Warning: Spoilers for Legends of Tomorrow season 6 ahead.
It’s odd to think that Legends of Tomorrow started off as a serious show. The first season introduced a cast of superhero misfits pulled from the Arrowverse (only composed of Arrow and The Flash at the time), spinning into a time-hopping odyssey to stop immortal Vandal Savage’s evil plan. The tone was set to accompany the rest of the Arrowverse and play off of the time-travelling quirks of Doctor Who.
This ultimately didn’t work, and after season 2, Legends of Tomorrow slowly took on a lighter tone by introducing nutty humour, meta plotlines, and straight-up nonsense. It was this nonsensical change that made the show incredibly better. By not taking itself too seriously Legends allowed for compelling character development to shine alongside humorous entertainment. For example, pairing concepts like a magical nipple with heartfelt long-lost love in season 4, and a meta visit to the set of Supernatural’s final season with identity crises and fatherhood in season 5.
We’re now over a quarter into season 6 and the team’s captain, Sara Lance, has been abducted and dangerous aliens are scattered across the timeline. But the execution of this season’s theme and the typical divergence from the Arrowverse vibe isn’t quite working. In fact, the show is becoming static within its own formula.
By Legends of Tomorrow getting “too wacky” I don’t mean that it should stop having ridiculous creatures and plotlines — that’s one of the things that kept me watching after season 2. It’s that this whimsy is becoming something of a shallow routine, and is distracting too much from developing the emotion of the show.
Fast-food aliens in episode 2 and a Masked Singer spoof in episode 3, as fun as they sound, don’t bring much to the show. I can’t even get excited about Sara and Ava’s engagement in episode 1 because it feels like an underdeveloped plot point shoehorned in solely to raise the stakes for getting Sara back.
Most notable about this season’s lack of depth is that the premise isn’t pulling from something that the audience is familiar with. Season 4 featured known magical entities like werewolves and minotaurs, season 5 had “encores” of famous historical figures like Marie Antoinette and Genghis Khan, and season 6 is just… aliens. Not even aliens from the sphere of pop culture, simply random aliens tailored to fit that episode’s spoof topic. Even season 3’s more standard superhero fare, where they had to find six totems to defeat the bad guy, was still engaging with the help of omnipresent Furby spoof Beebo.
Take the aliens in episode 2 “Meat: The Legends” for example. It’s a seeming return to the “encore” premise when Sara and Gary meet Amelia Earhart stranded on an alien planet. However it quickly devolved into the typical “this person isn’t who they seem” scenario, and it’s revealed that “Earhart” was an alien in disguise. And that’s it. Her purpose in the episode was just to be there to provide conflict for Sara and Gary’s side of the story.
I’m not saying that every single antagonist or featured character has to contribute some deep, alternative meaning, or that they have to be pop culture behemoths, but that they all should contribute something to the episode’s character exploration. Even having Greek god Dionysus as a modern frat boy in season 5 episode 11 provided a sounding board for the Legend’s personal problems.
Speaking of Gary, he had quite the odd revelation at the start of the season — and not the good kind of odd. Gary Green, former Time Bureau agent and current assistant to John Constatine, was actually an alien this whole time disguised as a human with façade-changing glasses. Actor Adam Tsekhman told Collider that he justified his character’s sudden twist by looking back to times when Gary didn’t know things that an “adult male” should, like the meaning of a virgin. Maybe it could be justified looking back at past seasons with a microscope, but this alien twist is another plot point that’s been shoved in to match the direction of the season. It’s lazy considering that the three seasons Gary was in prior to this twist it’s clear the showrunners had no intention of making him secretly an alien.
The sheer whiplash from this season’s lack of depth comes from the fact that season 5’s two-part finale was incredibly strong, if not the show’s strongest set of episodes entirely. The two part finale of “The One Where We’re Trapped on TV” and “Swan Thong” had a perfect blend of action, world-jumping whimsy, and heart. It went from a WandaVision-esque television trap to wrapping up the season with a touching yet exciting combination of captivating combat and fearless forgiveness. What happened to that kind of emotional breadth?
The most recent entry of season 6, episode 4 “Bay of Squids,” did improve on the previous three episode’s faults with an interesting exploration of acting captain Ava Sharpe and seasoned slacker Mick Rory’s conflicting dynamics. However, this meaningful development was sidelined for an extended tussle with the Legends crew and the episode’s featured characters, essentially sacrificing heart for humour.
Ultimately, the whimsy of this season’s fast-food aliens, singing-competition invaders, and aliens in general is thin and is taking away from delving deeper into the characters. But despite all of this criticism, we’re only four episodes into this season of Legends of Tomorrow. Maybe the show will hit its stride later on and I’ll be eating my words. We’ll have to see whether it plateaus, dips, or gets better. For the sake of the show’s potential, I’m hoping for the latter.
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