Was it necessary to spread Legends of Tomorrow‘s two-part premiere over two weeks? Not really, but as “Pilot, Part 2” had a completely different plot than part one, it worked just fine. “Part 1” had a lot of explaining to do; “Part 2” was a better distillation of what the show seems to be about: a not-always-balanced combination of serious action with character-defining plot and, well, silliness. And ’70s outfits.
In “Part 1,” Rip Hunter got the band together: eight not-yet-heroes, maybe-someday-legends from across the Arrowverse. Two enemies came into the picture: the campy immortal Vandal Savage, and Kronos, the armored bounty hunter of the Time Masters, Rip’s former bosses. After luring everyone in with the promise that they’re legends in the future, Rip reluctantly revealed that, whoops, just kidding; he actually took them out of time because they have minimal effect on the established timeline. At least, that was the future they were heading toward before he recruited them. Now, maybe things will change.
Legends deals with time travel in a way that encourages not overthinking it. It’s more plot device than serious consideration: it gets the team where and when they need to be, and Rip is clearly happy to explain the rules and consequences when they’re relevant. This episode’s important rule? You can’t mess with a moment you’ve already influenced. (Except on The Flash when you can. That’s different. Just go with it.)
This week, Rip lands the Waverider in Norway, where they expect to find Savage at a sale of black-market weapons. Their kidnapping attempt doesn’t pan out, to put it mildly: Ray, while trying to swoop in and say the day, loses a piece of his suit, which can/will/might lead to Savage destroying the future in new and creative ways. Snart demonstrates his love for waltzing into dangerous situations with aplomb, and Sara continues to be deadly, efficient, and basically unruffled by everything.
Stein’s younger self is the only person capable of creating a device they’ll need in order to find Ray’s bit of lost suit, and young Stein (played by Graeme McComb, practically out-Garbering Victor Garber), is just as smugly overconfident as his older version. With Jefferson and Sara, Stein meddles in his own timeline, while Ray, Snart, and
Rory Rip plot to steal a special dagger from a rich guy’s mansion. The dagger has to do with the Hawkpeople, who have been intensely discussing their past lives and relationships.
With a team this big, Legends has to split its attention, which can makes things feel simultaneously loose and overstuffed—but each group manages a key moment that makes their plot thread worthwhile. In the Hawkpeople soap opera, Carter oversteps his bounds, anxious for Kendra to remember that she’s in love with him, because he is a needy semi-creep in the guise of a centuries-old lover. (Did you just wrinkle your nose at the word “lover”? I do that every time Carter comes on screen.) But Kendra’s resistance to the idea that she owes him her affections is a nice change from fated-love-OMG. Meanwhile, a half-stoned Sara, tired of listening to cocky young Stein talk too much, knocks him out with a giant bong. And Ray screws up for the second time when his attempt to be helpful triggers an alarm at the mysterious mansion.
Sara is essentially the only competent person in this episode: At the arms deal, she calmly knocks down dude after dude; when it’s time to fetch Ray’s lost tech, she brushes off Jefferson’s concern that she’s too high and dispatches a host of guards in seconds. (If this show intends to give us a weekly reminder that Sara is a hyper-deadly former member of the League of Assassins, I will definitely keep watching.)
Snart and Ray have some real talk about priorities that is heavily laden with foreshadowing: Snart insists that he’s a survivor, and there will come a day when Ray wishes he were too; Ray follows this by showing Snart something clever and useful, which is as close as these two are going to get to bonding. Meanwhile, Hawkman accepts that Kendra doesn’t have to love him, and they do this faux-hypnotism thing so that she can remember what’s so special about the special dagger. (The less said about this dagger and its hokey poem, the better.)
The last third of the episode gets a little muddled: Young Stein follows Old Stein to the Waverider instead of going to the mixer where Stein meets his future wife, thus proving that cocky scientists are always trouble where established timelines are concerned. (Jefferson gets a moment when he gives Stein a pep talk, but his role as guy-who-gives-accepting-speeches is the least developed.) Rory finds the owner of the mansion his team is robbing, who, naturally, turns out to be Savage, because who else would own a magical dagger belonging to the Hawkpeople?
Savage, with Snart, Ray, and Rory in his clutches, sees an opportunity, and forcefully suggests Ray summon the rest of the team, which is the point at which anyone who also watches Flash and Arrow sighs, awaiting yet another seemingly-but-not-actually-impossible Vandal Savage confrontation.
But this one’s a little different. Carter’s not just a dope with the charisma of a piece of cold dry toast; he’s also too sure of himself, and when he tries to take on Savage, he fails dramatically. (The special dagger is apparently only special if Kendra wields it.) Early-season character eliminations aren’t nearly as shocking as they once were, but this one is, quite honestly, rather delightful. The team needed winnowing down; Carter was the most boring; now Kendra has a chance to be her own person.
First, alas, she’s got to have a moment of crying over how she didn’t get to tell Carter she actually did love him. This doesn’t feel earned—a few gooey flashback makeouts do not an eternal romance make—but the bigger problem is the way it drops so much of the narrative’s emotional burden squarely on Kendra’s shoulders. Last week, her son died; this week, goodbye Carter (who will reincarnate eventually, but exactly when remains unclear; does he wait until she also dies?). It’s similar to what Savage did to Rip, who suddenly finds a sympathetic side and takes Stein to see that his younger self will, in fact, still meet his future wife. But where Rip is mean-sad, I’m wary the show will turn Kendra into the Bearer of the Feels (no time-travel ship needs a Counselor Troi).
This episode winds up too neatly, with distraught Kendra unconscious while everyone else decides that, despite their various missteps, they want to keep chasing Savage, “for Carter,” which is a slightly rapid about-face from last week’s exploration of self-interest. Still, if we have to use the emotional ploy of killing someone to motivate the heroes, it’s a modestly nice change of pace to kill the romantic-lead guy; it could even be read as Legends trying to establish itself as willing to change the game a little bit. But it’s too early to say for sure.
- The moment when Cold is staring admiringly at Canary! I don’t know that I want them to flirt. I just want him to think she’s the coolest.
- In fact, let us count the ways Canary is the best: her no-nonsense fighting style (“I could be unconscious and still kick the ass of a few rent-a-thugs from 1975”); her mellow practicality (using the tools available to her); her willingness to indulge; that tired face she makes when she’s not really doing anything, like she’s just waiting for the action to start. If I have one request for this show, it’s that it never saddle her with a dopey relationship plot. (Unless it will bring in Nyssa.)
- I’m glad Rip’s deception is acknowledged—no one wants you to be the boss right now, you dirty lying Time Master—while not taking over the plot. He’s still the guy with the timeship and the knowledge. You can’t kick him out of the band just yet.
- Legends’ all-team fights, like the one at the weapons deal, have an excellent wide-screen style: switching from cuts between characters to pans from one to another gives a sense of scale, a convincing feeling that even when the camera is on Captain Cold, Canary is still in motion.
- The inescapable Damien Darhk turns up to be annoying for a minute, so probably that will be relevant on one Arrowverse show or the other.
- “You’ve got a room that makes clothing?” “Doesn’t everyone?”
Molly Templeton once thought Wentworth Miller’s Captain Cold was too much, but has since reconsidered.