Legends of Tomorrow: A Look Back at Season One
Who knew that the true shared DC universe would come in the form of a ragtag bunch of supporting characters whisked away from their comfy ‘also starring’ positions in a couple of prime time, post-Smallvile TV shows?
While I’m not a fan of Arrow, it allowed for the seeding of The Flash TV show, a programme I really love. Throw in the slightly distant (yet moving closer) cousin of Supergirl and we have a pretty solid basis for a shared universe of DC characters. With absolutely no one crying out for a spin off showcasing the adventures of the various B-listers in each show, Legends of Tomorrow answered the call anyway.
It is a very silly show and an incredibly derivative one, it seems to borrow a lot of ideas form Doctor Who as well as a touch of Sliders, some Quantum Leapiness and a dash of Stargate (not the first few good seasons, the rubbish bits near the end when they did lots of stuff with spaceships). Just watch an episode and you’ll spot a dozen other sci-fi shows, books, comics and films all mashed in and cherry picked to cobble the weeks story together.
Watching Legends of Tomorrow is like watching an old TV show on repeats. I can imagine my kids in years to come watching this on early Saturday morning TV the same way I used to watch repeats of Batman(’66) and Wonder Woman. They’ll enjoy the slightly outdated action scenes and they’ll miss episodes but more or less pick up the plot and if they don’t it doesn’t really matter. This show was made to be casually re-watched years later. As a modern, weekly show it doesn’t really have the must see factor, the what happens next feeling at the end of each episode. Basically, everything will be okay in this show. They never do anything really clever with the time travel and character arcs are predictable and safe.
It would be easy not to like Legends of Tomorrow. It’s dumb. Really dumb and in a crowded super hero market, it’s easy for people to get fed up with a show if its dumb. But Legends isn’t dumb like, say, Agents of SHEILD can be dumb. In Agents of SHEILD, as an audience member you feel frustrated when something dumb happens because that show is part of the greater whole (the MCU) and we feel it should be better, it shouldn’t be pulling the rest of the shared universe down. When that show is dumb, it’s a disappointment. When Legends is dumb you just think; oh, yeah, of course its dumb, it’s a dumb show.
So why, you may be asking, do you watch this show if it’s so dumb? Simple… I love it. And I don’t love it because its dumb. I love it because it isn’t trying not to be dumb and that makes it smart. This show is smart enough to know what it is and where it fits in the grand scheme of things. Arrow has darkness, The Flash has warmth and Supergirl has joy. Legends has giant robots, Space Pirates, Cowboys, Ninjas and flying bat-monster teenagers.
The first season sets up the premise of Rip Hunter, a renegade Time Master, recruiting a team of B-List super heroes to help him travel through time and space to try and stop the murder of his wife and child at the hands of Vandal Savage, an immortal tyrant. This is a solid concept, especially when it is (vey early on) revealed that he picked the members of his team because they were disposable. It’s a nice conceit and each member of the gang has a strong, individual reason to stick around and try and become a real hero. The cast is really pretty good, especially Victor Garber, Brandon Routh and Arthur Darvill though its Wentworth Miller who truly steals the show in every scene he’s in. Ciara Renee shows a lot of potential though is a little wasted on a Hawkgirl/Hawkman based plotline that never quite rings true.
The goofy narratives, flip-flopping characterisation and near-schizophrenic plotting all take a back seat when the show is as fun as it is and while it does get a little frustrating at times the daft likability keeps you tuning in. The visual effects, as you’d expect with a TV budget can be variable but when they get an episode right (the production design on the Wild West episode or the or the cinematic lift of bringing Joe Dante in for the 50’s B-Movie inspired episode) it really can be a great looking 43 minutes of televising and in all the mess and clunky dialogue they can even pack a genuinely emotional punch.
Season one left us with some narrative resolution, plenty of unanswered questions and the loss of a few of the more interesting characters – not to mention a really cool geek-out cliff hanger - so I will be tuning in ready to see what wacky crap the Legends have to throw at me this time…