Building a show out of characters we’re familiar with is both a very good bet and a dangerous way to live. A good bet because, let’s face it, the getting people to care is the biggest hurdle any new show has to surpass. And, a dangerous way to live because you can’t reinvent people we already know. We know them. Sure, you can advance their stories, you can reveal hidden depths, but completely changing who a person is or what he/she would do? Nope, that won’t work.
Now, I’m not going to say the problems with the Legends of Tomorrow Pilot were that it was trying to reinvent the characters – but, at the very least, it was trying to frame them in a way that didn’t quite work for us. Sara the ray of sunshine? Carter and Kendra the OTP? Vandal Savage the worst villain who ever lived? Yeah, that wasn’t working. Add that to the fact that the Pilot spent way too long focused on the least interesting characters in this ensemble, and you had a wildly entertaining but messy beginning that didn’t quite hook you, but never managed to bore you, either.
Enter “Blood Ties.”
As a said before, making a show work requires many things – first of all, it requires a connection. If you care about the characters, chances are, you’re going to continue watching. And, if the first two episodes spent way too long focused on the people we didn’t care about, this episode, this episode gave us …
Making Sara the “White Canary” was both a decision of convenience and a decision of opportunity. For all her angelic looks, Caity Lotz’s Sara Lance was never a Felicity-Smoak type character, not someone bathed in light. No, Sara was darkness and pain and, lately, after being resurrected, she was also death. Not that we saw that side of Sara in the Pilot, no. We saw the fun side, the pretty woman who could kick-ass.
And we like that Sara, we do. But we love the other one. The one who, in trying to save Rip in that bank, lost control of her bloodlust. The one who never saw herself as good, not even before, but who know looks into the mirror and sees a monster. The one who’s ready for a fight anytime, anywhere, but can’t accept being told she’s good.
The White Canary is not meant to be the opposite of the Black Canary, not really. Sara made Laurel strong and Laurel made Sara good. But just as it took Laurel time to become the woman she wanted to be to honor her sister, it’s going to take Sara some time to finally see herself the way others see her. The way Rip clearly does. And that’s okay. We’re here for Sara Lance. We’ve been in love with her for years. We don’t want easy. We want the journey, we want the pain. It’s what makes the happiness worthwhile.
THE MAN UNDER THE SUIT
I’m not going to pretend Ray Palmer was ever one of my favorites. It wasn’t even his role as love-interest in Arrow, no. It was that he just didn’t fit with the overall tone of that show. It was that his jokes fell flat when he was telling them to Felicity. Ray didn’t belong with her, and he didn’t belong in that show.
He belongs here.
With Martin Stein giving him that ‘supremely un-impressed’ look as he babbles on about the Titanic, with Leonard Snart sassing him back as he tries to make a joke. In just three episodes of Legends of Tomorrow I already like Ray More than I ever did in an entire season of Arrow, and that’s not just on the writing, it’s on the tone.
Brandon Routh was never the problem. Brandon Routh is a precious unicorn who, as this episode proves, has chemistry with absolutely everyone. Victor Garber, another precious unicorn who I’ve followed through years and years of television, however, might be the most interesting connection Ray Palmer has made to date.
On the surface Martin Stein and Ray Palmer have a lot in common. In fact, if Ray is to be believed, he was once Stein’s student. Stein claims to not remember him, until, in this episode, when Ray needs a pep-talk, his former professor delivers. Later, we find out it was just a lie. Stein really doesn’t remember. But that’s okay. He can see what an awesome guy Ray is now. He can be there to provide the encouragement and “emotional support.” But most importantly, he can be there as an example.
Ray lost his fiancée a few years back. We already knew this, because we know the character. But till this episode I’m not sure we really understood that the loss of his fiancée was not just his driving force, but the source of his anxiety. He wants to be better for her, in her memory; he just doesn’t think he’s enough. And though it will take more than Professor Stein believing in him to change that, just the fact that someone did was a step in the right direction.
Ultimately, Martin Stein is what Ray Palmer could be – should aspire to be: A man who has found both success academically, a way to harness his powers for good, and the love of his life. (Even if she’s not around for this particular adventure). Ray has done well in one, still trying to figure out the second and is miles away on the third.
At least for now.
YOU CAN’T CHANGE PEOPLE
One of these days I’m going to stop being surprised by the fact that Leonard Snart remains my favorite part of this show. That day, however, won’t be today. Because Leonard Snart is not the bad guy he wants you to think he is, no. He’s basically a softie, hidden by a rough exterior. In the world he grew up in, emotions got you in trouble, so he suppressed them.
But he cares, oh, does he. Proof of that is the fact that, when given the chance, Snart doesn’t just go steal something for his own benefit, no. He tries to fix his father’s life. Yes, his father’s. The one he hated. The one who abused him for years.
The one he killed.
In the Pilot, Rip Hunter said that “Time wants to happen.” I took that to mean that some things you can’t change, but maybe it just means some people can’t change. Snart’s dad is one of those. But our Captain Cold isn’t. And that’s what makes this journey fun.
FOUR THOUSAND YEARS FOR THIS?
I want to state, for the record, that I think Vandal Savage is the worst villain in DC TV these days. In fact, if you ask me, he’s reaching Ra’s al Ghul levels of ineffectiveness. And that’s the problem with the show. We care about the characters, yes, but the stakes aren’t high enough because the villain is just …not scary.
Here’s what we know of Savage: He was in love with Kendra. She refused him. He killed her and her lover. And now he’s an evil mastermind who’ll chase the reincarnated Kendra through time, and oh, conquer the world. That too. We just don’t understand why.
And when I say why, I mean why anything. Why was he in love with Kendra? Why does he have to kill her? Why did he go from I love this girl so much to let’s destroy the world? Why?
If/when the show answers this question, that’s when it’ll go from good/entertaining to great.
And I personally can’t wait.
- If the CW had aired both parts of the Legends of Tomorrow pilot on the same night, I’m pretty sure we would have all felt better about those episodes.
- Kendra and Jax are the only two people on this time who aren’t doing anything for me yet, and I get the sense we’re going to see more Jax next episode.
- I like Rip, but most days I think he’s the worst Time Master in the history of Time Masters. Can he just take a moment to explain what’s acceptable and what isn’t?
- Heatwave amuses me.
NEXT, ON LEGENDS OF TOMORROW:
DC’s Legends of Tomorrow airs Thursdays at 8/7c on The CW.