TV Review: The Walking Dead 7.12 “Say Yes” (dir by Greg Nicotero)


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Early on, during tonight’s episode of The Walking Dead, I saw Rick smiling and I thought to myself, “Oh, shit…”

See, it’s a general rule that, whenever Rick’s happy, something terrible is about to happen.  Rick is not allowed to be happy.  Remember what happened when he was happy about being reunited with his wife, son, and best friend Shane?  Remember what happened when he thought he could make a new life as a pig farmer?  Nothing good is allowed to happen to Rick.

So, when it briefly appeared that Rick might be dead towards the end of the episode, I thought he very well might be.  I have to admit that I was kind of excited about the idea.  Who would step up to take Rick’s place?  (Daryl.)  Who would Michonne love without Rick around? (Daryl.)  Who would Carl look up to if Rick was dead?  (Daryl’s the obvious answer but knowing Carl, he’d probably run off and ask Negan to adopt him.)  And I have to admit that, as a reviewer, I was looking forward to not only writing about the impact of Rick’s death but also seeing all the extra hits that my post would get.  I’ll admit it, I’m not that innocent.

Of course, then Rick suddenly emerged from hiding and started killing walkers.  He even got to do a badass slow motion weapon toss to Michonne.  Eventually, if The Walking Dead is to have any integrity, Rick and every other major character, no matter how popular or important, is going to have to die.  But tonight was not that night.

(Of course, next week’s season finale episode is called “Bury Me Here,” so it sounds like someone will be leaving us…)

Tonight’s episode was almost totally devoted to Rick and Michonne and, after all the darkness of the past few episodes, it was nice to see them actually enjoying themselves.  As much as I dread seeing Rick smile, I kind of enjoy it too.  Since Rick tends to carry the weight of the world on his soldiers, it was nice to see that he actually can get some sort of pleasure out of his violent existence.  The fighting, smiling, and lustful Rick that we saw tonight was a nice change from the neutered and whiny Rick who we had to deal with during the first half of the season.  This is the Rick that we want to see!

(On twitter, I suggested that another reason why Rick was so happy was because, for once, he didn’t have to deal with one-eyed Carl standing in the background and making him feel guilty.  Some people apparently did not appreciate my theory, which leads me to wonder when we all suddenly decided that we liked Carl again.)

Tonight, Rick and Michonne were not the only people looking for guns.  Rosita also went searching  but could only find one cap gun and a walker with a double chin.  Father Gabriel, of course, used this as an excuse to lecture her about hate and violence but you know what?  Shut up, Father Gabriel.  How and why are you even still alive at this point?  I don’t blame Rosita for being mad and I don’t blame her for wanting to take action.  And if Rosita’s plan to kill Negan is running the risk of ruining Rick’s plans — well, that’s probably a good thing.  Rick’s plans never work.  Ask Herschel how well Rick’s plans work.  Ask Glenn.  Ask Abraham.

(Checking on twitter, I see that I’m kind of alone as far as my sympathy for Rosita is concerned.  It’s interesting how the people who are continually upset when Daryl doesn’t automatically kill everyone that he meets are apparently the same people upset about Rosita having “an attitude.”  Whatever, people.)

Anyway, this was a pretty good episode.  As much as I may bitch about Rick as a leader, I was happy to see him actually get a chance to enjoy himself without the world automatically ending.  Michonne, who has been underused lately, finally got a chance to remind the viewers of what a badass she truly is.  The moment when she thought Rick was dead was a moment of great acting from Danai Gurira.

As for next week’s episode, it’s getting close to the season finale!  Who will live?  Who will die?  (Eugene, probably.  And, hopefully, sanctimonious Father Gabriel.)  We’ll find out next week!

(CORRECTION: Due to my notoriously short attention span, an earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that next week was the season finale.  I apologize for the error. — LMB)

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


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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)


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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.

Here Are The Nominations of the Costume, Make-Up, and Cinematography Guilds!


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Three more guilds announced their nominees for the best of 2016 last week and while none of them may have gotten as much attention as the DGA or the PGA, they all play in role in our attempts to predict which films will actually be nominated when the Oscar nominations are announced on Tuesday!

So, to help you out when you’re making your bets, here are the guilds!

Costume Designers Guild

Excellence in Contemporary Film

Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie – Rebecca Hale

Captain Fantastic – Courtney Hoffman

La La Land – Mary Zophres

Lion – Cappi Ireland

Nocturnal Animals – Arianne Phillips

Excellence in Period Film

The Dressmaker – Marion Boyce, Margot Wilson

Florence Foster Jenkins – Consolata Boyle

Hail, Caesar! – Mary Zophres

Hidden Figures – Renee Ehrlich Kalfus

Jackie – Madeline Fontaine

Excellence in Fantasy Film

Doctor Strange – Alexandra Byrne

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – Colleen Atwood

Kubo and the Two Strings – Deborah Cook

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children – Colleen Atwood

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – David Crossman, Glyn Dillion

American Society of Cinematographers

Make-up And Hairstylists Guild

1. FEATURE-LENGTH MOTION PICTURE – BEST CONTEMPORARY MAKE-UP

CAPTAIN FANTASTIC
Make-Up Artists: Karen McDonald, Akemi Hart
LA LA LAND
Make-Up Artists: Torsten Witte, Angel Radefeld-Wright
MANCHESTER BY THE SEA
Make-Up Artists: Liz Bernstrom, Sherryn Smith
NOCTURNAL ANIMALS
Make-Up Artists: Donald Mowat, Malanie J. Romero, Elaine Offers
ZOOLANDER 2
Make-Up Artist: Maurizio Silvi

2. FEATURE-LENGTH MOTION PICTURE – BEST CONTEMPORARY HAIR STYLING

LA LA LAND
Hair Stylists: Barbara Lorenz, Jackie Masteran, Frida Aradottir
NOCTURNAL ANIMALS
Hair Stylists: Yolanda Toussieng, Jules Holdren
SULLY
Hair Stylists: Patricia Dehaney, Jose Zamora
THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN
Hair Stylist: Alan D’Angerio
ZOOLANDER 2
Hair Stylist: Aldo Signoretti

3. FEATURE-LENGTH MOTION PICTURE – BEST PERIOD AND/OR CHARACTER MAKE-UP


DOCTOR STRANGE
Make-Up Artist: Jeremy Woodhead
FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM
Make-Up Artists: Fae Hammond, Marilyn MacDonald
HAIL, CAESAR!
Make-Up Artists: Jean Ann Black, Julie Hewett, Zoe Hay
LOVING
Make-Up Artists: Julia Lallas, Katie Middleton
SUICIDE SQUAD
Make-Up Artist: Alessandro Bertolazzi

4. FEATURE-LENGTH MOTION PICTURE – BEST PERIOD AND/OR CHARACTER HAIR STYLING

FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM
Hair Stylists: Fae Hammond, Marilyn MacDonald
FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS
Hair Stylist: J. Roy Helland
HAIL, CAESAR!
Hair Stylists: Cydney Cornell, Pauletta Lewis-Irwin, Matt Danon
JACKIE
Hair Stylists: Catherine Leblanc-Caraes, Tony Rochetti
LOVING
Hair Stylists: Kenneth Walker, Elizabeth Paschall

5. FEATURE-LENGTH MOTION PICTURE – BEST SPECIAL MAKE-UP EFFECTS

DEADPOOL
Make-Up Artists: Bill Corso, Andrew Clement
DOCTOR STRANGE
Make-Up Artist: Jeremy Woodhead
FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM
Make-Up Artist: Fae Hammond
STAR TREK BEYOND
Make-Up Artists: Joel Harlow, Richie Alonzo
SUICIDE SQUAD
Make-Up Artists: Christopher Nelson, Sean Sansom, Greg Nicotero

A Few Thoughts on …. The Walking Dead 7.2 “The Well” (dir by Greg Nicotero)


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Hmmm…

Well, what did everyone think of the 2nd episode of the 7th season of The Walking Dead?  After all the violence and darkness of the premiere, The Well felt like a different beast altogether.  In fact, there were times when I had a hard time believing that I was watching the same series, the tone of The Well was so entirely different from the previous episode.

Essentially, we got to find out what Carol and Morgan were doing while Abraham and Glenn were being killed by Negan.  They were discovering yet another settlement of survivors.  This settlement, known as The Kingdom, was ruled over by King Ezekiel and his pet tiger, Shiva.

Judging from twitter, it would appear that over a thousand people fell in love with King Ezekiel last night.  (Even more fell in love with Shiva.)  And I don’t blame them.  As played by Khary Payton, Ezekiel was a breath of fresh — if possibly insane — air.  He was exactly what the world of The Walking Dead needs.  He’s a leader who sincerely cares about his people but, unlike Negan, he’s not a sociopath.  At the same time, he’s also not totally ineffectual and, after what we saw with Rick last week, that was a welcome development.

When he was first introduced, Ezekiel seemed like a comical, buffoonish character.  After all, he frequently spoke like a bad Shakespearean actor.  He was given to broad pronouncements.  He sat on a throne.  He carried a sword, called himself a king, and often seemed like he was auditioning for a Renaissance Faire.  But as the episode progressed, we started to see that Ezekiel was far more intelligent than he first appeared.  As he told Carol, he knew he and his followers were living in a fantasy world but that fantasy was far more preferable than dwelling on the state of the world.  Over the course of an hour, Ezekiel went from being a joke to being a symbol of hope.

It was interesting to compare Ezekiel and his fantasy world to both Negan and Rick.  Though neither one of them would ever admit it, both Negan and Rick have also built up a fantasy world for themselves.  In Negan’s fantasy, his own sadism is justified by the state of the world.  Negan has created a world where being a sociopath is a heroic act.  Meanwhile, Rick continues to cling to the fantasy that, somehow, things can still go back to being the way that they were before the dead rose.  It’s no coincidence that, after seeing both Glenn and Abraham die, Rick immediately started to fantasize about a future where Glenn and Abraham were still alive and everyone was sitting down for a happy picnic.  In the end, Ezekiel is set apart by the fact that, of all the leaders, he is the only one willing to admit that he’s living in a fantasy.

As of right now, if I had to pledge allegiance to anyone in The Walking Dead, I would pledge it to King Ezekiel.  And it appears that Carol is about to do the same thing.  Either that or Carol’s going to decide to kill him just because she can.  It’s difficult to predict with Carol.

(Sidenote: While the episode was stolen by Khary Payton, Melissa McBride also contributed some of her strongest work yet.  Her amazement upon being initially confronted with Ezekiel’s Kingdom was brilliantly conveyed.)

Last week, a lot of people told me that, after spending an hour watching Negan torture Rick and kill Glenn and Abraham, they were done with The Walking Dead.  I’ll be curious to know if any of them watched last night’s episode and whether it changed their mind.  Much like Carol, the show must now make a choice.  Will its future resemble the first episode of the season or will it resemble The Well?

Now, I have to admit that, at times, I found The Well to be a little bit slow.  I liked it but I didn’t love it, at least not the way that some reviewers loved it.  (Over on the A.V. Club, both the reviewer and several of the commenters are practically rapturous in their praise.)  As fascinating as I found Ezekiel to be, I have to admit that I spent a bit of the episode wishing that I was discovering what was going on with Rick, Maggie, and all the rest.  On twitter, I compared it to how, whenever I wanted to know what was going on with Sawyer on Lost, it would be Hurley episode instead.

But, for the most part, I think The Well worked.  The Kingdom seems like a nice place to live but we probably shouldn’t get too comfortable with it.  Anytime Rick or Carol shows up at a new settlement, that means that death and destruction will soon follow.

We’ll just have to enjoy our time with Shiva while we can!

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A Few Thoughts On The Walking Dead 7.1 “The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be” (dir by Greg Nicotero)


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Well, we can all breathe again.

Tonight saw the premiere of the seventh season of The Walking Dead.  All this summer, we’ve been wondering who Negan would end up killing with Lucille, his barbed wire-covered bat.  Glenn seemed to be the obvious candidate, particularly since he had already miraculously (and, some would say, implausibly) escaped certain death on the show and he was also Negan’s victim in the comic.

However, none of us wanted it to be Glenn.  Ever since the show began, Glenn has been one of the most popular characters.  In many ways, he served as a stand-in for the audience.  Sure, everyone loves Darryl and Michonne but Glenn …. well, there was just something special about Glenn.  Whereas both Darryl and Michonne were born warriors and Rick Grimes was a former police officer who had been trained to think quickly in a crisis, Glenn was just a pizza delivery boy.  He was the guy who, by all logic, should not have survived the first week of the zombie apocalypse.  And yet, he did survive.  For sic seasons, we watched as Glenn grew and developed as a character.  When he “married” Maggie, it was more than just a plot twist.  It was proof that, even in the worst of circumstances, love could survive.

So, a lot of us told ourselves that there was no way that Glenn would die.  We told ourselves that Glenn was too popular of a character.  We mentioned all the other times that the show had led us to believe it was going to follow the plot of the comics just to suddenly go in a totally opposite direction.

Myself, I believe that Negan would kill Abraham.  Abraham seemed like the obvious choice, popular enough that his death would mean something but, at the same time, not so popular that the show would risk losing any viewers by killing him.

I was so confident in my prediction that I ever decided to make it official:

And I was right.

But I was also very wrong.

It took about 25 minutes for tonight’s episode of The Walking Dead to get around to showing us who Negan killed.  The episode really pulled out the suspense and I have to admit that I was worried they were going to go the entire hour without letting us know for sure.  (I remember Lost used to do that and it would drive me crazy.)  And when we saw Negan beat Abraham to death, I think a lot of people said, “Poor Abraham but at least it wasn’t Glenn…”

And then, a few minutes later, Darryl charged Negan and, after Darryl was subdued, Negan responded by beating Glenn to death.

(As Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who was so chillingly good as Negan, pointed out on The Talking Dead, Glenn would not have died if not for Darryl’s actions.)

It was hard to watch.  You can say that it’s just a TV show and that there are bigger things to worry about than the fate of a fictional character but, at that moment, it felt as if I was watching an old friend die.  For seven years, Glenn has been one of the show’s constants.  He’s been one of the few stable elements of The Walking Dead.  He’s always been there.

And now, he’s not.

While we were all still trying to recover from the deaths of both Glenn and Abraham, Negan was busy breaking Rick.  Rick has always been the leader.  He’s always been the guy who you can count on to ultimately do whatever needed to be done to protect the group.  Rick was the one who stepped up to shoot Sophia when she came out of that barn.  Rick was the one who, no matter how bad things got, everyone felt they could depend on.  In a world where it was often hard to find meaning or morality, Rick has always stood for something more than just ruthless survival.  And yet, last night, we saw a totally defeated Rick.  Not only did Rick watch helplessly as two of his people were brutally murdered but he was also nearly forced to chop off Carl’s hand.

(I know that a lot of viewers — myself included — were expecting Negan to chop off Rick’s hand in the RV.)

As I watched that scene with Rick and Carl, I couldn’t help but think about the biblical tale of Abraham and Isaac, a story that I have always hated.  God ordered Abraham to sacrifice his son and he waited until Abraham raised the knife to say, “Stop, it was just a test of your faith.”  (Abraham is so overjoyed that he never stops to ask, “What type of God would ask me to do something so terrible in the first place?”)  When Negan ordered Rick to chop off Carl’s hand and then stopped him only after he raised the hatchet, it was Negan’s way of saying that, for all intents and purposes, he is God.

Again, it wasn’t easy to watch.  But at least Maggie doesn’t appear to be ready to surrender.  Rick may have been broken.  Darryl may now be a hostage.  But Maggie is going to keep fighting.

Finally, I have to say that, after watching all of this, I am so incredibly thankful for Chris Hardwick and Talking Dead.  When Chris opened the show by promising that we were going to talk through what we had just witnessed, he wasn’t kidding.  Tonight’s episode of Talking Dead felt like a televised group therapy session.  It helped to see Steven Yeun and Michael Cudlitz on that stage with the rest of the cast.  After we just watched, we needed to see them all together.  We needed to see them laughing and joking and crying and hugging.  We needed that catharsis.

Talking Dead served as a reminder that it was just a TV show and nobody had really died.

So, why do so many of us still feel like we just said goodbye to a member of our family?

One final thought:

RIP, Abraham and Glenn

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Horror Review: Fear the Walking Dead S1E04-05 “Not Fade Away” & “Cobalt”


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“Sometimes all we can do is not enough.” — Dr. Bethany Exner

[some spoilers]

Fear the Walking Dead has been a mystery to some audiences and critics. If there was something the original series was criticized on it was that it’s writing throughout it’s current run has been uneven. There would be some great episodes and some good ones, but then some go nowhere episodes that stops any sort of momentum a particular season was having. The Walking Dead deserved some of the criticism leveled at it’s writing and how some of it’s characters appeared one-note for too long. Things began to improve once Scott M. Gimple took over a showrunner beginning with season 4. yet, some of the damage had been done by a very uneven first three season.

One thing The Walking Dead was never lacking was it’s creativity when it came to the zombies and the violence around them. Greg Nicotero and his KNB EFX crew never flinched from whatever hellish idea the writers were able to come up with. It’s probably one of the main reasons why the show has succeeded so much despite flaws in the writing and characterization. People were willing to tolerate the soap opera-style character interactions if it meant the flesh-eating and the headshots came a-plenty.

The first half of Fear the Walking Dead didn’t have much of the zombie action. It was a bold decision by the writers to stay on the path that brought the early days of the zombie apocalypse to life. This was a show that didn’t already have zombies taking over and with civilization having fallen by the wayside. It was still a world where everyone went about their daily routines. Sure the first episode gave some hints that something was amiss, but not until the final minutes did we finally see our first zombie. Even after that initial reveal at the end of the pilot the writers kept the zombies more off-screen. When they did appear it was as one or two.

Episodes four and five, “Not Fade Away” and “Cobalt”, continued this trend of keeping the zombies at arm’s length and off-screen. We saw Travis and Madison’s neighborhood turned into a safe zone by the National Guard who had been deployed to help contain and combat the spreading infection. Some took the military’s arrival with optimism (Travis) while others saw their arrival as a sign that things were just going to get worse and that things might already be too late to save (Daniel).

These two episodes were some of the strongest in this shortened first season of Fear the Walking Dead. We got to learn more about every character, but mostly we learned just how differently each parent of the core group reacted to the growing situation. These were reactions that were as varied and complex as any we’ve seen in any of the characters in The Walking Dead.

Each parent tried to do what they thought was best for their immediate family. On one end of the moral spectrum we had Travis who tried to serve as a sort of de facto mayor of the walled-off neighborhood. Become the person that would be the one who dealt with the military liaison when it came to his family’s and, to an extent, the neighborhood’s well-being. So far, throughout the this short first season, Travis has come across as the sort of enlightened, civilized man who tries to reason and talk things out instead of acting out rashly and on instinct. This sort of personality is what we as a society want to keep the wheels of civilization moving along problem-free. But as we’ve seen this has also become a weakness as things progressively begin to get worst. Travis can’t seem to see that the rule of law and reason seem to be fighting a losing battle with the need to survive.

Yet, despite Travis’ coming off as some sort of pacifist we get a hint of logic to his seeming weak-willed madness. He sees the world crumbling around him and as a father and role model he has tried to be that moral center to his circle of family and friends. Even when what he’s seeing chips away at his belief that those in power will protect and save them, Travis tries to remain that strong, moral center.

The opposite seems to be true for the other father in our group, Daniel Salazar. This character has been quite the revelation in this series. We first meet him in episode 2. He comes across as a leery, but good man like any immigrant in the US looking to make a new life for his family. But with each new episode we learn a bit more of what makes Daniel tick. He’s a father whose past history before coming to the US hints at chaos and bloodshed. He has seen how crisis could spiral out of control in a blink of the eye and he sees that now with the arrival of the military. He doesn’t trust too many outside his wife and daughter and when he does, as the case with Madison, he does so begrudgingly. He’s adaptable to the ever-changing situation the way Travis is not. He’s willing to resort to immediate action to solve a problem or to find a solution. There’s a darkness in him that’s the current situation has awoken once more and it terrifies him, but he allows it to emerge nonetheless in order to keep his family safe.

Throughout these two episodes we see the recurring theme of authority in its many forms (parental, civilian and military) trying to do their best to keep the situation from spiraling out of control, but they despite all their efforts they fail due to that basic flaw that humanity can’t seem to shred and that’s the inability to work together at the most dire situation to solve the problem.

Both Travis and Daniel try to do the best they know how to navigate through and around the encroaching apocalypse. They succeed in some way, but in the end all their efforts still don’t amount to much as everything right from the start of the crisis has been stacked against them. All they could do now is try and save those closest to them.

The question now as we head into the season finale is whose path will ultimately be the best one to navigate in this apocalypse.

Will it be the Way of the Open Palm that we seem be getting from Travis?

A path of sticking to one’s moral center and principles. To try and keep oneself from sliding back into one’s darker impulses as we’ve seen signs of in these two episodes.

Or will it be the Way of the Closed Fist that Daniel seem to be following?

A mentality that requires quick thinking and direct action even if it means allowing one’s darker side to take hold in order to survive. It’s a path that looks to be well-suited for this apocalypse, but one that also brings with it a set of unknown dangers.

So, while the series has so far lacked in major zombie action and the gore quotient has been tame in comparison to The Walking Dead, it has one-upped it’s older sibling by allowing for it’s cast to grow as characters. Whether they all turn out for the better remains to be seen, but in the span of 5 episodes they’ve become full-fledged characters and now the finale will see who will remain steadfast and who will break.

Notes

  • “Not Fade Away” and “Cobalt” were directed by Kari Skogland. Meagan Oppenheimer has writing duties on the former with David Wiener being responsible for the latter.
  • It’s been nine days since the events of episode 3 and it looks like both the National Guardsmen and the neighborhood are fraying at the edges. It doesn’t help that the unit commander is a reservist who also happens to be an LAPD policeman on a power-trip.
  • Still no sign of Tobias. It looks like his own place might be located in the unsafe and unwalled “dead zones” the military have been doing sweeping patrols for the past nine days.
  • Sandrine Holt comes in as Dr. Bethany Exner. Not her first time in a zombie production. She was also in Resident Evil: Apocalypse as Raccoon City news reported Terri Morales.
  • Ruben Blades is turning out to be the MVP of the series, so far. I guess being a government torturer in his native El Salvador during it’s time of troubles is turning to be a good skillset in the coming zombie apocalypse.

Season 1