- by Jeff Beck
DC's Legends of Tomorrow: Season One: Uninteresting Characters Spoil a Potentially Great Show
Last year, I mentioned how the last few years had seen an enormous increase in comic book shows appearing on television, including “Arrow,” “Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD,” and the best of the lot thus far, “The Flash.” Well, this trend has yet to subside, with these shows continuing to prosper and others appearing as well, including “Supergirl” and “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow,” which is a crossover between several characters from “The Flash” and “Arrow.” In theory, such a crossover could be extremely fascinating. Both shows have interesting characters, and both exist in the same universe (as we’ve seen through several crossover episodes in the past), but in order to achieve its potential, it would have to take some of the best elements of each, a proposition that is apparently harder than it seems.
Starting in 2166, we witness a young woman and boy being murdered by an immortal madman named Vandal Savage (Casper Crump). We soon learn that this was the family of Captain Rip Hunter (Arthur Darvill), a Time Master who travels back in time to 2016 in order to recruit a team to not only stop Savage from murdering his wife and child, but also to stop him from taking over the world. The team he recruits is a curious bunch that includes Dr. Martin Stein (Victor Garber) and Jefferson Jackson (Franz Dremah), the two halves of “Firestorm,” Leonard Snart (Wentworth Miller) and Mick Rory (Dominic Purcell), a pair of criminals, Kendra Sanders (Ciara Renee) and Carter Hall (Falk Hentschel), a pair of reincarnated lovers with special powers, Sara Lance (Caity Lotz), an assassin, and Ray Palmer (Brandon Routh), a tech expert.
Understandably, they’re all very skeptical about the mission at first, but they all eventually agree to join Rip on his quest (well, one has to be forced along…). Their adventure will take them to several different time periods and is fraught with immeasurable danger, but with the fate of the world hanging in the balance, the team is willing to do whatever it takes to bring Savage down.
“Legends of Tomorrow” did indeed seem like an interesting idea from the very start. After all, “The Flash” has been an excellent show for the most part, and “Arrow,” although it’s not one I watch personally, continues to be very popular as it heads into its fifth season. However, as mentioned earlier, in order for a crossover show to work as its own concept, it would have to take some of the shows’ very best elements, and this is exactly where “Legends of Tomorrow” gets it wrong from the very start.
The show basically takes C-rate side characters, throws them together on one team, and hopes that the audience is going to care enough about them to come along for the journey. The problem is that these are the characters that no one really cared about even when they were on their original shows. For instance, the two criminals (Snart and Rory), were somewhat annoying characters on “The Flash,” but they were only present in small doses, so it didn’t really leave much of a negative effect. Having to put up with them for every single episode of a show where they are two of the main characters is something else altogether.
Or take the two characters with special powers (Kendra and Carter). Their side story in the second season of “The Flash” was its lowest point, making many people rather happy when it finally came to an end. However, just like with Snart and Rory, we’re saddled with them for several episodes this time around, leaving just another pair of characters that we don’t really have any investment in. There’s also the team of Dr. Stein and Jefferson, who are not quite as bad, though they too don’t do much to add to the show’s over-crowded cast of characters.
As far as the premise goes, there’s not much to complain about. Gathering a group of motley individuals to travel through time and save the world sounds like it would be a lot of fun, but even if you put aside the characters of the team itself, there are still plenty of issues to be taken with the flat, one-note villain Vandal Savage. This is the kind of villain that doesn’t have any special power or abilities. He’s simply immortal and can only be killed in a very specific way, which doesn’t leave him with much to do throughout these 16 episodes except parade around while trying to sound evil during his speeches. It’s one thing when you don’t have any interesting in the heroes, it’s quite another when you don’t have any interest in the heroes OR the villain.
That’s not to say that the show is all bad. Our heroes do get to travel to some interesting time periods, including the Old West, the 50s, and the 70s, all of which help a little to pull the show out of its void of unengaging characters, but these are just slight and temporary fixes that don’t do nearly enough to attack the show’s main problems. What was more than likely needed was for the creators to come up with an entirely new set of characters to go on this quest, especially given that we already know these characters and are quite aware that they’re not doing a very good job of carrying a show on their own (hence why they were merely side characters in the first place). Captain Rip Hunter, though not an original character, was a fine addition and remains the most intriguing character throughout, but as for the rest of the cast, there needed to be a major overhaul to populate the show with more engaging personalities (including a villain that actually comes across as more than a stand-in).
“Legends of Tomorrow” certainly did have a lot of potential, but with so many problems in its foundation, it comes as no surprise that the show isn’t able to maintain interest even for its short 16-episode premiere season. The show is apparently coming back for a second season, which is said to be much different than the first, so perhaps the folks in charge have realized what needs to be done in order to get this show where it needs to be, because if they haven’t, then it’s merely doomed to suffer from its major issues once again. 2.5/4 stars.
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