All hands on deck for the final battle with Mallus.
Warning: Full spoilers for the episode below.
Legends of Tomorrow has gotten a lot right in its third season, but it’s never managed to accomplish much with its main villain, Mallus. Unsurprisingly, that became a major sticking point in tonight’s season finale. Despite some great moments along the way, this finale never built up the sense of urgency it needed.
Any remaining hope that Mallus would evolve into more than a generic CG villain with a cool voice was dashed last week with the reveal of his true, fleshly form. Blame the show’s limited budget or a general lack of imagination, but Mallus basically looks like a mid-game boss in a God of War game. And not one of the games. Between his comically bland appearance and his utter lack of motivation beyond the predictable “I’m an all-powerful bad guy who wants to destroy the universe because reasons,” shtick, Mallus really fell flat this season. It almost makes you pine for the days of Vandal Savage.
The entire conflict this week suffered as a result. The idea of the Legends facing down an army comprised of Roman centurions, pirates and Viking warriors is pretty nifty, but never did it feel like our heroes were outmatched or in any real danger of failure. Nor did it feel as though time itself hung in the balance. That’s one unfortunate side effect of keeping the episode confined mainly to the Wild West town of Salvation. The ensuring battle didn’t feel season finale-worthy.
Fortunately, where Mallus and his lackluster final plan stumbled, the Legends themselves were able to pick up the slack. The emotional thrust of this episode was elss the battle against Mallus army than the Legends finally overcoming their various emotional hurdles and learning how to live up to the “Legends” name. There were a lot of strong emotional moments to be had, whether they involved Sara embracing her leadership role, Nate and Amaya parting ways for good or familiar faces like Jax and Director Sharp stopping by to lend a hand.
In that sense, there was lot of closure to a season’s worth of character development. And nowhere more so than with the two big character deaths. Both Rip Hunter and Damien Darhk made their grand, heroic sacrifices this week. I do wish Rip had been more of a focal point this season leading up to his ultimate death, but the moment still resonated all the same. This team only came about because Rip was so desperate to save his family from being murdered, so to hear him rejoice at the thought of being reunited with them now definitely hit home.
As for Darhk, this episode capped off a terrific character arc for a man who once qualified as one of the most sadistic villains in the Arrowverse. He went out the only way he could have, sacrificing himself so that his daughter could have the chance to live and become a better person that he ever was. I’m really impressed with what the writers have accomplished with Darhk this season, finding new layers to a character who had already headlined an Arrowverse show two years in a row. Darhk’s death reinforced the larger theme of redemption driving this story. Hopefully, though, we’ll see the Arrowverse take a break with Darhk for a while. His death needs to mean something.
While nothing is certain until the full cast is revealed for Season 4, it seems as though this episode is also the final farewell to both Amaya and Jax. Sooner or later Amaya had to return to her own time, and I’m glad she was able to go out on such a strong note. As for Jax, I hate to see him go, but it just isn’t the same without his other half around. At least he was given a happy ending, able to enjoy being a husband and father in a way Professor Stein only briefly tasted.
There were a few other fun developments worth noting tonight. I loved seeing Helen of Troy back in action as a full-fledged Amazon warrior. That’s probably the closest the Arrowverse will ever get in terms of being allowed to tap into Wonder Woman’s mythology, and it’s certainly better than nothing. The sexual tension between Zari and Jonah Hex also added another fun wrinkle to the conflict. As much as I’ve been ambivalent towards Zari as the team newbie this season, these last few episodes have gone a long way towards making her feel like a more natural member of the team.
Plus, more Beebo is always a good thing. If Mallus is a dumb villain, at least the writers conjured up an amusing way of eliminating him. It gave the series its big Ghostbusters moment. Though the idea that Mallus could be defeated simply by being body-slammed a few times doesn’t exactly do anything to elevate his threat level.
Ultimately, I wish this season had managed to end on a more consistent note. The previous two finales both ranked among the stronger installments of their respective seasons. Not so here. Nor did “The Good, The Bad and The Cuddly” create much momentum leading into Season 4. Sure, it’s nice to see Matt Ryan’s John Constantine already being set up for his series regular role, but a severed dragon head doesn’t exactly scream “epic danger to the timestream.” As lame as Mallus was, why should the prospect of a new threat spinning out of this one excite anybody?