Tonight’s episode gave a lot for its viewers to chew on by introducing new plot points, deepening an already extensive mythology, and upping the ante yet again. This isn’t just about the build-up to war between Gabriel and New Delphi—the personal stakes are raised for humans and angels alike. No one is safe, and no one is truly secure in this ruined, godless dystopia.
“A Bitter Truth” wove a complicated tapestry involving four separate storylines that all shared a common theme: the forging of unlikely alliances. The first one—between Alex and Julian—is also the most important. Given the build-up to Gabriel’s inevitable siege of New Delphi, an alliance between the merchant city and Vega is a necessary evil if either city has a chance of surviving the unholy onslaught. But in order to achieve said alliance, bitter truths are revealed, namely that Julian is not an 8-ball, as I posited in my review of last week’s episode “The Narrow Gate.” Rather, Julian is revealed to be a dyad—a half human, half higher angel fused together into a single physical being. And, as we know, Julian is inhabited by the cast-out angel Lyrae, by Michael’s hand, no less.
We also find out that the mysterious amphora glimpsed in last week’s episode contains the Plague of Darkness—a plague which can only be unleashed by an angel. The only thing barring Julian from using this weapon was a missing key—the same key Alex was tasked with retrieving from the 8-ball asylum. Not only is this fifth amphora a kind of nuclear bomb that can destroy the entire city, it’s used to lure lower angels to New Delphi. With the help of the angel Rhais, Julian learns how to find homes for the millions of disembodied lower angels to achieve corporeal form. It’s in this way that he has been able to amass a massive army of 8-balls.
To drive this point home, we’re shown an actual possession. Sure, we’ve seen a few evictions, but we’ve never seen a lower angel being pulled from the ether—and it’s pretty creepy, to be honest. It’s Pete who’s possessed (for the second time), and Noma comes close to being next, until she finally busts out some angelic whoop-ass to free herself from her bonds.
I feel like it’s been a while since we’ve seen an angel truly showcase their powers (bulletproof wings, for example). Tonight’s episode gives us a lot more of this, from Noma’s beatdown of their New Delphi captors to Briathos’s siege on Claire and Gates’s makeshift panic room. But more on Claire and Gates’s standoff in a bit.
Another important alliance is the unlikely one formed between Michael and Gabriel. They may be brothers and fellow archangels, but ideologically speaking, they are on opposite sides of the spectrum. They both want to carry out their interpretation of their Father’s will. Michael’s plan involves humility and sacrifice. It also involves reconciling with Alex; Gabriel’s plan is more desperate and more drastic—the extinction of humankind itself. But to do this, he, too, needs Alex or, more specifically, his mysterious tattoos. Either way, they’ll have to go to New Delphi to find him.
And while we’re talking about Gabriel, it’s worth noting that Carl Beukes continues to do a great job as the archangel, bringing a kind of moribund pathos to the role. To say he has daddy issues would be to reduce his character to a punchline, and Gabriel is anything but that. At the end of the day, he longs not only for their errant Father’s return, but the return of His grace as well.
The third alliance is between David Whele and the rebels’ leader, Zoe. While I never really doubted that David would be offed tonight, Zoe still made a pretty serious go of knocking the snot out of him. But David Whele being who he is, makes a pretty good argument for why they need him—mainly because he can turn a ragtag group of rebels into a fearsome force with a shared goal: the death of Claire Riesen. And just like that, David goes from a sniveling, battered victim to the flinty-eyed villain we’ve all come to know and love.
And speaking of Claire, her and Gates’s aforementioned standoff constitutes the fourth alliance—but this one is more of the romantic kind. I’m not bothered by this, if the show is indeed intent on pairing them up. (Yes, I know she is carrying the Chosen One’s child, but she and Gates have an interesting chemistry together.)
It’s in these scenes that we get to see Briathos do some serious damage with his wings. I’d be terrified, too, if I was defending myself against a being that could use its all-purpose wings to cut through cement and steel. Still, Claire and Gates manage to survive another day.
Some closing thoughts:
There’s no reference made to the God-fearing town of Mallory, Alabama, in tonight’s episode. I suppose this makes sense. If Gabriel knew of such a place, he’d surely raze it to the ground. Still, Michael seems none the worse for wear after taking on the entire town’s sins from Laurel, its self-appointed sacrificial lamb. I have to think we’ll see more of her again before the season is over, especially since there’s still a lot we don’t know about Mallory’s mysterious prophet.
Seriously now—is Uriel dead or what? We haven’t seen her yet this season (though feel free to correct me if I’m wrong about this). If she’s so important to her brothers, they need to do more than just speculate about her fate.