by Thom Yee
One of the things that got me most excited about Legends of Tomorrow was seeing all of these different superheroes and villains working together, unfettered, in the series’ first teaser trailer. As a comicbook fan whose introduction to the medium was through big, sprawling, and, frankly, confusing books like Crisis on Infinite Earths (a twelve-issue maxi-series that starred multiple iterations of the same character in a story about the destruction and reformation of the DC Universe’s multiverse into one single Earth), I developed an early appetite for gigantic collections of heroes in massive group shots working together against a common bad guy as drawn by classic artists like George Perez, so scenes involving almost all of the Berlanti-verse heroes that have developed over the years in raids on bad guy compounds or flying at top speed through the sky hit right where I live when it comes to this genre.
We didn’t get a lot of that with Legends of Tomorrow, and those specific trailer scenes turned out to be nothing more than part of the show’s sizzle reel, but we did get at least a few fight scenes per episode, more often than not with one or more of the legends fighting in their non-powered civilian outfits to stretch the show’s effects budget over an entire season. Looking back, there was usually a pretty clear division between episodes where the producers were saving money and episodes where the expense was deemed worthy. “Legendary”, the last episode of Legends of Tomorrow’s first season, looks like one of those episodes they were saving their money for.
With nothing left to lose after the sacrifice of teammate Captain Cold and their mission to save Rip Hunter’s family all but failed, Rip returns the remaining legends to their native 2016, only five months after they first departed, where some of them learn that their lives have progressed in unwanted ways in their absence and all of them find that their desire to take the immortal tyrant Vandal Savage down once and for all still lingers. Also, he’s still holding Kendra and Carter hostage and, y’know… it seems kind of mean just to leave them there like that.
The biggest emotional beats of “Legendary” would no doubt have to be Sara learning of her sister Laurel’s death (as happened in Arrow) and Heatwave continuing to cope with the loss of Captain Cold from last episode, and both of these recent developments are surprisingly well done given the execution of this series’ primary stories — Rip trying to save his family and Kendra grappling with her romance with Carter. When Sara returns to the Arrowcave to find her father still grieving over Laurel’s death, it’s a moment with such clear and genuine emotionality that you can’t help but feel Sara’s loss, a feeling even further intensified when we see the ferocity with which she confronts Rip in wanting to go back in time to save her. Similarly, when we find Heatwave returned to crime and trying to replace his fallen comrade, it’s a clear cry for help for the character, and it’s a huge relief to see Ray show up to bring the man back into the fold as the team reforms to find Rip and return to their original mission.
It’s at this point I’ll encourage you to look back at that paragraph and take note of the effusive and complimentary language, because it’s probably the most I’ve used words like that in describing Legends of Tomorrow in quite a while. Legends of Tomorrow is a show I really enjoyed in its series debut, not only because those first two episodes had some pretty big all-out superhero battles, but because it was a show that took the time to recognize the wonder with which it was playing. I still vividly remember the moment the team first came under attack by Chronos (who we then had no idea would turn out to be a brainwashed Heatwave) and, in the middle of the fight, Professor Boardman (the child of previous incarnations of Kendra and Carter and not much longer for this world) asked Rip as he fired “Is that a laser gun?” with such infectious enthusiasm that I was just as excited as he was. But things fell off pretty quickly from there. The Carter-Kendra-Ray love triangle that was one of the team’s key links to Vandal Savage and comprised one of the biggest ongoing concerns of the show was less a plot point than a boat anchor and it particularly robbed the Hawkgirl character of any agency or any reason to like her as she became a character defined by her relationships (and was mostly annoying to boot). I also never once cared enough about Rip Hunter to concern myself with the ultimate fate of his family, who remained dead no matter what the legends did. Maybe the smartest thing this final episode of the season does is replace those tired, beaten, and pretty much dead storylines with things that we care about. The Ray-Heatwave relationship that developed early was one of this series’ best, and to see it work out organically against the backdrop of Cold’s heroic sacrifice was really satisfying. And Sara, well Sara was pretty much always awesome on this show, so it made sense to give her the balance of this episode’s emotional depth.
Beyond any and all of this story material, however, “Legendary” finally did some of the things we, as comicbook nerds, have wanted to see with this assemblage of heroes, giving us fight scenes that played off of their strengths (and depicted simultaneously in three different time periods), a villain who was at least occasionally dangerous looking when he almost singlehandedly took down an entire Nazi regiment with nothing more than a pocket full of knives, story mechanics that take advantage of the show’s time travel premise, and transmutation! Characters like Firestorm are just the weird type of comicbook heroes that only true fans have ever really liked, capturing attention mostly for their freakish looks and rarely able to sustain their own series for long, so when we finally, finally saw Jax and Professor Stein really using the character’s powers to their true potential, it was one of those small moments of triumph that I wish this series had more of in its first-season run.
Ultimately, it still doesn’t make sense that they killed Savage in three different periods but the villain still lives to kill Rip’s family in a future to follow, at least not without thinking about this series fourth dimensionally, nor does the idea of erasing time through a combination of reincarnated blood and alien technology, but the episode pulls it all off with such aplomb (at least compared to most its episodes), that all of this nonsense doesn’t matter, at least not as much as I wanted to just see how things would turn out. It’s just too bad that the series waited until its final season episode to get so many things right.
In concluding this first season and setting a course for the future of the show, our legends (minus the Hawks, thankfully) set forth into the timestream as the new guardians of time (but not space), but hold on a minute, what’s this? A new development? Rex Tyler? The Justice Society of America? Maybe other intellectual properties without the necessarily broad enough appeal to ever make it to movie screens but that will make nerds like me freak out? We’ll still have to wait until next week’s The Flash to see if there’s any redemption for the good name of fellow JSA-er Jay Garrick and the next season of Legends of Tomorrow to see where this new wrinkle will take us, but, somehow, somewhere (and somewhen), almost impossibly, it’s more than enough to get me to tune in next season. I’ve been hoping that the writers would find a way other than time travel to separate the legends from the rest of the present-day Berlanti-verse, and with Rex Tyler (Hourman) and the JSA, we just might be lucky enough to get that in season two.
Thom’s Legends of Tomorrow — “Legendary” final score
Items of Note
- It still drives me nuts that, just like when it looked like Heatwave was lost and Cold doesn’t use his heat gun, now that Cold’s dead, Heatwave doesn’t use his cold Gun. Wouldn’t one character dual wielding cold and heat guns be cool?
- They’ve sure been in love with their Back to the Future homages with this show.
- As much as the Hawks’ story didn’t work out, I still hope we get to see them in the other Berlanti-verse series. Occasionally.
- Is this the end of “I used to be a barista” anecdotes?
- Weird that, just like Legends of Tomorrow used the shrinking hero grows to giant size schtick only days before Captain America: Civil War did the same, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. uses a hologram fake out only days before Legends of Tomorrow does the same.
- Rex Tyler looked good enough, but is it really too much to ask for actors playing superheroes to look physically big enough to be intimidating? I think the biggest guy on this show is the one guy whose power is to shrink.
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