NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “Legends of Tomorrow” are present in this review
After doing an excellent job of setting the stage for its new magic-fueled conflicts last week, Legends of Tomorrow continued to find effective uses for its new mythical threats in Season Four’s sophomore episode, with the Legends going to the most obvious and ironic of settings to pursue their next target. After putting together a crude machine using Constantine’s enchanted knuckle bones from the season premiere, the Legends discover one of the displaced mythical figures, which Sara dubs, “Fugitives”, in Salem, Massachusetts, circa 1692, just in time for the kick-off of the Salem Witch Trials. Said fugitive? A Disney-esque fairy godmother who has attached herself to the daughter of a woman most recently accused of being a witch, who is about to bring some real dark magic down on Salem!
The premise of the episode is a great one, and sure enough, it delivers plenty of strong entertainment throughout. “Witch Hunt” also sees the proper initiation of Constantine as a full-blown Legend (even if he claims to merely be a consultant for the time being), though even Constantine is inexperienced in dealing with fairy godmothers, whose magic is completely fueled by the whims of their charges. This fairy godmother of course presents plenty more opportunities for absurd humour and unpredictable whimsy throughout the episode too, especially with the very potent and effective Disney satire behind her character, which hits home all the more effectively when it comes from Warner Bros., Disney’s main rivals in the entertainment industry, and especially the superhero industry! As usual, Legends of Tomorrow doesn’t disappoint when it comes to being the silliest, and yet most surprisingly clever DC show that television currently has to offer!
Surprisingly though, as fun as the sequences in Salem were, it was actually a surprisingly heartfelt subplot with Nate that ended up being the highlight of the episode in many cases. After secretly crashing at the Time Bureau headquarters while trying and failing to bond with his father, on account of realizing that his career as a Legend has left him completely broke, Nate discovers that one of good old Hank Heywood Jr.’s secret government funding projects happens to be for the Time Bureau! With Ava now being faced with the unenviable task of having to secure government funding off of a pitch of magical creatures running amok throughout time, Nate is thus commissioned to help Ava and Gary make the pitch, which Hank is obviously very reluctant to accept. This is an even better excuse to dig deeper into the Heywood family dynamics than the season premiere offered, while also presenting an interesting new challenge for Nate as a person, completely independent from his travels with the Legends.
The only head-scratching element to this storyline is why Nate seems to think that he can’t convince his father that magic is real. Doesn’t Nate have superpowers that he can readily trigger at will? Hell, he even brings up those powers in this very episode, and why his father somehow won’t believe him if he claims to be a superhero. Why?! He’s obviously a metahuman, and can make up whatever lie he has to in order to sell the truth that magic is real. By the standards of the Arrowverse, if a metal-shifting man can exist, and time travel can exist, then why is the idea of magical threats going to be hard to swallow for a man who is quite clearly aware that time travel, at the very least, is real? This does at least lead to a humourous and uplifting resolution when Nate has to demonstrate Ray being turned from a pig back into a human later in the episode though (fairy godmother problems), thus securing the funding and his father’s respect, and most importantly, this turn presents an interesting crossroads for Nate. Now that he has a renewed opportunity to bond with his father, and has been given a job at the Time Bureau by Ava, is Nate even going to have time to be a Legend anymore? The fact that the episode ends on this question as well definitely seems to indicate that Nate’s days as a Legend could be numbered this season.
Anyway, it’s Salem that audiences will primarily come for, and as you can imagine, the Salem scenes are quite entertaining, providing liberal doses of humour and irony, both of which beautifully exploit the period backdrop. Seeing the Legends struggle against the fairy godmother creates a scenario just as brilliantly funny as the man-eating unicorn from last week’s season premiere, as the team faces a musical and whimsical old lady that infectiously sings about mayhem and murder, before enchanting them with deadly, yet girly spells. All the while, the Legends have to convince the young girl that the fairy godmother is bound to to sever the bond with her, which prevents Constantine from simply deporting the fairy godmother to Hell, since it would mean sending the little girl there with her. Not only is this a surprisingly good excuse to force the Legends to come up with a better solution than just warping the fairy godmother away, but it also provides a convenient device for the all-knowing fairy godmother to start poking at Constantine’s demonic pursuer, who appears to be The Devil himself! Yeah, since the pursuer is referred to as being male, I guess my Ellie theory was off-base, and that sucks a bit. Still, I won’t complain about Constantine provoking the wrath of the Prince of Darkness himself for his debut as a Legend, which may be the only logical way for the show to top a time demon in terms of its antagonist scale!
It is however a bit frustrating that the show once again has to force an excuse for Zari to act uncharacteristically stupid and impulsive to move the story along. I get that Zari had to impotently watch her mother before the tragic events of her future that rip her away from her family, but even then, Zari going around Salem and wielding her wind totem with reckless abandon is obviously going to do more harm than good. The scene of Zari trying to convince the accused witch to free herself of her own volition is pretty good, but everything after that just makes Zari look like a trigger-happy moron, when she’s supposed to be a more coldly intelligent and blunt character. Zari even has to be bailed out by Sara in the end, who initially claims that the Legends have to let the falsely accused woman die to preserve history, only to just change her mind for the climax and save the woman because… I don’t know? Sara really needs to pick a stance on these things, because for all of her talk of preserving history, it seems like she’s just as likely to do whatever she wants, even if Zari certainly can’t throw stones there, after the whole Helen of Troy fiasco from last season. Whatever the case, Zari is saved (even if her totem’s gold is melted by a burning pyre), all is well with the falsely accused mother and her daughter, and Salem is presumably exactly the same as it always was in 17th Century history, having now seen real magic first-hand, because Zari doesn’t seem to use her head whenever the plot hits a wall.
Still, even if the show once again made Zari a frustrating liability for the current team’s roster, Legends of Tomorrow still delivered a pretty good episode this week, and one that definitely made some strong use of the period setting, while also providing a way to give the Legends an even greater connection to the Time Bureau. “Witch Hunt” kept the inspired and funny momentum of the Fugitives going strong, but even better is that it places Nate in a position of having to re-evaluate his life and career as a Legend, especially now that his father’s approval is finally within his grasp. With Constantine officially joining the Legends’ roster this week (even if it is likely just to amass a few human shields to hide behind), and Amaya making her exit at the end of last season, it seems like Nate’s slot on the team is indeed being filled, since the Legends have less of a need for a historian when they’re suddenly dealing with mythical creatures that aren’t truly a part of history. I imagine that the Legends will need all of the magical help they can get, considering that Constantine is about to bring literal Hell down upon the team’s heads, but I suppose that means that this show is only going to get weirder and more surreal in the weeks to come. Considering that this seems to be entirely working in its favour, I think I’ll take that as a big win for the storytelling!