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Friday, 5 February 2016

Legends of Tomorrow S1E3: Blood Ties.

Legends of Tomorrow
Series 1, Episode 3
Blood Ties.

You know, it can be difficult to do an ensemble show. With a show like Arrow or The Flash, where you have a supporting cast surrounding a clearly defined individual protagonist, you have a lot more leeway with how you balance your storylines - after all, nobody is going to begrudge you having the main character save the day most of the time, they're the main character, and if you have another character take the spotlight for an episode, people generally don't mind that either. With an ensemble, there's a need to balance every character's time in the limelight, giving them all development and character arcs and concrete contributions to both the team and the show, and that can be a very tough balancing act.

It only becomes tougher the bigger your ensemble is, and Legends of Tomorrow, boasting an ensemble of eight people (down from its original nine), has a very large ensemble cast indeed - which is probably why neither Mick nor Jax have gotten any kind of focus yet, with them mostly seeming to be there to act as Len and Stein's supporting characters. I hope they get more emphasis in future, especially Jax.

In this week's episode, Rip and Sara head out to try and cut Vandal off from his money, and end up discovering a sinister cult dedicated to his worship. Meanwhile, Len, Mick, and Jax head to Central City to steal a rare emerald, with Len having a hidden agenda. Back on the Waverider, fragments of Vandal's dagger are making their way towards Kendra's heart, prompting Stein and Ray to try a dangerous plan to save her.

Poor Len. So smol.

So, there's a big talking point I wanted to mention in this review, which is Rip's speech near the very beginning. In it, he says he's seen 'men of steel die and dark knights fall', a pretty unsubtle reference to Superman and Batman. While this might just be fanservice, meant to get tongues wagging, it might also be hinting that those two are going to be making their appearances in the Arrowverse. 

After all, while CBS owns the rights to the Superman mythos, they're clearly willing to play ball, with Constantine having joined the Arrowverse after the cancellation of his show, and Supergirl having an upcoming crossover with The Flash. It's highly possible that we could end up with a multiple-network shared universe - or, should Supergirl end up cancelled, which I hope it won't be, that the Arrowverse will just absorb her and her supporting cast.

Batman is a bit more difficult, as its television rights are in Fox's hands, but it's worth noting that this isn't the first reference to Batman - Oracle was referenced a few episodes ago in Arrow, with Ollie ruefully remarking that he had to codename Felicity 'Overwatch' because 'Oracle' was already taken. It's also been noted by a few people that while Fox owns the rights to Batman, they do not, in fact, own the rights to Nightwing. The plot thickens, as they say.

Cult popularity.

Anyway, back onto this episode: The Stein and Ray plot is definitely the least interesting of the three, being a slightly hackneyed storyline in which Ray loses confidence and Stein encourages him by claiming that Ray had been one of his most talented students - before later admitting that, no, he really didn't remember Ray at all, since he'd had hundreds of students over the years, many of them extremely talented. It's fine, don't get me wrong, but it's a storyline we've seen before a few times, and the only thing that really sold it was what Victor Garber and Brandon Routh were both bringing their A-games as far as performances go.

The emerald heist plot probably comes next up on the list. It gives character development to Len, but he was one of the more developed characters on the team anyway. Once again, what really sells that storyline is Wentworth Miller's acting, combining Len's typical overdramatic bravado with a much softer side to him as he talks to his five year old self. Although, aren't they still in the 1970s? I would not have pegged Len or Miller for being in his forties. Mick and Jax mostly serve as exposition characters in this particular story, which just kind of hammers in how little focus they've been getting so far.


That leaves us with Rip and Sara's storyline, definitely the best of the bunch. We have character development with both of them divulging that they feel like they're monsters, and with the revelation that this is not the first time Rip has made an attempt on Vandal's life. Vandal also continues his descent into - well, into comic book villainy, I suppose, as it's revealed that he's stolen Carter's body to prolong the lives of members of an insane Vandal-worshipping cult. It's all a lot of fun while still being very tense, and we get all of the plots converging on this one towards the end, as Kendra senses what Vandal's doing and warns Stein and Ray, who in turn send Len, Mick, and Jax to help out.

This was a fun episode, and the next episode - which sees the group leaving the 1970s and heading forward to the 1980s - should see some refreshing changes to the show, as they grapple with a whole new time period and, perhaps more important, a Vandal who has had ten years more to consolidate his power and prepare for them, since he now knows they're coming.

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