Wow, Fandomentals! Long time, no see! Since we missed last week’s review we are including a mini-review of that episode before we get into the meat of this week’s. These last 2 additions to the season delivered some solid plot and even a little character development. The writers seem to be on a roll, delivering consistently good episodes week after week. Considering what is coming up in the next episode, we hope that this trend continues.
Last Week on “Secret Cargo”
Senator Mon Mothma, sick of funding the Rebellion behind the scenes, the way Bail Organa does, tells Palps to get fucked, packs her shit, and flees the Galactic capital to join with her forces in the Outer Rim. Thrawn, Pryce, and Konstantin, eager to claim such a prominent prize, pursue her but are outwitted by Hera and Gold Leader Jon Vander. This episode does away with any “science” pretense that Star Wars had, using protons and nebulae to create explosions in space. That aside, the episode is very solid. This is the first time we have seen a major political figure directly oppose Palpatine in any way. It really drives home the fact that the Rebel Alliance is a functional matriarchy: between Mon Mothma as the political head and Leia Organa as the military head, girls run more than just the world; they run the galaxy. We also get to see Thrawn’s terrifying new TIE fighter in action, but it is fortunately destroyed, thus explaining why it was not guarding the Emperor’s favorite pet project, the Death Star. And at long last we see the fabled Dantooine, mentioned once by Leia in A New Hope and extensively developed in the Legends continuity, we can only hope that once Thrawn destroys Atollon we will get to see what the surface of Dantooine looks like.
Episode Rating: 7 – Satisfying: Fantastic! Entertaining! I would be willing to watch it again. It isn’t perfect, but it hits an emotional or thematic sweet spot that leaves you glad you spent time on it.
“Double Agent Droid” Episode Summary
Wedge Antilles, Chopper, and AP-5 go to the most originally named planet of Star Wars: Killin. They are there to steal information from the Imperial Data Bank. However, Thrawn has instructed his Imperial Listeners to be on the lookout for AP-5 and Chopper; while most Imperials overlook any droid and dismiss that it might be a threat, no detail is too small for Thrawn. Rather than reveal the droids, the Listeners hack into Chopper in an attempt to discover the secret base of operations. AP-5 is immediately suspicious of Chopper’s new, more Imperial behavior and uncharacteristic helpfulness, but his warnings go unheeded until Chopper tries to blow the whole crew into space. Treachery revealed, the rebels and AP-5 work together to regain control of the ship and Hera creates a counter hack to kill all the Imperial Listeners. (Zach is all: 🎉 🎊 🎉 🎊 [Though Cameron would’ve been fine with them being recurring.]) Their secret remains safe for now.
The Imperial Listeners, Who we’ll refer to as Imperial IT are fascinating as villains for the show. They given up a large degree of their autonomy to hook themselves up into the Imperial Internet, and become something of a concept from a Sci-Fi dystopia. They hack Chopper and use him as a puppet to spy on the crew. This sets up a scenario where the crew has to somehow figure out that not only has Chopper been taken over, but how to defeat him when he’s taken control of the ship’s computers(This is why passwords are important, kids.). It gives the writers the opportunity to add suspense and play around with the situation.
It’s a very creative step for “Double Agent Droid”. In lieu of the usual Pew Pew Pew space battle, we instead have an episode focused on intrigue and acting. We watch as Controller, head IT dude, takes control of Chopper and how he manipulates the crew. It’s a very interesting PoV switch and sells the idea of hacking and sabotage the episode showcases.
Controller was a well written mix of smarmy and efficient. Dedicated to odds and numbers, this dude is guilelessly cruel and logical. He violates Chopper and turns him into a puppet. He’s very smarmy, but he never goes over the top, and remains calm. Another misstep would be to make him too nerdy and inept, yet he instead maintained his smarts and emotional manipulation of the crew. The results are excellent. Head IT Bro is an effective villain. It’s almost a shame he died so soon, I actually would’ve like more hacking episodes, ship against ship.
Don’t Make Hera Mad
For what little time she was on, Hera stole the show. The moment she comprehends what the Empire has done to Chopper, she gets angry. Hera is scary when she is angry. All of her tactical brilliance is focused. She makes a Techno Babble counter hack against Imperial IT that hacks their ships and for some reason blows them up (don’t question it).
AP-5 is one of “Double Agent Droids” highlights. He is egotistical and stubborn. Yet he is very committed to himself and his beliefs, even whenever others doubt him, because he, by his nature, is very observant. Even better, he uses his observations and notices stuff that’s off, like Chopper being actually supportive. He is right.
Unfortunately he is so right while also being so lovably egotistical. Every chance he gets he lords himself as the leader and how he’s the only competent one. A belief built upon his ability to analyze. Ironically undermining himself. He’ll even lord himself over other Imperial droids for being so rigid and structured, but fails to reflect on himself and how he comes across as a drone to others.
AP-5’s Musical moment is the most absurdly wonderful piece of Star Wars outside of the Christmas special. The Droid sings to himself where he rejoices in his solitude while he dances around with a bunch of fluorescent pink space creatures. It’s the oddest moment in the show up to date, and I found myself laughing at the absurdity. Egotistical but observant, this silly droid was one of the highlights of the show. AP-5 seems to have tapped into the fatalistic humor of this generation of Star Wars fans perfectly.
The Star Wars Droids
“They’re very much depicted as being sentient: they joke around, they have emotions, they have snark. At the same time, we’re not supposed to care when they’re destroyed in droves or just shut down … Especially the way Anakin programs C-3PO to call him ‘master’ and then casually abandons him on Tatooine.”
That point seems to be especially driven home in this episode.
Cameron and Zach have differing opinions on Chopper. While Cameron believes Chopper is a bit of evil, lovable, and irritable cat on the Ghost, Zach been waiting for a character to kick him since he was introduced. That said, it is undeniable that he is a being with free will. C1-10P is abrasive, often lazy, and always does what he wants when he wants to. When the Imperial Intelligence shows up, it is a startling reminder that the droids are actually … well, droids. They are computers, and computers can be hacked. Unlike most instances of Fantasy Mind Control, however, Chopper is never afforded a chance for a “battle in the center of the mind.” His code is simply overridden by the Imperials and it is up to others to fix things.
That said, stealing Chopper’s autonomy is not treated as that big a deal. Hera does it all the time, since she wipes his memory of Atollon’s coordinates every time they jump through hyperspace. (Though the case could be made that it is too dangerous for him to keep these cordinates, as he is hacked, and they still preserve his personality, it is still very invasive.) In The Clone Wars it was a major plot point that Anakin never wiped R2’s memory. I think it is an unintentional example of moral ambiguity among the good guys. Even though the Rebels treat their droids far better than the Imperials, they still treat the droids as machines.
Episode Rating: 7 – Satisfying: Fantastic! Entertaining! I would be willing to watch it again. It isn’t perfect, but it hits an emotional or thematic sweet spot that leaves you glad you spent time on it.
Next Week: The Grudge Match of the Galaxy / Maul’s Gon’ Settle His Beef / All with a Huge Dash of…
Images Courtesy of Disney
Black Lightning Episode 1-5 In Review
This week, Black Lightning is on a hiatus so here are some thoughts on the show so far. New episodes return next week.
As a whole, Black Lightning is one of my favorite shows on TV right now, and of the 381 (I have a list) shows I’ve watched in my 24 years. It does so many things well, and what I don’t like is situated in a very specific context. For example, I love how the show hammers home that there are consequences to everything.
Consequences and Bad Guys
Last week’s episode ended with Jefferson as Black Lightning knocked out in the water when his suit gave him problems in a fight with Joey Toledo, Tobias’ right hand man. It was a bleak moment, but highlights how everything feels grounded! From the fights between Jefferson and various baddies, the deaths we’ve seen, and to Tobias doing anything, nothing is cartoonish. There are consequences to actions.
Sure dropping a lackey into a tank of piranhas is a bit much…but Tobias is terrible and terrifying and his traumatic childhood is not used as an excuse for his current actions. Rather they situate Tobias and Tori as adults (whose ages we don’t actually know) trying to control their world. I wonder if Tori has her own crime syndicate in Miami? Oh hey, that would be a cool webseries…
The dedication to showing consequences of people’s actions does have me worried with the portrayal of Khalil’s future arc. I understand the impetus behind his arc. Unless the writers flip the script, it’ll highlight how easy it is for people like Tobias and his lackeys to prey on young men without other options.
And I do not mean to simplify the many reasons why a young man may choose to deal drugs or why there is violence across so many American cities. But Khalil’s existence now for Tobias is as a scapegoat to turn BL into the bad guy. Again, disability in DCTV is merely a plot point for villains or temporary.
On the flip side, Anissa as an out and proud activist lesbian is awesome!
Ladies Loving Ladies
Once the season ends, I’ll write a full length piece on Anissa, Chenoa, and Grace. Even with only three episodes to really pull from, the writers established a lot about Anissa and Freeland. We saw in week 2 how she had a key for Chenoa’s place, and her parents knew her name, but that’s as far as that one year relationship had gone. Their sex was mindblowing, sure (which how incredible to finally see two Black woman make love as an affirmative thing), but Anissa wasn’t committed to Chenoa. Understandably she was pissed at the Ruby Red Lipstick Bar (I love that Freeland has a lesbian bar) and said some hurtful things to Anissa.
I wish we had (or maybe we will) seen Chenoa one last time, but the moment Anissa laid eyes on Grace, it was pretty clear we were getting the slow-burn there. And this is what’s so great about the show, by five episodes both Anissa and Grace have been affirmatively labeled by the show as a lesbian and bisexual woman. No need to assume and no need for obnoxious fandom labeling conversations.
However, with Grace as a super recurring character, who knows when we’ll see Chantal Thuy next and how she’ll factor into the next portion of Anissa’s development into Thunder. And if she receives a series regular promotion, whether or not she joins the Pierce family+Gambi shenanigans.
Pierce Family Passion
I LOVE ONE FAMILY. Look, representation is not revolutionary and won’t meet any of our material needs on a global scale. Instead, representation is required and our media should look like us. But I’d be remiss to say that centering a show on a Black man who loves his family isn’t a huge freaking deal!!!
Specifically because of the racist sentiment that Black fathers aren’t around for their kids. This doesn’t consider that a) 1.5 million Black men are “missing” or b) the Black men that are fathers, they are the most involved with their children of any other group of dads!
So watching Cress Williams as Jefferson Pierce, completely in love with his ex-wife and two daughters is stunning and I am so glad the show is about the Pierce family now instead of Jefferson years ago. Their passion for their home and each other is one of the bigger successes of the show.
(Though I’d love a flashback of him first realizing his powers since it would have been in response to a very emotional moment).
Who is he? We know he and Alvin Pierce were super close, he’s Jefferson’s surrogate father, and from an interview that the girls think of him as a grandpa. Yet we’ve only seen him interact with JefferLynn and Tobias! And he knows Tori? I want to know everything about him and really hope the next eight episodes reveal more. As the only white guy the writers invite us to care about, Gambi is important. He’s got this amazing boutique and clearly knows his technology. (Is he making Anissa’s outfit?)
But he’s hiding more than Tobias from Jefferson, like what I assume is his understanding that Anissa was on camera in episode 3. Likely more secrets related to Alvin Pierce too. Plus just how does he afford all his tech? The show is so good with details that it seems suspect we’ve yet to see more of that aspect…
Otherwise, Gambi is a really interesting lens into the show’s statements about so many issues.
The show has effectively made multiple statements not just about police brutality, drugs, or violence. Even the brief mention of the Tuskeegee experiments is significant with Greenlight and its entry into Freeland. I think its usage of Gambi as BL’s greatest champion as a hero pulled out of “retirement” as compared to Anissa and soon Jennifer’s journeys is really compelling.
I honestly don’t have the expertise to write a lengthy piece on the show’s usage of Malcolm X, MLK Jr, or others like Harriet Tubman but I think Anissa’s Malcolm vs. Jefferson’s MLK Jr. vs Black Lightning’s Malcolm is clear just from the show’s dialogue.
The scene between Anissa, her parents, and the Henderson’s is a great example. Is Black Lightning a vigilante who is hurting the police attempt’s to fight the 100 gang or everything else? (How is Henderson actually feeling about his inability to stop the 100 gang long-term?) Or is he stepping in where no one else will and making a difference? Does nonviolence actually work, or nah? How do we meet the material needs of oppressed groups, here black people?
The latter questions are debated at length and I don’t think Black Lightning is trying to conclusively answer them. Though the former two are definitely at the core of the show.
The same goes for the writers’ strong use of religious imagery in implicit and explicit ways.
Book of Black Lightning
Abrahamic religion and their prophets are explicitly referenced from the episode titles to the show dialogue. Abrahamic religion is a huge part of the show. The titles all tell a story, even the non “Book of” titles like “Resurrection” and “Black Jesus” have their own. We even saw a Methodist church for Lawanda’s funeral! It makes sense because the Akils are actually Muslim. I hope we get some Black Muslims too in the show.
Jefferson is Black Jesus (resurrection), then Black Lightning is Moses (the latter was reluctant at first to lead). Obviously Judaism, Christianity, and Islam have differences in their telling of Moses’ story but it’s pretty apparent what’s happening here. Lady Eve is Pharaoh and I’m not quite sure on who Tobias is yet, but I’ll figure it out by season’s end when I’ll write a long article about everything else we get this season.
- When will Syonide get to talk extensively? One Syonide in the comics has a girlfriend and I would love to see the show’s take on that.
- Someone find the scripts for me because each episode feels like it’s cramming a usual script and a half’s worth of stuff into one 45 minute episode.
- I hope this show doesn’t get 22 episodes this fall. I find it works better as a short season show.
What do y’all want answers to or have thoughts on? Next week, the show returns to Jefferson looking for Alvin’s murderer and so much more.
Image courtesy of The CW
Rise and Fall: The Chi’s “Penetrate a Fraud” Is Joy, Heartbreak, and Fear
Welcome back to Lena Waithe’s The Chi, where this week we see some characters start to rise from pain while others fall all the way into it.
Let’s start with Brandon, who hit a low point last week when Jerrika showed up to the block party with another guy. Then Brandon confronted Ronnie, telling him he hopes Coogie’s murder haunts him for the rest of his life before walking alone into the darkness. This week, things are looking a little better for our tender-hearted guy. A big reason for that is Sarah, his boss’s wife/all-around manager of things at the restaurant. There is a serious mutual crush happening, and in this episode she gives him an opportunity to prove himself: he’s going to be in charge of the food for a very large and fancy wedding anniversary catering gig. He pulls it off without a hitch and Sarah thanks him, saying the restaurant isn’t doing as well as everyone thinks and they really needed a good night like this one.
Side note, my parents ran a restaurant for more than 10 years, and it is so true that even popular upscale places are in a constant struggle to keep their heads above water. It is a very unforgiving industry, and this little corner of the storyline hit home for me. Plus, my mom was the Sarah, basically doing every little thing and never stopping, so I appreciate her as a character.
Anyway, the other immediate event in Brandon’s world is the revelation that his mother and Greavy got married at the courthouse without telling him. They’re planning a backyard barbecue celebration that night and were hoping he could do some of the food. Brandon is angry, still resentful of Greavy, and storms off. But Greavy goes after him and is a little softer toward him, saying that it would mean a lot to his mother if he were there, and also that he’ll do right by her.
In the end, Brandon, high off of a successful night that will likely mean a lot to his career, takes Sarah and the leftover catering food to his mom’s house. The joy Laverne feels that her son shows up is such a perfect illustration of how much mothers love their children. Brandon ends up making a really nice speech about the new couple, and it’s nice to see everyone in that string-lights-and-Heineken-filled backyard so full of smiles. Oh and then Brandon and Sarah kiss, so, that will be interesting next week.
Meanwhile, some other mothers are having an unexpectedly great day of their own. Ethel takes Jada to get their nails done as a thank you for patching up Ronnie’s gunshot wound/saving his life. They end up bonding and we learn that Jada has not been prioritizing dating or her sexual needs, since she has approximately 100 million other things on her plate. But after her conversation with Ethel, Jada comes home to an empty house, lights candles along the edge of the bathtub, and masturbates with the shower head. I am so here for Jada taking care of herself. Also I will always associate showerhead masturbation with that scene in The Runaways where Joan Jett—aka a still-not-publicly-out Kristin Stewart—tells her bandmate to think of Farrah Fawcett in order to get off. Iconic.
The reason Jada came home to an empty house is that Emmett has been extremely busy with his and Amir’s burgeoning shoe business. Amir “borrows” $5,000 from his uncle Habib, and he and Emmett follow a tip Emmett got about some rich white person who wanted to unload a shoe collection. Turns out it’s a day-drinking divorcee who wants to sell her husband’s garage full of sneakers. The two jump on it, thinking they’ve scored the shoes for half, if not less, of what they’re worth.
Emmett gets to work putting the word out to his network of sneakerheads and sets up the van full of shoes in an underpass, where he sells almost all of them. Until one guy rolls up, looks at the shoes, and tells Emmett they’re knockoffs (something to do with SKU numbers). Then he accuses Emmett of “penetrating a crime” on him and pulls a gun on him and Emmett Jr., who is in his arms. Emmett Jr. basically never stops crying; is that what real babies are like? Anyway, luckily the guy doesn’t actually shoot but Emmett is sufficiently freaked out. It remains to be seen how this will unfold with the “business partnership.”
As we continue down our path of characters’ best days to worst days, Ronnie is still halfway dead, stumbling around town bleeding through his clothes. He goes back to Common’s mosque, where he is told he’ll be welcome to come in and talk, but despite looking tempted, he doesn’t do it—yet. Ronnie is also trying to find someone who will unlock Jason’s phone. He finds Jason’s girlfriend. Ronnie didn’t know he had a girlfriend, or that she is pregnant, or that Jason knew she was pregnant and so did Tracey. Or that Tracey didn’t want Jason to see her, or that Jason wanted to quit basketball. There was a lot Ronnie didn’t know, but Jason’s girlfriend unlocked the phone for him, so now he can look through pictures.
But guess who else wants to look at the phone: Detective Cruz. He brings Ronnie in for questioning, and backhandedly proposes they help each other: Cruz won’t push too hard to pin Coogie’s murder to Ronnie, and Ronnie will give Cruz Jason’s phone. I guess so he can figure out what happened and get back in the department’s good graces before anyone exposes the fact that he’s the reason Ronnie knew about Coogie having robbed Jason’s body. Cruz doesn’t seem to find much on the phone—mostly a lot of selfies—but he sees that the last call made was to 911. So that’s interesting.
Lastly, we have the boiling-point tensions between Trice, Reg, and their crew and Q and his. Q stole Trice’s dog (the same one Coogie used to feed) and has been taunting him with her for weeks. Now, he uses her as a distraction, taunting Trice into conversation while Q’s two guys sneak into the house to see what Reg, Trice, and co. have in there. Trice tells Q to go back to Cuba, so we now know where he was before coming back to Chicago. Q points out to Trice that he never got back to him about who might have killed Jason and why. He’s clearly hung up on something with Tracey; maybe he’s Jason’s real father? I don’t know.
Regardless, Q’s guys report back on the specific kinds of military guns Reg and co. stole a lot of last week. And at the end of the episode, the three of them straight-up kill everyone in the house and steal the guns. I don’t know if Trice or Reg were there, but I’m concerned for Jake?!?!
That’s it for this week, let’s hope next week we get to see the kids and the lesbians again, because I miss them and this episode ended on an extremely dark note.
Images from The Chi Courtesy of Showtime
Legends of Tomorrow Gets Stuck in a Time Loop
Starting off intensely, we see Zari racing against time to get Gideon to execute some simulation program that she wants to keep a secret from the team. Things don’t go as planned because the Legends come back from a mission that involved Napoleon Bonaparte and disco clothing. While Nate and Amaya leave the bridge to discuss the fact that they just had sex during a mission, Sara gets pissed at Zari when Gideon stops working and she finds out about Z’s secret simulation.
Taking the captain position hard, Sara argues with Zari about it, despite Ray’s concern about her mood given Constantine’s warning. Zari reveals that she wanted to find loopholes in history so she could exploit them to avoid the dark future she knows as 2042. As Zari goes to fix the ship, she is hit with some neon fluid from a tube. As she tries to see if Gideon is back online, the Waverider explodes…
…and we’re back to Zari arguing with Sara.
Zari tries to figure out what’s going on, first talking to Mick, then snooping on Nate and Amaya’s post intercourse conversation, and finally Ray to no avail. In the end, the ship explodes again and we’re back to Sara, who ends up twisting Zari’s arm by accident. She ends up being taken to the med bay where she gets sedated and thus back again with the day starting over. Her next move is to try to explain the whole thing to the crew, but it still doesn’t work for multiple attempts.
Until Nate believes her and tells Zari to talk to him again and quotes “Groundhog Day,” which leaves me wondering why pop culture can’t update its timeloop references. Say “Edge of Tomorrow” or even “Happy Death Day” if we want current. Nevertheless, as soon as she wakes up again, she goes to Nate. The two theorize that the explosion comes from within the ship instead of some outside force. Some other stuff happens, but in the end, the ship explodes.
Zari’s newest attempt starts with her teaming up with Nate to go after Rory. It takes a few other attempts, but they eventually figure out that, despite his initial suspicious behavior—doing his laundry—Mick’s was only hiding his novel. They go check on Ray, who ends up revealing, rather easily, that Constantine had told him to kill Sara when Mallus takes over. The duo decide to go after Sara now, fearing that she may be possessed and exploding the ship. Ray shrinks Zari and himself in order to spy on Sara.
What they find is rather the opposite: just a flirtatious facetime conversation with Ava — to quote the poet, “This is a gays only event, go home!”. The two talk about their own experiences being bossy and how Sara has faith in Zari, but she ends up dodging one of Ava’s attempts to go over to the ship and hang out. Sadly, Sara ends up crushing Ray and Zari, as she thought they were a fly.
Once again, Zari goes to Nate, but she’s feeling quite tired. Nate suggests they have fun with it given the lack of consequences, so cue the fun montage. Eventually, the fun runs out and Zari tries to kill herself, but fails. This time though, Sara manages to believe Zari’s story and enlists the whole team to look for bombs. The Legends try the trash compactor and find Gary, the Bureau agent. Mick takes a device from his hand and destroys it, thinking it was the bomb, but instead, it was what originated the time loop: Gary had boarded the Waverider because of an alert that the ship would explode so he had created the one-hour loop which would give enough time for the time to defuse the bomb. So now, the device is broken and the team has five minutes to find the bomb before they truly die.
Using the Chekhovian move, Sara finds the bomb inside a disc play. If I understant it correctly, Napoleon had gotten his hand on a CD player with ABBA’s “Waterloo” in it, which he had used to win the war? Something campy like that, for sure. Seeing as the bomb will explode, Zari locks herself with the bomb in a force field so she can say her last words to the team which, as expected, is mostly advice she picked up from her time during the time loop.
As the timer stops, Zari finds herself in the company of humanoid!Gideon, the same one that kissed Rip Hunter that one time (I’m glad they end up finding ways to bring Amy Pemberton on board!). Gideon tells her that, in real life, Zari is healing at the med bay, but her mind is with Gideon at her matrix. Turns out Zari’s simulator had not only worked but done all the job regarding the timeloops to show that Zari needs the Legends’ help in order to find the loophole to save 2042.
As she wakes up, Zari gets Ray to confess his secret to Sara so she can prove that she indeed was inside the matrix. As Sara and Zari have a chat, it circles between their will to save people and a nice little loophole that may just give Z a chance to spare her brother’s life.
Capping off the episode, we finally meet Firestorm’s replacement after the CW confirmed it a few weeks back: Rip Hunter tracks down Wally West in China to ask him for help to save the universe.