ARROW: “Blood Debts” & LEGENDS OF TOMORROW: “Pilot, Part One”

In lieu of writing three posts very few people read a week, but because I want to watch and write about all three CW DC hero shows, I’m going to rapidly cover ARROW and LEGENDS OF TOMORROW in a weekly post.

The former is still recovering from a nigh-disastrous Season 3 and the latter is a young show, which means it will almost certainly have its fair share of growing pains. Without further adieu, we’ll pick up with Wednesday’s Arrow Mid-Season Premiere.

After Felicity was shot in a random attack by Damien Darhk (an excellent Neal McDonough), the Emerald Archer is on the warpath, using anyone and anything he can to find and kill Darhk. In the process, he (and his team) come across this show’s frankly terrible version of Anarky. I could write an entire post about why this character is a misfire, despite the best efforts of actor Alexander Calvert, who is suitably unhinged. Anarky is one of the most important and overlooked foils to Batman. His particular philosophy is a natural counterpoint to the Caped Crusader’s staunch individualism. Batman is not a fascist, but when he’s matched up against Anarky, he certainly seems like one.

Anyways, Anarky’s involvement takes up most of the episode, as Oliver attempts to use him to lure out Damien Darhk. There’s some decent side stuff with Thea and Anarky’s obsession with her (after she nearly burned him to death earlier in the season), some very bad side stuff with Laurel being Laurel, and some very good side stuff with Diggle trying to reconnect with his brother Andy, and then everyone stops Anarky from killing Dahrk’s family. Dahrk arrives, finds out what’s happened, and allows Oliver to leave and live out the next month of his life without interruption before Dahrk finds and kills him. Oh, and also Felicity is paralyzed, which all but confirms her becoming Oracle (another pilfered Batman character). It’s not a bad episode, but jumping back into so many disparate plots is a little overwhelming. Notice that I didn’t even mention the flashbacks (extraneous) and the flash-forward (confusing). Arrow is finding its way back to the light, but it’s taking a while.

Episode Grade: B


Elsewhere, the Legends of Tomorrow pilot starts off fast, slows down for a bit in the middle, then slows down a *lot* at the end. The beginning finds disgraced Time Master Rip Hunter (a very droll Arthur Darvill) formulating a plan to defeat immortal despot Vandal Savage (Casper Crump), previously established in the Arrow/Flash crossover this season.  His recruits can be pretty easily divided between established Arrow characters, established Flash characters, and characters created specifically for Legends, so we’ll start with the older show.

From Arrow we have Dr. Ray Palmer, aka The Atom (Brandon Routh, earnest as always), still stuck in between Blue Beetle and Arrow and still suffering through something of an existential crisis. Joining Dr. Palmer is Sara Lance (Caity Lotz), former Black Canary, former League of Assassins member, and former dead person.

From Flash we have one half of Firestorm, Dr. Martin Stein (the always fantastic Victor Garber), former member of Team Flash and resident time travel geek. Joining him are Leonard Snart (Wentworth Miller) and Mick Rory (Dominic Purcell), Captain Cold and Heat Wave, former Flash Rogues members and current ne’er-do-wells. Their partnership provides most of the show’s comic relief, with Purcell in particular much more at home as the group’s muscle than he ever was on The Flash.

Finally, we have the other half of Firestorm, Jefferson Jackson (Franz Drameh), who had one short guest episode on Flash to establish himself before jettisoning off with Dr. Stein for the night’s proceedings. Joining him are Kendra and Carter (Ciara Renee and Falk Hentschel), aka Hawkgirl and Hawkman, the most personally committed to stopping Savage of the group, also previously introduced during the Flash/Arrow crossover.

These eight characters are brought together by Hunter under the promise that they are legends in his time, and that their destinies are to stop Savage before he ascends to dominate the world of Hunter’s time. This doesn’t make a lick of sense, and thankfully the show knows this, even if the characters don’t. They’re a little overwhelmed, and when Hunter skirts them off to 1975, the episode takes a minute to breathe. Which is when the best scene takes place: since he has no need for two crooks and an assassin, Hunter tells Cold, Heat Wave and the newly-christened “White Canary” to stay on his ship, the Waverider (which directly evokes the Millenium Falcon in its design, just as Hunter himself seems to have come right out of Firefly). Of course, given the option to raise some hell, the three renegades take it, and go beat the crap out of a bunch of goons in a shady 70s bar. The decision to make Canary immediately bond with Captain Cold and Heat Wave is an interesting one, and I approve, mainly because it keeps her away from The Atom and the both of them can escape the general mopiness of the show they came from for at least a little bit. Wentworth Miller as Captain Cold has enlivened every episode he’s been on, and every character is better served by hanging out with him for a bit.

On the plot side of things, Hunter, Stein, Palmer, Hawkman and Hawkgirl find Dr. Aldous Boardman (Peter Francis James), the world’s resident expert on Vandal Savage, who, as it turns out, killed his parents, who just happened to be Carter and Kendra’s former selves. This was a little unexpected. What was not unexpected was the lovers demanding to take him with them (since he was supposed to die within 24 hours), only to have him die in the episode’s climactic fight scene. This isn’t a bad thing, but it is the simplest time travel cliche. Anyways, things progress a bit after Chronos, apparently a bounty hunter employed by the Time Masters to rein in their renegade agent, attacks the ship, and everyone sort of confusedly jumps to action. They escape and confront Hunter on his  lies.

Even though we all know that everyone (even Jackson, who was literally drugged and brought back in time against his will) will eventually agree to stay, the question gives the show a little more time to flesh its characters out. Turns out the woman and her son killed by Savage as the show opens were Hunter’s family, which is why he was willing to risk his position and his life to bring the mad despot to justice. Everyone agrees, some of them in spite of the fact that Hunter reveals he only chose them because their futures are unimportant. He can’t ask The Flash or the Green Arrow or anyone else the showrunners weren’t allowed to mention because they have to form the Justice League, but he can ask the Atom and a dead Black Canary and Firestorm because no one cares about them. It’s a nicely meta way of insulting the big-budget DC characters and their deeply stupid looking movie while still giving some greatly interesting looking (this show’s aesthetic is already fascinating) stuff to chew on.

Episode Grade: B

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