It got better, but it’s still not amazing.
Legends of Tomorrow was in a peculiar position. At a time when people were petitioning for a Green Lantern show to compliment the Flash and Arrow it greenlight a new venture based on existing supporting characters. In almost any other franchise this would be a worry but in the midst of May finale week it all seemed like a good idea.
These characters have featured on either The Flash or Arrow for more than a hundred episodes. Ray Palmer, Sara Lance and Martin Stein in particular have enough meat on them for a risky side-adventure like this. Captain Cold is getting there. Heatwave, Jefferson and the Hawks are a blank slate, although Kendra is very likeable.
So why do they all seem so two-dimensional? It’s not a comic book pun, it’s a genuine worry.
This week’s adventure also takes place in 1975, moving from St Roch to Norway for the most PG nuclear warhead swap meet of all time. Vandal Savage plays auctioneer with the nuke he stole in the premiere’s climax and loses more than half the menace he earned in the crossover. Damien Dhark is also there for a moment to antagonise the Legends and then scurries away with little consequence. If he were this week’s main villain it would have been an organic and inventive crossover. It was not. Cameo for cameo’s sake as Dhark would have certainly overshadowed Savage on his own show.
The writers understand that Savage cannot be the antagonist every week and have created a series of other threats to keep everyone on their toes. The first is Chronos, a time-travelling bounty hunter that did not appear to stop a hundred terrorists from meeting their doom. The other is time itself, which conveniently appears and disappears at the writer’s leisure. For a show that rips off Doctor Who that much there should be at least a three-rule system or something.
It’s a shame Dhark wasn’t the main villain. (Apart from that murder) there wasn’t a scene Dhark could not have substituted. Someone missed the mark. But how could they devote an episode to another series’ villain when Legends viewers know so little about their own villain.
All the pieces are there. To Legends viewers Vandal Savage is a dictator that will conquer the world and kill Rip Hunter’s wife and son. His powers are a hybrid of an Ancient Egyptian curse and some radioactive meteorites, leading to his immortality and bloodthirst for the Hawks. Legends never takes the time to explain this concisely, confusing the issue immensely. Every time they get close they back out with a misplaced quip or a character looking confused.
This series in particular relies on the audience understanding the power of Vandal Savage. Most of the team’s knowledge comes from known liar Rip Hunter, a figure placed on the bench for most of the episode. He’s the orchestrator of this grand scheme and he did barely anything on their second adventure.
It’s still overstuffed. After the arms deal the team split – three went to retrieve Ray’s missing tech, three went to retrieve the knife destined to kill Savage and the Hawks sat around brooding. Individually two out of three storylines worked. The one that didn’t? Isolating two underdeveloped characters and having one effectively declare their love to a brick wall. Again.
A better way to develop a character is to pair them with one or two better characters. To retrieve Ray’s missing tech Sara, Dr Stein and Jefferson track down the younger version of Dr Stein. Jefferson was already a likable character, inheriting the Firestorm role from another likable character. He’s given room to stretch his legs by foiling with Sara and it plays dividends. Jefferson’s on his way to being a real character.
And for the second week in a row Sara Lance has been the standout character. Eat your heart out Atom.
Young Dr Stein is a delight. His interactions with the team are fun and his curiosity rings true as he follows the team back to their ship. Nobody truly believed Dr Stein would lose his wife but hey, Rip’s a hero, yeah?
A thought just crossed my mind. What if Legends had taken the Skins route and assigned an episode per character? The pilot was Rip’s. The second episode was Stein’s. Next week? THE ROBOT FOOT I WAS PROMISED IN THE TRAILER AND THE FLASH I WAS PROMISED IN THE TRAILER. DON’T RELEASE SPOILERS ABOUT THE GREEN ARROW IN THE FUTURE BEFORE YOU PLAY THE FLASH’S EPISODE.
The other plot involved Captain Cold, Heat Wave and Atom breaking into a mansion to retrieve the knife that would kill Vandal Savage. It delves a little further into the immovable philosophical differences between Cold and Atom before dropping in Savage ex-machina. It was Savage’s house, apparently, which is a lazy way to bring him back into the plot.
The Legends converge and a battle ensues. Hawkman – the most boring, whiny, boring, underdeveloped, lovestruck creeper – is murdered by Vandal Savage, prompting Hawkgirl to epiphany her age-old undying love for him. It’s a bit of a joy honestly and will bring some space to a crowded show. Before Hawkman bites the dust he stabs Savage and it is revealed that the more interesting character Hawkgirl must be the one to kill Savage (because in Ancient Egypt Vandal Savage was her stalker).
The team reassemble on the ship and decide not to travel in time, again. Every time the audience thinks Legends of Tomorrow will pay dividends it takes the easier route. Raise your game.