Friday, December 9, 2016

Marvel's Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 4, Episode 8: The Laws Of Inferno Dynamics

It's the dreaded mid-season finale of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.! And it comes just two weeks after the show took a month-long hiatus. Way to run a network, ABC!

As I've been saying for months now, when I first heard the news that Ghost Rider was joining the series, I thought it was one of the dumbest things I'd ever heard. Ghost Rider! The supernatural star of two terrible movies from Sony. Why they hell were they bringing him onto what is ostensibly a spy show?

Imagine my surprise when he turned out the be the best thing that ever happened to the series! Ghost Rider fit into the show amazingly well, and actor Gabriel Luna hit one out of the park in his first appearance, playing the best version of Ghost Rider yet! 

In fact I'm sorry to see him go in this episode. Hopefully he'll be back soon in one form or another. Maybe he'll show up to help stop AIDA? Or better yet, maybe he'll get his own series!

Once again,  I'll give Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. credit where it's due— the series seems to handle these half-season arcs much better than other shows do. There was absolutely no filler in the first half of this season, as every episode counted and progressed the story. 


Maybe it helps that S.H.I.E.L.D. gives us two major storylines per season. Most series insist on dragging out one arc for twenty three episodes, which results in interminable wheel-spinning and padding (I'm lookin' at you, The Flash!). 

I was a bit worried at the beginning of the season when ABC announced they were moving the show to 9pm. That's traditionally known as the "death slot," and it didn't bode well for the show. Marvel tried to put a positive spin on it, saying the move would allow S.H.I.E.L.D. to become "darker and more violent."


I'm still waiting for that to happen. As near as I can tell the show seems about as dark as it's always been. Maybe less so! So far there's been nothing to rival the scene of Coulson getting his graphically rebuilt in Season 1, or the one last season in which Mack operated on Yo-yo with a goddamned blowtorch! 

This season of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. has featured quite a few connections with Doctor Strange. The Darkhold, what appears to be the Dark Dimension, and the existence of magic in general.

This week I noticed another possible connection. When Ghost Lucy infected May a few episodes ago, she began seeing everyone as a ghastly demon, with cracked, black skin around their eyes and mouth.

In Doctor StrangeKaecilius begins screwing around with the Dark Dimension, and guess what? He develops cracked, black skin around his eyes.

Coincidence, or deliberate? Or did everyone else notice this weeks ago, and I'm late to the party?

Lastly, it looks like the back half of this season is going to heavily feature Life Model Decoys. I'm sure this focus on lifelike androids 
has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that HBO's Westworld series has been a huge success. Nope! None at all.


SPOILERS!
The Plot:
Eli Morrow is inside the Chinatown Gang's warehouse headquarters, building... something. The Gang Leader panics, telling Eli the place is surrounded by S.H.I.E.L.D. agents. Eli tells the Leader he pays them to keep S.H.I.E.L.D. off his back. The Leader smugly points out that Eli's never actually paid them yet. Eli gestures at the man, transforming his innards into diamonds. Paid in full!

Meanwhile Coulson briefs S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Mace on the Eli Morrow situation. Mace says S.H.I.E.L.D. can't be seen working with Daisy or Ghost Rider, but Coulson says they need them, plus Yo-yo if they hope to take down Eli. Mace reluctantly agrees, and for some reason says he wants AIDA on the mission as well. Coulson reveals she's an android, which shocks Mace. He reminds Coulson what happened with Ultron, and says they'll dismantle her (!) after the mission is over.

Coulson sends May on a "milk run" to collect AIDA, and tells her they'll finally share their special bottle of booze when this is all over. Remember this scene, as it'll become important later.

Fitz tells Simmons that Eli's powers don't make any sense, as you "can't create something out of nothing." Coulson, Mack, Robbie Reyes, Daisy and Yo-yo prepare to enter Eli's hideout. The ground quakes, and everyone looks at Daisy, but she says it wasn't her. Yo-yo speeds into the building to scope it out. She triggers a trap, which causes an explosion. Even with her superspeed she isn't fast enough to outrun it (where's the Flash when you need him?) and is blown out of the building into the alley. That isn't how explosions work, but let's just roll with it.

Meanwhile, Mace meets with Dr. Radcliffe about AIDA. Radcliffe defends her, saying he designed her to act as a field agent, to protect flesh and blood S.H.I.E.L.D. personnel. Mace asks about the Darkhold and wants to know more, which seems suspicious. He tells Radcliffe that AIDA's fate depends on her performance during this mission.

Coulson, Mack, Daisy and Yo-yo retreat to a S.H.I.E.L.D. van and monitor Robbie as he enters Eli's hideout alone. Some Chinatown thugs attack, but Robbie easily dispatches them. He finds a giant box that Eli was building. Fitz, who's also monitoring Robbie, says it looks like a giant version of the Quantum Labs device, and theorizes it's a battery of some kind. Suddenly he realizes what it is— a Demon Core. Apparently Eli's figured out how to create all the elements, and has rapidly gone from carbon to plutonium. The Core is basically a nuclear bomb. It contains a failsafe lid, that, if closed, will trigger the bomb. In downtown LA.

Robbie enters the box. Eli appears and impales Robbie to the wall of the box with a huge carbon spike. Robbie asks why he's doing this, and Eli says his whole life he's been dismissed and ignored because of his race, and wants to show the world he's capable of great things. He says he's becoming a god, and Robbie says he'd better be, because the Devil is coming for him. He tries to transform into Ghost Rider, but Eli impales him a second time, which stops him.

May brings AIDA and Radcliffe to S.H.I.E.L.D., which is a much more important scene than it seems. Mace wants to send Yo-yo in to deactivate the bomb, saying with her superspeed, her radiation exposure will be "limited." Mack, who's still sweet on Yo-yo, argues with Mace. Coulson takes Mace aside and they argue about how he's running S.H.I.E.L.D. Coulson asks Mace (who's an Inhuman) why he's secretly working with the anti-Inhuman Senator Nadeer. Mace says Nadeer has photos of Robbie and Daisy in the prison riot from a few weeks ago, and threatened to go public with them. He cut a deal with her to save Daisy. Coulson and Daisy look suitably embarrassed, as they realize he had their best interests in mind.

FitzSimmons, Daisy and AIDA set up a trap directly below Eli's box. The quakes continue and become more frequent. Fitz figures out why— Eli isn't creating something from nothing, but "stealing" matter from another dimension, which is destabilizing ours. Daisy uses her power to absorb the quakes (she can do that?), to keep the Demon Core from detonating. AIDA begins "weaving" a dimensional portal (like the one last week) in the ceiling.

Eli tells Robbie he's moved beyond creating elements, and can now create compounds like water. He says the next step is to create life. Just then two guards appear with Coulson. They tell Eli the only weapon he was carrying was a chain. Coulson tells Eli he isn't creating anything, but stealing it from another dimension, which is causing a rift.

Suddenly Mace enters— in costume!— and begins battling Eli's thugs. Yo-yo zips in and superspeed and dispatches the guards holding Coulson. She then places an explosive charge on Eli, that blows him into the Demon Core box. With Eli distracted, Robbie finally transforms into Ghost Rider.

On the floor below, AIDA completes her portal, which opens inside the box. A thug enters and fires on the group, and AIDA takes a bullet for Fitz.

Coulson tosses his chain to Ghost Rider, to pull him out of the box. He looks at the chain, then at Eli. He drops the chain and grabs onto Eli as the box disappears into the portal.

Daisy's absorbed too much quake energy and runs outside. She releases the energy by blasting into the sky. She makes a superhero landing and is surrounded by press. Mace pushes through them and surprisingly says the Inhuman "Agent Johnson" save them all. Radcliffe examines the injured AIDA and says she'll be OK.

Daisy admits she's missed S.H.I.E.L.D. Mack tries to patch things up with Yo-yo, and they finally kiss. Mace tells Radcliffe he's decided not to dismantle AIDA (nice of him) but from now on, all his research will be done at S.H.I.E.L.D., under official supervision. Radcliffe reluctantly agrees.

At Radcliffe's home, we see Agent Nathanson gathering up all his research. He opens a door to a storage closet and sees something which shocks him. AIDA comes up behind him and snaps his neck (!). Poor Nathanson! AIDA enters the closet, bends down and begins cleaning up a bloody Agent May (!).

On Zephyr One, Coulson finally opens his special bottle of booze and shares it with... Agent May. Gasp!

Thoughts:
• At the beginning of the episode, Mace watches a news report, and is horrified by a photo he sees of himself.


Mace: "It's like a circus out there. And that picture of me on the banner!"

Aide: "Agreed,not your best side. I'll schedule a reshoot for this week."

They're in the middle of a crisis and Mace is worried about his image? Jesus, who is he, President Trumpy?


Marvel Cinematic Universe Moment! When Mace finds out that AIDA is an android, he's furious for a moment, then says, "Okay. I mean, forget about the fact that I was mildly attracted to her. That totally goes against the Sokovia Accords. Doesn't anyone remember Ultron?"


It's great that the series manages to work in so many references to the MCU. Too bad the movies don't return the favor.


And Mace may be a pompous idiot, but that doesn't make him wrong. AIDA is a bad idea, and letting her read the Darkhold was an even badder one.


• It's always funny to me when a series shows a speedster running in extreme slow motion. It reminds me of Steve Austin in The Six Million Dollar Man series from the 1970s.

I get why they do it— if this scene had happened in real time, then Yo-yo would have zipped out of the building in just a couple of frames and we wouldn't have seen anything. It's still odd though that so often speed is depicted slowly.

• Was Eli Morrow the Molecule Man?

In the comics, a man named Owen Reece worked at the Acme Atomics Corporation. He was involved in an accident with an experimental particle generator, which bombarded him with unknown radiation. This mutated him, giving him the power to control all matter, down to the molecular level. 
The accident also left lightning bolt-shaped scars on his face. He then went on a crime spree, calling himself the Molecule Man. 

There are a couple of similarities between him and Eli. OK, so Eli didn't have any Harry Potter scars, and he couldn't control molecules. But he got his powers from a particle generator accident, and went through the periodic table and "created" every element. Seems fairly close to me.

• Fitz says Eli's building a Demon Core. Sounds like something from a comic book, but it's actually a real thing. 

It's a long story, but basically the Demon Core was a fourteen pound mass of plutonium that accidentally went critical on two different occasions at the Los Alamos Lab in 1945 and 1946. Obviously this was before OSHA existed! Both times the accident bathed a lead scientist in deadly radiation, resulting in their deaths a week or two later.

• The confrontation between Coulson, Daisy and Mace was very well done. Coulson accuses Mace of collaborating with known Inhuman-hater Senator Nadeer. Daisy's disgusted by his actions as well. Then Mace reveals he cut a deal with Nadeer to save S.H.I.E.L.D. in general and Daisy in particular.

Coulson and Daisy both look suitably stunned and abashed, as they realize the man they've been denouncing actually has their best interests in mind and even suffered to keep them safe. Kudos to the writers for a very well-done scene.

• All season Daisy's quake power has been wreaking havoc on her arms, threatening to pulverize her arm bones. This week she's freely using her powers with no ill effects. What gives?

In this episode, Fitz and Daisy have the following exchange:

Fitz: "Yeah, well, all the same, Daisy, I'd like to look at the new gauntlets after the mission— check that they're calibrated correctly." 
Daisy: "They are, trust me. The effect on my bones is a tenth of what it was."

Kudos to the writers for throwing in this quick little line to explain why she's suddenly able to "quake" without hurting herself. Such a tiny detail could have easily been forgotten.

They know I'm watching

• Speaking of Daisy, she not only has the power to generate quakes, but in this episode she can suddenly absorb seismic energy as well. That's new, right? I don't remember her ever doing that before. 

And how the hell does that even work? An earthquake is the sudden release of energy stored between tectonic plates. How the hell do you absorb and release that? Comic book science!


• During the Coulson vs Eli confrontation, Yo-yo comes to the rescue and has a Quicksilver  moment. She catches bullets in mid-flight, repositions the bad guys and sets up Coulson for the win. Pretty cool! Hopefully now that she and Mack are making nice, she'll become a regular in the back half of the season.

• It was cool to see Mace in costume, but Jesus, again with the black leather? Man, the costume designer on this show must reeeeeally have something against colors. 

I get that he was wearing a modified S.H.I.E.L.D. uniform, but Mace seems like the kind of guy who'd want something a little more flamboyant. A dash of color perhaps, or maybe even a cape.

• After Robbie/Ghost Rider disappears, Daisy and Coulson have the following exchange:

Daisy: (Talking about Robbie's car) "We need to get this to Gabe. Belongs to him now."

Coulson: "I wouldn't count out the previous owner just yet."
Daisy: "You think Robbie will make it back?"
Coulson: "The last Ghost Rider did." 
Daisy: "Wait a minute. Wait. What?"
Coulson: "Long story. Regardless, I don't think we've seen the last of Mr. Reyes."

We got a glimpse of the previous Ghost Rider a few weeks ago in The Good Samaritan, and most fans assumed he was Johnny Blaze (due to the bullet hole in the middle of his skull). 

Apparently Coulson is aware of this version of the Spirit Of Vengeance. Does this mean we'll eventually see Johnny Blaze on the show? Here's hoping!


• Daisy finally returns to S.H.I.E.L.D., and Coulson says he's glad she's back.


Daisy: "Got to be honest. I... I don't know how I feel about being back The rules, regulations. But, there were a few things I've missed."

Coulson: "They missed you, too. Plus, it doesn't hurt that the new face of S.H.I.E.L.D. is an Inhuman."
Daisy: "Your idea?"
Coulson: "I thought the new face of S.H.I.E.L.D. should be an Inhuman ... didn't mean him, though." 
Daisy: (realizing Coulson is talking about her) "Yeah, right. Maybe in the comic book version."

This is a shoutout to the comics, in which Daisy Johnson, aka Quake was briefly the Director of S.H.I.E.L.D.


• Simmons welcomes Daisy back with a surprise:


Simmons: "Well, now that we're all gathered, I'd like to present Agent Johnson with something. Uh... Your official lanyard. It's just a shame Agent Koenig couldn't be here."


Indeed. Too bad they couldn't get Patton Oswalt to swing by for a few minutes to film a quick scene.


• Poor Agent Nathanson. Not only can no one at S.H.I.E.L.D. ever remember his name, but now he's had his neck snapped by an android.


• So AIDA's replaced May with a Life Model Decoy. I'm betting that's why she was "knitting" a virtual brain at the end of last week's episode— she was making it to put in Fake May's head.

• I have a theory concerning AIDA and her motives. The writers are doing their best to make her motives appear sinister, but that seems too obvious. Plus Marvel already did the "Evil A.I." schtick in Avengers: Age Of Ultron.


What if AIDA's not evil, but simply following her programming? When Radcliffe first introduced her to Fitz, he said he built AIDA to protect agents, so they wouldn't have to risk their lives in the field. She'd become a figurative "shield," so to speak.


Sci-fi author Jack Williamson wrote a famous short story in 1947 titled With Folded Hands, that's very similar to this situation. A man invents a line of robots he calls "Mechanicals," and programs them with a Prime Directive: "To Serve And Obey And Guard Men From Harm."


The Mechanicals then begin taking over every human job and task. Unfortunately they take their Directive seriously, and prohibit humans from engaging in any behavior that might endanger them. They also begin monitoring all humans, to prevent them from harming themselves. Anyone who resists is taken away and lobotomized, so they can live happily under the Mechanicals' rule.


The Mechanicals spread across the world and even onto human colony planets, and humanity is left helpless, with nothing to do but sit quietly with "folded hands."


Maybe AIDA's doing something similar here. Maybe she's systematically abducting the various agents, and replacing them with Life Model Decoys to protect them. Then the imprisoned agents will eventually have to rebel against her to get their lives back.


• So when was May replaced with the Life Model Decoy? I'm one hundred percent sure it was when she went on her "milk run" to pick up AIDA and bring her onboard the Zephyr One. That's the only time May was at Radcliffe's house, and AIDA's only opportunity to make the switch undetected.

The real question is does Radcliffe know about the switch? I don't think so, but it's not clear. He had a private meeting with Mace early in the episode, but it's vague as to whether it occurred before or after the milk run. 

• Last week it looked like there might be a romantic spark developing between Coulson and May. Five dollars says that in the back half of the season, the two of them will hook up and have a romance. That way the show can get the two of them together without really getting them together, if that makes any sense.

• Best Lines This Week:


Robbie: (before attacking Eli's headquarters) "Yo, I'm not wearing a mask, man."

Mack: "It's not a mask ... it's a balaclava."
Robbie: "Thought that was a dessert."

Fitz: (talking about the impossibility of Eli's actions) "Even in the realm of quantum vacuum fluctuations, there are still laws. So how's he doing it? Maybe it's magic. I do not like magic. Or clowns. Or clowns with knives... in the dark."

Radcliffe: (talking about the equipment AIDA brought) "AIDA thought they could be quite useful."

May: "AIDA thinks?"
Coulson: "Maybe about electric sheep."

Fifty points to anyone who gets that reference!

Thursday, December 8, 2016

The Flash Season 3, Episode 9: The Present

This week on The Flash we get the big mid-season finale, or winter break as the networks like to call it. How I loathe these artificial interruptions in the show's storyline.

For several weeks now, Cisco has been the president of the "I Hate Barry Allen Club." He's actively resented his former friend for altering the timeline, which inadvertently killed his brother Dante. Suddenly in this episode all is forgotten, and Cisco and Barry are buds again. So what the heck happened?


See, last week in Legends Of Tomorrow, Cisco himself went back in time to 1959 and inadvertently caused an alien invasion in 2016. He then realized how easy it is to screw up a timeline, and immediately forgave Barry. 

I can't imagine why, but apparently the writers thought it was a good idea to wrap up a major Flash storyline on a different series. What about people who didn't watch the Legends episode? They're going to be totally in the dark. The least they could have done was throw in a line explaining why Cisco's no longer mad.

It's always good to see the real Jay Garrick on the show. Kudos to actor John Wesley Shipp, who somehow plays Jay different from Henry Allen, despite the fact that they have the same face.

We also got a surprise visit from Mark Hamill, as the Earth-3 version of the Trickster. Hamill was in full Joker mode here, as he even looked like the character. At this point they might as well get it over with and just start calling him the Joker.

SPOILERS!

The Plot:
We flash back to Julian Albert (Barry Allen's nemesis) on a Mummy-style expedition in India. He finds an ancient artifact, and like an idiot, opens it. His face is bathed in a blue glow. Sadly, no Ark-ghosts melt it off.

In the present day, the STAR Labs Gang is discussing Savitar, the God Of Speed. Cisco discovers that Julian published a paper about an ancient relic called the 
Brahmastra, which can allegedly create metahumans. The Brahmastra is also known as— the Philosopher's Stone! Barry goes to the Central City PD and questions Julian about the Stone. He says he used his personal fortune to find it, but unfortunately failed. Barry senses he's lying, and asks about Savitar. Julian looks shocked at the name, and tells Barry not to waste his time on the matter.

Meanwhile on Earth-3, the Joker the Trickster robs a bank. He's stopped by Jay Garrick, the Earth-3 Flash. The Trickster sets off a bomb, but before it can explode, Barry leaps out of a dimensional breach and disarms it. He ties up the Trickster and leaves him for the police.

Barry asks Jay if he knows anything about Savitar. He says he's heard of him, as he was the world's first speedster. He follows Barry back to Earth-1 to help him take down Savitar.

At the CCPD, Joe asks Cecile to the West Family Xmas Party. HR trains Wally, and notes he's becoming faster than Barry. At STAR Labs, Cisco keeps seeing visions of his late brother Dante. He also whips up a device which can sense when the Philosopher's Stone is activated. Is there anything he can't do? Caitlin finally gets a line, and says she found out everyone on Julian's expedition was killed. Except him, or course.

The Philosopher Stone alarm goes off, and Barry and Jay rush to the source of the signal. There they find Alchemy, surrounded by acolytes as he attempts to summon Savitar. Hilariously the followers bugger off the second they see the speedsters. Savitar appears, and Jay goes after him. Unfortunately the God Of Speed throws him around like a rag doll. He throws him against a wall and is about to stab him in the heart. Just then Barry yoinks the Stone from Alchemy and puts it in a special box. Savitar instantly disappears. Really? Has he ever done that before? Barry pulls off Alchemy's mask, revealing Julian, which we've known for a couple weeks now.

Back at STAR Labs, Jay recovers from his battle. Cisco tests the Box, and says it doesn't show up on any of his instruments, as if it isn't there. Joe's furious with Wally again for using his speed, and even furiouser at HR for training him. Barry puts Julian in the Secret Super Jail. He asks Julian about being Alchemy, but he has no idea what he's talking about. He says he needs Julian to trust him, so he removes his mask and reveals his identity to yet another cast member. He asks Julian if he's been blacking out, and he says yes.

Julian says his sister died, and then began appearing before him. She said if he found the Philosopher's Stone they could be together again, so he formed an expedition to find it. He did, and that's when the blackouts started. When he awoke and saw everyone on his team was dead, he fled to America in fear. He says when he blacks out, he hears a voice in his head.

Meanwhile, Dante appears to Cisco again. He tells him if he opens the box, they can spend the holidays together. HEY, CISCO! JULIAN JUST TOLD A STORY ABOUT THE SAME THING! TOO BAD YOU DIDN'T HEAR IT AS WELL! Cisco opens the box, and right on schedule Savitar appears. Barry and Wally begin fighting him inside STAR Labs. Caitlin pleads with Cisco to close the box. He reluctantly does so. Savitar disappears just as he was about to kill Barry and Wally.

Barry lets Julian out of his cell, and tells him that Savitar's been speaking through him. They ask if he's willing to let them hook him up to a technobabble device so they can speak directly to Savitar. He agrees. Cisco hooks up Julian and activates the machine. Julian is immediately possessed by Savitar and says, "Hello, Barry. It's been a while." He tells them he's from their future, and knows all their destinies. He says "
One shall betray you. One shall fall. One will suffer a fate far worse than death." Sounds ominous. 


Barry asks what Savitar what he wants. He says that Future Barry trapped him in eternity (?), and he wants revenge on him in the past. Barry takes the technobabble device off of Julian to shut Savitar up.

Barry wants to destroy the box so Savitar can never be freed. Cisco say it's indestructible. For some insane reason they decide to toss it into the Speed Force, since, as Jay puts it, it's an infinite void. 

Barry and Jay run as fast as they can around the particle accelerator. Barry somehow siphons off some of Jay's speed and opens a breach into the Speed Force. He throws the box into it. Unfortunately explodes and blows Barry five months into the future (!). 

A confused Barry wanders the streets. He stops when he sees his future self confronting Savitar, who's holding Iris. Savitar kills Iris and disappears. Future Barry cradles her lifeless body in his arms, as our Barry looks on in horror. Suddenly Jay Garrick appears and yanks him back to the present.

Barry's terrified by what he's seen. Jay tries to calm him down, saying the future's always changing, and what he saw isn't set in stone. He tells him to focus on now, and returns to Earth-3.

Everyone goes to the West Family Xmas. Joe and Iris give Wally a present— a Kid Flash suit. What happened to them not wanting him to ever use his powers? HR gets drunk on eggnog. Julian even shows up and joins the party. Cisco's sad that it's raining, so Caitlin uses her Killer Frost powers to make it snow. It's a Christmas Miracle!

Iris asks Barry when they're going to exchange gifts. He says right now, and zips her off to a spacious new apartment, and says both their names are on the lease. He says, "I don't know what's going to happen in the future, but I want to spend every single moment with you, Iris." Until you're murdered by the God Of Speed.

Thoughts:
• At the beginning of the episode we see Julian on his expedition to find the Philosopher's Stone. He sits in his tent and writes the following in his journal: "It's 
been six months since I arrived here in India. Though I have faith it's out there, the voice that once drove me has waned. And I fear my quest may be for naught."


Why is he dressed like Indiana Jones and writing like someone from Downton Abbey? According to the onscreen caption this expedition took place four years ago!

• This episode gives us our first-ever (I think) look at Earth-3. Of course it's federal law that every establishing shot of a parallel world must contain at least one blimp floating above a city.

• Mark Hamill makes a brief appearance in this episode as the Earth-3 Trickster, battling John Wesley Shipp as the Earth-3 Flash.

Of course Hamill and Shipp played the same roles in the 1990 Flash series. Cool!

• Since the character was introduced, Hamill's Trickster has always been sort of a poor man's Joker, becoming more and more like him with each subsequent appearance. That's never been more true than in this episode. He's even standing like Heath Ledger's Joker in this scene!

Note that with his pale complexion, dark circles around his eyes and ghastly teeth, the Trickster looks a lot like Conrad Veldt in The Man Who Laughs.

And Veidt's character Gwynplaine was famously the inspiration for the Joker! So they've come full circle here. Hamill's imitating the character who inspired the character he's imitating!

• Cisco does some digging and discovers Julian Albert wrote a paper about the Brahmastra. Oddly enough, according to the google search it appears his real name is Julian Albert Desmond. Wha…?

So according to this episode, Albert Desmond mounted an expedition to find the Philosopher's Stone in India. He found it, was possessed by Savitar and blacked out. When he woke, everyone on his expedition was dead, presumably by his possessed hand. He then fled India in fear and came to America. He then assumed the false identity of Julian Albert, marched into the CCPD and was hired on the spot.

So what's the big deal? Welp, it means that the CCPD apparently doesn't perform simple background checks on potential employees, else they'd know that "Julian Albert" doesn't exist. 

By the way, there is an Albert Desmond in the comics. It's a long, long story, so I'll try to be brief. Albert Desmond was a scientist who suffered from multiple personalities. One of those personalities called itself Mr. Element, and built a gun that could change one element into another. Like alchemy, get it?

While in prison, Desmond learned about the Philosopher's stone from a fellow inmate. He broke out of jail, tracked down the Stone and became Doctor Alchemy. The comic version had nothing to do with Savitar though.

• Barry goes to the CCPD to question Julian about his expedition. Julian says, "Many years ago, I heard about the Brahmastra, or as it's colloquially called, the Philosopher's Stone."

In-jokes Ahoy! Tom Felton, who plays Julian, played Draco Malfoy in Harry Potter And The Sorcerer's Stone, or as it's known everywhere else in the world, Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone. Wakka wakka!

• Jay seems to know a lot about Savitar, despite the fact he's never actually seen him. When Barry asks him how he knows so much, he says, “Speed Force myths, legends, and rumors." I guess maybe there's some kind of speedster newsletter or magazine?

• Barry reveals his secret identity to Julian in an effort to gain his trust. 

Sigh… Why in the name of Bruce Wayne does Barry even bother wearing a mask anymore? At this point every character on the show with a speaking role, with the possible exception of Cecile and Capt. Singh, knows he's really the Flash. He might as well tear off his mask and throw it in the trash, for all the good it does.

I bet the only reason he still wears a mask is because the character has one in the comics and all the merch.


• So ever since Julian's been possessed by Savitar, he's been keeping his Alchemy costume in a drawer in his office at the CCPD. Got it.

• When Savitar speaks through Julian he tells the STAR Labs Gang, "One shall betray you. One shall fall. One will suffer a fate far worse than death."

Let's see if we can figure out this prophecy. Who's the betrayer? My money's on either Caitlin or HR. There's no way the Killer Frost storyline is over, as it was resolved WAY too easily. I would not be surprised if she takes over Caitlin again before the season's over and betrays the Gang.

There's also something slightly sinister about HR, and I think he's more than a harmless, hipster doofus. Savitar calls him "Fake Wells" here, and a few weeks ago we saw that HR has a piece of Earth-19 technology that can alter his face. Do not be surprised if he turns out to he someone other than who he says he is.

The writers would like us to think "the one who falls" is Iris, since we saw her future death in this episode. That would probably be too obvious though, but then again that's what I said about Julian being Alchemy, and look how that turned out.

Is Julian the one who'll fall? I could see him sacrificing himself to save his former enemy Barry. I think he's the most likely suspect, as I can't see Tom Felton wanting to stay on the show for more than a season.

So who's the one who'll "suffer a fate far worse than death?" My money's on Wally. There's a fan theory out there that he somehow becomes Savitar in the future. In this episode Savitar is pretty pissed at Barry, saying he took everything from him and trapped him in eternity or something. Maybe something happens and Barry accidentally sends Wally into the Speed Force, and can't get him out?

• The Gang figures out that Savitar can only appear when the Stone is released from its magic box. Unfortunately the box is indestructible. So they come up with the brilliant idea of tossing the box into the Speed Force to get rid of it forever. 

I honestly don't understand how this is a good idea. Yes, they say the Speed Force is an infinite realm, and the box will be lost forever inside it. But Savitar lives in the Speed Force. Why risk him stumbling onto it? 

This plan is like tossing your keys in your car to keep a thief from stealing it. 

Why not just shoot the box into the sun? I bet that would take care of it. And if Cisco can't do that, he knows some people with a time ship who could.


• When Barry's thrown into the future, he sees Iris murdered on Infantino St.

This is a reference to Carmine Infantino, the most famous of all Flash artists, and the one who designed the all-red suit. In 1961 he drew the Flash Of Two Worlds issue, which introduced the concept of the multiverse to DC Comics.

• Last week in Invasion!, Cisco mentioned that Supergirl is from Earth-38. This was a shoutout to 1938, the year in which Superman was created. Being the pedant that I am, I wondered why they didn't say she was from Earth-59, since the character was created in 1959.

Several readers noted that in DC Comics, there are currently only fifty two earths in the multiverse— the result of the New 52 miniseries or something. So it would be impossible for Supergirl to be from Earth-59. 

I knew about this was a thing in the comics, but wasn't sure if it was the same on the show. I couldn't remember anyone on The Flash ever stating there were fifty two earths. Besides, when I hear the word "multiverse," I think of millions of worlds, not just fifty two.

Welp, looks like Jay Garrick just confirmed I was right. During his conversation with Barry, he says, "This is why speedsters don't travel to the future. Nobody should know this much about their own. Just as their are infinite Earths in the multiverse, there are infinite possibilities to the future!"

So there are millions of worlds, and Supergirl could have been from Earth-59.

• After Barry screwed up the timeline a few months ago, he was dismayed to see that the holographic newspaper in his secret Time Closet in STAR Labs had changed. The headline article is no longer written by Iris West Allen, but by Julie Greer.

Now we know why it changed. Iris is scheduled to be murdered by Savitar in five months.

By the way, I'd just like to point out once again that The Flash believes that we'll all be reading holographic newspapers in 2024. Hear that, Science? You have eight short years! You better get busy!

• All season long, Joe and Iris have done nothing but bitch and moan at Wally for wanting to use his new speedster powers. Suddenly at the West Family Xmas Party, they give him his own Kid Flash suit. What. The. Hell. So what changed? Did they finally realize he's gonna use his powers no matter what they think, and give up?

Whatever their reason, this is one storyline I'm glad to see go. Their constant whining was getting old.

Oddly enough, the suit Joe and Iris give Wally looks identical to the one he wore in the Flashpoint timeline, which is something they can't possibly know about. Did they have Barry draw them a quick sketch from his memories of that timeline, so Cisco could make it?

• A contrite and apologetic Julian shows up at the West Family Xmas Party and is welcomed into the fold. Now that Julian's warming up to the cast, that means he's doomed, right? 

• At the Xmas party, 
Joe and Cecile have a "nog-off," as they each pit their grandmother's eggnog recipe against the other. When they taste the respective concoctions, they sputter and cough. Joe says, "Damn, that's strong. Our grandmothers are alcoholics.”

By the way, during the party, Cecile gets a call from her daughter, and I'm pretty sure this is the first ever mention of her. Does this mean a new character will be showing up soon?

• Drunk HR, complete with ugly Xmas sweater, was a lot of fun. He approaches Cisco and Caitlin, saying, "
Caitlo... Caitlo, Ciscan! OK. Whoo. You got to try the eggnog a holiday concoction done by Joe and his hot girlfriend!"

• Cisco's sad that it's raining on Xmas. Caitlin sees him moping and apparently thinks, "Eh, what the hell. I'll just risk turning into a super villain again by whipping off my dampening bracelets and using my unstable powers to makes some snow for Xmas."

• By far the most unrealistic part of this week's episode wasn't the speedsters, the parallel worlds or the interdimensional scrap metal monster. Nope, it was the idea that Barry could ever possibly afford a vast, luxurious apartment like that. No wonder Iris was upset that all she got him was a wallet!

I don't know what the real estate market is like in Central City, but that looked like it was $5,000 a month if it was a penny. 
How the hell did Barry afford a place like that? He didn't even have a job until Julian asked him to come back to the CCPD!

Maybe housing's cheap in Central City due to all the supervillain activity, which results in constant property damage?

We know that Harrison Wells/Eobard Thawne/Reverse Flash gave STAR Labs to Barry in Season 1, but… does that mean anything? Is STAR Labs a business? Does it actually produce some sort of product or do anything that turns a profit? I guess it somehow generates enough income to keep the lights on and pay Cisco and Caitlin a living wage.


Does owning STAR Labs mean Barry's rich? If so, why does he still work as a CSI? Why not just devote all his time to being the Flash?

So many questions. And absolutely no answers.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Things That Happened On Earth This Week (12/5/16)

This week, Glorious Leader Trumpy once again tweeted his butthurt feelings about Saturday Night Live...

I was just thinking to myself, "Jesus, doesn't this thin-skinned, rotted pumpkin of a man-baby that we're unbelievably stuck with for the next four years have anything better to do than watch a sketch comedy show and then whine about it on social media? Shouldn't he be, oh, I don't know, BE DOING EVERYTHING IN HIS POWER TO PREPARE FOR THE JOB OF RUNNING THE GODDAMNED COUNTRY?

Then I saw this. A woman named Danielle Muscato replied to Trumpy and tore him five or six new assholes.

Her anger and bile perfectly illustrated what the majority of the country is thinkiing. I have to believe that even some of Trumpy's most ardent supporters are having second thoughts now that they've seen some of his plans (shutting down Medicare?) and have joined the ranks of the rational. 

Danielle's tirade couldn't be contained in a mere 140 characters, and she wrote another 10,000 or so more. I agree with most everything she said, but I'd just like to point out that she fell for his trick. 

See, the stupid-ass, unbelievable things Trumpy says on social media are all part of his grand plan. He's like a magician. His right hand distracts the audience by making a coin disappear, while his left hand does something truly horrifying, like gutting Social Security.

I learned how to do magic tricks as a kid, Trumpy, so I know what you're doing. 

Don't fall for his tricks. Whenever he posts something ridiculous on Twitter, take a second, roll your eyes and then find out what he's really doing.

This week KFC announced they're releasing a scented candle that smells just like their original recipe chicken.

Because who wouldn't want their home to smell like a poorly-ventilated, grease-filled fast food restaurant?

Oddly enough this is part of a promotion cooked up by KFC of New Zealand, in which they're giving away exactly ONE chicken-scented candle.

Seriously, one? That's it? They probably spent tens of thousands of dollars hiring a lab to replicate the odor of their food, and they're going to use it to make one lousy candle?

This week on the Homeschool Base website, which is apparently a thing, a woman who identified herself only as "Sarah" was horrified when her six year old son Mark accidentally viewed a Covergirl TV commercial. The commercial in question featured seventeen year old James Charles, the first ever male Covergirl model.

When her son Mark expressed confusion at the sight of a young man wearing makeup, Sarah immediately took to her fainting couch. Upon awakening, she shakily got to her feet, clutched her fragile son to her chest and lamented the fact that a brief glimpse of the outside world was able to penetrate her highly guarded and strictly regulated fortress of a home.


Said Sarah, it's "a shame that she and her husband can't take their eyes off their son for a single second. Thank god we homeschool." 

Yes, because god forbid your fragile child be exposed to new and upsetting ideas about diversity and tolerance.

Sara says she refuses to buy CoverGirl products anymore because of the commercial. Fair enough. But she also said she's hesitant to let her visit his friends' homes, because she can't control what he sees there (!).

Maybe she should just blind him while she's at it, and cut off his feet like a deranged Annie Wilkes to prevent him from ever leaving his bedroom.

I honestly feel sorry for this kid, as he's gonna have a tough row to hoe later in life. Can you imagine how the way he'll roll up into a ball when he gets his first job and his boss yells at him for making a mistake?

This week Southern Ohio evangelist Jim Brown and his associate Greg Hudson, whoever the hell they are, claim they've discovered the Mr. Ed theme song contains backward Satanic messages.

According to Brown, the song contains the lines, "The source is Satan," and "Someone heard this song for Satan." Gasp! The horror! The horror!

This is indeed alarming news for our troubled times. And it comes not a moment too soon, as the Mr. Ed program premiered in 1961. Timely!

Just think of all the innocents whose minds have been corrupted by the Prince Of Darkness over the past fifty five years, even though the technology to actually play the song backwards was far out of the reach of the average person for most of that time, and even today would be an involved process. I bet the number who've been indoctrinated into Old Scratch's army numbers in the single digits!

And lastly, a few days ago a series of tragic wildfires devastated the Gatlinburg, Tennessee area destroying hundreds of homes and businesses, and killing at least fourteen. 

During the fire, WVLT TV reporter Kelsey Leyrer captured startling footage of a concrete statue of Jesus amid the burned ruins of a Sevier County home. The statue was covered with soot, but was the only thing still standing. WVLT called the amazing statue "something of a miracle amid the destruction." 

The image of the statue swept across the internet like, er, wildfire, as millions praised it as a sign from God. 

Jesus wept.

We all know that concrete doesn't burn, right? There's nothing "miraculous" about that at all. It's just basic chemistry. Have they stopped teaching science in schools altogether? It's the American Educational System at work, ladies and gentlemen!

And what about the cinderblocks behind the statue? They didn't burn either. Are they covered under the statue miracle, or are they a separate? Praise be, it's two miracles for the price of one!

Even if I accepted that this occurrence was a bona fide miracle, I'm struggling to understand its message. How the hell can this possibly be seen as a good thing? The owners of this house lost everything they own. What good is a ferkakte statue going to do them?

Now if their house had remained completely untouched while the entire area burned to a crips around it— THAT would be a miracle, and something worth celebrating.

Apparently God's message is: "Hey, guys, sorry about your house. And your cars. And all your stuff. And your mom who was trapped in the house when the fires went through. And your pets. But hey, I saved your statue of me, so we're cool, right?"
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