Sunday, August 17, 2014

Dominion, Season 1, Episode 8: Beware Those Closest To You

Alex, with all the revelations of last week, decides he has to go tell the senate about Michael keeping the higher angels secret. He also brings up Michael’s ancient past killing humans, because Gabriel hearsay is such a good idea. He even exposes Noma

That’s it, the chosen one needs dropping off a cliff somewhere.

Becca goes to see Michael to be all sad about his secrets and that the Senate plans to exile him. Michael, rather huffily (but not without reason) decides to save them the trouble and, presumably, leave on his own. He does ask her to keep Lewis’s secret since the higher angel doesn’t deserve execution. Throw in some lovey stuff and he flies off.

Well not out the city – just to throw Alex around the market for betraying him after “all I’ve done for you.” See, this is where your “let the orphan be brought up as an outcast, showing him no emotion and occasionally whipping him” comes back to bite you on the arse, Mikey.  Dramatic gesture made, he then flies off.

Meanwhile, Baby Whele is leading his cult and now Daddy Whele is a happy adherent. Well an adherent anyway.

Claire invites Alex to see her in her wedding dress so they can angst and argue about, well everything rather randomly. It ends when he storms out after saying she’s marrying William Whele because she wants the power.

Arika and Riesen greet an entourage from Helena – bringing Queen Evelyn’s head. This seems to be one of Helena’s customs – gift wrapping body parts. It’s clear that Arika is behind the death of her former wife. Arika does have some praise for Evelyn – creating a female led city in a male world, a female focused faith in a world that had lost all reason for faith. Which would be nicer platitudes if her severed head wasn’t right there.

When Arika is alone she’s joined by her lover – Uriel. They have more plots for Vega, including Claire somehow – also Arika is actually Evelyn. The head on the pillow is someone else, Helena seems to have quite a stash.

William and Claire are married (“nourish his every breath”? Ok, I’ve heard worse vows. And they’re marrying in the name of the Saviour which is hilarious when you remember that Alex is Claire’s ex)

Alex is driving out the city and I joined by Michael – it seems the whole denunciation and flounce was actually an act. It was very convincing –mainly because flouncing is actually how Alex communicates. I don’t think he can leave a room if he isn’t storming out in an emotional tantrum (or anyone else for that matter. It must cause quite a lot of queues).  The plan is for Alex to earn Gabriel’s trust then stab him until he stops moving. They go to the chosen location where Michael admitted that actually he did go out massacring humans at god’s command and it was a whole lot of fun. Well, everyone has a hobby.

It took Gabriel and Uriel giving him a thorough beating and the mercy of a child to make him a decent angel. This allowed Michael to realise that his dad’s command were sometimes pointless twisted mind games and not to actually be obeyed (aka his god’s a bit of a bastard). Anyway the point of this is that Alex is supposed to be redeeming Michael for obeying the orders of god that he didn’t really mean (it’s not even theologically sound. Isn’t there a whole parable about sacrificing one’s own son as a proof of loyalty?)

They’re joined by Angel Noma (it’s a good thing she flies because there’s no way she can run in those shoes, that should have been a hint right there). She’s lured Furiad – and was able to do so because they have been lovers. Yay, more Alex angst! Just what we need! We also have the standard “waaah you lied to me” because Noma was totally supposed to say “hey, I’m an angel!” in the angel killing city – while Noma assures him that while Michael wanted her to keep tabs on Alex, sleeping with Alex wasn’t part of the command. Alex is willing to work with her, but not pretend that nothing has changed.

Michael finds Furiad and quickly puts a knife to his throat – throw in blackmail over Noma and I think we can safely say Furiad has been co-opted. Through that Noma gets a wing call from Gabriel – she warns Alex it’s dangerous and she may not come back; Alex seems to take back all that “we’re not friends!” pouting while she forces him to promise to take Gabriel down no matter what – including no matter happens to her

Back in Vega, Becca presents her findings from the angel autopsies and finds several weaknesses, including the fact that electricity can paralyse and angel. Riesen, rather belatedly, realises that Michael did a lot of humanity and saved Vega and they haven’t exactly been nice or fair to him. he also tells Becca of his plans to retire – and leave Vega.

Claire visits Arika and is introduced to Uriel – who is posing as a priest who uses the excuse of a prayer to confirm that Claire is pregnant with Alex’s child. The plan is to get Claire to Helena which will force Alex to follow because DAMSEL and then she can read the markings, defeat Gabriel and Michael and bring peace on Earth. Which she decides is her father’s plan.

Noma and Furiad go to see Gabriel and Noma uses the excuse of Michael smacking Alex as proof that Michael has gone back to his deep dark ways (would these be his human killing ways? The ways that Gabriel is now emulating? I… I can’t see how Gabriel is expected to buy this). Gabriel agrees to meet with Alex but it’s clear he expects a trap.

Alex has a dream about fighting and killing his dad because the Chosen One must be able to sacrifice everything to save humanity – also because Alex needs MAXIMUM MANPAIN at all times. He’s woken by Michael who has realised that their truly awful plan isn’t actually working.

Instead Gabriel has gone to Vega, to stand outside the gates covered in his bulletproof wings. The guards shoot them. And shoot them. And shoot them. Unless someone actually buys a braincell, Gabriel will win the war simply because all of Vega’s ammunition will used on his wings. When they finally stop he withdrawls his wings, announces his name and pulls a sword (may I suggest shooting him now? Maybe? Clearly the rest of him isn’t invulnerable). And he… surrenders.

Risen has disappeared as per his plans. So Becca, Claire and the Wheles meet to discuss this (I like the fact they’re not even pretending the other councillors have a say) – Becca wants to execute Gabriel now before he plots something nefarious because Becca is no fool. She also has a plan to actually kill an archangel – a big explosion. William pushes to question him, same with Claire (I’m not sure that knowledge from Gabriel would be more valuable than the removing the entire reason for the war). And David backs William up – something Claire and Becca find… dubious. Claire takes a moment alone to basically accuse David of actually being an angel worshipper (David has found a convenient scapegoat for the acolyte blindfold in his office)but they agree to question Gabriel for one day – then execute him the next.

Claire decides to posture at Gabriel in his prison – but Gabriel is much much more unnerving than she will ever be. Michael and Alex also join her and reveal the whole ruse thing is a ruse. Alex wants to go in with Gabriel, Claire calls on her full authority to forbid it. Naturally Alex ignores her.

He goes in with Gabriel. After much posturing Alex plans to stab Gabriel but then Gabriel threatens to have his acolytes kill Claire and his unborn child which he knows about, apparently.  Shock! Horror! Revelation! No killing the threat to them all including Claire for REASONS

Time for Gabriel and Michael to have a moment in which we also learn that Gabriel and Michael, unlike the other archangels, are twins – however that works with angels. Gabriel sows doubt by pointing out the humans have being preparing weapons and devices to capture angels  - um…. Yeah? How is that nefarious? War? Remember? More probative – he points out that Lewis, the angel Michael is protecting, is being abused.

David and William Whele meet and it seems David hasn’t entirely gone over to the dark(er) side – he protests his faithfulness to Gabriel to his son but also points out that Gabriel has clearly kept his son in the dark and maybe they shouldn’t be so trusting. William remains fearful

Alex goes to Claire about the baby and she tells him she wasn’t going to tell him because she doesn’t think Alex can be a father – while he protests that’s not her choice, since both she and he lost a parent she wants her child to grow up with two parents – and without being known and the Chosen One’s baby and being at risk. This is all overheard by William, her new hubby, who doesn’t look pleased. To be honest, the kid’s choices are Alex, Lord of Manpain or William, Dark Cult leader. Claire, single motherhood looks positively awesome.

Because she now has HIS BABEH, Alex wants Claire to be innured in a secure bunker where she’s super safe. He calls Michael for more super-safety guards for Claire – but Michael is going to check on Lewis – and he has a “I’m going to kill someone” voice as he heads into House Thorne (that would be Becca’s house). He throws away his communicator. Alex also decides to kiss Claire, the new bride, in front of all the guards. Really?

Michael finds a room full of dissections and examinations of angels that have been vivisected. They find Lewis – with his wings severed. They free him – he’s been autopsied while still alive. Lewis begs Michael to end it, because he can’t liv as he is – Michael kills him. Which is when Becca arrives in the lab. Michael grabs her and forces her to look at the atrocities around her, though she doesn’t seem upset, accusing her of manipulating him. Alex tries to get him to calm down – he pulls a gun and tries to stop Michael when it looks like he’s going to kill her – Michael throws him across the room. Michael breaks Becca’s neck  - Alex is shocked. What does Alex expect? Becca just vivisected his friend, that’s not really something deserving of much mercy.

Guards arrive and fire on Michael – he kills one. Alex fires on him to try and distract him - and Michael kills the other guard.

Michael and Alex fight – in which they both cut each other. After Alex cuts Michael Michael stops and looks all sad and pensive. Michael flies away through the skylight.

At the same time Gabriel announces “it’s time” and his acolytes among his guards kill the other guards. They free Gabriel then commit suicide… well it’s dramatic  I suppose.

Gabriel walks into Becca’s lab just after Michael flies off to point out eh did warn Alex that Michael had anger issues (I can’t say his anger was especially excessive). He also mocks Alex for being obsessed with Claire when him walking out of his cell proves just how many and how well placed his acolytes are. He tells Alex to come to him so he can read his markings or he will destroy the city, everyone in it and Noma as well.

Claire and William have a moment – and William reveals he knows about the baby but that he’s also going to raise and protect the child. He even gives her a bunch of her favourite flowers, desert sage. Which was the secret Gabriel knew about her when they were trading barbs. Rather belatedly, Claire has finally put one and one together. She also realises that it was William who pushed to have Gabriel’s execution delayed.

She calls for the guards and has him dragged away. Later she goes to David with the news; they agree they have to cover it up so suggest the story that he was killed when Gabriel escape. Claire is harder – she insists he not be considered a hero, that he died a coward. Oh, Claire has a hard edge – David leaves to make the announcement and the details. The details here, I assume, being actually killing William.

Uriel meets Gabriel, commenting on how well Gabriel pushed Michael’s buttons. Uriel offers her loyalty to Gabriel.

And David takes over William’s little cult… and while everyone chants wearing blind folds, he douses the room with flammable liquid and burns them all. Afterwards, he leaves the city – with his son bound and blindfolded. Davide tells him Claire is going to execute him – William protests she has no evidence: “she doesn’t need evidence, she’s lady of the city.” David draws the line at shooting his own son though – and leaves him with a weapon and supplies

Alex leaves a letter for Claire – but is clearly leaving the city. The letter is for the child, the same kind of letter his dad wrote for him when he went off wandering.

Alex himself climbs to Gabriel’s fortress.

Claire, you’re having baby! You must now be super protected! Of course, she’s already the leader of the city now daddy dearest has gone touring, so it’s not like she wasn’t a high priority target anyway – but no, even as the supreme leader of a near dictatorship, she’s still a lower priority target for the evil ones than her WOMB

Other than that there was a lot of drama this episode leaving absolutely everything up in the air and a lot of loose canons running around the lands around Vega

Looking at the first season of Defiance, I have a sense of frustration. The concept is excellent – this is a rich, fascinating world with a huge amount of potential to develop. The dystopia, the angels raging away the conflict – it’s all definitely appealing

But the execution just… lacks. We have the rapidly changing society in, what, less than a generation? With little to explain it. We have a whole religion that has been built around the Saviour – but neither is the Saviour himself treated that way (to the comic moment of invoking Alex at Claire’s wedding which pretty clearly doesn’t have his blessing). We also have very little actual theological questioning which, with the existence of angels, proof of god – and proof of his ABSENCE – should really have been an issue here. But it’s just been kind of simplistic – here’s the new religion (not why), here’s the angel cultists (but not why they exist) – like the vastly changed culture, we’re presented with everything as is without an explanation for how it got there

And this is exacerbated by the main characters not being all that compelling. Especially Alex – whose characterisation has just been replace by 8 bajillion layers of MANPAIN. Angst doesn’t replace characterisation, a character who spends his entire time practicing his pathos look at the camera is not being given a full character to play. And that’s for any character- but throw in the whole super-special-chosen-one schtick as well. It’s tiresome. Michael is very pretty to look at, but spent most of the season being enigmatic brooding angel who brooded and was enigmatic and making mysterious decisions.

Those mysterious decisions are something else to return to – because a lot of the logic of this show doesn’t hold together for me. I do not understand the antipathy towards Michael considered he’s hailed for saving the city (and I think “all angels bad” is a bit too simplistic even for the average knee-jerk unthinking reaction). I do not understand Michael’s motives for just about anything – the way he treated and raised Alex, for example. Keeping “neutral” angels and even Michael-supporters in the city secretly without simply saying “hey these guys are on your side too, see we oppose Gabriel!” Or leaving said neutral angels unmonitored when it became clear Gabriel could possess them. I don’t understand why Jeep went traveling to understand the marks (is there anyone who understands the way of god better than the Archangel Michael?) I don’t understand why he was called Jeep. I don’t understand why Alex and Michael thought their awful plan with Gabriel would actually work. I don’t understand anything Riesen did, ever. Not one damn thing. Nothing this man did made sense.

The female characters on this show started poorly. Arika was a background force of seductive power –but it was background and it was all around seduction. Claire was a rather dazed non-entity cast as love interest more than anything. Noma was a background token. Becca was Michael’s lover – even Uriel, when she finally appeared, seemed to be more of an observer

Things picked up. Claire was still treated as a womb in the last episode, but she has definitely stepped up as Lady of the City and it’s clear she is the one in charge. Noma gained a much stronger role – well, suggestion of a much stronger role – she was still damseled and there’s a decent chance of her being fridged (because Alex needs more MANPAIN!) but she’s certainly beyond what I thought her original role would be: WOC there for a token. Arika/Evelyn’s plan seems to be far more involved – we still have an issue with her being supremely oversexualised which is both a female villain trope and a bisexual trope – but she and Uriel are definitely step up in terms of presence and involvement in the last episode increasing POC, female and LGBT involvement in the story. Even Becca steps up, albeit to be evil.

I think that may be a bit of a gripe – the marginalised characters kind of lurked in the background for most of the season (swamped by the manpain) and only really stuck their head above the trenches in the last few episodes –or even the last episode. There’s also something of an issue with POC being cast as other – Noma, Michael, Furiad are all angels, Arika is “foreign” – this also applies to the lesbian/bisexual women: the

I’m intrigued by this show and the last episode has actually caught my attention and made me wonder what is coming next; which is a massive step up since before this episode I was pretty indifferent about the show continuing.