Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Legends Of Tomorrow overcomes story flaws with blockbuster spectacle

Illustration for article titled Legends Of Tomorrow overcomes story flaws with blockbuster spectacle
TV ReviewsAll of our TV reviews in one convenient place.

Legends Of Tomorrow is at its best when it goes big, and it goes really big for “Leviathan,” an episode that shoots for blockbuster level spectacle and gets pretty damn close. It primarily accomplishes this with a sequence that pits Ray against Vandal Savage’s gigantic robot Leviathan, requiring Ray to reconfigure the A.T.O.M. suit to grow instead of shrink. Sure, the special effects make giant Ray’s face look like a Pixar human circa 1996, but the rest of the sequence looks surprisingly nice. The glowing green robot has a cool retrofuturistic design, and the action moves smoothly while capturing the power of the huge figures in motion.

It’s the kind of huge, ambitious event I want from a show about superheroes traveling through time, and I now understand where all the money missing from last week’s cheap episode went. It went to animating Ray smacking a giant robot with a radio tower and Ray punching that giant robot’s head off. Sacrifices have to be made to get explosive episodes like this one, and I’m not surprised that next week’s story appears to be set mostly on the Waverider. The Ray/Leviathan fight isn’t the only thing in this episode taking a big bite out of the budget, and the large scale of the story makes it feel like a season finale at times. The plot takes us from Vandal Savage’s citadel to the refugee camp full of people displaced by the Leviathan, and there’s a definite upgrade in set and costume design for this new time period.

Last week’s episode suffered from some extremely convoluted storytelling, but Sarah Nicole Jones and Ray Utarnachitt craft a much more focused script for “Leviathan.” I was nervous about an episode that spotlights Vandal Savage so heavily, but the script is a success because it commits to exploring how Savage has impacted the world rather than spending too much time with the tyrant. The material with the refugees is heavy-handed, but I appreciate the writers trying to explore some deeper subject matter in this fantastic context. The message that heroes help refugees is also a valuable one in our current global climate, and the writers help ground their fantastic narrative by tying it to real world issues.

The refugees play a major role in this episode’s A-plot, which involves the team kidnapping Savage’s daughter, Cassandra, because she wears the bracelet capable of killing him. Jessica Sipos could bring more power to Cassandra, and there’s a softness to her performance that telegraphs Cassandra’s change of heart when Snart helps her see her evil father for who he really is. Cassandra’s initial appearance and demeanor remind me of Sara when she returned to her Ta-er al-Safar identity in “Left Behind,” and I wish Sipos was able to channel Caity Lotz’s quiet intensity to make Cassandra a more credible threat. Sipos fares better when she’s playing Cassandra’s vulnerability after discovering the truth about her father and the part he played in her mother’s death, but this shift would be more pronounced if she captured Cassandra’s severity earlier.

Back in his home time just three days away from the death of his wife and son, Rip is in an extremely precarious position, and his character gets some solid development under these circumstances. Rip’s speech about how he tried to save his wife and child over and over and watched them die over and over is the most poignant moment he’s had on this series, finally giving his story the emotional stakes it needs. Arthur Darville fully realizes the pain of his character as he recalls these painful memories, and now we understand the motivation that drives him to put an end to Vandal Savage. That moment almost comes in the final moments of the episode when Kendra beats the crap of Savage, but as with most Kendra events, Carter ends up getting in the way.

Kendra’s story is one of the most important elements of this series, but it’s also the weakest element, which makes it especially frustrating. The Kendra/Carter relationship was so underdeveloped that his death had little impact, and the show has failed at making their dynamic any more captivating by developing it in sporadic mystical flashbacks. Kendra never got to grow as her own character, and the love triangle between her, Ray, and her memories of Carter still doesn’t have much tension behind it even though the show’s writers are trying very hard to get it there.


The best Kendra moments in this episode come when she finally faces off against Vandal Savage on her own, armed with Carter’s mace that has been covered in the melted metal of Cassandra’s bracelet. We finally get to see Kendra unleash her might, and it is a lot of fun watching her kiss Savage’s greasy ass. The beatdown is conveniently interrupted by the brainwashed future reincarnation of Carter, though, and Kendra decides not to kill Savage because he’s the only person that can unlock Carter’s mind. The most irritating thing about this plot point is that Kendra doesn’t realize that being a time traveler with a boyfriend that reincarnates means that there are other available Carters in the timestream, and she acts like this is her only opportunity to save the man she’s destined to love.

It makes sense that the shock of seeing Carter would throw her off her guard, but Rip should make it clear that there are other Carters out there for Kendra to connect with. Kendra might also be using Carter as a reason to not kill Savage because she doesn’t have to capacity to kill him yet, but if that’s the case, Kendra needs to toughen up and put an end to Savage because she’s the world’s only hope right now. I’m typically against heroes murdering villains, but exceptions can be made when the villain is as obnoxious as this show’s interpretation of Vandal Savage.


Stray observations

  • I’m very annoyed that this series decided to give Vandal Savage a new daughter rather than bringing his comic-book daughter, Scandal Savage, to the screen, but I also don’t think this show would have done Scandal’s awesomeness justice. Still, it’s a missed opportunity, especially when you think about all the flirting she could have done with Sara.
  • I like how the Atom insignia on the Leviathan indicates that this is a later model of the robots the team faced in “Progeny.”
    Jax doesn’t do much in this episode, and sometimes I wonder if part of his character arc on this show involves him going from quarterback to cheerleader.
    Carter’s introduction in this episode’s flashback is his best moment on this series. Strong, shirtless, and silent.
  • Sara: “How am I supposed to teach someone to fight with a piece of jewelry?” Rip: “Good question.” Sara: “It wasn’t rhetorical!”
  • Sara: “Please don’t tell me the plan is to walk into Savage’s citadel and steal it off her wrist.” Snart: “Alright, I won’t tell you that.”
  • Cassandra: “You’d risk dying for a bauble?” Mick: “It works with my outfit”