Trailer: Magic Mike XXL (Teaser)


tumblr_nj7vnyemao1qb3yk6o1_1280

I will be the first to admit that Soderbergh’s journey into the world of male strippers wasn’t on my radar when it was first announced and even when it finally premiered. Then again I don’t think I was the core audience.

Now, Lisa Marie did go see Magic Mike and to say that she enjoyed it would be an understatement. Her brief (no pun intended) but succinct review of the film could be summed up by it’s introduction:

“After me and my BFF Evelyn saw Magic Mike, I hopped on twitter and I tweeted, “Memo to single guys.  Go hang out around the theater when Magic Mike gets out.  You will get laid!”  Yes, Magic Mike is that type of film…”

So, we’re now three years removed from Soderbergh’s film. A sequel has been filmed and ready to be unleashed on the millions out there waiting to get back to the world of Magic Mike. While Soderbergh doesn’t return as director (he does go behind the camera as the sequel’s cinematographer and editor) the sequel does get Gregory Jacobs in the director’s chair. He was first asst. director during the first film and a frequent collaborator with Soderbergh (he pretty much has been Soderbergh’s asst. director in all his films).

Will Lisa Marie enjoy this sequel or will she return with a reaction of “seen it before” ennui? We’ll find out in a couple months.

Magic Mike XXL unveils for all this July 1, 2015.

Horror Trailer: The Bay (by Barry Levinson)


Another found footage horror flick is on it’s way to the cinemas in less than a month. This one just happens to have some heavyweight pedigree behind it. While it has producers of the Paranormal Activity series and one of this year’s surprise horror entries with Insidious it’s who ended up directing this found footage horror film that has given the film buzz since it’s premiere at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival.

Barry Levinson, he of Academy Award-winning fame for Best Director for Rain Man, does directing duties for The Bay and from reaction since it premiered at this year’s TIFF he has made a found footage horror film that is worth seeing. The scenes and trailers shown tells the story of an incident a couple years back in a seaside Maryland town which becomes part of a wide-ranging government cover-up. A cover-up meant to hide hundreds of deaths and the cause of it.

I’m not a huge fan of found footage films, but I do enjoy those that are well-done and brings something fresh to the table. If The Bay is even half of what the buzz and hype is saying about it then I think it’s going to be one that I plan to check out when it comes out in the next couple weeks.

The Bay is set for a November 2, 2012 release date from Lionsgate.

Review: The Walking Dead S2E13 “Beside the Dying Fire”


“Christ promised a resurrection of the dead. I just thought he had a little something different in mind.” — Hershel Greene

[spoilers within]

We’ve finally come to the season 2 finale of AMC’s The Walking Dead. The previous episode, “Better Angels”, saw a second integral character die as a set-up to what looks to be pivotal finale.

This season has been plagued from the beginning with infighting between it’s original showrunner in Frank Darabont and it’s network in AMC. Mirroring the very internal struggle between two very powerful characters within the show some worried that this struggle between Darabont and AMC would affect the show’s quality. While the first half showed that Darabont’s slow-burn narrative style was drawing some grumblings from the show’s audience it still didn’t keep it from getting huge ratings numbers with each episode shown.

The second half of the season saw a change in showrunner as Glen Mazzara (veteran writer and tv showrunner) took over the show’s creative reins. From the very episode of the second half we could see a change in the show’s pacing. There was a sense of desperation in the characters as they tried to deal with the death of Sophia during the episode before the mid-season break. With the additional deaths of the show’s two extreme ideologies in Dale and Shane we find the group’s leader in Rick very close to the tipping point.

“Beside the Dying Fire” begins with a flashback cold opening going back to the show’s pilot episode. We see zombies feeding on what looks like the remains of Rick’s horse during his failed attempt to enter Atlanta. As the zombies feed a passing helicopter distracts and gets the attention of the zombies who soon begin following in the same direction it flew on. The opening doesn’t show how much time passed between that flyover Atlanta and the show made by Carl to put down Shane, but it looks like this Atlanta herd is what will be making the assault on the Greene Farm and the rest of the survivors.

The siege that occurs through the first half of this episode should satisfy and put a huge grin on the show’s fans who have been complaining about the lack zombie mayhem during this sophomore season. Sure there were episode that had more than a couple zombies in it, but a huge attack we never saw occur until this season finale. It’s this very attack that reinforces the notion of how much the zombies themselves are like a force of nature. They’re like a hurricane or tornado that destroys everything in their path. There’s no way to stop such a force only attempt to weather the storm and try to come out the other side healthy and whole.

From how the first half of tonight’s episode went down not everyone made it out safe from the herd that took down the barn and the farm. With the important deaths that had preceded tonight’s episode it was a nice release (if you could call killing off two background characters in a most gruesome manner a relief) to see that these deaths were meant more as a way to lessen the number of the cast and nothing else. Having three characters (two in the preceding episodes to tonight’s) die this season who had some connection to the group was already more than what most other shows on tv could manage. Some have called these deaths something akin to the redshirt yeomans on Star Trek always being killed to keep the important characters from dying instead. If that was the case then these redshirters were two episodes too late and Dale and Shane would agree with me.

As action-packed and exciting as the first half of the episode turned out to be the second half slowed things down to let the survivors catch their breath and dwell on their new situation. No more farm to call home. Their delusions of safety from the dangers of this new world totally shattered for good. New revelations about the the zombie apocalypse looking to tear whatever tenuous hold Rick had over the group as a leader. This second half did a great job in answering some of the questions brought up this season and one very important one which ended the first season: What did Jenner whisper to Rick in the CDC’s final moments.

So, the second season of The Walking Dead started slow and got slower, but a second half under a new showrunner with a new vision for how the show should proceed seem to have redeemed the show from what could’ve been some fatal flaws that other shows in the past could never recover from. Like a reverse mirror of how this season unfolded “Beside the Dying Fire” began with a bang and ended quietly with questions answered and new ones brought up. It also introduced in it’s final moments a new character that would become integral to the series.

It’s been a season of two showrunners, Darabont in the beginning and Mazzara in the latter half, that made for an uneven one. Some have protested the firing of Darabont from the show because of his conflict with AMC. Some thought AMC was forcing Darabont to do the show with less money which would’ve cut into his vision of the series. Some have intimated that AMC didn’t like what they saw in the series in those early episodes of the first half and wanted a change. No matter how things truly unfolded behind the scenes it looks like the show might have found the person who knew how to get the show back on track. The Mazzara era of The Walking Dead might have arrived on the expense of Darabont leaving but as I’ve come to realized throughout this second half of the season it was a change that was needed and one that brings a sense of hope to a show that is about having so little of it.

Notes

  • The cold opening uses another flashback and this time all the way to the pilot episode. I’m not sure if this was the same helicopter Rick saw but if it was then it must’ve circled around the city for the zombies eating poor Mr. Ed to have seen it again and follow it.
  • I can never say I hate characters in this show, but I do get frustrated by how they behave and most of it not due to their lack of survival instinct. I speak of Lori who seem so preoccupied with everything except her son who she should be watching like a hawk after what had happened with Sophia. Then there’s her reaction to Rick confessing to her that he had murdered Shane. I’d give the writers the benefit of the doubt and say she was in shock that he actually did what she wanted him to do, but didn’t expect to have Carl pulled into it, but her reaction was still more extreme that it should’ve been. They could easily have just left her speechless and in shock at what her machinations had reaped and kept the scene really powerful.
  • The comic book version of Lori was never a sympathetic character so her tv version falls in line with that character, but she wasn’t stupid when it came to her son like this tv version seem to be. The way Mazzara, Kirkman and the writers seem open to killing off anyone I sure hope they do a better job of rounding out her character and giving her a singular purpose outside of just being the show’s resident shrill.
  • The zombie herd that finally attack the farm look to be as big, if not bigger, than the herd we saw shambling down the highway which began the show’s long-running arc to find Sophia and then to stay or not stay on the Greene farm.
  • I really enjoyed this first half of zombie mayhem as we saw zombies take down both Jimmy (Beth’s boyfriend) and Patricia (Otis’ girlfriend) and some of the most gruesome display of zombie feeding frenzy. The scene where Otis and unnamed raider get taken down by zombies were done well but were also shot very darkly. With Jimmy and Patricia it happens with enough lighting that we saw every flesh-ripping and blood spurt. It definitely satisfied my inner-gorehound.
  • Ernest Dickerson was the director for tonight’s episode and he did a great job with making the utter chaos of the farm attack easy to follow. Every episode he’s done for the show has been very good and I hope he continues to direct future episodes.
  • Greg Nicotero and his peole at KNB EFX have been treating this show’s audiences with new zombie effects magic each and every episode they appear and tonight all their work this season ended in a crescendo of grand guignol proportions.
  • T-Dog Watch: He had quite a few lines tonight and we even got a semblance of character development. This cypher of a character began showing signs of frustrations himself in regards to the group he has hooked up with. He looks to have survived season 2 and will be in season 3. The question now is whether the writers will continue to let the character grow or will he be removed early on to make way for another.
  • Daryl Watch 1: He may have been at his most magnanimous in tonight’s episode. He did more than his usual share to help fend off the attacking herd and did so without his trust automatic and only Dale’s six-shooter. Seeing him riding around on his chopper while killing zombies as calmly as one strolling down a country lane was a nice homage to the scene in the original Dawn of the Dead when the bikers who broke into the mall killed zombies like it was second nature.
  • Daryl Watch 2: Everyone seem to refer to him as a redneck, but I’ve come to see him as one of the most observant and level-headed individuals in the group. Carol’s attempts to make Rick look less in his eyes was quickly shot down. Daryl may be the sort of leader that his fans want to take over the group, but he sees his worth in the group and that’s being it’s protector and Rick’s unofficial right-hand man.
  • Daryl Watch 3: While everyone seemed to look at Rick’s announcement that he had killed Shane and that it was going to be his way or the highway were of discomfort, shock and worry we have Daryl looking at Rick with no judgment. With Shane gone and Rick’s leadership status having taken a blow by episode’s end it looks like Daryl may just be the one who keeps Rick on the straight and narrow.
  • The news that everyone is already infected wasn’t a surprise to fans of the comic book, but for those who only watch the show it should answer the questions about the Randall and Shane zombies. It’d be interesting if the show’s writers further explore the idea that even the concept of death has died in this new world.
  • Finally! Michonne has finally made her appearance and exactly on episode 19 of the series just as she appeared on issue 19 of the comic book. We didn’t see beneath the hood of her cape, but reports after the show has confirmed that Danai Gurira will be taking on the role of the most badass character in The Walking Dead. Daryl may just have competition for the title of The Walking Dead BAMF.
  • I was so relieved to finally see Rick blow up on everyone in the final minutes of the episode as he kept getting hounded and questioned by everyone. This is a man who tried his hardest to keep everyone together and safe. Killed people without pause who he thought endangered his people even if it meant killing his best friend. Now he has to stand around and listen to Carol, Maggie, Glenn and even his wife on his jock about how he’s screwed things up. I wouldn’t have been shocked if he had shot one of them as a warning to anyone else who dare question his authority (Cartman would’ve). The leader everyone wanted Rick to become has finally arrived but it may have brought with it some of the Shane-crazy and mistrust from the very people he’s trying to protect.
  • Lastly, the moving wide shot of the camera from the group as they sat silently beside the dying fire and to the area just beyond the woods next to them was the final great moment in an episode full of them: a seemingly empty prison. Season 3 cannot arrive fast enough.

Season 2 is now over. What did you people think of tonight’s episode? Do you still plan on staying with the show? What do you want to see from the writers for the upcoming season?

Review: The Walking Dead S2E11 “Judge, Jury, Executioner”


“This new world is ugly. It’s harsh. It’s survival of the fittest and that’s a world I don’t want to live in.” — Dale Horvath

[some spoilers]

All the episodes since The Walking Dead returned from it’s mid-season break has shown a change in pace through most of it’s episodes. The first episode since the break looked to continue the much slower pace of the first half of the season but finished off with a literal bang and the two episodes following it up just continued this faster pace to the second half.

“Judge, Jury, Executioner” returns everyone back to the farm and has to deal with the conundrum that is Randall. The farm has become a symbol of the show hitting the breaks instead of keeping pedal to the metal. It happens once more tonight as the bulk of the episode was mostly Dale trying to convince everyone and anyone away from Rick’s decision to kill Randall. It’s a decision we’ve been expecting as Rick readily admitted it to himself and his erstwhile friend Shane in the previous episode that Randall will probably have to die to protect the group and the farm from the unknown group lurking out there.

Jeffrey DeMunn seems to have had a tough time having to play the role of Dale Horvath who was suppose to be the voice of decency and morality in a show that was veering away from such pre-zombie apocalypse notions. It’s a sort of character that will always look out of place in a world written to be lawless and tooth-and-nail survival. Most post-apocalyptic stories will always have such characters to try and keep the rest of the group from becoming savage and amoral. It’s a tough role and made even tougher when those who behave without conscience and without morals seem to look more like hardy survivors while those who try to stay decent end up being shouted down or killed outright for their naivete.

It didn’t help DeMunn that his character seemed to come off as spinning his wheels whenever he tried to speak up to the group about the dark path they’ve been traveling down since the end of the first season. Tonight went a long way to making Dale’s point of view make sense as it did show him as the only person who seemed to be the only one who wanted to hold onto his humanity in the face of apathy and amorality. Whether his ideas and point of view was correct or not doesn’t matter. He was that angel on everyone’s shoulder who was fighting for control of the group’s morality over the devil that was Shane.

While the outcome of the decision to kill Randall wasn’t too much a surprise, Rick may be learning to be pragmatic about his decision making, he still has a soft spot in trying to be a high moral role model for his son Carl and killing Randall wouldn’t be a good way to keep up that illusion. The outcome in regards to Dale was a major surprise and should continue the show’s off-the-rails decision to deviate from the comic book in terms of who lives and who dies and when it happens. Seeing the zombies attacking Dale and with him vainly keeping the snapping jaws from his face made the scene almost being set-up as a way to convince Dale that those who were going to save him were the same people he was accusing of being amoral and inhumane. So, it was a major shock when the zombie remembered it had more than just it’s snapping teeth to kill and decided to use it’s clawed fingers to rip Dale’s midsection open.

As surprising an ending that the Sophia story-arc ended up doing with the character this one with Dale was even more so.

Just like episode 8’s “Nebraska” which started off slow and was much more focused on intellectual and philosophical debates about the right and wrong things, tonight’s “Judge, Jury, Executioner” went down a similar route until an ending that also had a literal ending with a bang. With just two more episodes left in this second season of The Walking Dead Glen Mazzara and his team of writers need to close off this Greene Farm location and find a way to get the group back on the road and have it make sense. I’m much more confident that this new showrunner and writing team will pull it off than the previous regime.

Notes

  • Dale looks so lost trying to get people to listen to his talk of decency and humanity. Everyone either looks at him like he’s talking crazy or just plain tired of hearing the same litany of why the group needs to retain it’s sense of humanity. Even the one person he thought he had in his corner in Hershel pretty much admits that his convictions in the decent thing to do were mistakes.
  • I know it’s getting old, but it’s sort of hilarious watching Dale and Shane trying to sidestep the fact that when it comes down to the bones of it they both want to kill each other.
  • Good to see Hershel make a decision about Glenn and his daughter. It’s definitely a much better scene than how it was handled in the comic book.
  • It was very surprising to see Andrea suddenly switch gears and support Dale during the group’s confab inside the house. I’m still not sold on her sudden change of heart. I think some of it was Dale’s unwavering conviction and near pleading to the group not to go down a path hey may never recover, but I also think her reaction to Shane’s advice to do some sort of coup over the Rick/Hershel leadership might’ve shown Andrea to what extremes Shane would go to. She might be regretting calling Shane as her good teacher in regards to survival.
  • Carl was a major part of tonight’s episode and probably highlighted the very things that screamed “Dumb things TV kids do” for everyone watching the show.
  • The dumb things he did sneaking into the barn to get his close look a Randall and then sneaking off with Daryl’s gun off into the nearby creek and finding the zombie might be the only thing people will remember about tonight’s episode, but deeper down Carl was the very symbol of how things were taking an amoral turn for the group that Dale was railing against.
  • Carl the tv version looks to be much farther along the path of becoming a sociopath than his comic book counterpart. I think having Shane live past the first six episodes of the show and still alive with season 2 winding to a close has had a much more detrimental effect on the child of Rick and Lori Grimes than in the comic book. This makes the character much more interesting moving forward but it also could blow up in the writers face if they make him too sociopathic and amoral that redemption would be too late for the boy.
  • Daryl’s moment in the episode showed him at his worst, badass and best. Worst in how he continues to try and distance himself from the rest of the group. Badass in how he’s able to get the very info about Randall’s group when others from RIck and Shane have failed. Best in how he dealt with Dale and how he may be the one person Rick should listen to moving forward.
  • Daryl is not idealistic like Dale, but he seems to be more observant about how the group is doing and handling things than people give him credit for. He’s willing to follow Rick’s lead even if he doesn’t agree with most of it, but at the same time won’t upset the group’s leadership dynamics. The fact that he knew Shane killed Otis but not as guessing, but observing Shane the moment he got back without Otis makes Daryl less the dumb, hick redneck he’s shown to be.
  • Some people have been theorizing that killing off Dale was because Jeffrey DeMunn was a Darabont regular thus was going to be on the chopping block because of that professional relationship. If that is the case instead of a creative decision to shake up the show’s group and storyline even farther from the comic book then Laurie Holden should be worried in her role as Andrea since she is also a Darabont regular.
  • T-Dog makes an appearance and I think he had one or two throwaway lines. Please, Mazzara and writers just kill him off and bring in Tyrese who at least brings some backstory that could be mined to better effect than what T-Dog has contributed.

Review: The Walking Dead S2E9 “Triggerfinger”


“So, let’s chalk this up for what it is…wrong place, wrong time.” — Rick Grimes

It looks like no matter what some viewers may complain about The Walking Dead moving as slow as the zombies that ended the world it still manages to surprise everyone with scenes of great tension and burst of quality that we all want the show to be. This was most evident with how the mid-season return episode “Nebraska” at first seemed like it was going nowhere once again, but actually moved the story along. The ending of the previous episode helped Rick as a character grow though it also manages to make his fairer half in Lori become even more hated by most everyone with her stupid decision to try and go into town by herself.

Tonight’s episode continues the two major storylines which ended the previous episode. We get a cold opening which is terrifying despite what people may think about Lori as a character. That scene of the zombie trying to pop it’s head through the crack in the car’s windshield while Lori remained out of it then just before we segue into Bear McCreary’s opening theme she wakes up to see the half-eaten face pushing through.

The title of this latest episode is “Triggerfinger” and for the first third of the night it’s quite a proper one at that. No sooner as Rick, Hershel and Glen gather the weapons of the downed Dave of Tony from the previous episode do the trio get penned in the bar by the very friends the “would be” raiders spoke of. The episode shows just how much a danger survivors continue to be toward other survivors as cooler heads rarely prevail. Soon enough both sides are trading fire like a scene out of Rio Bravo but this time with the added danger of zombies in the midst.

During this scene between two groups trying to just survive we see differing philosophies. Rick’s group tries to defuse the situation even once the bullets start flying and when casualties begin piling up we see Rick still trying to hold onto his humanity by trying to save one of the opposing numbers who have seriously hurt himself in an attempt to leave town. The other group was shown to be more willing to cut loose anyone too injured to save themselves thus leaving them behind to the mercy of the approaching zombies. Mercies that involve the very thing some fans have complained about and that’s not enough zombie carnage. For just the second time in this show’s short life we see someone still alive being set upon by a group of zombies and eaten while still alive and screaming.

The other continuing story from the previous episode has Lori trying to survive the night after crashing her car. No matter what people personally think about Lori as a character this sequence show’ that she can go into survival mode when circumstances needs for her to suck it up and survive. She doesn’t whine or appear helpless despite the precarious situation she put herself in. The fact that people back in the farm don’t even realize she’s been gone for hours must just add fuel to the fire fans have been fanning since the show first started. The series has a role for Lori and while it seems to be one of wet blanket for the most part the ending of tonight’s episode showed that she too will do anything to try and protect her family from dangers both zombie and human.

If the last couple episodes show’s anything it’s that Glen Mazzara’s turn as replacement showrunner has added much needed energy to the show. With last week’s episode and then tonight we’ve seen more action and character developlement than the first half of this second season. There now seems to be a feeling of desperation in how things have started to unfold. We still get some quieter moments between characters back on the Greene farm, but they’re not as prevalent as they’ve been in the past. Again I think this positive development has to be laid down at the feet of veteran tv show producer Glen Mazzara who understands that tv shows rely on keeping it’s audience’s attention focused on what’s going on the screen. So far, he and his writers have been doing a good job in moving the show with much forward momentum and keeping things that would slow it down to a minimum. As much as I love Frank Darabont for bringing this show to tv I think him being replaced was just what this show needed to succeed in the long run.

Notes

  • Now that is what I call a scary opening. I’m sure many people watching tonight’s episode were hoping the zombie got through the windshield and chowed down on Lori, but then we wouldn’t have seen how badass she can be when the chips are down. Her actions in this sequence and in the episode’s end was a nice bookend in helping grow this character beyond the harping shrew many have been calling her.
  • Her reaction to another Shane lie and then her own reveal to him about their relationship to Rick goes a long way in making her go beyond much-hated character to one that’s conflicted but set in trying to fix what she thinks was a mistake that should never have happened.
  • It doesn’t bode well for the rest of the group, especially for the Grimes clan, now that Shane looks to have been shot down once again by the woman he says he love and done so in a way that leaves him with no opening for redemption. The fact that Lori has repeated Dale’s own suspicions about Shane’s role in Otis’ death all the way back in episode 3 of this season show’s that Shane was losing the support of the very person he believes he’s protecting. With talk of actor Jon Bernthal being coveted by Frank Darabont to star in his police detective tv series it’s almost a foregone conclusion that Shane’s much-delayed demise will not have a clock counting down. Whether that clock strikes “zero” before or right at this season’s finale will be speculated on by fans for weeks to come.
  • I like how the show has made the little character details really stand out since Mazzara and crew took over from Darabont. I don’t know if anyone else picked up on it, but during the gunfight back in town we finally hear Hershel leave behind any notion of what he thought about the zombies as being people just sick when he began to call them walkers as he and Glenn tried to survive against the other group of survivors.
  • Tonight’s episode goes a long way in making Hershel the new right-hand man for Rick. While Hershel looks to still be upset by what Rick’s group did with the barn zombies he has at least begun to admit both in his language and mannerisms that Rick had been right all along and that he now needs to protect his own family and Rick’s group may be a key to their survival.
  • Love Hershel puts Shane in his place after Shane once again tries to kneecap Rick’s place as group leader. Tonight really was a coming out party for Scott Wilson and here’s to hoping his Hershel continues to back Rick.
  • On the Glenn and Maggie relationship front…we see Glenn becoming more gunshy and clumsy when it comes to taking care of business when away from the group. Seems Maggie’s professing of her love for him has muddled his brain. We see him make several mistakes tonight that’s damaged his confidence. It will be interesting how both he and Maggie deal with his crisis of confidence as the season moves along.
  • Daryl looks to be pulling himself back from the group emotionally and it’s good to see Carol trying to prevent that from happening. This subplot looks to be in it’s gestation period but if done right it could turn out to be a good sign in keeping Daryl from further isolating himself from the group and at least keeps Carol busy trying to be savior for the show’s resident badass.
  • T-Dog watch: one line of dialogue and not much else. Please, Mazzara and crew just kill him off and bring in Tyrese.
  • We see some great work from Greg Nicotero and his make-up FX wizards from KNB EFX with tonight’s zombie carnage. Whether it was the zombie peeling it’s face off in an attempt to get through the busted car windshield to get to Lori or the face ripping of the wounded shooter as they begin to eat him alive. I know shooting these scenes at night and in the dark helps in keeping the tricks if the trade from being more obvious, but I think even if the scenes were filmed in the daytime I believe the effects work would be even better and much more bloody.
  • Finally, the show ends with Lori channeling her inner Lady MacBeth as she tries to turn Rick into solving the Shane problem (by any means necessary) which looks to be a spark away from destroying everything the group has worked for since they left Atlanta.

Review: The Walking Dead S2E3 “Save the Last One”


“Got bit. Fever hit. World turned to shit. Might as well quit.” — note from unnamed hanged man turned zombie

[some spoilers within]

The first two episodes of the newest season of The Walking Dead sees Rick and his group of survivors on the move after the events at the CDC which ended season 1. Their convoy to reach what they think as the safe haven of the US Army base at Fort Benning doesn’t get them very far as they come across traffic snarl of abandoned vehicles and wrecks on the main highway. Its during these first two episodes that the group begins to show signs of cracks in the group dynamic which could lead to a permanent splintering of factions. It doesn’t help that two young kids in the group have either gone missing or gets accidentally shot by a deer hunter’s bullet.

We also meet a new group of survivors in the form of the Greene family led by it’s country vet doctor in Hershel Greene, his eldest daughter Maggie, their ranch hand Otis and a few others. Its from the Greene farm that the previous spent most of it’s time though it did show some choice scenes back at the RV and the group searching for Sophia in the forest. We see another cliffhanger end the second episode with Shane and his new partner in Otis as they make their way to the local high school where a FEMA camp had been set up as a refugee center before it became overrun. While they got the necessary supplies needed to save Carl they soon find themselves besieged by a horde of zombies with just a security gate and a lose bolt keeping them at bay.

“Save the Last One” marks the third episode of this 13-episode season 2. Except for a brief pre-credits scene of Shane shaving his head and looking intensely at his reflection off of a steamed up bathroom mirror, the episode takes up right after the cliffhanger ending of the previous episode. Shane and Otis are running through the hallways of the high school they’ve gone into for safety only to have the zombies outside chasing in after them. This part of the episode is just one of four parallel subplots which includes Daryl and Andrea continuing into the night in their search for Sophia in the woods, Dale and Carol back in the RV and the rest of the group over at the Greene farm waiting to see if Carl will get the necessary he needs to survive.

The decision to cover all four threads in this episode was an interesting decision which doesn’t pay off for all. It would be the Shane and Otis section which would get the most action during the episode, but it would be at the Greene farm that we get some soul searching from the Grimes about whether its the best if Carl was just to die if just to save him the horror of having to try and survive in a world where something is always around the corner to tear into him. Andrea and Daryl has a conversation during their search that sounds just as similar though not as depressing and downbeat as Rick and Lori with theirs. We get more personal musings about faith, God and the need to live instead of just surviving.

Some of these dialogue-heavy scenes work like the ones between Andrea and Daryl. With each passing episode Reedus continues to make Daryl Dixon a well-rounded character beyond the racist redneck his initial introduction made him out to be. His Daryl shows much more than just being a badass in the show but also one who is more observant about those around him than he lets on. He sees how much Andrea is still hurting from Amy’s death from season 1 and understands the feeling of just ending it all though he doesn’t see it as the best option. The same goes with how Rick still remains optimistic about the world as it stands now and gives a wonderful speech to Lori about why Carl should have the chance to live instead of letting him die. Both Rick and Daryl seem to have much more in common than we realize though they each go about their optimistic viewpoint in their own particular way.

“Save the Last One” weaves too many concurrent subplots that at times they break some of the stronger scenes between Andrea and Daryl and those between Rick and Lori. Then there’s Shane and Otis in their attempt to escape the horde of zombies after them as they try to make it back to the Greene farm with their medical supplies. the episode tonight could easily have saved some of the scenes with Carol and Dale for the next episode since it looks like Sophia will remain missing. But all in all, tonight’s episode still moved the series forward despite the series still remaining static in terms of location for the group. While it didn’t hit on every note the show did bring up some of the more interesting themes from the comic book.

Despite the episode tonight having been uneven due to the juggling of several subplots to the main story it was fully redeemed by the ending which did a major deviate from the comic book source material and do so in a truly shocking way. I understand why the character in question made the decision that he made, but it still was one that sends this particular character past through the looking glass, shattering it and coming out changed on the other side and most likely not for the better. Plus, it was quite ballsy of Kirkman and the rest of the show’s writer to take out a character sooner than expected if one followed the book. If any episode really hammered in the point that the show will be going very far off the beaten path created by the comic book source material then it would be this one. “Save the Last One” is definitely one of the episodes in this show’s brief span, so far, that will be talked about for months to come.

Notes

  • It’s interesting to note that both Andrea and Dale has so far been written quite differently for the show than in the comic book. Will the writers continue to make them different from their comic book counterparts or will they gradually work them into finally becoming the characters fans ended up loving.
  • So far, the rules as to who can and who doesn’t become a zombie has remained vague outside of the survivors thinking it’s a virus transmitted by bites and injuries caused directly by the zombies. The comic book followed the Romero rules that any sort of death will result in the body returning to life as zombie as long as the brain is intact.
  • The episode being set mostly at night really made some of the scenes at the high school and at the RV look very dark that at times it was hard difficult to figure out what was going on.
  • Glenn got a bit more screen time in this episode and his interaction with Maggie Greene was good to see as these two would become quite integral in the group moving forward.
  • Lauren Cohan also got a bit more time during the episode to help flesh out her character as someone who seemed more well-adjusted to the new world than either Lori, Andrea or Carol. Though after finding out what had happened to one of her and her family’s oldest friends showed that deep down she’s as damaged by the zombie apocalypse as the other ladies.
  • I’m all for Sophia being found alive and all, but this season has put too much energy on this particular part of the storyline for far too long. They need to figure out a way to end this part of the show’s second season soon and do so in a way that makes sense or it would’ve been a wasted exercise in storytelling that took up almost a third of the season if not more.
  • Even with the episode set at night with minimal lighting the zombie make-up effects by co-executive producer Greg Nicotero and his band of make-up wizards at KNB EFX remain one of the highlight’s of the show. Example in point: legless zombie in the high school gym.
  • It’s been awhile since we’ve seen someone shown getting torn apart by zombies on this series, but tonight did a great job at showing how savage and brutal a death at the hands of a horde of zombies could be especially if the person in question being torn apart was still alive to experience it.
  • Some may think the season has been slow-going so far, but I like how it’s not all action. If there was ever one thing which always made zombie apocalypse stories very fun to read and watch is how they don’t just show gore and death, but also explore some heavy themes and ideas about faith, living versus survival and whether allowing the most helpless to remain surviving in such a terrifying world is such a good idea to begin with.
  • The episode’s title definitely played on the idea of saving the last bullet. Whether the episode means saving it for oneself as the final option out or to use it for a darker purpose to continue surviving would be up to the each individual to decide.

Review: The Walking Dead S2E2 “Bloodletting”


“It’s nature correcting itself…restoring some balance.” – Hershel Greene

[slight spoilers]

The new season of AMC’s The Walking Dead arrived with a major bang. The season 2 premiere episode, “What Lies Ahead”, was seen by over 7.3 million viewers which more than eclipsed the show’s own high-ratings pilot premiere from 2010. It’s no surprise that the episode would do so well with the network having pushed the new season through most of the summer. With fans of the showing growing with every passing month (DVD and Blu-Ray sales of the first season also helping keep the show in the public’s consciousness) there was really no doubt on whether the new season would come back firing.

“What Lies Ahead” saw Rick and his group fight through their very first experience of a zombie “herd” and how this event led to the two kids in the group in extreme danger as Sophia goes missing after the herd encounter on the highway and Carl getting himself accidentally shot to end the episode. While I would think that the writers would begin episode 2, “Bloodletting”, soon after the events of the premiere episode we instead get a flashback moment. A moment in time before the zombie apocalypse arrived and Lori waiting for Carl outside his school and confiding to a friend about her and Rick’s relationship. The emotional impact of this scene is not that Lori and Rick were having marital problems, but its from the arrival of Shane to inform her that Rick has been shot (seen in the pilot episode “Days Gone Bye”) and now she has to tell Carl. We see in this sequence the look of anguish on Shane and, most likely, the seed of his love not just for Lori but Carl as well.

This flashback will segue into Rick running desperately with an unconscious and bleeding Carl in his arms with Shane and Carl’s shooter, Otis, right behind them. For those who have read the comic book shouldn’t be surprised how this scene plays out, but I know that many who have not and only been following the show will be hoping for the worst for the youngest of the Grimes. Soon enough Otis (Pruitt Taylor Vance) leads them to the farm, the Greene family farm, where it’s patriarch might be able to help Carl survive the gunshot. We get to meet Hershel Greene (Scott Wilson) and his family, from the eldest daughter Maggie (Lauren Cohan) to the youngest Beth (Emily Kinney) and, for the moment, we only see how this family will be able to help Rick and Carl. For fans of the book this family will prove to be integral to the continued survival of Rick and the original group.

“Bloodletting” continues the theme established with the premiere episode in that this new world is going to be about slim chances even if logic says there’s none to be had. There’s only the slimmest chance that a country veterinarian doctor will be able to save Carl. It’s the slimmest of chances that T-Dog may survive the wound he suffered from the previous episode. Only the slimmest of chance that they will ever find Sophia. Finally, the episode ends in another cliffhanger which gives Shane and Otis the slimmest of chances to survive their trip to an overrun FEMA station for much needed medical supplies and equipment.

This episode’s title also makes for a proper description for Rick and what he’s been going through since he woke up from his coma in the hospital. It’s not just the literal bloodletting he must endure to help save Carl’s life, but just every waking moment since the pilot episode. Rick has been trying to remain the bedrock of optimism and provide the sort of calm leadership his group of survivors need in this new world. Yet, we see how much every moment has cost him even before leading up to Carl’s incident with a wayward bullet. he’s being bled not just literally in this episode but figuratively. It helps that Andrew Lincoln’s performance during the first two episode of this new season has been great, so far. We get to see some genuine emotion as Rick must watch someone else try to save his son. The look of utter grief and impotence in Lincoln’s face as he tries to do anything and everything to save Carl continues to make Lincoln’s work in this show one of the reason to continue watching it.

The Walking Dead wouldn’t be the fan-favorite it has become if it skimped on any sort of zombie action. While it doesn’t have the high gore quotient that the previous episode had it still had enough zombies to sate the show’s fans until next week’s episode. Most of the zombies appear close at the end of the episode at the FEMA camp and it’s also in this sequence where we get the show’s heart-thumping moments as Shane and Otis must figure out a way to get out of their predicament which ends the episode on another cliffhanger.

“Bloodletting” doesn’t do much in terms of finding Sophia or even whether Carl gets to live. It does make a good job of introducing a new set of characters without making them feel extraneous. While we only got to know a few of these new additions there’s a sense that they will (at least some of them) become important ones during this first half of the season. Finally, those who have been fans of the comic books should accept the reality now and admit to themselves that this show has become it’s own growing tale. While still remaining on the basic path Kirkman set for them through the comic book the show has taken on a life of it’s own and it’s unpredicatability and changes in that path should make things interesting moving forward.

Notes

  • Once again Norman Reedus continues to make Daryl Dixon a badass. He also has done a great job in making what happened been a stereotypical redneck role into a character with hidden complexities and layers. I was reticent on this character being added specifically for the show, but each new episode has made me a believer and thankful to the writers for doing it.
  • Liked how Daryl nonchalantly tells the zombie that had been attacking Andrea in the woods to “shut up” before sending a crossbow bolt through the side of it’s head.
  • One final great moment with Daryl is his surprise to the rest of the group concerning the hidden stash of “meds” that was Merle’s stash. He may be a Southern good ol’ boy, but Daryl continues to prove just how much more of a survivor and team player he has been to this group despite first appearances.
  • One of the changes made from book to show has been the physical casting of veteran genre actor Pruitt Taylor Vance as the Greene ranch hand Otis. It’s an interesting choice, ut having Vance as part of the cast overrides any fanboy reaction to having a much larger actor portray the slimmer Otis from the book.
  • Lori continues to become a stronger character this season and Sarah Wayne Callies does some very good work in this episode by becoming the steel to talk some sense to a grief-stricken Rick.
  • I think the show’s didn’t need the brief, fever-induced paranoid rant from T-Dog about how he being the only black person in a group of Southern good ol’ boys. While part of me hopes all that talk from T-Dog was due to the fever from his injury I have a feeling he won’t be with the show for long. The way he’s talking makes him this season’s “Dead Man Walking” role.
  • There was a positive, albeit very disturbing, moment involving T-Dog in this episode and that was when he noticed the baby seat in the back of the car he was looting for supplies. His growing expression of horror at seeing the bloody baby seat with bits of flesh on it was one of this episode’s best moments. I’m sure I wasn’t the only viewer who wondered what happened to the baby in that seat.
  • It was a nice bit of detail work on the writers of this episode to populate the FEMA camp with zombies from the soldiers, FEMA workers and refugees who were overrun prior to Shane and Otis arriving. Rarely do we see such detail in zombie films and stories. What else but the very people who were suppose to be in the camp would become zombies once they’ve been overrun.
  • Can’t end this without mentioning Glenn’s look at seeing Maggie come riding in like Arwen from The Fellowship of the Ring. I do believe the boy’s been struck by cupid.