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Continuum: Power Hour

POWER HOUR
Directed By: David Frazee
Written By: Todd Ireland & Jeremy Smith

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Are we halfway into the season, or is the season halfway gone? I’ve been saying that it’s halfway over, already, and my rather bleak, glass-half-empty outlook has more to do with the sadness of this show being so close to its end than any unhappiness with the story. However, this episode did expose some agitations I have with Kiera’s character. And after a day or two of thinking this through, I came up with an analysis that attributes these agitations to how well her character is written (I hope) instead of it being something I just consider a personal annoyance.

Without these frustrations, I doubt we’d have very good drama! So before I dive into the annoyances, I need to discuss the philosophy behind what I’m trying to get at.

The Philosophy
Well written characters have flaws because it makes them more believable. But it’s more than flaws for the sake of flaws. Good flaws are deeply rooted decisions a person makes based on a posteriori knowledge, and not insofar that a person makes every decision off explicit empirical knowledge, but that decision is an expression of an empirical fact. Well-rounded, fully actualized people, in my own opinion, can manage decisions based upon a healthy discernment between a priori (rational intuition) and a posteriori (experience-based) knowledge.
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A huge theme in this episode was overcoming a fatalistic mindset. If this had to be Lucas’s final episode, then he served his purpose well. Julian has it in his mind that he’s destined to be the bad guy, even in spite of all the changes to the future he’s got to have been hearing around Alec’s house. Lucas’s response was awesome: “You both sound like a couple of babies. Here’s a tip: take action. Man up. You’re the author of your own destiny, act like it.” As much of the first three seasons was centered around the ultimate destinies of these step-brothers, it’s not difficult for me to see why they focus on the Darkest Timeline possibility.

The instinctive response to such a freeing idealism, as Julian demonstrated, is to take an action that directly defies that which you’re destined to become. But I think Curtis’s subtle comment late in the episode is more indicative of what actually should occur. Julian says that if he moves forward with his manifesto, he will second guess every decision he makes for the rest of his life, and Curtis says: “As you should.”

This is a perfect example of the philosophical point I’m trying to make about a well-rounded person. In real life, we don’t have the knowledge of what is to come, as Julian does. He knows that if he makes the wrong choice, he will be the cause of thousands of deaths. However, even though we don’t literally know this to be a fact about our own future (to be the cause of many deaths), the simple fact of the matter is that within each person lies the potential for great good or great destruction. We shouldn’t explicitly make decisions based on our own experiential paradigm, nor should we make every decision based upon empirical facts. We need a healthy balance of the two. It’s not about being worn down by statistics or the knowledge of what is to come, but being cognitive of the ever present warning of what might come. We should second guess every decision we make because decisions matter.

While Julian knows what his future holds and desperately tries to change that outcome, Kiera doesn’t know what the heck she wants. She wants to go home, but she clearly knows by now that the future she came from isn’t one that reveals the best of humanity. And this is where her utilitarian comment comes into play: “I want to do right by everyone, without sacrificing what I need.”
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The philosophy of utilitarian law originated from the theory that we (as humans) are motivated either by pain or pleasure, and the laws, therefore, were ones crafted to maximize pleasure for the greatest amount of people. The only elements of Jeremy Bentham’s philosophy that I actually agree with is that political reform requires an understanding of human nature. Like everything else, law requires a balance of a priori and a posteriori knowledge. Which is why we have judges in the American judicial system. At least, that’s one of the reasons we have them. Law needs to be interpreted and applied to every situation. But as far as his ideal that liberty-is-the-absences-of-restraint, I don’t really align myself with those fundamentals.

So what’s my point? Kiera’s behavior this week exacerbated some of my deepest annoyances with her character. And yet, as I mentioned at the top of this post, it appears to be keenly rooted in her a posteriori knowledge. As she seeks a balance between the newly discovered knowledge of her awakening and everything she previously knew and experienced, it is like warm air rotating beneath a cold air barrier (tornado). In the course of tracking how a person’s past has influenced their present, perceived flaws have a situational degree of severity, so I broke her annoyances down by the EF scale by which we classify tornadoes.

EF1: Favors

An EF1 tornado is typically classified as moderate damage. I’ve lived through a couple of these and they put on quite a show, can scare a young girl to death (I was, like, 11), but the damage resulting from it is pennies in comparison to the next level of severity. On the scale of annoyances, Kiera’s usage of her position to command favors is probably the least damaging. And yet, it’s still worth classifying on the EF scale because it still causes a ripple effect of problems.
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There was a time when Kiera told Alec to “get out of her head”. Remember those days? They quickly went away as she realized that Alec could help her assimilate into this time and equip her with the knowledge she needed to keep up the facade of Special Agent Kiera Cameron while also accessing information she’d never have been able to get otherwise. Instead of the proverbial man behind the curtain, there was an actual man behind the curtain.

Kiera has a way of presenting a request as though it is a civic duty required from the requestee. Whether it’s Kellog or Alec, or even Carlos sometimes, she often firsts demands that someone fulfill a request, before softening it up and justifying her reasons for that request in a way that make it seem like she’s asking, but she’s still demanding. It’s a bold personality trait, one that I don’t have, and one that comes in very useful, I imagine, as a CPS officer.

As a friend, partner, or confidant, it makes her hard to deal with sometimes. Looking back, I don’t blame Alec for going back to save Emily instead of helping Kiera. I don’t blame Carlos for getting so upset over the dead body of Kiera’s other self. I don’t blame Gardiner for going after her so resolutely. Much of this has to do with how she communicates, which I will get to next, but moreso it seems to come from this deeply rooted place of carrying out duties as a CPS officer.

Everything was more cut and dry in CPS, wasn’t it? Laws were laws. We saw Kiera stand against her mother in at least two situations where the law said one thing, but her mother’s personal philosophy said another.

Asking for Alec to do her a favor, seconds after he sits down at Betty’s old desk, made me realize just how much I dislike this part of her character. She’s taking advantage of Alec’s friendship, his desire to help, and a fear he has of messing up again. She believes she should be trusted implicitly… because why? Because she’s proven herself? Because she believes in desiring a “good” outcome?
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Carlos nailed it when he said that Kiera’s behavior seems to indicate a deeper trust in Brad than in him (Carlos). And by asking Alec to tip her off on the van’s, or Brad’s, whereabouts before telling Carlos would seem absolutely insulting if I were Carlos. It’s not like Carlos doesn’t know what’s going on with Brad and the time marines, but this newfound desire to do right by everyone without sacrificing what she needs is most certainly a misguided notion that she deserves preferential treatment. I don’t know why she suddenly decided to stop including Carlos.

I can see how easily Julian and Alec’s roles are reversing themselves through this lens alone. How easy it now seems to go from being the mastermind of the new technological age to leading an underground rebellion which ultimately brings about the death of thousands of people. Their roles, as presented at the beginning of the series, could do a complete 180 by the end of this season. Just as Kiera’s seems to be. Her favors serve no end game but her own.

EF2: Communication

An EF2 tornado is considered to wreak considerable damage, with winds up to 135 mph! Death isn’t uncommon as a result of EF1 tornadoes, but they’re much more likely at this level. And I absolutely believe that Kiera’s poor communication skills led directly to Lucas’s death.

This is an easy one to target, because it doesn’t seem to have anything to do with her past as a CPS Officer. Or, maybe it does! In a world where there were no secrets, were nothing was implied, where open communication took place between comms, there was no need to relate specifics because everyone had access to them. I’m assuming this based on the way Kiera’s CMR operates. I’m thinking of that scene from S3E03 when Kiera’s CMR is overridden and whoever is controlling her executes the informant. My assumption is that the execution was officially sanctioned, so even if she disagreed morally, the decision-making is swift and the orders explicit.
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But she’s the only one linked to Alec through her CMR in this episode. The conversations aren’t explicit and it is up to her to be the mediator. First between Alec and Carlos, then between Alec and Garza.

The first time I noticed my irritation over Kiera’s poor communication was when she showed Carlos her own dead body in the trunk of her car (S3E02). Carlos asks something like, “Which one are you? Which one of you have I been working with for the last year? Which one of you is my partner? My friend?” Well, OK, we don’t actually get to see her respond to this question, but seriously, she traveled back a week. They’re both his partner, they’re both his friend. Unless he’s asking whether the Kiera who is alive was the one who traveled back again. But even so, I still don’t get why that question was relevant. She didn’t travel back to manipulate him or change anything about his destiny. And the absence of dialogue after his question is totally frustrating because it implies something negative that could have been resolved right then!

In this episode, I knew her poor communication was going to be a problem when Garza said: “I hope your plan is better than your communication skills.” I know: you’re wondering how in the world I deciphered that. She tells Alec not to tell Carlos about what he found, either about Brad in the van or about the building Kellog bought $2 million over market value. Slap in the face to Carlos. And Alec hasn’t even had a coffee break yet and Kiera is having him compromise for her sake. What if he said no? Can he say no to her anymore? He basically owes her his life.

But the real problem occurs when Alec finally figures out what the future marines are building in that giant warehouse. He calls it a highly concentrated anti-matter fusion system and then suggests it could be useful in getting her home.

In an effort to protect this chance at getting home, Kiera doesn’t explain to Garza why they need to abort…just that they need to abort. Garza has already accused Kiera of being soft, but now she thinks (as she could only assume because Kiera hasn’t told her anything) that Kiera is trying to protect Brad. Instead of relaying Alec’s discovery, she engages in hand-to-hand combat with Garza to try and prevent her from blowing up the compound.
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Even if she didn’t want to tell Garza right then about the potential energy source being built and its potential to bring her home, there’s the small case of wanting to use C4 on an concentrated antimatter fusion system! Correct me if I’m wrong, but blowing up antimatter would be a devastation, wouldn’t it? Speaking of which, why is there SO MUCH C4 in that room? And why do they store it so close to the antimatter fusion system? I must be misunderstanding what this means in context.

What’s worse, in my mind, is that clearly Kiera eventually does tell Garza about the energy source Alec hypothesizes they are building in that warehouse because they have a discussion about it in the escape van. So because Kiera couldn’t give Garza any sort of reason for aborting the mission on the spot, they waste time subduing Rollins, which sets into motion a chain of events that causes Lucas’s death.

It makes for excellent drama, but boy is it frustrating to watch!

EF3: End Game

An EF3 tornado is described as causing severe damage. I remember reading about an EF3 back in June hitting a town in Illinois, where farmers wouldn’t be able to farm due to the damage from debris. There was a particular article in which a local student was interviewed and said that she didn’t realize just how much damage an EF3 could do. And I think that really gets to the heart of this section. When it comes to Kiera’s end game, there’s just no telling how much damage it can really do.

In 2077, Kiera’s employment required no common sense. A CPS officer operated based off the law, not off philosophy. Her attention to political dogma is derived from the Corporate Congress. As her philosophy changes and the mission objective becomes more…subjective, the effect of that attention in how she carries out the law becomes much less predictable. Like, her instinct is still to react by carrying out the letter of the law, but then her gut comes into play and she stops playing by the rules and starts playing for herself.
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When Kiera arrived in the past, she was so dependent on her tech that, at one point, I remember Carlos asking her if she ever just trusted her gut on something. Up until midway last season, her actions seemed largely to tend toward preservation (of the future). And when her awakening hit, her decision-making became erratic and emotional. I want to assume that this “do right by everyone without sacrificing what I need” is eluding to upholding the Liber8 vaccine, but still managing to return home to her family.

And yet, when Travis asks Kiera what she needs, she responds with: “It doesn’t matter.” Which is exactly what she told Kellog when he asked in the previous episode. The fact is that it matters very much, because she took the time to tell Travis that she wants to do right by everyone without sacrificing what she needs! The difference in Travis’s and Kellog’s responses is awesome. Kellog immediately knows that her response indicates her desire to go back. Travis, on the other hand, tells her that there is no surrender in this fight, enlightening her to the fact that there are bigger issues than what she might have to sacrifice for herself. Lucas and Sonya died for those bigger issues.

In spite of her awakening, Kiera still wants to go home. She still wants to return to that craphole of a future they all came from. And that, I believe, is what makes Kiera the most dangerous person right now. More dangerous than Kellog, maybe, in a certain sense, because what she wants out of this whole thing is an end game that will put them all right back to where they were when this all started.

Closing Thoughts
1) No Dark Alec! I was genuinely concerned after Emily left, wondering how Alec would deal. But Lucas beat him in enough games of Pong, and shouted SHABOOF! enough to help him deal with his break up.
2) Theseus has an opportunity to become Mother Teresa! I love Alec’s confrontation of Julian and the writings that were made available on the interwebs. Julian has a unique perspective, and perhaps now that Alec isn’t on the road to becoming SadTech Sadler, Julian’s manifesto won’t be taboo, but gospel.
3) LUCAS! I sat with my mouth open for several minutes. Victor Webster said at DragonCon that someone would die in every episode. I was hoping he meant the extras.
4) After Brad reacts to Lucas shooting Marcellus in the head, and subsequently kills him, shouldn’t it be telling to Garza that Brad lets them both walk out of there? Didn’t it also seem like Brad immediately regretted his gut instinct to open fire at Lucas? Just a thought.
5) Kiera seemed uncharacteristically physical with Kellog at the end of the episode. Did she plant something on him? Or was she just trying to get his attention?
6) In honor of Mike and Dave, my nitpick for the episode: When Kiera and Garza are trying to escape, Nolan shoots some sort of EMP that makes their suits sizzle and disengages Kiera’s weapon. It disables their tech. So how was Garza able to use her suit to storm the barricade, deflect bullets and take down a couple of the guards? Is it like the force field in the building that only allows them use of cloaking for a couple minutes and doesn’t have a permanent effect? If so, why didn’t Kiera just use her weapon?

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More Resources
Liber8: A Continuum Podcast with Mike & Dave Episode 104: Power Hour

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The 100: Earth Kills

Earth Kills
Directed By: Dean White
Written By: Sarah Fain & Elizabeth Craft

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From Earth Skills to Earth Kills, The Hundred, minus 6 or so, got a very raw look at just how deadly the surface of the Earth can be. In my previous post I talked about the internal and external threats that each society now faces, but I didn’t go into how Earth itself is becoming an external threat to the kids on the ground. That’s all good, I suppose, since this episode held that as the epicenter of its plot line.

Great plot devices, in my own opinion, should not be immediately recognizable as plot devices. When we are introduced to the gaseous antagonist as Trina and Pascal are lost in the forest, I didn’t snap my fingers and instantly know why they were going to incorporate the supposedly deadly mist. The title of the episode being what it is, there’s an expectation for it to introduce something deadly, but already I can see that these episodes are going to be crafted in such a way that edifies the growing tension amongst the kids and the growing mystery of what exactly is happening on the ground. And therefore, the mist isn’t just mist. Mist? I’m not sure what to call it. It looks like mustard gas and sounds like the Smoke Monster.

Before I get into what’s happening on the ground, I want to quickly examine the flashback we were given.

One Year Ago

the100-103-jakeAfter two episodes of eluding to Wells’ betrayal, Jake Griffin’s execution, and Clarke’s imprisonment, we get the full story interspersed throughout the narrative. A year ago, Jake discovers a significant flaw pertaining to life support aboard the Ark. He tells his wife it’s a system failure, an irreversible problem. Immediately, Jake thinks everyone needs to know and begins crafting a way to deliver his message.

From her hiding spot, a slightly younger-looking Clarke appears frightened by the facts her father uncovered and the risk her dad intends to take in order to share information. This preoccupation carries over into a chess match she’s engaged in with Wells, who successfully coaxes her into sharing what has her so distracted. After she divulges the secret, she pleads with him not to tell his father (the Chancellor). Of course, Wells says she can trust him.

While Jake is recording the message he wants to share with the Ark, Clarke approaches him and declares that she wants to help. He does not want her involved, but doesn’t have enough time to state his case. Armed guards barge in, arrest Jake and subdue Clarke. His sentencing moves quickly, it seems, and within no time he’s standing at the doors to the hatch where floating executions take place.
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This scene is a little interesting. Very interesting, I mean. As I said, it seems as though Jake is marched straight to his execution, without trial or any disciplinary action. I know that every crime committed by an adult is capital, but this is a high level engineer that the Ark leaders would rather float than attempt to reach some sort of compromise. What’s more, Jake doesn’t put up any fuss about his fate. It’s like he stated his case and then rolled over. But, beyond this accelerated execution, when Abby embraces him, she tells him to stop. He says he has no choice, and Abby counters that with the thought of Earth. It seems like were he just to give up his resolve to tell the Ark about their life-threatening situation, he would be released.

Moments later, Clarke fights his way to him and gives him a giant hug. We know, at this point, that she blames herself for the Ark’s leaders discovering his plan to tell everyone of their dismal outlook. But from the pilot episode, I remember Wells apologizing for getting Clarke’s father arrested, and then Clarke correcting him by telling him her father was floated. And yet, in this scene, Wells is clearly there, in the execution chamber, watching Clarke’s final moments with her father. As floating doesn’t seem to be something new in this scene, Wells had to know that this was the area they took people to send them out the hatch. It’s weird that he wouldn’t have known this in the pilot.

The small family shares its final moments as a whole, in which Jake passes on his watch to Clarke and then embraces both women. As Jake is sucked out of the floating chamber, Clarke sobs into her mother’s arms, repeating an apology. The apology is met by Abby telling her that it’s not her fault. It doesn’t seem like Clarke has an idealistic view of her mother, she doesn’t idolize her, but I can certainly see how it would make more sense to someone of Clarke’s age and situation to believe that it was her best friend who turned her father in over her mother.

I’ll be honest, this final scene between Jake and Clarke made me cry. It was really well done.

Into the Woods

the100-103-adam-infectedThe primary antagonist of this episode spurts forth from the earth like a massive gas storm, which just happens to look like a nuclear bomb explosion, and spreads like a fog machine. It doesn’t kill its victims, not immediately. It really does appear to cause similar, albeit accelerated, effects as mustard gas. We see Adam pretty clearly after he’s been infected and it looks like third degree burns of exposed skin, damage to the respiratory system, significant mucus discharge in the eyes. It looks absolutely terrible. So terrible that Adam asks Bellamy to kill him!

The secondary antagonist of this episode, I would say, is fear. Fear of safety made the camp uneasy when no one could find Trina or Pascal. Fear of survival made everyone agitated as they wondered when they’d next eat. Fear of death made the camp react to Jasper’s moaning in annoyance, rather than compassion. Fear of death made Murphy want to kill Jasper, rather than help him. Fear makes us do a lot of stupid things, but this episode was so much fun because it showed the results of people acting in defiance of fear as well as acting in fear.

Two separate parties make their way into the woods this episode. Bellamy and his gang go hunting while Clarke, Finn and Wells go look for seaweed that will save Jasper. The point of both missions is survival, right? Whereas the first group is seeking sustenance, the second is seeking medicinals. The lengths Clarke is willing to go in order to save Jasper is very telling of her character, and why her mother warned her to take care of herself instead of just taking care of other people back in the pilot. Unfortunately, Bellamy doesn’t find this endearing. He finds her efforts to be a waste of time. Actually, the exchange between Bellamy and Clarke is very telling:

Bellamy: “The kid’s a goner. If you can’t see that you’re deluded. He’s making people crazy.”
Clarke: “Sorry if Jasper’s an inconvenience to you, but this isn’t the Ark. Down here every life matters.”
Bellamy: “Take a look at him. He’s a lost cause.”

I cannot wait for a moment when his life hangs in the balance and Clarke doesn’t give up to save him.
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But back on point, in the previous episode, Finn totally nailed it when he psychoanalyzed Clarke and pointed out that she wanted to save Jasper because she couldn’t save her father. But it’s more than that. From the story we get of Jake’s expedited execution, it seems that there is no effort put toward sustaining life. The no-tolerance policy has made the decision to end a life a quick one, one that is instilled into Bellamy. When someone is an inconvenience on the Ark, the execution is swift. On earth it’s a different story, and it is just astounding to me that Bellamy, or anyone, is still so quick to make such a permanent presumption. I mean, I understand why Bellamy thinks the way he does, but I’m trying to get at the core of his belief system. Bellamy doesn’t really seem to value life. Right now he values power, such as the ability to make that decision rather than exercise discernment of that decision.

Fortunately, Clarke is right in her assessment of the poultice she discovered on Jasper’s wounds. It does have healing properties. When they finally make it back to camp and apply the seaweed, it works like a charm.

Slay Your Demons

the100-103-charlotteSpeaking of fear, enter Charlotte: 12 years old, imprisoned for assaulting a guard after her parents were floated, plagued by nightmares of their death. To preface this section, I’m very aware of the fact that these kids have some major horrors in their past. Life on the Ark must have felt so restricting, and punishments so swift there was barely time to process anything. But the depth of darkness in this young girl is absolutely haunting.

Charlotte follows Bellamy and the hunting party into the woods because she didn’t want to listen to Jasper any more. A surprisingly compassionate Bellamy permits her to come along and gives her a knife to defend herself, and then when the gas starts to swarm the forest he helps get her to safety.

Both Clarke and Bellamy have the opportunity to influence this young girl and I really like the subtle differences between their methods. I believe both had the best of intentions. The level of sincerity in Bellamy matches nothing we’ve seen from him thus far, except for maybe his moment of hesitation in the previous episode when holding Clarke from falling to her death in the trap. Bellamy has a caring side.

At the beginning of the episode, Clarke and Charlotte have this conversation:

Clarke: “Whatever happened up there, the pain, maybe we can move past that now. Maybe being on the ground is our second chance.”
Charlotte: “Do you really believe that?”
Clarke: “I’m trying to.”

Hope of a better future is strong, but the lack of conviction is likely what makes Bellamy more influential. Later in the episode, Bellamy and Charlotte have this conversation:

Bellamy: “What are you scared of? You know what, it doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is what you do about it.”
Charlotte: “But…I’m asleep.”
Bellamy: “Fears are fears. Slay your demons while you’re awake and they won’t be able to get you while you sleep.”
Charlotte: “Yeah, but how?”
Bellamy: “You can’t afford to be weak. Down here, weakness is death. Fear is death.”

On the one hand, yes: weakness is death. But on the other hand, I’m fairly certain that Bellamy is using a metaphor when telling Charlotte to slay her demons. He has no way of knowing what the results of his advice will be, but he’s not wrong in what he says. Studies show that children as young as five-years-old can grasp cross-domain mapping, and particularly in this situation as Bellamy utilizes a conceptual metaphor. However, because the target domain (slaying fear) is relatively unknown, Charlotte interprets his metaphor within the context of his warning of being weak “down here”.

I knew something was up when she watched Clarke slide the knife into Adam’s neck, but I did not think she had the wherewithal to go through with it! I truly thought that when she stabbed Wells, she was actually dreaming. I was totally and completely shocked. But as she tells Wells why she killed him, it made it very clear that she was choosing this act. It wasn’t bad advice on Bellamy’s part, it was poor discernment on Charlotte’s. That is some deep pitted darkness in such a young person.

Just as Clarke forgives Wells and learns the truth about her mother’s betrayal, Wells is offed. That was sad, and disappointing. I wanted to know more about his character.

Healing

The irony is not lost on me. Healing Jasper, just to watch Adam die. Healing the friendship of Clarke and Wells, just to watch Wells die. I think it was Octavia who said, “We’re going to have to get used to people dying.” No matter what these kids do, there will be death, and that’s a hard thing to grasp, especially when examined in context of all that these kids have survived.
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On the road to healing the friendship of Clarke and Wells, there was a car. And Finn, the awkward third wheel. Finn’s presence in this episode serves my point from my post about episode 2, in that Finn is a very different kind of criminal. The variation of crimes is so severe it’s almost comical. It’s like being lumped into a general stereotype, or something. “You run like a girl.” Awesome. What the heck does that even mean? We know Wells only got himself arrested so that Clarke wouldn’t go to earth on her own, he wanted to be with her and have the opportunity to set things right. Clarke was arrested and kept in isolation to keep her quiet. And then Finn, the Spacewalker. I know I’m rehashing things, but it’s still important because this conversation that Clarke, Wells and Finn have in the car during the gas storm is on the opposite side of the spectrum from the one Bellamy and Charlotte have. While Charlotte battles demons from her nightmares, Clarke battles Wells and his refusal to yield an explanation for his actions.

Before the flashbacks in this episode, I had this feeling that whatever Wells did to get Clarke’s father floated, it was because he had to do it. There is a genuineness about the character that made it inconceivable he’d done anything out of malice or betrayal, and I really enjoyed watching this whole thing unravel because it didn’t take away from that initial perception of his character. If Wells had caved, in the car, and told Clarke that he hadn’t given her father up, that would have been an act of malice, because it would have been in his self-interest. But Wells is not interested in his own well-being, he only cares about Clarke.
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Even Finn can see how much Wells loves Clarke through this argument in the car, so much so that he probes Wells for info. I love what Wells says, here. In response to Finn’s comment that he must have known what would happen to her father if he told the secret, Wells says: “I made a choice. If she hates me for the rest of my life, I made the right choice. And that’s all you need to know.” The choice he’s referring to, I presume, is the one to make Clarke believe it was he who told the secret. Clever kid!

And Finn doesn’t stop there. After that conversation with Wells he moves on to Clarke, planting the final seed of doubt in her mind over Wells’ betrayal. Is he really the only one who knew her father’s intentions? No. Her mother knew. And, wow, another tear-jerking scene between Clarke and Wells, as she asks him how he could let her hate him. “What are friends for?” he asks.

Indeed. What are friends for, but to let you hate them in lieu of hating a parent?

End Credits
Long post, I know. There’s a lot of good stuff in these episodes that I wanted to work through. If you think it takes a long time to read, you’ll be comforted to know that it took me two days to write it! Or maybe that’s not comforting.

Continuum: Rush Hour

RUSH HOUR
Directed By: Pat Williams
Written By: Simon Barry

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War: what is it good for? (Absolutely nothing.)

It’s the only scene from Rush Hour with Jackie Chan that I’ve actually seen, so of course I had to say something about it. But, of course, now I’m thinking about war and what it is good for. We’re at war on a lot of fronts in today’s society. War on terror, war on drugs, war on poverty. Don’t even get me started on the grammar Nazis.

In addition to its traditional meaning of armed conflict, war also indicates a sustained effort to deal with or end a particular unpleasant or undesirable situation or condition. Thus, war on poverty. We’re not actually at war with the impoverished. Thank goodness.

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Since the first episode of the first season, Kiera has been at war with Liber8. A literal state of armed conflict. But we’ve seen Liber8, and Kiera, lower their guns toward one another so that other conflicts might be resolved. I mentioned this in my previous post, but it bears mentioning again, there was a devious shift of importance last season. All of a sudden, Alec stopped being important and it became Kellogg who was the main focus. Due to actions taken in the present, it isn’t Alec who leads society down the road to destruction, it’s Kellogg—at an even more accelerated rate.

Let me back track. I guess we don’t know for sure that it was because of Kellogg that Brad’s future came about, but when asked about the corporate congress, Brad was firing blanks. He knew Kellogg. On that note, Brad did reveal to Kiera that killing her wasn’t part of his mission, his mission was to kill all travelers. If this order came directly from future Kellogg, I think I’m on board with Travis and Garza’s mission objective. I cannot think of any scenario in which the present circumstances, and Kellogg’s natural inclination to make convenient business moves, can bring about a future any different from the one Brad hails. When Marcellus tells Kellogg that he “promised to lead them”, I nearly choked with suppressed laughter.

I split my analysis of this episode into two sections based on quotes from Sun Tzu’s The Art of War. Yes, the same one who gave us memorable suggestions, like: “After crossing a river, you should get far away from it.” However, those who’ve read it will know that much of it is spent talking about how the general of an army should approach war, from tactics to maneuvering to alliances to laying siege, and in doing so provided some definitions for military leaders. Tell me, does Kellogg fit what Sun Tzu says about the commander? “One who stands for the virtues of wisdom, sincerity, benevolence, courage, and strictness.”

We Have To Play This Very Smart
“All warfare is based on deception.” I:18 The Art of War

It may be the most oft-quoted line from The Art of War, but it is nonetheless relevant. As far as strategy goes in this episode, there was a whole lot of deception and not a whole lot of negotiation. In fact, someone in the writer’s room must have read the entirety of Laying Plans (part one of The Art of War) because immediately following the aforementioned line, we read: “Hence, when able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must seem inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near.” Or, in order to make Kellogg release Emily while she is still alive, we must make him think we’re playing his game. That means Alec, Kiera and Carlos.

Kellogg discovered the missing data, as we knew he would, and before even asking for its return, he has Emily kidnapped and held in a building to incentivize Alec. Neither Alec nor Lucas, nor Julian for that matter, are eager to put Darth Alec’s military R&D data back into Kellogg’s hands, so naturally a failsafe must be put in place. Even so, Alec is not so quick to jump to a solution, Alec wants to play this smart, marking the first time someone says this, or a variation thereof, of this phrase in this episode. As the episode unravels, Alec reveals some pretty serious psychoanalysis he’s done on himself and Darth Alec, which is relevant to this section in two ways.

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First, by saying this to Kiera right off the bat, moments after they discover Kellogg has Emily, he understands that the way he originally went about things (traveling back) and the way Darth Alec went about things (after losing Emily) is not the correct behavior. Playing it smart, initially, comes from the knowledge that Emily’s life is in danger, so they can’t piss off Kellogg, and that the data they stole from Kellogg is incredibly dangerous in the wrong hands. Giving that data back is tantamount to inviting the future Brad is from.

Second, Alec says, at least a couple times, that he’s not going dark. He doesn’t want to become that Alec. That other guy was mad at the world because his heart was broken. Playing it smart is also his way of protecting himself from turning into the other Alec. We all do this in some way, right? We know our own tendencies, so if we’re smart and mature, we take deliberate measures to hold ourselves accountable to the people around us and take strides to avoid situations which will cause us to compromise.

Playing it smart doesn’t necessarily mean playing it safe. Especially in war, bold, tactical maneuvers are a necessity. The only time a bold, tactical maneuver is a risk is when the enemy hasn’t been properly assessed. Sun Tzu covers this extraordinarily well in Part IV of The Art of War, in which he states: “Security against defeat implies defensive tactics; ability to defeat the enemy means taking the offensive” (5). In this regard, Alec makes the right move in going after Emily himself. However, Sun Tzu has more to say on the matter. A few verses later, after describing how a clever and skillful fighter goes about achieving this victory, he states: “Hence the skillful fighter puts himself into a position which makes defeat impossible, and does not miss the moment for defeating the enemy” (14).

I suppose making the argument that Alec is not a skillful fighter is valid, but if that argument is to be made, then it negates his original statement that he’s got to be smart about their next move. When he’s sitting behind a computer screen, he knows the paradigm of playing it smart. This all goes out the window when he leaves the Oasis.

But why would he want to leave the Oasis in the first place? (That is a Ready Player One reference, in case you were wondering.) And this is where I started to realize that the problem isn’t really Alec. Don’t get me wrong, I believe that everyone has a choice to be, or not to be, and I won’t kid myself that Darth Alec was not to blame. However, the problem does seem to be more centered around Emily. I wouldn’t go so far as to say she’s a loose canon, because she does love him and she does seem to have his best interests in mind. But because she is, let’s face it, a total bad ass, Alec faces a crisis of masculinity. He wants to toss aside the superpowers he has with keystrokes for some hand-to-hand combat. By virtue of association, he sees his methods of resolution to be too passive for depth of his feelings for Emily. A girl like that requires a man, right? I don’t know if that’s what’s actually going through his mind, but if I’m Emily, that’s not even going through my mind. I know the resources Alec has at his disposal (Carlos, Kiera) and I also know that Alec is a genius, so even though I’m scared, I don’t believe for a second they’ve given up on me.

As Emily, I also see the bigger picture. Not necessarily that I am meaningless in the large scheme of things, but that the large scheme of things makes everything else meaningless.

So, even though Alec starts out by wanting to play this whole situation very smart, he goes off on his own, gets his girl back, but, in the process, also reveals to Emily just how much of a vulnerability she is to him. BAM. Didn’t see that one coming. I can’t really tell, here, if Emily is telling him that his powers are best used behind a computer or in a lab and she’s thereby recusing herself, or if it had more to do with the fact Jason is not her son.

On that note, a different future has already been established; if she knows Jason is Alec’s son from the future, shouldn’t she also know that Brad is from an entirely different future that, apparently, Kellogg is running? And based on prior discussions between the two lovebirds as it relates to time travel, can’t she consider the possibility of branching timelines, or even the ability to change a timeline?

In the end it seems like it is a compound of Emily’s experiences over the course of this episode. It is not strictly one, but all of them, that makes her now feel obligated to remove herself from the situation.

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By not playing it smart, Alec chooses a path that leads to Emily’s departure. I honestly don’t know if Kellogg would have killed Emily anyway, I’m kind of thinking he wouldn’t, based on his need for Alec, but in the event that Alec did not go after Emily on his own and the Brain Trust was forced to find a different way to give Kellogg his data, would that scenario have resulted in Emily’s death anyway by the actions of someone Kellogg doesn’t have full control over? And in that case, would her murder have been worse than her departure?

I think you know what I’m getting at. After all the psychoanalysis on Darth Alec, and the clear statements from Alec of why his other self went dark, Emily’s departure cannot mean good things. Now the military R&D which Darth Alec devised is in the hands of an Alec who is on the brink of heartbreak. The question on my mind comes down to this: has Alec learned enough through this psychoanalysis process to know better than to go dark? Or will Emily’s departure affect him in the same way that it did the other guy?

Acting In Accordance
“We cannot enter into alliances until we are acquainted with the designs of our neighbors.” VII:12 The Art of War

One of the things I love most about the way Continuum is written is that every character has an agenda to which he or she will always act in favor of, almost regardless to whom their actions will impact. This isn’t because they’re heartless, it’s more because… they have weighted their objectives and can make decisive actions, deeming the consequences, if and when they arise, bearable. Alec traveling back to save Emily, Kiera choosing Darth Alec (then changing her mind), and then, basically, every decision Liber8 has made. Kagame completing his circle as a suicide bomber at the end of season 1, Sonya finding Dillon guilty at the end of season 3 and here, in this episode, Travis and Garza choosing to carry out the assassination on Kellogg knowing that Kiera will become a casualty.

Each acts in accordance to their primary objective, and that we can always count on. Like, in Lost Hours, when Kellogg said he’d taken Piron over when Darth Alec seemed less than desirable to hold the keys to the proverbial technology kingdom. But, when Kiera pointed out that Stable Alec was the only Alec currently in this time (at least… we presume), Kellogg had a justification for retaining the Lordship of Piron ready at the tip of his tongue.

The passage from Art of War I quoted above comes from the chapter on Maneuvering in a section about ensuring familiarity with an army’s surroundings and resources. The phrase acquainted with the designs of our neighbors intrigues me, and in the context of Continuum I’m thinking along two lines right now as it relates to Kiera. The first is with Liber8, or those who remain, and the second is with Brad.

It took three seasons for Kiera to forge any sort of real alliance with Liber8. And this isn’t counting Kellogg. This is a real alliance in which she is acquainted with the designs of her neighbors and they enter into a mission with a like-minded objective, not just like-minded interests (in which each both get something they want). I loved that alliance, and I like to see it still playing out in the form of Lucas standing in for Alec.

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But what I think I liked most was Travis and Garza deciding to go ahead with Kellogg’s assassination, knowing Kiera would be collateral damage. Because that is totally Travis and Garza acting in accordance with Travis and Garza. And yet, even after Kiera understands who it was who tried to kill her and Kellogg, and Garza makes a surprise appearance in Kiera’s backseat, Kiera still brings Garza back to the new lair for family dinner. Garza never hides who she is and what she wants, she doesn’t make excuses or try to justify her actions. That is something someone like Kiera can bank on, not necessarily that Garza is totally trustworthy, but when Kiera can accept and count on the way Garza is, when she’s acquainted with the designs of her neighbor, it’s simpler to form an alliance.

I’ll likely end up eating my words before the season is over, but I wanted to bring this up because I find this alliance so interesting and, actually, more trustworthy than that of Brad’s.

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Brad. I’ll admit, when Kiera and Brad met briefly, I was like, “Oh, yeah. That guy.” He had a whopping minute of screen time in this episode, but it was enough for me to scratch my head and become curious about Kiera’s perception of events. You know in movies when a character will try to avoid saying I love you in order to prolonge a facade back by leaning in for a kiss? I swear I thought Kiera’s hug was a mask for reassuring Brad she trusts him, too. I know she says I trust you, too, while hugging him, but I thought it was a way to keep him from seeing her face while she said it (like she wouldn’t be able to convince him otherwise). I could not decide in that scene whether she does still trust him, but she ends up relaying Brad’s suggestions to Carlos and backing them up with a reiteration of her trust in him… And I trust that dialogue more than I trust my analysis of interpersonal communication.

I could be reading too much into this, which, let’s face it, I tend to do… But I took a screencap of Brad’s side of the hug because it seemed to me as though the look on his face indicated that he didn’t believe she trusts him. Maybe? I wish there had been more than just this one scene.

Wrap Up
Well, there’s a ton to talk about, obviously, but I’ve rattled on long enough. As always, leave a comment if you agree/disagree or had a different perception of the episode. I’ll leave you with these wise words:

”Let your rapidity be that of the wind, your compactness that of the forest.” VII:17

More Resources
Liber8: A Continuum Podcast with Mike & Dave Episode 102: Rush Hour

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The 100: Earth Skills

Earth Skills
Directed By: Dean White
Written By: Jason Rothenberg

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The second episode of The 100 picks up right where the pilot left off: the kids running away from the river in terror after Jasper was speared through the chest from 300 yards away. As second episodes go, this one lost none of the moment built up in the pilot episode where so many others take a step back. Either due to budget restraints–after so much money was spent on the pilot–or to introduce new character arcs, second episodes can be my least favorite of an entire series. But I loved this episode because it managed to slide out of its big-budget pilot mentality and into its ever-growing mythology without detracting from the pace of the story.

The story-telling technique on this show is pretty fantastic, especially in these early episodes. In the pilot episode, there was a clear appropriation of a Whatever The Hell We Want society on the ground orchestrated by the underprivileged, contrasted against the rule-oriented society run by the privileged on The Ark, and from whence they came. The leadership on The Ark is decisive and action-based because every breath is critical, and down on the ground many of the kids harbor resentment of that and as such found it in their best interest to sever whatever ties they could with the adults in the sky.

Now, in this second episode, there is a dichotomy of internal and external threats, both on the ground and in the sky. On the ground, the kids face Bellamy’s no-rule society from within, and the person, or people, who’ve dragged Jasper off from without; in the sky, the adults face a deadlocked council and differing ideas of survival from within, and a failing space station from without. Compounded, these issues allow both parties to temporarily resolve what needs to be resolved, keeping the tension very taut and the intrigue a little bit stronger.

On The Ground
The last thing we learn at the end of the first episode is that the kids are not alone on the surface of the earth. No animal threw that spear! There are distinct clues throughout this episode that the enemy they face is, indeed, intelligent, particularly due to its knowledge of medicine (in healing Jasper) and creating a trap where they tied Jasper up. The episode ends, quite poetically, with a full view of a Grounder watching the hundred from a tree. If it weren’t for the fact this season only has 13 episodes, I would have thought this was very early to already reveal who the threat is, but I also love it because I don’t have to keep guessing and it indicates to me that the threat is not passive. As in, the person watching them isn’t content to just let the kids be.

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I suppose that alone could be determined well before we saw him at the end of the episode. As the kids are still trying to run away from the river, they hear Jasper groan and race back to see what has happened. Jasper is gone. Clue number one that the threat is intelligent is the spear. Jasper getting dragged off could be attributed to a nearby animal (and yet, at this point in the series the only animal we’ve seen is a two-faced deer). It isn’t until the kids begin searching for Jasper again that another clue to the intelligence factor comes into play.

Other than Jasper getting speared and dragged off, the biggest upset of this adventure into the woods is that the kids will have to return to camp empty handed. Their mission had been to go to Mt. Weather and retrieve food and supplies. But with what happened to Jasper, I can’t blame them all for heading back the way they came. Back at camp, this revelation is met with surprisingly little fear. After Clarke tells everyone the news, her attention is diverted to the absence of Wells’s wristband and then to the realization that 24 kids have had their wristbands removed.

We haven’t met a lot of the kids yet, but the degrees of criminals who were bunched together on this mission to earth is pretty extreme. While Bellamy and Murphy have attitudes that make them come off as more violent criminals, suggesting crimes like murder or assault, we know for a fact that Monty and Jasper were in for marijuana, or something of the like, while Clarke was in solitary for conspiracy and Wells… I think all we know at this point was that he got himself arrested. I can’t recall if he told us, now that I think about it. And then, of course, there’s Finn the Spacewalker, who is the least criminal minded of them all.

The removal of the wristbands accentuates a false perception of equality. The crimes differ, but their situation is similar, and so the less-violent kids are succumbing to the reckless suggestions of the more violent, thereby making themsleves idealistically enslaved by falsely assuming their crimes are equal. (Yes, I realize I am weighting crimes.) In order to get the kids rallying around him, instead of Clarke, Bellamy tells the onlookers: “They say they will pardon you of your crimes, but I say: you aren’t criminals!” Well, in a society without rules, no… They’re probably not criminals, but the argument makes no sense other than to appease the crowd. And that seems to be Bellamy’s greatest flaw right now. He’s so blinded by the fear of what he did to Chancellor Jaha, that he will adamantly advocate for a scenario in which thousands of people die on the Ark.

The next objective for the Princess is a rescue mission, which Finn dubs a suicide mission. Clarke is right on this one: for a kid who was locked up for spacewalking, he’s not much of a risk taker. Sure, when it comes to something like swinging on a vine across a river, he’s all for it. But when there is a clearer possibility of death, that’s where he draws the line. This means, when Clarke leaves to go after Jasper, Finn doesn’t leave with them. Instead, she (reluctantly) has Wells at her side, and then recruits Bellamy (because of his gun), who takes Murphy as his second.

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The internal and external threats come head to head as this little band makes its way to Jasper, and, man, do I admire Clarke’s tenacity in this situation. She keeps focused on the task at hand and right as she’s about to be overpowered, Finn shows up. Again, the look on his face has the appearance of confidence, but it’s almost a bit frantic. I grabbed this screencapture to the left because it was almost like he swooped in as fast as he could so that Bellamy and Murphy couldn’t see how scared he was. And whether or not this was intentional, or if I’m reading into something that isn’t there, I find this a really cool aspect to Finn’s character and to the choice in the hundred kids sent down. Not every one of these kids is a cold-blooded murderer. The crimes vary, which means the personalities and skills vary, and that can only mean good things.

And for the most part it does! The mission to retrieve Jasper is successful because Finn has something called 4th year Earth Skills (ahem, name of episode title). I’m assuming it’s referring to lessons on the Ark. Finn and Clarke take a dip at a waterfall, much to Clarke’s initial vexation, where they find blood covering the rocks. Now this is where the whole intelligent-threat thing falters for me. Unless the Grounder, the person dragging Jasper off, was trying to illicit the maximum amount of panic from the kids, the blood covering the rocks makes no sense. For one, when the kids finally find Jasper, he’s been patched up and is tied to a tree; the blood they find on the rocks is still wet, which I suppose is fine because of the relative humidity and the moisture in the air around the waterfall, but the timing of when Jasper’s wound is sealed is a bit funky to me. Then, for two, it looked as though Jasper would have had to lie and roll around on every single rock in order to spill that kind of blood.

But I digress.

Here’s where the external and internal threats come to a head.

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First, Clark falls through a well-disguised trap and nearly to her death when Bellamy instinctively grabs hold of her. This is so interesting to me. While Bellamy is this gun-toting, free-wheeling bad ass, his first instinct, in spite of it all, is to save Clarke. I feel like I can see him deliberate in this scene for a second, as though he’s actually considering dropping Clarke into the spiky bottom of that pit. But I got a screen capture of his eyes, because to me it almost seems like he looks surprised at his own hesitation. So, even though Bellamy wants the Ark to think the Princess is dead, he’s not so black-hearted that he’ll actually kill Clarke himself. He’s a big talker, and he likes to wield a big stick, but there is definitely an element of compassion that I think will come into play very soon. And we’ve already seen this enacted on his sister, he has a very big soft spot for Octavia.

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Second, one of my favorite lines of the episode comes out the scene where kids are standing in line to have their wristbands removed in order to partake in the meat of the strange jaguar-like creature Wells slayed. Horrified, Clarke says, no way José. Spacewalker Finn walks up and just takes a stick of meat out of the fire.

Murphy: “Wait, wait, wait. What, do you think you play by different rules?”
Finn: “I thought there were no rules.”

Boom. Drop the mic.

Right now the chaos of no-rules is actually uniting these kids, in a weird way. Bellamy’s “I will not be disobeyed” attitude is a wee bit of a double standard, but that’s totally expected, right? He wants these kids to rally behind him so that when he does start making rules, they’re already on his side. But it’s not going to be like this for long. At the rate which the Grounder was revealed to us, there will soon come a time when the kids cannot stay alive without rules. And I’m excited to see that play out, particularly in how the two prominent leader candidates are distinguishing themselves.

In The Sky
I spent very little of my previous post discussing what happened on the Ark. And I think that’s because the story on the ground is much more interesting. Truth be told, it wasn’t until I started writing this blog post that I realized the parallel, as I briefly touched on in the opening paragraphs. Call the societies foils of one another, call them contrasts, it’s a little bit of everything. There is no doubt the society developing on earth amongst the kids has a ring of Lord of the Flies. I mean, at one point I was expecting someone to pull out a conch. Unfortunately, a desire for a rule-free society is a direct by-product of a no-tolerance society. Councilman Kane’s character in the previous episode told us that, to paraphrase, the punishment for adults who commit crimes is a death sentence. There are no second chances.

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I will say, one of my favorite lines from up in the Ark comes when Chancellor Jaha is along Kane about the boy who shot him. Who had the most to gain by my death? Jaha asks Kane. Kane realizes that his Chancellor is indirectly accusing him of plotting murder, bard on a series of events that Kane followed. In his own defense, Kane says he was just carrying out the law (whereas Bellamy is just giving the people what they want). And Jaha says in reply:

“This job requires more than just following the law, it requires knowing whe not to.

The exact oppossite is true for Bellamy. His job will require more than lawlessness. It will require knowing when to have laws.

The tension on board the Ark in this episode is the upcoming vote on the culling. The matter at hand is that the council must vote on whether to decrease the population by 209 that very day. It seems as though this society necessitates quick, decisive action that considers facts objectively rather than emotionally. The contrast between Kane and Abby (come on, really?) is a perfect representation of why, even in this society, some form of democracy still stands. Kane is committed to the endurance of the human race, doing whatever it takes for them to live on, whereas Abby is intent on ensuring the human race deserves to endure.

Unlike the threats on the surface of the earth, the external threat exacerbates the internal threat in the sky. On earth, the tension within enables the kids to take on the external enemy, but on the ark, the external enemy (or, the fractured spacestation) only causes greater division internally. Abby is trying to maximize the sacrifice of the hundred they sent to earth by discovering the truth behind the supposed deaths, but Kane doesn’t see it as a viable solution. All he sees is the immediate problem and the need to solve it while they can.

The kids have nothing but time while the adults are counting every breath.

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Meanwhile, Abby enlists the help of a zero-G engineer to get a drop ship up and running so that she can go to earth after her daughter. This engineer, Raven, is invested because her boyfriend was one of the hundred. Hmm. I wonder who it is…

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The 100: Pilot

Series Created By: Jason Rothenberg
Directed By: Bharat Nalluri
Written By: Jason Rothenberg

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Spoiler-Free Series Preview
This began as simply a post to recommend The 100, after it had been recommended to me, but it evolved into something I think I’d like to follow in an analysis capacity, particularly as I just finished season 2. I’m going to make my way through the series as we head into the third season in 2016, but I am not going to write in retrospect. I’ll be looking at each episode in its own context, not within the context of the two seasons that have thus aired.

My skepticism in even considering this show almost solely had to do with it airing on The CW. Granted, I’m an avid fan of Arrow and The Flash, and loved Smallville and Veronica Mars, so it’s not like I’ve never watched a show on that network. But it had that feeling, to me, of being overly angsty. Also, it annoyed me, when it was first announced, that there was an uncertainty of how to pronounce the title. The Hundred, they said. Not The One-Hundred.

Totally superficial reasons to not give this show a shot, but I never gave it another thought. Until DragonCon 2015. I was talking with Mike (of Liber8: A Continuum Podcast) standing in line for the Continuum panel and I don’t know what we were talking about, exactly… It might’ve been Arrow. And The 100 came up. I know that Dave, his co-host, really likes this show and so I knew it couldn’t be bad. I respect Dave’s opinions very much, having had the opportunity to podcast with him about Revolution, but it was just one of those things that I never took seriously. Mike’s comments about the show stuck with me and I found it on Netflix Monday morning as I was waiting in the airport to return home after DragonCon, and I was totally sold after one episode. This does not happen often to me, anymore.

Season one has its share of angsty drama, I’m not going to lie. Sometimes it was eye-roll worthy. But this is an emotionally-charged show in many, many ways that have nothing to do with angst or teenage drama. It is filled with heart, with a desperation for survival, with adventure and mystery, and, particularly, with love and loss. Season two takes a major deviation from season one and though I really enjoyed it, it didn’t have the same draw for me as season one did. And I think it had a lot to do with the pacing of the two seasons. There are 13 episodes in season 1 and 16 episodes in season 2, and it really just felt like the pacing of season 1 was much better. Having seen both in their entirety and now going back through the seasons to blog about them, I’m interested to see if I’ll have the same reaction the second time through.

Review
What follows is a review of The 100 Season 1 Episode 1 “Pilot”

The Hundred
A hundred under-age criminals are sent to Earth 97 years after a nuclear war that forced humans to evacuate the surface. This act was sanctioned by the Chancellor, Thelonius Jaha, as a two-fold objective: 1) the Ark (their giant space station) is dying and eliminating a hundred air-suckers will buy everyone else more time to survive; 2) to determine whether the surface of the Earth is habitable.
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Upon landing, two individuals are singled out as possessing significant leadership qualities. The first is Clarke Griffin, the girl who has the opening monologue of the series in which we come to learn why and how the humans are living on a space station. The second is Bellamy Blake, an older boy whom we soon learn was a stow-away on the ship that sent the hundred to earth (soo… The Hundred-and-One?). While Clarke is intent on pursuing the objectives outlined for the kids by the Chancellor on their descent, Bellamy seems to want nothing more than to gain the popular vote by advocating for a civilization free of rules.

When the kids land and begin interacting, many call Clarke princess, which she doesn’t react to. By virtue of the scenes we see taking place on The Ark, we know that her mother is a prominent doctor and a council member and that her best friend, Wells Jaha, is the Chancellor’s son. Many of the kids seem to despise them for these affiliations and it’s not hard to see why. On the Ark, Clarke’s mother, Abby, takes illegal measures to save Chancellor Jaha, whom Bellamy shot before stowing away on the ship to earth, and we learn what the very first rule aboard the ship is: in accordance with penal code 1, all crimes committed by those above the age of majority are capital crimes, punishable by death. Basically, I take this to mean that anyone who commits a crime is “floated” (the term they use for execution, which involves sending a person out the airlock into space). And, indeed, Abby is nearly floated for her crimes before Chancellor Jaha pardons her. Many kids blame Wells for the sentences laid on their parents by his father, but neither do they care much for Clarke due to her mother’s position on the council.
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For the most part, the details about this dystopian future come out in a fairly natural way. These kids are criminals and have been locked up for some time, but many, if not most, of them have also suffered the loss of their parents, thereby harboring much resentment and finally presented with an opportunity to take out that resentment on an appropriate source. If they can’t hurt the Chancellor, they can hurt him vicariously through his son. This dynamic provides perfect opportunities for details to come out naturally. While Clarke and some of her companions are walking through the woods looking for Mt. Weather, where all the supplies are they will need to survive, she dishes the story of how she came to be locked up in solitary and how her father came to be floated. This is the conversation in which she reveals to her fellow travelers why they’ve been sent to earth (the Ark is dying), but there are a couple stories wrapped up in that which I thought could have waited an episode or two. Then again, this first season is only 13 episodes. It wasn’t bad, really, just a lot of information.

By the end of the pilot, we know a lot of stuff about these kids and about the Ark, which is good in the sense that I immediately felt like I knew these characters and their lifestyles, how truly unusual it was for them to have this freedom, and the desperation the Ark is under in order to send them down in the first place. I really felt like I knew this world. But it seems to be a common pattern with these CW shows to spill the tragic stories up front, which I suppose has more to do with the age of the kids than with anything. I am talking myself into liking this scene after all!

While Clarke, Finn, Octavia, Jasper and Monty travel through the woods toward Mt. Weather, Bellamy stays back at camp and begins to stir up trouble. Clarke revealed to him, before leaving, that the wristbands they all wear are their only remaining link to the Ark, delivering their vitals so that the doctors on board the ship can determine whether Earth is habitable. This doesn’t sit well with Bellamy, and of course we soon learn that it’s because he shot the Chancellor. He doesn’t want the adults to come down, he wants to live and survive on his own and wants everyone else to follow suit by removing their wristbands in order to either make the Ark think they’re dead or to just sever ties altogether so that it is impossible for the Ark to know. When Wells learns what Bellamy is doing, he tries to explain to the other kids why it is important to keep the wristbands on, so that the Ark knows that Earth is habitable.
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Unfortunately, he’s been sent down with a bunch of criminals, some who have been accused or convicted of murder. Bellamy’s philosophy of a life free of rules and doing “whatever the hell” they want goes over much better with the crowd. Already we see him start to establish a sort of ring of henchman around himself, other kids, boys mostly, who share this philosophy and are ready to enforce it. John Murphy, amongst these henchmen, has a particular dislike for Wells and it climaxes in the form of forcing the removal of Wells’ wristband. At first it looked like Murphy wanted to outright murder Wells, but at least for now Wells has escaped death at the hands of his fellow criminals.

Speaking of Wells, this is a super interesting situation. All of these kids who were sent down, aside from Bellamy perhaps (and not counting the attempted murder), are criminals. But Wells tells Clarke on the ship as they descend that he got himself arrested so that he could tell her he was sorry he got her father arrested. Later on Clark tells the full story of her father’s arrest, and subsequent execution, and how she came to be locked in solitary for a year, but at least in this moment, at the beginning of the episode, we know that the society these kids come from is ruthless. The son of the Chancellor and the daughter of the most prominent doctor did not avoid the punishment of being sent to Earth, in what could have been their death. He didn’t want her to leave knowing she hated him. But she does hate him, and she tells him so, and treats him very poorly throughout the episode, even to the point where she tells him he shouldn’t have come.

The authenticity of conflict between characters is generally all it takes to draw me in. It’s hard to define, but it is a combination of actor chemistry and the timing of information within the context of what we know and what we assume. The actress who portrays Clarke has incredibly precise non-verbals and the manner in which she uses them to act hurt when having this exchange with Wells on the ship, and the subsequent scenes they shared together, serve this authenticity factor very well.

Another layer of authenticity comes from the conflict between Clarke and Wells, as a duo, and the rest of the kids. Both Clarke and Wells are very rule- and duty-oriented, likely from having parents so involved in politics on the Ark, and that becomes very clear in the actions they take after landing. Wells investigates the state of their communication devices while Clarke maps out the way to Mt. Weather while the rest of the kids start making weapons, building fire, and creating general havoc in the vicinity. Without even needing to tell us why they call Clarke Princess, we can see by the way she behaves in contrast to the others that she was raised differently, and then in the way they treat her that she was raised with what might be considered a little more privilege (although it doesn’t seem like there is much in the way of privilege).

When night falls that first day on the ground, Clarke and her fellow travelers stop to sleep before continuing on. She wakes up in the middle of the night and looks into a forest of luminescent trees, appearing radioactive in the pitch darkness, like everything glows in the dark. It’s really beautiful and part of what makes this story so interesting. These kids have landed on an Earth that is 97 years removed from nuclear warfare, so there will inevitably be some odd things about the way the Earth is recovering (like the two faced deer they saw or the biped footprints Finn finds).

The next morning when the group continues on, they have to cross a river, which Clarke makes a point to say shouldn’t be here. To impress Octavia, Jasper requests to swing across on the branch first. He makes it and discovers an old sign that tells them they are on the right track. But, moments later, a giant spear is sent directly into his chest.
the100-101-the-map
Before I close, I wanted to point out something fun I saw on the map Clarke was examining. Up in the top right corner of this picture, can you see that along one of the borderlines it reads Clarke County? Other than telling us these kids were dropped somewhere in northern Virginia, it’s super ironic that they’re in a county bearing the same name as our main character. I can’t help but wonder…

This episode was paced very well, even on the rewatch I found myself surprised that it ended where it did. I already had characters that annoy me, characters I want to learn more about, and characters I think will die in the next episode. One of my favorite parts of this show is how it’s almost a week-to-week thing over which characters I like and which I don’t like, and the evolution of each is so interesting. I noticed several things in this rewatch that I didn’t think to look for the first time, but now that I know to look for them it is very rewarding to see that the writers were laying the groundwork for storylines that will come up in the future, and some not even until the next season!

Up next: Season 1 Episode 2 “Earth Skills”

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Continuum: Lost Hours

Season 4 Spoilers Ahead
Meeting of the minds

My last Continuum blog was posted on June 28, 2014, and it really feels like it’s been that long. Since then, Falling Skies finished it’s run, in true flopping fashion, I began podcasting for Arrow, and I’ve been blogging for businesses, rather than television shows. It feels good to sit back down and think about this show, and yet with this episode under my belt I will know the sad fact that now only five new episodes remain.

Before the premiere of season 4, I sat down to watch the final two of season 3, both as a refresher and a motivator! Get the adrenaline flowing and the brain juices pumping. I’m glad I did. Having run low on time for many things this summer, a Continuum rewatch came in short, sporadic bursts, ending tonight. I wanted to begin this post with a small lead-in from last season because it felt right. I’d forgotten just how awesome that team-up in the season 3 finale was, between Travis, Garza and Kiera. I’d forgotten that Sonya died. I remember the story, but a couple details escaped me.

Looking ahead at season four, it’s hard to know what I want. Darrell and I struggled with the same thing at the beginning of our season 5 review of Falling Skies over on Berserker Cast. With so many storylines, with so much action and so many possibilities, what can I even begin to ask for? Lucky for me, this show has been one of the few in which asking might yield poorer results than not asking. Kind of like that restaurant in Bones, was it Bones? Like, season 1 or something, where Booth takes Brennan to this restaurant and tells her it doesn’t matter what she orders because the cook will bring her what he thinks is best for her. And Brennan, in her typical controlling fashion, thinks that nobody knows what she wants better than she. And yet, the cook brings her the meal and she loves it. That’s how I feel. Sometimes I feel that I know what I want (resolution, happy ending), but it’s so hard to ask for that when a show like Continuum has delivered time and time again.

Time to watch the episode. Everything that follows is a review of the season 4 premiere.

Lost Hours: Summary
In the season four, and final, premiere of Continuum, we pick up quite literally where we left off at the end of the last season. Scooting back in time just a couple of minutes, we get another view of the action as Brad and Kiera turn on the beacon and expectantly wait for nothing to happen. Heavily armored soldiers from the future arrive and chase Brad and Kiera until one finally knocks Kiera out cold.

Waking up... What?Kiera’s CMR goes into simulation mode, detecting head trauma, in which she experiences a scenario where she’d woken up in 2080 after having been asleep for three years. She’s welcomed back to life by her son, and then the facade begins to crumble when Mr. Fairweather shows up and starts leaking the air out of her nice, little bubble, stating that emotional stress has become a concern. The elder Mr. Sadler appears at her bedside, tells her she did an excellent job and that she changed the past. But his voice slowly turns into the younger Alec, and then his appearance changes as well, and this version of Alec tells her she saved the future.

Abruptly yanked from her simulation, she rejoins the real world and gets caught up to speed. Meanwhile, Brad is getting up to speed as well. The soldiers who landed are from his time and they state that things on their end, in the future, escalated and their timetables have been moved up.

Conflict abounds from several directions in this episode. Kellogg has assumed control of Piron, making the efforts of the events in the season 3 finale rather vain. His biggest threat is Lucas and Alec, as they both strive to regain control of the technology that will bring about Kellogg’s dismal future as the alleged leader of mankind. Kiera believes her fight in the here and now has come to an end and wants Alec to help her find a way home. It just so happens that her way home can be a byproduct of sabotaging Kellogg.

The future soldiers have their concerns about Brad’s association with Kiera. She’s on the target list, after all. More ominous is the fact they all report to a future version of Kellogg, which means their presence here is obvious proof that the key to changing the future was no longer about which Alec would fundamentally change the course of technological advancements. This is not in the best interest of either Liber8 or Kiera, and their partnership is tenuous, but nonetheless existent.

The season premiere sets much in motion for what is already promising to be a fantastic season!

Nothing Didn’t Happen
In my post about the season 3 finale, I talked about Kellogg being the factor that blinded our heroes, and anti-heroes, from seeing the outcome of their actions in full. The soldiers arriving in the now was, as Kiera says, proof that they failed. It was super fascinating to see the subtle transition of focus in two ways: 1) Kellogg has been playing offense for three years and, suddenly, he has to play defense; 2) the fate of the future shifted from Alec’s shoulders to Kellogg’s.

The introduction of the new soldiers was really well done. Because Brad has an automatic in, there was an ideal blend of implied facts and story backfill based on what Brad did or did not know. Brad’s been in the present for several months, now, but we’re not told how much time has passed in the future. We’re only told that since Brad left, things got worse. But the soldiers are suspicious of Brad because his mission was to find the Timers and neutralize them. 401-future-suitsBased on the fact that Kiera is still alive, there is evidence that he did not carry out his mission.

As the future soldiers go about their business, cannibalizing the suits to build something, Brad’s curiosity in their operation causes Nolan (portrayed by Lisa Berry) to tell him: “You can’t see what we can.” Hashtag things people from the future say. There is definitely a degree of distrust between Brad and his fellow soldiers and Ryan Robbins does a really good job of portraying a guy who wants to explain, but is hesitant to reveal a change of heart (and for good reason). In spite of the general distrust, Marcellus defends Brad by pointing out that he provided the supplies and location for them as they had established.

It’s about this time that Kiera infiltrates their undisclosed location with her invisibility cloak. Her CMR is spitting out various readings like unrecognized weapons and abnormal magnetic field and ambient energy elevated, which is such a cool concept to explore. Two different futures, each with its own set of technologies, all going head to head. But the technology that Time Travel Team 6 has (Alec’s words) isn’t fooled long by Kiera’s invisibility. Vasquez gets the drop on Kiera and a fight breaks out, which escalates and climaxes on the rooftop, where Team 6 holds her out over the roof’s edge to question her.

In the brief moments Kiera has an opportunity to defend herself, she is able to get a warning in about Kellogg. It’ll be very interesting to see how that warning is taken in the next episode, whether it’s ignored completely or the future soldiers try to understand what it meant. Kellogg is only interested in Kellogg, Kiera tells them. But they come from a future where they trust Kellogg. History is repeating itself in a very timey-whimey fashion. Three seasons ago, a lone CPS Agent traveled back with a bunch of terrorists, holding fast to a false idealism of society. The strength of the terrorists was greater, in that situation. Now, the group of future soldiers travel back and go head-to-head with someone who has been actualized, who understands the false perception of her past and humanity’s future. But now the strength lies with the group of soldiers who hold fast to the idealism of their society, their past and humanity’s new future. Whether it is a false idealism, I suppose we have yet to see.Suit to the rescue

When it’s all said and done, Marcellus sends Kiera off the edge. BUT! Her wicked awesome suit has an app for that and saves her from feeling the full impact of landing on the roof of a car. Very, very cool effects.

Change the Past, Save the Future
With the full scope of Continuum in mind, the team ups that happened in the season 3 finale and now in this episode are positively exciting. I know everyone isn’t besties, but it is so dang cool to see Kiera, Julian, Alec, Lucas and Garza all in the same room… and not in combat. You’ll remember that before Sonya became a suicide bomber, she told Julian the truth about their origins, that she and Liber8, Kiera and Jason were all time travelers. Julian remembers being told that he’s a murderer and asks her just how many people he’s killed. Thousands, she says. But that doesn’t necessarily need to be his way this time through. He has the power and time to change that.

What makes me think it is possible is the fact that Julian does have a political mind. It’s not conventional, by any means, as far as government is concerned. But political, meaning of the ideas and strategies of a group, Julian is very much a forward thinker. He’s joined with other activists who are serious about making change and outsmarting the enemy and, in the process, not making oneself a target.Julian gets serious(ly interested) It just so happens that Alec recently acquired a need for Julian’s skillset! Even though these half-brothers have never seen eye-to-eye, Julian can, at least, see the sensibility in the scenario Alec outlines. Kellogg is a threat.

The other half of this team up, Garza and Lucas, are less inclined to follow Kiera blindly. Actually, that’s misleading, I don’t believe Alec follows Kiera blindly. He might have, at one point, but he’s fully immersed now and is making judgments well out of scope of Kiera. I hope that he’s making them with more than just himself in mind, and based on what we’ve seen in this episode I’m inclined to believe that he is. For now. At least, that’s what it looks like. That said, Garza and Lucas are still not excited about this situation. Kiera presents a major vulnerability because of her attachment to Brad and they don’t want to bear the brunt of her compassion. They’ll go along with the plan, but do not trust her.

It’s hard to tell for sure, but I think at least by the end of the episode, Kiera has a couple questions about Brad’s loyalty. Several people plant the bug in her mind throughout the episode, like Carlos saying: “I’m not judging, I’m just saying, if you have questions maybe you should press Brad for answers” (in response to Kellogg’s dig about Kiera’s boyfriend being suspect).

The irony in her mounting suspicions, if there are in fact any, is that she pretty much resolved at the beginning of this episode to find a way home. She completed the mission she was sent here for and now needs to take care of herself. In spite of how close she and Brad became over the course of season three, even walking away from the site of triggering the beacon hand-in-hand, the moments she spent inside her CMR’s simulation reminded her of what she’d left behind, what was, hopefully, waiting for her in the future. It just makes me wonder whether some of her questions about Brad might be coming out of this place of knowing that her heart isn’t totally invested in the here and now. Perhaps she thinks that Brad isn’t either.

From my amateur observation, it seems like Brad is taking strides toward reconciling the future soldiers with the present day society… because of Kiera.
The Traveler
That Tall Guy
Dreads and height, Vladimir Ruzich has it all! I don’t have much to speculate on about the traveller, but the actor they’ve chosen to portray him makes the whole situation very interesting. What was also interesting was that Curtis plants the idea of assassinating Kellogg into Garza’s mind, as a proposal that it would be in everyone’s best interest if he died. Was that look on Garza’s face something along the lines of considering it?

Next Week
Season 4 Episode 2 “Rush Hour”

Last Question
I think I’m trying to read too hard into the episode title. Any thoughts for what Lost Hours is referring to?

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the episode as well! Leave a comment or shoot me an email. Or find me on Twitter. As for me, I’ve gotta go listen to Mike and Dave now.

Storytelling: The Sci-Fi Fan’s ROI

Warning: Agents of SHIELD and Arrow spoilers

Sci-Fi consumers are privy to a factoid casual viewers never seem to understand (or, possibly, don’t care to, which is fair). We anticipate the return on fulfilling story arcs.

What does this mean? By using the first two season of Agents of SHIELD, I’d like to draw out my absolute favorite part of watching television. I might eventually do this for Arrow as well, since it is the other television show I watch regularly, but I know that this model is not at all unique to Agents of SHIELD, it just happens to be the most forefront of my mind at the moment.

If you are not interested in a technical, data analytics explanation, which leads into my analysis, please feel free to skip down to the section entitled Non Technical Stuff. I will not be offended.

Technical Stuff
I want to break down the “factoid” I posited in my opening paragraph: We [science fiction fans] anticipate the return on fulfilling story arcs.

What does “anticipate the return” mean?
Anticipation can be synonymous with “expectation” or “prediction”, while return, in this case, is referring to return on investment. From the linked definition on Entreprenuer.com:

ROI deals with the money you invest in the company and the return you realize on that money based on the net profit of the business.

To the television viewer, time is money and the net profit is overall satisfaction. This is why, in my opinion, the obsession with ratings is significantly lopsided. It is true that, when dealing with a business’s finances for example, trend data is very useful. At what points during the fiscal year did our company struggle? When were we successful? A single point on a linechart, however, is not as useful. Seeing that our company retained n customers in June of 2014 means absolutely nothing unless it is 1) evaluated alongside another metric (i.e. “Total Customers”) or 2) paralleled with another relevant dataset (i.e. June 2013 or May and July of 2014).

In data analytics, there are certain metrics that are hard to truly understand at the point in time the information is gathered. For example, using my previous example of a Customer Retention metric, all that a drop in retention from April 2015 to May 2015 (as I’m writing this, it is May 2015) means is that fewer customers were retained in May than April. However, next year as we’re moving toward the middle of Q2 and we’re looking back at stats from last year, we can use that same drop in customer retention in a much more valuable scope. We can make an observation like: “Oh yes, that’s right! Our retention did drop some in May, but that was because X, Y, Z and we started on the upward trend again throughout the summer.” OR, we can make an observation like: “We need to push advertising, because retention dropped in May and continued to be low throughout the summer.”

Context is important. There are certain metrics that a business must be mindful of day-to-day (i.e. expenses), but misinterpreting metrics because of seemingly negative datapoints can be extremely detrimental to the future of a business. Television is much the same way. When a given episode of a television show receives low ratings, it isn’t healthy to panic! We know this, we’re getting more used to it as ratings become “more robsut” and immediate. But it is important to track those ratings over time. So many shows are canceled within 3-5 episodes because their rating trends only go down. That is understandable. (Disclaimer: how shows are cancelled after 1 episode I cannot speak to, I’m making general observations as a fan who does not exist inside the realm of these decisions.)

In summary, anticipating the return, in context, means 1) we are aware it takes time for a show’s universe to establish itself and grow, 2) we know certain facts about the show before it begins that will encourage us to stick with it, and 3) we know, from experience, that seeds (when properly planted) bloom into phenomena like Fringe, Chuck, Lost, Alias, Primeval, Battlestar Galactica (for the most part), and, of course, Continuum (amongst others, obviously).

Because of what we’ve seen, we know it is possible, and we anticipate the possibility of having our minds blown.

Non Technical Stuff
If you read the previous section, take a moment to zoom out from the details. I don’t want to get wrapped up in a ratings number game because my objective here is to get excited about how the sci-fi fan approach to television-watching defies the traditional immediate-response feedback which influences, more commonly, the non sci-fi fan.

Last night (which was a Sunday evening), I needed to clean my apartment. Sometimes I’ll listen to a book or music, sometimes I’ll pop in a movie. Yesterday I was dusting and cleaning windows in the living room and, on a whim, decided to turn on season 1 of Agents of SHIELD. Expecting to have it on in the background while I did my thing, I was quickly derailed from my household duties and after less than ten minutes of starting the pilot, was seated on my couch, watching with excitement.

Admittedly, I’m a creature of habit. I eat the same foods very regularly, I like schedules and routines, I drive the same route to work, travel the same route in the grocery store, and I rewatch a lot of the same shows and movies. I don’t like being disappointed by new things. Ironically, I’m very rarely disappointed by new things, but it’s the possibility of disappointment that keeps me going back to what works. This is to say, I was eventually going to rewatch season 1 of Agents of SHIELD, so I would have eventually found what I’m laying out in this post, but it is the surprise of how immediately I received an astounding ROI that prompted me to write this analysis. In the same way a small business owner might look back on the beginning of their business and marvel at how far they’ve come, so did I realize that this journey with Agents of SHIELD has been more than worth it.

Now, I might be at a bit of an advantage over many fans. I binged most of season 1 right before Captain America: Winter Soldier came out. I was going to Chicago and would be coerced into seeing it with friends, so I knew I had to get on that! Plus, my best friend was constantly nagging me to catch up so we could talk about it. Binging, as we all know, can really gloss over the lulls in a season that are drawn out by trending statistics in ratings. The story moves along a lot more quickly and, because there’s very little waiting involved (I did sleep between chunks of episodes, mind you), there is less frustration created by cliffhangers. However, there is also less anticipation. So it’s a two way street; binging can either inhibit a viewer’s ability to let the anticipation create excitement or help them overlook the troublesome episodes more apparent during the live viewing schedule.

I say that I might be at an advantage because one of the reasons I put off catching up (despite my friend’s encouragement) was a general take-it-or-leave-it vibe I was getting from most viewers. It sounded like it was trying to feed off the blockbuster Marvel movies and was doing nothing more than following a monster-of-the-week archetype (which, ironically, I happen to enjoy). I put it off because the attitude was unenthusiastic, but I did not understand why it was as such when I watched season 1 in whole. I watched in about 3 or 4 episode chunks over the course of 2 weeks and found the characters interesting, the storyline exciting, and the action sequences very well choreographed.

I know this is a lot of personal reflection, and I swear I’m getting to the point, but before I sharpen the pencil I would like to draw out the fact that perception is everything. Philosophically, I’m inclined to side with Kant, who was very adamant that a thing‘s properties are created only by the observer. Our experiences have spatial and temporal properties, which lend to the first stage of perception, which he dubs “transcendental aesthetic”. Every observer generates a “manifold of raw data” (a.k.a. intuition) which is unified or interpreted by the imagination into a structure which the observer can understand.

My draw to Kant has always been in the way he distinguishes pure and empirical cognition. You don’t have to read far into his Critique of Pure Reason to get a flat out explanation for why he embarked on this philosophical journey of explication. “There can be no doubt that all our cognition begins with experience,” he writes. “For what else might rouse our cognitive power to its operation if objects stirring our senses did not do so?” He wants to understand cognition that is independent of experience (i.e. a priori knowledge) because it is those cognitions which are empirical, versus the sensory-driven a posteriori cognitions.

Why is that important? Because perception is everything, because we derive a very large portion of our understandings of the world from experiential sources, and because we chose to watch, or not watch, something based on feelings.

Now, let me qualify even further: I’m not talking about if a show’s theme does not resonate with you, or if a show’s premise doesn’t interest you. I’m talking about shows which have established their premise and whose story you have chosen to follow. We fall off the bandwagon when questions aren’t answered quickly enough (or answered too quickly), when they follow a predictable model, when we think the show is trying to play us, when something happens to the characters which frustrates us, etc. etc. etc.

Contrarily, we choose to watch a show for reasons just as, if not moreso, subjective. Primeval is a show from several years back, aired on the BBC, and is largely about pre-historic creatures… but it also has an incredible heart that enables it to explore a phenomenal paradigm of human nature because of it’s unique premise. I absolutely love this show, I rewatch it frequently (remember, creature of habit), but I have not been able to get anyone else to see the value I put on it. That’s fine, I totally get that our perceptions are different. But there are story themes that really blow my mind on that show in a way that makes me go, “Why didn’t you stick with this?!” (Brits stuck with it for several seasons, but Canadians/Americans abandoned its spin-off Primeval:New World waaaaayyyyy too quickly!!! I’m still angry!!!!)

This is all what was going through my head last night as I was rewatching the first two episodes of Agents of SHIELD season 1. Following the success of Avengers (May 2012), Joss Whedon began developing Agents of SHIELD (pilot aired September 2014) which made its debut after Iron Man 3 (May 2013). Yes, Marvel likes to make money… But they also love to tell stories. So throw away your diatribe on cinematic conglomerates and pretend, for a moment, that these producers and writers just want to enhance our experience inside the Marvel universe.

The season 2 finale aired last week, at the time I’m writing this, and I’m still reeling from the awesomeness that was contained within that 2-part episode. During my season 1 viewing last night, several things struck me.

Who’s The Bad Guy?
This one struck me very strongly at the beginning of the Pilot. Ward is introduced in the midst of a specialized operation, a solo agent who gets the job done. He’s efficient and likes what he does. Agent Hill recruits him and sets him on the course to intersect with Coulson, but he’s really not given a choice as to whether to even take the job in the first place. Overall, there is an impression posed on viewers that this guy can be trusted. He’s SHIELD and he’s a bad ass.

On the other hand, Skye is presented with starkly opposite qualities. She’s a disrupter. She doesn’t like secrets. She opposes bureaucracy and promotes guerrilla efforts. Her motives are questionable and is purposefully painted as untrustworthy, by following up her incredible save on the Bus with a text message at the end that implies her intention all along was to get SHIELD to trust her.

If you’re keeping up on Agents of SHIELD I don’t need to go into detail about how drastically this shifted in season 1, leading into season 2. But a couple key points caught my attention. Coulson, while assessing Ward’s qualifications, mentions his stellar record in spite of his family history. This detail helps to bolster his idea of trustworthiness; there is an implication that he has risen above a past that could have turned him dark. As for Skye, at this point in time we don’t know anything about her past or her family (other than the allusion to having wiped out all records of herself). There is, likewise, this implicit question of “Who is Skye? What is she trying to hide?” And that lends to her untrustworthiness.

But it’s actually Skye’s pursuit of family which makes her an invaluable member of Coulson’s team, and it is the corruption in Ward’s past which has made him so adept at deception and incapable of connecting with a team. Starting at either end of the spectrum, these characters meet in the middle somewhere near the end of season 1, just before Ward shows his true colors, until continuing on and replacing each other on their respective ends (Skye becoming trustworthy, Ward not).

To make this arc even more fulfilling, both continue to establish themselves on their end of the spectrum on through season 2. Prior to their “season 3 set up” scenes, they each have a moment which further solidifies the person completely opposite from the one they were introduced as in the Pilot. Ward shoots Kara, disguised as May; Skye botches her mother’s plan to save the world.

Tahiti is a Magical Place
Coulson repeats this phrase so many times, it really does start to feel like an unnatural and programmed response. We dive into more on the implications of this mantra as season 1 unfolds, but what struck me in this rewatch was the idea of who we classify as heroes.

It might be hot on my brain because of a story arc in Arrow this season. At the midpoint of season 3, Oliver is stabbed by Ra’s Al Ghul and appears to fall to his death. But he does not die and, as a result, Ra’s declares that he is the rightful successor to the Demon’s Head mantle because he survived the death of the incumbent’s sword. Abandoning all pretense, Ra’s makes it his mission for Oliver to succeed him.

Bringing it back to Agents of SHIELD, and life in general really, we have this tendency to perceive someone in a better light if they’ve come back from the dead. (Please note: I am not getting religious here, I am exclusively talking about miraculous recoveries.) A person’s body, mind, or will to live must be so incredible that death could not claim them, and therefore they are both trustworthy and invaluable assets. Particularly in the superhero realm, this feels like it is true. With the exception of Buffy. Maybe. No, actually not, including Buffy. But there is a sort of glory we put on a person, particularly when their survival was in spite of being stabbed by a Chitauri scepter. The truth is, I should have been more wary of Coulson’s recovery than I was!

Although it isn’t my favorite method of storytelling, I understand why, at the end of season 2, we weren’t privy to Coulson’s extracurricular activities. And it wasn’t because we were supposed to distrust Coulson or disprove of his goals, it was so that we could empathize with Bobby and Mac, Gonzalez and Weaver. Secrets can be used to protect, I am completely willing to concede to their necessity in certain situations; but at a certain point, secrets stop protecting and start harming.

It’s funny, because this same concept has come up more than once in my life in the past week. At a certain point, keeping a secret makes someone else feel like a fool, makes them ignorant and take action without full awareness of a situation. It undoubtedly causes tension, causes a breakdown of trust, and causes a lot of time lost or wasted. Secrets are perfect for television shows because they are cyclical in nature. They make sense at the beginning and less so as time goes on; it’s great character drama and provokes excellent “rising action”. In context, I can totally empathize with Bobby and Mac. Because secrets.

Shifting Alliances
While I’m on the topic of secrets, it would be good to go back and remember who Skye was when we first met her. In the Pilot, whilst recording a Rising Tide transmission, she declares (sorry, long quote):

The secret is out. For decades, your organization stayed in the shadows, hiding the truth, but now we know–they’re among us. Heroes… and monsters. The world is full of wonders… We can’t explain everything we see. But our eyes are open. So what now? There are no more shadows for you to hide in. Something impossible just happened. What are you going to do about it? How will you come at us? From the air? From the ground? How will you silence us this time? How can you? The truth is in the wind. It’s everywhere. You cannot stop the rising tide. You will not find us. You will never see our faces but rest assures-we will rise against those who shield us from the truth.

This is an awesome starting point for Skye, particularly with the full knowledge of where she’ll be, come the close of season 2. “They’re among us… Heroes, monsters.” How incredibly valid. The Inhumans aren’t monsters, they’re misled. Coulson wants to track them all in the event one does become a monster. At the beginning of the series, Skye is adament about the importance of full disclosure. Everything from something like Project Centipede to their investigation into the 0-8-4 at the Incan Temple.

The irony is that Skye isn’t ignorant. She’s, perhaps, a little innocent, but not ignorant. She actually knows about the struggles the Peruvians in the area are facing and she expresses her approval over their united efforts. Ward finds this flippant and makes a comment out of the side of his neck, but later on, when she’s making peace with him and gets real, she explains what she meant by her prior remarks: “Usually one person doesn’t solve the solution, but 100 people with 1% of the solution that will get it done. I think that’s beautiful, pieces solving a puzzle.” (And remember what Ward says?? “You and I see the world differently.” Yes, you really, really do.)

At the beginning, then, Skye is super resourceful, and yet very naive. She doesn’t see the bigger picture, speaks before processing, and has no real drive to be a SHIELD agent. By the end of season 2, Skye is being put in charge of a covert team and stresses to Coulson the importance of staying concealed. To add insult to injury, I’ve heard a lot of chatter about the similarities to Secret Warriors! Ha. Point being, just as there comes a time when secrets are no longer protecting, its opposite is also true. Exposing secrets, making certain facts widely known, can do much more harm than good.

Other Miscellaneous Observations

  • Agent May’s nickname “The Calvary” comes immediately into play, she encapsulates the persona exquisitely (based on what we NOW know happened in Bahrain), and is appropriately hesitant to join Coulson (and angry when faced with combat).
  • Experimental procedures on humans to enhance their abilities is nothing new… Was it in Age of Ultron when the Cap says that he’s the only success of science-based enhancements? Regardless, the show immediately begins paving the way for Inhumans.
  • Trust is severely lacking, and episode 2 revolves around how unlikeminded people can unite and begin working together.
  • Even though SHIELD is part of the American government (yes, it’s ironic), the threats they face are global. At the beginning of the Pilot, when Hill is recruiting Ward, she says: “A little while ago, most people went to bed thinking that the craziest thing in the world was a billionaire in a flying metal suit. Then aliens invade New York then were beaten back by, among others, a giant green monster, a costumed hero from the 40’s, and a god.” Episode 2 addresses that issue (not effectively, but at least it is acknowledged).

Conclusion
If you stuck with me, thank you! I was so surprised at what I found during my unplanned rewatch yesterday that thoughts just began spilling out. This has already become one of those shows that makes me glad I’m a fan of this genre and encourages me to stick with other shows even when they slip here and there. In the end, a television show is a really long story. Sometimes we’re unhappy with pacing or small arcs, but we are rewarded in the end when the storytelling is solid. This show is part of the Marvel Cinematic universe, it was conceived by Joss Whedon, and its showrunners are established Marvel storytellers. It’s embarrassing to think I ever doubted.