“How do you help someone buried under so much? How do you help them without being pulled in yourself?”
One month after the events in Vegas, Maria is showing more instability than ever, Madame Gao makes her presence felt to the students, and Marcus has to fight not only keeping his girlfriend in line (lest she gets them killed) but realizes that a past enemy is alive and well.
From the start of the series, Maria’s bipolar tendencies were always dancing in the background. And yet, despite her bouts of volatility and the medication she took, I was never quite sure if some of her behavior was nothing more than emotional manipulation. She did use her feminine wiles and Marcus’ chivalrous nature (and disdain for bullies) to direct him into a confrontation with Chico. But “Stigmata Martyr” goes deeper than that and gives us the truth behind her mask.
The shadow looming over the Vegas group is that, a month after Maria killing Chico, someone is going to find out about it. It’s not just the staff at King’s Dominion they need to hide the truth from, but also the prospect of the cartel discovering Chico’s fate. With that on their minds, Marcus and Maria have to keep their relationship a secret, something that becomes progressively more difficult due to Maria’s increasingly erratic behavior. Though the situations in “Stigmata Martyr” are a bit jumbled with no clean narrative, Maria’s journey is the definitive bright spot. Make no mistake, watching her confront her own demons is painful. Not only do we get the screwed up history of how she ended up in the hands of Chico and the cartel that has haunted her all these years but the fallout from her staving off her meds. Maria’s highs and lows culminate in her most insane action; nearly killing Marcus to prove that Saya has feelings for him. And despite the insanity of this, it does provide the catalyst for her and Marcus to finally share a night of intimacy. Whether this will bring them closer or make a potential breakup more difficult remains to be seen.
Like Maria, everyone’s dealing with the events of Vegas in their own way. While Saya seems to have everything under control, Willie’s torn up by guilt and the realization that there’s really nowhere he can be himself. Marcus has his hands full with Maria and Billy—well, he seems to be surprisingly okay. There are pieces of regret and guilt that remain with him but he knows that what he did saved his family and, while it may take some time for him to be wholly at peace with it, he is trending in the right direction.
And then there’s Gao. The school representative for the Guild, she makes her presence known this week by imposing her will on both students and teachers, particularly Saya and Zane (Atypical Combat Skills). The flexibility Lin has shown throughout the series is absent in Gao; it’s her will be done or suffer the consequences and while she initially comes across as the archetypal antagonist for Lin to deal with, the revelation that they are siblings adds a layer of intrigue to their relationship that would not have been there otherwise. Whether this will help solidify her as an interesting character and true threat to the students of King’s Dominion is still up in the air.
As villains go, Madame Gao may turn out to be predictable but Chester (aka F*ckface) is anything but. Yes, the character comes across as cheesy and over the top, the antithesis of Gao’s quiet and cold demeanor, but that’s what makes him work. Two antagonists on opposite ends of the spectrum can work well together and though Gao’s motivations remain more of a mystery, Chester’s are cut-and-dry. Not only does he want revenge on Marcus, he wants the rightful credit for burning down the boys home, a truth that, in his mind, will get him that exclusive on Donahue. Yeah, I never said that he was stable.
In all, “Stigmata Martyr” replaces Chico’s role as the initial antagonist with two highly different characters that will be coming for Marcus and his friends from both sides. Not to mention keeping the truth behind Chico’s death from the cartel while managing the love triangle between him, Maria, and Saya. There’s a very good chance that things are going to get very messy. Let’s just hope that messiness stays with the characters and doesn’t bleed over to the show’s narrative.
- We’ve heard Lin mention the death of his family on multiple occasions, so it was a major surprise to discover that both his wife and daughter are alive and well. As it turns out, we’ve already seen his wife—the woman with the back tattoo—earlier this season. If Lin’s sister Gao holds as much resentment for him as it appears, would she go so far as to take from him all that he holds dear?
- All but forgotten the last few weeks, Brandy reminds us just how unlikeable she really is. But where she could have been a very good antagonist for Saya and Maria, there just hasn’t been enough time spent with her character to make her a real threat. The same goes for Viktor as he picks up the bully vacuum left by Chico’s absence.
- Maria’s violently sad origin is presented using the same animation style as the other peeks into the past. The introduction of Chico’s father, El Alma De Diablo, is foreshadowing to what could be a major antagonist down the road. One that may truly deserve the title of ‘villain’.
Deadly Class – “Stigmata Martyr”
6.5 out of 10