Legends of Tomorrow offers a serviceable finale. That’s damning with faint praise: there is nothing terrible about the finale, and I could list favorite moments (most of them involving dialogue by Mick) as the focus is on character more than plot. But when the team is facing such a conflict as an immortal like Vandal Savage (Casper Crump) attempting to destroy the Earth and all of time itself, the finale feels a little underwhelming.
The show itself demonstrates from its first minute that it has had some difficulty figuring out what was the point of this season: when the recap at the beginning of the episode, in lieu of the traditional narration by Rip Hunter (Arthur Darvill), shows only clips of the first and penultimate episodes, it makes it seem like everything that happened in-between could be skipped. Because Rip dropped the team off six months later (for the sake of production scheduling on the other Arrow-verse shows but also so Sara couldn’t intervene to save her dead sister), it feels like this story is tangential to the adventures of the Green Arrow and the Flash. That Sara (Caity Loitz) misses news about her sister’s death, that Jax (Franz Drameh) complains his mother will wonder why he disappeared for months, and that Stein’s wife Clarissa (Isabella Hoffman) seems perfectly alright with his absence, the beginning certainly suggests that little of value has happened in that time.
But the benefit at least is that the show does demonstrate character development, I think most apparent in Mick (Dominic Purcell). After dispatching (in fiery fashion) the new Captain Cold he was trying to recruit, it takes Ray “Haircut” Palmer (Brandon Routh) to offer a hand as his new partner and a willingness to help him finish their mission with Rip rather than merely revert to a life of crime. Mick, after his experiences with the team, his torturous transformation into Chronos, and his loss of Snart (Wentworth Miller), is not the same person from Season 1 of The Flash. I can nitpick over how realistic that transformation is, especially when The Flash stumbled as well to redeem Sanart throughout Season 2. But the conversion is there: Mick’s farewell to his “hero” in 2013 had the right beats in dialogue and acting from Miller and Purcell, so that’s enough.
It is therefore to the benefit of this show that it grounded its finale in its characters’ desires. Seeing Sara attack Rip, seeing Stein (Victor Garber) and Jax debate with themselves whether to return to Rip, and seeing Ray on board to help Mick out (and, as an afterthought, his ex-girlfriend Kendra) lends some character weight to the episode. In addition to following Mick’s development into more confidence, the similar development for Ray was there, in subtle ways, as he goes toe-to-toe with his teacher Stein, whether asking questions of concern that Stein still scoffs at (“Oh, Raymond, you insult me”), or gently poking him (Ray: “Go ahead–say it.” Stein: “Astonishing!”). The two finally get to be at an equal level, the high-five between them a small but appreciated moment.
While the desire to rescue Kendra (Ciara Renée) and Carter (Falk Hentschel) seemed lacking, at least Kendra had the moment to demonstrate craftiness in leaving a message from World War II France via a helmet she recognized from Rip’s collection–but please, show, give the two Hawkpeople much more personality. The reduction of Kendra to the object in not one but two love triangles (Ray-Carter and Carter-Savage) has been a waste of the character. It doesn’t help that Carter, having been brainwashed, is still largely an empty vessel–so maybe a Thanagarian invasion in the future will give the two characters some greater stakes to be involved in the story.
At the same time, the focus on so many different characters can make the ending sputter. It starts to be a little unwieldy ten minutes before the closing credits, with Rip determined to sacrifice himself for the team by taking the Thanagarian meteorite into the Sun, before GIDEON (Amy Pemberton), an A.I., is the one to say she does not want to stop living. That’s a major occurrence, to have the artificial intelligence gain a desire for life, whether sardonically or not (and I can definitely accept a sardonic A.I.)–and that shattering moment is just ignored. Of course, for the sake of plot, we can’t stop to give some greater credence to GIDEON’s remark, so I can only hope that is seeding a moment to be developed in Season 2, similar to hinting at Aya’s complexity in Season 1 of Green Lantern before it reached a climaxed in Season 2.
Then the next sputter is to have Rip be willing to sacrifice himself, have his almost heavenly reunion with his deceased wife and son, and instead of accepting his demise reaching some closure and determined to live on. That subversion is appreciated to move beyond the death drive motif of a suicidal hero, yet it does come across as so anticlimactic, especially when we don’t actually get to see Rip hurl the meteorite into the Sun with a Solar Ray (because of course the Swiss Army Knife that is the Waverider would have one) and instead only hear Rip tell us about it. I guess the CGI budget ran out on that one.
While I will criticize the pacing, and even how corny Rip reuniting with his family was, the heart was there: it’s a moment that deserved to be shown, it’s the end of the episode, so for the sake of a climax, I can tolerate the sentimental presentation. As well, the movement into the Sun was presented well, both in lighting on set and in the CGI that was animated. The moment for me had a better register than the similar scene earlier this week with Agents of SHIELD, and that lighting choice may be part of it: those who die in space on SHIELD are resigned and looking to the Earth, their backs turned away from the Sun, while Rip, ostensibly the hero of this show, is facing the Sun and hence towards a brighter future. (And it pains me writing something that corny at the end of this paragraph–but screw it, this ending was corny anyway.)
I am being harsh to this season finale, but it was enjoyable. The plot setup of defeating Savage in three different times (a la the finale to Star Trek: The Next Generation) was a clever approach, even if it seems far too late for such a classic time travel conceit, to have the villain working with past versions of himself to combine resources. At least this time travel technique also avoided the cliche of one of the Savages turning on the others. As well, the setup retroactively lent some much-needed significance to seemingly disconnected episodes, such as the one in the 1950s, by having Savage’s discovery of the Thanagarian meteorite be due to the intervention of Future Savage and for the sake of furthering Savage’s plans. It’s not as interesting as “The Savage Time” three-episode arc from the animated Justice League (that episode potentially alluded to in this episode with Savage’s visit to World War II-era France), but at this point with this series, I’ll take what I can get if it lets the series as a whole benefit upon re-watching.
And that brings me back to the original point: the season really did act as if what occurred up to this point consisted largely of episodes that could be skipped. The small moments of referring to the previous episodes, such as Stein’s meeting with H. G. Wells or Rip recapping in dialogue multiple situations of the characters (I laughed a bit at Rip mocking Jax for being turned into a birdperson), shows awareness by the show that this is a finale and a time to reflect on how the characters change. This leads to the third bit of sputtering in the ending, that being the conclusions for each character: Mick gets his preemptive goodbye to give to Snart, Kendra and Carter fly off elsewhere, Sara mourns over her sister, and Rip makes himself the new Time Master. Seeing as Darvill was in Doctor Who, things don’t usually end well when one person makes themselves the new lord of time, so I’m hoping Season 2 can approach that danger of one person, rather than one committee, with too much power.
And speaking of Season 2, this episode gives a better tease than Supergirl did: while someone crashes a ship onto the scene, this time we get to see who is inside, and it is Rex Tyler, alias Hourman. While Tyler’s powers in the comics refer to their duration and not time manipulation, it is a clever joke by the show to include someone named Hourman in the cast. The name-drop of Justice Guild only makes me happier to hear the TV shows move forward with a larger superhero organization: if the CW can’t use the Justice League due to the film rights, then they’ll do what Smallville did and use the Justice Guild–that works for me. Plus, with the news that Supergirl is moving to the CW and will have an episode that is a cross with Arrow, The Flash, and Legends of Tomorrow, it looks like there could be a Justice Guild that actually looks as impressive as what the films can offer. That’s enough right now for me to welcome a second season of Legends of Tomorrow.
- Can’t we let Sara join the fight in the Arrow finale? Please? She doesn’t have to go back to the future just yet.
- If I may likely steal a page from what probably will appear in Oliver Sava’s upcoming review of this episode at The AV Club, the departure of Carter and Kendra does reduce the main team down by one female character. That fact is all the more frustrating when Stein’s wife Clarissa encourages him and Jax to continue time traveling, since he will be able to come back. Clarissa’s encouragement overlooks not only that Rip likely would do what he did here, drop them back six months later (so to keep the show consistent with the other Arrow-verse shows) but also that it’s not as if she can’t go with the team. After all, Sue Dibney was a member of the Justice League along with her husband, Ralph, the Elongated Man, so it’s a matter of cast budgets and writing choices.
- Oh, hey, they finally added the Thanagarian explanation to Kendra and Carter’s reincarnation story: the meteorite that gave them wings and reincarnation is Thanagarian tech.
- And Firestorm finally gets his transmutation abilities from the comics: awesome! But, sadly, Jax is not a Fullmetal Alchemist fan.
- Huh–same week that SHIELD has its leader (Coulson) use a hologram as a character prepares to sacrifice themselves in space, here Legends has its leader (Rip) do the same. Coincidence.
- I wasn’t sold on Rip’s explanation why Laurel Lance, killed this season on Arrow, could not be saved. Given how dull that mystery has been–introduced in the season premiere, with Oliver Queen and Barry Allen over someone’s grave–I think the writers of the Arrow shows could have helped viewers with a small hint. For example, in the second episode of Legends, have Rip watching timeline video footage to see Dahrk kill Laurel, Sara, and their father, as he tells Sara in this episode he saw, so that, first, the mystery is set up that one of the Lances dies on Arrow, and second, have Rip show us the audience that this is the truth and not some obtrusive exposition-heavy dialogue.
- Mick totally left some Marty McFly warning for 2013!Snart, right? “Dear Snart: You’re going to die. Make sure that doesn’t happen. Love, Mick.”
- Was anyone else cringing at the thought, when Jax arrived, that he and Clarissa spiked Stein’s drink out of revenge for roofying Jax? Oh, you think I forgot about that Stein? Hell no–I’m not forgetting that.
- “Every time I see them [the Hawkpeople], I get hungry for chicken.” I can’t list every funny line from Mick, but please, CW, let him and Ray just have their own spinoff, just for an excuse for someone to write the dialogue between them. Mick and Palmer. I can handle a fifth DC show on the network.
- So…is Savage’s Waverider still out there? Is that how Hourman got his hands on it?
- As I said earlier in this review, Supergirl will be moving to the CW, keeping its previous 8:00 PM Monday timeslot–and it is to the benefit of the CW, and CBS’s loss, that this is happening. With the Justice Guild namedrop, I am really hoping Kara and J’onn end up part of this team, even if that requires some interdimensional hopping between shows.
With that in mind, I had spoken with a friend about the value of having Supergirl as part of the larger Arrow-verse, and he reminded me that J’onn also would be part of the show. I consider that detail important, seeing as David Goyer, who is writing the big-screen adaptations of some DC Comics shows, has been critical of J’onn, referring to him as known only by fans who never “been laid.” Because David Goyer went to the Donald J. Trump Charm School.
But I think the work by Greg Berlanti and others on Supergirl and the other Arrow shows demonstrates the value to that character: someone mourning the loss of one family, trying to repair relationships with a new family.
And that conversation with my friend led to this imaginary exchange between Goyer and Legends of Tomorrow producer Greg Berlanti:
David Goyer: “Martian Manhunter sucks–I don’t want his green butt in my super-serious DC films.”
Berlanti: “That’s cool. Excuse me, I’m actually giving the people some fun superhero stories–so I’ll just take J’onn and do something awesome with him. Bye.” (middle finger) “BTW, how’s Constantine working out for you?”
Goyer: “SCREW YOU!”
And with that out of the way, see you back here for Season 2.