The Legends may have broken time, but they were never ready for a break. (Well, Mick was, but…that’s just Mick.)
In the past two seasons of this crazy-wonderful, delightfully nonsensical show about a motley crew of time travelers swashbuckling their way through the past and future, they’ve never stopped their adventures for anything. But this time, after the season 2 finale saw them create too big a time paradox for time to fix itself — there are too few synonyms for time, sorry — they’ve really, properly screwed things up for themselves.
When season 3 opens, they’re not trying contain the dinosaurs running around Los Angeles in 2017; instead, Rip Hunter, now five years older and wiser, has created a team called the Time Bureau that takes care of these “anachronisms,” beings that have been displaced through this new reality where time is broken. That solves the problem of the dinos (and the budget for showing them), but it means that the Legends are no longer needed.
And returning to normal life absolutely sucks for these guys. Sara works a mind-numbing job at a Bed Bath & Beyond knockoff, Ray’s putting up with a young Silicon Valley CEO intent on building his “holistic social networking platform” that’s basically Tinder but with swiping up and down, Nate’s saving Central City with Wally but has been dumped by Amaya, and Jax is studying engineering instead of practicing it. Only Stein and Mick are happy where they are: Stein’s daughter Lily has a child on the way, and Mick is on permanent vacation in Aruba.
These scenes are fun, if only to see the Legends doing something we’ve never seen before: coping with life outside the Waverider. But after stalling the action so early in the first act, the premiere never quite picks up the pace. It throws a wrench into it all early on by having Julius Caesar show up in Aruba right in front of Mick as an anachronism Rip’s team improbably fails to detect, yet it slows it all down further by having Sara, Nate, and Ray stop by Rip’s headquarters to try to convince him that they should be the ones handling Caesar.
The characters jump through several hoops to try to get Rip back on their side, but the plot jumps through even more just so they can get back to time-traveling: First, Rip’s team has to fail to capture the right Caesar. Then, Mick has to fail to recognize that they brought back the wrong Caesar. After that, Mick has to accidentally drop an authentic Roman coin so Nate can identify it and prove that Mick was right about Caesar being in Aruba. It’s only after all that that the former Legends finally reconvene inside the Waverider — right before they take yet another detour in order to pick up Jax and Stein, because the ship, which has since been repurposed into a simulator, needs repairs.
Got all that? If not, well, long story short, it takes half of the premiere just to get the Legends back to doing what they do best: irresponsibly traveling through time. (Next: They should totally just stab Caesar)
Things do pick up when the team arrives in Aruba to take care of business. They manage to grab Caesar pretty quickly — thanks mostly to Sara, who takes him out after Ray’s fake dating app distracts all the bros — but things go awry, as usual, when Rip’s hologram appears on the ship and advises them to take Caesar back to the bureau ASAP. Sara grapples with the decision of whether to play by Rip’s rules or to go on an adventure again — and ultimately, after a chat with Caesar, she decides to fly the Waverider straight to ancient Rome, effectively stabbing Rip in the back because Rip stabbed her first.
There, they drop off the would-be world conqueror…sort of. It turns out Caesar has some tricks up his sleeve: He swipes a book on Roman history off of Nate — how did Nate miss that someone lifted an entire book from his hands?! — and learns enough about his future to change history, forcing the Legends to stick around and fix their latest big mistake. But before they can come up with a plan, Rip arrives with his team of suits, and he’s more than happy to take over.
…Until he’s not. Rip hasn’t worked retail a day in his life, so he doesn’t notice that Caesar’s led his team into the same trap stores create for shoplifters, according to Sara. Call it the bait-and-wait: Caesar’s left the book behind on his desk, but while Rip’s crew is busy snooping around the tent to get it, Caesar’s squad surrounds them and captures Rip’s right-hand woman, Agent Sharpe.
And so, enter the Legends! (Finally!) Jax and Stein burst into the air as Firestorm, Sara rescues Sharpe, Ray and Nate retrieve the book, and Mick gets to punch Caesar for breaking his nose back in Aruba.
Still, the success in 49 B.C. doesn’t smooth everything over between the Legends and Rip. Rip is nervous about granting the Legends permission to operate the Waverider, but even he admits that he can’t control everything they do. (Besides, he hints to Agent Sharpe that there may come a day when the Legends’ unpredictable skills will come in handy.) He can’t even keep track of his possessions, as Mick manages to steal his portal-creating wristband, a memory wiper, and a “communications thing” off of him.
For now, though, the Legends are back together. After seeing how much being a Legend means to Jax, Stein decides to stay on board, and Mick assures Sara that he’ll also rejoin the team. But for Nate, being back only reminds him of Amaya, who had apparently decided to return to Zambesi in 1942 to fulfill a destiny Rip told her about. (Et tu, Rip?) Ray tries to comfort him to no avail, but at least he’s right when he says she’s happy; in the final scene, we see her protect her village from enemies, and unleash her power in a way she never had before as she channels an entire pack of panthers against the soldiers trying to take her down.
It’s an impressive final scene, but it doesn’t make up for an otherwise lackluster opening to the third season. Legends has always had a plot contrivance or two in every episode, but this one was as full of gaping holes as Los Angeles 2017 is of portals made by the Time Bureau. There are so many questions that need to be answered to help us fully grasp what this new reality looks like: How large is Rip’s organization exactly? What are the Legends’ goals now that Rip can take care of anachronisms so much faster than they can? What will be the larger conflict — between Rip and the Legends, or a villain yet to come?
The story feels a tad too scattered at the moment, but then again, Sara did say the team’s new motto was to screw things up for the better. Maybe this was just one of the messier adventures that’ll lead to something more worthwhile. Next week sees the Legends at a zoo with Billy Zane, after all. That has to be fun…right?