Legends of Tomorrow: “Welcome to the Jungle” Review

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By: Jaclyn Cascio (@jaclynator)

Legends of Tomorrow took a trip to Vietnam this week in “Welcome to the Jungle,” without their intrepid leader to guide them. What did they find in the jungle, and was it worth watching? Read on for a review of this week’s episode to find out.

“Welcome to the Jungle” opened with a gaggle of soldiers coming to an apparently gruesome end amongst full green foliage. The worst thing was no longer the enemy in the opposing uniforms, but something else entirely: a creature in the jungle attacking soldiers. The mysterious disappearances of soldiers who were never heard from again after venturing into the rainy forest of a foreign country felt like a nod to the classic action hit, Predator. While the reference was subtle at first, and could have even been considered mere coincidence, a Schwarzenegger reference by Nate (Nick Zano) blew the coincidence out of the water. Following that with actually naming Predator proved that Legends of Tomorrow once again paid brilliant homage to the pop culture history that has informed the nerdy audience watching the show today.

The creature (revealed as Gorilla Grodd) wasn’t the only thing the Legends found in the Vietnamese jungle. Mick’s (Dominic Purcell) Green Beret father was also leading a unit in the country, bringing up extremely serious family issues for Mick. Initially lacking all remorse about the fiery death of his father, Mick’s feelings evolved as he got to know the 1960s version of his dad. With surprising depth of character, Mick began to punish himself for a sin he had never allowed himself to truly process and feel before. This week was another glimpse at the layers that make up rogue character, and it proved to be surprisingly poignant. A character constantly written to be stuck in his treacherous ways proved, this week, to be a character of great growth and even improvement!

“Welcome to the Jungle” brought the team face-to-face with Grodd, the telepathic gorilla. The CGI effects to bring the character to life appeared to have gone through some renovation, improving upon the images we last saw of the mighty ape in The Flash. Grodd’s motivations were in line with an age old villainous cause: to improve the world and save it, according to a twisted and extremely biased perspective. That perspective was “One Nation Under Grodd,” so a conflict between Grodd and the Legends quickly emerged. The conflict was not entirely well thought out, but it still explained the villainous cause better than Batman V Superman ever did with Lex Luthor.

While the team trooped around the jungle this week, I couldn’t help but wonder what was happening with the stories of the season’s baddies. Legends of Tomorrow has yet to make clear who the season’s true villain is meant to be, with problems surrounding not only Kuasa and the totem-bearers but also Damien Darhk (Neal McDonough) with his dark magic and mysterious daughter. Choosing to continue with a “fight of the week” format rather than integrating a thread of an overarching theme might hurt the season in the end, leaving “Welcome to the Jungle” out in the cold, lacking cohesion with the rest of the season.

That’s not the say that at least one of the so-called villains didn’t make their way into the episode. Darhk showed up for a spell (ha ha) at the end of the episode to connect with Grodd, but his nefarious purposes remained unclear. Darhk is an incredibly resourceful character, but we are rarely privy to how he operates. Instead, it’s as if the audience is only given a sneak peek to the final result of the story but is deprived of the beginning and middle of the plot development, with all its world-building components. Last season’s look at the Legion of Doom gave a kind of “behind the scenes” access to the show’s villains in a way that was entertaining and enlightening. “Welcome to the Jungle” lacked the behind the scenes look not only at Darhk and his motivations, but Grodd’s as well. (Did they ever really explain how Grodd made his way to the 1960s and the Vietnam War?)

Meanwhile, Firestorm continued to be out of action as Jax (Franz Drameh) and Stein (Victor Garber) worked on their separation goal, leading to some time-travel rule-breaking by Stein and some growing up by Jax. The story surrounding the separation of the characters has been dampened by a lack of united superhero work this season, leaving the characters in the cold this week without much interaction with the rest of the team. Sara (Caity Lotz) was also MIA for most of the episode, in a Darhk-induced coma. Is the show putting too many bodies on the ship to handle this season? Will we see better focus from future episodes?

Legends of Tomorrow brought the time-traveling team face-to-face with Grodd this week, which went surprisingly well, especially with some new and improved CGI technology at work. Mick’s story was perhaps the most interesting and revealing in “Welcome to the Jungle,” while many other characters (particularly the villains) lacked further necessary exposition. There were some fun and laughs, but perhaps not enough cheese to really embody the Legends of Tomorrow brand and make it a stand out episode.

What did you think of the episode? Did you think it was bananas (yuk yuk yuk), or just are you going to get to the chopper and avoid the show instead?


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