Let’s fix Legends of Tomorrow. As currently constructed, this is a perfectly fun show, but oh is it ever flawed. For example, apart from the fight between Mick and Leonard “Progeny” was nearly a complete waste of time. It was their “Let’s kill Hitler!” episode, but rather than save millions our heroes made things remarkably worse. Furthermore, Kendra and Ray’s relationship again went through the motions of celebrating her decision to be with him instead of give into her fated love for Carter. This is sadly not the first time the titular Legends have more or loss chased their own tail for an entire episode and accomplished next to nothing.
To recap, the year is 2147. Corporations have overtaken countries. Robots which mysteriously look like automated versions of Ray’s ATOM suit roam the skies, swooping down whenever a petty crime occurs and a thief needs an ass kicking. The world is in dire need of population control, and Vandal Savage just happens to be on the board of the major corporation-state which could thin the herd. He wants to unleash a virus. The head of the board basically says, “Um, no, you freakin’ psychopath.” Luckily, Savage also happens to serve as tudor to Per Degaton (Cory Gruter-Andrew), the son of the head of the board. In five years time, Savage will convince Per to kill his father and go all Hitler on the world. Years after that, after Per has slaughtered millions Savage will assassinate him and become the world’s last tyrant.
The Legends’ job, if they should choose to accept it, is to kill or kidnap Per, thus removing Savage’s access to the seat of power. They debate the do’s and do not’s of killing kids. Then they debate some more. After that, they have another debate.
You get the point. It drags on for a while. Even Mick gets to weigh in, rightly pointing out that killing kids doesn’t seem very hero-like. They kidnap Per, but Gideon deduces that removing him from the timeline has somehow had no meaningful effect on how things play out. So Rip takes him to a field to shoot him, but he can’t go through it, “I would do anything for my dead wife and kid, but I won’t do that.”
In the end, Per is returned to his father in exchange for Sara, who somehow got caught by Savage off-screen during the episode’s final battle. The closing montage informs us Rip and pals inadvertently moved up Savage’s timetable by five years. Rather than wait, Savage convinces Per to kill his father immediately, and the apocalypse which was originally 5 years away now takes a mere 5 days to transpire.
That’s totally fine, though. Rip at least held on to his soul rather than kill teen Hitler. Good for you, Rip. All of those people wiped out by the virus were going to die anyway. What difference does it make if your actions caused it to happen 5 years earlier?
A big damn difference! So many kids just went unborn. Countless victims had five meaningful years of their lives taken away. Next time you have a massive time travel-related ethical debate try not to cause so much collateral damage.
Perhaps more importantly to Legends of Tomorrow, the conclusion to this particular ethical debate was never in doubt. A lighthearted CW superhero show would never allow one of its heroes to shoot a kid character in cold blood. Moreover, it all hinged on Rip, who has never been played by Arthur Darville as someone we could believably watch kill a young kid. The episode wanted this to be the test of the lengths to which he will go to save his family, but if you put that gun into Sara or Leonard’s hand then we have some genuine dramatic tension.
Oh, also, Ray discovered he might have left behind a kid he didn’t know about, which should have introduced serious questions about legacy but was instead more tied to his romantic drama with Kendra.
Ray: Funny thing. I thought I had a kid, but it was just my brother’s. BTW, I have a brother.
Kendra: No biggie. I did have a kid, remember? Also, I’ve been having more flashbacks to my past lives with Carter, and I definitely used to love him. It’s confusing, but I love you now. Carter’s just so boring.
This is two consecutive episodes in which Legends has taken its own stab at time travel staples. Last week, it was the “what happens if you get left behind in time?” story; this week was “would you kill Hitler?” However, whereas Ray and Kendra integrating into society for two years and taking differing views on whether or not they even wanted the Waverider to return was Legends at its most compelling “Progeny” was the show at its worst.
Here’s a sampling of the critical response:
The thing about Legends Of Tomorrow is that its very premise has almost limitless possibility, and the trouble with that is such a setup necessarily invites the audience to imagine all the other possible stories the show could be telling. The challenge then isn’t for the show to tell the best possible story, as that’s not really a fair expectation, but rather for it to make strong enough choices and establishes a clear enough identity that the audience forgets about those roads untraveled.
With a premise such as Legends, they need to find plots that work for the concept and have the audience rooting for the heroes, despising the villains, and not feel bored along the way. The show can do better than “Progeny”
We’re already on episode 10 of a 16-episode season and I’ve lost count on how many filler episodes we’ve had. The show has greatly improved in recent weeks and the cast chemistry is stellar. But part of the problem is that Savage isn’t a compelling villain. The other problem is there has been very little happening that moves any of the plot forward in terms of taking him down. It’s all capturing MacGuffins that are vaguely linked to him or coming at him from odd angles.
Is Legends so broken that it needs fixing? Not necessarily. It’s a consistently fun show to watch in a mindless kind of way. The cast chemistry is ever improving. Just think back to what Leonard, Mick and Sara were like together in that bar in the pilot, and now imagine how much more interesting they’d be together if they went back to that bar.
However, after 10 episodes Legends isn’t done baking, to borrow a metaphor from Buffy. Whatever pastry this show is going to be isn’t quite there yet. How do you fix that? So many of their problems are tied to Vandal Savage that I truly don’t think there is any fixing things until next season. For sure, they’ll need to come up with more compelling villains because in addition to Vandal season one has also been weighed down by the remarkably pointless Time Agents. I would love a Doctor Who-like season where they simply travel through time for fun, and along the way they gradually encounter or even accidentally create the big bad.
Speaking of which, Legends has been more like the Russell T. Davies-era version of Doctor Who whereas season two would be more interesting if it took on more of the Steven Moffat-era Doctor Who wibbly wobbly, timey wimey fun with time travel. Traveling to a distopian Star City and stranding Sara, Kendra and Ray in the past for two years was a good start. Go even further with those kinds of ideas next season.
Moreover, even though the cast chemistry is improving season two would do well to shake things up. As is, there is too much duplication in this cast. Leonard, Mick and Sara are all on similar paths, even though Mick is incapable of going as far as his more heroically-inclined friends. Ray and Professor Stein are the two resident scientists. Their mentor-mentee relationship has been fun, but they are playing similar notes and far too infrequently disagree with each other. Jax has been largely sidelined, and while Kendra is righteously claiming her own agency her insanely convoluted backstory constantly muddies the water.
Vixen and Connor Hawke are both intriguing potential new additions. Who would you subtract? For practical reasons, I am curious if the Prison Break revival means Wentworth Miller and Dominic Purcell will need to sit out season two. If not, Mick Rory might have run his course on this show anyway. Now that Laurel Lance has been killed off, I’d also be open to them moving Sara Lance back to Arrow.
Lastly, can someone tell Arthur Darville to pull back on the melodramatic line readings? I get that Rip Hunter is working to save his family, but based on Doctor Who there is a charismatic performer with fantastic comic timing just begging to come out here. Instead, Darville’s playing it as if he believes American TV characters must routinely turn and make grand proclamations (has Rip finally just said “The stakes could not be any higher!”) so that their every moment can lead into a commercial break.
1. Nitpick: Did we know that Ray has a brother? I’ve blocked so much of Arrow‘s third season out of my memory that I genuinely don’t remember if Sidney ever came up. Moreover, considering the similarity in appearance between Ray and the bust of his brother are they supposed to be twins?
2. Rip Hunter – World’s Worst Captain?: This is likely a minor entry in the ever-mounting case against Rip Hunter’s competence as ship captain, but in “Progeny” he makes an argument that some people can’t be saved. Then when Sara makes an obvious reference to her own rehabilitation he actually has to ask her who she’s talking about. Come on, Rip. Know your own damn crew! Of course Sara is always going to be sensitive to the prospect of saving souls.
3. To Be Fair: I guess we did at least learn a little more about how Savage became the world’s last tyrant. But at this point should our characters still ultimately be on fact-finding missions?
4. Oh, Zing: Jax made a crack about the role of corporations in the 2008 Stock Market crash, and I was stunned that the Arrowverse is similar enough to our universe that they too suffered the 2008 crash.