When it started, Legends of Tomorrow was a really interesting addition to the Arrowverse. Offbeat and cheesy, this superhero-scifi show was a gloriously messy genre mash, and it was at its strongest when it went all out with the time travel or space travel elements of the story. Legends is weird! It's fun! And it's totally its own thing!
Until now, that is.
I'm honestly not sure whether I just watched an episode of Legends of Tomorrow or The Flash. The main characters of Legends, who really make the show worth watching with their odd dynamic and off-brand heroism, were almost completely absent from "The Legion Of Doom," and instead the episode focused on the season's antagonists — proving that these interchangeable villains can't carry an episode.
Revealing the Black Flash at the last minute would have been a great twist... if this were an episode of #TheFlash. But it's not. This is Legends of Tomorrow and the Black Flash's entrance had absolutely no emotional impact or relevance to this particular show. Not to mention, there's a ton of more interesting ways to use the Spear of Destiny, a reality altering magic device, than for Thawne to write himself back into existence. If Season 2 Episode 10 proved nothing else, it's that Legends of Tomorrow isn't just straying too close to the other shows in the Arrowverse, it's losing its own identity.
A Spinoff Of A Spinoff
The villains of Legends of Tomorrow Season 2 are basically cast-offs from The Flash and #Arrow imported to this show in an effort bring Legends closer to the rest of the #Arrowverse. It's no secret that Legends has had a mixed critical reception, and Season 2 featured quite a few shake-ups. After several writers were brought in from Arrow and The Flash, showrunner Phil Klemmer told IGN that Season 2 would be so different it would basically feel like another show:
"We're coming at it from a completely different angle. We're determined to make every part of Season 2 feel like its own show. Episode 201 will very much be a new pilot with new good guys, new bad guys, new stakes, new dynamics, new goals."
In many ways, this was a success. The use of the Justice Society was fantastic, Vixen is an interesting addition to the team, and Sara's promotion to captain of the Waverider is easily one of the best parts of Season 2. Jax and Stein's storylines have also been fascinating, as they have been used to show the benefits, and dangers, of changing history. And of course, the mid-season premiere was absolutely tremendous — even without the gratuitously copious and ridiculously fun George Lucas references, "Raiders of the Lost Art" was one of the strongest episodes of the show so far.
Too bad it was swiftly followed by one of the weakest episodes. Unfortunately, the story that made "The Legion of Doom" feel so unoriginal and dull turned out to be the main mystery of Season 2. A villain's motivation is one of the most important ways of raising the stakes in a story, and the Reverse Flash's entire driving force feels like a recycled plot from The Flash. Also, as Vixen pointed out, it "doesn't begin to make any kind of sense" — even by Legends logic.
Frankly, it's just jarring to see so much of Legends focus on a speedster plot. That's not what this show is about, as much as they try to pass it off as time travel. Because this is the root problem with the Legion of Doom — they might be good villains on other shows, but they're not Legends of Tomorrow villains.
Relying On Another Show's Story
We shouldn't have to have watched seasons upon seasons of a different show just to understand one episode of Legends. Sure, it may make the whole thing more satisfying to watch every single superhero show on The CW — especially during the awesome "Invasion!" crossover — but each show should be able to stand on its own without viewers having intimate knowledge of the others. And unfortunately, as of now Legends kind of doesn't.
I'm gonna take it back to Black Flash for a second, just to hammer the point home. Pretend for a second that you've only watched Legends of Tomorrow, and not the other shows. You've sat through the half-baked introductions of villains you don't already know, whose characterizations seem empty and whose motivations you just don't care about — both Malcom Merlyn and Damian Darhk want to change events you haven't seen, after all.
Then, after a whole episode of these two interchangeable villains bickering (ugh), it all comes down to a confusing revelation about speedsters. The explanation is labored and makes little sense. Finally this specter of doom, this malicious plot device that Thawne is running from is finally revealed to be... some zombie speedster that you've never seen before. And honestly, even fans of The Flash might have trouble remembering that this is what Zoom became in The Flash Season 2 finale, because he only popped up for a second.
So as it turns out, Legends Season 2's villain motivation relies on a blink-and-you'll-miss-it plot point from an entirely different show. And that's not a hallmark of strong storytelling.
What Made Legends Good
Legends of Tomorrow needs to be a self-contained story unit, one we can watch without trying to remember a plot point from The Flash Season 2, or how Darhk was dispatched in Arrow Season 5. In trying to bring Legends of Tomorrow closer to the Arrowverse, The CW writers have gone way, way too far, and seem to have forgotten the point of having another new show in the first place.
Legends of Tomorrow isn't about some speedster villain trying to get his groove back: It's about time travel, space pirates, and misfit superheroes. Legends has the potential to be a really awesome, atypical, genre-bending show, and for a while it was exactly that — Season 1 redefined what it meant to be a superhero, removing the central characters from their elements and taking them on an exciting romp through history.
The sci-fi elements, the sense of humor, this is what made Legends of Tomorrow fun, not how it fit into the Arrowverse. And Legends deserves to have villains that exist purely within its own story — Vandal Savage may have been pantomime-level camp, but the final twist that revealed how he and the Time Masters manipulated history (and the Legends themselves) was so ridiculous and yet absolutely brilliant, that it really took the Legends storytelling to another level.
The fact is, the writers don't need to use plots from other shows. Legends has plenty of story threads to pick up, from Mick Rory's time as Chronos, to the fact that the Legends may have caused the inevitable destruction of Earth.
I can only hope that as Season 2 progresses, the writers find their way back to the core appeal of Legends of Tomorrow — but if "The Legion of Doom" really did reveal what this whole season has been about, then we're probably just as doomed as the Legion themselves.
Do you think 'Legends of Tomorrow' has lost its originality?