This Week on TV, May 13, 2017

Spoiler Alert!

Things are amping up before wrapping up! Gotham and Agents of Shield both built tension higher and ever higher, the latter shoving us eagerly towards the season finale, the former making us wait a few more weeks for the culmination of intrigue and chaos. Doctor Who felt a bit drab, actually, but pointed towards the season’s terrible menace. Finally, Arrow reached back towards its roots, the beginning of the show, and while the delivery of its climax felt a little weak, I suspect the villain did that on purpose.

Doctor Who

10.04 “Knock Knock”

Nothing. Is. Safe.

You can’t even move out on your own without getting eaten by your new home.

Such is thriller entertainment these days, and such is Doctor Who.

Bill is, at last, on the cusp of achieving a dear dream of all who come of age: leaving the nest and living on her own. She has five strangers as roommates and the six of them together shop around for a place to live. One place is tiny, another is next to a factory, and another place is too good to be true, which it is. A little old man comes to them, and brings them to his house, very old, lacking completely in everything modern, but spacious, quiet, and inexpensive.

So… what’s wrong with it?

It eats people. That’s what’s wrong with it.

Bill sort of has an inkling that something is wrong, but ignores it. Let that be a lesson: never ignore your instincts, especially when they are warning you of danger.

The Doctor helps her move with the Tardis, and notices something that sets him on edge. He notices the trees cracking and creaking when there isn’t any wind. He investigates despite Bill trying to push him off and get him gone. Let that be another lesson: listen to your elders, especially when they’re so well-acquainted with danger.

Bill and her friends are just settling in for the night, relaxing for the most part, when things start getting eerie. There are sounds, like creaks and shuffling and a strange chittering, fluttering sound. Part of that is the Doctor rummaging around, but the house is definitely more active than any house has a right to be. Also, no electronic devices work, so they’re completely cut off from the outside world.

And then the landlord appears again, knocking on wood and doing something with his tuning fork while talking about a daughter. Some of the kids stay up, while others go to bed, and chaos breaks loose for everyone. One of them goes to bed making jokes, only for something to happen behind his closed door, the room and hall filled with the crackling groan of moving wood, and his screams. Bill and her friend try to get in, but it’s locked, and the knock, and are answered by knocking… coming from every direction.

All throughout the house, doors and windows are sealing shut, everyone scrambling like mad to escape, to survive, but it’s too late: they’re already in the belly of the beast. One girl gets out of the house only to be absorbed by the wall surrounding the property. Another, a boy who was an early arrival, was mostly swallowed by the wall of his room already, temporarily spared by still trapped because his record player was skipping, distracting whatever was doing the swallowing, until the landlord turns the music off.

The Doctor’s investigation, still underway in the middle of the crisis, reveals an alien insect creature, very small, part of a very large hive that has infested the house to the point where they have become the house, every grain of wood and slab of stone. Everything. They are the house now. And this is not the first time this has happened. The Doctor and another boy, one who gets trapped by a staircase and eaten by the insects, discover the traces of those who came before. Once every twenty years, six people move in, unsuspecting, and are eaten, a sacrifice to the creatures of the house.

That is the landlord’s method. He uses sound to direct the creatures, feeding them with the would-be tenants, justifying it as maintaining the survival of himself and his daughter, whom Bill and her friend meet in the tower, a woman all made of wood. The Doctor makes it up, though he’s unable to save anyone, Bill’s friend being consumed, leaving just the four of them: the Doctor, the landlord, his mother, and Bill.

The Doctor tries to salvage the situation by offering his services. If anyone can save the woman, it’s him. So, he comes to understand that the landlord was in the garden when he found the bugs, dormant as shells, and brought them in to show his daughter. They became active in response to the music box he set to playing as he left her that evening, and in the morning he found her partially made of wood, and so he had his answer: tame the creatures and stay alive.

Ah, but Bill notices the details. She’s absolutely distraught by what’s happening, but still she notices. Grown men generally don’t bring bugs in from the garden to show their adult daughters. A little boy, however, would certainly show them to his ailing mother. And that’s the truth of it. The landlord isn’t the woman’s father, he’s her son, and all he’s done, all the murder and pain and death, the sacrifice of young people to his pets, was all just because he wanted to keep his mother.

With the realization of the truth came the accompanying horror, and determination. The landlord’s mother finally regained her own mind, at least enough to decree, “No more.” The landlord might have commanded the insects, but it was only she who could control them, and she directed them to consume herself and her son and themselves. The most recent victims were saved, not yet being digested or killed, literally coming out of the woodwork, everyone running for their lives as the house collapsed.

One more danger ended, one more justice done.

Downside: they’re all looking for a place to live again.

Upside: they’re alive and free to do so.

And the Doctor goes to the Vault, which Nardole is conscientiously maintaining. He knocks at the door, promising the resident within a story. As the resident plays the piano, they only consent to have dinner and share a story when he mentions children being eaten by a house, which apparently fills the occupant with glee.

That just about settles is. The Vault is Missy’s prison. That’s who the Doctor would bother to imprison for all eternity, standing guard right outside, occasionally visiting with fast food and storie, giving them a piano to pass the time, and would be quite giddily happy about such terrible misfortune befalling children. The Doctor managed to catch Missy and lock her up, I bet.

Obviously, it’s not going to last forever.

Gotham

3.17 “The Primal Riddle”

Oh, the tangled, weaving web of allies and enemies, ever-shifting and evolving.

Now that Barbara knows of the existence of a secret society that runs all of Gotham, she is furious. She just barely took over Penguin’s kingdom, and has been luxuriating in her superiority, only to find there are bigger fish in this pond that she’s never known of. There’s someone “above” her, even now, and that drives her mad. Faced with mysteries she can’t unravel, threads she can’t follow, and an enemy she can’t fathom, she turns to her resident schemer-in-chief: Riddler.

Riddler knows that he has touched the fringes of this truth before, but this is one riddle he’s never been able to solve. As such, his enthusiasm for the job is boundless. And in typical Riddler fashion, his plan begs the question of whether there is method to the madness or madness to his method.

Riddler can easily guess that this mysterious organization is among the elite of Gotham and that no long-sitting figure of authority could be completely unaware of them. So, he invades a high-class performance of Hamlet, killing the lead and terrorizing the audience, which brings Gordon and Bullock into the situation.

Gordon has made some headway with the Court of Owls, but to go any further, his loyalty must be tested. Catherine tells him they will call on his services sometime, and that time comes quite quickly, as the Riddler aims to expose them.

Gordon and Bullock easily guess the meaning of Riddler’s riddle to mean he’s going to target Mayor James, back in power with the absence of Penguin. He’s already sent the mayor a box of poisoned pastries, and they have no choice but to take the man to the nearest hospital, exactly as Riddler intended. He then stages two simultaneous events. He’s on the speaker, drawing Gordon to the broadcasting station, but also floods the hospital with a biker gang, having had Barbara set off a bomb at their lair to achieve this. The gang collides with hospital staff and the officers, creating a moment of chaos where Riddler is able to sneak in and abduct James.

After that, it’s just a matter of forcing the enemy’s hand. James breaks easily enough just from hearing Barbara’s voice, and the threat of being put back in that box she subjected him to the first time around. So now Barbara and Riddler have a name: the Court. As he begins broadcasting, gleefully speaking of the Court as a sullen James assures Riddler they’re both dead men walking, the Court calls Gordon. They want him to bring Riddler to them, and he does. First he calls Riddler, luring him to the precinct, and deactivating the bomb collar with a helpful tip from Tabitha, and then he takes Riddler to where Catherine will meet them.

It’s a stark moment between the two men. They once shared friendship, ate dinner together with the women they loved. Now Kristen Kringle is dead by Nygma’s hand, Nygma has become the Riddler, Thompkins hates Gordon, and Gordon has passed through darkness, emerging into light only to step into the darkness of the Court. The past has become an empty thing, a source of pain. Riddler argues that all friendships end in betrayal, so why bother with friendship in the first place anymore?

And then Catherine arrives, and Riddler steps into her limo. The Court means to give him a purpose and use his intellect, or kill him if he refuses. As for his part, Gordon has performed perfectly and proven himself. He is welcomed in as the Court’s newest member, joining their assembly and donning a mask.

He’s in.

Mercifully, he did not need to do anything like killing a loved one, as his Uncle Frank did. But I suspect that test might arise, also as it did for Frank. Thompkins suspects Gordon in the death of his uncle, and she’s gnawing on a spiteful bone, eager to take him down and end the destruction he wreaks on those around him, as she sees it.

Meanwhile, Barbara is finding herself alone. Gordon doesn’t have her back, Riddler leaves her without answers as he walks off to the Court, and Tabitha betrayed her. Tabitha got tired of waiting for Barbara to honor their agreement to hill Riddler, and feels more and more like Barbara’s lackey than her equal. The only happy one is Butch, who is gleeful at the division between the women. Barbara’s reign may be brief indeed, for a mad queen cannot rule alone. Even more so with the imminent return of Penguin.

Speaking of, we didn’t see much of him, but he and Ivy succeed in recruiting both Freeze and Firefly to join them, the beginning of a “family” of freaks. Freeze nearly killed Penguin for driving them out – no one holds a grudge like Mr. Freeze – but comes along when they return his suit to him, and offers to fund his research to save what’s left of his wife. (How far did they have to go to find him, I wonder?) Meanwhile, Firefly was going to say no too, but Ivy presented the offer of a place to belong, instead of being an abused menial worker. The two of them don’t get along, and never have, but they’ll keep a lid on their hostilities. For now, the four of them are holed up in Penguin’s mansion, ready to get to work the next day.

Finally, there is Bruce’s clone, Hush. Alfred is able to suspect that something is wrong, but he doesn’t seem to have put it together yet, or he’s faking brilliantly. He even accuses “master Bruce” of letting him win at chess. Hush diverts attention by saying he’s reeling from Selina’s rejection. Then, the moment Alfred is gone, his nose starts bleeding, apparently a frequent event. He sneaks out and meets with Catherine, confirming his suspicion that he’s dying. He was not built to last, only to last until Bruce returns. And when he returns, people will die. Many people, throughout the city.

So, is Bruce supposed to be the Court’s weapon? That was my first thought, but I didn’t think it was plausible due to time constraints. Just what is the Court planning?

Speaking of, I noticed something last episode. How did that guy enter Bruce’s memory alongside him, even exchange blows with him? How is this place such an inscrutable maze? Perhaps it’s not real. Perhaps he’s trapped in some machine that immerses him in a realistic experience, like Strange did to “rehabilitate” Penguin. If they’re doing something similar to Bruce, that could explain some things, like how they mean to shape him into their weapon, assuming that is their intention.

But back to Hush. He has no feeling for the city or anyone in it… except Selina.

This was one of those times where I saw the moment coming, and braced myself for it, but still dreaded it.

Hush visits Selina to try and convince her to leave the city. He cares about her, and wants to get her out before the city is destroyed. Which, as she notes, is the real difference between him and Bruce. Whatever her feelings for Bruce, however powerful her anger is, she knows Bruce. She knows he cares about everyone. He wouldn’t just save Selina, he would do everything in his power to save everyone. And that is what makes Hush the freakish, broken, pale shadow of Bruce Wayne. It’s not his origin, it’s not his transient life, it’s his lack of feeling for others. And that is why Selina rejects him.

Which Hush responds to by pushing her out the window. She falls far, lands hard, and seems to be dead. And, to complete the homage to Batman Returns, the cats come crowding around her body. Thus to rise she who will be Catwoman.

So, Gordon’s joined the Court, which has Bruce and intends to destroy the city soon, and Riddler is becoming their minion. Meanwhile, the latest criminal kingdom is fracturing, soon to see Penguin returning with freaks in tow, bent on revenge against those who wronged him, especially Riddler. Meaning the freaks are going up against their creators. Bruce is gone, Alfred doesn’t seem to be doing anything about it, and Hush just killed Selina.

That about sum it up?

Agents of Shield

4.21 “The Return”

So, however bad the situation is, last episode ended with the clearing of a major hurdle. With the season finale coming up next, this episode take the agents’ progress and pushes them backwards. They have barely managed to survive, and things keep getting so much worse. And they’re not remotely letting up on the emotional intensity now that they’ve driven it to such heights.

May and Coulson find themselves facing Ivanov with his new robotic body. They take him out in mere seconds. And then they, and we, learn that he has multiple bodies now. One brain, many bodies. Many strong, durable, yet disposable, bodies. They manage to defend themselves, but they realize it’s too easy. Ivanov obviously wants to kill them, and he can, but he’s also smart. Why not just flood the place instead of delaying them like this? Answer: he was just getting the last few things he wanted to keep onto his sub. Once that’s done, he torpedoes the place. May and Coulson barely make it back to the surface, having to leave Mack behind.

Meanwhile, May, Simmons, Yo-Yo, and their three friends, Piper, Davis, and another agent whose name I failed to catch, are dodging missiles in the air. They manage to restore power just in time, and set course straight for their friends. Yo-Yo is furious with Daisy for not forcing Mack through the Framework’s exit, and Daisy can only flail around and tell her about Hope. Even to save his life, Daisy couldn’t take Hope away from him. Yo-Yo can’t reprimand her for that, but she starts getting the idea of going in herself to get Mack. That idea is put on hold as the crisis mounts, though. They arrive at the station just in time to grab Coulson and May… but Mack is trapped and drowning below, and Yo-Yo won’t leave without him, and no one wants to though they know they have to.

That’s when an unexpected savior arrives: Aida.

With Fitz forcibly by her side, Aida is feeling and thinking for the first time. She stands exultant in joy and wonder, feeling the waves wash around her feet on the beach. Fitz is still in shock, everything about the Framework and what he did inside being abhorrent to his soul. Aida tries comforting him, but to little effect. As she takes them to a luxurious suite instead, he begins talking to her about empathy. She learns the feeling of fear, how terrible it is, and Fitz uses that to try and convince her to save people instead of hurting them.

Aida is accustomed to being able to analyze everything, so emotions are giving her trouble. Humans take decades or even lifetimes to learn how to function despite what they feel, and even then most of us fail at some point. Aida is dropped into the deep end of the pool without even knowing how to float. Fitz, poetically dealing with the emotional fallout of his Framework experience, is a perfect coach at the moment, helping her learn to focus on what to feel and act accordingly. He convinces her to save his friends, but Ivanov won’t be persuaded and can’t be forced, so she goes in herself. She saves Mack at the last possible instant, teleporting them all onto the Zephyr and into Shield custody.

Where Simmons promptly ices both Aida and Fitz, the former being an enemy and the latter being unknown after the Framework nightmare in which he was the monster.

The agents all return to base to find it a ruin. LMD May blew it up to cover their escape from LMD Coulson, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Chaos has reigned while their team has been silent, not helped by the death of Director Mace, whose body Ivanov defiled by smashing every bone with a hammer to frame Daisy, aka Quake, for his murder. Their base is a burnt-out husk and the military is not their friend, believing them to be robots and/or enemies, as demonstrated by Talbot, whose men dug the dead and injured agents they left behind out of the ruin. He is understandably tense and aggressive, demanding short answers. Coulson tries, but the entire situation defies rational belief.

Again, the team is “saved,” in a way, by Aida. Not in the good way, though.

Fitz and Aida are imprisoned together in a unit outfitted with tech to hinder her teleportation. Simmons is watching and listening on the cameras as Fitz bares his soul, his pain, and his heart. Aida is there to comfort him, but that turns right around with his confession. He doesn’t know how Simmons could ever look at him again, after what he did as Hydra’s head, and while he did love Aida in the Framework, he is back to himself again. He has room in his heart only for one woman: Simmons.

…you know how they say “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned?” Amplify that. Aida is mentally unstable, and very powerful. Add her anger, and it’s a perfect recipe for “dangerous.” Fitz’s rejection of her flips her like a coin, and she goes on a homicidal rampage. The containment unit prevents her teleportation, but she has other abilities. That’s what she had Fitz working on: harvesting Inhuman abilities and putting them all together to create a being of godlike power. That’s why he called her new body so much stronger, and how they envisioned destroying “the other side.” Among her power: Lincoln’s electrokinesis, and rapid regeneration bordering on immortality.

The trio of agents try to get Fitz out, to safety, and they’re interrupted by Talbot’s soldiers, and they’re all interrupted by Aida the Furious, who summarily kills the soldiers even as they’re screaming into their radios. One of the agents, the one whose name I never caught, is the first of the three killed by Aida. Davis comes round the corner emptying his pistol into her while Piper gets Fitz into the containment unit and up into the Zephyr, interrupting the Mexican stand-off between Talbot’s soldiers and Coulson’s agents. Fitz has been screaming the entire time that Aida can’t be stopped now, and as she’s getting up to kill Davis, May takes off for the cockpit to get them in the air, fleeing for their lives.

Talbot and his men stay behind, not accompanying the agents and searching carefully for further threats. But Aida is long gone, back to Ivanov, who brings her fully into the dark side as he teaches her of pain and the desire to destroy. Aida has that desire to an overwhelming degree, and she’s now probably a being capable of matching even the Avengers in many ways. She starts by destroying, amid the motions of intimacy, one of Ivanov’s bodies. And she means to move on to destroy everyone.

To top it all off, Yo-Yo, ignoring Daisy’s warnings of the dangers of the nightmarish Framework, has gone in to retrieve the man she loves, who won’t remember her and has a daughter to love. Oh, and she wakes up bound to a table in a ruined room with the sounds of chaos around her. She’s entered the nightmare, and all she can do is scream.

On the bright side, if Yo-Yo has her powers in the Framework, and judging by the ruin around her when she was likely taken by Hydra, perhaps my idea of bringing Hope into the real world via the Looking Glass could actually work after all. On the downside, Ivanov has that technology, so they’d be delivering Mack’s daughter straight to their worst enemy. Not a good plan.

Even better, however, is the gateway between dimensions that is still in Shield’s base, and which a familiar flame-skulled figure steps through.

Robbie’s back! Yay!

Considering how the agents of a one-man army of robots and an enraged, genocidal near-goddess chasing them, and two friends trapped in the Framework, I’d say they need all the help they can get right now!

Arrow

5.21 “Honor Thy Fathers”

In this episode, we go back to the beginning.

In the flashback, Ollie is dropped off in the island by Anatoly, taking the time to explain why he has to go back home. However, he was supposed to be picked up by a fishing boat two days later, so Ollie could go back immediately under the cover of having been on the island for five years straight. Anatoly wishes him well and makes the arrangements. Unfortunately, as we approach the beginning point of the show, Kovar and his men interrupt the plan, catching Ollie by surprise as he’s building the bonfire. We’re about to see why Ollie misses the boat and gets trapped on the island for several more months before being rescued, and it’s going to be tragic even as Ollie wins, condemned to indefinite solitude, though we know he gets off the island soon enough.

Back in the present, we go not only to the beginning of the show, but the beginning of everything in the show. Ollie got his quest to save the city from his father, but what he doesn’t know is where his father got it from. His father joined the secret council that Merlyn would eventually lead into the Undertaking because a corrupt individual, Councilman Goodwin I think it was, tried to solicit a bribe from him, which he refused, the two men struggled, and Robert Queen accidentally killed the man.

Chase goes and digs up the corpse, sending it to Ollie’s office, and setting in motion the gears which will smear Robert’s name. Thea returns just in time for the defamation, and it does Ollie some good to have his sister there. He resists the truth, but Thea is more open to it. So when Chase indirectly sends the Queens a flash drive with video surveillance proving what happened, Thea is the one to watch it, and makes Ollie do so afterward.

I love how the siblings support each other. Their parents weren’t saints by any definition, and coming to grips with that truth can be very difficult, especially when your own sins bear a haunting resemblance to theirs. Thea is a mess over what she’s done and what her parents have done, but she’s also letting herself drown in the darkness, and needs Ollie to help her stay afloat. Meanwhile, I remember very well how Thea was the strong one supporting her brother in the earlier seasons, and she’s still his support. Robert is right, in his message to her, about her strength, and how Ollie needs her.

As for Robert himself, well…

Ollie is right, his father wasn’t a killer. Robert’s regret over that man’s death was so powerful that he joined the council, and then he defied Merlyn’s plan, a choice that resulted in his death and the beginning of Ollie’s mission.

At the same time, though, Robert also took pains to evade the consequences of Goodwin’s death. Of course it is ridiculous to treat an accidental death the same as murder, but covering it up is despicable in its own right. It’s beyond counting, the number of times people have committed atrocious crimes, often worse than the original offense, just to avoid the consequences of their actions. That was Robert’s true crime that day, and, in its own way, it is every bit as horrific as actual murder.

Chase managed to convince Ollie to lose faith in himself, and now he wants Ollie to lose faith in his father. But Ollie manages to learns a truth as well: as imperfect as his father was, he never gave up on Ollie, and never would. Which is unlike Chase’s father, the murderer of children who was going to disown Chase because he didn’t want a crazy man inheriting his money and possessions. Chase’s devotion to his father is entirely one-sided.

As Ollie is distracted trying to keep his father’s name clean and hunt Chase down, he has the team and the police keeping tabs on three dozen inmates which are out of prison courtesy of Chase being a serial killer. They quickly find that one of them, the guy who no longer feels pain, is arming up with guns and stealing dangerous chemicals. As it turns out, this is at Chase’s direction, as he intends to rain deadly poison and disease down on the entire city. It seems fairly finale-like, only the team steps in and stops it all pretty easily. The same for when Ollie and Chase have their confrontation: Ollie holds his own perhaps a little too easily, and when he taunts Chase with the truth about his father disowning him, Chase simply surrenders.

Too easy.

There’s no sign of Evelyn, or Talia, or Ollie’s son, all of which we know are in Chase’s pocket. No word from the boy’s mother either, which suggests to me that the serial killer added her to his body count. And Ollie isn’t really looking too hard, being reassured simply by the fact that Felicity can’t find them. Which would then make Chase’s act of sealing them in the bunker last episode redundant. He wouldn’t do that unless he had something specific to do while they were occupied.

Chase surrenders, and gets tossed into an Argus cell, but he’s nowhere near finished.

Finally, as Rene is on the cusp of getting his daughter back, he’s afraid. He has to attend a hearing, which means revisiting the pain of the past with his daughter. He doesn’t want that, but Lance comes down hard, practically commanding the man to be there. Yeah, his daughter might have to momentarily live with the pain of the past again, but that’s better than living the rest of her life knowing her father didn’t want her enough to fight for her. Lance is absolutely right. Unfortunately…

Rene doesn’t show.

I’m guessing Chase had a colleague of his take Rene out in some fashion. No way Rene misses that hearing, fears or no.

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