We’d heard for a while it was coming, and the end has finally arrived — OG Legend Ray Palmer (Brandon Routh) has left the series he helped launch. So how did it all go down, and more importantly, did the exit work? Eh, kinda.
Spoilers ahead for “Romeo V. Juliet : Dawn of Justness,” the latest episode of The CW’s Legends of Tomorrow, which aired Tuesday, March 17, 2020.
The logline finds the Legends going back to the 1500s and completely screwing up Shakespeare’s career — and we get everything from the Legends performing Romeo and Juliet to an insane bachelorette party along the way — but this story is all about Ray Palmer. Brandon Routh started his Arrowverse journey back on Arrow, then made the jump to Legends, where he’s been ever since as one of the few remaining original team members on Legends of Tomorrow.
But that journey came to a bittersweet end this week, as both Routh and his real-life (and on-screen) wife Courtney Ford bid farewell to the Waverider (seemingly for good) with one last wacky time-travel adventure. Routh has made no secret that his exit from the series was not his decision, and was instead put forward by the creative team (he opened up a lot more about it in our interview with him), and knowing that, it puts an interesting cloud over the way his departure was handled creatively.
The story went like this: Ray and his live Nora were married last week, and Ray decided the newlyweds need a fresh start to begin their new life. So he decides this will be his last mission with the Legends and the two will depart the team (and the show) to start a new life together. It makes sense on the surface, but felt a bit forced in execution. Nora, a fairy godmother with her own magical powers, has become close friends with the rest of the Waverider crew, while Ray has shown no sign that he doesn’t love his job. So had they opted to keep Routh and Ford around, their presence would’ve made plenty of narrative sense on the surface.
We see Ray (and Routh) truly struggling with his exit, as he talks Shakespeare through how change can be a good thing, and sometimes stories really do need to end. This happens after Shakespeare hilariously rewrites Romeo and Juliet to become an Avengers-style teamup with some of his other famed characters (after he sees the Legends in action, Shakespeare gets a hankering for writing superhero tales). The conversation is clearly a parallel to the writers themselves, working through Ray’s exit and making clear that they feel they’ve run out of stories to tell with him and it's time to end it.
It’s just that it doesn’t seem like Ray, or Routh for that matter, really believes the point he’s selling. Though the entire team is mourning Ray’s exit in their own way (the remaining crew get together to toast Ray with his famously awful “green juice” at episode’s end), it’s Ray’s best pal Nate who steals the show. The two have had one of the most fun, bro-y friendships on prime time the past few years, and seeing that end truly will alter the DNA of the series. That’s manifested on screen, as well, as Nate and Ray share a truly heartfelt goodbye before Ray walks off into the sunset. They tell each other “this sucks” as they say goodbye, and it feels pretty clear they mean it — and fans can likely relate to the sentiment.
Of course, it’s important to note this is a show that has reinvented itself time and time again by shaking up its cast — and it’s one reason the show remains so wacky and fun in the first place. But in dropping Ray, it’s losing a core perspective that has shaped the heart of this series, and team, since its launch. It’ll be interesting how they fill that gap moving forward.
As for the point of that jaunt to the 1500s, the Legends acquire one piece of the Loom of Fate, the mythical object Constantine plans to use to rewrite Astra’s fate and bring her mother back to life (effectively altering Astra’s life journey, meaning she’ll no longer end up in hell and no longer unleash all the evil “encores” upon the world). So two birds, one stone. They score the missing piece, but there are still plenty more to go. It also seems like the woman who raised Astra in hell has some interest in the Loom — could she be one of Charlie’s mysterious sisters who also worked the Loom back in the day? It stands to reason.
Mona is also back this episode! Showing up for book club with Sara, Ava and the gang, and encouraging Rory to reconcile with his estranged daughter. Yeah, it’s safe to assume that story will pop back up down the line this season.
Next up: In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic that has delayed virtually every TV and film production, The CW has opted to delay the next new episode of Legends of Tomorrow a few weeks. So instead of airing a new installment next week, the series will return on April 7. This is the semi-crossover episode with fellow CW series Supernatural, so don’t miss it.