I’ve begun to feel really bad for people who are just casual comic book superhero fans, because this is starting to get ridiculous. But, for those of us riding the train to its final destination, we’re just getting started!
A few years ago, after the demise of the decade-long series Smallville, we were introduced to Arrow, typically found to be the Batman’s brooding counterpart for a few years. Since the days of the “you have failed this city” plots, Oliver Queen and company have evolved with deeper, campier and more captivating stories. This is mostly thanks to that one little introduction we had to Barry Allen played by Grant Gustin in Arrow’s second season. Now, here we are a few years later and The Flash is not only its own independent series from Arrow, but it is one of the highest rated shows on TV, and the CW has made a lot of people happy with this connective DC Universe they’ve built upon these two shows.
The pantheon of DC Comics heroes being adapted to live action television has grown even more this year by adding CBS’ picking up of Supergirl, starring Melissa Benoist. However, the stories told between Star City and Central City have amassed a wealth of extra characters that many believe to deserve more then one liners and tertiary storylines. I assume in witnessing the success of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy in 2014, the writers of these shows realized the success that could be had with a group of misfits having their own misadventures. As a result, we have this strange combination of heroes, villains and anti-heroes in the new series Legends of Tomorrow, and this two hour pilot episode has convinced me that, somehow, throwing them all together in a time travel / inter-dimensional adventure can actually work.
It’s always enjoyable to watch series costars Brandon Routh and Wentworth Miller work with their respective ensemble casts in Arrow and The Flash, but beyond these two thoroughly bantering for the first time, Legends’ abnormally large cast of characters balances well, and can provide unique stories throughout a season due to each of their own unique origins and sets of abilities. Whether it does so, or not, is in the hands of the writer’s room.
In picking up from the crossover event that introduced us to Hawkman, Hawkgirl and the villainous Vandal Savage (Casper Crump), the core plot introduced to us in those two episodes continues on here, as Savage is terrorizing Earth, and maybe other worlds, everywhere and at every time. A Time Lord of sorts named Rip Hunter (Arthur Darvill) tracks down and requests the aid of these unsung heroes: Ray Palmer aka The Atom (Brandon Routh), Doctor Martin Stein (Victor Garber) and Jefferson Jackson (Franz Drameh) aka the new Firestorm, Sara Lance aka the Once-Black-Now-White Canary (Caity Lotz), Heatwave and Captain Cold (Prison Break’s Dominic Purcell and Wentworth Miller) and finally Hawkman and Hawkgirl (Falk Hentschel and Ciara Renée.) Like the Guardians of the Galaxy, these characters at first glance probably have no purpose being in the same room together, and as anyone who’s watched an ensemble genre series knows, that makes for the best drama, the best action and the best gags.
The previously mentioned tones that work within the worlds of The Flash and Arrow are vaguely remembered here as this crew travels through wormholes, fights off aliens and, as some may describe, finds itself becoming significantly more “wibbly wobbly timey wimey” than it’s sister series. Yes, the Doctor Who comparisons are easy to make due to Legends’ time travel scenario, but its use of these science fiction functions are much more comparable to those in in The Flash, but simply expanded upon as a core feature in the show. Where Barry Allen deals with timelines and ghosting once or twice a season as a result of his Speed Force, it’s a function of how Legends works, and it shows how much care goes into the writing of the consequences of traveling through time, but also in its production design.
Without delving too much into spoilers, the series plans to visit a very wide spectrum of time, as exemplified in the Egyptian sets in the two part Flash/Arrow special. This is just the tip of the iceberg for what Legends’ show runners have planned, and that effort shows in the sets and the visual effects that are baffling in their display of what is made possible with a budget for television in this golden age of serialized sci-fi. The whole of the pilot’s tone can feel as cerebral or otherworldly as Battlestar Galactica in one moment, and as swashbuckling as Indiana Jones the next. For all I know, it’ll look like more like Firefly if a Western setting is established in any coming episodes, but the essential thing is that, for now, this strange mix of characters all work well together. Not just in a fight, but on a page and in chemistry between the actors. There’s a lot of possibilities for a series like this, and I’m interested to see the choices made moving forward.
Now that I’ve guaranteed you of the quality of this two part pilot, be sure to check back next week for a more in-depth discussion on the events of this elongated series premiere!