There’s nothing like building furniture to test the tensile strength of a relationship, a fact Sara and Ava learn in the Legends of Tomorrow’s Season 4 episode “The Eggplant, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.”
While the team is trying to fight a nasty demon named Neron, Sara must enter the purgatory where he has trapped Ava’s soul to help free her. Constantine warns Sara that what she’s about to see may be difficult to take, but she is undeterred. Then Sara wakes up in a knock-off of a certain retail store that sells furniture you assemble yourself and also... meatballs. Let’s call it Faux-kea. You read that correctly. Ava’s purgatory is shopping at Faux-kea. As someone who hates to shop, I find this very relatable.
After wandering around the store for a bit trying to find an exit, Sara and Ava are directed to assemble an Ergrik wardrobe. As they walk into the wardrobe section, an unopenable door slams behind them. Their fate is sealed: They must assemble this piece of furniture and they must do it before a certain demon’s girlfriend shows up and steals Ava’s body.
Eager to keep moving, Sara dives right in. Ava wants to read the instructions, but that’s just not Sara’s style. Her freewheeling attempt at assembling the wardrobe entirely by intuition doesn’t go very well and Ava takes it to be indicative of their relationship. She accuses Sara of bulldozing her way through everything instead of listening to Ava, which Ava takes as a personal affront. “When we fight,” she says, “I get really scared and I just go to my corner.”
Sara listens to Ava’s concerns, assures her of the humanity of her fight or flight instinct, and offers to try building the wardrobe again, this time working together with the instructions. The wardrobe looks great once assembled, but nothing happens when they finish it. Desperate to know what went wrong, Ava finds a missing piece. She begins to panic, but Sara turns to her and says, “It’s not perfect, but it’s ours. Can you live with that?”
Ava accepts the wardrobe for its flaws and together, the two step through it, which doesn’t lead them out of Faux-kea, but into another part of the store.
This small moment becomes not just an example of how totally bizarre Legends is willing to get, but of how ordinary queerness is allowed to be. The series treats two women who are in love building a piece of furniture as unremarkable, which is part of what makes the series so remarkable. If queer people are everywhere doing all kinds of things, however mundane they may be, then queerness is plentiful, acceptable, and celebrated.
Legends has set the standard both for casual queerness and for the level of absurdity one show can integrate into a cohesive storyline. Luckily, both have by and large paid off for the series.
Let’s first consider its queerness. The Waverider is captained by bisexual badass and former assassin Sara Lance, who is in a loving and committed relationship with Time Bureau Director Ava Sharpe. Yes, that’s two HBICs who are both queer, in a relationship, and leading the two entities responsible for preserving time. Prior to the two forming a relationship, Sara enjoyed banging her way through history, sleeping with a repressed nurse, the queen of France, Guinevere (it turns out Sara is the Lance-a-lot of King Arthur’s court), most of the women in Salem, Alex Danvers (from Supergirl), and John Constantine.
Speak of the devil — or well, the master of the dark arts — Legends is also the series that finally let John Constantine out of the closet. (I’m looking at you, Constantine.) Not only that, but the series centers the relationship between Constantine and his boyfriend Desmond in Season 4, making it so that a kiss between the two saves the day. Along the way, we also learn that Time Agent Gary Green swings both ways and has a big thing for Constantine who only partly reciprocates.
I’ve argued elsewhere that Charlie, a shape-shifting non-human, is genderfluid (at least literally, and it’s not a stretch to say as an identity). Charlie has also shown an attraction to Zari (and to the ship’s AI, Gideon) and though they haven’t dated, Zari definitely hasn’t confirmed she’s straight. That said, Zari and Nate just started banging and raising a dragon egg, I guess? (I told you it was weird.)
Even the seemingly straight people in Legends are part of this queer family. Nate and Ray are frequently shown regarding one another with a great deal of respect and tenderness. They hug, they share their feelings, and they help each other figure out how to balance strength and humility. I mean, IDK if it’s intentionally queer (I ship it), but it sure is lovely and a wonderful counterbalance to the machismo of some other corners of the Arrowverse. Rory, another pretty typical guy, prides himself on his rough and tumble ways, but he’s also a romance novelist — and a very good one at that. Again, not necessarily queer, but it sure does seem to deliberately f*ck with societal notions of gender and masculinity.
Perhaps even more compelling is the fact that the series regularly features queer storylines without needing to denote them as such. In the episode “Séance and Sensibility,” part of the team travels to 1809 to save Jane Austen and immediately witnesses a wedding being broken up by the bride declaring her love for the scullery maid. In Faux-kea, queer couples can be seen holding hands and shopping in the background while Sara and Ava argue over how to escape.
Maybe none of this should be revolutionary, but it is. Where other series are killing off queer characters or relegating them to obscurity, queer identities and queer storylines are just part of the fabric of Legends.
Now, onto the absurd. When Legends returned from a way-too-long hiatus, it did so with all the flair for weirdness we’ve come to expect. (Almost four months passed between the mid-season finale and mid-season premiere… not that we’ve been counting.) The second half of the season opened with a series of fast-paced episodes containing a whirlwind of time displacement, Lucha Libre, werewolf romance/tragedy, kidnapping Nixon, a (thankfully) short-lived break up between Sara and Ava, and the revelation that something sinister is afoot at the Time Bureau.
The newest addition to the Waverider was a werewolf-ish character named Mona, who helps the team figure out that Nate’s father Hank has been stealing magical beings from the Bureau and taking them to an off-site, unrecorded location. Before Nate can fully confront his father, Hank is killed by Neron who is wearing Desmond’s body. In the wake of his father’s death, Nate finds out what he was really doing with all those magical beings.
In just the most random twist of events ever, it is revealed that Hank did all of this for Nate so that he could build the magical amusement park of Nate’s childhood drawings. Mhm. Nate’s father, a top governmental official, made a deal with a demon so that he could build a theme park for his adult son who is a superhero.
Meanwhile, after having a very naughty threesome dream, Zari falls in lust with the Hindu god of love, Kamadeva. Together, Mona, Charlie, and Sara help her pull back from MARRYING HIM ON THE SPOT. Thankfully, Charlie thinks to mention that this guy probably already has a wife. It turns out he has a 1,000. Also, surprise! This is not Kamadeva, but a random person who has been impersonating the God. Of course, this all takes place as part of a stunning Bollywood number that ends with Mona sweetly serenading Zari. She sings to her, saying that neither of them has to hide in grief any longer, but that they can open their hearts in part because they have their girl group to back them up.
The thing about Legends is that it is so weird and so queer that you can really pick just about any episode and enjoy yourself a strange adventure with queer tones — there’s no telling if they’ll be overtones or undertones, but let’s just say the Waverider is a freak fest in every valence of the term.
Sara rejects all the clones who represent only one part of who Ava is and instead finds Ava behind a door labeled “As is.” When she sees her, Sara smiles, breathless. Ava, who has been crying, sits cross-legged, confused as to why Sara would choose her over the other women, the other hers. Sara says, “I don’t want other women.” The two kiss and wake up back aboard the Waverider.
Ava’s purgatory, it turns out, was not shopping at Faux-kea. Her purgatory was her doubts about her life with Sara, or better said, it was her doubts about how Sara felt about committing to Ava.
Sara chooses Ava because she wants her partner, not some version of her that will be compliant or fit a role in her life. And, despite their fears and their hesitations, they choose one another, whether in purgatory, aboard the Waverider, or any other time in history.
Their love and their trip to Faux-kea are emblematic of what makes Legends such an incredible and enjoyable TV series. No matter what wild adventure the crew gets about, no matter what weird turn of events make something sinister kind of hilarious, no matter who ends up being queer (or not), the Legends are rejected superheroes with hearts of gold. More than that, they’re a family. And, the series itself is a heavenly, light escape from the nightmarish Faux-kea that is our existence IRL.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author's, and do not necessarily reflect those of SYFY WIRE, SYFY, or NBC Universal.