Why I’m Watching… Legends of Tomorrow
by Thom Yee
When you break superheroes down to their base concepts, the one thing that probably draws us all to them is their superpowers. For all of its apparent faults, my favourite moment in Avengers: Age of Ultron is when all of the Vision, the Thor, and Iron Man combine their individual energy blasts to take down Ultron. It’s one of those glorious, everyone-gang-up-on-the impossible-threat moments (à la George Perez) that really made me love that movie, but like any other story, a good superhero story needs at least a little more complexity than “People! With powers!” On television, though, most shows have had a problem even getting that first part right.
In terms of genuinely good serial fiction, the first really good superhero show was probably Heroes. Early on it told a strong, compelling story with a clear narrative direction, but unfortunately its creators didn’t have an idea where to take it past its first season, and pretty quickly it fell into a pattern of weak storytelling and illogical, go-nowhere plots that forced its heroes into acting against their own established natures. What’s worse, it became a show whose very nature began to work against itself, where superhuman prophecies dictated the course of nearly every season, the most valuable superhumans were the multiple characters/plot devices who could negate or steal other people’s powers, and all-powerful characters who could manipulate space and time either had to be severely depowered or written out entirely. The whole thing became a game where powers were either a storytelling crutch or obstacles to be written around.
With the “Berlanti-verse” of DC heroes that’s come into television prominence over the last few years (so nicknamed for Greg Berlanti, their executive producer), first with Arrow, then The Flash, and now with Legends of Tomorrow, it feels like we’ve gotten back to a place where the stories are about people with powers rather than writing around the powers that people have, and its made for some of the strongest superhero television we’ve ever seen. There are scenes from The Flash that can make grown men cry, and while these are scenes that rely on their superhuman elements to occur, they lean much more heavily on our emotional investment to work. There’s an incredibly earnest nature at the heart of shows like The Flash, a core of heroism and understanding the cost of that heroism, and it’s for that reason that I keep watching them.
3. “Blood Ties”
12. “Last Refuge”
14. “River of Time”