A Look at Agent Carter- Season 1, Episode 4: “The Blitzkrieg Button”

Lies, deceit, sexism, Germans, and Stan Lee! All in a day’s work for Agent Peggy Carter. Let’s take a look at “The Blitzkrieg Button.”

The Blitzkrieg Button- Jarvis does business

The episode begins in a train yard. Jarvis is making a delivery of $50,000 to two men. He does so with $1,000 bills. If anyone could come up with those, it would be Howard Stark, but do we even have those kinds of bills today? I have no idea. Anyway, the men would be happier with an extra $100 to keep quiet. And if Jarvis has an issue with that, he can speak to the other three men waiting. I mean, the three that Peggy managed to take out.

Jarvis does have an extra $50,000 in the briefcase. He hands it over, but presses a button on the side before doing so. Gas stuns the two men- though one requires an extra bop from Peggy- and they’re out for now.

The Blitzkrieg Button- Howard Stark plays pool

Peggy and Jarvis open one of the boxcars and reconvene with Howard Stark, who is familiar with the henchmen’s boss- Mr. Mink.

The Blitzkrieg Button- Peggy spots SSR agents outside one of Stark's homes

On the drive back, Stark asks how the bonding is going between Carter and Jarvis, but Peggy is more interested in why Stark chose this moment to return. He’ll explain all of that back at his place. That won’t do. Peggy spots SSR Agents Yauch and Henry stationed outside one of his homes.

Sure, it’s one of Stark’s least known properties owned by a dummy corporation that holds the lease, but at this rate, SSR will be out for Stark’s blood after Krzeminski’s death. Luckily, Peggy has a place to stash Howard, and it’s one he’s already familiar with.

The Blitzkrieg Button- Peggy sneaks Howard up in a lift

The two sneak into The Griffith and Peggy sends Howard up the dumbwaiter shaft before she’s spotted by Miriam. Miriam is concerned about the long hours that Peggy spends working and how she frequents dance halls by night. It’s unsightly for a woman.

The Blitzkrieg Button- Dooley places Thompson in charge while he's in Germany

At SSR, Dooley received some Russian intelligence on the Battle of Finow…it’s all been blackened out. It was redacted by John McGuiness, who died about a month ago. As far as the typewriter goes, Dooley at least knows that it sends signals, but doesn’t know where from yet.

What he does know, however, is that during the Battle of Finow, the Russians were overrun by a Nazi regiment led by Colonel Mueller, who is due to be executed in two days. So looks like Dooley’s gonna make a trip to Germany. Until he returns, Thompson is in charge.

The Blitzkrieg Button- Miriam lectures Peggy

Miriam continues to lecture Peggy on how, until they reach a certain age, women are unable to govern their impulses, so Miriam takes it upon herself to defend them from compulsions. How thoughtful. Peggy picks up her laundry and Miriam leaves.

The Blitzkrieg Button- Peggy finds Howard fooling around with Lorraine, played by Sarah Schreiber

What Peggy doesn’t find is one Howard Stark, however. Turns out he got to play around with Lorraine, played by Sarah Schreiber.

In Peggy’s room, Howard informs Peggy that he’ll be leaving for Rio in three days. He needs to know which inventions have been recovered and what SSR may have. That way, he can find out how many weapons are still on the black market. Sure, Jarvis could find that out, but Jarvis isn’t the one with the camera pen.

The Blitzkrieg Button- Thompson assembles the agents

Next day- well, a few hours later since it’s almost 6 a.m.- Thompson assembles the agents and reminds them of the most important part Krzeminski’s- Agent. There will be no resting until they’re cracking skulls, so remember the importance of your job. Thompson will be dishing out assignments soon.

Except for Peggy- I mean, Marge. She’ll be taking lunch orders. Sousa, however, wants back down to the docks to dust the phone used by the anonymous tipster for prints.

The Blitzkrieg Button- Peggy takes photos with Stark's camera pen, speaks with Alex Doobin, played by Kevin Cotteleer

So Peggy heads to the lab and takes lunch orders from Mr. Alex Doobin, played by Kevin Cotteleer. Peggy asks how the progress is going on the Stark technology and she gets her answer when she sees a man’s arm erupt in not just green flames, but flue. All the while, Peggy snaps some shots with her handy-dandy pen.

The Blitzkrieg Button- Sousa speaks with two men at the docks

At the docks, Sousa dusts for prints and asks two nearby men if they saw anything. One of them, Frank, played by John Bishop, has a few things to say, but ends up getting arrested after taking a swipe at Sousa.

The Blitzkrieg Button- Mr. Mink, played by Gregory Sporleder, hears that his flunkies lost to Jarvis, Peggy, and six or seven guys

The two flunkies meet back with Mr. Mink, played by Gregory Sporleder, and inform him that Stark’s man didn’t come alone. He had a girl with him, too! But also some other guys. Like, six or seven guys! Wow, these guys are pussies. Can’t even own up to the fact that a woman kicked their asses. No big deal. Mr. Mink finishes off the two with his gun and decides to take care of this task himself.

The Blitzkrieg Button- Howard and Helen

Back at The Griffith, Peggy returns to find Howard not in her room, but with another girl. This one’s named Helen.

The Blitzkrieg Button- Howard and Peggy go through the photos

Peggy and Howard go through some of the photos. The first ten aren’t really suitable. Of course Howard Stark tested out the thing himself. Angie knocks at the door. It’s time to eat. Peggy tries to come up with an excuse, but Howard tells her to go join her friends after working so hard. He can look at the pictures. Before Peggy can leave, Howard asks her to bring him some roasted ham, mashed potatoes, and some bread. She knows what he likes, so just surprise him. Howard, if you want her to surprise you, why’d you give her specific instructions?

The Blitzkrieg Button- Sousa tells the story he received applause

Sousa brings Frank into SSR and tells him a story about the time he went to a diner after returning from combat overseas. Everyone clapped, presumably due to his effort during the war. Not too long after that, though, another GI walked in, but no one clapped for him. Sousa got the applause because of his handicap. They felt guilty.

Frank didn’t get any applause at all. One guy slept with his wife, another took his job at the mill. We all have sad stories, Frank says, but he’s still not talking to an officer. Thompson, listening in, tells Sousa to cut him loose, but Sousa is still convinced that this guy saw something. After all, if he didn’t see anything, he’d say so. Fair point.

The Blitzkrieg Button- Food smuggling habits of the women in The Griffith

At dinner, we learn the eating habits of the women at The Griffith. Angie tells Peggy that the rolls are good for at least three or four days. Carol, played by Benita Robledo, once put a chicken in her sweater thanks to her chicken pocket. Gloria, played by Joanna Strapp, has a compartment in her pocket book that can fit a cup of gravy.

Dorothy asks if one can made for her that holds pickles. What is wrong with these women? Why can’t they just come back for seconds? Side-note, The Griffith is apparently integrated. Who knew?

The Blitzkrieg Button- Howard needs Peggy to steal a particular piece of his technology

So Howard’s technology is in the SSR lab. He needs Peggy to steal one particular piece back. Each of Stark’s inventions can cause large scale destruction, but most of the technology isn’t active…except for one. London was worried that Germany would drop bombs on them, so Howard developed the episode’s title- I mean, he developed the Blitzkrieg Button.

One press and it will cause a citywide blackout. As Peggy puts it quite bluntly, it’s a glorified light switch. Problem is that Howard doesn’t know how to turn the power back on. He has a mock-up that Peggy will need to swap with the original. Peggy heads off to meet up with Jarvis.

The Blitzkrieg Button- Thompson offers Frank food if he tells what he knows

Thompson heads into interrogation with some alcohol and an all-American burger. Dinner of champions, that is. It can be Frank’s if he just talks, so he does: he saw a fancy guy in duds with a woman that left before the cops showed up. He’s shown the club photo, but it’s not the woman in the picture, as the one he saw had dark hair. As the two agents leave, Thompson tells Sousa that not everyone who returned from service wanted a hug.

The Blitzkrieg Button- Dooley meets with Colonel Mueller, played by Jack Conley

We finally catch up with Dooley as he meets with Colonel Mueller, played by Jack Conley. Dooley shows the photos of the two Russians. If Mueller tells what he knows about the battle of Finow, Dooley will help him escape.

The Blitzkrieg Button- Jarvis sucks at subtlety, tugs at his ear

Peggy asks Jarvis if there’s only one switch on the device. He says that there is, but he does so while tugging his right ear. He’s just nervous is all. Hopefully Stark doesn’t use the device himself to knock out a city’s electricity. The Blitzkrieg Button isn’t like nitramene, though, so no one’s likely to get hurt if activated, right? Again, Jarvis just wants the device back as soon as possible and can’t leave his ear alone. Subtle as a train wreck, Jarvis.

The Blitzkrieg Button- Dooley gives Mueller a 'cyanide pill'

Mueller learns that General Keitel was hanged yesterday. Took 25 minutes for him to die. Dooley has an alternative in the form of a cyanide pill hidden in his watch. If Mueller talks, he can take a pill and have a painless death so no one else will have the satisfaction of watching him hang. The truth? There was no battle. There was a massacre and many bodies left with no attacker in sight, but no one died by German hands at the Battle of Finow.

Dooley leaves, but not before offering the guard a breath mint from his watch. You sneaky bastard.

The Blitzkrieg Button- Peggy finds a vial in the Blitzkrieg button

Peggy makes the switch, but because Jarvis sucks at subtlety, she activates the device. Inside, she finds a vial.

She tries to sneak out undetected, but ends up in a room with Thompson, who asks her why she works there. Peggy says it’s to uphold democracy, but Thompson tells her that the others get to do more than take lunch orders. He knows that Peggy is hiding something, but she’s only fooling herself.

The natural order of the universe dictates that no man will ever consider her an equal. Sad, but doesn’t make it any less true. This would seem like it’s done out of spite, but there’s a hint of pity and even sadness in Thompson’s delivery, as he wouldn’t want to find himself in Peggy’s shoes. Or heels.

The Blitzkrieg Button- Howard tells Peggy that Steve Rogers' blood is in the vial

So Peggy returns to The Griffith and demands to know what’s in the vial. Howard tells her- Steve Rogers’ blood.

The Blitzkrieg Button- Peggy punches Howard in the face

And that earns him that.

The Blitzkrieg Button- Peggy and Howard face off

Peggy is reasonably pissed. Howard knew how much she cared about Steve, but he has his reasons for pulling such a move. Stark already came from a lowly place to get where he is. You don’t get to climb the American ladder without picking up a few bad habits. There’s a ceiling for certain people based on their class, sex, religion, you name it. You break through by lying, Stark’s natural instinct, but he admits that he shouldn’t have lied.

When asked why he has the blood, Howard explains that he was one of the lead scientists on Project Rebirth. Eleven vials went to the government, one to him. He doesn’t feel SSR would have it because if they knew, he’d never get it back. The blood, SR 53, could be seen as the key to vaccines, medication, and even a cure for the common cold. He can save people. Peggy, though, sees this as a way for Howard to just make millions.

Howard asks Peggy straight-up what she thinks of him. She doesn’t pull any punches. He’s a man out for personal gain. He finds holds to slither in to find loose change, only to cry when he’s bitten by another snake. He says I love you while looking over a woman’s shoulder and staring into a mirror.

At the very least, Stark’s duplicity has reminded Peggy of who she is and how she aspires to be like Steve. She’s going out for some air, but when she returns, she expects Stark gone.

The Blitzkrieg Button- Dorothy wants Mr. Mink's gun

Mink, after not being allowed to take some flowers upstairs, sneaks in through a vent and almost gets to Peggy’s door, but then Dorothy picks a convenient time to enter the hallway. Mink raises his automatic handgun, which Dorothy recognizes. She wants it, and she pulls a Black Widow to snap Mink’s neck. Pretty good for a girl from Iowa.

The Blitzkrieg Button- Peggy asks Jarvis if he knew

Next day, Peggy asks Jarvis if he knew. He did. Both he and Stark still hold her in high esteem, but Peggy now seems to trust the actions of the men who don’t respect her. At least when they ask her for something, they mean it.

The Blitzkrieg Button- Jarvis tells Howard that he took Peggy for granted

At a nearby shoe-shining station, Jarvis tells Howard that he took Peggy for granted, but Howard knows that Jarvis can get her back.

The Blitzkrieg Button- Hi, Stan Lee and Howard Stark

Oh, hi, Stan Lee.

The Blitzkrieg Button- Sousa works on the club photo

As Peggy heads in and drops off lunch, Sousa gets to work darkening the hair of the woman from the club photo.

Dooley shares with Thompson what he learned in Germany. There’s some more intel to discuss- they look at the air field log to see who landed on the plane the Monday after this supposed battle. And who should be there but Howard Stark? There’s a conspiracy afoot.

The Blitzkrieg Button- Peggy hides the Blitzkrieg Button in the wall

As the episode comes to a close, Peggy secures the device in her wall-

The Blitzkrieg Button- Dorothy loves her new gun

Dorothy admires her new gun…

The Blitzkrieg Button- Dooley receives a transmission

And Dooley starts receiving a transmission from the typewriter.

So this series began with Peggy setting out to clear Howard Stark’s name. Now she knows just one of the things that he’s been hiding, but this being Howard Stark, it’s clear that there’s much more that this man is covering than Peggy knows. Now Stark is back for a second, but with his return, we get even more potential theories and stories.

This episode felt less action-heavy and more like a mystery, and I think that’s beneficial to a series like Agent Carter. With only eight episodes, the plot of clearing Howard Stark’s name might be interesting enough, but so much more can and now has been done with that. With the reveal that Stark has Steve Rogers’ blood and that he was at the ‘battle’ site of Finow, this mini-series go much deeper than just proving Stark is innocent.

It addressed the limitations that people face, like Stark said, based on their status, class, skin color, and so on. We see how people like Peggy and Sousa, for all the work they’ve done for their country, are still treated sometimes as second class citizens because that’s the natural order of things. I’ll still argue to the death that Peggy and Sousa have earned the right to be treated fairly, given all they’ve done.

The Blitzkrieg Button- Frank, played by John Bishop, tells Sousa that no one clapped when he came home

Women, coloreds, the homeless, or any marginalized group- they aren’t seen as equals. They need to be treated with delicacy because they don’t always understand how things work. That’s what Miriam talked about when she said that women don’t know how to govern their impulses and she feels the need to protect them from their compulsions.

In this case, the compulsion is going against what society dictates you should do. Do that and you’re seen as impulsive or hard to work with. The higher-ups feel responsible for those they deem unfit to take care of themselves.

The Blitzkrieg Button- Peggy admits that she trusted Howard

Howard, at one point, even tells Peggy during their argument that she was getting way too emotional. Actually, let’s just cut straight to that scene, as there’s a lot to say about it. First off, some great performances from both Dominic Cooper and Hayley Atwell, as that felt just as tense as any battle Peggy’s been in.

A constant challenge for Peggy has been finding people she can trust. Both she and Howard have a connection to Steve Rogers and the good he inspired in people. Even though he’s gone, as a symbol, he is everlasting.

The Blitzkrieg Button- Howard talks about climbing the American ladder

And Howard has taken advantage of that symbol to turn into a profit. Sure, he’s doing it for a greater good, but still ethically questionable. Given Howard’s role in the super soldier program, this doesn’t seem completely out of left field and feels like something Stark would do, but it’s the fact that he lied to Peggy, who he trusted to help clear his name, that stings Carter the most.

Peggy has every right to be upset. Her description of Howard as a lowdown snake was spot-on and you could tell that Stark’s betrayal cut to her core.

The Blitzkrieg Button- Thompson tells Peggy about the way things are

Had this been an agent, it probably wouldn’t have mattered as much because Peggy would expect that. Thompson’s admission to Peggy about no man ever considering her an equal hurt, but it was more honest than anything Peggy had heard from Stark. Even if most of the men at SSR don’t respect or even like Peggy, they’re at least up front about it.

They have nothing to hide because there’s no reason to. Aside from Sousa, most of the men at SSR treat Peggy like she’s a second-rate agent. To them, they’re just doing what’s socially accepted. It’s a rough reality that Peggy lives in, but it’s at least right in front of her without any smoke and mirrors.

The Blitzkrieg Button- Jarvis still sucks at subtlety

Though I do have to question Jarvis’ subtlety. As Peggy pointed out, Jarvis would be a terrible card player. True as that is, this behavior doesn’t seem consistent with Jarvis being able to withstand Thompson’s interrogation. It couldn’t have just been a slip because Jarvis did it twice. It felt like a way for Peggy to know that he wasn’t being honest.

I like that we got to see more of the SSR agents at work. As mentioned, they may be one step behind Carter, but they’re still competent agents who are passionate about what they do, even more so in light of Krzeminski’s death.

I loved Dooley’s impromptu trip to Germany and the reveal that he never intended to give Mueller a quick and painless death, but given what he knows about Howard Stark’s further involvement, as well as Sousa trying to figure the identity of the two at the pier, the agents may soon set their sights on Agent Carter soon.

The Blitzkrieg Button- Dorothy wants to be able to hold pickles

Another good thing to see was more of the women at The Griffith and their very strange habits of keeping food. Odd, but nice to see Peggy interacting with more of her neighbors and adding more friends to her social circle.

The Blitzkrieg Button- Dorothy pulls a Black Widow

But now we must question Ms. Dorothy Dottie Underwood’s role. No word of a lie, the stunt she pulled on Mr. Mink, which was awesome, was very reminiscent of Black Widow in Iron Man 2. There’s a lot of fan speculation that Underwood may be Yelena Belova. Interesting theory, but let’s wait to see what happens.

I enjoyed “The Blitzkrieg Button.” It put Carter at odds with Jarvis and Stark, gave SSR even more incentive to pursue Howard, and showed that there’s more to Ms. Dorothy Dottie Underwood than her being from Iowa. What will Peggy do with the device? Is she completely over Jarvis and Stark? Will SSR close in on her soon? Why does Dorothy need to hide pickles? And when can I get a chicken pocket for my sweater? Next time.

A Look at A Most Violent Year

A Most Violent Year- Poster

The year is 1981. New York is as violent as it’s ever been before. At least, that’s what we’re told. You want to carve out a name for yourself, but have to contend with the mob, gangsters, the district attorney, and rampant corruption. In spite of the violent world you live in, is it possible to avoid corrupting yourself? Can you stay out of the gangster game or do you need to get your hands dirty in order to get ahead? Let’s dig into A Most Violent Year.

The film begins in New York City, 1981. We start with our main character, Abel Morales, played by Oscar Isaac, on a jog in Queens. We hear through radio chatter that three police officers have recently been treated for gunshot wounds.

A Most Violent Year- Julian, played by Elyes Gabel, is ambushed

A Standard Heating Oil truck makes its way through a toll. The driver, Julian, played by Elyes Gabel, is just working his daily route when he’s attacked and ambushed by two men in a car in front of his truck. Julian is thrown from the truck and can only watch as the robbers make off with it. Don’t you hate when that happens?

A Most Violent Year- Abel makes a deal with Hasidic Jews

Abel brings a briefcase of money to his lawyer, Andrew Walsh, played by Albert Brooks, and the two head in for their meeting with a group of Hasidic Jews. The leader, Josef, played by Jerry Adler, wonders why Abel would even want the land he’s proposing to buy, since the site doesn’t contain any oil. Abel just likes to own what he plans to use. He has 30 days to close the transaction. If not, the land will be sold to one of Abel’s competitors.

A Most Violent Year- Visiting Julian in the hospital

Later, Abel heads to the hospital to visit Julian and we’re also introduced to Abel’s wife, Anna, played by Jessica Chastain. In the hallway, Anna learns that her husband did indeed get the contract signed, but they still need the money from the loan. Anna offers to talk to her brother, but Abel doesn’t want anyone else involved. She’s concerned about the growing number of attacks. After all, it’s not fair that Julian was attacked just for doing his job.

A Most Violent Year- Abel checks the tank

So Abel heads to a parking lot where the truck has been towed. The on-site cop isn’t much help. In fact, his shift is just about up. He does ask Abel why someone would steal the truck, and Abel tells him that the robbers wanted the $6,000 worth of fuel in the tank.

A Most Violent Year- Meeting Assistant District Attorney Lawrence, played by David Oyelowo

Andrew and Abel meet with the Assistant District Attorney, Mr. Lawrence, played by David Oyelowo. They want help on the truck robberies, but Lawrence reminds them that this is a police issue. It’s also no more important than the other rampant number of crimes being committed in the city. However, as Abel points out, for two years his drivers are at risk. His company, he says, never took from anyone else. Lawrence breaks it to the two that their company is being investigated for possible corruption. The office will bring a case against them next week. Well, at least he gave them advanced notice.

Back at the Standard Heating Oil Office, Abel tells Anna that they’re going to be charged soon. He wants to know where they may be exposed, but Anna reminds him that the company follows the standard industry practices. Right now, she needs to know what’s going on, but Abel doesn’t know all of the details yet.

After Anna, Abel, and their daughters settle into their new home, they receive an unwelcome visit that night. The dog’s growling gets Abel’s attention, so he grabs a baseball bat and heads outside. He heads out and sees nothing, but someone then strikes him on the head and flees. Abel runs after him, but doesn’t get too far through the snow before the attacker is able to escape. Anna stitches up her husband’s feet- never go running barefoot in the show- while Abel assures her that their attacker was just some random guy that won’t be back.

Next day, Abel trains three new sales recruits in the Standard Heating Oil office and gives them some specific tips on how to deal with clients: take a good, long look at the cloth and then say you want to run the numbers. After that, if the client offers you something to drink, take the fancier option- tea over coffee. You never want to give the illusion that you’re cheap. Make sure you stare the client right in the eye. The recruit can only keep the job if they close. Abel wants the company to grow, so by staring the buyer in the eye, the recruit telegraphs that they are telling the truth. You have to believe you’re better than the competition.

Abel drives Julian home from the hospital. Julian isn’t ready to be behind the wheel again and instead asks if he can do sales, but Abel tells him that he’s not ready for that move yet.

A Most Violent Year- Anna finds Catherine playing with a gun

Anna heads home and finds one of her daughters, Catherine, playing with a gun that she and the other girls found in the yard. She takes the loaded gun to the office and shows it to Abel, who promises to take care of it. Abel promises to take care of it. Anna doesn’t know what that means, but she does know this: he’s not going to be happy if she has to get involved.

Andrew has more bad news: the D.A.’s office has a 14-count indictment against Standard Heating Oil, three of which are very serious. They need to set up a dinner with the bank. Also, Anna needs to go over the books.

A Most Violent Year- Abel meets with Bill

Abel goes to meet with union head Bill, who tells Abel that this situation can’t continue with the guys being attacked. They’re feeling pressure on all sides. Andrew suggests arming the drivers with handguns and can even have permits ready by Friday…not legitimate permits, though. Abel is against this idea because if even one shot is fired by one of his drivers, he’ll be implicated for it.

A Most Violent Year- Meeting with bank leaders

So the three meet with two bank owners and inform them that the D.A. is singling them out. Abel is interested in running a clean business without any problems. When asked about why he wants the land he’s looking to buy, he explains that he wants the quick river access. That and there’s a lot of room for storage capacity. Sure, the leap may be scary, but even then, you still jump. Abel wants to control his fate instead of just remaining in the same spot. The bank owners are on board.

So after that bit of happy news, let’s get into something a bit dramatic. Abel and Anna discuss the meeting on the way home, but a deer runs into the path of the car. The two get out and see the deer taking its last breaths. Anna tells Abel to put the deer out of its misery. He goes to get a tire iron, but can’t bring himself to finish off the deer, so Anna does it herself with her gun. See, this is what happens when Jessica Chastain gets involved.

At home, Abel is livid that Anna has a gun, but she doesn’t back down from using it. After all, she wasn’t going to sit around and let her family be put in danger. True as that may be, she still doesn’t have a permit and could get in trouble if she’s caught. For telling her that whores use guns, Anna slaps him. Abel then says that this gun is a trap that she just can’t see. All right. If Anna can’t use the gun, Abel needs to protect his family.

A Most Violent Year- Birthday celebration

Next day, Anna and Abel are throwing a birthday party for one of their daughters. The police arrive right outside, along with Lawrence, even though none of them received an invitation. They’ve come to search the premises, but Lawrence gives Abel and Anna five minutes to clear out the party. They do so, but also use this as a chance to move some file boxes underneath their deck. Anna just doesn’t want the officials to go through them before she has a chance.

As the officer search the premises, Anna tells Lawrence that he’s not going to find anything. Abel is an honorable man. She then gives Lawrence a warning- treat Abel with respect or the two will make it their mission to ruin him.

Strong threats from a strong woman.

A Most Violent Year is a very intricate type of film. This isn’t a film just about one man trying to avoid the gangster world. There are a lot of different elements at play in this movie: the influence of power, crafting out your destiny, corruption, competition, and whether the ends justify the means. Much like The Drop, this is a very slow-paced film that takes its time with its storytelling.

A Most Violent Year- Running through New York

Director and writer J.C. Chandor does a good job at establishing what type of New York this is just from the film’s onset. It’s a very bleak looking movie. Subway cars are tagged with graffiti, there’s little light, and the violence is rampant. Well, sort of. For a film called A Most Violent Year, the title itself is quite deceptive. There’s very little violence and not that many deaths. I’m also pretty sure that this film takes place over the span of a month as opposed to a full year. In fact, we’re told at one point that the previous year had a high number of murders, but little indicates that this year follows that pattern. However, it is the constant threat of violence that always looms in the background.

A Most Violent Year- Abel and his lawyer, Andrew Walsh, played by Albert Brooks

The mob is at constant competition for dominance in this environment. The players aren’t above using violence to gain control. This is a war and they understand that it’s necessary to get your hands dirty. But not Abel. He has to contend with forces on all sides: the mob, his gangster wife, the District Attorney, union workers, and his own philosophy. Despite the dangers that his drivers endure, Abel won’t allow himself to cross the line and enter the realm of violence. Otherwise, not only would he become a part of the problem, he would symbolize what he hates about the business.

A Most Violent Year- Abel speaks with Anna

Abel is not a gangster. He’s a businessman with a strict code. He plays by the rules. Sure, he recognizes the violence, but he still chooses to work within the system and confines of the law. That doesn’t mean he’s an overall good or straight arrow sort of guy, though. He’ll use tactics necessary to get clients to switch over to his company, if necessary. One of the best scenes that illustrates this, and one of the better scenes of the film in general, is when he describes to his new recruits the importance of believing you’re better than the competition. Never pick the cheapest option because it gives the illusion that you yourself are cheap. As he tells them, you’ll never do anything harder than stare someone in the eye and tell them the truth.

A Most Violent Year- Anna and Abel
When it comes down to it, this film is about Abel getting a loan for a plot of land. However, the movie goes deeper and explores how he wants to make an honest name for himself and pursue his destiny. To do this, Abel’s business needs to be as open and legitimate as possible. That’s one constant about Abel throughout the film. He’s not a fan of violence, as we see when he doesn’t want to arm his drivers. And he gets very upset when he sees that Anna has her own gun and is willing to commit violence if it means protecting her family.

A Most Violent Year- Abel holds the gun found at his house

There’s a real, quiet intensity to Oscar Isaac’s performance. He’s fully aware of the violence around him, but refuses to add to that, even if means people who work for him will get hurt. Abel is on a quest to own something for himself and further his business. But more than that, he’s a man with integrity and refuses to waiver in the face of threats from competitors. He won’t allow himself to become part of the corrupt game that plagues the business.

It’s as if he wants to retain as spotless of a record as possible. Every move Abel makes is calculated and he’s always careful to stay one step ahead of not just the district attorney’s office, but his competition as well. For Abel, this is about more than destiny- it’s also about honor. Sure, all of his tactics may not be good, but compared to his competition, he’s a good man. The ends justify the means and if he manages to beat out his rivals, it will be all for nothing if he had to get blood on his hands to do so.

A Most Violent Year- Anna smokes

Luckily, he has a wife who is willing to do the dirty work if he won’t. Anna is the perfect counterbalance for Abel’s passive attitude toward violence and Jessica Chastain is great in the role. Like Isaac, there’s a quiet intensity to Chastain’s performance, but a lot of that has to do with what we don’t see Anna do. Anna comes from a gangster family. She offers to get her father involved to help out Abel, who will have nothing to do with that.

A Most Violent Year- Anna sends a message to ADA Lawrence

She shoots a deer because her husband didn’t have the stones to finish it off and she even threatened an Assistant District Attorney! You don’t get to just walk away after making such a threat to a public official, but Anna does because she will do whatever is necessary to protect herself and her family. The fact that she warned Abel that he wouldn’t be happy if she got involved shows that she has a real dark side. She doesn’t care about having to commit crimes because she knows how the gangster game is played.

A Most Violent Year- Moving into the new home

Despite Anna’s willingness to use violence, however, we do see shades of a woman who is concerned about the well-being of her children. Anna is tough, but she does have a heart. As much as this film is mostly about Oscar Isaac’s performance, I very much enjoyed the interactions between him and Jessica Chastain and would have loved more.

A Most Violent Year isn’t going to be as fast-paced as people would like it to be. I found the film to be fantastic from start to finish. It’s a nice throwback to films like The Godfather and Oscar Isaac’s performance as a man striving to stick to his code to mark his destiny was an enjoyable watch. Again, like The Drop, this film is like watching a lit fuse head toward several sticks of dynamite. You’re always waiting for the explosion to happen. The only unfortunate thing about the film is the title itself, as there’s not a ton of violence here at all, but just the threat of violence. That, however, does not detract from what an amazing film this is.

And when Jessica Chastain says that you won’t like it when she gets involved, believe her.

A Look at Gotham- Season 1, Episode 13: “Welcome Back, Jim Gordon”

This seems familiar.

Welcome Back, Jim Gordon- Fish is brought into parking garage

The episode begins with Fish being brought into a makeshift lab in a parking garage. The two transporters strap her down. They won’t be handling her, though. That’s Bob’s job.

Welcome Back, Jim Gordon- Flass, Gordon, and Bullock examine body of Pinky Littlefield

Gordon arrives at a warehouse crime scene and learns from Bullock that there aren’t any new leads on Fish’s case. Bullock introduces Gordon to Flass, who we learn this week works in the narcotics division. One of Flass’ connections tipped him off on the body at the murder scene: Pinky Littlefield, who worked this block. Flass figures it was a deal gone bad, so hey, it’s just another public service homicide. Bullock and Flass head off, but Gordon does a bit more snooping around. He finds some blue packets in the heel of Littlefield’s right shoe.

Welcome Back, Jim Gordon- Leon Winkler, played by Willie C. Carpenter, agrees to give a witness statement

Bullock brings in their one witness: Leon Winkler, played by Willie C. Carpenter. He agreed to step forward because, as his wife, Louise told him, if you don’t step forward, you just step back. Well, this guy is an upstanding citizen. I wonder if he’ll make it to the end of the episode.

Welcome Back, Jim Gordon- Leon Winkler about to be killed

No dice.   As he waits in the precinct, he’s killed by an unknown man with an ice pick.

Welcome Back, Jim Gordon- Examining Leon Winkler's body

Turns out that the security cameras inside and outside of the building were turned off. Nygma poses a riddle: what’s strong enough to smash ships, but still fears the sun? Bullock isn’t in the mood for riddles, but Gordon guesses it- ice! Gauging from the circumference of the wound, the weapon was a carbon steel ice pick driven in deep enough to mark the surrounding tissue. Winkler’s wounds are the exact same as the drug dealer from this morning.

Welcome Back, Jim Gordon- Bob, played by Michael Eklund, speaks with Fish

So Bob, played by Michael Eklund, and Fish get to know each other. Well, sort of. Fish learns that Bob has two daughters- girls that she calls ugly little creatures. That earns her a slap across the face, which earns Bob a glob of saliva in the face. Why? Because he called her Fish. Remember, only her friends call her Fish and these two aren’t friends yet.

Welcome Back, Jim Gordon- Butch escapes

Butch is brought to a plant by two thugs. He escapes. Scene.

Welcome Back, Jim Gordon- Essen, Gordon, and Bullock try to figure out who killed Winkler

Of course, Essen isn’t pleased about this murder happening in her house. Gordon floats the idea that a cop could have murdered Leon Winkler, but Bullock and Essen tell him that pointing fingers at cops without concrete evidence could turn jeopardize his reinstatement and turn the other officers against him again. Gordon wants to start with the guard duty logbook and insists on taking this. After all, he’s the one who asked Winkler to come in and give a statement. Essen approves, but tells the two to proceed with caution. No big moves without her say so.

Welcome Back, Jim Gordon- Bruce and Alfred run into Ivy

Bruce misses his girlfriend, so he has Alfred drive around Gotham. No sign of her. They do spot Ivy, though, who not only looks and sounds much better than last time we saw her, but is just walking through the streets of Gotham without a care in the world. I’m surprised she hasn’t been carted away yet. Anyway, Bruce has a gift for Selina and also needs to deliver a message. Ivy can deliver that message…for $20. Alfred? Give the girl $20. What’s Ivy gonna do with that money, anyway? She doesn’t have a place to live and if she wanted something, she could just steal it. I mean, she did get into an apartment building easily enough.

Welcome Back, Jim Gordon- Butch rescues Fish

Fish isn’t daunted by Bob’s torture so far. In fact, she’s bored by it all. Bob has other tools at his disposal, but before he can move onto his next weapon, Butch outta nowhere and knocks the hell out of Bob. That was fast.

Welcome Back, Jim Gordon- Gordon and Bullock interview one of the officers

Gordon talks to various cops about the missing page from the logbook, but none are talking. They’re either protecting their own or don’t like Gordon. Bullock doesn’t buy the notion that a cop did this, but he eventually gives Gordon an angle. They talk to one of the previously interviewed cops and tell him that they have a reliable witness- Alvarez- that blames him for the missing page. The cop says that Alvarez is only lying because he had a thing with his wife six years ago. If it wasn’t him, then who was it?

Welcome Back, Jim Gordon- Gordon arrests Derek Delaware, played by Niko Nicotera

So Gordon gets the name of his suspect, who is heading to the parking garage. The suspect, Derek Delaware, played by Niko Nicotera, tries to escape, but Gordon stops him. He checks Delaware’s trunk and finds more blue packets. So remember how Essen told Gordon and Bullock not to make any big moves without her permission?

Welcome Back, Jim Gordon- Gordon puts Delaware in a holding cell

Well, Gordon does just the opposite by bringing Delaware back into the precinct, handcuffed, and throws him in a holding cell. Gordon is making a statement.

Welcome Back, Jim Gordon- Essen and Flass inform Gordon about the drugs he found

Gordon is called into Essen’s office, where Flass also waits. Gordon doesn’t back down. After all, he found the same evidence found at Littlefield’s crime scene. That evidence, Flass says, is part of an ongoing narcotics investigation. Narco’s been deep in the drug trade for months. If Gordon’s stunt gets out, he will have unraveled the entire investigation, not to mention the illegal search. Essen is turning the investigation over to Internal Affairs and takes Gordon and Bullock off the Winkler murder. They are still on the Littlefield murder, though.

Welcome Back, Jim Gordon- Nygma has a greeting card for Miss Kringle

Nygma has another gift for Miss Kringle. This time, it’s a greeting card. She at least accepts this one the first time around.

Welcome Back, Jim Gordon- Fish wakes up

Fish wakes up and is starving. Butch suggests that they hit the road, but Fish has some unfinished business that involves cutting Penguin’s throat.

Welcome Back, Jim Gordon- Penguin shows his mother the club

Speaking of Penguin, he shows his mom around the club.

Welcome Back, Jim Gordon- Bullock tells Gordon about stash houses

At a diner, Bullock tells Gordon that, years ago, Essen’s people started busting drug dealers and took over their stash houses. Bullock’s only telling him now because he responds to crises as they arrive. He’s not a forward planner and he didn’t want to get Gordon riled up. Flass is protected by serious people high-up, possibly even the Commissioner. If Gordon fools around them, he can forget about going to Gotham. He may face a much worse fate. The stash houses can give them evidence linking Flass to Littlefield’s murder, which can also link them to Winkler. Bullock makes a call.

Welcome Back, Jim Gordon- Gordon confronts Delaware

The two enter the warehouse to find Delaware and other officers handling some boxes. Gordon and Bullock try to put up a fight, but they’re outnumbered. Besides, Delaware has a warrant giving him the right to search and seizure, as the building is being used as a home base by the uptown assassins. Hell, the commissioner himself even requested it.

Welcome Back, Jim Gordon- Essen tells Gordon and Bullock that Winkler's death has been ruled as a suicide

Gordon and Bullock are back to square one with nothing that ties Flass to the drugs or murder, not murders, as Internal Affairs has just ruled Winkler’s death as a suicide. The body is being released to his wife. A ruling this fast means that the commissioner may have been involved. Going forward puts everyone’s jobs at risk. With men like Flass, Gordon needs results, so Essen tells him to move onto the next victim. Gordon heads off and tells Bullock that he’ll be back in an hour.

Welcome Back, Jim Gordon- Flass reads Nygma's card

Also, Flass gets a hold of Nygma’s card to Kringle. He thinks Nygma is a creep.

Welcome Back, Jim Gordon- Penguin introduces his mother to Jim

While Mom dances, Penguin gets a visit from Jim, who needs a favor. He informs Penguin of his situation and how he’s hit a wall since Flass is too well connected. Since Maroni runs the drug trade, maybe Penguin could find someone with the goods on Flass. Favor is done, as Penguin won’t hear any more. He’ll make some calls. What does Gordon have to do in return? Nothing. Friends don’t owe friends, silly. They just do favors because they want to. Gordon doesn’t want anyone to get hurt.

Welcome Back, Jim Gordon- Zsasz finishes off Bob

So Bob’s still in a lot of pain from that beating that Butch gave him. No worry. Zsasz is there to put him out of his misery.

Welcome Back, Jim Gordon- Penguin speaks to his audience

Penguin sends the musicians home and asks Gabe if he can take his mother home on the way to help out Jim.  What does Penguin with the club all to himself? He drinks up and has himself a good old time! After all, it’s his club and he can do whatever he wants!

Welcome Back, Jim Gordon- Fish is ready to play ball

Wait, never mind. Looks like Fish wants to play ball.

Welcome Back, Jim Gordon- Bruce got Selina a bag as a present

Bruce plays chess with himself. Before I can even ask why a kid would do that, Selina Kyle enters and asks on our behalf. Bruce is glad to see that she’s safe. He’s been in Switzerland this entire time and has a gift for Selina- a snow globe. He also wants Selina to stay at Wayne Manor since he figures that it’s a better place to live. But Selina wonders what’s better about it. I’m guessing it’s a hell of a lot better than the boxes she and Ivy stayed in. Anyway, Selina is here to tell Bruce to stop hassling her. She admits to lying about seeing his parents’ killer- she just didn’t want to get carted off to juvenile detention. She can’t help him. With that, Selina leaves.

Welcome Back, Jim Gordon- Gabe interrogates Delaware

Gabe interrogates Delaware and we learn that Littlefield was light for two weeks. Flass killed him to send a message. That’s all Delaware knows. That’s all Gabe needs to know, so he lets Delaware’s wife out of the tub for now.

Welcome Back, Jim Gordon- Fish taunts Penguin

Penguin now finds himself kissing Fish’s boot. He knows that the two have their differences, but he proposes joining forces. Fish reminds Penguin of who he was and who he is. She found and made him. Penguin is nothing but a servant and an umbrella boy. Penguin isn’t afraid, though. For all of Fish’s smarts, she couldn’t even see that Penguin was working for Falcone the entire time.

Welcome Back, Jim Gordon- Zsasz breaks up the party

Oh, hi, Zsasz.

Welcome Back, Jim Gordon- Zsasz considers what to do with Butch

Butch manages to down one of Zsasz’s henchwomen- I have no idea why the four of them stand in a straight line when they fire- and flees with Fish. Fish makes her escape through a window while Butch stands his ground. Zsasz puts a bullet in Butch’s knee, but rather than kill him, Zsasz and the girls contemplate taking Butch home to play with.

Welcome Back, Jim Gordon- Nygma surgically removes onions from his take-out

Miss Kringle visits Nygma, who is in the middle of surgically removing the onions from his takeout. Why didn’t he just ask for no onions? Anyway, she apologizes for what happened earlier. She didn’t give Flass the card, he found it in her desk. She did, at least, find the card thoughtful.

Welcome Back, Jim Gordon- Evidence literally dropped in front of Gordon

Gabe literally drops off the evidence Gordon needs right in front of him: the murder weapon and a recording of Delaware rolling on Flass. Flass gave Delaware the ice pick to throw away, but Delaware kept it in case he had to cover his own ass. Not a very smart guy.

Alfred gives zero cares about Bruce crying over spilled Selina, so Bruce heads back to work with his crime web.

Welcome Back, Jim Gordon- Gordon moves to arrest Flass

Gordon very publicly announces that he’ll be arresting Flass for Winkler’s murder and dumps out the evidence. The knife and tape alone will earn Flass twenty years upstate. Flass isn’t afraid. These officers are his friends and won’t let Gordon arrest him. He’s been there for years, while Gordon is still just a rookie. Gordon refuses to back down, saying that Flass doesn’t deserve the badge.

Flass still murdered Leon Winkler, an innocent man who trusted them. Other officers start to back Gordon’s effort. The other officers can help Gordon or stand aside. Either way, he’s doing his duty. Flass’ protection crumbles around him as Captain Essen makes the arrest while Alvarez reads Flass his rights.

Welcome Back, Jim Gordon- Flass and Fish at the port

Bullock, meanwhile, drops Fish off at the Port of Gotham. Fish plans to leave town and lay low for awhile, but she’ll return to kill Penguin someday. She wants Bullock to find Fish and help him, if he’s still alive.

Welcome Back, Jim Gordon- Delaware begs Gordon to leave his family alone

Gordon runs into Delaware, who asks him if the big guy dropped off the package. Delaware hopes this means that the two are even, so Gordon can back off of his family. Gordon, however, doesn’t know what Delaware is talking about, so Delaware drops to his knees and begs Gordon to just leave his family alone.

“Welcome Back, Jim Gordon” indeed, as Gotham re-establishes Jim in the GCPD. This episode had its moments, but it suffered from serious repetition.

While it’s nice to see Gordon score a win in his book and earn the respect of some officers in the department, we’ve already seen him do this before. We known Gotham’s finest are corrupt and crooked, but after the show reinstated Gordon in the police department, we don’t do anything new with it. At the very least, Gordon knows that he has more allies.

Welcome Back, Jim Gordon- Gordon asks Essen why no one else will help him

But, like he asks Captain Essen, why won’t anyone else help him? How is it that only the likes of Essen and Bullock back him when something bad happens? A murder happened in their own house without anyone noticing. And with the security cameras both in and outside being turned off, it’s pretty clear that even the security at GCPD is pretty lax. At the very least, the most interesting thing to come out of this episode is that even the commissioner himself may be involved. So we know he’s involved, as is the mayor at times, so who is pulling the strings here? That’d s a mystery worth looking into.

And the corrupt cops themselves aren’t all too smart, either. I mean, Flass’ voice isn’t all that hard to distinguish and it was easy to pin him as the man behind Winkler’s death. Also, as Gabe pointed out, Delaware had the murder weapon but chose to hold onto it. I’d question how people this incompetent even got to be in such positions of authority, but this is Gotham City.

Welcome Back, Jim Gordon- Precinct watches Jim make his case

It would be nice if other cops did start helping Gordon or, hell, if we just saw other good cops in general. Essen had to know that a hotshot like Gordon isn’t going to just drop a case just because he’s told to. He still has the drive to do good, even if he and Bullock have to go it alone. Hell, Bullock already gave that rousing speech during “The Mask” about how he wouldn’t allow anyone in the GCPD to stand aside while Gordon fights the good fight on his own.

Welcome Back, Jim Gordon- Jim reminds the GCPD that people like Winkler trust the police

Gordon sees the badge as a symbol of respect and trust- not something to be just be flashed as a symbol to abuse authority. He’s still fighting against a corrupt system that wants business to go on as usual, but he, again, runs the danger of getting in too deep himself. Not intentional, mind you, but the deal he makes with Penguin ends up having greater consequences than he wanted. Even if Penguin didn’t want anything in return, I think Gordon had to know that he was going to regret this decision.

Welcome Back, Jim Gordon- Gordon realizes he has a new, dark reputation

By the end, he does, as Delaware now appears to be at his mercy. Gordon got the conviction that he wanted, but his already stained reputation is further dirtied. That would be interesting if we hadn’t already seen Gordon grapple with the notion that he’s a dirty cop back when he managed to convince everyone that he killed Penguin. Gordon is an optimist, but, as he did in The Dark Knight Rises, has to stick his hands in the filth to get dirty.

However, the circumstances with Gordon’s deal here are a bit different. Before, it involved getting rid of Penguin. I don’t think many in the GCPD would care if he had died or not. Now, it’s just about evidence, and I doubt anyone cares how Gordon got the evidence since it did lead to putting Flass away. Of course, going to Penguin for help in the first place isn’t exactly Gordon working within the confines of the law. It’s no different than Montoya and Allen using Penguin as a snitch, I think.

Welcome Back, Jim Gordon- Penguin drunk by a fish

But onto Penguin, for a second. While the scenes with him, his mother, and Gabe at the nightclub didn’t add anything to the plot, I found it a nice change of pace for Penguin to just relish the fact that, for a moment, he actually bested Fish. And he wasn’t wrong about Fish never realizing that Penguin worked for Falcone the entire time.

Fish and Butch got out of their predicaments pretty quickly. It surprises me that Falcone didn’t take more precautious and the fact that Fish was willing to withstand so much torture seems like a waste since Butch rescued her in no time at all.

Welcome Back, Jim Gordon- Fish and Bullock

I do still like the mutual friendship between Fish and Bullock. It’s clear from the ending that Bullock cares for her, but we get more hints of it at the beginning when Bullock gets defensive after Gordon says that Bullock has a thing for Fish. I’m certain Fish will eventually return, but given Batman lore, I doubt she’ll be killing Penguin. Fish is an original character for this show, after all.

The Gotham Kids segment, again, didn’t add anything to the storyline, but it did help refocus Bruce on his detective work since it looks like he and Selina are through, for the moment. Why Selina is suddenly turning on a dime now, I don’t know. Again, neither Bruce nor Jim had any reason to trust Selina because she didn’t have anything concrete. I’m not sure whether she’s actually lying just to get Bruce out of her curly hair or if she really didn’t see anything.  She still talks like she’s way older than she looks, though.

Welcome Back, Jim Gordon- Ivy wants $20

And why would Bruce be so trusting of Ivy? They’ve met one time before this and she doesn’t like or respect him any more than she did before. Sure, Ivy held up her part of the bargain, but I find it strange that Bruce wouldn’t just do more searching himself instead of trusting information with a person he barely knows.

Welcome Back, Jim Gordon- Michael Eklund as Bob

It’s worth pointing out that this episode featured Michael Eklund, who also played The Dollmaker on Arrow. Now, we know that the universe of The Flash and Arrow doesn’t intersect with this and Gotham has even acknowledged its own Dollmaker, but I did find it interesting to have another actor, after Anthony Carrigan, come from the Flash/Arrow universe to play a different character in a different universe on Gotham.

So Gordon may yet again be in danger of garnering a dark reputation for something he didn’t intend to happen. Now to see how he’ll get out of this one.

A Look at House of Lies- Season 4, Episode 3: “Entropy is Contagious”

Absinthe knows all. That is all.

Entropy is Contagious- Marty wakes up next to naked woman

The episode begins, appropriately, with a montage. Marty wakes up next to a naked woman. Who is she? We’ll get to that in a second. Malcolm is set to make his television debut, but Marty has more important things to think about, like his Seattle trip.

Entropy is Contagious- Clyde's sleeping mask

Clyde apparently wears a sleeping face mask to bed.

Entropy is Contagious- Jeannie masturbates

Jeannie considers some a little masturbation, but decides against it.

Entropy is Contagious- Sarah handles Doug's collectibles

But Doug awakens to find Sarah with his unopened Galattack dolls. He’s shocked because, as a collector, any little bit of handling can diminish the value, even if you don’t open them. Sarah isn’t interested in his toys, though, so either they’re gonna do it or she’s going to be bad teacher: Miss Pendegast.

Entropy is Contagious- Marty speaks with Mary McCormack about raping and pillaging his company

Marty then has breakfast with his consultant friend, Denna, played by Mary McCormack from In Plain Sight. Hell yes, I love this woman. Anyway, she talks of acquisition at three dollars a share and dumping it at $240. There will be some collateral damage, but when profit sharing is in the billions, shit happens. Marty wonders when she’s going to come rape and pillage his company, but she’s more interested in raping and pillaging him. Management consulting pick-up lines, folks.

Besides, once Kaan & Associates lands the Gage account, they could be huge. She argues that they’re still teensy right now. The only way she’d consider them is if she took their firm, put it with other firms, and strained the fat. So yeah, K&A is part of a management consultancy bouillabaisse.

Entropy is Contagious- Clyde tries talking to Kelsey again

Over at Kaan & Associates, Kelsey brushes Clyde aside so she won’t break her vow of not dating assholes for a year. Granted, Clyde says that Kelsey was never in his arousal template anyway.

As the entire pod prepares to leave, Jeannie and Marty spar on how to present themselves for their potential: Krolls, a skin care line. Jeannie wants to talk analysis instead of just winging it. Marty has his own plan: Krolls has hit its peak, so they will look to a firm like K&A now that they themselves are looking good again. He’s more focused on helping convert Krolls brand to rock star status.

Marty believes that their survey metrics around intent to purchase are off the charts, but Jeannie counters that they are only on the charts. Skin care is a red ocean, she says. She’d prefer that the pod convince Krolls to sell to a major, do profit-sharing, and then enjoy their house in San Juan Islands. Clyde flippantly thanks Jeannie for the pod’s new austerity program, but she assures him that once the Gage account is sewn up, Clyde’s balls will be back in.

Entropy is Contagious- Clyde asks Doug if people really think he's an asshole

Clyde intends to sit next to Marty, even though Doug called Marty shotgun. Clyde tells Doug that Marty wouldn’t want to sit next to him. Doug asks why. After all, Clyde is the asshole. Clyde counters that Doug is just plain intolerable. They get serious for a second and wonder if they actually are as bad as people make them out to be.

Entropy is Contagious- Pod pitches to the Krolls; Carolyn, played by Deborah Strong, and William, played by Don Moss

The pod makes its pitch to the Krolls: Carolyn, played by Deborah Strong, and William, played by Don Moss. Marty, Doug, and Clyde talk up the brand’s deep equity and how they could eventually be making up to $600 million in brand equity, and that’s excluding valuations of inventory and infrastructure. So how do you take this to the next level? Well, you double down and make Krolls an entertainment brand by pushing it up with celebrity endorsements and media tie-ins.

And this is where Jeannie jumps in. Her proposal is that Krolls sells to a huge multinational, make $800 million and let Kaan & Associates walk them through the transition while the Krolls enjoy their lives. She shows a graph of awareness investment erosion. Should Krolls’ go down Marty’s path, it will cost $100 million to launch five extensions, which only leads to a five point bump in awareness for a simple $20 million profit. It’s a fast way to lose $80 million. Marty, taken off guard by Jeannie’s approach, decides that everyone will regroup tomorrow for a detailed brand strategy.

Entropy is Contagious- Doug talks about Oscar Wilde and absinthe

That night, at a bar, Marty, Doug, and Clyde drink. Doug in particular takes in a heavy amount of absinthe. He refers to something Oscar Wilde once said- the first glass makes you see things the way you wish they were. The second shows things the way they aren’t. I missed that quote.

Entropy is Contagious- Malcolm speaks with Meghan McCain

But hey, look who’s on television? It’s Malcolm on a CNN-esque network, speaking with Meghan McCain, played by…hey, it’s actually Meghan McCain. Cool. Malcolm wants to talk about the denial of the essential Black experience in White America, but Ms. McCain won’t be goaded into a racial injustice conversation just because Malcolm can’t rebut her point. Malcolm’s point is that White folks are just tired of hearing it. Oh, and he loves Marty so much that puts his six month prison sentence out there for the world to hear. Such a great brother.

Doug shares his Sarah woes. From the crazy sex to the baby voices and messing with his delicate figures, Doug worries about his girlfriend’s mental state. He even fears that she’ll kill him in his sleep. It’s not implausible. Sarah does have an arrest history due to nude stalking. She’d even been arrested naked in her ex-boyfriend’s yard. Two different guys, even. Marty and Clyde egg Doug on to confront her, even though they believe Doug is one of the most passive motherfuckers around.

Entropy is Contagious- Passive aggressive Doug decides to text confront Sarah

And they’re right, as Doug won’t confront her directly, he does so via text. We never see the text, but it seems very foul. Clyde proposes that they return to the hotel, think it over, and then not send the text. Too late. Doug sends it. And nope, once you send a text, you can’t take that shit back. Well, time to drink up some more absinthe.

Entropy is Contagious- The Krolls enjoyed the pod's exploration of their company

The pod meets up with the Krolls. Marty tries to make the case again, but there’s no need. Carolyn and William actually found the pod’s exploration very fresh and insightful, but Marty’s ideas conflict with Jeannie’s. A company at war with itself is not one they can work with. As William says, entropy is contagious. Hey, that’s the episode’s title. As such, the Krolls won’t be doing business with Kaan & Associates. Well, shit.

Entropy is Contagious- Sarah plays with Doug's toys

Sarah, meanwhile, opened Doug’s action figures and conspires to F him in the A with the help of Sparkle Cape and Fish Head. Yeah, she got the text.

Entropy is Contagious- Kelsey talks to Clyde about Housecallz

Clyde tries to make amends with Kelsey and the two make up. She asks if the main pod does tech consulting, which they do. Good. Kelsey has an idea for an app: Housecallz. It’s basically Uber, but with doctors. Clyde is well aware of this GPS-based platform. Luckily, Kelsey has already written the code, so Clyde can help calculate the optimal price points and help get the app off the ground.

Entropy is Contagious- Something terrible has happened to Doug

In enters Doug, who found that, while trying to get his mochaccino, none of his credit cards work. Well, after that text raging, maybe he should have checked his back account, as he has no recollection of what happened the previous night.

Entropy is Contagious- Marty isn't upset about Jeannie blowing the Krolls gig

Jeannie goes to Marty’s office and expects to be chewed out for what she did, but he’s not upset at all. Since Jeannie is leaving soon anyway, it’s not a big deal. Jeannie expected more and can’t believe that, even after telling Marty that she’s carrying his baby, he doesn’t have more of a reaction.

Entropy is Contagious- Kaan family dinner

The Kaan family has dinner. Marty’s still not pleased about Malcolm outing his jail time or exploiting his family for personal gain, but Malcolm goes a step further and makes it known that Jeannie is carrying Marty’s child. Roscoe, though, didn’t know about any of this. Jeremiah didn’t think it a problem to tell Malcolm since he is family. Roscoe stops Marty from doing any sort of damage control. He’d have been happy to learn this early if someone told him. He calls out Malcolm for being a crappy uncle, and then even tells Jeremiah to shut up.

Before Roscoe can storm away from the table, Jeremiah sits him down and reminds him that he can’t talk to his family like that. Families all go through rough times and this is no different. Oh, and don’t tell Jeremiah to shut up.

Entropy is Contagious- Sarah's nude stalking

The episode comes to a close as Doug sees what’s left of his figures- with Sarah stalking him while nude on the lawn.

Entropy is Contagious- Marty and Jeremiah

And Marty joins his father.

Even though the pod is still in damage control, there’s plenty of work to be done. As the main title says, entropy is dangerous. There’s no sense of unity or cohesion, as we see with Marty and Jeannie’s clashing ideals on how to best manage the firm. But with Marty so dead-set on pushing Jeannie out, right now he’s just going through the motions with no emotional attachment, even though Jeannie is carrying his child.

The Oscar Wilde line about seeing things the way we wish they were and then seeing them the way they aren’t represents almost all of the interpersonal conflicts we see play out this week. Whether Clyde and Kelsey trying to reconcile, Doug dealing with the aftermath of his texts to Sarah, or Marty’s home life, characters have been so conditioned to seeing and doing things the way they’d want them to play out, only to get the rude awakening that all is not well.

As powerful as the pod likes to think it can be, they don’t get to control how the world operates or how their aspiring clients will react to them. Marty can’t control every aspect of his family’s life, even if he’d like to. But despite the craziness that the pod has endured, whether separate or together, they’ve found their way back to one another eventually. This goes hand in hand with Jeremiah’s line about all families going through rough times. Sure, they’ll suck, but you gotta suck it up and get through them anyway because you’re not defined by how much shit gets flung your way- you’re defined by how you deal with it. Leave it to Californication to keep popping up when I look at other programs.

Entropy is Contagious- Roscoe learns that Jeannie is pregnant with Marty's child

Throughout the episode, Marty tries to retain the cool, confident swagger we’ve known him for, but he’s thrown off side by things like Jeannie’s counter-proposals or Malcolm airing his dirty laundry on national television. As rebellious as Roscoe is, he had a point about Marty not being able to control when everyone else steps on land-mines. After his prison stint, Marty is still playing damage control, but even he’s realizing that he can’t always do that because the world is not under his control.

Entropy is Contagious- Speaking with the Krolls

The best that he can do is make the best out of a bad situation, as we see him do when the pod doesn’t get the Krolls deal because they’re so divided. He doesn’t lose his shit because he truly believes that Jeannie is on her way out. He’s shutting her out because he sees no reason to care anymore. A bit selfish, yes, but in Marty’s mind, he’s trying to put the past behind him and keep moving forward without any regrets.

Entropy is Contagious- Roscoe tells Jeremiah to shut up

But he’s doing damage control on two fronts. He’s trying to repair his firm’s reputation and still salvage what semblance of a family he has at home. Roscoe is becoming more rebellious with each episode and this showed him lashing out at everyone. Roscoe is more defiant and willing to call out his father on his faults, but he doesn’t stop there. I do have to agree that Marty probably could have minimized the damage if he’d told Roscoe about Jeannie himself. We’ve seen the two interact before and know that they have a connection. If Marty really wanted to wait until the time was right, it probably would have helped to not tell anyone, even Jeremiah.

However, I did enjoy seeing Jeremiah lay the verbal smackdown to Roscoe. No matter how smart Roscoe may think he is, he’s still a boy and that was no way to treat his family.

Entropy is Contagious- Doug is intolerable

I like how Doug and Clyde actually took a moment to examine whether they’re as bad as people make them out to be. Clyde does get his moment when he mends bridges with Kelsey and propose helping with her app, though. Even if he still ends up being an asshole, I appreciate that he stopped to think about whether he actually is.

Entropy is Contagious- Doug on absinthe

As for Doug realizing that he may be obnoxious, I think we need to add clueless to that list. He’s as passive-aggressive as Marty and Clyde make him out to be and handling the situation via text message is not just a bad idea, it leaves a paper trail. For Doug to even ask whether he can take back a text he just sent is laughable, but part of the fun from House of Lies is seeing Doug try and worm himself out of a situation that he brought on himself.

Sure, Sarah is wild and crazy, but I’d argue that she’s the best thing that happened to Doug. She’s the perfect counterbalance and Jenny Slate just plays the part so well. Doug has rigidity and stability, while Sarah has a bit more pathos and chaos. Doug is much better off with Sarah in his life and, like Clyde pointed out, he’s got a happy life, but doesn’t even realize it yet. If Doug wants to be assertive, that’s fine, but he’s going about it the wrong way. And he still lets himself get roped back in with things like Sarah being bad teacher. But I’d be lying if I said their exchanges weren’t fun to watch.

Entropy is Contagious- Jeannie's counter-proposal

And I’m enjoying how assertive Jeannie still is this season. From the way she shook her head during the meeting with the Krolls, we know that she understands a lot more about the management consulting business than we’d believe. But then, she learned from the best. Jeannie isn’t doing this out of ill-will, she just believes she has the better vision for the firm. She’s less about showing off or making some big, extravagant gesture- she presents the facts just as they are and lets the clients come to their own conclusions. Marty, however, likes to wow his clients, so the two were headed for another crash course.

Entropy is Contagious- Jeannie expects more of a reaction

But Jeannie has every right to expect more of a reaction. She revealed to Marty that she’s carrying his baby, but that didn’t seem to buy her any additional time. There’s real disappointment and even some surprise in her voice when she Marty reacts with calmness to losing the Krolls deal. Marty doesn’t even do as much as give her a slap on the wrist. As far as he’s concerned, he’s still just looking forward. The question is whether that future truly will or won’t include Jeannie in it.

A Look at The Walking Dead #136: “Found”

The Walking Dead #136- Cover

“Found” builds upon and heightens the tension from issue #135. We get some immediate follow-up to Gregory’s proposal on how to deal with Maggie, Carl and Lydia bond, and hey, we get a brief look at what’s happening back at Alexandria. Seems like small potatoes, but we do get some pretty substantive stuff from these separate storylines.

The Walking Dead #136- Alex Kisses Jesus

Oh, and Alex kisses Jesus. Eh, I guess. Now onto the important stuff.

The Walking Dead #136- Gregory leads discussion over whether to kill Maggie

Gregory wants to be back in charge because he’s not a fan of how Maggie runs things. This is a running trend both on the Hilltop and the people in the Alexandria Safe Zone. New folks come in and run things their way. Sounds like encroaching on their territory, but if it weren’t for Rick and company, Negan would still be free and the Hilltop folks would still live in fear while having to pay tribute to a man they’d never seen.

Are some of Maggie’s leadership qualities questionable and a cause for concern? Of course, but I do believe she’s earned a chance to prove her worth. That’s coming from the perspective of someone who has followed the character, but the folks at the Hilltop still see people like Maggie and Carl as strangers. They don’t understand one another yet, but the fact remains that the Hilltop folks owe quite a bit to our main characters. It doesn’t seem that everyone is on board with Gregory’s plan, so there’s already some division there. We’ll see how this plays out soon.

The Walking Dead #136- Andrea and Magna discuss Eugene and Rosita

Back at Alexandria for a second, it looks like Magna’s crew has settled in with everyone else, given the cordial conversation between her and Andrea. While it may seem like a jump forward, we were given small snippets of conversation between Andrea and Magna’s team leading up to this moment, so right now, it looks like any of the antagonism between the two sides has dissipated. Plus, it wasn’t just for show, as we did get some lip service on the difficult relationship between Eugene and Rosita, as well as Rick’s return.

The Walking Dead #136- Carl tells Lydia that his group is done moving

And sticking with the Grimes’ for now, this chapter was one of the most significant moments of character development for Carl. He has been in Lydia’s shoes before and knows what it’s like to constantly fear for your life. The biggest difference between Carl’s family and The Whisperers is that Lydia has never been able to know stability. Whether on Hershel’s farm, the prison, or out in the woods, Rick and company have taken the time to slow down, assess their situation, and take in some much needed down-time before moving on. Not so for The Whisperers. They are always on the move and, despite remaining together, fear for their lives.

After all, they embrace the skin of the very roamers they hate and fear. They walk amongst the dead, becoming dead themselves, and rarely have a chance to rest. That’s why things like never killing again or staying in one place seem so foreign to Lydia. Being among The Whisperers for so long has conditioned her into believing that people must keep moving. She’s in an unknown environment and can’t comprehend why she’d be left alive after The Whisperers have caused harm to the folks at The Hilltop. And even worse than being captured, she’s being held on her own.

As young as Carl is, he knows that feeling. After everyone fled the prison during the Governor’s assault, Carl had to fend for himself. He started off as a boy, but he’s developed into a young man who knows fear, but he doesn’t let that overpower him. Now part of me wonders whether he’s truly bought into the idea of no more killing, given how he nearly did the same thing to the two kids who attacked him and Sophia. Is it narrative convenience that he feels Lydia, despite what she may have done, could be a productive member, but he felt different about the two boys? It’s possible, but Carl has more reason to care about Lydia’s well-being than the boys, given what he learns about her.

The Walking Dead #136- Lydia feels helpless

For Lydia to say she’s never been at someone else’s mercy or even been alone like this makes me wonder how she even made it this far. Like Beth in the television series, she doesn’t come as too timid or fearful, but you question how she would be able to survive on her own. And this is only when she’s being held as a prisoner and no harm has come to her yet.

The Walking Dead #136- Lydia fears for her life

Carl takes this newfound friendship to a new level fast when he opens up to her about how he lost his eye and how he had the support of others around him. Carl and Lydia are torn between two sides, but they look to be trying to bridge the gap. Carl is placing a lot of trust in Lydia, especially when you consider that he hasn’t seen her face yet (ironic, considering this issue’s title), but to give her the hat- the very item that Rick trusted to him, is very telling. Carl, both in the comic book and television series, loves that hat. He doesn’t just give it to anyone. Even though he doesn’t believe in magic, he can’t deny feeling some sort of protection or security from it.

The Walking Dead #136- Lydia wears Rick's hat

I certainly hope that Lydia turns out be some girl looking for guidance, because Carl could be going down a dangerous path by opening up to someone he hasn’t seen. We don’t know everything there is to know about her yet. Carl has good intentions, but he’s not stupid. If something goes south, he’ll be prepared, but for now, this is the start of what looks to be a longstanding friendship.

The Walking Dead #136- The Whisperers gather outside the Hilltop

But then, there’s trouble brewing right outside…

A Look at Still Alice

Still Alice- Poster

Julianne Moore’s character has Alzheimer’s Disease.  She and her family deal with it.  The end.  If it sounds like I’m being facetious, I’m not.  The plot to Still Alice is far from novel or all that interesting, but it’s made powerful by the leading performance of Julianne Moore as a person who sees their intelligence slipping away from them.  Despite this, she masters the art of losing and lives every single waking moment of her life in the moment.  Let’s dive in.

Still Alice- Birthday celebration for Dr. Alice Howland, played by Julianne Moore

The film begins at the birthday celebration of our main character, Alice Howland, played by Julianne Moore. She’s celebrating this occasion with most of her family: her husband, John, played by Alec Baldwin, her son, Tom, played by Hunter Parrish, her daughter, Anna, played by Kate Bosworth, and Anna’s fiancé, Charlie, played by Shane McRae. Missing from this occasion is Alice’s other daughter, Lydia, who had an audition, but we’ll get to her later.

Still Alice- Alice delivers a lecture at UCLA

Alice Howland is a linguistics professor at Columbia University, but she takes time from her busy schedule to fly from New York to California and give a lecture at UCLA. She’s introduced by UCLA Associate Professor Frederic Johnson, played by Seth Gilliam, and we learn that she even wrote her first book while handling three kids at the same time. Now that’s how you multitask. Her presentation focuses on infants and past tense irregular verb forms, but not too far into her lecture, Alice loses her place for a second before returning to the interaction between memory and computation.

Still Alice- Alice and Lydia, played by Kristen Stewart, have lunch and talk about Lydia's future

Still in Los Angeles, Alice pays a visit to her daughter, Lydia, played by Kristen Stewart, and the two head to lunch. Lydia works at the Open Space theatre company and actually received some generous help from her father. The performers have to raise equity for the productions, and then they receive a cut of the box office. Such is the life of a theatre group. Alice suggests that Lydia go to college and we learn that this isn’t the first time these two have had this conversation. Regardless, Lydia likes what she’s doing.

Still Alice- Alice forgets where she is while jogging at Columbia University

Alice heads home and finds her husband is not there, so she decides to go for a jog. When she reaches the center of Columbia University’s campus, however, she slows down. Her vision becomes a blur and she looks around as if she’s suddenly forgotten where she is. She takes a moment to focus and she then remembers her surroundings. She heads home.

John is at home this time when Alice heads in. She’s not too pleased about him bankrolling her theatre company. Even though John remembers telling her that, Alice says that he didn’t. Okay, then. Anyway, John has some more work to do at the lab, so he’ll be back in to get comfortable with Alice later.

Noticing that her memory is leaving her, Alice visits a neurologist whom we don’t see. She started forgetting little things and now she forgot where she was on campus. Nothing irregular about her medication and she hasn’t had any head injuries. Sure, she’s busy with work, but Alice thrives on that. So the doctor decides to test her. First, he gives her an address to remember: John Black, 42 Washington Street, Hoboken. She repeats it back fine right after hearing it, gives her name, and even today’s date.

We learn from this session that Alice’s mother and sister died in a car accident when Alice was 18. Her father died in 1999 of liver failure- cirrhosis, as he was an alcoholic. When asked to repeat that name and address, Alice can only get as far as the name. The doctor tells Alice that he will do an MRI later in order to rule some things out. When Alice comes the next time, she’ll need to bring in someone that knows her well.

Still Alice- Alice looks up recipes

Later, Alice prepares Christmas dinner, all while remembering three words at a time that she’s written on a white board in the kitchen. Tom soon enters and introduces his mother to his new girlfriend, Jenny, played by Erin Darke. While the rest of the family settles in, Alice continues cooking, but finds that she has to look up the recipe for bread pudding instead of remembering it off the top of her head. Dinner is soon served, but when Alice joins the family, she introduces herself to Jenny for a second time.

Back at the neurologist, Alice is relieved to learn that almost nothing bad came out of the MRI: blood work was clear and no sign of a stroke or cerebral vascular disease. The doctor is concerned about the memory tests he sent Alice for. Alice has sporadic memory impairment that is very out of proportion for someone her age- Alice is 50 years old, by the way. This means there is evidence of decline in Alice’s level of mental function. Hence, the doctor wants to perform a PET scan to see if the results are consistent with Alzheimer’s. Such a diagnosis would be rare, given Alice’s age, but she does fit the criteria. As far as why Alice didn’t bring anyone with her, she didn’t think it was necessary. Next time for sure, though.

At home, Alice scrubs the shit out of a pot while John informs her that their friends, Phil and Diane, may come to town for a weekend.

Still Alice- Alice tells John, played by Alec Baldwin, that she's been seeing a neurologist

That night, Alice wakes John up and tells him that she’s been seeing a neurologist and the possibility of her having early onset Alzheimer’s. She didn’t want to tell him at first since nothing was confirmed, but the more Alice does these tests, the more frightened she’s become. John doesn’t believe it and tells Alice that everyone has the occasional memory lapse, but Alice tells him of the time she got lost on campus. She’ll have something, and then it just drops out under her. In a flash of anger, Alice rages at John for not taking this seriously.

Next morning, John informs Alice that he’ll be late due to work, but suggests that the two get dinner. Alice tells him that last night just got the better of her.

Still Alice- John and Alice at the doctor's office

John accompanies Alice to the doctor’s office and we finally meet Dr. Benjamin, played by Stephen Kunken, who shows a cross-section of Alice’s brain. There are a lot of red areas that are high in beta amyloid, meaning the buildup has been going on for years. John isn’t too convinced. Sure, there are instances of high beta amyloid in older people with normal cognitive function, but this is very rare with someone as young as Alice.

And then John suggests that the diagnosis be accompanied by a genetic test. Dr. Benjamin actually agrees. In a case like this, with the onset being so early, he’d like to check for presenilin mutations. That would be an indicator of the rare Familial Alzheimer’s Disease. The chance of her passing this gene onto her kids is 50/50, but the chance of them contracting this is 100 percent. The kids will all be in town for Alice and John’s anniversary, but Alice wants to hold off on telling them until they have the test results.

Still Alice- Family learns about Alice's Alzheimer's diagnosis

They finally break the news to the kids later, though the announcement actually confirms Lydia’s suspicion from the Christmas dinner. Alice’s medications can help alleviate the symptoms, but not prevent the disease. When the kids learn that the disease is genetic, John tells them that there is a test they can take, but it’s up to them.

But Alice is still a professor. She has that much. She heads to the university to give a lecture, but can’t remember which lecture she’s giving. She calls upon the students to jog her memory and remind her that she’s speaking on phonology.

Still Alice- Alice gets a phone call from Anna

As Alice makes her way across campus, she gets a phone call from Anna, who checked positive for the gene. Tom turned out negative and Lydia didn’t want to know. Anna’s next step is to test her embryos during her next IUI session to make sure her baby will be okay.

After finding a bottle of Dove shampoo in her refrigerator- it could happen- she meets up with the heads of the Linguistics Department, Eric Wellman, played by Daniel Gerroll, who reads some of the student evaluations on Alice’s performance. Words like “muddled” and “lost” pop up in the reviews, much to Alice’s dismay. Alice tells Eric about her mild cognitive impairment, but she unpacks that as Early Onset Alzheimer’s disease. Though Alice feels capable now and has no issues with stress, Eric still needs to inform the rest of the department.

Alice makes a stop by Pinkberry, but when she arrives at home, she’s missed her dinner plans with John and their two friends. Alice just forgot is all. She does have Alzheimer’s. Plus, she doesn’t take her phone with her when she’s jogging and fanny packs are just inhibiting. Neither of them likes this situation, but both understand that they have to keep going. In a moment of utter defiance to her fate, Alice wishes aloud that she had cancer instead. She wouldn’t feel so ashamed and hey, there are even cancer walks.

Following a brief visit to the Mount Auburn Nursing Center, Alice visits a doctor in the hopes of getting a very strong drug. The reason for this comes in the form of a video that she records for her future self. In this video, she tells her future self that she may have reached the point where she can no longer answer the questions she’s put on her iPhone.

So this is the next, logical step: in her bedroom there’s a dresser with a blue lamp on it. In the back of the top drawer is a bottle of pills with a note that reads “Take all pills with water.” There will be a lot of pills in the bottle, but it’s important that she swallows them all. After that, lie down and go to sleep. Oh, and don’t tell anyone what she’s doing. To begin this process, all she has to do is go to a file on her computer labeled “Butterfly.”

Well, I’ll give her this- she prepared ahead of time.

Still Alice- Alice prepares to give her speech

The plot to Still Alice isn’t anything that I’d call all that compelling or inventive. That doesn’t make it a bad film at all. Quite the contrary. What could just be a movie about a family coming to term with one woman’s disease and her deteriorating intellect is elevated by the performances of the film’s cast. While the movie could have fallen back on showing how Alice’s disease tears the family apart, that’s not the case here. This film is about Alice’s struggle to be the same person she always has been as she stares down the inevitable loss of her memory.

Still Alice- John and Lydia hug

There have been a lot of people who have compared Still Alice to that of a Lifetime made-for-TV movie because of the simplicity of the story. Sure, the plot may seem pretty basic, but I wouldn’t say it’s on the level of a television film. Tackling a disease can be tricky: you don’t want to spoon-feed your audience everything there is to know and you don’t want to just add in unnecessary drama for the sake of creating a tearjerker of a film. Maybe that’s because I’m a cold-hearted bastard, as I saw quite a number of folks brought to tears while watching this in the cinema. Despite knowing that Alice’s condition would get worse, the movie still managed to suck everyone in and had quite a few tense moments.

This film is almost deceptive with its introduction. Alice has everything going for her: she’s a successful, well-known author and professor, has a nice, affordable home in New York, and has a loving husband and kids all living out their dreams. I don’t know how many people can relate to such a perfect family image, but what makes Alice and her family relatable is how they deal with the gravity of Alice’s situation.

Still Alice- Lydia with Alice

No one in this family is perfect. Alice and John can be a bit stubborn at times, Anna can be a bit overprotective, and Lydia isn’t living the life that her mother wants her to live. Granted, that’s not really a flaw since Lydia is playing by her rules and not letting her mother dictate her life, but given the exchanges between the two, I got the sense that Lydia was always the independent and rebellious child.

Still Alice- John and Alice at the beach house

But despite how different they all are, the family still pulls together in the wake of Alice’s diagnosis and promises to be by her side. It’s only when Alice’s condition worsens that they realize the reality of their situation and how Alice may end up too far gone. There are moments in the film when John discusses Alice’s future with his kids. Alice is at the opposite end of the room on the sofa, not fully present, but the family acts as if she’s not there. They aren’t doing this out of spite, but because they feel a need to move on with their lives. Alice isn’t a burden, but the continued worsening of her intellect shows that taking care of her may be more challenging than the family thought.

The Theory of Everything- Stephen speaks through device

A recent comparison to this would be The Theory of Everything, but the key difference in that film is Stephen Hawking was restricted by his body. He still had his intellect.

Still Alice- Alice gets lost

Here, it’s the other way around. Alice may still be capable of jogging around Columbia University’s campus, but when she gets lost, it’s as if she’s in a different world altogether. These scenes are handled very well through Denis Lenoir’s cinematography. Whenever Alice loses sight of where she is, everything around her becomes blurry and unfocused, as if we’re watching the disease eat away at her mind. It’s an effective way to put the audience in her shoes so we can see how her intelligence and memory erode.

The movie also takes its time in showing the extent to which Alice forgets things. It starts small with her losing her place during a lecture or not remembering the address when she visits the neurologist, but that could be chalked up to a memory lapse. She looks up the banana pudding recipe, but maybe it’s been a long time since she prepared it. When she reintroduces herself to Jenny, it’s the first inkling of her family becoming aware of the disease.

Still Alice- Alice can't find the bathroom

As the film continues, Alice’s conditions worsen to the point where the simplest things to remember become buried at the back of her mind. There’s a rough moment where she and John are about to go for a jog, but she stops by the bathroom before leaving. Or, at least, she tries to. She goes downstairs and looks in room after room, but doesn’t find it. The camera remains on her face as she becomes flushed from embarrassment. When John comes downstairs and finds that Alice has wet herself, Alice collapses in tears as she literally has no idea where she is. Sure, the brash side of me would suggest something like going outside or calling for help, but that’s thinking too much into the situation. At this point, you realize the extent at which Alice is forgetting things.

Still Alice- Alice types questions for herself to answer later

And that’s where technology comes in. In this fast-paced world we live in where we can have all the information we need in our phones or tablets, this becomes essential for Alice. From the beginning, we know Alice is very tech-savvy. Communications is her thing. She’s a frequent Words with Friends player and, like most of us today, uses her phone to look up anything she needs or can’t remember. This becomes essential when she forgets things, as she types in questions to herself like what her daughter’s name is or asking for her birthday. The simplest things for us to remember become the most impossible for Alice.

So she thinks ahead and makes preparations, such as the suicide video, but also getting a glimpse at what her life could become. When Alice visits the nursing home under the pretext of being worried about her parents, she sees patients that are cared for, but are mentally lost and wandering. If one gets up, an alarm goes off from their chair due to past behaviors. This is the life Alice fears and knows will soon be her own and though this moment is a bit too telling, it’s still a great, sad scene.

The film does a good job making Alice sympathetic. When she tells John that she’d rather have cancer, it’s one of the most serious things we hear her say in the film. With cancer, she feels there’d be an outpouring of sympathy for the victim, but with Alzheimer’s, there’s a sense of shame and a need to hide it. With cancer, she’ll at least have her memory, but with Alzheimer’s, she ends up forgetting her own daughter’s names.

Still Alice- Alice delivers her speech at the Alzheimer's Association

What’s great about Alice is that she never paints herself as a victim or believes that she’s suffering. She knows that her memory is leaving her, but at the end of the day, she is, to be cliché, still Alice. There’s a great moment later on in the film where she delivers a speech at the Alzheimer’s Association that I feel is the crux of the film: she loses a part of herself every day, knows that her work is being ripped away from her, and feels that every day is worse than the previous one. She’s not her ambitious self anymore and knows that she may not even remember the speech she gives, but this disease has emboldened her to live life in the moment.

For my money, this is easily the biggest moment in the film not just for Alice, but for the movie as a whole. It goes hand in hand with one of the film’s central themes: living life to the fullest every day. We take our minds for granted. Every day we wake up isn’t promised to us, so we should live in the moment. The film doesn’t try to hit you over the head with this message and there’s no big, swelling background score that accompanies Alice’s speech. It’s thoughtful and handled with grace. Going back to watching this in the cinema for a second, this was the first moment that brought the woman sitting next to me to tears.

Still Alice- Alice and Lydia talk about love

It can’t be stated enough how stellar Julianne Moore is in this role. She gives Alice such dimension and the smallest change in her facial expression conveys a lot of emotion. Alice starts off as an intellectual, yet by film’s end, she’s almost a child. Moore could easily have made this role feel cheep and sappy, but there’s a quiet dignity to her performance. She’s firm with her daughter, but still a caring mother. Revealing to her children that she has Alzheimer’s is one of the hardest conversations she has in the film and there’s such sorrow in Alice’s voice that she feels her children’s future disease is entirely on her hands.

One of the best scenes in the film is when Alice meets her neurologist and learns her diagnosis. We never see the doctor in this moment. The camera remains on Alice the entire time and allows Moore to show how Alice is struggling with disbelief at learning her fate. She wants to remain confident, but that doesn’t mean she’s not scared. Moore doesn’t sleepwalk through this film. As mentioned, she still grapples with her husband about their future, even if she knows she may not even be a part of it anymore.

Still Alice- Lydia tells her mother that she can't use her disease as a crutch

In one of the moments the film uses Alice’s disease for comedic effect, Lydia tells Alice that she can’t use her disease as a reason to get her to do something. Lydia responds that, in fact, she can. When she forgets that she was supposed to have dinner with Jack, she tells him that she forgot since she has Alzheimer’s. If I wanted to look too deep into that, I would say that Alice is using humor as a buffer to take her mind off the fact that she’s losing her memory. This experience doesn’t humble her because she never came off as a braggart or boastful type, but it does make her relish every moment she has, even if that means having a laugh at her own fate.

Still Alice- Alice on top of John

The rest of the cast is good in their roles, but only two other actors had noteworthy performances. Alec Baldwin is warm and caring as Alice’s husband who wants to understand what she’s going through and help in any way that he can. He’s in denial about Alice coming down with Alzheimer’s at first, but soon accepts it and becomes more supportive, for a bit. Work soon takes priority and the film establishes very early on that John is a workaholic. If he isn’t discussing work, he is working. He’s not uncaring, but he can’t stop to put his life on hold just because his wife is regressing.

Still Alice- Kristen Stewart as Lydia

On the flipside, you have Kristen Stewart as Lydia, who is living her life on her terms and feels no need to stay under her parent’s protection. Sure, she might not be fully secure as far as finances go, but she does what she loves and knows that the career path she chose would be difficult. I have to wonder if this is what all people who decide to work in theatre have to deal with.

Lydia may come off as distant, but she genuinely cares for her mother. They argue back and forth like they’ve done it for years, but still manage to reconcile their differences. Lydia makes a point of noting how her parents helped Tom with medical school and Anna with law school, but Lydia chose to forego college and pursue theatre. As Alice’s memory slips further and further, her daughter has a more proactive role in her life. They have constant conversations over Skype, discuss Lydia’s plays, and grow closer as time goes on.

Still Alice- Lydia and Alice

There’s such genuine chemistry between Julianne Moore and Kristen Stewart that I bought their mother-daughter relationship. There’s a scene where Alice describes what she thinks is one of Lydia’s plays, but it turns out that she accidentally read entries from her daughter’s journal. Lydia is upset, but she comes to accept that her mother didn’t do it intentionally and later decides that the two shouldn’t have any more secrets from each other. And the final scenes between the two are both strong and sad at the same time.

Still Alice may not have the most engrossing or engaging plot, but what sells this film is Julianne Moore’s incredible performance of a person watching her mind and intellect fade away right in front of her. She’s afraid and knows that she may not be the same intellectual she once was, but she makes sure to live in the moment and doesn’t want you to think she’s suffering. Dr. Alice Howland has mastered the art of losing still finds life as precious as a butterfly. Still Alice would not be as interesting of a film if not for Moore’s performance. That’s not to say the film is just average, but Moore is the film’s biggest strength.

A Look at Gotham- Season 1, Episode 12: “What the Little Bird Told Him”

So “Rogues Gallery” left things on a cliffhanger with Gruber and Helzinger making their escape and going to cause mischief in Gotham City. It had the potential to do something interesting, but a lot of what we get is rather dull, to be honest. At the same time, we see Fish finally make her move against Carmine Falcone. Sounds captivating, and this subplot was a bit more entertaining to watch than the stuff involving Gruber, Helzinger, and the GCPD, but even then, nothing that really wowed me.

What the Little Bird Told Him- Helzinger and Gruber confront Irwin, played by Adrian Martinez, at Irwin's Electronics

The episode begins with Gruber and Helzinger making their way to Irwin’s Electronics. Inside, one of the employees goes to open the door after hearing some noise, but upon grabbing the door knob, he receives a powerful electric shock and is thrown back. Irwin, played by Adrian Martinez, is at Gruber’s mercy when he demands his stuff.

What the Little Bird Told Him- Gordon arrives at GCPD as Essen briefs the officers on Gruber and Helzinger

At the GCPD, Captain Essen briefs the precinct on Helzinger and Gruber- there aren’t any records on Gruber himself. The Commissioner is on his way to check the case so far, when in walks Gordon. Essen wants Gordon gone for his own safety, but Gordon refuses to leave. It may not be his jurisdiction, but it’s still his case.

What the Little Bird Told Him- Commissioner Loeb, played by Peter Scolari, questions Gordon's presence at the GCPD

Before Bullock can usher Gordon out, Commissioner Loeb, played by Peter Scolari, enters and asks Gordon why he’s there. Gordon is curious about Loeb, as this is the first time he’s seen him, so Loeb must be desperate. It’s like Gordon never left.

What the Little Bird Told Him- Gruber places a device on Irwin's head

At Irwin Electronics, Gruber is ecstatic to be back around his many gadgets. Being at Arkham Asylum freed him in the mind. The Asylum is like the world itself: a factory of broken machines. Some are fixable, others must be scrapped. He straps a device onto Irwin’s head and turns on the generator.

What the Little Bird Told Him- Commissioner Loeb gives Gordon and Bullock 24 hours to find Gruber

Loeb wonders why Gordon even choice the police life, given that his father was a District Attorney. Where did all this fire and rebellion come from? Gordon isn’t fazed by Commissioner Loeb. His name is already being dragged through the mud, but he knows that the GCPD need him. After all, he knows how Gruber thinks. And if he can help solve this case, he wants to be reinstated as a detective. Loeb gives Gordon and Bullock 24 hours. If not, Gordon heads right back to Arkham.

What the Little Bird Told Him- Falcone and Liza talk

In a flashback, young Falcone and family observe a body. Okay. In the present, Falcone has a man executed. What did he do? Who knows? Falcone tells Liza of how the area used to be a slum. He’s come a long way and worked hard to get where he is now. Falcone thinks that Liza should eventually settle down and find a husband. He could even help set her up so she can be independent. Enticing offer, but Liza would rather stay. Falcone makes her feel safe.

What the Little Bird Told Him- Nygma and his stack of folders

While Gordon gets reacquainted with the GCPD atmosphere, Nygma lets him and Bullock know that he cross checked the prints and learned that Gruber has a long criminal history as Jack Buchinsky. Also, Buchinsky actually wanted to be placed at Arkham.

What the Little Bird Told Him- Kringle isn't a fan of Nygma's cupcake with a bullet in it

Nygma then receives some files from Kringle, who is less than thrilled with his gift of a cupcake with a bullet in it. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone bowled over by that, really. But Nygma insists that it’s a riddle. Even still, it’s not edible.

What the Little Bird Told Him- Gordon, Essen and Bullock get some background on Buchinsky

Essen, Gordon and Bullock learn that Buchinsky committed a string of bank robberies, but was caught during one of them. He was never ID’d by the GCPD, and he used his contacts to help him create a new identity. One of the officers hands Bullock a note.

What the Little Bird Told Him- Bullock and Gordon find Irwin writing on the wall

We then cut to the Arkham Asylum Transport Prisoner van. Bullock and Gordon check inside Irwin’s Electronics- I mean, it is right there- and find the first employee’s body. They then find Irwin writing on the wall over and over in a daze.

What the Little Bird Told Him- Liza and her bodyguard about to be ambushed

Liza and a bodyguard walk through a farmer’s market when they’re ambushed by random henchmen. Liza’s bodyguard is shot and killed, but Liza is taken hostage.

What the Little Bird Told Him- Fish tells Liza that she's ready to make her move on Falcone

She’s brought before Fish, who lets her know that she plans to make her move on Falcone. Fish calls Falcone, while disguising her voice, and lets him know that Liza is alive and won’t be harmed for the moment. What now? Let Falcone sit and think on that for a while.

What the Little Bird Told Him- Nygma brings work galoshes to Bullock and Gordon

Buchinsky has been given a proper villain name: The Electrocutioner. Nygma at least likes it. He suggests that Bullock and Gordon wear their work galoshes in the event they have to deal with Buchinsky. Gordon takes his pair. Bullock, not so much. Dr. Thompkins pays GCPD a visit and delivers Gordon a doll- one of the female inmates is a pagan sorceress. Gruber gave her a doll to have curse the person in its image. Had the doll been dressed like a mobster, I’d wonder if this was a passing reference to The Ventriloquist and Scarface, but that’s the geek in me thinking too much into this.

What the Little Bird Told Him- Penguin must leave Maroni's in order to take care of his mother

Maroni and company feast. Penguin gets a phone call from Falcone about Liza’s disappearance, so he tells Maroni that he must leave so he can attend to his mother. He doesn’t get too far, as he receives an electric shock upon grabbing the doorknob. Another henchmen staggers in while holding what looks like an EMP grenade. It detonates.

What the Little Bird Told Him- Gordon proposes placing Maroni in protective custody to draw out Buchinsky

And it doesn’t look to have done much besides give everyone fresh bruises. GCPD arrives on the scene and Gordon theorizes that Maroni was one of Buchinsky’s partners. He’s going to need protective custody. This way, both sides are happy: GCPD catches a bad guy, while Maroni loses one less nuisance. Oh, and Penguin wakes up and starts babbling about business with Falcone before passing out again. Whoops.

What the Little Bird Told Him- Barbara meets with her parents, played by Richard Poe and Caroline Lagerfelt

So while Maroni and his crew shack up at the GCPD for now, Barbara visits her parents, played by Richard Poe and Caroline Lagerfelt. Barbara needs a place to stay for a few days. Though her parents insist she may be bored, she’s allowed to stay through the weekend. She says that she and Gordon are doing well. Of course, she’s lying through her teeth, but this scene isn’t all that interesting, so let’s not dwell on it.

What the Little Bird Told Him- Penguin wakes up, Maroni reminds him about mentioning Falcone

Penguin finally wakes up and again wants to help his dear, old mother, but Maroni tells him that mom can wait. He reminds Penguin that, when he woke up, he mentioned urgent business with Falcone.

What the Little Bird Told Him- Falcone receives a phone call from Fish

Falcone receives a call from Fish, who is using her real voice this time. She says that she received a call from some folks about Liza and is now acting as the intermediary. Falcone tells her to quit the act- he knows that she’s behind this. After all, she was always the smart one in the family. Fish gives Falcone an ultimatum: leave Gotham and never come back. Liza can even come with him.

He agrees and Fish decides to get the paperwork ready. Butch is ecstatic, but Fish figures that she’s doing Falcone a favor and letting him take the easy way out, given how many people would want him dead if he stayed. Fish tells Liza that she’ll have to go with him for awhile. Even though she may like Falcone, Liza can never tell him the truth.

What the Little Bird Told Him- Zsasz and Falcone discuss Falcone's reputation and respect

Falcone considers that maybe it is time for him step away. Zsasz disagrees and urges Falcone to let him go to work. He tells Falcone that fighting back will earn him respect, but Falcone does not care about that right now. He would even like to go live with Liza in the country.

What the Little Bird Told Him- Detective Arnold Flass, played by Dash Mihok, tells Nygma to back off of Kringle

Nygma pays Ms. Kringle another visit at the Records Annex and explains his cupcake riddle: the cupcake is sweet, the bullet is deadly. A beautiful woman is a dangerous thing. His advances are rebuffed not by Kringle, but by Detective Arnold Flass, played by Dash Mihok from Ray Donovan.

What the Little Bird Told Him- Maroni lets Penguin go see his mother

At GCPD, Penguin swears on his mother’s life that he has no business with Falcone. Maroni looks to buy it and tells Penguin to go visit his mother, but he won’t get that chance.

The room begins going haywire as electricity crackles throughout the precinct. All at once, everyone is knocked out from the electric surge.

What the Little Bird Told Him- Gordon remembers to wear his galoshes

Except for Gordon, who took Nygma’s advice and put on his galoshes. He confronts Helzinger and Buchinsky, who tells Gordon that the people of Gotham aren’t worth saving. Gordon fights Helzinger and manages to overpower him. He tells Buchinsky that he’s going back to Arkham, and that’s the kind of fighting spirit Buchinsky likes to hear. Gordon needs to win, Buchinsky says. He pretends to care about the law, but it’s just primitive ego. He hates to lose. Gordon actually agrees.

So he throws water onto Buchinsky’s device and short-circuits it. Ha!

What the Little Bird Told Him- How Gordon got his badge back

So Gordon gets his badge back and vows to never be careful again since men like Loeb will never trust him.

What the Little Bird Told Him- Penguin after being slapped by Falcone

Penguin shows up at Falcone’s and apologizes for his tardiness. Falcone admits that Penguin was right about Fish, but Oswald has discovered something else- Liza was planted on him by Fish, who went out of her way to find a woman who reminded Falcone of his mother. Falcone slaps Penguin across his face and denies that Liza would do such a thing.

What the Little Bird Told Him- Falcone knows all about Fish's plan

Soon enough, Falcone shows up at Fish’s, who has the papers ready for Falcone to relinquish the family’s control. But Falcone needs to see Fish first. She’s brought out by Butch. Falcone asks Liza how long she’s known Fish, but Liza tells him that they just met. A little bird told Falcone that Fish told Liza things about his mother so that he’d get caught up in her, since Fish knows how much Falcone loves his mother. Falcone is disappointed in his own stupidity.

Falcone strangles Liza to death while Zsasz and his henchmen surround Butch and Fish. Falcone wants the two kept alive. He tells Fish that he can forgive all kinds of betrayal and dishonesty, but using his mother against him is just wrong. Fish will suffer for what she’s done, but Falcone does still thank her for making him feel alive for the first time in a long time. He remembers who he is. And he tells another person nearby that they can finally come in. In enters Penguin, who bids Fish farewell before taking his leave.

What the Little Bird Told Him- Dr. Thompkins in the GCPD men's locker room

Dr. Thompkins enters the GCPD men’s locker room just as Gordon comes out. She just happened to be in the area. She’s there because she needs the sorceress’ doll back, but it’s more than that. Just before Thompkins leaves, Gordon stops her.

What the Little Bird Told Him- Gordon and Thompkins kiss

And then this happens. The kiss is interrupted by an officer reporting to Jim that there’s been a shootout at Fish Mooney’s club.

While Gotham still has its fair share of storytelling issues, I’m at least happy that this episode, for the most part, focused either on the GCPD or the mob. There are no misadventures of Ivy and Selina and no Bruce or Alfred. For that, I’m thankful. The scene with Barbara going to her parents wasn’t necessary, but hey, at least it was the only time we saw something unrelated.

What the Little Bird Told Him- Electricity surges throughout GCPD

As far as the main story itself, nothing spectacular. I guess I should have expected Helzinger and Buchinsky to be apprehended one episode after they escaped from Arkham Asylum, but part of me hoped they would just be a looming threat and reminder to Gordon that they got away. Buchinsky had the potential to be threatening and him taking out the majority of the GCPD and Maroni’s crew was a cool scene to watch. I’ve seen better special effects, but that’s coming from the perspective of someone spoiled by The Flash and Arrow. As is, it was a cool moment.

And Buchinsky did have a good point about Gordon- he cares about the law, but also wants a win. After all, he’d still like to solve the mystery of the Wayne murders. I think Jim does genuinely care about the people of Gotham, even if the GCPD did once turn their back on him. But I do like that he appears to be taking a more assertive approach to taking down perps. He’s done being careful and playing the good cop. I don’t think he’ll become the sort of cop that Bullock is, but he won’t be as easygoing as he once was.

What the Little Bird Told Him- Gordon short-circuits The Electrocutioner's device

As for how Gordon beat Buchinsky…a bit anticlimactic, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t find it funny as well. I mean, it was so comical that it could have been a solution in the 1960s Batman television series, but I love how the show played it so seriously at the same time. Buchinsky may be an intelligent man, but he didn’t think too far ahead of doing something having a protective cover over his device. That or maybe button up the coat.

What the Little Bird Told Him- Thompkins and Gordon

With Gordon and Thompkins, I don’t get where the sudden chemistry came from. They only just met in Arkham Asylum not that long ago. As far as Gordon was concerned, they were coworkers, so I just think the kiss was a bit soon.

What the Little Bird Told Him- Falcone asks Liza how long she's known Fish

The same applies to Falcone and Liza. He hasn’t known her for that long and for her to conjure up these memories of his mother should have alerted him earlier than we’re expected to believe. Or maybe he was just biding his time and didn’t want to believe Liza would double cross him, but then, what would lead him to believe that? I never got the sense that there was a deep connection between the two.

What the Little Bird Told Him- Falcone strangles Liza

But Falcone strangling Liza to death was a big moment for him. It helped him rediscover who he is and why so many in the mob world fear him. Lucky that Fish gave him the option to live instead of just killing him. That’s another thing I don’t get. Fish has taken many steps to screw with Falcone and ultimately take his place. It seems strange that she now wanted to do him a favor after wanting to be rid of him.

I don’t have anything to say on Penguin conveniently mentioning Falcone around Maroni or Bullock and Gordon locating the prison van that happened to be right near Irwin’s Electronics because those coincidences seem to be commonplace on Gotham. Though I’m positive Maroni is always going to be second-guessing Penguin’s loyalty from now on. Of the two storylines, though, I did enjoy the mob stuff a bit more. Plus, it’s nice to see Zsasz again.

So “What the Little Bird Told Him” was decent. Nothing great or all that compelling, though. Gordon is back at the GCPD and Falcone remains the man in charge. To be frank, though, I actually liked that this episode spent a fair amount of time with the GCPD. While the stuff here wasn’t all that compelling, just seeing the detectives at work was a change of pace and it didn’t feel like the show needed to remind me that this was the Batman universe. I do hope that The Electrocutioner returns at some point because his intellect proves that he can be a formidable opponent.