Welcome, ladies and gentleman, to the complete and utter mess that was the first eighty plus minutes of Legends of Tomorrow. And welcome to minute eighty-one, and the thirty-nine that came after.
The messiness was not supposed to happen to the Legends of Tomorrow pilot, by the way. Arrow and The Flash both sacrificed screentime early in their seasons to make sure it wouldn’t. What a waste that turned out to be. If the pilot had been your only taste of these people, you might have said that the characters we saw in those shows weren’t even the same people who turned up in Legends of Tomorrow. After all, we liked those characters then. We were invested. In the pilot, not so much anymore.
At least, not until this episode.
Mistake number one that was summarily corrected in this week’s episode: the characterization of Sara Lance.
I’ve always liked Sara, from the first time she appeared on Arrow. She wasn’t always a likable character then, but Caity Lotz always played her with a vulnerability that made her impossible to hate. She was a lousy sister, an even worse girlfriend, and a woman who fought bad guys to escape what was rotten inside of her. But she was an amazingly complex character, and I both mourned her loss and celebrated her return. I mean, that is until they gave me Legends of Tomorrow pilot-Sara.
Pilot Sara was like a robot — a good-looking robot who could kick butt, yes, but still a robot. Even when we finally saw a glimpse of emotion in her, with her “hope” speech at the end of the first episode, the emotion that shone through was completely positive. Which, fine, Sara is a complex character. Maybe she did take Laurel’s words to heart and tried to look into the light. But renaming her the White Canary wasn’t about erasing Sara’s demons, or turning her into just a mannequin who can fight. Renaming her the White Canary was about giving hope to a woman who desperate needed something to believe in.
“Blood Ties” brought that Sara back to us. The Sara who’s not only a fierce, but a smart woman. The Sara who isn’t afraid to kill, and the Sara who’s still struggling with the after-effects of the Pit. The complex heroine we thought we were getting from the first place. The one who we can root for.
“IT’S NOT THE SUIT. IT’S YOU”
I loved Martin Stein in The Flash. Part of it is the fact that I love Victor Garber in anything, of course, but another part is just that he was cool. Effortlessly cool, even. That’s just who he was.
Ray Palmer, however, I never cared for. It wasn’t even that he was Felicity Smoak’s love interest in Arrow. It was that he was, well... Ray. And by that I mean too enthusiastic, too “I cyber-stalked you and bought out to company you used to work for so you’d be forced to work for me” eager. He was just too much. At the time, I theorized that maybe it wasn’t the character that bothered me and that perhaps it was the setting. Ray Palmer didn’t belong in Arrow. Or, at least, he didn’t belong in Arrow as an obstacle between Oliver and Felicity.
Well, Mr. Palmer, I believe you have found your place at last.
The first two episodes were not kind on Martin Stein. They were, however, kind on Ray. And, yet, in an episode where you might say that Martin Stein was used to prop up Ray Palmer, it was Stein who came up smelling like roses. Not because he was the smartest, but because — despite the fact that this version of the professor left his wife in the future and kidnapped Jax — he, apparently, still maintains that keen understanding of human nature that made him a fan favorite when he first appeared. You know, that which allowed him to bond with Ronnie first, Team Flash second, and Jax third.
And in “Blood Ties,” he used it on Ray Palmer.
For all who already knew the story about Ray’s fiancée, the conversation with Stein was the first time Ray allowed himself to entertain the idea that he could not just move on from his grief, or hide, but use it as motivation to be not only a better scientist, but a better man. In a way, only Stein could show Ray this path, because Stein has walked it before.
Love can be a transformative force. It can change you. It already changed both of these men — it just so happens that Ray still has yet to pick up the pieces and start again.
“Time wants to happen,” Rip said. We didn’t really understand what that meant then, but we do now.
Leonard Snart is not a bad man. Not really. He’s the most interesting kind of villain — the one that became who he is because that’s what life required of him. He had to fight back. He had to put up walls. I’m not saying he made the right choices, but sometimes you have to look at people and say: “You know what? He did the best he could with what he had.”
I was ready to continue saying that about Leonard Snart — but maybe, maybe I don’t need to. Maybe he can change. He’s already shown more self-awareness than any other character in this show, after all. He actively tried to change his life, not by hurting the father who’d so wronged him, but by making things easy for him. And yet, as stated above, time wants to happen. Some people can’t change. They just don’t have it in them. Papa Snart is one of those, but I get the feeling Captain Cold isn’t. And I’m more than ready for this ride.
WORST. VILLAIN. EVER.
But, of course, all is not perfect in Legends-land. It couldn’t be. This episode did much to restore my faith in the universe (pun not intended), but the fact remains that this show’s whole premise is based on, arguably, their three weakest characters: Carter, Kendra, and Vandal Savage.
Remove Carter from the equation, I thought, and things were bound to get better. And, in a way, that was true. Things couldn’t exactly get worse, after all. But even in an otherwise engaging episode that hardly featured Kendra, Savage still stood out as the worst thing in this entire show. And, quite, possibly, the Arrow-Flash-Legends of Tomorrow universe.
He’s just not an effective villain. He’s a child throwing a tantrum with enormous lasting power. “Mom, that girl doesn’t love me. Mom, that’s not fair! Why doesn’t she love me? I’m awesome! Mom, make her love me! Make her! Or I’ll kill her.”
Lather, rinse, repeat. Four thousand years later, and we’re still here, but we don’t have a good reason to be. Why was Savage in love with Kendra in the first place? How did she feel about him? Did he ever try to do something other than kill her? And how does “I love this girl and she doesn’t love me” thing translate into a tyrant destined to enslave the world? What happened here? How did we get from 0 to 60?
I’m not asking because I care, necessarily. I honestly could not care less at this point about Savage. I’m asking because these questions need to be answered for the show to be effective. Too much is riding on us hating Savage — on us fearing him. We can’t do either of those things effectively if all we get of him is sneers and creepy mood lighting.
For now, we’re watching despite Savage, not because of him. At some point, though, if the show is going to be effective, Vandal Savage is going to have to elicit some emotion in us.
- I really think the show would have benefited from airing both parts of the pilot the same day. The smarter decision would have been to push the premiere of The 100 one week.
- Maybe if we get Rip like, a whiteboard, he can write: “Time-Traveling Rules for Dummies” on it and not be left shaking his head every time one of these people does something they’re not supposed to.
- But, God forbid Rip actually take the time to EXPLAIN anything.
- Don’t even try to tell me you didn’t squeal when Rip said: “I’ve seen men of steel die and dark knights fall.” I won’t believe you.
- Stupid question, I know, but did Rip bother to do background checks on any of the people he brought into this crazy adventure? Wait, silly me. OF COURSE HE DIDN’T.
- If the whole thing with the mood lighting and the chanting was supposed to make Savage scarier, you failed miserably, Legends.
- Despite the fact that Snart and Rory pretend to be tough guys, deep down, they’re really decent people. You know how I know? Because everyone stood there and pretended they CARED about Carter.
- Jax and Kendra are the only members of the team I’m not connecting with right now. Well, and HeatWave, but at least he makes me laugh.