The CW’s DC’s Legends of Tomorrow premiered on Thursday night, January 21, 2016 and it seems that these characters are far from their given moniker in the show’s title. Their fates seem to fit more with another “L” word: losers. And I say this with the utmost respect, praise, and endearment. Why? Because this is exactly how you should start a television show. The whole goal of Legends of Tomorrow is to see if these characters can change the fate of the world and, in the end, their meaning to the world as individuals and as a collective whole.
When Legends of Tomorrow was still in concept form, I had this thought to myself, “We have some rather powerful characters, how will they ever inject any sort of credible conflict into the storylines.” It didn’t really matter to me since it was DC and I love comic books. But as a television series which is meant to hook the average viewer, this would be very troublesome. Hence, in comes the concept of the underdog — a character, or characters, so beaten down in society and so pathetic that he/she/they have the instant sympathy of the audience.
Rip Hunter has traveled through time and recruited these misfits and outliers to stop Vandal Savage. In his Steve Job-esque sales pitch to them, he calls them “Legends.” This term serves to both stroke their egos and to fulfill their need to have a place in the world. During the episode’s second-act downer, the team finds out that they have zero meaning to the world — and that’s exactly why they were recruited. With minimal impact to the timeline, they’re a low-risk bet in fixing Rip’s problem.
This was a surprise twist to the audience and, in a way, a play on words on the title of the series. They may not be legends or anything close to it, but they may be legends in a future timeline of their own making. This is also a time-travel show, so the consequences of their actions may be evident immediately — as soon as tomorrow. Therein lies the genius of the show.
I understand that some people might have had a problem with some plot holes: Rip Hunter could’ve traveled back to the point where Vandal Savage was turned into dust and had Hawkman and Hawkgirl deliver the deathblow. But they would’ve been in the presence of The Flash and Arrow. Maybe that would’ve caused some sort of unintended time ripple.
Whatever the plot holes were, they were only noticeable after some people pointed them out. Look at any movie close enough and you’ll find glaring plot holes: Speed (1994) could’ve had the film wrapped up in 15 minutes if Jack Traven, played by Keanu Reeves, shot the bus’s tires out before it reached 50 MPH; District 9 (2009) would’ve never happened because the weapons were coded to the aliens’ DNA, and that would mean the aliens could’ve just rebelled with their own weapons. The list can go on and on. The key thing is that the writers did a good enough job in pushing the story forward that we were engaged deep enough not to see these plot holes.
Let’s face it, movies are fake and superheroes aren’t real to begin with. So if you want something that makes sense, don’t look at these properties as shining examples of logic. Writers’ jobs are to carry out a narrative and do it in a good enough way that they fit within the rules of the universe they’ve built. Who knows? Maybe they’ll have an explanation in later episodes as to why Rip didn’t go back to that specific point in time and kill Vandal Savage.
With an ending that surprised audiences and shifted the focus of the story to be about a band of underdogs, Legends of Tomorrow has put its own spin on the superhero team genre. In a way, this is Guardians of the Galaxy for DC. And we all know how well Guardians of the Galaxy did at the box-office. People want to see imperfection because it’s a reflection of their own inadequacies. Therefore, when a superhero overcomes his or her problems, the viewers feel like they became triumphant with them.
As a pilot, the first episode of Legends of Tomorrow struck the perfect balance between exposition and character development. It also set clear A and B goals for the team: stop Vandal Savage; and make their mark on the world. If the writers stick with this type of conflict and character dynamic, Legends of Tomorrow will surely make its own mark on television.
Don’t forget to watch the Legends of Tomorrow After Show hosted by the very funny and talented cast of Jon Lee Brody and Jack Hind. Also, visit my article at Bam Smack Pow for a written recap of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow‘s pilot episode, “Pilot: Part 1.”
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Steve Lam (Slam of Steel)
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