Photo: The CW

DC’s Legends Of Tomorrow has trained me to accept dumb plot points, but this week’s story about Elvis Presley’s haunted guitar is so stupid that it’s hard to swallow. “Amazing Grace” sends the team to 1954 Memphis to investigate an anachronism that turns the city into a ghost town, and it turns out Elvis’ guitar is adorned with the mysterious sixth totem, one that allows its bearer to summon the spirits of the dead. Elvis uses it to communicate with his twin brother who died in the womb, and writers Matthew Maala and Tyron B. Carter try to tie this plot into a more significant message about coming to terms with death and saying goodbye to those who have passed.

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The deeper thematic elements of this episode fall flat, but there’s a knowing sense of humor that keeps this episode from being a total disaster. The comedy is most aggressive on the Waverider, where Mick is taken on an emotional rollercoaster when his pet rat, Axl, is renamed Josh Groban, gets attacked by a flying guitar, and then dies after drinking some sort of poisonous fluid. Ray gives Axl a funeral with Mick and Sara in attendance, but when Elvis’ music starts pulling spirits out of their bodies, Axl comes back as a size-changing ghost rat. Mick eventually has one last heart-to-heart with Axl before he disappears forever, and the episode ends with a hilarious dedication to the rat as if he had been this show’s rodent mascot.

Mick and Axl’s farewell actually resonates more than Elvis saying goodbye to the ghost of his twin brother, and this storyline is so far-fetched that it’s hard not to laugh at every attempt at poignancy. This series has already visited the ’50s so this episode doesn’t offer much new in terms of design, and the connection to Elvis feels very arbitrary given the grave importance of the death totem. There has to be a different historical figure who struggled with a major loss that would be a better fit for this episode, because Elvis doesn’t give the episode any real emotional weight.

Photo: The CW

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Nate is the Legend most invested in this mission. He wants to help his rock ‘n’ roll idol achieve his destiny, but he also wants Amaya to share his appreciation for this music. It’s a good mix of big superhero stakes with a more relatable objective, and exploring a personal topic like mutual likes makes Nate and Amaya’s romance more believable. Amaya might not enjoy the sound of rock ‘n’ roll, but she does like Elvis’ rendition of “Amazing Grace,” and she and Nate have their first “musical moment” as they dance to the gospel tune. Amaya tells Nate she loves him at the end of the episode, and the closer they get, the more nervous I am about Amaya’s future on the team. We already know she’s feeling conflicted about her feelings for Nate and her responsibility to her descendants, and I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s tragically pulled back to her timeline just as she and Nate are about to make a greater commitment to each other.

“Amazing Grace” doesn’t engage with the fact that much of Elvis’ music was inspired if not taken directly from black artists, and while an argument could be made that Elvis brought rock ‘n’ roll to the mainstream with his music, saying that the genre wouldn’t exist without him is a stretch. There’s acknowledgement that the spirit of rock ‘n’ roll was born in the black-owned bars, clubs, and jook joints on Beale Street, but other than that, the episode gives very short shrift to the black musicians that shaped Elvis’ sound and attitude. This series doesn’t have the best track record when it tackles race relations, but I’d rather see the writers try to address these topics instead of ignoring them.

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Wally West brings a dopey energy to the team, and whenever he uses his superspeed to complete a task, he has the self-satisfied look of a puppy that has successfully fetched an object and brought it back for another throw. He’s paired up with fellow season 3 newbie Zari for most of this episode, and she’s trying to teach him that fixing history isn’t the same as stopping a bank robbery. It requires precision and delicacy rather than sheer force, and Wally can potentially make things worse if he doesn’t think through his actions. That said, his superspeed does come in handy a lot, and this subplot has a very fun conclusion as Wally and Zari face off against ghosts after talking about Ms. Pac-Man earlier in the episode. Keiynan Lonsdale and Tala Ashe immediately establish a chummy rapport between their characters, and as Lonsdale interacts with more and more cast members, it becomes exceedingly clear that he’s a great fit for this team dynamic.

Stray observations

  • Is Dominic Purcell difficult to work with? It feels like he’s been given subplots that don’t require him to interact with the rest of the team.
  • How did Mick get so many communion wafers?
  • The actor playing Elvis is very bad at pretending to play the guitar.
  • Wally dabs when he starts dancing with Zari. What a dork.
  • “Who the hell’s Josh Groban?
  • “What happened to my trademark volume and sheen?”
  • Sara: “One hip shake and Z loses it.” Nate: “Yeah, tell me about it, sister.” Zari: “I didn’t lose control because of Elvis’ hips.” Nate: “Yeah, me neither.”
  • “Let’s see if a night in the jailhouse rocks some sense into you.” This line is awful.
  • “Mick, don’t panic. You just forgot to chew again!”
  • “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.”

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