Expectations have been through the roof for the culmination of everything that this shared universe of DC properties on The CW has worked for: a large-scale, superhero group ensemble. Legends of Tomorrow looks to bring the shared history of its characters and established lore into a blockbuster-scaled romp through time and space. It’s a lot to live up to, and for now, Legends rises to the task.
Vandal Savage, who we’ve already met in The Flash/Arrow crossover event last year, never truly perished. Whether this is because of Malcolm Merlyn reclaiming his ashes at the end of said crossover, or as Rip made it out here to be because it was neither Kendra nor Carter to deal the final blow is ultimately irrelevant. Vandal’s still kicking, and in just over a decade his powers bring the world to its knees under an unstoppable regime of terror. Enter Rip Hunter a Time
Lord Master, who makes it his goal to stop Vandal before this ever comes to pass.
To do so, he needs to assemble a team of the most powerful heroes he can: except for the Green Arrow, The Flash, or anybody else as cool who might exist in this DC universe in the future or past. Instead he picks eight side characters, lumps them in a ship and sets off. Initially this decision makes little to no sense until the reveal that Rip Hunter has gone rogue, and assembled his Legends from a collection of superpowered individuals who have already served their purpose. They’ve contributed their fair share to history, and won’t make a considerable difference. In a way, they’re expendable in a way that the A-listers aren’t. This lends an altogether more interesting cohesiveness to the team, an idea that none of their lives singularly mean much, but together they can save everything.
Due to the majority of the setup for this show being done already in The Flash and Arrow, (a bit to my chagrin in those shows) it pays off here in Legends of Tomorrow, as events start up at more than a brisk pace. The characters are set already, all that we needed wre the stakes and the motivation to start the adventure. What follows is a relatively small first adventure through time to set the pace, as the gang determines their best course of action in hunting down Vandal Savage. The dynamic between the Legends, while not wholly formed yet, is interesting in that very few of them want the same thing. Ray wants to be a hero. Kendra and Carter want to stop Vandal Savage. Stein wants to explore history. Jax wants to be part of a team. Mick, Leonard and Sarah don’t really seem to care one way or another? They’re the wildcards at the moment. Seeing how the dynamic develops from here, especially considering that when Rip assembled them it seemed clear to him that this would be a fairly short endeavor, seeing them have to not only work together but live together promises to be nearly as exciting as their fight against Vandal Savage.
The venture into 1975 truly makes Legends feel far removed from the events of its sibling shows, not only in setting but in tone as well. For the longest time, The Flash was known as the more light-hearted of the two shows, but with Legends on the field it makes The Flash seem dark and grim. Legends benefits from a sense of levity, with constant bantering wisecracks that make the world feel like a living cartoon; in a good way. Suddenly Captain Cold and Heat Wave’s silliness doesn’t stand out and contrast, it seems to thrive within the tone of this part of the Arrowverse, and it’s refreshing to see the execution pay off. It’s good to see them already paying off with the world-building: having Kendra and Carter meet a son they had in a past life, and Rip using him as a lead to take the fight to Vandal. This is a piece of the lore that you could not capitalize on without the idea of these reincarnated souls, nor the time travel element. Having him die a Final Destination-esque death to Chronos seemed a bit cheesy, but it served its purpose in showing the team that although they can fight to change the future, not everything is in flux.
Due to this being only the first part in a two-part Pilot, it becomes hard to see just how the greater picture of the show will end up. We already have a good idea of how the pace and structure will go, though there are some things that seem out of place. Martin’s drugging of Jax was particularly questionable, and Jax’s insistence on going back home despite his motivation in becoming Firestorm in the first place was an odd way of seeking glory once more. We also got extremely little to see of Vandal Savage, and while we had one large glimpse into the world of the future under his control, he didn’t really have too much to do. We’re also supposed to be alarmed by him obtaining a nuclear bomb in 1975, but considering we know where the world is by 2016 already, there is no tension at all in this discovery. While he was nothing exceptional, he made an effective villain in the Arrow/Flash crossover last year, and he still has to prove himself here in Legends before the stakes can truly be appreciated. Then again, this is a whole other half to this Pilot.
DC’s Legends of Tomorrow aims to unify their TV universe in a way that hasn’t been done before. It’s a bold move, and the pieces are starting to fit together already. The promise is there, and with the right execution of its ensemble cast and the right stakes in place from a foe worthy of this cast to take on, it might be something truly great.