DC’s Legends Of Tomorrow S02E03 “Shogun” REVIEW
Airing in the UK on Sky1, Thursdays, 8pm
Writers: Phil Klemmer, Grainne Godfree
Director: Kevin Tancharoen
Essential Plot Points:
- Amaya (Vixen) boards the Waverider and attacks the crew, believing Mick to be Rex’s murderer. Her attack is thwarted by Nate, who manifests new metahuman abilities that make his body tough as steel. Sara is able to convince Amaya that Rex was likely killed by a rouge time-traveller so they decide to work together.
- As the team have Nate test out his abilities, they cause an accident that knocks a door open and Rex is sucked out.
- Ray flies after him and the two crashland in 17th century feudal Japan.
- In grotesquely stereotypical White Saviour fashion, Nate has a fling with Masako Yamashiro who is engaged to marry the shogun Tokugawa Iemitsu.
- Ray’s suit is stolen and he does a nonsensical stereotypical “sensei” montage trying to push Rex to embrace and understand his new metahuman abilities.
- The team arrives later on to help them fight the shogun and his samurai, all while making tacky quips about ninjas because the mispronounced Japanese by supposedly Japanese characters just wasn’t enough to fill up the offensive quota.
- Ray and Nate have to make the sacrifice of destroying Ray’s suit to defeat the shogun and of course Nate undermines Masako’s opportunity to be the hero because it’s a White Saviour trope episode, after all.
- Jefferson and Stein stay out of the commotion but are shown to find a hidden armory onboard the Waverider containing a secret message to Rip from Barry Allen in 2056 that is supposed to be kept secret from the crew.
Though the folks in charge of Legends Of Tomorrow may have aimed to alleviate the problematic aspects of doing a token “Asian” episode by hiring an Asian director, Kevin Tancharoen can only do so much when the writing and casting is riddled with such significantly bad decisions.
The main purpose of this episode is to introduce the newly metahuman Nate and Amaya (Vixen) as new members to the Legends team. The writers could’ve chosen any period in time and any location but made the terrible selection of 17th century feudal Japan. Thus, Nate’s climactic moment of embracing his abilities and heroism inevitably falls into the White Saviour trope of when white people go to “exotic” locations and are prioritised and glorified above the people native to that place; bear in mind that these non-white individuals consistently struggle to have equal job opportunities or bring to life culturally authentic stories in Hollywood.
This brings us to the next issue: the inaccuracies in the Japanese setting/characters. Given the time period and the location, it was absolutely essential that all Japanese characters be portrayed by Japanese actors. As the show refused to do so, the episode is glaringly riddled with improper body language, mannerisms, and linguistic inaccuracies. The ability of the ship to function as a universal translator means that all characters speak in English even if in the plot, another language is being spoken. However, actress Mei Melançon’s inability to pronounce her own character name, Masako, correctly is just one of several infractions in the episode.
Additionally, the shtick of throwing in a random Japanese word here or there for the sake of being “cool”, such as Mick incorrectly pronouncing “Konnichiwa” during a battle scene, is a deeply patronising example of the accessorising of Japanese culture and language, reducing it to an aesthetic, and demeaning actual Japanese people into objects for the consumption of others.
Despite Legends Of Tomorrow having previously shown greater thoughtfulness about the implications of time travel for their team members that are anything other than white/heterosexual/male, “Shogun” has lowered the calibre of the show’s socially conscious standard that so many viewers have revered it for.
- Coming from a Japanese reviewer that had been dreading this episode ever since the promotional photos were released, the episode wasn’t as racist as it could have been.
- Amaya (Vixen) is an excellent addition to the team and actress Maisie Richardson-Sellers is charismatic.
- Nate’s White Saviour plot didn’t do any favours for actor Nick Zano, as it further flattened any dimension or depth his story might have had. There was little to differentiate his character from every other generic white hero in superhero/action media and the episode would’ve been more interesting without him being focused on. Expanding on Ray’s emotional turmoil at having to sacrifice his suit would’ve been a better investment for the writers with greater payoff to the viewers.
- As previously stated, the token inclusion of Japanese words, and even Masako’s name were all severely butchered, showing how little the show’s writers/producers respect Japanese people.
- The show threw in a tie-in by having Masako and her father revealed to be ancestors of Tatsu “Katana’” Yamashiro but considering how infamous her arc has become to Asian viewers of Arrow, it might’ve been better off to leave it out.
- The tie-in to a future Barry Allen may prove interesting depending on how the arc unfolds but the pitch modulation to “age” Grant Gustin’s voice was laughable in its execution.
Reviewed by Jenevia Kagawa Darcy