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Saturday, 17 December 2016

Legends of Tomorrow S2 (First Act)

Legends of Tomorrow
Series 2
(First Act)

As we all know by now, all Arrowverse shows peak during their second series, so that they can then decline immediately afterwards. Usually, this comes part and parcel with a compelling and threatening villain, and a shift towards a slightly darker (but still not oppressively grimdark) tone. At the moment, it's difficult to say whether Legends of Tomorrow is following this pattern or not, but it's certainly improved over the last series.

In this year's series, the team is scattered after an encounter with a nuclear bomb, and must piece themselves back together and continue fixing the timeline under the command of Sara, with Rip missing and with two new team members: Historian Nate and Justice Society member Amara. As the team travel through time, however, they find themselves clashing against Eobard Thawne, who recruits Damien Darhk and Malcolm Merlyn as his accomplices in getting his hands on a mysterious and magical amulet. Meanwhile, Stein and Jax discover a message from the Barry Allen of the future, warning them of a coming war, and telling them not to trust him.

So, this series has had some pretty bad episodes. The entire feudal Japan episode was just skin-crawlingly bad, just to start -- and, actually, in general, any episode that focuses on Nate, who has the personality of cold oatmeal, tends to be pretty dull watching -- and even some of the better episodes tend to never achieve anything like greatness, in part due to how the show insists on trying to utilise very raw, visceral subject matter, but then pulls its punches in doing so.

The Justice Society.

That's, of course, partly down to tone concerns, to network and timeslot demands, and so on, but the writers know about all of those going in, and part of writing is being able to write around the requirements of the story you're writing for.

That having been said, this series is pretty fun. While Nate is dull as the colour beige, Amaya is actually pretty interesting, since she brings not only an entirely new perspective to the team, but also has an interesting subplot in the form of her desire to take revenge on Thawne. Unfortunately, she is vastly underused by the show, suffering the same fate as Kendra in the first series, in that she's often left back on the ship or otherwise sidelined by the plot.

Rip's absence is fairly keenly felt at times, as the crew encounters situations where having him around would lead to some genuinely interesting scenarios, but for the most part, the show functions pretty well without him, with his absence from the series allowing Sara to take a more central role as the group's leader. The last episode of the first act basically promises that he'll be returning soon, and it'll be nice to have him back, but kudos to the writers for sticking to their guns and having him actually stay missing for a decent chunk of the show.

Thawne, you look ridiculous.

We also have our new villains, who are a lot of fun. Matt Letscher's Thawne is Matt Letscher's Thawne, meaning that he barely resembles Tom Cavanaugh's Thawne in how he acts, instead coming across as a lot more psychotic and a lot less compelling, but he does at least add a decent physical threat to the show, since none of the others can keep up with him. Darhk and Merlyn, meanwhile, rather shine: Darhk was a terrible villain in Arrow, but in Legends he's a lot more interesting and compelling, not least because his cheerful wisecrackery gels a lot better with Legends' tone.

Having a team as the villains works a bit better than having a singular person, since this is, after all, an ensemble show. I imagine we might get one more person added to this Legion of Doom, but any more would probably be too many.

Where the show falters a little in its treatment of the villains, however, is that out of eight episodes, they only factor into four of them in any significant way, leading to them feeling not terribly important to overall story. This is the exact opposite problem that we had with Vandal Savage, where he was in so many episodes, and the team had so many fights with him, that he became old hat before the series was even half done. 

The human manifestation of plywood.

Incidentally, while we've not had any 'we have to kill him simultaneously in three time periods' shenanigans, we did have Ollie remark that he 'didn't have time to go time-traveling,' so rest assured that the writing team are still aliens who don't know how time works. 

So that's the first half of season two: A lot of fun, and a very enjoyable watch (although I am very glad indeed that I'm not doing it as an ongoing), but absolutely still the least compelling of the Arrowverse shows. It seems to have realised that its niche now is 'appealing to people who are already fans,' and it seems to be embracing that, which is certainly helping it somewhat. A little bit. Maybe.

The show will be returning in late January, so you can all look forward to that. Or dread it. Whatever your poison is.

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