Hallmark Review: Love on the Sidelines (2016, dir. Terry Ingram)


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I was going to start off this review one way, but I have to mention this instead. I literally just reviewed a Late Night Cable movie called Erotic Vampires of Beverly Hills where, while the film wasn’t very good, I spent most of the time pointing out that actress Jacqui Holland is too good for those movies. So of course the next movie I go to review, which couldn’t be on the further end of the TV movie spectrum, has a main character with the same last name: Holland. Oh, and on top of that, I also find out a guy I’ve been talking to online since last Fall is Dutch today. Cause of course this kind of thing happens to me.

Now for the way I intended to start this review. I didn’t see any of the advertising for this so I don’t know whether this is a film where I should be calling Operation Crossbow (1965). That’s a movie that was billed as a Sophia Loren film to draw in audiences even though she was in one scene and it was really an action movie starring Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) George Peppard. Regardless, you should know that while Joe Theismann is in the movie, it’s for just a very small handful of minutes. It’s a cameo appearance at best. Just know that going into the film.

The movie opens up at a sports bar where we meet our leading lady named Laurel Welk played by Emily Kinney of The Walking Dead fame.

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This thing about how she feels about weddings is that she believes they are sacred. This comes up in a conversation with a friend of hers about how she is going to make some money seeing as her design career isn’t going anywhere. I believe this is supposed to hint at a possible plan about doing the My Fake Fiancee (2009) thing. However, I remember her mentioning it a couple of more times during the movie. It’s kind of weird. I’m not sure who it’s there for. I’m not a religious person, but even if I were I think I would still find this weird.

Anyways, we also meet a guy who I’m pretty sure is her boyfriend and is a big fan of football while she isn’t. I say I’m pretty sure because he is in so little of this movie and has absolutely no importance to the film. Might as well not be here. At the bar they see football player Danny Holland (John Reardon) get injured. If you haven’t seen it already, don’t go and look at the footage of when Joe Theismann got seriously injured for real. I’ll sum it up for you: Legs aren’t supposed to bend that way.

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It will turn out that his condition isn’t career ending at all. It just means he’s out 6-8 weeks. I know in sports terms that can feel like a lifetime though. During this scene we see his agent with his face buried in a cellphone tweeting about his condition. The movie will sorta play this as a negative in that he is out of touch with his client, but actually I would think getting an official word out there as fast as possible would be something you would want. Better than giving the rumor mill even one more second to just wildly speculate, which they will.

Doesn’t matter, because this stock footage shot of San Francisco they show us next tells us where the movie is supposed to take place and we move on with the story.

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That shot is used to indicate San Francisco so much in movies, TV, and other places that I’m positive I even came across that exact neighborhood replicated in the game GTA: San Andreas. However, while the film is listed on IMDb as being of Canadian origin, and I have no doubt of that, they did insert this shot from Santa Montica, California too.

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There’s also this shot from Los Angeles.

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Now we learn that in order to find out about becoming a personal assistant…I mean in order to make ends meet, Laurel takes on a roommate who does introduce her to the personal assistant business. After a successful interview, and we find out that Danny has a book coming out along with a Wheaties box, she is hired. Hired not because she’s right for the job though. Turns out Danny always likes male assistants. Obviously the man didn’t know he was in a Hallmark movie which is why he was injured in the game in the first place. The same thing happened to Jeff Sinclair who probably just thought he was injured on the job without knowing he was in the Hallmark movie Second Chances.

Anyways, she shows up and they clash a bit. One of his complaints is just BS. No one in the locker room is going to care that his assistant is a woman any more than if the genders were reversed. He also says something about what if he wants to walk around in his underwear. Having said equipment myself, and knowing that he does like her, this actual could present a problem, but it’s solved the same way the previously mentioned one is: keep that area reigned in. Then he actually does raise a completely 100% valid point that I didn’t see coming. He likes to have male assistants for things like spotting him “150 pounds” while he works out. You can argue about that one, but I really can give him that considering the woman we are talking about here. None of this really matters though. I just thought it was kind of interesting that an actual valid point was brought up in his argument. It just comes down to whether she cries easily. She assures him that it’s only when she watches The Notebook (2004). She’s hired!

We then cut to a scene where he is signing a book he wrote about football for kids. In that one cut from introduction scene to that scene we can already see he’s smitten with her.

Then we apparently need to introduce a pre-existing girlfriend for him about as much as we needed to have one for her. Now that I have written that sentence, I do mean that both ways you can read it. Both of them of having any partners is needless in this film.

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Probably wondering where Joe Theismann is and how he fits into this about now, aren’t yeah?

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There he is! This, and a couple more short scenes are all you get. He plays Danny’s father. I know why he couldn’t take care of his son while he is recovering. They chose to make this a romance Hallmark movie as opposed to a movie like Chasing A Dream. Still, you got Joe Theismann. Peter Bogdanovich ended up creating one of his best films by finding a creative way to use the few days left on Boris Karloff’s contract. They could have just had him be the wiseman stereotype who shows up here and there to nudge the two main characters in the right directions. Maybe there were restrictions behind the scenes that made that impossible. I don’t know. It was just disappointing.

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Now we meet Danny’s really beautiful Great Dane named Knute. As all big dogs are, he is a handful to walk. That is one serious benefit to having a small dog like I do now. Of course Mandy does have a habit of just standing and staring into nothingness until you feel like bashing your head in with a brick so…it doesn’t matter cause the dog loves her. Dogs are like that. People sometimes have a little friction to get past. He has some of that. However, let me make it clear that he really is a good customer to her throughout this. I bring that up because of a little ridiculous scene later.

To be able to do her job better, she reads up on football. That includes his book. Also, so we don’t think she is just going to disappear into his shadow, she puts her design background to use in order to feminize a football jersey. That will come around in the film…sort of.

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Then we meet one of Danny’s teammates. He’s a red herring. I know, it’s not a mystery movie, but he’s a red herring for the Danny character. This introduction, and another scene, make Danny think he has a thing for Laurel, but in actuality he is falling for Danny’s sister during the rest of the film. It’s not a spoiler. The only thing that could be considered a spoiler, I will mention because it is something I give the film credit for doing and it wouldn’t be right of me to leave it out.

After Laurel has some girl talk with Danny’s mother and sister, she goes to pick up Danny at the stadium. That’s when he discovers she has a classic car, which he’s always had a thing for.

Then we get a scene that really is just there for anyone who has owned a big dog in their life. It really doesn’t serve much of a purpose.

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She carries one of those big dog food bags into the house since Danny could barely stand when his girlfriend leaned against him earlier for a photo shoot. Everyone who has owned a big dog knows the pain of lifting one of those. Not only are they heavy to begin with, but they always manage to be as awkward to hold as possible. Luckily, she does it just in time for it to cut to stock footage of San Francisco at night.

A stupid scene now ensues. Laurel was working around the house when Danny and who cares shows up. Laurel hides in a room. She also listens at the door. Is this supposed to show she has interest in their relationship? Is she looking for an opportunity to sneak out like she says later? The dog of course knows she’s there and keeps going to the door Laurel is behind. Brainless takes this as a reason to leave.

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That’s the room she is in. It sure looks like a bathroom to me. Was it too hard to just flush the toilet, leave the room, notice them, say I’m on my way out, and then leave? It would have solved that whole problem. However, the film needed an excuse to have both of them with their defenses down so they can have some dialog to draw them closer to each other.

Now he discovers her passion for design because of a book she has. Then she finds a copy of a book written by Kafka under the couch. Blah, blah, blah.

This is when I stop giving you the blow by blow. The next important thing is when Laurel gets called away from a wedding she was at for a supposed emergency Danny is having. Maybe this is why they had her say she thinks weddings are scared, but it still doesn’t work quite right. She just blows up at him in a ridiculous fashion. It’s not I’m going to embed the trailer for My Baby Is Black! again over the top, but it doesn’t quite jive with everything we’ve seen. He really has been good to her. He volunteers to help kids. He writes books for children. He takes playing football serious enough that he insists on showing up for the games even though he can’t play because he needs to support the team. He just doesn’t deserve the lines they have her launch at him. It doesn’t matter though, because it leads to them kissing.

Now the film quickly winds down. He kicks the useless girlfriend aside, I don’t even recall what happened to the guy she was with, he toasts his parents at a party, then tracks her down, and they kiss.

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What’s nice about this ending is that he doesn’t give up playing football. It had me thinking it was going to go that route, and I would have been upset if it had. She finds a bit of an inroad into design with her jerseys and he continues to do what he loves. They just decide to continue to do this together. I liked that.

What did I think of the film as a whole? It’s one of those that is perfectly fine, but dull. No, not as dull as The 12 Gifts Of Christmas dull. I just kept feeling throughout the movie like there should be more. Even just expanding Theismann’s role in the movie might have done it for me. If it’s on, sure, sit down and watch. But this isn’t one I would return to for any reason. It’s difficult to really give closing thoughts on a movie like this because it’s like in a film where someone hands in a story and is told it’s just fine, but that fine isn’t going to cut it. This is right on the border between it’s just fine and it’ll cut it.

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

Review: The Walking Dead S5E08 “Coda”


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“You’ve all been out here too long.” — Ofc. Bob Lamson

[spoilers]

We’ve finally reached the mid-season finale of the fifth season of The Walking Dead. It has been a strong first-half that showed some major improvements in terms of strong narrative structure and pacing. The first-half also saw growth in the Beth Greene character which we saw hints of in the second-half of season 4. We didn’t get much of the so-called ‘wheel-spinning” episodes which literally went nowhere. The long existential philosophizing monologues were kept to a minimum and when we did get them they were essential to the scene and the episode (example: Gareth’s final monologue before dying all the way back in Episode 3: “Four Walls and a Roof”).

Last week’s episode could be considered the weakest of the first-half episodes as it focused more on setting up the the many different groups. All the groups eventually leading up to reuniting in one way or another with tonight’s mid-season finale. A finale that we’ve been told would see the death of a major character.

The guessing games have had Carol as being the one to die in tonight’s episode. It’s not a bad guess considering how much the show’s writers have been foreshadowing her death as something akin to a hero’s tragic end. She was the character who literally came out of nowhere from being one of the useless and weakest in the bunch to one of it’s strengths. The show and it’s writers have been notorious for removing very popular characters from the playing field and it wouldn’t have been surprising if that was the case with Carol with tonight’s episode.

“Coda” follows through on the full-speed ahead style Gimple and his writers have adopted this season by using a cold opening that occurs literally right after last week’s cliffhanger. We see Agent Sitwe…I mean Officer Lamson still fleeing from the Rick group with his hands tied behind his back. In the past, Lamson would make it back to Grady Memorial and we would have a major stand-off between Rick and Dawn. Not this season and too bad for Lamson. Rick chases him down with scary efficiency that gives us more hints that he’s starting to travel deep down the dark path that the Governor, Gareth and Joe saw themselves go down and not make it back out.

Rick doesn’t brook second-chances when it comes to new people (which might just mean bad news for Father Gabriel who put Baby Judith in harm’s way trying to confirm Bob’s story about Gareth and his Hunters). Past seasons would see Rick agonize over killing another human being. Not season 5 Rick who has seen how indecision has cost him his wife and many friends since he awoke from his coma. He has learned to compartmentalize that part of him which still sees the good in people. He has become pragmatic about the new world he finds himself in and in doing so could be losing that very humanity which has made him a leader everyone seems to gravitate to.

While Rick hasn’t gone full-on Shane he definitely would understand some of the dark things that Shane was capable of doing and had done in order to survive. We see this with how calmly he shoots Lamson in the head. He could’ve done it to save Lamson the horror and pain of being devoured by the approaching zombies since Rick’s driving broke his back. Or he could’ve done it just to shut him up from continuing his talk about how Rick has been out in this world too long and how it has affected him. Just like fans and critics of the show itself, Rick seems to have gotten tired of everyone telling him that he’s losing his mind and/or his humanity. If Rick has lost it at least we know that he still has his people’s well-being and survival in mind. As for anyone new coming into the group that would be a question that would have to wait.

Yet, despite how Rick has become hardened to this new world he still finds himself affected by the death of someone close to him.

Beth’s death (not Carol’s as many have been guessing) wasn’t as surprising, but still a shock at how it happened so close to her finally being reunited with her sister Maggie. Her death marks a further erosion of that innocence and hope the show has been trying to keep a hold onto since season 1. Like her character or not, Beth Greene remained optimistic despite all that this new world threw at her. She had taken over her father’s role as the show’s moral center and just like in season’s past it’s a role that continues to spell doom on whoever takes on it.

Tonight’s episode wasn’t as strong as past mid-season finales. While it had the requisite shocking moment it was still too similar to last week’s episode where the episode juggled too many groups in too little time (AMC’s getting ridiculous with its commercial breaks). There’s an understanding that seeing the different groups reuniting in the end would make for a much more dramatic conclusion to the first-half, but too little time was spent on the rescue itself that the writers were almost hoping the audience would make the necessary leaps in storytelling to excuse why the end happened the way it did.

It’s not a bad episode or even an average one, it was a good enough entry in this first-half that we get a definite conclusion to the final hanging plot-thread from season 4. Beth has been found and just when they (and us as an audience) was finally getting a stronger and more confident young woman the show yanks that hope away and we find the show much darker.

Beth’s death should reverberate through the second-half of this season (or it would’ve been for naught) and should affect many of the characters left in Rick’s group. Rick might blame himself for her death. Maggie has now lost the last remaining family member she had despite having a new one with Rick and the others. Daryl lost that bright, hopeful link that has made him less a lone wolf and more of a well-rounded badass.

As a character Beth Greene started out as weak, one-note and barely there with season 2. She became a running joke as the bard of this merry band of zombie apocalypse survivors in season 3 with her penchant for singing. Something turned with season 4 as Scott M. Gimple took over as showrunner. She became a rough gem that the show’s writers were attempting to smooth out and find the true character underneath. This season finally revealed that character. A character that continued to be hopeful despite the despair all-around. A character that learned how not to be a victim and became stronger as she remained separated from the rest of the group.

Even in the end, as she and Dawn had their final exchange that showed how she and not Dawn was the true survivor, Beth did what she did in order to try and save a friend who she had faith would come back for her. Beth went out the only way she knew how and that’s helping others.

“Coda” was an appropriate title for tonight’s episode. A musical passage that brings an end to a musical piece. Beth was the music to Rick and his group of survivors and tonight was her coda.

Notes

  • “Coda” was written by Angela Kang and directed by Ernest Dickerson.
  • Just like in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Maximiliano Hernández’s character on The Walking Dead meets his demise after getting hit by a moving vehicle. Though in tonight’s episode it was a contributing factor.
  • This particular sequence is similar to a scene in the comic books which occurred earlier in the story and the character who gets run over is Martinez who was fleeing back to Woodbury to tell the Governor where the prison was located.
  • Probably only interesting to me, but the Atlanta PD at Grady Memorial Hospital using Smith & Wesson MP .40 which means the zombie apocalypse occurred before 2013 which was when the department began switching to the Glock 22 Gen 4.
  • Father Gabriel’s actions was very frustrating yet fitting in with the way the character has been adapted from the comics. This is a man who is just beginning to learn that not everyone who has survived out in the world will be as kind and forgiving as he expects them to be. It will be interesting to see whether the writers develop Gabriel’s psychological issues of survivor’s remorse further in the second-half of this season.
  • Noah’s character may end up being the key to Rick’s group heading up north and towards the Alexandria community which will lead into one of the longest-running story-arcs in the comics: War between Rick and his people against Negan and his.
  • Interesting how the Grady Memorial haven is now the second survivor group Rick and his people have come across since the show began. Will they survive the death of Dawn and now having five less police officers protecting them or will they end up like the Vatos and the nursing home group which we find out in a season 2 deleted scene that they were ultimately overrun.
  • The first-half of season 5 ends the way it began with the premiere and finale episodes featuring Morgan coming across the aftermath of Rick’s group passing through: lots of destroyed zombies. Will Morgan be a boon for Rick and his people if and when he finally catches up to them?
  • Tonight’s guests on the Talking Dead are Keegan Michael-Key (Key & Peele), series creator Robert Kirkman and, Beth Greene herself, Emily Kinney.

Season 5

Review: The Walking Dead S5E07 “Crossed”


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“The things that we do they’re worth it.” — Michonne

[spoilers]

We’re now nearing the mid-point of season 5 for The Walking Dead. For a show that has had some major ups and downs throughout it’s four season (both creatively and behind-the-scenes) it looks like the show might be hitting it’s stride with this fifth. The first six episodes of this new season has ranged from excellent to very good. It’s a streak of consistency that we only saw glimpses of in the previous four seasons.

“Crossed” falls somewhere between very good to good. It’s not the best episode of the season and, for the moment, could be seen as it’s weakest. This is due to the format of the episode itself. Where the episodes prior to tonight’s concentrated on either the group as a whole in one place (Terminus and the church) or on particular characters, tonight saw the story jump back and forth between three groups. The main one being Rick’s rescue team headed into Atlanta to get back Beth and Carol. Then we have the smaller group left back in the church. To finish up this three-legged horse of an episode was the Abraham group soon after Eugene’s revelation.

There’s only so much one could do with three diverging story-lines in less than an hour’s time (AMC has been getting worse and worse with it’s commercial time for it’s most popular show). One could almost see how tonight’s episode was setting up for a much bigger and dramatic mid-season finale. Yes, there was much setting the table and pieces with “Crossed” and it made the episode feel abrupt in how things unfolded.

At times, we could almost sense an action beat about to let hell loose (maybe people this season has been spoiled by the season premiere), but then it’s only a tease. This happens with Rick and his group ambushing Agent Sitwell (HAIL HYDRA!)…I mean Sgt. Bob Lamson and his partner using Noah as bait. Their success was short-lived as they’re soon the victim of the very first drive-by on The Walking Dead. The same happens moments later between Daryl and Officer McBaldy (Licari on imdb) before Rick conveniently steps in to get things in hand. Tonight’s episode has been all about teases, but little to no pay-off until the very end and that one wasn’t too much a surprise.

We do get several good character moments from the show’s lead cast.

There were moments that show Rick balanced precariously over the edge of turning from pragmatic survivor into full-blown Governor or Joe. The first was when planning their assault to rescue Beth and Carol with his plan more about using surprise to kill Dawn and the rest of the Atlanta cops. His plan doesn’t have anything to do with minimizing casualties for the other side (which earlier Rick would have accounted for). He’s become so pragmatic in how he does things this season that killing seems to be getting easier and easier for our intrepid leader. The second time was when he saves Daryl from Ofc. Licari and there’s a moment when he has the cop in his sights where we don’t know if he’ll spare the man or shoot him in cold-blood. It’s some fine acting using nothing but his eyes done by Andrew Lincoln in this scene.

The rest of the episode sees both the church and Abraham group trying to deal with having to wait for Rick to get back or Abraham to come out of his near-catatonia. The former gives us a bit more work on Father Gabriel who seems to see his saviors as scary as the zombies who ate his congregation. Audiences will definitely react with incredulity at his actions to secretly flee the church despite knowing he has no idea how to survive out in the world. This behavior adds further insight as to Gabriel’s state of mind. He’s definitely not thinking clearly and it will be interesting to see if he becomes a bigger liability to the group as the season goes along.

The situation with Abraham and the rest of the D.C. was a bit more problematic in that they literally went nowhere. Sure, we saw some bonding moments between Glenn, Tara and Rosita (who is becoming more and more a person than just background). But Abraham doing nothing but going aggro or kneeling in silence made whatever momentum gained by the episode through the Rick group grind to a screeching halt.

Yet, tonight’s episode still manages to move the season forward in small bits and pieces. The title itself foreshadows what could be one of the season’s themes in that these people left alive have crossed some major moral lines to survive this far. They’ve had to do things that has been about surviving for another day even if it meant killing others or towards a mission that has cost lives which now means nothing. We see how all the things Rick has had to do since he awoke from his coma has been affecting him both in a good way and, also in a manner, slowly corrupting him. Abraham now feels useless now that the D.C. mission has turned to naught. Even Gabriel’s fleeing the church and those who have saved him continues his denial of this new world and what it has done to those he had shepherded.

So, while “Crossed” might not have been on par as the previous six episodes of this new season it was still something that moved the show to another mid-season finale that could change the cast dynamics once again. The question that will continue tonight and even after next week’s finale will be whether the writers will be able to keep up the consistent quality in the remaining episode or will they start to lose steam (like the second half of season 3) or meander along (like last season’s second half). Time will tell if Gimple and his writers will be up to the task.

Notes

  • “Crossed” was written by Seth Hoffman and directed by Billy Gierhart.
  • The pistol and suppressor used by Rick in tonight’s episode is a Heckler & Koch Mk 23 .45 with an Osprey Suppressor. We see him use this for the first time all the way in this season’s third episode, “Four Walls and a Roof”, to ambush Gareth and the rest of the Hunters.
  • Tonight was the first time we see the entire cast throughout the episode. Beth wasn’t in the first three.
  • People need to learn never to trust HYDRA and Sasha definitely learned this lesson the hard way.
  • It was very suprising and more than just a tad disconcerting to see SHIELD/HYDRA Agent Stillwell as an Atlanta cop in tonight’s episode. His heel turn in the episode’s end wasn’t surprising at all.
  • The episodes in Atlanta showed only glimpses of the firebombing that took place in the early days of the zombie outbreak, but we see for the first time the after-effects of the napalm runs on the city with the half-melted zombies near the former FEMA truck.
  • Some very gnarly practical and make-up effects work by the gore wizards at KNB EFX with the napalmed zombies.
  • Tonight’s guests on the Talking Dead are comedian Paul F. Tompkins and Christian Serratos and Sonequa Martin-Green (Rosita and Sasha of The Walking Dead)

Season 5

Review: The Walking Dead S5E06 “Consumed”


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“Everything now just consumes you.” — Carol Peletier

[spoilers]

This latest season of The Walking Dead has been focusing a lot on the theme of guilt and rebirth. With the former we find each episode exploring each character dealing with the many dark deeds they’ve had to do in order to have survived this far into the zombie apocalypse. We also see the season show how through the crucible of the past two years since the world fell into ruin those who have survived this far have been reborn through the very tragedies and sins they’ve had to commit and experience.

“Consumed” starts off with a cold opening that takes us all the way back to season 4 when Rick exiles Carol from the group after having learned that it was her who killed Karen and another and burned their bodies in the prison during the virus outbreak. It’s an emotional sequence as we see her go through so many emotions from breaking down on the side of the road to getting back to survival mode then finally seeing the aftermath of the Governor’s final assault on the prison.

This episode might have been about Carol and Daryl, but in the end it was a further continuation of exploring Carol’s growth from the mousy, battered wife and mother from season 1 through most of 3 and into the badass survivor we saw emerge from the start of season 4. It’s an interesting journey for a character that had been criminally-underwritten and underused by the series’ previous two showrunners (Frank Darabont and Glen Mazzara) who has now found a rebirth under current showrunner Scott M. Gimple.

Yes, we’ll continue to see that theme of rebirth throughout this season and tonight’s episode showed how this new dead world brought out the best in some while many have succumbed to their basest instinct. It’s difficult to say that for someone like Carol who has admitted to premeditated murder and killed a young girl. In the old world and how things were then one would call Carol a monster, but this new world has put out new rules and one such change has been was whether those still left would be willing to sacrifice something of their own humanity in order to survive. Then that brings up the next question of whether those who could make that sacrifice be able to hold onto what’s left of their humanity and moral compass to evade becoming the very monsters they’re slaying.

Carol goes through such a rebirth tonight as we see her internal war to continue being that lone wolf survivor (even with Daryl now by her side). All the dark things she has done since season 4 has been to keep the hell she knows she’s destined for kept at bay for as long as she could. We see her make on the fly decisions that even Daryl blinks at like trying to kill the fleeing Noah who had stolen their weapons.

Was she really trying to shoot him in the leg or was she being pragmatic and trying to kill the scared, young man who they thought was another survivor who couldn’t be trusted? By the end of the episode we see that Daryl a sort of Jiminy Cricket to Carol. Always trying to get her to talk about what had happened since the prison. He has seen the changes in her and he understands what sort of things she has had to do to last this long, but he also wants to make sure she doesn’t fall off that precipice that will forever change her and not for the better.

It was a tough episode to sit through in that the decision to intersperse scenes from the past season dealing with Carol’s shift into survivor mode at times seemed awkward in how they appeared. Last week’s flashbacks with Abraham was better handled yet for all the awkwardness with tonight’s flashbacks it didn’t minimize the message that tonight’s episode was telling. Carol that we knew from the first three seasons of the show has died. She’s gone through the worst crucible of fire one has had to go through. She’s lost her own daughter Sophia and two adopted ones in Lizzie and Mika and yet she has come through that consuming flame not as ashes, but something reborn that’s both mother and warrior.

Yes, this new world has been consuming everyone who’re left since the apocalypse began. It’s not just the zombies but other survivors as well both literally and figuratively. But as we’ve seen throughout this season, while Carol, Rick and those in their group have had to do dark and awful things to survive since their old world ended they’ve avoided being consumed by their very choices and have kept a tight hold on what keeps them human.

Carol and the others might be more willing to kill now than they have in the past, but they also believe that it’s still not too late for them to save those who need saving. Shane never learned that lesson and looked like he never would have. The Governor might’ve been doing things to save people but in the end he was consumed by the power of his position. Gareth started of as saving people, but was corrupted by tragedy and got lost in the wilderness. Even Joe from last season, as well adapted as he and his group was to the zombie apocalypse, took the wrong lessons from this new world and instead took advantage of the weak.

Time will tell if tonight’s episode was a sign of the show and it’s writers building up Carol only to sacrifice her to save the rest of the people she has adopted as her new family. I wouldn’t be surprised if they did, but it would be a waste of a great character that looks to have more growing to do for seasons to come if allowed to live.

Notes

  • “Consumed” was written by Matt Negrete and directed by Seith Mann.
  • Fire became a running theme throughout the episode both as a symbol of destruction and one of rebirth.
  • Seeing Atlanta again since season 1 was a nice change of pace from the rural and woodland settings since season 2.
  • We saw glimpses of places from season 1 like the train tracks and the abandoned tank in the intersection where Rick had to shelter from a herd of zombies.
  • The city itself seemed to have very little zombies, or at least not too concentrated, which is a nice reference back to the end of season 2 where we found out that the herd that attacked Hershel’s farm came from those who left Atlanta following the sounds and racket made by Rick and his people after they left the city.
  • Scene of the building skywalk bridge was similar to a scene out of novel of the series, The Walking Dead: Rise of the Governor.
  • Tonight’s guests on the Talking Dead are CM Punk, Yvette Nicole Brown (Community) and, Noah from the show, Tyler James Williams.

Season 5

Review: The Walking Dead S5E05 “Self Help”


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“I know things.” — Eugene Porter

[spoilers]

Tonight’s episode of The Walking Dead was shaping up to be one of this season’s first major stumbles in what has been a very good season. The show was due for a mulligan this first half of the season and audiences probably wouldn’t have made too much of a big deal. It’s almost a joke now that the series tends to have some weak throwaway episodes that goes nowhere before ramping things back up again.

“Self Help” did try it’s hardest to put the breaks on this season’s forward momentum, but surprisingly the episode ended up being a helpful and informative entry to The Walking Dead series.

We get a cold opening of Abraham, Eugene, Rosita plus new additions in Glenn, Maggie and Tara on the bus having left the Rick and the other half of their group back in the church. They’re on their way to D.C. where Abraham hopes whatever miracle cure Eugene has in his mulleted head will end the nightmare world they’re now living in. It’s a mission that Abraham has such a laser-focus in completing that when we get back after the cold opening’s bus crash there’s signs that our redhead Sergeant might not be as calm and collected as we’ve come to believe.

Yes, tonight’s latest episode is a sort of origin story to how Abraham and Eugene got to where they are now. Why is Abraham so intent on getting to D.C. as fast as possible despite Eugene acting like me might not be who says he is.

It’s how the episode was structured that made it look like it was going to be one of the weaker episodes this season. The cold opening was almost done as a sort of joke with Eugene’s mullet being the punch line. We still get the requisite group zombie attack on the group several times throughout the episode and we see that even though their number has been halved they still work quite efficiently in spite of Eugene’s utter uselessness in the face of battle.

Why exactly is Abraham so protective of Eugene? Surely there’s probably other scientists who have survived who could do the same things Eugene professes to know.

We find out exactly through flashbacks to Abraham’s time in the early days of the zombie apocalypse when it looks like he still has his family. These flashbacks show us exactly why Abraham has taken on Eugene as his mission. In an encounter at the end of the episode we find Eugene stumbling helpless as Abraham was about to end it all with a bullet, but seeing this mulleted man looking like he could barely out-walk the zombies stumbling after him puts him into badass mode.

Abraham has a reason to continue living. His temper getting the best of him and having his family seeing him at his most brutal and terrible has cost him their lives. While his temper saved his family from further rape (seemed implied) and harm from random strangers it also showed them the sort of man he was when confronted with danger. He’s a soldier. A sergeant in the military who was probably the toughest one in his unit. He’s probably seen combat and done things in war that he wasn’t proud of but he did it to finish the mission. With protecting his family from the zombies and the chaos out in the world now gone he has moved on to protecting Eugene. He sees Eugene as the hope he’s returning back to the world and, maybe, make the loss of his family not be in vain.

The same could be said about Eugene who is the polar opposite of Abraham, but whose smarts and ability to think on his feet (meaning lie) has kept him alive where others more physically-able has fallen. Eugene has a mission to keep himself alive as long as possible and he has conned Abraham and the others into thinking he’s the savior. Yet, as we see throughout this episode he has begun to see that maybe he doesn’t need to keep lying to stay alive. He has found a group in Rick and the others who bring people in because they’re decent and willing to forgive.

Abraham and Eugene have switched roles by episode’s end. We see Abraham’s sanity reach it’s breaking point and when Eugene tells him and the others that he has been selling them all a lie we see a that tenuous hold Abraham has on his bottled up anger unleashed on Eugene. On the other side of the equation we see how Eugene has gathered the courage and confidence in knowing the others will not turn him away to finally reveal the truth.

While “Self Help” wasn’t one of the better episode this season it served it’s purpose. We finally find out the truth about Eugene. He and Abraham finally have begun to round out as real characters instead of one-note caricatures of the badass soldier and the meek brain we’ve been shown, so far. Even Rosita gets some of her rough edges trimmed a bit as we see her as a sort of calming influence on the volatile sergeant.

With the cure now a mission that’s sure to end where does this leave and Abraham and his group. Do they make their way back to the church and join up with Rick again or do they continue forward and find a new place to hold up until Rick gets to them? Will Eugene ever be trusted by the others again or will they understand why he did what he did even if it meant others died to keep him and his lie safe? More questions arose with tonight’s episode, but they’re new ones that look towards moving the story forward instead of keeping things in place and going in circles.

Notes

  • “Self Help” was written by Heather Bellson and directed by series regular Ernest Dickerson.
  • We get a brutal flashback with Abraham using canned food to smash the face in of a man who might’ve raped his wife. Again the show does a lot to push the line in terms of TV censors (so far they’ve gotten a free hand at things), but they continue to stay away from actually showing rape occur on the series. Everything has been implied.
  • In the comics the men Abraham killed in the flashbacks were friends of his he banded together with in the early days of the zombie outbreak. They ended up raping his wife and daughter while he was out scavenging for weapons. He literally ripped apart all 6 men with his bare hands and why his family were scared of him.
  • This season has seen quite a new look for the zombies as we see them more lethargic and easier to kill due to their physical status, but as we see in the end it’s their massive numbers which continues to make them such a danger even to a hardened, veteran group of survivors like Abraham Glenn and Maggie.
  • Yes, that mullet on Eugene was getting to be too much party in the back.
  • Never thought I would hear the words “dolphin smooth” uttered on The Walking Dead but heard them I did.
  • At least we now know that Abraham and Eugene pair up all the way back in Texas. Most likely Houston.
  • Talking Dead guests tonight are a trio from the show itself: Michael Cudlitz (Abraham Ford), Josh McDermitt (Eugene Porter) and Gale Anne Hurd (series Executive Producer)

Season 5

Review: The Walking Dead S5E04 “Slabtown”


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“You owe us.” — Officer Dawn Lerner

[spoilers]

Season 5 of The Walking Dead has been on such a hot streak to begin the new season that it was bound to have a bit of a drop off sooner rather than later. Even the best shows needs to slow things down after sprinting right out of the gate. Tonight saw the show finally answer the question: Who took Beth?

“Slabtown” answers this question by dedicating an entire episode to it, but also focusing the entire episode on Beth herself. This is a character who has outlived it’s comic book counterpart and who had become a punching bag for fans and detractors alike. Beth Greene has been called worthless and whose only skill seems to be taking care of Lil’ Asskicker and singing for the group. Her character was one example of why the show’s detractors have called the writing on The Walking Dead one of it’s biggest flaws. Yet, the writers since Scott M. Gimple took over as showrunner seem to have found something salvageable about the youngest Greene.

Beth Greene’s character reclamation began all the way back in Season 4 where she began to show signs of understanding the rules which now govern the new world they all live in. When her new boyfriend was killed off in the last season’s premiere episode her reaction was to shrug it off and just remember the good times she had with him. This new found attitude would continue throughout season 4 yet Beth never sacrificed her hold on her humanity even as she finally adjusted to the new world she found herself in. It helped that she found a sort of big brother-like protector in Daryl who received emotional support from Beth as payment for teaching her how to better survive.

Now with tonight’s episode the initial reaction by most would be to groan and wonder if and when Daryl and Carol will come in with guns blazing to rescue her from what looks like a very bad situation. People wouldn’t be too harsh for thinking such a thing, but Gimple and his writers know that this was an opportunity to continue building up this new Beth Greene. Just as season 4 saw the emergence of Queen Badass Carol Peletier this season could further see Beth raise up her game and show everyone that she’s not useless and could more than take care of herself even when separated from everyone else.

It didn’t take long for Beth to realize that Officer Dawn and Doctor Edwards were more than just helpful faces. Dawn never even gives Beth a chance to think that her new situation was better than the one she left. Grady Memorial looked safe enough, but the “greater good” way that Dawn ran things was nothing more than a thin veneer over something that the Governor and last season’s Joe would approve of. In a move that harkens back to how drunks and poor people were shanghaied into indentured servitude on ships a couple hundred years ago, Dawn has built herself up a dictatorship all in the name of preserving civilization. She wanted to keep things as organized and law-abiding until rescue comes from the government and things go back to normal.

Beth saw right through this charade while Officer Dawn and Doctor Edwards fail to notice that the young, pretty thing in front of them has survived on the outside and grown to become a hardened fighter in her own right. She’s learned from the best (Rick, Daryl, Maggie and, to a certain extent, even from Carl himself) and throughout the episode we could see the wheels in her head turning, turning for a way to get herself out and back out in the world where she knew she had a better chance of surviving.

While the episode still slowed things down a tad too much in the beginning to set-up the final minutes, they weren’t as painful as similar slowdowns as in the past. We got to learn who at the same time as Beth did that her new protectors were bad news (some even quite open with the rapey angle) and that others also wanted out. While it would’ve been great to see the show make more use out of guest-star Keisha Castle-Hughes (will be great to see her on the upcoming season of Game of Thrones) there’s a chance that we might see more of Tyler James Williams’ as Noah who made good on finding a way out.

Is Noah the unseen figure Daryl called out in the end of last week’s episode?

I guess we will have to find out a couple weeks from now as the show now turns to focusing on the Abraham group as they head towards our nation’s capital. Now that we’ve gotten to see Beth prove herself as worthy as the rest (to some degree) of the Rick Grimes Gang, it’s now time to see if the writers have a way to make Abraham, Eugene and Rosita more than just one-dimensional characters to this point and time of the show.

Notes

  • “Slabtown” was written by Matthew Negrete & Channing Powell and directed by Michael E. Satrazemis.
  • Nice to see Tyler James Williams of Everybody Hates Chris on the TV once again.
  • Keisha Castle-Hughes of Whale Rider cameo’s as a ward of Grady Memorial who ends up ending the further rapey adventures of Officer Rapey McRaperton aka Officer Gorman.
  • Either Rick’s people just have had a lot of practice shooting zombie heads while on the move or Beth has been hiding just how good a shot she really is. She missed just one out of at least 15 shots.
  • Tonight’s episode was pretty much a whole new cast outside of Beth and until the very end with the appearance of Carol for a few seconds.
  • For a city that was supposedly bombed out by the government in the height of the zombie outbreak, Atlanta sure looks quite intact as it did in the season premiere. I guess the production designers on this show have never seen footage of German cities truly bombed out during WWII. This is how Atlanta should look.
  • Talking Dead guests tonight are John Barrowman (Arrow, Torchwood), Ana Gasteyer (SNL, Suburgatory) and Beth Greene herself, Emily Kinney.

Season 5

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


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“TAINTED MEAT!” — Bob Stookey

[spoilers]

Well, that was one hell of an episode.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Notes

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

Season 5

Horror Review: The Walking Dead S5E02 “Strangers”


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

[spoilers]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Notes

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

Season 5

Horror Review: The Walking Dead S5E01 “No Sanctuary”


TheWalkingDeadS5E01

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

[spoilers]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Notes

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