This Week on TV, May 20, 2017

Spoiler Alert!

So, an interesting week this week. Doctor Who gave me a lot to talk about, at least, but that’s not necessarily a compliment to the quality of the episode. Gotham unveiled the threat to the city at last, shepherding the intrigue towards an incoming violent culmination. Agents of Shield aired its finale, and it was an incredible, gut-wrenching saga… though they really need to work on that whole cliffhanger thing they do. And Arrow set up the finale,for which I am halfway on edge, by driving Ollie straight into a corner with surprising efficiency.

Doctor Who

10.05 “Oxygen”

Necessities. Things which we, by nature of being the exact organisms we are, need to have in order to survive. Take away any one of them, and death is guaranteed. The most urgent necessities, however, are those which kill you faster when you lack them. Take away the food, starvation kill you in a few weeks. Take away the water, dehydration will kill you within a few days. Take away the air, and you’re dead within minutes. Do so even more violently, in the vacuum of space, where there isn’t any pressure, and death comes even faster.

And that’s not even the real horror of this episode. That’s just the backdrop.

Episode begins in space, with a woman telling a man that, if they survive, she wants to have a baby with him. Yep, she dies. And it looks like her corpse becomes a zombie in space, trying to kill the man she was talking to.

Not entirely accurate, as it turns out. This is not Dead Space.

Back on Earth, present day, the Doctor is talking about the perils of outer space (instead of crop rotation), which Nardole accurately perceives as a sign that the Doctor is suffering from space-faring wanderlust.

One certainly has to say this for Nardole: he tries. He does his absolute best to keep the Doctor right there on Earth, on top of the Vault, as he was once instructed to by the Doctor himself. He does everything in his power to stay true and faithful to their purpose, which has some very high stakes. But the Doctor is going crazy and, frankly, stupid, from being locked into one place like that forever.

I’m guessing that the vow the Doctor swore was a deal made with Missy. In exchange for accepting her punishment of being locked up, the Doctor has to stand guard outside constantly and forever, similarly locked into one place. If the Doctor deviates from that too much, Missy gets angry, escapes, and rains chaos down on the universe. That’s just a guess on my part right now, but it fits with what we know so far.

Either way, the Doctor wants to stretch his legs, and while he makes like he’s letting Bill choose where to go next, he chooses instead, and he chooses something very dangerous.

The Doctor is actually pretty full of it throughout most of this episode. I was starting to finally like Capaldi’s version of him, but that’s gone out the window again. First he abandons his post, overrides Nardole’s protests just because he can, and sets the destination he has in mind, and that’s just the start of it.

He does something that seems quite noble: he answers a distress call. He says you see the true face of the universe when it asks for help, which… again, I am going to say that’s wrong. He’s talking about people trying to survive, and they tend to be willing to do or be anything if it gets them what they need. He is right about one thing: we show our true faces in how we respond. Either we turn away, or kick them when their down, or help them. But, at the same time, any capable rescuer knows that he has to look after himself when going into a crisis, because if he doesn’t then who will save him and the people he’s trying to help? The Doctor was far too reckless about that.

The Doctor, Nardole, and Bille arrive on a space station to find it virtually empty. Quite literally, actually. There’s not even any air for people to breathe. The Doctor has to extend the air shell from the Tardis so they can move about the station. The Time Lords, masters of time and space, really should have had some technology that would safeguard individuals in empty space, by the way, but I digress. When the station detects the air, it sucks it out the airlock, and we are apparently ignoring how the Tardis is supposed to be able to maintain said air shell in the middle of space, so how does a simple open airlock take it all away? Ah, well, whatever.

As it turns out, the station isn’t quite empty of things. They find spacesuits capable of standing and moving and “thinking” on their own, basically operating independently of any living occupant. They can move around when empty, and even when they happen to have a corpse in it. So, not space zombies, just hardware moving around, coincidentally with dead people attached.

Air is apparently not allowed on the station so the people there have to buy it themselves, out of their own pocket, paying for each and every breath they take.

I am just going to say: that is not capitalism!

Capitalism is taking a good that you have either created or bought, and selling it for a reasonable price. Yes, it is true, we do sell necessities, like food and water, and we even sell air to scuba divers and such. However, nothing in capitalism involves first taking away what you are selling and threatening your buyer with imminent death if they don’t pay up. Furthermore, being paid for such vital goods helps to ensure an ongoing supply. Everybody wins in capitalism.

This is not capitalism. It is, at least, imperialism, which seizes goods by force and distributes them back only at great costs to the buyer.

Anyway, back to the plot.

When the Tardis’ air gets vented into space, Bill, Nardole, and the Doctor have to don the suits that they now know are responsible for killing the people who wore them. All those that were online at one moment received an order: terminate your organic components. So they did, all of them. Thirty-six out of forty, and by the time the episode ends, that number goes up to thirty-eight, are all killed by their own suits, the very thing that is most essential to their survival.

The people on the station work for a company. They were sent as a work crew to dig copper ore or something like that out of an asteroid. The suits, they think, are either malfunctioning or hacked, but it’s much worse. It’s simple standard business practice. The people they work for are killing them as a matter of course, the moment productivity slid into a negative. They even launched a “rescue” ship in anticipation of this.

Which, again, not capitalism. Sorry to dwell on this, but this is the second episode this season that features a business practice that is both evil and stupid. If this is business as usual, then they’re stupid. If they were able to so neatly send a “rescue” ship, then they should easily be able to just pack it all up at the first possible opportunity and minimize any cost that way. But no, instead of investing in a healthy environment so they can reuse capable employees, they just charge them for every breath and regularly kill their own crews. And what, does no one notice when all of this company’s employees go away on assignment in space and are never heard from again?

And, of course, it only takes one survivor to undo the entire company, and the Doctor brings back two of them.

It’s not easy, of course. Bill’s suit is malfunctioning and low on power, which is lucky for her when her suit tries to kill her, because it lacks the juice to do so, but she still nearly dies several times from it. She’s exposed to space when it takes her helmet off – which is when you run, you stupid people, run, run, run (I spent a lot of time screaming at my screen this episode, if you haven’t been able to tell) – but the Doctor gives her his helmet, at the cost of his sight due to exposure. And then it freezes up and receives the order to kill her when the other suits touch it.

After that, the Doctor oddly manages to get his bearings at last, and he hatches a crazy plan. He convinces the last survivors to take revenge on the company with their own deaths, as he connects the reactor cooling system to their own heartbeats. When they die, the cooling fails, and the entire station goes, taking the company’s payday with it. It takes some talking, but they’re all on board.

And that’s the key. If a one of them had kept fighting to live instead of die gloriously, the gambit would have failed. When the only way to survive is by ensuring the enemy can’t afford it, one must be absolutely willing to die.

So the suits stop trying to kill them. They give them oxygen to breathe, the man at the beginning of the episode receiving his from the suit that holds the dead woman who loved him in it.

After that, the survivors go to the head office to complain, and as the Doctor recalls the history, the company goes down six months later in a massive rebellion. It turns out letting them live with more costly decision. Hah! 🙂

Nardole uses some alien tech to heal the Doctor’s eyes, and then waits until Bill leaves them alone to chew him out for his reckless stupidity. Bill nearly died, the Doctor nearly died, they all nearly died, and even coming back, if the Doctor had been blinded by it, their “friend” in the Vault would surely notice and take advantage and…

…and the Doctor tells Nardole that he’s still blind.

The Doctor’s thrill-seeking may have just doomed everyone.

Gotham

3.18 “Light the Wick”

Well, Gordon’s time undercover in the Court of Owls didn’t last very long.

Let me just say, I am kicking myself for not realizing the obvious: the weapon which the Court is fashioning is not a person, not Bruce. It’s a weaponized version of the Tetch virus. Since every other source of the virus has been destroyed, after the messes made by the Hatter and Mario, the Court takes the last living person suffering from it from Arkham: Captain Barnes.

They use Dr. Strange – he mentions his success in saving Fish Mooney – to extract the virus from Barnes’ blood and making an aerosol from it. They test it first on one hapless man, likely also from Arkham, and, finding it successful, move on to testing the dispersal device. This is apparently what arrived in the Indian Hill crate at the docks, and while it theoretically has a half-mile radius of effect – how much do you want to bet they have several of these gas bombs? – they test it first in an enclosed setting.

While the Court is setting this up, Gordon is getting straight to the task at hand. First, he lifts Catherine’s fingerprint from her mask, identifying her as Catherine Munroe and getting her street address. He sneaks in, successfully lifting a Wayne Enterprises security card from beneath a drawer in her desk, but he can’t sneak out, so he rolls with it. He acts like he sneaked in just to get the drop on Catherine, show up in her home as a display of his capability. He says he’s done everything the Court has asked, but now, with things coming to a head, he is tired of being kept in the dark. He wants a real seat at the table. He wants to know what’s going on.

Catherine has to consider this, and while she does, he and Bullock find the lab, with Fox’s assistance, and Strange, who willingly gives them everything they need. He’s playing both sides. If the Court succeeds, he appears to be loyal and useful, but if Gordon stops them, then he has Strange to thank for it. Fox gets straight to work on creating and mass-producing a cure.

A small complication, for the moment, is Thompkins, absolutely dead set against Gordon and growing increasingly angry at everyone “helping him destroy people.” Finally, she just leaves the GCPD and means to leave Gotham, ending on the note of one final argument with Gordon, who has had enough of her blaming him. He warned her (very badly, but he did), Mario was infected and about to kill her. Gordon may have handled it very clumsily and stupidly, but he is not the villain here. So, fine, she can leave, and she can blame him, but it won’t help. It just won’t.

A larger, more beneficial complication is Penguin. He easily puts two and two together, realizing Gordon delivered Riddler to this mysterious Court, so he uses Gordon to demand that the Court deal with him and give him Riddler. Gordon and the Court don’t particularly care about Penguin, though, and Gordon only calls because he doesn’t have any other options at the time.

Catherine brings Gordon into the inner circle, but does so with a test. All he has to do is stand and watch while the Tetch virus is dispersed among the “Daughters of Gotham,” and he’s in, all the way. However, now that Gordon has a firm grasp in the situation, he won’t do that. Unfortunately, he can’t call Bullock, as his phone was confiscated, so he used the phone Penguin gave him. Penguin gets the message and comes running with Firefly in tow. They take out the Talon that’s guarding Gordon, and he evacuates everyone.

The Court responds quickly and violently, sending a Talon to bring Penguin in, apparently taking Firefly down at the same time, and the man finds himself in bars like a birdcage. His neighbor: Riddler. Needless to say, it’s not a happy reunion.

Cathering also knows that Gordon has played her, and elects to send Barnes, eager and bloodthirsty, to deal with him.

Elsewhere, Bruce is accepting his training. First he is defeated, and his teacher, whoever the heck he is, promises to make him stronger by taking away his pain and anger. He does, taking Bruce into the memory of his parents’ wake, and mentally locking away the pain and anger he associates with it. Then he wins, and he feels nothing for the harm he’s done. So, with “nothing” taking over inside, he keeps training instead of leaving, and his teacher is delighted. His teacher says, “We will make Gotham pay.” He’s wearing a facade, promising freedom from emotions, but he’s consumed by the same demons.

You know what “nothing” is? Darkness. The kind that consumes everything in its path, including itself. Pain is vital to humanity, our humanity, by spurring us towards compassion. There is a grain of truth to what Bruce’s teacher says, but it’s still a lie, and one that could destroy Bruce.

And that’s if he survives his teacher first. They’re apparently returning to Gotham, leaving wherever they are that very night, set to arrive just in time for the chaos and destruction.

Finally, Ivy finds Selina in the hospital, and brings her plants in so the spores can help Selina heal and wake up. Whether the plants work or not, Selina wakes up. And the first thing she does is make her way towards Wayne Manor, to kill the clone.

Which… operating under the assumption that Gotham is going to do the single worst thing they can to its heroes, I imagine she’ll arrive to find the real Bruce has come back, which she’ll find out while trying to kill him, but now he doesn’t care about her or anyone else.

So, Selina is about to go try and kill Bruce and get her heart broken again, Bruce is about to return as a brainwashed destroyer-in-training, Riddler and Penguin are caged in close proximity in the Court’s clutches, Gordon is about to face Barnes the Executioner for a second time, and the Court is soon to destroy the city.

Did I miss anything?

Agents of Shield

4.22 “World’s End”

Two words: emotional grinder.

To start off with, we have Yo-Yo in the Framework. She’s bound and strapped in the depths of Hydra in the middle of a world falling into anarchy, screaming for help. The first one to answer wants to shoot her, but, fortunately, Radcliffe is right behind. He followed a magical trail of yo-yo toys, the work of Daisy, using her hacking capabilities to watch over her friends. The two of them head off to find Mack, and find that the world is ending. Everything, everyone, it’s all just disappearing.

Now that it’s served her purpose, and done her harm, Aida has no need of it, and she’s shutting it down.

Which means it’s a race against time, as the agents try to protect their friends for as long as possible from outside the Framework, while Yo-Yo tries to get Mack to leave. But he won’t. To him, even though he knows this world is fake, it’s real to him, and he refuses to accept a reality that doesn’t have his daughter in it. So he fights. He fights to protect everyone, especially Hope, for as long as possible. No small task when the entire world is vanishing, piece by piece, taking everyone with it.

It comes down to just the four of them, Mack, Hope, Yo-Yo, and Radcliffe, hiding in his home as everything gets ever more dark and empty. Hope overhears Yo-Yo talking about how she’s not real, and, well, more emotional grinding there. Finally, when Daisy at last makes a door for them to step through, back into the real world, they don’t go. They can’t. The one who matters most to Mack is in the Framework, as is the one who matters the most to Yo-Yo. Line by line, the world vanishes, until, at last, so does Hope.

All people can do after a loss like that is hold hands and cry. So that is what Mack and Yo-Yo do.

Meanwhile, outside, their friends have done all they can, bought as much time as they can, and now they can only watch the fake world disappear, taking their friends with it.

…except, Yo-Yo wakes up. She walked through the door. And a moment behind her, Mack. They chose to live.

And, as it happens, for all that Mack has lost and suffered, he’s caught a glimpse of the life that could have been, and the life he still could have with Yo-Yo. He wants it, she wants it, so they’re going to go for it.

Last of all in the Framework, with no means of escape, is Radcliffe. He just sits down on the beach beneath a setting, darkening sun, pours himself a drink, says some wise words… which end before he can finish them. He’s gone in an instant, the drink falling from the air to the sand. Such is life, and death: here one moment, gone the next.

Thus endeth the gilded nightmare of the Framework.

As for it’s keeper, Aida, she is running rampant in the real world. The agents are scrambling to keep her from catching up to them, so much that they can’t even show up to defend themselves from public crucifixion. After all the chaos of that last two weeks, Mace’s death and the revelation that he was never Inhuman, a number of people are calling for Shield to be completely done away with. The accusations are wild and false, and Talbot does his best, but he’s caught off-guard by Aida’s machinations.

Aida wants Shield destroyed and the world enslaved to her will. She has all her Inhuman abilities, all the resources of the Watch Dogs at her disposal, with Ivanov wielding an army of LMDs, and all the scheming of Framework Hydra to draw upon. The plan is simple: inspire fear of Shield and the Inhumans by having a Daisy LMD shoot Talbot in the head – me reaction: “NOOOOOO!” – thus “legitimizing” the accusations against Shield and Inhumans, stoking fear, panic, and anger so they can take over the world. In addition, they intend to indoctrinate the powers that be by having them read the Darkhold.

Fortunately, as the agents are fighting for their lives, they get some unexpected help in the form of Robbie Reyes the Ghost Rider. 🙂 Turns out, he can shrug off pretty much anything Aida can throw at him, annihilate LMDs, and the Rider can even harm Aida, such that she can’t heal. Her body was created with Darkhold knowledge, and it was her body’s creation which allowed Robbie to escape the plane he was on, so, out of everyone on the planet, he can destroy her. Unfortunately, she’s more slippery than an eel, always escaping just before he can get his hands on her.

That was, by the way, an epically cool fight with Daisy and Robbie, Quake and the Ghost Rider, utterly demolishing the LMDs! 🙂

So, Shield is on the run, but they still have a chance. Whether they’re taken down in the long term or win the day, the key to the immediate crisis is Aida, so Aida is their focus. Even more, Robbie intimates that there is an ongoing war across worlds and dimensions, one which he and the Rider have taken to the front lines of, with Aida being a dangerous X Factor on Earth, so the ramifications go even beyond the planet. So, yes, Aida is their priority.

They draw her to the base using themselves and the Darkhold as bait, and she snaps at said bait like a ravenous piranha. She goes first for Fitz, killing Simmons in front of him, slowly and painfully, before going after the book, in Coulson’s possession. However, the Simmons she killed was an LMD, and the real one puts a number of bullets into Aida. Which is just a distraction for Coulson to get close enough… or, rather, for the Rider to get close enough.

Aida was to smart and slippery to stay in the same room as Robbie, but the Rider rides inside, out of sight, and can pass between people at will. And thus, Coulson carried the Rider just long enough to entrap Aida, and undo her. And undone she is. Good guys win. 🙂

Robbie takes the Darkhold and uses his flaming chain to open a portal to another world, one where he hopes to find a safe place for the evil book.

Don’t think I missed that look that passed between him and Daisy, though! The two of them had some chemistry, and they’re a powerful duo in battle. They feel sort of like kindred souls, ya know? Maybe if Robbie comes back, they might be a thing! The two of them are due for some happy, ya know?

And then there were seven. Mack, Yo-Yo, May, Coulson, Daisy, Simmons, and Fitz. And thus is Shield now.

Fitz is ready to take the blame for all of them, in the public eye, to protect them and atone for his Framework behavior. Daisy’s having none of that! She blamed herself once, separated herself once, thinking she might be able to protect them by leaving. But she was wrong. She has her head on right now, and she knows, whatever they face, whatever they do, and whatever the consequences, they do it together.

So… with the distinct, imminent possibility that all seven of them might be locked up forever, they go out to eat. They’re just looking at dessert when soldiers come storming in. They all surrender… and then a guy in a suit uses a device to freeze them in time somehow, briefly.

And then Coulson wakes up in space, saying something about getting to work.

what?!

I know they want to keep the audience coming back for next season, but what?!

Arrow

5.22 “Missing”

One is always at their most vulnerable in the wake of victory. That, too, was part of Chase’s plan. With the help from his own team, including Evelyn, Black Siren, Talia, and Talia’s henchmen, he was able to plan for every contingency, and he got himself captured last episode just to set Team Arrow up. They’ve already had their regularly scheduled villain trying to destroy the city, so now they let their guard down, and even think of it like summer vacation. They’re ripe for the picking.

Normally, they’d be all over Rene’s disappearance instantly, but the crisis was already averted, so they don’t. They throw a party to celebrate, all relaxed and happy as clams at high tide. That is, until Felicity overhears Curtis, via his phone, dropping of a bit of tech to Dinah as a present, only to find signs of a struggle, and then someone takes him down to.

Team Arrow bursts back into defensive mode, but it’s too little, too late. Three of them are already taken, Chase’s allies rounding them all up quick and easy. Thea and Lance go into protective custody, but Siren comes a calling and they’re taken too, leaving Thea to explain parallel Earths to Lance while they’re being transported in chains.

Talk about agony. Lance has had one daughter come back from the dead multiple times, but the one time his other daughter comes back, it’s her evil duplicate instead.

As everything comes apart beneath his feet, Ollie does what he thinks is the one thing Chase won’t expect: instead of drawing his last two comrades, Digs and Felicity, closer, he sends them away instead. And right into a trap. Talia grabs them too.

In the space of a few hours, Chase’s allies have taken down the whole of Team Arrow, Ollie alone left standing, surrounded by enemies. He is on the brink of losing everything, everyone. All of this, just to back him into a corner and force him to free Chase.

Five years of his crusade, and it all comes down to this: one moment, and one decision.

Back in the past, Ollie is having a similar moment. There, too, five years of a hellish world comes down to one moment, and just one decision.

Left to Kovar’s mercy, Ollie is subjected to some physical pain, but also all the pain he’s felt in his entire life, especially in the last five years. Kovar has this nifty torture drug that, injected into Ollie’s system, makes him experience all the agony of those five years all at once. Every wound that has become a scar, every loss that has darkened his soul, he relives all of it simultaneously. Enduring each pain one at a time is one thing, but all at once? That goes beyond the realm of torment.

Kovar leaves him to suffer alone in a cell, with a gun that has one bullet in it. A hallucination of his first savior and teacher on the island, Yao Fei, reprimands him for his failures. He died for Ollie, as did his daughter, and for what? What has Ollie done, except lose more people? He might as well shoot himself. But, counter to this, is a hallucination of Laurel begging him to live, so the people who love him can see him again. And so he does.

He shoots the lock open and staggers out.

Back in the present, Ollie is having none of Chase’s crap. He won’t let the man go, and he certainly won’t take on Argus for such. He’s alone, save for the sudden appearance of Merlyn, interested in saving Thea, and has nothing to work with, but he won’t stop looking for his team, and he won’t give Chase what he wants.

Until Ollie gets video proof that Chase’s allies have his son.

That does the trick.

As Merlyn said, there is nothing a parent will not do for their child. While Ollie and Merlyn go easy on the Argus agents, being careful not to kill anyone, they still take them down, and let Chase escape. And where does he go? Why, back where it all began: Lian Yu.

For Arrow‘s fifth season, we finally have a villain who is not intent on destroying the city. He’s just intent on destroying Ollie. Chase has his allies, and he has Ollie’s Team, though Rene and Dinah are missing from the group, and he has Ollie’s son somewhere. Ollie has Merlyn, and he brings Nyssa in for some much-needed help, but even with that edge, he needs help, and he is desperate. He turns to a man who has been his friend and enemy: Slade Wilson.

Actually, that seems to be Ollie’s entire lineup right now. Merlyn, Deathstroke, and even Nyssa were all rather formidable enemies of his at one point. Merlyn in Season One, Deathstroke in Season Two, and Nyssa in Season Three. Too bad there’s no one from Season Four, or they could have had a perfect lineup: enemies from the first four seasons backing Ollie against the villain of Season Five. Ah, well, nobody’s perfect.

But can I just say, heading into next week’s climactic finale, that I really hate what they’ve done with Evelyn’s character? She could have been so much better, and even if they always wanted to make her a villain, they could have handled that better too.

And am I alone in wishing they could still bring back other old friends like Roy and Rory? I dunno, maybe they’ve just been juggling so many balls in the air this season that any absence feels like they dropped one.

Anyway, Ollie has his work cut out for him. He’s facing an army of implacable enemies, with at least two rescues to perform, and his backup is all people who have tried to kill him in the past. Yeah, he’s up creek without a paddle, isn’t he?

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