[This is a review of Legends of Tomorrow season 1, episode 6. There will be SPOILERS.]
This week has been a crossover spectacular on The CW. First The Diggles visited Central City to help Barry face off against King Shark on Tuesday’s The Flash, then we saw Vixen leave Detroit for Star City to help foil Damien Darhk’s magic on Arrow. Finally, on Legends of Tomorrow our heroes encountered Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) circa 2046. In ‘Star City 2046’ written by Marc Guggenheim & Ray Utarnachitt and directed by Steve Shill, the team found themselves in the ruins of Star City, now run by Slade Wilson’s son, Grant (Jamie Andrew Cutler). While Rip Hunter (Arthur Darvill) and Sara Lance (Caity Lotz) try to get the technology needed to get the Waverider running again, Leonard Snart (Wentworth Miller) and Mick Rory (Dominic Purcell) have a difference in opinion and Professor Stein (Victor Garber) meddles in matters of the heart.
The emergence of Legends has been a fascinating experiment in televised synergy. When done well it is an action-packed thrill ride with fun Easter eggs for loyal fans who watch each show. When done clumsily, it can feel like an overstuffed commercial with no payoff. It’s a delicate balance to keep the tone and energy of one show, while infusing it with characters from another. This feat is all the more challenging for Legends, which has struggled in its limited run to find its own consistent tone. Tonight’s episode was largely the former, but its convoluted time-travel rules kept it from being truly great.
Back to the Future
It’s difficult to imagine viewers who only watch Legends, without ever having seen Arrow or The Flash. Easily the least accessible entry point into The CW DC-verse, much of the show’s fun is getting to see other beloved characters in a new light. While there have been plenty of crossover references in the five episodes previous, this trip 30 years in the future brought the trials of Star City into the forefront, and would have been markedly lackluster for any non-Arrow fan.
It’s a ghostly version of the future, and seeing the streets, lair, and Palmer – now Smoak – Technologies abandoned gave the entire lead plot an uneasy feel. The haunting echoes of the Arrow music playing in the background of the ruins was a particularly nice touch. This episode had some great work from Lotz who clearly expressed the guilt and pain of seeing her home torn apart. Watching her choose the city over the mission felt true to the character, and reinforced the team spirit that everyone is beginning to embrace.
Following the various time travelling rules is proving to be complicated, as the team’s adventures consistently prove to be the exception to the rules. We’re relying on Rip to be our narrator in this new world, and since he is an unreliable one it is difficult to believe that this grisly future is not set in time. It’s implied that new-Deathstroke was able to topple the city in part because Ray and Sara were not there to help Oliver defeat him. This directly conflicts with what Rip told them in the pilot – their absence from the timeline actually had a gruesome impact on a major city. It’s unclear if this is just blurry time-travel logic or if Rip was lying outright when he convinced them to sign on. Either way, his confidence that this timeline couldn’t possibly come to pass as long as he returns them both to 2016 after Savage is dead is ripe for failure.
Watching the team rally to fight alongside Oliver, Sara, and John/Conner was enjoyable, even as it pointed out a critical flaw. The entire story works largely because we are already so invested in Arrow. We’ve seen Team Arrow fight to save Star City, and we care that Conner Hawk is actually John Diggle Jr. It makes for a very effective episode, but also highlights that these people are just visitors. As Rip points out, they’re trying to protect the entire world, not just a city. The more time spent borrowing emotional currency from other shows, the less time is spent creating their own stakes and bonds.
King Heat Wave
Continuing the running gag of Rip telling various team members to stay put only to have them do the opposite, Snart and Rory found themselves on opposite sides as they set off to loot Star City. Here we get more insight into Rory than we’ve seen before as he settles into his own particular brand of paradise. We don’t know much of their history besides the broad stokes – prison and thieving – but he is clearly chafing at being “just the brawn” now that Snart’s loyalties are shifting beyond him.
In one of the more tense scenes we finally learn what exactly it is that Rory wants: to see the world burn. It’s a philosophy that is no longer sustainable, and will likely pit the two partners against one another in the very near future. Miller gets a lot of credit for his one-liners (and rightly so) but Purcell is proving to be another scene stealer, alternating between humor and pathos with an instability that smacks of violence.
The Love Boat
Time paradoxes aside, this show is essentially superhero Big Brother, where the stakes are crazy high and the genders are imbalanced, 6-2. It’s not surprising that with those numbers we’d have love triangle, squares, heck even a rhombus or two if the show runs for long enough. It makes perfect sense that Jax – being the youngest and the least damaged by love – is the first one to get their flirt on. His burgeoning crush on Kendra is one thing, the short lived love triangle between Ray-Kendra-Jax is another. Ultimately pointless, it felt out of place so soon after Carter’s demise, and only served to highlight Kendra’s difficulty accepting her new life. Her reluctance to date is understandable, Ray and Jax’s eagerness to ask her out is not.
As the only other woman on the show, it would be nice if Kendra had more to do besides play the love interest, and this new digression feels like another attempt to find which cast member she has the most chemistry with. However for all of its failings this storyline did highlight Garber’s comedic timing, and his easy chemistry with Drameh as Firestorm explores their deepening psychic link.
All in all this was a strong episode, though Legends would benefit from taking Professor Stein’s advice and be more confident in itself. The show has a deep bench of characters with rich, untapped backstories all of which need to be explored to develop more stakes and emotional investment.
Legends of Tomorrow will return with ‘Marooned’ on March 3rd, 2016 at 8pm on The CW. Check out a preview below: