Rip Hunter may have started the team of heroes in Legends of Tomorrow, but Kendra Saunders was the backbone. The team was assembled to kill the immortal tyrant Vandal Savage, and Hawkgirl was the one of two who could deliver the final blow. Savage was finally killed in the season finale, and soon after she flies off into the sunset with Hawkman to start a new life. This exit was made permanent with the announcement that Ciara Renee will not be coming back as a regular next season. This was a wise decision by the writers and it proves they can handle a rotating cast.
Since Kendra Saunders’s first appearance on The Flash, her fate has been tied to Vandal Savage. She and Hawkman gained their powers at the same time he gained his immortality, so the two of them were the only ones who could kill him. Hawkgirl may have used her powers to save people or help her team; but the true purpose of her powers was always to kill Savage. She went through an arc of accepting her powers, learning to embrace her warrior side, and finally fulfilling her destiny. Anything beyond this arc would feel forced.
Marc Guggenheim said: “We went through the team, made a list of all the characters and started to think of stories for them. When we got to Hawkman and Hawkgirl, we had trouble coming up with stories. The bow was tied so tightly and neatly with their story in the finale, that everything we thought of felt very forced.” It’s such a relief to see a writer who understands this. Shows like Heroes promised a rotating cast, but got too attached to their original characters. They couldn’t bring themselves to get rid of anyone, but they also couldn’t stop adding new characters. This over extended the show until it collapsed under its own weight. Guggenheim has proven that he’s not only willing to cycle his cast, but he has a good sense of when to do it.
I will not miss Kendra Saunders myself because from the beginning I saw her as un-feminist. Almost every significant action she takes over the course of the season is motivated by or reacting to a man. Kendra is introduced when she is asked out by Cisco Ramon, she is brought into Legends by Hawkman, and shortly after he dies , she has a painfully awkward romance with Ray Palmer. What makes this romance particularly problematic, is the fact that a majority of it happens off screen.
Even once when she has a chance to kill Vandal Savage, she can’t do it because Hawkman would never get his memory back if she did. He would still be alive, but it would hinder their chance at romance. She risks her team’s life and all of history because of a man. It’s almost as if the writers think they can make her as boy crazy as they want because if she can fight, this automatically makes her a feminist. It’s 2016; women in media deserve better representation than this.
I may not like Kendra Saunders, but I acknowledge she was an important part of the show while Vandal Savage was still around. I even look forward to seeing her again in a recurring role, where she has a better chance of finding strength for herself instead of the men around her. Guggenheim kept Hawkgirl for as long as she was needed and had her bow out as soon as she wasn’t. This intelligent choice is hopefully a sign of good things to come in season two.