In episode 8 of Taboo Tattoo, Creator, Brad Blackstone (a.k.a. BB) faces off against Cal Shekhar in a battle of singularities against boundaries; Justice Akatsuka has to reach deep down beneath his despair in his fight against the Princess; Bluesy Fluesy again has her relative impotence ground into her psyche; Princess Aryabahta widens the power gap; Tōko Ichinose learns a permanent lesson about love and longing. I think this episode shows positive signs of plot — what do you think?
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What Happened (Spoiler Free)
As BB battles Cal Shekhar, he tells Bluesy to rescue Akatsuka. She doesn’t want to leave him, but she does. In the meantime, Iltutmish in tattoo-lion form continues to rip through the US forces. Lisa Lovelock finds Colonel Sanders in such a state that he can’t function as commander, and Leo Burns takes over. His first order? Retreat. He and Lisa decide to stand up to Iltutmish to give their forces time to escape. Tom Shredfield assumes responsibility for Ichinose and tries to lead her to safety.
Aryabahta gloats over Akatsuka first because she captured him so easily and second because her Void Maker prevents his tattoo from activating. When Bluesy arrives and tries to free him, she finds herself ensnared. Moments later, BB and Cal Shekhar’s fight crashes in front of the Princess. In the distance, Iltutmish has almost crushed Leo and Lisa. Ichinose, unable to leave her boyfriend, breaks away from Tom and rushes back onto the battlefield.
How will our heroes fight their way out of this mess?
The rest of this review may have spoilers, so please be careful!
What Happened (Spoilers!)
BB arrives to face off against Cal Shekhar, one of Princess Aryabahta’s most powerful supporters. Knowing that their fight will be intense and dangerous, BB tells Bluesy to rescue Akatsuka. She reluctantly obeys.
Iltutmish, in tattoo-lion form, continues her rampage. After Lisa Lovelock finds Colonel Sanders so badly wounded that he cannot fight, she prepares him for evacuation and helps transfer command to Leo Burns, who is apparently her boyfriend. His first order is for the team to retreat. Tom Shredfield assumes responsibility to get Ichinose to the evacuation location.
The Princess continues to gloat over Akatsuka as he’s impaled on multiple thorns on a vertical slab. She pushes him closer to despair when she explains that her Void Maker is preventing his from activating, so he can’t use it to escape.
Together, Lisa and Leo decide to take on Iltutmish so the others can escape. They put up a brave fight, but in the end, Iltutmish’s power, augmented by Aryabahta in the last episode, proves too great. Burns has to sacrifice himself to force Iltutmish to retreat, but at the cost of his own life.
Bluesy tries to shoot Aryabahta from behind, but the Princess’ tattoo protects here, and the bullet evaporates before it can strike. Bluesy finds herself captured by vines, and she’s unable to fight back. The fight between BB and Cal Shekhar winds up in front of Akatsuka, Akatsuka, and Bluesy, and BB is himself on the verge of death. He calls on his tattoo’s Source to lend him strength, and he’s able to strike Cal Shekhar down. However, the Princess uses her power to impale him. She’s about to consume him when BB begs Akatsuka’s Source to consume him instead. BB’s satisfied with that solution for reasons we discover later.
Though he tried gallantly to get her out of the combat zone, Tom couldn’t control Ichinose, who runs back to find her boyfriend. She finds him just as the Princess decides that her best path forward is to entice Akatsuka to come after her for revenge — so she orders Iltutmish to kill Ichinose right in from of him. The Princess forecasts that he’ll come after her soon enough and leaves.
Later, Wiseman, the one who had supported BB and who had given Akatsuka the Void Maker tattoo in the first place, tracks him down. Bluesy finds him at the same time. Wiseman explains why BB enticed Akatsuka’s Source to consume him: overusing tattoos causes them to possess the user or leave them an invalid. BB decided he’d rather give his strength to Akatsuka. Basically, BB entrusted his future goals to Akatsuka.
Wiseman then asks them to trust him because he’s made BB’s goal his own — to rid the world of tattoos. He offers to show Akatsuka BB’s memories.
What I Liked
This episode started with a flashback that setup an important emotional touchpoint at the end: Bluesy hated the tattoos, and BB cared enough about her to pledge to rid the world of them. That added some real emotional punch to the ending. It also proved — once and for all — that the show can, in fact, use foreshadowing. I was beginning to lose hope…
When he arrived to take on Cal, BB had a plan. He didn’t show up with some vague hopes about winning. He didn’t think his moral appeal would win the day. He and Wiseman invested in building a plan that had real hope of success. I thought that was realistic.
Another nod to realism: Major Leo Burns had to take command after Sanders’ injuries proved significant. He immediately ordered a retreat in the face of overwhelming resistance. Smart move!
Leo gets points for protecting Lisa with his life. I think the episode didn’t show enough confidence in the characters and thought Leo and Lisa had to be in a relationship for his death to be affective. I disagree; I think comrades dying to protect one another in battle is every bit as powerful.
We learned even more about the tattoos in this episode — we suspected they had wills of their own, and now we know that the wielders can reason with them, even make requests. They’re almost human-created beings!
Bluesy’s tattoo fell off as her left arm died. Combat with real consequence — I have to respect that. Though I have to wonder what role she’ll play now that she doesn’t have a tattoo.
When BB realized he couldn’t win outright, I thought his decision of how to use Akatsuka to both win the fight and to pass on his hopes and plans to Akatsuka was effective — even thought Akatsuka didn’t at all like his Source consuming BB. It was the kind of decision I would expect a combat veteran to make in extreme circumstances.
Let me say this — I did not like seeing Ichinose die. She was a really positive — if naive — character, and she really didn’t belong in the world of tattoos. But her decision to go back was utterly foolish, and like Bluesy loosing her left arm, Ichinose’s decision had a consequence. It’s just too bad that consequence was her death.
What I Liked Less
Ichinose just decided, “It’s the middle of a retreat due to overwhelming opposing force. What shall I do? Oh, I know! I’ll rush back into the heart of the battle because my boyfriend’s there!” I know she’s young and impulsive, but that just didn’t make any sense!
Is everyone in a romantic relationship in this show? Are there no purely professional relationships in this show? Lisa Lovelock’s soulmate was Leo? When did that happen? It seemed to come out of nowhere! I wish this show sometimes used that strange and wondrous tool called foreshadowing! I know they can do it — look at the first and last scenes! Now, if they’d only use it consistently…
Aryabahta’s explanation why she wanted to rebuild the world felt contrived and unconvincing. The excuse that she judged humans to be at an evolutionarily dead end seemed like a pale and uncomplimentary version of Frank Herbert’s ecological theories from Dune.
Why’d the Princess just stand there as BB and Akatsuka yammered? It’s like reverse monologuing! If she had struck instantly, she could have consumed BB’s Source. But no, she had to stand there silently. Maybe she was busily thinking which servant she’d molest next?
And if the Princess really saw Akatsuka as the “key,” why did she leave him there? I’m not getting a good sense of her thought processes.
My review of Storm (episode 7) was probably the most negative of any in the series to date. By the mid point of this episode, I was fearful that this was more of the same. I mean, Lisa and Leo in a romantic relationship? There was never any hint of that before! At least, none I could see. It looked like the show was going to throw all sorts of stuff at me to see what stuck.
But several things redeemed this episode.
First, the battle had real consequences. BB and Leo died. Bluesy lost her left arm — and her tattoo. Choices had real consequence, too — Ichinose is dead because she decided to run back into a combat zone with no defense or fighting capabilities. Even at the end, when Wiseman cruelly but correctly forced Akatsuka to recognize his immaturity and role in the disaster, we see that choices matter. Will Akatsuka give up? Or will he choose to move forward?
Another thing I liked about this episode? The prologue with BB and Bluesy at first felt saccharinely sweet, but in reality, it setup the last scene. Wiseman, after verbally smacking Akatsuka around, revealed to Bluesy that BB’s dream was to rid the world of tattoos — which was what she wished for in the first scene. The symmetry appealed to me, and it emotionally resonated in a way that the surprise reveal of Lisa and Leo’s romance didn’t.
This was also the first time that Akatsuka struck a blow that the Princess didn’t just stomp down. This is the first time I saw signs that he might actually be a hero instead of a big-talking yet impotent bag of hot air.
I hope we learn more about Wiseman. Did he choose Akatsuka at random? Did he have some plan?
This week, I think the show veered away from the cliff and is back on track. What do you think? Am I letting wishful thinking cloud my vision? Or did this episode show real promise?