Wednesday, October 25, 2017

REVIEW: 'Legends of Tomorrow' - The Legends Try to Help an Outlaw From the Future in 'Zari'

The CW's Legends of Tomorrow - Episode 3.03 "Zari"

When Sara receives a distress call from their "befriended" agent at the Time Bureau, she learns that they have been tasked with going to the future to capture a rogue time traveler. Unfortunately, the Legends make things worse by trying to protect an outlaw named Zari, to hopefully lure in the time traveling assassin. Stein tries to diagnose Amaya's condition, but Nate discovers an unusual treatment that Amaya begrudgingly agrees to.

Legends of Tomorrow can oftentimes be the most fun series in the DC extended universe on The CW. It's a show where dinosaurs can rampage through Los Angeles while P.T. Barnum captures a bunch of time-traveling heroes after losing a saber-toothed tiger. It can be a very ridiculous show. "Zari" isn't as fun or cheeky as the first two episodes of the season. It's a necessary episode for the story of this season because it introduces some of the more ongoing concerns. The Legends meet a newcomer in Zari who comes to join their ranks by the end of the episode. The episode features the Legends fighting Kuasa for the first time after she's been resurrected. Amaya has gotten control over her totem again only to realize that the mysticism at play is going to have a larger role this season. All of this is useful information to have. The hour takes on a more serious tone as a result. It's a tone the show is more than comfortable incorporating as well. It still has a number of solid comedic beats too. This story still produces moments where Zari keeps running away from the team and Nate becomes useless after he gets high on a hallucinogenic plant from Amaya's home village. Those are solid moments of humor. But this episode moves pieces around the board in order to reveal the new ongoing story for the season. It's a fascinating introduction that proves to be very enticing as well.

So, the Legends once again find themselves traveling to the future and being horrified by the new world they encounter. They wind up in Seattle 2042 because Gary has released a distress signal. Gary isn't the most effective agent at the Time Bureau. It's nice that the show is continuing to flesh out that new entity for the season. They may not be friends for the Legends. Right now, they are the organization tasked with handling all of the problems created by the Legends breaking time. But right now, the Legends find themselves at the center of the latest life-changing event in history. It just so happens to be Gary out of his depth in the field. He's trying to track down a rogue time traveler. Instead, he discovers that woman to be Kuasa who happens to be a lethal metahuman. The show does a nice job in rendering her effects as well. She can control water which can be a deadly force for her in a number of different ways. Gary is in over his head. He's counting on the Legends to rescue him. He doesn't want their help. He wants the Time Bureau to rescue him. But he's stuck with the Legends for the majority of this episode.

Sara decides the best way to deal with this time traveler is to learn more about the woman she is hunting, Zari. This episode envisions a world controlled by an authoritative regime that has outlawed religion and metahumans. It's a bleak future that's made even more disturbing because the villainous entity happens to be A.R.G.U.S. That's a secret government agency that has been very helpful in the past on both Arrow and The Flash. In the present day of this extended universe, the audience is aware of who is running the operation - Lyla - and trusts that her leadership is sound and moral. This new world reveals that something has changed over the years. Now, A.R.G.U.S. is this villainous organization that is running experiments on metahumans. It's a bleak outlook for the future. It makes it difficult for Zari to believe that the Legends have saved the world twice because her experience of it is still pretty terrible. The Time Bureau is perfectly fine with that as well. They only want to deal with this intruder to the timeline. They want to ensure that everything goes the way it is suppose to go in regards to history. Meanwhile, the Legends see all of this and know that they must do better to help these people in their time of need. They are compassionate and still want to make a difference in the world.

That's the rationale Sara uses in order to convince the team to help rescue Gary at the top of the episode. The Legends help people throughout time. That has always been their mission. And now, helping people means staging an elaborate prison break. Jax is perfectly fine releasing all of these prisoners because it means breaking them free of their chains and this oppressive life. They can't do anything to change the reality of this world. Their impact is still going to be relatively small. Plus, it's still just one big ruse on Zari's part to trick the Legends into helping her. She's this badass Muslim woman who doesn't need help from anyone in order to survive. She's lasted for as long as she has based on her own skills. But she's willing to accept the help from the Legends because she wants to retrieve the mystical totem her brother had that was taken from him when he was killed. It's all a part of her tragic backstory. This world has made her into a criminal who distrusts everything. That should make her an interesting addition to the show. She already has a spark with Rory because they are both criminals in a world that doesn't understand them. Furthermore, Ray and Amaya play a significant role in the outcome of her story.

It is a little disappointing that all Amaya has to do to get her totem to work properly for her once more is to realize that she just needs to trust in its mystical powers. It feels like a very generic and lackluster thing to say that is suddenly given so much importance here. It's significant because it's her ancestors telling her this in the world between worlds. She is communicating with her ancestors through the plant that Nate suggests. It proves that the answers to Amaya's problem do come from the mysticism and not the science like Stein suggested. Nate takes her on this journey. It takes her to a place to communicate with her ancestors and learn how to control her powers once more. With Nate, it just makes him inessential to the eventual rescue of Zari. He's sidelined this week because he's too busy wandering around the ship high. Of course, it's incredibly reckless for him to do this without telling anyone else on the ship about his plan. He took the drugs to ensure that they were safe for Amaya. In doing so, he just becomes an amusing mess the rest of the Legends then have to put up with. It's funny though a bit familiar as well. It's much more rousing to see Amaya stand strong in battle with Kuasa and be able to defeat her with relative ease. And in the end, Kuasa disappears because she can't strike back at Amaya without risking her own existence. That's an intriguing tease. Moreover, it's important that Amaya is the one to convince Zari to join the Legends. Neither of them know the significance of their two totems being near each other. But they do recognize that they have been brought together for a reason and they should explore what that is.

All of this is exciting and new for the future. And yet, this episode also reveals that a pattern is starting to emerge this season. It's not too annoying at the moment but the potential is definitely there for it to completely derail things very quickly. Every episode this season has focused on the Legends believing they can handle something in the timeline with relative ease, they travel to their destination and make things worse, and then Agent Sharpe and the Time Bureau show up to criticize the way they do things. It's been an amusing and successful pattern. It's just gotten extremely repetitive. Things do escalate over the course of this episode. Sara and Sharpe play a game of chicken with their respective time ships. It's a moment where Sara is ready and willing to risk it all in order to ensure the survival of the mission. It proves to Sharpe just how reckless the Legends are capable of being. And now, she issues the threat that should they ever meet again the Legends will be arrested for being outlaws in the timeline. That's an ominous threat. In order for it to have narrative weight though, several episodes will need to go by where the Time Bureau doesn't appear at all. That may be tricky given everything that has happened this season already. But it should still be fascinating to see what all of this is building to.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Zari" was written by James Eagan & Ray Utarnachitt and directed by Mairzee Almas.
  • The way I understand it is the people who've seen the CW Seed animated series Vixen will have a more comprehensive understanding of what is currently going on with Kuasa and the various mystical totems. And yet, the show needs to make sure that it all makes sense for those in the audience who haven't watched that webseries. If it can't track by itself here, then it won't be a successful story.
  • There has been a very male-heavy vibe to this show throughout its first two seasons. Sara has been the captain of the ship but she is surrounded by a lot of testosterone. Amaya was a strong addition last season. And now, this season has added Sharpe, Kuasa and Zari. All of them have been compelling characters in this new story while offering very different perspectives as well. It's very much appreciated.
  • Zari's Muslim faith really isn't all that important to the story of this particular episode. The show feels the need to point it out. The visual of a Muslim lead character with superpowers is quite powerful. And so, the show better be prepared to tell stories about that. It should be fascinating to see how she practices her faith now that she has the freedom to do so without fear of persecution.
  • It's really starting to become noticeable that Victor Garber isn't onscreen as much as he used to be. He's preparing for his exit from the show. The narrative is in turn making it easy to accept that he isn't all that necessary. Of course, shouldn't it be a little reckless for Jax to go out into the field on dangerous missions without the opportunity to use his powers? It should at least be perceived that way.
  • The episode ends with a young Ray Palmer fleeing from bullies in the 1980s only to meet an unknown creature in the shadows of the sewer. It immediately plays as the show's take on Steven Spielberg or Stephen King stories of the time. That nostalgia is certainly having a moment right now with the success of It and Stranger Things. But will this show be able to find its own spin on it?