…two? We had two shows from my lineup this week? Ah, it’s been so long! Wonderful!
(one of them is ending within ten episodes)
I am still happy! 🙂
The Gifted hit us hard yet again with the story that highlights the tragedy of old friends and loved ones who still love each other despite being on different sides. Meanwhile, Gotham returned for its concluding season with full force and plunged us into the madness that has engulfed the titular city.
2.10 “eneMy of My eneMy”
You know, it took me a moment to figure out what was so jarring and upending about John’s unrelenting pursuit of the Inner Circle in the previous episode. See, where Marcos, Clarice, and the rest have all been strong, yet unstable in some way, like air, water, or fire, John has been solid and steady as bedrock. He is part of the very foundations of the old Underground, holding it up despite being hammered down so many times. Now, what is more disconcerting to see move: air, water, fire… or earth? When John moved, he was as implacable as an earthquake, and that is why it was so distressing for his friends and the audience to see, because the ground was moving.
When the ground moves, everything breaks. Including the ground.
Turner has got himself a huge catch when the Purifiers take John prisoner. Not only is John a leader in the Underground, but Turner’s been after him, specifically, for years. Stan and the other Purifiers naturally want to commence with the torture and possible killing of John, their brand of interrogation and punishment of John for being a mutant, but Turner holds them back. He intends to break John slowly, like a master artisan carving stone away piece by little piece, chipping away.
He starts by trying to build a bond of similarity, which is a load of hogwash, considering how he is a leader of a hate group that preys on people who are different. Oh, sure, they’ve both bled and lost for their country, but John has actually kept to the faith in spite of everything, while Turner has only let himself be more and more consumed by his crusade and the pain from which it springs. Somewhere in his head, Turner thinks of the mutants as some massive organization which has deliberately taken his daughter, wife, and job from him, completely forgetting that he lost two of those because of his own behavior. Not to mention how he actually does lead massive organizations in the act of deliberately taking everything from mutants, and humans too, his fellow beings. John, by contrast, still dedicates his life to protecting and preserving the lives and freedoms of others.
There are similarities between these two men, including their strength of will and ability to take command, but there are also some decisive differences.
Turner is more clever than his Purfier friends, torturing John via his super-sensitive hearing instead of just applying power tools to his flesh. Instead of simply shattering John with pain, in a way that he might still withstand even until death, Turner wears him down, slowly, like water dripping on a rock, eroding it little by little, constantly, without respite. And it’s already working, even within the brief span they’re able to apply it. John reveals the truth of the Inner Circle, and his former comrades leaving the Underground to join them, because of what he sees as his own failure to make them believe the X-Men’s old dream of coexistence, peace, and prosperity.
Turner doesn’t believe it, but he does entertain the possibility.
So, naturally, just as Turner might start to believe in the Inner Circle, and the Underground’s conflict with them, and the truth that they have common enemies (which would indicate that they can be allies because they’re all human after all)… well, fate aligns so that he can keep believing what he already believes.
Having the ground torn out from under then, Marcos, Clarice, and the Struckers are off-balance, flailig for support, and so they grab the only thing they can to steady themselves. They reach out to the Inner Circle for help.
It’s a simple deal, trading a captured Fade for information on John’s whereabouts. Lorna’s a little hesitant, courtesy of the displeasure which will surely follow from Reeva, but not only is it a good deal, and a chance to strike at the Purifiers, but Lorna isn’t so removed from the friend she once was to John and Marcos.
This episode’s flashback featured the three of them playing a game of pool at a bar, three years earlier. It was at this game that John revealed that they might as well reveal the secret, that they’re a couple, because he can hear their heartbeats around each other, and he can hear them whispering across the room like they did when he went to get the beers at the bar. Secret’s out anyway, so they might as well. It’s a cute, humorous moment among the trio, and John has know problem with their relationship. It is simply that the day will come when they’re in trouble and they need to trust each other absolutely. When that day comes, they will stand together.
Now the day has come that John needs help, and Lorna chooses to be there for him. Whatever their differences, they’re still friends, even if they’re also enemies at times, too.
Andy comes with, without pause, and even nudges Lorna into doing so. They come with a location, with armored jeeps and bulletproof jackets, and a little bit of hope. Lorna knows they can’t agree, and so they can’t entirely reunite, but Andy is hopeful for reconciliation, at least. Cait and Reed are both ecstatic to see their son, though Lauren is more reserved and standoffish. She knows something’s up, as she felt his emotions when he visited her dream the previous night. He’s sad and lonely and wants to reach out to his family, most of whom are welcoming.
The Struckers ride in one jeep, catching up and grinning like old times, while Clarice has to watch the smoldering tension between Lorna and Marcos in the other. They make like they hate each other, but that’s a cheap and distracting facade. They love each other even when they’re on opposing sides, and now that they’re rescuing a friend together, it’s only a matter of time before they reveal what’s underneath the facade.
Either way, they get to the Purifier compound, scout the area, and plan. They don’t have anti-mutant devices, but they do have a lot of guns and a minefield. Simple defenses require a simple plan: to quote Bulletproof Monk, “misdirection and speed.” Lorna and Marcos create a diversion by attacking one side of the compound while Clarice gets Andy and Lauren in on the other side, past the minefield, to enter, find John, get out, and roll over anyone still in the way.
It goes surprisingly smoothly. Marcos and Lorna are well-matched, and the two halves of Fenris are working together again like two halves of a whole. The Purifiers basically stand no chance, so they get in, grab John, who has just been savaged by an unhinged Turner’s shotgun-enabled rage, and get out. The worst thing that happens is when one Purifier takes a shot at them as they’re leaving, and Andy, in full view of his parents as they stand by the getaway vehicles, lets loose his anger.
Part of it may be his own conflicted feelings about Rebecca, which he almost told Lauren everything about, but he’s also a brother angry on behalf of his sister. And he’s lost almost all of what little restraint he once had, courtesy of his time with the Inner Circle. So, he basically twists the man’s limbs, one by one, inflicting as much pain on his enemy as he can, which is stupid if only for the time it wastes, not to mention the hatred behind it. Lauren is barely able to pull him back before he kills the man, and Andy does not like the looks his family gives him after their out.
Most disconcerting, to me, is how happy he was afterward. Much like how Rebecca smiled after murdering thirty-seven people. That darkness has indeed taken root in Andy now.
When his family looks at him, perhaps he sees that darkness for just a moment. Either way, he can’t handle it. He spouts off how the Inner Circle are the good guys and the humans are the bad guys and anyone who is an enemy needs to be wiped out. He’s deflecting, trying to justify himself when he knows he did something very wrong. He, like the Purifiers, is trying to oppose something bad, but without trying to be good. It’s a common, and devastating, mistake.
So, the Struckers end on a sour note after rescuing John. Cait and Lauren are pretty much set on destroying the Inner Circle now, as the only means they have to get Andy back. Somehow, I don’t think they’ve thought that one through. Andy is part of the Inner Circle, and boys generally do not respond well to having their clubs destroyed as a means of supposedly saving them.
Meanwhile, Lorna kisses Marcos (surprise: none) before going back to the Inner Circle, on opposite sides again.
In the end, Clarice is tending John’s injuries, which are pretty bad, Marcos and Lorna love each other but they’re enemies, Cait and Reed are using the medication they stole and do not have a limitless supply of, Andy and Lauren are both trying to get stronger, with Lauren also getting more aggressive to match her brother, and Turner, coming apart at the seams and disbelieving the existence of the Inner Circle, has a number of badly hurt Purifiers to fuel their war against mutants.
The battle lines, they are being drawn.
Though, one detail… six thousand mutant convicts? That’s it? Somehow, I expected quite a bit more than that. I mean, how many did they grab just a couple of episodes ago? And they’ve been at this for years! And there’s only six thousand of them? Sheesh, the humans are still outnumbering the mutants by tens or even hundreds of thousands to one! And Reeva thinks they have a chance with those odds? They are so screwed!
5.01 “Year Zero”
The final season begins at day 391 (if I remember right) of No Man’s Land, well over a year after the bridges were destroyed. Gordon, Bullock, Penguin, and Riddler all do their own rituals to ready themselves, though Bullock leaves his drink untouched, before they gather to lead a ragtag group of defenders of a great wall into battle against an encroaching part of… soldiers?! With a tank?! What?!
Obviously, we have some ground to cover here!
Back at Day 89 (if I remember right), Gordon gives the audience some exposition while begging the government to send help. The city has been carved up by the villains and other gangs, each bit of ground going to whoever is strong enough to hold it. Penguin is in City Hall, dining fairly well in the safety of his citadel whilst the people laboring to make bullets in his factory are starving and dying. Barbara and the Sirens control an area around the club, allowing men to live only if they purchase time, and they’re the only ones who have enough food and booze. Scarecrow has his own territory, Freeze and Firefly are at war with each other, and so on. As for Gordon, he has a few dozen officers trying to protect and provide for a hundred and fifty refugees. And that’s just what they know about, there are probably a whole lot more people in need everywhere in the city.
They need help, but they’re not getting any. Which is odd. Which indicates that there is something actively working against them.
As Penguin has the bullets, he’s able to trade with others, even people who hate him. Barbara, for instance, who fully intends to help Tabitha kill him. But they need his bullets, so they’ll trade premium stake for it. Both warlords, Penguin and Barbara, are dealing with the hassle of ruling and making things work as they want when they hear something. Something unusual. Something significant.
Gordon’s people are in desperate need of supplies, and that need gets even more dire after Scarecrow makes a raid on their supplies. He gasses a guard to get in. (take note: stand either far enough back or far enough up, but certainly far enough away, to not get gassed while on guard duty… and never be complacent when you’re in the middle of the end of the world) Once inside, his people steal food and medicine. In the former case, he clashes with Gordon directly, but neither can get a killing blow in before he escapes. In the latter case, his people meet Bruce, who has night-vision goggles. Good in the dark, but a terrible weakness when the lights come back on all at once. They get away clean with what they came for.
With maybe a week of supplies left, Bruce takes drastic action.
Admittedly, he’s not thinking only of the good of others. He’s thinking of Selina.
It turns out, she was not among the last ones out of the city that night the bridges blew. They didn’t make it out at all. All this time, she’s been in the clinic, cut off from the proper healthcare outside the city. She’s in pain, terrible pain, crippled, her condition deteriorating, and crying. We even find her wishing that she’d been flat-out killed, and trying to commit suicide.
Bruce bears terrible guilt over this, which Selina does not help because Jeremiah shot her in order to get to him. She’s not in her right mind, of course, but that does little to dull the agony.
With a portion of Selina’s medicine stolen, Bruce pulls strings and gets a supply helicopter into the city. It will probably only work the one time, the government won’t allow a repeat performance, but it’s something. The sound of those whirring chopper blades is a sound of hope for some, and opportunity for others.
They ought to have just landed on the GCPD roof, but they venture on to another landing zone… and get hit with an RPG out of nowhere.
I’m thinking that was due to the same mysterious party which has been preventing the federal government from helping them.
The pilot ought to be credited for a landing which spared the supplies from destruction, but even if he managed to survive that, I doubt he survived the gangs descending on the supplies like locusts. One gang gets it first, only for Penguin to come in and slaughter them, with Gordon hot on his heels, and Tabitha taking the chance to strike at Penguin the first moment he’s left his fortress in months. It’s bloody, just shy of pandemonium, with everyone taking losses.
Bruce came sneaking along to help, of course, and a good thing, because he intercepts some ammunition from a truck out back just as Gordon and his boys run out. Even so, lives are lost, including Tabitha.
That, I am just going to say, was rather poorly done. Tabitha is an incredible fighter, without any physical handicaps, so for Penguin to be able to just stab her like that? That’s pretty thin, I say.
Barbara is devastated. She vows, with no restraint of rationality left, to kill Penguin. She fails right then, but survives partially due to the timely intervention of Gordon, with fresh bullets. He gets close, using Penguin’s belief that he doesn’t have any bullets against him. Then he shoots Penguin in the leg, saving Barbara and taking the supplies.
It’s a sound victory for the good guys, but they’ve no time to rest on their laurels. They haven’t made any friends, and now a little boy comes to them, begging the police to save his brothers and sisters on the other side of the city. Everyone looks to Gordon, and it’s a sober moment. He says, simply, that they stayed for the promise they represent, that when people are in trouble, help will come. They, the GCPD, will come.
They’re cops, and they have work to do.
Additionally, I’m fairly certain that was this show’s version of Harley Quinn which sneaked into the GCPD and drew on Gordon’s map. The original No Man’s Land storyline had the Joker waiting awhile before making a move, and Jeremiah seems to be doing the same.
Gordon sees the map when he answers the radio. Some lady (was that Lee?) saying he has allies across the river, but refusing to identify them.
Bruce may be officially welcome among Gordon’s people now, as Gordon makes it clear that he’s earned it, so he doesn’t need to sneak around, but it’s Selina who’s most on his mind. After her suicide attempt, Bruce is at his lowest and most vulnerable. When a creepy nurse says the doctors can’t help her, that she needs “the witch,” he asks where he can find this witch.
That… is not going to go well.
This is a painful moment, but… well, it’s kind of part of the process. That may sound callous, but the pain that one feels at any given moment is not eternal. There’s an end to it, typically one besides the release of death. One has to let it run its course without trying to take a shortcut. Shortcuts can be very, very dangerous, especially in Gotham.
So, it’s basically the apocalypse in Gotham, everyone fighting to hold on to what they have or avenge what they’ve lost, and familiar faces, people we’ve known for years now, are falling in battle.
Oh, and Riddler keeps waking up in strange places. He assumes it’s his other identity, Ed, but has no idea what’s going.