Monday, February 26, 2018

"The Curse Of The Earth Totem" Makes For Decidedly Mediocre Legends Of Tomorrow

The Good: Moments of character, Decent performances
The Bad: Simple and obvious plot, Unfortunately lame special effects
The Basics: Legends Of Tomorrow creates a pretty basic episode in the form of "The Curse Of The Earth Totem," as three plots don't quite come together in a satisfying way.

It is hard not to acknowledge - even for fans - that Legends Of Tomorrow is meandering in its third season. The season is shuffling around cast members, has not satisfactorily focused on a villain and is struggling to find new characters who resonate in interesting ways. So, after a season high, it is hard to come back to Legends Of Tomorrow with hope that its latest attempt to incorporate a character it had trouble integrating with another cast will yield a decent episode.

"The Curse Of The Earth Totem" was preceded by "Here I Go Again" (reviewed here!) and that episode climaxed with the appearance of Wally West. Wally West encounters Rip Hunter, a character who has been ill-defined and pretty much off the team since the climax of the first season when he lost his defining character arc (which was to stop Vandal Savage and restore his killed family to the timeline). West is a speedster who is a perfectly adequate and wonderful Flash who essentially got booted from The Flash when the executive producers found it impossible to write around any scenario that could be solved by having two Flashes in play at the same time (or they got tired of being forced to artificially knock one Flash out of play to keep only one in the hero position at a time). So, Legends Of Tomorrow might be a good venue for Wally West, as the team could benefit from a Speedster.

Opening in 1717 in the Bahamas, Blackbeard the pirate bestows a gift upon his pirate queen. The emerald he gives her is a totem and it almost instantly causes vines to erupt from the earth to kill her. While Ray Palmer briefs the Legends on the search for the sixth, previously unknown, totem, Captain Lance visits Star City for a date with Ava Sharpe. Horrified that the fire totem has fallen into the hands of Damien Darhk, the Waverider crew (less the Captain) visit the Bahamas to recover the Earth totem. Rip Hunter asks Wally West for help and West denies him aid, as he is eager to no longer engage his Speedster powers. In Nassau, Jiwe actually turns to Rory for advice in what to do with her desires to change the futures for her daughter and granddaughter. Rory starts talking up the Dread Pirate Jiwe, so she can get the attention of Blackbeard and that gambit works.

Unfortunately, the Darhks - Damien and Nora - arrive and Damien takes Jiwe's totem from her. Hunter and West get drunk together, which allows Hunter to convince West to use his powers to steal equipment from the Time Bureau. Escaping Darhk's cannonballs, Lance's date is broken up by Ava fleeing when Gary shows up and Lance sees the Waverider crash nearby. Trapped in 1717, Jiwe and Rory manipulate Blackbeard into getting them to Grace Island to recover the Earth Totem.

"The Curse Of The Earth Totem" starts as a pretty basic Legends Of Tomorrow episode. This is a pirate episode of Legends Of Tomorrow. As a Legends Of Tomorrow episode, there is a pretty obvious progression of screw-ups, reversals and antagonists who are unique to the setting and part of the larger arc. As such, this is an episode that is mostly about the setting and it blends the pirate tale poorly with the Hunter and Lance plots. For sure, Rip Hunter's tale is a story that begins with piracy, but it gels poorly with the rest of the plot.

Part of what makes "The Curse Of The Earth Totem" so mediocre is the reversal surrounding Blackbeard. Blackbeard is a coward, who gives up information to law enforcement easily and is nowhere near as fierce as the legends about him. So, the episode becomes an easy opportunity for Jiwe to rise to the occasion of the rumors that Rory and the other Legends start.

That said, the reversal near the end that puts a zombified Annie (Blackbeard's pirate queen) back in play is well-executed. As well, Amaya Jiwe is a compelling protagonist for the episode. Jiwe is a pragmatist in many ways and "The Curse Of The Earth Totem" gives the show a chance to play with her character a bit in a decent way. Maisie Richardson-Sellers has the talent and magnitude to carry an episode and she pairs surprisingly well with Dominic Purcell for most of "The Curse Of The Earth Totem."

Ray Palmer's big moment at the episode's climax promises major character conflict for him in the next episode . . . assuming the writers make a decent exploration of it. The hints of Palmer's slip from the lawful good that comes in "The Curse Of The Earth Totem" leads to a climax that follows his character (save his supposed intelligence) well. The progression of Lance and Sharpe is fun in "The Curse Of The Earth Totem," but the return of Rip Hunter and Wally West to the DC Television Universe is unfortunately mediocre.

The concept for the vine and zombie creature that is the affected Annie is an interesting one, but the special effects for the sequence are poorly rendered compared to most of the other effects, undermining the menace. Ultimately, "The Curse Of The Earth Totem" is a very average episode; every aspect of what it does well is offset by something is head-smackingly bad.


For other television reviews, please visit my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2018 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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