By Kerensa Cadenas and Noel Kirkpatrick
Season 2, episode 5: “Knockout”
Original airdates: Oct. 14, 1977
Noel: After last week’s decidedly fun and focused affair, “Knockout” is something of a scattered slog of things that just seem to happen thinly connected to a poorly fleshed out domestic terrorism plot. It’s a timely enough, and perhaps the most then-contemporary plot the show’s had, but it was so vague (the group’s demands are $20 million and a private jet…?) as to be utterly meaningless.
But there was a handsome cab driver with a cute kid! So that’s something!
Kerensa: I actually kinda liked this episode! I do agree that it was pretty scattered–but I liked Diana working alone and interacting with new people (i.e. handsome cab driver–I can do with or without the kid) and I always like it when they come to visit Los Angeles.
I do think it was the most contemporary plot they’ve had–was giving me some Occupy feelings–but they did kinda butcher that whole part. I also thought that Carolyn seemed super interesting but we didn’t get a ton of insight into her.
Also there were a lot of Diana’s outfits I was very into.
So let’s get into details–want to talk about why the terrorism plot didn’t work for you?
Noel: It was just really vague, and took too long to unspool. I get that show isn’t supposed to be all that deep, but it was a decidedly flimsy hook on which to hang the plot. They wanted to, as Angel said, wanted to unseat the rich and powerful, liberate the underclass but that went exactly no where.
Steve’s talk of “the other side” and “the other guys” didn’t help matters for me, either. I can get behind global cabals of the power elite, but vague threats don’t do the show any favors.
Tell me about Carolyn. I was excited about her connection to Steve, the appearance of someone who wasn’t white, and that, hey, there was a woman for Diana to interact with!
Also one big nagging question: Handsome Cab Driver looked like he had a nice suburban house, yet he gets to LA in 10 minutes? Not sure even in late 70s LA that that’s possible, but I’ll defer to your expertise here.
Kerensa: Yeah, it was super vague. Although, at first I was like Occupy! Penn Badgley! You couldn’t really tell exactly what or whom they were fighting against. And those demands were hilarious–$20 million, a private jet–but no idea why? Also those demands seem fairly self serving?
I thought Carolyn had SO much potential. She was super interesting because she felt loyal towards Steve. And even her general plot–which again should have been so much more developed–that she was a former cop who fell in love with a radical group leader. Which I think is the plot of that movie The East, which I haven’t seen but our girl and This Was Television writer (and fellow lover of Diana’s glasses) Emma has seen, so she might be able to confirm. I just wish yet again, like we keep lamenting, that Diana had more face time with ladies now. The few moments she has with Carolyn are great but go so quickly.
Yeah, Handsome Cab Drive probably lives in the valley so to get to Diana in downtown LA would take him at least 20 min, but probably longer than that depending on traffic. Should we check out an episode of The Californians for reference?
I also liked that Diana was heading a lot of the action in this episode and that she also called many of the shots with the guys–what did you think about that?
Noel: Steve did accuse the I.D.A.C turncoat of not being a real social revolutionary but just some sleeper agent for “the other side”, so perhaps he was just looking to save his own skin with those demands. The fact that we’re even having to parse this out is sign of trouble, I think.
No, I agree. I think the episode’s focus should’ve been more evenly split between Diana’s hunt for Steve and Steve confronting Carolyn and the social movement leader (who, in my version, is not a sleeper agent), and the conflict Carolyn experiences between her old life as a cop, and this desire to do more change than perhaps can be accomplished on the side of the law. While it’s something I’m sure the show wouldn’t have addressed directly, it would’ve created a subtle parallel between Carolyn’s desire to do more good than possible through legal means and Wonder Woman’s quasi-official status as a sanctioned government agent. I only say quasi-official since no one seems to be after her for questioning and so forth. (You and me, Kerensa, we’re the ones to reboot Wonder Woman!)
That said, I still really loved that scene between her and Carolyn, like you did. It felt like old times for the show, and I was happy to see that bit resurface.
I’m sort of loving Diana’s ability to be more prominent. She’s able to accomplish a lot as not-Wonder Woman, and that’s pretty neat (I’m still trying to figure out why Steve and Handsome Cab Driver get to punch people while Wonder Woman only gets to throw them; she can control her strength, otherwise when she throws someone, they’d go flying a few blocks). Do you think it detracts from the show or enhances it as it downplays her Wonder Woman abilities in favor of a Diana allowed to be more competent compared to Season 1? Downplaying the super heroics does put it more firmly in the secret agent camp than the superhero camp.
Kerensa: Yeah, Steve reverted to his father’s idiot ways by thinking Carolyn was a sleeper agent. Clearly, she’s not.
Noel! That would have been a perfect plot structure. I do think that you and I should reboot Wonder Woman! Would we be involved with this alleged CW version? Or independent. We have a lot to bring to it–we are basically Wonder Woman scholars (jk) at this point. And our general flair for aesthetics.
I love Diana’s being more prominent. Personally, I don’t think it detracts from the show. Because I think you really get to see both sides of her. I like seeing a more confident Diana getting shit done and I think that by seeing that we really get to see her crime-solving skills. Then with Wonder Woman we get to see her awesome physical prowess and beating up dudes. I think it balances it rather than if we just got one side or the other.
We know that Diana has been crushing it in the outfit department as of late–and this episode was no exception–so many good skirt/boot combos, major top-knot game and that swimsuit! She’s a babe.
And while I don’t think it’s her clothes that really have anything to do with it–have you noticed that in this season there’s been much more acknowledgement of how hot Diana is–even though the glasses and all that crap are supposed to “downplay” her looks? I mean Handsome Cabbie Driver was beyond obvious about his affections for Diana calling her the “prettiest girl” at the airport. I felt like even the cops she spoke to outside her hotel were rather flirty with her. Diana’s sex appeal to everyone is more apparent. Why do you think this is? Because of the era change or the secret agent-y feel?
Noel: The CW’s inability to launch Wonder Woman just boggles my brain. I honestly think Nikita‘s failure to catch on may have contributed to problems developing that project. Admittedly, I haven’t seen an episode of Nikita since the first half of Season 1, but that show’s struggles may have may made CW gun shy about action-y women without too much of a soft side. But who knows. I’d be a horrible program developer.
I think you’re right: It’s both of those things. The time era change from the 40s to the 70s allowing for a more open sexual discourse, and one that feels both mutually defined by both genders and isn’t played for laughs, i.e., Etta’s sexual frustration and man craziness, which was about as sexually open as the first season was willing to go. Meanwhile, the sexy secret agent vibe helps to sell. Circling back to my question about whether the show is particularly feminist in this latest incarnation or not, no one in this episode bats an eye at Diana being a (not so) secret agent once she flashes an ID. On top of that, no one thinks she’s an assistant or a secretary or anything like that. She’s got the credentials, she’s the real deal, and no one’s going to second guess her (at least so far).
I don’t know that would happen in a show today. There’d be some jackass, either in the office or the villain of the week, sending misogynistic vibes and jibes her way.
Kerensa: I agree entirely that I don’t think that would happen in a show today either. Which is deeply depressing.
I think what does downplay the superhero portion this season is the lack of connection of Wonder Woman to really anything that makes her Wonder Woman. I mean we have her outfit (which I finally noticed the lower cut of her suit this week) and her weapons–but we never hear about Drusilla, Paradise Island or literally anything that made her. For me, it’s more of that erasing of her identity that loses the superhero aspect for me.
I mean NOEL! What is a superhero without their origin story?!
Noel: Interesting, interesting. I hadn’t considered an unmoored Wonder Woman in terms of her origin and her associations with Paradise Island, though it’s a good and timely point to make since, as I’ve mentioned before, in the current comics continuity Diana is the last Amazon after her sisters were turned to stone, so, you know, no origin story to tie her down, as it were.
And your semi-rhetorical question about what a superhero is without the origin story may get at an important point about our feelings about this season so far, which has been the lack of the care and compassion message, one rooted explicitly in feminist trappings, that was throughout Season 1. By taking that away, and the more direct ties to Paradise Island and fewer thunderclap twirls, they’re able to reshape Diana’s feminist message in some ways, making it less overt in some ways, to borrow from Marty’s comment last week. Maybe for the better…? I’m still not thrilled about it, but the show is what the show is right now…
After next week’s episode, which involves Martin Mull(!!!) as a rock star (!!!) who hypnotizes his fans (!!!), we’re going to start picking and choosing the episodes in an effort to prevent us from getting too repetitive. Any suggestions about what to watch from what’s left of Season 2 would be appreciated, and we’ll factor them into our our own interests.