Exit the Legends: Ranking the Departures of Every Former Member of the Legends of Tomorrow

Goodbyes, as has been noted elsewhere, are hard.

On the weekend of April 17th and 18th, 2021, some odd stuff went down on Dominic Purcell's Instagram account. It's not worth re-hashing here, although if you're interested here's a link to it. The short version, either he's leaving after the upcoming season six of Legends of Tomorrow because he's super angry, or he's not really angry, or he's not really leaving, or it was all just a publicity stunt, or... something.

Obviously that's a whole lot of drama that who even knows where to start unpacking, but it did send me down a rabbit hole of evaluating the various different ways that previous members of the Legends have left the show. And you know what that means: we have to rank them. Because we live in a world with rules and one of those rules is ranking things.

A few up front caveats and clarifications. For the purposes of our list, there have been 23 members of the Legends over the years. You can find the full list of them ranked against one another here. Going into season six, ten (10) of them remain full members of the team and regular members of the cast. Those ten are:

Sara Lance - Caity Lotz
Mick Rory - Dominic Purcell
Gideon - Amy Pemberton (sometimes credited as Amy Louise Pemberton)
Nate Heywood - Nick Zano
Ava Sharpe - Jess Macallan
John Constantine - Matt Ryan
Zari Tarazi - Tala Ashe
Behrad Tarazi - Shayan Sobhian
Astra Logue - Olivia Swann
Gary Green - Adam Tsekhman

Yeah, I'm a little surprised by those last two as well, but they are bumped up to regulars for the upcoming season six, so we'll see how it goes. Open minds, people.

Of the remaining thirteen, three had exits from the show that were so perfunctory that they really don't bear even thinking about here. We'll call them the 'Don't let the door hit you in the ass' club. This is in no way a judgement of the characters or the actors, because all three are great in both senses. It's merely a judgement on the way they were written out. They are:

Wally West/Keiynan Lonsdale: Someone says 'Too bad Wally left'. We all think, 'Oh yeah, Wall's not there.' And... scene.

Mona Wu/Ramona Young: Mona walks into Mick's room and thoughtfully announces, 'Well, there's too many characters right now, so I'm taking off. Text me if you guys ever want to hang out for an interval of less than a complete episode limited to the B-plotline.'

Nora Darhk/Courtney Ford: Nora was really just the vehicle for Ray's departure, of which more later. She didn't get an exit of her own. She deserved better, but she did not receive better.

All of that out of the way, let's get to the main event. Here are the nine significant departures from the Legends ranks, ranked.

9: Kendra Saunders/Hawkgirl and Carter Hall/Hawkman - Ciara Renee and Falk Hentschel

Reason for Leaving: To 'Go spend time together as a couple and get to know one another again.'

The Real Reason for Leaving: Their plotline was over with the defeat of Vandal Savage at the end of season one, and everyone hated their characters.

I try not to be too hard on Kendra and Carter, but let's be honest - nobody was all that bummed out when they flew off together at the end of season one, into the night and out of our lives. Still, at least they got a scene where they decided to leave and a proper goodbye to the team. That's more than certain other I might mention got to have. I name no names, but it rhymes with 'Rid Rash.' Oh, that was an unfortunate rhyme...

8: Amaya Jiwe/Vixen - Maisie Richardson-Sellers

Reason for Leaving: Amaya's story had run its course, and they'd been dangling the whole 'has to return to Zambezi in 1942 to keep time from disintegrating' thing for way too long by that point.

The Real Reason for Leaving: Same as above, really.

You can only stretch that kind of 'doomed fate' plot device so long before you have to either do it or not. Amaya and Nate couldn't be together forever, they'd established that pretty comprehensively. It was time to rip the band-aid off and finish the story arc. Also, her powers never really worked visually on screen well enough to do the cool stuff that theoretically they could have done with her. One can only see so many super-imposed elephants before the novelty wears off.

I rate this exit on the lower end of the scale, not because of her performance or her reasons for leaving. I do it because the way it was presented focused almost entirely on the way her leaving impacted Nate, making it his story and not hers. Which is a little dis-empowering to Amaya and does her a bit of disservice. You can't think of this goodbye scene without focusing on Nate's plaintive 'Don't look back. Don't look back. Don't look back.' And that moment is about Nate, not Amaya. Fortunately, that doesn't mean that Maisie Richardson-Sellers gets short changed in the exit scene department, because...

7: Charlie/Clotho - Also Maisie Richardson-Sellers

Reason for Leaving: Rejoining her old band and going back to living her life now that she no longer has to run from the Fates.

The Real Reason for Leaving: Maisie wanted to move on to directing.

This one is a touching, if low key decision by Charlie to settle down and enjoy her life now that she had the option to do so. It's sweet and human, and really puts the cherry on top of the whole season's theme of fighting for the right to decide your own fate. She's decided, and this is what she wants to do. Lots of hugs all around, we'll keep you on the mailing list for the Legends Newsletter. It's a nice little moment, but it's by definition a small one which keeps it from rating higher. I still like it a lot, though.

6: Rip Hunter - Arthur Darvill

Reason for Leaving: Died blowing up a spare time drive to give the team time to escape from Mallus.

The Real Reason for Leaving: It'd been ages since Rip had anything to really do on the show, and I think Arthur Darville wanted to be freed up to do more Broadchurch and live theater.

Ah, the first of our 'noble sacrifice/death' exits. There's nothing really done wrong here. The way they maneuvered his death so that he could be talking with Gideon at the end was an inspired touch and felt absolutely right. It just... dammit, it should feel like a bigger deal. Rip is the reason the team all got together in the first place. His death should be a huge deal. But in reality, his star had been slowly being outshone by Caity Lotz for quite some time at this stage. Part of the reason as well might be the way this happens early on in the episode instead of building to it happening at the end. This is just the appetite whetter for the rest of the big 'final battle with Mallus' that's coming up, and that's what it feels like. Still not terrible, though.

5: Jefferson Jackson/Firestorm - Franz Drameh

Reason for Leaving: Felt like he no longer belonged with the team after Martin Stein's death. Left to go find a new path in his life.

The Real Reason for Leaving: Pretty much the same as far as I can tell.

This is another one of those empowering character moments where a member of the team realized that their life's path had grown beyond their time on the Waverider and made the choice to move on to other things. And honestly, I kind of love those. Knowing when to let go of a situation that you've outgrown and move to the next stage of your life with love and respect for the people you're leaving behind is something that we kind of suck at, as a society. I'm down for as many positive examples of it as we can get. It also helps that we caught up with him a bit later and saw that everything had really worked out for him.

4: Leonard Snart/Captain Cold - Wentworth Miller

Reason for Leaving: Blown up rescuing the rest of the team from The Vanishing Point.

The Real Reason for Leaving: I honestly have no idea. From the outside it certainly appears that it was always the plan to only keep him around one season.

When Legends first began we all assumed that at minimum Hawkman and Heatwave were going to either leave or die (probably die) at some point during the first season. It just seemed obvious, based on the way the character interactions were going and how many extraneous mouths there were to feed on the ship. It was therefore a very clever twist to set Mick up to boldly sacrifice himself to save the team and then at the last moment pull the rug and have Leonard take Mick's place to save everyone. This was the first of the show's real gut punches; Wentworth Miller seemed unassailable in his spot with the team. They were developing a crush between him and Sara, for the love of shiny sequins. By unexpectedly giving Leonard the ax here they conclusively showed us that no one was safe. The show's never really lost that edge since.

3: Zari Tomaz - Tala Ashe

Reason for Leaving: Let herself be overwritten by the timelines in order to be with Nate while he lay dying. Replaced by an alternate timeline version of herself.

The Real Reason for Leaving: Plot convenience.

OK, you could argue that this one is a little bit of a cheat. Zari, after all, is still alive and well with the team. But both the show and the characters are consistent in treating Zari Tomaz and Zari Tarazi as fundamentally two different people, and this scene is certainly played as Zari sacrificing her own life to be with Nate as he lay dying. They achieved some real emotional whiplash - in a good way - when Nate was miraculously brought back from death through the magic of James Taylor (don't ask) only to have their reunion cut short when she's wiped out of existence by a wave of temporal changes and is replaced in Nate's embrace by her brother Behrad (also don't ask.)

The thing that really makes this one work is the aftermath, in which we know what they've lost but they don't. The season ends with the Legends happily walking away without a care in the world, and only the viewer knowing that Zari has been destroyed. Absolutely gutting.

2: Ray Palmer/The Atom - Brandon Routh

Reason for Leaving: Left to create a life with his new(ish) wife Nora.

The Real Reason for Leaving: Gigantic, stupid, unforgivable mistake by the show producers for which there can be no forgiv... OK. I'll calm down. It was their call to make and they made it. I'll start that again. Ahem - left the show because they wanted to focus on other characters. Bastards.

We should establish, Ray doesn't say goodbye to the team. Ray says goodbye to Nate. Which is exactly how it should be, given their relationship, and I'm still not really OK with talking about it beyond saying that the loss of this gold standard for non-toxic male friendship is a tragedy for all of us. #TeamPalmWood4Ever.

1: Martin Stein/Firestorm - Victor Garber

Reason for Leaving: Shot and killed by inter-dimensional Nazis. As happens.

The Real Reason for Leaving: Even more sinister - he left to return to Broadway. Hello Dolly claims another victim.

There was never any question that this was going to be #1 on the list, was there. Martin's death is so moving, so tragic, and so effective that it stops a multipart crossover story dead in its tracks for over ten minutes just so everyone has time to grieve, and then galvanizes everyone so much with his memory that they're inspired to overthrow literally an entire dimension of Nazi doppelgangers. You ain't getting that on This is Us.

But the real reason his death is so moving isn't the Nazis, it isn't the big multi-hero battle in his memory, it isn't even his bravery in getting shot to open the portal home for his friends. It's the way he lets himself go to save Jax. It's the scene between the two of them where they confirm that Jax is every bit as much his family as his wife and daughter. It's in the fact that years later I still wasn't able to type that last sentence without tearing up to the point where I had to take a little break for a moment.

Goodbye, Martin Stein. Firestorm may have had the powers, but you were the hero.

And that's where we are right now. Those are the definitive Legends exit scenes to date. Do you agree with my order? Disagree? Feel moved to make a case for Kid Flash? Leave your comments below.

Legends of Tomorrow returns to our screen with Dominic Purcell still in tow on May 2nd, 2021. See you all there! For now... Goodbye.

Mikey Heinrich is, among other things, a freelance writer, retired firefighter, and roughly 78% water. You can find more of his work at the 42nd Vizsla. If you'd like to see his raw notes for this and other reviews, you can find them at What Was Mikey Thinking.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

I agree, poor Kid Flash was barely there. I will never be over Stein and they did Routh dirty. His wife even offered to leave so he could stay. That's true love kids.
I would love to see Gary go instead of Mick. Mick is funnier even if he's gonna have a reduced role. His daughter is a scream too.

Samantha M. Quinn said...

From the whole Dominic (Mick) fallout, it seems as though he will be a part time player in season 7. Which is fine honestly as long as he isn't gone for good. I wanted to mention that if that was all we were left with on the Zari front I would've been incredibly pissed off.

I feel the way they wrapped up OG Zari at the end of season 5 was well done. It gave emotional weight to her sacrifice and wrapped up her story as well as the character could have hoped. Plus we still have a Zari to grow to love (I'm still not totally on board with the new version, but she's growing on me).

Poor Nate, he just can't hold on to anyone, Amaya, Zari... Ray!!!

I don't think letting go of Brandon Routh was a good decision on the part of the producers, especially to bump up Astra and Gary when I would've preferred that to be just bumping up Nora to series regular.

Snart's death was probably the one that hit me the hardest, I never really got into Stein and Jax as characters, so them being written off didn't bother me very much.

Rip... well he was a good character and his presence on the show was welcome, but he had basically been written out by that point.

Charlie's exit I agree was handled well, I think there really wasn't that much to do with Charlie in the first place so giving her a major arc and then letting her exit with grace was a good way to go. Amaya on the other hand, I think that was just poor writing. For such an independent character, she deserved a better send off then to be tied to Nate so completely.

I have nothing for the Hawk People. I don't think the Arrowverse knows what to do with Wally West, because he just keeps getting written off shows. As for Mona, I'm not sure what else they can do, I thought giving her Rebecca Silver was a little random, but at least it did pay off her book club arc. Nora was kinda done dirty, I had hoped they would find a way to let her out of her Fairy Godmother role, but instead they used it as the excuse to write her and Ray out.

Great article, thanks for taking the time to break it down before the new season. I just caught up myself, and I'm actually looking forward to the show's return!

Billie Doux said...

For me, Snart had the most powerful exit, honorable mention Zari. And I want Ray back.

Mikey Heinrich said...

Samantha - You actually put a finger on something that I had a little trouble reconciling when doing this. Specifically, where to call the 'official' exit for a couple of characters. You're 100% right about Zari, I think they did right by Z. Tomaz by the end of season 5. I went with the 'death' as her exit just because it was the dramatic break between her and the team. Argument could absolutely be made that she really left at the end of season 5.

I don't know why I don't connect with Snart the way everybody else does. Objectively I can see it, but I just don't feel it.

CelS said...

Stein definitely hit the hardest for me, having known him since Season 1 of The Flash. It definitely didn't help that Crisis On Earth-X was the last Arrowverse episode I watched before stopping (there was just too much to keep track of by then).

I was also pretty sad about Snart's death, but mostly because his character was so enjoyable and I wanted to see more of him.

Samantha M. Quinn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Samantha M. Quinn said...

I have no idea why I compiled this information but here it is as of 04-30-2021;

Character episodes:

Oliver 187 - Total
Diggle 182 - Total*
Barry 175 - Ongoing
Felicity 168 - Total
Cisco - 163 - Ongoing
Frost/Caitlyn 161 - Ongoing
Laurel 157 - Total
Iris 155 - Ongoing
Wells 155 - Total*
Kara 140 - Ongoing
Sara 126 - Ongoing
Gideon 83 (legends), 22 (Flash) - 105 - Ongoing
Ray 101 - Total*
Mick 91 - Ongoing

*Unconfirmed rumors of future return

Mikey Heinrich said...

I cannot overstate how fascinated I am with those numbers.

Josie Kafka said...

Dominic Purcell has gone drunk-posting on Instagram again, and this time it's a doozy. Screenshots here:

https://puppetavasharpe.tumblr.com/post/650604323554869248/classy-move-blaming-metoo-misogynistic-and

Mikey Heinrich said...

JFC Dominic. This is why we can't have nice things.

Josie Kafka said...

Yeah. I've been quite the Dominic Purcell apologist since the last tirade, but those posts are awful.