DC’s Legends Of Tomorrow is at its best when it doesn’t take itself too seriously, and “Raiders Of The Lost Art” is far and away the show’s silliest episode yet. There are some major developments involving the Spear of Destiny and the Legion of Doom, but the real delight of this episode is a plot that has the Legends leaping into action to convince George Lucas to make movies. Writers Keto Shimizu and Chris Fedak openly engage with past flaws of this series in their script, and in the process they figure out a way to make this simple, often bland time-traveling superhero show something much more fun and entertaining.
I can pinpoint the exact moment when I knew this episode was going to be one of the series’ best: In the middle of filming his movie, “Legends,” a mind-wiped Rip Hunter (now a stoner aspiring filmmaker by the name of Phil Gasmer) leaves the studio to complain about how the actor playing Vandal Savage lacks any sort of menace. The poor villain casting was one of my main complaints about the first season of this series, and the writers’ acknowledgement of this mistake is the kind of meta-commentary I definitely do not expect from this show.
Then there’s Rip/Phil’s open admission that the Spear of Destiny is a McGuffin. Sure, he’s talking about his personal film project, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a truth applicable to the larger series. I doubt that anything major will come from the Spear of Destiny, and certainly not anything that won’t be eventually undone, even with the insistence that the Spear’s changes to reality are permanent. The threat of the Spear of Destiny feels pretty hollow, and it’s just there to give the Legends and the Legion of Doom something to fight about. Is there anyone out there that doesn’t think the Legends will eventually find a way to prevent their enemies from rewriting reality? There’s an inevitability to superhero stories, especially ones that revolve around these kinds of extraordinarily powerful objects that can change everything, and the real challenge is finding a way to make the journey to the inevitable conclusion an exciting, enjoyable ride.
“Raiders Of The Lost Art” accomplishes that with its George Lucas plotline. When 23-year-old prop master George Lucas gets caught in the middle of a showdown between the Legends and the Legion of Doom, he decides to abandon his dreams of making movies in favor of a quiet life as an insurance salesman. This results in timeline changes that have direct repercussions on Nate Haywood and Ray Palmer, whose lives are redirected because they don’t have Lucas’ films to inspire them. Nate doesn’t become a historian without Indiana Jones, which means he also loses his superpowers, and Ray doesn’t become an inventor without Star Wars, which costs him his super-suit.
In past reviews I’ve mentioned that the writers need to find ways to give the aberrations personal importance for the heroes, and tying George Lucas to Nate and Ray accomplishes that, adding a sense of urgency to the plot. Shimizu and Fedak also just have a lot of fun playing with the idea that Lucas’ experience with the Legends informs his later work, particularly Star Wars. Amaya delivers a variation on Princess Leia’s famous “You’re our only hope” line when she tries to convince George to continue pursuing a career in film, and when Damien Darhk and Malcolm Merlyn find out that the Spear of Destiny was thrown away, they force the heroes and George to dig through trash in order to find it. When the quartet doesn’t move fast enough, the villains turn on the trash compactor, giving George the inspiration for the classic scene in A New Hope. It’s goofy, but it’s also pretty clever, and I wouldn’t mind seeing the show embrace this kind of irreverent storytelling more often.
The evil trio giving the Legends grief this season is finally named the Legion of Doom this week when Nate remembers an old Hanna-Barbera cartoon from his childhood. No, it doesn’t make sense that Super Friends would exist in a world of DC superheroes, but logic isn’t this show’s strong suit so there’s no use in complaining. They’re called the Legion of Doom, and we just have to accept that. (Unless you want to be like Sara Lance and ignore the name, which is also fine.) The Legion certainly has more menace than Vandal Savage, but it would be nice to get some kind of deeper motivation for their actions beyond “because they’re eeeeeevil.” Bad people do horrible things for reasons, and the Legion of Doom needs a deeper motivation before it becomes a compelling antagonist for this series.
Plain old world domination (or timeline domination) might make a suitable, if flimsy, motivation for a movie, but TV villains need more depth if they’re going to last for an entire season. Vandal Savage sucked, but he still had his reasons for wanting to become a global dictator. The Legion of Doom now has three members, which is three opportunities to flesh out what drives this team to evil deeds. Until that work is done, the Legion of Doom will continue to be as flat as the cartoon crew that provides the inspiration for its name.
- Mick and Martin stay out of the action to discuss Mick’s visions of Snart, which might be messages from a “time ghost” or might just be hallucinations created by Mick’s own insecurities.
- Arthur Darville gets to play a very different character than Rip Hunter this week, and I really enjoy seeing him in confused ’60s stoner mode. The wig is horrible, but there’s a certain charm in bad wigs, too.
- Ray Palmer needs to wear more tank tops.
- “As a result, he never made some movie about space battles or another one about an improbably handsome archaeologist.”
- George Lucas: “You guys are from the future? That you’ve somehow seen a bunch of movies that I haven’t even made?” Amaya: “Well actually I’m from the past but that’s beside the point.”
- “I can’t believe we’re all going to die because of a stupid movie.”
- Amaya: “Wait, this one sounds cute. It’s called Howard The Duck?” Nate and Ray: “No!”