While DC Entertainment plods along in its efforts to establish a connected cinematic universe – hopefully (emphasis on “hope”), next month’s Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice will put down some decent foundations – it seems to have things sewn up pretty tight on TV.
From Arrow and The Flash to Gotham and Supergirl, with Constantine the only serious fumble, DC on TV is an entertaining collection of light, dark and bubblegummy goodness. And now, exploding out of Arrow and The Flash comes Legends Of Tomorrow, also from showrunner Greg “Move Your Head” Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim et al.
Four episodes in, and it has proven to be a full-on attempt – as in, no TV expense spared – at a live-action super-team show and it has yielded some very interesting chemistry.
Composed as it is of unusual and volatile characters, most of whom have appeared on episodes of Arrow and The Flash, the team members are actually more interesting than the storylines themselves. A rundown on the group should give a better idea of their complicated relationships, so here goes.
Rip Hunter (played by Arthur Darvill): A Time Master from the future, he has travelled to the present to recruit a motley crew of heroes and villains to fight an ancient evil who will bring about the apocalypse. Of course, he isn’t 100% up front with them at first. Genre fans will remember Darvill as Rory, husband of Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) from Doctor Who. The guy just can’t get away from Time Lords, Masters or chrono-bosses of any kind.
The Atom/Ray Palmer (Brandon Routh): Inventor of a suit of powered armour that also enables him to shrink down to tiny size, but plagued by self-doubt. Think of him as Iron Man and Ant-Man rolled into one – a bit of a deviation from the comic version but hey, whatever works on TV.
Firestorm/Professor Martin Stein (Victor Garber) and Jefferson “Jax” Jackson (Franz Drameh): The “nuclear man” from The Flash is an extremely powerful merged being – Jackson’s body and Stein’s consciousness. Capable of flight, absorbing nuclear energy and firing high-powered blasts, and other cool/hot stuff – when the two bickering halves can agree on anything, that is.
White Canary/Sara Lance (Caity Lotz): Oliver Queen’s former girlfriend from Arrow, brought back from the dead by an ancient MacGuffin known as a Lazarus Pit. A highly skilled martial artist and trained assassin, left with a raging bloodlust from her Pit stop that needs to be satiated now and then.
Captain Cold/Leonard Snart (Wentworth Miller): A brilliant criminal mind with his own agenda and rather … unique sense of honour, he is a member of The Flash’s Rogues Gallery. He possesses a high-tech cryonic gun which fires blasts of cold that can incapacitate or kill.
Heat Wave/Mick Rory (Dominic Purcell): Snart’s partner in crime, aptly played by Miller’s partner in Prison Break – a pyromaniac and a very loyal buddy, who wields a handheld flamethrower. Also a surprising source of comic relief on the show.
Hawkman/Carter Hall (Falk Hentschel) and Hawkgirl/Kendra Saunders (Ciara Renee): Two lovers fated to be reincarnated throughout time and find each other again, only to be stalked and killed by Vandal Savage (Casper Crump), the ancient villain Hunter is after. Carter and Kendra were originally Prince Khufu and warrior-priestess Chay-Ara of ancient Egypt, and Savage was the high priest who murdered them. Some alien radiation from meteorite debris apparently granted him immortality (which he needs to replenish by absorbing the Hawks’ life essence after killing them) and triggered their reincarnation cycle. Both Hawkman and Hawkgirl are able to sprout wings from their backs and fly, and are skilled with a variety of old-school weapons like morningstars and maces.
You can’t ferry such a collection of individuals through time without a suitable vessel, and fortunately, Hunter has the Waverider, a time-travelling ship operated by an artificial intelligence named Gideon (possibly the same one seen on The Flash, invented by Barry Allen in the future?).
Hunter himself has a hidden agenda – his family is slaughtered by Savage in the year 2166, and he needs help to stop the villain from becoming too powerful. So, taking a leaf out of The Terminator and Cyborg 2087’s (look it up) book, he decides to take everyone back to the past to track down the reclusive Savage and sabotage his empire-building efforts – killing him too, if possible.
Legends Of Tomorrow has a surprisingly light vibe (sorry, Cisco) for a series with such supposedly high stakes and composed of seemingly random types who have massive hang-ups, flaws and conflicts.
But therein lies the brilliance of the set-up, as the writers have so far managed to have them play off one another’s strengths and weaknesses really well, bringing out the best in everyone. Well, except for one team member who gets killed off in the second part of the two-hour pilot.
What I’m getting at is that, in the spirit of the great super-team comic-books, Legends Of Tomorrow is all about people rising above their faults and petty considerations to work together and take their destiny into their own hands.
When everyone learns the hard truth about why Hunter actually picked them out of all the possible candidates (since “I’ve seen men of steel die and dark knights fall,” as he declares), it doesn’t lay them low for too long.
The time-travel aspect is also milked for Back To The Future-level fun and high jinks, including having Prof Stein meet his younger self who, in turn, is smitten with Sara on the night that he’s supposed to meet his future wife!
The older Stein admonishing her for being a distracting “sexy assassin” is just one of several laugh-out-loud moments that the show has successfully pulled off so far, which is refreshing considering how dour one of its “parents”, Arrow, has become.
Still, this full house of characters does have its share of problems. The action scenes, whenever the full (or near-full) team enters the fray, tend to be chaotic and hard to follow. And with so many different storylines to juggle, the ones who should be at the centre of the conflict with Savage, the Hawks, have come off the least developed (and most yawn-inducing) after the first four episodes.
Not surprisingly, it’s those most familiar with their roles who fare the best, with Miller and Purcell rapidly becoming the go-to guys to rescue any situation on the show from descending into tedium or to put the “punch” in “punchline”. (“Now you’re annoying in multiple languages,” Snart snarks at Palmer after a futuristic device allows the latter to speak Russian.)
With the fifth episode (not yet aired at the time of writing) looking to be a prison break of some kind, I can only hope for some comedy gold from them and the writers.
The Big Bad, Vandal Savage, has been sadly underdeveloped up to this point, being presented as just a murderous megalomaniac with a jealous streak, quite devoid of dimensionality (and don’t you smart-@$$ sass me that this is about time, not dimensions). Which is also a waste of Danish actor Crump’s capacity for being charismatic and menacing at the same time, like Savage’s introduction in the recent Arrow/The Flash crossover episodes showed.
Well, it’s early days yet and we’ve got nine more episodes this season, as well as some tantalising guest appearances including DC western antihero Jonah Hex, for Legends to truly hit its stride. All the time in the world for the stories to match up to this most appealing team.
Legends Of Tomorrow airs every Friday at 9.05pm on WarnerTV HD (HyppTV Ch 613).