This review is based on the first episode.
I’m not sure I can pinpoint the exact moment that Legends of Tomorrow (or DC’s Legends of Tomorrow to be technical) became one of the best shows on The CW lineup. As of the start of season 2, as our very own Robert Yaniz Jr. pointed out in his review last year, the show had not yet found its footing.
Perhaps it was when Sara Lance (Caity Lotz) became the new captain of the Waverider then, or maybe during the bantering sessions between the well-realized Legion of Doom. At some point, a new vibe started to ripple through the show’s DNA, transforming it into the pulpy celebration of DC comics that fans had wanted from the very start.
Of course, this didn’t happen at the expense of the stakes. In fact, season 2 ends after some of the most chaotic storytelling I’ve ever seen in a show that still manages to basically work, especially when it comes to the time travel. Sara’s “Guys, I think we broke time” line came off as an understatement after watching characters literally die in front of our eyes and communicate with their past selves almost un-ironically, only for all of these paradoxes to be one-upped by the “dinosaurs roaming Los Angeles in 2017” cliffhanger.
That’s the trick that Legends of Tomorrow has learned to pull off week after week; mixing the fun and drama in ways Arrow and The Flash could never match (notably the latter considering its source material). And the surprising evolution of each individual character makes this one of the better ensemble shows on network TV right now – in this writer’s opinion, at least.
So, how does a series manage to address a plot point as crazy as Jurassic LA? Quite nimbly, actually, using this wrinkle in time as a proper device to introduce the Time Bureau, headed by Rip Hunter, who makes his first of several recurring appearances this season (as of now, Arthur Darvill is not back to series regular). Since his time away from the Legends, Rip has traveled back in time to reinstitute his own version of the Time Masters, and just in time to clean his former team’s mess.
Of course, the Legends don’t have a chance to sit still for long, as a new thorough-line for the early part of the season takes form, starting with a budding rivalry forming between two very different groups of time enforcers. It’s an entertaining idea for the show moving forward, pitting the hapless misfits against the more orderly suits who are purportedly after the same thing: fixing this mess of a timeline. This also speaks to the breakdown of the Legends’ methods, which are certainly worthy of objective criticism, even if they do manage to save the world sometimes.
Part of the Berlanti formula (carrying over to showrunners Phil Klemmer and Chris Fedak) is to make room for satisfying consequences to plot lines in the prior season, and this new one carries out those consequences as expected. The tough part appears to be paving a way for an even worthier foe to face than the intact Legion of Doom, especially with Reverse Flash (a personal favorite villain of mine) out of the picture for obvious reasons.
It’s clear that Damien Darhk (reprised by Neal McDonough) is set to fill his shoes, of course, offering a salivating opportunity to further resolve Sara’s thirst for vengeance considering his whole murdering her sister tidbit in Arrow. At this point, the show has its fans and dedicated viewers, so these strung along grudges feel poignant and connected, rather than confusing and out of place. It doesn’t help, though, that Darhk continues the Dragonball Z and Supernatural trend of not letting characters simply die.
There’s also the matter of jumping away from similar episode gimmicks we saw early in season 2, when the Legends focused on resolving Aberrations one by one. This time, they have a deadline before these new Aberrations-er-Anachronisms fully break the time stream. Not exactly original, even within the show’s context, but the season has plenty of room to twist and turn through more exciting developments, including a new hacker character, time with Ray’s brother Sidney, an appearance by John Constantine, and a fully realized Gorilla Grodd.
The first episode of this new season, “Aruba-Con,” wastes no time in laying work for many of these future developments. Though Rip’s relieved the Legends from duty, the team can’t help but notice that not all problems can be solved by the new guys, as Rory spots Julius Caesar during his fitting vacation in Aruba. Sara gets the team back together and they all hatch a plan to steal back the Waverider, so this all feels more like preparation for the new status quo rather than a rushed half-step into what will assuredly be a slew of misadventures across time.
Legends has always reveled in its potential, and it’s getting much better at realizing its strengths on what must be a micromanaged budget at this point. While many fans have tossed aversions to the show’s consistent isolation from continuity with The Flash and Arrow (truly valid criticisms, by the way), we can all bet on the writers grinning with indifference as they carry out the next contrived subplot leaning on these characters as a family and all those usual modern super show tropes. Sure, we’ve seen better, but only in blockbusters like Guardians of the Galaxy. For a CW series with this much creative talent behind the wheel, it’s no wonder Legends of Tomorrow continues to even have a tomorrow.
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