The latest DC’s Legends of Tomorrow episode was an emotional whirlwind at a time when we’re still reeling from our real-world sudden spiral into fear and isolation. But it was a wonderful showing of compassion and a reminder that human connection is a powerful thing.
“Romeo V. Juliet: Dawn of Justness,” which aired on Tuesday night, was the final episode for Brandon Routh and Courtney Ford, who’ve played Ray Palmer and Nora Darhk on Legends. Routh’s been on the series since the beginning and has previously indicated that this season’s exit wasn’t his choice, which makes it all the more heartbreaking. I didn’t expect an episode of Legends of Tomorrow featuring ponies, exotic dancers, and a Hamlet–Macbeth crossover to leave me fighting back tears, but here we are.
The episode starts with Ray telling Nora how, now that they’re married (which just happened in the previous episode), he’s ready to leave the ship so they can start a new life together (something Nora’s father, Damien, heavily insisted upon). After all, Nora can’t exactly be a fairy godmother if she’s jumping around through space and time. Everyone takes the news pretty well, only there’s one problem: Ray can’t bring himself to tell his best friend Nate (Nick Zano).
Ray concocts a lie that he’s about to leave for his honeymoon, so Nate decides to throw him a bachelor party while they’re on a mission in 16th-century London. Meanwhile, the girls separately decide to do the same thing, turning Book Club into a raucous bachelorette fête. The boys and Charlie drink themselves into a stupor and ultimately botch up the mission, as the Legends are wont to do. William Shakespeare, looking decidedly like Joseph Fiennes’ Shakespeare in Love version, ends up turning Romeo and Juliet into a Justice League-style crossover event after watching the gang get into a super-powered fight.
The reason for Shakespeare’s rewrite is connected to the major theme of the episode: It’s hard letting go of the people you care about. He doesn’t want to write Romeo and Juliet’s true ending because he loves the characters he created. Likewise, Nate gets angry at Ray when he eventually finds out he’s leaving. Neither of them want to see things change. The gang puts on a last-minute production of Romeo and Juliet to turn Shakespeare’s work back into Riverdale—one of Nate’s best lines from the episode. But Nate abandons his part of Juliet mid-show so he can go say goodbye to his friend, leaving Zari and Constantine to have some serious sexual tension on stage.
Their final scene was a testament to Legends’ ability to mix comedy and heart in a way few shows can. It’s not often we see films or TV shows that are comfortable portraying loving friendships between men, at least not without those weird one-armed “bro hugs.” But Ray and Nate’s kinship—which grew organically over the course of several seasons—was practically bursting. The two of them cried, held each other, and told each other “I love you.” It was a beautiful moment for the characters, and you could feel how much Routh and Zano meant what they were sharing vicariously through them.
That said, while this was completely unintentional because there was no way of knowing what hellish situation we’d be in right now, it was really hard to watch this scene. For many of us, we’re stuck at home and unable to spend time with our friends and loved ones. My family is clear across the country and I have no way of getting to them. All we want is to be able to connect with the people we care about—whether it’s saying hello, goodbye, or everything else that exists in between. Not to mention the fact that many of us are scared of losing our loved ones, so centering an episode around an emotional goodbye was pretty painful for me.
Anyway, the episode ends with the gang, unable to sleep, giving a toast to Ray by drinking some of his disgusting green juice. Nate, now finding himself alone for the first time in years, shares his final thanks: “To Ray. He taught me to be a better friend, by being a better friend than I deserved.” Where will the Legends find themselves next? We’ll see before long.