May 7, 2020

“DC’s Legends of Tomorrow” Season One Review: A Highly Creative Superhero Mashup

Season One of Legends of Tomorrow gets a lot of hate, and I understand why. It’s tonally choppy, overloaded with characters, the villain is boring and cliché, and it has to make everything up as it goes along due to a lack of source material (one of the biggest differences from the other CW superhero series). But I’m willing to forgo those shortcomings, and in this review I’ll explain why.

Conceived as a spinoff of The Flash and Arrow (the prominent two Arrowverse series at the time), Legends of Tomorrow introduces Rip Hunter (Arthur Darvill), a Time Master from the 22nd century. Hunter forms a team of B-list superheroes to take down Vandal Savage (frequent guest star Casper Crump), an immortal tyrant who eventually conquers the world and murders Hunter’s wife and son. He recruits them with the promise that, in the future, they will be remembered as not just heroes, but “legends.” That’s enough for (most of) them.
Personally, I’m a sucker for time travel. That was one of the initial lures of this show for me (aside from my desire to watch all of the new Arrowverse series), and it certainly didn’t disappoint. Throughout the entire show (pioneered by the first season, though), the team visits a vast array of locations across history (including the Cold War, the 1950s, the Wild West, even a multitude of potential futures) and encounters a number of colorful characters. World-building is a valuable thing, and Legends of Tomorrow shows how it can be done right.

Darvill, no stranger to science-fiction (he recurred as Rory Williams on Doctor Who for four years) is right at home on this show. He captures the character of Rip Hunter as a cool, confident time-traveling hero. He has secrets, sure, but he has the world’s best interests at heart. Or does he? Rip’s moral ambiguity is part of what makes him the season’s best character, which is fitting seeing as he’s the one that initially brings the team together. He’s also one of the earliest-developed, leaving room for characterization of the titular superheroes.

One thing I mentioned before was the overabundance of characters, but it’s really only an issue at the very beginning. Yes, there are a lot of main characters, and it takes the show time to adjust and accommodate for all of their story arcs. Eventually, though, every character finds their niche aboard the Waverider (Rip Hunter’s timeship, piloted by an AI named Gideon, voiced by Amy Pemberton) and everyone gets to play a part in the story.

Their Time is Now!
Unfortunately, not every character is interesting enough to merit continued interest. Ray Palmer (Brandon Routh) is a cheerful, optimistic billionaire/superhero, and I’m invested in his story because he’s a well-rounded and developed character. Alternatively, we have Kendra Saunders (Ciara Renée), a barista-turned-hawk-goddess who reincarnates along with her partner Carter (Falk Hentschel) after they are killed by Vandal Savage. Kendra and Carter don’t have any interesting arcs (even though they’re a major element of the season’s storyline), and they’re portrayed with bland, largely emotionless performances that just make me wish I was watching a scene with anyone else. It’s no wonder the characters departed the team at the end of the season.

The great characters outnumber the boring ones, though. Wentworth Miller is perfectly snide and hilariously deadpan as clever criminal Leonard Snart, and Miller’s Prison Break co-star Dominic Purcell is surprisingly multi-dimensional as Snart’s partner and “guard dog,” Mick Rory. Both characters had debuted on The Flash years beforehand, so I was very familiar with them by the time Legends premiered. This show has allowed them to grow far beyond their guest spots on Flash, and it’s amazing to see the renewed interest in these characters that Legends has created.

While not every episode is a winner, there are some standouts. Typically, the standouts tend to be episodes not involving Vandal Savage and advancing the main plotline; episodes like “Star City 2046,” which serves as a quasi-crossover with Arrow, featuring a detour trip to a dystopia version of Sara (Caity Lotz)’s home, show just how creative and clever the show can be with its world-building, expanding upon the world occupied by more than five separate series.

There are twists, there are battles, and most of all, there are gloriously ludicrous (but at the same time, revolutionary) visual effects. Legends of Tomorrow Season One doesn’t always get the love it deserves, but despite its faults it’s a damn fun time and an exciting introduction to Rip Hunter’s merry band of time-traveling misfits. [Grade: A]

Showrunners: Andrew Kreisberg, Marc Guggenheim, Phil Klemmer and Greg Berlanti
Starring: Caity Lotz, Brandon Routh, Arthur Darvill, Dominic Purcell, Wentworth Miller, Victor Garber, Franz Drameh, Ciara Renée, Falk Hentschel, Amy Pemberton
Rated: TV-14 (violence, smoking, language)
Available: Netflix
Fun Fact: Amy Pemberton voices Gideon in Legends, but Morena Baccarin voiced a different version of Gideon in The Flash. Both versions were pioneered by Barry Allen, the titular character of The Flash.

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