An eye for an eye, a deal for a deal. Newly forged alliances are already souring as personal agendas beget wondrous, catastrophic chaos. On one hand, we have Alex striking a bargain with Julian, a dyad who may be of two minds but who is of a singular, deadly purpose: the destruction of an archangel—in this case, Gabriel. But to do so, he needs to use Alex as bait, who in turn will use Michael as bait to lure his brother into a trap. It’s a tricky, exhaustive business, these many double-crosses. But as we know, everyone has something to gain from this dirty business, namely revenge.
In Julian’s case, his revenge for being cast out has been millennia in the making. He seems to relish revealing his true identity to Michael. And if I were Lyrae, I’d revel in the irony a bit as well. Were it not for Michael, a powerful dyad like Julian wouldn’t even exist. And without Julian, New Delphi wouldn’t exist. Julian takes great care to spell this out for Michael, ignoring the fact that the archangel has seen the error of his own ways. What matters to Julian is the here and now, and in the here and the now Michael is finally at a distinct disadvantage, trapped as he is by razor-sharp nets of Empyrean steel.
This is one of the few times we’ve seen Michael so helpless or so vulnerable, and it’s heartbreaking. It’s also necessary, from a storytelling standpoint, to weaken the powerful. We’ve seen this sort of thing happen with Superman and kryptonite; sometimes gods must be laid low in order to make them more relatable by making them more human. Stagnation and complacency are byproducts of infallible characters and do little to stir the dramatic pot, as it were.
While I do think Michael unknowingly walked into a trap, let’s consider for a moment that he allowed himself to be tricked. Maybe he wanted Alex to see that even archangels make mistakes, that they, too, can follow their hearts down dangerous paths. Which leads me to Gabriel, who has his own (seemingly) misplaced loyalties.
We know that Gabriel sees Michael’s continued loyalty to Alex as a liability. For better or ill, he is the one human who can do no wrong in Michael’s eyes. But as we also know, Alex is no mere mortal; he is a savior in the making, a physical embodiment of God’s enigmatic message to His befuddled creations. The mysterious markings symbolize hope just as much as they signify its absence to those who seek divinity in signs big and small. Mankind is lost in the absence of God’s grace; so, too, are the angels of every order. But in Michael’s case, in standing by Alex, he is allowing his own brother to fall.
Again, credit must be given to Carl Beukes, for making viewers care so much about Gabriel. For most of the first season, Gabriel was portrayed as the big bad, but in reality, he was suffering from deep, psychic wounds that drove him to act desperately. This, too, is heartbreaking in its own way. And now, charging in after Michael, he, too, finds himself trapped not only by Empyrean steel, but by his own heart. He loves Michael, and Michael him—but to what end?
As for David Whele, it would seem he has undergone a sudden change of heart. No longer is he aiding Zoe and her rebels as a means to an end. Sure, he looked to be double-crossing them when he met with Arika—and in that moment, he was serving his own best interests, namely survival. But once he came into possession of the stolen C-4, he realized his true purpose was not to save Vega, but to divide it. It’s a credit to Anthony Head that he is able to sell this moment as much as he does, because this 180 felt a bit disingenuous to me. Yes, he despises Claire enough to bring civil war to Vega, but David Whele is also a selfish monster. Does he suddenly fancy himself the father of a fiery rebirth through revolution? I guess we’ll have to wait to see what happens.
Some closing thoughts:
Another issue I had with tonight’s episode was the oddly truncated timeline. One moment Claire is talking about putting a bounty on Zoe’s head, and in what seems like minutes, her fellow rebels are already gunning for her. While that might not seem so odd, the fact that flyers detailing said bounty have already been printed and distributed struck me as a bit silly. Yes, I realize I am nitpicking about photocopied flyers in a show that trucks in supernatural angel-on-angel violence, but small details like this matter. If we’re to buy into the fantastical, the mundane must make sense.
I like that something still seems to be building between Claire and Gates. Like I said last week, the two characters have an interesting chemistry together—but will things go beyond a simple kiss, now that Gates knows that the Lady of the City is pregnant?