The CW’s Arrowverse — the combination of series set in the universe of DC Comics — can be a mixed bag. On the one hand, there’s a little something for everyone. You’ve got Arrow for the dark and serious, The Flash for the bright colors, pop culture references and still some serious (it gets dark, guys), and Supergirl for your uplifting speeches and a strong dose of girl power. Recently, they’ve added Black Lightning to the slate, which has scored some major points for representation as well as some solid fan and critical reception for being, well, just plain good. But if you’re looking for the truly incredible, absolutely ridiculous adventure you’ll find in most superhero comics, then you need to be watching DC’s Legends of Tomorrow.
Legends of Tomorrow got off to a rough start when it debuted in 2016. It was a good show and had all the necessary bits and pieces (especially the characters) but the format was lacking in some way. It was too serious. They’d taken all the second string heroes (and a few villains) from across the Arrowverse, added in Hawkman/Hawkgirl, threw in a dash of Doctor Who’s Arthur Darvill, tossed it all together in a time-traveling spaceship, and then made them chase a single madman through time in an attempt to save Rip Hunter’s family in the future. It just wasn’t sustainable over an entire season.
So, in Season 2, they threw all that out the window and they haven’t looked back.
Since then, the Legends have been running around throughout history, attempting to fix the things they — and sometimes others, but usually they — break. They’re in the time-fixing business, and it’s led to meetings with Albert Einstein, George Lucas, and King Arthur, or hanging out with Vikings or pirates, and even interacting with younger versions of themselves. While this new, more freeform and fun-loving style has added to the humor and overall enjoyment of the series, they’ve still managed to inject no small amount of pathos into their stories. Sure, they fought the Legion of Doom (itself a little hilarious in its creation and name) but their big standoff required Sara Lance to take the final step from assassin to hero, choosing a selfless path of sacrifice rather than bringing her sister back from the dead.
This past season forced all of the Legends to see past their own perceived failings and unite to take down a time-traveling chaos demon of darkness and destruction. Of course, they did it by Voltroning themselves into a massive, fluffy creature named Beebo and saved the world with killer cuddles.
It’s that kind of show.
It’s the kind of show that looks at superhero comics and accepts everything about them, from the dark and serious to that one time Superboy punched the walls of reality really really hard and sent shockwaves rippling through space and time.
This is a show where people befriend dinosaurs in the Cretaceous Period and where Gorilla Grodd once tried to kill a young Barack Obama.
This is also a show that manages to address all the issues I have with the rest of the Arrowverse. Basically, it loves its female characters and it’s gay as hell.
The second season of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow doesn’t just double down on the ridiculous. It also doubles down on its commitment to interesting, nuanced stories about women, people of color and LGBTQ+ characters. Perhaps this is because it's the Arrowverse’s Island of Misfit Toys, the place where they send all the characters they want to use — or keep using — but just don’t have a place for in the main story, Legends is somehow able to center these marginalized characters in ways that the main series just haven’t found a way to do yet. Yes, Supergirl has female characters (remarkably more than the two-at-a-time allotted to Arrow and The Flash) and yes, one of them is Alex, but where Supergirl’s stories are larger-than-life, and usually about her being an inspiration to the world, Legends manages to ground its characters, even while traveling through time.
There’s also the fact that, while it places women into positions of power, Legends also tells deep, varying stories with each of them. Sara Lance has spent the last few seasons figuring out how to embrace the darkness in her soul and turn that bloodlust into strength and leadership. Amaya spent her time wrestling with the responsibility, not only of bearing the Anansi totem but of knowing that she is the protector of a village doomed by history. Meanwhile, the writers managed to place new additions, Zari and Ava, directly into the action, and into deep character explorations of their own. Zari has tried to figure out how to work on a team after being rescued from a dystopian future in which her entire family was murdered. Meanwhile, Ava not only transitioned from adversary to ally and then to love interest for Sara, but also discovered at the end of this past season that she is actually a clone from the future, sending her into a spiral as she attempts to figure out whether that means she's even a person at all.
While Arrow and The Flash, specifically, struggle to place their female characters into roles where they get to do much beyond playing support characters or love interests, Legends of Tomorrow does almost exactly the opposite, giving the women the most to do while the men largely fill in support areas or play love interests. The men, of course, have stories too, and the plot manages to balance things out remarkably well, but the emphasis placed on the female characters is refreshing in a slate of shows — and a genre — so focused on male viewers.
Now, as they head into their fourth season, the show has added yet another man to the cast — in addition to Wally West, the underused Kid Flash who joined the team at the end of this season. John Constantine will make his way to the Waverider for a season of fighting demons and all manner of magical beasties. But while it will be great to add Constantine’s devil-may-care attitude and a magical twist to a show so bonkers, Legends of Tomorrow also offers something fans of that character never got to see when he headlined his own series at NBC: a truly bisexual Constantine.
Oh yes, that’s right. Three different queer characters, two of them bisexual, and all on the same show.
Now, why aren’t you watching DC’s Legends of Tomorrow again?