Spoilers ahead for the series premiere of The CW’s Legends of Tomorrow!
We’ve been waiting a long, long time to see The CW’s ambitious superhero crossover series (it was actually announced more than a year ago), and the premiere did not disappoint.
We pick up in a burned-out future, as London is (literally) burning and Vandal Savage (you remember, that guy from the recent Arrow/Flash crossover) rules the entire planet. Rip Hunter, a rogue Time Master, is making a desperate plea to the council — begging them to let him assemble a team of heroes to take on Savage before he actually manages to pull off his world domination scheme.
It’s not a bad plan, when you think about it, so we then cut to Rip as he takes off in his awesome spaceship, the Waverider, and heads to 2016 to find his motley crew of heroes. From there, he assembles Ray Palmer/The Atom, Firestorm (both members), White Canary, Hawkgirl, Hawkman, Captain Cold and Heatwave. The setup is quick (almost too quick) as Oliver and Laurel get a brief cameo to help send off Palmer and Sara. Oliver is admittedly skeptical, but he doesn’t put up much of a fight as Ray signs on to fly off on a mission to save the future. But, OK, sure — he’s pretty busy dealing with Damien Darhk.
But this entire premise begs the question: If Rip is putting together a team of the world’s greatest heroes, why didn’t Green Arrow and The Flash get an invite? Turns out there’s a pretty good reason.
Oops! Rip Hunter lied.
Yeah, that whole “Legends” part of the title was a bit of a fakeout, as we learn Rip actually put this team together because none of them have any real consequence to the future. Not even Ray Palmer, millionaire tech genius, which is a fact he does not take very well. This is actually a refreshing twist, as it gives the writers a valid excuse to leave the big guns off the roster and focus on this random assortment of heroes, antiheroes and full-on villains.
Despite Rip’s inherent advantages (namely: being from the future, having an awesome space ship, being a Time Master, etc.), this twist helps give the show an immediate underdog vibe. Well, even more of an underdog vibe, since these C-listers are supposed to have absolutely no shot at actually taking out Savage. They seem to be learning from the faults of other ensembles in the genre (namely, the first season of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) and skipping straight to the “back against the wall” feel. Well played.
The chemistry is great, but some of it is so out of character
Assembling a team this absolutely random has its advantages, and disadvantages. For one, it’s fantastic to see all these characters mashed together in a spaceship. It feels like a TV version of Guardians of the Galaxy in that sense, and it opens you up for so many quirky combinations. Heatwave and Ray Palmer snarking back and forth (“Hey haircut, deafness wasn’t a side effect”) is top-notch. It also gives you a chance to play around with some interesting pairings (is anyone else getting a major ‘ship vibe between Captain Cold and White Canary? Just me?), which could be a blast to explore over the next couple of months.
We also get a chance to learn more about Rip, who has lost his family and his job in his quest for vengeance against Savage. He’s a noble hero, and Arthur Darvill plays him perfectly. Plus: That laser gun revolver and duster? Rip is the definition of timeless (get it?) cool.
Now, the ugly side of this approach — sometimes your characters act wildly out of character to fit the narrative. Namely: Dr. Martin Stein, who literally gives Jax a roofie to kidnap him and take him into the past to potentially face a very deadly villain. Even more insane: He seemingly already had the drugs on hand in his office, as he has that drink just randomly ready to go once Jax voices his concerns about joining the mission. WTF, dude?
Hawkman and Hawkgirl's past lives come back, literally
Having Hawkman and Hawkgirl as part of the gang represents an interesting angle, and we're not just talking about the fact that they're literally tied to Vandal Savage's fate. We're travelling through time, and this duo has literally been around for a few thousand years — so it makes sense to assume we'll have some crossover. We didn't have to wait long, as it turns out the Vandal Savage expert they've been looking for is none other than a now-forgotten (since they've reincarnated) Hawk-son (sans any superpowers), who gets pulled along for the ride because he's scheduled to mysteriously die that day.
Surprise, surprise — he's shot while trying to reach the Waverider, and later dies on board, fulfilling his original fate. Rip notes history, itself, doesn't really want to be changed, so Vandal isn't the only thing they'll be fighting. But, before he passes, he does provide the team with a critical piece of intel on Savage's location. It's an interesting tweak to the time travel mythology, and it's weirdly awesome to see Darvill in that Doctor-esque role. This point could also come back into play as the Legends continue poking around in the timestream.
Ray Palmer is the heart of the team
Considering he’s one of the characters who has gotten the most screen time from the flagship shows, Brandon Routh’s Ray Palmer has one of the most natural and believable arcs in the pilot. We’ve already seen him dealing with these concerns of inadequacy on Arrow, in the wake of his (apparent) death when he was shrunk down to the size of an atom. The world kept turning, and he felt his legacy didn’t have much of an impact on the world.
So, when presented with a chance to literally save the world (while being told he becomes a legendary hero in the future to boot), Ray sees stars and jumps in with both feet. Even when he’s presented with the sad truth that he really isn’t that important to the future, Ray rallies and decides to do what he can to change that fate by helping Rip take on Savage. It’s a solid story, and they really are true to the character we’ve come to know and love on Arrow.
The ‘malcontents’ and the bar fight
If you’re setting out to save the world, Rip is smart enough to know he’s going to need a few folks to handle the dirty work, so he brings on the reformed assassin and a duo of straight-up Central City rogues. They’re a hard sell to realistically join tis mission, but Captain Cold is obviously curious about the time travel angle, and uses the potential criminal benefits to get Heat Wave on his side.
But really, these guys are along for the ride to keep this thing fun — and they do it in spades, after sneaking off the ship to “get weird” in the 1970s. We get one of the most entertaining scenes of the entire episode, as Canary picks a fight with a grabby tool at the bar, and ends up in a full-on bar brawl, bringing Captain Cold and Heat Wave along to help bash some heads. The scene is pure, unadulterated fun.
This show is friggin’ huge
From the space ship, to the period-set scenes, to the huge action sequences (just wait for next week, folks) — this is easily the biggest show The CW has ever attempted. By a mile. They’re trying to do something on the level of an Avengers-esque project, on a TV budget, and the result is ambitious and a ton of fun.
Sure, it’s a bit rough around the edges, but the positives outweigh the negatives. So much. This show is an absolute thrill ride, and one of the most comic book-y things ever put on the small screen.