legends of tomorrow

Why ‘Legends of Tomorrow’ is going to be the geekiest show on TV

Superheroes? Time travel? Characters with wings? Actors from 'Firefly' and 'Doctor Who'? We're here for it.


Gavia Baker-Whitelaw

Internet Culture

Published Jan 10, 2016   Updated May 27, 2021, 9:32 am CDT

DC’s Legends of Tomorrow begins on Jan. 21, and it’s already shaping up to be the most unabashedly geeky superhero show on TV. Building on the success of Arrow and The Flash, it taps into the wellspring of ridiculousness at the heart of superhero team comics.

It took a while for a show like this to come along, but it’s easy to understand why. Most superhero adaptations either try to take themselves as seriously as possible (The Dark Knight), or at the very least they minimize the sillier aspects of their comic book origins. 

TV is less conservative than big budget filmmaking, which is why we’ve seen genre-bending shows like Agent Carter and Jessica Jones take hold. But it took more than a year for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to develop from procedural drama to the alien-infused soap opera we know today, and even Gotham—undoubtedly the craziest superhero show on TV—still works within the confines of urban crime drama. Legends of Tomorrow has more in common with movies like Deadpool and Suicide Squad, an amped-up response to superhero adaptations that take themselves too seriously.

When this show introduces a character named Hawkgirl, you better believe that she has actual hawk wings, an inexplicable Xena-esque costume (did she buy that with her barista paycheck?), and a backstory involving reincarnation and ancient Egyptian royalty. Love it.

The Premise

The Legends team is a classic ragtag bunch of misfits, a group of superheroes and villains recruited by time traveler Rip Hunter. Their mission is to prevent the immortal supervillain Vandal Savage from taking over the world in the 22nd century, a goal that apparently requires an invisible, time-traveling stealth jet.

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Spinning off from Arrow and The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow is the fourth DC adaptation from producer Greg Berlanti—the third being Supergirl on CBS. They all share a similar balance of emotional sincerity and willingness to embrace absurd ideas (like the Supergirl villain Red Tornado, literally a dude painted red) at face value, so it’s safe to say that Legends will do the same. Except, you know, far moreso on the latter point.

Every trailer so far is packed with with splashy special effects and gleeful references to the inherent ludicrousness of the story, meaning Legends has more than a little in common with the early seasons of Torchwood. And let’s face it: Torchwood with superheroes sounds like perfect popcorn viewing.

The Cast

Speaking of Doctor Who spinoffs, Legends already feels like one of those shows with a Pokemon attitude to your favorite geeky actors: gotta catch ’em all. The main cast obviously includes several Arrow and The Flash alumni including White Canary and the Atom, but they’re also joined by actors crossing over from Doctor Who, Firefly, Attack the Block, Superman Returns, and Marvel Studios.

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Firefly‘s Jewel Staite was recently announced for a recurring role as a roboticist, but the biggest crossover actor is probably Arthur Darvill. Best known as Rory from the Matt Smith era of Doctor Who, Darvill was appropriately cast as Rip Hunter, the time traveler who gets the Legends team together in the first place. As for the team itself, we have:

  • Wentworth Miller as Captain Cold, an admirably literal name. His partner is called Heat Wave, and they’re basically just criminals who got their hands on a pair of hot and cold superguns.
  • Brandon Routh (Superman Returns) as the Atom, a character who falls somewhere between Ant-Man and Tony Stark.
  • Firestorm, who is created by fusing an elderly professor (Victor Garber) with a younger dude (in this case a former athlete named Jax) to create a superhero whose powers resemble the Human Torch but also involve rearranging organic matter at a subatomic level. It’s complicated.
  • Caity Lotz returning as White Canary, who died in Arrow but was resurrected by the Lazarus Pit, a plot device that essentially functions as a magical jacuzzi. She’s getting a 1950s lesbian romance subplot, which is precisely the kind of time travel story we want to see in a show like this.
  • Hawkman and Hawkgirl, literally a hawk man and a hawk girl.

In summary, Legends of Tomorrow looks nuts. But it looks nuts in a way that reminds us of mid-tier superhero team comics, a genre that hasn’t really been explored on TV in the same way as traditional origin stories or procedural-inspired episodic shows. Legends takes a bunch of leather-clad weirdos with freezer guns and hawk wings, and drops them in 1975 for no other reason than it looks like it might be fun. And honestly, we’re here for it.

Photo via DC’s Legends of Tomorrow

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*First Published: Jan 10, 2016, 4:00 pm CST