Let’s Talk Flash -&- Arrowverse Classic: Legends Are Born

Arrowverse Review Index

Once again, we’re discussing the latest episode of The Flash, as well as reviewing some classic Arrowverse episodes – this week, that means the two-part series premiere of Legends of Tomorrow!

Okay, first off: The Flash – Season 9, Episode 2: “Hear No Evil”

Gah! This episode did Caitlin dirty.

That’s not anything new. The Flash has been underserving the good Doctor Snow for a long time now. But this … To tell us after the fact that last season’s cliffhanger was Caitlin dying, seemingly never to return. To have Team Flash barely mourn Caitlin at all. To try shilling us on new character Khione to make us accept that it’s best Caitlin stay dead … Just, gah!

When you factor in the episode being so deliberately dark and gloomy, and Barry being a total douchebag hypocrite (Caitlin dies, of course we’re gonna use this mad science to bring them back. Frost dies? Hell no, we can’t bring them back! Let me nuke all your work.) … this was a slog of an hour.

My one positive comment is that it looks like they’re trying to at last create a proper Rogues teamup. This is, like, their fourth time trying that, but maybe it’ll take this time, be loads of fun, and …

Oh, God. I just realized: Chill Lame’s going to be the new Captain Cold, aren’t they?


Legends of Tomorrow – Season 1, Episodes 1 & 2: “Pilot” review

Ask most fans, and they’ll tell you Legends of Tomorrow changed completely after its first season. That Season 1 was an unintentionally ridiculous melodrama about fate and redemption and some other self-serious stuff, while the seasons that followed were intentionally ridiculous comedies about lovable goofballs screwing up time … and also dealing with fate and redemption and the like, but with a more irreverent tone.

That’s not wholly inaccurate; there’s certainly a different approach and sensibility at work in Season 1 than in subsequent seasons. Yet, watching this two-part pilot, you can also see that the foundations of those later seasons were in place from the beginning.

We have the Legends getting stoned with Stein’s younger self, which leads to Sara assaulting Young Stein with a jumbo-sized bong and swiping their stash. Which, of course, messes up history, so they have to fix their own mistake.

We have them infiltrate the auction of an atomic weapon, where people bid by firing their guns in the air, and accidentally place the winning bid themselves. That leads to the bomb being set to blow in two minutes, and Ray having to defuse it … which somehow resets the timer for thirty seconds, and makes Ray bonk their head on the ceiling for good measure. That also messes up history, so they have to fix their own mistake.

We have them getting into barfights, being nabbed by security systems, roofying each other all over the place, and generally making a mess of everything, so they keep having their own mistakes to fix.

Legends of Tomorrow was always about a gang of misfits screwing up time, having wacky adventures, and building friendships along the way. That wasn’t something Season 2 invented. What happened was a change in focus.

In Legends Season 1, there are three main storylines. One concerns Kendra & Carter, our reincarnating Hawkcouple, who are on a mission to defy destiny, to keep from dying once again at Savage’s hands, even as that same destiny brings them together. Another concerns Rip Hunter, renegade Time Master, who has sworn to kill Savage, partly in revenge for Savage killing Rip’s family, and partly to ensure their family’s death never happens at all. And the last storyline concerns … everyone else, who have no personal stake in fighting Vandal Savage, who only joined up because adventuring through time sounds awesome, but who find a new purpose as they come together as a team.

It’s that last storyline that fits the Legends we know from later seasons. But here in Season 1, it’s also the most superfluous of the three. It concerns characters who don’t have any connection to the main stop-the-bad-guy mission, who are just there to fill out the team, and who were chosen specifically because they’re not very important. That describes both why Rip recruited the Legends, and why the writers put these people on the show: the series was being sold as a Flash and Arrow spinoff, so they filled it up with characters from those shows, but only secondary characters whose absence from their home series wouldn’t be missed.

By contrast, Rip, Kendra, and Carter were introduced specifically for Legends of Tomorrow. Rather than being a slapdash assembly of whatever characters were available, they were custom built to fit into the story Legends was trying to tell. Their motivations and backstories are tied intimately into the main plot of the season. They get to be capital-I Important rather than Destiny’s Rejects. It’s their storylines that drive the show forward and set the tone for the series.

And they’re the ones most viewers found dull, annoying, or all of the above.

In setting up its most important characters and storylines, the show whiffed hard. If this had simply been the Hawkman & Hawkgirl show, or The Adventures of Rip Hunter, Time Master … well, it’d probably still have gotten a second season, ‘cause the CW’s gotta CW, but I don’t think it would have developed the fanbase it has today.

It was the oddballs in the bunch, the characters who didn’t fit the story, who didn’t need to be there, who kept sending the plot off the rails – they were the ones audiences responded to. They’re restrained here in the pilot episodes, always needing to be corralled back onto the course laid out for them. But as they buck against it, break off into their own wild mini-adventures, you can feel the irrepressible sense of fun that would come to define the later seasons.

“Pilot, Parts 1 and 2” may be different from what Legends of Tomorrow would become, but the seeds of its future self were already planted; they just needed time to grow, and for the writers to realize what they’d stumbled onto.

Stray Observations:

  • It’s always a shock to see Early Ray Palmer. I’d forgotten how, for a long while, Ray’s main character arc was about their need to prove themself, how they desperately wanted to be a grand hero who mattered to the whole world. They start off the pilot in a funk because, after they “died”, the world just kept running, didn’t collapse in mourning over their lost idol. This aspect of the character would eventually be dropped; I guess around the time Ray became a Knight of the Round Table, they decided, “Yeah, I’ve got nothing left to prove.”
  • Rip’s little flashy light gizmo that knocks people out – it is so obviously lifted from Men in Black. What’s especially telling is, across 110 episodes, Legends of Tomorrow never once explains what that thing is or how it does what it does. They take it as a given we’ve all seen Men in Black, so no explanation is necessary.
  • Love that Mick’s reason for joining the mission is “I like killing people.”
  • Hey, remember time sickness? Oddly, as the show got goofier over time, people having wacky side-effects from time travel got phased out.
  • Gotta like Damien Darhk’s cameo at the atomic bomb sale. It’s such a comic book thing to do: this is a gathering of evildoers in the 1970’s; what supervillains do we have who could have been around then?

Question of the Week: Which show had the best series premiere?