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Friday, 22 January 2016

Legends of Tomorrow E1: Pilot.


Legends of Tomorrow
Episode 1
Pilot.



So, here it is. After months of waiting, and enough clumsy build-up to kill a horse, Legends of Tomorrow, a ten episode crossover show about time travel and whimsy, is finally on our screens - and it had better be amazing, because frankly, all the build-up episodes in The Flash and Arrow, including an entire crossover two-parter, were annoying to watch and killed both series' pacing.

In the 26th Century, Rip Hunter, a Time Master, appeals to his fellow Time Masters to grant him one timeship and leave to alter the timeline in order to stop Vandal Savage, who has conquered the Earth at some unspecified time, and now wishes to expand his reign to all eras. Travelling back in time with Gideon, who you might all remember as Harrison Wells' AI companion, he puts together a team of people to stop Savage: The resurrected Sara Lance, now taking the identity of the White Canary; Ray Palmer, former CEO of Palmer Industries and the Atom; Leonard Snart and Mick Rory, the criminals Captain Cold and Heat Wave; Kendra Saunders and Carter Hall, the reincarnations of the ancient Egyptian Hawkgirl and Hawkman; and Martin Stein and Jefferson Jackson, two halves of the nuclear-powered hero Firestorm. Together, this team will travel throughout time, foiling Vandal's plans with an eye to eventually taking out the man himself.

Once this episode got going, I actually really liked it. The whole set-up and vibe of the show reminds me of Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy, which is fairly high praise from me, since I've noted before that I think Guardians of the Galaxy is the best work in the MCU. I'm a sucker for science fiction shows about ragtag bands reluctantly teaming up, and both Guardians and Legends fit the bill, with both drawing some pretty clear and obvious inspiration from shows and films like Farscape, Stargate, and Star Wars. Both have a particular focus on fun, as well - the emphasis in both is on this being a rollicking, wacky adventure - but are able to switch to a more serious tone when necessary.

Everyone is very alarmed.

(Legends also draws no small amount of inspiration from early Doctor Who, but that should be a surprise to nobody, Doctor Who being perhaps the most prominent show about time travel in television history.)

While the show has a large ensemble cast, none of them ever feel superfluous or ignored, with the writing deftly managing to balance both a fairly complex plot while also showing us how these characters all interact with each other.

Particular props go to the writing of Snart, who apparently decided about six seconds in that he was the sassy, slightly overprotective one of the team, and spends the majority of the episode either being sarcastic at people, smiling proudly as they wreck everything around them, and wading in to help out (including one particularly nice moment where he rather sharply warned Rip that he should give Kendra a straight answer). 

Further props go to Gideon, who in contrast to her more mechanical personality in The Flash, is seen here to be quite sarcastic and cutting herself, cheerfully trolling the members of the team and acting as a foil to Rip himself.

Almost no props go to Ray, easily the most annoying character on the team. He was utterly insufferable in this episode and I couldn't stand him.

Fashion.

Vandal comes off as a more compelling villain here than he did in his introduction, even though he barely shows up, only appearing in two short scenes - one during his conquest of the Earth in the future, and one in 1975, where he's shown to be preparing to start a war there. While Vandal in the Arrow/Flash crossover just came off as kind of silly, here he comes off as genuinely sinister. 

Much of the episode is devoted to establishing these characters as a team, and it works surprisingly well, focusing on each of them struggling with whether they want to initially join, and later on whether they want to stay, as well as giving us a short fight scene where they all team up against Chronos, an assassin sent by the Time Masters.

Oh, and also the 1970s bar fight scene.

We also, rather gratifyingly, don't get as much intrusion from Team Arrow or Team Flash as the trailers suggested we would - while I'm not against them showing up, doing so at this point would have just added extra characters and plot elements to an already complicated episode. We do get brief scenes with both Ollie and Dinah, but they're short, meant to tie in to Ray and Sara's characters.

So, a very strong opening episode. I'm fascinated to see more, and if this show keeps up the momentum it has going and builds upon the plot elements it's already set up, we may have something which beats out The Flash for my favourite television show. We'll see: As much as there is potential for this show, there are also a lot of ways it could go wrong.

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