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Wednesday, 5 April 2017

DC's Legends of Tomorrow Series 2

DC's Legends of Tomorrow
Series 2.

So, last year, I did Legends of Tomorrow, aka 'DC's most completely stupid television show, and yes, that includes Gotham,' as an ongoing, and I can honestly say it nearly killed me. Sixteen episodes of unadulterated absurdity shot through with a hefty dose of disappointment and an inability to utilise all of its large, ensemble cast, Legends was a fun series, but also definitively the worst DC Comics tie-in on television (and I'm including Smallville in that), winding its way through a totally bonkers time travel plot to a weird and unsatisfying end.

The show's promise of a rotating cast that would swap out most of its old members each series and cycle in new ones, however, was promising -- until it was revealed that only the Hawks would not be returning for the second series, and that of the remaining cast, Rip, the most engaging character and the linchpin of the show, would be absent for the majority of it, owing to Arthur Darvill's other commitments (namely Broadchurch).

Picking up not long after the end of the first series, the second series follows the crew of the Waverider -- now habitually calling themselves the Legends -- as they defend history, until a nuclear explosion in the 1940s forces them to scatter throughout time. With no way of finding Rip and two new members in the form of historian Nate Haywood and Justice Society member Amara, the team set out to thwart the plans of the Legion of Doom, composed of Eobard Thawne, Damien Darhk, and Malcolm Thawne (and, later, Rip, and then even later, Leonard Snart), who wish to reunite the scattered pieces of the Spear of Destiny, which has the power to warp reality.

This review brought to you by a slightly blue-ish camera filter.

(I say 'Legion of Doom' but the antagonist of this series really is just Eobard, with the other members as his lackies -- Eobard is the one with the power, the plan, the key motivation, and the one against whom the final battle is fought. Which is fine, to be honest: He's a natural fit as antagonist for a show about time travel.)

Surprisingly, and almost bafflingly, the second time seems to have been the charm for this series. It still doesn't make a lick of sense, and while they manage to avoid any obvious time travel goofs (like 'he has to die simultaneously in three time periods'), the actual mechanics of time travel still make almost negative amounts of sense -- but it manages to find a sweet spot somewhere between 'entertainingly silly' and 'actually not a terribly plotted sci-fi show.'

Which is weird. It's really, really weird that I can enjoy this show entirely unironically, but god help me, I do -- in fact, I'd say it's easily holding pace with Arrow and Supergirl, and is better than this year's offering of The Flash.

The Legion.

The show is formulaic, but fun in spite of all that, and even manages to have some decent character arcs for Mick, Sara, and -- actually, basically just those two. Sara gets an arc about her inner darkness, which we've seen about sixty times before in the Arrowverse, and Mick gets an arc that's basically about him trying to come to terms with Leonard's death. They're both pretty solid -- not groundbreaking, but enough to carry episodes on, at times.

The villains are hammy, over the top, and a lot of fun to watch, but ironically they also give me my biggest sticking point, which is that I really don't like Letscher's version of Eobard Thawne. He lacks any of the charisma, quiet menace, or subtlety of Tom Cavanaugh's performance, and that largely seems to be less down to him as an actor and more down to how the writers are writing Thawne.

The ur-example of this comes in the penultimate episode of the series, where the Legion have reshaped reality, and Thawne sets himself up as a rockstar scientist with several of the Legends as cowed lackeys working under him -- but we know what Thawne, as he was written previously, does when he has access to the ability to change his life: He enjoys a little luxury, but mostly what he does is surround himself with people he respects and quietly does scientific work, in a broadly ethical and calm manner.

You all look absurd.

That added depth to him, and it seems that any kind of depth is anathema to this version of Thawne. Malcolm suffers from this as well, as he's changed from a cunning manipulator who cares about his family and is driven by deeply wrong-headed but idealistic tendencies, to a petulant, angry, stab-happy psychopath.

Darhk and Leonard are about the only members of the Legion who escape this, because Darhk has the depth of a teacup and Leonard is critical to Mick's character arc.

All in all, this wasn't a perfect series, but it was fun, and a marked improvement over the first. It looks likely that we'll see it back on our screens later this year, and while my favourite character has departed the show, I'm still looking forward to it.

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