Can Rip Hunter survive the Legion of Doom?
Warning: Full spoilers for the episode below.
It’s been pretty clear for most of this season that Legends of Tomorrow has become the best of the various Arrow-verse shows. But based on the show’s recent track record, there’s a strong case to be made for labeling it the best current superhero series in general, even counting Marvel’s Netflix projects. “The Legion of Doom” is a terrific showcase for the all those things Legends does so well, from great character dynamics to comedy to its ability to build on the dense tapestry that is the DC Universe.
As the title suggests, this episode focused an unusual amount of time on Reverse-Flash and his “partners.” These three villains have proven plenty entertaining in their previous appearances, and they certainly didn’t disappoint as they took the spotlight. The appeal ran a lot deeper than the simple thrill of seeing Matt Letscher and Neal McDonough be their usual, charismatic selves. This episode played the three villains against each other wonderfully, as Darhk and Merlyn vacillated between squabbling with each other and trying to turn the tables on Thawne. What else would you expect when three hugely ambitious and self-centered villains try to form an alliance. They truly are their own worst enemy, more than the Legends themselves.
All this in-fighting and backstabbing answered some key questions regarding Thawne’s greater mission and why exactly he needs the assistance of Darhk and Merlyn in the first place. Can’t a time-traveling speedster simply run his own errands? What incentive does Thawne have to treat these two men as equal partners, and what incentive do they have to maintain the alliance if he doesn’t? All of that was addressed in a satisfying way by the end of the episode, and thanks to the very cool return of the Black Flash. This is another one of those cases where I wish The CW had kept quiet about the character’s return, but it nonetheless delivered a fascinating new wrinkle to Reverse-Flash’s role on the show. He may be a powerful foe, but he’s also terribly vulnerable and constantly on the run from a relentless and seemingly unstoppable foe. He needs the Spear of Destiny to cement his own existence and defeat the shambling corpse of Hunter Zolomon. By outsmarting the Black Flash, Darhk and Merlyn proved that they deserve to be considered Thawne’s peers, even if they aren’t necessarily in his weight class in terms of raw power.
The grand debut of the Black Flash didn’t disappoint, either. The character still has the intimidation factor going for him even without Tony Todd’s raspy voice to call upon. Whether intentionally or not, the scene with Black Flash sniffing out Thawne gave off a very strong Jurassic Park vibe, with Zolomon as the T-Rex and Thawne as the helpless human snack. It should be fun to see how the Legends react when they inevitably encounter this foe for themselves.
It was great seeing the writers build so heavily on the foundation established by the first two seasons of The Flash. All of this feels like a very natural, organic extension of those storylines, even without Barry Allen being directly involved. Given the scope of the series, Legends of Tomorrow has the ability to dive into Arrow-verse continuity in a way none of the other shows do, and it’s great to see such a willingness to tap into that potential.
The Legends themselves may have taken on a slightly reduced role this week, but there was no shortage of memorable scenes aboard the Waverider. The rapport among the main cast has only grown stronger with time, a fact that was readily apparent as they argued over their next move and whether they truly were, as Mick insisted, idiots. That exchange was one of several chuckle-worthy moments in this episode. The show is thriving right now because it’s not just fun, but downright funny in a way I wish we’d see more often from its siblings.
It wasn’t all humor and banter, though, as the return of Lily Stein forced her father to deal with the fallout of his secrecy. The idea that Professor Stein has been coming to terms with the existence of an adult daughter who didn’t exist more than a few weeks ago shows just how varied the possibilities are when it comes to exploring the perils of time travel. Victor Garber and Christina Brucato were both great in the pivotal scene where Professor Stein opened up to his daughter. Brucato is very convincing when it comes to making her character seem like the true, flesh-and-blood offspring of Professor Stein. It’s less about look than cadence and mannerisms.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Rip, as well. As I said in last week’s review, it had gotten to the point where I didn’t really care when or if Rip ever made his return. The team has moved on and become a stronger, more entertaining bunch in his absence. And if the show were merely restoring Rip to his old role as cocky ship’s captain, it might ruin a good thing. But seeing Arthur Darvill play such a different take on a familiar character is another story. He’s very convincing as this brain-addled, cowardly hippie version of Rip. He makes for good comic relief, though there’s still an aura of danger and despair surrounding the character. And despite his cowardice, it’s clear some piece of the old Rip remains buried beneath. The sequence where Rip manipulated Darhk and Merlyn into turning on Thawne was easily one of the episode’s most entertaining.
Best of all, it’s clear we can expect a new incarnation of Rip going forward. Judging from that final scene, Rip seems to have regained his memories and his accent, but is now brainwashed to become the Legion’s time-travelling assassin. No doubt this will create distractions for the Legends while the Legion go about their business.I just hope the show doesn’t get too caught up in the familiar “Meet a famous person and save history” formula, because that’s when Legends of Tomorrow tends to be at its weakest.
Legends of Tomorrow is really on a roll right now. This week’s episode easily ranks among the series’ best. It put the Legion of Doom in the spotlight and reaped the rewards as these charismatic villains schemed and plotted against each other. This episode also did a great job of building on past Arrow-verse continuity and making use of one of the biggest loose ends from The Flash Season 2.