A Look at Gotham- Season 3, Episode 2: “Mad City: Burn the Witch”

So Bruce got kidnapped, Ivy went for a fall, and Penguin pulled no punches as he railed against Gotham’s policy department in their failing to protect the city from monsters.  Well, time to see if the GCPD and Gotham’s citizens can prove themselves when they confront Fish Mooney and her monster squad.

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The episode begins with Bruce unmasked and brought before a woman who removes her mask- the same woman from before.  Bruce recognizes her from Wayne Enterprises.  This is Kathryn, played by Leslie Hendrix, and she represents the group, but does not give that up that group’s name.

She asks what Bruce has found, but he bluffs instead.  The more Bruce studied, the more could only be explained by this group’s existence.  He hasn’t changed his mind about his investigation, but he does have to consider important factors like his safety.  So Bruce offers Wayne Enterprises since, if he dies, his shares go to the government.  In turn, the feds will comb through it all.

A tad unfortunate, but Kathryn is confident that her group will endure, but she’d weather the storm.  However, the Wayne name is a symbol of light and hope.  That could be a useful distraction for this group.  Still, Kathryn doesn’t accept the offer.  She wants Bruce to stop investigating both this group and his parents’ murder.  Break it and the deal is void.

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And Kathryn needs an answer now.  After weighing his options, Bruce agrees. Kathryn promises Bruce that the two will not meet again.  With that, Bruce’s world goes dark.

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Valerie visits Jim with a proposition: she can help him get Penguin’s bounty by bringing in Fish Mooney.  In exchange, she gets one hell of a story.  Jim points out that Valerie could just go get Fish herself, but she doesn’t know how to find her and Selina is the one who finds Valerie, not the other way around.  Jim doesn’t know where Selina lives, but guess who does?

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Yup.  Barbara does, for some reason.  After reminding us of her previous engagement to Gordon, Barbara tells a skeptical Valerie that a piece of paper declaring her sane is why she’s not locked up in Arkham.  Such is life in Gotham City.

Barbara offers information in exchange for a kiss.  Jim refuses, and yet Barbara coughs up a location anyway.  She then tells Jim that she had a dream about him being in a horrible accident where he lost both of his legs.  This led to Barbara pushing him around in a baby carriage.  Valerie wants to give this exclusive information to GCPD and doesn’t give Jim much of a say before driving off and leaving him.

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Elsewhere, at the shore, an older Ivy Pepper, now played by Maggie Geha, slowly makes her way to land.  She eyes her new look in a rearview mirror and tells a nearby truck driver that her name is indeed Ivy.

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After giving up her information, Valerie follows GCPD to the location.  Bullock instructs the officers to keep an eye out for Ethel Peabody.  They enter and engage Fish and her band of not-mutants.

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Meanwhile, Penguin talks to the press and the public about GCPD’s failure to stop Fish Mooney and her monsters from invading the city.  He riles the public into a frenzy, calling the citizens to kill every monster they see.  The public is all too eager to answer Penguin’s call for action.

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Back at Wayne Manor, Alfred wakes up Bruce, who is unaware of how he got back to the mansion.  He tells Alfred that the group agreed to his terms, though he had to promise to stop his investigation.  From Bruce’s fear, Alfred realizes that this group threatened more than just him.  Bruce intends to keep his word, but he can’t know whether this group will keep theirs.

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At GCPD, Alvarez tells Jim about the bust, while Valerie takes an opportunity to gloat about getting even with him.  In the medical examiner’s lab, Lucius Fox shows Jim the now aged, decomposed body of Ethel Peabody.  The results of her death mirror that of another case.  Fox figures that Peabody couldn’t help Fish, so she’s still looking for the cure from the one person who can help her.

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Two of Fish’s monsters pick up Bullock, who drops his badge in the process.  He’s brought before Fish, who tells Harvey that she needs to find Hugo Strange.  Bullock refuses to help, but Fish, with her ability, knows that Harvey will indeed comply.

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The man brings Ivy to his home, where she finds herself fascinated with his plants.  She doesn’t want to use the phone since there’s probably no one looking for her.  Ivy tells the man her story of how she was alone, abandoned, and recast, but then she changed.  Turned into a completely different person, in fact.  The man throws out one of his plants, saying he’s never been good at taking care of them, which disturbs Ivy.

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Gordon tells Barnes about Bullock’s disappearance and presents his badge, indicating that Fish is looking for Harvey.  Strange was taken to a spot outside of the city, and Barnes can take the two there.

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Bullock and Fish arrive at Strange’s location.  Bullock distracts the two guards long enough for the not-Quicksilver monster to kill them, allowing Fish to enter.  She soon comes face to face with Hugo Strange and tells him that he’s going to keep her from dying.  When that’s done, he will make her an army.

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However, Strange claims he’s unable to fix her.  The monster squad leaves Strange just as GCPD arrives.  Barnes gets a call from Bullock, with Fish telling Barnes that Bullock will die if the cops gets too close.  Barnes orders the police to create a full perimeter, but then the press arrives.

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At the same time, Penguin, watching news of that Fish has been cornered, decides that now is the time to attack.  He tells Butch that GCPD is not Gotham, and the people of Gotham listen to him.

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Fish tells Strange all about her work as a former club owner and how she offered protection, even to those who needed more time to pay her.  Fish would squeeze and the cheapskates always had more.  Soon, one of the monsters tells Fish that there’s a problem outside, and it’s not the GCPD.

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Instead, Penguin has brought a mob to the facility.  Barnes orders them to stand down, but Penguin vows that Fish Mooney will die tonight.  The police have had their chance, and now it’s time for the public to intervene.

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Jim uses this distraction as an opportunity to slip into a back door of the facility.  He’s quickly caught by not-Quicksilver and another monster when Fish orders them to bring him to her.  So now Fish has two hostages, though Jim figures that his death would be a blessing for Barnes.  True enough.  Jim’s offer is to get Fish out in exchange for Bullock.  However, Fish also wants Hugo Strange, and Jim agrees.

As the mob grows more frantic, Jim calls Penguin and offers to give him Fish Mooney.  Penguin then calls his mob into action.  With the back now clear, Fish slips out with Hugo Strange.  The mob breaks in and engages the monsters, who manage to shoot some mob members, but are soon overtaken.

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In the woods, Fish and Hugo run right into Penguin.  The night under the bridge stayed with Penguin, as he’s wondered why Fish didn’t just kill him.  After all, he would have killed her.  Fish maintains that Oswald is his.  But now, Penguin is the terror of Gotham City.  The best thing Fish Mooney did may have been turning Oswald Cobblepot into the Penguin.  She couldn’t destroy that.

And Hugo Strange knows what it’s like to bring something into being.  It’s a part of you forever.  With that, Penguin bids Fish farewell and orders her to never return.

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The mob cheers as the monsters’ bodies are tossed onto a pyre.  Oswald Cobblepot is hailed as a hero.

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Ivy, now decked out in a sexy green dress because sex sells, tells the man to water his plants.  Not sure he’ll respond, though, since he’s unconscious on the floor.

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Alfred asks Bruce how he’ll spend his spare time, and Alfred figures dancing lessons are the ideal choice.  The conversation is interrupted by the sound of breaking glass.  When the two enter the main room, they come face-to-face with the Bruce clone, who begs the two to not hurt him.

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Valerie shows up at Jim’s place again to say that tomorrow’s paper will talk about the crap story of Fish escaping.  However, Valerie read the episode’s script, because she saw Penguin get a call and pieces together that Jim made a deal with Penguin.

However, Fish isn’t dead since Penguin would have dragged her body in front of the mob.  Good point, I’ll admit.  No idea what happened in the woods, but Jim will have trouble collecting that reward.  Jim slips off Valerie’s coat and tells her to shut up for once as the two kiss.

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At the same time, Leslie Thompkins returns to Gotham City.  I guess she won’t be giving Wade Wilson a call anytime soon.

A solid episode, but not without its issues, “Burn the Witch” advances several storylines, some faster than others, helped build Penguin’s character, and delivered one of the more touching scenes of the show so far.  As touching as you can be on Gotham, anyway.

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Bruce’s ultimatum with the board brings him right to the Court of Owls, and we see how much it bothers him to give up his investigation.  Of course, I don’t expect him to stop looking into shady business at Wayne Enterprises, but Alfred brings up a good point: how can Bruce be sure that the Court will keep their word?  Chances are both will continue what they’re doing, but make some play to keep up appearances.

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At the very least, Bruce has rattled the Court’s cage, so he knows that he’s making progress with his findings, even if he’s found very little.  But at least the Bruce clone has somehow made his way to Wayne Manor, so I’m sure Bruce and Alfred will have even more questions now.

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Onto Ivy.  So Maggie Geha makes her first appearance as Ivy and I’m uncertain what to think of her so far.  She’s serviceable in the role, but what will she do now?  It’s too soon to say.  She has the memories of Clare Foley’s Ivy, but she seems to have changed since the fall.

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She seems to be more in touch with plants than before, and that’s not out of character for Poison Ivy, but why at this point?  Is she going to keep trying to help Selina or will she now become a vigilante who strikes at those who don’t take care of their plants?  Either way, I’m intrigued by this new take on Ivy, but curious as to what the show will do with her, more so now that she’s a bit more sexualized.

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But let’s move onto Jim, who still isn’t a cop anymore.  Given his actions, I can’t say that I disagree.  Yes, he does come up with a plan to save Bullock, but in the process, puts the mob and GCPD in harm’s way by getting Penguin to have them advance.  So they rush through the police and some get hurt while still managing to kill the not-mutants.

If Jim were a cop, this wouldn’t be a plan for a greater good.  He would be reprimanded for his actions.  Hell, Barnes would probably throw his ass in a cell.  Instead, Jim has Penguin throw the mob into a frenzy to give him a distraction so he can turn Fish over to Oswald. This isn’t Daredevil wanting to do things Frank Castle’s way one time when Frank is beyond the point of no return.  This is Jim endangering lives.

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As far as his friendship with Valerie goes, it seems a bit fast for them to kiss after knowing each other for just two episodes.  Give them time to develop, like with Jim and Leslie.  The kiss seems to be here to create some pathos for Leslie, who makes a convenient return to Gotham City despite looking like she was fine living in suburbia.

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Then there’s Penguin.  I do like watching Oswald’s development from the pilot to now, from being a lowly umbrella boy to a criminal king who now has the backing of Gotham City.  And he was at least right about the city being overrun by monsters.  Again, anyway. Again overrun by monsters.

There were some nice parallels in his confrontation with Fish: her seeing herself as the creator of a new, better product, like Strange and his fascination with her, for example.  In addition, Penguin letting Fish go reminded me a lot of Jim not killing Penguin back in the series premiere because he couldn’t bring himself to cross that line.

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But…Penguin has crossed that line.  Hell, we just saw him kill a man in the previous episode and he has every reason to kill both Fish and Strange for what they’ve done to him.  Was it sentimentality that kept him from at least capping one of them in the knee? If he’s got Gotham on his side, it won’t be good if the citizens learn that he had an opportunity to kill Fish, but didn’t.  And where the hell was Butch?

Again, “Burn the Witch” was solid.  Nothing spectacular, but enjoyable to watch nonetheless.  It left the characters in interesting places by episode’s end: Jim and Valerie’s bond has taken off just as Leslie returns to Gotham, Ivy has resurfaced, Bruce, after calling off his investigation, meets his clone, the public is riled up against the police, and Penguin, despite letting his former boss live, is on top of the world.  For now.

A Look at Masters of Sex- Season 4, Episode 2: “Inventory”

After some help from Hugh Hefner, Bill and Virginia are back to work at the clinic, though their personal and professional lives are far from fixed.  And while working to amend their own affairs, a new relationship sneaks into their lives in the form of new work partners. This is “Inventory”

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The episode begins with Bill observing rabbits when a Playboy Bunny offers him a drink.  Bruce follows the Bunny to a bedroom where Virginia bids him to crawl back into bed.

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This dream doesn’t last very long.  Bill awakens to find Johnny, who is surprised that his father is sleeping at the office instead of at a hotel.  Johnny tells Bill that neither he nor the girls want to see him again, so Bill should stop pestering Libby.  Bill counters that he wants to create a reasonable schedule so he can spend time with the kids, but Johnny finds this all too similar to other kids whose parents got divorced.

Bill offers to take Johnny to school, though not only is Bill lacking a car, but if he walked with Johnny, he’d probably be seen by other parents who are firmly in Libby’s corner.

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Then you’ve got Virginia showing her various hotel keys and trinkets to Tessa, who tells her mother that Lisa got so sick recently that Tessa had to call Libby.  In five minutes, problem solved.  Now that Virginia is back, she’ll need Tessa’s help around the house since Dan will be occupied in New York for some time.  Dan, by the way, called Tessa last week to say goodbye since he and Virginia are splitting.  Well, there you go.

Virginia, though, says she was just waiting for the right time to say this.  It’s complicated- so much so that Virginia wants Tessa to keep this under wraps for now.  Yes, this means telling people that her mother and Dan are married because it protects her.

If Bill thinks that Virginia is married, that removes any complications.  Virginia doesn’t want a lecture on sex from Tessa, so Tessa instead says that her mother needs a shrink.  Hot damn, I’m loving Tessa right now.

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At the clinic, Lester finds a now empty plate of cinnamon rolls that was full 20 minutes ago.  See, Betty is eating for two, even though Helen is the one that’s pregnant.  Yeah, that’s now how this works at all, but it’s the closest Betty has to being pregnant, so she doesn’t want Lester ruining this for her.  You know, a simple solution would be to not put the cinnamon rolls in front of Betty.

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Virginia arrives to receive the calls that she’s missed, much to Betty’s chagrin.  Also, Virginia has a visitor by the name of Nancy, played by Betty Giplin, who just finished her degree in May and has been working with Barton.  He, in turn, recommended Nancy to be Bill’s associate.  A stunned Virginia is still set to interview Nancy now.

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But instead of doing a one-on-one interview, because that would make sense, Virginia has Lester and Betty sit in to be interviewed by Nancy.  The intake interview is essential to the program, so this isn’t a test.  It’s just to see Nancy’s natural instincts.  She gives Lester and Betty a less than flattering scenario and then interrupts Nancy’s assessment with her own choice of words to use.

Betty’s fictional scenario?  Lester doesn’t fit.  Nancy suggests a physical exam, but Virginia suggests a sexual history instead.  Virginia, let the woman conduct her own damn study!  Nancy decided against the history and analyzes Lester and Betty using Bill and Virginia’s own explanation.  I like this Nancy.  She’s good.

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Libby drops by unannounced to give Herb some retainer forms.  Herb’s secretary is no longer present, so he’s responsible for paperwork. Keep that in mind: Herb does not have a secretary on-hand right now.

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Across the hall, Bill arrives and tells Betty that he’ll be working with the Connolly couple alone.  In addition, he wants to review the calendar so he and Virginia are making efficient use of their time.  Indeed, Bill speaks with Dale and Darleen- the latter of whom is livid that her husband deposited his seed all over them.

Okay, you know what?  There are some weird fetishes out there, some of which I will never understand, but ejaculating into shoes?  That’s just wrong.  Dale maintains that he just wanted to be honest, so Darleen blames Bill for what Dale has become.  She tells Bill that when she was in high school, her sister dated the varsity quarterback.  One month into it, her car started to smell.  In order to show his love, the boyfriend shat in her trunk.

Alright, that one is kind of funny, even if it is also wrong.  Dale says that he never even considered crapping in a car.  Oh, well thanks a fucking bunch, Dale.  Darleen is upset that Dale is in love not with her, but her shoes.  Bill understands Darleen’s distress, but letting Dale express himself is only the first step.  Ha.  I get it.  Following this, Bill wants to focus on redirecting Dale’s energy towards a way that is sexually satisfying for them both.

Dale loves Darleen, shoes or no shoes, so he’s willing to try.  Darleen just wants some damn normalcy.

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Bill walks in on Virginia, who is observing a session in-progress, to discuss the schedule.  They divide up responsibilities, as Bill can deal with the court case and Virginia will try to put the book deal with Little Brown- a deal that broke apart because Virginia was not present for the launch in the first place.  You know, Bill and Virginia don’t know the meaning of the word subtlety right about now.

Interviews will go on a case by case basis and the two will work with their respective partners.  Virginia would prefer someone with more clinical experience.  In order to keep an eye on the partners, Virginia wants Lester to install recording equipment in the conference room and examination room.  To be fair, had that happened in the first place, Bill might not have gotten in trouble with Nora last season, as Virginia points out.

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Betty arrives with flowers from Dan, as Virginia said to get her if any deliveries arrived.  As Bill leaves, Betty tells Virginia to show a little appreciation once in a while since Betty is the one who has kept the business afloat.  In all that time, she heard nothing from Virginia.  However, Betty doesn’t want words.  With Helen pregnant, Betty will have another mouth to feed and she hasn’t had a raise since the Truman administration.

Virginia agrees…to discuss this later, but no.  Betty wants to talk now.  She’s worked at the clinic for 10 years and knows Virginia’s handwriting.  She doesn’t know why Virginia is sending herself flowers and isn’t asking, but does want some support.

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That evening, Virginia is ready to leave the clinic when she spots Lester installing listening equipment that’s all voice-activated.  When the microphone picks up people talking, the recorders in his office start recording.  Lester tries a James Bond routine that fails.

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Bill attends another A.A. meeting as one member, Kevin, played by Alex Weed, shares his story about his mother calling the police on him for breaking into her home.  When the meeting ends, Louise tells Bill to help her stack chairs.  Louise saw how Bill’s face said that he has nothing in common with the other members.  Kevin didn’t really understand the fourth step, but he’s trying, which is more than Louise can say for some.

However, Bill doesn’t get the steps or slogans of Alcoholics Anonymous.  Though, one week ago, his business was in shambles, but now it’s back up and running.  Then he’ll go see his soon-to-be ex-wife to hammer out a custody arrangement.  As such, Bill feels that he’s a success story, even though he’s staying at his office.

Louise makes Bill an offer: her upstairs neighbor goes to Fort Lauderdale for the winter.  If Bill is willing to do a few chores, Louise can set him up there.  Bill isn’t swayed, but he doesn’t have much of an alternative.

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Later that evening, Bill goes to Libby’s home and tells her about his talk with Johnny.  Libby confirms that Johnny and Jenny are upset with Bill, who thinks that Libby has poisoned them and the neighbors against him.  And that gets Bill a door in the face.

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At a bar, Virginia tries to connect with Dr. Madden, who tries to abide by his guidelines of not acknowledging a former patient in public.  Turns out that Madden is here for a blind first date.  Odd move, and Virginia is disappointed that Madden would go with such a risky move.  She’s also 15 minutes late.  Yeah, even I have issues with that.  Virginia tells Dr. Madden that she has a proposition for him.

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Bill enters the home anyway to tell Libby that a cab is on its way.  He tells her about his living situation and that the children can visit once his affairs are in order.  Bill even helps himself to a drink, and then shares that he’s attending A.A. meetings.  Irony isn’t strong enough of a word for this.  Bill then tells her about the fourth step related to inventory and making a list of people harmed.

And right now, Bill knows that there’s no one he’s hurt as much as Libby.  He apologizes for everything.  Libby finally stops smoking for a second to call it even.  She asks Bill if he really thinks that Libby just played the part of a happy housewife while Bill worked late.

First was the fling with Robert, then Paul.  There’s no room in the home where the two didn’t fuck.  Paul wanted to marry Libby and take both her and the kids.  Libby regrets not going.  So, Libby says, if Bill wants to feel sorry for someone, he should feel sorry for himself.

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Back at the bar, Madden tells Virginia that he’s satisfied with his current practice, though she’s skeptical that Madden doesn’t get tired of the same routine.  Madden reminds Virginia that there are psychologists are more qualified than him, but in Virginia’s case, everything he told her as a patient was true.

He said what Virginia needed to hear.  Virginia gives Madden a business card and tells him to think about it.  When Virginia leaves, Madden crumples the card.

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The next day, Nancy asks Virginia for tips on her first day of working with Bill.  Other than calling him Dr. Masters, Virginia tells Nancy to find her own way of working together.  Since Virginia is interviewing, Nancy has a family friend who would be perfect for the role.  He’s young, but accomplished.  Virginia claims that she has a long list, so she tells Nancy to give Betty the information.

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Louise stops by Bill’s temporary setup only to learn that Bill has no plan of going to the meeting.  But if he won’t go, neither will she.  Bill gets blunt with Louise and tells her that he won’t take inventory or make amends.  He just wants to be left alone.  After getting angry with the cat, Bill tells Louise about his situation with Libby.  He broke her heart and can’t change the fact that his children hate him.  Hell, at this point, Bill can’t change anything.

Then Louise tells Bill that her husband didn’t speak to her for a year.  She would ask about his day, but got nothing in response.  Louise asked for forgiveness and even begged on her knees, but the husband would just look at her.  Some days, Louise wanted to kill him or herself.  What her husband did to her was nothing compared to what she did to him.

All of those people in the meetings are tormented in the same way by anger and remorse at the people who’ve harmed them and who they have harmed.  When you put the lists side-by-side, the same names are often on both lists.

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At the office, Virginia meets with Art Dressen, played by Jeremy Strong, who tells her that he was at the symposium at Princeton.  He asked about what single quality all great psychologists have in common.  Virginia’s answer left a strong impression, so he answered the call when Nancy told him about the offer.  Art and Nancy went to medical school together.

Virginia zeroes in on the fact that Art has an M.D in psychology, but did not pursue an advanced degree.  A medical degree is advanced, yes, but Virginia tells Art that the office is looking for applicants with a Ph.D.  Oh, but Art doesn’t give up like that.  In his mind, the more degrees a psychologist has, the higher chance he’s a charlatan, horse’s ass, or both.

After school, Art did a research fellowship on the role of sex in marriage.  Bill and Virginia’s book was his bible.  Art is glad to just be considered, even as Virginia maintains that she wants someone with higher credentials.

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Bill, meanwhile, tasks Nancy with taking the lead in the exam room with the Connolly couple.  After Nancy details the rules, Bill suggests that Darleen remove her slippers.  The feet are off-limits, yes, but through sensate therapy, Dale will focus on more acceptable parts of Darleen’s body.  Hiding that desire would become something else, like a secret.  A secret marriage is hard to survive.  Better that the two find their pleasure together.

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So Bill and Nancy observe as Dale starts by just touching Darleen’s knees, as he considers them perfect.  Dale gets to work massaging Darleen’s feet and begins kissing her toes.  Darleen actually doesn’t consider this awful.  This gets the two up and running straight into intercourse, even as Darleen asks Dale to stop kissing her toes.  In the midst, Nancy touches Bill’s shoulder in excitement.

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Later, Bill speaks with Nancy about the dangers of observing a couple while having sex.  The observers may experience an erotic charge of their own and may mistake the intimacy behind the glass as one between themselves and their partner.  Bill wants both himself and Virginia to fill out the questionnaire to establish their professional relationship.  There can be no secrets between them.

Nancy tells Bill about her first encounter, where she did not achieve orgasm.  How sad.  Bill tells of his first time as well.  The first woman that Bill loved, though, was the sister of a friend.  The two then move onto current frequency.  Nancy talks of an encounter with a professor who was forced to resign and lost everything.

She didn’t keep seeing him due to transferring schools.  Bill, meanwhile, was unfaithful, but so was Libby.  And so has Nancy.  She suspects just as much from her husband.

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Virginia again meets with Dr. Madden, who has not changed his mind.  He did read the book, though, and felt that if everyone who bought it actually read it, Madden might be out of a job.  Madden wants to take himself out of the running since he’s still against working with a former patient.  It’s a boundary, Virginia says, if he allows it to be.  Madden, though, feels that Virginia has a disregard for professional and personal boundaries.

It doesn’t help that Virginia came to Madden under an assumed name.  Whether helping Barbara or not, Virginia’s pattern has not changed.  Madden has seen this rationalization before in his patients- whatever the patient does, they convince themselves that they’re not to blame.

Virginia didn’t feel remorse for the affair she had with a married man and for hurting Libby, after all.  But it’s Madden’s honesty that confirms to Virginia why he’s perfect for the job.  Not to mention that he gets her.  Virginia suggests that she and Madden find another place to continue this conversation.

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Nancy has one more thing to note: during her internship with Barton, she overheard rumors about Bill and Virginia, so was Bill ever involved sexually with her?  After all, the two are being honest.  Bill denies this.

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After the conversation has ended, Virginia tells Madden that she won’t breathe a word of their encounter to anyone.  Madden regrets drinking as much as he did, prompting Virginia to throw the rationalization card back at him.  To Virginia, Madden is good at labeling and judging people, but what about himself?

And what does he know about Virginia and her sacrifices?  She is good at her job because she doesn’t judge.  But given Madden’s limitations, Virginia wants his name out of contention.

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Bill again drops by unannounced to talk with Libby about their previous talk.  He hasn’t slept at all and admits that what Libby said was painful.  Right.  However, Bill accepts that Libby found pleasure somewhere, even if it wasn’t with him.  Libby, though, believes that they should have found their pleasure together.  There’s just so much that Libby has missed out in the world.  She’s not dead, just 40.  Come now, Libby.  40 isn’t old.

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At House Johnson, Virginia arrives and finds Tessa finishing the dishes.  Tessa announces that she’s moving in with George.  Virginia announces that she took her daughter’s advice and saw a psychiatrist, who said that workers like Virginia are doing the best they can.  That’s not good enough for Tessa.  And with that, she leaves.

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Small world that it is, Libby catches up with Virginia at a diner.  Virginia thanks Libby for helping out with the baby.  Also, Libby congratulates Virginia on her quick marriage.  Virginia is happy, supposedly, but she doesn’t know what to say outside of apologizing for Bill.

Libby thinks back about the pact.  The only mistake made was leaving out Bill.  Libby also wonders how things might have worked out had she met Virginia under different circumstances.

Virginia is sure that they would have, but hey, now they’ll never know.  The only thing they had in common was Bill, but Virginia doesn’t believe that matters anymore.  At the very least, the two are friends now.  As for why Libby is here in the first place, she’s here to work.  Well, she is now, as she offers to work for Herb, since he does need a secretary.

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Art and Nancy park outside, with Nancy instructing Art to wait a few minutes to enter after she leaves.  That way, they don’t come in too close together.  Oh, is that right?  Anyway, Nancy wishes Art good luck on his first day.

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Later, Art and Virginia meet with Bill and Nancy.  The episode comes to a close to the tune of “Happy Together” by The Turtles as the four begin reviewing patient files and coordinating meetings.  Oh, if they only knew.

The fourth step of Alcoholics Anonymous reads “Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.”  Bill and Virginia have done a lot of judging and analyzing of other people and each other, but not so much with themselves.  This episode gave them a chance to do that, some by having other characters say what they needed to hear in order to make them take a look at themselves.

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To me, this felt like validation for what the side characters have endured, not just in their own lives, but their relationships with Bill and Virginia.  Like last episode, I enjoy seeing a more assertive Betty, who deserves more than just a raise.  She’s looked the other way in regards to Bill and Virginia and been an asset so many times dating back to Season One, but her work has been overlooked.

And that’s unfair because she’s proven useful and reliable, not to mention kept secrets, so watching her demand support from Virginia was satisfying and I hope Betty remains this outspoken.

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Same goes for Tessa.  I’m not sure how often Tessa will be around this season, but for me, her two moments here trump most of what she did last season.  There, I found her damn near insufferable, but here, she’s wising up and calling out Virginia on her lying. More than that, Tessa realizes that her home situation isn’t ideal for her right now.  So she takes it upon herself to leave.

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Instead of withholding information or taking solace in Matt, Tessa takes the more proactive route and decides she can’t live with her mother for the moment, not while Virginia is still deluding herself into thinking things are fine.  Virginia has lied to Tessa before, so why should Tessa stick around?  George might not be Father of the Year, but he may provide more stability than Virginia.

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This is part of a larger problem surrounding Virginia: she likes to be in control.  More than that, she does not like being told when she’s wrong on something.  Not that Virginia is a perfectionist, but I think she’s got a bit of Bill in her when she tries to take charge of a situation.  Rather than let Nancy conduct her own analysis, she attempts to steer the conversation the way she would conduct it.

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When Dr. Madden tells Virginia that she tries to rationalize some of her poor choices, like having an affair or not respecting boundaries, instead of doing some soul-searching and seeing if Madden was right, Virginia beds him and throws his words back at him.  More than that, she inflates her own ego by pointing out what she’s sacrificed, never mind the people she’s hurt in the process.

She tears down the doctor at a vulnerable moment with this smug satisfaction that she bested him, but nothing Madden said was untrue.  Virginia does have a habit of rationalizing her bad choices.  She even tries to tell Tessa that she’s doing her best when she isn’t, and that ends up further splitting whatever bond they had.

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It remains to be seen what sort of friendship she has with Libby, who gets one of her best moments when she accepts Bill’s talk of transparency.  It’s satisfying to see Libby admit all the times she’s gotten pleasure from other people, but I don’t her reveal was as strong as it could have been because this hasn’t been going on from the start.

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised- Libby tells Robert that she likes what they have

These weren’t ongoing affairs as far back as the first season, and the incidents with Robert and Paul didn’t even take up the entire second and third season, respectively. So while it’s a powerful moment for Libby, I don’t think it’s as powerful as the show thinks it is.

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That said, I love how Libby just has nothing but absolute contempt for Bill right now, and it’s contempt he deserves.  Libby has played the part of humble housewife and endured more than a wife should from a cheating husband, and while she’s held her tongue when Bill tries to rationalize his bad choices, whether related to Virginia or otherwise, the gloves are off here.

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This is a side of Libby I enjoy seeing and it helps that the show has built her up to this over the course of four seasons.  She’s not the same housewife from the start.  She’s a 40-year-old woman who has been denied the truth from her husband for so long, so her revealing her own infidelities felt very cathartic.

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The only thing I didn’t like with Libby in this episode was how telegraphed the show made it that she would work for Herb.  It doesn’t help that Libby has worked with Bill in this capacity before, so I just wish the show didn’t make it so obvious that Libby would again be working in the same space as Bill, even if the two don’t end up interacting that much.

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Bill’s soul searching and willingness to be more open allows him to admit that he failed Libby and the kids, but he can’t make amends with them at the moment.  The best he can do is ensure his professional relationship with Nancy goes well, which he does by talking about sexual history on the first day.  Though he doesn’t go as far as he should when he denies any involvement with Virginia.

Like Virginia, Bill wants to be in control of most situations, but he sees that his bond with Libby is beyond repair.  As he told Louise, even though Libby kept secrets, Bill can’t be angry with her because of how he’s wronged her many times more.  He told Virginia that the romantic part of their life is over, but with Nancy, he has a fresh start.  As he said, it’s hard for a secret relationship to survive, so put everything out in the open.

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I liked his talks with Louise and it’s good that the two have more in common than Bill believed, and at least Louise isn’t just here to give sage advice.  She wants Bill to turn his life around and avoid hurting any more people.

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He does use his experience to help the Connelly couple successfully make love, so at least he can apply his own circumstances to couples that may also be keeping secrets. Side-note, even though it might not happen, I’d love to see the Connelly couple as recurring patients because their situation is both funny to watch and explores new territory through the introduction of the foot fetish.  Or, at least, shoe fetish.

“Inventory” is a strong episode that helped develop a lot of the main characters through some real soul-searching and desire to be more transparent.  Granted, Bill and Virginia are still frozen out by their families due to their behavior, which they deserve, but hopefully they can still get things done at work.

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But the introduction of Art and Nancy as another secret couple, coupled with Lester’s recording equipment throughout the clinic, should make for some interesting circumstances throughout the season.

A Look at Gotham- Season 3 Premiere: “Mad City: Better to Reign in Hell…”

Last season was all about the Rise and Wrath of the Villains.  With Fish Mooney busting out some monsters from Indian Hill at the end of Season Two, now let’s see why Gotham is now a “Mad City.”

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The season begins in suburbia as Jim walks up to a house with a bouquet of flowers in hand.  He looks through the window and finds Leslie enjoying herself with another man.

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Okay, so she’s at least happy.  Six months have passed and we cut to a pharmacy where a clerk fights off an intruder who looks like some sort of proto-Killer Croc.  The intruder throws the clerk through the window, only for Jim Gordon to enter the battle and end up easily overpowered.  In a convenient moment, the man ends up hit by a truck instead.

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At GCPD, Barnes and Mayor James speak with the press about the pharmacy robbery and how the attacker might be another Indian Hill escapee.

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Typical GCPD talk with the press until in enters Gotham Gazette reporter Valerie Vale, played by Jamie Chung.  Vale grills the GCPD over why no one can see the body and why GCPD can’t handle this threat, but a bounty hunter has already handled several. Mayor James, though, thinks that the hunters should be lauded for bringing in poor souls who, as Vale points out, were once insane inmates at Arkham Asylum.

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Up in the wings, Bullock also lauds Jim for bringing in a few escapees, but also wants him to return to the precinct.  After all, Jim is a cop in everything but name, but this way, he doesn’t have to answer to Barnes.  Bullock begs Jim to stop blaming the job on what happened between him and Leslie.

Lucius Fox, now gone from Wayne Enterprises and working at GCPD, has an update on the drug that the escapee wanted: it’s an immune suppressant only available at three pharmacies.  Jim goes off alone to find out why escapees would rob pharmacies of all places.  If Bullock can get a lead, Jim will try to bring in the escapee.

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As Vale keeps asking questions, she’s interrupted by the arrival of Oswald Cobblepot.  Penguin wants Barnes to tell the truth: the escapees are organized under Fish Mooney’s leadership.  After getting no help from GCPD, Penguin appeals to the people of Gotham to find Fish, who has been missing for six months.  Until Fish Mooney is found, no one is safe.  When Penguin’s appeal is over, he has brief words with Jim.

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Penguin and Butch head to Barbara and Tabitha’s club to get an update on Penguin’s offer: he wants to protect Barbara, but she and Tabitha can apparently handle themselves.  Butch still isn’t all together from last season, just so you know, and still hopes that he can be with Tabitha.  Then Penguin asks the two to spread word of his offer, he will reward $1 million to anyone who brings Fish Mooney to him, dead or alive.

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After Selina swipes Butch’s wallet, she meets up with Ivy who, for now, is still played by Clare Foley.  As the two walk, Selina gives some money to the Bruce Wayne copy we saw at the end of last season.

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Bruce and Alfred arrive at Wayne Manor, though Bruce is lost in his thoughts.  He wants to know if it was right of them to leave.  But now is not the time to think about that, as Bruce has big plans for tomorrow.

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Jim’s quiet time at the bar is interrupted by the arrival of Valerie Vale, who asks Jim about the night at Indian Hill.  Also, there are zero investigations on Wayne Enterprises and aside from Hugo Strange and Ms. Peabody, no one has been arrested.  Jim maintains that Penguin is a liar, but based on the escapees and knowing Fish Mooney, Penguin might not be wrong.  Vale then tells Jim about Penguin’s million dollar bounty.

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At Arkham Asylum, Penguin gives Nygma a puzzle: the trick is opening it.  People have passed it down unsolved for generations, but Nygma accomplishes the feat in seconds.  Nygma asks why Penguin is being kind, but Penguin doesn’t know how he would have gotten by otherwise, despite Nygma’s past treatment.  Oswald just wonders why Fish didn’t kill him when she had the chance.

Nygma talks about the Gordian knot, a complex knot that no one could untagle, and how Alexander cut it in two, rather than try to figure out.  Sometimes a simple solution is best.  Whatever Fish is planning, Oswald should remember that penguins eat fish.

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Fish, along with Selina and two flunkies, head to a facility.  The henchmen kill one of the doctors through touch steal the equipment.  A cop dumb enough to try and arrest Fish ends up under her control instead and knocks himself out.  However, Fish loses her bearing for a bit.

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Not long after, Jim arrives at the same warehouse and confronts Fish, who figures that Jim wants to collect the bounty.  As Fish monologues about all of her minions, she gives one of them enough time to attack Jim from behind.  The two fight until the minion manages to elude Jim and escape.

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The next day at Wayne Enterprises, Alfred and Bruce meet the board to talk about Indian Hill.  Bruce doesn’t believe that Hugo Strange acted alone, but was hired by an unknown group.  Bruce left to find evidence.  One board member scoffs at this, but Bruce has proof that this group exists and some members are even in the room.  He wants to talk face-to-face and gives the board 24 hours to talk.  Otherwise, the information he has will go public.

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Following this, a woman receives a call about the board meeting.  She tells a masked man to do it quietly in regards to Bruce Wayne.

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We return to the bar where three men confront Barbara about her bar being built on their territory.  They let her because Penguin protected her, but now they claim the spot as their own.  Tabitha enters and kills two of the men, but one is left alive.

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After getting some information from Selina Kyle on Fish Mooney, Valerie speaks with Jim about his confrontation with Fish and tells that she knows where she’ll be next.  Valerie doesn’t tell GCPD, but knows that Bullock still trusts Jim, so Gordon has to lie to him.  Oh, and as a bonus, Valerie wants to join in on the adventure.  So Gordon goes off to get his hunch from Bullock.

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On a rooftop, Bruce tells Selina about what he found at Indian Hill and warns her to be careful since powerful people know the two are friends.  Selina doesn’t want to hear Bruce’s apology of why he left.  Hell, she’s none too concerned that Bruce vanished anyway.  But she has business to take care of right now.  From a distance, Bruce’s doppelganger watches.

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So Jim meets up with Vale, only to cuff her to the car so he can go alone.  Vale could scream, but then she’d have to admit everything and would lose her story.  When two officers leave a nearby building, Jim enters and finds, of all people, Ms. Peabody, who isn’t in jail because she agreed to testify against Strange.

Jim doesn’t care about who ran Indian Hill- he just wants to find Fish Mooney.  Whatever Strange did is making Fish sick.  The drugs aren’t working, so Fish or her goons may come after Peabody, even though only the police would know about Peabody’s location.  Fish would get information from a person that no one would suspect, like a reporter who would go to a bounty hunter.

Two women enter the room and kidnap Ms. Peabody while Jim’s bat-nemesis of the episode engages him once again.  The man tries to jump out of a window and fly away, but Jim subdues and cuffs him.

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At GCPD, Barnes chews out Gordon for crossing him, and then expresses pride in Bullock for how he handled things in his absence.  That doesn’t change how livid Barnes is at Peabody’s kidnapping.  Bullock tells Jim that it might be best that he stay away.

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Vale then arrives and asks if Jim knew that Fish used her to get to Peabody, and he did.  That’s Fish Mooney’s kind of play, after all.

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Ivy, for some reason, wants to help out Selina, but Selina wants her to stay out of it.  As Selina leaves, the doppelganger, who Ivy thinks is Bruce Wayne, tells Ivy that she wants to meet Selina, who he thinks is in trouble since she knows Bruce.  The doppelganger gets frantic upon hearing that name, and that just scares off Ivy.

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Penguin and Butch are brought to Barbara and Tabitha’s club to make arrangements with the captive man from earlier.  The club is the other group’s territory, but Barbara isn’t willing to concede much,if anything.  Barbara thinks that Butch set up this entire ploy just to get the ladies back in Penguin’s corner and put Butch back in Tabitha’s good graces.

It’s not entirely untrue.  Penguin finishes off the third man and then warns Tabitha that Butch is the only reason she’s alive right now.  When Butch gives the word, it’s over for Tabitha.

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Ms. Peabody is brought before Fish and explains that Fish’s body is rejecting the changes made to her DNA.  She feels it each time she uses her powers.  If she stops using the power, she will recover.  Simple enough, but Fish likes the power.  Peabody tells Fish that Strange is the only one who can fix her, but he’s hidden somewhere secret.

Fish wants an army just like he and Strange will comply.  Fish then introduces Peabody to Marv, played by Victor Pagan, who operates as a Fountain of Youth in reverse.  He demonstrates as such when he sucks the life out of Peabody.

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One of Fish’s henchmen then brings in Ivy, who was spying on the place.  Ivy tells Selina that Bruce Wayne asked about her, but Fish warns her to stay out of this.  Ivy, genius that she is, threatens to expose the ordeal.  Ivy flees until Marv pushes her into an open sewer line.  Selina appears crushed, forgetting that she’s in Gotham City where anything is possible.

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After a montage, we return to Wayne Manor, where Alfred himself coming face-to-face with the same masked man from before.  The two fight with the man managing to overpower Alfred.  When Bruce heads downstairs, the man kidnaps him as the episode comes to a close.

So after last year’s Rise and Wrath of the Villains season, Season Three’s “Mad City” seems like it’s going to show Gotham City descend further into madness.  Though if that’s the case, perhaps this would be the appropriate season for villains to rise.

Like last season, a more story-driven approach to the show, as opposed to operating with a villain of the week, benefits the show because the seasons feel more connected.  With Season One, Gotham operated like a case of the week show, but Season Three deals with the impact of the breakout at Indian Hill, the troubles at GCPD, and Bruce’s investigation, as well as bringing in some new story elements and characters.

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The most prominent of which is Valerie Vale, who strikes me as the same idealistic type Jim was back when the series started, but is aware of what kind of city she’s in.  Jamie Chung is fine in the role and Vale’s questioning of the GCPD’s handling of crimes, as well as inserting herself into Jim’s bounty hunting, showed that she’s willing to get her hands dirty, similar to Leslie.

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Jim, meanwhile, is a shell of the man we first saw in the pilot.  His relationship with Leslie appears all but over, he’s not a cop, and is now a drinker.  And somehow, I don’t have a massive issue with this.  Jim has always been portrayed here as being a thorn in the police’s side.  Having him try to reclaim his badge would be familiar territory.  So have him operate outside the law since the guy has done some pretty bad things, let’s not forget.

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Pairing him with Vale almost mirrors his relationship with Bullock, but now Gordon is the jaded cop molded by Gotham’s corruption.  He’s not looking for glory or a police uniform now- he’s out for himself.  After all, he wouldn’t take the bounty unless the price was right.  He seems to be all-consumed with this, but is this his way of venting for losing Leslie or does Jim feel this is the logical next step since he’s no longer a cop?

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Either way, it’s an interesting avenue for Gordon to explore.  I do appreciate Gotham following through on him being a rogue.  It would be too easy to pin a badge on him and act like his vigilante acts should be rewarded.

He’s still in the GCPD’s crosshairs, though he technically hasn’t done anything wrong here, as far as I can tell.  He’s operating outside the law.  And the people of Gotham already backed The Balloonman since he killed corrupt citizens, so not like Jim wouldn’t have public support.

Though I’m left wondering why Barnes doesn’t just toss Gordon in a cell.  It’s not like he doesn’t already hate the guy.  While Bullock is no longer in charge, I’m left wondering whether Barnes is going to fully heal, given that he took Azrael’s sword through his gut and still looks to be in a lot of pain.

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So Fish Mooney is looking for a cure.  How she and her goons managed to track down what they needed, I don’t know, but this can’t be the first time Fish has seen signs of her powers failing.  And yet she’s still on the frontlines and staying involved with the search, rather than just having her army do it for her.

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Then you’ve got Penguin, who is always fun to watch, back with some power in Gotham City after his stint in Arkham, where he does at least have a good scene with Nygma.  Given his on and off friendship with Gordon, not to mention the favors, I’m surprised Oswald didn’t just directly offer Jim the bounty instead of announcing it to Barbara first.  Either way, it looks like there will be some friction between Penguin and Tabitha.

Side-note, if Tabitha is still in Gotham City, what the hell happened to Silver St. Cloud?

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Anyway, since that’s about as good of a transition onto the kids, let’s talk Ivy for a second.  Okay, we already know that Clare Foley’s Ivy has been recast with Maggie Geha.  If Gotham is going to bother recasting a recurring character, I imagine part of that is because Ivy will play a bigger role going forward.

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Like some issues I have with Gotham, my problem comes in how it happened.  For the most part, Ivy has been more of a side character.  The one character she’s interacted most with is Selina, but just when the plot demanded it.  Other than that, she kept to herself.  So why would she now want to get involved with Selina’s line of work?  As far as I can tell, nothing ever indicated she’d be interested.

So when she falls into the sewer, it just feels like the oddest send-off to Clare Foley until Ivy reemerges as Maggie Geha.  Either way, I don’t buy that Ivy suddenly decided she wanted to be Selina’s partner-in-crime.

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Bruce seems to have a knack for putting himself in harm’s way, but at least he’s making moves instead of speculating about the secret society running things behind the scenes.  How damn deep does this well go?  And you thought The Order of St. Dumas pulled some strings in Gotham City.

There’s always another deeper, more secretive level with corruption in this city.  And like the Order, they manage to kidnap Bruce.  Well done, future detective.

“Better to Reign in Hell” is a decent start for the third season that continues some story threads from Season Two, while adding to it with Valerie Vale and bringing us one step closer to the Court of Owls.

The bits with Bruce and Alfred, Jim the Vigilante and his sidekick Valerie, or moments with Penguin felt stronger than anything involving Fish or even the GCPD, but there are enough lingering threads that leave me wondering what will happen with some characters next.  We’ll see.

A Brief Look at Supergirl- Season 1

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This was not meant to happen.  We’re in a golden age of superhero adaptations right now. Films like The Dark Knight and Iron Man, I feel, are to thank for the plethora of comic book adaptations we’ve seen thrust on movie screens at a rapid-fire rate, not to mention Marvel’s and DC expanding their cinematic universes.

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On the small screen, sure, you had programs like Smallville or Birds of Prey that may seem a tad dated by today’s standards, but they were instrumental in helping us get where we are today with so many superhero or comic book adaptations on television, not to mention huge hits on Netflix like Daredevil and Jessica Jones.

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Arrow may have kicked off the most recent trend that’s continued with the likes of The FlashLegends of TomorrowAgents of S.H.I.E.L.D., GothamiZombie, and so on.  As far as these types of adaptations go, anyway, compared to the likes of The Walking Dead or Preacher.

But for reasons different than why I don’t watch S.H.I.E.L.D.Supergirl was never on my list of comic-book based shows to watch.  Not because of it airing on a different network than the other DC Comics’ based shows outside of Gotham on FOX, but because I wasn’t sold on the premise.

Trailers can lie, yes, and sometimes you need to look beyond a trailer or teaser before making a judgment call, I’ll admit.  But upon seeing the very first trailer for Supergirl in a movie theater, I was not impressed.  I didn’t know what to expect, but it looked like Supergirl meets Dawson’s Creek and really emphasized the whole girl power and feminism angle.  Having now watched the show, I wasn’t completely wrong.

There’s nothing wrong with approaching Supergirl like that, and in this day and age, I think that’s expected.  What matters is execution.

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Adapting anything Superman related is a daunting task, as the likes of Richard Donner, Bryan Singer, and Zack Snyder no doubt know.  What is the value structure?  Do you go for something more optimistic, or go for something more grounded in current society?  And is there room for a happy medium?  This is what separates Arrow and The Flash because, while part of the same world, their tones are very different.

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So it’s no surprise that Greg Berlanti is the brains behind not just Supergirl, but the DCCW adaptations, not to mention Vixen.  He has a certain formula that would no doubt make Supergirl work.  And given the show’s renewal and generally positive feedback from critics and fans alike, it would seem that he’s succeeded.  So why wouldn’t I be on board?

Again, it all goes back to marketing.  And I do not feel that CBS knew how to market this show.  Fundamentally, it’s similar to Arrow and The Flash, but Supergirl mixed with Dawson’s Creek didn’t wow me over in advertisements.

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And, for priority’s sake, it didn’t help that this show airs the same time as Gotham.  And while Gotham isn’t exactly the pinnacle of comic book adaptations, it is one that I talk about, so that show came first.

Also, despite airing on a different network, Supergirl felt like a show that belonged alongside the likes of the DCCW shows.  In my mind, it felt left out, but hey, that’s why the multiverse exists.

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I didn’t care that J’onn J’onzz was a supporting character, that Barry Allen popped in from his Earth for a crossover episode, or that this was a world where Superman had already been established.  Hell, with the way Warner Bros. operates and given the deaths of Amanda Waller, Deadshot, as well as the lack of subsequent appearances of Slade or Harley Quinn on Arrow, I didn’t think Superman was fair game.

I’m doing a massive exposition dump as a roundabout way of saying that Supergirl had a lot of elements that sounded appealing, but nothing that made it a must-watch for me.  As months passed, the first season ended and we learned that not only had Supergirl been renewed for a second season, but it would be on the CW.

Between that and curiosity getting the better of me, I gave in to see if my preconceived notions about this show based on a trailer or two were valid.

When I was finished, I had a mixed reaction.  There were elements in Supergirl that I enjoyed, but also many parts that I disliked.  I’m not here to do an episode-by-episode synopsis, but give my late and, quite frankly, unnecessary and clustered thoughts on some aspects of the show.

After holding out for so long, could I look at this objectively and not let any hesitation hamper what could be genuine enjoyment?  Well, let’s do a brief plot synopsis.

Like ArrowThe FlashLegends of Tomorrow, and iZombie, each episode starts off with an expository monologue giving viewers the basic gist of the show.  Krypton exploded, Kara was sent to Earth to protect Kal-El, but she got knocked off-course.  By the time she got to Earth, Kal-El had already become Superman.

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So Kara blends in with the world, has an inner circle of close friends who know her identity, and she works to protect the city, nay, the world, from domestic and extraterrestrial threats.  Along the way, she learns secrets and revelations about her family, friends, stumbles in her journey as a hero, and shows the citizens of National City why she’s a symbol of hope.

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At a time where Superman in the films is criticized for being too dark and emulating more of Batman than the bright and colorful Superman many are used to, Supergirl stands in contrast to Kal-El’s adaptation on the big screen.

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This Supergirl doesn’t exist in a mostly muted color palette.  She’s fun and has dimension. And there’s a real passion in Melissa Benoist’s performance whenever she’s on-screen that it’s hard for me to picture anyone else playing this particular incarnation of Supergirl.

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But Supergirl is more than Kara and it’s most of the performances around Benoist where I had problems.  Half of this is the actors, and the other half is in the writing.  When I say that Supergirl feels like a superhero version of Dawson’s Creek, or any other sappy teen drama, I’m talking about familiar beats or tropes you see in those type of dramas.

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Whether it’s characters arguing for the sake of drama, complicated love triangles, one character happening to walk in or catch two people kissing, episodes closing out with musical cues to get your emotions running…it all drags Supergirl down.  And I don’t feel some of the drama here is earned.

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Now don’t get me wrong.  A show can have some of those traits and make them work without feeling forced or cheesy. Hell, iZombie has many of the aforementioned elements, but what makes that show so great is the writing.  I buy Liv’s complicated relationship with Major in that show.

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I don’t buy Kara’s will she/won’t she feelings with Jimmy Olsen.  Part of that is because the love triangle between Kara, Jimmy, and Lucy Lane just feels like conflict for the sake of conflict, and also because I don’t feel Melissa Benoist and Mehcad Brooks have the same sort of chemistry as, say, Grant Gustin and Candice Patton on The Flash.

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Plus, aside from sticking Lucy at the DEO, having Jimmy already in an established relationship with Lucy just feels like the show sowing seeds for Jimmy to break it off with Lucy and explore his true feelings for Kara.  That’s expected and is just what happens, partially because of neither Kara nor Jimmy telling Lucy that Kara is Supergirl, even there’s no reason to hide it from her of all people.

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Oh, but it’s not just Jimmy.  Then you’ve got Winn, the guy who has a crush on Kara. He’s fine enough as an ally, but when he kisses Kara and then gives her the cold shoulder, I’m left wondering why.  And then at one point, he’s disappointed because he saw Kara and Jimmy hug?  What the hell?

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Okay, Winn is shy and in a bit of competition with Jimmy, but I never thought of him as the petty, jealous type.  It felt out of nowhere.  He already knows how Jimmy feels about Kara and if television conventions are anything, Jimmy’s relationship with Lucy wouldn’t last, so for Winn to get pissy over a hug is an example of unearned drama.  It’s drama for the sake of drama.

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This extends to characters not communicating or saying things just earlier instead of later. Maybe this is a me thing, but I don’t have the patience for people who don’t just talk about their problems.  So Alex kills Astra, but J’onn takes the blame.  Okay, I get that.

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But then Kara gives J’onn the cold shoulder for quite some time, but he’s fine because he can take it.  Alex, though, feels that telling Kara the truth would hurt their relationship. Either Alex isn’t giving Kara enough credit and making a huge assumption, or she’s just afraid.  If it’s fear, then fine, but given their longstanding relationship as Earth sisters, I would think that Alex is bold enough to admit what she did.

And once Alex gives her teary revelation, it’s as if all the anger Kara felt towards J’onn just dissipates.  She forgives Alex in no time, but the fact that she was such as asshole towards J’onn felt unnecessary.

She gets over it and that’s my problem: withholding the news served no purpose other than to create some friction between Kara and J’onn and let guilt eat away at Alex…guilt that wouldn’t have been there if she had been honest in the first place.  Trust your sister the way that she trusts you.

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These are the kinds of issues that have dragged down Arrow, but this is only the first season of Supergirl and some of the sappier elements or lack of communication that I see here are the reasons there’s such hatred from many fans towards the fan-dubbed ‘Olicity.’

For the record, I think you can make Oliver and Felicity work as an item, but not when it’s dragged down by bullshit romantic drama better saved for soap operas.  But then, Arrow might as well be a soap opera right now, but I digress, because the show’s current issues run well beyond Olicity.

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Back to Supergirl. Oddly enough, the one character who I disliked the most is the one who may not appear as often because of the show’s move to Vancouver.  I like Calista Flockhart’s performance and Cat Grant is one of the more vocal characters on the show, but she was also one of the most grating.

Aside from her being insufferable and vain- and I get that was the point- her celebrity name-dropping coming almost as frequent as Cisco’s movie references on The Flash, and her overall less than pleasant character made her someone I could have done without. For a moment.

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When the show introduced us to Cat’s eldest son, Adam, I saw how much Cat wanted a relationship with an actual human being instead of her awards.  Her defenses drop when Adam takes her down a peg and calls her out on her shit.  And even though I find Cat’s vanity an issue, she does make a valid attempt to bond with her son and the writers do a good job of humanizing her as the season progresses.

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This extends to her relationship with Supergirl.  She believes in Supergirl standing as a symbol of hope, but also recognizes that Supergirl, like Kal-El in Grant Morrison’s All-Star Superman, gives the people of Earth an ideal to strive towards.

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And that became very clear in the episode that not just made me respect Cat Grant, but stands as my favorite episode of the series thus far: “Falling.”  Here, Kara is exposed to red kryptonite and becomes an all-around asshole.  She becomes bolder, lets an alien go, and even throws Cat off of a building before catching her at the last moment.  Kara tells Cat that power is deciding who gets to live and who dies.

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Right before Kara tosses her, Cat says that she created Supergirl and that she won’t let her down.  It’s a ballsy thing to say in front of an alien who could kill you without trying, but this showed me that, despite Cat’s arrogance, behind that tough exterior is someone who wants Supergirl to be this shining example of truth, justice, and the American way.  Only when put in mortal danger does Cat go public to denounce Supergirl.

Sure, it’s because the plot demands that Kara rebuild her reputation, but this one moment made me appreciate Cat Grant a little more.  Even J. Jonah Jameson can come around to admit that Spider-Man is a hero.

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But this isn’t why I love the episode.  Supergirl, like Clark in the Donner Superman films, goes through an arc.  Heroes don’t always just get their praise from the public.  They must earn it.  And at times, that struggle can be grueling, but worth it to show character development.

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I enjoyed watching Oliver Queen show the people of Star City that he’s more than just a vigilante, Bruce Banner proving that the Hulk can be used for good and not just a weapon of destruction, Matt Murdock showing the police of Hell’s Kitchen that Daredevil is on their side, or Peggy Carter showing the men of the SSR that she’s a capable.  Even though she already deserved to be seen as an equal, but I’ve already discussed Agent Carter.

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The drama in “Falling” felt real because we’ve seen Kara endure conflicts from every side, whether work or the DEO, but this gave her a chance to really vent, but also, like Batman’s fear of Superman in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, show the public what kind of person a Kryptonian could be if they chose not to be a savior, but embraced their power and just did as they pleased.

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And watching Kara try to earn that trust back after one little slip-up felt like a real arc. Like Clark in Superman II, she learns that she’s held to a higher standard because she gives people hope.  She doesn’t get to just be a normal person.  Sure, Supergirl here is allowed to be a bit more vulnerable and show emotion, but she still has to maintain that strong exterior so people still look up to her.

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When the public aids her and The Flash when the two battle Livewire and Silver Banshee, the renewed trust in Supergirl feels genuine and we see that Kara regrets her actions. She’s learned from her errors and that makes her a better person.  And I appreciate that the public doesn’t just flip on a dime and accept Supergirl without consequence.  She has to earn that trust, not just get it back without effort or because the plot demands it.

To me, this was the high point of the series and the best example of emotional drama that felt earned instead of just exploring Kara’s bad side. Nothing before this was bad, but not all that memorable. “Falling” had real weight to it. It’s a shame that it just took sixteen episodes into the series for me to find one a memorable one.

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Otherwise, the show itself is decent enough.  The fight scenes aren’t too bad, and the dramatic moments when earned can be quite good.  The feminism and girl power talk didn’t grate on me as much as I thought it would since it’s only prevalent in a few episodes and is all but gone towards the end of the season.

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I understand that, this being a female superhero, you’re going to tackle that topic.  Hell, I would be surprised if the show didn’t.  But I don’t think the talks of feminism and being a woman in the world are as well-written or believable as they are in Agent Carter, nor are they given the level of seriousness that we got in Jessica Jones, though Jessica gets a whole different set of standards with Netflix.

And don’t give me any nonsense about not comparing Supergirl to other female led comic-book programs.  Both Daredevil and The Flash have been compared to Arrow when Daredevil, like Jessica Jones, has a different set of standards.  Supergirl is just as fair game for comparisons as anything else.

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Overall, though, the first season of Supergirl is decent enough.  As far as Berlanti-led shows, I’d say it’s better than the first season of Legends of Tomorrow, but not the first seasons of either Arrow or The Flash.  The forced emotional drama and lack of chemistry between some characters drags the show down.

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However, when I’m wrong, I’m wrong, and Supergirl is much more than its first trailer made it out to be.  Benoist is a great lead and she brings the optimism you’d want from a superhero like her.  When Supergirl is good, it’s very good, but like other Berlanti shows, the drama and romantic subplots keep it from being great.

Sharpen up the weaker elements and I think Supergirl could be a much stronger show. And given how much the CW has been marketing the show since it changed networks, I do hope it gets more exposure because behind all the unearned drama is a good show. It’s not for everyone, but if “Falling” is any indication, it’s that this show has the potential for greatness.  Here’s hoping that happens in Season 2.

A Look at The Walking Dead #158: “The Whisperer War- Part 2 of 6”

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The second issue of The Whisperer War has a lot going on, but Kirkman manages to balance it all out by giving us a look at the many communities. But the main focus is still the war with the Whisperers.

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And he still manages to tug at the heartstrings by taking away another main character. Gabriel’s death might seem out of nowhere, especially since he’s stepped up to become a part of the army. And I agree, but at the same time, at least he got some development instead of remaining in the background.

It still sucks that he’s gone because, with Glenn dead, I think Gabriel was one of the few remaining characters that maintained his principles instead of becoming molded by this new world.

Glenn remained optimistic and held onto his humanity, while people like Rick give into their dark urges, doing whatever it takes to survive by any means necessary. To Rick, killing is just another way of life, though he’s seeking a better way now. But Gabriel kept his faith and served the community well. He will be missed. But damn, what a gruesome way to die.

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Moving along with the issue, we see what’s left of the Saviors basically telling the other communities to go fuck themselves. And this shows, I feel, how little the Saviors wanted to help in the first place. They followed Dwight because he took charge and offered another way to lead. He’s done that, but how he’s working under Rick.

If the Saviors were against Rick before, there’s no need for them to be for him now that Dwight isn’t there to lead them. It feels like there’s a power vacuum within the group. They’re adamant about not helping, but some realize that the Whisperers could just as easily come to their community as they could to another location. And they didn’t need to go as far as taking the horse.

So I’m curious to see what becomes of the Saviors because it’s only a matter of time before this war reaches them.

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Briefly in Alexandria, we get Rick catching up with Eugene, who doesn’t yet reveal that he’s been in communication with someone else on the radio. I wager that Eugene is weighing his options and contemplating how to best reveal this. You know people wouldn’t be too pleased if Eugene gave away any critical information about the community.

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Over at the Kingdom, we still have William and Zachary talking about helping out with the war, with Zachary still not wanting to aid the other communities. We’ll get back to the Kingdom in a second.

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Negan still doesn’t get a weapon, and I get that. I did enjoy his talk with Dwight over Sherry and this further emphasizes how Negan offers, at least to the women, protection, not necessarily coercion. He’s giving the women a shot at a better live than scavenging and fighting for good. That’s it. Sherry was one of those women who took that option.

But even once Rick locked Negan up, Sherry still didn’t remain with Dwight. As twisted as this sounds, Negan has a point. He’s not making the women stay with him- they’re free to go whenever they please. But life would be much simpler under him. And under him, too. I doubt Dwight still holds this against Negan, but for the sake of the conversation, Negan had a good argument.

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So the battle with the Whisperers begins with humans hiding among the walkers, which is no easy task, I’m betting. Negan soon gets his hand on a weapon, but just when it looks like Dwight’s group will be overrun, reinforcements from the Kingdom arrive.

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And this is what I like: even though folks like Zachary don’t want to aid in the war, this battle is about more than crushing the Whisperers.

Ezekiel led the Kingdom with great power and presence. He became an unfortunate casualty, but even before he chose to help Rick take down Negan and the Saviors, he was well-trusted within his community. To not at least attempt to avenge his death would be disrespectful, so I love how the Kingdom backup arrives not just for their community, but to avenge their fallen leader.

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We briefly revisit the Hilltop and I’m curious where this story is going to take Maggie and Dante, since she’s paying so much attention to him. Meanwhile, you’ve got Lydia telling Carl that even if he spots the Whisperers arriving, it won’t matter.

I agree with Lydia. The number we see at the battle in this issue is nothing compared to the roamer herd that Alpha showed Rick in issue #143. If they arrive in full force, the Hilltop could be overrun due to the sheer number.

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Back at the battle, we get Michonne and Jesus arriving to help out in a moment that feels very reminiscent of Littlefinger arriving with his army in “Battle of the Bastards” on Game of Thrones.

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They charge in to lend much needed support. Charlie Adlard’s artwork of Michonne and Jesus rushing towards the battle just makes me eager to see how this will all play out on the show.

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Then we wrap things up with Negan confronting Beta. And Kirkman ends the issue in a way that is 100 percent Negan. Though Negan just killed Alpha. Would Kirkman put the Whisperers in even further disarray by offing Beta? Or maybe there’s a Gamma lined up to take Beta’s place? Either way, a great issue from start to finish.

We say our goodbyes to Father Gabriel, but now await the rest of the Whisperer War ahead in issue #159.

A Look at Masters of Sex- Season 4 Premiere: “Freefall”

So last season ended with Virginia heading off for a new life with Dan Logan, Bill’s life in disarray, and Libby finally breaking things off with Bill.  Though the Season Three finale wasn’t as good as the previous two, in my opinion, it did leave the characters in an interesting place.  Now to see where they’ve ended up since then.  Welcome to “Freefall.”

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The season begins at the office with Betty fielding calls and dealing with impatient patients who have waited months to have their appointment.  Problem is that Bill and Virginia are nowhere to be seen, so Betty gives excuse after excuse to cover for the doctors.  Finally, a Girl Scout trooper arrives to sell Betty some cookies.  Even still, Betty has no idea on how to find the building owners.

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Meanwhile, at a hotel, Virginia watches television footage of a bra-burning protest.  Apparently, bras are a symbol of patriarchal oppression.  Hey, I’m all for letting the girls go, just putting it out there.

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At another hotel, a now-rugged looking Bill downs some booze as he sits by himself.  He later watches the same protest at the bar with a man named Donald.  Must be a slow news day.  Anyway, Donald thinks that the protesters are lesbians and that the world is going to hell in a handbasket, but Bill is more concerned with the bras since he’s a bra salesman.

Bill explains to his new friend that he stopped being a pilot because he almost died.  His co-pilot dared him to jump off of a wing, so he did.  This is true.  When Bill jumped and released his parachute, it got tangled.  He was in freefall: first, the panic stage, but then it got worse until Bill realized he could not fix it.  As such, he gave up, which meant death. But with death comes a certain peace.

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Libby’s at least having a good time.  As some rocking music plays to the scene, she takes down all of Bill’s suits.

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Back with Virginia, who is also having drinks at a bar.  The bartender, Gavin, played by Sydney Jay, asks about Virginia’s husband, who is away on a work situation: The Miss America Pageant.  The big wigs in Vegas have been trying to take the pageant from Atlantic City for years.  

Virginia, as Miss Former Missouri, knows all about that.  Things between Dan and Virginia have been complicated.  The bartender, impressed with Virginia’s brains and intellect, offers drinks on the house.

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Next thing Virginia knows, she’s dancing with a man named Rick as the two sing Tammy Wynette’s “Stand By Your Man.”  When the singing ends, Virginia, now inebriated, wants to turn in for the night, but not before telling Rick, who wants to know her profession, that she’s a sex researcher.

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At the same time, Bill tells Donald that sex therapy is the way of the future.  He and Virginia made huge breakthroughs and learned every inch of each other’s bodies. However, being sex experts wasn’t enough because despite Bill’s best efforts, Virginia still left him.  After that, Bill says, you have to look at yourself in the mirror and say the words you most fear: “She does not love me.”  Bill then leaves the bar.

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As Bill drives, he steers in the direction of a car heading his way, but turns away at the last second before there’s a collision.  Bill has just enough time to regain his composure before a car then slams into his vehicle.

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The next morning, Virginia tells Rick that she had too much to drink, which happened because she misses Dan.  Rick still figures that he has a year to send a gift.  Virginia then tells Rick that Dan is protection from men like him, so it’s time for Rick to get the hell out. Okay.

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At City Hall, Bill faces Judge Parks, who is all too familiar with Dr. Masters at this point, based on his history.  Bill will pay the damages caused by his drinking while inebriated, even though the other driver hit him.  

True as that is, the judge revokes Bill’s license for three months, gives him community service, and mandates that Bill attends 90 meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous.  The service, meanwhile, will be at St. Vibiana’s Elementary, where he’ll tell students the story of St. Joseph, the statue of which is a pile of rubble.

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Okay, back to Virginia, who is ready to move past the bar and find another way to distract herself.  Among Gavin’s suggestions, he says that Virginia should check out the doctor that’s teaching people to have sex.

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We cut to said Doctor Fahy, and his introductory line?  Women fake orgasms.  Now this is true.  How do you tell if she’s faking?  A consistent physical response in women who have orgasmed is erect nipples.  So if your lady has hard nipples, she came.  If not, she’s faking.

Virginia corrects Fahy’s usage of physical response versus “physiological response,” and then asks where he conducted his study.  Everything comes from Fahy’s book, titled “The Method,” and data from his studies at the University of Michigan and time spent at the Masters of Johnson clinic.  

And yet, Virginia is unable to recognize him.  Oh, but the audience sure recognizes Virginia.  One woman even wants her copy of Human Sexual Response autographed.

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While Bill gets no help from Libby, Virginia finds herself surrounded by people who want to spice up their sex life and plan to visit the Masters and Johnson clinic in St. Louis.  One man suggests that Virginia branch out so people nationwide can benefit from their work.  

It’s been on Virginia’s mind, yes.  She’s also considering writing a column, just like Ann Landers, who has a legion of 90 million fans.  Hot damn.  More people read Landers than watch the nightly news.  Now what does that tell you about the state of news?

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Bill attends an A.A. meeting and has about as much fun as you’d expect from someone being forced to attend one.  Louise, played by Niecy Nash, asks any first time attendees or those with less than 30 days clean to identify themselves and their disease.  Bill tells Louise that he’s here by force.  Louise tries to tell Bill about the steps, primarily the first one, but Bill isn’t interested in being told that his life is unmanageable.

It is, though.  Bill offers to go to another meeting, but Louise tells him that he’ll stay.  And since Bill doesn’t have a car, Louise offers to drive him herself.  It will remind Louise of how far she’s come.  Louise asks Bill if he’s more than court mandated, and he responds with what he isn’t: a man with a wife or lover.  He has no business partner or business and he hasn’t delivered any babies in a long time.

Hell, Bill doesn’t even have a home or clean suit.  When Bill is done venting, Louise explains the system: understanding a higher power.  But Bill doesn’t understand God since he’s a man of science.

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So Louise brings up the scenario of jumping from a plane with no guarantee that the parachute will open.  That’s faith, but Bill counters that it’s science.  The point is that when you jump out of a plane, you put your life in something else’s hands.

Bill can’t take steps, though.  There’s no direction, and Louise says it’s because he doesn’t know how.  Right now, he can at least show up and see what happens.  Not like Bill has much to lose.

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Later, Bill tries to enter his old home, but his keys don’t work, so he opens the screen window and unlocks it that way.  I guess people were more trusting back then.  That or Bill is just desperate.  He enters House Masters to pack a few things, but finds his closet empty.

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Virginia does indeed connect with Hugh Hefner, who remembers all too well their encounter from last season.  Hugh was shafted, but Virginia maintains that she fought hard against Bill to bring Hugh on board.  She wants the two to be on the same footing- they saw the sexual renaissance as the opportunity to educate.  Though people see Hugh Hefner as a tits and ass peddler.  Part of that is true, I’ll admit.

However, Virginia feels that the public doesn’t know the real Hugh Hefner or the seriousness that he brings to the subject of sex.  Virginia suggests a monthly column in Playboy about sex.  Virginia understands people, after all.  In return, Hugh gets the legitimacy of hard facts without the tits.  Hugh wants Virginia and Bill to come to the Playboy Mansion to talk details.  Virginia eventually agrees.

When Hugh Hefner invites you to the Playboy Mansion, you accept.

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The stars must have aligned in Bill’s favor, as he and Libby end up on the same elevator at the office.  Bill is glad to see her, but Libby couldn’t give any less of a shit.  She’s here to see her lawyer.  She won’t even tell Bill about his clothes.  Upstairs, Bill walks into the clinic and finds nobody there but Betty.

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Not to pat herself on the back, but Betty tells Bill how she’s fended off virtually the entire world, not to mention doing Barton and Lester’s jobs while they go off to find supplemental employment.  What about Jane’s job?  She read letters, didn’t she?  Point is Betty has operated as a one-woman show.  Not sure why she didn’t get Austin to help.  He was a doctor at one point and, last I checked, living with Betty and Helen.

Anyway, Betty tells Bill that it’s time for him to meet the Connolly couple, even though he’s not in the right place to meet with patients.  I must say, Betty is a very patient person.

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Libby, meanwhile, tells Herb that she doesn’t intend to be reasonable or generous.  She wants protection for herself and the kids from Bill, as he usually dictates the terms.  Herb isn’t too concerned since Bill hasn’t even hired an attorney yet, but Libby doesn’t care if Bill might be taking a less-aggressive approach.  She cautions Herb against underestimating Bill, and he won’t.

Turns out that Libby has even created a scenario where Bill has died.  Herb knows a former client who runs a women’s group.

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Across the hall, Darleen and Dale Connolly tell Bill about their troubles.  Darleen, played by Erin Karpluk, is more curious on where Mrs. Johnson is, which just shows how crucial Virginia was, I feel, at the human connection versus Bill’s more clinical approach.  Dale, played by Rick Sommer, though, is rather focused on Betty’s figure, but he’s less interested in her now.  Though he does remember what Dale wore, though.

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Bill and Betty wonder whether Dale is a homosexual, and that’s not impossible because how often does a heterosexual man remember what kind of bag his wife owns?  Seriously, I’m curious.  Either way, Dale is hiding something.  Betty tells Bill that he can see things that other people can’t see, which makes him a good puzzle solver.  Helps that the patients are often confused.  Point is Bill may not need Virginia to get Dale to talk.

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Virginia lives out every man’s fantasy and enters the Playboy Mansion.  She even gets a White Russian.  Yul Brynner is staying at the mansion, turns out.  Virginia then meets Hugh Hefner’s personal secretary, Maude, played by Mary Birdsong.

Huh.  Reno 911 has two of its former cops appearing in this show now.  Virginia tells Maude that she came to talk with Hugh alone.  No Bill.

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Bill wires Dale up to find out and tells him that he’ll be showing pictures of women, couples having sex, and men.  Dale has to say that he’s not attracted to men.  Good to know.  If that’s true, then there should be no problem with the wires.  Dale finds the testing pointless and just wants testing, but Bill gets right to it: he thinks that Dale is hiding something.  So Dale tells Bill that his dick doesn’t work.

But Bill knows that carrying around a hidden truth can become an intolerable burden. There’s a freedom in giving up.  Dale admits that he loves women’s feet in high-heeled shoes.  It’s all he could think about since he was eight.  He would even crawl under the table to stare at his mother’s…shoes.  

Well, that’s better than her underwear.  Darleen has no idea, but since she wears slippers, Dale can’t be open to her because it would mean he wants to fuck shoes.  However, Bill tells Dale that, eventually, he’ll have to tell Darleen who he really is.

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Back at the most wonderful place on Earth, Virginia meets Hugh and two of his Playboy bunnies in his office.  She tells Hugh that she’s broken things off with Bill, but that doesn’t diminish what she can offer on her own through a column.  Men know what men think, but a woman’s perspective on sex in a column written for men would be a change of pace.  

Hugh disagrees.  And though it’s not his business, he does want to know why Bill and Virginia split, though, and he sends the playmates off to fetch him a snack.  Hurry back, girls.  Virginia tells Hugh that things between her and Bill got too close.

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For years, Virginia gave as much of herself as she could because she thought Bill was the key to a big life.  Now Virginia realizes that Bill couldn’t have gotten where he is without her.  Okay, but Hugh thinks that Virginia now wants to stand on her own feet…with him.

Yes, but it’s different from Bill.  Virginia believes that Hugh’s readership is hungry for insight from the nation’s best female sex researcher.

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Libby introduces herself at the not-book club and passes up on a chance to light up.  Only fair since this group is all about raising consciousness.  Rock on, ladies.  Anita, who I assume is the leader, played by Alysia Reiner, says that ways to raise consciousness include talking about family life, education, sex, the military establishment- all from personal perspectives and without patriarchal interference.  

Yeah, this is just a goddamn book club without the books.  Well, Libby is fed up with men at least, so that’s a start.  Anita then asks who among the ladies wants to share the story of their own abortion.  Okay, maybe I was wrong.

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While Betty tells Bill that Hugh Hefner is calling, we return to the mansion, where Maude calls Virginia a tweener: half-bunny, half-scholar.  Virginia has no intention of fitting into a category since the times are changing, like that Bob Dylan guy says.  Maude suggests that Virginia write for another magazine.  Though it seems like Maude is discouraging Virginia, she says that if Virginia really wants the job, fight for it by writing her first column.

But Virginia doesn’t want to have to prove herself again, despite her accomplishments. Even still, a woman always has to audition.  Virginia’s first column will be titled “10 Sex Myths Exploded.”

Bill learns from the call that Hefner wants to invest in the clinic and wants Bill to discuss terms.

freefall-anita-played-by-alysia-reiner-talks-with-virginia

Libby tries to tell Anita about her husband’s demise, but Anita has heard of Bill from Herb, so the bullshit story is just that- bullshit.  Anita understands.  After all, she used to fantasize that she castrated her husband and mounted his penis on the trophy wall.  I flinched while writing that.  But Libby just feels that she’s not like the other women.  She brings up the bra burning protest and tells Anita that she found it silly.

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Anita counters that the women weren’t burning their bras, but Libby even finds that a useless gesture.  In response, Anita asks Libby to take off her bra.  She eventually does and then drops it.  The world is a slightly happier place.

freefall-bill-tries-to-get-one-of-his-suits-back

Bill shops for clothes and spots a man wearing his suit jacket.  His former suit jacket.  I don’t think Bill understands how this works.  Yes, it was in his closet, but it isn’t anymore.  Nevertheless, he insists that he needs the jacket because he’s trying to save his life and business.

freefall-hugh-has-conditions-for-bill-and-virginia

At the Playboy Mansion, a clean shaven Bill tells a surprised Virginia that he was invited. Hugh tells the two that he hears rumblings every now and then and is fully aware that the two are in legal trouble.  The two will do great work, but only if they work together.  Virginia maintains that she’s working alone and even has a draft of her first column.  

Oh, but Hugh has a major condition: he’ll only become a major investor if Bill and Virginia work together.  This extends to publishing Virginia’s work because this is much bigger than Masters and Johnson.  The two are like a brand.  If the business is the two of them, they should use their therapy on themselves.  Clearly Hugh hasn’t seen the past three seasons.  Bill and Virginia say this won’t work, but Hugh isn’t giving them a choice.

Masters and Johnson, like Playboy and Hefner, can only be separated by six feet of dirt and a headstone.  Careful, Masters of Sex.  You’re leaning on foreshadowing with that line.

freefall-bill-and-virginia-discuss-their-new-terms-and-falling-out

Later, the two speak alone about how other partnerships that have split and gone on to do great work.  Their examples are shit except for maybe Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis.  Bill doesn’t have a plan for this one, though.  For the first time in his life, he just shows up, like he did at work.  Virginia is livid to learn that Bill went to work since that’s her clinic, too, but as Bill points out, she did leave.

Bill reminds Virginia that she’s talented and will land on her feet.  Still, Virginia now wants to use the clinic as her home base and will work out of her own office.  So yes, the two will meet with different patients.  Bill is surprised that Dan agreed to these terms, but Virginia says that her new husband is understanding.  Sure.  So the only way for Masters and Johnson to continue is to hire new people and new partners for both of them.

Their working relationship would have to be professional.  Virginia is wary and doesn’t believe that Bill has changed, but he tells her that for 12 years, he has tried every wrong and misguided way to win her heart, only to realize in the past few weeks that she wanted something else, so she picked someone else.

So that part of them together is over for good.  It’s a surprisingly blunt answer from Bill and it looks like Virginia didn’t expect that level of honesty.

freefall-bill-talks-about-st-joseph

Bill carries out his community service and tells the story of St. Joseph and how he was told by an angel that he must take the Virgin Mary as his wife.  Another angel told Joseph that Mary had not loved another man and the child she carried was the Son of God.

Things like this don’t happen in real life, as in most men wouldn’t believe this story, but Joseph was a special man.  And he decided to have faith by believing in something that he didn’t understand.

Outside, Louise tells Bill that she’s seen people make huge breakthroughs, but Bill isn’t as optimistic.  The two drive off as the episode comes to a close.

After having most of our main characters separate and off in their own places, to an extent, “Freefall” manages to bring them back together in a way that services all of their respective storylines and not just a reason to have them interact with no real purpose.

We saw Bill, Libby, and Virginia at some of their lowest moments last year, but now, they’re picking up the pieces and trying to move forward with their lives.  Or rather, trying to make the most of what they have, despite the challenges.

Masters of Sex has been, for a long time, about venturing into the unknown, and that’s made clear here both through the bra burning protest and Bill’s time at Alcoholics Anonymous.

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The first step of A.A. is admitting that you’re powerless over alcohol and that your life has become unmanageable.  Alcohol isn’t part of everyone’s equation here, but Bill, Libby, Virginia, and even Betty find their lives somewhat in disarray and difficult to manage. Some of these hardships, in Betty’s case, are out of their control.  Other hardships come from outside influences, like patriarchal oppression.

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Libby has never been what I’d call a rebel, but she’s more than ready to break free from Bill’s shackles after he betrayed her more than once.  She has every reason to brush him off and move on with her life, but she’s not sure how.  Based on Libby’s conversation with Anita,  we can see how she wants to let go of her oppressors, whether Bill or bras, but to her, this is nothing but a meaningless gesture.

But it’s more than that.  We’re in the second wave of feminism with women standing up to upset the established order.  Libby and Bill have, for the most part, had a pretty typical American life.  But Libby has always been under Bill’s thumb and enduring his brutish, commanding attitude.

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Now is the time where women like Libby say no more to the status quo.  I’m glad she’s moving past Bill and I’m even more curious how she’ll proceed in this group.  She’s already had relations with a Colored and that’s pretty radical for a White woman.  Not unheard of, but still a bold move.  Point is I’m already interested in Libby’s story for the season.

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Betty again proves how valuable she is to Bill not just as an employee, but friend and aid to the clinic.  To take on the entire clinic and push away as many clients, visitors, solicitors, and girl scouts as possible, in addition to doing Barton and Lester’s work, is no small task.  But Betty is no quitter or one to roll over when things get rough.

After all, she ran a brothel on her own back in the first season.  She knows how to manage a complex operation, but this is still more than one person should bear.  Life at the clinic has been hectic, but not unmanageable for her.  She’s versatile enough to accomplish all of these tasks without quitting or getting burned out.

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More than that, she’s not just here to be Virginia’s replacement.  She encourages Bill to continue advising patients because she’s witnessed what he can do for them.  Unlike Virginia, Betty is more blunt in her approach and cuts through the bullshit.  I’m glad that we got to see her in the advisory role and I hope, even though Virginia is returning to the clinic, that she continues this.

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Virginia still wants to be as independent as possible and isn’t waiting for a white knight to guide her path.  Whether Dan is out of the picture or otherwise, Virginia’s work never ceases.  Her knowledge of human sexual response and experience in the field gives her the confidence to challenge a man like Fahy, and it never felt like Virginia did this to boast.

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There’s no need for her to wait on Bill’s approval to speak her mind or experiment because she doesn’t need it.  All the same, she still finds herself in the position of having to prove herself- not necessarily her worth– to Hugh Hefner.  And as Virginia notes, the two share the desire to educate the public on sex and not just titillate.  But this is Hugh Hefner, so titillation is on the way regardless.

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And while she’s as over Bill as Libby is, there was a real disappointment on her face when Bill said that he wouldn’t win her heart and that part of their relationship is over.  It’s almost as if she expected him to put up a fight or try to win her again.

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But Bill has his own troubles.  From his rugged appearance, driving into oncoming traffic, and trying to take back his sold clothing, to name a few, Bill is a broken man near the end of his rope.  Libby said that Bill is a very dictating man, and while that’s true, that man is nowhere to be seen here.  He’s looking for purpose and refuses to see it in Alcoholics Anonymous, despite the group’s effort to help rehabilitate him.

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So despite Bill spiraling downward, he still has a level of arrogance and pride about him. I’d say he’s softened because he doesn’t outright turn down Louise’s help.  He’s willing to give it a chance but, as a man of science, he is always skeptical- as we saw when he told the students that situations like St. Joseph’s don’t happen in real life.  That’s the doctor in Bill slipping through, still fighting against reform, liberation, and the unknown.

But going forward, with his personal life being a constant struggle, his marriage all but over, and his professional relationship still in disarray, Bill is taking the first step by putting his trust in the unknown, as is Virginia.  They’re both uncertain how to proceed together at a point when they couldn’t be further apart.

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And given Hugh Hefner’s terms and conditions, this is going to be a real challenge for both of them.  Good on Hugh for not just rolling over and taking Bill and Virginia at their lowest state, but trying to get them to work together, even if that has the potential to be explosive.

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But, as always, they’re compromising for the sake of the work, and the work must continue.  As Dale’s interest in shoes indicated, there are still new avenues to explore. And as Virginia overheard, people across the nation could benefit from the study. So time to put petty squabbles aside for now and get back to work.  But, of course, I don’t expect things to smooth over between Bill and Virginia anytime soon.  And neither should you.

“Freefall” is a strong start to Season Four and continuation of the individual storylines. Our main characters have hit a few bumps in the road, but in this era of liberation and freeing yourself from oppression, it’s time to swallow your pride and, like the man in the plane, take a leap and put your trust in something or someone else’s hands.  Now to see if the characters can still land on their feet.

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By the way, I’ll take any and every excuse for this show to visit the Playboy Mansion. Just for the record.

A Look at The Walking Dead #157: “The Whisperer War- Part 1 of 6”

The Walking Dead #157- Cover

So we are indeed headed to war with the aptly named “The Whisperer War.”  Right off the bat, I’ll say that this was a fun read.  It once again managed to balance multiple storylines and give us just enough of different locations without making the issue feel stuffed.  And the meatier parts, namely Negan’s talk with Rick and Andrea, held more weight because Negan will likely play a key role in this war.

The Walking Dead #157- Beta and other Whisperers

But we’ll get to that in a bit.  I’ll start off with the Whisperers themselves since we get a snippet of what they’re doing in light of Alpha’s death.  Despite losing Alpha, Beta remains fiercely loyal to her, which I like because it would have been easy for him to step into that leadership role.  But no.  He shuts down any possibility of someone taking Alpha’s spot and rejects the notion that Negan was ever one of them.

So more than ever, Beta has motivation to retaliate not just against Negan, but all of the survivor communities.  We know that he has the roamer army to do so and the Whisperers have already shown how they can blend in, so an attack is inevitable.  And like Alpha, it’s a nice change of pace to see the Whisperers grieve and show emotion.  At the same time, they still don’t show much to keep up appearances.

The Walking Dead #157- Negan approaches Dwight's group

Meanwhile, we get a brief moment of friendship between Dwight and Magna, which I like because it helps develop Dwight’s character since his turn to the allies and it gives Magna something to do since she and her team still haven’t been featured all that much.

I also liked Dwight’s immediate reaction to Negan approaching him.  Don’t even give the guy a chance to talk- just shoot on sight like he’s a roamer.  Nice moment of levity right there, followed by his dripping gift for Rick.

The Walking Dead #157- Negan negotiates with Rick and Andrea

And despite all the terrible things that he’s done, Negan makes a damn convincing case to Rick and Andrea.  Has the man changed for the better?  It’s better for Rick to assume not, but at the same time, Negan has had now two opportunities to break free or strike back at the survivors.  He stayed in his cell when it had been left open for a bit.  He didn’t take charge of the Whisperers to lead a revolt against Alexandria and other communities.

Even if Rick and Andrea may hate Negan, he’s shown that he deserves the smallest bit of trust because, hell, he literally gave Rick the head of the Whisperers.  And given what Alpha did, you couldn’t ask for a better present.  So maybe Negan is biding his time to rise again or he does now believe there’s a better way to survive than how he lead the Saviors.

I don’t think Rick has any choice but to trust Negan at this point.  It wouldn’t be like him to have Alpha’s head delivered to him by Negan, and then just throw him back in jail without a thought.  This is the same man who sought out Negan’s advice for how to lead his people.

So even if it’s minimal, I believe that Rick is slowly changing his tune towards Negan. He offers Negan the bare minimum to survive and promises that he won’t lead another group, so Negan won’t have much when this is all over, but it’s better than nothing and preferable than a jail cell.

The Walking Dead #157- Dwight and Rick talk about watching Negan

Whether Negan stays on his best behavior, we’ll see later, but I find it fitting that Rick would assign Dwight to watch Negan.  Not just because of their past during Negan’s reign, but this shows Rick’s trust in Dwight, as well as how much Dwight has changed since his time with the Saviors.  I think he may hate Negan more than Rick, and he has every reason to, but for Rick, he’s willing to put that aside to keep watch.

This is the same man who, under Negan’s orders, took part in attacking the survivors, but years later, he’s proven himself reliable and trustworthy…now that I think about it, this is exactly like Negan’s situation right now.  Huh.  Suppose this ends up being the case: Negan has already delivered Alpha’s head, but he could go further and be a key asset in the war against the Whisperers, thus setting him up to be a true ally to Rick.

Hey, it worked for Dwight.  Anything is possible.

The Walking Dead #157- Hilltop group plans to head out

Keep an eye on the Hilltop, by the way, because while they’re gearing up to help out with the impending war, Maggie tells Michonne that she can’t give up more people.  So I’m wondering if this means that the Hilltop’s defenses are weak right now.

Maggie isn’t stupid enough to give away her best or all she has, but the fact that she says she can’t give up more makes me wonder if the Hilltop could have saved those men to defend the community.  But even then, she’s still got Carl, who is more than ready to fight, even Michonne won’t let him come with her.  There’s also Lydia, who has lived among the Whisperers, so she can probably provide intel for Maggie in case the Hilltop is attacked.

The Walking Dead #157- Kingdom residents discuss the war

We haven’t spent a lot of time at the Kingdom since the time skip, but we get enough here to see that there’s some inner conflict and how some residents haven’t warmed up to Michonne.  It makes me wonder whether the Kingdom will defect or decide to stay on the sidelines during this war.  Since Ezekiel’s death, they still seem to be in disarray, so now we’ll hopefully see how they factor into the Whisperer war.

The Walking Dead #157- Eugene on the radio

Then you’ve got Eugene still talking on the radio to Stephanie and giving away his location. Could be problematic.  Could be even more problematic if Stephanie is lying about where she’s based.  There’s no indication that she is, mind you, though it doesn’t hurt to be cautious all the same, like Rick and Daryl initially did with Jesus on “The Next World” from Season Six, when they at first said they didn’t have a camp.

The Walking Dead #157- Andrea and Rick discuss Negan and the war

Back to Rick and Andrea, who are taking a backseat approach with this war.  Well, more so Rick than Andrea since she’s still an excellent sniper.  To be honest, Rick has earned this.  Not just with his injury from Negan, but he’s given orders and been on the front lines so many times that he should dial it back for once.

And even though he’s second guessing himself, he’s always got Andrea to snap him back to reality.  But even still, the two of them realize that they need to be extra cautious about Negan.  He’s proven he can be reliable at times, but they know Negan too well to just accept him with open arms.  But like Andrea said, she may not know if she can trust Negan, but she can at least trust Rick.

The Walking Dead #157- Calm before the storm

But with the war coming, this issue was the calm before the storm.  That final panel of the various communities, coupled with Rick telling the people at Alexandria that there is no cause for worry goes against Gabriel spotting that approaching herd of roamers and possibly Whisperers.  And that could just be the start.  Either way, get ready, because we’re headed to war.  Great issue.

Also, keep an eye on Aaron and Jesus.  Something may be brewing there…