Conceptually, Legends of Tomorrow is… odd. Its first season brings together supporting heroes and villains from The Flash and Arrow and sends them tumbling through time, including (but not limited to) petty thieves Heatwave and Captain Cold (Dominic Purcell and Wentworth Miller of Prison Break, playing off each other in deliciously operatic fashion), scientist Martin Stein (Victor Garber) and car mechanic Jefferson ‘Jax’ Jackson (Franz Drameh), who combine to form a single, flame-headed nuclear superhero F.I.R.E.S.T.O.R.M., undead assassin The White Canary (Caity Lotz), John Constantine (Matt Ryan; yes, that John Constantine) and boyscout superhero Ray Palmer/The Atom, played by none other than Brandon Routh of Superman Returns.

Full disclosure: the first season leaves a lot to be desired. It’s a messy, dour collection of decent-to-good character moments focusing on an underwhelming villain, Vandal Savage (Casper Crump, who performs admirably) on the heels of two equally underwhelming heroes, Hawkman (Falk Hentschel) and Hawk-Girl (Ciara Renée), but the reason I’m keen to write about Legends is because its second season is functionally a soft reboot. The show changes up its structure entirely, leaning hard in to the inherent ridiculousness of inept superheroes given the ability to travel anywhere in history. I mean, why wouldn’t they go hang out with J.R.R. Tolkien during World War I?

By the time the third season rolls around, our heroes have broken time itself and Legends of Tomorrow becomes the most bonkers show on television, to the point that I had to avoid simply listing every episode. Like the one where they have to stop Julius Caesar from recruiting a modern frat-boy army in Aruba. Or the one where they’re kidnapped by P.T. Barnum and become part of his circus act, which now includes a saber-toothed tiger. Or the one where they have team up with Hedy Lamarr to stop Helen of Troy from becoming a Hollywood movie star and drop her off on Themyscira, the island from Wonder Woman, instead. You get the idea.

I shouldn’t be this excited for a listicle about a superhero series, but this is something I really hope people get on board with. Twitter user @azelben summed up the whole thing pretty nicely: “My second favorite thing is watching Legends of Tomorrow. My first favorite thing is describing episodes of Legends of Tomorrow to people who don’t watch the show.”

Well, here goes nothing.

1. S02E01 “Out of Time”

What happens in the first season of Legends of Tomorrow? There are a couple of major sacrifices, Rip Hunter and Captain Cold in particular, but apart from that it doesn’t really matter. “Out of Time” relaunches the show through the eyes of historian Nate Heywood (Nick Zano), who notices the history books are changing because the Legends, well… they messed with time a little too much. The episode plays like a clip show, catching us up on what the characters have been up to as they clear up historical aberrations — Captain Sarah Lance/White Canary has been sleeping with the Queen of France, for one — before turning into a race against, err, time, to stop The Reverse Flash of The Flash and Damian Darhk and Malcolm Merlyn of Arrow (The Legion of Doooooom!) from *deep breath* teaming up with the Nazis to kidnap Albert Einstein so they can make the A-bomb first. They succeed, and they even force Einstein to rightly share credit for his work with his wife, but their presence in 1942 brings them face to face with…

2. S02E02 “The Justice Society of America”

The Justice League before there was a Justice League, the JSA — Hourman, Commander Steel (Nate’s grandfather!) Star Girl, Vixen, Obsidian and Dr. Mid-Nite — stop the Legends in their tracks, resulting in this delightful battle scene between the two superhero teams:

“Obsidian, shut off the light!”

3. S02E04 “Abominations”

Confederate zombies. Next.

Okay, not next just yet. “Abominations” is when the show really starts to cut loose with its premise, sending the team back to the days of the Civil War to contain a deadly outbreak, but it doesn’t skirt around the difficult question of what might happen if this journey is undertaken by African American character Jefferson Jackson, named for two U.S. Presidents. The answer is surprisingly moving: the Legends don’t just fight undead confederate soldiers, they also free slaves along the way as Jackson instills them with hope for a better future.

4. S02E09 “Raiders of the Lost Art”

Here’s where things get really silly. See, Captain Rip Hunter from the first season never really died, he just erased his own memory and went to live in California in the ’60s so the Legion of Doom couldn’t extract the whereabouts of the Spear of Longinus from him (yes, that Spear of Longinus), but some part of his memories remained, manifesting as creative impulse. So Hunter becomes a film director, and the movie he feels compelled to make is, essentially, the first season of Legends of Tomorrow. During production, the Legion attacks his film set, scaring off one of his assistants, who’s now dissuaded from making movies. Still with me?

In the present, Nate forgets all the History he learned. Ray Palmer loses his engineering smarts. Somehow, the movies that inspired them to choose their respective career paths — Raiders of the Lost Ark and Star Wars — were never made. Rip Hunter’s assistant in the ’60s? A young George Lucas, who the Legends now have to convince to become a filmmaker again!

And folks, we haven’t even gotten to season three yet…

5. S03E04 “Phone Home”

The Dominators in the four-way Flash/Arrow/Supergirl/Legends “Invasion!” crossover are a terrifying breed of psychic alien. But what would happen if there was a small one, a really cute one in fact, that little Ray Palmer decided to adopt when he was a kid in order to save it from government persecution, a la E.T.? Well, the rest of the Legends have to travel back in time to find out, because Ray has disappeared from the ship, apparently having never made it past his tenth birthday in this new timeline. Is it a beat for beat riff on Spielberg’s classic? You bet. Does it re-create the scene where the kids fly past the moon? Damn right. Is it a start-to-finish delight despite, or perhaps even because of its predictability, hitting every homage you’d expect? Now you’re catching on.

(Does it also have an unexpected musical number? Okay, I’ll stop)

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