NOTE: Some spoilers from throughout the sixth season of, “Legends of Tomorrow” are present in this review
While much of the Arrowverse seems to have begun suffering from a palpable creative crisis, following the conclusion of its flagship series, Arrow in early 2020, Legends of Tomorrow initially seemed to dodge this apparent curse. Then COVID-19 finished the job. Legends of Tomorrow’s prior fifth season managed to avoid being compromised by COVID-19, since it had already finished filming before the pandemic hit in earnest, but the show’s sixth season definitely wasn’t as lucky in 2021. On top of trying to utilize a new story direction that didn’t really work out as well as hoped, Legends of Tomorrow’s sixth season had to try and trudge along with clear pandemic restrictions when it came to set variety, cast variety and action. This led to a season that was much less consistent and much less fun than this fan-favourite Arrowverse series has been trusted to deliver over the past few years.
Even putting aside the rate that COVID-19 mandates seem to trip up the show’s latest season however, Legends of Tomorrow’s advanced age was already becoming a bit apparent towards the end of Season 5. It doesn’t help that WarnerMedia has started to shift the bulk of their DC Comics licenses away from The CW to boot, instead favouring HBO Max and the movie space for most of their premium live-action DC content. This has left Legends of Tomorrow continuing to bleed connections to the wider DC Universe in Season 6, not least of which because two of the show’s highest-profile DC-adapted characters ended up exiting the main cast at the end of the season; John Constantine and Mick Rory/Heat Wave.
One of these exits definitely worked out better than the other to boot. Despite the fact that it had the aftertaste of feeling a bit unplanned, Mick’s exit from the Waverider managed to hit most of the right notes, being set into motion after Mick discovers a future rendition of his daughter, Lita becoming pregnant with her own child. This initially sends Mick into a spiral that eventually leads to him hooking up with Kayla, an alien bounty hunter, which, amazingly, is hardly the weirdest alien twist in Legends of Tomorrow’s sixth season. That could be the fact that Kayla then ends up ‘impregnating’ Mick with her spawn, which is why Mick sadly spends much of Season 6 on the Waverider, not in the action. Still, this alien pregnancy angle is actually one of the few consistently amusing running gags in Season 6, and it eventually leads to an eccentric, yet surprisingly satisfying departure from the Legends for Mick, after he decides to settle down and become a family man.
As for Constantine, I can say with no exaggeration that he had his worst season to date in Season 6, something that very much hurt Constantine’s exit from Legends of Tomorrow. Even Constantine actor, Matt Ryan publicly expressed frustration at how Constantine was written this season, and I can’t blame him for feeling that way. Season 6 places Constantine in a bizarre romantic relationship with Zari 2.0, for starters, one devoid of chemistry or general reason to exist, once again leaving Legends of Tomorrow relying far too heavily on pointless romances to create artificial drama. Constantine then loses his magical abilities due to a contrived mishap involving a portrait-confined Aleister Crowley, or, more accurately, because of more CW budget cuts that are sticking out like a sore thumb. This leads to Constantine becoming desperate to seek out the Fountain of Imperium, the main macguffin for this season, to restore his magical abilities, so that Zari doesn’t think he’s a loser or something. It’s not well established.
The Fountain of Imperium feels like the story element that’s most indicative of how sloppily written much of Legends of Tomorrow’s sixth season is. The Fountain’s rules keep changing between episodes, going from being magical, to being alien, to being lost in space, to eventually being on Earth, at which point it’s established that the Fountain is designed to protect Earth from alien invasions. Except that would make the Fountain a terrible protector, since the Arrowverse’s Earth has been invaded by tons of aliens already, to the point where two separate Superman Family characters have been established to keep them at bay across two different shows! It feels like the writers had several ideas for how the Fountain of Imperium should work, and couldn’t decide which one they wanted most, so they just kind of threw them all together in an awkward mish-mash, leading to Season 6’s main macguffin being a confused story objective that contradicts the Arrowverse’s other shows.
Another confused story element behind Legends of Tomorrow’s sixth season is its main villain, Bishop, yet another big bad that doesn’t exist in DC Comics lore. The initial idea behind Bishop is pretty decent, wherein he’s revealed to be the inventor of the Ava clones, and eventually clones Sara into a new body, after Sara ends up being killed by alien venom on the planet Bishop’s hiding out upon. This is an impressively big swing for Sara’s character following last season’s cliffhanger ending, involving Sara being abducted by aliens, which, as it turns out, was orchestrated by Bishop, who employed Kayla, Mick’s eventual alien lover, to find him the perfect genetic specimen for his clones. This kind of bonkers villain plan feels very fitting for a Legends of Tomorrow antagonist. Not only that, but turning Sara into a clone helps tie her further to Ava, while also conquering Sara’s own demons in relation to finally proposing to Ava, before the two co-captains conclude the season by actually getting married.
Unfortunately, Bishop is another very inconsistent antagonist in the end, disappearing and eventually reappearing later in the season, complete with an aborted tease of Bishop becoming an A.I. baddie that initially seemed poised to infect Gideon. Ultimately though, he just gets placed in another clone body, which is much less interesting. Bishop’s and Constantine’s storylines eventually tie together into a final struggle for the Fountain of Imperium regardless, complete with another promising idea that the writing unfortunately squanders, namely Constantine betraying the Legends in order to try and restore his magic. This Fountain hook also ends up tying into the Legends’ newest recruit in Season 6, Esperanza ‘Spooner’ Cruz, a conspiracy nut from Texas that has the ability to sense nearby aliens. Spooner is a crack shot as well, something that proves to be a legitimately useful skill for the team, and while Spooner also doesn’t exist in DC Comics lore, she does nonetheless prove to be the one connection to the Fountain of Imperium that this season does right.
Sadly though, the rest of Season 6’s obstacles are mixed at best, and often disappointing at worst. Many of the initially interesting alien-of-the-week ideas, catalyzed after Sara attempts an escape from Kayla, and deposits all sorts of aliens across the timeline in the process, are at least interesting in concept though, being primarily hamstrung by apparent COVID-19 restrictions that hurt their ability to engage the Legends directly. It’s also appreciated that Legends of Tomorrow doesn’t end up recycling any of the established Arrowverse aliens from Supergirl in particular, even going as far as to have Ava humourously call the DEO for help early in the season, only to discover that the DEO was destroyed following Supergirl’s previous fifth season. Yes, the very fact that this season of Legends of Tomorrow acknowledges the DEO while simultaneously claiming that Earth is protected from aliens by a magical fungus (which is what the Fountain of Imperium ultimately turns out to be), just further goes to show how confused and head-scratching Season 6 of Legends of Tomorrow is, in a bad way.
As for the rest of the Legends, their story arcs similarly ranged in appeal, and many of them were disappointingly forgettable this season. Gary definitely had the most memorable turn in this case, being casually revealed as an undercover alien, and the former fiance of Kayla, the very same bounty hunter that eventually makes an honest man out of Mick. Outside of that, Nate found a way to have Zari 1.0 occasionally swap places with Zari 2.0, which is fair enough, but predictably, nothing interesting is done with this relationship plot that’s already been resolved, so who cares? Behrad also didn’t seem to fit that smoothly into the ensemble this season, eventually gaining his own unique Wind Totem alongside his sister, but beyond that, he basically just did whatever the story needed him to. It’s a shame, because Behrad is likable, and can be quite funny as a character, but he’s so much less interesting than Ray Palmer was, especially when his powers are identical to those of his sister! It’s like the show wants to do some sort of Wonder Twins gag, but it doesn’t actually have the rights to the Wonder Twins, so this is what we get.
Season 6 of Legends of Tomorrow manages some really good episode hooks here and there, in any case, complete with extra creative scenarios, like a 1950’s fast food-themed episode where alien meat causes a human feeding frenzy, or a cosmic bowling episode that quite literally has the Legends bowling with Earth itself. Overall though, Season 6 still ends up being an unfortunate mess, one that leaves Legends of Tomorrow’s advanced age feeling more apparent than ever. There’s an incredibly short turnaround period between Season 6 and the upcoming Season 7 to boot, which is barely separated by just over one month. I can’t imagine that this tight turnaround will do much for Legends of Tomorrow’s flagging writing quality, sadly, especially when Season 6 ends with the Waverider being destroyed, and the Legends being stuck in 1925 Texas, the original home era of Spooner.
Maybe Season 6 was just a sour note. Maybe Season 7 will be better. After all, the Legends have bounced back from weak season arcs before, sometimes better and more fun than ever. At this point though, Legends of Tomorrow is clearly beginning to suffer from its own creative crisis, one that will likely be exacerbated by the show losing two of its most popular main characters before Season 7. This is despite Matt Ryan nonetheless remaining part of the lead cast, and simply changing characters from John Constantine, to yet another original personality that doesn’t exist in DC Comics lore, eccentric scientist, Gwyn Davies. This character change is no doubt being mandated by yet another lost DC license for The CW, with WarnerMedia likely moving Constantine’s license over to HBO Max for a new dedicated Constantine series set on a different Earth, and with a different actor playing the eponymous role, as confirmed by multiple insider sources.
In a way, it’s not so bad that a series as weird and gonzo as Legends of Tomorrow is no longer much of a slave to its DC Universe inspiration, or the Arrowverse at large for that matter, but the series’ original story elements are starting to exhibit diminishing returns just the same. Thus, it’s probably best that Legends of Tomorrow start preparing to wrap itself up in the near future, as much as this show has gotten astonishingly good at dodging the cancellation reaper since it began.
Legends of Tomorrow suffers through an uncharacteristically weak sixth season, delivering uneven character arcs amid a lot of confused plotting that's blatantly hamstrung by COVID-19 and licensing issues.
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THE GOOD STUFF
Spooner is a decent addition to the team
Mick's adorable, surprisingly satisfying exit
Sara's and Ava's relationship continues to find interesting new territory
THE NOT-SO-GOOD STUFF
Constantine's awful season arc, and equally unsatisfying exit
Bishop is largely squandered as an arch-villain
The Fountain of Imperium doesn't make sense, and contradicts the larger Arrowverse