NOTE: Some spoilers from throughout the fifth season of, “Legends of Tomorrow” are present in this review
Legends of Tomorrow’s continued placement within The CW’s heavily crowded DC drama lineup has started to become unpredictable. Season Five of the Arrowverse’s cult hit dramedy series ultimately skipped a Fall premiere entirely last year, instead debuting in the immediate fallout of the landmark Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover event during January. Now, with all of The CW’s upcoming scripted seasons, including those for its DC dramas, delayed to 2021 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic as well, Legends of Tomorrow even appears to be flirting with the idea of becoming a Summer series from here on out. If there was one unexpected advantage to this increasingly erratic episode schedule for Legends of Tomorrow during Season Five however, it’s that it allowed filming on the show’s latest episodes to be completed last year, conveniently allowing Legends of Tomorrow to entirely dodge pandemic-related production difficulties, and avoid losing any planned episodes, unlike sibling shows, The Flash, Supergirl and Batwoman.
This stroke of eccentric luck is well worthy of the Legends, who now find themselves up against the forces of Hell itself in Season Five. An inspired story turn kicks off this season, building from last year’s cliffhanger conclusion to Season Four, namely Astra Logue unleashing a bunch of Hell’s worst souls onto Earth, in reincarnated bodies. Naturally, the time-altering resurrections of history’s biggest, baddest real-world villains, from Gengis Khan to Rasputin to Bonnie & Clyde, creates all sorts of trouble for the timeline, necessitating that the Legends once again clean up a massive historical mess, albeit one that’s finally not their fault as a unit. This time, it’s Constantine that’s to blame for the most recent attack on the timeline, as well as Charlie, who ends up creating much bigger problems later in the season, after the truth behind her mysterious identity is finally revealed.
In one of the season’s better twists, Astra doesn’t end up being the big bad of Season Five, as formerly teased. Instead, Astra ends up being a mere pawn and protegee of Lachesis, one of the Three Fates from Greek mythology, who has taken up residence in Hell, after losing her power over mankind’s free will. In another fantastic twist, Charlie is definitively revealed to not actually be a mere shape-shifting Fugitive this season too. Instead, Charlie eventually reveals herself as the undercover Clotho, another of the Fates, who previously broke the destiny-manipulating Loom of Fate into three magic rings, and hid them across the multiverse. That plan ultimately turns out to be a bust though, after Crisis on Infinite Earths’ resolution ends up merging several of the old Earth’s from the former multiverse into Earth-Prime, thus bringing the Loom Pieces together on the same Earth once again, and enabling the Fates to re-assume control of mankind!
As much as Season Five somewhat awkwardly switches gears by suddenly making the Fates the season’s arch-villains around the halfway mark, the payoff to these events is mostly pretty good, at least among the Legends. Constantine predictably ends up being a big standout once again this season, somehow continuing to build positive story momentum after his resolution with Neron and Desmond from last season, namely by having to face the direct implications of his failure to save Astra from Hell so many years ago. Likewise, another surprising MVP among the Legends this season is Mick, whose pursuit of an old high school flame during an Encore hunt in Central City ends up creating a new daughter in the timeline, Lita, a snarky, troublesome teen that’s more than a little bitter towards her criminal father. That’s why it’s a little baffling that the show shunts Mick off to the sidelines in the final few episodes, when things really get crazy in the battle against the Fates, despite his otherwise bold, rewarding storytelling throughout much of the season, even after Mick’s career as Rebecca Silver seemingly comes to an end during the season premiere.
Speaking of careers coming to an end, some significant shuffles to the Legends’ roster also occur throughout Season Five, beginning with Mona leaving the Waverider during the season premiere, and mostly taking care of Mick’s writing properties off-screen at this point. Among the most bittersweet departures however are those of Ray and Nora, who both exit the show about halfway through Season Five, leaving the OG Legends crew down to just Sara and Mick now. This turn with the freshly married Palmer’s also sees a final resolution to the Arrowverse’s years-running Damien Darhk storyline, after Damien is the one that ultimately inspires Ray and Nora to leave the Waverider, shortly before Damien permanently erases himself from existence, using Gengis Khan’s Hell Sabre. Finally, Charlie also departs the team at the end of the season, after the Fates are neutralized, and Earth-Prime’s history is restored from the Fates’ totalitarian, 1984-esque altered reality. This Fates-provoked altered reality marks the second instance where the Arrowverse itself ends up being temporarily changed by Legends of Tomorrow’s arch-villains, being a plot device that formerly came into play during Season Two’s battle against Eobard Thawne and his ‘Legion of Doom’, but at least the Fates managed to make their version of altered reality distinct from the one that briefly sprung from the Spear of Destiny.
That being said, it’s starting to become a little apparent by Season Five that Legends of Tomorrow may be starting to run out of ideas, at least as far as its threats and villains are concerned. This season not only saw yet another altered reality climax, which at least managed to stand apart with an excellent TV-spoofing gauntlet in the season’s penultimate episode, “The One Where We’re Trapped on TV”, but also saw yet another zombie episode, as a zombie horde is inexplicably created in England by Atropos, the most lethal of the Fates. Some of this show’s story ideas are still pretty great, and highly imaginative, but Legends of Tomorrow also got less consistent with its creative distinction this season. Even when the show did have some pretty strong episode ideas, such as the Legends needing to party at a fraternity to win the Chalice of Dionysus, it couldn’t always use them to their proper potential. These lesser ideas would either run out of storytelling gas early on, or simply present a lacklustre battle against whatever threat that the Legends were up against that week. This of course was made even worse when the season appeared to duck out of the Encore battles rather early to boot, once the Fates entirely took over as arch-villains towards the season’s final handful of episodes.
One bold change to the series’ status quo that did work really well however was the timeline alteration that occurred with Zari, which ends up replacing her with her brother, Behrad in the Legends’ timeline. Only Nate has any slight recollection that the timeline has been changed after the events at Heyworld last season, and his suspicions are eventually confirmed after Behrad’s altered sister, Zari Tarazi, a vapid, influencer variant of Zari that never ran afoul of a future A.R.G.U.S., and became a globally popular internet personality after getting her own dragon last season, accidentally ends up on the Waverider. This new Zari wonderfully re-interprets the character, allowing her to grow into a different kind of hero without being forced into it by A.R.G.U.S., while also having to eventually suffer through another (temporary) death for Behrad, this time at the hands of Atropos. Zari’s new romance with Constantine is tedious and unnecessary by contrast (though fortunately, the show has addressed its problem with too many ongoing love stories after last season), but the original Zari continuing to exist as a spirit within the Wind Totem, complete with rescuing the Legends’ in the Fates’ new timeline, and resolving her former romance with Nate in bittersweet fashion, feels like the best of both worlds.
Season Five ending with Sara seemingly being abducted by aliens also potentially presents another interesting tease for Season Six, even if Legends of Tomorrow’s next season isn’t going to air until well into 2021 at this point. I hope that this threat nonetheless delivers next season, in any case, because, like I said, Legends of Tomorrow is starting to develop a villain problem. The show’s protagonists took some great narrative strides this season, and its sense of humour at least remains well intact, ensuring that you get a good amount of laughs from even the lesser episodes. Still, with too few DC character licenses to work off of at this point, and an increasing distance from the rest of the Arrowverse during crossovers especially, Legends of Tomorrow appears to be becoming unsure of how to position its antagonists, going forward. The Encore idea could have been taken a lot further, rather than being hastily wrapped up during Season Five’s finale, and while Constantine did ultimately get a happy ending with Astra to some degree, Astra likely becoming a Legend next season is going to have to prove itself as a superior alternative to Constantine eventually having to vanquish his tragic charge. I don’t think that Legends of Tomorrow is quite ready to be put to pasture yet, but it needs a really inspired obstacle for its Legends roster to battle against next season, especially after the team lost so many members by the end of Season Five.
Overall, Legends of Tomorrow’s fifth season remains entertaining and reasonably satisfying, even if some of its initially promising ideas don’t live up to their full potential. The show does mercifully clean up its over-emphasis on romantic arcs this season (mostly), but the battle against the Encores and the Fates doesn’t quite manage to achieve the same creative highs from the past couple of seasons. One does have to respect Legends of Tomorrow’s bold desire to continue experimenting with its quirky anti-heroes throughout Season Five though, whether it’s inventing a whole new Zari, temporarily blinding and super-powering Sara, or blessing Mick with a daughter that he previously never had. Even as the threats they face could use a boost in appeal right now, the Legends themselves remain a compelling draw, and continue to justify the incentive of taking more wild journeys throughout Earth-Prime’s history on the Waverider. Now that Legends of Tomorrow’s connection to the rest of the Arrowverse is becoming incredibly tenuous however, it will need to really pull out all the stops to keep holding the attention of DC fans especially, who are used to more compelling dangers and villains, especially now that the Legends’ battle against the forces of Hell currently appears to have been prematurely won.