Right, so, the biggest bit of housekeeping first: it used to be that I could post my weekly commentary any time on Saturday and still have covered my entire lineup. But, circumstances are slightly less favorable for that right now, so while I’m going to keep posting, I won’t be covering the weekend shows until about a week after they’ve aired, so they are now first up in the queue.
On which note, first up is Inhumans… and that was a complex, prolonged, and lackluster beginning, especially for Marvel. And how campy can you get? I can see why people are ragging on it. It’s not anything specific with the plot or the characters or whatnot, it’s just the overall quality of everything, it’s several steps down from anything else they’ve made. In fact, it almost seems amateurish, like some two-bit indie company (no offense to indie companies in general) made it.
(and remember, this is coming from a guy who is unapologetic in liking Iron Fist)
At the other end of the spectrum, Gotham continues to thrill and delight! 🙂
Arrow and its sister shows are due back next week, but for now I have more news: I watched the premiere of Fox’s latest addition to the X-Men franchise, Gifted, and I am so adding it to my lineup! Just as soon as I do an introductory post for it, to stand in place of an actual review for awhile.
So, without further ado… the plodding mess of Inhumans, followed by the thrill of Gotham. 🙂
1.1 “Behold… the Inhumans” & 1.2 “Those Who Would Destroy Us”
It starts with a dramatic chase, a hunt as humans with guns track and kill a pair of Inhumans on Oahu. They start with one, newly turned, and shoot Triton, her would-be rescuer, as well, while he’s telling her she’s safe now and can take her to the city of Attilan. He flees, he’s shot, he falls into the sea, and is pronounced dead.
Sudden cut to Attilan on the moon, the royal couple of Black Bolt and Medusa going about their day. Affectionate in bed in the morning, then up and about their official business starting with walking around receiving the praise of their subjects. Then a meeting, which Bolt calls his brother Maximus to join, with Karnak and Gorgon. Topic of discussion: the latest moon rover that barged up against their invisible city walls, on which note, it might have been better to camouflage them as insurmountable stone rather than being invisible, but it’s a little late for that now.
While the humans on Earth are trying to piece together what happened to their machine, and what the hoof-like thing is which suddenly appears on camera in the same instant it goes dark, the Inhumans on the moon are debating about what this means and how they should respond. They can eavesdrop on human transmissions, so they know that the humans got a glimpse of Gorgon’s hoof, which certainly can’t be good for everyone in Attilan.
Maximus is of the opinion that, instead of waiting for the humans to bungle their way into the city and destroy them, they should take the initiative and go to Earth. It’s much roomier there, with far more resources, and the Inhumans are strong. Karnak is not subtle in disdaining Maximus’ opinion along with his status as a normal human, and Maximus is not subtle in trying to declare himself Inhuman-at-heart.
Bolt ignores the dispute and disagrees with Maximus, as their sudden arrival would be seen as aggression and begin a war.
And Bolt is the one who makes the decision, just telling his brother to trust him.
A little later, there’s a terrigenesis ceremony, as two parents see their two children enter the chamber of the mists and emerge, under the observation of the royal family – Crystal is late because she’s lollygagging in the city like she’s never been there before, but she comes when called, with the assistance of her large, teleporting dog Lockjaw – and the genetic council. The girl emerges with wings. The boy emerges with nothing visible, but when Maximus puts a comforting hand on his shoulder, he collapses and has a visions of snakes all over Maximus, holding him up against a wall. Obviously, he sees visions, and they turn out to be of the future, but they aren’t entirely literal.
Maximus sees the family back to their lower-caste housing, and he takes advantage of a moment to paint a picture of Earth for his people, a place where they could grow and thrive and breed at will, though, I note, he says nothing specifically of refraining from consigning normal humans to work in mines. Still, that omission notwithstanding, he has them nodding in agreement. They like what he’s selling, as pretty much anyone would.
Come dinner time, Maximus crashes the party again with a report of Triton’s death. Bolt sent him to retrieve the new Inhuman, and he was ambushed and killed for it. Maximus argues that they can’t increase their population, while Bolt argues that they need to save their fellow Inhumans as they awaken all over the world due to the recent terrigen contamination of the water supply. Which brings them back, for the second time that day, to the argument over whether to go to Earth or keep waiting and watching. Maximus feels Bolt is failing them, while Karnak is displeased but loyal, and Gorgon is angry that Triton was sent to his death instead of Gorgon himself being sent on the mission.
Things tend to be turbulent in paradise when that paradise is on the brink of breaking.
Maximus and Bolt both have fair points, but they don’t consider choosing a middle path between them. Maximus doesn’t see that their city is just large enough to threaten the humans on Earth, but still small enough to be wiped out. And Bolt is trying to keep things as they are even when the need for change arrives. Myself, I would suggest moving to Earth, but more carefully. They can monitor transmissions, but they need to really know the humans in order to do things more delicately and without inciting a war just by their arrival. They need guides, which is where rescuing Inhumans under threat comes in, to help bridge the gap. They can move forward while also doing so carefully.
But that is neither here nor there.
Bolt sends Gorgon to find and rescue Triton, specifying he is not being sent to take revenge. Gorgon accepts and departs. Then Bolt retires to isolation to think, leaving Medusa alone, which Maximus tries to take advantage of as he attempts to seduce her. She rather firmly refuses, her hair coiling tightly around his limbs and neck like snakes, holding him against the wall. Which is when Maximus realizes he has a new clairvoyant on his hands, one who sees the near future.
The final incident which sends Maximus’ plans forward is when he speaks with a member of the council. The man agrees with Maximus about many things, but he still chooses to side with and obey Bolt, even ordering the guard with him to arrest Maximus. But she kills the council member instead, fulfilling another of the clairvoyant’s visions, and thus begins a coup. Guards come to either arrest or kill Karnak, and the humans who killed Triton, which turn out to be Maximus’ henchmen, attack Gorgon. Both of them cut straight through their enemies in moments. Then Karnak goes to save the rest of the royal family, Crystal, Medusa, and Black Bolt.
Crystal opts to be the one doing the saving, having Lockjaw take Karnak, Medusa, and Bolt to Gorgon as she finds each of them. It’s too late for Medusa, defeated by her own guards and shaved, essentially disarmed, by Maximus himself, but she’s still alive and Crystal sees her to freedom. Bolt is confronted by his own brother, who brings up how he accidentally killed their own parents just by speaking, asking, “Why?” Is he going to kill his brother too? The answer is in Bolt’s eyes, and the opening of his mouth, which rather rightfully terrifies Maximus. Then Lockjaw comes in and whisks Bolt away.
Crystal doesn’t make it out, though, defeated and captured. Maximus broadcasts to the city, telling them a council member is dead and the royals have fled and he will see justice done. And Bolt arrives in the middle of a city, no sign of the others.
And first episode cliffhanger, moving into the second.
In Attilan, Crystal is a prisoner. Lockjaw arrives at her side again, but is rendered unconscious before Crystal can finish telling him to take her to her family. He’s down and out, and she is locked in her room. Maximus tries to persuade her to join him, but he also tries to make her feel guilty – apparently her parents tried to end the monarchy or something like that – and threatens her dog. She refuses, and outside calling her sister on their devices, she’s basically rendered impotent by her situation.
Maximus is building up his power base, striving to win the hearts and minds of the people. When the clairvoyant boy warns him about the council plotting against him, Maximus pays them a visit, admitting his role in the death of one of their own as his guards point guns at them. He expresses his hope that they will join him, a none-too-subtle warning that the option is death. He increases tension in the city with the presence of the guards, and then he steps forward to offer a reassuring hand, and more promises of what will be, including a new home on Earth where all of them are equals. Now that is something that the commoners, the humans, are interested in.
So, Maximus’ position is solidifying rather quickly, and he’s not being stupid or needlessly brutal. But the rest of the royal family are a threat, so he sends his right hand woman, Auran, to deal with them. Her orders are to kill Black Bolt and Gorgon, being too dangerous and defiant for anything less, and either capture or kill, as necessary, Medusa and Karnak.
She goes alone, threatening an Inhuman in the wall with the lives of his family, so he’ll transport her to the appropriate coordinates, and promising that her guards will avenge her if he hurts her. He responds by dropping her with her feet trapped in stone, a small revenge for her attitude. (and I officially like this guy!)
Meanwhile, on Oahu, four royal Inhumans are having a rough time of it.
Lockjaw, it turns out, did obey Crystal and put the four of them relatively close to each other, on the same island, but, being a dog, with limited cognitive abilities, he did not put them all there together. Small detail, that.
Karnak is out in the wilds somewhere, and he can’t even make it down a slope without slipping, falling, and cracking his head, hard. It messes with his abilities, and as he struggles to get out of the woods, he finds himself back where he started.
Gorgon is not thinking clearly when he goes into the ocean looking for Triton. He nearly drowns, and only survives because some nearby surfers haul his overgrown, hoofed butt out of the water. They share some conversation, and he’s not entirely respectful towards them – Crystal displayed some prejudice too – but they’re quite nice to him, very chill. Then he calls Maximus and leaves his device on, a direct challenge. And he does this before warning the humans who saved his life to clear out, lest they get caught in the crossfire.
Black Bolt is learning a lot from his first experience on Earth, including how a cell phone is not a weapon, how handcuffs work, etc. It seems that, for being able to eavesdrop on human transmissions, the Inhumans have not done much in the way of listening. Still, he does his best, but he’s unable to communicate properly, so he can’t make himself clear to the police, who react very badly to pretty much every little thing. It’s also very stupid, I’d say, to start beating on the guy who tossed a police cruiser only by grunting. Fortunately, there’s at least one man who notices Bolt is cooperating with them without resisting. He’s able to briefly communicate with Medusa that he’s in the city, but then he has to surrender the device.
Speaking of Medusa, she’s in a certain crater, and hitchhikes her way towards the city on a tour bus. She steals a knife and makes everyone on the bus wonder if they have a crazy person in their midst as she seems to be talking to herself when Crystal calls. When Auran shows up, Medusa gets the drop on her, but she’s accustomed to using her hair as her main weapon, and Auran clearly has the advantage now. But Medusa has that knife and guts her enemy. All’s fair in war.
Though, really? Auran revives later and heals her wounds, and Medusa really had no idea she could do that? Or are we supposed to believe that she spared Auran on purpose? Either way, Auran has learned, and she calls for backup.
Oh, and there’s a human who works at NASA who is brilliant and detected Lockjaw’s teleporting between the Earth and the moon, but no one believes her despite all the weird things which are now commonplace in the world, so she takes some time off and goes to Oahu, seeing Black Bolt on the news. I have no idea how this woman is supposed to be relevant.
So… yeah, this looks to be, far and away, Marvel’s worst work yet. The jury is still out, and will be for over a month, but the evidence thus far does not present a particularly favorable verdict.
4.03 “They Who Hide Behind Masks”
And the plot continues to thicken without slowing down!
Most episodes of Gotham follow two or three specific theaters, and this one was no exception, but for once the main stage had almost everyone on it.
Bruce is observing a shipment of Penguin’s down by the docks when a certain thief sneaks in. He doesn’t even know it’s Selina (or at least I don’t think he does) when he moves to intercept, thinking they’ve just walked into a trap. Unfortunately, he who hunts two hares loses both. Meaning, he’s so focused on her that he’s distracted, he doesn’t keep his eyes open enough to notice the thugs. They open fire, he fights them and keeps the bullets mostly away from the truck Selina is in until she’s sneaked out, and one of the thugs drives the truck off. The night’s a bust for both of them. Selina returns to Barbara empty-handed, and Bruce has only an injury on wrist for his trouble.
Difference between the two: Bruce has Alfred, who stitches the wound up and helps him move forward, while Selina has Barbara, who disdains Selina for her failure and dismisses her.
Bruce convinces Alfred that he needs to keep investigating, because this is a real crime that he can keep from growing into something else. His plan is to infiltrate the ship Penguin’s merchandise came on, and examine the log, see what was so valuable to risk stealing from Gotham’s current underworld king. Alfred uses this as a teaching moment, both to help Bruce learn more subtle talents like acting, improvisation, and going undercover, and also to learn the value of such. He can run around in mask at night, but walking around unseen in the day is indeed a valuable skill to have.
I have been waiting for this moment! Bruce begins to learn about playing roles, such as a boy from the streets, or the “Bruce Wayne” who will be known as a billionaire playboy. Of course, as with most actors, his first few roles are bit wooden and overdone. Just a little much, Bruce. Just a little much.
Still, it works for the moment. Bruce and Alfred learn that Selina was stealing an embalming knife, two thousand years old, and connected to someone they know to be very dangerous indeed.
This version of Ra’s al’Ghul, it seems, has walked the Earth for nearly nineteen centuries. He was chosen from the among the dead of a battlefield, placed into the waters and revived. The dagger was held by his predecessor, and the first purpose the man gave him was to find his successor. Now that he’s fixated on Bruce, and now that Bruce and Alfred are beginning to realize the nature of their enemy, they begin to realize that the attention of a determined immortal is just a little bit intimidating. Still, they do not shrink from the fight, and go to Penguin’s auction to buy it.
Barbara tried to buy the dagger beforehand, but Penguin wouldn’t hear of it. He’s a bit unstable (I know, understatement of the year) and also driven. The mystery surrounding Barbara has seized his interest, and he will only sell it to her before the auction if she tells him who her mysterious benefactor is. Which, as she came back from the dead with tremendous resources at her disposal, I really should have guessed it might be Ra’s. Silly me, thinking of Falcone instead.
Barbara didn’t budge, so neither did Penguin. Then Bruce swoops in and, wearing his “billionaire brat” mask, rather disdainfully outbids her, much to her outrage and Penguin’s delight. Penguin does go out of his way to warn Bruce, at least, to keep an eye on that knife, because he is certain Barbara will come for it. He’s half right, as Barbara sends Selina instead.
It’s always hard on the heart, seeing two people you like at odds with each other. Bruce and Selina are both playing their own games now, but while Selina can explain hers to Bruce, Bruce can’t explain his to her. So, once again, Selina is left out in the cold as Bruce tries to protect her from something far bigger, and far worse, than she knows.
On which note, it’s confirmed that Ra’s is Barbara’s benefactor when he shows up and they spar. He revived her, and taught her how to fight, and set her up as a successful gun runner. His end goal is probably to force Bruce to succeed him somehow, but I have no clue how everything with Barbara plays into that. She has apparently performed admirably as an ally – and, of course, Barbara has a history of mixing business with pleasure – thus far, but her failure to obtain the knife, “the key to everything,” would have met with much greater anger on his part, I am fairly certain, if it had not been Bruce who obtained it instead.
So, Selina feels jilted, Bruce has a knife he doesn’t know the significance of and an enemy far worse than he’s realized, Alfred is educating Bruce as best he can to be a proper vigilante, Barbara works for Ra’s (among other things), and Penguin stood in the eye of the storm watching all of this happen, though not knowing what he saw.
Meanwhile, Gordon heads down south to ask Falcone for help against Penguin. Falcone does not simply shoot him on sight, which is a good start, considering the bad blood, which is Mario’s blood, between them. Still, he refuses, because he’s dying. The one thing even so-called immortals cannot truly conquer: death. It comes for Falcone, and it seems to have been kind enough to announce its impending arrival. The greatest crime lord in Gotham’s history, a man who defined it for an age, is soon to go to his grave. This is no time for him to wage war again.
Gordon also meets Falcone’s daughter, Sofia. She is… quite a woman. She talks with Gordon, and they spend the rest of the day together. She shares memories of her childhood, including her father and her brother. She offers understanding for what Gordon did to Mario, and keeps opening up, inviting him in. They walk along the beach, and for the first time in a long time, Gordon simply stands still, as the waves roll in over their toes, and she kisses him.
You have to hand it to Sofia Falcone: she is good. As in, capable. She got to know Gordon very well – very well indeed – within an afternoon, soothing his pains and drawing him in. A skilled seduction, and easy to fall for. But sweet scents often come with terrible dangers: a rose, a venus fly trap, even certain berry bushes have brambles which entangle large, furry animals within them, killing them slowly and taking the nutrients left by their rotting corpses to feed itself.
Sofia is a Falcone, and while she may be leaping into the deep end of the pool, a newbie in town going up against Penguin, she remains a gangster with connections in Gotham. And now she has Gordon too. We haven’t really seen what she can do yet, but I am certain she is dangerous.
Finally, the Riddler returns! …sort of.
Penguin steps out and a woman sneaks in to break Nygma out of the ice, much to Penguin’s terrified fury. Nygma wakes up in a bed, in a room that is pretty much one big shrine to the Riddler. The woman is a very old classmate of his, a devoted fanatic in every sense of the word. She broke him out and brought him back, hoping to nurse him back to health and be his sidekick girl. She uses acupuncture to repair his atrophied muscles, and all seems like it’s going well… except for one teensy, tiny detail.
His brain is still iced.
He can’t plan or plot, he can barely think at all, he can’t even guess simple riddles fit for children. He’s still clever, such as how he pretended to be paralyzed until he had something heavy to hit his liberator with and make his escape. But he’s not the mastermind he once was. Nygma is back, but the Riddler is still gone away.
Not that Nygma’s non-Riddler status softens Penguin’s anger at all. He wants Nygma found and brought back to him, and when he catches up to the woman who stole from him, he decides to make an example of her, giving her to Zasz to do whatever he wants with. He starts by complimenting her dress, letting her thank him for the compliment, and shooting her.
So, recap: Gordon has a new Falcone to deal with as he fights Penguin’s regime, Penguin has enemies who keep coming back from the dead, Nygma is broken in his own head, Barbara belongs to Ra’s, meaning Tabitha and Selina are barely one step removed the man themselves, Selina feels alone and friendless, and Bruce’s first genuine investigation of a crime is yielding incredible dividends in his development and he has something Ra’s wants.
Did I miss anything?