Fans of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow were dealt a one-two punch before the midseason break in December. One half of Firestorm, Dr. Martin Stein, died heroically in the groundbreaking “Crisis on Earth-X” crossover. A week later, grief-stricken over the loss of his partner, Jefferson Jackson departed the Waverider, leaving the Legends down two members. While the Earth-X version of Leonard Snart is filling in temporarily, the show found itself in need of a permanent replacement.
Since Stein’s departure, rumours have swirled that Keiynan Lonsdale’s Wally West, aka Kid Flash, would be jumping from The Flash to Legends of Tomorrow. With those rumours confirmed, let’s talk about why this is a bad idea.
Yes, Wally’s Status Quo Needs to Change
Yes, The Flash is completely mishandling Wally West. The character was introduced far too soon. His arc in the second season was a dull retread of Roy Harper’s from Arrow. He gained superpowers in season 3, only to be regularly shuffled off to the sidelines due to budget constraints and a renewed focus on Barry Allen. The character has taken two vacations from Central City in two months. He wasn’t even allowed to stay to fight against Nazis from another dimension in the crossover.
Sending him to Legends of Tomorrow makes some sense in that regard. It solves a storytelling problem on The Flash and replaces two characters for the price of one. And it gives Lonsdale, a gifted young actor who isn’t getting his due on The Flash, a new opportunity to shine. But there’s more to Legends than just filling out a roster of diverse characters. The show is built on a pair of very specific conceits, and Wally would undermine both of them.
What Makes a Legend?
It’s right there in the opening monologue of every episode — the Waverider’s crew are “legends” because they aren’t heroes. Rip Hunter is a traitor to the Time Masters. His successor, Sara Lance, is a hotheaded assassin. Ray Palmer is an arrogant billionaire playing with high-tech toys and, his buddy Nate Heywood is a historian (or “time detective”). Snart, Zari, and Mick are all criminals of one stripe or another. The Legends are misfits and outcasts, who screw things up more often than not. The show is less Justice League and more The Outsiders.
Wally West may have had a bumpy road to becoming a hero, but, like Barry Allen, he is a hero. He is noticeably devoid of the kinds of serious flaws and demons that drive the drama on Legends. Having matured since his introduction, he regularly displays better judgement than Barry Allen. He’s only a misfit because The Flash doesn’t know what to do with him. (The CW isn’t producing the upcoming Titans show, which is where he really belongs.)
But even if you don’t believe this is a problem, there’s a more fundamental issue with Wally joining Legends.
Here’s a fun exercise: rewatch all the old Legends of Tomorrow episodes and count all the times that Jax and Stein were either separated or had their powers neutralized during the episode. It happened a lot. Even when they merged into Firestorm, they were often taken down within two minutes — Malcolm Merlyn once did it with a bow and arrow. The writers went to increasingly ridiculous lengths to make Firestorm fade into the background.
Why would they do this? Budget constraints, for one. But more importantly, Firestorm was simply too powerful. Most episodes would have been over in one scene if Jax and Stein simply merged into the Nuclear Man, threw some fireballs, and called it a day. And as a speedster, Wally poses the same problem. Many episodes of Legends would be resolved instantly if the team had a member who could run through walls, punch villains at superspeed, or throw lightning. He can even travel through time without a time machine.
Either Wally will render the rest of the team irrelevant, or he will constantly be de-powered or knocked out to stretch out the plot of an episode. Neither is particularly satisfying. Perhaps if Wally was de-powered for an entire season, and forced to find a new way to be a hero, this could be averted. But that would only delay the problem and shortchange an iconic character.
So Who Should Replace Firestorm?
Firestorm’s replacement should be an anti-heroic misfit who needs a team to bring out the best in them. It should be someone who isn’t too powerful, makes mistakes, and sees the Waverider as the last chance to make something of their life. Someone who isn’t a hero, but can be a legend.
Who from the other Arrowverse shows would fit that bill? Roy Harper or Thea Queen, certainly. The Huntress, if she escaped from prison, would also count. The future Green Arrow, Connor Hawke, would be an interesting choice. If Ragman regained his mystical powers, he would fit in on Legends better than he did on Arrow. The Flash hasn’t used Pied Piper in over a year, and interesting rogues like Golden Glider, Magenta, and Mirror Master also seem to have been dropped. A case could be made for any of these less-than-scrupulous characters.
Wally West is a great character, and the actor who plays him deserves better. But moving Wally to Legends of Tomorrow is the wrong decision. It recreates the storytelling problems Firestorm brought to the table, undermines the show’s central conceit, and doesn’t serve the character. I’d be happy to be proven wrong, however. We’ll see when Wally boards the Waverider later this year.