Review: The Walking Dead S3E07 “When the Dead Come Knocking”


“I’ll call the cops!” — unnamed hermit

[some spoilers within]

We’re getting close to the halfway point of season 3 of the Walking Dead. It’s been a season of many surprises and most of it coming from what looks like a soft reset by the show’s newest showrunner Glen Mazzara. He and his writers seem to be on a mission to fix the myriad of problems and issues the show ended up showing during it’s first full-length season with it’s second one. We don’t get as many prolonged quiet and slow moments that sucked any sort of momentum the show’s episodes would gather. We’ve also seen episodes this season that seemed much tighter in a narrative sense. No more dangling subplots that would stretch over several episodes. There was a concern that the fate of Carol would remained unanswered after the game-changer fourth episode of the season, but the writers didn’t stretch out the mystery as we saw it answered during last week’s episode.

Last week we saw a moment in the show that somewhat mirrors the original comic book source as Merle was able to take both Glenn and Maggie hostage and back to Woodbury. Something similar happens in the comic book, but other than Glen being the common participant in both iterations the show’s writer continue to mine the original source but do so in their own way and giving the moment more of an emotional impact moving forward than the original ever had. So, we find two of Rick’s group in dire straits while finding a surprise newcomer just outside the prison fence.

Tonight’s episode, “When the Dead Come Knocking”, and it marks the show’s penultimate entry this season before the mid-season finale that looks to pit the season’s two groups of survivors against each other. While we don’t actually see the two groups finally confront each other we get a lot of pieces being moved across the show’s board that the mid-season finale should be quite an apocalyptic event.

We do get a lot of Michonne finally doing more than glower at everyone around her and get hints at some personal issues that might be something leftover from before the zombie apocalypse. Her reaction to Rick grabbing her arm spoke volumes and why she was so intent to keeping Andrea with her. Her distrust of men could mean many things, but the fact that she’s willing to help Rick get his people back from the Governor speaks volume to Rick as a leader. Where the Governor charmed and cajoled and promised Michonne that she was free to go the same didn’t happen with Rick. He was literally quite the opposite. He bullied, demanded and promised her nothing but confinement until her motives could be better ascertained. While she might not be trust Rick right now it looks like Michonne prefers his no-BS way of doing things to the disingenuous one by the Governor.

It’s the difference between how Rick deals with strangers and how the Governor does things when in the same situation that tonight’s episode focuses on. While Rick has become hardened by his time in this new world of zombies since awakening from his coma he still seems to retain a semblance of the humanity that he’s been trying to leave behind in an attempt to keep his people alive. We’ve seen Rick do some unforgivable things this season, but we still hope that he doesn’t go full-on Col. Kurtz. It’s Rick’s attempts to balance cold-hearted pragmatism with his sense of right and wrong idealism that has made this character much more complex than it’s comic book counterpart.

On the other side we have the Governor who continues to pull the wool over Andrea’s eyes who still fails to see that the haven she has decided to stay in is quite rotten to the core and it all starts with it’s “benevolent” leader. We see less and less of his charming side and more of the sociopath he’s turning out to be. Tonight helps cements the idea that the Governor never came back from whatever abyss he went through in the beginning of the zombie apocalypse. He has stayed there in the justification that what he does he does so for the greater good of everyone. Yet, we see how even his inner circle of fighters and muscle fear him. It doesn’t help that the Governor was more than willing to use the prospect of rape to get what he wants.

So, we have this season’s two leaders on a trajectory, especially after tonight’s episode, to finally meet. On one side we have Rick who has gone through his own brand of hell on earth and seem to have come out the other side just as resolute, but still with some compassion to keep his humanity intact. On the other is the Governor who looks like Rick’s opposite mirror image. A man willing to do the worst and beyond if it means he keeps what he thinks is his.

There was some decent moments in tonight’s episode and most of it involved Glenn and Maggie as we saw just how far the two were willing to go to keep the information the Governor wants from him. It took an entire episode of the two lovebirds (and by now, especially after tonight we should finally realize the survivors really do love each other) to finally crack and it’s interesting to see who it was of the two who finally spilled the beans and for the reason why they finally broke. It was some fine work by both Steven Yeun (who got his  Hulk out moment as he goes one-on-one with a zombie while tied down) and Lauren Cohan (who also had to go through some major indignities that made tonight’s episode very difficult to watch). Even David Morrissey shined with his performance tonight as the Governor even if it meant watching him attempt some very awful things to his two new “guests”.

“When the Dead Come Knocking” is quite an apt title as the episode ends on a cliffhanger note with Rick, Michonne, Daryl and Oscar arriving outside the walls of Woodbury. The title could mean their arrival means more zombies will be following them to cause havoc on both sides. Or it could mean that death has come in the form of Rick’s group and it’s finally come for the Governor and his people. Either way one looks at it the mid-season episode next week look to be epic and a bloodbath waiting to happen.

Notes

  • Tonight’s episode was directed and written by two newcomers to the series with Dan Sackheim and Frank Rezulli respectively.
  • Things are not going to be looking good for our erstwhile hero Glenn Rhee. His character has definitely grown some since his appearance way back in Season 1. The tough times he and the rest of the group has had to live through looks to have toughen him up some.
  • Michael Rooker continues to be quite a surprise this season. He might have dialed back some of his redneck, racist histrionics from season 1 but he still gives off that same aura but a bit more wilier.
  • Love how Daryl has become Carl’s big brother this season. Makes one wonder what those two went through together in the time between season 2 and this season.
  • While still not the best child actor the scene between Chandler Riggs and Andrew Lincoln was a nice poignant moment between father and son concerning Lori and Lil’ Asskicker aka Judith.
  • Andrea makes an appearance several times tonight and each and every time the air seems to get sucked out of the room and the episode slows down. Even the potential that is Milton in these scenes seem to be lessened because of her in the same scenes.
  • Glenn just went all straight warrior on that zombie. He may not be the biggest in the group but he sure can fight.
  • As I thought it would be it looks like Maggie’s role in being a prisoner in Woodbury takes the place of another character’s in the same situation in the comics.
  • With all the zombie killing and the deaths of characters in this show’s three seasons the scene between Maggie and the Governor might have been the hardest to watch.
  • Interesting how nonchalant Rick and his people have become when its just a lone zombie bearing down on them.
  • Oscar looks to be fitting in well as T-Dog’s replacement in the group. Though I love his reaction when he realized what Rick, Daryl and Michonne were going to do with the unnamed LaMOE (Last Man On Earth) whose cabin they group escaped a big group of zombies to.
  • I this episode might have been the very first time we saw the zombies swarm and devour a body (outside of poor Secretariat in the pilot episode) in full daylight. The gore on the show whenever someone gets eaten seems to always occur in low light or night time.
  • Funniest moment in tonight’s episode: man being devoured by a horde of zombies then the show cuts to a KFC commercial.
  • If people think the relationship between Glenn and Maggie is one of convenience should have it changed after tonight’s episode.
  • For all his charms and good looks it looks like the Governor might have just earned himself the undying hatred of many of the show’s fans with tonight’s episode as we see more and more of his sociopathic tendencies.
  • Despite Daryl having become Rick’s right-hand man through it all it will be interesting to see which side he will pick when he finally meets up with Merle again next episode. As the saying goes, “Blood is blood.”
  • Zombie Kill Count of tonight’s episode: 17.

Past Season 3 Episode Review

  1. Episode 1: “Seed”
  2. Episode 2: “Sick”
  3. Episode 3: “Walk With Me”
  4. Episode 4: “Killer Within”
  5. Episode 5: “Say the Word”
  6. Episode 6: “Hounded”

VGM Entry 68: Final Fantasy VI


VGM Entry 68: Final Fantasy VI
(Thanks to Tish at FFShrine for the banner)

Square released quite a number of games for the Super Nintendo, but everyone looked forward above all else to their annual blockbuster, appearing in the latter half of the year, from 1993 until 1995. Secret of Mana was the first of these. Final Fantasy VI was the second.

There is only one logical place to begin a discussion of the music of Final Fantasy VI.

And that would be at the beginning. Final Fantasy VI did not begin like other games. Sure, it was by no means the first to fade out on the title screen and play through an introduction to the plot, but this was different in a lot of respects. It provided barely any background to the story. Ok, there was a devastating war 1000 years ago in which the destructive art of “magic” was lost, and an emerging industrial revolution is beginning to recover remnants of that past. That’s all you directly get. The rest plays out more like a movie. You get hints and clues to what’s going on–a new face here, a key term there–but you’re left curious rather than informed. The intro to this game doesn’t set the plot; it sets the mood. (The revised English translation tragically lost sight of this, such that the original SNES “Final Fantasy III” is really the only port of the game worth playing.)

Nobuo Uematsu’s music went hand in hand with this approach. There is no opening anthem–no catchy piece to hum along to. The sinister organ, the harp-like transition, the windy sound effects, and ultimately the opening credit music all flow from one point to the next, breaking only for the sake of the cinematic experience, not because a particular track is over or the next scene has new “bgm”. Final Fantasy VI had perhaps the first really cinematic introduction for a video game.

It might be argued that Nobuo Uematsu revolutionized the use of music in video games from the very opening sequence, but nothing made this more apparent than the events at the Jidoor Opera House, where an odd twist in the plot leads the cast of heroes to become involved in a backstage operation during a musical performance. Not only does the opera take place in the backdrop as you work your way through the mission, but as part of the plot device the heroine Celes takes on the lead female roll in the show. Events transition back and forth between action behind the scenes and the live show, and part of the outcome is determined by your ability, as a player, to regurgitate Celes’ lines from the script.

The video I’ve linked here includes the first two songs in a four-part performance. What makes this sequence so important for the history of gaming music is that Nobuo Uematsu’s amazing score plays a direct role in the plot and gameplay. While the simulated pseudo-vocals might sound silly in hindsight, this was also a real first in gaming music in its day. Square’s sound team might not have possessed the technology to incorporate real words, but nothing prevented them from displaying them as part of the script. As an odd consequence, one of the first video games to make extensive use of lyrics had no vocals.

Uematsu’s third major accomplishment, the indisputable quality of his score aside, was to completely derail the limits of acceptable song length. Granted Commodore 64 artists had been busting out 6-8 minute epics back in the mid-80s, the standard by and large still remained firmly below the 3 minute mark. If we take the opera as a single piece (it’s divided into four tracks), Final Fantasy VI had three songs that pushed 20 minutes.

“Dancing Mad” probably remains today the longest final battle music ever written, with the original ost version clocking in at 17 minutes and 39 seconds. This might seem excessive if you haven’t played the game, but within its context nothing less could have possibly sufficed. Kefka was pretty much the greatest video game villain of all time (Luca Blight from Suikoden II might surpass him), and Final Fantasy VI might have had the most apocalyptic plot in the series. Sure, series fans had saved the world from imminent destruction five times before and plenty more since, but Zeromus, Exdeath, they were just icons of evil. In Final Fantasy VI, Square’s obsession with mass destruction finally found a human face. Kefka’s psychopathy was something you could buy into. He was entirely capable of emotion even as he slipped progressively further into insanity. He just attached no moral value to life. Where enemies before and since sought to destroy the world for destruction’s sake, Kefka was in it for the experience of the ultimate tragedy. For once it actually made sense for a final boss to let the heroes creep up on him; the whole agenda would have been pointless if no one was there to experience it with him.

Both visually and musically, the final battle of Final Fantasy VI was beautiful. Nothing else–certainly no 1-2 minute fight theme–would have been appropriate in the context of the story.