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THIS WEEK will only contain a single editorial from me where I strive to answer the questionâ€¦
Should You Watch â€˜DCâ€™S LEGENDS OF TOMORROWâ€™?
The Greg Berlanti ARROW-verse has come a long way since ARROW first hit the small screen in 2012. What started off as a grounded tale of a man’s attempt to save his city very quickly evolved into a world full of meta-humans, time travel, and goofy costumes. There’s been a lot of great that’s come with this. THE FLASH continues to be an amazing spinoff from ARROW, and the fact that we can witness a comic book page take place on the small screen is something that’s great for fans.
Some may argue that this is exactly the move that ruined ARROW itself. I myself am in the process of finishing up season two of the series, and am definitely see the difference in tone, style, and to be honest, the diminishing quality of storytelling. It’s in this climate that we’re introduced to the third series in the ARROW-verse (fourth if you include SUPERGIRL, which you may as well since we’ve already seen a teaser of the show in the most recent episode of THE FLASH), DC’S LEGENDS OF TOMORROW.
LEGENDS OF TOMORROW is a spinoff of both ARROW’ and THE FLASH that takes characters that have had full arcs in either (or both) of the origin shows, mixes them, matches them, and chucks them into a time travel scenario. It’s colorful, comic booky, and incredibly ambitious. But does it work? That was the ultimate question going in. We’ve now had four episodes to wrap our heads around the characters, the plot, and direction of the series, so it’s here that I’ll attempt to ask the question: is it worth spending your time on?
Disclaimers: Before I go any further, as this is meant as something of a guide for those contemplating taking the leap, THERE WILL BE NO SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW. There will also be little to no discussion of the production design or fight choreography, as this is more of a breakdown of show from a storytelling perspective.
The producers of this show definitely had their hands full with LEGENDS OF TOMORROW. Not only was this a superhero show, but it was a superhero show with nine leads–an ensemble piece. This is different from the normal single character-focused approach Greg Berlanti and company began with in ARROW, and continued with in THE FLASH. What’s more is that all the characters in this ensemble started out as supporting characters. Would they really stand up to being leads in their own series? In addition, this is a time travel story, and as with any time travel piece, there are sure to be plenty of mind-bending paradoxes.
So where to begin? Let’s start with the premise. The official synopsis is as follows:
“When heroes alone are not enoughâ€¦ the world needs legends. Having seen the future, one he will desperately try to prevent from happening, time-traveling rogue Rip Hunter is tasked with assembling a disparate group of both heroes and villains to confront an unstoppable threat â€“ one in which not only is the planet at stake, but all of time itself. Can this ragtag team defeat an immortal threat unlike anything they have ever known?”
Not only is this a great premise for a comic book series, but it’s something the modern day DOCTOR WHO fan will eat up. I bring up DOCTOR WHO for a reason, I promise. It’s likely the most overused comparison, but it’s important for highlighting the differences, and because I’m always asked how much the show is like DOCTOR WHO.
First off, I wouldn’t call myself a big DOCTOR WHO fan. My fianceÃ© has made me watch over four seasons thus far, and while I can’t speak to the later seasons, I will make my comparisons based on the early ones. One thing that always bothered me about it is that the Doctor travels for NO REASON. Why did he end up in this time? Just ’cause adventure. Why didn’t he just get back in his TARDIS after landing in the middle of some civil war? Because otherwise the show would be three minutes long otherwise. It’s a series that forces you to be patient, and suspend your disbelief a lot.
While DOCTOR WHO is getting better as a show as I make my way through, a problem I have with the early seasons is that it lacks motivation. Why is the Doctor time-traveling? What’s his motivation? Those are things that aren’t supposed to matter to viewers of the show. The only problem is that they matter to me. The series for the longest time shelves the motivation, and tries to survive on the strengths of each individual episode and the quirkiness of its lead (who is still lacking in any concrete personality).
Why do I bring up DOCTOR WHO? Well, on a surface level, it makes sense. We have a British time traveler in both. One is a Time Lord, the other is a Time Master. I’m happy to say that these are where the comparisons end. LEGENDS OF TOMORROW is what I call DOCTOR WHO with a purpose. Our characters actually have goals, and they’re making great strides to reach those goals.
On the whole, I’d say the execution of the premise has been pretty good. It delivers on what it promises, which is fun, over-the-top action, and a fast-moving plot. This, ironically, leads into one of the shows weaknesses…the characters…which is quite the weakness for a medium that focuses on characters.
In a series that has forty minute episodes and nine leads…you’re bound to run into two problems. One, you’re bound to hate some of the many characters, and two, you’re bound to not have enough time to develop them. Four episodes in, I will say that LEGENDS OF TOMORROW has both of these problems. In the first two episodes, the plot moved at such a breakneck speed that I hardly had enough time to follow it, let alone care about the characters. This is understandable from the studio’s perspective. After all, you have to hook the audience first and get them to care later.
The main problem is that the show begs us to stick with them for two episodes with little to no development of characters. I don’t care how you slice it, it’s very difficult for me to care about the plot if there is no character development for an hour and a half. However, I will say that this is a problem that is slowly starting to subside. As we make our way into later episodes, the show has slowed down a bit, giving us extra opportunities to know our leads. Don’t misunderstand me. I get that we’ll get more development as time goes on. I’m just saying it was a significant hurdle for me right off the bat.
A part of me wonders if they bit off more than they can chew with the number of characters they have. Inevitably, each episode, the characters split off into groups. This helps in giving each one a moment to shine, but it also makes way for “filler groups,” meaning there’s always some group who does stuff that doesn’t do anything to further the plot. It’s a fun, pointless adventure, and they show show up just in time to join the fight later on. I’m hoping they’ll either change up that pattern or bite the bullet and start killing off a few of these guys. Nine leads is simply too many to juggle.
It also doesn’t help that I don’t really care about the show’s main villain, Vandal Savage. Call me shallow, but I like my villains to either look or act menacingly. This guy doesn’t look threatening to me in the least, and when he does “act menacingly,” it’s too cartoonish for me to take seriously. Of course, like the characters, at time goes on, I am warming up to him as the big bad, but for a guy that’s their ultimate end goal, it seems weird to me that they tend to encounter him multiple times every episode. In a way, that only seems to take out any real tension, as we know he isn’t going to die. What’s more is that he hardly seems like a real threat physically compared to the entire team, so that takes it away even more.
I say all this, and it may sound like I really hate the show, but to be honest, I’m actually enjoying it quite a bit. I’m just critical. Plain and simple.
While all my cited problems regarding the pacing and characters are problems, they’re problems that are getting addressed as episodes go on. I expect this trend to continue as time goes on.
Where the show succeeds is in its tone of sheer adventure. It’s fun, it’s bright, and it’s just enough to push me through the problems I’ve had with it thus far. And if the trend continues, and the show fixes these problems, then I don’t see why any comic book fan or science fiction fan wouldn’t love it.
So should you watch DC’S LEGENDS OF TOMORROW? I’d say yes, but with a caveat.
Don’t go in expecting ARROW or THE FLASH. It ain’t either of those shows. Not by a stretch. Also, if you’re finding it hard to care about the plot and characters a few episodes in, take heart. It gets better. Like a lot of a TV shows, it needs some time to find its footing. The main difference between LEGENDS and most other TV shows, however, is that it has a lot more characters to juggle than most, and as a result, it appears to fail more frequently than it really does.
All complaints aside, LEGENDS OF TOMORROW is a series I truly look forward to each week, one that, given some time, I can see growing into something very special.
What do you think about the series? Let us know in the comments down below!