A show like Legends of Tomorrow defies description, but its fourth season proved its unique mix of time travel, magic, comedy and reliance on musical numbers was the right direction after a staggeringly awful first season. Fitting, then, that first season villain Vandal Savage (Casper Crump) would make a reappearance as a happier individual in last night’s season finale.
Of course, the surprise cameo — setting up next season’s ongoing conflict — was a only a side story on the way to the main event: a theme park stage show complete with dragons, demons, witches and superheroes. That ending was, in many ways, Legends in a nutshell. A glorious celebration of the silliest things television can do while in service to the characters’ deeper stories. The whole stage show was an attempt to free Ray Palmer’s (Brandon Routh) body from Neron’s control. Oh, also, there was the bid to save the world from Neron’s plan, but that threat was never as resonant as the character dramas. Note the quality of the scene between Nate (Nick Zano) and his father Hank (Tom Wilson). It was really the moment the stage show was leading up to, and it just about makes the power of love ending work. It also set up a pretty ruthless cliffhanger as we lost Zari Tomaz (Tala Ashe) in the process.
Not that Ashe is leaving, though. A new Zari will appear — reforged from her experiences as the girl who tamed a dragon and the final deletion of an Earth-1 2040s in which she was hunted for being a meta and a Muslim. But thanks to the understanding created during the stage show, that future is finally gone and Zari is a new woman. So much so, her brother Behrad (Shayan Sobhian) took her place in the Legends’ own personal timeline.
But that change will illustrate one of the show’s greatest strengths, its willing and capable cast. Matt Ryan’s John Constantine became a believable softy. Routh used all of his quirks in surprising ways as Neron. Ashe led a Bollywood style number a few episodes back and then joined Zano in a loving pastiche of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Episodes focusing on Ava (Jes Macallan) and Sara’s (Caity Lotz) relationship have an amazing emotional maturity despite also featuring the ongoing jokes about Gary (Adam Tsekhman). And then, because Tsekhman is such a dependable performer, the show put its own jokes about the character on blast and reframed him as a Legend.
Which is a nice element of this show, it picks up strays with surprising regularity. Wilson was intended to be the season’s main antagonist, but as soon as the producer fell in love with his performance, they pivoted to a stronger story in which Hank and Nate actually bonded after years of estrangement. Sure, Hank had to die in order for it to happen, but it proved to be one of the strongest stories the show has told thus far.
Nonetheless, the show is still light-weight in comparison to The Flash, Arrow, and even Supergirl. But that’s okay! It’s unique, goofy voice is the reason it survived its terrible first year to become the most lovable of the four Arrowverse shows currently on the air. And even though it is switching to mid-season status next year, we hope it gets to be its quirky self for at least a few more seasons.
Legends of Tomorrow returns in 2020 on The CW.