This was a pretty good week. Things take a dramatic turn halfway through Black Lightning‘s first season, Gotham delved straight into Bruce’s journey to becoming Batman, and Agents of Shield delivered a phenomenal hundredth episode. Me like! 🙂
1.07 “Equinox: The Book of Fate”
Equinox. That’s the day right in the middle of a changing season. It is to spring and autumn what Midsummer and Midwinter are to their respective seasons. And this is the episode right in the middle of this show’s debut season, yes? Poetic. Certainly, the plot just shifted in a new direction.
So, we skip that awkward moment of family drama which would immediately follow Anissa waking up to find her father is Black Lightning, who just beat her down.
Gambi plays off the attack on Lynn as a job by some crew of thieves, and she was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. The latter part of that is true, but not the former. So, he’s lying right to Jeff’s face, but this time he’s caught. The problem with being properly good at your job, with well-established skill and experience, is how little leeway it leaves, such that any little lapse is suspect. Oh, Gambi can pull intel about a ring of high-end corporate thieves out of thin air within two hours, but he never heard so much as a whisper about Tobias or Toledo? Jeff realizes that Gambi must be tacitly complicit on some level, lying to him, hiding the truth from him, and whatever excuse about protecting Jeff from himself that Gambi whips up, Jeff is not in a mood to listen.
The trust between them is broken.
And for even better reason than it first appears. Turns out, he’s flat-out in bed (metaphorically) with Lady Eve. With Jeff gunning for Tobias, and Gambi wanting to keep them separated, Gambi goes to Eve looking to remove Tobias from the equation entirely. The argument he makes is that the man’s increasing boldness threatens “the ecosystem we’ve built here.” Would be the “ecosystem” that feeds on the blood of Jeff’s community? What’s so great about it that it’s worth protecting? Gambi, it would seem, has contributed to the suffering that plagues Freeland. And he does so again, when Eve suggests taking out Tobias’ right hand, Toledo, to bring him back into line, and Gambi does it, without hesitation.
Gambi just did Eve’s dirty work for her, in addition to helping her cover her tracks after the fiasco at Lynn’s workplace. The man is dangerous and duplicitous and right there in the middle of Black Lightning’s crusade, including his proximity to Anissa.
Coming back around to that, we have Anissa herself, who is gung-ho about going all vigilante superhero with her dad, and we have her dad, who wants to keep her safe and is very reluctant to let her do anything, let alone become his protege, and we have her mother, who also wants to keep her safe, and tries to talk her out of anything dangerous by pointing to the price she will undoubtedly pay in due time. But Lynn realizes that Anissa won’t simply be stopped, and she won’t shrink from paying the price for helping people. So, to truly keep her as safe as possible, she has to get on board with Anissa’s desires and support her. She even asks Gambi, with whom she has disagreed severely thus far, to make a protective suit for Anissa. He’s all too willing, of course.
As for Jeff, he tries to keep the moral high ground here, but realizes he’s already lost it when he goes for Tobias and things go bad. Henderson was feeding him intel, and he learned about Toledo’s death through him. He’s cursing the loss of his lead, but Henderson has a little more info for him which points him to Tobias’ new club. He invades the place as Tobias enters and a firefight erupts. Tobias and some of his guards make it out, but a stray bullet hits Tory in the back as they’re running. She’s dead within moments.
That’s when Jeff realizes that he’s a hypocrite, saying one thing and doing another. He just made a huge mistake, a woman died because of it. So, he’ll take Anissa under his wing, train her, and he hopes she becomes better than he is.
About the only good thing that might arise from the club fight is how it coincides exactly with another conflict. If Eve thought taking Toledo out would convince Tobias to get back in line, she clearly misunderstood him. He was already angry about the results of the Green Light drug, but now he hits back, sending his goons to kill her at her funeral parlor, but he’s also clever about it. At Tory’s suggestion, his men are armed with electrocuting guns, and though Eve holds her own, a clever goon gets the drop on her, frying her where she stands. It looks like Black Lightning did it, which Henderson and the community both believe, and Eve’s partners, the Shadow Board, are supposed to believe the same. But whatever Black Lightning can do, he can’t be in two places at once.
So, it just might save his name, and his life, if someone notices how the two fights coincide. Very big “if,” though, and for now, Jeff just lost much of his support. Hopefully Anissa makes up for some of that as she learns to master her powers and fight alongside him.
4.13 “A Beautiful Darkness”
Two reactions: “wow” and “oh dear.”
Fresh off of Ivy’s demonstration of her new abilities, Selina follows her to go rob a place. With her abilities and her enthralling perfume combined, it’s easy to gain entry and subdue the family within. Selina thinks it’s kinda cool, for about two seconds, until she turns her back for a moment and Ivy murders a man in front of his family, who are compelled to watch it happen without doing anything. That turns Selina off, way off, and she leaves, telling Ivy to stay away from her.
The dead body gets the attention of the GCPD, of course, and Gordon, being more hands-on than most captains, is on the case, especially when the family’s testimony of a girl with a whip points to Selina. He heads to the Sirens club, has a brief confrontation with Sofia in which their “partnership” is firmly planted as a detente, neither one able to destroy the other without that destruction being mutually assured, and then he catches Selina when she comes in and tries to leap between rooftops. By the time he gets her back to the precinct, however, Ivy’s already been there. The girl works fast, enthralling the entire force and abducting Lucius Fox. The first part makes Gordon and Selina’s exit a near thing, and the latter is in service to Ivy’s agenda.
Ivy justifies what she’s doing as defending those who can’t speak for themselves, meaning the plants. She can hear them, apparently, the voices in her head. The man she killed experimented with them, and he worked for Wayne Enterprises on something called Project M. Fox realized the potential connection and called Bruce, but he withheld that information from Gordon. It seems he still works for Bruce in some capacity, which is what led Ivy to him. She pays a visit to Bruce, fresh off another all-night party, enthralling him with a kiss, and gets her information, which includes how the location of the project is so secret that Bruce only trusted Fox with it, which means she needs him to help her get in. She has no such need for Bruce, and wants to make his death slow, nicking him with her nail, spreading the venom into his system much more slowly than her other victims, giving him time to experience a complex hallucination.
It starts with him, bound by vines, as the image of Ra’s al’Ghul removes his face, leaving only a black hole in its place, wrapped in bandages. He runs through the labyrinth of his mind trying to get it back, only to find some party-going brat is wearing it instead. He tries to fight, but collapses into nothing, becoming the party-goer. The party goes on, featuring many familiar faces, until they suddenly disappear, leaving only Gordon, with a mustache, asking how long he thinks he can hide in here. Then Alfred comes in as a commando, dragging him out, taking him to the alley, and to the one who waits for him there: a dark figure in a cape, with a deep, booming voice. This is the place where Bruce’s parents were killed, and where the dark figure above was born. And then they’re in a cave, as the figure, the shadow of who he will become, calls him to action and dissolves into a swarm of bats.
It ends only when Gordon arrives with an antidote, this given to Gordon by Ivy at Project M. She was surprised to find that the project wasn’t killing plants, but growing them with water from the Lazarus Pit. She takes the Lazarus water, leaves the antidote with Fox to delay Gordon’s pursuit, and then the men race to save Bruce. The boy is saved, and he comes back from his trip down the rabbit hole enlightened. He’s caught a glimpse of himself, his true self, and in humility, he calls Alfred for help.
The GCPD is a bit embarrassed but whole and healthy and hunting for Ivy, while Ivy is moving forward with a new plan. A few drops of Lazarus water make a new plant of hers bloom within moments. A demonstration of what it does is provided by the arrival of the people whose home she’s been using while they were on a trip, softly blowing the blossom to scatter the thorny petals, which immediately kill them both.
Ivy has, overnight, become a supervillain bent on Gotham’s destruction – of course that’s what she’s going to go for, we all know it – with the ability to make it happen.
And Gordon’s detente with Sofia isn’t going to last long. If she can’t destroy him without destroying herself, then she’ll hurt him instead, and she’s going straight for the heart: her sister-in-law, and Gordon’s former love, Lee.
While all of this is going on outside, Penguin’s stay in Arkham is proving decidedly unpleasant. It seems Jerome the Joker has the run of the place, from the patients to the security to everything else, and he wants something from Penguin. He’s not getting it easily, though, because Penguin has given up, on some level. If he escapes, or tries to, or causes trouble, Martine will be targeted by Sofia, he fears.
Furthermore, he has no one to help him, he is utterly alone. Or at least he thinks he is until Nygma pays him a visit, leaving behind, without realizing it, a token from the Riddler. Penguin and Riddler are sworn enemies, but now they’re both imprisoned, in need of help to gain release, and willing to help each other. Penguin writes a note to send to Nygma, hoping it will unleash the Riddler again, who will then help Penguin get out of Arkham. There is light at the end of the tunnel.
He just has to wade through Jerome’s madness to get there. At first he refuses to play along, but the spark of hope drives him to conform, at least a little. And with his inner fire rekindled, he realizes that Jerome could leave at any time, but he isn’t. He’s staying in Arkham on purpose. He’s planning something, something that requires “the crème de la crazy.” He wants Penguin in on it, and whatever it is, there’s no way it’s good for Gotham.
So we have not one but two city-wide catastrophes brewing at the same time, in addition to the tension between Gordon and Sofia which, when it erupts, will bring yet another. About the only good news is that Bruce’s inner journey has pulled his head out of his rear end and set him back on the path to becoming the hero his city so desperately needs. But can the fledgeling dark knight rise in time?
5.12 “The Real Deal”
This show has become an absolute expert in taking our hearts and pulling them in every possible direction, either all at once or in quick succession. And this just might go down as my most favorite all, episode one hundred. It was perfect.
It starts with a “what the heck” moment, immediately following the loss of Noah as the Kree beacon exploded. Fitz sends a dwarf to scout out the damage, and there’s a nun moving in the background, bloody roach footprints, a breach in the universe, and the scout is destroyed by what appears to be Lash. Yes, that’s a “what the heck” moment, in my book.
Before the “incoming” actually hits, we see how the agents are doing. Mack is with Yo-Yo, who says she’ll make it through her disarming ordeal as long as she has him. He’s ready to quit with her, but she says they have to keep fighting, so they stay. May and Coulson are getting a damage report from Fitz, including the presence of a beautiful forest, complete with blue sky, that somehow exists fifteen stories down. Daisy and Deke are roaming the tunnels, sharing life experiences, looking for things they need, and Deke learns that orange-scented is not the same as orange-tasting. And then a Kree attacks them out of nowhere before getting shot and collapsing into black mist.
Fitz quickly puts together that the simultaneous destruction of the three monoliths tore straight through space and time, and, for lack of a better word, a dimension of fear is leaking through. All their worst fears, their nightmares, are coming into physical being. Lash, a Kree, a nun from Daisy’s childhood, a forest that Deke’s afraid of, they’re all coming into being. Oh, and an LMD of Simmons that tries to kill Yo-Yo. So, things are getting pretty bad pretty fast, and it’s going to get worse.
Fitz conjures a solution, or at least a temporary fix, pretty quickly. He takes Deke’s levitation belt buckle and rigs it to seal the rift, at least for awhile. But there’s a serious risk that whoever goes down there and throws it in will die. That’s without even going into how all the nastiest things from their past will be trying to kill them. So, who’s going on the suicide mission?
Coulson has to argue against May, Fitz (he suggests Piper), and especially Daisy for that. As they’re arguing over who goes, Coulson thunders that none of them are expendable. So he’s the one going. Daisy keeps arguing, and tries to call him out on doing exactly what he’s telling her not to, which leads into further arguing about his vision for her to lead Shield, except, so far as they know, there is no Shield anymore. The team is alone, and falling apart, and on their last legs. There’s nobody left. Coulson is just yelling back about how there’s still the idea, the symbol, the shield, which must continue… before he finds it hard to breathe and collapses.
And the truth outs: Coulson is dying.
And it turns out, he’s dying from… death.
Back to the beginning we go, when Coulson was killed in Avengers by Loki stabbing him through the heart. He was brought back by Nick Fury with the use of Kree blood and a machine to rewrite his memories of the experience. The scar remains to this day. Now that area, that tissue, is clinically dead again, and the death is spreading through the surrounding tissue, bit by bit. That was the price taken by the Ghost Rider when it possessed him. It burned through what kept Coulson alive, and now his time is running out. This is his last rodeo.
Hm, I wonder if they try to save him when the Kree arrive, get more Kree blood to put into him, and somehow this plays a pivotal role in the end of the world. Is that what happened? Is that what they need to not let happen this time? Either way, I digress.
Deke misses out on the drama as Coulson sends him out on some errands. He finds the quaint little town they’re in is suddenly swarming with military. The officer who saw Daisy last episode, when she got Deke out of jail, called it in, a possible sighting of Quake, so here comes Hale, loaded for bear. He goes around the town, discreetly, but also tries making some call or other on a payphone. Huh? Turns out he’s laying a false trail for Hale to follow, get her off their immediate scent. But that’s not nearly all, as we find out.
Back at the Lighthouse, it’s heartbreaking. Simmons can’t, she simple can’t, save Coulson. Soon, his heart is simply going stop beating and it won’t start again, just like his lungs are failing. He didn’t know how to tell anyone, and he wasn’t sure he should have told them. This is simply the deal he made with the Rider, and he’s had a wonderful second life already. But it was horrifying, the way he was brought back the first time, and he didn’t want to repeat it. All that said, Daisy is right, he should have told them. Or maybe not. It is his life, and his death, and they had enough on their plates already in the future without giving his never-say-die team another objective to pursue whether he allowed them to or not. It’s a tough call he made, but whether it was right or wrong, it’s done.
The gears are in motion. Coulson is not long for this world.
May figures out this was why he wanted to take a step back after they had finally taken a step forward. He didn’t want her wasting her time on him, another dead-end. And he’s come to terms with his death. Especially knowing that he and May can step back, leave leadership to the next generation of the team. May answers that with how the team is more than a team, and none of them are giving up on Coulson. Which, he does not mind, because just because he’s accepted his death, that does not mean he’s in a hurry to meet it. He intends to come back from this little suicide run. He only volunteered because, better the man with the least amount of time on his clock.
It hits Daisy hardest most of all. First episode of the show, he found her in an alley, alone, with nothing. She’s come so far since then, gained so much, including family, a place to belong, a purpose, a belief. Solid ground to stand on, as she says. Everything that means anything to her, he helped her to get it. And now he’s going where she can’t follow.
Shield has survived everything, sometimes by very thin margins, because it had Phil Coulson. Now it’s time for Shield to move on without him. It’s a heavy burden, filled with her own tears, that Coulson is putting on Daisy’s shoulders, and she doesn’t think she can do it. Without him, there’s nothing left, not for her. There’s no Shield without him.
I think that’s the single most heart-breaking scene yet in the series.
With this done and Fitz’s gear ready, Coulson heads down. Communication goes out quickly enough, but he keeps going. Very soon, he reaches the rift, and sees a most unexpected face: Mike Peterson, aka Deathlock. Only he looks like a normal person, and they have a conversation.
This phantom of a man represents a fear that far supersedes any simple monster in the dark. Not Lash, or a roach, or anything else. He represents something far more potent: Coulson’s first death. He talks, spins a tale that he’s just a tech in a lab trying to save him, and that the past five seasons have all been in Coulson’s head as the doctors have been trying and failing to save him. All the weirdness, all the irrational, impossible things that defy explanation, all in his head. All his adventures, everyone he met, his team, his family, his brilliant students (Fitz-Simmons), the daughter he never had (Daisy), his heroism, it’s all fabricated by a mind that doesn’t want to let go of everything he never got to do. Now it’s time to go into the light, the rift, and die.
It almost works.
This is a low moment… the downward swing before rising to soar again.
While Coulson is facing the abyss, angels descend from above.
Up above, the team is forced to wait, no matter their frustration, and suddenly they have incoming. It’s a quinjet, coming in for a landing. Not knowing who or what to expect, Daisy and May head to the bay, and witness as Deke steps out with a jet filled with agents at his back, including the real Deathlock and even Davis, who supposedly was killed by Aida. The team has been operating as if they were alone, the last ones left, but they’re not! They still have comrades fighting the good fight! They have help!
Very timely help too, as Deathlock is minimally affected by the fear dimension, so he runs down to help Coulson. Coulson almost walks into the light with the fake version, but refuses, and then he’s almost dragged in, but Deathlock arrives in time to save him, holding off the encroaching monsters, including Hive as well as Lash and a roach, while Coulson tosses Fitz’s gravitonium bomb into the rift, shutting it. It almost takes him in with it, but Deathlock holds him steady.
Voila! Crisis ended!
Well, ok, Fitz is pretty sure they’ll need a stronger power source to keep it going, but for now, crisis ended!
It’s time to celebrate!
And what a celebration it is: a wedding!
Fitz-Simmons are finally getting married! Whoo!
It’s just a simple, beautiful scene, where the two of them, surrounded by their family, exchange vows and Coulson marries them. While Deke and Mike talk in the background, which, it turns out, they are his grandparents.
That last is confirmed with Hale’s investigation, one of her subordinates apparently has some DNA to work with, runs a full diagnostic, which spits them out. Though, why it didn’t spit out his other grandparents, I have no idea.
So, I probably didn’t do it proper justice, but, really… this was a fantastic episode. I absolutely loved it. 🙂