PILOT: PART 1 – 6.5/10
After months of hype the latest offering from Team CW/DC has arrived in the form of Legends of Tomorrow (LOT). The folks behind Arrow and The Flash have proven themselves capable of creating fun and engaging popcorn television, but are they pushing their luck with a spin-off of a spin-off?
LOT sees a group of characters from the existing CW/DC universe enlisted by time traveller Rip Hunter (Doctor Who’s Arthur Darvill) to help him stop the immortal douchebaggery of one Vandal Savage (Casper Crump). Joining Captain Hunter on his mission are Ray Palmer AKA The Atom (Brandon Routh), Sara Lance AKA White Canary (Caity Lotz), Dr Martin Stein & Jefferson Jackson AKA Firestorm (Victor Garber & Franz Dramah), Kendra Saunders AKA Hawkgirl (Ciara Renee), Carter Hall AKA Hawkman (Falk Hentschel), Mick Rory AKA Heat Wave (Dominic Purcell) and my personal favourite, Leonard Snart AKA Captain Cold (Wentworth Miller).
LOT’s target audience is already familiar with most of these characters, which is a huge bonus in building this new world as we don’t have to spend a great deal of time getting to know them. Fans of Doctor Who know how charming Arthur Darvill can be, which helps as Rip Hunter represents the major unknown here for non-comic book readers. As a time master, Rip is responsible for maintaining the timeline, which plays against his frustration at his fellow time masters’ refusal to intervene with Savage’s activities. Despite this, Hunter travels back to 2016 to assemble his team through an amusing montage that lets us catch up with a few faces we haven’t seen since last year.
After some discussion, a little resistance and the odd Arrow cameo the scene is set and the team heads off to 1975 to gain some valuable intel on Savage. Here Hawkgirl and Hawkman encounter a link to one of their past incarnations while Cold, Heat Wave and White Canary enjoy a good old fashioned bar brawl. It should be noted that the brawl takes place in yet another of the ultra tidy looking dive bars that appear so frequently on Arrow. Of course the first mission was never going to go smoothly and the team soon butts heads with a time travelling bounty hunter named Kronos, a frankly underwhelming battle that leads to some shocking revelations about their mission and the very notion of destiny.
This first episode follows the basic structure of any pilot; establish the world, establish the threat, introduce the players, bring them together, threaten the dynamic and away we go. The show uses simple storytelling to demonstrate the hell that is Savage’s future. I had my concerns going in to LOT about this representation of Savage, the most recent Arrow/Flash crossover made him seem like more of an obsessed stalker than an all powerful, world threatening big bad. But within the first few moments of the pilot he’s introduced as a child murderer and all round naughty man. I’m still not keen on his revised history but it’s a step up from hiding in the bushes outside Hawkgirl’s house.
LOT clearly had an impressive CGI budget, covering everything from flying super heroes to futuristic time machines. Whilst none of the visuals jar, unfortunately a lot of the dialogue does. This is a series premiere so it’s filled with expositional dialogue, mostly delivered by Rip. Time travel is always a tricky subject on TV as rules need to be established, granted most shows then go on to break these rules when it suits them (I’m looking at you Steven Moffat). A lot of the dialogue is on the nose especially lines like “I’m from East London….oh, and the future.” But the CW/DC universe isn’t routed in reality so even pantomime performances like Dominic Purcell’s can mostly be excused.
Arrow and Flash were starting to feel somewhat cramped with an abundance of characters but a lack of story. This is especially true in the case of Ray Palmer who was often sidelined in Arrow. Hopefully LOT will give these characters room to grow which benefits the more underdeveloped characters like Heat Wave, Hawk Man and Jefferson. Captain Cold is the only exception, Cold is one of Flash’s greatest Rogues and there is still so much to be explored in the Barry/Snart dynamic that it seems a shame to see him pulled from The Flash so soon. But if we have learnt anything from the CW/DC universe it is that they do love a good crossover.
The rise of binge TV means most of us have gotten used to blasting past the ‘getting to know you’ episode and into the nitty gritty of the story, with weekly episodic TV that just isn’t possible. So while this is a promising start for Legends of Tomorrow it remains to be seen if the show can live up to its legendary title.