The CW’s superhero universe is one that’s unprecedented, even in the modern era of big-budget comic book franchises. While Marvel’s been busy dominating the box office since Iron Man‘s 2008, DC has been hard at work constructing its own shared universe on television, predating Marvel’s first foray into TV by a full year. And while Agents of SHIELD acted as a solid complement to the main event of the MCU movies, The CW has made it so its TV shows are the main event. The latest expansion of that stable of series comes in the form of Legends of Tomorrow, having just kicked off its debut episode.
Fans of Arrow and The Flash will likely recognize the Legends of Tomorrow team by now: Captain Cold and Heatwave are the career criminals with little interest in heroics. Sara Lance is a resurrected reformed assassin searching for meaning. Ray Palmer is the Atom, a brilliant inventor and industrialist with a super-suit that’s equal parts Ant and Iron Man. Martin Stein and Jefferson Jackson combine to become Firestorm, the melding of a physicist and auto mechanic into one Human Torch-like entity. Hawkman and Hawkgirl are reincarnated Egyptians on the run from an immortal psychopath. They’re all gathered together by Time Master Rip Hunter, fighting for the fate of humanity as we know it.
The stakes are well-established early on in the Legends of Tomorrow pilot, appropriately titled “Part One.” Arrow and The Flash spent the early half of their respective seasons introducing all the Legends one-by-one (sometimes to the detriment of both shows), so by the time the opening credits role, we already know who everybody is. All this culminates in some breakneck pacing that affords little in the way of quiet moments, and at times it’s difficult to find your bearings as a result. Despite this, the premiere wasn’t without its own high points as well.
To no one’s surprise, Wentworth Miller shines as the smarmy Leonard Snart, who sneers his way through yet another spotlight-stealing hour of DC superhero television. Snart and his literal partner in crime Mick Rory make for an intriguing contrast to the less morally ambiguous members of the team, something sorely needed when you have an ensemble cast this large. Amidst all this, the greatest victory of the Legends premiere is in establishing why each individual character would drop everything and embark on a mission through time and space to save the world.
Our villain, Vandal Savage, is your stereotypical villain bent on world domination, and at this juncture in the series, his motivations are really secondary to those of our heroes. The struggle we see each individual Legend go through is one that trumps the greater conflict at hand, and is something the series would do right to hone in on as the first season rolls forward. Shows like Arrow have the benefit of being about one, singular personality, and their own personal journey. Legends of Tomorrow is likely to encounter some growing pains in giving each of its whopping nine heroes their due diligence, an issue that cropped up in the pilot at various points throughout the hour.
Where Legends sets itself apart from its DC predecessors on The CW though is immediately present in the opening moments. The sci-fi elements are a huge focus from the get-go, delivering on the show’s promise to combine elements of Guardians of the Galaxy and Doctor Who. It’s Doctor Who‘s DNA especially that we see throughout the backbone of the premiere, seen most clearly in Rip Hunter (Arthur Darvill), a Time Master with a fancy vessel, outfitted with an artificial intelligence. Darvill himself was a key cog in the Matt Smith-led Doctor Who series, so it only seems appropriate that the man known to many as Rory Pond would finally get his very own time machine.
A line from Smith’s run as the bow-tied Doctor comes to mind immediately when thinking about the where Legends of Tomorrow is headed next: “All of time and space, everything that’s ever happened or ever will … where do you want to start?” That call to adventure is the one that drives the Doctor Who story forward on a weekly basis, and it’s the same one that will form the narrative of Legends as it begins to find its feet. And while we still have a long way to go before it’s on par with The Flash, we’re certainly off to a solid start.
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