My favorite show is DC Legends of Tomorrow. It is the most inspired show on the air today. You might ask “but what about all the documentaries, police dramas, or emergency medical shows?” I have questions, too, but I’ll save them for the end.
When I first saw DC Legends advertised years ago, I had not been enthralled with any of CW’s superhero offerings. They were little better than the comic books that spawned them: simplistic morality, a lack of understanding for basic human psychology, and poor plots that solved any need for creative writing. What they lacked in complexity, they made up for with eye candy. I’ll admit, that was good enough sometimes.
This current season (2020) of DC Legends has been spectacular. Romeo V. Juliet: Dawn of Justness (season 5, episode 8) has been my absolute favorite and combines all the things that the writers and actors do so well: slapstick comedy, complex comedy, historical tie-ins, modern culture tie-ins, family, friendships, and romances.
I’m no fan of slapstick in general, but the silliness makes me laugh out loud. In this episode, two groups — one having a “book club” on the ship and the other “fixing” history off the ship — end up with their own secret parties. Hilarity ensues with fights, drinking, dancing, and party games. The actors are all good comedic performers. A presentation of the play Romeo and Juliet, while the actual Shakespeare watches, has our characters strutting, overacting, and as you would expect, a man in a woman’s clothes for the cheap laugh (Nate as the young Juliet). Modern cultural tie-ins and fourth-wall breaking occur in many episodes, and in this we have references to Riverdale and Superman v Batman.
The more complex comedic moments happen from historical situations we know and relationships we love. In this episode the change to history has converted Shakespeare’s tragedy Romeo and Juliet into the superhero epic Romeo v Juliet: Dawn of Justness. OMG, I’m still laughing. We hear bits of the play now rewritten to have Mercutio, for example, as a silver man with super powers rather than the hotheaded wit that got him killed. And this exchange:
Back foul villain whoosh Take to the skies brethren for tonight there will be justness Behold what worthy hero faces me? My face is silver face like thunder strikes We must collect the gems to save the world While learned how to work more as a team
After hearing this new verse, Ray comments, “Wow, and it’s still in iambic pentameter”. (Not sure I got all the syllables correct).
And why the change? This is the most brilliant part!
Shakespeare won’t write the ending to the Romeo and Juliet we know because he loves the characters and doesn’t want their story to end. He doesn’t want them to leave. He plans on having Hamlet, Viola, and Puck form a team who go on to fight against Richard III. This is just like what is happening with Ray, who is leaving the DC Legends team. The solution?
Ray: "If you love the characters, don't they deserve a great ending?" Shakespeare: "If I let them go, I'm unsure what happens next." Ray: "Endings are necessary for growth no matter how painful they might be."
The writers compare the love and loss between Shakespeare’s teens with the love and loss between Ray and Nate. Friendship is compared to our cultural archetype of romantic love. Can I tell you how much this matters? Art that values friendship love so highly is rare (hence, how the writers ruined X-Files). In this episode, the love of these two male friends is emotional and physical in a way that would have been objectionable to the television I grew up with.
I’m pretty sure the relationships on DC Legends is the draw for most fans. Certainly, it is for me. There are all kinds of families, friendships, romances, and sexualities going on, and despite the often outrageous and silly events taking place around them, these relationships feel authentic. I hope the writers don’t lose sight of this, as one of our best couples (Ray and Nora) are now exiting.
And now my big question, which remains unanswered: There’s only one toilet on the time ship?