Ever since the show was announced and that first teaser trailer dropped, there has been no shortage of anticipation for Legends of Tomorrow. It’s by far the boldest move by the Flarrow-verse yet as it delivers not just another spin-off series but an all-star team up... with time travel no less, TV Avengers in a TARDIS. Yet in this moment, when it finally arrives for at its debut, it is at its weakest when reality kicks in. When all those who’ve been dying to see it (myself included) must accept that it’s still just a TV show. In the same way The Force Awakens was just a movie (all be it an awesome one), we can all too often find that long periods of hype and longing can defy something in a way its reality will struggle to compete with. Legends of Tomorrow gets it even harder because although the CW has shaken the piggy bank a little harder, it’s still not a big budget show in comparison to Game of Thrones or Marvel’s Netflix shows despite being judged in the same category. So with all that stacked against it, how do our Legends fair? Pretty damn shiny, that’s how! It looks fantastic, the cast have tons of chemistry and most importantly, it is a downright fun entertainment. The Flarrow-verse now has 3 great shows.
Pilot, Part 1 – In 2166, the immortal Vandal Savage (Casper Crump) has conquered the entire planet. The time traveller Rip Hunter (Arthur Darvill – Doctor Who) assembles a team to try and stop Savage before that happens. The shrinking super suited ATOM (Brandon Routh – Superman Returns), resurrected assassin White Canary (Caity Lotz – The Pact), criminals Captain Cold & Heat Wave (Wentworth Miller & Dominic Purcell – Prison Break), reincarnated love birds Hawk Man (Falk Hentschel – Transcendance) & Hawk Girl (Ciara Renée) and both halves of the nuclear Firestorm; scientist Martin Stein (Victor Garber – Alias) and former football star Jax (Franz Drameh – Attack the Block).
Now, one of the biggest concerns going into the show was the required reading. Would the show only be watchable to those that have seen all of Arrow and Flash episodes? That becomes the team’s first victory because they’ve taken the perfect approach of focusing on pledging who their existing characters are, with this debut rather than overly stressing their back history. It immediately becomes clear that the story is not about who these people were prior to this show, but who they will be, or rather who they could become together. Existing Flarrowverse fans will certainly hit the ground running here, but this is still a show you can introduce your friends to. As you’d expect from a first episode, much of it revolves around setting up the premise and especially in Legends case, introducing its large character base. Victory number 2; it makes this fun. It’s not a lecture of exposition but a constantly enjoyable and (especially through the first half) very rapid paced affair. This is heavily due to one Arthur Darvill at the centre.... my God, he is good! Whovian or not, you will fall in love with him by the time the end credits roll. Darvill has brought the underlying humour that made Rory work but somehow merged it with charm and determination akin to Malcolm Reynolds (even visually with Hunter’s long brown coat and Western style laser pistol). From the “Legends assemble!” montage to explaining the future, time travel and everything else he embodies, the show’s tone is epic in scale but not taking itself too seriously. This gets wonderfully summed up as the ship’s computer (curiously Gideon) gives its verdict on our present, “Ah the early second millennia AD, the golden age of gasoline engines, online pornography and those silly little smart phones”.
Speaking of the ship, the internal sets of The Wave Rider time ship (named after DC's Wave Rider character) are absolutely gorgeous. From the vast open bridge and control room to the bright connecting corridors, it creates a setting that fans of many spaceship based sci-fi will find welcoming and familiar. In fact, the episode director Glenn Winter shows frequent adoration for the wider genre nostalgia. The Time Masters Council screams of Star Trek VI’s Klingon court, White Canary’s Tibet drinking tavern looks straight of Raiders and of course, Rip Hunter’s flashy light knockout device is only a pair of dark glasses away from MIB. Such nostalgia plays well on the show as it revolves around such a classic genre element: time travel.
Now if Doctor Who has taught us anything (apart from bow ties being cool), it’s that if you're revisiting history, then make sure you lock Hitler in the cupboard and have some damn fun with it. Legends does just that with its inaugural voyage to the '70's from all the summer of love costumes at the college to Heat Wave loving the culture of cheap beer end bar fights. Dominic Purcell becomes a hulking ball of laughs throughout episode as it appears completely indifferent about the fate of the world, and just tags along for the violence, “I like killing people”. Yet Legends still feels like a superhero team up show as a time travelling adventure, and when we get our first bout of full team action, battling the bounty hunter Cronos, it does create that TV Avengers/Justice Society vibe that we want form the show. Not to mention setting up Wentworth Miller with a Star Wars reference that even puts Cisco to shame, “We go out for one lousy drink and you mange to pick a fight with Boba Fett!”.
The cast are outstanding and it quickly comes across how well their dynamic has been put together, not just as ensemble but in their many fractured pairings. Stein and Palmer can be science bros (and apparently Stein even taught Palmer once). Cold and Heat Wave can bounce dark humour of each other whenever required. The acclimatising love affair of the Hawks makes for great viewing as the pair work out the odd tiff. Similarly, following their fresh fusion earlier this flash season we see a Firestorm duo that’s still working out the kinks. Sadly, though Franz Drameh does feel like the one weak link in the cast. He’s not necessarily bad but he really doesn’t feel on the same as the rest, not helped by being the kid among a more mature group. This episode does really also demonstrates the show’s potential to expand on the characters we know as they now take centre stage. In Arrow, we’ve seen Ray Palmer’s ATOM being motivated by a desire to help people but here we see that pushed further as he answers Hunter’s calling because he wants his life to mean something because his recent death really didn’t. The past lives/re-incarnation aspects of the Hawks immediately show that they’ll pay dividends via time travel as they encounter people from their previous incarnations. That arc even becomes the surprise heart of the episode.
As the highly imaginative episode name would suggest, this is just the opening salvo of a two-part combo to be concluded next week. Yet even with just half a story, Legends is nothing but convincing of its value. This is the show we’ve been waiting for. It’s taken a horde of second string characters from two other shows and genuinely made them greater than the sum of their parts. The possibilities for the show are vast, not only for the time periods it can cover but the DC roster members we can meet when it gets there. It’s already been confirmed that we’ll see Connor Hawke as a future Green arrow, Jonah Hex in the Old West and the return of Matt Nable’s Ra’s al Ghul across this 16-episode season. The show was always going to be a gamble but skilled hands on the lever its hit the jackpot. The Golden Age of Geek looks like it has new addition.