The Gifted skipped this week, but Gotham made a return after skipping for Thanksgiving, and, at last, Agents of Shield premiered its fifth season with one doozy of a two-hour introduction. So, all in all, it was a pretty good week!
4.10 “Things That Go Boom”
Well, that was a rather explosive episode, both figurative and literal.
The main body of the episode is overwhelmingly an intricate, interweaving, rapidly-evolving and escalating showdown between the wrathful Penguin and the manipulative Sofia.
Sofia drops in on Gordon at the precinct, hoping to officially reignite their affair, since he kissed her a few days earlier, after having walked out on their tenuous partnership. He has none of it, and simply sends her on her way. (good job, Jim!)
She arrives home to find Penguin waiting for her, Zasz in tow. Having discovered her duplicity, he did a little research, and found out about Gordon’s trip down south, “coincidentally” right before she came to Gotham. That’s enough evidence for him, so he’s making cut the head off the snake. He wants to know the full extent of her plan, who among his ranks have been turned, and if her father is involved. To which end, he brings his master torturer, “the Dentist.” (gee, I wonder what his area of expertise is)
Throughout this, Sofia first plays the innocent, professing how much she cares about Penguin. Then she reveals herself, gloating about how easy it was to wrap him around her finger, which just a bit of goulash and a foot massage. When he goes on about how she’s going to pay for her manipulation, what he wants, etc. she looks decidedly bored, like she’s seen all this before. Not inaccurate, as her experience with the Dentist demonstrates.
Sofia is very good. She sets her goals, devises workable plans, adapts as needed, and gathers a wealth of information, as part of preparing for anything. For instance, she learned every detail of Penguin’s operation, including who he would use to torture her. The Dentist lost his brother to her father, but she mentions, with the drill coming towards her mouth, that he still has a family, and rattles off their home address. (grace under pressure, certainly have to give her that much!) This gives the man some pause, and she quickly elaborates that she’s ready to take over from Penguin that very day. If her people don’t hear from her, if she suddenly “disappears,” then they have orders to kill the Dentist’s family. Or he could bet on Sofia’s success and save his family.
He responds by killing the guard and setting her loose. Pretty much the only move he could make. He couldn’t take the chance that she was telling the truth, and if she was lying, then at least he has time to get his family out of Gotham before Penguin’s wrath catches up with him.
Sofia has freed herself with nothing more than words, and she’s ready to make her move against Penguin… except she finds her car locked, her driver unconscious, and a gag being slipped over her mouth. Straight from one captivity to another, from Penguin to Penguin’s enemies: the sirens! Selina, Tabtha, and Barbara…
ADD Moment: all with names ending in “a,” and Sofia makes four, I just noticed that.
So, the girls kidnap Sofia, hoping to ransom her to Penguin. He is most unhappy with their failure and betrayal a couple episodes ago. People do not live long when Penguin is unhappy with them. Ransoming his “friend” would not be the best idea, but it’s not like they can really make it that much worse for themselves. When Sofia corrects them, she offers to let them sign up with her. She can give them everything they want once Penguin is gone, but that kind of depends on them not finger-painting all over her masterful scheming right at the crucial moment.
Barbara thinks Penguin will happily take his enemy back as easily as his friend. She calls, names her price, and Penguin accepts. Easy. Very easy. Unbelievably easy. Yep, too easy. Penguin has one of his worst enemies currently being held by three more. Four birds, one stone. He dispatches Zasz, who, true to foreshadowing several episodes ago, shoots their armory shop with the same rocket launcher he took from them.
Fortunately, the girls get out just in time, being given just enough warning between Sofia and the cameras.
Sofia goes to Gordon then, with the facade of a traumatized, sobbing, terrified woman. He sees through that almost instantly, realizing that this is her real plan. She doesn’t actually have the resources to take Penguin on, so she’s been maneuvering Gordon into a position where he can, as captain of the GCPD. Cops vs. robbers, a war raging across the city. That’s her play.
Realistically, there are some serious benefits to that plan. It could oust Penguin, putting the GCPD as a whole firmly back on the side of law and order as a whole, redeeming them in the eyes of the city. And, really, what more direct, legitimate way could there be for taking Penguin down? Gordon came to Falcone looking for an army, and now he has one. Sofia just wants him to use it, which, really, he eventually will. Why not now?
Perhaps the war between Gordon and Penguin is unavoidable. But Gordon will not be manipulated into it, especially considering the collateral damage, the loss of life on both sides, and the civilian casualties which will undoubtedly accompany such a war. And, at the end of the day, it would just be so Sofia could take over, with her hooks deep in Gordon’s soul. What good is that?
So, instead of doing things Sofia’s way, he pays a visit to Penguin, just as the man is declaring that his entire syndicate will go to war and unleash an unprecedented crime wave. Gordon won’t allow that, and he’s here to avoid exactly that. He’s come to make a deal. Penguin spares Sofia, who Gordon puts on a train that very night, never to return, and if she does, then Gordon will deal with her himself. As for things between Penguin and Gordon, there will be no more licenses, but for now they will avoid war.
Penguin graciously accepts the terms.
They actually managed to resolve the situation with diplomacy. They were two men set to go to war, with a beautiful woman as the igniting spark. Instead, they rid themselves of the woman who played them, and settle things peacefully like men. Not a bad thing that.
Sofia is obviously not satisfied, as if she would be. She’s still trying to win Gordon to her side, telling him how they’re alike, both wanting power, kissing him… but he cuffs her and has Harper take her to the train, to escort her back home. Very Batman v Catwoman of them.
But Sofia’s not done just yet. She looks ahead, she foresees, that’s how she manipulates. So, on the off chance that Gordon went behind her back to Penguin and cut her out, she is prepared for just such a circumstance.
Penguin has grown rather close to Martine. He’s all set to take the boy in like a son, when Martine confesses that he lied. Or, rather, that he told a truth that Sofia wanted told. She told him to tell Penguin that he saw her kissing Gordon. All to manipulate him into doing exactly what she wanted him to do, what he’s been doing all day. True, that failed, the war did not begin as she’d hoped, but it’s still all according to her design. Penguin was very angry at Martine, sending the boy into another room, possibly back to the orphanage, but after he cooled down some, and after accepting Gordon’s offer, he goes to apologize to Martine, to extend his forgiveness. But Martine is nowhere to be found, only his notepad, telling Penguin he’d been kidnapped. The sirens grabbed him.
So, when Zasz quietly enters the train cabin where Sofia is in chains under Harper’s watchful eye, Harper is the only one surprised. Harper’s knocked out, while Sofia has Zasz set her loose, and gives him instructions to relay to Penguin, concerning the exchange. It’s all going according to plan.
The exchange, however, does not go as planned. Penguin finally upsets Sofia’s scheming.
Her ultimatum: surrender power to her, or the boy dies. Penguin submits, and regains Martine. He puts a hand on the boy’s shoulder, reassuring him, mending the rift between them, before sending the boy to the car. Martine pauses and looks back towards the gathering when he opens the door, before getting inside. Then Penguin proclaims that Martine will not be Sofia’s pawn to be used against him, not ever again, pressing a button and blowing the car up.
Sofia and the girls are shocked, leaping into action only soon enough to get behind cover as Penguin’s thugs open fire. Penguin will not submit, and here he declares war! The girls manage to escape, but their tails are whipped. They’re talking options when Sofia says they just have to hit Penguin before he hits them. Selina calls her crazy, as she just made a play, lost, and a boy died. That was unexpected, Sofia admits, but they’re not done yet.
Penguin needs time to mobilize his large, bulky organization, to wage war. That gives the girls, who can move faster than Penguin’s army, a small window of time to act. If they use if effectively, they may yet turn the war in their favor with their opening salvo, or at least they might survive. And make no mistake, at this point survival is very much what they’re fighting for. They’ve bet everything they had on this, and as they’ve already lost the first battle, they really need to win the war.
Meanwhile, Penguin is talking to Martine, who survived because the bombing was a piece of theater, some sleight of hand so Sofia would never look for the boy again. Penguin truly cares for him, but now, to protect him, he must send him away, never to return to Gotham. Neither one wants it, and they embrace, but it must be done. Penguin has Zasz, his single most formidable minion, escort Martine himself, though Zasz is of similar mind to Sofia: strike fast and hard, finish it quickly. Penguin may have just cost himself the war with his decision to put Martine’s safety first, but that is yet to be seen either way.
Elsewhere in this episode, Lee is now answering to “Doc,” apparently, down in the Narrows. As the newly-risen queen, she is making some changes, including the peaceful settlement of disputes. One involves two people in a business dispute, and she tells them to work together and be stronger, then asks after the health of the one’s daughter. She is new to ruling, and a healer first and foremost.
One of her people comes stumbling in, bleeding, because a local rival to the south wants to muscle in and claim the Narrows as his own. Samson (I think it was) is taking advantage of the change in leadership to move in and expand his domain. He’s testing the waters first, as Nygma describes. He advises setting Grundy on them, but Lee tries something gentler first. She talks to Samson, just her and Nygma. She makes an offer to appease him, which is the wrong thing to do, rewarding the enemy. That just makes them bolder.
When her foe starts coughing blood, she concocts something about a new virus to try and extort a peaceful resolution with her medical skills, using the man’s life as leverage. He accepts. Except he’s no fool, and just has his boys wreck her clinic, which is a really low blow. To destroy a place of healing is exceptionally low even for the filth of humanity. But at least it gets Lee’s blood boiling, and she uses something that happened to survive the vandalism to her advantage.
She and Nygma pay another visit to Samson, and this time she’s the one with the power. As Samson declares that he will take the Narrows as a whole, from club to clinic to everything else, Lee simply tells him to leave. She wants him and all his people gone within the day. Samson laughs at that, but Lee holds up a small bottle: the antidote to what she just slipped into his drink. On cue, Samson starts dying in front of her, and in front of his crew, who draw their guns, but she has a very fragile bottle in her hands. Samson either agrees to her terms, or he dies. Killing her just ensures the latter.
Preferring not to die, slowly and gruesomely, Samson agrees. Lee walks away and tosses him the antidote, which he desperately catches.
She’s definitely a force to be reckoned with, but she did leave an enemy alive and furious. It won’t surprise me if Samson comes back with a vengeance.
And I wonder how her next encounter with Gordon will go, as she’s now a crime lord? Ah, but that’s for later.
Lee confesses something to Nygma in the aftermath. He’s miserable at being “a has-been.” He was useless today, but she disagrees. He was right there, seeing what was going to happen every step of the way. The truth is, there’s nothing wrong with his brain. There were some lingering effects from his time on ice, it needed some time to fire up to optimal capacity again, but his brain is fine. What’s “wrong” with him is psychological. She didn’t want to tell him because she likes this version of him, more like the man he was before the Riddler, her friend, Edward Nygma.
He is rather pleased with that. It’s a good moment for him. One rather wishes he could stay that way. But, alas, fate is not so kind. And, just as it was the first time around, his descent begins again with seeing a fake self in the mirror. The Riddler, standing behind him, advancing. The Riddler’s first true victim was actually himself, Edward Nygma, and it seems that, as his mind is breaking again, history is about to repeat itself.
Finally, if the erupting war between Penguin and Sofia isn’t bad enough, and the imminent return of the Riddler doesn’t add enough to that, the Pyg is not yet entirely dealt with either.
Professor Pyg was arrested and sent to Arkham, with the rest of the loonies. And, yes, he is most certainly insane, but I think I’d prefer something with higher security, ya know? He gets into a fight and kills his foe easily, with a record. A record. He is no less dangerous in there than he was on the outside.
Gordon visits, wanting to know who he is. Fox found extensive surgery was done to him, to make identification impossible, which is counter-intuitive for a man who takes such pride in his crimes. So, while Fox works on reversing the work to get an accurate face of who the man was, Gordon confronts him. And mocks him. He thinks he’s hot stuff, after two or three stunts, sick and jarring as they may have been? Gotham has had the likes of Fish Mooney, Penguin, and Jerome to deal with. Pyg is a footnote, a minor freak that they’ve already forgotten. With wounded ego, Pyg’s visage slips, and he talks in a southern drawl.
But that was deliberate. We seem to have several villains this season who wear behaviors like masks. Sofia and the Pyg have that in common, where even slipping up is just another play.
Fox reconstructs Pyg’s face, and gets an ID, thanks to Gordon’s southern-oriented direction. His name is Lazlo Valentin, and he was being held in connection to the work of a serial killer. Such do not usually change their MO’s, but Pyg did. Gordon, assuming Lazlo was released because the case fell apart, asks why, but Fox tells him it didn’t. He escaped. That sets Gordon’s alarm bells ringing, and he races back to Arkham, who are supposed to set a guard at his cell. But before that happens, a hapless guard making rounds is drawn into a vacant-looking cell and struck from behind with a rope.
It occurs to me: all the stories of someone escaping a prison cell by attacking the guards from a blind spot once they enter. Perhaps they ought to invest in cells which have no blind spots.
Gordon arrives too late, finding a dead guard and a message written in his blood: “It was fun James. – Lazlo.”
Pyg fed him that “slip,” and that accent, so Gordon would ID him and he could be known for his deeds, and then he escaped right on time.
I am recalling that he told Gordon, during the fight, “You can’t give up yet.” He wanted Gordon to win that fight. He played Gordon like a fiddle. And after all that, he’s out again.
Side-note: with how many guards are killed by being attacked from blind spots in all these stories, one might start thinking it advisable to invest in cells which do not have blind spots. Just a thought.
So, sum-up: war erupting, Riddler returning, and Pyg loose.
Situation: not good!
5.01 & 2 “Orientation”
That is a very good title for this episode, as it was all about the agents learning about an entirely foreign situation.
So, the agent-looking guy that led the soldiers in capturing the agents in last season’s finale is actually an alien, which explains the technology. He takes all the agents except Fitz, left behind for some reason, not because of any government directive, but because of some list he’s working off of. The rest of them are put into a room with an obelisk, let out of that suspended state they were trapped in just in time to see it liquify and take them.
The next thing Coulson knows, he’s in a frozen moment in space. Then the moment speeds up and he can barely grab hold of something before he’s sucked out a broken window into the void, which is the fate of one of the other three men in the room at the time. They’re all in danger, as alien creatures in the darkness, nicknamed roaches, are hunting and killing them. Which, one of the other men quickly suffers that fate, leaving Coulson alone with the last survivor, the one who was expecting him and his team to appear out of thin air. Unfortunately, Mack appears right then and, assuming the man with the gun is a threat to Coulson, knocks him out.
Yo-Yo and Simmons poof into another room, with a number of dead bodies, drained of all liquid and turned into instant mummies. That would be what the roaches do, then. They manage to meet up with the boys, but just as the last surviving member of their welcoming party is about to explain what he means about “belief” and “saving humanity,” a roach gets him. The agents wisely run for their lives at that point, and are only saved when Daisy makes her entrance, blasting the creature apart.
May, meanwhile, managed to appear right where a metal rod is rammed through her thigh. So, apparently it’s lucky no one appeared within or partially within a wall. She manages to get herself loose, because she’s a fighter, a survivor, and one serious badass. She meets a guy who is looting the bodies and attacks him. He manages to restrain her with his antigravity thing, rendering her helpless in the air, then pinned to a wall. He lights a torch to keep roaches away, and forcibly impales a device within her wrist. You can imagine how happy she is about that.
The other agents, who wisely choose to stick together instead of splitting up to get picked off one by one per Mack’s fears – you gotta love how Marvel can still insert humor in extreme, dire situations – stumble onto the location, but May’s new friend has already moved her. They manage to put a few things together, that this place seems to have been built to accommodate humans, that it has advanced technology, that it’s seen a few years, etc. But when Daisy tries using a computer, it doesn’t allow human access, and several Kree enter and subdue them, though Mack and Yo-Yo manage to attack them first.
Unfortunately, wherever they are, attacking a Kree is met with a death sentence, a painful one. The others are locked up, until May arrives in company with her new friend, Deek. Deek spins a little tale for the Kree guard and offers a little bribe as well, which seems to work well enough. Once they’re in the clear, Deek asks about the guy who was going to explain things, Vergil. As he’s dead, and the agents can pay him, Deek is ready to leave them, but May uses his anti-grav device on him. The agents split up: Daisy to find and save Mack and Yo-Yo, Coulson to interrogate Deek, and May and Daisy to fly the nearest ship, the Trawler, and send a message back to Earth, to Fitz.
Mack and Yo-Yo are matching wills with their Kree tormentors, who deem Mack worthy of some kind of gladiator position, and we soon learn that how the Kree do things among the humans, sparing a life involves taking one. So, to spare Mack, they’ll kill Yo-Yo, starting with freezing her hands. That’s an agonizing experience, but Daisy storms in, frees Mack, and they dispense with the guards. Then they have an available Kree hand to unlock the computer with, and get a location… displayed in longitude and latitude.
This while May and Simmons navigate out of an asteroid field only to see the Earth right above them, or what’s left of it, a slim shard of what used to be there. They thought that the Kree were using the place as a staging ground to invade the Earth, but it’s already gone far beyond that.
This while Coulson talks with Deek and they begin to put the pieces together: the monolith didn’t just transport them through space, it sent the agents forward through time.
With the trailer for Infinity War having just dropped, I don’t think they could have picked a more perfect moment to tell a story set in a future where the world has been broken. I mean, is this the fate of the Earth after the war? Does Thanos do this? It’s extremely high stakes right from the start, with the literal fate of the planet, and their species, hinging on whatever they manage to do. Thus, they need to work smart, and as they’re on entirely unfamiliar ground, they have a lot of catching up to do.
This time and place they’ve been propelled forward to, it’s the last refuge of humanity, possibly its very last gasp. That’s a terrible weight to have on the soul, and the people here have always had it.
Deek became a smooth-talking, scavenging survivalist, and afraid of what the agents are going to do, that they’ll mess everything up and get everyone killed.
Vergil was a believer, the last of the believers, who held that agents of Shield would come out of the past to save humanity. Exactly where that came from, I would very much like to know, especially as aliens are clearly involved and orchestrating these events. Fitz is certainly partially behind it as well, as he managed to send a postcard all the way to the future, saying, “Working on it.”
Apparently, there used to be many more believers like Vergil, but the Kree killed them all, including, apparently, someone Deek held dear.
There are others, whom the agents soon meet.
Tess was Vergil’s significant other, and while she didn’t believe, really, a part of her is still transfixed by the agents and their arrival, as if she kept that belief safe in some unspoken corner of her heart. Perhaps she’s feeling hope for the first time. Either way, she’s looking after the agents and helping them, like convincing Deek to help and letting Coulson into Vergil’s old quarters to search for clues. They find a notebook filled with information they don’t know how to decipher yet.
Then there’s Grill, an old man who is a scheming opportunist, willing to take risks, but also quick to use other people as human shields, in cold blood. He looks out for his own interests, plain and simple.
While Coulson is searching Vergil’s room, Daisy tails Deek to his lair. It’s their equivalent to an opium den, each customer placed in their own Framework, some illusion crafted to seem like Earth as it used to be, based on scant pieces of forgotten knowledge. It’s escapism, the only drug left to these desperate people.
Meanwhile, May and Simmons learn more and more about just how bad the situation is. The story is that the Earth was broken by something, and then the Kree came in, saved the people, restored order. Uh-huh, yeah, right. More like they either broke the planet themselves or they just took advantage of a soft target. Either way, they rule the humans because the humans need them in order to survive, while the Kree do not need the humans except to have someone they can stand above.
The one in charge here is called Kasius, and he oh so “graciously” lets some food slide down a pipe to feed his toys, a little nutrition for his garden. But two of the men fight over a share, one of them stabbing one of Kasius’ pet humans and spokesmen. The offender is summarily killed by a female Kree, whose name we haven’t heard yet, as she levitates two metal balls to ram straight through his skull. But then Simmons saves the man who was wounded, as everyone looks on in shock at what she’s doing, and the Kree take her up to Kasius.
Kasius is… dangerously odd.
He gardens as a hobby, and likens what he does to the humans to this. He cultivates and nourishes, and he prunes. Upon learning of the fight and what caused it, he orders that his guards should “give the humans some breathing space,” saying “it’ll do them good to have a renewal.” Sounds pleasant enough, right? Alas, it is not, but I’ll get to that in a moment.
He is a perfectionist as well, demanding flawless physical appearance in his human pets. To which end, he is fascinated by Simmons’ immaculate skin, in addition to her skills as a healer, and her “superior answers” to his questions. When the man she saved walks in, bearing an injury that will heal but leave a scar, Kasius is upset, but knows it can be covered up. The scratch on his face, however, just that slight blemish, is enough for him to have the man killed outright.
Simmons is shocked and yelling as Kasius kneels by the dying man, doing something with his ear. He turns to Simmons, and catches her unawares, saying she needs to learn silence, as he puts what he took from the man’s ear into hers: some kind of alien creature that makes all things silent. It neutralizes sound, all of it. Except, as she learns after she’s been dressed and painted as a “servitor,” for Kasius’ voice, when he’s talking to her. It’s not just a means of coercing submission, it also prevents any of them from properly spying on their masters.
Back downstairs, the renewal commences. The humans are gathered together to present their “metrics,” these devices that are inserted through the wrist, to track them as needed. The children are removed from the scene while this is happening. Cornered and left with no choice, Coulson, Mack, and Yo-Yo go to Grill, hoping to trade a Kree tablet they just stole to him in exchange for his assistance installing the metrics. Grill doesn’t take the tablet, but he takes their service instead. They’re obviously worth an investment, so they work for him now. And the first job: they’re the human shields he’s hiding behind.
In a renewal, low earners are selected, their metrics flashing red instead of blue. They have the choice of either dying or taking a life. “A life spent is a life earned,” as they say. That’s what Kasius meant by “more breathing room.” When there’s no more space to use, the only way to increase breathing room is to decrease the number of people breathing. And as the fight earlier demonstrated, tensions seem to be reaching a boiling point, where fights are breaking out, he has them blow off some steam by killing each other, taking the fight out of them for a little while.
One of the chosen humans blames Grill for not paying him properly, so he means to kill the man. But Grill is safe in his shelter, and he leaves the agents outside, pinned to the wall. May arrives in time to save them, but she won’t kill the man, so Tess does it instead.
This really isn’t the world the agents know.
Finally, Daisy manages to confront Deek in his Framework, and Deek matches her. He’s a realist, he’s afraid, he created a drug den just to try and cope, and he’s mad at the agents for endangering what little they have left. They can’t just keep doing what they’ve always done, they must adapt. For Deek, that means they need to give up and stop trying to do what they’re doing. It’s even worse when he realizes who Daisy is: Quake. Whatever happened all those years ago, Quake is the one who is blamed for destroying the world.
I call bullcrap on that. Not only does she not have nearly enough power to do anything remotely like that – it’s sort of like comparing the power of an ant to that of a god – but she wouldn’t. Even more, she obviously hasn’t, and unless she goes back home, she won’t have the opportunity to either. So, I’m guessing that the Kree, who erased the humans’ knowledge of history, are either the ones responsible, or they just needed a convenient scapegoat, and who better than an Inhuman?
So, recap: some alien shot the agents forward through time, to a point after the Earth is destroyed and the humans have become like cattle, or a garden suffering the whims of the gardener. Everyone except Simmons and Daisy now have metrics in their system, Mack, Yo-Yo, and Coulson are stuck working for Grill, who just left them to die to save himself, Daisy is blamed for the entire situation, and Simmons has been rendered selectively deaf as part of being a pet of Kasius, who is entertaining guests.
Yeah. Dire situation.