Review: The Walking Dead S5E12 “Remember”


TheWalkingDeadS5E12

“We’re almost out there too long.” — Glenn Rhee

[spoilers within]

Can a group of people who have survived through the most dangerous situations ever remember to return to some form of normalcy? Can they ever accept such an offer and not feel out of place?

Tonight’s episode of The Walking Dead brings up this question as we finally see the group enter the fortified walls of the Alexandria Community. Rick and his people have been on the road for as long as they’ve found themselves a safe haven to call home since the zombie apocalypse began. They’ve lost many along this journey through attrition, carelessness and betrayal. This is a group that has lived every day in a constant state of war. It’s something that the people of Alexandria seem to be very short in.

There’s an almost comical difference in how Rick’s unwashed, hardened survivors when compared to the people of Alexandria who seem to have been able to weather much of the storm that the apocalypse has rained down upon the world. They’ve been able to have constant running water, electricity and an abundance of food. They also have walls which seem to be designed to maximize protection from both zombies and raiders alike. It’s the gated community for the apocalypse and it’s current inhabitants either put too much faith in what has kept them safe and alive or playing at being badass survivors when we as an audience can see the opposite.

Alexandria is not like Woodbury where just enough of what was past was brought back to keep people happy. It’s not like Terminus which became corrupted once the dangers outside the walls entered. This is a community that seems like paradise and willing to give Rick and his people a chance to fit in and contribute. It’s the hope they’ve been searching for since they left the prison. A place that has a chance to sustain not just everyone physically but mentally and spiritually.

Yet, we also see that Rick and his people still have their guard up despite it all. Like pets who have gone feral, Rick and his people want to accept this hopeful situation as genuine, but also aware that when things look to be too good to be true then it probably is. They search for a hidden agenda in what Alexandria’s leader, former Ohio Senator Deanna Monroe, has for taking them in when she has admitted to Rick herself that his group was the first large group of outsiders they’ve deemed worthy enough to invite in.

Characters like Carol, Daryl and Glenn seem to share Rick’s doubts about this new safe haven in one way or another. With Daryl we see him become even more outward with his belligerence towards the strangers in their midst. There’s nothing hidden about how Daryl feels, but he’s willing to go along with things while Rick and Carol play along. With Glenn he wants this opportunity to finally get off the road and settle down to work, but we can see that he’s already waiting for that hidden agenda to reveal itself as another betrayal.

Outside of Rick it’s Carol who seems to be looking to play the long game with Deanna and her people. We see how Carol begins to act like her former self from all the way back in season 1. Melissa McBride’s performance during tonight’s episode shows why she has become one of the stalwarts in this huge cast. One second she’s the observant, veteran killer looking for the danger she knows is just waiting for them. Then next moment she’s the clumsy, mousy and battered housewife we first saw in season 1 and 2. She understands that this place can be a good place for them, but once again willing to be the one to do the dirty work to protect her new family when the time comes.

Tonight’s episode was all about Rick Grimes and whether he’s able to remember how things were suppose to be for him and his family when they had something good going in their prison community. Since they fled that sanctuary’s destruction Rick has been going through several moments of crisis that just chip away at the Officer Friendly that we first met in season 1. The bigger and more unkempt his beard got the more Rick steeled himself form the dangers that strangers posed for him and his group.

There’s a moment when he’s being interviewed and videotaped by Deanna that showed Rick’s two side at war with each other. The Rick of the road was ready to strike at the possible dangers around him. Unable to sit still and even uncomfortable to be sitting in a nice sofa chair. This is the Rick that has learned what deprivation and constant danger means and lived through everything this new world threw at him. Yet, we also saw the Officer Friendly of those early seasons wanting to accept this offer of hope and renewal. Even the act of shaving off the beard was a powerful symbol of Rick trying to shed some of the mistrust and paranoia he’d acquired since leaving the prison.

The Walking Dead will always have it’s great moments of zombie gore and action. It’s the show’s bread and butter, but when the show’s writers decide it’s time to lay down the seeds for a much longer game the show under current showrunner Scott M. Gimple seem to have gotten better. Not much zombies or action, but the episode still was full of tension as we’ve all come to expect that other shoe to drop and when it does it comes from a surprising source.

Will Rick and his people remember what it was to be able to trust others again? Will Rick be able to get back to that balancing act of being both pragmatic and compassionate when it comes to being leader of his group? Or are Rick and the group too far gone to remember what made them decent people even when the apocalypse landed in their laps.

Notes

  • Tonight’s episode of The Walking Dead, “Remember”, was directed by series producer Greg Nicotero and written by series writer Channing Powell.
  • It looks like Law & Order‘s own Danielle Melnick (Tovah Feldshuh) will be the leader of the Alexandria Community.
  • In the comics the leader of Alexandria was also a senator but was a man named Douglas.
  • Alexandra Breckinride has gone ditched the red locks of her American Horror Story character and gone blonde as Jessie of the Alexandria Community.
  • Deanna’s son Aiden, a former lieutenant in the ROTC (snicker), does not deserve the rifle he was carrying when he took Glenn, Tara and Noah our for a dry run outside the walls of the Alexandria community. I think that SCAR-L should be given to someone who can use it better like Glenn or Carl or Abraham.
  • I do believe that was Scott Ian of Anthrax playing the zombie that Carl killed with the steel pole.
  • Talking Dead guests tonight are Timothy Simons (Veep) and Alanna Masterson (Tara of The Walking Dead) and Denise Huth (series producer)

Season 5

Review: The Walking Dead S5E11 “The Distance”


TheWalkingDeadS5E11

“The fight it turns on you. You have to let it go.” — Michonne

[spoilers within]

Just when there’s been a sliver of doubt that the show has lost some steam because of last week’s episode which some have called a throwaway due to little to no action. When people say this it means the show barely has the so-called zombie action it has become known for. A show titled The Walking Dead always goes back to surviving the zombies around Rick and his people. Yet, the show needs to take the sort of breather that last week’s “Them” provided not just the characters but the audience.

Tonight’s episode looks to be the start of a new story-arc that mirrors a similar event in the comic book. The group has a journey where food and water has become scarce. A night trapped in a barn with zombies about to break through and hurricane winds and rain just outside. These people are true survivors. Rick’s leadership (questionable at times) have seen the group through the Governor and Woodbury, a viral outbreak, fall of the prison, Terminus and right up to Gareth and his Hunters. All these events have culled some of the more soft-hearted members of the team and just about left nothing of the group but the hard inner core.

They remain good people trying desperately to hold onto the humanity and compassion, but all the things they’ve gone through has begun to affect them in so many ways. Tonight we see how the burden of leadership and seeing how their trust has been betrayed over and over when it comes to strangers has begun to weigh on Rick. He sees how being on the road has weakened his people as water and food run low, but trust seems to be leaving him when it comes to those he sees as not his people.

Tonight we see Rick’s mistrust of Aaron (introduced as the mysterious “friend” who left the group bottles of water on the road) and his promise of a safe community reach paranoia level. The rest of the group have their own levels of doubt about Aaron, but willing to entertain the prospect of getting off the road and be somewhere safe even if just temporary. Rick doesn’t see it that way. What he sees when he looks at Aaron and listens to his words of safety and community are the same things the Governor and the Terminus radio message had promised in the past. His defense mechanism has become so pervasive in how he deals with the unknown that he’s lost sight of how this world needs pragmatism over anything else if one was to survive.

Michonne and others in the group understand that Aaron’s offer could be a trap and another Terminus, but they’ve become such pragmatists in this hellish new world that before they dismiss the offer as a danger they need to find out more. They see this offer as a way out of the road. A solution to the emotional toll their nomadic life has taken on them. Yet, Rick focuses on seeing this new development as just another trap that he needs to stop before it gets sprung.

The whole episode we see Rick’s mindset get questioned by not just Michonne, but others such as Glenn, Maggie and, to a certain degree, even Daryl knows that they need a viable and safe place to hold up. A barn that is stinking of horseshit would not do. Rick would back off his initial orders to take the fight to these new mysterious “benefactors” but we could see in his eyes and behavior that the others might be willing to give Aaron a sliver of trust but he won’t.

It takes some words of wisdom from Michonne herself who has noticed that Rick has begun to slide into a state of nihilistic behavior. She knows exactly how Rick feels. She herself was were Rick was when she first showed up to save Andrea all the way back in season 3 and when she first meets up with Rick at the prison. Rick has become so focused on his anger at all the people they’ve lost because of the “bad people” they’ve encountered that he doesn’t seem willing to want to trust anyone outside of those he already has. He has begun to let nothing but anger, distrust and paranoia dictate his decisions instead of letting his emotions tempered by pragmatism rule the day.

Will Rick give up the fight and allow himself to return to being the compassionate leader he was when this all began? Or has the Governor, Joe and Gareth worn his principles down to the point that he cannot go back to being that compassionate leader?

This season has been a gauntlet for the group. Rick might not have loss anyone like Carl or Judith, but as their leader every loss weighs on him and distances him from everyone. One could almost wonder if this was how the Governor, Joe and Gareth turned. Were they good people who were suddenly forced to kill and kill more people just stay alive. It will be interesting to see whether Rick joins those three or will he bring himself back from the brink.

The Walking Dead will always have it’s dosage of gore and zombie action. It will have it’s level of soap opera moments. This is a show that has begun to accept the fact that it will not be on the level of Game of Thrones or it’s stable mates like Breaking Bad or Mad Men. It has gradually embraced it’s very pulpiness and horror roots. For some people it’s way too late, but for those who have stuck around and gone the distance with this show then it looks like there’s hope yet both in new stories to come and how it’s writers have finally gotten what it’s all about.

Notes

  • Tonight’s episode of The Walking Dead, “The Distance”, was directed by Larysa Kondracki and written by Seth Hoffman.
  • According to some little details revealed in this episode Aaron has been tracking and observing Rick and the group for over two weeks now.
  • The sequence at night with Rick, Glenn, Michonne and Aaron driving down route 23 and suddenly running into a road full of zombies was one of the highlight’s for the show tonight.
  • Glad to have the Winnie back even though it’s a different one and not Dale’s.
  • Nice throwback to the show’s early days when Glenn showed Abraham that they had nothing to worry about the Winnie’s dead battery since they had an easy spare to use.
  • Talking Dead guests tonight are the series’ own Dania Gurira aka Michonne and film director and writer Paul Feig.

Season 5

Review: The Walking Dead S5E10 “Them”


TheWalkingDeadS510

“We are the walking dead.” — Rick Grimes”

[spoilers within]

The Walking Dead has been a show that has always recycled basic themes throughout. From the very beginning of the series the characters have always been confronted by some very basic notions of humanity and survival. At times, the writers have done some great work exploring these themes and there has been times when they’ve been very heavy-handed and miss the mark.

Tonight’s episode takes it’s time to explore how the deaths of Beth and Tyreese has begun to affect the group as a whole. The first half of the season began with such hope as everyone believed Eugene’s story that a cure was possible if they could get to Washington, D.C. As we’ve now learned that story turned out to be a lie. Yet, despite that punch to the gut the group still remained hopeful. They had just escaped Terminus. They were able to defeat Gareth’s Hunters in quick order.

Then the first half of the season ended with the death of one of the group’s symbols for hope. Beth’s death was roundly seen as pointless and a waste by fans and critics, but it also showed what this show has been all about right from the beginning. It’s a show that shows promises and hints that there’s hope for the future when it’s really just a mirage in the desert of this new post-apocalyptic world. Last week’s death of Tyreese further cemented this. His death on top of Beth’s just seem to have worn down Rick and company.

We seem them tired, dejected and looking like the very zombies they’ve been surviving against. Food and water has now become scarce. The very real problem of being “truly hungry” as Gareth pointed out to Rick has now hit the group. We see Daryl scrabbling in the forest soil for earthworms to eat. Even Abraham would rather drink the bottle of booze just to not feel the thirst and hunger. This is a group that’s nearing it’s breaking point. Even the most hardened survivor must have food and water. Gareth and the people at Terminus went through this crucible and came out insane on the other side. Tonight we saw just how close the group came to finding out for themselves if they had what it took to remain sane and humane as thirst and hunger ate away at them.

We also found the group grieving for those they have just lost. The episode concentrated on Daryl, Maggie and Sasha in exploring the grieving process in this new world. These three lost the most this season. Maggie lost her father in the previous season. She had thought Beth lost to her after the flight from the prison, but found out she was alive only to lose her again before being reunited. Daryl loses in Beth a close friend and someone he allowed to get emotionally close to him. Then there’s Sasha who didn’t just lose her lover Bob, but also her older brother Tyreese in a span of a week or so.

All three grieved (or didn’t) in their own way. Maggie seemed lost and just tired of the day-to-day survival. She’s begun to question whether going on was worth the energy (physically and emotionally). She sees this world and life as having taken everyone last one of her immediate family and it’s begun to weigh on her, if not, breaking her down. her own survivor’s guilt finally comes out as she talks to Glenn about how she had thought Beth was already dead after leaving the prison. How she didn’t allow herself to dwell on the prospect that her little sister was gone. She focused on finding Glenn. Viewers had wondered why Maggie never once worried if Beth was alive and tonight’s episode seemed like the writers giving a sort of explanation as to why.

Maggie has become one of the ultimate survivors in this new world. She has learned to compartmentalize what was done to what needs to be doing better than anyone. Beth being dead or alive after the prison was an unknown. Moving forward to finding the rest of the group was a goal that kept her moving forward. This forward motion became even more prominent when she realized Glenn was still alive. It’s this survivor’s mentality which has also made her unable to grieve properly for the loss of her father and sister. As we neared the end of the episode we finally see a glimmer of Maggie accepting and grieving over who she has lost and looking to move on forward towards an unknown future.

Sasha hasn’t reached that point of grieving. She has lost two very close men in her life and both to the very inevitability of the walking dead around them. This world has hardened her too fast where reckless behavior and anger fuels her instead of guilt. She plans to take it out on the very things that took Bob and Tyreese from her, but she doesn’t see how her need for revenge puts the group at risk. While the episode seems to end with her pushing herself back from the brink of the abyss she was heading in there’s still a danger that her inability to grieve properly could make her not just a danger to herself but to the very people who has accepted her as family.

Now, the very notion that Daryl should even grieve openly goes against the very badassness that fans have heaped upon the character. Seeing Daryl cry was tantamount to losing whatever hope there was in the world. The fandom which has grown around this character wants him to remain a badass who eats nails and shoots lightning from his ass, but at the same time swoons at the notion of him showing a gentler side. The younger Dixon doesn’t allow himself to grieve or feel Beth’s death because he thinks he can’t afford to allow himself to lower his emotional guard down once again. He sees how getting too attached to anyone means heartache in the future. It happened when his older brother died, when Sophie was found dead instead of alive and now with Beth.

We see Daryl finally breakdown, but only in private when he knows no one is looking. Even then it’s not a full release but just enough to alleviate the emotional pressure within him. The very need to distance himself from those who remain has begun as he twice declined Carol’s (the one he feels closest to) offer to accompany him on a scouting mission. It has been great to see Daryl the character become an integral part of the group. To see him accept the fact that he need not be alone in surviving this new world. But as the show likes to do it throws a major obstacle in his path that makes him question whether he would be better off emotionally if he returned to being a lone wolf. No attachments to anyone means to need to grieve when he loses them.

The Walking Dead doesn’t truly allow it’s characters to grieve, but tonight’s episode does a great job in showing how they all find ways to handle loss in the family. It showed that the grief and loss is there, but the need to continue surviving has taken precedent over everything else. It makes for an unhealthy group of people, but unlike the Terminus, Claimers and the Governor, they try to find little ways and moments to grieve. Even if for just a moment they try to find some solace in what they’ve accomplished and how they’ve survived this long. They see how others have slipped back beyond the pale of what’s acceptable behavior in trying to stay alive one more day. The group is still not there, but this season has shown that they’re close to breaking and unless they find another hopeful goal to focus on they would end up resembling the very walking dead that they’ve been avoiding and fighting against.

Notes

  • Tonight’s episode, “Them”, was directed by Julius Ramsay and written by series writer Heather Bellson.
  • It’s always surprising to notice how customized the rifles that Rick and his group carries. One of the most custom rifles being the AR-15 carried by Sasha which looks to be a Seekins Precision custom AR-15 with a built-in suppressor. I will hazard a guess and say that this particular AR is of the 300 Blackout variety which when paired with the suppressor does cut down on the sound though not in the level shown during tonight’s episode.
  • Sasha’s comment to Noah about “Don’t think, Just eat” was a nice bookend to Rick mentioning to the group how they are the walking dead.
  • We see the zombies finally look like the very natural disaster they’re an analogue for when they attack the barn and sound as if they’re a tornado (which seems like was the case in the end as a sort of tornado his the area and did away with the small herd of zombies).
  • A new character makes an appearance in tonight’s episode, Aaron (played by Ross Marquand), who should be familiar to readers of the comic. His appearance might have started the countdown that will lead to a shocking death from Rick’s group.
  • Talking Dead guests tonight are the series’ own Maggie Greene (Lauren Cohan) and Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) plus Robin Lord Taylor (The Walking Dead, Gotham)

Season 5

Review: The Walking Dead S5E09 “What Happened and What’s Going On”


TheWalkingDeadS509

“Paying the high cost of living.” — Tyreese

[spoilers within]

The Walking Dead returns tonight after taking a weeks-long hiatus. We left the group as down as we’ve ever seen them after having lost another one of their people. This particular loss seem to have hit the group even harder than their previous losses. Beth Greene had become a symbol of hope for the group and, to a degree, for the audience who needed someone else other than the hardened killers most of the survivors have become.

If the show has been consistent about one thing it is that good-natured people tend to not last long in the zombie apocalypse. It’s a new world where one’s humanity will forever be at war with one’s will to survive at all cost. There are no more police or military to protect you from harm. No more hospitals to treat one’s wounds and sickness. No firefighters to call on in case of emergency. It’s a world where one must learn to do what goes against one’s nature if one is to survive.

We saw Dale as one of the first of those “good people” to die. His stubborn need to remain civilized and stick to his principles of always doing the right and moral thing made him unable to cope of what Rick and the rest of the group were willing to do to keep on going. Next to go was Hershel last season. While he finally was able to understand that the necessity of doing awful things to survive doesn’t really mean abandoning one’s true nature, but he never truly got the chance to put that into practice as he was soon dispatched by the Governor.

Then there’s Beth Greene. Sweet, innocent Beth who many saw as a sort of singing albatross that could only lead to getting some of the more capable members of the group killed by her very lack of survival skills. The show was able to redeem Beth’s character by having her spend some quality time with one of it’s ultimate survivors in Daryl Dixon. This showed in her growth as a character and a survivor. Yet, just like her father Hershel, what she’s learned became too little too late as her need to stick up for those seen as weak led to her own demise.

Tonight saw the exit of one of the last few principled and moral centers of the show. Tyreese has always been a sort of mystery. He’s this big, hulking man who could escape a mob of zombies with just a hammer and come out of it unscathed. Yet, this is also a man who hesitates in killing another human even if it means doing so was the logical and safest thing to do. We saw this in full detail when he refused to kill Martin from Terminus who had threatened to kill baby Judith in this season’s premiere episode. Killing Martin would’ve mean tying up a loose end that might’ve kept the group safer from Gareth and his hunters. It wasn’t in Tyreese to kill another person even one who would’ve killed him and those he cared for without hesitation.

Tonight’s episode saw Rick and a handpicked group taking Noah back to the gated community that he had called home in hopes of reuniting the young man with his people and also finding a new place to call home. This wouldn’t be the Walking Dead if everything turned out peaches and cream. During Noah’s internment with Dawn at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, his home at Shirewilt Estates (a nice shout out to the Wiltshire Estates from the comic book) had fallen to the zombies due to some unknown group of raiders that had breached their walls.

It’s during Noah’s attempt to learn the fate of his family that Tyreese would meet his inevitable end. Some would say that Tyreese’s character wasn’t as well-established and well-written to elicit sympathy the way Hershel’s and Merle’s death meant so much to the show. Yet, his very death symbolized the death of hope and optimism the group began to have once they had gotten back together after Terminus. His death meant another person who could’ve kept Rick and the rest of the group from tipping over into the darkside. He was the symbol of forgiveness for the group which has begun to show lack of empathy.

Chad Coleman was always a welcome addition to the cast. Maybe the problems previous showrunners had in creating fully-realized characters had limited his character’s growth, but it’s to the new-found focus of current showrunner Scott M. Gimple that we finally get to know Tyreese and what made him tick. It’s just a shame that just when we’re really getting to know the character he was taken away in a heartbreaking manner.

The series hasn’t even dealt with the after-effect of Beth’s death to the group and now they will have to find a way to cope with the death of Tyreese as well. If the group truly does go on forward just trying to survive towards the next day will all these important deaths wear away on their humanity.

Will some in the group just give up and let it all end? Or will it spur them even more to try and find a new safe place to call home? We have seven more episodes left in this season and if Washington really is the goal then we may just get both.

Notes

  • Tonight’s episode, “What Happened and What’s Going On”, was directed by Greg Nicotero and written by series showrunner Scott M. Gimple.
  • Glenn picking up the baseball bat could either be a throwaway moment or an ominous foreshadowing of things to come. Readers of the comics will understand.
  • I was half-expecting to see every character who died to show up during Tyreese’s hallucination.
  • There was almost a sense that Tyreese might pull through and take the place of Rick as the one-handed man (which Rick was in the comics), but the way the episode unfolded it was inevitable that he wasn’t going to live.
  • The radio reports (BBC Radio, I think) that Tyreese was hearing during his hallucination made for a nice parallel to the events that Tyreese had seen during his time on the series.
  • The song being sung by Ghost Beth is “Struggling Man” by Jimmy Cliff. A song about a man struggling with grief and the need to move on. Very appropriate for what became Tyreese’s swan song episode.
  • It seems like Tyler James Williams’ character Noah going to get a rep as being the grim reaper of the group. He’s already been the cause for the death of two of Rick’s group: Beth and Tyreese.
  • Talking Dead returns with guests series producer/director Greg Nicotero and Tyreese’s own Chad Coleman (in a way to keep viewers from thinking a cast member was leaving the show due to character death it was announced that Ron Perlman of Pacific Rim and Hellboy fame was going to be one of the guests)

Season 5

Review: The Walking Dead S5E08 “Coda”


TheWalkingDeadS5E08

“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”


TheWalkingDeadS5E07

“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”


TheWalkingDeadS5E06

“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