Your favorite summer TV binging couple is back for more! Last year, my boyfriend Frank and I tackled the first season of SyFy/Amazon’s The Expanse together – – two different perspectives on the same show, one from one person who’s seen it, the other watching it for the first time. Who just happen to be dating.
This year, we’re taking a look at the TNT adaptation of Top Cow’s Witchblade comic, which aired on the network from 2001 – 2002. And just like last year, this is a show Frank has watched, and I haven’t. Hilarity is bound to ensue (again). The series follows NYPD detective Sara “Pez” Pezzini and her adventures with the titular Witchblade, which gives her powers to fight supernatural evil and those who want the Witchblade for themselves.
Pez and Jake search for a congressman’s missing daughter, while Jake shows signs of turning to the dark side. It should go without saying at this point given age, but spoilers within.
Kate’s Five Thoughts
1. The Curious Case of Kenneth Irons
Early on in this adventure, I posited that Kenneth Irons was a time traveler. While I still believe that to a degree (or that perhaps Ian is the time traveler), “Conundrum” proves that Kenneth, like Dominique earlier in the season, also pulls a Melisandre. He’s been using Elizabeth Bronte’s blood to help stay alive, but it’s no longer working. Hence why he needs Pez’s blood.
Now we certainly could have done without the injections right in the eye (Frank to me during that scene: “I’m so glad we’re done with eating dinner already.”) but there’s a curious piece of dialogue that may answer Ian’s earlier remark about him and Pez being “flesh and blood.” One of the doctors remarks that Kenneth was part of the “process” that created Ian. Does Ian have both Bronte’s DNA and Kenneth’s DNA? And knowing that Bronte and Pez are essentially one and the same, does this make them related? Siblings? Mother and son? Something else?
This could be a subtle hint of sorts to the romantic relationship between Kenneth and Pez that did come to pass in the comics.
2. Douglas Adams Was Right
“A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have . . . any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is is clearly a man to be reckoned with.” – – Douglas Adams
This episode taught Jake the Lesson of Douglas Adams: always know where your towel is. Like when your stressed out partner who is trying to stay one step ahead of the corrupt cops that want to kill her breaks into your apartment for an interrogation about your own motives and loyalties and you’re in the shower. (Although, that was a nice shot of Bucky With the Good Hair’s ass. Certainly proves why David Chokachi had four very successful years on Baywatch prior to this show. )
I’d be curious to know from my better half if that scene, with full back nudity, aired just as we saw it on the DVD when it aired on TNT in 2001. I feel like nudity is a bit more commonplace and comfortable on basic cable today (and when it comes to pay cable we all know the “it’s not porn, it’s HBO” joke), but nearly two decades ago, that had to be a novelty.
(This concludes your Dirty Old Woman moment for this week.)
3. Pez Is So Dumb Part 2: Electric Boogaloo
I appreciate that Pez is summoning her courage to the sticking place and not cowering in fear to the White Bulls. She’s smart in how she covers her tracks, but it wasn’t really the best idea to bring Gabriel into this mess. You know, it almost got him killed. She may have been in need of whatever information Gabriel could provide from his contacts about that bullet casing from the White Bulls, but it was not worth the price of an innocent man’s life.
Though by the end of this episode, she doesn’t appear to want to live in fear anymore, telling the cop that was ready to take her in on Dante’s orders that he’d have to come get him herself. When I first watched that I was all “go Pez! Don’t let them make you run away and hide!” The more I think about it, I realize it’s not a good idea. It’s Pez showing off her bravado to a group that’s just waiting for her to walk into their trap. Don’t let desperation and a sense of invincibility rule out over your own intelligence and that of the Witchblade, Sara Pezzini. You have the Blade, but you’re not unstoppable, not a Porsche with no breaks.Continued below
4. Something Something Congressman’s Missing Daughter Plot Plot Plot Plot Plot
The case of the week in this episode is as cut and as dry as one can get. Jake is charged by the White Bulls to find a congressman’s missing college-age daughter, with Pez using her Witchblade abilities to help him along in exchange for his help with staying one step ahead of the White Bulls. It wraps up predictably with the killer being a dude who preyed on college coeds by posing as a tutor or department advisor. And that’s all you really need to know in those two sentences.
Just like many of the other cases this season, it provides a means to an end. It provides Pez with leverage to get Jake to help her: the old “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” relationship. There’s a few moments where the Witchblade jumps into action, but it’s not one of those cases with more supernatural ties, where the Witchblade can really show off, such as in “Sacrifice” or “Legion” (by far my favorite of the season). I hope we see more episodes like those in Season 2.
5. Well, Then. Jake.
Damn. Didn’t really see Jake being an FBI agent on assignment to infiltrate and take down the White Bulls. I mean, I did have little inkling moments in the back of my head to give Bucky With the Good Hair the benefit of the doubt in his intentions with the White Bulls. But my general dislike of Jake the Doofus, and all his bonehead moves won out. He had everyone fooled, Pez too. Talk about a good acting job! And both of us now have a sigh of relief for we know which side Jake’s bread is buttered.
But can Pez still trust him? Remember that Nottingham claims Jake will betray her. If that is true, how? Does Jake betray her secret of the Witchblade to the NYPD, and now they’re after it too?
– If University of New York is supposed to be a stand-in for NYU . . . well that looked more like a suburban college campus, or one in one of the outer boroughs, that the urban university int he heart of Greenwich Village. (It actually reminded me a fair bit of the main campus in Brooklyn of Pratt Institute, my alma mater for my graduate degree.)
– Not necessarily an afterthought about the episode itself, but if you’re going to be at Flame Con this weekend in New York City and want to chat this episode or Witchblade in general with me, I’ll be there both days. Look for the bright red hair (or on Sunday, Top Gun’s Maverick cosplay) and come say hi!
Frank’s Five Thoughts
1. When the Blood Burns, How Prodigal the Soul
Kenneth Irons is a creepy SOB. We have already seen his supernatural voyeurism of Pez’s life thanks to his psychic connection with the WitchBlade. It turns out that he is even creepier. Throughout the series, we have been presented with the mystery of how Irons appears in historical photos unchanged and this episode finally gives us the explanation for how this is possible. Irons has been injecting himself with the blood of Elizabeth Bronte, the proper wielder of the WitchBlade before Pez. If injecting oneself with the blood of a dead woman is not creepy enough for you, let’s also consider the fact that he actually kept Elizabeth Bronte in a freezer for her blood. Anyone else would just have vials of the blood or maybe the more gruesome would have the body in a morgue freezer, but Irons kept Bronte posed on a chaise lounge in a big icy chamber with glass walls… for 50 plus years.
So, Irons has been injecting himself with Bronte’s blood through the years to maintain his youthful vigor, what has changed that leads to him being aged and bound to a wheelchair? The doctor administering the injections says that be believes Irons is starting to develop a tolerance to the blood. I think it is something very different though. We first start seeing Irons’ descent into decrepitude right after Pez successfully passes the Periculum. This was the point where she fully takes on the mantle of the WitchBlade and likely when any residual power in Bronte’s body passes to Pez. This is why the treatments no longer work, because Bronte’s blood no longer hold any power.Continued below
2. Case of the Week
Despite all the stuff going on with the White Bulls, the continued mysteries of the WitchBlade, and Irons’ plotting, the show tries to find space for another random case of the week. I guess this is an artifact of the era that this show was made – there was still the idea that a show needed to have some sort of episodic content, no matter how much it draws away from the main narrative. It was very clunky here and served no real purpose beyond giving forcing Pez out of her defense against the White Bulls. I believe this gratuitous plot would also come under considerable criticism today, since it was the assault and murder of a young woman for nothing but a little titillation in the first scene. The show already has a woman problem, as I expressed last episode, and it just compounds it with this lazy unnecessary story.
3. Captain Dante and the White Whale
Dante has become incredibly fixated on Pez and the danger she poses to him and his vigilante organization. He is pulling all the resources he can to hunt her down, even if it means the disappearance of a Congressman’s daughter is placed in a rookie’s lap. Dante’s anger and obsession stems from fear. Pez has shown herself to be an exceptionally capable cop and slips through his net, despite everything he is throwing at her. Additionally, she violated the sanctity of his house and bed. All of this leads to Dante getting more frustrated and sloppier in his hunt for Pez.
4. Stretched Thin
Pez’s resources are getting spread thin, though, especially when she offers assistance in the episode’s nothing plot. This is why she is incapable of protecting Gabriel when he is taken by Dante’s goons. Despite her demonstrated ability to warp around NYC, it is still impossible for Pez to be in two places at the same time. This leads to Gabriel, who had done some investigation for her regarding the etched bullets, to be targeted by Orlinsky and another goon who kidnap and question him. When the goons are done, they are prepared to shoot Gabriel. The show draws out this moment, interspersing scenes of Pez chasing down the nothing plot’s killer and we’re left wondering if we going to see Gabriel killed because Pez got him involved in this investigation. Finally, the show gives us the trope where we are meant to believe that the assailant fired their gun, until they collapse and we see the real shooter. In this case, it was Jake who ends up saving Gabriel.
5. Undercover Brother
We FINALLY get to the reveal that I have been waiting for since the start of this season. Throughout season 1 there has been hints that Jake has some secrets he has kept close to his chest, even before he got recruited by Dante and the White Bulls. And it finally got revealed here that he has been an undercover FBI agent the whole freakin’ time! I mean it isn’t a reveal like the Red Wedding (I’m still rather proud how I was able to keep THAT a secret from Kate) [Kate: he’s still talking about how he was able to do that], but it definitely is paradigm changing. Right before he revealed this by casually handing his badge to Pez, she had been lamenting that she had no avenue to take down the White Bulls and that Dante had her over a barrel. But that changes, because she has a personal FBI agent in her pocket now.
We’ll see you next week for the first season finale (and the final episode for this year’s Summer TV Binge), “Transcendence,” and let us know what you thought of the episode in the comments!