[Review] Legends Of Tomorrow Episode 1×01: “Pilot, Part One”

written by Kate Spencer and Matthew Finneman

I got two reviews of the new DC television series, Legends Of Tomorrow, from two different people over the weekend, so in the interest of fairness, I’ll be posting them both just this once. Kate and Matt will be alternating episode reviews and they’ll be going up every Friday.

-Dayna

SPOILER WARNINGS ARE IN EFFECT


Off the successes of Arrow and The Flash, the CW and DC Comics have produced yet another superhero TV show – this time with a whole team of heroes. Using a cast of heroes (and villains) previously introduced on the other two shows, Legends Of Tomorrow sets up a time-traveling adventure that hopes to be just as epic as the shows which spawned it.

The first episode is…certainly a first episode. Time Master Rip Hunter begs his fellow Time Masters to give him a ship and let him stop the immortal Vandal Savage from taking over the world. It goes exactly how he expected, so he travels to the year 2016 to recruit his team:

Ray Palmer, a.k.a. the Atom – who in the show is like Iron Man but with the ability to shrink like Ant-Man.

Sara Lance, a.k.a. White Canary – she’s from Arrow and doesn’t have (as far as I’m aware) a comic counterpart, but she kicks ass and she was dead once, so that’s cool.

Professor Martin Stein and Jefferson Jackson, a.k.a. Firestorm – an old professor and a former high school quarterback-turned-mechanic fuse to become a flying, flame-throwing metahuman.

Carter Hall and Kendra Saunders, a.k.a. Hawkman and Hawkgirl – winged badasses who have repeatedly reincarnated since ancient Egyptian times.

Leonard Snart, a.k.a. Captain Cold – a thief with the power of glorious scenery chewing, sarcasm, and over-the-top narcissism…oh, and also a cold gun.

Mick Rory, a.k.a. Heat Wave – another thief armed with a flamethrower and the amazing ability to puke off camera and leave no mess behind.

Rip abducts…sorry, “recruits” the eight of them and feeds them a story about how in the year 2166, they’re all considered legends. Prof. Stein is quick to point out that legends are typically dead – proving he’s not a professor of English or mathematics since “legend” in no way implies “dead” and I really doubt either of them are going to be alive in 150 years anyway. Ray is in right away, Sara talks it over with her sister, Carter and Kendra decide to fight it out, Mick and Leonard agree to join for the fame and glory, and Stein is on board because “Ehrmahgred, time travel!” The holdout is Jax…who Stein just decides to drug and kidnap.

Heroes!

Mick asks Stein if he can have some of whatever he “roofied” Jax with. Legends Of Tomorrow…could we not? I don’t want to have to write entire pages on why stuff like this is wrong and deserves no place in this show. “But it’s played for laughs!” Really? Let me change up that situation for you a little bit. Say the reluctant one was White Canary and Heat Wave was the one who slipped something into her drink and then walked to the time ship with her slung over his shoulder. Pretty messed up, right? SO WAS WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED. Pro-tip: don’t start off your new series with one of your heroes drugging another’s drink.

From there the plot involves them boarding Rip Hunter’s ship The Waverider and traveling to 1975 to consult an expert on Vandal Savage on the day he mysteriously died in his office. And if you’ve experienced any time travel fiction with causality loops and self-fulfilling prophecies then his death isn’t so mysterious to you. Rip is a bad time traveler. The only surprising twist (for me at least) comes with the revelation that the expert they need to talk to, Aldus Boardman, is the son of one of Carter’s and Kendra’s previous incarnations.

While they don’t come into conflict with Savage himself in this episode, they are pursued by Chronos – a bounty hunter sent by the Time Masters who casually kills people who aren’t integral to the timeline. There’s a fight with him at the ship where the line of the episode is delivered by Captain Cold: “We go out for one lousy drink and you guys manage to pick a fight with Boba Fett.”

Yeah, about that drink…Captain Cold, White Canary, and Heat Wave decide to go to a bar after Rip Hunter leaves them alone on the ship with Jax. For me, this was the highlight of the episode because the three of them seem to get along better than any of the others, and it leads to a bar fight. Somehow the bar fight is more entertaining than the Chronos fight. The chemistry between White Canary and Captain Cold is especially good. They go from complete strangers to drinking and fighting buddies in record time.

Aldus is severely wounded, arguments are had, and Rip gets punched in the face a couple of times after revealing he’s a former Time Master. He’s lost his position and the mission they’re on wasn’t authorized by the council. Furthermore, he didn’t recruit the team because they’re “legends”, he recruited them because their lives have minimal effect on the timeline. They’re on an unauthorized suicide mission and they’re all expendable. After hearing Rip Hunter’s story about a dead family and need for revenge, the team decides to continue with the mission.

The episode is rough. It’s part one of presumably a two-part episode, so I think it would have been better served as a two-hour episode. A lot of the episode is setup without too much time spent getting to know the characters or even fleshing out the plot, but there were a few good character moments.

In my first viewing I was quick to complain about the Atom and how the character in this incarnation doesn’t really work without someone to properly work off of. In a Flash/Arrow crossover episode, Ray and Felicity played off each other very well. I still think he needs something like that, but he had some interesting characterization this episode. He’s seeking validation. He wants to be someone and leave some sort of legacy. I can buy that as a motivation.

Rip Hunter is great, and the idea of Rory Pond-Williams having his own time machine makes me smile – as does the time ship being called “Waverider” (another time-traveling hero in DC Comics). I admit I’m not that familiar with the comic book character, but his tragic backstory and desire for revenge in the show make him interesting. He’s also got a cool laser revolver thing which is a nice touch.

The Hawks have some interesting moments between finding out they have a son and dealing with his death. Kendra continues to be a little overwhelmed by her past lives, which brings her into some conflict with Carter, who has embraced his past. And their discussion-turned-sparring match to decide whether to join the team in the first place is true to their comic counterparts and their warrior natures.

There’s not much I can say about the other characters at this point. Captain Cold is as great as he is in The Flash, and I like what I’ve seen of White Canary so far. Honestly if those two get in a bar fight every episode, I’ll be happy. Jax’s turnaround on whether to stay or not was a good moment, but Professor Stein’s completely out of character drugging of him was awful. Heat Wave seems like he’s only there because Captain Cold is there, and his creepy thuggish arsonist character is a little off-putting. Captain Cold has shown redeeming qualities and anti-hero (or maybe anti-villain) tendencies, so I can buy him as a reluctant hero – I don’t feel like Heat Wave has earned that, though.

Overall, this was a really rough pilot, but pilots often are. There’s definitely some potential here if the scripts get stronger. I’m looking forward to seeing where the show goes and how the DCTV universe expands.

-Kate

* * *

Let me start off by saying yes, I am aware of the irony here. My review of a TV show based on time travel is very late. But you know what they say. Good things are worth the wait. And who knows? Maybe even fairly adequate unprofessional reviews of a CW DC comics mid-season event TV show can also be worth the wait!

Real talk: Legends Of Tomorrow is exactly what it seems to be. When the trailers premiered and we first heard of it, you could pretty much see where it was going. A lot of the B and C stars from both Arrow and The Flash were going to team up to fight Vandal Savage across time. Sign me up! So. Months later, the pilot has aired. So, what’s the show about? Well, turns out it’s actually…well, a lot of the B and C stars from both Arrow and The Flash teaming up to fight Vandal Savage across time. So, is it good or bad? To answer that question, it really depends on what kind of viewer you actually are. And that really comes to the crux of the potential problems people might have with the show.

It’s a simple question really: are you an avid viewer and fan of Arrow and/or The Flash? Are you up to date on both? Did you nerd out over the previous crossover that introduced us to Vandal Savage? Well then. Legends Of Tomorrow is definitely for you. Are you a new viewer? Did you see that Rory from Doctor Who is playing a time traveler and think, “maybe now I’ll see what’s up with that whole DC TV show special?” Because if so, your mileage may vary. Prior knowledge of characters and events aren’t strictly necessary to enjoy Legends Of Tomorrow, but it definitely goes a long way in extending and increasing your enjoyment.

Let’s get some backstory down real quick. Who really makes up these so-called Legends?

Rip Hunter: a Time Master who travels around righting wrongs throughout the ages. He’s the son of my favorite superhero and the greatest hero no one ever knows about. My fingers are perpetually crossed we will eventually learn about his dad. In this show, he’s gone rogue to stop Vandal Savage.

Atom: Ray Palmer. He has a super suit. Like Ant-Man. He can shrink. Like Ant-Man. He’s snarky and personable. Like Ant-Man. Look, he’s basically DC’s Ant-Man. But he can also shoot lasers so there’s that.

White Canary: She was Black Canary. Then she died. Then she came back. She was crazy but got better. She’s all like, kung fu assassin pow pow but now she wears white because her sister claimed the Black Canary mantle.

Firestorm: He’s two people in one! One is a big shot scientist. One is a big shot football star. When their powers combine…they form Firestorm! He can alter the molecular makeup of anything and turn lead into gold. Or bullets into flowers. Or anything into anything. In theory. So far in the show all they do is fly around and throw fireballs at people. Which admittedly is still cool.

Hawkman and Hawkgirl: Two of the most convoluted and complicated characters in comics history. Luckily, they’ve been streamlined here. Ancient Egyptian royalty and priest respectively, they were murdered by Vandal Savage. Saved by their hawk God, they are destined to be reborn, fall in love, and be murdered by Savage again. All signs point to that happening again. They fly and punch things and hit things in the face with giant maces. Hawkman is kinda creepy with his “I’ve loved you forever” proclamations.

Captain Cold and Heat Wave: Career criminals and adversaries to The Flash. One has a cold gun and one has a heat gun (guess who has which!) They are joining the crew for a chance to steal throughout history.

Phew. Got all that? On to the show!

Here’s the quick recap of the events that occurred. Vandal Savage destroys the future. Rip Hunter appeals to the Time Master Council to intervene but is rejected. He flies off to recruit the aforementioned legends. They all join up for various reasons (except for half of Firestorm, which leads me to one of my biggest gripes of the episode). They fly off to the ’70s to St. Roch (a made-up DC city) in New Orleans. and find a historian who knows about Vandal. Surprise! He’s actually the son of a previous incarnation of the Hawkcouple. Half the crew get into a bar brawl because of course. A temporal bounty hunter named Chronos arrives to wreck their shit. Everyone joins up to fight him off and escape. Secrets are revealed. Legends are put to the test.

So. What’s good? What’s bad? First, the good. Seeing all these characters interact? Amazing. The action scenes? Insane. In particular the special effects-laden battle with Chronos, but special nod to the more comedic bar brawl. Arthur Darvill as Rip Hunter? Perfect casting. In fact, the casting on almost everyone is sublime. The Prison Break alumni of Wentworth Miller and Dominic Purcell as Captain Cold and Heat Wave? Guilty pleasures for me. Every time Cold speaks I’m completely enraptured. We live in a world where a man in a parka with an ice gun is in a prime time TV show. They did an admirable job of giving everyone equal time on screen. So much was done right in this pilot. But not everything.

So what went awry? Well, again, if you aren’t well-versed in Arrow and The Flash continuity, many things will be lost on you. Who were those people mentoring the Legends before they joined Rip Hunter? What exactly is up with that whole reincarnation thing with the Hawks? Where did the threat of Vandal Savage really come from? How does Firestorm work? You really have to take a lot with a grain of salt if you’re coming in fresh for this whole endeavor. It’s still enjoyable, but not nearly to the same extent. That’s the true advantage Marvel’s Agent Carter has. It’s very self-contained and you don’t really need to see Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. to enjoy it.

My biggest problem with this episode? Is that the Professor Stein half of Firestorm essentially roofied his other half to force him into joining the group. I felt that was very distasteful and pretty much out of character. “I really wanted to experience time travel so screw your objections. You’re coming with me whether you want to or not.” Bleh. Means to an end, I guess, but still. Not a fan of how that played out.

Assorted musings:

The ride: Naming their time ship Waverider is awesome. A great nod to another DC time-traveling hero. And naming the onboard AI Gideon? Awesome too! A nice nod to The Flash, because that’s what Thawne/Reverse-Flash named his future AI too.

Booster Gold: My hope for the potential to bring Booster into this or future seasons is strong. I want it so badly I can taste it.

Firestorm’s Roofie: Seriously. F that noise.

Fake Cities: I really love how DC sticks to their guns with their fake cities. St. Roch. Opal City. Star City. Central City. Coast City. Gotham. Metropolis. It never ends and I love it.

Joy: Seriously, the sheer amount of nerd/comic book joy I experienced watching this show is unmatched.

St. Roch: It’s in New Orleans! I’m definitely partial to that.

Can’t wait for the next episode!

-Matt

* * *

-Kate

Legends Of Tomorrow airs Thursdays on the CW at 8 ET/7 CT. Matthew can
be reached on Twitter @NOLANerdCast and Kate @WearyKatie.

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