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DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, Ep. 1.06: “Star City 2046” stumbles into the future

DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, Ep. 1.06: “Star City 2046” stumbles into the future

Legends of Tomorrow Oliver Queen

DC’s Legends of Tomorrow Season 1, Episode 6: “Star City 2046”
Written by Marc Guggenheim and Ray Utarnachitt
Directed by Steve Schill
Airs Thursdays at 7pm ET on The CW

On the heels of perhaps its strongest episode yet, Legends of Tomorrow delivers an extraordinarily uneven sixth episode. I’ve written before about how Vandal Savage is one of the series’ biggest problems, and his general absence in the previous episode gave space for stronger storylines. The continued lack of any Vandal-Savage related plot in “Star City 2046” should have given this episode the same grace, marking a definite improvement in structure, pacing, and story.

Instead, “Star City 2046” is a clunky episode that works on almost no levels. Sets and special effects are, as always, strong; Star City in 2046 is a post-apocalyptic landscape in which chaos and crime plays out on city streets, bars, and warehouses in an convincingly gritty manner. Anarchy reigns, under the loose control of Deathstroke, aka Slade Wilson’s son, Grant. The episode relies heavily on Arrow mythology – in fact, because the villains, setting, and stakes are all borrowed from Arrow, this feels more like Legends doing a crossover in the Arrow world than the reverse. The few parts of this episode that do work are the elements lifted from or in line with Arrow‘s mythology, in particular, Connor Hawke as Green Arrow.

The anticipated debut of the character of Connor Hawke into the Arrowverse introduces him not as Oliver’s son, but instead as John Diggle’s, in a solid tie-in to one of Arrow‘s best-written characters (and a smart, unexpected move, rather than just following the comics and viewers’ expectations). Joseph David-Jones is effortlessly charismatic as Connor, threatening to outshine some of Legends‘ weaker actors, particularly (in this episode) Arthur Darvill. His guilt over his father’s death, and rage at Oliver for abandoning the city, are only briefly touched on, but are a compelling emotional underpinning in the episode.

Stephen Amell’s turn as a much older, one-armed, and defeated Oliver Queen, meanwhile, is only somewhat effective. The gravitas of the character, and of his history as someone abandoned by all friends and comrades, gives weight to the story, and motivation to Sara, but his physicality is still clearly that of a young man, and the makeup used to age him is unconvincing.

The pacing and dialogue of this episode cancel out any stronger elements. The “meanwhile, back on the ship…” plot which Legends insists on incorporating every episode, is simultaneously unexpectedly charming in this episode, and contrasts even more than usual with the rest of the plot. Ray and Jax dance around their attraction to Kendra, with some unasked-for intervention from Professor Stein. I give this development props for finally giving Brandon Routh and Ciara Renée a type of onscreen action they seem comfortable with: warm banter. Renée has been noticeably weak in virtually all of her scenes so far, seemingly fundamentally uncomfortable with, and perhaps unsuited to, a hardcore action role. This episode, in which she needs to engage in a conventional human way with others, is the first in which she seems relaxed, and in which her character’s warmth and personality could really be felt. The psychic connection between Ray and Martin is also mined for great comedic effect, making both characters come alive and their connection snaps even more into place.

Legends of Tomorrow Star City 2046 Sara

Unfortunately, while all of this is cute, and somewhat funny, it doesn’t fit within a hundred light-years of what’s happening elsewhere. Sara is struggling with deep trauma over seeing her entire world (of the future) fall apart, and almost all of her loved ones dead, and has a major falling-out with Rip over how to handle it. While she flouts Rip’s authority and teams up with Oliver to rescue Connor Hawke, Mick and Leonard also have a major falling-out. This turn of events would have packed more narrative impact had the series laid the groundwork in previous episodes for Mick to so suddenly and decisively decide to leave both the ship and, quite likely, Leonard, a man whom the show has spent a fair amount of time convincing us he has a strong partnership with.

Based on promos, the tension between the two thieves will be a major part of the next episode. Interpersonal conflict with real consequences – not just Jax and Stein having a spat – but a crew member posing a threat to the entire team due to his dissatisfaction with being on board – is juicy stuff, and what Legends desperately needs more of. Yet, it’s a fine line to walk when devoting screen-time to the most dislikable member of the crew – as a viewer, all the positive cache Mick had built up in the previous episode with his bonding with Ray, is absolutely annihilated by his willingness to step into the role of vicious criminal kingpin, with multiple women at his beck and call.

Sara’s ability to motivate a long-retired Oliver, who’s been living in despair and hiding for years, to return to the fray after one conversation, is ludicrous, as is the ease which the show brushes over the tension and guilt between Oliver and Connor. The “climax”, in which Sara and Oliver, and then the rest of the team, take down Deathstroke and his minions, is colossally lazy, replicating the “fake prisoner/rescue/attack” formula with zero innovation or style that’s been done thousands of times onscreen before. Generally speaking, every event that happens on the ground in Star City in this episode is signaled long before it happens, and everything plays out exactly as one might expect, only with worse dialogue. Even the staging of the group fights is off this episode, e.g. the opening scene in which the members awkwardly chat with each other while “fighting off” Green Arrow, someone any one of them should have been able to handle solo.

The sheer blandness of the writing cancels out the compelling bleakness of the setting, and nonsensical character choices are paired with predictable plot turns. Watching “Star City 2046”, there’s a deep sense of staginess, instead of events unfolding in organic or convincing ways. (This is high-speak for: “This episode is dumber than a box of rocks”).  “Star City 2046” may be set in the future, but it should be left far in the past as quickly as possible.


Last week’s episode “Fail-Safe,” arguably the strongest episode of Legends so far, is also the only one written by two women, Beth Schwartz and Grainne Godfree.

The more the show tries to push a Rip/Sara connection, the less I buy it – the chemistry between the two actors is negligible. Every time they have scenes together, I mentally yell at the writers (basically, I’m Regina George screaming, “Stop trying to make fetch happen!”).

When the bearded, despairing, craggy-faced Oliver appeared onscreen, did anyone else flash straight to Luke Skywalker in Star Wars: The Force Awakens?