Superheroes are literally “social justice warriors” and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow tackles this concept in “Night of the Hawk,” a fun, but disjointed romp through a small Oregon town in 1958. With intel obtained in “Marooned” Rip Hunter leads the Legends to find Vandal Savage, now a Hitchcockean villain living in white-fenced suburbia.
While its mix of Back to the Future and Shadow of a Doubt filtered through the sci-fi superhero genre is fun, but the Arrowverse’s Thursday night adventure ultimately disappoints in its plot resolutions.
Legends of Tomorrow should be celebrated for many reasons, like its finely tuned balance of camp and melodrama, and on the surface, its diverse cast is a big plus. With a black teenager (Jax), a Latina (technically Egyptian) barista, and a bisexual ninja (Sara), Legends of Tomorrow is vibrant, even in a genre that still struggles to add color beyond the spandex. Armed with this advantage, Legends takes yesteryear America to task, condemning the attitudes of a “simpler time” that was anything but.
The episode is unsubtle, and may frustrate those who find heavy-handed approaches to the past off-putting — to which I say good. We should consider a lot of yesterday’s views as gross, full stop, no matter how “normal” they were once upon a time. Superheroes, who have long been champions of progress, are never shy to challenge toxic social values, no matter how indelicate.
But undermining the show’s good intentions is its plot, which resolves in unsatisfying fashion. The worst offender is Jax, the one-half of Firestorm who woos cheerleader Betty to investigate disappearing teenagers (of course it’s Vandal Savage, who of course, is performing experiments). During their date, Jax wrecks Betty’s car escaping from Savage’s monsters, which ends with (very 2016) a white cop pulling over a young black male.
And then, it’s over. After the expected superhero rescue, the other Legends inject Jax and the teens with an antidote. Jax fixes Betty’s car, she gets reunites with her boyfriend (after dating Jax!) and everyone just walks away from the people they profoundly changed. I will admit, Sara and her awakening of closeted nurse Gail was handled better than Jax and Betty, but not much.
I wished Legends of Tomorrow spent a two-parter in Pleasantville. While I admired the timely imagery and the dismantling an incorrect assumption that we were once innocent, I couldn’t love “Night of the Hawk.” It’s brief, resolves the plot too quickly, and breezes past rich angles to the complex social tensions of the past that still resonate today. Legends of Tomorrow really wants to be a champion for tomorrow’s progress, but it lacks the sufficient airtime to do it properly.
Still, it’s nice to know even DC wants to shut up the real life Lex Luthor and his lofty ambition to make America “great again.” Was it really great before? “Night of the Hawk” says otherwise.