As the episode title states, this week’s episode of Legends of Tomorrow is the second half of a whole that began with last week’s series premiere. Following the clues in Aldus Boardman’s journal, the team heads to Norway, 1975, to find and apprehend Vandal Savage at a black-market arms deal.
I’m going to stop right there. This week, I’m not going to do the usual recap. If you’re reading this, I assume you already saw the same on-screen action that I did. (If you haven’t watched this week’s episode yet, then may I ask why you’re here in the first place? Go watch the episode, then come back. We’ll still be here when you return.) Instead, I’d like to take a moment to talk about what the two-part premiere has given us thus far, talk about what has worked and what hasn’t, and talk about what we want out of this show during this first season.
Let’s start with Rip Hunter. Everything that the promotion ahead of the series premiere was built upon was a lie. Rip is a liar. He’s a Time Master who steals a time machine. His exposition establishes the rules of time travel for the series. He terrorizes his crew with portents of what happens when you play fast and loose with those rules. Then he breaks the rules whenever it suits him to do so, such as when he contacts a young Marty Stein and tells him he’d better go to that faculty mixer a couple of hours after stepping aboard a frickin’ time machine(!). His entire mission is in violation of the rules that he says must be upheld. I want someone to knock that smug look off his face (again) when he chastises a member of the team for breaking the rules that he’s only revealing to them a little bit at a time.
You have to know that the Doctor Who comparisons are going to be made. The difference so far between Rip and the Doctor is that Rip has yet to show that in spite of his eye rolling and snarky critique of the team he’s assembled, that Rip cares deeply about each of them. Maybe it’s still too early for that, but I’d love to see that Rip has been hiding in the shadows of history, watching these individuals, maybe even bending the rules before now and intervening in order to help shape the life experiences that makes the individuals on this team into exactly who he needs them to be for this mission.
Rip is also missing the Doctor’s playful curiosity. Rip treats each transgression against history as something that could threaten the future. I’m hoping that in the process of crapping all over the rules of time, Rip loses that stick up his rear and joins in on the fun happening all around him.
Up next is Firestorm. When we first met Professor Stein last season, he was a victim of the STAR Labs particle accelerator explosion. He was a man divided and just trying to find his way back home to his wife. It’s his intellectual curiosity that brought him on board the Waverider. To travel in time! If saving the world is a side effect of Stein satisfying his intellectual curiosity, then that’s a much better outcome than letting some despot rule the earth, right?
But there’s more to the professor. In the past two hours, we’ve seen him roofie an innocent and unwilling partner and we’ve watched him step up and intimidate terrorists with a word. We’ve seen his younger, arrogant, pot-smoking self and we’ve seen the older version that we’re familiar with let his arrogance spoil the team’s best chance at catching Savage unaware. It will be interesting to see what other layers are revealed as the season progresses.
At the same time, Jax is Stein’s opposite and his balance. He’s the heart, Stein is the head. That’s sweet and all, but if Jax wasn’t required to complete Firestorm, then it doesn’t appear that he’d really have a role on this show. I don’t mean to say that Firestorm is useless. The hero is not. His powers saved Norway from a nuclear blast (“You’re welcome, Norway.”) But Jax, thus far, has been an inconsequential member of the team. Jax–not Firestorm– has provided nothing but a pep talk here and a pick-me-up there. He wasn’t allowed to go with the varsity team to meet Boardman last week, nor out drinking with the rest of the bench warmers. He wasn’t allowed to play terrorist in the open this week. The guy can’t even watch a door worth a darn.
Sure, every team needs a cheerleader when the chips are down, but unless Jax gets a chance to provide something other than I can change into Firestorm when the professor tells me to, then his character will be a millstone tied around this show. Let Jax put his mechanical skills to work and be the Waverider’s handyman, if nothing else. Yes, he’ll always be connected to Stein, but let him spend more time on the Waverider, apart from everyone else and drifting farther from his teammates with each passing mission. Make Gideon the one he feels closest to, even though Gideon is an artificial intelligence. In short, give Jax something to do.
Then there’s Ray. Again, I’m not talking The Atom here. Everyone gets a chance to showcase his or her powers. Ray is the non-powered version of Firestorm. He has Stein’s intelligence and arrogance. He has Jax’s mechanical skills and desire to do what’s right, to change the world by starting with those around him. Ray’s the puppy that knocks over his water bowl when rushing the door to greet you when you come home from work. Again, his presence sort of makes Jax (not Firestorm, but Jax) obsolete. It’ll be interesting to see whether Ray continues to steal all the screen time from Jax whenever the plot requires a do-gooder doing good.
With Sarah, I feel that if you can get past her schizophrenic “origin” as the White Canary and take her for what she is now, then she can be a great character. If (and it’s a big “if”) the writers can take her character beyond the cliched sexy assassin that can hold her own with the bad boys. Don’t get me wrong… Sarah’s died once and is making sure that she’s living it up with her second chance. I like the confident, beer-drinking, dope-stealing Sarah we’ve had served up so far. I’m cautiously optimistic that the writers can break the habit of writing two-dimensional female characters, using them as motivation for the title male character. Since this is Legends of Tomorrow and there is no title character, perhaps we’ll be pleasantly surprised with how they write Sarah’s character this season.
Leonard Snart has been teased as being a guy who’s not necessarily a bad guy, just a guy with a bad past who makes selfish choices. We’ve seen his loyalty to his crew both here and on The Flash. We’ve also seen him double-cross, lie, cheat, steal, and go out of his way to get what he wants. Part of me wants to see Snart redeemed by this mission. An even greater part of me wants to see Snart come out of this more selfish than before. With his internal code still intact, yes, but the cold (pun intended) leader of the Rogues we know him to be.
Heatwave. What can I say? I love this big galoot. This guy far and away has the best lines and delivers them with perfect deadpan humor. Really, I don’t want anything to change with Mick Rory.
What I mean by that is this… remember how much we loved Jack Sparrow in the first three Pirates of the Caribbean movies, even if we didn’t love the movies themselves? Jack, who wasn’t the star of the movie, he was the scene-stealer. He was the trickster, off starring in his own movie in his own head in the background, who occasionally popped in long enough to drop a bon mot before staggering away. Then, some bean counter said, “You know, people like Jack Sparrow. Let’s make a movie with him as the focus.” And we got the fourth Pirates movie.
I don’t want Heatwave to suddenly be pushed front-and-center because everyone loves his character. I want him to stay just the way he is. When you think he’s not paying attention, he pipes up with a line like, “You’re a special kind of crazy. I like it.”
Stay golden, fiery boy.
The good news is that Carter Hall is dead. The bad news 1) he’ll reincarnate, and 2) we’re traveling in a time machine. He’ll be back, in some form. When he does return, expect him to be just as creepy as ever.
While she’s down with a knife wound right now, I expect Kendra will be back on her feet before too long. Perhaps she’ll be able to develop as a character now that she’s not “object of hero’s and villain’s affections”. Maybe. Three and a half seasons of Arrow, a season and a half of The Flash, and half a season of Supergirl with this writing and production team suggests otherwise, but we’ll see. We know that Hawkgirl has a role on the team. She’s the only one who can kill Vandal Savage. What role does Kendra serve?
Finally, we have Vandal Savage. He’s immortal. He incites war. Okay. That makes some enemies along the way, namely Rip Hunter and the Hawks. We know why the “legends” are opposed to Savage. To an extent, we know their individual motivations. What about Savage? This show is only going to be as good as Savage is bad. Is he really just creating strife in order to avoid tipping humanity to the fact that he’s immortal? If he was looking to conquer the world, why be the guy-behind-the-guy for so long? Why move in earnest in 2166? The DC Comics character is an interesting villain. He’s just one bad dude. I’m hoping we either get to find out what motivates Savage–or find out that being a psychopath is its own motivation–very soon.
Just as the team behind these shows have a poor track record when it comes to female characters, they have built a pretty solid resume when it comes to complex and engaging villains, from Malcolm Merlyn to Slade Wilson to Reverse-Flash to Ra’s al Ghul and into this season. Here’s hoping we get that same development with Savage.
It might sound from this review that I didn’t dig these first two hours of Legends of Tomorrow. That’s not the case. Overall, the show is off to a good start. The humor is spot-on. The spectacle has been there, particularly ramped up in this week’s episode (though I wonder whether they have the budget to maintain such over the top sequences week in and week out). The wardrobe department has done a masterful job creating the looks of the various time periods we’ve seen, from 4,000 years in the past to 150 years into the future. It’s hard to judge how a series is going to go based on a two-hour series premiere, but so far I have been entertained and look forward to Thursday nights on the CW more so than Wednesdays (Arrow) right now and much more than Tuesday nights (The Flash).
I’m along for the ride. I hope you’ll join me week in and week out as we recap and review each episode. When we look back at the end of the season, my hope is that we won’t just say that the show was merely entertaining. I hope it’ll be the stuff of legend.