Friday, August 5, 2022

The Flash Season 8, Episode 20: Negative, Part Two

This week on The Flash, it's the big Season 8 finale!

So how was it? Welp, That was definitely an episode of The Flash alright! 

Sadly, Negative, Part Two was a jumbled and chaotic mess— one that was seemingly made up on the fly by the writers and actors as they desperately tried to ad-lib an ending. Nothing made much sense as the characters ran from one bewildering setpiece to another, giving the illusion that something was actually happening— even though the audience doesn't quite know what. How's that for a review!

The entire episode was an exercise in wasted potential— which seemed to be the theme of the season as a whole. Season 8 started out strong with the Armageddon "crossover," which curiously featured numerous characters from various Arrowverse shows that'd already been canceled.

The first half of Armageddon was promising, but it ultimately devolved into a murky, muddled mess that made little or no sense (sounds familiar!). 

Next up we had the Deathstorm arc. Deathstorm himself looked amazing, like he stepped right off the comic page. I had high hopes for his storyline, as it also started out strong. Unfortunately it also ultimately limping to the finish line.

The last third of the season took a dull and uninspired turn for the worse though, as it gave us the unwelcome introduction of the Negative Forces. Apparently the writers loved last season's nonsensical Positive Forces so much they insisted on giving us their evil counterparts (without explaining where they came from, of course).

Strangely enough Negative, Part Two bore a VERY strong resemblance to Heart Of The Matter, Part 2, the Season 7 finale that wrapped up the Godspeed arc. Both featured an expanded Team flash battling an evil, jacked-up SUPER speedster who was trying to rule the world. In fact it's almost like showrunner Eric Wallace realized he bungled the storyline the first time and decided on a do-over.

I think the biggest problem with the episode was Thawne, who returns for the twentieth or thirtieth time since the series began. This show is positively obsessed with the character, and their constant over-reliance on him borders on addiction. They can't keep going to this same well every time they need a villain— it dried up years ago!

The season wasn't a total loss though, as there were a few highlights.

There were numerous standalone episodes, all of which were pretty well done and reasonably enjoyable. In fact I liked most of these one & dones much better than the multi-episode story arcs, or "graphic novels" as Wallace insists on calling them.

The aftermath of Frost's untimely death was quite well done too.

Methinks it may be time to return to the standalone format!

For a while it was unclear whether the show would be renewed or not, so the producers supposedly structured this episode to serve as a SERIES finale if need be. Man, what a limp and lame wrap up THIS episode would have made! 

At one point during the big third act battle, Barry stops fighting Thawne and LITERALLY sits down in the middle of the street, which somehow defeats him. Holy cow! I cannot emphasize enough just how awful it would have been if this is how the series ended after eight years.

Speaking of renewal, it was announced this week that Season 9 of The Flash will be the last. It'll return for thirteen more episodes and then that's it. Sad, but ultimately I think that's for the best. Although I've enjoyed the show for the most part over the years, it's high time it ended. The writing's clearly gone wayyyyy downhill in the past few years, and the actors are starting to look visibly miserable, as it's evident they all want to move on to other projects.

I'll miss the show and getting to write about it, but all good things come to an eventual end.


The Plot:
Picking up right where Negative, Part One left off, Eobard's body has just split open and the Reverse-Flash has emerged from it. 
Meena screams in horror at the shocking sight.

Barry asks Thawne how he's still alive, since he saw his dead body earlier. He says the Negative Forces brought him back to life, as they were too weak as a team without their fourth member. He taunts Barry, saying that killing Nora Allen birthed the Flash, while killing Iris led to the rebirth of the Reverse-Flash.

Enraged, Barry blasts Thawne with his Speed Force Lightning. Thawne seems surprisingly hurt by this, as Barry pours on the power. Suddenly XS and Impulse zoom in from 2049, and beg Barry to stop before they kill Thawne. Barry finally stops his attack, and Thawne says if he doesn't kill him, he'll just murder his future kids. Impulse points out that the fact that they haven't been erased from the timeline means Iris must still be alive. While Barry contemplates this, Thawne zooms away.

Back at STAR Labs, Cecile senses that Barry & Meena are both hurting. Yeah, no sh*t Cecile! They both just saw their significant others murdered in the most horrible ways possible. Nora says she knows Iris is still alive, and they need to figure out how to save her. Barry still believes she's dead, and wants to find a way to enter the Negative Speed Force to confront Thawne. Bart & Nora beg him to let them handle it, but Barry refuses.

Elsewhere, Iris finds herself in a glowing blue version of the STAR Labs Lounge. She looks around for anyone else, but the place is empty. Suddenly a figure appears, and she sees it's Damien Darhk. He says they have a lot to talk about.

Back at STAR, Chester says he might be able to build a tachyon generator that would open a door into the Negative Speed Force. Barry tells him to get busy building some right away. Cecile senses he wants revenge against Thawne for killing Iris. Just then she hears a voice calling her name, and sees the positive version of Psych flickering in and out of reality. He tells her she's the only one who can bring back the Positive Forces.

Elsewhere, Thawne appears in a red-tinted version of the loft from his Armageddon timeline— the one where he and Iris were married. Just then the Negative Forces appear, and Thawne asks why they brought him back. They say they chose him because of his hate, which is why Eobard had to go. Thawne says he refuses to play their games, and starts to zoom off. Deon freezes him in time, and says they're going to transform him.

In the Lounge, Damien infodumps the convoluted subplot to Iris. He tells her she's inside the Time Stone— the one he gave to Joe at the end of Armageddon. He says what she's seeing is just a remnant of his original consciousness, as the real Damien is dead. He claims the Negative Forces infected her with her time sickness, and used her as an incubator to recreate a new Thawne.

He also points out that unlike him, she's not supposed to be dead. She still has something important to do, so she can leave the Stone— IF she can figure out how.

Back at STAR, Chester rigs three technobabble harnesses for Barry, Bart & Nora, so they can enter the Negative Speed Force. He activates them, and the three speedsters instantly double over in pain. Barry says they need to find another way.

Meena says Eobard would know what to do, but he's dead because of her cursed BLOC machine. She speeds off to Fast Track Labs to destroy it once and for all. Barry follows and stops her, saying they still need the device. He has her get into the BLOC and charge herself with Negative Speed Force energy, and then transfer it into him.

At the West home, Joe sits in his kitchen and frets over Iris. Suddenly Jay and Joan appear, fresh from 2049 (yet another time traveling speedster!). They say they followed Iris' particle stream (ewww...) across time, and it led them to Joe's house. Sure, why not.

Jay finds the Time Stone in a cabinet and asks where he got it. Joe says it was given to him by Damien Dahrk, who told him he might need it some day. The Stone begins glowing, and Joan somehow knows that Iris' consciousness is inside it. Joe wonders how they can get her out of the Stone.

Meanwhile, Cecile's somehow gotten permission to take Mona Taylor, aka Queen of the Royal Flush Gang, out of Iron Heights. Cecile, Allegra, Mona and Rosa Dillon (aka the Top) go the CCC Media offices, because the producers didn't want to build a new set. There Cecile tells Rosa and Mona (who are both psychic metas) to concentrate. Wait, didn't she already absorb their powers a few episodes back? So what good are they gonna be? What the hell is even happening on this show?

Anyway, the three manage to pool their powers (?) and cause Psych to appear. He says when Iris' time sickness spread to the Positive Forces, he used his energy to boost Cecile's powers, so that she could bring them all back. Sure, that might as well happen.

At STAR, Chester detects an energy surge at Fast Track Labs. Bart & Nora zoom him there, where they see Meena transferring her power into Barry.

Once Barry's all charged up, he disappears into the Negative Speed Force. There he finds Thawne, frozen in his Armageddon appartment. The Negative Forces appear and say they're helping Thawne go through some changes, in order to restore the cosmic balance or something. Negative Deon snaps his fingers and sends Barry back to the real world. He tells the others that the Negative Forces are transforming Thawne.

Just then Chester detects a burst of negative tachyons over Central City. Cut to downtown, where multicolored bolts of lightning strike the pavement and cause a flash (heh) of intense light. When the smoke clears, we see a black-suited Thawne, now transformed into the Negative Reverse-Flash. No, really!

Negative Reverse-Flash tells the fleeing crowd there's no point in running, and begins murdering people left and right with his energy blasts. Barry watches all this on the news (no idea how the reporters got there so quickly) and realizes Thawne now has the powers of ALL the Negative Forces combined. Why? Don't know!

Back in the Time Stone, Iris figures her unfinished business is Barry. Damien says she's right, and has to discover how to escape on her own. He says her connection to Barry is still there, and all she has to do is reignite it. She begins glowing with energy and disappears. That was easy!

Elsewhere, Thawne continues his rampage through the city. Barry, Bart, Nora and Meena zoom the crowds to safety, and then confront Thawne. They begin running circles around him and blast him with their lightning. Suddenly Thawne switches places with Bart, causing him to get blasted. He then uses Negative Deon's powers to send Nora and Meena a billion years back in time (?). Barry runs off, and Thawne chases after him.

At CCC Media, Psych tells Cecile and the others they have one chance to defeat the Negative Forces. He hands Cecile his purple mask and tells her to put it on. He explains that the mask will absorb her powers and transfer them into him. She puts it on and screams in pain. Suddenly the mask vanishes, and so does Psych (?).

Barry then confronts Thawne, who's now faster than he is. Thawne throws a lightning blast at Barry, but it stops in midair. The Positive Forces then appear, and tell Barry they're holding back the blast. They then join hands as their power flows into Barry— making him equally matched with Thawne.

Thawne says he's still stronger than Barry, and extends a couple of purple psychic tendrils from his back (which is part of Negative Psych's powers). Barry grabs one of the tendrils and uses it to hurl Thawne into a car. Yeah, that all happens.

Back at the West house, the Time Stone begins glowing and Iris suddenly appears. Joe's overjoyed to see her, and the two hug. They see a news report on the battle between Barry & Thawne, which is destroying the city. Iris says Barry's doing more harm than good, and asks Jay to zoom her downtown.

Barry and Thawne continue their battle. Iris and Jay arrive, and she tells Barry he has to end the fight in order to save Central City. Thawne says he'll never stop till one of them is dead. Yeah, that's the way battles to the death work!

Barry orders Jay to get Iris to safety, and tells Thawne he's tired of fighting. He then... sits down in the middle of the street (!). Yeah, that happens too. Thawne's confused, as is the audience. He fires a blast at Barry, but it goes right through him for some reason. Thawne hisses that he needs more power (what else is new?). The Negative Forces oblige, charging him with even more of their multicolored energy. 

Thawne then lets loose with a mighty wave of energy that sweeps through the city, destroying everything in its path. 

Barry slows his breathing like he's meditating, and suddenly the wave stops and reverses course, as time begins flowing backwards. I guess Barry's using Positive Deon's power to do this? 

The energy of the Negative Forces is evidently too much for Thawne to contain, and he screams in agony. He says it wasn't supposed to end this way as his body disintegrates. Don't worry, I'm sure he'll be back next season.

Barry finally stands, and we see his eyes are glowing with the power of ALL the Positive Forces. He snaps his fingers and brings back Meena and Nora from the past. They look up and see the multicolored energy of the Positive Forces roiling in the sky. Barry says it's the universe resetting itself. Because of course it is.

We then get a mega-wrap up, as all this season's dangling plot threads are sewn up. Joan confirms Iris' time sickness is finally gone. Gideon says there's no trace of Thawne anywhere in the timeline. Meena says the BLOC has stopped working, and Barry says it's because the Negative Speed Force is gone. Iris give Meena Eobard's yellow necktie, which they found in STAR Labs. She thanks them for everything and says to call if they ever need help.

Chester scans Cecile and says all her extra psychic powers are gone, and Rosa and Mona's have been restored. Team Flash toasts their success, and Cecile inadvertently displays some telekinesis, implying she may have kept a few residual powers after her glowup.

Flash brings Tinya Wazzo to CCC Media, where Iris reunites her with her mother Renee. She explains that once Positive Deon was cured, he rescued her from the time stream and brought her back to the real world.

Back at Caitlin's apartment, she's STILL in the Technobabble Chamber that she entered last week. It begins malfunctioning, and Chillblaine shuts it down. He opens the door and is shocked by what he sees inside. A woman's voice announces that she's a friend... she thinks.

At the loft, Barry and Iris engage in some gag-inducing patter about their intense love and how they're lightning rods for one another and all the usual hooey. Iris says the Negative Speed Force is still out there, looking for a new avatar. Barry says when that day comes they'll be ready for it.

We see an unknown lab full of equipment. A blue crystal sits on a desk, and suddenly begins glowing...

• The episode begins right after the previous one, as Thawne tears his way out of Eobard's body and begins taunting Barry.

In the past, Barry's always had to run in order to build up a charge of Speed Force Lightning before releasing it as a blast. In this episode he just straight up fires at Thawne completely out of the blue, going all Super Saiyan on his ass. 

So why the change? Is he using a residual charge from last episode? Or did the writers forget he's not supposed to be able to do this?

• As Barry's trying to kill Thawne, Bart & Nora arrive from 2049 and plead with him to stop.

That's fine, as the whole "Stop Killing The Villain Or You'll Be No Better Than Him" thing has been a standard trope in comics since the beginning. My problem with the scene is... how the hell did the kids know the EXACT moment that Barry attacks Thawne in 2022? 

Yes, they saw the younger version of Iris disappear in 2049 as she was pulled back to 2022, but it's a big year. I don't see any way they could possibly know the precise moment to which she returned. I suppose we could be generous here and say the kids sensed and tracked her temporal trail back to the past, but they've never shown that kind of sensitivity before.

• So Barry attacks Thawne because he blames him for Iris' death. But why? Thawne's definitely a dick, but he had nothing to do with it! 
Negative Deon yanked Iris from the future and materialized her in front of Barry's deadly Speed Force Lightning blast. Thawne didn't even appear until AFTER she was killed. If he's gonna go after anyone, it should be Negative Deon, not Thawne.

• For some reason there's currently a lot of Cecile hate floating around fandom. Eh, I don't hate the character, but I do sometimes question why she gets as much screentime as she does. 

Like in this scene for example. We see Barry and Meena quietly having a discussion, as Cecile watches them from the next room. We then hear the "Cecile Telepathy Sound Effect," as she helpfully says, "They're both hurting."

Yeah, no sh*t, Cecile! Barry was just bamboozled into killing his own wife, while Meena watched in horror as Thawne literally tore his way out of her fiancé Eobard's body!

Her obvious declarations are starting to remind me of Counselor Troi on TNG— who was certainly one of the most useless characters in all of Trekdom.

• We then see Iris isn't dead after all, but standing in yet another weirdly lit dimension. Jaysis, this shot gave me definite Mirrorverse flashbacks! And that ain't a good thing!

• Iris discovers she's inside the Time Stone, where she encounters an "echo" of Damien Darhk. Several things here.

First of all, I totally called this! Well, sort of. Earlier this season in Armageddon, Part 5, Damien handed his Time Stone to Joe, saying, "It's a gift. Father to father. And I think you're gonna need that some day." 

At the time I said, "It's obvious from the big closeup we get of 'Chekhov's Time Stone' here that this scene's setting up a future storyline for Joe. One in which he needs to travel back (or maybe forward!) in time for some reason. Expect to see this return later in the season."

OK, so Joe didn't use it to travel through time like I predicted, but the Stone DID come back to play an important role in the show. 

Second, the idea of an "echo" of Damien inside the Stone was lifted directly from Star Trek: Generations. There, Picard entered a cosmic energy ribbon called the Nexus. Inside it he found a remnant of his pal Guinan, who advised him and showed him a way out of the supposedly inescapable realm.

Lastly, when Iris sees Damien she asks him if she's dead. He says, "No, you're not. What happened to you is far more interesting than that." Yeah, well, we'll be the judge of that, Damien! 

Narrator: "As it turns out, her plight was NOT far more interesting than death."

• Man, Cecile's really in love with that boob arrow necklace! She wears it every week!

• Cecile violates Barry's privacy again by reading his thoughts, and is shocked when she realizes he wants to enter the Negative Speed Force to kill Thawne. Did she really need telepathic powers to figure that out? He thinks Thawne killed Iris. It's only natural he'd want him to pay!

• Welcome to Exposition Theater, where dialogue is replaced with stilted explanations!

Iris: "Okay, so if I'm alive, then... where am I?"
Damien: "You're here inside my Time Stone."
Iris: "The talisman that you and Barry used to wipe out anachronisms during Armageddon."

Haw! I'm surprised she didn't start that incredibly awkward sentence with "As you know..."

• A couple weeks ago I mentioned that lately the show's seemingly jettisoned any semblance of pseudo science it once had, and replaced it with outright Harry Potter-type magic. Magic that allows literally anything to happen so the plot can progress. Case in point:

(to Iris) "See, unlike me, you aren't supposed to be dead, which is why the moment that the Negative Forces annihilated your body, the stone spared you. It senses that you still have something important to do."

So the Time Stone is apparently sentient, has its own agency and can even spare people from death if it deems them worthy. Magic!

• It's always great to see John Wesley Shipp return as Jay Garrick. Heck, I'd watch a whole series just about him as an elder statesman speedster!

• When Jay and Joan appear in the West house, they tell Joe they've been following Iris' particle trail across the timestream. Which is apparently a thing they can do. More magic!

Joan: "Those particles that were left behind... they're Iris' consciousness, and now, I think they've somehow ended up inside the Stone."

Wait, what are these particles she's talking about? Iris was in 2049 when Negative Deon pulled her back to 2022. He then placed her square in the path of Barry's Speed Force Lightning blast, which killed her. After she died, her body dissolved into a mass of green particles, which then floated into Eobard's body and transformed him onto Thawne.

Are THOSE the particles that Joan's talking about? If so, they wouldn't have left a trail from 2049, as they didn't appear till 2022. Were there some other particles we didn't see? Did the writers read their own script?

• Cecile enlists the help of Rosa Dillon (aka The Top) and Mona Taylor (aka Queen of the Royal Flush Gang) to help her bring back the Positive Forces. A couple things here:

First of all, Mona was currently being held in Iron Heights Prison. Somehow Cecile managed to have her temporarily sprung. How'd a plain old attorney convince a judge to do that? Your guess is as good as any.

Second, Cecile stole Rosa and Mona's powers in the last couple of episodes (something the two of them even point out to her!). So I'm not sure what help she thinks they're going to be to her here.

• FINALLY! For the past month or so, Cecile's been "leveling up" and gaining new powers left and right, as the writers were seemingly turning her into freakin' Professor X.

I didn't have a problem with her glow up per se, but I did feel it was poor form for it to just happen, without even a hint of an explanation. We finally get the reason for it this week.

According to Positive Psych, Iris' time sickness spread to all the Positive Forces. In order to survive, they needed to "tether themselves to someone in this reality." Psych chose Cecile, due to her "boundless potential."

So even though the time sickness weakened him, he was still able to open her mind and secretly boost her powers so she could save the Positive Forces. So why didn't he slip her a little psychic explanation while he was at it, so she'd at least understand what was happening and why? Good question!

• The Negative Forces transform Thawne into a new avatar for the Negative Speed Force. He then appears in downtown Central City, as... get this... the NEGATIVE REVERSE-FLASH!

I love it. It's so utterly ridiculous it makes me smile.

Also wouldn't Negative Reverse-Flash be the OPPOSITE of the Reverse Flash? So technically he'd be the Flash then, right? I kid, I kid.

• I like the look of the Negative Reverse-Flash costume for the most part, what with its striated muscular system texture. There's just one major problem with it— the way the cowl's cut makes it look like Thawne has a big old double chin. Not a good look for a supervillain!

• Negative Reverse-Flash then goes on a rampage through downtown Central City. Wow, he doesn't pull any punches either, as he just straight up blasts and murders hundreds of people. No question about it, those citizens are dead!

• Amazingly, we then see Team Flash watching Thawne's murder spree live on TV, from the safety of Fast Track Labs— without lifting a collective finger. Are you freakin' kidding me?

Bart does take time to make a quip when he sees Thawne's new duds, asking, "Who's his new tailor? Satan?" Haw! It's funny because hundreds are dying!

And of course they watch Thawne on Channel 52, the only TV network in all the Arrowverse.

• For some reason, Negative Reverse-Flash has the power of ALL the Negative Forces. But... the whole idea of creating him was so the Negative Forces could reclaim their former strength. If they lend him their powers, won't that just make them weaker again?

I guess they're doing so Thawne can definitively defeat Barry, but... it still doesn't make a lot of sense. Especially when the Positive Forces pour all of their powers into Barry— making he and Thawne equal again.

• Go Go Power Rangers! There's really no other way to interpret this scene.

• Barry, Bart, Nora and Meena confront Negative Reverse-Flash in front of a large, garishly-lit edifice.

In reality the part of the building's played by the Vancouver Art Gallery. You can tell from the stone lions and unusually paved courtyard.

• Thawne makes quick work of the speedsters, blasting Bart and sending Nora and Meena a BILLION years back in time! Wow! A billion years into the past! That would have actually been cool to see the two of them struggling to survive in a prehistoric world. But no, seeing Barry sit on the ground and ignore Thawne was good too.

By the way, a billion years ago the atmosphere only contained about 2% oxygen, which isn't enough for a human to survive for more than a few minutes. So Nora and Meena should be dead.

• Positive Psych appears to get his powers back from Cecile. It's probably just me, but his purple & magenta costume reminds me of Gambit's from the X-Men. He's even wearing a brown trench coat, which was standard superhero issue in the 1990s!

• Positive Psych conjures up his old mask and tells Cecile to put it on, as it will then transfer all the powers she's absorbed into him. When she asks why he picked her for this task, he says:

Psych: "There's a reason you were given all these powers, Cecile. The powers you absorbed were enhanced by the one thing that I lack... your ability to care about people."

Holy crap, I spit out my drink when I heard that last bit! Jaysis, that was definitely the best line of the episode. Maybe even the whole season!

 • Barry & Thawne then begin an epic battle in the middle of town. At one point Thawne uses Negative Psych's powers to manifest a couple of purple tendrils from his back and tries to grab Barry with 'em. 

Methinks someone on the writing staff saw Spider-Man: No Way Home and really liked Doctor Octopus.

By the way, Psych first used his tendrils back in Season 7. There they looked much more electrical than the blubbery, phallic-looking ones Thawne conjures up.

• Barry then attacks Thawne, punching him across the city at superspeed. Thawne counters by 
using the Still Force to materialize what looks to be a WWII plane and drop it on Barry. OK, now that was pretty cool!

Note that both Barry and Thawne have all the powers of their respective teams of Forces at this point, and you can actually see them in action here. Thawne pulls the plane down with a burst of green Negative Still Force energy, apparently reaching into the past for a fighter plane. Barry then uses the blue energy of the Strength Force to catch the plane and toss it aside. He then disappears in a puff of purple energy, which I assume is the Sage Force. Not sure how psychic energy pertains to teleportation, but there you go.

• With Damien's encouragement, Iris is able to escape from the Time Stone. For some reason when she appears in the real world, the Stone vanishes. I guess the writers didn't want Joe having access to a functioning time travel device?

• Iris has Jay zoom her to the scene of the battle, where she tells Barry he has to stop fighting Thawne before the two of them destroy the city. Thawne then hisses, "She's right. We'll never stop, till one of us is dead!" Well, yeah. How else would it work?

Reminds me of the Harry Potter books' similar "Neither can live while the other survives."

• Barry then tries a novel strategy to defeat Thawne, by sitting down in the middle of the street and refusing to fight anymore! Because that's what you want to see in a superhero show— the characters taking a break and resting comfortably during a big battle. 

Once again, keep in mind that the show hadn't been officially renewed for a ninth season at the time this episode was written. Meaning THIS very well could have been the epic, last ever battle between Barry and Thawne. And it features Barry meditating in the middle of the street!

• Thawne then tries out a brand new power by blasting Negative Speed Force Lightning out of his feet— which acts as jets and effectively gives him the ability to fly! Dollars to donuts this ability's forgotten and never used by any speedster ever again— much like last season's Speed Force Lightsabers!

• Thawne fires a mighty blast of Negative Speed Force energy at Barry, but for some reason it passes harmlessly through him. ???

I think maybe Barry's doing a zen thing here, where by not fighting he uses Thawne's powers against him or something? Or maybe the Positive Forces are helping by canceling their evil counterparts' powers? I honestly don't know at this point. Much like the writers!

• When Thawne sees his attack isn't working, he calls on the Negative Forces to give him even MORE of their powers. They do so, but it's too much for his body to handle and he seemingly disintegrates.

YAWN! How many times have they used this same tired, hackneyed denouement on the show? Probably at least once per season!

• There were a lot of guest appearances in this episode (Jay Garrick, Damien Darhk, etc), but the REAL star this week were the Multicolored Lightning Effects Over Central City, which had a good fifteen or twenty minutes of screentime!

• OK, maybe I'm just dense, but I'm struggling to understand just what's supposed to be happening in this episode.

As near as I can tell, the Negative Forces decided they didn't want to share the universe with their Positive brethren. To that end, they somehow gave Iris a time sickness, apparently knowing she'd spread it to the Positive Forces and weaken them. 

The Negative Forces were also pissed off at Barry for inadvertently killing the Negative Speed Force, and wanted him dead as well.

The Negative Forces then cooked up a convoluted plan— they resurrected Thawne, reconnected him with the Negative Speed Force, and poured their combined powers into him as well. He'd then be strong enough to wipe out the Positive Forces and Barry too.

In order to counter this plan, the weakened Positive Forces leveled up Cecile so she could somehow save them (I think). Once they were restored, they put all their powers into Barry, so he'd be an even match for the souped-up Thawne and defeat him. Which is what happened.

Is that it? Did I get it right? Somehow I think my explanation makes more sense than what the writers actually came up with. 

• A few weeks back when the Negative Forces first appeared, I asked just how they came to be. 

If you'll recall, back in Season 7 Team Flash was trying to create an artificial Speed Force after the real one "died." Barry and Iris then accidentally created a new Speed Force through the Power Of Their Eternal Love. 

Unknown to them, they also spawned three other ones— the Still Force, the Strength Force and the Sage Force. Each of them then latched onto ordinary citizens, who then became the avatars for these powerful cosmic Forces.

For reasons, the Four Forces considered Barry and Iris to be their parents— literally, not figuratively!

So where'd the Negative Forces come from? Did Barry and Iris inadvertently create them as well, and we're just now finding out about it? It makes sense, right? If they created the Positive Forces, it follows they must have generated their negative counterparts as well. 

Unfortunately there's been no explanation for their existence so far, which seems like a pretty big oversight on the part of the writers. 

I assumed we'd finally get an answer to this important question in the season finale. Nope! Not a word! No confirmation that Barry and Iris spawned 'em, no line about the Negative Forces splitting off from the Positive ones— nothing!

We do get a microscopic hint as to their origin after Thawne implodes. Barry and the others look up and see numerous multicolored ribbons of energy floating in the sky. Nora asks what's happening, and Barry says it's the Universe resetting itself.

I'm not sure, but from that I think the writers were trying to suggest that the Universe needs constant balance. So when the Positive Forces were created, it took it upon itself to form Negative versions to counter them.

Note that there's little or nothing in the episode to back this up, as it's just me spitballing here. You can always tell a show's in good hands when the audience has to do the writer's job for them!

• Once Thawne's defeated yet again, we get the traditional season-ending wrapup.

Joan examines Iris and says all traces of her time sickness are gone. That was easy! She's been suffering from this temporal malady since the back end of Season 7, and suddenly she's cured through the Power Of Love or some such hooey. Actually I'm not sure how or why she was healed. I guess the Positive Forces cured her? Feh.

There's another "leveled up" as Chester scans Cecile and says all her extra powers are gone and she's back to normal. Cecile tells him she's gonna miss being leveled up. 

She then gestures and causes a coffee cup to fly across the room into her hand, implying she still has some residual powers. That'll come in handy, since they seem determined to make her part of Team Flash.

There's also a throwaway line about Rosa and Mona getting their powers back (courtesy of Psych, I guess).

The Flash then reunites Tinya Wazzo with her estranged mom Renee, who's now out of the Still Force. I still don't understand why Tinya was on the show this season in the first place. Are they gonna make her a member of Team Flash next season? If not, then what the hell was the point of featuring this character on the show?

And over at Caitlin's place, we see she's STILL inside the technobabble chamber, which she entered in the previous episode (!). Suddenly the chamber malfunctions, and Chillblaine rips open the door. He's shocked by who or what he sees inside. 

Apparently whatever's inside is none of our goddamned business, as the audience doesn't get to see it. I guess we'll find out what's going on next season.

I have no idea where they're going with his particular storyline, unless the chamber's created an unholy genetic combination of both Caitlin and Frost?

• Back in Into The Still Force, Chester had a scare when someone seemingly used one of his online inventions to blow up a building. It ended up being an accident, and he assumed the crisis was over. As he left his lab, we saw a Mystery Hacker secretly download all his files.

So what happened with that? Did the writers forget about that little subplot? Apparently so, as it's never addressed or mentioned again. Maybe they're saving it for Season 9?

• Iris tells Barry the Negative Speed Force still exists and will be searching for a new avatar. Barry says they'll be ready for it when it comes.

We then cut to 2049 (what the hell is it about that year?), where the camera pans across a lab full of equipment. It stops on a glowing blue crystal as the screen fades to black.

I assumed this was a callback to an object or character from a previous episode that I'd forgotten about over the years. I did a little research, and it turns out it's not, as no one else knew what it was either.

Most fans agree that this crystal's foreshadowing an appearance by the villainous Cobalt Blue. In the comics he was Malcolm Thawne, a secret twin brother of Barry Allen (it's a long and complicated story, so don't ask). He can generate a powerful blue flame to fire blasts, form energy constructs or give him superspeed (of course). 

From what I gather Malcolm is also the adopted brother of Eddie Thawne, meaning if he does appear on the show he'll probably be played by actor Rick Cosnett. So we have that to look forward to.

That's Methed Up!

This week the city of Albuquerque unveiled bronze statues of Walter White and Jesse Pinkman, the main characters from the Breaking Bad TV series.

Holy crap! Talk about missing the point!

The city does realize these two characters were ruthless meth dealers, right? Who regularly cooked and sold the stuff, and killed anyone who got in their way? 

What better way to honor the city than by commemorating a couple of criminals!

Mayor Tim Keller said he authorized the statues because both Breaking Bad and its prequel Better Call Saul have jump-started a film renaissance in New Mexico. That may well be, but surely there was a better way to call attention to the city?

I can't wait for other cities to erect similar statues to other TV characters, such as Hannibal Lecter, Joffrey Baratheon, Vern Schillinger, JR Ewing and Negan!

Sunday, July 24, 2022

The Orville Season 3, Episode 4: Gently Falling Rain

This week on The Orville we get another excellent episode, featuring tons of political intrigue, betrayal, our first look at the planet Krill and even another big space battle.

Although Gently Falling Rain relies heavily on politics, it's surprisingly fast paced and never dull. The Krill government operates much like our own, and it's not hard to see the parallels in our own recent elections— particularly those involving a certain Orange Man.

But although Teleya's "Make Krill Great" campaign closely mirrors that of trump, the episode doesn't hit us over the head with it. Amazingly it's fairly subtle, which is nothing short of a miracle!

So far every episode this season has built upon a previous one— often requiring the viewer to have seen the entire series to understand what's going on. That's a pretty big ask of the audience— especially since Season 2 finished up over THREE YEARS ago! 

Even if someone watched Seasons 1 and 2 in their entirety, they'd likely have forgotten most of them by now. I'm betting a lot of people watching this episode were wondering who the hell Teleya was, and why she was so important!

Of course I can't blame the producers for this, as the whole Covid thing hit and Season 3 was never meant to be delayed for so long. It's still unfortunate that a lot of viewers are gonna have to do homework to catch up here. 

This episode was written by the team of Brannon Braga and Andre Boramis, two Trek veterans who've written quite a few Orville scripts. I'm continually amazed by Braga's outstanding work on this show. He's come a lonnnnnnnnng way since he wrote Threshold for Voyager, which is widely considered one of the worst episodes in all of Trekdom.

Lastly, I'd like to take a minute to praise the producers of the show for the way the female characters are written. Kelly, Claire and Talla all feel like fully realized people, as well as professional and competent officers.

Compare that to the show's inspiration, Star Trek: The Next Generation. The ladies on that show were more like set dressing than actual characters. Doctor Crusher was a competent physician and was Wesley Crusher's mom. That was pretty much all we ever knew about her!

We knew even less about Troi. Outside of being the ship's counselor, she was Riker's ex and loved chocolate. The end.

TNG was created by middle aged men who clearly had absolutely no idea how to write women, and as a result they were all horribly neglected in favor of Picard and Data.

Thankfully The Orville doesn't have that problem. Kelly is a fierce and capable first officer, as she ably demonstrated in this episode when she refused to back down from the Krill. Claire's a single mother struggling to deal with her children while dating a robot! Talla's a little underdeveloped at this point, but she's still miles ahead of any of the women over on TNG.

Kudos to the writers for fixing TNG's mistakes!


The Plot:

On the planet Krill, Teleya (who once posed as a human on the Orville and seduced Mercer) appears before a massive gathering on the eve of an election. She says current Supreme Chancellor Korin— who's in favor of signing a peace treaty with the Union— is weakening Krill, and will lead to its downfall. She whips up the crowd into a very familiar-looking frenzy.

Meanwhile on Earth, a Union delegation consisting of President Alcuzan, Senator Speria Balask and Admirals Halsey, Perry and Ozawa host Supreme Chancellor Korin of Krill and two of his aides. They enjoy a musical on Broadway, then a lavish dinner later on. Halsey says he hopes the treaty will strengthen both planets against the Kaylon threat.

Chancellor Korin is very reasonable for a Krill, and says he's enjoyed the Union's hospitality. He says his planet's in the middle of an election, but is so confident he'll win that he invites the party to Krill for the signing of the treaty.

On the Orville, the crew's in the Holodeck, er, I mean the Environmental Simulator, enjoying themselves in an Old West saloon. Just then Mercer & Kelly are contacted by Admiral Halsey. He tells them he's chosen the Orville to transport the Union delegation to Krill to sign the official peace treaty.

Sometime later a shuttle arrives, carrying Halsey, Preseident Alcuzan and Senator Balask. Halsey shows Mercer a video of one of Teleya's explosive speeches. He says after Mercer released her back to the Krill, she started a radical movement that's been gaining popularity on the planet.

Later on, Kelly finds Mercer in his quarters, watching another video of Chancelor Korin denouncing his opponents and actually gassing them to death! Kelly's appalled, but Mercer assures her the video was Deep Faked, and cooked up by Teleya's campaign to undermine Korin. He says he regrets returning Teleya to her people.

Three Krill battlecruisers meet the Orville and escort it to their planet. Mercer, Halsey, Alcuzan and Speria take a shuttle down to the planet's surface. For absolutely no good reason, Mercer brings Charly along as well. They're met by Chancellor Korin, who promises to sign the treaty just as soon as he's reelected.

Unfortunately the election doesn't go the way he expected. Teleya wins several districts, diminishing Korin's lead. As the final results come in, Teleya's announced the winner. Korin's stunned, and orders his Council Of Clerics not to ratify the election until the votes are recounted.

Just then a squad of soldiers enter, saying Teleya's ordered them to capture Korin and the Union members. Wow, that was a quick transfer of power!

Back in orbit, the Krill warships turn and lock a tractor beam on the Orville. Kelly orders Bortus to fire on the Krill ship's emitters, which breaks them free. Kelly tells John to enact "Directive 21," whatever that is. Gordon initiates evasive action until John's ready, and Kelly orders the ship to jump to quantum.

Elsewhere, Teleya parades the captive Korin out on her balcony, and presents him to her supporters. They all denounce him, and she kills the Chancellor with a ceremonial knife. She vows that the Union leaders are all next.

Meanwhile, Mercer and the others are cooling their heels in a holding cell. Suddenly two Krill soldiers appear and take Mercer away.

Mercer's brought to Teleya's new office. She thanks him for releasing her two years ago, and he says he did so in the hopes it would bring their peoples together. She laughs at his naiveté, and says the Krill don't need the treaty because they've developed new weapons to withstand the Kaylons. She finishes by announcing she killed Korin, and Mercer and the others will be executed the next day.

Mercer's led away by two soldiers, who unexpectedly toss him a hooded robe and tell him to put it on.

Back on the Orville, Teleya contacts Kelly and says the Union delegation will be charged with conspiracy and executed. Kelly contacts Admiral Perry, who orders the Union fleet to stage a military rescue.

Back on Krill, the soldiers lead the disguised Mercer through the city streets. They're ambushed by yet another group of Krill, who take Mercer to a secret complex. Inside, an elderly Krill woman shows Mercer a sealed room, containing a young human/Krill hybrid girl!

The woman explains that the girl's the offspring of Mercer and Teleya. No idea how that would be physically or genetically possible, but here we are. She says Teleya's aware of the child and provides for her, but has never paid her a visit.

Mercer asks to speak to the girl, whose name is Anaya. The caretakers agree, but warn him not to reveal he's her father. The sheltered girl says he looks "funny," and shows him her toy. He's instantly taken with her.

The Krill caretakers tell Mercer that many still support a Krill/Union treaty. They think if he and Teleya present their child to the public, they can convince them that peaceful coexistence is possible. They also tell him that Teleya still has feelings for him. Mercer isn't so sure though. He says goodbye to his daughter and leaves.

Mercer returns to Teleya's office and confronts her, saying he's met their daughter. He suggests peace is still possible, if they show a united front by presenting their child to the masses.

Teleya rejects the idea, and Mercer asks why she went ahead and had the kid. She demonstrates by taking him to a criminal facility to show him what happens to Krill who abort their children. They bring in a couple and use their DNA to recreate the child they would have had, as a form of psychological torture.

Teleya then changes her mind about releasing Mercer and returns him to his cell.

Later Teleya holds another public rally, where she intends to execute the Union delegation. She declares them enemies of Avis, and brandishes a ceremonial knife.

Just then the Union fleet drops out of quantum above Krill, and Kelly orders Teleya to release the prisoners. Teleya whipsers to her soldiers to launch an assault, and then stabs President Alcuzan in the gut. As he collapses, he's caught by two unknown Krill— who then lob flash grenades at Teleya and her crew.

The Krill— who are highly sensitive to bright light— are stunned by the grenades. The unknown Krill reveal they're really John and Claire, who are disguised as part of Directive 21. They herd the Union delegation (including the wounded President) into a hovercar and zoom off.

In space, the Krill begin an intense battle against the Union fleet. Dozens of ships are destroyed on both sides.

Inside the hovercar, Claire treats President Alcuzan, and says he'll make it. The car's pursued by several Krill vehicles, but John manages to outmaneuver them. They make it to their shuttle, load everyone in and blast off.

The shuttle docks with the Orville, and once everyone's safely inside, the Union fleet enters quantum and withdraws.

Sometime later, Mercer and Kelly are at Union Central HQ on Earth. Admiral Halsey says the President will recover, but they're now at war with the Krill.

Halsey says they have one ace up their sleeve— Anaya. He says revealing her existence could force Teleya to end the war. Mercer disagrees, saying Teleya would likely make their daughter disappear to protect the regime. Halsey leaves, and Kelly tells Mercer he would have made a good father. He says even though he only spoke with Anaya a few minutes, he misses her already. He says they need to find a way to end the war for his daughter's sake.

Back on Krill, Teleya watches a secret video feed of her daughter playing.

• This episode begins with a dedication to Lisa Banes, who died in 2021.

I didn't have any idea who that was, so I looked her up. Turns out she played Senator Balask in this episode— which was filmed way back in early 2020.

Once again, it's been so damn long since Season 2 ended (over three years!) that the cast is starting to die off! Happened first with Norm Macdonald, and now Lisa Baines. Let's hope they're the only ones.

• This episode is positively filled with speeches and political dialogue that sound verrrrry familiar, and echo the words and controversies surrounding a particular Orange Person in the public spotlight. 

For example, the episode begins with Teleya speaking at a "Make Krill Great Again" rally. Her rousing speech, full of fear-mongering and outright lies:

Teleya: "When you go home to your children, will you tell them you chose to destroy our future? Or will you tell them you have reclaimed our dreams and placed your trust in the word of Avis? A word which declares that Krill comes first! Place your faith in me as your Supreme Chancellor, and I will end this madness! And those responsible will pay for their treason!"

Wow. As I said, that all sounds very, VERY familiar!

• Wondering why it's always nighttime on Krill? According to the Official Orville Wiki, the planet is shrouded by a dense cloud cover that obscures 96% of the sunlight from its star— plunging the world into perpetual darkness. As a result, the Krill species evolved pale white skin, huge pupils and a deadly sensitivity to bright light.

• Man, look at all those Krill extras! There're hundreds of them! There's no way in hell they could ALL be wearing prosthetic makeup, as it would take days to apply it all. I'm betting they went the Planet Of The Apes route and used simple rubber masks for the background extras.

• This is some Heavy Duty Nitpicking, but whatever. As much as I love this show, I kind of wish MacFarlane would get someone to help him name his characters. We've got the planet Xeleya, then in this episode there's Teleya and her daughter Anaya.

It's already tough to keep strange alien names straight, but when they sound so similar it makes it even worse.

This is nothing new of course, as TNG had its dreaded "T" aliens, such as the Takarans, Takarians, Tamarians, Talarians and Telerians. And don't forget the Terellians, Terrellians and Terrelians, whose names were all identical except for the spelling!

• Union President Alcuzan and his entourage host Supreme Chancellor Korin of Krill, hoping to sign a peace treaty between their peoples. The Union delegation wine and dine the Krill, taking them to a performance of Annie on Broadway. A couple things here:

First off, President Alcuzan is played by Bruce Boxleitner. He's completely unrecognizable under all that latex and silicone, but the second he spoke I knew it was him! He's got a very distinctive gravelly voice.

Boxleitner starred as Captain Sheridan over on Babylon 5, which is no doubt why he was cast here. He played the titular character in TRON as well.

Secondly, apparently musical theater will still exist four hundred years from now. And people will still somehow still find Annie worth sitting through!

• Speaking of Annie: For years now studios have been attempting to be diverse by casting people of color in traditionally white roles. This has generated tons of controversy, as it's welcomed by some but denounced as blatant virtue signaling by others.

Welp, critics of "colorblind casting" would really hate the 25th Century! In this production of the musical, Annie's played by a young Xelayan girl...

While Daddy Warbucks is the same species as Dann! In fact there are numerous aliens in the cast playing human characters. 

I'm betting this was MacFarlane's way of showing us where he stands on the whole woke casting thing.

Or maybe not! For hundreds of years now live theater has never worried much about such things. Men routinely play women's parts, women play men's, blacks play whites, etc. Maybe the interplanetary cast of Annie was simply following this tradition.

By the way— Victor Garber, aka Admiral Halsey, once played Daddy Warbucks in a 1999 TV version of Annie!

• Admiral Halsey asks Chancellor Korin how he enjoyed the musical. I loved how he completely missed the point of the Tomorrow number, saying: 

Korin: "The repeated prophecy of the orphan child was quite haunting. 'The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow...' In our culture, the sun is a symbol of suffering and death."

Ha! Makes perfect sense for a race that exists in permanent night!

• I actually liked Chancellor Korin quite a bit, as he was something we've never really seen before on the show— a levelheaded, reasonable Krill! I really wanted the peace treaty to work out too. I guess it wasn't meant to be, as there're more story opportunities if the Union and Krill are at odds.

• During the dinner, Chancellor Korin casually mentions he's running for reelection on Krill:

Admiral Ozawa: "You seem very certain of your victory."
Korin: "My opponent is a divisive figure who exploits fear and ignorance. She has a devout following, but it is insignificant."
Korin's Aide: "Our projections show that Chancellor Korin will prevail."
Korin: "Once the people of Krill see you for themselves, as I have, they will understand you are not the soulless monsters my opponent would have them believe."

Again, that all sounds very familiar. If you'll recall, back in 2016, a certain Orange Man was seen as "a divisive figure who exploits fear and ignorance." So much so that the Democrats assumed Hillary Clinton had a sure-fire lock on the election, causing many voters to stay away from the polls, which... well, you know what happened.

• We then see the crew of the Orville hanging out in an Old West saloon in the Holodeck, er, I mean the Environmental Simulator. A LOT going on in this brief scene:

First of all, Mercer and Kelly are decked out in authentic western gear...

Which looks suspiciously like the costumes worn by Seth MacFarlane and Charlize Theron in A Million Ways To Die In The West. They're not identical, but they're pretty darned close. There's no way that wasn't intentional!

Second, Bortus takes a swig of beer and ends up with a foam mustache. Gordon references the time that Bortus grew a real one, back in Season 2's A Happy Refrain. I'm betting this is another reference to A Million Ways To Die In The West, which featured a rousing musical number called The Mustache Song.

Third, the crew's participating in an Historical Pub Crawl, using the Simulator to drink in various past eras. Gordon mentions his dad once did the crawl and got all the way from Ancient Greece to the "Water Wars."

Although this is just a throwaway sci-fi line, there's more to it than you think! The very same week this episode aired, the Lake Mead Reservoir near Las Vegas dropped to an all-time low, and is in real danger of drying up. We may actually experience the Water Wars for real!

Fourth, Talla and John get all flirty in the simulated salloon, as the episode strongly hints at an eventual pairing between them. Eh, I dunno... so far I'm not feeling it. Have the two of them ever even spoken to one another on the show before? If so I don't remember it. They don't seem to have any chemistry that I can see. Maybe they'll ramp it up once this arc inevitably gets going.

Fifth, Talla gets promoted to Lt. Commander this week. In fact they even updated the opening credits already!

Lastly, Isaac tries getting into the Old West spirit, as he bursts into the saloon and says, "This town will not accommodate the numerical totality of our combined mass!" HAW! I love it!

• OK, one last thing about the Historical Pub Crawl. The Environmental Simulator is used to create realistic holographic worlds and situations. But it can apparently whip up real, actual foodstuffs as well! This week the crew's drinking real booze in the Simulator, and we've seen other cases where characters actual food in holographic restaurants. 

There's nothing wrong with this idea per se, I just thought it was interesting that the Simulator can create both fake AND real items!

• Admiral Halsey contacts Mercer and invites the Orville to transport the Union delegation to the treaty signing on Krill.

What a difference a couple years makes! When the series started, the Orville was considered an insignificant mid-level ship. Welp, not any more! After the events of Identity Part 1 and 2, it's suddenly become one of the most important and influential vessels in the entire fleet!

• Yep, I'm gonna complain about this again! The Union delegation's shuttle flies into the Shuttlebay, and of course immediately spins around so it's facing the door. Note that as it turns, it looks like the front of the ship just misses a stack of storage containers by the wall! They really do need to figure out a better way to handle these incoming shuttles.

Of course it would help if they didn't park Gordon's little Pteradon fighter right smack in the way in the middle of the goddamn room! Shove that thing against the back wall already!

There's really no reason for the Pteradon to be there in the first place— other than to make sure the audience is aware of it. According to Brandon Fayette, VFX Supervisor on The Orville, there's a deck below the Shuttlebay where the various shuttles and fighters can be lowered and stored. Unfortunately we never get to see it on the show.

It's pretty clear at this point that the Pteradon is sort of a "Chekov's Shuttle," and is gonna play a major part in a future episode— most likely the season finale. Why else would they have given it such a huge buildup in Electric Sheep?

• President Alcuzan and his entourage are then met by an Orville honor guard. Wow, I don't wanna height shame here, but where'd they dig up that wee security guard on the far end?

• President Alcuzan greets Kelly, and says he and Admiral Halsey both admired her father very much. From that I assume that A: Hher dad's dead, and B: He was some high ranking Union officer. And I'm not 100% sure, but I think this is the first time he's been mentioned.

• Admiral Halsey shows Mercer & Kelly a video of Teleya's inflammatory speech. First of all, how'd he get ahold of a sensitive piece of Krill media like that? I guess maybe Chancellor Korin gave him his KrillTube password?

Second, note that the video is the exact same one we saw at the beginning of the episode— complete with the same camera angles AND identical cutaways to the cheering crowd! Amazing! Maybe Halsey just downloaded this week's episode and played the beginning for them.

• Halsey discusses the political climate on Krill with Mercer & Kelly:

Halsey: "It's our understanding that Chancellor Korin maintains a wide lead. But for some, his embrace of the treaty makes him look soft. To the more radical demographics, his comparatively moderate administration seems out of touch. 
So what you've got is a political vacuum."
Kelly: "A political vacuum is a dangerous thing. Always."
Halsey: "If no one fills it with hope, someone will fill it with fear."

A bit later, Mercer and Kelly discuss the situation further:

Mercer: "Teleya is inexperienced. She's a populist, not a politician. She's running on rhetoric and fire. So the Chancellor thinks that he's still a lock. He says he trusts his people to follow the will of Avis."
Kelly: "You never want to underestimate a populist movement. Emotions can be more persuasive than thoughts. You think any of this will affect the treaty?"
Mercer: "Battle plans are only perfect until the fighting starts."

Again, that all sounds so, so familiar, as it's what helped that  deranged Orange Man I mentioned earlier become president. In fact this entire episode is pretty much a recap of his political trajectory.

• Mercer discovers that the Krill routinely use "Influence Operations," which are basically computer generated attack ads indistinguishable from the real thing. We're probably going to have to start dealing with that soon in our own world, as Deep Fake technology gets better and better every month!

I would also not be surprised if this story element plays a larger role later in the season. I could see the Union wanting to use it to discredit Teleya or reveal the existence of her daughter, causing Mercer to strongly object to such falsification— even in the name of peace.

• As I've noted the past month or so, rumor has it that Seth MacFarlane is allegedly dating Anne Winters, who plays Charly on the show. I don't usually put much stock in internet gossip, but I gotta admit it's starting to seem pretty likely. How else to explain why Mercer chooses Charly to fly the Union delegation's shuttle, instead of a far more experienced pilot like Gordon?

Also, note that once again the shuttle passengers stand behind the pilots instead of sitting their asses down like they should. And this time they actually almost fall over due to the turbulence when they enter the thick Krill atmosphere!

• We then get our first good look at the surface of Krill, a perpetually dark, Blade Runner-esque cyberpunk megacity. Man, the budget has definitely been raised since the show went to Hulu!

• The shuttle lands on Krill, and the Union delegation exits. For absolutely NO good reason, Admiral Halsey takes a liking to Charly and invites her along to the treaty signing!

Again, it's none of my beeswax, but why would any of that happen if she wasn't dating the boss?

• As Mercer and the Union officials are led through the city, we get a good look at a statue of Avis, the Krill god. Seems like a nice, loving deity! Much like the Old Testament God!

• Chancellor Korin leads the Union delegation to his office, where he offers them refreshments:

Korin: "Please, join us for some Kahspid cider. A Krill delicacy."
Charly: "Alien delicacies. Always a crap shoot."
Mercer: "Wow! Mm. That's fantastic. My God, could we get a case of this?"
Korin: "We take great pride in our Kahspid crops. I will have some sent to your ship."

Gosh, lucky for Mercer and the others that the Kahpid cider wasn't deadly poisonous to humans! This "universal food" trope is something that's always bugged me about sci-fi shows in general. I mean, there are people who can die from simply eating a single peanut— and it's an Earth food! Imagine what would happen if they ate some kind of alien dish!

• Chancellor Korin then checks out the latest election returns. Man, check out that Krill video wall! How annoying would that be to have the various screens constantly flying around like that? Sure, it's cool looking I guess, but how the hell do you know which hexagon you're supposed to be looking at?

• There's some major league plot trickery going on in this episode, that requires the characters to act like idiots in order for the script to work.

Chancellor Korin invites the Union President and his delegation to Krill to formally sign a peace treaty between their worlds. For some reason though, he schedules this historic meeting on the day of the election in which he's running against his opponent Teleya! Are your freakin' kidding me?

In reality there's no way in hell that the Union would have ever agreed to send their President and his entourage to Krill until AFTER the election! Sure, Korin assured them that his reelection was a lock, but there was no guarantee it would happen. Sure enough he was defeated, and Teleya instantly assumed power and immediately captured the Union President!

It was also a pretty boneheaded move on the Union's part to send a single ship to transport the President into enemy territory. Surely Korin wouldn't have objected to a small squadron armada to escort such an important dignitary?

Or course sending one ship made it easy for Teleya to surround it with Krill battlecruisers, as the rest of the Union Fleet was hours away. How convenient for the plot!

You know, with just a simple rewrite, they could have fixed all this and made it more believable. All they had to do was forget about the election entirely, and just have Chancellor Korin invite the Union delegation to Krill on a normal day. Once there, Teleya and her followers could have launched a successful coup and taken over the government. That way the delegation could have still been captured without looking like idiots.

This series gets so much right, that it's really disappointing when they rely on clumsy writing like this to make the episodes work.

• Wow, things must move really fast on Krill! Literally seconds after Chancellor Korin's defeated in the election, Teleya takes over the planetary government and imprisons him. Now THAT'S a quick transfer of power!

To be fair, when Teleya's guards enter and take Korin captive, he shouts, "This is not an election, it is a coup!" So it's entirely possible this wasn't the normal change of command timeline.

Teleya's takeover VERY closely mirrors trump's terrifying attempts to overthrow our own government in a futile effort to remain in power. Thing is, this episode was written and filmed back in 2020— well before the January 6 Coup, which happened in 2021!

Does Seth MacFarlane know something we don't?

• Back in orbit, the Orville's contacted by the Krill. I loved Kelly's expression of unbridled disgust when she realized it was Teleya was calling her. Nothing like a call from your one of your ex's old girlfriends!

• The Krill battlecruisers turn on the Orville and begin attacking. Kelly contacts John, tells him to grab Doctor Finn and execute Directive 21. A lot to unpack here: 

Let's start with the plan itself. Although we're not supposed to know it yet, Directive 21 involves John and Claire disguising themselves as Krill and secretly taking a shuttle down to the surface in order to rescue the Union delegation.

Since the plan involved surgically altering themselves, why the hell did Kelly contact JOHN first? Shouldn't she told Claire to initiate the directive?

So how much time elapses between Kelly's initial order and the Orville blasting away to safety? One minute and forty one seconds! Less than two minutes for John to make his way down to Sickbay, inform Claire of what's going on, gather everything they needed to implement Directive 21, board a shuttle and somehow leave the ship unseen in the middle of a fierce battle.

I'll leave it to you to decide if any of that was feasible or not.

• This is some more reeeeeeeeeeeally Heavy Duty Nitpicking, but whatever.

After Teleya takes over as Chancellor, she walks out on her balcony and gives a speech to the massive crowd gathered below. 

She's not wearing any kind of headset, so how's her voice booming and echoing all across the city without a mic?

Since this is the future, I assume the Krill have some sort of hidden amplification system on the balcony. Or who knows, maybe Krill can make their voices reeeeally loud when they want to!

I just thought it was funny, as once you realize she's invisibly amplifying her voice you can't unrealize it!

• Telaya orders two of her guards to smuggle Mercer through the city so he can escape back to his ship. These shots of the neon-soaked metropolis gave me definite Cyberpunk 2077 vibes. Someone on the FX team is definitely a fan of the game!

• As Mercer's led through the city's Grand Marketplace, we see a brief shot of a homeless Krill begging for money.

Woah, wait a minute here! At the beginning of the episode, Chancellor Korin and his aides discussed Earth's economy with the Union Admirals:

Korin: "The performance depicted a time of tremendous hardship in your history. For how long did your world endure this catastrophe?"
Union Official: "The Great Depression. It lasted over a decade."
Admiral Ted: "Sadly, those kinds of societal collapses used to be pretty common."
Admiral Ozawa: "It wasn't until we advanced beyond the need to buy and sell things that our world became a more stable place."
Krill Aide: "The Merchant Class is the backbone of our civilization. And our society has been stable for tens of thousands of years."

So which is it? Krill can't have a perfect economy and homelessness both. I suspect the Krill Aide was grandstanding here, and trying to play up his society in front of the humans.

• We also see a couple of Krill pole dancers writhing around in the Marketplace (!). Um... I though this was an oppressive RELIGIOUS society? Is soft core porn really the Will Of Avis? Or does He realize a man's gotta blow off some, er, steam once in a while, and turn His divine eye away from such things?

• We then come to the biggest "what the hell" moment in the entire episode, as Mercer's led to a secret bunker by a group of Krill who oppose Teleya and her radical policies. There they introduce him to a little half human, half Krill girl named Anaya— who's the daughter of Mercer and Teleya! GASP!

Boy, are we gonna talk about this!

First of all, how the hell can Anaya even exist? ApparentlyThe Orville subscribes to Star Trek's "Any Race Can Reproduce With Any Other Race" school of genetics, which popped up on every one of the various series. Spock, Deanna Troi, B'lEanna Torres, K'Ehleyr, Simon Tarses, Tora Ziyal and more were all alien hybrids.

Of course this could never happen naturally in the real world, as the various races' chromosomes wouldn't line up.
It might be possible with some serious genetic manipulation done in a lab, but there's no way a human could ever accidentally knock up an alien species.

Secondly, back in Season 1, Teleya disguised herself as a human officer, infiltrated the Orville and struck up a romantic relationship with Mercer. So just how'd she pull off this amazingly perfect facade?

Back in the Season 1 episode Krill, Mercer and Gordon used sophisticated holographic generators to disguise themselves as Krill soldiers. They then used these image generators to infiltrate a Krill ship.

All well and good, but there's no way that trick would have worked with Jenal, as she was onboard the Orville for weeks, not hours. Plus if she did use just a holographic disguise, it wouldn't have altered her internal structure. Which means Mercer would have presumably noticed something wasn't right down there when they got intimate!

That means Teleya must have somehow used Krill science to literally transform herself into a human— right down to the genetic level! Her altered body would then have to function exactly like a human one as well, otherwise Mercer would have noticed he was banging someone with alien genitalia.

That seems pretty unlikely to me, but hey, who knows what kind of scientific advances there'll be in the next four hundred years.

Lastly, this series also clearly follows Trek's notion of "Alien Kids Who Age Ridiculously Fast." According to the Official Orville Wiki, Nothing Left On Earth Excepting Fishes— in which Teleya revealed herself to be a Krill agent— took place in October 2420. Gently Falling Rain supposedly takes place sometime in 2422.

That means Anaya would have to be less than two years old. And yet she appears to be around seven or eight, as well as quite intelligent and articulate. The same thing happened to Bortus & Klyden's son Topa, who's now an adolescent even though he's chronologically about three years old.

• Is it just me or does Anaya look a little like Kryten the robot in Red Dwarf? I feel like the angles of her head are a little too sharp and precise to be organic.

• Man, MacFarlane definitely brought his A game to this episode. His acting was excellent this week, especially in his scene with Anaya. He played it perfectly when he met her, delivering a performance filled with quiet wonder and awe for the daughter he didn't know he had.

• After Mercer speaks with Anaya, he and her caretakers stand right smack in the middle of the doorway and loudly discuss her. They talk about whether he feels shame at having an illegitimate daughter, how some would see Anaya as an abomination and lots more. 

Let's hope for the kid's sake that her room's somehow soundproofed and she didn't hear any of that!

• Mercer goes back to the capitol and tells Teleya he knows about their daughter. She then tells him the name Anaya means "gently falling rain."

Houston, We Have A Title!

• Mercer asks Teleya why the hell she went ahead and had Anaya if she was just going to lock her away forever like a criminal. Teleya scoffs, saying the Krill don't terminate their unborn with abandon like godless humans do. 

She then demonstrates how her world punishes abortionists— by scanning the parents' DNA and generating a holographic simulation of their unborn child as a form of psychological torture.

Holy crap! Talk about cruel and unusual punishment!

Astonishingly, Gently Falling Rain aired the exact same week that the "Supreme" Court stupidly voted to overturn Roe V Wade. The episode was filmed in mid 2020, so there's no way anyone on the production staff could have foreseen such an amazing coincidence. That said, sometimes I wonder about Seth MacFarlane, and just how much he knows! 

• As Teleya prepares to publicly execute the Union President and his delegation, an aide informs her that the Union Fleet has just entered orbit.

When I saw this scene I couldn't help but think of the famous shot of a startled Dubya being told about 9/11. I doubt that's what MacFarlane had in mind here, but you gotta admit it fits!

• Teleya trots out the Union delegation ono her balcony, where she plans to publicly execute them. 

You know, she was standing awfully close to the edge there as she was speechifying. I was hoping maybe Senator Balask would use her Xeleyan strength to snap her cuffs and kick Teleya into the abyss!

• John and Claire then show up to save the day— disguised as a couple of Krill as part of Directive 21.

Note that Claire mentions the two of them had a "microdermal makeover" to turn them into Krill. As I mentioned earlier, in Season 1 Mercer and Gordon used holographic imagers to disguise themselves into Krill. Their actual bodies remained unchanged.

Claire implies here that she and John used advanced medical science to transform themselves into actual Krill. If Teleya used the same technology, that might explain how she was able to conceive a child with Mercer. 

There's just one flaw with that explanation though— if Teleya literally became human, then her offspring would be as well. But Anaya's half Krill, so... scratch that idea. We're right back where we started!

• The Union fleet then arrives, and we're treated to yet another spectacular space battle as they attack the Krill warships.

Man, Union ships must have reeeeeally bad deflector shields. Every time we see one of these scenes there're always nine or ten Union vessels on fire! Always!

• Lucky for Mercer and Charly that President Alcuzan and Senator Balask were in their little landing party. Otherwise, the Union likely wouldn't have sent an entire fleet to rescue one captain and a lowly ensign! 

• The Union delegation's shuttle somehow manage to make it back to the Orville, where it crash lands in the Shuttlebay. Note that as it does so, the bay is suspiciously empty for the first time all season! No other shuttles or even the ever-present Pteradon are in the way! Funny how that worked out, eh?

I guess the Shuttlebay commander anticipated they'd be making a hasty entrance and had all the ships moved below.

• In the wrapup, Admiral Halsey says the Krill treaty's dead as a doornail, but there's one hope left:

Halsey: "There is one card left to play. If we want to."
Mercer: "Anaya."
Halsey: "Revealing her could force Teleya's hand."
Mercer: "Admiral, she didn't ask to be born into the eye of a storm. And I gotta be honest, I'm not so sure Teleya wouldn't make her disappear just to protect the regime."
Kelly: "You really think she'd be capable of that?"
Mercer: "I thought I knew her. I don't."
Halsey: "She's your daughter. The President is leaving it up to you."

Yeah, that's nice of President Alcuzan to leave Anaya's fate up to Mercer, but I don't buy it. We're talking about a treaty that could effectively eliminate the Kaylon threat. I know the Union's enlightened and all, but would they really jeopardize billions of lives just to protect one little girl? What happened to "The Needs Of The Many Outweigh The Needs Of The Few... Or The One?" 

• At the end of the episode, Mercer's feeling down because he has a daughter he'll never get to see grow up. Kelly feels his pain, and tries to cheer him up by inviting him to breakfast.

I gotta say, I much prefer seeing Mercer and Kelly as friends, rather than lovers. They're much better together as professionals and colleagues, and I hope they've permanently buried their whole relationship storyline and never go that route again.

This Week's Incongruous 21st Century (And Earlier!) References:
Not too many this week. 

There was the whole Annie play, of course. And Admiral Halsey mentions Oklahoma! as well. Both musicals are apparently experiencing revivals in the 25th Century.

When Mercer sees Teleya in her office, he says, "Looks like you're an Uptown Girl now." When she looks puzzled, he adds, "Billy Joel." If you'll recall, Mercer played Joel's song for Teleya back when she was posing as Janelle Tyler.

This Week's Star Trek Swipes:
There was one big one, but other than that not a lot.

The main was was definitely the whole "Teleya Secretly Has Mercer's Child" subplot, which was very similar to Chakotay & Seska's storyline on Voyager. There, Seska was a Bajoran who joined the Maquis resistance and started a relationship with Chakotay. Once they both joined Voyager's crew, Seska revealed she was really a gentically-altered Cardassian, and secretly had Chakotay's son— who she then used to manipulate him. 

The idea of humans altering themselves to look like enemy races is a Star Trek staple. In Unification Parts 1 and 2, Picard and Data (!) disguised themselves as Romulans to infiltrate their planet. The same thing happened in Face Of The Enemy, in which Counsellor Troi of all people was altered to pose as a Romulan. And over on DS9, Major Kira was kidnapped, altered to look like a Cardassian and convinced she was actually born one!

The Union having a singular leader echoes the Star Trek movies, in which there were various Federation Presidents.They were often aliens too, just like in this episode.

That's about it! Maybe the swipes are finally starting to peter out! 

This Week's Best Lines:
(During the pub crawl, Bortus takes a swig of beer and gets a foam mustache.)
Gordon: "Aww, man, y'know, that makes me miss your mustache.:
Charly: "Oh my god, you had a mustache?"
Gordon: "Oh, yeah, it was amazing.:
Charly: "I thought Moclans didn't grow facial hair. ?"
Bortus: "Doctor Finn was able to stimulate growth."
Charly: "What about the Hippocratic Oath, 'First do no harm?"
Gordon: "Wait a minute, how is that harm?"
Charly: "It's a mustache."
Claire: "She's got us there."

Mercer: "I've gotta say, I've never understood the pub crawl. We're here, we're drinking. The booze is gonna be exactly the same at the next place. Let's just stay here, we're enjoying ourselves."

Teleya: (speaking at another Make Krill Great rally) "What they call a treaty, I call a capitulation of cowards! Their Union is a patchwork alliance of hundreds of species that long ago surrendered their identities to this, this social collective that rapes them of their purity. Would you let them do the same to us? No! Make no mistake. The outstretched hand of welcome will quickly become the fist of oppression!"

Mercer: "I let you go because I believed we'd found some common ground, not so you could drive a deeper wedge between our two peoples."
Teleya: "There was never a common ground. You were merely too stupid to resist a false seduction."
Mercer: "Well, movie night was fun, but that's not what I'm talking about."

Telaya: "An alliance with outsiders is no longer necessary."
Mercer: "About half your population disagrees. Korin had a lot of support."
Teleya: "Korin's influence has diminished considerably. Ask him yourself if you would like. You will find him in the center of the Capitol Square. Or at least his head."

(Mercer meets his daughter and is instantly taken by her.)
Mercer: "Hi there."
Anaya: "Hello."
Mercer: "What's your name?"
Anaya: "Anaya."
Mercer: "That's a pretty name."
Anaya: "What's yours?"
Mercer: "I'm Ed."
Anaya: "That's a funny name. You look funny."
Mercer: "Thanks. I get that a lot."

Kelly: "Talla, open a channel to Krill."
Talla: "Anyone in particular?"
Kelly: " General frequency. See if anyone answers the phone."
(I dunno why, but that last line made me laugh!)

Mercer: (discussing Anaya with Kelly) "I miss her. Is that weird to say? I only met her once. I don't even know her. And I miss her. The treaty is dead. But we have to find a way to preserve some kind of peace. For Anaya."
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