Review: Did ‘Legends of Tomorrow’ Get Any Less Crazy Severing its ‘Blood Ties’?
The feeling I had at Legends of Tomorrow’s outset was that the idea might work best in a smaller, limited series context (producers have suggested a likely second season would join Arrow and The Flash fulltime), but it seemed at least worth checking in on the third hour, if only to see that the show had surmounted its eyesore of exposition around the leads. After, all, the second fared markedly better to turn off explanations in favor of a Back to the Future riff, but “Blood Ties” still seemed to need rehashing of its main thread and characters’ secondary histories at every turn.
Not to mention, the end result proved more or less the same, another mixed-success mission pivoted into a team-building exercise, this time driving home a need to keep its characters together, or at least tell one another of their whereabouts. Legends ultimately shares the same story objective as Guardians of the Galaxy, to define its rough-and-tumble characters by the good they can achieve together, but reheating that lesson week after week isn’t doing the show any favors, no matter how much classic rock you throw into fight scenes.
This week broke out into three major teams, first between Rip and Sara attempting to infiltrate Vandal Savage’s brokers (hey, depleting a bad guy’s finances is as good an idea as any), Ray and Dr. Stein overcoming their scientific rivalry to shrink down and save Kendra, while Snart and Rory tempted Jackson into chauffeuring them on a jewel heist. On the one hand, the sheer number of characters works a certain diversity into the proceedings, to weave together an infiltration mission, sci-fi heavy Innerspace and an exploration of Captain Cold’s history, but it also means that Legends has to work that much harder to tie the stories together.
As it is, Wentworth Miller could easily have carried the entire episode, to peel back a few layers of that icy veneer and allow some overdue vulnerability in meeting his younger self. The revelation of Snart’s 1975 heist serving to keep his father out of prison, thus changing the family’s violent history landed particularly well, with an added sting that the timeline ultimately pushed back, and gave a new reason for Lewis Snart to end up in prison. That’s the kind of character work and loss Legends hasn’t found near enough time for in its early-goings, and resonates far more effectively than filling up the screen with faceless thugs and special effects.
That said, Legends’ most glaring weakness for the moment is undoubtedly Casper Crump’s Vandal Savage himself, to the point that every mission inevitably ends in some sneering confrontation, and ill-defined reason to delay a next encounter. Utilizing Carter’s dead body and adding in a cabal of followers kept things a bit fresh (no pun intended), but the same infuriating questions of logic inevitably always follow: If Rip* managed to get so far as incapacitating Vandal by slitting his throat, why not take the body back to the ship, at least long enough for Kendra to deliver the final blow? Why is 1986 the next option to encounter him, when there are still at least four other documented instances he can be found?
“Blood Ties” again rehashed the notion of Rip keeping some sort of secret history from the team, this time an earlier attempt to take out Vandal at one of the first points in his history, but at least explained why Rip wouldn’t show his face to Vandal, or directly participate in the earlier missions.
Vandal’s ineffectiveness as a villain is likely the strongest case not to push Legends into more hours than its current story engine can sustain, even if it is early yet, and stronger set pieces like Ray’s exploration of Kendra’s bloodstream, or Sara’s self-loathing (please stop saying “bloodlust”) help sift through the filler.
I can’t guarantee checking in on Legends every week, perhaps reserving thoughts for some of the bigger event episodes on the horizon, but next week at least looks to catch up with Time Masters plot, rather than another arbitrary mission in 1986. There are plenty of pieces on the board, but better for Legends to actually decide on a central arc to follow, rather than attempt to juggle three disparate shows in one hour.
AND ANOTHER THING …
- This week finally gave us the “Men of Steel die and Dark Knights fall,” line heard in the trailer, which grows no less confusing by Barry Allen soon arriving in a world with at least one of them. It certainly won’t help that the “Maximilian Emerald” Snart stole looked suspiciously like Kryptonite, but speculate away!
- Not that Thea’s bloodlust (I cringe having to write it) had the clearest rules, but did Rip suggest she could simply will away the urges to kill?
- Ah, the impossible task of casting an actor to resemble a young Michael Ironside.
- Did we ever learn where Vandal’s finances actually come from? That’s still a viable plan, guys.
Legends of Tomorrow will return February 11 with “White Knights”, airing at 8:00 P.M. on The CW.
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