Taking a group of heroes and villains and traveling through time sounds like it can only go horribly wrong, right? Well, in the Thursday, Jan. 21 series premiere of “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow,” Rip Hunter is hoping the opposite is true, that they can be the ones to save the world from Vandal Savage.
Though it may be coming off of “Arrow” and “The Flash” episodes that did a pretty good job of setting up the team coming together in “Legends of Tomorrow,” the series premiere still spends enough time introducing these characters for anyone who hasn’t been watching the other series. While that’s great for new viewers, for those who already have everyone except Rip, it feels a bit unnecessary. Even just knowing the bare facts about these heroes and villains is enough to see that they should not be traveling through time, especially together. And just like the team is trying to find its footing working together, so is the show.
A series like this almost has to be exposition-heavy, at least in the beginning. Rip has to explain why he came back in time, he has to explain time travel (which leads to him being frustrated with the others at times – sarcastically commenting at one point, “Oh, there’s something you people don’t now about time travel? That’s surprising, isn’t it, considering none of you have ever time traveled before.” – and later offering somewhat comforting words to Kendra when she questions her insistence to bring Aldous back with them – “Don’t torture yourself with recriminations. One of the great lessons of time travel is that many things cannot be changed. Time wants to happen.”), he has to then explain himself once he admits why he really picked them. And with a cast this large, it’s a slippery slope when it comes to spending time with each character and rushing through scenes in order to make sure everyone is accounted for.
By 2166, Vandal Savage has conquered the entire planet and left bodies in his wake – including that of a young boy, Jonas, who spits on him, a “foolish” move according to the immortal. Rip then turns to the Time Master Council and pleads for them to let him change history and stop Vandal. When they refuse, he steals away with his ship, the Waverider (which is awesome), and goes back in time to collect the men and women he’s chosen for his team.
Rip picks up each doing what they do: Ray as the Atom, fighting ghosts; Sara in a bar fight; Firestorm disagreeing; Kendra and Carter mid-discussion regarding her slow progress in taking to who she is; and Snart and Rory, getting away from the police after a robbery. He brings them all to a roof to give them a quick explanation of why he’s gathered them all together: He’s from the future, Vandal Savage isn’t dead because one of the Hawks have to deliver the death blow and they’re all legends in his time so he’s been tasked with assembling them to stop Vandal. After showing them a glimpse at what the future will be under Vandal’s reign of terror, he gives them 36 hours to ponder his “offer” and to talk it over with someone in their life – not necessarily part of this team.
Ray talks it over with Oliver, explaining that even though he “died,” the word didn’t care. Hi life ultimately didn’t matter, and he now has a chance to change that. Carter and Kendra basically battle for it – she doesn’t want to go, he does. (He wins.) Sara trains with Laurel and admits that she’s still picking up the pieces from her resurrection. But Laurel sees this as her change to be a hero in the light – as the White Canary. Thanks to Cisco, she has a new costume and doesn’t need a mask because she’s “lived in the shadows long enough.” Snart is all for it, pointing out they can steal through time, and that gets Rory on board. Jax, however, can’t be more against it, so much so, in fact, that Stein drugs him to ensure his cooperation.
Their first stop back in time is October 17, 1975, to see Aldous Boardman, the expert on Vandal – at least for Rip, Ray, Stein, Carter and Kendra. While Ray fails to win over Stein with his knowledge and their common ground, the focus turns to who Aldous is to Kendra and Carter: their son. And because they know that he dies in less than 24 hours, they insist on bringing him back to the ship with them.
Meanwhile, Sara, Snart and Rory hit up a bar for a bit of fun – drinking, dancing fighting – in one of the best scenes of the hour. Seeing those three together like that makes it clear that that needs to happen again. Also, you have to love Snart just standing back and watching Sara take care of herself until she turns to him and Rory for help. It is really good to have Sara back. They’re where the humor comes in as well. Also, it’s evident with just this one episode that Rory is going to be fleshed out a lot more than he ever was on “The Flash.”
Of course, by the time everyone returns to the ship, they have a big problem on their hands: a soldier from the future, Chronos, whose only criteria for not killing someone is their importance to the timeline. Ray and Stein run for the ship to get to the Atom suit and other half of Firestorm (which impresses Jax), respectively, and in his attempt to reach safety, Aldous is fatally injured.
This is when the truth comes out, as Rip admits that he was a Time Master and Chronos was sent to bring him in. Yes, he lied about being sent back on this “mission.” Oh, and he also lied about them being legends. He chose them because their lives have minimal effect on the recorded timeline, and he needed help that wouldn’t disturb the history of 2166. What he didn’t lie about is Vandal’s brutality and his need for their help. And yes, it’s personal for Rip because the boy Vandal killed in the beginning of the episode? His son. Time Masters were discouraged from getting married and having kids, but he fell in love. The last thing his son saw was Vandal’s face, and Rip is determined that his face will be the last one Vandal sees.
And so it becomes a question of whether or not these people will stay, knowing the truth. Jax has had a change of heart; the best feeling he ever got on the field playing football was when his teammate took a tackle for him, was watching his back. He felt the same thing when he saw the others rushing back to the ship during Chronos’ attack. He likes being part of a team. While Ray sees this as just further proof of how much he seemingly doesn’t matter, Sara sees things differently: if they have the power to change the world, don’t they also have the power to change their own fates? She, Ray, Snart and Rory are on board. And following the loss of their son, Carter and Kendra have a renewed determination to hunt down Vandal. So where to next? Well, Boardman did have a theory for them to follow.
In Norway, still in 1975, Vandal has gotten his hands on a nuclear weapon. He’s trying to make the world a better place, one war at a time. Uh-oh.
“DC’s Legends of Tomorrow” airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. on the CW. What did you think of the series premiere?