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The average run time of a television drama is forty-five minutes. That’s enough time for The Flash to fight a bad guy, quip with Cisco, run some tests with Caitlin, mistrust Wells, catch up with Joe and go on a date with Paddy. It’s enough time for Peggy to reunite with Jarvis, meet his wife, have an argument with the NY boss and solve a mystery. For a show about time travel Legends of Tomorrow frequently felt like it was running out of time.
It was really overstuffed. Sometimes a show just needs more breathing room. The penultimate episode of Doctor Who, for instance, scored an extra twelve minutes of Peter Capaldi skirting solo around an episode because any less would have taken away the gravitas of it all. Legends of Tomorrow lacked the sensation from the trailer. The ooohs and ahhs that sold it as the premiere event of 2016.
On paper it sounds like a no-brainer. Collect the supporting characters from Flash and Arrow that have completed their guest arc for more adventures. These shows are built around five or so core characters and an array of recurring guests, but if the guests hang around too long they lose their shiny appeal. So here they are in their own adventure, with special guest star Stephen Amell to lend some credibility to proceedings.
The Atom was the best B plot of Arrow season three. It was a gradual progression from CEO inventor to Iron Man-lite to crime-fighter Atom. In the land of shrinking superheroes The Atom wins over Ant-Man every day of the week. It feels like a mistake to have him die in the Arrow finale when he was always coming back for Legends. The resurrected thing is already going on with Sara Lance and while it did give a definitive end to his arc it really didn’t need to happen. His romance with Felicity was over and his suit was complete. Need there be any more?
Elsewhere the strongest members from Flash’s inaugural season and this year’s crossover episode make an appearance. Firestorm, now Martin Stein and Jackson Jefferson, contrast their bipolar brilliance with recurring villains Captain Cold and Heatwave. Good concept, average execution. Hawkgirl and Hawkman, who we spent the crossover getting to know, round out the team of eight.
Eight seems like a large number, especially as the introduction is a little double-bagged. The episode sees Rip Hunter – more on him later – recruiting them all in various locales before asking them to consider their options. This prompts cameos from the Arrow and the Black Canary, which is nice, kind of, but the episode would have helped by just getting into the plot.
The second half then spends its time trying to squeeze a regular episode into the space leftover, which is near-impossible. The team travel to 1975 to speak with a professor about the whereabouts of Vandal Savage, the arch-nemesis that Felicity tracked down in 0.000001 seconds in the crossover. A unexpected personal connection reminded us about how time travel is such a brilliant storytelling device (Futurama, Doctor Who) and then descends into angst. It could have been better.
And no Flash cameo. Cheers guys. He was in the trailer! As was the giant robot foot, which better be in next week’s episode. The episode’s “enticing” close of the barely-there bad guy Vandal Savage’s acquisition of a nuke was low-level stuff. It wasn’t Arrow’s “Who Killed Sarah?” or Flash’s “Jay Garrick arrives”.
Maybe that’s the reason it didn’t stick. It’s airing alongside episodes of the Flash and Arrow. The initial reports were more of an Agent Carter style where the bigger shows take a break and a niche event series fills the void. On Tuesday The Flash introduced the Turtle and delivered a brutal gutpunch to Barry’s personal life. On Wednesday Felicity fought for her life in the emergency room while the Arrow crossed several lines, including colluding with villain Anarchy to bring Dhark down.
Comparatively Legends was tame. It was pleasant even.
There’s a lot of cool ideas floating around. There’s the Canary/Cold relationship, romantic or not, that’s began to grow. The Stein/Atom bond, which is a little one-sided. And obviously Hawkgirl/Hawkman, who are still going through their origins. It’s trying really hard and it still has the potential to be awesome.
It doesn’t help that the hype was outrageously high and that most of the episode was in one trailer or another. There were no surprises or twists. It’s a pilot after all. It just felt like a collection of haphazard B-characters rather than the rooftop team we were promised.
(There was a rooftop after all, but not the pivotal gamechanger I anticipated. And your ship is pretty but it is not revolutionary. Stop bragging. Star Trek did it in the sixties)
The other thing to consider is this is titled “Pilot – Part 1”. It is half of a whole and it feels like it. But it feels like a lumpy lone piece. There’s no connective tissue to the next episode and they were not aired on the same night. It’s a rare misfire for DCTV and here’s hoping it improves quickly.