After a first season that, at best, can be described as rocky, Legends of Tomorrow‘s sophomore run has been a marked improvement. While last year saw the team travel throughout time to find and defeat Vandal Savage, the Legends now have replaced the Time Masters as protectors of history. This new dynamic has not changed Legends of Tomorrow‘s reliance on stand alone episodes, but this time around they make more sense. During the first season, the Legends either traveled to points in history where they could find Vandal Savage (a narrative stretch as it is) or the Waverider would be conveniently knocked into a random point in time, forcing the team to deal with the resulting consequences.
In season 2, the Legends have a more dynamic set of villains in Damien Darhk and Eobard Thanwe (who will eventually be joined by Leonard Snart and Malcolm Merlyn), while their ability to track time aberrations make for smoother stand alone episodes – like last night’s ‘Outlaw Country.‘ In ‘Outlaw Country,’ the Legends travel back to the Old West after a wanted man, Quentin Turnbull, gets his hands on future tech, which will result in him annexing the western part of the U.S. for himself. When the team arrived in the 19th century, they immediately run into a familiar face – Jonah Hex (played by guest star Johnathon Schaech).
Jonah Hex’s return to the series is a welcome one, as last year’s ‘Magnificent Eight’ was one of the stronger episodes of Legends of Tomorrow‘s freshman season. And sure enough, ‘Outlaw Country,’ despite not furthering the team’s goal of pursuing Darhk and Thawne, was easily one of this season’s strongest episodes. A big part of that was Schaech’s return as the Old West gunslinger, Jonah Hex. So, after two welcome turns as the character, it is time to seriously consider his potential as a permanent member of the team.
Let’s get the obvious out of the way first: Schaech is the best live action take on Jonah Hex to date. And while the depth of competition is not necessarily impressive, any actor who can say they outperformed Josh Brolin in a role has got to be happy – after all, Brolin is an Academy Award nominated actor. But his portrayal of Jonah Hex in the 2010 live-action film of the same name was, frankly, flat. In two episodes now, Schaech has stole the show as Hex, leaving much of the audience hoping for more.
Schaech successfully captures Hex’s rough demeanor, while still highlighting his code of honor that pushes him to see justice done. And it is Hex’s personality that would make him such a good fit as a member of the Legends going forward. As explained in the series’ opening, the team are not traditional heroes, but Legends, and Jonah Hex certainly fits that bill. Moreover, as a traditional anti-hero, Hex would be an addition preventing the Legends from falling too much into true heroic territory, and the Legends seem to be at their best when their morality is clouded. That is why Leonard Snart and Mick Rory were such integral members of the series’ first season; the duo were not heroes, a fact that created some tension with the rest of the team.
With Snart gone now, the “goody two-shoes” characters now outnumber the antiheroes. Ray Palmer, Martin Stein, Nate Heywood, Amaya Jiwe (Vixen), and Jefferson Jackson all share very similar motivations – to do good. And while that is, of course, admirable, it can make for some flat narratives. Mick Rory, on the other hand, is a more dynamic character – even if he wishes he weren’t. While at first glance, it may seem like Rory just wants the world to burn (quite literally), episodes like ‘Outlaw Country’ highlight that he may be more than just an animal. And his interaction with Amaya going forward, and the contrast between the two, is sure to be a highlight this season.
While Jonah Hex is not traditionally a villain, like Mick Rory, his personality meshes more with Sara Lance. Lance, while more a hero than not, is still an assassin at heart, and one who is constantly seeking revenge – over Darhk, and hopefully soon, Malcolm Merlyn. The similarities between Lance and Hex made for some of the best moments of the most recent episode. Of course, at first, Hex had some trouble taking orders from a woman captain. And the series has done a decent job of exploring the discrimination that took place in some of our troubled points in history.
The conversations between Hex and Lance provided some of the best dialogue of the series, to the point that many viewers were surely hoping that Hex was never going to get off the Waverider. And for a second it did look that way. Lance asked Hex what he was going to do now that Turnbull was caught, to which Hex replied that he would turn him over to the authorities. Surely, some hoped he would say, “do you need another solider,” or something to that effect. But alas, it was not meant to be – yet.
Should Hex join the team, the writers would no doubt have more fun playing with his relationship with Sara Lance. And it is not just his conversations, and desire not to share his feelings, but his tenuous relationship with authority. As seen in ‘Outlaw Country,’ the Legends first attempt at taking down Turnbull hit a bit of a snag when Hex became impatient and defied Lance’s instruction to remain outside the saloon. Of course, at the end of the episode Hex submitted to Lance’s authority, but were he to join the team indefinitely, the two would likely continue to butt heads going forward.
Still, there is another reason why Hex should ultimately join the Legends on a full-time basis. And this goes back to the current team dynamic. While fans’ views of Rip Hunter on the show may be mixed, his mysterious disappearance has left a void. Not only is he another character with a flexible relationship with authority – especially the Time Masters – but he was pretty much a gunslinger. Hunter had the demeanor of an Old West cowboy, which is perhaps why one of his strongest episodes last season was ‘The Magnificent Eight.’ Sure, having a gunslinger is not a requirement of effective storytelling, or even necessary for future interactions with the Legion of Doom, but what it is, is fun – and that’s not too bad. Further, Hex’s talents with a gun would no doubt come in handy.
The Legends are very close to learning that their adversaries’ numbers will grow. While they are aware that Darhk and Thawne have teamed up, they do not know (and to be fair, the villains may not either) that Snart and Merlyn will soon join the fray. And while the numbers are still in the Legends’ favor, something interesting could happen when this conflict materializes. That is, what will Mick Rory do? We still do not know exactly which Leonard Snart we will be seeing. Will he be from a point in time before he dies? Did Flashpoint resurrect him? Did they go back in time and use Merlyn’s Lazarus Pit? Nobody knows, well, other than the writers. Either way, it is hard to imagine that Rory would not have some desire to rejoin with his only friend. Whether that were to happen is just conjecture, but it would make sense. And if Rory were to leave, or become unreliable, now all of a sudden the Legends may need some help. Enter Jonah Hex.
Ultimately, it does not appear that there are any current plans to bring Jonah Hex into Legends of Tomorrow full time. But this should happen. The series’ time traveling nature, and exploration of DC’s history, makes the inclusion of such a character important. This is one reason that Vixen joining the team has been relatively successful. It makes little sense that all of history’s protectors would come from 2016. Surely, there are heroes from other points in time that could do the job – and know certain historical terrain better than others.
There had been speculation during Legends of Tomorrow‘s first season that perhaps the series would turn into a bit of an anthology series, with a rotating group of heroes – for instance, John Constantine’s name was floated. And while completely revamping the team may not be the right move to advocate, adding different members each season would keep the series fresh – and this is what happened with Vixen and Citizen Steel. So, in that spirit, let’s nominate Jonah Hex for inclusion in Legends of Tomorrow‘s third season.
Legends of Tomorrow continues Thursday, December 1 with the conclusion of The CW’s four-show crossover, ‘Invasion!’, at 8pm on The CW.