Saturday, January 23, 2016

One Of The Best Pilot Episodes EVER! Legends Of Tomorrow Starts Incredibly!

The Good: Good acting, Amazing effects, Interesting characters, Engaging plot
The Bad: Starts with a lot of characters to do service to all of them, Minutia
The Basics: The first adventure of the Legends Of Tomorrow has Rip Hunter assembling a team to travel through time with him to stop Vandal Savage.

I am a fan of DC Comics. I like many of the interpretations of DC Comics works in other mediums - Catwoman (reviewed here!) notwithstanding - and I have been impressed over the last year by The Flash on The CW. I managed to go into the first episode of Legends Of Tomorrow with minimal expectations and no spoilers. The concept of Legends Of Tomorrow was one I liked; a team of second string heroes (and villains) are assembled to go save the world. I was just psyched to see more of Victor Garber and Wentworth Miller in their roles from The Flash.

I am a big fan of stories that focus on second-string (or third-tier) heroes, as evidenced by the Justice League: Generation Lost (Volume One is reviewed here!) on my bookshelf, so if anything, I was biased in favor of Legends Of Tomorrow. The weakness of any story that focuses on the second or third-string heroes is in creating a story that has genuine menace . . . without involving the first-run heroes. At some point, fans of Arrow have to ask: if this week's villain is so incredible, why doesn't Oliver Queen just call over to Barry, have him run over and solve the problem? If Supergirl was part of the same television universe (Gotham is deliberately different), the question would become more pressing the more sophisticated Supergirl became. Fortunately, Legends Of Tomorrow addresses this critical concept in the first part of its pilot episode.

Legends Of Tomorrow combines secondary characters from Arrow and The Flash for a time-travel story. The new team is assembled with eight established characters by Rip Hunter, who was previously referenced once by Eobard Thawne in The Flash episode "Fast Enough" (reviewed here!). Until now, Thawne is the only time traveler in the CW's DC Television Universe and "Pilot, Part 1" introduces a new time travel organization. Fans of the DC Television Universe need truly to only have seen The Flash episode "Legends Of Today" (reviewed here!) to know almost all of the essential characters in the pilot episode of Legends Of Tomorrow.

Opening in 2166 London, during The Second Blitz (being performed with laser weapons and armored thugs), Vandal Savage has taken over the world in a bloody reign. Captain Rip Hunter appears before the Council Of Time Masters to appeal to them to intervene by allowing him to rewrite time so Vandal Savage cannot begin his genocidal tyrany. Hunter goes to 2016 where he abducts people of interest to him - Ray Palmer, Sara Lance, Dr. Martin Stein, Jay Jackson (the other half of Firestorm), Kendra Saunders, Carter Hall, Leonard Snart, and Mick Rory. The eight people Rip Hunter collects are referred by him as heroes in his time and he wants them to assemble to stop the world from becoming a fiery wasteland under Savage.

When the eight decide to accompany Hunter (Jackson against his own will), they take his ship the Waverider back to 1975. Hunter takes his team there to find Professor Boardman, the world's leading expert on Vandal Savage. Hunter hopes to find Vandal Savage at a prior point in time, but Savage managed to keep his whereabouts hidden until his rise to power in the 22nd Century. Boardman, who is the son of a prior incarnation Shiera and Prince Khufu, gives Kendra and Carter a journal with information about Savage. But soon, the Waverider is attacked by a Chronos bounty hunter and Hunter is forced to admit the truth to his new team!

"Pilot, Part 1" manages to negate most of the issues one usually finds in pilot episodes. The bulk of the cast - Victor Garber (always a professional), Wentworth Miller, Caity Loitz, Brandon Routh, and Dominic Purcell - has already played their characters several times and they are comfortable with them. Balancing their experience with Arthur Darvill's ease at delivering lines of technobabble - his tenure on Doctor Who clearly left him with the ability to make utter nonsense sound perfectly credible. "Pilot, Part 1" lacks most of the initial pilot problems; the actors know their marks, the effects look great and the production team knows their beats to make the work feel like it has been on the air for years. In fact, during the battle between Chronos and Hunter's team, all I could think was "I would pay to see this on the big screen!"

Rip Hunter is characterized enough to make him a compelling leader of the time traveling hero team. The episode is constructed well to both explain its own premise and delight viewers of the CW's other DC Comics-based works. As well, "Pilot, Part 1" explains perfectly why the team is made up of heroes unlike Superman, Wonder Woman or The Flash; the eight individuals are either necessary to the mission (Hawkgirl and Hawkman might well be the only ones who have the ability to kill Vandal Savage and there is the implied threat that they might have to die in order to keep Savage dead!) or unremarkable to history (White Canary and Heatwave never become a part of mainstream history in Hunter's version of history).

Legends Of Tomorrow is only hampered by a few bits of minutia. Victor Garber is a great actor, but he is seen in an early scene in the pilot limping (which implies to me he was hurt in the battle with Chronos and that later scene was filmed prior to his first arrival on the Waverider!). No one asks where Hawkman and Hawkwoman are in the future Rip Hunter shows them (if his immortality is tied to their resurrections, as he has taken over the world they must be alive somewhere there!) or raises the question of whether or not they might have to die to kill Savage permanently. And why isn't Morena Baccarin the voice of Gideon?!

"Pilot, Part 1" does its best to create a ruthless villain and assembles a reasonable team of second string heroes that might be able to stop them. Regardless of how the DC Television Universe progresses, the writing team did its homework; by starting in 2166, after the Crisis that presumably ends The Flash and after Superman (should he enter the narrative) is dead, the use of the secondary characters is well-constructed. Vandal Savage is instantly deadly and the assembled heroes are engaging enough to keep watching, even if some are not as well-developed initially as one might hope (Carter Hall is a virtual non-entity still). Rip Hunter is a cool leader and Arthur Darvill steps up incredibly to run Legends Of Tomorrow from his first scene. The pilot is incredible and the show hits the ground running, making for an immediate must-watch for anyone who loves science fiction and/or comic book-based works!

For other DC Universe films and television projects, check out my reviews of:
The Flash - Season 1
The Dark Knight Trilogy
Wonder Woman
Man Of Steel

[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into Legends Of Tomorrow - The Complete First Season on DVD or Blu-Ray, which is also a better economical choice than buying individual episodes. Read my review of the premiere season of the time traveling hero team here!


For other television season and episode reviews, please visit my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2016 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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