Sunday’s Wisdom #174: A Peace Pipe and a Tomahawk

“I hold a peace pipe in one hand and a tomahawk in the other.”
– President Touches Clouds, Wearing the Cape
By Marion G. Harmon

And there you have effective personal and international relationships in a nutshell. 😉

In the Wearing the Cape universe, super-powered people are pretty common. Following their advent, every nation descended into chaos, some worse than others. The damage in the USA was limited mostly by the work of superheroes, among them a Native American woman named Touches Clouds. She has since gone on to become the nation’s elected president and has maintained peace and security on the whole, which, in such a tumultuous world, is no small achievement.

This is how she did it.

She worked with everyone who was willing to work with her, reaching agreements which were of mutual benefit to all parties involved. But, of course, people don’t simply obey, follow, agree with, talk to, or even tolerate someone just because that is preferred. No, there are and always will be people who only respond to force, and must be met with force. One can be as nice and charismatic as heck, but there must be serious consequences in store for those who do truly harmful things.

An adorable dog might be easily loved, but only a fool forgets that it has teeth.

Someone very clever once asked the question, “Is it better to be feared or loved?”

The answer is: yes.

Yes, it is better to be either feared (preferably by one’s enemies) or loved (preferably by one’s friends), because if one is neither of those things, then one has no defense whatsoever against the predators of the world.

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This Week on TV, Mar. 17, 2018

Spoiler Alert!

This is just how I like my weeks: powerful, intriguing, fun, enjoyable, endearing, and twisting things together as we start moving not just through the story, but towards the finale. 🙂

So, without further ado, let’s dive into how Black Lightning is making everything go wrong in the right way, Gotham is reforging old bonds, and Agents of Shield is setting up the end of the world that the agents are trying to stop.

Black Lightning

1.08 “Revelations”

Picking up after last episode, we have the mysterious return of Lala, Black Lightning’s status as being wanted for murder, developments within the Pierce family, and the shadowy game that Gambi is playing.

That first, Lala’s return, is simultaneously irrelevant and unnerving. He’s simply up and about again, with no idea how or why, but he has the ghost of LaWanda keeping him company, talking in his head. He basically just walks into his club, empty except for a couple of his old minions, and gets a ride home with them before taking a shower. That’s pretty much all he does this episode, but he’s also talking to himself, and talking crazy. Now that would be unnerving, seeing your dead boss come back and talk to himself about killing you. Urging Lala to kill the guy driving the car, I am wondering if this specter of LaWanda is trying to make Lala dead again, or if it’s just, you know, him being crazy. Either way, I would personally want to stay far, far away from him.

Jeff is training Anissa, among other things to control herself and her anger, including and most especially how quickly she’s viewing other people as enemies to destroy. Keeping my opinion on that as politic-free as possible here, I shall simply say that this tendency to divide ourselves against each other has gotten rather rampant and it seems to me that it benefits no one but those in power. Divide and conquer, as they say. There comes a point where we have to stop being so easily offended, start forgiving and living together, and stop trying to make other people “better.” We can’t save the world by beating down half the people in it.

Jeff, through his long years of experience, knows at the very least that there is a difference between an enemy combatant and someone you just don’t like.

He also knows that Anissa has a lot to learn. He’s teaching her about observation and instincts, situational awareness and caution. Her life and the lives of others are at stake in the field, and if she breathes too loudly (as Thunder) at the wrong moment, she’s dead.

She also needs to learn control, and how to alter just how much strength she uses. With one finger, she can dislodge a brick from a sturdy wall. At full force, there’s no longer a wall to worry about. She needs to learn how to function between the extremes, more than a mosquito and less than a cannonball.

For a training mission, of sorts, Jeff and Anissa investigate Lady Eve’s murder. He’s been blamed for it simply because it’s electrocution, which has not been well-received by the community, who apparently liked Eve, unaware of her true face. So they break into the morgue (via a demolished wall) and examine the evidence. Between them, they learn that it was done with a weapon, a gun with so much power behind it, it’s actually radioactive. The good news there: it’s easy for Gambi to find.

It’s against his wishes, though, which we’ll get to in just a moment.

They find it, the weapon and the man who wielded it both in a shallow grave, Jeff calls Henderson, gives up the coordinates, and they wait. Mind you, being in civilian identity, calling the authorities in superhero identity and then waiting for them to arrive might not be the most sound of ideas. But if they didn’t, they’d never have seen what happened. Someone in the corrupted department tipped off Tobias, I imagine, and he sent someone expendable to take care of the situation. By picking up the radioactive electro-gun and fiddling with it. Jeff was just about to make an approach to the stranger, when Anissa noticed what was happening and put it together. The gun blew up, taking the man and all the evidence with it, and would have taken Jeff too if she hadn’t shielded him.

Jeff has a moment of being a proud dad for that.

He’s about to have even more on his plate, though. Somehow, both Anissa and Jennifer are manifesting their abilities right on each others’ heels. In Jennifer’s case, she got out of cleanup duty at her mother’s lab, was hanging with her friend, and had a moment where her friend seriously scared her with the sort of stupid stunt that is sadly typical of the young. In that moment, where she thought her friend was going to fall and break her neck, her eyes glowed and she electro-fried her phone and the fliers she was holding. Taking more directly after her father, apparently. She tried it again later, and succeeded.

Now, unlike the wildly-independent and stubborn Anissa, Jennifer went and immediately talked to her family about this, specifically her sister. Heh, it’ll be interesting to see how Anissa reacts when the tables are turned, and it’s her turn to think about the welfare of a loved one as they manifest abilities.

Finally, and most serious of all, we have Gambi. Things finally start coming into focus about him. It all comes out when Lynn, realizing that the “corporate thieves” who ransacked her lab stole only Alvin Pierce’s files and robbed the lab handling the sample of white powder he had, manages to put some pieces together. This is partially sheer dumb luck, which, let’s face it, that is often the difference between success and failure, but she has results, giving her hard data to work with. There was some kind of vaccine thirty years ago, which Alvin was investigating, and Green Light is virtually identical to it. So, as Jeff’s suggestion, she goes to Gambi, looking for help.

Gambi takes one look and realizes that he’s suddenly backed into a corner. He can’t talk to Lynn about this, and he can’t create a lie about it either. The only way out is through, now. So, he has to tell Jeff everything.

Some thirty years ago, Gambi came to Freeland in the guise of a humble tailor, but really he was an agent for a secret organization called the ASA. The ASA used Freeland as an experiment, the same as they are now, where the city is a lab and the people are the guinea pigs. There was a drug administered in the form of a vaccine, intended to make the people more docile and complacent, more accepting of whatever was done to them. An enslaving drug. Though Gambi had no part in it, he beheld the results, and they were most surprising, as people, children, began exhibiting metahuman abilities. He turned against the ASA then, but he maintained his cover, his role in their organization, he didn’t actually leave it. What he did was leak information of the experiment to one Alvin Pierce. Alvin investigated, and the ASA used Tobias to murder him for it.

And now the shape of things begins to come into focus. Gambi took Jeff in, helped raise him, trained him, pushed him on as Black Lightning, and he’s done the devil’s deeds, lying, killing, double-dealing, all to protect Jeff and his family. That has been his purpose ever since Alvin’s death.

I still don’t trust him anymore, of course. His only hope in the world is the Pierce family, and he does whatever he believes he must to protect them, no matter what it is. It’s that narrow view of what he protects that worries me, even more than his willingness to do anything for his agenda. He’s lied, kept secrets, and he was Eve’s own assassin just last episode. He stands with one foot in the underworld of the ASA, dealing with their officials as he did with Eve, and he is very much part of the darkness and suffering he pushes Jeff to fight against. All of this, and all he protects is one family, and only that much because they are connected to Jeff, who is connected to one good man whose death Gambi blames himself for. Perhaps he sees it as his atonement, but it consumes everything he does and everything he aims for.

To protect the descendants of Alvin Pierce, Gambi lets the world burn, and even lights the match on occasion.

There is something very wrong and very dangerous about that, and, most of all, very, very unpredictable, which means he’s unreliable and untrustworthy. Sure, he’ll protect the Pierces, but what if someone close to them is a danger to them? What if one Pierce becomes a danger to the rest? What if he adamantly believes that he needs to protect them even from themselves? What would he do? I don’t like to consider it.

He only confesses because withholding the truth would endanger them further, so he must tell them the truth.

And the truth ends with how the ASA, led in this region by Martin Proctor, and under the belief that Black Lightning killed Eve, considers him a danger to them, so they want him dead. They’re putting a price on his head. More specifically, Proctor wants Gambi himself to put out that bounty, thankfully unaware of their relationship. Proctor is quick to assume Black Lightning’s guilt, quick to preserve himself, and slow to listen to Gambi’s opposition to the idea. He clearly does not value human life, judging by his passing reference to dissected metahumans. So it seems that the abducted children, and who knows who else, were taken and killed. Yet, interestingly, he seems to think that they can’t make their own metahumans, or at least that Black Lightning can’t teach them anything about doing so, yet Tobias, Tory, the girl (Cyanide?), and all the Green Light victims would seem to indicate otherwise. And Eve did say she left the association, so, are the ASA and the Shadow Board which Tobias referred to the same, or not?

Unfortunately, the truth begins with how Gambi contributed to the situation that led to Alvin’s death. Everything he’s done, and it comes down to that. That’s a lot of pain which Jeff’s carried around, and placed squarely on Tobias, but now Gambi’s confession links him to that same pain, as if he were the source of it. That’s a heavy blow to any soul, and Jeff is very, very angry and upset, so much that even as Gambi warns him that he has to stop being Black Lightning, or else he and both of his daughters will die, all he can do is tell Gambi to stay away.

So, Lala’s back and crazy, all the evidence that could clear Black Lightning’s name gets blown up, leaving him at the mercy of the almighty organization in the shadows which is hunting him, Jennifer’s powers are manifesting, and Jeff just cut ties with his mentor and strong support, because the man is a liar and connected to the death of his father.

That about sum-up how badly things are going?


4.14 “Reunion”

An interesting choice in title. Appropriate, given that rifts are healed and old friends reunite, but other bonds are broken and devastating loss strikes with little warning.

Though she hasn’t been given the name yet, Poison Ivy makes her public debut. Her experiments with plants and the Lazarus water have yielded a bloom which, when blown on, scatters its seeds like a cloud of petals, taking root in flesh, feeding on blood, and quickly bursting out of the victim’s body in a bloody mess. It’s a gruesome, horrifying way to go.

In addition to the couple whose home she took over and tested her bloom out on at the end of last episode, at least five more people find out exactly how terrible a death it is. Four of them just happen to be at the bar where Bullock works. Ivy wanted to kill him because he shot and killed her father to save Gordon after the man was set up to take the fall for the Wayne murders. Lacking him, she kills the rest just because.

Ivy also sent a tape to a news station, declaring how everyone who hurt her was going to pay, and everyone else, too, was going to pay for hurting plants.

See, that’s the thing about villains like her. Unlike those who seek for power, revenge, or simple chaos for the sake of chaos, they devote themselves entirely to one piece of the world and completely ignore the balance of the whole. She talks about how plants are necessary and we kill them, but she doesn’t see how plants need us too. Not just because we cultivate and protect them, but simply because we are part of the other half of nature: animals. Plants take carbon dioxide, remove the carbon, and release oxygen. We take the oxygen, add carbon, and release carbon dioxide. Plants and animals need each other to breathe, and to eat. The balance between the two is absolutely vital.

Ivy, having no understanding of this and believing herself to be completely in the right, does unspeakable things, including murder and, even worse, robbing others of their own free will.

Needless to say, she is quite suddenly the GCPD’s top priority. They don’t have many leads, but they still find her lair, and Gordon manages to find and warn Bullock before Ivy gets to him. Bullock then gets on the case as well, but chooses to work alone. That does not go well, as he does find Ivy, but gets hypnotized by her as well, luring Gordon to the scene and trying to kill him, which will then be followed by killing himself.

It’s a tense showdown between the two men who were partners, who’ve both failed each other and had a falling out. Oddly enough, it works to force them to say what they’ve held back on, letting it out and making their grievances clear. So, once Gordon is able to knock Bullock’s senses back into them, they’re able to work together almost like old times, putting the pieces together the way partners do. Between what Ivy was saying and doing, they realize she’s targeting a group of rich people at a party that very night.

You guessed it: a charity event hosted by Bruce Wayne.

Speaking of Bruce, now that he’s been made to look within, to see how false his party-self is and how much more there is for him to do and become, he finally goes back to Alfred. He’s agonizingly slow to apologize, and doesn’t even do so at their first meeting in a cafe. He tries to invite Alfred to the charity dinner, he begs Alfred to come back, to help him. But Alfred, wisely, says no. He’s not going to make this easy, nor should he, and he’s not going to just give Bruce a pass after what he did to their relationship. If Bruce has actually become a different, better man, then he has to prove it, to show it, and how he does that is his to figure out.

Still, Alfred shows up to the dinner and catches Bruce’s speech. It starts out as something rehearsed and professional, but then, speaking almost exclusively to Alfred, he bares his heart. It’s moving and sincere. Alfred responds by telling him he can’t help him… not until Bruce accepts all of himself, good and bad alike. He went off the rails as a party boy because of that, exactly, he refused to accept his entire self and what he did. It’s difficult for Bruce to hear, though, and he tries to walk away. At least, until Ivy invades, holds everyone at gunpoint, kills a guy just for fun, and promises to do the same to all the rest.

That’s another moment of truth for Bruce. It’s a moment where he has to go back to his purest desire: to help people. Not just saving Alfred, but everyone.

It could have gone a little more smoothly, as Gordon happened on the scene when he was tangling with one of Ivy’s men and shot him – smart, Bruce, wearing a vest, and smart, Gordon, for using nonlethal rounds – before he ran off just on instinct. Gordon’s first encounter with the elusive future vigilante.

So, Ivy’s debut is not entirely successful, but it certainly makes an impact. And then she goes back to her lair for the last of the Lazarus water and finds Selina waiting for her. Her oldest, dearest friend, come to stop her by force, the first collision between Poison Ivy and the future Catwoman. And Selina Kyle may be no hero, but neither is she going to just stand by and let Ivy murder everyone in her path. Selina manages to get the water and break the vial its in, and then it’s just a matter of who will kill who. Ivy has her fingernails at Selina’s throat, and Selina has a knife at Ivy’s gut. Until Selina throws it away, and Ivy has her completely at her mercy. That was a seriously scary moment, but Ivy… some tiny part of her honored their old friendship, but that friendship is at an end as of now.

That’s one bond broken.

Alfred goes back to Wayne Manor with Bruce, and he’s there to stay, while Gordon and Bullock finally come to terms. Bullock blamed Gordon for everything, but he should have taken responsibility. And Gordon, he messed up. He messed up bad in dealing with Sofia Falcone, and like it or not, he just can’t make things right on his own. He needs his friend.

Especially now that Sofia makes her move against him, and does so indirectly. Instead of going after Gordon himself, she goes after Lee. She demands a percentage that Lee can’t pay, she ignores Lee’s offer to bow down to keep the peace, and that’s only to start with. Nygma helps her realize that what Sofia wants is to control Gordon, and offers to help her do that. Sofia responds by having her men kill Lee’s, bringing in Lee’s old enemy Samson to run the Narrows, and ousts her from her position… including hammering her left hand to pieces.

That. Was a mistake. Lee may have been betrayed by her own people, but I’m sure some of them preferred her to Cherry, Samson, and Sofia. She was a healer and still must have some good will built up from that. Grundy might be Butch again, but he’s still very strong. And her thing with Gordon might be long since over, but she still holds a special place in his heart. Gordon has been weighed down by guilt, but now he has Bullock’s support again, and a fresh fire ignited in his gut. It’s time for the two to go to war again, and while Sofia is a masterful manipulator, she didn’t do so hot the last time things erupted into open warfare.

Someone rather famous once said something about awakening sleeping giants and filling them with terrible resolve, to the effect of, “That’s a bad idea.”

Finally, we have the culmination of Nygma’s struggle with the Riddler. He’s scarfing down meds to keep the monster within contained, to keep Lee safe. But when the Riddler points out that he’d have to kill himself to truly protect Lee from him, Nygma intends to do so. Riddler becomes desperate at the critical moment, and Nygma’s desire to live drives him to listen one more time. He checks himself into Arkham instead. But that’s exactly what Riddler wanted, because that was what Penguin instructed in a coded message in the letter he sent, all so Penguin could say his name and finally unleash him once again.

With a word, Nygma is gone again, and the Riddler runs the show.

Penguin and Riddler, together again.

So, that’s at least three bonds reconnected between men, and one or two severed among the women. Alfred is back with Bruce, Bruce is ready to heed his calling again, Bullock is back with Gordon, Gordon is ready to do what needs to be done, Riddler and Penguin have joined forced within Arkham, Ivy has made her presence felt and severed ties with Selina, Sofia has poked the bear by ousting Lee in a traumatic manner… did I miss anything?

Agents of Shield

5.13 “Principia”

So many things happening, and so much weird crap that Shield is dealing with, it actually gets to be “normal” in a way.

Most urgent on this episode’s docket is dealing with the extended consequences of the fear dimension rift in the basements. The gravitonium patch they slammed on it is holding, but it won’t last forever, and they’re already experiencing more of it. This time, Deke sees his mother, hears her reassurance, only to watch her be cut down by Kree, who tries to kill him too.

At the same time, they’re dealing with the fallout of Yo-Yo’s double amputation, which is finally starting to bear its weight down on them. Coulson’s able to support her some, from his own experience, and Simmons is able to offer medical and emotional support as well. Mack is ever the romantic soul, sharing why he won’t care if her arms are fake, because it’s her soul he loves. But, also the mechanic, he’s keen on helping her have limbs again too. It might not be the same, but it’s better than nothing. Unfortunately, they’re short on materials they can use for that right now.

Luckily, they have a lead that could handle both objectives simultaneously: Cybertek. Back in the first season, Cybertek was a Hydra company, the link between several things the agents encountered. They were behind the gravitonium, for instance, which happens to be what they need for the rift, and they were also behind Deathlock, which included robotic arms. So, two birds, one stone. They just need to get hold of one of the old scientists.

Odd, though, it seems that all the old scientists are dead. And all the death certificates are signed by one man. Who is a ghost, they don’t even have a proper picture of him. Indications of clandestine activity, much?

The ghost guy turns out to be an old friend of Mack’s. They met at Shield’s academy, became close friends before the one got drummed out. Still worked for the good guys, though, so when they went recruiting the scientists that Hydra coerced into working for them, he did the footwork, gave them new identities, helped them disappear. Not everyone’s built for Shield, but he seems like a pretty good guy. When he learns the world is in danger and the agents need to talk to one of his subjects, he helps them, tags along to see the mission done, and even starts sniffing around for other things that can help them out. In exchange, he gets a glimpse into the supremely weird world of Shield in the form of a floating marine ship, Principia.

The ship, it turns out, was tasked with taking the gravitonium somewhere overseas when it was caught in a storm. Everyone who knew assumed it sank, but Deke, as annoying as Fitz might find him, offers a perspective that tells them to look up instead of down. A stray lightning strike, the gravitonium charges up and lifts the entire ship high into the sky, floating on the currents of the wind instead of the water below.

The entire crew, anyone who didn’t fall off, must have retreated to the inside of the ship to try and do something to survive, but they didn’t make it. They all died of extreme hypoxia. Then General Hale must have come along some time, found the ship in the sky, taken most of the gravitonium, and left behind some robotic sentries. Deke’s expertise let them get off the ship with their prize, but it’s a near thing with the robots attacking. Fortunately, that also gives Mack his bonus prize: robot arms for Yo-Yo.

So, not quite how they imagined it, but it’s still a double victory and they’re starting to realize that they need to turn their attention to Hale directly. The woman keeps trying to kill them and she’s a step ahead far too often. They don’t know the half of it just yet.

Turns out, Hale had dealings with the Struckers. She wasn’t Hydra, but they aligned often enough. Now she means to finish off Shield, and the team she’s putting together includes Ruby, Creel, and now Strucker’s son, Werner or whatever his name was. After we saw him in the third season, he’s recovered quite a bit from the brain-damaging ordeal. Indeed, his memory is absolutely perfect, and he’s proving adept at gathering pieces of information together, always perfectly preserved in his mind. Unfortunately, that’s a huge strain, living as if he is reliving every moment, including every horror, all over again, all at once. He’s insane, and dangerous. But he has information, knowledge, which is power, which what Hale wants. So, she makes to recruit him.

At first, all young Strucker wants is to die. He wants the pain to end. He wants his brain lobotomized, his existence over, his life done, his suffering ended. Hale won’t give him that, but she won’t force him to stay either, she says. No, she can’t force cooperation in this instance. So she tries seduction, via Ruby.

Now, Ruby, played by Dove Cameron, is certainly a little hottie, but seduction, especially that of someone like Strucker, is about far more than just physical appeal. It’s about connection, offering what is truly wanted and needed, and leaving it maybe just within the realm of possibility, if one chooses to pursue it. And Ruby seduces masterfully. Not just with a body, but with the hope of overwriting the man’s suffering with better memories, new memories. She also offers a way out from under the people who use them, like her mother does. The team Hale is gathering, Ruby wants to make it hers, and with Strucker, it would be theirs. A place for him to belong, a way for him to feel powerful, a chance to connect and feel human again… and an opportunity to come out on top. Such as, on top of Hale’s cold, dead corpse. Ruby is planning to destroy her mother.

Strucker has the night to think it over. And he stays.

When Hale asks Ruby what she said to him, Ruby just says, “The truth.”

Savage dogs can turn on their keepers, a tied noose may fit any neck as easily as any other, and Hale’s new team may well be her own undoing, which, I don’t particularly mind, but I worry about what havoc may be wreaked once Hale’s tenuous control over Ruby and the others is finally severed.

Maybe Ruby and the others use the gravitonium to destroy the world that has hurt them so, and they manage to do so because they offer the agents a way to save Coulson.

Heh, I love when I have time to think about what’s gonna happen! So many possibilities and you have no idea which one it’ll be! 🙂

So, the agents are doing well, their on the rise again, but the end of the world approaches, and I suspect it will be tied to the impending mutiny Hale will be experiencing.

Oh, and Deke realizes, when Simmons says something that his mother always used to say, that Fitz-Simmons are his grandparents. Aww, they are so cute together!

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Sunday’s Wisdom #173: Honorable Honesty

“You’ll follow through on your word.”

“Or what?”

“Or no one will ever respect you.”

– Tamas & Taniel, The Autumn Republic
By Brian McClellan

Skipping all of the spoiler-filled details this late in McClellan’s Powder Mage trilogy, I will simply say this is a moment where a father, Tamas, is instructing his son, Taniel, on the virtue of maintaining his integrity. Taniel has been in some tight spots, but he’s had friends to help him through them, in exchange for his word in fulfilling certain obligations at a later date. He’s finding the fulfillment of his oaths a bit uncomfortable, which leads to this quote, where he wants to defy his father’s order, but his father turns it into a teaching moment instead.

It’s a very good one, isn’t it?

When we think of people who keep their word, we acknowledge that as a redeeming virtue, often regardless of whatever failings they’ve manifested. There is something about us, as people, that knows how important and how valuable our honor really is. If you can’t trust someone, after all, then you can’t trust them.

If any man is unworthy of trust, is he worthy of respect?

How much “respect” do we give liars and cheaters and people who never keep their word? Not much. We may sometimes accord them honors in relation to other skills and accomplishments, but trust and respect? No.

Even liars do not respect fellow liars.

Quite the opposite, when they take such pains to justify themselves by proclaiming that surely no one is actually honest, they are just debasing everyone around them to excuse their own faults. They roll in the mud rather than rising above it, and they don’t hesitate to sling that mud in the face of a fellow mud-roller.

To be a man worthy of respect begins, first and foremost, with honesty. There may be no guarantee of others’ esteem, but, at the very least, an honest man can respect himself. A liar, not so much.

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This Week on TV, Mar. 10, 2018

Spoiler Alert!

This was a pretty good week. Things take a dramatic turn halfway through Black Lightning‘s first season, Gotham delved straight into Bruce’s journey to becoming Batman, and Agents of Shield delivered a phenomenal hundredth episode. Me like! 🙂

Black Lightning

1.07 “Equinox: The Book of Fate”

Equinox. That’s the day right in the middle of a changing season. It is to spring and autumn what Midsummer and Midwinter are to their respective seasons. And this is the episode right in the middle of this show’s debut season, yes? Poetic. Certainly, the plot just shifted in a new direction.

So, we skip that awkward moment of family drama which would immediately follow Anissa waking up to find her father is Black Lightning, who just beat her down.

Gambi plays off the attack on Lynn as a job by some crew of thieves, and she was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. The latter part of that is true, but not the former. So, he’s lying right to Jeff’s face, but this time he’s caught. The problem with being properly good at your job, with well-established skill and experience, is how little leeway it leaves, such that any little lapse is suspect. Oh, Gambi can pull intel about a ring of high-end corporate thieves out of thin air within two hours, but he never heard so much as a whisper about Tobias or Toledo? Jeff realizes that Gambi must be tacitly complicit on some level, lying to him, hiding the truth from him, and whatever excuse about protecting Jeff from himself that Gambi whips up, Jeff is not in a mood to listen.

The trust between them is broken.

And for even better reason than it first appears. Turns out, he’s flat-out in bed (metaphorically) with Lady Eve. With Jeff gunning for Tobias, and Gambi wanting to keep them separated, Gambi goes to Eve looking to remove Tobias from the equation entirely. The argument he makes is that the man’s increasing boldness threatens “the ecosystem we’ve built here.” Would be the “ecosystem” that feeds on the blood of Jeff’s community? What’s so great about it that it’s worth protecting? Gambi, it would seem, has contributed to the suffering that plagues Freeland. And he does so again, when Eve suggests taking out Tobias’ right hand, Toledo, to bring him back into line, and Gambi does it, without hesitation.

Gambi just did Eve’s dirty work for her, in addition to helping her cover her tracks after the fiasco at Lynn’s workplace. The man is dangerous and duplicitous and right there in the middle of Black Lightning’s crusade, including his proximity to Anissa.

Coming back around to that, we have Anissa herself, who is gung-ho about going all vigilante superhero with her dad, and we have her dad, who wants to keep her safe and is very reluctant to let her do anything, let alone become his protege, and we have her mother, who also wants to keep her safe, and tries to talk her out of anything dangerous by pointing to the price she will undoubtedly pay in due time. But Lynn realizes that Anissa won’t simply be stopped, and she won’t shrink from paying the price for helping people. So, to truly keep her as safe as possible, she has to get on board with Anissa’s desires and support her. She even asks Gambi, with whom she has disagreed severely thus far, to make a protective suit for Anissa. He’s all too willing, of course.

As for Jeff, he tries to keep the moral high ground here, but realizes he’s already lost it when he goes for Tobias and things go bad. Henderson was feeding him intel, and he learned about Toledo’s death through him. He’s cursing the loss of his lead, but Henderson has a little more info for him which points him to Tobias’ new club. He invades the place as Tobias enters and a firefight erupts. Tobias and some of his guards make it out, but a stray bullet hits Tory in the back as they’re running. She’s dead within moments.

That’s when Jeff realizes that he’s a hypocrite, saying one thing and doing another. He just made a huge mistake, a woman died because of it. So, he’ll take Anissa under his wing, train her, and he hopes she becomes better than he is.

About the only good thing that might arise from the club fight is how it coincides exactly with another conflict. If Eve thought taking Toledo out would convince Tobias to get back in line, she clearly misunderstood him. He was already angry about the results of the Green Light drug, but now he hits back, sending his goons to kill her at her funeral parlor, but he’s also clever about it. At Tory’s suggestion, his men are armed with electrocuting guns, and though Eve holds her own, a clever goon gets the drop on her, frying her where she stands. It looks like Black Lightning did it, which Henderson and the community both believe, and Eve’s partners, the Shadow Board, are supposed to believe the same. But whatever Black Lightning can do, he can’t be in two places at once.

So, it just might save his name, and his life, if someone notices how the two fights coincide. Very big “if,” though, and for now, Jeff just lost much of his support. Hopefully Anissa makes up for some of that as she learns to master her powers and fight alongside him.


4.13 “A Beautiful Darkness”

Two reactions: “wow” and “oh dear.”

Fresh off of Ivy’s demonstration of her new abilities, Selina follows her to go rob a place. With her abilities and her enthralling perfume combined, it’s easy to gain entry and subdue the family within. Selina thinks it’s kinda cool, for about two seconds, until she turns her back for a moment and Ivy murders a man in front of his family, who are compelled to watch it happen without doing anything. That turns Selina off, way off, and she leaves, telling Ivy to stay away from her.

The dead body gets the attention of the GCPD, of course, and Gordon, being more hands-on than most captains, is on the case, especially when the family’s testimony of a girl with a whip points to Selina. He heads to the Sirens club, has a brief confrontation with Sofia in which their “partnership” is firmly planted as a detente, neither one able to destroy the other without that destruction being mutually assured, and then he catches Selina when she comes in and tries to leap between rooftops. By the time he gets her back to the precinct, however, Ivy’s already been there. The girl works fast, enthralling the entire force and abducting Lucius Fox. The first part makes Gordon and Selina’s exit a near thing, and the latter is in service to Ivy’s agenda.

Ivy justifies what she’s doing as defending those who can’t speak for themselves, meaning the plants. She can hear them, apparently, the voices in her head. The man she killed experimented with them, and he worked for Wayne Enterprises on something called Project M. Fox realized the potential connection and called Bruce, but he withheld that information from Gordon. It seems he still works for Bruce in some capacity, which is what led Ivy to him. She pays a visit to Bruce, fresh off another all-night party, enthralling him with a kiss, and gets her information, which includes how the location of the project is so secret that Bruce only trusted Fox with it, which means she needs him to help her get in. She has no such need for Bruce, and wants to make his death slow, nicking him with her nail, spreading the venom into his system much more slowly than her other victims, giving him time to experience a complex hallucination.

It starts with him, bound by vines, as the image of Ra’s al’Ghul removes his face, leaving only a black hole in its place, wrapped in bandages. He runs through the labyrinth of his mind trying to get it back, only to find some party-going brat is wearing it instead. He tries to fight, but collapses into nothing, becoming the party-goer. The party goes on, featuring many familiar faces, until they suddenly disappear, leaving only Gordon, with a mustache, asking how long he thinks he can hide in here. Then Alfred comes in as a commando, dragging him out, taking him to the alley, and to the one who waits for him there: a dark figure in a cape, with a deep, booming voice. This is the place where Bruce’s parents were killed, and where the dark figure above was born. And then they’re in a cave, as the figure, the shadow of who he will become, calls him to action and dissolves into a swarm of bats.

It ends only when Gordon arrives with an antidote, this given to Gordon by Ivy at Project M. She was surprised to find that the project wasn’t killing plants, but growing them with water from the Lazarus Pit. She takes the Lazarus water, leaves the antidote with Fox to delay Gordon’s pursuit, and then the men race to save Bruce. The boy is saved, and he comes back from his trip down the rabbit hole enlightened. He’s caught a glimpse of himself, his true self, and in humility, he calls Alfred for help.

The GCPD is a bit embarrassed but whole and healthy and hunting for Ivy, while Ivy is moving forward with a new plan. A few drops of Lazarus water make a new plant of hers bloom within moments. A demonstration of what it does is provided by the arrival of the people whose home she’s been using while they were on a trip, softly blowing the blossom to scatter the thorny petals, which immediately kill them both.

Ivy has, overnight, become a supervillain bent on Gotham’s destruction – of course that’s what she’s going to go for, we all know it – with the ability to make it happen.

And Gordon’s detente with Sofia isn’t going to last long. If she can’t destroy him without destroying herself, then she’ll hurt him instead, and she’s going straight for the heart: her sister-in-law, and Gordon’s former love, Lee.

While all of this is going on outside, Penguin’s stay in Arkham is proving decidedly unpleasant. It seems Jerome the Joker has the run of the place, from the patients to the security to everything else, and he wants something from Penguin. He’s not getting it easily, though, because Penguin has given up, on some level. If he escapes, or tries to, or causes trouble, Martine will be targeted by Sofia, he fears.

Furthermore, he has no one to help him, he is utterly alone. Or at least he thinks he is until Nygma pays him a visit, leaving behind, without realizing it, a token from the Riddler. Penguin and Riddler are sworn enemies, but now they’re both imprisoned, in need of help to gain release, and willing to help each other. Penguin writes a note to send to Nygma, hoping it will unleash the Riddler again, who will then help Penguin get out of Arkham. There is light at the end of the tunnel.

He just has to wade through Jerome’s madness to get there. At first he refuses to play along, but the spark of hope drives him to conform, at least a little. And with his inner fire rekindled, he realizes that Jerome could leave at any time, but he isn’t. He’s staying in Arkham on purpose. He’s planning something, something that requires “the crème de la crazy.” He wants Penguin in on it, and whatever it is, there’s no way it’s good for Gotham.

So we have not one but two city-wide catastrophes brewing at the same time, in addition to the tension between Gordon and Sofia which, when it erupts, will bring yet another. About the only good news is that Bruce’s inner journey has pulled his head out of his rear end and set him back on the path to becoming the hero his city so desperately needs. But can the fledgeling dark knight rise in time?

Agents of Shield

5.12 “The Real Deal”

This show has become an absolute expert in taking our hearts and pulling them in every possible direction, either all at once or in quick succession. And this just might go down as my most favorite all, episode one hundred. It was perfect.

It starts with a “what the heck” moment, immediately following the loss of Noah as the Kree beacon exploded. Fitz sends a dwarf to scout out the damage, and there’s a nun moving in the background, bloody roach footprints, a breach in the universe, and the scout is destroyed by what appears to be Lash. Yes, that’s a “what the heck” moment, in my book.

Before the “incoming” actually hits, we see how the agents are doing. Mack is with Yo-Yo, who says she’ll make it through her disarming ordeal as long as she has him. He’s ready to quit with her, but she says they have to keep fighting, so they stay. May and Coulson are getting a damage report from Fitz, including the presence of a beautiful forest, complete with blue sky, that somehow exists fifteen stories down. Daisy and Deke are roaming the tunnels, sharing life experiences, looking for things they need, and Deke learns that orange-scented is not the same as orange-tasting. And then a Kree attacks them out of nowhere before getting shot and collapsing into black mist.

Fitz quickly puts together that the simultaneous destruction of the three monoliths tore straight through space and time, and, for lack of a better word, a dimension of fear is leaking through. All their worst fears, their nightmares, are coming into physical being. Lash, a Kree, a nun from Daisy’s childhood, a forest that Deke’s afraid of, they’re all coming into being. Oh, and an LMD of Simmons that tries to kill Yo-Yo. So, things are getting pretty bad pretty fast, and it’s going to get worse.

Fitz conjures a solution, or at least a temporary fix, pretty quickly. He takes Deke’s levitation belt buckle and rigs it to seal the rift, at least for awhile. But there’s a serious risk that whoever goes down there and throws it in will die. That’s without even going into how all the nastiest things from their past will be trying to kill them. So, who’s going on the suicide mission?


Coulson has to argue against May, Fitz (he suggests Piper), and especially Daisy for that. As they’re arguing over who goes, Coulson thunders that none of them are expendable. So he’s the one going. Daisy keeps arguing, and tries to call him out on doing exactly what he’s telling her not to, which leads into further arguing about his vision for her to lead Shield, except, so far as they know, there is no Shield anymore. The team is alone, and falling apart, and on their last legs. There’s nobody left. Coulson is just yelling back about how there’s still the idea, the symbol, the shield, which must continue… before he finds it hard to breathe and collapses.

And the truth outs: Coulson is dying.

And it turns out, he’s dying from… death.

Back to the beginning we go, when Coulson was killed in Avengers by Loki stabbing him through the heart. He was brought back by Nick Fury with the use of Kree blood and a machine to rewrite his memories of the experience. The scar remains to this day. Now that area, that tissue, is clinically dead again, and the death is spreading through the surrounding tissue, bit by bit. That was the price taken by the Ghost Rider when it possessed him. It burned through what kept Coulson alive, and now his time is running out. This is his last rodeo.

Hm, I wonder if they try to save him when the Kree arrive, get more Kree blood to put into him, and somehow this plays a pivotal role in the end of the world. Is that what happened? Is that what they need to not let happen this time? Either way, I digress.

Deke misses out on the drama as Coulson sends him out on some errands. He finds the quaint little town they’re in is suddenly swarming with military. The officer who saw Daisy last episode, when she got Deke out of jail, called it in, a possible sighting of Quake, so here comes Hale, loaded for bear. He goes around the town, discreetly, but also tries making some call or other on a payphone. Huh? Turns out he’s laying a false trail for Hale to follow, get her off their immediate scent. But that’s not nearly all, as we find out.

Back at the Lighthouse, it’s heartbreaking. Simmons can’t, she simple can’t, save Coulson. Soon, his heart is simply going stop beating and it won’t start again, just like his lungs are failing. He didn’t know how to tell anyone, and he wasn’t sure he should have told them. This is simply the deal he made with the Rider, and he’s had a wonderful second life already. But it was horrifying, the way he was brought back the first time, and he didn’t want to repeat it. All that said, Daisy is right, he should have told them. Or maybe not. It is his life, and his death, and they had enough on their plates already in the future without giving his never-say-die team another objective to pursue whether he allowed them to or not. It’s a tough call he made, but whether it was right or wrong, it’s done.

The gears are in motion. Coulson is not long for this world.

May figures out this was why he wanted to take a step back after they had finally taken a step forward. He didn’t want her wasting her time on him, another dead-end. And he’s come to terms with his death. Especially knowing that he and May can step back, leave leadership to the next generation of the team. May answers that with how the team is more than a team, and none of them are giving up on Coulson. Which, he does not mind, because just because he’s accepted his death, that does not mean he’s in a hurry to meet it. He intends to come back from this little suicide run. He only volunteered because, better the man with the least amount of time on his clock.

It hits Daisy hardest most of all. First episode of the show, he found her in an alley, alone, with nothing. She’s come so far since then, gained so much, including family, a place to belong, a purpose, a belief. Solid ground to stand on, as she says. Everything that means anything to her, he helped her to get it. And now he’s going where she can’t follow.

Shield has survived everything, sometimes by very thin margins, because it had Phil Coulson. Now it’s time for Shield to move on without him. It’s a heavy burden, filled with her own tears, that Coulson is putting on Daisy’s shoulders, and she doesn’t think she can do it. Without him, there’s nothing left, not for her. There’s no Shield without him.

I think that’s the single most heart-breaking scene yet in the series.

With this done and Fitz’s gear ready, Coulson heads down. Communication goes out quickly enough, but he keeps going. Very soon, he reaches the rift, and sees a most unexpected face: Mike Peterson, aka Deathlock. Only he looks like a normal person, and they have a conversation.

This phantom of a man represents a fear that far supersedes any simple monster in the dark. Not Lash, or a roach, or anything else. He represents something far more potent: Coulson’s first death. He talks, spins a tale that he’s just a tech in a lab trying to save him, and that the past five seasons have all been in Coulson’s head as the doctors have been trying and failing to save him. All the weirdness, all the irrational, impossible things that defy explanation, all in his head. All his adventures, everyone he met, his team, his family, his brilliant students (Fitz-Simmons), the daughter he never had (Daisy), his heroism, it’s all fabricated by a mind that doesn’t want to let go of everything he never got to do. Now it’s time to go into the light, the rift, and die.

It almost works.

This is a low moment… the downward swing before rising to soar again.

While Coulson is facing the abyss, angels descend from above.

Up above, the team is forced to wait, no matter their frustration, and suddenly they have incoming. It’s a quinjet, coming in for a landing. Not knowing who or what to expect, Daisy and May head to the bay, and witness as Deke steps out with a jet filled with agents at his back, including the real Deathlock and even Davis, who supposedly was killed by Aida. The team has been operating as if they were alone, the last ones left, but they’re not! They still have comrades fighting the good fight! They have help!

Very timely help too, as Deathlock is minimally affected by the fear dimension, so he runs down to help Coulson. Coulson almost walks into the light with the fake version, but refuses, and then he’s almost dragged in, but Deathlock arrives in time to save him, holding off the encroaching monsters, including Hive as well as Lash and a roach, while Coulson tosses Fitz’s gravitonium bomb into the rift, shutting it. It almost takes him in with it, but Deathlock holds him steady.

Voila! Crisis ended!

Well, ok, Fitz is pretty sure they’ll need a stronger power source to keep it going, but for now, crisis ended!

It’s time to celebrate!

And what a celebration it is: a wedding!

Fitz-Simmons are finally getting married! Whoo!

It’s just a simple, beautiful scene, where the two of them, surrounded by their family, exchange vows and Coulson marries them. While Deke and Mike talk in the background, which, it turns out, they are his grandparents.

That last is confirmed with Hale’s investigation, one of her subordinates apparently has some DNA to work with, runs a full diagnostic, which spits them out. Though, why it didn’t spit out his other grandparents, I have no idea.

So, I probably didn’t do it proper justice, but, really… this was a fantastic episode. I absolutely loved it. 🙂

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Sunday’s Wisdom #172: Practice Makes Powerful

“I’ve always hated practicing. But that’s how you get to be better. That’s how you become smarter and tougher than the people who will want to harm you.”
– Borbador, The Autumn Republic
By Brian McClellan

I’m not sure there’s much I can add to this quote. McClellan seems to have a tendency to write pretty fleshed-out things for me to quote.

In Bo’s case – that’s short for “Borbador,” fyi – he is a very powerful young man. He is powerful because he has a wide range of experiences, most of them ranging from tragic to horrific, to draw from as he wields his tremendous magical strength. He is mighty indeed, but he certainly didn’t start out that way. No, everything he can do, every tool he has, has been hardened and sharpened on the forge of his life. Not least among his strengths is a controlled discipline which belies his rather undisciplined demeanor. He gained his power, and his skill, through relentless toil and hardship, not least of which is how he practiced. And his goal is simple: to live as he wants, to destroy those who would hurt him, and to protect those who have protected him.

What he means in this quote is that nobody’s strength simply comes to them. Nobody is automatically strong, no matter how we might think they are. When someone or something threatens, if we have not prepared, through long hours of practice beforehand, we are less strong than we could be, and therefore we are more vulnerable.

Strength is the means to endure whatever comes, and strength is built, not born.

Now, there is one thing I want to add: it’s not all about conflict. Practice, improvement, discipline, these aren’t all about becoming better or stronger than others. I see them as the means to become better, stronger, and smarter than our previous selves. There may come a time when what we build within ourselves will be useful to us and those around us. It might be, as Bo suggests, when someone is trying to hurt us, and we must defend ourselves. But it might also be something less violent, some means by which we are able to make others smile when they’re at a low point in life. It might be that whatever we do will help someone stand up after they’ve been knocked down.

Whatever it is that we do at any given moment, it is built on everything we’ve previously done in our lives. To be ready for the moment requires lifelong practice.

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This Week on TV, Mar. 3, 2018

Spoiler Alert!

An excellent week this week, I must say! 🙂

Last week was completely empty, not one show in either my official or unofficial lineup aired, but this week, with the conclusion of the Olympics, Black Lightning, Gotham, and Agents of Shield all came back with a vengeance, and it was great fun! 😀

Lots of tragedy, mind you, but still, great entertainment. (I say that knowing that none of it is real, of course, because if it were real, there would be nothing entertaining about it, I’m not that crazy!)


Black Lightning

1.06 “Three Sevens: The Book of Thunder”

If Jeff did not have Gambi, Black Lightning would be toast right now. Pulverized toast.

The guy he assaulted at the end of last episode, Joey Toledo, limps back to Tobias after calling the crooked cops to pick Black Lighting up. That last part tempers Tobias’ anger at his minion’s incompetence, and he’s keen on making a visit to the holding cells that night, so Black Lightning would never see another sunrise. But Gambi arrives on the scene first and gets Jeff to safety, and Lynn’s capable medical hands. Even better, the only witnesses to Gambi’s rescue of Black Lightning were fans of his, so the cops, and Tobias, got nothing, no trail to follow.

Henderson is starting to have his suspicions, I think. I mean, between Lala’s death, the lack of proper protection at the march, and now this “anonymous tip” about Black Lightning, he’d be an idiot if he didn’t smell the stench of corruption yet.

With Jeff functioning again and Gambi fixing the problem, which apparently was caused by neurological feedback resulting from resistance in the suit because of the new flight feature, he’s ready to keep going after Tobias. Even more than that, he’s ready to kill Tobias, a very long overdue comeuppance for the murder of his father. It would seem that Gambi is trying to protect him from the psychological fallout of that decision, the personal cost that committing murder demands of the soul.

I can’t claim to be any kind of expert on that sort of thing, but it seems to me that taking a life will always tax the soul in some way. Even if one evades the guilt, even if it’s completely justified and unavoidable, there is something lost in the act, some tiny piece of humanity which can never be fully recovered. On some level, we recognize that this monster is still a human, still like us, still one of us. So, while I’m a bit on Jeff’s side, that Tobias needs to be put down, I also follow what Gambi is saying, that it will break Jeff in some irreversible way. This is one reason why we need to avoid revenge, because it’s too personal and too costly. It just doesn’t work the way we want it to.

This is why an ideal justice system is impartial, rather than driven by rage. Anger, even well-founded, is destructive to everyone caught in its path, which is not limited to the guilty.

Even Jeff, normally so careful and motivated to protect others, is putting innocents at risk. He manages to find Tobias’ doctor, a dermatologist, who lives in fear of Tobias and his entourage going after his family. But Jeff pushes forward like a bull, not sparing much time to think about the danger he’s putting an honest man and his loved ones in. He has the doctor call Tobias under some excuse, redoing a test from his last visit. That gives Jeff an opening to take him out with a ball of lightning, like the wrath of God himself, death from above.

Gambi’s desperation to save Jeff grows that he actually turns to Lynn for help. Lynn has already told Jeff that she can’t keep living like this, watching him get hurt and patching him up, so when Gambi comes to her to try and cool Jeff’s rage, she turns him down flat. But then she has a talk with Anissa, who inadvertently gets her to see that she just didn’t like coming in second to Jeff’s desire to save the world. Understandable, but a bit less self-flattering than what Lynn’s been saying so far. So, she answers Gambi’s final call for help, and at the moment of truth, talks Jeff out of going through with it, s he can stay a hero to the community and their daughters. They need him to stay a hero. Not a killer.

Personally, I’d have just nuked Tobias. Or, rather, I’d have followed him back to his hiding place, waited a few days, and then nuked him. I mean, better than leaving an obvious connection with the dermatologist, just in case there’s either failure or some sort of reprisals involve. But, short of that, being able to keep an eye on him and monitor his behavior, discover his connections, that would be better than just letting Tobias go. Perhaps that, surveillance, is what Jeff would have done if not for the commotion at Lynn’s lab right when she was calling him: someone breaks in. And Jeff is off and running to come save her, and to Hell with revenge or anything else.

What he walks into a little more complicated than it looks.

Anissa gets into trouble with the cops again when she, like a good, little SJW, defaces a Confederate monument because “it insults black people.” (I am determined to keep politics off my blog, but the CW sometimes makes that very difficult with its obvious leaning to the Left) This quickly escalates to the point that “white nationalists” engage a counter protest, violence erupts when the other side hits first, and someone drives a car to kill a young woman. (reflecting one side of life, much?)

Feeling frustrated and angry, Anissa dresses up in her Thunder outfit and simply shatters the statue completely that evening. Because she obviously hasn’t learned much about unintended consequences yet. Girl dead because of violence at a protest that she started? Boys nearly killed the first time she uses her powers on other people? Nope, apparently these did not register. Collateral damage from her cavalier destruction of a historical monument, now, this freaks her out. So she runs to her mom, who she finds under attack.

Lynn has been doing research, it seems. Whether Tobias’ masters somehow magically heard about the files Anissa dropped off about the super-powered kids, or if her colleague tipped them about Lynn’s interest in the Green Light drug, which seems to have a neural effect similar to Jeff’s own brain, either way, they send a crew to steal her files. They didn’t know she’d be there at the time, which screams something about poor surveillance, but Anissa arrives in time to send them packing.

And then Jeff arrives in time to misinterpret the situation and attack Anissa, who stupidly does not clarify the situation, and they fight. It’s a pretty close fight, actually, though Jeff emerges as the clear victor. Only to realize, to his horror, that he just totaled his own daughter. There are very few options left at that point, so when Anissa wakes up, it’s to find that her father is Black Lightning.

This: awkward.

I’ve been talking as if Gambi’s stated reasoning were his actual reasoning, which, I hope it is, but as I know he keeps secrets, I have to wonder. One secret which is revealed to the audience is another clear connection with the enemy. Lady Eve is named Evelyn, and he was once her teacher. She left the agency they were both working for, which explains the connections between the two which I noticed last episode. She went into business for herself, and he “retired.”

He pays his former protege a visit after the debacle at Lynn’s lab. They have a deal, it seems, where the Pierce family is off limits. In exchange, Gambi doesn’t out Tobias, perhaps among other things. He talks like he’s protecting Jeff and the others, but there’s something about his own dirty laundry in this, and I wonder about the connection between him and Jeff. Did he have something to do with the night Tobias murdered his father? Maybe he took Jeff under his wing as some means of atonement?

Finally, there’s Jennifer, who is upset that Khalil is basically shutting her out. She doesn’t much care about the video her enemy at school posted nearly as much as does about how Khalil can apparently post comments on Facebook but is refusing to talk to her. She’s feeling guilty about considering breaking up with him – who wants to be that girl who’s with a guy until he gets crippled and then dumps him? – and she’s upset that he’s pulling away from her. So maybe they need a break.

And that’s not remotely the worst of it.

While it’s perfectly understandable for Khalil to be raging and blaming and shutting himself off, it’s a tragedy of epic proportions that not only is he listening to the poison Tobias is pouring in his ear, but he’s actually joining up with him. Tobias wants to put him through a process, probably involving the experimental serum, which will make him walk again, and give him super-powers. The same people who Khalil doesn’t know shot him are now promising him power. The girl, whatever her name is, swears that it works, the power is real, and he’ll love it.

What’s her power, I wonder?

So, we have father and daughter learning each others’ secrets (cat’s out of the bag!) while also learning a bit about impulse control in the face of injustice, Gambi running around keeping secrets and trying to protect Jeff from a woman he helped create while using Black Lightning to clean up a mess he has permitted, everyone in the dark edging closer to the truth, and a young man falling into darkness amidst his personal drama, to be used by his enemies to kill the father of the girl he loves. Convoluted enough, ya think?


4.12 “Pieces of a Broken Mirror”

Small box, lots of moving pieces.

In one cross-section of the Narrows, within mere feet of each other, we have Gordon, Alfred, Lee, and Ivy. Gordon is looking for Bullock in a… was that a BDSM sex house? Anyway, he’s not there. Alfred lives in the area now, since Bruce fired him, and he’s just going about his day when some envious thugs try to mug him. You can guess how well that goes, but Gordon is passing by and diffuses the situation at gunpoint. Ivy is in the building behind them, waking up from inside a cocoon in the Chinese drug store, just in time to surprise some thieving druggies and kill the nearest with just a touch of her hand, part of another new body (what, is she Doctor Who?). And one floor up is a gathering of Narrows citizens listening to Lee, the Doc, in company of Nygma and Grundy, as she talks to them about how they need to stop stealing from each other and work together in order to improve the community, and thus improve their own lives and that of their children.

Then a little man sets a toy plane in flight with a bomb attached, aiming for Lee. Grundy knocks it away, but the explosion still rocks the building, surprising Gordon and Alfred outside, who rush in to get people out just as Nygma is getting Lee out the other entrance, missing each other by seconds, and Ivy walks out of the smoking ruin pretty much without a care.

Ivy’s path takes her on a stroll around town as her senses come back. She sees plants dying in the city. She seems some rich locals leaving on vacation or something and makes use of their home and the lady’s dresses while they’re gone. The fridge is full of vegetables, which she doesn’t much like, but she finds something to eat and turns on the TV. Just in time to see the commercial for the reopening of the Sirens’ club. (Selina clearly hates it) And Ivy recalls them, and how much she hates them. So, she goes down to the club.

Barbara is loving it, Tabitha accepts it but warns that she’s not getting dressed up like that again, and Selina is pretty depressed by the form her success has taken. She also doesn’t appreciate having to tell Bruce to keep the disruption that he and his girls are making to a minimum. Yeah, she sees straight through the facade he’s put up, including the part where he fired Alfred. What’s he trying to prove with that, hm?

Ivy makes a small scene, with her two suitors throwing punches at each other, attracting attention. Selina is the one to recognize her, following her back to her current lair. Ivy noticed her, and probably wanted her to follow. She talks about how she’s been reborn, how she’s powerful now, and how she’s not crazy – yeah, like that was convincing – and gives Selina a demonstration. She scratches her.

When Fox and his colleague at the GCPD morgue were examining Ivy’s druggie victim, they found that while the boy was dead, his remains were already being used as fertilizer. The compound introduced to his system killed him and quickly grew, spreading through his deceased system as a plant, poison ivy. One incision down the chest, and the ivy sprouts upward in full bloom.

That is what Ivy just introduced into Selina’s system. She had an antidote to the toxin ready, gave it to Selina to drink. It was just a demonstration. Now that she is arrived as Poison Ivy, fully-fledged, Ivy offers to take care of Selina the way Selina has taken care of her for all these years.

So, Selina has a super-powered friend now, but that friend is crazy and homicidal. Hm. This is not good for one’s health, ya know?

Over in Alfred’s corner of the story, he receives a hero’s welcome at the cafe he frequents, including a humble acknowledgment from the guy who tried to mug him earlier. As envious as he was of Alfred, the man realizes that he’s far less brave than Alfred too. It’s a good sign that he stands up straighter for it as a man. But as they’re sharing a toast, Alfred notices the waitress – Tiffany, I think it was – has a bruise on her head. She passes it off as having slipped and hit her head, but his suspicions are substantially aroused.

Alfred is walking her home that night, sharing a lot about his history with her, when her boyfriend shows up. He’s pretty stereotypical in his bad boy appearance, mentions she didn’t answer her phone and he came to pick her up. He has a pretty smug, superior attitude, but nothing that screamed to me about a confirmation of Alfred’s suspicions. His reaction seemed a bit much, practically assaulting the man out of nowhere, but it worked: the man assumed that his girl had tattled and talked about punishing her for it. So Alfred was right.

But here’s the thing about abusive relationships: they can only continue with the permission of the abused. The tragedy is that so many victims feel that there isn’t any way out, so the best they can do is keep their heads down and not agitate their abuser any further. Don’t make them angry, that’s the best they can hope for. But in so many cases, it’s just a matter of time.

Alfred urges his new friend to be safe, and that is the last time he sees her alive. Her boyfriend beats her to death almost immediately, and he does so while wearing Alfred’s signet ring, which fell to the ground during the earlier scuffle and he snatched up. Toss in an alibi, where Alfred has none, and he has a semi-workable frame job going. Gordon and Harper have to interrogate Alfred and take him in, but Alfred slips away first, despite Gordon’s assurance that he’ll be brought in too. Heck, I imagine they’d find the man’s fingerprints on Alfred’s ring too, but that’s not an immediate thing, and Alfred very much wants justice immediately.

Alfred finds him in a bar with a couple of his buddies. He makes a good accounting of himself, but he’s quickly outnumbered, on the point of being overwhelmed, when a friend with a bat makes his presence known: Bullock. Of all the bars in the world, Alfred finds the murderous scum he is pursuing at the bar Bullock works at. So, that’s what he did after leaving turning in his badge and gun. Good thing, I think, what with his serendipitous assistance. He also breaks the murderer’s alibi by waving a bat at the buddy vouching for him. Justice is served.

And Alfred even has a friend on hand to share a drink with, in honor of a beautiful, kind, nice woman who was murdered.

That’s when Gordon makes his entry, just after the impromptu toast. He wants Bullock back, says he misses him. Bullock responds with some truth. Most of his time was spent trying to talk Gordon out of doing something stupid and dangerous that he did anyway. He was also Gordon’s confidante, sharing all of his secrets, and now that he sees Gordon again, he sees he has something heavy on his soul. He’s not good at keeping secrets, he always needs to get it off his chest. So, what Gordon misses isn’t his partner, it’s his pseudo-priest who he could make confessions to. Well, Bullock isn’t interested in filling that role again, so he won’t be taking the badge back.

It’s the end of a long, disappointing day for Gordon.

After the failed bombing, Gordon searches for the culprit and the target at the same time. He and Fox follow a lead to a toy maker’s shop, which is quickly confirmed as the residence of the bomber when, instead of talking to the cops, the man panics and sets more lethal toys on them. He gets away, but the man’s son reveals that he overheard his father talking to someone, mentioning “the Doc.”

He goes to Barbara looking for the Doc, thoroughly amusing the woman as she directs him to Cherry’s, only to find Nygma giving a grand introduction for Lee to address the crowd. She riles them up with talk of how whoever is after her must be afraid of a united Narrows, because that is a strong Narrows, a Narrows which can have the things they and their children deserve. After her speech, she talks with Gordon for a bit before they part ways.

But it’s Nygma who sees the toy man and pursues him into a neighboring alley. He has been livid all day long, wanting to find whoever tried to kill Lee and destroy them. But the toy man…

ADD Moment: yes, that is so Gotham, and it’s sad to see how far the city has fallen from the days where the balloon man was considered a freak of nature.

…the toy man reveals how it was the Riddler who hired him to kill Lee because she’s holding him back. Nygma is horrified, and beholds his reflection, the Riddler, laughing at him in triumphant return. Gordon happens on the scene and shoots the toy man. And here’s where Nygma could have done the right thing, but was too scared and selfish. He just learned that his alter-ego has grown strong enough to threaten Lee, who he just said he wants to protect, and destroy her enemies. But he hides the truth, saying the toy man was a lone wolf.

He just left Lee in grave danger, knowingly, to preserve himself.

So, Poison Ivy has arrived and attached herself to Selina, who is successful but unhappy, Bruce is wrapped up in his own drunken facade, Alfred saved people from a bombed building but failed to save a new friend of his and only managed to bring her killer justice, Bullock is a bartender again and has turned his back on Gordon, Gordon is doing his job and behaving like a pretty decent human being but he’s burdened by his dishonor (and ignoring Sofia’s calls), Lee the Doc is uniting the Narrows but has a lethal enemy emerging from within her trusted friend who just betrayed her to save himself… oh, and Butch has returned, albeit with a new Grundy body, and made himself known to Tabitha, who can’t seem to entirely reciprocate his feelings for her.

Did I miss anything?

And this is everyday life in Gotham now.

Agents of Shield

5.11 “All the Comforts of Home”

I seem to say this a lot: wow.

As terrible as the future was, it would seem that was the frying pan, and the agents are now entering the fire.

The episode begins with that general woman, I think I heard her name was Hale, having a talk with her daughter, Ruby. Seems like a typical conversation between parent and child, which is all the more harrowing with the big reveal at the end. But we’ll get to that in due time.

First order of business: the agents make it back to the present! All of them! They’re still in the Lighthouse, but that’s what the monolith does: it transports through time more than space. It’s a huge relief for everyone, making it back, and they even manage to get some answers about the Lighthouse itself. A recording of a previous Director of Shield, or some other high-ranking agent, begins appearing on various walls, talking to them, explaining thing, giving them a tour.

The Lighthouse is a super-secret facility built by Shield as part of a life-raft project to preserve humanity through the end of the world, which seemed imminent back in the 60’s and 70’s. Shield would gather the best of the best from around the world, the chosen ones, the best humanity has to offer, and thus the best hope for the survival of the species. But the crisis was averted, the people who knew about the plan and the Lighthouse never spoke of it, and so it was forgotten. This makes it the perfect place to hide, because nobody outside of it knows about it.

That also makes it the perfect place to keep especially dangerous things, like, say… three monoliths. Not one, not two, three. (ADD Moment: “And the number thou shalt count to shall be three.” LOL)

Humor notwithstanding, that was one of those “holy ****” moments. We know one monolith was used to exile Hive from Earth, and he destroyed the people on the planet he was sent to, until he eventually hitched a ride back. We know Enoch used the monolith in the center of these three we see to send the agents through time. What do the other two do? I shudder to think.

It passes quickly enough with the introduction of Noah, who is a… well, he’s like Enoch. Ah, so they are naming these guys after Old Testament prophets, and where Enoch’s role was to take people out of this world, Noah seems to have been sent to watch over the Ark that carries people through the impending flood. Poetic.

So, with a super-secret base to operate from, and Noah’s monitoring setup to work with, the agents waste no time scouring the world for the trouble that sets off the end of the world. Their arrival seems to be most timely, as there is a light shining from the sky, which is what Voss mentioned to them in the future, which has been appearing intermittently for a few weeks. So, off they go to investigate. All except Daisy, who is set on avoiding her role in ending the world, so she runs the back end with Noah.

Step one: leave the Lighthouse discreetly. Extensive secret tunnels take care of that, and they emerge in a pleasant little town called River’s End (because it’s built at the end of a river and someone was feeling less than creative that day).

Step Two: obtain transportation. So they temporarily steal a van that’s for sale, nearly having a heart attack when an officer stops them just to have a conversation. And while they’re driving, the converse about how much worse thing could be than being packed into a crappy van. Which, really, they’ve through a lot of weird and traumatizing crap, haven’t they? Anyway, the van gets them to where the Zephyr is parked, and they’re able to move more swiftly and stealthily and analyze the situation at the same time.

Step Three: understand the problem. Fitz-Simmons quickly learn that the light is coming from the sky, it’s being sent from the ground. It’s just so rapid that it looks like it’s coming from the sky. Slow down the frame-rate in the video, and, voila, they can analyze it properly. Oh, and they’ve seen this before. It’s the beacon that Hive used to draw Kree to the Earth.

Safe to say they’ve found the source, or at least one source, of Earth’s impending destruction and misery.

While they’re off dealing with this, Daisy sets up an alert so she can watch out for trouble via her new Noah-owned computer. And something unusual, remarkable, and surprising happens: Deke arrives.

…wait, Deke? Deke?! Deke lives! How?!

Well, the stone they were using to activate the monolith fired up and swallowed him at the same time the monolith did, just before the explosion could kill him. So there he is, standing in the past, a world he’s been unable to even properly imagine, where pretty much every last thing we take for granted is new and priceless beyond words. The agents had a moment where they were able to appreciate coming home, but for Deke, it’s all new. And he’s quickly introduced to proper television, burger and onion rings, beer, and, finding the beer to be disgusting, a citrus-flavored drink. So, good day for him. Right up until he has to pay for it. And he has to money.

Daisy’s alert goes off when he’s put in a local holding cell.

Fearing that he might spill the beans that the agents are back, Daisy, against Noah’s advice, goes to get him out. One of the officers seems suspicious, but things go smoothly enough and they make it back to the Lighthouse without incident. Unfortunately, Daisy arrives just in time to hear May calling desperately for a place to land the Zephyr. Things have gone horribly wrong.

Coulson and the other agents arrive at the source of the Kree beacon only to find the entire place abandoned, with one, and only one, exception: Piper.

The last woman standing of the three agents who helped Coulson and the others’ through the debacle of the LMDs, the Framework, the Russian, and Aida, Piper was last seen escaping with the soldiers, and with orders to tell their story, to clear their much-accused name. She never heard what happened that day, or what happened to them, so she’s been looking and doing what she can.

She was a background character, forced to take on a huge burden all at once, but she seems to have done well enough. Then she noticed the beacon and investigated. It seems the people researching it saw it just spontaneously turn on, unable to turn it off, so she sent all of them away and has been trying to fix the problem herself.

That’s the story, at least. Much of it is true, but it turns out she was also caught by General Hale, told their story, and cut a deal. She was to try and lure Coulson and the others out of hiding, not that they actually were in hiding, by activating the beacon and waiting. (yes, let’s activate an alien beacon, turning it on and off repeatedly, I’m sure the aliens will never notice that!) Piper agreed to this because Hale assured her that she only wants to bring them in and talk to them, with a guarantee of their safety.

This is Hale we’re talking about. The woman shot two of her subordinates in the head, last we saw her. Clearly not to be trusted. But Piper doesn’t know that, and she doesn’t realize the truth until five enemies show up, masked, and try to kill the agents wholesale. Four of them are robots, so they’ve no need to hold back. Piper sees this and takes Coulson’s side, covering them as they grab the beacon, beat the robots, and run.

But the lead figure, female, is not like the others. She takes a sharp, metal hoop off her back, aiming for Mack. Yo-Yo sees this, and with her future-self’s warning of his death ringing in her ears, she leaps in front of it. Somehow, we don’t see it, but it goes so very wrong. Both of her arms are cut off at once.

It wasn’t Kasius and the Kree who did that to her. It was here and now. The future, it seems, is coming true.

The agents scramble to stop the bleeding, Mack carries her out, Piper is horrified by what her actions have wrought, and they make tracks for the Lighthouse. Daisy gets back with Deke just in time to open the bay door for them to land. Simmons is seeing to Yo-Yo while everyone else waits in tense, devastated silence. She pulls through, but Fitz will definitely have some new arms to make, and the loss, as well as the horrible future coming to pass, weighs heavy on them all.

So, we have Yo-Yo suddenly amputated, Piper is back, and she was duped into nearly getting them all killed, Coulson is dying and striving to keep it a secret for as long as possible, the Kree beacon was active and we know the Kree answer, General Hale has robot soldiers and special assassins at her disposal, and the agents have precious little to work with, including a secret sanctuary and an alien master of the house.

…ok, check that about the alien. The Kree beacon explodes inside their storage space, and Noah, who accused Enoch of being reckless, got the two present agents out and threw himself onto the explosion without hesitation.

Oh, and if Hale weren’t already terrible enough as murdering, traitorous scum, the assassin with the ring is, in fact, Ruby. Her own daughter. Who goes to “class” to be a killer. And who Hale otherwise keeps locked in a vault.

I am really hating that Hale woman.

And I suddenly fear Ruby, who is partially a normal girl, and partially a cold-blooded, bloodthirsty assassin, and she’s obsessed with Quake, aka Daisy.

Um… crap!

Oh, and to top things off, Hale goes to recruit Crusher Creel, the Absorbing Man we’ve met a few times before in service first to Hydra and then to Talbot, to join a special team she’s putting together to kill the agents. I have to say, a tiny part of me actually feels a little devastated by that. Is Creel really going to help kill the agents of Shield? He has some history with them, and he redeemed himself a bit in my eyes when he worked for Talbot. Is he going down that path again?

With all of this going on… a recap of past events, pieces from so many past stories coming back, an apocalyptic future set in motion, and the impending death of Coulson – which, future Yo-Yo was emphatic that they have to let him die if they’re to save the world – I am starting to wonder if they’re actually wrapping up this series. Please say it isn’t so!

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Sunday’s Wisdom #171: All We Can Do

“All we can do is all we can do.”
– Akira, The Wind and the Void
By Ryan Kirk

A very simple saying, and very true.

Akira first learned those words as a boy, from his father, and they have been a support to him in all the years of his rule. He has largely been a good lord to his subjects and a strong leader to his men. Not to say his record is unimpeachable – he has done terrible, dishonorable things – but everything he has done, the ill deeds and the good, has been done for the good of his people.

And as of late, in this story, he’s basically been leading them through one disaster after another, catastrophes piling up on each other, and he has done so with courage and dignity. As things are coming to a head, with the fate of all his people at stake, the weight of the world itself bears down on him and his circle of friends. Even with everything they can do, it may not be enough to win the day.

That’s when he says these words, and they are oddly comforting.

When one carries the world, and truly cares for it, one can easily either exhaust oneself trying to do everything, or fall to despair at how much there is to do and how little one can accomplish, or both. Usually both.

But there is no shame in having limits. There is no shame in failure, either, so long as one keeps trying. There is nothing to be embarrassed about in simply being mortal, and therefore limited in one’s capacities. It’s the same for everyone.

It is impossible to do everything.

So just do what you can do.

That’s all any of us can do.

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Doctor Who Challenge Day 15: If you could travel with the Doctor, where would you go?

Here’s my quandary:

I would love to see some historical places, meet some pivotal figures, and especially see my ancestors.

But everywhere the Doctor goes, he’s almost always walking into a slaughterhouse. Now, while that’s not typically his own fault, and he does a fantastic job of saving the cattle (in the analogy), I certainly do hesitate to put him anywhere near my ancestors, partially because I prefer they continue having lived and bred as they did until I eventually came along.

So, where to go with the Doctor?

Well, perhaps the future!

Where I’ll get massive spoilers of things to come which I can’t prevent – wait, it just hit me, how is it that the past can be rewritten but not the future? – and see our advances go horrifying and apocalyptic several times over.

Ok, how about the present, then? Out among the stars!

And meet so many aliens that want to kill me, which, I rather prefer being alive and intact, ya know?

So, what, then?

…honestly, I’m not sure I’d go anywhere with the Doctor. It’s all very nice to sit here and have vicarious adventures, but I rather prefer the comforts of home and family over the wonders of the universe.

I’m boring like that. 😉

So maybe I would just invite the most strange and fun guest over for dinner sometime. 🙂

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Black Panther Slashes Through the Box Office

And Marvel Studios produces, as usual, a fun, fantastic superhero adventure. 🙂

There’s something to be said for a studio who achieves a record like that, where such high quality is the usual thing. Their record on other screens may be getting a few spots as of late, but on the big screen, they still indisputably rule. 🙂

Black Panther, Marvel’s latest addition to their cinematic universe, hit theaters this past weekend, to the praise of critics and the enjoyment of an audience which has all but shattered box office records.

Apparently picking up about a week or so after the events of Captain America: Civil War – so, chronologically, it takes place a good deal prior to Spider-Man: Homecoming – the movie follows the adventures and ordeals of the newly-crowned King T’Challa of Wakanda. His nation is far more than the pastoral nation it appears to be, a veritable utopia in the heart of Africa, veiled with technology that is, bar none, the most advanced and sophisticated in the known world. There is already feeling among his people that they can and should do more to help the world around them, and the issue comes to a violent head with little warning. No sooner is the new king crowned than vicious, and surprisingly personal, specters of the past rise to rear their ugly heads to strike at him, at his family, at his beautiful country, and even the entire globe.

The fate of the world swings on very small hinges, and if the Black Panther fails, untold destruction will spread across the world overnight.

It is a thrilling story, in truth, dealing with the complicated subjects which determine the fates of nations in the same breath as it deals with a most tragic family feud. Various sides have legitimate arguments to make, and the villain of the story could, in just a slightly different light, be considered a hero, or at least a pivotal figure, in the annals of history, if his plans succeeded. The texture of Wakanda, with unique, super-advanced technology alongside ancient traditions and beliefs, is fascinating and unique as well as believable. Every technical aspect of the film is highly enjoyable, and the characters are fun and lovable, with my personal favorite being T’Challa’s little sister.

It’s not “perfect,” of course.

It was plainly stupid of the villain to destroy a plant that grants greater strength to the men who ingest it. It was a bit predictable and expected for this one outsider tribe to both help the heroes and suddenly appear out of nowhere to save the day. Two people who loved each other were on opposite sides of the conflict, but we never really saw them together much, let alone saw them be romantic, so it didn’t quite have the gut-punch it could have had, and I even had an “oh, right!” moment when I remembered they were “together” like that.

Those are details, however, and in my eyes they fail to detract from what this movie does right. I know I’m speaking only lightly about that, but I really don’t want to spoil anything, ya know? 😉

If I were to put Black Panther in my MCU Countdown, which I probably will at some point, it would certainly be more in the forward ranks, with the Avengers films and a number of Marvel’s most recent works. 🙂

It’s a tale of family, betrayal, revenge, justice, intrigue, secrets, sacrifice, and coming into one’s own to face the world, and the truth, no matter how uncomfortable it might be.

The part where this is the first superhero film with a black/African lead is pretty incidental, really, and they don’t make a big deal out of it.

Rating: I give Black Panther 9 out of 10 stars.

Grade: solid A.

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Sunday’s Wisdom #170: Friendly Disagreement

“Moriko was fascinated by how the two of them could disagree on such an important topic and still be friends.”
– from The Wind and the Void, by Ryan Kirk

The exact details surrounding this quote are pretty complicated, involve a tremendous amount of spoilers, and would probably only distract from the obvious point. So, I shall simply say that Moriko is observing two good men who disagree on something pivotal for their people, yet remain not only friends, but practically family.

Such a thing seems tragically rare these days, doesn’t it?

I wonder when it was. When did we start seeing friends who disagree with us as enemies? When did we start hurling insults by reflex? When did we divide ourselves into “sides” and forget that we’re all still people? And when did we first attribute evil and inhumanity to any differing perspective?

It’s heart-breaking.

I must readily admit, I am as guilty of this as most anyone. I was especially prone to it in my teenaged years, but even so much later, I still sometimes find myself repeating the same mistake. “Why can’t these people see the truth?” I think, “Why can’t they accept the evidence? Why do they have to attack us? Why can’t they listen?” And soon enough I am doing exactly what they are, and voila, we are trading insults instead of talking like reasonable adults.

(there is a reason I try not to talk politics on this humble blog of mine)

I am quite ashamed of my behavior sometimes. How do I stand for what I believe while avoiding vicious arguments? How do I talk to my friends who disagree with me on pivotal issues without destroying our friendships?

Well, I think I could start by getting a better hold on that urge. You know the one, where we see or hear someone saying something rude, and we respond quickly and angrily, because we just have that urge to respond immediately.

I think I could also stand to avoid the obvious trolls and more aggressive comments.

And then there’s always keeping in mind that these people I am arguing with are people just like me, just with a different point of view.

In the words of Obi-Wan Kenobi in Return of the Jedi, “You’re apt to find that many of the truths we hold dear depend greatly on our own point of view.”

And there is the crux of the matter. We had to remember that all of our points of view are valid, especially those that disagree with us.

I know I’m still working on that, and I encourage everyone to do the same.

Good luck to all of us!

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