Spoilers below for the season premiere of Legends of Tomorrow.
Ever since Legends of Tomorrow was first announced, audiences have been mostly led to believe that the show was about a future hero coming back in time to gather up a squad of to-be-icons to help save the world, with a title that seemingly reflected the direct nomenclature of Arrow and The Flash. But the very first episode upended almost every expectation of the narrative’s core, revealing that this mixture of good guys and bad guys not only wasn’t the reason for big moments in planetary salvation (yet, anyway), but they were basically a part of the fibbing Rip Hunter’s revenge plan, and were chosen largely because of how unimportant they are in the big picture timeline. That’s some pretty depressing business for a CW superhero spinoff.
Pulling the rug out from under the basic plot is not a twist that matches up conceptually with a major character dying or some other specific event, but it alters how we perceive these characters now. When I think back to seeing Firestorm evolve on The Flash and everything Sara Lance went through on Arrow, and I now view those characters’ life moments as a little less important, since Rip Hunter is basically telling us that if someone wasn’t in the Justice League, he or she basically wasn’t worth a pixilated entry in future encyclopedias. At least, that’s if they don’t end up earning the dignified titular classification by the end of the series. If they do end up changing the future, that’s when paradoxes and time travel ramifications come in, and then my head self-destructs.
So instead of intentionally saving the world, everyone is a pawn in Rip’s quest to stop Vandal Savage from killing his wife and his son Jonas, through a solo and non-permitted mission that ceased his Time Masters membership. And if they happen to also save the world’s war-ravaged next century by doing whatever is necessary to keep Jonas out of harm’s way, while also kicking a bunch of people’s asses and spouting snappy quips, then so be it. Speaking of, those are definitely ways in which the show didn’t skew expectations.
I suppose that someone watching Legends of Tomorrow without any knowledge of Arrow or Flash wouldn’t think of this as quite so interesting a twist for a series premiere, even with Rip dropping that expositional bomb at the end. If you didn’t already assume that White Canary would be a timeline-changer for being a villain who died and was later resurrected by magic water and got into lots of bar fights as a hero - since that shit would definitely get some Internet headlines for a while and turn her into a massive celeb - then you probably wouldn't care what her story and heroics are worth to the big picture.
A dude with weapons that shoot flames? Okay, maybe his two-bit crimes won’t stand out in the long run. But two guys that morph into one fire-manipulating flying entity? The amount of defense contractors who would attempt to replicate it would create a hob-gobbled assortment of flying fire-suits, which the military would go crazy for and presumably use against Vandal Savage at some point during his domination.
I realize I’m taking this too far, and the "Legends" are just going to end up saving Jonas and the universe and the past and Jonah Hex and almost everything else that is meant to survive. But not everything and everyone will, so we'll just have to wait and see if Rip's dubious scheme was worth the effort. Check out Legends of Tomorrow on Thursday nights on The CW. And to see everything else you should be checking out, take a peek at our midseason TV schedule.