TV Review: The Walking Dead 7.10 “My New Best Friends” (dir by Jeffrey F. January)


wd

Oh my God!

Is it possible that we’ve actually had two good episodes of The Walking Dead in a row!?

Indeed it is.  In fact, I would say that tonight’s episode of The Walking Dead was the high point of the season so far.  I don’t know if the show’s production team has been listening to the complaints that many fans had during the first half of the season but, with both this episode and last week’s, it’s hard not to feel that the show is trying to correct some earlier mistakes.

For instance, there was no Negan in this episode.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  Negan can be an intimidating bad guy.  But, like many great villains, Negan is at his most effective when he’s off screen.  The big mistake that the Walking Dead made during the first half of season 7 was going for an all-Negan, all-the-time format.  With each appearance, Negan became just a little bit more cartoonish and, as a result, he became less and less intimidating.

However, though this episode largely dealt with people trying to figure out what to do about the Saviors, Negan was still kept in the shadows.  As a result, Negan’s becoming a threat again.

Tonight’s episode followed two storylines, which is a definite improvement over the plodding pace of the first half of the season.  Both storylines were equally interesting, though I think everyone’s heart was invested in Daryl and Carol.

So, let’s get Rick out of the way.  Last week, I assumed that Rick had come across the Oceanside community but it turns out that I was wrong.  (And that’s not a bad thing because the Oceanside community kinda sucked.)  Instead, this is a community of people who live in a junkyard.  In many ways, they’re just as ritualized and borderline ludicrous as Ezekiel’s Kingdom.  The only question is whether or not the Junkyarders, like Ezekiel, realize how silly their little community is.  Are all of their rituals designed as an escape from grim reality or are they all just crazy?

The Junkyard is run by Jadis (Pollyanna McIntosh), who seems to have a permanent smirk and who speaks like an evil Queen in an Italian Hercules film.  But, and this is largely due to McIntosh’s performance and her chemistry with Andrew Lincoln, Jadis is still likable.  When she and Rick finally formed their alliance, I was happy because Jadis looks like she’s going to be a valuable ally in the inevitable battle with the Saviors.  Seriously, who doesn’t want to see Jadis kick Negan’s ass?

Of course, before Rick could talk to Jadis, he had to defeat an armor-covered walker that the Junkyard crew appeared to be using as a gladiator.  That was exciting and it’s nice to see that The Walking Dead is trying to think up new things to do with their undead.

But, ultimately, this show was all about Carol and Daryl.  Daryl has been hiding out at the Kingdom.  When Richard told Daryl that he had an idea for how they could convince Ezekiel to go to war with the Saviors, Daryl was all ears until he discovered that Richard’s plan involved leading the Saviors to Carol.  “She’s going to die anyway!”  Richard exclaimed.

Obviously, Richard doesn’t know Carol!

After giving Richard the beat down that he deserved for underestimating Carol, Daryl went to Carol’s cabin and seriously, their time together was everything.  For once, we got a moment of joy in this relentlessly grim series.

I always love the scenes between Carol and Daryl.  I love the way that both Daryl and Carol drop their guard when they’re together.  At its best, The Walking Dead has always centered around the question of how people can keep their humanity, even in the worst of circumstances.  Tonight, Carol and Daryl provided that humanity.

This was a good episode, one that reminded me why I watch this show in the first place.  Let’s hope that the rest of season 7 is just as good!

TV Review: The Walking Dead 7.9 “Rock in the Road” (dir by Greg Nicotero)


hqdefault

Well, The Walking Dead is back and again, I am going to try to watch and review each episode for the Shattered Lens.  You may remember that I attempted to do this during the first half of season 7.  I reviewed the first five episodes of the new season and then…

Well, how to put this?

I got bored.

Seriously, I tried to make excuses for the glacial pace of season 7.  I kept telling myself that it was actually a brilliant narrative decision.  I defended the controversial first episode and I’ll continue to do so.  I enjoyed the second episode, largely because of the tiger.  But, after that, I started to get bored.  Each episode introduced us to a new community of boring people.  Each episode featured a lot of conversation but little action.  And what little action there was regularly interrupted by Negan popping up and screaming for half an hour.  As much as I like character development and conversation, this is a show about the end of the world.  There’s only so much time that I can spend watching Rick look depressed.

And so, after five episodes, I gave up on the first half of season 7.  It was just too slow and the show was spending so much time on what a badass Negan supposedly was that the zombies had become an afterthought.  Did season 7 really need a special 90 minute episode of Negan acting like a dick?  I still watched the show but mentally, I checked out.  And, judging by how the ratings cratered between the 1st episode (8.7 million viewers) and the 8th episode (5 million viewers), I was not alone in being dissatisfied.

But, in the break between the end of the first half of season 7 and tonight’s return, I’ve had time to recover.  Today, as I debated whether to actually watch the new episode of The Walking Dead, I considered that this show has hit rough spots in the past.  It’s never been a perfect show.  I wasn’t a huge fan of season 1 and, in later seasons,  I thought they spent way too much time at Herschel’s farm.  But, in the past, when The Walking Dead has needed to deliver, that’s exactly what it’s done.  In short, I decided to give The Walking Dead a second chance.

And, having just watched tonight’s episode, I’m glad that I did.  Rock in the Road was a good episode.  In fact, it may have been the best episode since The Well.  There were still flaws, of course.  As any true Walking Dead fan knows, this show has always been uneven.  The Walking Dead is a gloriously imperfect show but, at its best, it’s the type of show that can almost make those flaws seem admirable.  It’s easy to get frustrated with The Walking Dead‘s leisurely pace and rambling narrative.  But, ultimately, that leisurely pace has also led to some of The Walking Dead‘s most resonant moments.

Much like every other episode so far in season 7, Rock in the Road told its story slowly but, at the same time, it at least had a destination in mind.  Rick has finally snapped out of his self-pity and is now trying to build an alliance to fight Negan and the Saviors.  As this episode showed, it won’t necessarily be easy.  But, at least Rick is actually trying to do something!

There are several reasons why Rock in the Road was a noticeable improvement over the first half of the season.  Here’s a few:

  1. Action Rick is more fun than Shellshocked Rick.  As an actor, Andrew Lincoln is far more compelling when he’s standing up for himself than when he’s being grimly morose.  To be honest, I’ve never been sold on Rick as a leader.  When I watched him trying to build up his anti-Negan alliance, I found myself wondering if people were aware that Rick doesn’t exactly have a great track record as far as keeping people alive is concerned.  But, in the end, it didn’t matter.  Action Rick is fun, even if you know all of his plans are doomed to go terribly wrong.
  2. This episode actually had a few moments of humor.  The first half of season 7 was way too grim.  Just because the world is ending, that doesn’t mean people are going to stop being snarky.
  3. Ezekiel!  The first community that Rick and his group visited was the Kingdom so they got to meet King Ezekiel and Shiva.  Ezekiel and the Kingdom were the highlight of the first half of season 7 and it looks like that might be true for the second half as well.  I loved the entire sequence at the Kingdom, everything from Ezekiel’s promise to have an answer by “the morrow” to the wonderful moment when Jesus realized that he had forgotten everyone’s names.
  4. No Negan!  Well, that’s not quite true.  We heard Negan’s voice but, for the first time in a long time, we had an episode where the entire narrative didn’t have to stop just so Negan could launch another one of his insane gym coach monologues.  Like most great villains, Negan works best in small doses.
  5. That final scene!  I’m going to guess from the lack of men and children that those were Oceansiders who were surrounding Rick.  Rick’s smile provided a wonderful final shot for this episode.  When he flashed that smile, I realized that the old Rick was finally back.

I was really happy with Rock in the Road.  In fact, I’m happy enough to actually watch next week as well.  Hopefully, this episode will be the start of season 7’s redemption.

2016 in Review: 10 Good Things I Saw On Television In 2016


Of all my 2016 in review posts, this is probably going to be the most difficult for me to write.

Last year, when I tried to write about some of the good things that I saw on television in 2015, I started things by confessing that I hadn’t been watching as much television as usual and that I was having a hard time coming up with a worthwhile list.

Well, in 2016, I watched even less television than I did in 2015.  And what I did watch, I usually didn’t care much for.  2016 was dominated by that stupid presidential election and it didn’t take me long to discover that watching too much television would result in me having to sit through hundreds of political commercials.  When it came to watching television, I spent a good deal of 2016 clicking on the mute button.

Of course, I watched all of the reality shows, but even that was largely because I was contracted to write about them at the Big Brother Blog and Reality TV Chat.

I also spent a good deal of time watching classic films on TCM.  I live tweeted most of the movies that premiered on Lifetime and the Lifetime Movie Network.  I did the same during those rare occasions that a new movie showed up on SyFy.

But, beyond that, I found myself with less reason than usual to watch television.  Maybe I’m maturing.  Maybe my tastes are changing.  Maybe I’ve just grown bored with TV in general.  Or, perhaps, 2016 was just a really bad year.

Who knows?

Still, with all that in mind, here are a few good things that I saw on television in 2016!

1) American Crime Story: The People v. OJ Simpson

The television event of the year!  I watched every episode and I was absolutely enthralled.  This brilliantly acted show is probably destined to be remembered as the only worthwhile project that Ryan Murphy was ever involved with.

(“But Lisa, what about American Horror Story…”  American Horror Story sucks.  Don’t even get me started on Scream Queens…)

2) Veep continued to be the most brilliant comedy on HBO.

I know that some people felt that Veep wasn’t as strong this season as it had been in previous seasons.  Well, those people can go to Hell.  Veep is not only a brilliant comedy but it’s also probably the most realistic political show on TV.  Considering the cult-like adoration that voters have for their candidates and towards the government in general, the unrepentant cynicism of Veep provided a much-needed wake up call to the brainwashed masses.

3) Speaking of Veep

Without a doubt, this was the best campaign commercial of 2016:

4) Stranger Things

Thank you, Netflix!

5) Agent Carter

The 2nd season of Agent Carter was just as wonderful, stylish, and empowering as the first.  Of course, the show as promptly canceled, leaving us with just a grand total of 18 episodes.

6) Speaking of cancellations…

American Idol finally came to an end!  Don’t get me wrong.  Like a lot of people, I used to be enthralled by American Idol.  For the first few seasons, I watched every episode.  I voted nearly every week.  I got really emotionally involved.  But, especially over the last few seasons, American Idol was becoming more and more irrelevant.  It soon came to represent everything that people like me hate about cultural conformity.  Vote For The Worst ceased operations, leaving me without a safe place to talk about how annoying it was whenever anyone would use that Hallelujah song for an audition.  A steady stream of boring judges didn’t help either.  American Idol finally came to an end last season.  I watched the final episode.  I can’t remember who won.

7) Bates Motel Continued To Take Brave Risks

Occasionally frustrating, sometimes infuriating, and often quite brilliant, Bates Motel remained one of the most consistently fascinating shows on television.

8) Vinyl crashed and burned

It may seem petty to describe a dramatic failure as being something good that I saw on television.  But, seriously, Vinyl was such a hubris-fueled trainwreck that it was impossible not to feel a little Schadenfreude as it fell apart.

9) Westworld

The anti-Vinyl.

10) The unicorn was saved.

According to Case, the life of a unicorn was saved when People of Earth was renewed for another season.  Yay!

unicorny

unicornlives

Tomorrow, I’ll continue my look back at 2015 with my ten favorite non-fiction books of the year!

Previous Entries In The Best of 2016:

  1. TFG’s 2016 Comics Year In Review : Top Tens, Worsts, And Everything In Between
  2. Anime of the Year: 2016
  3. 25 Best, Worst, and Gems I Saw In 2016
  4. 2016 in Review: The Best of SyFy
  5. 2016 in Review: The Best of Lifetime
  6. 2016 in Review: Lisa Picks the 16 Worst Films of 2016!
  7. Necromoonyeti’s Top Ten Albums of 2016
  8. 2016 In Review: Lisa Marie’s 14 Favorite Songs of 2016

The OA, The Homecoming; Season 1 Episode 1; ALT Title: Reincarnation and You!


the-oa

A new year is here, which means I need to get back into the saddle and get writing! The irony is that “The OA” is from 2016…. Dun Dun Dun.  The great irony is that 2016 had creative losses, but the art was amazing: Stranger Things, People of Earth, and maybe …. just maybe The OA.  I was burned before by seemingly good art that turned out to be a steaming shit show – Channel Zero.   However, the pilot for The OA seems to have all of the weird shit that should make it great.

There are parallel dimensions, Indian Mystics, Naked Bullies, Phyllis from The Office, and Brit Marling.  Side note: If Another Earth didn’t convince you that Brit Marling won the talent lottery, this will.  There are also a number of fascinating plot touchstones: visualization of the world and experiences in general through media, clairvoyance,  and spiritual connection to a multiverse, but without The Flash, and THROAT PUNCHES!

We open with a phone video of a woman jumping off a bridge.  It’s hard to watch, but she wakes and is mostly ok, but with an obsession to get online.  The video goes viral and The girl’s parents see the video and get her from the hospital.  The OA (Brit Marling) has been missing for 7 years, but The OA doesn’t recognize her parents; instead she touches her mom’s face and this act allows her to realize it’s her mom.  Why?  Because before The OA or as they knew her -Prairie disappeared 7 years ago, she was blind!  WHAAAAA????!!!!

The OA returns home to a mob scene of well wishers.  The police try to find out where she was and get nowhere, but we do know that she was with others.  She goes for a walk and sees a guy doing Jackass style stunts.   The next scene embarrassed me… alot.  We cut to a Naked Guy and Perfect Student having pretty great sex.  I’m all for sex, but when I saw this scene, I was at the gym on the elliptical and there was a lady next to me, who looked over, looked away, and shot her eyebrows up into the ceiling.  The Perfect Student opines that she just likes Naked Bully for sex and that she has a torch for a guy in choir.  HMMMM.  Okay.  We learn that naked guy is a bully too, who from hence forward shall be called Naked Bully.

The OA is lamenting her lack of wifi access.  She goes on the hunt for it and she goes to an abandoned home and sees Naked Bully is selling drugs.  The OA wants wifi access, but Naked Bully sicks his dog on her and she takes a few bites, gives a few bites, and tames the dog.  REALLY.

The Naked Bully visits the choir and they are all singing like Glee, which makes me wish that we weren’t so effective at stamping out bullying in schools.  Naked Bully follows the guy that Perfect Student has a crush on and throat punches him. BAM!  There is now one fewer acappella singer in the world … let’s all slow clap.

Naked Bully climbs up the wall to The OA’s room and gives her a pre-paid wifi router if she agrees to pose as his stepmom and convince his teacher not to expel him because if he’s expelled, he’ll get sent to a scared straight school in North Carolina.  The OA agrees if he gets five strong people together for some weird seance thing.

Naked Bully takes her to Value Village and damn it doesn’t cost much to make her look hot… Macklemore would be proud …. POPPIN’ TAGS!  At one point, it becomes clear that The OA can read minds.  Also, we learn the OA is in love with a guy named Homer…no not that one…sorry fat guys everywhere; Homer is a briefly dead football star.

She meets with Phyllis and pretends to be his step-mom.  Phyllis says Naked Bully is a bully and sucks.  The OA lays some great new-age jibber jabber and Phyllis is totally charmed.  The plan appeared to work because Phyllis gives Naked Bully a wink, but it doesn’t last because Phyllis runs into Naked Bully’s real mom at Costco.  DUN DUN DUN.

Naked Bully’s parents confront The OA’s Parents and all appears to be lost: no seance thing and Naked Bully will be scared straight- preventing him from stopping the Acapella Hordes.  What does The OA do?  She posts an eyeball video to get people to attend her seance thing.  If you light the candles….they will come.  Yep, 3 smaller part dayplayers come, Naked Bully turns down sex for it, and even Phyllis shows up for the seance thing.

Then, whammo…..roll credits!!! VERY VERY VERY COOL!

We learn that The OA started as the daughter of a wealthy Russian Oligarch (Nikolai Nikolaeff) was her single dad.  She ran in circles of extreme wealth, but was plagued with nightmares of drowning.  Her father has her go into an icy lake to conquer her fears.  This works! Later, she is on a private shuttle to school, but careens into a ravine and everyone drowns, including The OA.  She is pulled into a multiverse galaxy by an Indian Mystic Superbeing who allows her to go back to earth, but blind because she doesn’t want The OA to see what is coming.  I know this reads as some crazy shit, but it’s very well done and truly compelling.

2016, you slipped this one right under the wire and it was awesome!!!

THe-OA-HC.png

People of Earth, Season 1 Episode 10; Snake Man and Little Guy


people-of-earth

Gentle Readers, this has been a sad year.  We lost so many great artists from David Bowie to Carrie Fisher, we had a sickening election year, and it seems like 2016 itself has anthropomorphized into a evilly sapient entity bent upon death and misery.  There has never been a time more critical for a good…no great comedy/drama- People of Earth is that show.  This show has made me laugh and sometimes brought me to no kidding emotional moments.

The writing is amazingly quick and sharp.  There are true – No Shit Legit geniuses working in their Writers’ Room, but that would fall flat without the vaudevillian levels of perfect timing and delivery of the cast.  I knew that Oscar Nunez, Ana Gasteyer, H Jon Benjamin, Brian Huskey, and Wyatt Cynac would deliver great drama and comedy, but the deep newcomer talent stood alone and improved upon the ensemble: Da’vine Joy, Daniel Sherman, Bjorn Gustafsson, Nancy Lenehan, Tracee Chimo, Ken Hall, Alice Wetterlund, Debra McCabe, and Luka Jones all provided excellent performances that were believable, funny, and pulled you into their world.

There was one actor that brought no kidding teary eyed moments: Michael Cassidy.  I saw him on Smallville and bit parts, but on People of Earth, he delivered powerful performances week after week.  Watch this man because you’re seeing the next Tom Hanks.  The obvious casting would be for action roles, but if he’s judicious and picks roles that let him push his drama and comedy chops, the next Tom Hanks he shall be.  You read it here first!

Cold Open: LOTR-G confesses that he hasn’t worked in months, is in love with a subject, and will shave his head (pick the lie). Scroty won’t hear it because he’s about to consummate his revenge again Gina using Nancy as his weapon.   Scary!  Ozzie shows up and Scroty wants to kill them both.  LOTR-G subtly turns off the wifi, thwarting Scroty from his double homicide.  It’s pretty awesome that it’s just a wifi router that could’ve been bought at a Walgreens! AWESOME!  Ozzie shows Gina the drawings of him with his lizard friend.

Chelsea calls her husband on the way back from the concert and hears him with another woman, poising her for revenge sex with Father Doug.

Richard is on the side of the road and gets picked up by Margaret who tries to explain that Nancy is just not that into him, but it falls upon deaf ears.

Jonathan is eating cheap food with Officer Glimmer and we learn: Officer Glimmer is NOT an alien just a dead beat lousy gambler who sold out to Aliens!!!  LOTR-G approaches and tells Jonathan that Scroty’s going to kill subjects (Ozzie and Gina).  Jonathan is visibly upset and goes to Ozzie’s rescue!

Ozzie and Gina are at the burger shack and decide to use hard-core therapy to get his memories out. Gina discloses that the last time she used this therapy it led to her patient’s death.  They push forward anyway.

Jonathan confronts Nancy.  It triggers his memory.  He enters the shop and heads to the employees only door.  The memory stops.  Gina makes him go to the door.

LOTR-G is about to break up with Kelly, but instead they follow their hearts to Iceland. I’ve considered visiting Iceland, but I can be bored locally. Take that Iceland! SLAM! That’s right, that burn was cold …. as Ice! ICELAND YOU’VE BEEN FREEZER BURNED!!!

Jonathan tries to reason with Scroty that killing subjects is against the rules. Scroty insists that the rules don’t apply because the Main Ship is coming.  They fight. Ahem: Scroty Man, Scroty Man, doing the things a Scroty can. What’s he like? Kind of a dick, Scroty Man. Scroty Man meets Jon-a-than, they have a fight Jon-a-than wins, Jon-a-than. [Sung] 

Father Doug is practicing his keyboard and Chelsea arrives.  She explains that her marriage is over.  She throws herself at him and he catches it.

Richard arrives at Gina’s and sees Jonathan and Nancy fighting.  Jonathan tries to reason with Scroty that he knows that he was in love with Kurt.  It doesn’t go well.  Scroty can’t handle Kurt’s death let alone that he was in love with a man.

Ozzie goes to the Employees Only Door, Gina distracts the store owner, and Ozzie bursts into the room.  FLASH! Ozzie remembers his young self walking into the Employees only room years ago seeing the Reptilians in the back- some propose to kill him and Jonathan stops them. They respond like the serious yet lighthearted corporate frat guys I went to school with and still think of fondly of saying – Louis, I gotta say this one’s on you.  Jonathan prevents them from killing Ozzie and convinces them to take him to the ship.  Officer Glimmer finds Ozzie and arrests him.

Gerry is on his way to a date with Joy and his pulled into bailing out Ozzie and Gina.  He wants Gerry to help him, but he’s all about insurance now.

Chelsea is trying to convince Father Doug that it’s okay that she likes him.  Father Doug is trying to hold back.

Richard continues to watch Nancy and Jonathan fight.  Jonathan wins, but Nancy’s self-destruct activates.

Gina hypnotizes Ozzie. They are on the ship and all of the Starcrossed member are being catalogued on the ship as children including GINA…DUN DUN DUN!!!

Jonathan is missing part of his face and it appears that both Richard and Jonathan might’ve been killed in the blast.  *sniff*

The Main Ship docks and…..Scroty doesn’t recognize them at all.

Jonathan is rebooting Nancy and she recounts the Starcrossed members’ names and it’s confirmed that they were all abducted as children.

SONG:  The songs on this series are awesomeballs! EG:

Chelsea and Father Doug get it on.

Richard is found by Gina and Ozzie.  Ozzie learns that Jonathan is an Alien, LOTR-G and Kelly go to Iceland, Joy is stood up, and Gerry is abducted!!! CRAZYTOWN!!!

There’s also a hilarious post-credit clip!!

Great Show!

thumbs-up-gif

unicornlives

 

People of Earth, Season 1 Episode 9, Lost and Found


people-of-earth

Open: Richard and Robot Nancy are on a date; however, Scroty is controlling Nancy’s reactions and movements (Descartes would have a field day with this episode).  They have an awkward kiss and we learn that Scroty likes Ayn Rand.  Scroty continues to ask questions about Gina and it occurs to Richard that Nancy is jealous and The One.  Scroty resolves to hunt Gina down and kill her.

Ozzie is having food with his mom and needs to get critical documents, leading him to go to his father’s place.

Chelsea visits Father Doug.  Father Doug is getting the band back together… by an Outlet Mall! Chelsea is crushing on him big time!

Gerry is selling insurance … rather well.

Starcrossed is a shambles: they meet at the furniture store and a barn.  The barn is the Last Straw (wakka wakka wakka)! They disband.

Jonathan sees LOTR-G and is shocked that he’s working at a coffee shop.  LOTR-G is really sweet and reminds me of people I knew in Vermont: quiet, in touch with their feelings, and salt of the earth types.  Jonathan gets LOTR-G to give him a free coffee and his tips.

Ozzie visits his father who’s into buddhism for now.   His father is a slob who keeps important documents in garbage bags.  Ozzie finds a photo of him on a drug store horse ride, triggering a Beacon memory and a family meeting.

Father Doug is playing at the lounge and Chelsea show and groupies big time. It’s sweet.

Ozzie’s parents explains that they lost him at the grocery store.  He describes a lizard person and they give him many drawings of him with this Lizard Man friend (Jonathan). In the past, Ozzie had gone into the back room and sees all of the Reptilians, including Jonathan (lizard Jonathan).

Chelsea goes to Father Doug’s motel room that he’s staying at for his gig and they pork.  It’s very human.  This show really knows how to balance the drama with the comedy.

We close with Gina enjoying a glass of wine while Nancy is lying in wait in the closet.  Scary!

No awesome song this week, but a good episode in any case.

unicornlives

Enjoy Christmas With The Dean Martin Christmas Show!


sinatra

I was doing a search on YouTube for Christmas specials, Christmas songs, and Christmas scenes when I came across The Dean Martin Christmas Show, which originally aired on December 21st, 1967.  It’s a Christmas show starring Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, and their respective families.  Sure, some of the jokes may be corny but c’mon — it’s Frank and Dino!

Now, the video is occasionally a little rough.  I assume that this was copied from a VHS tape.  But no matter!  Not only does this special serve as a time capsule but it also serves as a valuable reminder that Christmas is even better when it features a little Rat Pack swagger!