Television

Emergence Episode 8: American Chestnut-Review and Recap

New allies and villains join the cast as Emily’s desperation is revealed in an episode that is jam-packed with mystery.

Emergence episode 8
EMERGENCE – “American Chestnut” – The FBI arrives in Southold, complicating Jo’s efforts to find Emily. Meanwhile, Alex and Piper hunt for answers on a road trip, and the family celebrates Mia’s birthday on “Emergence,” airing TUESDAY, NOV. 26 (10:00-11:00 p.m. EST), on ABC. (ABC/Eric Liebowitz) ENVER GJOKAJ, ALLISON TOLMAN

Eye candy comes to town in the form of Dollhouse turned FBI agent Ruan Brooks(Enver Gjokaj). There is a strange energy between Jo and the FBI agent that isn’t sussed out yet. If he has joined the cast to create romantic tension between Jo and Alex it could be the death knell for this fledgling sci-fi mystery box. I’m not objecting to the idea that men would find Jo attractive, or that Jo and Alex’s relationship needs further exploration, just that the plot doesn’t need any messy love entanglements in an already overcrowded group of good and bad guys.

Alex is trying to understand Piper in an effort to become less afraid of her. It’s admirable and Donald Faison delivers an intensely likable character. Alex is a good foil for Piper as he brings a fatherly perspective to their conversations. He has been much more reserved with his enthusiasm for this situation. He is kind and cares for Piper, but his first responsibility is to Mia. His decision to drive Piper out to the deciphered coordinates otherwise known as Piper’s abandoned neighborhood is off-brand for him. He is an engineer and a cautious person. Taking an unknown quantity to an unknown place feels weird especially when the payoff is so minor. It was like the Emergence set was already paid for and someone wanted to get their money’s worth, whether it made sense or not.

Emily’s childhood gets fleshed out, even more, this week and it’s just as tragic as imagined. A callous, uber-rich and powerful father and an oblivious absentee mother do not make for quality parents. Emily’s mom is a piece of work. The batty female routine is less than effective however when she overplays her hand and asks about Officer Minetto. She knows more than she is letting on. How she knows Officer Minetto’s name before being told is one more question in a long line.

Poor Owain Yeoman(Benny) gets to play buddy cop in another episode where he is more plot device than a character. He constantly teams up with one secondary player or another to keep them safe, hide them, babysit, or make sure they don’t die. It’s odd that Benny has been relegated to the B team when he clearly has connections to be exploited. Benny needs to be allowed to provide something other than a straight man for odd and quirky people. Yeoman has not been allowed to stretch himself as an actor or dive deeper into the hows and whys of Benny’s past and interest in this case. Fans of The Mentalist know he is capable of far more emotional depth than he has been allowed thus far.

Someone is burning Augur to the ground. When Emily admits she killed her father, she denies burning down Augur. In fact, she seems to need the resources Augur provides. Now that the newest Big Bad Rowena King(Dietlland) has entered the picture an already crowded game board is overstuffed. At least she was kind enough to take Wilkis and his abuse of water out. One less person who is hellbent on destroying Piper is a good thing.

A flashback to Emily’s fairly recent past showed a previous version of Piper who was incapable of passing the Turing test. This version was killed via the fatal exception. Emily looked more disappointed than depressed which is odd considering she views the AI as a daughter to love her and not a computer. Likely, she sent the kill chip to Piper. Rather than destroy her, it seemed to give her an upgrade. Was that the purpose all along, or has Piper found a way around all viruses?

It is very interesting that with all the forms of AI on screen, most if not all have focused on men controlling the robots or AI. In AI, the father creates Haley Joel Osment’s robot boy. In Ex Machina uber douche tech man-child makes a harem of female robots including Ava(Alicia Vikander). The classic cheese-fest Cherry 2000 features a female sex robot. That’s just the shortlist. That doesn’t include the AI often portrayed through a misogynistic lens in Star Trek, Dark Matters, Blade Runner, and Westworld. Emily’s need to be loved is reminiscent of a childless mother who kidnaps babies. She wants to be loved unconditionally but is not capable of it herself. She doesn’t understand being mother is not about being loved, but loving. To that end, she will never stop making and killing her creations because children aren’t perfect, even artificial ones.

There does not seem to be any shortage of shady, powerful people coming for Piper. Who the newest player is is unknown, but in a series that moves as quickly as Emergence does, we shouldn’t have to wait long. Rowena King is a talented actress who should be able to produce a multi-faceted villain as interesting as Terry O’Quin’s could have been. Hopefully, there will be a paring down of villains and ideologies to focus on what matters most. Who and what is Piper and will she be the end of humanity? Read all our Emergence coverage here.

Stray Observations:

  • Was that Skynet’s Terminator baby arm in the lab?
  • Did Piper rewrite her own code again? Her mother, I’m assuming Emily sent her a chip. She was glowing blue a serious signal that she is editing her own logic. If she knows exactly who and what she is, does that make her more or less dangerous to Jo and company? Only time will tell.
  • Piper glowed blue when she was processing the “gift” from her mom. Traditionally blue has been reserved for Piper when she is writing or processing positive code. Hopefully, this is the case this time as well.
  • The conversation about the American Chestnuts being destroyed by a virus is worrying. With what happens at the end of the episode, I sure hope Piper gets an upgrade and not a virus.

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