DC’s Legends of Tomorrow is so close to living up to the hype that was set up by its sister shows, The Flash and Arrow. But a few key factors keep it from gelling. We’re seven episodes into the season, and it will most likely be renewed for next season. But for DC’s Legends of Tomorrow to be a hit, here’s what needs to happen.
Look into My Eyes
It’s not Arthur Darvill’s (the actor) fault I hate Rip Hunter (the character). Well, maybe it is. Y’know how there are high school teachers, whose very facial expressions and mannerisms, make you want to jab a No. 2 pencil in both eyes until they bleed out? That’s how I feel about Rip Hunter.
Try this drinking game the next time you’re watching DC’s Legends of Tomorrow. Take a drink every time Rip looks at someone full on in the face. Not sideways. Not from under his brows. Two drinks if he looks down his nose at someone. Guess what? You’re stone cold sober.
Arthur Darvill’s entire repertoire of characterization for Rip Hunter is to put a hand in the pocket of his trench coat, stand perpendicular to his subject, drop his chin, and pierce them with a gaze that comes from under his eyebrows. To mix it up, sometimes he leans in a little.
It’s been said that I’m especially tetchy about people’s physical habits. I try to ignore repetitive mannerisms in order to enjoy a story. But Rip pushes all my buttons. I actually play the game I described above, minus the alcohol. I wait, with giddy anticipation, to see his chin pop up, even the slightest bit, so that his eyelids will become their own body parts and not unwilling underbellies to his eyebrows.
Maybe if the writers gave him more to do than speechifying, Darvill’s range would flex a little.
Use It or Lose It
The biggest attraction to DC’s Legends of Tomorrow is just that: It’s big. The show has eight — EIGHT — main characters. Most of those characters were introduced on The Flash or Arrow, so we already knew them a little. But these eight characters are not being used to their full potential.
Look at a show like Firefly. That show had several main characters, and Joss Whedon used them well. Not only did he balance their screen time, he maintained their unique voices. Each character got a spotlight at some point in every episode. Each one brought something unique to the story. They fit together like a beautiful story puzzle.
DC’s Legends of Tomorrow should be more like Firefly. Each character has a special moment in each episode, but those special moments aren’t necessarily building blocks for the overall story, or even for that character. I know Legends can’t a ton of time on backstory and needs to get on with the team’s story, the action, but there are a lot of missed opportunities.
For instance, we spent a lot of time getting to know Hawkgirl, but now she’s been relegated to set decoration. She now remembers her past lives, but she’s not portrayed as much of a warrior. Her strength, her experiences, should add to the through line. Meanwhile, she’s only left to smile or whine, alternatively. Seeing Hawkgirl as a strong leader would be much more interesting.
Another example is that we’re beginning to see conflict between Snart and Mick, but do we need to? Their friendship was one of the most interesting aspects of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow. Their friendship is informed by the fact that the actors, Wentworth Miller (Snart) and Dominic Purcell (Mick), worked together previously on Prison Break, and are friends in real life. Their banter, their disregard for the team’s mission, was highly entertaining. Now they’re fighting and it’s confusing. I know a story needs conflict, but isn’t that what the bad guys are for? (More on that below.)
DC’s Legends of Tomorrow has a cast full of great actors, not the least of which is Victor Garber. The actors and the characters are going to waste. Very quickly, they’ve all begun to sound the same. (Just like Arrow, but that deserves its own post.)
Few of them are competent in action. Boring. Few of them are really on board with the mission. Boring. All of them spend a lot of time bickering and whining. Boring! Give them more to do.
We Don’t Need Another Hero
So, we’ve got a shipful of heroes, but who are they fighting? I think it’s supposed to be Vandal Savage, but we don’t see him very much. And when we do, he gives us the same speech over and over.
Stories, especially superhero stories, need good antagonists. Vandal Savage could be a great villain, but we see too little of him, and we see only one side of him. Rarely have we seen him in quieter moments. We need to discover what’s driving him, where he’s vulnerable. He loves Chay-ara (Hawkgirl)? Let’s see his attempt to woo her. He’s immortal? How interesting! Let’s see more about his experiences. Instead, he’s just an imperturbable power our heroes keep slamming up against. Again, boring.
Plus, we keep hearing about these Time Masters, and how Rip is a wanted man. I can only assume they’re as bored with him as I am, because we’ve only seen them come after Rip once. We keep seeing a bounty hunter, but he only pops up when something is about to go right. Then he shoots off a missile and our crew is thrown off course. Again. The Time Masters and the bounty hunter add up to ineffectual bad guys, who just muddy the storyline.
It’s a Trap!
The most recent episode of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, “Marooned,” employed a storytelling device that the other CW superhero shows use: The Flashback. (No surprise, considering Greg Berlanti is the executive producer of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, Arrow and The Flash, as well as Supergirl, on CBS.)
While The Flashback is a seemingly harmless way of telling us more about a character’s backstory, it can become a crutch. Arrow desperately needs to drop Oliver’s flashback sequences. In the beginning of the show, it was a very effective way of showing us how Oliver became the Green Arrow. The flashbacks juxtaposed his present life with his past in powerful, sometimes ironic, scenes. After he escaped the island, however, it was time to let that device go and focus on the current story. Now, those damn flashbacks are nothing but fillers. They reveal nothing new or interesting.
I am worried DC’s Legends of Tomorrow is headed in the same direction. While The Flashback can serve a purpose, sometimes it’s a lazy way of telling us about a character. Let the character’s backstory and personality come through in their choices, their dialogue. Give these characters unique voices, and we’ll get to know them just fine. Give them more to do.