This Week on TV, Apr. 29, 2017

Spoiler Alert!

My lineup had a pretty good week this week!

Gotham finally returned, and, fresh off our heroes’ victory in the previous episode, proceeded to shove them off a cliff and into the black abyss of intrigue and madness. (yes, I liked it 🙂 )

Arrow also returned, alongside its sister shows, and strained the bonds between the characters because while each of them was doing their best, they didn’t all agree on what was right or wrong, and more than one crossed a line. So much better than the third and fourth seasons! 🙂

Agents of Shield is still going strong, building up ever greater and more intricate tension as the season finale looms much nearer than the horizon. Seriously, there is a reason why Agents of Shield is my favorite show right now. 🙂

As for Doctor Who… let me be clear: I am still following the show. However, after last week’s delay, and encountering a similar delay this week, I have decided to make a little more breathing room for myself and nudge my commentary of each episode to the following week’s post. So, no commentary this week, but resuming next week.

And now, without further ado… enjoy! 😉

Gotham

3.15 “How the Riddler Got His Name”

Apparently, he chose it.

In the weeks since he killed Penguin, Nygma has gone ever farther off the deep end. Part of himself defined himself by how Penguin saw him, and knew him so well. Now that he doesn’t have that, he’s trying to replace it. In the short term, he’s taking drugs to see a hallucination of Penguin he can interact with.

Meanwhile, he searches for another friend/teacher to help him be a villain, and for that, he must be understood. So, he corners the most intelligent people he can find and asks them three riddles. His “rationale” is that answering correctly involves understanding him on some level. Six times in, and no one answers even one of them right. He kills each one as they fail.

Finally, he decides that what he needs isn’t an ally, it’s an enemy. He wants the entire city to see and fear him, and so he needs an enemy to define himself against, the better to strike terror in the people of Gotham. His first choice is the most obvious: Jim Gordon. But Gordon’s out of town at the moment, leaving Bullock and Fox to work out the bizarre riddles suddenly coming their way. Fox solves them quickly enough, a fact that catches the eye of the deranged Nygma, so he shifts his target.

I am just going to say, finally they had an enemy fixate on someone besides Gordon or Bruce! I love the show, but it could be a little more diverse in that regard, ya know?

Fox, for his part, does quite well, and it’s some decent symbolism, seeing the calm and rational squaring off against the empty madness of Nygma. Fox is able to follow Nygma’s carefully-laid trail, culminating in a test of three riddles, with Bullock’s life as the prize. Riddles, I note, which reflect what Nygma is struggling with: loneliness, individuality, and his reflection. Fox manages to guess one riddle with his insight into what Nygma is doing and why. He guesses accurately that Nygma has killed Penguin, and that gives him the key.

Afterward, Nygma is feeling triumphant. He can stand on his own now, no need of anyone, friend or enemy, to define him. Next is just to make the city see and fear him as he sees himself. He’s disappointed by Fox’s view of him, but carries on. In fact, he takes the drugs he’s been taking to the river and drops them in, saying good-bye to Penguin. He is no longer Nygma in his own mind. He is the Riddler.

Oh, and Penguin wakes up, alive, in Ivy’s care. She dragged him from the river and nursed him back to health. The first thing he does, getting his bearings, is declare that he has someone to kill. I’m guessing that’s Nygma the Riddler.

As for Gordon, after the entire Jerome fiasco, which was merely the latest in a long string of terrible crises, he is on a break. He and his Uncle Frank are off on a hunting trip, but it’s far from relaxing. Now that they’re off in the middle of nowhere, Frank has a lot to tell his nephew.

Frank tells Gordon everything about the Court of Owls. They apparently have been Gotham’s masters for centuries. Begun by the city’s wealthiest founding families, their purpose has ostensibly been to maintain the balance within Gotham. Frank says the power corrupted them, as one might well have expected. Both Frank and his brother were members of the Court, and proud to join, believing they would do good for the city, but when Gordon’s father began to ask questions and realize the truth, the Court murdered him for it.

I wonder how much we can trust what Frank is selling. As he tells it, he broke with his father over the Court, and that has been his greatest regret ever since. After his brother’s death, Frank was sent overseas to see to the Court’s interests and prove his loyalty, but he claims to have been waiting patiently for a chance to destroy them from within. Now that they want Gordon to join them – yes, this is the Court’s invitation Frank is delivering – he sees an opportunity. One man alone can’t do the job, but working together, maybe they could.

It’s a very plausible story, and I can’t think of why Frank would outright lie about this if he intended to either serve or destroy the Court. He does later tell Catherine that Gordon’s interest in piqued, so he’s certainly shielding Gordon from any immediate consequences of not immediately joining up. Still, it’s very possible for Frank to bend a few truths to serve his agenda, whatever that is. If he were more involved with his brother’s death than merely being a spectator, for instance. Or if his long absence were a form of exile. Or if he wants not simply justice or anything so grand as restoring democracy to the city, but pure and simple revenge.

It’s possible he’s telling the truth, but he’s most certainly become a proficient liar and betrayer during his time among the Court, whom he seems to be lying to and betraying. And the whole thing feels a bit like, “Join me, Luke, and together we can rule the Empire as father and son!” So, I’m very wary of Uncle Frank.

Were I in Gordon’s place, I would probably proceed with as much caution as possible… but I would still proceed.

Finally, over on our third front, we have Bruce coming along in his training… very slowly. He’s not completely focused, distracted by thoughts of Selina. She seems to have left a note for him – we all knew immediately it was a trap – which Bruce was keen to ignore. He’s right, after avoiding him for weeks, simply running after her would not well suit his dignity. Alfred also has a point, though: sometimes one simply needs closure with these things. Anyone who’s suffered a broken heart knows that.

Of course, Selina is less than pleasant and pushes him away. Whether he intended it or not, he was not entirely honest with her, and he broke her trust in a matter of great emotional and psychological weight. I can’t really blame her for being angry, even for cutting things off as completely as possible with Bruce. It’s still a shame and a tragedy to be so consumed with pain, unable to forgive or forget.

It’s also great to see how Bruce has grown. He can hold his own in a fight now, and after facing down the likes of Jerome… well, a handful of punks really don’t scare him. Much worse is when his clone – we will just call him Hush from now on because that’s quite obviously who he’s based on from the comics – gets the drop on him. Facing an enemy is one thing, but facing a broken version of yourself, now, that is scary, and Hush is unquestionably strong enough to overpower Bruce. He drugs Bruce and takes his place.

And so “Bruce Wayne” returns to Alfred, who is certainly suspicious but hiding it.

Meanwhile, the real Bruce Wayne wakes up, clothed in robes, in an austere room with bars, in a far place with high mountains. Nanda Parbat, maybe?

So, Gordon has gotten an offer to join the dark side, Bruce has been betrayed by the Court, replaced by Hush, and shipped off to whatever place, and Nygma has gone full Riddler. No rest for our heroes, apparently.

Agents of Shield

4.19 “All the Madame’s Men”

Aida be one clever little artificial she-devil, yes.

She’s had the entire Framework at her disposal, trapping several agents and countless simulated people in a the nightmare of Hydra’s world order, but all of that, everything about it, has been geared towards her own agenda. Like Pinocchio, she wants to be a real girl. She wants to truly know and feel what it is to be human. And, quite likely, kill the agents trapped within the Framework, which she is currently forbidden from.

To that end, she designed an entire world built to set Fitz to the task of designing a machine capable of creating a flesh-and-blood body for her. In this world, his father didn’t abandon him, but took him away from his mother and raised him. That killed his compassion and drove his ambition, and drove him to love Aida/“Ophelia” with all his devotion.

Meanwhile, in the real world, Aida has Ivanov standing guard over her Framework prisoners. Since she still needs Fitz, and is still programmed to protect the Framework, she can’t harm any of the agents unless they pose a threat to the Framework itself, or at least to her use of it. To that end, she informs him of Daisy and Simmons’ intrusion, tasking him to find and kill them in the real world.

That order rather coincidentally comes right after Daisy, turned Inhuman again within the Framework, throws “Madame Hydra” out a very high window. 🙂

Needless to say, May and Daisy make a successful escape, and make a beeline for shelter with Shield. While on route, May reveals that she’s changed sides because she saw the truth, and saw an enemy lay down his life to save others, including hers. Faced with that, she has to question the side she’s been fighting for. But, of course, Hydra treats everyone who questions them as an enemy, and they do unspeakable things to their enemies, so if May knows she has to question them… well, then she might as well be Hydra’s enemy.

Totalitarian regimes don’t really do “neutral,” do they?

Framework Fitz is enraged by “Ophelia” getting her spine broken, but he has his despicable father there to help him lead. He starts by bringing in Bakshi – of course that slimy little son of a leech is alive and well in Hydra’s world, and the mouthpiece of Hydra in the media – to enlist the public in searching for Daisy and May. When that fails, he’s about to go on a tear, when Aida “wakes” and sets him back on the task of finishing the designs for the Looking Glass machine, a machine which Aida is having Ivanov and the Watch Dogs construct in the real world.

Which leaves the hunt up to his father for the moment. Radcliffe tells this fake version of Fitz’s father that this is all a simulation, and in the real world he’s just a drunk, too stupid to have seen Fitz’s genius, and laughs at how, even in the false world of the Framework, the man is nothing without his son. Unfortunately, Radcliffe slips up, accidentally cluing the man in on how he and Daisy were whispering to each other through the vent. So they know Radcliffe has information, but he’s willing to die now. Clever Fitz, though… he takes an alternate approach of giving Radcliffe something to live for instead of die for.

Knowing Radcliffe, and knowing quality storytelling, I’m fairly certain it’ll work. I mean, why give the heroes a clear path to their escape route when they can fill it with enemies instead, eh?

Meanwhile, over at Shield, the leadership is breaking apart without their leader. Often, a leader’s role is simply to make decisions. Ward, Trip, Burroughs, Mack, they’re all adrift without Mace to point them in the right direction. They all have things they can do, things they should do and need to do, but deciding to do them on their own still leaves them floundering. They may be doing the right things individually, but they’re not united.

Ward goes off alone to find “Skye” (I have apparently been misspelling that for the last four years) despite Coulson’s advice not to. Coulson in this world is coming to grips with the decision he made not to join Shield, wondering what he could have been. He could have been more than a history teacher and mouthpiece of Hydra. So, now he’s choosing to be more than he was before.

I wonder exactly where along the line things changed so that this version of Grant Ward was recruited by Victoria Hand instead of John Garrett. It might have been something Coulson did in the real world as an agent and comrade of both Hand and Garrett, but overall… well, it’s the path not taken. Sometimes it’s just a matter of who comes along to take the troubled youth by the hand, and this determines whether he becomes a hero or a villain.

For Daisy, once she and May join up with Shield, it’s a revealing experience to be around this version of Ward. He was a double agent, just like the real Ward, but he’s selfless and brave and good. After the real Ward betrayed her, became obsessed with her, and hurt the people she loved so much, she couldn’t see any good in him. She couldn’t really understand him. But now, with this version, she feels like she can understand him. Perhaps there was some good in him after all.

While everyone else is trying to survive long enough to rally, Simmons and Trip go do recon on the location he found for where Hydra is building its Looking Glass device. They get there, and it’s empty, which is when Simmons puts the pieces together. Aida is quite literally working on both sides to try and give herself a real body, using the information she gained from the Darkhold to construct a machine. She did similarly when they brought Fitz and Coulson back from the brink of a hellish dimension, but this time she’s built a machine that can create an entirely new body for her.

And here’s an ominous piece of the story. Fitz knows Aida will be given a new body, that she’s going to “the other side.” He wants to go with her, and she “hoped” he would want to.

…what, exactly, does that mean?

Is Aida planning to keep her version of Fitz, complete with false memories? Is she planning to steal him? Is she planning on trapping him in an artificial body and brain like her own, doing to him what he did to her as her creator?

Are Fitz and Simmons about to lose each other forever?

So, Aida is ahead of them, but Daisy can find Radcliffe’s back door now. It’s just a matter of getting there, so she’s hesitant to jump into this war in the middle of a simulated world. May offers her body-cam footage, so Shield can exonerate the Patriot and turn the people against Hydra, but they’ve already lost Mace, so Daisy doesn’t want to risk losing any of the others. Coulson has the right of it, though. They need all the help they can get, as Daisy herself put it, so maybe in order to save themselves, they need to save the world first.

So off the team goes to take Bakshi’s news channel by quiet, infiltrating storm. They record a message to broadcast to the world, set it up to play, and mostly clear out. Ward stays behind, though, with a few others, to delay Hydra’s inevitable effort in shutting the message down. He and Daisy say their farewells, and Daisy truly means it. For what it’s worth, she’s thankful to him, and hopes he gets “his” Skye back after she gets back home. Even if Skye will be a Hydra agent with Inhuman powers now.

They clear out and Ward flips the switch. The message plays, with Coulson addressing the world, an agent of Shield.

And the world responds. Within minutes, Burroughs comes to tell Ward that there are people outside, but not to fight them… to fight with them.

Aida seemed to have the right of it when she was talking to Daisy. Even in the false reality of the Framework, none of her prisoners can escape their true nature. May is a warrior. Mack is a protector. Fitz is a romantic, though she’s certainly twisted that up to her own purpose. And Coulson is a leader. And as for Mace? Well, he was a leader too, and a good one.

Aida stole the cream of Shield’s crop. Small wonder she can’t keep them all quiet forever, especially with Daisy and Simmons in the mix.

Which is why she wants them both killed in the real world, and Ivanov has his sights set on the plane carrying them.

So, both sides are on the brink of victory, and it’s a race to see who reaches their finish line first.

Arrow

5.19 “Dangerous Liasons”

If we learned anything from Ollie and the Bratva, it’s that dual allegiances will almost always come into conflict at some point. In Ollie’s case, it was an all-out collision between the Bratva and Team Arrow, two groups who had worked together in the past but which remained more natural as enemies. In this case, the team was the third side caught between two arguing friends: Helix and Argus.

The heart of this episode brings to a head the discussion of how far across the line is too far. It’s often lauded as praiseworthy and strong to say, “I will do whatever it takes to achieve the noble objective.” Still, it is a dangerous thing to write blank checks for any cause. Ollie himself has been living the consequences of his long-running willingness to do bad things for a good cause. He’s learning that the ends do not always justify the means.

Argus has been a long-time friend and ally to Ollie and his friends, both on Arrow and The Flash. They’ve been the ones that even the vigilantes can turn to for help, and Argus has turned to them for help on occasion. They’re basically good friends, even more so under Lyla’s tenure. But Argus has a mission, to protect people, to keep them safe, by neutralizing any and all threats. To that end, they’ve done some things that are questionable at best, monstrous at worst, and certainly illegal. Among such, they seized Helix’s founder, Cayden James.

One can easily argue that Lyla did what was necessary to protect Argus’ secrets, thus protecting their agents, thus protecting the general populace. Like it or not, defense agencies need to be able to keep secrets in order to protect us, and haphazardly uncovering those secrets, throwing them out in the wind for the world to see, is an act that will invariably cost innocent blood. As Helix not only runs counter to this by very nature, but has already done things like dig up blackmail material on almost everyone and hack military drones, Argus has every reason to want to shut them down. The two groups are natural enemies, one defending security and the other espousing unrestrained freedom, and Lyla describes their founder as being more dangerous than a nuke. Such is the power of information.

However, Helix has some legitimate ground to stand on, too. Argus has operated outside the law, taking their founder and friend and not affording him due process. They took him and locked him in the darkness of a metal box, without any basic necessities, let alone comforts. It’s inhumane and a huge violation of his rights. Yes, he was a danger, but that does not give Argus carte blanche to break all the rules.

Both sides are willing to do whatever it takes, just as Ollie was, and just as Felicity is. She is dead set on finding Chase and will do anything to accomplish this, a determination which only increases the longer Chase eludes pursuit. Her frustration that Billy’s killer remains at large is only compounded as Ollie keeps trying to protect her from the darkness she is playing with. She’s a big girl, she doesn’t need Ollie protecting her like that after five years of watching him dive headfirst into darkness over and over, and after all the times she has supported him, whether or not she agreed with him, it’s a stinging betrayal when he does not do the same for her.

And still, they’ve managed to make Felicity a hypocrite. She may have supported Ollie, but she’s still fought many of his decisions and she’s been very angry at Ollie for doing exactly the same things that she’s doing right now. Ollie might not be in a position to lecture her – then again, he does have the voice of experience here – but she is doing what she judged him for and getting upset at him for trying to talk her out of doing it.

This is one of those times where pretty much everyone has some legitimacy to their positions, but most of them are still wrong.

Which is particularly frustrating since they all once knew the value of finding another way, a better way. They’ve forgotten that there is a better way.

So, with Chase evading everyone thus far – including leading Argus and Team Arrow into a trap at an arcade – and Helix being the only group that’s put a dent in his scheming, Felicity goes back to them for more help. They start by hacking Argus, supposedly to monitor the hunt and avoid retreading the same ground, but they also seem to uncover a leak. Whether that’s legitimate or not, I don’t know, but it certainly gets plugged. Elena, I think her name was, Helix’s current leader, knocks him out and accidentally kills him by hacking the elevator he was in, and steals a key.

After that, Elena decides to hire professionals instead of risking more fatal accidents, and they steal another key, the second in a pair of keys that will unlock the containment unit holding Cayden James. Lyla was already taking the precaution of bringing field agents in to shelter at their base, and asks Team Arrow to escort one of them, bringing them into conflict with Helix’s hired goons. Felicity already had the promise of a program James could finish, one that could let them find Chase and end the hunt, so she convinced Digs and the team to let the goons go.

This crossed a line and Felicity refused to turn back from it. She went with Elena and the goons to go rescue Chase, knowing full well that not only would they be facing Argus, they’d be facing Team Arrow. In the team’s case, they’re caught in the crossfire between arguing friends, so they chose the side that they are more familiar with, and which has done a great deal for them over the years. Felicity’s dual-loyalty to Helix is new, and they don’t like it, so they mean to save her by stopping her.

Lyla thought to lure Helix into a trap, and one where the bait wasn’t even there, but Helix saw through that and went to the correct location instead of the dummy one. Team Arrow raced to intercept, and the two sides fought without anyone dying, but they lost. Helix won because Felicity sided with them, and they got James out safely.

Then Helix turned around and cut all ties with Felicity. They didn’t want her loyalty to Team Arrow to become a liability down the road. They left her with what they promised, at least, but they also left her alone after she chose their side. Cold. Very cold. And I have a sneaking feeling that we haven’t seen the last of Helix or their founder.

It’s a pretty hollow sentiment dominating Team Arrow right now. Digs and Lyla are fighting over her shady practices at Argus, an argument that has apparently divided them before. Ollie and Felicity are at odds as well, neither of them really winning the argument even as it ends. The team didn’t really have a truly good side to choose in this one, and they lost.

And Felicity’s new program works just in time for them to notice that Chase is apparently right there, where they are, before the computer explodes and things go dark. Cliffhanger.

…ok, statement of the obvious here: the computer exploded, and it did so exactly when Felicity and Ollie were standing next to it, while Helix’s program was running. Chase didn’t seem too surprised when he was outed as Prometheus, courtesy of Helix. In fact, he was ready for it, like he was expecting it, and now he happens to be at the Arrow Cave exactly when it happens to be running a Helix program to find him.

Chase has been the grand puppeteer all season long, and I’ve already theorized that he might be connected to Helix as well. We now have two pivotal instances in a row where Helix seems to have been helping Team Arrow against Chase, but he’s still been one step ahead. How much you wanna bet he orchestrated Helix as well just to get at Ollie through Felicity?

About the only good thing is when Lance gives a none-too-subtle push to get Rene back with his daughter, Zoey. Lance knows full well the agony of losing a daughter, and he won’t just stand back and let Rene make such a terrible mistake as failing to have her in his life. He talks with Rene first, and learns that Rene has been dragging his feet with Curtis’ lawyer friend, thinking she might be better off without him. He’s been blaming himself for a time he got drunk and passed out while reheating soup for Zoey, leading to an accident where she burned her hands. On the downside, that is something to address, but on the bright side, he clearly understands that he made a mistake. The problem is he’s exaggerated it in his own mind to disqualify himself as his daughter’s keeper.

Zoey deserves better than Rene was, not better than Rene. She deserves her father, the best version of himself he can be. Yes, he should avoid getting drunk – really, he and everyone else in the world should just avoid alcohol at all, it would make things so much simpler and safer – and he should avoid repeating his past mistakes. But that means learning from them, not condemning himself for them.

She does deserve him, and, even more to the point, he deserves her.

Lance apparently agrees with me, and solves the problem by simply bringing Zoey to the office to see her dad. That, seeing her and hearing how much she wants to go home with him, that does the trick. Rene sets things in motion immediately. He will get his daughter back. 🙂

On the downside, relationships are strained, rather legitimately, and their most savage enemy is bearing down immediately on Ollie and Felicity. We’ll see how the crisis unfolds next week.

But, on the upside, Rene certainly has something worth fighting for now, and the team is due for some happy.

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