If Arrow is the gritty vigilante show and The Flash is the warm-hearted, family-driven superhero show then DC’s Legends of Tomorrow is the crazy time travel show. That’s what will set it apart from Arrow and Flash. Granted, Barry Allen can pop back in time whenever he runs too fast, but he just uses his feet. The Legends of Tomorrow gang have a huge, um, I want to say spaceship, and it can even cloak, Star Trek-style.
Huh. Good for them, but who are they and why should I care about them?
THR, you want to take this one?:
Arrow/Flash‘s two-episode crossover, a highlight of last season, was wasted this season on a poorly paced introduction for snarling villain Vandal Savage (Casper Crump) and regenerating lovers Hawkman (Falk Hentschel) and Hawkgirl (Ciara Renee). The latter two characters join previously introduced Flash semi-villains Captain Cold (Wentworth Miller) and Heat Wave (Dominic Purcell), Flash recurring player Martin Stein (Victor Garber) and his Firestorm other half Jefferson Jackson (Franz Drameh), and occasional Arrow second fiddles Ray “The Atom” Palmer (Brandon Routh) and Sara “Canary” Lance (Caity Lotz) in a conglomerate that could be more accurately named Recognizable Background Players With No Meaningful Connections From CW Superhero Hits.
They are recruited by Rip Hunter (Arthur Darville), a Time
Lord Master stepping outside his comfort zone. Time Masters are only supposed to protect the timeline, not interfere, but Hunter thinks they should do something to prevent Savage from fulfilling his plan for world domination by 2166. It’s too late to stop him in their present, but if they can travel back through time then maybe they have a chance. We are meant to think that Hunter successfully talks the Time Master council (?) into letting him take a ship to wage his war through time when in fact his request was denied but he took the ship and ran.
Actually, it’s not really that simple, but, sure, let’s just go with that, especially since Darville’s presence inevitably recalls Doctor Who.
Hunter uses his future technology to incapacitate each potential member of his team before gathering them on a rooftop (probably an old Arrow filming location) and giving them his sales pitch: Bad dude. End of the world. Let’s stop him together. Why you? Because where I come from you’re all legends.
Oh, Hunter, you sly, ego-stroking sonofabitch. Well played, sir. Well played.
The characters all go to their respective corners to contemplate the offer to become time-traveling, world-savers. Sara gets a gentle push from her older sister Laurel (Katie Cassidy). Hawkgirl wants nothing to do with it, but loses the literal fight with Hawkman meaning she has to go. Cold and Heatwave see an opportunity to become time-traveling thieves. In conference with Oliver Queen, Ray Palmer laments that when he supposedly died the world didn’t care, regardless of all his wealth and inventions. To die a forgotten man is not the fate he wants, and Rip’s offer is exactly what he needs. Professor Stein is blinded by science (time travel? now, this I have to see), and drugs his reluctant Firestorm counterpart into going with him.
The first stop on their journey is the mid-70s to visit the only expert on Vandal Savage, a college professor who turns out to actually be Hawkman and Hawkgirl’s son from one of their prior lives, specifically the one from around World War I. Left behind on the ship, Sara, Cold and Heatwave go to a bar for a drink and a brawl, and everyone eventually meets back at the ship when a time travel bounty hunter named Chronos attempts and fails to bring Rip Hunter back to the Time Masters. It’s a nice excuse to see all of the characters in action, but it also sort of undercuts their collective might that two masters of fire (Firestorm, Heatwave), a guy with a freeze ray (Captain Cold), DC Iron Man (Atom), a master assassin (White Canary), two hawk people and a time traveler with a laser pistol can barely fight off a glorified Boba Fett with a laser gun. It’s future tech vs. a rag tag group of super heroes, and future tech kicks their ass or at least seems merely delayed instead of actually defeated.
That does lead to the first genuinely intriguing part of this show which is Rip’s admission that he lied to everyone about them being legends in the future. In fact, he picked them specifically because from 2016 forward they have no meaningful impact on the timeline. They all have a certain set of skills he could use, and they’re all so expendable that history won’t miss them if they should die on this mission.
Talk about having the rug pulled out from under you. Hey, you’re super important! Um, just kidding. No one’s even heard of you before.
Rip lied because Vandal killed his wife and son, and he’ll do anything to have his vengeance. When his lies are exposed, everyone goes to their respective corners of the ship before ultimately coming back together, further motivated to change their own personal legacies now that they know at least one version of the future doesn’t remember them.
Yay team! Time travel shenanigans, away!
In truth, you can’t really judge Legends of Tomorrow yet. That sounds weird to say considering how much time Flash and Arrow devoted to setting this show up. The two-part crossover they did was pretty much a backdoor pilot for Legends of Tomorrow. However, even though Flash and Arrow laid the tracks for this show, so to speak, this is the first time the train has been up and running. None of these characters have been thrown together like this before, and it’ll take a while to see what kind of relationship they form.
Moreover, the name of this episode is “Pilot, Part1,” implying that we haven’t even technically seen the whole pilot yet. What we saw was the first half, and boy howdy was it weighed down by exposition. Granted, this show makes a lot of logical assumptions that if you’re watching Legends of Tomorrow you probably already have a good idea who all of these characters. Still, they have to at least kind of explain who everyone is, which translate to awkward dialogue like Hawkgirl saying stuff like “As of four weeks ago I was just a barista.” They have to also find something resembling a character arc for everyone, and oy vey on that front.
The problem, as so many other reviewers have noted, is that there’s no real center to this show yet, or, if there is, it’s not compelling. Vandal Savage is a boring villain. He was a waste of time on Arrow/Flash, particularly during those dreadful Egypt flashbacks, and he’s a charisma void again on Legends of Tomorrow, too easily reduced to “madman wants to take over the world because what else is he going to do?” Hawkman and Hakwgirl, whose shared backstory is so intricately linked to Savage, sort of look like they’ve only recently realized there are more than two facial expressions you can use, but they’re still too scared to try them out. Hunter is too burdened with being Mr. Exposition to completely emerge as a true central figure, but Darville’s performance is never boring. Cold and Heatwave both talk like cartoon characters, which makes taking them seriously difficult. And so on and so on.
I keep wondering if DC’s Legends of Tomorrow actually needs to exist. Turner Entertainment’s Kevin Reilly recently told reporters that TNT ultimately passed on a Teen Titans TV show because “there is an unbelievable glut of superhero things in the market right now and if you have a really good one, clearly people are up for it. But I just don’t think that there’s a need for one that, for me, at least on paper didn’t seem to be screaming to get made.” Similarly, from the moment it was announced Legends of Tomorrow has never felt like a show which was screaming to be made, and while the randomness with which these characters have been thrown together is nicely addressed in the pilot it can’t cover the fact that this is all just an opportunistic experiment to see if the Arrow/Flash producers can repackage their spare parts into a crazy time travel show. If the quality of the pilot is any indication, it’s going to take them longer than usual to actually pull that off.
1. There is some obvious overlap on this team. Why do you need Heatwave when you already have Firestorm? Then again, why do you need Professor Stein when you have Ray Palmer? That’s two fire-powered team members, and two resident scientists. It suggests, to me, that the cast as its currently comprised will not be the same by the end of the season. My bet is that Heatwave, the most cartoonish and therefore most expendable, won’t be around for long. What do you think?