So, I’ve got to be honest: My thoughts on the CW’s newest foray into the superhero genre – DC’s Legends of Tomorrow – have been a little all over the place, which is partly why it has taken me so long to review the show. While the Mysterious Mr. C and I watched the introductory special that aired on January 19 and saw the first episode of the pilot shortly after its premiere, Legends didn’t seem to catch our attention enough to tune in with any sort of regularity. But since I’ve been trying to give shows a few episodes to find their footing, I wanted to catch up before passing judgment.
Then, when I got sick a couple of weeks ago, I powered through all of the episodes – even starting over at the beginning – before passing out on the couch. At the time, I still wasn’t bowled over by the plot line, but I figured that I would keep watching because that’s what we geekynerdy bloggers do, right? But a couple of days ago, I read Washington Post columnist Alyssa Rosenberg’s article about our messed up relationship with television and I began to rethink things all over again!
If you aren’t familiar with Legends, here’s a quick synopsis: In the year 2166, an immortal madman named Vandal Savage has taken over the world, most of which seems to be burning. To stop Savage, a time-traveler named Rip Hunter returns to 2016 and assembles a team of eight superheroes and supervillains, enlisting their help in traveling through time to thwart Savage’s plans.
As is want with a show of this scale, there are some crazy set pieces, is lots of action, and, of course, hijinks ensue, but it wasn’t that that turned me off of the show. Instead, it was the characters themselves – more specifically, Hawkgirl and Hawkman, the two people outside of Savage that the show seems to center on.
According to legend (ba-dum-dum?!), the winged heroes are actually reincarnated Ancient Egyptian lovers, who are destined to die by Savage’s hand once a generation. (Yes, there’s a bit of a love triangle going on.) Savage in turn absorbs their essence – or something like that – which is what has kept him alive since the days of the pharaohs.
When we were first introduced to Hawkgirl and Hawkman, named Kendra and Carter in this life, on an episode of The Flash, Carter had already regained his memories and was madly in love with Kendra. She, on the other hand, was not so much. As a feminist, I appreciated the fact that Kendra seemed to have a problem with this whole premise – the expectation that she was supposed to love Carter just because – but I didn’t like how quickly she suddenly got those memories back. I think it would have been more interesting to play out that tension a bit more, but the showrunners clearly had other ideas.
The other thing that I didn’t like about the show was the fact that they pretty much got nowhere in the five episodes that I watched. I mean, they would track down Savage, craft some sort of plan, and then everything would go awry. MTV’s Alex Zalban seems to concur, calling Legends the “‘Avengers’ of sadness,” though he thinks that this is actually the show’s strength: “[G]etting to the heart of something we all feel [that no matter what we do, our lives won’t make as much of an impact on the world as we would like], and distilling it through the frame of superhero metaphor.”
I agree that this undercurrent of sadness definitely separates Legends from just about every other superhero option that’s out there, but that’s not really what I want from those kinds of tales. Instead, I want to be, yes, entertained, but also inspired to be a better (super) version of myself. Being reminded week after week that nothing I do will ever really make a difference is not how I want to spend an hour of my time.
All of that said, I do want to give Legends a shout-out for having one of the best franchise tie-ins I’ve ever seen. While some of the Marvel’s Avengers and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. cross-references have fallen flat, Hunter’s comment that “I’ve seen men of steel die and dark knights fall” in one of the episodes was genius! It was a very clear reference to the upcoming release of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, but it seemed totally natural, not shoe-horned in. If only the rest of the show ran as smoothly.