'Legends of Tomorrow' Team Discusses Decision Behind Shocking First Casualty

"We felt it important to really establish the stakes early on to submit exactly what it was our characters were facing," executive producer Marc Guggenheim tells THR.
Jeff Weddell/The CW

[Warning: This story contains spoilers from Thursday's episode of Legends of Tomorrow, "Pilot: Part 2."]

It didn't take long for the Legends of Tomorrow superhero team to suffer their first casualty. In their second face-off with immortal villain Vandal Savage (Casper Crump), Hawkman/Carter Hall (Falk Hentschel) stabbed Vandal with the only weapon that can kill him... only to realize that Hawkgirl/Kendra Saunders (Ciara Renee) had to be the one to wield the dagger for it to work. Vandal pulled the ineffective dagger out of his body and then used it to kill Carter and wound Kendra before escaping.

Because Legends of Tomorrow is a time-traveling show, and Hawkman has been constantly reincarnating over thousands of years, this won't be the last viewers see of Carter on the DC Comics series. 

"Before it's all over, we'd like to have Carter Hall back on the show even though he's dead in this current lifetime," executive producer Phil Klemmer tells The Hollywood Reporter.

"The show takes place all across time, so the possibility of meeting up with a previous incarnation of Carter in an earlier time [is] totally on the table," executive producer Marc Guggenheim adds. "Similarly, he reincarnates forward, so meeting up with a future incarnation is also on the table. The fun thing about combining time travel with reincarnating characters is the fact that you can really expect the unexpected."

The producers chose to kill off Carter in the second episode to prove that no one is safe.

"Very early on, we were talking about how do you establish the stakes particularly when you have time travel in the mix?," Guggenheim says. "There's always the possibility of the audience disengaging because with time travel, they can just go back in time and undo this or change that. We felt it important to really establish the stakes early on to submit exactly what it was our characters were facing. As with most ideas we come up with, killing off Hawkman began with a pitch that started off with, 'Well, this is probably too crazy, but… ' When we start off with that, we usually end up doing exactly that. Especially with this show, even more than Flash, even more than Arrow, crazy is a big part of the show's appeal."

Of course, that doesn't make the decision to kill Hawkman any easier on the showrunners.

"We love Falk but sometimes, letting your audience know that you mean business, you have to do horrible things," Klemmer says. "You sometimes have to cut off your nose to spite your face. I can't believe we actually followed through on it. But this is the kind of story audiences expect these days."

"It's pretty cold, isn't it?" Hentschel says with a laugh. "I knew Carter's fate when I signed on [to the show]. I had to do a pretty cryptic job with it. I was excited about it because it's not something the network does very often, killing a main character off. That's something generally reserved for cable, like Game of Thrones."

Hentschel promises there are no hard feelings about being the show's first casualty, since his character's death has such a major impact on the rest of the series moving forward.

"It's kind of fun, you know what I mean?" Hentschel says. "He's the catalyst for this show to kick into gear. It's not just about revenge, but it is a big motivator for everybody. Plus, I'm really used to dying onscreen and this was one of the cooler deaths I've gotten to do."

If Hawkman is brought back onto the show, either as a past or future incarnation, Hentschel has a request for the writers. "Whatever I do come back as, I hope the writers will put more of a lens on the humanity of all his reincarnations," the actor says. "He's been around for so long, what has that done to him as a person? "

The Legends team learned that Kendra has to be the one to wield the dagger to kill Vandal Savage only after Carter's failed attempt to kill him. It made his death more heartbreaking and feel almost wasteful.

"The first thing I thought was, 'If I'm going to die, can't we have a bigger fight?'" Hentschel says with a laugh. "But now that I've seen the episode, I kind of like how quick and out of nowhere it came. It was very beautiful. It was the strongest move for this character. Anything else would have felt wrong. It's going to motivate Kendra to avenge me."

The fact that Kendra has to be the one to kill Vandal will be both "a blessing and a curse" for her, according to the showrunners.

"She hardly got to know him," Klemmer says of Carter. "She lost him just when she was coming around to believing in the inevitability of their love for one another. But the progressive, 'I am woman, hear me roar' version of her is unlike every other lifetime she's lived where she too had died and they were reborn together all over again. What makes this version of Kendra different is she has the other Legends. She can be a hero without him, and she has to stand up to Savage alone and vanquish him by herself."

Having survived Vandal's attack (albeit majorly injured), this will also open up another part of Kendra's life now that Carter is no longer by her side.

"In 4,000 years, she hasn't gotten to choose for herself who to love," Klemmer says. "Over the course of the season, we'll play with the idea that Kendra essentially is a widow, so is she doomed to live out the rest of this lifetime alone? If she kills Savage, does that mean her eternal life ends or will Carter still be reborn? Or can she, for the first time in her long life, choose who to love? You can't be on a spaceship with eight other people facing life and death situations without the possibility of romance. Numerous characters will face that over the course of the season."

Both Klemmer and Guggenheim reveal they're not shying away from romance between different members of the Legends team despite various "complications," as Klemmer calls them, including Stein's (Victor Garber) marriage and Mick Rory's (Dominic Purcell) inability to love.

"The Waverider is like Big Brother, where these people are living together in this close proximity with the intensity of life and death stakes and it's a very natural thing for there to be romance, or at least lust in the trenches. 'F--k it, we could be gone tomorrow, let's take a roll in the hay,'" Klemmer says. "There will be romance aboard the Waverider and romantic interludes throughout the ages with civilians they encounter along the way."

Legends of Tomorrow airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. on The CW.

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