May 19, 2016

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Finale Review: “Legends of Tomorrow”


The well-oiled Greg Berlanti & Co DC superhero TV machine has so far slipped a gear with CW’s LEGENDS OF TOMORROW.  Despite half a season of careful preparation before its January start, including pre-premiere appearances on The Flash and Arrow and a cast largely familiar from both those shows, Legends hasn’t jelled on any level, and the ratings have been humdrum compared to expectations.  It’s clear that Berlanti and his partners know they have work ahead–tonight’s season finale dumped its third regular character of the last few weeks–but there’s not yet a clear path to a better show.

The frustrating failures of Legends began with its concept and underpinnings.  Time travel stories, by their nature, raise all kinds of fundamental questions about how and whether reality can be changed by what occurs in the story, and a given tale can take any positions it wants on the issues, but those rules have to be clear and consistent, or else the suspension of disbelief falls apart.  Legends of Tomorrow has never made internal sense, changing its rules seemingly in every episode about what actions by our heroes, led by former Time Master Rip Hunter (Arthur Darvill), would alter the future, and which would have no effect at all.  Then the show threw out what rules it had by revealing the existence of the Oculus, by which the Time Masters could change time–and had been doing so from the start.  Then our heroes destroyed the Oculus, yet both they and Big Bad Vandal Savage (Casper Crump) continued to change history.  Supposedly the group’s whole mission was to stop Savage from killing Hunter’s family in the future, but by the season’s end, it was completely unclear whether that was still even a possibility or a goal.

Beyond that, the characters, some of whom had been very appealing on their original shows, have yet to find a rhythm together.  Brandon Routh’s rom-com timing as Ray Palmer existed in a different universe from Wentworth Miller’s campy turn as Leonard Snart, and Caity Lotz’s relatively naturalistic Sara Lance didn’t mesh with Victor Garber’s dry Martin Stein.  Rip Hunter was never believably in charge of any of them, and Vandal Savage was a dull B-movie villain with no shading at all.

Tonight’s season finale, a groupthink script written by series co-creators Phil Klemmer and Mark Guggenheim, from a story by Berlanti and Executive Producer Chris Fedak, and directed by Dermott Downs, didn’t help.  Somehow, by pouring the blood of his Ancient Egyptian contemporaries Kendra Saunders (Ciara Rene) and Carter Hall (Falk Hentschel) on a trio of alien meteorites simultaneously in 3 different timeframes, Savage would–not destroy the world, but restart history with himself as Pharoah?  Maybe?  (Here’s a rule of thumb:  when you need to have a character, in this case Franz Drameh’s Jefferson Jackson, say “This is the craziest bad-guy plan in the history of bad-guy plans” in the middle of your finale, your script needs a rewrite.)  Our heroes killed all the Savages all at once, then Rip took the last remaining meteorite to the sun, yet managed to time-jump away without getting hurt.  After that, the group re-formed, even though it now didn’t seem to have any particular mission, until a tag that set up Season 2 with the sudden appearance of a member of the Justice Society (which apparently isn’t to be confused with the Justice League, another DC Comics concept).

The failure of Legends to make sense might be excused if it were fun, but it rarely is.  A few charming time-travel conceits aside (the episode where Ray and Kendra had a romance together in the 1950s was sweet, and there was a decent old-west hour), the show is so burdened by exposition that it rarely gets to cut loose, and with such a large and disparate ensemble cast, none of the characters have been well-developed.  Presumably it’s partly because of this that Miller, Rene and Hentschel will be largely gone next season, and perhaps a stronger focus on a core of characters may allow for more audience involvement.  In addition, of all the CW superhero shows, Legends is the one whose budget limitations are most clearly a problem, despite the efforts of the episodic directors.

Considering the giant investment CW has in the genre and in Berlanti as its own superhero, not to mention the fact that the ratings, while disappointing, are still above average for the network, Legends will have plenty of time to try to work itself out.  The hope is that it won’t take a trip back in time to the point where the series was originally put into development in order to change its currently unpromising future.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."