This Week on TV, Feb. 18, 2017

Spoiler Alert!

This was a pretty exciting week! Agents of Shield had a tense build up, then a little victory, and then turned it all around on its head in the last few moments. Arrow decided to talk about gun control in the middle of everything else that’s going on. The Vampire Diaries pushed us towards the climax of the show. And Grimm made us laugh for one more episode before it also sends us to its climax.

agentsofshieldseason3bannerAgents of Shield

4.14 “The Man Behind the Shield”

You know that feeling in the back of your mind, where you notice something that just isn’t quite right, but you aren’t sure what it is? And then something snaps it all into place, and it’s like suddenly recognizing what you’ve been looking at.

This week looked to be going fairly well for the agents, right up until the end, when it was revealed that the Dogs have had their most devastating triumph yet, with the agents losing big time for the fourth week in a row.

Picking up where the last episode left off, with a kidnapped Director Mace and May trapped in the Framework, the agents are investigating both where they are and what the Framework is. Radcliffe and Aida’s version is a huge, scaled-up version of Fitz-Simmons’ work, which was designed as a training program for agents. Which, I admit, it was cool to see Coulson and Daisy sparring, and I imagine it would provide for a greater diversity of situations an agent can train for, but there’s something about real life training that seems much more genuine and useful to me. How one moves in real life depends on how one has been able to train their physical body, not just their mind. Speed, strength, precision, and reflexes are sculpted into the body over a prolonged period of time and repetition. So, while it might be useful for training the mind in an environment that is safe and controlled, it seems fairly useless for conditioning the body, which is a huge deficiency in something intended to train agents for the field.

If nothing else, it seems too easy to get addicted and leave the body, and the real world, to wither. That seems to be Ivanov’s sentiment too, seeing his science specialist Radcliffe spending so much time within his simulated creation. Radcliffe is angry a well, when interrupted, saying that Aida is fully capable of acting as his proxy in this plan they have going, while he goes back into the Framework. So he’s shirking his real-world responsibilities and indulging himself just because he can. This does not bode well for anyone.

Ivanov is keen enough to notice Aida’s evolving behavior, when she uses metaphors, for instance, but he’s still underestimating her because she’s a machine. She’s displaying more independence, more emotion… more anger, and more disdain. When she throws Ivanov’s words about trash being useful back at his wounded, unconscious body, I can’t help but feel dread for some reason. There’s something very wrong and very dangerous happening here.

Most of the meat of this episode is spent with the team’s invasion of a Watch Dog base, looking to rescue Mace and May, but we also see some past events.

Apparently, a number of years ago, Coulson and May were sent to retrieve an 084. Besides how they apparently toyed around with the idea of getting together, until she went with Andrew instead, we also see what amounts to Ivanov’s origin story. He was part of a Russian team also sent to retrieve the 084, but they got their tails kicked by May and failed their mission. The rest of the team was tortured and killed by their own superiors for that failure, but Ivanov survived for whatever reason, and instead of blaming the people who had his team tortured and killed, he blamed alien stuff in general and Coulson in particular. When he began seeing Coulson’s involvement in other incidents, Shield missions, he built Coulson up even more in his mind, into this figure standing in the shadows, hiding behind everyone and everything, always out of reach, quietly advancing an alien agenda.

We are all the heroes of our own story, and Ivanov’s story cast Phil Coulson as the arch-villain.

Thing is, just because Ivanov built Coulson up in his mind, that doesn’t mean Coulson even remembered Ivanov. And, poetic irony, Ivanov became the villain of the story, the man at the center of the Watch Dogs, behind the funding, the assassination attempts, the senator… he really is the man at the heart of a conspiracy, and one which Daisy is all too happy to put in his place. Mind you, I would have captured him instead of just leaving him buried in rubble, but whatever, it was great seeing her take him down. 🙂

By the time Mack and Coulson find Mace, the man has been tortured, beaten, deprived, and failed in his escape attempt. Still, they save him, and they all go home together. The submarine slips out, escaping, but Coulson elects to fall back and lick their wounds instead of pursuing.

And when they get home… well, that’s when the odd pieces fall into place.

For being so affluent in torture, and bent on turning Mace against Coulson, Ivanov seemed to go pretty easy on Mace. For being beaten down, Mace was in remarkably good condition. Why was Aida even there, as part of the interrogation, and what was her interest in Mace? What was she doing all that time during the agents’ raid? Why did Coulson, usually hell bent on getting May back, back off so easily at the end? What was this plan that Ivanov needed Radcliffe and Aida for? And for so few pivotal things events happening, it seemed to take an inordinate amount of time.

The answer: Mace, Coulson, Daisy, and Mack have all been taken out by Aida and the Dogs, and replaced with LMD versions. Fitz-Simmons only detect that partially by chance, and too late to keep the LMDs out. The four of them, four of Shield’s highest-level agents and their biggest guns, have been replaced. Five, if you count May, who the Coulson LMD turns back on at the end of the episode. Five LMDs, right in the heart of Shield, possessing all the knowledge of the people they’ve been modeled after.

…this, as they say, is really, really, really bad.

And if that’s not bad enough, Radcliffe and his malfunctioning Aida seem to have a mad plan that Ivanov doesn’t know about either. As I think about it, the Dogs have taken a drubbing too these past couple episodes. Nadeer’s dead, Shockley’s an imprisoned Inhuman now, Ivanov has been badly hurt, and it seems Radcliffe may be turning on them too. That’s their top echelon wiped out, just as they’ve nearly wiped out Shield’s, except for Fitz and Simmons.

Two enemy organizations, all but taken over. If Radcliffe and Aida were able to use the Dogs to create the LMDs that quickly, then if they replace Ivanoc with one, they can easily make more. They could very well take over Shield and the Dogs both from within, giving them access to figures of various prominence and influence, which is probably the idea.

So… if I had to guess, I would say Radcliffe plans to use his LMDs, led by Aida, to conquer humanity from within, and put them all into the wonderful, blissful world of the Framework, freed from death and pain and all the real things involved with living.

If so, then the man has clearly gone mad.

And both of these, the Framework and the LMDs, were created in part by Fitz, which gives rise to an interesting discussion. There have been countless scientists and inventors who have lived to see their work turned around on itself, used to hurt the very people they had hoped to help: humanity. How much responsibility to they bear for that?

Myself, I believe there is nothing humanity has, and no advancement we have made, which is not drenched or at least dipped in our blood. We are in imperfect species, yet we keep trying, and the lessons we learn are taken into our hearts. It is a simple fact that anything we create can and likely will be used, at some point, to hurt someone. It might be us, or someone we care for, or some complete stranger, but we’re all the same. The advancement of humanity comes with risk, and pain. But what’s the option? To grow stagnant and fall backwards? To wait until someone else comes up with the same idea and everything we were trying to avoid happens anyway? No. I don’t think so. I think the only choice we have is to keep pushing forward, and hope that the right lessons are learned, however harshly.

Fitz is seeing two of his latest and greatest creations be used directly against the people he cares for the most, but if he hadn’t opened that Pandora’s Box, someone else eventually would have. There’s no way around it. The only way humanity survives is by passing through.

And since he knows the LMDs inside and out, and since knowledge is power, I can’t think of a more dangerous foe for the LMDs to face than Leopold Fitz.

Arrow-logo-header-Season-4Arrow

5.13 “Spectre of the Gun”

I typically try – not always successfully – to avoid political talk on my blog. This week’s episode of Arrow makes that pretty much impossible, as it straight-up makes gun control the main topic. So, here goes…

To make my stance clear: I flatly oppose gun control. The innocent gain nothing by being helpless, but the guilty gain much.

With that said, I can appreciate that this episode did sincerely try to show both sides of the issue fairly and equally.

As for what happens, as people are going about their normal-ish lives, with Lance returned to work, Thea returning as well, Rene officially becoming Lance’s assistant, nobody liking his pairing with Susan, Adrian trying to convince Ollie to convince Susan to back off a bit… a madman with a gun comes into City Hall and shoots it up, killing half a dozen people and wounding two dozen more, including Adrian. In response, not only does the team need to find and stop him, but Ollie has to lead the city through a tragedy that calls for asking hard questions while everyone demands easy answers.

Everyone has their own perspective on this. Curtis and Lance favor gun control in the name of keeping people safe, Dinah and Rene favor letting people protect themselves, and Ollie is searching for his own answer to balance the extremes.

Rene’s past comes into play to explain his stance. He knows guns save lives because he didn’t have his on him when his wife was killed. They were a messed up pair, a dishonorably discharged sailor with a gun, and a drug addict, but they were good to their daughter, Zoe. When Rene realized she was using again, he chose Zoe’s welfare over his wife, delivering the ultimatum that either the drugs be gone or his wife be gone by the time they got back from a game. Unfortunately, her dealer came crashing in with a gun, and Rene had to get his from the safe because he didn’t have it on him at the time. He took out the dealer, but his wife was killed.

So, for Rene, it’s a simple fact, based on a real, personal experience: only a good guy with a gun can stop a bad guy with a gun. And oh, look, when did the gunman run away? When Rene shot at him and winged his shoulder.

Said gunman was once an ordinary guy, but then his family was killed in a shooting spree shortly after the City Council refused to enact some gun control law, overlooking the part where the shooter obtained his gun illegally, so it wouldn’t have protected anyone anyway. He’s lost in pain, ready to kill anyone, himself included. Fortunately, Ollie finds him at the hospital and, as Mayor Oliver Queen, not the Green Arrow, talks him down.

As for the political issue, Ollie networks with the previous City Council until he finds the woman who killed the gun control bill, and they try hashing something out. It doesn’t go anywhere for awhile, much like Curtis and Rene’s discussion. Felicity thinks there’s no point to the arguing if it’s not going anywhere, but I agree with Curtis on this one. It used to be that people of differing politics could still respect each other, work with each other, live with each other. But now? We take everything personally and make everything personal. We scream and go for each others’ throats, and we refuse to work with each other. We dehumanize each other. If we’re not allowed to discuss things even when it looks like things are going nowhere, then how will we ever come to an agreement? How will we ever find common ground? How will we ever live in peace again?

Ollie and Rene come up with a bill called the Firearms Freedom Act, and it apparently does not tread on anyone’s freedoms, though they are vague about what it does do. Ollie announces it at the memorial for the recent victims, declaring that it is possible to respect people’s freedom and their lives at the same time.

Myself, I would argue that do one is to do the other. You cannot genuinely respect a person’s life while disrespecting their freedom.

Finally, we have a quick confrontation between Ollie and the Vigilante. As the Green Arrow, Ollie uses the arrow and restrains himself, while Vigilante uses a gun and has no such restraints. It is certainly instinctual to use violence, but I note that if Ollie had never gone back to killing anyone, then Billy Malone would likely still be alive, and the Vigilante wouldn’t just be a “more” lethal version of the Green Arrow.

I will say, it was nice seeing Ollie be the Mayor. This single episode developed his civilian identity more than the rest of the season so far combined.

vampirediarieslogoThe Vampire Diaries

8.13 “The Lies Are Going to Catch Up With You”

No great surprise: Malachi went to Hell. If there was anyone more deserving, that would be a very special someone.

Also no great surprise: Malachi wants to not go back to Hell.

He apparently slipped through at the same time Cade did, but he didn’t come back all the way. He’s here to the point where he can do severe damage, like, for instance, more murdering. But he’s still partially stuck in Hell, caught between the two dimensions, and he can’t feel or taste things. Oh, and he’s being pulled back towards his rightful eternal resting place. So, he wants out, and the only ones he can turn to are his worst living enemies. What he has to offer: the return of Elena, if they can bring him back before they kill Cade while also keeping Cade from finding him.

Damon, of course, self-serving idiot that he is, is fully on board with the idea of using Malachi to get Elena back, and then sending Malachi back to Hell in pieces. Alaric, of course, would prefer skipping that middle step, and Bonnie is rightfully enraged by the very idea of Malachi being back. Good grief, I forgot how annoying Malachi is. The gang is up against the Devil, and Damon is letting this little leech latch onto them.

Oh, and, extreme lack of surprise: Malachi betrays him, intent only on doing as much harm as he can with what little time is left to him. Malachi doesn’t buy Damon’s spiel about forgiveness, he just siphons Damon mystically dry and turns himself and Elena’s coffin invisible.

In a battle of wits against Malachi Parker, Damon is pretty outclassed. I note that it’s only with the simplest of tricks that Malachi has ever been bested, like when Damon psyched him out by pretending to walk away, only to race around behind him and take his head off.

So, with the past coming back to haunt them, literal and metaphorical, guess what this week’s retreading of old ground is? All the people left alive in Stefan’s vampiric wake. Sure, we instantly think of the people he killed as his victims, but everyone he compelled, too, is also a victim. The hospital guard who lost his job, pension, and sobriety because Stefan told him to walk away from his post for a moment. The man who lost his niece, Violet, “to an aneurism.”

…and Dorian, the newest member of the circle, who Stefan compelled to forget about the murders of his own father and sister, and who has a history of seeking out revenge. While Caroline is left bearing the brunt of Stefan’s sins, re-compelling everyone, Dorian has Stefan digging his own grave. Stefan is trying to talk him out of it for Dorian’s sake, so he can avoid Hell. And when Dorian shoots him, non-fatally at first, Dorian learns what it is to kill someone. To hurt another person like that… it’s not something you can just shrug off, no matter the circumstances. It’s what makes murderers and serial killers a blessed rarity: because we are hard-wired to care about each other as human beings.

So he panics and tries to save Stefan. But Stefan is at death’s door, with Caroline and an ambulance arriving, perhaps too late. That’s when Stefan has a chat with Cade, just before dying, and Cade… seems a little eager to have Stefan join him. He makes a persuasive argument, and Stefan does want to go, and be free of his guilt, his regret… just have nothing but the pain he so richly deserves. But, though Cade says it would be better for Caroline too, Stefan chooses to stay for her. He also thinks he needs to end things with her in order to be fair. Even she has to admit, the unknown future that was once exciting now seems more misguided.

Oh, and Stefan has Matt give Dorian the files on all his victims, as many files as are handy. He wants Dorian to decide his fate.

Meanwhile, Bonnie is not a witch, apparently. She’s psychic, which, in this version of things, is sort of the precursor of witchcraft. As she was a powerful witch, she is now a powerful psychic. She’s called on many powers over the years, including the spirits, the darkness, and expression (which are all kind of difficult to tell apart), and now she’s drawing on Hell itself via her tutelage under Cade, which is driven by her obsession with getting Enzo back. She’s still not accepting his death, which, admittedly, after everyone else she’s seen come back, many of them brought back by her, probably seems more reasonable to her than it would to us. But either way, she’s refusing to let go. Instead, she’s embracing the pain, the rage, the hatred, as the new source of her power.

The good news: it does lead her to Enzo’s spirit.

The bad news: he’s not in Hell. Apparently, he’s in his own personal private dimension, courtesy of Bonnie’s psychic awakening. She went to Cade looking for Enzo, but she inadvertently led Cade to Enzo instead. Enzo is barely able to warn her to get away from Cade and not trust him, and her reaction, to one as perceptive as Cade, tells him everything. And that’s when he realizes: she has done something that no one else has done since he himself created Hell. Technically, there was the witch who created the Other Side, but that was a much more deliberate spell than a psychic ripping of the fabric of reality as a direct result of traumatic experience. So, he tries to invade her mind, and while he doesn’t get too far – she is able to resist a little – he does learn of Malachi’s half-escape.

Cade is angry and threatening, but his limits are being tested, I think.

And then, that night, Bonnie is able to make psychic contact with Enzo again. They’re together, though he’s not really there. But there is hope of a sort now. Which… at this point, not only feels really old – how many times have they brought someone back from the dead, again? – but also unhealthy. And there’s what her mother said, about the darkness reaching towards Bonnie through Enzo. There’s something very dangerous there. And as this is the concluding season, all bets are off as to who lives and who dies.

Finally, Alaric and Caroline have some major problems with the girls. Three days ago, when Malachi slipped through, the girls started acting out, siphoning, and using magic without meaning to, in anger, all the time. They have no idea what to do, and this, I would argue, is the most important task of them all.

So, Bonnie’s a psychic with a ghostly lover, Stefan nearly dies and has no problem with going to Hell, and then he puts his fate in the hands of the guy who just shot him, Caroline and Stefan might be through, Caroline and Alaric have berserk siphon twins on their hands, Malachi is back, Cade is hunting him, and Damon is somehow even further from Elena than he was before because he decided to be selfish.

grimm_title_cardGrimm

6.07 “Blind Love”

Munroe and Eve, Nick and Rosalee, Adalind and Munroe, Eve and Nick…

…and with that opening, which is simultaneously the least and most creepy and terrifying of them all, Grimm has a Valentine’s Day episode. Which is something I never thought I’d see.

For Munroe’s birthday, Rosalee has arranged for the two of them to take a weekend away along with Nick, Adalind, Eve, Hank, and Wu. It looks to be a pretty fun-filled and relaxing time, sitting around, eating fine food, reminiscing about the past. Ah, ’tis a wonderful life! 🙂

Small detail: one of the staff is the son of a man that Nick put away for his crimes. He uses his special talents to dose their wine, with the idea of sending them all into a frenzy and killing each other. He didn’t hesitate, not for an instant, not when he saw baby Kelly, not when he learned Rosalee was pregnant. That complete lack of compassion is what we call, “Evil.”

So, the effects of the little triple-strength love potion take effect. Adalind falls for Munroe, Munroe for Eve, Eve for Nick, Nick for Rosalee, Wu for a waitress, and Hank for himself, with only Rosalee spared because, being pregnant, she did not drink the wine. Which makes for one of the most hilarious of near-fatal climaxes ever, as she corners the perpetrator, who takes the waitress hostage, sending Wu into a rage and throwing him off a cliff, killing him just as everyone is about to tear each other apart, and Hank is crying over a broken mirror.

Heh, safe to say, they have been turned off of “drinks on the house.”

In the game of revenge, there are no winners. And true love conquers all.

Though I feel very bad for that poor waitress, being so aggressively come on to by a weird guy (sorry, Wu), threatened by her coworker, and seeing monsters come to life before her eyes before fainting dead away. That girl might be needing some therapy, methinks.

And just to complete the humor of the episode, Diana is the single worst little girl in the entire world to kidnap. A certain lieutenant who was promised a position as captain comes back for revenge after having been jilted. He takes Diana hostage, which is a terrible idea in two ways: it angers Renard, who could most certainly bring the wrath of the department down on his head, and it’s Diana, who can throw him around with her mind and very much enjoys doing so. The latter reason is why Renard, especially angry, does not call in the troops. He just sits back and relaxes while the man suffers as Diana’s newest toy.

That sound you hear right now is me, laughing with malicious glee at the cosmic justice! 😀 You just gotta love it! First phone call: “Give me what I want or I kill your daughter!” Second phone call: “HEEEELP MEEEEEEEEE!!!” Oh, I just about died laughing! 😀

On the more tense side of things, there’s a demon is coming out of Hell.

It appears in the mirror when Eve is looking at it, a swirling darkness like she saw thanks to the death-grip guy, but with a green-eyed skull creature rising from the depths. It looked at Eve and Nick. So, now they’ve been noticed by the Unholy I-Am-Coming-To-Eat-Your-World thing. Not an entirely enviable position to be in, methinks. Of course, in addition to being in the right place to see the creature, they were both healed by the dangerous healing stick. Were they marked somehow?

Also, keep secrets, Diana cannot. It’s adorable and hilarious to see her not tell her daddy about the symbols she saw in the tunnel while she’s drawing them, but Renard knows something is up and people are keeping secrets from him. I hope he can at least prove helpful.

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