Legends of Tomorrow: Swashbuckling-Style and Character Dynamics

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Image: CW

Genre: Superhero/Sci-fi

Synopsis: A pseudo-Time Lord from the future assembles a team of heroes to kill a man before he destroys the future.

Series: First season is airing.

I’ve Watched: Up to episode 9.

Verdict: Nonsensically entertaining.

Further into the season, and my original reaction to the show not only still stands, but deepens. That said, things happened that I totally didn’t expect. I didn’t think it was that kind of show.

But those moments were perfectly poignant and tragic, and I really appreciate the places that the show went while still maintaining its swashbuckling style. One moment, it’ll be plot holes and cheese. The next, some hefty character development will happen, and the show might get surprisingly dark.

I’ve figured out why, despite all the plot holes and generic wackiness, I really like this show. For all the shortcuts that it takes–which it takes deliberately, I might add–it never shortchanges the character development. Yes, it condenses that development down to a few key points to make it unrealistically concise, but it doesn’t take away from the depth of the characterization. For all that the protagonists have so little time to develop, they each feel like complex, fully realized characters. And that’s impressive.

I keep watching this series, corniness and all, because I’m invested in the characters. I like them. I don’t care that much about the plot–I just want to see the main cast interact.

Rip has perhaps the most hamfisted of the storylines, with the obligatory tragedy pushing him to betray his entire cause. It’s interesting that he’s the professional who’s supposed to know what he’s doing, but his plans are generally haphazard. All he’s got is the emotional drive to save his family, and not much worked out beyond that–he doesn’t know how to manage his new team, he doesn’t know what to do when his initial plans fail, and he really doesn’t know who he’s becoming now that he’s entered this new phase of life.

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Sara wants to move beyond her past as an assassin, but her recent resurrection comes with complications. She’s left trying to balance the person she wants to be with the supernatural bloodlust she’s experiencing. Also notable is that she’s a bisexual character who was unkilled, and left behind an ex-girlfriend who’s still important to her on another show (Arrow).

Ray is an engineer and a businessman (and another unfortunate example of the fictional absurdity of having multiple PhDs). He built himself a suit he uses for combat or to shrink himself. He desperately wants to be a hero, to do the right thing, and for his contributions to matter. Ray also has an adorkable personality which he wears with pride. Gotta appreciate characters who embrace their quirks and feel no shame in them.

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Jax and Stein are a team, together having the ability to merge (somehow?) into one powerful, flame-throwing being (which is technically Jax physically, with Stein acting as a voice in Jax’s head, at least according to my observations–I don’t know, it still doesn’t make sense to me.)

On their own, Jax is laid-back, affable, and sure of himself. Stein is curious, enthusiastic, and a bit stuffy. Their relationship is intergenerational, and much of the conflict they have comes from Stein driving Jax hard, with Jax chafing at Stein’s attempts to exert authority over him. (Personally, I’m with Jax on this one. Stein can be overbearing, especially keeping in mind that there’s no reason besides age for Stein to have any authority over Jax in the first place. Especially after that first time Stein overrode Jax’s choices..) Still, both obviously care about each other, even if Stein sometimes does a terrible job of expressing it.

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Kendra and Carter are reincarnated soul mates, who have thousands of years of history with the enemy the team is up against. Kendra is a kind and caring ordinary girl, who only recently discovered she could tap into the memories of her past life. And found out that she has a boyfriend of thousands of years that she doesn’t even know that well. Carter’s memories have been awakened for longer. So he finds himself working with a woman he’s in love with, but who doesn’t remember him and therefore doesn’t love him back.

Kendra’s pretty cool, and her warm demeanor helps her develop close relationships with much of the team. But beyond that, despite being one of the less experienced members of the team, it looks like she might be the one who ultimately has to defeat the enemy–hinting that this might potentially be her story, the new recruit with a destiny that has to go through the training and the journey to get good enough to take out the bad guy.

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Leonard and Mick are criminals and partners, and have been for a long time. They join for the same reasons, but find their goals diverging as they stay. The new dynamics they form with the team forces the nature of their partnership to change. Because Leonard is starting to get into this being-on-a-team-with-a-mission business, starting to change his mind about why and how much he wants to be here. And Mick isn’t. That difference of opinion comes with consequences.

There’s plenty to explore with these characters, and the show does that in a fun, but not dismissive, way. I can’t say that this is a good show in the sense that it has deep themes or a plot that makes sense. But it isn’t trying to be that show. Instead, Legends of Tomorrow is trying to be entertaining and engaging, and there it succeeds (though it still leaves room for surprises).

 

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