REVIEW: Legends of Tomorrow, S3E3 – Zari

“Zari” opens in Seattle 2042, where Kuasa (guest star Tracy Ifeachor) intercepts an ARGUS van carrying a prisoner and makes short work of the officers inside. The entirety is recorded on video by a terrified Gary (guest star Adam Tsekhman), who calls in a Code 99. This message is of course picked up by Sara (Caity Lotz), who immediately sets out to rescue him no matter how much she hates the Time Bureau, and thus begins one of the best episodes of Legends of Tomorrow yet.

Nothing better than referential humor.

The animosity between Sara, Gary, and his Time Bureau boss Ava Sharpe (guest star Jes Macallan) creates layers to the story that previous seasons have lacked and helps push the plot along – but the main reason for the episode’s success is due to Zari (Tala Ashe) herself. Not only does Ashe give a stellar performance that breathes life into the character from the moment of her introduction, but the writers flesh out her background and the world she comes from well enough to firmly establish her as part of the show before she even steps foot on the Waverider. Mick Rory (Dominic Purcell) feels an immediate connection to her due to their respective criminal activity – and just as importantly gets to say “Prison Break” because of her. Amaya (Maisie Richardson-Sellers) senses a kinship with her that goes even deeper than that. Both of these threads and more work together to make “Zari” feel like one cohesive tale in a way that previous episodes haven’t.

Speaking of Amaya, her bond with Zari emerges from her inability to control her totem. She and Stein (Victor Garber) spend the beginning of the episode bickering about whether her issues stem from science or mysticism, until Nate (Nick Zano) steps in because Amaya remains a siren call to him. To stave off Stein’s so-called mansplaining, Nate very sweetly but misguidedly proposes he and Amaya go on a vision quest together using an herb (which sounds remarkably similar to Peru’s Ayahuasca) from her village. While this does nothing for him but prove once more that he is at his most hilarious when under the influence, it does send Amaya on a spiritual trip to the the world between worlds. This is where her ancestor cautions that the totem is reacting to a new threat that has grown more powerful. “Find the girl, she needs your protection,” she advises. And who is that girl? None other than Zari.

Everyone got a chance to shine here.

The rest of Legends of Tomorrow this week was made up of action sequences and sight gags, but they were all enjoyable to watch. Highlights include: Sara and her sticks going up against Kuasa and her water magic, only to be diverted by Mick starting a fight with the entire bar. Then there was Jax (Franz Drameh) releasing every metahuman in the prison rather than allow them to be experimented on by ARGUS, showcasing his big heart and leading to his request that they not return Zari to such a place later on. Sara playing a game of chicken against Ava with her entire team’s lives on the line just so they could rescue Zari and Ray (Brandon Routh) was a nail-biting moment that paid off spectacularly. Even if it left poor Stein discombobulated and out of sorts. Finally, perhaps the most surprising moment of the night was Amaya finally harnessing the power of her totem to face off against Kuasa, only to discover that she was a relative.

At the end of the strong episode, the Legends gained one more team member in Zari, who previously broke down and confessed her tragic backstory to Ray. A battle against the police state’s injustice cost her a family, but hopefully she can make a new one on the Waverider and right some of her time’s wrongs while doing it. If that weren’t enough, the hour concluded with a peek at Ivy Town in 1988, where baby Ray Palmer runs away from bullies only to encounter something far more sinister lurking below. Clearly a tease for next week that’s enough to keep me patiently expecting it. We still don’t know how the pieces of the season fit together, but I for one will be counting “Zari” among my favorite Legends episodes so far.

Legends of Tomorrow airs Tuesdays at 9/8c on the CW.