This was a pretty good week!
The Gifted brought all the major characters together in one place, with explosive, exciting results. Gotham introduced a new villain, dangerous and unnerving, in the midst of the entangling intrigue of the show. Even Inhumans delivered something much better than I would have expected of it based on its beginning. So, without further ado, let’s get to it! 🙂
1.04 “eXit Strategy”
Now that is what I’m talking about! 🙂
The characters have been established, their relationships have been established, the situation is established… now we shrink the box a bit, by throwing all of them into one place at the same time, life-or-death stakes.
SS is moving both Reed and Polaris to their own detention facility. No one on the outside knows what really goes on in there, but they know mutants go in, and they don’t come back out. The Underground also knows how dangerous that place is, as Thunderbird, Eclipse, Polaris, and some others once tried to infiltrate it. They failed. The A-Team of the Underground failed, several of them died, and that’s when it was little more than a camp. Now it’s been built up, improved and fortified with every defensive measure SS has at their disposal. It may well be that this is the single most dangerous place in the world for mutants.
The Underground may have grown as well since those days, but they simply aren’t ready to take on something that big. They’re a refugee group, not an army. They run and hide and get people to safety, that’s what they do, and they only fight so they can run and hide and get people to safety. Even in the best-case scenario, even if they managed to pull something off beyond all their wildest dreams of success, to rescue their friends and escape the massive abattoir without even so much as one casualty, despite the abysmal odds, it still means going up against SS in a head-on fight, and igniting an all-out war. They are simply not ready for that. They can’t survive, and they can’t win.
This facility is the Moby Dick of their world: go after it, and you shall surely perish. Nobody much wants to be either Ahab or any member of his crew in that story. I wouldn’t even want to be Ishmael, the lucky one, having to go through something like that and losing the whole of one’s comrades.
But the bonds of family are strong. The situation is such that something has got to give, things simply cannot continue as they are, and if you’re going to start a war, what better cause is there than saving the people you love? No man left behind, and all that.
So, the Underground is seriously discussing challenging SS directly, even if its practically a suicide mission. Enthusiasm about this if very low, and after the impassioned talk about what they all owe Polaris, there’s only half a dozen volunteers, including Thunderbird, Eclipse, Blink, memory-girl, a guy who can keep other people (but not cameras) from seeing him, and Cait. Not much for challenging a top-secret, highly-protected federal prison.
But Cait, not having abilities, thinks of targeting the transport that will be taking Reed and Polaris there while its in transit. It’s a good thought, something that’s moving must, by nature, have fewer defenses than something that’s motionless. But they don’t know anything about where it will be or when, which sends Eclipse to some old friends of his, out of desperation.
Eclipse was cast out of his family when his abilities manifested. A kid on the streets is desperate, and can easily become jaded and aggressive towards the entire world, even while longing for a family to belong to. That’s easy pickings for criminal organizations to recruit. Toss in mutant abilities, and they’d certainly be interested. Eclipse joined a cartel in his youth, climbed the ranks, and was apparently in good with the family itself, so much that people thought he’d marry the daughter and actually help the organization after the old man retired. Instead, he met Polaris, joined the Underground, fell in love. He left them, and no one simply does that.
He returns now, years later, to find things have changed only superficially. The old man did, indeed, retire, and now the daughter runs the show. She’s not the girl she was before, she’s grown up, and grown cruel. When Eclipse asks for her help, for information on when and where they can rescue Polaris, she obtains said information, and offers it up the “where” at a low price. But as for “when,” she holds back on that, demanding a much, much higher price. She takes Eclipse to see a man who stole from her, and orders him to interrogate the man. Oh, and if he wants to rescue the woman he loves, who has his child in her womb, then it won’t be just this time, he’s to come any time she calls.
In short: she wants him back, in submission to her.
Eclipse does not want to, he does not like it, he tries to talk her out of it, but she will not bend, and his family is at stake. So he does it. It’s simple enough, he just shines his light into the man’s eyes for a few seconds, making it abundantly clear that this will blind him forever, and letting him feel the pain. The man breaks instantly. And thus, in exchange for his soul, Eclipse gets the chance to save his family.
It’s well known that a man does not profit by selling his soul, even if he gains the world for it, but what if he gains his family?
Back at Underground HQ, the plan runs into a small snag. It’s been established by now that Blink’s portals are pretty dangerous, especially to anything in motion, so hitting an in-motion bus presents some problems. They have to stop the bus, then. Eclipse could blow out a tire, but they’d certainly notice that and respond forcibly. It’s a tough nut to crack.
Fortunately, Andy is quite the nutcracker, and Lauren uses her ability to focus his power, make it more precise, so they don’t accidentally tear the bus itself apart with their dad inside. Between his power and her control, the siblings make a pretty effective team. Cait, as their mother, absolutely opposes their involvement, but they make their case, and Thunderbird, being both a moral man and not stupid, arranges things so the kids will be making tracks outta there the instant they’ve stopped the bus.
So, things are mostly coming together for the Underground. Except for what memory-girl did to Blink. Her ability apparently fades in due time, like a dream, and she only acted out of desperation. But it’s still a violation, and Thunderbird assures her that if she doesn’t tell Blink what she did, then he will.
And, of course, memory-girl’s trick hasn’t faded at all. It’s left an imprint on Blink. She’s not sleeping well, confused about her own memories and dreaming of Thunderbird in rather intimate ways. Small wonder, he’s a big, strong, studly, handsome, capable, compassionate man. Most any girl in her right mind would be attracted to him, and toss in the memory-mixing juju, and of course she’d have dreams as she sleeps, leaving her with an attraction to sort out when she’s awake.
That could get very messy very fast, most likely.
Outside that impending hiccup, the mutants have a solid base and a good plan.
As for the people they’re rescuing, Polaris and Reed make for an interesting pair in neighboring cells. She does not much like him, the man who, like Turner, tried to use her baby against her and her friends, a man who has been part of the establishment and the culture that has pushed her and people like her down in so many ways. She’s not willing to listen as he tries to reason with her. When he confesses the truth, how he always justified himself until his perspective changed, and can only say he’s sorry, he’s baring his regret to her, and she does not receive it kindly. After all the pain she’s witnessed, which he was part of inflicting, she’s not going to forgive him until he’s offered that regret to everyone like her that he has helped to hurt. She hates him.
Hatred, even well-founded hatred, is a terrible weight on the soul, and one that can smother one’s own compassion. Forgiveness does more for the forgiver than the forgiven. It’s unfortunate that Polaris isn’t ready for it yet.
Still, they’re in the same boat now, and it’s either sink or swim together.
And thus the box is built, and everyone is thrown into it.
The convoy comes on schedule, and Andy chokes for a moment under the pressure. Cait, as a mother, tries supporting and nurturing, but Lauren, as a sister, pushed Andy forward instead, riling him up to forget his fear. They come through, but the timing’s off, the bus isn’t quite in the right place, and the agents aren’t stupid, they’re deploying in defensive formation, careful. Thunderbird is paired with Blink, while Eclipse, memory-girl, and invisible-man guard the escape route. They can’t communicate with each other – that would be a very important thing to fix in the future – but they adapt.
Thunderbird crashes through a wall or three so Blink can see inside the bus, but her abilities aren’t working for some reason. Neither does his. In fact, all of the mutants are finding their powers smothered. Invisible-man’s invisibility switches off while he’s running recon on the situation, he’s shot, and it’s partially luck that he falls behind some cover. Eclipse tries to use his powers but, failing that, he’s also armed and lays down covering fire so memory-girl can get to him. The mutants aren’t just rolling over, but their annihilation is mere seconds away.
Inside the bus, Reed convinces Polaris to work with him, because their one and only chance is coming and she can’t let her hatred rob her of the hope of getting her child out of the Hell that awaits them. When the soldiers come in to move them, they strike, and for a moment it looks like they might manage it… but the soldiers are still the ones who are trained and armed, and they don’t hesitate to beat both of the prisoners down. The only good thing to come out of this is that Polaris’ collar finally comes off, as the soldiers, in haste and overconfidence, remove it. Small good that does, though, as long as all mutant powers in the area are being suppressed.
Which is where Thunderbird comes in. He puts two and two together, remembering a friend who seemingly died the last time they tried infiltrating the SS prison: Pulse. He had the ability to knock out power systems and do the same to mutant abilities. Now Thunderbird sees him, eyes glowing, stripping his old friends of their best weapons and leaving them vulnerable. He rushes Pulse, hitting him. He seems confused, and he’s quiet, but he keeps it up with the mutant suppression, so Thunderbird knocks him out, taking note of the strange tattoo on his arm, like a fox head in the middle of a sunburst or something.
And that, happily, is checkmate.
Eclipse is able to light things up again, Blink gets memory-girl and invisible-man out through a portal, and Polaris is back in action at last. Small detail with that last, they’ve no metal for her to work with… except the bit in Reed’s knee, which he offers up. And that’s game, set, match.
Cait got her kids out the instant their part was done, but she goes back for Reed when she hears the gunfire. Eclipse was intent on not leaving without Polaris, and between how he loved her and how he’d just sold his soul for her, I can see why he’d prefer either dying or being taken prisoner over leaving her behind ever again. But with her powers back, she’s able to break free herself now, Reed limping along behind her. It’s a happy reunion for two happy couples, albeit a frantic one as everyone piles into the car and drives away with gunfire following them.
Good guys: free and alive.
Bad guys: furious.
Turner is livid, and he’s unleashing war, going after every safe house, every sympathizer, everyone who’s ever helped them.
The war begins.
So, everything came together in a small climax, right about halfway through the season, and they revealed that things are even worse than the Underground knew.
Pulse was last seen at the SS prison, which mutants vanish into and never emerge from, and now he’s using his abilities for SS, but acting like he’s in a trance, silent, clutching his head. It’s not a great leap to theorize that they prison is actually a facility for experimentation, most especially conversion. At least, it might be. There’s also that scientist who’s interested in the Strucker siblings, and he mentioned that SS has benefited from his company’s work, which company Turner referred to as contractors. That might explain the tattoo on Pulse’s arm, so maybe it’s this company that’s been doing the brainwashing. That could also explain Turner’s reluctance to turn “suspects,” rather than outright prisoners, over to them. But, then again, he told Reed he didn’t care if the mutant who killed his daughter was good or bad, meaning he cares about what they can do, like weapons, not what they intend to do. Even the name “Turner,” like turning people against their own. So which one is it doing the brainwashing, the SS or this company?
That is a very important piece of knowledge, because if the Underground ever tries to rescue all the mutants trapped in the prison, which is something I would eventually do in their place, it would be good to know beforehand whether or not the people they’d be rescuing were going to slaughter them. Quite a trap, that would be, with the ultimate bait, which, itself, turns out to be the trap.
4.06 “Hog Day Afternoon”
They really know how to unnerve someone, don’t they?
Picking up where we left off last episode, Thompkins has an unexpected reunion with Nygma and Grundy. Even with his brain impaired, Nygma knows she might be able to help him. He’s soundly rejected, of course, because Thompkins is not about to help the man who murdered her friend and sent Gordon to jail, barring them from each other during the time when they lost their unborn child. She’s concerned about Grundy, trying to warn him away from Nygma, and mystified by the change, the regrown hand, and the swamp water flowing from his veins. But Nygma? Well, we do tend to take some pleasure when we see the people we hate wriggling like worms on a hook, don’t we? She is, frankly, delighted to see how far he’s fallen.
When she’s not working at the bar, which she absolutely hates, she’s running a free clinic for the poor people of the Narrows. They were hit hard by the Tetch Virus incident. She’s taking a page out of Gordon’s book, feeling guilt and doing something about it. She’s a doctor, so she helps them, funded with what she earns at the fight club, which, the woman in charge, Tara, also allows her clinic to function so long as Thompkins works for her. And I am starting to really dislike this Tara woman, not only feeding men to the walking slaughterhouse that is Grundy, and so cavalierly, but holding the clinic hostage? That’s about as low as you can go.
Nygma finds out, and wants to do the same. Fortunately, he’s stupid now, so he fails to conceive a proper threat, again to Thompkins’ delight. She’s not going help a murderer like Nygma get his mojo back. But… well, medicine costs money and she only gets so much. So, in what is probably the biggest mistake of her entire life, she takes Nygma’s money. She makes no promises of results, but she’s helping him.
The road to Hell is paved with good intentions, and desperation.
Elsewhere, Penguin and Sofia are apparently being seen eating together on a regular basis. He is grateful to have a friend, a true friend, and he is clearly becoming infatuated with her as well. This is much to Gordon’s chagrin, but Sofia promises him that she will have Penguin in the palm of her hand within a few more days. And she accomplishes exactly that.
Penguin is paranoid, and predictable, so when she cancels lunch with him at the last minute, it’s only to be expected that he would have her followed. When Zasz returns with pictures of Sofia at an old, abandoned building, and meeting with politicians like the mayor and the head of the zoning commission, the latter of which she had to meet with in order to construct the new wall and gate around it, Penguin leaps to the conclusion that she’s building alliances and a fortress with which to attack him. He rushes to confront her, instructing Zasz to bring a shovel, and though she denies the allegations, he intends to see the proof with his own eyes.
When they arrive, she offers her forgiveness in advance. Moments later, the yard is filled with children, and that may be the single most unsettled I have ever seen Zasz, LOL. Penguin isn’t much better, and he’s all but struck dumb as he realizes he’s storming an orphanage. Needless to say, he begs forgiveness immediately, but Sofia reminds him that she’s already given it. And she understands. She knows Penguin needs to view everyone as a potential threat in order to survive. She saw her father carry that weight, and, these may be the first completely true words she’s ever said in the show, she doesn’t want Penguin to end up like him.
There are more ways than one to interpret that exact statement, and they don’t all end pleasantly, especially when the one you are being compared to was the undisputed king of Gotham, who ruled and lived long, and is only dying of natural causes.
Bet that as it may, as promised, she now has Penguin in the palm of her hand. She played to his paranoia, creating a smokescreen of potential threat in order to hide the true danger she poses to him, and emerged looking like a saint. A saint that shelters orphaned children.
She is good at this game. She has both sides of the fence, Penguin and Gordon, under her thumb, she’s building up a saintly visage, and no one knows her endgame but her. At a guess, though, she probably means to destroy both men, or have them destroy each other, and assume control of the city.
Finally, the main thrust of the episode: the debut of Professor Pyg!
Never heard of this villain before, but he certainly made a rather commanding entrance!
Within one day’s time, three police officers are murdered, their bodies left to be found with pig heads masking their faces. These are three out of four officers who distribute Penguin’s payroll to the crooked cops of the GCPD. The investigation yields fruit quickly enough, as Bullock identifies the last man who handles the cash and Gordon gets an ID on the van the killer uses, leading them to the enemy’s lair. But Bullock hesitates to bring anyone else in on this because this pig-man managed to nab, murder, and display several cops in a very short amount of time. He suspects a traitor, someone who is outraged by the corruption and is taking the law into his own hands. Gordon knows the anger, but this is taking things too far. The corrupt officers should be prosecuted in accordance with the law, not butchered.
That is what we call an irreconcilable difference, and it comes through clear when they catch up, or are allowed to catch up, to the killer.
The last surviving officer isn’t just killed like the others, he’s left alive, and turned into a trap. When Bullock and Gordon find him alive, they pull the pig-skin mask off, pulling the string that is attached to a grenade that has been put inside the man’s stomach. The two man run, and the officer… for all that he was one of Penguin’s his very last thought was unselfish, as he screamed at them to run. He does not survive, and though Gordon and Bullock do, they’re knocked out and left to the Pyg’s mercy.
Professor Pyg has a conversation with Gordon, assuring him that he, at least, is safe. Bullock and the rest of the corrupt officers, everyone on Penguin’s payroll, they are not. He intends to kill all of them. Which make me wonder how. Yes, he was able to get the drop on and defeat four officers in a row. Yes, he is intelligent and highly capable, and very precise. But that just means he’s smart enough to know that he can’t accomplish his goal just by killing them one by one. So what’s his plan?
He does not share the details. He just talks to Gordon a bit, then he goes to kill Bullock, but Gordon drops the chair he’s tied to over a ledge, breaking free, and he gets to Bullock in time. But Pyg is clever, so he cuts Bullock’s throat, not enough to simply kill him, but just enough to Gordon has to choose whether to pursue the criminal or save his friend. It’s no choice at all.
Bullock wakes up in the hospital to meet a furious Gordon. Gordon’s put it together, between what Bullock knew and what Pyg said, it’s obvious now: Bullock is taking money from Penguin. It’s only been since the licenses, since Bullock was ordered by the commissioner to let it happen, and then the money simply arrived. He didn’t do anything for it, nothing he wasn’t doing anyway, and he has debts to pay. So he accepted it.
Gordon, let-down and uncompromising, orders Bullock to stop. Stop now. No more. It ends.
And he walks out, leaving Bullock, nearly-killed and broken with guilt, to make his choice.
The media has already gotten wind of this Professor Pyg, and the culprit himself is singing swine to sleep that night, promising the axe’s fall on the morrow.
So, Thompkins is making a deal with a devil (another one, that is), Sofia has finally positioned herself to lead Penguin straight into whatever trap she is laying, and the city’s rage at the corrupt officers has taken form in a murderer. Just who is this Pyg, and how does he know so much? He’s someone who has obtained a great wealth of information, as if he’s perfectly positioned to hear things without being noticed. Is he a clerk? An office worker? A janitor?
And… wait, did we actually just go through an entire episode without seeing Barbara, Tabitha, Selina, Alfred, or, especially, Bruce? Huh!
1.6 “The Gentleman’s Name is Gorgon”
Five episodes ago, this series was easily Marvel’s biggest misstep to date, and one can still make an argument for that, but, wow, what a change.
Up in Attilan, the would-be coup against Maximus is in motion, but hits a major snag: Maximus himself. He’s become paranoid, suffering nightmares of the returned royals, circling him, whispering that he knows it was Maximus, not himself, who killed their parents. (…interesting, just how did he do that while making Bolt believe it was him?) He’s also smart and cunning, and sees through obvious lies pretty easily. The change in his old friend, from meek and timid to aggressive and bloodthirsty is dramatic enough that it’s easy to disbelieve even when he’s talking with a co-conspirator, much less when he’s trying to lure Maximus into a trap.
Basically, Maximus uses the trap to set a trap of his own, killing his old, traitorous friend in front of his compatriots, and making them choose between surrender and death. They choose the former, but, at a moment of triumph, Maximus is breaking down in tears about how his people must believe he’s stupid or something. Not exactly a strong, inspiring image of a king.
And the young boy who has become his seer, warning him of danger, also lied to Maximus, saying he could trust the traitor. The boy is highly conflicted about what Maximus is doing, sending his father and other miners into battle against the royal family, not least because Maximus sees it as a victory even if they die and stir the rest of Attilan up in hatred against the royals. So, in a moment of fear, he lies to Maximus, and Maximus calls him on that in same breath as he kills another liar. Maximus forgives, sort of, but he paints blood on the boy’s cheek and makes him say, “Long live King Maximus.”
Maximus is definitely coming more and more unhinged. I imagine he only spared the boy in hopes of being warned of more dangers to come.
Down on Earth, the royals are making a strong comeback. They have to split up when Auran calls to hold Decklan and Sammie out as hostages, Gorgon and Karnak going to deal with that situation while Bolt, Medusa, and Louise find Crystal and Lockjaw so they can get back to the moon.
Gordon and Karnak make quick work of Auran, Mordis, and the rest, surprise backup included. It’s a tricky situation, and Karnak’s abilities are unreliable right now, but Gorgon gets the idea of using Karnak’s reputation, and the resulting fear the other Inhumans will have of him, as a weapon. Gorgon knocks out the power and creeps around, taking the others out of play, while Karnak goes straight in, walking slowly and confidently, so much so that Auran is certain he wants her to shoot him as part of his plan (while he’s muttering, “please don’t shoot me, please don’t shoot me,” LOL). She buckles in fear of him, and that’s both royal warriors in.
Mordis goes after Karnak, inviting his foe to do his usual shtick and tell him all the ways Karnak can take him down. Instead, Karnak wages psychological warfare, hitting Mordis where it hurts, how he was locked up and that was the only option, at the time, to being killed. Mordis’ pain is how unfair it was, for him to be locked away like that, while Black Bolt became king. Karnak offers something else now, something new, starting at this moment.
Then Gorgon makes Mordis turn around, and Karnak hits from behind, choking him unconscious.
As for Auran, Gorgon takes her on personally. It’s a one-sided fight, he has her at his mercy within moments, and she is forced to choose. Normally, she is fearless in the face of death, because she keeps coming back and healing herself. But Decklan has already examined her DNA, and her hand is still scarred from being burnt, so now she has to deal with the definite possibility that one of these times she will die and actually stay dead. She been fearless because she thought she had nothing to fear, but now she knows she does, and she is. She surrenders.
Karnak and Gorgon have managed to take out the entire opposing team without Bolt or Medusa there, rescue both Sammie and Decklan, and Decklan has learned, and reveals, that his sponsor is Maximus. All in all, not a bad night’s work!
…except Mordis wakes and, in highly-justified terror of being locked away again, without hope, he lashes out, trying anything, choosing anything but the path that takes him back to his cell. Gorgon restrains him while everyone else evacuates, but in the struggle, they bring the building down on themselves, both of them buried in the dark.
Things go much better and smoother on Bolt’s end of things. He, Medusa, and Louise talk about people, about how there are good and bad humans and Inhumans both, and Medusa, for all her earlier anger towards Maximus, wants to keep Bolt from killing him. They need to arrest him and put him on trial, or Medusa fears what it will do to Bolt if he takes revenge.
Crystal and her handsome friend Dave get the idea of going to a high place and creating a small lightning storm to attract her family’s attention. It works, though, of course, said family shows up exactly when Dave is managing to kiss Crystal. Happy family reunion. But Crystal and Dave’s YA romance drama isn’t over yet. His ex, the vet, wants Lockjaw to rest more, but she’s also aggressive and a bit jealous, so she comes up with a scenario where Crystal could be part of something dangerous that she wants to protect Dave from, so she calls the cops. Not long ago, a girl talking about an alien dog would have been utterly laughed at but… well, recent years have changed the cops’ thinking on a few things, so they come when called.
Unfortunately for the vet girl, Crystal has her family now, so they just teleport away, and Louise lies through her teeth about the vet girl locking her in the barn because she’s jealous about Dave leaving her for Louise… and Dave goes with it, putting an arm around Louise. So, yeah, that pretty much ends that, and hilariously.
But when Bolt and the others rejoin Karnak at the lab, they find a ruined building. All they find of Mordis is the mask. And they find Gorgon, dead. Their brother, their cousin, their boldest, bravest, most loyal friend. Dead.
It’s a heavy blow, and a bitter, somber note to end on.
So, for all that Maximus is coming unglued, he’s in a position that many a despot would envy: he has withstood a conspiracy at home, killed a traitor, taken down one of his most powerful enemies, and all his surviving enemies are gathered together in one place.
Two episodes left, and I did not expect the show turn out like this.