Category Archives: Marvel

Have comics on TV reached saturation?

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I started this site way back when with the name “Comic Book Clog” because I liked the name, the imagery it invoked, but more to the point, it’s the way I felt about comics at the time.  For example:  to follow Batman, you had to read all of the Batman family books.  (I made a video about this an even longer time ago.)  Same goes for Spider-Man… and this is how it’s been for a long time.  Then it became that way for other characters and groups like X-Men, The Avengers and so on.  It became too much (both from a content and cost standpoint) and it pushed me out of a ton of books.

And now, I feel that it’s reached this critical point on TV.

While I’m still watching the movies (although DC/WB has tried my patience – it’s great that 93% of reviews for Wonder Woman are positive, but a 7.6 average score isn’t exactly, “run, don’t walk” territory), it’s hard for me to get excited about comic books on TV.

I started watching Agents of SHIELD because I like the actor who plays Coulson as well as the character and a TV show seemed to be the perfect place to explore the MCU.  I enjoyed the first season and the way they tied it into Winter Soldier, but as the show devolved into Daisey’s Agents of X-Men somewhere in season 3, I completely lost interest.  (I’ve talked about this before.)

So, I moved into the Netflix corner of the MCU.  There, I enjoyed season 1 of Daredevil and Jessica Jones, but Matt Murdock’s season 2 didn’t wow me the way the first one did and I have yet to finish Luke Cage or even start Iron Fist.

And don’t even get me started on Gotham.

So where do I go from here?  I watched the first few episodes of Supergirl and quickly got bored, I enjoyed the first episode of Arrow but immediately forgot it existed… and wtf is Preacher?  I heard The Gifted was good, but I just haven’t gotten to it.  Does it tie in with the X-Men movies?  I’m not sure I have the energy for that at this point.

I’ve reached saturation.  To everybody else, hang in there.

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Iron Fist: Dragon Plays With Fire

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Oh, THIS Iron Fist…

Iron Fist reaches the conclusion of season one (with sadly no confirmed word on season two as yet) with “Dragon Plays With Fire.” There are a lot of dangling threads they manage to (mostly) resolve, and they leave enough hanging if the show does return. And I’m relieved that a troubling rumor I heard about the show is proven false.

In the Penthouse, a very self-satisfied Harold stops to check his reflection in the mirror. He sees the news carrying the story of Danny Rand being hunted by the DEA and smiles. One car ride later, he’s at the lobby for Rand, abusing a guard for doing his job. I don’t know if they did this on purpose, but it’s an interesting parallel with Danny’s first time coming here.

In his office, Ward is talking with Jerri Hogarth, Danny’s lawyer. He assures her the charges are false, and she wryly observes he’s changed his tune where Danny is concerned. Their talk about Danny’s legal troubles with the DEA gets interrupted by Harold arriving. Jerri is, to put it mildly, stunned. After some more unpleasant comments from Harold, he dismisses Jerri, then shows Ward he doesn’t even know everything about his own office. Harold spins an unlikely story to cover his miraculous return from the dead, and then surprises Ward with another revelation about what’s been happening in the background with Danny.

Continuing to mirror the first episode, the next scene is Danny in the park. This time, he’s skulking around with his hood pulled up, avoiding the various police officers, since Danny is on the Most Wanted List. Colleen brings Danny a copy of the New York Bulletin, showing his picture as a dangerous criminal. They compare notes on how each other are, and then Colleen says they need a go-between to get to Jerri, since the Feds are probably watching her.

Naturally, this leads to Claire bringing a note to Jerri, and then Jerri to Danny and Colleen. Personally, I don’t think that’s the best way to go about not leading police to Danny, but it seems to work. Jerri isn’t thrilled to meet Colleen, who also has charges against her. They debate tactics and decide they need to try and find the unaltered documents that Harold tweaked to implicate Danny. Jerri doesn’t want to hear about Harold returning from the dead, gives some more advice, and leaves the three heroes.

Danny and Colleen return to The Hand compound, now eerily deserted. Working their way through the buildings, they find Madame Gao, still in her cell. She seems happy to see Danny, although she rains more bad news down on him. She also offers insights about Danny and Colleen that unnerve both of them. Danny leaves having learned more about the deaths of his parents and unsure about what to do next.

Danny, Colleen, and Claire talk about their next move. Danny is heading down a dark path, and Claire is trying hard to steer him in another direction. Colleen then complicates Claire’s life by finding a new unpleasant way to go. Claire compares Danny to the other “special” people she’s met, contrasting them all being dark and haunted with Danny’s innocence when she met him. She’s worried he’s losing that, and I’d say she has a point. She suggests they focus on the tablet that may prove Danny’s innocence.

Ward goes to see Joy in the hospital, and it’s not exactly a warm reunion. Given what she saw from Ward last night, she has no interest in talking to him, which might be one of her smartest decisions. They argue as he tries to justify himself, and tell her what a monster Harold really is. Joy isn’t buying any of it until Ward raises the stakes. He tosses down a copy of the Bulletin with the cover story about Danny the fugitive, and she is shocked.

In a surprising alliance, Danny and Ward meet up. Ward really does seem to want to help Danny. Whether Ward feels badly about how he treated Danny before or just wants revenge on Harold, I’m not sure, and I’m not sure Ward is sure, either. Ward warns Danny about the increased security, and Danny shares the news from Gao about the Rands’ deaths. Danny is still suffering his blurry flashbacks, and finally runs off, with Ward staring after him.

Motivated by Ward’s visit and news, Joy rises from her hospital bed and goes to Rand to confront Harold. He tries more of his lies, and she’s not buying them. She lays out how she knows Harold framed Danny, and Harold isn’t pleased. During the course of the conversation, Joy realizes Harold has been spying on her. They argue more, and Harold’s paranoia comes to the fore. He yells at her that whatever Danny told her is lies, ignoring Joy repeatedly telling him she hasn’t seen Danny. She finally leaves, with Harold furious behind her. Down on the street, Joy sees Ward, but ignores him and is driven off in her own car. I think of everyone involved in this story, I feel worst for Joy. She had the rug pulled out from under her life, and she didn’t do anything to deserve any of this. Ward goes inside after watching her take off.

Hiding in a car nearby, the Colleen, Claire, Danny trio wait. Danny has a big bag of money he’s giving to Claire for a distraction, while he and Colleen prepare to go inside. Ward calls them and says they need to call it off, because Harold has added so many armed guards. Ward’s warning gets cut off rather brutally by Harold.  Claire agrees they should try another night, so of course Danny refuses. Colleen follows after Danny rushes off, leaving a frustrated Claire to pick up the pieces of their plan. She’s not happy. Colleen and Danny manage to get separated almost immediately but keep working their way inside.

Harold gets a warning from the staff downstairs and readies his men for the ambush. Ward protests, but isn’t in any condition to really stop anything at this point. Colleen gets up there and starts her own counter-ambush, which is when Danny makes a very dramatic and unexpected entrance. There’s a lot of fighting here, and another new use for the power of the Iron Fist which I’ve never seen before. I’m not sure it quite works for the concept from the books, but it sure looked cool.

Eventually, Harold retreats to the roof, luring Danny after him. Harold positions himself really badly for his attack on Danny, which might be part of why he misses. Danny actually gets hit a bit later, and it’s an ugly-looking wound. As they stalk each other across the roof, Harold goes into another long monologue which makes him sound even less sympathetic as it goes on. The end of the confrontation goes very unexpectedly, or at least I didn’t see it coming. It made sense to me overall, although Danny steals one of Wonder Woman’s moves.

Sometime later, it’s day, and the hawk we’ve seen before flies through the city. It finally lands on a building, and then we see Ward and Danny inside. Jerri stops by to give them some good news, and they attend to something that really needs to be done. I’m hoping that’s the end of that little problem.

Once more back at the dojo, Colleen is still training Claire. Danny comes with pizza, and they talk about future plans. Claire, wisely, suggests therapy for both of them. She takes the claws she captured in China and walks out. Danny and Colleen make plans to go to K’un-Lun. I don’t think they’d be please that Danny brought them both someone they didn’t know and a former member of The Hand at that. Danny talks about his hopes for the future.

We end on a few closing scenes. Ward has made some changes at the office, and I’m glad he did. There’s a meeting between two very unlikely people, who don’t seem to have Danny’s best interests at heart. They’re overheard by another familiar face. Danny and Colleen go on their trip, and get a big surprise at the end of it, which is where we leave them for now.

What I liked: The action was good. Claire, as always, was a stable, wise presence who brought much needed common sense. I’m hoping Ward’s change of perspective is lasting and sincere. It was a nice touch that Colleen’s blade is still damaged. There are a lot of loose ends for possible continuation.

What I didn’t: For all the trouble he was having with it earlier, Danny’s power seems to be fine now. If he rebalanced his Chi on his own, we never saw it. I really don’t know why Danny thought the people of K’un-Lun would welcome Colleen. The final meeting over tea didn’t make a lot of sense to me. Why did Danny blur every time he got a flashback? Was this some psychedelic version of PTSD?

I’ll give this episode, and the show in general, a 3 out of 5. I’d rate it as the lowest of the four Netflix/Defenders shows, but even with that, I thought it was decent and I’d watch another season.

All four heroes will return in the Defenders in August.

Iron Fist: Bar the Big Boss

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It’s a REALLY awkward elevator ride

Iron Fist is close to wrapping things up with “Bar The Big Boss,” episode 12 out of 13. Matters are coming to a head, and the various plotlines are starting to close in on themselves. Lines are being drawn, and Danny Rand has to deal with forces pulling him in several directions at once.

They open with us checking in on Ward, still confined to the same hospital he once sent Danny to. Ward isn’t doing well, having hallucinations, withdrawal, and a generally wretched time of it. When a nurse comes in to check on him, he first tries to charm her, then bribe her, and both work equally well. He’s not going anywhere anytime soon. Later, he gets another visitor. Bakuto gets around, that’s for sure. The Hand Sensei offers Ward a deal, which makes me think of devils and pitchforks, the way that man operates.

Danny and Colleen wander down the street. Colleen is still stunned about the way her world is collapsing around her, especially Bakuto ordering her to be killed. Davos cautions Danny not to believe her, since she’s Hand. That pretty much sets the tone for all the interactions between Davos and Colleen for the rest of the episode. Danny isn’t going to enjoy playing referee. They argue about what to do about the compound, Colleen’s former students, and pretty much everything else.

At the Penthouse, Harold rhapsodizes about working with Joy. She buys all his talk, and is planning on a big family vacation after they finish with their current crisis: her, Ward, Harold, and Danny. It’s almost painful seeing her get hopeful, considering what we know of the way Harold operates. He adeptly dodges her questions about Ward. That ends up not mattering when Ward himself walks in a few moments later. Kind of nice to see Harold surprised.

Tensions rise immediately as Ward wants to talk to Joy away from Harold. He’s really pushing for them to leave, which becomes increasingly desperate. Joy wants to stay and work, and Harold is clearly suspicious, but then, he always is. Ward warns her that Harold isn’t who he thinks, and will use her and just toss her aside. Ward gets a lot more emphatic about how bad Harold is and that they need to leave.

Ward’s insistence on going makes a lot more sense when the elevator opens and Bakuto and his entourage walk out. Harold’s guards make the big mistake of resisting, and the body count in Harold’s penthouse goes up again. Bakuto keeps exuding his fake charm and calm while he drops a few bombshells among the Meechums. Bakuto veers from recommending a family therapist to telling Ward how to kill the annoyingly immortal Harold. Ward isn’t so much worried about something happening to Harold as he is Joy having to see it. Things get calm, sort of, for a moment when Bakuto demands Ward’s phone.

Danny and Colleen return to the Chikara Dojo, because that seems to be the only place they hang out. I wonder what happened to Danny’s apartment/suite/whatever it was. They talk about her situation and the general duality of life. This gets interrupted by Bakuto calling and sending video of him holding the Meechums prisoner. To emphasize his point, Bakuto takes violent action. Danny agrees to go there, and Davos argues that the Iron Fist doesn’t surrender to anyone. Naturally, Danny goes anyway.

The Meechums debate if Danny will come or not and what kind of man he is. Joy seems to be the only one who has a clear picture of both him and them. Bakuto goes on about the history of his sword as he prepares to execute Harold, which I’d actually be ok with. Harold, for last words, flings a stream of abuse at Ward. This about when Danny gets there and gives himself up to save the Meechums. Well, at least one of them is worth the effort. Bakuto cuffs Danny and takes him away.

On the elevator ride down, Bakuto shakes his head, calling the Meechums a pit of vipers and telling Danny he should be glad to be away from those people. I can’t really fault him there. When the elevator gets to the lobby, things get interesting, if inconsistent. Davos and Colleen are there, and a general fight ensues. Danny fires up the Fist for a moment and frees himself from the cuffs before it flickers out again. In the elevator on the way down, I counted carefully, and it was Bakuto plus five men. Now, somehow, it’s three vs. three as Bakuto fights Danny and Colleen and Davos take on a guard each. It’s a very back and forth fight. Everyone involved is quite skilled.

Eventually, it’s down to Bakuto alone, and he flees. The fight moves to a stair and archway location I’ve seen in a lot of New York filmed movies. I think it’s in Central Park. Bakuto taunts Colleen, and she takes him on. Davos tells Danny to stay out of it, that it’s her fight because Bakuto is her sensei. That almost sounds like respect from him, which is a lot different from how he was treating her earlier. It’s an impressive fight that Colleen eventually wins. Then tensions rise to the boiling point and Danny takes on Davos. It’s fight marked by apologies, and, since we know whose show it is, the outcome isn’t that hard to guess. Colleen stupidly watches the fight, and we get the old “I know he was dead, but where’d he go” trick.

Finally, morning arrives, bright and sunny. The Meechums are at the hosptial, and Harold is once again switching sides without batting an eye. Seriously, why does anyone trust this man at this point? He vaguely talks of his future plans, none of which involve anything good for Danny. When Danny calls, Harold stops him from coming to visit, but also finds out where he is. Danny is remarkably naive.

Danny and Colleen go back to the Dojo once more, and have a few cute moments together, talking about the future. Later, which might be the next morning, Danny is doing hip hop kung fu, and then starts teaching Colleen. They get a warning from a very unexpected source, and the dojo gets attacked again. I swear, that door has almost as much bad lack as the one to Jessica Jones’ office. Men in tac armor attack again, and we do get to see who they are. Danny and Colleen get away and the episode ends with them running down the street.

What I liked: As you’d expect from both a martial arts show and a Marvel project, the fight choreography is good. Danny has his share of flaws, and maybe part of someone else’s share, but he is a hero and willing to sacrifice himself for others. I can’t stand Bakuto or Harold, which means they are well written and well acted villains, so points there.

What I didn’t: I’m really over the Meechums as a whole. It’s an ongoing soap opera I don’t really want to watch. All we need is an evil twin or an unexpected pregnancy and we’d be ready for daytime tv. The characters were stupid in their fight in Central Park. If Iron Fist gets a second season, which as far as I know is not confirmed, I wouldn’t mind it being Meechum-free. Maybe Joy if we have to.

This wasn’t a great episode. I’ll give it a low 3 out of 5. I hope the conclusion really ups the game here.

Agents of SHIELD: World’s End

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Oh, look, Aida’s ride is here

Everything the Agents of SHIELD have been dealing with this season is finally coming together in the finale, “World’s End.” A very familiar muscle car fires up its engine and rolls out of a garage. The Zephyr is programmed to rapid random course changes in both direction and altitude in hopes of foiling Aida’s teleportation power. I have no idea if that would work, but it’s better than nothing. May presses Coulson about their missing special bottle, and he says he’ll need another bottle to explain what happened to the first one. Given everything that happened, I don’t blame him for either not wanting to tell her or wanting a drink if he has to. Piper has left via HALO for some special side mission, and Fitz and Simmons are trying to reconcile their strained relationship. They also need to work out how to deal with Aida.

Coulson and Daisy watch over Mac and Yo Yo, who are both in the Framework. Daisy is trying to find a way to help them, but even her hacking skill is having trouble with this incredibly complex construct. Inside, Yo Yo gets saved by Radcliffe of all people, who tells her she shouldn’t be there. When she defiantly says she’s there for Mac, he warns the Framework is collapsing in on itself, although he’s a bit poetic about it.

Aida and the various Ivanov-bots are plotting their next move. Aida is really going villain, saying she wants SHIELD, and especially Fitz, to suffer. Talk about a bad breakup. Their talk is interrupted when Robbie Reyes arrives. Reyes even gives the Ivanovs a chance to not fight, but they ignore the warning. Reyes is using Ghost Rider powers without fully changing now, which I guess means he has a better handle on what he can do. Aida quickly learns to fear the Ghost Rider after Reyes shifts and hurts her, and she teleports away.

While Fitz and Daisy struggle to find a way to get Mac and Yo Yo out of the Framework, Coulson is trying to catch Talbot up on everything that’s been going on. I don’t blame him for not believing Coulson. Coulson does come up with a great description for Aida, which Talbot exclaims, “I am NOT putting that in my report.” There’s also fallout from the lie about Mace being an Inhuman, which wasn’t remotely Coulson’s fault. Talbot demands he be at a briefing in the morning and Coulson tells him that’s probably not going to happen.

Daisy and Reyes touch base, and there seems to be some mutual interest there. I’d like to point out that, so far, being Daisy’s love interest is a LOT more dangerous than being a SHIELD agent. Just ask Ward and Lincoln about that.

While Aida freaks out about her Ghost Rider inflicted wounds not healing, Reyes explains to the team some of what’s going on. Short version is the Rider really doesn’t like Aida, and is going to send her and the Darkhold back where they came from. I wonder how they’re going to explain demons and Hell in their paperwork.

In the Framework, Mac is trying to get all the refugees to a safe place, although I don’t know what he thinks that is. Things are randomly disappearing all around them as the Framework shuts down. Radcliffe tries to get Mac to listen about needing to leave, and Mac utterly refuses.

One of the different models of Ivanov-bot proves to be a high level Russian intelligence officer. Guess who’s supposed to be at the meeting Talbot wanted Coulson at? I’m not sure how he got Ivanov in, since as far as I know he’s at best a shady industrialist and at worse the leader of a major terrorist hate group. But somehow, he gets in and preaches against SHIELD. Ivanov also brought the Darkhold and is trying to get the people at the meeting to read it. Chaos erupts that involves another, very convincing, LMD (are we never going to be done with those?). Naturally, things are looking bad for SHIELD again. At this point, I think the Suicide Squad might have a better rep, and they’re villains and killers. Daisy and Robbie together do some great moves to get rid of the Ivanov-bot, which Coulson is crushed he missed.

After everyone gets back together and talks, they decide to return to their base, or what’s left of it. Coulson wants to lay a trap for Aida and starts doing some pretty clever things. If they fail, Aida seems to be trying to make the world just as dark, ugly, and repressive as the Framework was.

Yo Yo keeps up her efforts to get Mac to leave, and he continues to refuse. It’s a really emotional scene that makes me feel bad for both of them. I think the scars from the Framework are going to last a long, long time. Their rescue attempt goes horribly wrong as things and people keep disappearing. We lose the Framework version of Agent Burroughs in this scene, poor guy. He couldn’t catch a break in either world.

There are a lot of quick cuts and really big twists in the next bit, so I’m going to be going as light as I can on detail to avoid spoilers. May both says Coulson’s plan is horrible and keeps pressing about their bottle of Haig. Reyes tells Daisy what it was like in that other world with Ghost Rider. Aida ports in on Fitz and Simmons, and things get really ugly. Tensions rise as they lose more of the Framework.

Coulson arranged a brilliant ambush for Aida involving Ghost Rider, and I didn’t remotely see it coming. Neither did she. It leads to a really nasty, effects heavy, battle between Aida and the Rider. One of the agents gets a bit of revenge in against Aida along the way, too. Yo Yo and Mac’s time in the Framework comes to a really sad end. Daisy manages to save the survivor. Coulson and Reyes have a post-fight talk that makes it sound like Coulson has even more secrets than we thought. Ghost Rider leaves, showing he has his own way to travel now. The team, knowing they’re hunted, go out for dinner, in a scene that reminds be a bit of the infamous shawarma scene at the end of Avengers. Their meal gets interrupted by men in tac gear with some really oddly cryptic comments.

The Framework comes to an end with a really sad scene with Radcliffe. It’s not showy, it’s not flashy, but it works as a very brilliant, if misguided, man finally meets his fate. Some undetermined amount of time later, we see Coulson in a very different setting which is one of our big cliffhangers until next season.

After the show ends, there’s a brief trailer for the upcoming Inhumans show, which will be sharing SHIELD’s time-slot like the late, lamented Agent Carter used to. There was also a nice note about the passing of Powers Boothe.

What I liked: This was a brilliant use of Ghost Rider. The twists in the final fight were fantastic. I’m glad the Framework is done, and I’m really hoping the LMD’s and Ivanov-bots are, too. I can’t say I’ll miss Aida. It makes perfect sense that the agents came back to so much chaos, considering what happened while they were gone.

What I didn’t: It was a great episode, and most of my complaints are things they didn’t do, rather than what they did. A running thing on this show seems to be building up powerful allies who then utterly disappear. In all this mess going on, why did Talbot not have Absorbing Man with him? Where’s Deathlok? I get them not being able to call on the Avengers, both for real world budget issues and in-world with the wreck of the team during Civil War. I really think they missed an opportunity by not bringing some of the people out of the Framework they way Aida got out. This would have been a great way to bring back Trip, a good Ward, and Radcliffe. I really did feel bad for Radcliffe at the end. He never even got his last drink.

This was a brilliant episode. I’ll give it a 4.5 out of 5. I’m looking forward to next season, although I have my reservations about what I’ve seen of the Inhumans so far.

Bring back Agent Carter!

Iron Fist: Lead Horse Back To Stable

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Danny has a bad morning after…

 

This is another review that has spoilers in it, so be warned: there are spoilers below.

The 11th episode of Iron Fist, “Lead Horse Back To Stable,” begins with a flashback to a very significant event in Danny’s life. Davos finds Danny just outside a cave, sprawled on the rocks there. Davos sees through the rips in Danny’s robes that he has a very fresh brand across his chest- the symbol of Shao Lao the Undying. When Davos touches him, Danny starts up and instinctively triggers the Iron Fist, surprising both of them. Davos and Danny limp away from the cave, both commenting on the power not being what they thought it was.

In the present, Danny tends his wounds from the battle with Bakuto’s section of The Hand. He gets a series of flashbacks from recent events (I really think the boy has PTSD) and tries, and fails, to get the Fist working again. Leaving the mens’ room, Danny meets up with Davos, and they talk about what to do next. Danny asks Davos how he managed to track him down, and Davos admits that the Internet can be useful. Davos pushes for them to return to K’un-Lun and lays on a heavy guilt trip, while Danny says he wants to stay. He makes the decent point that, if the Iron Fist is supposed to destroy The Hand, and The Hand is here in New York, this is where he needs to be. Davos reluctantly agrees, if Danny will return to K’un-Lun afterward. Danny agrees and says he knows someplace to get his wound tended to.

Colleen returns to her Chikara Dojo, surveying the wreckage from the big fight there. I’m still wondering who that was assaulting our heroes. The Hand uses traditional martial arts weapons and dress. So far, I don’t know that we’ve seen a faction in this story that uses modern weapons and tactical gear. That to one side, Bakuto drops in, and he and Colleen have an argument about her level of respect and what to do about Danny Rand. He reminds her that his group gets kids off the street and into good jobs like hospitals and government interns. Bakuto leans heavily on Colleen, insisting on her compliance.

To no surprise at all, Danny headed out to see Claire, interrupting her studies of various Eastern Philosophies. This is part of why I like Claire so much. She doesn’t just see these heroes and their powers, she works hard to understand them. I’m not sure we’ve seen another character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe do that, aside from maybe Simmons on Agents of SHIELD. After some initial confusion, Claire agrees to help. That confusion doesn’t clear up any after she digs an arrowhead out of Danny’s side. Her treatment is simple and effective, if a bit painful. Claire asks if he can’t just heal himself with the Fist, and he says he can’t right now. Davos is surprised she knows about the Fist.

Danny persuades Davos to give them some privacy, and then gives Claire some bad news. Not only does he tell her about The Hand building an army right here in New York, but that Colleen is part of it. Claire is stunned, and Danny gets loud about it. They talk about broken hearts and antibiotics, and even use a simple shirt to tie-in with Luke Cage.

Harold is working out on the heavy bag in his penthouse. When he decides he’s had enough, he goes to the work station where Joy is typing away on the computer. It’s not like Kyle is going to be using it anymore. Joy has found out what Bakuto is doing with Gao’s money, and manages figure out how to control it. Harold is thrilled and goes on about using this to bring down The Hand. Joy is clearly a lot less certain about this. She’s also worried about Ward, which Harold dismisses.

Claire and Davos talk while Danny is up on the roof doing forms. It could be seen as an info-dump, but it ends up being a really entertaining contrast of their two worlds. I think my favorite part was Claire saying dragons don’t exist, and Davos, completely serious, asking her, “Why would you think that?” They also talk about Danny’s duty, where the Iron Fist comes from, emotional repression, and pizza. You know, the important stuff. When the bell rings, Claire insists on going down to get the pizza herself.

I was expecting this to be some kind of trap, and was all set to be annoyed with Claire. Instead, the pizza guy has been replaced by Colleen, who wants to talk to Danny. First, she has to get by Claire, who is very disappointed to learn that what Danny told her is true. With her usual sass, Claire suggests that, if Colleen’s Hand is supposed to be so different from the other part, they need a different name, and makes a few suggestions.

Apparently Colleen persuaded Claire, because the next scene is Danny on the roof, his moves being hampered by his injury. He has more flashbacks, this time to the boredom of guarding the pass to K’un Lun. Colleen joins him on the roof and they argue some more. There’s a passing mention of the need for antibiotics, and Danny pretty much refuses to listen to, or trust, Colleen. I can’t say I blame him at this point. Catching your lover in a lie is painful, and it’s worse when the lie is about an evil organization.

Davos very suspiciously sniffs the pizza that Colleen delivered, and finally allows that it’s not horrible. Claire is not pleased by someone dissing New York pizza. The food comedy gets interrupted when Danny comes back down to talk to Claire. Davos doesn’t quite, but almost, rolls his eyes and goes on “guard duty” again to give them some privacy. Danny shares his plans with Claire and then asks to borrow her car. Considering her history with heroes and her cars, I’m amazed she said yes.

Colleen really is trying to make things right between her and Danny. She goes to one of her former students, Becca. Becca is now working in a hospital, and Colleen hits her up for some of the antibiotics that Danny needs. Becca says of course, The Hand always comes first. Colleen really should have listened to that.

Danny and Davos go to the penthouse, meeting up with Harold and Joy. Davos once again has to explain that not everyone from K’un-Lun has the Iron Fist, which is painful as he thought that was his birthright. I’m not clear on how Harold knew Davos was in the elevator. We never see Harold look at the monitors. Maybe his resurrection comes with increased senses? They go over their somewhat simple plan to lure Bakuto out of his compound. I can actually see this working, barring complications. Which, of course, occur. Joy also isn’t happy about the direction the conversation takes in terms of what to do with Bakuto.

Colleen gets a nasty surprise about loyalty within The Hand. Bakuto has a long reach, and Colleen herself drilled obedience into her students’ heads. A group shows up to take Colleen in, and she’s not at all happy about this development. Still think you chose the ride side, Colleen?

In the penthouse, Harold is taking a few extra precautions. Joy isn’t sure this is a good idea, and tries to point out some flaws in the idea. Harold is still having rage issues, and flares up again for a moment. He’s also more than willing to play Joy off against the still-missing (to her) Ward. Harold’s a real prize. I’m not surprised Ward is as screwed up as he is, I’m astonished Joy isn’t.

Colleen is under some heavy security, and firing off a lot of questions. The people holding her are short on answers and long on scorn and mockery. Bakuto drops by, just to remove any doubt that all of this is at his order, and leaves again. Colleen gets taken to a very sinister-looking room, and decides she’s seen enough. Colleen manages to get loose and have the only action sequence in the episode. While her former students are good, she is much better, and manages to get free.

Outside, we learn that even martial arts masters aren’t immune to the boredom of stakeouts. Davos and Danny talk about their shared history in K’un-Lun. Davos listens to Danny’s’ problems, and essentially gives him an “I told you so.” Danny talks about his decision to leave and the sign he followed, which doesn’t impress Davos at all. Then, they see someone fleeing the compound, and the plan goes off the rails. Danny chases after Colleen, and, after a violent confrontation, they more or less patch things up. Davos doesn’t look happy about this, and walks off into the suddenly occurring thunderstorm.

What I liked: I really don’t like Ward, so his absence from an entire episode was fine with me. I always enjoy Claire’s appearances, and she was her usual steadying, helpful presence. Davos’ reaction to pizza was entertaining. Colleen’s escape and fight made sense and worked within the story. There were no business meetings for once.

What I didn’t: Danny’s loss of the Fist doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, and I’m hoping they don’t drag this out for the rest of the season. For a kung-fu themed show, there was a notable lack of action. Harold and Bakuto are both annoyingly smug in different ways, and I wouldn’t mind seeing them both die by the end of the season. I’m wondering why no one seems to be curious about the guys in the tac gear were.

I’ll give this one a 3 out of 5. I’m curious to see how they wrap all this up in just two more episodes.

Agents of SHIELD: The Return

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Wait, Mac did WHAT?

Agents of SHIELD has almost gotten to the end of the fourth season. “The Return” signals the end of the story in The Framework, and picking up the pieces back in the real world. And they’re coming back to a hell of a mess on almost every front.

The show starts with a slightly different perspective on where the last one ended. Ivanov, disturbingly, is reading the Darkhold, and commenting there are some “funny passages” in the book. I don’t know what’s worse, him smiling or finding the Darkhold funny. He walks down a hall and comes in on the confrontation between the newly-awakened SHIELD agents and Aida 2.0. Coulson sums up his frustration very well as Aida and Fitz port away. Ivanov confronts the team, commenting that his previous restrictions have been lifted. Coulson short cuts May’s briefing by just telling her she can shoot Ivanov. It’s a nasty Coulson/May/Ivanov fight. Coulson pulls off a pretty slick move with a creative use of one of his toys. May offers a few wisecracks about robots.

The other part of the team up in the Zephyr have their own problems as the Russian fighter is still bound and determined to bring them down. Bet they’re wishing they had kept that cloak running. They manage to get to the power section to try and restore weapons, but find a new problem.

Coulson brings May up to speed a bit more thoroughly on recent events. Remember, she was replaced by one of the LMD’s a while before everyone else. She asks some uncomfortable questions about when Coulson noticed the substitution. There’s a passing reference to Ghost Rider (boy, she has been gone a while, hasn’t she?), and a good bit of concern about Mac staying behind in the Framework.

The Zephyr crew finally manages to put out the raging fire, get weapons restored, and let Piper show her formidable gunnery skill. I’m really enjoying Piper. I hope she both survives this season and gets a bigger part next one. Elsewhere, Aida has brought Fitz to the beach. It’s really painful watching her be so happy and overjoyed by everything while Fitz is trying to reconcile two very different lives that are both circling around in his head.

Yo Yo is not pleased that Mac stayed in the Framework, and has a lot to say to Daisy about it. She doesn’t seem too interested in hearing about what actually happened, either. Coulson, meanwhile, has figured out where he and May are, in part due to his career teaching back in computer land. May pushes a little harder on getting details about her replacement, and Coulson keeps dodging. Somehow, I don’t blame him.

Team Zephyr fills in Simmons on some of what happened while she was “away,” and none of it’s good. I do like that things happened while the main characters were off in their own world. Aida, continuing to show a stunning but understandable naivete, brings Fitz to “their” place. Wow, she really doesn’t get this at all. He sidesteps some of the awkward emotional issues for now and asks what’s in store for his friends.

The bad guys finally get past the defenses Coulson and May have improvised, and there’s a really spectacular fight. May is hell on wheels normally. May on adrenaline is just terrifying, especially with improvised weapons. She’s definitely the star of the scene, although Coulson does some quick thinking too.

Tensions are rising on many levels. Coulson has a few upsetting things to tell May as they try and find their way out of the oil rig. Mac is back in the Framework room, and the water is rising around his non-responsive body. Fitz is trying to get Aida to go back and help, and she’s suddenly realizing she could get killed. I guess there’s a big perspective shift of robot to real live girl.

I admit I can’t stand Ivanov as a character, but he’s well acted and gets some great lines in a scene with Aida. Finally, all the good guys get back together on the top of the oil rig thanks to one of the containment modules, a lot of stairs, and some last minute teleporting by Aida. Given everything that’s happened in the last few hours, the team takes some wise precautions with Aida and Fitz both.

The team makes a somber return to their no-longer secret base. When the LMD’s ended up fighting each other as the real agents were getting stuffed into the Framework, L.May.D. had a crisis of conscience and did something desperate. She stopped the other LMD’s, but the base is trashed. What isn’t burned is toppled or broken. I suspect they/re going to get a new headquarters next season. Simmons is really worried about how real things were in the other world, since Fitz was in love with Aida there.

It hasn’t been slow to this point, but things really kick up a notch from here. Aida and Fitz wake up in one of the containment rooms, where Aida continues to show how much she just doesn’t get. Fitz has the sobering realization that, in a lot of ways now, he’s just like the arch-traitor Ward. Fitz doesn’t take a few things into account when he’s musing out loud and he really hard-core sets Aida off on a dark path. Not good for a new-born with powers.

Talbot leads a team back into the wrecked base and tries to take the agents prisoner. As far as he’s concerned, they’re all robots. I get where he’s coming from, but there are several ways he could put that to the test. He’s just not thinking straight. Talbot’s always had a bit of a temper. Side note though: a while ago, Talbot’s pet “enhanced,” the Absorbing Man, was serving as his bodyguard. Where’d he go?

Crazy Aida turns on everyone and goes on a killing spree. Soldiers, SHIELD agents, she doesn’t care at this point. She also demonstrates she’s more dangerous than we’d thought. Coulson is trying, without a lot of luck, to talk Talbot down. Talbot then manages to add racism to his resume as he wonder where “that Speedy Gonzales critter” is. Nice. Finally, both teams flee from Aida, in different directions. If the Zephyr was running low on fuel before, it sure as hell didn’t get more here. What’s keeping them in the air? Even Stark tech needs energy.

Fitz and Simmons have a tearful reunion. If they use this as an excuse to keep them apart yet again, I’m going to go punch some of these writers. Aida, having nowhere else to go, returns to Ivanov and vents her emotions in a few unexpected ways. As Talbot’s team pulls out, some of the wreckage shifts, and we see a figure from SHIELD’s past come back. Next episode, which I believe is the finale, is going to be a messy one. Moreso because Yo Yo did something understandable but amazingly stupid to end the episode.

What I liked: Ivanov got some great lines. There were a lot of complications with Aida being “human” now that the writers did a great job with. The Coulson and May scenes were great. Talbot’s a jerk, but what he’s doing makes sense from his perspective. I’m very excited about the return at the end.

What I didn’t: I’m really hoping this doesn’t become the latest excuse to keep Fitz and Simmons apart. I’m not pleased by the new developments with Ivanov and “friends.”

I thought this was a really good episode. I’ll give it a 4 out of 5. The finale should be interesting.

Iron Fist: Black Tiger Steals Heart

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Danny gets some help

 

Events get interesting as they start coming towards the end of Iron Fist’s first season. “Black Tiger Steals Heart” has a lot of surprises and revelations. Danny hasn’t been the most likable character through a lot of this season, but by the end of this, I do feel a bit sorry for him. And there’s a lot of action, which is what most people watch this kind of show for.

Last episode, we saw Danny getting carried off by Bakuto after unlocking the healing aspect of his powers. Now, he wakes up in a nice room with Colleen. Not a bad way to start the day. They have a very nice little reunion, which is about the only peace Danny gets this entire episode.

Joy is still trying to come to grips with Harold’s resurrection. I don’t blame her for being rattled. They talk a lot about Harold’s illness and his kids caring for him. Joy also understands a lot more about why Ward is the way he is. Even in the midst of this shock, she’s thinking about her brother. A lot of what Harold says to her sounds like what he said to Ward earlier. To me, it sounds like a rehearsed story. He also offers some odd insight on what his death was like.

Colleen and Danny walk through Bakuto’s compound. It definitely seems like one of those too good to be true places. Then again, how many forces for good live in compounds? Colleen talks about how much this place means to her, and Bakuto offers another lesson to Danny how his Iron Fist power works. Danny presses Bakuto for some hard answers and gets a lot of polite evasions. Even as naive as Danny is, he sees enough to make him realize there’s something off here. In Bakuto’s office, he shows Danny an interesting bit of archived movie footage from China. He makes his pitch to Danny for the Iron Fist to join him to stop, “the Gaos of the world.” Among the inducements offered is that Bakuto seems to know a lot more about Iron Fists in general than Danny does.

Harold and Joy keep talking about his return. While he fusses with drinks, Joy calls Danny. They both share various surprising bits of news, like Harold being alive. Danny’s also surprised to know how much Harold has told Joy. Harold is very curious about what happened to Gao, and who Bakuto is. Joy is confused by most of these exchanges, and a few minutes later, turns down Harold’s offer of day drinking. She also sees a hint of what happened to poor Kyle.

In Bakuto’s office, we get the confirmation (not that it was needed) that he’s not exactly one of the good guys. Bakuto is doing all sorts of surveillance and is very well informed about more than just the history of the Iron Fist. Bakuto is also keeping secrets from Danny, and taking Colleen along for the ride.

Danny wanders around the compound, and runs across Daryl and a few other students. Daryl can’t, or won’t, answer Danny’s questions, but he’s eager to prove he’s a cocky idiot. We get one of the stereotypical martial arts scenes of student trying to hit master and master evading without trying. Danny does find out about a curfew for the students and a few off-limits areas. He takes advantage of this to later find out where Gao is and sneak in for another round of dodge the question. Bakuto walks in during this and takes Danny away, also showing his evasion skills.

Bakuto leaves Danny with Colleen, apparently expecting her to seal the deal or at least distract the young warrior. Colleen cautiously tests the waters, and gets worried when she finds out that Danny both knows Gao is there and has spoken with her. Colleen tries to argue her point of view about Bakuto’s group, but Danny isn’t buying. He learned something very troubling from Gao that Colleen has confirmed, and it’s not going to help their relationship. This quickly escalates to their first lovers’ spat, which ends with a sad Colleen and a dramatically storming off Danny.

Harold gets a surprise dinner guest who tells him nothing he wants to hear. Even crazy apparently immortal people aren’t coming off well in this mess. But, the guest does offer him a carrot he very much wants.

Danny slips out of his room and sneaks around in the compound. He finds a way into a building which has a very odd combination communications center/dojo. Danny, upon seeing how much they’re spying on people, starts smashing the place up. Either the destruction attracts Bakuto’s attention or he’s been watching Danny, but either way he shows up. After some smug talk from Bakuto, they have the inevitable fight. Bakuto might be a know it all, but Danny manages to teach him a lesson anyway. Danny gets away and runs into an unexpected ally from his past.

Harold goes to pay a call on Lawrence at Rand International. I’ve never liked Lawrence, so I’ll admit this is a satisfying scene as far as I’m concerned. Harold lays out a very insane plan that Lawrence doesn’t agree to, and Harold does what he feels he needs to. Ruthless is a good word for Harold.

Danny and friend fight their way out of the compound. The initial plan fails horribly, and there’s a lot more fighting. Finally, with some unexpected help, they manage to get out. Bakuto walks among the wounded later, and gives another few cryptic comments about Danny’s future. I’m really hoping Bakuto doesn’t come back after this season. He’s annoying.

We almost made it an episode without a business meeting, but I guess we can’t quite do that. Joy goes back to Rand and sits in as they discuss what to do next in the aftermath of Harold’s visit. Joy seems to have taken control, and I’m not quite sure why. The entire board at this point seems to be lemmings who just go along with whoever talked last. They really aren’t remotely impressive. After this, Joy goes to a follow up meeting with Harold.

After the chaos of the escape, Danny and his friend are wandering through the streets. They argue about what Danny is supposed to do next. Danny is torn between two different sets of responsibilities. The episode ends with Danny trying to decide what to do and a Rand billboard looking down on them.

What I liked: There was a lot of action, and the fight scenes were really well done. I’m glad that Danny wised up about Bakuto’s place quickly. Joy is finally mostly out of the dark about what’s going on. We got to go a whole episode with no Ward, which I applaud.

What I didn’t: I don’t get why there were weapons in their computer center. I’m not wild about what Bakuto apparently did to Danny. I wasn’t expecting the comic book costume on the show, but we’re most of the way through the season and there hasn’t even been a hint of it. I really don’t like Daryl.

I’ll give this one a 3 out of 5, and we’ll see where the show goes next.

Agents of SHIELD: Farewell, Cruel World

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You’d think Simmons would be a better guest

I have not really enjoyed the concept of spending so much time in the Framework this season. I got even less happy with it when they killed off Jeff Mace, the Patriot. He was really growing on me. But, the title for this week gave me some hope: “Farewell, Cruel World!” The Framework is certainly cruel.

They spend more time out in the real world this episode than they have been. Yo Yo and a few other agents are watching over Simmons and Daisy while they’re logged in, but they are having their own problems. The Framework is a massive energy drain, and the ship is starting to run low on power. Out of desperation, they decide to shut down the cloaking device.

Back in the Framework, Hydra is cracking down on the uprising that was sparked by Coulson’s broadcast. After some awkward babbling from Burroughs, Trip comes in, Daisy rushes over and hugs him, and he bemusedly says, “Hey…. person I don’t know.” The worlds are bleeding over a bit. Simmons and Daisy plot about what’s happening in the real world and how to get back. Daisy says they should get the people back they have now, and come back for Fitz. Simmons doesn’t like this, understandably enough. There’s a lot of uncomfortable back and forth between Daisy and Mac, since she knows his daughter Hope isn’t real, and he doesn’t.

May, newly switched over to SHIELD, is helping treat the wounded when Coulson finds her. She comments that resisting Hydra never ends well. Coulson tells her about the Framework, and ends with more about making his own soap. May, skeptical, says Coulson needs to be medicated more.

Fitz roams through the Triskelion, checking on the various prisoners. He goes to see Radcliffe, who doesn’t cooperate. Radcliffe is beaten, and sill resists, saying he’d rather be dead than alive in this horrible world. Fitz takes another approach and gets Radcliffe interested.

Simmons and May talk, and May gives out the great line of “How did a pop tart like you avoid capture?” That probably gets my vote for best line of the episode. May scoffs about the idea of the other world, but drops a hint that sends Simmons off on another solo mission. The agents really are running around on their own a lot in here. Simmons goes and pays Alastair a visit, gun in hand.

Daisy and Trip try to work out where the gateway home is. Trip gets surprised and frustrated when Daisy breaks the news that, in the real world, Trip never dated any of the women on the team. After they banter for a bit, Trip mentions that Simmons has been gone for almost an hour.

Simmons is desperately trying to get Alastair to do what she says, convinced that she can snap Fitz out of the hold the Framework has on him. Alastair isn’t cooperating, and they keep arguing. She does make Alastair call Fitz, but things don’t go according to plan at all. Simmons is making negative progress on this front.

Coulson is getting nervous when everyone stares at him at SHIELD’s base. May tells him that after his broadcast, he is the face of the resistance. When Coulson protests that he’s more a work from the shadows kind of guy, May asks if he taught history that way. Fair point., that. Daisy is annoyed that Coulson told May about the other world, although I’m not sure why. Wasn’t she telling everyone anyway? May says she’s sure everything is fine when Daisy worries about Simmons.

Fitz leads a squad of Hydra troopers to his father’s place. They find the aftermath of Simmons’ visit. Suffice to say that Fitz isn’t happy. He screams at the hapless Radcliffe, although I’m not sure why Fitz brought him along. Fitz bellows out an order about future contact with Simmons.

Things are going poorly in the real world, as well. Yo Yo paces, feeling useless as she watches over Daisy and Simmons. Speedsters in general aren’t known for their patience. It gets worse when they get an alarm on the Zephyr. There’s an SU-27 coming after them, and the ship doesn’t have the power to fight it off at this point. They go into the best evasive mode they can.

Things start popping off quickly as the end of the episode comes closer. Simmons finally rejoins the others, shaking, telling them what happened. Madame Hydra/Aida/Ophelia finally wakes up and is furious as she learns what has happened in her absence. Fitz actually refuses a direct order from Aida, which isn’t going to help anything.

The way out was supposed to be in a park, but is now in a steel mill, yet another of Aida’s changes. The main team goes inside after Daisy says goodbye to Ward and offers a suggestion to him about what he should do next. The team gets inside but has trouble finding the way out. The way Aida hid it was pretty brilliant, really. She pushes her scientists to go ahead on her own project.

As the team argues about the way out, Mac finally gets let in on what’s going on. He’s not happy this was kept from him, which I don’t blame him for. The exit gets very dramatic as they have to overcome Aida’s clever defense, and then Hydra catches up with them to ratchet the tension even higher. They cut back and forth between the gunfight, and some of the agents waking up in the real world. Not everyone makes it out, and things are getting ugly and desperate. It all ends with a big surprise from Aida and the one who stayed behind returning to their simulated life. As all this goes on, the Zephyr is taking too many hits from the fighter going after it.

What I liked: The difference between the two worlds is being played off really well. I like that they have messy edges, they should. May had some great lines. Things didn’t go well, but the mistakes the team made were very believable. I feel bad for Simmons especially in all this.

What I didn’t: I’m still not sold on spending so much time in here. I hate that Mace got killed. It’s going to be sad to leave behind some of the ones we’ve gotten to see again. I’m really coming to loathe Aida. And I don’t like the one staying behind, even if I understand the reasoning.

I’ll give this one a 3 out of 5.

Iron Fist: The Mistress of All Agonies

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Danny really does have those magic fingers…

I try to write my reviews to avoid spoilers. Sometimes, that isn’t possible. The ninth episode of Iron Fist, “The Mistress of All Agonies,” is one of those times. So beware, I start off with spoilers and have more of them throughout. I just don’t see how to do this episode without them.

I had sort of wondered if this might happen, so the opening scene wasn’t a complete shock to me. The camera pans around the spot where Ward has been dumping bodies. The water swirls and then Harold emerges. He crawls to shore, removes the knife Ward killed him with from his torso, and then smiles. It’s a good day to be resurrected, I guess.

Team China has made it back home, and they’re holding Madame Gao prisoner in Colleen’s dojo. I have a lot of questions about how that worked, considering how many people must have been involved with this: pilots, customs officers, whoever got them back to the dojo, and whoever might have been passing by at any of those points. But she’s there, tied to a chair. Again, considering the abilities she has shown before, I’m really wondering how they are keeping her prisoner. They have a stalemate going on, in that Danny, Colleen, and Claire aren’t going to let her go, but Gao isn’t talking. After a lot of debate, they send Danny back to Rand to try an idea of Claire’s.

The resurrected Harold wanders the streets and has a few odd encounters. It seems that not quite all of him came back, or at least that’s how he’s acting at the moment. While that goes on, Joy is leaving a message for Ward about the building he brought her to before he had his little breakdown with her. It’s not entirely clear where she is, but Joy has managed to position herself to find Danny as he walks down the street. I guess they’re near the dojo; Joy’s been there before. She tells Danny about all the news from Rand, her and Ward’s trip to the building, and what she’s found out about it since then. She also tells Danny Ward has disappeared. Danny seems a bit stunned, but tells her they’ll work all this out later continuing on his mission.

Gao shows she knows how to fight on many fronts. Claire is trying to be nice by bringing her water, and Gao starts playing head games with her. She has a vicious tongue, Madame Gao. She does seem to know a lot about Daredevil and Luke Cage, and their connections to Claire. Gao goes on to do the same thing with Colleen, who is not looking well at all.

Danny somehow manages to sneak into Rand. Then again, he did say that, practically growing up there, he knows all the ways in and out. He gets to the lab to attend to Claire’s grocery list, and manages to get some help and show that it’s good to be nice to people. You never know when you might need a favor again.

Harold’s wanderings eventually take him back to Rand, where his passcodes apparently still work. He gets inside, very late and after hours, and wanders the executive suites. He’s remembering more now, and is not happy at seeing that Ward and Joy’s offices are assigned to someone else now. Finally, he calls for a ride, and has a very odd conversation with his loyal minion Kyle, who continues to fail to impress.

Outside Rand, there’s a very quiet man prowling around with a bag on his shoulder. Eventually, he approaches a nearby food truck. After a run in with the poor guy who runs it, our silent newcomer shows he can not only fight like Danny, but does origami as well, although his version seems more practical. And deadly.

Ward, like the proverbial criminal, returns to the scene of his crime. Oddly, the big terrarium has been fixed after it was shattered, but Ward gets a much bigger surprise when he finds Harold there. It’s a very entertaining conversation, with Harold apologizing a lot and Ward being totally shell-shocked, although still slipping in some nasty verbal barbs. Somehow I expect Ward’s last words are going to be something ugly to someone who is probably trying to help him.

Danny returns to the dojo and they give sodium pentothal to Gao, trying to get her to tell them the truth. She has a lot of interesting things to say, covering her long life, Danny’s parents, and one important immunity of hers. Colleen is looking worse and worse, and her claims that it’s the flu or something are proven wrong. Gao cackles as Colleen tells them to call for help, on her phone, under Sensei.

After a scene showing poor food truck guy is having a horrible night, we return to Ward and Harold. Ward has recovered enough from his shock to start making demands. What else is new? Also, Ward’s hand that was so badly injured seems to have recovered completely. That was fast. Bad writing, or does Ward have powers, too? Ward does show some concern when Harold reveals what he plans to do after Ward leaves. Ward has some feelings left, just not a lot.

At the dojo, Colleen is looking worse and worse. When Danny tries to reassure her, Gao says they are all such children. They get some unexpected visitors, although not the ones I was expecting, unless The Hand has been switching out ninja oufitts for tac gear and flash-bangs. The team does much better than I’d have expected, considering Colleen’s poisoned and Claire is, at best, a novice. Gao makes more threats and promises after the fight, trying to deal for her freedom.

Ward proves that, whatever his other numerous faults are, he’s pretty damn smart. Trying to get a handle on what’s going on, he goes to see Yang, the head of the Hatchet Men. Yang talks about another case like Harold that he knows of. The ones The Hand bring back turn on those closest to them first, which sounds a bit like the vampires on The Strain to me. Ward doesn’t get the answers he wants, and makes even more bad decisions on the way out.

Speaking of bad decisions, Harold tries to do something nice for Kyle, which was unexpected. It turns in to one of the most brutal murders we’ve seen yet, with a very unique weapon of choice. Harold seems shocked by what happened, which doesn’t bode well for his mental state, such as it is.

Ward’s bad decisions finally catch up with him. He has an encounter with some public servants that doesn’t go well for him, and ends up someplace we’ve seen before. There’s some irony involved as Ward is now going through what he did to someone else earlier in the series. Where he is might not be a bad place for him, all things considered.

Harold is watching both his children, albeit in different places. With Ward indisposed, and some convenient timing, he turns to his daughter, instead. Harold and Joy have a tearful reunion. You really have to feel bad for Joy. She’s had so much happen both to and around her so far, and now this. She’s really holding up remarkably well when you take everything in to account.

Things are looking worse and worse for Colleen and Gao is trying to use this to her advantage. Everyone is surprised when there’s a knock at the door, and Colleen’s friend Bakuto shows up. What I think is really striking here is Gao’s reaction. She not only knows Bakuto by sight, it’s the first time I remember her seeming actually afraid. Mind you, I’m not sure that having someone who rattles Gao suddenly turn up is the best thing for our heroes, but they are desperate. Bakuto gives Danny a lesson that I’ve been sort of hoping for, when I hadn’t given up on it, for most of the series. The episode ends with a change in status for Danny and Gao both, an unexpected departure, and a very confused Claire.

What I liked: One of the things that set Danny apart from many heroes finally happened this episode, and I’m glad to see it. I’m not sure things changed for the better, but whatever happens might be worth it just to see Gao’s reaction to Bakuto. Harold was sort of entertaining in some of his scenes as he came back. I admit to enjoying seeing the bind Ward got himself in.

What I didn’t: I’m not sure I get how that poison from China was instantly deadly to the guards but took so long to get to Colleen. He was always way out of his depth, but I feel bad for Kyle. I really wonder how Gao is so well informed about Claire. I also wonder how long before Joy just plain completely snaps. Danny, in general, needs to grow up a bit more.

I’ll give this one a 3.5 out of 5. I’ll even admit I’m biased because Danny learned his new power that I’ve been waiting for since they started. I’m very curious to see what happens next with Danny and Colleen.

Agents of SHIELD: All The Madame’s Men

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Speaking of Fake News…

One of the things the writers really seem to be enjoying with this ongoing Framework story is bringing back various characters that have been killed along the way. “All The Madame’s Men” opens with a news broadcast called the Bakshi Report, as reported by Suni Bakshi. Here, he’s a propaganda agent, while in the real world, he worked for Hydra boss Daniel Whitehall. His spin is that Hydra was attacked by terrorist and that public enemy Jeffrey “The Patriot” Mace has been killed. Well, at least the last part of that is true.

At the Triskelion, May buys time for Daisy’s transformation to finish. Finally, she comes out of the cocoon, powered and fully healed from her earlier beatings. Daisy and May fight their way through the building, with May pulling off some really amazing moves. While I know she’s one of the best out there, to me, it was more like a reminder that they’re still in this giant video game. Finally, Madame Hydra confronts them with a group of thugs, and muses on them not being able to escape their true nature, even here. Daisy’s response is a bit more practical and a bit less philosophical; she uses her newly-returned Quake powers to blow Aida out of the building. Remember when Captain America jumped out of the same building in Winter Soldier? This doesn’t go anywhere near as well for Aida.

In the real world, Aida disconnects from the Framework and shoots a very dirty look at the imprisoned SHIELD agents. She and mad Russian Anton Ivanov banter a bit. Well, as much banter as you can get between a crazed robot and psychocitic bigot. Ivanov learns that his new circumstances come with some limitations, and he’s not happy about it. Then again, I’m not sure we’ve ever seen him happy. With her tortured logic, Aida determines that, while they can’t kill the SHIELD agents in their custody, Daisy and Simmons are a danger to the Framework and have to be dealt with.

Mac, Ward, and Trip listen to Bakshi’s news with varying degrees of disgust. Ward likens the broadcast to sipping poison. After some debate, they agree to honor Mace’s promises and put the welfare of the Inhuman refugees ahead of vengeance. Then, they all get surprised when Bakshi breaks another story, about an attack at the Triskelion against Madame Hydra herself. Ward is happy to hear it, now sure that Daisy has escaped.

May and Daisy are on the run, their faces plastered everywhere as terrorists. This is when Daisy finds out that Mace is dead. His loss, their first one in this virtual prison, clearly shakes her up. As they try to find a place to hide, Madame Hydra is examined. Her spine has been shattered, and she’s in a coma. Of course, that part is because she’s not in the fake world at the moment. Fitz is distraught at her injuries, and his father offers his own dark brand of encouragement.

Fitz prevents Bakshi from interviewing Madame Hydra (kind of hard when she’s out cold, but that would reveal the lie) and rants about Inhumans as the ever present threat. Bakshi goes on air with pictures of Skye and a terrorist “Inhumans First” movement that doesn’t exist. All this causes some more debate among the SHIELD agents, and has Mac lie to his daughter Hope about what’s going on.

Ward and Coulson share their origin stories in this world. Someone tried to recruit Coulson for SHIELD and he turned them down. Victoria Hand, apparently long-dead in both worlds, recruited Ward out of prison where he was in for arson. They never clarify, but that’s probably when he killed his family. Ward is determined to go hunt for Daisy, in spite of Coulson’s advice. As this goes on, Daisy and May are playing very high-stakes hide and seek. Ward going off on his own isn’t enough of an unauthorized mission for this episode, so we get another one. After Simmons goes over the intel Trip captured, and makes an awkward comment about his grandfather’s time in the Howling Commandos, she figures out where the power source for the machine Hydra is working on probably is. Since the Patriot is dead and there’s not exactly a formal command structure, she and Trip take off to do a quick recon.

Daisy is still trying to hold on to hope that Mace might have survived. Even in this world, May isn’t an optimist and tells her more detail about what happened, and that she has body cam footage to prove it. They end up making contact at a SHIELD site, and then dealing with a Hydra attack almost immediately afterward. Word gets back to headquarters, and Coulson and Mac decide to go retrieve Daisy and May.

Daisy and May talk about what’s going to happen next, and May admits her role in Mace’s death. While Daisy reassures her, Fitz visits the stricken Aida. Alastair is with him, and tells him tips are coming in. Aida finally wakes up (I guess she logged back in), and urges Fitz to finish Project Looking Glass. Alastair looks disgusted at the exchange of affection between them.

Coulson, Mac, May, and Daisy all finally link up, although Mac isn’t pleased to be teamed up with the woman who held his daughter hostage. Coulson makes peace between them, and they get away from the increasing Hydra presence through some old, Prohibition era tunnels. Man, those things are everywhere.

Trip and Simmons’ trip has some mixed results. The oil platform they get to has been modified a lot, but it’s not the location of Project Looking Glass. Simmons figures out where it really is, and what Aida’s up to. The machine is very nearly done, as best Simmons can figure. Over in the real word, Ivanov tries again to break past his limitations and fails. Trip, meanwhile and elsewhere, believes Simmons’ tale of another world with some decent, if skewed, logic.

Fitz is heeding Madame Ophelia Hydra’s request, and throwing himself in to finishing the machine. Whatever he’s doing, it looks a lot like what Aida was working with under the sway of the Darkhold. When Alastair reports that the traitor (May) got away, Fitz has a very cold answer for him, which, with their warped dynamic, should make Alastair proud, I guess.

The team arrives back at their base, united finally (barring Fitz), and Daisy wryly comments she should have figured out where they were on her own. There are some mixed feelings about how things are progressing. The outlook from two different worlds doesn’t always match up well, and Ward especially has reason to not like what’s coming.

Alastair goes to Radcliffe’s cell. You know, despite his betrayals and being responsible for so much of this, I actually feel a bit sorry for Radcliffe at this point. He knows he’s dead in the real world, and I doubt SHIELD is going to let the Framework keep running once this is over. Alastair’s visit goes poorly for Radcliffe, who picked a bad time to show some backbone.

SHIELD looks over May’s body-cam footage. To her credit, May looks on regretfully now. Daisy is all for returning to the real world and being done with all this, but Coulson has a plan that helps both worlds, clever man that he is. SHIELD stages a raid on Bakshi’s studio, interrupting a talk about taking a woman furniture shopping that has some overtones from the most recent Presidential Election. They gain control of the studio and use Bakshi’s network to air May’s footage, hoping to win over at least some of the people.

Things get chaotic quickly. Coulson, in a suit and looking a lot more like his real world self, airs the footage and gives a good talk. As the team leaves, Ward decides he’s staying behind to hold the studio and keep the broadcast on the air as long as possible. Daisy is impressed, and makes a few interesting observations. Fitz makes plans with Ophelia, and then listens as his father suggests a way to come at Radcliffe, since the beating isn’t working.

Coulson’s statement makes the air, and contains a reference to “alternative facts.” I really don’t think the writers are trying to be subtle anymore. Ward’s position at the studio has a lot of incoming, but they get a pleasant surprise for once. And, back in the real world, Ivanov gets a clue that bodes ill for Simmons’ and Daisy’s bodies (no, not THAT way).

What I liked: This alternate world has some good points to it. I’m thrilled to see Trip again. I also really like this Ward. Maybe he’s just born to be a traitor, but he’s being a good one here. Coulson’s address was great and a good rallying point. Even in this shadow of the real world, the Coulson/May byplay is amusing.

What I didn’t: They can end this alternate reality idea any time now. It’s getting a bit old, no matter how many nice twists it has. They’re doing a good job of making me dislike Ophelia/Aida/Madame Hydra and Alastair Fitz.

I’ll give this one a 3.5. I’m ready for Morpheus to pop up and offer them that colored pill now.

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