'The Firm': Mitch's Decisions Do Not Bode Well

Of course Mitch and Abby believe every child can be saved, and if Mitch's legal methods toward achieving that end are a little disingenuous, well, they're always well intended.

The Firm

Airtime: Sunday, 9pm ET (Regular time: Thursdays, 9m ET)
Cast: Josh Lucas, Molly Parker, Juliette Lewis, Callum Keith Rennie, Natasha Calis
Subtitle: Series Premiere
Network: NBC
Air date: 2012-01-08
We were a little scarred by our last firm experience.

-- Mitch McDeere (Josh Lucas)

"It's happening again." Of course it is. And as Mitch McDeere (Josh Lucas) breathes hard into a pay phone, his wife Abby (Molly Parker) knows exactly what "it" is -- a very bad law firm is once again using her brilliant lawyer husband to do its very bad work. Still, she reacts as if she doesn't, by beginning to say out loud the "emergency plan" they've agreed to -- until he warns her, "Don't say it, just go!"

This brief minute or so at the start of The Firm does not bode well. Really, Abby must know better than to give up their secrets over the phone, because she knows that the firm has surveillance on all their personal devices. And really, Mitch must know that too, which means that calling Abby on the phone is a certain tip-off.

It could be that they've forgotten what "it" actually is, or the precise plot of the previous Firm, which starred Tom Cruise as Mitch and opened in movie theaters almost 20 years ago. Their sense of time and maybe their memories too might be scrambled, given that -- as they explain very helpfully in this series premiere, airing 8 January -- they've been on the run for a decade, mostly under the auspices of Witness Protection. This was long enough for their 10-year-old, Claire (Natasha Calis), who was conceived while they were first escaping, to grow resentful of all the moving about they did when she was younger. And it was also long enough, apparently, to convince them it was safe to risk resurfacing -- in DC, of all high-profile places -- with their real names available for all to see, against the advice of their burly federal minders.

All this is made clear in a few minutes of flashback, which turn into the rest of the episode's extended flashback. This reintroduces Mitch's team from before, namely, his loyal, black-bra-ed, heavy-smoking secretary Tammy (Juliette Lewis) and her boyfriend/Mitch's brother Ray (Callum Keith Rennie). He served time for manslaughter and so now has a good feel for all things "street," meaning he can talk to criminals and black people (at least this seems to be the equation made in this first episode).

Tammy and Ray are now working with Mitch in his adamantly non-firm-associated storefront legal operation, where he has eight (not-yet) paying clients and also takes pro bono criminal cases ("You're discount defense," observes one murder suspect). The one case he hopes will pay for his nice house is likely to be settled, as it involves suing a company for a woman now dying because of its faulty cardiac stent.

These cases don't come together so much as they suggest a formula. Mitch is smart (and admired as such by at least one judge who knows him) but struggling. Abby is patient, and together they will have to evade the same terrible fate that they eluded in the movie.

Tammy and Ray have their own parts in this formula: she's tough and wise and he's tough and ex-conny, both helpful in te evasion and also, it turns out, in weekly subplots. Ray, for instance, is able to reconstruct crimes in flashbacks (badly, it turns out), which makes him central to the legal case that serves as subplot and center of this firsts episode. For one thing, he finds a key witness at the schoolyard where a 14-year-old killed another boy; this security guard confides in him because Ray recognizes his tattoo. He also runs a scam on someone looking to hire a hitman, apparently because Ray looks so tough and ex-conny that a complete stranger will hire him with no background checks whatsoever.

The schoolyard case does offer Mitch (and his wife, who teaches fifth graders) a chance to talk about the US juvenile justice system, as well as the increasing tilt toward trying kids as adults. As Mitch explains it to the suspect's father, the juvenile system means to "rehabilitate a child, but with an adult, [the aim is] to punish a criminal." Of course Mitch and Abby believe every child can be saved, and if Mitch's methods toward achieving that end are a little disingenuous, well, they're always well intended. (It's not encouraging that Abby has to explain to him the plot of Native Son.)

The same cannot be said for the big bad firm, which employs 60 lawyers to represent corporations and wants to bring in Mitch to jumpstart its criminal division. That he falls for this line is unbelievable, given his history and ostensible intelligence, but the show needs that plot, and so he does, as does his wife. The show does give him a chance to berate his new colleagues and lay down his moral gauntlet (such as it is) when a fancy-pants firm attorney confronts him at a party, "You're a moralist," sniffs Mr. Fancy Pants, "You spend your day defending criminals." Mitch is ready with the moralist's correct answer: "We both defend criminals… The difference is, I'll admit it to anybody. You won't even admit it to yourself." Snap!

Apparently, this wee bit of comeback is all Mitch needs to feel like he's in control -- enough to convince himself that joining the firm is a good idea (he needs their money to be able to do the research and mount the case for the dying woman). He also offers this exceptionally weak rationale to Abby, who implores him to remain independent. "Maybe it's because I'm the son of a coal miner and a waitress, not a bank president and a socialite like you," he whines. She reveals that she's carrying as much rage as he does when she spits back: "So you have to be around entitled people to make yourself feel worthy?"

I wouldn't call this a "snap," but it does indicate they have some things to work out. It may be that the show means to have them do that over time (the show is already contracted for 22 episodes). For now, Mitch decides to join the firm. That he makes this decision knowing at least what you know about what a similar firm did to him does not bode well.


From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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