Since there is no new episode of Legends of Tomorrow next week, I thought I’d switch tones and go with a more informal praise of the series and its Season 3 finale.
When the show began, it was definitely rough. The antagonist was uninspired despite being one of the great DC Comics villains. The Hawks proved, once and for all, that Carter Hall and Shayera/Kendra just do not translate from the page to the screen — well, at least in live action. Shayera is one of the great characters in animation. But it also had the undeniable charisma of Caity Lotz, Brandon Routh, Victor Garber, Wentworth Miller and Dominic Purcell. In fact, its easy to see that first season of Legends as an attempt to keep all of these people under contract without a real goal or story in mind.
Then, almost by magic, the show leaned into that sense of characters adrift by literally making them a band of wondering numbskulls who helped time as much as they hindered it. With the addition of Nick Zano as terrible archeologist Nate Heywood, episodes became funny as the more serious characters disappeared. John Barrowman and Neal McDonough made a great villainous duo and, perhaps most importantly, the show discovered a sense of fun unavailable to The Flash, Arrow, and Supergirl.
And that sense of fun became the operative word this year. While occasionally tackling serious themes and honoring the inevitably of Amaya (Maisie Richardson-Seller) and Nate’s break-up, the show decided it was best to just be funny and let the show’s dramas underpin that. The metaplot across 18 episodes was no different than what came before: defeat a villain who threatens all of time. But in letting the fun option rule the season, that meant their final battle with the demon Mallus had to be absurd and silly, but still feel like a legitimate victory. It did by choosing the hilarious Beebo toy as the team’s magical avatar and finally making Rip Hunter’s (Arthur Darvill) original stated plan for them work internally. They are a band of misfits, but they’re surprisingly effective when they trust each other; flaws and all.
Speaking of flaws, there were definitely a few this year. Investing more time into Jax gave Franz Drameh a much richer character and a reason to stay once Garber announced his departure from the show. Sadly, this was not in the cards as Drameh and the production choose to have Jax leave the team during the winter finale. Since his whole storyline was about finding a way to be Firestorm without Stein, it’s strange the show suddenly shifted gears with Jax. And though it was a delight to see him last night, it also underscores how weird it was that he didn’t stick around and assume ownership of the Fire Totem.
But in losing Garber and Drameh within weeks of each other, the show also revealed its resiliency. Newcomers Tala Ashe and Jes Macallan proved to be great additions to the cast. It took a while for Ashe’s Zari to do more than complain and snack, but once the show had a moment to focus on her, it felt like she was always part of the Waverider crew. Macallan’s Ava not only proved to be wonderful in her own right, but as the face of the Time Bureau, she made the agency a solid piece of the Legends world.
Indeed, this is the first year ideas from Legends felt solid enough to import back into the other shows. The jokes and asides to Beebo and Upswipes made the show feel more alive and not the cast-off DC show. Importing Wally (Keiynan Lonsdale) from The Flash illustrated just how underused the character and performer were there because, ultimately, he was always meant to be a Legend.
Hopefully, with the team focusing on fighting monsters next year, the sense of fun, camaraderie and ne’er-do-wells who tolerate light thievery will continue into season four. I also hope the goofy tone continues, with the show accepting that it can stage a final fight with a giant Teddy Ruxpin/Tickle Me Elmo analogue and that it will work because they built a fun and fantastic antidote to the self-serious heroes elsewhere on television.
Legends of Tomorrow returns in the Fall.