This week on Doctor Who, the team visits Kandoka’s moon and find Kerb!am, the galaxy’s largest retailer to find the person that asked of their help. What they find is Space!Amazon and a terrorist trying to right capitalism’s wrongs in the worst way.
Moral of the story: does it have one?
Let’s start with the end of the episode since you shouldn’t be reading this anyway if you haven’t yet seen “Kerblam!”. Series 11 has been fairly political from the get-go, Arguably more so than previous seasons of DW. I for one have mostly appreciated these themes and arguments that the show was making, like the poignant “Rosa” episode or pointing out Trump 2.0′s faults in “Arachnids in the UK”. I wouldn’t say the season has been subtle about this and that certainly divided fans, but “Kerblam!” is the first instance when it feels particularly… clumsy.
So we have Kerblam, the largest retailer in the galaxy—basically Space!Amazon. The place is ominous from the start: not only does 90% of its workforce consists of robots but they also happen to be creepy ones and there’s a very real sense that the humans who do work there are being mistreated in some way or another. The expectation is that the robots will turn evil and the system will trap our heroes. Some guest characters will die, one of them will be behind it all, the Doctor and co. will end up taking the system down and reforming how Kandoka and the whole galaxy thinks about retail and human labour.
Part of me is grateful that there was a twist to the story. Tropes and formulas are not bad, but it also doesn’t hurt to shake things up a bit. The revelation that it was the Kerblam system itself that asked the Doctor for help was a surprise, at least for me. Charlie was a good villain because he genuinely believed he was doing the right thing and it was clear where he went wrong in his actions. By committing nonchalant murder, for one.
Yet the resolution seems like a hit-and-miss with fans because of how heavy-handed it was. So it’s not the system that was responsible or that humans have to be grateful for repetitive, mindless jobs. Charlie’s extremism is to blame in “Kerblam!”. But then how come that, despite the Doctor making it clear that murder and violence should never be the solution, Charlie’s plan still kind of worked? Judy and Slade promise to make improvements, including more jobs for humans, but doesn’t that validate Charlie’s terrorism? That plus the fact that Slade gets forgiven for his horrible treatment of Kira (and probably other workers) as soon as the Doctor realizes that he’s been investigating the disappearances.
After Charlie is revealed as the true antagonist, there’s no further criticism against Kerb!am or the people who benefit from its system. Space!Amazon would have been an easy target to criticise in this episode, maybe too easy in a way. But just because Charlie was in the wrong here, someone who blamed this system for the state humanity, doesn’t mean that Kerb!am had no other problems apart from its 10% quota. The conclusion lacked the nuance it really would have needed the drive the point home and encourage discussion about what the episode implies about Earth in the 21st century. Though “Kerblam!” did get people talking and a created a conversation, so that’s more than nothing. It’s just a shame that the episode failed to deliver when it really mattered.
Our new friends
The awkward handling of the conflict and implications aside, “Kerblam!” was a thoroughly enjoyable episode. The supporting cast played a huge part in this and I would as far as saying that this was the best cast of guest stars in the series so far, both the actors and their characters. Broadchurch alum Julie Hesmondhalgh stands out as she plays Judy, Head of People with an almost unnerving glee. Lee Mack’s Dan Cooper had a fun but short existence, but his sacrifice for Yaz will not be forgotten.
Guest characters getting a good introduction and then dying straight after reminds me of the RTD era. Not that Moffat didn’t have a body count but his characters almost always rose from the death or just weren’t remarkable enough to care about, so it’s a darkly nice change to have these memento moris scattered through episodes. Whittaker’s Doctor is fun and hugs but death is still part of adventures with the Doctor.
Speaking of death, there’s also poor Kira. She was by far the purest character of them all, her conversation with the Doctor and Ryan is simultaneously heartwarming and -breaking. Her death was even more upsetting than Dan’s since she was specifically targeted by Kerb!am to make Charlie understand pain. Not a classic case of fridging but not much if any better than Grace’s death, either. Kira deserved better.
Charlie himself was also a good character even considering the twist. It was because of the twist that we only had a few minutes with the real him and that contributed to the issue I mentioned above. He’s once again a human villain and one who wasn’t pure evil, though, again, it’s hard to decide how to feel about him. Terrorism = bad. The implication that Charlie wanting to change an unfair and exploitative system is inherently wrong = also bad. More time and a healthy dose of nuance might solved this, because Charlie himself was a sympathetic character up until the revelation. Alas, karmic death it is.
All in a day’s work for the fam
The one constant high every episode this season is Team TARDIS. Luckily they had a strong list of guests to interact with, but even without that the core four continue to carry any story. “Kerblam!” highlighted how well they work as a team but everyone also got their individuals moments of glory. It’s good to see that the three friends are starting to take initiative, having learnt from the Doctor. Graham knows exactly what to contribute as a maintenance man, Ryan uses his knowledge from his previous job and continues to overcome his dyspraxia, and Yasmin handled Charlie like the badass cop she is.
Graham got just a tiny bit extra to do in his relationship with Charlie. He’s clearly heartbroken when his new mate turns out to be a terrorist and pleads with the Doctor to give him another chance. Charlie ultimately dies and through that, we get just a hint of the Oncoming Storm in the Doctor. It’s not like she could have done much to save him but she kind of gave up on him as well. She tried to reason with him and failed, and in the end it was her choice to deal with the delivery robots in such a way that resulted in Charlie’s death.
If I’m starting to miss one thing from Jodie Whittaker’s Thirteenth Doctor, it’s a bit of darkness. She doesn’t have to be grumpy or “edgy” like some previous incarnation—of course not. In fact, I very much love how Whittaker plays the Doctor, with such energy, joy, and love. So far the only episode where she had a real sense of danger to her was “The Woman Who Fell to Earth” when she did her “I am the Doctor” speech. Not that we need one every episode, but every now and then it would be interesting to see another side to the Doctor. Maybe it will come to the surface during the season finale and when it does it will be that much more intense, who knows. Until then, I will continue to enjoy every moment we get of Thirteen.
After the first 10 minutes of “Kerblam!” I was sure this would be above “Arachnids in the UK” on my list, which currently stands as my third favourite episode of series 11. Now that I’ve seen the whole episode, I’m not so sure. I still enjoyed it quite a bit and the cast of characters definitely stands out as the best so far. The setting was interesting, the look of the show continues to be excellent and did like the writing. That clumsy way of handling the Charlie and Kerb!am conflict though.
There were other minor or not so minor things as well. When it’s revealed that Dan and the other workers have been liquefied, it’s quickly brushed aside as if it was just a mild inconvenience. I said dark but this is not what I meant. The overall handling of the workers was just as awkward as Charlie’s speech. Dan mentions that it’s the humans’ fault that they’re here because they were too busy with their phones—all this would have needed is the word “millennials”. We’re supposed to disagree with their treatment and the 10% quota and yet the Doctor only ever calls Slade out for his rudeness towards Kira. Feel sorry for the workers but also have a sense that humanity itself is responsible for this.
When it comes to more positive little things: Thirteen got the fez Eleven probably ordered, she remembers her adventure with Agatha Christie and Donna, and Yaz is allowed to be traumatized by Dan’s death. Oh, and bubble wrap! The monster of the week is bubble wrap. I count that as a positive because of how utterly ridiculous it is. And because it feels like a throwback to 70s Who when monsters were literally made out of bubble wrap. That, plus “Kerblam!” remains a fun episode despite its problems. And like I said, at least it got people talking, so maybe Doctor Who was never supposed to give us that nuance I missed form it. Maybe that comes from our own discussions about the episode.
Next week it’s back to the past and back to England in “The Witchfinders”. Is the Doctor going to be accused of witchcraft? Most certainly.
Images courtesy of the BBC
Away In A Manger: Black Lightning 2×09, “Gift of Magi”
Well, my friends, we’re nearing the end of Black Lightning S2, and I think it’s time to declare a sophomore slump. Anyone here with me? Let’s get into this week’s episode and discuss.
Jen and Kahlil are still on the run, but Kahlil was cut with one of Cutter’s Special aka Poison knives, so he’s quickly succumbing. The pair find a barn, where there’s a lot of soft lantern light and Kahlil can curl up in the hay. At first they swap cute-funny stories about when they first met, but soon Kahlil can’t manage talking let alone breathing well, so Jen goes out to steal some antibiotics from a hospital. (They don’t yet know that it’s poison, they assume his wound is infected). Jen is getting really good not only at controlling her powers, but using them for specific tasks, and I’m here for it although I really wish it wasn’t in the context of this storyline.
She manages to get the antibiotics and injects Kahlil with it, but it doesn’t work. She grows increasingly desperate, and as Kahlil’s death seems imminent, she goes outside for some air and a good cry. That’s when she goes back to her brain-salon, where she sees Perenna (her brain-version of Perenna, not the real one) and a twin version of herself. Mind-Perenna tells Jen that she already has everything she needs inside of her; it’s very Inside Out. Together with her brain creations she figures out that Cutter is actually *right there* watching them through binoculars. She manages to capture her and tie her up, tasering her with her hands as a form of torture in order to get her to tell her what she did to Kahlil. It’s not long before she figures out it was a poison knife, and cuts Cutter with it so that she’ll be forced to show Jen where on her person the antidote is. Turns out, it’s in that very obvious vial on her necklace!
Jen goes to a dark place when she’s torturing Cutter, which is kind of hard to watch. Again, I’d be more interested if this whole thing didn’t revolve around Kahlil. Anyway, Jen gives both Kahlil and Cutter the antidote and they’re on their way again. But only after they declare their undying love for each other.
I’m happy to report that no one left Kahlil’s aunt for dead in her house, as Black Lightning, Thunder, and Gambi have set up camp there to help her recover from what turned out to be one of Kahlil’s pain pills and try to figure out how to find Jen. They know Kahlil is hurt so they check hospitals, and end up being in the same hospital as Jen at the same time!
Jefferson and Anissa figure out Jen was there because she left a trail aka scorch mark in her path, but the fact that she keep eluding them is driving Jefferson to be irrational and reckless. Gambi and Anissa manage to keep him under control, but Lynn is losing it too. When she’s not crying in the wreckage of Jen’s room that she destroyed, she’s trying to get Kahlil’s mom, and then his dad, to give her clues as to where they might be.
Of course neither of them can help, but along the way she grabs a gun from the Inner Sanctum aka Gambi’s basement so that’s concerning, considering her emotional state.
In a parallel storyline, Tobias has set his sights on a kid named Todd, an academic prodigy who has just been rejected for a research grant in favor of the white kid whose rich dad just funded a new wing of the university. It’s unclear what Tobias wants Todd to do, and Todd seems dubious at best until Tobias deposits $100,000 into his bank account. Money is the root of all evil, amirite? I mean, capitalism is. But that’s a discussion for another place.
Lastly, this episode ends with a scene in which a mysterious someone murders everyone in a bar in Texas before getting a phone call from his boss telling him that his next job is in Freeland. I feel like we’re about to meet a bigger bad than Tobias, but time will tell! Just someone end this Kahlil-Jen nonsense and give us our family back kthanks.
What do you think is in store for the final episodes? Are you happy with this season so far? Black Lightning is going on hiatus until the end of January, so I’ll be back then to see where we’re at. Enjoy what’s left of the year, friends!
Images courtesy of The CW
Winter Hiatus Blues
Even in December with the broadcast networks hiatus for scripted series starting, and pilot season underway, there’s so much to discuss!
The continuing behind the scenes drama of Les Moonves’ ouster from CBS, ABC’s entertainment president Channing Dungey stepping down, NBC’s Greenblatt moving on, and FOX setting up for its new leadership once the merger goes through…every big 4 network has a lot to deal with between now and the TCAs in early February. The exec panels will sure be a time… Especially if ratings come up at all.
As of this Tuesday, and as always, I’m talking about scripted ratings: FOX is number 1 with a 1.13 average followed by NBC, ABC, and CBS. CW of course is last with .35. Last month, four of the five networks had six shows at or above their overall average.
Now, ABC has eight shows, the CW has five, and the rest have six.
Across the five networks, only a third of new shows are performing above the average on their network. The Connors (considered a new show), FBI, The Neighborhood, Last Man Standing, New Amsterdam, and Manifest. The highest rated new show on The CW, Legacies hovers right below the network’s average.
Interestingly, across the board, long running shows are still high rating performers (or what’s high now) for the networks. The exception to this is SVU at a tenth below the average.
Their “success” indicates that we probably won’t lose any of the longest running shows anytime soon. Still, the network with the largest average season length (including shows yet to premiere) is FOX at 5.3 followed by CBS at 4.5. Removing the shows already cancelled and predicted as canceled doesn’t make an impact because of The Simpsons‘ whopping thirty seasons! (Unrelated but with the announcement for Crisis on Infinite Earths, DCTV isn’t going anywhere either.)
Of course some of this will shift when the rest of the new slate premieres begin in January. I do not envy the folks in charge of scheduling spring shows, especially as more time slots are lost to winter reality or competition shows.
You can put whatever new show after strong shows and still have a dud in the ratings race.
On The CW, ableist In The Dark has had zero promotion beyond the scheduling announcement that it starts after Supernatural. Their other new show Roswell: New Mexico or Roswell: TVD received the coveted post Flash slot plus actual promo. Except for The 100, their other spring shows already received cancellations, so ratings definitely don’t matter.
FOX only has two newbies to premiere, with The Passage starting after The Resident and Proven Innocent taking the 9PM slot after Cool Kids. I don’t know that people watching an hour of comedy will stick around for a procedural, but anything can happen these days.
ABC on Wednesday revealed that in a vote of confidence (or in hopes to increase viewers or to get Whiskey Cavalier onto the schedule earlier) is moving the last bit of A Million Little Things behind Grey’s leaving current slot holder Station 19 off the schedule until March. Considering AMLT hit a .7 last week… The Fix is the only other newbie to get a spring slot, starting in March in The Good Doctor‘s place. Grand Hotel is now a summer show. ABC what are you doing?!
NBC and CBS have yet to fully unveil their new schedules so more on that in January! However, pilot development is in full swing and reboots (and spin-offs) continue to rule the pack.
Predicting what pilots will make it to series this early is silly, but I do think that a chunk of the reboots in development will definitely make it to air. If they’ll get renewed is another question. Even though this year, only Charmed received a back 9 order (Last Man Standing was ordered with 22 episodes). Last year, all the shows that received fewer than 9 episodes in the fall except for Good Doctor were cancelled. So now in May, that trend continues, or the new trend is that any back order indicates a renewal.
Which is why even though I think it’s silly to bank on so many reboots in development, I know that networks are still going to do it. I won’t list all of the shows in development because there are a lot and many will die by January. The CW has three alone! And NBC already has a series order for Law and Order: Hate Crimes or as my friend calls it, “SVU but grittier” making it the seventh L&O series.
By late January, early February, the big entertainment sites will have lists of all the pilots in contention and then we can really get into the details. Until then, what shows are y’all waiting to see for the first time (or again)?
‘Legends of To-Meow-Meow’ Cranks the Insanity up to Eleven
It’s that time year of again. The Arrowverse crossover, but the Legends misplaced their invites. While Kara, Barry, and Oliver were getting acquainted with Batwoman and dealing with body switching, the Legends were dealing with their own alternate reality issues. Or should I say the Custodians were dealing with their own issues. Or, should that be the Sirens? Or the Puppets?
Yep, this was one of those kinds of episodes. ‘Legends of To-Meow-Meow’ didn’t just surpass the insanity of every other episode this season. It multiplied it, as Charlie and Constantine broke the timeline more with each attempt to fix it.
At first, Charlie hits the town on her own, going to Las Vegas to stretch her newly returned powers. Going out as Marilyn Monroe, she runs into a prison buddy, a leprechaun. She barely has the chance to warn him about faulting his powers when Mick, Nate, and Ray strut in dressed like they just walked out of an 80’s action show. Which they did, apparently, as they introduce themselves as the Custodians of the Chronology and we get ‘A-Team’ style opening credits. They kill the leprechaun without hesitation, which is a big clue for Charlie that not everything is right.
She returns to the Waverider with cat-Zari to figure out why the team is suddenly so murder-happy. She transforms into Sara, planning on just ordering them to stop. But it doesn’t work because in this timeline, without help from Constantine, Sara was killed by the unicorn at Woodstock. The team attacks her, recognizing her as a shapeshifter. Charlie makes a quick retreat from the ship, taking cat-Zari along to find John.
He’s being kept imprisoned at the Time Bureau. Because he was the epicentre of the timeline shift, he has memories from both timelines and his brain isn’t keeping up very well. When they find him, John turns Zari back into a human. Only to turn her right back when she’s against his and Charlie’s idea to save Sara instead of fixing their alteration. Charlie breaks John out, with some help from Mona and a very emo Ava. Some of the Lege- Custodians die in their fight out, but everything will be fine once they save Sara. At least that’s what Charlie and John tell themselves.
They travel to Woodstock, blasting the unicorn into rainbow gloop before it can gore anyone. But this time, when they return to their time Nate, Ray, and Mick are the ones with the memorial plaques. Plus, without the guys around, Sara, Ava, and an android?Gideon have formed a Charlie’s Angels style team that assassinates fugitives. Charlie attempts to infiltrate the team as Amaya, but her cover is blown almost instantly. She does learn the boys were killed by the Fairy Godmother. The fairy is also the reason Zari’s a cat.
John and Charlie go to Salem for their next patch job. Charlie transforms into the Fairy Godmother to trick Prudence into releasing the fairy before she can kill the boys. It seems to go off without a hitch until she returns to the jumpship. Good news, Zari is no longer a cat. Bad news, she’s now a puppet.
So is the entire team, as John learns when he boards the Waverider. They aren’t just puppets. They’re puppets that sing their own intro and have a historical figure of the day. Since the Fairy Godmother didn’t kill Mick, he became her new charge. She turned the team into puppets before Mick took her along on a crime spree.
Charlie and John keep trying to Band-Aid the timeline, but each fix ends with someone else dead in the new timeline. Yet, even when they get to a point where no one has died, John’s mind has so many timelines clashing in his mind he collapses from the strain.
He finally agrees with Zari that they need to fix the timeline properly and stop Dez from leaving. When Charlie refuses to help they leave her behind, but she’s not giving up without a fight. She transforms into Ava, heading to the Waverider to clue the team in on the magical ongoings in New Orleans. But there’s something still wrong with this timeline. All the Legends are alive. No one is made of cloth. But they still have a ‘shoot first ask questions never’ policy when it comes the fugitives. Gideon picks up on the three Constantines at that point in time. The team assumes the extras are shapeshifters, sending Mick and Ray to blast them.
Charlie finally realizes it wasn’t just John’s absence from the team that caused the changes. It was her absence. Without her, the Legends don’t learn fugitives aren’t all unicorns with a taste for hearts or Fairy Godmothers that sing about murder.
In New Orleans, this-episode’s-John stops Desmond after last-episode’s-Constantine broke up with him. He tells him he’s sorry for all the pain he’s going to cause him and wipes his memory just before still-in-a-relationship John can return. As Mick and Ray fire on this-episode-John, past-John and Desmond share a kiss which becomes the point from which the timeline fixes itself. Reality is right once again, where the only puppet person is the possessed Professor Stein and the Legends aren’t mythical creature murders. Ava and Mick even heal their rift from the last episode, finding some common ground.
John comes clean to Sara about their misadventure. He even tells her about Neron. Sara promises to help him take down his demon. So all’s well that ends well. Except, there’s no word on what happens to Mona after she met the business of the Kaupe’s claws. Nor is Hank happy the Kaupe escaped, which he learns about in the middle of a golf game with someone… something wearing Desmond’s face.
Was this the strongest’s episode of Legends? Probably not. It sacrificed some substance for the sake of 80’s spoofs and sing-alongs. But that’s not to say this episode wasn’t good. Far from it. The alternate timelines were laugh out loud funny and the Puppets of Tomorrow song is going to be stuck in my head. They were so good I’m willing to overlook characters like Ray, Nate, Sara, and Ava feeling so drastically different in their respective spoof realities. I’ll chalk up to the discrepancies in their characterizations to time being so broken.
It could have easily become frustrating watching John and Charlie patch broke timeline after broken timeline while they ignored the obvious answer. But it never got to that point because every step of the way you knew John was doing this to keep Desmond alive. John Constantine, always the tortured soul, willing to let his mind be torn apart by multiple timelines before he gives up on his love again. It’s a tragedy the timeline being fixed has to come at the cost of Dez’s soul. But maybe it isn’t lost forever.
The scene between John and Desmond pulled at the heartstrings. As did the moment when Charlie finally realized she was the missing the link for the Legends. It’s always a good moment when a Legend finds their place on this mismatched, rag-tag team. It’s hard not to compare this episode to ‘Here I Go Again’, when Zari found her place on the team. Which is a glowing compliment when that episode is one of the best of Legends entire run.
The brief callbacks to the earlier episodes was a nice way to tie off the first half of the season as well. The Unicorn was only eight episodes ago. Yet, monsters, magic, and pure insanity feel like they’re always been a part of Legends of Tomorrow. Well, pure insanity has been a fundamental part of Legends since season two.
It just shows how this series isn’t afraid to shake up its own formula. Thus far it’s worked every time, with each season being better than the last. It’s still early to call season’s four place for certain. Season’s three back half had some heavy ringers, but so far this season is on the right tracks to be the most memorable one yet. They’re sure to come back strong when they return in April.
Only Legends Could
- “You missed calls from Barry Allen, Oliver Queen, and Kara Zor-El,”
“Sounds like the annual crossover,”
“Yeah, that’s going to be a hard pass,”
This whole exchange is amazing. Easily wins favorite lines of the episode.
- You can tick off Sara Lance’s annual dalliance with death. Sara dying, almost dying, or faking dying should be a running gag at this point, but for some reason, I can never find it funny.
- Everyone just understands cat-Zari. No explanation needed. Much like when Nate understood pig-Ray.
- The CW tradition of bad wigs continues with emo Ava. (Kate Kane, by some miracle, avoided the curse.)
- In the Siren’s reality, Sara’s wielding Mick’s gun and Gideon has Rip’s.
- I want more of DC’s Puppets of Tomorrow.
- There’s a timeline where Nate and Hank die from a Garden Gnome.
- Why yes, Legends did give us the true love’s kiss fixes everything. And yes, it was a kiss for a mlm couple. Legends never ceases to amaze.
- I got a flirty vibe from Charlie and Zari at the end. Time will tell where that goes.