Legends of Tomorrow Season 2 Review

  • Series Title: Legends of Tomorrow
  • Season: Season 2
  • Episodes: 17
  • Discs: 4
  • Network: CW
  • Cast: Caity Lotz, Brandon Routh, Arthur Darvill, Franz Drameh, Victor Garber, Maise Richardson-Sellers, Dominic Purcell, Nick Zano, Matt Letscher, John Barrowman, Neal McDonough
  • Format: Color, Widescreen, NTSC, R1

This review contains spoilers for the second season of Legends of Tomorrow.

Season 2 of Legends of Tomorrow starts off very much as an anthology series – Rip Hunter is missing, and the remaining Legends are travelling through history to fix “aberrations” or changes in the established timeline of history. The first nine episodes have the Legends in a variety of places: World War II, where they meet the JSA (Justice Society of America), including Amaya Jiwe (Vixen) who joins the Legends. Also introduced in the season premiere is Dr. Nate Heywood (Citizen Steel). The Legends also end up fighting zombies in the civil war; they travel to 17th century Japan meeting Katana’s great-great-great etc grandfather, and they go to the Old West where they meet Jonah Hex again. These episodic stories are fun, and also allow the characters, especially the new ones to grow and the team to gel. Sara Lance (White Canary) is appointed leader and captain in the wake of Rip’s disappearance.

Eobard Thawne, from the first season of The Flash is one of three main villains, however, the Legends don’t know that is who they are facing. Firestorm finds a secret message from a future Barry Allen warning of an evil speedster – which they don’t immediately share with the team. Damien Darhk, from Season 4 of Arrow is another villain. Sara meets Darhk in the season premiere and intends to kill him, but her team prevents her, since killing Darhk in the 1940s would change everyone’s history. The third partner in the trinity of sin is Malcolm Merlyn (from Arrow from the beginning). Thawne, Merlyn, and Darhk make for great villains. Audiences who have watched the CW-verse (or Arrowverse) from the beginning are familiar with their stories and their endings. Many of our characters, especially Sara, have personal conflicts with the villains. And by introducing them more gradually, as well as their goals, the series flows better than last season where the main villain (Vandal Savage) just did not work. Also, each episode begins with a spoken intro that explains the premise of the show, however, Legends of Tomorrow keeps this from being boring by having each character repeat the info in their own style, and in episode 10, “The Legion of Doom”, it’s one of the “villains” from the Legion who put their own spin on the by then familiar introduction. Note that officially, the villains are “The Legion of Doom”, despite Sara saying, “Yeah, we’re not calling them that”. Nate had come up with the moniker, after a “Hanna-Barbara cartoon I watched as a kid”.

After “Invasion” the 4-part crossover featuring all four CW DC shows, the conflict between the Legion and the Legends heats up. In “Raiders of the Lost Art”, the Legends meet George Lucas while he is a film student, and have to convince him not to quit film school. The episode is filled with Star Wars references and a great deal of fun. They find Rip as well, who has completely forgotten who he is, his mind being scrambled by contact with the Waverider time drive. Rip thinks he is a film student, working on a student film of his script, “Legends”. Not only does “Legends” feature versions of all the Legends, but Rip is frustrated by a really bad actor playing the Vandal Savage character, and the script introduces the plot for the rest of the season, the search for the legendary “Spear of Destiny”, which has been broken in to multiple pieces. Rip calls this the McGuffin of his script. This is the type of self-referential humor that Legends manages to do really well. It also helps that the villains and the season-long plot are introduced slowly.

The second half of the season has the Legion of Doom (Merlyn, Darhk, and Thawne) and the Legends all looking for the Spear of Destiny. The Legion also messes with time to try to trap the Legends – and the Legends have to put it back. Rip, meanwhile, is captured by the Legion at the end of “Raiders of the Lost Art”, and tortured for information. However, the Legion discovers that Rip can’t tell them anything because his personality has been overwritten. However, one of the Legion pulls an artificial tooth from Rip’s mouth that hides a bank acct number, the Legion goes to the bank, first intending to rob it, then having Rip simply ask for his vault to be opened, only to discover Rip doesn’t know his passphrase. The dynamics between the Legion are great. Once they get the future tech that would restore Rip’s mind and personality, Malcolm alters it to make Rip a mindless tool of the Legion. Although the audience won’t know it until later – this is also when Captain Cold is pulled out of time from before he dies and recruited by the Legion.

With Rip on the Legion’s side, the Legends are in trouble. The Legends also discover that the Spear was broken into pieces, and each piece was given to a member of the JSA to guard. The JSA was then scattered throughout history. So, we now have a quest to get back the spear. The Legion strikes first, killing Dr. Mid-Nite in the future and taking his piece. The Legend gets Rip’s piece of the Spear from 60s Los Angeles, saves George Lucas, but as mentioned previously, fails to save Rip Hunter. Another piece of the Spear is found in Camelot, guarded by Stargirl, whom the locals know as Merlin, and whom has created the Round Table. Commander Steel, Dr. Heywood’s grandfather, and member of the JSA, worked for NASA, and hid his piece on the moon. But with all their successes, and even assembling the Spear themselves, the Legends decide they must destroy it – the Spear is too powerful an object for anyone to wield. They head to the Battle of the Somme in World War I, to meet JRR Tolkien, who had written an unpublished paper about the final resting place of Sir Gaiwan, said to be the hiding place of a vial of the Precious Blood of Christ – the only substance that can destroy the Spear. The adventure with Tolkien is also great, with multiple Lord of the Rings references, and includes a quote of the “Men of the West” Speech from the film Return of the King. But for all their efforts, the Legends fail and the Legion of Doom gets the Spear.

The penultimate episode, “Doomworld”, has a world re-created by Merlyn, Thawne, and Darhk. However, they have also messed with the Legends – making them into their worst and most unlucky selves. Dr. Heywood, however, figures out something is wrong. He meets Ray who has created a device to restore the Legends memories. This works OK, until Jax tries to restore Professor Stein – who resists and breaks the device. There’s a massive fight, but in the end, Thawne gets the Spear and drops it into an very hot reactor to destroy it (not unlike the destruction of the One Ring by volcano in Lord of the Rings). The Legends decide they must go back in time and prevent the Legion from getting the Spear in the first place. In the end, it’s Sara, who all along had been the strongest voice to say they mustn’t use the Spear, who uses it to defeat the Legion. Yet, when the team arrives in Los Angeles – time doesn’t seem quite right.

Legends of Tomorrow is quite fun and the second season was an improvement on the first. Sara shines as captain, able to make tough decisions, wrangle her crew, but also able to learn from her own mistakes, and even to develop compassion. These characters are still screw-ups, which is a great way to do superheroes – as perfect characters are boring. The crew this time around: Sara, Professor Stein, Jax, Dr. Ray Palmer, Mick Rory, Dr. Heywood (Steel), and Amaya (Vixen) work better than last year’s line up.  I missed Rip in the early part of the season, and for much of the second part of the season he’s working with the villains, but overall he’s there enough – and Sara actually made for a better captain with a better leadership style. Dr. Heywood fits in to the Legends immediately, and Amaya also is not as awkward a character as Hawkgirl from last season. And Vixen’s power, the ability to channel the power of any animal, is very cool and realized beautifully. Overall, Legends of Tomorrow was my personal favorite of the CW shows last season.

You can also read my Season 1 Review of Legends of Tomorrow.

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Arrow Season 4 Review

  • Series: Arrow
  • Season: 4
  • Episodes: 24
  • Discs: 5
  • Cast: Stephen Amell, Katie Cassidy, David Ramsey, Emily Bett Rickards, Willa Holland, John Barrowman, Paul Blackthorne, Neal McDonough
  • Network:  CW (Warner Brothers Productions)
  • DVD Format: Color, Widescreen

Season 4 of Arrow is very dark, and that isn’t just a pun based on the main villain of the season being Damien Darhk. But the season is also very…strange. The first eight episodes of the season play like an extended backdoor pilot for Legends of Tomorrow, cumulating in the two-part crossover with The Flash that introduces and spins off Legends. Laurel decides to bring back her dead sister, Sara, so she and Thea dig her up and bring her to Nanda Parbat to drop her in a Lazarus Pit – this despite the plot thread of Thea continuously fighting the blood lust she now suffers thanks to being brought back to life by the same Lazarus Pit. Once in Nanda Parbat, both Malcolm Merlyn and Nyssa al’Ghul warn against using the Lazarus Pit – but Laurel persists. When Sara is brought back she’s a feral beast. Even Quentin Lance, her father, considering killing her. Oliver calls in John Constantine to bring her back to herself. Constantine’s magic works. Shortly after, Felicity discovers that Ray Palmer wasn’t killed in the explosion at Palmer Tech, rather his Atom Suit works and he’s become extremely small. Unfortunately, Ray and his suit are captured by Damien Darhk. Felicity and Curtis Holt (Mr. Terrific to be) rescue him. With Ray now alive, and in possession of a working A.T.O.M. suit – he’s ready to become part of the Legends. The lead in brings us to the crossover with The Flash that also introduces Legends of Tomorrow, and Ray, Sara, Heat Wave,  Captain Cold, and the Hawks (Hawkgirl and Hawkman) spin off to face Vandal Savage. However, that crossover also features Barry Allen’s Flash running through time to prevent a disaster, Oliver discovering he has a son (an element from season 1), Barry accidentally messing-up Oliver and Felicity’s relationship, and Malcolm Merlyn taking the dust of Savage as a trophy or something. But both parts of the crossover are included in the DVD set – Warner Brothers must have heard the cries of protest about last year’s DVD sets not including both halves of the crossover on both sets.

Having successfully spun off Legends, Arrow settles down to be it’s own thing. There’s a continuing thread of “let’s bring people back/in for an episode”. We see Constantine – and yes, I loved his episode so much I bought Constantine on Blu-Ray, as well as all six issues of the Justice League Dark and all four issues of the Constantine DC graphic novels – so I’m glad Arrow introduced me to the character. And – it fits with the CW pulling together references to the wider DC universe. But the episode also sticks out a bit – for a series that stated at the beginning that it would be realistic with no “superpowers” it’s slightly odd to have an entire season of magic. John Constantine isn’t the only DC hero to show up – much later in the season, Oliver brings in Vixen, remarking, “We shared an animated adventure in Hub City,” a reference to the CW Seed animated Vixen series. Vixen has also become a regular in Season 2 of Legends of Tomorrow. Arsenal, Roy Harper, also returns for an episode. But villains return for single episodes (or two) as well, we see: Brie Larvan (the Bug-Eyed Bandit); Cupid; Anarchy; Felicity’s hacker boyfriend, Cooper; and the Calculator, another hacker who turns out to be Felicity’s father. These one-offs work – but at the same time, they distract from the main villain – Damien Darhk – though Cooper works with Darhk, Anarchy wants to kill him, and the Calculator ends up helping Oliver and company against Darhk. But the effect of the one-offs, especially the Cupid episode (which seems designed to be used in trailers to suggest something happens that doesn’t) and the Bug-Eyed Bandit episode seem like breaks in the storyline. Almost as if when putting together the Damien Darhk story the writing and production crew didn’t have enough story planned for the entire season.

The flashback storyline for this season has Oliver returned to Lian Yu to break-up a drug ring, attempt to save a kidnapped Russian girl, and rescue the rest of Ryder’s slave labor force. However, the last few episodes of the season clearly relate the flashbacks to the current storyline – as the idol used by Ryder and briefly, Tatiana, is the same as the idol used by Damien Darhk (or very close). Oliver also meets John Constantine on the island in one episode, which, at least, explains how he knows him. I liked the smoothness of the flashbacks, and the cuts between the past and the present. It worked so much better than last season.

The season is also marked by Star City’s mayoral campaign. First Jeri Ryan (Star Trek‘s 7 of 9) shows up to run for mayor, but she drops out when Damien Darhk kidnaps her child. Oliver then steps in to run, challenging Darhk, but he, too, eventually pulls out of the race because of Darhk’s threats against his son William, and others he cares about, including Felicity. Darhk’s wife, Revé wins the election.

The season is also framed with a flash forward to Oliver at a grave site. When watching the season for the first time, the obvious question is – Who died? When re-watching it, we know who died, in the episode “11:59” – Laurel Lance is killed, and her legacy as the Black Canary eventually revealed to Star City. Still, these flash forwards still work, not driving the story with an obvious question and worry about who died, but letting the audience know just how serious things are with Darhk.

Darhk’s plan is terrifying and for a “comic book series”, very real and frightening as a threat – Damien Darhk’s “Genesis” plan is to destroy the world in Nuclear Fire – with only his chosen few surviving in an underground colony. The people in this colony, whom we see – because Malcolm has Thea brought there and drugged into compliance – are white families – mother, father, child. ALL of them – there are no minorities, heck there seem to be no families with more than a single child. It’s a “perfect world” of rich, white, no doubt – single religion believing, fascists who have no hope. None. They buy Damien Darhk’s claim that the world is “so evil” it must be destoryed. And despite Darhk’s “Arc” there’s no real plan to rebuild anything. It’s a terrifying vision.

It is a very, very dark season. “And smile, and smile, and be a villain”, which is a Shakespearean quote – seems to apply to Damien Darhk. Neal McDonough, whom I had seen in the short-lived series Medical Investigation, plays the part with a smile – a smile in the midst of his true evil – which makes him that much more chilling. Darhk uses his magic to stop Oliver time and again. He controls the “ghosts” an army for an organization called Hive. These ghosts will literally die for Hive – when one faces capture they take suicide pills to prevent revealing any information. Darhk also gets Quentin Lance, whom he’s bribed to work for him, to upload a virus/worm to a Federal server farm that erases the entire existence of the ghosts – or their records at least. One of the ghosts is John Diggle’s supposedly dead brother – who isn’t so dead, but is a dedicated member of Hive. Quentin Lance sees Darhk’s evil and eventually helps Oliver and Company (he hadn’t wanted to work for Darhk – but at first he didn’t see the harm of supplying information, and later Darhk threatened Laurel). John tries to bring Andy to his side, but it fails – and fails spectacularly.

Felicity and Oliver do get engaged, but she decides against marrying him due to his “Lone Ranger” attitude and occasional lies. Though I felt the subplot concerning Oliver’s son was a bit forced. Samantha, the boy’s mother, comes off as extremely self-centered. Her concern to keep William secret and safe makes some sense (especially as after Malcolm tells Damien about William – Damien kidnaps him); but her insistence that Oliver can’t tell Felicity about William makes no sense at all except to create a secret that would break up the couple. It wasn’t her place to say he can’t tell his fiancée. There’s a big difference between Oliver announcing to the world he has a kid and taking William in – and Oliver letting his closest family and friends know. Also, the bit with the uncashed check makes no sense. True, I could see the pride thing of Samantha not wanting to take Moira’s money – but from a practical sense – she moved to a new city, bought a house, and she was pregnant – so she couldn’t work immediately even if she found a job. That’s going to cost thousands of dollars right there. Raising a kid isn’t cheap. Sam really should have used the money.

Getting back to Darhk – every time he tries to stop him, Oliver fails. At one point, he and his team capture Darhk – but Darhk claims he’s someone else and tries to get the charges dropped. The only thing that stops him is Lance, who incriminates himself to testify against Darhk. Darhk then immediately escapes prison – and in the resulting “riot” he kills Laurel. Darhk also attacks Lilia and baby Sara – and takes Rubicon, a computer program meant to prevent nuclear disaster. Darhk will, of course, use this fail safe program to launch the world’s weapons and create Armageddon. Felicity, Curtis, and Noah “The Calculator” Kuttler (Felicity’s father) work together to bring down Rubicon. However, unusually for this genre – one of the missiles escapes – the only thing Felicity can do is divert it – and the missile hits and destroys Haven Rock rather than Monument Point. Felcity’s feelings about this disaster and the tens of thousands of deaths are played way down in the few remaining episodes of the season. Not only that, but the work of Curtis, Noah, and Felicity only buys the world another twenty-four hours. The computers in the Bunker (or Arrow Cave) are destroyed by a Hive attack and the laptop with the anti-Rubicon program is stolen. But Felicity and her crew are able to get to Darhk’s hideout to stop his hacker, Cooper – who gives his life in the process of saving the world. Felicity and Curtis also save Star City from imminent attack. Meanwhile, Thea and Anarchy destroy Darhk’s arc community – driving Malcom back to Oliver and Company, because he’s sane enough to realise he lives in the world that Darhk still, arrogantly, wants to destroy. Revé is killed, and Thea kidnaps Darhk’s daughter. Oliver and Darhk fight, again, but having learned some magic of his own from a friend of Constantine, Oliver is on more even footing. In the end, Oliver kills Darhk. Oliver is also sworn in as Star City’s interim mayor.

Season 4 of Arrow was overwhelmingly dark – not simply the bad guy of the season – who’s ultimate plan is to destroy the world – but in terms of personal relationships. The season opens with Felicity and Oliver living in Ivy Town, and Oliver states many times he is happy there – though Felicity is bored. Yet, the two’s engagement falls apart. One of John Diggle’s motivating factors was the “death” of his brother – yet when Andy comes back, it isn’t a happy reunion and in the end, John kills him. Thea gets Yet Another boyfriend who is just bad for her. It’s a season of reunions and one-time returns, but all those characters appear in one-off episodes. Well, for the most part. The season spends it’s first eight episodes in an extended back door pilot, and as much as I like Legends of Tomorrow, and it was necessary to bring back from the dead the two characters who would spin off, it felt odd to put so much effort into that “mini-story” and then never mention any of those characters again. The next story has Oliver unsuccessfully running for mayor – because he’s forced to drop out of the race by Darhk. Though, in the last episode of the season, he becomes mayor anyway. Felicity is shot in the back and becomes paralyzed – but regains the use of her legs due to a techno-miracle developed by Curtis. This will, no doubt, make comparisons to Oracle even more obvious – though I feel such comparisons between two brilliant characters to be a disservice to both. Felicity loses control of Palmer Tech at the end of the season. The flashback story is much better integrated into the main story, and provides a lot of background – so that’s helpful, but it’s a dark story as well. And then the main story is about, to be frank, a powerful white rich guy who has every, single, advantage, and still feels the world is “too evil” to exist – so he becomes determined to destroy it. Even when his “ark” is destroyed – he still wants to destroy the world. The arrogance, egotism, and hubris boggles the mind – and Darhk is a pure psychopath as well. Neal McDonough is a brilliant choice for Darhk though, and plays the part with a fascinating twinkle – which of course makes him even more scary. It’s an odd season. It’s a dark season. It a very real sense, it made Arrow my least favorite of the CW DC shows. One thing Arrow has gotten right though, and it’s something I like about the entire CW DC line-up, is the bringing in of other characters from the DC Universe – heroes, villains, allies – CW is almost close enough to having a weekly Justice League on the screen they’ve brought in so many characters. That is fun, seriously. It rewards the long-time DC fan, and for new fans, it send them scrambling for the DC Wiki. This is how DC is done!