DC’s Legends of Tomorrow: Pilot Review

The third pillar of CW’s DC Universe has arrived, and it shares many of the same pitfalls and strengths as a new issue you’d find at your local comic book store.

Rip HunterDC’s Legends of Tomorrow (terrible title…it’s so abstract they had to put “DC” in the beginning to remind you this is a comic book show) opens with Rip Hunter putting the band together. Only time will tell (unintentional pun) if Rip is the main character in this ensemble cast but he will be the narrative engine the pushes the plot forward offering exposition by the truckload.

Rip is one of many Time Masters (think Star Wars’ Galactic Council) but he isn’t like the rest of his friends who are content with letting Vandal Savage’s reign of tyranny continue in the future… so he does his best Doctor Who impression and begins to muck around with the timeline because he knows better than everyone else. Another whovian trait Rip possesses is explaining why something occurred after the fact…never letting the audience feel like they understand the rules of this universe.

And yes Vandal Savage was ‘killed’ in a previous episode of The Flash but there isn’t enough time to explain how he is alive in this continuity so Rip says a bunch of nonsense that boils down to space magic keeps him alive.

Instead of one companion, Rip picks up eight various heroes and villains we have seen in previous episodes of The Falsh and Arrow. Each of their convoluted story arcs is boiled down into a 30 second synopsis that must be extremely difficult for new viewers to follow. (So The Atom was dead…but not really and is torn up about his legacy, however, White Canary was dead as in actually dead and came back to life. Oh and what the hell is Firestorm’s power set!?).

Legends of Tomorrow PilotLegends of Tomorrow is aimed squarely at fans who enjoyed the other properties and want more of this universe. I would say it’s more for fans of The Flash, which focuses on more of the fantastical and comic book-y elements of storytelling as opposed to the dark and grittier Arrow.

The first episode has the herculean feat of trying to setup 9 independent characters, the weight of the mission and the tone for the series – unfortunately it probably fails at all of these. Rip’s story isn’t endearing and manages to highlight his selfishness. The motivations behind everyone to join this journey are paper-thin at best and there is no real threat established the audience should care about. What difference does it make what Savage is doing in 1970 if he was already defeated in our heroes timeline? Why assemble 8 heroes if they can’t take care of 1 villain on their fist mission?

So despite all these negatives I am going to watch episode two and recommend that you give it a shot as well based purely on the strength of these characters and creative team from The Flash and Arrow. The pilot was rushed and some characters did act…well out of character, especially Sara (the better Black Canary) and Martin Stein. But six of the nine characters are entertaining in their previous adventure and could easily be the focal point for a few episodes this season (for those wondering…this is our first time seeing Rip and the Hawks are off to rough start).

Captain Cold and Heatwave were entertaining whenever on screen and made me laugh a couple times. The Atom is a fitting point man for the team able to bounce around between nerdy, charismatic and heroic as the scene requires. Ronnie plays his role as the young reluctant hero spot on, the only character that realizes how truly ridiculous their adventure is. Martin Stein is an uber-nerd in an old man’s body, able to endear himself to Rip, Heatwave and The Atom.

Legends of Tomorrow Captain Cold HeatwaveIn fact the scene with Stein and Palmer showcases the hidden lairs, motivations and potential of the series. Palmer’s greatest fear is his life meant nothing and in one line Stein inadvertently reinforces this belief by tactlessly stating he doesn’t remember Palmer being in his class. The unspoken look of disappointment on Palmer is perfect and shows sometimes less is more.

If Legends of Tomorrow can continue to deliver multiple scenes like this each week instead of throwing random terms and wacky plotlines it will be successful. Hopefully they will learn from their past and continue to build interesting characters instead of relying on dynamic environments to drive the story.

I believe the next episode will slow down and focus on a couple characters instead of trying to balance screen time between the entire cast. Legends of Tomorrow can be more than a bargain-basement-TV version of the Justice League, with the setup out of the way – hopefully they will prove it next week.

Level Up, Friends!