Legends of Tomorrow returns with the second part of its pilot episode where the newly assembled “Legends” travel through the timeline to put an end to Vandal Savage. Before diving head first into the episode itself, I want to take a step back and talk about the premise of the series. Assembling a ragtag group of secondary characters from both The Flash and Arrow was ambitious to start, but to have their main trajectory involve traveling through time to fight an immortal foe with mystical artifacts and nanotechnology is even more so. At the end of the day though, kudos to the CW for creating a show that is able to nail its lofty goals, and create a series that never takes itself too seriously, all while managing to just be pure fun throughout its runtime.
The episode begins with the crew assembling en masse to attend a nuclear warhead auction that Savage is holding for some of the worst of the worst (more on that later) in the swinging days of the ‘70s. Skillfully working their way into the auction thanks to the suave character that is Dr. Stein — with an assist from Leonard Snart — the heroes and villains place a bid on the nuclear warhead. When no one at the “Legion of Doom convention” can quite figure out who these newcomers are, Stein accidentally slips up that some technology is far too advanced for “this era,” causing an epic rumble between the forces of Vandal Savage and the Legends. I was somewhat awestruck by this scene, not only in seeing all of these classic characters flying, shrinking, firing blasts of fire and ice, and generally kicking butt, but the direction of the action itself. I was reminded of the pinnacle scene from Marvel’s Avengers wherein the team is finally assembled and the camera spins to deliver the lineup in all its comic book glory.
All this action and excitement wouldn’t resonate if we didn’t care for our protagonists, though, and watching these eclectic characters bounce off one another is a delight on the same level as the fight scenes. This episode sees the group once again split off from one another to accomplish different tasks in the 1970’s. White Canary and the two halves of Firestorm visit a much younger Dr. Stein to acquire a device that can keep the time travel train chugging along, Ray Palmer joins forces with Captain Cold and Heatwave to steal an old dagger that may be the means to take Savage’s life, while Hawkman and Hawkgirl are still reeling from coming into contact with a certain deceased Professor who turns out to be their son from a past life. This show is bonkers and I love every minute of it.
Ray Palmer, the stuffed-shirt know it all, with all his money, prestige, and shrinking power armor makes for such an amusing contrast to the hardened criminals of Snart and Rory that you almost wish they’d make a show with the three of them living together, a la Three’s Company. Aside from the barrage of puns and mistakes that take place in their interactions, there’s surprisingly some heart to be found in there as well, with Ray and Leonard bonding following being captured inside of Savage’s estate. While this is happening, Sara Lance is getting high with young Dr. Stein and infiltrating Vandal Savage’s compound to get back a piece of Ray’s armor he lost along the way, touting the fact that “even high” she could “take out the eggheads inside.” Aside from the amazing preposterousness of this scene, and I’m saying that as a good thing, the chemistry between the three Legends and Stein’s younger self as they try to dodge past his questioning is a fantastic.
If I had to say there was a weakness within the cast, it would probably be the hawks. I think that their adolescence to the CW DC-verse unfortunately shines when comparing them to their castmates, but every weakness is turned into a strength, as shockingly enough Hawkman is killed by Vandal Savage near the tail end of the episode! After making a rescue attempt for the trapped trio of the Atom, Captain Cold, and Heatwave, the rest of the team tries to put an end to Savage once and for all. Carter takes up the blade, the one thing able to kill Vandal, stabs it in his chest and lo and behold, Savage lives thanks to the blade only working on him if it’s used by Shayera herself. Too little too late as our antagonist manages to bury the blade deep into Carter’s chest, killing him, while also managing to severely injure Hawkgirl. Granted, we’re dealing with a seemingly immortal “hawk-soul” in a series about time travel, so who’s to say if he’s really dead, but it’s surprising to see they’d be willing to pull the plug on one of their core cast members so early in the game. The CW has always excelled in pushing forward shows where the audience has to “expect the unexpected” and Legends of Tomorrow is no different.
Defeated and broken, the team manages to rally once again, but not before having to deal with the ramifications of time travel, as Firestorm and the White Canary’s meddling in the past has made it so that Dr. Stein never met his wife in the first place. Through some off-screen shenanigans, Rip Hunter is able to re-jigger the time stream and put things right. If my recap was any indication, this episode is packed to bursting with subplots, characters, and adversities, but the series manages to balance them all superbly, not wasting a minute along the way. Any qualms of the first episode having to spend a bit too much time assembling the group is lost here with everyone playing so well off one another that you can’t believe how much time has passed, and you find yourself hungry for more.
Legends of Tomorrow could have easily been an attempt by CW to cash in on the popularity of Arrow and the Flash, but what they’ve created here is something that often surpasses both, taking the strengths of both series, embracing the insanity, and giving us a story that glorifies character while not playing down the universe that’s been established. It’s a fun ride from top to bottom and should be considered at the top of the list of comic book television shows on the air right now.
Rating:★★★★★ Excellent Superhero Fare
Notes of Tomorrow
– Excellent appearance from Damian Darhk (Neal McDonough), and leads to even more questions for Arrow. How old is this guy that he’s appearing the 1970s without looking a day younger? What are the extent of his powers? What is his relationship to Vandal Savage?
– Captain Cold just eats scenery, and I’m really pulling for him to get his own show at some point, unlikely as that may be.
– Heatwave – “You’re a special kind of crazy, I like it.”
– Heatwave – “Can I burn some stuff now?”
Cold – “I wish you would!”
– Dr. Stein – “I was researching these particles while you were eating crayons.”
– Cold – “Ok, fine I’ll do it!”