TV Review: The Walking Dead 11.12 “The Lucky Ones” (dir by Tawnia McKiernan)

It’s confession time!

As I’ve mentioned in the past, I was never a regular Walking Dead viewer in the past.  And, after Carl Grimes died, I actually stopped watching the show all together.  It was not until this current season started that I once started to regularly watch The Walking Dead.  So, I have to admit that I had actually forgotten that Hillside and Alexandria were separate locations, with separate leaders and separate governing philosophies.  I guess I just assumed that Hillside was a particularly trashy party of Alexandria.  But, no …. I was wrong!  It turns out that Alexandria, Hillside, and Oceanside are three separate communities.

Go ahead.  Take a moment to laugh at me and then we’ll move on.


Well, we’re moving on anyways!

This week’s episode found Governor Milton and Lance Hornsby visiting each of the three communities and trying to bring them into the Commonwealth.  Milton offered security and access to better goods.  Alexandria saw that this was a good idea and signed up.  Oceanside, on the other hand, said, “We’ll do whatever Hillside does.”  Well, why don’t you just become a part of Hillside then!?

Not surprisingly, Maggie didn’t want to join up with the Commonwealth.  Maggie was indeed tempted but, when she saw the difference between how the leaders of the Commonwealth lived as opposed to how the community’s workers and soldiers lived, Maggie said no deal.  Or, at least, that’s what Maggie claims happened.  Personally, I think it has more to do with Maggie not wanting to surrender any of her power.  For all of her concerns about the way the Commonwealth treats its citizens, it’s not exactly as if Maggie is running a democracy herself.  After Maggie refused to enter into an alliance with the Commonwealth, a few members of Hillside left the community and, quite frankly, I don’t blame them.  Hillside’s a dump!  Not even Negan is willing to live there.

Anyway, at the end of the episode, we learned that Gov. Milton isn’t as bad as everyone tends to assume.  She was okay with not being able to bring Hillside and Oceanside into the Commonwealth, even saying that she expected that Maggie would ultimately refuse.  Not okay with Maggie’s decision was Lance Hornsby, who not only takes a disturbingly sadistic glee in shooting walkers but who also is apparently obsessed with controlling everyone.  Honestly, I don’t think anyone was really shocked to discover that Lance was not to be trusted. Josh Hamilton hasn’t exactly been giving a subtle performance in the role.  Actually, just the fact that Lance was being played by Josh Hamilton should have been our first clue about not trusting him.

Meanwhile, Ezekiel was operated on and Eugene and Max got to know each other.  Needless to say, Eugene was not happy to discover that Stephanie didn’t actually exist and he was also a bit freaked out to to discover that Max is Mercer’s sister.  By the end of the episode, though, Eugene and Max seemed to be growing close.  Max offered Eugene some advice on his novel.  Eugene admitted that he had destroyed his only copy.  WHY DID YOU DO THAT, EUGENE!?  Eugene is never going to succeed as an author with that attitude.

This episode felt like the calm before the storm.  While I don’t know if we needed to spend as much time on Gov. Milton’s travel as we did, at least the show managed to get to all three communities in one episode as opposed to stretching it out over six episodes, like they used to do back in the Rick Grimes era.  It seems obvious that there’s an invasion coming, it’s just a question of who is going to strike the first blow.

TV Review: The Walking Dead 11.11 “Rogue Element” (dir by Michael Cudlitz)

Whatever else you may or may want to say about The Walking Dead, you’ve got to love Josh McDermitt and his performance as Eugene Porter.

Eugene has consistently been one of the most interesting characters on this show.  He’s gone from being an untrustworthy coward to being one of the strongest people on the show.  He’s also gone from being the weirdo who made your skin crawl to being the weirdo who you secretly hope will find everything that he’s looking for.  The fact of the matter is that, if there was an actual zombie apocalypse, the majority of the survivors wouldn’t be Darryl or Morgan or Carol or Michonne.  The majority would be people like Eugene, people who survive through luck and who still hope to find some sort of normalcy.  There’s something very touching about the fact that, even in the middle of a zombie apocalypse, Eugene is writing a science fiction novel.

There were a few plotlines playing out in this week’s episode of The Walking Dead.  The two reporters tried to investigate what led to Tyler snapping at the Masquerade Ball.  Mercer walked around and glowered in his threatening way.  Lance took Carol out to the opium camp and made an effort to win her loyalty for the Commonwealth.  (At some point, people will learn to stop trying to recruit Carol to their pet causes.)  But the episode’s heart was with Eugene and his attempts to discover what had happened to Stephanie.  And that’s really were it should have been.  Against all odds, Eugene has emerged as the show’s symbol for every person who is trying to survive the zombie apocalypse without surrendering their emotions and their humanity.  Back when Eugene first appeared on the show and was lying about being a scientist, who could have guessed that he would still be around?  Who would have guessed that he would have outlasted not only Rick but also Carl?  Eugene survives.

This episode was directed by Michael Cudlitz, who previously played Abraham on the show.  (You may remember that Abraham was murdered by Negan.  It was kind of unfair, I thought, that Abraham was sacrificed in order to make it even more shocking when Negan then killed Glenn but that’s The Walking Dead for you.  It’s cold world.)  Cudlitz brought a lot of noir style to this episode.  I especially liked the scene at the end, with Eugene huddled in that dark alley, burning his dreams, while Max emerged from the shadows and introduced herself as being the real Stephanie.  If nothing else, this scene showed that The Walking Dead can create an haunting atmosphere, even without using walkers and blood.

The episode was, of course, dominated by Josh McDermitt’s poignant performance as Eugene but I also liked Paola Lazaro’s work as Princess.  She and McDermitt make a good team, as do Eugene and Princess.  Josh Hamilton continues to do great work as Lance Hornsby.  His rather casual dismissal of Eugene’s outrage was one of the episode’s highlights and it brought up an interesting point.  Everyone knows the Commonwealth is corrupt but everyone also knows that they’re safer in the Commonwealth than outside of it.  People will accept a lot when it comes to staying safe.

Though it took me a few days to find the time to watch it, this was a good episode.  I look forward to seeing what happens next!

TV Review: The Walking Dead 11.5 “Out of the Ashes” (dir by Greg Nicotero)

As opposed to what we’ve previously seen since the start of the 11th season, this week’s episode of The Walking Dead focused on multiple storylines.

At the Satellite Outpost, Negan and Maggie continued to argue about whether or not anyone else in their party would be smart, lucky, or brave enough to join them.  At this point, Maggie and Negan pretty much sound like an old married couple and, considering the chemistry between Lauren Cohan and Jeffrey Dean Morgan, that could very well be what they end up becoming by the time the show ends.  Sorry, Glenn!  Anyway, this time Maggie won the argument because Gabriel and Elijah eventually showed up and proved that people could be depended upon.  Yay, Maggie!  Unfortunately, if Gabriel’s the best you go, you probably have bigger problems to deal with than just a philosophical disagreement.

At Alexandria, Judith tried to keep the other kids from taunting the Walkers and potentially getting everyone killed.  Judith had a point but seriously, no one likes a snitch.

Aaron, Carol, Lydia, and Jerry returned to the ruins of Hilltop on a supply run.  It turned out that Hilltop was also being used as a home by the last surviving Whisperers!  Their leader, Keith, insisted that the Whisperers were no longer a threat.  Aaron didn’t quite buy that and he wanted to torture and then kill Keith.  Fortunately, Carol talked him out of it.  Keith lost an arm but he got to keep his life.  And he also told them where Connie’s hiding!  Now, of course, is where I should remind our readers that, until the start of this season, I hadn’t really watched the show since Carl died so I’m not exactly sure who Connie is.  But I guess I’ll soon find out.

Meanwhile, at the Commonwealth, Eugene and the crew got to watch a really neat presentation on VHS tape that welcomed them into the community.  Eugene then went for a walk with Stephanie and nearly screwed everything up when he broke into the radio room and tried to contact Alexandria!  Or did he?  See, my theory is that the Commonwealth is still setting Eugene up.  They’re manipulating him to reveal everything that he knows about Alexandria but they’re doing it in a way that makes it seem as if they actually don’t want to know anything about Alexandria.  They’re manipulating him into contacting Alexandria by pretending like it’s something they don’t want him to do.  It’s all very clever and it’s the type of thing that Eugene always seems to fall for, despite the fact that he’s the smartest guy on the show.

This week’s episode, which was directed by Greg Nicotero, was a definite improvement over the past few episodes.  I liked the fact that it focused on several different groups, as opposed to getting bogged down with one repetitive storyline.  I liked that it revisited the Whisperers and showed that, as far as they were concerned, they were the heroes and the Alexandrians were the villains.  (The show has always been at its best when it has acknowledged that even the bad guys are just scared, lonely, and trying to survive the end of the world.)  The Judith subplot was handled well and showed that some things — like obnoxious children –are never going to change.

Mostly, though, I just liked the Commonwealth stuff.  From the minute I saw that introduction on the VHS tape, I was all about the Commonwealth.  The intro may have looked cheap and all the happy scenes were obviously staged but, seriously, it’s easy to see why some people would find it appealing after spending years fighting other humans and trying to avoid Walkers.  I loved the way the tape went from celebrating community to celebrating “security.”  It felt very relevant to our current times, a true libertarian’s nightmare.  You want to have ice cream and watch your kids play?  Then you’ve got to accept the legion of armored men watching everything that you do.  And, as always, I loved the oddball intensity of Josh McDermitt in the role of Eugene.  I would seriously watch a spin-off that was just Eugene going to different communities and voicing his disappointment with their life choices.

This was a good episode, one that took a look at how different communities are trying to find some sort of normalcy in the face of the zombie apocalypse.  The remains of the Whisperers are just scrounging to survive.  Alexandria is trying to balance the needs of the collective with the need of every human being to be an individual.  And the Commonwealth is living in denial, embracing the myth that random chaos can be controlled by strictly enforced order.  

I’m looking forward to seeing where things to go.  After a few weak episodes, The Walking Dead might be able to reclaim some of its lost narrative momentum.  Here’s hoping!

TV Review: The Walking Dead 11.2 “Acheron Part II” (dir by Kevin Dowling)

As a show, The Walking Dead has lately suffered a bit from the fact that there’s only so much you can do when civilization has collapsed and the world is full of zombies who only care about eating every living they come across. You can set up a little community of the living, one that will inevitably collapse because death is an unavoidable part of life and all it takes is one zombie to start an outbreak. You can keep moving, which might keep you alive for a little bit longer but still, death is inevitable. Or you can go batshit crazy and set yourself up as a dictator, which means that you’ll soon be as dangerous, deadly, and feared as the undead.

The lack of choice when it comes to what to do during a zombie apocalypse is one of the key parts of the genre and the best zombie films — like Romero’s Dead films for example — explore what happens to people when they find themselves in a hopeless situation. From Night of the Living Dead to Survival of the Living Dead, George Romero always remained consistent in that the undead were ultimately going to win. You simply can’t outrun death.

The first few seasons of The Walking Dead managed to capture that feeling of inescapable doom perfectly. However, now that The Walking Dead has started its eleventh season, it’s hard not to notice that there don’t seem to be any new stories left to be told. The Walking Dead has done it all and the series now often feels as if it’s just repeating itself. Last night’s episode was well-directed and well-acted (particularly by Lauren Cohan, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, and Josh McDermitt) but it just all felt a little bit too familiar.

Once again, we had Maggie and Negan coming to an uneasy truce while seemingly trapped in an inescapable location by a bunch of walkers. Even Maggie’s decision to leave Gage to be killed by the walkers felt like a replay of the same stuff that Rick used to do in almost every single episode. I felt sorry for Gage but I could see Maggie’s reasoning, just as I could understand Negan’s reasoning for leaving her behind last episode. It’s a dark world where only the ruthless and unsentimental survive. We already knew that, though. A few season’s ago, Gage’s death would have been shocking but, after 11 seasons, everyone watching should have known Gage would eventually end up dead. Darryl, of course, saved everyone because that’s what Darryl does. At the end of the episode, we met a new group of masked villains, the Reapers. And, again, we’ve been through all this before. There’s always a new group of villains showing up and they always announce their presence by killing a minor character. Sorry, Roy. The plot mechanics demand that you die.

Meanwhile, Eugene, Princess, Ezekiel, and Yumiko have been accepted as citizens of the Commonwealth which …. hasn’t this happened before? Again, it all felt very familiar and rather expected, right down to the sudden introduction of a woman claiming to be Stephanie, the woman that Eugene was trying to find. At this point, it’s pretty obvious that the woman is not really Stephanie and Stephanie probably doesn’t exist but was instead an elaborate ruse that the Commonwelath came up with to trick Eugene.

The sad truth of the matter is that all shows eventually run out of stories to tell and they end up recycling. Just think about the final three seasons of The Office, where everyone was suddenly developing an unrequited crush on a coworker in an attempt to recreate some of the Jim/Pam magic of the first four seasons. Running out of new stories to tell is especially likely to happen when your entire show revolves around how impossible it is to avoid death. As well-directed and well-acted as last night’s episode was, it still left me with the feeling that The Walking Dead has run out of new stories. The actors will always hold my interest but, from a narrative point of view, it’s definitely time for this apocalypse to come to an end.

TV Review: The Walking Dead 11.1 “Acheron: Part One” (dir by Kevin Dowling)

“How are Father Gabriel and Eugene still alive?”

That was my initial reaction while watching the premiere episode of the 11th and final season of The Walking Dead. You have to understand that it’s been a while since I last watched The Walking Dead. I lost interest in the show after Carl died during season 8. I could put up with the slow pace, the constant introductions of new eccentric colonies, and the occasionally overwrought dialogue but the death of Carl pretty much removed the element of hope from the show and without hope, what’s the point?

Though I wasn’t watching, I did vaguely keep up with what was happening on the show, largely through my friends on twitter. I know, for instance, that Rick Grimes is believed to be dead, even though he’s alive. I know that Michonne is alive but no longer on the show. I know that Negan is alive but basically a prisoner. I know that Maggie’s in charge and Darryl is her second-in-command. I know there’s been a time jump. And I know that season 11 is slated to be the final of the original series, which is why I decided that I might as well watch and attempt to review it.

(I say attempt because, honestly, this show has a history of capturing my acceptance with a few good episodes, just for me to subsequently lose interest once the narrative momentum stalls out about halfway through the season.)

While I knew a lot about what had happened on the show, what I did not know were that Father Gabriel and Eugene were still alive. I seriously figured that, if anyone was destined to either get eaten by walkers or beaten to death by whoever the season’s big bad was, it would be Gabriel and Eugene. And yet, Gabriel and Eugene are still alive, whereas so many other strong characters have died. In Eugene’s case, I’m going to guess that he’s a fun character to write for and Josh McDermitt’s performance in the role is so wonderfully odd that I can imagine the show’s producers and writers want to keep him around as long as possible. As for Gabriel …. well, who knows? He’s got one eye and that collar is still amazingly clean but otherwise, I’m stunned that Gabriel is still getting in the way.

As for tonight’s episode, it felt like a typical episode of The Walking Dead. (Or, at least, that’s the way it felt to me. As I said, it’s been a few years since I last regularly watched.) We had two storylines. In the first one, Negan, Darryl, Maggie, Gabriel, and a bunch of doomed, anonymous people went on a journey to a possibly abandoned military base. However, a storm forced them to take shelter in a subway tunnel. The tunnel turned out to be full of walkers and, in typical Walking Dead fashion, there were hints that the tunnel was also the home to yet another colony of weirdoes. Negan challenged Maggie’s authority but, for once, he managed to do it without launching into a ten-minute monologue. (Instead, it was just a three minute speech.) The show ended with the suggestion that Negan may have abandoned Maggie to be eaten by walkers. I have a feeling that Maggie’s going to survive and probably meet a bunch of weird people living somewhere in the tunnel.

The second storyline featured Ezekiel, Gabriel, Princess, and Yumiko being held prisoner in the Commonwealth, a community where everyone dressed like an Imperial Storm Trooper. In a nicely-edited scene, the four of them were interrogated and asked a series of questions that may have seemed meaningless but which were clearly designed to break down their defenses and brainwash them. I actually preferred the second storyline to the first, if just because of the enjoyable eccentric dialogue and the performances of McDermitt, Khary Payton, Paola Lazaro, and Eleanor Matsuura. I’m actually looking more forward to the continuation of their adventures than I am to several episodes of Darryl and Negan yelling at each other in the subway tunnel.

This episode of The Walking Dead was better than I expected. I did miss the quiet authority of Andrew Lincoln but, at the same time, the action moved a bit quicker than I remembered it moving back in season 8. As well, the subway tunnel was a wonderfully creepy location and I’m genuinely curious about what’s going on with the Common Wealth. I’m looking forward to next week’s show. It’s been a while since I watched but I’ve still got enough emotion invested in the show that I can say that I hope Maggie’s alive!

As I said above, I’m going to try to review this final season. The Walking Dead started the same year as Through The Shattered Lens, after all! Though I think everyone here at the TSL has had our frustrations with the series, it’s still definitely a part of this site’s history. I’m looking forward to seeing how (and if) the story ends.

TV Review: The Walking Dead 8.9 “Honor” (dir by Greg Nicotero)

So, has everyone seen the latest episode of The Walking Dead?  If not, why are you reading this review?  I ask because, on another site that I write for, I’ve got two people bitching at me for revealing too many spoilers about the shows that I review and, as a result, I felt the need to post an apology to those people.  As far as apologies go, it was fairly passive-aggressive and I’d hate to have to be that insincere on this site.  So, in other words, if you haven’t watched the latest episode of The Walking Dead, don’t read this review.  Thanks!

(Okay, I think I’ve rambled on long enough that anyone who didn’t want spoilers should have left by now.)

On Sunday night, the eighth season of AMC’s The Walking Dead resumed and oh my God, I have got such mixed feelings about what I just watched.  Before I go any further, allow me to share something that I tweeted back in April of 2017:

In other words, I can’t say that I’m shocked that Carl’s dead.  In fact, to a certain extent, I kind of respect the show for following through as opposed to coming up with some last-minute contrivance to allow Carl to live.  At the same time, I do think that the death of Carl has robbed the show of some potentially intriguing future storylines.  In the comic, Carl is still alive and he’s even bonded a bit with Negan.  During Season 7, the show seemed to be laying the foundation for that storyline but apparently, Negan’s going to have to bond with some other kid now.  Maybe Henry.  Maybe Judith.

I guess the main thing that bothers me about Carl’s death is that I really do feel that it was mostly due to the fact that the show’s pace has slowed down to such an extent that Chandler Riggs was getting too old to play the role. The Walking Dead has been on the air for 8 seasons but how many years have actually passed in the show?  It’s hard to say but really, it doesn’t seem like Carl should be any older than 14 or maybe 15.  Meanwhile, Chandler Riggs is closing in on 19.  It’s hard not to feel that the show’s producers decided to kill Carl off rather than maybe just wrap up a few storylines and have season 9 open with a “Four years after the defeat of the Saviors” title card.

Myself, I’ve frequently gotten annoyed with Carl as a character, even though I’ve always appreciated Chandler Riggs’s performance.  That said, Carl was one of the few characters left on the show with room to grow.  Rick is never going to change.  If Negan does become the friendly gardener that we saw in Carl’s fantasy, it’s going to have more to do with expedience than anything else.  Carl, though, was still discovering who he was and what he believed.  The majority of the characters have spent the last three or four seasons in a rut.  By virtue of being young, Carl was one of the few characters who actually had a chance of breaking out of that rut.

I mean, to be absolutely honest, I always assumed that the show would end with Carl shooting Rick before he could reanimate.  If you go all the way back to season 1, that’s the ending that the show has appeared to be logically building up to.  Now, I guess Judith will have to do it.

As for the episode itself … again, my feelings were mixed.  This episode was determined to wring every last drop of emotion out of Carl’s passing.  When it worked, it was largely due to the performances of Riggs, Danai Gurira, and the always underrated Andrew Lincoln.  At the same time, there was a part of me that started to resent just how much the show dragged out Carl’s death.  I know that AMC likes to do “super-sized” episodes of The Walking Death but, in this case, I think this episode would have been more effective if it had just been an hour.  Yes, that single gunshot was heart-rendering but, up until I heard it, there was a part of me that feared the show was planning to drag Carl’s death out over the entire rest of the season.

While Carl was dying, Carol, Morgan, and a few other people went off to rescue Ezekiel.  Gavin, who was always one of the most obnoxious of the Saviors, is now dead and yay for that.  Morgan has apparently decided that he’s okay with killing people again.  Morgan also apparently now has Jason Voorhees-style super strength.

It wasn’t a bad episode, though it certainly didn’t carry the power that it would have carried if it had happened during the fourth or fifth season.  On the one hand, I’ve always appreciated the fact that anyone can die on The Walking Dead.  On the other hand, characters die so frequently (and then pop up on the Talking Dead to say goodbye) that it’s now easy to get cynical about the whole thing.

In fact, it may be too early to say whether The Walking Dead handled Carl’s death the right way.  It depends on how this all plays out.  Will the show use Carl’s death as an excuse to go off in an unexpected direction or will we promptly get back to Negan chuckling and Rick giving speeches?  I’m actually looking forward to next week, just because I’m interested in seeing which Rick we’re going to get.  Are we going to get the crazy Rick who appeared after Lori died or are we going to get the catatonic Rick who showed up after Negan executed Abraham and Glenn?  Or maybe it’ll be the return of the Stoic Rick who shot zombie Sophia because he knew he had no other choice.  Which Rick will it be?

We’ll find out next week … hopefully.


TV Review: The Walking Dead 8.8 “How It’s Gotta Be” (dir by Michael E. Satrazemis)


Right now, I would say that 75% of The Walking Dead fandom is heartbroken.  The end of tonight’s episode has generated some very real angst among some people.

As for me, I’m actually feeling rather proud of myself because I predicted that all this would happen.  I predicted it way back on November 5th and I’ve even got the tweet to prove it.  But, before I go on, I think it might be good to consider the words of a song from 1965.  Here are the Poets with That’s Way It’s Got To Be:

See, it all gets back to what has always been the underlying theme of The Walking Dead.  Nobody is going to get out of this show alive.  It doesn’t matter how good you are.  It doesn’t matter how likable you are.  It doesn’t matter how much the audience loves you.  Everyone on this show is eventually going to die.  The only question is whether someone will be around to keep them from reanimating afterward.  Negan, Rick, Maggie, Carol, Daryl, Michonne, Eugene … none of them are going to get out of this alive.  Death will come for everyone eventually and tonight, it appears that it’s coming for Carl.

As I tweeted on November 5th…

Tonight’s episode featured a lot of Carl.  When Negan and the Saviors showed up at Alexandria and demanded that Rick be given to them, Carl is the one who offered to sacrifice his life so that the rest could live.  (And, of course, we now know why Carl was willing to do that.  He literally had nothing to lose.)  When the Saviors were blowing up Alexandria, we watched as Carl made his way through the flaming wreckage of his former home.  Throughout the show, we got flashbacks of Carl arguing with Rick about Rick’s harsh philosophy.  Tonight, we saw more of Carl then we’ve seen in a while and I spent the whole show assuming that meant that Carl was probably not going to come to a good end…

But still, it’s hard to overstate the emotional impact of seeing Carl there at the end, bitten by a walker and fighting to breathe.  As Chris Hardwick and Khary Payton stated at the start of Talking Dead, Chandler Riggs really did grow up over the past few seasons of The Walking Dead.  It’s always kind of been easy to make jokes at Carl’s expense.  Early on in the show, it always seemed inevitable that he would end up getting lost or picked up the by the wrong people.  Whenever I live tweeted those early seasons of The Walking Dead, I almost always suggested that the ideal solution to almost any problem would be to sacrifice Carl.  But tonight, Chandler Riggs showed why Carl has become a favorite of many fans of this show.  The episode ended with Carl still alive but fading.  Will he die?  I really don’t see how he can’t.  He’s been bitten on his side so it’s not like they can just chop off a limb, like they did with Herschel.  If the show is to have any integrity, Carl has to die and he will be missed.

Up until that final scene with Carl, tonight’s episode could have just as easily been called “Everyone Better Do What Rick Says.”  Darryl took it upon himself to crash that truck into wall of the Sanctuary, which is actually what Rick did not want him to do.  As a result, the Saviors escaped, were able to launch a counter attack, destroy Alexandria, and take over The Kingdom.  Carl, meanwhile, went off on his own, helped out Siddiq, and ended up getting bitten for his trouble.  From now on, everyone better listen to Rick.

Rick got the line of the night when he asked Negan, “Don’t you ever shut the Hell up?”  That’s something that I’ve been wondering for a season and a half now.  Tonight, Negan actually lived up to his fearsome reputation.  As for the other Saviors, Simon made me say, “Oh God, this fucking guy again…” as soon as he got out of that truck and Gavin came across like a teacher trying to control an unruly classroom.  I guess Dwight is officially a part of Rick’s group now.

This was sometimes a hard episode to watch, not because it was bad but because it literally took place in the dark.  All of the action played out at night and the show actually did good job of using the darkness to its advantage.  There was an eerie and horrible beauty to scenes of Alexandria burning to the ground.

But you know what?

In the end, all anyone is going to remember about this episode is that final scene with Carl.

That’s the way it’s got to be.

And with that, The Walking Dead is on hiatus.  Season 8 will resume in 2018 and so will our coverage!

TV Review: The Walking Dead 8.7 “Time For After” (dir by Larry Teng)

This review of the latest episode of The Walking Dead is an example of better late than never.  This episode aired nearly a week ago but I’m only now getting around to watching it.  As I sit here watching and typing this review, it is 2 a.m., Saturday morning.  I’ve just returned from attending two Christmas parties.  I was actually thinking about getting some sleep for once, but then I suddenly realized that I still had an episode of The Walking Dead to watch!

That, of course, wouldn’t have happened in the past.  When The Walking Dead first started, there would have been no way that I would have waited a week to watch the latest episode.  That was before the show settled into its current glacial pace.  At this point, it typically takes this show so long to get from point A to point B that viewers like me spend entire episodes asking, “Are we there yet?”

For example, as I sit here typing this, I am watching Daryl, Michonne, Rosita, and Tara debating about whether or not they should attack the Sanctuary or if they should wait for Rick.  (Rick is currently being held prisoner by the trash people.)  Morgan just walked up and said that he’s tired of talking and he just wants to take action.  YES, MORGAN, YES!  For God’s sake, let’s end the debate and just do something!  No, we don’t need to hear about how Michonne “believes in Rick Grimes.”  We don’t need to hear about how everyone felt when they saw Sasha in that box.  We already know all of this because we’ve spent two seasons listening to everyone have this exact same goddamn conversation over and over again!  Just do something!

The episode is now over and, in all fairness to the show, it should be noted that Daryl did finally do something.  He and Tara crashed a truck through a wall of the Sanctuary, allowing a mass of walkers to enter and chow down on a few Saviors and, even more importantly, it forced the Saviors to waste their bullets defending themselves.  However, since Daryl took this action on his own as opposed to waiting for Rick to get out of the trash prison, the show still had to present it as being some sort of mistake.  The show has too much invested in presenting Rick as being a strategic genius to actually acknowledge that anyone else could actually have a good idea.

Watching the walking dead feast on his new Savior buddies was apparently enough to convince Eugene to (once again) declare his loyalty to Negan.  Despite his recent troubles, Negan still seems to be having fun.  Fortunately, the show’s writers seem to have finally figured out that Negan is more effective the less we see of him.  As for Eugene, well — he’s Eugene.  This episode featured peak Eugene.  If Eugene’s overly convoluted syntax occasionally makes you want to rip your hair out, you were probably bald by the end of this episode.  You have to respect Josh McDermitt’s commitment to the role.  Eugene may be annoying but McDermitt plays the Hell out of him.  Eugene’s ultimate loyalties, of course, still remain questionable.  He knows that Dwight betrayed the Saviors but he still hasn’t told Negan.  He showed some sympathy to Father Gabriel (who is apparently dying because he covered himself with intestines a few episodes ago) but he still declared that he was loyal only to himself.

As for Rick, he did eventually get out of the trash prison and convinced Jadis to join him in his fight against Negan.  Jadis was impressed when Rick killed a walker gladiator.  Jadis also wants to sculpt Rick.  How are the trash people not dead yet?

(Apparently, the trash people prefer to be known as Scavangers.  However, I’m going to continue to call them trash people because they annoy da fug out of me.)

Anyway!  This episode ended with Rick and the trash people rolling up on the Sanctuary.  Oh my God!  There’s a hole in the Sanctuary!  There’s no walkers!  Uh-oh, Daryl did something on his own!  Rick’s never going to let that go…

One more episode before The Walking Dead goes on its mid-season hiatus!  Who will die this Sunday?  My prediction: Father Gabriel.  The show’s never really figured out what to do with Gabriel so now seems like a good time to let him go down as a martyr.

We’ll see what happens!

TV Review: The Walking Dead 8.5 “The Big Scary U” (dir by Michael Strazemis)

Could it be that I just watched a Negan-centric episode of The Walking Dead that wasn’t terrible?

It’s true!  I’ll admit that I rolled my eyes a bit when I saw that tonight’s episode was going to be about Negan and the Saviors.  Last season, though there were a few exceptions (particularly the episode where Eugene was first taken to the Sanctuary), the Savior episodes were my least favorite.  But tonight’s episode was actually pretty good.

That doesn’t mean that it was great, of course.  To be honest, I’m not totally sure that you could ever have a truly great Savior episode.  Whenever I watch the Saviors, I always find myself thinking about The Others on Lost.  One reason why the Others were such a fascinating group was because they weren’t just one-dimensional villains.  Whenever one of the Others would say something like, “We’re the good guys,” you could actually see their point.  There’s never been that type of ambiguity when it comes to the Saviors.  Negan is an asshole.  He has chosen to surround himself with other assholes.  They were all probably assholes before the zombie apocalypse and they’ll continue to be assholes until Sanctuary is eventually overrun by walkers.

With all that in mind though, this was still a pretty good episode.  If nothing else, this episode made it a little bit clearer why people started following Negan in the first place.  Even when Negan was trapped in the trailer with Father Gabriel, he did not allow himself to show any fear.  Instead, he was actually able to persuade Gabriel to make a run with him for the Sanctuary.  Even his confession to Gabriel about his first wife mostly served to reveal that Negan is a master manipulator.  He shared just enough to keep Gabriel intrigued.  After spending almost all of previous season bellowing, Jeffrey Dean Morgan dialed things back just enough to make Negan interesting again.  For that matter, tonight’s episode finally gave Seth Gilliam to show what he’s capable of when he’s actually given a decent line or two.

In the trailer, Negan told Gabriel that the Saviors would undoubtedly end up killing each other if they thought he was dead.  That may have sounded arrogant at the time but it quickly turned out that Negan was correct.  I think that’s also going to be the Saviors’s downfall.  By literally setting himself up as the strongest man in the Sanctuary, Negan has also ensured that the Saviors are lost without his presence and direction.  While all of his lieutenants may go out of their way to imitate Negan’s style, none of them have his leadership skills.  It doesn’t matter how much Simon and Regina insist otherwise.  They may say “I am Negan,” but everyone know that they’re not.  That said, Negan’s sudden appearance after everyone had assumed he was dead will probably leave him in an even more powerful position.  All messiahs return from the dead and Negan even returned with a man of God!

As for the rest of the episode, I didn’t really get the whole point of Rick/Darryl fight.  (It did, of course, remind us of the difference between Rick and Negan.  Rick forgave Darryl, something Negan would view as being a sign of weakness.)  Josh McDermitt is obviously having a blast as Eugene.  Eugene may be a traitor but McDermitt’s performance still makes me smile every week.  And then there was weaselly Gregory, of course.  I think we’re all ready to see a bunch of walkers pounce on Gregory.

As I watched tonight’s episode, I found myself making a few more predictions about the rest of season 8:

  1. There’s no way that Gabriel is still going to be alive at the end of this season.  He is so being set up for martyrdom.
  2. If they get Dr. Carter back to Hilltop, does that mean that Maggie will finally have her baby?
  3. Judging from the flashback/flashforward structure of this season (and the fact that they’re going to have to explain why Carl no longer looks like he’s 13 years old), I’m going to guess that there will be a considerable time jump between season 8 and season 9.  Either that or Zombie Carl’s going to show at some point soon…

As always, we’ll see what happens!

TV Review: The Walking Dead 8.1 “Mercy” (dir by Greg Nicotero)

Before I say anything about the 100 episode and 8th season premiere of The Walking Dead, I want to say thank you to the show’s producers for including a dedication to George Romero at the end of the episode.

Even in his later years, Romero never quite got his due from either Hollywood or the critical establishment.  He struggled to raise the money to make movies that would stay true to his vision.  The critics who praised him often only did so grudgingly, often acknowledging his influence while still making snide remarks about his films.  Too many critics are still unwilling to give unqualified praise to anything related to the horror genre.  Despite all of that, George Romero is one of the most important and influential filmmakers of all time.  It can be argued that without Romero and his Dead films, modern horror would look very different.  If there’s one thing that we can be sure of, it’s that without Night of the Living Dead, there would be no Walking Dead.

As for tonight’s episode…

Well, it was certainly different from what we had to deal with for the majority of season 7.  I mean, Rick actually did something other than sitting around in a catatonic state.  While Negan was featured in this episode, he was used sparingly.  He didn’t hijack the show, like he did for most of season 7.  We didn’t have to sit through any fifteen minute Negan monologues.  When this episode started with the various groups preparing for war, I figured that — following the usual pace of The Walking Dead — we would have 6 episodes of everyone getting ready, 6 episodes of everyone talking about being ready, and then 1 episode of actual fighting.  Instead, for once, the show got right to it.

Does this mean that the show’s producers actually learned something from the less than positive reaction that some fans and critics had to the sluggish pace of season 7?  We can only hope so.

I was happy to see Rick finally acting like the Rick that we once knew and loved.  Gone was wimpy Rick.  Instead, this Rick went straight to Negan, shouted out some threats, and then launched an attack on the Sanctuary.  All of a sudden, Rick became a badass again and it’s about time!

At the same time, I think it can be argued that the attack was a waste of bullets.  Sure, Rick and his people wanted to make a statement.  They wanted to show the Saviors that they weren’t going to allow themselves to be pushed around anymore.  But, as I watched round after round being fired at the Sanctuary, I remembered all of the times that we were shown Darryl pulling his arrows out of the head of a dead walker.  Why?  Because resources are limited in the world of The Walking Dead and anything wasted — like thousands of bullets — will never be replaced.  Rick and his allies have a lot of guns but what good are they going to be if they run out of bullets?

That said, during the show, I was willing to set aside those concerns.  Negan has been such a hateful and, if we’re going to be honest, annoying character that it was impossible not to feel a visceral thrill at the sight of someone finally fighting back.

As for the rest of tonight’s episode:

  1. Is Carl growing disillusioned with his dad?  To be honest, I’m just surprised that Carl’s still alive.  Someday, Carl is going to have to shoot his father in the head, in order to keep Rick from turning into a walker.  I have a feeling that’ll be the last scene of the last episode of The Walking Dead.
  2. Why is Gregory still alive!?  God, what a dumbfug toadsucker that guy has turned out to be.
  3. So, now, Father Gabriel has been captured by Negan.  I hope this doesn’t mean that we’re going to have to listen to Negan give a lecture on his opinion of organized religion.
  4. Throughout tonight’s episode, we were given scenes of an older and happier Rick.  He was living with Michonne and Judith.  Carl was nowhere to be seen.  There was a lot of talk of an upcoming festival.  Were these legitimate flash forwards or were they just Rick’s fantasy of what life is going to be like if he defeats Negan?  I’m leaning towards thinking they’re Rick’s fantasy.  Rick always thinks that life can somehow get back to being normal and happy.  All he has to do is find Sophia or defeat the Governor or make a new life as a pig farmer or kill Negan. It never works out like Rick thinks that it’s going to.  However, it’s Rick’s refusal to give up his faith that makes him both a compelling and a tragic figure.
  5. Rick was proud of himself after his battle with Negan but, as I watched Rick celebrate, it occurred to me that Rick always ends up thinking that, just because he’s won a battle, he’s won the war.  Again, it just never seems to work out for him.
  6. The Walking Dead is back!  I thought this was a good episode and I’m cautiously optimistic about the rest of the season.

How does everyone else feel?  What do you think?  Is season 8 going to be a return to form for The Walking Dead or are we looking at another season 7?  Regardless of whether you agree with me or not, I’d love to read your thoughts in the comments below.