Sunday, April 23, 2017

REVIEW: 'Guerrilla' - Jas, Marcus and Dhari Struggle to Get Finances for Their Cause in '102'

Showtime's Guerrilla - Episode 1.02 "102"

Marcus, Jas and Dhari are on the run, their faces plastered all over the news. Hot on their heels are Pence and Cullen, who harass Fallon and the black community. Condemned by Kent, Marcus and Jas are forced to lay low in a safe house as Dhari and Leroy pursue a dangerous and controversial mission. Feeling marginalized, Jas brings London to a standstill when she does something unthinkable.

For the most part, the premiere episode of Guerrilla was about Freida Pinto's character, Jas Mitra. It was for good reason too because she's such a strong and compelling central focus for the series. Most of the characters are best defined through their relationship to her. All of that was very important to do. This week though, the series spends more time with the other characters so that they are defined by something other than their relationship to Jas. That is also very important. It makes more characters have their own agency. It makes them have more meaningful and well-rounded lives. Lives that can complicate other characters. This is a fascinating episode - even though it does sideline Jas until the very end where she does yet another explosive action. All of that is meaningful as well. Jas is still the best character on the show. This episode drags a little bit because it spends so much time on the other characters. But all of it is necessary work to make it clear where everyone stands as this story gets more complex in future episodes.

Jas and Marcus were successful in getting their friend, Dhari, out of prison. It was an action that dramatically changed their lives. They are now soldiers who are fighting for a cause. They are guerrilla warriors willing to use violence in order to advance their agenda. It was an action that changed more in this community as well. The police were already oppressing the black community. That's why Jas and Marcus thought it was important and necessary to break Dhari out so his message could be heard. But now, things are only getting worse. Pence could easily come across as a one-note villain. Someone who chastises black people for wanting more when they've already been given so much. He's a harsh character. One who is menacingly doing his job and sending fear throughout the community. And yet, he's not making a whole lot of progress either. No one is coming forward with information to help him find these criminals. Plus, the episode also spends more time in his life outside of the job. It's not really meant to humanize him. The audience sees him caring for his son after he passes out drunk at a bar. It also reveals that he has a troubled home life. He can be affectionate when he wants. It just never comes across as all that endearing. He's a troubled man faced with a ton of pressure. But that means he'll only double down on his ways.

Elsewhere, it was Jas' idea to take action for this cause. And now, she's been stuck in an apartment for three weeks. The three men are able to go out into the world trying to find supporters who will finance their cause. Jas has been marginalized. She's the idealist who doesn't want to do anything that doesn't directly benefit their cause. She wants to hold true to her beliefs. And yet, the world is much more complicated than that. She's not dragged into their criminal mission to get some cash. But it's still a defeating realization for her to accept. Of course, Marcus gets hit with it a whole lot worse. He had to be convinced by Jas to take action. He simply wanted a job teaching. And now, he finds himself interfering with criminal operations. He, Dhari and Leroy go to a drug dealer's apartment to steal his money and drugs. It's the mission they've been tasked to do. It's a world Marcus is completely unfamiliar with. But he has to be a part of it now. He has to go along with this because they need the money. It's just such a frightening experience for him that he was not prepared for. He wasn't ready for any of this. And now, it's really wearing him down.

During the confrontation, Dhari cuts a young man's face. It's a brutal image that isn't easy to watch in the moment. It's a vicious display of violence that Marcus doesn't enjoy either. He was relieved to find out that the ambulance driver he shot in the premiere didn't die. He's not ready to be a killer. He's supportive of this cause because he believes in the empowerment of black people in an oppressed society. He wants Dhari's book to be widely spread throughout the community. He wants to give voice to the people who feel discriminated against. None of this seemingly helps him with that. It's simply him losing a piece of his soul. For Dhari and Leroy, it's simply what needed to be done in order to get some money. They can live with that because they've experienced this world before. This is all completely new to Marcus. He has a cause worth fighting for. But now, he's learning just how far he's willing to go. He's still a willing participant of this mission. He still goes along with everything that Dhari and Leroy do. It just doesn't sit well with him. It changes him in a way that Jas sees immediately.

All of this is motivation for Jas to take action. She's desperate to do something because nothing is happening fast enough. Every other militant group out there wants something in return should they finance their cause in London. Jas doesn't want to do anything that doesn't directly help her people. She believes strongly in this endeavor. And yet, she's defeated after seeing how broken Marcus is following his latest trip out to the city. She reaches out to Kent for money and he continues to deny her what she wants. He has a picture of who she is that doesn't match reality at all. She thought she could trust him but she can't. This whole experience isn't going how she wanted it to. So, she takes a very reckless risk. She sees a party going on amongst the white elites of London. She knocks on the door and starts shooting at people. She definitely shows some hesitation before doing so. There's a confrontation before the gun starts going off. But the bullets do start flying. She briefly points the gun at these well-dressed people. She's able to escape before it becomes a full-on hostage situation. This action brings more notoriety to the cause. Perhaps now, things will be moving in her direction. Perhaps now, she'll be taken more seriously by the cause. It is just clear that this action is just as defining of what comes next as breaking Dhari out of prison was.

Jas' actions also force Kent to finally take some action of his own. He's been a passive character as well. He hasn't wanted to get involved with the politics of this community. He's happy in his life. He doesn't want to get messed up with the police. When Pence comes into the shop, Kent doesn't say anything and hopes he isn't singled out. He's not even though he knows Jas. He believes he knows who she is. He believes she's been corrupted by Marcus' wild ideals and guilt over her father's imprisonment. Those aren't defining characteristics for Jas though. She denies all of that when they meet again. A lot has changed very quickly. And yet, Kent still believes Jas can come back from all of this claiming she was brainwashed by a radical boyfriend. When she doesn't and takes even more action by herself, Kent needs to take a stand. He makes it known that there is a leader in the black community who wants everyone on all sides to be held accountable. He's a potential ally to the police in wanting to silence the black radicals who are using violence to incite change. That could become quite a complication and obstacle for Jas and company to deal with moving forward.

Some more thoughts:
  • "102" was written by John Ridley and directed by John Ridley.
  • Pence is not afraid to use force and intimidation to get what he wants. He catches Fallon at work and then twists her arm for information. It doesn't ultimately work - largely because Pence was responsible for killing her boyfriend. And yet, she's still very afraid for what might happen in the future because of Jas and Marcus.
  • Cullen is Pence's partner in all of this. He's trying to understand why everyone is so upset and willing to use violence. He reads Dhari's book. He doesn't agree with most of it but he does understand the sentiment because he's faced discrimination as an Irishmen before. That's a fascinating viewpoint even though Pence doesn't care for any of it.
  • Kenya is brought into the police station as well but Pence is quickly able to get her out of there. That just shows he's very powerful but can't keep her from getting caught up in all of this mess either. 
  • Kent visits Jas' mother in the hopes that she agrees with him and wants her daughter to come home safely. And yet, that's not what happens at all. In fact, she is proud of what her daughter is doing and cautions Kent to be very careful of what he does next because he police will now be watching him.
  • Omega is the one pushing for Kent to be more active in the community and to be a voice that stands opposed to any radical violent action. He's not convinced he's the man for the job until he sees what Jas is capable of. After that, he's willing to condemn her.