Despite the nature of the premise, Legends of Tomorrow has spent most of its time delving into the past. "Star City 2046" suggests the show is much better off exploring the future.
In this episode, we witness a possible timeline of Star City in the year 2046, when it's ravaged by something known as the Uprising. The team finds itself temporarily stuck in the year 2046 while the ship undergoes (more) repairs. From there, the episode's true strength emerges quickly enough. Legends of Tomorrow is borrowing a lot from a far more established and interesting show: Arrow. However, the world-building is a bit too superficial, especially when it comes to several glaring character omissions. We learn about the fates of everyone associated with Star City, but oddly, we don't hear about anyone from Central City. Where was Barry Allen when Team Arrow needed help holding back this chaos?
Let's get to it. Rip Hunter doesn't want Sara and Ray to explore this future version of Star City, considering their ties. But Sara isn't having it. When Mick and Leonard are tasked with getting the latest MacGuffin — a prototype for something that Gideon needs, which they'll swipe from Smoak Technologies (formerly Palmer Tech) — Sara brushes aside Hunter's protests and joins them. Jax, Ray, Kendra, and Professor Stein stay behind to work on the badly damaged ship.
A lot has changed in Sara's absence. Despite Hunter telling her over and over again that the future is malleable and what she's seeing isn't necessarily set in stone, it feels real enough for her. She learns that most of the people she loves are dead, including Oliver Queen. That's why Connor Hawke (Joseph David Jones), who was briefly introduced at the end of last week's episode, took on the mantle of Green Arrow. I was surprised we get to see Connor Hawke here, considering how Arrow has set up Oliver and Felicity's relationship as the be-all and end-all. However, this man is Connor Hawke in name only; he's actually John Diggle Jr., the son of Lyla and Diggle. So, why give him the name Connor Hawke? It's an empty nod to an interesting character. And ultimately, his use of a different name comes down to a bunch of man pain and daddy issues. John Jr. couldn't save his father, so he doesn't deserve to carry his name … or something. Why didn't Sara become the city's protector instead? That would have been more interesting than this — and I actually enjoyed seeing Connor Hawke.
At the very least, Connor is far more interesting than the other young man who inherited his title. We meet the new Deathstroke, who is revealed to be Slade's son, Grant Wilson (Jamie Andrew Cutler). The episode borrows heavily from Arrow's own history, even evoking its strongest villain in Deathstroke. But that can't happen every week. Even when "Star City 2046" works well, it further highlights how Legend of Tomorrow needs to develop its own mythology.
This new Deathstroke isn't all that threatening once he takes off his mask. Honestly, he looks like a late-'90s boy-band reject. Still, he is responsible for what Star City has become; he led the Uprising. He may not look menacing, but we're supposed to believe he is. Definitely more interesting than Vandal Savage, though.
While these new versions of Deathstroke and Connor Hawke provide some of the episode's meatier moments, the reveal that Oliver Queen is still alive is what really captured my imagination. Oliver (Stephen Amell, sporting terribly fake facial hair and old-man makeup) is half the man he used to be. Literally. He lost an arm in a fight with Deathstroke, and he now hides out in the old Arrow Headquarters surrounded by the dusty, broken remnants of his past. His reunion with Sara provides a lot of touching moments, ultimately making her feel guilty about her choice to join Hunter's crusade.
After they get the piece of technology from a Smoak warehouse and Connor gets captured, Hunter makes the decision to let Sara go on her own to save him. He won't help, though, and he's only giving her one hour. Haven't we heard this before? Another teammate wants to be heroic. Hunter complains about the timeline, but eventually relents to their requests. Rinse. Repeat. It is quite a feat for Legends of Tomorrow to make a character like Rip Hunter so boring.
Sara is able to inspire this downtrodden Oliver to face off with Deathstroke again, if only to stop Connor's execution. He's also sporting a cool robotic arm. With the added help of the rest of the team, Oliver and Connor are able to regain a semblance of control over Star City. By taking down Deathstroke, hopefully Sara's hometown will regain its former splendor. But given how the future shifts in such significant ways, this version of Star City will hopefully never exist in the first place.
While Sara struggles with what her city has become, the best subplot belongs to our favorite pair of time-traveling criminals. They also have the best lines of the night, like this one:
Leonard: It's World War III out there.
Mick: It's beautiful!
Despite their past camaraderie, though, Leonard and Mick are growing apart. Mick wants to stay in this version of Star City. He takes over a gang, people are hanging on his every word. There are fine women and finer drinks. He's the kind of man who wants to watch the world burn, as Leonard says. But Leonard seems to be embracing the hero's life more than he cares to admit — he actually wants to take Vandal Savage down. (Side note: Savage's absence really makes this episode better. Considering how he's the central villain of the show, that's a problem.)
Mick doesn't want to help when they hear that Deathstroke wants Sara and Hunter dead. Leonard insists on joining the fray, which adds fuel to the idea that the show may introduce a romance between him and Sara, a.k.a. the only people with romantic chemistry. To get Mick back onto the ship, Leonard actually has to knock him out. The depth of their rift is becoming apparent.
There is one major issue with "Star City 2046," and unsurprisingly, it involves the show's worst character: Kendra. The writers obviously don't know what to do with her, so they're just throwing stuff at the wall to see what sticks. (Seriously, just watch Kendra in Justice League Unlimited and give her some of that character's personality!) Unfortunately, every idea they come up with seems to involve romance. Kendra is now dealing with a love triangle; Ray and Jax are both interested in her. Where the hell did that come from? Jax isn't subtle about his interest and takes a lot of advice from Professor Stein, whose meddling backfires. Ray is direct enough to ask Kendra out, and thankfully, she shuts down. Unfortunately, we have to hear another take on her tired line about being a barista just three months ago. If Legends of Tomorrow wants a catchphrase, that's the worst one they could come up with.
Here's the deal: No one cared about Kendra's romantic drama when it involved the now-dead Carter Hall — a man she was destined to be with — and no one cares about Kendra's romantic drama now. Want to know why her love entanglements aren't interesting? Because she isn't.
With the ship fixed and the gang back together, they head back toward their main goal to take down Vandal Savage. Watching this episode makes me wish for a completely different villain, though. If anything, "Star City 2046" makes it very clear that Legends of Tomorrow isn't really a strong show on its own. It needs to crib from its predecessors to hold our interest. There's still time for things to improve, but the clock is definitely ticking.