Legends of Tomorrow Uses Mister Rogers Episode to Work on Peaceful Conflict Resolution

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BY March 11, 2020

Equal parts ridiculous and dramatic, Legends of Tomorrow is the purest comic book show on television. No other series so perfectly captures the emotional weight and pure absurdity that the comic book medium allows for. Constantly reflecting pop culture, the lovable dopes on the Waverider took some inspiration from A Beautiful Day In the Neighborhood. Legends of Tomorrow had a Mister Rogers episode within their episode dealing with the idea of peaceful conflict resolution. Though the real Mister Rogers might be mostly chagrined, I think he’d be a little proud, too.

Part of the appeal of comic book action is, despite the moral subtext of the story, people always get to punching each other. Yet, Mister Rogers dedicated his life to teaching children (and adults) how to deal with destructive feelings in constructive ways. So, it makes sense that the Legends of Tomorrow episode that parodied Mister Rogers would be about peaceful conflict resolution.

Light spoilers ahead, so if you’ve not seen it yet, bookmark this page and come back when you’re through!

Legends of Tomorrow Has Some Fun With Mister Rogers

Legends of Tomorrow Mister Rogers episode Mister Parker's Cul-De-Sac Titles Brandon Routh Ray Palmer Image via screengrab

For legal reasons, certainly, the show-within-the-show is not Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Rather, it’s Mister Parker’s Cul-de-Sac, but everything else is close to the same. Mr. Parker wears a sweater, sings a song, and changes his shoes. The Mister Rogers stand-in was a key part of Ray Palmer’s childhood. (This also makes sense because the Brandon Routh character has perhaps the purest heart in the Arrowverse, second only to Supergirl.) The song and the character are meant to be funny, but they are not making fun of Mister Rogers. Rather, like they did with George Lucas, Barack Obama, and (the real) John Noble they just put a ridiculous situation around these real-world characters.

In this case, through the result of Fairy Godmother Magic™, the whole episode’s cast ends up living an episode of Mister Parker’s Cul-de-Sac. Ray is, of course, Mister Parker. Caity Lotz’s Sara Lance and Jes McCallen’s Ava Sharpe end up as puppets. Apparently, Sarah was considering moving back to her home of Star City after the Arrow series finale. They do have an opening. (Editor’s Note: Too Soon.) Yet she didn’t tell Ava about it. The conflict simmers as a kind of D-story in the episode. So, as puppets in the “Land of Make-Em-Ups,” the two agree to communicate. (Also, Sara is staying on the Waverider.)

Ray and Nora Darhk, played by Routh’s real-life wife Courtney Ford, are not.

A Happy Ending for the Characters, but Not So for the Actors

Legends of Tomorrow Mister Rogers episode Brandon Routh Cortney Ford Nora Darhk Ray Palmer Image via CW

Usually, when a character leaves the Arrowverse, they do it of their own accord. Both Colton Haynes, Willa Holland, and Keiynan Lonsdale asked to be written off their shows are regulars. Routh and Ford, however, did not. During an episode of Inside of You With Michael Rosenbaum Routh said his exit was “not well-handled.” The producers have said that they wanted to write a happy ending for these two characters, and their cast is already very large. Still, after six years in the Arrowverse, Routh struggled with his transition. Ford, however, told TV Guide that she was grateful for her character’s ending. She said Nora’s story is “a gift to trauma survivors,” because her character changes from a villain to a hero (and a literal Fairy Godmother). But, she also admitted that the longer you play a character, the harder it is to let them go. Still, unless there is bad blood, it seems a given that Routh and Ford will at least guest star in the future.

Next week’s episode will be Ray and Nora’s last. When they filmed these episodes, Brandon Routh shared an emotional goodbye to the show after wrapping filming via Instagram.

The Legends of Tomorrow Mister Rogers Episode Story Mirrors the Real-Life Drama

Legends of Tomorrow Mister Rogers episode Jes McCallen Caity Lotz Sara Lance Ava Sharpe Image via CW

Again, this series is patently absurd. The only show that comes close to it in this regard is DC Universe’s Doom Patrol. Yet, unlike that show, Legends of Tomorrow has a joy about it, so much so that they can get away with a Mister Rogers episode. Routh and Ford obviously had some conflict about leaving the series. The characters in the episode are rife with conflict, but they actually all end up working it out by simply talking.

Nora and her father, Neal McDonough’s despicable Damien Darhk, work out their issues. (He raised her in a demon cult to end the world before dying and, now, returning from Hell to menace the world once more.) Instead, by the end of the episode, one of the Arrowverse’s most unrelenting and cruel villains gives up on his second chance at life because he no longer wishes to be evil. The scene between him and Sara at the end is a fairly big Arrowverse moment. He apologizes to Sara for killing her sister, Katie Cassidy’s Laurel Lance, in Arrow season 4.

Matt Ryan’s Constantine and Maisie Richardson-Sellers’ Charlie also get some peaceful conflict resolution. The two characters have trust issues but partner up to help achieve the season’s larger arc resolution. Specifically, they are going to save Astra, a little girl Constantine doomed to Hell in his salad days as a master of dark arts.

All in all, the Mister Rogers episode honored its source material in a way only Legends of Tomorrow could.

What did you think of the episode? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Featured image via CW

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Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. The first books he read on his own were comics, and he's loved the medium ever since. He is the greatest star-pilot in the galaxy, a cunning warrior, and a good friend. His book "What I Learned: Stories, Essays, and More" is available in print from Amazon and from all electronic booksellers.

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