& delinquents

2x16 “The Last Resort”

Terry takes on a psychiatric institution in an episode that combines strong character development with surprisingly mature social commentary. 

Plot

When a teen psychiatric ward is opened just outside of Gotham, Terry and his friends watch as countless students are shipped off for the most minor of infractions. When his friend Chelsey is admitted to the facility, Terry decides to investigate why a treatment center would accept so many neurotypical, non-delinquent teens. He finds that the facility is using sensory deprivation and brainwashing to turn kids into robots, and decides to expose the facility to the world - but using his own face and name instead of the cape and cowl. 

Villain 

While this episode does not have a traditional super villain, Dr. Wheeler is one of the most threatening antagonists the series has produced. To harken back to season 1, what made Blight a really effective villain wasn’t that he had radiation powers. What made him effective was that he was a man with institutional power who did not hesitate to use said power to prey on the disadvantaged. Dr. Wheeler likewise is a man using an institution to prey on people - but not just any people. Wheeler preys on teens. 

Likewise, his tactics are horrifying. He is not a therapist trying to help teens - he is a egomaniac trying to break teens using tactics commonly found in cults and prisoner of war camps. 

And, like Blight, Wheeler is used as a point of social commentary. Derek Powers was commentary on the corruption of business and greedy Wall Street attitudes, while Wheeler is commentary on how society treats teens who act out. This episode is most definitely born out of the attitudes of the late 90s, when there were concerns about students being over-medicated with ritalin or being ‘worried well’ by parents who didn’t know how to handle kids and decided to put them into therapy. Wheeler is essentially a dystopic prediction of those attitudes, which makes for a more interesting episode, as there’s something actually being said. 

Character Development

Terry shines in this episode in a way he never has before. If you ever thought that Terry was relying solely on his suit to do the job for him, this is proof that that isn’t the case. After Terry finds out what is going on at the facility, he wants to go to the authorities, but Bruce explains that they can’t, not without revealing the source of their information. So Terry decides to forgo the suit and collect evidence with his own face. This is the true mark of a hero, in my opinion. Terry is someone who wants justice so badly that he tries to get it even without a mask. 

And once Terry is in the facility, his personality is front and center. We see up close just how empathetic and compassionate Terry is. He shows real concern for his friend and clearly wants to end a system of abuse. 

Rating

Five out of five. This is honestly one of the most powerful episodes in the series in my eyes. It strikes a particular emotional chord with me in this watch-through. I actually work with teenagers as my day job. In my first job out of college, I ended up working at a facility that, while a public institution, was knowingly modelled on the prison system, and deliberately used cult tactics. I willingly worked for an institution that was trying to break the spirits of ‘problem’ children and turn them into obedient robots. Now, the facility was not nearly as bad as Dr. Wheeler’s facility, but it was something I found myself morally opposed to and ultimately left, and this episode brought back a lot of memories. 

This episode is so good because, for speculative fiction, it isn’t really that far from reality.

  • Raven: If you bite it and you die, it’s poisonous. If it bites you and you die, it’s venomous.
  • Jasper: What if it bites me and it dies.
  • Raven: That means you’re poisonous. Jesus Christ, learn to read!
  • Jasper: What if it bites itself and I die.
  • Bellamy: It’s voodoo.
  • Jasper: What if it bites me and someone else dies?
  • Raven: That’s correlation, not causation.
  • Jasper: What if we bite each other and neither of us die?
  • Murphy: That’s kinky.
  • Clarke: Oh my god.
  • Murphy, about a broken coffee pot: Who broke it? I’m not mad, I just want to know.
  • Clarke: I did, I broke it.
  • Murphy: No, no you didn’t. Jasper?
  • Jasper: Well don’t look at me. Look at Miller.
  • Miller: What? I didn’t break it.
  • Jasper: Huh, that’s weird, how’d you even know it was broken?
  • Miller: Because it’s sitting right in front of us, and it’s broken.
  • Harper: Suspicious.
  • Miller: No, it’s not.
  • Monty: If it matters, probably not, but Octavia was the last one to use it.
  • Octavia: Liar! I don’t even drink that crap!
  • Monroe: Oh, really? Then what were you doing over by the coffee cart earlier?
  • Octavia: I use the wooden stirrers to push back my cuticles, everyone knows that!
  • Clarke: Okay everybody let’s not fight, I broke it, just let me pay for it, Murphy.
  • Murphy: No, who broke it?
  • Jasper: Murphy, Bellamy has been awfully quiet.
  • Bellamy: Really?!
  • (by himself)
  • Murphy: I broke it. It burned my hand, so I punched it. I predict ten minutes from now, they’ll be at each other’s throats with war paint on their faces and a pig head on a stick. Good. It was getting a little chummy around here.