Legends of Tomorrow Season Finale Proves It’s the Purest Comic Show on TV

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BY September 28, 2019

To describe the DC’s Legends of Tomorrow season finale in mere words would do it a disservice, yet that’s exactly what we’ll try to do. The bullet points of the plot read like a mad fever dream, captured by storytellers and filmmakers deep into a psychedelic binge. Still, within the cacophony of weirdness, the storytellers manage to close out the season’s storyline about demons and magical monsters in a way that’s both charming and hopeful. The CW’s Arrowverse shows, like Arrow and even The Flash, are dramas at their core. They work because whatever the problem is, they take it seriously. Legends of Tomorrow is more like a workplace comedy, with dramatic elements and occasional superhero fights. At a time when deconstructionist takes on comic book stories are cynical, Legends does it with love and humor.

The Legends of Tomorrow season finale comes with the show already renewed for next season. It will be a part of the massive Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover, which will alter the more serious shows, likely, forever. Because the Legends are drawn from the supporting cast of both Arrow and The Flash, what happens on those shows reverberates into this world. Yet, even with the deaths of beloved friends and family to deal with, this show finds a way to infuse humor and joy into any storyline, no matter how crazy. It’s this that makes the Legends one of the purest comic book shows on television. It deals with social issues in a subtle way, features all the traditional elements of a heroic tale, and isn’t afraid to embrace the inherent silliness of comic book stories. From homicidal unicorns to nipple-focused hypnosis, Legends does it all.

Legends of Tomorrow Season Finale Plot Rundown

Okay, despite the earlier warning, here’s a summary of what’s happened this season. The Legends, a time-traveling band of adventurers who work with the “Time Bureau” to correct historical anachronisms that threaten the timeline. The past two seasons have featured this odd collection of heroes going up against the forces of magic. With one of their team possessed by the demon “Neron,” the Legends had to stop his plan to unleash literal Hell on Earth. To do this, they open an amusement park featuring magical creatures as the main attractions. Because the demons get strength from fear, the Legends put on a show that will make the people love magical creatures. When one of the team dies, they bring him back to life by singing a James Taylor song. Alas, their success means that the rescued hero’s love interest is erased from the timeline.

Look, it sounds bonkers, but if you know this show they make it work. It’s incredible to say in a year that Game of Thrones aired, but Legends is the most satisfying season finale featuring a dragon. They playfully satirize the trope of putting on a show to save the day, and in doing so actually make some cogent commentary about how fear can be used to manipulate people. There are moments so absurd in the Legends of Tomorrow season finale you will laugh out loud. Yet, by the end, the singing-to-save-a-life sequence still effectively plays on our emotions. And, if you love James Taylor’s “Sweet Baby James” you might actually get misty-eyed in spite of the ridiculousness of the premise. This show takes tropes head-on, makes fun of them, but does it all without the cynicism of shows like The Umbrella Academy or the Watchmen movie.

Why Legends of Tomorrow Is Different From Other Superhero Shows

Legends of Tomorrow season finale
Image via CW

The Legends of Tomorrow season finale this year doesn’t even really resemble the show at its inception. Originally seen as a place that Arrow and Flash could send great characters those shows were through with, Legends started out very serious. Rip Hunter, essentially a temporal policeman, recruits a group of misfits and nobodies for an unauthorized mission to change the timeline. He tells them they are “Legends” in the future, and the name sticks. The first season follows the team as they try to take down a genocidal immortal named Vandal Savage. While the reaction to this story was mixed, the show continued and went in weirder and weirder directions.

For example, the Legends of Tomorrow season finale last year featured a giant showdown between a CGI demon—voiced by John Noble, no less—squaring off against a giant stuffed animal. While this sounds mad in a world of live-action superhero stories that work to ground themselves in reality, for comics this is a pretty typical plot. What’s amazing about this show is that it threads the needle perfectly, equal parts ridiculous and heartfelt. The show’s focus on the ensemble of Legends is its saving grace. So, when the Legends fail more often than they succeed, the audience empathizes with them all the more. Because these characters are gruff, skilled, but also emotional and open in ways others aren’t. This is a superhero show that spends a great deal of time on talking about its characters’ feelings.

So, What’s the Legends’ Social Message in This Madness?

When comics were just funny books for kids, the radicals writing and drawing them wanted to comment on their world. Captain America punched Hitler in the face long before the US entered World War II. The early Marvel Comics were warnings against the nuclear arms race (The Hulk) and racism or xenophobia (The X-Men) wrapped up in sci-fi trappings. The Legends of Tomorrow season finale takes a similar approach by making a commentary about how fear can be used to bring out the worst in people. When the villain makes all superheroes and magical creatures enemies in the eyes of the public, it’s a commentary on modern-day xenophobia. Yet, this commentary isn’t as overt or obvious.

Take toxic masculinity, which is how we describe the idea of men being forced to stifle their emotions lest they appear weak. It’s not “masculinity” that’s toxic, but the part of it that says “real” men punch, drink, and screw their way to self-actualization. So, the Legends deal with this issue in odd ways. A crucial plot point in the run-up to the Legends of Tomorrow season finale was Nate “Commander Steel” Heywood’s friendship with Ray “The Atom” Palmer. The former notices the latter is acting strange because the demon possessing him won’t let him open up to his friend. Mick “Heatwave” Rory is a hardened bruiser, but he also moonlights as a romance novelist who writes about finding human connection. He’s not embarrassed by this, and he ends up empowered by it. It shouldn’t work, but it does.

The Legends of Tomorrow Season Finale Is All About Fun

Legends of Tomorrow Season Finale
Image via CW

The end of a show’s run for the year is usually a time for victory, but also high-stakes losses. The Arrow season finale sees Oliver Queen find out he’s going to die. The Flash season finale saw Barry’s daughter from the future also erased from the timeline. But the Legends of Tomorrow season finale, instead, focused on simple themes like friendship and bravery. These are classic comic book story themes, and while Legends is the silliest show, it also does these stories best of all the Arrowverse. Instead of the sort of weird, fraught relationships we usually see in super-teams, the Legends are full of healthy, happy pairings. Thus, they show that there is also a place for these kind of stories in this crowded comic media marketplace.

For example, the leaders of both the Legends and the Time Bureau are Sara “White Canary” Lance and Ava “Roundhouse” Sharpe. The two characters are in a relationship on the show, and an entire episode was dedicated to it. They were in literal purgatory, represented for Ava as a furniture store that looks a lot like Ikea. In order to save Ava, Sara didn’t have to fight off demons with kung-fu. Instead she had to talk openly and honestly with her partner about their shared fears and hopes for the future. In the Legends of Tomorrow season finale, this storyline is paid off subtly. Whenever the two characters in the background of a scene, they are touching, staring sweetly at one another, or otherwise displaying the hallmarks of a healthy couple. A relationship we don’t often see in these stories.

Legends of Tomorrow Season Five Goes Back to Basics

Legends of Tomorrow season finale
Image via CW

Despite a two-season detour into worlds of magical weirdness, the show will go back to its “adventures through history” formula. In the Legends of Tomorrow season finale, a villain gets control of the “souls” of some of history’s greatest villains. She wants to give them a “second chance,” which means our rag-tag group of misfits will be facing off with Stalin, Caligula, Ghengis Kahn, and others next year. It’s crazy to think that fighting famous figures throughout history is a “more grounded” storyline for the show. Yet, it is, and it takes the show back to its roots. The Legends are going to be policing history again, and they’ll probably mess it up before they make it better. Part of what makes the show work is that the heroes are “franchise names” but underdogs who make mistakes.

The over-arching villain for the next season seems to be similar to the Time Masters, a group of people who exist to prevent time-travel. This will surely tie into the Crisis crossover event, but the Legends will be facing off against the original guardians of the timeline. This is a genius move. In the first season, any minor change to history was a big deal. As seasons went on, the Legends kind of started doing whatever they wanted. Answering for their meddling in history is a perfect way to acknowledge that change, advance the character stories, and mine for drama throughout. The show will keep being weird, sure. Still, so long as the show keeps its heart and sense of fun, it will remain one of the purest comic book shows on TV.

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Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. The first books he read on his own were comics, and he's loved the medium ever since. He is the greatest star-pilot in the galaxy, a cunning warrior, and a good friend. His book "What I Learned: Stories, Essays, and More" is available in print from Amazon and from all electronic booksellers.

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