Legends of Tomorrow: “Phone Home” Review

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By: Jaclyn Cascio (@jaclynator)

This week, Legends of Tomorrow celebrated the Halloween holiday in style, with pop culture and 80s references in abundance. Was the episode worth staying home for, or would trick-or-treating have been a better activity for the night? Read on for our review to find out!

I should preface this entire review with an important announcement – Ray Palmer (Brandon Routh) is easily my favorite character on Legends of Tomorrow. (He should be yours too! All the other billionaires brood on rooftops, but Palmer loves Singin’ in the Rain instead!) I don’t know that I’ve ever wished so hard for a fictional character to be real. Bravery, kindness, positivity, and a healthy dash of quirk make Palmer a fun character to watch and the kind of guy we would all probably like to be friends with. If you haven’t figured it out yet, bias may follow in this review as “Phone Home” was a Palmer-centric episode, with a trip back in time to 1988 to rescue a young endangered Ray.

Here’s why an episode focused on Ray Palmer was a (long overdue) great choice: his character is full of heart and humor, which are the makings of a memorable and chuckle-filled episode. Geek or not, his positive outlook on life is contagious and refreshing to watch. As Jackson (Franz Drameh) said, “Trust Ray to find the bright side of dying.” That positive outlook is definitely a solid fit for Legends of Tomorrow. (I hated to see him leave on Arrow, with all the brooding that goes on there, but it was ultimately for the best, as the character elevates Legends of Tomorrow to another level.)

Flashing back to the 80s allowed Legends of Tomorrow to ride the Stranger Things wave this week, capitalizing on the nostalgia that has captured the American television audience. “Phone Home” was more than a brilliant homage to Steven Spielberg’s ET, it was full of callbacks to all kinds of classic pop culture films and the best of the 80s. That included Nate (Nick Zano) in a jumpsuit with a towel (resembling a well-known bully named Biff Tannen) working on a Delorean and referring to time machines as a hilarious nod to the Back to the Future films we all know and love.

“Phone Home” wasn’t all laughs, though. But I’m not crying. It’s just alien goo in my eye. That being said, the episode took a thoughtful look at the loneliness of a genius child and how all his joy and quirky sense of fun might have been formed as ways to cope with a world that Ray Palmer might not otherwise have been able to connect to. And as his character explained at the beginning, what makes a hero isn’t necessarily the powers or abilities of the individual. It’s about the bonds and relationships. (Of course, that opened a can of worms for a team-building process that reminded us that Palmer was once the CEO of a giant progressive corporation reminiscent of real world Google.)

Not only was “Phone Home” a clever jump back in the past, it also pulled in memories of the terrible Dominators that once wreaked havoc on Earth, nearly destroying humanity – although this time one of them was a bit cuter and cuddlier than we might remember from the crossover episodes of last season. Knowing how the writers for the CW Arrowverse shows like to pull and tie threads together across seasons and series, one can’t help but wonder if Palmer’s kindness to a baby Dominator in 1988 will change or alter the future (or is it the present?) interactions with the wildly aggressive and powerful species.

This week’s episode of Legends of Tomorrow was light-hearted and fun, and it was so solid and well played that it seemed like it was over just a bit too quick. It wasn’t enjoyable just because it focused on Ray Palmer. The respect paid to an era of science fiction movies and television and the emergence of animal prints, big hair, and more, was enough to help the episode rise to the top of the favorite episodes list. I found myself wishing for the next week’s episode to enjoy as the show becomes more Whovian by the minute.

What did you think of this week’s episode of Legends of Tomorrow? Did it capture the fun of 1988 you remember or did it miss the mark?


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