This episode review of Legends of Tomorrow contains spoilers. And nitpicks. BEWARE.
Legends of Tomorrow Season 3 Episode 14
From about halfway through the first season, Legends of Tomorrowhas been, by a comfortable margin, the best DC show on television. Even when Supergirlcame storming on, Legendswas still better, in part because of the joy the show took in its DC heritage, partly because the degree of difficulty in juggling a huge cast like this was higher. Even the last half of this season, the show is vastly superior to Arrowand Flash(I am getting caught up on Black Lightning, and yeah you guys were right on that, it’s super good in a totally different way). So please take all of this as it’s intended: not to try and pull the show down or imply that it’s bad. But the question above stands: am I being unfair to say that the show is not what it was, but still good?
Here’s the thing: I feel like an Elvis impersonator singing “Amazing Grace” over Mick trying to put his pet rat in the ship’s recycler is probably the perfect summary of where Legendsis at right now. It’s funny and a little bit sweet, but it’s also a little bit on the nose and trite. It’s a good character moment for Mick, but a little bit hollow, like a stand up double that clipped the top of the wall and missed being a homer by six inches.
The biggest success of the episode is structural. Legendshas frequently through its run alternated between character episodes and plot episodes, but rarely integrated the two all that well. This one does. We find the final totem, and rather than race the Darhk Legends (nailed it!) to it, they have to piece an anchronism back together with their earnestness and guile. It turns out the final totem is the Death Totem, giving its wielder the power to command the dead and obviously a major outstanding macguffin in Sara’s eventual journey. This totem is being used by none other than Elvis Presly: it’s mounted on his guitar, and it connects him to his dead brother Jesse while he plays. The Death Totem causes the city of Memphis to evacuate after Elvis’s first song is played, and Nate, whose identity (and hair) are strongly influenced by the King, goes with Amaya to fix it.
Here’s another moment where current Legendsis just a little off from past Legends. Earlier seasons had no problem tackling the general shittiness of prior historical periods on race, when it was relevant to the story. Yet this week, they send a mixed race couple to 1954 Memphis to watch the birth of the career of a guy whose relationship to the black music he…repurposed is very complicated. They’re all just there, and none of it’s a terribly big deal.
On the other hand, Nate and Amaya finally get to be fun together in an episode. It’s extremely clear by now that Nate’s going to end up going back to ’40s Zambesi with her at the end of the season, but this was the first episode where they felt like they had a real relationship that wasn’t a torrid timeship hookup because however shallow the conversations were, the back and forth about music felt like character development for both.
We’ve also got a fun new pairing this week: Wally and Zari are sharing a room, talking shit about Ms. Pac Man and then following their own Ms. Pac Man life advice when attacking ghosts together. Seriously, Wally’s earnestness is the perfect foil for Zari’s cynicism, and even if the conversation with Elvis’s pastor uncle was incredibly bad (he goes from fire and brimstone preacher to the end of Footloosein like, 12 words), the two of them together was a lot of fun.
And finally, let’s all pour one out for Axl. After a series of mishaps, Mick’s pet rat Josh Groban died, forcing Mick to come to terms with his friend’s death. I’ll be honest, Stately Dandy Manor got a little bit dusty during Ray’s funeral for our departed friend.
This show really misses Stein and Jax. Stein was the intellectual anchor of the show, the guy who could stand outside all the absurd bad science but make it seem real and serious. Jax was its emotional core, the one who valued the group and the group’s dynamic and fought to hold them together while occasionally pointing out when something was great/stupid/screwed up/fun. Without them, it’s still funny and entertaining, but less resonant.
DC UNIVERSE TIME BUBBLES
– They play Elvis picking his guitar like King Arthur pulling Excalibur.
– The anachronism caused Zari’s copy of Guitar Heroto turn into Trombone Hero, but nobody made the trombone controller. Get it together, prop department.
– Feels like a missed opportunity to drop Ms. Pac-Manin an episode and not have the anachronism be about what a shady bastard Billy Mitchell is.
– Nate: “I bet you that sick bastard [Darhk] likes ska” hey fuck you buddy everybody likes ska.
– I love that Mick mysteriously got a bunch of communion wafers and tried to eat them all at once.
– I ALSO love that on this show, the opposite of Axl Rose is Josh Groban.
– Speaking of Axl, his pre-credits retrospective is one of the reasons this show is still wonderful, despite my issues with it.
– I thought Nate would end up with Amaya, but now that he’s trying to foist Morrisey on her, I’m less sure.
– NEXT WEEK: Speaking of sad goths, Sara gets her hands on the Death Totem. Her new power: an assload of eye shadow.