Review: The Walking Dead S5E08 “Coda”


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“You’ve all been out here too long.” — Ofc. Bob Lamson

[spoilers]

We’ve finally reached the mid-season finale of the fifth season of The Walking Dead. It has been a strong first-half that showed some major improvements in terms of strong narrative structure and pacing. The first-half also saw growth in the Beth Greene character which we saw hints of in the second-half of season 4. We didn’t get much of the so-called ‘wheel-spinning” episodes which literally went nowhere. The long existential philosophizing monologues were kept to a minimum and when we did get them they were essential to the scene and the episode (example: Gareth’s final monologue before dying all the way back in Episode 3: “Four Walls and a Roof”).

Last week’s episode could be considered the weakest of the first-half episodes as it focused more on setting up the the many different groups. All the groups eventually leading up to reuniting in one way or another with tonight’s mid-season finale. A finale that we’ve been told would see the death of a major character.

The guessing games have had Carol as being the one to die in tonight’s episode. It’s not a bad guess considering how much the show’s writers have been foreshadowing her death as something akin to a hero’s tragic end. She was the character who literally came out of nowhere from being one of the useless and weakest in the bunch to one of it’s strengths. The show and it’s writers have been notorious for removing very popular characters from the playing field and it wouldn’t have been surprising if that was the case with Carol with tonight’s episode.

“Coda” follows through on the full-speed ahead style Gimple and his writers have adopted this season by using a cold opening that occurs literally right after last week’s cliffhanger. We see Agent Sitwe…I mean Officer Lamson still fleeing from the Rick group with his hands tied behind his back. In the past, Lamson would make it back to Grady Memorial and we would have a major stand-off between Rick and Dawn. Not this season and too bad for Lamson. Rick chases him down with scary efficiency that gives us more hints that he’s starting to travel deep down the dark path that the Governor, Gareth and Joe saw themselves go down and not make it back out.

Rick doesn’t brook second-chances when it comes to new people (which might just mean bad news for Father Gabriel who put Baby Judith in harm’s way trying to confirm Bob’s story about Gareth and his Hunters). Past seasons would see Rick agonize over killing another human being. Not season 5 Rick who has seen how indecision has cost him his wife and many friends since he awoke from his coma. He has learned to compartmentalize that part of him which still sees the good in people. He has become pragmatic about the new world he finds himself in and in doing so could be losing that very humanity which has made him a leader everyone seems to gravitate to.

While Rick hasn’t gone full-on Shane he definitely would understand some of the dark things that Shane was capable of doing and had done in order to survive. We see this with how calmly he shoots Lamson in the head. He could’ve done it to save Lamson the horror and pain of being devoured by the approaching zombies since Rick’s driving broke his back. Or he could’ve done it just to shut him up from continuing his talk about how Rick has been out in this world too long and how it has affected him. Just like fans and critics of the show itself, Rick seems to have gotten tired of everyone telling him that he’s losing his mind and/or his humanity. If Rick has lost it at least we know that he still has his people’s well-being and survival in mind. As for anyone new coming into the group that would be a question that would have to wait.

Yet, despite how Rick has become hardened to this new world he still finds himself affected by the death of someone close to him.

Beth’s death (not Carol’s as many have been guessing) wasn’t as surprising, but still a shock at how it happened so close to her finally being reunited with her sister Maggie. Her death marks a further erosion of that innocence and hope the show has been trying to keep a hold onto since season 1. Like her character or not, Beth Greene remained optimistic despite all that this new world threw at her. She had taken over her father’s role as the show’s moral center and just like in season’s past it’s a role that continues to spell doom on whoever takes on it.

Tonight’s episode wasn’t as strong as past mid-season finales. While it had the requisite shocking moment it was still too similar to last week’s episode where the episode juggled too many groups in too little time (AMC’s getting ridiculous with its commercial breaks). There’s an understanding that seeing the different groups reuniting in the end would make for a much more dramatic conclusion to the first-half, but too little time was spent on the rescue itself that the writers were almost hoping the audience would make the necessary leaps in storytelling to excuse why the end happened the way it did.

It’s not a bad episode or even an average one, it was a good enough entry in this first-half that we get a definite conclusion to the final hanging plot-thread from season 4. Beth has been found and just when they (and us as an audience) was finally getting a stronger and more confident young woman the show yanks that hope away and we find the show much darker.

Beth’s death should reverberate through the second-half of this season (or it would’ve been for naught) and should affect many of the characters left in Rick’s group. Rick might blame himself for her death. Maggie has now lost the last remaining family member she had despite having a new one with Rick and the others. Daryl lost that bright, hopeful link that has made him less a lone wolf and more of a well-rounded badass.

As a character Beth Greene started out as weak, one-note and barely there with season 2. She became a running joke as the bard of this merry band of zombie apocalypse survivors in season 3 with her penchant for singing. Something turned with season 4 as Scott M. Gimple took over as showrunner. She became a rough gem that the show’s writers were attempting to smooth out and find the true character underneath. This season finally revealed that character. A character that continued to be hopeful despite the despair all-around. A character that learned how not to be a victim and became stronger as she remained separated from the rest of the group.

Even in the end, as she and Dawn had their final exchange that showed how she and not Dawn was the true survivor, Beth did what she did in order to try and save a friend who she had faith would come back for her. Beth went out the only way she knew how and that’s helping others.

“Coda” was an appropriate title for tonight’s episode. A musical passage that brings an end to a musical piece. Beth was the music to Rick and his group of survivors and tonight was her coda.

Notes

  • “Coda” was written by Angela Kang and directed by Ernest Dickerson.
  • Just like in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Maximiliano Hernández’s character on The Walking Dead meets his demise after getting hit by a moving vehicle. Though in tonight’s episode it was a contributing factor.
  • This particular sequence is similar to a scene in the comic books which occurred earlier in the story and the character who gets run over is Martinez who was fleeing back to Woodbury to tell the Governor where the prison was located.
  • Probably only interesting to me, but the Atlanta PD at Grady Memorial Hospital using Smith & Wesson MP .40 which means the zombie apocalypse occurred before 2013 which was when the department began switching to the Glock 22 Gen 4.
  • Father Gabriel’s actions was very frustrating yet fitting in with the way the character has been adapted from the comics. This is a man who is just beginning to learn that not everyone who has survived out in the world will be as kind and forgiving as he expects them to be. It will be interesting to see whether the writers develop Gabriel’s psychological issues of survivor’s remorse further in the second-half of this season.
  • Noah’s character may end up being the key to Rick’s group heading up north and towards the Alexandria community which will lead into one of the longest-running story-arcs in the comics: War between Rick and his people against Negan and his.
  • Interesting how the Grady Memorial haven is now the second survivor group Rick and his people have come across since the show began. Will they survive the death of Dawn and now having five less police officers protecting them or will they end up like the Vatos and the nursing home group which we find out in a season 2 deleted scene that they were ultimately overrun.
  • The first-half of season 5 ends the way it began with the premiere and finale episodes featuring Morgan coming across the aftermath of Rick’s group passing through: lots of destroyed zombies. Will Morgan be a boon for Rick and his people if and when he finally catches up to them?
  • Tonight’s guests on the Talking Dead are Keegan Michael-Key (Key & Peele), series creator Robert Kirkman and, Beth Greene herself, Emily Kinney.

Season 5

Review: The Walking Dead S5E07 “Crossed”


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“The things that we do they’re worth it.” — Michonne

[spoilers]

We’re now nearing the mid-point of season 5 for The Walking Dead. For a show that has had some major ups and downs throughout it’s four season (both creatively and behind-the-scenes) it looks like the show might be hitting it’s stride with this fifth. The first six episodes of this new season has ranged from excellent to very good. It’s a streak of consistency that we only saw glimpses of in the previous four seasons.

“Crossed” falls somewhere between very good to good. It’s not the best episode of the season and, for the moment, could be seen as it’s weakest. This is due to the format of the episode itself. Where the episodes prior to tonight’s concentrated on either the group as a whole in one place (Terminus and the church) or on particular characters, tonight saw the story jump back and forth between three groups. The main one being Rick’s rescue team headed into Atlanta to get back Beth and Carol. Then we have the smaller group left back in the church. To finish up this three-legged horse of an episode was the Abraham group soon after Eugene’s revelation.

There’s only so much one could do with three diverging story-lines in less than an hour’s time (AMC has been getting worse and worse with it’s commercial time for it’s most popular show). One could almost see how tonight’s episode was setting up for a much bigger and dramatic mid-season finale. Yes, there was much setting the table and pieces with “Crossed” and it made the episode feel abrupt in how things unfolded.

At times, we could almost sense an action beat about to let hell loose (maybe people this season has been spoiled by the season premiere), but then it’s only a tease. This happens with Rick and his group ambushing Agent Sitwell (HAIL HYDRA!)…I mean Sgt. Bob Lamson and his partner using Noah as bait. Their success was short-lived as they’re soon the victim of the very first drive-by on The Walking Dead. The same happens moments later between Daryl and Officer McBaldy (Licari on imdb) before Rick conveniently steps in to get things in hand. Tonight’s episode has been all about teases, but little to no pay-off until the very end and that one wasn’t too much a surprise.

We do get several good character moments from the show’s lead cast.

There were moments that show Rick balanced precariously over the edge of turning from pragmatic survivor into full-blown Governor or Joe. The first was when planning their assault to rescue Beth and Carol with his plan more about using surprise to kill Dawn and the rest of the Atlanta cops. His plan doesn’t have anything to do with minimizing casualties for the other side (which earlier Rick would have accounted for). He’s become so pragmatic in how he does things this season that killing seems to be getting easier and easier for our intrepid leader. The second time was when he saves Daryl from Ofc. Licari and there’s a moment when he has the cop in his sights where we don’t know if he’ll spare the man or shoot him in cold-blood. It’s some fine acting using nothing but his eyes done by Andrew Lincoln in this scene.

The rest of the episode sees both the church and Abraham group trying to deal with having to wait for Rick to get back or Abraham to come out of his near-catatonia. The former gives us a bit more work on Father Gabriel who seems to see his saviors as scary as the zombies who ate his congregation. Audiences will definitely react with incredulity at his actions to secretly flee the church despite knowing he has no idea how to survive out in the world. This behavior adds further insight as to Gabriel’s state of mind. He’s definitely not thinking clearly and it will be interesting to see if he becomes a bigger liability to the group as the season goes along.

The situation with Abraham and the rest of the D.C. was a bit more problematic in that they literally went nowhere. Sure, we saw some bonding moments between Glenn, Tara and Rosita (who is becoming more and more a person than just background). But Abraham doing nothing but going aggro or kneeling in silence made whatever momentum gained by the episode through the Rick group grind to a screeching halt.

Yet, tonight’s episode still manages to move the season forward in small bits and pieces. The title itself foreshadows what could be one of the season’s themes in that these people left alive have crossed some major moral lines to survive this far. They’ve had to do things that has been about surviving for another day even if it meant killing others or towards a mission that has cost lives which now means nothing. We see how all the things Rick has had to do since he awoke from his coma has been affecting him both in a good way and, also in a manner, slowly corrupting him. Abraham now feels useless now that the D.C. mission has turned to naught. Even Gabriel’s fleeing the church and those who have saved him continues his denial of this new world and what it has done to those he had shepherded.

So, while “Crossed” might not have been on par as the previous six episodes of this new season it was still something that moved the show to another mid-season finale that could change the cast dynamics once again. The question that will continue tonight and even after next week’s finale will be whether the writers will be able to keep up the consistent quality in the remaining episode or will they start to lose steam (like the second half of season 3) or meander along (like last season’s second half). Time will tell if Gimple and his writers will be up to the task.

Notes

  • “Crossed” was written by Seth Hoffman and directed by Billy Gierhart.
  • The pistol and suppressor used by Rick in tonight’s episode is a Heckler & Koch Mk 23 .45 with an Osprey Suppressor. We see him use this for the first time all the way in this season’s third episode, “Four Walls and a Roof”, to ambush Gareth and the rest of the Hunters.
  • Tonight was the first time we see the entire cast throughout the episode. Beth wasn’t in the first three.
  • People need to learn never to trust HYDRA and Sasha definitely learned this lesson the hard way.
  • It was very suprising and more than just a tad disconcerting to see SHIELD/HYDRA Agent Stillwell as an Atlanta cop in tonight’s episode. His heel turn in the episode’s end wasn’t surprising at all.
  • The episodes in Atlanta showed only glimpses of the firebombing that took place in the early days of the zombie outbreak, but we see for the first time the after-effects of the napalm runs on the city with the half-melted zombies near the former FEMA truck.
  • Some very gnarly practical and make-up effects work by the gore wizards at KNB EFX with the napalmed zombies.
  • Tonight’s guests on the Talking Dead are comedian Paul F. Tompkins and Christian Serratos and Sonequa Martin-Green (Rosita and Sasha of The Walking Dead)

Season 5

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