I’ve been ridiculously busy all week long, so this past Saturday night happened to be when I finally got to check out this week’s episode of Legends of Tomorrow. Since I’m going to assume that the rest of the world is all caught up in what happened in “Pilot, Part 2”, this will be a shorter, more opinion-focused review.
Fresh off the heels of a decent series premiere, “Pilot, Part 2” is the kind of second episode I wasn’t exactly prepared for: It’s extremely self-aware, brilliantly paced, generally well acted, and a helluva lot of fun to watch. With the team aggressively taking the fight to Vandall Savage right from the outset, we got to finally see what Legends of Tomorrow is truly capable of when it embraces its multi-genre tendencies, smiles and laughs a bit – or in this case, a ton – and gives itself a break from all the monotonous exposition.
I ate up every waking minute of the intro scene at that nuclear weapons auction. Stein’s improvised trickery to get the team access inside; Damien Darhk’s guest appearance; the rising intensity strewn from whether or not the team’s cover would get blown by Savage; and the fireworks display that followed – everything demonstrated the advantages Legends has over its contemporaries. Also: a round of applause to Glen Winter, this week’s director, for putting together the incredible grand-scale fight scenes that proudly bookend the episode. From the slow-mo shots of Atom minimizing and maximizing, to Captain Cold and Heat Wave putting their respective weapons to good use – Winter’s efforts here will be hard to forget for quite some time.
“Part 2″‘s self-awareness is one of its biggest strengths for a large number of reasons. Having the fight from the intro scene wind up giving Savage the upper hand in his quest for world-domination – considering how he both witnessed the powers the team possesses and nearly exploited a piece of Ray’s suit after recovering it from the aforementioned mayhem – solidifies the dangers of tampering with time, regardless how large or small such tamperings can be. Rip coming around and doing his best (both verbally and somewhat physically) to clean up his team’s messes reminds us how important his role is here, as he strives to save his future while keeping the past in a tidy, consistent little bow. Stein’s visit to his old college, where he had to push his younger, more charming self into handing him the very same tech he perfects years later, forces him to put his personality into perspective. He sees the arrogance in his ’70s-era counterpart, and begins to realize how selfish and irresponsible he’s been since taking this time-hopping joyride to spark some excitement in his life.
The show also understands the power of characterization, making perfectly volatile groupings out of Sara/Martin/Jefferson and Ray/Leonard/Mick. The former team-up is largely played for laughs, as Sara and Martin react to the zaniness of meeting the younger Stein in hilariously insightful ways. This subplot also speaks volumes to the impressive work of Caity Lotz and Victor Garber, as they’re obviously making the most of the over-the-top nature of the proceedings by being as likable and committed to their lines as possible. Jefferson’s inclusion may have left him as a spectator most of the time, but I like how him getting to meet Stein’s younger self helped build his partnership with Martin – while also allowing him to forgive Martin for dragging him into this mess in the first place.
The massive difference in personal backgrounds drove the latter team-up home, with Ray’s more privileged behavior clashing with Leonard and Mick’s criminal instincts. Of course, the show didn’t shy away from having some fun with these guys as well (the failed break-ins inside and outside of Savage’s home were great ways of contrasting these gentlemen), but at the crux of this dynamic was – like with Stein – the look back at the lives they’ve lived. There’s a grounded, thought-provoking feel to both Leonard’s reminiscing of how his dad used him as a little boy to steal and cut wires, and Ray’s inability to allow Leonard and Mick to completely fulfill those acts independent of the mission they took on together.
The only real, glaring problems with this episode – and Legends still – come in the form of the three most (supposedly) paramount characters in the show. Hawkman and Hawkgirl are incredibly uninteresting, and Carter’s attempts to help Kendra finally come to her senses about her past came off as merely a distraction from the fantastic action going on elsewhere. Like I said last week, the flashbacks detailing the particulars of their love triangle with Savage do anything but compel, and that saying strongly holds true here as well. For that, I’m beyond ecstatic that Savage killed Carter this week – although Kendra surviving the encounter suggests he’ll be back in some capacity – despite that not being the sort of reaction the show is aiming to register here. As for Savage: he’s just not a scary dude. Truthfully, a lot of this is Casper Crump’s fault, as his delivery neither encompasses the dramatic flair of nor the harrowing menace of any big-time villain we’ve previously seen in Arrow or The Flash. Crump just seems like he’s reading his lines with moderate enthusiasm, neglecting to inject any personal swagger or intensity in the process. As a result, I’m beginning to feel as though Legends will soon suffer tremendously from his presence playing such a large part in the overall proceedings.
Legends of Tomorrow seems to have already found its winning formula in part two of the series’s pilot, and this particular conclusion of mine comes from witnessing the show mop up (nearly) all of its initial miscues and shake them into more appealing qualities. The ensemble cast dynamic, the fragility of the time-space continuum, and the multi-faceted character development were all fully realized here in an episode that defined the wonderment of the show’s ingenious concept. All that top-dollar, Hollywood-calibur action is pretty cool, too.
+ Action, Action, Action!
+ Interesting team-ups made for ample character development & chemistry build-up
+ Rip holding down the fort (and saving Martin’s marriage from never happening)
+ Excellent pacing and brilliant humor
– Hawkman/Hawkgirl stuff still bleh
– Savage has yet to convince as the season’s big bad