There’s no denying that the first season of “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow” was sometimes too beholden to its main antagonist, Vandal Savage. Because the team’s primary mission was to find one man, any detour from the story at hand tended to feel sloppy and pointless. On the flip side, the show also had a hard time finding its footing with the Savage arc, especially when having to cram in all the subplots within the overstuffed main cast. It wasn’t a terrible inaugural season by any means, but it was frequently a directionless one.
To his credit, Executive Producer Marc Guggenheim seemed fully aware of this, also pointing out how Savage’s presence cast a gloom over the entire plot. Since the first season ended this past spring, he vowed the second one would be more lighthearted and fun. “Out of Time” certainly delivers on that front. With a more manageable team size (they’re now at six instead of nine), there’s much more room to play; to introduce new era-of-the-week plots and characters from the extended Arrowverse.
For the most part, it’s an improvement. For the first half of “Out of Time,” it’s a hoot to see the Legends fulfilling the role of the Time Masters. Both the action and pacing are kept wily as they move from 17th-century France to World War II, from sword fights to laser battles to gunplay. Even the missions themselves — saving King Louis XIII from assassination and kidnapping Albert Einstein before the Nazis can — are more relatable and enjoyable for a contemporary audience, with the heroes leaving their own distinct marks on each time period, much to the chagrin of Rip Hunter. White Canary can’t resist hopping in bed with Queen Anne, and Jax gets a kick out of using his powers in front of people from hundreds of years ago.
There’s also the intriguing framing device that ties into the rest of the Arrowverse. As previously reported, the episode begins with Green Arrow being fronted by Dr. Nathan Heywood, a.k.a. Citizen Steel (Nick Zano). Described as the “Indiana Jones” of the show, he’s discovered that history has been slightly altered by the Legends’ adventures. Arrow agrees to help locate them.
But when they do, it’s just Heat Wave being kept in stasis inside a damaged and sunken Waverider. Once they awaken the team’s resident tough guy, he explains how their last mission — a quest to kidnap Einstein and prevent the Nazis from forcing him to make the atomic bomb — went awry. This eventually leads to a revelation even more exciting than Oliver Queen popping up on “Legends”: that Damien Darhk (Neal McDonough) and Reverse-Flash (Matt Letscher) are working in cahoots with Hitler’s forces. And it’s not Einstein they’re holding hostage to build a bomb, but the physicist’s ex-wife, Mileva Marić.
After a lean and mean shootout in a New Jersey shipyard, the Germans manage to torpedo the Waverider underwater, but not before Rip transports the team across the space-time continuum, save for the injured Heat Wave, who he has to confine to the sinking ship (thus his suspended state at the episode’s start). It’s only here that “Out of Time” starts to falter a bit. I’m all for the series’ fast and fanciful new approach, but sending the team to even more moments in history (only to have everyone sans Rip reunite shortly afterwards) feels like overkill. Between The Atom getting chased by a t-rex, White Canary being prosecuted during the Salem Witch Trials and both halves of Firestorm being viewed as Medieval wizards, there’s a fine line between a superhero show and a time-hopping kids’ show. Even in the unabashedly pulpier second season, at a certain point, the time travel starts to lose its luster if it gets overused.
Still, we end on a money shot of the Justice Society of America gathering with a team, and a super-group-centric show like “Legends” is likely to thrive the more it interacts with the rest of the Arrowverse. In the coming weeks, it would be nice to see Guggenheim and co. focus as much as this as on the era-spanning vacations. Just because “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow” isn’t as much of a slog as last year doesn’t mean it can’t be at least somewhat grounded.
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