This Week on TV, Feb. 16, 2019

Spoiler Alert!

Between Gotham and The Gifted, this was a pretty potent week. More so on The Gifted as disaster strikes again, ever harder and harder. Gotham was pretty pointed, but it also felt like… I dunno, maybe like things were rushed or someone was resting on their laurels of how epic they are, so why bother with the details, eh? Still, it was fun, and with only a few episodes left in the series, it certainly isn’t slowing down!

The Gifted

2.14 “calaMity”

What is the most dangerous thing to any regime, especially a tyranny? Dissension within the ranks. It does not matter if that dissension is peaceful, open, or even deliberate, it sows doubt and may fester into defiance and disobedience. Reeva intends to turn mutants into her regime, and so any significant force among them which does not conform to her will must be eliminated. What little is left of the Underground has been severely crippled, and now it’s the Morlocks’ turn.

The connection between Reeva and Ryan, Inner Circle and Purifiers, is explained. He runs the Purifiers now, but he was just another has-been nobody just a few years ago. Then Reeva came to him with an offer, and the Inner Circle made him what he is, and thus, she has the Purifiers on her puppet strings now, not only stoking the hatred which fuels her army, but using them to further her own agenda. The Purifiers serve a mutant. How hilarious is that?

Reeva selects Turner for the job of leading the Purifiers in wiping out the peaceful families who hide in sewers and do nothing worse than steal what they need to survive. The Morlocks seem to be an open secret, but also something of a legend, like a ghost which no one could ever quite catch hold of. Despite the pronounced lack of violence committed by the Morlocks (not like that ever stopped Turner from hunting the Underground and every other mutant in the country), Ryan sells the Morlocks to Turner as terrorists, and tasks him with taking a team into the sewers to wipe them out. Turner hesitates, not out of any concern for the mutants as people, but because it’s virtually guaranteed that some of the men he takes down there will die, which does not sit well with him. But Ryan, again at Reeva’s direction, offer Turner a juicy reward for a job well done: the chance to run Sentinel Services however he likes, morphing it from what it is into what he envisions it could be.

Classic use of both the carrot and the stick.

So Turner talks to his people, and does  not mince words. He makes it clear that this is dangerous, going into the dark to hunt “monsters” on their own turf. He admits that he’s scared, but he’s going anyway. So he seems to be straight with the Purifiers while relating to them and demonstrating the same courage he’s asking for. It works, a good team’s worth of men volunteer, and they suit up. Most of the Purifiers will surround the exits (thank you, Clarice, for being available for evacuations!), but a few good men… make that a few capable men… will go in and slaughter everyone they see “for their daughter, grandson, father, country, species, future, etc.”

One of Turner’s volunteers is Stan, the guy who recruited him, and who successfully murdered a teenager in a youth home because Turner had his back. He’s keen on returning the favor, because even murderers can have a sense of honor and this is how they tell themselves that they aren’t monsters, but Turner is reluctant. In his place, I’d say Stan ought to hang back just in case something happens to Turner himself, so they still have someone to lead them. Then again, were I in Turner’s place, I  probably would have just left Stan to burn for murdering a kid anyway, so what do I know? He takes Stan with them.

Hm, it occurs to me that Turner doesn’t have many friends, but Stan probably qualifies as the best one he has right now.

The Morlocks detect the intrusion easily enough, and their defenses hold for a moment, purchasing precious time. But Turner is crafty and has much experience hunting mutants, and he has an actual map of the tunnels to work with. When things start going bad, he rallies his men capably and leads them, with dissension silenced, further into the fray. Erg and his people handle themselves well, and with some skill, as they are in their element. They’re also not entirely stupid, using Clarice to evacuate everyone who can’t fight. But against a troop of armed humans, and especially Turner, it’s just not enough. The Morlocks make just a couple of critical errors, mostly in their overconfidence and falling for a few of Turner’s tricks. Blood  is shed on both sides, but it is the humans who win the day in a terrible slaughter.

This is the flip side of the truth which Erg, Clarice, and the Morlocks have devoted themselves to. They were right: the fight above ground was not their concern, and they were able to freely be themselves underground, and sometimes fighting with John’s zeal is stupid more selfish than it seems. But they were also wrong: the Inner Circle was their enemy all along, and in failing to stop them earlier, they were just waiting their turn to be slaughtered, even if they didn’t realize it. Clarice was right about fighting for a lost cause, but she was also wrong, because the fighting for the lost cause is about fighting for the people, and she does not hesitate to help people now.

On which note, they could have utilized her abilities more effectively. Seriously, her portals are perfectly capable of being used on both sides, so they could have evacuated twice as fast as they did. Even with having to take a moment to convince some of the more reluctant and afraid, as with the child whom she confesses that this (not the Underground) is the first place she has truly belonged. Mind you, they did need to pace themselves a little, but they didn’t all need to be taken in vehicles, ya know?

Speaking of, Clarice called Marcos for help instead of John, but she got them both, and the Struckers as well, anyway. It’s a potent personal powder keg of emotions that they’re dealing with, but John makes himself clear. He’s angry, very much so, that Clarice left, and joined the Morlocks. He understands a bit of Marcos’ anger towards Lorna in that light. But, even so, he is not a man to hold a grudge against her just for doing what she believes she must. He loves her, and he will always be there for her. Anytime she needs help, she calls him, and he comes. It’s that simple. Simple, and powerful.

It had to be like Hell, watching Clarice go back into danger to get everyone else out, knowing what might happen. But that’s the thing about heroes. It may be fear, or despair, or loss, or lust for power, but everyone has a darkness within them. Heroes face their darkness head-on, without hiding from it or lying about it.

Lauren Strucker, in that light, is a wonderful hero. As the serum works its way through her system, suppressing her power and her darkness both, she is suffering both physically and psychologically, even spouting German at some point like someone possessed. Not pleasant.

Her suffering, her darkness made manifest, sparks intense conversation between her parents, and Cait is very unhappy with the situation, least of all because of her inadvertent contribution to it. She has to recognize that, and she does, heeding this remarkable wake-up call, this live demonstration of her own darkness having taken root in her daughter. She’s remorseful, sorry for what she’s done, seeing that she took things too far, perhaps partially because she’s the only non-mutant of the group.

When the call to help the Morlocks comes through, the Struckers don’t hesitate, and Lauren insists on coming along. The serum can’t last forever, and even if it could, she intends to face the darkness head-on. She’s aware of it now, and that gives her an advantage. Heh, reminds me of those stories where a monster is subdued once its name is known. Knowledge is power, and to know what you are dealing with is to gain power over it.

Seeing his daughter facing their family’s darkness inspires Reed to do the same. It’s not only children who learn from their parents, after all, and Reed has spent too long trying to run and hide from the situation. No more. He’s going to face it head-on and that will be that.

First, however, they have a crisis to deal with. They cram everyone they can into as many cars as they have, with the rest fleeing on foot even as cops are closing in all around them.

The Purifiers may have been unsteady for a moment, but in that critical moment, they rallied and set a trap, which the Morlocks, overconfident on their own turf, fell into. The attack team was slaughtered to a man, with no ready defense left to be engaged. So it’s an all-out evacuation as the last defenders purchase as much time as possible, every second bought with their blood, their lives… their deaths.

Erg stands forth as the protector of his people, but Turner’s cunning guides the fanatical Purifiers on, and the Morlocks fall in a hail of bullets. He’s the last man standing, his friends dead all around him. But everyone else gets out, Erg carrying the last one, a little girl, through Clarice’s portal, shielding her with his own body. Clarice, now known as Blink, is the last one… and she’s shot in the back before she gets out.

She’s so close. So close to escape, to safety, to John. A little of her blood stains the ground on the other side, but she falls, and the portal closes with the end of her life.

This show does not take it easy on its heroes.

And Turner is there, standing amidst mutant corpses, with a few of his comrades hurt or dead, victorious… holding a teddy bear, fallen from a little girl’s hand, with an “M” on its cheek.

Congratulation, Turner. Another massacre of innocent people who offered you no harm. Well done. May your Hell be especially warm. I imagine it will feel that way if he ever discovers the truth of what he just did and what he’s always done.

The Morlocks are driven and scattered with no real refuge to go to, hunted above ground now, where there is nowhere to hide. Erg and the Underground are all they have left, and they all just lost another of their best.

About the only good news is that Lorna’s cover isn’t blown just yet, but even that came at a price.

Reeva suspected a traitor after the disappearance and death of one of their number, and she took appropriate measures, but she wasn’t quite thorough enough in her investigation. Everyone was on edge, and Lorna was trying to not die, but Reeva and the Frosts got the wrong girl. It turns out, they can’t really read Sage’s mind, so her innocence can’t be proven once they find that how her login was used. Reeva, being Reeva, doesn’t hesitate: she kills Sage outright with her power.

And now Lorna has to live with how her actions didn’t cost her life, but the life of a friend.

And things are still coming to a head. With the finale coming up, we have fleeing Morlocks, fallen friends, Cait shooting at cops and plowing her car between their cruisers, Lauren and Reed pledging to face their dangerous powers head-on, and Reeva’s terrible plot soon to come to fruition. The Inner Circle has devastated their opposition and holds all the cards… with exception to one or maybe two aces in the hole.

This is going to be explosive.

Gotham

5.06 “Stitches”

We’ll start off on Penguin’s side of things. It’s much shorter and simpler.

Penguin comes home from somewhere to find a thief in his vault. She’s a crazy little thing, this Magpie, steals a large diamond and leaves Penguin a replica that explodes. He’s not exactly happy about this, so he goes to the best thief he knows for help: Selina.

Selina is not enjoying her newfound celebrity status as the girl who supposedly killed Jeremiah. Now every punk and thug on the streets wants to take her down just to beef up their own street cred. Stupid, of course, because 1) killing Jeremiah ought to give her a free pass anywhere and unlimited free drinks, after what he’s done to Gotham, and 2) anyone who could kill that clown and walk away from it is clearly not to be taken lightly.

Penguin sees that bit for himself in the form of two guys fleeing in screaming terror, sans a finger from each of them. And here I didn’t think he could really get unsettled by something like that, after everything he’s already done.

Selina is reluctant at first, partially out of self-interest, and partially because he killed Tabitha, her mentor. He convinces her to overlook that second part by appealing to her principles of an eye for an eye. Tabitha killed his mother, so he took revenge. Mind you, I seem to recall said revenge first involving killing his own friend, Butch, first, so the scales ought to be balanced against Penguin now anyway, but moving on. As for getting something out of it, Selina wants the diamond in exchange for her help, and she holds Penguin’s reputation hostage for it. Either she gets it, or Magpie gets away with stealing from him. He agrees.

They find Magpie, but this is a criminal in Gotham we’re talking about: she has tricks up her sleeve. In particular, anything in the midst of her treasure horde could be a bomb. She slips out and locks them in.

During the impromptu time out, Selina luxuriates on a chair and puts some things together. Why does Penguin’s diamond, and the horde she realizes he has, matter so much? It’s not worth much on Gotham, so obviously Penguin means to leave Gotham. Evidently, he feels that there is nothing left for him to do in a city he’s conquered multiple times. I would disagree, especially now that it needs rebuilding, but whatever, he’s leaving. Selina doesn’t want to stay in they city either, not with everyone wanting to kill the woman who killed Jeremiah. So, a deal is struck: she gets them out of Magpie’s lair, and he helps her leave the city, with ten percent of his fortune. (she wanted half)

You know how the simple solutions are sometimes the best? Selina fulfills her part of the bargain, securing safe passage out of Gotham and a small fortune for herself, by kicking the door open. Magpie never said it was booby-trapped, after all. Heh, you go, Selina! 🙂

Back to Penguin’s vault they go, to find that Magpie has been hit with a trap that Penguin set up before he left to pursue her. She’s helpless in the ground, a round of buckshot in her. Penguin kills her without a second thought, which shocks Selina (huh, they both surprise each other, and they’re oddly equals), but her new partner is her way out, so, she’s not keen to press the issue.

And now, back over to… everyone else.

Gordon is on the run…

ADD Moment: it suddenly strikes me, how has Gordon stayed in a suit this entire time after Gotham’s fall into ruin and chaos? Seems a little impractical to be running for one’s life or living in a war zone in a suit and tie, ya know?

…with puppet-Nygma in hot pursuit. Gordon’s injured, they scuffle, and with how precise and efficient his movements are now, while he’s under control, I can see how he’d slaughter entire gangs single-handed. Nygma never moved like that before. But Gordon gets some working refibrillator paddles and electrocutes the Riddler back to his senses (or what qualifies as such for someone like him).

ADD Moment: when did Gordon learn about electricity shorting out the chip?

With Riddler back to himself, the two men go for some desperately-needed help.

Back at the GCPD, it takes Bruce and Alfred about two seconds to realize something is badly wrong. Bruce notices that it’s just a bunch of soldiers cleaning house, rather than any incoming shipments of supplies. Alfred notices the tattoo which indicates which unit this is, and remembers from his military career that this troop is better at assassinations and upending regimes than relief missions. They dare to voice some questions that the soldiers find inconvenient, so they’re escorted somewhere out of sight… and before they get shot or some some such, they strike first and make their escape.

Eduardo, soon to be Bane, catches up to Gordon at Barbara’s place. She gives her help freely, with some tension between her and Gordon that Riddler wisely removes himself from proximity to, and just in the nick of time. When the soldiers come in, Riddler makes an entrance, pretending to still be under control. Some unspoken teamwork and quick thinking, and they’re safely out, with Eduardo’s team taking the losses.

ADD Moment: ok, these elite soldiers can’t hit three targets that are standing still, and they fail to pursue a trio that has just a couple of pistols between them?

Back to GCPD again, where Eduardo wants every man on the hunt for Gordon. To keep their prisoners compliant enough not to need guards, he “moves to Phase 2.” He executes a random pair of criminals, and when Bullock objects, all of the cops are locked up with the criminals. Now that manpower is no longer an issue, Eduardo uses his ace in the hole: a hostage with a bag over her head is brought in. And that answers the question of Lee’s whereabouts.

Of course, we can see it coming a mile away that she has a chip in her head, too. Strange patched both her and Riddler up, she’s been missing, she has no memory, yeah, easy to see coming. But we’ll get there in just another moment.

Bruce and Alfred got together with Gordon, Barbara, and Riddler, and they brought Fox with them to remove the chip. Amusing word salad ensues, but it goes well. Fox analyzes it immediately and finds audio recordings of the orders Riddler was given, which traces right back to Walker. It’s a bit frazzled with the chip’s damage, but workable, easy to make public. Well, if they have an antenna, which, the only one they know is at the GCPD.

When Eduardo calls Gordon with his hostage, Gordon turns it into an opportunity. He lures Eduardo and his escort away, thinning the guard at the precinct. Riddler walks in with a bomb suit and a fake bomb, keeping everyone busy and in suspense while the rest of the team is working. Bruce rewires a panel on the roof, taking out a guard in the process, to reverse the direction the fans are blowing, allowing the others to gas the entire troop all at once. It goes off mostly without a hitch, except that Bullock solves Riddler’s thrown-together riddle, not knowing he’s actually an ally an not an enemy at the moment, and nearly gets them all killed. Seriously, the one time his knowledge of something not generally well known comes in handy is the one time it’s counterproductive. Heh.

Gordon and Eduardo fight, of course, and Gordon wins…

ADD Moment: did they have to rush this episode or something? Because it feels like there’s a bunch of ways that they didn’t even try. The fight between these two warrior and former comrades, for instance. There was an emotional intensity, but the physical intensity was a bit lackluster, ya know?

Gordon wins, leaves Eduardo impaled, and takes Lee to the precinct. They broadcast the truth to Bruce’s media contacts outside Gotham, and the ball starts rolling so quickly that Walker herself shows up that very evening, complete with a mask for Eduardo to turn him into Bane.

It turns out, she found him in a remote prison hellhole, the only one among Gordon’s old comrades to survive it, and survive having been abandoned by their government. She got him out and he became her warrior. They were close to convincing the higher ups to let them storm the city and purge the criminals from it, but then Haven convinced them to hold off on that and just start sending in supplies, so they blew up Haven. There’s some kind of mission, some objective that they mean to fulfill. No idea what it is. But for having burned them, Walker activates Lee’s chip, with instructions to kill Gordon.

Lee is just trying to piece together her memory and come to terms with what’s been going on in her absence in order to help Gordon and Gotham through the crisis at hand. The chip activates, and, rather satisfyingly after we all saw it coming, Gordon shocks it within moments and that is that.

After, while they’re all trying to figure things out, Barbara comes in and tells Gordon she’s pregnant with his baby.

awkward!

Finally, while Alfred is out fetching supplies for a night over at the precinct, he suddenly feels an encroaching danger. Jeremiah still gets the drop on him and takes him to Wayne Manor. He says something abut this being a big day, and the episode ends.

So, it seems like a pretty solid win for the good guys, but don’t be counting the bad guys out just yet.

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