Tala Ashe (Photo: Bettina Strauss/The CW)

In the year 2042, an authoritarian regime has taken over the United States, banning religion and experimenting on imprisoned metahumans. This is the time period the Legends jump to when they intercept a distress call at the beginning of “Zari,” which introduces the newest addition to the team: the Muslim woman who gives the episode its name. Zari (Tala Ashe) is a wanted criminal with a long rap sheet and a mysterious connection to another time-displaced Legend, Amaya, and she’s trying to reunite with her family after their home was raided by A.R.G.U.S. and her brother was killed. She’s also the first target of the revived Kuasa, and while her motives aren’t clear, the totem that Zari acquires during the episode is probably a major motivator of Kuasa’s actions.

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Mystical totems play a big part in “Zari,” which features three different characters with connections to these supernatural objects. There’s Kuasa, who was in possession of Zambesi’s water totem when she was killed in Vixen’s second season and now has the power to turn herself into water. Amaya wears the spirit totem of Zambesi, and while we don’t know if Zari specifically possesses the air totem of Zambesi, it’s very likely that is the case given that Amaya’s totem activates when Zari wears hers. For those who haven’t watched the CW Seed Vixen animated series, here’s a rundown on the totems of Zambesi. There are five total, and each gives it wielder power over one of the five elements: air, earth, fire, water, and spirit. We saw fire, water, and spirit totems in Vixen, and it looks like the air totem is in play after this episode given that Zari has the power to fly on tornados and shoot gusts of wind when she puts the totem around her neck.

The action in 2042 is very familiar, throwing the team into an authoritarian future where the stakes are high and the tone is much more serious than what we’ve seen in this season thus far. These aren’t goofy antics at P.T. Barnum’s circus. These are bleak circumstances where people are being systematically oppressed, and when the Legends see just how bad the situation is, they have no choice but to take action. This season is starting to get a bit repetitive as it falls into a pattern of the Legends taking matters into their own hands, screwing things up, and then bringing the wrath of the Time Bureau down on them. Agent Sharpe once again shows up to reprimand the team, and once again has her authority undermined. She promises that next time she’ll go harder than ever, but I hope the show breaks from this routine for at least an episode or two.

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After meeting the team, Zari tricks them into helping her break her brother out of prison, but her brother is actually dead and she just needs them to help her break into the prison so she can get her brother’s totem. She doesn’t find her parents when she flies to the spot they had agreed to meet, and while she’s lost her family, she finds a new one when the Legends offer her a spot on their team. Tala Ashe is a charismatic actress that sells the emotional moments of this episode’s script, and she has strong chemistry with the rest of the group. She’s intense, but not overly so, and she recognizes that this series doesn’t demand an overly dramatic performance. I’m especially excited to see her interact with Mick over the course of the season, as he has immediately taken a liking to the newest criminal to join the group. She’s also going to be spending a lot of time with Amaya given the connection between their totems, and this episode suggests that we’ll be learning much more about their totems in the future.

Amaya gets her totem under control in this episode, but despite Martin’s insistence, science proves to be no help. The actual solution comes courtesy of a Zambesi root with hallucinogenic properties that Nate has Gideon synthesize, which takes Amaya on a vision quest that helps her figure out what’s going on with her malfunctioning powers. On that vision quest, Amaya meets one of her ancestors, who tells her that her totem has become stronger because she’s going to be facing a powerful threat. Amaya can’t be afraid of the totem; she needs to trust it or it will overpower her. This reassurance is exactly what Amaya needs, and when she faces off against Kuasa, she’s able to use her totem without losing herself in the process. She also gets a tease of her relationship with Kuasa during this encounter, and rather than continue fighting, Kuasa teleports away because destroying Amaya would mean wiping herself from the timeline.

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While the main plot of this episode is on the serious side, there’s still plenty of goofy material, most of it revolving around Nate tripping on the hallucinogen he took so that he could confirm it was safe for Amaya. It’s pretty standard “laugh at this character say and do stupid things while on drugs” humor, but it provides the levity I expect from this series at this point. Every episode of Legends needs to find room for lighter storylines like this, and given that next week’s episode is a pastiche of Steven Spielberg’s E.T., I’m confident that the creative team is going to maintain the breezy, fun tone that has made this show such a delight.

Stray observations

  • It was announced earlier this month that Victor Garber will be leaving this series after this season, and his minimal screen time in this episode suggests that he’s pretty tired of these superhero shenanigans.
  • If you’re looking for more Muslim superhero adventures, I cannot recommend G. Willow Wilson’s Ms. Marvel series enough. It’s one of Marvel Comics’ most consistently excellent titles, and it’s been better than ever this year as it addresses the current political climate.
  • Any other children of the ’90s reminded of The Secret World of Alex Mack whenever Kuasa melts into a puddle?
  • Last week we got a joke about Victor Garber and Titanic, and this week we get a joke about Dominic Purcell and Prison Break. I have no problem with this show mining meta-comedy from the cast members’ past roles. I fully expect Brandon Routh to have some variation of “Who do you think I am, Superman?” in a future episode.
  • I like Gary. I hope he’s a regular presence this season.
  • I associate vehicular chicken scenes with Bonnie Tyler’s “Holding Out For A Hero” thanks to Footloose, so that’s in the back of my mind when Sara and Sharpe face off in the timestream.
  • “I wanted to shoot someone!” Mick doesn’t get to shoot anyone in this entire episode!
  • Zari: “Really? You saved the world?” Ray: “Twice!” Zari: “Then why does it still suck?”
  • Jax: “Yo, are you high or something, man?” Nate: “You have no idea.”
  • Sara: “I don’t care what Gary says. We don’t need backup!” Ray: “Sara? We need backup!”
  • “Whoa. I really love this show.”

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