Legends of Tomorrow season 1 episode 12 was so far, the franchise’s best story. It was about saving the young version of the legends from the assassination attempts of the timemasters council’s best assassin.
Time travel is one of the hardest plot to pull-off in fiction (and perhaps even in real-life if it ever becomes a possibility). Paradoxes can come from any time incursions. In this episode, they explored the most popular called the grandfather paradox.
The Grandfather Paradox
Imagine a person went back in time and killed his grandfather. Without him, his grandfather will live. Because he lived, he was born, and went back in time and killed his grandfather. The cycle goes on and on and on and on… the grandfather paradox.
There are different theories to solve the grandfather paradox. One is that a new timeline is created where the changes are, while the original timeline remains the same before the time incursion. Another theory is the ripple effect. Yet another is the bubble theory. The worst is, time, reality, and the universe will simply implode.
However, in Legends of Tomorrow, the concept is that there is only one timeline. Any changes made in the past (or the future) affects that one timeline. And in this episode, they had to pull their younger versions out of their proper point in time.
No Home to Return To
Which was a very dangerous thing to do. In a single timeline time travel, if a person does not return to the exact moment when he or she left for another time period, that point forward, everyone will simply not have any memories of the person. As good as was erased from existence. Never been born.
True, the normal should have been that the person was reported to the police as a missing person. But the difference is that, the person’s existence ended at the point in time when s/he time traveled elsewhen. Compare that to a missing person, he or she was still in the same time period, just missing.
This, I totally agree with the writers of episode 12. I love time travel and I played with different scenarios, considered different cause and effects, and solved paradoxes myself (at least in theory). The case in this episode was one that many time travel writers failed to fully comprehend, and ends up with a “missing person” solution.
Thus, if Rip’s team does not return the young version of the legends back in the exact point in time they took them, there will never be a home to return to for them. No one will remember them. They simply does not exist anymore. Since Legends of Tomorrow is part of the same DC TV multiverse, then I am going to say this, both their adult and young versions will become time remnants.
Just Return Them
This is where Legends took it to another level–their own time travel rules. Whenever changes were made in any point, in this case, pulling their young selves from their proper place in time, the longer they remain so the more the change becomes solid. If they return their younger versions back, it will not make any difference if their initial change was already permanent.
Of course, the same could be said to their adult versions. When they left 2016, they only have a very limited time before that change becomes permanent. This was alluded to, albeit subtlely, in some of the previous episodes. They need to finish their mission and return back to 2016 if they ever want to live their lives again.
This is a Legends time travel rule. Once changes in time became permanent, there will be no chance to undo it. If one chose to undo it by preventing the change from ever happening–by traveling earlier in time to stop their self from doing the change in the first place–it will only make things far more complicated. The effect of such an action is totally unpredictable.
But, The Flash!
I know. As I mentioned earlier, Legends is on the same DC TV multiverse as The Flash, Arrow, Constantine, and yes, Supergirl. But, think about it, not one time did the writers hinted at different timelines in The Flash. Hence they developed the concept of time remnant to explain away the grandfather paradox.
The Flash is also in a single timeline time travel concept. Any changes made by time incursions affects a single timeline. People like the Reverse-Flash or Flash’s future self who tried to save his mother, became time remnants. Hence, Iris got it wrong that eventually her and Barry will get married because the future was like that. That future, it no longer exists. (There is no such thing as destiny.)
But, that is a topic for The Flash, not Legends. I hope, I was able to help you understand time travel in this adaptation of the DC multiverse in TV.
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Legends of Tomorrow ep12 Time Travel explained by Yuki (雪亮) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at Legal Notice.