Legends of Tomorrow (briefly) kills Ray and does its best E.T. impression in 'Phone Home'

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Dec 26, 2019, 2:51 PM EST (Updated)

It took a while to get started, but The CW's Legends of Tomorrow is back on track as the goofiest, wackiest and most enjoyable superhero show on television. This week: Nate hits on Ray's mom. Oh, and a lot of other stuff, too.

Spoilers ahead for "Phone Home," the latest episode of The CW's Legends of Tomorrow, which aired October 31, 2017!

This series has never shied away from the inherent insanity of time travel, and this week Ray Palmer hilariously vanishes mid-trust fall with Mick, as we quickly learn a time anomaly has caused him to die back in 1988 when he's just eight years old — meaning he never grows up to become a hero and join the team in the first place. Hence the vanishing.

So the Legends trek back to the day before Ray's death, and start unraveling a fun conspiracy theory straight out of the Steven Spielberg playbook. This show has never been subtle in its homages, but they pull it off so earnestly it doesn't matter. We get flying bicycles, a friendly little alien, and the kid at the center of it all teaches the adults a lesson or two in the process. Sure, it all sounds a bit familiar, but it doesn't make it any less fun.

We get a look into the childhood life of the ever-positive Ray Palmer, and come to realize his youth wasn't as happy-go-lucky as he first believed. The kids he thought were his friends were actually bullying him, and he was a lonely only child with no friends who often hid from the world through rescuing stray animals, building inventions, or disappearing into the woods to pretend he's on King Arthur's court (which was an excellent callback, considering we already knew Ray was a King Arthur geek from the team's trip to the past to actually meet those medieval heroes).

We get to see Ray have a bit of an existential crisis when faced with his younger self, as he realizes life wasn't nearly as cheery as he'd always perceived. Thankfully, this is Ray we're talking about, and he still finds the silver lining, anyway.

In another clever callback, Ray's childhood alien pal isn't just any alien — he's a baby Dominator, aka the alien race that tried to invade Earth and take out all the meta humans during the big four-show crossover event last year. These things are powerful and deadly, and Ray is hiding one in his closet alongside his teddy bears. They have the power to control minds, and are insanely strong. Again, not exactly cuddly, little E.T. we're talking about here. The adults assume the surprisingly cute alien is the reason Ray dies, but it turns out (dum-dum-dum) it's the shady government agents trying to capture the alien that actually take out young Ray.

Ray really does connect with the little critter, bonding over a shared love for "Singin' in the Rain," adorably enough. Seriously, that little alien head bob will get you, every time. Turns out those Dominators aren't quite as evil as the Legends think, and the Mominator is just there looking for her baby. They beam out mysteriously (did they have a ship nearby?) just to wrap up the story in a bow, but with this show you don't question the logic. You just enjoy the adorable alien baby and move on.

This mission is also an opportunity to introduce new recruit Zari into the fold, and she connects most with kid (and then adult) Ray along the way. The format of this show makes it easy to bring team members on and off at will, and she seems like a balanced dose of new blood to keep the team on its toes. Here's hoping they don't just immediately turn her into a romantic interest, HawkGirl-style.

Assorted musings

*The banter on this show is top notch, and when they're firing on all cylinders, it's one of the most clever shows on television. The "Two Truths and a Lie" jokes early were golden, withSara and Mick chiming in to undercut Ray.

*How may sci-fi comic book adventure shows can pull off a subplot where one character tries to hook up with another character's mom in the past, then have it turn out to really be an evil alien? Not many, but again, this isn't your typical show. The subplot with Nate crushing on Ray's mom was hilarious, not to mention his "Is there a cougar on the premises?" line. This show continues to be goofy in the best possibly ways.

*Nice to see a DeLorean show up, even if it was for just a moment. Gotta take full advantage of that 1980s setting, right?

*There have been rumblings Stein would be leaving the team by the end of the season, and it looks like that subplot is officially in motion. With a new grandchild back in 2017 (named Ronnie, in a sweet easter egg), Stein obviously wants to be home – but feels too obligated to Jax to leave. So, Jax is going to try and figure out a way to separate Firestorm. Hopefully they'll find some scientific McGuffin that allows Jax to stay on the team, and Stein to make a graceful exit.

*Seeing the gang hit the streets to back up the younger Ray hits at the heart of why this show works. It doesn't always make sense, but at their best these are heroes trying to do what's right. Even if that's just stealing candy from bullies to help out a nerdy kid who can't catch a break.

Next week: Vampires!

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