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Superheroes on TV: Collateral Damage 

Superheroes on TV: Collateral Damage
Photo Credit: Dean Buscher/The CW

Stop the bad guy, save the world. It’s the single most recurring theme in entertainment; from literature, to movies, and especially comics. But at what cost does putting down the villain become an acceptable number? This week, our Superheroes on TV column focuses on collateral damage and how large a role it plays in decision making.

Photo Credit: Dean Buscher/The CW
Photo Credit: Dean Buscher/The CW

Of all the hero comic shows on TV at the moment, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow is arguably the series most affected by collateral damage. By nature, time travel’s success is predicated on the ability to perform tasks without changing any given timeline. One small change can lead to a catastrophic series of events that could reshape the present or future in unrecognizable ways. (Yes, I’m rationalizing time travel like it’s a real thing, bear with me.) However, in this week’s Legends, “The Magnificent Eight,” caution is thrown to the wind as the team breaks just about every rule of time traveling you could imagine.

Rip does his best to equip the team with clothing and weapons that are appropriate for the era, and he even urges them not to use their revolvers except as a last resort. But when a card game escalates, it’s hard to stop Snart and has hair trigger temper from killing someone. The saloon erupts into a full fledged brawl, forcing our out-of-towners to defend themselves. The fight is finally ended when legendary bounty hunter Jonah Hex fires a single shot. While a saloon brawl in 1871 isn’t likely to have had any impact on the future, Snart’s killing a prominent gang member sets off a showdown with said gang where the town is sure to suffer serious consequences.

Yet because they started it, the team feels obligated to make it right. In all the lead up to this showdown at high noon (of course), Stein feels compelled to use modern medicine to save a child from tuberculosis; Kendra runs into a version of herself and has a chat about past lives and future fate; and the Hunters dispatched by the Time Masters show up, really sending the scene into chaos.

Photo Credit: Dean Buscher/The CW
Photo Credit: Dean Buscher/The CW

Even though Rip warned them about the kind of havoc they’d bring, everyone seemed too wrapped up in the moment. Hex even goads Rip into action by bringing up their previous encounter. Does anyone have any regard for what their interference will do to this town? Stein, who had previously reprimanded Sara for meddling in the sex life of a closeted 1950s woman, goes against all logic and leaves a mother with medicine to cure her sick son of TB. Yes, he may have used ingredients that were only available in 1871, but the actual cure for TB won’t be discovered for another 40 years.

Kendra has a full on dinner conversation with the 1871 version of herself. The woman lives well enough outside of town so as not to be near people. She tells present Kendra about past loves, other than Carter, and how they never (ever) work out. While I would consider letting your past self see your future self as a cardinal sin of time travel, this might have the least impact given Kendra’s 4,000 year life span.

The coup de grâce of disregard, however, is the big fight in the middle of town with the Hunters. Ray is in his Atom suit, Kendra is flying about, Stein and Jackson merge into Firestorm, and Rip brings out the future guns. Does collateral damage have no meaning? This “old west” town has gone from High Plains Drifter to Cowboys and Aliens in the span of 24 hours. Surely that will have some major impact on their lives and how they function in society moving forward? As this season of Legends progresses, they have less and less concern for what effect their actions will have as they traverse time and space.

Photo Credit: CBS
Photo Credit: CBS

But collateral damage is not exclusive to time travel. As we get a better look into Supergirl‘s “Myriad,” we learn what Non really has planned for humanity. Instead of forcing the citizens of National City to honor him, he’s using the Myriad signal to turn them into slaves who’s only objective is to preserve the planet. (A concept that seems like the only way humanity would ever tackle global problems. But that discussion is for another platform on another day!) Kara finds herself immune to the signal, and in an odd twist of fate, so are Cat Grant and Maxwell Lord. The three of them are forced to work together to come up with a way to stop the signal.

Lord’s plan is a kryptonite bomb that would kill all of Non’s Kryptonian allies and only about 8% of National City’s population. He’s looking at the bigger picture; if he can stop Non here, then what’s losing 300,000 lives when the whole world is at stake? I’m not opposed to a kill the bad guy plot, though Supergirl should certainly be above this line of thinking. But even superheroes are plagued by desperation, and with no other allies available, Kara begins to consider Maxwell’s plan as viable.

Detonating a radiation bomb over a city of 4 million people in order to kill a handful of villains? Again, this is Maxwell’s plan, but Kara buys into for a little while and that is worrisome. Excuse me if I sound like I’m on a soapbox, but I expect our heroes to make better decisions. Surprisingly, it is Cat who reminds Supergirl that “hope is stronger than fear,” forcing Kara to come up with a better plan to both save the city and defeat Non.

“Dark times lie ahead of us, and there will be a time when we must choose between what is easy and what is right.” ~ Albus Dumbledore

Dumbledore might not be a superhero in the traditional sense, but he was certainly a hero in his realm. Fans love the hero mythos because heroes are just and should always have the best interest of those they serve at the forefront of all they do.

Can our heroes rise to the occasion by doing what is just and being cognizant of the collateral damage their actions inevitably bring? I hope so.

Supergirl‘s season 1 finale is Monday, April 18th, at 8/7c on CBS.
DC’s Legends of Tomorrow returns with a new villain next Thursday at 8/7c on The CW.

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