[Review] Legends Of Tomorrow Season Two Retrospective

written by Kate Spencer

SPOILER WARNINGS ARE IN EFFECT

Legends Of Tomorrow’s second season has come to a close. It’s time to look back at how things have changed, what worked, what didn’t work, and where the characters may go from here.

Before I begin, I’d like to apologize for an error made in last week’s review. Normally I try to hold my reviews to a high standard but both my editor and I missed a rather glaring error. I reviewed an entire episode called “Aruba” without ever once making a single reference to or pun about the Beach Boys’ song “Kokomo”. I have no excuse for this. All I can say is I’m sorry and I’ll endeavor to do better in the future.

…what, you thought I was going to end that with a joke? Nope. Though I do take pleasure in knowing that at least some of you now have that song stuck in your head. Enjoy!

Aruba, Jamaica, ooh I wanna take ya…

Let’s start by looking at the overall plot of this season – correcting aberrations and the search for the Spear Of Destiny. The former led to a couple of one-off episodes that were pretty good. What were once things probably easily corrected by the Time Masters are problems the Legends now have to go and manually fix. Whether it’s time pirates, the Legion Of Doom, or Barry Allen fucking up all of reality because he spilled coffee on his shirt, the Legends now have a job outside of slogging through main villain arcs. It’s the “set right what once went wrong” trope of time travel stories, but it works here, even when things go wrong because of the Legends themselves.

The Spear Of Destiny arc got off to a slow start. Extremely slow. We were eight episodes into the season before we found out what the Legion Of Doom was actually after. That’s not so bad, but keep in mind, this was only a seventeen-episode season. Half the season was the show dragging its feet to get to the main plot. That could have worked if the search for the Spear had been spaced out over more episodes, or if we’d been given more breadcrumbs to tease us during the whole medallion arc. What we got were episodes that didn’t further the main plotline so much as forget it existed. Major things are revealed to the Legends in episodes that end with them not following up on them until either the next episode or not at all. And I’ve already ranted a lot about how they knew they were fighting a speedster and never once consulted Barry Allen.

The main arc itself was pretty decent apart from that – there were definitely some high stakes, along with a magical MacGuffin which had the power to rewrite reality. It gave a lot more gravitas to the main arc than the first season’s Vandal Savage plot did. The most disappointing thing about the storyline is that they didn’t really take it far enough. As I said in my review of “Doomworld”, the Legion Of Doom thought too small. They had the power of gods and they went for such mundane things. Darhk is mayor of Star City, Thawne is a famous scientist, Merlyn has his pre-his-own-fuckups life back, and Leonard and Mick are just back to robbing banks but with the “clear wanted level” cheat code enabled. Maybe the show was restrained by budget, but there are low-budget ways of making their reality truly a “Doomworld”. Additionally, I know I keep saying it, but I would have liked to see each Legend more tempted by the Spear. Is it some kind of noble sacrifice thing which keeps them from altering time, or is it strictly aberrations? What would they do with consequence-free power like that? It’s a shame we only got to see that for Sara.

Onto the character arcs, starting with the new Legends. First, Amaya. While I’m really disappointed with how disposable the JSA was this season, we did at least get a compelling character in Amaya. There are a thousand commonly-tread paths they could have taken with the character – fish out of water, quaint ’40s ideals among modern era people, or they could have just done a full Captain America with her. Instead, they started by playing up the differences in how the JSA and the Legends operate. It really gave Amaya an awkward adjustment period of her often butting heads with her new teammates. It continued even to the final episodes, where she frequently questioned Sara’s leadership. Her end-season conflict was deciding her own fate, and this was done so much better than it was with Kendra in Season One. Amaya’s destiny is pretty much set in stone. She can’t change it because it directly affects her granddaughter and her new friends. The selfless hero thing to do would be to accept her place in history and let it run its course. The selfish thing would be to defy history and do what she wants. Her solution is probably the one I could relate to most: selflessly choosing to let history play out…but not quite yet. She knows her destiny. She knows she eventually has to return in 1942, but she’s going to do it when she’s ready. It might be reckless because obviously anything can happen to her traveling on the Waverider, but she’s choosing to live her life in spite of fate.

Our other noob this season is Nate. I really like his early arc of wanting to be a hero like his grandfather. Nate was treated with kid gloves his whole life due to his hemophilia, so he wanted to get out there and get his hands dirty. Surprisingly, his character doesn’t change much once he gets his powers. He doesn’t immediately turn into a full-time hero; he’s still a historian and he makes valuable contributions to the team that way. We see him in the field just as much as we see him with his nose in a book, and I kind of like that. Also, his sibling-like relationship with Ray is particularly good and gives both characters a little more personality. They try to outdo each other, they spar on the ship, and just act like the nerdiest couple of frat boys ever. It’s pretty entertaining. I think one of my favorite Nate moments happens in “Moonshot”. He watches his grandfather sacrifice himself for the team and, instead of shedding a single manly tear, he breaks down crying on Amaya’s shoulder. It’s both genuine and heartbreaking.

Ray is still a goober. Look, I know I make fun of Ray a lot in these reviews, but I do really like the character. He’s a goofball, but he’s a likable goofball. His early season arc was about finding his place on the team and discovering who he is without the Atom suit. I don’t feel like he came to a satisfying conclusion on that since he goes right back to relying on the suit when he gets it back. I think he could have stood to have more growth as just a guy, but we do see him out of the suit more in this season. He can be very resourceful when he’s not armed with shrinky pew pew armor.

Mick…I wish I could say they did something more with Mick this season. They set up some kind of friendship between him and Amaya where she was going to help him find his humanity, but that was dropped pretty quickly. They had him develop a conscience…I guess? In the form of a Leonard Snart hallucination trying to pull him back to the dark side. It was like they had the idea for the short arc Mick goes through in the last three episodes earlier in the season, but had no way to execute it since they couldn’t get Wentworth Miller (Leonard) for the full season. The ’80s episode is decent when Mick takes Ray under his wing as the new Captain Cold, but apart from that…well, let me put it another way. Try counting up just how much of his screen time Mick spends sitting around eating or getting drunk. It’s a lot.

Jax gets maybe two really good episodes this season and that’s it, which is kind of disappointing, but they were some of the better episodes. He has to go undercover as a slave in one episode and not only does he clash with Stein about putting himself in danger, but he gets some pretty cathartic moments of heroism in an era of some truly horrible things. The other episode has him taking command when Sara is shot. He’s forced to use guerrilla tactics and close quarters combat to survive. It showed us that outside of Sara, Jax is probably the most capable fighter when you strip away everyone’s powers and technology.

Stein also didn’t get much of an arc this season. Maybe the biggest one was putting all of his practice as a surrogate father to Jax to use as an actual father to his daughter, who literally came out of nowhere. The mini-arc he has is an interesting one. As he gains memories of Lily, he fears they’re of another woman who’s replaced Clarissa as his wife. He harbors guilt and fear over that until he finds out the truth, and then it’s “oh shit, I have to fix this because I’m not meant to be a dad.” When he finally accepts her as his daughter, it’s sort of sweet how readily he takes to being a proud father. He talks about his new memories fondly and by the time Lily resurfaces a few episodes later, he’s in full-on protective papa mode as if he’s been that way all this time.

Outside of Stein retconning in a new kid, Sara’s life probably changed the most out of the Season One characters. In Rip’s absence, she’s forced into a role which really agrees with her – that of captain and team leader. Henry and Rip both take notice of how much better the team works together under Sara’s command, but I don’t think that’s really a fair assessment. I think she works better as a unifying leader than Rip did because she can be more personable with her team, while Rip – because of his Season One arc – was more detached. Sara is also more direct in her approach. Rip constantly thinks about the rules and consequences of time travel, while Sara is more adept at thinking on her feet. So I would say she’s just a different sort of leader and definitely the type the Legends need. Her other major arc comes with her decision whether or not to alter history by saving her sister and removing Damien Darhk from history. It’s a damn good arc because she’s torn between her responsibility as a Legend and her responsibility as a sister. If anyone had to be faced with the direct temptation of the Spear, I’m glad it was Sara, because she was the one with the most direct emotional stake in current events. I hate to draw another comparison between her and Rip, but she was put in the exact same position Rip was regarding his family and Vandal Savage, and Sara rose above that.

Regarding Rip, it’s still so sad to see him go. I wish he could have found a place on the team – not as a leader, but as a Legend. For what little they had him this season, the show used Arthur Darvill well. He got to play three different characters this season: Rip Hunter, Evil Rip Hunter, and Director Phil. All were entertaining in their own right and added a lot to the story. My only complaint is the head-scratchingly bizarre kiss between him and Gideon and the implications of it. If there really is something between them, why did he so readily leave at the end of the season? Abandoning the Legends is one thing, but Gideon has been one of the few constants in his life since leaving the Time Masters – she was even with him during his stint as a Time Master. I just…it’s weird. Writers, please do something with Gideon. That character has so much potential.

As for our villains, I’m going to start with Merlyn and Darhk because they were just sort of…there. The characters are good and the actors turned in excellent performances, but they just weren’t given enough to do. The highlight episode for them is “The Legion Of Doom”, where most of it is told from their perspective. We see them bicker and scheme and even come to blows. I think they would have worked better on a show with a smaller ensemble which could have given them more focus…but I guess we have that in Arrow, don’t we? Still, both worked as menacing villains and their actors are a delight to watch.

Leonard…ugh. I know, I know, I’ve talked about this a lot, but there’s a huge problem with building a character up for an entire season, killing them off, and then bringing back a more two-dimensional version of the character who lacks all of that growth. It was jarring to see Leonard acting like…well, more of a supervillain than he ever was on The Flash. He was absolutely heartless and ruthless here, and I still say there’s no way in any point in his life he would have so callously killed Mick – even if it was an aberration. I want them to bring back the real Leonard Snart.

Eobard Thawne has been played by two different actors. Season One of The Flash got us used to Tom Cavanagh’s “Evil Harrison Wells,” but he was always a disguise Eobard Thawne wore. In-universe, Matt Letscher’s Thawne is the one true Reverse-Flash. As such, it’s no surprise that people are going to measure up the two versions and debate about who is better. That’s difficult for me, because it’s like comparing Dick Grayson and Tim Drake and asking who the better Robin is. For me, “Wells” and Thawne are two different characters. Yes, there are similarities, and credit to both actors for keeping some consistency between the two, but they’re two different people to me. I would gladly accept either actor playing Thawne in his next appearance, especially after this season of Legends because goddamn did Letscher nail it. Thawne brought so much menace to this season, and in the previously-mentioned “Legion Of Doom”, we got to see a very different Thawne – one who was scared out of his mind while literally staring into the face of Death. Thawne was witty, sarcastic, creepy, and frightening – perfect traits for a supervillain. And oh god, that line in the finale still cracks me up.

Overall, Season Two had its faults, but ended up even better than Season One. I’m glad we didn’t see any major changes to the team like we did at the end of the last season, because I like the current lineup. I think these characters work well together, and I can see possible story arcs for all of them going forward. If you haven’t yet watched the season for yourself or you’re wanting to give it a rewatch, you’re in luck – Season Two is now on Netflix. If you want some recommendations for good episodes, I like “Abominations”, “Raiders Of the Lost Art”, and “The Legion Of Doom”. “Invasion!” is another really great one, but with the caveat that it’s the finale of a four-part crossover with Supergirl, The Flash and Arrow. As of this writing, those episodes aren’t on Netflix yet. Speaking of those other shows, you can catch them on their regular nights or wait for them to be added to Netflix eight days after their season finales.

I plan to return this fall to review Season Three. Your guess is as good as mine as to how the hell they’re going to fix the problems they made in the finale. I’m looking forward to raging about time travel inconsistencies, though.

…seriously, either you have a future when you’re in the temporal zone or you don’t. And if interacting with yourself in events you’ve already participated in can screw up time then how the hell did Chronos get away with attacking the Legends and Mick in the first episode of Season One? Or when Leonard talked to his younger self two episodes later? Or when Sara keeps her younger self from fighting younger Mick later in the season? Or the times Stein was with his younger self? What happened to the second Waverider – the one Rex Tyler crashed? What about the second Waverider in the finale? AND ANOTHER THING–

Kate can be reached on Twitter @WearyKatie.

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