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Troublesome Implications on the Hydrazine Trail

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The 100 Review Season 4, Episode 6 “We Will Rise”

*sigh* I was hopeful after last week. The pacing and tension had ratcheted up due to the destruction of Arkadia. Jaha and Jasper had disappeared into the background. Much to my delight given that I want to scream at them to shut up whenever they start talking.

Absurd as it was, a game of idiot ball and telepathy annoyed me more than they angered me. This week, The 100 dropped the idiot ball but picked up the implication grenades. And boy do they have an arsenal.

Nope, they’re Racist and Sexist Implication Grenades.

Content Warning: This review discusses physical beating and previous major character death, as depicted on the show.

What Happened

This episode makes up for the dearth of Jaha and Jasper last week by opening up with a scene where both survey the wreckage of Arkadia. Jasper thinks Jaha needs to cheer up and embrace his nihilistic ways instead of being hopeful for humanity’s survival. Jasper quotes Dr. Seuss (yes, that Dr. Seuss) to prove his point. Ilian is in hiding (good choice, dude), but a mob of angry Skaikru rush in to beat him to death. Kane saves Ilian with his righteous rage. And a gun (oh, Kane, never change).

In Becca’s Lab, Raven runs simulations for getting the rocket to space while Murphy weighs in with snark since she keeps failing the mission. She has another headache, but refuses Murphy’s offer to get Abby. Apparently more of Arkadia survived the ginormous explosion than expected, because Clarke has a room with her drawings of Lexa on the wall that she can stare at (awww). Behind her Niylah lays in her (their?) bed. She tells Clarke she needs to rest, but also that Lexa would be proud of her. Clarke asks Niylah to stay in Arkadia to ensure she gets the nightblood cure; Niylah agrees. They kiss, followed by:

Clarke: (ʘ‿ʘ)ノ✿ “I need to save the world; hold my flower.”

Niylah: ✿\(。-_-。) “Kick ass, baby, I got yo flower.”

Clarke & Co plan to transport the remaining hydrazine to the island to fuel Raven’s rocket. Kane wants to go, but Clarke tells him he needs to stay and lead Arkadia. Octavia wakes up in the medical ward, and she’s back to being mad at Bellamy about Lincoln. In the yard, Monty expounds upon how volatile hydrazine is to reinforce the danger of their mission. (But it still doesn’t explain how the hydrazine survived Arkadia blowing up…)

Back at Becca’s lab, Raven takes her frustration with the failed simulations out on Murphy with her fists. Luna steps in and calms Raven with deep breathing and a soothing mantra. Sick of Raven’s temper, Murphy dubs Luna the new “Raven-sitter”.

On the Hydrazine Trail, Clarke reaches out to Bellamy about Octavia needing more time to forgive him. He doesn’t feel like talking. They come upon a group of Trikru refugees, and Clarke stops to help. Because she’s Clarke and that’s why I love her. Unfortunately, a wandering Trikru child spots Azgeda in the back of the truck, so Clarke, Bellamy, & Co have to make a getaway, only to be stymied by a river that Murphy failed to tell them about (uh, sure, because that makes sense). Bellamy and Roan take the rover to find a ford while Clarke stays behind to guard the cargo with Roan’s personal guard.

Back at Becca’s lab, Luna interrupts Murphy…practicing dirty Grounder pick up lines? She gets philosophical with Murphy about his self hatred, opening up about being a natblida and killing her own brother. She believes he can find peace like she did. He’s as dismissive as we expect from Murphy. In Arkadia, Niylah helps Octavia with physical therapy, then goes to find Ilian’s guards, leaving Octavia to threaten Ilian.

On the Hydrazine Trail, Roan and Bellamy can’t get in touch with Clarke. They head back to find a dead Azgeda guard and the truck missing. Thankfully, Roan has Plot Advancing Telepathy powers this episode so he knows that Trikru stole it to get to Polis.

Back in Arkadia, Niylah gets Monty’s help to protect Ilian while Jasper drinks and some Arkadian rando talks about Ilian committing ‘hate crimes’ against the Arkadians. Jaha joins Jasper in drinking. Monty urges him to intervene, since the people listen to him (WHY? HE’S A WAR CRIMINAL), and throws shade about how Wells would be disappointed in him. He then goes to get Kane. Good job, Monty.

Back to the lab again, where Raven can’t figure out how to land the rocket in the simulation. Luna and Murphy inspire her to control crash into the water.

Roan and Bellamy get ambushed by Trikru on the Hydrazine Trail, because Bellamy refuses to listen to Roan. Roan realized his previous Plot Advancing Telepathy was wrong, and has a new vision that tells him his men took the truck. Kane and Monty lock down the medical bay in Arkadia to protect Ilian. Embracing her darkness, Octavia lets the mob in and they drag Ilian away.

Roan and Bellamy happen upon the truck carrying the hydrazine in a conveniently placed large meadow. Turns out his men betrayed him to take the hydrazine for themselves and took Clarke hostage. Roan and one of his men have a battle on top of highly volatile rocket fuel barrels without blowing them up. Somehow… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. Clarke just manages to stop the truck from running into the rover. Whew.

Octavia leads the mob out into the yard at Arkadia to kill Ilian. An alarm sounds for black rain, and Kane talks her down by graphically describing Lincoln’s death and comparing Octavia to Pike, while we have to rewatch Lincoln’s death in the background (fuck you). Octavia leaves in tears; Jaha cuts Ilian loose and tells him to run, leading to the weirdest non-sequitur ever as Jaha says the name of the episode (“From the ashes we will rise”).

What even is context?

Back on the Hydrazine Trail, Clarke builds up Roan’s self esteem as king of Azgeda, then encourages Bellamy about his sister. Do either of them ask Clarke how she’s doing leading everyone through all of this or how she might be feeling? Nope. Of course not. Because Clarke exists to make the menz feel better about their lives and take shit from them if they’re feeling upset. Anyway, they reach the ocean only for Roan to discover that one of the barrels of highly volatile rocket fuel was hit with a Trikru arrow and leaked out all over the road (and presumably the truck) but without blowing up.

Back in Becca’s lab, Raven finally succeeds in the simulation (even though it tells her she failed with only 15% damage…okay), but only by using every drop of rocket fuel. Her high is soon dampened when Murphy arrives with the news that Clarke and Co. lost a barrel on the way. Raven has a seizure.

So…

Let’s get the easy things out of the way. Arkadia is a mess and not just because it blew up last episode. Actually, it’s the fact that we watched it blow up that’s the problem. Arkadia was a literal inferno last week. Fire pouring out of the main doors, smoke everywhere. We watched part of the ring crash into the main building, ffs. Opening the episode with Ilian in Arkadia, then Clarke in her bedroom was jarring, to say the least. There’s so little interruption (and zero explanation at first), that it’s almost as if the raging inferno that lasted two on-screen minutes last week never happened.

Scratch that. Monty does explain that water, heat, and lights are either out or limited. But basically the giant explosion Octavia said would ‘blow up Arkadia’ actually only caused minor damage. Just enough damage, in fact, for it not to be a viable shelter from the apocalypse. But not enough to actually inconvenience the living situation or set design. Go figure.

I just can’t with the plot holes this season.

It’s still less absurd than hydrazine’s property of Plot Convenient Volatility. This substance is so volatile you can’t jostle without it blowing up in your face (as Raven has reminded us almost every week since 4×02). Yet somehow, 10 barrels of the stuff survived the massive Arkadian explosion.

Monty’s monologue about the dangers of Clarke and Bellamy’s mission to get the fuel to Raven may heighten the tension of the episode, but sound absurd when viewed with the Arkadian explosion in the background. That inferno last week really must have been mostly light and smoke, because the show would like us to believe that a fuel so explosive that a minor bump in a moving truck would cause it to go boom survived an explosion big enough to take out a significant chunk of Arkadia (though it didn’t actually…). Wouldn’t such an explosion shake the ground significantly more than a pot hole?

That’s not to mention how inconsistently the hydrazine was treated during the transportation process. Again, Monty tells Clarke that hitting too large of a rock could cause the barrels to explode. Yet Roan and a guard have a knife fight on top of them with zero problems. At the end of the episode, Roan finds an arrow sticking out of one of the barrels. How did it not explode when the arrow hit it?

How the hydrazine leaked at all is a quandary all its own. The arrow shaft is still sticking out of the barrel, meaning it’s jammed in there pretty tight. The hydrazine ought not to be able to leak out at all, much less at a fast enough rate to empty the entire barrel. And that’s assuming it can leak upward because that arrow was several inches above the bottom of the barrel. It should not have been entirely empty. Much less empty enough for Roan to chuck it around without it going boom. And if this leaked all over the truck and ground, why did it not explode at some point?

Hydrazine must be magical, because it’s ability to be both volatile and stable when necessary for the plot is astounding.

This gif is so useful.

Frustratingly, were it not for how inconsistently the Magical McGuffin were treated, this wouldn’t be a bad plot. The pacing is really good. In fact, the pacing of the last three episodes has been right up there with some of the best episodes in S2-3. Yes, it relied a bit too much upon plot convenience and Roan’s ever-changing telepathy, but at least it wasn’t idiot ball. Bellamy was a bit of a num-nuts, but not in a way that was inconsistent with his character. He’s not always the sharpest knife in the drawer where Grounders are concerned (to put it mildly).

Anyway, I will say that I appreciate the woman loving woman vibes this episode. They haven’t completely deleted Lexa from the show, which was a concern of mine entering this season. It doesn’t make up for or erase the terrible choices made last year, but it is a good deal better than the writers pretending that Clexa never happened, as they kind of did with 3B. We actually get to see Clarke grieving her lover while still trying to save the day! Good job. Extra points for Clarke saving the picture she drew and pinning it on the wall.

Niylarke was a delightful surprise. Too much so, in my opinion. I’m going to say something that some people may not like, which is that I don’t think the show set up the renewal of this relationship at all. Last week, we had a single scene of awkward tension. Clarke seemed to want to speak to Niylah, but couldn’t bring herself to. This week, they’ve clearly just had sex. Where is the build up? Are we supposed to assume they’ve been fucking this whole time? So why was Clarke so hesitant last episode, like she had a nervous crush and not a girlfriend? And if they just renewed their relationship, why did we not get to see the build? Did the writers not think it was important to give us a scene of them deciding to renew their relationship?

That being said, I do appreciate Niylah being supportive and honoring Clarke’s love for Lexa. She’s not needy, nor does she have any illusions about where Clarke is right now. Niylah recognizes Clarke’s grief and has no expectations of her. It’s great to see Clarke’s love for Lexa being honored even as the show makes space for Clarke to find comfort (and maybe something more, eventually) with someone else she already had an established relationship with.

I can’t help but feel a level of pandering, so I’m reserving judgment. But still, it was handled well for what we got even if it came way out of the blue based on their interactions last episode. At least it’s a supportive, known, seemingly healthy relationship for where Clarke is now. Also, Niylah is one of the few characters who doesn’t consistently yell at Clarke.

Nevertheless, the lack of buildup for Niylarke reinforces my impression from last week about how all over the place the writing is this season. What seems to make sense on the surface gives way with the slightest pressure. Characters assert things, events happen, but in hindsight, you can’t quite decipher how the show got from point A to point B other than it happened off screen. Or, in the case of character motivations and behavior, we have to assume explanations not in evidence.

Worse, the plot of most of the first five episodes is basically moot at this point. I’m scratching my head trying to figure out what 2×01-2×05 added to the plot other than spacing out the season (filler), and propping up Bellamy. The past 4 episodes could have been condensed to 10 minutes of screen time to establish the nightblood cure and nothing would have changed at all. Ilian’s plot serves only to destroy Arkadia as a viable shelter and push Octavia over the edge. Neither of which would have been necessary at the start of this season given where S3 ended. Cut Ilian’s entire plot and skip straight from S3 to this episode and you lose nothing.

Bellamy’s field trips and the rotating game of ‘let’s blame Clarke’ were likewise useless other than to continue the gendered implications inherent in how the show treats male and female leaders. The only plot worth telling thus far is the nightblood one, and it could have been done in less than half of an episode. Even Octavia’s ‘assassin arc’ amounted to little more than gratuitous fanservice. And an absurd display of plot armor. Other than some ‘cool’ murders and the nightblood cure arc, what would this season have missed if it had started with this episode? Very little, I think.

In fact, Octavia’s characterization suffers because of the Polis and Arkadia arcs this season. At the end of S3, she killed Pike out of revenge and was all set to rampage on out of Polis. It’s what I expected given the tease of her ‘dark arc’ this past summer. Only when this season opened, we instead get a cool, collected, and detached Octavia acting as Roan’s fixer. All her rage, her bitterness, her barely contained control over her violent impulses against Bellamy for participating in Lincoln’s death? Gone. She literally never even says Lincoln’s name. Instead, she kills random dudes to help Roan stay on the throne, as cool as a cucumber.

She’s dark yes, but chillingly so. She was detached, rational, and deadly efficient rather than the borderline berserker we saw in the S3 finale. She could have noped right on out of Polis in her grief and rage, but she chooses to stay and keep Roan in charge? Other than the plot, Octavia has little reason to stay in Polis in the premiere.

Hell, she even talked and worked with Bellamy in Polis without all the cold shoulder and barely concealed bitterness. Whence, then, this sudden renewal of her anger about Lincoln? Don’t get me wrong, I think it actually makes more sense than her cold, assassin arc. But why now? Where was this for 5 episodes? Her cold shoulder to Bellamy in the medical bay is what I expected in the premiere, not 5 episodes later after she’s demonstrated a much more level-headed and non-grief focused arc.

The most I can say is that losing Arkadia as a chance to survive after almost dying to save people made her snap. But I have to read between the lines to see that. And it doesn’t fully explain her sudden return to being fixated on her grief over Lincoln, at least not fully. Especially after her lover’s death was all but buried beneath her “Badass Skairipa Assassin arc”.

If the show had kept an element of grief as an undertone to her assassin arc, I would be more able to accept her behavior now as still connected to the near bloodlust from last season. But the assassin arc really doesn’t fit tonally given that Lincoln hasn’t been a focus of her psychology at all this season. Thus, the time gap actually diminishes the emotive power of her grief and darkness. Her behavior makes no sense after 5 episodes without Lincoln being mentioned. We have to assume reasons behind her behavior in Polis that aren’t fully explicated on screen.

And Kane comparing Octavia to Pike? Fuck that shit. Shut up Kane. His speech made yet another false equivalency between a female character and a male villain. Pike was a grown ass man, a war criminal, and a bigoted, colonialist assshole. Octavia is a grieving teenage girl who lost the love of her life in a gruesome way and then found out she, and every one else, probably won’t survive the apocalypse. One of these things is not like the other.

First Clarke/Jaha, now Octavia/Pike. What’s worse is that Kane is equating Octavia with the man who literally murdered the love of her life (who, again, is a war criminal). AND DID WE REALLY NEED TO REWATCH LINCOLN’S DEATH. Come on. That was a triggering death for a lot of people. Even if they decided to make the ridiculous correlation between Octavia and Pike, they could have done it without replaying Lincoln’s death in the background. Killing off a submissive black male character with a gun to the head as he kneeled, in chains, in the mud was gratuitous last season. Replaying it in the background while Kane compares a grieving teenage girl to a bigoted mass murderer? Fuck you.

Speaking of fuck you: Raven. Not fuck Raven, fuck the show for how it treats her. She’s having the same arc for the third time (or is it the fourth?). I’m disgusted with how the show reduces this powerful, intelligent, strong woman of color to physical suffering and taking her anger out on others. This is bullshit. Dear The 100 writers, your drama cannot be built on the backs of women and people of color like Lincoln and Raven. In a single episode they exploited an already problematic death of a person of color (Lincoln) and submitted a woman of color to yet more physical suffering. They also made her physically violent. I’m sick of it.

I’m also sick of jackhole Murphy (who I admittedly kind of love for his honest selfishness and snark) being the white boy victim of choice for violent/villanous people of color (Raven, Pike, Jaha) and characters like the Grounders who are coded as indigenous peoples. The implications are gross, especially since it’s a pattern.

It doesn’t have to be this way! This is a show that makes a decent attempt at diversity, and has since its inception. But, it fails to understand how their diverse characters’ arcs and interactions play out in the culture of the audience. A woman of color facing repeated physical suffering and turning violent has implications. As does the gruesome death of a man of color and the exploitation of that death to turn his grieving lover into the equivalent of a villain who slaughtered hundreds of people.

I’m not saying that characters from marginalized groups cannot suffer, die, or face hardships. But ffs, at least think about the racist and sexist implications for a character like Raven suffering even more physical pain and then beating up a white male character who has already been the victim of violence from another character of color. She could have screamed at him instead, or screamed and broken something. Or, I don’t know, just gotten angry without becoming violent?

That’s not the end of the problematic gendered implications for Raven either. Raven’s arc is also really infantilizing. Murphy’s snide “Raven-sitter” remark diminishes her to her violent emotional outbursts. Though probably unintentional, such an attitude toward a female character plays into gendered tropes about the irrationality of emotional women. It’s as bad in it’s own way as Eliza Taylor begging Rothenberg not to have her take her clothes off, only to have her once again half naked on our screens. Albeit brief, the scene still violates what were Taylor’s express wishes last summer. This show really doesn’t know how to treat it’s female characters with respect despite it’s loud proclamations of how ‘strong’ they are.

One final implication grenade; I hope they cool it with the hate crime language. Having a white male talking about a character played by a person of color (Chai Hanson, who plays Ilian, is mixed race Thai/Australian) also coded as indigenous, while using the term ‘hate crime’ is…icky. Please never show an angry mob of white people trying to kill a character of color for a ‘hate crime’ he supposedly committed that wasn’t a hate crime at all. Shows don’t exist in a vacuum, even if they do occur in space.

Tonight’s Pseudo-Profound Assertion: “I don’t think she hates you for that as much as you hate yourself”.—Sorry, Luna, I’m pretty sure Raven hates Murphy more than he hates himself.

Bits & Bobs

  • Lexa count: 1 (+ pictures)
  • Lincoln count: 2 (+ gratuitous use of death scene)
  • Death count: 2 Grounders, one played by a POC
  • “If you never did you should, these things are fun and fun is good.”– Thanks for making Dr. Seuss Grimdark, Jasper. How TF does Jasper even know Dr. Seuss? And why did Dr. Seuss need to be dragged into this mess?
  • Why didn’t Raven apologize to Murphy?
  • Niylarke! (called it)
  • Wanheda seems to be a term of endearment now? That’s cool.
  • The Desert of No Survivors from S2 is still missing. At least they’re consistent?
  • I’m starting to think that Raven can only have two handlers at once. Last week was Abby/Jackson (I accidentally called him Sinclair at first…my brain was tired), this week was Murphy/Luna.
  • Wait…where is Emori? And Echo?
  • Luna x Raven …I ship it. #SeaMechanic

Working Theories

Could Be Cool: Sea Mechanic. Man, Raven is clearly my fandom bicycle for this show.

Wouldn’t Surprise Me: Raven is totally going to die, you guys.

Total Crack: Raven gets a happy ending with someone she loves and never has physical pain or suffering ever again. She dies at a ripe old age of natural causes.

Have more theories? Head on over to the forum!


Images Courtesy of The CW

Bi, she/her. Gretchen is a Managing Editor for the Fandomentals. An unabashed nerdy fangirl and aspiring sci/fi and fantasy author, she has opinions about things like media, representation, and ethics in storytelling.

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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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