The Expanse delivered the penultimate episode of its second season, “The Monster and the Rocket.” Once again, it was quite a ride.
We open seeing Errinwright walking his son to school and effectively trying to say goodbye. He also writes a letter to his other child.
On Ganymede, Naomi offers help to the lady from Somnambulist, who tries to refuse her. Naomi doesn’t take no for an answer, however, and insists on fixing her ship. Since it proves the guy who was doing it until then knew jack about fixing ships, it’s probably a good thing. Maybe.
Jim fanatically follows the zombie terminator into the ruins of a dome, where the Rocinante can barely fit. He does so in spite of all Alex’s warnings to the contrary.
Errinwright has a talk with Chrisjen. She tells him Mao contacted her and she was going to speak to him. He is worried about his children, and gives her his medal to give to his son if it goes badly with him at the hearing.
Jim insists on shooting at the zombie terminator, even though Dr. Meng points out it could be his daughter.
Bobbie is taken to the rendez-vous with Mao. Chrisjen goes with just her and her spy.
The Somnambulist lady finds out that they won’t be able to refill the ship with air, and so they only have enough for fifty-two people. There is over a hundred waiting outside, hoping to escape Ganymede on the ship.
Alex tries to argue with Jim, and Jim pulls rank at him.
Chrisjen and Bobbie arrive to the appointed place, and meet with Mao.
Errinwright has a drink with the Martian Prime Minister. He poisons the drink with some particular kind of poison he himself is immune to. It causes a heart attack, too, so no traces. He also somehow manages to shoot down the Martian black op ship that was flying for the protomolecule scientists. You know, the dead ones.
The Somnambulist lady wants to simply fly away, saying that if they open the door, the refugees will all rush in. Naomi refuses to listen. Amos tries to stop her from going out, but she sedates him and goes anyway. Since there are double doors, the people don’t get in immediately, but she’s almost beaten to a pulp. She manages to convince the guy beating her, however, to help her organise the people. In exchange, she trades places with him. She says she’s motivated by guilt over Eros. She feels sorry she didn’t do more to save the people.
Errinwright’s call interrupts Mao’s talk with Chrisjen. It wasn’t going anywhere anyway, so no great loss. Errinwright tells them he shot down the Martian ship. He announces to Mao that he’s his only friend now, and so Mao will have to cooperate. Then he accuses Chrisjen of grovelling to Mars, and says she’s the real traitor. Guns are drawn, and Mao retreats.
The Somnambulist is flying out, but the Martian quarantine is still effect. They are warned against continuing, otherwise they’d be fired upon. Alex hears that, and tells Jim Naomi and their family needs their help. We get a tense shot of Jim’s face.
The Martians fire a torpedo at the Somnambulist. At the last moment, that torpedo is shot down by the Rocinante. Jim opens a channel to the Martian ships and warns them he’ll shoot them down if they try to hurt them or the Somnambulist. Since, as he says, they’re saving bullets for Earth in this tense atmosphere, he’s not worth the trouble and they let him go.
So, let’s talk about Errinwright.
I have to admit, I thought of (book) Jaime Lannister when I saw that scene, even though their character trajectory is very different. Because Jaime is the character I have most connected with “limits of redemption.”
The thing is, Errinwright is a guy who, at the beginning of this season, effectively condoned genocide. I will not say it is impossible for him to have a complete change of heart and become wholly good by its end. If nothing else, my religious convictions forces me to say everything is possible in this respect. But I will say it was pretty damn unlikely. And Chrisjen asked a lot of him.
Now, to be clear, I’m not trying to shift the blame on her. Errinwright is the bad guy here, without a doubt. But Chrisjen is the naive gal in this situation, or the stupid gal if I am less kind. And that grates.
I said in my review of “Cascade” that she was being pretty hard on him, but that I supposed she knew him well enough for that. I wanted to give both her and the writers the benefit of the doubt. Well, guess what? She didn’t.
But Chrisjen isn’t Naomi, or Alex, or Jim from the first season. She is not naive, and she is certainly not stupid. She doesn’t believe in the good in people, not in the way those above named do. Realpolitik is her daily bread. She should have known—she would have known—that if she pushed Errinwright too hard, he would break.
Morality is formed by habit as much as by choice. The vast majority of people would find it difficult, after thinking only of themselves and their profit for years, to do such a thing as publicly admit their mistake, humble themselves before all the world and accept the punishment, knowing all their friends will turn away from them and that their children will suffer for their mistake, and live their lives knowing their parents were the villains. I know I probably couldn’t do that, and while I’m not an especially good person, I should hope I’m also leagues away from “condoning genocide.” So unless she had particular knowledge to the contrary, expecting Errinwright to go along with what she told him to do was naive and stupid of Chrisjen. And she is not a naive or stupid character. So I take issue with that.
Combined with her going to see Mao with only her spy and Bobbie (whom she hardly knows) as a guard, as well as telling only Errinwright of all people where she was going, I have to ask: what are you doing, writers? This is not the veteran politician I know. A woman who made this kind of mistakes wouldn’t have made it to the UN Deputy Undersecretary. She wouldn’t have survived as long as she has. Give me back the top player from the first half of this season.
Back to Errinwright, though; his part was done beautifully. I know I keep singing praises to Shawn Doyle’s acting, but I can’t help it, he’s perfect. He was perfect every step of the journey he took in “The Monster and The Rocket.” I might prefer to watch him when he’s struggling with his conscience and it’s winning, but he doesn’t do the bad guy moments any worse.
It was written to brilliance, too, to showcase what I’ve just been talking about. Errinwright isn’t a cold-hearted villain at this point. He’s a man who felt pushed into a corner, and so he took what seemed to him like the only possible way out. He probably started a war by doing that, too. But even that was preferable to him than what Chrisjen had lined up. He simply couldn’t take it, because he wasn’t brave enough to face such a complete fall. He was unable to let go of everything that had ever been his life. In this, at least, he is actually very like Jamie. It’s wrong, certainly, but on another level it’s understandable, which is what makes it so brilliant.
Additionally, he didn’t only kill the Martian PM to save himself. He was also saving Earth at the same time, or so he honestly believes. That adds another layer to it, and we could analyse the ways people justify their vile acts to themselves all day. The point is, this had layers within layers, and everything about the execution was great. Except, that is, the part Chrisjen played.
(Well, there is one more little nitpick. I could have done without the villainous monologue when the PM’s seizures started. Errinwright, to my mind, should have simply pretended it was an actual accident, in case the PM somehow survived. But I suppose they needed to make sure the viewers understood what happened.)
In contrast to that stands Jim’s plotline. His fall continued on the same trajectory it started many episodes ago. It’s been clearly shown to be caused by the trauma from Eros. Jim becomes obsessed, and ignores Dr. Meng’s wishes to try and save his own daughter. He has no experience with the zombie terminators, yet assumes they are all killing machines and there’s no trace of the original people left in them. His only goal is to kill them. He becomes what he assumes them to be.
And then Alex tells him that his family is in distress—his family by choice, Amos and Naomi—and Jim throws all that away and goes to save them. Because just as it is hard for a truly bad person to become truly good, so it isn’t so easy for a truly good one to fall all the way down at once.
It was a well done parallel. Jim is not in the straightforward hero territory anymore. He showed very little compassion to Dr. Meng. But he still cares for his friends enough to help them, at least, and that does count for something.
It was also very much in tone with Jim’s original character as the most straightforward hero to be the knight in shining armour who comes swooping in at the last moment.
Of course, it does paint Naomi as a bit of a damsel in distress that needs to be saved by him, but given that she’s on a ship full of refugees, I think it’s not so bad. The focus wasn’t on her surviving, at least not from her point of view. I also appreciated that Alex, when he motivated Jim, said “our family is in danger”, not just “your girlfriend is”. It gives Jim both motivations at once, which is good. For his character arc, it’s better that the reason not be primarily the romantic one. For Naomi and her story, though, it would be better if it was. So they gave us both.
As for said Naomi’s story, she’s the one who’s being the straightforward hero in this tale. She can also be a contrast to Chrisjen in that she made the choice to trust someone, too, bu in her case it paid off.
I would have liked it more had they included something that indicated she realised the very real possibility that she would be killed by the frantic mass of people. Because there was one. When she stood in front of the shut door behind which all those refugees were, I thought of the end of Hyperion, actually. But there, when the lady steps in among the crowds, they tear her to pieces. Literally.
So when Amos tells Naomi that she’ll be killed, I’d have liked her to say something along the lines of “I very well might be, yes.” I don’t mind them scripting the scene differently and more optimistically, but I do mind scripting it so that it doesn’t acknowledge the possibility of it going the other way. I suppose her being beaten before she was listened to served that purpose, but it somehow wasn’t enough for me.
There is also the ethical issue of her risking the life of the Somnambulist lady in this way. They already caused the death of her husband. Didn’t she deserve to be left alone? I know there were the refugees to think of, but I believe this wasn’t so ethically clear cut, and I would have liked the show to acknowledge that much.
We go into the finale next week with “Caliban’s War.” Something tells me it’s not going to be a particularly happy episode.
All images courtesy of SyFy.
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.