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.
The world of Witchblade gets its Exorcist on in “Legion.” It should go without saying at this point given age, but spoilers within.
Kate’s Five Thoughts
1. Talking Bout My Generation
Why yes, that is the frontman of The Who himself, Roger Daltrey, guest starring in this episode as Father Del Toro, a priest who may not be a man of the cloth fully committed to the light. This wasn’t the first time Daltrey took a walk on the darker side in his acting pursuits that year; he played the Devil in the TV movie Strange Frequency 2 (though that did not come out until 2002).
2. The Power of Christ Compels You
The case of the week features a murdered monsignor, a suspect who may or may not be possessed, an actual demonic possession, and the connections between the Witchblade, the Catholic Church, and World War II. (You finally find out here how the Witchblade ended up in Hitler’s possession.) When Frank cued this up on our DVD set, he said to me “I think you’re going to like this one,” and by far he was right. While not a practicing Catholic (shh no one tell my mom, okay?) I always find comfort in the religious traditions of my upbringing, and I remain fascinated by the faith. The deeper historical connection grounds the series more in the real world while simultaneously heightening the supernatural elements. (In fact, Pez questions Father Del Toro about the church’s recent apology for its role in the Holocaust.)
Putting this episode in cultural context, we’re also only about five or six years off the conclusion of what was a controversial storyline featuring demonic possession and exorcism on the American soap opera Days of Our Lives (I remember several TV stations refusing to air the show as a result and tapes of episodes going around my high school classmates like hotcakes), and only three years off of the 25th anniversary of The Exorcist. The Devil is front and center in the pop culture zeitgeist.
3. Pez Versus the NYPD (Again)
Like last week, Pez and the NYPD come to blows about how they handle the “suspect” in the death of the monsignor, Edward Nolan. During the initial ambush, the Witchblade senses something is amiss about Edward, leading Pez to break cover during the ambush with Edward and shield him from being shot. Even after Edward is arrested, Pez insists they have the wrong man in custody.
Once again, it continues to get harder and harder for Pez to hide the knowledge that the Witchblade gives her. I predict by the end of this season, something will happen – – probably unintentionally; Pez is getting too smart with the skills the Witchblade gives her to do this deliberately – – that will reveal the Witchblade’s hand, and probably put Pez’s life and/or job in danger.
4. All the Boys to the Yard
Pez got that new love glow going on thanks to dating Conchobar, and every man seems to be basking in it. Both Father del Toro and his associate admit to lusting after a woman. Kenneth watches Pez’s intimate moments with Conchobar with creepy interest. Even Jake shows a little jealousy and judgment over his partner’s suddenly hot love life, after complaining about the job leading to a lack of personal life two weeks ago.
Everyone wants her, and her Witchblade, but right now, only one man has her.Continued below
5. A Question of Faith
I don’t believe it’s clear at this point what faith system Pez has, if any. It would have been interesting, albeit a bit of a trope, to have that lens for the events of this episode. Did her encounter with Father Del Toro challenge her faith? Does it make her want to seek out a faith system?
What she does begin to muse upon in the final scene is the idea of reincarnation, starting to question and wonder more and more the idea of past lives. She’s slowly stepping away from that razor’s edge of life that (thanks to her upbringing as a cop’s daughter and her own career choices) colored her decisions, thoughts, and values, believing deeper in the idea that she has a purpose to fulfill.
- My favorite line of the episode: “How about some long overdue penance at my apartment tomorrow night?” – Pez, to Conchobar
- Unless I missed something, it’s never made clear why Edward Nolan calls himself “Legion.” [Frank’s response: It’s from the Bible, says the atheist to the lapsed Catholic]
Frank’s Five Thoughts
1. Supernatural Threats
This is the first time we see Pez and the WitchBlade go up against an actual supernatural foe. In all of the previous encounters, the antagonist has been pretty mundane or enhanced through mundane means. Maybe Dominique Boucher would have been the closest, but even she was just human in the end. In “Legion”, Pez faces off an actual demon (I’m not convinced that it was the actual Devil as it claimed).
In a metanarrative fashion, this challenge for Pez comes at an interesting time. She has had some time with the WitchBlade and is becoming accustomed to the supernatural forces surrounding her now. I feel that her experiences, even against non-powered foes, has opened her mind to more possibilities, so she does not question the idea of demonic possession too much. It works for the viewer as well. We have had several episodes of her dealing with crimes that don’t seem too out of place for a NYPD detective on a fantasy show so much of the setting has been built and presented to us. Now the show is opening up a new avenue by showing there is other powers out there and they are becoming aware of the WitchBlade’s new wielder.
2. Training Wheels
Jake. Jake. Jake. What are we going to do with you and your California surfer boy ways? Once again, Pez is called out to account for her responsibilities as Jake’s training officer. There are several points in this episode when you see him aligning himself next to Captain Dante opposing Pez when she angrily questioned orders to gun down an unarmed suspect. He couldn’t seem to understand why Pez was trying to defend the suspect (there is a lot to say about the casual cruelty from the NYPD in this episode). This was after he received praise from Dante for roughing up another suspect in the last episode. Pez shows her sharpness as an investigator by telling Jake to think about the case from a different direction and he is able to reach a conclusion.
3. The Vatican and the Nazis
“Legion” continues to feed us a little more of the WitchBlade’s past with the Nazis and Elizabeth Bronte. As this episode is centered on the Catholic Church we get information on the Church’s relationship with the WitchBlade. Namely that following the martyr of Joan of Arc, the Church took the artifact into its collection for 500 years. When the Church negotiated with Hitler to protect the Church’s lands and properties in return for turning a blind eye to the Nazi’s atrocities, they gave the WitchBlade to him as an act of goodwill.
When talking with Father Del Toro, Pez brings up this history between the Church and the Nazis. When this episode aired, it was only a year after Pope John Paul II’s apologized for the Church’s role in the Holocaust by inserting a prayer in the Western Wall in Jerusalem. It is historically noteworthy that JPII’s successor, Pope Benedict grew up in Nazi-controlled Germany and was required to join the Hitler Youth. According to accounts, he resisted as much as he could, and even deserted the infantry unit he had been conscripted to later in the war.Continued below
In the greater scheme of WitchBlade‘s narrative, this episode begins to introduce powerful figures and organizations in the world beyond Kenneth Irons and Vorschlag Industries that have an interest in the WitchBlade. It also expands the realms involved from just the real world we are used to seeing so far and entrenches the WitchBlade’s history further into the Judeo-Christian narratives. I kind of regret this latter part, as I do not remember a lot of the episodes diving into some of the more multicultural past of the WitchBlade.
4. Too Big For Her Britches
We are seeing increasing concern from Kenneth Irons that Pez is getting too comfortable with the WitchBlade and becoming too powerful too quickly. He knows that if she comes into the full power of the WitchBlade, there is no way that he will be able to subvert her under his influence. The theme here is clear: a man, Kenneth Irons, desires a power that is only available to women and he will stop at nothing to bring it under his control. The episode highlights how the Catholic Church did the same thing, after bringing down Joan of Arc, they hid the WitchBlade away into their vaults to prevent another woman that could challenge their dominance. Later they passed it to another man that sought dominance over everything he could.
Speaking of becoming more powerful, Pez realizes that since the WitchBlade allows her to speak to the deceased Danny, she could possibly speak to other dead people – maybe even murder victims. She says that it was the best power a homicide detective could ask for. Danny, as her spirit guardian, warns that it may not be a good idea, but he does assist her and brings her the ghost of Monsignor Bellamy.
5. Roger freakin’ Daltrey
I was really excited to see that Roger Daltrey from The Who was guest starring in this episode (and it also reminded me of what this episode was about). Daltrey has done a bunch of roles on TV shows like Highlander, CSI, and Once Upon a Time. Looking at his credits, he also is going to show up again as a different character in Season 2 of WitchBlade. Aside from being a really big fan of The Who, I will always remember as the title role in The Who’s rock opera, Tommy.
We’ll see you next week for “Maelstrom” and let us know what you thought of the episode in the comments!