'Legends of Tomorrow' Wisely Downsizes Its Ridiculously Large Team

The second part of "Pilot" finds 'Legends of Tomorrow' ruthlessly addressing the problem of its cartoonishly large team.

The CW

Last week, we worried that the premiere of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow might have bitten off more than it could properly chew. Going for high concept sci-fi is a drastic leap for the spin-off of a gritty, “realistic” superhero show like Arrow and, despite being a great deal of fun, “Pilot, Part 1” struggled to adjust tonally. This week’s “Pilot, Part 2” is certainly an ambitious hour of television. Legends of Tomorrow goes all out with time traveling, Egyptian relics, and high-stakes terrorism right out of G.I. Joe. Still, fat had to be trimmed leading to Hawkman being the team’s first casualty. Taken out by Vandal Savage, his death propels Hawkgirl/Kendra forward with a clearer arc and unites the team with a shared sense of loss — albeit a flimsy one.

If Legends of Tomorrow has a dire problem that needs fixing, it’s chemistry. Their bickering and pissing contests — the sort of growing pains that inevitably turn into deep kinship — are ham-fisted and unenjoyable. Chemistry is the key ingredient to superhero team-ups. The Avengers wrote the definitive playbook for the big screen, but things are still looking shaky for the show.

Captain Cold and Heat Wave are emblematic of this problem. These two are wolves among sheep who aren’t interested in hiding that fact, which is potentially a great setup. Their presence should inspire ire from their more moral teammates, who may, in turn, seek to reform them. But all we’ve seen so far is a couple of snarky, obnoxious brats.

We shouldn’t speak so soon. There are hints of depth in the two thermostat-themed criminals like when they infiltrate Vandal Savage’s mansion with Ray Palmer. Cold and Palmer’s brief tête-à-tête was a glimpse of the Captain Cold that could be. Still, there is something artificial about Cold subsequently being the one to speak up about fighting Savage — a man he barely knew.

The rest of the team’s dynamics aren’t any more intriguing yet. Rip Hunter is an aggravated chaperone who has no interesting connection to any one of the Legends. Jax and Professor Stein’s relationship is still budding, but the nature of the team dynamic is that they must share the screen. This week, they were paired with Sara/White Canary in what was easily the episode’s most fun subplot, which saw them passing as college students at a 1970’s Ivy League. A younger Stein flirting with Sara is something we want more of!

Getting rid of Hawkman was a smart move for a crowded show like Legends of Tomorrow. Yes, it’s a cheap and easy way to raise the stakes, but it’s one less character to define, massage, and properly integrate. The show will surely need that space if Legends is going to launch even more superheroes, like Connor Hawke.

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