The TSL’s Horror Grindhouse: The First Power (dir by Robert Reskinoff)

In this 1990 horror film, Lou Diamond Phillips plays Russell Logan, a Los Angeles police detective who specializes in capturing and sometimes killing serial killers.  (“So far,” a news reporter breathlessly tells us, “Detective Logan has captured or killed three serial killers!”)  His latest triumph is the capture of Patrick Channing (Jeff Kober), also known as the Pentagram Killer because he carves a pentagram on his victims.

Logan captures Channing thanks to a tip from a psychic named Tess (Tracy Griffith).  Tess specifically made Logan promise her that he wouldn’t push for Channing to get the death penalty.  However, after Logan captures him, he goes back on his word and Channing is sentenced to die in the gas chamber.  To be honest, I wasn’t aware that detectives had the power to decide whether or not to go for the death penalty when it comes to prosecuting murder cases.  As far as I’ve known, that’s always been the job of the district attorney’s office.  Maybe they do things differently out in California….

Anyway, Channing smiles when he’s sentenced to death and then he smiles again when he’s executed.  Logan shrugs all of that off but suddenly, the pentagram murders start up again.  The murderer is killing people in the exact same way that Channing did and he also appears to be targeting the people who were involved in Channing’s capture.  Meanwhile, Tess is running around angry because she specifically told Logan not to allow Channing to be executed.

Hmmmm …. have you figured out what’s going on, yet?

Of course you have!  That’s because you’ve seen a horror movie before.  From the minute that Channing was sentenced to die, you probably knew that Channing would eventually come back from the dead and start murdering people all over again.  It turns out that, by executing Channing, the state of California has granted him the first power, i.e. resurrection.  By committing more murders, Channing is hoping to unlock all of the other powers.  Those powers include the power to appear and disappear at will, possess other people, jump off of roof tops, and mockingly laugh at anyone who tries to stop him.

Apparently, Detective Logan is not a fan of horror movies because it takes him a while to figure all of this out.  (We should keep in mind that he’s a cop so his job is to be skeptical of claims of people returning from the dead.)  But once he starts hearing Channing’s disembodied voice and getting attacked by possessed priests and homeless women, he really has no other option but to accept the truth and work with Tess to try to end Channing’s reign of terror.

The First Power is one of those horror films that’s extremely predictable but effective nonetheless.  Lou Diamond Phillips manages to maintain a straight face, regardless of how outlandish this film gets and Jeff Kober seems to be having a blast as the flamboyantly evil Patrick Channing.  Channing jumps off of rooftops and through windows with a graceful aplomb and the film actually has some fun with the idea of Channing skipping from body to body.  The First Power is often dumb but always entertaining.

Film Review: Out of Bounds (dir by Richard Tuggle)

Just a country boy

Born and raised in South Des Moines

He took the midnight bus to anywhere….

That’s the story of Darryl Cage, the protagonist of the 1986 film, Out of Bounds.  Played by Anthony Michael Hall, Darryl is an Iowa farm boy who goes to Los Angeles to live with his brother.  Unfortunately, when his flight lands, Darryl’s suitcase is switched with another one that’s full of cocaine!  Darryl becomes an accidental drug mule and end up getting his brother killed!  WHAT A DUMBASS!

So now, Darryl is on the run.  He’s a small town farmer in the big city, trying to avoid bad guy Roy (Jeff Kober) and the police, led by Lt. Delgado (Glynn Turman).  Fortunately, Darryl meets an aspiring actress named Dizz (Jenny Wright).  Dizz gives him a makeover and introduces him to the Los Angeles club scene.  Siouxsie and the Banshees make a cameo appearance at one club.  They perform one song and fortunately, it’s Cities in the Dust.  Unfortunately, they don’t actually get involved in the plot of the film.  I would have liked to have seen Siouxsie beat up Jeff Kober.  But it doesn’t happen.

Out of Bounds is one of the many films that came out in the mid-to-late-80s in which the actors who were (somewhat unfairly) considered to be Brat Packers attempted to prove that they were capable of doing more than just projecting teen angst.  Judd Nelson and Ally Sheedy, for instance, starred in a forgettable neo-noir called Blue City.  Andrew McCarthy starred in an interesting but ultimately uneven film called Kansas.  Emilio Estevez not only starred in Wisdom but he directed it too.  And Anthony Michael Hall starred in Out of Bounds.

Anthony Michael Hall was best-known for playing nerdy characters in Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club and it’s probable that he was attempting to escape being typecast when he took his role in Out of Bounds.  This was Anthony Michael Hall’s chance to play an action hero!  Unfortunately, Anthony Michael Hall made the same mistake that many of his peers made while trying to give the performance that would allow them to break free of the Brat Pack label.  He tried too hard.  While Glynn Turman, Jeff Kober and Jenny Wright obviously understood the type of  rather silly movie that Out of Bounds was going to be and they modified their performances accordingly, Anthony Michael Hall apparently tried to duplicate the method intensity of Marlon Brando or James Dean.  In other words, Hall took the film far more seriously than it deserved to be taken.

Out of Bounds get off to a bad start as soon as it opens with Anthony Michael Hall on the farm in Iowa.  There’s absolutely nothing about the young Anthony Michael Hall that leaves on with the impression that he’s ever spent any time on a farm.  Everything about him screams Hollywood before he even lands in Los Angeles.  Hence, it gets difficult to really buy him as being the wide-eyed innocent that everyone else views him as being.  Since a good deal of the film’s plot is dependent upon Hall being naïve, that’s a problem.  He may be a farm boy but he certainly doesn’t freak out after shooting someone.  He’s also somehow learned how to throw a knife straight into someone’s gut.  Out of Bound‘s director, Richard Tuggle, directed two films for Clint Eastwood so he obviously knew how to frame a fight scene but Hall is so miscast that it’s impossible to really get into the movie.

The film is pretty much stolen by Jenny Wright and Jeff Kober.  Kober is properly menacing and, just as she did in Near Dark and I, Madman, Jenny Wright works wonders with a role that could have just been formulaic.  Jenny Wright has apparently retired from acting.  Jeff Kober still shows up in movies and on television, usually playing villains.  (Earlier this year, he played yet another drug trafficker on General Hospital.)  Watching them give compelling performance in a film like Out of Bounds, it’s hard not to feel that both of them deserved bigger career than they had (or, in Kober’s case, still have).

The film is also stolen by its soundtrack, which is very 80s but in the best possible way.  Adam Ant, The Smiths, the aforementioned Souixsie and the Banshees, they all make an appearance and provide the film with a bit of narrative momentum that it would otherwise lack.  Watching the film, 80s Los Angeles comes across like a fun place.  No wonder Darryl Cage wanted to stay even though everyone was trying to kill him.

Out of Bounds is ultimately pretty forgettable and it didn’t make Anthony Michael Hall into an action star.  But, that’s okay.  Like a lot of former Brat Packers, he’s proven himself to be a reliable character actor.  There is life after high school.  Even more importantly, there’s also life after Iowa.

Cinemax Friday: Demolition High (1996, directed by Jim Wynorski)

A group of terrorists take over a high school and announce that, unless their demands are met, they will launch a nuclear missile at a nuclear power plant which I guess will cause double the nuclear destruction.  Since they already have a nuclear missile, it feels like also threatening to blow up the power plant is definite overkill.  With the school now full of terrorists and explosives, it’s up to one student to kill the terrorists one-by-one and save his classmates.  It’s Die Hard in a High School (cool!), with the Bruce Willis role being taken on by … COREY HAIM!

That bit of casting tells you both why Demolition High doesn’t work and also why anyone would be watching this direct-to-video “action” film in the first place.  The 25 year-old Haim plays Lenny Slater, a high school student who knows Kung Fu because he grew up in the Bronx.  His father (played by Alan Thicke!) moves to a small town, both to become a police chief and to hopefully keep Lenny from getting into any more trouble.  Lenny’s all trouble, though, and terrorist leader Luther (the great Jef Kober) is about to discover that he’s invaded the wrong high school.

If I had watched this film in the 90s or even the early aughts, I would have laughed at how bad Corey Haim is as an action hero but today, knowing all we know about his life and how Hollywood essentially enabled his worst tendencies and then abandoned him when he become too self-destructive to work, it’s not as easy to watch an obviously troubled actor who has gone from being a big star to appearing in a direct-to-video Die Hard rip-off.  Trying to disguise the fact that he’s too old to be playing a high school student, Haim wears a flannel shirt and an earring and has a bowl cut.  Whenever he talks to his classmates, you expect him to say, “How do you do, fellow kids?”  As heavily edited as the fight scenes are, it’s still obvious that Haim had no idea how to throw a punch.  On the plus side, even while obviously addled by drug abuse, Corey Haim was still a better actor than Stephen Seagal.

Demolition High is pretty dumb but it was directed by Jim Wynorski so at least there’s some inside jokes.  Gerrit Graham and Dick Van Patten both have small roles and Alan Thicke gets to tell an FBI agent to “Think with your heart, not with your badge.”  Wynorski also cast Melissa Brasselle as Tayna, a sexy terrorist who wears black leather.  He deserves some credit for that.  (When the film was released on video, Brasselle was featured on the cover, not Haim.)  Some of the techniques that Lenny uses to take out the terrorists are creative, if never really plausible.  In this case, Lenny is helped by the stupidity of the terrorists.  It’s not every evil terrorist who is clumsy enough to stumble head first into a table saw.

Demolition High was apparently successful enough to be followed by a sequel, Demolition U.  I’ll look at the movie tomorrow.

Cinemax Friday: The Big Fall (1997, directed by C. Thomas Howell)

Directed by C. Thomas Howell!?

You read that right!  After spending years as a straight-to-video mainstay, C. Thomas Howell finally stepped up from just starring in these films to directing one.  Of course, Howell still stars in The Big Fall as well as directing it.  What better way to make sure that your star takes your direction than by casting yourself in the lead role?  It makes sense.  The end result is a lot better than anyone would probably expect it to be.

Howell plays Blaise Rybeck, a self-described “private dick,” who works in modern Los Angeles with his protege (Sam Seder) and his secretary (Kathy Griffin, whose role is thankfully small).  Rybeck talks and dresses like a hard-boiled, 1940s P.I., right down to wearing a trench coat and a fedora while delivering his lines in a Bogart-style rasp.  The decor of his office is straight from the 40s as well.  Despite this, the movie takes place in modern times, with people using cell phones and bungee jumping off of bridges.  That no one comments on how out-of-time Rybeck seems to be indicates that Howell knew exactly what he was doing with his directorial debut.  The Big Fall is a tone perfect send-up of the neo-noirs that Howell spent most of the 90s appearing in.  His direction shows far more wit than you might expect from the star of Soul Man.

Rybeck is hired by sultry Emma Roussell (Sophie Ward) to find her brother.  It turns out that her brother has gotten involved with a bunch of extreme sports-obsessed bungee jumpers.  (This film attempts to do for bungee jumping what Point Break did for surfing and it actually succeed because the bungee jumping scenes are pretty damn cool.)  It all has to do with a criminal named Axe Roosevelt, played by the great Jeff Kober.  Of course, it also turns out that there’s more to Emma than meets the eye because this is a noir and there always is.

As a director, Howell does a good job of spoofing the material while still playing it straight enough that the movie doesn’t just become one big inside joke.  Jeff Kober and Titus Welliver are great as the bad guys, Sophie Ward is sexy as the femme fatale, and C. Thomas Howell keeps things moving both in front of and behind the camera.  This is an unexpected straight-to-video gem.

One Tough Bastard (1996, directed by Kurt Wimmer)

When the wife and the daughter of John North (Brian “The Boz” Bosworth) are gunned down by a mysterious gunman (Jeff Kober), North refuses to accept that they were just the victims of a robbery gone wrong.  Working with a tough street kid (DeJuan Guy) who needs a mentor to show him that violence is not the solution to all of the world’s problem, North sets out to discover the truth and get revenge in the most violent ways possible.  What North discovers is that the gunman who killed his family works for a corrupt FBI agent named Karl Slavak (Bruce Payne) and that Slavak is selling guns to a drug lord named Dexter Kane (played by … wait for it … MC HAMMER!)

You would think that any movie featuring M.C. Hammer as a drug lord would be worth seeing but the man who brainwashed a generation into making “U Can’t Touch This” jokes is actually pretty forgettable as Dexter.  This movie was made when Hammer had dropped the M.C. from his name and he was trying to reinvent himself as a harder-edged rapper.  That reinvention didn’t work because there’s absolutely nothing edgy about M.C. Hammer (much like Will Smith, he was the rapper whose music wouldn’t cause your parents to have an aneurysm) and One Tough Bastard proves it.

Instead, One Tough Bastard is worth seeing because of the epic meeting between two action stars who epitomized everything great about straight-to-video movies in the 90s, Brian Bosworth and Bruce Payne!  The Boz may have been a bust as a football player but he was a good action star, delivering one-liners and viscous beat downs with aplomb and, unlike some action stars (*cough* Seagal *cough*), he could play the dramatic scenes without embarrassing himself.  With his long hair and his nosering, Bruce Payne may be an unlikely FBI agent but he’s a great villain and he has no fear of shouting almost all of his dialogue.  Add in Jeff Kober and you’ve got a dumb but fun movie that’s enlivened by three actors who know how to be convincingly tough on camera.

One Tough Bastard lives up to the promise of its title.

Missed Opportunities: Alien Nation (1988, directed by Graham Baker)

Alien Nation starts out with an intriguing premise but sadly doesn’t do enough with it.

In 1988, a spaceship lands in Mojave Desert.  Inside are 300,000 humanoid aliens, known as the Newcomers.  Intended to serve as intergalactic slaves, the Newcomers are now stuck on Earth.  (Of course, in the view of many humans, it’s Earth that’s stuck with them.)  Three years later, the Newcomers have settled in Los Angeles and they have adopted human names.  Some of them, like businessman William Harcourt (Terrence Stamp), have become successful and have been accepted by the human establishment.  The majority remain second-class citizens, facing discrimination and feeling alone in a world that doesn’t seem to want them.

Detective Matthew Sykes (James Caan) does not like the Newcomers but, after his partner is killed by one of the aliens, he ends up working with one.  Sam Francisco (Mandy Patinkin) is the first Newcomer to have been promoted to the rank of detective and is eager to prove himself.  Sykes renames him George and enlists him to investigate a series of recent Newcomer deaths.  Sykes’s real goal is to use Francisco’s Newcomer connections to investigate the death of his partner.  What the two of them discover is that the deaths are linked to a drug called Jabroka, which has no effect on human but was previously used to keep the Newcomers enslaved.

Alien Nation starts out with an intriguing premise.  I love the early scenes of Sykes driving down the streets of Los Angeles and seeing Newcomer prostitutes, Newcomer families, and even a Newcomer dance studio.  There is a lot promise in those scenes and they capture the feeling of a familiar world that has been irrevocably changed.  Both Caan and Patinkin give good performances and the alien makeup is still impressive.  Unfortunately, once Sykes and George start their investigation, the movie becomes a standard-issue police movie with a plot that could easily have been lifted from a Lethal Weapon rip-off.  So many interesting ideas are left unexplored, making Alien Nation an intriguing missed opportunity.  (There was later a television series based on the movie, which explored the Newcomer culture in greater detail.)

Alien Nation still has a strong cult following and I wouldn’t be surprised if it influenced District 9.  In 2016, it was announced that Jeff Nichols would be writing and directing a remake.  Nichols seems like the ideal director for a film like this and this is the rare case of a remake that I’m actually looking forward to.

A Movie A Day #321: The Baby Doll Murders (1993, directed by Paul Leder)

Naked women are turning up murdered in Los Angeles.  The only clue that the crimes are connected: the baby doll that is left beside each body.  Can detectives Louis (Jeff Kober) and Larry (Bobby Di Cicco) solve the case while also dealing with issues in their own private life?  Louis’s girlfriend (Melanie Smith) is worried that Louis is becoming obsessed with is work and that he is not willing to commit to their relationship. Larry is upset because he suspects his wife is keeping a secret from him.  Their chief (John Saxon) wishes they would just solve the case, especially when the killer targets his own daughter.  The problem is that Louis is so driven and prone to violence that he has managed to get himself suspended from the force.  Why does that always happen to good cops?

The Baby Doll Murders is a straight-to-video thriller that used to be popular on cable, back in the Skinemax days.  Probably the most memorable thing about the film is the absurd lengths it goes to find an excuse for every woman in the film to have at least one topless scene before being attacked by the baby doll murderer.  Otherwise, it is a predictable movie with a better than average cast.  A talented character actor, Jeff Kober gets a rare lead role here and Bobby Di Cicco has some good moments as his neurotic partner.  Any film that features John Saxon as an authority figure can not be considered a total loss.  Saxon does not get much screen time but he does get all of the best lines.  When Kober theorizes that the murderer might have a political agenda, Saxon snaps back, “Now, wait a minute, Louis,” a lot of people have the same beliefs as the baby doll murderer and, “not all of them are killers!”  Saxon delivers his lines like a champ.

Film Review: Sully (dir by Clint Eastwood)


The new film Sully is about several different things.

Most obviously, it’s about what has come to be known as the Miracle on the Hudson.  On January 15th, 2009, US Airways Flight 1549 had just departed from New York’s LaGuardia Airport when it was struck by a flock of geese.  (They say that it was specifically hit by Canadian Geese but I refuse to believe that Canada had anything to do with it.)  With both of the engines taken out and believing that he wouldn’t be able to get the plane back to either LaGuardia or an airport in New Jersey, the flight’s plot, Chelsey “Sully” Sullenberger (played by Tom Hanks) landed his plane on the Hudson River.  Not only did Sullenberger manage to execute a perfect water landing but he also did so without losing a single passenger.

I’m sure that we can all remember that image of that plane sitting on the river with passengers lined up on the wings.  We can also remember what a celebrity Sully became in the days following the landing.  At a time of national insecurity and cynicism, Sully reminded us that people are still capable of doing great things.  It also helped that Sully turned out to be a rather humble and self-effacing man.  He didn’t use his new-found fame to host a reality TV show or run for Congress, as many suggested he should.  Instead, he wrote a book, raised money for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, and appeared in two commercials for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Wisely, Sully opens after the Miracle on the Hudson, with Sully still struggling to come to terms with suddenly being a celebrity.  (That said, we do get to see the landing in flashbacks.  In fact, we get to see it twice and it’s harrowing.  The “Brace! Brace!” chant is pure nightmare fuel.)  Tom Hanks plays up Sully’s modesty and his discomfort with suddenly being a hero.  Even while the rest of the world celebrates his accomplishment, Sully struggles with self-doubt.  Did he make the right decision landing the plane on the Hudson or did he mistakenly endanger the lives of all the passengers and crew members?

A lot of people would probably say, “What does it matter?  As long as he succeeded, who cares if he actually had to do it?”  Well, it matters to Sully.  Some of it is a matter of professional pride.  And a lot of it is because the soulless bureaucrats at the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating Sully’s landing.  If it’s determined that he could have made it back to airport and that he unnecessarily endangered the lives of everyone on the plane, he could lose his job and his pension.  As we see in a few scenes with Sully’s wife (Laura Linney, who is somewhat underused), the Sullenbergers really need that pension.

That brings us to another thing that Sully is about.  It’s a celebration of not only individual heroism but individuality itself.  The NTSB claims that they have computer-generated recreations that prove Sully had enough time and fuel to return to an airport but, as Sully himself points out, the NTSB has ignored the human element in their recreations.  As a result of their obsession with regulation and procedure, the bureaucrats have forgotten that planes are not flown by computers but individuals who have to make split-second decisions.

That’s one of the things that I loved about Sully.  In this time when we’re constantly being told that our very future is dependent upon always trusting the bureaucrats and following their rules and regulations, Sully reminds us that the government is only as good as the people who work for it.  And, far too often, the people are smug and complacent morons.

(For the record, Sullenberger has said that the real-life hearings were not as confrontational as the ones depicted in the film.  However, even taking into account the dramatic license, the overall message still rings true.)

And finally, Sully is a film about what America has become in the wake of 9-11.  Just as in real-life, the film’s Sully suffers from PTSD in the days immediately following the Miracle on the Hudson.  Even while the rest of the world celebrates him, Sully has nightmares about what could have happened if he hadn’t made the landing.  When we watch as Sully’s plane collides with a New York skyscraper, it’s impossible not to be reminded of the horrible images of September 11th.  Not only does it drive home what was at stake when Sully made that landing but it also reminds us that, regardless of what some would want us to beg, there are still heroes in the world.  Not every story has to end in tragedy.  People are still capable of doing great things.  Heroism is not dead.  With tomorrow being the 15-year anniversary of the day when 3,000 people were murdered in New York, Pennsylvania, and D.C., it’s important to be reminded of that.

Sully is a powerful and crowd-pleasing film.  (The normally cynical audience at the Alamo Drafthouse broke into applause at the end of the movie.)  Director Clint Eastwood tells this story in a quick, no-nonsense style.  During this time of bloated running times, Sully clocks in at 97 minutes and it’s still a million times better than that 150-minute blockbuster you wasted your money on last week.  Toss in Tom Hanks at his best and you’ve got one of the best films of the year so far.

What Lisa Watched Last Night #131: Bad Blood (dir by Adam Silver)

Last night, I watched a Lifetime film that originally aired in March, Bad Blood.


Why Was I Watching?

The main reason that I watched it was so I could get it off of my DVR.  I recorded Bad Blood when it originally aired in March, fully planning to promptly review it.  However, for whatever reason, I never got around to writing that review and Bad Blood sat, for 4 months, on my DVR.  Last night, I decided to rewatch Bad Blood, review Bad Blood, and finally erase Bad Blood!  (I need the space for all the shark movies that are going to be SyFy this week.)

What Was It About?

Bad Blood was a typical Lifetime mix of empowerment and exploitation.  Serial killer Oscar Marcus (Brett Rickaby) is dying of leukemia so he’s kidnapping, torturing, and murdering victims all across the southwest so that he can exchange his bad blood for their good blood.  (Or something like that — Bad Blood was not exactly an easy film to follow.)  However, because Oscar had a bone marrow transplant five years earlier, he’s not leaving his DNA behind at the crime scenes.  Instead, he’s leaving behind the DNA of his donor, Lauren (Taylor Cole).

And, since this is a Lifetime film, Lauren has both a mysterious past and a boyfriend involved in law enforcement.  However, when Lauren’s DNA starts to show up at crime scenes, that boyfriend is forced to arrest her.  (That’ll kill a relationship.)

However, Oscar rescues Lauren from the cops because he wants her blood.  And then Lauren escapes Oscar and teams up with her estranged father (Jeff Kober) to prove her innocence…

What Worked?

It’s strange.  I really didn’t like Bad Blood the first time I saw it but the second time, I discovered that it wasn’t as bad as I remembered.  There were a few strikingly atmospheric scenes towards the end of the film and there was something oddly charming about the film’s refusal to make any logical sense.

Jeff Kober was good as the irresponsible father and Brett Rickaby was a chillingly believable murderer.  The second time I watched the film, I better appreciated Taylor Cole’s performance as well.

What Did Not Work?

Bad Blood was not as bad as I remembered it being but it’s still not one of my favorite Lifetime films.  The pacing was off in a few key scenes and Lauren’s romance with the sheriff was pretty dull. As well, I didn’t care much for the film’s ending.  After what those people went through, everyone should have been a lot more traumatized.  Instead, it ended in a typically upbeat Lifetime sort of way.

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

I related to Lauren’s relationship with her dad.  Plus, Lauren’s a runner just like me!  (Lauren was also an auto mechanic, which was a totally “Oh my God!  Definitely not like me!” moment.)

Lessons Learned

DNA is a lot trickier than I thought.

Review: The Walking Dead S4E14 “The Grove”


“Just look at the flowers, Lizzie. Just look at the flowers.” — Carol Peletier

The Walking Dead tv series has always diverged from the comic book source to keep fans of the books guessing. Some fans of the comic books have complained about this since it would mean discarding certain subplots and characters that they love but were really non-essential to the overall story being told for the tv series version. Yet, the writers of the show, through the comic book’s creator Robert Kirkman, have mined the comic book source for material that remains important to the show’s narrative.

The latest episode, “The Grove”, takes a disturbing but very important subplot from the comics and manages to adapt it for the tv series in a way that made it one of the series’ best.

A cold opening that manages to be both quaint, idyllic and disturbing which sets the tone for the rest of the episode sees the return of the group led by Carol. It’s a group that could almost be seen as a makeshift family unit. There’s Carol the loving, yet stern mother who wants to make sure her daughters learn how to survive in this dangerous, new world while Tyreese remains te compassionate and protective father. Lizzie, Mika and Rick’s baby daughter Judith make up the children who must now adapt to this new world or perish.

First off, Judith remains the blank slate in the show. She’s the first baby born after the world went to hell and thus will have to grow up in it’s new environs and new set of morals and principles. The old civilization is gone and while people try to hold onto what made that civilization tick only those willing to adapt to this new world seem to survive. Now, Lizzie and Mika were already forming their own personalities and sets of morals when the zombie apocalypse hit. We see the two Samuels girl go in differing paths in how they cope with this new world.

While seeing these two girls’ inability to adapt to the world post-zombie apocalypse was a nice theme to explore the episode really focused on the group’s maternal unit. This latest episode was a culmination of the new Carol Peletier that season 4 unleashed on an unsuspecting audience.

This was a character that we saw as being the meek victim of spousal abuse even before the zombies arrived. Her emotional trauma would continue with the loss of her young daughter Sophia in season 2 and almost dying during break in prison security in season 3. Yet, by the time season 4 rolled around we see her become a hardened survivor who has turned the corner and decided she will not remain a victim anymore and make sure those people see as being helpless (the young children in the group) learn how to defend themselves from zombies and humans alike.

The titular grove the group stumbles upon early in the episode has an almost mystical quality to it. An idyllic locale in the middle of literal hell on earth. There’s untainted well water to be had, a pecan grove for food and even a solitary deer that seems to come by at the most opportune time for meat. Hell, the cabin even has a working gas stove (probably a propane tank fed one) and a secure enough fence of barbed wire to fend off the random zombies that may wander by. It’s almost paradise in comparison to the different place Carol, Tyreese and the girls have had to call shelter.

It is no wonder that both Tyreese and Carol entertain the idea of maybe staying at the grove and making a life for themselves with the girls instead of continuing onto the unknown potential haven that is Terminus. But one thing this show has been consistent about when it comes to it’s characters seeming to find peace and tranquility is that it will pull the rug from under them to reveal that things are not ideal and that it’s just a veneer over the ugliness and brutality this new world has turned into.

The rug gets pulled out gradually from beneath Carol’s feet as both Mika and Lizzie continue to fail in heeding her teachings about survival. Mike remains adamant about not ever wanting to hurt anyone alive (she makes some headway in killing off some zombies during the episode) which Carol sees as dangerously naive of the young girl. Lizzie on the other hand begins to reveal an even more dangerous quality which would turn tragic by episode’s end.

By this time many will have written and discussed the events involving Lizzie and Mika that would add another emotional stone on Carol’s back. It’s a sequence that’s as disturbing as anything this show has put on the air in the last four years. It’s not often that children get killed in tv shows (well except for Law and Order: SVU) and yet The Walking Dead manages to do it twice in one night and both times it’s not gratuitous or meant to be entertaining. both Mika and Lizzie’s death become a sort of crucible Carol must go through to find a sort of equilibrium between the nurturing mother she was before season 4 and the cold, pragmatic survivor she has become this season. She still remains conscious to the fact that hard decisions need to be made for the greater good and she makes it ones again when Lizzie murders her younger sister Mika. It’s a murder not done in spite or malice. Lizzie truly believes that Mika will return and remember not to attack her friends and family.

In the end, the grove ceases to be the ideal haven Carol and Tyreese saw it as in the beginning and realize it’s just another place to leave behind with bad memories. It’s become another haunted place for the next people to find and wonder what happened to the previous inhabitants and what caused them to leave behind three small graves in the flower and pecan grove.


  • Tonight’s episode was written by showrunner Scott M. Gimple and directed by Michael Satrazemis.
  • The cold opening sequence was a nice touch using The Ink Spot’s “Maybe” song that was also used in the Bethesda post-apocalyptic game, Fallout 3.
  • Mika definitely came off as being the more intelligent of the two sisters. Though as many would probably point out, just as Carol did, her inability to hurt other people who will want to hurt her will get her killed sooner or later.
  • Lizzie’s personality matches very closely that of the comic book Carol who began to see the zombies as more her friends than a danger. I’m sure Kirkman had a hand in helping Gimple round out the character of the elder Samuels girl.
  • I noticed that the pistol that Mika carried with her was a Smith & Wesson M&P 9 (full-size one even) just for the fact that I also own one so it was very recognizable.
  • The different subplots involving the scattered groups of prison survivors seem to be following an uneven timeline within this midseason narrative. The fire and smoke seen by Carol, Tyreese and the girls would mean that they’re at least a day behind Daryl and Beth.
  • Gimple must’ve been a fan of Steinbeck because tonight’s episode had a very Of Mice and Men feel to it right up to the sequence with Carol and Lizzie in the end.
  • Talking Dead Guests: Melissa McBride of The Walking Dead, Yvette Nicole Brown from Community and WWE’s CM Punk.

Season 4