“That was a tough one. I had seen Caity on Mad Men a few years earlier and brought her in for 90210. She didn’t get that part. Then I brought her in for this and she didn’t get Sara right away, so we kept looking. But it was one of those things where I felt like, We have to go back to our initial instincts because she was so great. And now we’ve ended up building DC’s Legends of Tomorrow around her.”
That’s what CW’s casting director guru David Rapapor told Buzzfeed last October about how Caity Lotz found her way to Arrow. He was wrong about one thing: Legends of Tomorrow has not been built around her, or at least it doesn’t feel like it. She is not this show’s Stephen Amell, Grant Gustin or Melissa Benoist. The Legends writers have to do right by Sara Lance just as they do with Leonard Snart, Ray Palmer and the rest of the Waverider crew. However, Sara continually pulls focus, even in those episodes where she doesn’t actually have much to do.
For example, “Night of the Hawk” is not really about Sara, yet she’s arguably the most interesting part. The team travels to Harmony Falls, Oregon circa 1958, and investigates reports of apparent serial killings and missing persons cases which are somehow related to Vandal Savage. The team splits up into groups to pursue different angles on the case.
Kendra and Ray play a newlywed couple moving into a house in suburbia. Jax pulls a 21 Jump Street and poses as a high school student to coax information out of one of the victim’s girlfriends. Leonard and Rip use fake FBI badges to strong arm the local law into handing over important files. Lastly, Stein and Sara take jobs as a doctor and nurse at the local mental hospital, operating on the principle that if a serial killer is afoot they’ll surely find clues at the mental hospital.
What ensues after that is mostly a series of plot conveniences. Ray and Kendra don’t do anything to find Vandal; he literally shows up at their door since he happens to be their new next door neighbor dropping by with his wife to deliver a “welcome to the neighborhood” casserole. Similarly, Dr. Stein and Nurse Lance’s investigation of patient files at the hospital is dead end, and the same goes for Leonard and Rip’s peek into the police files. Sara happens to walk by a plaque of Vandal at the hospital, discovering he works there as a psychiatrist and conducts secret experiments in Hall H (why does “Hall H” sound so familiar?). Jax attains some useful intel not completely delivered to him by happenstance, but he’s captured and experimented on by Savage before he has a chance to do anything about it.
Meanwhile, Sara is off playing the Cate Blanchette to Nurse Carlisle’s (Ali Liebert) Rooney Mara in a 1950s lesbian love story, except this version of Carol includes 100% more ninja buttkicking. Since joining Legends, Sara has regained her confidence, took control of her bloodlust and grappled with the consequences of her choices on the lives of her families, both the Lances and Team Arrow. Frankly, though, it’s all been familiar territory for her. Seeing her seek out a romantic relationship only to recoil in fear of re-activating a part of herself which has laid dormant since before she boarded the Waverider was finally something different. Moreover, it meant she was actually improving history, as per Collider:
Sara’s “liberation” of Nurse Carlisle was a tangible example of someone on Team Waverider actually doing something to affect positive change in the timeline. While the rest of the gang was off trying and failing to stop Vandal Savage from his vague plan to conquer the world or whatever, Sara was giving someone hope. It might not be classic superhero stuff, but that doesn’t make it any less important.
By the end of “Night of the Hawk,” not much is actually accomplished in terms of the season-long plot to conquer that terrible, horrible, no good, very bad Vandal Savage. He used a new meteorite to try to create an army of hawk people, but they came out wrong and somehow kept getting loose and killing townspeople. Oh well. He’ll just wait a couple of thousand years for the next meteorite. Why not? He’s got time.
While this show continues to spin its wheels on Vandal it offers us tantalizing hints of what it could be without him. Because he is such a ineffectual and convoluted villain the best possible version of this show might be the one after he’s defeated for good. He’s the common enemy who brought them together. Because of him, Kendra finally came into her own in “Night of the Hawk” and owned who she is now rather than lamenting who she used to be. Because of him, Jax and Leonard came to an understanding about teamwork and heroism, the former no longer pestering the latter about the magically disappearing Mick Rory. Because of him, Ray learned how best to be Kendra’s partner instead of her overzealous protector, and their relationship advanced. Because of him, Kendra, Jax and Sara traveled to 1958 and encountered racism and sexism, challenging Dr. Stein’s rose-colored glasses version of the past.
None of that happens without Vandal, but as this cast of characters grows together the always lackluster reason for this team’s initial formation seems less and less important. When Legends returns from its brief hiatus, the first episode back will be part gun fight in space/Cast Away with time travelers in the 1950s. It’ll likely be completely unrelated to Vandal, and that’s this show’s strong suit at this point. Watching Sara liberate a closeted 1950s lesbian and Kendra and Jax combat old school racism was infinitely more interesting than seeing time’s biggest stalker sleaze out over seeing Kendra in her best little black dress.
THE LEGENDARY BITS
2. OMG, They Killed Vandal Savage…Again: Once by Team Arrow/Team Flash, twice by Rip Hunter and now once by Ray. Are there more?
3. Funny Exposition: “Try harder, Doc” – The “techno babble” followed by “In English, Doc, please!” followed by “dumbed down metaphor/explanation” is a familiar dynamic in these shows. In this instance, Dr. Stein couldn’t quite help himself with the technobabble. He needed to be asked a second time to truly dumb it down.
4. Crazy Theory: What if Chronos the bounty hunter is actually Mick Rory from the future? Explanation: Leonard let him go instead of killing him, and then he was immediately recruited by the Time Agents to seek his vengeance against he Waverider crew throughout time.
5. Biggest Nitpick: Betty’s boyfriend became one of Vandal’s test subjects, and she’s happy to see him back to normal at the end. However, that boyfriend was missing, not dead, and she was already trying to make out with the hot new guy in town she just met. I’m guessing those two crazy kids aren’t going to make it.
Also, was Betty’s time aboard the Waverider simply wiped from her memory? Or was she so out of it she didn’t realize she was on a spacehip? Or did Jax explain everything to her eventually, but that conversation happened entirely off-screen?
6. Move On Mr. Savage: Kendra’s just not that into you. Get over it, you immortal stalker.