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Sherlock Channels The Best And Worst Of Fanfiction

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Sherlock brought out the second episode of its sixth season, “The Lying Detective”, on Sunday. While the previous one was bad, this was actually a good piece of television. It makes its many issues all the more jarring.

Recap

John has a new therapist, and while in session, he neglects to tell her he has hallucinations of his dead wife. He does discuss how he’s sure he wouldn’t have missed Sherlock trying to contact him if he had done so. Just at that moment, a flashy sports car appears in front of the door, pursued by the police.

We cut to a meeting room where Mr. Smith, a millionaire and philanthropist (no word on genius, but probably a playboy too), tells his most trusted friends and his daughter Faith that he needs to make a confession to them, but that he’ll drug them so that they forget it. The confession is that he needs to kill someone.

His daughter seems to remember at least bits of that meeting. The next we see is her visiting Sherlock, telling him all about it. Her whole life, she says, was changed by one word when her father told them whom he needed to kill.

Sherlock sends her away at first, but then he deduces she’s about to kill herself and he stops her and takes a walk with her, accepting her case. During the entire progress of their walk, Mycroft is monitoring them from a helicopter

We cut back to John at the therapist’s, where Mrs. Hudson gets out of the flashy car and emotionally blackmails him into promising to help Sherlock. Then she opens the trunk to reveal the detective there. He is high as a kite once again, but tells John that Mr. Smith is a serial killer. He has made the same announcement on his blog, too. About the same time, Mr. Smith calls to ask John and Sherlock for lunch.

John agrees to go on the condition that Sherlock will be examined by Molly Hooper and that it’ll be confirmed he’s really on drugs again and so does actually need his help. Molly confirms that he’s “using again” and that at the rate he’s going, he has got weeks to live. Sherlock is unperturbed, and off to lunch they go.

It turns out that Mr. Smith has turned Sherlock’s announcement into a publicity stunt, and he is now promoting his cereals with saying he’s a “cereal killer”. They go to the hospital Mr. Smith is financing. There is a lot of creepy dialogue. Sherlock pickpockets Mr. Smith’s phone to send a text to his daughter, and later he announces she would meet them and that he told her Mr. Smith confessed. When the woman arrives, however, it turns out it’s not the same one who visited Sherlock, which throws him a little, to the point that he starts hallucinating, is hysterical and attempts to stab Mr. Smith with a scalpel, only to be restrained and beaten by John.

Next he’s to be found lying in a hospital bed when Mr. Smith comes in. Sherlock asks the madman to kill him by increasing the dosage of whatever drug he’s on. In “about an hour”, he should be dead. Mr. Smith uses the remaining time to confess.

Meanwhile in Sherlock’s flat, Mycroft is trying to figure out what drove Sherlock over the edge when John comes. They discover the Miss me? CD Mary left Sherlock. Playing the message, John sees that Mary told Sherlock to put himself in danger because if he does, John would come to rescue him, while he would never accept help.

Seeing this, John rushes tot he hospital in Mrs. Hudson’s car, where he saves Sherlock just in time, as Mr. Smith ran out of patience and was suffocating the detective.

It turns out his confession was recorded, so that’s one case solved, and in fact, Mr. Smith just goes on confessing once he’s at the police station. It’s a hobby of his, apparently.

John and Sherlock sit together and make up, in a way. John tells Sherlock he no longer blames him for Mary’s death. He also discovers that Irene Adler is still texting Sherlock and starts to bully him into answering her texts because everybody needs a romantic relationship. They apparently make you a better person, like Mary did to him. Sherlock begins to tell him that he’s plenty good enough even alone, and John confesses – mostly to the Mary inside his head – that he cheated on her. In the next second, however, he says it was only ever text messages, which Sherlock assures him that is not a big deal and that he asks too much of himself. He admits that, yes, even he sometimes replies to Irene’s messages.

They hug.

We get a scene of Lady Smallwood effectively asking Mycroft out on a date.

Alone for a moment, Sherlock finds the paper Mr. Smith’s “daughter” left at his flat and realizes he didn’t hallucinate her. He shines ultraviolet light at the paper and it reveals the message “Miss Me?”

And to close with, there is a scene with John at his therapist again, only it turns out that the therapist is actually the same woman he’s been “cheating” on Mary with and who visited Sherlock as Faith. She is Sherlock’s and Mycroft’s secret sister, The East Wind, who then fires a bullet at John.

No, I’m not making this up.

Review

So, this is still not a detective story. We know who the killer was from the start, and there wasn’t even any mystery of how he did it, because there are no particular cases. But whatever this is, it’s more Sherlock than the previous episode was, so that’s a good thing.

It worked, too, emotionally and as far as characters go. The grief was handled relatively well from my point of view, managing to convey some improvement without pretending that everything would be fine again in a few weeks. John saying “it’s shit, but it is what it is” sums up their approach pretty well, and it was believable both in and out of universe.

The reconciliation between John and Sherlock was equally well done. As a touch-averse person, I’m not usually a fan of people who don’t hug suddenly hugging and that being used to express deeply felt emotion. These scenes make me uncomfortable. But here, somehow, it worked. John and Sherlock are close enough friends and it’s an emotionally enough fraught situation that even I felt the hug was needed. It hit every note it should have.

In relation to this, let me call out one great line:

By saving my life, she conferred a value on it. It is a currency I do not know how to spend.
– Sherlock, about Mary

Thematically, though, we’re starting to go in circles a little. This is the third season where Sherlock sacrifices himself for his friends in some way. Even the way he does it, in fact, are similar. The reason why the sacrifice was necessary was a little different this time at least, but still, we’re going over a ground we have already covered, and I fear that once again, it will not end up costing Sherlock anything, making the whole theme of sacrifice rather moot.

Related to this is the depiction of drug abuse. It’s a good thing they show its dangers, I suppose, but on the other hand, what is this supposed to mean about long-term effects? Withdrawal? Is Sherlock going to be perfectly fine the moment he stops actively using drugs? I fear he will, which is why I say the supposed sacrifice will end up costing him nothing. Let’s hope they will surprise me.

While “The Six Thatchers” were a series of false notes in characterization, this didn’t really have many issues in that department. Perhaps the biggest one would be Mycroft. Once again, he oscillates between omnipotent and impotent. He follows Sherlock with a helicopter when he goes for a walk, but he lets him lie in the hospital of the man Sherlock has just accused of being a serial killer and then tried to kill. And when John calls him to tell him there’s danger, he’s all “no, he’s fine”. I know the story needed John to save him, but then invent a way that works better.

One of the good ways “The Lying Detective” channels fanfiction, as I claim in the title, is what they do with Mrs. Hudson. The way they take her background, which was just casually mentioned until now, and bring it a bit to the foreground. Mrs. Hudson drives a flashy car at top speed while being on the phone and, as she tells John, “I own property in central London.” What did you think, silly? “I’m not your housekeeper”, I’m the widow of a drug lord.

It was fantastic seeing a bit of the lady who got her husband executed and then inherited the money. Though I have to say, if she did not know about Sherlock’s plan to help John and really in all honesty emotionally manipulated a man whose wife was recently deceased to help Sherlock, well, that’s cold even for a drug boss.

And speaking of her being cold, Mrs. Hudson called Mycroft a reptile – does she know what he did to his sister, whatever it was? Because apart from possibly that, I can’t recall anything that would deserve such vitriol. Especially as she was speaking to him so fondly in season three. Sure, that guy misuses government resources, but as she so kindly pointed out, she’s the widow of a drug lord who lives off his money after she got him executed. She’s hardly one to judge, but her behaviour towards him seems to be determined entirely at random. Especially as Mycroft, however emotionally constipated he might be, is worried about his brother at the moment. So could she lay off with the invectives?

But enough about Mrs. Hudson. As for the other female characters, Mary remains as awesome in death as she was alive, but Molly was much less satisfying. She is there in her usual role, only to help and worry. Give us back the Molly who slapped Sherlock for abusing drugs!

The last female character worth a mention (though the nurse was great!) is the therapist, AKA Eurus. First, and related to her, it’s worth a moment to comment on the revelation that John’s “cheating” was only texts. It’s lovely they didn’t have John act completely out of character. That’s oen problem of the previous episode gone. On the other hand, that puts us back to where he is actually perfect. Why can’t we just stick with a middle ground and have him have realistic faults?

And then, well. What is it with this show and heteronormativity? Sherlock was coded as aromantic asexual for the entirety of the first season, then his fascination with Irene Adler was clearly meant to be something out of his experience. Even the “relationship” he had in season three was just to get to Magnussen. But now we have John telling him that the only way to be a good person, to be happy, is in a romantic relationship? For real?

If that argument was “if that is what you want, you shouldn’t let some stupid pose prevent yourself”, then fine. But romantic relationships are not a magical spell to make people better! In fact, I know a few couples who make each other’s faults worse, and while I suppose it can prevent you from becoming too selfish, so can friendship or adopting a child or any number of things. Seriously.

And Mycroft, who was definitely coded as aromantic (and also perhaps gay, or at least about two lines in the show seemed to hint that way), is seen being asked out by Lady Smallwood, because God forbid two people of the opposite sex just work together as colleagues, right?

But I will take it all back if it turns out their secret sister is a trans woman.

It would fit perfectly. Mycroft, as much as I love him, looks like exactly the sort of person who would refuse to accept his sister’s gender and insist on calling her by her dead name – thus Sherrinford. (And yes, Euros is masculine too, but bear with me.)

It’s the only way to save the twist with the sister, which looks very much like a desire to cheaply shock and only made me think of bad fanfictions with self-insert original characters in the form of a Holmes sister who is even smarter than both brothers combined and, of course, extremely pretty, and her name is Mary Sue.

Her jab at John about automatically assuming she was a brother makes no sense as it stands, too, because Mycroft literally said “it makes no difference Sherlock is my brother, it didn’t matter the last time.” See? An explicit mention of brother. The original logic behind Sherrinford Holmes – the first deduced existence of a third sibling – needed a brother too, since it was the supposition that in a gentry family, the eldest brother would inherit the country property and take care of it, and since Mycroft obviously wasn’t doing that, there had to be another one. Whatever way you look at it, trans Eurus is the only one that makes sense. Now give her to me!

There is one more plot issue I can’t help to mention. Sherlock deduces Mr. Smith is a serial killer by Faith’s statement that it was one word, reasoning that names are always two words, so the word must have been “anyone”. In actual reality, it could have been a lot of other words. Sherlock himself offers a case, Napoleon, and “Faith” offers another, “Elvis.” There are countless other examples, and then it could have been a name of someone so familiar to her the first name would have worked. Or, it could have been a pronoun, like “you.”

All of these are really obvious, and there is no way Sherlock wouldn’t have thought of them. They just wanted him to make the deduction (and twist the expectation that it would be one particular person) and didn’t quite know how. I know this sounds like a nitpick, but it broke my immersion quite substantially while watching.

Speaking of subverting expectation, most of this episode was predictable (or stupidly twisting in one case), there was one point that caught me unawares. When Mrs. Hudson came in to ask John to help Sherlock, I actually had a moment of fury to think that John’s wife died but it’s all going to be about Sherlock again, before I realized what Sherlock was doing. So, good job there.

I wonder, though, is it a problem that the way to save John was to make everything about Sherlock again? It works inside the story, it’s in character for John, but on the meta level, the narrative teaches Sherlock very little. He already did this kind of self-sacrifice in “His Last Vow”. To have some actual further development, he would need to live and change. There are some small signs of this being in the works. Let’s see if the show follows through.

Back to more general issues, Sherlock seems to have a particular affinity for serial killers with no motives. They are bad for detective stories, but then again, like I said, this was not a detective story. Still, compare the one room from “A Study In Pink” with this one and I think you will see all the ways the tax driver was better. The episodes did not try to cramp so much in back then, didn’t try to be so shocking, and the show was better for it.

The taxi driver also didn’t have that much of a Bond villain flare. It was one of the best things about him, what an unassuming guy he was. This is another way in which “The Lying Detective” seems to be channelling bad fanfiction – drugs that addle your memory? Really? And everyone in the room just going along with it?

The villain of this piece simply did nothing for me. I had no interest in him, he was ridiculous at times, and when the tediousness of him was finally over, I was glad. We could get back to the interpersonal stuff, which was actually good in this episode.

I know I spend much more time speaking about the bad than about the good, but it was a well made bit of television, enjoyable to watch, well-paced and with mostly believable characters. It makes me feel all the more sorry about the issues I can’t help pointing out.


All images courtesy of BBC.

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Barbara Kean Proves She’s a Queen

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Last time we were in Gotham, Barbara and her merry band of assassins were making themselves at home at Ra’s Al Ghul’s while Tabitha got kicked out because she tries to talk Barbara out of her new calling. Also, Barbara might be Ra’s reincarnated… wife? Oswald and Butch got their old duo back together and Lee and the Riddler’s relationship got more complicated.

The episode kicks off with Barbara getting attacked by her own assassins. It’s cool though, they were just testing to see if she unlocked the full potential of the Demon’s Head power, which includes seeing the past and future. She hasn’t, but she’s sure that she’ll be able to, given time.

Bruce, meanwhile, is taking his birthday gift out for a drive with Selina. He even shows off with it a little.

They’re meeting Tabitha who asked Bruce to come into the city. Things go sideways fast when Bruce and Selina realize it was a trap to get to him. Specifically to get his blood to bring Ra’s Al Ghul back from the dead.

Ra’s rises as a mummy/zombie hybrid and he isn’t happy about it. The being alive part that is. His feelings about being a zombie are up in the air. His death went exactly as he planned so he isn’t pleased with his men to find himself awake again. But they aren’t pleased with Barbara as their leader. They don’t think she can live up to the potential of being the Demon’s Head. Ra’s doesn’t automatically become the Demon’s Head again, he needs Barbara to give it back to him. Or he has to take it from her by force.

He goes himself to see if she’s made use of the powers and he isn’t impressed with her plan to rule Gotham. She refuses to give the power back, claiming it as her destiny. She points to the painting of her and Ra’s as proof. Ra’s write’s the woman in the painting off as just someone he used for entertainment until he killed her. He writes of Barbara as well, as nothing but a club owner with no real accomplishments to her name.

He tries to take the power from her, but Barbara’s assassin crew get in the way. They don’t fare very well against him, but Barbara does manage to escape when Bruce, Tabitha and Selina show up.

At Wayne Manor Barbara and Tabitha are hashing it out. Selina stops the argument to get their priorities straight. It doesn’t matter who hurt who when there’s a zombie assassin coming after all of them.

Bruce plans to kill Ra’s again, but Barbara wants to deal the killing blow, thinking it will unlock her full powers. Before they can decide who kills him, they’re going to need to get the knife that can kill first. Bruce donated the knife to the Nanda Parbat embassy, so they need to pull off a daylight robbery.

Alfred goes into the embassy with Tabitha, pretending they want the knife back. The ambassador grows suspicious so Alfred fakes a heart attack. In the chaos, Selina repels down to grab the knife, like any good cat burglar would.

With the knife in Selina’s hands, it becomes her decision on who to give the knife too. She hesitates but hands it to Barbara inevitability. The ladies leave Bruce and Alfred stranded, their need for them done. At the Sirens’ Club, Barbara’s plan is to wait for Ra’s before she goes all ‘stabby-stabby’. Selina isn’t excited that’s the extent of her strategy. She sided with them because she thought Barbara at least had a proper plan. Selina’s words cut a little close to home for Barbara and she makes Selina leave.

She airs her doubts with Tabitha. Tabitha doesn’t want to hear any of Barbara’s self-deprecation. The Barbara she knows is a lot of things, but someone who isn’t confident isn’t one of them.

After Barbara kicked her out, Selina, naturally, went back to Wayne Manor. Bruce was hurt she choose Barbara over him. But, as it turns out, she gave Barbara the dagger because she didn’t want Bruce to become a drunken brat again like he had when he killed Ra’s the first time. Now, Barbara and Tabitha need help and Selina’s tired of everyone trying to pick sides. As long as Ra’s is around they all have a common enemy.

Speaking of Ra’s, he and his men arrive at the Sirens’ Club. Barbara gets him talking to get close to him. She stabs him right in the heart, and he responds with a simple ‘ouch’. Things aren’t looking good for her, but Bruce shows up just in time to disrupt the fight.

And then Barbara gets stabbed in the back! Right through to her chest! But wait! She’s unlocked the Demon’s Head powers and is seeing into the future! She didn’t die!

But Ra’s grabs Tabitha, giving Barbara the choice between the powers and her. For a gut-wrenching second, it seems like Barbara chooses the power. But she’s seeing the future again and seeing Tabitha die because of her is something she doesn’t want. She gives up the Demon’s Head.

With the power returned to him, Ra’s is unzombie-fied. Bruce steps forward, thinking he’ll want to be killed by him again. But Ra’s doesn’t want to die this time. He breaks the knife, the only thing Bruce can kill him with.

After the fighting is done and all the assassins are gone Barbara’s cleaning up. Tabitha comes to her but doesn’t say anything. Her expression screams what she’s thinking though. Barbara only says, ‘you would have done the same for me.’ The scene would have been amazing if it had ended there. But then it gets even better when the ladies of the league return, pledging themselves to Barbara, Demon’s Head or not. She’s the leader they want.

In other parts of the city, Jim and Harvey have to deal with five bank robberies in one night. That kind flare has the Riddler written all over it. Jim goes to pay Lee a visit, but he isn’t the only one who’s in the Narrows for an audience with its queen. Oswald and Butch turn up playing the friends card with a side of threats to get a cut of their earnings. Lee is having none of it. She tells them in no uncertain terms to get lost, with the Riddler backing her up.

Oswald isn’t happy to see the Riddler is as in love with Lee as Ed was. He’s disappointed and maybe a little jealous. Maybe. Oswald pokes at just right spots to get under the Riddler’s skin, stirring up the doubts he already has about Lee’s intentions with him. So much so, the Riddler starts to talk to Ed in his reflection, only Ed’s the one taunting from the other side this time. Scared Ed could take over the Riddler goes to Oswald and Butch, telling them their plan for an even bigger score.

Jim makes the trip to Narrows, but Lee isn’t giving up the Riddler. Jim starts to suspect Lee’s in on it too. Back the GCPD he and Harvey talk to the bank owner, putting it together that the bank has a history of shady dealings. The owner lets it slip that majority of their branches’ assets were moved to one secure location because of everything that’s happened since the Arkham break out. That’s all Jim and Harvey need to hear to know that’s the Riddler’s real target.

Sure enough, Lee and the Riddler are knocking out all the guards at the bank. But the Riddler pulls a gun on Lee as Oswald and Butch make their appearance. Yet the twists for the evening for the evening aren’t over. Riddler wasn’t double-crossing Lee, he was double-crossing Oswald. With most of the money loaded up, he sets off the alarm, locking Oswald and Butch in the vault.

The gesture makes an impression on Lee. So much so, she takes the fall for the robbery to let the Riddler get away with the money.

After the chaos of another day in Gotham comes to a close, Bruce is of course already worrying about the chaos that will come with the new day. He’s already trying to find a way to repair the dagger. Selina’s there and she reminds him that he doesn’t owe Gotham is every waking moment.

Ra’s Al Ghul agrees with her. (Selina was right about Bruce’s security sucking.) But Ra’s isn’t there to fight. He offers an explanation why he didn’t want to die again. His rebirth brought with it a vision of Gotham burning and the event shaping Bruce into a ‘dark knight’.

Gotham never fails when its characters take the lead.

Another character heavy episode gave another great episode of Gotham. This episode was just filled to the brim with great character moments. Where do I even begin? I suppose I’ll start where the episode did, with Barbara. Barbara Kean, how far she’s come from Jim Gordon’s timid girlfriend. But at her core, she’s still a woman capable of loving deeply. That’s the part of her that shined here. She gave up the demon’s head for Tabitha! (Side note, even if their deaths weren’t real, still wasn’t fun watching Barbara getting stabbed through the back and Tabitha’s neck sliced open. Sara Lance almost dying three times a season more than fills my quota of wlw near-death experiences. I won’t be able to get the images of the two of them mortally wounded out of my head for at least a week)

This episode gives us Barbara’s entire character arc in a microcosm. At the start of Gotham, she has so little agency of her own. She’s clawed and fought to be where she is now, but even with everything she accomplished her insecurities still lie just below the surface. Power is her metric of success. The Demon’s Head was her ultimate victory. Proof that she deserved to stand among the very best in a city filled with extortionary people.

And she gave it up. For a person she loves. Even after she unlocks the Demon’s Head’s full potential. That’s the Barbara Kean I adore. Barbara keeps getting better and better. As does her relationship with Tabitha. They are so compelling to watch, regardless of their relationship status.

While we’re on the topic of relationship status lets talk about Lee and the Riddler. They are an… interesting pair. I don’t know what my feelings are on their romantic relationship are yet. But I’ll admit, the dynamic is compelling. I’m like the Riddler when it comes to Lee. I don’t know where she stands but I want to figure it out. Is she just stringing him along? Does she really care for the Ed Nygma hidden away under Riddler’s bowler cap?

Also, seeing Ed be the one taunting from inside the mirror brings another layer to the Riddler. It’s intriguing to explore how much he truly is in control and how much Ed is slipping out. This romance should be a bad idea, but Lee and the Riddler bring out a strange and interesting dynamic in each other so I’m willing to see where it goes.

Gotham is on a break next week, but its return will mark the beginning of the end of this season with only three episodes remaining. The promo doesn’t give much away beyond the promise of pure Gotham chaos™.


Images courtesy of Fox

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Everything Goes Wrong on The Americans

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We all have those times where literally nothing goes right. It doesn’t necessarily mean it’s your fault, either. Things entirely out of your control just refuse to go how they need to. One crucial thing doesn’t pan out. A woman vomits in the middle of the party, right before someone spills potentially valuable information. You know, your typical bad luck. There was a lot of bad luck this week for just about everyone on The Americans.

The Bullet’s Loaded in the Chamber…

If anyone had doubts about the bad places Philip and Elizabeth are in right now, “Mr. and Mrs. Teacup” drove it home. We’ve seen things go bad for Elizabeth all season. Just check her murder count (which increased by 3 this week). She’s overburdened, alone, and losing her edge. Both her missions this week fail. Despite the body count, she once again fails to get her hands on the radiation sensor. A pretty perfect opportunity arrives in the form of the World Series party, but she loses it when the sick woman she cares for empties her stomach in the middle of the party.  Nothing went right for her. Really nothing has gone right yet for Elizabeth.

Philip isn’t much better off. His financial troubles hit fully this week, to the point he informed Henry about his inability to pay tuition to his school. He’s in much the same place as Elizabeth; alone, overburdened, and with nothing going right. This episode had a few moments where a character talks about themselves or a persona of Philip or Elizabeth that clearly described one of those two. When Kimmy describes “Jim” as stuck in place, it’s clear it applies to Philip’s life since retirement.

(While we’re on the subject, Kimmy remains the one spy-related assignment Philip is responsible for and even that goes bad this week.)

I think The Americans wants to make a clear point about the Jennings here. Philip and Elizabeth spent decades becoming probably the best Soviet spy assets in America because they were together. When one fell to a moment of weakness, the other was there. They shared burdens. They covered the other’s mistakes. Problems in their personal life were handled together.

Without each other, they stand alone to fail, both as people and in their missions.

While it was clear how distant the two were before now, this episode really drove it home. Philip and Elizabeth have separated their lives to the point they split parenting duty. The way Elizabeth says “Henry is your department” was just shockingly cold. You could already sense the truth of it in the previous three episodes. To have them flat out confirm it, like parenting has become a solo mission, disturbed the hell out of me.

They’ve never been as far apart as they are right now. Not even in those early years when their marriage was a sham. Back then, at least, they were taking on missions together and in tune professionally. Now they are professionally separate, personally separated, and suffering for it. Absolutely nothing is going right for them. They are both absolutely miserable. Even their one moment of attempted intimacy feels entirely forced and ends in rejection. Not one part of their life is happy or successful anymore.

They have absolutely no one who they can truly relate to anymore. Elizabeth has no one who really knows what she goes through. She goes on missions with Paige, but hides the full truth of them. She can speak some of her concerns to Claudia, but not all of them since full disclosure could have her labeled a concern to deal with. Without the spy work, Philip has become your typical American suburban dad, the kind Elizabeth despises and actively fights against. Obviously Philip can’t confide fully in her anymore. Paige has been turned, and Henry is still unaware of his parents’ espionage. So he can only confide in bits and pieces to a few select people like Elizabeth and Stan.

I talked about the divide established between Philip and Elizabeth back in my review for the premiere, and now that divide has crystalized. It’s more than an ideological conflict. Philip actively informed on Elizabeth to Oleg. They’re officially on opposing sides of a conflict. A conflict that could turn physically violent. When will they find out? How will they react?

Right now this might be the central question of the final season. What happens when Philip and Elizabeth find out just how far apart they are? What happens when their lives are at risk and they have to choose their futures? Do they reflect on their depression and find common ground? Do they turn on each other permanently? What about their kids? I can’t imagine they last much longer as is. It’s just too dark.

…But When Will The Americans Fire It?

“Mr. and Mrs. Teacup” certainly pushed us closer to that moment. It pushed a lot of things closer to the edge. I continue to be impressed by how closely tied the storylines remain this season. Everything plot point is feeding into the others in some way.

The thing is, when are they going to explode?

Conflict seems inevitable right now. Elizabeth has been tuned in to Gennady and Sofia and basically received orders to execute them if necessary. Stan remains the only confidante those two will trust or listen to. I also wouldn’t be surprised if Stan ends up tailing Oleg on his own, which could lead him to discovering Philip. And of course there’s the issue of Philip spying on Elizabeth and what happens when she finds out.

With the final season hitting the halfway point next week, I just hope The Americans stops loading rounds into the gun and fires the damn thing.

I’m not suggesting nothing happened this week. Certainly not. Paige sleeping with a potential source was an event big enough for an entire segment of this review; not just because of the effect on her psyche or Elizabeth’s rather explicit orders not to do it, but for what this moment represents for her character.

Think of how badly she reacted to her meager attempts to use her relationship with Matthew Beeman as a source of information. Sure, 3 years and a lot of training has happened since then, but this is also a much bigger step than dating the neighbor boy with mostly innocent intentions. Like she was told before, sex leads to emotions, and emotions lead to vulnerability. Vulnerability is dangerous in this line of work, which probably ranks as a key reason Elizabeth wants to groom Paige for something besides frontline spy work.

If Paige is going to take this step on her own, how will she handle it? Can she handle it? Whatever brainwashing Claudia has managed, Paige is still the same person she was last season. Can she handle the guilt of stringing someone innocent along in this manner? What does it say about her, her mother, and this whole training process if she can? Paige may be losing a vital part of her soul. Potentially even worse, that part of her soul may be yet another brick falling from the wall that tears life apart for her family.

That this was not immediately the biggest moment in the episode does speak to how much really happened. Between Elizabeth and Philip, Stan/Gennady/Sofi, the summit, spying on the diplomats involved, Paige, Henry, Kimmy, the murders, Oleg, the impending Soviet downfall…there’s so much going on. What’s more, any single one of the plotlines involving any of these characters can lead to the others falling apart. That’s how closely tied and precarious all these storylines are.

I just want to see all these juggling balls drop already. While I loved season 5, there is an element of expectation in my acceptance of it, that it was going to lead to more this season. And it has, to an extent. But we need THE moment. We need the gun to fire that breaks everything down. The moment where Hank realizes Walt was Heisenberg. We need that episode where Stan finds out about his neighbors. The time has to arrive where the cover is blown and the Jennings family finds itself on the run.

There’s also the issue of just how much further into this dark, depressing calm The Americans can go before it is unsustainable. Damn near everyone is steeped in hard times or will be soon. Philip and Elizabeth are the catalyst causing everything to fall apart, the cancer breaking down everything around them. Or rather, the conflict between the Soviet Union and the United States is the cancer, and with its end we’re seeing the death throes of people who only know this way of life and fight to maintain it.

Thing is, they can’t. And The Americans as a show cannot keep stringing them along like this, no more than the circumstances around them can. I think this was the episode making it clear to the characters and the audience that these people cannot continue as they always have. Change is coming. Now it’s time to see how everyone will react to it.

It’s time for The Americans to fire the gun.

Other Thoughts:

  • It just hit me during the “previously on” that the “you haven’t talked to anyone back home in 20 years, neither have you” exchange was after both had done so and formed their current beliefs on said conversations.
  • I understand why the warehouse break-in was so dark, but I had no idea what was happening. The scene reminded me of Game of Thrones at its worst. You have to be able to see what’s happening in scenes like those. I didn’t know if Elizabeth succeeded or not in finding the sensor.
  • If all these murders don’t come back to haunt Elizabeth, I will be disappointed. This is a lot of bodies. Important bodies, too. You can’t have dead generals and dead military guards so close to one another without a considerable investigation.
  • I’m curious whether this final season will move far enough ahead in time for Henry to move back home. Assuming Philip doesn’t find a way to pay his tuition, that is.
  • Interesting how Philip is the one who always thinks back on his life back home. Is this because Elizabeth typically doesn’t (because she’s not quite so conflicted about it) or because The Americans only wants to show these reflective moments for Philip?

Images courtesy of FX

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Black Lightning Season Finale Lights Up

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Black Lightning, Anissa, and Jennifer with the phrase Get Lit

The first season finale of Black Lightning culminates in death and chaos and it’s pretty epic. I hate the ASA, and Tobias is too much! But he makes for a great adversary.

But first, the Psalm that this episode’s title refers to:

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me…

(Thanks to GeeksOut’s Black Lightning reviewer for pointing this out to me as I hadn’t researched the title quite yet.)

As I mentioned in my “the show so far” piece, every title has had a religious reference to it, and next week I’ll talk about all of them combined. It’s appropriate then that the “final” showdown between the Lightnings and the ASA specifically references this Psalm, as the valley portion goes back to Jesus’ eternal life.

Black Jesus isn’t going anywhere.

Black Lightning Season Finale

After last week’s fight, the Pierces and Gambi went to his safe house so Gambi and Lynn could treat Jefferson. Jennifer is understandably freaked about the entire situation especially when Gambi realizes special ops are here to kill everyone.

Elsewhere, Khalil, I mean Painkiller, apologizes for killing Black Lightning, and Tobias tells him not to do that. He doesn’t care if they go against Martin since after all, he wants to take Martin down. Martin is trash and actually says MAGA after talking about how if the American flag is getting redder, it better be from the blood of his enemies. Totally a line I’m sure has been said but I’m over him too. Cannot wait until he’s dead.

Poor LaLa probably never signed up for this life, yet here he is getting beat by Tobias who spent a million dollars to “reanimate” LaLa. Bruh. All of LaLa’s murders will come back to haunt him and tattoo his body until no skin is left. I’m over it. Martin gets a hold of him but LaLa goes boom because of a bomb inside him. Or so we think.

Then, Jefferson finally wakes up! Without powers! Oh no! There’s no time to figure it out, though, because ASA found our favorite family! And Tobias sent Syonide and Painkiller to do the same.

Gambi has a plan though! It involves another safe area and Jefferson pretending to have powers so Anissa can take the ops out. Except! Jennifer lights up, hugs her dad, and bam, his powers are back. “It’s what we do.” Yay! Next season is going to be hard on her, but at least she’s not completely over the whole situation.

FIGHT TIME

Everybody and their mom is going to North Freeland! ASA is already there, except Martin who is hanging out at command. Henderson and the police are going. Tobias, Syonide, and Painkiller are going. It is too much!

Lynn has a gun! She and Gambi protect themselves and Jennifer while one of the ops dudes attacks Anissa and almost packages her! Black Lightning saves her, and Jennifer saves mom and Gambi from another attacker, too!

We switch to Tobias, Syonide, and Painkiller taking out the ASA agents while Martin runs away like the coward he is. Too bad he couldn’t transfer the pods like he wanted. When he shows up at the pods, none of his people are there. Gambi and the Peirce family is there, though. But…turns out Martin’s entire operation is rogue, so they’re not going up against the ASA, just this asshole.

I LOVE GAMBI. He shot him twice and “will take care of the trash” while the others handle the pods. Gambi saying he’s a monster was so much. I need him and Jefferson to have another talk asap.

Another news segment articulates all of what the season is about. Illegal human experiments under the purview of the government and we know it’s happened before, happens now, and will sadly happen again. Then we get Jennifer’s voiceover while dad and daughters run and meet Lynn on the steps of their house!

The episode ends with Syonide bringing Tobias a bag with Martin’s thumbs so he can open his files and do whatever he wants with them. “Long live the King” of Freeland.

Random Tidbits
  • How old is Jefferson? We saw Gambi and Grandpa Pierce talking thirty years ago and we also saw his funeral so in his 40s? We also find out that riots after a police shot a black teen is what causes Jefferson’s powers to manifest.
  • Tobias Whale has the strength of three men from the serum he’s been taking!
  • Syonide was in an orphange at eight and Tobias trained her. She’s got carbon fiber under her skin now. Damn.
  • I loved all the Gambi telling the girls about their dad stories and explaining to the audience everything.
  • Jefferson spends most of the episode asleep dreaming about his dad and we learn that all of his sayings and quotes are ones that dad said all the time. His final dream involves grown Jefferson talking to dad about whether all of this is worth it. “Only you can know if it’s worth it.”

I really liked the season finale! I think the first half was paced interestingly because there was a lot of explanations and reveals before the actual fighting, but like most Black Lightning episodes, the real meat of the episode happened right at the end. The finale answered a ton of questions I and others have asked throughout this first season, but left some things unanswered. Is LaLa dead? Who does Lynn know and plan on getting help from for the Stage 2 Pod Kids? Tobias definitely has plans to kill Black Lightning and Thunder.

Painkiller is…..a missed opportunity, but I’m hoping that by end of S2, Khalil can get out from under Tobias’ thumb. Gambi said that Khalil had a choice, so the young man we and Jennifer knew is very much not the same person we have now based on his circumstances. And right now, who knows if they end up planning redemption. The ASA too wasn’t actually super involved with the current iterations of Martin’s plans, so will we see them again? Is Fowdy taking on a bigger role because her boss is dead?

There’s a lot to think about, and the hiatus is long, but I’m excited to see what S2 brings us. Especially as Jennifer comes into her own and the family is more careful. Also, if that green glowing thing is what makes Greenlight happen….we’re all screwed.

Thoughts on the season finale?


Image courtesy of The CW

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