If the popularity of The CW’s crossover between Arrow and The Flash was any indication, it’s safe to assume that DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, premiering 8pm Thursday, January 21, has hero worshippers anticipating great things. Excited by the idea of two DC comic greats teaming up? Brace yourself: Legends brings together eight of them.
In the two-part series opener, Time Master Rip Hunter (Arthur Darvill) recruits a band of supers to battle the immortal Vandal Savage (Casper Crump), who stands on the cusp of world domination in the year 2166. Times do not get more desperate than this.
Perhaps that’s why, in addition to the better known heroes on this crew – Atom (Brandon Routh); Professor Martin Stein (Victor Garber) and Jefferson “Jax” Jackson (Franz Drameh), who join to form Firestorm; resurrected assassin Sara Lance (Caity Lotz), the White Canary; and two new heroes introduced in the Flash/Arrow crossover, Kendra Saunders aka Hawkgirl (Ciara Renée) and Carter Hall aka Hawkman (Falk Hentschel) – Hunter also recruited calculating thief Leonard Snart aka Captain Cold (Wentworth Miller) and his violent pyromaniac partner Mick Rory, or Heat Wave (Dominic Purcell). Together, Rip and the team set off on a journey through time and space aboard his ship, the Waverider, partly piloted by a talking computer named Gideon.
A tale like that can pack a lot of punch… in theory. Effectively merging and balancing eight specific storylines into a single mission is a challenge not many producers can pull off. And that’s before taking into account Legends’ various action-stuffed sequences. For the most part, Legends showrunner Phil Klemmer (part of an executive producer superteam that includes Arrow EPs Marc Guggenheim, Greg Berlanti and Andrew Kreisberg) nimbly manages all that might. The first pair of episodes dazzlingly hint at the possibilities in store for this mighty ensemble, throwing in a couple of spiky twists to throw their mission into high gear.
Since Legends isn’t based on a specific comic book series, not even the most fervent DC Universe zealots will be able to tell you where or when the story is going. Fortunately Klemmer and stars Routh, Purcell and Drameh were happy to share a few enticing details with us following a recent press event in Pasadena, CA.
Read on for the eight things you’ll want to know before jumping aboard the Waverider with Rip and his friends…or foes.
Thanks to the plot’s time travel conceit, the Legends will be able to visit some politically and stylistically specific eras, which helps to break this season into manageable chapters.
Season one’s 16 episodes include trippy voyages to the ‘70s, starting in 1975. After that, the team will be visiting the ‘80s and what Klemmer dubs a “Pleasantville, Amblin, Spielberg version” of the 1950s, eventually jumping 50 years into the future as well as fast forwarding by about a century.
Those hoping for jaunts into the distant past will be disappointed. “We wanted to deal with familiar events of the 20th century,” Klemmer says, explaining that “the further you go back, the chances of doing something unforeseen and deleterious to the timeline are much, much greater.
“So if you want to do a surgical strike,” he adds, “it’s better to go back relatively recent to the event that you want to change, which is Vandal Savage’s rise to power.”
This is not to say that the current crew won’t continue on in some fashion and for a significant chunk of time. But like any team up, the Legends are open to new recruits and possible retirements. “It is like a repertory company,” Klemmer explains.
Scheduled to get in on the act this season is Jewel Staite, who emerges in episode four as part of Rip and company’s voyage to the Soviet Union. Staite plays a nuclear scientist who might be (unwittingly?) working in a diabolical partnership with Vandal Savage.
Also appearing in that episode is Stephanie Corneliussen (Mr. Robot) as Valentina Vostok. What remains to be seen is whether Staite’s appearance is a one-shot or if she’ll be back for more adventures.
At the time of this interview, Klemmer said Staite was only slated to appear in one episode. Then again, Corneliusssen “popped in on Four, and we kept her in Five. For a moment we had her in Seven and put that on hold for now.” While the showrunner wouldn’t confirm that Staite would recur, “I’m sure she’s going to nail her part.”
Eight really does sounds like enough to take down a Big Bad who has been amassing power for centuries. Having said that, does the mission to vanquish Vandal Savage really require every one of the Legends — including a thief and his firefly muscle? When Rip recruited these people, did he get his math right? It delights Klemmer to tease viewers with those questions.
“I really like the idea that all of the Legends will be integral to their purpose before the end of season one, but there are a lot of times that it’s fairly murky,” Klemmer says. “Are they there for a positive reason? Is there somebody who is destined to be a Judas? To me, those questions of people soul searching, that’s incredibly interesting.”
True, Ray Palmer’s participation is motivated by the chance to take on a world-class villain, but “it’s really about the betterment of society and the world,” explains Routh. “Ray’s already making an impact with all of his inventions and his brain. But it didn’t save the world. It didn’t stop Vandal Savage, as he was.”
Plus, for once, it gives The Atom a chance to take charge as opposed to acting as a support player. In Arrow’s sphere, “He’s not at the top of the mountain, you know?”
On the other end of the moral spectrum is Mick Rory. “He doesn’t want to save the world. He just wants to steal s—, and being around all these people all the time drives him nuts.”
“Usually once we go someplace, we don’t want to leave because it’s so much fun, or we have so much story that we can’t resolve it,” Klemmer explains.
Selfish reasons lead the Legends to stay put in 1975 for the first three episodes. “We have a chance for one of our characters to do a side mission of like, ‘Yeah, we’re trying to save the world, but while I have a little extra time I’d like to get into my past because there are some things I’d like to change.’ Because who wouldn’t?”
In Mick Rory’s case, a bit of timeline tinkering might be welcome. “I mean, his father was an abusive alcoholic who split, and he was sent off to an orphanage and lived his life on the streets. I mean, yeah,” says Purcell, “that’s a pretty f—-d up background.”
While Rory’s past has been mentioned, we’ve never seen it. Will that change in an upcoming episode? “Absolutely,” answers Purcell.
“Taking oil and water and mixing it is always the recipe for good drama,” says Klemmer, and a show like Legends gives us the chance to see that play out in the realm of comic book fantasy.
This is already taking place with Jax and Stein, whose delicate-albeit-steady partnership is tested from the start. “Jax doesn’t even go on this mission of his own volition,” explains Drameh. “But as the stakes get higher and the team gets into stickier situations, he kind of owns that he and Firestorm are becoming a hero.”
Nevertheless, over the course of the season “there’s definitely a big moral shift. He starts to understand that the world isn’t black and white, that there are morally grey areas. Is it right? Is it good? Maybe not, but certain things are necessary for the overall greater good, I suppose.”
The other main contender for the team spirit trophy, Ray, also is fundamentally changed by adventuring with unfamiliar companions. He has a few negative issues to work out with Stein, for instance. And The Atom may end up forging and even more unexpected friendship.
“Snart and Ray come to understand each other a little bit more, and certainly Ray starts to really respect Mick in a new way around four, five or six episodes in, in a surprising way that I don’t think that Ray would have expected,” Routh teases.
The boy scout and the delinquent? Yes, confirms Purcell.
“Ray and Mick are polar opposites,” Purcell explains. “Mick doesn’t see Atom as a threat. But there’s one episode devoted to Ray and Mick Rory, and it was just a joy to work with him.”
Purcell then hinted at another slightly less surprising partnership. “I think there’s something going on with Mick and Sara, maybe. Mick loves the fact that a woman is taking change. He respects that, and I think he finds that fascinating.”
This doesn’t necessarily translate into romance. “It’s more of respect that she’s a strong, strong woman. Mick likes that.”
From the outset, Rip Hunter finds it impossible to hold the center as the team’s leader. “Everyone goes into different little groups at times, and it gets switched up, so the dynamics always change,” Drameh says. “It’s a team that doesn’t really know each other from Adam, for the most part. So they’re at loggerheads for most of the time.”
Teamwork may have a more destructive effect on another heretofore solid partnership. “Watching the sort of evolution or devolution, however we choose to end it, of [Mick Rory’s] relationship with Snart, is really interesting,” says Klemmer. “Snart has a little bit more accessible goodness, or team spirit, in him. As for Rory, the only person he’s ever allowed in his heart is Snart.”
Routh agrees. “Their relationship is challenged in more ways than anybody else’s. It will become a focal point.”
Could it also become a problem? Klemmer would only say, “It’s a dangerous thing to have an upset arsonist aboard your spaceship.”
So why would a Time Master bring murderous villains on an altruistic quest to save the world?
“Clearly Rip needs one or both of them,” Klemmer says. “But it’s obvious that they’re as much a liability as they are an asset. They’re pirates, and letting pirates aboard your spaceship is the last thing you do unless you absolutely have to.”
That may be the top decision, among many, that Rip Hunter will live to regret. For all we know, it could be justice. Time travel is a tricky business that makes it tough to trust in the veracity of what we’re seeing.
“Rip has seen the future,” Klemmer says.“What if, God forbid, Rip is being played? There are endless sort of head [games] available when you’re dealing with time. The big question is, what is written in stone? What is written in pen or in pencil? We’re told we can change the world, but we constantly see that time wants to happen.”
We’re happy that Legends is inviting us to tag along for the ride.
Melanie McFarland is a Seattle-based TV critic and an executive member of the Television Critics Association. Follow her on Twitter: @McTelevision
DC’s Legends of Tomorrow premieres on Thursday, January 21 at 8pm on The CW; read reviews here.