DC’s Legends of Tomorrow Review; Pilot Part 1

DC’s Legends of Tomorrow Review; Pilot Part 1

The fear of movie theaters becoming flooded and overwhelmed with superhero films seems overblown for the most part, but the same cannot be said for the TV landscape. We are rapidly approaching a time when every weeknight will air DC Comic-based TV shows, not to mention the lineup by Marvel and other original projects and adaptations. The fact is that there are only so many superhero shows viewers can stomach physically in a week. At least, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow comes off as a known quantity in this regard. It is a spinoff of the Arrow/Flash universe and gives DC fans the closest alternative to a Justice League series they can expect anytime soon.

Even if Legends of Tomorrow doesn’t comes as a success right out of the gate like The Flash, it is still a worthy and unique addition to the diverse superhero world. The premise of the new show is that a very unlikely group of superheroes have been assembled for traveling through time and preventing Casper Crump’s immortal Vandal Savage from rising to power in the 22nd century. There are a bunch of familiar faces in this team who have appeared on either Arrow or The Flash to some extent in the last three years.

These include White Canary (Caity Loitz), the Atom (Brandon Routh), Heatwave (Dominic Purcell), Captain Cold (Wentworth Miller), Hawkgirl (Ciara Renee) and Hawkman (Falk Hentschel). Rip Hunter (Arthur Darvill from Doctor Who) is the new addition in this lineup and he is the time-traveling adventurer who brings about this unlikely team for the defense of mankind. Apart from the familiar cast, there are also some recognizable executive producers on Legends of Tomorrow, which include Marc Guggenheim, Greg Berlanti, Phil Klemmer (also the showrunner), Andew Kreisberg, Chris Fedak and Sarah Schechter. When it comes to DC superhero shows, Berlanti’s name alone should be enough reassurance for viewers as he tends to have the Midas touch in this department.

When The Flash made its debut in 2014, it had one element going in its favor; it didn’t require a lot of exposition or setup. The origin story of Barry Allen had already been established on Arrow in a two-part storyline so the transition was very easy. The same is applicable to Legends of Tomorrow. Both the Arrow and The Flash have devoted no small amount of time in exploring the characters and establishing the story for the spinoff. With that said, the first episode shows a bit of reluctance in diving back into the conflict.

The show definitely opens on a dramatic and big note that showcases the devastation Savage’s regime has inflicted in the future world where Hunter resides. The ambition and scope in the opening scenes is as big as anything we have seen on Arrow and The Flash and sets a positive tone for the show. However, it digresses from that point as the conflict slows down considerably when Hunter starts recruiting and every character ponders over whether they want to devote their life to mankind by becoming involved in time-travelling.

This gives Legends of Tomorrow the opportunity to draw in all the guest stars and add context to their actions, but the plot’s momentum is stalled. It may have been better for the writers to take inspiration from the Arrow and showcase these scenes as flashbacks. Also, the sequence where the history between Hawkman, Hawkgirl and Vandal Savage is recounted is a bit of a drag. Nonetheless, providing this information is necessary for newcomers who aren’t aware of the story, but others may find it a bit redundant as they already know it from the December crossover of Arrow and Flash.

If we forget the choppy pacing, there is a lot that viewers will find endearing on Legends of Tomorrow. It doesn’t take long for it to become apparent that this show is a completely different beast as opposed to its siblings and not because it is a team-based superhero show as both The Flash and Arrow rely heavily on their ensemble cast thereby working as a team. The difference is that Legends of Tomorrow is more a science fiction adventure rather than a colorful superhero tale. The show has a Doctor Who quality, which probably explains why Rip Hunter’s character is played by Darvill.

Hunter serves as a compelling and charming team leader and his scoundrel-like demeanor is offset by his vendetta against Savage and a sense of pathos. Regardless, the highlight of the premiere are the character dynamics. The ensemble approach isn’t uncommon, but it stands out because every member is a superhuman. Some of the characters have been removed from each other and bringing them together on a futuristic spaceship is an excellent way to portray their personality clashes. It is quite entertaining to see Ray Palmer and Professor Stein, fellow science geeks, butting heads and bonding in equal parts.

It is also interesting to see the unlikely friendship that strikes up between Mick Rory, Leonard Snart and Sara Lance, all of whom aren’t pleased with the idea of being heroes. The episode also explores the deepening bond between Hawkgirl and Hawkman, which has a great payoff eventually. Both actors seem a tad more confident in their roles this time around and it adds sexual tension and an air of tragedy to their dynamic. Strangely, the one character dynamic that fails is one between Jefferson Jackson and Professor Stein. At times, these two characters behave rather oddly.

Early on, Stein does a very questionable thing and it is bizarre to see his willingness to leave his life and family behind. As far as Jax is concerned, his whole previous character arc had revolved around his desire to reclaim the glory he had achieved in his football career, which was sadly short-lived. But, he spends the entire time on trying to throw away the second chance that’s being handed to him. Simply put, there are some problems in the portrayal of Firestorm and they will have to be worked out. Last, but not the least, Savage also remains a major problem.

Superhero projects often die or survive on the strength and impact of their villains, regardless of their medium. Both The Flash and Arrow have astounding villains this season, whether it is the terrifying Zoom in the former or the charismatic yet sadistic Damien Darhk. In the crossover episode of Arrow/Flash, Savage hadn’t managed to come close to this level and he doesn’t fare any better here either. This is partly due to Crump’s rather bland portrayal of the villain and the rest is because the show only gives him one bloodthirsty scene for doing his part.

Ultimately, the greatest strength of Legends of Tomorrow is the fact that its superheroes cast comprises of complicated, conflicted and flawed individuals. These characters may become legends in the future if they are successful, but in the present, they are anything but. Furthermore, while this assembly seems rather random, they are the same because they are, in some ways, all damaged. Many of them have literally or metaphorically undergone resurrections and death and are unsure of their place in this world. Instead of the fight against Vandal Savage, this is where the show gets its dramatic weight.

Legends of Tomorrow may not be amazing like The Flash from the beginning, but the first episode does have enough spice to hook fans of Arrow and The Flash or those who love a good superhero and Doctor Who mashup. There are some freshman mistakes in regard to pacing and characterization, but they may be dealt with in the second episode. This show has the golden opportunity of becoming a happy medium between the brutal darkness in Arrow and the happy-go-lucky humor in The Flash. It could actually be the best of both worlds if the kinks are ironed out.

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