A DC-TV Primer: the CW Network’s superhero lineup
Thursday: Legends of Tomorrow
From Wikipedia (as I said before, if they are going to do the work FOR me …):
CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR SEASON ONE
After the murder of his family by immortal dictator Vandal Savage, time master Rip Hunter travels back in time to the present day where he brings together a team of heroes and villains (Atom, White Canary, Firestorm, Hawkman, Hawkgirl, Captain Cold, and Heat Wave) in an attempt to prevent Savage from destroying the world. However, they are opposed by the Time Masters, an organization from the future dedicated to protect and manipulate the timeline as they see fit and a body to which Hunter had sworn allegiance. During their early adventures, they are hunted by the Time Master’s agent Chronos.
Lordie do people dislike this show. Go to IMDB and read some of the reviews.
Sure, it’s not perfect, but it’s not THAT bad.
I liked the show! I look forward to watching it and am happy when I see it on my Tivo every Friday morning.
But after writing this review I realized there were parts – big parts – that I didn’t like.
In the end I decided the show was a mixed bag.
The premise itself is part of the problem: it’s the Gilligan’s Island syndrome. Once they defeat Vandal Savage, the show is over! SPOILER: The last episode proves this out. The gang breaks up and only some of them come back!
The show is not as dark as Arrow (despite its premise) and has light moments that rival Flash. The time-travelling premise should be liberating, but instead it seems limiting.
We KNOW they won’t finally confront Savage until the season finale, so the battles with him are incidental from the very beginning.
The show provides us with Easter eggs harkening to their DC comics’ roots…
Jonah Hex’s appearance was a highlight.
Finding Per Degaton as a youth made for some interesting moral debates: would you kill Hitler-as-a-child if you could?
Characters from other DC-CW shows pop up; notably Quentin Lance. We spy alternate futures including Diggle’s son taking up the Green Arrow mantel. They are careful in the future – not wanting to spoil anything. But they are also careful in the past when they did not have to be.
Professor Stein, Captain Cold and even Rip Hunter meeting their younger selves provided some good moments, but even I was confused when they snatched some team members as newborns. That plot-thread was quickly forgotten and wrapped up on the next show before the opening credits.
I found the multi-part arc in the 1950s especially disappointing. Racial hatred was only just touched upon. Maybe it was because the story was in Washington state. Jax’s flirtation and dating a white girl created some trouble with goons, but it was no worse than were he beat up by a jealous boyfriend rather than bigots.
Meanwhile, Ray Palmer and Kendra Saunders play a mixed race couple who move into the neighborhood with only the slightest double-takes from the neighbors. Maybe Washingtonians were more progressive in the late 1950s than I thought.
They should have taken a chance and placed the story arc in Old Miss. But I don’t think CW wanted to do that.
One complaint that I had about the show from the beginning was the dialogue. Sometimes the characters quipped without having anything to say. Did the actors have to have an equal number of lines? Did the writers once in a while say, “Mick hasn’t spoken for a while…”
I noticed one scene where the camera panned left to right. As the camera passed, each character had a line. People don’t speak in the order in which they are standing.
So what DID I like about it?
Wentworth Miller and Dominic Purcell stole every scene as Captain Cold and Heat Wave (although they were mostly called by their civilian names Leonard Snark and Mick Rory). The duo was my favorite part of the show, despite my initial fear that they would be its weakest link (villains? They couldn’t come up with two other heroes?)! The occasional “I like this guy,” from Rory always made me giggle.
Best line of the show was Rory’s: “I need you to burn something.” “About time…”
Snark’s slow turn from bad guy to almost-good guy was the best part of the show. “Why do you care about any of them?” Rory would ask. “I don’t, but they’re on my team, and you watch out for your team.”
So was Rory’s very very slowly developing friendship with Ray Palmer.
Speaking of him, Brandon Routh still channels his inner Christopher Reeve. He was excellent as Superman and very good as the Atom. I just don’t think he is given much to work with here. His eccentricity in Arrow became flightiness here.
His romance with Kendra Saunders was not very convincing. Plus the constant reminder that she is meant only for Carter Hall wears thin.
Saunders meeting her previous incarnation in the Old West was a fun few minutes, though.
Both characters were more interesting and better done in Flash and Arrow.
Poor Sarah Lance (the White Canary), despite being played excellently by Caity Lotz, seems bored. The few times the show focuses on her are excellent: her falling for a nurse in the 1950s and rebuffing Snart’s hesitant advances. Maybe the writers weren’t sure what to do with her and her powers. She kicks butt, true, but what can she do against a robot as tall as a skyscraper? Hopefully she will be back on Arrow soon providing some grist for that mill should Legends fail to keep up good ratings.
I like Victor Garber as Professor Martin Stein; always pontificating and irritating his team while providing the viewer exposition. He talks down to the team to provide exposition for the viewer. His “partner” is Franz Dramah as Jax. Their friendship was only explored occasionally and we need more of it.
Arthur Darvill as Rip Hunter was also wonderful. His Ahab-like need for vengeance wore pretty thin, though. Savage killed his wife and son! Yes, we know, we were told in the opening credits and two or three times every show – even shows that don’t really feature Savage.
I wish Casper Crump were given more to do as Vandal Savage than preen and smirk. His final battles in the season finale were very good, though.
The show was an exemplary example of Berlanti Productions #1 rule of a Big Bad who fights the heroes throughout the season culminating in the season finale.
But fortunately the nature of the show made it nearly impossible for Rule #2: bad guy (or gal) appears, heroes fight him or her and gets whipped. Team finds flaw and makes a macguffin to defeat bad guy. Arrow does it, Flash does it, even Supergirl. Legends? Not so much.
It’s not a perfect show, but it is fun to watch, and that’s the whole point isn’t it?
So what’s next for our legends? It looks from the previews that the show is entering into Doctor Who territory – going to different times and meeting the famous and infamous.
They will be repairing the timeline.
They will also be meeting more heroes (and villains) from the DC roster: Vixen will join as will Steel. They meet the Justice Society of America.
And fight the Legion of Doom! Malcolm Merlin, Damien Darhk, Captain Cold (what!?) and the Reverse Flash gather together to try to defeat our heroes.
I’ll be there. Will you?
Original Material Copyright 2016 Michael Curry
Characters mentioned and their images are copyright their respective holders. Thanks to DC Comics, the CW Network and Berlanti Productions and the actors portrayed for the use of their images.
I also thank the original creators of all characters mentioned, whether or not they have been properly compensated (gratmens during the credits aside).