Thursday, May 19, 2016

Come The Inevitable: Legends Of Tomorrow's Characters (Don't Really) Become "Legendary!"

The Good: Special effects, Wraps up the central conflict of the show/leaves room for next season, Performances
The Bad: Wonky science moments, Very light on character development, Continuity.
The Basics: Legends Of Tomorrow ends its first season with "Legendary," an episode saddled with a bit more than it can handle.

It is hard to imagine a season finale that has more of a burden on it than the first season finale of Legends Of Tomorrow. The first season was an erratic mix of fights between the team Rip Hunter assembled and Vandal Savage and bottle episodes that only prolong and distract from the main plotline. "Legendary" has a long way to go and a lot of ground to cover if the show is going to thwart the time-traveling immortal Vandal Savage in its final first season episode. To its credit, "Legendary" appears to get there; to its detriment, "Legendary" makes a number of conceptual left-turns to get there.

"Legendary" picks up after "Destiny" (reviewed here!) and, given that it is a season finale for a heavily serialized show, it is impossible not to talk about elements of the penultimate episode in reviewing "Legendary." After all, "Destiny" saw Leonard Snart make the ultimate sacrifice and "Legendary" has to find a way to restore him to the timeline given that actor Wentworth Miller spilled the beans months ago that he would be in the second season of Legends Of Tomorrow. How that return will happen is not made clear in "Legendary," as the episode is very focused on the mechanics of thwarting Vandal Savage.

Opening with the Waverider returning to 2016 five months after it initially left, less Snart, Kendra and Carter, with Rip Hunter dropping his crew off and vowing to return the younger versions of his team to the timeline, Sara Lance returns to Star City where she learns of her sister's death. Mick returns to Central City and his life of crime, where he is shocked to be met by Ray Palmer as his getaway car driver! The team reassembles to try to complete its mission of finding and killing Vandal Savage. Rip Hunter returns with the Waverider and his crew insists on rejoining the mission. Meanwhile, in 1944 France, Kendra runs into an allied soldier and leaves a message in his helmet, knowing that it will end up on Hunter's desk.

The Waverider goes to Saint-Lo, 1944, based on Kendra's message, where Vandal Savage is preparing to return to ancient Egypt to dominate human development with Thanagarian technology. After a battle, Dr. Stein and Jax explore their newfound power to transmute objects at the molecular level. Dr. Stein figures out that Vandal Savage intends to create a paradox by destroying the Earth in three different time periods. The Waverider crew spreads out in time to kill savage in three time periods when he is at his most vulnerable from the Thanagarian meteors' radiation!

"Legendary" has some truly wonky science, in the way the helmet's message ends up in front of Rip Hunter, but the time travel aspect of the episode works fairly well. Sara Lance's desire to save her sister would mean undoing tons of material from Arrow and some from The Flash, so the idea that Rip Hunter chose Lance to avoid more death and destruction was surprisingly well-explained. Similarly, Vandal Savage's explanation of the Thanagarian technology and its influence over his, Kendra, and Carter's resurrections is well detailed. Far from being magic, the Thanagarian technology is the mechanism of human resurrection and immortality and it plays well in "Legendary," despite being a lot of exposition!

Unfortunately, the triple destruction paradox concept is a return to wonky science for the episode. The paradox makes sense, though the idea that the ritual would have to be performed at the same time in three time periods is ridiculous. In fact, despite the way Dr. Stein comes to the conclusion, the paradox would exist simply by Savage destroying the Earth once after he has already destroyed it in 2022. In fact, there is something inelegant about the lack of creativity for the solution in "Legendary." Vandal Savage is now a time-traveler and that is barely explored and the idea that only Carter or Kendra can kill Savage is completely ignored in the episode. The creative solution would have forced versions of Hall and Saunders native to each time period to be enlisted in order to kill Savage.

Fans of Firestorm have a lot to be thrilled with in "Legendary" as the combination of Dr. Stein and Jax finally pays off when Firestorm begins to transmute objects. The development has been a long time in coming and the payoff is worth it; it is well-executed and clever for how it occurs. Firestorm's newfound ability plays into the end by forcing a big Rip Hunter moment that would have been ridiculous if Firestorm were more seasoned and practiced in his skills.

Outside Firestorm's plot-necessary development, "Legendary" is light on character development outside Sara Lance. Lance is traumatized by the death of her sister and her temporal inability to change that event and it shakes her. Even Rip Hunter is not given much in the way of a character arc to sell his sense of trauma or shock with events of "Legendary" as Lance is. Hunter has a climactic moment and a heroic moment; they are interesting, but they are far less gut-wrenching and visceral as Sara Lance struggling to accept her inability to change the events that led to her sister's death.

The performances in "Legendary" are fine, but outside Caity Lotz, none of the main cast actually act in ways not already well within their established range from prior episodes of Legends Of Tomorrow. The special effects are appropriately special and the episode looks good.

Legends Of Tomorrow was a needlessly complicated show from its very beginning and, to its odd credit, "Legendary" maintains that needless complication by adding more ridiculous complexities. The entire first season had a starkly simple problem and solution and instead it went off on a long, twisted mission that is revisited in "Legendary" marginally well. "Legendary" had a virtually impossible task and instead of simply making the entire first season - essentially - not happen, it climaxes with a note of mystery that pushes for a starting point for the second season, as opposed to satisfactorily resolving the first season.

There are some episodes of television that are slow burns; they get better the longer one considers them. "Legendary" is the opposite; the more one considers it and the first season of Legends Of Tomorrow, the more they are likely to realize just how shoddily it was put together.

For other dramatic season finales, please visit my reviews of:
"AKA Smile" - Jessica Jones
"Tears Of The Prophets" - Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
"Ascension" - Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.

[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 reprintwithout permission.
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