UK TV recap: Legends of Tomorrow, Season 3, Episode 14 (Amazing Grace)
Matthew Turner | On 31, Mar 2018
Warning: This contains spoilers. For how to watch Legends of Tomorrow, click here.
It was probably inevitable that Legends of Tomorrow would eventually get round to doing an Elvis episode. It’s just a shame they didn’t put a bit more effort into it than this. Amazing Grace isn’t a total disaster, as the episode still delivers some fun character moments, but the supposedly emotional Elvis stuff falls painfully flat.
The episode begins in a Memphis pawnshop in the 1950s, where a young man (Luke Bilyk) buys an old guitar that once belonged to Blues legend Robert Johnson. The man remarks that Johnson supposedly sold his soul to the devil to play as well as he did, and the store owner says that the guitar is said to be cursed because of it. Sure enough, when the man picks up the guitar, the electricity goes a bit funny and he plays like a dream. In a surprise to no one, the young man gives his name as Elvis Presley. Cue the title card.
On board the Waverider, the crew quickly discover that something, somewhere has gone horribly wrong. Mick’s pet rat Axl is now called Josh Groban, Zari’s Guitar Hero has changed to Trombone Hero and Nate’s quiff has lost its… well, everything. Gideon tells them that an anachronism in 1950s Memphis caused the population to go crazy and, as a result, rock ‘n’ roll was never born. So, their mission is clear: head to Memphis and save rock ‘n’ roll. The mission is something of a personal passion project for Nate, although no one else seems particularly bothered one way or the other.
The Legends arrive at a Memphis church and find Elvis playing alongside his preacher uncle, Lucious (Geoffrey Blake). They quickly work out that Elvis’ guitar contains the mysterious sixth totem they’ve been searching for, which turns out to be a Death Totem, with power over the spirit world. Specifically, Elvis has been using it to summon the presence of his twin brother, Jesse, who died when Elvis was born. Jesse is considerably more rock ‘n’ roll than Elvis at this point – he wears a leather jacket and everything.
Eager to prove himself to the rest of the team, Wally super-speed-steals Elvis’ guitar while they’re all standing around trying to come up with a plan. (Zari: “I’m not the only one that finds that super-annoying, right?”) Nate points out that Elvis still needs a guitar to record his first single, so he and Amaya pose as record executives and give Elvis a guitar that Gideon has manufactured. But there’s a problem – Elvis can’t play without his possessed guitar, as he no longer feels the spirit of his brother flowing through him.
Meanwhile, back on the Waverider, the guitar turns out to be properly haunted and starts zipping around causing chaos on the ship. In all the confusion, Josh Groban the rat drinks something poisonous and dies. Mick: sad. Ray tries to cheer him up by saying that rats don’t live long as a rule and they can just pick up another one soon and Mick replies, wistfully, “Because what’s one more change on this ship?” and it becomes clear the rat is symbolic of his recent losses, specifically Leonard, Jax and Stein.
Nate persuades Sara to let Elvis have the haunted guitar just long enough to record the song that will become his first single. He does and Nate is delighted to be able to show Amaya an original Elvis recording. However, Lucious arrives just as the recording ends and snatches away the record, telling them that no nephew of his is going to record “the devil’s music”. So, it’s basically Footloose, yeah? To prove his point, he has Elvis, Amaya and Nate thrown in jail. For, er, well, the crime isn’t too clear – it’s basically just an excuse for the script to make an extremely lame Jailhouse Rock joke. (“Let’s see if a night in the jailhouse rocks some sense into you.”)
With Nate and Amaya in jail, it falls to Zari and Wally to save rock ‘n’ roll. Zari has a heart-to-heart with Wally and gently explains that sometimes with time-travel stuff you need a scalpel rather than a hammer, Wally’s super-speed being the hammer in this analogy. (A bit rich, coming from Zari the Time-Hacker, but let’s let that slide for now.) Anyway, Wally takes on board what she’s saying and he successfully sweet-talks Mean Uncle Lucious into letting them play the record on the radio, thereby setting Elvis on the road to stardom. Of course, Wally then has to super-speed the record to the radio station to make sure it gets there on time, a contradiction that Zari rightly acknowledges.
All’s well that ends well, right? Not quite. When Elvis’ record starts playing, his music literally raises the dead, and all the ghosts attack the church. There’s a fun call-back to the beginning of the episode, when Zari is annoyed with Wally for using his super-speed to beat all her Ms Pac-Man high scores, and the fact that the pair now have to use their powers to defeat real ghosts isn’t lost on either of them. Wally: “Let’s make Ms Pac-Man proud!”
Meanwhile, back on the Waverider, Ray, Sara and Mick (all of whom seem singularly unconcerned about saving rock ‘n’ roll or securing the Death Totem) are holding a eulogy for Josh Groban, sorry, Axl the Rat. Touching words are said (Sara: “Some might say he was the best of us”, etc), but then Elvis’ song starts playing and Axl turns into a giant Ghost Rat and runs off.
In the jailhouse, the ghosts start attacking (or, more accurately, drifting through the walls) and the cowardly sheriff lets Nate, Amaya and Elvis out of prison, so he can hide in the jail cell. It’s safe to say he hasn’t really thought that through, because the jail cell is just the standard iron bars affair and ghosts can go through walls anyway, and he is in no way safer in jail than he was out of jail, but no-one points that out, which seems like a missed opportunity. It’s also indicative of the lazy writing on this episode. Anyway, Elvis manages to make a ghost disappear by playing a note and Amaya says that he can lead the spirits back to their graves with the Death Totem.
They head to the church and Elvis sings Amazing Grace. This has the effect of bringing peace to all the restless souls, and all the ghosts disappear. It also brings Amaya and Nate closer together – they find their song (something that was very important to Nate) and dance and kiss in the church. The song also brings peace to Jesse’s ghost, and Elvis says a goodbye to him as he disappears. It ought to be very emotional, but it isn’t. Part of it is due to Bilyk’s performance – he does a decent accent and has both charm and personality, but there’s nothing recognisably Elvis-like about him. Basically, if you turned on the episode halfway through, you’d never guess that’s who he’s playing.
The other main problem with the episode is that it completely skirts over the fact that 1950s Memphis was a pretty racist place to be, and that the white church congregation wouldn’t have been too happy to see Nate and Amaya dancing and kissing in church. The closest we get to even a nod in that direction is the looks the Legends get when they show up in the first place, what with three minorities on the team and everything. The show has handled the racist 1950s well in the past (mostly when Jax was still on the team), so perhaps they felt they didn’t need to go there again, but the lack of acknowledgement really stands out and ends up hurting the episode.
It’s also a bit of a problem that Mick’s rat eulogy ends up being more emotional than the stuff with Elvis and Jesse. In the end, Axl’s ghost disappears along with the other ghosts and everything goes back to normal. Amaya shares the music of Zambesi with Nate, and it’s clear that the two are closer together than ever. In fact, it’s looking like a very safe bet that Nate will end up being Mari and Kuasa’s grandfather. At any rate, the chemistry between Nate and Amaya gets stronger with every episode, so there’s that.
So, Ray locks the Death Totem away in a special box, which begins shaking when no one’s looking. That’s the cliffhanger for the episode, apart from an all-too-brief pair of In Memoriam clips for Axl. Come back next time to see Mallus possess Sara (again) and John Constantine return (again)!
Footnotes of Tomorrow
– Ray’s touching eulogy to Axl is worth repeating: “I remember the first time I met Axl. It was in the vents. I was tiny Atom. He was a big rat. And he tried to eat me. I knew we’d laugh about it one day together.”
– No Darhks this time, despite the fact that they are just as eager to get their hands on the mysterious sixth totem. Would they have improved the episode? Very possibly.
– Keiynan Lonsdale somehow manages to play Wally as simultaneously super-sweet and super-annoying. He’s already a perfect fit for the team and his pairing with Zari was a lot of fun to watch. Here’s hoping he gets similar one-on-one chances with the other Legends before the season comes to an end.
Legends of Tomorrow Season 3 is available on Sky 1 every Wednesday. Don’t have Sky? You can stream it live or catch up on-demand through NOW, as part of a £7.99 monthly subscription, no contract. A 7-day free trial is available for new subscribers.