Stuff Of Legends: Kicking Off The ‘Legends of Tomorrow’ Post-Show Analysis
After a half-season of set-up in both Arrow and The Flash, it's finally here: the debut of the CW’s latest super-show, Legends of Tomorrow. Featuring Arrow’s Atom and White Canary, as well as both halves of Firestorm (we refuse to acknowledge that it's supposed to be an acronym), the Hawkpersons, and rogues Captain Cold and Heat Wave from The Flash, the show kicked off with a fast-paced pilot (well, half of a pilot, really, but we'll get to that soon enough) that took us from the future to the present to the past.
Our longest-serving Arrow and Flash recappers, Matt Wilson and Dylan Todd, have joined forces to deliver our Legends of Tomorrow post-show analysis. By their powers combined, here is The Stuff of Legends.
Dylan: Matt, the latest seasons of both the shows we recap have devoted a lot of airtime to setting up the characters for this show, often at the expense of the overarching season stories. I guess my first question for you is, “Was it all worth it?”
Matt: I guess there are a few different ways to answer the question. In a sense, yes, it was worth it, because I found this premiere to be pretty fun, if a little disjointed and highly goofy. The production values are very Saturday morning, if that makes sense. This version of Chronos is a full-on Power Rangers bad guy. (Or, more accurately, he is exactly this guy from Red Dwarf.) But I feel like that kind of adds to the charm of it.
Dylan: I was thinking he looked like a bad homemade Darth Vader mask crossed with this guy, but the Inquisitor also works.
Matt: In another sense, it wasn’t worth it at all, because this episode devotes about half its run time to explaining who all these characters are and what their deals are. Like, what was the point of that Hawkman/Hawkwoman Flash/Arrow two-parter if we were just going to revisit the whole backstory again here? Arrow has had four or five completely unnecessary episodes of setup for this show, when Legends of Tomorrow sets itself up just fine.
Dylan: Let's start with the overall premise: Time Master Rip Hunter (played by former Doctor Who companion-companion Arthur Darvill) assembles his team of side-heroes to help take down immortal despot Vandal Savage. It's a decent enough set-up, though I have to admit that casting a former Doctor Who actor was a little too cheeky. Also, the Time Masters' little conference room was real weird, but then again, it will never hold a candle to this fictional future meeting hall, so it was already set up to fail. But yeah, a ragtag group of characters having cross-time adventures sounds fun, right?
Matt: They’re kind of the superhero Losers or a much friendlier Suicide Squad, with timey elements. If I can give it away here, the big twist of the episode is that Rip initially tells the team that they’re “legends” in the future, but that turns out to be a lie, and they’re really not remembered at all. He lied to them to get them to come along.
On the one hand, I really dig that. It makes these characters underdogs. On the other, you’re telling me billionaire and scientist Ray Palmer had no effect at all on history?
Dylan: Or as a guy who had to wear what looks to be the most uncomfortable suit in the history of superhero media? Yeah, that bit was a little undercooked, and one of those things where the script/story structure demanded a second-act complication more than the actual story needed it. Which is a common problem with these shows, if we’re being frank.
Matt: It’s very shorehorned in, but I do like them as ragtag losers more than future gods. It allows me to root for them, even though it makes the title of the entire series a fake-out that doesn’t even apply anymore.
Dylan: Except, as Sara points out, it may apply by the end of the season. Because time travel stuff. My biggest gripe is that the Big Bad for the season, Vandal Savage, just isn't big or bad enough just yet for me to worry about these guys taking him down. The first episode sort of side-steps it by focusing on the cross-time bounty hunter Chronos, but the little we did see of Savage didn't really do it for me. What if you think, Matt?
Matt: I liked him better here than I did in the Arrow/Flash crossover where Vandal and the Hawks (band name copyright Matt D. Wilson 2016) first appeared. There, he just seemed kind of like a jealous goob, which I don’t think was helped at all by the actor who plays him, Casper Crump. It also didn’t help that I’m used to comics/animated Vandal Savage who is an awesome caveman, and here we get a dude who looks kinda like Cat Stevens.
I think they did a better job of making him a threat here. The first thing that happens is he shoots a kid. The first thing! Which seems a little extreme, but it gets the point across. And he’s not in this that much. For him, I think a little goes a long way. By the characters just talking about him and the audience not really seeing him that much, he becomes more of a real threat.
Dylan: I don’t disagree, and I’m sure we’ll see more of him as the season progresses, but I felt like it was a lot of telling with minimal showing. I also really loved his introduction in that episode of Flash when he opened up his Coat of Many Stabby things and went to town on a group of dock workers, but that’s just me.
Matt: With another actor, I think it’d be worth focusing on Savage a lot, but Crump just doesn’t really have it, at least for me. The more the myth of Vandal Savage can be built up by everyone else (even though you’re right, it is definitely telling), the easier it’ll be for him to coast.
Dylan: I really just hope we can get some more incomprehensible dialogue from him, to be honest.
Over the course of the episode, we get to spend time with each team member, seeing what makes them tick. This brings me to my next issue with the show so far: there are waaaay too many people in this show. We had two sequences (the initial scenes where everybody decided to join and then that later scenes where everybody had to decide to stay) where we had to sort of go down the list and check in with each of the eight members and it sort of taxed my patience a little. Did the size of the cast distract you at all?
Matt: There were definitely a lot of masters to serve, but I assume that it’s part of what comes with a pilot. You’ve got to introduce everyone and give them time. My guess is that the entire team won’t be going out on every mission. They’ll split up and devote episodes to specific characters. Rip Hunter even sort of hints at it when he takes the Hawks and Dr. Stein to see the 1970s professor and not the rest.
If it does turn into a thing where it’s a team of 10 people or whatever going on each mission, this show’s going to get really tedious really fast.
Dylan: Grouping will definitely help this show as it goes on. I will say that White Canary/Captain Cold/Heat Wave ditching the time-ship to go drinking was easily the best part of the show. Such a fun group of characters playing off each other, played by actors who look like they're having a real good time.
Matt: I actually wrote down this note: “Bar fight is fun.” It’s the kind of thing that never happens on Arrow because that show is so beholden to driving the metaplot. I hope we can get more low-key character moments like this on this show.
I will say, though: White Canary sort of felt out of character to me. The Sara from Arrow wasn’t nearly this happy-go-lucky (no one on that show is). She was, as you might guess, tortured and constantly worried. Not that I’m complaining; I probably like this version better. But it was a little jarring. Did anyone strike you as being different from how they were portrayed on The Flash?
Dylan: No, they were pretty consistent. We’ve only seen a little bit of Firestorm 2.0 in Flash, but Victor Garber’s Professor Stein is just as condescending and clipped as he is on that show, so there’s that. I could do with the new Firestorm-half, Jay Jackson, being a little less angry, but I’ll give it some time to gel.
Matt: I’ve only kept up with The Flash here and there. Is Stein the non-stop exposition machine there that he was here? Like, he’s even elbowing Ray Palmer out of the way to explain stuff.
Dylan: Yeah, that’s kind of his role in the first part of season 2, before they introduced the Earth-2 version of Harrison Wells, who was the exposition-deliverer and science-explainer before it turned out he was an evil guy from the future who was trying to kill Barry Allen. Then they set him up with a new Firestorm partner since Robbie Amell scurried off to do that X-Files revival and a Netflix show.
Matt: I see you betraying your cousin Stephen, Robbie Amell.
Dylan: I did like having Ray Palmer there to “umactually” Stein constantly because that dude needs to be taken down a peg or two.
Matt: And I enjoyed having Heat Wave there to call Ray “haircut.” That’s what he needs.
While we’re talking about the other shows, we didn’t get a lot of Central City in this episode, but there are a few cuts over to Arrow world here. They were very strange and jarring. The part where Sara is sparring with her sister Laurel to talk about whether to go through time...
Dylan: Oh, they’re sisters! Because I forgot that and also did not pick up that vibe at all. I picked up… a different vibe.
Matt: Yeah, that’s their deal. Anyway, I sat there wondering when this could be happening. Because Team Arrow has been in 100 percent crisis mode since Sara got Lazarus Pitted, and Sara even left under weird, tense circumstances. And yet this is a pretty casual convo between two sisters. Is this some alternate Arrowverse?
Dylan: Yeah, I’ve half-watched all of this season of Arrow, and even I thought it felt a little too breezy for that show. I feel like whenever they have to fold Arrow into The Flash or vice versa, they realize just how dark their show is and overcompensate. Like, the Flash crossover episodes always seem way more fun than that show ever allows itself to be, though they did wind up tricking me into watching that show, so it worked on me at least.
Matt: It’s just like, if you’re going to do a shared universe, do one, right? This scene should have been Sara watching Laurel from a rooftop and scurrying away because it’s too hard to talk to her. That’s the Arrow I know.
Dylan: That said, I like this version of Sara. This “I just came back from the dead and want to hit on dudes’ girlfriends and then fight the dudes” version.
Matt: “Let’s get weird in the ‘70s” was probably the line of the episode. I liked Sara already (her being my favorite Arrow character is well-documented), and this version has even more potential.
Dylan: I can stand to see more of that character. On the other hand, can we please get less of Hawkman? He's the worst. Hawkwoman is okay, I guess, because her whole deal seems to be rolling her eyes at Hawkman, but his whole persona is one of a hectoring mentor crossed with a stalkerish creep. Matt, did you also hate Hawkman? He sucks, right?
Matt: Not a fan of the character, whose main trait seems to be gaslighting Hawkwoman, or the actor, who just does not seem into playing the character at all. Like, here’s Hawkwoman, really giving it her all to make a connection with her long-lost son, and Hawkman’s just standing around thinking about how he’s missing the playoffs.
Dylan: I’ve defended the concept of Hawkman (“Has hawk wings! Smashes evil with a mace!”) but yeah, this iteration is just the worst. Drop him into a volcano or something. Maybe Vandal Savage wil kill him soon? Like in part two of the pilot? I’m literally rooting for the villain in this case.
Matt: There’s no real need for him. Why do we need two hawkpeople? It just seems like clutter, and one is clearly better acted and more interesting than the other. There’s just the small problem that these two always, always come back to life. So you’ve got to write around that somehow.
Dylan: I will put money down that he doesn’t make it out of this alive. Also, how weird was that, “Mama! Papa! It is I, your old son! Love me!” plot?
Matt: At first blush, I thought it was actually kind of neat. Like, if we’re going to do weird time travel stuff, let’s do it.
Dylan: I agree with you on this, but I also feel like the truncated nature of the plot made us have to believe that Chay-ara remembered him, had motherly feelings for him and oops, now he’s dead. I just didn’t completely buy it.
Matt: You don’t think you could read it that she was just lying to him to spare his feelings, though? That was my reading entirely, largely because of how Ciara Renee played it.
Dylan: I will admit that subtlety in acting is not something I am used to in CW super-shows, but I like that explanation, so let’s go with that.
Matt: I do think two things weakened that whole subplot. The actor who played the professor was a little too intense. Like, nearing creepy levels of just wanting mommy and daddy to love him. And then there’s the weird thing that happens when you think about this too much: Hawkman and Hawkwoman have been living and dying for centuries. How many other kids they never knew about could they have?
Dylan: So many. Especially if they were as in love as Hawk-Block-Man constantly tells her they were.
Matt: “Nah, girl, for real. You were really into me. You don’t remember it, but it’s true. Just trust me. I’m keeping it 100 on this.”
Dylan: Ugh. This dude.
We also got to spend some time with the new Firestorm, Martin “I Will Roofie You NBD” Stein and Jay “Please Stop Roofie-ing Me” Jackson. While nowhere near as awful as Hawkman, I gotta say that these two need to work some stuff out. I will say that Stein apologizing to Jay by basically saying, “Sorry I kidnapped you, but I mean, I really wanted to time travel. We cool?” was amazingly great/awful. What did you think of Firestorm 2.0?
Matt: I’ll have to admit that in every scene they were in I was totally distracted by the accent that Franz Drameh, the actor who plays Jefferson Jackson, was trying to do. He’s English, and he’s trying so hard to hide it with...what accent is that? I couldn’t even begin to place it.
Dylan: He was in Attack the Block alongside John Boyega, but Boyega’s American accent is roughly 1000% better.
Matt: I sincerely had trouble keeping up with what was going on with them because it was so distracting. At one point I was like, “Why is Jay so mad?” and I had to remind myself that Stein drugged him with that drink.
Dylan: Between Rip Hunter and Professor Stein, there was a surprising amount of drugging and kidnapping in this episode.
Matt: Also, a discomforting number of uses of the word “roofie.”
Dylan: I know Heat Wave telling Stein he needs to get some of that was supposed to be funny, but nope.
Matt: Villain or no, it didn’t land. Can we talk about Rip Hunter’s Men In Black device, by the way?
Dylan: Oh, his kidnap gun! Standard issue for Time Masters, I guess.
Matt: Even rogue ones! Here’s the thing. I get it for narrative expediency. He had to get the Legends on his ship. But why can’t he just walk up to Vandal Savage and blast him with it, then put him in some super-time-prison? It’s one of those show-breaking things.
Dylan: Because… of… reasons? Yeah, I don’t know. Also, as long as we’re talking about things that didn’t make a lot of sense, I know Hunter holding his wife and kid and screaming at the heavens is de rigueur, but that whole scene made me roll my eyes just a little.
Matt: All I could think about in that scene was where was he when Savage killed them? Emergency Time Masters meeting?
Dylan: All I could think about in that scene was being on set that day and having to play dead while a British man cradled me in his arms and pretended to cry and how embarrassed I would be for him. But I am a fundamentally broken human being.
Matt: Child actors: The real victims.
I assume the show will come up with some back-explanation for why Hunter can’t jump into that moment and save his family, right? Inaccessible time stream in that moment or something. They’ll Doctor Who it.
Dylan: The actual time travel part of Doctor Who is the least interesting bit of Doctor Who for me, and it’s probably the same thing for me with this show. Just give me adventures in time and space and I will be fine. Also, if Stephen Moffat could refrain from third acts composed of mostly gibberish and hand-waving, that would be great. But I digress. I get that Rip Hunter had to have a personal reason to defeat Savage beyond “He’s an immortal who likes to do war all the time,” but I feel like that unnecessarily adds wrinkles to the plot.
Matt: Yeah, maybe it’s best not to overcomplicate it. Let’s hope the writers don’t get too bogged down in it and instead spend most of their time thinking about how a tiny little man was involved in the invention of the telephone or a guy with a cold gun was at the Great Chicago Fire. That’s what I really want.
Dylan: Heat Wave invents the Hot Pocket! Martin Stein visits his ancestor, Franken!
Matt: Canary goes down into a mine to fight a bad guy, which gives a certain foreman an idea for a safety check. Teddy Roosevelt spots a Hawkwoman at Yellowstone, gets the idea for national parks.
Dylan: And this is why we write for ComicsAlliance and not the CW.
Matt: Too many good ideas!
And that’s it for this week! Next week, "Pilot Part 2," as...more pilot happens!