Wow. That actually explains a lot.
Eleanor is gone now. In her place is her stillborn brother, Ethan. AKA: Wraith. Wraith mocks X-On, telling him that his flaws pushed Eleanor to give her body over to Ethan. And now, Wraith is ready to enact his master plan. The Allen women are gathered in a circle in the desert of White Sands, New Mexico. At the same time, their powers are activated. The same powers, Teleportation. All of the reflected in North America are ripped from their homes and streets, finding themselves raptured into the desert. While everyone gets their bearings, Wraith makes his pitch. He wants them all to join him in changing the world into one where they belong. Nobody is lured in by his promises of a world of darkness. Unfortunately, hundreds of people appearing in the middle of nowhere got noticed by military satellites. Attack choppers have appeared to quell any potential rebellion by the dark reflected. With the help of the illusionist in Wraith’s cadre, he forces the choppers to start attacking the innocent reflecteds. Michael notices that the bright star reflecteds that are fighting back (who were already few in number) are transforming in aura to become dark reflecteds. The darkness is consuming them all, and even our heroes’ attempts to stop the fight isn’t meeting with much success. Adding nails to the coffin, Wraith sends his cronies to take down the good guys. But on the outskirts of the conflict, the four Japanese girls of 9Nine realize that this is their big chance. Somehow, their bags came with them in the teleport. Even as Wraith summons the darkness, there is still a ray of beautiful sunrise.
The opening moments of the episode give us a glimpse into Eleanor’s past, which reveals quite a bit, all considered. Her brother Ethan was stillborn, causing her parents to become depressed and stop paying attention to her. Feeling alone and isolated, but still with the hope that there was a place for her, she faces the Reflection on the razor’s edge. Instead of being empowered by one or the other, she is chosen by both bright star and darkness sides of the Reflection. This also causes her to shunt her negative emotions into a splinter personality, one that manifests as her concept of her brother, Ethan. This is why Wraith’s gang was always one step ahead of Eleanor’s. Eleanor has Disassociate Identity Disorder, and while she is unaware of Ethan, Ethan is fully aware of what she is doing. This isn’t something out of the blue, either. While Wraith has Mister Mystic as a second in command, he is not shown to have psychic powers of his own, yet he appeared to Eleanor in a vision. Further, Wraith only came to tell Ian to settle down after Eleanor became aware of him. Why does Wraith want Ian out of the way? Likely the same reason he wishes 9Nine hadn’t been pulled into this. Music can give people hope, and undo the darkness transformation. Or at least, that’s my theory. While we’ve seen that her bright star powers are teleportation, Ethan’s darkness powers are more nebulous and undefined as of yet. He does, however, have an incredible understanding of the phenomenon of the Reflection, and how the powers of the reflecteds work. Wraith seems to know everything about everyone Eleanor knows, but how?
With the plotline coming to a close, we are finally getting to the bottom of this conflict. This episode was not as plagued by the staring-into-nothingness issue that has made it so difficult to handle this show. It was still there, but the writing and events left much less room for it. The only instance I can remember is the sequence in Eleanor’s flashback of staring at the boat on the horizon. Other than that, the characters are pretty active at figuring out what is going on. This episode reveals just how much forethought went into this series, as bits of the mystery are finally falling into place and plot strings are getting tied up. This was an interesting gambit that Wraith pulled here, leveraging all the different sides against each other. At the same time, X-On is deliberately withholding the fact that Wraith is Eleanor from his team. He knows that would demoralize them, and they’d lose. He’s very specific in his wording when he talks about her. The dialogue is actually well written for once, and the action is directed in a dramatic way.
So, this is normally where I would harp on this show for how crappy its art and animation is. While these are still truths, this episode was the best in animation I’ve seen from the show yet. The action is smooth, the details are there for the most part and… is that expression and personality I saw in Lisa’s face? Whaaaaa? This show doesn’t do expression! It’s too busy being brooding. But, there it is. The characters show emotion in this episode of all of them, and even though the art is still of the quality of a bad comic, the animation attempted to make up for it. There were still plenty of errors in this episode, mostly focused on X-On’s mask because it is so insanely hard to draw an X. We are also given a glimpse of several hundred different reflecteds, some with interesting designs. It would have been easy to simply have shadowed people, but this gives them a sense of importance, even if the characters are throwaways.
I wish, however, that the voice acting had improved with it. Wraith’s big speech fell completely flat. This should be a spot where the voice actor could whip out some great work. Unfortunately, he doesn’t. Then again, the reflecteds turning against Wraith before the battle may have been part of the plan all along. Did he deliberately botch his speech in order to win over more reflected as allies? We may never know. Lisa kinda stole the show here, with some cute dialogue performed by Talya Sindal. It seems that Lisa is still easily overwhelmed by the confusion of battle, and Talya brought that out expertly. The downside is that this episode also brings back all the characters we’ve seen thus far, and a few had the most terrible fake accents. This actually seems to disrupt the timing of the voice acting as well, making it difficult for the voice actors to sync their lines to the animation.
So, with improved animation and writing, but not so much on art and voice acting, this episode does manage to be thoroughly entertaining. Things are heating up, and I am interested in what resolves this conflict in the next episode. I give it eight trips to the desert out of ten.