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


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“TAINTED MEAT!” — Bob Stookey

[spoilers]

Well, that was one hell of an episode.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Notes

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

Season 5

Horror Review: The Walking Dead S5E02 “Strangers”


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

[spoilers]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Notes

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

Season 5

Horror Review: The Walking Dead S5E01 “No Sanctuary”


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

[spoilers]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Notes

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

Review: The Walking Dead S4E14 “The Grove”


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Notes

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

Season 4

 

Review: The Walking Dead S4E10 “Inmates”


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“Things aren’t over.” — Glenn Rhee

The ratings numbers for the mid-season premiere of The Walking Dead was again shocking critics and fans both. Ratings for the show just stupefies critics of the show who can’t seem to get a handle on why this show has gone beyond popular and into pop icon status. By now we can honestly say that the show’s writing will never reach the status of other current popular shows like True Detective, Game of Thrones or that of Breaking Bad. Yet, the show continues to appeal to millions of fans not just in the US but worldwide.

The Walking Dead is basically a horror soap opera that’s airs on a basic cable network. But each and every week the show airs a new episode it beats everything put up against and more than holds its own with NBC’s Sunday Night Football. It’s a show that has had and continues to have issues with it’s writing and some of its characters, but for some reason the whole affair resonates with the millions who wait with anticipation for each new episode and news to appear.

Even detractors and strong critics of the show (some of who, vehemently hate the whole thing’s success and popularity) manage to still watch the show if just to poke fun and tear it down. It’s almost as if by doing so they can find that secret ingredient as to why the show remains so popular and successful.

Tonight’s episode focuses on the rest of the prison group who fled their sanctuary after the battle with the Governor’s forces. Last week it was more on the fleeing Rick, Carl and Michonne and their journey from the brink of despair to at least a semblance of hope and acceptance. We begin with the duo of Daryl and Beth who fled the prison on foot.

It’s an odd pairing that puts together one of the show’s most badass and pragmatic characters with one of it’s most hopeful (at least now with Hershel Dead). It’s a cold opening and section of the episode which includes diary readings by Beth of her renewed faith and need to continue to live after the group arrives at the prison. Once again we see the ghost of Hershel looming over all the survivors like a shade trying to give them hope to live for the next day despite the travails and horrors they’ve just left behind and still looking forward to.

The same goes for pretty much all the little groups who made it out of the prison. We see each and everyone of them not just fleeing for their lives, but also trying to get find a reason to continue on. With Tyreese and his group of Lizzie, Mika and Baby Judith it’s to continue on if just for the sake of keeping the girls alive. His road seems to be the toughest with three little girls to keep safe which makes his reaction to seeing Carol alive (at this time Rick hadn’t told Tyreese about Carol’s confession in regards to Karen’s death) was one of relief.

With Sasha, Bob and Maggie we see a trio dealing with the events they’ve just fled in their own ways. Sasha seems to be the most pragmatic with wanting to keep moving forward, scavenge for food and find a shelter. On the opposite end of the spectrum we see Maggie still dealing with the murder of her father (Hershel) and not knowing if her younger sister is still alive and, worst yet, if her husband (Glenn) made it out. It falls to Bob to find a middle ground between the two women’s agendas. Ironic considering that Bob, in the first half of the season, who was always unsure whether he truly belonged in the group and if his own personal demons meant he was a liability (yes and, to a degree, yes also). When they come across the prison bus that Maggie thought Glenn was in full of zombies and its passengers either turned or devoured one could almost see the light of hope fading from Maggie’s eyes. So, it was such a relief (again finding relief of any kind seems to be one of tonight’s theme) when Glenn wasn’t on the bus in one form or another.

Then there’s the final section of the episode where we find out that Glenn definitely survived the attack on the prison, but was left behind (due to the fact he left the bus to try and find Maggie during the battle) all alone in the ruins of their former sanctuary. He doesn’t know whether anyone else made it out and if his wife was amongst them. For a moment when back in their cell room he breaks down and seems to want to just shutdown and not deal with this new world anymore, but once again his time spent with Hershel brings him back from the brink.

Even new to the gang, Tara Chalmers, looks like she’ll fit in with Rick and his gang. She seems to survive when everyone else around her dies. Tara also harbors her own demons with the biggest being her participation in attacking the prison and getting pretty much everyone in her group killed. She’s troubled and hurting emotionally which makes her a perfect fit for Rick’s group.

Yet, the episode tonight all ended it’s three different sections with a sense of hope. The biggest being news that a new sanctuary might just be close enough for them to find shelter and safety once more. The biggest reveal of all in tonight’s episode is the arrival and introduction of three new characters whose impact on Rick’s people may just be as important and game-changing on the show as it was in the comics.

With the group slowly finding their bearings it looks like the apocalyptic battle that sent them all in different directions wasn’t the end. Things are definitely not over for Rick and his people. Will this new sanctuary hinted at in tonight’s episode become a new Woodbury or will it be something that Rick and his people can turn into something even better than the prison. The prison was sanctuary but was never an ideal place to restart whatever form of civilized society the survivors were hoping for. Maybe this new place they’re headed to will be that place.

Notes

  • Tonight’s episode was written by Matthew Negrete & Channing Powell and directed by Tricia Brock.
  • At least now the question of what happened to baby Judith has now been answered.
  • Lizzy looks like she’s turning out to be the very proper sociopath.
  • We get some resolution as to what happened to Tara’s sister, but only through Tara’s recollection of her being swamped by zombies after killing the Governor.
  • Some very fine work by Greg Nicotero’s wizards over at KNB EFX with the zombie kills and flesh-eating (I think these two things are part of why people continue to return to this show despite detractors and critics yelling to everyone and no one why it’s stupid to do so).
  • Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce to you all Sgt. Abraham Ford, Rosita Espinosa and Eugene Powell played respectively by Michael Cudlitz, Christian Serratos and Josh McDermitt.
  • Talking Dead Guests: Alanna Masterson of The Walking Dead, Joe Kernen of CNBC Squawk Box and Jim Gaffigan

Season 4

Review: The Walking Dead S4E09 “After”


 

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“I know we’ll never get things back to the way they used to be.” — Rick Grimes

We finally see the return of AMC’s very popular horror series, The Walking Dead, after a couple months on hiatus. Last we saw the series seemed to have done a sort of reboot of season 3’s season finale. A season finale that people thought would include not just the Governor’s assault on the prison, but the scattering of Rick’s group to the four winds. Season 3 didn’t end as expected and to say it was anti-climactic would’ve been a major understatement.

So, out goes Glen Mazzara as showrunner of the show and in comes Scott M. Gimple as head honcho for season 4. The change has been a nice change for the series which can’t seem to get on a consistent narrative track. Sure, it’s had major moments when it’s best thing on TV at that given moment, but it’s a far and few.

Gimple has done a much better job this season of letting the characters grow and let them dictate how the season unfolds. The zombies continue to remain the main threat (this season has shown them to be even more dangerous than in season’s past) but now interpersonal conflict adds a new level of complexities to keeping everyone safe and alive for one day more.

The first half of the season saw many new characters introduced (some given to more time to develop while others just cannon fodder) and some leave and some die. The biggest exits happening to be that of Hershel and the Governor himself. Both end up getting their ticket punched in the very assault on the prison that fans of the comic book have been wanting to see since the end of season 3. With that reboot of last season’s finale out of the way and with Rick and his group surviving out in the wilds in their own separate ways we now come to the start of the second half of The Walking Dead season 4.

Tonight’s return starts off pretty much moments after episode 8 with the prison now in flames and zombies pretty much roaming everywhere. We get Michonne returning to find something or someone. In the end, she ends up finding two zombies she turns into armless and jawless pets to help her blend in with the rest of the herd. She also manages to find Hershel’s reanimated head which she destroys and leaves behind but not before pausing for a moment to remember al that she has lost once more.

The episode jumps back and forth between Michonne’s time spent after fleeing the prison and those of Rick and Carl. The father and son duo are having a much tougher time. Rick is too injured from his fight with the Governor and their supplies of ammo and provisions are next to nothing. It doesn’t help that Carl’s resentment towards Rick has come to the surface after the disastrous events at the prison.

This episode was really about Michonne and Carl dealing with the events from the previous episode. Michonne has seen the group she has begun to see as a family scattered everywhere and a place that was becoming home destroyed. Worst yet would be seeing Hershel, who she was beginning to connect with, killed before her eyes. This causes her to revert back to how we first saw her in season 3. Alone once again and dragging along two zombie pets to keep her safe. Maybe being alone and away from any sort of emotional attachment would be best for her, but her own subconscious makes it finally known to her that this is not so.

She could sleepwalk through the rest of whats left of her life in this post-apocalyptic world or try and retain some of the humanity and connection with others that she was having within Rick’s group. Or she could just give up and end up becoming like the very thing that has destroyed the world. We see this in a sort of flashback dream sequence where we finally get some backstory on Michonne and her life before the fall of civiization. We now know where she got her original pair of zombie pets and why she had such a strong reaction to holding baby Judith back in the prison. This flashback Michonne was not the badass, katana-wielding survivor we’ve come to know the past two seasons, but one who seemed well-to-do with a nice family and a young son.

Like everyone else in this new world order she has lost just as much as everyone else, yet she seems to have found a way to adapt and prevail while others fail and die or succumb to their basest instincts. In the end, she chooses to get back what she had lost fleeing the prison and the zombie salughter she initiates in doing so seemed not just cathartic for her character but for the audience as well.

As for Carl, we see him attempting to deal with his current situation on his own. His resentment toward his father’s inability to protect him, Judith and everyone at the prison has begun to gnaw at him. He sees Rick as a failure not just as a father, but as a leader. His needling of Rick by mentioning Shane’s name and everyone who has died under his watch sounds like harsh truth being exposed, but also makes Carl come across like a rebelling teen trying to prove to his father that he is better than him. As we see throughout Carl’s segment, he can take care of himself, but he also has so many close-calls that his bravado makes him out to be like a teenager playing at being an adult when everyone knows he still has further to go.

Yet, as much as Carl might not be ready to cut off the parental strings, Rick understands that continuing to treat Carl like a regular kid who must be protected from the dangers of the world doesn’t belong in this new world. The Carl that Rick was searching for in the first two episodes of season 1 is no more. His son has become not just a veteran and capable survivor like him, but one who has left his childhood behind in order to be more helpful.

The Walking Dead will always be about the zombies and how this new world has danger for it’s survivors lurking in every home, building and shadows both zombies and humans. Yet, the show, especially this season, has tried to explore what this world has done to these survivors and how it’s either brought out the best, worst and everything in-between. We’ve seen characters fail to live up to the very ideals that allows one to keep a hold on their humanity while others succeed. Tonight we saw two survivors who have made a sort of peace with their situation and now moving forward to try and live one day more.

As the tagline for the second half of season 4 points out: “Don’t Look Back”.

Here’s to hoping that the show’s writer take that motto to heed and continue to look forward instead of looking back trying to fix what needed fixing. The show is now halfway through it’s fourth season and, for good or ill, it needs to move ahead with what it has established and let the audience decide whether they should continue to watch week in and week out.

Notes

  • Tonight’s episode was written and directed by The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman and series producer Greg Nicotero.
  • The cold opening for tonight’s episode was almost scene for scene out of the comic book with the exception of Hershel taking the place of Tyrese.
  • It was nice to see Aldis Hodge in the role of Michonne’s lover and father to her son. He was great in Leverage and nice to see him back on the small screen.
  • Michonne’s dream flashback gave us some answers as to her past, but it still doesn’t answer the one important question: where she got the katana and how did she got so proficient with it.
  • Still no word on baby Judith.
  • Talking Dead Guests: series producer and KNB FX head honcho Greg Nicotero and Michonne herself, Danai Gurira.

Season 4

Trailer: The Walking Dead Season 4 “Don’t Look Back”


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“I see a bad moon rising.”

It’s just less than a month away until the second half of The Walking Dead season 4 begins.

This fourth season of AMC’s massively popular survival-horror series has had a sort of resurgent year. New showrunner Scott M. Gimple has done a good job in fixing some of the issues that popped up during previous showrunner Gen Mazzara’s tenure during the final stretch of season 3. While Gimple has done a good job the show still has some issues when it comes to stand-alone episodes as we saw with the two-parter that reintroduced the Governor.

The ultimate payoff of that two-parter led to the ending that should’ve been the season finale of season 3. The showdown and final attack on the prison was as exciting as how Kirkman wrote it for the comics. There were even scenes that seemed to have been lifted from the pages. With Rick and those who survived the prison assault now thrown to all points of the compass it brings up some interesting prospects of seeing the group trying to survive on the road not as a coherent veteran team, but in piecemeal.

With the Governor and most of his people dead the show will now have room to introduce some new characters. These characters should be familiar to fans of the comics and it will be interesting how Gimple and his stable of writers will be able to translate them from pages to the small screen.

The Walking Dead returns on AMC on February 9, 2014.