Sunday, June 23, 2024

Farewell To The Legends of Tomorrow

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I knew I’d be writing a retrospective on Legends of Tomorrow one day, but I didn’t expect to write one under these circumstances, with the show canceled, its story left on a cliffhanger, and without a proper goodbye to this wonderfully ridiculous show and its equally wonderful characters. But that’s how this story goes. After seven seasons, Legends of Tomorrow has met its end.

It’s a sour note to end on for what’s ultimately an outstanding underdog story. Legends didn’t start with its best foot forward. Looking back, season one is the weakest season. It spent so much of its first season chasing down the sci-fi aesthetic that worked so well for The Flash and the grimdark atmosphere that Arrow thrived in, yet it failed to execute either with the same success those other shows had.

Then season two came around and the show pivoted. Gone was the grimdark, replaced with a style of humor that would become distinctly Legends. This superhero show with time travel became a comedy about misfits, found family, and Beebo. Especially Beebo.

Never forget.

It completely reinvented itself, something most other shows wouldn’t have had the courage to do. To throw away the formula it was built on in hopes of finding something better isn’t something that could be done lightly. And each new season brought a new shake-up, be it in the monster of the week the Legends had to face or the make-up of its core cast.

One of the strongest aspects to Legends’ narrative was how it fearlessly changed its goals with each new season. Sure, the basic premise of protecting the timeline remained unchanged but the threat to time changed. Time aberrations, people and objects displaced by fractures in the timeline caused by the Legends breaking a cardinal rule of time travel while trying to save it. Mythical creatures, accidentally released across the timeline by the Legends while trying to save the timeline. Evil souls who escaped Hell after the Legends made a deal with someone untrustworthy to get out of Hell. Aliens scattered in the timeline…by the Legends.

A unicorn, on its way to commit a murder
Note, this image is moments before this unicorn full-on gored a bystander at Woodstock.

Okay, yes the Legends spent a lot of time fixing their own messes. One could say it was their whole MO, but that was a part of what made the chaos of the Legends so charming. They were often their own worst enemies (at one point in a very literal sense when there were evil robot versions of themselves trying to kill them). They weren’t perfect and that’s part of what made them so much fun to watch. They were going to screw up, very likely in some spectacular way, and then they were going to fix it, just as spectacularly. And there would invariably be some lesson about love and acceptance involved. Also a good chance for a song and dance number.

Legends does Bollywood
The Bollywood/Jane Austen episode will always be one of my favorites.

Legends of Tomorrow was always meant to be a show about finding your place and your people. The original premise was meant to utilize those characters from Arrow and Flash, like Sara Lance, Ray Palmer, and Martin Stein who had room to grow, but their original shows didn’t quite have the space to let them do that. So they all boarded the Waverider, these misfits in search of a home (and a character arc).  

And that truly was the heart of Legends: its characters. To say it’s a motley crew is an understatement. From a former assassin who died several times, to an evil witch turned good witch turned fairy godmother, to a goddess in hiding who broke divine sanction to bring free will to humanity, and that’s only scratching the surface.

I will miss every one of them, but there are some particularly noteworthy characters who brought not only heart and laughter to us, but also the kind of representation so rarely seen on TV. Or seen in media in general. In a few cases, they were the first of their kind.

Zari Tomaz was the first Muslim-American superhero on television. Sara Lance, a bisexual woman, became the captain of the Legends in season two and the de facto lead for the show. Esperanza ‘Spooner’ Cruz came out as asexual in the seventh season, one of the rare instances of asexual representation in media.

Zari Tarazi and Zari Tomaz
Iconic. Now and Forever.

There’s Zari Tarazi, a wholly different version of Zari Tomaz who was just as fleshed-out, complex, and perfectly imperfect as her other timeline version. She and her brother Behrad once prompted a whole in-canon discussion about representation on television and how it’s an unfair expectation to have any single character exist as a monolithic depiction for representation. It’s not just good enough to see a character who checks the representation box. POC and queer characters should get to be as multi-faceted as their straight and white counterparts get to be.

Multi-facetted definitely describes so many of Legends’ characters. There’s Astra Logue, former queen of Hell, and Jefferson “Jax” Jackson, the better-looking half of Firestorm (his words). Then there’s Amaya Jiwe, a superhero who had to choose between her heart and a family legacy, and Ava Sharpe, the model tactician who happens to be a clone and falls in love with Sara Lance, the walking anti-bury-your-gays trope. And who can forget Mona Wu, the nerdy bookworm who gets her heartbroken and then gets turned into Kaupe, Gary Green, bisexual alien who had an evil nipple one time, and Gideon, the team’s former AI, who accidentally gets turned into a real girl and has to learn what means to be human. I could keep going.

There’s so much more I could say about Legends of Tomorrow. Some I’ve already said in recaps. Was it perfect? No. It had its flaws, its stumbles, but it tried to do something special. It gave us some truly special characters and had some moments that really Only Legends Could. Legends had an amazing run, and while I’m disappointed they didn’t get to go out on their terms, they did get to go on one of their best seasons, if not the best.

The Legends of Tomorrow

The motto of the Legends was ‘we screw things up for the better’, and they really did make a wonderful chaotic mess. And the world was brighter for it, if even just a little bit.

Images couresty of the CW.

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