DC’s Legends of Tomorrow Season 1 was awful. The show needs a makeover. The CW superhero show started off with a lot of promise and hype, but completely wasted it. DC’s Legends of Tomorrow Season 1 ended with less of a bang, and more of a sigh of relief. Along the way, two regular cast members were cut, which is never a good sign. Season 2 will be just as awful if there’s not a complete turnover in the writer’s room.
Let’s examine what was wrong with DC’s Legends of Tomorrow Season 1.
Lack of commitment.
Holy prevarication, Batman! I can’t even remember how many times a character committed to doing something — sacrificing himself, loving someone, jumping ship — and then took it back, even within the same episode.
When characters do a complete 180° on a decision, especially one that has high stakes, it not only diminishes that action, but also erodes our suspension of disbelief; the next time the character makes a big decision, we are less likely to believe it will happen. In essence, the more times a show has takebacks, the less impact it has in any scene.
The writers on DC’s Legends of Tomorrow Season 1 have no idea how to craft a high-stakes story. Their wings are clipped, because they can’t kill anyone. (Except they should have. See the end of this review for more.) But that doesn’t mean they can’t make the consequences of a decision incredibly scary or painful or emotional. Death isn’t the only horrible consequence that can befall someone. What about loss of love, loss of honor or loss of trust? For those losses to have any impact, however, you must spend a length of time building up to it. Clearly, that never occurred to DC’s Legends of Tomorrow Season 1 writers, because they had almost no plan at all.
For instance, Kendra wrestled with whether or not to marry Ray. She finally made her decision to go all in. A couple of episodes later, Carter returns — the dude she’s destined to be with — and she immediately reverses her commitment. So, all the rest was for nothing? Wouldn’t it have been a much more powerful story if, after seeing the man she’s loved for thousands of years, she still stuck with Ray?
Here’s another example, again involving poor Kendra. (She was probably the most poorly written character on DC’s Legends of Tomorrow.) The entire premise of the show is that the team needs to kill Vandal Savage, but the only one who can do it is Kendra. So, instead of spending the season building up to an amazing battle between them, Kendra meets Savage in several episodes, and he just swats her away like an annoying fly. The result is that we no longer believe she can kill him. In fact, she didn’t seem like the warrior she was supposed to be at all. When she FINALLY has the right weapon and is up against him, when she FINALLY gets her shot, she decides not to kill him, in order to save her destined lover. We hadn’t even seen that guy in several episodes. And she had already pledged herself to Ray. And, Carter would have wanted her to kill Savage, no matter what. Talk about flaccid.
The season finale had several instances when a character took back their impassioned decision. For example, it seemed like Rip Hunter was going to sacrifice himself to save the planet, by driving his ship, which held an exploding meteorite, into the sun. Turns out, he was able to just chuck it into the fire and come back. No biggie.
The absolute worst scene for dramatic takeback in DC’s Legends of Tomorrow Season 1 was in the penultimate episode. Ray decides he’s going to sacrifice himself to save everyone else, by staying behind and holding the button that will make the oculus explode. (Or something like that.) While he’s holding down the button, Mick comes up behind him, smashes him on the head and takes his place. Now, Mick’s decided to sacrifice himself to save everyone else. That actually made sense, because Mick is kind of a bad guy and Ray is a good guy. However, not long after that, Leonard bashes Mick on the head and takes his place, and — wait for it — decides he’s going to sacrifice himself to save everyone else. It was like I was watching a parody video, not a TV show episode that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to make. Granted, Ray and Mick didn’t take back their decisions willingly, but the situation was still rendered benign by the repetition.
There are no high stakes, just stakes.
DC’s Legends of Tomorrow Season 1 writers seemed to have boxed themselves in when they chose Vandal Savage as the big bad guy for their story arc. He’s powerful; he can time-travel; and he’s immortal. But, let’s compare DCs Legends of Tomorrow to Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which also had an all-powerful, seemingly immortal villain this season. Wow, what a difference. Where S.H.I.E.L.D. spent several episodes poking at the monster, trying to find its weaknesses, discovering its strengths, and giving us clues as to how it might be defeated, Legends waited until the last episode and just surprised us with the solution. You have to earn those moments, or they mean nothing.
Nearly every episode of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow Season 1 had our heroes going up against Savage, only to be defeated. They kept fighting him the same way over and over, so we lost interest. Sure, we caught a glimpse of that fatal meteorite several episodes before the finale, but there wasn’t even a hint that it was tied to Savage somehow. If we had gotten more of an exploration of that rock, its powers, what it might do to the planet or to Savage, we would have been curious to see where the story led. There would have been, what they call in the biz, exploration and discovery.
When every single episode is “the world is at stake,” pretty soon, we don’t care. You need to build up to “the world is at stake,” with small successes, small failures, and some creativity wouldn’t hurt.
Every character has the same voice.
These characters should have been very different from each other, with their own motivations, and histories that inform their actions. What wound up happening on DC’s Legends of Tomorrow was that they were all the same. In any given episode, you could take lines of dialogue and put them into any character’s mouth with no difference.
Part of the reason the characters all sounded the same was that none of them were given anything to do. DC’s Legends of Tomorrow was more like a soap opera than a drama, in that the majority of dialogue was spent trying to talk someone out of a seemingly heroic, but ultimately stupid, decision. Sure, we had a little side drama between Mick and Leonard, and Ray and Kendra, but those stories went nowhere and meant nothing.
The only characterization any of them had came from external cues. For instance, we knew Ray was square because Mick called him “Haircut.” We knew the professor was nerdy, because the other characters teased him about it. We knew Leonard was shady, because other characters referred to his criminal past. If the characters hadn’t jabbed at one another, we would have known very little about them. Rather than having their actions or their choices speak for them, it was other characters who gave them their identity.
Arthur Darvill needs to stop speechifying.
In my previous commentary on DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, I complained — a lot — about Arthur Darvill’s portrayal of Time Master Rip Hunter. I’m going to do it some more. Every line, every scene, every everything he delivers is done in the same stance, at the same pitch, and with the same tone. Step 1: Turn sideways and look over your shoulder at the other person to whom you are speaking. Step 2: Lower chin and look at them from under your eyebrows. Step 3: Give lines in rapid fire mode, occasionally glancing to the side, as if you are considering something else. Optional: Bring both hands up, as if you are holding a box, then raise and lower them to make your point.
Yes, Rip is cocky. But man, this ain’t no cartoon. That Firefly-wannabe duster with the collar flipped up told us that. Show us something else! Hawk Girl didn’t have much to do, except swoon between swains, but at least she showed some different flavors.
I’m going to stop there, because I think you get my point.
Too many characters? No, just lack of creativity.
One could argue that there were just too many big characters on DC’s Legends of Tomorrow Season 1 to make it work. Again, I point to Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which is able to balance screen time for characters beautifully. And put them to good use.
In fact, the writers wasted an enormous opportunity in the season finale of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow Season 1. They knew actress Ciara Renée was leaving the show. Instead of splitting up the team into three different times, like they did, and having Savage killed by three different characters, they could have sacrificed Kendra in big-time drama.
This whole season, all we’ve heard is that Kendra has to be the one to kill Savage. What they should have done is, in the finale, incapacitate the rest of the team, and have Kendra (finally) go up against Savage alone. In the battle, mortally wound Kendra, but have her kill Savage when he lets his guard down. Or something like that. Ta da! Huge pay-off, and a great way to send off the character and the actress.
Of course, that’s not what they did. Could the ending have been any lamer? Rip: “So, let’s all get back on board and keep on keeping on. I’m sure there are timeline problems to fix somewhere.” Kendra: “Oh, hey, me and Carter aren’t doing to do that. We decided to go build a nest and lay eggs. See ya around!” [Hawk people fly away.] My jaw literally dropped at that horrible, stupid, lame-ass scene. What a waste.
Season 2 needs to get better.
The only reason I keep watching DC’s Legends of Tomorrow is because it’s painful for me not to watch a superhero show. But after Season 1, I don’t know if I can bring myself to watch any more.