Episode 5 of Reprisal is both a character study and a turning point. We learn who all of the main characters are, at their core, and where their true loyalties lie, before Katherine Harlow makes her return to Brawlers territory and sets her revenge in motion by sowing a little chaos. Her tiny battle has the effect she expects and by the end of the episode, Bash has sowed much more chaos and likely incited a war.
We begin with a flashback to a young, wild-haired Joel as a Phoenix. Johnson is also a laughing, chatty Phoenix. The biggest surprise is that the third Phoenix, who already has her embroidered jacket, is Lyla’s mother, Rita. The 3 River Phoenixes pull up in front of an establishment which belongs to a rival gang, strut in and start a fight for no apparent reason, then come out less than 5 minutes later, with Joel and Johnson injured. Rita tries to stop the bleeding in Joel’s abdomen. He takes the opportunity to tell her he’s in love with her.
As Matty says, fighting breeds loyalty amongst the gang members. But why has Johnson been a Phoenix for so long, while Joel rose to the top of the heap? Johnson never complains, but he never says much of anything, period. The Brawlers give him a purpose and a life, if not exactly a home. It’s a life that largely keeps him and Joel separated, but lends consistency to the Phoenixes. Were they both in love with Rita, or was there some other major falling out between them? Or is Joel doing him a favor by leaving him a Phoenix rather than promoting him?