DC Comics and producer Greg Berlanti expand their successful suite of TV shows based on DC properties with the promising Legends of Tomorrow.
Arising out of The CW hits Arrow and The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow starts 150 years in the future, where immortal villain Vandal Savage (Casper Crump) has conquered the world. Rip Hunter (Arthur Darvill), a time-traveling adventurer, journeys to the present to recruit a ragtag band of heroes and villains to help him stop Savage.
The group includes: Ray Palmer (Brandon Routh), the Atom; the two halves of Firestorm, Martin Stein (Victor Garber) and Jax Jackson (Franz Drameh); back-from-the-dead Sara Lance (Caity Lotz), now known as White Canary; resurrected heroes Hawkman and Hawkgirl (Falk Hentschel and Ciara Renee); and villains Captain Cold (Wentworth Miller) and Heatwave (Dominic Purcell). Hunter persuades the crew to join him on his cross-time quest to neutralize Savage before he becomes a threat. The first stop is 1975, where the team picks up some valuable intel to help them track Savage through the ages and encounters Chronos, a time-traveling bounty hunter out to stop Hunter.
Pilots are tricky beasts and Legends of Tomorrow devotes the first half of its to setting the board. While most viewers are likely existing fans of Arrow and/or The Flash, making a lot of this introduction redundant, the show is almost obligated to go through the exercise. The second half is much livelier. The script has some period fun sending Sara, Cold and Heatwave to a ’70s dive for a good old fashioned bar fight. The showdown with Chronos is well-staged and packed with action. The show makes the most of its budget and comes up with a look that mixes sleek futurism with a colorful retro sensibility.
The large cast is still figuring itself out at this point. The pilot does a decent job of establishing the dynamics, relationships and conflicts among the main characters. It also quickly lays its cards on the table regarding Hunter’s motives and reasons for selecting this team. By the end, each of the principal members has a valid reason for participating and the series has a solid narrative backbone to propel it forward.
Purcell seems to be the consensus MVP of the pilot. Heatwave was a fairly limited character on The Flash, but the Legends of Tomorrow writers give the character a deadpan, killer wit that Purcell nails quite entertainingly. Lotz and Miller effectively continue the emotional arcs their characters were working in the most recent Arrow and Flash appearances. And Routh and Garber continue to have a lot of fun with their roles. The bulk of the pilot’s exposition falls on Darvill, who manages it as well as could be expected. There’s a lot of potential from this combination of characters and actors, one of the show’s biggest strengths.
Legends of Tomorrow is a smart extension of DC’s TV brand. Most of the characters are familiar from existing shows. They might not fly in their own series, but they make for an appealing ensemble. The time-traveling motif gives the writers the ability to pull in DC characters from a variety of time periods and locales.
Time travel can be a tricky narrative conceit. The show is all but obligated to wrestle with the mechanics and “rules” of the concept, even if it makes viewers’ heads hurt. Your ability to roll with that without getting bogged down by it will highly influence your ability to enjoy the series.
With a solid start and some intriguing plots and mysteries set up, Legends of Tomorrow is worth following, especially for fans of DC’s existing shows.
Originally published at thunderalleybcpcom.ipage.com on January 22, 2016.