In the next episode of The CW series Legends of Tomorrow, called “Leviathan,” Rip Hunter (Arthur Darvill) takes the team to London in the year 2166, in an attempt to take one last shot at defeating Vandal Savage (Casper Crump), who is at the height of his power. While there, they look for a weapon that Kendra (Ciara Renée) can use to defeat Savage, but also discover that Savage has a daughter (Jessica Sipos) that just might feel differently about her father, if she were to learn the truth.
During this exclusive phone interview with Collider, executive producer Phil Klemmer talked about the team’s desperate attempt to take out Vandal Savage, how Savage’s daughter views her father, finding the humanity in these characters, why the season finale is like a remix, when Legends is at its best, and that Season 2 will be a completely new chapter in this story. Be aware that there are some spoilers.
Collider: In this next episode, “Leviathan,” the team is going to attempt to take on Vandal Savage at the height of his power. Since they haven’t really succeeded too well before now, how much more challenging will that make things? At this point, what will it take to finally defeat him for good?
PHIL KLEMMER: Well, yeah, they have tried to pick all the low-hanging fruit and failed, so this is a desperate attempt predicated on the fact that they’ve been removed from the timeline and can vanish from their own histories. So, it’s a Hail Mary play. But what they do realize, when they reach 2166 and find Savage at the height of his powers, is that he has slipped up. Throughout his four thousand long years of life, he’s not a man who has made a lot of personal attachment. We find out that he not only has a daughter, but he has a daughter that he loves. The whole story exists because he killed Rip’s wife and child, and sent Rip on this course of revenge and, as a corollary, on a quest to save the world.
Our way of potentially stopping Savage here is to turn his love for his daughter against him, and to use this emotionally vulnerability against a cold-hearted bastard. They’re going to try to dig out whatever humanity exists in this immortal psychopath and try to turn his daughter into a pawn that can be used on behalf of the legends. I always think it’s interesting when you realize that, despite all of the horrible things he’s done, Savage does have a heart. It’s not just about the logistics of whether Kendra gets the magical object that can kill him and can wield it, but it’s also about his emotional vulnerabilities. This episode is about both of those questions.
What can you say about what kind of person his daughter is and how much she actually knows about her father?
KLEMMER: I’ll make a comparison to the movie Room, in that she’s sort of like that kid. She wasn’t literally raised in seclusion, but any parent is protective of their child. Vandal Savage has been very selective in revealing to her the kind of man that he is. She is a little bit starry-eyed. She sees her father as perhaps Stalin’s daughter looked upon him, as like, “This is just what the Soviet Union needs, killing off those 20 million people!” He’s a great hero to her. Savage’s daughter is totally drinking the Kool-Aid and she totally believes his justifications for the misery he has inflicted on the world, as the ultimate power. She sees him as the hero. She’s watching The Vandal Savage Show. She’s not watching Legends of Tomorrow. It’s not until she meets the team and forges this, dare I say, friendship with Leonard Snart that he’s able to pull the scales from her eyes and use his own experience with an abusive father to make her realize that she’s been duped and given this distorted picture of who her father really is and why he’s done the things he’s done. The question at the end of the episode is, will she betray her father? Will she figuratively stab him in the back, so that Kendra can literally stab him in the heart?
In these later episodes, we’ve really learned a lot about these characters. Mick Rory is a very different person than we first thought, we’ve finally learned a bit about Rip Hunter’s past, and now we’re learning more about Vandal Savage. How closely has Season 1 followed the overall plan you had for these characters and have there been any major deviations, along the way?
KLEMMER: It’s like digging for gold. When you find a vein, you don’t know how deep it’s going to go. It’s an exploration, especially with our villain. You don’t know how much humanity they can carry before their villainy gets diminished, or the audience loves them more than they love your hero and they stop being the bad guy. Mick Rory is a great example because, in the early episodes, he was the guy who would crack a joke or say something inappropriate. As a writer, you get restless, and I’m sure that, as a performer, you get restless, as well. You want to know what lies beneath, why he’s saying things that are inappropriate, and why he’s such an asshole. Coming up with the pathology that underlies that, when a guy like Vandal Savage is responsible for subjugating the entire world, as writers, we’re responsible to come up with a humanity that can counter-balance something that’s not a normal human impulse. You have to justify what people do. The more outrageous people act, the more strenuous you have to be in making it seem like a human action.
Without giving anything away, what can fans expect from the season finale? Will there be more action, will there be more heartbreak, or is there a balance of the two?
KLEMMER: The finale itself is like a remix. Since this is a time travel show and we do bounce around, we will be skipping through the time periods of previous episodes. It’s not a clips show, exactly, but we will go back to familiar places and see familiar scenarios from a different point of view. The team will triumph, in a sense, but triumph comes at a commensurate cost. We never really meant for this show to go into Season 2 with a clean reset, where it’s just, “We’re going to fight Vandal Savage, all over again. We’re going to be the exact same team that you met in the pilot.” We always wanted to make sure that this was a chapter, and that Season 2 would be a completely different chapter with new characters and new stakes. I think our characters have been irrevocably changed by their experience. By the time you get to the finale, it does have that bittersweet reminder that they can’t go home again. It’s not just that their homes are gone, but they’re different people. By stepping out of the timeline and going on this adventure, and allowing themselves to be changed by this common experience, they’re like Vietnam veterans. It’s not easy to go back to the world. So, the question of Season 2 is going to be, if they don’t belong there, where do they belong?
The first season of any show is about finding its footing and figuring out which character dynamics work the best. Looking back on this season, when do you think Legends was at its best?
KLEMMER: I don’t know. I love every episode, in a way. This show has a wild premise, but as heavy as the stakes are, I like it when the show is somehow still manages to be light on its feet. I think the dysfunction of our team is what makes it fun, funny, heartbreaking and human. I enjoy the moments that are lower stakes and that are really hijinks. That’s why the episode in the ‘50s was fun, and the Western was so much fun. I liked both of the Soviet Union episodes, too. The show is really meant to be a romp with heart. That’s where it’s at its best, and it’s where we all want the show to live next season.
Legends of Tomorrow airs on Thursday nights on The CW.