- Twist 1 - Sir Patrick is Ares
- Gas masks and cutting scenes together
- Hippolyta's vs. Ares' version of history
- Can gods die?
- Twist 2 - godkiller
- Thoughts from Casper Richter on saving humanity
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Episode artwork by Matthew Rushing (@mattrushing02)
In this episode, we cover Scenes 44 and 45 of Wonder Woman, when Sir Patrick finally reveals himself to Diana as Ares and the Oddfellows get into position in and around the airplane that’s going to be used to deliver the poison gas. And so this scene starts one of the most important parts of the movie, which is the final dialogue and fight between Diana and Ares, and we are going to break it up into a few different scenes. Here we’ll get started with the reveal of Ares and his first few lines up to the point when Diana pulls out the lasso of truth to try to determine whether he’s telling the truth or not, and then we’ll cover the monologue from Sir Patrick when he is tempting Diana into joining his cause, then we’ll have a separate episode for the fight between Wonder Woman and Ares, and finally an episode where the fight is concluded.
So here in Scene 44, Diana is still somewhat dumbfounded because the war is continuing after she killed Ludendorff, and Steve has gone off with the Oddfellows to try to stop the gas attack. Diana starts the scene up above the men, looking down on them scurrying around and she is positioned kind of like a superior would be, looking down on the underlings. And right now, there is a real danger that Diana might start to think that she is superior to mankind – that she is not to blame for their violence and destruction, and that they are guilty and destructive, even after she has supposedly freed them from Ares’ influence. If she were to stay on this path of superiority, and to reject association with mankind, which actually would sort of make sense or at least we couldn’t blame her if she did decide to wash her hands of the evil tendencies of mankind, but if she claimed superiority, then she would never really become the Wonder Woman character that we know and love. Thus it’s important that by the end she has chosen to side with mankind and to fight for the sake of love, placing herself amidst mankind instead of above them. This is shown visually in several ways before the end of the film. But right now, she is standing where Ludendorff used to stand, and she will soon be standing with Ares, who will try to tempt to look down on mankind, like he does, a god looking down on mortals.
But right now, she is in a pretty negative mindset, and having spiraled down into a negative place, precipitated by her observations of the war, her conflict with Steve, the death of the Veld residents, and now the continuation of the war, she is somewhat similar to Bruce Wayne in Batman v Superman. Bruce also was in danger of getting lost in the criminality and the negativity of the world he was seeing, but where Batman’s darkness as a man spawned from the acts of gods, Diana’s darkness as a god spawns from the acts of men.
Now, going into the scene with Diana, with the ripe fruit, her hate, Sir Patrick arrives and tries to take advantage of it. Diana sees Sir Patrick and is confused about his presence, but perhaps it’s possible that he came here stealthily because he knew the group was going to make a move, although this is very odd for a man of his position. For the audience, of course, as soon as we see him, we know the truth that he must be Ares. And this is the first of two reveals or twists in the scene – the first is that Sir Patrick, the man who supported the Oddfellows and who seemed to be pushing for peace, is actually Ares, the God of War, and the second is that the sword from Themyscira is not actually the godkiller.
We’ve already talked about the first twist quite a bit on the podcast. We think it was fairly well executed – it’s not earth shattering; many audience members probably deduced it because they are savvy movie watchers or because they could infer as much from the casting of David Thewlis for the part, but it was a decent twist. It caught at least some people off guard, and as we’ve said before, there were some plausible alternatives, such as Ares actually being Doctor Maru or being one of the Oddfellows or being no one at all. But Sir Patrick does make the most sense. And this is a nice way to reveal it, by just having him just show up somewhere that is seemingly impossible, and then having him shift inside and outside inexplicably. That was a craftier way to reveal then to have him morph into a godlike beast or something.
But anyway, as Sir Patrick begins in this scene, he tries to open up a link between himself and Diana by echoing back some of the own sentiments that she is feeling. This is a powerful technique for persuasion or sales, to build on things that the target already believes or is feeling. So it makes sense that Ares, a master manipulator, would know the old adage about how it’s easier to convince someone using their preexisting beliefs or emotions than it is by appealing to facts or logic. He says that Diana was right, “they don’t deserve our help. They only deserve destruction.” As we’ve talked about before, he’s tapping into the keyword DESERVE. And he’s staking out the position that mankind deserves destruction, not assistance. Of course, Wonder Woman by the end, will decide that it’s not really about what they deserve, it’s about what you believe. And she will embody the theme of the film that regardless of what mankind deserves, she is going to save them anyway.
But right now, Diana is in an undetermined state. She may be open to persuasion. And so it’s interesting to note that Sir Patrick is starting with Diana’s own sentiments, that mankind doesn’t deserve her help, and then he is trying to lead her along to the next conclusion, that what they really deserve is destruction. Maybe they deserve the kind of pain and death that they seem to be wreaking on themselves. This desire for mankind’s destruction, plus the fact that Sir Patrick uses the phrase “our help” which positions himself with Diana and separate from mankind, Diana is able to put together the pieces and realize that Sir Patrick was Ares all along. She says this aloud, “You’re him.” And she doesn’t have to say “you’re Ares” – “you’re him” is clear because this has been the person on her mind throughout the entire journey. And saying the vague pronoun “him” also has a godly connotation because “him” with a capital H is used throughout the Bible, and he responds “I am,” which could be read as an allusion to one of the names of the Christian god, the great “I am.” So this language gives some hints that their dialogue is going to be on a godly level as they speak about the fate of mankind as if it’s up to them, the gods.
Sir Patrick continues and tries to start to plant some seeds of doubt, trying to knock Diana off her single-track mind of vanquishing Ares. He says that he is Ares but he is not what Diana thinks. Now, depending on how you view this scene and Sir Patrick’s prior actions as a deceptive Ares, this is either a continuation of his attempts to turn Diana against mankind and get her to eventually side with himself, or it is the beginning of his deceptive attempt at persuading her. But either way, he still has some work to do, because right now she has not completely lost herself yet, because she is still on mission and willing to help Man by trying to vanquish Ares. She reaches back for what she believes is the Godkiller – the sword.
As she presumably retrieves her sword, we have Scene 45 intercut with Scene 44. This mixing of scenes entails an increase in the energy and pacing of the editing, which is a common technique as films crescendo toward the climax. It also helps to have the motion of the Oddfellows because Diana’s scenes will be largely standing and talking for the next few minutes. So that might feel a bit bogged down for a third act if it weren’t for the Oddfellows getting into position and facing constant danger with the Germans all around them.
So we see in Scene 45 that the Oddfellows have covered their faces with gas masks to hide their identities and blend in. In this respect, it is quite convenient for them that the Germans are handling poisonous gas, and it’s a nice connection to the gas and mask motif that has been part of Doctor Maru’s storyline all the way through the film. They see the plane meant to deliver the payload of poisonous gas and are taken aback because it is much larger than typical planes of that era. Chief asks “What is it?” And Steve’s response is interesting. He says it is the future, as if he has some insight or foresight about what the future holds. We often hear people saying something is the future, and given that Steve is a pilot he would understandably see this plane as an evolution of the biplanes he is accustomed to flying. So in that sense, it’s a simple line, but if we want to have a bit of fun with it, we could interpret this line in the context of Steve Trevor who we know is part of Wonder Woman 1984, which is set in the future. Perhaps it will turn out that Steve Trevor does have some knowledge of the future, and he will get to see it somehow, though he may not have knowledge of it yet. Things get even more interesting if you think about the fact that he’s talking to Chief here, who may be a covert demigod himself. Anyway, this reference to the future and thus time progressing forward is a nice preview of the thematic connection to time, which will be brought to the foreground when Steve hands over his watch, saying that he wishes they had more time, but also signifying that his own time has seemingly run out.
Turning back to Diana, she is now armed and ready for battle with Ares. Sir Patrick attempts to calm her aggressive attitude toward him by telling her he is not her enemy. He says he is the only one who truly knows her. And he does have a point given that he and Diana are more alike than anyone else. After all, they are both Zeus’ offspring and they are both aware of the history of the old gods. Ares adds that he is the only one who truly knows Man as Diana now does, so this connects with the overall arc of the story which is the story of Diana coming to know mankind for the first time. Ares characterizes mankind from his own point of view, saying they are and always have been weak, cruel, selfish, and capable of the greatest horrors.
“Horrors” of course is a key word for BvS fans because in that movie Diana said that mankind made it impossible to stand together, and she explicitly referred to a Century of “horrors.” So maybe although she rebuffs Ares in this movie, eventually rejecting his negative characterization of mankind, it might be the case that over time she comes to realize that mankind really is capable of horrors, as shown through the remainder of the 20th Century and into the 21st Century. Even after she vanquishes Ares, his temptations may still be ringing in her ears and might be part of what plays out in terms of her public persona relative to mankind between Wonder Woman and Justice League.
Looking specifically within this movie, the list of characteristics that Ares ascribes to mankind connects back to the very beginning on Themyscira. In the storybook history lesson, we got two competing lists of characteristics. Hippolyta said that men were created “fair and good, strong and passionate” but then Ares corrupted them, so the result was jealousy, suspicion, and war. So Sir Patrick is not using the same words, but he’s adding on to the same notion, saying that mankind is weak, cruel, selfish, and capable of great horrors. And on this particular point, Hippolyta and Ares don’t necessarily disagree. Both are attesting to the negative side of mankind, it’s just that Ares right now is conveniently leaving out the part where it was his own corrupting influence that turned men that way. Now, we don’t actually know if he is responsible – we can’t necessarily take Hippolyta’s bedtime story as literal truth, but she does ascribe blame for corruption to Ares, whereas Ares is trying to talk about things as if they are inherently in the nature of mankind. Importantly, by the end of the film, Diana does not attempt to refute Ares by saying, “Yes, mankind is cruel and selfish because that’s how you influenced them.” This kind of counterargument would be indicative of Diana’s old, simplistic way of looking at things. Instead, she refutes Ares in a much more profound way, she says, “Yes, you are right about mankind, they are cruel and selfish, but that is not the whole story. That is not all they are. They are more, and I choose to fight for the good that is in them.” This counterargument represents a more sophisticated view of the world and one that places responsibility on all of us instead of just onto one bad guy.
So even though we are just getting started into this big Ares scene at the end, it’s nice to see that his villain dialogue is already tying the entire movie together and connecting to themes that have been threaded from the beginning. This coherence between the villain’s threat-and-motivation and the main character arcs places Wonder Woman in good company alongside Man of Steel and BvS, whereas our analysis revealed that Suicide Squad leaves a bit to be desired in this aspect.
But moving forward in the scene, Diana continues to circle Ares in an attempt to get closer until, when she finally comes around the bend to the doorway without any glass between them, Ares has disappeared. This illusion enforces the notion of Ares being deceptive. And broadly speaking, there seems to be a motif of glass betraying or distorting reality in the DCEU films which could be an allusion to Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found there by Lewis Carroll. Some examples of this include the image of Henry Allen in prison for murder which is a distortion of the fact that he is innocent of the crime. Jack, in the beginning of Batman v Superman, sees Superman destroying Metropolis when in truth he was trying to protect it. And the glass case which contained Lex’s Kryptonite holding a batarang to indicate the rock had been stolen by Batman, but the reality was that Lex wanted Batman to have the Kryptonite, and Lex had led Batman to it. Here Ares is seen through the glass windows but is not actually behind them when Diana comes around to the doorway.
And the things he says are meant to deceive Diana in order to entice her to join his effort. He says, “All I ever wanted was for the Gods to see how evil my father’s creation was. But they refused. So I destroyed them.” In this line, Ares implies that mankind was already corrupt when they were created, so he is telling the history differently than Hippolyta. But interestingly, he does admit to destroying the other gods, merely because they did not agree with his view of mankind, so Ares is basically revealing how cruel, selfish, and capable of the greatest horrors he himself is. Thus we can reinterpret his prior criticisms of mankind as Ares projecting himself in Man.
Now, we want to pause for a moment to think about the implication that Ares destroyed the other Gods. A question that comes up is where do Gods go when they die? Many sources claim Greek gods cannot die, which leads to the question of what that means for the DCEU. If the gods are not actually dead, then it would add to the deception perpetuated by Ares and open the possibility of introducing the other gods in future films. An explanation for why they aren’t around is an easy one that has been used in comics. It could be possible they want nothing more to do with Man’s world. Given Man’s proclivity for fighting, and the way they treated the Amazons, it wouldn’t be entirely unjustified.
But back on the central question of gods’ death, other sources say they don’t die but only fade away when what they stand for is no longer supported or believed. This too would indicate that the gods should still be alive given that the things they stand for, such as Love, Beauty, Wisdom, the Sky, the Ocean, et cetera, are still celebrated.
A third, alternate explanation is that the gods are existing in the Greek Underworld or Tartarus in a weakened state. It is unlikely they are in the Greek Underworld, because then Hades would be alive, empowered by their souls. But it is possible they are in Tartarus alongside Cronos and the other Titans. Or future screenwriters might simply say they were depowered or banished in some vague sense, and so they could reemerge with the writers simply having to find a way to repower them or bring them back from banishment --- not a hard thing to do for a writer.
Of course all these considerations rely heavily on Greek Mythology. The Greek gods in the DC Extended Universe may have their own, separate story, in which case it is very possible they are all destroyed, dead and gone forever. But given Ares’ predilection for deceiving, there is a argument to be made for the Gods’ continued existence, and maybe Wonder Woman 1984 will shed some light on that. It will be particularly interesting to see if Steve Trevor’s apparent resurrection is connected in any way to the other Greek gods.
With all that in mind, what do we think about Ares death at the end of the movie? Is he dead dead, in which case all the Greek gods would be gone, leaving only Diana as a demigod, and perhaps some other demigods here or there. Or is Ares only “dead” in the sense that the other gods are dead, meaning only “mostly dead.” Well, Diana is supposed to be a god killer – and as Ares will say in a moment, “only a god can kill another god.” So Diana being half god has the power to do just that. So this seems to suggest that Ares is dead dead. However, although we see Diana seemingly destroy Ares, we do not see a body when all is said and done. And although there is no reason to expect to see a body given the respectful nature in which the film handles death, it does leave open the possibility that Ares exists somewhere else, perhaps Tartarus, in a weakened state. After all, there will still be more wars in the future to fuel his power, including the worst one in modern history just a couple decades later.
So overall it’s an open question about the true fate of the old gods, since we have some unreliable narrators here in Hippolyta, speaking to a little girl, and Ares, obviously with some conflicts of interest in his telling of events. But for Diana, he is trying to position himself as a good guy, in a sense, and he is saying that it’s mankind that has always been the problem, ruining the perfect world that existed with just the gods and could exist again, as he’ll try to show to Diana in the next scene.
And it’s not just about mankind as the bad guy, Ares also seems to have some undertones of a resentful son. He doesn’t just say that mankind was bad and a blemish on the world, he says explicitly that his father’s creation was evil. It seems as though Ares has some daddy issues and mankind has been caught up in the mix.
But anyway, as Ares is talking about his attempts to show the gods the corrupt nature of mankind, Diana starts to go through the speech that she already rehearsed with Ludendorff in the same spot. She edges forward and says, “I am Diana of Themyscira, daughter of Hippolyta, and I am here to complete her mission.” But Ares has disappeared again and now he reappears right behind her, in the room now with her.
She has not really been listening to him or at least not processing his attempts at persuasion, so she is firmly on mission and she turns and tries to stab him with the sword. But he simply puts out his hand and it disintegrates as she thrusts. The filmmakers go to an extreme close-up for the destruction of the sword, and this is a nice way to emphasize the importance of this moment because it’s the other twist in the scene – this sword, which has been built up from the start of the movie onward, has now been shown to be completely useless against Ares. We also get a shot of Diana’s confusion as she can’t believe that the so-called godkiller is gone. This is yet another moment where the simplicity of her worldview and her expectations of what was going to happen and how it was going to happen are turned on their head. Leading up to the death of Ludendorff, she was very sure of herself and what she had to do – she never let Steve’s doubts shake her conviction. But then she was surprised to see that the war continued after she killed Ludendorff. She rebounded a bit when she found out that yes, Ares was real. But now she’s stunned to see that the sword she had learned about since childhood is not actually able to harm Ares.
Ares has a nice moment where he blows the dust off his hand, very confident in his position of power over a perplexed Diana, and he gets to be the one to finally share the truth with her --- that the godkiller was not the sword, rather, it’s her. He explains that Zeus left a child with the Amazons to be used as a weapon against Ares. So now this flies in direct conflict with things Diana learned from her own mother, but the evidence seems to be in favor of Ares. Diana can’t accept it yet, and so she calls Ares a liar and pulls out her lasso, her tool for determining the truth. But Ares simply responds that he is telling the truth. And again he uses the line, “I am.”
We’ll get into the lasso dynamics as they relate to Ares more in the next episode, but right now we can just say that our interpretation is that the lasso doesn’t necessarily compel Truth with a capital T but rather truth from the perspective of the speaker, that is, truth in the sense that they believe what they’re saying is true or it is at least truth to the best of their knowledge. So in this sense, if Ares believes that Men are weak, cruel, selfish, and capable of such horrors, then he would naturally see them as evil and try to make the other Gods see this. Therefore it’s not a lie to him. He just fails to see the good in Man.
And then there’s also the question of whether the lasso of Hestia works the same way on a god as it does on a person, but we’ll stop there for now.
Scene 45 finishes up with the Oddfellows getting into position for the next scenes. Steve sees Doctor Poison as he stands underneath the open belly of a plane. It’s a bit hard to tell with the masks, but it seems to be Charlie crouching down by some landing gear while Sameer carries a bomb onto a plane and Chief makes his way into a communication room or map room. We will, of course, see more from them later as the action picks up here in Act Three.
End of Episode
That’s our analysis of Scenes 44 and 45. Next up we’ll continue straight forward into the next part of Ares’ temptation of Diana.
Before we close, we also wanted to share some thoughts from one of our long-time listeners, Casper Richter from YouTube. He has some insights into not only Ares but also the DCEU overall. Casper has connected a main theme across the entire DCEU, and it’s one that we’ve brought up before -- the overall question of whether mankind is worth saving -- and in the past we’ve said that each movie finds a way to answer this question in the positive. In Man of Steel, Superman decides to save humanity even if it means the loss of Kryptonian heritage. In BvS, Superman again saves humanity even though they were divided in their response to him and even though some powerful men treated him rather poorly. In Suicide Squad, Task Force X decides to save humanity even though they have gotten a bit of a raw deal. In Justice League, the heroes are isolated and in some ways pushed to the margins of society, and the world is changing and starting to look unrecognizable, there are hateful divisions, but the league comes together to save it anyway. And of course here in Wonder Woman, Diana sees the ugliness of mankind but she also sees the potential for good and she chooses to stand on the side of love.
So that theme is something that we’ve noticed from the hero’s side of things. But Casper brought up that it also coheres with the villain’s side of things. The villains consistently offer a negative answer to that question of whether to save humanity. Casper wrote:
“'is mankind worth saving?' The villains represent the answer 'no'.
Zod: No because humankind is less evolved than other older, more powerful cosmic races that 'deserve' to exist more.
Luthor: No, because humankind will always be corrupted by power.
Ares: No, because humankind will always choose to give into their lust for violence.
Even The Comedian/Edward Blake from watchmen has a quote, that I find very interesting: "You know, mankind's been trying to kill each other off since the beginning of time; now, we finally have the power to finish the job." And I think this is very true. Ares I think makes one of the clearer arguments in that because of him Diana realizes that although she can battle the evils of man, she cannot defeat the power of choice. And as long as people are able to choose between good and evil, there will always be evil in the world. Diana left the battlefield no doubt because she would have felt like Sisyphus, pushing that boulder up a hill only for it to roll back down again and repeating for all eternity. Diana chose to leave the people and stay away from them because she realized that Ares was, in a way, more part of the world (War) than a monster she could stop. I think Ares might be one of the more interesting villains because he was kind of right about mankind. He left the people of earth, yet the war was still a part of people. And I think it's precisely what made Diana lose hope, before Superman's sacrifice reminded her that good deeds are never paid back but they are still worth doing.
The example of what I mean may be Professor James Moriarty's speech in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows: "You see ... hidden inside the unconscious is an insatiable desire for conflict. So you're not fighting me ... so much as you are the human condition. All I want to do is own the bullets and the bandages. War, on an industrial scale, is inevitable. They will do it themselves, within a few years. All i have to do ... is wait. Let's not waste anymore of each other's time ... we both know how this ends. "
So thanks again, Casper, for those thoughts.
And that does it for us. Thanks to the Suicide Squadcast and Man of Steel Answers for your inspiration, and thanks to all of you for listening. If you want to be entered into giveaways and gain access to some bonus content like our new Watchmen commentary episode, become a patron of the show at patreon.com/JLUPodcast.