Monday, July 27, 2015

The Messengers, Season 1, Episode 13: Houston, We Have a Problem

Recap time! Introducing all the horsemen and the fact they’re going to use the shiny rock to break the 5th seal and cause all kind of badness using drones to spread them far and wide. They also realise that the whole “you can’t kill a horseman” rule came from Rose who may not be the best source given the givens.

Since they need guidance, Joshua has a vision – the city the horseman are targeting is Houston (so they can kill the Messengers as well) and Vera’s long lost irrelevant son Michael is also involved. The vision also shows them all dying which I suppose is sad.

Of course such a big ominous announcement requires some tearful goodbye scenes: Raul to Nadia (who is taking Amy Satan-Spawn away) and Nadia calls Raul “dad.” Vera calls Alan to ask him to leave town and be safe – and to take Michael with him. She’s realised she can’t be distracted from her mission to save Michael (which shows a lot of growth of her character), she needs Alan to do it. First he needs to pick up professor Leo, Michael’s father.

To Michael’s parents who are now all tormented over the evil things the devil has made them do and they’ve realised the only way they can try to make it right is get Michael (or Brian as they call him) back to Vera – because a school aged kid being taken away from the only parents he’s ever known will definitely fix everything

Said kid overhears all this and isn’t hugely thrilled by this.

It looks like Lucifer is no longer on their side because he’s working with Ronnie, Erin’s ex-husband and Amy’s dad, to kill the Fairburns (Michael’s adoptive parents) and Michael because… because he’s the devil and he doesn’t need a reason.

Joshua’s also kind of worried about Amy Satan-Spawn and contemplates some holy child murder before she turns the ultimate power of supreme cuteness against him. Fear the power of little girl hugging you and saying how nice you are!

Erin says goodbye to Amy who is being taken away by Nadia to stay with her mother in Tulsa. She then tearfully hugs Joshua about letting her daughter go – and Rose, Horseman of Death, appears to use death woo-woo. Couldn’t she have done this earlier? I mean she was with the group for so long, she could have bumped off three or four of them!

Amusingly, Raul and Zahir talk and try to present the idea that this show is totally multi-religious because of the multi-religious Messengers (various stripes of Christianity, a Muslim (Zahir), Jew (Erin), Buddhist (Koa) and an atheist (Vera)) and kind of ignoring the whole blatant Judeo-Christian mythology all through. Oh Messengers, you tried.

Everyone’s in airport looking for Pestilence and trying to lock down the building to stop him hacking the systems to keep the drones (which will deliver the Shiny Doom Rock) off airtraffic control (and being shot down, because mysterious flying things near busy airports are generally regarded with Some Hostility). Lucifer drops in to add more information about Vera losing her son, Michael – turns out he’s called Michael for a reason, he’s an Archangel. He also tells he has his own kid because of the antichrist which he’s all excited about and I have no idea why he’s telling Vera this. But he does have the location of the launch site of the drones so he is still trying to help.

The Messengers (except Erin and Joshua) go to the site and are captured by War and her soldiers. Well, briefly, before angry Zahir unleashes his zappy powers (and Raul grabs a gun. Hey is anyone going to remind Peter of his super strength?). Zahir is injured in the fight though. Why they didn’t bring Erin along I do not know

The victory is short lived and they’re soon all captured again.

Lucifer appears and unleashes his wings to look all ominous – but the four horsemen let loose their own wings and shiny powers, knocking him aside. The four of them are stronger than him. Rose confirms her villainhood by responding to Joshua’s begging by mocking all of their various reasons for angst – deciding this is why humanity deserves to die for being weak (god destroys humanity due to whining? Harsh).

The Drones are launched and the evil shiny rock, the Genesis Element, is deployed, covering the city in an ominous red light – including Nadia and Amy, Leo and Allan who haven’t got clear of the city.

Joshua decides to respond with a group prayer session, which is an excuse for a huddle and have a plan – getting Zahir to a generator to destroy it while everyone else acts as a human shield to protect him, willing to sacrifice themselves.

They run, putting themselves between Zahir and the gun men, one by one they’re shot until Zahir reaches the generator – and is shot as well. He doesn’t get to use his power

Except the ominous red Genesis element turns blue (good Genesis element rather than evil) and instead of raining death it just rains (Lucifer snarks at god), rain that burns the horsemen.

In the blue rain we see Nadia and Amy, Ronnie suddenly regretting everything (he has burned down the Fairburn’s home) and Leo suddenly able to walk

The Horseman, dead on the ground from bullet wounds, all heal. Vera goes to the charred Rose and tells her it’s over – but she says it’s just beginning before she turns to dust.

In the aftermath Vera meets the walking Leo and Michael – who was rescued from the Fairburn’s burning house.

Two weeks later (Archangel and Antichrist seem to be good friends now). Ronnie is locked up. Nadia and Peter are together. Raul and Erin are together. Koa and Zahir marvel over angel powered cell phones. Joshua also reflects they still have something to do – because all of them still have powers which means their job isn’t done. Vera tells Joshua about her Archangel son – he warns her about the antichrist, who he says is Amy. Vera absolutely refuses to have kids labelled that way.

Amy sees Lucifer and calls him father. So that pretty much answers that question.

Ok that ending was super-twee but I think it worked. It worked that, ultimately, The Messengers won not because of power but because of simple, pure unselfish self-sacrifice. It’s twee, but it’s right.

I do appreciate the Messengers are multi-religious, it’s a nice touch. But it feels like a tiny, weak attempt to present this very judeo-christian story as multi-faith. Ultimately, we’re talking about the horsemen, several broken seals, Lucifer and are repeatedly quoting the book of revelations. Unless more effort is made to present how these can be scene through the lenses of the different faiths, what we end up with “hey we have a group of multi-faith Messengers. But those who aren’t Judeo-Christian are, well, wrong.” They tried, I think they genuinely did, but there’s not enough effort put into it or enough development.

Which I think is one of the problems with the Messengers. It actually got really interesting about the same time Rose was revealed to be Death. Before then the pacing was slow and the development shallow. There was little development of the concept of the Messengers (they could have just been X-Men), the horsemen (or what they get out of this), the seals or the supposed weaknesses the Messengers were supposed to have (which most of them didn’t have). Everyone had personal dramas – everyone. Peter being orphaned, Raul and Nadia, Erin, Amy and Ronnie, Vera and missing Michael, Joshua and his dad and wife – all of these issues and, with the endless and utterly boring exception of Vera and Michael, none of them really went anywhere. We had little time consuming hints of each one but none more than enough to give a brief addition to each character. Don’t get me wrong, it was nice to have those brief additions of development but there just wasn’t enough time for them all – and it actually left me feeling some of the Messengers were surplus (Peter and even Erin, neither of whom seemed to be involved that much in what the Messengers do).

Speaking of surplus – Amy Satan-Spawn and Michael Archangel – save that for season 2 (yes, I know it may not be renewed) because there’s already too much distraction with the various personal dramas of the many characters and the Magic Shiny Rock which never really got developed to throw in another plot line and another group of characters (Ronnie, the Fairburns). I realise it needs setting up for the story to continue but it’s just so full that everything felt like a distraction. It’s actually a shame because the second half (or, well, last third) of the season was pretty good but it was a hard slog to get there

We do have quite a racially diverse cast. The Messengers had Raul (Latino), Koa (Asian), Zahir (Black). Connected to them were Nadia (Latina), Alan (Black) and, tangentially through villainy, Rose (Black). There were some problems – Alan was very much on the edge of the plot and did very much serve to run around after a White woman who didn’t seem to have all that much attention for him (not saying she should have given the givens and I’m certainly not crying out for more of a romance plot – but I think I’d have liked it more if we had Alan overtly decide to save the world as his primary motive). Zahir was such a very belated entry, Koa as well, albeit less so (and with Rose changing sides there was very much a shuffling of the POC characters except Raul). However, Raul was one of the most involved Messengers by far and Koa’s ability was probably used more than any others and she became far more integral (and was far more interesting) than, well, any of the others. There were some tropes (Raul fighting against a man who was literally known only as “el jefe” and Rose being a disturbingly sexual Jezebel Death – which there was no need for) but a lot was turned round. Rose going from the magical wise Black woman guide to a cunning enemy was certainly more interesting even with the unnecessary Jezebel tropes.

Two of the four horsemen were women – and both of them leaders and while Death had some sexualisation the general trope of sexy-evil-woman was clearly avoided. While Erin wasn’t the most dominant of the Messengers, Vera and Koa certainly were and both of them held onto their own agendas and lives more than most of the others, I also like Nadia’s character even as a non-messenger, she was influential and her interactions with Raul were good. Vera’s and Erin’s storylines did revolve heavily around being mothers –but Koa’s certainly did not.

We had a briefly appearing disabled character in Leo – which looks dubious. He’s clearly set up to be a much more important character next season rather than a bit part – so they magi-cured him. This is a terrible trope – introducing disabled characters and then magically curing them when you want them to be involved in the plot just suggests that a person who is actually in a wheelchair could not possibly be an active part of the story

We had a very briefly appearing Lesbian, Josh’s sister. She was there to basically forgive him his apparent past homophobia (not that he really apologised) so that she could then serve as life lesson and growth moment for him. She wasn’t a character, she was a plot device and was never seen again.

Honestly I don’t know if I want The Messengers to be renewed or not. For much of the season I haven’t enjoyed it, its pacing has been poor, it’s development lacking and it all felt terribly crowded. But, towards the end, several elements did pick up and now we have had this large cast of characters well established I think it’s possible that it could be much better than it has been.