The Legends go back in time this week to help on their own: little Ray Palmer. The child version of The Atom makes a deadly new friend that threatens to wipe him from existence. Just another week at the office!
Just last week, I said I hoped that upcoming episodes of Legends of Tomorrow would put some twists into the team’s anachronism-chasing. Looks like I got my wish! In “Phone Home,” there’s no appearance by the Time Bureau and the timeline isn’t threatened with a radical shift. Instead, this is a quest to save Ray Palmer, who flickers out of existence for a moment when his younger self is killed. The team travel back to before Little Ray’s death (restoring adult Ray for the moment) finding themselves on the eve of Halloween in 1988.
As Ray and Zari follow his younger self around, the eternally optimistic Atom gets hit with a small dose of reality, that his childhood was much lonelier than he recalled. Meanwhile, Zari alternates between being thrilled at how much better life is in 1988 and no-nonsense over the mission. Her and Ray make a nice yin-yang duo.
So the anachronism that Little Ray ran into that got him into this mess? A baby Dominator, the violent race of aliens that were the adversaries of last year’s crossover. The team plans to capture it when Ray’s in school but he skips it to spend time with his new friend. Zari hides under the bed and Ray shrinks down, becoming an action figure in disguise. Little Ray escapes into the forest with the Dominator, who he named Gumball. Then he feds show up and kidnap the two Rays, Gumball and Zari. Atom and Zari save Little Ray from getting shot by the government agents (dark!). But when his kid-self wants to save Gumball, Ray tries to talk him out of it. He tries to give his younger self a tough love talk, but surprisingly, it’s Zari who keeps the hope that they can save Gumball without the alien turning on them. Tala Ashe is fitting right into the cast as well, bringing a tough edge to Zari that’s softened a bit by her time with the Rays.
And she’s right! The Rays and Zara find Gumball and turn off his mental inhibitor. Some agents bust in, point their guns at the team and….the baby Dominator makes them break out into “Good Morning” routine from Singin’ in the Rain. As they escape on bikes, Zari uses her totem to make them fly…over a forest…forming silhouettes against a giant moon….Legends of Tomorrow everyone! As they meet up with Sara, Little Ray says a tearful goodbye to Gumball, who reunites with his mother. But he’s also got the Legends as new friends who join him for trick or treating.
This is another fun episode of pop culture references, humor and heart. It adds some depth to Ray’s character and optimism. Sure, it’s an E.T. homage, but given how many of those there have been in the last 30 years, this ranks pretty high up there. Another win in the books.
- “Phone Home” also features a fairly weak side plot of Prof. Stein, Jax and Rory. Martin has been sneaking around the ship, distracted and not committed to the mission. Both Rory and Jax are concerned he’s selling the team out to the Time Bureau. But he’s speaking with Lily, his pregnant daughter. Since Rory damages the jump ship to stop Stein from leaving before they learn the truth, the three of them borrow the Waverider so he can make the birth of his grandchild. This whole subplot is a bit of a stretch. There’s no reason for Stein to hide this from everyone, including Jax. Plus, why do they need to take the Waverider, stranding the rest of the team in 1988? It’s a time ship. Jax can spend a month repairing the jump ship and Stein can still make it in time for the birth. This seems like needless tension.
- But the situation with Martin does set off a new arc, as Jax asks Ray to find a way to permanently break-up Firestorm, so Martin can have a normal life with his family.
- Ray’s favorite musical is Singin In The Rain. Rory’s favorite musical is Fiddler On The Roof. Now I want to hear Dominic Purcell sing “If I Were a Rich Man.”
- For those of you wondering why Ray Palmer’s mom looks familiar, she’s played by Susie Abromeit. The actress appeared in Jessica Jones as Pam, Jeri Hogarth’s secretary and girlfriend.
The Super Cinco
- – Ray Palmer / The Atom – Both of the Rays get the top spot this week. Little Ray becomes friends with a baby Dominator, willing to sacrifice his life to save it. But Atom Ray makes sure that doesn’t happen, rescuing his younger self and giving him some inspiration to boot.
- – Zari Tomaz – The newest Legend brought the perfect amount of snark to the team, helping to keep Ray focused on their mission. She gradually softens her hard edges throughout the episode, giving Little Ray the inspiration that Gumball can be saved.
- – Amaya Jiwe / Vixen – While she doesn’t have a ton to do this week, Amaya gets a few good moments. The adult Dominator disguises itself as Ray’s mom, who hits on Nate prior to attacking. Amaya comes to the rescue with the classic line, “Get away from her, you bitch!”
- – Martin Stein – The sneaking around he’s done for the past few weeks is dumb. He should’ve been straightforward with Jax. But it was for a good cause, to spend time with his pregnant daughter. The delivery goes smoothly and Martin ends up a grandfather!
- – Nate Heywood / Steel – If Nate is trying to get back in Amaya’s good graces, he’s failing immensely. Rather than staying on-mission, he hits on Ray’s mom. When he goes undercover as animal control, he says to her, “Is there a cougar on the premises?” Not as suave as he thinks.