‘Legends of Tomorrow’ Recap: “River of Time” & The Problem with Vandal Savage

     May 5, 2016


Greetings gentle readers! Your regular recapper Evan Valentine is off this week, so I’m here in his stead to talk about Legends of Tomorrow, a show I’ve been wanting to write about again (and rant about) since I first reviewed it.

When Legends began, it was the most outlandish and cartoonish of the DC TV cousins on the CW, and it was fun as a viewer to get swept up in its largely ludicrous plots and mind-bending action sequences. But like junk food, the initial sugar rush and satisfaction eventually give way to a stomach ache and a crash. Even if you can forgive Legends for breaking all of its own rules regarding time travel and time paradoxes (more on that later), the one thing that can’t be forgiven is the quality — or rather, lack thereof — of its central villain, Vandal Savage.


Image via The CW

This year, both The Flash and Arrow introduced incredibly interesting, powerful, and complex villains in Damian Darhk and Zoom. Though Zoom’s fright factor has tapered off somewhat following his reveal, he’s still incredibly scary. He’s conquered an entire Earth, and looking to do it a second time. We’ve also seen him kill a lot of people, often swiftly and gruesomely. Darhk, on Arrow, now has the keys to his own desires for global domination as he controls the world’s nuclear arsenals. These men live on chaos and destruction, they want to see the world burn. Vandal Savage? He makes casseroles and hangs out with his kids. Awesome qualities for a dad. Crap qualities for a villain.

One of the things that made Zoom so powerful on The Flash (until recently) was that he had no emotional anchor. He was an agent of pure evil. Savage, on the other hand, is motivated by a 4000 year old crush, one based on unrequited love (though in this episode, he claims he was dumped). Either way … whatever dude. Get over it. And as far as we have been shown, there’s no reason to fear Savage. He claims he “destroys empires,” but where’s the proof? He’s a murderer of at least two people — which matters — but Zoom literally conquered another Earth and Damian Darhk is ready to blow one up in 2016. Maybe help deal with that, Legends? This other guy is mainly known for being a persistent stalker.

“River of Time” spent most of the hour focused on Legends’ weakest aspects; namely, the most boring love triangle in the history of the world. Vandal loves Kendra, Kendra loves Carter, while Ray is left out of the equation more or less completely. Though Vandal tries to get his ire up and make him hate Carter as much as he does, Ray is a good guy. And while that dilemma is actually a fairly interesting one (as far as Ray coming to terms with Kendra’s eternal bond with Carter), Legends gets in its own way again thanks to its greatest foe: logic. The gang can’t kill Savage because Carter — one of an endless number of Carters existing in the time stream — is a “brainless drone.” So? Kick him off the ship and find another one. I’ve been astonished this season that the Legends didn’t immediately pluck another Carter from the timeline and get him to join the team. It seems like an untapped resource for them.


Image via The CW

But then again, Legends’ rules about what does or doesn’t work in the time stream are changed to suit its needs on a weekly basis. At the start of the series, Rip set out one firm rule that seemed like a good idea: the team could not go back to any event they participated in, or time would fold in on itself. Great plan. Except then came the Pilgrim, and the team started snatching up themselves as babies, and interacting with their past selves with reckless abandon. Where’s a time wraith when you need one?

This all matters because the core of this show — the raison d’etre for this team even forming in the first place — is to save Rip’s family. And as far as Rip is concerned, only his family matters. No one cares about going back and saving Laurel Lance, or maybe Jax’s dad, or anyone else that means something to the other members of the team. Nope, just Rip’s family. And Rip, being the selfish and ill-informed leader that he is, routinely throws his crew into danger to achieve his desired outcome, to the point — lest we forget — where he even wanted Sara to kill Stein for a minute. Then, after Sara calls him on it and he accidentally gets hit by one of Savage’s lasers meant for Kendra, he thinks he’s a savior. Actual. Worst.

Rip also told us in the last episode that he’s tried to save his family before, but time continues to push back, Final Destination-like, and they die anyway. So basically, the Legends are trapped on a ship with a grief-stricken and delusional mad man who doesn’t care at all about their wellbeing. Is Rip the true villain of Legends? No wonder Rory and Snart wanted to jump ship. Unfortunately, only Old Jax (um, bye by the way … guess he made it / is fine?) was the only one to get that reprieve.


Image via The CW

“River of Time” was a mess, whether it was in regards to Savage and his weak villain machinations (even when he was loose on the ship, I felt nothing; there are no stakes, nothing to show us that Savage is anyone to fear in the least), Kendra’s fickle heart, the Time Masters being a corrupt organization (ya think?), or the random flashbacks that revealed less than nothing about the characters. What’s frustrating is that Legends of Tomorrow has some great characters. Mick’s one-liners and the interactions with Snart and Sara and the men of Firestorm are consistently great. It’s just that the show wastes them most of the time, and focuses on boring, illogical plot points instead.

We only have a few more episodes for Legends to wrap up its inaugural season, and I hope it brings about the deaths of Savage and this overdone story about Kendra and Carter’s love and destiny. Legends of Tomorrow set itself up as a show about some of the best side characters from Arrow and The Flash coming together to kick ass through time. I don’t care about time paradoxes and where they go or who they fight even, so long as the show is fun, doesn’t break its own rules, and spends plenty of time allowing its characters to interact with each other in interesting, meaningful ways. Let’s hope Season 2 finds a way to make that happen.

Rating: ★★ Fair

Musings and Miscellanea:

— Are the Legends the worst motley crew in the history of motley crews, or what? They have one job, and we’ve spend an incredible number of episodes seeing them bumble their way into doing less than nothing about it. Finally, with Savage in custody, they hand him over (why?) to a group that has routinely shown they don’t care about him, and discover that he’s being freed while they’re being jailed. Put them out of their misery, please.

— I found it hilarious that the video Rip showed the Time Masters was 98% why he’s an idiot, and it’s his fault the Savage can now time travel apparently.


Image via The CW

— … But how is Savage time-traveling, and if he can, then why is he always surprised to see them in every single episode?

— “If we live through this, you bumbling idiot, I just may kill you” – Mick

— Ok … I’m pretty sure Ray was already long gone with the Legends by the time Felicity was shot and in a wheelchair. Am I wrong, or did that make zero timeline sense?

— “I was League of Assassins, not NASA!” – Sara, sudden astro-temporal navigator

— Kendra: “You are Carter Hall. And I am …” A barista?

— “You were reciting a love poem to your brainwashed ex-boyfriend” – Ray

— Looks like Sara kisses Snart next week, which is BS. She and Nyssa hugged. This is the most sexually neutered show …

— “And it’s all Rip’s fault” – Snart, dropping truth bombs per usual. Most practical person on the ship, should be captain, etc.

— “Tell your pals Chronos says ‘kiss my ass’” – Mick

  “Why are all of the snacks in the future sugar free?” – Mick, who deserves his own show with Snart

— “You roofied me again?” – Jax, whose plot was buried under this other nonsense. Stein made a huge personal sacrifice for him, and it was completely glossed over. But seriously, did Jax make it back ok? Do we have any confirmation that this plan worked at all? Also, why did the show really just ship one of its only minority characters off into deep space, I mean really.


Image via The CW


Image via The CW


Image via The CW


Image via The CW