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!

Advertisements
Posted in Books, Sunday's Wisdom | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

This Week on TV, Feb. 17, 2018

Spoiler Alert!

If you hear a sort of low, rumbling buzz in the background, that’s just me, grumbling and growling about the Olympics interrupting my enjoyment of and commentary on my lineup. Gotham and Agents of Shield both return right after the games are done. Black Lightning is still showing, though, and what a show it is. 🙂

Black Lightning

1.05 “Aches and Pains”

Apparently, Jeff’s Black Lightning suit doesn’t just direct his electrical energy, it interacts with his physiology in both directions, influencing how the electricity flows through him, not just away from him. This means updates in the suit let him use his abilities in diverse new ways, but it can have an effect on him too. Case in point, the newest update lets him hover through the skies, but something about it makes him more aggressive and ignites debilitating headaches without warning, even to the point he loses consciousness.

So, not good.

It builds up to that gradually, though, so while it begins right at the start of the episode, as he’s testing it out and saving cops from a kid raging on Green Light, and saving the kid from the cops who are defending their lives, it doesn’t reach a breaking point until the end of the episode.

While Jeff is practicing, Gambi gets a visit from none other than Tobias. It seems Gambi’s skills and equipment come from his association with a group called the ASA. Or ASF, we see that too, a little later, so either I misheard the last letter when Tobias said it or we’ve got two organizations running around, but I digress. Bottom line, Gambi is known as “the Tailor,” his store is a front, and only those in the know realize he works for a secret organization. He’s a spy, of sorts, and information is their bread and butter. Tobias figures Black Lightning must be a thorn in their side, and thus Gambi’s, so he goes to him looking for Black Lightning’s true identity.

Heh, lucky he doesn’t realize how backwards that is, but while Gambi reveals nothing, except for some deal he has with someone where Tobias is never supposed to enter his shop, I still have to question his loyalty to Jeff. What’s he really doing, as a spy, running around with an illicit superhero, a metahuman vigilante?

Gambi also mentions a serum that Tobias and Tori were injected with. It keeps them from aging, among other things, and Tobias says he’s figured out whatever he wasn’t told. It’s interesting they mention this serum in the same episodes that Anissa goes looking for answers about her abilities and stumbles onto some conspiracy theory involving a vaccine, kids exhibiting metahuman abilities and being kidnapped by the ASF, and a reporter, her own grandfather, looking into the matter shortly before his death.

From what we’re told, Jeff’s father was researching nine children who just vanished shortly after displaying some unusual ability, a superpower. Then he suddenly dropped the case, said something to his boss about, “They’re watching,” and turned up dead, murdered by Tobias Whale, a local politician he disgraced with his articles. There’s way too many connections here to be a coincidence.

Interestingly, it was Eve’s “partners” who pushed the Green Light into Black Lightning’s community, so it seems the people who use it are the guinea pigs of some shadowy organization, the same one that used Tobias to kill Jeff’s father. I wonder if Jeff’s abilities come from the “vaccine” as well. I also wonder, very much, if Gambi is part of the same group, or if his is a different group. I mean, if Tobias worked for people who already knew Black Lightning’s identity, he wouldn’t have to go asking Gambi, would he? So, I’m thinking the ASA and the ASF are not the same, and probably not friends either. Too bad the names are so similar, this is going to get confusing at some point.

Anissa’s adoption of a superhero alias is also beginning in this episode. As Anissa is looking into her abilities, and her grandfather’s death, she takes the threat of “someone watching” very seriously. With Jennifer borrowing her hoodie and her catsuit proving far more aesthetic than functional, she buys a new outfit, very tight and bright, with a wig to disguise her hair and her face marked up as well, all so she can poke around with a semi-guarded identity. It’s not much, but it’s all she’s got, and in lieu of an actual mask, it might even be smarter than it looks. If she can’t properly use stealth, she stands out instead, disguising her features by directing attention away from them. Clever.

Leaping into the deep end of the pool as she is, she needs all the “clever” she can get.

On a completely different note, Jennifer went out roller skating with her friend and got into trouble with a couple girls from school. They talked smack at her, she talked it better back at them. They got aggressive, she defended herself and did so capably. She didn’t tell her parents, though, which backfires pretty quickly when the girl brings her mom and some other related lady over to see Jeff and Lynn. The adults are looking for them to pay the bills involved with a supposedly-broken wrist, leaving out the part where it was two-on-one. Jennifer gets in trouble for the fight and for not telling her parents about it.

Jeff does have a good talk with his daughter about fighting, both verbal and physical. It ought to be about putting the fire out, not adding more fuel to it. True. It’s easy to get caught up in the moment, to stand strong and morally superior as a defender of ourselves, others, and our ideals. But, as I have learned, sometimes it really is better to just walk away. But, at the same time, what Jeff says also means that when one is fighting, one must be as effective as possible. The point of fighting is to end the fight.

Unfortunately, Jeff himself is suffering from increased aggression at the moment, and he’s going on the offensive. He talks to Henderson, who knows, really, that the system is against him and the people he’s sworn to protect. That gets Jeff a lead on one of Tobias’ top men, a familiar face which clues Jeff in that his old enemy is in town. He practically runs right over Gambi – yep, I’m guessing he was protecting Jeff from himself when he deleted the footage of Tobias at the march – to go after the man. But he goes unconscious again at a critical moment. He fails, and now he’s clued he enemy in that he’s on their trail.

Tobias goes after an old enemy of his own, alongside his sister. It seems their mother ran out on them when they were little, and their father was severely abusive towards them. Yeah, he stuck around, provided for them, but that is insignificant when he also treated them like his own personal punching bags. Now they come back, finding him so very old and weak, while they stand strong. Tobias breaks his back and leaves him to die very slowly. His first and worst enemy, defeated at last, when he couldn’t even do anything to defend himself.

Tobias’ victory dance is cut short, however, as Eve delivers a message in the form of white powder. It’s a warning that her partners are unhappy, and they will turn him straight into dust. He’s not looking at a seat at the table, he’s looking at his imminent demise if the Black Lightning debacle continues.

Jeff just might get his revenge best simply by avoiding capture or death as he continues his activities. Once he gets up off the ground, that is. But, then again, that would still leave Eve and her partners running around, and they are the real problem besetting his home.

It seems like pretty much everyone is fighting for their life in some way.

Posted in This Week on TV | Tagged | Leave a comment

Doctor Who Challenge Day 14: Favorite Piece of Technology

(instantaneous answer) Sonic screwdriver!

…what? It’s easily the most adaptive technology in the entire universe, able to scan, run computations, operate in various frequencies, move things, lock things that don’t have locks, remotely control highly advanced devices, and even, in rare, specific cases, be used as a weapon, and the list goes on.

I was very tempted by the nanogene machines that can heal entire war-torn planets, but they can obviously create certain nightmares when they malfunction or don’t have enough data but are still trying to follow their programming.

Pretty much every other technology in the series is either a straight-up weapon or flat-out horrifying in truth.

Literally nothing else is even remotely as useful as a sonic screwdriver.

As demonstrated here:

Posted in 15-Day Doctor Who Challenge, Challenge Accepted | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Sunday’s Wisdom #169: Greater Challenge, Greater Reward

“You know, any schlub can pick up a girl at a bar. You want a challenge? Try keeping a beautiful woman happy for ten years running.”
– Peter Burke, White Collar
Season 1, Episode 10, “Vital Signs”

It’s one of those quick little quips that’s just stayed with me.

Neal Caffrey is quite a ladies man on the show. Somehow or other he is almost always tied up with some staggeringly gorgeous woman. He is a charmer, smooth as silk, quick-witted, and oh so very easy on the eyes, not to mention mysterious, deep, and a little bit dangerous in his own way. Trying to catch him is like trying to catch smoke: even when it’s curled around your fingers, it’s already slipped through your grasp and gone.

Peter Burke, by contrast, is anything but a charmer. Flirting does not come easy to him, his attempts at such being… well, humorous to behold. But he is strong and sure and steady as a mountain, with roots every bit as deep. When he commits to something, he gives himself to it wholeheartedly and unreservedly, withholding nothing, and not for just the short-term. Oh, and just because he’s not some silver-tongued charmer, that does not mean he has no romance in his soul. 😉

So, while Neal flits from girl to girl, having a good time but never finding a happiness that lasts, Peter has built an enduring happy life with his wife, Elizabeth. Ten years of marriage, and they’re still just getting started. 🙂

There’s something to that, I think. Far be it from me to tell anyone how to live their life, but it seems to me we’ve greatly misplaced our priorities somewhere along the way.

The world defines having luck with women (or men) as being able to just walk up to them in a bar (or anywhere else) and quickly charm them, especially into bed. And yet, as much pleasure as there is in that, there is little lasting happiness.

An altogether different kind of luck lies in achieving that happiness by finding someone to build it with, slowly, day by day, year by year, for the rest of our lives.

Happiness, especially in a relationship, isn’t something you can just push a button and get it instantly. It’s a huge feast, not a microwave dinner! It takes time and effort and sacrifice. It is much harder than simply picking up some attractive person at a bar or a club or whatever. But it also yields much, much more.

So, to all of the happy couples out there, all of you who have built happiness together and are committed to keep doing so, allow me to congratulate you, to thank you for your example, and to bid you a Happy Valentine’s Day! 🙂

Posted in Sunday's Wisdom, TV Shows | Tagged , | Leave a comment

This Week on TV, Feb. 10, 2018

Spoiler Alert!

Remember last week when I said, concerning Agents of Shield, “If I’d had weeks or months to wait between the end of this episode and the beginning of the next, I’d have been just a little bit more inclined to murder whoever it was who’d made it that way,” you know that bit? Turns out they’re skipping February altogether and their next episode airs at the beginning of March. Figures.

To quote Homer Simpson: Urge to kill, rising!

😉

But, on the bright side, Black Lightning is going strong, I am so glad I caught it right from the beginning! 🙂

Black Lightning

1.04 “Black Jesus”

With Black Lightning’s return official and very public, Tobias is finding himself… not necessarily in “hot” water just yet, but it’s certainly warming up very quickly and bubbles are beginning to form. Killing Black Lightning was his greatest feat, it became his calling card, he traded on the reputation he gained from it. But now that it’s finally been revealed that he did not kill him, he no longer has the trophy for it, and his reputation has taken a hit. Indeed, Lady Eve and her mysterious partners are seriously considering giving his job, as leader of the One Hundred, over to someone else. Not only is his greatest achievement completely undone, but people are starting to really notice Black Lightning, in no small part due to his proximity to the reverend and Khalil when they were shot last episode.

A new beacon of hope plus the tragic martyrdom of a promising youth’s entire future equals trouble for the One Hundred. The more attention is brought to them, the more force will eventually come down on them. And that’s bad for the higher ups, the puppeteers who profit from the One Hundred’s unhindered activities.

So, Eve and her colleagues want Tobias to deal with Black Lightning, and soon, or unpleasant things will be coming his way.

ADD moment: what was she doing?! I am still trying to reconcile this finely-dressed woman pumping something either in or out of a body, one that looks like it’s fresh from the morgue but somehow becoming more animated and awake as she does whatever she’s doing, which I have no idea what it was.

Meanwhile, Jeff is finding that the situation in his school is escalating too. First his daughters were kidnapped straight out of a classroom, then Khalil and Reverend Holt are shot, and now he finds one of his student’s very nearly overdosing on a new drug called Greenlight. Apparently, among other things, it makes people get wildly aggressive and a bit stronger. Jeff had to tase him twice with his powers to stop him before he hurt anyone. It’s only lucky it was that easy and nobody saw.

Jeff has some maneuvering to do in the wake of the kid’s fit. He promises to keep his student from getting expelled, but the Board of Directors do not take kindly to going easy on a boy who managed to endanger all the students around him. The boy made a choice, and if it happens to be especially ill-timed in that it could derail his chances at college, well, too bad. But the Board is willing to let this one boy skate this one time in exchange for Jeff surrendering his final-decision authority on disciplinary matters. In essence: he can use it one last time to save the boy, or he can just be overruled and fail to save him anyway. Jeff chooses the former, which seems especially stilted given that the boy goes nuts for the drug again, and needs Black Lightning to haul him out of the drug house he goes to, the owners of which took a tire iron to his father when the man tried to rescue his son.

In the boy’s defense on that last bit, one ceases to be entirely oneself when under the thrall of addiction, and addiction is exactly what was intended. This is why it’s better to never get hooked in the first place, not even a little. Just one taste can be enough. Especially when what you are tasting is specifically tailored to that end.

Greenlight is apparently a very sophisticated drug, one that hooks a user with one use, addicting them from the very first taste. I wonder if someone is field testing some component or other with the drug, like the quick addiction or the increased savagery. Certainly it doesn’t seem to be strictly the One Hundred dealing the drug, or producing it. That comes to light when Jeff chases down a lead, via an old friend called Two-Bits or something like that. First he visits as Jeff, then he “visits” as Black Lightning, trying both the carrot and the stick, and striking fear into the man. When he finds the warehouse it’s being dealt out of, he realizes he’s looking at something much bigger than One Hundred: well-organized, professional drivers, temperature-controlled eighteen-wheelers and a warehouse that looks like it’s being guarded by Special Ops. That’s a pretty heavy weight class to suddenly have standing against you.

In the grand scheme, it’s probably fortunate that Anissa got into trouble right then.

Jeff is feeling like his city is under attack, and it’s true, but that’s been going on for a long time now. It’s just only now that it’s directly affecting the people under his direct stewardship and protection, his family and his students. Anissa has not been so blind, thus her mounting frustration and anger. When her family is having dinner with the Hendersons, she’s going on about Black Lightning doing more good than the cops. Jeff is enjoying that, looking smugly at Lynn, but he doesn’t know what else is going on with his daughter, or he’d be considerably more worried.

She has a point, as the cops have literally been kept from doing their jobs by people far higher up the food chain, so the gang runs wild and innocent people are hurt. Henderson and Lynn have fair points, there are people indirectly hurt and, yes, it’s hard for a hero’s family to know that they’re in danger all the time. But the cops are in danger too, aren’t they? That’s no reason not to do the job. And as for the innocent collateral damage, they were already being engulfed by the violence and pain sowed by the One Hundred. So, yes, in this argument, I would side with Anissa.

But her awakened powers are very dangerous in the hands of someone as angry and zealous as she is.

When she sees two of her students with a pair of dealers, she pulls them out, takes their insults, and walks away only to return later like the hammer of divine justice. But for all the raw power she has, she possesses no control whatsoever. She strikes the two boys once each, and practically kills them. Actually, she may have done just that. We don’t see, but being punched by a truck is incredibly damaging. She sees flying bodies, and exults in the power, until she realizes she actually hurt them, badly, and she calls an ambulance.

That’s one difference between her the the vigilante she idolizes: control. Black Lightning has a lifetime of experience, too. Also, he has clear lines he does not cross. He does not drop bodies. But Anissa hasn’t learned any such compunctions yet. She’s all fire and power and wrath, untempered by the cold realities of life, or self-discipline, or compassion for even her enemies. She has been wronged, and she’s lashing out, with a simple idealism about what’s wrong with the world as her great excuse for her actions. Not unlike a supervillain.

When some thugs threaten her and hit Grace, she puts her hood up and lets loose on them, leaving imprints of her stamping feet in the very concrete.

…which actually give me some hope for her! She does plenty of damage, but there’s no bodies, and she apparently attacks the ground more than she does her assailants. Scaring them off, perhaps, rather than hurting them?

This happens to coincide with her father’s surveillance of the warehouse, and the noise she raises catches his attention away from his quarry, drawn by the immediate emergency. By the time he gets there, she’s nowhere in sight, but the place looks like a warzone. Gambi hacks the cameras to see what happened, but he tells Jeff that they didn’t catch anything before he disconnects and goes to investigate himself.

Ok, that’s twice within two episodes that Gambi has withheld information from Jeff, and it looks like he might have an idea already that it’s Anissa. I am starting to seriously question his behavior, but as we see Anissa starting to go over the edge, driven by her own desire to do good and encouraged by Grace, I’ll take any port in this particular storm. The woman needs help, guidance, training, understanding, and she needs it all yesterday.

Finally, and perhaps most tragically, Jennifer and Khalil are having to deal with his new condition: paralyzed.

Whatever the local medical staff might gossip about behind his back – good for Jennifer calling them on that – Khalil is determined and optimistic. Jennifer is supportive despite being torn up inside, but doesn’t truly believe. She’s willing to go to the wall for him, even quitting her place on track and field so she can be there for him, overriding her parents disagreement. Speaking of, good for Lynn for suggesting that respite from the argument, but they’re both still trying to tell Jennifer what to do without listening to her, which is a huge mistake. Khalil isn’t exactly thrilled about Jennifer quitting either, and it turns out he’s set himself up for a greater disappointment with his optimistic approach. The staff, his mother, and Jeff especially informs him: his spinal chord is severed. He’s paralyzed. He won’t walk again.

And now is when he’ll have to start facing the reality of his shattered dreams.

Which brings us back around again to Tobias Whale. Or, rather, this is where he comes back into the picture. He brings his sister Tori all the way from Florida, I think, to help him deal with the Black Lightning situation. It’s she who suggests turning the community against their protector, an idea with a frightening amount of merit to it. If they can be made to see their hero as a villain, they just might take him out themselves. But how to accomplish this extreme shift in perception? Why, they just need a spokesperson, and who would speak more powerfully to the community than the one they all have their eye on?

And so Tobias sets his sights on Khalil, looking to turn him. He showers him with gifts, helps his mother with the bills, and then, the very night after learning of his paralysis – which seems a little coincidental – Khalil gets a visit from his new patron, who’s talking about Black Lightning ruining both of their lives.

The Devil strikes when you are at your lowest, whispering anger, hate, and despair.

So, Tobias is under pressure from dangerous people, Jeff is dealing with a new drug that’s harmed his school, Anissa is going crazy, Gambi is keeping secrets, Jennifer is breaking down, and Khalil is targeted as a means to destroy Black Lightning. Did I miss anything?

Posted in This Week on TV | Tagged | 5 Comments

Doctor Who Challenge Day 13: Favorite Planet or Time

Hmmm…

Awhile back, right when I first began this humble blog of mine, I accepted a Challenge right off: the 30-Day Anime Challenge. Towards the end of it came the category, “An Anime You Wished Was Real.” I was unable to pick one. My quandary was simply that the real world has both beauty and horror enough, so whatever wonders might be offered in an anime world, it tends to come with accompanying horrors that I am quite happy to leave as utterly fictitious, ya know?

That’s roughly the same situation I am in now.

The Doctor sees all the wonders of creation, but most of the planets and eras he visits are absolutely horrifying in some way, not the least of which is in modern-day London, beset with countless extraterrestrial threats. So how am I supposed to pick a favorite when they all have that in common?

Or perhaps I’m just happy enough where and when I am. I have all the benefits of modern technology, including decent food and water, shelter, clothing, the internet, etc. I am far less inclined to go into trouble when I know that trouble is what I’d be going into, ya know?

(the Doctor quietly judges my mundane choice)

Or maybe I’m just really lazy and mundane in my tastes. 😉

So, if I must pick a favorite, it would be Modern-Day Earth. The one time and place, with all the benefits of modern civilization, which is the single most frequented stop the Doctor makes, countering the many nefarious forces at work in the world and generally making life easier and safer for us all. 🙂

Posted in 15-Day Doctor Who Challenge, Challenge Accepted | Tagged | Leave a comment

Sunday’s Wisdom #168: On the Need for Justice

“For some men there would never be enough, and unless someone ended them, they would never stop taking.”
– From The Blood Debt
By Duncan M. Hamilton

It is a sad, sad fact of life that not everyone is “good.” Most people are, I think, on some level, but there are some who simply aren’t. Perhaps there was something once, or perhaps there wasn’t really, but whether by nature or nurture, there are men and women who turn out hollow and greedy. Where there heart would be, there is, instead, an empty, hungry chasm that can never be filled, the sort that makes black holes look downright charitable by comparison.

In the story of Hamilton’s Wolf of the North saga, of which Blood Debt is the third, there is a fairly clear delineation between heroes and villains, and it has nothing to do with race, religion, creed, profession, etc. No, it simply has to do with how selfish or selfless, how giving or greedy, they are as individuals.

The heroes, they are heroes not because they are magnificent specimens of wisdom or warrior prowess. They’re heroes simply because they care, and are willing to give everything for the sake of others.

The villains, by contrast, they are villains because they think nothing of taking anything and everything from others for their own benefit. Be it thievery, fraud, torture, betrayal, cattle rustling, raiding, rape, or murder, there is nothing they won’t do to achieve their ends. There is no limit to what they want, what they intend to take, and the more they take, the more they want. Even if they had everything there was, they would still want more.

It’s not a pretty truth, but there is only one way to truly stop such men. To do justice for their victims and to protect those they have yet to hurt, they must be removed from the equation entirely. In some cases, that can be limited to imprisoning them, but even in prison, they will find a way to keep taking. And then there are those men who have already taken so much that they’ve built up their position to one where they’ll just avoid or eventually leave prison in due time.

It’s a hard, unpleasant fact: sometimes stopping an evil man requires ending their lives, and there’s no two ways about that.

That is a most heavy burden to bear, the weight of “what must be done.” Even if it’s done in the heat of the moment, in the middle of a fight for one’s life, and all the more so if it’s done under calmer circumstances. I can’t imagine how heavily such a burden must fall on one’s back. I can only envision it being some poor, unknowing fool who would rush to take it up, unaware of what they’re getting into.

It’s really not something to do hastily. If it must be done, it must be done, but, on the other hand, we really should avoid it when at all feasible, ya know?

As always, it’s a question of balance between extremes, and, in this case, it’s a matter of using one extreme to cancel out another.

Justice in a nutshell.

Posted in Books, Sunday's Wisdom | Tagged , | Leave a comment

This Week on TV, Feb. 3, 2018

Spoiler Alert!

Only two shows in my lineup this week.

Agents of Shield wrapped up the terrible-future arc as the agents fought to get back to the past/present.

And the newly-added Black Lightning delivered a powerful episode about the power, and danger, of hope.

So, a very good week! 🙂

Black Lightning

1.03 “LaWanda: The Book of Burial”

Hope is a fine thing. Indeed, hope is essential to the human condition, to life and living. But what if hope gets you killed? It would seem that the things we need most will often come at a high price, paid, at least partially, in blood.

Hope, it seems, can be a heavy burden indeed, all the more so for he who finds himself inspiring it.

Jeff finds himself bearing exactly that weight as his return, especially coupled with LaWanda’s self-sacrifice, lights a spark of willful rebellion and defiance against The 100. At LaWanda’s funeral, the pastor uses it as a venue to call for action, specifically a march in protest of the huge gang and their unfettered activities.

The crowd, including Jeff’s daughter Jennifer, is electrified and very much willing, which is a headache for other civic leaders like Jeff and Henderson, a school principal and a police official, respectively. The pastor does not much appreciate a lawman trying to convince him not to lead a march in protest of a gang that’s flourished because the law hasn’t done their job. Henderson responds with how the pastor is very well off in his church while Henderson is risking his life for little pay, working hard, and he’s the one cleaning up the mess of bodies left in The 100’s wake. As for Jeff, the pastor wonders if he cares about anything outside his school or his own family anymore, which Jeff does, but either way, he’s not out for his own glory here. He’s trying to help bring down the enemy that’s turned their community into a living nightmare, and for that, he’s willing to risk his own death.

Henderson rather thinks that’s likely, because suddenly rising up on the streets is just begging to be smacked back down, and it’s all because of Black Lightning. People are going to die because Black Lightning is back.

And it’s not like Henderson is advocating that they all keep their heads down like cowards. He just believes in doing things the right way, in accordance with the law. The people can protest all they like, but it won’t bring down the 100, not really. The law does that, and it needs evidence to operate. But at this point, he’s just hoping to protect the marchers, and even that doesn’t go as hoped, as orders from on high limit such protection to no more than one squad car. The 100 are so entrenched that they can actually do something like that. They own the cops either directly or by owning the people they answer to.

So! Jeff has his work cut out for him. Fortunately, he has Gambi helping him. They find out the march’s planned route, and redirect it with some “construction,” through some territory that Black Lightning can more easily watch over them from. Gambi also has a new bit of armor to help Jeff shoot thinner streams of electricity, more precise in a crowd and less taxing on his stamina. So, they’re working hard, but so’s the enemy.

Tobias, who has seemed to be the biggest enemy thus far, apparently has someone he answers to as well. Lady Eve, I think it was. She’s black and she knows her business. She has no qualms with preachers, believing that the good book keeps people in line more than it riles them up. What she misunderstands about that is how it helps people endure hellish times with patience and hope that is just waiting to be given an igniting spark. She is correct about what has sparked them this time, namely Black Lightning, so however Tobias’ protests that he killed the man years ago, that is a problem that must be dealt with.

For the moment, however, the priority is the march, and Gambi rather correctly assumes that the 100 aren’t interested in making a martyr out of the pastor, but in striking fear into the people’s hearts again by outright massacring the marchers. To which end, Tobias brings in some punk and forcibly recruits him to commit mass murder.

While all of this is going on, life is still continuing for Jeff’s family.

Anissa is becoming an absentee figure as her powers are awakening and she’s trying to understand them on her own. She’s getting a grasp on the physical aspect, using them at will by controlling her breathing, and she definitely packs a punch. While she’s looking into the why of things, like genetic mutation, she meets a very pretty girl named Grace and ends up going to a club with her in a catsuit. Her girlfriend stumbles onto that particular scene and they break up. Doesn’t take a genius to see where that’s going, but Anissa is also figuring out that the opportunity her powers present also come with the burden of secrecy.

So she’s letting someone in knowing she’ll have to keep her out at the same time. Now that’s going to get interesting.

As for Jennifer, she and her boyfriend Khalil are planning to take their new romantic relationship to the next level on Saturday, by going to a hotel and having sex. Apparently, they’ll be giving each other their virginity, which Khalil feels a little awkward about after having wanted to sound like he’d know what he was doing, but Jennifer is perfectly happy with. Oh, and they aren’t going to sneak around behind anyone’s backs, either. Khalil makes sure Jennifer informs her parents herself. Which she does at family dinner. Which shocks both of her parents, who, of course, want to talk her out of it, but she’s prepared with points of how she’s about as old as they were, and they didn’t wait for marriage either. So, she has an upper hand in terms of any argument they could come up with.

I am just going to say here: while Khalil and Jennifer get points for being upfront about it, I would have particular points of my own to raise were either of them my kids intent on this. Sex is a powerful thing, and all powerful things are to be handled with care. They just got together last episode, a few days earlier at most, and now they’re running straight to the bedroom? Slow down, people. Slow down. You don’t lose anything by waiting, and you just might appreciate it more, on so many levels, after taking your time to get there.

Of course, that would be what I’d say to one or the both of them, but fatherhood calls for a bit more than that. And Jeff delivers, as he corners Khalil at school, makes him very uncomfortable asking about his showering habits, and uses Khalil’s uncertainty to strongly suggests slowing down. That was just a great scene, and you could tell how satisfied Jeff was with himself after that. LOL!

But the day before the hotel rendezvous, there is the march, which Khalil, Jennifer, Anissa, and Lynn are all part of. As expected, the 100 makes their move, which Black Lightning blocks, saving lives. The crowd is awestruck, following the pastor as he sings “Amazing Grace,” and it seems the crisis is entirely averted. But Tobias is watching, with mounting anger and frustration as he beholds the man he killed standing and once again protecting innocent people, thwarting his plans. So he has his right hand woman take aim and shoot, meaning to kill Black Lightning again, permanently.

Instead, the bullet hits the pastor and blows straight through the man, on into Khalil. One bullet, to victims.

The pastor will be fine, but everyone is waiting anxiously on Khalil’s condition. While people are singing praises to Black Lightning for saving their lives, they learn that the bullet hit his spine. He may never walk again, which will be all the more bitter a pill to swallow because that was Khalil’s way out of the neighborhood, out of the nightmare. It was his dream, to use an athletic scholarship to get out and do something productive in the world, and to take Jennifer with him. All of that is gone now, in an instant.

It is a hard thing to be robbed of your sole and dearest hope for the future.

Lynn tries to ask Anissa what’s going on with her, and though she sees straight through the excuse about her girlfriend breaking up with her, she doesn’t press the issue. She just assures her daughter that she’ll be there when she’s ready to talk. That’s a keenly observant woman, there, but also patient and understanding.

Elsewhere, interesting, Gambi finds a video linking Tobias to the shooting… and he erases it, with a whispered apology to the absent Jeff. Now why did he do that? I can think of at least two reasons. Perhaps he wants to protect Jeff from himself, keep him from tearing off after the man who, when last they met, very nearly killed him, and thought he had. A more nefarious purpose, though, may be to keep Jeff in the fight by keeping knowledge of his old enemy from him for the time being. I am more inclined to believe the former, but I can’t dismiss something like the latter. Knowledge is power, after all, and Jeff ought to be made aware of who he’s dealing with, and thus what danger he is facing. He’s brave, but will usually listen to reason. Either way, Gambi just did a dangerous thing which will probably blow up in his face at some point.

Agents of Shield

5.10 “Past Life”

Now I’m actually of a mind to appreciate Inhumans a little, if only because it kept the two halves of this season closer together. If I’d had weeks or months to wait between the end of this episode and the beginning of the next, I’d have been just a little bit more inclined to murder whoever it was who’d made it that way. 😉

Ten episodes in, almost halfway through the season, and we finally reach the crescendo of this arc about the apocalyptic future.

Finding Sinara dead on what appears to be an otherwise-abandoned Zephyr, Kasius pretty much loses his mind. Whatever slender grasp he had on sanity before, it vanishes. As his efforts meet with greater and greater failure, he drives harder and harder, and his visions of grandeur escalate higher and higher.

As he keeps conversing with Sinara’s corpse, we learn that it was his father, Kasius the Elder (or whatever his name really is), who invaded the Earth all those years ago, back in the present which the agents are from. He and his family are clearly very powerful and formidable, but they are/were still shunned by those around them. Kasius’ father saw great potential in Earth, likely in the resurgence of Inhumans among the population at large. Whatever it was, he saw Earth as a blue gem unnoticed by most of the universe, so he made to take it.

Guess who stopped him?

No, apparently it wasn’t the Avengers. Which is disquieting, but somewhat to be expected since they’re broken after Civil War and about to get their tails handed to them in Infinity War. In lieu of the Avengers, the world needed the agents of Shield to save them. And they fought hard. But whatever happened on that pivotal day, and whatever led up to it, apparently both sides lost. Earth slowly broke apart, destroying the vast treasure the Kree warlord wanted to plunder, reducing it to a relative pittance, a sliver of what it once was, and same fate for all humanity. Soon enough it became evident that the surviving humans needed the Kree’s help, so they became a conquered people under Kasius’ boot. So, humanity wins the battle, but loses the war, while Kasius wins, but is robbed of almost everything he sought. Both sides lost.

…but, if Kasius, in this future, can keep the agents from returning to the past, then his father’s invasion will be a sweeping success, and they’ll have the entire glittering hoard of Earth and its people all to themselves. So, his singular mission is to accomplish this, to change the past within the future, and there is nothing he will not do.

Fortunately, there was already a small stumbling block thrown into his path by his seer. When the incoming agents eluded him on the Zephyr, it was partially due to a little misdirection. Once they were in, running loose and doing what they do best, it was practically over. The Kree might have been able to take them if they’d ever managed to get their hands on them properly, but the agents didn’t let that happen. They kept moving, focused on the mission, using every trick they could think of. One team rescued prisoners/Inhumans, while another focused on helping Flint reconstruct the monolith, another defended and operated the machine that activates said monolith, and Yo-Yo ran to save Kasius’ seer. If Kasius threw it at them, they met and obliterated it, shooting, decapitating, stabbing, throwing their enemies out into space.

And still they had time for humanity, heh. Like when Coulson stopped and told Tess about how he once was exactly where she is, having been killed and brought back with Kree blood. He’s able to give her some solace in that. Oh, and there’s when Simmons takes the time to pull that organism from another servant-girl’s ear, giving her back her sense of hearing. The sheer gratitude on the woman’s face. 🙂 And though the offer is refused, Mack extends an invitation to Flint, to come back to the past, knowing he’d always have a home with him and Yo-Yo. The world has ended, they’re fighting a war, and racing to get back to the past in time to fix it, but they’re still good people.

No, it’s not brute force that makes the agents falter, not even for a moment.

It’s their encounter with Kasius’ seer.

I figured it out right in the “last time on Agents of Shield” bit, when we saw the scene again of Kasius emerging from where he keeps his seer. It was the guy who looks like a torture-physician covered in blood that made me realize just how involuntary this seer’s service is, and my mind locked onto the most obvious possibility. More hints were dropped, of another Inhuman being brought back to life, screaming, of it being a woman, and someone who, knowing these events, lied to Kasius at a critical moment.

When Yo-Yo runs to rescue the seer, she literally meets herself. Her future self, that is.

When she stormed off to fight the Kree rather than forfeit humanity’s freedom, so long ago, she did it knowing she would die. Apparently, she also knew she’d be brought back to life again, and killed, and brought back, over and over and over. She held on, looking forward to this moment, when her younger self, still filled with hope, would come to her, and she would tell her what she could, and then it would finally end.

So, the agents make it back to the past, apparently, and fight the future they know is coming. But the more they fight, the closer it comes. The future Yo-Yo is filled with sorrow that she could not change people’s decisions, and those decisions actually cost Mack his life and destroy the world. It actually comes down to Coulson, not Daisy. He’s dying and he knows it – this confirms what was hinted at in last season’s finale, the reason why the Ghost Rider rode in Coulson’s body for a short time – and the team tries to save him. Something about this triggers the great destruction which follows.

Meanwhile, Coulson, who is sporting some blackening flesh right around where he was stabbed through he heart the first time he died, makes a decision that Daisy wouldn’t agree with. She wants to stay in the future, because if there’s even a chance that she really did destroy the world, then she has to avoid the past. If she stays, the world is safe, she thinks, but if she goes back, then even if they try to not use her power as Quake, sooner or later something will happen and they’ll resort to using it in extreme circumstance. No, Quake should be kept out of the past, so Daisy should stay in the future.

But Coulson is on his last legs as a leader, and he needs Daisy to lead when he’s gone. So he ices her and carries her to Flint’s monolith, dragging her to the past and taking the chance that she may never forgive him for it.

Once Flint, with Simmons’ capable guidance, is able to build a monolith for the team, all that’s left is for said team to gather together while Enoch activates it. But Yo-Yo isn’t there yet, slowed down by her encounter with herself. Mack races off to find her, not about to leave without her. He is met by Kasius, hopped up on this last-resort potion called odium, which floods the body with strength, saturates mind with aggression, and stifles the ability to feel pain. Apparently, it’s how his kind meet certain death: screaming and fighting and taking as many of the enemy with them as they can.

Kasius has Yo-Yo of the future, who no longer has her arms, in hand and cuts her throat in front of Mack. It’s a duel after that, an all-out fight for blood and death. Kasius has an advantage with the odium in his system, but Simmons gets the drop on him and introduces him to “silence.” Poetic, and distracting, letting Mack stab him straight through the heart from the back, which is also poetic. But despite his victory, Mack is broken by Yo-Yo’ death… until the current Yo-Yo comes into sight and embraces him.

And then it’s a race back to the monolith for the three of them, while the rest are waiting, and praying for every second of extra time. Which they need, and aren’t getting, because things went pear-shaped back on the Zephyr as well. The Kree found Enoch working, and though Deke raced back to help, he and the machine were both badly damaged. The machine needs a power source, then, and Enoch volunteers his own. It’s a desperate play, because it will result in Enoch’s death and an explosion that will destroy the machine and several levels of the Lighthouse, completely atomizing Deke as well, but it’s the only one they’ve got.

Deke and Daisy insulted each other to the very last, though Daisy was unconscious by the end so she couldn’t hear Deke’s last moments. Deke and Enoch were practically a study in contrasts, especially, but however much Deke moaned and groaned, he did what was necessary, and he died alongside Enoch activating the monolith.

The episode ends with the climactic moment, then a scene of Tess and Flint in the Trawler, looking at the remnant of Earth. Whatever happens in the past, in this version of the future, the agents came and taught humanity that they could stand tall again, and wiped out the occupying Kree force. That’ll still leave the entire empire of Kasius the Elder to tangle with, and I doubt he’ll be happy to learn of the deaths of his losses on Earth, but that’s a problem for another day. For now, humanity endures even through the end of the world, and Flint just might be able to rebuild a good portion of it. It won’t be anything like it was before, of course, and likely only advanced technology combined with sheer human willpower would be the only thing that carries the species forward, but it’s a start. Indeed, it’s a renewal.

As for the agents? …oooohhhh, I wonder if they all made it back? 😉

Posted in This Week on TV | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Doctor Who Challenge Day 12: A Thing I Would Change

I suppose there are a number of things I would change in Doctor Who.

I recently waxed eloquent about some things I disagree with on the show, so I’d probably change most of that just out of personal preference, but that’s a bit ambiguous and, I think, would have minimal impact on the quality of the show.

Speaking purely from a storytelling perspective, I suppose I would just change pretty much everything about Capaldi’s tenure as the Doctor. Cast someone else as the Doctor, give him a strong, one-episode introduction like they did with Matt Smith, have fewer of those “meta” type episodes, avoid Bill Potts at all cost, etc. But that’s aiming a bit big and large, I think, for “changing one thing.”

I think the thing that annoyed me most about Capaldi’s tenure was how he was still the Doctor, still playing his part in the cosmic struggle, and yet was less interesting than the other characters, most of whom surpassed him and the need of him at some point. He was somehow a force to be reckoned with, and yet, simultaneously, the next best thing to useless. I’m only just now starting to wrap my head around that.

But, really… I mean, really… if I am really going to change one, single thing about Doctor Who, I suppose it’s going to be, quite simply:

Casting a redhead as the next Doctor!

I mean, Tennant and Smith both had opening lines about wanting to be ginger, so why not, eh? 🙂

A friend of mine was rather fond of the idea of casting Rupert Grint, but did you know that Benedict Cumberbatch is actually, naturally, a redhead? 😉

Hmmm.

Posted in 15-Day Doctor Who Challenge, Challenge Accepted | 2 Comments

Black Lightning’s Electrifying Debut

When I first heard about Black Lightning, I was intrigued. My interest was somewhat tempered with the realization that it was being produced by exactly the same people who gave us most of the Arrowverse, and became even more so as all three of the currently running Arrowverse shows have definitely taken a step down in quality again. I also laugh along with everyone else who is just watching and waiting for the two to somehow intersect. But, still, my interest remained, and I am, at least for now, quite glad that I did not let the association between them put me off.

The first two weeks of Black Lightning‘s run have both delivered in powerful ways. It’s definitely going in my weekly lineup. 🙂

The basic premise of the show is that the main character, Jefferson Pierce, is a metahuman with moderate electricity-based superpowers, and he used to suit up as a vigilante, Black Lightning. He fought a war against a gang called The 100, especially against their super-strong leader Tobias Whale, and he wasn’t doing too badly, but he was practically killing himself in the process, which his wife did not approve of. Nine years ago, he hung up his suit and donned a different one, becoming a school principal, keeping children safe and nurturing their minds and souls to become something better. But while he’s been inactive, The 100 have regained power and are running rampant, growing ever more bold and brazen. When his family is threatened, Jefferson becomes Black Lightning again, and the war begins again, Round 2. Oh, and as he fights for his family and his community, Jefferson gets to learn that his grown and growing daughters have inherited his powers.

It’s fresh, gritty, exciting, heart-breaking, inspiring, and more. Taking some obvious cues, felt most keenly in the soundtrack, from Marvel’s Luke Cage, the show tells a story about black life and black culture in a populous area of the USA, albeit obviously influence by a liberal view. Even more, it tells the story of a man who is just trying to protect his own family and neighborhood from a vile evil that is overwhelming them and making victims of them all. It’s a story about sacrifice and strength. That’s Black Lightning.

It’s not your usual superhero story, either. The vast majority of them begin at the beginning of said hero’s career, with discovering or using their abilities for the first time, then embarking on their quest for world peace or whatever. Instead, this is Jefferson’s second beginning as Black Lightning, his rebirth. We’re not wading through years/decades of conflict, drama, romance, and child-rearing, we’re dropped into the middle of things. The world knows and remembers this hero who fought for them once before, and they already have well-founded opinions about him. Unfortunately, so do his enemies, and it’s rather foreboding that one of them believes he actually killed this vigilante before, back when he was still in his prime, which, while he is still fit, he’s definitely not a young daredevil anymore.

Black Lighting also doesn’t shy away from the horror of things, or the blood, but it doesn’t overdo them either. Which, that would be one thing Marvel might need to recall these days, but I digress. In this show, we have gangsters making legitimate threats of death and destruction, killing each other and innocent people alike. Even when you know the heroes have to survive the episode, the danger still feels very real.

Also, suits that glow in the dark are not optimal for sneaking around in it.

The violence is pretty realistic too, with exception to how being punched by a living taser ought to stun one a bit more quickly and effectively than it apparently does. So, it’s not “perfect,” but it strikes a pretty decent balance between giving the hero an advantage and leaving his normal enemies with a proper chance against him. He’s clearly not bulletproof, for instance.

The plot and the characters aren’t left as simple constructs, either – or, at least, not within the first two episodes – which is one of the Arrowverse’s particular failings in recent years. One example: when one girl is kidnapped and rescued, she’s both afraid and invigorated towards reckless behavior, which one of her peers and a romantic interest helps her deal with. Other stories would have her either be completely all right after the experience, or drive her over a cliff with either fear or recklessness. Instead, we have a balanced, realistic approach to a legitimate trauma. It’s really quite refreshing to see in a CW superhero show!

Heck, Black Lightning himself is more complicated than other CW heroes, if only because he is torn about his decision to act as a vigilante again. He had very good reasons for hanging up his metaphorical cape, and he has very good reasons for putting it on again. He is weighed down by the burdens he carries, but he isn’t broody and moody about it. Neither is he automatically and overwhelmingly self-sacrificing, as so many others are. There is a balance to be found between selfishness and selflessness as well as one’s duty towards one’s immediate family and one’s duty to the extended community, either extreme being incredibly dangerous.

In short, Black Lightning had a fantastic debut, in my opinion. I haven’t seen a stronger introduction from the CW since Arrow, and if I were to compare it to Marvel’s TV shows, it would still be in the forward ranks.

Oh, yes, I am definitely following this one! 🙂

Rating: tentatively, 9 stars out of 10.

Grade: also tentatively, A-minus.

Posted in Tuesday Review, TV Shows | Tagged | 2 Comments