To call it DC’s answer to Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) would be to oversimplify the charmingly complicated Legends of Tomorrow. While the premises may bear similarities on paper (mysterious figure assembles team of superheroes to battle evils from beyond our planet/time), Legends is much more than an all-star melee of superheroes punctuated by one-liners. It is, perhaps most importantly, a serialized television show, allowing for character development. This potential powers the engines of Legends of Tomorrow — what can be called a continuity between it and its sister shows, Arrow, and The Flash.
Now a disclaimer: I haven’t watched Arrow or The Flash, so I’m meeting each character for the first time. Those of you who do watch the shows will see many of the same characters (played by the same actors, of course) that have been on the tube for years, albeit with a grander mission: to travel through time and save the future from destruction.
Before I completely veer from the subject of familiarity when watching Legends of Tomorrow, I’d like to point something out about the production of these shows (taking place in what is known as the “Arrowverse”): all three shows are shot primarily in beautiful Vancouver, not to mention that they are each currently being filmed. In other words, the narrative of each show moves parallel to the others so that any given character could appear on up to three different shows each week. What this means for the narrative arc of Legends of Tomorrow and the Arrowverse as a whole remains to be seen, but given the frequency of apparent meta-references — that is, allusions to events that occurred within the Arrowverse but in a different series — it doesn’t seem far-fetched to imagine that there will be ‘interactions’ between the shows throughout the season. Is this a new direction for TV? Unfortunately, I’m not versed enough in television to even offer a guess at this point, but check back in the coming weeks for evolving coverage.
Things to watch for in Legends of Tomorrow, episode 1 “Pilot, Pt. 1”:
The time-travelling villain with the bluntly appropriate name, Vandal Savage (no relation to Randy Savage and played by Casper Crump), has serious evil mastermind hair going on when he is introduced (shoulder-length, slicked back, pointy goatee for good measure) at the beginning of the episode as he is laying waste to London in 2166 (actually Vancouver in 2016); but in the last minutes of the episode is shown with shorter hair that barely covers half his nape as he organizes a weapons deal in Norway, 1975 (Vancouver in 2016, again, of course). What does this mean? Is Savage’s biology tied to the linear passage of time — meaning his hair grows in reverse if he travels backward in time? Regardless, he’s immortal so long as he kills Hawkman and Hawkgirl (Falk Hentschel and Ciara Renee, respectively) each time they are reincarnated (200+ times over 4,000 years), so it might not matter too much.
Heat Wave’s (Dominic Purcell) voice: think Batman’s bark in the Dark Knight trilogy, but tempered with a rich baritone. Surprising variability, too. His partner, Captain Cold (Wentworth Miller) is equally captivating, with an oddly childish personality (he crosses his arms and declares, “I ain’t footing it anywhere” after he has just walked to a rendezvous point) combined with some seriously comical facial expressions that the camera lingers on for just long enough.
Jax (Franz Drameh), a 20-year-old auto mechanic who has the power to self-immolate and fly while doing so, and Dr. Stein, a gifted scientist, apparently make a great team as Firestorm: the two’s physical bodies merge, essentially meaning that Dr. Stein enters Jax’s consciousness as a “Really Smart” voice while Jax flies and fires around. I’m not sure why Dr. Stein has to go the length of drugging Jax unconscious, but Jax literally shrugs it off and decides to stay and fight Vandal with the rest of the heroes because he likes “being on a team.”
Gideon, who resembles a stoned baby in addition to being a blue hologram head about four feet in height, is the monotonous AI in charge of piloting our heroic friends back and forth through space in the confusingly named Wave Rider — a “timeship” that has a distinct 90s spaceship feel to it. Gideon follows in the footsteps of past greats and refuses to listen to anyone but Rip Hunter, the former Time Lord (ostensibly the people who regulate time travel) and now captain of the Wave Rider. This inflexibility leads to violence when the ship Jax is trapped on is attacked by Chronos, a time-travelling bounty hunter.
“Pilot Part 1” either raises a lot of questions, or answers them, depending on your degree of familiarity with the Arrowverse. Obviously, I have no idea what is meant when both Atom (Brandon Routh) and White Canary (Caity Lotz) refer to having been dead recently. Nor do I know why Captain Cold and Heatwave appear to be acquainted with Dr. Stein. As aforementioned, the fact that there are three Arrowverse shows progressing concurrently could mean unprecedented levels of cross-show references and cameos. Of course, having such a structure (one where the lines that separate one show from another are blurred) does not necessarily mean that exposition for the uninitiated will be absent, but at this point there has been strikingly little. Perhaps “Pilot Part 2” will fill us in.