It’s a television miracle! Charlie became so much less annoying than she was in the Pilot, although isn’t saying a whole lot. Still, I’m not even rooting for her to die anymore! She even looks less annoying, but I don’t know if that makes sense. It also helps that Miles is here now to snark continually whenever Charlie does something stupid or annoying. Makes my job much easier; the snark is already there!
Also handy: there wasn’t a ton of plot movement in this episode, but it was more focused on world and character development, expansion and a potentially promising introduction of a new lady character. We also got more storylines to follow because of groups splitting up, but I think it’s still at a manageable level.
We also got a nice little pre re-cap re-cap at the very beginning, similar to Aaron’s from the Pilot, but with some more detail, including an address to that complaint some people had about guns in the future.
Plus, there were more sword-fights! And Ponyboy! Swordfighting Ponyboy!
Since we are getting distinct and specific plotlines, let’s recap each one on its own.
I’ll start with the new exposity opening. It’s like the “Cylons have a plan” thing from Battlestar. I think it’s narrated by Billy Burke.
We lived in an electric world. We relied on it for everything. And then the power went out. Everything stopped working. We weren’t prepared. Fear and confusion led to panic. The lucky ones made it out of the cities. The government collapsed. Militias took over, controlling the food supplies and stockpiling weapons. We still don’t know why the power went out, but we’re hopeful that someone will come and light the way.”
So, to me, that makes sense, especially if you think about Monroe’s position at the time of the Blackout, not only at a Marine base, but bootcamp for all female Marines and male Marines from east of the Mississippi. That means weapons, lots of food, a lot of people who are learning how to be the best soldiers, subordinate to their commanding officers, and drill Sergeants who are experts at training soldiers. If they have all those resources already, they are much more prepared to go out and force people to give up their guns, or kill them, especially if they control who gets food and if they are led by a likely psychopath like Monroe. Are we cool with that?
That last line too, makes me think I was right about someone becoming the “savior” figure, although I don’t know if it will end up being Miles or Charlie. Could be interesting either way (Miles as reluctant hero, becoming arch-enemy of his former BFF, or Charlie as the young, inexperienced leader with too much responsibility).
Down to the recap now.
Charlie, Maggie and Aaron are chilling out on the road until they hear swordfighting and suddenly realize that Miles isn’t there. Okay, that was dumb. They find him fighting with Ponyboy, a bounty hunter. Miles knocks him unconscious and is about to kill him but bleeding heart Charlie is dumb and asks him not too. She doesn’t understand the meaning of “in cold blood”. It’s not in cold blood if it’s a bounty hunter who wants to kill and/or maim you. Miles gives in to her Bambi eyes and instead just ties him up inside a train boxcar. Not!Nate is lurking close-by.
More trekking, off to a camp called the Pontiac Market. It’s got everything: an ox, cheap illicit drugs, obligatory black preacher on a soapbox talking about our “electric Tower of Babel”, random beatings by the Militia. It’s the hottest club in town.
Miles is there to find someone to help out with the mission named Nora Clayton, but surprise! Ponyboy escaped. Miles is ready to fight it out, but they’ve taken Charlie, Maggie and Aaron hostage. Damn personal/family connections. So inconvenient for rogue cowboys. Though Miles/Maggie!
Miles lets himself get arrested rather than having Charlie’s throat get slit, but then has a fun market fight scene, and getting information about Nora’s whereabouts from Ponyboy before he snaps his neck. Aw, stay golden. Charlie is sad at Miles for doing what he does best; Miles looks more perturbed than he really ought to.
Campfire. Maggie picks open Miles’ handcuffs, while he snarks away. “You know it was probably all my fault. Yeah, it was, I blame myself… It went like clockwork… Charlie, next time I tell you I want to kill somebody, let me kill ‘em. She’s gonna get herself killed.” No shit.
He’s learned his lesson though: he’ll go get Nora on his own and meet up with them in two weeks in Lowell, Indiana. Nora is important for the Mission to Save Danny because she “really good at blowing stuff up.” So she’s like Fiona, yes? Of course, in the morning, Maggie and Aaron wake up to find Charlie has snuck away to go find Miles. Maggie wants to go after her, but apparently Charlie is an “experienced hunter”, while they are not, so they won’t find her, but she’ll probably find Miles.
Aaron has faith they’ll see her again, but Maggie’s got angst about kids and not being able to see them. Last night, when looking for her swiss army knife, Aaron found her useless brick of an old iPhone. She keeps it with her because “somewhere inside are the only pictures of my kids”. This is why you should get some prints from Walgreens, yo. She’s starting to have trouble even remembering their faces, and so she has trouble with who they’ll ever see again. Anna Lise Phillips is pretty great in that scene.
Later on, Aaron confesses that Ben gave him the tech usb necklace with instructions to give it to Grace Beaumont in Grant Park Illinois (the lady whose house Danny crashed at last episode, the one who already has a necklace), though Ben didn’t say why. Aaron and Maggie speculate about whether they could get the power back on, especially if the blackout was man-made. That’s all we get of them this week.
While they talk, Grace is typing away on her computer. There’s a list that speeds by quickly, and I’m the kind of OCD person who pauses to read minutia like this. There’s code, and then it starts to encrypt a string of names. Included: Rachel Matheson (Charlie’s mom), Grace Beaumont, Randall, Mirjam Bonnet-Brew, Erin Hunter, Roger Lively, Beth Robinson-Bromley, Michael Dooling, Doug Sloan, Luke Conner, Billy Frank, Doug Neerdink, Matthew Jacobs, George Mata, Amy Tipton, Paul Markovich, Sam Ogden, Rick Clark, Rudy Persico, Ian Prange, Scott Oberholzer, Sean Bozeman, Alex Ostapiej, Ross Burchfield, Daivd Moxness, David Stockton, Matt Doll and Mike Repeta. Just in case you’re wondering. Maybe it’s important, maybe not.
Danny, Captain Neville and The Merry Militia Band: on the road again, they hear a gunshot echoing through the woods and go to find a guy who shot a deer. The issue is that he used a gun, which is no bueno, according to The Baltimore Act: “It shall be unlawful for any citizen of the Monroe Republic to buy, sell, own or transport any firearm, except loyal Militia, of course.” The penalty: death. Way harsh. The dude gives up his shotgun, but that’s not good enough for Crazy Captain Neville, who demands the house be searched. Dude freaks, pulls out another gun and shoots the closest Militia soldier, and then Neville shoots him. They find an American flag in the house. “Burn it. Burn everything.” Too bad we don’t actually see that on camera; what a shitstorm that would’ve caused.
The Militia boy who got shot didn’t die right away, so later on Neville gives him some poison to euthanize him. He’s almost kind in his way: “Don’t be [scared]… Where you’re going you’ll be warm and rested and fed. You’ll be with your family. And the best part? You’ll bask in the brightest, most beautiful light.” I sense a motif developing. Danny observes all of this silently.
They bury the fallen soldier, complete with a stick cross marker and Neville finishes Psalm 23 and the soldiers all say Amen, which is interesting. Religion/faith is always interesting in post-apocalyptic stories, and I think it’s notable that it’s persisted, at least in this group, post-Blackout. I wonder how other people stand on the issue in this show.
Danny scoffs at Neville’s prayer, and he menaces at him to spit it out: “have some conviction”. Yep, I’m sure that’s a good idea. Neville believes that the Monroe Militia is the one thing standing between them and total anarchy; even if it’s just a “finger in the dam”, it’s the only order they have left, so boo Danny not liking Neville’s actions. Danny’s thinks he’s deluding himself, and that the truth is that Neville just likes to kill because he’s a murderer and a psycho. It’s usually my policy not to call people out on being murdering psychos, because of exactly what happens next. They sure are doing a great job of making Neville super freaking scary.
Charlie: tracking Miles. Slips and falls under a bridge and appears to have sprained her ankle. Not!Nate appears and offers to take a look at her injury, but she was totally faking! Best thing Charlie’s done so far. She handcuffs him to an old payphone. They re-establish that he’s Militia, that he’s following her to follow Miles, because his orders are to bring him back alive.
When she asks he admits his name is Not!Nate. She asks why he saved her last episode, even though he has orders. Duh, because we are both relatively young and attractive and we need some star-crossed lovers! Seesh.
Charlie actually does catch up to Miles, and manages not to get killed by doing something stupid like sneaking up on him. Charlie explains why she needs to come with him to help find Danny, and has some self-actualization. She has been responsible for taking care of Danny since the Blackout, never letting him out of her sight until the day the Militia came and took him because she “was off pouting like some brat”. Wow show, I’m impressed. She feels so guilty about Danny and her dad that she can’t sleep, and of course Miles relents and lets her tag along.
They find the Militia prison work camp, which is actually not a camp, but a group of prison slaves forced to drag along a helicopter. The “crazy son of a bitch” Monroe must actually think he can get the power going and having a helicopter would be a pretty big score. Miles’ friend Nora is there; a guy in front of her collapses and gets shot when he doesn’t get up. Miles: “I might be good with a sword, but I got jack-squat against a rifle like that.”
Night: Charlie distracts the guard while Miles goes to get Nora. When he goes to pick the lock on her shackle, she’s already done that. They get out, but Nora didn’t want or need to be rescued. She got arrested on purpose; she’s on a job to steal the guard’s sniper rifle to sell on the black market. Introductions are made. Nora: “You have family?” Miles: “Most people do.”
Miles was supposed to keep away from Nora for some reason, but “things are different now”. Charlie talks about her annoyingness and need to get Danny, but somehow I’m thinking there’s something else that’s different for Miles. Anyway, he wants Nora to come along to help, and apparently she owes him for something, she knows what for. She agrees, but first they’re getting the rifle.
Nora rigs up a gun thing to shoot the warden, one that straps to your wrist but it only works from a foot away. Nora and Miles can’t sneak up in broad daylight because their faces are known, so Charlie volunteers. Miles tells her he can’t do it, not out of concern for her safety, but because she “actually cannot do it. You will choke. You who bitched about me killing somebody in cold blood? You’re just going to walk up, shoot somebody in the face, for a sniper rifle?” For Charlie it’s not about the gun, or Miles, or Nora, but about the 30 innocent (eh? idk) people down there working as slaves, and it’s insane to her that neither of them have mentioned that. Oh, the humanity! That was a nicely shot scene btw; nice framing.
Charlie gets rigged up and shares some intense looks with Miles. She approaches, gets walked up to the Warden. Here’s where the flashbacks actually have direct parallels, so I’ll run down those. 1 week post-blackout the Matheson clan began their trek out of the city. Little Charlie wanted to wear her ballet slippers, which was cute. Mom Rachel gives Charlie her life mission, to “never let go of Danny’s hand”. They get to ride in a wagon through the streets of Chicago, which are not looking super great.
On their way out, they stop by the University of Chicago’s Department of Computer Science, because “Daddy had to get some things from our work.” So they both were there. Little Charlie’s playing with a basketball, but when it rolls away she gets caught in the clutches of some tweaker looking dude in a suit who demands all of their food or he’ll smash Charlie’s face in/snap her neck.
Slow-mo of Charlie’s approach to the warden, and she looks so much like Tricia Helfer here its crazy. Flash to Daddy Ben coming outside. He points a gun at the tweaker, but dude uses Charlie as a shield, walks her back to Mom and takes the food wagon. Daddy Ben goes as far as cocking the gun, but we see where Charlie gets her bleeding heart from; he can’t go through with it.
The warden asks where Charlie’s from and she remembers the tweaker being shot dead, but not by her Dad.
And Charlie may have gotten her Dad’s heart, but she also got some of her Mom’s bad-assery.
She shoots the warden and dives for the rifle, but another soldier dives on her and she’s basically int he same position as at the end of the fight last week. Thankfully, girlfriend don’t need Not!Nate; she finally hits him off and shoots him dead with the rifle.
Miles and Nora have also come in to take out the other guards. Two sword fights in one episode! This show loves me. And Nora is just as awesome a fighter as Miles. Very cool. She does, however, get a small nick on her ribs before the fight’s over (but remember, Miles got the cut on his back last week).
The prisoners have been freed, and now Charlie’s sitting and looking sad, staring at the body of the dude(s) she shot. Miles comes by to admit she did good, but killing guys is not an everyday sort of thing for her like it is for Miles. She wishes they didn’t have to do this, that the world was different. Miles gets a tiny bit sentimental; I think he’s starting to see his brother in her.
MILES: You are very unusual.
CHARLIE: What’s that supposed to mean?
MILES: It’s not an insult, Charlie
Nora’s taken her shirt off to clean her wound, which gives Miles a look at the American flag tattoo on her back, which he curses at. Also, Miles is dressed like a pirate; I like it. He surmises that she didn’t steal the sniper rifle to sell, but to give to the Resistance. She’s changed since they last saw each other, joined the Rebels, a bunch of “bleeding hearts” according to Miles, “patriots trying to bring back the United States”. Miles tells her she’ll get lynched on the spot for this, but she thinks maybe she’ll at least get to take out Monroe first. How come no one ever thinks about the power vacuum?
Speaking of General Monroe and the Resistance, he comes by a tent in his camp where Sergeant Strausser/Johnny Crowder is torturing/interrogating a Rebel prisoner. Monroe comes in to be good cop (“We’re not animals”) and asks where the Rebel base is; also introduces himself as “President” so that’s funny. Apparently the Rebels bomb Militia camps, killing his men and Monroe just wants the violence to stop. I’m so sure. He calls the Rebels terrorists. “Don’t people have the right to be safe? Happy?” “People aren’t happy. They’re scared to death of you. But I’m not.” A nice spit in the face would have been good here. Monroe picks up a knife and stabs the Rebel in the throat, with scary, cold creepiness in spades. Man, he played a huge asshole on ER, but this is way different.
At the end of the episode, we get a nice cliffhanger and a twist (if not a particularly surprising one). First, Grace is still typing away. I think she’s just playing Pong. Actually, we get a peek at some sketches and schematics on the desk, possible of some sort of arc reactor, power generator thing. That’s just my wild guess. She hears a knock at the door and shuts down the computer to go answer it. We don’t see the visitors face, but when he turns around to say hello, Grace freaks out, slams the door and runs upstairs.
She boots up the computer again as the man kicks in the door and stomps up to the attic. She gets connected to the chat and has just enough time to type her message out: “Randall is here.” Randall has a Power Pendant too, and a cattle prod. I’ve got a bad feeling about this. (Note that Randall with no last name was on the list that was encrypted along with Grace’s own name and Rachel Matheson).
Speaking of. Monroe enters a gorgeous huge church with a clock tower and unlocks a door; he’s there to see Rachel! As in Matheson! As in the artist formerly thought the be dead! Not a huge shock, but I’m happy because Liz Mitchell is awesome. Monroe’s apparently keeping her under house arrest, but nice house arrest, where she can have wine and ice.
Monroe says it’s nice to see her, to see anyone who knew him from “the old days”. She also calls him Bass, which is what Miles called him in the car. Now I’m really curious as to how and when Bass, Miles, Rachel and probably Ben spent time together. Pre or post-blackout? Rachel: “You were a womanizing drunk and I liked you a lot better then.” Monroe: “Everyone did. Miles did. Hell I think even I did.”
He delivers the bad news of her husband’s death. She thinks it’s a lie, but no. She also thinks Monroe killed Ben, but he claims it’s the last thing he ever wanted, and he apologizes. They’re not finished though, because now Monroe has her son. Liz Mitchell’s face here, oh my god. Fantastic. She tries to stab him with her fountain pen, but it’s no match for a Marine. “No more games, Rachel. You want to see your boy again you’re going to talk. About Ben, about the power, about everything, you understand?” There’s also a hint of some creepy vibes going on there. Not cool.
So, thoughts? I’m okay with the 2nd episode. Really, just the fact that they made Charlie not such a bratty idiot makes me happy, but also Miles continuing to be the snarky best, along with more bits of the mystery with Randall and Rachel. Plus, next week looks like includes a great guest (?) star and the likely validation of my theory about Miles.