Hitting the ground running, the Legends almost erase Star Wars from history.
‘Raiders of the Lost Art’, Legends of Tomorrow’s midseason return, is perhaps one of the best episodes of television I have seen in a while. It’s not particularly electrifying, or groundbreaking; but it is as humorous as it is heartfelt. Its clever title has a double meaning, referring both to the first film in the Indiana Jones franchise, and also to the central idea driving this episode: What if George Lucas had never made Star Wars?
“I can’t believe we’re all going to die because of a stupid movie.”
At its core, this episode is about the power of cinema, and is a love letter to the filmmaker who has inspired generations. Whereas previous adventures featuring historical figures focused on the individual, ‘Raiders’ is less about Lucas, and more about celebrating his legacy and the impact he has had over the last four decades – even on the Legends themselves. George Lucas’ imagination is played tribute to, exploring how his work has profoundly shaped our heroes. Ray ‘The Atom’ Palmer’s (Brandan Routh) revelation that Star Wars inspired him to become an inventor does not feel out of place; nor does it seem far-fetched that seeing a fellow “improbably handsome archaeologist” in Raiders of the Lost Ark pushed Nate Haywood (Nick Zano) into pursuing history. Exploring these personal connections makes this episode powerful, because stories of how popular culture influenced one’s life are immediately familiar to audiences.
Celebrating Lucas’ legacy does nothing to detract from the overall quality of the episode. Following on directly from ‘The Chicago Way’, ‘Raiders’ deftly tackles the multiple plot threads left hanging since Christmas, without compromising the sense of humour and adventure that has made this season so much stronger than the first.
First off is the twist that Rip Hunter (Arthur Darvill) is in fact alive and has been living in Hollywood, making low-budget movies about his space adventures. Meanwhile, on the Waverider, Mick (Dominic Purcell) deals with hallucinations of his late partner Leonard Snart with the help of Dr Stein, who humorously conducts brain surgery in such a nonchalant way you could be forgiven for thinking he wasn’t doing much more than folding socks. Then we have the jaw-dropping reveal that CW’s biggest baddies (newly christened as The Legion of Doom) are working together to locate the Spear of Destiny to wreak all kinds of havoc on space and time.
In the wake of the “Invasion!” crossover event, it is exciting to see CW’s biggest villains working together; even if the dialogue is, at times, diabolical in a non-villainous way. Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman) and Damien Darhk (Neal McDonough) are delectable, and the actors have strong chemistry. Unfortunately, their charm and gravitas is upset by the addition of The Flash’s Eobard Thawne (Matt Letscher), who reduces the dastardly duo to nothing more than brutal henchmen. Currently it is not clear how the Legends could hope to defeat such a villainous team, so it will be intriguing to see if this development builds to a second superhero team-up, but given CW has already filled their annual quota, this sadly looks unlikely.
Whilst this opener does well to tackle the plot threads left hanging since the midseason finale, its true strength stems from its celebration of a pop-culture icon and his legacy. As humorous as it is heartfelt, it is hard not to be delighted by something that drops George Lucas into a trash compactor full of superheroes; or to love a show where everyone seems to be having a rip-roaring good time.
Legends of Tomorrow continues on Sky1 next Thursday at 8pm, followed by its sister-show, Arrow.