Their improvement was always required, given how integral the two are to the show’s entire set-up. But Legends of Tomorrow isn’t just about the reincarnated Egyptian princess and her forbidden lover, and the writers treat the show like the ensemble it needs to be, constantly trading out characters to be paired on new missions in fun and surprising ways. (How would Sara interact with Professor Stein while wearing go-go boots in 1975? You’ll find out!) That’s probably the endgame argument for defending The CW’s newest expansion of its televised DC comics universe: it’s just fun. The stakes are high, but the tone balances a feather-light playfulness with serious consequences (think Doctor Who by way of… no, scratch that, just think Doctor Who), and it feels open-ended in a way that’s exciting but not overwhelming.
Legends‘ biggest grievance so far is the simple problem with most series that hit the ground running: it can be too much, all at once, even for vets of this world. The first episode’s scene-jumping set-up is so frenetic, giving each of its characters moments to discuss Hunter’s world-saving proposition, that it’s far too easy to write the show off as a cheesy, brainless extension of Arrow and The Flash before the time traveling even begins. The dialogue is delivered in leaden info dumps that belie the giddy wonder of the world they refer to (“My name is Rip Hunter,” Rip Hunter states to the confused group at their meet-cute. “I’m from East London. Oh, and the future“), giving Legends of Tomorrow an unfortunately bad first impression.
But, two episodes in, and the show is already proving that it knows when to slow down and expound on plot rather than brush over it on the trip to the next action sequence. There’s some fun twists to be had here that I didn’t see coming, ones that not only answer obvious questions about the very foundation of the show (i.e., why the hell does Hunter recruit Heat Wave if Firestorm is on the team?), but also provide some interesting glimpses into its somewhat ridiculous mythology. The best of which gives each member of the group an affecting and near-poignant reason to stick around and see Hunter’s plan through to the end. It’s not groundbreaking as far as motivations go, but it lends the group a hardscrabble, B-team vibe that instantly makes them easier to root for.
That’s not to say the action sequences aren’t worth noting, because they may be some of the coolest yet from the network. I love Arrow and The Flash, but it can get tiring knowing there are only so many ways the bad guys can be outwitted each episode (“What do I do?” Barry will ask his crack team at Star Labs on pretty much any episode of The Flash. Uh, run probably?) Legends of Tomorrow‘s central conceit sort of one-ups both of those shows in this department from the get-go, alleviating the set-pieces from predictable outcomes and into pyrotechnic light shows of ice rays, particle beams, fisticuffs, and fireballs. If you like watching superheroes work in tandem in surprising and I didn’t know they could do that! ways, Legends of Tomorrow will be right up your alley.
It was late in episode two of the show, where I found myself actually enjoying a side adventure between Leonard, Mick, and Ray – three characters I repeatedly disliked on a weekly basis before this show – when Legends of Tomorrow truly clicked for me. I remain a devout defender of the increasing onslaught of the superhero genre, but even I have fallen off the wagon on some shows; it’s just too much, all-at-once, to keep up with everything offered by so many different, talented people. That’s why I feared Legends of Tomorrow: for the potential cheese factor, the inherent necessity for accepting silliness amid dour outcomes, and the required company of eight people I don’t really care about for an hour each week. I’m not calling The CW’s new show transcendent, but it tackles all of the potential arguments against its own existence with such endearing abandon, that there’s a certain point where relinquishing yourself to the insanity is surprisingly easy.
Fast-paced and frenetic - occasionally to a fault - Legends of Tomorrow's first claim to fame isn't the impressive visuals or logically sound time travel set-up, but an endearing swath of emotion amidst the bombast that damn near approaches poignancy.