Legends of Tomorrow just finished up its sophomore season. How did it fare after a less-than-stellar first season?
I’ll admit that I enjoyed quite a few things about the first season of Legends of Tomorrow, but it was never the best of the Arrowverse shows. I will be forever grateful to the show for resurrecting my favorite Arrowverse character, Sara Lance, and fleshing out the characters of Leonard Snart and Mick Rory into something surprisingly complex. But while those things were the highlight of season 1 for me, there were quite a few lowlights as well, including the underwhelming Big Bad, Vandal Savage.
Legends season 2 turned out to be my favorite show in the Arrowverse this season, with Arrow‘s fifth season a close second. But what made it work so well this year when its first season was critically panned?
The subtraction of Carter and Kendra and addition of Nate and Amaya were distinct upgrades in season 2. As the grandson of a JSA member, Nate was a superhero legacy; but that wasn’t what made him a strong addition to the team. He filled a vacant niche on the team as a historian, and as a metahuman he came to hold his own in a fight. Nate was also charming and his friendship with Ray was a lot of fun to watch play out.
Amaya was a welcome second woman on the team, and as a member of the JSA, her view on what it means to be a hero was more old-fashioned than that of the Legends’. As Mari McCabe’s grandmother, she also represented a historical tie to the modern-day Arrowverse. And while the romance between Nate and Amaya wasn’t my favorite plotline, its development felt significantly more natural than most of the romances in season 1.
Much of the season was also without Rip Hunter, as Arthur Darvill was filming Broadchurch. I was not a big fan of Rip in season 1, so seeing the team gel without him was enjoyable for me. When he returned, it was such a great twist for him to first be an amnesiac then evil before reverting to himself. I was a bit worried about how Rip would fit into the team once he returned to the team, but he ceded the captainship to Sara without resentment and supported her when she needed it.
Not only did the roster improve in season 2, but the dynamics of the team were also stronger. Season 2 did an excellent job of pairing up different characters in each episode, allowing their relationships to develop. The team never felt cliquey because of the diversity of pairings from week to week. Plus, everyone had to find their place on the team due to the roster shakeup.
Mick and Ray were a surprisingly fun friendship while Mick and Amaya had depth I wasn’t expecting. Seeing a father-daughter dynamic develop between Stein and Sara was nice, as was Jax becoming Sara’s trusted second-in-command.
A budding romance between Nate and Amaya did not drag the story down or hinder their abilities to connect with their other teammates. Nate and Ray, after all, were clearly meant to be BFFs, and seeing Sara and Amaya together was always enjoyable.
Introducing the Legion of Doom, comprised of great villains from previous seasons of Arrowverse shows, was a brilliant move. Bringing in these familiar villains also gave a personal stake to several of the characters, particularly Sara who has a vendetta with both Darhk for killing Laurel and Malcolm for killing her.
Eobard Thawne’s presence was a direct result of Barry creating Flashpoint, so it was good to see that addressed. Damien Darhk was one of my favorite parts of Arrow season 4; Neal McDonough chewed up the scenery like a starving man, making him a lot of fun despite having middling material to work with, so his presence was welcome in Legends. And Malcolm Merlyn was even enjoyable in this season. He felt like he was serving a purpose rather than popping up out of the shadows just to be annoying.
The Legion-centric episode was also one of the best episodes the show has ever done. Watching the dynamics of the villains’ team made things even more enjoyable.
My only disappointment was how heavily Leonard Snart’s return was teased, only for him to show up for just a couple of episodes right at the end of the season. His presence did a lot to highlight Mick’s arc, though, which has been one of the best things the show has accomplished.
Above all, the thing that made Legends of Tomorrow my favorite Arrowverse show this season was its embracing of its silliness and
doubling tripling down on it. Where the other shows have gotten darker, Legends realized that it works best when it is a goofy comic book show.
Rather than take the opening monologue about being Legends too seriously, the narration rotated between characters — and even was given to the villains a couple times — allowing for some hilarious moments, especially when Mick was the one narrating.
The Legends traveled back to places like feudal Japan, Camelot and Nazi Germany. Martin Stein sang “Edelweiss” in front of Nazis while Ray made enemies with a dinosaur. Sara turned out to be the Lancelot of legend and the team fought zombies during the Civil War. Mick befriended George Washington and Ray walked on the moon. Oh, and the Legends inspired parts of Lord of the Rings and Star Wars.
While there were plot holes and head-scratching moments about the effects of time travel at times, it was hard to care too much when the show was just so damn fun.
Recognizing its strengths made Legends of Tomorrow season 2 one of the best seasons of an Arrowverse show to date.