Why is Zari’s copy of Guitar Hero now called Trombone Hero? Who changed the label of Mick’s rat’s food bowl? Where did Nate’s hair product go? Turns out it’s all because Elvis Presley never became famous after he came into possession of the Death Totem, and the Legends have to retrieve it while ensuring history doesn’t change, which proves tricky when the damn thing turns out to be Elvis’s muse.
Oh, and Mick’s rat goes missing. This is an odd episode.
1. The King
Luke Bilyk makes a fine young Elvis Presley, and admirably doesn’t try to do an overt impression of the great man, which makes sense when you remember a person’s voice tends to only get that rich and deep when they’re much older. For me, the big question going into the episode was whether the show would acknowledge his untimely demise, and I think Nate’s last conversation with him reflects that ultimately, Elvis accomplished a lot, and it was still better for the Legends to help him continue on that path, instead of having him remain anonymous. As silly as the final episode is, it was conceptually arresting to mix Elvis being haunted by his twin’s death with literal ghosts.
I was going to compliment Bilyk’s singing voice, but the credits revealed none other than Jess Harnell (aka Wakko from Animaniacs) supplied Elvis’s singing voice. Can we please have an animated crossover episode? I think Sara and Dot would get on amazingly well.
From the start, where Elvis buys the cursed guitar (why would you have a cursed guitar on display anyway?) from a black shopkeeper, the episode was keen to remind the audience how indebted Elvis, and the entire rock n’ roll movement, was to black gospel or blues singers. However, it fumbled quite a bit in not acknowledging that rock’s origins in black culture was the reason older conservative folks like Elvis’s uncle hated it so much, by that point, “devil’s music” was already a rather old dog whistle.
How did a Zambesian totem wind up in the South? I think it came on a slave ship, and it’s possible the totem was linked to all these slaves buried far from their homeland in the US. (And for the record, “Amazing Grace” is an 18th century hymn by John Newton where he expresses hope God has forgiven him for his slavetrading past.) There was a lot of thematic potential that could’ve come from the final act of Elvis reconciling the past with his music, but none of it was built upon, and as it is the ghosts all looked very generic.
3. Zari and Wally
Despite getting off on the wrong foot with Zari last week, the two were paired together a lot this week and were quite sweet, with her becoming like a big sister to the speedster. However, I have to go back to my issues with race in this episode: how weird is it, with her being the only Iranian congregant at Elvis’s church, that his uncle is unable to recognize her? She had levitated in his church and he is somehow calm when she asks for Elvis’s record back? I liked the part where Z acknowledged she worships the same god as the pastor, albeit under a different name, but I’m wary in this day and age of a fundamentalist bigot like him still being painted in a sympathetic light.
I honestly didn’t remember Mick had a pet rat (it’s been a while since I saw that episode where a shrunken Ray had a run-in with them, ok?), and while the Josh Groban lines were funny, I found the whole subplot pretty desperate. Ray’s funeral for the little guy made him come across as even more of a caricature than usual, and Mick’s discontent at everything changing around him felt like a sign that the writers aren’t even what to do with him anymore. But folks, have you forgotten? Mick is the one person on the Waverider who ought to be content with everything. I just hope this isn’t foreshadowing that the best character is leaving the show.
Then there was the bit where Axl’s ghost grew enormous before scurrying off. So that happened I guess.Continued below
5. A music moment
Ah Nate, hoping for a normal romantic couples’ moment where they both sway to great live music, unable to cope with the fact his relationship with Amaya is anything but normal. So Amaya didn’t listen to any modern music during her time in the present between seasons two and three? As Ron Burgundy would say, I don’t believe her. Still, it’s nice to have some reminder of when she’s from, as she’s never really come across as someone from the early 20th century.
This episode didn’t really gel together, but hopefully Constantine’s return next week will mean there’ll be some real tension.