Tonight on DC's Legends of Tomorrow, Zari Adrianna joins the team and instantly changes the math -- as well as challenging the mission statement -- for Sara Lance's ragtag group of time-travelers.
Zari comes from the year 2042, and lives in a war-torn and impoverished future. If the Legends are so good, she wonders, how come the future she is destined to inherit is so bad? It is a question that challenges the convictions of some of the team, especially after things like the "Confederate zombies" episode in which some of the characters debated whether time travel gave them license or even the moral obligation to "fix" slavery.
"The most important thing for me was I really wanted someone who would come into our show and not be excited about being a Legend, because we did that last year with Nate," executive producer Phil Klemmer told ComicBook.com. "He was so gung-ho about having powers, and as a historian, he was so jazzed about being able to actually see all these things that he had studied. To have another person come on excited about being a Legend would be boring; the thing that makes our ensemble fun is the fact that there's so much friction between them and that they have so little in common. We wanted Zari to not feel like a part of our group, and have her be from the future. To have her be a Muslim woman from this terribly repressive world. Metas are persecuted as well. We wanted her to really take our Legends to task and to force them to think about what they do differently.
"We really wanted Zari to be a survivor," he added. "To give [powers] to somebody who really had been mistreated by the world. We wanted to have that be the fuel that would make her the catalyst to force the Legends to think about what they're doing. Why can't they make her world better if they really are dedicated to traveling through time and fixing history, why can't they fix the things that were screwed up to begin with, too, and not just these anachronisms?"
Zari, like so many other characters, will serve as a foil for Ray Palmer; Ray believes in what the Legends have been doing, and in challenging the team and the mission, Zari will set herself up as a kind of adversary to him.
"Ray is certainly the most idealistic of our Legends. It's challenging for him, in a way, when we introduce [Zari] and she's being chased by the authorities and she's been persecuted for being who she is. For Ray, it's rather upsetting when you have this character comes into our world and she says, "Oh, you guys are fixing time....Then why does my world suck? Why haven't you done more?" Ray is an engineer by trade, and when he was an inventor, he tried to make the world a better place, and now he has Zari rubbing his nose in it and saying, 'The future you left for people like me is horrible, and now you have a time ship, and why don't you do something about it?'"
The idea of time-travelers being torn between the responsibility to protect history and the moral obligation to make things better for oppressed people is nothing new; in Time Masters: Vanishing Point -- the comic book miniseries often cited as an inspiration for Legends -- Superman and Green Lantern struggle to understand why they can't just rescue a small group of people dying of natural causes in the Middle Ages. Rip Hunter and Booster Gold have to remind them that doing so could cause one of those people to do something unthinkable and change the course of history -- or even that bringing them to medical attention may lead them to infect others with their ailment.
"That's sort of the overarching theme for this season, and one that puts us in opposition to the Time Bureau," Klemmer explained. "The Legends will start to begin to think that maybe fixing time, restoring history, isn't enough. What if they can make things better? What if they can reengineer the future? Because sometimes the status quo really stinks. Zari is a catalyst for them. She's this firebrand who comes in and says, 'Make the world I'm from better.' That puts some pressure on the Legends, and not everybody feels the same way about what they ought to do."
Of course, even if they somehow "fix" 2042, the odds are not good that they will be going back in time to kill Hitler or prematurely end slavery or something else that would fundamentally change the present of the Arrowverse. In DC Comics, though, characters can (and do) change the future, so the Legends being from 2017 might offer a kind of loophole.0comments
"I like the idea that we can make changes to the present," Klemmer said. "I mean, obviously we can't choose the world of our sister shows. That's really the only no-no in our world."
DC's Legends of Tomorrow airs on Tuesday nights at 9 p.m. ET/PT following new episodes of The Flash.