Ever since Kendra Saunders was first introduced back on The Flash, I’ve tried to connect with her. Female superheroes are a dime a dozen and any strong, powerful woman introduced on television gets my loyalty by default. Or, at least, they get the benefit of the doubt. After that they have to earn my love, just like any other character.
Kendra Saunders has failed at this, and she has failed in spectacular fashion.
But why has she? I’ve been giving this a lot of thought, going over and over in my head of the reasons. Why can’t I relate to Kendra? What is it about her that doesn’t convince me? Am I being irrational? And then, today, as if I only needed to open the document to write about this to get the answer, I finally saw it.
My problem with Kendra is that her story isn’t about her – it’s about her love life.
Think about it, we’ve seen Kendra through the spectrum of the three men she’s “dated.” First there was Cisco, who was quirky, and fun, and she was quirky and fun with him. It didn’t have the feel of an OTP, but I will admit I liked Kendra then. She was lost, confused, but there was a badass hiding inside of her. She just needed to let her out.
And then came Carter and their whole mess of a non-relationship. She didn’t have her memories, so I 100% support her decision not to jump into a relationship with the man, except, she kinda did. They even made the decision to join Legends of Tomorrow together. They were basically a couple without the benefits of actually being a couple.
Even that part might be understandable. She probably felt something for him, even if she couldn’t put into words. But the problem is that she never committed one way or another with Carter. She was waiting for a sign …she was waiting to be sure. And in life, you’re hardly ever sure.
Later, when Carter was gone I thought, well, this is it. This is when I’m going to finally get to know Kendra, to love Kendra. To explore her fears and her vulnerabilities. To see who she can be without having her story always entwined with someone else’s. And then, they paired her up with Ray.
This is a whole other mess. Ray and Kendra do not work together, not even one bit. And this is not a setup problem, the two characters, as written, might have worked together with the proper development. It’s not like he cheated on her with her sister or something like that. If they’d given us a chance to love Kendra as a person before getting her involved in another relationship, if they’d shown us anything of her fears and her hopes, then it might have been easier to connect with her. Because that’s the thing, we need to love both characters before we love an OTP. Nothing else works.
Ray is not the issue here.
Kendra is. The one who spent two years with this man and yet treats him as a placeholder – she’s spent longer with another man, after all. The one that can’t make up her mind one way or another. The one that says “I’m still in love with Carter” and after that asks Ray to “Not give up on us.” The one what makes no sense whatsoever.
She’s not real to us. She’s a character in a show that we don’t really hate, but don’t love, and certainly don’t connect to. And, considering we connect to the League-of-Assassin’s dropout with bloodlust, the idiot on charge of the time ship, the former thief and even at times with the madman that turned on his team and tried to kill them all, that’s saying something.
Female characters are asked to do a lot. That’s patently unfair, and yet, unavoidable. We should all strive to treat female characters the way we treat males ones. And yet, that’s not only something that should be asked of viewers, no. That’s something we should demand of the writers.
A woman is more than the people she loves. She’s more than her romantic entanglements. She’s a human being with hopes, fears and desires. Kendra has lived 207 lives. She must have accumulated a lot of issues, a lot of likes and dislikes. She must have seen a lot. She must know a lot.
It’s just that she’s never been allowed to explore it.
Kendra Saunders is more than just the token female on board the Legends of Tomorrow ship; more the object of Vandal Savage’s misguided affections. She’s a complete human being. Or, at least, she should be allowed to be.
Forget about Ray and Kendra, or even Carter and Kendra. Make me love the woman, Legends of Tomorrow. That’s the only way you’ll make me care about who she’s with. That’s the only way you’ll make me care at all.
DC’s Legends of Tomorrow airs Thursdays at 8/7c on the CW.