DC’s Legends of Tomorrow season 5 premiere review: “Meet the Legends”

DC’s Legends of Tomorrow started season 5 strong with a mockumentary-style premiere that saw the crew of the wave rider fighting Rasputin in imperial Russia.

When DC’s Legends of Tomorrow debuted its first season back in 2016, many were quick to write it off as a catch-all spin-off that struggled to make a plotline with the “reject” characters from all of the more popular Arrowverse shows (at the time, just Arrow and The Flash). Back then, it was a fairly apt description — the show was following in the footsteps of its predecessors in terms of structure and tone, and as such, it didn’t find much success without a big-name hero anchoring its premise.

Flash forward four years later, however, and Legends is a practically unrecognizable show. Long gone is the insistence on adherence to formula or logic. In its place is a willingness to go completely off the rails — to throw everything at the wall and see what sticks. The show clearly has no qualms about being too “out there” or “weird.” It’s embraced its unique qualities, and as a result, become what we won’t hesitate to call the best show in the Arrowverse. Heading into its fifth season, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow is starting at full force, and reminding audiences just what they were missing during the half-year hiatus.

The season five opener picks up in the wake of both the timeline-altering season four finale, as well as the epic Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover event, both of which are required viewing if audiences are interested in even beginning to understand the plot mechanics that have gone into getting characters to where they are now.

To make such a convoluted plot a little more user-friendly to audiences who may not be up to date on their Arrowverse lore, Legends does the heavy lifting by structuring the premiere as a mockumentary reminiscent of The Office or Parks and Recreation. A camera crew follows the crew of the waverider around as they struggle to find a way to deal with their most recent conundrum: a resurrected Rasputin. It seems that Constantine’s old friend Astra has released the baddest of the bad out of Hell and back to their souls, thus sending the timeline into chaos and putting the Legends on the case.

At the center of it all is Ava, who has grown leaps and bounds from the tight-laced bureaucrat we met when she was introduced. She takes center stage in this episode, at times acting as much more of a leader than the actual captain of the ship, her paramour Sara Lance, who is still reeling from the events of Crisis (namely, the death of her friend and ex-lover Oliver Queen). Although we’ve sometimes struggled to be truly invested in the Ava/Sara relationship (which tends to feel like the same old melodrama after a while), Jes Macallan’s performance is a convincing one that anchors the episode.

Her counterpart, Sara (Caity Lotz) isn’t as engaging of a character, which is surprising given how much emotional weight there is for Lotz to have explored. Not all of the blame can be placed on her, however. The episode (as most episodes of Legends frequently do) struggles with determining how much time to spend with its dramatic core and how much to devote to plot. Unfortunately, the balance isn’t quite right here, and the emotion of Sara’s loss isn’t given enough time to feel like much more than a distraction from the main storyline.

Speaking of the ‘A’ story, the highlights of the episode come from the crew, which (in keeping with season premiere fashion) has jumbled up its roster yet again. Gone is Zari Tomaz (Tala Ashe), who was erased in the season 4 finale and replaced in the timeline by her brother Behrad Tarazi (newcomer Shayan Sobhian). Zari was one of the show’s best characters, and although Ashe is still a series regular, Tomaz’s sharp wit will be sorely missed. However, we’re happy to report that, if the premiere is anything to go by, Behrad will be more than a suitable replacement.

Behrad’s character thus far seems to be going more the mellow stoner route, so it’ll be interesting to see how he fits into a cast of mostly high-strung characters. Speaking of high strung, Brandon Routh is back as the ever-so-endearingly awkward Ray Palmer. While it’s already a blow to lose Zari, losing Ray this season will be even more difficult; he’s been a series mainstay since season one, and he frequently brings some of the show’s emotional moments. Given that his days on the show are numbered, it’s a shame that he wasn’t given more to do this episode, but what we did see of him was as fun as it always is.

While Nate and Ray are still a dynamic duo, the premiere also presented us with another odd couple: Mick Rory and Mona Wu. Rory’s character exploration has been an interesting one to watch, and Dominic Purcell has certainly made the most of all the material the writers give him. On the subject of writers, Mona appears to be leaving the waverider to become one- inheriting the pen name Rebecca Silver from Rory after he gave up writing because it “got in the way of [his] thievery.”

As is frequent with Legends, the historic setting is more of a backdrop to showcase the real strength of the show – its character interactions – and tonight was no exception. The Rasputin plot isn’t the strongest the series has offered, but it was more than serviceable for providing a few fun laughs and some truly great costumes.

Unfortunately, we got to see very little of the show’s resident scene-stealer Matt Ryan as John Constantine, but his brief appearance at the end of the episode coupled with next week’s promo promises that he and Gary will be in for one hell of a ride dealing with Astra and her mischief this season.

Just like its characters, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow isn’t perfect, but it embraces its flaws and celebrates its bizarreness in such a hypnotic way that we can’t help but want to tune in to find out where the legends end up next week.

Next: 7 shows to check out if you love Legends of Tomorrow
DC’s Legends of Tomorrow airs on The CW on Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET.
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