So, apparently I misunderstood, Gotham is not returning for a couple more months. But, on the bright side, The Gifted gave us one heck of a finale, and Agents of Shield just kept doing what they do, which is, “keep me riveted.” 🙂
1.12 “eXtraction” & 1.13 “X-roads”
That was an amazing season finale. Tense, poignant, heart-breaking, perfect for driving the series forward. I am so glad we have at least one more season coming, and hopefully several more.
Hoping to cut the advancement of the Hound program off at the knees, Hellfire and the Underground aim to take out its head: Campbell.
The plan is simple enough: grab Campbell, interrogate, destroy every inch of the Hound program. But he’s well-guarded these days, not least by his Hounds. He’s attending an anti-mutant conference, hoping to work his connections and get some funding for his upgraded Hound program. This mean lots of extra security besides Campbell’s own.
Campbell, it turns out, is motivated by how unfair life is. Really.
His brother was born with a genetic disease that killed him slowly and painfully, while others are born with powerful gifts. He also draws parallels between mutants and Neanderthals, looking back to see that they were stronger, bigger, even smarter, yet the humans wiped them out simply because there were more of them and they worked together, and so it is today: mutants are so very powerful, but so very few, too. So, he intends to use all of humanity’s strength to wipe mutants out, to keep anyone from being blessed by their genetics, because his brother was cursed by his.
So, off he goes to talk to a senator, one famous for his anti-mutant-criminal stance, which is effectively an anti-mutant stance in practice because the mutants get blamed for everything. The conference has all the bells and whistles of a perfectly normal human gathering, complete with catering, speeches, a schoolgirl choir, and everyone’s happy and smiling as they advance the extinction of innocent people.
I am reminded of a movie, I forget the title though I always recognize it. It’s about this Jewish family that gets sent to a concentration camp. One of them, the father of the family, meets a man, a physician who he knew before the war and traded riddles with. The doctor seems haunted by events playing out before his eyes, and the Jew asks him for help, only to realize when the man starts talking that he’s haunted by a riddle he can’t solve. A riddle. Not the people dying as they’re exterminated, or a man he knows being consigned to that fate with his family. A riddle.
That scene has always stayed with me, and I see a near echo of it here, with these nice, smiling, happy people working towards the demise of mutantkind. It’s only a hop, skip, and a jump, as they say, and I note that the senator and his assistant don’t raise any question about morality, only about public opinion, in the face of Campbell’s proposal, which they agree to.
The anti-mutant movement is strong, and seems to just keep gaining momentum. And still the leaders of the Underground are holding onto moral superiority, which not everyone agrees with. With the results that the Cuckoos got, with enemies slain and friends rescued, the Underground is cracking with division. They’re at war for their very survival, but the Underground isn’t actually going to war. Sooner or later, they’ve got to start actually fighting back, and fighting to win, to survive. But Thunderbird and Eclipse keep talking about the high ground and the X-Men, almost as if the X-Men were gods. When the Cuckoos bring up Blink’s checkered past, in which she briefly associated with some mutants who turned out to be part of the Brotherhood, Thunderbird almost rejects her for it, before realizing that she is one of them now. While that was a nice moment leading into their coupling up, the point remains that they might be a little too zealous in their idealism.
The Cuckoos orchestrate the op to take Campbell with Blink, Polaris, Eclipse, and Thunderbird along to provide the muscle. They kidnap some official on his way to an appointment, with someone who happens to be a mutant and a friend of the Cuckoos (so, probably part of Hellfire). They use their mental mojo to have him give them clearance to the conference as his new security detail, and they’re in! Two of the sisters drop their trussed-up kidnap victim in a garage somewhere on the premises, while the last stays with Polaris. Polaris knocks out all the communications, like cell phones, while Blink takes the boys in. The boys beat down the Hounds and would have had Campbell at their mercy, except for the very badly-timed arrival of the schoolgirl choir.
And Campbell doesn’t even hesitate, he hides behind the girls, complete with the surreptitious use of a gun he’s pointing at the nearest one. That rat bastard is even pretending that he’s protecting them as he holds them hostage. The Underground, being the better people, can’t make a move against him in that situation. Then they have to rabbit out while under fire from additional security, without their quarry, much to the Cuckoos’ chagrin.
Which, pausing to think, it might have been handy for one of them to come in, to make sure Campbell would have to come quietly once the Hounds were neutralized. “Put down the gun. Come with us.” It would have been that simple. And it’s not like they would have had any qualms with hurting kids, as they hold mutant kids up as what they are protecting. Heck, they nearly killed their ride into the conference before Blink stopped them. Not that the man didn’t deserve it, as he apparently takes great pleasure watching videos of mutants suffering, but, still, a little short-sighted and another demonstration of their lack of restraint.
Back at Underground HQ, Reed and the computer girl, Sage, are looking into his father’s research. As much as the Fenris-Hounds would turn the tide of any battle, it’s his father’s research which could theoretically end mutantkind once and for all. If they found a way to suppress the mutations before they manifested, that would be it. No more new mutants, and all the resistance in the world would just be the last, desperate gasp of a doomed people. That’s what Campbell wants, and, seeing how he’s missing a major chunk of Strucker’s work, he has his people hunting that lost knowledge, including going after everyone who ever knew the man. Including his ex-wife, Reed’s mother.
Detecting that as it’s happening, the Struckers race off to find her at her workplace. Reed and Cait go in, telling the kids to keep watch and run away if SS shows up. Some very quick explanations later, the woman has had her world turned upside-down and she comes with them, but not before things go bad outside. Andy see the agents approaching and defends his family, forcefully. Lauren disagrees and they’re arguing to the point where Andy actually attacks his own sister, she defends herself, and the shock wave shoves them both off their feet.
The enemy is closing in on all of them, and the mutant family is divided to the point where they’re coming to blows.
The Struckers get away clean, with Reed’s mother passing on some info about one a woman named Madeline, but SS has a pair of Hounds that work like the ultimate bloodhound, able to find anyone anywhere, and they follow the Struckers’ trail all the way to Underground HQ. Their leaders and bruisers are away, and the enemy is at their very doorstep.
Fortunately, they have plans in place. The moment they get past the telepathic field, the mutant on watch runs to the remaining leaders, who order evacuation. Sage gets everyone’s electronics and hard drives and burns them, Cait gets Fade’s help getting the littlest kids out first, everyone is grabbing only the essentials they can carry and going, but SS closes the noose before most of them get out. That’s when the Struckers step up, in the moment of crisis, and lead them. They lead them in last-minute fortifications, and everyone who can fight takes up positions while everyone else works on digging their way out. The defensive line beats back the first wave of SS soldiers with relative ease, and the tunnel progresses quickly, but then the Hounds are sent in, and just like that time runs out. The defenders retreat and the hole is widened so everyone can scurry through at top speed, but they won’t get far if SS can follow. So Andy and Lauren stay behind, the new Fenris facing down the bastardized version of itself, completely overwhelming them and leveling the entire building.
The people escape with what they can carry, nobody lost to SS to become future Hounds, but even so, it’s still a stinging defeat and a devastating loss.
Not as bad as the losing of the Underground’s soul, though. As bad as things are after the loss of HQ, they might have weathered it together if not for events over on the other front. Disagreements don’t become divisions until they become external, and the rift is formed when someone makes a choice and breaks a bond.
That is the fate of Polaris: she is the Underground’s breaking point.
After the botched abduction, the Cuckoos work on the Underground leadership, especially Polaris. Campbell is taking a private plane with his senator friend straight to DC to introduce and push through the bill that would give Trask all the funding they need. That cannot be allowed to happen, and Eclipse’s plea to have faith falls now on deaf ears. Polaris goes with two of the sisters to take the plane down and kill everyone on board. Her friends find out and follow, try to talk her out of it, but they can’t forcibly stop her, and she is beyond listening right now. Campbell, the senator, the pilots, the bodyguards, the flight attendants… they all die.
It’s an act of outright war, an assassination with innocent bystanders as collateral damage, and things are not going to get better any time soon. No, this is a drastic escalation. But what can you expect? Whip a dog enough, and it will eventually turn. The mutants have been whipped to within an inch of their life, and now they are turning truly violent.
So, when Eclipse and Thunderbird, with the support of Blink and most of the Struckers, are talking about rebuilding the Underground when they have nothing to work with now, it makes for a stark contrast against the offer of joining Hellfire, with all their resources, and actually fighting back, especially when it’s presented by Polaris herself. Several of the Underground listen, and join. Sage. Fade. The mutant who broke through the wall to dig the tunnel they used to escape. Several others. Including Andy.
Andy, who feels wronged by the world. Andy, who has long been an underdog, now exalted with power. Andy, who now knows his great-grandparents inspired terror in their enemies, and excuses reports of their atrocities as exaggerated accounts deliberately skewed and biased (he’s in for a rude awakening sometime, I think). Andy, who thinks he is displaying pride in his lineage and his people. Andy, who intends to do what it seems must be done. Andy, who says goodbye to his family, as Polaris puts her arm around him and guides him into Hellfire, alongside the baby in her womb.
The show began especially as the struggle of two men, Reed and Eclipse, to save their families. The first season ends with their families divided.
That is some pretty powerful stuff.
Oh, and Tucker resigns from SS, as the politicians and bureaucrats are trying to cover their own butts by hanging him out to dry. In the face of a war against his entire species (which is actually humanity’s aggression against their own siblings), he intends to do something about it without the red tape getting in his way.
5.08 “The Last Day”
This week, we plunged ever deeper into the tragedy of the world’s ending to pluck a single ember of hope from the ashes.
In the Lighthouse, Mack, Yo-Yo, and Flint find themselves unwelcome by the most of the human population, but their immediate concern is arming themselves. That is, until they go up to Level 3, where Fitz stored the weaponry, and find it vacant of roaches. They see a Kree spraying a gas, something they use to drive the roaches away, and then they find an open elevator shaft. Then they hear the screams from all the way down on Level 10.
Kasius has decided to take retribution for his recent losses by driving the roaches down into the human population, to cull and practically annihilate the entire lot. Bodies everywhere in the halls, young, old, male, female, it doesn’t matter, they’re all just food to the roaches. Kasius was going to burn them all anyway, apparently, and now he has an excuse.
Mack quickly thinks up a way to secure the entire level all at once. Yo-Yo steals some canisters of the anti-roach gas, flooding the level through the ventilation system. Not enough to kill them, but enough to drive them all into one room, where Yo-Yo, armed with splinter grenades, is waiting. And voila! The roaches are dust.
And suddenly the few surviving humans are much more willing to accept Flint and his friends. Even more, this experience has taught them that they have to stop fighting each other. They need to unite, and they need to fight their true enemy: their Kree keepers.
As for things on the surface, the agents join up with the survivors without further difficulty. Now it’s just a matter of asking the multiplying questions and hoping for some answers.
Fitz-Simmons, ironically, have the simplest questions and answers. I mean, it’s only stuff about how to find and use the monolith that brought them to the future so they can go back in time and alter the past-present in order to avoid the future-present. Ah, time travel. Always so simple and straightforward!
There is a machine which someone designed and built which was used to activate the monolith from the future in order to bring the agents into it. It worked by having a piece of the monolith inserted inside it to lock on to the same material in the past and activate it. Doing something similar might make it possible to find the pieces of the monolith and bring them together. Indeed, Robin the seer says something about Coulson “bringing the pieces together.” That might be the pieces of the monolith, or it might be something different, less literal. Either way, they must succeed.
Daisy, having learned that the implant suppressing her power is stuck there for awhile barring specialize, precise surgery, has a moment with Deke. She’s able to reassure him that things can work out between him and his dad, once he gets back from the radio station, which the leader of their helpers, Samuel Voss, assures Deke will happen soon. But then Deke sees the shard of the monolith, and he knows something is wrong. That shard belonged to his mother, and his father would never leave it just lying around. Voss is lying. And as it happens, he’s not just a liar. He’s a murderer. He himself killed Deke’s father, and he and his followers are desperate to keep this terrible future from happening. They think that will be done by killing Daisy, as they are convinced she will destroy the world if she makes it back to the past. They fail in that, but Voss kills the agents’ only guide through the past and future: Robin.
Robin has lived a complicated life. Not only has she lived through the end of the world, she’s been living every day of her life, every memory, all at once. It’s very confusing for her, so she doesn’t always say what she’s supposed to say at the right time. From her perspective, she’s already told people things that she hasn’t said yet. She lives a linear existence with a non-linear memory of the whole thing.
And a lot of what she remembers does not bode well.
She remembers the end of the world, a moment when she and what was left of Shield, including Fitz, Simmons, and May, were racing for the Lighthouse in the Zephyr when a gravity storm brought them down. Her mother was dead by then.
She remembers telling Fitz that he needed to make the machine that will activate the monolith, the same machine that he and Simmons were studying in the future, so their past selves can be sent forward and then sent back. He rages at this, still believing that time cannot be altered – he has no experience with the Time Stone – and at the deaths she remembers before they happen, including Simmons. Maybe they’re all living in a loop that is Robin’s life, all of them always dying as they fight to save the world, always failing.
That sounds much more convincing when Fitz is referencing things from their trip to the future. He mentions Voss, and how Daisy saw the aftermath and still destroyed the world, though no one knows what happened, only that she was there.
This isn’t, as I first thought, the past that happened without their post-apocalyptic experience. It’s what happened with it.
Yo-Yo remembers Flint, too, recalling that he’s not born for another fifty years. Robin recalls her mentioning that as she storms off to fight the Kree, rather than lie down and be enslaved just to survive. Mack’s dead and Yo-Yo’s faith is dead too. So she’ll die fighting before she lives a slave.
Robin remembers May raising her, becoming her second mother. She had trouble sleeping, and May held her, and told her to wait, just wait to tell them how to save the world. Robin says she hasn’t lived that day yet, but May tells her that she will. And then, years later, when they meet again, she needs to tell May how to do it then, not now.
And so she does. She has lived the day where Shield saves the world again. She lives just long enough to pass crucial instructions to May. Flint is important to that, but, as May is the only one who doesn’t know who Flint is, that’s her first question, “Who’s Flint?”
And it begins to make sense. Flint’s power over stone wasn’t just so he could kill people. He is the key to bringing the monolith back together, I think, and making it work again. Do that, and Shield has a fighting chance again.
First, however, they have some problems to deal with. They need to keep Flint safe, and take down the Kree, and they especially need to deal with Sinara, who is pursuing them on the surface.
So, survive, defeat the Kree, save Flint, put the monolith back together, go back in time, stop what’s happened from happening despite previous attempts to already do so, all on the slim reassurance of a seer who just died.
And they still have no idea just who or what they’re facing in the past.