See, I told y’all stuff was gonna happen, right? Holy hellfire! While this episode has some very nice character moments slipped in, it’s really all about story. A lot gets pushed forward, some ideas that had been dropped for weeks get brought back to the forefront where they belong, and we say goodbye to at least one old friend. Despite all the spackle the new writers had to use to hide the gaps between the old way and the new, this episode crackles.
Before we jump in, don’t forget to check out our interview with head writer Alex Epstein.
We’re leading off with Karl because this episode is all him and Tyrone Benskin knocks it out of the park. Karl serves two important purposes on the show. He’s our proxy – the dumb character who needs to have things explained to him so they can be explained to us – and Charlie’s guide. Those are both thankless tasks. If you’re always laying pipe, it can be hard to get anything meaty to do.
Tonight, Karl gets one of the meatiest stories this show’s done. Reena’s torture gave Patricia McKenzie a lot to work with, but nothing quite like Karl’s breakdown in the woods. The sight of him collapsing before the prospect of being necklaced was something else. His fear came to life in that scene, breathing the gasoline fumes right alongside him. It was a really nice touch by the sound editors playing crowd noise beneath the early part of the scene, climaxing with the sound of a tire bursting into flames.
Serpentine and cold-blooded, Langley Kirkwood‘s Ren Porter doesn’t need to yell to be frightening; he’s scariest when he smiles. The little look of frustration he gives when the first match doesn’t light might be my favorite moment in an episode filled with great moments. The banality of it, in contrast to the horror with which Karl is being threatened, makes it that much more real.
Karl’s final betrayal, leaving Charlie at Kunjani like Jesus at Gethsemane, was his most painful. Surely he knew in the woods that Ren was right: even if Karl didn’t talk, they’d find out about Charlie eventually. But here… I think Karl had really convinced himself that they just wanted to talk with Charlie. Seeing the guns and realizing his role, it’s a wonder he didn’t hang himself.
Charlie Was an Official Pastry Judge
Maybe it’s just me, but Charlie’s irritation and impatience with himself tonight seems like a commentary about the progress of the show to this point from Robert Wertheimer and the new writers. He’s irritated that he’s been sitting around wasting his time instead of digging hard into Vexcor. That’s a similar assessment to the one we’ve had. Rather than being an active agent in his story, Charlie’s been sitting back, waiting for people to come to him.
I’m exaggerating to a point, but the first eight episodes were far less about Charlie looking for answers than they were about Charlie reacting to Beta. Even in “Diamonds”, where he and Karl learned Vexcor is planning to implant chips in everyone, Charlie didn’t make his discovery through some deep investigation of Vexcor. He made it trying to get back his stolen ring.
Tonight, Charlie’s taking the fight straight to Vexcor.
A drive around town with Karl to take photos of Vexcor construction sites turns up nothing unusual. They could be up to something nefarious, or could just be expanding. Then it hits him. Mapping the sites, Charlie sees they form a perfect circle under Cape Town. Vexcor is replacing the link site in the desert with an even larger site right under the city.
While Karl has his encounter with Ren, Charlie checks out Vexcor’s home office. Unable to get past the building’s firewalls from the outside, he sneaks in. First he overhears some employees discussing Julius’s new office – the “temple” – and the link home. then he connects his phone/tricorder/sonic screwdriver to the network. What I couldn’t tell was whether he tapped and took it, or if he left it connected for now.
Regardless, Charlie heads underground. Karl’s been burned and would be in too much danger if he stayed around, and Charlie needs to sow confusion within Vexcor by making them wonder if he’s an employee of one of their Alphaverse competitors.
This also means Charlie’s going to have to stay away from Paula for now, but she makes that both easier and harder by telling him to stay away permanently. He stalks her and almost decks her dad and she thinks he’s dreamy. He kills a few Vexcor security agents in her restaurant and suddenly he’s bad news? Man, women are fickle.
Realistically, Paula’s been a complication that doesn’t add much to the story, so it’s no wonder the writers took this opportunity to get rid of her. More time for Jasmine, now.
01 ♥ Essa
We started off this week where we left off at the end of “Devotion”, with 01 Boxer wounded and hopped off to Gamma.
By the way, this might be the best, last chance to see that third tap in the shower. So rewind and take a look.
01 stumbles into a beach house, bloodied and weak, and makes his way upstairs. As he collapses, a woman sees him and screams. Knowing 01’s history with the fair sex, we might assume this poor woman is frightened by the intrusion of the strange, bleeding man. That’s a nice bit of sleight-of-hand from the writers, as we’ll find out by episode’s end that the woman is in fact 01’s wife and mother to his two children.
The crazy sociopath is a loving family man in Gamma. Bet my wife wishes *I* lived in Gamma. Hell, 01 probably takes out the trash without being asked, he’s so downright decent in that ‘verse.
So what gives? Well, we know that 01’s trying to protect Gamma from whatever evil plans Vexcor has for it. That’s one reason for him to put himself through the obvious torment of the other ‘verses. In addition, last week we saw the bargain he’s made with the devil, his father, to trade his blood for his mother’s remaining possessions. Presumably all the bargaining power Brion Boxer has over his son revolves around those items.
From his fever dreams, we can see 01 is not a man happy with who he is. Filled with provocative images and an underlying Oedipal theme, his convalescence is more for the psychic wounds he’s suffered so long away from home than the physical injuries. Reborn by episode’s end, 01 looks ready to tackle Vexcor, his father, and Essa with newly restored clarity of purpose and sanity.
Reena and her Party Dress
Speaking of provocative images, this is the first time we’ve seen Reena smile since… um, I guess that set of photo booth pictures? Seriously? It took over two months to let Patricia McKenzie smile. Two months of misery, pain, torture (literally), and guilt. Tonight she smiled. And wore a dress. Personally, I think she should wear dresses all the time, but that’s got less to do with Reena and more to do with my crush on P-Mac.
This week she did have to come to grips with the loss of Rosalie, but knowing her friend’s gone to a better place makes it easier on her. Burying her in the backyard was probably not amongst her happiest moments in life, but if the body is just a vessel, she can take comfort that Rosalie’s soul has transcended.
We also had a few small signs of what’s to come ahead. The water in Rosalie’s house appears to be turned off. Presumably other essential services – phone and electricity – will be soon to follow. Beyond that, Reena knows she’s but a temporary guest here. She can’t stay too long before someone realizes what’s happened. She figured that out when she skipped to answer the phone, then let it keep ringing.
Reena’s going to be moving on soon. But at least she’ll have money from her new job at Vexcor thanks to Rosalie’s final gift: her identity.
Charlie’s going to go back to the mystery of Elliot Krogg. Specifically, what was in Krogg’s report? That’s probably pretty important, as the rogue scientist thought the link was too dangerous to bring up. With Reena inside Vexcor, there should be some interesting events unfolding. Her new job in the mailroom should allow her access to most everyone and everywhere in the building, so it’s going to be interesting to see how “the new face of terror” gets around without being noticed.
Finally, Karl. He’s pretty f’d up right now. It’s going to be a rough road ahead for him.
What did everyone else think?