‘Legends of Tomorrow’ Post-Show Analysis: Season 1, Episode 16: ‘Legendary’
The CW’s Legends of Tomorrow follows Rip Hunter on his adventures through time, with a team of misfits that includes Arrow’s Atom and White Canary, both halves of Firestorm, Hawkwoman, and Flash rogues Captain Cold and Heat Wave. Arrow and Flash recappers Matt Wilson and Dylan Todd are on hand to deliver our Legends of Tomorrow post-show analysis, Stuff of Legends.
In this week’s finale, “Legendary,” our ragtag team of heroes has its final showdown (or, more accurately, showdowns) with mega-villain Vandal Savage. Who will live? Who will die? Dermott Downs directed the episode; the story was by Chris Fedak and Greg Berlanti, and the teleplay was written by Phil Klemmer and Marc Guggenheim.
Matt: Well, here we are, Dylan. The end of the road.
And for a minute, it looks like our Legends have come to the end of their road, too. Frustrated by Captain Cold’s death and the uncertainty of not having Oculus anymore, Rip takes the team to May 2016 and drops them all off, telling them, “Nice knowing ya. I’m gonna go kill Savage myself.”
Dylan, I couldn’t tell if this was the most noble thing Rip’s ever done, or more of him being a selfish, terrible jerk. What was your take?
Dylan: Can it be both? It’s noble, yeah, but also kind of rude? Like, he uprooted these people for five months, called them off on this no-win mission and then, after all that, was like, “Nevermind. I’ll do it myself.” It’s funny that Heat Wave has learned more about working with other people than Rip Hunter, our ostensible leader has.
Matt: Someone on Twitter mentioned that Rip can’t win; people hate him for not caring about the team’s lives, and they’ll probably be mad that he forced them to go back to 2016, but it’s not even so much what he does as how he does it. He is just not interested at all in giving these “friends” of his any say in what they get to do.
Dylan: Yeah, he’s really a twerp. Like, what’s his arc for the season? He’s still just as sad, vengeful and selfish by the end of the season as he was by the beginning. I know they’re (very obviously) leaning on Stephen Moffat’s Doctor Who for Rip Hunter’s template, but with The Doctor, you at least have the suspicion that he’s in the right when he’s being bossy or careless. Rip? Not so much.
Matt: As a result of that bossy carelessness, a few members of the team get a scene or two back at home to show why they have to get back on the Waverider. Heat Wave is having a bad go of returning to crime with a replacement Captain Cold; Sara is mega upset that Laurel is dead and no one told her (until her dad, who was exactly where he was left in this week's Arrow, did, at least); Stein is getting restless playing games at home with his wife.
One of these things is not like the other.
Dylan: Oh, and boy does Mrs. Stein want him out of the house, too. To the point where she enlists Jax into talking him into leaving the house because she is probably tired of him sharking her at Trivial Pursuit.
Matt: I think it’s weird that’s all we get to see of Jax’s 2016 life. Is he that boring that the only thing that matters is him showing up at the Stein residence?
Dylan: You know, for as much as they set up him trying to help his dad avert being killed in Afghanistan, they sure did not give him any closure on that front. Did that bug you, that they just dropped that whole thread?
Matt: A little, but what bugged me even more was that the Thanagarians were only mentioned and never seen. Like, they were so built up in the last couple episodes. I figured they’d show up and give us some Hawk-secrets, but as far as we know the whole race is just meteorites.
Meanwhile, in 1944, Hawkwoman is frantically placing a message in a Wholly Unique U.S. soldier’s helmet (which very coincidentally is a decoration on the Waverider) and Savage is spitting out exposition about his plan, which involves Hawkpeople blood and those Thanagarian meteorites. What was sillier, Dylan, the plan itself of Casper Crump trying to explain it?
Dylan: My notes for Savage’s plan were, “Yo Vandal Savage this plan doesn’t make sense.” But at least we got Crump raving on and on about space rocks for five minutes, so that’s good. I originally was giving the show a little stinkeye because, as far as I could recall, this was the first I could remember hearing about these meteors, but they did a decent job of reminding us that we’d seen them before.
Also, that helmet stuff was maybe the most contrived, hand-wave-y development in a season full of them. The tape recorder and trash cans plan in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure made more sense from a logistical point of view.
Matt: How. Did. That. One. Soldier. Have. A. Unique. Helmet. And how did Hawkwoman just run into him?
Dylan: How. Did. That Helmet. Wind. Up. In Jax’s. Hand.
Matt: These are good questions. Or single-word sentences? Anyway, as I understand it, the plan was for Savage to destroy the world in three different times, creating a paradox that would send time back to 1700 BC so Savage could do it all over again and be a tyrant throughout. Even Jax comments that it’s crazy talk, but it leads to old weirdo Casper Crump pouring blood on rocks and chanting in a weird language, so I guess it’s a wash.
Dylan: I wonder just how much I’d have hated this show if Crump wasn’t in it. Like, he’s a terrible Vandal Savage. Just not believable as an ancient Egyptian or as a particularly menacing figure, but as a bonkers Nordic megalomaniac who spits blood in your face while yelling about how you’re doomed? He’s perfect.
But yeah, the plan was… well, it sure was a plan, I guess.
Matt: The team reassembles and heads off to 1944, where they rejoin Hawkwoman and blow up some Nazis. That’s always fun. But Savage gets what he came for --- the meteorite --- which leads to the big, final battle, which actually takes place in three times: 1958, 1975 and 2021. The team splits up to fight Savage in each time period, and I thought that whole thing was pretty cool. You?
Dylan: Loved it. It’s a nonsensical, gimmick-driven showdown, to have our time-traveling heroes fighting the same guy across time, but it felt very satisfying. Ridiculous, but satisfying. Also, finally we get to smash some Nazis.
Matt: Weirdly, it’s the first time I absolutely loved the time-travel conceit of the show. The team’s always splitting up and they’re always going to different time periods, so why not have them split up into different time periods? And it made stuff from previous episodes (namely the contained nuclear explosion) more of a plot-important thing. It worked in ways not a lot of other gimmicky stuff has in the previous 15 episodes.
I mean, sure, Hawkwoman just materialized that magic knife out of nowhere (I think she grabbed it out of Savage’s pocket?) but that’s fine.
Dylan: Yeah, also, I feel very cheated that we didn’t get to see Vandal Savage get electrocuted to death on that power box. Casper Crump gyrating while cartoon lightning courses over his smoking body would have been a straight-up amazing Looney Tunes-style ending. (Sigh.) We’ll always have my fan fiction.
Matt: At least we got that comic-booky electrical dome-pulse that hurt no one, though.
Dylan: Oh dude, Savage exploding after being stabbed and electrocuted made zero sense beyond wiping out any theories about him surviving, but I guess they had the CGI created already so why not?
Matt: So Savage gets triple-killed, but there are still three activated Thanagarian meteorites that could destroy the world. Ray “does something, Robocop” and shrinks one of them. It goes baby-poof. Firestorm transmutes one into water with his new powers. But the one in 2021 refuses to be shrunk or transmuted, so Rip has to go all Legends of To Martyr and flies the Waverider to the sun, planning to fly into it.
It’s only once he gets there and has a moment with his (hallucinated?) family that he realizes he can just eject the meteor into the sun instead of flying in. Rip’s kind of dumb.
Dylan: Ah, if only he’d gone through with it…
Matt: What’s especially crazy is, it isn’t seeing his family that makes him want to live, it’s a computer telling him she’s not ready to die.
Dylan: Rip Hunter is legitimately The Worst. He can’t even nobly sacrifice himself right.
Matt: The world is saved and the team once again returns to 2016 to answer the question of whether to continue helping Rip preserve the timeline. Everyone except the Hawkpeople decides to hang around. As you noted, Stein’s wife basically tells him to get the hell out of there. Do they hate each other, Dylan?
Dylan: Mrs. Stein definitely has a side-piece, Matt, and he is on his way over very soon.
Matt: I buy that.
Dylan: I mean, her husband is a middle-aged man who disappears for months at a time to hang out with much younger, vaguely attractive men. You find what works for both of you.
Matt: They do seem like a couple that has an “agreement.”
Let’s talk a little bit about Sara, who has the most difficult 2016 story. (Ray’s is literally just “he wants to be friends with Mick.”) So she goes back and finds out her sister is dead. We don’t see it, but I suspect she’s also told that Damien Darhk is about to destroy the planet with nuclear missiles. Finding out about Laurel is used as a motivator to get her back to the Waverider, but, jeez, wouldn’t she (and probably others) want to stop nuclear armageddon first? I feel like it’s mega-weird that they just left. Bringing the whole Darhk story into it really complicated things.
Dylan: Definitely. Armchair quarterbacking a little here, but wouldn’t it make sense for this to be set after next week’s Arrow finale? Like, why wouldn’t Sara bring her gang of goons to fight Damien Dahrk? Wouldn’t it help to have a Nuclear Man and a Shrink Man when your friends are about to fight a crime boss with mystical powers?
Matt: You’d think, but 1) they can’t give away the ending of Arrow’s season, because who knows, maybe Earth gets eradicated, 2) they must have been married to the idea of Sara meeting her dad where they left him on Arrow yesterday. In my headcanon, Sara knows she’s a TV character and didn’t want to get dragged back onto Arrow, so she peaced out, regardless of the consequences.
Also: The scene where Quentin tells Sara about Laurel had some good acting. It’s rare I notice the acting on this show.
Dylan: Yeah, that scene with those two worked really well, despite Captain Lance’s bananas accent. Seriously, every time I hear it, I get so distracted at what exactly that accent is supposed to be that I usually can only pay attention to that instead to the scene, but that was some heavy stuff. I hardly got distracted at all!
Matt: So the re-assembled team prepares to get back on the Waverider, but they’re stopped when another version of the ship shows up. Gall-danged Hourman gets out and says he’s a member of the Justice Society. That... was unexpected, huh?
Dylan: It definitely got me interested in season two, despite the fact that Rip is still on the team. (Seriously, Sara needs to be the team leader of this group of misfit heroes. Get Rip the Drip out of here.)
Matt: I wonder how that final cliffhanger landed for most viewers. I mean, I was pretty stoked for Hourman, but does the typical LoT viewer know Rex Tyler and the Justice Society?
Dylan: I’m a writer on a popular comics site and I had to look that name up just to make sure that Rex Tyler was who I thought he was. And he was. Who I thought he was.
Matt: Maybe TV writers rely on “they can look it up” now. I’ve seen a couple “here’s Rex Tyler’s deal” articles today, so perhaps instant recognition doesn’t matter so much.
Dylan: So in reality, they’re doing a favor for people like us. Thanks!
Matt: So that’s the season, Dylan. Final thoughts?
Dylan: You know, as dire as some of this season got, I still came out of it feeling positive? Is that weird?
Matt: No, I feel the same way.
Dylan: Like, I liked it in spite of itself. I felt like I really got to know the characters, we got some fun moments, we got to see Hawkman die a few times. I am hoping that season two is a lot more focused, because we got lost in the weeds more than a few times this season.
Matt: I feel like I was maybe not always focused on the question the writers wanted me to be asking. I veered closer to, “What are they gonna screw up this time?” rather than “How will the Legends defeat Savage?” But at least I’m asking a question. I’m invested, even if it’s not in the way they seem to want me to be.
Dylan: I thought it was great that when Rip was listing off the reasons he was dropping the team off --- getting into bar fights in 1975, introducing technology to terrorists, getting turned into evil bird creatures --- were the best parts of the season. Maybe me and Rip have different ideas for what makes good television.
Matt: Well, I’m with you, buddy. Here’s hoping for more hijinx in season two. (And, for the love of the timeline, just 16 episodes. Don’t make it a 23-episode season, guys. Please.)
Dylan: Oh geez, these 16 already felt like 23. Please no.