Saturday, September 26, 2015

Dominion, Season 2, Episode 11: Bewilderment of the Heart

Gabriel just unleashed the Amphora of darkness against Vega. This is a bad thing, going by the inky clouds and ominously dying flowers.

In Claire’s command room everything goes berserk, people fight, people shoot each other – and repeatedly themselves and there are explosions everywhere. Only major characters are immune due to powerful amounts of plot armour. Claire, Alex, Noma and Michael

Though Claire does hear a baby cry and goes to find her hallucination kid because while menfolk go berserk, women see babies. Of course they do. She has an idyllic hallucination of her, her baby, Alex (hah, bye Gates, you’re forgotten).

Michael helpfully expositions what the cloud does – it makes you hallucinate (brings out the darkness inside you) so you will harm yourself or others. It also kills flowers. I rather think it could just kill people like it does plants and be a lot neater, this whole hallucination thing is just a nasty little extra sadism. Angels are resistant and Alex is just special. Actually Michael thinks he’s so pure he just has no darkness inside him. He’s the last pure heart


The whole of Vega is in chaos while they look for the amphora to shut it up again – something only an angel can do. Except unlike the super special one they’re only resistant, not immune and Nora is already starting to see dark hallucination-ness. Because even though she has shown epic self-sacrifice, she is still not the purest of them all. She doesn’t tell Alex she’s hallucinating but does convince him they need to split up – or say she does but Alex follows her anyway.

And Michael starts his own hallucinations (Nora killing Alex) because even an archangel succumbs before pure Alex.

Meanwhile David is being led to his execution, begging all the way to the noose. Only for a stay of execution to be granted at the last minute. Baaaaad idea. There’s only one person who can match David and that’s Arika. But he’s been rescued by… an angel possessed version of himself? Ok more black cloud hallucinations I assume. Anyway, Most-evil-David wants to make Evil-David admit he’s a monster (he has a very convincing argument).

Arika has her own hallucination dream of her switching places with Rose the 8 Ball back when she and Claire brought down David. It’s a really good reflection of what Arika did to Rose, almost exactly - using a picture of her mother and cruelly attacking her through her mother’s mental illness.

William Wheele’s hallucination has him chained up in a dungeon with Gabriel with a very very interesting hair-do. He tries to convince his hallucination that he’s better than the man who once worshipped Gabriel and he’s the chosen one. Even his hallucinations mock him. He gets hallucination 8 Ball Claire who also mocks him and the abuse he suffered while she sexually assaults him. Next step is hallucination Alex to beat him up and demand William acknowledge him as the real chosen One.

Back to Alex and the angels we have an ongoing three way confrontation between Alex trying to talk sense into the angels, them fighting and Michael having multiple meltdowns. Noma tries to clong to the amphora since it shows her having her wings back – she can’t bring herself to give them up again, she painfully tells him how she needs them to go home. Unfortunately she doesn’t really have wings and is threatening to jump from a high place. He manages to convince her but then they have to seal with raging Michael. Luckily it turns out the Chosen One can also close the amphora because of shiny specialness. The Amphora dissolves to dust in his hands and he hugs Noma as she cries over her wings

The other characters all lose their darkness seconds before the hallucinations drive them to suicide. Arika and David are both free in the aftermath of the chaos. Claire may is injured severely, perhaps fatally. William is even more determined to cause carnage.

Gabriel is ready for his next attack,

Can we address this “last pure heart” bullshit? Because what has Alex done that has been that noble? Has he done one thing, just one thing, that should inspire me to think how good and pure and amazing he is? Gates has. Noma has. We can even argue for Michael. Where is the evidence of Alex’s purity? He’s largely being characterised as stomping around and pouting. If you’re going to set up your protagonist as the uber pure special saviour of humanity then they really need to have that reflected in their character, not just have Michael tell us all that this is so, honest.

And why would the amphora “protect itself”? That makes no sense. It’s a weapon designed to be used by angels. It can only be closed by angels. The only ones turning it off are those who control it and, we assume, have every right to shut it down – which would have to happen at some point or it would still be open and spewing darkness from the last time it was used. Having it spawn guardians to stop the angels closing it would be like forcing a tank driver to wrestle someone every time he wanted to shut down his tank or a soldier having to win a fist fight to engage the safety on his gun

I’m not sure of the whole concept of this episode – a lot of it feels convoluted and stretched to add an extra episode. As mentioned above I think there’s a lot of convoluted elements in making the amphora work the way it did which doesn’t make a huge lot of sense as a weapon. I think some of the scenes – Claire’s twee – were annoying (leader of the city with dreams of reforming it, but her ideal hallucination is this very domestic scene) and Alex, the purest of them all, outright annoyed me. But Arika’s brutal scene confronting her crimes from the other side was grossly stark and I think made us go back and analyse an old scene in a way we didn’t before because Rose was an 8 Ball and therefore not considered – by the characters or the audience – as a character who could be victimised. Similarly David’s moral twisting all falls apart when confronted by his angelic self – he points at 8 balls and calls them monsters without ever accepting responsibility for his own brutal actions. Ultimately both of these scenes, coupled with more we’ve seen from New Delphi, bring a new lens as well on the 8 Balls which we’ve generally seen as rampaging beasts. With these new lens the show has actually done a really good job of presenting them as a more human opponent which, in turn, demands the whole show be scene slightly differently. It helps as well that the quality of the acting truly hit the mark in displaying broken, despairing people.

But it really didn’t have to come with the demonising of Arika’s mother – she was, ultimately, a story tool used to represent Arika’s fear rather than any kind of actual person.

I also liked Noma’s hallucination because it was a final acknowledgement of the monumental loss she suffered in giving up her wings, in giving up Heaven and any hope of going home. This sacrifice has been far too glossed over.