Legends of Tomorrows Music Moment Falls Flat

first_img DC TV Comes to NYCC, Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker Grin & More DC NewsOur Favorite TV Superheroes Ranked Stay on target Legends of Tomorrow has been consistently great this season. While I’m generally happy about that, it does have a downside. It makes the occasional lackluster episode stand out all the more. Even though last night’s episode did plenty right, it wasn’t enough to make up for every opportunity it missed. We start in a guitar shop in the 1950s where a young musician wants to buy his first guitar. The one he picks happens to have been owned by Robert Johnson, the man who, according to legend, sold his soul to the devil for guitar skills. The boy is drawn to the guitar, and the lights go all crazy as he plays it. The terrified proprietor gives the young man the guitar and asks his name. It’s Elvis Presley.This week’s anachronism involves The King and a cursed guitar, and its effects on the Waverider are hilarious. We immediately know that something happened to make Elvis not a thing, and that has a ripple effect all throughout history. Instead of Guitar Hero, Zari plays Trombone Hero. Rory’s rat’s name is Josh Groban. Nate’s pomade never caught on, so he doesn’t have any. It’s fun watching them grow more confused about what happened. They finally figure it out, and head back in time to Elvis’s uncle’s church. I have to say the actor who plays the young King is really good at it. He has that attitude, the sneer and the all-important hip-shake that makes sure all the girls in town get the front pews at church.Keiynan Lonsdale as Wally West (Photo: Robert Falconer/The CW)It also makes Zari’s totem start carrying her into the air, inspiring a satanic panic in the small church. That’s all the evidence the Legends need to piece together that the lost totem is in the guitar. They start to hatch a plan to get the guitar away from Elvis, but Wally grabs it immediately. Having a speedster on the team is going to take the other legends some getting used to. Wally just wants so badly to help; he doesn’t realize that he’s kind of disrupting everyone’s flow. But hey, he gets results. You can’t argue with that.Unfortunately, losing the guitar shakes Elvis’s confidence. They replace it with a non-totem replica, but he can feel it’s not the same. He bombs a live show, and explains that his old guitar lets him feel like his brother, who died in the womb, was playing with him. As the Legends on the ship find out, that’s because the guitar is actually haunted. The totem embedded in it is the Death Totem. And it’s capable of leveling a whole city, which is what caused the anachronism in the first place. But a record needs to be made, so Nate convinces the Legends to let Elvis record one song with the cursed guitar. After that, they can take it back and hopefully Elvis will have the confidence to make Rock and Roll history without a haunted instrument.Dominic Purcell as Mick Rory/Heat Wave, Maisie Richardson- Sellers as Amaya Jiwe/Vixe, Nick Zano as Nate Heywood/Steel Brandon Routh as Ray Palmer/Atom, Caity Lotz as Sara Lance/White Canary, Keiynan Lonsdale as Wally West and Tala Ashe as Zari (Photo: Jack Rowand/The CW)And hey, the young King makes one hell of a record. His uncle fears that might be literal. He seizes the record and has the sheriff throw Elvis, Nate and Amaya in the jailhouse for the night. That means it’s Zari and Wally’s time to shine. Wally wants to handle things his usual speedster way, but Zari lets him in on why they do things the way they do them. It was a nice, natural way for Wally to be added to the team, while not letting the addition of a speedster become a cheat code for every situation. Some situations, Zari explains, require a more delicate touch. Wally and Zari have an honest discussion with Elvis’ preacher uncle, and he ends up giving the music a chance. That’s when the real trouble starts.The totem reacts with the music as it plays on the radio and a swarm of ghosts attack the church. It’s not the flashiest, or most exciting battle, but it’s fun watching Zari and Wally work together to ward off the ghosts. They’re bonding over their Pac Man skills, and it’s cute. I only wish the episode had spent more time focusing on their story. Instead, the focus shifts to Elvis Presley, whose dulcet tones are needed to put the spirits to rest. This is where the episode’s shortcomings become too obvious to ignore. Elvis’s rendition of “Amazing Grace” not only soothes the ghosts, but it also gives Nate and Amaya their music moment. It’s the one part of rock and roll that she likes. They start dancing and the rest of the church joins in.Tala Ashe as Zari and Keiynan Lonsdale as Wally West (Photo: Jack Rowand/The CW)It’s all too cheesy, and it grinds the episode to a halt for nothing. The episode began with the promise of a town being nearly destroyed because of magic rock and roll. And this is all we get. Some cheap ghost effects, and a dull rendition of “Amazing Grace.” No matter how good this kid’s Elvis impersonation is, it can’t save this scene. It’s not helped by the fact that he’s obviously not playing the guitar.This episode is also the point where Legends of Tomorrow’s ignoring of racism in history starts feeling super lame. It’s never been the show to really engage with those issues. It’s not the kind of story this show wants to tell. That’s usually OK, until we come to an era that, in the grand scheme of things, wasn’t all that long ago. We still have a clear picture of what the world was like back then. Outside of a brief shot where the Legends get some sneers when they attend church, the racial tensions of the era are never brought up again. I don’t expect everyone in 1950s Memphis to be screaming racists, but Nate and Amaya dancing and kissing in the middle of a church in that era would get a few stares at the very least. Issues of race are given lip-service and then handwaved away, and that sucks.Nick Zano as Nate Heywood/Steel and Maisie Richardson- Sellers as Amaya Jiwe/Vixe (Photo: Robert Falconer/The CW)What’s even worse is the importance placed on Elvis above all other artists. Nate has one sentence where he mentions the black musicians that… inspired Elvis, to put it charitably. After that, the actual creators of rock and roll get about as much recognition from the Legends as they got from Elvis in real life. To build an episode around Elvis makes sense. He was an important figure in the development of popular music, and there’s a lot of fun to be had with his life and personality. To pretend that he was the sole arbiter of rock and roll, that without Elvis it wouldn’t exist, borders on being offensive. I know Legends of Tomorrow likes to focus on big historical icons, but just this once, I wish they explored more of what was going on in the Memphis music scene at the time. There are a ton of stories there that are way more interesting than Elvis’.It’s too bad because a trip to 1950s Memphis, even with Elvis as the focus could have been so much better. The show just didn’t do much with the period or with Elvis. The jokes about what would happen if Elvis never made rock and roll mainstream were funny, but we’ve come to expect more from Legends of Tomorrow. There is so much opportunity for playing around with history in this era, and most of it’s left on the table. This is an episode where they find out what the missing totem is, and get their hands on it. That should be a big deal, but it isn’t. They see a thing; they want it, they get it. It’s not exciting. You know an episode has problems when you’re wishing the Darhks had shown up to cause some trouble. But maybe they’ll make good on all this next week. The episode ended with the totem shaking ominously in its box. That could lead to something more meaningful. I hope.last_img

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