TV Review: The Walking Dead 11.9 “No Other Way” (dir by Jon Amiel)

Well, so much for The Reapers.

The Walking Dead‘s 11th season returned last Sunday.  As you can probably guess from the fact that it’s taken me until Friday to get around to watching and reviewing it, it didn’t exactly arrive with the type of fanfare that previously greeted every premiere of The Walking Dead.  Not to belabor a point that I’ve been making since this season began but it’s been a while since The Walking Dead was really a big deal.  It definitely had a good run, especially during the early seasons.  However, I don’t think anyone will deny that the later seasons have been frustratingly uneven.  Season 11 is the show’s last, though the future does hold the promise of Walking Dead movies and perhaps a Walking Dead anthology series.  The Walking Dead may be coming to an end but it’s definitely not dead yet.

When Season 11 started, it appeared that the majority of the episodes were going to center around the Alexandrians battling The Reapers.  I wasn’t particularly looking forward to that, as the Reapers weren’t really that interesting.  Beyond all of the babbling about religion, there wasn’t that much to separate them from The Whisperers or the Saviors.  So, as you can imagine, I was happy that this episode featured what appeared to be the nearly complete and total destruction of the Reapers.  Maggie and her group ruthlessly and systemically destroyed every Reaper that they came across, with the exception of Leah.  Gabriel killed a sniper, which leads me to wonder why Gabriel still wears his collar when its obvious that it means nothing to him.  Negan watched as Maggie killed every Reaper that she saw and he wisely decided that it was probably time for him to head off on his own before Maggie got around to killing him.  Indeed, the interesting thing about Maggie is that we really only cheer for her because we know her and we’ve been conditioned to be on her side.  She’s just as ruthless as the show’s bad guys and she uses the exact same justifications that were previously used by everyone from The Governor to Negan to Pope.  Even the fact that she’s mourning Glenn doesn’t really make her all that different from those she’s attacked.  In the world of The Walking Dead, everyone has lost someone.

(And really, it was pretty much Rick’s fault that Glenn died.)

Meanwhile, Alexandria was hit by a violent storm and a walker invasion but, as usual, everyone there managed to survive.  Afterwards. Maggie, Darryl, and the gang finally returned home.  However, also approaching Alexandria were Eugene and the Commonwealth.

The show then jumped forward 6 months.  Maggie was still in charge of Alexandria but it was impossible not to notice that Alexandria no longer looked as clean and peaceful as it once did.  Surrounding the town were the soldiers of Commonwealth.  And leading the soldiers was …. DARYL DIXON!

Now, that is an effective cliffhanger!

So, what’s going on here?  Is this yet another case of Daryl going undercover (booo!) or has Daryl truly changed sides?  I’m hoping that he actually did change sides, just because the whole undercover Daryl thing has been done to death and I think that Maggie and Darryl have a more interesting dynamic as rivals than as allies.  Given the history of the characters, it’s easy to imagine a scenario where Daryl might chafe at Maggie’s leadership style.  Or perhaps Darryl truly believes that the Commonwealth is offering up a better society than what’s going on at Alexandria.  I mean, honestly, Alexandria does require a bit of commitment on the part of its citizens.  I probably would chose not to live in Alexandria.

So, which is it?  Is Daryl a friend or a foe?  We’ll find out over the upcoming weeks!

Film Review: No Exit (dir by Damien Power)

After she learns that her mother is in the hospital and possibly on the verge of death, Darby (Hannah Rose Liu) breaks out of drug rehab, steals a car, and starts driving to Salt Lake City.  However, what Darby doesn’t know is that she’s also driving straight into a blizzard.  Soon, Darby is forced to take shelter at a nearby state park visitors center.

Darby isn’t the only person seeking shelter that night.  There’s a married couple, Ed (Dennis Haysbert) and Sandi (Dale Dickey).  Ed is a veteran of the Marine Corp while Sandi is a nurse.  There’s Ash (Danny Ramirez), who has the friendliest smile to ever be seen in the middle of a blizzard.  And then there’s Lars (David Rysdahl), who is distinguished by his long hair and his nervous mannerisms.  When Darby first enters the visitors center, Lars is curled up in a corner and loudly snoring.

And then there’s Jay (Mila Harris).  Jay is a child who happens to be bound and gagged in one of the vehicles parked outside.  When Darby discovers her, she has to not only save the child’s life but also figure out which one of the people in the visitors center is responsible for kidnapping her.

Clocking in at a brisk 90 minutes, No Exit is full of twists and turns.  I’ll do my best to keep spoilers to a minimum in this review.  Not all of the film’s twists work, of course.  There’s a few moments that, in hindsight, didn’t exactly make sense.  After watching the film, you could spend hours debating why certain characters did the things that they did, assuming that you were so inclined and that you could actually find anyone else willing to sit through your analysis.  However, the film itself is so quickly paced and well-directed that it doesn’t matter that the story itself is occasionally a bit implausible.  From the minute Darcy breaks out of that rehab, the film captures the viewer’s attention and it doesn’t let go until the final credits start to roll up the screen.  This is an entertaining B-movie, one that makes good use of its isolated location and its talented cast.  Havana Rose Liu especially deserves a lot of credit for her sympathetic lead performance as Darby.  Darby is a cynic and a survivor but she still has enough humanity inside of her to risk her life for a stranger.

The film looks great, with its scenes of cars driving through the raging snow storm and the film’s cast gathered in the somewhat tacky visitors center.  All of the snow falling reminded me of i’m thinking of ending things and I have to admit that a part of me kept expecting there to be some sort of a metaphysical twist towards the end of the film.  I found myself wondering if the visitors center would be revealed to be Hell, which wasn’t a totally outlandish idea when one considers that the film shares the same name as Sartre’s famous play.  But no, No Exit is a thriller that deals with concerns that are very much earthbound.  It’s an well-executed thriller and an entertaining way to spend 90 minutes.  It can currently be viewed on Hulu.

Music Video of the Day: The Freshmen by The Verve Pipe (1997, directed by Mark Neale)

For the life of me, I cannot remember what made me think Everything Zen by Bush was the worst song of the 90s while this song exists.

I guess I forced The Freshmen out of my head, despite the fact that it was inescapable in 1997.  When the song came out, everyone assumed that it was about a rape that was followed by a suicide but the The Verve Pipe’s lead singer later said that the song was inspired by his girlfriend getting an abortion when they were younger and that the lyrics about Valium were poetic license.  (The amount of valium mentioned in the song would not be fatal.)  Abortion is a serious subject matter and there’s been a lot of good songs written about that very topic.  Of course, this derivative dirge isn’t exactly one of them.

A quick google search revealed that there are a lot of people who are under the impression that the “I can’t be held responsible” line is meant to be taken literally.  Though I’m not a fan of the song, I will say that I don’t think we’re necessarily meant to agree with the all of the lyrics.  I think that the “Can’t be held responsible,” is just something the song’s narrator is telling himself as a way to deal with his guilt.  That this fairly obvious point was missed by both critics and fans says more about them than it does the song.

This video is pure 90s angst, from the room with the one light bulb to the band slowly appearing behind the lead singer.  Angst was big in the 90s, though there was eventually enough of an angst backlash that it led to the era of the boy bands and pop queens.  Still, those of us who grew up in the 90s can’t be held responsible.  We won’t be held responsible.  People listened in the first place.