Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Legends Of Tomorrow Season 2 Has Better Villains Than Its Story Warrants!

The Good: Moments of character, Interesting villains, Some fun episodes
The Bad: Macguffin is not satisfactorily explained, Some poor moments of character, Lack of big emotional moments
The Basics: Legends Of Tomorrow improves in its second season, but still has serious issues with telling a solid story over the course of the seventeen episodes that pit the Legends against Eobard Thawne and his allies.

Legends Of Tomorrow is a show I was very excited about when it aired. The series, which is essentially a "best of" team-up show for the DC Comics Television Universe had an unfortunately rocky first season (reviewed here!). The first season was established with a fundamentally problematic premise that made it hard to buy into its own concept after the pilot episode. But, with the show seeing an end to its primary villain at the climax of the first season episode "Legendary" (reviewed here!), Legends Of Tomorrow was threatened with an essential existential crisis at the outset of the second season. Fortunately, "Legendary" included a final scene that was otherwise unattached to the events of the rest of the narrative and it set up the second season surprisingly well.

The second season of Legends Of Tomorrow opens already dealing with the effects of Hour Man from the Justice Society Of America crashing in an alternate Waverider near the Waverider and its current crew. The season develops fairly organically from being a series of vaguely connected episodes that find the Waverider crew struggling to take up the mantle of the now-gone Time Masters to a heavily serialized adventure where the Waverider crew desperately works to stop the machinations of Eobard Thawne.

Following the warning by Hour Man from the Justice Society Of America, the Waverider crew takes up the task of protecting Earth from temporal aberrations. But in 1942, the Waverider is nearly destroyed and left abandoned on the ocean floor. Found by Dr. Nate Heywood, the Waverider is powered back up by Heywood and Mick Rory. Rory tells his rescuers the story of how the Waverider became damaged and its crew scattered: the Legends found themselves in 1942 where the Nazis gained nuclear weapons technology needed to destroy New York City. While Dr. Stein tries to stop Albert Einstein from helping the Nazis, Sara Lance tracks down Damien Darhk in 1942 on her quest to prevent her sister's death. While the Legends are successful in stopping the Nazis in 1942, one of the members of the Justice Society Of America is killed by a time traveler and Rip Hunter remains lost in time. And Damien Darhk is working with Eobard Thawne to create time aberrations.

With the Waverider crew - plus Heywood and Vixen from the Justice Society Of America - under Sara Lance's command, the crew starts investigating who killed Hour Man and their investigation soon ties the time aberrations to Eobard Thawne. Thawne, Darhk, and Malcolm Merlyn are working together to recover and assemble the Spear Of Destiny, a mythical mystical artifact which will allow the trio to rewrite reality. But stopping the Speedster while maintaining their loyalties tests every member of the Waverider crew . . . especially when Mick Rory finds himself tempted by another villain who he misses more than anyone else!

Vandal Savage was a decent villain for the first season of Legends Of Tomorrow, arguably because he could be used in all sorts of time periods given that he was an immortal. The second season of Legends Of Tomorrow takes some time for the Waverider crew to actually identify their adversaries, which is a nice twist on the formula and the fact that one of them is a time traveler himself makes his adventures far more plausible. Eobard Thawne is an incredibly good villain and he is able to be back in play because the temporal remnant of Eobard Thawne was left in play following The Flash episode "Flashpoint" (reviewed here!). Thawne in the second season of Legends Of Tomorrow has dual motivations: to stay alive by outrunning the Black Flash (who is chasing him through time and space) and to rewrite existence so that he can actually exist once again.

Thwane allies himself with Malcolm Merlyn and Damien Darhk as a matter of pragmatism. Thawne cannot stay in one place and time long enough to lay the framework for all of his plans. So, he relies upon Darhk and Merlyn to execute many of his wishes. Those two villains from Arrow are good choices because both have things they want that rewriting existence can provide. Legends Of Tomorrow makes a lot of allusions to Merlyn and Darhk's arcs on Arrow, but the context clues are sufficient so those who are not fans of Arrow will be able to understand their motivations and abilities quite well.

Despite the hugely problematic macguffin in the second season of Legends Of Tomorrow - the Spear Of Destiny is a mystical artifact and Amaya's totem is never scientifically explained in the season - the character work in the season is mostly very good. Having Sara Lance take over as captain of the Waverider is a great way to give the abrasive tactician a better position in the narrative. Lance makes a compelling and occasionally flawed captain, but she is able to explore more than simply being a recurring sexuality joke or a somewhat monolithic assassin.

Amaya is an awesome addition to the cast and the budding relationship between Jiwe and Heywood in the course of the second season of Legends Of Tomorrow is surprisingly well-executed. The heroes from two different eras actually have a very organic arc whereby they grow to have genuine feelings for one another.

The other truly intriguing relationship in the second season of Legends Of Tomorrow is a relationship between Mick Rory and Dr. Stein. Rory attempts to enlist Dr. Palmer into being his sidekick or partner, but quickly comes to recognize that Palmer's talents are in his intelligence and trying to change him diminishes him. Rory and Stein, however, start to develop a truly unlikely camaraderie. Rory turns to Stein for help when he starts to see Leonard Snart in different times and places; Stein works to help Rory, despite being generally afraid of him. As their relationship becomes deeper, Rory's influence rubs off on Stein and he is willing to do things like steal technology from the future!

The character relationships in Legends Of Tomorrow Season 2 develop well, in addition to some of the fun plots that the show creates. The essential characters in the second season of Legends Of Tomorrow are:

Sara Lance - Following the disappearance of Rip Hunter after the Waverider is crashed, she is promoted to captain of the Waverider. Despite the sexism of the JSA's leaders, Stein quickly sees that she is the rightful leader of the Legends. She allows Amaya to join the crew to hunt the Speedster. She quickly proves to be an able tactician who is willing to use extreme measures to save time and space, thwart the Speedster and protect her crew,

Dr. Martin Stein - Ceding command of the Waverider after others assume he should be the Captain, he works hard to identify and stop the time aberrations. He is appalled at how his younger self treats his wife and, in the process, he convinces his younger self to pay more attention to her. As a result, Stein ends up with a daughter and he wrestles with accepting his time aberration daughter. He identifies Eobard Thawne as their adversary, aids Mick Rory in determining the cause of his hallucinations, and steals technology from the future that allows the crew to save the knights of Camelot,

Ray Palmer - Early in the adventures, Palmer loses his Atom suit. After a brief struggle to find a new sense of identity, which involves partnering with Mick Rory and attempting to access his dark side. When he comes into possession of more dwarf star alloy, he is able to rebuild his suit and he gets the chance to save George Lucas, become a Knight of Camelot and revisit the home he build in the Cretaceous Period. He works to safeguard time by advising Heywood to avoid getting emotionally entangled with Jiwe, given that he knows the future Vixen,

Jefferson Jackson - Groomed to be the Chief Engineer of the Waverider, he is able to keep the ship up and running once Rip Hunter is lost. He experiences the most harsh version of racism when the Waverider ends up fighting zombies during the Civil War. He quickly identifies that Stein is hiding something when Stein starts having flashes of his daughter. He becomes determined to stop the brainwashed Rip Hunter and save Sara Lance. When Rip is recovered, he teams up with Lance to enter the lost captain's mind to try to find the location of the final piece of the Spear Of Destiny,

Mick Rory - Still reeling from the loss of Snart, he is wounded during the Waverider's final mission under Hunter. Kept in suspended animation, he is woken by Heywood and tries to take Ray Palmer under his wing when Palmer loses his Atom suit. He starts to hallucinate seeing Snart and turns to Stein for help. His more criminal methods are required at times to save the team and his feelings for Snart make him susceptible to the endgame that Eobard ultimately comes up with to recover the Spear Of Destiny,

Rip Hunter - Lost in time, he has his neural landscape completely rewritten to keep the fragments of the Spear Of Destiny safe. But when the Waverider crew finds him working as a filmmaker in the 1970s, the Legion Of Doom captures him to torture him for information. Brainwashed by Eobard Thawne, he becomes a tool for the villains, nearly killing Sara Lance in the process. After a trip into his mind is used to recover the location of the final Spear fragment, he and Lance disagree about how best to proceed . . . and who is in command of the Waverider,

Dr. Nate Heywood - A time detective, he follows the clues to the wreckage of the Waverider. There, he and Oliver Queen find Mick Rory and he works to recover the rest of the crew. Smart and resourceful, he is a hemophiliac until - in trying to rescue his JSA grandfather from the Nazis - he has to use a superserum being used by Thawne. Altered to have the ability to transform into steel, he is testing his abilities when he is thrown back into feudal Japan. Rescued, he is sympathetic to Amaya and her quest to get justice for Hour Man. He carries his grandfather's dog tags and has a dislike of visiting the future. He and Amaya begin to develop a romantic relationship, in spite of Palmer's warnings to him,

Amaya Jiwe (Vixen) - A member of the Justice Society Of America in 1942, she is with Hour Man when he dies and follows his accusation that a time traveler killed him to the Waverider. Using her ancient totem, she is able to channel the powers and special abilities of various animals. She is initially annoyed by the quarrelsome nature of the Waverider crew, but comes to admire their resourcefulness and some of their methods. She and Heywood begin to bond, especially after they are put in peril during the Revolutionary War,

and Eobard Thawne - Having been kept alive following the Flashpoint Tangent, he finds himself hunted by the Black Flash. He recruits Damien Darhk because of Darhk's desire to avoid his own death and Malcolm Meryln because Meryln wants to prevent his own downfall, in order to aid his quest to rewrite reality itself. Rewriting existence itself, he seeks to become remade and end the hunt for him. He is forced to ally himself with villains from throughout time to do his dirty work. Stranded on the moon with Ray Palmer, he is forced to make an unlikely alliance before executing his end game.

The performances in the second season of Legends Of Tomorrow are almost all good. Victor Garber has the chance to explore some of his more comedic abilities and Dominic Purcell has an incredible season where he is able to play more than a simple thug. Mick Rory might have one of the season's most frustrating arcs (mostly because the writers refuse to acknowledge that the character has had a substantive change when he makes a late-season reversal), but Dominic Purcell makes the moody former-villain compelling to watch with his ability to make subtle emotional performance moments resonate.

Matt Letscher makes Thawne into a compelling villain in the second season of Legends Of Tomorrow. Letscher plays the complexities of Thawne incredibly well in the key scenes he is in in the second season of Legends Of Tomorrow. Letscher's ability to play desperate in "Legion Of Doom" and coolly smart and emotionally connected in "Moonshot" help elevate Eobard Thawne into something beyond a simple comic book villain.

While Caity Lotz rises to the occasion of making Sara Lance into a commanding presence, it is Maisie Richardson-Sellers who explodes into the second season of Legends Of Tomorrow. Richardson-Sellers uses every opportunity to play Amaya Jiwe with both emotional line deliveries and subtle physical performances. She has great on-screen chemistry with co-star Nick Zano (Heywood) and her ability to convey emotions with a look or minimal motion is uncommonly great.

Legends Of Tomorrow Season 2 is a little more erratic upon rewatching than one might wish, but it makes a more sensible time travel adventure by having a time-traveling speedster as its adversary. While the season builds to a climax and contains so many unfixed historical aberrations that it seems to telegraph its own eventual undoing, Legends Of Tomorrow Season 2 is consistently entertaining and fun to watch.

For a better understanding of exactly what is in this season, please visit my reviews of each of the episodes at:
"Out Of Time"
"The Justice Society Of America"
"Outlaw Country"
"The Chicago Way"
"Raiders Of The Lost Art"
"The Legion Of Doom"
"Land Of The Lost"
"Fellowship Of The Spear"

For other works from the 2016 – 2017 television season, please check out my reviews of:
"The Return Part 1" - Twin Peaks
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt - Season 3
Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. - Season 4
Sense8 - Season 2
Dear White People - Season 1
"Thin Ice" - Doctor Who
The Walking Dead - Season 7
Thirteen Reasons Why - Season 1
Grace And Frankie - Season 3
Iron Fist - Season 1
Love - Season 2
Santa Clarita Diet - Season 1
A Series Of Unfortunate Events - Season 1
One Day At A Time - Season 1
Travelers - Season 1
The OA - Season 1
Gilmore Girls: A Year In The Life
"Invasion!" - Arrow
"I Know Who You Are" - The Flash
"Alex" - Supergirl
Luke Cage - Season 1
Stranger Things - Season 1


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

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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