Legends Of Tomorrow goes outlaw in a reliably daffy season premiere

To put it plainly, the evolution of DC’s Legends Of Tomorrow has been a wild one. What began as a high-energy, Guardians Of The Galaxy-style spin-off of The Flash and Arrow slowly transmogrified into a high-camp goof that stripped itself of its DC Comics regalia and charted a strange new course towards a series that somewhat resembled a mix of Doctor Who, a vaguely (ir)reverential nod to the Giffen, DeMatteis & Maguire run on Justice League International, and maybe (at least in terms of its sugar-addled energy) Malcolm In The Middle. Fluffy, inoffensive, time-traveling TV with rapid-fire gags—sure, why not?

As Legends has gone on, its DC qualifier has felt more and more superfluous. Among its original ranks were the likes of Firestorm, The Atom, Captain Cold, Heatwave, Rip Hunter, Hawkman & Hawkwoman, plus an original character, White Canary, who wound up becoming the captain of The Waverider. (Itself a fun riff on a time-traveling DC character.)

Sara Lance, perhaps more than she ever did on Arrow, stood out a mile and set a precedent for new misfit characters who would later strut onto the Arrowverse without any DC bonafides. (These various new characters’ comic book tie-in series, however, have yet to materialize.) Nobody was pretending that Legends had any ambitions to push past its “time-hop of the week” and “seasonal calamities” formulae. But then the show began to peel away at its own roster.

Season six bid farewell to Dominic Purcell, at least as a regular cast member of the series, under strange, profanity-laden circumstances. Though Purcell, one of the last founding Legends members, will be back as a semi-regular (there’s a Heatwave/Captain Cold-slash-Prison Break reunion happening with Wentworth Miller, which rules), it’s clear that Mick Rory won’t be cruising space and time with his drinkin’ pal Sara like in the good ol’ days.

Then there’s the odd jettisoning of series darling/bitchin’ warlock John Constantine: Matt Ryan remains on the series as an entirely new character (more on him in a bit). But without Constantine, Legends is now completely bereft of any marquee DC heroes, possibly because this new character Legends has cooked up will be cooler and more exciting than Constantine ever was (which, I have my doubts), or The CW did, in fact, lose their Constantine to HBO Max. (Nobody is saying this is the case, it should be noted.) So if the series continues to shed its original Legends as it goes along while simultaneously grafting on newer, less DC-originated Legends to replace them, like some wacky ship of Theseus, is Legends Of Tomorrow still… well, DC’s Legends Of Tomorrow? Does it even matter at this point?

This brings us to the premiere of Legends’ seventh season, titled “The Bullet Blondes,”

a mad scramble for Sara Lance and her Legends to find some way out of their latest quagmire: finding a way to escape Odessa, Texas, in 1925. The Zaguron invasion is over. The Waverider is a smoking ruin. What new trials await this latest Legends paradigm?

I’ll say this for Sara’s oddball band: they’re consistent in drawing attention to themselves. The Zaguron kerfuffle, fended off by the Legends during the season six finale, has stirred the citizenry of Odessa; naturally our sordid melodrama begins with the sheriff ‘round these parts taking complaints from Odessans concerning a “dinosaur-creatures,” glowing lights above the treetops, and giant orbs falling from the sky. (To all this, the sheriff dryly replies: “You don’t say.”)

Of course, this rumpus brings us back to the Legends, who found themselves stranded in time at the end of last season on account of The Waverider getting blasted to smithereens by another, presumably angrier, Waverider. (Our season-long mystery begins in earnest.) This being a goofy show about time-traveling goofs, the Legends take their forced exile in stride; after all there’s always a backdoor escape (like the one they employ later when the Feds come breathing down their necks, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves), some trick or spell that will fix everything and make life momentarily sane for this group. Like Sara tells her lovely new bride, Ava, “life… is gonna start going our way.” Of course, that was before the Waverider went kablooey.

Things aren’t going to come easy for the Legends this season. Even though Sara Lance and her plucky brigade are as fast with the quips and loaded for bear as they’ve ever been (shotguns! sledgehammers! hatchets?!), they’re minus two crewmembers (Mick and John have taken their respective powders—for now), and Nate Heywood’s time courier has run out of juice.

Luckily for the show, an answer generally arrives when the Legends start talking plot at each other, so here comes Gary Green, bespectacled Time Bureau agent/actual alien, who inadvertently has a flash of genius and brings Ava to the conclusion that a Bureau failsafe box must be amongst the Waverider wreckage. As far as plans go, splitting up and putzing around a forest looking for their only hope whilst quipping about the stakes of the next couple episodes seems like a thing to do. Legends!

The first hurdle of the episode turns out to be pretty funny: scoring their failsafe box from the local sheriff without raising suspicions and further compromising the timeline. The solution? What else: make-pretend like this rag-tag group of immaculately coiffed dreambots are putting on a circus. (There’s a bit later on where an Odessan questions why a Legends’ teeth are so immaculate. It’s great.) Failing that, there’s always “Steel” Heywood and his most obvious superpower, at least in the year 1925: his whiteness, which can open many doors in this era, up to and including the Sheriff’s office where the box is being held and, with a little luck, that little door that leads to the Sheriff’s good nature.

So what are Nate’s options? Does he walk in with the ol’ hayseed routine? Or does he power his way in cosplaying as an actual historical figure, which will definitely put the Legends in serious danger of being found out—of course it’s the second one; Nate’s disguise, such as it is, turns out to be “John Edgar Hoover” of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. (Why does J. Edgar look different than he does in the papers? “I’ve been cocktailing my hair products.”) With a bit of sly double-speak Nate and Ava secure the box, but—wouldn’t you know it?—Mick ran off with the time courier for a beer run some time ago. (At least he had the decency to leave a note.) And if that weren’t enough, Gary went and told an adorable Odessan that their gonzo circus is set for later this evening! Legends!

At least “The Bullet Blondes,” directed by Kevin Mock and written by James Eagan and Ray Utarnachitt, finds a way to toss some dramatic stakes into this on-purpose three-ring circus: bringing the town to Esperanza “Spooner” Cruz’s home for an impromptu performance will make life harder for her mother, who has only known persecution and mistrust in 1925 Texas. (It’s a chance for us to get better acquainted with Spooner as played by semi-newcomer Lisseth Chavez, who is terrific and I hope there is more for her to do this season.) This team may be a pack of goons, but they’re at least supportive and understanding, so they change tactics just as—surprise, surprise—the actual J. Edgar Hoover rolls into town to investigate Nate’s chicanery.

What follows is your typical Legends Of Tomorrow comedy of errors: Sara suggests that they go on a bank robbing tear across the country as “The Bullet Blondes” (the “Midland Gang” was taken), and Nate accidentally causes a ricochet that kills Hoover (which means Gary gets to flex his Necrian mandibles and make a tasty lunch out of the FBI director). It’s a shame, because the indefatigable Hoover had the potential to become a suitable foil for Sara, Ava, Nate, Gary, and the rest of the team for season seven. (“J. Edgar Hoover… In Space”? Ah, what could have been!) The show has never been shy about lifting from other sci-fi works, and the way the score shifts into weirdo Fifties alien movie territory (a diegetic stretch, considering the era this episode is set in, but whatever) suggested, however briefly, that Hoover and his FBI cohorts might have functioned in a squirrelly Men In Black capacity. Oh, well.

And there’s the matter of Matt Ryan’s new character, Dr. Gwyn Davies, who just so happens to be a brilliant scientist and, according to Ava’s Time Bureau manual, lives in New York City. (Sara can dress as a flapper!) So it seems Dr. Davies will serve as Legends’ very own time-displaced Doc Brown, who jury-rigged Marty McFly’s return to the present using a locomotive in Back To The Future, Part III. (I’m guessing; this show is notorious for turning on a dime.) While Sara and Ava take the majority of the team to the big city, that leaves Spooner and Astra alone to figure out the Waverider mess left in Odessa. (They’ve become fast friends, which may be turn out to be integral for Astra, who’s having problems figuring out how to master those iffy magial powers on her own.)

Which brings us to the most glaring issue Legends Of Tomorrow has in front of it at the moment: it’s playing on an incredibly crowded stage, and with Mick Rory and Lenny Snart coming (then, I presume, rapidly going) and newcomer Spooner filling out the ranks, Legends is on track to be busier than ever. Also, let’s not forget about the arrival of Gideon (Amy Louise Pemberton), fleshed out in her own brand-new humanoid form. (Her nude entrance gets glossed over by some expertly-placed J.J. Abrams-style lens flares.) What wacky hijinks await us in New York City? All of them, of course—though, hopefully, the mission ahead will require a lot more “divide and conquer” in order for every member of this madcap ensemble to properly shine. Otherwise, what’s the point of stacking the deck?

Stray observations

  • Hello! I am the new Legends Of Tomorrow recapper for The A.V. Club, taking over for Allison Shoemaker, whose LOT recaps made catching up with this series a heck of a lot of fun. First there was Oliver Sava, then Allison—I have big LOT-recapping shoes to fill. Hope I’m up to the task.
  • Where does Zari’s funky old key go? Since it’s a gift from John Constantine, it goes directly to his manor, located in a pocket dimension tucked away in Hell. Nice.
  • The foley effects during the circus makeover sequence were pretty sharp! I was listening to the show with headphones on and everything popped.
  • “The Guggenheim Circus”. Now why would Sara land on that name, unless the Legends are psychically tapping into our humdrum real lives? Of course, it’s a reference to Legends co-creator, Marc Guggenheim, but how would she know that?? Legends!
  • Ava: “Hey, do I look like a grandma?” Nate: “Yeah.” Ava: “SIGH.”
  • Will Sara keep her pinkie-promise with Ava to fix all the timeline shenanigans her “bank robbin’ across America” plan will most certainly cause? Maybe! Gary was definitely keeping track of all their misdeeds.
  • Behrad: “Ava keeps shooting the ceilings!” Nate: “She hates ceilings.”
  • How did Hoover hear about the Bullet Blondes’ name so quickly? It’s not like there’s radio, or—oh, I don’t care.
  • So, what did you make of this premiere, group? Wasn’t the entire town of Odessa supposed to show up to Spooner’s house and enjoy a circus? Is Astra technically Gideon’s mom, now? Are you ready for Matt Ryan’s new beard? Sound off in the comments below.