‘DC’s Legends of Tomorrow’ Episode 2 — Time Travel Theory in the Arrowverse

In the series premiere of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, we were introduced to the eight characters that the time-traveling Rip Hunter has assembled to help save the future of the world. They are tasked with tracking down the immortal Vandal Savage, who becomes an evil dictator and ruler of the globe by 2166. Although it takes some coercing, Hunter eventually convinces the crew of superheroes and super criminals from 2016 to travel back in time with him to find Vandal Savage and prevent his future domination, plus stopping Savage’s crime of murdering Hunter’s wife and child.

To make matters worse, Hunter has gone completely rogue on this mission, failing to get the approval from the Time Masters Council in 2166. As a result, they have sent time-traveling bounty hunter Chronos to track them down and bring back Waverider (their time-jumping ship). As Episode 1 ended, they had just barely escaped his attack.

This week’s episode of Legends begins in 1975 Norway, as Hunter believes Savage will be at an auction for a nuclear warhead. While the basis of the overall mission was established in Pilot, Part 1 last week, the theory and nuances of time travel utilized in the Arrowverse are laid out in greater detail in Pilot, Part 2. While there is some good character development and storyline progression, an effort is made to clarify the boundaries of time travel in the Arrowverse.

Time Travel in the Arrowverse

As we learned in the first episode, time travel in the Arrowverse isn’t subject to the strict rules of the popular Butterfly Effect Theory, in which any and all minor differences can cause a dramatic change in the future. If a person or event isn’t “integral to the timeline,” then they are essentially disposable (in terms of preserving the timeline).

Luckily for viewers, most of Hunter’s eight recruits have a very rudimentary understanding of time travel. When Hawkman and Hawkgirl ask if they can go back in time to save their fallen son from a previous life, as ComicBook.com noted, Rip explains why that simply isn’t possible.

“We can’t go back and change events we participated in. Time would fold in on itself, creating a temporal vortex.”

As The Atom noted, a temporal vortex (at least in the Arrowverse) “sounds way cooler than it is.” He does not elaborate.

During a battle early in the episode, The Atom accidentally leaves part of his technologically advanced suit behind. Vandal Savage and company get a hold of the technology, which was developed over 40 years in the future from 1975. Since their first attempt to capture Savage failed — and they aren’t allowed to simply go back in time to try again — they have to find a new way to capture Savage before he is able to reverse engineer the futuristic weaponry for himself.

Gideon, the ship’s artificial intelligence operating system, is able to give projected forecasts of Central City. Hunter shows the Legends that Flash’s hometown will be in ruins if they don’t figure out a way to stop Savage. But, he reminds them that what they see is simply a forecast.

“Time is like cement. It takes time to become permanent.”

As Hunter explains, if they aren’t able to stop Savage’s cronies from figuring out how The Atom’s weapon works, the forecast will become permanent history. They visit a young Professor Martin Stein in 1975, but Stein isn’t allowed to let his younger self know that he is Stein from 2016. When he meets his younger self, he introduces himself as Dr. Elon Musk.

As they visit young Stein, old Stein remembers that it is the same day he meets his future wife. He has to make sure young Stein goes to the mixer where they are introduced. When young Stein skips the mixer, old Stein’s wedding ring disappears (much like the photographs in Back to the Future). When Hunter persuades young Stein to attend the mixer, old Stein’s wedding ring reappears.


Undoubtedly, viewers will learn more about time travel as Legends of Tomorrow progresses.

Recap of Pilot, Part 2

Based on the late Professor Boardman’s notes, the Legends travel to a nuclear warhead auction in Norway as they remain in 1975. They realize that Vandal Savage is there to sell the warhead, not buy it. When the Legends arrive, Savage is able to detect the presence of Hawkman and Hawkgirl. He offers a major discount on the sale of the warhead to anyone else in attendance who can bring him the heads of the Legends.

Savage escapes as the fighting ensues, Firestorm absorbs a nuclear explosion and The Atom accidentally leaves a piece of his suit at the site of the battle. Savage recovers the Atom’s technology and his team of scientists tries to reverse engineer the weapon.

To track down Savage, the Legends need a piece of equipment that a young Stein has created. The piece of The Atom’s suit is recovered before Savage can make use of it, but Vandal Savage is still on the loose.


It is discovered that the knife used by Savage to kill Hawkman and Hawkgirl in their first life still exists and can be used to kill Savage. Captain Cold, Heat Wave and The Atom are sent to steal it. Savage captures them and the rest of the Legends are forced to come save them. Hawkman has the knife and manages to stab Savage, but it doesn’t kill him. As he kills Hawkman, he explains that the knife belonged to Hawkgirl and she’s the only one who can use the knife to kill him. Savage proceeds to confess his love for Hawkgirl before stabbing her. Back on the Waverider, Gideon is able to save Hawkgirl’s life.

The death of Hawkman helps bring the remaining Legends together. Their diverse personalities and backgrounds have them all at each others’ throats, frequently. The new collective purpose seems to help them all refocus. Rip Hunter has a plan for the next time and place they need to go to try to stop Savage, but the viewers won’t be clued in until next week’s episode, as corroborated by Entertainment Weekly.

Where to Watch

Replays of the second episode of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow can be streamed on-demand at the CW’s website. The Legends Pilot, Part 2 can also be streamed with a Hulu Plus subscription.


[Image via The CW]