DC’s Legends of Tomorrow and The Flash are very similar in some ways. They’re both Arrow spin-offs that offer a lighter, less brooding take on the superhero genre. But when it comes to being a show that’s essentially “Arrow With More Silly Sci-Fi Hijinx,” only one of these Arrowverse shows wears the crown and it’s DC’s Legends of Tomorrow. The second season of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow just wrapped up and I already miss it. The Flash simply isn’t filling the void, even as it tries desperately to make the last few weeks of the season exciting.
If you’re a fan of superhero shows but you’re not watching DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, you’re missing out. If you are watching it but you think The Flash is better, then I don’t understand you. Watching DC’s Legends of Tomorrow is a more fun, more satisfying TV experience than The Flash any day. And I can prove it. Here are the 15 reasons DC’s Legends of Tomorrow is better than The Flash.
WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for CW’s The Flash and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow.
15. THE PLOT MOVES QUICKLY
The Flash is all about withholding information. The most recent season got 20 episodes out of asking who Savitar is over and over, rather than actually moving things forward. However, every episode of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow feels like its own adventure, with constant new developments. They’re not sitting around waiting for Vandal Savage or the Legion of Doom to make their next move. Instead, they’re doing things from kidnapping their past selves (“Last Refuge”) to debating whether to kill a child (“Progeny”) to interfering in the Revolutionary War (“Turncoat”).
Even in filler episodes where it’s specifically stated that they can’t do much besides wait, they end up having adventures. “The Magnificent Eight” is a great example: Rip Hunter selects the Old West as a spot for them to wait and hopefully avoid being attacked. He tells the crew to lay low, but instead Ray Palmer fights a gang, Martin Stein cures a sick child and Kendra Saunders seeks out a past-life version of herself. These characters can’t help but take action. You might occasionally get whiplash from how much is happening, but you’ll definitely never get bored.
14. EACH EPISODE IS DISTINCTIVE
A lot of The Flash blurs together. Barry Allen feels bad about things and runs. Joe West gives him a pep talk. Cisco Ramon is snarky and unappreciated. Occasionally there’s an exceptionally strong meta-of-the-week like Hartley Rathaway or Mark Hamill’s Trickster, but most episodes lack a real hook. In every episode of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, the crew is thrown into a fun new setting. Whether it’s the Old West, Camelot, outer space or a dystopian future, you know that each week will bring something different.
Sure, the unique settings are a cosmetic difference, but they go a long way in keeping the show fresh. Each week the characters are exploring something new. It allows you to see different sides of them, like Ray Palmer and Nate Heywood’s obsession with George Lucas or Mick Rory’s total comfort in an anarchic society. Each week also provides a new opportunity for memorable guest characters, from Jonah Hex to Stargirl.
13. MULTIPLE (AND BETTER) CHARACTER INTERACTIONS
The Flash largely revolves around Barry Allen, meaning most of the characters’ primary relationship is with Barry. Sometimes a great relationship will pop up, like the wonderful banter between Harry Wells and Cisco Ramon or the family dynamic between the Wests. However, often relationships are sidelined. When Cisco refers to Caitlin Snow as his best friend, it’s often after weeks of barely interacting with her. The characters quickly fell into well-established patterns. Even though season 3 is a perfect time to start mixing things up and experimenting with dynamics, it’s rare to get a scene between, say, Caitlin and Iris West or Cisco and Joe West.
On DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, the patterns aren’t nearly as set in stone. Martin Stein and Mick Rory will have a plot together in one episode, the next will be all about Jefferson Jackson and Amaya Jiwe. The fun of moving the core characters around to create different friendships and conflicts is a simple, effective way to increase the entertainment value of the show.
12. LGBTQ+ REPRESENTATION
The Flash’s attempts at LGBTQ+ representation are halfhearted at best. David Singh has appeared in a fair amount of episodes, but has no real character development. Hartley Rathaway is compelling but appears rarely. I guess combined they almost make one decent gay character? Although Hartley is incredibly charismatic and fun, The Flash managed to mess up his writing at every turn. He was treated as a villain even after it was revealed that he tried to prevent Harrison Wells/Eobard Thawne from killing many people. The signal that he’d been “redeemed” involved him suddenly forgiving his parents for disowning him. After one episode made it seem like he’d be a permanent part of the group again, he disappeared without mention.
Sara Lance, on the other hand, absolutely shines in DC’s Legends of Tomorrow. She gets her own story in just about every episode, has a rich inner life, has developed over time and never has her bisexuality brushed aside.
11. FIGHT SCENES WITH MORE VARIETY
Maybe it’s unfair to judge The Flash for having a lot of scenes just be him running really fast. It is a TV show about The Flash, after all. But, imagine if every single episode of Arrow revolved around the question of whether or not he would be able to hit increasingly precise targets with his bow. That would get old fast and it’s why The Flash got old fast.
DC’s Legends of Tomorrow has everything. There’s everything from hand-to-hand combat with Sara Lance to huge explosions with Firestorm, to the middle ground of Captain Cold and Heatwave’s special guns. Plus, there’s tons of extra special sequences like when Ray Palmer made himself giant in order to fight a giant robot. The climactic sequences involve actual creativity. Just look at the sequence where the whole gang, in their own unique way, helped throw down at the Pentagon. That was incredible television and it’s just one example. Each fight on DC’s Legends of Tomorrow is unique. It’s a lot more fun than watching a lightning bolt dart through city streets for the millionth time.
10. CHARACTERS ARE AWARE THEY’RE SCREW UPS
This is a big one. The line of voiceover in each episode saying “don’t call us heroes” may be cheesy, but it really gets at something fundamental in this show. DC’s Legends of Tomorrow is defined by the moment in the pilot when Rip Hunter is exposed as a complete fraud and he admits that the team was assembled based on the sole qualification of being irrelevant to history. This is a show not just about hard choices, but about flat-out wrong choices. Rip admits to endangering Jefferson Jackson because he wanted to stay alive to save his family. He knew it was wrong. More importantly, the narrative knows it’s wrong. It’s compelling because it’s understandable, but not justified.
One of the most frustrating things about The Flash is that every time it approaches moral ambiguity, they rush to throw in a monologue about how Barry Allen is too hard on himself or special because he’s such a great person. Things like Barry running an illegal, inhumane prison are completely swept under the rug. The Flash’s treatment of Barry is in direct opposition with his actual actions. The crew on the Waverider are regularly selfish or just incompetent, but it’s because they’re supposed to be for the story. This key difference is a major reason for DC’s Legends of Tomorrow’s success as a narrative.
9. PREMISE ALLOWS FOR VARIETY OF FUN CONCEPTS
The Waverider crew has a ship that can travel through space and time. The crew is comprised of people with a huge range of abilities and agendas. It’s a winning formula for episode after episode of unique, high-concept adventures. This is especially key when binge-watching. The Flash gets old fast, while DC’s Legends of Tomorrow offers one unique premise after another. It combines the most fun elements of a superhero show with something more like a Star Trek show, where each episode has its own mini-adventure built in.
The fact that each time you tune in they might be interacting with samurai warriors or Knights of King Arthur’s table is a huge draw. The Flash’s only counter is its meta-of-the-week format and it seems like more and more, they don’t even bother throwing fun ones in. And when they did try to do a fun concept with the musical episode, it fell flat because it was such a departure. DC’s Legends of Tomorrow expertly makes each excursion, no matter how bizarre, a natural extension of the show.
8. MAKES BETTER USE OF THE ROGUES
One of the major draws of The Flash’s canon is the Rogues; specifically, the relationships between them. The fact that The Flash’s villains hang out even when they’re not scheming is something that makes them unique. However, in The CW’s The Flash, this element is barely present. Captain Cold and Heatwave bantered a bit in their episodes but their relationship never really came alive. The chemistry between Wentworth Miller and Dominic Purcell did a lot of the heavy lifting for some one-dimensional writing. The relationship between Top and Mirror Master could not feel more hollow. Pied Piper and Trickster haven’t even interacted with their fellow rogues. The failure to translate the camaraderie between the Rogues to the screen is a major failing of this adaptation.
However, when they moved to DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, the relationship between Captain Cold and Heatwave immediately became a rich source of both drama and snappy dialogue. They weren’t smoothed over into saints nor are they irredeemable. Instead, they have the morally dubious depth you hope for from The Flash’s Rogues.
7. ROMANCE SUBPLOTS ARE MORE CASUAL AND REALISTIC
Barry Allen and Iris West being soulmates works. That’s their thing and it tracks that they’ve always loved each other. But, relationships like Wally West and Jesse Wells or Joe West and Cecile Horton went from smiling at each other flirtatiously to saying “I love you” in the blink of an eye.
On DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, Sara Lance and Leonard Snart had an entire season of friendship and mutual respect that built up before their first kiss. Similarly, her relationship with Rip Hunter is moving slowly– if it even is going to become a relationship. Meanwhile, Amaya Jiwe and Nate Heywood literally started off as casual bang buddies. These relationships, where sexual chemistry is simply an undercurrent and a focus is placed on friendship, are a welcome change from most superhero shows forcing characters into instant love. (Yes, I know Ray Palmer and Kendra Saunders got engaged in the span of a few episodes, but they spent years together in between two of those episodes so I’m giving it a pass.)
6. TRAUMA ISN’T BRUSHED OVER
If you’re a character on The Flash and your name isn’t Barry Allen, congratulations, you are ridiculously good at coping. Cisco Ramon losing his brother. Caitlin Snow losing her boyfriend (twice). Iris West and Wally West losing their mother. These are all things that got a few episodes at most before the character magically bounced back and never mentioned it again.
The crew on the Waverider carry their traumas with them constantly. From Ray Palmer’s low self-esteem to Sara Lance’s belief that she’s a monster to Rip Hunter’s reckless disregard for his own life, these characters are fundamentally driven by the pain they’ve endured and we see it in all of their actions. On The Flash, loss is treated as a way to inject conflict into an episode. On DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, it’s a major theme that impacts every storyline. It’s a show about pain and how to live with it, not move past it.
5. SEASONS ARE LESS REPETITIVE
In every season of The Flash, a speedster shows up who’s faster than Barry Allen and hates him. Team Flash spends the season trying to figure out who this villain is, then in the last few episodes, they defeat him. It’s a story that wasn’t especially interesting the first time and definitely wasn’t interesting the second two times.
The two seasons of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow also certainly have some elements in common: they’re chasing a powerful villain throughout time. However, season one is a story about Rip Hunter and Kendra Saunders and their respective unique relationships to Vandal Savage. That emotional core drove everything. Season two was a story primarily about Sara Lance and Mick Rory and what they would do to change their lot in life. Themes of power and who should be able to control it drove that season. Both seasons had unexpected twists and turns in their final few episodes that were jaw-dropping in completely different ways. We don’t know what to expect from the next season of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow because there’s no formula in place. That’s exciting.
4. STORY DOESN’T HINGE ON A SINGLE CHARACTER
If you’re watching The Flash and you don’t like Barry Allen, you’re pretty much screwed, which means a lot of the show’s success rests on Barry being sympathetic. When he messes up or loses the audience’s support, it’s a huge issue. Sure, supporting characters like Cisco Ramon and Iris West get moments to shine, but they don’t drive the story enough for viewers who are only invested in them to feel satisfied. If you don’t care about Barry, then you don’t care about the narrative.
DC’s Legends of Tomorrow is a true ensemble. So much so that fan favorite Leonard Snart or season one protagonist Rip Hunter can literally leave the show for a long stretch and the story keeps going. It’s a sustainable premise. More importantly, it allows you to get angry and stay angry at certain characters because you don’t have to support them in order to enjoy the narrative.
3. BLENDS SILLINESS WITH SADNESS
There’s a scene in season one’s “Leviathan” where Rip Hunter says that the team has to travel to the one place they know they can find Vandal Savage. Mick Rory straightforwardly chimes in that this one place is the moment that Savage killed Rip’s family. Rip simply rolls his eyes and agrees that this cold assessment is true. This is the tone that DC’s Legends of Tomorrow consistently has. It’s both dire and darkly funny. It works whether they’re all in the middle of mortal peril or if they’re sharing a rare moment of levity at a saloon.
On The Flash, the tone is much harder to navigate. Emotional speeches suddenly pop up in the midst of danger. Attempts at comic relief are thrown in at times where they just feel odd. Instead of having a consistent tone, it shifts wildly from one scene to the next. DC’s Legends of Tomorrow has figured out how to be legitimately funny without undercutting the stakes of the show. The season two finale is the perfect example. It’s genuinely hilarious, yet it always keeps you invested in the peril.
2. LOTS OF OF COOL SCI-FI STUFF HAPPENS
DC’s Legends of Tomorrow is incredible at exploring anything and everything within the realm of sci-fi. There’s an episode where they travel to outer space. The second season is all about a spear that controls reality itself. Ray Palmer has fought a giant robot. Mick Rory has used mind control on an entire army. It’s not just a superheroes show, it’s an imaginative world that’s constantly expanding its possibilities. A single episode will have the Waverider crew meeting their past selves, a fight with an army of hundreds of Eobard Thawnes and a version of 2017 where dinosaurs roam the Earth.
This spirit of play and endless possibilities makes it feel like a true love letter to sci-fi and none of this ever feels inconsistent or abrupt because the premise is so open. Rather than becoming weirder as time goes on and feeling disjointed because of it (like so many paranormal shows), it started off whimsical and open to anything from the very beginning.
1. THE HEROES ACTIVELY PURSUE VILLAINS
Every season of The Flash is about a speedster going after Barry Allen. He’s always on the defensive. As a result, many episodes are dedicated to him desperately trying and failing to even get enough information about the main bad guy to eventually stop them. The story stops feeling exciting very quickly because Barry is such a passive protagonist.
DC’s Legends of Tomorrow is about people going after bad guys. In season one, Rip Hunter had a very specific goal that was about seeking out and destroying Savage. After season one, the team started seeking out and stopping time aberrations and other villains. This gives the Waverider crew the classic bravery and pull to seek out justice and protect others that makes superheroes great. But, it also simply makes for a better, more active story. They’re more exciting heroes to root for because they’re constantly looking for a fight, rather than trying to keep up with whatever fight has found them.
Have we convinced you yet? Let us know in the comments if you prefer The Flash or DC’s Legends of Tomorrow!