When LEGENDS OF TOMORROW debuted back in 2015, it was a risky gamble for the Arrowverse. An ambitious time travel show starring secondary characters from ARROW and THE FLASH, the original reaction was “tedious, but with potential.” It was one of those first seasons that had an idea of what it wanted to do but ultimately struggled to find its niche identity. In other words, time travel antics took a backseat to a tedious dark melodrama of revenge and mystical love triangles.

Then season 2 kicked in, and, boy, did things take a turn for the better. The B-list heroes and anti-heroes that history wouldn’t remember suddenly took their irrelevance and ran with it. They were a Firefly-like crew getting into wacky time travel situations, so why not embrace the wackiness altogether? This allowed LEGENDS’ later seasons to remain unique amongst the CW’s superhero pantheon and go places not even Supergirl dared.

So, without further ado, here are some reasons as to how LEGENDS became the Arrowverse’s best show.

Arrowverse
Sara Lance, Mick Rory, and Jonah Hex; Courtesy of CW Network.

Trimming the Unnecessary Fat

LEGENDS first season had potential in its narrative of a time travel adventure to kill Vandal Savage. Unfortunately, this narrative was hampered by the fact that none of the core plot points were engaging. Vandal’s origin, his relationships with the Hawks, Rip Hunter’s tragic motivation- these “pivotal moments” were tedious to sit through. The best scenes, by comparison, were when the Legends interacted with historical or futuristic settings and inadvertently caused mass chaos.

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So what did the writers do? They took all the aspects of LEGENDS that didn’t work and got rid of them. Found Hawkgirl’s “doomed lover” relationship with Hawkman uninspiring? Well, now they left the Waverider and were replaced with better characters. Think Rip’s emotional baggage was more annoying than engaging?

Well, now that he was lost to time, other characters like Sara Lance could step up as leaders. And did you want more insane time travel moments? We’ll give you them with a campy tone that feels truly comic book-like.

Time Travel Shenanigans

Arrowverse
Amaya and Grodd; Courtesy of CW Network.

LEGENDS OF TOMORROW’s cast include a revived assassin, a genius in a shrinking suit and two men who merge to form a nuclear man. Turn these colorful personalities into the dysfunctional crew of a time travel ship and you get a really ridiculous premise. Nonetheless, the show KNOWS how silly it is and wields it with a tongue in cheek, self-referential script. This includes the various situations and time anachronisms that the Legends find themselves getting into across space and time.

They’ve fought Civil War zombies, braved No Mans Land with J.R.R. Tolkien, and saved their teammates by convincing George Lucas to make STAR WARS. This season, the Legends saved 1937 Hollywood from fighting over Helen of Troy and young Barack Obama from an angry Gorilla Grodd. And of course, we can’t forget Beebo the God of War, where a group of Vikings ends up worshiping the Arrowverse’s version of Tickle Me Elmo. These are absurd premises played completely straight, and yet the writing ensures that everyone is in on the joke.

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Don’t Call them Heroes

Many of LEGENDS’ best moments come simply from bouncing the various character personalities off one another. Whether it’s Sara Lance’s stoic demeanor, Ray Palmer’s cheerfulness or Mick Rory’s laziness, these characters are the heart of the show. As a group of outsiders trying to prove their worth, one cannot help but root for the Legends even when they screw things up.

They are underdogs and misfits fighting against time itself just to prove that history should not ignore them. This mission not only makes the Waverider crew compelling but also those who later join the team. Characters like Nate Heywood, Amaya and Zari are all given enough depth to establish them as societal outsiders, making their relationships with the veteran Legends feel more impactful.

Even making Wally West a Legend proved successful at imbuing an underused Arrowverse character with newfound purpose. This trend will continue with the inclusion of John Constantine as a series regular, whose post-NBC cancelation journey makes him even more of an absurdist outsider. John Constantine on a time-traveling spaceship: that’s all the selling point you need.

Arrowverse
Damien Dahrk, Malcolm Merlyn, and Eobard Thawne; Courtesy of CW Network.

Behold: The Legion of Doom

Alongside the heroes, the Arrowverse’s “one and done” villains gained new purpose when made regulars on LEGENDS OF TOMORROW. Joining Eobard Thawne, Damien Dahrk, and Malcolm Merlyn under mutual goals and you have a threat built upon the previous history. Yet the show never loses its self-awareness, as noted by how the Legends jokingly name the Legion after “an old Hannah-Barbera cartoon.” There’s even a nice Hall of Doom reference for those old-time Superfriends fans, but it’s not in a swamp.

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Of those characters, it’s Dahrk who underwent the greatest transformation since his debut on ARROW. Even as the murderer of Sara’s sister, Dahrk constantly revealed in his villainy and took perverse glee at the idea of ruling the world. Yet, by reuniting him with his now adult daughter Nora and then watching her fall under the influence of S3 antagonist Malus, Dahrk became something else entirely: a concerned father.

This added layer is enough to make viewers empathetic to his family drama, even though it’s clear he retains ambitions of world domination. It’s not every day you feel bad for the villain when he’s too concerned about his family to enjoy torturing people. Even Malus, who shows little depth beyond “malevolent demon,” is entertaining for how the show openly acknowledges this one-dimensional quality.

Arrowverse
Ray Palmer and John Noble; Courtesy of CW Network.

After all, upon learning about him, the Legend’s first response is to laugh at the demon’s not-so-subtle name. This eventually leads to an amazing meta joke where, upon hearing a Malus-like voice on Heatwave’s Lord of the Rings DVD, the Legends trick Denethor actor John Noble into recording dialogue as Malus. The fact that Noble, who voices Malus, would be turned into a self-aware plot point is ridiculous, but that’s what makes it so great.

Breaking Time For The Arrowverse?

LEGENDS OF TOMORROW is by no means perfect, but compared to the other Arrowverse shows, it rarely treads old ground. The writing and humor grant this show an identity completely unique amongst superhero television, allowing the narratives to go “dark” while also embracing its zany settings. After all, where else can you find a show where time-traveling superheroes save Obama from a psychic gorilla? I’ll wait for an answer.

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