Friday, 29 January 2016

Legends of Tomorrow 'Pilot Part 1' Review

This review WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS for the episode to be discussed, if you do not want certain plot points or story spoilt for you, please do not read further.

The latest show based on the popular DC Comics line, and newest member to the CW's Arrowverse, is the superhero team based 'Legends of Tomorrow'.  'Legends of Tomorrow' is an ensemble show featuring a roster of side characters from both 'Arrow' and 'The Flash', brought together by newcomer Rip Hunter, played by Doctor Who's Arthur Darvill.

The basic premise for the show follows Rip Hunter, time traveller and former member of the Time Masters, as he recruits a special team to travel through time and defeat the immortal villain Vandal Savage to save the future of the human race, and Hunters family.

The team consists of billionaire inventor and vigilante Ray Palmer/The Atom (played by Brandon Routh), former assassin Sarah Lance/White Canary (Caity Lotz), both halves of the nuclear superhero Firestorm (Victor Garber as Professor Stein and Franz Drameh as Jefferson Jackson), the villains Leonard Snart/Captain Cold (Wentworth Miller) and Mick Rory/Heatwave (Dominic Purcell), along with the reincarnated Egyptian lovers Hawkman and Hawkgirl (Falk Hentschel as Carter Hall and Ciara Renee as Kendra Saunders).

Despite being initially told by Hunter that they were chosen because in their future not only would they be heroes (including the two members of Flash's Rogues Gallery) but because they'd be legends.  Unfortunately this turns out to be not exactly true, as Hunter reluctantly reveals to the group that the real reason he picked them was not only their skill sets, but the fact that if things go wrong and they die very little will actually happen to the timeline.  Rather than having the effect of knocking the team back though, this actually goes on to inspire them, to get them to want to change their fates and becomes the legends that they were told they could be.  Well, except for Captain Cold and Heatwave, who are just out to grab some expensive loot from various time periods.

Whilst the first good portion of the episode is focused on the bringing together of the team, the rest of the episode shifts the action to 1975, where the team go looking for clues to Vandal Savage's location.  Rip Hunter takes Professor Stein, Ray Palmer and the Hawks to track down Dr Aldus Boardman, an expert on Vandal Savage, who eagle eyed fans will remember from the Flash/Arrow crossover that introduced the characters of Savage and the Hawks.
In an unexpected turn of events Dr Boardman turns out to be the son of Hawkman and Hawkgirl from one of their past lives, who were murdered by savage when Boardman was just ten years old.  This is something of a welcome addition to the episode, as it not only helps to add some depth to both the the history of Vandal Savage and the Hawks, but it gives some emotion over to what could have been a fairly standard 'adventure in time' story.  It gives Ciara Renee a chance to stretch her wings (no pun intended) as far as her acting goes, where despite having no memory of that life or Dr. Boardman, she instantly feels a maternal instinct towards him and cares about him.

Unfortunately, it's through Dr. Boardman that both the audience and the characters learn a valuable lesson about time travel, that it's not something to be done lightly.  Upon learning that he will be found dead the next day Kendra and Carter insist on bringing Boardman with them.  Despite some reluctance, Hunter agrees to take him along with them.  Sadly, before they can even get to The Waverider (Hunter's timeship) Boardman is killed by a time travelling bountyhunter called Chronos.  Whether this is how Boardman was always destined to die, or if it's the timeline trying to 'fix' Carter and Kendra trying to change things is left unclear, but it shows that certain things will happen no matter what, which raises some questions as to the possible success of the whole plan to change the future.

Elsewhere the episode is given some levity as Captain Cold, Heatwave and White Canary chose to ditch The Waverider and hit a bar.  Their drinking session quickly turns into a bar room brawl where we get to see that despite the hero/villain division at least some of these characters can get along quite well.  The fight is quick, but well orchestrated, and made me see just how Cold and Heatwave might fit into a team made up of heroes.  As usual it helps that Wentworth Miller just seems to absolutely love playing Captain Cold, hamming up his performance in an almost over the top way, yet making the character massively endearing.  I'm hoping that we get to see a lot more of these kind of fun moments from the ensembled cast.

The standout moment of the first episode definitely goes to Arthur Darvill though.  Despite being introduced as a confident gun wielding time agent (and just for the record, his laser gun revolver is so awesome I'm already eagerly awaiting the toy version) it's the moment where we get to see his humanity that really stands out.  Once the team finds out that he lied to them about their futures he lets his guard down, he tells the team that he's no longer a Time Master, that he's essentially on the run and after revenge against Savage for brutally killing his wife and son.  

This moment could have been a bad one, it could have felt forced and cheesy, Darvill delivers it with such a genuine and understated performance that it feels very real.  It makes Rip Hunter less of an arrogant jerk and a man that our legends are willing to follow.  It's the scene that brings together a collection of people and starts to make them into a team.

Over all this is probably the best pilot episode that the CW has produced for their DC shows, and it's still not even finished yet.  Hopefully the second part of the pilot will try to pack in a little more action to even out the slowness of the first half, and hopefully without losing the character moments and emotion that we've been given already.


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