A Look at “The Walking Dead” Season 5, Episode 2: “Strangers”

Everyone’s back together, so that means tons of walking around and looking for nothing, right? Not quite. After last week’s fast paced action, we slow things down with “Strangers.” The group has beaten one nightmare, but now they’ve got to deal with multiple situations on multiple fronts.

Strangers- Tara and Rick pound it out

The episode begins with everyone regrouping before getting ready to head out. Rick lets Tara know that he’s aware of her saving Glenn’s life, after he saved hers. That’s just the way it works with Rick and pals. Oh, and Tara wants to pound it out. Why? I have no idea. The plan is to head out at sun-up.

Strangers- Carol and Tyreese talk

Tyreese asks Carol if she talked to Rick more about what she did at the prison. She hasn’t, and Tyreese feels that she should since the others will accept her for what she did. Carol feels that they don’t have to, though. What Tyreese isn’t ready to discuss is Lizzie and Mika. That, he’d rather forget. Well, all right, I guess. Later that evening, Rick does admit that he owes Carol everything. I guess Karen and David are behind them for now.

Strangers- Daryl talks with Carol

Then it’s Daryl’s turn to talk to Carol. In fact, he does most of the talking since Carol doesn’t want to talk about what happened. She can’t. Not just yet. She just needs to forget.

Later on, Daryl returns to the group with food in tow, but he can’t shake the feeling that someone may be watching them. Everyone will keep moving forward until they find a vehicle to commandeer. But the sound of a man’s scream grabs their attention. They eventually head to his aide.

Strangers- The group rescues, and then questions, Father Gabriel Stokes, played by Seth Gilliam

We cut to a Negro preacher atop a rock as he tries to fend off some walkers. Rick and pals arrive and make quick work of the roamers before bringing down the preacher. This is Father Gabriel Stokes, played by Seth Gilliam. Rick immediately begins questioning the man: does he have any weapons? How many people has he killed? How many walkers has he killed? But, Gabriel says, the good Lord abhors violence and he apologizes for his sins every day. Though Rick still has his suspicious, Gabriel takes the group to his church.

Strangers- Group emerges after checking church

They arrive and check inside, but find little out of the ordinary. Abraham found a short bus around back that doesn’t work, but could still be fixed. Supplies are necessary, but Rick isn’t about to split everyone up, and the others follows in line behind him.

Strangers- Gabriel tells Rick how he survived for so long

Back to being questioned, Gabriel tells Rick that his supply of can foods came from a local can food drive. When he ran low, he began scavenging at most nearby locations except for one that has been overrun by roamers. Gabriel offers to draw up a map, but Rick forces him to come along.

Strangers- Rick tells Carl that he doesn't trust Gabriel and asks why Carl does

Rick then speaks to Carl alone. If it wasn’t obvious already, Rick doesn’t trust Gabriel. But then again, Rick doesn’t trust a lot of people. He wants Carl to stay on his guard, but Carl doesn’t think that every single person they run into is going to turn out bad. They don’t have to be afraid or hide. More than that, they can still help people in need. Regardless, Rick advises his son to stay alert, protect Judith and- this is important- keep in mind that he is not safe, no matter how clear things may appear to be.

Strangers- Bob is optimistic, Gabriel leads group to food bank

So Gabriel leads the group of Rick, Bob, Sasha and Michonne to the food bank. Bob is optimistic that Abraham’s plan to get to Washington will pay off and the world will return to the way it was. They may be living in a nightmare, but nightmares end. Rick is more cynical, accepting that the world around them is their reality. He also hasn’t decided on whether to go along with Abraham’s proposal yet.

Strangers- Daryl and Carol find abandoned car

Daryl again tries to pry Carol open, but she’s still not looking to talk. Daryl tells her that everyone can start over. After all, she saved their lives, but Carol tells him that she just got lucky. As the two check their surroundings, they spot an empty car and decide to leave it alone for backup. For now.

Strangers- Glenn found some silencers

Glenn, Tara and Maggie do their own exploring. After tripping over some boxes and a mop, Glenn manages to find some silencers in a mini-fridge. That’s one way to hide them, I suppose. Why didn’t they take the mini-fridge? Surely it couldn’t be that heavy.

Strangers- Rick and company find the food bank and walkers

Gabriel and company arrive at the food bank and find a swarm of walkers wading around in water. Surrounding them are shelves filled with canned goods. Probably not good canned goods, but they’ll take what they can get. There are holes in the ceiling as well, meaning water has been leaking in for quite a long time.

Strangers- Group uses shelves to block walkers

They wade in and use shelves to block the walkers while grabbing supplies. One particular walker spooks Gabriel to the point where he backs up against a wall. Bob is dragged underwater by one walker, but Sasha quickly kills it.

As they head back, we learn from a quick talk between Rick and Michonne that she never even owned her former sword. She just found it and got plenty of practice when it was just her and the walkers. She still misses Andrea and Hershel, though.

Strangers- Carl observes markings on the walls of Gabriel's church

Back at the church, Rick finds Carl observing scratch marks and cuts on the walls, as if someone was desperately trying to get in. Oh, and a not so cryptic message of “You’ll Burn for This.” Someone had plenty of time to carve that in.

Strangers- Abraham toasts to the survivors

That evening, the group feasts upon the food. Abraham toasts to them: the survivors…but he asks: is this all they want to be? Living day by day? They have plenty of strength, but just living as they are is another form of surrendering in Abraham’s eyes. If they get to Washington, they’ll find infrastructure and refuge. They can restart their lives and be safe. By Judith’s motion for unanimous consent, everyone is on board for Washington.

Oh, and Tara tells Maggie who she really is and how she was in cahoots with the Governor.

Strangers- Rick still doesn't trust Gabriel

Rick thanks Gabriel for his hospitality, but then quickly says that he knows Gabriel is hiding something and that if he puts Rick and his folk in danger, he’ll kill him. Rick, quit being an asshole for one night, huh?

Strangers- Daryl and Carol hide as car passes by

Carol is back at the car with Daryl not too far behind. A car rushes by and Daryl immediately recognizes it as the one that apparently made off with Beth. The two hop into the car and take pursuit.

Strangers- Bob weeps

Bob takes a moment to weep outside, but that moment is short lived, as he’s soon knocked out.

Strangers- Bob awakens before Gareth and The Hunters

He awakens to find himself surrounded by Gareth and other familiar faces from Terminus. Gareth tells Bob that he didn’t want to hurt him, but Rick and the others took away their home. Now they’re out on their own and trying to survive. Essentially, they’ve devolved into hunters. What they did isn’t personal, though. They would have done it to anyone. At the end of the day, they have to eat. If it’s any consolation to Bob, however…

Strangers- A man's gotta eat, The Hunters feast on Bob's leg

…he tastes a lot better than Gareth imagined.

Hell yes! Enter The Hunters!

This was a damn good follow-up to “No Sanctuary.” While I enjoyed the fast, frantic paced action, The Walking Dead, I feel, is stronger during its more human moments. With the group almost completely reunited, this episode could have easily settled into the groove of everyone just wandering around and exploring. Luckily, this episode doesn’t do that and there are a lot of elements of “Strangers” that I enjoyed.

Strangers- Michonne doesn't have a sword anymore

Robert Kirkman himself wrote this episode and his influence is apparent in the dialogue. Like the comic, we got some very brief moments of character development and growth through brief conversations. They never dragged on too long and while there were some I enjoyed more than others, we got the gist of what characters felt through their exchanges, such as Daryl trying to get Carol to open up or Rick asking Michonne about her sword. By the way, I did get a chuckle out of Michonne instinctively reaching for her sword and not having it anymore.

This episode was about second chances, a fresh start, hitting a reset button, so to speak. Everyone has spent so much time apart that the main priority is to stay together. Sure, they want to move forward, but they don’t want to split up again, even though, by episode’s end, that’s exactly what happens anyway.

After everything they’ve been through, I will admit it’s nice to see everyone just interacting. Sure, some of these moments I find a tad bit sappy, but it’s a change of pace from the carnage and walkers.

Strangers- Rick doesn't trust Gabriel

One constant theme of the show is trust, and the group has constantly been tested on that. Who can they trust? How suspicious should they be? Who can’t be trusted? And is everyone bad? This came through in Rick’s conversation with Carl. Rick has every reason in the world to be suspicious of every new person he meets. Hell, in the pilot, Morgan didn’t even trust Rick at first, even though Rick knew absolutely nothing about the zombie apocalypse at the time. Trust is not something that comes naturally for anyone in this world. It’s earned, and in Rick’s eyes, it’s a hell of an uphill climb to earn his trust not just because he’s naturally suspicious, but because he wants to protect his family. You can never be too careful.

Strangers- Carl trusts Gabriel

And Carl knows this, but he’s more optimistic and doesn’t immediately label everyone as a target or threat. Plus, even though he knows Gabriel may be hiding something, he’s more willing to give people a chance.

The world has hardened Rick. When Bob talks about the world returning to the way it was, he speaks to Bob as if he were delusional. At the same time, it doesn’t hurt to hold onto some memory of the world before the apocalypse.

Strangers- Gabriel looks at photo

That’s what Gabriel has managed to retain with his faith. Sure, everyone else may not fly that way, but he has something to hold onto. The fact that he’s such a straight arrow gives Rick even more reason to suspect him.

Strangers- Rick knows that Gabriel is hiding something

In fact, Rick seems to have comfortably settled back into the role of leader after questioning it in previous seasons. He asks Gabriel question after question even though, for the moment, Gabriel has nothing to hide. He never lets his guard down, even when he thanks Gabriel for letting everyone stay in the church. Again, Rick has a reason to be suspicious. He analyzes a situation, assesses it and, when he’s ready, he’ll make his move- making him an ideal choice for the leader. But perhaps he’s a bit too distrusting. He wants to protect everyone, but they’ve proven more than capable of handling themselves. I just wish he wasn’t so quick to assume the worst of Gabriel. He’s not always cold, though, as evidenced when we see him playing with Julia.

Strangers- Maggie forgives Tara for some reason

By the way, I call foul on both Rick and Maggie accepting Tara as quickly as they did. Sure, Tara saved Glenn’s life, but she was still part of a group that was responsible for Hershel’s death. Given how big of a deal it was when the Governor cut off Hershel’s head, I would think Rick and Hershel’s daughter would show some sort of reaction other than welcoming them with open arms. I mean, they didn’t even hesitate.

It is strange how Tara chose this moment to talk to Maggie about what she did. I would think Maggie, knowing little about Tara, would have questions for her. Similar to Tyreese forgiving Carol for killing Karen and David, I think Maggie forgiving Tara came too quickly. She doesn’t know Tara that well, but she does know that she spent a lot of time with Glenn while they tried to find her. Wouldn’t that warrant questions as to where she came from? It just seemed like a convenient way to put Tara on good terms with everyone else. Also, I question how she blindly falls in line with the others and follows Rick’s orders to stay together, even though she barely knows him.

Strangers- Daryl throws water to Carol

I appreciate Daryl trying to get Carol to talk about what she’s been through. Ever since Daryl went out of his way to look for Sophia, it’s clear that Carol is the one person he cares the most for. It makes sense that he’d want to know what she’s endured, but he isn’t being forceful, either. He’s taking his time because Carol isn’t quick to let people in. But at least the two have a hopeful shot at finding Beth.

Strangers- Optimistic Bob

And speaking of hope, if The Walking Dead- whether comic or television show- has shown anything, it’s that optimism means something bad is about to happen. Bob was a lot happier than usual in this episode.

Strangers- Bob has a moment with Sasha

He has lovey dovey moments with Sasha and talks of the world going back to the way it was. And now he’s lost a leg. Now, given how this all played in the comics, I get the feeling that Bob may end up getting the last laugh against Gareth and company, but I won’t spoil anything. Let’s save that for next time.

Strangers- Gareth likes the way Bob tastes

Meanwhile, I’m so happy to finally see The Hunters take center stage as the current antagonists on the show. I thought Joe and the marauders from last season would turn out to be The Hunters, but given the cannibalism witnessed at Terminus, this makes a lot of sense.

Strangers- Comic book Hunters Part 1

Strangers- Comic book Hunters Part 2

And Gareth’s dialogue to Bob about him tasting good is pretty much ripped from the comic. We know how big of a threat the Terminus folks are and we know what they lost as a result of the group’s actions, so I’m interested to see how the show will handle them. And I’ll admit, it was damn gruesome sight watching The Hunters feast on Bob’s leg. Oh, but we’ve only just started with these people. And it looks like Tyreese didn’t turn into a killer after all…

All in all, this was a very good episode penned by the series’ creator. It had its share of tense moments and times where the characters could just be people. The introduction of Father Gabriel is a welcome addition, though he seems a bit more timid than his comic book counterpart. With Bob’s fate left in the balance while Carol and Daryl leave to find Beth, the group is once again scattered while The Hunters prepare to feast. Color me excited.

A Look at “Gotham” Season 1, Episode 4: “Arkham”

Never trust Oswald Cobblepot’s cannoli.

Arkham- Oswald introduces himself to Barbara as Peter

The episode begins directly following the ending of “The Balloonman,” with Oswald showing up at Barbara’s doorstep. Oswald attempts to make small talk with Barbara under the guise of being an old work friend named Peter, but Jim cuts the conversation short and takes Oswald outside.

Arkham- Oswald offers to help Gordon

Outside, he’s livid at Oswald returning since Falcone could kill them both, but Oswald couldn’t just stay away. Gotham is his home, as terrible as it is. He offers to help Gordon, who knows very well that he has a small circle of friends he can trust. Plus, no one would go looking for a dead man, so Oswald can remain invisible in Gotham. There’s still a war coming, but war is just politics by other means. In addition, money talks. What does it talk about? Arkham. Think it over, Gordon.

Arkham- Councilman Ron Jenkins, played by Evander Duck, and an aide are stopped by Richard Blackwell

We then cut to a parking structure where Councilman Ron Jenkins, played by Evander Duck, and an aide are leaving for the night. They’re stopped by constituent Richard Gladwell, played by Hakeen Kae-Kazin, who tells the council member that he’s voted for him in every election. How sweet. He has an invention to show and it will only take a minute. When he assembles the device, he tells Jenkins’ aide to put it close to his eye, and he does. He ends up with a blade to the eye. But still, Gladwell really did vote for Jenkins. Well, that’s one less vote you can count on. And that was the final tale of Councilman Ron Jenkins.

Arkham- Captain Essen assigns Bullock to the double homicide

Surprisingly, we don’t end up with a crime scene investigating immediately following the murder. Instead, Captain Essen briefs Bullock on the double homicide. It’s his case to take, even though Alvarez hasn’t handled a case all week. Alvarez, however, has pulled double overtime, so quit being lazy, Bullock. The medical examiner’s report isn’t ready yet, but they do know that the councilman and his aid had their valuables stolen. Essen’s initial thoughts? Wrong place, wrong time.

Arkham- Fish gets seduced once

Fish holds auditions for the next American Idol-I mean, she’s looking to recruit. The woman in question has a nice enough voice, but Fish wants her to seduce her as well. Pretend she’s a boy. It goes well enough, but Fish wants Butch to keep looking for a weapon.

Arkham- Bullock and Gordon interrogate Nicky, played by Flaco Navaja

Bullock and Gordon interrogate Nicky, played by Flaco Navaja, who is apparently the Crown Prince of Parking Lot Muggers. Shut up, Gotham. But Nicky denies it, saying he was on sabbatical, despite Bullock claiming that he has witnesses putting him at the scene.

Gordon heads out, positive that they have the wrong person, and finds a box of evidence on his desk. Inside are plans for the Arkham District Development Proposal.

Arkham- Mayor James giving a press conference about Arkham Development Proposal

We then cut to Mayor James giving a press conference about this very proposal. The Waynes had a plan to build affordable housing in the district. As for Arkham Asylum, it will be torn down and a new health facility will be constructed in its place. One reporter notes that an opposing plan is gaining traction: do away with Arkham altogether and use the land for waste disposal. James endorses the Wayne plan.

Arkham- Oswald sees Maroni's men head in back with bags of money

At Bamonte’s, Maroni arrives to celebrate this lucrative land deal while men head in the back with some suspicious looking bags. This doesn’t go unnoticed by Oswald.

Arkham- Bruce reads Arkham plan to Gordon and Alfred

Gordon requests from Alfred any information regarding the Wayne plan for Arkham. It’s for the Waynes in name only. Falcone would profit if the proposal passes. Councilman Jenkins also backed it. Gordon figures that Maroni is responsible for the murder because he’s the only one strong enough to oppose Falcone. How he arrived at that conclusion so fast, I’ll never know. Bruce comes in and asks whether the plans would be related to his parents’ murders. Thomas and Martha Wayne fought to give Gotham hope. He doesn’t want this dream to die with them. Before this conversation can continue, Gordon receives a call from Bullock, who lets him know that Councilman Zeller has been abducted.

Arkham- Richard Gladwell preparing to burn Councilman Zeller, played by John D. Haggerty

At Arkham Asylum, Councilman Zeller, played by John D. Haggerty, is brought in an oil drum by Richard Gladwell of all people. Gladwell is just here to send a message from his customer. He fills the drum with gasoline, leaves a trail and lights a match.

Arkham- Bullock, Gordon and Captain Essen at crime scene investigation at Arkham

All right, now we get an immediate crime scene follow up- Captain Essen is even there this time. It can’t be a coincidence, but she and Bullock figure this is about more than the land vote. Zeller and Jenkins were on opposite sides. Gordon figures Maroni had to strike first. He had Jenkins killed to change the vote his way, then Falcone had Zeller killed to send a message. As Essen leaves, she plans to post guards with other council members, as well as the mayor. Bullock asks how Gordon knows so much. That’s a good question. Rather than answer it, Gordon motions to Edward Nygma behind the two detectives.

Arkham- Nygma has a paradox

Nygma has a paradox. The medical report on Jenkins and his aide found the two suffered from fatal puncture wounds to the skull through the eye socket. The woman was a sort of metal spike. Councilman Zeller also suffered from a spike wound. Sounds like an unlikely coincidence. Hence, the three had to have been killed by the same person. Sounds crazy, right? Welcome to Gotham. Bullock has a source.

Back at the restaurant, the manager warns Oswald about sticking his nose where it doesn’t belong when he watches Maroni’s men counting money.

Arkham- Bullock and Gordon head to the Gotham State Penitentiary and speak with Minks, played by Brad Calcaterra

Bullock and Gordon head to the Gotham State Penitentiary and speak with Minks, played by Brad Calcaterra. Bullock delivers two cartons of cigarettes, so this must be important. Minks guesses the hitman’s weapon of choice and has even heard of him by reputation. He identifies Gladwell by name, telling the detectives that he works at the Lanky building in midtown.

At said building, Bullock can’t help but notice Gordon on edge recently. The two ask for Gladwell. His desk is further back in the main hall, but Gladwell overhears and heads into a supply room. When Bullock and Gordon finds Gladwell’s desk empty, Gordon heads toward the room while Bullock investigates the desk. Gladwell assembles his weapon in anticipation while Gordon gets closer and closer.

Arkham- Bullock shows Gordon the newspaper clippings Gladwell had on Jenkins and Zeller

Bullock calls him away with the evidence they need: newspaper clippings on Jenkins and Zeller. The two head toward the supply room together and scare the daylights out of a woman with a box of paper clips. Well, maybe she shouldn’t be walking around with boxes of paper clips! The two do find one noteworthy item: a slip of paper with the letters C, L and M on it.

Bruce awakens from a nightmare about his parents’ deaths. He asks Alfred for additional files about the Arkham plan to see any other connections.

Arkham- Oswald hiding with money

Robbers burst into Bamonte’s and kill the manager, along with anyone else they see. They swipe a bag and flee just moments before Maroni’s men arrive. One follows some bloody footsteps and finds Oswald hiding in a locker with a bag of money.

Arkham- Barbara and Gordon discuss secrets

Because Gordon doesn’t appear to have what we’d call friends, he again goes to Barbara with his problems. But she isn’t too pleased about his long hours and late nights because they make her worry. She thinks that he has secrets and doesn’t like that. Gordon isn’t about to spill on who Oswald Cobblepot is, though. Gordon correctly figures that Montoya stopped by, so Barbara admits that she used to be a in a relationship with Montoya. However, it only lasted a year and Barbara was the one who ended it. Needless to say, Gordon is not happy. Not because Montoya is a woman, but because Barbara lied to him.

Arkham- Maroni appreciates Oswald for saving his money

At Bamonte’s, Maroni plans his retaliation against Falcone. He has Oswald brought before him and lets him know that saving the bag of money did not go unnoticed. Oswald’s getting a promotion to restaurant manager! I mean, the position did just become vacant.

Gordon looks over the note, but Bullock has bad news: the real Richard Gladwell died five years ago in his apartment. No one noticed it because he always paid his rent on time and this hitman assumed his identity while no one batted an eye. Bullock does have a solution for the note: Complete Waste of Time. See, that doesn’t work because the letters are C, L and M, not C, W and T. He leaves the take on the case his way.

Arkham- Fish gets seduced again

So Fish holds a second audition. She asks the singer if she wants to be a woman with power, money and respect. Who wouldn’t? Fish again asks to be seduced, and she is, but as the woman leaves, Bullock enters. Fish can help find the hitman over time, leaving Bullock to owe her a big favor.   However, she thinks the hunt is a waste of time since Falcone will just get someone to take his place. He can’t afford to lose the vote and if Maroni wins, it will show that Falcone looks weak. She’s a bit too excited at that, Bullock notices, but Fish always has a plan B. Those are important.

Gordon gets an unexpected call from Oswald about another hit coming for someone who backs Falcone. Even though there are officers present, Oswald tells Gordon that there are ways around law enforcement. In Gotham? Easily. Gordon gets a list of officers working protection and looks at the three assigned to Mayor James: Officers Campos, Lazenby and Martins. He leaves the department and informs Bullock.

Arkham- Gordon shows up at the mayor's house to let him know about the hitman

He arrives at the mayor’s home and finds an empty police cruiser outside. After informing the mayor of the assassination plot, Gordon and the mayor plan to break for the mayor’s sister’s house.

Arkham- Bullock and Gordon down Gladwell

Too late. Gladwell arrives, forcing the two upstairs into the mayor’s secret room within a room. A fight breaks out, but Bullock arrives just in time. Before Gladwell can finish the job, Gordon and Bullock put him down.

Arkham- Gordon chooses work over Barbara

Barbara drops by the police department and apologizes for not telling Gordon about Montoya. She doesn’t want any more secrets, but Gordon still has no intentions of telling her about Oswald. It was a mistake to discuss work and he won’t make that error again. Barbara decides she can’t live like this and gives Gordon an ultimatum: let her in or let her go. Without saying a word, Gordon makes his decision and Barbara takes her leave.

Arkham- Fish holds tryouts

Fish holds tryouts for the two women. Surprisingly, there’s no broken pool cue. The second girl wins.

Arkham- Oswald brought cannoli

Now in a brand new suit, Oswald meets up with the robbers from earlier and congratulates them on a job well done for a convincing set-up. To celebrate, Oswald brought cannoli.

Arkham- Gordon and Bullock watch results of Arkham vote

The results of the vote are in. Gordon and Bullock watch as Mayor James announces that the Arkham District will be developed into low cost housing and the land can be used for waste disposal. As for Arkham, it will be reopened.

Arkham- Gordon tells Bruce that compromise may have averted war

Gordon is now at Wayne Manor- that was fast- and both he and Bruce don’t think this is good for Gotham. This compromise may have helped avert war, though Bruce still isn’t pleased. Everything isn’t in the hands of Falcone and Maroni, though.

Meanwhile, Oswald Cobblepot collects.

So we’ve got another random killer this week. Not a vigilante, but your average, hired assassin with an odd weapon. We don’t learn much about the weapon. Heck, we don’t learn much about Gladwell at all. Who hired him? How was he able to take over someone’s identity for so long with no one noticing? Why use a distinct weapon and potentially draw attention to yourself? And better yet, why work in a public building where everybody knows your name? A lot of blanks left unfilled. At least with David Lamond, we learned a few things about him before he became a vigilante.

Arkham- Barbara leaves GCPD

So Barbara and Gordon are no more, it seems. This would seem like a big deal, but as an audience, we haven’t learned much about the two of them together for this to be that upsetting. Hell, aside from her conversation with Montoya, we’ve only seen Barbara when Gordon needs to talk about his troubles. We dug a bit into her backstory, but as a character within this interpretation, she’s not well-defined. Only four episodes in and we’ve already got a breakup. The show must really want to go ahead and get Gordon with Essen.

Arkham- Bullock asks how Gordon could know so much about the murders

Speaking of Gordon, Bullock touched upon something that never got addressed again in this episode: Gordon’s convenient hunches. Gordon has not been in Gotham that long compared to other officers on the force. It’s strange that he would automatically assume that Maroni is the only one in Gotham strong enough to take on Falcone. He’s right, sure, but it just seems like he figured that out with little to go on. There should be much more detective work involved instead of Gordon just having an a-ha moment.

Arkham- Fish helps her new pet

Not sure what to make of Fish’s new pet so far, but at least these tryouts seem less violent than the Joker’s. Oh, and there’s a Crown Prince of Parking Lot Muggers? No, Gotham! What’s with these shows just casually dropping references like that and thinking it’s cool or subtle? Arrow does it. The Flash does it. Gotham is next in line.

Arkham- Oswald tells James about the upcoming war

Cobblepot was, again, the best part of the episode. He’s slowly working his way up the crime mob chain by playing multiple sides and it works to his advantage because, as he mentioned, no one would go looking for a dead man. At the same time, he’s able to get on Maroni’s good side. He knows Gordon won’t kill him because Gordon is a good man and, if Selina Kyle is an indication of anything, Gordon will need all the help he can get. Though not the main character, Cobblepot is clearly one of the main players and Robin Lord Taylor’s performance continues to stand out.

This episode, though not as interesting as “The Balloonman,” did have its moments. It’s always nice to see Arkham Asylum, knowing that it’s going to be a key factor in the series. There are still gaps, though. Gladwell being a mystery isn’t all that interesting when the detectives themselves point out how he could have floated under the radar for so long. I wasn’t invested in Barbara and Gordon’s relationship enough to care that they’re no longer together. And Fish really wants to be seduced, doesn’t she?

A Look at “Jimi: All Is By My Side”

Jimi All Is By My Side- Poster

Jimi: All Is By My Side isn’t what I’d call a great biopic. I like the concept, some of the direction and it features good performances by André Benjamin, Imogen Poots and Hayley Atwell. It suffers in its accuracy and portraying Hendrix in quite a negative light, contrary to what those who knew him would say about his character.

Jimi All Is By My Side- Linda Keith and Jimi

After a brief flash-forward on the evening of June 4, 1967, the film flashes back to one year prior at the Cheetah Club in New York City. The club is near empty, with only about 20 or so patrons. Among them is Linda Keith, played by Imogen Poots. Keith, currently Keith Richards’ boyfriend, watches the onstage band, Curtis Knight and the Squires, play, but her focus is drawn to one particular guitarist.

When the band’s set has finished, she speaks with the guitarist in question, Jimi Hendrix, played by André Benjamin. Interested in his ability to play the guitar, Keith invites Jimi to join some of her friends to get immersed with LSD. Now that is how you make a proper introduction. While watching Jimi begin to experience, Linda warns him to not look in the mirror the first time he tries this.

Linda sees great potential in Hendrix, but he’s not so on board with her idea of playing his own music. After all, if he left the Squires, what kind of music would he play? He’d like to do his own thing, but he can’t just up and leave.

So Jimi pays a visit to a lady friend who wants to go to The Village with him. Jimi, however, needs a few bucks, even though he’s known to spend it. She eventually relents and gives him some money, but demands that he bring back some food. Good luck with that, girl who we’ll never see again.

Linda introduces Jimi to Rolling Stones producer Andrew Loog Oldham, played by Robbie Jarvis. He’s less than enthralled about Jimi’s playing, even though Linda believes he is brilliant. She would like to visit Harlem one day since she’s never heard rhythm and blues, but Jimi tells her that there’s nothing for her in Harlem.

We then briefly meet Keith Richards himself, played by Ashley Charles, as he’s furious about his girlfriend hanging out with this addict of a guitarist.

Jimi All Is By My Side- Linda and Jimi prepare to meet Chandler

Linda’s next attempt comes in the form of The Animals’ bassist, Bryan “Chas” Chandler, played by Andrew Buckley. Chandler is done playing bass and now wants to manage. Luckily, Linda may have the right person in mind. She suggests that Jimi sing, but he doesn’t like the sound of his own voice.

At a club that evening, Chandler gets a firsthand listen to Jimi James and the Blue Flames. He’s bowled over by Jimi’s strumming and calls the man brilliant. He just can’t believe that no one has signed him. Neither of them has real management experience, but regardless, Chandler wants Jimi to join him in London. Jimi isn’t on board. After all, there’s plenty of talent in London already and Jimi isn’t a fan of labels. He just wants his music to go into the soul, and then paint it with a bit of science fiction.

But before Jimi departs for London, he’ll need to provide either his passport of birth certificate, neither of which he actually has. More than that, Chandler isn’t a fan of Hendrix constantly being silent, but Jimi insists that wisdom just listens. Sure, I guess, but he still needs some form of identification and he’s not planning to call his father anytime soon.

Jimi All Is By My Side- Jimi and Kathy Etchingham, played by Hayley Atwell

The date is September 24, 1966. Hendrix, Keith and Chandler have arrived in London. Also there and making small talk with Hendrix is a young woman by the name of Kathy Etchingham, played by Agent Peggy Carter herself, Hayley Atwell. Linda is jealous of the attention Kathy is giving Jimi, though Kathy promptly tells Linda to fuck off.

And after a night of love-making between Hendrix and Etchingham, they awaken to find Linda standing in Kathy’s room as she makes off with Jimi’s guitar.

Later on, Linda waits patiently for Jimi to meet her at a fancy looking restaurant. He finally arrives and she apologizes for letting her emotions get the best of her. She still thinks that he made a royal mess of things, but Jimi tells her that it wasn’t at all planned. There’s just no accounting for people. He does his own thing and takes shots as they come. Linda still tells Jimi that he shouldn’t expect other people to sort out his life. Jimi isn’t keen on taking her advice, but Linda reminds him that, in a group of 20 uninterested people, she is the one who found him. She wonders aloud if people mean anything to Jimi at all. The two still end on somewhat good terms as Linda gives Jimi a ticket to pick up his guitar.

Jimi and Kathy meet up with Noel Redding, who tells Jimi that the world is still heavily into the more edged rock and roll. He’s all up for joining Jimi, but Jimi tells him flat out that neither he nor Kathy have much money. They may be broke, but at least they’re cool.

After a not so successful phone call with Jimi’s father, Al, we meet Producer Michael Jeffrey, played by Burn Gorman, who would prefer that Jimi find himself some drummers. He’s on-board with the name “Jimi Hendrix and The Experience,” so there’s that.

October 1, 1966. Regent Street. Jimi finally gets his meeting with Eric Clapton, played by Danny McColgan. But not only does Jimi get to meet him, Jimi wants to get on stage and play with the band. It sounds crazy, but hey, Clapton’s on board with it. The packed audience awaits as Hendrix plugs his guitar in and begins to jam. Soon enough, the crowd is loving it and Clapton ends up leaving the stage in amazement at how good Hendrix can play.

Sounds like this Jimi Hendrix boy has a pretty bright future ahead of him.

Jimi All Is By My Side- Performing

Making a biopic is challenging, and Jimi: All Is By My Side is no exception to the rule. Do the people involved want to make their own story or stay as faithful as possible? Should the performances be similar to the people they are based on or should we allow the actors room to create their own interpretation? It’s hard to get everything right.

So this movie doesn’t include any of Jimi Hendrix’s actual music. That’s not a deal breaker for me and I still enjoyed the guitar work that we had, particularly a scene toward the end that I’d rather not give away.

Jimi All Is By My Side- Jimi talks music

There’s a lot of talent that went into the making of this film. It was both written and directed by John Ridley, whose most recent work was 12 Years a Slave. The cinematographer is Glenn Freemantle, who recently won an Oscar for his work on Gravity. André Benjamin really does feel like Hendrix, so some thought did go into getting certain aspects right before making the film. While I’m not overly sold on some of the cinematography: fading in, having certain dialogue not heard, or the use of still images and footage to illustrate what characters may be thinking, they do give the film its own distinctive visual flair. It’s not a flair I’m fond of, but the film does have its own identity.

Interview

And speaking of, there’s a lot of focus on personal identity and discovery in the film. This movie takes place before Jimi Hendrix became the well-known artist that he was and focuses on the year leading up to that. Hendrix himself hates and flat out rejects the idea of labels or being defined by someone else. When the film proposes that he be a proponent for Black London, Hendrix counters that everyone in London is a friend to him. Jimi seems to be fine with letting life play out as is, but not letting it determine his destiny. That’s his responsibility. Hendrix is very laid back here. Linda even makes the point that if she hadn’t discovered him, he probably would have been content playing in the same club to a small audience. He doesn’t see himself as a legend or revolutionary.

Given that the movie couldn’t use any of Hendrix’s music, I’m okay with it focusing on a particular period in his slow rise, as we get to see what the man was like before becoming a legend.

Jimi All Is By My Side- Andre Benjamin as Jimi Hendrix

André Benjamin’s performance is easily the best in the film. Granted, Benjamin himself is older than Hendrix would have been at the time this film is set, but he feels like Hendrix. Long before this movie came out, I can remember people saying that if there was ever a Jimi Hendrix film, this was the only person to play him- and it’s just who we got. I do wish that this interpretation of Hendrix wasn’t so, for lack of a better phrase, lost in translation. He gets philosophical with his ideas on music and the universe, but there are long moments where he doesn’t speak at all. Then, all of a sudden, he’ll have these sudden bursts.

And though I was originally fine with Hayley Atwell’s performance as Kathy Etchingham, she’s really just more of the groupie along for the ride based on this portrayal.

Jimi All Is By My Side- The Real Kathy Etchingham

Now my biggest problem with the film is the characterization of Etchingham herself. I didn’t have any issues with this until I did my homework. Kathy Etchingham is still alive. She had no involvement in this movie whatsoever and was not even consulted. I don’t understand this decision at all. I would think that the filmmakers would want to reach out to the real life person that they are going to portray in order to make sure that they are doing Etchingham justice.

Etchingham herself has come out quite harshly against this film’s portrayal of not just her, but Hendrix as well for a particularly brutal scene where Hendrix beats Etchingham with a telephone. Etchingham has called this fictitious and the scene itself does come out of nowhere. Look, I never knew Hendrix personally and have no claims to his personality, but I never thought of him as a violent man. Apparently, neither did the woman who actually knew him. I question the inclusion of this in the film. I hope it wasn’t for forced drama, because it seems like it’s just here for shock value. It makes Hendrix look unfavorable in my eyes. Nothing said that John Ridley had to seek out Etchingham, but I don’t get why he needed to paint Hendrix and Etchingham in a negative light when he had plenty of resources to consult.

Jimi All Is By My Side- John Ridley and Hayley Atwell discuss film

According to Hayley Atwell in May of this year, she never contacted or met with Kathy Etchingham, saying that she trusted John Ridley’s work and Etchingham’s book. It was more about Atwell’s interpretation.  You can try to put a spin on things, sure, but again, the real life person is right there. Call her up or email her, but saying that you didn’t want to meet with the real life person you’re portraying because the film was about your own interpretation is a huge disservice to Etchingham. Etchingham has had quite a few slights when it comes to others discussing her love life with Hendrix, with authors Curtis Knight and Charles Cross retracting claims that they interviewed Etchingham.

I’m not trying to turn this into a discussion of fiction versus reality, but I find this to be a bigger issue than the lack of Hendrix’s actual music. The Hendrix estate would not allow it. There is no excuse for not using real life resources available, particularly when the film begins by telling the audience that it is based on a true story. “True” is only half right. It’s about Jimi Hendrix, but what we got is far from accurate. I would hope the purpose of this film wasn’t to portray Hendrix in a negative light, especially if that turned out to not be true.

Now that my giant problem is out of the way, I do have some minor complaints. The dialogue does tend to drag on a bit too long at times. It feels like we’re a fly on the wall during certain conversations, but often I wondered whether the camera just kept rolling after a scene ended and the actors didn’t realize it.

The film has quite a number of real life faces from this period. Along with Hendrix, Keith, Etchingham, Richards and Chandler, we get appearances from the likes of Paul McCartney, George Harrison, The Who is mentioned- some of the big groups at the time. When these people are introduced, the screen freezes and we get an annotation telling us who this person is, rather than allowing that to come through dialogue. And if you’re going to have folks like McCartney and Harrison appear, why have them show up and not give them dialogue? The film could have easily just alluded to them.

Jimi: All Is By My Side is a mixed experience. I Don’t Live Today to call this a movie that I love. There’s talent involved, but it’s lost in a Purple Haze of misrepresentation of Hendrix and Etchingham and some odd direction. My One Rainy Wish would have been some respect for Hendrix and Etchingham’s portrayal, but Ain’t No Telling why Ridley and those involved with this film chose not to seek out better resources than what they chose. If you want to see this film, I’d say do some research, then Wait Until Tomorrow when you have a better decision. This film is not necessarily bad, but not beautiful. Nothing to rush out and see.

Now excuse me while I whip this out.

 

A Look at “The Walking Dead” #132: “Happiness”

The Walking Dead #132- Cover

Much like other recent issues, The Walking Dead #132: “Happiness” begins with a reveal or moment brought up at the end of the previous issue and is handled fairly quickly. Well, not really handled as much as it was just brushed aside for now. The issue focuses on three different stories, though the one in Alexandria only took up one page.

The Walking Dead #132- Andrea promises retaliation if harmed by Magna's group

So Magna and the other survivors have Andrea, but obviously it doesn’t look like they’re going to be harsh on her. And even if they were, I figured Andrea wouldn’t let herself get into trouble if she didn’t have an exit strategy. And I fully believe that she’d find a way to retaliate if Magna brought her any harm. Heck, there’s a reason Andrea is one of the best shots around.

The Walking Dead #132- Rick and Maggie watch the sunset

The moments with Rick, Carl, Maggie and Sophia really spoke to the humanity that everyone wants to reclaim in the face of so much chaos in their lives. Much like just having a normal conversation or playing chess, the idea of watching the sunset may seem boring to Carl, and it probably was, but really, that’s about as normal as everyone has had it for some time. It’s brief, but the four enjoy some peace and quiet that they’ve deserved for some time.

The Walking Dead #132- Rick, Maggie, Carl, Sophia and the baby watch the sun set

Maggie told Rick last time that if he could do it all over again, he wouldn’t watch any television. Chances are both of them would spend as much time with their families as possible. They’ve both lost people close to them and this is the closest thing to a family they may get, so they savor the little moments. Sure, these moments don’t add much to the overall plot of the issue, but they give the characters a glimpse at how precious life is and how they should cherish every moment.

The Walking Dead #132- Dante hears the dead

Then we have the big reveal. This I did like not just because I didn’t see it coming, but also because we haven’t seen this explored before. You had Negan willing to use walkers to combat anyone who stood against him, but here we have people dressing up as roamers and wearing their skin. This raises all sorts of questions and this definitely had me wanting more. Who was behind this? Where did they come from? How did they go about this plan? I can’t imagine this was easy, given how the people wearing roamer skin were able to keep it on and fight without breaking character.

The Walking Dead #132- Dante discovers how the 'dead' spoke

It also made me wonder is anyone else out there doing this? This could actually put a new spin on things because it means some of those wandering roamers are actually humans underneath. But what’s the purpose of it all? I don’t think Dante will be killed- or, at least, not immediately- since he’ll probably have as many questions as readers do and someone will have to alert the others.

Well played, Robert Kirkman.

A Look at “The Walking Dead” Season 5 Premiere: “No Sanctuary”

So Season 4 ended with a cliffhanger and there was a lot of buildup going into this premiere. What we got was a very fast paced episode that allowed for a few moments of character growth.   “No Sanctuary” is a powerful start and continuation of the series that shows what happens when you screw with Rick Grimes and company.

The season begins as all television shows should: with a title card- THEN.

No Sanctuary- Flashback, inside Terminus box car

We see Gareth and some folks forced into a box car. They lament their fates, especially given that they’re being held captive by the very same people they once brought into Terminus. They just wanted to do the right thing. Never fear. Things will change.

No Sanctuary- Lined up to be killed

Following this, we pick up immediately following the events of “A,” with Abraham talking about the plan to get to D.C. Unfortunately, none of the three newcomers ever spotted Tyreese or Carol. Everyone is preparing to break out of the car when the time comes. That time arrives now, as some Terminus folks approach. To the surprise of everyone- including myself, to be honest- the box car opens from above and a smoke grenade is dropped in.

Rick, Daryl, Glenn and Bob, along with some other men, are lined up, gagged and placed in front of an empty tub. In a scene that really doesn’t lack any tension for me because I know the main characters won’t be killed off this soon, two henchmen slit the throats of the men from boxcar “D.” They stop short of killing Glenn when Gareth enters and tells the two to take a shot count. He then removes Bob’s gag so he can speak: Bob pleads for Gareth not to kill them, you don’t have to do this, they can fix this, all that good stuff. No dice.

No Sanctuary- Gareth asks Rick about his bag

Gareth turns his focus on Rick- specifically the bag he saw Rick with outside of the facility. He wants to know what’s in it, and Rick confesses: an AK-47, 44-Magnum, scope, automatic weapons, a partridge and a pear tree, all the necessary killing tools. Why? Because Rick plans to use them to kill Gareth. Right. Gareth gives the two men two hours to get the four on dryers, but before anything else can happen, everyone hears gunshots from outside. And before they can even react, the building rumbles.

No Sanctuary- Tyreese, Carol and Judith find Terminus sign

We then return to the great train track adventures of Tyreese, Carol and Judith. Carol’s plan is to reunite Tyreese with the group, but she’s out after that. A lone walker comes out of the woodwork, yet Tyreese isn’t about to kill it. Carol will and does. More walkers emerge, forcing the three to retreat. Before the walkers can advance close enough, they’re distracted by the sound of gunfire. When the three emerge from their hiding spot, Tyreese figures the gunfire is coming from Terminus. Carol directs him to another train track due east that will put them there.

No Sanctuary- Tyreese and Judith find Alex, played by Chris Coy

The three happen upon one of the Terminus members, Alex, who not only has a bag of weapons, but is about to set off a flare. He’s ambushed by the two and tells them that he’s protecting himself, but Carol doesn’t believe a word he’s saying. She leaves Tyreese and Judith with Alex while she heads toward Terminus. Adapting the same method that Rick and Glenn used back in Atlanta, Carol covers herself in walker’s guts and remains in order to mask her scent.

No Sanctuary- Alex tries to make small talk with Tyreese

Alex tries to make small talk with Tyreese: asking if the baby has a name, if he has friends- the normal, healthy conversation that’s taken for granted. Alex admits that he used to have friends. They would watch football and go to church, but he can’t picture them anymore. Now he’s just living in a horrible world. Tyreese refuses to believe that things are as horrible as they’re being made out to be, but Alex says that Tyreese’s very optimism will get him killed. Or Tyreese can take Judith, get in the car and drive away. After all, why leave Alex alive in the first place? That doesn’t help Tyreese at all.

No Sanctuary- Carol prepares to fire on Terminus

Carol approaches the gate outside Terminus and sees Rick and the others taken away. She then has the biggest badass scene in the episode as she fashions a flare to the sniper rifle. As a heard of walkers advance on Terminus, Carol fires a shot at a tank. Following this, she sends the rocket flying and…

No Sanctuary- Boom

…boom!

And yet the walkers refuse to expire. They continue to rise. Tyreese sees the smoke from Terminus. He tells Alex that no one has to die in this fight, further adding to Alex belief that Tyreese’s optimism will be his downfall.

No Sanctuary- Rick attacks

Back at Terminus, everyone is knocked to the ground. Gareth leaves, leaving Rick to spring into action and gut our two butchers. They aren’t dead, though, and Rick prefers they stay that way so they can turn instead.

No Sanctuary- Finding bodies

They enter another room and find various torsos, body parts and organs hung up as if they were in a meat freezer.

The plan is to kill as many members of Terminus as possible, but still find time to free any other captives. After all, as Glenn says, that’s still who they are. So they let one guy out of boxcar “C”- did they really need an entire boxcar just for him?- but he’s crazy. And he’s soon killed anyway, so whatever. The four shoot their way through Terminus, but have to double back.

No Sanctuary- Carol finds Daryl's crossbow in room of stolen items

Carol, meanwhile, enters a room filled with valuables and former possessions- among them, Daryl’s crossbow.

No Sanctuary- Carol overtakes Mary

She then enters the sacrifice room, but Mary is also there and demands that Carol drop her weapon. Instead of doing the logical thing and just shooting Carol right there, a fight breaks out and Carol gets the best of Mary anyway. Mary, under duress, admits that Terminus once was a sanctuary, but people came in, took it over, raped and killed anyone they could. Luckily, others fought back. In this world, you can either be the butcher or cattle. When asked about the whereabouts of the others, Mary hesitates, so Carol settles for shooting her in the knee. Ouch. She points her gun at Mary’s head, but she welcomes it. Carol won’t do that. Instead, she opens the door and lets the walkers have their fun.

No Sanctuary- Tyreese practices his Kool-Aid man impression

Alex frees himself and holds Judith hostage just as walkers appear at the cabin door. He tells Tyreese to go outside, and he does. But before Alex can radio in for help, Tyreese does his best Kool-Aid man impersonation and bursts into the room. He beats Alex to death, all while proclaiming that he won’t.

No Sanctuary- Eugene talks about the cure

Back in the boxcar, Eugene figures that even if he spelled out the details of the disease and cure, the cure itself would die with him anyway. He berates the gang’s plan to fight their way out with their impromptu weapons which, while crudely fashioned, would probably get the job done anyway. Sasha reminds Eugene that he doesn’t owe them anything, but they would at least like an explanation. He gives them a long, drawn out explanation that amounts to him being a part of a 10 person team that tried to fight diseases with diseases, or fire with fire, as he also puts it.

Rick frees the others and they fight their way out as Terminus burns behind them. Finally free from the prison, Rick stops to pick up the bag of weapons. He wants to go back to make sure everyone at Terminus is dead, but Glenn insists that the fight is over.

No Sanctuary- Carol cleans up quickly and reunites with group

Oh, hi Carol! You cleaned up quickly!

No Sanctuary- Big reunion

Carol leads them to Tyreese and Judith as we get our big family reunion. Tyreese lets Carol know what he did. Does he want a gold star or something?

Rick isn’t sure if the entire forest will burn, but right now, they just need to get as far away as possible. Abraham and Rosita decide to follow the group for now.

No Sanctuary- New sign

As the group heads out, Rick makes his own sign. He will never have a career in graphic design.

No Sanctuary- Flashback, plan to take back Terminus

We then flash back one more time as the trapped folks of Terminus plan to take back what was theirs.

No Sanctuary- Hi, Morgan

And after the credits…hey, Morgan! How’s it going?

“No Sanctuary” is fast, but then, it had to be. While I preferred the slower paced “After” from Season 4, this episode had a lot to accomplish: Rick made the claim that the folks of Terminus were fucking with the wrong people. Turns out he was right. What’s helped this group make it as long as they have is their will to survive, even in the face of death. This is proved by the fact that they all made it to the very end of the episode intact. Sure, that’s there to give us a happy ending, but it also shows that they will fight to the very end.

No Sanctuary- Bob and Rick have a moment

This is one of my minor gripes with the premiere: I never really felt that anyone was in any danger. The scene with Rick, Daryl, Bob and Glenn about to meet their doom was a false scare from the start. It didn’t feel tense to me because I didn’t think any of them would die so soon, even if people thought Glenn would die at this moment. It also doesn’t help that we knew nothing about the others, so killing them would be no major loss to us as an audience.

No Sanctuary- Glenn reminding the others that there's good in them

As fast paced as this episode was, it had its slower, more humane moments, such as Glenn telling the others that they still have good in them or Tyreese struggling not to be a murderer. At this point, Tyreese has to know he may be forced to kill others in order to survive. Granted, he could still be reeling from the events of “The Grove” and we don’t know whether he and Carol have put that behind them. I assume it won’t be addressed, though.

No Sanctuary- Carol learns that Tyreese killed Alex

Much like “Inmates,” I enjoyed the “Rashomon” approach to the storytelling. We first learn that someone is attacking Terminus, but we don’t know how or why until we see it play out from Carol’s perspective. And speaking of Carol, Melissa McBride really was the standout in this premiere. Not just with her breaking into Terminus or leaving Mary, but the smaller moments like the warm reunion between her and Daryl which, to me, had more heart than Carl and Rick seeing Judith again.

No Sanctuary- Mary accepts her fate

We got a little bit of light shed on Terminus itself and how it devolved into this cycle of butchers versus cattle, but I do hope we get an expansion of this. After all, you don’t just go from being trapped to killing and eating other humans, right? This may not ultimately affect the plot since Rick and pals are out of Terminus, but if the show chose to dig into its history, I hope we see more of it. Oh, and it has to be said: the people of Terminus aren’t all that smart. I mean, one guy pulled the old ‘I’m so scared I can’t get up and walk’ routine and pretty much sealed his own fate.

My only complaint with the episode is the pacing. I honestly don’t think this episode needed to have both a group reunion and the escape from Terminus play out in one episode, particularly with how Season 4 built up to Terminus. This easily could have been spread out over two episodes, at most.

That said, it’s a minor issue and it didn’t take away from a very strong return for The Walking Dead. With the group almost fully reunited and Morgan on their trail, things appear bright for now. Then you remember what series this is. A lot of things left to account for: Beth is still missing, the mystery man in the flashback, the origins of Terminus, Morgan eventually catching up to the group and whether the others will learn about what happened to Tyreese and Carol during their time away from them. It’s a lot to digest, but this premiere was very promising and a great start for Season 5.

A Look at “Gotham” Season 1, Episode 3: “The Balloonman”

So after last week’s more cartoony villains, we get a generic vigilante who has a bone to pick with Gotham’s power players. But more than that, this individual gives people in Gotham someone to look up to. The episode is a bit too heavy handed with spelling out things about this universe that we already know, but at the same time, characters like Bullock, Gordon and Cobblepot make them more entertaining.

The Balloonman- Oswald Cobblepot is home

The episode begins with Oswald Cobblepot exiting a bus and returning to the corrupt, thieving land that is Gotham City. Home at last.

The Balloonman- Arnold Danzer, played by Clark Middleton, talks with his lawyer

We then get word that Arnold Danzer, who bilked investors out of billions in a Ponzi scheme, is now out on bail and awaiting trial. We then meet Danzer himself, played by Clark Middleton, as he talks with his lawyer about paying off the judge, jury and anyone necessary to keep him out of jail. As he heads out, a man in a pig mask hands out balloons and cuffs Danzer to one of them. People can only watch as Danzer floats higher and higher until he’s out of sight.

The Balloonman- Gordon and Bullock investigate scene

Gordon and Bullock later arrive on the scene, though Bullock is less interested in helping solve the case of a man that he sees as a parasite on society. Whoever got rid of Danzer just did the city a public service.

The Balloonman- Lieutenant Bill Cranston, played by James Colby, shows O'Brien to Gordon

At the police department, we’re introduced to Lieutenant Bill Cranston, played by James Colby, as he meets up with the boy scout known as James Gordon. Cranston introduces Gordon to a friend of his: O’Brien- a statue he received from the Gotham Chamber of Commerce for his service. This, he says, is the best interrogator on the force.

While Gordon is still invested in the case, Bullock doesn’t see the point. Sure, Danzer wasn’t a murderer, but two people did kill themselves after Danzer swindled them out of their life savings. To Bullock, justice was served.

The Balloonman- David Lamond, played by Dan Bakkedahl, shows up with Selina Kyle

Social worker David Lamond, played by Dan Bakkedahl, shows up with Selina Kyle in tow. Gordon signs over custody, but Selina will soon be sent upstate.

The Balloonman- Gordon cuffs Selina to pipe while he investigates sewer

So Selina and Gordon head to the spot where Thomas and Martha Wayne were murdered. The problem is Selina doesn’t tell Gordon anything that other people would already know. She swears she was there that night because she stole a man’s wallet and dumped it in a sewer. Why she did that, I don’t know. Selina’s timing does put her at the scene, but just to be sure, Gordon cuffs her to a pole. Against his better judgment, Gordon enters the poo gas sewer and does retrieve the stolen wallet. But this revelation doesn’t last long, as Selina escaped her cuffs using a pen she swiped from Bullock. She flees, leaving Gordon to reek of poo gas.

The Balloonman- Gordon cuffs Selina to pipe while he investigates sewer

Fish gets a visit from Allen and Montoya. They ask if she’s seen Oswald, but word on the street is still that Gordon killed him. The detectives want to know why. Was it to keep him quiet? And better yet, who gave the order? Montoya figures it was Falcone, who is rumored to have ordered the beating of Lazlo. You know, it’s not really a rumor when Lazlo is right there with bruises on his face and the officers already knowing Fish and Falcone don’t always see eye to eye. Fish just wants justice, not revenge.

The Balloonman- Cobblepot orders tuna sandwich

To celebrate his return, Oswald kills a guy looking to earn some ransom money. After that, he gets himself a tuna sandwich. The guy’s gotta eat, after all.

The Balloonman- Alfred and Bruce duel

At Wayne Manor, Alfred and Bruce cross wooden swords to a tune that sounds similar to the main theme of the Pirates of the Caribbean films. When the session ends, Alfred finds that Bruce has been reading over police files, specifically the one regarding his parents’ death. Alfred fears this will give Bruce nightmares, but no worry- he already has them. What Bruce needs is a clue, but he doesn’t have one yet and he isn’t about to wait for Gordon to make a move, either.

The Balloonman- Allen and Montoya question Gordon about Cobblepot's murder

Because they need something to do, Allen and Montoya visit Gordon at the department and question whether Falcone paid him to kill Oswald Cobblepot. Gordon denies it, but he ends the conversation when asked to account for his whereabouts on the night of September 17th.

The Balloonman- Bullock and Gordon discuss Cobblepot's death

Following a brief scene with Oswald trying to get a job at a restaurant, Bullock tells Gordon not to worry about Allen and Montoya looking into Cobblepot’s death. After all, if they came straight to him, it must mean they have no proof. Bullock then tells Gordon that he tracked down the owner of a weather balloon factory. Bullock still isn’t all that invested in following this since Danzer was a horrible person. Same with Mario Pepper. Gordon needs to just let it go.

Oswald then meets one of the restaurant employees and inquires about his shoe size. I wonder if that will be important later.

The Balloonman- Balloon owner talks to Gordon and Bullock

Bullock and Gordon talk with the weather balloon owner, who recognized the balloon when it appeared on the news. This prompted him to call the police. Turns out it was stolen by a former employee, Carl Smikers, who never once mentioned Danzer. The owner still needs the other three balloons, which apparently cost $1,000 apiece.

The Balloonman- Lieutenant Cranston runs into The Balloonman

Later that night, Lieutenant Cranston beats a perp and a nearby hot dog vendor, but as the lieutenant steals the vendor’s items, he finds a slip of paper and immediately stops. In a flash, the vendor cuffs Cranston to the second balloon and he heads skyward.

The Balloonman- Alfred finds Bruce reading about the Balloon Man

The next morning, Alfred finds Bruce ignoring his breakfast in favor of reading about the now dubbed “Balloonman.” In times like these, Alfred reminds Bruce, a person should keep their strength up, but Bruce just isn’t hungry.

The Balloonman- Gordon tells Barbara that everyone should matter

Gordon discusses the Balloonman case with Barbara. There is now support to go after the criminal now that an officer has wound up dead. Gordon doesn’t feel that’s right. Everyone should matter- not just a select few. Even more than that, if the people of Gotham lose faith, then vigilantes will take the law into their own hands. Barbara believes Gordon is an exception to that rule. After all, he caught the Waynes’ killer, so he now gives people faith.

The Balloonman- Captain Essen discusses the Balloon Man with Bullock and Gordon

Captain Essen is not pleased; she rarely is, about Cranston’s death. Sure, he was crooked, but still an officer. Gordon and Bullock are still on the hunt, but Smikers hasn’t been home yet. The two arrive at the connection: Cranston and Danzer were well-known public figures. However, killing a cop turns this into a job safety issue in Bullock’s eyes. Luckily, he knows how to find out who did this, so we get to go on a road trip.

The Balloonman- Bullock meets with some prostitutes

First, Bullock talks to some prostitutes,

The Balloonman- Bullock beats the crap out of this guy

Then he beats the crap out of this guy,

The Balloonman- Bullock was just hungry

Then he gets some food from a vendor. He didn’t get anything from him, either. He was just hungry.

Now that Oswald has some shoes, he’s hard at work at the restaurant, which gets a visit from Sal Maroni, played by David Zayas.

The Balloonman- Crazy fight scene

In one of the funnier moments of the episode, Bullock leads Gordon through an apartment complex. They find Smikers with a woman and a fight breaks out with Bullock and Gordon getting the best of them. No, that’s wrong. They eventually get the best of them.

The Balloonman- Fish consoles Lazlo

Lazlo expresses his concern for Fish. Poor, dumb kid. When Fish sends him off, she tells Butch that Falcone’s squeeze, Nadia, will have an accident. Oh, and get rid of Lazlo, too.

The Balloonman- Montoya talks to Barbara about Gordon

A toked-up Barbara exits the shower and finds Montoya entered on her own because she still has a key. Luckily, pot is the only thing Barbara is doing. Montoya tells Barbara that Gordon killed Cobblepot on Falcone’s order, but given their troubled history, Barbara has a hard time buying Montoya’s story. Montoya, however, can’t stand the sight of Barbara with Gordon and tells her to ask him where he as the night Cobblepot vanished.

The Balloonman- Smikers admits to stealing the balloons

In interrogation, Smikers admits that he stole the balloons, but didn’t set them loose. He owed some loan sharks, so he sold them. He still remembers the drop-off point. Bullock figures Smikers for a mastermind criminal. After all, the murder weapon and bodies are high up in the sky. Smikers reminds the two officers that the higher up weather balloons go, they get cold, brittle, the helium expands and they eventually pop.

The Balloonman- Officers shovel Lieutenant Cranston and lady

And wouldn’t you know it? Following this, we see an unfortunate old lady get crushed by Cranston’s falling body. At least the dog survived. Bullock finds the form in Cranston’s pocket- it has Gordon’s name on it. Through a brain blast, Gordon knows where the Balloonman is based. Next victim is Cardinal Quinn.

The Balloonman- Maroni talks with Oswald about Gotham City's power structure

Back at the restaurant, Maroni is not at all worried about Falcone. Let the people believe that he’s in charge. Oswald, going under the name of Paolo, overhears Maroni’s talk, but shuts up after Maroni slips him some cash.

Cardinal Quinn meets the sky while Gordon tells Bullock that the Balloonman is Davis Lamond. He wonders what would cause him to snap, though, considering his coworkers said he was a thoughtful man. The two arrive at the old juvenile center and find the gate ajar.

The Balloonman-Lamond holds Bullock hostage

When they head in, they find a van and the final balloon. The two split up, but Lamond uses this opportunity to overpower Bullock. Lamond believes Gordon is just like him. He began looking up to Gordon after he found the child snatchers. The law, in Lamond’s eyes, is no good if people like Cranston and Danzar are allowed to walk the streets. Lamond just wanted to make a difference and send a message to Gotham’s elite. But after the mayor had the kids shipped off, that was the final straw.

A fight breaks out with Bullock managing to secure Lamond to the final balloon. Instead of doing the logical thing and shooting the balloon down, Gordon grabs onto Lamond as they both float higher. Bullock eventually shoots it down.

The Balloonman- Falcone warns Fish

Carmine Falcone pays Fish a visit and lets her know that his main squeeze was recently mugged. How tragic, but Falcone is not deterred. Whoever did this will pay.

The Balloonman- Gordon talks with Lamond before he's taken away by paramedics

Before the paramedics can take Lamond away, Gordon talks to him in private. Lamond lets him know that more like him will come. The Gotham police had their chance to get things right, but in Lamond’s eyes, they failed. Gordon asks Lamond who the final victim would have been.

The Balloonman- Alfred and Bruce watch report about the Balloonman

Bruce and Alfred watch the report about the Balloonman, but Bruce can’t help but get transfixed when the reporter asks who will defend the people of Gotham.

The Balloonman- Barbara consoles Gordon

Gordon is sick of the corruption in Gotham, and lets Barbara know as such. According to Lamond, the last victim didn’t matter since anyone in power is guilty. In Gordon’s mind, Lamond speaks for a lot of citizens in Gotham: the authorities let them down. But if the law ended up in the hands of the people, there would be no law. Barbara doesn’t figure him for one of the bad cops. After all, she knows him and concludes that he would never do something as bad as murder.

The Balloonman- Oswald Cobblepot returns

And she gets proof of that when a fresh, new and improved Oswald Cobblepot shows up at the door.

The Balloonman- Citizens love Balloonman

What does it say when the people of Gotham City readily throw their support behind a man who murders those who he feels had it coming? The citizens look to a man who works outside of the law and takes matter into his own hands. Sure, we want to have someone who inspires good when law and order fail, but this someone should be everlasting and hopefully push people to do good, not just commit vigilante violence. I think about what Bruce told Alfred in Batman Begins: as a symbol, he can be everlasting. The Balloonman is a guy who doesn’t like how Gotham is run. He’s not the first and won’t be the last.

My point is these are things about Gotham City that we’re already aware of and this vigilante, in my opinion, wasn’t all that compelling. The city as a whole is corrupt and the writing feels like it must remind us of that, even though it’s obvious. The show is in its infancy, but showing more of Gotham’s criminal side goes a longer way than just telling us that the citizens don’t like the higher-ups of the city.

The Balloonman- Officer pocketing money

Also, I feel that giving us a vigilante came a bit too soon. We’re only three episodes in and the status quo is already changing now that people will try and take matters into their own hands. The idea that one man can make a difference should be brought in after the city and characters have been well-established. We get some of that with this episode’s opening, and though that’s done for comedic effect, it shows how complacent citizens are when it comes to crime and how the authorities will look the other way. Not to mention that this seems to be Bruce’s first interest in vigilantism. If this was to be any less subtle, he would have started sketching a bat.

The Balloonman- Bullock points

With a few exceptions, Gotham Police Department is corrupt. Bullock is symbolic of that, which makes him a perfect opposite for Gordon. Bullock is willing to ignore Danzer’s death because he feels justice was served, but is ready to investigate once one of his fellow officers is killed, no matter how bad. He jokes about the giant shovels used to pick up the old woman and Cranston like it didn’t matter all that much. He’s a product of the environment and getting by the best way that he knows how. The only bright spots in the department would be Essen and Gordon. To cops like Bullock, however, the vigilante did them a favor. That tune will clearly change once a certain Dark Knight enters the scene.

Maroni told Cobblepot that Gotham is a city of opportunity, and it is, provided you know the right people and have proper connections. Otherwise, you get stuck in an endless cycle of violence and corruption. If you’re someone like Oswald, however, you fight out of that cycle and work your way up the ladder. Speaking of, Robin Lord Taylor’s performance continues to be the highlight of episodes as Cobblepot grows more murderous, but he keeps his head down when necessary and tries not to provoke more punishment than he’s already had.

The Balloonman- Allen and Montoya grill Gordon

Montoya and Allen always appear to be one step behind. They’re just here to provide some pathos for Gordon and Barbara, while also trying to prove that they are good cops while every other officer in Gotham is corrupt.

The idea of the Balloonman tying people to balloons and letting them float higher and higher did have some creepy elements to it, but it also felt a bit campy. I hope I’m not the only one who thought about the Joker’s balloons in the 1989 Batman film.

The Balloonman- Gordon grapples with his conscience

Gordon continues to grapple with maintaining the image he’s established with everyone believing he killed Cobblepot, but he doesn’t turn a blind eye to Lamond’s talk of other vigilantes taking the law into their hands because they feel the authorities let them down. Gordon wants justice done by the book, but the law isn’t always on his side and he struggles to do the right thing when there’s so much wrong around him.

That said, he and Bullock seem to just breeze through this case a bit too easily. Selina Kyle’s lead did nothing. In fact, she was only here just to get away. Everything else, the two seemed to just figure out. And I have to question why neither of them thought to shoot down Lamond’s balloon first instead of Gordon jumping after it.

Overall, “The Balloonman” was a decent episode. Nothing bad, but not great. It fell into the trap of telling us too much too soon. And with a show that delves into a universe with as much backstory as Batman, you shouldn’t feel the need to spell out what viewers already know. It had its moments such as Bullock and Gordon’s fight with Smikers and his friend, Falcone warning Fish and Maroni discussing Gotham City to Oswald. Not to mention, Cobblepot’s return is sure to cause a stir.

A Look at “The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby”

The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby- Poster

At its core, I find The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby to be about tragedy. Its main characters suffer a heavy loss that isn’t spelled out right at the beginning, but as the film progresses, we learn more about these characters and how they both come to terms with what they’ve lost and how it’s changed their lives.

The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby- Dine and dash

The film begins in a restaurant where we meet our main couple: Eleanor Rigby, played by Jessica Chastain, and Connor Ludlow, played by James McAvoy. Connor asks Eleanor if she’d love him if he didn’t pay for dinner. We’re off to a great start. Luckily, Eleanor has been down this road before. She leaves first. Connor follows, but he’s stopped when one of the waiters reminds him of the check. Connor and Eleanor bolt and make their way into a field where they kiss and watch fireflies in the night.

Following this, we see Eleanor riding her bike, but she soon abandons it and begins walking along the bridge. She looks over the bridge and, after brief consideration, scales the gate and jumps into the water. I guess Jessica Chastain really didn’t want to be in this movie.

Nah, she survives. She’s soon discharged from the hospital and taken home, where we meet her family: her father, Julian, played by William Hurt, Mary, played by Isabelle Hupert, and Katy, played by Jess Wiexler. Eleanor is going to be moving in for the time being and doesn’t mind the fact that most of her stuff is still in the city. Julian asks what Eleanor plans to do now, but Eleanor isn’t in the mood for a speech and doesn’t want to discuss Connor at all.

The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby- Connor and Stu talk

Back in the city, Connor and one of his bar coworkers, Stu, played by Bill Hader, discuss the possibility that maybe Eleanor wants Connor to chase after her. After a brief fight with some less than pleasant patrons, Connor makes a call to Eleanor’s phone, but the number is no longer in service. He makes a second call to Eleanor’s mother and does get through, but the second he asks about Eleanor, he’s met with a dial tone.

As luck would have it, Eleanor and Julian are on their way to New York University, when Stu happens to pass them by on his bike. Their talk is brief, but it’s clear that Eleanor is less than enthused about the unexpected run-in than Stu.

The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby- Eleanor speaks with Professor Lillian Friedman, played by Viola Davis

Eleanor heads to NYU and meets one of her father’s old colleagues, Lillian Friedman, played by Viola Davis. Right from the start, Professor Friedman wants to know why Eleanor is signing up for her class. Eleanor’s reason is that the class sounded interesting, but Friedman chalks it up to Eleanor being just part of the generation of too many choices. Are we that indecisive about our lives? Anyway, according to Friedman, Eleanor’s father gave her no prior warning that she’d be meeting his daughter. More than that, Friedman isn’t into nepotism. Smart professor.  I instantly like her. That said, there may still be room.

The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby- Connor talks with Stu, played by Bill Hader

Connor and Stu talk, with Connor wanting Stu to cheer him up. That’s pretty hard, considering Stu has tried to help before, but got nowhere. Connor asks Stu if he saw the separation coming. From one best friend to another, Connor wants Stu’s opinion. Stu responds by quoting the lyrics to “Love is a Battlefield.” I like Stu. Stu wants to help, he does, and he’s tried talking with Connor before, but he doesn’t know how to be his friend right now. He admits to seeing Eleanor. Luckily, if Eleanor does not want to see Connor, he is smart enough to respect her wishes and keep his distance.

Yeah, he starts stalking her. He begins by following her to the train station she takes, but stops short of going into the station himself.

Due to Connor’s money situation, he’s now moving in to live with his father, Spencer, played by Ciarán Hinds. Their relationship is already strained from past differences, as Connor has given his father crap for not stepping up his parental role. Spencer says that he and his son are similar, but Connor doesn’t buy that at all. And when Spencer tells his son that he shouldn’t be interested in regretting things, Connor simply says that he isn’t.

The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby- Passing notes in class

So right after this, he follows Eleanor into her class. From a few seats behind, he borrows pen and paper to scribble a note that’s awkwardly passed to her. When Eleanor spots Connor, she leaves the class. Connor follows behind, but Eleanor just wants him to leave her the fuck alone. Fair enough. Connor apparently didn’t look both ways before crossing the street because as he walks away, he’s soon struck by a taxi. As Eleanor approaches Connor’s body, someone asks if she knows him, and it’s here that Eleanor acknowledges Connor as her husband.

THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ELEANOR RIGBY

When Connor awakens, he and Eleanor have a moment to talk. He asks where she’s living, but Eleanor isn’t giving that up. He remarks that they had something good and it helped solve all of their problems, but he just wants a chance to talk it out. He doesn’t get that chance, as the paramedics come to take Connor to the hospital.

Eleanor returns home and finds that her mother has prepared a giant feast. Why? Because Julian has a special guest over: a friend from the psychology department.

A now pissed Eleanor is upset that her father sandbagged her, even though he just wants to help her with her circumstance. She’s more upset at the fact that he wouldn’t just talk to her himself. After losing a grandson, however, Julian doesn’t know the best way to help his daughter. At the most, he’s asking her to take one session a week, but Eleanor isn’t interested in seeing another therapist. She wants to stop being reminded that something is wrong with her. Julian remarks that tragedy is a foreign country: he doesn’t know how to talk to the natives. If anyone out there reading this- for some reason- has ever heard anyone say something remotely similar to that, let me know.

Eleanor and Professor Friedman bond a bit over lunch and we learn more about the professor: her husband was a vegan and she herself has no idea why people have kids. She isn’t a fan of labor- and I’d be hard pressed to find a woman who is- and she doesn’t know what she ultimately wants to do with her life. Few of us do, Professor. When Eleanor asks why Friedman why she left her husband, her response is that he was soft, but she stayed hard.

Over at the bar, Connor’s money woes continue. Not a lot of money has been coming in and Connor himself has missed some bills. And he doesn’t have a clear plan B. He’s brought out of his funk by another bartender, Alexis, played by Nina Arianda. Her plan B is to get her real estate license, which she believes will look better when it comes to her serving alcohol. She kisses him and is raring to get it on, and so is he, but he tells her that tomorrow will be awkward. Don’t say that.

Afterward, Connor is in a funk, but takes a train to visit Eleanor’s. She’s not there, so he speaks with her mother instead. Mary does at least let him in and the two get a chance to talk. She doesn’t comment on how Eleanor is doing. She admits that when she first met Connor, she thought he was some smug, obnoxious kid. Despite that, Connor and Eleanor did fall in love. He can’t chalk what happened to destiny. All he can do is move forward.

And all I can do is hold it there. I need better ways to stop discussing a film’s plot.

The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby doesn’t spell out its conflict for you right at the start. Similar to The Skeleton Twins, one of the first things to happen is a main character tries to kill themselves and fails. It’s from this that the movie begins to work backward to explain what brought both Eleanor and Connor to this point and what led to the dissolution of their marriage. Heck, consider how long until we learn that Connor and Eleanor were even married. At the start, it’s never explained: are they dating? Have they been in a relationship for a long time? From how Chastain and McAvoy play off of each other, it seems as if they’ve been committed for quite some time, but we learn more about this as the film progresses.

A bit of background, since I think this is necessary to establish. So the full and more accurate title to this film would be The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them. Director Ned Benson showcased two versions of this last year: The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Her and The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Him. This film is a combination of both. I don’t understand why this didn’t just start off as one film initially. Maybe it’s just me, but I can’t see how that would work in the film’s favor, but I’m not a director. Sure, two separate films show that Eleanor and Connor remember two different versions of what happened and what led them to this point, but all of that can come across through dialogue.

The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby- Connor and his father, Spencer, played by Ciarán Hinds, talk

We get a slow unraveling of who Connor and Eleanor are and who they were before tragedy struck, and the film takes care to give us a good amount on both sides- though it leans in Eleanor’s favor, in my opinion- to know how they’ve both been affected. The film examines how we as people communicate when we experience the pain of loss. Do we look for a pity party? Honesty? Do we just want a shoulder to cry on, or try to mask our pain and move on with our lives? Enduring pain is prevalent throughout the movie. At one point, Eleanor asks her father how his marriage lasted for so long, and he’s not entirely sure. He knows that he and his wife endured. Despite the good and bad times, if things don’t go our way, we shouldn’t just run for the hills, no matter how rational of a decision that may seem.

Like Eleanor and Professor Friedman discuss, few of us know what we ultimately want in our lives, so we try and make the most of what we have. It’s part of the reason, I think, that Eleanor is randomly taking a college course, even though she doesn’t have or need to. Sometimes a change of pace is necessary. That’s not the case for Connor, who admitted that he wanted to go back to the mundane bullshit that was his life. This goes hand in hand with characters examining themselves in order to get to root of their problems on their own. Eleanor, for example, isn’t interested in having another shrink try to get inside of her head, so she walks around and, for the most part, acts as if all is well in her life.

The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby- A happier Connor and Eleanor

This isn’t your traditional love story. In fact, there’s not a whole lot of love throughout the film. A lot of the warmer moments we get with Connor and Eleanor come through flashbacks, where we see them happier and more carefree. The flashbacks themselves are vibrant and full of energy. We see them munch on Twizzlers in a car and playfully argue over music, then try to make the most out of their car being stuck during heavy rains. These moments are in stark contrast to the moments where the two reminisce about how good they once had it. They realize that they can never get back to the way they were: someplace good.

The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby- Professor Friedman and Eleanor at vendor

Despite the seriousness, there’s quite a lot of humor in the film. Viola Davis is fantastic in her role as Professor Friedman and is dripping with dry, sarcastic lines that I wish the movie had more of her. When she finds Eleanor sitting outside of a classroom, she reminds her of this great new invention called a chair. She detests the idea of raising a child that eventually grows into a rebellious punk, speaking from her own experience. But she openly admits that she has no idea how to live her life, despite coming off as more seasoned than Eleanor. While she may be older and more mature, she doesn’t know everything.

The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby- Bill Hader as Stu

Another funny performance came in the form of Bill Hader. This role isn’t as serious as the one he played in The Skeleton Twins, but he’s not playing a character just for comedic effect. He takes pride in his culinary ability, which ends up leading to one of the funnier scenes in the movie where Stu and Connor fight in the kitchen and both end up exhausted.

The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby- Eleanor and Connor in car during rain

But James McAvoy and Jessica Chastain are the real stars here. I love the way they smile at one another during flashbacks, like they’ve been a couple for years. That comes across through their chemistry. When Eleanor and Connor argue, it feels like they’ve been down this road plenty of times before. While Connor wants to continue bringing up the past, Eleanor keeps her eyes forward. And yet, the two still comfort one another when needed. Connor doesn’t like the idea of shacking up with one of his coworkers because he knows he’ll feel guilty about it even though, at the time, Eleanor wasn’t giving him the time of day anymore.

The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby- Eleanor in class

Chastain in particular stands out because of how much pain there is in Eleanor’s face. There’s a lot of heartache and tragedy behind those eyes and she would rather someone talk to her straight- as Professor Friedman does- rather than try and pass the buck, as her father does sometimes, but not all of the time. She was, by far, the most enjoyable performance in the film. That’s not to downplay McAvoy, as he plays Connor as a man who wonders how he happened to fall in love with a specific person that he can’t get out of his head. It’s just that Chastain’s performance resonated with me more.

The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby can be fun, but it’s more melancholy and insightful as it asks how we come to terms with a great loss. Do we really know what is best in life after we’ve suffered heartbreak? Is it better to move forward and never look back, or take time out to realize that things can never go back to the way they used to be? Do we mask our emotions or open up? Even more, do we even need to open up if we can figure it out on our own? With strong performances from McAvoy and Chastain at the helm, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby is an enjoyable romance that, while teetering on cliché at times through some of its dialogue, is an enjoyable viewing.