Not So Legendary

A few weeks ago in THIS POST, I discussed the new and returning mid-season shows that I was looking forward to.  Now, with several episodes having aired, I can say that it’s been something of a mixed bag,  Galavant’s second season was a lot of fun and made me laugh consistently, but it was incredibly low rated.  I don’t know that it can escape the Cancel Bear (or his new name, the TV Reaper) a second time.  Marvel’s Agent Carter is also in the middle of an entertaining but low rated second season, which contains a sequence that had me laughing harder than any episode of The Big Bang Theory or The Muppets this season.

And then there’s The X-Files reunion/relaunch/rehash, which has been underwhelming, to say the least.  There have been a couple of bright spots, mostly in the third episode of the six episode run, but for the most part I’ve been bored, and, if I’m honestly, kind of embarrassed for David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson.  The writing has generally let them down.  After so many years off the air and with only six episodes to work with, The X-Files should be better than this, shouldn’t it?

The biggest disappointment for me, though, has been DC’s Legends of Tomorrow.  On the surface, this seemed like a can’t-miss proposition.  The show was putting Firestorm, Captain Cold, Heatwave, White Canary, The Atom, Hawkman, and Hawkwoman together as a team of heroes.  As I said in my January post, it’s as close as we’re going to get to a live-action Justice League on TV.  Even better, they were going to be travelling through time in a time ship captained by the actor who played Rory Williams on Doctor Who.  Superheroes kicking-ass throughout the time stream?  Sign me up!  It sounded like a blast.  And since the series was coming from the same producer as The Flash and Supergirl, two shows that have remembered that superheroics should be fun, I had high hopes.

We’re now five episodes in, and I’m seriously contemplating giving up on Legends of Tomorrow after five weeks of ridiculous plots, stilted acting, weak dialogue, and characters that I still don’t care about making incredibly dumb decisions because the writers need them to in order to move things along.  Rather than having fun, I have instead found myself actually shouting at my TV following yet another bone-headed move by the characters.  Honestly, I don’t often shout at my TV.  This show has driven me to it.

In retrospect I realize that some of the issues with Legends of Tomorrow actually spring from the show’s premise.  Yes, we have this team of potentially cool heroes, but from the writing side, it’s a logistical nightmare.  There are eight main characters to service (and I honestly thought it was going to be nine, but someone didn’t make it through the pilot two-parter) as well as the villain. That is a lot of characters to service and develop in the space of a 45 minute episode.  Granted, all of them except for Rip Hunter, the captain of the time ship, were previously established on either The Flash or Arrow, but let’s be honest, they were all third-stringers or recurring guest stars.  We know very little about most of them, so the show is practically starting with a blank slate.  Still with so many characters to write for in each episode, none of them are being handled especially well.

By far the strongest of the characters are Wentworth Miller’s Leonard Snart (aka Captain Cold) and Victor Garber’s Martin Stein.  Miller’s delivery of Snart’s lines is fantastic, but he is a villain who is only with the team because certain aspects of their goals suit him and the prospect of committing thefts throughout time is too much for him to resist.  Snart is a great character, but he’s one that I feel is best in small doses so that the character doesn’t become too familiar and lose his edge.  As for Victor Garber, he’s an excellent actor, and he’s done the best he can with the material he’s been given.  What I find interesting is that his Martin Stein seems to be the show’s main character.  This isn’t to say that a scientist in his 60s can’t be the lead; it’s just absolutely not what I was expecting in a superhero show airing on a network that skews toward a younger audience.  Yet he’s been at the center or at least heavily involved in all but one of the episodes that have aired so far.

As for the other characters, the acting has ranged from adequate to weak, but, unfortunately, two of the weakest, Hawkwoman and the main villain, Vandal Savage, are at the core of one of the series’ primary conflicts.  In the actors’ defense, though, their characters have not developed much so far, and I believe part of that is again due to the show’s premise.  We learn about characters by what they say and do, but also from the lives they live.  A character’s house, friends, and family can speak volumes.  By pulling these characters away from their home time and place, the show’s writers have lost all of these aspects of the characters’ lives that could be used to help develop them.  And that could be okay if the writers seemed interested in trying to build the Legends into a team, but so far little has been done to push them that way.  It’s given lip service occasionally, but not much teamwork.

I get the idea of showing them growing together as friends and as a team, but so far they just look incompetent.  The team’s overall mission is to stop the aforementioned Vandal Savage.  He’s an immortal who will rule the Earth by the year 2166 if the Legends aren’t successful in defeating him somewhere earlier in the timeline before he basically becomes unstoppable.  So the show continues as long as they keep failing to beat this one guy.  I sincerely hope he’s a single season big bad because I can’t imagine this going on year after year.  And frankly so far they only seem to be making the situation worse.

Imagine that you’re a time traveler from the future heading into the past to deal with the immortal Vandal Savage before he becomes too powerful.  In this situation, I would think that there would be a few cardinal rules.  First off, DO NOT let Savage know that you are a time traveler.  Second, DO NOT give him information about the future.  Third, DO NOT let him get his hands on your future technology or the source of your super powers (Should you have them.).  In the space of five episodes, the so-called Legends have done EVERY SINGLE ONE of these things.  This past week, Rip Hunter told Savage his real name just because.  There was absolutely no reason to do it, but he just went and introduced himself. 

WHY WOULD YOU DO THIS?

Since he knows who you are, Rip, Savage could potentially track down your family and prevent you from being born.  All he has to do is order his minions to look for all British couples with the last name Hunter and KILL THEMMM!!!  It’s a long shot, but the dude has nothing but time.  And at the rate he’s going, Rip is probably going to give Savage his birthdate and parents’ name soon anyway. 

I guess the writers have to do something to level the playing field, though, because based on what we’ve seen so far, Savage just isn’t that tough.  Rip has already “killed” him twice.  Sure, he just keeps coming back, but if Rip got smart and dropped Savage’s corpse into a volcano or something during one of these temporary deaths, it would certainly slow Savage down.  Hell, all Hunter has to do is keep Savage in a box somewhere safe until they can find the magic dagger they need for Hawkwoman to kill him for good, and it would be game over.

The writers pretty much have to give Savage more information to make him a legitimate threat.  And even then he should be overpowered easily, but for some reason the show will not allow the Legends to go into a situation at full strength.  It’s quite possibly due to budget.  Having eight heroes all opening up with their various powers, devices, and skill sets gets pricey.  So far, though, the series has made a point of not sending the whole team on most of the missions.  Either somebody is injured or just plain kept behind for their own safety.  Because of this, the most consistently effective member of the Legends has been the White Canary, whose “power” is being really good at punching and kicking people.

Maybe the writers have a plan, or maybe they’ve just bitten off more than they can handle with this concept.  Either way, they need to get it together fast because we’re about one third of the way through the season, and I’m finding the show to be anything but legendary. 

- Alan Decker

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