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.
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?
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
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!