SPOILER WARNING: This article discusses major plot details and developments for the second season of “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow.”
The creators of “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow” knew that the first season didn’t go as smoothly as they had hoped. Back in August, Marc Guggenheim told CBR and other media outlets that “we didn’t get to take the time to figure things out.” The result was a first season that felt uneven and had trouble finding its purpose in the Arrowverse. Banking on the success of The CW’s other DC Comics TV shows wasn’t enough to make a great superhero TV series.
Season 2, however, has been refreshingly different. Executive Producer Phil Klemmer said, “We really took our hiatus this year and took the show apart, and rebuilt it piece by piece.” Some of those rebuilds are obvious, like the changes made to the cast roster. Other improvements, however, are more subtle, like in the dialog and the characterizations. Let’s take a look how “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow” Season 2 is already better than Season 1.
15. Rip Hunter Is Gone
You would think that Rip Hunter, the Time Master who brought together the heroes called the Legends, would be integral to the show. However, he was killed off in the first episode of the second season. (Although, in the Arrowverse, it’s worth noting that you never know if someone is really dead for good.) His departure from “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow” is shocking, but it opened up a lot of opportunities for storylines and character development. With Rip around, every episode centered on his finding a mission and the crew haring off despite his instructions, resulting in something disastrous happening that made them learned their lesson, but only until the next episode. With Rip gone, that mold is broken and “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow” is finding all kinds of ways to tell stories.
Also, killing off Rip Hunter was a smart move because the stakes were immediately raised and raised high. Hawkman died in the first season, but his death didn’t have the same impact, because he reincarnates every generation. Rip’s death means that the showrunners are willing to kill off a major character, which makes every mission much more dangerous and interesting.
14. Captain Sara Lance
After Rip sacrificed himself, a new captain had to step up to lead the group and fly the Waverider. At first, Dr. Martin Stein, in his endearingly arrogant fashion, assumed he would be the leader. It became apparent, very quickly, that his big brain was made for methodical, deep thinking. Meanwhile, Sara barked out orders and came up with strategies on the fly. Leadership came naturally to Sara. Soon enough, she was in charge, with Dr. Stein’s (eventual) blessing.
Thanks to Sara’s time with the League of Assassins, as well as her turn as the Canary on “Arrow,” she has years of combat training and field time under her silvery-white belt. The League of Assassins also made her ruthless, which is a necessary trait when you have to decide who lives and who dies, as well as what the greater good really is. She’s cool under pressure. Plus, because her fighting skills are so well-honed, she’s also able to train newbies in hand-to-hand combat and weaponry.
13. Hawkman And Hawkgirl Are Gone
Millions of fans were excited when Hawkgirl made her first appearance on “The Flash.” Her guest-starring appearance got us one step closer to seeing the Justice League on TV. But what began as a promising character arc failed so badly that she and her counterpart, Hawkman, were axed by the end of the first season of “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow.”
Hawkgirl’s story in the Arrowverse was an origin story, which is difficult to shoehorn into a TV show that’s full of characters who already have their own superpowers established. Hawkgirl’s evolution was always one step behind everyone else’s. Plus, her warrior persona got buried in a sappy storyline. She bounced back and forth so many times on whether or not she wanted to be in a relationship with Ray that the audience had whiplash. She was supposed to be a kickass fighter and wound up being an ineffective damsel in distress.
To add insult to injury, Hawkgirl and Hawkman were sent away with hardly any explanation or even screen time to process their exit. Their departure was so inexplicably quick it felt like a jump cut in editing. Clearly, the writers didn’t know what to do with these heroes.
12. The Legion Of Doom
Vandal Savage was a terrible villain, not in terms of his power or his evil soul, but in his effectiveness as an antagonist. His agenda was spelled out from the start, which left no burning questions for the audience. Plus, he was a one-note villain. His character was fairly two-dimensional and rarely showed more to his personality than his scenery-chewing need to destroy poor Chay-Ara.
Damien Darhk and Eobard Thawne, on the other hand, are fantastic villains to have as antagonists. For one thing, at the beginning of the second season, the audience is completely in the dark (pun intended) about what their mission is, which makes their story tantalizing. Also, the audience knows these guys, thanks to their recurring roles on “Arrow” and “The Flash,” which lets the writers skip their origin stories and jump right into the current plot. They are multi-faceted and have more going on than just the need for revenge. Even better, Sara has history with Damien Darhk, which provides a juicy secondary storyline.
At the San Diego Comic-Con, Executive Producers Marc Guggenheim and Phil Klemmer said Season 2 will see a version of the Legion of Doom, which means other villains are headed our way who might team up with this dastardly duo.
11. Addition Of Vixen
Although a few characters were axed from the show, a few new ones were sent to take their place. So far, the new characters are solid additions to the regular cast, allowing for new plots and entertaining dialog. The introduction of the Justice Society of America has injected some much-needed DCU context into “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow,” what with the exit of Captain Cold and the hawk folk. The JSA gives the show stronger roots in the DC Universe without stealing our crew’s thunder, because the JSA isn’t as well-known as, say, the Justice League.
Vixen is one of the new JSA characters who is adding some interest to the show. The writers aren’t spending a ton of time on her origin, assuming that fans know her from either her stint on “Arrow” or the CWSeed animated series, “Vixen,” that’s also part of the Arrowverse. The writers also smartly chose to just weave in details about her past into the current storyline more organically. Her animal powers are a nice addition to the stable of assets the crew already has, because no one has the strength that she does.
10. Addition Of Citizen Steel
Dr. Nate Heywood, a.k.a. Citizen Steel, is another great addition to the cast. Like Vixen, he gives the crew a new power to rely on in a fight. His impenetrable skin and super-strength is especially useful when Ray’s armor is destroyed. It’s been a lot of fun watching him figure out how to best use his new abilities, as well as seeing him work with Ray on his new suit. His familial ties to Commander Steel of the JSA make his backstory endearing too.
Nate is also a much-needed ray of sunshine on the Waverider. Nearly every other character became terribly dour over the course of the first season. Even in the second season, most of them are given to bouts of negativity and depression. Nate is a cock-eyed optimist for the most part, which raises “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow” above the angsty nature it can sometimes have. Also, his knowledge of history helps fill the informational void left by Rip’s death.
9. More Of Mick Rory
The winners of the first season of “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow” were undoubtedly Leonard Snart and Mick Rory. The chemistry between the actors who play them, Wentworth Miller and Dominic Purcell, respectively, outshone every other relationship on the show. They were obviously having fun, which meant the audience was having fun.
Getting rid of Leonard Snart at the end of the first season seemed like a terrible idea, because their partnership was considered the best part of the show by most fans. However, without Snart around to call the shots for the duo, Mick is coming into his own and getting more screen time. He’s still the funniest character on the show, and his increased screen time and free rein means we’re seeing more of what lies underneath his violent and grumpy exterior. He’s also having to forge bonds with his cohorts, which leads to some hilarious, and sometimes touching, exchanges with folks like Sara, Ray (or “Haircut,” as Mick fondly calls him) and Vixen. It’s also pretty obvious that Purcell is having a blast exploring all the new facets of his character.
8. Less Romance
One aspect of “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow” Season 1 that really dragged was romance. The on-again, off-again relationship between Kendra and Ray was not only repetitive and a waste of time, it relegated Hawkgirl to playing some kind of rom-com wife wannabe, rather than giving her a proper place on the team as the great fighter she’s a literal reincarnation of. She spent far too much time talking to just about everyone about whether she should hold out for Carter’s reincarnation or stick it out with Ray.
In addition to the back and forth of their romance, the two of them had no chemistry. They were supposed to have spent a year stuck living together while stranded in the ’50s, pretending to be man and wife, but they were as timid with each other after that year as new lovers. The whole storyline was a mess, including Ray’s marriage proposal, which went over like a lead balloon, both with Kendra and with the audience.
7. Everyone’s Funnier
“Hey, are you guys done bro-ing out?” That’s what Sara said to Ray and Nate when they were drooling over Nate’s new superhero suit, which was what the audience was thinking too. Season 2 has a lot more jokes than Season 1. And not just more jokes, but better jokes. It’s almost as if the team of writers went to Joss Whedon’s summer camp for TV writers. Lines like Sara’s are very meta, very self-aware, and there’s been a lot more of that this season.
While the episodes aren’t serving up funny lines every minute, and there’s no reason that they should, when a joke does come along, it’s spot on and well-earned. There have also been a lot of jokes that reveal more of the character or play to a character’s strengths and weaknesses. As mentioned before, Purcell is really stretching his comedy muscles as Mick Rory, making him the show’s go-to funny guy. Nick Zano, as Nate, is also deft at finding comedy in his dialog. It’s a treat to watch.
6. It’s Less Predictable
Very little happened in Season 1 that wasn’t predictable. We knew the Legends would save the world from Vandal Savage. Episode to episode, it was pretty easy to predict who was going to do and say what. Part of the reason the show was so predictable wasn’t just because we knew what Savage would eventually become due to his earlier appearance in the Arrowverse, but also because it was just so repetitive. Season 2, however, finally has an element of suspense that was missing throughout the whole first season.
An episode’s outcome has seemed up for grabs more than once, especially after Rip Hunter disappeared. So many factors have changed since Season 1 that it isn’t as easy to guess who will save the day, or who will betray whom, or whether the Legends will win or retreat and come back for victory another day. This season, stories are unspooling in each episode, rather than just filling in the blanks already laid out in an a formulaic outline. The suspense is building even more because Darhk and Thawne’s endgame is a mystery.
5. Better Pacing
One of the hallmarks of a soap opera is dragging out a plot. In Season 1, “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow” unfortunately followed that genre’s formula. The romance between Ray and Kendra, as discussed above, never progressed and they spent the entire season in limbo. Heck, even the main story, centered on Vandal Savage, was dragged over every episode, with a lot of repetitive dialog and action that didn’t move the story forward at all.
Season 2, however, has succeeded in picking up the pace on story developments. Perhaps the writers had a very fruitful brainstorming session so they weren’t forced to spread a single plot over several episodes. For instance, in just one episode Stein suggested that he replace Rip, then realize he was a terrible leader and handed off the title to Sara. Also, Nate got his powers right away and has nearly mastered his abilities in only a few episodes, as opposed to Kendra who didn’t master anything by the time the season was over. The better pace means the show keeps the audience’s interest and tells more stories in one season.
4. Better Characterizations
Last season, the characters were nearly interchangeable. Like, no one considered themselves a hero. Everyone wanted to change something in the timeline. Everyone wanted revenge for something. No one ever followed Rip’s commands. Moreover, a line of dialog from any given scene could have been given to any one of the characters and it wouldn’t have sounded at all out of place. They all spoke the same way and said the same things.
This season, thankfully, the characters are coming into their own. There are subtle differences in their dialog and their motivations that are giving each of them a unique character, not just a carbon copy of their teammates. Nate, especially, has a voice that’s unique to him, with slang phrases like “shut the front door” that other team members wouldn’t be caught dead saying. And while Dr. Stein and Ray are both brainy, this season they’ve had different thinking processes and seem to focus on different problems, rather than echoing each other all the time.
3. Episodes Are About Characters, Not Timelines
“DC’s Legends of Tomorrow” will always have story-arcs about protecting the timeline, because that’s the team’s main objective. However, there are only so many times viewers can hear a lecture about maintaining the integrity of the timeline before tuning out. The episodes became way too repetitive with every central story focusing on some aberration on the timeline. We get it! Don’t change anything in the past!
Luckily, talking about problems with the timeline has moved into the background. The show is focusing more on stories that develop because of who the characters are. For instance, Sara is no longer the caged animal she was and she’s feeling her way as a leader. Also, something is developing between Amaya and Mick, not necessarily a romance, but possibly a solid friendship that has nothing to do with the villains or the timeline. Dr. Stein is getting his own story, rather than having him do nothing but spout science all the time. The writers are branching out and it’s much more entertaining.
2. Characters Are Being Challenged
Speaking of better storylines, the characters are being given more challenging storylines than ones in which they seek revenge or learn to master their powers. Because the writers are focusing on the characters more, and less on the overall story arc, it’s giving each character a chance to grapple with something personal.
For instance, Ray is becoming more than just a clean-cut nerd. Amaya accused him of being nothing without his suit (although she took it back later), then his suit was destroyed and he had to figure out his identity outside of being the Atom, as well as how he fits into the team if he’s not wearing it. That was the first time Ray yelled at someone! Mick is also going through an identity crisis as he realizes that he’s getting attached to the other members of the crew. He’s supposed to be a bad guy, but he finds himself protecting and saving the other Legends. These personal journeys are engrossing and, naturally, more relatable than stories about fixing the timeline.
1. It’s Tackling Social Issues
Executive Producer Greg Berlanti has never shied away from potentially controversial social subjects on his TV shows. Sara is a lesbian, but in Season 1 her homosexuality was used as a punchline more than an opportunity for awareness or discussion. Season 2 is not only offering up hot-button issues for discussion, but also actively talking about some thorny issues. Sara’s homosexuality isn’t being portrayed this season quite the same way. It’s much more matter-of-fact, and it only shocks characters when she corrects their mistaken assumption.
Sexism has been confronted more than once. Dr. Stein wasn’t convinced Sara should be their captain, partly because she’s a woman. And Jonah Hex also had a lot of trouble taking orders from a lady, until he realized that lady knew what she was doing. The same thing happened with General Grant in “Abominations.”
Speaking of that Civil-War-Era episode, racism is another issue the Legends had to deal with. They were deep in Confederate territory, and while Jackson thought he knew what he was walking into, the violent racism he encountered was nothing like he had ever experienced in 2016. Dealing with all these issues makes “Legends” a more important show than it was in Season 1.
What do you think of “Legends of Tomorrow” Season 2? Tell us in the comments!
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