Legends of Tomorrow: Enter the Justice Society of America

Written by Josh Sarnecky

legends-of-tomorrow-s2-banner

DC’s Legends of Tomorrow Season Two Premiere Plot Summary:

When historian Nathan Heywood (Nick Zano) enlists Oliver Queen’s (Stephen Amell) help in finding the Legends, they discover the Waverider at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. The ship’s only remaining inhabitant, Mick Rory (Dominic Purcell) explains that the team last traveled to 1942 to prevent an atomic bomb from destroying New York City.

Of the four superhero shows now airing on The CW, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow is without a doubt the weakest. The first season was marred by an unremarkable villain, weak character dynamics (specifically the love triangle), questionable logic, and unlikeable characters (specifically Hawkman and Hawkgirl). Despite these issues, the show remained an enjoyable spectacle that required little thought or attention, nothing more or less than popcorn fodder. Based on the season two premiere, the show will not become an Emmy Award winning series or truly transcendent television anytime soon, but Legends may be more enjoyable than ever. Not all of the show’s flaws have been exorcised, yet the changes on display in this season premiere are definitely encouraging.

Perhaps the most noticeable difference is just how much more fun the team dynamic is without the stoic Hawkman and the barista Hawkgirl. Every member of the group seems to serve a purpose other than cause melodrama, and they all enjoy a strong rapport. One of the benefits of having a six-person squad at the center of the show is that the characters can be arranged in new pairings and experience novel interactions that keep the action and drama fresh. Martin (Victor Garber) and Mick exchanging quips and Ray (Brandon Routh) and Sara (Caity Lotz) butting heads represent the Legends at their best, that is, a somewhat dysfunctional team that ultimately is united by noble intentions and underlying respect. No longer weighed down by the Hawks, these aspects of the crew are allowed to shine. The biggest shame, then, is that arguably the show’s strongest protagonist (i.e. Captain Cold a.k.a. Leonard Snart a.k.a. the greatest source of cold puns since Arnold Schwarzenegger) is no longer present.

On the other hand, the episode doesn’t give a clear look at this season’s villains, but Damien Darhk’s (Neal McDonough) appearance in this episode alone eclipses all of Vandal Savage’s antics last season. Paired with the surprise cameo at the end of the episode, this round’s antagonists have plenty of potential. Granted, Darhk wasn’t given as much scenery to chew as in Arrow, but Neal McDonough has the rare ability to simultaneously exude menace and charm without even saying a word. Hopefully Darhk and his dastardly compatriots can continue displaying that winning combination and avoid the pitfalls the doomed Savage as an antagonist.

Yet, though the Hawks and Savage are gone, some of the previous season’s more questionable traits are still clearly present. The introduction of Nathan Heywood comes up as extremely abrupt, and his character seems like an odd addition to the cast. The logic and rules behind time travel remain ill-defined and overly malleable, raising too many questions that the writers don’t seem interested in answering. And while The Flash occasionally delves into campy villains and dialogue, Legends of Tomorrow continues to embrace the over-the-top silliness often associated with comics on a much more regular basis. And the season two premiere truly takes the camp to another level and revels in the absurdity. However, the increased camp actually benefits the episode in some surprising ways.

Last season, the show’s campiness frequently felt like a weakness that dramatically separated Legends from Arrow and The Flash; the camp in the premiere, meanwhile, gives the show a much needed boost of energy and amusement. While the similarities between the shows have always been there, Legends seems more committed than ever to modeling itself after Doctor Who. The result is sometimes jarring and a tad too self-indulgent (i.e. the depiction of Albert Einstein, Martin and Jackson’s encounter with a Game of Thrones inspired boy-king, etc.), but the recipe also leads to some of episode’s most enjoyable moments (i.e. Sara’s ability to seduce closeted women across history, the team’s inability to keep a low profile, etc.). Hopefully the series will continue to use the camp to good effect as our heroes meet one of the campiest teams in DC’s lineup.

Based on the premiere alone, Legends is unlikely to become a dramatic powerhouse anytime soon, but the second season may offer a level of fun that its fellow DC shows fail to achieve at times. Those viewers deeply disappointed with the show’s first season will probably not be swayed, but fans hoping to see signs of improvement should be happy with the direction the series appears to be going.

RATING: 7 OUT OF 10

Founded in September 2009, The Pop Break is a digital pop culture magazine that covers film, music, television, video games, books and comics books and professional wrestling.