This Week on TV, Mar. 24, 2018

Spoiler Alert!

I am thoroughly enjoying my lineup! 🙂

Black Lightning had, for once, a good day for the good guys, albeit with some justifiable family drama.

Gotham dove straight into a many-sided war that ended quickly with most unexpected results.

And Agents of Shield took things up a notch as it explored the dark side of one of our favorite characters, among other things.

All in all, a pretty fun week!

Black Lightning

1.09 “Little Black Lies”

Truth will out, as they say, and it generally does not do so gently.

Gambi is so deep in the doghouse that Jeff is actively warning his family to stay away from him because he can’t be trusted. Even so, he fights for the Pierce family. He injects an old friend with black mamba venom and blackmails an online former associate, all to find whoever made radioactive weapons that could be used to frame Black Lightning, thus hoping to prove his innocence. I said it after last episode, but the man is going to extremes to protect a very small piece of the world, either letting the rest of it burn or even setting a match to it himself. He is dangerous, driven by both love and guilt.

Jeff’s family gets another lesson in secrets when Jennifer’s manifesting powers make her feel like she’s going crazy. I remember a quote from a movie to the effect of, “There’s nothing more reassuring than knowing the world is crazier than you are,” but that’s not always true, as demonstrated by her freak-out when Anissa tells and shows her that she has power too and their father’s Black Lightning.

When you’re suddenly dropped in the deep end of the crazy pool, when you suddenly see the craziness that’s always surrounded you, the first impulse is to jump ship and run, get to somewhere safe and sane. Anissa had time to process all the weirdness gradually, one step at a time, on her own terms. Jennifer does not have that luxury, and when she learns that her family, her parents, kept such a huge secret, she is very upset.

It’s a bit of a reality check for Jeff when Anissa points out that his feelings towards Gambi are not entirely dissimilar to Jennifer’s feelings towards him. There are key differences, of course, but, basically, neither one told someone who loved and trusted them something that they should have, something important. It was partially for their own good, partially because there was no good time to tell them, but they really should have, at some point.

Jennifer is also unlike her father and sister in how she doesn’t feel driven to save the world. Heck, the last time she tried to, her boyfriend got paralyzed for it. She just wants to live a happy, normal life, complete with college, marriage, and children. And that’s no bad thing. One is not, and should not be, obligated to “save the world” just because they have some special advantage that they had no say in getting. Not all strong men are obligated to become soldiers, cops, and firemen, for instance.

This doesn’t mean Jennifer would never do some good with her life or even her power, but she doesn’t need to become a superhero. If that’s “squandering” her gift, then so be it, that’s her choice. But the gift comes with a burden, and right now Jennifer doesn’t even know if she’ll be able to have a husband or kids at all. Her life ought to belong to her to control, not her powers.

Jeff and Anissa are crusaders, and Anissa ought to have learned by now that power and righteous desire don’t make everything she does right. (we have huge disagreements, which I won’t get into) Heck, she hates even how her rising power and her rising fame are sometimes overlooked by guys who… well, they appreciate her fine, curvaceous figure, we shall say, but a bit more crudely than that. Then again, Jennifer found a fan club that loves her and does not go on about her looks, and that makes for a sweet moment between the two sisters.

Speaking of the crusade, Jeff and Anissa are able to get a location for the Green Light production lab, and screw the danger, they’re ending the spread of this poison in Freeland. Henderson shares that agenda, but they just learned that they literally can’t do anything on the books without their enemies hearing of it, a’la the minion who got duped into blowing himself and all the evidence of Black Lightning’s innocence to tiny pieces. So, Henderson takes some vacation for some off-the-books investigating, though he first asks Black Lightning, in the event of his death and the smearing of his name, that at least his wife be told the truth. A sober thought, that. Jeff was thinking something similar when he led his daughter into the fray, ordering her beforehand to forget him and get out alive if things go south.

Henderson’s path follows some gun-runners and dirty cops to the lab, while Jeff and Anissa got it out of a terrified lawyer. The super-vigilantes send everyone not interested in fighting running for their lives as they plow straight through the guards. Martin Proctor tried holding the scientist making the drug hostage, which was an amusing moment. Black Lightning isn’t your typical superhero, and he does not balk when the man making the poison that’s killing people is the best human shield Proctor can come up with. Henderson saves Black Lightning from a goon creeping up behind him and arrests the scientist and has evidence on dirty cops. Add that to the destruction of the lab and taking down both of the specially-armed assassins sent to kill him, and it’s a good night, for once, for the good guys. Unfortunately, Proctor managed to slip away, and so he’ll be coming back with a vengeance soon enough, but, for now, it’s a win.

And the night even ends with an honest heart-to-heart between Jeff and Jennifer, topped off with watching a Disney movie. Can it get any better?

Bonus moment: referencing Vixen and Supergirl, my reaction was, “See! See! Arrowverse connection!”

Gotham

4.15 “The Sinking Ship, the Grand Applause”

All the characters thrown in a box, and the box is shrinking.

You know, I didn’t think of this until someone else said it. Gotham has a lot of characters, and it does a really good job of making us care about these characters, every one. There’s no hierarchy of who we care about more, we care about all of them. They all have their own stories, and they’re all so human. This episode showed that rather brilliantly.

Starting off with Bruce and Selina, because theirs is the only part of the episode completely independent of all the others, Selina breaks into Bruce’s place, as per usual, to ask for some help. She says she wants some money so she can buy back from a fence what she stole from the family of the man Ivy killed a couple episodes ago. He agrees immediately. They go, they bond, they beat down a greedy man and his thugs, they get the jewelry back, and we ship them again. They are so cute together! 🙂

It’s after they have the goods that Selina shows her heart. She wants to give back what she took, but she can’t face the man’s family. He was murdered, horrifically, right in front of his wife and children, who were powerless to look away, and she’s part of that memory. Though she didn’t kill him, she feels the weight of guilt, and fears facing them again. That’s really why she went to Bruce, not for the money or even the backup, because she can’t give back what was really taken from this family.

We don’t see what they do, but Bruce tells her, sometimes even the littlest thing is enough.

Wanting to make things right is the running theme of this episode.

In the Narrows, Samson rules, beating down and murdering a man in front of his family and in public, and all Lee can do is watch. In the GCPD, Gordon and Bullock plan how to go after Sofia, as Bullock investigates the link between Sofia and the Pyg. And elsewhere in Gotham, the Riddler rescues Martine, setting a spark to Penguin’s plans for revenge against Sofia. It seems all of Sofia’s enemies are rising against her all at once, but the new queen of Gotham’s underworld sets her most vicious dogs on them: Zasz and Headhunter, who, apparently, survived, sans his right eye. The instant Sofia hears of Martine’s rescue, she sends the both of them to kill Penguin.

Fortunately, Bullock found from his source that Falcone trusted Penguin’s accountant, Mr. Penn, who apparently worked for him and Penguin and Sofia all at the same time, much like he gave a shadowy figure, Bruce, a list of crimes about to be committed. He survived by being of use to everyone. So, when Sofia’s dogs come after Penguin, Bullock, looking for Penn, happens to be there. He delays them just long enough for Riddler to spring Penguin, and everything becomes a mad scramble.

Riddler takes Penguin to Lee, looking for help, a power base to strike at Sofia from. Lee might be ousted with a smashed hand, but she still means to take down Sofia, and she has allies now to help her. So she directs Riddler to find Grundy, to get some mean muscle on their side. Small detail, Grundy is Butch again, not happy with Riddler. If it were Nygma he were dealing with, that might be one thing, but Riddler? No. He takes Riddler to Tabitha, giving her a chance for revenge and a promise to get back to his old self.

Barbara is apparently suffering from terrible headaches, but she still persuades Tabitha to give Riddler to Sofia. It’s good for them, giving Sofia something she wants, namely someone to interrogate to get to Penguin, and Riddler ends up dead anyway, but without the girls having to clean up the mess.

So, Sofia’s idea to kill Penguin didn’t work, and Lee’s idea to recruit Grundy didn’t work, and Bullock’s idea to get Penn’s location out of Penguin didn’t work. It’s all due to things beyond their control, but people’s ideas aren’t working very well this episode, are they?

Oh, but wait! Just as Penguin gets impatient and leaves Lee’s, Gordon and Bullock are arriving. They hold him and gunpoint and arrest him, and get Penn’s location from him. Unfortunately, Zasz and Headhunter arrive just in time to get in the way, with Gordon and Bullock refusing to get out of their way, and Lee stealing Penguin from both sides of the shootout.

So, one thing goes right: they get to Penn at this unique spa that lets people pretend to be babies again, which may be the single most unnerving thing I’ve seen on Gotham, actually. They get the info they need, but Sofia and her men show up right then, guns blazing.

It’s a very busy day for Sofia. In the morning, she had undisputed control of the city. Now her worst enemies are all biting at her, and they keep eluding her grasp. Riddler is turned over to her entirely without her own effort, but the man refuses to give up Penguin. His torture only ends when his backup plan turns out to be implemented by Lee and Penguin, namely having Freeze freeze Penguin and sell the block of ice to Sofia for a lot of money, but with a little something to break the ice apart and restore him fairly soon. Sofia thought she had Penguin, and had her goons take Riddler to the pier to kill him, and went after Penn herself the moment she had his location, looking to settle things with Gordon while she’s at it.

Penguin managed to get info out of the Dentist pretty quickly and sent Lee after Sofia, but elected to go save Riddler instead of getting revenge himself. It’s an interesting reconciliation between the two men after all they’ve done to and for each other. They’re back on the same side, it seems.

Gordon gets hurt taking a bullet meant for Penn, and sends Bullock to get Penn out while he draws Sofia and her men away. It mostly works, as Bullock succeeds and cops are already arriving. The two killers just can’t catch a break today, so they give up and go get milkshakes instead. Heh. Inside, Gordon fights with all the fury of a man willing to die for his redemption, for the city and the men and women under his command. He’s shot at least four times if I counted right, but takes out Sofia’s men. It’s only Sofia herself still standing, with Gordon at her mercy.

She’s obviously unhinged, making it all about what they could have been and how he’s robbing her of her revenge. She’s always been driven by her singular, self-centered goals. In her mind, her offer to let him live (as he bleeds out on the floor from multiple gun shots) if he begged for his life and her forgiveness was probably downright compassionate. He refuses. So, she aims for his head this time.

Lee arrives just in time. The one that Sofia never thought was a threat, and she wasn’t until she made her into one. Her sister-in-law, and former love interest of the man who killed her brother. Lee simply shoots her, once in the back to save Gordon, and once in the head for revenge. Then she manages to keep Gordon alive long enough for the medics to get there, even with only one hand to work properly with and multiple wounds to treat.

Gordon is actually surprised to wake up alive in the hospital. They apparently didn’t completely kill Sofia off, just put her in a coma. As for Gordon, he’s badly hurt, and he was willing to die. Now that he’s lived through taking her down, he intends to come clean and take responsibility for what he’s done. Oddly, it’s Bullock who talks him out of that. Paying for what he did needs to be about more than just being a martyr. True. Paying for what you’ve done sometimes means living with it, and the GCPD needs to keep their hero, so they can be heroes to the people of Gotham.

Gordon will just have to live with what he’s done. A victory for Sofia Falcone.

Lee wastes no time taking back the Narrows. Samson tried to beat the people there down after Lee tried to build them up, so it’s not even a question who they choose. In the same arena where he beat and killed a man earlier that day, Samson is beaten, soundly, in front of a cheering crowd. The crowd cheers all the harder as Lee descends and casts Samson out, but much more brutally this time. She has her guys hold his hand in place as she takes a heavy hammer to it in savage fury.

Most characters on the show have passed through darkness and done terrible things. It seems to be Lee’s turn. She was a healer before all of this, and look at her now, killing in cold blood and smashing a man’s hand without hesitation.

So, Bruce and Selina are reconnecting and making things a little more right, Penguin and Riddler are allies again, Gordon and Bullock are practically partners again, Sofia got shot in the head, Zasz and Headhunter are a fearsome duo, Butch wants to be all Butch again, and Lee is now barely recognizable as queen of the Narrows.

Oh, and Barbara’s headache is so severe that she can’t think of what to do even with Penguin and Riddler soon to come after them. Then her hand glows. And she see’s Ra’s al’Ghul’s specter approaching her. And becoming her.

Called it! I knew Ra’s would never actually go into death willingly, he had a plan to evade it and Barbara is unwittingly part of it. 🙂

Agents of Shield

5.15 “The Devil Complex”

How far is too far? When saving the world demands the Devil’s own deeds, is the man who does them good or evil? Can he even do these reprehensible things without becoming evil? Can the mind of a good man withstand doing abhorrent things that need to be done?

The episode begins with things continuing on as they were. Coulson takes a team to go after Hale while Mack tests out a prototype for Yo-Yo’s new arms, Yo-Yo wants to keep working as an agent even without her arms, Deke is starstruck by standing in the presence of his grandparents, Fitz is trying to find a way to refine gravitonium and save the world from the rift in the basement, and things in the Lighthouse are basically just rolling along. This includes a new aberration, in the form of that undead astronaut Simmons met on Maveth, the first face she saw Hive wear. It tries to choke her and it claws an agent, but she manages to shoot it in the head and it dissipates.

Fitz is going nuts trying to find some way to refine, through compression, the gravitonium from the Principia. Apparently, he hasn’t slept in awhile, which, yes, it’s difficult to do so when the world waits on your labors, but sleep is important. All a lack of rest can do is enhance one’s exhaustion and dull one’s edge. Or even help break one’s own cognition of oneself.

Deke comes to help Fitz with something, as he’s working on a robot, but Fitz turns and hits him on the head, knocking him out. He takes off the working clothes and we see Fitz from the Framework, the Doctor. Just as Fitz is checking for some digital copy of notes from the scientist who started the whole gravitonium thing, two cameras go out on a lower level and Daisy goes to check them, leaving Fitz alone to be approached by the Doctor.

Faced with his greatest, innermost, most terrifying fear, his dark side, Fitz assumes, as does everyone else, that it’s a fear-dimension aberration. But somehow, he doesn’t try to kill it, as he knows he ought to with such. The Doctor knows what’s in Fitz’s own head, and he talks about finishing their work, doing what needs to be done. Then Fitz hears a gunshot and runs off, finding Mack injured in Yo-Yo’s defense, a robot having come for her, cornering the two of them alongside Simmons. He realizes the Doctor is targeting Inhumans, so Daisy is in danger, and runs off after them.

Daisy, meanwhile, finds nothing whatsoever wrong with the camera, and she’s caught by surprise by a robot. Then she wakes up tightly secured to a table, the Doctor looming over her, talking about how her powers are what’s needed to save the world, to compress the gravitonium and seal the rift for good. There’s science to back up his claim, so, apologies for the lack of sufficient pain killers, but Quake is needed to save the world. He’s going to remove her inhbitor.

The moment he starts, as Daisy screams in pain, Fitz bursts in to try and stop him. Lots of words, the Doctor mocks him, screams that he’s weak, but still no physical touch… and Daisy, confused and scared and in pain but not blind, asks who he’s talking to.

Simmons arrives, having guessed from how Mack is injured instead of dead, what’s really going on here. Her arrival shatters the delusion. Fitz is standing there alone, in the Doctor’s place, talking to himself, or a hallucination of himself. When Fitz the saint was in control, the Doctor was the dark voice urging him on. When Fitz the Doctor was in control, Fitz’s conscience manifested as himself. His mind broke in the Framework, and what happened after, and far from being allowed to rest and heal, the pressure has mounted ever higher, from captivity, visiting a future where Earth is shattered, and the fight against the future, and finally the rift, which allows an excuse for an outward manifestation of the Doctor. And he does have a history of hallucination after Ward drowned him.

Fitz is brilliant, he sees things others don’t, realizes ideas others can barely comprehend, his creations have run amok and caused great destruction, he has done terrible things, and now his mind itself is divided.

Leopold Fitz is a mad scientist.

To save the world, they need to seal the rift. To seal the rift, they need the gravitonium compressed. Quake could do it, but Daisy would never voluntarily endanger the world like that, and Fitz, as his usual self, would never go against her wishes. So he put together a plan to force it on her, in a terrible violation, and he kept it secret even from himself. He got two salvaged robots up and running again, programmed them to restrain Daisy and keep the other agents at bay without seriously hurting them. He deactivated two cameras under the guise of looking something up, so Daisy wasn’t watching what he was doing, isolating her. And when Simmons’ presence broke the illusion, and he remembered what actually happened, with the Doctor suppressed, he had a backup plan to force himself to finish the job: a robot that held Deke hostage and pointed a gun at Simmons. Fitz might find it reprehensible, but the Doctor would do it.

Daisy is helpless, able only to scream in pain, and promise that she will never forgive Fitz for this. He knows that. And she won’t be the only one. He may never forgive himself. That’s the entire reason he conjured the Doctor in the first place.

But the job is done. What needs to be done, is done. He removes the inhibitor, and jumpstarts her powers with some adrenaline. She does as instructed, the rift is sealed, the robot deactivates, and Fitz surrenders, going into holding. He doesn’t trust himself anymore, because he knows, truly, that he and the Doctor are the same person, just with different lives behind them. He doesn’t deserve forgiveness for what he’s just done. He can’t stop fiddling with his wedding ring, because he feels he doesn’t deserve her either. And yet, the worst part of all, he still feels that it was right. It clearly worked, the day is saved. It’s merely that he couldn’t cope with it, so he fabricated this grand illusion to cover for his intended sins.

Simmons sides with Fitz, it was necessary, but she’s in a low place seeing him like that. He’s losing himself, which means she’s losing him too. Then Deke comes along and reassures her, talking about things he couldn’t possibly know about in the short time they’ve known him. And he tells her about his mother, talking about her parents, how her face was alight with love and admiration for her father, the best man she ever knew. He’s Fitz-Simmons’ grandson, so he knows they can be all right, even through the end of the world.

Then Simmons throws up. I’m guessing she’s pregnant already. 🙂

As for Coulson’s move against Hale, it seems to be going well at first. Piper, eager for some payback, coughed up Hale’s numbers quickly enough, so they hacked and tracked her and scooped her up. Hale and Coulson finally meet, and the woman makes an argument not so different from Fitz the Doctor’s about doing what must be done to save the world. But where the Doctor did something terrible, he still had some restraints. He didn’t hurt anyone he didn’t have to and he didn’t kill anyone. Hale, on the other hand, has turned her own daughter into a weapon, killed her own people, good people, just because they failed a few times to find people who weren’t there to be found, and she’s made a long career out of dealing with people like Baron Strucker of Hydra. She has no moral high ground here, no matter how she apologizes for Yo-Yo’s double amputation and blames Ruby for it.

And Hale didn’t get captured by Shield, she lured Shield to her. Her driver isn’t a robot, it’s Creel, turned to steel with a big bomb strapped to him. Hale let herself be “captured” in order to get to Coulson. She wants to bring him in on something, she says. Rather, she needs him for something. A small jet docks with the Zephyr, and the Russian, robotic, former-human leader of the Watch Dogs steps out, here to pick up Hale and Creel and Coulson. Hale has the Russian’s brain, and therefore his life, in her hands, so he belongs to her now. Oh, the irony of Creel wanting to bring Daisy to justice for shooting Talbot while working with the man who actually did shoot him. So, with a suitably strong position, Hale wants Coulson to come with her and learn what they’re really up against. Coulson agrees, much to May’s chagrin.

The last scene of the episode has Hale standing before a shadowy figure in the darkness, who refers to a Confederacy and giving her a seat at the table, before giving her a vial like Kasius used a few episodes ago, and saying “Hail Hydra.”

Ah. Crap.

I recall that one of Hydra’s leaders in the third season… I’m forgetting his name, but I think it was Malick or something like that… anyway, he said that Hydra was founded on the belief that the ultimate power was not of this world. Red Skull found the Tesseract, Strucker used Loki’s Scepter to create superhumans, Hydra experimented on Inhumans, Malick and Ward brought Hive back from its eternal banishment, and now that aliens have been established fact for a few years now, how much of a stretch is it really for Hydra to have gone interstellar at some point?

So, Quake is back, but Fitz, their most brilliant mind, has gone mad, and Hydra is not only back, but reaches to the stars and has Coulson, “the final piece.”

So not good!

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