Review: The Walking Dead S5E15 “Try”


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“It’s their world, we’re just living in it.” — Enid

[spoilers within]

Tonight’s episode of The Walking Dead marks the penultimate one for the show’s fifth season. It has been a season that’s seen the series remain on a consistent high. It still had some episodes which fell a bit flat, but overall season 5 has been the show’s best and delivered on showrunner Scott M. Gimple’s promise to keep the story moving forward.

The episode begins with a cold opening that shows the aftermath of the deadly supply run to the solar factory warehouse in the previous episode. We have to stories being told. There’s Glenn still haunted by having to witness Noah’s death by zombies very up close and personal. We see him tell Rick about how he and the others made a mistake and how it led to the deaths of Aidan and Noah. He feels responsible and hopes that it doesn’t ruin their chance in making the Alexandria experiment work. He still believes in the concept that is the ASZ (Alexandria Safe-Zone) and even Noah’s death doesn’t budge him from that belief. Rick, on the other hand, only sees danger and trouble when it comes to the ineptitude of the Alexandrians. His fears and doubts about whether the Alexandrians can pull their weight when it comes to keeping everyone safe has been confirmed.

Deanna, on the other hand, hears a different tale from Nicholas. It’s a tale of how it was he who tried to save Aidan and not leave him behind. It was Glenn who distracted and caused the death of Aidan and whose bloodthirsty attitude got Noah killed. Nicholas spoke about how he would never leave Aidan, his friend, behind and even included newcomer Tara as someone he tried to save. There’s some hints that Deanna has a sense that Nicholas wasn’t telling her the truth of what happened, but we don’t get to hear her voice out these doubts.

“Try” is a very appropriate title for tonight’s episode. We see several characters attempt to try and find a way to make the combination of Rick’s people and the Alexandrians co-exists together peacefully. Glenn, despite what some of these Alexandrians have done, still believes that they need to make Alexandria work. It’s their last chance to go beyond just existing and surviving but actually living life. He’s become the show’s moral compass (hopefully not a death sentence) now that Hershel and Tyreese are gone. Yet, unlike the previous moral compasses in the show, Glenn does understand that sometimes pragmatism must rule the day above all else. He just believes that Alexandria needs a chance to survive the growing pains of their group’s arrival.

Another of Rick’s people trying to make it work is Michonne. She’s had her time in exile in the wilds of this new and dangerous world. Her survival to this point has been in part due to those solitary months on her own with only herself to keep safe. Yet, she has also found out that being alone was a detriment to her psyche’s well-being and finding Rick and his people was what ultimately saved her not just from the zombies but from her own self-destructive ways.

She sees what’s happening with Sasha. A friend and fellow survivor deep in the midst of PTSD who has lost so much in such a short period of time that she hasn’t had the chance to take in and accept those losses let alone mourn them. Michonne understands what Sasha is going through but also realizes that they need her for what’s to come. Michonne wants to make Alexandria work and instability brought on by Sasha’s death wish and Rick’s inability to trust the Alexandrians will only make that prospect harder to achieve.

It is no surprise that the episode ends with Michonne taking control of a situation brought on by Rick’s blunt force behavior in trying to convince the Alexandrians that the way they were doing things were not going to work going forward. Michonne’s belief in the Alexandrians’ survival skills might mirror Rick’s own thoughts on the matter, but where Rick wants a confrontation to be the catalyst of change she seems more than willing to lead by example.

On the other side of things are Rick and Deanna looking to be at loggerheads about what’s truly best of Alexandria. It’s easy to take Rick’s side that the way Deanna and the rest of the Alexandrians have been doing things were just not going to cut it in this new world. It’s a world that Rick and his people have experienced first-hand and lost people along the way, but in the end have survived all it has thrown at them. Deanna, on the other hand, still believes in the rule of law and order, civilization over anarchy. She doesn’t believe in killing those who could be a danger to the ASZ (like Peter who also happens to be the lone physician and surgeon), but instead would rather exile them out into the wilds.

It’s a way of doing things that Rick sees as another way of putting the ASZ in danger. Deanna doesn’t think so and this clashing of philosophies on how things should be done looks to be one that’s heading into a confrontation that puts everyone in danger. Neither side seem willing to try and compromise and find a way to make the two groups con-exist. No attempt to allow the Alexandrians to learn from what Rick and his people could teach them to be better survivors. No attempt from Rick and those who believe him to adjust to this new life. A life that they see as a danger in itself. They see Alexandria’s walls as something that could make them soft and distract them from surviving.

So, we have the extended season finale next week and the question of whether Rick is too far gone to stay in Alexandria will be one of the questions that need answering. Will the group have to suffer through another loss of one of their own for the Alexandrians to finally realize that their survival before Rick and his people arrived have been through blind luck not through the civilizing rule of Deanna? Will Rick and the others just leave Alexandria or will the group finally splinter-off from those wanting to try and make it work and those unable to?

Then there are those zombies with the “W” cut into their foreheads looking to crash the party.

Notes

  • Tonight’s episode of The Walking Dead, “Try”, was directed by Michael E. Satrazemis and written by series veteran Angela Kang.
  • “Keep walking” has become Rick’s version of Carol’s “look at the flowers”. Pete should’ve been sprinting away the moment Rick uttered those wordsa at him with those Rick dead-eyes.
  • Nine Inch Nails’ “Somewhat Damaged” plays during the episodes cold opening and was a nice reminder that both groupsm Rick’s and the Alexandrians, have been damaged in some fashion since the start of the zombie apocalypse.
  • Still wondering how Nicholas knew about the Glock Rick hid in the blender out in the woods (Nicholas was in the ASZ when Rick and the group arrived). Is there someone outside the walls that told Nicholas of the hidden pistol?
  • Talking Dead guests tonight are Yvette Nicole Brown (Community), series executive producer Gale Anne Hurd and Chandler Riggs (Carl Grimes of The Walking Dead)

Season 5

 

Review: The Walking Dead S5E14 “Spend”


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“We know what we’re doing. It’s why you wanted us here.” — Maggie Greene

[spoilers within]

Tonight’s episode of The Walking Dead was shaping up to be a sort of throwaway one. The series seems to have several of these each year. They’re episode that seem to just rehash past themes and ideas to help table set the season finale. Some of them have been good stand-alone ones while other have been some of the series’ low points. One couldn’t fault the writers to come up with another one. It’s become an almost ritual for the show to have low points in the series before peaking once again for the last two episodes of the season.

“Spend” wasn’t a throwaway episode and definitely not one of this season’s low points.

Let’s just start things by saying that tonight’s episode was directed by Jennifer Lynch (daughter of filmmaker David Lynch) and her fine touch with the darker aspects of show’s genre roots showed. It was definitely one of the darker episodes of the series to date. Right from the cold opening of the episode as we watch Father Gabriel having a moment of crisis as he steps into the chapel once again we get a feeling that this episode will not be happy one for everyone.

We get three particular storylines throughout the episode which at times made for some jarring scene changes. The main one focused on Glenn taking Tara, Eugene, Noah, Aiden and Nicholas on a supply run to help fix the ASZ’s (Alexandria Safe Zone) power grid of solar panels. One could be forgiven for thinking that the episode was going to be a ho-hum one as we get some major time with Eugene who wasn’t very happy being dragged along on this supply run outside of the ASZ’s walls. He admits more than once and of his own free will that he’s a coward through and through. Yet, by episode’s end we Eugene go through a harrowing crucible to find the courage that allowed him to survive this long. His own intellect and logic were major factors in him always picking the right group to stick with for the best chance of survival, but when he needed to finally step up and be more combat-inclined he passed with flying colors.

This was in contrast to what we’re starting to see with the Alexandrians as a whole. While not all cowardly, the people who have been living within the relatively safe confines of the ASZ’s walls have shown that they’re willing to abandon friends to the zombies if it meant saving their own life. We see this happen several times with tonight’s episode and in a couple of them we see the devastating result of the Alexandrians’ modus operandi.

This doesn’t sit well with Glenn who has grown from being the quiet, scout we met in the first season to a leader who still exhibits a sense of compassion in addition to the brutal, cold logic needed to survive in this zombie apocalypse. He sees the weak core underneath the smiling and civilized facade of the Alexandrians, but he also understand that in order for him, Maggie and the rest of his group to have a life beyond just mere day-to-day survival he needed to make sure that the ASZ and it’s people learned how to do things the right way.

Despite the violent altercation that he and Aiden (Deanna’s son) had just a couple episodes back, the two seem to be working towards a compromise in how things were to be done. But this being The Walking Dead, the prospect of Aiden learning from Glenn or any of the newcomers to the ASZ was cut short as his inexperience with the world outside of the ASZ’s walls led to his gruesome death (a situation brought on by Aiden’s own stupidity as he accidentally shot a grenade). A death that Glenn and Noah tried to prevent but just ran out of time.

The same thing happens just minutes later as we see Glenn, Noah and Nicholas (who left Aiden to die and as he admitted did to others as well in the past) finding themselves trapped in separate sections of a revolving door with zombies in the other side waiting for the inevitable. I’m one could see where this was heading with Nicholas abandoning the Glenn and Noah to save his own skin…again. Noah would end up drawing the short straw in tonight’s episode. A straw that saw him die even more horribly than Aiden and with Glenn just a few feet away witnessing the whole gory tableau.

We see, in a smaller scale, the same situation happen with Abraham as he joins the construction crew tasked with gathering the supplies to help strengthen and expand the walls of the ASZ. Once again it’s due to the inattention of the groups leader, Tobin, that the Alexandrian’s allow a sizable group of zombies to get close to them. It doesn’t help that Tobin himself ends up shooting the hydraulics on the lifter end of a bulldozer that dumps one of his own people in the middle of an encroaching group of zombies. He and the rest of the Alexandrians decide to haul ass and leave their friend behind, but not Abraham who rushes into the fire, so to speak, to try and make sure they don’t leave one behind.

Unlike Nicholas’ brand of cowardice, Tobin and the rest of the Alexandrians see Abraham’s courage and end up following suit. Tobin himself admits to Deanna and Reg Monroe that if it wasn’t for Abraham not doing things the Alexandrian Way (meaning run and hide when things get tough) then Francine (the one who fell off the dozer lifter) would have surely died. Abraham was the right person and leader to run the construction team and Tobin was man enough to admit to it.

It’s a situation that both Deanna and Reg don’t seem to like hearing. Rick and his people have just recently arrived and already seem to be putting themselves in leadership roles. Rick was one Deanna understood with his law enforcement background, but the fact that both Abraham and Glenn seem to exhibit similar leadership qualities that her own people seem to lack could be the sign that the ASZ might just get a change in how things are run and who runs them.

The third storyline continues the adventures of Rick and Carol as they try to navigate, in their own fashion, this fake Eden they’ve found themselves in. Carol finds herself being followed by Jessie’s youngest son Sam. It didn’t matter that Carol herself threatened Sam with kidnapping and death by zombies, he still kept her secret and only tagging along to have more of the cookies Carol made for him. We find, and Carol, find out in no uncertain way from Sam that his dad might very well be an abusive husband and father. This doesn’t sit well with Carol who has some first-hand experience with a family abuser. It doesn’t take much for her to figure this out. Carol doesn’t hesitate in making sure Rick finds out and her recommendation to Rick on how to deal with Pete shouldn’t surprise people who’ve seen Carol’s growth from battered housewife to all-around badass.

The whole Alexandria Safe Zone arc has been met with some trepidation by fans and critics. It’s another static location like Hershel’s farm and the Prison that led to some very wheel-spinning storytelling. It’s a reaction that’s understandable. Having a regular setting and not keeping the group on the move sometimes led to plotlines that stagnated. When on the move the stories being told in the show seem to have a sense of forward momentum. Even some of the weaker on-the-road stories felt like it had a quicker pace to them. This doesn’t seem to be the case with Alexandria.

The group hasn’t been wasting their time to spend wallowing in the existential problems brought about by the zombie apocalypse. They’ve actually done in their own individual way something to find out more about the ASZ and those who run and been kept safe behind it’s walls. Tonight we find out more of what makes the Alexandrians tick and it’s not a pretty sight. Gabriel might be trying to poison Deanna’s mind when it comes to Rick and the others. He wasn’t wrong when he said that Rick and his people were not good people. They have done some unspeakable things to survive. Yet, Maggie also understands some of Deanna’s own agenda for allowing Rick and his people to join the Alexandrians.

Rick, Glenn, Carol, Abraham, Daryl and others know what they’re doing. They’ve survived out in the wild for almost two years now and even after some devastating losses they still manage to persevere. Sure the group seem to be suffering through a collective form of PTSD, but they still know what it takes to survive and they seem able to do so without having to always fall back on their basest nature to do it.

Will this mean that Rick still doesn’t seem to covet his neighbor’s wife (Rick definitely channeling his inner Shane in the Alexandria story-arc)? Will Sasha ever leave her lookout tower ever and not go on a killing spree? Will Carol hold back from doing what’s necessary when it comes to the Alexandrians (meaning will she kill them all to save the others)?

These were questions that weren’t answered in tonight’s episode, but at least we’ve now been given some reasons why it wouldn’t be so bad if Rick and his people just took over the ASZ and ran things their way. There would certainly be less people dying for stupid reasons and everyone wouldn’t have just predetermined jobs the way Deanna likes things done, but all chipping in to protect with everything they’ve got including their own lives.

There’s a war brewing in the future and whether it’s between the Alexandrians and Rick’s people still needs to be determined. The Wolves are still out there and Noah knew it and wanted to make sure the walls never falls the way his own community walls fell while he was away. It’s a shame and a currency spent that he would never get to see his promise come true.

Notes

  • Tonight’s episode of The Walking Dead, “Spend”, was directed by Jennifer Lynch and written by series veteran Matthew Negrete.
  • Jennifer Lynch’s work as director with tonight’s episode was excellent and here’s to hoping she returns for future episodes for seasons to come.
  • Even in the zombie apocalypse there is still dubstep.
  • Carol seems to have gained herself a lost puppy in Jessie’s youngest son Sam.
  • When did Abraham suddenly become the catchphrase guy. He already gave birth to the catchphrases “dolphin smooth” and “Who’s DEANNA?!”. Tonight we get the best yet when he finds himself surrounded by zombies and all he can do is smile and utter “mother dick”.
  • The death scenes for both Aiden Monroe and Noah were reminiscent of a couple deaths in the end of Day of the Dead: Capt. Rhodes and Pvt. Torrez.
  • Some great work by Greg Nicotero (whose bday was tonight) and his KNB EFX make-up crew with the deaths of Aiden and Noah.
  • Talking Dead guests tonight are Josh McDermitt, Tyler James Williams and Steven Yeun (Eugene, Noah and Glenn of The Walking Dead)

Season 5

Review: The Walking Dead S5E13 “Forget”


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“Because you can tell the good guys from the bad guys.” — Aaron

[spoilers within]

Tonight’s episode of The Walking Dead saw Rick and his people continue to try and assimilate themselves within the safe confines of the Alexandria Safe-Zone. It’s a situation they’ve been hoping to find on their way to Washington, D.C., but also one that seems to have unnerved a good portion of the group when it falls into their lap.

“Forget” is a tough episode to sit through because it highlights both the show’s strength and also one of it’s recurring weaknesses. It’s a well-written episode by series writer Corey Reed with some fine direction from series director David Boyd, but at times the story-arc for certain characters landed with a thud instead of expanding on that character or moving the story forward.

Let’s go with the lowlights before moving onto the highlight of tonight’s episode.

We’ve known that the Alexandria Safe-Zone had time to build itself when the zombie outbreak began. We learn this from Deanna herself during her introduction in last week’s episode. Yet, something about how the writers have done to build-up ASZ (what I shall call Alexandria) as this well-protected haven from Aaron don’t seem to mesh with what they’ve shown on the show, so far. Maybe it’s a slow burn the writers are going for. Maybe we’ll find out how ASZ ultimately survived the lean years since civilization broke down. For now, there’s less a hidden, sinister agenda of how the ASZ has survived this long and more of it’s surprising and lucky they’ve lasted this long.

The next thud would be the story-line for Sasha herself. We see her during the episode’s cold opening unable to sleep in the house Rick had claimed as his. Pictures of it’s previous owners seem to gaze down at her. We later see her venture outside the walls of the ASZ to practice some shooting with those same family portraits as targets. Her behaviors borders on reckless and suicidal. It’s hard to judge the character for this considering she’s lost both her lover and her older brother right after each other. Traumatic experiences will do that to a person, yet when it happens to Sasha it’s hard to sympathize with her. It’s not that she’s a bad person. She just seems to be a badly-written character who doesn’t have her own voice with Bob and Tyreese now gone from the group.

We get description of what sort of character she is from other’s describing her to strangers. Tonight we find out from Maggie that she’s the group’s best shot, but we never really see this skill develop. The rest of the group we find in some way or another how they got to where they are in regards to their skills. With Sasha one day she’s someone who leaned on her older brother for protection then next she’s suddenly the next reincarnation of Annie Oakley.

It’s a weakness in the show’s way of handling such a huge cast of characters. They get rid of characters who were interesting or becoming one, but keeping characters who remain relatively unknowns to the audience. It’s as if the writers can’t find a way to make Sasha become an interesting character without having to repeat themselves in turning her into one (Carol, Maggie and Beth being three who improved over time).

So, while Sasha’s suicidal tendencies could be chalked up to her growing PTSD due to the experiences she has had to deal with recently it’s impact on the story seems to be minimal. It’s not that we as an audience don’t care it’s just that we don’t know Sasha well enough to bother to even care.

That’s not the same when it comes to Rick, Carol and Daryl. These three have begun to form a new sort of triumvirate leadership group. Everyone who has come this far with Rick are survivors in their own right, but it’s these three who have come farthest within the group. They’ve grown from who they’ve were when we first met them. We first met them as the lawman, the housewife and the rebel. They’ve outgrown those initial labels and become complex characters who harbor both positive and negative qualities. They’re not black and white in their behaviors anymore. It’s because of their character growth (most seems to be once Scott M. Gimple took over as headwriter and showrunner) that we’ve come to care what happens to them.

With Carol we see nothing left of the mousy and battered housewife who couldn’t defend herself until pretty much everything had been taken from her. She had gone from victim to survivor in order to never be dependent on others and to protect her new found family. While she has employed a cold logic to how she must survive and protect her people she does seem to be the one in the group who has adjusted best in this new world. She’s able to be the one willing to do the dirty work if it means keeping her group alive another day. Her threat towards Jessie’s young son, Sam, was both hilarious and chilling. Never could we have seen Carol from season 1 through 3 threaten a young boy of death by being zombie bait in order to keep her duplicitous behavior from being outed to the rest of the ASZ community.

There’s Daryl, the rebel loner we first me in season 1, whose lone wolf behavior has become tempered by his realization that he needs Rick and the others to keep himself human and sane. He doesn’t need them as a crutch, but instead sees in them the family he never had growing up and for being the redemption for his past failings. Yes, he still remains sort of an outsider maneuvering his way through the new dynamics that ASZ opened up, but his interaction with Aaron (another one who feels like an outsider despite being a longstanding member of the ASZ community) shows that he’s grown away from his intolerant beginnings in the show and sees in Aaron a kindred spirit. The fact that he’s aired some doubts about their original plan to takeover the ASZ community if they deem it necessary shows that Daryl may still be a badass but he also understands that making something like ASZ work in the end would be to the group’s benefit in the long run.

Then we have Rick. The lawman and father whose personal beliefs and principles have become the fulcrum by which the show has explored varying themes throughout it’s five season on the air. We’ve seen Rick the reluctant leader in the first two season. Finding and protecting his family had been his only concern during those initial seasons, but betrayal and the knowledge that there was no cure for the zombie pandemic unleashed the Ricktatorship which led the group to becoming the hardcore survivalist they’ve become. Yet, even this version of Rick made mistakes that cost him those closest to him. He’s tried to be less a leader and more a provider. We call this Farmer Rick, but we knew it was going to be a temporary reprieve from what we’ve wanted Rick to become and that’s accept his role as leader and take ownership of that role with all the good it brings and all the bad it brings out.

We see Rick take to this role with such a focus that he teeters on the brink of becoming the very thing he despised when he saw the Governor. This Rick is willing to depose those in the ASZ community leadership group if he thought they couldn’t hack it when times got rough. This Rick sees danger everywhere and plans several steps ahead even when we as an audience sees it as a sort of madness creeping to latch onto Rick’s psyche. This Rick seems willing to take what he wants when he wants it even if it means contemplating murder. This is a Rick that seems to be exhibiting the worst qualities of the leaders of three groups who have fallen into the abyss: the Governor, Joe of the Claimers and Gareth of Terminus.

While Rick has learned to become a better leader of the group from having Hershel and Tyreese as his moral compass, they seem to have been pushed to the back of Rick’s mind by the ghosts of the Governor, Joe and Gareth. These three showed Rick that surviving at any cost was the only currency left in this new world. It was all about protecting what was his and that was Carl, Judith and the rest of his group. The people of the ASZ community were strangers to him who he felt were ill-equipped to survive in this new world. He even mentions to Carol and Daryl that this community was lucky to have them as new member because only they could protect them from the bad people beyond the walls. It doesn’t dawn on Rick that he was now acting and behaving in some fashion like those very bad people he warned Deanna about.

“Forget” could easily have become one of the best episodes of the season if it concentrated more on this triumvirate of Rick, Carol and Daryl and just jettisoned the Sasha plotline. Yet, despite Sasha’s role in tonight’s episode we still got a strong foundation on what could be the role of the Power Three for the final three episodes of season 5. Will Carol and Daryl follow Rick if he ever goes too far? We have three more episodes left to find out.

Notes

  • Tonight’s episode of The Walking Dead, “Forget”, was directed by David Boyd and written by series writer Corey Reed.
  • Carol had herself some a breaking Bad moment when she confronted Sam, Jessie’s youngest boy, after he saw her taking guns from the armory. Some have said that her “speech” to Sam was reminiscent of Walt’s “I’m the one who knocks” speech.
  • Deanna’s husband is named Reg. In the comics, Douglas (Deanna in the show) has a wife named Reggie. The show also added Aiden as a second son. We met the other son, Spencer, in tonight’s episode.
  • Interesting choice of a song to end the episode on…Spicks and Specks by the Bee Gees.
  • The shippers of Rick and Michonne seem to have gone insane since they’ve gone on a social media rampage against the actor Alexandra Breckinridge who plays Rick’s potential paramour Jessie in the show.
  • Talking Dead guests tonight are Kevin Smith (writer/director), Ross Marquand (Aaron from The Walking Dead) and Alexandra Breckinridge (Jessie from The Walking Dead)


Season 5

Review: The Walking Dead S5E12 “Remember”


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“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”


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“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”


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“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