A Look at “Fifty Shades of Grey”

Fifty Shades of Grey- Cover

Ah, Fifty Shades of Grey.  You’ve popped up in quite a number of conversations leading up to the release of the film, haven’t you?  The sex, the BDSM, the controversy, the abuse, a lot of people had something to say about this series.  I’m not into the series myself, but given the apparent popularity of the books, a film adaptation was inevitable.  When I first saw the trailer for this film last year during a screening of Gone Girl, I was flabbergasted.

Who asked for this book to be made into a movie?  Twenty-somethings?  Middle-aged White women?  Men and women who felt they wanted to see something hot and sexy on the screen as opposed to making love to their hands in the darkness of their homes?  I don’t know, but either way, Fifty Shades of Grey couldn’t have been released on a more appropriate weekend: the weekend of Valentines’ Day.  Clever way to try and shackle the couples to the seats before they go home and shackle each other to their beds.  With no prior experience with this series and its controversy, is it still possible to find some enjoyment here?

God help me, this is Fifty Shades of Grey.

The film begins with an interview.  Well, it begins with the planning for an interview.  Anastasia Steele, played by Dakota Johnson, is heading to Grey House in place of her sick roommate, Kate Kavanagh, played by Eloise Mumford, to interview a certain Christian Grey.  Kate has already prepared a series of questions for Anastasia to ask.  She just has to meet this Mr. Grey, ask him, and interview done.  Easy.  Wait, how does a college newspaper manage to land an interview with a billionaire playboy?

Fifty Shades of Grey- Anastasia Steele, played by Dakota Johnson, interviews Christian Grey, played by Jamie Dorman

Never mind.  Anastasia heads to Grey House and meets the CEO of Grey Enterprises, Mr. Christian Grey himself, played by Jamie Dornan.  Mr. Grey himself is quite the intimidating figure to Anastasia, almost towering over her despite his calm demeanor.  Anastasia herself is a bit overwhelmed and tries to conduct the interview, but Katie’s questions are pretty safe and routine.  Well, most of them are.  One of the questions is “Are you gay?”  I’m glad that Anastasia was at least smart enough to not start with a sort of gotcha question.

Grey takes more control of the situation- not that Anastasia ever had any- and begins to ask questions about Anastasia herself.  We learn that Anastasia is a journalism major at Vancouver University.  Grey himself is a benefactor of the university and will be speaking at the university’s upcoming graduation ceremony.  In this scene, Anastasia is more like a frightened deer compared to the predator Christian, who has other interests in addition to being a billionaire playboy.  He doesn’t dress up like a bat and fight crime, but he might as well.

It’s clear from the start that Grey fancies Anastasia, but he doesn’t let on too much.  Anastasia, though, doesn’t see herself as all that special.  I mean, look at her.  He is, though, Anastasia.  He really is.  Grey himself doesn’t think he’s as special as people make him out to be.  Many people love him, but those who know him well may think otherwise.  We also learn that Grey has some special interests for his spare time.  What those interests are, we aren’t told yet.

Following this, we’re introduced to one of Anastasia’s friends, José, played by Victor Rasuk.  José is a photography major and some of his photos will be shown as part of an exhibit.  Though Anastasia is proud for her friend, she’s more consumed with her recent encounter with Mr. Grey.  It’s also clear that José has feelings for Anastasia, but he’s pretty much like the best male friend who is pretty much like a brother to Anastasia.  He likes her, but won’t get beyond that dreaded friend zone.

So aside from giving awkward interviews, what does Anastasia do in her free time?  She works at Clayton’s: a local hardware store.  Not the most glamorous job, but you do what you can.  Though Anastasia has had a good day so far, she gets a bit of bad news from her mother, Carla, played by Jennifer Ehle, that won’t be able to make her graduation because her boyfriend broke his foot.  Poor thing.

Fifty Shades of Grey- Christian shows up unannounced at Clayton's where Anastasia works

Anastasia’s manager, Paul, played by Anthony Konechny, needs a hand.  As Anastasia heads back, who should be standing in one of the aisles but Christian Grey?  Who does that?  Anyway, Mr. Grey is there because he’s in need of duct tape and rope.  Typical stuff you look for in a hardware store, you know?  Christian finds what he’s looking for, though Anastasia could use his help with a photo shoot.

Fifty Shades of Grey- Christian poses for a photo shoot

Grey does indeed show up for a photo shoot at the Heathman Hotel where he’s staying.  Though José would like it if Grey smiled, Christian just can’t keep his eyes off of Anastasia, and Kate picks up on this as well.

Fifty Shades of Grey- Christian and Anastasia get coffee

When the shoot is done, Christian asks Anastasia out for coffee.  The two get to know each other some more, with Christian wondering if Anastasia is dating anyone like José or Paul, but she isn’t.  Christian, as luck would have it, is also single, but not a conventional kind of guy.  He doesn’t do the whole girlfriend scene and isn’t one for giving chocolate and flowers.  How a billionaire playboy doesn’t have a girlfriend, I don’t know.

Once coffee time is done, Christian pulls Anastasia back from an oncoming cyclist.  She should really look where she’s going.

Soon enough, Kate and Anastasia are done with their finals.  The two plan to go out for a bit of drinking, but before leaving, Anastasia receives a package from Christian: a first edition copy of the Tess of the d’Urbervilles.  Given the huge price tag that would have come with this copy, Anastasia cannot accept this gift and plans to send it back.

Fifty Shades of Grey- Christian stops José from kissing Anastasia

But first, drinking!  Anastasia ends up drinking quite a bit and needs to pop to the ladies room.  As expected, there’s a line.  Is this just a thing at clubs where there’s almost always a line to the bathroom?  Okay, I’m getting off topic.  While in line, Anastasia drunk dials Christian, who then heads to the bar to pick her up.  He gets there just as he spots José, who just admitted his feelings to Anastasia, trying to plant a kiss on her.  Christian puts a stop to that.  Plus, Anastasia vomits soon after, so Christian probably just did José a favor.  Anastasia leaves with Christian while Kate flirts with Christian’s brother, Elliot, played by Luke Grimes.

Fifty Shades of Grey- Anastasia wakes up in Christian's bed

Next morning, Anastasia awakens in Christian’s room while wearing different clothes.  Apparently she puked all over her other ones.  She didn’t look to be that bad when Christian came for her, but what do I know?  Anyway, Anastasia wants to know if anything happened between her and Christian, but nothing did.  He slept in the same bed, yes, but they didn’t have sex.  He’s not that kind of guy.  Hell, he even chastises Anastasia for her behavior last night.

Christian has his chauffeur, Taylor, played by Max Martini, bring Anastasia some new clothes.  Grey, after taking his shirt because reasons, says that he would like to have sex with Anastasia, but he won’t touch her without her written consent.

Fifty Shades of Grey- Making out in the elevator

There are rules to be followed and she first has to see the contract.  Once the two enter the elevator, though, Christian says fuck the contract- which I imagine would feel rough- and the two start making out in the elevator.  They soon stop when others enter.  Don’t you hate when that happens?

Fifty Shades of Grey- Anastasia shows up at Christian's helicopter

Following a quick stop at home, Anastasia meets up with Christian and the two go for a ride on his private helicopter.  Single, billionaire playboys apparently have those.  They head to Christian’s apartment in Seattle, where some rules are established.  For starters, Anastasia signs a nondisclosure agreement to never reveal anything that she and Christian do together.  Okay, that’s easy enough.  There’s more paperwork, but first, Christian has to show Anastasia something.

Fifty Shades of Grey- Christian shows Anastasia the red room

Fifty Shades of Grey- Playing with toys

Yeah, you all know where this is going.  Christian takes Anastasia to his playroom, filled with so many toys tied to Bondage, Dominance, Submission, and Masochism (BDSM).  You know, ropes, belts, whips, leather, and possibly a partridge and a pear tree.  Christian is a dominant and loves engaging in these sorts of activities with women.

He does not, as Anastasia implies, make love.  He fucks.  He fucks hard.  This leads into the second contract, which states that this endeavor will be a sexual relationship, not romantic.  Anastasia is not to touch or make eye contact with Christian.

Oh, by the way, Anastasia is a virgin.  I still call bullshit on this, but for the sake of this synopsis, Anastasia is a virgin.  My God, has she ever even gotten herself off before?  Anyway, Christian decides to fix this by having sex with Anastasia.  Hard, I presume.  After this, Christian plays on his piano just because.

Next morning, Anastasia whips up some breakfast when Christian’s mother, Grace, played by Marcia Gay Harden, shows up.  If anyone’s glad to see her son with someone, it’s her.

Fifty Shades of Grey- Christian and Anastasia walk through the woods as the trees clear a path for them

During a walk through the woods- the trees cleared a path for them- Christian reveals that he lost his virginity at the age of 15 in a dominant/submissive relationship with one of his mother’s friends.  He wants Anastasia to consider the contract.  As much as she’d like to, she can’t access it since her computer isn’t in the best of shape.

Fifty Shades of Grey- Anastasia reads

So what does Anastasia find when she gets home?  A brand new computer, courtesy of Christian Grey!  Grey keeps in touch with Anastasia and suggests she do research on the subject of BDSM, such as some of the acts and code words.  Though Anastasia is intrigued by the whole idea, it doesn’t tickle her fancy enough that she wants to join in, for the moment.  She messages Mr. Grey and tells him that it was nice knowing him.

And that is where we’ll stop with the plot.

Fifty Shades of Grey isn’t what I’d call the most engrossing or even enjoyable film I’ve seen in 2015.  It is watchable, but also quite laughable at the same time.  I’m not here to just jump on the bandwagon with people who have said that they flat out hate the film, but there isn’t much positive I can say about it.

Book Cover

Again, I have no familiarity or connection with the original source material.  I’ve heard of the books and kept hearing about them as they grew in popularity, but never once picked up any of the titles.  I spotted the first book at a yard sale while walking back from the barbershop sometime last year, but didn’t feel it was worth the cash, no matter how big the discounted price.  So I’m walking into this series completely blind and have no connection to the books.

Fifty Shades of Grey- Kiss

This is, of course, a love story taken to the extreme, but I hesitate to even use the word love when describing the bond(age) between Christian and Anastasia.  It’s standard stuff: girl meets boy, girl is enchanted by boy, girl and boy go on…one date, was it?  And that was just for coffee.

Fifty Shades of Grey- Anastasia stares

You know what, scratch that.  Fifty Shades of Grey has traits of your standard love story, but it’s muddled by a lack of genuine chemistry between the leads.  I’ll get into the performances later, but for now, I can say that there’s little believable about Christian and Anastasia’s connection.

The film skirts across some themes relevant to the overall plot, but doesn’t go into detail on them.  Instead, we get very rudimentary discussions on messages that could have been explored in further detail.  I wasn’t expecting this film to have substance, but given the subject matter, I figured this would be a good time to have a discussion on these messages.

Fifty Shades of Grey- Christian gets on the bed with Anastasia

One of the biggest themes of the film is control.  Christian himself is a very controlling man who loves to dominate.  Anastasia, by comparison, is very quick to please, but also very timid.  This makes her an easy target for the likes of Mr. Grey.  Now, control is attainable if you have the willpower to acquire or, in Mr. Grey’s case, take it.  However, there’s a difference between control and dominating.

Grey is the latter.  He’s a closed book when it comes to people trying to pry into his personal life, but once you’re in, he’s not above using his wealth and influence to sway you.  Grey has wealth, fame, and power, but he likes being in charge.  He doesn’t even want Anastasia to look at her.  He wants her to wait on her knees for him in his dungeon like she’s a willing servant.  Grey towers with authority over those he sees as under him, but he also wants to make sure that everyone else around him remembers that he is the one calling the shots.

Fifty Shades of Grey- Christian examines himself in the mirror

The thing is, people already respect and probably even fear Grey.  As mentioned, he’s a billionaire playboy.  The only thing missing from his life is that he secretly dresses up like a bat and fights crime at night.  There would be no reason for him to try and exert authority other than to stay in control of everyone around him.  Now, he does tell Anastasia that this is who he is, but I doubt he’d have to try very hard to get people to do what he says since most would probably want his lifestyle and wealth.  I think, anyway.  I’m not exactly the target demographic for this series.

Fifty Shades also shows what it’s like to explore your deepest desires and release your repression…sexually speaking, anyway.  What is it like when you go through your first sexual experience?  Is it rough?  Smooth and simple?  When it’s all said and done, do you still wish that you had your virginity?  Don’t ask me.  This isn’t my area of expertise either in any way, but Anastasia is that sheltered individual who never experienced what so many people in college experiment with on a weekly basis.

Fifty Shades of Grey- Anastasia stripped down

However, this is where I have to call foul on the film.  Has Anastasia looked at herself in the mirror?  I can’t find it believable at all that a woman with Anastasia’s looks wouldn’t be found desirable enough that there wouldn’t be one guy who would want to take her to bed the way that she wants.  Now, Anastasia does say that she’s looking for the right guy, but she doesn’t completely come off as someone who isn’t interested in looking exploring different guys.

We see she can drink a considerable amount of alcohol, so it’s safe to assume that she knows how to party.  Given the bond between her and Katie, I can’t think this is the first time they’ve partied together, so I just find it strange for Anastasia to be as repressed as she claims to be.  Has the girl never even experienced with masturbation?  But once she has her first lay, she’s entered a whole new world.

By the same token, we know Christian’s deepest desires, but don’t know the full extent of them until we first see his playroom.  Even then, that’s just a cursory glance at his true self.  As the film goes on, we witness the true depths of his obsession and how he ends up pushing Anastasia away as opposed to drawing her further in.  We want to share our lives with people, but if we show them too much, we do more harm than good, especially when we actually do more harm than good at all.

Fifty Shades of Grey- Anastasia on her knees

I suppose this is where I should transition and discuss the film’s portrayal of BDSM on screen.  Now, it’s no secret that I dab into adult entertainment every now and then.  Or, if it was a secret before, it isn’t now.  Anyway, BDSM isn’t one of the categories that I dip into for no other reason than I just don’t.  But one of the biggest complaints about this film is how tame and false the depiction of BDSM is on-screen compared to what you’d find by browsing the internet.  I can’t disagree with that.

Fifty Shades of Grey- Anastasia tries Christian's game

Rather than go into the mechanics of BDSM, we get a brief look at it.  Anastasia is instructed to do her own research, but this would have been a good time for Christian to explain why he’s into this sort of thing.  That would be rewriting the movie, though.  This isn’t even BDSM or domination, really.  It comes off as abusive and false.  There’s no mutual play here.  Anastasia goes along with Christian’s games, yes, but he gets off on her submitting to him.  Both parties should be receiving pleasure from this, but as the film progresses, Anastasia receives less pleasure and more abuse.  I’m not saying she limps away from sessions with a bleeding back, but there’s no mutual enjoyment here.

Castration

With regular porn, there’s an element of entertainment.  Sure, a lot of it is cliché, but the performers are in on that.  With Fifty Shades, it’s just cliché.  And this BDSM being here just feels like an excuse to get to the sex which, by the way, isn’t that impressive.  Now there are reasons for this.  First off, Fifty Shades only received an R-rating.  This film is shown in the same theatres as Jupiter Ascending and Spongebob.

You’re not going to get the sort of sex scenes you’d seen in porn shown in this movie, not that you should expect that.  What you should expect is a film that plays it relatively safe and just goes through the motions in order to show what it thinks the audience wants.  Christian spanks Anastasia, she reacts, move on.  There’s no attachment.

Amber Rayne with her device

Mina Thorne with a chastity device

In porn, we sometimes get explanations as to how and why various toys, like chastity devices and certain whips, are used. Here, though, the idea of Christian having so many toys at his disposal isn’t explored as deeply as it could have been.  Does he have any attachment towards particular items?  Are there any that he no longer uses or saves for particular people?  Am I actually thinking this much about a guy who has a BDSM playroom?

It just feels so tame and ordinary.  Safe is a good word, to be honest.  Cliché is better when you take in the swelling music that rises during the so-called steamy moments.  There are movies that aren’t about this subject matter that have been more explicit than this.  They’ve also been more subtle.  Now look, I’m not saying that the movie had to be graphic, but given the topic, you’d expect something more entertaining.  I can actually say that I’ve watched softcore and even some spanking fetish stuff that was more engaging, more interesting, and had better actors.

Blue is the Warmest Color- Sex Scene 1

Blue is the Warmest Color- Sex Scene 2

Blue is the Warmest Colour is more explicit than this, though that was a foreign film that played in smaller, independent theatres.  Plus, it had an NC-17 rating.

Also, we’ve got a film about a sexual relationship between two people, but when it comes to nudity, the film decides to showcase more tits and ass that will appeal to the male demographic.  Isn’t this series targeted towards women?  Wouldn’t it be fair and more appropriate to show the cock as well as the vagina?  Even the playing field!  The one time it looks like we’re about to see the cock, the camera cuts.  The camera can’t get enough of Dakota Johnson’s ass and tits, not that I’m complaining about that, though.  Hell, Dakota Johnson’s nipples appear more than anything or anyone else in this movie, with her ass not too far behind….I just said that.  What I’m saying is that the film should at least attempt to even things out.

Fifty Shades of Grey- Red room

If there’s anything else that could be evened out, it’s the way the film looks.  I’ll say this about Fifty Shades of Grey: Christian’s play room pops with color.  It’s probably the most visually stimulating thing about the film.  Everything else, on other hand, is pretty damn dull.  The majority of the film looks and feels dull.  There’s very little vibrancy here.  Outside of the play room, nothing here looks memorable.  If you took a shot every time we had a scene with an almost completely muted color palette, you’d probably die before you even first saw the play room.  It just comes off as drab.

Fifty Shades of Grey- Anastasia looks lost or scared

The writing and performances don’t help, either.  Dakota Johnson just looks lost from scene to scene.  I can’t buy Anastasia’s personality.  She’s a college student that’s studying journalism and loves to drink and party, but she doesn’t know what a buttplug is.  She’s never had sex before, but she keeps her mouth near one of Mr. Grey’s pencils like it was a penis.

Fifty Shades of Grey- Christian and Anastasia

She falls for Christian Grey because he intrigues her, but also because she wants to be let into his life.  That’s not a very strong reason for these two to get together, in my opinion, especially because it happens so fast.  There’s no natural progression to Anastasia and Christian’s relationship.  They get coffee one time and things go up from there.  Even after going over Christian’s contract, she initially shoots it down, so she left the door open to find another potential partner.

Her relationship with her mother feels genuine, but we don’t spend enough time with the two of them.  However, if there’s one thing I did like, it’s that we got a glimpse of Anastasia wishing for the type of relationship she would want to have.  When she visits her mother, Anastasia watches her mother trade playful barbs with her boyfriend and their exchanges feel natural.  This is the sort of connection she would like to have, but can’t get with Grey since he’s not that type of guy.

I like that Anastasia isn’t a complete pushover, though.  She doesn’t agree to all of Christian’s terms and, when things get too rough for her, she tells him to stop, which becomes important towards the end.  It’s not consistent, though.  She wants to be let in, but when she recoils due to the horrors she discovers, she’s upset at what he did to her…which is just what she literally asked him to do.

As their relationship develops, she grows upset at Christian for not doing what normal people do, but almost every move Christian made was a sign that he wasn’t your average person.  I don’t know how many normal people just wait for you, unannounced, at your job.

Fifty Shades of Grey- Christian during the interview

But you know what?  Johnson at least tries a few times to do that acting thing.  She doesn’t succeed often, but she tries.  On the other hand, we’ve got Jamie Dorman as Christian Grey.  I’ll tell you this: if Dorman was directed to play it flat, he did a good job.  Grey is a bore.  He’s a billionaire playboy, but he’s not an interesting one.  We don’t learn much about him because he doesn’t let everyone in, and the fact alone that he’s into domination isn’t all that compelling.  Maybe this is explained in the other two books, but for the purposes of this one film, it’s not the most engaging character trait.

Dorman tries his best to be serious, but the combination of bad writing and his delivery make him more laughable than anything else.  His delivery of “I fuck.  Hard” was meant to be serious and maybe even strike fear into Anastasia’s heart, but it just made me roll my eyes in annoyance.  Oh, and I’d be crazy if I didn’t mention his “I’m fifty shades of fucked up” line.  He may as well have turned towards the camera and winked.

Fifty Shades of Grey- Christian takes off his shirt for some reason

He doesn’t want to get close to Anastasia or grow attached, but he does things like take off his shirt in front of her like he’s in a Twilight film.  He wants to fuck her, but keeps pressing her on the contract.  Oh, by the way, I’m not a lawyer or in any way savvy about contracts, but I imagine the process is a bit more complex than the way it’s portrayed here.

Fifty Shades of Grey- Christian randomly shows up at Clayton's

Is this really the kind of man that women want to be with?  Grey isn’t a romantic- he’s a stalker.  He just randomly shows up at Anastasia’s job, unannounced, and happens to be waiting for her in the aisle of the shop where she works.  He doesn’t like that Anastasia didn’t tell him about her going to Georgia when there was no reason to, and then he just shows up!  I imagine some of this has to do with his wealth.  No normal man could get away with doing what Grey does so soon, but Grey can because he’s damn near untouchable.  The problem is he’s also unlikable.

Fifty Shades of Grey- Christian plays the piano after sex

As much as I find Anastasia to be naïve for falling for a guy who is a borderline predator, Christian is a sad sack from the start.  He gets coffee with Anastasia, but suddenly needs to stop because he’s not that kind of guy.  This may as well have been Twilight.  He wants to be with the girl, but he also can’t be near her.  What hell, man?  Make up your mind.  And don’t try to be sad and contemplative by playing the piano after sex.

If I can say anything worthwhile about this film, it’s that it exists.  It represents just what’s wrong with fiction and the bloated up, unrealistic desires that we have.  Women shouldn’t fawn over a man like Christian Grey.  He’s not an appealing person and is more interested in controlling you above anything else.  And men shouldn’t aspire to be this kind of man because there’s nothing charming or worthwhile about him.  We know he’s not a romantic, but what we do know is that he’s a stalker and overall unlikable person.  If your average guy tried to hunt Anastasia the way Grey does, he’d end up imprisoned in no time.  Possibly in Mr. Grey’s play room.  I dunno.

Fifty Shades of Grey is a film.  That’s all I can really say about it.  Don’t see this movie for the sex scenes.  It’s not a sexy movie and there’s more interesting stuff both in other films and on the internet.  The story is not engaging, the leads aren’t compelling or interesting, the dialogue is flat and badly delivered, and it sends the wrong message to both men and women.  Sure, this is fiction and maybe even a heightened reality, but I couldn’t take myself out of reality while watching because the amount of ridiculousness is asking to be questioned, like what the hell was up with that ending?

I can’t recommend this film to anyone unless you are very curious.  Don’t go to this film looking for love.  It’s abuse, not love.  Anastasia and Christian don’t go together like a horse and carriage.  This, I tell you, brother, whether the film or book, you can live without having been exposed to one or the other.

A Look at “Agent Carter” Episode 8: “Valediction”

Is it already time for this to end?  It’s been a fun ride with every single episode of Marvel’s Agent Carter, but here we are at the end of the season with “Valediction.”  With Chief Dooley’s death last week, SSR now has their eyes set on Dottie Underwood and Dr. Ivchenko, who just recently got their hands on some Stark technology.

The episode begins with another thrilling adventure of The Captain America Adventure Program!  When we last left our hero, he had saved the 25th Infantry, but his plane is going down over the sea of Japan.  The Captain shares one final moment with Betty.

Valediction- Sousa, Thompson, and Carter arrive at the theater

In the real world, Peggy, Jack, and Daniel head to the theatre.  The detective there informs them that 47 people all died not through natural causes, but because they killed each other.

Valediction- Sousa finds the canister inside the theatre

Inside, Sousa finds the stroller and the canister, which sprays him in the face.  He goes berserk and attacks both Jack and Peggy before an officer knocks him out.

Valediction- Officer pulls over Dottie and Fennhoff

We then rejoin Dottie and Ivchenko, who we may as well just call Fennhoff at this point.  The doctor admires New York City as a testament to American strength and ingenuity, though Dottie is much more interested in tearing the whole thing down.  All of a sudden, a Negro cop- huh- pulls up from behind to let Dottie know that she ran a traffic light.  Innocent Dottie tells the officer that she must not have been paying attention.  The officer falls for it and prepares to leave…until he hears over the police radio about a car that matches the one this blonde woman is driving.  Before he can make a move, he’s staring down the barrel of Dottie’s gun.

Sousa wakes up and finds himself strapped to the bed for his protection.  He tells Peggy that all he can remember is the gas and wanting to kill everyone.

Valediction- Sousa and Carter return to the SSR

He and Peggy return to SSR as Jack briefs the agents.  The scientists have determined that the gas is a chemical that induces psychosis upon exposure.  Fennhoff managed to get away with 10 canisters, which is enough for half of the city.  Given how Fennhoff managed to get SSR to bring him into the United States, he must have a specific target in mind, and he does.

Valediction- Jarvis and Howard Stark come to the SSR

It’s Howard Stark, who arrives with Jarvis.

Valediction- Howard briefs SSR on midnight oil and the Battle of Finow

SSR initially places Howard under arrest, but he has some information that they’ll find valuable related to the Battle of Finow.  The gas is called midnight oil.  Howard never intended to make it a poisonous gas.  The Army needed something that would help keep soldiers awake for days, but the experiment failed.  Instead, it caused symptoms similar to sleep deprivation, such as anger, hallucination, and psychosis.  Howard’s lab was raided and his samples and research stolen on the orders of General McGinnis.  Next day, the midnight oil was dropped on the Russians to help them take Finow.

Afterward, Howard went to survey the damage for himself.  He’s surprised that Sousa took a hit and survived, given that the gas causes asphyxiation.  That would explain why the likes of Leet Brannis and Green Suit had laryngotomy procedures performed on them.  Howard is all too familiar with Mr. Johann Fennhoff and his specialty in hypnosis.  Since this is on his hands, Howard offers to use himself as bait.  All SSR has to do is set the trap in a very public space.

Valediction- Dottie and Fennhoff arrive at the hangar

Dottie and Fennhoff arrive at a hangar.  Dottie handles the guard there while Fennhoff hears on the radio that Howard Stark has returned to New York and will be making an announcement at a press conference soon regarding his stolen technology.  Looks like plans have changed, even if Dottie already went and killed the guard.  She got too eager.

Peggy tries to dissuade Howard from what she sees as a suicide plan, but Howard is too focused on finding his technology which, to his displeasure, the SSR has mishandled.  Howard knows this could be a bad idea, but Peggy doesn’t have any good alternatives at the moment.  More than that, Howard tells Peggy that he values what she thinks more than anyone else, especially after she told him off during their last encounter.

Peggy says that she was just angry, but she doesn’t want Howard to die.  Even still, Howard knows that this is his fault.  He wouldn’t be able to live with himself if he didn’t try something.  As Peggy leaves, Howard pockets the orb with Steve Rogers’ blood and leaves.

Valediction- SSR press conference

At the press conference, Thompson and the SSR conclude that Howard Stark is innocent of theft and selling weapons to America’s enemies and, as a result, drop all charges against him.  When Howard takes center stage, he tells the audience that his name has been dragged through the mud for far too long.

Then a shot is fired.

Jarvis whisks Howard away to a police cruiser and tells the driver to head to the SSR.  Jarvis doesn’t get a chance to get into the cruiser before it speeds off.  Only then does Jarvis see the two dead police officers.  How did he miss that?

Valediction- Peggy and Jack check the hotel room

Peggy and Jack check the hotel room where the shot was fired and find that the rifle had been rigged to fire on its own.  It also missed its target by a long shot, meaning it was just a diversion.

Valediction- Howard offers Rosalind Russell's private phone number

Howard, meanwhile, is unable to convince his driver- the officer from before- to stop what he’s doing.  He offers cars, money, hell, he even offers Rosalind Russell’s private number!  How can you turn that down?

Back with the agents, Peggy figures that Howard could not have been part of Dottie and Fennhoff’s original plan since they had no idea he would even show up in New York.  They need to find the doctor’s next target, which they learn once they realize what day it is: May 8th- V.E. Day.  Fennhoff plans to hit Times Square.  Elsewhere, Sousa and Jarvis find the car with the driver dead and Howard still missing.

Valediction- Dottie holds a gun to Howard

No, Howard is being held at gunpoint by Dottie…or, at least some woman who he’s met before.  Dottie reminds him that they spent a weekend together.  So who does Howard think of?  Alice.  He’s promptly knocked out for that.  Howard really needs to make a list.

Valediction- Trying to figure out where the Russians took Howard

When Sousa returns to the other agents, he gives them an eyewitness account from a man at the coffee shop who saw a blonde forcing a man with Stark’s description into the back of a black Sedan.  They were last seen heading toward the Lincoln Tunnel.    Also, as Thompson informs them, the V.E. Day celebration isn’t going to be called off.

Now the gas is meant to be deployed by air, so the agents can shut down airports and private airfields, but then it hits Jarvis where the Russians may be taking Howard.  If Fennhoff is looking to blame Stark for the attack, he would use one of Stark’s planes.  Only most of them were confiscated.  There’s another vault that’s much larger than the first.

Valediction- Flashback, Dottie and Howard

The episode then briefly- and I do mean briefly- flashes back to six months ago when Howard brought Dottie to his hangar.

Valediction- Fennhoff speaks with Howard Stark

Back in the present, Howard guesses Lorraine and gets another crack across the face from Dottie.  Fennhoff gets a few words in with Howard.  He tells Howard that it’s a shame that his genius has been put to the creation of horrible weapons, even if Howard says that the midnight oil was never meant to be a weapon.  Even still, it exists because of him.  Howard may have seen the aftereffects, but Fennhoff saw it live.  He was only spared because he wore his gas mask.  The others, including his brother, were not so fortunate.

All this time, Fennhoff has only had Howard on his mind.  He doesn’t want to kill Howard, but just make him suffer.  The empathy that Howard feels, Fennhoff says, will just cloud his vision.  Guilt is eating away at him, but there’s a way to atone for that.  All Stark has to do is focus.  As Fennhoff works his hypnosis again, he has Howard think back to his greatest shame and what he could change about it.

Valediction- Vision, Howard sees Peggy with Steve's shield

In a vision, Howard hears from a soldier that others may have found a signal from the Valkyrie, meaning that Steve Rogers may still be alive.

Valediction- SSR arrives at the hangar after Howard has already left

SSR arrives at the hangar just as Howard takes off.  He could reach New York in 12 minutes or less.  There’s a radio room in the hangar for communication purposes, but just in case, someone should go after Howard, should he need to be shot down.  Neither Thompson nor Sousa has flown a plane, but Jarvis has, so he’s the volunteer.  He’s never shot a man down before, but if Peggy is successful, he may never have to.

Valediction- Peggy confronts Dottie and Fennhoff

Peggy heads to the radio room and confronts Underwood and Fennhoff.  Carter faces off with Dottie, who admits that she used to be jealous of girls like Peggy.  She wanted to be like them, but now she can be anybody that she likes.  The two fight and Dottie overtakes Peggy for a bit.

Until she swings and misses with a bat, giving Peggy the opportunity to kick Dottie out a window.  Well, that was brief.

Peggy gets on the radio and speaks with Howard, who believes that he has found Steve Rogers’ signal when, in actuality, he’s heading straight for the city.

Valediction- Sousa confronts Fennhoff

Fennhoff, meanwhile, escapes the radio room and manages to knock out Thompson.  Sousa, though, approaches him from a distance.  Fennhoff feels no fear.  He knows that Sousa won’t shoot an unarmed man.  It’s not in his nature.  Unlike Thompson, he is virtuous.  Neither Sousa nor Fennhoff will ever be the men they once were before the war, but Fennhoff tells Sousa that he has helped soldiers overcome their pain.

The other agents and even Peggy just see Sousa as a broken man who will never value him for who he is.  If Sousa wants to change, he just has to focus.  Fennhoff tells Sousa to point his gun at Thompson, and he does, but he then knocks out Fennhoff.  Earplugs do wonders, you know?

Valediction- Peggy speaks with Jarvis and Howard

Peggy is now communicating with both Jarvis and Howard.  They’re just one mile from land and Jarvis is ready to take the shot, but Peggy tells him to wait.  She reiterates to Howard that Steve is long gone.  He doesn’t have to try and fix this, but Howard insists that he does since all he’s done is create destruction.  Rogers was the one thing that brought good into his life.  Though they both loved him, Peggy tells Howard that this won’t bring him back.  Howard is the one person who believes in her and she can’t lose him as well.  It’s time to move on.

For a moment, Peggy gets no response, but Howard eventually snaps out of it.  He and Jarvis are en route back to the hangar.

When Peggy heads downstairs, she finds the plane that Dottie landed on, but no Dottie.  Just a small pool of blood and some red prints.  Fennhoff is carted off by Thompson and Sousa while Howard makes up with Peggy and Edwin.  Oh, and Howard finally remembers the name: Ida!

Valediction- SSR agents congratulate Peggy

Next day at the SSR, Peggy is greeted with applause and congratulations by her fellow agents who commend her on a job well done.  She’s just there to collect her paycheck, though.

Valediction- United States Senator Walt Cooper, played by John Prosky, congratulates Thompson

In enters United States Senator Walt Cooper, played by John Prosky, who is looking for Agent Jack Thompson.  Why?  He’s there to congratulate Thompson for stopping the attack.  More men like him are needed.  Even the President wants to thank him.  In a moment that slightly disappointed me, but doesn’t surprise me at the same time, Thompson gladly accepts credit for the work.  I have a very minor issue with this, but I do get Thompson’s reasoning for it.  I’ll address this later.

Daniel, however, isn’t at all pleased with this and plans to go tell the senator what really happened, but Peggy is fine.  She doesn’t need anyone’s approval since she already knows her value.  Everyone else’s opinion doesn’t matter.  Nice life lesson, Peggy, but we’ve known that for seven episodes now.  Anyway, she accepts Daniel’s offer for a drink, but will have to join at a later time.  She has other plans.

Valediction- Jarvis shows Peggy and Angie one of Howard's apartments

Courtesy of Howard Stark, Peggy and Angie now get to stay in one of his apartments free of charge.  It’s a very swanky place and, wait for this, there’s a phone in every room!  That just blows Angie’s mind.  She goes off to call her mom while Edwin and Peggy talk.  Now that his work is done, Jarvis has plans for his next project: a complete overhaul of kitchen spices.  Riveting stuff.

However, he would still be glad to assist her if necessary.  Howard, meanwhile, is in the process of negotiating the return of his property from SSR.  More than that, he’s decided to destroy everything since he doesn’t believe the government should be trusted with those kind of weapons.  A fair assessment.  As a parting gift, Jarvis presents Peggy with the vial of Steve Rogers’ blood, which Howard believes he lost.  Howard Stark may have done much for Jarvis, but he does not own his integrity.  Only Peggy knows what to do with the vial.

Valediction- Peggy pours out Rogers' blood

She does.  Peggy heads to the bridge and bids Steve Rogers farewell as she empties the vial into the river.

But wait!  We get a stinger!

Valediction- Fennhoff with a mask

Fennhoff, meanwhile, is tossed into prison, now wearing a mask that’s very Hannibal Lecter-like, but also looks similar to the one that Bane wore in The Dark Knight Rises.  However, the doctor is not alone.

Valediction- Dr. Arnim Zola with Fennhoff in prison

He’s joined by Dr. Arnim Zola, Toby Jones reprising his role.  Though Fennhoff’s vision has not come to pass, new visions will arise.  In fact, there may be a way for them to collaborate.  Fennhoff may be imprisoned, but he’s in America, and America is the land of opportunity.

Indeed.  So we’ve arrived at the end of Agent Carter’s eight episode run and it has been a great ride from start to finish.  What could have been a bunch of references and nods to the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe instead took the established world and managed to craft out its own identity that didn’t need to rely on the Marvel world.  Though Agent Carter takes place in the past, it managed to find a way to fit comfortably into the universe.

This goes hand in hand with not just great writing, but a well-established and consistent tone.  The writers of Agent Carter have a feel for how the Marvel universe works and they managed to give us not just dramatic moments, but lighter, comedic situations as well.  If I could refer to two films in the Marvel universe, I’d say, obviously, Captain America: The First Avenger, and the first Iron Man film are good examples of what to compare this to when it comes to tone.

Valediction- Vision, Howard sees Peggy

We get the seriousness of the post World War II era, but also see shades of Tony Stark’s demeanor and personality through his father.  It’s clear that the creators of Agent Carter have a great deal of respect for the source material, and that’s evident in the writing and direction.

Valediction- Thompson and Sousa talk with Peggy at the SSR

It’s been interesting to watch SSR develop since we first saw it in the pilot.  We knew these were federal agents, but that was the extent of it.  Dooley was the chief, Thompson was the braggart, and Sousa was the one nice guy who treated Peggy with respect.  Very one-dimensional stuff, but as the show progressed, we learned more about their pasts and what makes them who they are.  This includes their friendship and partnership with Peggy, who Dooley and Thompson saw as subservient, but between “The Iron Ceiling” and this episode, they saw her as an equal.

As mentioned before, these agents know that their lives are always on the line, but they never knew the full extent of what they were dealing with.  The deaths of Krzeminski and Chief Dooley still sting, but their deaths have also emboldened the SSR to get to the bottom of this whole Leviathan matter and away from leading a witch hunt after Howard Stark.

Valediction- Sousa asks Peggy out for a drink

Sousa has remained Peggy’s biggest defender in the SSR since the pilot and it’s not just because he pines for her.  Rather, he sees her the way that she sees herself: a competent and dedicated agent.  Even though he still did his little investigation into her and the club photo, he didn’t do it out of spite or revenge.  Sousa is a detective and this was an investigation the SSR had looked into.  Sure, the others had moved on when Leviathan took priority, but Sousa remained dedicated to getting to the bottom of this case.

Like Peggy, Daniel has his limitations because of his handicap, but that hasn’t weakened his resolve at all.  Sousa knows who he is and doesn’t need anyone to give him a pat on the back or make him feel good when he knows in his heart what he’s capable of.  It’s clear from the end that he’s still pining for Peggy, but as of now, the door is left open on where that would go.  It was also smart of him to wear earplugs when confronting Fennhoff.  At least someone at the SSR seemed to learn.

Valediction- Thompson with Senator Cooper

Thompson has made a big change since the pilot and it’s a change I appreciate.  One of the first things Thompson did during the first episode was ask Peggy to file surveillance reports since that was her kind of thing.  Now he, Peggy, and Daniel are investigating together like an actual team instead of adversaries.  The trip to Russia did Jack some good because he knows what Peggy is capable of.  At the same time, he’s fully aware of the world that they live in and the type of discrimination that Peggy faces as a woman.

Before, Jack once told Peggy that the natural order of things dictated that a man would never treat a woman as an equal.  Obviously that’s not universal, but for 1940s America, it probably does apply to a good number of men.  Not Thompson- at least, not anymore.  Or, at the very least, not towards Peggy.  Thompson knows how the world works and he knows that it’s expected for someone to credit him for work over Peggy, even when Carter herself did a lot of the heavy lifting.

The point I’m making is that while I’m a bit upset that Thompson didn’t acknowledge Peggy when Senator Cooper congratulated him, I sort of get why he didn’t.  Thompson has seen Carter in action.  He’s seen her kick major ass overseas and isn’t this damsel in distress that people may think she is.  The senator, however, doesn’t know any of that and chances are if Thompson had acknowledged Carter’s work, Cooper would still find a way to give Thompson the credit anyway.  At the end of the day, it is what it is.  Plus, it’s not really out of character for Thompson, anyway.

Valediction- Senator Cooper congratulates Thompson

Cooper even talks about the world needing more men like Thompson, as if Peggy were invisible during that scene.  Thompson could rattle off a list of Peggy’s accomplishments to the senator, but Cooper could and probably would still find a way to treat Peggy like a subordinate, and Thompson knows this.  He would be an example of the kind of man that would need to see Peggy in action as opposed to just hearing it.  At least Thompson and Dooley had ample time to learn and witness Peggy’s true capabilities.

Valediction- Howard speaks with Peggy

It really is interesting how much of the events in Agent Carter ended up tying back to Howard Stark.  As his son would later on, Howard is trying to atone for what he’s done.  He’s a brilliant inventor and credits Steve Rogers as the one thing Howard did that brought good into the world.  There’s a lot of regret in Howard’s voice as he tells Peggy about the things he’s responsible for, but even when talking with Fennhoff, Howard has to accept how much bad has come out of his technology.

Stark’s weapons are as much curses as they are blessings.  Not everything that happens is his direct fault, but the weapons are still made by his hands.  He wants to make things right and even takes the dangerous decision to offer himself up as bait.  At the end of the day, though, we still shades of a somewhat sneakier man when he retrieves the vial of Steve Rogers’ blood.

Valediction- Howard with Dottie in flashback

Though he wasn’t on the show a great deal, Dominic Cooper was just as excellent as Howard Stark as he was in the Captain America film.  Even though he wasn’t featured in every episode, Howard is still very present due to the effects of his technology and the Russians searching for it.

Valediction- Peggy with Sousa and Thompson

Peggy ends up accomplishing just what she set out to do at the onset of the series: she cleared Howard Stark’s name.  At the same time, she refused to be treated like a second-class citizen in the face of so much adversity and managed to stay one step ahead of her SSR counterparts- until she got caught, anyway.  Though it was brief, I did like the scene where she walks into SSR and receives applause from the agents.  This is the sort of validation I still think Peggy should have had from the start, but at the very least, this helped round out her character arc.  In the beginning, the men saw her as someone to file papers or fetch lunch, but at the end, they’re clapping for her.

Valediction- Jarvis gives Peggy the vial of Steve Rogers' blood

In addition to clearing Stark’s name, she received some closure on Steve Rogers when she poured out the vial.  It was the last remaining memory she had of the bullied kid she grew fond of and now he is truly out of her life forever.  It was a touching moment, I will admit, and the musical selection helped.  Now, obviously we know that Peggy will see Steve again because they reunite in the Winter Soldier film, but for the purposes of this mini-series, Peggy has put Steve to rest.

I wasn’t a giant fan of the parallel between Peggy and Howard’s conversation to the last one between Peggy and Steve just because it felt too easy.  It wasn’t cheesy by any means and I thought the performances between Hayley Atwell and Dominic Cooper helped elevate the scene, but I thought it was a tad too obvious what the writers wanted to do.  At the very least, it did help bring the series full circle, since we started with Peggy and Steve’s final conversation, and we nearly come to a close with Peggy having what almost could have been the last exchange between her and Howard.

This is a bit nitpicky of me, but while I’m glad that Peggy acknowledged that she doesn’t need other people’s validation, this isn’t really telling us anything new.  We’ve known this from the start.  Hell, Peggy said in the very first episode to Daniel that she’s more than capable of standing up for herself.  Peggy has always been able to handle herself and aside from the moment on “Time and Tide” when she wanted to call the SSR about locating Stark’s technology, she’s never done this for glory or fame and she doesn’t need to.

Valediction- Peggy at the bridge

There’s nothing bad I have to say about the performance.  Hayley Atwell is Peggy Carter.  I can’t imagine anyone else in the role right now, but that speaks mostly not just to the writing and characterization, but how Atwell breathed such life in the character and made her feel human.  Peggy doesn’t use her gender to flaunt and never feels to throw it in people’s faces that she’s a woman.  She walks and speaks with authority and a backbone, just as any man would.  More than that, she refuses to let the world determine her value.  It’s an incredible performance and I wouldn’t mind seeing Atwell take on this character again sometime.  Plus, it’s always great to see her and James D’Arcy interact.

Valediction- Peggy vs Dottie

The fight between Peggy and Dottie was something we’d been leading up to and it was fine, but like the other SSR agents, I’m left wondering why Peggy didn’t shoot and incapacitate Dottie first and ask questions later.  I liked the fight, but I do wish it had gone on a bit longer and that it didn’t just end with a kick out the window.  But the fact that Dottie is still alive and out there leaves the door open for something to happen later down the road…

Valediction- Dr. Zola

Same goes with Fennhoff being imprisoned with Dr. Zola.  What idiot that this would be a good idea?  Also, if I had any minor issue with the series, it’s that we never got a full explanation of just what Leviathan is.  It’s built up to be some big, shadowy organization, but I have to believe that it’s a lot bigger than Fennhoff and Dottie.

All in all, Agent Carter was a great mini-series and seamlessly worked its way into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  Even if you’re unfamiliar with the Marvel Cinematic Universe at large, this is just a well-written and directed drama and action/adventure show.  It manages to stand on its own two feet without overly relying on established material.

Like Fargo last year, I don’t know right now where we go from here.  This was slated to just be eight episodes, but now there are rumblings of a Season Two.  Even if we don’t get one, this was an amazing outing by the folks at Marvel.  With some great action, writing and direction, each episode managed to impress me more than the previous one.  The cast, led by Hayley Atwell’s commanding performance as Peggy Carter, made this a very enjoyable watch.

I highly recommend Agent Carter.  Will we see a second season?  Who knows?  Until then, I love what we got all the same.

A Look at “Gotham” Season 1, Episode 17: “Red Hood”

In “Red Hood,” we got some pretty interesting stuff done with the Red Hood Gang and digging into Alfred’s past as he gets a visit from an old friend.  Everything else, though, not so interesting.

Red Hood- First bank heist

The episode begins with a heist.  Before heading in, one of the members, Gus Floyd, played by Michael Goldsmith, dons a red hood that he made himself in order to spice things up.  The four enter Gotham Bank and rob it blind, though Floyd puts on a bit of a spectacle for himself and the crowd.  An officer fires several shots at Floyd, but he somehow manages to miss every single shot.  That’s quite an achievement on Floyd’s part, perhaps.

However, the robbers can’t make a quick getaway due to the cops speeding down a few blocks away.  To create a diversion, Floyd throws some of the cash into the air, which sends the crowd into a frenzy.  This gives the robbers just enough time to escape.

Red Hood- Gordon and Bullock investigate the bank after the robbery

Sometime later, GCPD arrive.  Gordon and Bullock investigate the scene.  The robbers never went for the vault, just the registers.  The bank manager’s secretary, played by Jenna Gavigan, finds the red hooded man nice for throwing out the money, never mind that the money belonged to the bank and he only did it to ensure his escape.  One of the robbers kept track of the police’s response time as well.  The only other time the silent alarm had been triggered involved a smoke bomb set off by the Mortgage desk.  GCPD will need the footage from that incident.

Red Hood- Alfred reunites with Reggie Payne, played by David O'Hara

A storm hits Gotham that night as Alfred receives an unexpected visitor at Wayne Manor: his old pal, Reggie Payne, played by David O’Hara.  It’s been 20 long years since these two last saw each other.  Reggie had been picked up by GCPD for trying to sleep under the Westbury Bridge, but he ended up talking with one of the officers who served as a marine.  The officer took pity on Reggie after learning that he was with Her Majesty’s Special Air Service.

So what’s going on with Reggie?  Well, Vanessa died, for starters.  11 years ago now.  A year later, he lost the house, so he moved back to Gotham and took on a few jobs- nothing he’s proud of, though.  Bruce enters and insists that Reggie stay for a few days.

Red Hood- Fish is brought before the Office Manager, played by Jeffrey Combs

Back to the not-plot, Fish is taken through an institution and introduced to the Office Manager, played by Jeffrey Combs.

Red Hood- Gordon and Bullock review the surveillance footage

At GCPD, Gordon reviews the surveillance footage.  He notices that one of the members is wearing a jacket bearing the lapel of Kleg’s Auto.

Red Hood- Gang watches as Floyd showboats

We then cut to Kleg’s Auto where the robbers lounge around.  Eager Floyd wants to refer to the group as the Red Hood Gang since he feels the hood protected him.  As such, he thinks that the leader of the group should be the one to wear the hood.

Fair enough.  So Destro, played by Jonny Coyne, shoots and kills Floyd before donning the mask himself.

Red Hood- Office Manager speaks with Fish

Then back to Fish.  The manager knows that Fish has been causing a fuss, but he isn’t the one calling the shots.  The doctor owns the building.  Fish goes to leave, saying that she’ll only talk to the real person in charge, but he’s away at a consultation in Gotham.  We also learn the name of our faceless doctor- Dr. Dulmacher.  Okay, I guess.

Red Hood- Butch and Penguin talk about alcohol and Maroni

Back in Gotham, Fish’s former club still isn’t faring much better under Penguin’s ownership.  The stand-up comedian isn’t winning the crowd and, even worse, the club is almost out of booze.  Reason is, as Butch points out, because the booze belongs to Maroni, who isn’t exactly on good terms with Penguin.  Maroni was willing to do business with Fish, sure, but Penguin is a different matter.  Since Maroni supplies this side of Gotham, few would be willing to cross him just to help out Penguin.  Butch is willing to help out, though.  After all, he’s poured his blood, sweat, and tears into this building.

Red Hood- Bullock and Gordon find Floyd's body

Gordon and Bullock show up at Kleg’s Auto.  Bullock wants details on Gordon’s growing relationship with Leslie, but that conversation will have to come later, as Bullock finds Floyd’s body in the refrigerator.  Figuring that this guy was the leader, the detectives conclude that they have seen the last of the Red Hood Gang.

Red Hood- Red Hood Gang throws money into the air

So then the Red Hood Gang robs another bank.  The customers ask if the gang will throw them money again.  Destro, now donning hood, eventually relents and throws up some cash.

Red Hood- Bullock and Gordon go over more surveillance footage and read on the Red Hood

Bullock and Gordon review footage from the robbery and realize it will be difficult to pursue this gang when the people love them so much.  Alvarez brings in a witness: Mr. Chaing, played by Lee Wong.  He works at a restaurant a block away from the bank and saw the gang park their van nearby.  He managed to get a look at one of the robbers- the one wearing the hood.  At first, the detectives think to get a sketch artist, but they do already have the armed robbery files open.  Maybe Chaing could look through them and see if he recognizes an associate of Gus Floyd.

Red Hood- Reggie teaches Bruce about using disadvantages to his advantage

Back at Wayne Manor, Reggie helps Bruce train through some alternative methods.  He knocks Bruce down a few times, which gets Bruce angry, but this is part of Reggie’s lesson: never lose your cool because it can get you killed.  He offers Bruce a free shot and Bruce throws a few, but they aren’t all that hard.  Bruce’s reasoning is that Reggie is bigger, though Reggie doesn’t consider that a good excuse.  If someone’s bigger than you, use your size to their advantage and make good use of the environment.

Alfred intervenes and reminds Bruce that discipline and hard work are effective methods.  When Bruce leaves, Alfred tells Reggie that raising Bruce has been a challenge, but it’s obvious how much Bruce has helped him.  For now, Alfred would prefer that the past stay in the past.

Red Hood- Penguin sees police breaking up the workers loading alcohol

Penguin sees two workers loading booze and figures that stealing their alcohol will be a cinch, but the GCPD breaks up the shipping and confiscates the alcohol.  It turns out that these guys work for Butch.  After all, it’s cleaner than going in guns a-blazing.

Red Hood- Barbara offers Ivy and Selina some of her clothes

I guess Barbara is perfectly fine with two random girls squatting in her house, since she likes having them around to the point that she offers both Ivy and Selina her clothes.  She calls Selina beautiful and says that she can use her beauty to her advantage.  It can be stronger than any weapon.  In a moment I can’t help but appreciate, Selina asks Barbara what good that has done her.  She has a good point, I must admit.

Red Hood- Mr. Chiang at the lineup

At the lineup, Chaing selects man number four.  Even though it’s one witness’ word, Bullock and Gordon get the idea to turn the Red Hood Gang against each other.

Red Hood- Fish and the Office Manager

Fish again.  She asks the manager who the body parts are for, and we learn that they’re for personal experiments and clients all over the world.  The manager thinks that Fish’s eyes would fetch for a good price.  There are two options: kill her and everyone else in the basement, which is an acceptable inconvenience, or take her eyes now.  Fish introduces a third option.

Red Hood- Fish gouges out her eye

Yeah, she gouges out her own damn eye and then stomps on it.  After this, she passes out.  Why did she do this?  I don’t know.

Red Hood- Bruce brings out the wine

Bruce brings Alfred a bottle of wine from the cellar- a nice Burgundy from 1966 and one of Thomas Wayne’s favorites.  Reggie downs his glass as he and Alfred begin swapping war stories.  We learn that Reggie went on covert missions and never lost a man except one time during a sandstorm.  The squad got separated.  Two were captured.  Alfred managed to fight off 12 before being overtaken.  At this point, Alfred declares it a done night and sends Bruce to bed for the evening.  Reggie, however, wonders why Alfred is hiding his lethal war past a secret from the boy.

Red Hood- Passing on the red hood

Now another member of the gang needs the mask, as his girlfriend is ready to leave him.  If he wears the hood, he figures that she’ll take him seriously.  He then pulls a gun on Destro and demands the hood.  Destro dares him to use the gun before he makes him eat it.  As a result, he’s shot two times.  I won’t lie, Destro’s line made me laugh.

Gordon and Bullock, stationed outside, rush in.  They find a number of loan rejection letters, as Destro had inadequate collateral.  What did Destro want to do?  Why, open a pastry shop, of course, but the banks don’t care about people.  He wanted to make them all see, which he planned to do with the last heist at the International Savings Bank of Gotham.

Red Hood- Penguin and Butch toast

Fresh booze is brought into the club.  Penguin and Butch toast to new beginnings and no longer being sidekicks.  Penguin asks Butch if he misses Fish, to which Butch says that Fish got what she deserved.  Despite what happened, though, Penguin still misses her.  After all, maybe our enemies define us more than our friends do.

Red Hood- Reggie stabs Alfred

Alfred hears some clattering and finds Reggie trying to take a few things before leaving.  He didn’t want to ask Alfred for money and is in some real trouble.  He then stabs Alfred and leaves.  Bruce enters soon after and calls for help.

Red Hood- Shootout between Red Hood Gang and the GCPD

The Red Hood Gang is now down to three members, but before the robbery can commence, GCPD arrive.  A shootout takes place and the Red Hood bearer, having no fear, pulls a gun and his shot dead by the officers.  Bullock needs a danish.  No, seriously, that’s what he says.  Jim gets a call.

Red Hood- Gordon joins Bruce at the hospital

He then heads to the hospital and joins Bruce, who can’t afford to lose Alfred.

Red Hood- Reggie presents Bruce's findings to Wayne Foundation

We then cut to Wayne Enterprises, where Reggie reports to the board on Bruce’s crime web and the evidence he’s collected.  It’s all just theories, he says, with nothing concrete.  He gives Alfred a few weeks in the hospital.  Now it may be time to make a move on Bruce.

Red Hood- Some kids picks up the hood

Oh, and some kid picks up the Red Hood and dons it himself.  Isn’t that evidence?  You know what, never mind.  Episode over.

Huh.  This episode was decent.  Nothing great or anything to write home about, but it had its moments.  After last week’s was he or wasn’t he Joker plot, we get Gotham tackling the Red Hood and treating the actual hood as more of a charm.  Anyone who wore it eventually end up with misfortune, as we see with each member of the Red Hood Gang that wore it.  At the very least, these criminals were a bit entertaining to me.

Red Hood- Lloyd and his red hood

Lloyd himself was full of energy- though his cackling felt like the show wanted to do another Joker red herring- and Destro struggling to get on top of the bank table to address the crowd made me laugh.  Like The Balloonman, these were bad people that the citizens of Gotham City appreciated, but only because they got free money out of it.  Sure, these guys won’t show up again, but they did leave an impression on me and I would have enjoyed more scenes of them interacting, to be honest.

Red Hood- Alfred and Reggie speak

Same goes with Alfred and Reggie.  This is a much more militant Alfred than we’re used to from most interpretations of Batman, whether on the small screen or films, but this version has seen his fair share of carnage.  Alfred feels grounded when he’s around Bruce and says as much when he finds Reggie trying to teach Bruce his methods.  With Bruce losing both of his parents, he just has Alfred left.  Bruce helps humanize Alfred after what he’s seen and endured, while Alfred gets to pass on life lessons to Bruce.

Red Hood- Reggie gets Bruce to hit him over and over again

I understand why Reggie took the approach that he did when it came to training Bruce.  Using your opponent’s size and the environment around you helped introduce Bruce to the very methods he will later utilize in his adult life.

Red Hood- Penguin speaks with Butch

Penguin still doesn’t get how to run a nightclub, which makes me wonder why Falcone entrusted it to him in the first place instead of just having Butch do it.  Right now, Penguin just wants to keep the business afloat, but Butch, who we thought had been handled by Zsasz, seems to be just fine.  His devotion is now less to Fish and more to the club.  It’s a nice way to help flesh him out a bit, but it’s also good since we don’t hear much about the history of the club.

Red Hood- Barbara and Selina

Barbara’s subplot is just as pointless as it has been.  She still seems to have no issue with Ivy and Selina staying there, though.  Again, she barely knows these girls and it’s a bit strange that she wouldn’t wonder where they came from.  They don’t exactly ground Barbara as much as just give her someone to talk to, though her talking to Selina about using her beauty to get what she wanted was…off-putting, to be honest.  Though, if it had any upswing, it would be Selina’s response when she asked Barbara how that worked out for her.

Red Hood- Fish without her left eye

As for Fish…the hell?  No, really, why did she do that?  She’s been able to maintain control ever since she took over, so I have to wonder what compelled her to take out her own eye?  It came out of nowhere and felt like Gotham trying to inject some shock value for the sake of shock value.  Without any proper buildup, though, the moment just felt forced, in my opinion.  I do appreciate that we’ll finally be getting a proper introduction of the Dollmaker, who was only briefly referenced in the second episode, but…come on, Gotham.  The Dollmaker’s last name is Dulmacher?  Seriously?

Arrow- Dollmaker

You know, Arrow may have the occasional blatant wink and nod with its references, but it didn’t give the Dollmaker such a blatant name.

Red Hood- Kid in the red hood

Oh, and by the way- the kid at the end just happens to pick up the Red Hood and puts it on.  Isn’t that evidence?  Shouldn’t, you know, GCPD have kept a better eye on that crime scene?  Shouldn’t there have been an officer keeping watch?

So next week should the first official introduction of Dollmaker.  How will he deal with a one-eyed Fish Mooney?  We’ll see.  Hopefully it’s at least interesting.

A Look at “House of Lies” Season 4, Episode 7: “The Next Olive Branch Goes Straight Up Your Ass”

“The Next Olive Branch Goes Straight Up Your Ass” is a good episode, but mostly setup for what’s to come as Kaan & Associates patiently awaits their big pay day.  Has it come at last?  Let’s dive right in.

The Next Olive Branch Goes Straight Up Your Ass- Pod presenting to random company

The episode begins with the pod stating their case to a company that they’re convinced can and will grow.  Not only that, they will crush their competition and leave it to be devoured by demons.  Rest assured, Kaan & Associates will change this pod in the same way it changed Gage Motors.  Then we get a time freeze.  Marty explains to us that ever since the success at Gage, Kaan & Associates is back on top and everyone wants a piece of the Marty Kaan magic.

The Next Olive Branch Goes Straight Up Your Ass- Pod strikes a pose

As we head to Kaan & Associates, Marty is giddy over the upcoming pay day.  The firm will soon be receiving a $9.2 million equity piece.  And how does Marty choose to celebrate?  He fires some of the millenial staff.  Marty has big plans.  He could make millions on the backs of meager associate salaries or hire talent from another firm while he grinds his enemies to dust.  Typical consultant stuff, you know.

The Next Olive Branch Goes Straight Up Your Ass- Kelsey goes over discrete coding with Clyde and Doug

Kelsey goes over discrete coding with Clyde and Doug, who have their own personal issues going on.  Sort of.  Doug isn’t sure about what to get for takeout, while Clyde needs to pick up his father from the airport.

The Next Olive Branch Goes Straight Up Your Ass- Jeannie addresses the friction between her and Marty

Jeannie goes to Marty to address the awkwardness between them.  The firm is taking off, but Jeannie wants to stay.  Marty says no, and Jeannie’s hormones kick in as she gets super emotional, asking if Marty can go two minutes without being an asshole.  Jeannie again admits to making a huge mistake, but she is still a major shareholder.  She then calls out Marty for crying loyalty and betrayal when it suits him, but he’s been willing to do unforgivable shit.  Marty doesn’t deny this.  In fact, the people he wronged still haven’t forgiven him.

Hell, maybe Jeannie could buy him out.  Doug enters during this icy moment to let Marty know that the wire transfer will be in by close of business today.  When Doug leaves- he really should have just come back at another time- Jeannie keeps standing her ground.  Even if Marty serves her papers, it won’t matter.  She’s still a shareholder and Marty is still a felon.

The Next Olive Branch Goes Straight Up Your Ass- Clyde picks up his father, played by Fred Melamed, from the airport

Clyde has picked up his father, played by Fred Melamed, but is allergic to the cat that he brought with him.  He plans to stick the two of them in a hotel.  Dad, though, isn’t too pleased with the fact that Clyde hasn’t seen him in two years.  There won’t be much more time to bond, anyway, as Dad has stage four pancreatic cancer.  Hell, Dad may only have weeks instead of months.

The Next Olive Branch Goes Straight Up Your Ass- Malcolm shows Marty the money that Roscoe has been collecting

At House Kaan, Marty calls Ellis again about the missing wire transfer, but gets nothing.  He does get something from Malcolm, though- cash money.  He throws a roll of $5,000 to Marty and holds $10,000 in his own hands- all from Roscoe’s room.  Sure, he’s snooping where he shouldn’t be, but Malcolm’s defense is that he’s just looking out for the kid.

The Next Olive Branch Goes Straight Up Your Ass- Kelsey asks Doug if he likes it when a girl licks his ass

Back at Kaan & Associates, Kelsey goes over the app with Doug, who is trying too hard to be suave.  Kelsey lets him know that he doesn’t have to since she already likes him.  The two go over geek specific lingo before Kelsey casually asks Doug if he likes it when a girl licks his ass.  It takes Doug a second to register what Kelsey just asked him before he gets the hint.

Okay, this entire moment actually intercuts with the next scene, so I’ll talk about them separately.  Doug and Kelsey have their fun for a little bit.

The Next Olive Branch Goes Straight Up Your Ass- Kelsey goes right back to work after sex

Once it’s over, though, Kelsey is right back to business and ready to talk about fee structures, but Doug is a bit stuck on the magical moment.

The Next Olive Branch Goes Straight Up Your Ass- Marty confronts Roscoe about his money and selling

Back to Marty.  Roscoe arrives and explains that he’s not selling drugs, but purses and bags.  When asked if this is illegal, Roscoe admits that some of the bags are knockoffs.  Marty comments that this sort of thing won’t help his current situation.  Before Roscoe can say that this is another example of his father making a situation all about himself, Marty shuts him down.  In fact, he’s not even all that angry at Roscoe- he saw a business and decided to take advantage of it.

The Next Olive Branch Goes Straight Up Your Ass- Ellis finally responds to Marty's call

Marty calls Ellis one more time and manages to get through, though Ellis isn’t all that interested in this wire transfer.  Gage put Kaan & Associates back on the map.  That should be more than enough payment in Ellis’ mind since the firm can book any business they desire.  He also knows that it would take a titan to legally challenge him, and Marty Kaan is not that titan.

The Next Olive Branch Goes Straight Up Your Ass- Pod visits Gage Motors, finds Monica present

So the next day, the pod pays Gage Motors a visit.  Ellis is in a meeting with some members.

The Next Olive Branch Goes Straight Up Your Ass- Monica at Ellis' meeting

And who else should be there but Monica?  Monica isn’t worried about Marty’s confrontation either.  After all, Gage Motors could out litigate Jesus Christ if it wanted to.  Huh.  Ellis doesn’t buy that his prison friendship with Marty was genuine, but manufactured in prison just so Marty could get at his business.

The Next Olive Branch Goes Straight Up Your Ass- Flashback, Monica visits Marty in prison

The episode then flashes back to the prison when Monica paid Marty a visit.  She’s been thinking of taking Roscoe to New York for Fashion Week even though he has school.  Marty suggests that Monica do something that a normal parent would do, like see a movie.  Monica’s behavior is that of a sociopath.  Marty leaves, but as he does, Monica tells him that the next episode title-I mean, next olive branch goes straight up his ass.

The Next Olive Branch Goes Straight Up Your Ass- Jeannie clashes with Monica

So now it’s Jeannie’s turn, but Monica doesn’t back down.  She calls out Jeannie for defrauding, but we don’t hear the rest of it before Jeannie interrupts.  Just as Jeannie prepares to retreat, she turns and punches Monica in the face.  It hurt Jeannie’s hand more than she would have liked, but she got the satisfaction of breaking Monica’s nose.  The pod retreats, but Marty vows that they will make Gage Motors bleed.  Jeannie, however, can’t help but notice that Marty said “we.”

Throughout this episode, we see various characters trying to build bridges with other people in their lives, though they end up with mixed results.  As we saw with Monica towards the end, it doesn’t hurt to try and throw an olive branch to your enemy, even if that foe ends up burning the bridge while you’re still standing on it.  That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try and make amends, but it just makes the attempt harder when you’re not being met halfway.

The Next Olive Branch Goes Straight Up Your Ass- Neither Jeannie nor Marty back down

Marty and Jeannie, for example, are at a standstill and it’s clear that neither of them is going to budge.  Again, I get the feeling that Marty does want Jeannie to stay at Kaan & Associates, but his pride won’t let him come out and say that he needs her.  After all, he went out of his way to sit outside the doctor’s office, even though he didn’t need to and figured that Jeannie could handle herself.

The Next Olive Branch Goes Straight Up Your Ass- Jeannie stands her ground

And credit where it’s due, she can.  It’s interesting how far Jeannie’s power play has brought her.  She’s not a subordinate anymore, but in a position where she can wield great power and use it if she’s threatened with termination.  I doubt she ever thought it would come to this, but she at least knows that she has enough firepower to combat Marty.  And she won’t let herself be victimized because of what she did.  Jeannie regrets her actions, and maybe it’s a bit easy for her to just brush them aside, but bringing them up again would just be a painful reminder of what she did.

The Next Olive Branch Goes Straight Up Your Ass- Marty after hearing that Jeannie may consider buying him out

But that’s just what Marty is doing because he still feels burned.  Does Marty have a right to still be angry?  Sure, but dwelling on it will just embolden Jeannie’s desire to stay and fight as opposed to making her pull away.  And as much as Marty cares for his firm, both Jeannie and Roscoe had him pegged right when they talked about how much he makes a matter all about himself.  However, he’s not making himself out to be perfect, as he notes that he still hasn’t been forgiven by the people he’s burned.

The Next Olive Branch Goes Straight Up Your Ass- Marty gives Roscoe some advice

Marty is a complex man with a multitude of issues that mostly stem back to something that he did.  His relationship with Roscoe is strained, but the two are at least working on their communication.  Rather than come down hard on Roscoe for selling bags, Marty seemed pleased that his son took advantage of a business situation.  He even had a brief moment of fooling around when he ‘threatened’ to take some of Roscoe’s money, when he was only joking.  I do think Marty has Roscoe’s best interests in mind and this was an example of him trying to be more of an understanding father instead of just barking orders.

The Next Olive Branch Goes Straight Up Your Ass- Marty on the phone with Ellis

The truth is that Marty is losing influence.  He can’t contain Roscoe, he can’t push Jeannie out, and he can’t receive that massive bonus yet.  He got the firm’s reputation back, but without the large pay day.  I figured that, after his stint in prison, he would do all he could to reestablish himself and the firm.  That’s exactly what happened.  The money just seems like a bonus.  Keeping the money out of Marty’s hands will force him to work harder.  Had he received the bonus, he probably would have gone back to the same Marty that we known him as.

The Next Olive Branch Goes Straight Up Your Ass- Monica got the pod

But that’s where Monica comes in, as she’s one step ahead of Marty.  She’s now a part of Ellis’ inner circle and that works to Gage Motors’ advantage since Monica knows Marty so well.  She knows what makes him tick and the right way to get under his skin.  Not Jeannie, though.  While Marty may be unwilling to be aggressive in certain circumstances such as this one, Jeannie isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty.

The Next Olive Branch Goes Straight Up Your Ass- Monica's broken nose after being punched by Jeannie

I sort of feel bad for Monica, though.  She got stabbed leg last season, and now she’s had her nose broken.  Maybe she should take up some kickboxing lessons.  It would save her a world of trouble with proper training.

The Next Olive Branch Goes Straight Up Your Ass- Clyde with his father

As usual, Doug and Clyde don’t have much to do, but have their moments.  Clyde’s relationship with his father is strained, but we also learn that his father’s life is on a clock, so here’s hoping they get some time to bond.

The Next Olive Branch Goes Straight Up Your Ass- Doug after he and Kelsey bone

And hopefully Doug doesn’t try and get too attached to Kelsey, who just looked to be in the mood for a quick fuck before going back to work.  I did find it funny how she just casually asked Doug about a girl licking his ass, but as soon as playtime ended, she went straight back into serious mode.

The Next Olive Branch Goes Straight Up Your Ass- Valorie Curry as Kelsey

Brief aside, I’m enjoying Valorie Curry’s performance thus far and it’s a nice change of pace to see her in this type of role compared to the more serious stuff we saw her do on The Following.

So as it stands, it looks like we’re headed for war between Gage Motors and Kaan & Associates.  This looks to have united Marty and Jeannie since they have now share common enemies to combat.  Will this be what ultimately convinces Marty that Jeannie is worth keeping around?  We’ll see.

A Look at “The Walking Dead” Season 5, Episode 11: “The Distance”

If Aaron takes this kind of abuse on a regular basis, he really should consider a different job other than Alexandria’s recruiter.

The Distance- Sasha and Maggie bring Aaron to the group

The episode begins with Maggie and Sasha bringing Aaron into the barn.  They’ve already taken his gear and searched him for weapons.  Protocol, you know.  Aaron has come to have the group audition for membership in his community, which he feels is much safer than a camp.  He says they would be valuable additions.  His job is to convince people to follow him.  As proof, Aaron asks Sasha to give Rick his pack, which has an envelope of photos from the community.  It’s safe, has secure walls, and it is critical to have good people there in order to survive.  Rick takes this into careful consideration and…

…punches the guy’s lights out.  Rick tells the others to tie him up.  Also protocol, I guess.

Now, Michonne thinks that Rick is being a bit aggressive and that Aaron is a good person.  Rick, however, goes into leader mode and tells everyone to keep alert for anyone else that this stranger may have brought with them.

The Distance- Aaron is set up and questioned by Rick

When Aaron awakens, he completely understands the group being extra cautious.  Rick inquires about Aaron’s flare gun and then asks how many people Aaron has with him.  Aaron, however, doesn’t see the point in giving a number.  He knows that no matter what he says, he won’t be trusted.  To be fair, Aaron’s pretty much right.  Besides, it’s hard to trust someone who leaves you bottles of water.  Aaron has seen how this dealt with and ignored packs of roamers.  He knows that they’re survivors and good people, which would be important resources.

Once again, Rick asks for a number, and Aaron finally gives it: one.  He asks what it would take to prove he’s being honest, like driving to the community.  He and his companion drove separately and would have come sooner if not for the storm.  He couldn’t get any closer, but he could have ambushed them earlier at any moment.  The two vehicles aren’t too far out.

Again, suspicion clear in his face and voice, Rick doesn’t believe there are any cars, but Michonne needs to know for sure.  As does Maggie.  They’re soon joined by Glenn, Abraham, and Rosita.  If they don’t return in 60 minutes, the others will follow.  Aaron attempts to converse with Rick, telling him that before the outbreak, he used to deliver medicine for an NGO, so he’s used to having guns pointed in his face.  Even still, he doesn’t believe that Rick and company are bad people.  Rick retorts that just because they’re good doesn’t mean they won’t kill him.  If the others aren’t back, Rick promises to put a knife in the base of Aaron’s skull.  This is how Rick makes friends.

The Distance- On the road with Abraham, Maggie, Glenn, Michonne, and Rosita

On the road, Glenn tells the rest of the group to be on their guard.  After all, they could run into someone that’s like them, so they should be afraid.  Plus, why would Aaron want a group of strangers to join him.  Michonne is still optimistic.  After all, the group could accept the likes of herself, Tara, and even Gabriel, so it’s not a stretch for someone else to take in people they would otherwise be cautious of.  Little does the group know that they’re being watched…

The Distance- Rick makes Aaron taste the apple sauce

Judith is still crying.  Aaron suggests Rick feed her with Aaron’s apple sauce.  Fine, but Aaron has to try it first.  He does, even though he doesn’t like apple sauce and he’s aghast that Rick would think he’d want to poison his daughter.

The Distance- Group of five finds the two vehicles

Soon enough, the others do indeed find two vehicles.  They hear a noise, but it’s just walkers.  Abraham and Rosita dispatch of them before checking the RV and finding food inside.  While checking around, Abraham asks Rosita whether she thought he would have hurt her back at the fire truck after Eugene’s confession.  She says no.  It wasn’t Abraham.

The Distance- Rick claims the food

Meanwhile, back in the barn, Rick claims ownership of the food, regardless of whether they agree to go with Aaron.  Oh, smooth move, Rick, you didn’t even find the food.  Plus, like Joe said, don’t have you have to see it first in order to claim it for yourself?

Anyway, this doesn’t gel with the rest of the group, and Michonne believes Aaron is telling the truth.  If he were lying or wanted to hurt them, they’d have a reason to distrust him, but Aaron hasn’t given them a reason.  They need this.  Anyone who feels different should speak up.  Daryl does, but it’s just to say that the barn smells like horse shit.  Thanks for that, Daryl.  Eventually, Rick says that they’ll go.

Now Aaron has never been one to drive to the camp, so he would have to give the group directions as they went along.  He instructs them to go north on Route 16 since that area has been cleared.  Rick opts for Route 33 and going under the cover of night so they can still slip out if they’re spotted.  In the meantime, get some rest.

The Distance- Rick tells Michonne that they're going with Aaron

Outside, as Rick checks one of the vehicles, Michonne asks if Rick really meant it when he said they would go or was he just trying to get Aaron to talk.  Rick, however, says that they will go.  He still has a reason to be careful, after what happened at Woodbury and Terminus.  He needs to decide if he’s taking his family in, but at this point, he can’t be sure if anything would convince him that this is real.

The Distance- Driving with Glenn, Rick, Aaron, and Michonne

So that night, Aaron is saddled along with Rick, Glenn, and Michonne.  The RV isn’t too far behind.  Rick goes through the glove compartment and finds some license plates that Aaron is collecting in his hunt for all 50.  Michonne looks through some of Aaron’s photos and calls attention to the fact that the pictures don’t have people in them.  Aaron did take one of the entire group, but bad exposure ruined that picture.

Michonne then asks Aaron the questions that Rick apparently forgot to ask: how many walkers has he killed?  A lot, is his response.  As for how many people, two.  Why?  They tried to kill him.  Rick then finds a listening device that Aaron has apparently been using.  Now they believe they’re being followed.

The Distance- Glenn drives through walkers

Glenn plows through an oncoming crowd of walkers and eventually comes to a stop.  Rick plans for them to circle back, but the car won’t start.  It’s clogged with walker guts.  Well, that’s what happens when you drive through walkers, Glenn.

The Distance- A flare goes up in the sky

Then a flare goes into the sky.  Aaron now needs to leave at this very moment and rushes out.  He ends up almost being bitten by a walker.  Glenn considers leaving him, but eventually does kill the walker.  Aaron again insists that Glenn and the others follow him.  Like Glenn said, they can only make it together.  He also fesses up to listening to them.

The Distance- Rick fires the flare gun at a walker

Rick and Michonne, meanwhile, hold off as many walkers as they can before they’re saved by Aaron and Glenn.  Time to move on.  By the way, this may have been one of the cooler scenes in the episode due to Rick firing the flare gun at one of the walkers, causing its head to light up like a Jack-O-Lantern.  If only this episode had been shown in October

The Distance- Aaron reunites with Eric, played by Jordan Woods-Robinson

Soon, they meet up with the others.  Aaron heads inside and we’re introduced to his partner, Eric, played by Jordan Woods-Robinson, who went and got himself a broken ankle.  But Eric did manage to get Aaron a new license plate.  Good, since Aaron lost the car.  Eric is portrayed as stereotypically gay here, which is my one issue with his characterization.

The Distance- Aaron thanks the group for their help

Eric owes the group a great debt that he hopes to repay at Alexandria.  Rick is fine with everyone staying the night and heading out in the morning.  Rick wants Aaron to stay on the other side, but Aaron says that the only way Rick will keep him away from Eric is by shooting him.  Strong words, Aaron.  Glenn tries to get Rick to ease off a bit.  After all, both Eric and Aaron are unarmed and Eric has a broken ankle.  Plus, Aaron told the truth when he said he only had one person with him.

The Distance- Noah offers painkillers and water to Aaron

The next morning, Noah offers Aaron some painkillers and water for his wrists.  Aaron asks about Noah’s ankle, which we learn he injured in an accident before the outbreak.  Aaron tells Noah of a surgeon in Alexandria named Pete that may be able to help.

As the group drives along, Abraham and Rosita spot the Washington Monument in the distance.  They’re low on fuel, but they should be able to make it.

The Distance- Car trouble

Never mind, they come to a stop, but luckily Glenn knows about the spare battery.  Thanks for that one, Dale.

The Distance- Michonne tells Rick to let it go

Michonne advises Rick to just let it all go.  It’s kept him alive and warm at night, but the fight eventually turns on you.  It’s time to forget about it.  Rick thinks back to Bob saying something similar to him back at the church.  At what point is it good to let someone in when the rules of survival keep on changing?

The Distance- Rick hides a gun

Before the group continues, we get a brief scene of Rick placing a gun near an abandoned home.

The Distance- Arriving at the Alexandria Safe Zone

Everyone finally arrives outside the gates of Alexandria.  Rick hears the sounds of children and has a bit of optimism on his face.  Carol tells him that even when Rick is wrong, he’s still right.  As Rick takes Judith out, everyone leaves the vehicles and heads for the gates.

So we’ve finally arrived at the Alexandria Safe Zone.  It took some time to get there and we technically aren’t inside yet, so it’s not yet time to drop your guard.

The Distance- Rick and Michonne talk about the rules changing

Rick mentioned to Michonne that the rules keep changing, which is true.  Everyone is taking a great leap of faith by trusting Aaron, a man they’ve never met and know little about, in leading them to this community.  They don’t know what they’re heading into and know that Aaron isn’t telling them every single detail, so while they’re optimistic, they’re still cautious.

Us- Mary welcomes group to Terminus

And they’ve been fooled before.  Terminus, Woodbury, and even the prison looked like strongholds safe from walker madness or anything sinister, but eventually, something went wrong.  Now does this mean that Aaron is going to turn out to be another Gareth or Governor?  No.  Is it right to be suspicious of him?  Sure.  After all, the others don’t know Aaron and, given his calm demeanor after being decked by Rick, one would wonder if he has something to hide.

The Distance- Carol tells Rick that even though he was wrong, he's still right

Time and time again, The Walking Dead, both in the television show and comic, has shown us the dangers of getting too close with strangers that have seemingly innocent intentions.  Hell, we’re seeing Carl go through this in the comic right now.  Rick has a lot to lose not just with Carl and Judith, but the group as a whole since everyone looks to him as the leader.  What Carol said to Rick made a lot of sense: he may have been wrong, but he was still right.  Even if it’s something as small as tasting apple sauce, Rick will take any and every precaution to protect his family.  And yet, it’s Rick taking control of the situation that nearly got them killed when they decided to take 23 North and run into walkers.

Dick move to treat Aaron the way he did, but he wouldn’t do it if he didn’t want to protect everyone close to him.  Now, as we’ve seen with the recent deaths of Beth and Tyreese, we know that what Rick can’t do is save everyone.  He can be trusting and protective, but his group will kill if necessary to protect themselves, as we see when Rick tells Aaron that just because they’re good people doesn’t mean they won’t kill him.  The truth is these people will never know when it’s safe to let someone into their inner circle.

The Distance- Michonne believes Aaron

I like that Michonne is the one to call the group out on them being extra cautious when Aaron hasn’t given them a reason to distrust him.  She’s been down this road before.  After all, they took her in and she damn near ditched Rick, Glenn, Daryl, and Merle when they fled Woodbury.  She had little to say and gave no one except maybe Andrea a reason to trust her.  They also took in Tara, who was in cahoots with the Governor and took part in the assault that led to Hershel’s death.  Sure, she didn’t do the decapitating and didn’t know what the Governor would do, but she still could have been considered a threat.

And what about Abraham, Eugene, and Rosita?  They easily could pose a threat, especially Abraham with his physicality, and yet they joined forces with Rick and company anyway.  Michonne’s point is clear: if they can accept strangers and newcomers, it’s not too far of a stretch to believe that someone else could.  At the same time, though, they’re still careful and quick to notice anything off, such as no people showing up in Aaron’s photos.

The Distance- Glenn reasons with Rick

Plus, I also liked that not everyone blindly agreed with Rick’s suspicion of Aaron, even though Rick has been the one mostly calling the shots.  Glenn even had a slight change of heart when Aaron refused to let anything or anyone stand between him and Eric.

The Distance- Aaron knows the others don't trust him

As far as Aaron goes, it may have been in his benefit to admit everything he knew to Sasha and Maggie first instead of waiting to tell everyone, but he had his reasons.  As much as Aaron wants everyone to believe him, even he’s not stupid enough to think they won’t be cautious.

The Distance- Aaron refuses to let anything stand between him and Eric

Like Aaron told Rick when it came to his numbers, he could say anything and still be looked upon as distrustful, so why even bother?  Aaron must have one of the worst jobs if he has to endure so much abuse when doing these auditions, but he has a spine.  He may be willing to take a punch from Rick and allowing Rick to claim the food from the RV, but he’ll be damned if Rick is going to keep him away from Eric.  That was a great moment.  I don’t think we’ve had someone directly challenge Rick like that since Abraham.

The Distance- Rosita and Abraham have a moment

Though this episode was mostly focused on Rick, Glenn, Michonne, and Aaron, it had its moments with other characters.  Abraham and Rosita had a bit of time to reconcile and we got a nice callback to Dale when Glenn knew about the extra battery.

And like the bag of guns, Rick keeping that other gun hidden is smart for a backup plan.

The Distance- Aaron refers to walkers as roamers

Oh, and as a fan of the original source material, I had a big grin on my face when Aaron referred to the walkers as roamers, as they’re referred to in the comic book.

Going forward, Alexandria looks like it’s too good to be true, and it just may be- seems fine to me, but again, that’s coming from the perspective of a comic reader.  There’s a real sense of optimism as our ragtag group of walker killers try their shot at dropping their guards.  Will they drop them altogether?  Of course not.  These may be good and trusting people, but they can sense foul play from a mile away.  Salvation may be behind these gates, or it could be a trap.  Who knows?  We’ll see when we rejoin the group next week.

A Look at “Agent Carter” Episode 7: “Snafu”

I think “snafu” was putting it lightly, but this was another excellent installment of Agent Carter.  Last time, Peggy was in a bit of trouble and got herself carted into SSR for interrogation while Ivchenko and Dottie continued to make their moves in the background.  Let’s jump right in.

Snafu- Flashback, Dr. Fennhoff brought before Private Ovechkin

The episode begins in the past- Russia, 1943.  Dr. Fennhoff is needed in surgery for his ability to numb a man’s mind so he doesn’t feel any pain.  Fennhoff has never used the technique during an operation, but the other doctors are desperate.  There are more wounded than supplies and the anesthetic is all gone.  Fennhoff is needed in order to save the life of Private Ovechkin, played by Pawel Szajda.  For Fennhoff to get started, he needs Ovechkin to take him back.

Snafu- Flashback, Private Ovechkin plays chess with his mother

So we get a vision within a flashback and watch Russia playing chess with his mother, played by Madonna Cacciatore.  He loved to draw things so the game would last forever.  The flashback takes a dark turn when young Ovechkin sees medics performing on soldiers.  Fennhoff tells him to pay them no mind.  He can stay in this day as long as he wants, but he must focus.  Then his mother surrenders the game, though.  Back in the first flashback, Ovechkin continues to relay this story to Fennhoff.  As he enjoys this bliss, the doctors get to work at sawing off his leg.

Snafu- Sousa interrogates Carter

We then cut to the present where Dooley and Ivchenko watch as Daniel and Peggy face-off.  Peggy’s not talking, so Daniel just recaps the evidence for her and, I guess, our benefit: the photo from Spider Raymond’s club, a witness placing her in a truck full of nitramene, and another witness who places her at the boat with Stark’s technology.  And then three dead bodies: Spider Raymond, Leet Brannis, and Agent Krzeminski.

Peggy is insulted that Daniel would think she killed Krzeminski, but Daniel is also feeling burned.  After all, he had Peggy’s back for six months when no one else did.  She congratulates him for his evidence gathering, but tells him that he and the SSR are wasting time questioning her while there’s a trained killer still at large- a small player in a bigger scheme.  Sousa leaves to get some coffee.

Snafu- Thompson tells Chief Dooley that Agent Yauch is dead

On the other side, Ivchenko tells Dooley that Peggy is lying about it all.  Thompson enters and reports to the Chief that Agent Yauch is dead.  He also finds it unorthodox that Ivchenko is present, but Ivchenko says that he was asked to watch in case Agent Carter mentioned Leviathan.  Dooley doesn’t see it as a problem, though Ivchenko says that he’ll leave so he isn’t a source of agitation.

Snafu- Thompson and Peggy

Now Dooley, Thompson, and Sousa all take their turns interrogating Peggy.  Thompson isn’t convinced that Peggy is the one they should pursue.  Given what he saw her do in Russia, something about this entire scenario doesn’t add up.  The agents theorize the idea that Peggy and Howard Stark had a thing going on and that he’s now hung her out to dry, but, of course, Peggy knows that isn’t the case.

Peggy, again, tells the agents that Howard isn’t the man they’re looking for, which is why she’s been doing her own investigation.  Dooley, however, lets Peggy know that before Sousa sniffed her out, SSR had been exploring other avenues.  Since Peggy won’t address the orb, the discussion turns to the Battle of Finow.

So Peggy goes on the offensive, calling out the men for treating her like a stray kitten that needs protection, the secretary turned damsel in distress, the girl on the pedestal turned into some daft whore.  What she sees before her is just shoddy police work.  She then tells the agents that they should be looking for Dottie Underwood.  Why is no one calling her Dorothy?  That is part of her name.

Snafu- Dorothy Dottie Underwood buys a stroller

Speaking of, we then cut to Dorothy as she wants to buy a stroller that one of the clerks, played by Lisa Pescherine, offers to wrap up for her.  You can do that with strollers?  I did not know that, but then, I don’t buy strollers that often.  Anyway, Dottie goes with the pink blanket- fingers crossed.  The clerk notes that Dottie must be getting a jump on things since she doesn’t look like she’s that far along.  Dottie assures her that it’s coming sooner than she thinks.

Snafu- Thompson tells Peggy that the deal is now off the table

Back at SSR, Thompson tells Peggy that the deal he offered- which she was never going to take, anyway- is now off the table.  Dooley will soon come in and ask Thompson to do something that he doesn’t want to do.  The two take a second to compare cock sizes-I mean, remind each other what they’re capable of.  This is the closest, I feel, that they’ll get to a measuring contest.

Snafu- Jarvis shows up with Howard Stark's confession

Downstairs, Jarvis casually strolls into the New York Bell Company, and also brings the workflow to a crawl, as he’s arrived with the signed confession of Howard Stark.  After almost reaching for her gun, Rose calls up and tells Jarvis to hold.

Snafu- Jarvis delivers the terms and conditions of Howard Stark's confession to the SSR

So the agents bring Peggy to Jarvis, who informs her that Howard has decided to come clean with everything- breaking into his own vault, selling the explosives, and the Roxxon implosion.  What’s missing, however, is Howard Stark himself.  He’s somewhere in Greenland, set to land in Teterboro at nine o’clock tonight.  Stark’s attorneys have the signature page that will be sent back as soon as SSR agrees to the terms and frees both Jarvis and Carter.

Tempting as this is, Dooley turns down the offer.  He wants the signature paper delivered and Stark to do the exchange himself once he lands.  Until then, both Peggy and Edwin are to remain.  Peggy is free from persecution, but once Stark enters, Peggy leaves the building and the SSR for good.

Snafu- Peggy packs her things

As Peggy packs her things, she and Edwin talk.  Jarvis apologizes for all of this.  Peggy, though, isn’t too thrilled about the confession that portrays her as a patsy and Doe-eyed idiot succumbed to the charms of America’s mustachioed Casanova.  Sprinkled on top is a bankruptcy plot to provide a motive for Howard Stark’s deeds.  However, Peggy can appreciate the nobility of Howard in writing that confession.  About that confession….

Yeah, Jarvis wrote it.  In his flimsy defense, he did send Howard messages, but got no response.  You know how busy those Starks can be.  Jarvis panicked and put his skills to good use to buy time, as they were closing in on the real culprit.  He had hoped to prove Stark’s innocence and Peggy’s competence.  And when Howard doesn’t land in Teterboro, both Peggy and Edwin shall disappear- at least, until their trials, followed by some swift discipline.  Getting hanged is not a pleasant feeling.

Chief Dooley speaks with his wife and admits that both knew their mess was inevitable.  He’s not blaming Loretta, but he knows that he buries himself in his work.  The two plan to meet up for a bit, so Dooley will be slipping out for an hour.  He feels that he owes Ivchenko, but the doctor is just glad to be of service.

Snafu- Edwin and Peggy notice Ivchenko crafting a message

As Edwin and Peggy contemplate a way out, they spot Ivchenko messaging by the window.  The message: Prepare for evacuation.  In 90 minutes, Leviathan is coming.

Snafu- Peggy admits everything

So Peggy heads out and not only tells Chief Dooley that the confession is a fake, but also when she and Jarvis discovered Howard Stark’s technology.  She’s telling them this because she wants their trust on what she’ll say about Ivchenko.  Dooley isn’t convinced and believes Ivchenko is a good man, despite only knowing the man for 48 hours.  They don’t know him that well, but as Sousa points out, they know Carter.

Therein lies the question: why would Peggy conduct her own investigation instead of coming to one of them?  Because no one listens to her.  She got away with it because no one looks at her unless she has reports, coffee, or lunch.  Given Peggy’s track record with the truth, Dooley still isn’t quick to believe her, but Peggy does have one more card to play:

Snafu- Peggy gives Dooley the orb containing Steve Rogers' blood

The last remaining sample of Steve Rogers’ blood.  Stark was afraid that SSR scientists would squander the last remaining samples in order to recreate the super soldier serum.  Peggy couldn’t bring it to the SSR.  Perhaps she wanted a second chance at keeping him safe.

Snafu- Dooley, Sousa, and Thompson consider Peggy's story

Sousa believes Peggy.  Giving up Captain America’s blood is no small deal.  Plus, she was halfway out the door with Stark’s confession, but decided to admit what she really knew.  Dooley still doesn’t trust Carter, but he does trust Sousa’s gut, so he tells the two agents to check across the street for any signs that Ivchenko would have been communicating with someone.  The Chief will remain with the doctor.

Snafu- Dooley tells Ivchenko to close the window

Dooley instructs Ivchenko to shut the window under the impression that it’s getting chilly.  The doctor does so, but also notices agents heading into the building across from him.  He turns the conversation back to Dooley’s family.  Dooley tries to deflect the subject, but Ivchenko turns on his ring hypnotism again.  Focus on the experience and what would make tonight perfect.  Dooley and his family used to have a tradition of cooking dinner together.

Snafu- Vision of Dooley's family

We then see Dooley serving his family dinner with Ivchenko watching.  The doctor tells Dooley to enjoy this, because there’s something important to take care of later.

Snafu- SSR agents investigate the building Dottie may be in

In the other building, the SSR agents split up.  Both Dooley and Thompson believe Carter, though Thompson gives Dooley a bit of advice: if he encounters this woman, shoot to kill.  Sure, Dooley can handle himself, but after seeing what that little girl did in Russia, Thompson would hate to see what she would be like all grown up.

Snafu- Dooley needs a word with Peggy and Edwin

Back at SSR, Dooley needs a word with Peggy and Edwin.  Not there, though.  Too many people listening in.  He takes to interrogation.  Just as Peggy asks if they’ve been compromised, Dooley pulls a gun on them both.  He then locks them both in the room.

Snafu- Dooley speaks with SSR scientists

Following a brief scene of Sousa hearing a noise in the other building, Dooley then speaks with the SSR scientists about Agent Carter’s betrayal and her theft of Stark technology.  Henceforth, the lab is shut down until the inquiry is complete.  Everyone is to report to Holding Room B.  When the scientists leave, Ivchenko turns his attention to one of Stark’s inventions: Item 17.

During the search, another item catches Ivchenko’s eyes: a vest that is more delicate than it looks.  Dooley soon finds a crate marked Item 17 and brings it to the doctor.

Snafu- Sousa confronts Dottie

Dottie, meanwhile, faces off with Sousa and the other SSR agents.  She manages to take down Sousa while the other agents, for whatever stupid reason, can’t pull the trigger.  It’s not that hard, guys.  Yes, Bridget Regan is pretty, but still.  Focus!  Also, Sousa sucks at hiding.  He should have been smarter than that.

Snafu- Ivchenko tells Dooley that their business is not done

Ivchenko is set to take his leave.  Dooley hesitates on giving Ivchenko the crate, but after a bit of focusing, Dooley hands it over.  In exchange, Ivchenko gives Dooley the vest.  Their work is not yet done.

Snafu- Dottie and Ivchenko meet up

He then meets up with Dottie.  Both realize that they’ve been compromised.  Dottie is ready to proceed to the next phase, but the weapon has been in storage for some time.  It must be tested.  No need to worry about SSR, either.  They’ll have their hands full.

Snafu- Peggy and Edwin prepare to smash the mirror

In a bit of comedy, Peggy gets the bright idea to try and smash the mirror with the table.  However, Jarvis keeps hesitating, as he’s worried about the potential people on the other side being hurt by a spray of glass.  If those hypothetical people have guys, then Edwin and Peggy will be hurt by a spray of bullets.  On the third attempt, they do manage to smash the glass.  Oh, right, they’re still attached to a table.  Peggy didn’t really think this one out, huh?  Anyway, Thompson enters, but where’s Chief Dooley?

Snafu- Dooley returns home

He’s back at home with his family, though a bit earlier than expected.  He admits to Loretta that he screwed up.  They had someone in custody, but he just walked right out.  Dooley feels like he should be angry or scared, but he doesn’t care.  He just wanted to come home.

Snafu- Dooley awakens wearing one of Stark's vests

Or did he?  As we then see that Chief Dooley is still in the SSR, passed out at his desk and wearing the vest, which is now glowing.  The vest, Jarvis says, is a prototype for a new system of armor.  It was intended to double as a heat source for use during winters on the European front.  Locking it ignites a self-sustaining battery.  The energy source is experimental, powerful, and very flawed.  It overheats with violent results…like explosive ones.

Snafu- Sousa reads Dottie's notes

Sousa, still in the other building, finds the body of Dr. Honicky before going over Dottie’s note about killing Peggy Carter.

Snafu- SSR scientists arrive

The scientists arrive.  Dooley admits that Ivchenko got in his head and made him steal something from the lab.  The vest’s clasps are locked.  Tampering with them just speeds up the reaction.  It’s made out of an alloy of Stark’s reaction.  Despite Peggy’s suggestion of cooling Dooley down with ice, Jarvis says this won’t work since the armor was designed to be impervious to outside elements, whether it be artillery or temperature.  I gotta give these Starks credit.  They always plan ahead.

Dooley has a plan.  He snatches Thompson’s gun and informs the agents to tell his wife that he’s sorry about missing dinner.  He also makes Peggy promise that they’ll catch the son of a bitch who did this.  With the armor speeding up, Dooley shoots open the window, makes a run for it and dives out just as the vest detonates.

Snafu- Sousa returns to SSR after the explosion

In the aftermath of the explosion, Sousa returns to SSR and receives the bad news from Thompson.  Peggy blames herself, but Edwin reminds her that this was Howard Stark’s invention.  Then it hits Peggy: Leviathan tasked Leet Brannis to steal something- the blood.

Snafu- Dottie brings her stroller to the picture show

Dottie puts that stroller to good use and wheels it into the picture show, much to the chagrin of some moviegoers.  I can’t disagree with that.  But luckily, there’s no baby in the stroller- just a gas that Dottie releases as she makes her way out of the theater.  Though she’s unsure whether it will work, Ivchenko has great faith in Howard Stark’s technology.

Snafu- Steve Rogers' blood is intact

Back at SSR, everyone finds that Steve Rogers’ blood is, in fact, still there.  The scientists soon discover that Item 17 is missing.  What’s it do?  Even Jarvis doesn’t know that.

Snafu- Moviegoers fight

At the picture show, the moviegoers start coughing, and then start beating the ever living shit out of each other.  End episode!

Definitely a lot of snafus in this episode as we approach the final episode of Agent Carter.  Each episode manages to build upon the other and advances the storyline, but still provide new levels of depth to these characters.  A lot of people made mistakes in this episode that proved costly: Dooley falling prey to Ivchenko’s hypnotism, the SSR for being one step behind Peggy and, as a result, missing the real target, Peggy and Edwin not covering their tracks, Ivchenko not realizing when he was being watched, and the SSR as a whole for not seeing just how dangerous Leviathan could be.  Despite everyone figuring they had their affairs in order, they still made a few slip-ups.  Howard Stark, the Russians, the Battle of Finow- this goes deeper than everyone realized.

Snafu- SSR agents discuss Peggy's new confession

It really speaks to the quality of the show’s writers and actors when it could have made these SSR agents stock and two-dimensional, but they were all given actual depth.  They aren’t just here to remind Peggy that she’s a girl playing in a boys’ club- we come to care about their circumstances and see their personalities come into play.  And the dead agents aren’t just forgotten.  Krzeminski’s death still stings the agents and I appreciate that Agent Yauch’s death isn’t brushed aside.  It happened when no other agent witnessed it, but Thompson and Dooley still take a moment to grieve another fallen agent.

Snafu- Thompson speaks with Peggy

When it comes to Peggy’s interrogation, I like that Thompson, from the start, has his doubts about Peggy being a criminal.  After Russia, Thompson sees Peggy in a new light.  He knows that she is dedicated to her work and how seriously she carries herself.  He’s not going to automatically just think that Carter is a criminal, which is good.  Thompson still has a job to do as a federal agent, but he’s unwilling to throw Peggy under the bus because he knows that he doesn’t know the full story.

Snafu- Sousa speaks with Peggy

On the flip-side, you have Sousa, who still has reason to feel burned.  From the beginning, Sousa has been the one male agent who has stood by Peggy’s side and backed her when no one else would.  He treated her as an equal because he saw her as a person instead of a subordinate.  To learn that Peggy kept these secrets and was involved in these circumstances feels like betrayal to him.

Snafu- Thompson and Sousa in the elevator

Like Thompson, Sousa doesn’t know the full story or have all of the details, but the more he dug, the more he realized that Peggy Carter wasn’t who everyone thought she was.  To be fair, she never was, but it hurts Sousa because he always had her back.  To Sousa’s credit, though, he does believe Peggy when she confesses to everything and even admits to Thompson that he’s the one who pursued her, but, in the end, he admits that he could be wrong.

Snafu- Sousa fights with Dottie

Now, if only he’d been smarter when dealing with Dottie.  Sousa, when Thompson tells you to shoot to kill, listen to him!

Snafu- Peggy faces off with Jack

Peggy, again, gets her chance to shine by proving her worth to the SSR agents and standing up to each of them during interrogation.  She wanted to be acknowledged as an equal and she finally got it, so the boys don’t hold any punches.  Luckily, Peggy Carter is no punching bag and firmly stands her ground.  I liked her speech to the agents about how they’ve treated her like a damsel in distress and it felt like Peggy had been waiting for the longest time to say that.  My only gripe is that it didn’t really tell us anything new.

Hell, even the agents know by this time not to think light of Peggy, but it was still an awesome scene.  Also, Peggy calls the evidence shoddy work, but I disagree.  Sousa did manage to identify her as the woman in Spider Raymond’s club when the other agents had moved on.  That at least puts her at the scene of the murder.  No, Peggy didn’t do it, but given how she’d been conducting her own investigation and aiding Howard Stark when everyone else wanted his head on a platter, it’s not unreasonable to assume she’d come under suspicion.

Snafu- Peggy tells the SSR agents about Steve Rogers' blood

And yet, she also fights because she wanted to keep the last remnant of Steve Rogers safe.  Peggy lost a lot with Steve’s disappearance and she’s constantly reminded of that.  Stark used her to get this and learning about what was in the orb was a huge betrayal of Stark’s trust.  She held onto it so no one would try and replicate the super soldier serum.  For Peggy to admit this was a big deal to the agents and it showed how much she needed their trust.  Atwell was outstanding in this scene and you could feel the amount of emotion Carter had been withholding, but it all came rushing out during this moment.

Snafu- Dooley at home

Just as outstanding was Shea Whigham as Chief Roger Dooley in his final moments.  We’ve seen Dooley as a man with a full plate at his job, but also one with family problems.  This helped flesh him out from being a generic chief and gave him dimension.  His family life was in disrepair and we saw through the visions and phone call to his wife just how much he wanted to fix that.  And, for a glimpse, it looked like he would finally get that happiness.

Snafu- Chief Dooley's final moments

But that happiness was all a façade conjured by Ivchenko to manipulate Dooley into accessing Stark’s technology.  Dooley’s goodbye to his agents was a gripping moment for the agency.  They’d already lost two other agents, and now they were about to lose their chief.  He made a sacrifice to protect them from being killed, but also made Peggy promise to catch the son of a bitch who did this.  For a show to attach you to a character and then kill them off- a very Joss Whedon type of move.

Snafu- Ivchenko in dream sequence

Though I still find the hypnotism a bit ridiculous for a show so grounded in realism- as real as it can be in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, anyway- I’m glad it got a further explanation with us seeing Ivchenko appear in people’s visions.

Snafu- Dottie faces off with SSR agents

And we got to see Dottie kick more ass, though, again, that’s because SSR agents just don’t know when to pull the trigger.

Snafu- Dottie wears a fedora

Again, though, you can wrap up strollers?  I did not know this.  Oh, and I can’t really say that Dottie knows how to rock a fedora, but that’s just me.

Snafu- Peggy and Edwin are still attached to the table

With so much drama, though, this episode did have one comedic highlight with Peggy and Edwin using the table to smash the mirror, only to realize after the fact that they’re, you know, still attached to the table!  Nice of the show to take a break for laughs amidst all the serious stuff.

Snafu- Moviegoers dead

And it was pretty morbid seeing those moviegoers beat the hell out of each other.

So next up is the final episode of Agent Carter.  Chief Dooley is gone, Ivchenko and Dottie got their hands on some very dangerous Stark technology, and Leviathan is still out there.  Though the SSR has been divided before, the death of Dooley is sure to unite them as they prepare to confront this matter once and for all.

A Look at “Gotham” Season 1, Episode 16: “The Blind Fortune Teller”

When clowns and acrobat families don’t get along, you get “The Blind Fortune Teller.”  You also get the return of Barbara, the introduction of the Flying Graysons, and a kid who could be Joker, but also not really.  Let’s dig in.

The Blind Fortune Teller- Bruce sleeps

The episode begins with, appropriately, a montage.  We get Bruce sleeping…

The Blind Fortune Teller- Gertrude performs at the club

Gertrude performing at the club while her son proudly watches on….

The Blind Fortune Teller- Fish watches her minions

Fish waking up her minions…

The Blind Fortune Teller- Barbara comes home and finds Ivy and Selina in her home

And a tipsy Barbara- remember her?- returning to her home and not finding it strange at all that it’s being occupied by two young girls.  Selina and Ivy tell Barbara that Jim dropped off his keys last week.  Screw him, Barbara says.

The Blind Fortune Teller- The Flying Graysons

So let’s go to that circus Jim and Leslie talked about last week.  Up to perform are, you guessed it, The Flying Graysons!  However, one of those clown cars drives in.  A fight breaks out between the clowns and the other performers.  Don’t you hate when that happens at the circus?  Anyway, Jim and Leslie go down to break it up.

The Blind Fortune Teller- Penguin deals with a man who booed his mother

Gertrude is done performing.  Penguin gets the applause started until some guy boos her.  Penguin goes to handle business.

The Blind Fortune Teller- Jim and Leslie up performers after the fight

Back at the circus, we learn that there’s an ongoing feud between the Graysons and the clown family- the Lloyds.  Two members from different families: John Grayson, played by Robert Gorrie, and Mary Lloyd, played by Abbi Snee, argue back and forth, but get quiet when Mary mentions a woman by the name of Lila.

The Blind Fortune Teller- Jim and Leslie meet Lila's son, Jerome, played by Cameron Monaghan

Jim meets up with Leslie, who is busy stitching up some performers.  Lila is a snake dancer in the side show.  Jim wants to look into her alone, but Leslie comes along.  The Ringmaster, played by James Monroe Iglehart, takes them to Lila’s trailer.  Out comes her son, Jerome, played by Cameron Monaghan, who last saw his mother this morning.  According to the ringmaster, Lila is a party girl.

The Blind Fortune Teller- Finding Lila's body

Because Jim knows all about snakes, he tells Jerome to let the snake out of its cage.  He does, and it leads them right to Lila’s body.  Jim asks the ringmaster if he knew, and he responds that she was like that when they found her.

The Blind Fortune Teller- Fish rallies her minions

Back in the not-so-interesting underworld, Fish tells her minions that the people of the outside world just use them as transplant donors.  That will continue unless they do something.  Her plan is to get some of them out alive.  Repeat, some, because she knows that a few will die.  However, better that they die with dignity than alone.

The ringmaster leads Jim to the spot where he found Lila.  The performers planned to give her a proper burial and handle whoever did this in their own way.  The circus folk have their methods.  Luckily, so do the GCPD.  The ringmaster is arrested.

The Blind Fortune Teller- Jim speaks with Jerome

And Bullock’s work day becomes more interesting when Jim brings in the performers.  Jim speaks to Jerome, who admits that his mother wasn’t perfect, but she did the best she could and was a good cook.  She never had enemies, but Jerome says that she had plenty of lovers.  No boyfriends, but lots of sex partners, such as Alphonse Grayson and Owen Lloyd.  Jerome isn’t too bummed, though.  Sex is a healthy, human activity.  If not for her love life, he wouldn’t be alive.  He has no other family, though.  Just the circus.

The Blind Fortune Teller- Jim speaks with Owen Lloyd, played by Jeremy Bobb

So Jim now asks Owen Lloyd, played by Jeremy Bobb, about why he assaulted Mr. Grayson.   Owen thinks that Alphonse killed Lila.  As to how this whole family feud started, his great-grandfather accused his mother’s uncle, Barry, of stealing a horse…before World War I.  Bullock, meanwhile, speaks with Alphonse Grayson, who thinks that Owen killed Lila.  Alvarez isn’t having much luck with John and Mary, who bicker like a young, married couple.

The Blind Fortune Teller- Standoff with the collectors

Underground, Fish and pals welcome the arrival of some collectors who have come for Inmate 57A.  He eventually raises his hand, but Fish intervenes and lets these people know that she is calling the shots now and there will be a few changes.  Yes, this man has a job, but Fish wants some things for her minions- namely food, water, blankets, and magazines.  If he refuses, she’ll hand over 57A, just not alive.

Unfortunately, these men need the subject alive.  When the man refuses to leave, some of the subjects pummel 57A to death.  It’s simple economics, she says.  Their lives are worth something.  The man tells Fish that the manager isn’t going to be very happy with her, but he may not be happy with him, either.  If this manager wants Fish to talk, he can come down.  She does agree to go and talk with him, but only if this guy remains down there as a guest.  The collectors retreat for the moment.

The Blind Fortune Teller- Thompkins and Nygma brief Gordon, Essen, and Bullock on Liza's death

So Nygma and Thompkins brief Essen, Gordon, and Bullock on Liza’s death: she was killed by a large knife or hatchet, with multiple blows to the head and upper torso.  The murder took place around three o’clock yesterday, but both Grayson and Lloyd were in the ring for the matinee from 2:30 to 4:15.

Gordon cuts the performers loose, but tells them to not leave town and to stop fighting.  Leslie, impressed when Jim tries to act tough, invites him over to her place for dinner.

The Blind Fortune Teller- Jim and Leslie meet with Paul Cicero, played by Mark Margolis

But then enters Paul Cicero, played by Mark Margolis, a psychic from the sideshow.  He doesn’t think that either Owen or Alphonse are guilty and has a message that Lila sent him from the other side.  The message?  Lila told him that the servant of the devil lies in the garden of the Iron Sisters.  Jim is skeptical.  After all, if you were going to send a message from beyond the grave, the priority should be a name instead of a riddle.  Leslie isn’t going to argue with him now.  She’ll argue with him later.

The Blind Fortune Teller- Alfred informs Bruce that the foundation has agreed to meeting with him

Back at Wayne Manor, Alfred informs Bruce that the board has confirmed his meeting with them after postponing it so many times.  Alfred still worries that this is a bad idea, premature, and dangerous, but Bruce’s mind is made up.  Well, Alfred says, if they wind up dead in a ditch, don’t blame him.

The Blind Fortune Teller- Barbara takes fashion tips from Ivy and Selina

Barbara takes fashion tips from Selina and Ivy.  You’re right.  Who cares?

The Blind Fortune Teller- Jim loves Leslie's cooking

Jim is a big fan of Leslie’s cooking, but the recipe came from Leslie’s sister, and that made her think the message’s meaning: it’s talking about the Arkham Bridge.  The towers are called Mary and Betty.  There’s also a park under the towers on the Gotham side.  Jim thinks that it’s just a riddle to an impossible story.  Jim would rather go tomorrow morning, but Leslie wants to go now.

The Blind Fortune Teller- Leslie and Jim explore the park under the Arkham Bridge

So they do.  Jim thinks that this is no place for a lady, which prompts Leslie to call him out on her hypocrisy.  To be fair, Jim doesn’t want Leslie to be the good girlfriend who stays at home and bakes cookies.  Pies, however, that’s a different story.  They soon find an ax with the initials THFC, which Jim recognizes as The Hellfire Club, a Satanic Cult that supposedly went inactive over a decade ago.  Jim calls in backup.

The Blind Fortune Teller- Jim and Leslie speak again with Mr. Cicero

Back at GCPD, Jim still thinks that this theory is bogus, while Leslie is more enthusiastic about it.  After a bit of back and forth, the two head in and talk to Cicero about finding the hatchet.  This makes him an accessory to murder.  The message didn’t happen, Gordon says, which means that me invented the message and had someone plant the hatchet.  A hatchet is a clumsy ploy, so Cicero wouldn’t do it unless he was protecting someone close.

The Blind Fortune Teller- Jim talks to Jerome about his mother's murder

In enters Jerome, who still wants to know about his mother’s killer.  Jim has an answer: Jerome did it.  He killed her up on that hill and Cicero let him clean up in his trailer.  He then scratched the marks on the hatchet and threw it off the bridge.  Jim also theorizes that Cicero is Jerome’s father, despite Jerome’s claim that his father was a sea captain.  Cicero apologizes to Jerome, saying that he is, indeed, the father.  Jerome takes this in and sobs…

The Blind Fortune Teller- Jerome flips a switch

…until he flips a switch and starts laughing.  His mother, he says, was a cold hearted whore who never loved anyone.  Looks like the bitch got him with the zinger in the end.  When asked why he killed his mother, Jerome says that she just kept pushing.  Don’t yell at him to do the dishes if she’s been banging a clown in the next room!  Then, he stuck a blade in her mouth, and said ‘Let’s put a smile on that’- wait, wrong Batman universe.  Never mind.

The Blind Fortune Teller- Jim and Leslie kiss in the locker room just as Barbara arrives

Leslie and Jim regroup in the locker room.  She found the whole situation ugly, but thrilling at the same time, like looking down a tunnel.  She thanks Jim for letting her be there, prompting Jim to call her an unusual woman.  Jim doesn’t know many women.  The two kiss just as Barbara enters.  Again, who cares?

The Blind Fortune Teller- Zsasz shows Penguin the reformed Butch

Zsasz shows up at the club on Falcone’s orders.  Falcone thinks that Penguin is messing up.  The club numbers are low.  Also there is Butch, who appears to have been completely neutered thanks to Zsasz working on him in his basement for a couple of weeks.  Butch knows the club scene and will obey Penguin’s orders, such as dancing.

The Blind Fortune Teller- Bruce addresses Wayne Enterprises

So Bruce appears before the board at Wayne Enterprises.  He has two specific concerns relating to the Arkham Project and chemical weapons manufacturing.  He concludes that high-level individuals or groups within Wayne Enterprises have colluded in corruption, bribery, racketeering, and unethical medical research.  The board calls these just rumors, but Bruce is smarter than that.  And despite Bruce’s young age, he will be pursuing this matter and maybe even considering legal action.  He’ll be bringing this up again at the next shareholders’ meeting.

The Blind Fortune Teller- Jim congratulates John and Mary

Oh, John and Mary are a thing.  They’ll have a son.  We all know who he’ll be.

The Blind Fortune Teller- Thomas Schmidt, played by Elliot Villar, speaks with Fish

Meanwhile, back in the caves, the collectors return.  The manager has agreed to meet Fish.  Meanwhile, we finally learn the name of the head collector: Thomas Schmidt, played by Elliot Villar.  He shall stay behind.  No worries.  Fish’s family will show him a good time.

I’m mixed on this episode because there are parts of it that I do like.

The Blind Fortune Teller- Jim and Leslie have dinner at Leslie's place

First off, really enjoying the chemistry between Ben McKenzie and Morena Baccarin.  The show is taking its time not just to develop Jim and Leslie as a couple, but make them feel much more believable than Jim and Barbara.  They don’t always agree on everything and I like how Leslie was willing to call Jim out on his hypocrisy.  Leslie worked in Arkham Asylum with some of Gotham’s craziest so far.  She can handle a little GCPD action.

The Blind Fortune Teller- Leslie wants to go exploring the Arkham Bridge

Plus we got to see how enthusiastic she was on investigating this murder mystery.  I like the fact that the two don’t see eye to eye on everything, but don’t let a silly little disagreement rip them apart.  They literally kiss and make up before continuing with their work.  Again, it feels like the first locker room kiss was too soon and that moment would have felt more natural had it come after this, now that the writers have decided to flesh out this relationship.

Jim really shouldn’t have an issue with Leslie being involved with his investigations given that they literally work in the same building.  If she still worked at Arkham, I could understand that, but not when they both work for the GCPD.

The Blind Fortune Teller- Jim holds Leslie's hand

Side-note, I think one of my favorite moments may have been when Leslie refused to join Jim in the interrogation room until he held her hand, which gave her this giddy, childlike grin while he just wanted the moment to be over.  Now that is how you develop a couple.

The Blind Fortune Teller- Bruce speaks with the board

Bruce and Alfred were mostly in the background this episode, which was fine, but Bruce got his moment when he took on Wayne Foundations and called the board out on its corruption.  You can tell that they underestimate Bruce because of his age, but as he told them, that shouldn’t make any difference.  He’s going to ensure that his parents’ foundation is run with integrity.

The Blind Fortune Teller- Penguin watches his mother sing

Now onto the less enjoyable stuff.  Penguin wasn’t nearly as interesting this week as he has been before.  With him running Fish’s club, he’s still Falcone’s henchman, but a less than successful one.  His attack at the beginning just seemed to be more of him standing up for his mother than being the ruthless Penguin that we’ve seen him as before.  Though it’s always nice to see Zsasz, much like Barbara meeting up with her parents in “What the Little Bird Told Him,” this subplot didn’t really need to be here.

The Blind Fortune Teller- Barbara eats with Selina and Ivy

And that’s my cue to awkwardly segue onto Barbara.  First off, impressive that she had little to no reaction to Selina and Ivy being in her place.  She asks who they are, but only after asking where Jim was, assuming they even knew Gordon.

The Blind Fortune Teller- Selina and Ivy

Second, why are Selina and Ivy back there in the first place?  Didn’t Selina say they’d only be there until Ivy got better?  And even when Jim caught Selina there, she didn’t really have a reason to be there.  This show really needs to give these two something substantive to do or just not have them in the episode.  Otherwise, you get scenes like Barbara getting fashion advice from two girls that she’s never met.  And looks like that whole thing with her going to her parents didn’t add much.

The Blind Fortune Teller- Barbara sees Jim and Leslie kissing

Oh, and how damn convenient was it for her to spot Jim and Leslie kissing?  Anyone can just stroll into the GCPD locker rooms, it seems.  Also, why does Barbara even care that Jim is with another woman?  She already believed he was with someone else when she called and Ivy answered the phone and pretended to be another woman.  This whole moment felt forced, but if it drives a wedge between Jim and Barbara to the point that she leaves, then we’re all happy.

Onto the main case at hand.  We’re back to Jim’s random hunches when he somehow figured out that Jerome was the one who killed his mother.  Not sure how he arrived at that conclusion, considering he had little to go off of.

The Blind Fortune Teller- Jerome's smile

Now onto Jerome himself.  I think Cameron Monaghan did a good job when he flipped the switch and I did like his laugh, but just who is this kid supposed to be?  Is this a young Joker or not?  If so, the story crafted for him isn’t all that thrilling.  He didn’t get along with his mother and didn’t like doing dishes while she had her way with clowns.  If he’s supposed to be Joker, he seems to be pulling the interpretations we’ve seen from Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger.

The Blind Fortune Teller- Jerome laughs

Many people prefer that the Joker have no origin story.  If this is him, then he’s already had his bad day.  Now he’ll just need to go shopping for purple suits, knives, and guns.  But if he isn’t the Joker, then this was just a bunch of hype and misdirection.  Plus, the preview for the next episode features the Red Hood.  What do, Gotham?  What do?

The Blind Fortune Teller- Robin's parents

Oh, and we meet Robin’s parents.  How delightful.  At least they didn’t think up random names like Richard when they talked to Jim at the end.

The Blind Fortune Teller- Fish speaks with Thomas

And Fish’s storyline?  It’s pretty convenient for her to see these people as her family when she’s barely been there for long enough to have even justified such a bond.

So we got some pretty good character development stuff with Jim, Leslie, and Bruce, but everything else was pretty bleh.