Confidence is a word we love to use when discussing Legends of Tomorrow. Born of the Arrowverse’s weakest premise (and weakest first season), the show found its strength and consistently doubled down on those things to create the most fun series of the CW’s superhero quintet. Always bursting with talent, it found ways to showcase actors like Brandon Routh, Maisie Richardson-Sellers, and, of course, Tala Ashe. It took advantage of missteps like the first season’s awful romance between the Hawks to build more developed and interesting relationships with Nate (Nick Zano) and Amaya (Richardson-Sellers) and Nate’s subsequent relationship with Zari (Ashe).
It also found a joy in making fun of its own time travel premise, which in turn made the show less of a mission-bound Time Tunnel-esque tour of history and more of a landscape to land great jokes and reveal interesting characters, both out of the DC Comics library and from its own designs (praise Beebo).
Since leaning into these strengths, though, the show has mostly kept to its comedic aptitude — even bringing humor to John Constantine (Matt Ryan), but Season 5 proved it had the bandwidth not just to pull off dramatic material, but to earn those moments of sadness, tenderness, and grief.
Let’s look at Behrad (Shayan Sobhian) as he fueled a lot of the dramatic tension across the season. Appearing as a consequence of the Legends’ actions at the end of Season 4, Sobhian and the cast made a concerted effort to make him feel like he’d always been there. He was a bro alongside Nate and Ray (Routh) and took over Zari’s role as tech support with ease — even if his love of the holy herb made him a little less effective. The characterization was strong and he was quickly established as a valued member of the team. That was essential if Zari 2.0’s (also Ashe) dismay at his death was to be believed, but also his own subsequent feelings about remembering his two deaths and the choice Zari 1.0 makes in the season finale.
Which leads us to the new Zari, an absolutely fascinating character as her initial Instagram influencer persona hides someone as complex as the Zari who grew up in the A.R.G.U.S.-controlled fascist future. Zari 2.0 was a joke machine early on, but depths emerged which made her eventual conversation with her earlier self one of the season’s highlights. In fact, we came to love her so much that we were ready to see a Season 6 with both versions of the character or some sort of odd amalgamation. And as much to the writing, it’s also a testament to Ashe; who can seemingly play just about anything.
Another running thread through the season was Mick (Dominic Purcell) accidentally fathering a child during an excursion to the early 2000s and dealing with the consequences. It was also mined for comedy, but something deeper took root as the crass arsonist-turned-romance-novelist discovered something new about himself. Also, Mina Sundwall, playing Mick’s daughter Lita, felt like such a natural addition to the cast that we hope she spends more time on the Waverider next year.
We also hope Astra (Olivia Swann) also stays on despite her stated plan to live in her mother’s house. She brings such an interesting, disbelieving energy to the team. Also, we love that she towers over every other member of the cast.
To some extent, Mick’s journey is what Legends does best beyond the comedy. It takes these misfits and puts them in a frame where they can have families or relate to others beyond the broad strokes of their character descriptions. It may not have been as well executed when Dr. Stein sacrificed himself or Jax walked off the ship, but the character evolution gives the show a more satisfying feel than, say, The Flash, which often has to take back character growth for the sake of plot. Legends can get away with this because its built for cast turnover.
It’s also built to let a character’s story end while still retaining the actor, which was brilliant way to keep Richardson-Sellers on after Amaya’s story concluded in Season 3. And now that the actor is ready to move on, Charlie’s story also felt, well, full circle. Leaving her back where the Legends found her, a punk show where she is the lead singer of The Smell, highlights just how much the character has grown in her two years with the team. Also, it is interesting to note she was very much the agent of chaos, but the Charlie the team leaves in London is a much more confident person ready to use that chaos for something great.
And while it is sad to lose the energy she brings to the show, her ending feels well-deserve. Or, at the very least, less rushed than the departures of Routh and Courtney Ford; which definitely deserved a few more episodes of groundwork — especially as Routh was not all that eager to leave. Then again, looking at the full shape of the season, it is hard to see how their decision to leave could be integrated into the plot after Behrad’s second death.
Despite that sour note, though, Legends‘ fifth season was its strongest to date. It’s learned to fully mix its comedic and emotional potentials in a way that just works. Sure, we may never feel like the core team is in any real physical jeopardy — as the show itself lampshaded last night, people die and return all the time — but as the program’s strength is in how far it can stray from the format set by Arrow, we’re okay with missing that tension.
Of course, Sara’s (Caity Lotz) abduction may lead to the series confront that remaining flaw next year.
Legends of Tomorrow returns in 2021 to The CW.