The Four Color Catch Up - Part 5 - The Stragglers (Legends & Lightning)
The Four Color Ark
Four Color Catch Up – Final Part
THE FINAL CATCH UP DOCUMENT.
Legends of Tomorrow Season 3 Episode 16: “I, Ava”
The Darhk’s are at it again, and they have come to Detroit in the present and seriously hurt Amaya’s granddaughter who never received the Zambeze totem and never became Vixen. Nate and Wally head off to correct this anomaly while Zari attempts to train Mick on how to use his fire totem. Gary shows up to ask for help in finding Director Sharpe who has gone missing, so Ray, Sara and Gary go off to ask Ava’s parents for help – here they discover that Ava’s parents are actors hired by Rip Hunter and that Ava has no real history to speak of. All of her records point to the year 2213 which was declared a temporal “No Fly Zone.” The three hijack the Time Bureau’s mother ship and go to the year 2213 where they discover that Ava is a genetically engineered line of cloned servants. The Darhk’s show up in Detroit and capture Nate, Wally escapes and returns to The Waverider. While Nora tries to figure out how to use all the totems, Damien can’t bring himself to actually torture Nate and they have a conversation about how Damien feels he’s losing Nora to Mallus. Real Ava teleports to the future and must help Sara, Ray and Gary escape the future and return to the present. Amaya and Wally go to Detroit to save Nate, and in the fight Nora kills Kuasa. Wally steals the remaining totems. Everyone heads back to the ship, and begin plotting what to do about Mallus, but Amaya has had enough. Amaya steals the jumpship and goes back in time to 1992 to prevent the destruction of Zambeze so that her granddaughter Kuasa won’t be killed by the Darhk’s.
I’ll admit I’ve not been the biggest fan of Ava Sharpe and the Time Bureau, but I was intrigued by the idea that there was some sort of mystery involving her. THIS was that mystery? She’s a clone that Rip took from the future and mind wiped to be a super agent? Seriously? I expected better of Legends. Over on the other side of the plot, the confrontation with the Darhk’s felt more like the show I not so secretly adore. The idea that Damien’s heart just isn’t in it anymore because of the impending fate of his daughter, the fake torture of Nate, this is all just a masterstroke of levity in what is essentially a very dull episode. The death of Kuasa and Amaya stealing the time shuttle to jump back to Zambeze in the 1990’s seems like a promising story choice, and with two episodes left: who knows where this goes?
Once more it’s Neal McDonough as Damien Dark. The fake torture scene with Nate alone almost makes him the season MVP.
Legends of Tomorrow Season 3 Episode 17: “Guest Starring John Noble”
Gorilla Grodd goes back in time to try to kill Barrack Obama when he was a college student so as to create a large enough time anomaly to release Mallus from his temporal prison. Mallus escapes and takes over the body of Nora Darhk, but the Legends arrive in the past and save Obama – thus reversing the effect on Nora. Damien Darhk volunteers to try again with Obama and uses his time stone to travel to the Waverider and ask The Legends for help. Damien doesn’t want to lose his daughter, and he is willing to work with the good guys to save her – even promising to let Sara kill him when it’s all over. Mick is annoyed that everyone keeps interrupting his Lord of the Rings marathon, and Ray realizes that Denethor from Lord of the Rings sounds exactly like Mallus. Ray goes back in time to New Zealand in 1999 while Lord of the Rings was in production and poses as a Production Assistant to record the actor John Noble delivering dialogue as Mallus so that he can shrink down and play it through his suit in Nora’s ear to push her into a trap. Damien and Ray spring their trap and Nora is held prisoner on the Waverider. Meanwhile Nate and Wally are trying to deal with the fact that Amaya is about to create a major aberration when she rewrites the history of Zambeze. Sara realizes that she has only two options, force Amaya to abandon her plan or let Mallus free. Sara decides to let Amaya change the future so that Mallus will be freed, and the Legends wielding all five totems will destroy Mallus forever. Damien volunteers to wield the death totem, but betrays the team rather than allow Nora to be killed. He unleashes Grodd to try to make sure that Zambeze gets destroyed like it’s supposed to so that Mallus will remain locked away and Nora will remain safe. Ultimately, it isn’t enough – the changes already made to the timeline are enough to protect Zambeze. The timeline is altered enough that Mallus is finally able to exit his temporal cage.
Let’s start at the top and work our way through the brilliant moments in this episode: Grodd going back in time to kill Barrack Obama is the first thing we see and it is far, FAR from the craziest in this penultimate hour of Legends of Tomorrow. I’m not sure how I feel about Obama being included though, the events of the Dominators crossover last season led me to believe that this world had a fictional President – but that’s just continuity grousing. Damien flipping sides and having a non-flippant, REAL conversation with Sara Lance is probably the best scripted about face on a character in the entire Arrowverse canon. Sara going to young Obama for advice was genius. The decision to let Mallus loose so as to stop him, and allowing Amaya to change the history of Zambeze in order to do that is just a mind-blowing and incredibly Legends style plot beat. Then, of course, there is the title of the episode which stems from what I believe is the MOST meta scene Legends has ever done. Commenting on the fact that the demon Mallus is voiced on the show by the actor John Noble by going back in time in the show to the set of Lord of the Rings to get the actor John Noble to record audio pretending to be the demon Mallus is just hilarious and perfect. Bonus points for the fact that it all comes about because Mick Rory is watching The Return of the King. The “Ava’s a clone” plot is made EVEN LAMER by the intimation that not only is she a clone, she’s not even the first clone that Rip has employed at the Bureau. I’d almost forgive it if she were the prototype for all the clones, or if all those clones were some sort of smokescreen to hide her true nature – but Rip gives no indication that this is the case.
I’m going to give this to guest star John Noble, for his dual role as the menacing demon Mallus (both speaking through Courtney Ford and as a GIANT demon) and as himself in 1999 on the set of Lord of the Rings complaining about Peter Jackson making him eat chicken on screen.
Black Lightning Season 1 Episode 10: “Sins of the Father: The Book of Redemption”
An old drug dealer named Two Bits sees a young girl exhibit powers after taking Green Light and getting immediately taken away by the ASA. Anissa acts on the information Gambi gave her and investigates the location of the cryogenically frozen children, and discovers they’re all very much alive. She runs off to get the help of Black Lightning, but when they get back – all the bodies are gone. Two Bits comes to Jefferson to tell him about the girl getting kidnapped, because she had been wearing a Garfield High uniform. Jefferson asks Anissa and Jennifer to stay home while he investigates the disappearances and how it connects to the school LaLa offers his own mother as collateral to a number of drug suppliers to get enough Cocaine and Weed to fill the drug vacuum created when Black Lightning destroyed the Green Light manufacturing operation. Proctor captures Gambi and tortures him until he reveals who Black Lightning is, Gambi refuses to crack. Jefferson reaches out to try to keep the young boy Lala introduced him to in the first episode off of drugs, but is interrupted by ASA agents who say if he wants to see Gambi alive again. Proctor believes that threatening Jefferson will make Gambi turn on Black Lightning. Jefferson goes with the agents and creates an electrical disturbance that distracts the guards and allows Gambi to escape. Gambi and Jefferson flee, Gambi apologizes to Jefferson and tells him to get his children and Lynn to safety. Gambi then tells Jefferson that if the ASA is capturing kids again, then they must have a spotter – someone who can keep an eye on the children being given Green Light. Martin Proctor meets with his spotter, the Vice Principal of Garfield, and tells her that he now believes that Jefferson Pierce is Black Lightning. Jefferson, Anissa, Jennifer and Lynn relocate to Jefferson’s father’s house which has sat untouched for years.
The closer we draw to the end of the season, the more deftly drawn out the events of this series are. We’re being given ample to time to ponder the mystery of the resurrected LaLa and how that will tie in with the still missing Tobias Whale; to wonder at the true nature of what the ASA is doing with those frozen high schoolers they’ve had on ice for 30 years; to sit back and watch the wreckage of the relationship between Gambi and Jefferson. Black Lightning consistently gives us the space and time to let ideas sit with us and marinate. This episode takes all of the simmering plot elements, except one, and brings it all to a boil. With the ASA kidnapping children; the revelation that the Vice Principal of Garfield has been working with the ASA all along; the capture and torture of Gambi to smoke out Black Lightning; LaLa’s rebuilding of his empire without the access to Green Light; the continuing tension between the Pierce daughters over the nature of their powers. There is frankly just a lot going on in this episode, and it’s hard to believe that we’re only two episodes away from the season finale. The shell game the ASA is playing with the bodies of the kids from 30 years ago is fascinating, but the highlight of the episode is the fortitude of Gambi as he refuses to sell out Jefferson – and the relief with Jefferson arrives to rescue Gambi from the ASA.
James Remar kills it once more this week as a stoic and slightly badass Gambi.
Black Lightning Season 1 Episode 11: “Black Jesus: The Book of Crucifixion”
Vice Principal Fowdy is reluctant to do what Proctor and the ASA ask of her, but she doesn’t hesitate for long before turning Jefferson Pierce over to the corrupt cops of Freeland. She bribes two of the corrupt cops and gives them files on Jefferson. Jefferson is in the classroom teaching when the police show up with warrants for his arrest – they search his car, his office and then arrest him. Jefferson’s students try to physically block the police from taking Mr. Pierce away, but Jefferson doesn’t allow this to escalate into a violent incident. He calms his students down, he calms Jennifer down, and he calms Anissa down, all while being marched out of Garfield High in handcuffs. Jefferson is processed into jail, on charges of distributing Green Light. Henderson doesn’t believe it and begins investigating what went down, he interviews Jefferson and believes him when he says he’s being set up. Gambi reveals to Anissa that the ASA is behind this because they believe Jefferson is Black Lightning, if they can convince the ASA that Jefferson isn’t Black Lightning – then Jefferson should be released. Meanwhile, Henderson’s investigation is bearing fruit: he uncovers massive payouts to one of the crooked cops and tries to get him to roll on the others. Gambi creates a holographic projector that will allow Anissa to go out on the street and it will appear that Black Lightning is with her. Thunder and Black Lightning chase a runaway car through the streets of Freeland, no one is the wiser that it’s a remote controlled car driven by Gambi and a holographic Black Lightning. Vice Principal Fowdy urges the ASA to release Jefferson since there is television footage of Black Lightning on the streets of Freeland, but Proctor ignores her. Henderson on the other hand has gotten his mark to roll on the other conspirators – the crooked cop admits that he planted the evidence and was paid to take down Jefferson. Jefferson is released, and Henderson arrests the rest of the crooked cops. Henderson is promoted to Deputy Chief of Police and is placed in charge of the task force to root out crooked cops. Jefferson and the Pierce’s have a celebratory meal as a family, and that family includes Gambi. Jefferson admits that he may never forget what Gambi did, but he wants to move forward with him.
The superhero having to endure a human imprisonment rather than reveal his secret identity is a shopworn comics trope, but played out here on Black Lightning it is more compelling than I think I’ve ever seen it before. Jefferson’s arrest plays out far more realistically than many other lead character arrests on prime time television, and it feels like the natural extension of the scene in the first episode where the cops pull Jefferson over for driving while black. The construction of this is not meant to feel like Black Lightning is being hauled off to jail, but that Jefferson Pierce is being unduly arrested and framed for a crime he didn’t commit. Watching the students of Garfield rise up to attempt to prevent Jefferson’s arrest was the proof in the pudding about the strength of Jefferson’s leadership at the school that we’ve been lacking lately. The idea of using a holographic Black Lightning to exonerate Jefferson is fairly “comic book-y,” but it plays fairly well. I kind of expected that Jennifer would be needed to pull off the exoneration of her father, but I guess that just means her big moment and heroic turn will happen either next week or the week after. The greatest moments of this episode, beyond the incredibly weighty performance of Cress Williams, were the moments where Henderson rose up to tear down the corruption in the police precinct. Henderson, for those unaware, has been a long time associate of Black Lightning – but one with a much more storied past than you’d know from watching the series. Black Lightning, in the comics, is not from a city called Freeland – but from an area of Metropolis known as Suicide Slum. The Inspector Henderson who assisted the comic book version of Jefferson Pierce was none other than the original Inspector William Henderson first introduced in the 1940’s radio show: The Adventures of Superman. It is nice to see the television version of Henderson being a badass policeman, just like his comic namesake.
Cress Williams gives possibly his strongest performance as Jefferson Pierce yet in the scenes where he has to comply with a police force that will attempt to destroy him for any resistance.