much of the Arrowverse, this show included, its fun to see him here being a bit goofy. His evil but trying to be a good dad thing was always fun and Nora trying to make him proud while also be a better person, is an enjoyable way to progress the characters.
Of course things go wrong; Pippa, who at first wasn’t very receptive to Ray’s old TV show, summons Nora back to the Waverider to ask why she won’t be herself. Ray gets in on the action, suggesting Damien would love Nora for who she is not who she thinks he wants her to be. This results in Ray and Nora having an argument and a great scene where the previously super supportive Nate and Behrad suddenly telling Ray they think proposing is moving too fast. I’m still impressed with how quickly Behrad has fit into things. I think the way the show has just treated him as if we know his back-story is what makes it work so well. Nate had to grow on me; he was dropped into the show with little personality and had to develop. Behrad has been placed into the mix, fully formed and I’m impressed with how well its worked.
After the sitcom dinner party explodes – rings in the wrong mousse, Constantine proposing to Nora, Ava and Sara fighting over why Sara was away for a week – the truth starts to come out and Damien goes full evil sorcerer, thinking the Legends have corrupted his daughter… then things get really crazy. Pippa, seeing all the fighting, wishes everyone into Mr. Parker's Cul-De-Sac. Cut to a children’s TV land and Ray doing his best Mr Rogers impression. Mister Rogers' Neighborhood was never part of UK reviewer’s childhoods. We know about the show through saturation; its such a big part of US culture that its seeped into ours a little by proxy but our exposure to the show in more through parodies and deconstructions of the show, like this. So while the references and gags in this sequence are fun and funny, perhaps they don’t land as pertinently as they would a US audience? Still Gary screaming in agony as a human/train abomination is a nice, dark gag and Sara and Ava puppets are back! Yay!
This part of the show is great fun and Ray, Nora and Damien get to talk out their issues. Nora was a very bland character when she first turned up and felt very second fiddle to Damien, but this show is very good at building up a likable character from nothing (except Charlie, they really need to do something there) and I’ve been turned around on several seemingly dull characters. Nora especially has proven to be really fun and her and Ray’s relationship has had a nice, natural progression. The time in the Cul-De-Sac allows everyone to be honest and heal and Nora stands up to her father and explains that she wants to be a fairy-godmother, helping children, because it helps her cope with the trauma of her own childhood. Its one of those moments where Legends of Tomorrow deals with a fairly dark, emotional concept and its surprisingly powerful. When characters grow in TV shows – especially crazy, sci-fi shows where baddies become goodies – its easy for us to forget their dark, abusive past and its good to see the show making actual call backs to that in the characters' development. So Damien reassures Nora that he is proud of who she is and what she’s become and everyone goes back to the real world… but THERE’S MORE!
Lets just take a moment to address the B-plot this week; Zari helps Mick deal with an online troll who is trashing his books. When the two go to investigate, Mick finds out it’s a daughter he never know he had (from his High School reunion tryst a few weeks back, which in the timeline was 16 years ago). This adds some nice depth for Mick going forward and integrates Zari a little more with the team, as well as introducing Mina Sundwall to the supporting cast as Mick’s estranged daughter. There is a nice, slightly dark end to this section when Mick memory wipes his ex and his daughter, so they forget he visited. Harsh, Rory, harsh.
Back to the A-Plot and, with everyone now forgiving each other the team decide to throw an impromptu wedding for Ray and Nora! And that’s how the episode is resolved, with a surprisingly touching wedding sequence. It’s almost cheesy but the wedding is shown in a dialogue free, montage and, as always, this shows does a very good job of making the friendships between the characters feel natural and real. Within our mass of resolutions, Charlie decides she will let Constantine find and use the Loom of Fate to help Astra, as long as he destroys it as soon as he’s done. Seems legit… Damien tells Ray that he needs to commit fully to Nora’s happiness and support her work as a fairy godmother on Earth – setting us up for Ray and Nora to leave the show! No, no! I’m not ready!
The final moments is where the episode dishes up what I'd least expected; Damien and Sara have a moment together where Sara states she will not and cannot forgive Damien but she will give him a head start for the sake of her friend. This is good and important, Damien did start a bit of a redemptive arc but has done more damage and destruction in the Arrowverse than any other villain, specifically towards Sara. He may have been fun and even goofy but he was a vile, emotionless killer for so much of his time on these shows and its important that he doesn’t simply get a pass because he’s funny now. And then, in the last moments, he actually gets his redemption (of sorts). Having stolen the Genghis Kahn sword from her, Sara is just in time to see Damien’s ashes fall to the ground having destroyed himself. It was surprisingly touching and a little unexpected and a nice send off for the character. It wasn’t exactly redemption but it was as close as was needed. Sure, he could come back; the suicide might have been a trick who knows what madness this show could pull off but for now, it’s a tragic, sad, fitting end.
This really was a great episode. It was a rollercoaster of emotions and changing set ups and provided a lot of closure for several characters and long running arcs. It was also, very funny, silly and lots of fun. I hadn’t expected the episode to end in a wedding, let alone the completion of the Damien Darhk storyline but that’s what I love about this show - it rarely ends where you think it might!