Mary Poppins Returns… and…?

Mary Poppins Returns is best enjoyed, I think, right on the heels of Mary Poppins, the better for the magic of the latter to make up for the flaws of the former, and for the sequel to enhance the importance of the events in the original. At least, that’s my experience with it.

I was not going to see this one in theaters. I mean, it seemed like it would be perfectly nice, as movies go, but the trailers left me vastly underwhelmed. Still, my mother had her heart set on it, and, being my mother, held Aquaman over my head to extort me into going with the rest of the family. And she wonders where I get my ruthless cunning. 😉

Either way, I went, and now I can confidently credit both the positive and negative things I’d heard about it. On the one hand, it is a rekindling of childhood wonder, and it offers some light to the world, which I always appreciate. On the other… oh, boy, where to begin.

It must be said, straight up, that there is no escaping a compare/contrast between the two film, so I am not even going to try.

Mary Poppins tells an enchanting, musical tale, albeit in a roundabout way with what amounts to a series of shorts sewn together, of a man named George Banks, as he learns about the things he’s missing in life, like joy, cheer, and the childhood of his children.

Mary Poppins Returns tells a more cohesive story, albeit with some digressions, of George Banks’ children, Jane and especially Michael, when they’ve grown to adulthood and lost that sense of wonder they once knew. Michael has become a widower with three children to raise, and an old family home about to be repossessed by the bank unless he can conjure up the means to repay an entire loan within a week. The combination of circumstances has sucked much of the joy out of Michael Banks and his family. Thus, here comes Mary Poppins herself, returned to help them at a time of financial crisis by bringing some joy and imagination back into their lives, and, with it, some solace as well.

It’s not the worst of ideas. Though it seems entirely impractical, it proves oddly, and indirectly, effective. The children learn to dream of impossible things and pursue them with determination, and, through them, so do the adults. It’s not much, but it makes the difference at a pivotal moment.

Mary Poppins, it would seem, is a conniving genius with godlike serendipity on her side.

Speaking of, while Emily Blunt could never properly duplicate Julie Andrews’ rendition of the titular magical nanny, her version of Mary Poppins is more parental and clear in her emotions, at least for the audience. It’s not much, really, just a look, an expression, an intonation of words, but she’s not nearly so stoic and seemingly unfeeling. There’s no question, really, that she truly cares for the Banks family. She just doesn’t crow about it.

Then we have Jack, this movie’s version of Bert, a humble lamplighter in London. As he helps the Banks alongside Mary Poppins, and stands as a romantic interest for Jane, it feels incredibly poetic for him to be a humble keeper of the light, responsible for brightening the darkness. There’s no wondering why Lin-Manuel Miranda was cast as Jack, as he’s fit, particularly handsome, and can carry a tune. Also, he does his own thing instead of attempting to compete with the legendary Dick Van Dyke, but, even then, feels a bit like a cardboard cutout.

As for the rest of the cast, Michael was relatable as a man struggling to do right by his family in the wake of a great loss, but Jane was mostly just there, and this despite being both Michael’s sister and Jack’s romantic interest. The new generation of Banks children were adorable but a bit wooden, so much that I barely remember their names… not to mention jarring in how grown-up the older two behaved in comparison to their slightly-younger brother. As for the villains, we had a head banker with two particular subordinates, one nasty and the other nice, who was just set on foreclosure and repossession, to the exclusion of other options completely.

My favorite moment of the film was easily Dick Van Dyke’s minor role towards the end of the film. His was probably the best performance of the entire movie, quickly endearing and effective. Through him, the two movies and the magic of both are bound together, especially as an unremarked legacy of the first movie proves to be the salvation of the Banks family in the second.

What was easily the least enjoyable part of the movie was actually the music. Where the first Poppins movie may have had an arguable overabundance of songs, the sequel definitely does. Where the songs of the first movie were charming, catchy, and easily understood, the sequel’s soundtrack is dominated by songs which are anything but. I would not have believed that a single movie could have so many mediocre, annoying, unending songs that muddle together so perfectly and defy lyrical comprehension entirely. Seriously, most any song in Mary Poppins is annoying difficult to forget, but in Mary Poppins Returns, they’re annoying difficult to keep up with, and, for that matter – hang on, did they actually just have Mary Poppins herself sing about a naked woman in a children’s movie?! – just plain annoying.

I recall a scene from a science fiction television show where a chatty complainer keeps interrupting an alien while he’s working and the alien finally just looks straight at him and says, “Stop. Talking. Please. Thank you.”

I felt a bit like that. “Stop. Singing. Please.”

And what was with Mary Poppins standing back at the climax and letting dozens of men risk their lives climbing a tower only to float up and finish the job at the last moment? And always taking her eyes off the Banks children and letting them get into trouble? And… you know what? I’ll just stop there.

Overall, Mary Poppins Returns is a “good” film, but not really “great.” It tries to do good things, of course, and there’s just a little bit of magic there to be found, in smaller, quieter ways than one needs endless dancing and singing for. It tells a story, a generally good one, but doesn’t quite stand alone on its own two feet. It may have too many moving parts, too many minor characters fluffing things up, but it still strives towards something simpler and more enchanting (and just trips a lot on the way).

In short… it’s a perfectly nice movie, as movies go, just a bit underwhelming. 😉

Rating: 7 stars out of 10.

Grade: B-Minus.

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The Rise of Aquaman

Well, that was a fun ride!

And that is my first official comment on Aquaman. Freed from the burden of Snyder’s relentless, joy-sucking need for everything to be DARK and EPIC, the DCEU is getting to be a lot more fun these days, and I like it! 🙂

As the latest adddition to DC’s Extended Universe, Aquaman actually doesn’t have much to compete with, really. Man of Steel had issues, but it wasn’t terrible, unlike Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Wonder Woman was fantastic, but stands out as their best yet, easily beating out both Suicide Squad and Justice League. In that light, it might not say much, really, but, for what it’s worth, Aquaman is one of DC’s better movies, I would say.

Aquaman, aka Arthur Curry, is the king of Atlantis in the universe of DC Comics, and his movie tells the story of how he came to be said king. Portrayed by Jason Momoa (of Stargate: Atlantis and Game of Thrones fame), Arthur is a unique character caught in between worlds. He is of royal blood but humble birth, a strong man who is constantly out of his element even when he’s in it. The product of a forbidden love, he has no interest in the affairs of the world, especially wanting nothing to do with Atlantis, yet he feels compelled to help when he comes across trouble. He is an unrefined brute, more at home carousing with fellow ruffians than he is in a grand hall or arena, yet courteous and aware of those around him. He is, in short, a fleshed-out character, and wildly entertaining.

They did good casting Momoa as Aquaman. 🙂

Starring opposite Momoa are Amber Heard as Mera, a princess and the obvious romantic interest, and Patrick Wilson as Orm, Arthur’s half-brother, ruler of Atlantis who intends to conquer the seas and then use that consolidated military might to wipe out the humans on land. These three truly carry the film, with phenomenal support from such actors as Nicole Kidman, Dolph Lundgren, and even Julie Andrews (voicing a terrifying monster). Willem Dafoe comes off as a bit wooden, but that might simply be the stoicism of his character. Either way, it was critical to cast the central three characters as perfectly as possible, and they hit it out of the park all three times. Momoa, Heard, and Wilson bring a believable depth to three characters who are a bit more complex than they look.

For basically just going from Point A to Point B, there’s a lot that goes on in this movie.

As for the story, Arthur and Mera are obviously trying to stop Orm from taking over and killing billions of innocent people, and this happens to involve a quest for an ancient, mystical trident. In some ways, it’s a simple series of events with goals and obstacles, but it serves more as a vehicle for the characters’ personal journeys than anything else. For Arthur, he learns to consider his choices more carefully, to become more responsible and proactive in safeguarding the world, to embrace a part of his heritage that he’s thus far ignored, and to be more than just a thug. For Mera, she learns to see more in the surface world, and in Arthur, than she was first willing to admit there was. And for Orm, he moves forward with his agenda, driven by the demons of his past, and, skating around spoilers, he only accepts his eventual defeat when he is given relief from those demons. In that way, he is one of the more intriguing villains I’ve seen for awhile.

That’s all pretty high praise, of course. I want to make it clear that there are still points where things could be improved. Some things were predictable, and the movie occasionally felt more like a tour through all things Atlantean, but, on the other hand, it is a heroic epic and it fleshes out this unseen world more thoroughly. Mind you, with so much of an entirely new world to involve, a few things fall by the wayside, and we don’t get to know the more intriguing minor characters at all.

There were also some campy moments, like Mera’s soulful eyes to show her distress during the initial duel between brothers, but, again, she soon take on a much more active part of the story as a strong female hero, really.

The movie may not have needed to be a full two and a half hours long, as well. It would just take a bit of editing to shorten it down to something more manageable, especially given how much of it is exposition, but, again, they did keep me entertained for almost the entire time.

Really, the most ridiculous part was the loooong kiss scene right when the entire aquatic world is at war all around them. I understand the interest, but there’s a time and a place for that, ya know? The middle of a war, where every second is measured in how many people are dying and these two love birds under the sea, who have the key to ending the slaughter, are going with “Kiss the Girl” instead of “hurry and save the day.”

That’s one example of where they could have edited scenes to make them a bit shorter, by shaving off bits and pieces here and there.

And while I enjoyed Black Manta as a secondary villain, especially with the lesson he provides to Arthur, his motivation felt paper thin.

All that said, Aquaman remains, in my book, a fun, action-filled adventure, and one which will be most welcome in my collection. It has a good “good guy,” a good “bad guy,” and a pretty girl (who is more than just a pretty face), which, as my father once remarked right after we saw Spider-Man, makes for a good movie! It’s not flawless, of course, but fun!

Rating: I’d say 9 stars out of 10.

Grade: A-Minus.

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2019: A Look Ahead

Happy New Year! 😀

Hello, my wonderful audience! I hope you’ve all been doing well in 2018 and will continue to do so in 2019. Personally, I am doing great. 🙂

In the spirit of organizing my thoughts into something resembling a plan, I thought I’d share some ideas that I’m intending to pursue on my blog now in 2019. There’s no particular shake-ups or anything, I just want to get it all down on paper, so to speak. So, if I might beg your indulgence… 😉

Firstly, those of you who have followed me on my humble blog here for a longer time may have noticed a little drop in the production of my posts this past year. I had some new and important responsibilities to take care of in real life, and that had to come first, so, a number of my projects were set aside for awhile. However, more recent developments should give me a bit more time and flexibility to work with, so I’m hoping to do a couple of ambitious things this year.

Chief among them: from the moment I started this blog, I have been mentioning, many times, my desire to do a proper countdown of my favorite anime titles. As I’ve officially entered my fifth year writing my musings, I’d say I’ve kept you waiting for awhile! 😛 So, my plan is, right around this blog’s fifth anniversary, I am finally going to deliver! Yay!

But that’s in October, nearly a full ten months away! So why am I mentioning this right now?

I think he’s up to something!

Well, in addition to my storytelling love of suspense, I figure I might as well make a special occasion of it, eh? 😉

Specifically, over the course of the thirty weeks leading up to my fifth blogging anniversary, I am going to take up the 30-Day Anime Pick 5 Challenge, crowned with my top twelve anime countdown.

Also, as it makes little sense for me to say, “These are my favorite anime,” without having reviewed them first, you may look forward to a weekly anime review at least until the end of October. As most, though not all, of these forty-plus reviews will be for those most forward candidates that I haven’t reviewed yet, don’t be surprised if I mostly praise these titles. 🙂 The idea is to get my feelings on paper so I can sort all these titles properly in my countdown. 😉

Now, if this sounds like my blog will be overwhelming anime-oriented for the next ten months… you are absolutely correct. 😛 If you like my anime musings, this will be a very good year for you!

But I’m not about to forget everything else, you know!

Goal: have this feeling at the end of the year.

Obviously, there will still be my quotes every Sunday and my weekly TV commentary on Saturday, so long as something in my lineup is airing. On that note, I am shopping for potential additions to said lineup, so if you have a suggestion, like something new, I am open to it. 🙂

The quantity of book reviews I’ve been publishing has certainly taken a hit and really suffered this last year, which is ironic considering how fast I’ve been chewing through them. I hope to share more thoughts on that, and perhaps more on entire series than individual titles.

My extended experimental project, which has lasted for several years now, has finally concluded for the time being, as I finally reached the end of the great queue of experimental titles I had on hand. Now, I get to follow up the more promising ones by investigating the series which follow them. I am looking forward to that! 🙂

So, that covers, anime, books and TV, but as for movies…

Well, there are some I intend to watch and review only when they come out for viewing at home, but between work, responsibilities, and budgeting, I can only afford to pursue a handful of titles in theaters. I think it was two years ago I announced about a dozen titles I’d intended to see that year (2017). I saw about nine of them in theaters, which wasn’t too bad, but I’m going to have scale back even more from now on.

So, for this year’s handful of trips to the theater, we have only the heavy hitters, which I will try (there are no guarantees) to hit on their opening weekends:

I feel almost like someone announcing a long lineup…

Captain Marvel – Mar. 8 (I am excited for this one!)
Shazam – Apr. 5 (I am interested in this one, especially after Aquaman, which review is pending)
Avengers: Endgame – Apr. 26 (I am not missing this one!)
Godzilla: King of Monsters – May 31 (I am hopeful about this one)
Dark Phoenix – June 7 (barring any further delays by the Disney-Fox deal)
Spider-Man: Far From Home – July 5 (it will have some large shoes to fill!)

It’s a very busy first half the year. 😉

Frozen 2 and Star Wars IX come much later in the year, within easy striking distance of an extended family outing during the holidays, just not on opening weekend.

That’s about it for now, I suppose. On that note, once again:

Happy New Year! 🙂

 

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Sunday’s Wisdom #215: Adventure Ahead

“The greatest adventure is what lies ahead.
Today and tomorrow have yet to be said.
The chances, the changes, are all yours to make.
The mold of your life is in your hands to break.”

– From “The Greatest Adventure,” The Hobbit (animated, 1977)

I watched this movie with my nephew a few weeks ago, and it just screamed as something perfect for entering a new year. 🙂

Bilbo Baggins, like most of his people, is and almost always has been quite content to live a quiet, peaceful life. There’s no shame in that, of course, but his encounter with the wizard Gandalf and the dwarves of Thorin’s company awakens something else in him. It is also no bad thing to go afield, to see what lies beyond the horizon, beyond one’s comfortable home. When faced with the choice to do one or the other, Bilbo is considers it for much of the night and into the next morning. What is he to do? What does he want to do?

We all know what he chooses, of course. He goes with the dwarves and the wizard to face monsters, meet wondrous creatures, and stumble onto a golden ring. He never dreamed he’d play such a pivotal role, saving lives and even nudging history, just a bit, in a better direction. Imagine if he’d chosen to stay at home instead!

In short, Bilbo took a chance and made a change, had an adventure, and though he went back to his peaceful life, even in that, the course of his life was altered, as was the destiny of the world. He broke the mold and made it his own.

And on that note, Happy New Year! 🙂

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Sunday’s Wisdom #214: Loving Christmas

“It’s true, wherever you find love, it feels like Christmas.”
– From “It Feels Like Christmas,” The Muppet Christmas Carol

For my favorite holiday of the year, just a few words.

The spirit of Christmas is the spirit of love, and love is essential to joy. Or, putting it the other way, the spirit of Christmas is the spirit of joy, which has its root in love. Either way, that is why we should keep it with us all through the year.

While the way we treat Christmas has changed over the centuries, most especially with the overwhelming commercial influence, what Christmas is really about, what it really is, has remained largely unchanged.

To celebrate the birth of Christ is to honor what He represents, namely: the enduring power and necessity of love on Earth, true and eternal, charitable and forgiving. The angels in the Bible said it best, for what is the greatest way we can glorify God? Peace on Earth, and goodwill towards mankind.

Which, it should be noted, is distinctly more than just a lack of wars between nations. Peace and goodwill together is the spirit of love unbounded. Peace among nations is love among neighbors, among families, among communities, strangers, and foreigners, among everyone. Whether us agree with them about everything or (more often) not.

The spirit of Christmas is the spirit of love for all, starting with those closest to us and working outwards from there.

And, one more note: this includes loving and being at peace with oneself, as well. I mention that, in particular, for all those I have seen who have lacked such. We are, so very often, much, much more harsh with ourselves than with others, and that, I think, does a disservice to oneself and to those we might more fully love if we didn’t have our self-hatred in the way.

Thus, on this note of love for all mankind, and the great joy it brings, I say to you, my wonderful audience, and to everyone in the world, regardless of race, religion, creed, nationality, ethnicity, gender, or anything else, two words, from the bottom of my heart:

Merry Christmas!

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Not Tonka! Tanka! The T.A.P. Tag!

Now this is an interesting one!

I have to say, I’d never been tagged to do a bit of Japanese poetry before! Actually, I’d never done Japanese poetry at all before, though I will admit to having dabbled in some poetry back in college. Ah, good times. 🙂

And Winter seems to be making a habit of tagging me lately. Not that I entirely mind, of course! Thanks!

Now, I don’t know much about tanka, outside how it’s basically a super haiku. And it’s meant to convey feelings about a subject? I dunno, I just got the syllable count of 5-7-5-7-7. Beyond that, I just hope it’s not too bad! 😉

Here are the rules:

  1. Headline your post with “The T.A.P. Tag!” and put “tanka” as one of your tags.
  2. Make sure to link back to the original post that started the tag (this post!).
  3. Make sure to mention the person who forced introduced the tag to you!
  4. Pick 1-3 of your favorite anime.
  5. Write your tanka about the anime you’ve chosen. It’s fine if you decide to do only one or two if the schedule is tight.
  6. Tag at least 3 or more bloggers you know, and get their creative muscles flowing.

Rurouni Kenshin

Wandering swordsman
Holding to a sacred vow
To protect the weak
Without taking human life
A man-slayer’s redemption

Yu-Gi-Oh!

He solved a puzzle
Now his body is possessed
By an ancient king
A summoner of monsters
In a deadly game of cards

Ghost in the Shell

We become machines
Our brains are the computers
In bodies of steel
But where do we keep our souls
The ghosts of our programming?

That was probably a fair mangling of actual Japanese poetry, but it’s my first time. Begging a little forbearance, I had some fun with it. 🙂

As for who I tag:
Shaddowcat, welcome back!
Scott, up for a little challenge?
Irina, I love your stuff so much, you practically leapt to mind! 🙂

I look forward to seeing what you come up with! 😀

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Step Right Up, Folks! Don’t Be Shy. Be Prepared To Witness The Whimsical, The Outlandish, And The First Ever WordPress Anime Awards!

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Originally posted on KAWAIIPAPERPANDAS:
Come one, come all to the first ever WordPress Anime Awards!  We’ve got lions and tigers and heroic boys, oh my! Yes, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages we have a vast…

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Sunday’s Wisdom #213: Defending Our Home

“They’re grownups and they’re criminals, but this is my neighborhood and this is my house, and no matter how old they are, no matter how big they are, they can’t beat me here. They can’t beat me at home.”
– Alex Pruitt, Home Alone 3

Oh, look, a Home Alone trifecta! 🙂

While the adult/practical realist in me disagrees completely with Alex about whether four armed and dangerous adults “can” beat a seven or eight-year-old boy in his home, there is something simply admirable about his determination to defend his home.

Home. That’s actually a powerful word, isn’t it?

We all know, absolutely, that the world is dark and full of terrors… (and I just channeled Game of Thrones, didn’t I?)… but home is not “the world.” Home is supposed to be a place of safety and shelter, a haven from everything bad and evil in the world. Home is where there is warmth and laughter, and family. Home is supposed to be the one place that we are safe, if there is any such place to be found.

Of course, all too often, the world doesn’t let it stay that way. It sends monsters in the night, or in the brazen light of day, even, to threaten and destroy and defile that sacred safety. And the name and number of those monsters is without count, be it a burglar or a rapist sneaking through the window, or a band of secret police knocking down the door, or even a traitorous family member victimizing the most vulnerable. These are hulking, sneaking, terrifying monsters in human form, completely lacking in mercy.

But monsters are not gods. They can be met, and matched, and overcome, and repelled. All one needs is a sufficient amount of force and wit.

And determination.

It all comes down to determination, first and foremost. What was it they said in Batman Begins? The training is nothing, the will to act is everything.

It is the determination of each individual to guard his or her own ground, by any and all means, and against any aggressor, which makes for a safe home.

It is a similar determination to guard one’s neighbor in like fashion which makes for a safe neighborhood. And so on and so forth.

If everyone practiced this simple determination, the predators of the world would soon find themselves overwhelmed by their intended prey.

That would make for a very safe home.

Our home.

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Sunday’s Wisdom #212: To Be Seen and Heard

“Everyone fights for position. Everybody wants to be seen. And heard.”

“I guess so. I’m seen and heard pretty much. But then I get sent to my room a lot, too.”

– Maggie & Kevin McCallister, Home Alone 2

In the first movie, Kevin has a talk with his old neighbor. In the second, he talks with a homeless lady, Maggie, who loves pigeons. As she sees it, the people of New York City don’t want to see a homeless person as part of their world, so they try to ignore her like they ignore the pigeons. Kevin feels ignored as well, in his own home, because it seems no one listens to him and everyone sides against him, even though he feels perfectly justified. That’s when they have this little exchange, and it rings true.

Maggie knows, from experience, that it’s not so easy for anyone else either.

Everyone has their own voice, and they want to be heard. They want to be acknowledged, for the worth of their existence to be recognized. With everyone wanting that all at the same time, everyone’s voices can blend into a noise that drowns each individual in what seems like an insurmountable tumult. The natural reaction, then, is to fight harder, to raise one’s voice. And that can lead to trouble.

Kevin has the same urge as anyone else, to be acknowledged, and his frustration often gets the better of him, so he acts out in ways that aren’t very nice. What he doesn’t know yet is that there are ways of getting people’s attention which don’t involve misbehaving. Indeed, if he truly wants to be taken seriously, then he needs to make his perspective known in ways which won’t get him into trouble. Ideally, by maintaining his calm and being respectful even when he’s angry.

People may pay attention to a screaming child throwing a tantrum, but it’s not going to earn much in the way of respect.

Of course, the flip side there is that sometimes, on occasion, getting into trouble is simply a price that must be paid. My mother loves telling this story of when I was little, and one of my sisters was really making me mad, and so I hit her with all the might I could muster in my little toddler body, and then, without even missing a beat, I whirled around, marched to the corner of the room, and put myself in time out. I remember nothing of this experience myself, but clearly I understood the concept of accepting the consequences of my actions. 😉

And that is definitely something to keep in mind.

Whatever we do to be acknowledged, there will be consequences of one form or another, even and most especially if we succeed. Some of these consequences will be ours, and some will fall onto other people. We need to be aware of this whenever we speak up, because if not, then we’ll have even less say than usual about what happens after we’re done talking.

To be seen and heard is a form of power, and so it comes with responsibility, as Spider-Man would observe.

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This Week on TV, Dec. 8, 2018

Spoiler Alert!

Let the Holiday Draught begin! …mind you, it begins very easily when, out of three shows in my lineup, only one of them is airing. As for the other two, one returns in January, for its conclusion, and the other is hunkering down until after Avengers: Endgame… which I am super excited for! 😀

But, setting that aside for the moment, The Gifted had its fall finale, so we’ll see it again next year… in a month. 🙂 And wow, did they pick a climactic moment to leave us with!

The Gifted

2.09 “gaMe changer”

The Struckers probably have the easiest time of it. I mean, they find out that the woman they went to for help has ulterior motives which they are accidentally serving. She’s devoted her life to helping people, but her definition of “help” is skewed. Hers is a perversion of the crusade against hatred. It’s not really “fighting hatred” when you try to erase what is hated. That is hatred itself, just more cold-blooded.

Of course, it’s easy to see how the woman sees herself as a hero, and how her followers see that too. After all, she’s alleviating suffering and enabling people to live normal lives, without the need to fear either Purifiers or their own powers. But at the very root of it all is her hatred, her belief that the X-gene is a stigma, that mutants are bane to their families. When the root is poisoned, the fruit is too.

This puts Lauren, Reed, and Cait in the difficult position of having to weigh their own needs against the world. They came looking for a way to save Reed’s life and protect everyone around him, after all, and now they know that anything but a permanent solution will only delay the inevitable. Without a cure, Reed’s power will eventually kill him. None of them want that, but Reed is the one with the most right to choose, and he doesn’t hesitate. They can’t put his life above all the mutants in the entire world. He would rather die, painfully, than be anywhere involved in their extermination.

So, Cait steals as much of the available medication as she can without attracting notice, Reed and Cait keep the doctor occupied with questions, and Lauren charms her way to finding out where they keep the blood. Unfortunately, this attracts the doctor’s attention, and she comes with security to stop them. The Struckers are caught, and at a disadvantage.

But when the doctor’s mask slips and her assistant, Noah, sees it, he understands. He may not like his powers, and he may like being normal, but he is not a curse upon his family. After all his service and devotion to her and her cause, hearing what she really thinks of him enrages him. So, he destroys the blood samples himself, and annihilates years worth of her work, and the building around them as well. He lets the Struckers get out, but the doctor tries to plead with him not to, and she’s still in the room when he lets loose.

Moving from the Struckers over to the Underground trio of John, Marcos, and Clarice, things are breaking down. John has usually been a voice of caution, but now he’s just bulldozing ahead without slowing down for anything. Marcos is grief-stricken at the losing his daughter? They need him anyway. Finding out what the Inner Circle wants with Regimen involves talking to a particular executive? They kidnap him. The man has security? They do it anyway. The man doesn’t instantly spill everything? They scare him. The authorities are rounding up all the mutants they can get their hands on because of this kidnapping fiasco? They have to keep going anyway.

Clarice gets angrier and angrier, frustrated with John’s single-minded pursuit of the Inner Circle and the lengths he is going to. She eventually bails, running out to try and help the innocent bystanders caught up in their mess. As for Marcos, he gets to be the voice of caution for once, but John isn’t listening. Eventually, they find out that Regimen deals mostly in utilitarian stuff, but they also run the anti-mutant collars. And by that, they mean all of them.

That’s the Inner Circle’s next target: the collars.

John, Marcos, and their captive are on the brink of narrowing it down a bit when Fade shows up. Or, rather, he sneaks in invisibly and murders said captive. Sage detected the remote login and followed the trail back to them, and John barely hears Fade coming before he takes the shot. The former comrades are not happy with each other, but Fade doesn’t want to hurt them. As far as the Inner Circle is concerned, they have no beef with their Underground friends, except in keeping them off their trail and out of the way.

And then, to make things even worse, as the mutants are colliding, the Purifiers show up.

Turner has risen high and quick in the Purifier ranks, and at at his direction, they’re organizing. They’re going out, patrolling the area, calling in suspicious (read: “any”) mutant activity. They’re becoming a militia, taking their safety into their own hands. So, they respond to a shooting and find three mutants at the scene. Fade gets hit, but not fatally. John shields Marcos before telling him to take Fade and get out while he holds the humans off. And he does, by charging the truck and slowing it down, even though it pins him against a dumpster, and Turner, so smug, says, “Gotcha.”

Yeah, Turner, you got him. You got a guy who only had to fight because Purifiers kept attacking mutants, and who still was only trying to stop the Inner Circle from hurting you. You’re organizing one side of the war the Inner Circle wants and stepping on one of the people who are trying to stop them. Yes, that’s so excellently done, you little fool.

And speaking of the Inner Circle, they have a little inner drama to work out before their next mission, involving Rebecca.

This episode’s flashback showed her parents turning her over to SS after nearly killing her teacher. They collared her just as she was sitting down for breakfast. As we know she murdered her family and was able to overcome a collar, I’m guessing this didn’t work out so well.

In the present, she’s confined to a unique cell. In order to confuse her space-warping abilities, they have to keep her in the dark and constantly in motion. It’s not pleasant, and she never stops screaming (that she didn’t do anything, which is most emphatically false), but it’s the best alternative they can come up with instead of killing her.

Andy is most unhappy with her discomfort. Reeva tries to explain it, even playing into Andy’s own excuses for her, how she was “victimized” by the world. Andy talks to Lorna as well, asking if what they fight for was worth giving up her daughter, but, really, he’s thinking about if the fight is worth him giving up Rebecca. As the rest of the Circle goes over the plan, Andy packs up, busts Rebecca out, and wants to run away with her.

Rebecca has other ideas. Much like his family is seeing under a doctor’s disguise, to the madness beneath, Andy is forced to see Rebecca as she truly is. She’s cool with running, but first she wants to kill everyone. What, Andy thinks she didn’t mean to kill thirty-seven people? Of course she did! Why wouldn’t she?

You can practically hear the horror breaking Andy’s heart as it shoves its way in.

When the elevator opens, there is a horrifying moment where everyone else in the Inner Circle, the Frosts, Lorna, Reeva, etc. all see Rebecca emerging, all feel the space beginning to warp, and they know they’re about to die. But Andy hits her from behind, hard. He doesn’t mean to really hurt her, but he chooses to defend the others. She goes down, sliding until her head hits the wall. She doesn’t get up again.

Andy just accidentally killed his first girlfriend to keep her from murdering everyone else in a psychotic rampage.

It’s a defining moment for Andy. He’s lost and sacrificed for the Inner Circle, and he has something to blame on the human world, driving him on. He’s truly dedicated to the Inner Circle now. So when they attack Regimen, he goes with them.

It’s a simple matter at this point, and they leave bodies behind them with little to no difficulty. Andy breaks through a wall, and he and Lorna go into the facility which controls all of the collars in the country. In one blow, the two of them deactivate the entire lot. In every prison, detention center, and every psychiatric facility, outside those like the one Rebecca was in, every confined mutant is suddenly unleashed, all across the country. Prison guards are overwhelmed and slaughtered, walls and fences obliterated, and the largest breakout in history is completed.

So, in practically one moment, the humans lose the only chance they had at “curing” the X-gene, and they lose the collars, making every corner of the country erupt simultaneously, and the Purifiers themselves bring one of the Inner Circle’s most dedicated enemies low. It seems like the mutants have this in the bag now, right?

I disagree. The mutants might be erupting in violence everywhere, but the humans are organized, and only getting more so. The mutants might have abilities, but the humans have guns, missiles, tanks, jets, etc. The mutants might have a horde, but the humans already have actual armies. And the mutants might have a lot of fighter and killers, but humans have the sheer, overwhelming weight of numbers on their side.

If I were a betting man, my money would still absolutely be on the humans, not the mutants, which makes this series of aggressions by the Inner Circle tantamount to racial suicide, and they don’t even see it.

And on that happy note, see you next year! 🙂

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