This Week on TV, Feb. 11, 2017

Spoiler Alert!

So, Gotham is on a break, lasting all the way from here to April 24th. Which sucks, but ok. What we did get was pretty good. Agents of Shield, Grimm, The Vampire Diaries, all delivered excellently. Arrow was the weak link, but… eh, I suppose they did all right. They have a lot to make up for, and they seem to be working at it.

agentsofshieldseason3bannerAgents of Shield

4.13 “BOOM”

…ok, before anything else is said… I love that title. 🙂

…what? I love explosions. 😛

So, crap hits the fan again this week, and while the agents held their own this time, they still took a mighty beating, and suffered another loss at the hands of the Watch Dogs.

In many ways, the war between Shield and the Dogs is very familiar. How many stories have we told about a ragtag group of rebels, with one powerful sponsor, rising and challenging the oppressive authority of the world in order to save it from an alien menace walking amongst humanity? The Dogs see themselves as the heroes of the story, and they are willing to do some pretty despicable things for their cause.

The thing is… it’s not what kind of organization they are, or what powers they are challenging, with make them wrong. They are wrong because they are driven by ignorance, fear, and hatred. They think they see the truth, but really… they’re blind to it. And they are willing to make any sacrifice to further their own ends. That is folly. To be the right side, you must have lines you will never cross. The exact nature of those lines is up for debate, but you must have them, or you will become the villain, and everything you fight for will be lost to your own corruption.

Not that Shield is guiltless. Coulson is very driven right now, angry and desperate, going further and pushing harder, to try and get May back. But then, the difference between him and the Dogs’ leader, Ivanov, is that he is willing to pull back when he knows he’s going too far. When Coulson and Mack find a lead in Radcliffe’s old girlfriend, the woman he modeled Aida after – major revelation, that – Coulson wants to make her help them… but in the end he asks. He explains the situation, that he’s trying to save May, and for a woman who’s been living with her imminent death for some time now, in the form of a brain tumor, it’s his sincere desire to save a life that persuades her.

She calls Radcliffe, who comes for her, and talks her into going with him. He left her once before, driven to find the means to save her, and the Darkhold then gave him the idea to cure death itself. But… it’s just an illusion. He’s constructed a virtual world, the size of the actual world, which he calls the Framework. Copy and paste her memories and personality in there, and the virtual self lives forever in utopia.

The word for that is: horrific.

Radcliffe thinks he’s cured death itself, but that is a lie. For one, the technology he’s using to supposedly put a person into the Framework is the same that he used to copy May’s brain, his own, and Agent Koenig’s. But the copy is not the original. He didn’t just save the love of his life… he killed her. And the last thing she felt was hope for a long, normal life, free from every pain and sorrow. And then she died. With a copy of herself running around a fake world that is anything but permanent. All it will take is one thing to make the system crash, and there goes the entire virtual world and every copy running around in it.

All while a replica of her runs around the real world, slowly becoming faulty and dangerous, as evidenced by how she took the necklace off her own original’s neck. Why did Aida feel the need to do that, unless she’s losing her stability?

We can surmise that May is still alive, though, and likely still connected to her real body, unless Radcliffe disposed of that too. She is still alive, and trapped in this fake world that is oh so happy and wonderful… and which, to save her, Coulson will have to pull her out of. That is going to be Hell for the both of them.

Meanwhile, the Dogs and Shield collide directly yet again.

The Dogs set a trap. They use Radcliffe’s research, which would have originally been used by Hive to create Inhumans if it had proven successful soon enough, to set a trap. They intend to create an Inhuman and bait Shield in. They’ll race to save any Inhuman, right? And who do the Dogs pick? None other than the closest living relative of another Inhuman they’ve killed: Senator Nadeer. Shockley walks in, conveying Ivanov’s thanks, but also expressing how her very bloodline must surely be poisoned, in need of eradication, to prevent future Inhumans from ever coming into existence. He pulls out a terrigen crystal created by Radcliffe, and shatters it.

…and it does not go as planned. 🙂

Oh, when Shockley goes through terrigenesis… I love it! Taste some poetic justice, you mass-murdering hypocrite! Hah! And it gets topped off with a big boom, with a gloating Nadeer right at the heart of it! Perfection!

Ah, cosmic justice!

…unfortunately, that can prove somewhat problematic to human justice. I’m sort of with Daisy on this one, it’s hard to feel for Nadeer after all she’s done and tried to do, but Mace is right too. They could have brought her down, and her entire cause with her, legally and in the open. Now, they can’t, and she’ll become an anti-Inhuman martyr, bolstering her cause instead of killing it.

Shockley staggers back to Ivanov, and lies about what happened long enough for Shield to come and capture him. With Mace and Daisy right before him, Shockley apologizes to his men, and tries blowing himself up again. Mace and Fitz, as Fitz-Simmons managed to figure it out just in time, manage to shove him into a containment unit and sent it out the plane, but they haven’t defeated him yet. He is, as Mace put it, an undetectable suicide bomber who gets to walk away and do it again, blowing up and reconstituting over and over.

Fitz-Simmons are able to figure out how Shockley does it, and send Daisy against him while they work on a specialized containment unit. The idea is that she might be able to keep him from blowing up, but when that fails, she goes with trying to exhaust him instead. So, she hits him, he blows apart, comes back together, and she hits him again. And again. And again. The both of them are getting exhausted by this by the time they have the unit ready, sucking up all the little bits of him before they can come back together, imprisoning him in his vaporous state. And it was all a trap, with Shockley as bait. Daisy and Fitz-Simmons barely get out in time as the Dogs bear down on their position, and then only because Mace makes the call to sacrifice himself.

Mace, I think, was actually pretty capable as a Director. He wasn’t Coulson or Fury, he was Mace. He juggled a number of competing agendas successfully, brought Shield back into the public light as a respectable agency, and stood for Inhuman rights, in addition to running the agency fairly effectively day-to-day. But once his secret came out and he was turned into a figurehead… well, he took it pretty hard. And when he lost that authority, Shield immediately suffered for it, a’la Coulson’s disastrous scheme to spy on Nadeer, though, in fairness, that was due to Radcliffe’s defection. Even worse, Simmons informs him that every time he takes an injection, each shot is more likely to kill him than the last. He’s been trying to improve himself, but now he can’t even do the one thing people thought they could rely on him for: he’s not super strong. So, he’s struggling to find his place, now that the one he had has been taken from him.

And, of course, with the crisis boiling around him, he has the very human and heroic need to do more.

That can be a double-edged sword to, as people sometimes try to do too much instead of focusing on what they can actually do. But Mace is ostensibly the Director of a powerful government agency. Surely he, of all people, should not be the most useless of them all right now.

And when the time comes… when he is all that stands between the approaching Dogs and his team, he doesn’t hesitate. He takes an injection and charges the convoy head-on. His team gets out safely. He does not.

And that, right there, is a huge difference between Shield and the Dogs. The Dogs are willing to sacrifice each other without a moment’s hesitation, while Shield sacrifices themselves. Ivanov sent Shockley to turn Nadeer, Shockley was willing to sacrifice his men, and Ivanov was willing to sacrifice Shockley. Oh, Shockley talked about being useful to humanity, but he has just barely become a recurring suicide bomber, so his little self-sacrifice kind of loses a bit of the usual significance. Meanwhile, Mace sacrificed himself for his team, not the other way around.

Telling, isn’t it?

Arrow-logo-header-Season-4Arrow

5.12 “Bratva”

Right. So… back to Russia we go!

First, back in the flash backs, we see Talia grooming Ollie into becoming the Hood/Arrow. She has a graduation of sorts in mind, one where he takes out the man behind a drug trade. He knows the drug, as he once killed a man who was dealing it to his sister Thea, but he was too short-sighted, didn’t consider the supply. Now, Talia gives him the chance to correct that mistake by taking out said supplier. It goes very well, pretty much without a hitch. The time is at hand for him to return home. But first, he must break free of the Bratva, which is easier said that done. Fortunately for him, a way may be opening up, when he finds his friend and Bratva brother, Anatoly, in the hospital, having been beaten up by Gregor after questioning the man’s deal with Kovar. Ollie intends to do something about that before leaving for home.

Back in the present, we see much of where that journey has taken him and his friends. Digs is released, but the corrupt, murdering general vanishes with his stolen nuke, and goes to Russia to sell it. Ollie and the team follow close behind – yeah, that wouldn’t raise questions, after all – and receive a less-than-warm welcome from Anatoly and the Bratva. After Ollie failed them and communications broke down, things have not been friendly between them, and the Bratva do not let go of grudges.

While most of the team is occupied in Russia, Lance has stepped back in as Deputu Mayor after his time in rehab, and he’s willing to face his demons head-on instead of hiding from them. This includes an interview with Susan, and Rene, of all people, is his coach. Day One does not go well, but they muddle through until Lance loses his patience. But they come back together, and work with each other. Then, as it happens, Susan goes easy on Lance, after Rene told her about a time when Lance busted him, but didn’t lock him up. He put Rene on a better path with just a few words.

Lance, for his part, has a most unpleasant task. He needs to learn to deal with his sorrow without hiding behind anything, and especially without the alcohol. Not an enviable position, that. But… well, the first step is to stop hiding from it, and now he’s done that, I say there is hope for him.

Back in Russia, our main trio of heroes is delving into the darkness again. Felicity uses her stolen intel to blackmail a man into giving her access to the system wherein she can get the files they need. Digs drives too hard in interrogation, nearly beating a man to death and failing to get anything out of him. Finally, and this is after a disastrous attempt at taking down the general but he escapes, Ollie learns what his friends have been doing, and chooses to take the darkness onto his own shoulders. He needs his friends to be better than they are right now, to prove Prometheus wrong. So he goes back to Anatoly, takes Dinah on a Bratva errand, and the team and the Bratva join forces to take down the general and the terrorists.

The team up is rather lackluster, as it consists less of a fight and more of a lot of guns pointed at the enemy, who surrenders. But the nuke is set to go off, as the general’s insurance policy and last curse on anyone who takes him down. The team is saved only because Rory figures out that his rags could possibly contain the blast. They do, but they’re drained and dead afterward. No more Ragman. That’s the second of Ollie’s new disciples down, including Artemis’ betrayal. Not looking good for the future of the team!

After it’s all done, Digs and Felicity share with Ollie a certain truth they’ve learned: they all make each other better. They need to. That is how they’ll win, and prove Prometheus wrong.

Unfortunately, just as Ollie sleeps with Susan for the first time, she learns the truth. She meets her contact, who confirms Ollie as a Bratva, and also the presence of a mysterious archer. So, Susan and her friend now know Ollie is the Green Arrow.

I really do not like this woman.

By contrast, Dinah is fitting in with the team. She’s already supporting Ollie with sage advice. How much you wanna bet they end up getting together at some point? It’ll be trite and cliché and another disservice to the women of Arrow, I think, but at least it’ll be better than freaking Susan.

vampirediarieslogoThe Vampire Diaries

8.12 “What Are You?”

And what beginning are we going back to in this episode? The very first and oldest of them all, I think: the overwhelming, unrelenting sorrow that comes with devastating loss and regret. It’s one of the more unpleasant parts of being human, and arguably the most essential.

The loss is felt most by Bonnie, who is so distraught that she can’t really deal with her friends right now, not right after Enzo’s death. So Caroline calls Bonnie’s mother, who comes a running to her daughter’s side. Bonnie can’t simply accept Enzo’s death, especially not with his voice whispering to her for help. So they try a séance, and learn that Bonnie’s grief tore a hole into a place of lonely darkness, supposedly where Enzo’s soul went after his death. Bonnie tries to reach in and save him, but her mother knows the darkness is reaching back, and burns Enzo’s corpse to sever the connection and save her. Bonnie is still screaming for Enzo, but her mother tells her, she has to let him go.

How much trouble could have been saved in this series if people had just let go of their loved ones when they died? How much trouble could be saved in any of these shows if they just accepted the reality of death? But that’s a hard thing, even when we already know it. That’s the horror of a world where we could mess with life and death for our own purposes.

As for regret, that has always been Stefan’s schtick, and so it is now more than ever. He’s human. His humanity is back, permanently. So he feels everything he refused to feel before. He feels the weight of every horrible thing he has done, most especially within the last two months since he signed on with Cade and turned his humanity off, most of all for how he just killed Enzo. He’s practically in a panic, just driving, hard, for… somewhere away from what he’s done. He gets pulled over, arrested, interrogated for the murders his fingerprints link him to. Caroline gets him out and brings him home, but not before he does one good thing: he finds and saves the realtor he compelled and fed on last episode.

To do things as monstrous as Stefan has, and then to feel regret for them, could kill any person. In Stefan’s case, he has a history of doing them no matter how much he regretted them later, which makes it a bit harder to forgive him. In fact, what he’s done over his long life is pretty much unforgivable. He can’t undo the damage he’s done. He can’t offer anything as proper recompense. So, then, the question: if such restitution is impossible, then what choice brings you closer to it? Staying away, or facing the people you’ve hurt? Living a long, painful life, or hastening one’s entry into Hell?

Either way, he’s not going to have anything like the life he wanted to have, or ever thought he would. He was ready to sign up for eternity with Caroline. Now she’s the immortal one, and he’s mortal. Their lives will not go as they saw. And then there’s Caroline herself. If Damon is going to have a life with Elena after she wakes, the cure will have to pass to him from Stefan now, and Stefan will rapidly age and die as a result, and then Damon is mortal, leaving Caroline as the last living vampire in their shrinking circle of friends, doomed to walk the lonely road of eternity alone, unless she, too, can take the cure somehow, and even then, she’ll be outliving everyone she knows and loves by a considerable margin.

Really, nobody can win in this situation anymore. Bonnie’s lost her great love, Stefan’s lost his soul, Caroline’s lost her eternity with Stefan… what good, what happiness, can any of them hope to achieve for themselves now? Perhaps none. Perhaps all they can hope for is saving others… and maybe a little bit of revenge.

On which note, we also see, in Matt’s visions, the truth of what happened so long ago.

His ancestor, Maxwell, was commissioned by Bonnie’s ancestors, the Bennett Coven, to craft the bell, for the purpose of destroying the monsters ravaging their town. Those might have been vampires, but as the sirens were there at the time, I’d say it was likely them. It turns out, Maxwell and Bea Bennett were in love, and he sent her messages secretly in code. But Cade learned of the bell and sent Sybil and Seline to corrupt it. They compelled Maxwell to add the tuning fork to the bell, corrupting it from something which would destroy monsters to something which would destroy the entire village. He was unable to say anything, but he was able to tell Bea, at the last minute, by encoding it. The save the woman he loved, he found a way around the compulsion. She was warned, and was able to rally the coven. As the hellfire spilled forth, they chanted in unison even as they burned, sacrificing themselves to save the settlement.

The witches were the heroes of that hour. They made the ultimate sacrifice without the least hesitation. And then Bea made yet another. She and Maxwell lured the sirens into the cave that became the Armory’s Vault, and she sealed it shut with a spell. Then the sirens tried to convince Maxwell to save his soul by freeing and killing Cade. He refused, so they compelled him towards killing Bea instead. She threw him back and locked him in the cavern where he died and was found as nothing more than a skeleton. She left him there. But he was able to leave behind one last message: how to kill Cade.

Cade would very much like that knowledge to not fall into the hands of his enemies.

He comes to Damon with two pieces of news. The first: he and Stefan are both off the hook now. The terms of their deal were for two immortal killing machines, not just one. Since that is no longer the case, they are both released from all obligations. However, the second: Stefan is still coming to Hell when he dies. No great surprise there, but Cade intends to take him at midnight, unless Damon delivers Maxwell’s journal to him. Damon goes for it, collides with Matt, Dorian, and Alaric, and witnesses the hypnotic process by which they learn the meaning of Matt’s visions. He saves Matt’s life, letting them finish putting the pieces together, but takes the journal while they’re distracted. Myself, I would have made a copy of it, or at least the last several passages, but Damon doesn’t figure he needs that. He hands the book over to Cade, who burns it, but he’s already guessed what Cade is trying to hide.

Damon has spent a great deal of time with Sybil, who was often posturing in the midst of hearing the sound of her own voice. She let slip that she had something she could use against Cade, and after hearing the direction of Matt’s visions, he put two and two together: the weapon to kill Cade was among the sirens’ treasures. Specifically, an ancient blade, the material of which was created when the fire of Hell’s creation fashioned his bone and ash into glass. It’s a piece of Cade himself, made by his own power and fashioned into a weapon. If anything can kill him, without destroying Hell first to weaken him, it’s that.

So, after a long, long, loooong, hard day…

Bonnie has to let go of Enzo, no matter the pain.

Matt is there for Bonnie, in a way the others can’t be.

Caroline has no idea how things will work between them, but she’s there for him.

Dorian still has something he needs Alaric’s help with, but which they’ve gotten royally sidetracked from.

Stefan has only a faint hope of ever finding redemption, which he knows is more than he deserves, but he starts by going over to Bonnie’s, to face whatever is waiting for him… and he gets a stun-gun to his neck by a figure dressed all in black before he even makes the front door.

…uh, what? What just happened? Who is that?

And Damon and Alaric are about to hatch a plan to kill Cade with the ancient blade… when Malachi, the Big Bad of Season 6, walks in, saying he has a better idea.

…uh, what?! How did he get back? Did he follow Cade? Did he come through Bonnie’s breach? What is that monster doing here?! And how is he going to try and screw them all over this time?

Really, after the prolonged and convoluted ordeal with the Originals, and the terror of Silas, the villains of this show have largely felt very lacking to me. We had the Travelers and their master Marko, who were potent enemies, but were quickly overcome within a single season. Then Malachi, who was sort of the weakest of the villains to that point, but still somehow a step up from Marko, since we actually got to know him a little, before his demise in the sixth season finale. Then we had the seventh season with the heretics led by whats-his-name, the Armory, and even the Huntress, and they all just felt pretty weak to me. Now, in our last season, the sirens have had a commanding presence, and Cade may be the greatest villain in the entire show. And to have Malachi, of all people, come back? Ok, fine, he might be the best we had between Silas and the sirens, but still! Come on! Why bring him back?

grimm_title_cardGrimm

6.6 “Breakfast in Bed”

What is the one time when all humans are vulnerable, and no human can avoid? When we are sleeping.

Sleep is one of the dearest, most essential things we need. We can survive a couple days without waters, a couple weeks without food, and an indeterminate amount of time without shelter, but sleep? Without sleep, we go insane as our brains bodies endure a constant strain until they break down and die. The only deprivation that kills us quicker and more thoroughly is a lack of air. We need to sleep, and when we are sleeping, we cannot defend ourselves.

The reason we are so afraid of the dark isn’t just because our most primary sense, our sight, is nullified, it’s also because when it gets dark, when the sun goes down, is when we sleep. That is when we are at our most vulnerable, and when predators rise and hunt, they being at their strongest right when we are at our weakest. Meeting an animal in the daytime, when we can see and when we are alert, is plenty dangerous already, as they have numerous advantages over us. But at night? We’re screwed. Plain and simple.

So, in a show that plays so well on our fears… you know they gotta deal with the monster that comes while you’re sleeping sometime! 🙂

The alpe, if I am spelling that right, lacks the ability to produce the chemicals we do when we sleep, but needs them all the same. So it harvests them from those who are asleep. It smells the melatonin and enters the room. It breaths on its victims, paralyzing them, and closing a horrible, huge mouth filled with inhuman teeth around their head, feeding on them even while they are left awake and aware of the entire experience.

If that alone isn’t enough to drive a man mad, the extreme lack of and need to sleep will do the trick. Without the necessary chemicals that are released into our brain, we eventually go nuts. A poor humanitarian tried to help one of its victims, and got killed for the trouble when the man, in deranged delirium, lashed out. This brought Nick and Hank onto the alpe‘s trail, and they asked Munroe to act as live bait. It turned out, the perpetrator was the landlady, supposedly in Los Angeles, sneaking around through secret passages with the aid of the property manager. Both of them resisted and were killed as a result. Case closed.

In other news, Eve, Rosalee, and Munroe manage to figure out the meaning of the mysterious symbols connected to the healing stick. They come from several ancient cultures, spread across the world and the ages. Exactly how they all came together on the cloth remains a mystery, but they form a map of sorts. In particular, they’re a calendar map, referencing the positions of stars and planets to signify an exact date. What date is that? March 24… of this year.

Which, as it happens, is when Grimm‘s second-to-last episode will air, setting up for the grand finale of it all.

So… here comes the end of the world!

Next to that, perhaps this is small-time to end on, but…

Meisner was real.

…I mean, wow!

Meisner was real!

He appears once more to Renard, after Renard has a less than civil conversation with another of Black Claw’s apparent leaders, Anselmo Baledin, severing that connection once and for all. Baledin responds by sending to men to kill Renard by his car, but Meisner warns Renard, and the two work together to take them out. Renard asks why Meisner helped him, and his old friend simply says, “You chose the right side this time,” before walking off and fading away.

Two things here. First, unless the entire situation was some elaborate hallucination, Meisner knew something Renard did not. That does not happen with figments of one’s broken brain. They cannot know anything you yourself do not somehow know. Second, if those two men were real, then Meisner affected one of them. That is another thing simple delusions cannot do: interact with the physical world on their own.

So, if we operate under the assumption that Baledin and his two men were real, then Meisner had to be real too. Mind you, this would be a rather tame hallucination compared to the elaborate plot of last episode, so it’s possible that it wasn’t real, but if it was, then Meisner was real too. And whether it was real, or whether it was Renard’s own insanity bringing him back to the right side of things… still, it seems Meisner is still out there, fighting the good fight, even after his own death.

Of course, we’re still left without any confirmation one way or the other… but a little something did just get put right with the world, so I’ll call it a win.

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