A superhero mash-up is how its creators are describing it. “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow” has been building throughout the last seasons of both “Arrow” and “The Flash,” and is finally here. Time Master Rip Hunter brings together heroes and villains from the far corners of the DC TV Universe – Hawkman and Hawkgirl, Firestorm, White Canary, Captain Cold and Heat Wave, and the Atom – to fight the forces of the evil immortal Vandal Savage throughout time. Meet me after the jump for my thoughts on the two-part pilot for the much-anticipated “Legends of Tomorrow.”
We open on London 2166 where the city is under its Second Blitz, as Vandal Savage has finally conquered the world, and in true James Robinson/Starman/Mist style murders a child just to show how tough he is. Or perhaps he doesn’t, it is off-screen. Maybe that child grows up to be Rip Hunter, who we see in the next scene addressing the Time Masters Council regarding the very threat of Vandal Savage.
Hunter compares Savage to Caesar, Hitler, and Per Degaton. If that last name doesn’t ring a bell, Degaton is the time traveling fascist and archenemy of the Justice Society. His power was such he also ran afoul of the Justice League and the All-Star Squadron and threatened other dimensions as well as multiple timelines.
Seemingly granted permission to stop Savage, and save the world, Hunter begins recruiting. He gathers the Atom from Star City, the two halves of Firestorm from Pittsburgh, Hawkman and Hawkgirl from St. Roch, Captain Cold and Heat Wave from Central City, and the first Black Canary from apparently that bar in Raiders of the Lost Ark.
In the comics, Rip Hunter, Time Master was a very cool Silver Age science fiction title for the first half of the 1960s. He had a best friend, a lady friend and her brother, a kid sidekick (similar to the Fantastic Four or the Challengers of the Unknown of that time) and they travelled time in his time capsule. It was fun scifi and usually pretty historically accurate (except for the time travel of course). Rereading some of the comics recently, it actually reminded me of early “Doctor Who.”
Later Rip picked up a costume and post-Crisis became more of a plot device and poster child for time travel. He was still a crusading scientist, but he was more of a gatekeeper, working with higher authorities to maintain the time stream. His adventures were more about keeping time travelers from changing the past than joyriding himself. Less fun. It’s in this incarnation that Hunter began to run afoul of the immortal villain Vandal Savage.
Arthur Darvill, who ironically played erstwhile companion Rory Williams during the Matt Smith era of “Doctor Who,” plays Rip Hunter in “Legends of Tomorrow.” He’s armed with Gideon, the artificial intelligence supposedly created by Barry Allen in the future and used by the Reverse-Flash in the past, and a time traveling spaceship called the Waverider. The ship’s name is a reference to another DC Comics time traveler, Waverider.
The ‘legends’ are given three days to decide to join in, or more accurately ten to fifteen minutes to give the viewers a quick run-through and review of all the characters, their powers, motives, etc. There’s also time throughout for a guest appearance or two, even name drops, from other heroes of the Arrowverse not along for the ride. With a name change for White Canary and a roofie for the brawny half of Firestorm, the new crew of the Waverider are off to St. Roch in 1975.
Future Shock in Reverse
To the setting-setting tune of “Shining Star” by Earth, Wind & Fire, half of the team goes to St. Roch University to visit a Professor Boardman, the world’s foremost expert on Vandal Savage. There’s a reason he’s such an expert. His parents taught him, and in a paradoxical bit of reverse future shock, it turns out his parents were Hawkman and Hawkgirl in previous lives.
The other half of the team, the darker side of you will, decide to go out for dollar beers and bar fights. Yep, Sara and the temperature twins make fast friends and quite a team as well, like fish to water. These three will easily be the best part of this series I think. I mean, how can you beat metahuman brawling set to the Captain & Tennille’s “Love Will Keep Us Together“?
Tracking them from 2016 is, to borrow a reference from Captain Cold, a Boba Fett-like armored mercenary who catches up to them in 1975 and attacks the Waverider. Conveniently both teams arrive together, and when Firestorm and the Atom combine with the Hawks to allow the Waverider to escape Chronos.
In the comics, Chronos is the Atom’s arch-foe, originally a garishly costumed criminal obsessed with time and clock gimmicks. The longer the character stayed around, the more he was updated from simple masked thug with a catastrophic irrational attraction to clocks, to a full-blown time traveller/manipulator. Still with the silly costume, but oh so dangerous, Chronos will be back I think.
Our gray, armored and half-caped version of Chronos with the big gun turns out to be working for the Time Masters Council to bring Rip in. Again, much like The Doctor and his TARDIS, he stole the Waverider, and has been lying to these ‘legends.’ They’re not legends, they’re nobodies who would have minimal effect if removed from 2016.
As it turns out, Rip is a renegade from the Time Masters, and he has a personal stake in all this. The child murdered in the first few minutes of part one of the pilot is his son. In light of this revelation, the team has moments of introspection, a predictably they stay with Rip Hunter to stop Vandal Savage. That predictability may be this show’s only weakness, but I’m willing to give it more of a chance. If I’m honest, I’m hooked, are you? Let’s see how the second half fared…
Still in 1975, the Legends of Tomorrow, whose name has yet to be proven, on the run from the Time Masters and hunting Vandal Savage, have tracked the immortal villain to Norway for what appears to be a terrorist convention. Here are my thoughts on “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow: Pilot, Part 2.”
The main problem with a cast of at least nine people is the necessity to be constantly splitting into smaller teams. In this case, Prof. Stein joins the terrible trio (Captain Cold, Heat Wave, and White Canary) as terrorists. Victor Garber gets to spread his wings a bit by acting crazy. Like Heat Wave, I dug it.
Attending the terrorist convention, besides our group and Vandal Savage, is Damien Darhk, currently the major thorn in Green Arrow’s side on “Arrow.” Notably he is former League of Assassins, a head of H.I.V.E., and an enemy of R’as Al Ghul. After they win the bid on a nuke, our guys immediately get his attention.
The Perils of Time Travel
In the ensuing battle, in which we gat to see the Atom kick some ass, Hawkman and Hawkgirl confront Savage, and Firestorm absorb a nuclear explosion, while the terrible trio dish out their own brand of demolition, some of Palmer’s tech gets left behind. Gideon, the Waverider’s AI predicts that Savage’s use of the Atom’s technology from 2016 in 1975 results in the destruction of Central City in our present.
The game of divide-and-conquer continues as some go to Ivy Town University, and some to a Russian museum. And all through these subplots and mini-missions there is the overhanging threat of changing the timeline for ill. I’ll say it, I like this show a lot, and the characters even more, but this is all just too much. Perhaps just concentrate on a few characters or just one mission at a time…
The saving grace of this show, only two episodes in, is its humor and the various interactions between the characters. As always, Victor Garber as Professor Stein and Wentworth Miller III as Captain Cold are the highlights and real stars here. As with the “Guardians of the Galaxy” animated series, the period music is another high point, but unfortunately it won’t always be 1975.
The death of Hawkman was as predictable as the salvation of Stein’s marriage, but was needed in the end to give the team, especially Hawkgirl, motivation. I’ll keep watching, for the reasons outlined above, and just hope that it gets better, and sleeker. Either way, it’s great to see these heroes on the small screen. For that, I remain in awe.