There are a lot of moving pieces in the Legends of Tomorrow two-part pilot, but though the narrative is sometimes bumpy, it’s possible to see a bright future ahead for the series. Legends is perhaps the most comic book-y comic book show on television, which is both a compliment and a word of warning.
If watching a somewhat unbelievable team-up of minor DC television castoffs bumble through time doesn’t sound like something you’d enjoy, Legends might not be the new show for you. The pilot asks a lot of its audience, but if you decide to go along for the ride (like the characters themselves decide) then you’re in for a rollicking good time.
This is not a show afraid of its comic book roots and a show not afraid to be downright weird. And when that weirdness works, it’s as much fun as anything else on television. When it doesn’t, however, it can feel very, very clunky.
The premise is both insanely simplistic and ridiculously complex: in the year 2166 Vandal Savage (Casper Crumb) is a mustache-twirling, scenery-chewing supervillain who has, literally, taken over the world. To avoid this fate Time Master Rip Hunter (Doctor Who‘s Arthur Darvill) decides to put together a super group of “legends” to take Savage down before he can destroy the world. It’s as if Hunter is trying to put together the perfect boyband with cartoonishly large stakes.
The legends he chooses are conveniently recognizable faces from The CW’s other DC television shows Arrow and The Flash. You know they’re associated with both shows because we get special appearances by Stephen Amell and Katie Cassidy in the show’s first hour.
The show has a lot of legwork to do in this two-part pilot, but none is as tiresome as the “getting the team together” portion of the first episode. We already know that yes, Hunter will eventually be able to convince White Canary (Caity Lotz), Captain Cold (Wentworth Miller), Atom (Brandon Routh), Firestorm (Victor Garber and Franz Drameh), Hawkman (Falk Hentschel) and Hawkgirl (Ciara RenÃ©e), and Heatwave (Dominic Purcell) to join the team. We know that, because that is the actual premise of the show we are watching. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of setup to get there, which also serves as an introduction to the characters.
Legends of Tomorrow is a show for fans of the existing DC properties, but that doesn’t mean it wants to be a show you can’t just jump into without prior knowledge of The CW’s DC lineup. So strap in for a lot of clunky, expositional dialogue as characters randomly describe themselves in elevator pitches to the audience.
The show works hard to explain why these characters were chosen, and it does so valiantly, even if it still doesn’t make the most sense. For instance, it makes little sense that former villains Captain Cold and Heatwave would sign up for this mission, even though the show bends itself backwards to come up with a justification to include the enjoyable Wentworth Miller and Dominic Purcell in the cast.
Once the team is together, however, the action finally gets moving and it’s possible to see the shape of the series to come. On the tail of Savage, the team will travel back into the past (and presumably sometimes into the future) for puzzle pieces to lead them to Savage.
Sometimes these puzzle pieces will have ties to the team and sometimes they’ll test the limits of exasperated Hunter’s time travel rules. After the two-part premiere, it’s possible that the Legends team will spend as much time cleaning up their own messes as they will actually on the hunt for Savage.
The one consistently positive thing about Legends is that it is really, really fun. Sure, there are some moments where you’ll wonder why eight superheroes can’t take down one random time bounty hunter with a laser gun. But mostly you’ll be enjoying the banter between the various team members.
More than the simultaneously simplistic and complicated plot, this show is really going to live or die by the character interactions. And I can happily report that the clash of personalities within the team makes for some seriously fun viewing. After a particular bar brawl in the 70s, I would dare anyone not to want to go drinking with Sara, Leonard, and Mick.
It also helps that the show is packed to the brim with engaging actors, from the always fantastic Victor Garber to time travel veteran Arthur Darvill. Brandon Routh is charming as heroic Ray, Caity Loitz gets to play a more fun version of Sara, and the crime fighting duo of Wentworth Miller and Dominic Purcell always punch up a scene, sometimes literally. While Franz Drameh as the new other half of Firestorm has a lot of character development riding on his shoulders as a recent addition to the universe, he still manages to be compelling in the pilot.
The weak links are really Hawkman and Hawkgirl, who have the most convoluted backstories and the largest link to outsize bad guy Vandal Savage. Despite the fact that they have the most prominent link to the story, they often feel like the least compelling of the characters. Hopefully this will change as the season goes along.
Legends of Tomorrow isn’t a perfect show by any means. It’s broad, and weird, and already has too many moving parts. But Legends of Tomorrow does have some pretty big pluses in it’s corner: it has great actors, it’s not afraid of being a comic book show and, most importantly of all, it is damn fun to watch.
If fun, danger, and a team of all-star screwups sounds like your speed, perhaps you should hop on Rip Hunter’s waverider for an adventure through time.
Are you looking forward to Legends of Tomorrow? Which characters are you most eager to see interact? Share in the comments!
Legends of Tomorrow airs Thursdays at 8pm on The CW.
(Photo courtesy of The CW)