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Salvation - Let the Chips Fall and The Madness of King Tanz - Reviews: The World's Gone Mad

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***Warning- This review contains spoilers

Reminder – Days until Asteroid collision - 86

Often in a limited run series, you'll have a lull in the action during the middle of the run as the show pauses to take a breath before ramping up for a finale. And then, you have the rare exception, a show that has taken your breath away from the beginning of the season. And finally, you have a show that exceeds all expectations and is determined to keep you breathless and guessing in every episode. That's Salvation. From the beginning of a hard-fought-for second season, the cast, producers, and writers of this outstanding series have all had the pedal to the metal and show no signs of letting up as the series reaches the halfway point of Season 2. The latest episodes of the series Episode 6- "Let the Chips Fall" and Episode 7 "The Madness of King Tanz" are two of the strongest of the series and don't fail to provide the surprising twists for which the show is becoming famous.

While the series premise is about an asteroid about to strike Earth, what makes Salvation stand out are the human stories behind the people trying to save the planet and the tangled messes they find themselves in. The strength of those stories begins with the writing, then you add an exceptional cast, direction, edit and the end result is what I will again assert is one of the best series on television this summer. In this day where more and more shows are drifting to cable or streaming services, it is refreshing that this series airs on one of the original big three networks. CBS deserves credit for sticking with the show that is quickly developing a loyal fan base. The central theme of Episode 6, "Let the Chips Fall" written by K.D. Dávila, is priorities. In the aftermath of Monroe Bennett's (Sasha Roiz) attempted coup, all seems as right as could be with a world on the edge of destruction and the characters we've grown to know and care about in the previous weeks take the time getting their priorities in order.

Now that Bennett is in custody and rightful President Mackenzie (Tovah Feldshuh) firmly in charge, Darius (Santiago Cabrera) feels his talents are best utilized in focusing on solving the looming asteroid issue. He comes to that conclusion particularly after the latest failure of his rail gun. To the consternation of the President, he tenders his resignation as Vice-President so he can concentrate on getting the rail gun operational before the asteroid strikes in 86 days. He agrees to the suggestion he wait until after a planned Unity Rally to leave, but he asks Grace (Jennifer Finnigan) to draw up a list of replacements and somewhat surprisingly suggests Harris (Ian Anthony Dale) would make an excellent VP. But, it seems that Darius also has another priority on his mind, wanting to spend more time with Grace. Cabrera brings mercurial complexity to the role of a man used to going his own path without the fate of the world on his shoulders.

Harris, in the meantime, interrogates Bennett. His priority is to make sure that the only danger to the country now is just the asteroid and not something more as Bennett has cryptically taunted. Bennett will only cooperate if he gets immunity, which is not something to suggest to the father of a boy you killed last season. It doesn't help too, that Bennett strikes a chord by accusing Harris and the administration of killing Claire Rayburn. If Cabrera is mercurial, Dale is the solid and steady arm of the Salvation trinity. He brings a stoic passion to Harris's commitment to country and duty, and make no mistake that commitment is his top priority and he will do whatever it takes to get the job done.

And if the Salvation trinity has a foundation it's Grace Barrows. However, with the weight of events and all that is happening bearing down on her, there's no wonder that that foundation is beginning to crumble. Sometimes a girl just needs her father, and Grace has one of the best. In this episode, Grace's priority is the truth, and when her father, Hugh (Mark Moses), the former CIA agent, comes to take care of her after her ordeal of getting the Chief Justice's tape to the White House. Detective Carter arrives (Ashley Thomas) to thank Grace for giving him his sister, Claire's, autopsy report.

Carter also had a priority in coming to Grace, his priority appears to be justice. He gives Grace the bitcoin wallet he found in Claire's things and asks her help to decode the password to it. The problem is with each wrong attempt, the time that it takes before they can try again increases exponentially, time they can't afford to waste. With Grace, Harris, and Carter working together they determine the password and discover millions in bitcoins, all connected to such events as the attack on Grace in her home, the deaths of the first computer expert that helped Grace, and the reporter digging into the case. As they watch another payment is issued, there is a target on someone, but who? Grace convinces Harris that the key to identifying the target is Bennett and he should make a deal with him. However, when he arrives, he finds Bennett dead inside a locked cell. With this threat looming, the Salvation trinity tries to convince the President to cancel the Unity Rally, but she refuses.

Following Bennett's death, Darius examines the footage from his cell and through technology he created discovers that Harris lied to Bennett when he denied killing Claire. Darius accuses Harris of not only murder but of forcing Grace cover it up. Grace steps up and admits to Darius that she was the one who killed Claire. He is furious she lied to the President, to the Supreme Court, to him, but at the sacrifice of his trust in her and their burgeoning relationship, she tells him she would do it again because her priority was protecting him and the greater good, the presidency. He agrees that the only thing they can do now is cover up the cover-up.

The one character who has been disappointing this season is Liam (Charlie Cole). His has been on an up and down journey this season and in this episode, he hits the downslope again for sleeping with Alycia (Melia Kreiling), being accepted as a member of Resyst and then having the arrogance to think he can meet Darius and convince him that by combining their projects is the best way to stop the asteroid since both projects have hit snags. His naivety, while idealistic proves impractical when Alycia shows up at his meeting with Darius and once again butts heads with her former employer. Later the mysterious head of Resyst, Nero, at first says they'll go along with his plans to combine the projects, the gives him a big lesson when adding that the only deal that will be made is the government must turn over the rail gun or they will drop one of the nukes from the missile they still control on New York City in five hours. By the end of the episode though, it appears Liam's priorities guiding him as he stages a walkout of the scientists unless Resyst stands down. Liam's actions in those final moments as he challenges Alycia and Resyst, and encourages the other scientists to join him in standing up for the project is some of Charlie Rowe's best work this season.

Following her argument after confessing to Darius, Grace confides in her father that she's going to turn herself in for the murder of Claire Rayburn (Erica Luttrell) following the Unity Rally. The scenes and connection between Grace and her father are becoming some of my favorite parts of the show. Finnigan and Moses have a warm, familial connection and Grace's father is very protective of his little girl. Grace remains steadfast that her main priority is the truth and it should come out, even if it costs her, her freedom. However, Grace's father has a priority too, protecting his daughter. In an act that would more than qualify the man for Father of the Year, Hugh Keating makes the ultimate sacrifice to protect his daughter and turns himself in, confessing that he killed Claire. (A move, BTW I called to friends over a week ago.) That father/daughter bond is strong.

At the Unity Rally, President Mackenzie shows that as it has always been, her priority has been to the people and to the Earth. As they leave the rally Mackenzie's faith that there are still good people in the world is shattered when she is assassinated and dies in Darius' arms. Suddenly, everyone's priorities have changed. Darius is now the President of the United States.

In Episode 7, "The Madness of King Tanz", writer Blake Taylor, gives us a tautly written script, filled with stand-out performances from virtually the entire cast. Each character is given his/her moment to shine, in a story that is at its core an examination of grief following the assassination of President Mackenzie. Grief affects different people in a variety of ways sometimes making them do things out of character or make questionable decisions. Taylor expertly explores the aftermath of death in this episode. The episode opens with a nicely edited montage scene intercutting new President Tanz, delivering an address to the people and scenes of the funeral of a president. It is beautifully underscored by the soulful song, "Requiem," by Shey Baba.

Of all the characters, as expected, the most extreme person, Darius, has the most extreme reactions. He becomes single-minded in his determination to bring the people responsible for Mackenzie's assassination to justice. Heavy indeed is the head that wears the crown. And, for President Tanz, after learning that Bennett was killed with a microdrone and that the weapon that killed Mackenzie was remotely operated he becomes convinced that there is just one and only one group responsible, Resyst. He is adamant in his assertion, despite Harris and his advisors telling him there is no evidence to support that. He slowly loses control and becomes solely focused on the group, seeking revenge for Mackenzie's death.

His actions are those of a man in great pain and he slowly descends into a form of grief-stricken madness. He appears to make seemingly irrational decisions like arresting Liam for treason (though the argument could be made that he was totally justified in that action) and using and manipulating the rail gun from its original purpose of being fired at the asteroid (which is now just 81 days from Earth) to using it to shoot down Resyst's nuclear missile loaded satellite. He lashes out those closest to him, managing to drive away Jillian, Harris and even Grace. And eventually, it appears he finally snaps and sneaks out of the White House. Though personally, it could be that there is a method to his madness which will be discussed shortly. The episode belongs in large part to Santiago Cabrera, who makes the most of every moment. He is masterful as we watch him portray a man used to keeping his emotions very much in check having to make emotional decisions in one of the most emotional situations there is. It is a master class in acting.

Dealing with grief in a different way is Grace. Home alone, she reaches out to her father but cannot connect. Alonzo arrives and offers her comfort when Grace's grief overwhelms her. And as may often happen when grieving someone lost in a violent act, she seeks comfort in Alonzo's arms, kissing him. Although some would believe this was the beginning of a romantic relationship, there was nothing romantic about it. What Grace was seeking then was a reaffirmation of life, she wanted and needed to feel alive and Alonzo was conveniently there. Thankfully the reality of what she was doing and who she was doing it with shocked her back to herself and she started to confess to him about killing Claire. They're interrupted when he gets a call that someone has turned themselves in, confessing to the murder. You can easily see, through Finnigan's face and expressive eyes that she now knows why she couldn't reach her father.

Later in one of the episode's most powerful scenes, Grace comes home after her falling out with Darius, to find someone has broken into her house. Gun drawn she goes into her kitchen to confront the intruder only to find Alonzo. Make that an angry Alonzo, who has realized that the man who was in custody after confessing to Claire's murder was Grace's father. Their confrontation is magnificently staged with the kitchen island between them. Alonzo tense and on edge, barely in control and Grace collected and for the moment composed. He then cruelly taunts and tricks Grace telling her he couldn't find out the name of the person who'd confessed to his sister's murder, but that it didn't matter he had someone inside the jail who was going to exact justice for him. This is the point Grace snaps when Alonzo threatens her father. Then in a moment fans had been waiting for since Alonzo had appeared this season, Grace confesses to him that she wasn't protecting her father, it was her father who was protecting her, that she was the one who killed Claire. Although her fear for her father is palpable, the strong and defiant Grace was there too as she argued Claire was a traitor, and she killed her before Claire could kill Harris and would do it again. At that point, Grace had never been lower, if Alonzo had been watching closely he would have seen a woman who hated herself more than he hated her. She even went so far as to hand a very angry man her loaded gun and tell him to shoot her. Words fail to capture how incredible Jennifer Finnigan and Ashely Thomas were in this scene. Both took their characters through such a minefield of emotions.

Like Grace, Harris sought comfort and felt that need to feel alive by taking a break in his frustrating investigation for a rendezvous with new girlfriend, Fiona (Taylor Cole). Unfortunately for him he discovers a small scar behind her ear and realizes she has an implant like the man killed at the Ark and that bore the same symbol they found on Claire's bitcoin wallet. (Is this where we say we told you so about Fiona in an earlier review?) In an expertly choreographed fight scene, Harris and Fiona go toe to toe, with Fiona holding her own against the former soldier. Ultimately, Harris prevails and takes the captured Fiona in for interrogation. Here we see the menacing side to Harris Edwards. Through torturous methods, he gets Fiona to confess she was recruited and sent to infiltrate first the Tanz compound and ordered to get close to him, and that finally, she was the one who sent the microdrone to kill Bennett. Taylor and Dale have such a wonderful chemistry together, one hopes there is a way for Fiona to be redeemed.

If there was a character who suffered the greatest disappointments this episode it would be Jillian (Jacqueline Byers). First, she goes to see Liam after he is arrested to get him to get Resyst to back off their threat to nuke New York, to no avail. Then, she ventures into the lion's den so to speak, going to see Alycia at Resyst headquarters. This was one of Byers biggest moments of the episode where Jillian goes head to head with Alycia, and at least in this reviewers' opinion delivered the best shot, essentially pointing out in the grand scheme of things the other woman was no more than a high-priced hacker. Unfortunately, she returns to the White House only to get berated by a nearly out of control Darius when she tries to reason with him that he is making irrational decisions. Their argument gets so intense she walks away, just like Grace and Harris have before her. Is it any wonder that her search for comfort and peace sends her toward the charismatic cult leader, Bass Shepherd (Luke Arnold). Although it's not clear where the writers are going with this cult storyline, having Jillian being the one drawn into it does make sense and it will be interesting to see where they go with this storyline.

Finally, the biggest development at Resyst is the emergence of the elusive scientist, Raul Aguirre, who is said to hold the key to making Liam's solar sail work. Liam has returned to Alycia after being released from jail. He and Alycia are finally contacted via computer by Aguirre who says he is coming to them. Didn't you find it a bit of coincidence that this mysterious scientist emerges just as the President slips away from the White House? And did anyone else notice that the man on the computer screen talking to Alycia and Liam shared the same mannerisms and sounded an awful lot like Darius Tanz?

What were your thoughts on these two outstanding episodes of Salvation? What's going to happen to Grace and her father? Can Fiona be redeemed? Where is Darius? Or has he gone undercover to infiltrated Resyst? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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