Friday, May 20, 2016

DC's Legends Of Tomorrow Season 1 Finale Review: Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow
Legends of Tomorrow has been a messy affair. A show that so clearly felt motivated to lock down actors and characters because there was a very interesting story to tell, something I think the show realized after the characters were stranded in the 1950s and it made some adjustments. It eventually found some interesting concepts and allowed its characters to achieve a team-up patter instead of always chasing a very boring big bad. Really, the main reason people read team-up books in the first place are for the character dynamics more than anything. We want to see how Iron Man and Captain America and Batman and Superman get along and what aspects of their personalities clash or come through due to the contrast.
It just took Legends of Tomorrow a while to figure that out. The heavy emphasis on "We're a team!" and the connection between the Hawks and Vandal Savage in the early going kept the show from gaining any momentum (and the show's time travel structure didn't do it any favors, as I discussed a while a back). Once the show backed off from those story beats, it managed to find the fun in this band of misfit toys and do lots of silly stuff, including blow up the one thing that kept the timeline from falling into chaos, or at least prevented it from becoming an untended garden. I mean, just last week the show went, "You know, Ray and Mick should eat cupcakes. For no reason. And talk a little. That'll be fun." And it was fun. It also established Ray and Mick as new quasi-partners, a dynamic I really like.
Since the show had straddled itself with the Hawks and Vandal, and since it had forced Flash and Arrow to do a significant amount of legwork to help get all of that off the ground—one day, someone will explain why Malcolm Merlyn grabbed Vandal's ashes at the end of "Legends of Yesterday," but it is apparently not this day—it needed to spend its finale clearing away what the show seemed to realize was a bit of a clunker of a plot (and the audience, for the most part, seemed aware of way sooner). I was sort of dreading the finale up until last week, and even then, I didn't expect "Legendary" to go off as well as it did. It was certainly buoyed by the aforementioned dynamics that had snapped into focus over the last two weeks, but the finale managed to find something entertaining to do when it came to killing Vandal Savage once and for all. That they did it in a way that incorporated time travel and allowed me to watch Vandal die three times was pretty much icing.
So Vandal's whole thing of basically resetting the timeline with the meteorites so he could just rule the world from the get-go instead of manipulating events (and being manipulated himself) was a fine enough escalation and made sure that there was more for the episode to do than just Carter and Kendra (remember, barely anyone was concerned about Kendra until the last three minutes of last week's episode). It prevented one last big team battle, but the smaller squad stuff was still good, particularly Sara's fight with Vandal in 1975. Generally, the whole thing was based in the kind of time travel shenanigans the show should've embraced the whole time but only became comfortable with over the two previous episodes.
If I could offer a half-hearted critique of the finale, and I should, it's that given the Hawks reduced presence as, well, Hawks, their roles in assuming control of their destinies was pretty well minimized in "Legendary." Kendra managed to get the note off that told the team where to look, which was neat, and then she and Carter barely mattered. She got to stab Vandal, but Rip was the one who got to deliver the killing blow. It was just another sign of how the show strongly shifted focus away from the Hawks. Vandal's deaths (not a typo) provided them their freedom, at least, so it felt only natural that they wouldn't want to continue with this time traveling stuff and flew off to actually, finally, live a life of their own.
Their minimized presence also reiterated that this was never really their story anyway, even if the show thought it was for the longest time. It was always about Rip's pain and Rip's revenge. That's pretty par for the course for The CW's DC shows (prior to Supergirl's arrival, of course): A man's pain above all other things. Even Rip's story of revenge wasn't much more interesting than the struggle of two reincarnated lovers and a jealous immortal priest, but it also wasn't as frightfully boring, either, so I'll call it a draw in the end. Neither story was a great engine for the show's Vandal Savage plot, but it's also over now, and I don't think the effects of it will linger into Season 2.
And the show can start to grow, hopefully. Small things, like Firestorm being able to do some matter transmutation—the cool part of Firestorm, honestly—finally came into play, and that's a good sign. Other moments, like Sara's time with Quentin (which pretty much made me sniffle a lot because Caity Lotz and Paul Blackthorne were so in that moment it hurt) and Mick's meeting with 2013-Snart (which also made sniffles happen but also a small clap of appreciation: Mick set Snart on the idea of being a hero), demonstrated that Legends really did figure out that solid character work can help shore up episodes. Also, I love the idea of Ray as a wheelman.
Generally, though, Legends of Tomorrow just seemed more confident over the past few weeks, and that's a confidence that should serve it well as it starts Season 2 in the fall. Obviously the arrival of Rex Tyler, a.k.a. Hourman (Patrick J. Adams), and the presence of the Justice Society of America will stir up some real fan excitement. I don't know anything about Hourman, but I'm very interested by the fact that Mick sent Rex to save the team in 2016, and I feel like this already creates a different sort of narrative for the show to explore: the team trying to save themselves from the future. I can get on board with that.
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