Legends of Tomorrow is nothing if not ambitious. Now don’t take that the wrong way — I’m not here to bury this new CW show revolving around a group of time travelling superheroes, but to praise it. For those not in the know, Legends of Tomorrow is the CW’s attempt at creating an entirely new superhero show which takes secondary heroes and villains from both Arrow and The Flash, slaps them together on a time traveling spaceship, and bounces them around the timeline as they look to stop an immortal despot from ruling the world in a dystopian future. Sound complicated? It surprisingly isn’t, and the show does a really good job of not only settling in with an audience who is already familiar with the characters and situations, but also laying out who each of these characters are to audiences that may be having their first leap into the CW’s DC television universe.
“Pilot, Part 1” begins with a look into the future which Vandal Savage has created, akin to something straight out of James Cameron’s Terminator. Jack-booted soldiers proceed to gun down anyone in their way, with Savage personally murdering both a mother and her child. It’s a good way to set the stakes of what the heroes are fighting for, while giving us a look into the character that is Vandal Savage, albeit briefly. Of course, a lot of the episode will be better received if you’ve been following both the Flash and Arrow, but it’s not entirely a requirement here. Savage was originally an Egyptian prophet, tied together with the couple of Hawkman and Hawkgirl in that they are reincarnated after dying, and Vandal simply exists to try to start the cycle over and over again (which is thankfully explained here).
Following this intro, we’re given a look into the first new character of the series who acts as the focal point for both the storyline itself and the characters, Rip Hunter, implores the “Time Masters” to allow him to travel back into the past to put together the team necessary to save the past, present and future. Arthur Darvill is doing his best “Doctor” impersonation here, wearing a long trenchcoat that would have you believe that if they needed to go with a new Time Lord at some point in the future, he’d make a welcome addition to the mythos. Rip is joined by his snarky on-board computer, Gideon, who walks him through the process of introducing himself to the Legends, while dropping the large amount of expositional dialogue that is required for establishing a team of super-suited heroes, reincarnated Egyptian demigods, elemental pistol-wielding super-villains, and the like.
Legends of Tomorrow establishes itself quite similarly to Marvel’s Avengers, managing to inform audiences of what they need to know, while moving along at a brisk pace to establish the mission, get the crew together, and get things moving toward the meat of the story. There was legitimately a time during watching this episode that I thought the episode was nearly finished, but I was only 20 minutes into it! It’s not that I was bored, just that the first 20 minutes are so compact and filled with information, that you feel as if more time has actually passed. The team itself is also made up of an interesting group of characters in the forms of the Atom, White Canary, both members of Firestorm, Heatwave, Captain Cold, and Hawkgirl and Hawkman. With all these quirky super-folks running around, the show manages to give us some nice scenes of their individual personalities bouncing off one another. Each character is introduced to Rip Hunter, then once assembled, are shown why they need to join him on his mission (with an impressive computer generated effect of the city landscape shifting to that of the future). Again, the show’s ambition is noteworthy, and it’s nice to see that the impressive productions budgets from both Flash and Arrow are applied to this series as well.
I would be remiss if I didn’t explore a little into each of the character performances here, with the standouts being Brandon Routh’s Ray Palmer, and the combination of former Prison Break alums Wentworth Miller and Dominic Purcell as two of the Flash’s Rogues. Routh has one early scene in particular where he mulls over his mortality with Arrow’s Oliver Queen, where you see an emotional portrayal of heroism that makes you think more of Superman than his actual portrayal of the Man of Steel in Superman Returns! On the other side of things, I’ve always been a huge proponent of The Flash’s nefarious duo of Leonard Snart and Mick Rory, and that’s even more the case here. The two have a chemistry that’s apparent from minute one, bouncing pleasantries off one another and able to gleefully put their teammates in a state of uneasy with every barb and quip they throw out. Whenever you watch a movie or a television show, I think you can get a general sense of which actors are truly in love with the roles they are portraying, and with these two, you can tell that they love every second of being Rogues as they eat up screen time.
The premiere episode continues to be a rollercoaster as the team bounces from the present to the 1970s in a particularly delightful visit to that era. Again, the ambition in this episode to not only have the environment of a dystopian future laid out, but bringing the colorful era of the 70s into view should be applauded. The team proceeds to fight a time-traveling bounty hunter, which Snart comically dubs their “Boba Fett,” and it allows for the team’s powers to be put on display in a nice flashy scene. Legends of Tomorrow is entirely unapologetic in reveling in the craziness of the DC Universe, and it makes for a great, bombastic addition to the stable that the CW has made for itself. Pilot episodes are usually a necessary evil for series, having to balance the introduction of the show’s themes and players while presenting the audience with a hook for why they need to keep watching. Luckily, Legends manages to accomplish this, promising more intriguing time travel shenanigans to come. If you’re a fan of The Flash or Arrow, or want to delve into this universe that the CW has put together for the first time, I could think of worse places to start than “Pilot, Part 1.”
Rating: ★★★★ Very good
Notes of Tomorrow
– Gideon: “The Golden Age of gasoline engines, online pornography, and those silly little smart phones.”
– Green Arrow: “They have guns, you have a super suit.”
– Heat Wave: “What the hell does this Randal guy have to do with us?”
– Ray: “He’s a Time Master from the 22nd century, it’s a tad difficult to Google.”
– The reason behind why Rip has assembled these characters rather than going with Flash or Green Arrow is pretty interesting, and makes for a scenario wherein you kind of expect that not everyone is going to make it out of the series alive.
– While most of the actors do a fantastic job, there are some cracks along the way in terms of performances here, which is why I didn’t want to give this an “excellent” rating right off the bat. We’ll swing back around to future episodes and see if things have improved on that end, as maybe it’s about comfort level for some of the folks here.
– Heatwave referring to Ray Palmer as “Haircut” really got a good belly laugh from me.
– The name of the ship the Legends travel in is called “Waverider” which is an homage to one of the stranger time travellers in the DC universe, who bears a resemblance to a combination of Firestorm and Marvel’s Silver Surfer.
– Kronos is of course also a DC comic villain, and while he has no dialogue here, I would imagine they’ll throw the character back into the mix at some point in the series.