Dinosaurs! Nazis! Medieval Times (not the dinner show)! Yup, in a single episode, Legends bounced around so many times and places I’m not even sure where to begin.
Definitely not chronologically. After all, we pick up in the present in 2016 Star City, where Mayor Oliver Queen is brooding being visited by a historian named Nate Heywood. Alright, so “visited” isn’t the right word here: Nate more or less barges right into good old Ollie’s office, demanding a meeting. He knows about the Legends, you see — and because Oliver’s the guy with the bow and arrow and a penchant for a deep shade of green, he probably knows them and will care that Nate thinks they’re in trouble.
What kind of trouble? Well, it appears that the Waverider was sighted diving into the Atlantic Ocean by New York City in 1942 and disappeared after the detonation of an atom bomb, a temporal anomaly because the atom bomb hadn’t been invented yet. But if the records are correct, then the Waverider got hit by an atom bomb, which means… the Legends must be dead.
Oooorrrr… maybe not! The next day, Oliver and Nate make their way to the bottom of the ocean, searching for the ship. They find it, and once they’re on board, they quickly discover Mick Rory in stasis in the med bay. After convincing the Legend known as Heat Wave that they’re only looking for answers, Mick decides to tell them everything that happened leading up to the bombing.
He starts at the beginning — the very beginning, as in 1600s France. The team is there to save King Louis XIII from Cardinal Richelieu’s assassins, and though they start off just fine (look at those period blouses!), things get a little messy, as they tend to do with the Legends. Sara disappears for some, uhh, personal time with the queen, while Jax and Stein merge into Firestorm when they can’t get out of the assassins’ way, Mick steals jewelry (it’s still “screwing up,” Mick!), and Rip watches as Ray dons his high-tech Atom suit to take down the rest. It’s all exactly what Rip didn’t want: for the entire team to show off their powers and future tech. Still, they had to get out of character — the assassins themselves were wielding laser guns, clearly given to them by some time enemy.
It’s all flashy fun, but Nate and Oliver tell Mick to fast-forward to 1942. So he does. “Some guy in a hood named Rex Tyler said if we set foot in 1942, we’d be screwed,” he summarizes. “And then he vanished.”
“Why’d you go anyway?” Oliver asks. Good question, Oliver! Mick explains: When a timequake — that’s a significant aberration — rocks the ship, the Legends gather and find out that the Nazis nuked New York City in 1942, meaning the Allies lost the war, 12 million more people died, and the Nazis ruled the world from then on. Knowing they’d rather not live in the world of The Man in the High Castle, the team decides to go against Rex’s warning and just go ahead to 1942 New York anyway.
Besides, they have a good plan in place, and that’s already better than most missions they pursue. After realizing that Albert Einstein disappeared just before the New York attack, Stein suggests capturing Einstein before the Nazis do, so they can’t arm their nuclear weapon. Stein can’t wait — he’ll be meeting Einstein in the flesh! — and Sara’s also determined to make it. She’d learned that Damien Dahrk — you know, the Lazarus Pit-abusing, Laurel-killing villain — is present in 1942 New York, and she’s eager to kill him as soon as she gets the chance.
In fact, as soon as they arrive in New York, she darts off on her own side mission while lying to Ray and the others about where she’s headed. Ray follows in his Atom suit — he senses she could be in trouble — and winds up pulling her away from attacking Dahrk at a warehouse, where he’s meeting with a German-speaking bad guy about uranium. They put two and two together and realize that Dahrk is one of the people behind the impending attack.
Meanwhile, Mick, Stein, and Rip arrive at the nerd party symposium where Einstein is hitting on women. (Yup — now you’ll never be able to un-see Albert Einstein grabbing a woman’s behind.) Stein makes a poor impression by driving the women away to get Einstein’s attention, and when Einstein shouts for his security detail, the trio have to knock out the physicist and dodge gunfire to get him on the ship. Once they’re all on board, Einstein realizes that Stein & Co. are time travelers and finally cooperates, telling them that his ex-wife is just as good at nuclear physics as he is — and the team realizes that the Nazis must have kidnapped his first wife, Mileva Maric, to handle the job.
Aaaaand with that, the plan’s completely changed, yet again.
NEXT: Mein Gott, it’s full of Dahrk!
Back on the ship, the team bickers (as usual) about what they should do. Sara and Ray fight over her commitment to protecting history — Sara gets in a pretty rough dig at Ray, calling him a “self-righteous rich guy,” but Ray’s ultimately proven right. When the Legends decide to head to a shipyard in New Jersey to stop Dahrk and rescue Mileva, Sara makes a beeline for the villain, who immediately realizes she’s a graduate of the League of Assassins Academy for Training Tortured Souls.
Everyone else follows Rip’s commands, but to little success. Ray tries to disable the bomb, but his suit malfunctions because of the radiation. Mick torches bad guys with his gun but gets shot without backup. Firestorm has to help protect both as they all fall back, and Sara, realizing she’s the only one left, finally runs away with the rest.
At least they managed to get Mileva back. Still, the Nazis know how to work the bomb, and at this point, Rip can only think of one way to stop the bomb now, especially as the Nazis are using a German submarine to nuke New York (say that three times fast) from underwater. As they swim ahead, Jax carries out some modifications to the ship, and Rip positions the ship just so to get them ready for their strategy.
A strategy that turns out to be… sacrifice the Waverider to the torpedo and save New York. Seconds before the blast, Rip explains that he has no idea whether the Waverider would survive the impact of an atomic bomb, and says goodbye to his crew, beaming sending everyone but the injured Mick away. (Away to where? We’re almost there…) He knocks Mick out, carries him to the med bay, and puts him in stasis — and then talks to Gideon, sounding resigned as he wonders if she’s there. She says she is. “You always are,” he responds just as the torpedo hits. The blast ripples through the water and…
In the present, Mick thinks about what must have happened to his teammates. He says Rip probably time-scattered himself with everyone else, sending them through time and space, which means it’s up to him to play the hero and bring them back. That’s where Nate comes in: As a historian who has scoured through history to find evidence of the Legends, he acts as an analog Gideon, discovering traces of the team in different periods. Oliver encourages him to go with Mick through time, and after about five seconds of intense consideration, he goes with the plan to retrieve the Legends.
First up is Ray, who turns out to have gone back the furthest, to South Dakota 70 million years ago. We find him as he’s being chased by a T-Rex (yikes!) while sporting matted hair and an unsightly beard (double yikes!). Luckily, Nate and Mick scare away the beast just before Ray becomes dino dinner — and they jet off again into action to…
England in 821. There, a boy king (who brought back unfortunate flashbacks to Joffrey) demands his “wizards” amuse him. Jax tries to show him the magic mirror — an iPhone that miraculously still has battery — but the boy quickly grows bored and asks his executioner to behead them both. Yet again, Nate and Mick arrive just in time to help the poor Firestorm pair out of the situation — but not before Nate geekily marvels at witnessing an authentic medieval execution.
Sara is also on the brink of death when her teammates find her. Accused of “happily” corrupting women in Salem, she’s about to be hanged as a witch, but gets saved and even gets a chance to knock Nate out, unaware that he’s the “new guy.” Oops.
After those mini-adventures, though, Nate and the crew still haven’t managed to track down Rip. They ask Gideon for help, but all she can offer is a recording he made to the team, one that tells them to “stick together” and remember that “history is yours now, my dear Legends.” In other words… the captain stayed with the ship and, well, appears to not have made it out in time. Distraught, the Legends gather in the library and reflect on what they should do. They decide to move forward without Rip and to continue protecting time and history.
Which leads us back to 1942, where Mick and Stein convince Einstein to give Meliva some of the spotlight. That way, she’ll never be a silent partner, and the Nazis won’t be able to easily get to her once she has the same amount of protection Einstein does.
Not all is well just because of that change, however: On the submarine, Dahrk explains that his partner-in-villainy isn’t interested in trying another bomb, because he wants to move on to “other things.” And as the Nazi tries to threaten Dahrk, a burst of red lightning enters the room. That’s right: Dahrk’s been working on this plot with Eobard Thawne, the Reverse-Flash, the whole time. And judging by the look on Eobard’s face, what the pair (and the rest of the Legion of Doom, to be unveiled) have planned is even more dastardly than what we’ve seen tonight. Good thing the Justice Society of America is here though — the superheroic group arrives to greet the Legends, setting up what’s to come next week in an episode appropriately titled “The Justice Society of America.”
But is all of that enough to make Legends of Tomorrow a cleaner, better adventure drama than it was before? It’s certainly a step in the right direction, especially now that the team is smaller (be honest — did any of you miss the Hawkcouple?) and therefore easier to follow with more screentime for each member. Nate’s addition also provides a relatable audience proxy and his wide-eyed reaction to all the goings-on of the Legends only adds another helping of humor. Yet, there are still glaring flaws to The CW’s least consistent DC superhero show: The plot remains messy and full of holes, which, yes, is a natural side effect of doing such a trippy, time-traveling adventure romp, but even so, the flashy fun doesn’t cancel out the insipid nonsense. There’s a few too many jokes at the expense of one-note characters, few too many plot threads that amount to nothing more than “we’re trying to save history, okay?!” Legends could use character moments that justify the team name — ironically or not — and it’s on the right track. For the premiere, though, it just didn’t quite get there.