After last week’s getting-the-gang-back-together episode, in which Rip permanently set himself apart from the gang and Amaya was sadly missing for most of the episode, this week we take the “circus to the circus” as Sara Lance said.
The gang was of course unable to handle a simple Level 1 anachronism (something out of place in time): a saber-toothed tiger being shown at P.T. Barnum’s “freak show.” Instead of handling it, they accidentally growth-rayed the saber-toothed tiger. This was mostly the fault of “the boys” (Ray, Nate, and Jax). The three are a strong grouping humor-wise. Ray and Nate’s nerdy bromance continues from last year, and Jax is there to be the level-headed one, exhausted with the other two.
Luckily, the testosterone filled Waverider is somewhat balanced by Amaya’s return. Unluckily this means that while Sara and Amaya go off to do the adult work of tracking down the tiger (which they do successfully), Nate, Ray, and Jax go to the bar where Nate can get drunk to get over Amaya (who suddenly left him 6 months prior to return to her home in Zambesi). A drunk Nate does some embarrassingly stupid things, like turning to metal in front of P.T. Barnum and bragging about the talents of his friends. P.T. Barnum, of course, wants to collect the three as his freaks. He grabs Ray and Jax. Nate and Amaya are eventually captured while looking for them.
The time bureau gets involved, which means Sara has to “distract” (see: fight) Rip’s second-in-command, Agent Sharpe. They’re so evenly matched that they decide to take a break at which point the saber-toothed tiger grows back to full size (Ray may have mentioned early on that the shrinked stuff does that).
Mick and Stein go to find the others which involves Stein dressing up as a clown, Mick fighting another clown, and a recently escaped Amaya trying to kill P.T. Barnum. Luckily Nate and Amaya reconcile just in time for him to help Amaya remember her humanity (an overdone trope), and prevent her from committing murder.
The best parts of this show are sometimes the worst. This is the most lighthearted of the Arrowverse shows, and takes itself the least seriously. However, this sometimes leads to filler episodes that are a bit too silly. Throughout the series, the characters are alternatively shown at their best and at their stupidest, which means there’s very little character progression.
While season 1 had the gang battling the (frankly horrible) immortal Vandal Savage, and season 2 had them up against semi-powerful supervillains, season 3 seems to be about a series of quirky quests to clean up time while dealing with the interference of the newly founded Time Bureau. The show isn’t oblivious to this, and throws in some self-aware jokes. Agent Sharpe does mention something about a threat they’re facing, and the episode closes on the resurrection of Kuasa (a Vixen villain/anti-hero) by an acolyte of Mallus. Until the show delves into that plot line, the stakes will be relatively low. There will be little room to watch the characters grow and more room for laughing/cringing at their antics.
Jax: “You built a shrink-ray.”
Ray: “I’m not particularly fond of that name.”
Nate: “My friend Jax here turns to fire and flies… and my friend Ray here turns teeny weeny.”
P.T. Barnum (To Nate): “Become the man of steel- make a note of that; that’s very catchy.”
Ray (about the saber-toothed tiger): “Well Mr. Sneezums is now a more manageable size.”
Sara (to Sharpe): “Wow, even our AI doesn’t like you.”
Sara: “There’s a greater evil coming, something even the time bureau is afraid of.”
Everyone bursts out laughing.
Jax: “What can be worse than an immortal Egyptian demigod.”
Stein: “Or an evil speedster.”
Ray: “Oh I’m afraid of the time boogeyman! Literally crying.”