PILOT LITE: Legends of Tomorrow (2016 tv series)

Posted: February 3, 2016 in Pilot Lite, Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,

legends-tomorrow
Who would’ve thought a little cable channel known for teen melodrama would one day be on the cutting edge of comic book television? I know I talk a lot about my love for their Televisual DC Universe (yes, I’m still looking for an alternative to “Arrow-verse”) but it really can’t be stressed enough just what a big deal it is. They single-handedly changed the landscape of TV with one little show about a dude in green who shoots people with arrows. Compare what most channels offered in 2012 to right now and see just how many comic-based shows cropped up in Arrow‘s wake. And, if you want to take it back even further, Arrow was ostensibly a spinoff of Smallville. And even though that show had plenty of issues, it showed that this channel (and its precursor, The WB) have seen something worthwhile in comic adaptations since 2001. Anyway, I find it appropriate to discuss the history that made Legends of Tomorrow, the newest in the CWDCU (I’ll get there eventually, I swear) since it’s a series about traveling to the past in an effort to correct the future.

This is definitely the most ambitious show in this stable of series that all connect within the same universe(for those who aren’t sure what all are included, it’s Arrow, The Flash, Vixen, this show, [retroactively] Constantine, and [as of about 5 minutes ago] Supergirl!) which makes sense considering that it grabs up plot threads from Flash and Arrow and connects them into one larger narrative involving, among other things, time travel.

atomSticking with “gazing at the past” idea, it’s fun to look back at the pre-history of this show to see how it was initially sold to audiences and the network back in the spring of 2015 and examine how different it ended up becoming. It was originally pitched as a spin-off focusing on Ray “The Atom” Palmer due to Brandon Routh’s much praised turn as the character in Arrow‘s third season. Conventional thinking being that he’d be forming a team to fight bad guys. From there, the team was slowly fleshed out and a mini-pilot/pseudo trailer was released. With that, it became clear that the series was no longer going to be centered on The Atom, but Rip Hunter.

 

rhBetween that and the actual pilot, there have been even more major changes (just check out the above video of the original teaser), but the overall story seems to be largely the same: Hunter (as played by Arthur Darvill, no stranger to time travel) goes back in time with his badass ship, The Waverider, to recruit a team of heroes and villains to stop an immortal madman named Vandal Savage. It just so happens that the team he puts together is made up of popular secondary characters from Flash and Arrow. The pilot is split into two episodes, which makes sense due to the length. What doesn’t make sense is why they were aired a week apart. These two episodes really only work as a whole. The first episode feels exceedingly rushed and is essentially all table-setting and exposition while the second is mostly bombast and climax. As two separate parts, it feels oddly disjointed. If it were a whole, the set-up/payoff would feel more natural and I don’t think the pacing would feel nearly as awkward. So, if any of you readers haven’t seen the series yet, “Pilot” parts 1 and 2 are both on Hulu. Treat them like a movie.

hawkmanThe series quickly (maybe too quickly, as mentioned above) sets up our cast of characters and the threat that forces them together. Each member of said team has a fairly well crafted personality so far, due to their work on other shows. Regardless, some shine brighter than others. Wentworth Miller continues to do amazing work as Leonard “Captain Cold” Snart. He plays the role with a hamminess that is completely honest to the personality to the character. On the other end of spectrum is Falk Hentschel as Carter “Hawkman” Hall. The key to Hawkman’s character is his passion. His desire for his lover, Hawkgirl, is so strong that it is at the core of his power of resurrection. He’s a burning flame that refuses to be extinguished. All of that is completely lost in this cardboard portrayal. Hentschel does a lot of telling and very little showing when discussing how much he loves Kendra Saunders (as played by Ciara Renee) so his dialogue feels totally hollow when mixed with his flat affectation. Of course, this isn’t helped by the fact that Hawkgirl literally can’t remember that they’re in love which adds a creepy unrequitedness to their relationship as well. I’ll try to avoid spoilers, but let’s just say his death at the end of the pilot was probably for the best…oh, sorry. But seriously, the pre-release information listed him as having already been killed, so it’s not like his death wasn’t overtly telegraphed or anything. Also, Hawkman seems to die a lot when adapted (see Smallville‘s superior take on the character).

hwAll of the other actors fall somewhere in the middle. Victor Garber continues to have a ton of fun as Martin Stein and Caity Lotz’s Sara Lance has become a role that she’s so comfortable in, I can’t even tell that she’s acting. Brandon Routh is also nicely comfortable with his character as well. Ray continues to be perpetually out-classed but earnest about his limitations so the audience ends up rooting for him instead of getting irritated. The last two team members (Jefferson Jackson and Mick Rory) don’t do a whole lot. I’m curious as to how much a villain like Heat Wave will have to do on a superhero team. Dominic Purcell continues to play him with manic glee which is perfect for the character. And Jackson (as played by Franz Drameh) was somewhat stripped of his agency by being, essentially, drugged and forced onto the team. Luckily, by the end, he has re-established himself and made the choice to stick with them which makes him feel less like a hostage and more like a valued team member.

vandalIt’s been nice to see Casper Crump’s Vandal Savage get to expand his role since the Flash/Arrow crossover that introduced him. While a compelling villain, he wasn’t given a whole lot to do aside from try and kill the Hawkpeople in those series. We now get to see him leading an army and literally taking over the world. Hell, his introduction on the show features him killing a child. Turns out that’s a pretty decent way to establish a character as a threat, really.

chronosAside from the speediness of the first half, the story works pretty well. It seems to essentially be shooting for a “Best of” for DC characters and events. Aside from Vandal Savage, an old enemy from The Atom comics (Chronos) shows up. A fellow time traveler, he is in the employ of Rip’s scorned masters and is hunting the team down. In the comics, he’s more of a dopey thief who manipulates time to pull of heists. Here, he’s a badass bounty hunter who gets limited screen time. So, he’s basically Boba Fett (a comparison that’s brought up in-universe) which is a change that works fairly well. It not only shows that there are even more powerful forces than their immediate enemy, but it also sets up a potential future antagonist. I really hope that’s played up in later episodes, because a time-traveling bounty hunter who is perpetually on our heroes’ tail is one of the coolest things ever.

hunkelOn the whole, I’d say that this was a serviceable pilot. It wasn’t perfect, but both halves gave a good indication of what the show will be like in the long run. Pacing issues will likely get evened out over time (which happens on most shows) and the actors who are less comfortable in their roles will more than likely find a nice groove (except for Hawkman, because he’s dead). The showrunners have already hinted at where the season will go with a Western/Jonah Hex episode being confirmed and some hints at a WWII/JSA episode being tossed around as well. This show has, essentially, limitless possibilities and I really hope the creative team takes advantage of that and goes all out with future episodes/seasons. I mean, it’s called Legends of Tomorrow. With a name like that, you have to deliver on expectations. So far the universe these legends inhabit has had plenty to draw from and even more to expand on. Wait…DC’s Legends Universe…it’s much more all-encompassing than a title based after a singular hero. I kind of like the sound of that…

legends

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