The CW’s Legends of Tomorrow follows a time-traveling team of misfits that includes historian Nate Heywood, Arrow’s Atom and White Canary, both halves of Firestorm, and Flash rogue Heat Wave. Recappers Matt Wilson and James Leask are on hand to deliver our Legends of Tomorrow post-show analysis, Stuff of Legends.

This week’s episode, “Legion of Doom,” takes a closer look at the working relationships between this season’s team of bad guys, while the Legends try to work some stuff out on and around the Waverider. Eric Laneuville wrote the episode, which was written by Phil Klemmer and Marc Guggenheim.

Matt: This was an episode of ups and downs, fits and starts. On the one hand, it was talky. Very talky. And we said last week that those tend to be the worst episodes of the show. I definitely found myself looking a lot at the clock this week wondering how it could only be however many minutes in.

On the other hand, James, the Black Flash/Black Racer showed up at the end of this and that was rad as heck.

 

 

James: Due to my sporadic Flash/Arrow-verse watching, I’d never seen the Black Flash before, so I imagine in his other appearances he’s… not just a Jurassic Park T-Rex?

Matt: I haven’t watched a ton of The Flash, either, but I’m pretty sure the version that appeared on that show was a lot less...cosmic? Supernatural? Otherworldly? --- than this one was. That one, by all accounts, was a dude. This one is full-on Speed Death, much like the comics version. And yeah, the whole “he can’t see you if you don’t move” thing was silly (how would Merlyn and Darhk even known that) but also kinda fun? That scene was the only one I fully got hyped for the whole episode.

James: My goof aside, and notwithstanding the fact that any time anything about time travel mechanics or the speed force were mentioned in the episode my notes read, and I quote, “um what,” I actually bought the tension in that scene. As much as the series has mostly made the Legion of Doom a goofy bunch of sniping but weirdly charming jerks, the Black Flash absolutely felt like a big spooky threat.

Even if nothing made a gosh darn lick of sense. I mean, Thawne is a member of the Speed Force, which is how he survived being pre-murdered, but only if he doesn’t move? Whatevs. It was spooky fun.

Matt: Yeah. I liked this design of the Black Flash, even if I do prefer the Kirby-designed on-skis Black Racer. He was, as you say, creepy, and even a pretty good special effect, by CW terms. It helped that that room on one of the... four (?) sets they used this week was darkly lit.

But not kidding about all the explanation. Every conversation about how Thawne can exist even when he doesn’t exist was... taxing.

James: And honestly, I don’t really think it needed to be. Grey coming up with the logic behind why the mysterious (to them) evil speedster was Thawne was, honestly, pretty elegant, and even had a pretty effective, quick flashback. The problem there for me was that the writers then had the characters draw attention to the convolutedness of it.

 

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Used sparingly, that can be a pretty effective tool to help bring a boatload of exposition down to earth. But they did it basically any time someone did any explaining, and the show does it a lot in general.

I know I’ve critiqued the tendency for the more exposition-y episodes not being my favorites, but I think part of that slight frustration is because the show gets in its own way in episodes like this by drawing attention to how comic book-y it all is, and inserts just that faint bit of ironic distance.

Matt: It felt particularly to me like this one was a keep-the-budget-tight episode --- like I said, only four sets, or at least four locations --- which meant a lot of talking and talking and repeating stuff, and scenes of our heroes and the villains trying to figure out stuff that in other episodes they’d crack between scenes.

That said, it’s not an awful script. The way the episode bounces back and forth between the Legends and the Legion (because that seems like the name they’re really going with, despite Sara’s objections) is cleverly constructed. When the heroes reach a conclusion, the villains have basically come to the same one. It honestly flowed pretty well, considerably better than a lot of scripts for a lot of these shows tend to do. So if we were going to have a writerly, dialogue-heavy episode, at least they did a reasonable job of it.

James: I definitely agree with you about the flow. I actually hadn’t even noticed how few sets there were, in part because the script moved pretty briskly between them, so it felt like things were moving --- even if the Legends don’t really do much this episode. It was a pretty breezy watch, and I really enjoyed a lot of the little quips and asides that the characters would make.

I genuinely chortled with Phil/Rip has that exchange with the Swiss bank manager where he goes, “This whole thing sucks but I do love being in the future,” and they exchange some well-timed little, “What?”s. And Grey telling Jax that of course he’s not drinking whiskey, it’s brandy, because, “What do you take me for, a sailor?” made me full-on guffaw.

Matt: Yeah, that was good. And the exchange at the beginning where Rory kept calling everyone “idiots” was super fun. Sprightly dialogue for sure. I also thought the “My name is…” exposition dialogue at the beginning being Darhk instead of one of the Legends this time was pretty clever.

 

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James: It was! It nicely set up the fact that the episode was about the Legion of Doom and not the Legends themselves, and setting the audience up for an episode that was focused on the villains. I was honestly pretty okay with the Legends not doing a lot this episode, because I genuinely think the villains needed it more than even Sara does. So far, their bits in the season --- especially together --- have been pretty brief, and this was really the first long look we got of the Legion together, what their goals are, and how they work together.

And brother, they don’t work together that well.

Matt: On those lines, there were several parts of this episode that worried me. Starting on Star(ling) City’s One News Channel, for instance, and flashing back to my worst Arrow nightmares. But we got out of that pretty quick. And what seemed like a stock villains-can’t-get-along plot where they don’t trust each other and end up betraying one another --- Rip even casually identifies it as The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

But then it goes in a different direction, where Merlyn and Darhk help Thawne (in their own way) and they end up a tighter team as a result. I did not expect that outcome, and it makes them a much bigger threat. I like that.

James: Me too! Instead of a villains-focused episode explaining their nefarious plot, we actually got an episode about them learning to come together as a team and absolutely mess with history together. By the end, they actually seem like a pretty serious threat for the team, instead of just three guys that want to make their lives better. By getting a lot of the tropes out of the way in this episode, I think it will make the back third of the season a lot better.

Matt: And the thing that they end up reprogramming Rip/Phil (whose American accent took a real dip downward this episode, but was otherwise just a fun as last week) to do was so comic-book beautiful bananas, but we’ve got one more subplot to get through before we get there.

So. Professor Stein and his daughter. What do you think, James?

James: I’ll admit, when I was catching up with the show, I skipped the “Invasion!” crossover, so this was my first real instance seeing Dr. Stein with his time daughter, Lily, outside of the “Previously on…” segments. I was actually wondering how quickly the show would bring her back and actually engage with the idea that she’s a time mistake, and was a little surprised at how quickly they did.

 

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As for the plot itself, I liked parts of it --- like Mick’s inevitable revelation to Lily of her origin, or Lily and Ray bonding over goofy science --- but I was a little underwhelmed by a big character revelation and plot development like having a surprise daughter basically being dealt with handily as a c-plot. This is not what I’ve been trained to expect from a lifetime of watching CW/WB TV shows.

Matt: I was similarly of two minds about it. I concurrently found Mick’s tongue-slip funny and frustrating, because he’s a criminal, but not really a bumbling “Did I say that?” type. Seems like that’d be more of a Ray thing. I did enjoy him calling it a “time abrasion,” though. Likewise, Jax’s involvement made it a whole lot better. But the rest of it --- ”You were an accident, but I didn’t know how much you mean to me” and “I didn’t want kids because my dad was bad” --- is pretty rote melodrama stuff.

Not that nobody ever really feels those things, but there aren’t many surprises story-wise.

James: Listen, you have to work really hard to underwhelm me with a Cats in the Cradle story beat, because I am an absolute sucker for it and will start tearing up extremely easily in almost any plot like this. But I really didn’t feel much here at all, in part because it felt so perfunctory. I think the show went about 15-20 minutes without returning to that plot, and then dealt with it super quickly. Which is a shame, because I really like Christina Brucato as Lily, and she, Routh, Garber, and Purcell all do the comedy in those scenes pretty well! But the drama just didn’t land with me like the jokes did.

Matt: Yeah, as much as I don’t want to blame it on the acting, part of why it didn’t land was the acting. Garber and Brucato are capable of a lot (I know in Garber’s case) but they played that heartfelt talk scene like members of a debate team arguing an assigned point. I guess the idea is they’re unfeeling scientists, but if there’s ever a time to let them feel something, it’s here, right?

James: You’d hope! The episode even did a pretty good job at selling Thawne’s pathos.

Matt: Matt Letscher definitely sold the urgency of having to get out of that bank vault located in a 2025 Zurich that looked a whole lot like the British Columbia early fall. Global warming really does a number on Europe in the next 18 years.

James: In the dark, bleak future, everything is Vancouver. Everybody needs SAD lamps.

Matt: It’s also suspiciously similar to 1776 New Jersey, where a powdered-wig-wearing Rip Hunter shows up to shoot General George Washington (!) after some reprogramming by the Legion. Again, this was a talky, slow episode, but the Black Flash and this made it all dadgum worth it.

James: It took me completely off-guard, too! Knowing that the next episode is titled “Turncoat,” I assumed that, when Thawne was able to access and reprogram Rip’s memories, he’d basically turn him into a double agent in the Legends. So imagine my surprise when Arthur Darvill pulls a pistol on Washington! It actually got me extremely hype for next week’s episode (I say as one of the Queen’s subjects).

I want to make it clear, I’m not rooting for Washington to take one for the team. But this is absolutely the kind of weird time shenanigans I’m down for when I tune into Legends of Tomorrow.

Matt: Same. If you can’t do a time-travel show where some hero turned evil goes back and kills the Father of America for ill purposes, what are you even doing? I hope he turns out to be actual, historical Benedict Arnold somehow, even though that’s not at all what Benedict Arnold did. Go nuts with it, y’all.

James: Honestly, I feel like there’s a 30% chance Rip Hunter is Benedict Arnold. Ray Palmer ends up being Lafayette, why not? Let’s get absolutely weird with time, folks.

Matt: Join us for the weirdness (hopefully) back here next week!