TV Review: Twin Peaks: The Return Parts Three and Four (dir by David Lynch) (SPOILERS)


David Lynch as Gordon Cole

It seems appropriate that there should be a picture of David Lynch at the top of this recap.  There’s a lot of good things to be said about the third and fourth “parts” of Twin Peaks but ultimately, these two hours are all about Lynch and his unique vision.

This is especially true of the first 20 minutes of Part 3.  This is Lynch at his best.  Unconcerned with the traditional rules of narrative, Lynch creates an extended nightmare, one that sticks in your head long after the show itself has moved on.

Much as how Eraserhead started in space, with a hideously scarred man pushing and pulling the levers that eventually created that film’s mutant baby, Part 3 opens with Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) falling through darkness, plunging into a purple cloud.  When Cooper lands, it’s in a purple-tinted world that immediately made me think of the final scene in Lucio Fulci’s The Beyond.

Cooper is standing outside a house, looking out over what appears to be a purple ocean.  When Cooper enters the house, he finds a woman.  She is wearing a red dress and her eyes are sewn shut.  The first time I saw this, I assumed that the woman was meant to be Ruth Davenport, mostly because Ruth was found without eyes.  However, Ruth is not listed in the end credits.  For that matter, neither is the eyeless woman.

Cooper asks where they are but the woman cannot speak.  Perhaps she has lost her tongue, as well as her eyes.  Suddenly, someone starts to pound on the door.  The woman holds her finger to her lips, telling Cooper to be silent.

Cooper sees what appears to be a safe on the wall but, when he tries to approach it, the blind woman steps in front of him and pushes him back.  As the pounding continues, the woman leads Cooper to another door and then up a ladder.

And suddenly, Cooper and the woman are standing in outer space.  The house has now become a satellite, hovering in the star-filled sky.  As the pounding continues on the soundtrack, the woman tries to speak but Cooper cannot understand what she’s saying.  Suddenly, the woman pulls down a lever, apparently electrocuting herself before falling off the satellite and disappearing into space.

Suddenly, Cooper sees the face of Major Garland Briggs (Don S. Davis) floating underneath him.  “Blue Rose,” Briggs says.

(In Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, it was suggested that the FBI refers to paranormal cases as being “Blue Rose cases.”)

Cooper reenters the satellite.  He finds himself back in the house.  There is now a second woman and those familiar with the show will recognize her as being played by Phoebe Augustine, the same actress who played Ronette Pulaski in the earlier seasons of the show.  If Augustine playing Ronette here?  It’s hard to say.  Her character is listed as being “American Girl.”  Cooper does not seem to recognize her but, then again, he also hesitated before recognizing Laura Palmer during Part One.  Being in the Black Lodge for 25 years can’t be good for one’s memory.

Cut to Doppelganger Cooper, driving down a South Dakota highway.  At the same time that the real Cooper is once again approaching the safe in the Space House, Doppelganger Cooper is having a seizure while driving.

In the Space House, American Girl/Ronette says, “When you get there, you will already be there.”

The pounding starts again.

“You better hurry,” American Girl/Ronette says, “my mother’s coming.”

Suddenly, Cooper is sucked into the safe, with only his shoes being left behind in the Space House.

In South Dakota, Doppelganger Cooper flips his car, crashing into a mountain.  Doppelganger Cooper survives but suddenly, he starts to throw up.  He puts his hand over his mouth and then sees the red curtains of the Black Lodge appearing before his car.

In an empty house located the Rancho Rosa development in Nevada, a dorky guy named Dougie Jones (Kyle MacLachlan) has just paid a prostitute named Jade (Nafessa Williams).  While Jade takes a shower, Dougie puts on a mustard yellow suit jacket and, judging by how ugly it is, I’m guessing that Dougie must be in real estate.  (Perhaps he works for Rancho Rosa, selling people suburban houses in the middle of the desert.)  Suddenly, Dougie grabs his stomach and collapses to the floor.

What follows is one of the grossest scenes ever as we cut back and forth between Dougie and the Doppelganger vomiting.  Seriously, this was one of the most grotesquely realistic vomiting scenes that I have ever seen.  I averted my eyes and covered my ears!  It was so gross.

At the same time that Dougie vanishes from the house, the red curtains in front of the Doppelganger’s car also vanishes.  But the Doppelganger is too busy throwing up to notice.  Again, I have to admit that I averted my eyes during most of this.  (I also realize that both Dougie and the Doppelganger were throwing up their essences, the stuff that allowed them to pretend to be human.  I don’t care.  The only thing I hate more than vomiting is watching other people vomit.)

Dougie is in the Black Lodge.  MIKE (Al Strobel) doesn’t appear to be too happy to see him.  MIKE explains that someone manufactured Dougie.  I’m assuming that the Doppelganger created Dougie so that, if Cooper ever escaped from the Black Lodge, he would take over Dougie’s existence instead of the Doppelganger’s.  “That’s weird,” Dougie says, as he his hand wastes away.  Then Dougie’s head vanishes, replaced by a black cloud of smoke.

Back at the house, another black cloud comes out of an electrical outlet.  Soon, the cloud forms into Cooper.  Cooper lies on the floor, next to Dougie’s vomit (ewwww!) until Jade yells at him that they have to get out of the house.

Apparently in a state of shock, Cooper silently follows Jade out of the house.  After being locked away in the Black Lodge, it appears that Cooper no longer quite remembers how to be human.  Or maybe he’s not really human at all anymore.  All I know is that he’s acting strange and, as brilliant as Kyle MacLachlan is, I do kind of hope the old Cooper returns at some point soon.

Because Dougie/Cooper doesn’t have his car keys (though he does still have his room key from the Great Northern), Jade gives him a ride into Vegas.  Two gangster types watch as Jade drives off.  One of them has a rifle.  The other has a bomb.  Apparently, they work for someone to whom Dougie’s owes money.  Because Cooper leans down to pick up his room key, the one with the rifle does not spot him in Jade’s car.  The other places the bomb under Dougie’s car, which is still sitting outside of the empty house.

While this happens, a woman — listed in the credits as being “Drugged-Up Mother” and played by Hailey Gates — is shouting “One one nine!  One one nine!” while her son watches on the couch.

In South Dakota, two troopers approach the Doppelganger’s car.  One of them catches whiff of the vomit and collapses to the ground, physically ill.

At the Twin Peaks Sheriff’s Department, Hawk (Michael Horse), Andy (Harry Goaz), and Lucy (Kimmy Robertson) look through all the evidence that was collected in the Palmer case.  Andy says that he and Lucy can’t find out what’s missing.  “If it’s here,” Hawk replies, “how can it be missing?”

As Hawk recites what the Log Lady told him — that something is missing and that the way he’ll find it has to do with his heritage — Lucy freaks out when she spots an empty box of chocolate bunnies.  Many years ago, Lucy ate the bunny.

“Do chocolate bunnies have something to do with your heritage?” Andy earnest asks.

“IT’S NOT ABOUT BUNNIES!” Hawk snaps.  Then, “Is it about the bunny? …. No, it’s not about the bunny.”

Meanwhile, off in the middle of nowhere, Dr. Jacoby (Russ Tamblyn) spray paints the ladders that were delivered to him at the start of Part One.

In Vegas, Jade drops Dougie/Cooper off at a casino.  Dougie/Cooper has been reduced to just repeating back phrases that other people say to him but no one seems to notice.  Still, when Jade tells Dougie/Cooper that he can “go now,” Dougie/Cooper has a flashback to Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) saying the same thing.

The casino, with its combination of glitz and the grotesque, brings out the best in Lynch.  As Dougie/Cooper wanders through the casino — which is populated by typical Lynchian characters — he notices that he can see the red curtains of the Black Lodge floating over certain slot machines.   Cooper pulls the levers, hitting jackpot after jackpot.  As the coins flood out of the machines, Cooper announces, “HELLO!”  Why?  Because he heard another gambler do it.  Dougie/Cooper is learning how to be human again.

When Dougie/Cooper walks away after having won another jackpot, leaving all of his coins on the floor, one old woman considers taking the coins for herself but then glances up at the camera on the ceiling — “and the eye in the sky watches us all,” to quote Casino — and thinks better of it.  Instead, she just asks Cooper to tell her which machines are about to hit.  She calls him Mr. Jackpot, which is kinda sweet.

Meanwhile, in Philadelphia, the FBI is meeting and — oh my God!  It’s Gordon Cole (David Lynch), Albert Rosenfield (Miguel Ferrer), and Tamara Preston (Chrysta Bell).  (Preston will be familiar to anyone who has read Mark Frost’s The Secret History of Twin Peaks.)

They start out discussing a senator who has been accused of murdering his wife.  The senator says that he knows who did it but he can’t reveal the name because of “national security reasons.”  (Since this is taking place in 2014, I’m going to continue the Casino theme and assume that the senator was creepy old Harry Reid.)

Cole is more interested in hearing about the murders of Sam and Tracey in New York City.  It turns out that the cameras caught a picture of that demonic creature in the glass box.

Suddenly, a call comes in.  Cooper has been found and he’s in a South Dakota prison and … oh shit!  That’s not Cooper!  We know that’s the Doppelganger!  Regardless, Cole announces that he, Albert, and Tamara are going to South Dakota.  Albert says he can’t wait to see Mount Rushmore.

“The absurd mystery of the strange forces of existence,” Albert tells Tamara.  “How about a truck load of valium?”

Cut to The Cactus Blossoms, performing at the Roadhouse and announcing that Part Three is over.

Part Four opens with Dougie/Cooper still hitting jackpots and still chanting, “Hello!”  When the old woman who has been following him around hits a jackpot of her own, a small smile comes to Cooper/Dougie’s lips.

A friend of Dougie’s, Bill Shaker (Ethan Suplee), approaches and he and Dougie have a thoroughly superficial conversation.  Dougie/Cooper asks where his home is.  Bill assures him that he lives at Lancelot Court, in a house with a red door.  The house, Bill says, is near Merlin’s Market.  As Cooper/Dougie leaves to get a cab, Bill says, “I hope he’s okay.”

“I don’t think he’s okay,” Bill’s wife, the wonderfully named Candy Shaker (Sara Paxton) says.

Before Dougie/Cooper can leave to find the house with the red door, he is dragged to the office of the vaguely threatening casino manager (David Dastmalchian).  The manager gives Dougie/Cooper his winnings and then asks if he wants anything — like “companionship” — for the night.  “Think of us as your home away from home,” he says.  When Dougie/Cooper repeats that he wants to go home (his real home), the manager arranges for him to ride in a limo.

(It pays to be a winner.)

As the limo drives down Lancelot Court, the driver (Jay Larson) says that it might be hard to spot a red door at night.  However, he then sees the door and oh my God, is it ever red!  Dougie gets out of the limo and seems unsure what to do.  Fortunately, his wife — Janey-E (Naomi Watts) — comes out of the house and starts hitting him.  Apparently, Dougie has been missing for three days.  He even misses his son’s birthday party!  (Perhaps significantly, as everyone stands outside the house, an owl flies overhead.)

Fortunately, once they’re inside the house, Janey-E sees just how much money Dougie/Cooper won at the casino.

“Don’t tell me you hit the jackpot!” Janey-E says.

“Mr. Jackpot,” Dougie/Cooper says, pointing at himself.

“There’s enough here to pay them back!” Janey-E continues as she looks at the money, “This is the most wonderful day of my life!”

“Of my life,” Dougie/Cooper says.

“Yes,” Janey-E replies.

At FBI Headquarters, Cole has a meeting chief of staff Denise Bryson (David Duchovny).  Cole tells Denise about finding Cooper and says he’s going to South Dakota.  Denise is concerned about Cole traveling with Tamara.  “I know your profile, Gordon,” Denise explains, “Female agent.  Early 30s.”

“I’m old school,” Cole replies, “you know that.”

Cole reminds Denise that he defended her when she first transitioned.  He told everyone who had a problem with her to “Fix their hearts — or die!”

At the Twin Peaks Sheriff’s Department, Sheriff Frank Truman (Robert Forster) enters the front lobby, which causes Lucy to scream and faint.  Apparently, Lucy was confused because she has just been talking to Frank on the phone and she can’t understand how Frank could be in two places at once.  Andy attempts to explain to her how cell phones work.  “You’re so good at your job,” Andy says, “in every other way…”

At the Sheriff’s Department, we learn a few interesting things:

First off, Bobby Briggs (Dana Ashbrook), former drug dealer and murderer, is now a deputy, one who specializes in watching for drug dealers sneaking across the Canadian border.  (That’s something that Bobby should know a bit about.)  He also has gray hair and he cries when he sees a picture of Laura in the conference room.

Secondly, Major Garland Briggs died in a fire, a day after being the last person to see Dale Cooper.  (Presumably, Major Briggs actually saw Doppelganger Cooper.)

Third, Lucy and Andy’s son has grown up to be Wally Brando (Michael Cera).  Wally is a motorcycle enthusiast who has spent the last few years riding across the country.  Wally dresses like Marlon Brando in The Wild One and delivers a hilariously nonsensical monologue that is largely made up of pretentious references to different Brando roles.  What makes Wally’s scene so wonderful is the combination of Cera’s Brandoesque scenery chewing and Robert Forster’s deadpan reaction.

The next morning, in Vegas, Dougie/Cooper still can’t figure out how to do anything.  After spending 25 years in limbo, even urination is a new and scary experience for him.  Even when MIKE appears to tell him that he was tricked into leaving the Lodge and that either Dougie/Cooper and the Doppelganger must die, Dougie/Cooper looks confused.  Still, his son — the oddly named Sonny Jim (Pierce Gagnon) — is amused when his father eats breakfast with a tie wrapped around his head.

In South Dakota, the police investigating the murder of Ruth Davenport are shocked to discover that they can not access the identity of the owner of the finger prints that they took off of the male Joe Doe.  Apparently, it’s top secret.  “Military authorization required.”

Meanwhile, Cole, Albert, and Tamara are driving out to the South Dakota prison.  During the car ride, Cole complains that they’re not anywhere near Mount Rushmore but, luckily, Albert has brought a picture for him.  Meanwhile, Tamara has to ride with her head leaning out of the window because she gets car sick.

(I sometimes get car sick too.  That’s one reason why I never sit in the back seat.  I share your struggle, Tamara!)

At the prison, Cole, Albert, and Tamara meet with Warden Murphy (James Morrison).  When it is mentioned that the Doppelganger was throwing up poison, Murphy says, “Must have eaten locally.”  I love that line!

Anyway, the meeting with the Doppelganger doesn’t go well.  The Doppelganger, having thrown up whatever it was that allowed him to act human, is now speaking in a stiff and halting tone.  The Doppelganger claims that he’s spent the last 25 years working undercover for Philip Jeffries.  Haltingly, he says that he needs to be released so that Gordon can “debrief” him.  Stiffly, the Doppelganger attempts to give Gordon the thumbs up sign.

After the meeting, Cole and Albert agree that something was off about “Cooper.”  They agree that there’s one woman who can tell them if it’s really Cooper in prison.  Cole asks if Albert still knows where she lives.

“I know where she drinks,” Albert replies.

Who could Albert be talking about?  Audrey Horne?  Or maybe Sarah Palmer?  Sarah, after all, is psychic and appears to still have a drinking problem.

We’ll find out next week!  Until then, Parts 3 and 4 — along with Parts 1 and 2 — will continue to haunt my thoughts and dreams.

Twin Peaks on TSL:

  1. Twin Peaks: In the Beginning by Jedadiah Leland
  2. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.1 — The Pilot (dir by David Lynch) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  3. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.2 — Traces To Nowhere (directed by Duwayne Dunham) by Jedadiah Leland
  4. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.3 — Zen, or the Skill To Catch A Killer (dir by David Lynch) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  5. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.4 “Rest in Pain” (dir by Tina Rathbone) by Leonard Wilson
  6. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.5 “The One-Armed Man” (directed by Tim Hunter) by Jedadiah Leland
  7. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.6 “Cooper’s Dreams” (directed by Lesli Linka Glatter) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  8. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.7 “Realization Time” (directed by Caleb Deschanel) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  9. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.8 “The Last Evening” (directed by Mark Frost) by Leonard Wilson
  10. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.1 “May the Giant Be With You” (dir by David Lynch) by Leonard Wilson
  11. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.2 “Coma” (directed by David Lynch) by Jedadiah Leland
  12. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.3 “The Man Behind The Glass” (directed by Lesli Linka Glatter) by Jedadiah Leland
  13. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.4 “Laura’s Secret Diary” (dir by Todd Holland) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  14. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.5 “The Orchid’s Curse” (dir by Graeme Clifford) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  15. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.6 “Demons” (dir by Lesli Linka Glatter) by Leonard Wilson
  16. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.7 “Lonely Souls” (directed by David Lynch) by Jedadiah Leland
  17. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.8 “Drive With A Dead Girl” (dir by Caleb Deschanel) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  18. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.9 “Arbitrary Law” (dir by Tim Hunter) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  19. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.10 “Dispute Between Brothers” (directed by Tina Rathbone) by Jedadiah Leland
  20. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.11 “Masked Ball” (directed by Duwayne Dunham) by Leonard Wilson
  21. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.12 “The Black Widow” (directed by Caleb Deschanel) by Leonard Wilson
  22. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.13 “Checkmate” (directed by Todd Holland) by Jedadiah Leland
  23. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.14 “Double Play” (directed by Uli Edel) by Jedadiah Leland
  24. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.15 “Slaves and Masters” (directed by Diane Keaton) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  25. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.16 “The Condemned Woman” (directed by Lesli Linka Glatter) by Leonard Wilson
  26. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.17 “Wounds and Scars” (directed by James Foley) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  27. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.18 “On The Wings of Love” (directed by Duwayne Dunham) by Jedadiah Leland
  28. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.19 “Variations on Relations” (directed by Jonathan Sanger) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  29. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.20 “The Path to the Black Lodge” (directed by Stephen Gyllenhaal) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  30. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.21 “Miss Twin Peaks” (directed by Tim Hunter) by Leonard Wilson
  31. TV Review: Twin Peaks 22.2 “Beyond Life and Death” (directed by David Lynch) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  32. Film Review: Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (dir by David Lynch) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  33. Here’s The Latest Teaser for Showtime’s Twin Peaks by Lisa Marie Bowman
  34. Here’s The Newest Teaser for Showtime’s Twin Peaks by Lisa Marie Bowman
  35. 12 Initial Thoughts About Twin Peaks: The Return Parts One and Two by Lisa Marie Bowman
  36. This Week’s Peaks: Parts One and Two by Ryan C. (trashfilm guru)
  37. TV Review: Twin Peaks: The Return Parts One and Two (dir by David Lynch) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  38. 4 Shots From 4 Films: Special Twin Peaks Edition by Lisa Marie Bowman
  39. This Week’s Peaks: Parts Three and Four by Ryan C. (trashfilm guru)
  40. 14 Initial Thoughts About Twin Peaks: The Return Part Three (dir by David Lynch)
  41. 10 Initial Thoughts About Twin Peaks: The Return Part Four (dir by David Lynch)

 

 

TV Review: The Walking Dead 7.16 “The First Day Of The Rest Of Your Life” (dir by Greg Nicotero)


(SPOILERS, OF COURSE)

I will be the first admit that I’ve been very critical of season 7 of The Walking Dead.  I’ve spent weeks complaining about the pace of the story and episodes that didn’t seem to go anywhere.  I have been very open about my frustration with the one-dimensional villainy of Negan and my feeling that Rick Grimes is an incredibly overrated hero.  I don’t take any of that back.

But you know what?

The seventh season finale of The Walking Dead was pretty damn good.  Don’t get me wrong.  It wasn’t great.  There were still pacing problems.  There was still way too much time spent on Negan chuckling before launching into one of his marathon monologues.  I would have preferred that, instead of ending with Negan announcing, “We are going to war!,” that the episode had ended with the war already over and Negan vanquished.

But, even with all that in mind, The First Day Of The Rest Of Your Life was a well-executed finale and it went a long way towards making up for some season seven’s weaker moments.

At first, it didn’t seem like that would be the case.  When the show started with Sasha in what appeared to be a cell, I will admit to rolling my eyes a little.  “Please, God, no more cell monologues,” I thought as Negan popped into her cell and proceeded to give a monologue.  Now that I know that Sasha was in the process of committing suicide, her scenes with Abraham and Maggie are undeniably poignant.  But, at the time that I was first watching them, I have to admit that my first thought was that Abraham was getting more dialogue now that he was dead than he ever did while he was alive.  When Abraham said that Maggie was carrying the future in her, I thought to myself, “She’s been carrying the future for two years.  Is that baby ever going to be born?”

And, when Dwight told Rick that he had a plan and Rick asked to hear it, the only thing that kept me from throwing a shoe at the TV was that I wasn’t wearing any.  “Rick doesn’t have a plan!?” I snapped, “All this time and he hasn’t come up with a plan!?  No wonder Carl’s always looking for a new father figure!”

And then, finally, when the Scavengers revealed that they had been working with the Saviors all the time, I chalked it up to another case of Rick not being the strategic genius that everyone always seems to assume that he is.  As Rick stood there with guns pointed at him, I mentally prepared myself for the task of having to sit through yet another Negan monologue.

At the time, I didn’t realize how skillfully The Walking Dead was toying with me and my expectations.  In retrospect, I can see how perfectly the show played me.  Of course, I would be frustrated with Rick.  And, of course, I would be dreading the idea of another Negan speech.  And, just when I was on the verge of giving up, the show gave us…

ZOMBIE SASHA!

The moment that Zombie Sasha burst out of that coffin is destined to be remembered as the 2nd greatest moment in the history of season 7.  This was the only time that I can think of that anyone on the show made a deliberate decision to use zombiefication to turn themselves into a weapon.  I’m going to assume that Eugene secretly slipped her some poison before she got in the coffin.  It was too bad that Sasha had to die but, if you have to die, die with style.  At least this is one death that Rick wasn’t indirectly responsible for.  The blame for this one can be put on Rosita.

You may have noticed that Zombie Sasha was my choice for the 2nd greatest moment of season 7.  What was the first?

RESCUE SHIVA!

After the disruption of Zombie Sasha, the Saviors thought they had regained control of the situation.  Carl and Rick were on their knees.  Negan was starting another monologue.  I was starting to get frustrated again.  And suddenly, out of nowhere, a tiger pounced!  Ezekiel and the Kingdom showed up and basically kicked a lot of Savior ass.  Negan fled.  He may have extended his middle finger as he drove out of there but there’s no way to deny that the bully finally get his ass kicked.  After all that has happened over the course of this season, it was nice to see Negan not only twice fail to complete a monologue but also get his ass kicked by a bunch of Renaissance Faire actors.  It was pure chaos and it was beautiful.

As for the rest of the show, Rick somehow quickly recovered from being shot in the stomach and Michonne survived getting beaten half-to-death.  Carl still has his one good eye and Father Gabriel showed up long enough to let us know that he’s still alive.

The Saviors lost a battle and, when Season 8 begins in October, it’s going to be time for war.

I’ll be watching.

Will you?

TV Review: The Walking Dead 7.15 “Something They Need” (dir by Michael Slovis)


Hi there!  Before I get around to saying what little I have to say about tonight’s episode of The Walking Dead, I want to share something with you.

Next week is the season finale and, naturally, it’s an extended episode.  I have two fears.

  1. I fear that next week’s episode will be 70 minutes of Rick and Dwight sitting in a cell and discussing right and wrong.
  2. I also fear that the episode will end with Rick standing on a hill, looking back at all of his followers, and announcing, “And now — we attack!”  This will immediately be followed by the end credits and Talking Dead.  See you once Season 8 starts!

If either of those happen, this will be my response:

I have such mixed feelings about the pace of The Walking Dead.  On the one hand, I appreciate that it’s a show that literally takes place after the end of the world.  Civilization is over and sometimes, that is best represented by stillness.  There’s no need for anyone to hurry because there’s really nowhere to go.  There are no more jobs.  There are no more movies.  There are no more clubs.  There are no more schools.  There’s nothing.  The only thing that matters in the world of The Walking Dead is survival and, often times, it’s necessary to move slowly and with caution to survive.

On the other hand, this season has been so slow!  It feels as if it has taken Rick longer to organize this attack than it took for Lafayette to sail across the ocean and track down Gen. Washington.  Yes, I appreciate why the pace is deliberate but there’s really only so many times that you can watch the same scene play out over and over again.

Tonight was a perfect example.  It featured three storylines, all of which were way too dragged out.  Tonight was basically 30 minutes worth of story stretched out to a full hour.

In Alexandria, Gregory again showed himself incapable of … well, just about anything.  Nobody has any respect for Gregory.  Maggie had to save him from a walker.  Gregory’s either going to get killed by Negan or he’s going to get bitten by a walker.  I think he actually had the potential to be an interesting character (and Xander Berkeley is certainly a good actor) but Gregory is so obviously doomed that it’s hard to really care about him one way or the other.

In Sanctuary, Sasha is somehow not dead.  Instead, she’s in that same little cell that Daryl was in.  Negan was apparently impressed by her suicidal attack.  Why that would impress Negan, I’m not sure.  Anyway, Negan killed a savior who was on the verge of raping Sasha.  That’s a good thing, though you have to wonder if Negan set the whole thing up just so he’d have an excuse to play the hero.  He wants to bring Sasha over to his side.  Again, I’m not sure why.  Mostly, I assume that Sasha’s alive so that she can be used as a hostage if Rick ever actually gets around to launching this attack that he’s been going on about.

(In many ways, Sasha being alive epitomizes this season’s greatest flaw.  She’s not alive because there’s any real logic behind her somehow not being dead.  Instead, she’s alive so she can be used as a plot device later on.  Keeping Sasha alive comes at the price of whatever consistency had previously been established as far as Negan’s character is concerned.)

And finally, Tara told Rick about Oceanside so Rick and his people went down there and took all their guns.  The scenes of Rick bullying the Oceansiders were mixed in with scenes of Negan trying to bring Sasha over to the Saviors.  I got the feeling we were supposed to compare the contrasting leadership styles of Rick, Negan, and Gregory.  Gregory is inneffectual.  Rick will do what needs to be done but only when he doesn’t have any other choice.  Negan just talks too much.

At the end of the episode, Rosita returned from Sanctuary.  Accompanying her was … DWIGHT!  So, Dwight was the man she saw in the shadows.  Rick pointed a gun at him and told him to get on his knees.  Apparently, next week’s episode will feature Rick talking to Dwight in a cell.  I just hope they don’t spend too much time talking.

Anyway, as you can probably tell, this episode was way too slow for me.  But, at least Rick does seem to be inching closer to finally launching that attack.

HURRY UP, RICK!

Maggie and Gregory do …. something.

TV Review: The Walking Dead 7.14 “The Other Side”


Tonight’s episode of The Walking Dead was the type of episode that drives me crazy.  It was an episode where hardly anything happened and what did happen played out very slowly.  In fact, I eventually ended up getting so bored that I started trying to imagine how The Walking Dead could ever come up with an episode slower than “The Other Side.”

After giving it some thought, I decided the only way it could happen would be if Terrence Malick agreed to be a guest director during season 8.  As I sat waiting for something to happen in the episode that I was actually watching, I found myself imagining what the Malick-directed episode would be like.

I envisioned Rick standing alone in a vibrantly green field.  The grass is high and the blowing wind creates gentle waves of nature.  Rick looks up to the incredibly blue sky and sees one extremely white cloud floating over.  Rick looks down at the ground.  An egg hatches.  A bird is born.  Rick stares at the bird.  The bird stares at him.  They both flash back to prehistory.  A sabre tooth tiger eats a caveman who looks suspiciously like Norman Reedus.  Rick blinks.  Rick’s back in the field.  Christian Bale walks by, dressed up like a 1930s Oklahoma dust bowl farmer.  He looks at Rick.  Rick stares back.  Christian Bale walks on.

On the soundtrack, we hear Ben Kinglsey’s voice.  “What is this nature of man that refuses to accept that death begins with life and life ends with death?  Will the grass blow for an eternity?”

Rick looks off in the distance.  Walkers are approaching.

On the soundtrack, we hear Jessica Chastain’s voice: “I will wait you at the other end of the river, where the two waters meet in life and diverge in death.”

“Shane, Glenn, and old Dale Horvath,” Rick mutters, “Always you are at war within me.”

The walkers calmly walk by Rick.  Rick notices that a man in animal skins is with the walkers and yet, the man is not eaten because he has returned to a more innocent and primitive state….

And so on and so forth.

Anyway, as for what actually did happen during tonight’s episode of The Walking Dead, I guess this was a pretty good example of why I should be careful what I ask for.  For weeks, I’ve been defending Rosita and saying that people should let her attack the Sanctuary.  Well, tonight, she and Sasha finally made it to the Sanctuary and that attack did not go quite as planned.  First off, Eugene refused to go back to Alexandria with them.  (A better name for the Sanctuary would be Stockholm because Eugene’s got a huge case of Stockholm Syndrome, am I right or am I right?  Thank you, I’ll be here all night.)  Then Sasha announced that Rosita needed to go back to Alexandria and ran into the Sanctuary to create a diversion.  With Sasha undoubtedly getting shot up by Negan’s goons, Rosita ran off but then stopped when she saw someone in the shadows.  I’m assuming it was Daryl.

(By the way, I know we’re all supposed to get mad at Rosita for potentially messing up Rick’s plans but seriously, can you blame her?  Rick only has one plan: Do nothing until that’s no longer an option, sacrifice half of your people on a suicide mission, and make sure Carl survives to lose another eye.)

This all happened in the final ten minutes of the episode and it was pretty good and exciting.  But to get to that point, we had to sit through a seemingly endless slog of scenes that mostly felt like filler.  The Saviors showed up at Alexandria and, once again, we had to watch Simon bully Gregory while everyone else stood around and shook their head in disgust.  Because Negan set his last doctor on fire, he decided to take Alexandria’s doctor.

“OH MY GOD!” the audience was supposed to shout, “Maggie’s pregnant and Alexandria has lost their only doctor!”

(Maggie’s been pregnant for a while now and she’s still not showing.  Trying to figure out how much time has actually passed in The Walking Dead is almost as much fun as trying to figure out how long they were actually on the island on Lost.)

And yes, Negan arbitrarily taking someone else’s doctor because he stupidly killed his own does reinforce the fact that Negan is a jackass and something needs to be done about him.  But seriously, it all played out so slowly.  And it’s not like Gregory was going to refuse to hand over the doctor or anything.  Other than Daryl almost coming out of hiding to attack someone, nothing unexpected or particularly interesting happened during all of that.  It was all just more Savior bully bullshit.

When we weren’t in Alexandria, we spent an eternity watching Rosita raise and lower a rifle.  At one point, I was scared that the whole rest of this season would just be Rosita raising the rifle, looking through the scope, and then lowering it.

Fortunately, this episode ended with some action but it took forever to get there.  There’s only two more episodes left in this season so hopefully, the show will pick up the pace a little.  Because, seriously, if season 7 ends with Rick announcing that it’s finally time to attack as he stares at the Sanctuary in the distance, I’m going to throw a fit.

 

 

TV Review: The Walking Dead 7.11 “Hostiles and Calamities” (dir by Kari Skogland)


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Hi everyone!

I apologize for being late with this review.  Not only did I spend Sunday night watching the Oscars but I’ve also been sick for the past few days.  As a result, I’m running about two days behind when it comes to reviewing stuff.

As for last Sunday’s episode of The Walking Dead

To be honest, before I watched Hostiles and Calamities, I was really concerned.  I knew three things.  I knew that the episode featured a lot of Negan, which was the main problem with the first half of the seventh season.  I knew that the episode would involve the Saviors, who may be properly hissable villains but whose bully-based society had never seemed particularly interesting.  And I knew that the episode centered around Eugene, a character that I have never been particularly fond of.  When we last saw Eugene, he was being taken away from Alexandria by Negan.  And, to be honest, I was perfectly okay with the idea of never seeing Eugene again.

So, imagine my surprise when Hostiles and Calamities actually turned out to be a good episode!

Note that I didn’t say it was a great episode.  It wasn’t.  Negan and Lucille may be intimidating but they’re still not exactly as compelling as the show seems to think they are.  That said, we did get to see a slightly different side to Negan as he half-seduced/half-bullied Eugene over to the dark side.  For once, Negan actually did seem like a character who was worthy of Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s considerable talent.  But still, as a general rule, Negan is a lot like Jacob from Lost.  He’s best used sparingly.

As usual, Josh McDermitt did a good job as Eugene but, since the character is already fairly annoying, it wasn’t a huge shock to hear him declaring, “I am Negan.”  As smart as he may be, Eugene has always been one of the weakest members of Rick’s little group.  For that reason, it made total sense that Eugene would be the one that Negan would decide to “recruit.”  There’s no way that Negan would have been able to brainwash Daryl.  Daryl is too strong for that.  Daryl is willing to die before betraying Rick.  But Eugene’s a self-described coward.  As we all know, most bullies (and that is the perfect description for the Saviors) start off as cowards.

Seeing as how it was centered around the least likable of Rick’s group, I really shouldn’t have liked Hostiles and Calamities but the episode worked for me.  For the first time, the Savior society actually seemed … well, I wouldn’t go quite as far as to call it compelling.  But still, it was interesting to see a new side to life in the Sanctuary.  Our previous exposure to Savior society came through seeing Daryl in a cell and various Negan lieutenants harassing communities.  In this episode, we got to see how things actually worked on a practical level.  Even more importantly, we saw that Negan may be a jerk but he still manages to maintain order in an otherwise chaotic world.  The scary thing about the collapse of society is that it’s usually the Negans who survive and thrive.

It also helped that this episode actually had some moments of humor.  How couldn’t you smile at the sight of trembling Eugene, wandering around the compound with his jar of pickles?   Personally, I sympathized with Negan’s “wives,” having to pretend to be impressed with Eugene’s video game just out of the hope that Eugene would help them poison Negan.  When Eugene announced that he would never poison Negan, it wasn’t only as close as Eugene will ever get to being in control of his situation.  It was also a declaration that Eugene was now a Savior for life.

(I assume that means that Eugene will eventually be devoured by zombies.  That seems to be the punishment for turning your back on Rick.)

As for Dwight and the consequence of his search for Sherry, I felt bad for Dr. Carson.  Carson seemed like a pretty nice guy but, since Dwight needed someone to blame for Daryl and Sherry’s disappearance, Dr. Carson ended up going head first into the fire.  That whole scene made me cringe.  That worked out well for Eugene, who is now the only “doctor” at the compound.  You do have to wonder what will happen if Negan ever finds out that Eugene is a pathological liar.

In the end, Hostiles and Calamities was a pretty good episode of The Walking Dead.  After a potentially calamitous first half, the second half of season 7 is developing nicely.

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.