Although Episode 4 ended with viewers smack in the middle of Wolfe’s (Eddie Izzard) rampage through his prison, Episode 5 opens in the 90s, at a nightclub where young Christian Walker (Sterling Beaumon) and Johnny Royalle (Sasha Feldman) are buddies scoping out the ladies—one of whom is a sultry Retro Girl (still Michelle Forbes).
This is only the second time in this series when the show has cut to a flashback to show what happened, rather than have characters recount everything. Wolfe is well-dressed, suave, gregarious, and for once, not covered in blood; Johnny is studious-looking rather than sleazy; Retro Girl is, well, pretty much the same as always; and Walker is an honest-to-goodness superhero, his training wheels still attached.
From this idyll, we head back down into the Shaft where the current madness-fueled incarnation of Wolfe continues his terrifying rampage, while guards and cops make their futile attempts to stop him. How dangerous is Wolfe? Several people fire bullets into him point blank, and it doesn't matter.
Seeing Izzard portray Wolfe both before and after his evolution into an insane butcher once again shows why Izzard signed on for this. One moment, he's the smoothie who's got everyone eating out of his hand; the next, he's a blood-soaked prophet eating people’s hands (along with the rest of them).
Various Powers converge on the Shaft, including Zora (Logan Browning), with her management. Retro Girl is running late, helping with rescue efforts on the Gulf Coast where a hurricane rages. So far, all we’ve been shown about Zora is that she has all the trappings of a star, but to our knowledge, she hasn’t fought anyone. Now she crosses the dividing line from celeb to hero, looking grave and modeling another purple outfit.
The special effects aren't always the best on this show, but I like Zora's powers—clouds of lilac-colored cubes (oversize pixels?) that she manipulates like the Green Lantern. It's cool to see her show off her abilities for once. But, no way is this promising kid ready for a guy who just tore a well-armed security force to bits.
Wolfe exhibits almost every single shade of human emotion during his spree: regret, bewilderment, rage, condescension, and more. As Walker (Sharlto Copley) confronts him in the Shaft, Wolfe asks why Walker put him there—because, Wolfe seems to think, nothing's stopping powerful people like themselves from running completely roughshod over the rest of humanity.
Wolfe also has visions—and Walker has them too, having taken Sway—which we now know is made from spinal fluid, or something similar, produced by Wolfe. In the field of tall grass, Walker looks at a young Wolfe, who seems to have attacked and bitten a girl in a white dress. Some kind of clue, I’m guessing.
After everyone fails to stop Wolfe—even Retro Girl, Zora, and Triphammer—Walker bucks the seizures that started when he took the Sway and roars back into superhero mode, grappling with and eventually overpowering Wolfe. And something else happens too—something partly conveyed through special effects but not quite clear: Walker re-absorbs his powers from Wolfe.
Seeing Copley in full metahuman mode is a kick, even if his flight looks a little like floating on wires; but Copley is always able to keep up with the show’s genre shifts, and he does a solid job of putting away the burned-out cop for a minute to play something way bigger.
But pulling his abilities back out from the man who took them doesn’t last long, and as soon as Walker parks Wolfe under Triphammer’s drainer, he collapses, a regular cop once again.
In the coda to all of this, Walker awakens in a hospital to find Retro Girl watching over him. He learns that Zora took credit for stopping Wolfe. He also learns that almost getting killed by Wolfe wasn’t the worst thing that happened to Retro Girl all day. Her failures to save everyone from a hurricane—including a young boy—weigh on her, and Walker urges her to forgive herself from thinking she can save the world. After all the madness of the past two episodes, the quiet moment is welcome and very well acted.
Hector DeJean can frequently be found in comic stores, bookshops, and the Eighties. His serialized story of a private detective who only solves food-related crimes is no longer online.