More than pretty much any series on television, Legends of Tomorrow continues to reinvent itself with each passing year — and Season 3 turns the lovable, time-traveling misfits into the ultimate long-shot heroes who still happen to save the day.
Spoilers ahead for “Aruba-Con,” the Season 3 premiere of The CW’s Legends of Tomorrow, which aired October 10, 2017!
Season 2 ended on a cliffhanger to end all cliffhangers, with dinosaurs roaming the modern day and the time stream (seemingly) irreparably damaged. The opening minutes of Season 3 use that set-up to establish a new status quo: A version of Rip Hunter from five years in the future shows up to clean up the mess under the banner of his newly formed Time Bureau. Before the Legends can even process what’s happening, they’re rendered irrelevant by Rip’s suit-clad teams of Men In Black knockoffs.
It’s a clever move to put a quick twist on the dynamics of the season, and for the most part, it works.
The series’ concept from the start was that a time-traveling hero put together a team of D-listers who wouldn’t alter the timeline if they were to be killed in the line of duty, and “Aruba-Con” takes that concept to its inevitable conclusion: The Legends have been benched as we open Year Three, and without a world left to save, they’re trying to figure out what their D-list lives are without a fancy spaceship and big adventures. Turns out, it’s not all that fun — though it is a whole lot of fun to watch.
Ray is a washout in Silicon Valley; Sara is working at a big box store (which is as ludicrous and hilarious as it sounds); Stein is almost a grandfather; Jax is getting bored with college; Amaya has returned to 1942; Nate is an upstart superhero backing up Kid Flash in Central City; and Rory is drinking his way through Aruba. But their semi-retirement is blissfully interrupted when Julius Caesar wanders into Rory’s path on the beach, and he gets the gang back together to try and deal with the time anachronism.
Dumping the Legends back into their old lives in the modern day for six months is the perfect narrative catalyst to actually give this team the motivations to actually want to do what they do. For too long during the first two seasons, subplots focused on characters trying to decide whether this is the life for them. Now that’s all over. They’re here because they want to be here, and it gives them all a refreshing joy for superhero-ing. After having it ripped away during the offseason, they all come to realize they need the team to give their lives meaning, and purpose. And yeah, some excitement and the opportunity to punch Roman conquerers in the face from time to time.
Of course, realizing it and making it happen are two different things. Rip’s new agency has zero respect for the Legends and literally uses their old missions as examples of what not to do, so the ragtag heroes steal their old ship and set out to fix history on their own, to prove to the Time Bureau they can still do the job. It brings the show back to the status quo of the Legends up against the world, having to prove to not just Rip — but also themselves — that they still have value.
They screw it all up along the way, of course, but things do work out in the end. As Nate so eloquently puts it: “Sometimes they screw things up for the better.” That’s always been the heart of the show, but verbalizing it really sends the point home. This isn’t the Justice League, or the Justice Society of America, or even the Legion of Superheroes. These are characters and heroes who make the same dumb mistakes anyone else would probably make in their place, but they care and try to do what’s right to fix it. That’s what makes this show so fun. It has earnestness coming out its ears, in the best possible way.
The Julius Caesar plot point also carries on far beyond the face value of having him hold up in the brig of the Waverider, and briefly taking over the entire planet. As Rip betrays the Legends he helped assemble, he briefly takes on the role of Brutus to Sara’s Caesar, a trusted friend betraying those he once fought alongside. It does feel like an almost-too-abrupt shift from the Rip of Season 2, who left Sara in charge of the team and said he had nothing left to teach her (this after the team literally rescued him from being brainwashed by the Legion of Doom). Thankfully Rip comes around in the end and allows the team to hit the time stream once again (while dropping a cryptic tease about a new baddie looming in the wings).
So what exactly is up with Amaya? Nate is clearly still hung up on her, and she seems to be going a bit toward the dark side back in her native 1942. It’ll be interesting to see how they reintroduce her to the narrative moving forward.
It’s amazing how this show can continually balance its dude-bro leanings with strong female characters, often within the same scene. From Nate cracking wise to Sara calling the shots, the tone continues to be pitch-perfect.
The fight between Sara and Julius Caesar was pretty much perfect. Every episode should feature at least one great Sara fight. Box checked.
“Time turds.” Heehee.
Nate’s nod to last season, with the line “We’re pretty good at taking down legions.”
It happened pretty fast, but this episode introduced some game-changing technology thanks to Rip’s Time Bureau. Thankfully, Rory lifted a bunch of it for the Legends to utilize this season. That teleporting bracelet and MIB-style mind-wiper will certainly come in handy this season.
Next week: The Legends head to the circus. Oh, the puns just write themselves.