RTF Retrospective Review: DC’s Legends of Tomorrow – Season 1
By: Adam Basciano
“A time-traveling rogue assembles a group of heroes and villains to prevent the world’s destruction.” (The CW)
Between, The CW’s Arrow and The Flash television series’, there were plenty of DC characters that had become either series regulars, or recurring characters. Sara Lance, The Atom, Firestorm, Hawkman and Hawkgirl, Captain Cold and Heatwave, had successful stints on both shows, becoming extremely popular amongst the viewers. Yet, the main cast for both Arrow and The Flash were already too much of an ensemble, to sustain these characters on an ongoing basis. Luckily, Greg Berlanti and his producing team of The CW DCU TV Shows, thought it would be a good idea to throw all these DC Universe guest stars into their own show. A DC Team up show as an episodic television series is already an enticing proposition, add in the time travel element, and I’m even more hooked. The fact that Greg Berlanti and his team had the guts to include these DC B & C listers as its team, illustrates that they have a confidence in the DC library, and the strength in the DC brand they’ve built up over at The CW, to be able pull this off and get people to tune in. For DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, you need a threat that is big enough and can sustain itself over a whole season, in order to bring a team of heroes together.
That threat is Vandal Savage, an immortal tyrant hell bent on destroying and subjugating the world to his dominance. What this show does well, is spend its entire first season focusing on finding and stopping Vandal Savage. Even if there are episodes that dove tail off the main focus now and again, there’s always a moment or reference, that remind us what the ultimate end game for our Legends is. Another great aspect of this show is that in the time travel, we get to go from and to the Wild West, the 1950’s, the 1980’s and even the far future of 2166. This offers a wide variety of types of episodes, while contained in one season. It’s kind of like watching a new series every new time period they visit. Even if you’re not a fan of super heroics (how could you not be?), the sci-fi fan in you will be hooked by the time travel aspect of the show.
Guiding our lesser known heroes through time, is Rip Hunter. The character is a mix of Han Solo, Dr. Gregory House, and Doctor Who. Comic book aficionado’s will now him, as the son of Booster Gold. Though, that is never mentioned. Even the time travelers’ ship, the Waverider, is a nod to a re-born, pre-Flashpoint version of Booster Gold. If you play close attention to the ship, you will see trinkets on the ship, which are a nod’s to DC characters Sgt. Rock and Doctor Fate. Even Batman and Superman get an offhand mention, though they are referred to as The Man of Steel and The Dark Knight. With the inclusion of Vandal Savage and his reincarnation ability, he is intrinsically tied to both Hawkman and Hawkgirl in this Arrowverse. It’s only natural that the three characters would take center stage in the overall season 1 arc. However, each character is given their chance in the spotlight to carry and lead different episodes. Another strength of this show, is the characters interaction with each other, and the different timelines they inhabit. Seeing this mix of heroes and villains have to co-exist and work together, offers both tension and humor. This show is anything but predictable. Main characters die and there’s a twist, as to who the main villain is. It will keep you guessing for all 16 episodes of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow.
As I mentioned, Arthur Darvill’s Rip Hunter is a bit of a lone wolf/ maverick type. He does what is necessary to get the results he wants. This includes lying to his team. When he recruits them, he insists that if they succeed in stopping Vandal Savage, they will be legendary heroes. Only later revealing that he picked them because they are disposable, and no one will remember them if they die. He also tells them he works for the Time Masters, who have sent him on this mission. Later, the viewer and the team find out that the Time Masters did not sanction this, and they are actually after him, for going against their wishes. There are times when you hope the team will walk out on him for being so devious and underhanded. Yet, when you realize he wants to stop Vandal Savage, not only to save the world, but to avenge the death of his wife and kids, you feel empathy for the character, and are back on his side again. You also no longer begrudge him for going against the time masters, after learning that the Time Masters are in League with Vandal Savage and are manipulating the timeline to create a world to their liking.
As the series goes on, Rip Hunter becomes protective of his team, and comes to see them as his family. Darvill’s performance is multi layered and conveys all these aspects of his character. Casper Crump plays the villainous Vandal Savage. What we have here is a mix of Adolph Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, and Donald Trump all rolled into one, but on roids, when you consider what he is capable of. His plans are diabolical, right from the get go, and you know he’s a madman, yet he’s very soft spoken and intelligent, which is why you can see people being easily swayed by him. Crump imbues Savage with such an air of superiority, that you can’t help but hate him right from the get go, If that doesn’t put you right in Team DC’s Legends of Tomorrow camp, watching him kill Rip’s wife and child, right from the outset of the pilot sure will. In scenes with Ciara Renee’s Hawkgirl, Crump plays Savage, as a sort of sexual predator. He’s quite creepy and for my money, is one of the better villains of the CW DC Universe shows.
Carter and Kendra Hall, aka Hawkman and Hawkgirl are played by Falk Henshel and Ciara Renee. The duo has great chemistry. It’s affectionate, and at the same time combative. Henshashel’s performance shows Carter Hall as a man who believes in fate and destiny. He’ll wait as long as necessary for Kendra to come around to believing and accepting this. At first Kendra rebukes and fights against the notion that they are destined to be together for all their lifetimes. She even tries to enter into a relationship with Ray Palmer. However, her adventures throughout history begin to have her embrace and accept destiny. When one of the Hawks die, their story definitely takes on a Romeo and Juliet quality to it. These characters story does come to a satisfying conclusion by season’s end.
Continuing discussing tandems, let’s look at Firestorm, comprised of Dr. Martin Stein and Jefferson Jackson. Victor Garber and Franz Drameh are like yin and yang. Their ages are so different, that it affects how they react to situations. Jackson is ever the athlete, running into danger first, asking questions later. Stein is ever the scientist, calculating, always forming a strategy. The humor comes with the two arguing and butting heads in the midst of battle, while joined together as Firestorm. Even though they constantly bicker, Stein console’s Jefferson regarding losing his father at a young age, and counsels him in matters of the heart and relationships. As the season wears on, you see a definite surrogate father/son relationship developing. Franz Drameh’s theater background serves him well, as he has great rapport with the always awesome Victor Garber.
The Prison Break duo of Domenic Purcell and Wentworth Miller, return as Heatwave and Captain Cold. These two actors just continue to excel working together in season 1 of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow. The delivery of their lines is so fun and humorous. Wentworth Miller’s Captain Cold is sardonic and serious, while Domenic Purcell is more gruff and sarcastic in his delivery. While on The Flash, the duo were extremely copasetic with one another. Here though, each dealt with their circumstances in their own way, which caused a rift between the two. Leonard Snart is more willing to go along on this do-Gooding mission, while Mick Rory wants to use the time travel opportunity to make himself the most revered thief and criminal of all time. Each feels as though the other has betrayed them and this change of pace, adds a new layer to their performances. What’s interesting is during the latter half of the season, there is a role reversal on the characters perspective. A humorous antagonistic big brother/little brother type friendship develops between Mick Rory and Ray Palmer.
Speaking of Ray Palmer, Brandon Routh is exceptional in this first season. You get a sense that his Ray Palmer is one of the smartest guys in the room, along with Victor Garber’s Martin Stein of course. There’s a kindness and naiveté to the character. There’s a true childlike innocence about him at times. He’s truly in awe about being on this space faring, time travel adventure. He’s excited and loves being a superhero. In that aspect, I can totally connect with the character, because I would be too! Once again, Brandon’s great performance reminds me how royally Bryan Singer botched Superman Returns. At least where using Brandon Routh’s talent is concerned Imagine the performance Brandon would’ve given as Superman, had Bryan Singer not forced him to mimic Christopher Reeve! Oh well, at least he’s still in the DCU doing great things. Speaking of still in the DCU, we have Caity Lotz as Sara Lance. Her Black Canary died on Season 2 of Arrow, but thanks to Ra’s Al Ghul and the League of Assassins, she is reborn. I’m glad that this show continued to delve into her anger and her struggle to control her blood lust and thirst for the kill. At the start of the season, she’s a lost soul but as the episodes roll on, she becomes part of the team, a member of the family Her character aligns and pairs up most often with Rip Hunter. Those two gravitate to each other. They’re combined losses, mysterious pasts, and duplicitous natures, added with their desire for revenge makes them instant BFF’s. Sara Lance slowly gets more comfortable in her new role as the White Canary, and becomes the most absolute BADASS warrior on this team in just about every episode of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow.
In terms of episodes, I really liked the pilot. It’s the team’s first mission, where they come together. It’s their origin story, and I can’t resist origin stories. The episode features a touching moment where Carter and Kendra meet their son from another lifetime, in 1975. Their son is an elderly historian, who assists them with knowledge of Vandal Savage. After the three realize who they are to each other, Hawkman and Hawkgirl’s son is killed by a time travelling bounty hunter. Their reunion and quick separation was one of the saddest moments in comic book television or film for me. The episode “White Knights” & “Fail Safe” sees Ray Palmer and Captain Cold, distracting a female Scientist working with the Soviet Union, to create Soviet Firestorms. With the scientist distracted, Firestorm must disable the nuclear reactor and destroy the soviets quantum splicer. This episode reminded me of a cross between The Americans and Alias, and provided some good espionage action. “Star City 2046” was a fantastic episode and was most connected to the larger CW DC TV Universe. They travel to Star City 30 years in the future, to find the city over run by the Son of Deathstroke and his Army. Oliver Queen has been missing for 15 years, and Star City’s new Green Arrow goes by the name of Connor Hawke, who is really John Diggle Jr. Unwilling to accept Oliver’s death, Sara tracks him down to the Arrow Cave. Now 61 and missing an arm, Oliver has given up hope. Sara convinces him to take up the mantle of Green Arrow, and help Connor Hawke free Star City from Deathstroke. This episode hit me just right with the nerd Easter eggs. From Oliver being 61 and missing an arm a la The Dark Knight Returns, to seeing Connor Hawke. I was literally clapping during this episode. That of course, had the people I was watching it with, thinking I’m nuts, but I don’t care.
Also, definitely check out “Night of the Hawke.” The team finds itself in 1958, and Jefferson Jackson has to deal with racism in the midst of trying to save someone’s life. Meanwhile, Sara, undercover as a nurse begins falling for an actual fellow nurse. The two ladies discuss their romantic feelings for women. Sara reveals to her that she is a time traveler, and assures her that within her lifetime, society will be more open and accepting of all types of love. This was the Arrowverse tackling real world social issues, well before adding Black Lightning to its roster. The final episode that makes my MUST WATCH list is, “The Magnificent Eight.” This episode features the team travelling to 1871 and getting into a bar fight in a saloon. Then they meet Jonah Hex, who knows they are all time travelers as he’s met Rip Hunter before. Honestly, it’s a small intro to Jonah Hex, but it’s far better than that God awful movie. Also, even if you don’t know who Jonah Hex is, you’ll love the Western angle. I love me a good Western, and as the title infers, it’s homage to The Magnificent 7!
Most of these characters won’t get a feature film, and the Justice League will likely never be a TV series, so this is the best of both worlds. It is such a fun action packed show, which at moments tackles hard hitting, real world themes. In terms of visual effects, this show is doing Iron Man and Avengers level stuff with ¾ less of a budget for CGI and it still looks good. Grab your Blu-Ray, or fire up whatever streaming service this is on, then travel back in time and watch Season 1, before I review Season 2, when DC’s Legends of Tomorrow meet the Justice Society of America.