This Week on TV, Dec. 3, 2016

Spoiler Alert!

I suddenly noticed this week that my lineup has a lot of mileage behind it! Six seasons, eight seasons, a hundred episodes, and so on. I seem to be following some fairly long-lived shows! 🙂

And this week, not a one of them failed to deliver the gut punch! Once Upon a Time featured a rapid culmination of the conflict between Belle and Rumple, Gotham brought Gordon practically to his knees, Agents of Shield returned with a vengeance (pun intended), Arrow had its huge crossover with the other three shows of the Arrowverse, and they did not pull their punches when it came to how personal things got, and The Vampire Diaries had Stefan making a huge sacrifice to get Caroline’s daughters back.

Yeah. This was a pretty intense week.

Once-upon-time-logoOnce Upon a Time

6.09 “Changeling”

First thing to say… do you realize this is the hundred and twentieth episode of this show? Wow! Back at the beginning, I would not have imagined this show running for that many episodes and this many seasons! Very nice!

So, Belle and Rumple are officially fighting over their baby son. Fortunately, Rumple is fighting alone, while Belle has everyone’s help, including Emma and company, the fairies, and even her son manages to help out a bit, talking with her in her dreams. He manages to nudge Belle in the direction of some squid ink, which Hook and Emma use to immobilize Rumple while they ransack his shop for either the shears or the dagger. That doesn’t go so well, as a vision-seizure suddenly strikes Emma, and Rumple takes advantage of their absence from Belle’s side to go confront her.

Rumple says something very interesting to me here. He says, he believes he is the sort of person that no one can love. So, like everyone, he craves being loved, but he thinks it’s impossible. But with his son, he says, he can start over.

And there, I call bull crap. He’s had so many chances already! So many fresh starts! He can’t keep “starting over” like that! He has done unforgivable things (like throwing his ex-wife into the River of Lost Souls) and you don’t get to “start over” after something like that! The only way forward is through, not around. If he wants to move forward, then he needs to stop trying to steal a happy ending already! I mean, what has that ever gotten him? Oh, yes, he’s one of the most powerful magical creatures ever to walk the Earth, but he’s alone.

Happily, and somewhat surprisingly, Belle is able to play the card of Rumple’s feelings for her, one last time. If he steals her son from her, he’ll lose her forever. So the question: is he willing to pay that price?

No. He isn’t. Not at the moment, anyway.

Unfortunately, that isn’t the climax of this episode. That’s barely halfway through.

Elsewhere, the Queen is set to obey Rumple, to kill Zelena, her own sister. She tried to refuse, at first, but soon enough, she goes and makes the attempt. It’s not much of a fight, one little fireball and Zelena is down for the count, but then Regina shows up. She apparently came to steal something to help her friends, but seeing the Queen about to kill Zelena, she steps in. She takes out her own heart and squeezes. I was kind of cheering at that. The Queen, the sister whom Zelena chose because she was convenient, tried to kill her, and Regina, the one she refused, is ready to die protecting her. That willingness is what thwarted the Queen, and Zelena was ready to make amends after that.

A bit disappointing, though, was how Regina only did it “because that’s what heroes do.” I was expecting something like, “You’re my sister.” Instead, we got another fight between them over Robin, with Regina still blaming Zelena for his death and refusing to forgive her. So what could have been a moment of reconciliation just ended with an even wider divide between the two sisters.

The Queen isn’t in a happy mood either. After trying and failing to kill Zelena, the last thing she’s interested in is letting Rumple start thinking he’s somehow superior. Things are spoiling all around, aren’t they? And then the Queen takes Rumple’s little aging powder and slips it into Belle’s tea, bringing her pregnancy to rapid culmination. About the only place left to run, at that point, is to the fairies.

It turns out, this isn’t the first time Belle and Rumple have been fighting over a baby, with fairies involved. Rumple once claimed the child of some poor couple, probably the price of a deal, and made intimations that he had some awful plan in mind before leaving the child momentarily in Belle’s care. Belle’s first task was to calm the child, and then she investigated. Rumple had in mind a summoning ritual, to call the Black Fairy. But he needed a translation of the script, so he tricked Belle into doing it for him, and then he took both the translation and the child, leaving Belle locked up in the tower.

Fortunately, the Blue Fairy came along and let Belle out, charging her to save the child from the Black Fairy. Not much is known about her yet, except that she once protected humans, and then something happened and she started stealing children instead. When Rumple summons her, though, he doesn’t just let her take the child. He immobilizes her with squid ink. And threatens her with his dagger. All this trouble he’s gone to, and for what? Simply to ask her a question: why, exactly, did the woman who came to steal children abandon her own son?

…ok, wow! That came out of left field, didn’t it? We’ve just met Rumple’s mother! Who abandoned him when he was newborn, even before he was given a name! Rumple was abandoned by both of his parents, in succession! And both for the same reason: self-serving power! So, he had two immediate examples of people who chose power instead of their loved ones, and he’s made the same choice, and paid a hefty price for it, and he still thinks he can just take his son’s love and everything will work out fine? Rumple, you are a very slow learner!

Something tell me we may be seeing that Black Fairy again sometime. She’s certainly more powerful than Rumple was back then. For the moment, though, Belle retrieved the child and gave it back to its parents.

And now they’re fighting over another child, their own, and Belle knows she can’t stop a father as driven to take his son as Rumple is. Their sacntuary can’t hold for long. So, though it breaks her heart, she takes a page out of Snow and Charming’s book: to give her son his best shot, she gives him up. She has the Blue Fairy take her son away, to raise him until such time as this whole mess is over with. She had only a few moments with him, but she gave him everything she could: someone to protect and raise him, her favorite book about heroes to nurture his spirit… and his name. Gideon.

Good name.

Rumple, of course, is furious. It would seem he blames fairies in general for his mother abandoning him. The Blue Fairy once gave his son the seed that Rumple was too afraid to go through. And now the same fairy has possession of Gideon, though Belle refuses to even tell him his son’s name, lest he use it to find him. Oh, he most certainly hates fairies very much right now!

And as he returns to his shop to lick his wounds, so to speak, who should he find waiting for him but the Queen. The woman who dosed Belle to speed up her pregnancy, depriving him of any chance he had with either his wife or his son. The pretense of allying is gone now. Rumple’s rage is kindled, and let loose on his own shop for the short term, but she is the one he intends to make suffer.

I just have to say, the show’s heroes may have gone a bit stagnant, really, but the villains are still so very entertaining!

Finally, Hook and Emma figure out what caused her vision earlier: the sword that will supposedly be used to kill her is in Rumple’s shop. The proximity to it triggered the vision. Touching it triggers her seizures… that is until she seizes it, and her fate, firmly in her grasp.

And now we head into this season’s halfway point! This should be good!

Oh, and, uh, Jasmine rubbed the lamp, to find no genie within, so Aladdin became her genie. I’m not sure what sort of combination of loving, poetic, and stupid that is, but it most certainly is such a combination.

gotham-logo-screencapGotham

3.11 “Beware the Green-Eyed Monster”

…well… wow… ummm… I am not one to swear, but one could argue, at this point, that it might be well warranted. I know someone out there must have cussed up a storm at that ending.

I have mentioned before how storytellers often craft the single worst scenarios to put their beloved characters through. I’ve seen many terrible fates befall many a hero and villain, but this is definitely one for the record books.

Ok, backing up a bit here.

Once again, we have our three fronts: Gordon, Bruce, and the criminal underworld.

In the underworld, we have Barbara hatching her plans. It doesn’t take much, just a pointed conversation with Nygma, where she doesn’t even beat around the bush, just flat-out tells him Penguin killed Isabella. Nygma is skeptical of the claim, doubting the notion that Penguin is in love with him. But he still tests it, resigning from Penguin’s administration, framing a conversation in such a way that, if Penguin is in love with him, he will interpret it as a reciprocation of his feelings, and if he isn’t, then Nygma is already halfway through an attempt at becoming Penguin’s business partner.

Penguin falls for it, and is revealed, much to Nygma’s shock and outrage. Nygma vividly imagines stabbing Penguin to death, but refrains. Penguin is still acting like a friend, and so Nygma feels the betrayal cutting even deeper. He wants more than Penguin’s mere demise. He wants Penguin’s utter destruction, the loss of everything he loves.

And so he goes to Barbara, who is in company with Butch and Tabitha. Tabitha’s hand was successfully reattached, but it’s weak and clumsy. She can’t even hold a knife with it anymore, so until that improves somehow, she’s basically fighting one-handed. She’ll still be plenty dangerous, I imagine, but at a fraction of her previous prowess. Needless to say, after last episode, she and Butch are very keen on killing him, held back only by Barbara.

Barbara, as it happens, does have the broad strokes of a plan in mind. First they destroy Penguin, together, but after that, she intends to rule Gotham as Penguin does in the underworld. Nygma knows the current ruling families will never accept her, and that is exactly why she wants Nygma on her side. He knows the underworld, inside and out, and he’s quite the cunning strategist. His brains, Butch and Tabitha’s brawn, and Barbara’s vision together would most certainly be a potent mix. I doubt it’d work out that way, as the brawn wants to kill the brain and the brain, knowing this, would happily kill the brawn. A house divived cannot stand, after all. But they can do some serious damage before they turn on each other.

Penguin’s enemies have assembled. And he has no clue of the brewing storm.

Meanwhile, Bruce is moving forward with the Whispers, looking to steal this mysterious weapon from the Court of Owls. I’ve know they’ve robbed and stolen and gotten up to mischief before, but it’s quite a step up for Bruce, Alfred, and Selina to go up against a fully active, state-of-the-art security system. It gets even worse when the Owls’ agent, Talon, hunts down and wipes out the Whispers, quite possibly all of them. They don’t have any backup, and Selina very nearly walked away from it all. She only came back after Alfred made a pointed reference to why Bruce made truce with the Court: to protect her.

Still, the three of them manage, to a point. Alfred takes out the guards while the kids sneak in through the window and let him in through the door. Ther find the right room while Alfred does a sweep of the building. Selina kisses Bruce before walking a tight rope above an alarmed floor (Wow, Bruce, strong enough to hold up Selina’s entire weight? You been juicing or something?) and opens the vault with the key. What’s inside is… a statue? Either they got the wrong thing, or the Court of Owls fears a crystal statue of an owl.

…ok, how is that supposed to destroy them?

They don’t have time to wonder. Things take an almost deadly turn when Talon shows up. He hits Bruce, dropping Selina, setting off the alarm. Selina defends herself, but she’s utterly outclassed, and the kids do exactly the very best thing they could do in that situation: distract (with a flash-bang grenade) and run! Alfred covers them, taking Talon on, but there’s no comparing the two fighters, he’s overwhelmed, nearly killed, and only Talon’s inability to predict that Bruce, and then Selina, would join the fray keeps them all alive for even another moment, but they’re still about to lose and be killed.

And then a woman comes charging in and hits Talon over the head with a vase, stunning him just long enough for Alfred to drive a blade up into his head.

Still, alarms or not, serendipitous first meeting or not, the trio aren’t going to just go with any old stranger. That could prove suicidal. So… best hope Selina’s mother really is an ally.

Yes. We have met the mother of Rumpelstiltskin and Catwoman in the same week.

Selina looks like she was halfway in shock at the sight of her mother.

Something tells me that relationship is not going to prove warm and cuddly. It could be the part where this is the first we’ve ever even heard of the woman, let alone seen her. We know she’s capable of surveillance, though Selina could still feel someone watching, and she did just save everyone, at risk to her own life. Still, Selina’s been living on the streets, alone, a solitary creature. And her mother didn’t come crashing through in until they, especially Selina, was in grave, immediate danger. What’s she even doing there in the first place?

Finally, and here comes the real weight of the episode: Gordon has to fight against Mario in order to save Lee’s life.

Driven by the Tetch virus, Mario has gone insane with jealousy. When Barnes went mad with anger, he was straightforward and brutal. But envy can, for a time at least, be more patient, cunning, and manipulative than its burning-hot sibling, wrath. Basically, Barnes was satisfied with simply killing his victims, but Mario wants more than that. He means to see Lee’s affection for Gordon stifled and snuffed out, right down to the very last trace. For that, he creates an elaborate scheme.

First he finds a doctor working on the Tetch virus and murders him, brutally, taking is ID card. Though everyone is expecting Gordon to be consumed by the fact that his ex is getting married, he is perfectly fine and professional. His instincts are working too, as he immediately suspects a Tetch victim, much as Bullock tries to deny the possibility. That leads them quickly to the man’s workplace, where Mario gets the drop on Gordon, knocks him unconscious and writes “Arkham” on his hand.

Even knowing it’s a deliberate bread crumb trail, Gordon has to investigate, which brings him back to the Mad Hatter, who is gleeful and gloating over his impending triumph, but keeps his lips closed about who his other victim is… until Gordon speaks in rhymes. Then the Hatter can’t help but let slip a few details, which leads Gordon to Mario.

Ok, Gordon knows how to speak “crazy.” That’s not ominous at all!

Sensibly, Gordon has Mario picked up and tested by Fox. But the test comes back negative. Three times. Which explains why Mario killed that doctor and broke into the lab, so he could see what the test for the virus was, so he could find a way to cheat it. But everyone decides to ignore that little homicide and invasion of the lab, as if it simply happened and wasn’t done by someone deliberate, and think Gordon is losing it after all.

Looking to protect Lee, Gordon goes to talk to her, finds Mario instead, and they have a little chat. Mario menaces, Gordon defies. Then Mario has Zasz come and hold Gordon at gunpoint until just the right time. Freed, Gordon races to try and convince Lee, who simply won’t listen to him. Mario’s version of events has skewed things a little bit (Gordon did not “have” Fox run the test three times, for instance), and Lee refuses to give Gordon any credit. I know they don’t have perfect history, but there’s such a thing as having faith in the instincts of a warrior, of a friend. Right then, in Gordon’s place, I would have begged Lee to simply take a leap of faith. If she ever trusted Gordon once, if she believes she could still trust Gordon with her life, then she should trust him now.

But instead, Gordon finally tells her the truth: he regrets not going to see her the moment he was free of prison, and he tells her that he never stopped loving her, and he tells her how he went to her door once, but saw her and Mario together, and left. He didn’t want to come crashing in and ruin her happiness. That confession hits low and hard, and only serves to anger Lee. Telling her that a bare minute before she’s to walk down the aisle? I can see her point, and it was the worst move Gordon could have made. She pushes him away, telling him she and Mario are leaving Gotham forever after the wedding, and she asks Carmine Falcone to see Gordon out the door.

He puts it together too late, and he is starting to sound and even look a little crazy now. But with the woman he loves in such immediate danger, and no one willing to listen to him, pretty much anyone would go crazy. Mario’s entire scheme was simply to make Lee hate Gordon, so she’d never go back to him, ever. And it worked. Not that she’s the sort to be disloyal to her husband, but Mario effectively murdered her love for Gordon. And as Gordon comes to blows with Falcone’s goons, the hits he takes are nothing compared to the blows his spirit is already suffering under.

That, by the way, is very good storytelling! When you have such a perfect outer conflict to match the inner turmoil, you have a pretty compelling, riveting story! 🙂

Fortunately, there was one person who listened to Gordon’s fears: Lucious Fox. He put himself into the shoes of a man who would want to cheat the test for the Tetch virus, and figured out a way to do it with a chemical, which is abundantly present in Mario’s blood. That’s enough to convince Bullock that Gordon might be right, so he has someone keep an eye on Mario while they search his house, finding more of that chemical, giving them further cause to bring Mario in and test him again. But he and Lee slipped out the back at the wedding reception, and now they’re cuddled up in Falcone’s personal retreat. The cops will find Mario eventually, but by then, it will be far too late for Lee.

When Mario, looking to see if his scheme was successful, asks Lee one last time about her feelings for Gordon, he wants her to say she feels nothing but hate for the man. But, being a well-balanced, generally mature woman, and honest, she admits that some tiny corner of her will always care for James Gordon. And that is all Mario needs to know. He intends to kill her.

Jelousy, it was said by Shakespeare, tends to give life to our worst nightmares. The mildest suspicion becomes an absolute certainty. So, to Mario, knowing that Lee still cares for Gordon is the same thing, in his infected mind, as her having already made the choice to leave him. And he won’t simply let her go, no matter what.

Lee survives, but at a high price.

Gordon confronted Falcone with proof that he was right, and the backing of the GCPD hunting for Mario right at that moment. Falcone is willing to send his own men to bring in Mario, but Gordon insists on being the one to go.

Here, I have to say, both men are being stupid. They know Mario is going to be very strong, and they don’t have much time. Furhtermore, they have two objectives: protect Lee and bring in Mario. For that, in their place, I’d actually send Gordon with Falcone’s goons. It could take several men to take him down, and having at least one dedicated, even devoted, to protecting Lee is simply a smart move. For multiple objectives, send multiple men! Duh! But no, Gordon loses rationality and Falcone doesn’t think to work together. Combined with Lee’s refusal to trust in Gordon, and we have a perfect storm of stupidity!

Falcone eventually tells Gordon where they are, on condition that he swears to bring Mario in alive. Which Gordon swears to do.

He gets there exactly as Mario is poised to stab an oblivious Lee in the back. He doesn’t hesitate, he shoots. Lee looks up just in time to see Gordon open fire, hitting Mario twice in the chest, right around the heart. The man falls, and lets go of the knife, which falls off the porch, into the water, carried away by a soft, lapping current. Lee turns around too late to see the knife, only seeing Mario’s dead body.

…I say again, that is the single cruelest thing they could have done to Lee and Gordon both. As Lee sees it, her former love became obsessed with her, and suddenly showed up right after the wedding and shot her husband in cold blood. All immediate evidence to the contrary has conveniently vanished. And Gordon, who just saved her life, won’t be able to convince her otherwise. Maybe not ever, even after it’s proven that Mario was infected with the virus. Speaking of, I note that some of that blood got onto Lee. Could she be infected now too?

And that’s just the immediate consequences. Carmine Falcone sent Gordon there in good faith that his son would be spared, even saved. Instead, the man he sent has killed his son. And now all of his wrath, the wrath of a man whom even the Court of Owls is just a little bit afraid of, a man fully capable of making Gotham burn… will direct that wrath solely and explicitly towards Gordon.

This… is very, very, very bad!

agentsofshieldseason3bannerAgents of Shield

4.07 “Deals With Our Devils”

Yay! They’re back! At last!

…just in time for the Holiday Drought! (groaning and rolling eyes) But whatever. Loved this episode anyway!

This week, bonus points for whoever saw Doctor Strange in theaters!

So, good news first: Robbie, Fitz, and Coulson are still alive!

Bad news: they were caught in the fallout of that strange event, and are trapped between dimensions. They can see what’s going on with their friends, but they can’t interact. They are invisible, intangible, silent.

Good news: there are worse fates.

Bad news: one of those worse fates is happening to them. Slowly. They have enough time to fear it, but they can’t escape it on their own. They need their friends to save them.

Good news: these are some very capable, highly motivated, and very lucky friends!

Fitz figures out quickly enough what happened. The device Eli built doesn’t simply create something out of nothing. It draws energy from another dimension, much like the sorcerers in Doctor Strange. Standing too close to the reaction, but not in the center of it, they were pulled out of their own dimension, and are currently caught between it and this other one. They’re getting pulled down into the other dimension, and it is apparently a very dark and forbidding place.

Small wonder that book is call the Darkhold, when it taps into a place like that!

Most of the team heads back to headquarters, where Radcliffe and Aida await and are already trying to figure something out. May wants to use the Darkhold, but Radcliffe takes one look at the pages and slams it shut. Good for Radcliffe, I say! Unfortunately, that still leaves their friends in a serious bind. So, they need the information within the Darkhold, but no human can safely use it. That’s when Fitz realizes Aida, being an android, might be able to read it, and something in her sensors lets her hear him, just a little, so she offers to read it. That cat’s out of the bag, but she makes one Hell of a case for her existence within her debut to the rest of the team. She reads the book and is able to use it effectively, with precision.

Guided by Aida, Shield is able to hastily put together an appropriate apparatus for a portal. Then Aida is able to use some advanced science, including some special gloves, to replicate the effects of magic, crafting a complicated spell seal, familiar to anyone who saw Doctor Strange. She’s working quickly, but they’re running out of time, as the darkness begins to finally close in on Coulson. With one touch, and a strong resemblance to Doctor Strange‘s Mirror World, it seizes Coulson, and Fitz barely manages to grab him in time.

I recall the Mirror World being quite a bit brighter, but also inescapable without a sling ring or some other form of aid, which is why it’s also used as a prison. Whether that’s the Mirror World or not, it’s certainl another dimension, and highly unpleasant.

They cut it pretty close, the portal opening up to reveal the two men fighting to stay out of the darkness, mere feet from the threshold. Fitz holds on stubbornly, and Coulson fights on, dragging himself out, and they practically fall through the portal, to safety.

Well done!

Meanwhile, Robbie has his own devil to face. The Rider is apparently quite familiar with this other dimension, a truly hellish place. He escaped from there, it seems, and is not keen on going back! So he separates from Robbie, and enters Mac instead. This comes right as Gabe and Daisy have been talking, as she helps him hold on to hope, and see the good he does his brother. They’re interrupted when Mac “goes nuts” and takes off. The team had been talking about going after Eli – really tough of Gabe, learning how little he knew his closest family – by going after the criminal organization, the Triads, he’d hired to steal the box with Lucy inside it. It makes sense, that’s where he has contacts, so it’s where he’d to get back on his feet.

I’m guessing he didn’t tell the Triads they would be releasing a ghost who would drive them crazy and kill them, but whatever anger they might feel will probably be muted by how he can destroy them with a thought, like he did the agents who tried to restrain him. He has blood on his hands, old and new, guilty and innocent alike. He’s not getting away. Mac already wants to go after Eli, but with the Rider suddenly taking hold of him, he gets going with a vengeance!

That would be it, if not for Daisy chasing hot on his heels, and Robbie joining her, unseen or not. She loses sight of Mac after a chase, but uses her head to keep following him until she crashes in on the Rider’s latest rampage. She goes through the Triads easily enough, one handed and without her powers, but when she catches up to Mac, the Rider is not about to cooperate with her.

Robbie, on the other hand, has a different argument to make. The Rider enjoys the chance to talk with his former host, but he’s the past now, and the demon is not especially loyal. Mac isn’t an ideal host, with no revenge to take out on the world, but he is in pain, great enough that the Rider “could live off it for years.” Hmm, interesting detail, that. But Robbie isn’t ready to let the Rider go and just go to “Hell” himself. He offers a new deal: if the Rider takes him back and gives him revenge on Eli, then Robbie will help the Rider settle his score. All his scores. He effectively just offered his lifelong service and soul to the demon, and the demon… considers… and accepts.

Mac is freed, and all he can tell Daisy is that Robbie took the Rider out of him, to Hell. Daisy overheard the Rider talking about his pain, though – speaking of, that was an excellent and terrifying performance as the Rider itself – and wants to be there for him, but Mac brushes it off as a really bad day at work.

I have to say, it is a little hypocritical of Daisy to try and be her friends’ support when she’s refused to let them support her. The street goes both ways here, Daisy. So I’m just hoping she comes to her senses and finally deals with her grief, and lets her friends be there for her. She doesn’t have to be a lone wolf anymore. She has a pack.

Assuming, of course, that her relationship with Shield, especially Mace, can be worked out. But more on that in a moment.

Whether Mac leans on Daisy or not, it’s safe to say he and Robbie have formed a bond between men. Mac’s briefly carried his cross, and Robbie made a huge sacrifice in relieving him of that burden. Both of them have a beef with Eli, and once Robbie, doubtless helped by Rider, stumbles through the portal that saved Fitz and Coulson, it’s perfectly natural for them to be on the same page. They’re going after Eli together, and woe to anyone who gets in their way.

Fortunately, they’ll hopefully have Shield supporting them. But even so, they’re going up against what basically amounts to a false god, and they’ve no idea how to fight him effectively. I really don’t like those odds, ya know?

Finally, when Mace tried to call Simmons in, with Fitz eavesdropping, Senator Nadeer wouldn’t even put Simmons on the phone, let alone let her go. That apparently wasn’t something Mace had anticipated, and no one thought to put a tracker on Simmons in case of emergency. Mace is angry, but it’s nothing compared to Fitz’s anger. However, Fitz impotent right at that moment, and Mace is aggressive but restrained. We clearly have some very fluid relationships here, thus my worry about Daisy’s eventual fate.

Simmons, as could be expected, was brought in to solve the case of Nadeer’s brother. He’s been in his cocoon for months now, with no known way of bringing him out of it. I’m guessing that the scientists didn’t see this person as a person, but as a subject. But Simmons did, and guessed that he could hear them, so when she saw his heartrate, she knew he was scared. So she ordered everyone out and talked to him, gently. She reassured him, as a person, as a friend. That did the trick, and she was able to start pealing back the cocoon. Unfortunately, just as she and her new friend were able to meet face to face, she was black-bagged and lugged back to Shield, leaving the poor guy calling hoarsely after her.

So, upside, she and Fitz are reunited. But, downside, she was just used to get a fresh Inhuman out of his cocoon, and now he’s in decidedly unfriendly hands. Those hands, hands which connect to both Shield and the Watch Dogs, will likely use him as a test subject, and in the most inhumane ways imaginable.

Yeah, Houston, we have a problem! If Simmons isn’t able to get Mace to rescue her new friend, he may be driven insane by whatever his keepers do to him, and if he then escapes and finds the one friend he ever had in this entire gruelling mess, the one light that brought him out of his shell, so to speak… if he sees Simmons with Fitz, that could go very badly very fast!

So, between Robbie’s deal with the Rider, Mace’s deal with Nadeer, and the decision to have Aida read the Darkhold, the title “Deals With Our Devils” is quite appropriate!

The episode ends with Radcliffe composing a victory song while Aida, unnoticed, seems to be creating an artificial brain for herself with the Darkhold knowledge.

…you ever notice how things keep going from bad to worse around here?

Arrow-logo-header-Season-4Arrow

5.08 “Invasion”

As this week was the much-advertised “four” (actually three) night crossover event between The Flash, Arrow, and Legends of Tomorrow, with ties to Supergirl (welcome to the DC television universe, Kara), discussing the one involves discussing them all.

Have I mentioned how I think these shows lean on each other way too much? 😉

Excellent job with those crossover logos, though. Very neat.

I suppose it is somewhat fitting for Arrow‘s hundredth episode to basically capture how far this televised universe has come. At the start, there were no metahumans, no magic, no time traveling, no aliens, no alternate dimensions, no orders of assassins dating from antiquity… it was just one man of exceptional skill and determination, and his desperate, bloody fight to save his city. How far we have come! Not all of it has been great or even particularly good, but it is what it is, and much of it has been great fun to watch.

First thing’s first: the main, overarching plots for all of these shows gets put on hold. Team Flash is trying to deal with a veritable speed god in the form of Savitar, Team Arrow is trying to deal with multiple masked adversaries who want him dead, including a traitor in the ranks, the Legends are trying to catch up with the time-hopping Reverse-Flash and Damien Darhk (adversaries already defeated on The Flash and Arrow but time travel is inconvenient that way) to end their meddling with the timeline, and I have no idea what Supergirl is dealing with on her world, but in the face of an alien invasion of Earth, all the overarching plots are put on pause for the moment.

Flash-TV-Show-Teaser-TrailerIn The Flash, we have the aliens landing, and Barry learning from Lyla that they’re called the Dominators. As he has no hope of winning alone, Barry calls all his friends together: Ollie, Digs, and Felicitiy, spontaneously joined by Thea, come from Team Arrow, Sara, Ray, Heatwave, and Firstorm come from the Legends, and Barry recruits Supergirl from her Earth with Cisco’s help. They proceed to train this motley group to work together, to very nearly no effect whatsoever.

Yeah, Supergirl’s inclusiong? Not really digging it from a practical standpoint. They literally cannot hurt her, so all that training against her does is put everyone else on the ground. She doesn’t really do much in this entire crossover series, except have a cute personality.

Naturally, this is when Stein and Jacks reveal to Barry and Ollie the secret of Barry’s future message. Something about a war coming, being called back to 2016 to deal with it, and not trusting anything or anyone. It’s an interesting, ominous message, but I’m still not quite convinced it applies to this crossover. There may end up being a direct connection between Barry’s mistake and the Dominators’ coming to Earth, but I don’t see anything about not trusting anything or anyone, ya know?

But, either way, Cisco, still reeling and a bit spiteful after learning that his brother is alive in the pre-Flashpoint universe, stumbles onto this little secret and spills the beans, turning almost everyone against Barry. Ollie stands by him, so he’s left behind too, and Kara only goes with the rest of the team for practical purposes. That’s two out of a dozen friends who don’t turn on him. Sara and Digs have the best cases, as Sara is angry at him for disrupting the timeline, while Digs is angry at no longer having a daugter he can’t remember, though of course he wouldn’t trade his son for his daughter. He’d prefer having both, I imagine.

Also… well, they kind of didn’t mention that it was Ollie who encouraged Barry to keep it a secret, keep things to one crisis at a time. Also, I don’t think Barry made much of a leader. Ollie is the most tactically capable man among them, so it ought to have been him. But I guess they needed some way to set up Barry’s sacrifice at the end of the crossover, which I will get to in a bit.

So, the Dominators kidnap the President of the United States, and lure the team into a trap where they get mind-controlled into going back, after Barry and Ollie, interrupting their manly bonding moment. They’re able to take out Ray, Heatwave, and Firestorm easily enough, but Kara is invincible on this Earth, impossible to challenge, so Barry’s occupied with her, leaving Ollie to fight Thea, Digs, and Sara alone. His sister, his friend, and his former love, the latter being the most dangerous woman he’s ever known. Then Wally finally overrides Iris and Joe going, “No! We can’t let you go out and get hurt!” and buys Ollie and Barry about five seconds before he gets hurt. No sign of anyone else on Team Flash stepping up to help for some reason, but they do, at least, locate where the Dominators have their slave beacon, so Barry lures Kara into destroying it for them, saving everyone.

Yay!

Cisco and Iris really needed some major slappage, by the way. “I have been hurt so bad!” “I don’t want my brother to get hurt!” Oh, get over it!

Unfortunately, with the President dead, the victory of “surviving” is cut a bit short when Ollie, Sara, Digs, Thea, and Ray are all beamed up onto a Dominator ship. And thus we go to Arrow‘s episode!

Arrow-logo-header-Season-4Team Arrow was not in full attendance, but Curtis tried hacking alien tech, Renee was an anti-metahuman bigot that magically got better after they saved his life, and Rory was in awe of the Flash for the entire episode. Evelyn did not make an appearance. Yeah, the new kids on the block were not very well represented.

The old crew, however… that was most excellently done!

Being held captive in space, Ollie, Sara, Thea, Digs, and Ray are put into a sort of shared hallucination. It’s an ideal world, a might-have-been world, a world where they all have their desires. It’s a world of dreams, and it rings false soon enough. But not before delivering some severe emotional gut punches.

In this dream: Ollie’s parents are alive, he never became the Arrow, he’s engaged to and about to marry Laurel, Thea runs Verdant successfully, Malcolm is at peace and proud of her, a friend of the family, Tommy is alive though not present, Digs’ is the Hood (interesting, having his dream world be one where he is still atoning for past misdeeds) working with Felicity while his brother works private security, Felicity is engaged to Ray… and so on and so forth. Life is, basically, perfect.

But they can start to see it, and feel it. Ollie leads the fight to get them all out, connecting with Digs first, then Sara, then bringing in Ray… but Thea wants so badly to stay. She really has been through a lot over the last decade of her life. She’s emerged strong, but she’s suffered terribly, and for most of that, she was still a kid. It’s only natural for her to want to stay in a dream world, a paradise. But even she shakes it off soon enough. She chooses the hard road of reality, every bit as much as Ollie and the others.

But they are not simply allowed to leave. They are faced with personal bogeymen: Thea faces Malcolm, Ollie faces Deathstroke (that would have been more compelling if they’d had the genuine actor and could let him speak), Sara faces Damien, Ray faces one of Deathstroke’s followers, who killed his fiancee, and Digs faces the Ghosts of Hive (which should have included his brother, just saying).

These being hallucinations, personal demons rather than the genuine articles, they undisputedly kick butt. 🙂

Then, with the failure of the stick, comes the carrot again: Laurel. The one Ollie might have been with if not for the Queen’s Gambit. She calls him back… and he comes… and the he leaves the illusion behind. They break out, though Ollie has a personal, heart-wrenching moment where he’s faced by the ghosts of those he has lost: his mother, his father, Tommy, Laurel, even Felicity and Roy. He sees them, and hears the echoes of what they have said to him in years gone by.

As the Arrow and through most of the series, Ollie has stood alone. But he isn’t alone, and his strength is not only from within himself. His loved ones, and their words… they are his strength.

And so he smiles. And leaves. And returns, once more, to the fight at hand. 🙂

Which involves stealing a pod (“What do we do?” Push buttons, apparently) and getting rescued by the Waverider. Excellent timing on the part of Steel and the Vixen of a previous generation! 🙂

Of course, they were only able to be there because Barry and Kara subdued a cyber-woman and stole her tech so Team Arrow’s tech support could get a bead on their location. Yay!

As much as I dislike Kara and her inclusion here, I did enjoy how they tagged in on that brief, one-sided fight. Heh.

And the episode ends with the team realizing that they were kidnapped and held in an illusory world for a reason. The Dominators apparently scanned their brains for knowledge of how to fight Earth’s metahumans, and they have almost completed a devastating weapon.

Legends-of-Tomorrow-LogoAnd off we go into Legends of Tomorrow! (sheesh, you think they made this long enough?!)

This one can basically be summed up with cliff-notes.

Cisco, Felicity, Heatwave, Steel, and Vixen go back in time, to when the Dominators first came to Earth, to capture and interrogate one. They get caught along with their quarry, by a shady government agency, the lead agent of which is apparently still acive and opposing the superheroes even now in the present, some sixty years later. It gives them a chance, though, to have that conversation, and they learn that the Dominators are very anti-metahuman. They came to Earth the first time to ascertain the potential threat posed by the Justice Society of America, and reached a truce with he government at the time, where they would stay away so long as the threat was minimal.

Then Barry had his Flashpoint debacle, and that convinced the Dominators that the threat was now sufficient that they had to respond and nip it in the bud. They came for Barry, and to wipe out all the metahumans in the world. They reason that such power can fall into the wrong hands, and that is a threat. I could be wrong, but that seems somewhat hypocritical of a people that must surely deal with super-powered races on a regular basis, and is, in fact, pretty physically powerful themselves. But this crossover does seem to ask the question of how valid the existence of metahumans is.

After the metahuman Legends rescue one of them, however, that one is willing to offer them safety, if Barry turns himself in. He, being a hero, and as leader of the team (which I actually forgot already since the first episode of this trilogy), chooses to accept that offer. He hands off the duty of protecting their world to his comrades. But they disagree, and are all willing to fight him on it.

Cisco, at last, has a moment of clarity. He meant to make things better when he helped save a Dominator back that, but instead, oh, look, things are worse. (…somehow) So now he has a little taste of what Barry’s been feeling, and he won’t let Barry go off to die for it. Barry is his friend, after all.

Interestingly, while the heroes have been working on finding and fighting the Dominators, Stein and his aberration of a daughter, meaning she did not exist before he meddled with the timeline, come up with some way to subdue a great number of Dominators all at once. They craft and produce a supply of small devices which, when activated will cause a Dominator great pain. Not the most economical of weapons, I think, but they’ll take any advantage they can get.

Stein had a little moment in this episode. He’s had flashes of memories he couldn’t place, flashes of his newly-existing daughter, Lily. Now that he knows what’s up, he is, at first determined to go back in time and prevent her from being born. Which, I am sorry, but aberration or not, his daughter exists now! She has the right to continue existing! To go back and erase her would be playing God every bit as much as their enemies have! No! Just… no!

Fortunately, Lily is a genius. That creates a moment when Stein is forced to see her, as she is, and begin treasuring her. (good thing she wasn’t an idiot… she’d have stood no chance whatsoever!) So he accepts her existence, and swears Jacks to secrecy on the matter. Which is very convenient, since she proves crucial to saving the world.

While most of the heroes fight the aliens below, the Waverider intercepts a bomb capable of wiping out all the metahumans and a goodly number of normal humans as collateral damage. Firestorm is able to transmute it into water, while the devices Stein built cripple all the Dominators in North America. With two such huge setbacks as that in such rapid succession, the Dominators just give up and go home. Just like that.

Right.

So, anyway, they have a victory celebration, including Kara, who really should stay out of the spotlight as she’s, you know, from another universe, but whatever. The new President honors them and the soldiers sitting before them. And takes Kara’s advice about creating a department to deal with alien affairs, while reassigning that nasty agent from before to Antarctica. She goes home, but with a device that’ll let her talk to and visit her new friends any time. So, we’ll be seeing more of her, I fear.

The Legends head back into their ongoing time traveling adventures, everyone goes home, and Ollie and Barry decide they should get together for normal things, like, say, drinks, every once in awhile.

And the series all go on as before.

Now, back to the main plotlines! 😛

I have to say, this entire crossover thing had its highs and its lows. I become even more convinced that the shows rely too much on each other and not enough on themselves. They had a huge cast and did justice to pretty much no one. Whatever explanations they needed, they kind of just ignored logic. So, there was much left to be desired. But they had some really good moments for some characters, like Ollie’s moment in the dream world, Sara getting to “kill” Damien, Ollie and Barry fighting everyone else, Flash and Supergirl having fun together, the team refusing to let Barry go, and Cisco coming to his senses.

I suppose it was generally fun to watch, but not really all that great, ya know? Not considering all the hype that went into it.

(takes a last look at the great, long essay that I just wrote about this…) …and that is why I dropped the other shows of the Arrowverse! Too much! 😛

vampirediarieslogoThe Vampire Diaries

8.06 “Detoured On Some Random Backwoods Path to Hell”

Holy crap.

…I mean, holy crap!

Did they just do what it looks like they just did?!

(catches the promo for the next episode…) Hmmm… not sure if I’m excited or depressed by that.

Backing up again! 😛

I heard once, on a show called Jekyll, that we have a very lovely name for that feeling that drives us to protect our own at any cost: love. I agree, love is powerful, and it can make decent people very dangerous. And never moreso than when it is a parent looking to save their children.

Needless to say, Alaric and Caroline are… intense in this episode. And who can blame them? Their daughters have been kidnapped! By a freaking siren!

The two parents go into full grizzly-parent mode. Caroline benches Stefan and gives his ring back for the moment, as she fully intends to kill Damon if he stands between her and her daughters. Keeping Stefan back works serendipitously as Sybil elects now to get her revenge on Enzo. She sings to him over the phone, reestablishing the psychic connection, and proceeds to slowly murder him through torturing his subconscious. The gives Stefan an opening to follow the connection back to her.

Sybil and Damon have rather forcefully joined Seline and the girls, and Seline’s scheme is unveiled: she intends to groom the girls to eventually take her and Sybil’s place in Cade’s service. It’s her way of making things right for her sister, after turning her into a cannibal, and then an immortal cannibal eternally enslaved to Cade. Sybil doesn’t think it’ll work, but she hatches her own scheme, to hijack Seline’s plan and make Cade a better offer. It’s her way of getting whatever she wants, including, at the moment, revenge on the sister who escaped the Armory’s Vault so long ago, and abandoned her.

Caroline and Alaric almost catch up with the trio and the girls, but the widespread Amber Alert brings attention to them, so they have to deal with everyone in the diner right then, which rather strongly encourages them to move on. Tensions flare up between the two of them too, with Alaric blaming Caroline, as a vampire, for all the darkness that follows them and threatens the girls.

There may be some truth to that, but, small detail, the darkness is everywhere already. It invades the lives of innocent, unsuspecting people all the time. There’s no “escaping” it. There’s only having the power of knowledge, or not.

Even so, I can forgive Alaric for that, being literally out of his mind with fear and anger. When he says the girls aren’t Caroline’s however, now, that is hitting below the belt. He apologizes later, like a mature adult who knows he was being unreasonable. Even so, Caroline believes he might be right about the increased danger the girls are in around her. Never mind, of course, that having a vampire protector is not an entirely useless thing, she still wants to do everything she can to protect them: by giving them up. She tells Alaric to take the girls away from her.

The ultimate sacrifice. Which we are seeing for at least the second time this week, after Once Upon a Time. Heh, I guess it’s a popular emotional gut punch these days!

That comes at the end, though. After Stefan invades Enzo’s mind again, and meets Sybil’s assault head-on. They talk, and she pulls out of Enzo’s head, one can assume, and even tells Stefan where they are, because she has an offer for him. It’s an offer he won’t refuse.

Stefan arrives, and Sybil and Damon manipulate him into killing a man, which puts fresh blood on his hands, which puts him in a dark, malleable place. As Seline summons Cade and presents the girls to him, he is intrigued, much to Sybil’s surprise, but the game’s not over. Sybil offers the Salvatore brothers: two vampires, dangerous, ready to go right now, with prolific histories of murder, and some pretty impressive catches under their belt, including Silas, Malachi, the Huntress, the Travelers, Katherine, and so many more. And that’s just the fatal ones. They’ve matched wits with powers that should, by rights, have destroyed them, and come out on top.

It’s a no-brainer for Cade, and Stefan, vulnerable and desperate to save Caroline’s daughtes, agrees to the proposal. And so negotiations begin. The girls are returned to their parents. Seline and Sybil are freed of their service as Stefan and Damon take their place. Sybil, however, has her own scheme still going, and she cut Seline out of the deal, giving her a one-way ticket to Hell, to be cashed in very soon. And Stefan has twenty-four hours left, his last day of freedom. It was his condition that he could spend that time with Caroline.

All in all, a pretty intense episode! And that’s without the sweetness of Bonnie and Enzo’s deep feelings for each other, and the rising anger of Matt and Alaric. Matt’s had it up to here with just watching his friends suffer, and Alaric’s rage at his daughters’ abduction isn’t so easily cooled. He wants his girls safe, and they’ll never be safe so long as certain people are still around. For instance, Damon.

The episode ends with the two of them getting the drop on the vampire, beating him thoroughly, and driving a stake through his heart.

Quite the momentous development, that. I suspect Cade has arranged for Damon to continue existing in spite of this, but I have been waiting for Damon to get axed since the very beginning of the show. And who better for the job than Matt and Alaric? Matt still owes his sister’s death to Damon, and Alaric was originally Damon’s foe, became a reluctant ally, then a good friend, and now things have come full circle: they are enemies once more.

I kind of hate that they spoiled Damon’s survival already in the promo, but I suppose they couldn’t get around that.

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