A Look at “Sleeping with Other People”

Sleeping with Other People- Poster

Sleeping with Other People. That’s a thing you do after you’re done sleeping with another person, right?  Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: boy and girl meet, boy and girl have moment together, boy and girl fight every natural instinct to get together, but we know how this can and will end.  This film isn’t out to change the romantic comedy genre so much as put a spin on it.

The director, Lesley Headland, assembles a pretty strong cast of talented people that are on their a game in this well-written tale.  There’s a lot of buildup to what we know will be the film’s conclusion, and even though it may be predictable, in this case, the movie’s ending is unearned, in my opinion.  But one step at a time.  This is Sleeping with Other People.

The film begins in the year 2000.  There’s a lot of commotion going on in this particular college dorm hallway.  Banging on one of the doors is Lainey, played by Alison Brie, who doesn’t look any more like a college student here than she did on Community, but that’s neither here nor there.

Anyway, Lainey here is trying to get the attention of the person in the dorm, but to no avail.  She’s nearly hauled off, but saved by one of the students that covers for her.  The savior is our other protagonist, Jake, played by Jason Sudeikis, who also doesn’t look any more convincing as a college student than Brie.  Okay, I’m off this for now.  I could spend all day here.

Jake brings Lainey to his dorm room.  We learn that Lainey, dressed in quite the skimpy outfit, is currently involved with one of Teacher’s Assistants.  In fact, she’s been failing a class on purpose just to get some solo lessons.  Jake finds it funny, but he’s also a tad disgusted since he believes that Lainey deserves better.

On the roof, the two talk of sex.  College students have that on the brain a lot, don’t you know?  Lainey asks Jake what sex is like, and Jake describes it as kissing with your entire body or shooting heroin into a moist environment.  Yeah, Jake hasn’t had sex at all yet, but I applaud his creativity.  A warm moment ends up going south a bit with poor choice of words, but things turn around when the two consummate the moment.

Sleeping with Other People- Jake, played by Jason Sudeikis, argues with Hannah, played by Margarita Levieva

We cut to the present day.  A woman named Hannah, played by Margarita Levieva, storms out of Jake’s place.  She’s furious because she was interested in a casual relationship, but Jake went and screwed Hannah’s best friend, Sarah.  Margarita isn’t the best of liars and it’s here where Jake showcases his use of logic.  Nothing was set in stone about their thing and she’s only incensed because the other woman happens to be her best friend.

Jake gets her to calm down and just when it looks like the two are headed back to his place, she pushes him into traffic.  Always look both ways before being pushed into the street.

Sleeping with Other People- Lainey, played by Alison Brie, tells Sam, played by Adam Brody, that she cheated on him

Lainey’s dinner with her date, Sam, played by Adam Brody, goes south fast.  Sam is very talkative and into Lainey for honest reasons.  He’s even talking about their possible future together.  However, Lainey needs to present a letter to Sam and she’d prefer to read it aloud and uninterrupted.  She mentions that, at the advice of a therapist, she’s been attending a program for…let’s call them love addicts.

Oh, and she cheated on Sam.  We don’t learn who, but Sam makes a scene and assumes that the other guy is his brother.  Lainey blames herself for this, as she should, but Sam is sure to be easy on her.  She’s not an addict, he says.  She’s just a whore.  When Sam leaves, Lainey heads to the ladies and texts a man named Matthew Sovochek.

Sleeping with Other People- Lainey at sex addicts meeting

Following this, Lainey sits in on a meeting of sex addicts.  She leaves during one particularly colorful tale from a man who liked having things stuffed in his ass and had both male and female partners.  It’s unfortunate that we don’t get to hear more of this tale because it’s being told by Billy Eichner, better known as Craig Middlebrooks on Parks and Recreation, and he’s as expressive here as he is on that show.

Sleeping with Other People- Jake and Lainey reunite

But the point of this scene is to reunite Lainey with Jake, who also happened to be attending the meeting.  The two catch up, with Jake learning that Lainey teaches kindergarten kids.  They plan to reconnect.  Jake even mentions that he’s on Facebook, but only after does he realize how odd it is to say that out loud.

We then see Jake hard at work.  He and his associate, Xander, played by Jason Mantzoukas, are about to have their work dissolved through a powerful executive named Paula, played by Amanda Peet.  Xander wants this signed right now, and while Jake wants to talk terms and conditions, he soon signs.  He’s also very forward and asks Paula on a date, despite her being recently divorced and having a kid.  She’s confused.  Jake could have anyone in the world, so to pick her is odd.

Sleeping with Other People- Lainey meets with Matthew Sovochek, played by Adam Scott

Lainey arrives at a gynecologist’s office for her appointment.  Said doctor performing on her is the aforementioned Matthew Sovochek, played by Ben Wyatt himself, Adam Scott.  An almost unrecognizable Adam Scott, at that.  Lainey tells Matthew that she can’t see him anymore, and he actually agrees.  In fact, he recently proposed to his now-fiancé, Emma.

The last thing Lainey needs is for Matthew to delete his number from her phone because she can’t bring herself to do it, but one thing leads to another and the two end up having sex on Matthew’s desk.

Sleeping with Other People- Lainey speaks with Kara

Later, Lainey rants to her lesbian friend, Kara, played by Natasha Lyonne, that she needs to stop having sex.  Kara tells Lainey that she may fall under having sexual anorexia.  That’s a thing, I suppose.

Sleeping with Other People- Xander, played by Jason Mantzoukas, and his wife, Naomi, played by Andrea Savage, drink with Jake and Lainey at the bar

Jake, Xander, and Xander’s wife, Naomi, played by Andrea Savage, have drinks at a bar.  Lainey joins in on the fun just as the four toast to virginity- the married couple knowing that Jake and Lainey lost their virginity to each other.  Lainey, a bit embarrassed by this, leaves, but Xander convinces Jake to pursue her.

There’s no push into traffic this time.  Lainey tells Jake that when the two met up for this tonight, she had hoped it would be a proper date.  Jake did not see it that way at first, but he’s fine with making a date out of this.  However, a change of scenery is necessary.

Sleeping with Other People- Jake and Lainey eat at a Chinese restaurant

And here, we get the first of many Jake and Lainey visits to a local Chinese restaurant.  Jake asks why Lainey was ever interested in Matt.  She explains that she thought he would choose her, even though she is psychotic and is going to meetings for sex addicts.  But, she points out, Jake is attending these meetings as well.

His reason for going is because his girlfriend gave him an ultimatum: go to the meetings or their relationship is over.  He went, but she dumped him anyway.  Jake doesn’t know how to end relationships and he doesn’t want to say that he can’t commit to someone because he’d come off like an asshole.  But being a bad guy is better than being honest.

Sleeping with Other People- Jake and Lainey come up with a safe word

When the date ends, Jake realizes that he has the urge to fuck Lainey.  How could anyone not want to fuck Alison Brie?  But realizing that this thing between them can’t progress to physical contact, and that they’ve ruined all of their past relationships, Jake and Lainey come to an agreement that this friendship can go no further than that.  They establish a system that includes a safe word to say whenever there’s great sexual tension.  Jake shoots down avocado, Guam, and noodle salad, but since he cringes when Lainey then suggests Dick in a Mousetrap, the safe word is henceforth mousetrap.

And I’m sure they’ll never get together by film’s end.

Sleeping with Other People is, at its core, a romantic comedy.  It has traits and tropes of your typical boy and girl will inevitably get together tale, but it’s much more than that.  This is a story not just about love, not just what it means to be in love or our perception of love, but also trying to maintain their friendship above all else.  Many critics have compared this film to When Harry Met Sally.  I’ve yet to see that film, despite how long it’s been out, so I can’t speak to the similarities.

Director and writer Leslye Headland knows what makes for a good romantic comedy and how to interject drama into the lives of characters that feel real. A lot of that has to do with their blemishes.  Jake and Lainey are not perfect at all.  They’re addicted to sex, they don’t know how commit to people, they aren’t the nicest of people, and their lives aren’t where they’d want them to be.  I’d argue that Jake appears to be in a better position than Lainey at times, but I’ll get to that later.

Sleeping with Other People- Lainey and Jake go shopping

This film asks what we want most in a relationship.  Do we want someone who’s just a quick fix, or something long lasting?  If you just want to get your rocks off, the quick fix may sound preferable, but it won’t mean much in the long term.  To quote from Hitch, “falling in love is so goddamn hard.”  Some people, like Jake, can find a match in no time, but if the connection doesn’t go beyond the physical and you’re not interested beyond that, there’s no reason to commit.

Sleeping with Other People- Jake after sex

And that’s something that neither of the main characters can do: commit.  Jake goes from one woman to the next, but instead of owning up and saying that he doesn’t want a relationship, he takes the coward’s way by cheating or giving a woman reason to leave.  He’s too afraid to say that he can’t commit.

Sleeping with Other People- Lainey admits that she cheated with another man

At the same time, Lainey can’t commit to anyone because she’s too hung up on the one that got away and isn’t interested in her beyond sex.  As such, she ends up burning bridges with any man who wants to have a connection with her because she’s stuck in the past.  She can’t move on and accept that there are more men beyond college flings.

Sleeping with Other People- Jake and Lainey are assumed to be a couple

So we have two characters that want happiness, but no idea of how to find it.  Logic and typical movie plots dictate that these two should get together.  First off, while they lost their virginity to one another, they’ve also been friends for a long time and don’t have that sexual urgency that they have towards others.  They just want to remain friends.  Right.

Sleeping with Other People- Quiet moment between Jake and Lainey

As someone who’s never been in love, I find that to be a pretty bullshit premise because it’s inevitable that two people of equal attraction will fall in love, despite every attempt to mask their feelings.  It’s the only issue I have with this film’s otherwise simple premise.  You can’t expect characters with a bond as deep as Jake and Lainey’s to stay friends forever and the audience is smart enough to think beyond ‘Will they, won’t they’ because we know they will.  Audiences have come to expect that happy ending, so what matters is making the journey interesting.

Equally Dead Inside- Gretchen unable to talk to Jimmy

This is one of the reasons I hold a show like You’re the Worst in high regard.  There, we know that Jimmy and Gretchen will, against their better judgment, become a couple, but the show is more on how they navigate the tricky waters instead of where the journey ends.  And creator Stephen Falk took the romantic comedy genre and turned it on its head with that show.  But enough about that.  I could talk all day about that show.

Sleeping with Other People- Lainey and Jake eat

But sometimes, the solution to your romantic issues may be right in you.  “The one” may not always be out there in the distance so much as right in front of you.  But you can’t just go for them from the start.  That would be too easy and the movie would be far too short.  But Jake and Lainey have that chemistry already.

After all, they lost their virginity to one another after realizing neither of them had crossed that line.  They already have a connection binding them, and then later in life, they still act like the best of friends.  What I think this film is saying is that in order to have a strong relationship, you need to start with an even stronger friendship.  Sure, that’s obvious, but too often do films have characters fall in love at first sight without any sort of conflict.  That’s too easy.

Sleeping with Other People- Jake and Lainey say their goodbyes

It’s thanks to Headland’s script, as well as the chemistry between Jason Sudeikis and Alison Brie, that the slow build to Jake and Lainey becoming an actual item feels real.  They shoot the shit at restaurants and text one another about their flings like they’re still in high school.

Sleeping with Other People- Jake and Lainey are not a couple

In addition, there’s a bit of self-awareness and meta humor at play here with the characters making sure that they’re not getting too attached since they’ve seen this scenario play out many times before.  That and both Jake and Lainey acknowledge that they do and act like a genuine couple, but deny that they are one.  They try to resist the urge to fall back into old habits to show that they’ve grown up, as hard as that is.  At one point, Lainey receives an unexpected phone call from Matthew.

Jake takes the phone away from Lainey, telling her that she has to move on, and Lainey gets upset about it because there was a missed opportunity for a quick romp.  In a moment of weakness, she almost succumbed to the urge for that gratification she so desperately sought, even though she doesn’t need it.  The problem is that she doesn’t realize that she doesn’t need it.  And at the same time, Jake doesn’t need to go from woman to woman and doesn’t see yet that his relationship problems would go away if he was more honest and didn’t try to talk his way out of his screw-ups.

Sleeping with Other People- Jake and Lainey in bed

But it’s because Jake and Lainey fit like a glove that keeps them away from each other for so long and drives them together.  One of the film’s central main points is about people being in a potentially damaging relationship with someone they like, versus a happy relationship with someone they don’t like.  It’s a risky move to take.  Instead of giving ourselves to someone who comes off as nice and wants to be with us, we turn our attention to the one we can’t have because we feel whole with them.

This means giving up the chance to be with a person who does want to be with you, leaving them to the sidelines when they’ve done nothing wrong, as Jake and Lainey do several times in the film.  This makes them feel a tad unlikable in my book, though part of that could be due to the writing, because they blow off decent people since the plot demands that these two get together.

Sleeping with Other People- Jake and Lainey show up at a birthday party on drugs

Despite the contrivances of the film and what it’s asking you to accept, I still enjoyed much of Sleeping with Other People.  There’s some great humor throughout, with two particular memorable moments of Jake and Lainey showing up at a children’s birthday party on ecstasy.

Sleeping with Other People- Jake teaches Lainey how to masturbate

Or another memorable scene where Jake uses a bottle and his fingers to show Lainey how to masturbate because she’s never done it before.  And she’s a woman, so I can believe that.

Sleeping with Other People- Xander and Naomi note the chemistry between Jake and Lainey

I also really enjoyed the chemistry between Jason Mantzoukas and Andrea Savage as Xander and Naomi.  When you put older, married couples alongside younger protagonists, there’s the fear that they’ll just be stuck-up, bitter, and resentful of their friends for living the lives they once wanted.  Not so here.  Xander and Naomi do want to relive their youth, but they’re not an angry couple.  They’re fine where they are and still find time to fool around like they’re college kids.

It’s a nice way to show that there is life beyond marriage and it can contain happy moments.  In addition, they also serve as mentors to Jake and Lainey with advice that benefits in their favor instead of just trying to push them together.  Also, stay for the credits, as Xander and Naomi have one of the film’s best and extended comedic moments.

Sleeping with Other People- Lainey speaks to Jake outside the meeting

The leads are just as entertaining.  Alison Brie makes for a great, damaged woman that somehow manages to put a smile on despite her less than great situation.  As the film progresses, Lainey learns to have respect for herself, as she spends most of the movie carrying a torch for Matthew.

Sleeping with Other People- Lainey teaches the kids how to dance

Again, she’s not perfect and I appreciate that she both has a lighter side and learns life lessons as the movie progresses.  She admits her flaws and insincerity, but she also strives to better herself by applying to medical school.  So she may be in a rut, but she’s sure as hell not going to remain there.

Sleeping with Other People- Jake shoots down Lainey's code words

Most of what I’ve seen Jason Sudeikis in has been comedy, whether it’s the Horrible Bosses films, Saturday Night Live, or It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.  But here, he’s still funny, but he’s given some range with a slightly more serious character.  Jake is charming and quick with witty lines, but when it comes to Lainey, he knows his boundaries.  When he gives her advice or encouragement, it’s not done with the intent of getting into her pants.

Sleeping with Other People- Jake and Lainey text

And like Lainey, he goes through a character arc when he lays off his womanizing and tries to find something stable.  In addition, he’s not immune to Lainey’s beauty.  He shows obvious jealousy when Lainey dates some, but not all, guys because she discusses things that he thought were private.  There were no terms established as far as that goes and he does come off as petty, but better that he show some form of emotion, rather than act as if he’s unable to be turned on by Lainey.

With all this said, it might seem like I don’t have any issues with the movie, but I have one major qualm: this movie’s ending is completely unearned.  Again, it’s clear that Jake and Lainey will get together by film’s end, but the way in which the film wraps up and shows total disregards for some characters just to pair Jake and Lainey is unbelievable and makes the two of them look very unlikable in my book.  I won’t spoil it, but the actions Jake and Lainey take cannot and should not be excused just because they’re the main characters and we want to see them become an item.  It left a sour taste in my mouth and when the film ended, it was all I could think about as opposed to all of the good that came before it.

So Sleeping with Other People is still a good movie regardless.  It’s a different approach to the romantic comedy genre that does a lot of things to set it apart from typical films of that category.  It’s helped by a fun script and great performances from the cast.  At the end of the day, do we want to fail with someone we like or succeed with someone who we don’t like as much?  It’s interesting to think about, but it’s just too bad about that ending.  It put a damper on an otherwise contrived, but enjoyable film.

A Look at “Gotham” Season 2, Episode 2: “Rise of the Villains: Knock, Knock”

Color me surprised.  An interesting episode of Gotham with almost no filler?  Still some tone issues, but hey, this one managed to hold my attention.  Continuing with the “Rise of the Villains” storyline, let’s jump into “Knock, Knock.”

Knock, Knock- Theo speaks with Mayor James about his vision for Gotham

The episode begins with Theo having a conversation with Mayor James, who has a box covering his face.  Describing himself to the mayor, Theo says that he is an ardent student of human nature.  Near the mayor is a glass jar with a spider inside of it.  In one minute, Theo will drop the spider in James’ box and then close it.  That’s option a.  Option b is that Mayor James tells his secretary that he’s run off with some woman and will send written instructions shortly.

Mayor James, naturally, picks option b.  To his relief, Theo never even had a spider.  James asks why Theo is doing this, and it’s all because the mayor is part of a great endeavor.  Monsters are coming to cleanse the city in blood and fire.

Knock, Knock- Bodies drop outside Gotham Gazette

Later, a head at the Gotham Gazette reads a supposed front page story about Mayor James going missing.  He doesn’t buy it and wants the staffers to get to the bottom of this.  Problem is that the employees are too distracted by falling bodies.

Knock, Knock- Maniax dropping bodies

Outside, Jerome, Arnold Dobkins, Aaron Helzinger, and Robert Greenwood are at work dropping bodies off of the roof.  Six bodies fall to the ground with letters sprayed on their bodies to spell out “MANIAX.”  However, there’s still one more body.  Jerome spray paints an exclamation point on the body and it’s then tossed over.

Knock, Knock- Maniax bodies

It helps to add punctuation.

Knock, Knock- Commissioner Essen briefs GCPD on the murders

Commissioner Essen briefs the department about a breakout at Arkham Asylum 48 hours ago.  Yesterday, four of the six released inmates broke into the Yellen Shipyard and kidnapped seven workers- the same people tossed off of the Gotham Gazette.  There are no leads yet on who led the breakout.

Knock, Knock- Jim's villains presentation

Jim runs through the targets and their crimes: Jerome Valeska- matricide.  Arnold Dobkins, played by Will Brill- schizophrenic, poisoner, rapist.  Aaron Helzinger, now played by Stink Fisher- killed his entire family with his bare hands.  Robert Greenwood, played by Dustin Ybarra- killed and then ate a dozen women.  Barbara Kean- murdered her parents.  Officers will work in groups of four- Alvarez will be serving as the coordinating officer.

Knock, Knock- Theo speaks with the Maniax men

Theo joins the men and congratulates them on a job well done.  It’s now time for the Maniax to make a grand entrance.  The body dropping was just the overture.  The audience is hushed for now.  The curtains must now rise for the Maniax to confront Gotham with its most primal fears.  They will take what the citizens of Gotham hold sacred, and then offer them a solution.  Theo wants the men to learn the art of stagecraft because they will be on television soon.

He has the men practice their presentation, with Jerome making a good impression.  He’s got a taste for the theatrical, my guess.  He is familiar with the circus.

Knock, Knock- Tabitha and Barbara join the rest of the Maniax

Then Tabitha and Barbara enter with Mayor James in tow.  They have fun screwing with him, but they’re still bored.  Why should the boys have all the fun?  Theo assures Barbara that their time is coming.  When?  Soon.  Right now, Theo wants to know about James Gordon.

Knock, Knock- Bruce and Alfred go over Thomas Wayne's computer

Over at Wayne Manor, Bruce and Alfred are still in amazement about Thomas Wayne’s hidden room.  Bruce is about to turn on his father’s computer, which he believes could have all of the research on Wayne Enterprises.  After all, Bruce needs a smoking gun and this could be it.  Alfred reminds Bruce that guns are for grown-ups, but Bruce turns it on regardless.

Knock, Knock- Alfred takes a hammer to Thomas Wayne's computer

So Alfred smashes it.  Not all of it, but enough to slow down the start-up process.  In Alfred’s defense, had he known what was down here, he never would have helped Bruce.  Hell, it’s possible that some of this is what got Thomas Wayne killed.  Alfred is just trying to keep Bruce safe.  But Bruce, having lost the possible key to his father’s work on exposing Wayne Enterprises, decides that it’s time for Alfred to leave and never come back.  You’re fired.

Knock, Knock- Theo comes between Jerome and Robert

The men of the Maniax browse through some weapons.  Jerome fancies a particular sword that Robert swipes, so Jerome grabs a chainsaw and the two prepare to duel when Theo enters.  He reminds them to work as a team.  But every team needs a captain.  Robert wants that honor.  After all, he’s terrorized the city.  Despite Jerome’s vision, ambition, and brains, all he’s done is kill his mother, but everyone has to start somewhere.

Knock, Knock- Russian Roulette

Luckily, there’s always Russian Roulette.  Theo pulls out a gun.  You know how this game goes.  Robert goes first and pulls the trigger.  Click.  On Jerome’s turn, he asks a question: what’s the secret to good comedy?  Click.  The answer?  Timing.  He pulls again.  Click.  Next question: what’s courage?  Click.  Grace under pressure.  So who’s the boss?

Winner: Jerome.

Knock, Knock- Scottie interrupts Harvey and Jim's talk

Jim pops by Bullock’s bar to talk about the case.  Before Jim can even ask, Scottie, who is now Bullock’s fiancé, figures it out: Jim wants Bullock to come back to the GCPD.  Jim doesn’t deny it.  He needs help.  Bullock shoots Jim down, but gives Jim a hand with a question: the people killed by the Maniax worked at the shipyard.  Why that location?

Knock, Knock- Jim fills Commissioner Essen in on Harvey's hunch

Back at the GCPD, Jim speaks with Commissioner Essen about Bullock’s potential question, which led to a breakthrough.  The Maniax stole a refinery truck from the shipyard.  It wasn’t reported because it was one of over 100 service vehicles, so it took time to locate the fleet, which was loaded with gasoline.  The GCPD has a description and license plate of the vehicle.

Essen, though, still can’t believe that Bullock is gone.  He was born to be a cop, she says, but not anymore.  Jim didn’t have it in him to push Bullock to consider returning.  Essen asks Jim if he ever considered walking away from the job.  His answer is no, but Essen did at one point.  She’s watched corrupt men buy their way into this job and waste it, but not her.  It’s a new day in Gotham.

Essen is awfully optimistic, having only been the commissioner for a short amount of time.

Knock, Knock- Alfred prepares to leave Wayne Manor

Alfred is all set to leave.  He only has one suitcase of belongings to his name.  He and Bruce say their goodbyes as the good butler leaves.  For now, anyway.

Knock, Knock- Maniax spy a yellow bus

On the streets of Gotham, our Maniax men wait in anticipation.  They soon spot a target in the form of a school bus filled with cheerleaders.

Knock, Knock- Nygma tries and fails to ask out Kristen Kringle

In the Records Annex of the GCPD, Nygma tries to plumb up the courage to ask Miss Kringle something, but all he manages to share is the fun fact about house flies hum in keys of F.

Knock, Knock- Dark Nygma

When Kringle leaves, Nygma talks with himself about how he agreed to think about asking her out.  Perhaps Evil Nygma would have better luck since he’s more confident.

Knock, Knock- Jerome sprays gasoline over the bus of cheerleaders

The Maniax cut off the school bus.  Jerome enters and cuffs everyone to their seats.  If anything, he says, this was a hard decision to make.  It came down to them or a senior citizens bingo party.  It was better to go younger.  He sprays them with gasoline while asking them to chant “O-N-O.”  You know what that spells.

Knock, Knock- Maniax fire on the GCPD

But Jerome’s lighter won’t work.  Arnold’s does, but then the GCPD arrives.  The Maniax aren’t concerned.  They know that the police won’t shoot at a bus.  Indeed, they don’t.  Three of the Maniax manage to escape on the truck, but Arnold remains and manages to start a light.  The fire starts, but Gordon rushes and punches out Arnold.  He boards the bus and drives it away from the flames just in time.  Now, I’m sure that the bus should be leaking gasoline, but sure, crisis averted.

Knock, Knock- Jim demands Arnold tell him who freed him from Arkham

Jim confronts Arnold and demands to know who freed him from Arkham Asylum, but he refuses to talk.  It doesn’t matter.  He’s shot and killed far off from a trained shot by Tabitha.

Knock, Knock- Bruce joins Alfred at the train station, apologizes

As Alfred awaits his departing train, Bruce joins him.  He now understands that Alfred only wanted to protect Bruce, but despite that, there’s nothing Alfred can do that will stop Bruce from carrying out his father’s work.  Alfred knows that now.  If Alfred stays, he’s either with or against Bruce.  Alfred is with Bruce, but still acknowledges that what Bruce is doing is tantamount to suicide.  Bruce is still too young and not ready.

So Bruce asks Alfred to make him ready.  Train him.  Now we’ve been down this road before, and Alfred knows this, but Bruce promises that this will be different.  He even promises to go back to school.  If Bruce agrees to this, he must do whatever Alfred says with no exceptions.  Now Alfred just needs to fix the computer.

Knock, Knock- Leslie Thompkins extracts the bullet from Arnold's body

Over at GCPD, Leslie extracts and examines the bullet from Arnold’s body.  Said bullet was high caliber and high velocity, but there’s no way to identify the gun as of now.  Essen wonders about the motivation for almost murdering the cheerleaders.  After all, they didn’t ask for a ransom.  Jim figures that it was about headlines and creating mass panic.

Knock, Knock- Alfred sits at a bar

At a club, Alfred joins a very familiar man for a drink.  Alfred introduces himself as Bruce Wayne’s guardian and it’s a funny coincidence that these two happened to meet each other.  He then talks about a fella he knew named Oslow on the Isle of Dogs in the East End of London.  He came up to Alfred to ask him for an iffy favor.  Alfred agreed, but if this Oslow fella let Alfred down, Alfred would tuck him up.

Knock, Knock- Lucius Fox speaks with Alfred about Bruce and trust

And then Oslow let Alfred down, so Alfred tucked him like a kipper- a smoked fish.  He’s learned that there are two type of people in the world: people you can trust and the ones you can’t.  So what kind is Mr. Lucius Fox?  Fox responds that both kinds of people would give the same answer.  The problem is that Alfred needs to confide in Lucius, but he needs to be able to trust him.

It’s too late for Lucius to back out since he already told Bruce that Thomas Wayne is stoic.  And Alfred has no one else to turn to, so if he can’t trust Lucius, then he’s a dead man.  Lucius has the best intentions for Bruce in mind, which is good, because Alfred needs his help at fixing computers.

Knock, Knock- Jim spots Barbara in the GCPD

As Jim tells Alvarez to inform ballistics that they have a red ball, he gets a call from his dear, sweet Barbara.  Jim tries to make small talk, saying that he can help Barbara, but she has no intention of going back to Arkham.  Jim calls her a kind woman, but right now, Barbara is focused on looking good.

Because there she is, right in the GCPD.  Does anyone recognize or try to stop her?  Somehow, no.  Jim follows her outside.  Back inside, though, two officers head in to talk with Commissioner Essen…

Knock, Knock- Jerome confronts Commissioner Essen

They just happen to be Jerome and Robert in disguise.  A massive shootout commences.

Knock, Knock- Barbara has Aaron beat Jim

Outside, Jim confronts Barbara in an alleyway.  She tells him that he was wrong about her, but he never listened.  She summons Arnold to beat the ever living hell out of Jim for a long period of time before Barbara calls it off.  She leaves Jim with some parting words: she’s not sick, she’s free.

Knock, Knock- Jerome stands before Essen

The massacre continues in the Gotham police department.  Jerome has Essen cornered.  Richard brings a camera for Essen’s close-up.  What do the Maniax want?  To rule the world, but they’ll settle for dead cops and good PR.  Whatever works.  Essen just calls them crazy.  Besides, Jerome will be dead soon.  The world will go on without him and no one will know his name.

Oh, but Jerome disagrees with Essen on that one. The Maniax are about to leave their mark on the city and watch it spread across the city like a virus.  Why?  Because nothing is more contagious than laughter.  Well, Richard says that, prompting Jerome to shoot and kill him for taking his line.  Never steal Jerome’s line.  Essen spits in Jerome’s face, but he finds it strangely pleasant.  Then she headbutts him.  Okay, his turn now.

Knock, Knock- Jim enters GCPD after the massacre

Jim comes to and struggles to make his way back inside the police department.  He finds a few signs of life with Leslie, Kristen, Nygma, and other unnamed officers.

Knock, Knock- Essen is dying

But Commissioner Essen, not so much.  Leslie and Jim find her bleeding from a deep wound.  She tells him once again that it’s a new day in Gotham before dying.

Knock, Knock- Lucius works on Thomas Wayne's computer

As Lucas begins work on repairing Thomas Wayne’s computer, Bruce has so many questions.  Did Thomas Wayne tell him everything?  No.  Thomas was a private man, but he had to be.  Lucius just helped with the technical resources.  He doesn’t know what’s on the computer and didn’t even want to.  HE can fix it, but it will take time.  Alfred then rushes down to find Bruce.

Knock, Knock- Bruce speaks to Jim at the police department after the massacre

The two head to GCPD in the aftermath of the massacre.  Bruce finds Jim and admits that he was hard on him last time.  He apologizes and calls Jim a good friend.

Knock, Knock- Harvey returns

After this moment, Jim enters the now empty commissioner’s office.  He hears a voice saying that Essen was a good woman, and it belongs to no other than Bullock, who isn’t in the mood to talk about this.  They are who they are.  No use fighting it.  Scottie will understand.

Knock, Knock- Jim and Harvey watch the GCPD report on the Maniax

Alvarez turns on the television.  In typical fashion, the report is right at the point where we need it to be.

Knock, Knock- Jerome tells the city to wake up

It plays the footage Jerome shot where he addresses Gotham City.  Jerome, the shot collar of his gang, is here to spread a message of wisdom and home.  The people of Gotham are prisoners.  What they call sanity is a prison in their minds to stop them from seeing that they’re just cogs in a giant, absurd machine.  It’s time to wake up.  Why be a cog when you can be free?  But don’t worry.  The Maniax will be back.  Gotham ain’t seen nothin’ yet!

Well, I am impressed.  Too soon to tell whether this is an indication of the season quality as a whole, but “Knock, Knock” was quite the entertaining episode.  Maybe not since “Penguin’s Umbrella” has there been an episode where things kept moving forward with little to no time to breathe.  More than that, each scene had some level of importance to the scene before or after it, and the darker GCPD versus the Maniax storyline was complemented by the Bruce and Alfred dynamic, and just that.

Yes, Gotham still has tone issues and one of the biggest and most warranted criticisms has been inserting scenes or characters for the sake of just showcasing as many people in the show as possible.  Hell, even “Damned If You Do” had a pointless appearance by Selina Kyle.

Knock, Knock- Jim and Bruce hug

But here, we’re dealing with three factions and just that: Gotham’s finest, the Maniax, or Bruce and Alfred.  No interludes with Penguin or the mob at all.  And eventually, the Maniax spill into the GCPD and even the Bruce/Alfred moments end up intersecting with the police department, but not without reason.  Sure, the moment between Bruce and Jim was brief, but important to put them on good terms after Bruce suggested that Jim wasn’t willing to sacrifice his dignity for the greater good.

Knock, Knock- Alfred after bashing the computer

And this episode still dealt with those words in regards to the scenes at Wayne Manor.  Alfred doesn’t want Bruce to get too deep into his father’s business because he doesn’t want him to suffer the same fate.  He bashes the computer to protect Bruce from harm.  He knows that this move will endanger his relationship with Bruce, but he doesn’t care because he’s more interested in keeping the boy alive.  Alfred has seen combat and knows that the world is a dangerous place.

Hell, the man was stabbed last season and almost died.  Bruce has lost his parents, but Alfred came close to losing his life as a part of this investigation into Wayne Enterprises.  So by slowing Bruce down, Alfred hopes to make him understand that he can’t just charge in because his father left him these items.  Maybe there’s nothing Alfred can do to stop Bruce, but at least the two can come to terms on how to move forward.

Knock, Knock- Alfred and Bruce make up

And I’m glad that there’s some continuity from the first season with Bruce once again wanting Alfred to train him, and Alfred reminding him that he already wanted him to train him before, and that fell by the wayside when Bruce got deep into the Wayne Enterprises conspiracy.  Nice connection, and I do appreciate the follow-up to that plot point.

Knock, Knock- Maria Thayer reprises her role

The same goes for bringing back Maria Thayer to reprise her role as Scottie Mullen, who we last saw in “The Fearsome Dr. Crane.”  I buy this because Bullock did establish a rapport with Mullen, but it also helps that Bullock’s fiancé is a character we’ve already been introduced to because it helps solidify Mullen’s role here instead of it being a one-off character.

Continuity seems to be the big thing this season instead of a series of one-off plots and criminals from Season One, and for that, I’m grateful.  Now Season One did have various plot points and story elements that popped up again, but with some exceptions like the two-parter “The Fearsome Dr. Crane” and “The Scarecrow,” few episodes continued the plot established in the previous one.  You might have the start of one episode start where the previous episode ended, but that’s about it.

Knock, Knock- Jerome points a gun

But “Knock, Knock” follows up with the Maniax being freed and carrying out Theo Galavan’s plan to cause mass chaos.  It’s all very Dark Knight-esque, particularly with Jerome’s video message and the plan to burn a busload of cheerleaders.  I’ve gotta admit, that’s a pretty horrifying to think about and downright creepy image to visualize.  Sure, at the end of the day, Jerome’s bad luck and Gordon’s driving saved the day, but the mere idea of setting a bus full of people on fire is just insane.

Knock, Knock- Theo wants to know about James Gordon

Theo is the mastermind who wants to bring Gotham to its knees.  As the actual leader, he doesn’t need to get his hands dirty, so he has the Maniax do his bidding because they’re insane enough to do so.  Chaos is what they want.  Sure, Theo does have a grand vision to cleanse the city, but the Maniax are just looking to create widespread panic.  They seem to do that, but that’s one of my minor qualms of the episode.

Knock, Knock- Gazette staff watches bodies hit the ground

Aside from the GCPD, the Gazette staff, and the people on the bus, we don’t get to see a lot of reactions from the people of Gotham City yet.  The few incidents get a reaction out of the GCPD because it’s their job to protect the public.  Part of me wishes we’d seen the city thrown into a frenzy, but that’s very minor.  As Jerome pointed out, we haven’t seen anything yet, so maybe that’s coming later.

Knock, Knock- Jerome gambles

And at least we get scenes of the Maniax team interacting.  Keep in mind that Tabitha just happened to spring these six people from Arkham, even though there’s little that tied them together.  Here, we get moments of them hanging out and battling it out for leadership.  Again, Monaghan brings the energy with his performance, particularly the Russian Roulette scene.

Knock, Knock- Jerome addresses Gotham City

Some of his lines and mannerisms are a bit too on-the-nose to the point where Gotham may as well just call him the Joker, even though he isn’t, especially with the video message, but hey, he’s entertaining to watch on screen.

Knock, Knock- Barbara straddles Jim

Can’t believe I find myself saying this, but even Barbara managed to be more interesting in these past two episodes than she was in all of Season One now that they’ve turned her into a nut.  It’s still a strange journey to take, but making her maniacal is easier to stomach than making her annoying, jealous girlfriend.

Knock, Knock- Barbara in plain view

But I have two minor qualms: first off, the Gotham police department’s open door policy must be as liberal as Arkham Asylum’s revolving door because we’ve watched Penguin, Zsasz, and now Barbara, known criminals, waltz into the GCPD and no one makes a move.  Sure, Zsasz came to kill Gordon who, at that point, had few friends in the GCPD, so I get that the officers wouldn’t back him.  Here, Jim had a full presentation on the freed inmates with Barbara’s face shown, yet no one noticed or attempted to stop her except Jim.

Side-note on that presentation.  A little change made between the episode and the trailer.  The Red Band Maniax trailer included Richard Sionis, but since he’s dead, the episode omits Jim mentioning him.

Knock, Knock- Barbara wants more to do

Anyway, the other, smaller qualm I have is how fast Barbara has become involved with the Maniax, given how she said in the previous episode that she didn’t even have any sort of skills or abilities that made her special.  But hey, I suppose this is a way to keep her out of Arkham, and since Barbara probably won’t be shacking up with Montaya again anytime soon, there’s always Tabitha.

Knock, Knock- Aaron Helzinger, Barbara's muscle

In addition, like Poison Ivy and Talia al Ghul before her, as far as on-screen representations go, Barbara has a giant musclebound man to do her bidding and she can lay into Jim.

With Barbara out of Arkham, Jim now has even more motivation to go after the Maniax.  Here’s a woman who was once his fiancé, was abducted many times, and is now a crazy bitch.  And she’s part of a group that is out to terrorize Gotham City.  His reason for pursuing Barbara is to bring her to justice.  You know, that and she had a huge man beat the hell out of him.

Knock, Knock- Pushing bodies

The Maniax do manage to cause quite a lot of damage in a short amount of time.  Sure, it might have been easier to just set the bodies on the ground at night and let people find them the next day, but hey, dropping them from a high perch is certain to catch people’s attention and it’s another gruesome image.

Knock, Knock- Nygma wounded

Same goes for the massacre inside the GCPD.  We don’t know most of these people outside of Jim, Alvarez, Nygma, Leslie, Miss Kringle, and Commissioner Essen, so a lot of the casualties aren’t people we know.  That lessens the emotional impact, but it’s still a major surprise for the GCPD and it goes to show again that these police are not safe from criminals that just want to turn the city upside down.

This goes larger than the mob.  Penguin just wanted to climb the mob ladder, but Theo and his Maniax aim to change Gotham by cleansing it in blood and fire.

Knock, Knock- Optimistic Commissioner Essen

Again, Commissioner Essen was far too optimistic about this being a new day in Gotham, not long after she received this position.  So she’s gone.  Like Maroni, it’s a bit out of left field because we have an established, longstanding character in the Batman universe that you figure will be around for a while, but she’s knocked off like so many other officers.

Knock, Knock- Bullock returns

If anything, this gave Bullock the motivation he needed to return to the force as he and Gordon try to sort out this mess.

“Knock, Knock” was a strong episode with both action and drama through the two separate storylines.  Though Gotham’s tone is still an issue at times, I found the more intense moments with the Maniax and the GCPD were well-balanced by the slower scenes with Bruce and Alfred.  The stakes have been raised for Gotham’s finest with their numbers reduced by a group of lunatics.

Between this and the “Damned If You Do,” the “Rise of the Villains” arc is off to a much better start than the previous season for Gotham.  Now to see whether the momentum will continue.  After all, “Spirit of the Goat” and “Penguin’s Umbrella” were also both great episodes, and the show stepped back into mediocrity after that.  So I’m optimistic, but approaching with caution.  For what we’ve gotten with these two episodes, we’re good so far.

A Look at “Masters of Sex” Season 3 Finale: “Full Ten Count”

Well, here we are at the finale: “Full Ten Count.”  There are a lot of great little moments to this episode, but combined with a lot of scattered storylines through the season that aren’t resolved and some issues with this episode in particular, it’s not a bad episode, but nothing great either.  But what do I know?  Let’s jump right in.

Full Ten Count- Johnny and Francis Masters, played by Dennis Cockrum, watch Bill get beaten

The episode begins in a boxing ring, with Johnny and Francis Masters, again played by Dennis Cockrum, watching Bill get the ever loving shit beaten out of him.  Francis tells Johnny that a man has to know when he’s beat.

Full Ten Count- Bill awakens from his nightmare, Libby comforts him

As Bill prepares to take one last hit, he awakens in a fright, Libby at his side to comfort him.  When asked if it was his father again, Bill responds that he isn’t sure.  This all needs to go away.

Full Ten Count- Virginia talks to her father about Dan and Bill

We cut to House Johnson, where Virginia informs her father about her daughter’s schedules.  Edna is miffed because she was not invited to babysit.  That’s probably for the best and Virginia is busy enough as it is.  Harry is a bit concerned.  When things get tough for Virginia, she tends to dig in more.  It’s not like her to flee, but she says that she isn’t.  She just needs to clear her head for a few days.

And Virginia is unsure to trust, especially Bill due to his insistence on the surrogacy program and the ambush in New York.  In addition, the man she’s seeing is making promises that may not be true.  Man she’s seeing?  That isn’t Bill?  Virginia tells her father that most people wouldn’t get her life.  She just keeps waiting for things to click into place so she can say this is how her life should be.

Full Ten Count- Libby has bad news for Virginia

Then Libby arrives to fill Virginia in on why she called him home: something has happened that could affect everyone and even hurt the clinic.  Somehow, it always comes down to Libby and Virginia.

Full Ten Count- Jonathan wants Barton to stay for breakfast

Barton is ready to leave Jonathan’s place early, though Jonathan wishes he would stick around for some pleasantries.  It’s Jonathan’s birthday, so he hopes that Barton could stay.  In light of hearing this, Barton proposes the two celebrate tonight at his place.

Full Ten Count- Libby finds Cindy Loman, played by Celeste Pechous, putting a 'For Lease' sign on the Edley home lawn

As Libby drives back home, she sees a realtor, Cindy Loman, played by Celeste Pechous, placing a ‘For Lease’ sign on the lawn of the Edley household.  Mr. Edley, it turns out, has taken a leave of absence and will be out of touch for at least a year.

Full Ten Count- Betty tells Bill that Dan has been leaving nonstop messages for Virginia

After a brief elevator scene of Bill and Nora discussing their unguarded moment, the two head into the office, which is in the middle of a busy setup for an upcoming press conference on the new book.  The Little Brown people will be coming by soon.  Much to Betty’s irritation, Bill wants this rescheduled and starts going through Virginia’s messages- all from Dan Logan.  Betty reveals that Dan has been calling nonstop and Virginia refuses to answer.  Maybe she’s trying to freeze him out.

Full Ten Count- Dan returns from Mexico

And then we get a brief scene of Dan getting off of a plane after returning from a Mexico trip.

Full Ten Count- Ronald warns Virginia to save herself

Virginia’s next to approach the elevator, but she gets yet another run-in with Ronald Sturgis.  He warns her that this is her last chance to get out and save herself.  Do what must be done.

Full Ten Count- Bill and Virginia discuss the charges against Bill

Upstairs, Virginia and Bill discuss the case.  Mrs. Daughtry’s attorney even came to the Masters’ household late at night.  The Daughtry family is willing to rescind the charges in return for a check, so yeah, we’re dabbing into extortion.  Bill will fight this.  Even though Libby doesn’t want her family dragged through the mud, Bill won’t silence trumped up allegations with a check.

However, word of this could get out and the allegations could ruin not just their reputations, but also the clinic.  Libby and Virginia both agree that Bill will pay this and see past his bullshit to know this is serious business.  Also, Virginia puts her foot down and says that the money will not come from the clinic.  She won’t allow her pay to be dirtied or have the clinic put at risk.

Bill follows Virginia into her office.  He agrees that the risk is too great and tries to turn the conversation to New York.  He didn’t know how to prove the truth about Dan Logan.  Virginia doesn’t want to hear any of this.  There’s far too much to repair both between them and the clinic.  And they’ve endured worse trials.

Then Bill plays his trump card: he plans on removing the M.D. from his name on their new book.  This will show that the two are perfect equals in this relationship.  Virginia appears touched by this, but doesn’t say as much.  What matters now is protecting their work.  Just then, Betty enters and tells the two that the Little Brown people have arrived.

Full Ten Count- Bob Drag wants a tour of the clinic

Bob Drag is here for a tour of the clinic.  He wants Bill and Virginia to take viewers on a journey of their work on human sexuality.  Bill introduces Bob to Lester, who has documented the work, and Nora as an example of the surrogacy work that Bill mentioned at the New York meeting.

Full Ten Count- Nora needs rent money

Nora brings Bill aside for a moment.  She’s not ready to work with her surrogacy partner yet.  Who is this?  We’ll get to that in a bit.  For now, Nora can’t focus right now with her landlord kicking her to the curb.  She’s behind on rent again and didn’t know who else to ask.  Nora’s been unable to spend time looking for a job because she’s spending six days a week at the clinic.  She doesn’t want to abandon that, but feels things are strained due to intimacies.

And she would think Bill wants to make things right.  So Bill gives her $200 that he just happens to have.  Do you walk around with $200 in your wallet?  Anyway, Bill says that this needs to be the last time.  Nora thanks him, but Bill is unaware of Nora taking her hand off a button on the microphone behind her…

Full Ten Count- Dan arrives at the office, tells Virginia that he divorced Alice

Dan arrives at the office to speak with Virginia, who admits that Dan’s offer is a lot to take in right now.  If it matters, Alice is no longer Dan’s wife, which may mean that we won’t be seeing Judy Greer again anytime soon.  Mexico is quite accommodating when it comes to matters of the heart.  Now that Dan is divorced, he wants to help Virginia do the same with George.  Remember him?

Divorce was the easy part.  Everything else isn’t, except for one thing: Bill’s hold on Virginia.  She’s put everything into this clinic.  Dan isn’t asking her to leave it.  She’s enjoyed her time with him, but she doesn’t see yet how work and Dan go together.  Or how Bill would accept this, though Dan reminds Virginia that this isn’t up to Bill.  He can’t make her happy as a man to love.  Yes, Dan still wants Virginia as his wife and he won’t make her see what she already knows.

Her hesitation isn’t because of Dan, it’s the work.  Dan, though, acknowledges that he’s been stuck in his marriage with Alice for a long time.  His love for Virginia gave him the courage to leave.  The same should be done for her.  But if Virginia does not feel the same, Dan will take his broken heart and go.  Oh, give me a break.

Full Ten Count- Barton tells Betty that he's preparing dinner at home for Jonathan's birthday

Barton arrives at the office and since Betty is apparently the only one available to talk, he fills her in about his dinner plans with Jonathan.  And because Betty is an apparent matchmaker and is against Barton having a birthday dinner at home, she plans to make reservations at a fancy restaurant.

Full Ten Count- Hugh Barringer, played by Troy Blendell, talks to Bill about the treatment

Bob setting up some candid shots for Bill is interrupted when Nora’s surrogate partner approaches him and says that he’s not going to continue the treatment.  Turns out that this partner is actually an agent: Hugh Barringer, played by Troy Blendell.  Virginia spots this and joins Bill, but she’s in trouble as well.

Full Ten Count- Chief Duncan reads the charges of pandering and promoting prostitution to Bill and Virginia

After a bit of time spent in holding cells, the two are brought before Chief Duncan, who explains that the charges brought against them are pandering and promoting prostitution.  The department didn’t pay much mind to Sturgis’ accusations of illicit work, but this caught fire due to the complaints of inappropriate behavior with a minor.  In addition, a surrogate came forward, but that makes no sense because the surrogates are all unpaid.

Well, almost.  Bill does cop to giving Nora money, but it was for her rent.  That is for the courts to decide.  Nora may have been committed to the work, but she was also committed to Sturgis and the Committee for Decency.  Duncan won’t padlock the office doors.  If this stays quiet and out of the press, Duncan can buy time for the two to get legal counsel and sort this out without having to shut down the clinic.

Full Ten Count- Virginia wants to breathe with Dan

Though Bill must wait for Libby, Virginia’s bail is posted in no time by Dan Logan.  When the two reunite, Virginia admits that Dan was right about trying to get her to see what she already knows.  Since she was young, Virginia has been waiting for things to fall into place so she can breathe.  Now, she wants to breathe with Dan.

Full Ten Count- Betty stalls for time

Back at the clinic, Betty stalls for time while Bob continues to wait for Bill and Virginia.  They’re taking care of a highly sexual emergency.

Now, the following moment is probably one of my favorite exchanges of the series, and obviously my favorite of this episode: a tense confrontation between Bill and Libby that eventually leads into Bill admitting his affair.  Let’s go right to it.

Full Ten Count- Bill and Libby face off

After being bailed out by Libby, Bill wants to discuss Nora, but Libby shoots him down.  Prostitution charges are very serious.  Bill rages, even taking his anger out on a file cabinet.  He was kind to Nora and Dennis, but it’s definitely a bad idea to talk to Dennis’ mother as well.  Bill thinks that he’s a target because of his work, but Libby disagrees.  This all happened because he’s reckless.

To Libby, Bill charges ahead without thinking of the consequences.  He’s so interested in control, but when does it stop?

After a long silence, the two sit.  Bill comes forward and admits that he’s been having an affair with Virginia for a long time.  Virginia laughs.  Of course she’s known for years.  Bill wants to know why Libby said nothing.  How could she live like that?  Well, it wasn’t easy for Libby and she hasn’t been well, but she’s done this for the family.  But now is not the time to hash this out.

Bill says that he never meant to hurt her.  If he’d only known how horrible he made her feel or that she would accept so little of herself.  Again, Libby snaps, telling Bill that this will be handled later, but Bill continues, saying this has to be the one honest thing he can do for her in years.  She deserves a real marriage.

Libby flips.  Bill should not say what he can’t unsay or let things spill out the way he is right now.  True as Bill’s words may be, Libby tells him that he can’t decide that this is the end of their marriage.  Does Bill envision a future with Virginia?  After all, Virginia promised that she would never take Bill from his family.  She and Libby made a pact.  Bill is, for some reason, upset that they made an agreement, but hey, they just took a page from Bill’s playbook.

This, Libby says, is the one way to make the family safe.  But Bill admits that they aren’t safe.  No one is.  Libby calls Bill a fool, but she must be the second biggest fool of all.  Bill can’t even begin to understand how much happiness Libby has given up for the sake of the family.  Libby won’t bail Bill out and he can’t come home.

Full Ten Count- Nora tries to explain herself to Virginia

At the office, Virginia packs up some boxes when Nora enters to explain herself.  She hopes that Virginia understands why she did what she did.  She searched her heart and prayed hard.  She was once like Virginia- unhappy and lost, but then Ronald told her of a book written by Dr. Bill Masters, a man she once knew.  She realized that it was a sign.

God never wanted the union of a man and woman to be reduced to experiments.  Virginia fights back.  She and Bill are saving people and giving them hope.  People like Nora keep others weak and suffering in the dark.  And God probably doesn’t want people to suffer.  As Nora tells Virginia to mend her ways, she gets a box to the face from Virginia.

Full Ten Count- Dan and Virginia leave just as Bob arrives

And with that, Dan and Virginia leave just as Bob returns.

Full Ten Count- Johnny finds Libby crying in the bathroom

At House Masters, Libby cries in the bathroom.  Johnny joins her and learns that his father is not just in jail, but he’ll be living somewhere else for some time.  Johnny wants to talk to him, thinking that he caused this, but Libby assures him that he isn’t the cause of this.  The adult world is messed up and complicated, but this isn’t Johnny’s fault.

Full Ten Count- Bill hands over Lester's belt

Back in jail, Bill hands over his shoelaces and belt- which is actually Lester’s- and waits, all while having brief flashes of his father beating him.  When asked who he can call, Bill names Virginia.

Full Ten Count- Betty interrupts dinner to tell Barton that Bill is in trouble

Barton and John have dinner at Vincente, but they’re interrupted by Betty, who fills Barton in on Bill’s situation.

Full Ten Count- Harry gives Dan his blessing

Over at House Johnson, Harry gives Dan his blessing to marry Virginia, if it’s what his daughter really wants.  It is.

Full Ten Count- Bill admits his love for Virginia

So Barton manages to bail out Bill.  Virginia arrives soon after, and though Bill wants to talk, she says that there’s nothing left to be decided or said between them.  Bill comes right out and admits that he loves Virginia.  He’s always loved her for the longest time, but couldn’t make sense of it.  He should have admitted it from the start, and despite their struggles, Bill thinks that Virginia loves him, too.

But then he spots the engagement ring.  Virginia tells Bill that she’s leaving.  First Mexico, then Las Vegas.  She admits that Bill was right as far as how she feels about her work, but wrong that she wants those things in place of happiness.  That joy is much more important than work.  She can’t be a whole person without that.  Bill doesn’t want to let her go, but if he loves her, he should put her first.

Full Ten Count- Bob threatens the clinic if Betty doesn't get Bill and Virginia there in 30 minutes

Betty, having the worst day, watches the event play out at the office with no sign of Bill and Virginia.  Bob confronts her, saying that his job is as much on the line with this conference.  In addition, Bob spoke with a friend who happens to work in the St. Louis Police Department.  How convenient.  But Bob knows what’s been happening.  And if Bill and Virginia don’t materialize in their lab coats to announce their work, Bob will announce that Bill prefers spending time with young boys.  Make some calls, Betty.

Full Ten Count- Bill gets a call from Betty

Indeed, Betty calls the police station to let Bill know that he’s got 30 minutes to get to the clinic.  Though Bill is convinced that Virginia wouldn’t let that happen, Bill, after getting his papers, rushes out and hails a taxi.

Full Ten Count- Dan and Virginia prepare to board

At the same time, Dan and Virginia prepare to board at an airport.  Virginia keeps looking behind her, as if expecting someone else to arrive…

Full Ten Count- Bill stays down

Eventually, Bill concedes and has the taxi driver pull over.  Bill pays the man, refusing a ride back into town.  The season comes to a close as Bill, deciding to stay down for once, abandons his chase after Virginia.

Well, that was a third season.

While “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” ended on an optimistic note last year, Season Three’s “Full Ten Count” ends on more of a down note.  Kind of like what Dante said on Clerks, “That’s what life is: a series of down endings.”  There’s nothing wrong with a more serious conclusion to the season, but it would be a bit more enjoyable if the season ride was enjoyable and if the finale was satisfying.

This finale does not accomplish either of those.  In fact, a lot was left unaccomplished with this season and certainly the finale, but we’ll get to that in a bit.

Full Ten Count- Ronald to Virginia, save yourself

From the start of the season until now, we’ve watched Bill and Virginia fight to maintain the integrity of their work, whether from their skeptical relatives, friends, authorities, and even the occasional religious zealot.  Despite going through the Sexual Revolution, the two still have to contend with people who don’t understand or refuse to see the importance of their work.  And that’s led to strained relations not just with clients, but Bill and Virginia’s personal lives have been affected for the worst.

And even though they’ve been at the risk of losing everything, neither of them gave up doing the work that’s important to them and that can and has helped others.

But there comes a time a moment where opposition is too great to overcome and you’re on the verge of losing the match.  Sure, it may be admirable to fight until your last breath, but less so when you’re about to lose it all.  Would some think you a coward for bowing out and maintaining your integrity?  That’s possible, but you get to walk away with your life instead of blowing it all because of pride.

Full Ten Count- Bill gives in

And that’s where Bill ends up come season’s end.  He’s spent so much time trying to keep Virginia under his thumb, said so many things to manipulate her into staying, and convincing her that it was all for the greater good because he assumes that she values work over everything else.  To an extent, he’s right, Virginia does love the difference she’s making in people’s lives and this could be her calling.

Full Ten Count- Virginia wants happiness

But a woman with nothing to look forward to but work isn’t who Virginia is.  As much as Virginia has taken her work seriously, even refusing to allow a cent of her money to be used to help Bill’s case, she sees a life and future beyond human sexuality.  Bill has known from the start that Virginia was more intellectual than most women around him, but with this season, he’s spent time trying to craft Virginia’s end game for her.

Full Ten Count- Dan tells Virginia all about his broken heart

The future she ended up choosing rests with Dan Logan.  I’m of two minds on how to feel about this.  First off, I’m glad she’s making a choice after spending so much time being indecisive.  Since Dan arrived on the scene, Virginia has been torn between him and Dan because both has something that the other lacks.  Here, she’s setting aside the importance of work and Bill’s feelings for her to have a shot at a happiness.

Full Ten Count- Virginia waits for things to click into place

At two points in the episode, Virginia talks waiting for things to click into place so she can realize how her life should be.  Personally, I think Virginia has shown that she has enough fortitude to craft her future on her own instead of waiting for things to happen, so I’m not sure I fully buy that she’d just wait for the stars to align so she can be happy.  But her life has been so hectic that she hasn’t had much time to breathe.  Dan Logan may not be perfect, but for Virginia, he’s as close to true happiness a she’s going to get for now.

Full Ten Count- Dan and Virginia about to board the plane

Sure, we’ve had plenty of episodes for Dan and Virginia to establish a rapport, but I’m not sure I completely buy that their feelings for one another are genuine.  Virginia is choosing Dan because she wants to be happy, even though she has her hesitation.  She even said that she doesn’t see how Dan and work go together.  She didn’t mind that Dan had so many affairs or had been unfaithful to his wife, which is twisted in and of itself.

Party of Four- Virginia listens to Alice talk about Dan's past affairs

And Alice told Virginia that Dan has been down this road before with telling a woman that he’ll show up and declare his love for her.  Why would Virginia think herself any different?  And as confident as Dan has been on his feelings- given how he’s more in touch with his emotions than Bill- it’s a tad pathetic to see him say things like he’ll take his broken heart and leave if Virginia didn’t accept him.

Full Ten Count- Dan and his broken heart

Between himself and Bill, Dan has been very suave, but this is a step backwards because he’s all but begging Virginia to choose him over Bill.  And given Bill’s actions, that doesn’t take much persuasion.

Full Ten Count- Virginia checks to see if Bill is coming

So Virginia stops fighting between two men and picks the safer of two options.  Right now, it looks like she’s headed for a happy life, but given her glances at the airport, she’s still expecting Bill to make a last ditch effort to be there for her.

Three's a Crowd- Bill and Virginia make a proposal to George

But Virginia’s family was all but forgotten here.  Whether it’s Virginia’s newborn, Tessa’s relationship with Matt, Henry enlisting, or just George in general, a lot of Virginia’s personal life was lost in the shuffle of the season as focus went to Dan.  And that’s a problem because George and Virginia’s marriage in name only was left unresolved.

Three's a Crowd- George and Virginia toast and talk about their past

Hell, we haven’t seen him for so long, I’m surprised that the show had the audacity to hitch Virginia to Dan without having even a single scene with George, who is left to a mere mention.  It’s disappointing, considering how incensed George was about the fake marriage.

Full Ten Count- Libby asks Bill when it all ends

But almost everyone’s disappointed in this episode in some way.  Libby is disappointed in Bill for having the audacity to try and clear the air between them, despite his actions.  I’ve ragged on Libby for going through the motions with her rants, but Caitlin Fitzgerald shined in this finale with Libby unleashing on Bill.

She has always had every right to be angry and part of me wonders whether she held back a bit.  When she laughs in response to Bill admitting his affair, it’s a laugh of disbelief.  Not of Bill’s admission, but as if that’s supposed to be some huge revelation for her, and it’s not.  Libby, like Virginia, is tired of putting up with Bill’s nonsense.

Full Ten Count- Libby chews out Bill

Libby also makes a decision on how to deal with Bill.  For so long, she’s endured his infidelity and given up so much happiness, so instead of taking another beating at her life, but she puts her foot down this time.  She fights back when she asks Bill when this all ends?  Bill just charges forward without thinking how others are affected, Libby most of all.  I’m glad that Libby got to unload her anger on Bill, even taking a page from his playbook and making arrangements behind his back.

Full Ten Count- Libby sees someone checking out the Edley household

The problem is that Libby’s shot at happiness seems to be gone with Paul out of the picture.  So once again, Libby finds herself in a loveless marriage, but she appears to be ready to make a change.  If she separates from Bill come Season Four, it can’t come fast enough, given her sacrifices.

Full Ten Count- Bill takes a pounding

And Bill is a man who realizes that what he can’t do is take blow after blow.  His father’s words echo through his head the entire episode about a man knowing when he’s beat.  And as Libby told him, Bill charges forward with such recklessness that he doesn’t realize the damage caused to himself and everyone around him until it’s too late.  Granted, I don’t think the use of the fight imagery was as well-executed as in…well, “Fight,” but having Bill as the victim really highlighted the abuse he suffered because of his own actions.

Full Ten Count- Bill learns that Libby knew all about the affair

Sheen’s best performances from Bill, I feel, come when the character is at a low point, and that is very evident here.  Whether when he punches a cabinet in anger or the despair on his face and in his voice during the scene with Libby, Sheen does a great job showcasing a wide range of emotions.

Full Ten Count- Bill tells Virginia that he's removing the M.D. from his name

Bill has burned so many bridges, not out of ill intent, but because he doesn’t stop and take time to think about the consequences of his actions.  He’s quick to try and form a plan B when cornered, but just so he can have a plan, not necessarily a good plan.  It’s madness, but just shows how out of touch Bill can be with reality.  Everything that happens to him must be because of his work and he’s a target, not because he makes bad decisions.

Full Ten Count- Bill decides to stay down

So at the end of the day, Bill is without a home to go to, his relationship with his family is still in shambles, his work and reputation are in jeopardy, and he’s lost Virginia after coming forth with admitting his love for her.  If he can’t make anything else right, he wants to make sure he’s smoothed things over with Virginia.  But not so.

Bill has been despicable to her throughout this season that for him to think that Virginia would just fall head over heels for him because of his feelings is laughable.  He’s manipulated her feelings to keep her around.  Of course she’s not going to stick with you, Bill.

Finally, after his last attempt to keep Virginia in his life, Bill decides that, as his father suggested, he should stay down.  The realization that he can’t keep Virginia in his life washes across his face and it’s a well-done moment when Bill abandons his quest.  And the clinic is in jeopardy as well, so right now, Bill is at the lowest point we’ve seen him at in a long time.

Full Ten Count- Jane reads a letter

There are some story points that don’t work as well for me in this finale.  Again, Virginia’s family was tossed to the wayside, but some storylines didn’t carry any weight.  Lester and Jane are both working at the clinic at the same time, so it looks like they might be talking again?  They don’t have a scene together, so there’s no follow-up on how Lester’s participation in the surrogacy program affected his marriage.  Again, happy to see Heléne Yorke back, but I wish she’d had more to do this season.

Full Ten Count- Barton and Jonathn at dinner

Same goes with Barton, who is just here to remind us that yes, he and Jonathan are a thing.  So it looks like Betty and Helen won’t have to look for another doctor after all, assuming there’s follow-up to the pregnancy plot.  And whatever makes Barton and Betty close enough to talk about their personal lives is another thing since Barton has been all but invisible this season since he returned to work with Bill.  Aside from the scenes with Margaret, his return, though nice, had no impact on any of the characters.

Full Ten Count- Bill and Nora on the elevator

And it’s unfortunate that Nora ended up being in cahoots with Ronald because that, to me, makes her less interesting than when she was just a blast from Bill’s past.  In fact, why give her that backstory?  Sure, it gives her some parallels to Bill’s childhood, but Nora easily could have just been a random woman looking to volunteer for the surrogacy program, but we learn later that she had been playing Bill the entire time.

We get that here, but the reveal of her true intentions took away from the connection she had and rekindled with Bill.  I also have to wonder how a bunch of religious zealots convinced an agent to take part in an undercover investigation, yet weren’t taken seriously at all by the St. Louis Police Department.  And how did Nora even get this guy into the clinic and lab without anyone noticing?

Side-note, Virginia clocked Nora in full view of everyone at the office and Nora’s feet are still in view when Virginia exits the office.  No one notices?  What the hell, Masters of Sex?  What hell?

Full Ten Count- Betty threatened by Bob

Anyway, how convenient is it that Bob, who happened to be a pain in the ass this episode, would have friends in the police department?  As much crap that Betty had to endure this season, she’s been willing to fight back when threatened.  But not so much here when Bob threatens to expose why Bill is in jail.  Sure, it would have been a giant bombshell, but rarely does Betty just take shit from a man without putting up a fight.  Here, she just calls Bill after Bob’s threat without even so much as a rebuke or sharp tongued response.

If I could think of a word to describe this season, it would be uncertainty.  Bill and Virginia made their way through treacherous territory as they tried to market their work, keep each other and their families happy, starve off zealots, and still, at the end of the day, make a difference in the lives of people struggling to understand human sexuality.

Unfortunately, certain storylines brought up weren’t addressed with as much detail they could have received due to the focus being brought back to Bill and Virginia.  Whether it’s Tessa’s immaturity, Johnny’s troubles at school, Margaret’s insecurities, Austin and his family, or Lester and Jane’s home situations, some plots seemed to serve as distractions.  And we never got an answer on what happened to Barbara, either.

“Full Ten Count” isn’t a bad episode by any means since it still contains some very powerful performances and one of the best episodes of the series, but it’s not as great as it could have been.  With Virginia out of the picture and Bill still in trouble, where will we go from here?  Who knows?  See you next year for Season Four.

A Look at “Gotham” Season 2 Premiere: “Rise of the Villains: Damned If You Do…”

2014’s Gotham was a very hit and miss program.  Sure, it was Gotham City and showcased a young James Gordon coming in to clean up the corruption and a host of early versions of Batman’s rogues gallery, most notably Robin Lord Taylor’s interpretation of Oswald Cobblepot.  However, the show, particularly the first half, I felt was muddled by shoddy writing, repetitive characterization and plot points, implementing too many villains than necessary, and an overall uneven tone compared to the likes of FlashArrowAgent CarterDaredevil, and other comic based shows.

The bad outweighed what good there was and I’ve been skeptical of what a second season could offer, particularly with this whole “Rise of the Villains” angle we’ve seen in promotions leading up to the premiere. Is this an improvement over last year’s premiere?  Let’s dive right in.

Damned If You Do- Alfred and Bruce investigate the locked door

The season begins one month after the events of the previous season.  Bruce and Alfred head down the hidden staircase, but stop when they arrive at a door.  Bruce tries a number of combinations on the keypad, but no luck.

Damned If You Do- Leslie helps Jim get ready for the day

As Lou Reed’s Perfect Day plays, an obvious sign of great things to come, we see Leslie help Jim get ready for the day.

Damned If You Do- Bullock cleans up at the bar

Bullock cleans up at the bar.

Damned If You Do- Penguin's rise

And Penguin continues his reign as the King of Gotham, while having Zsasz off a man in the process.

Damned If You Do- Barbara moves into Arkham

Oh, and Barbara moves into Arkham since there was no place left to put her.

Damned If You Do- Man accepts a mysterious drink from a mysterious figure

We end this montage with a man being handed a drink from an unknown figure.

Damned If You Do- Zaardon the Soul Reaper, played by David Fierro, causes 'havoc' in Gotham

But for now, as we cut to the next day, we see the drinker, Zaardon the Soul Reaper, played by David Fierro, heading out to cause havoc in Gotham.  Luckily, Traffic Cop Gordon is there to take him down before he can harm his hostage.  If only Gordon’s new partner, Franks, played by Michael Barra, had been around earlier.

Damned If You Do- Gordon checks Zaardon into GCPD

At GCPD, Zaardon fills Gordon in that he drank dragon’s blood from the master’s chalice.  Gordon may have won the battle, but the war has just begun because the Master will soon unleash hell upon Gordon.  Dark days are coming.

Damned If You Do- Nygma talks to his evil reflection

Right.  Gordon heads to the locker room so we can get a brief reintroduction to Nygma, who is still unhinged from last season.  But now he’s pulling a Norman Osborn and talking to himself in the mirror.  Mirror Nygma thinks that real Nygma needs some love and romance in his life.  Real Nygma demands that Mirror Nygma leave Miss Kringle alone.

Damned If You Do- Loeb wants Gordon to turn in his badge and gun

Commissioner Loeb summons Gordon because he put his hands on Officer Franks.  Really, it didn’t even constitute a shove, but this being Loeb, he’ll take any opportunity to nail Gordon to the wall.  Demoting Gordon hasn’t lowered his spirits or made him quit, as it did Bullock, but his actions call for an immediate and mandatory dismissal.

Essen doesn’t stand for this and sticks up for Gordon, saying that he deserves a commendation.  Loeb tells her to take Gordon’s badge and gun, but he hands it in himself.  He also shakes Loeb’s hand, to the commissioner’s surprise.  Gordon promised to break Loeb and he intends to follow through on that.  How foreboding.

Damned If You Do- Zaardon smokes

Zaardon sleeps in his holding cell, all while emitting smoke from his mouth.  That could be a problem.

Damned If You Do- Jim fills Leslie in on his confrontation with Loeb

That evening, Jim fills Leslie in on his confrontation with Loeb. She thinks it may be for the best that Jim isn’t on the force anymore.  Jim concedes that he could have just walked away, but he hates to quit. Though Leslie points out that he didn’t quit, he was fired.  Thanks, Leslie.  Clarification received.  Even still, she knows that Jim won’t quit because he’s a cop.

Damned If You Do- Jerome gets to know Barbara

Back at Arkham, which presumably does not have separate wings for women, Jerome slides in on Barbara’s territory and the two learn why they’re both incarcerated.  In addition, Jerome lets Barbara know that he has a powerful ally in the name of Richard Sionis.  You remember Black Mask from the first season.  Guy who wore a goofy mask, killed 25 people?  Well, he’s got a thing for Barbara.

And in Arkham, when guards don’t pay much attention to the bad things that happen to inmates, everyone needs friends.  So Barbara enlists one roommate to be her friend and protect her from people that may try to hurt her.  The inmate agrees.  Even still, Jerome has connections with people who can get things that others can’t.  That’s good, because Barbara needs a phone right now.

Damned If You Do- Jim needs a favor from Penguin

As Butch goes over information regarding one Ogden Barker and his $70,000 debt to Falcone, a henchman informs Penguin that Jim has arrived so the two can talk.  Oswald is glad to see his old friend and orders everyone out of the room.  Despite this, Selina stays.  Yeah, Selina’s siding with Penguin now for some reason, but Penguin doesn’t mind.  It’s like having a cat around the house, he says.

So Jim reminds Penguin that he’s owed a favor since he saved him from Maroni’s men.  Yes, Jim arrested Oswald in the first place, but that was for attempted murder.  Without hearing the request, Penguin agrees, figuring that Jim wants Loeb fired and his old job back.  It can be done, though Oswald doesn’t see why Jim wants this.  After all, police work in Gotham is a thankless job.

Penguin has a favor as well in relation to Ogden Barker.  He wants Jim to talk to him, though Jim figures that he’s being used as a debt collector.  This is to prove that their friendship is real and based on trust.  Jim doesn’t agree to the terms and leaves.

Damned If You Do- Jim drinks while talking with Harvey

We then cut to a hammered Jim boozing his troubles away at Bullock’s bar.  Now Bullock would have no problem with Penguin’s terms, but he knows that Jim, moralist that he is, would never willingly work for Penguin.  Bullock’s doing well for himself.  He’s been sober for 32 days now, has a woman that likes him, and a nice place.  Life has been easy since quitting the force.

Damned If You Do- Jim tells Bruce that he won't be able to keep his promise

Jim takes a long walk to Wayne Manor to inform Bruce and Alfred that because he’s been fired, he won’t be able to fulfill his promise of finding the Waynes’ murderer.  He does, however, tell the two that he can keep his job by doing Penguin’s dirty work.  Bruce realizes this is a demeaning task for Gordon, who made a vow to change Gotham, but must do ugly things that go against his honor.  So Jim isn’t sacrificing for the greater good just to keep his dignity.

Sometimes, Bruce says, the right way is the ugly way.  Alfred calls Bruce out of line for this.  After all, Bruce is just a kid and can’t understand what Jim’s experiencing right now.  True, but Jim did walk all the way to Wayne Manor, so he can handle a little scrutiny.

Damned If You Do- Bruce takes a hammer to the door

Bruce apologizes and goes back down the hidden staircase to take out some anger on the still locked door.  After more combinations don’t work, Bruce takes a hammer to the pad and smashes it.

Damned If You Do- Barbara speaks with Richard Sionis

Barbara speaks with Richard Sionis, who can indeed help Barbara, but that all depends on how much she wants what she wants.

Damned If You Do- Ogden Barker, played by Otto Sanchez, points a gun at Gordon

Gordon does indeed head to a club to meet with Ogden Barker, played by Otto Sanchez, who refuses to pay his debt because that’s owed to Falcone, who isn’t in Gotham anymore.  Gordon manages to overpower Ogden’s bodyguards and get the money, but once he heads out into an alley, he’s then pursued by cops as well as Ogden’s men.

Damned If You Do- Jim shoots and kills Ogden Barker

Soon, Gordon winds up in a parking garage.  He’s almost in the clear, but Ogden fires at him.  Gordon fires back and manages to kill Ogden in the process.  Whoops.

Damned If You Do- Bruce prepares to make a bomb

So because a hammer couldn’t open the door, Bruce’s next step is to gather fertilizer to make a bomb.  Alfred, naturally, is against this ugly plan, but hey, Bruce has read a book on bomb-making.  A book.  Alfred warns Bruce that he may not be ready to find out what’s behind that door or what his father may have been up to, but Bruce continues anyway.  And Alfred goes along with the plan anyway.

Damned If You Do- Jim returns Ogden Barker's debt to Penguin

Gordon turns over Ogden’s debt to Penguin, who might have known that Ogden would react the way that he did.

Damned If You Do- Jim receives a surprise call from Barbara

Later, Leslie senses that something is off with Gordon, who receives a phone call from, who else, Barbara.  It certainly took no time to get a telephone into Arkham.  She can’t stand being at Arkham and tells Jim that this is all one big mistake.  She never told Leslie that she killed her parents.  Hell, Leslie is the one who attacked her first!

Jim hangs up, telling Leslie that it was just a sales call, but then Barbara calls Leslie’s landline phone, because Leslie might be one of the few people who still has one.  Anyway, she leaves a threatening voice mail.  Leslie is worried, though Gordon assures her that Barbara can do no harm while locked away at Arkham.  They can’t let some crazy drive them out.  But why not?  Because of Gordon’s pride?  What’s keeping them there?  Well, Gordon’s bad thing, for one.

Damned If You Do- Loeb receives a surprise visit from Penguin and Zsasz

Commissioner Loeb hears some clattering at his residence and heads to the kitchen to investigate.  It’s here that he’s confronted by both Zsasz and Penguin.  Penguin just wants some peanut butter, but it’s always about more than the peanut butter, isn’t it?  Loeb can’t get help from his guards since Zsasz has killed them, which is a bit of a setback.

Penguin shares his dilemma and how he needs Loeb’s help, but this will be a challenge.  With most people, Penguin can find a weak spot and use violence or blackmail to persuade them to doing his bidding.  Loeb, though, has no vices.  The only rational option would be to kill Loeb, which Zsasz very much wants to do.  When Loeb agrees to reinstate Jim as a detective, Oswald senses that it’s not sincere since Loeb could turn at any moment.

Damned If You Do- Theo Galavan, played by James Frain, speaks about Gotham and Loeb

Following this, we cut to a ceremony that is also Loeb’s farewell.  Who gives the address?  The new Chairman of Development at the Gotham Chamber of Commerce: Theo Galavan, played by James Frain.  Galavan is new to Gotham, but he loves the city.  It grabs a hold of you.  When Loeb takes the stage, he gives his best wishes to the new Commissioner, Sarah Essen.

Damned If You Do- Zaardon introduces himself to the inmates at Gotham

At Arkham, Zaardon arrives to little fanfare, even when he demands the inmates surrender their souls or feast on pain.  He coughs up smoke again, knocking out the inmates.

Damned IF You Do- Breaking into Arkham Asylum

At the same time, a woman and two others blow into Arkham and kill some guards in the process.

Damned If You Do- Commissioner Essen congratulates Jim

Back at the ceremony, Commissioner Essen gives Jim his badge.  She has no idea how he pulled this off, but she’s glad.  It’s a new day in Gotham.  Leslie hopes that whatever Jim did was worth all this.  Essen soon learns that there’s been an incident at Arkham and six inmates, Barbara included, have been freed.

Damned If You Do- Theo Galavan greets the inmates

The inmates are brought before Theo Galavan and the woman who freed them, his sister Tabitha, played by Jessica Lucas.  Today, Galavan says, is the first day of a wonderful future.  The world sees these people as criminal lunatics, but he sees brilliance, charisma, power.  Imagine a world where inmates are picked for their ability and work as a team.  Gotham would tremble before them.

Barbara points out that she’s not an outlaw- she just as issues.  You know, like poor writing and characterization.  But Theo sees ferocity and beauty in her, and that’s enough.

Damned If You Do- Richard Sionis isn't on board with Theo's plan

Richard Sionis, though, isn’t on board with this team since he’s not one to take orders.  That and he’s got the hots for Barbara.  He can pay Galavan as soon as he’s back on the streets, but Theo isn’t interested in money or sexual jealousy.

Damned If You Do- Tabitha, played by Jessica Lucas, kills Richard Sionis

So Tabitha kills him.

Damned If You Do- Bruce finds a letter from his father

Alfred and Bruce manage to blow open the door with their makeshift bomb and enter the hidden cave.  On a decrepit work station sits a note to Bruce from Thomas Wayne.  First off, the code to the door was “BRUCE.”  My guess was “PEG.”  This hidden place exists because of Bruce.  The last few weeks up until Thomas wrote this letter were mortal.  Thomas has no idea what his son is like now, but he hopes that he becomes a good man.

He has a bit of advice: Bruce can’t have happiness and the truth.  He must choose.  He advises his son to choose happiness unless he feels a calling…a true calling.

Damned If You Do- Inmates watch Sionis killed

So, Season Two gets off to a bit of a quicker start than last year and I appreciate that.  There are problems, no doubt, but this episode looks like it wants to kick things off with a bang and capitalize on this “Rise of the Villains” storyline.

There at least appears to have been some consequence due to the end of last season.  With Falcone, Fish, and Maroni gone, Penguin is left to rule the crime world, though no word on his club yet.  The work seems to have driven Bullock into a simpler life, which is a nice change of pace because he’s happy with where he is.  It makes me wonder whether this will be a permanent progression of his character arc or if the show will try and return things to the status quo.

Damned If You Do- Bullock running a bar

As is, I like the idea of Bullock turning in his badge and gun, even though there are probably plenty of times where he could have done so before this.  And he’s still able to be Jim’s voice of reason, a twist on their relationship, but also following up on Bullock’s words that doing favors for criminals can just lead to trouble.

Damned If You Do- New day for Jim

Which makes me wonder whether Gordon has learned anything at all.  He’s been down this road many times before: when you make a deal with Penguin, you’re going to get your hands dirty.  This is Gordon still early in his journey and while he wants to clean Gotham up, I’ll give the writers credit for not making him a 100 percent idealist.  He had Delaware at his mercy last season and now he’s committed murder.

In self-defense, sure, but with Gordon crossing this line, he’s once again indebted to Penguin while trying to cover up his less than legal actions.

Damned If You Do- Gordon still plans to break Loeb

But at the very least I’m glad that, for the most part, we’re not retreading familiar territory with the Gordon versus Loeb storyline.  I mean, there’s still the matter of Miriam, so I assume Gordon still has leverage there, but instead of just reminding Loeb of that, he relies on Penguin.  I don’t have as much of an issue with this as I could because Penguin’s influence stretches far and I could believe he could get Loeb to resign.  So at least this Gordon/Loeb dynamic hopefully won’t stretch out again.

Penguin's Umbrella- Gordon introduces Bruce to Montoya and Allen

Plus, didn’t Gordon hand the Wayne murder investigation over to Montoya and Allen? So why is he apologizing to Bruce?

Damned If You Do- Barbara in Arkham

Now onto the rogues.  Again, it’s fine that Gotham wants to get things moving fast, but I wouldn’t have minded seeing more time spent in Arkham, especially since Barbara just got there.  Again, how she’s able to be in the same space as the men is one thing, but I’m guessing Arkham Asylum doesn’t have any money in their budget for separate gender wings.

Damned If You Do- Barbara has issues

While I’m still not a fan of Barbara as a character, I’ll say that crazy Barbara is a bit  more bearable than dull Barbara.  It’s a minor step forward, because I suppose if the writers couldn’t make her a believable partner for Gordon, the only logical step was to make her insane.  I’d hardly call this a character progression so much as just a way to keep her around.

Damned If You Do- James Frain

As for Theo Galavan’s master plan, it’s interesting that he chose these six to join his quest, given that we know some of them already.  I mean, what would make him want this group?  Unless he’s been keeping tabs on them, I don’t see why they would stick out from any other inmates.  James Frain is fine in his debut.  The man’s been on a roll so far this year, coming off two very good performances in Orphan Black and True Detective, so I’m interested to see how he’ll do on Gotham.

Damned If You Do- Todd Stashwick reprises his role as Richard Sionis, Black Mask

I was a bit disappointed that Todd Stashwick reprised his role as Richard Sionis, but he’s killed off in the premiere.  I mean, yeah, Black Mask wasn’t the best of villains on Gotham, but if you’re gonna bring him back, do something with him.  Otherwise, this could have just been anyone.

Damned If You Do- Jerome explains Arkham to Barbara

Cameron Monaghan is back and laughing it up as Jerome/Not-Joker.  Would much prefer that Gotham just give us a definitive answer, rather than playing games and saying that the Joker can be idea instead of a person.  Whatever.  At least he brings some energy to the role.

Damned If You Do- Selina working for Penguin

I don’t have anything to say about Selina, really.  She’s just here at this point.  I don’t know why she would work for Penguin, but I guess if she wants to work her way up, she needs to latch onto the next leader since Fish is gone.  At least this way, maybe we won’t get any more forced adventures with her and Ivy.  Yet.  And her haircut isn’t as goofy as it was at the end of the first season, so there’s that.

“Damned If You Do” is definitely a much stronger start than the series premiere, in my opinion.  The stakes look to be much larger than last year with this not-Secret Society of villains and with Gotham touting this as the big thing this year, hopefully there’s some great payoff.

We’re retreading familiar territory with some things like Gordon not expecting major consequences of dealing with Penguin and the tone, while not as unbalanced as the first season, could still use some work.  I’m looking at that shaky-cam escape sequence.  Plus, the use of Perfect Day was reminiscent of Oswald returning to a corrupt-filled Gotham and just being glad to be home.  It’s meant to be ironic, but it’s a bit too obvious.

Again, I want to like Gotham.  The first season was a hodgepodge of trying to learn what it wanted to be and how to balance the silly from the serious.  This premiere still has its camp elements, but focuses a bit more on the serious side.  How that will fare for the rest of the season remains to be seen, but at the very least, I’m interested.  Not the highest praise I can give Gotham, but there you go.

A Look at “Masters of Sex” Season 3, Episode 11: “Party of Four”

Well, a somewhat focused story. After episodes of dealing with multiple plots, this week’s “Party of Four” condenses things down to a mere two storylines.  That’s good that we’re more focused, but bad in that some of the characters go through motions we’ve seen them experience before.  Let’s dive right in.

Party of Four- Colette, played by Carly Waldman, offers to check in Bill and Virginia's coats

The episode begins with Bill and Virginia arriving at a fancy restaurant that, according to Betty, was given a four star rating by The New York Times.  Indeed, very fancy.  But it’s also hard to get a reservation.  Bill feels that tonight is a time to celebrate, even though Virginia says that Bill monopolized their prior meeting.  Bill checks his coat in to the clerk, Colette, played by Carly Waldman, but Virginia holds onto hers.

Meanwhile, Bill’s reservation is nowhere to be seen.  In addition, Virginia is surprised to learn that this dinner is for four, not two, as Bill invited Dan and his wife, Alice.  That shouldn’t be a problem for Virginia.

Party of Four- Johnny and Jenny watch television

Over in St. Louis, Paul plays a bit of grab-ass with Libby, but she won’t have that while the kids are still awake.  Paul, putting on his football coach persona, orders Jenny and Johnny to bed, but the kids don’t make a move. They do respond to Libby’s order that they head to sleep in 10 minutes.

Party of Four- Bill checks for the reservation

Back at the restaurant, Virginia is livid that Bill did not fill her in about this being a four person dinner.  Maybe Bill told Betty about this, not Virginia.  He asks if he’s listed under the name Mosher instead, but then the real Moshers arrive.  So why are Dan and his wife coming?  After all, Bill barely talked with Dan and didn’t even like his scent work.  Bill admits that he’s been unfair and how he felt threatened by Dan’s presence.  He was taking Virginia’s time, but also opened his checkbook, so Bill and Virginia have a book contract.

Hence, this dinner is meant to show Bill and Virginia’s appreciation.  Virginia is surprised, but doesn’t find it awkward that Bill invited Dan’s wife.  She heads off to freshen up.

Party of Four- Daphne, played by Yvonnne Zima, offers Virginia some fragrances

In the powder room, a bright young woman named Daphne, played by Yvonnne Zima, offers Virginia some fragrances.  Virginia turns her down, but ends up getting sprayed anyway.  Daphne is new at this.  The normal employee, Carol, slipped in the kitchen, knocking out two front teeth and giving herself a black eye in the process.  Must’ve been a hard floor.  But her employees told her to stay home and heal so it doesn’t look like her boyfriend beat her.

But the reason Virginia doesn’t want to be sprayed is because the man she’s seeing has an aversion to women wearing fragrances due to his sensitive nose.

Party of Four- Woman overhears what Virginia said about Dan

This reveal doesn’t escape the ears of a woman in a stall who was in need of some paper.  Who is she?  We’ll get to that in a second.

Party of Four- Dan tells Johnny that he doesn't like shots

Paul, who had been fixing some lights, is called by Johnny to help flatten a bug in his room.  But big, brave Johnny isn’t afraid of them.  He just doesn’t them.  That or thunder.  He hates thunder.  Maybe timpanists like thunder, but not Johnny.  Paul shares his own fears- he’s afraid of letting people see him when he’s scared of something.  For example, he closes his eyes and whistles when he gets a shot.  After a brief example, the two promise not to share each other’s secrets.

Party of Four- Dan meets Virginia at the restaurant

Dan finally arrives at the restaurant, an establishment he’s familiar with, as he invested in it years back.  He’s surprised to find Virginia there, as Betty made the arrangements and Dan’s secretary assumed that Alice was the other participant, so she called her to confirm.

Party of Four- Virginia meets Alice Logan, played by Judy Greer

And then Virginia finally gets a face-to-face introduction to Alice, played by the always lovely Judy Greer.  Alice knows that Dan thinks highly of her, as he talks about her nonstop.  A table finally becomes available.

Party of Four- Jacques, played by Jonathan Kells Phillips, sets up a table for the four

Unfortunately, as Jacques, played by Jonathan Kells Phillips, tells the four, it’s not nearly large enough to suit them, but they can accommodate.  Bill orders champagne.

Party of Four- Libby tells Paul that he can't fix everything in the house

Paul is still at work fixing things around the Masters’ household, though Libby tells him that he can’t fix everything since Bill will notice.  Paul doubts that.  He shares a fantasy that the kids will someday call him their father.  Howie, for example, has a thing with pronouncing his Ls.  Paul would eventually become Pa.  I suppose that’s how it works.

Party of Four- Bill toasts to Human Sexual Inadequacy

Though Alice isn’t a fan of the name, Bill leads a toast to Human Sexual Inadequacy, which happens to be the title of the next book.  Sure, it’s a hard sell, but Bill just upped the ante by deviating off-script for a bit, while Virginia again says he hijacked the meet altogether.  How’s that?  There’s going to be a chapter in the book related to the surrogate program, which he revived and committed to after Little Brown seemed disinclined to move forward.

Virginia still isn’t a fan of the program or Bill’s approach.  The last time they were short hard evidence that would yield results- the impotency study- Bill argued that it was wrong to promote it.  Alice, noting the chemistry between the two, asks if they’re married.

Dan then turns it on Bill: why isn’t his wife present?  Well, they have three kids, and Bill cares about them so much that he doesn’t have photos of them.  But then, Alice points out that Dan doesn’t bring her on trips, either.  Her theory is that with more women working, it’s easier for a man to work unencumbered by a wedding ring.  Dan thinks that Bill’s approach is to tease what he probably can’t provide.

Party of Four- Alice speaks about Dan's past flings

Alice thinks of Dan’s past flings, starting with a linen heiress in Dallas whom Dan sold her on the idea of having lavender sachets in your seet shets…ahem, sheet sets.  Alice has had a few drinks, if you haven’t noticed.  Bill leads another toast- this time to Dan’s financial support, as the advance will cover operational costs moving forward.  This means Dan can be repaid in full and be given a significant return on his investment.  The journey has ended.

Of course, this surprises Virginia and Dan, who saw this as a partnership.  Bill needs clarification on the partnership involving lubricants- I mean, lotions.  This prompts another memory from Alice, particularly a company in Seattle where Dan helped with a lotion line and worked for months with a darling Japanese chemist.

Virginia interrupts the toast to remind Bill that while he might not have been a fan of Dan’s work, she has given him latitude to do things that interested him.  Alice, though, likes some of the scents, but Dan objects to her wearing any fragrances.  He has this…what’s the word?  Aversion.  Yeah, Dan has an aversion to scents.

Dan sees what’s at play here: Bill planned this dinner before he knew how the publisher meeting would go.  But then, a good outcome was assured since the last book sold well.  And yet, Bill was probably prepared to offer the surrogacy study over Virginia’s objections just to get the publisher on board to celebrate.  And after that, there’d be no more Dan Logan.  Virginia heads off in a huff.

Party of Four- Libby goes over her farewell conversation to Bill

Libby goes over her farewell speech to Bill.  Paul advises her to be honest and direct, but the problem is that Libby isn’t sure yet what she wants.  A separation?  Divorce?  Would Bill ask why?  She doesn’t want him to know it’s because of Paul, even though she’s had plenty of reasons to leave.  Libby hasn’t had the courage to say anything yet.  She thinks Bill may be shocked and angry, but won’t yell.  Libby’s fear is that Bill might not care.  Hell, he might even be relieved.

Party of Four- Detective David Asher, played by Maury Sterling, needs to ask Johnny some questions

Then Libby receives an unexpected surprise when she receives a visit from Detective David Asher, played by Maury Sterling.  He asks for Bill, but he also needs to ask Johnny some questions.  As Paul is not family, Detective Asher asks him to leave.

Party of Four- Bill and Virginia argue in the coat room about Virginia's personal business

Bill and Virginia’s argument continues all the way to the coat room.  He apologizes, but he needed Virginia to see for herself that she’s just Dan’s most recent affair.  Even still, Virginia maintains that it’s her business what she chooses to do outside of work.  Bill counters that this became his business when Virginia came up with a research program designed to keep Dan in her life.  Even still, Bill cut Virginia out for an entire year the last time she admitted having a lover.

Party of Four- Detective Asher speaks with Johnny about Bill and Dennis

Detective Asher asks Johnny what his father does for a living, and he specifically wants to hear Johnny, not Libby, say it.  Johnny’s response is that his father teaches people how to make babies and help their parts fit.  Has Bill ever shown Johnny how his body works?  No?  Well, what about his friends?  Johnny also says no…in regards to his friends.  His memory is hazy.

So Asher recalls an incident from a few weeks back where Martha Geiss and Olivia Lambert heard Johnny say that his father showed Dennis how to fix his penis.  Johnny admits that he said it, but only because he was angry and hates Dennis.  Johnny rejects Libby’s claim that Bill loves him since he spends much more time with Dennis.

It’s only when Asher asks Johnny if he ever saw any physical activity that Libby cuts off this interrogation and sends Johnny to his room.  Asher tells her that Dennis confirmed with his mother that Bill showed him photos of a naked man without his parent’s permission.  And under what circumstances would it be appropriate for an adult to show explicit sexual images to a minor?  Libby maintains that Bill would never hurt a child.  Asher leaves, but he’ll be back.

Party of Four- Dan and Alice talk, Alice threatens to make a scene

Dan is ready to leave, but Alice wants to stay and threatens to make a scene.  Please don’t make a scene, Judy Greer.  She asks if Dan is sorry, since he apparently feels the need to rub Virginia in Alice’s face.  After all, that’s not a good way to meet your husband’s mistress, but Dan claims that he never denied being with any of his past flings.  Alice can’t claim it’s unfair when she proposed this arrangement, but she didn’t have a choice other than looking the other way.

But Dan maintains that Alice’s behavior leaves him no choice, what with her constant drinking and threats to hurt herself.  But Alice isn’t stupid.  She knows that Dan likes fixing her, as he likes fixing other women as well.  But Virginia?  She’s not broken, though Alice thinks otherwise.  Dan at least said he loves Virginia, while he hasn’t expressed such emotions for Alice.

Party of Four- Bill and Virginia are still arguing in the coat check room

Bill and Virginia are still arguing in the coat check.  Why they haven’t relocated their argument is something I don’t understand.  Virginia demands to know what kind of partnership can the two have if Bill just marginalizes her every time she upsets him.  A fair question.  Bill doesn’t believe that Virginia can be happy with Dan.  Yes, he concedes that she’s entitled to a life outside of work, but she doesn’t want one.

Virginia recognizes this as the same argument Bill used when she was in labor- ambivalence was her problem.  She thought Bill meant it, but now sees that this argument only helps him.

Party of Four- Alice wants to know why Dan loves Virginia

So why does Dan love Virginia?  Well, Dan likes that her life doesn’t start when he arrives or stop when he leaves.  Dan needs a partner, not a project, like Alice believes is how he sees her.  And Alice can make Dan laugh like Virginia does, but it’s not enough to make up for past sins.

Party of Four- Bill knows that Virginia loves the thrill of work

Bill stands his ground.  In his eyes, Virginia needed permission to stop hating herself.  She’s unconventional, but is still her mother’s daughter.  A relationship will never satisfy her the way work does because at least that gives much more purpose than a man.  Being shackled down to a man would be a waste of what she can offer.  Virginia leaves the coat room- at last- just as she spots Alice rushing to the bathroom.  See, too much wine will do that to you.

Party of Four- Johnny worries whether he got his father in trouble

Johnny wonders whether his father is in trouble because of what he said.  Libby says that the problem is just how people will interpret his words.  Even still, Johnny worries that this will give Bill yet another reason to hate him.  After all, Libby is always telling Bill to spend time with his son instead of just letting the bond develop on its own, which Bill won’t do.

Libby shares a secret with Johnny: she thinks Bill is afraid to show how much he loves Johnny.  He was afraid to hold him as a baby because he’s afraid to love something he might hurt.  In Libby’s mind, Bill doesn’t want to pass on what he doesn’t like about himself, like his own father, who didn’t care about being a good parent and often took out his anger on young Bill.  Even worse, the two never made up their spat.  Johnny hoped that things would be better.

Party of Four- Alice knows that Virginia is being played

In the ladies room, Alice is done evacuating and joins Virginia.  Daphne offers some mouthwash, but Eau de Toilet probably isn’t the best of options.  You know, I would love a spin-off with nothing but Daphne’s misadventures in the ladies’ room.  Anyway,  Alice laments the fact that she and Virginia could have been friends.  She’s wise to Dan and Virginia’s affair and won’t stand for Virginia playing dumb.  Alice tells Virginia to enjoy Dan while she can.  All of his flings think they’re different.  Dan is a gentleman, yes, but when he shows up at your door saying he want to spend his life with you, in that moment, he’ll think he means it.

Party of Four- Libby smokes while talking with Paul about the investigation into Bill

Libby Draper smokes while telling Paul about her talk with Johnny.  Though no charges have been filed, Paul wants more information on what Johnny may have said.  Bill’s work and lack of judgment have made him vulnerable, Paul says.  But Libby knows Bill…and she also knows that he’s had this other woman for over a year.  Even still, Libby still believes that Bill would not hurt a child.

Paul thought his home life went well, too, only to learn that Joy planned on leaving him.  You think you know someone until you don’t.  Libby second guesses walking away since she’s protecting her children from the impression that Bill is a monster.  If she leaves, that’s what she’s saying and there’s no taking that back.  But, Paul says, leaving Bill says that Libby is better off without him.  Bill is a bad husband, no doubt, but there’s little reason to take the kids away from him, even if Paul would be a better father.  Libby fears that leaving Bill would start Johnny down a cycle where he’d become as distant as his father.

So Libby could stay, but is this what to do now?  Or forever?

Party of Four- Bill and Dan face off

Bill and Dan face off, Dan asking Bill if he expected things to go the way they did.  They have, even though Virginia stormed off, though Alice leaving is Dan’s fault.  Dan calls Bill misguided if he thinks that alienating Virginia is how to win her back.  But Bill isn’t worried.  He knows it’s inevitable that Virginia will leave Dan because that’s what she does.  After all, she did the same thing to Ethan Haas way back when.

Sure, Bill asked her to marry him, but more as a sort of intellectual partnership with both of their names on the study symbolizing the vow.  This is how they think of themselves.  Granted, that was 10 years ago, but Bill is planning to put Virginia’s name next to his on their new book to renew their vows.

Party of Four- Dan listens to Bill talk about his vows to Virginia

What if it’s too late?  Well, Bill says that when a train is pulling out of a station and you’re not on it, you run twice as fast and hard to make sure it doesn’t leave without you.  Dan figures Bill must be a chess expert with all this plotting and planning, but there’s an easier way to get what he wants: tell Virginia how he feels about her.  Did that ever occur to Bill?  It did to Dan.  And that is checkmate.  And that is also when Bill receives an emergency phone call.

Party of Four- Bill tells Virginia that he needs to get home

Dan and Alice leave, while Bill informs Virginia that Betty called because Libby has been trying to track him down.  Something happened at home that needs his attention, so much so that Betty booked him on a flight that leaves in 90 minutes.  He advises Virginia to stay since their luggage is in the hotel anyway.  He prepares to say something, but Virginia says that now isn’t the time.

Party of Four- Virginia enjoys dinner on her own

Well, at least Virginia gets to enjoy dinner on her own.  She even checks in her coat.

Party of Four- Dan wants to spend the rest of his life with Virginia

But later that evening, in the hotel room, she receives a knock at the door and is surprised to find Dan there with a suitcase in tow.  He tells her that he’s left Alice, but also that he wants to spend the rest of his life with her.  He means it.

Huh.  That wasn’t too bad.  This season has had its share of issues with side stories and while I’m fine with some more than others, they’ve felt a tad distracting.  “Party of Four” had the advantage of being a mostly contained story.  We were either in New York at the dinner party or Paul and Libby in St. Louis.  And that’s fine because the characters are given more screen time to grow instead of being balanced along two or three other separate storylines.

Party of Four- Alice used to make Dan laugh

Few, if any, of the couples on Masters of Sex are 100 percent functional, and that’s made very clear here with the official introduction of Alice who, like Libby is a wife that’s just going through the motions of her husband’s extramarital affairs.  Unlike Libby, she’s been wise to his infidelity the entire time.  It was established earlier this season that Dan had affairs during the war, yet his wife remained with him, but much wiser.

Party of Four- Libby to Paul, you can't fix everything

If your home life isn’t working the way you want it, you can’t expect all problems to be fixed with a replacement, or even a surrogate.  When Libby tells this to Paul while he’s fixing pipes, I got the impression she was talking about more than just the plumbing.  Paul can’t just waltz in and become Bill’s replacement because, at the end of the day, he didn’t father Libby’s children.

Party of Four- Paul and Johnny swap secrets

Sure, he has a better connection with Johnny than Bill and I do like the optimism in his eyes when he imagines the kids calling him their father, but this is a process that can’t be solved overnight.  Few marriages can.  Hell, if they could be, Bill and Virginia would lose a slice of their market.

Bonds have always been an important staple of this show, but here, the deep connections, for the most part, involve people outside of marriages, completely turning the idea of a typical, committed marriage on its head.

Party of Four- Libby ponders staying with Bill

In addition, this episode focused a lot of its time on choices: do we choose to force ourselves to be happy?  What will one person do to keep someone they love at their side?  What is the best way to deal with a cheating lover?  Leave or stay by their side?  And what is it that drives us to find that special someone?  Just for the sake of having a partner or because we want something out of it?

Party of Four- Bill says that Virginia isn't one to be shackled down by a husband or domestic life

In Bill’s case, he doesn’t see that as a viable future for Virginia.  Sure, Bill may be attracted to Virginia in a physical way, but from the start, he’s been more impressed with her intellect.  Unlike Betty, who did want to get married for stability, Virginia has always been drawn to her work.  It’s what made her into the expert she is today but, at the same time, also drawn a wedge between her and Tessa, who is thankfully nowhere to be seen this week.

Party of Four- Virginia reacts to Bill saying that she won't be happy with Dan

And while Virginia is miffed at Bill’s quite underhanded and snakelike tactics at slithering into every aspect of her life, I imagine she agrees with him to an extent: she does get a thrill out of the work and is much more than her mother’s daughter.  A home life would bore her because she’s too smart to just be a housewife.

But she has every right to be angry at Bill for undermining her every move.  That’s a good and bad thing for this episode.  The good is that she gets a chance to tell off Bill, but that’s part of the issue.  Most of what Virginia does in this episode is react.  Whether it’s Bill pulling fast ones, Daphne spraying her with perfume, or Dan and Alicia’s observations, Virginia is just here to respond to actions.  Aside from storming out on Bill, which she’s done before, she’s not very proactive.

Party of Four- Virginia reminds Bill when he wanted to hold off on presenting information

She has her moments, though.  She isn’t passively letting Bill walk all over here.  Virginia is great at throwing Bill’s arrogance back at him and pointing out the double standard of pushing forward with the surrogacy program, despite its issues, but holding off on the impotency study because they didn’t have enough hard data.  I just wish she’d had more to do than just be angry and react to things happening around her, but that’s not Lizzy Caplan’s fault.  The script here doesn’t let her do much else.

Party of Four- Virginia listens to Alice talk about Dan's past affairs

Virginia is like a trophy.  She’s the object of both Bill and Dan’s desires and she’s trotted around Alice this week to show why she’s so desirable.  But again, she’s just here to be shown, not to act.

Party of Four- Bill the chess player

That’s because Bill is always thinking steps ahead of her and everyone else around him, adding credence to Dan’s line about him possibly being a great chess player.  Even if things don’t end up going 100 percent the way he had hoped, Bill has pre-thought out almost every possible angle of a situation.  It’s like looking into the mind of a sociopath.  Bill has taken so many steps to ensure Virginia remains within grabbing distance.

He has feelings for her, but like Virginia said, most of what he does is to benefit him.  He pushed Virginia away when she first found a different partner and now he’s still overstepping their boundaries by continuing to push the surrogacy program, despite admitting that it had problems.  Like Virginia coming up with another component to the scent test, it’s another way for Bill to keep her around like she wants with Dan.

Party of Four- Dan figures Bill must be good at chess

Though there are holes in his plan, I did enjoy the standoff between Bill and Dan near the end of the episode.  Both men know what the other wants and they both have something that the other lacks: Bill is the more intellectual of the two, but Dan is more in touch with his emotions.

That’s why he’s quick to point out that for all of Bill’s smarts, he can’t just be direct and tell Virginia how he feels.  And when he does, he either comes off as nervous and unprepared or tries to explain himself through science.

Manhigh- Bill at Virginia's door

Now, there are exceptions to this.  Bill showing up at Virginia’s doorstep at the end of the first season and declaring that he can’t live without her came off as genuine and showed that he cares for her as a person as much as he does her mind.

Party of Four- Dan means it this time

Then you have that scene mirrored here with Dan telling Virginia that he wants to spend the rest of his life with her and it doesn’t feel as honest, but that’s because we’ve been told about this from Alice.  Again, we’ve been told that Dan has had affairs in the past, but not to the extent that we learned here.  So while Virginia may think herself a special case, as Alice reminds her, she’s just one more woman in a long list of flings.

Party of Four- Judy Greer as Alice

Speaking on Alice for a second, I’d like to say that Judy Greer is excellent in the role.  She’s great at showing such emotion when she and Dan talk about how Alice has continued on a downward spiral, but the two look to be locked in battle forever.  For every time that Alice stumbles, Dan is there to pick her up, but as indicated when she says that she used to make him laugh, the spark that once lit their relationship has extinguished.

Parallax- Elise storms in and demands to know where Austin is hiding

She’s like Elise, in a way.  She’s aware of her husband’s infidelity, but remains by his side anyway.  The difference is that Elise eventually got the courage to leave Austin and take the kids with her, but Alice is stuck in her situation.  At the same time, she’s not a moron and I like how she doesn’t hold back when calling out Dan’s past flings or how she’s not fooled by Virginia trying to play dumb.

Party of Four- Alice the project

She’s a character I’d like to see return and Judy Greer is great at playing a less-than-perfect wife with an equally less-than-perfect husband, but the two try to stick it out together, despite their situation.



Party of Four- Libby and Johnny

Anyway, over to Paul and Libby.  Libby gets a bit more to do than Virginia instead of just reacting, but it’s also just preparing for what will happen when she breaks the news to Bill.  I don’t fully understand why she’s worried about his reaction since she was quick to accept Paul’s proposal without giving it much thought.  She was overjoyed to have one foot out the door, so Bill’s reaction shouldn’t matter much.  After all, she got confirmation on her birthday that Bill figured she would be happy without him, so no need to speculate on how he’d feel about separation.  Though she’s right that he might not react much at all to it.

Party of Four- Libby wonders how Bill will react to her wanting to leave

She admits that she has every reason to be angry at Bill, but unlike Elise, Libby hasn’t done much about it.  I bring Elise up again because she has the courage that women like Libby and Alice lack.  She had the courage to get out of a loveless marriage when she had the chance instead of just remaining stuck forever.  It wasn’t about how the kids would take it.  It was just about Elise being fed up past the point of no return.

Party of Four- Libby fears that Johnny could become like BIll

Libby still isn’t at that point because she’s of two minds about leaving Bill.  At the very least, she does try to explain to Johnny why he comes off as so cold.  She doesn’t want Johnny to walk down the same angry path that Bill walks right now where he can’t connect to the people closest to him.  She knows Johnny has every right to be upset at his father, but she also knows about Bill’s abusive past and why he shuts himself off to the world.

Instead of taking a stand on most issues, Libby remains stuck in the middle.  She refuses to believe that Bill would harm Dennis and to her credit, she’s right.

Party of Four- Detective Asher asks Libby when it would be appropriate for a grown man to show explicit sexual images to a minor

I have a problem with this investigation curveball.  Yeah, it’s nice to see that there were repercussions to Johnny’s strong words, but I question whether two girls repeating something they heard on the school yard would eventually lead to an investigation, particularly for the 1960s.  Bill and Virginia’s study is still considered smut and indecent by some, but the idea that Bill could be a pedophile is a bit much.  It just seems like easy drama to create when chances are this season won’t end with Bill being carted off to prison for indecency.

High Anxiety- Bill discusses nocturnal emissions with Dennis

Furthermore, neither Libby nor Detective Asher have the full story.  Dennis is the one who first sought Bill’s help.  Bill, being a doctor, wouldn’t have a reason to turn him away just because of his age.  So while it’s true that Bill showed explicit images to a minor, I’m curious whether Dennis just didn’t mention why he needed Bill’s advice in the first place.

So I’m not sure what will come of this.  Libby could still end up leaving because honestly, at this point, she’s acknowledged multiple times that there’s nothing left for her.  To hold on by a thread for the children’s sake is a bit ridiculous because Johnny and Jenny already don’t have a solid bond with Bill anyway.  Let them continue to grow up with a father figure that will spend time with them.

“Party of Four” is mixed for me.  The dinner scenes, particularly the standoff between Bill and Dan, as well as Alice and Virginia, are well done and feature some great performance from the four actors.  Where it suffers is with characters like Libby and Virginia going down roads we’ve already seen them travel instead of progressing.  Judy Greer’s appearance is a welcome one and it’s one I wouldn’t mind seeing again.  As we head into the season finale, though, Bill is in deep trouble.  Where will it all end? We’ll find out next time in the season finale.

A Look at “Masters of Sex” Season 3, Episode 10: “Through a Glass, Darkly”

“Through a Glass, Darkly.”  Good, not great.  The performances are great, but some plot points I’ve got some problems with because they aren’t as developed as well as they could have been, in my opinion.  Let’s jump right in.

Through a Glass, Darkly- Bill goes after Virginia, spots man instead

The episode begins with Bill pulling into a parking garage and spotting Virginia not too far off from him.  He calls out to her, but gets no response.  A man approaches Bill and tells him that if he can’t control himself, how can he expect to control Virginia?  He needs to flatter her and set a trap that she’ll walk into, like always.  The man then vanishes.

Through a Glass, Darkly- Virginia and Dan talk before starting the day

As Virginia prepares to head into work, Dan plans to do some sightseeing in St. Louis which, in his mind, is becoming the Paris on the Mississippi.  To Dan’s surprise, Virginia is ready to begin the next phase of the scent research: testing scented lotions in sensate therapy.  Dan gets right to the heart of the matter- he doesn’t see why the two of them need to tiptoe around Bill by doing fake work, as they’ve done for two weeks.

But Virginia’s justification for this is that she and Bill are about to head to Little Brown to present their initial research for their second book.  If Bill found out about this other fling, Virginia fears that she’ll be kicked out of the project.  Dan calls Bill a child, saying he’s one to take his toys away if he doesn’t get what he wants.  Once the book is signed off, Virginia tells Dan that she’ll reassess.  Dan agrees, for the moment.

Through a Glass, Darkly- Virginia finds Dan talking to Mr. and Mrs. Carson

Virginia enters the building and finds Ronald speaking with Mr. and Mrs. Carson.  Ronald claims that he’s just here to get his typewriter fixed, but he’s got a few choice words for Virginia: he feels sorry for her.  She’s been brainwashed by Bill Masters and isn’t the same woman she once was, and Ronald, of course, knows her well enough to make that judgment.

Through a Glass, Darkly- Bill discusses Virginia's problems with the surrogacy program

Upstairs, Bill approaches Virginia with some thoughts on her reservations about the surrogate program.  He believes that she had valid concerns that he just dismissed without giving them proper attention.  The results are not what Bill had hoped for and he’s ready to end it, but consider: all past projects in the study have involved both a male and female point of view.

Bill needs Virginia’s perspective and honest evaluation, which she can only offer if she participates.  Virginia agrees, and she can start right now with Lester’s session.

Through a Glass, Darkly- Lester caresses Lois Weiland, played by Sascha Alexander

Lester’s new mate of the day is a woman named Lois Weiland, played by Sascha Alexander, who does not like the term ‘vagina’ which Lester refers to it as when he tries to touch it.  Nah.  Lois prefers the term ‘kitty.’  Sure.  I’ve never heard of it referred to as such, but let’s go with it.

Through a Glass, Darkly- Bill and Virginia observe Lester and Lois

On the other side, Virginia learns that there’s only been minimal improvement in dyspareunia, with only a little bit of increase in vaginal lubrication during sensate therapy.

Lois notices a scar on Lester’s forehead- a scar he received when he stabbed himself in the head with a compass in high school therapy.  Lois veers way off topic by inviting Lester to her nephew’s Bar Mitzvah this Saturday, but Lester already has a Bar Mitzvah to attend: his grandmother’s.

Through a Glass, Darkly- Debrief between Bill, Virginia, and Lester

Okay, that’s enough.  Lester’s inaccuracy of other religions besides Catholicism aside, Bill and Virginia try to get to the root of the problem.  Lester doesn’t see any issue since he stuck to the protocol.  And he’s been doing his research.  He read an article about finches in the Galapagos that pick their mate by finding a male that builds the best nest.  His conclusion?  Females are hardwired to want a provider, not someone to fix their dysfunction.

Virginia doesn’t see the direct comparison.  The study shows that women can see sex in purely physical terms, just as men can.  Bill sends Lester out so he and Virginia can discuss this on their own.  To Virginia’s surprise, Bill agrees with her.  The problem is the protocol, or rather, lack of protocol for male surrogates to use.  There needs to be a protocol for manual stimulation.

Virginia suggests observing more cases, but Bill says they could just solve it themselves the way they always have: testing it on themselves.  After all, they’ve done it before, so why not now?  Plus, they’ve always put the patients first.  Though Virginia wants to focus on the book, she agrees to the self-examination.

Through a Glass, Darkly- Libby and Paul kiss in the shower

Libby attempts to join Paul in the shower, but he has to get ready for an all-faculty meeting.  Though Libby has already paid the babysitter for the day, Paul suggests that she enjoy the time off…and if she gets bored, she can run some errands for Paul.

Through a Glass, Darkly- Barton and Jonathan do work and make plans

In their own little corner, Barton prepares for the next appointment when Jonathan asks if he has plans for tonight.  Why?  Jonathan has an extra ticket to see Parsifal after his friend canceled.  Barton needs to draft his remarks for a panel on Saturday, but says he can do that tomorrow.  Realizing that Jonathan won’t take ‘No’ for an answer, Barton agrees.

Through a Glass, Darkly- Dan catches Tessa and Matt

Tessa brings Matt by her house for some drinking and loving, but they’re interrupted by the arrival of Dan, who came to discuss work matters with Virginia.  Right.  Anyway, after discovering the two, he keeps them there until they all talk with Virginia.

Through a Glass, Darkly- Sensate therapy with BIll and Virginia

Unfortunately, Virginia is too busy testing sensate therapy with Bill, who begins to place his hand on her pubis.  After a bit of fingering around, Virginia sees the problem: when the woman opens her eyes, she’s aware of the other person and their needs.  Eye contact is the issue.

Virginia concludes that for a woman to focus on healing herself, she needs to be free of a man’s expectations.  So the suggestion is to have the man sit behind the woman and wrap his arms around her.  Virginia feels a natural change, but Bill takes it further.  What if the woman guided the man’s hands to show what feels good?

Through a Glass, Darkly- Dan speaks with Matt about Tessa

So yeah, Virginia is a bit occupied at the moment.  Dan sends Tessa to grab some sodas so he can talk to Matt on his own.  If Matt has feelings for Tessa, he needs to think about how her feelings in the long run.

Through a Glass, Darkly- Virginia speaks with Tessa and Matt

When Virginia finally arrives, the four talk.  Matt and Tessa have apparently been together for five months.  As Tessa points out, Virginia hasn’t been around much to learn about this.  After all, they’ve only had seven meals and three school rides together.  Tessa is very meticulous in regards to her mother’s absence, I’ll give her that.

Virginia is still disappointed that her daughter lied and snuck around, and when Tessa says that she’s just as guilty of the same thing, Virginia’s mere defense is that she’s an adult.  That doesn’t make it right, Virginia.  Matt takes the blame for this, saying that his feelings for Tessa are unlike anything he’s felt for another girl.  He loves her.  Yeah, Matt, I’m sure your love for Tessa shined bright when you forced her to choke on your cock.  Bottom line: if Tessa and Matt are going to keep seeing each other, Virginia wants them to be safe.

Through a Glass, Darkly- Jenny and Johnny put on an early birthday performance for Libby

Paul arrives at home and finds that Libby managed to get the groceries.  Happy days are indeed here.  However, it turns out that Paul had a reason for Libby running errands: he brought the kids with him to present an early birthday gift they’ve been preparing.  Johnny and Jenny put on a performance about a Princes named Libby who sat in a tower for days and days.  One day, she tried to signal a boy who rode by on a horse.  I smell a lawsuit.

Through a Glass, Darkly- Virginia speaks to Tessa in her bedroom about sex

Back at House Johnson, Virginia pops by Tessa’s room.  Tessa feigns being asleep- even though her light is still on- but Virginia is just here to talk: she never intended to embarrass her like that.  Sex, the most intimate thing two people can do, is something that should be taken seriously.  Giving that part of you to another person is a sacred act.  Tessa should know her heart and be sure that Matt deserves her.

Through a Glass, Darkly- Barton and Jonathan discuss the performance

At a bar, Barton and Jonathan talk about the performance.  They’re joined by two of Jonathan’s friends: Cal and Arnold, played by Richardson Jones.  The two are pretty flamboyant, to say the least.  As Barton goes to get the three a drink, he overhears some other bar patrons don’t take too kindly to the pink ladies in the bar.  As a confrontation leads to a fight, Barton slips out of the building.

Through a Glass, Darkly- Bill presents his birthday gift to Libby

Next day at House Masters, Libby finds Bill staring outside.  He was tossing and turning all night and has now been thinking about his father, which he hasn’t done for 15 years, but has been doing for the past few weeks.  Bill, having thought about what Libby has done for him and the kids, decided to get her something special for her birthday.  He got her an itinerary for a trip to Chicago…a trip that she’ll be taking by herself.

Sounds odd, but Bill has his reasons: last time he and Libby went on vacation together, he ruined it and Libby sent her home.  Libby doesn’t see why Bill would think that she’d want to do those things alone, but Bill calls this a well-earned break away that she can enjoy without him.

Through a Glass, Darkly- Jonathan and Barton talk about the fight at the bar

At the office, a bruised Jonathan talks with Barton, who says that last night didn’t have to happen the way it did.  Barton is nothing like Jonathan’s fancy friends.  He’s fine with the company of men, as long as they aren’t ones that make it harder for other men.  People like Jonathan’s friends have to put on a show and giggle like girls instead of presenting themselves like men.

But Jonathan doesn’t see it that way.  Hell, this isn’t the first time he’s been kicked out of a bar and beaten.  He calls men like Barton weak.  Jonathan will finish out the day and then leave.

Through a Glass, Darkly- Dan tells Virginia that he knows about her sleeping with Bill

Elsewhere in the office, Dan learns that Tessa is still angry at Virginia.  Dan also informs Virginia that she’s in trouble because not only is Tessa smart enough to know about Virginia and Dan, but Dan also knows about Virginia’s affairs with Bill.  Betty enters to inform Virginia that Bill is waiting for her in the exam room.

Through a Glass, Darkly- Lester wants out of the surrogacy program

Virginia and Bill go over new protocol with Lester, who wants out and admits that he signed up for this surrogacy program to make Jane jealous.  Yeah, no shit.  And it worked.  Jane won’t speak to him…which, I guess, must be why she’s not at the office.  Maybe she took the day off.  Anyway, during the sessions, Lester is scared that he won’t get a boner, and if he doesn’t, the women will feel bad.  But if he does pop one, Lester worries that Jane will find out.

Virginia snaps at Bill: this is why the program doesn’t work.  They’re trying an experiment that has an infinite number of variables and no controls.  This leads to chaos, as we’ve seen.  Bill is convinced that the technique can work, but right now, he tells Virginia that she means more to him than any research program.  If she’s not fine with this, they’ll do a few more cases and end the surrogacy program altogether.  Bill just wants it to be the two of them again.

Through a Glass, Darkly- Nora has some questions for Bill

Soon after, Bill makes a reservation for two this evening.  But then Nora enters his office to talk about yesterday’s session and what Bill said about establishing clear and direct communication with the subjects.  She did that, but couldn’t postpone ejaculation and isn’t sure what she could have done differently.

Through a Glass, Darkly- Nora works Bill's finger

Bill tells Nora that it’s not all dependent on her, but then Nora begins to demonstrate on Bill’s finger how she pressed below the head of the penis.  Was that the right amount of pressure?  Bill tells her that the firmness should be proportionate to the degree of the erection.  Nora moves back and forth on Bill’s finger to show how she would move higher up on the penis.  Sensual as this moment is, Bill heads off as he spots Virginia heading for the elevator.

Through a Glass, Darkly- Bill spots Virginia leaving with Dan Logan

Down in the parking garage, he spots her getting out of his dreams and into Dan Logan’s car.

Through a Glass, Darkly- Betty knows that Barton is gay

Betty goes to Barton to talk about Jonathan suddenly handing in his notice.  Why so fast?  Barton tells her that he wasn’t the right, but Betty thought that the two had a nice rapport.  So Betty talks about her pregnant friend who needs a check, but doesn’t have a husband and she isn’t a single mother.  Betty soon admits that it’s her girlfriend and how she wants to be by Helen’s side for every single appointment so she isn’t shut out of anything.

Barton has no problem with that, though Betty figured that he wouldn’t.  Time for background.  Betty used to pray that God would take her apart and put the pieces together differently so she wouldn’t have to want what she wanted.  But then she met Helen, who happened to love her.  Betty didn’t feel right about that at first, but she realized she was seeing herself through another person’s eyes.

Through a Glass, Darkly- Tessa and Matt get intimate on Virginia's bed

Tessa wants to have sex on her mother’s bed.  Matt is hesitant.  Scene.

Through a Glass, Darkly- Paul's present to Libby

Libby barges in on Paul again, but he has an actual birthday gift.  Libby tells Paul that she’s 40.  If she’s lucky, she may have 40 more years ahead of her.  She then dishes out details about her wedding at a city hall in Detroit.  She and Bill had to wait because of another couple in front of them.  The bride was blonde, just like Libby.

Every wedding anniversary, Libby wonders what that bride is up to now.  Is she happy?  Is there more in her life than Libby’s?  Libby does not want to keep going like this because there’s something better.  Paul agrees, and Libby can have something better with him.  He wants Libby to be his wife and is willing to wait since a lot needs to happen for this to work.  He puts a string around her wedding ring.

Through a Glass, Darkly- Nora and Bill kiss

As Bill prepares to leave, he spots Nora hard at work.  Figuring that the elevator isn’t that important anymore, he heads over to Nora, who almost turns on the light, but Bill tells her not to.  Things get hot and heavy, but before penetration can happen, Nora tells Bill to say that he loves her.  She wants this.

But Bill does not.  He admits that he’s messed this up and the only thing he’s done right is loving someone so completely with as much of his broken soul as he can muster.  If he gives that up, he’ll have nothing.  Nora eases off, not realizing how devoted Bill was to his wife.  Very funny.

Through a Glass, Darkly- Virginia tells Dan that she can't face Tessa

Elsewhere, Virginia tells Dan that she didn’t decide her life would be like this.  She’s just been walking through one door after another until she wound up married to her ex-husband and seeing two married men at the same time.  Dan says she doesn’t need an explanation.  People’s lives are complicated.  Tessa just needs help understanding that.

But Virginia doesn’t know what to say to her daughter.  She thinks of all her excuses for working late, figuring that Tessa knew all along.  She thinks of how Tessa must see her- it’s as if she’s seeing herself for the first time.  She can’t go home to face her daughter.  So while Dan goes to put on some coffee, Virginia opens a drawer and turns the Bible around so the front isn’t facing her.  You show that Bible.

Through a Glass, Darkly- Nora meets Ronald in the parking garage

Back in the parking garage, Nora cries in a car and is joined by Ronald of all people.  It’s been a hard week for her, she says.  Ronald explains that the word ‘holy’ comes from the Greek word ‘hagios,’ meaning separate.  When God tells us he longs for us to be holy, he means at a distance.  Each time we take away that distance, we’re in danger.  We, Ronald says, forget the line that separates them from the others.

Ronald’s tried getting in touch with Nora for a few weeks, but she assures him that she’s fine.  He hopes that she returns to the path from which she strayed.

Through a Glass, Darkly- Bill makes a call

The episode comes to a close with Bill making a call.  He waits as the phone rings and rings…

“Through a Glass, Darkly” is a mixed episode for me.  I enjoyed some of the performances and interpersonal conflicts, but some of the situations fell flat for me and what should have felt like big revelations and surprises didn’t have much impact for me.

Through a Glass, Darkly- Dan calls Bill a child

If there’s a theme of this episode, it’s about seeing yourself through another person’s eyes.  Often we find ourselves saying that we know ourselves better than anyone else.  Sure, that may be true, but others can see things in or on you that you yourself can’t.  Bill, for example, may think all he’s doing is for the good of science, but then Dan refers to him as a child who acts out when he doesn’t get his way.  It’s one thing to think of yourself in a certain light, but it’s another when someone close paints you in a different picture.

Mean Girls- Plastic

It’s like when the Plastics or Cady tried to convince themselves that the world revolved around them when, in fact, they were just horrible people and it took other people pointing that out for them to realize that.  And I understand this is just an easy way for me to make a Mean Girls reference since Lizzy Caplan appeared in that.

But keeping with the theme, it felt like characters observing themselves in a mirror or, rather, through a glass, darkly.  Imagine looking at a cracked mirror of yourself.  Would you like what you saw?  I’m gonna guess ‘No’ because you can’t make it out, but even if you tried, it wouldn’t be a nice image.  You’d hope you could try and find something nice to see in yourself, but the cracks are noticeable.

Through a Glass, Darkly- Betty gets honest with Barton

While I think some of Betty’s dialogue has been blatant in the past, I did sort of appreciate her words to Barton about wanting God to piece herself together anew.

Through a Glass, Darkly- Barton doesn't like Jonathan's friends

Let’s get to Barton, actually.  The man hasn’t had much screen time this season and we haven’t seen him working at the clinic that often since he arrived.  Jonathan had shown up once prior to this episode and already he wants out because of Barton not being as out and proud as he is.  Sure, Jonathan isn’t walking like a woman or talking like a sissy, as his friends apparently do, but they have no reservations about their sexuality.

Barton does.  He’s a professional first.  His personal life is no one’s business except those close to him.  Like Dale two seasons ago, Jonathan feels bad for Barton because he sees in him everything that homosexual men shouldn’t be: trying to hide under a veil of secrecy about who they are.  So it makes sense that he’d want to leave because he can’t work with someone who can’t accept his own identity.  Though Barton never gave any indication that he was that kind of gay man.

The relationship between the two came a bit too fast and apparently must have occurred off-screen.  Otherwise, it’s pretty fast that Jonathan would come to this conclusion about Barton after only the second time we’ve seen him.  We as an audience met him once before, and that was his introduction.  And even then, he didn’t appear that much.  His exit was too fast, but then, the door looks to be open for him to return.

Through a Glass, Darkly- Betty knows, Barton

Also, I can’t recall many instances, if any, of Barton interacting with Betty, but she also seems to have him figured out as a gay man.  Okay, it’s possible that Bill confided in her, but that’s a stretch.  Otherwise, how did she connect the dots?  And why would Betty even bring up having a pregnant friend who needed a doctor for some upcoming ultrasounds?  She’s already filled in Bill, and Helen did see a doctor who confirmed that she was pregnant.  Hell, even Austin is a doctor, and he’s staying with Betty and Helen.

Chances are that Betty and Helen have options to consider already.  This just felt like a way for Betty to understand that she and Barton have something in common, but I didn’t like the sloppy execution.  This would make more sense if we’d seen more scenes of the two interacting, because unless that all happened off-screen, I can’t see how she’d confide such a major secret in Barton.  At least Bill already knows that she’s a lesbian.  I’m just not as invested in Barton as I should be, but part of that has to do with how little we’ve seen him.  If he has this friendship with Betty, fine, but I wish we’d seen it develop on-screen.

Through a Glass, Darkly- Virginia realizes Dan knows about her sleeping with Bill

Virginia receives a sort of shock when she realizes that Tessa has been onto her for quite some time, though I can’t imagine why she’s surprised by this.  She and Bill haven’t been what you’d call subtle in regards to this affair.  I’m not convinced by Virginia being so caught off-guard by someone learning of her extramarital affairs.  After all, Lillian knew and she had a very close connection with Virginia.  Even Libby is wise to it.

Through a Glass, Darkly- Virginia and Tessa clash

So while it’s not as big a reveal as it could have been, but it’s a bigger deal for Virginia because this is her daughter.  Tessa is walking a similar path as her mother with being defiant and rebellious.  Tessa is Virginia’s mirror.  The difference is that while Virginia just wanted approval from her mother, she’s not around enough for Tessa to say or ask for much of anything.  And Virginia just looked petty when she brushed aside her private affairs by saying that she’s an adult.

It’s a copout that adults use often on their children when they don’t have a good justification for their questionable behavior, and for Virginia to stoop to that level is a step backwards for her.  She’s coming down to Tessa’s level and tries to make up for this by talking about the importance and risks of sex.  It’s nice to see Virginia be more careful in her approach, but she’s smart enough to have taken that approach from the start instead of just talk down to her daughter.

Through a Glass, Darkly- Virginia prepares to turn the Bible around

Virginia is conflicted in that she still doesn’t know what she wants.  She never imagined way back when that she’d find herself in such a prestigious position, but morally conflicted.  Though Tessa may be Virginia’s mirror, Virginia doesn’t even recognize who she herself is anymore.  Hell, she even thinks the Bible may be judging her if her solution is to turn it around.

Through a Glass, Darkly- Matt loves Tessa

Even with Matt and Tessa claiming that they’re in love, I still call foul on this.  Sure, Tessa may be resigned to pleasure Matt in any way that she can, but it’s odd for Matt to declare his love for her, given what he forced her to do.

Through a Glass, Darkly- Matt is hesitant to have sex with Tessa

Or maybe it’s not odd and Matt was just abusive in that moment, but now has second thoughts in light of Dan’s little pep talk.  Whatever the cause, he’s now on the defensive as Tessa is the one who wants to have sex with him.

Through a Glass, Darkly- Bill wants to experiment with Virginia again

At the start of the episode, Bill received advice to set a trap for Virginia so she’d walk in like always, but this isn’t the same Virginia from two seasons ago.  She’s wiser and smarter than that.  So while Bill might have his own reservations about the surrogacy program, something he advocated and started when Virginia was away, his willingness to end it is just an attempt to woo Virginia back in his arms.  That attempt fails.

Through a Glass, Darkly- Bill's breakdown

Bill may realize that he’s slowly losing Libby, but it’s Virginia he wants to hold onto for as long as he can.  The man is far too dependent on her.  The breakdown scene with Nora was another example of Sheen’s great acting as we watched Bill crumble.  In a moment of weakness, he was prepared to throw his love and passion for Virginia out the window for Nora.

This man is one childlike individual.  Dan may have had him right.  He couldn’t have Virginia in that moment, so he goes after someone who, in the very previous episode, said that he reminded her of her father.  Bill’s emotions are all over the place.  He almost bones a woman he’s known since her childhood, he pines for a married woman and coworker who he feels that he’s losing, and he’s further pushing Libby away from him.

Through a Glass, Darkly- Bill wants Libby to enjoy time without him

I get why Bill wants Libby to go away on her own.  Yeah, part of it could be him wanting to be able to pursue Virginia uninterrupted, but there’s some validity to his words about Libby enjoying herself.  He soured their last vacation, so he’s hoping to let Libby be her own woman and not be shackled down by his pessimism and clinical talk.  This may end up being the final push she needs.

Brave New World- Libby tells Bill that the vacation is not working out and that he should return to St. Louis

Side-note, I did like the continuity nod, as we witnessed Bill ruin that very vacation back during “Brave New World” in Season One.  Nice connection and it’s believably handled, as Bill kept talking about work during that vacation, leading Libby to send him home.

Through a Glass, Darkly- Paul proposes to Libby

And Libby is indeed one step closer to finding that next chance at happiness with Paul.  Her reflection is the blonde getting married in front of her.  Libby’s future is one giant question mark because she’s always wondering what this other, unnamed woman is doing with her life.  When Libby is with Paul, she’s at ease.  Now she’s willing to do whatever it takes to have something better with Paul.

Never mind the fact that Paul’s wife just died and Libby just played matchmaker with Paul and Stephanie.  But hey, Bill and Virginia are screwed up, so why not let Libby join in on the hijinks?

Through a Glass, Darkly- Ronald with Nora

So Nora has some connection to Ronald.  It’s hard to tell how these are linked based on what we have so far.  I’m left wondering whether Nora is just another fundamentalist type out to save Bill’s soul.  This reveal comes out of nowhere and not in a way that I like, particularly since we’re so close to the end of the season and we haven’t known Nora that long.  We’ve seen Ronald plenty of times, but I find Nora more interesting when she was just a connection from Bill’s past.  Ah well.  It’s just the reveal, so we’ll see where this leads.

Through a Glass, Darkly- Emily Kinney's gorgeous butt

Side-note, while Emily Kinney may have a small rack, she has a gorgeous ass.

But anyway, “Through a Glass, Darkly” is a conflicting episode.  There are some good performances and I like the idea of characters seeing themselves through the lens of other people, but some plot points, like Barton’s storyline, Libby’s devotion to Paul after a recent tragedy, and my general lack of interest in Tessa’s affairs muddled this for me.  It’s not a bad episode by any means, but nothing great either.

A Look at “The Walking Dead” #146: “A Breaking Point Reached”

The Walking Dead #146- Cover

Issue #146, “A Breaking Point Reached,” again shows how much Kirkman is able to accomplish with little to no dialogue from his characters.  In light of the 12 murders at the hands of The Whisperers, Rick was tasked with delivering the horrible news to the citizens of Alexandria, The Hilltop, as well as The Saviors.

The Walking Dead #146- Reacting to the bad news

And the reaction, though repetitive, considering how we’ve seen Rick and the others react to the deaths, is well-handled.  This is one of those situations where less is more.

The Walking Dead #146- Silent reactions to bad news

By giving the characters no dialogue, but just letting us see their facial expressions and how the community mourns their losses, we know everything there is to know about what they’re all going through.

The Walking Dead #146- Rick won't strike back against The Whisperers...yet

Once we get to the actual conversations, this is where we see emotions explode.  12 people are dead and someone needs to pay.  Rick has to shoulder not just a lot of responsibility, but a lot of the blame because the citizens see him as week for not wanting to strike back against The Whisperers.  But the townspeople don’t have the full story- they don’t know of the massive roamer swarm at Alpha’s disposal.

The people, of course, aren’t thinking rationally.  They’ve lost people close to them and just want some kind of revenge.  Makes sense.  And chances are that if it were someone very close to Rick, he’d want that same justice.  But here, Rick knows the risks that come with combating Alpha. He won’t put the communities at risk not just because of the stability built, but also because he knows that he’s outmatched by Alpha’s herd.

I do think that there could have been a chance for open conversation and dialogue among the communities.  In both the show and comic, we’ve watched the groups grapple with conflicting, moral dilemmas.  Even if they come to a standstill, the floor still becomes available for people to state their case.  Here, Rick’s word is law because he knows that everyone wants revenge.  I think he could have at least told them what they’re up against.

And what about Magna?  She and her crew just arrived, but now they’ve been drawn into the conflict as well.

The Walking Dead #146- Maggie tells Rick that she executed Gregory

So with morale down and Rick’s leadership called into question, this leads into Rick learning about Maggie executing Gregory, which we knew was coming.  As evidenced by leaving Negan alive, Rick is trying to show the world that there’s a better way besides murder.  Maggie’s actions jeopardize the stability built in the communities, but Maggie had plenty good reason, given that Gregory tried to poison her.

The Walking Dead #146- Rick asks Maggie if she's learned anything

Rick asks Maggie if she’s learned nothing, and I think that she has.  She’s learned from the world around her, but I also think she’s learned from Rick’s actions.  There’s no way of knowing this, but had she permitted Gregory to live, who’s to say whether he would try to kill Maggie again?  Ever since Rick and company arrived in Alexandria, they’ve been watched by the people around them because, naturally, they’re suspicious of outsiders.

As time went on, Rick’s group proved their worth, but you still have factions that question their judgment and actions.  Gregory was one of those extreme examples.  You can’t expect everyone to comply, but you also can’t expect one to be like Negan and just patiently wait for an open opportunity, even if Negan didn’t seize that chance to prove a point.

Sometimes I wonder if Rick is as insane as Negan if he really thinks that Maggie is unraveling everything that’s being built.  It was inevitable that the peace and stability would begin to crumble.  And given how The Whisperers blend in so well, this isn’t a situation that either of them can just hold together without problems.

And Maggie just worked with what she had.  Carl is the one who pined over Lydia and went after her.  Had he not done that, things may have ended up differently.  But Maggie had not just that, but some of the Hilltop residents turning against her, with Gregory as the primary instigator.  That alone could be handled diplomatically, but when Gregory crosses the line and tries to kills to Maggie, she feels justified in what she did.  She won’t allow herself to be burdened down at times, as Rick is.

The Walking Dead #146- Maggie punches Rick

I thought the actual confrontation between Rick and Maggie was over a bit too fast, for my liking.  We’ve been building to this moment and finally have it, but in the span of a few pages, it’s over as soon as it began.  I’d prefer that this tension last at least another issue.  Maybe their friendship is that deep, sure, but this clash was over very fast.

But let’s wrap up with the ‘scientist’ of the hour: Eugene.  So we get some lip-service to the fact that Rosita wasn’t carrying Eugene’s child, but he promised to care for it, which is fine because it shows that, despite his past deception, he’s willing to show that he’s a good man.  But, like Rick, he wants his revenge, but has to go about it the right way or everyone will suffer.

The Walking Dead #146- Eugene wants revenge

He wants to be careful, but he’s aware of the fact that, yes, they do have Lydia in their possession.  Okay, he points this out, but no idea what he’s thinking of doing.  The fact that Eugene arrives at this conclusion as a plus helps show that this man is a far cry from the timid liar he once was.  Plus, Rosita’s death is sure to spur him into action, even if that means going to a darker place to hurt Alpha.

I would guess that Carl would be willing to take Lydia into hiding, given how her presence could turn the communities into even more of a frenzy.  But we’ll see.