“Step in the Arena”
Written by Charles Murray
Directed by Vincenzo Natali
The entire corner of the building above Ghengis Connie’s collapsed on top of the blown up restaurant. Misty wants to check the street cam in case it caught the explosion. We get flashbacks to when Luke was in prison. He hated it, because he was innocent. Also, that was before he got his powers. He met Reva when she came to lead group discussions. He did not like her at first. He got beat up in his cell, but got the better of his attackers. A super shady guard offers to essentially make Luke a gladiator in exchange for his eventual (but earlier) freedom. In the present, he wakes up under the rubble. Connie’s alive too! In the flashbacks, Luke was letting his hair get shaggier and shaggier. He dared Reva to own up to her own responsibility if she was asking them to do it. She didn’t like that, but she wanted to talk to him about it. She realized he was actually innocent. The other inmates were worried prisoners were being experimented on. Luke and Reva got flirtier. The guard ordered Luke’s friend attacked nearly fatally to blackmail Luke into signing up to fight. There’s a boxing ring in the utility room or whatever, and they upload the footage to the internet for lots of money. Boxing keeps him away from group, which concerns Reva. In the present, Misty’s still trying to find proof Cottonmouth blew up Genghis Connie’s, and Scarfe is trying to sneakily sabotage her. In the past, Luke urged Reva to leave the prison for good so the shady guard couldn’t use her against him. Luke (still Carl Lucas) drew the attention of Shades, who helped beat very incriminating info out of Luke’s friend Squabbles (and killed him). Shades and his buddy beat Luke almost to death. Reva begged the scary experimenting doctor to use his methods to save Luke. The machine was like a combination of a tanning bed and an MRI scanner, and lots of liquid was involved. The scary guard found the doctor mid-experiment and screwed with the process. Which actually made it more effective. That’s how he got his powers. He then proceeded to literally punch his way out of prison. Just like how in the present he’s punching his and Connie’s way free of the rubble. Reva helped him make his new identity. In the present, cameras and reporters surround Luke after he pulls Connie out of the rubble. He’s not going to be able to keep his head down anymore.
I like the contrast between Luke and Cottonmouth. All Cottonmouth got out of the Bible was eye for an eye. Luke took much more of it to heart, particularly messages from the New Testament about healing and helping individuals and communities. I hope this continues to be a motif for the rest of the season. I also really enjoyed the Luke/Reva stuff. It felt very organic.
Things I Liked
Luke used to be a cop? Dang! And he used to be Carl Lucas. And his dad was a preacher! What’s particularly interesting about his backstory is that unlike Jessica, Luke didn’t get burned out on the hero game from being a superhero; he got burned out on it from being a normal hero, some kind of cop. So when he became an actual superhero, he already didn’t want to go anywhere near that life, because it could only come with exponentially worse fallout than being an average hero.
I think the reason Reva didn’t tell any of the prisoners anything about the experiments is that she genuinely believes the research is for a good cause—and hey, it’s meant to accelerate the healing process, so it’s even good in the moment. And it’s classified. She believes in it, which is why she protects it. I don’t think she would’ve just kept it secret because it was part of her job.
The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.