‘DC’s Legends of Tomorrow’ is a Mish-Mash That Works (Mostly)

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Legends of Tomorrow

I had the chance to see an early screener of the upcoming DC’s Legends of Tomorrow. I was not disappointed. Let me start off by saying that I am a big fan of Arrow and The Flash. I’ve been on board with both since their respective first seasons. I had my fingers crossed when beginning the first episode of Arrow, it being on the CW not giving me much hope for a strong show. It surprised the hell out of me by being a great show with just enough of the comic’s influence to keep me coming back. The entire cast and crew did it, and that first season finale was about the most perfect one I’d ever seen; the hero lost not only the battle, but much of the city he vowed to protect, and even his best friend. It was good drama, and had my jaw dropped right to the floor.

The subsequent season lived up to the promise of that finale, while introducing more from the comic lore. One of those introductions was Barry Allen, AKA the Flash. When they spun the character off into his own series it was wonderful, bright, and cheery, the exact opposite number of Arrow. The producers imbued the show with not only a sense of humor, but heart as well. While both shows continued they brought more and more from the comic page and delightfully put it on screen. Arrow especially kept becoming more like it’s sequential inspiration with each new episode. The two shows would crossover once a year, with the second crossover leading directly into Legends of Tomorrow.

I’ve tried to keep this as spoiler free as possible, but if you really don’t want even the tiniest of spoilers close the page now. And now that I’ve seen the two-part pilot I have to say that it was quite good. I honestly didn’t know if it would be. I was sold on The Flash instantly. From his first appearance on Arrow alone I knew I would love it. But I was as unsure about Legends of Tomorrow as I was watching the first episode of Arrow, my apprehension stemming from “can they pull it off” instead of “will it be any good”. I knew that if they pulled it off it would be good. The thing that was bothering me most was the team itself. It seemed so thrown together with no rhyme or reason other than “we have all of these characters already, so why not?”, but it actually works. It had to. These characters and their various relationships are the backbone of the show. They seem thrown together because they quite literally were, but Rip Hunter had reasons behind each choice. This couldn’t have been a more perfect team, mostly.

If you watch either of the previous CW shows than chances are you already know the premise of Legends of Tomorrow; Rip Hunter travels back in time to recruit seven, or eight depending on how you look at it, “legends” to help him stop Vandal Savage (Casper Crump) from conquering the world in the year 2166. Pretty simple premise, right? But I found there was much more to it than that. There were quite a few twists I did not see coming, and for somebody weaned on The Twilight Zone that’s not an easy task to pull off. None of these characters are who I thought they were, in the sense that I was surprised at some of their actions, especially Professor Stein. He does something so morally ambiguous early on in part one that left me literally scratching my head. The fact that none of the others find it wrongheaded or disconcerting is a major bungle on the part of the writers, and I hope they remedy it in a future episode. He does somewhat redeem himself in part two, but the damage was already done in my mind.

It is interesting to see the various characters’ motivations for going with Rip; Professor Stein just wants to experience time travel, Captain Cold and Heatwave want to steal famous historical art and artifacts from different time periods, Hawkman and Hawkgirl want to stop Savage once and for all, while Ray Palmer just wants to be a hero. Rip has his own reasons for wanting to stop Vandal Savage, which we will learn along the way. In the end, it will be interesting to see how these heroes and villains become Legends of Tomorrow with Hunter’s guidance.

Being a huge Doctor Who fan it was thrilling for me to see his companion become a Time Lord himself, even mentioning that he stole his ship, the Waverider, much like the Doctor stole his TARDIS. There are a few more parallels, but they contain spoilers so you’ll have to wait to see for yourself. Arthur Darvill is a great Rip Hunter, full of chutzpah and mystery, and it will be fun to see his true nature play out throughout the rest of the season. I will say this, he gets punched. A lot. By girls. It made me laugh out loud a few times. My only problem with the character is that he wasn’t much more than Charlie from Charlie’s Angels; He sends out his “Angels” to work a job while mostly staying behind on the ship. I’m hoping he becomes more hands on as the series progresses.

Captain Cold (Wentworth Miller) and Heatwave (Dominic Purcell) are the comedy relief in many scenes, with Heatwave being responsible for one of my favorite lines of the first episode. White Canary, Captain Cold, and Heatwave are stuck behind, so they decide to go to a bar. Upon their return they see the rest of the team being attacked by Chronos, a bounty hunter, which causes Heatwave to comment, “We go out for one drink and you guys pick a fight with Boba Fett?” In the second episode the two are joined by Ray Palmer as the trio is tasked with robbing the house of a rich Russian. It was quite funny seeing the naive do-gooder Palmer having to work with two time-served criminals, and the scene was one of my favorites. Snart and Rory are easily the best thing about this series so far, their clever banter livens up every scene enabling them to steal the show at every turn.

The relationship between Professor Stein (Victor Garber) and Jefferson Jackson (Franz Drameh) is a bit strained when the series begins. Jackson is unsure of himself in his new capacity as one-half of Firestorm, and Stein knows this yet keeps pushing him, his arrogance revealing itself time and again. The two have a bit of a love/hate relationship, but there seems to be a level of respect for one another that shows itself every once in a while. Their dynamic is sure to grow and evolve by the end of the season, as the second episode shows the beginnings of this new, revitalized relationship. The two actors are very good in their roles, giving this team its much-needed heart. Also, Professor Stein was fond of weed when in college.

Ray Palmer (Brandon Routh) and White Canary (Caity Lotz) are just kind of there, neither one having much to do nor many lines of memorable dialog. Canary fights a lot, and Palmer screws up a lot, leaving messes the others have to clean up. Hopefully these two characters are better served in future episodes, because right now neither actor is being given material deserving of their respective acting chops. White Canary is especially out of place on this team, her ability for punching and kicking people hardly stacks up against a power suit, ice gun, or the capability of flight. The writers really need to work harder to give the viewer a reason why she was picked for this team in the first place.

Hawkman (Falk Hentschel) and Hawkgirl (Ciara Renee) are the very reason for this series in the first place, and they have a vested interest in helping Rip Hunter that is exploited throughout the two episodes, coming to a head in episode two. The 4,000 year relationship between them that was set up during the Arrow/Flash crossover is blossoming slowly, and we learn some startling facts about their various reincarnations through flashbacks and time travel. Their relationship has the ability to be the most interesting if written well, and so far it has been. Also, their relationship with Savage is one of the central plot points of the series, bringing with it many shocking revelations about all three of them.

The series’ villain, Vandal Savage, has the perfect amount of menace, not too over-the-top yet not too understated. He is as unstoppable as ever, and goes as far as needed to get what he wants. Casper Crump was born to play this role, and you can see he relishes it with every scene. He’s the first screen villain I haven’t wanted put down because I enjoy his presence. Crump brings the right level of gravitas to the role, giving the villain a weight that another actor might not. He plays the character as a supernatural force, like destiny itself.

For a pilot episode(s) Legends of Tomorrow delivers. It wasn’t perfect, but the cast mostly works to make this team seem like less of a mish-mash. Hunter sending in small hand-picked teams for each mission works well in showing why each member was picked, and delivers some fun back-and-forth from these disparate almost heroes. The scene where Prof. Stein and a few others pose as terrorists to obtain a weapon at an all-villain auction takes a turn for the worse, and becomes a great battle where each character is given a chance to show off, but none more than Firestorm. It was a great use of his powers on a show with a modest budget compared to a feature film, but that scene never shows it.

Not without its flaws, Legends of Tomorrow shows some mighty promise, with great character dynamics and possibility for awesome action. Destiny is a big theme in this series, but not just for Hawkman, Hawkgirl, and Vandal Savage, every character has a destiny, and watching them fulfill it is part of what makes the show fun. The first two episodes have some big fights and excuses to show powers in action, but it’s the small moments of character interaction that steal the show.

DC’s Legends of Tomorrow premieres January 21st on the CW.

 

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