One of the aspects of storytelling that makes teams popular is the fun you can have with them once the characters are established and the team is really working as a team. If you’ve written the characters as strong, contrasting individuals, putting them together in different pairings in different situations can create some great expectations (see Ray and Mick in a Russian prison, for example) and surprising reversals. And once the team has finally bonded, sending them out against a powerful adversary is more than fun, it’s like watching a Rube Goldberg machine in action, the individual moves of the team as exciting as the final outcome of them working together.
Yep, that’s a Legends plot.
The key, though, is that they work together. The plot can be convoluted, but even the fun parts have to move the story. Another problem: most often in team stories the team bonds by the midpoint, which throws the “let’s have fun” into the third act. The third act has to burn off the subplot and character growth so that the crisis/third turning point leaves the team beaten and broken (in spirit if not as a team) before they come back to defeat or be destroyed by the antagonist. In other words, you’re supposed to pick up speed in the third act, not start dicking around, so all of that fun stuff has to be in direct service to the plot.
In the next two Season One episodes, the team has bonded (although still not sure about Mick), the characters are developed and bouncing off each other, and they’re up against one-off villains they can defeat by the end of the hour. All they have to do is stop dicking around and move toward that goal of saving the future . . .
1-11 “The Magnificent Eight”
The team is on the run from the Hunters, sent by the Time Masters to kill them, so Rip finds them a place in the timeline where they can hide until he can figure out what to do (Worst Team Leader Ever): The American West. The show gets full points from me for sending the eight of them into town in slow motion like a badass gang from the old movies, but I’m not sure how “let’s hide” moves the plot. Rip tells them not to attract attention to themselves but there’s a bar and . . .
The writers have a good time in the bar. Mick challenges Sara to a drinking contest and she leaves him passed out on the bar. Stein plays poker, wins, and almost gets shot by the loser except that Snart shoots first (Stein: “You shot him!” Snart: “You’re welcome.”) It’s all fun and games until it turns out that the guy Snart shot is part of the gang terrorizing the town, and now they’ve got to defeat that gang and save the town. There’s a whole thing with Jonah Hex explaining that Rip left a town to be destroyed by a similar gang, which means of course that Rip must now face down the leader of the gang in a high noon shoot out to do penance. Or something. And where’s Kendra? Oh, meeting with her former self from this time period and finding out that her love with Ray is doomed. (This stuff is a tragic waste of Anna Deavere Smith.) Meanwhile Stein saves the life of a small boy named H. G. Wells.
What was the plot again? Right the Hunters are chasing them so they have to lie low so they can defeat Vandal Savage. For how long are they hiding? What’s the plan to defeat the Hunters? How does Savage figure into this? What about the future?
Here’s the key to having a good time with a team: You still have to tell a story. Every scene still has to move that story. As much fun as this episode is, most of it is dumb (Ray announcing his name is John Wayne, Stein suggesting to the Wells boy that he call himself “H.G.,” Kendra’s living flashback) and the penutimate conflict of Rip shooting the gang leader and saving the town gets overrun as an anti-climax when the Hunters show up (because the team has made so much noise in the timeline) and there’s a fight in the street that could have been played to Yakkity Sax. So the townspeople see a flying man on fire and another man in a robot suit, also flying, and a woman turn into a hawk goddess because THAT’s not going to screw with the timeline, and you realize that the writers don’t give a damn about the aberrations in the timeline until they need them for the plot. Even Snart, who also doesn’t give a damn about history, asks if Rip doesn’t have one of those flashing thingies that wipes people memories, and Rip handwaves it away by saying people will figure out explanations in their own minds because the truth is so unbelievable. Oh-kay.
1-12 “Last Refuge”
Our Gang defeating the Hunters has made the Time Masters up their game. They’ve sent their ultimate assassin, the Pilgrim, after the team this time, and she’s not going to bother with killing them in the now; she’s going back to the past to off them as children. Whatever you think of her plan, it’s a great way to get back story into the now of the story while getting to see teenage Mick make a pass at teenage Sara and get slapped for his troubles.
But the fun in this is undercut first by the Pilgrim’s inexplicable choices. She’s goes after Mick and Sara as teenagers (why?) after Snart and Stein and Jax as newborns (much smarter and much easier to kill), and Ray as an adult. You want this to be fun, get them all as teenagers and put them in storage room on the ship together. You want this to be smart, collect all the babies (Sara and Kendra go after baby Snart–“Look for the one with horns” Sara tells Kendra–but then they’re both overwhelmed by how cute Snart is as a baby in spite of his dastardly future). So the Pilgrim’s methods are .. . inefficient, plus why is she so slow that when they follow her, they get there first? And so inept that they can always defeat her? She’s the greatest the Time Masters have to offer?
Time Masters: Worst Cult Leaders Ever, which helps explain Rip.
Never mind, we’re going to the orphanage/foster home where the Time Masters stash children so they can be trained and grow up to be Time Masters. There’s a lot of fun stuff with Rip’s foster mother running everybody with an iron hand, Mick has a heart-to-heart with his teenage self, in hopes that he won’t be the idiot that Mick in this timeline was (and there’s some evidence that works), and then the Pilgrim kidnaps the team’s loved ones–Stein’s wife, Snart’s sister, Jax’s dad, Sara’s dad–and threatens to kill them if the team doesn’t surrender to them. Rip makes a deal: he’ll turn over his younger self to her to kill which will wipe him out of the timeline and which will mean that the rest of the team never becomes a team because he won’t be around to recruit them, and their loved ones will never have been kidnapped . . . or something.
This is actually a good plan. Why didn’t the Pilgrim think of that first if she’s their top executioner? She takes the deal, they all meet in an abandoned airline hanger, Rip sends his cheeky, cockney grade school self to meet her, Young Rip does an innocent, eye-batting “Did I do something wrong, miss?” and then stabs her, giving the others a chance to all attack her at once and leave her a grease spot on the floor of the hanger. This show would have been 100% better if Young Rip had been in charge the whole time. And probably 100% shorter because he’s actually effective. The foster home mother raised a real badass and then the Time Masters made him into a wimp and kept him instead of his smart, effective wife.
This show is full of idiots.
Back on the ship, the Legends say good-bye to their loved ones and younger selves and return them to their places in the timeline after giving them amnesia pills (which would have been a great move back in the old West since the town wasn’t that damn large) and . . .
Remember the main plot?. Defeating Savage? I understand that they have to save their younger selves, I understand the Time Masters are an antagonist in Rip’s subplot, but they’ve been insisting all season that Savage is the big story, the main antagonist. Now as the plot is supposed to speed up toward the crisis point, they’re fighting the Time Masters instead. Yeah, there’s a big reveal coming up on that one shortly which makes me want to nuke the writers’ room because they probably think that explains everything, but we’re watching this for the first time, and as much fun as these episodes are, and they really are fun for the most part, they’re not going anywhere. I completely understand dodging the Savage plot, it’s awful, but that’s your plot, people. FIX IT, don’t duck it or your readers/viewers will get confused and annoyed.
Rip decides that they’ll just have to take Savage out of the picture right before he kills Rip’s family. YA’THINK? The team travels to London, 2166, where they kidnap Savage’s daughter because she has a bracelet from Egypt that will enable them to kill Savage despite his immortality (you’d think he’d put that somewhere safe, like the center of the earth). They show her that her father is evil and what he will do, and she turns on a dime, which I found suspicious, but then it’s Snart showing her the facts, so I’ll allow it. She turns over the bracelet, they melt it over Carter’s mace (don’t ask) and they attack Savage, who is now attended by a brainwashed Carter. Kendra has him down and is about to pound him into non-immortal nuggets with her magic mace when Savage tells her that if she kills him, Carter will remain a mindless drone.
Let’s recap here:
• Carter already has the personality of a block of wood, so it’s really hard to tell “mindless Carter” from “serious regular Carter.”
• Carter has been MIA since the pilot, so we have no attachment to him. In fact, when he shows up, my reaction was, “No, not him. Bleah.”
• Carter is immortal, so if Kendra takes him out, too, they’ll reincarnate again.
• The future of the entire world is at stake.
Kendra refuses to kill Savage so she can possibly save Carter from being a mindless drone in this timeline because she loves him SO MUCH so the fact that she’s been shacking up with Ray for over two years is . . .
That’s when I started to hate Kendra. Why the rest of the team is even speaking to her at this point is beyond me, let alone Rip, whose wife and child are going to die because Kendra couldn’t wait to the next incarnation to be with the block of wood she loves but can’t remember most of the time. This is such a dumb move, it wasn’t even balanced out by Ray reversing his Atom suit to grow to gigantic size to fight an equally gigantic robot that Savage built to . . . god knows why, it’s the most inefficient weapon ever made. “I’ll build a giant robot that can shoot fire and STOMP ON PEOPLE.”
They imprison Savage on board the Waverider in spite of Snart pointing out that this is a DUMB IDEA. Snart, Sara, or Mick would have killed Savage without hesitation, but all the big decisions fall to Kendra, who used to be a barista. The big robot fight was kinda fun, but the idiocy in the plot shows the strain of writers who know they have three more episodes to go, and they can’t kill the bad guy until the end.
And besides they have this amazing reveal coming in the next episode at the crisis point! (That grinding sound in the background in my teeth.)
How I’d fix the third act:
• Somehow make each one of the episodes move the plot closer to capturing Savage by having him involved with the Hunters and the Pilgrim.
• Make the Hunters and the Pilgrim efficient (also idiots: the Time Masters).
• Plot this so that the Legends and Savage do real damage to each other, so that they’re both more determined to win. I think the actor playing Savage was Not Good, but Savage never changed because of anything that happened in the plot; he was always the same cartoon; nothing the Legends did ever bothered him because he knew he’d come back again.
It’s just a terrible plot in general, and it really creaks in this third act. This act has to push the conflict to the crisis point when all is lost, but the legends are exactly where they were at the beginning, the only people who have really changed are Snart and Mick. Sara’s still a badass, Stein and Jax are still sniping, Ray is still insecure (and having Kendra refuse to save the future to save Big Block of Wood is not helping), and Rip is still the Worst Team Leader Ever. If this was the Mick and Snart show, that would be okay, you don’t have to arc your supporting characters (although it’s nice), but since this is Rip’s story and he hasn’t learned a damned thing, there’s no sense of rising tension, no sense of things coming to a breaking point, it’s your basic string of pearls plot, but the pearls are plastic and they’re pop beads. Which means that the only real way to fix this mess is to start over from the beginning, plan a strong plot arc with escalating conflict, build to the crisis/breaking point, and then stage the obligatory scene between the protag and the antag . . .
Short answer: It’s too late to fix this mess. Get out and start a new season/story.
Pictured above: The Legends crew searching desperately for a plot line.
What I Learned From This For Nita’s Story:
Plot the damn thing.