I've said it a lot before but I really love how Legends of Tomorrow is happy to embrace its own silliness. On paper, the idea of the Legends meeting P.T. Barnum, played by Billy Zane seems pretty pedestrian but in practice, this episode really leans into what makes the Legends dysfunctional as a team and you can't help but be entertained by the results.
The whole point of this episode is to prove that the Legends simply can't just do a little job without making much, much, worse before it gets better. As much as I found Rip Hunters treatment of the Legends weird in the premier, you can't help but sympathise with characters viewpoints like Agent Sharpe's. Why is Rip putting so much faith in a team who muck things up badly? Sharpe is quickly developing into a fun antagonist for the Legends and Sara in particular. She is a jerk but you really can't blame her for wanting more accountability for the Legends' actions. The brawl between Sharpe and Sara proved to be one of the many highlights in this episode but is it just me or is there a bit of sexual tension between the two?
Billy Zane puts in a brilliant performance as P.T. Barnum here, bringing a nice mix of bravado and quiet desperation to the role of the showman. It also made a nice change to see the Legends going back in time and not having to protect a historical figure. So it was an interesting shift to see the historical figure as the antagonist. Thankfully though, Barnum was treated as a overt villain who was desperate to save his failing circus. Perhaps the biggest problem with this episode was that there wasn't much in the way of interaction between Victor Garber and Billy Zane as the pair had previously worked together on Titanic, especially with the mention of the event early on, it is a shame the pair don't share more screen time. However, Garber decked out in full clown costume made up for this!
Apart from the appearence of Zane's Barnum, the over important appearence came from the return of Vixen and the much needed explanation for her disappearence. When it was announced that she wouldn't be around for the first few episodes, I wasn't impressed by the suddeness of her leaving, following her decision to stay with Nate at the end of season 2. I'm still not 100% sure I like the reasoning behind her departure. And no matter how much Amaya may go on about not wanting to hurt Nate, abandoning him without any warning was a bit of a stupid move. If she was trying to ensure the life of her granddaughter, why not take Nate back with her to 1942? How can we be sure that Nate isn't Mari's grandfather?
But with this slight annoyance aside, it is nice to have Vixen back and the team feels more full with her onboard. There is still room for plenty of tension between her and Nate given their new relationship now. And now Amaya is struggling to control her animal side thanks to a surge in her amulet makes for a strong subplot in the weeks ahead. Now more than ever, she is beginning to rival Mick as the Wolverine on the team!
Again though, the plot was less important with this episode than the zany, sheer fun of seeing all these characters running around in 1870. Between the Sabretooth Tiger, Mick's fear of clowns, Ray and Jax being forced to play Siamese twins and all the other random silliness, this episode really captures the legends at their silliest and their best.
The other good thing about Freakshow is that it gets the ball rolling enough for the overall season arc. We've got a few hints as to the next shadow looming over the time-stream and it is clearly something dire enough for Rip to keep the Legends at play despite the distrust from his underlings. And that is just enough to give the show its seriousness underneath all the silliness. I am not sure that the villian will be able to top the Legion of Doom from last year but I'll settle for anyone better than Vandal Savage...