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Westworld Asks and Answers All Your Questions

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This week’s episode of Westworld was easily my favorite of the season so far, as well as Lisa Joy’s incredibly strong directorial debut. The episode entitled “Riddle of the Sphinx” makes use of its title as it tackles the ultimate question. In the classic Oedipus tale, the Sphinx puts forth the riddle, “What is the creature that walks on four legs in the morning, two legs at noon and three in the evening?” Oedipus answers correctly, “Man,” defeating the Sphinx and avoiding death. This is essentially the same riddle Westworld is posing. What makes a man? Can it be replicated? Can it be created?

Lisa Joy onset

The Delos Experiment

The episode opens with a breathtaking 360 one-shot pan around a starkly white, circular room, as we start to piece together items that might indicate who the occupant is. We see a flurry of looping imagery, including the shot itself,  and not limited to a record player and an exercise bike. We see a goldfish in a bowl. In hindsight, this shot tells us literally everything, but on first watch—until a few minutes in when the identity of the man is revealed—the viewer is still just taking it all in.

It’s eventually revealed that this room belongs to James Delos…well, kind of. The first hint that everything is not what it seems is when he starts pouring himself a drink and his shaking hands spill the liquid outside the cup. It’s reminiscent of a common host glitch we’ve seen before, and immediately had my mind jump. He’s a host. Young William then arrived and the two begin to talk, Delos believing he’s there for treatment and should be able to leave soon. William tells him he has to wait a little longer, there’s a conversation test as well — to test his responses. Delos doesn’t understand the use of such a test starts to grow agitated, glitching out. William hands him a folded paper and Delos looks at it confused.

We see this scene repeat again for another test of the next model. William talks to the tech this time, who tells him they’ve made progress but they’re just not there yet. He has this model terminated and they start all over. In their last meeting, it’s Ed Harris’ Bill that meets with the new Delos model. Things are supposed to be going better but Delos starts glitching again. Bill hands him the paper once more and it’s revealed to have their whole conversation on it, word for word. Delos can’t handle it and starts breaking down. Bill leaves, defeated, and tells the tech not to terminate him, that his decay could be worth observing over the next few days.

I loved this sequence, which shocked me considering the post-park trip William and Delos don’t particularly interest me. They essentially shot what could have worked on its own as a short film. It’s brilliant. With the introduction that they’re trying to “bring forth Lazarus” as Ford suggested the future leaning towards in season one, and combine host with human, the showrunners push forward the concept of what truly makes us human and further blurring the lines between hosts and humans. The idea is that they use the DNA to make a host body replica of the human and somehow craft their consciousness to insert into the host. I’m not entirely sure how this works for the immortality concept, because your old mind is not just waking up in this new body, it’s a replicated mind. Presumably it would just be for the people you’re leaving behind? I’m not sure but I’m excited the show is getting farther in its exploration of the grey and questionable areas of AI.

The worst part of this is we learn that Logan overdosed a long time ago. Guess that means no more dreaming of who will play old Logan on the show. But yeah, William and Delos might want to take a look at all the devastation their business has earned them.

The Return of Elsie

Clementine drags Bernard all the way to the mouth of a cave and leaves him with a shotgun. He stumbles around, clearly still not doing well, and walks into the cave. There he finds Elsie, her foot chained up to the rock, a bucket, and protein bar wrappers scattered around. She shrinks away from him as soon as she sees him, reminding him that he attacked her and put her here the last time he saw her. Bernard tells her that it was only under Ford’s instructions, that she knew too much.

He starts fritzing out and she takes the gun from him, walking away. He hurries to follow her, holding out the tablet as he shakes, begging her to help him. She hesitates but when he falls to the floor she relents. She rushes over and it’s revealed that her mentor and friend is a host. Her reaction is pretty chilled out for someone having this shocking truth dropped on them, but maybe after her current situation and working with hosts all day, it would take a lot to shock her. He updates her on everything that’s happened since. She tells him he need cortical fluid but there’s nowhere nearby.

That’s when Bernard remembers that he’s been there before—or rather goes into a memory of having been there before. There’s a lab there. In what I imagine what Disney World’s secrecy policy on hiding the work behind the scenes, he flips up a rock to open pull the lever opening the door to the elevator.

Once inside, they find corpses everywhere. Dead scientists and dead drone hosts. Except for one. Elsie has never seen anything like it before and thrusts her gun at it before Bernard can warn her not to threaten it. The drone host runs at her and she shoots it down. Bernard walks through the space, lost between his memories and now. He tells Elsie he’s been here before but starts convulsing again. Elsie, now equipped with the tools, injects some cortical fluid into him and revives him.

As they walk around, they see host building facilities and code they don’t recognize. Bernard says he’s seen it before; in Abernathy’s head. They also see red versions of the mind eggs we saw in episode 1, and Bernard recalls being sent here by Ford. They see a locked door that Elsie insists on breaking through. Inside, they discover James Delos’s testing area and observation quarters. It’s a mess and the techie is dead. Elsie slowly approaches the circular chamber when Delos, gone mad, attacks her. Bernard rescues her, knocking Delos out. Once safe and far away, Elsie terminates him.

Bernard tells her that was James Delos, who died so many years ago. She says it’s impossible, but he now knows what they were doing in the facility: they were trying to impart human consciousness into host bodies. Bernard gets lost in memory and remembers the last time he was here. He takes a mind egg on Ford’s orders but can’t recall who it was for. It’s revealed that it was Bernard who ordered the drone hosts to kill the scientists and then snap their own necks in a brutally eerie scene. For all of Ford’s talk of letting them be free, he has made Bernard do so many fucked up things on his behalf. Bernard kills the last scientist.

Now the big question is…who is actually a host? Who is the mind egg that Bernard stole? My guesses (as is I’m sure most of reddit) reach toward something to do with the quest the Man in Black is on. The door. Will this mind egg be on the other side of it? If this is the case, and it seems to be because this is quite a Man in Black personally centric season, the person has to mean something to him, has to illicit a change. Perhaps Juliet? A direct effect of his actions. Or as I’ve heard thrown around and also think could be plausible, a young version of himself? Or, which wouldn’t really work but my selfish desire for him to come back is taking charge, LOGANNN (just kidding).

Possibly Racist Woman Learns Native Language

We see the woman who escaped from Raj World last week back and captured by Ghost Nation. She’s set down beside Stubbs who assures her to just wait for back up to arrive. She tells him she has no intention of sticking around and starts translating what the Ghost Nation tribe are saying. Stubbs remarks that people don’t usually pay attention to their narratives, let alone learns the language. She says she hates people. I think this is meant to be an endearing moment, but I’m not going to forget the fact that this is a woman who found pleasure in minority subservient and oppressive Raj World where she could hunt tigers for a hobby. Doesn’t really scream moral compass to me, but maybe they’ll explain more later.

Stubbs tells her they aren’t killing the humans, just rounding them up. Ghost Nation take their captives to a shore where they present them to the First One. The woman grabs a flaming staff and escapes, while Stubbs looks on helpless. The First One nears him, telling him he’s only alive so long as the last person who remembers you is. Then they disappear and the humans are free to go. I’m excited to see what they do with Ghost Nation because I know Lisa Joy has talked a lot about them subverting the racist park narrative they were assigned this season, but I can’t say we particularly have seen that yet.

The Man in Black Finds A Conscience? 

The man in Black is still on his journey with Lawrence when they pass by a railroad track being built by Chinese laborers. However, instead of normal ties, they are using people. A mix of hosts and guests, the hosts that forced them to work the railroad and the hosts that participated in the oppressive narrative.

Noticing the new direction of the tracks, the Man in Black declares they must make their way through Lawrence’s town to get where they are going. Once they get there they are greeted by the Confederados Teddy let escape last episode (come on Teddy, don’t let men who fought for slavery just run rampant). They have taken over the town to find their weapons that were stored there somewhere. Lawrence says he knows where they are, that they should use it as a bargaining chip later, but the Man in Black stands up, telling Craddock exactly where they are. This is just insurance; his real bargaining chip is that they don’t know where it is that they are looking for, but he does. He promises to lead them there.

Craddock agrees after torturing some townspeople. He has a drink with the Man in Black and monologues about being death. He calls over Lawrence’s crying wife, as a beat up Lawrence sits tied up outside in the rain, and tells her to carry a shot glass full of Nitro to her husband. She shakes, and it recalls a scene of the Man in Black similarly torturing her in Season One. The Man in Black gets up, frustrated, and declares himself death. He shoots Craddock and then takes out the remaining Confederados. Taking the glass from Lawrence wife’s hands, he shoves it down a crawling Craddock’s throat and gives Lawrence the shotgun to shoot. Lawrence tells Bill that his family is thankful for what he’s done and his cousins want to come help them on their mission.

As the Man in Black rides out across the field at sunset with his men, a rider comes upon them and it’s none other than the Raj World woman, who is revealed to be Emily, his daughter.

I think a lot of people suspected that after last episode, and I’ll be interested to see how her inclusion in the group shakes things up. This episode was incredibly interesting for the Man in Black because it’s almost as if the danger of death has caused him to question his treatment of the hosts. Perhaps brought him closer to them now that everything is more real. I doubt we’re going down a full on redemptive arc for him, but some complexity akin to what I first felt for William would be good.

Overall definitely my favorite episode of the season so far and an astounding directorial debut by Lisa Joy! And next week…Shogun World!


Images courtesy of HBO

Currently a film major with a focus in directing and a passion for all things writing, film, television and theater, oh my!

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The Expanse Starts Anew

Barbara

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The Expanse delivered the seventh episode of its third season, “Delta-V.” After the excellent episode last week, it was a big disappointment.

Recap

We open with Chrisjen announcing peace between Earth, Belt, and Mars as they face the new danger of the protomolecule. A random racer dude is watching the news, irritated that it got more priority than the message of him breaking a record. Then, he gets a break up message from his girlfriend. These two things lead to him attacking the Ring, which, if I understood it correctly, is a joined UN and Martian work station focused on studying the protomolecule.

Meanwhile on the Rocinante—at least I assume she is back to her old name—the crew now consists only of Holden, Amos, and Alex, plus two documentarists who are filming their daily life after paying a hefty fee for it. Mostly, they’re trying to piss everyone off with their presence. They also secretly film Alex as he has a personal conversation with Bobbie, who is back in service on Mars.

On another ship, the Navoo, Naomi is with Camina, Fred’s ex-assistant and now the captain of this ship. They received Anderson Dawes’ choice for the first officer. Diego arrives with him, too, and Naomi is pissed to see him. Dawes’ officer does some posturing and some pseudo-wise speeches.

Then a pilot gets high, loses control of his skiff and dies. Naomi tells Camina about a dealer she saw him with, and Camina threatens to space him and his supplier. Dawes’ officer stops her and they decide to go through with more usual legal methods instead. They offer amnesty for a day for everyone to hand over any drugs they might have. Camina is not too thrilled about this and states that ‘this is not them,’ meaning Belters. Naomi is more inclined to take this chance at transforming the Belt.

For some reason, the documentarist and her camera man are both very keen to try and get information out of Amos by sleeping with him. They also outright tell him so. Oh, and accuse him of being a mob boss, or the son of one maybe.

There is also a woman planting bombs on a ship. I didn’t quite catch what ship it was, but when she is discovered, she swallows something that makes her into a super soldier and kills the man who discovered her. Elsewhere, the racer bro from the beginning of the episode gets smashed to pieces on the protective shield of the Ring.

Finally, the man who came aboard the Rocinante turns out to be spying. This is hugely astonishing, because he did not seem sleazy at all, what with the way he was sexually harassing Amos before.

Review

This episode was exhausting.

The break in the narrative signaling the show has moved on to adapting the next book is even more obvious than it was in season two—and it was very obvious in season two. But in this case, last episode had all the markings of a season finale and this one, a season beginning, including a time skip. Given how drastic a shift it is, I don’t understand why they didn’t film the season in two halves with a mid-season finale. It just…doesn’t work, this way.

Additionally, nothing that happens makes any sense, and not in the good ‘it’s a mystery’ way.

For example, please tell me why did Holden allowed documentary filmmakers aboard his ship? Was it just to feed his huge ego? If so, why did the other two agree to it? And, did they just accept any random documentarists without doing a background check on them? Because, even disregarding the guy being a spy, they are both extremely unprofessional and creepy. They also completely lack any ethics or decency. They’re also just plain stupid. ‘What do I have to do to gain your trust?’, the lady asks confusedly at one point. Well, maybe not acting like a complete asshole would be a good start? Be they spies or legit journalists, building rapport is actually considered good for both. They’re about as efficient at this as SHIELD in MCU is.

The situation aboard the Navoo made somewhat more sense, I suppose. At least there we understand that there is pressure being exerted from Dawes, so we see why his officer was taken on board. But there is never any setting of boundaries that would clear up the situation. No rules are set down. I couldn’t help but think of Star Trek: Voyager, where the Captain is similarly forced to take on a first officer that does not truly respect her and is hostile to her. I understand the Belters don’t have her Starfleet training, but still. Camina is no amateur. There should have been something more.

I’m also a little bothered by the show seeming to agree with Dawes’ officer and Naomi that things should be done “the inner way.” Not that the absence of due process is fun. But the Belt should be allowed to develop its own form of justice system, without necessarily having to copy that of the people they see as their oppressors. I’m not at all certain doing so is a good strategy. They want to keep their soldiers’ loyalty. Appearing to copy the inner planets will not get them that.

The bomb-planting woman had me simply confused. I expect we will gate more context later, but for now I have no idea what any of that means.

As for the racer bro, I expect he, too, will become important later, but for now it was extremely hard to muster any interest in his story at all. What I thought when he was on my screen was ‘why are they making me watch this?’ That’s never a good sign.

Oh, and also, as happy as I was to see Ana would not be simply dropped from this story, her scenes in this episode were completely pointless.

But to take a break from all the negativity, what gave me joy were Bobbie and Alex keeping their friendship even though they are no longer on the same ship. I also squeed at Naomi and Camina side by side again. I’m irritated, now, that Naomi renewed her relationship with Holden last episode. I ship these two girls hard, and I’d love to see them together.

Even more than that, though, I’d love to see the episodes get better again. Let us hope that, like the beginning of the season, this beginning of another book was just a fluke when it comes to quality, too. Let us hope next week will live up to the standards of episodes like last week, which truly was one of the best.


All images courtesy of SyFy

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Highway to the Phantom Zone

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Spoiler Warning for Krypton 1×10: “The Phantom Zone”

Welp, here we are folks. The season finale for Krypton. How will it turn out? Will it continue the streak of disappointments, or will it go back to relative quality of the earlier episodes? Let’s find out!

Brainiac arrives on Krypton, looking out over the no longer domed city of Kandor, and declares that it’s time. Which, I mean…yeah, it better be time! You took down the dome man, there’s nothing protecting Kandor from the toxic atmosphere and the raging eternal blizzards! If you don’t bottle it now, everybody will be dead and this whole thing will have been a massive waste of time for you!

Down in the chaos, Seg and Nyssa try to figure out how to get people inside and away from the toxic gas that makes up the atmosphere. Lyta and the General catch up to them, awkwardly dodging the question of where Jayna is. Seg tells them that the cultists hid Doomsday from him, and the General brushes it aside. He has a new plan, one that requires Seg to take him to the Fortress of Solitude. He’s going to bring Val back.

Apparently, Val isn’t dead. See, the Kandorian method of execution, at least in Val’s case, was essentially pushing the victim off a cliff. Val took advantage of this and built a device to transport himself into the Phantom Zone, a dimension outside of space and time. He took advantage of not aging to keep an eye on Brainiac and to study him. The General met him in there, however, and stole the device Val planned to use to escape the Phantom Zone, since the General felt that he would be a better candidate to save Krypton than a frail old man. Now that Doomsday is off the table as an option, the General considers Val their last, best hope and goes back to the Phantom Zone to retrieve him.

He does so, prompting a rather heartwarming reunion between Seg and Val. It’s undercut somewhat by the fact that throughout this scene we can see Superman’s cape, and it’s almost entirely gone, most of the shield consumed. Still, that’s a minor detail that frankly provides nice context more than anything else. It’s a genuinely touching scene, and Cameron Cuffe does an excellent job in silently reacting to the return of his grandfather. However, much to everyone’s shock, Val declares that their hopes were misplaced. In his mind, there is no way to stop Brainiac.

We then cut to…Dev, in a strange building. He contemplates his rather cool looking robot arm (Dev is now in good company, alongside Bucky Barnes and Cable) before pulling on a long-sleeved jacket and glove to hide it. Once dressed, he hears thunder, and looks out a window to see Kandor slowly being consumed by the storm. Aaron Pierre does an excellent job in this scene, just using his body language and facial expressions to convey Dev’s state of mind. No dialogue, just music and body acting. I’ve never been hugely impressed with Aaron Pierre in this role I admit, Dev hasn’t really caught my attention previously, but this…this is an excellent scene.

Outside, we cut to Jax, and her little group proclaiming it the end of days. For some reason, she is the character we get to see react to Brainiac announcing himself to Kandor and beginning the process of bottling the city. Which…why? I get that my strong dislike of Jax is subjective, but she only appeared three episodes ago, hasn’t had much screen time, and has never faced off against Brainiac personally. I get that most of the main cast isn’t in Kandor right this minute, but why not have Dev reacting? We were just with him, and he was previously possessed by Brainiac.

Either way, we return to the Fortress, where everyone is arguing. It turns out that Val’s knowledge of the Phantom Zone allowed him to view a multitude of possible futures, and in every single one they lost and Brainiac took Kandor. Brainiac’s victory is so assured, in fact, that he’s already working on scouting another planet while he abducts Kandor. Seg takes this news fatalistically. He believes his grandfather and is honestly more concerned with the fact that anybody in Kandor when Brainiac takes it will be trapped in there with Doomsday. He’s not happy about the probability of Kandor being taken, and the destruction of Krypton that will follow, but he’d rather take on things one issue at a time.

Lyta isn’t having any of that and declares that there is no future where she goes down without a fight. Which is a nice sentiment, but Lyta, you couldn’t stop Brainiac when he was in a fleshy body and he was in a place where you could breathe in something other than poison. All you have is a rifle. Val attempts to dissuade her by telling her what it’s like being in a city that’s been taken by Brainiac. You are paralyzed in whatever position you were in when your city was taken, never aging but never moving. This is…odd. As far as I’m aware, this is never what being inside Brainiac’s captured cities has been portrayed as before. And frankly, it doesn’t make much sense from a scholarly position either, unless Brainiac is only interested in architecture and biology and not sociology or psychology as well.

It does lead to us finding out where Adam is however. Yeah, remember how he appeared in some strange place, in front of a woman doing the mannequin challenge? It turns out that he’s in one of Brainiac’s bottled cities. More to the point, it’s one from Earth. There are contemporary cars, and people in jeans holding cell phones, and signs in English. Which leads me to assume that he’s traveled in time as well as space, since if this was an Earth city from the time Krypton is taking place it’d be a city from the 1800’s.

Even after learning about the freeze, Lyta still isn’t convinced, and stalks off. Nyssa, who hasn’t spoken since Val returned, follows her, pointing out that she knows of a tunnel in the catacombs that leads to Kandor, and offering to let Lyta follow her back. She refuses to tell Lyta why she wants to go back into Kandor, and the two head off. The very next scene shows the guards readying themselves to flee the city. Dev attempts to restore order, but they won’t listen. And then Lyta shows up, already back in her uniform. She punches the most vocal of the guards, telling them that they never give up or surrender, quoting her mother. The woman she said filled her with fear her whole life, the woman she tried to kill in the last episode. Huh.

Down in Black Zero HQ, Jax prepares her people to evacuate. They’re going to flee into the wasteland on foot, heading for the nearest city-state. They won’t all make it she admits, but some of them will. And they’ll be bringing the Codex with them, the genetic template for all the Houses of Kandor.

Nyssa has already made it to the Genesis Chamber, though, and is retrieving the pod that contains her and Seg’s child, Cor-Vex. Apparently, the computer that runs the Genesis Chamber is sentient, because when it attempts to run her through red tape, Nyssa pulls a gun on it, which leads to her request being fast tracked.

As Seg and the General race through the catacombs. the General offers up a way to save Kandor. He wants to hand over Val, who has something that Brainiac can never get on his own: knowledge of the future. Seg opposes this plan, so the General points out that, in his timeline, Seg died fighting Brainiac, attempting to convince Seg to give up his grandfather to save his own skin.

Back in Kandor, Nyssa encounters Jax inside the Genesis Chamber. Given her hatred of Daron, Jax is not happy to see her. It’s okay for Jax and Black Zero to flee the city, but it’s not okay for Nyssa to. Jax isn’t moved by Nyssa’s pleas for her child either, but decides to show Nyssa something.

Over in the military guild, Lyta and Dev issue orders to the remaining guards, who fly out to conduct an air strike on the generator building where Brainiac is. Before they can even fire however, Brainiac waves his hand and all their hovercraft are destroyed. Lyta is understandably devastated that she sent dozens of people to their deaths. Dev attempts to comfort her, pointing out that since it was previously punishable by death to even suggest that aliens exist, they have no way of knowing how to fight them. He also tells her that Jayna would have done the same thing.

So, this show really needs to decide if it thinks Jayna was an abusive parent or not. Because sometimes, last episode included, she was portrayed as such, albeit a regretful one who realized that she’d been abusive and wanted to make amends. Other times, like now, she’s portrayed as a role model for Lyta and a good parent. It’s frankly frustrating. I’m not asking the show to make Jayna a villain, but pick a narrative for her and stick to it!

We then go back to the Genesis Chamber, where Jax sends the henchman who accompanied her off with the Codex before asking Nyssa what she remembers of her mother’s death. Nyssa’s mother died in a hovercraft accident and it turns out that…ooh boy, that might trigger some nasty memories if Nyssa learns that Jax forced Daron into a similar accident.

Regardless, Jax offers up an additional bit of information—Nyssa was in the craft with her mother, and while the crash killed her mother instantly, Nyssa lived, albeit with a severed spine. Her brain still functioned however, and Daron had it transferred into a new body. I have thoughts about this, and the way they portray it, but I’m going to hold off until season 2 airs. This is Nyssa’s last speaking scene of the episode, and she’s with someone whom she not only doesn’t know, but one who has an express and vested interest in making this feel like a very bad thing. I’ll wait until we see how it’s addressed more to deliver a verdict.

Outside again, Seg and the General continue their evacuation, but the General decides that enough is enough, he’s going to offer Val to Brainiac. Seg tries to stop him, first physically and then verbally, but fails. The General tries to pull a ‘the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few’ on Seg, to which Seg responds that giving Brainiac access to the knowledge of multiple futures would possibly destroy the universe. The General says that he doesn’t care so long as Krypton survives and heads off. He finds Brainiac in short order and makes his offer. The being is surprised, first by his boldness, then by how strong his love for Krypton is, and accepts his offer.

And the offer was made none too soon it appears, for we cut to Dev and Lyta assisting with the evacuation. But as they do, the dome Brainiac was building around Kandor is completed, and they all freeze in place.

But all is not lost, as Seg and Val prepare for Brainiac’s arrival. When Brainiac does show up, the General right behind him, Seg pulls a gun on Val and threatens to shoot him if Brainiac gets closer. Brainiac merely knocks Seg aside with telekinesis, chiding him first for thinking that he’d believe that Seg would kill his grandfather, and second for thinking that Brainiac would be fooled by the Val hologram. Seg recovers from being slammed into the rock walls of the Fortress remarkably quickly and reveals that he wasn’t trying to trick Brainiac about Val. Rather, he was tricking him into standing on the platform of the Phantom Zone portal (someone explain to Seg what a trick is please). Seg activates the portal, and Brainiac is sucked into it. Before they can close it though, Brainiac’s tentacles grab Seg and start to pull him in.

The real Val steps up and grabs Seg, trying to pull him to safety. It’s a losing battle sadly, and as they struggle, Seg sees Superman’s cape. It’s repairing itself, threads materializing and weaving themselves together in an impressive image. It doesn’t make a lot of sense, seeing that stopping Brainiac prevents the destruction of Krypton and thereby stops Kal-El from becoming Superman, but it’s a good visual. Seeing that he’s succeeded gives Seg the courage to let go, telling his grandfather to start believing in a brighter tomorrow before he’s sucked in.

Val, of course, quickly tries to reopen the portal, determined to save his grandson. The General however, is worried that doing so will let Brainiac back in, so he shoots the controls to the portal before declaring that his father’s sacrifice will never be forgotten. As he does so, Superman’s cape changes, shifting from red and gold to black and red, the sigil of House El becoming the sigil of House Zod. This is a chilling image, this symbol of hope becoming something from a Space Nazi costume but…why? It’s implied that this changes at least in part because Seg is gone, which means that he only has one child, Cor-Vex, who will presumably be raised by Nyssa. So why wouldn’t the cape have the sigil of House Vex? Maybe something will happen in the next season to explain it.

We fast forward to one month later. The General has taken control of Kandor and is giving a speech, flanked by Dev and Lyta, all dressed as Space Nazis. He reveals that he is conscripting the Rankless into the army, and we see Kem back finally. He doesn’t speak (nobody but the General speaks for this penultimate scene, it’s more of a montage) but he looks sullen as he takes his new uniform. Then we shift to Val, who the General is apparently allowing to stay in the Fortress even though Val is clearly working on repairing the portal to the Phantom Zone. Nyssa and Jax arrive, and Val is clearly happy to see his protégé again, while Jax looks close to tears. Over all of this we hear the General explain that he is going to build an intergalactic empire with Krypton as its capital.

Elsewhere, Adam is still trapped in that bottled city, and as he wanders through it he finds a monument to the General. Which, again, is chilling, but why? The General was able to come to power because Brainiac was defeated. Why would a city in Brainiac’s collection have evidence of the General’s empire? Oh, and we don’t see Jayna or Daron at all, so no idea if either of them are still alive.

Regardless, the General reveals that he has already unified Krypton, with the leaders of the other city-states gathered in his audience chamber, as he orders them, and all the universe, to ‘kneel before Zod’!

Underneath Kandor however, we see that Doomsday has awoken, as he begins to smash his containment unit, roaring as the episode ends. We only get a few seconds of him but seriously, how does Krypton, a basic cable show, have a better-looking Doomsday than Batman V Superman, a major blockbuster?

Well, that was the season finale of Krypton everybody! It was…fine. It never made me angry at least. It’s not the best episode of the season, but it did its job. If Krypton had been canceled I’d probably be a lot harsher with it, but given that a second season is confirmed, I’ll give it some leeway. It’s not a dud of an episode, it’s just not a shining gem of one either.


Images Courtesy of SyFy and FOX

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The Americans Passes the Point of No Return

Bo

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At this point, it had to happen, right? This was the next to last episode of The Americans. The battle lines are drawn and there’s no real way to avoid the inevitable. It was simply a matter of how. In many ways, “Jennings, Elizabeth” worked the same way as last week’s episode. You spent the entire time waiting for the shoe to drop and the tension lasted just long enough to make you question yourself. Then it all fell apart in the end. There’s no coming back now.

The Death of the Jennings Family

Here we are. Philip was made by FBI agents and nearly arrested. Elizabeth burned her final bridge with the KGB. Paige found out about her mother seducing the Senate intern and all but emancipated herself from her family.

It’s all over. Now we wait to see where the pieces fall.

As usual, The Americans knocked the tension of each scene out of the park. True to the show’s form, there was no explosion, no sudden moment played for extreme drama that let you know this was THE moment where life became irreparable for the Jennings family. Instead it was a series of circumstances steadily moving forward, like a car accident in slow-motion. You saw each crumple of steel and every broken shard of glass leading into the greater tragedy.

It was interesting to watch the way Philip and Elizabeth each burned a separate bridge throughout the episode, whether willingly or not. You could certainly argue that they were screwed either way. Philip’s meeting with Father Andrei screws his and Elizabeth’s cover regardless of anything Elizabeth does. Elizabeth rebuking the KGB ruins their cover as well, even if nothing happens with Philip. There was no escaping the danger once Elizabeth decided to oppose the anti-Gorbachev faction.

By burning both bridges, however, they have ruined their potential sanctuaries from the response of one side or the other.

If the FBI doesn’t make Philip, then he and Elizabeth have the option to go to them ahead of time and earn some goodwill. If not, they could at least lose themselves somewhere else in America or the rest of the world without the FBI knowing who they are and watching them. They would have time to make some preparations for avoiding KGB retribution. If Elizabeth doesn’t turn on the KGB, they could be extracted and return home. They may still be discovered but they’d have cover.

I find it very interesting that Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields settled on the way each of them burned their cover. Throughout this final season, I assumed the FBI would catch on through Elizabeth. Her work has been so sloppy and has left a trail to follow. She was THE active KGB spy in for the FBI to catch. She was also the loyal one, the unquestioning patriot who would not turn on the Soviet Union, no matter what. If you had to guess who the FBI busts, you likely guess it’s Elizabeth.

And if anyone turned on the KGB and led them to want the Jenningses dead, you’d think it would be Philip. He has been jaded for the majority of the show and basically retired since last season. If anyone would cause the KGB to harm them, it would be him, right? Philip always seemed more likely to perform some treason against the Soviet Union. He did not believe in their mission and was basically living as a real American citizen.

Instead it’s Elizabeth who murders a KGB assassin and admits it to Claudia, while Philip gets made by the FBI during a meeting. Now they have no real way out. It’s just a matter of what side catches them first.

The Americans worked this feeling of isolation and danger remarkably well throughout this episode. Between the directing and the expected top-notch acting of Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell, I found myself acting just like Philip and Elizabeth. I was scanning every background character nervously, wondering who might be an FBI agent or KGB operative. I wondered just how much Stan knew when he visited the travel agency, how much of his visit was a test, and whether Philip allayed or worsened his suspicions.

This kind of slow-burn tension is hard to pull off consistently. The Americans has always executed it well, but even it sometimes goes too slowly sometimes. That was not the case here. “Jennings, Elizabeth” was a terrifically paced episode that gradually removed every bit of support Philip and Elizabeth once had. They’re all alone. For all intents and purposes, Philip and Elizabeth Jennings no longer exist.

I was actually surprised, even after all these years, at how well The Americans incorporated just about every subplot from this season and past seasons into this episode’s downfall. Who expected a call to Pastor Tim? The travel agency, Paige, Henry, Claudia, Elizabeth’s youth, Gregory, Oleg, Father Andrei, Tatiana…it just went on and on. Was all of it perfectly subtle and sensible? Maybe not, but the fact that I didn’t once find myself wondering why something was included in this episode says something about how well they incorporated all these elements. Including some elements fans have questioned throughout the season.

For better or worse (who in the world thinks it’s for the worse?), this was a well-suited penultimate episode of The Americans. Weisberg and Fields delivered an understated earthquake of an episode, one that shifted the continents their characters resided upon for 6 seasons without relying on sudden shocks or deadly twists unnatural to their style.

The Rebirth of Mikhail and Nadezhda

A significant undercurrent of The Americans has always been the loss of identity Philip and Elizabeth went through by becoming KGB operatives. In order to do their job well, they had to let go of the people they used to be. They were Philip and Elizabeth Jennings. Everything in their life was intentionally placed as cover, right down to their children.

In the past 2-3 seasons, we’ve seen a gradual shift reclamation of the identities they once let go of. There was a culmination of this reclamation in their wedding scene last year. Their marriage was no longer a fake vow between their cover identities. Mikhail and Nadezhda made a real commitment of love to each other rather than a commitment to protect their identities. Despite their conflicts this season, they still had that connection.

“Jennings, Elizabeth” used Nadezhda flashbacks for the first time in a while to represent Elizabeth’s awakening at the end of last week’s episode. Philip’s confession last week, as well as the truth about the anti-Gorbachev faction, clearly shook her more than anything has in some time. These flashbacks were here looking back on when exactly she lost her sense of self to the mission, and why. Nadezhda has now made her choice.

Their sense of self ties directly to Father Andrei, and Father Andrei played a huge role in the dissolution of Philip and Elizabeth as a result. Directly in the case of Philip, as it was their meeting that burned him. He also played a role in Elizabeth’s change as well, I think. When she runs, she grabs her and Mikhail’s wedding rings. Those rings symbolize the identities they left behind. Whatever comes next, I think Philip and Elizabeth want to face it as themselves and not the people they were forced to become.

And at this point, they have nothing else. Everything has been stripped away. They can’t go on in their current life because of the FBI. The Soviet Union is not safe since they rebuked the KGB. One child has basically given up on them, and the other made a clear split this week. In the end, they have lost everything from their life as the Jenningses. All that’s left is the choice of who they want to be now.

What will happen to them? It looks bleak. They can’t go to the FBI. They can’t go back to the Soviet Union. I suppose they can try to run, but with both sides after them, I can’t imagine they make it far. I honestly don’t know what they can do here. None of the options feel the least bit promising. In the end, I’m not sure it matters. Once Philip and Elizabeth realize the full impact of how their lives have been erased, they’ll care more about choosing how to go out on their own terms.

They’ll want to face life as Mikhail and Nedezhda, whatever may come. Will this involve them choosing to do so separately? How hard will they try to bring Paige and Henry along with them? We’ll see. What’s more important is that they will make these decisions based on what they want, and who they really are.

Is it just in time for a sorrowful Romeo and Juliet type ending? I guess we’ll see. The finale is here. It could be a Black Sails-style type of wish fulfillment and I’ll still be sad when it’s over. As good as this final season has been, I’m not the least bit ready to see The Americans end.

Other Thoughts:

  • It’s funny, the truth about Philip and Elizabeth seems so obvious that you wonder why Stan didn’t mention his suspicions earlier. Then he starts laying out the case and it doesn’t seem obvious at all. It’s a huge stretch. He could have made a better case, I guess.
  • Poor Oleg. His trip to America was always destined for failure. I hope the pro-Gorbachev side pulls some strings so he avoids long prison time.
  • The KGB sending Tatiana to kill Nesterenko probably shows how much of a minority the anti-Gorbachev faction is. They had no one else remotely as capable as Elizabeth to send.
  • And so ends Paige’s life as a spy. Talk about being destined for failure. All Elizabeth and Claudia really taught her was how to recognize their lies.
  • Speaking of Paige, I’m disappointed that getting to her wasn’t a top priority of both Claudia and Elizabeth. They had this life-changing split and apparently neither thought to tell Paige about it.
  • One last point about the Jennings kids; I’m actually hopeful they’ll make it out of this relatively okay. Henry will likely leave his school, and Paige might suffer for her time working for her mother. Obviously both will have to deal with the consequences of having Soviet spies as parents. Still, neither looks to be in any kind of mortal danger. They can eventually move on with their lives.

Images Courtesy of FX

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