by Thom Yee
1×06: “Star City 2046”
Time Travelling to a ruined future to find the Connor Hawke version of Green Arrow and a one-armed Oliver Queen should be one of those squee-level moments that comicbook nerds like me fear we’ll never get to see in our lifetimes. It’s just too bad for Legends of Tomorrow that The Flash did their alterna-verse story on Earth-2 better only two weeks earlier.
Having survived Chronos’ surprise attack on the Waverider, our heroes find themselves unexpectedly thrown forward in time to Star City in the year 2046 where the city is in ruins, gangs rule the streets, law enforcement is extinguished, Oliver Queen has been missing for years, and a new Green Arrow struggles to defend the city. The premise of “Star City 2046” is pretty irresistible for comicbook people like me, but the surprising thing about this episode is how much more I enjoyed everything else that was going on more than the central plot.
There’s really only one word for the Ray-Kendra-Jax love triangle that springs up in the episode: cute. At least with a Professor Stein-type meddling in the affairs it’s cute, and especially when that same Professor Stein shares a psychic link with Jax it’s supacute. In terms of chemistry, Ciara Renee (Kendra) may be slowly finding her way among the other, more seasoned cast members, but unfortunately we’re still far away from caring about who she’s into, who she’s with, or why she’s with them. Luckily, Brandon Routh’s Ray is tailor made for this type of romantic awkwardness, and combined with the clumsiness of Professor Stein’s attempts to guide Jax toward finding his own confidence in approaching Kendra and pointing Ray away from her, the whole thing is much more heartwarming than it should be and a good counterpart to the darkness of the rest of the episode. In particular, Stein and Jax’s relationship is really starting to work, and I’m finally getting the appeal these two sides of the Firestorm could have, even if Stein’s scientific acumen frequently separates him from Jax and, therefore, sidelines the combined Firestorm. Of course the romance itself didn’t work and was quite laughable.
With Professor Stein, Jax, Ray, and Kendra left behind to work on the damaged Waverider, it’s up to Rip, Sara, Cold, and Heatwave to find the last part they need to complete the repairs, and the four are soon split into two groups when Cold and Heatwave are confronted by a roving biker gang. Seeing how quickly Heatwave takes to this world was particularly illuminating and a good reminder of the darkness of the character, especially with how much more his heroic side has come through lately and how much he’s been used for comedy relief in previous episodes, and the fundamental disagreement between Heatwave, who wants to see the world burn, and Cold, who has greater ideals, added an interesting wrinkle to their dynamic.
While I liked these B and C stories, it’s when we come to Star City itself that the weaknesses of the episode start to show through, particularly if you’re picking Legends of Tomorrow up more out of interest for the show itself or if you came to it as more of a Flash fan. The back story of the fall of Star City won’t mean much to you if you haven’t been watching Arrow, nor will the final showdown between Oliver and this new Deathstroke, and while I can’t call that out as a true weakness since I wouldn’t want this show to avoid the lore it’s built on, there’s an emptiness to Sara and Rip’s adventures that’s disappointing given how exhilarating the premise of the episode is. Connor Hawke, while fine overall, simply doesn’t have the presence to carry the episode, and when he’s kidnapped by Deathstroke’s gang it’s an act that undermines his abilities as the lone hero of this world. Similarly, meeting a disillusioned, one-armed Oliver Queen doesn’t have as much impact as it could if only because there’s not enough time in the episode to devote to the character, something that almost makes me wish the romantic triangle back on the Waverider was left out entirely even if I personally liked it a lot. When Oliver eventually makes his heroic returns to face Deathstroke, the robot arm he attaches to himself feels like a convenience that nullifies any sympathy or fear we might feel for the character and the potential curiosity of seeing how he makes out as a one-armed hero. It’s not all bad, though, when the rest of our crew, fully powered, swoops in after the major parts of the conflict are set and promptly proceed to kick all the left over ass. It’s a good f*ck yeah moment, especially given how rare its become lately to see the full ensemble at full power.
The central conceit of a ruined future, as Captain Hunter so rightfully pointed out, is that it’s not real, not yet, and so the question becomes why should we care? And again, The Flash gave us an incredible, nuanced reason to care about the alternate lives they affected in a different universe on Earth-2 on their show last week, whereas on Legends of Tomorrow I still don’t care how well things eventually turned out for Connor and Oliver regardless of if this future will ever come to pass. I applaud the showrunners for their willingness to go to places like this, but on a very basic level “Star City 2046” doesn’t work. However, because of how cute the rest of the episode was and because of how good it was for nerds like me to see Connor Hawke at all, even if it was this mangled, alternate version, I still liked the episode more than I should have.
Thom’s Legends of Tomorrow — “Star City 2046” final score
Items of Note
- Everyone take cover! A guy’s shooting arrows at us and our laser pistol, cold gun, super flamethrower, shrinking, flying, energy-blasting power armour, and atomic fire powers are no match!
- That one-button, chest-and-stomach exposing White Canary jacket didn’t look very practical.
- The John Diggle, Jr. thing makes sense for the Arrowverse side of the show, but the ‘don’t call me that, I’m Connor Hawke’ thing was awkward. Fair enough you don’t want to be called by your father’s name, but where did this new name come from. It’s like that Simpsons episode when Bart asks Lisa: What are you gonna change your name to when you grow up? Lisa: “Lois Sanborn.” Bart [pointing to himself]: “Steve Bennett.”
- Why, why, why couldn’t we have seen all of Ray, Kendra and Firestorm fly in, why did it have to be only two out of three?!
- It is weird that Ray and Jax would try hitting on Kendra considering her whole deal.