Legends of Tomorrow season 4 premiere recap: Unholy unicorn monster

DC's Legends of Tomorrow -- "The Virgin Gary" -- Photo: Dean Buscher/The CW -- Acquired via CW TV PR
DC's Legends of Tomorrow -- "The Virgin Gary" -- Photo: Dean Buscher/The CW -- Acquired via CW TV PR /

The fourth season premiere of Legends of Tomorrow saw the series take on a darker and edgier tone. Nah, the team just got high on unicorn vomit in the ‘60s.

As it came into its own during its second season, Legends of Tomorrow established itself as the Arrowverse’s best series. It did this by making a few key changes. One, it traded in the darkness and angst that typifies most of the franchises programs in favor of a light tone that embraces the absurdity inherent in superhero storytelling.

The series also traded in it’s tortured original protagonist Rip Hunter for Sara Lance (Caity Lotz). While Sara has a similarly bleak backstory, she has a more optimistic outlook on life that informed the series as a whole. However, in spite of its lightness, and fourth wall breaking meta-humor, the program has still told meaningful character-driven stories.

Admittedly, I was a bit wary of tonight’s premiere as the show’s executive producer Phil Klemmer told Hollywood Reporter that the series was going to undergo major changes this year. Especially since the changes in question looked to make the series darker more emotionally harrowing. Frankly, I really didn’t want to see my wacky time travel show become just another angst-filled superhero series. But judging by “The Virgin Gary,” it looks like Legends will be growing up a bit without losing its signature affability. Well, aside from one particular development.

LEgends of Tomorrow Season 4 premiere
DC’s Legends of Tomorrow — “The Virgin Gary” — Photo: Dean Buscher/The CW — Acquired via CW TV PR /

“Oh my god, it’s Paul Revere!”

The episode opened in the 1960s with the Legends stopping Paul Revere from attacking the Beatles during their arrival in America. Afterward, Ava (Jes Macallan) summoned the team to Time Bureau headquarters for a party to celebrate their resolving the last anachronism. She also used the occasion to ask Sara to move in with her. Sara agreed but was visited by Constantine (Matt Ryan) who reminded her that Mallus’ escape opened the door for monsters and demons to invade reality. Bored at the party, Mick (Dominic Purcell) and Nate (Nick Zano) decided to go house robbing. However, it turned out Nate actually wanted to visit his estranged parents Henry (Thomas F. Wilson) and Dottie (Susan Hogan).

More from CW

Back on the Waverider, Zari (Tala Ashe) forced Ray (Brandon Routh) to let her accompany him to Woodstock 1969 to investigate a time disturbance he hoped was actually Nora Darhk (Courtney Ford). Simultaneously, Sara went to the same period based on a hunch that a magical creature had crossed over there.

While being lectured by Henry about the Woodstock Massacre, Nate realized history had been changed also went to 1969. After meeting up, the Legends encountered a beautiful unicorn that was also a horrifying heart-devouring monster.

The first act of this week’s episode was a perfect distillation about what makes Legends of Tomorrow so special. On the one hand, there was some quality character development. Legendary belt-notcher Sara decided that she wanted to give domesticity a try. And Nate decided to confront his Peter Pan complex by trying to reconcile with his family. Both narrative threads showed off how much the character have changed since joining the Waverider crew and set up arcs that can play out over the course of the season. On the other hand, revealing this week’s antagonist as an unholy unicorn monster was a stroke of depraved genius.

DC’s Legends of Tomorrow — “The Virgin Gary” — Photo: Dean Buscher/The CW — Acquired via CW TV PR
DC’s Legends of Tomorrow — “The Virgin Gary” — Photo: Dean Buscher/The CW — Acquired via CW TV PR /

“For your information, I had a medal pinned to my chest but you don’t have clearance to see it!”

Sara returned to 2018 recruit Constantine to help stop the evil unicorn. Back at Woodstock, Mick, Nate, Ray and Zari had emotionally revelatory hallucinations due to their exposure to unicorn vomit. Constantine told Sara to break up with Ava to protect her and Sara, in turn, invited him to join the Legends. Constantine directed the team to steal possessions of belonging to Jimi Hendrix, Jerry Garcia and Janis Joplin for a unicorn banishing spell. However, to finish the spell, a virgin was needed and Gary (Adam Tsekhman) was recruited for the cause. The exorcism worked but Gary lost a nipple in the process. #RIPGarysNipple.

The various hallucinations the Legends had were incredibly funny and also kind of sweet. Of course, Ray is an aspiring white knight would see visions of the totally evil Nora as a medieval damsel. And of course, Rory’s big emotional touchstone is his dead pet. Highlighting character through absurd circumstances is one of the traits that elevates Legends above its contemporaries. It’s also a trait of the very best superhero comic books which is why it’s so strange that so few pieces of superhero media use that device.

Also, I have to admit the show almost had me believing it was going kill Gary off in this episode. Brutally murdering the series’ goofiest character would’ve been a way to signal a significant change in tone. But it also would’ve been incredibly cheap and manipulative. Thankfully, Legends proved to be above such cheap theatrics and just injured him enough to make Sara feel guilty but not melodramatically crying in the rain guilty. Plus, I adore Gary’s obvious and maybe not totally unrequited crush on Constantine.

“Maybe the Bureau will up our ratings. People love the supernatural”

After the mission, Nate returned to 2018 to try to bond with Henry. Ray admitted that he had feelings for Nora to Zari and she told him that she was tortured by her inability to save her family without damaging the timeline. Sara finally told Ava about the supernatural outbreak and they agreed it would better for them not to move in together. They also pledged to stay together but this is a CW show, so the odds aren’t in their favor. After telling Sara he wouldn’t join the Legends to keep them safe, Constantine was attacked by a malevolent presence that promised it was coming for him.

While I like a lot of things about this episode, there were two elements I really didn’t care for. First, there was Constantine refusing Sara’s offer to join the Legends. I get that he was trying to protect them from the mystical forces that are aligning against him but his actions don’t make a lot of sense. He and the Legends are obviously going run into the same creatures since they’re the ones that open the hole in reality. Keeping him from joining the team just feels like a contrived way to pad out the season’s overarching narrative.

More. Arrow: Why did William go to Lian Yu?. light

Also, I didn’t like that the show introduced some big character growth for Sara at the beginning of the episode only to take it away by the end. While I understand her motivation of wanting to protect Ava, they literally have the same job but with different organizations. And nothing in superhero fiction that feels more contrived than the “I love you so I must leave you to protect you” trope. Surely it’s possible for Sara and Ava’s relationship to experience growing pains in a way that doesn’t feel so rote. Still, aside from those two missteps, this was easily Legends’ best season premiere to date and I’m excited to see where things go from here.

Did you like Legends of Tomorrow’s fourth season premiere?

DC’s Legends of Tomorrow airs on The CW Mondays 9 pm.