Legends of Tomorrow premiere recap: Pilot, Part 1
Legends, assemble! Or not
In a single episode, one or more of the “legends” of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow manage to…roofie a teammate, discover a son from a past life, dodge a “temporal bounty hunter,” argue with a time-traveling ship’s computer, and reference Punk’d.
Then again, we all knew since the first trailer that this show — about a hodge-podge motley crew of superpowered and super-accessorized misfits — would be overflowing with backstories. (They required a two-episode crossover event on both Arrow and The Flash to introduce them, after all.) And with the added challenge of time travel, how else could this show have started than to get every not-so-legendary recruit on the same page — and to throw them into a whirlpool of misadventures?
That’s Rip Hunter’s thinking anyway. Played by Doctor Who alum Arthur Darvill, Hunter is a Time Lord Master, who, following a failed appeal to the Time Masters Council to help him change history so he can stop Vandal Savage (an immortal psychopath conquering the world and shooting poor children in the face — we’ll get to that later), decides to round up a team of non-Time Masters who all can be conveniently found in 2016 to help him with his task instead. They are (assemble!):
- Ray Palmer, a.k.a. The Atom. Like Marve’s Ant-Man, except smaller. Self-made supersuit allows him to shrink so small he can zip around the inner working of computer chips, as well as grow and knock enemies out cold. Earnest. Ambitious. Kind of looks like Superman from the mid-2000s, for some reason. You’ll recognize him if you watch Arrow.
- Sara Lance, a.k.a. White Canary. Former member of the League of Assassins who was resurrected in a magical hot tub belonging to Ra’s Al Ghul. Currently hanging out in Tibet. Great at high kicks. Bad at keeping her cool. Sister to Laurel Lance in Star City. You’ll recognize her if you watch Arrow.
- Martin Stein and Jefferson Jackson, a.k.a. Firestorm. Bookish scientist and former football star with the ability to merge into a flying, fireball-throwing machine. Not actually a machine, though Stein would like very much to be just as intelligent. You’ll recognize them if you watch The Flash.
- Kendra Saunders and Carter Hall, a.k.a. Hawkgirl and Hawkman, a.k.a. what I’m calling Hawkcouple from now on. Lovers who have died and been resurrected hundreds of times, thanks to their connection to Vandal Savage that dates back to Ancient Egypt. Kind of hard to explain. Sprout wings. Wear cool armor. You’ll recognize them if you watch The Flash and Arrow.
- Leonard Snart and Mick Rory, a.k.a. Captain Cold and Heat Wave. A pair of criminals with dangerous guns — one that freezes enemies and one that sets them on fire. (Guess which guy carries which.) Hostile. Snarky. Have a penchant for grunting and for snide commentary. You’ll recognize them if you watch The Flash.
Rip Hunter captures them all and tosses them onto a roof, where he fills them in on Operation: Murder Vandal Savage. Together, they can travel back in time on his ship to kill Savage (properly, this time) because they’re meant to, as they’re considered “legends” in the future. All they have to do is join.
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Naturally, they bicker among themselves. Ray consults with Oliver Queen (a.k.a. the Arrow), who plays devil’s advocate until Ray says his apparent death (at the end of season 3 of Arrow, remember that?) revealed just how little his work meant, and that the opportunity to do something greater for the world is the path he wants to pursue. Hawkcouple decides to fight instead of talk more about how much Carter loves Kendra even though she doesn’t remember their romance. Sara talks to Laurel in the Arrow-cave, where Laurel encourages her to channel her confusion and grief into something positive by becoming a member of Rip Hunter’s team, this time as the White Canary, instead of Black. Heat Wave just goes with what Captain Cold wants, and what Captain Cold wants is a chance to commit more crimes — and what better way to do so than go to time periods in which they don’t belong? (He mentions snatching the Mona Lisa, which is…questionable.)
But it’s Stein, rational Stein, who ends up doing the most irrational thing to get him and his partner on board: He knocks his counterpart out by drugging him. Victor Garber, how could you?!!!
NEXT: Welcome to the Waverider, Rip Hunter’s very own TARDIS
Having convinced everyone to join Operation: Murder Vandal Savage, Rip Hunter can’t help showing off when they arrive at his not-so-secret meeting location. He introduces them to his camouflage-capable, time-traveling ship, the Waverider, as well as its computer, Gideon (dryly funny, whip-smart AI, you’ll recognize her if you watch The Flash). By the time he’s done, he’s gone full Exposition Master, explaining that because no one, not even Gideon, can find Savage, they must first find the one known expert on their target: a man named Aldus Boardman, who teaches in St. Roch, New Orleans. Oh, and they’ll be traveling to October 1975 to do it.
As the ship zaps off, two bystanders who saw the Waverider become redshirts when a menacing-looking future soldier…being…thing…determines they’re not “integral to the timeline” and rips them into pieces.
Things only get weirder from there: After experiencing some unpleasant side effects of time-traveling, the entire group arrives in St. Roch, only to be told that they’re splitting up. Rip Hunter would rather not have Sara, Captain Cold, and Heat Wave tag along because he doesn’t need anyone being killed, maimed, or robbed. (Cold’s words, not mine.) Jax stays behind out of protest, which Stein reluctantly accepts. The rest find Boardman, who, according to Rip Hunter, will die the next day, so their interrogation of his knowledge won’t have much of an effect on the timeline.
Now, brace yourselves for a deluge of exposition from Professor Boardman, who knows a thing or two or a thousand about Savage’s background — which, if you’ve seen the Arrow–The Flash crossover, you can skip. Here are the facts Boardman rattles off… *clears throat*:
- 1. Vandal Savage is connected to Kendra and Carter, who, in their first lives, were lovers.
- 2. Savage fell in love with Kendra, who was then Priestess Shiera, but she was in love with Carter, who was then Prince Khufu.
- 3. Out of jealousy, Savage murdered the lovers.
- 4. After the murder, he prayed to the hawk god Horus to damn the objects involved for all eternity, which in turn led Shiera to pray to Horus to protect her and Khufu for all eternity, which in turn led to Savage being bound to this eternal mumbo-jumbo, as well, which somehow, uhh, led to a shower of meteorites hitting the murder site. Or something like that.
- 5. Radiation from the meteorites affected all three, making them bonded forever in a cycle that has Savage killing the lovers repeatedly to gain strength and maintain immortality. This sucks for the lovers.
- 6. This all took place in Ancient Egypt, if the whole praying-to-Horus thing didn’t make this clear.
Got all that? Great! Professor Boardman, though, isn’t done with his lecture. He reveals that he recognized the reincarnating couple because they were his parents in their past lives (Savage murdered them when Boardman was 10). As touching as this pseudo-reunion is, however, Rip Hunter realizes they need to get a move on and asks Boardman to pinpoint them to Savage’s location. Boardman does, but not before explaining to them how he’s been tracking Savage: He’s spotted Savage in dozens of photographs and has evidence that he’s been involved in every major conflict and global war since, well, practically forever.
Just as they’re about to leave, Stein gets a headache — Jax, back on the ship, is in trouble. The soldier/being/thing that eliminated the Waverider witnesses is, Rip Hunter explains, a “temporal bounty hunter” named Chronos who’s attacking with all his might. The group rushes back — Boardman in tow, as the Hawkcouple insist on bringing him along, even though the Waverider only has eight seats aside from the captain’s — and barely make it inside the ship. Stein and Jax bond into Firestorm, the Hawkcouple flies around, and Ray dons his supersuit. Boardman gets shot amid the chaos.
Finally, Sara, Captain Cold, and Heat Wave arrive and subdue DC’s Boba Fett. Earlier, the trio had left Jax alone on the ship for a chance to drink in the 1970s and wound up in a scuffle of their own. Sara, in her White Canary suit for the first time, goes against the message of positivity Laurel hoped her new role would spread and beats up a rude man at the bar. Captain Cold and Heat Wave joined in, smashing stools and one-dollar beers just for the sake of it. And though they’re perfectly happy with their jaunt, they return to find less-than-grateful teammates and a livid Rip Hunter.
NEXT: The truth is (far) out
It’s not just the Waverider that’s in need of repairs now. Rip Hunter navigates the ship into the temporal zone (it’s a “time limbo,” he says matter-of-factly), but the team needs much more than a sci-fi save point to heal the rift that’s grown between them and Rip Hunter. Kendra and Sara both punch him in the face to make him tell the truth about why bounty hunter Chronos was after them if Rip Hunter is supposedly a Time Master allowed to go anywhere and anytime.
So Rip Hunter concedes. (Time for more exposition!) It turns out the Time Master is no longer a Time Master, really — he had left the Council after they refused to go after Vandal Savage, and to get the legends to join, he lied to them about how important they really are to the future. In fact, they’re not important at all; they’re “the opposite of legends,” as Jax puts it. Because they’re so insignificant to the timeline — yet powerful in their own ways — Rip Hunter believed the eight of them would be the most effective team members to bring Savage down without hurting the timeline.
But why does Rip Hunter want Operation: Murder Vandal Savage to succeed so badly? Savage, he explains, murdered his wife and his son Jonas — the boy we met at the beginning of the episode in 2166 London. Although the Council of Time Masters discouraged marriage, Rip Hunter had fallen in love and started a family anyway.
With the truth finally out, the no-longer-legends go back to debating whether it’s worth joining Rip Hunter on his quest, even though they’re destined to not be remembered in the future. Kendra goes to see Boardman after hearing Rip Hunter talk about losing his family, and as he dies, she accepts the ring she once wore as Boardman’s mother. Stein and Jax also have a heart-to-heart: Stein admits that he was overexcited with the opportunity to travel through time and shouldn’t have drugged Jax, but Jax says he’s okay with joining the team now that he’s seen how the team members worked together to save the ship.
Ray (and Ray’s ego), however, can’t figure out what to do. He’s distraught that after everything he’s done in his life, he’ll be nothing more than speck in time and not a legend at all. But Sara argues that if Rip Hunter believes they can change history and stop Vandal Savage, then they can probably change their own fates, too, which brings him back on board. As for the criminals, well, both Captain Cold and Heat Wave admit they could care not less. They’ve been bad in their timeline; they’re happy to keep being bad in others, and if it brings them any amount of glory, they’re in.
The group gathers again to tell Rip Hunter their decision. Pleased with the result, he has Gideon plot a course to Boardman’s best guess for Savage’s location: Norway, 1975, where we see Savage lovingly caress a weapon that looks like blue, overlarge candy corn (and also a warhead of some sort). “I’m just trying to make the world a better place,” he speechifies to his soldiers, “one war at a time.”
So with that cliffhanger, was Legends of Tomorrow truly legendary? Clearly, it’s a completely different beast from Arrow and The Flash, and not only because it follows an ensemble of C-list comic book characters, but also because of the show’s obvious (in this episode, anyway) struggle to give each of them equal amount of screen time and to delve into enough exposition to catch us all up to speed. I’m curious to see whether we’ll be seeing character- or pair-centric episodes in the future; for now, to me, this proves a shaky start, even if the cast looks like they’re having fun, and the emotional twist with Rip Hunter and the idea of false legends are undoubtedly compelling. (For a proper, deeper review, you can read EW‘s Jeff Jensen’s thoughts here.)
But tell me: Did you find Vandal Savage a worthy opponent? Have the “legends” captured your interest? Are you, like me, wondering where you can get your hands on Rip Hunter’s magnificent trench coat? Let me know your thoughts below, or tweet me at @shirklesxp. In the meantime, I’ve got a few timey-wimey notes (Professor Boardman would be proud):
- The quick Waverider tour with all the characters marveling at it was a highlight, and I’m looking forward to seeing more areas of the ship in the future. (It reminds me of the way Firefly steadily exposed different nooks and crannies of Serenity.)
- Showrunner Phil Klemmer sure loves Star Wars. We get references to Darth Vader and Boba Fett when Chronos appears (and a bonus, surprise familial relationship twist!), but I’m surprised the writers didn’t force (sorry) a light side/dark side joke with Sara dropping Black Canary for White.
- Poor Boardman. Tourists never survive.
- What was the cheesiest line tonight? I’m going with Captain Cold’s “Hero ain’t on my resume.”
- Looking ahead, I’m hoping every episode isn’t about the group being chased around by Chronos or tracking down clues about Savage. There’s great potential for some fun groupings after the show gets a firm grasp on each of the characters. What if an episode centers on a mission with Sara and, say, Jax or Stein? Or one that has Ray fly alongside the Hawkcouple? Or better yet, one that splits up the Hawkcouple for a little while — Carter can only express his love so many times — and lets them go on individual adventures? As Rip Hunter knows, only time will tell.