Review: The Walking Dead S5E06 “Consumed”


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“Everything now just consumes you.” — Carol Peletier

[spoilers]

This latest season of The Walking Dead has been focusing a lot on the theme of guilt and rebirth. With the former we find each episode exploring each character dealing with the many dark deeds they’ve had to do in order to have survived this far into the zombie apocalypse. We also see the season show how through the crucible of the past two years since the world fell into ruin those who have survived this far have been reborn through the very tragedies and sins they’ve had to commit and experience.

“Consumed” starts off with a cold opening that takes us all the way back to season 4 when Rick exiles Carol from the group after having learned that it was her who killed Karen and another and burned their bodies in the prison during the virus outbreak. It’s an emotional sequence as we see her go through so many emotions from breaking down on the side of the road to getting back to survival mode then finally seeing the aftermath of the Governor’s final assault on the prison.

This episode might have been about Carol and Daryl, but in the end it was a further continuation of exploring Carol’s growth from the mousy, battered wife and mother from season 1 through most of 3 and into the badass survivor we saw emerge from the start of season 4. It’s an interesting journey for a character that had been criminally-underwritten and underused by the series’ previous two showrunners (Frank Darabont and Glen Mazzara) who has now found a rebirth under current showrunner Scott M. Gimple.

Yes, we’ll continue to see that theme of rebirth throughout this season and tonight’s episode showed how this new dead world brought out the best in some while many have succumbed to their basest instinct. It’s difficult to say that for someone like Carol who has admitted to premeditated murder and killed a young girl. In the old world and how things were then one would call Carol a monster, but this new world has put out new rules and one such change has been was whether those still left would be willing to sacrifice something of their own humanity in order to survive. Then that brings up the next question of whether those who could make that sacrifice be able to hold onto what’s left of their humanity and moral compass to evade becoming the very monsters they’re slaying.

Carol goes through such a rebirth tonight as we see her internal war to continue being that lone wolf survivor (even with Daryl now by her side). All the dark things she has done since season 4 has been to keep the hell she knows she’s destined for kept at bay for as long as she could. We see her make on the fly decisions that even Daryl blinks at like trying to kill the fleeing Noah who had stolen their weapons.

Was she really trying to shoot him in the leg or was she being pragmatic and trying to kill the scared, young man who they thought was another survivor who couldn’t be trusted? By the end of the episode we see that Daryl a sort of Jiminy Cricket to Carol. Always trying to get her to talk about what had happened since the prison. He has seen the changes in her and he understands what sort of things she has had to do to last this long, but he also wants to make sure she doesn’t fall off that precipice that will forever change her and not for the better.

It was a tough episode to sit through in that the decision to intersperse scenes from the past season dealing with Carol’s shift into survivor mode at times seemed awkward in how they appeared. Last week’s flashbacks with Abraham was better handled yet for all the awkwardness with tonight’s flashbacks it didn’t minimize the message that tonight’s episode was telling. Carol that we knew from the first three seasons of the show has died. She’s gone through the worst crucible of fire one has had to go through. She’s lost her own daughter Sophia and two adopted ones in Lizzie and Mika and yet she has come through that consuming flame not as ashes, but something reborn that’s both mother and warrior.

Yes, this new world has been consuming everyone who’re left since the apocalypse began. It’s not just the zombies but other survivors as well both literally and figuratively. But as we’ve seen throughout this season, while Carol, Rick and those in their group have had to do dark and awful things to survive since their old world ended they’ve avoided being consumed by their very choices and have kept a tight hold on what keeps them human.

Carol and the others might be more willing to kill now than they have in the past, but they also believe that it’s still not too late for them to save those who need saving. Shane never learned that lesson and looked like he never would have. The Governor might’ve been doing things to save people but in the end he was consumed by the power of his position. Gareth started of as saving people, but was corrupted by tragedy and got lost in the wilderness. Even Joe from last season, as well adapted as he and his group was to the zombie apocalypse, took the wrong lessons from this new world and instead took advantage of the weak.

Time will tell if tonight’s episode was a sign of the show and it’s writers building up Carol only to sacrifice her to save the rest of the people she has adopted as her new family. I wouldn’t be surprised if they did, but it would be a waste of a great character that looks to have more growing to do for seasons to come if allowed to live.

Notes

  • “Consumed” was written by Matt Negrete and directed by Seith Mann.
  • Fire became a running theme throughout the episode both as a symbol of destruction and one of rebirth.
  • Seeing Atlanta again since season 1 was a nice change of pace from the rural and woodland settings since season 2.
  • We saw glimpses of places from season 1 like the train tracks and the abandoned tank in the intersection where Rick had to shelter from a herd of zombies.
  • The city itself seemed to have very little zombies, or at least not too concentrated, which is a nice reference back to the end of season 2 where we found out that the herd that attacked Hershel’s farm came from those who left Atlanta following the sounds and racket made by Rick and his people after they left the city.
  • Scene of the building skywalk bridge was similar to a scene out of novel of the series, The Walking Dead: Rise of the Governor.
  • Tonight’s guests on the Talking Dead are CM Punk, Yvette Nicole Brown (Community) and, Noah from the show, Tyler James Williams.

Season 5

Review: The Walking Dead S5E05 “Self Help”


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“I know things.” — Eugene Porter

[spoilers]

Tonight’s episode of The Walking Dead was shaping up to be one of this season’s first major stumbles in what has been a very good season. The show was due for a mulligan this first half of the season and audiences probably wouldn’t have made too much of a big deal. It’s almost a joke now that the series tends to have some weak throwaway episodes that goes nowhere before ramping things back up again.

“Self Help” did try it’s hardest to put the breaks on this season’s forward momentum, but surprisingly the episode ended up being a helpful and informative entry to The Walking Dead series.

We get a cold opening of Abraham, Eugene, Rosita plus new additions in Glenn, Maggie and Tara on the bus having left the Rick and the other half of their group back in the church. They’re on their way to D.C. where Abraham hopes whatever miracle cure Eugene has in his mulleted head will end the nightmare world they’re now living in. It’s a mission that Abraham has such a laser-focus in completing that when we get back after the cold opening’s bus crash there’s signs that our redhead Sergeant might not be as calm and collected as we’ve come to believe.

Yes, tonight’s latest episode is a sort of origin story to how Abraham and Eugene got to where they are now. Why is Abraham so intent on getting to D.C. as fast as possible despite Eugene acting like me might not be who says he is.

It’s how the episode was structured that made it look like it was going to be one of the weaker episodes this season. The cold opening was almost done as a sort of joke with Eugene’s mullet being the punch line. We still get the requisite group zombie attack on the group several times throughout the episode and we see that even though their number has been halved they still work quite efficiently in spite of Eugene’s utter uselessness in the face of battle.

Why exactly is Abraham so protective of Eugene? Surely there’s probably other scientists who have survived who could do the same things Eugene professes to know.

We find out exactly through flashbacks to Abraham’s time in the early days of the zombie apocalypse when it looks like he still has his family. These flashbacks show us exactly why Abraham has taken on Eugene as his mission. In an encounter at the end of the episode we find Eugene stumbling helpless as Abraham was about to end it all with a bullet, but seeing this mulleted man looking like he could barely out-walk the zombies stumbling after him puts him into badass mode.

Abraham has a reason to continue living. His temper getting the best of him and having his family seeing him at his most brutal and terrible has cost him their lives. While his temper saved his family from further rape (seemed implied) and harm from random strangers it also showed them the sort of man he was when confronted with danger. He’s a soldier. A sergeant in the military who was probably the toughest one in his unit. He’s probably seen combat and done things in war that he wasn’t proud of but he did it to finish the mission. With protecting his family from the zombies and the chaos out in the world now gone he has moved on to protecting Eugene. He sees Eugene as the hope he’s returning back to the world and, maybe, make the loss of his family not be in vain.

The same could be said about Eugene who is the polar opposite of Abraham, but whose smarts and ability to think on his feet (meaning lie) has kept him alive where others more physically-able has fallen. Eugene has a mission to keep himself alive as long as possible and he has conned Abraham and the others into thinking he’s the savior. Yet, as we see throughout this episode he has begun to see that maybe he doesn’t need to keep lying to stay alive. He has found a group in Rick and the others who bring people in because they’re decent and willing to forgive.

Abraham and Eugene have switched roles by episode’s end. We see Abraham’s sanity reach it’s breaking point and when Eugene tells him and the others that he has been selling them all a lie we see a that tenuous hold Abraham has on his bottled up anger unleashed on Eugene. On the other side of the equation we see how Eugene has gathered the courage and confidence in knowing the others will not turn him away to finally reveal the truth.

While “Self Help” wasn’t one of the better episode this season it served it’s purpose. We finally find out the truth about Eugene. He and Abraham finally have begun to round out as real characters instead of one-note caricatures of the badass soldier and the meek brain we’ve been shown, so far. Even Rosita gets some of her rough edges trimmed a bit as we see her as a sort of calming influence on the volatile sergeant.

With the cure now a mission that’s sure to end where does this leave and Abraham and his group. Do they make their way back to the church and join up with Rick again or do they continue forward and find a new place to hold up until Rick gets to them? Will Eugene ever be trusted by the others again or will they understand why he did what he did even if it meant others died to keep him and his lie safe? More questions arose with tonight’s episode, but they’re new ones that look towards moving the story forward instead of keeping things in place and going in circles.

Notes

  • “Self Help” was written by Heather Bellson and directed by series regular Ernest Dickerson.
  • We get a brutal flashback with Abraham using canned food to smash the face in of a man who might’ve raped his wife. Again the show does a lot to push the line in terms of TV censors (so far they’ve gotten a free hand at things), but they continue to stay away from actually showing rape occur on the series. Everything has been implied.
  • In the comics the men Abraham killed in the flashbacks were friends of his he banded together with in the early days of the zombie outbreak. They ended up raping his wife and daughter while he was out scavenging for weapons. He literally ripped apart all 6 men with his bare hands and why his family were scared of him.
  • This season has seen quite a new look for the zombies as we see them more lethargic and easier to kill due to their physical status, but as we see in the end it’s their massive numbers which continues to make them such a danger even to a hardened, veteran group of survivors like Abraham Glenn and Maggie.
  • Yes, that mullet on Eugene was getting to be too much party in the back.
  • Never thought I would hear the words “dolphin smooth” uttered on The Walking Dead but heard them I did.
  • At least we now know that Abraham and Eugene pair up all the way back in Texas. Most likely Houston.
  • Talking Dead guests tonight are a trio from the show itself: Michael Cudlitz (Abraham Ford), Josh McDermitt (Eugene Porter) and Gale Anne Hurd (series Executive Producer)

Season 5

Review: The Walking Dead S5E04 “Slabtown”


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“You owe us.” — Officer Dawn Lerner

[spoilers]

Season 5 of The Walking Dead has been on such a hot streak to begin the new season that it was bound to have a bit of a drop off sooner rather than later. Even the best shows needs to slow things down after sprinting right out of the gate. Tonight saw the show finally answer the question: Who took Beth?

“Slabtown” answers this question by dedicating an entire episode to it, but also focusing the entire episode on Beth herself. This is a character who has outlived it’s comic book counterpart and who had become a punching bag for fans and detractors alike. Beth Greene has been called worthless and whose only skill seems to be taking care of Lil’ Asskicker and singing for the group. Her character was one example of why the show’s detractors have called the writing on The Walking Dead one of it’s biggest flaws. Yet, the writers since Scott M. Gimple took over as showrunner seem to have found something salvageable about the youngest Greene.

Beth Greene’s character reclamation began all the way back in Season 4 where she began to show signs of understanding the rules which now govern the new world they all live in. When her new boyfriend was killed off in the last season’s premiere episode her reaction was to shrug it off and just remember the good times she had with him. This new found attitude would continue throughout season 4 yet Beth never sacrificed her hold on her humanity even as she finally adjusted to the new world she found herself in. It helped that she found a sort of big brother-like protector in Daryl who received emotional support from Beth as payment for teaching her how to better survive.

Now with tonight’s episode the initial reaction by most would be to groan and wonder if and when Daryl and Carol will come in with guns blazing to rescue her from what looks like a very bad situation. People wouldn’t be too harsh for thinking such a thing, but Gimple and his writers know that this was an opportunity to continue building up this new Beth Greene. Just as season 4 saw the emergence of Queen Badass Carol Peletier this season could further see Beth raise up her game and show everyone that she’s not useless and could more than take care of herself even when separated from everyone else.

It didn’t take long for Beth to realize that Officer Dawn and Doctor Edwards were more than just helpful faces. Dawn never even gives Beth a chance to think that her new situation was better than the one she left. Grady Memorial looked safe enough, but the “greater good” way that Dawn ran things was nothing more than a thin veneer over something that the Governor and last season’s Joe would approve of. In a move that harkens back to how drunks and poor people were shanghaied into indentured servitude on ships a couple hundred years ago, Dawn has built herself up a dictatorship all in the name of preserving civilization. She wanted to keep things as organized and law-abiding until rescue comes from the government and things go back to normal.

Beth saw right through this charade while Officer Dawn and Doctor Edwards fail to notice that the young, pretty thing in front of them has survived on the outside and grown to become a hardened fighter in her own right. She’s learned from the best (Rick, Daryl, Maggie and, to a certain extent, even from Carl himself) and throughout the episode we could see the wheels in her head turning, turning for a way to get herself out and back out in the world where she knew she had a better chance of surviving.

While the episode still slowed things down a tad too much in the beginning to set-up the final minutes, they weren’t as painful as similar slowdowns as in the past. We got to learn who at the same time as Beth did that her new protectors were bad news (some even quite open with the rapey angle) and that others also wanted out. While it would’ve been great to see the show make more use out of guest-star Keisha Castle-Hughes (will be great to see her on the upcoming season of Game of Thrones) there’s a chance that we might see more of Tyler James Williams’ as Noah who made good on finding a way out.

Is Noah the unseen figure Daryl called out in the end of last week’s episode?

I guess we will have to find out a couple weeks from now as the show now turns to focusing on the Abraham group as they head towards our nation’s capital. Now that we’ve gotten to see Beth prove herself as worthy as the rest (to some degree) of the Rick Grimes Gang, it’s now time to see if the writers have a way to make Abraham, Eugene and Rosita more than just one-dimensional characters to this point and time of the show.

Notes

  • “Slabtown” was written by Matthew Negrete & Channing Powell and directed by Michael E. Satrazemis.
  • Nice to see Tyler James Williams of Everybody Hates Chris on the TV once again.
  • Keisha Castle-Hughes of Whale Rider cameo’s as a ward of Grady Memorial who ends up ending the further rapey adventures of Officer Rapey McRaperton aka Officer Gorman.
  • Either Rick’s people just have had a lot of practice shooting zombie heads while on the move or Beth has been hiding just how good a shot she really is. She missed just one out of at least 15 shots.
  • Tonight’s episode was pretty much a whole new cast outside of Beth and until the very end with the appearance of Carol for a few seconds.
  • For a city that was supposedly bombed out by the government in the height of the zombie outbreak, Atlanta sure looks quite intact as it did in the season premiere. I guess the production designers on this show have never seen footage of German cities truly bombed out during WWII. This is how Atlanta should look.
  • Talking Dead guests tonight are John Barrowman (Arrow, Torchwood), Ana Gasteyer (SNL, Suburgatory) and Beth Greene herself, Emily Kinney.

Season 5

Horror Review: The Walking Dead S5E03 “Four Walls and a Roof”


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“TAINTED MEAT!” — Bob Stookey

[spoilers]

Well, that was one hell of an episode.

“Four Walls and a Roof” was a surprising episode as it unfolded not because of the payoff in the end, but how it further signifies the changes in how the show’s writers have been handling the show’s pacing. This was a major development considering the criticism it’s detractors (and some fans) have had about the series.

In seasons past, The Walking Dead always had major issues with it’s pacing. Despite what some have been saying the show does have some great episodes, but we do get several slow and wheel-spinning episodes following it up. Almost as if the writers were trying to find a way to help the audience decompress after a very tense, action-packed and/or horrific episode. It wasn’t such a major issue during it’s premiere season which was only six episodes long, but as each season got longer there came a time when too obvious filler episodes were aired that sucked the momentum from the series.

Even some of the show’s most strident supporters have complained about the necessity for extending certain story-arcs when it was obvious that they could’ve been handled and resolved in just a handful. Tonight’s episode was such a surprise in that it resolved a story-arc that was a major one in the comics in so short a time. Yet, despite having condensed the “Hunters” storyline from the comics into just three episodes they still kept the impact that it’s much longer comic book version had on readers.

The episode itself begins pretty much right after last week’s episode. It’s a cold opening that’s eerily done with images of zombies and the Terminans eating meat interspersed to make the two groups indistinguishable. Calling themselves Hunters, Gareth and his bunch were still having a moonlit dinner with Bob’s left leg as the main course. Of course, Gareth continues to monologue his way through the cold opening as if he just can’t help do so now that he has such a captive audience in Bob. One could almost sense that his own people were probably sick of hearing him talk through dinner, but were more afraid of him to say so. Gareth’s moment gets a major interruption as Bob, in a fit of crazed laughter, finally tells them a secret of why he was out all alone in the end of the previous episode. Bob didn’t make it out of the flooded food bank unscathed and the festering bite on his right shoulder was evidence enough for Gareth and his Hunters to lose their appetite.

One thing that could easily have derailed tonight’s episode was to spend too much time trying to figure out what happened to Bob and if Father Gabriel was involved in some fashion. Even after last week’s revelation that the people who have been stalking Rick and his people was Gareth and his small band of Hunters there was still theories that Father Gabriel might have been involved in some way. Gabriel had survived this long without having to deal with the zombies and other survivors looking for sanctuary. Someone must’ve helped or made a deal to spare him and Gareth looked like someone pragmatic enough to come up with a plan and deal to keep Gabriel stocked with food and not bothered as long as he pointed some people towards Terminus.

The fact that we get to the bottom of Gabriel secret and shame in the very first ten minutes of the episode was a nice change in how the show has been treating major personal secrets. The expectation that the show would keep Gabriel’s secret for more than two episodes was a given, but to have it resolved in swift fashion showed that Scott M. Gimple and his stable of writers do understand that pacing on the show has been an issue and they’re trying to fix that.

To top Gabriel’s secret now out we also get another surprise in Bob being brought back by Gareth and his people to just outside the church. The plan by Gareth to traumatize and put Rick and his people back on their heels actually was a sound plan, but he failed to factor in the fact that this band of survivors was not the type he and the Terminans have had to deal with since their fall into the darkside.

Rick might be a leader who has had some bouts of indecisiveness and more than just a tad bit of self-loathing which made him a liability, but his dedication to keeping his family (which now includes those he has added since Atlanta) alive throughout this hellish new world has seen him go from an idealistic man of the law to one who now understood that pragmatism and controlled brutality was now the coin of the land. We saw the final nail in the peacemaker Rick begin to recede in the back of his mind when the Governor returned in the mid-season finale of season 4 and saw Hershel killed and his prison haven destroyed and his people scattered.

Throughout the series there has always been the main question of does someone get to keep their humanity in a world where it has no room for it if one was to survive. It’s a question that’s been answered in one form or another whenever Rick and his people come across other survivors who have discarded their humanity and done evil things to survive. Some have become haunted by their acts while others have embraced them. Rick has become the barometer by which we judge our band of survivors. He’s taken it upon his shoulders to be the one that makes the hard decisions.

He’s always tried to deny the role of leadership and just want to be there for his son and daughter, but we’ve come to realize through his own personal revelations that people would always look to him as their leader whether he wants them to or not. Others see it in him and even Gareth, right up to the end, sees that this was a man who has done terrible things to survive this long to save his people. Where the difference lies between Rick and Gareth (and the Governor and Joe in past encounters) is that Rick still strives to keep some hold on his personal moral code. He might be setting aside his humanity to get the job done, but he does it as a necessary evil and always looking back to make sure that his humanity still waits for him once the task was done.

Tonight’s episode was a perfect example of Rick finally accepting his role as group leader and doing what must be done to keep everyone safe.We’ve only seen glimpses of this through the first four seasons of the show and it’s refreshing to finally see the writers stop waffling about Rick should continue to torment himself about doing the right thing.

Does this put him on the same path which tainted the Governor, Joe and Gareth?

There’s a good chance that it could, but as we’ve seen Rick has something those other men never had to keep him from falling to the darkside. Rick has good people around him to offer friendship and moral advice. They understand that Rick has taken on much to keep them alive and it’s their job to help him keep his humanity intact once the nightmare ends.

Bob might be gone from the group, but just like Hershel before him, his very optimism in a world that rewards nihilism and brutality has left a mark on everyone. His parting words to Rick showed that Rick still remains a good man despite doing things that Gabriel and others would call evil.

The Walking Dead has had it’s ups and downs since it’s first season and I don’t think a barreling first three episodes of this new season could solve all the problems it has had. But it’s encouraging to see that the producers and writers haven’t been tone deaf to the complaints about the show’s storytelling and its work on making the characters believable and complex. Even with its ridiculous ratings with each new episode they do understand there’s room for massive improvement and if what we’ve been witness to this early in the fifth season then The Walking Dead might just have it’s best days still to come.

Notes

  • “Four Walls and a Roof” was written by Angela Kand and Corey Reed and directed by Jeffrey F. January.
  • Like how even the smallest details in this young season has become a major factor. An example was Glenn finding the three suppressors in the looted gun store in the previous episode feeling like some throwaway moment, but it sure made a difference in tonight’s episode.
  • It looks like there might be further issues between Rick and Abraham if tonight’s episode was any indication.
  • One of the best scenes in tonight’s episode happens in the end as Michonne glances down at the carnage they heaped on the Terminans and notices that one of them was carrying her katana. The look on her face she drew it out was priceless. She’s whole once more despite telling Rick last week that she didn’t miss it.
  • Tyreese and Glenn look to be the frontrunners on who should be taking on the role of moral center since Hershel left the group midway through last season.
  • Surprising how Larry Gilliard, Jr. wasn’t a guest in tonight’s Talking Dead episode.
  • Talking Dead guests tonight are Slash (Guns ‘N Roses, Velvet Revolver), Mary Lynn Rajskub (24, Californication) and Gareth himself, Andrew J. West.

Season 5

Horror Review: The Walking Dead S5E02 “Strangers”


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“Nowadays, people are just as dangerous as the dead, don’t you think.” — Father Gabriel

[spoilers]

The Walking Dead as a show has never been more popular than it is now, but there’s been always a group of fans who have always had a bone to pick with the writers of the show. Some of these fans have given up on the series while others continue to watch it hoping that the series will get back on track. These fans are some of the biggest followers of the comic book series that the show is based on. They’ve bought and read The Walking Dead since the very first issue. While most remain steadfast fans of the show for it’s unpredictability in changing up story arcs and characters, there are those readers who hate when the show deviates from the comics.

These fans believe that the stories told in the comic book are strong and rich enough in drama and detail that deviating from them becomes a crapshoot in terms of quality. Yet, it’s the very deviation from the comics which has kept fans of the comics from instantly figuring out what will happen as the show moves from season to season.

The series itself never truly deviates from the main story arcs told in the comics. It’s how small details, subplots and characters get handled in different ways that the deviations come into play.

During the first four seasons of the show there’s been some major deviations on who died and who appeared and when. Characters such as Dale, Andrea, Sophia and Shane have had their roles expanded, reduced and/or changed that made them feel new and exciting (though for some characters like Andrea not so well). Even the mix and matching of subplots have kept even fans of the comics from feeling too comfortable about what to expect next.

Current showrunner Scott M. Gimple looks to be addressing this war between fans of the comics and those who have never read it by gradually pushing the show’s narrative much closer to the comics as early as the mid-season finale of season 4. Now with the second episode of season 5 the series looks to be introducing several details from the comics that should sound and look familiar to fans of the book.

First, we find the group on the move after the events of Terminus. There’s some small feeling out between new additions to Rick’s “family” with the Tara unsure whether the group would accept her since she was part of the Governor’s group which assaulted the prison and got Hershel killed. Rick and Maggie could easily have rejected her apologies of not knowing who the Governor truly was, but they understood how charismatic the Governor could be. Tara might be forgiven but time will tell if the group will truly trust her.

It’s after this brief opening that we come to the show moving towards the comic book in regards to it’s narrative. We meet Father Gabriel who looks to be a figurative babe in the woods. He’s trapped by several zombies and his reaction to being rescued by Rick and events after show him to be one with a naive sense of the new world. Rick and his people don’t know what to think of Father Gabriel. How has he survived almost two years on his own in his church without ever killing anyone (whether in self-defense or on purpose) or even make it this long without knowing how to deal with the zombies just beyond his church’s doors.

Father Gabriel already comes off as something more than what he’s telling the group. This doesn’t bode well for Rick and his “family” since whenever they come across strangers who seem willing to help they end up the opposite of helpful. Gabriel definitely has secrets he’s keeping from the group and Rick seems to have an inkling what it might be (with a little help from Carl), but he’s willing to string the good reverend along until his true colors comes out.

Now, the second part of tonight’s episode which brings the show back on track with the comics is the introduction of the “The Hunters” story arc from the books. Terminus looks to have become the foundation for this story arc. Let’s call it the prequel to what looks to be season 5′s first half story. Carol, Rick and the gang did quite a job on taking down Terminus. It was definitely not the sanctuary they’ve been advertising over the airwaves to potential survivors. Yet, the group’s complaint at Rick wanting to go back and finish the job at the end of the season premiere has come back to become a major danger to all of them.

But what part of that brings the show back on track and in sync with the comics?

The ending which has Bob taken captive by the Terminus survivors with Gareth still alive and hipstering was adapted almost scene for scene from the comic books. While it was poor departed Dale who was taken captive in the comics, it looks like that fate has befallen Bob in the show. This sequence was a major shocker in the comic book and it has a similar effect in the show since Bob has become a well-rounded character and one audiences come to care for. It helps that Larry Gilliard, Jr. has been giving good performances everytime he’s on the screen.

“Strangers” looks like the beginning of a major storyline for the show and might be a way to begin culling the group of it’s growing number. This doesn’t bode well for characters on the show not named Rick, Carl, Michonne and Daryl. If there’s been one thing The Walking Dead has become an expert in during it’s first four season it’s killing off characters when we least expect them to. One thing for sure is that if Rick and his people haven’t stopped trusting strangers before tonight’s episode they may just end up not trusting anyone they don’t recognize by the time the midseason break rolls around.

Notes

  • Robert Kirkman (creator and writer of the comic book) does the writing duties with tonight’s episode. There were some slow spots in the middle, but he nailed that final sequence with Bob and the Hunters.
  • The Walking Dead gets another alum from HBO’s The Wire with the addition of Seth Gilliam as Father Gabriel. It’s almost a running joke now. I next expect to see Michael K. Williams, Dominic West and Idris Elba to become cast members in future seasons (not a bad idea when you think about it).
  • Rick definitely doesn’t buy fully into the news that Eugene has the cure for the zombie apocalypse, but he understands that having Abraham and Rosita along just makes the group stronger.
  • Speaking of Abraham, I wonder how much longer before Rick and he begin to truly bump heads over who will be the leader of the group.
  • Carol looks to be having a case of the “guilts” in tonight’s episode. Hopefully, they don’t string out this personal crisis too long and just have her continue on her upward trajectory of becoming the show’s biggest badass.
  • Waterlogged zombies in the food bank reminded me so much of Deadite in The Pit in Army of Darkness. Greg Nicotero promised during Comic-Con that they were going to up their game when it came to zombie make-up effects for season 5 and they’ve followed through on that promise, so far.
  • Talking Dead guests for tonight are Matt L. Jones (Breaking Bad, Mom) and Chad Coleman aka Tyreese from The Walking Dead.

Season 5

Horror Review: The Walking Dead S5E01 “No Sanctuary”


TheWalkingDeadS5E01

“Be the butcher or you’re the cattle.” — Terminus Mary

[spoilers]

If people were asked five years ago that a show about the zombie apocalypse was going to be one of the biggest shows on TV then most people would be straight out snickering. Zombies, even just five years ago, was already being seen as overdone. Everything was zombie this and zombie that. Yet, on the basic cable network AMC, we see The Walking Dead coming into it’s fifth season stronger than ever and doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon.

It’s worth repeating that there’s a set of critics and viewers out there who remain dumbfounded as to why The Walking Dead remains such a popular hour of television despite the inconsistencies in writing, character growth (if any) and direction. This is the show that fired it’s creator and first showrunner halfway through season 2. His replacement would also get the axe once season three ended.

The Walking Dead has been called the soap opera with zombies and to an extent it is just that. It’s a show that lives and dies on the melodrama. At times this has been to the show’s benefit, but when it doesn’t work then certain episodes and story arcs just fall flat. Yet, we’re now starting season 5 and it’s a season premiere that doesn’t take it’s time (as some have complained) and pretty much hits the ground running from it’s cold opening right up to the final scene.

“No Sanctuary” begins with a jump back in time as we see the Terminus crew as prisoners in their own compound. We hear screaming in the background and those in with Gareth bemoaning the fact that they let the very people holding them hostages in. It’s a time when the Terminus people were just like Rick and his group. They tried to do the right thing, but this time around their trust and good nature backfired. Now the Terminus people are in charge and keeping Rick and his people prisoner and four new faces since captured since the end of the last season.

Throughout the episode we see the change come to Rick (already seen at the end of season 4) that he must be brutal if he’s to keep his people safe. It’s something that he has tried to avoid since the pilot episode. Even when up against the Governor and his lackeys there was always a sense that Rick was trying to find a peaceful solution to a crisis. Rick has always been one to try and stick to his own personal sense of justice and order throughout the season, but tonight’s episode saw more and more of it chipped away as the banality of evil as shown by Gareth and his Terminus survivors.

To say that tonight’s season premiere was action-heavy would be an understatement. With Greg Nicotero doing directing duties, the episode had the sort of epic scope in terms of action, violence, gore and character moments that fans of zombie fiction crave. Nicotero is still at his best when coming up with ways to rip people to pieces and the many ways zombies look and get destroyed, but with each episode under his belt as director he has improved. And for a show where it’s writing has been criticized nonstop tonight’s episode by showrunner Scott M. Gimple kept things moving. Every piece of dialogue was meant to bring some insight into the mindset of the character (Gareth who has taken pragmatism as a way to justify his turn to the dark side) or a way to move the scene forward.

If there was fear going into season 5 it was that the writers might linger and stretch the Terminus storyline (at least keep Rick and his group as prisoners longer than needed) the way things lingered in the Greene farm, will the Governor attack or won’t he and then the half a season spent getting the different survivors heading towards Terminus in season 4. We didn’t get that with “No Sanctuary” and while it’s a sure bet that not all Terminus people died at least the show will continue to be on the move instead of remaining static for no reason.

There are still many questions left unanswered after tonight’s episode. One major question being where the hell is Beth and who is holding her prisoner (if she is a prisoner). There’s also the question of this cure that Eugene is suppose to know that can reset the zombie apocalypse back to zero. At least we learned that one can come back from the exile the way Carol did as the episode ended. Despite being glad to see that it Carol was alive and she was instrumental in freeing him and the rest of his people, will Rick just forget what she did and take her back in unconditionally. Maybe Rick finally understood what Carol told him during their supply run back in season 4. When things have be to be done they have to be done right then and there for the good of the group.

As a final great moment that should be a major tease for fans of the show….we see the return of fan favorite in the form of Morgan Jones who looks to have left his sanctuary back in Rick’s old hometown and now trying to find his way back to other survivors (or tracking Rick if that’s the case).

Notes

  • We see the return of Robin Lord Taylor (Gotham) as Sam, the survivor with the basket of fruits in season 4′s “Indifference”, just before he gets a baseball bat to the back of the head and then his throat slit over a steel trough.
  • We have a new intro sequence that’s a bunch of new images taken from past episodes to start the credits intro. Maybe this is a sign that the show is now turned the corner from the Darabont and Mazzarra era and the show is firmly in the guiding hands of the Gimple.
  • There was a lot of MacGuyvering in tonight’s episode as the survivors still trapped in the “A” car were down to making makeshift weapons from pocketwatch chains, belt buckles and pieces of splintered wood. Rick and his people really showed that Gareth and the Terminus people were “fucking” with the wrong people.
  • It took four seasons, but Carol has graduated into biggest badass in a show that already loaded with them. Carol is the biggest BAMF on this show as it stands.
  • I’m sure the Carol and Daryl ship will be sailing along smoothly now that the two has reunited. Caryl shippers worldwide are breathing a sigh of relief.
  • Even though people thought Mr. Flashlight and ponytail in the flashback that bookended the episode was going to be big baddie Negan from the comics it looks like he’s the crazy dude Glenn let out of the container who was subsequently eaten by zombies. So, reports of Negan and Lucille were mistaken.
  • Talking Dead returns with Greg Nicotero (make-up FX wizard and show director), Scott M. Gimple (series showrunner) and Conan O’Brien as guests.

Review: The Walking Dead S4E14 “The Grove”


TheWalkingDeadS4M

“Just look at the flowers, Lizzie. Just look at the flowers.” — Carol Peletier

The Walking Dead tv series has always diverged from the comic book source to keep fans of the books guessing. Some fans of the comic books have complained about this since it would mean discarding certain subplots and characters that they love but were really non-essential to the overall story being told for the tv series version. Yet, the writers of the show, through the comic book’s creator Robert Kirkman, have mined the comic book source for material that remains important to the show’s narrative.

The latest episode, “The Grove”, takes a disturbing but very important subplot from the comics and manages to adapt it for the tv series in a way that made it one of the series’ best.

A cold opening that manages to be both quaint, idyllic and disturbing which sets the tone for the rest of the episode sees the return of the group led by Carol. It’s a group that could almost be seen as a makeshift family unit. There’s Carol the loving, yet stern mother who wants to make sure her daughters learn how to survive in this dangerous, new world while Tyreese remains te compassionate and protective father. Lizzie, Mika and Rick’s baby daughter Judith make up the children who must now adapt to this new world or perish.

First off, Judith remains the blank slate in the show. She’s the first baby born after the world went to hell and thus will have to grow up in it’s new environs and new set of morals and principles. The old civilization is gone and while people try to hold onto what made that civilization tick only those willing to adapt to this new world seem to survive. Now, Lizzie and Mika were already forming their own personalities and sets of morals when the zombie apocalypse hit. We see the two Samuels girl go in differing paths in how they cope with this new world.

While seeing these two girls’ inability to adapt to the world post-zombie apocalypse was a nice theme to explore the episode really focused on the group’s maternal unit. This latest episode was a culmination of the new Carol Peletier that season 4 unleashed on an unsuspecting audience.

This was a character that we saw as being the meek victim of spousal abuse even before the zombies arrived. Her emotional trauma would continue with the loss of her young daughter Sophia in season 2 and almost dying during break in prison security in season 3. Yet, by the time season 4 rolled around we see her become a hardened survivor who has turned the corner and decided she will not remain a victim anymore and make sure those people see as being helpless (the young children in the group) learn how to defend themselves from zombies and humans alike.

The titular grove the group stumbles upon early in the episode has an almost mystical quality to it. An idyllic locale in the middle of literal hell on earth. There’s untainted well water to be had, a pecan grove for food and even a solitary deer that seems to come by at the most opportune time for meat. Hell, the cabin even has a working gas stove (probably a propane tank fed one) and a secure enough fence of barbed wire to fend off the random zombies that may wander by. It’s almost paradise in comparison to the different place Carol, Tyreese and the girls have had to call shelter.

It is no wonder that both Tyreese and Carol entertain the idea of maybe staying at the grove and making a life for themselves with the girls instead of continuing onto the unknown potential haven that is Terminus. But one thing this show has been consistent about when it comes to it’s characters seeming to find peace and tranquility is that it will pull the rug from under them to reveal that things are not ideal and that it’s just a veneer over the ugliness and brutality this new world has turned into.

The rug gets pulled out gradually from beneath Carol’s feet as both Mika and Lizzie continue to fail in heeding her teachings about survival. Mike remains adamant about not ever wanting to hurt anyone alive (she makes some headway in killing off some zombies during the episode) which Carol sees as dangerously naive of the young girl. Lizzie on the other hand begins to reveal an even more dangerous quality which would turn tragic by episode’s end.

By this time many will have written and discussed the events involving Lizzie and Mika that would add another emotional stone on Carol’s back. It’s a sequence that’s as disturbing as anything this show has put on the air in the last four years. It’s not often that children get killed in tv shows (well except for Law and Order: SVU) and yet The Walking Dead manages to do it twice in one night and both times it’s not gratuitous or meant to be entertaining. both Mika and Lizzie’s death become a sort of crucible Carol must go through to find a sort of equilibrium between the nurturing mother she was before season 4 and the cold, pragmatic survivor she has become this season. She still remains conscious to the fact that hard decisions need to be made for the greater good and she makes it ones again when Lizzie murders her younger sister Mika. It’s a murder not done in spite or malice. Lizzie truly believes that Mika will return and remember not to attack her friends and family.

In the end, the grove ceases to be the ideal haven Carol and Tyreese saw it as in the beginning and realize it’s just another place to leave behind with bad memories. It’s become another haunted place for the next people to find and wonder what happened to the previous inhabitants and what caused them to leave behind three small graves in the flower and pecan grove.

Notes

  • Tonight’s episode was written by showrunner Scott M. Gimple and directed by Michael Satrazemis.
  • The cold opening sequence was a nice touch using The Ink Spot’s “Maybe” song that was also used in the Bethesda post-apocalyptic game, Fallout 3.
  • Mika definitely came off as being the more intelligent of the two sisters. Though as many would probably point out, just as Carol did, her inability to hurt other people who will want to hurt her will get her killed sooner or later.
  • Lizzie’s personality matches very closely that of the comic book Carol who began to see the zombies as more her friends than a danger. I’m sure Kirkman had a hand in helping Gimple round out the character of the elder Samuels girl.
  • I noticed that the pistol that Mika carried with her was a Smith & Wesson M&P 9 (full-size one even) just for the fact that I also own one so it was very recognizable.
  • The different subplots involving the scattered groups of prison survivors seem to be following an uneven timeline within this midseason narrative. The fire and smoke seen by Carol, Tyreese and the girls would mean that they’re at least a day behind Daryl and Beth.
  • Gimple must’ve been a fan of Steinbeck because tonight’s episode had a very Of Mice and Men feel to it right up to the sequence with Carol and Lizzie in the end.
  • Talking Dead Guests: Melissa McBride of The Walking Dead, Yvette Nicole Brown from Community and WWE’s CM Punk.

Season 4