The newest addition to the Arrow-verse is about to wrap up its freshman outing to solid reviews, but not as much audience buzz as you might expect. With a cast of heroes and villains from both Arrow and The Flash, the show travels through space and time – effectively cutting it from the day-to-day timeline of its sister shows while still benefiting from crossover potential. Season One has seen our Legends in both the past and the future in an epic battle to save the world from domination by an immortal tyrant – Vandal Savage.
Despite this incredible premise and some phenomenal characters, the show simply doesn’t seem to be gaining the traction that other shows like The Flash or Gotham did this season. However, the show has officially been renewed for a second season, along with other CW fan-favorites iZombie, Flash, Arrow, Supernatural and The 100.
It’s not just his freeze-gun that gives Leonard Snart his nickname. The coolest criminal in the Arrow-verse is constantly dropping the mic all over time and space, and it’s absolute magic. Wentworth Miller drawls his way through the season, raising eyebrows at the antics of his teammates and enemies, and generally spitting out the kind of sassy comebacks that the rest of us think of in the shower a week later. The man should just change his name to Leonard SNARK.
Still, he is far more than just perfectly-timed comic relief with a slightly bitter edge. His friendship with Sara is a joy to behold, his talents as a thief and a marksman are poetry in motion, and his emotional struggles are some of the best moments in the series.
Ok, so nobody can out-snark Leonard Snart, but this is an incredibly funny show, and it deserves recognition for that. The one-liners balance out the heavier elements (dead wife and child, total world domination, death and misery everywhere…) and you are guaranteed to laugh out loud at least once an episode.
Sara is clearly having far too much fun as a twice-dead assassin, and although she has her serious moments, she is absolutely hilarious the rest of the time. Rip Hunter doesn’t mean to be quite as funny as he is, but despite swanning about pouting most of the time, his constant frustration with his new team (who just keep doing exactly the thing he told them not to, dammit!) is comedy gold.
Ray Palmer is another character who is a pleasure to watch, although much of the ATOM-centric humor comes from his puppy-dog-esque enthusiasm and comparative naivety. Even Heatwave, not known for his sense of humor, gets in on the action with some perfectly timed jokes.
In The Flash, we basically just see Martin Stein as a stuffy professor-type, hyper intelligent and fairly reserved. His new partner-in-heroics, Jefferson ‘Jax’ Jackson, is the perfect foil to this side of him – an ex-football star turned mechanic with a chip on his shoulder. It would have been easy for Legends to just keep playing on these stereotypes, but instead they decided to take a far more satisfying route and explore these two characters in far more depth.
Professor Stein, in particular, busts out his badass side for their missions – he’s routinely front and center, defying Captain Hunter to do what he feels to be right, and taking the kind of risks that you would never expect. He’s also got a few hidden talents (including at cards), and generally becomes the coolest dude in a bow tie since the Eleventh doctor. Jax, meanwhile, explores his softer side in a dynamic that is completely unexpected and absolutely incredble.
So far, the Legends have made stops all over the timeline, including in the ’50s, ’70s, ’80s and the Wild West. As well as providing the opportunity for all kinds of hilarity and backstory, this gives the costume department all kinds of room to play – and they do not waste it. From Hawkgirl in pin-up-worthy dresses to White Canary in a ’60s fur to absolutely everybody playing cowboy dress-up, if you are into clothes, Legends is watchable for the costumes alone.
On top of the historically appropriate outfits, each of the characters obviously has their signature superhero look, plus we get to see some fantastic new concepts for futuristic fashion. Also, Rip Hunter sulking about in his long coat. All. The. Time.
The Arrow-verse is pretty darn good with their plot twists, and Legends of Tomorrow is no exception. From major deaths (yes, plural), to secret motivations, the show likes to dole out its secrets in careful little doses that will keep you glued to the screen. It also manages to cram in a whole lot without being confusing or overly predictable, which is an impressive feat.
The various twists also, for the most part, feel organic – very few seem as though they are done for the shock value alone. There’s a lot of shock value, don’t get us wrong, but it’s shock value that works, not the kind to leave the viewer scratching their head at where on Earth that came from.
It’s been quite a while since we saw a TV series with all the elements that made really great sci-fi viewing in the ’80s and ’90s; a truly balanced ensemble, great team dynamics, adventure on a grand scale… but Legends has it all. It might take a little while to get used to this kind of ensemble format, especially if you are more used to shows like Arrow and The Flash, where a larger cast still centers on an individual, but it’s worth that adjustment period.
Sometimes an episode is about one character, sometimes about several, and sometimes (several times) it’s just about the adventure. Driven as much by the larger plot as by the individual superheroes, this is a show for everyone who loved Star Trek: The Next Generation or Stargate. It’s refreshing to watch a show that often puts plot ahead of characters, and while Legends does have more personal motivations at its core than many classic sci-fi series, it’s a callback to a different kind of show, and one that we don’t see a whole lot of any more.
The ensemble format may be jarring for some, but the ensemble itself is incredible. The team has naturally split into smaller groups, with the more heroic tending to spend more time together than the more villanous (naturally enough). This actually makes it more interesting to watch, with the inter-team conflict running in the background of the larger good vs evil. Ray’s pushback against Captain Cold and Heatwave is especially incredible to watch as he deals with being on the same side as two of the metahumans his friends helped put away (more than once).
However, these guys are most definitely a team, and although they may snipe at each other at times, they are a solid front when facing the world. Plus, no matter how often their plans go wrong (spoiler alert: it’s always), they still seem like they are having fun most of the time. At the end of the day, these characters may not be entirely likeable on their own, but you’ll wind up wishing you could go have a drink with them anyway.
We may have only had one so far, in the form of swaggering outlaw Jonah Hex, but with such a wide scope, Legends could be the series to introduce all kinds of DC characters who just don’t fit anywhere else. Arrow and The Flash might be bringing in all kinds of characters from their respective comics (and from the Batman comics, because why not?) but Legends is the only place where you could bring in literally anyone and make it work.
On top of this, rumor has it that the plan for Legends is a rotating cast of heroes each season, with ill-fated fan favorite John Constantine appearing as a regular next year. This is the ideal spot for the master of the black arts to get a second run at a series, and the ensemble format takes the pressure off a single character to carry the show.
The interconnected series that make up the Arrow-verse are, without a doubt, incredibly cool. Seeing comics brought to life on screen in multiple shows that borrow from each other on a regular basis – it’s something that comic fans have been wanting to see for years, and Arrow is doing it right. Still, there is a downside to all this crossover madness – it’s quite a commitment to keep up. Although it’s not 100% necessary to watch both shows concurrently, should you fall drastically behind on one, it may be spoiled for you in the other. Now, with rumors that Supergirl might be joining the Arrow-verse full time, keeping up with everyone is starting to feel like a part-time job.
Legends, on the other hand, occupies an ideal spot in the Arrow-verse. It’s connected, and we can see the odd crossover moment, but with the team hurtling through time each week… well, let’s just say that Vandal Savage is keeping them too busy to be popping back to Star or Central City on a regular basis. Which means that Legends is more relaxing to watch. Fall behind by a few weeks? No big deal. There’s little fear that another show will spoil Legends for you, or vice versa, and that handy-dandy time travel thing lets them land wherever is most convenient for the writers. It’s a sigh of relief for those of us who are constantly trying to stay one step ahead of spoilers.
It sounds trite, but Legends of Tomorrow really does have something for everyone. There’s a real balance between action and backstory, between character and plot. Romance appears, but doesn’t take center stage a la Arrow, and we learn more about our characters without getting bogged down in their personal histories. You can fall behind and binge while still getting some cliffhanger moments, and the overarching story doesn’t always overshadow the joy of seeing a bunch of superheroes brawling in cowboy hats.
Of course, there is one group of people not catered to – those who hate time travel. Yes, it can get a little messy, and if you attempt to overthink things as the team bumbles through the ages you may just hurt your brain. But as a fun and fast paced superhero team-up show, Legends of Tomorrow is just what the doctor ordered.
You can catch Legends of Tomorrow Thursdays on the CW for three more weeks
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