The TSL’s Daily Horror Grindhouse: 31 (dir by Rob Zombie)


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Are you scared of clowns?  Sure, you are.  All good people fear clowns.  However, if you somehow do not find clowns to be frightening, you may change your mind after seeing Rob Zombie’s latest film, 31.

Of course, that’s assuming that you actually see 31.  31 is not a film for everyone.  In fact, if you’re not a fan of Rob Zombie or his style of horror, you should probably stay miles away from 31.  Bloody, intense, violent, and occasionally rather nihilistic, 31 is perhaps the Rob Zombiest of all the films that Rob Zombie has ever made.

However, if you’re a fan of extreme horror, you’ll appreciate 31.  It may not always be easy to take but then again, that’s kind of the point.

The film takes place in the 70s, which means that it has a really kickass soundtrack.  A group of carnival workers are driving across the desert in a van when they are attacked and kidnapped.  They find themselves in a dark building, being lectured by three people who are dressed like 18th century French aristocrats.  The leader of the aristocrats (played by Malcolm McDowell) informs them that they are going to playing a game called 31.  For the next twelve hours, they will be locked away in a maze.  They will be hunted by five murderous clowns.

Yes, you read that right.  Not just one murderous clowns — FIVE!  (Even worse, a sixth bonus clown eventually joins the game.)

If they can survive for 12 hours, they win.  What do they win?  Other than freedom, the film is never particular clear on this point.  The motives of the aristocrats remain a mystery for the majority of the film.  Are they just sadists, are they perhaps devote fans of The Purge who were so disappointed with Election Year that they decided to recreate the second film on their own, or is there some bigger reason behind this game of 31?  The film leaves the question for us to answer.

The rest of the film is a collection of progressively more violent fights between the carnival workers and the clowns.  For the most part, the carnival workers are all likable and you don’t want to see any of them harmed.  The clowns, meanwhile, are just about the freakiest collection of killers that you’ve ever seen.  When one of them is cornered, he pathetically begs, “We’re all pawns!  We don’t want to do this!” but you never quite believe him.  The deadliest of the clowns is Doom-Head (Richard Brake) and his evil smirk will give you nightmares.

31 is an incredibly intense film and it’s definitely not for the faint of heart.  Everything from the acting to the set design to the costumes to David Daniel’s stark cinematography comes together to make 31 into a harrowing horror film.  If you can’t stand Zombie’s trademark mayhem, I would suggest avoiding 31.  However, if you’re a fan of Zombie’s films, you’ll find 31 to be perhaps the purest distillation of his artistic vision.

Embracing the Melodrama Part II #103: 21 Grams (dir by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu)


21_grams_movieRemember how shocked a lot of us were when we first saw Birdman?  Well, it wasn’t just because Birdman featured an underwear-clad Michael Keaton levitating in his dressing room.  And it also wasn’t just because Birdman was edited to make it appear as if it had been filmed in one continuous take (though, to be honest, I would argue that the whole “one continuous shot” thing added little to the film’s narrative and was more distracting than anything else.)  No, the main reason we were shocked was that Birdman was directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and, when we thought of an Inarritu film, we thought of something like 2003’s 21 Grams.

It’s not easy to explain the plot of 21 Grams, despite the fact that 21 Grams does not tell a particularly complicated story.  In fact, if anything, the plot of 21 Grams feels like something that either Douglas Sirk or Nicholas Ray could have come up with in the 50s.  Indeed, the plot of 21 Grams is far less important than the way the Inarritu tells the story.  (In that, the dark and grim 21 Grams does have something in common with the arguably comedic Birdman.)

Inarritu tells his story out of chronological order.  That, in itself, is nothing spectacular.  Many directors use the same technique.  What distinguishes 21 Grams is the extreme to which Inarritu takes his non-chronological approach.  Scenes play out with deceptive randomness and it is left to the viewer to try to figure out how each individual scene fits into the film’s big picture.  As you watch 21 Grams, you find yourself thankful for little details like Sean Penn’s beard, the varying lengths of Naomi Watts’s hair, and the amount of sadness in Benicio Del Toro’s eyes because it’s only by paying attention to those little details can we piece together how once scene relates to another.

The film tells the story of three people whose lives are disrupted by the type of tragedies that the pre-Birdman Innaritu was best known for.

Sean Penn plays Paul Rivers, who is a sickly mathematician who desperately needs a new heart.  He’s married to a Mary (Charlotte Gainsbourg), who devotes all of her time to taking care of him and is frustrated by Paul’s fatalistic attitude towards his condition.  When Paul does finally get a new heart, he gets a new existence but is haunted by the fact that it has come at the expense of another man’s life.

Christina Peck (played by Naomi Watts) is a former drug addict who is now married with kids and who appears to have the perfect life.  That is until her husband and children are tragically killed and, in her grief, Christina falls back into her old lifestyle.  The formerly stable and happy Christina becomes obsessed with the idea of getting revenge for all that she has lost.  Naomi Watts was deservedly nominated for an Oscar for her work here.  Her vulnerable and emotionally raw performance holds your interest, even when you’re struggling to follow the film’s jumbled chronology.

And finally, there’s Jack Jordan (Benicio Del Toro).  Like Christina, Jack is a former drug addict.  Whereas Christina used the stability of family life to help her escape from her demons, Jack uses his new-found Christianity.  And just as Christina struggles after she loses her family, Jack struggles after tragedy causes him to lose his faith.  Like Paul, he struggles with why he’s been allowed to live while other have not.  Del Toro was nominated for an Oscar here and, like Watts, he more than deserved the nomination.

(While Sean Penn was not nominated for his performance in 21 Grams, he still won the Oscar for his role in Mystic River.)

21 Grams is a powerful and deeply sad film, one that will probably shock anyone who only knows Inarritu for his work on Birdman.  21 Grams is not always an easy film to watch.  Both emotionally and narratively, it’s challenging.  But everyone should accept the challenge.

 

 

Review: The Walking Dead S3E10 “Home”


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“Running is not an option.” — Glenn Rhee

[some spoilers within]

The series returned from it’s two month hiatus with even bigger numbers that still continues to surprise many tv pundits. The Walking Dead seems to be the show that no behind-the-scenes problems or storytelling and characterization problems can kill like other shows that has similar problems. The show is not on the same level as HBO’s Boardwalk Empire and Game of Thrones, FX’s Justified and Sons of Anarchy or even AMC stablemates Breaking Bad and Mad Men, but it’s a show that looks to have become must-see tv because of the very things tv pundits and critics have been complaining about.

Tonight’s episode, “Home”, was a microcosm of why the show has been such a frustration to hardcore fans of the comic book and the zombie genre, but also why the show still continues to bring in huge viewing numbers. Numbers that has begun to rival shows on the major networks and not just shows on cable. It was an episode that made me wonder if the season’s trip to redemption from season 2’s wildly uneven tone was suddenly being wasted. Then the second half of the episode arrived like a bullet to the head and we’re reminded why the show has gained such a huge following.

“Home” opens up with Rick still in the grips of the psychotic break we saw and experienced to end the previous episode. This part of tonight’s narrative is beginning to look like one of this season’s weaker ones. While I thought it was good to show the source of Rick’s growing mental instability the way the writers have gone about it makes Rick such a wildly uneven character when the “crazies” hit him. We understand that the burden of leadership has cost the poor man since he rejoined his family but whenever he begins to hallucinate it’s quite a glaring change. The same could be said about Glenn’s sudden rage-fueled need to avenge himself on the Governor for what he thinks was done to Maggie. We’ve seen leadership qualities in Glenn throughout the series’ run, but this need for vengeance for something that didn’t happen to him looks so out of character for Glenn. He’s almost channeling his inner-Shane and, despite what fans of TV Shane’s character might think, that’s never a good thing.

Tonight’s episode was all about the concept of the word “home” what it means to people surviving in a world where no place is safe. The prison and Woodbury are homes for two different survivors. On the one hand, we have Rick and his band of survivors who have survived some of the worst this zombie apocalypse has thrown their way and learned the hard way to survive. On the other side we have Woodbury where most of it’s population never learned to survive but relied on those in power to keep them safe. People in power who really do not have their well-being in mind, but just a resource to dominate and use when it suits them. One home has been invaded and it’s illusion of safety shattered by Rick and his people. Tonight we see the Governor repay that action in his own way.

Home is now a concept that doesn’t seem like a logical thing in this new world order and tonight’s episode went too talky about whether it was safe to remain in the prison or whether it was their best chance of survival. It didn’t help that Rick was on his crazytown jaunt through the woods outside the prison, Glenn was going all Shane on everyone and Hershel was starting to sound very Dale-like. Not very good combinations considering the writers on this show could never handle the quieter and philosophical moments on the show.

Where the episode was saved was when the bolts, bullets and blood flew in abundance in the second half. This first begun with Daryl doing something that Merle would never see himself doing on his own and that’s helping a band of strangers cornered by a large group of zombies. We see how much Daryl’s time with Rick away from the influence of his more volatile big brother Merle has made Daryl a better man without taking away his inherent badassness (yes that is a made up word that should be used more often).

The Governor’s payback against Rick and his people becomes a bookend to the midseason finale where Rick attacked Woodbury. The prison’s illusion of safety has been destroyed and with it one of their own who seemed to be finding his role. Axel was beginning to become a character of note then the Governor and his bullet happened and we’re once more left with the the core group which entered the prison.

If there’s one thing this show has done well since it first began two years ago it’s action and gore. I think it’s what this show does well that keeps people from tuning in for new episodes. There’s a chaotic feel to the action that makes them such a fun thing to watch. These people are not action heroes and not trained professionals in killing but it doesn’t keep them from trying to be both which goes to one of the core tenets of the zombie apocalypse genre. These people should be working together but the inherent mistrusts people have when put into extreme situations keeps that from happening. It’s why things got out of hand and things fell apart for everyone. It looks like it’s happening again but in a much more smaller scale with this war between Rick and the Governor.

With the season now putting the showdown between the two groups front and center it should keep things basic and that’s a good for this show. Basic and simple narratives keep the show moving at a fast-pace. It’s when everyone has some downtime to reflect on the nature of things that the show falters. Here’s to hoping that the first half of this episode was something that had to be done to set things up for the rest of the second half of this season. If it’s not then maybe there was reason why Glen Mazzara will not be returning as showrunner for season 4.

Notes

  • Tonight’s episode of was directed by series newcomer Seith Mann and written by series regular Nichole Beattie.
  • We have ourselves another cameo of a series regular killed off with Sarah Wayne Callies appearing as a figment of Rick’s fractured mind during the episode’s cold opening.
  • Interesting how this sequence is musically scored by the same music theme from way back in the series’ pilot. At first, I thought the return to this motif in the cold opening was announcing the announced return of Lennie James’ Morgan Jones character from the pilot.
  • Glenn trying to make up for Rick’s latest bout of craziness as leader of the group is both refreshing and, at the same time, funny as he’s clearly trying to overcompensate for what happened to him and Maggie during their time in Woodbury.
  • We may be starting to see one of the reasons why Glen Mazzara was replaced as showrunner for the upcoming season. Only two episodes into the second half of season 3 and we’re starting to see the bad habit of the show spinning it’s wheels as it rehashes some philosophical questions about survival and leadership.
  • Andrea being put in charge of Woodbury while the Governor “pulls himself together” would be a much more interesting turn of events if Andrea wasn’t such a broken character played by a performer who can’t seem to find that fine line between cocky and annoying that her character seems to be written as.
  • The best performance of this second half of the season seems to consistently be from Lauran Cohan as Maggie Greene. She has another fine performance tonight as Maggie as she pretty much puts Glenn in his place.
  • Good to see the writers resisted the temptation to revert Carol back to being an emotional mess once she found out about Daryl choosing to leave the group.
  • Speaking of the Dixon Brothers: it looks like Daryl really regrets choosing blood over his new family as Merle continues to be Merle. His attitude towards the Latino family besieged by walkers on the creek bridge is so hilariously racist yet something that continues to stay in character. It definitely helps in making the question of whether Daryl stays with Merle or goes back to the group not become a protracted affair as we see at the end of the sequence.
  • The first half of the episode was quite a bore that highlighted the very flaws this show has had throughout it’s current broadcast life, but the second half saved it by showing just why people continue to return to watch each new episode every Sunday.
  • Axel, we hardly knew you but at least you lasted longer than Oscar. I must say that his death mirrored very well the way he died in the comics.
  • It would seem that it’s easier to headshot zombies when they’re stumbling towards Rick and his people than to actually hit the Governor and his shooters when they’re standing still.
  • Zombie Kill Count of tonight’s episode: 35 (at least 15 more off-screen).

Past Season 3 Episode Review

  1. Episode 1: “Seed”
  2. Episode 2: “Sick”
  3. Episode 3: “Walk With Me”
  4. Episode 4: “Killer Within”
  5. Episode 5: “Say the Word”
  6. Episode 6: “Hounded”
  7. Episode 7: “When the Dead Come Knocking”
  8. Episode 8: Made to Suffer
  9. Episode 9: The Suicide King

Review: The Walking Dead S3E09 “The Suicide King”


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“You came through like always.” — Hershel Green

[some spoilers within]

It’s been months of waiting since the exciting mid-season finale of The Walking Dead‘s third season. This season has been quite a revelation in that it put some of the lost faith fans of the show had after the very uneven 2nd season under the split caretakers of Frank Darabont (fired after the first half of season 2) and Glen Mazzara (took over after Darabont’s departure). Under Mazzara’s guidance as the show’s showrunner the show has done a great job at fixing some of the major issues the show had been criticized about throughout season 2.

Season 3 has been faster-paced and didn’t rely too much on the use of exposition info-dumps to explain what was going on in the show. The action during the first half of season 3 wasn’t just for the thrill that fans wanted more of, but also allowed the show to show rather than tell the episodes. This was something that had been a major problem under Darabont’s guidance. Mazzara realized the problems and did some major course-correcting on the show’s narrative that even major detractors of the series had to concede that the show had breathed new life to what had become something that stagnated.

The Walking Dead broke for it’s mid-season winter hiatus with the excellent “Made to Suffer” episode. With two months of waiting to go through some things occurred behind-the-scenes on the show that could affect the series going forward with the second half of season 3 and the show’s future, in general. First, AMC announced that a fourth season of the show was being greenlit (worst kept secret), but the second news was more of a downer as the network announced that showrunner Glen Mazzara was leaving the show. Rumors as to why he was leaving has been flying since the announcement with creative differences between Mazzara and the show’s executive producer and comic book creator Robert Kirkman. We may never know the full details on what occurred behind-the-scenes, but it looks like The Walking Dead as a series may go through another course-correction that may help of hurt the show. Time will tell and hopefully incoming showrunner Scott Gimple (also one of the series’ veteran writers) will keep the show going on the positive end of the ledger.

“The Suicide Kings” marks the second half of season 3 and we pick up pretty much where the mid-season left-off with the Governor pitting the Dixon brothers against each other to appease the Woodbury mob who has just been violently woken up from their “idyllic” existence inside the walls of the town. The scene itself was milked for tension as we’re not sure (once the deathmatch began) whether Merle was actually going to kill Daryl in order to prove his loyalty to the Governor. Fortunately, this doesn’t last too long as the two brothers soon fight back-to-back against the Woodbury guards leading shackled walkers towards them. But it was the timely intervention of Team Rick and his well-trained “commandos” who finally broke the Dixon brothers out of the precarious situation and also shatter whatever illusion of safety the Woodbury residents had been holding onto even after the initial raid by Team Rick.

The  bulk of the episode showed the two opposing groups having to deal with the effects of the raid and rescue by Rick’s group against the Governor and the town of Woodbury.

For a cold opening this one is pretty up there in setting the tone for a show’s return. We see how much Rick values Daryl as a member of his group that he would be willing to return to a place that hates him right now in order to rescue his right-hand man. It also helped showed how much the events that took place prior to this episode was affecting the Governor. With tear gas spreading and chaos reigning he calmly walks through it all with no care as to the safety of the people he declared himself as their protector or even as to his own safety. We see in these early moments a man who has lost everything he has cared about and just want blood from those he blames for his loss. The Governor during the rest of the episode looks to be setting himself up for a war and one he intends to win. He’s not out to rule over a grateful flock. In fact, he seems relieved to not having to pretend to be a benevolent leader anymore.

Rick, on the other hand, continues to crack under the weight of leadership. His decision concerning the Dixon brothers has begun to cause dissension amongst his own people not to mention that whatever psychological toll the death of Lori during the first half of the season really has gone away but has gotten worst. Andrew Lincoln’s performance as he becomes unhinged at the end of the episode was quite telling as it helps the viewers look at him less and less as a badass leader, but one with concern that he might be as big a danger to the group as the Governor. Even his own son Carl looks to be setting himself as a better leader of the group than his own father. Carl still mourns and worries about what he had to do to Lori, but at the same time we can see that he’s able to move on from such a traumatic event to help protect the group.

Will Carl be able to go against Rick when the time comes and a decision has to be made as to who should lead the group? We shall see if the writers will explore this aspect of the father-son dynamic as the season rolls onto it’s season finale.

As for the rest of the cast we get to know a bit more of Tyrese and his people. One, Tyrese seems like a genuinely good person just looking for a safe place for his sister Sasha and the rest of what had been a group of 25 people. Two, we learn that Allen and his son Ben of Team Tyrese are setting themselves up for a rude awakening if they think Carl and Carol will be easy to overpower for their guns thus take over the prison for themselves. If these two only knew what Carl has had to do since the end of season 2 they’d be backing away in fear of the original Lil’ Asskicker.

There’s also the interesting subplot developing between Glenn and Maggie. The two lovebirds look to be going through a personal crisis since their escape from Woodbury and the attentions of the Governor. Where Maggie seems to be holding up quite well considering the near-rape she had to go through with the Governor, Glenn on the other hand looks to be playing up the role of the furious significant other who wants revenge on the Governor and Woodbury for what they put his lover through. Maggie, as we can see from her reaction to Glenn’s behavior throughout the episode is none too grateful for being treated like she’s helpless. It looks like there’s some interesting times in store for the show’s resident couple.

“The Suicide Kings” is an apt title for tonight’s episode as we see the opposing kings of the show looking like they’re heading down a path of suicide to punish those they think has caused them heartache and loss but also to finally end the suffering they’re going through. The Governor wants war while Rick just wants and end to everything as a way to get away from the demons and heartache he’s currently going through this season. Time to see which king will finally get their wish by season’s end.

Notes

  • Tonight’s episode was written by series regular Evan Reilly and directed by newcomer Lesli Linka Glatter.
  • While he comes off as quite the mad scientist during the early episode of the season it looks like Milton (played by Dallas Roberts) doesn’t seem to be quite sure of the Governor as a leader to follow especially during the “fight club” sequence in the beginning of the episode.
  • Nice to see Merle being Merle (funny and great performance by Michael Rooker) by rewarding Rick and his group rescuing him from Woodbury by mouthing off. Seeing Rick pistolwhip Merle then seeing the look of silent thanks from Daryl was a great moment. Daryl may be sticking with Merle because of their shared blood, but Daryl understands how much more of a big brother Rick has been to him. This makes his reluctant choice to side with Merle in the end to be so bittersweet. Daryl knows his true place is with Rick, but blood calls much stronger.
  • Glenn, Glenn, Glenn….why are you being such a dumbass. Just goes to show that when it comes to man trying to stand up for their woman (or man) sometimes they let their balls do the thinking instead of their brain.
  • When it looked like Carol was about to revert back to being useless, catatonic Carol when she found out about Daryl’s decision to leave the group she surprised me (and probably many) by taking things in stride after having a cry over the initial news. I do hope that the season continues to explore the unique relationship and bond which seem to have grown between Carol and fan-favorite Daryl Dixon.
  • Chandler Riggs continues to improve as an actor this season though at times hints pop up just how much of a newbie he is to the craft. Yet, when it comes to being the silent, badass type he does seem to pull off the type well.
  • When Rick was holding baby Judith in his arms once he got back to the prison there was a moment, just moment, when the look on his face made it seem like he didn’t like what he was seeing when looking down at her and wanted to bash her wee baby head against the wall. Maybe he thought he saw some Shane in her or maybe he thought it would be better off if she never grew up in a world as uncaring and horrific as the world this show has created.
  • Andrea is a character that seems like the writers continually on the cusp of finding the role for, but always comes off as unforgivably stupid or just irritatingly cocksure of herself despite always making the worst decisions each and every time she’s confronted by hard choices. Maybe it’s not the character but the actor Laurie Holden’s performance that’s hampering what should’ve been one of the show’s bedrock, badass characters. Instead, it looks like she’s just a character that’s now on borrowed time with the show’s writers just looking to find a way to give her the proper exit.
  • Rick, my man, looks to be unraveling before our eyes, not to mention in front of the rest of the group, with his hallucination of what could only be Lori’s ghost in the end of the episode as he’s contemplating the decision to whether let Tyrese and his people stay or leave.
  • Zombie Kill Count of tonight’s episode: 13 seen (possibly 8 more off-screen)

Past Season 3 Episode Review

  1. Episode 1: “Seed”
  2. Episode 2: “Sick”
  3. Episode 3: “Walk With Me”
  4. Episode 4: “Killer Within”
  5. Episode 5: “Say the Word”
  6. Episode 6: “Hounded”
  7. Episode 7: “When the Dead Come Knocking”
  8. Episode 8: Made to Suffer

Review: The Walking Dead S3E08 “Made to Suffer”


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“I’m afraid of terrorists who want what we have.” — Philip “The Governor” Blake

[spoilers within]

We’ve finally reached the mid-season finale of season 3 of The Walking Dead. It’s one that changes the dynamics on both groups we’ve come to know through this season’s first half. The season has been a tale of two cities. We have the one with the imposing prison where Rick and his people have chosen to use as their safe haven though losing a couple of their own in the process of doing so. On the other side is the almost-idyllic town of Woodbury where it’s leader in the Governor plots to keep his charges safe but also unaware of what truly transpires before his charming smile. It’s not just about the differences between the two groups of survivors but between the men who lead them.

“Made to Suffer” begins with a new group of survivors in a forest being attacked by a number of zombies. It’s a small group of five and we learn quickly enough the name of the group’s leader. It’s a name that’s been speculated on since the start of the show over two year ago. There were rumors that the writers had decided that the character might not ever make it to the show since it was already starting to bulge around the edges with some many names both main and supporting. While the secret about this character (who was an integral part of the comic book for almost five years) appearing on the show was revealed a couple weeks ago tonight saw the first appearance of Tyreese to the merry band of survivors.

The introduction of Tyreese should make for an interesting second half to this season as we get another Alpha Male to compete for the leadership role on the show that already has Rick and the Governor. For the moment Tyreese and his small group of survivors must contend with a much more resourceful leader-in-training in Carl who has been left behind to protect the other half of the group in the prison while Rick and his group went onto Woodbury.

Tonight’s episode was all about the confrontation between Prison vs Woodbury that’s been building up all throughout this first half of the third season. The fact that the writers made this confrontation not last through most of the third season is another sign that this season is more about keeping the story on the move instead of stopping to contemplate on the nature of the new world and its affect on those left behind. This narrative style of less is more has done wonders in making the show regain the tension that was built during the truncated first season, but was almost wasted in the sophomore effort.

With the Rick group sneaking into Woodbury to rescue Maggie and Glenn we get to finally see how the two competing groups would stack up when put up against each other. To say that Rick and his people look to be the better survivors would be an understatement. As we’ve learned throughout this first half of season 3 Rick has honed his band of survivors into an efficient group of killing machines. They move in precise, military-like manner to the point that even the Governor could see it and knew they were outclassed despite his group’s numerical superiority. It’s a testament to the hardship Rick and his people had to go through during the months between season 2 and 3 out in the wilderness in a day-to-day survival mode. It’s made his group hardened veterans with no weak links. On the other hand, the Governor has kept such a tight grip on power and information flow with the survivors in Woodbury that most were ill-equipped to deal with any attack of sufficient force.

One cannot say that Rick’s own methods were better than the Governor’s but the difference between the two seem to be that where the former sheriff’s deputy acted like a dictator in his own way he also kept everyone in the loop with what he wanted to do. The same couldn’t be said about the Governor who seemed to keep most everyone except for a handful of confederates at arm’s length. Even one of his most trusted lieutenant’s in Merle he didn’t fully trust. This differences between these two leaders meant a successful, albeit a costly one, rescue operation by episode’s end.

By the end of the episode we also find out that things might not be right with Rick mentally as we were led to believe after his bout with the prison telephone. The weight of leadership looks to be creating strains on Rick that could prove detrimental to the survival of those he cares about as we await the season’s return in a couple months. We also learn that the Governor doesn’t stand betrayal too easily as we see his reaction to the return of Michonne and the aftermath of that return. Both leaders are now set to suffer the consequences of their two groups meeting up. Rick losing two of his people (though as we see at the cliffhanger ending to the episode that there’s still hope for a fan favorite to survive) and the Governor losing whatever grip on humanity he might have had with the true death to his zombie daughter Penny.

This mid-season finale has been everything the season has been remaking the show to be. It’s been fast, thrilling and bare bones. We still don’t know too much about some of the side characters on the show, but we get glimpses to their changes through actions rather than long-winded expository scenes that weighted down the second season. Tonight’s episode shed a light on characters and their motivations and most of it through dialogue-free sequences. Even the speech made by the Governor in the end showed a lot about this man’s personality and done so without making it sound like it was for the audiences benefit and not to move the story forward.

It’s going to be a long two month wait, but as we’ve seen with the show’s fans even during a maddening and frustrating season 2 it’s a fan-base that will come back and come back hungry for more of The Walking Dead. The question now is whether this prison vs Woodbury story arc will finish this second half of the season or will we continue to see the prison as a setting for the show beyond season 3.

Notes

  • Tonight’s episode was directed by series regular Billy Gierhart and written by series producer and creator of the comic book, Robert Kirkman.
  • Welcome Tyreese and his ever-present claw-hammer.
  • A name from the comics but used on a throwaway character (same as the comic) appear in the cold opening: Donna.
  • Now we have an idea why the prison doesn’t seem to be running out of zombies even after the initial clear out by Rick and his people then after Rick’s Killpocalypse rampage during episode 5.
  • Glenn definitely is made of sterner stuff this season and has a MacGuyver streak in him by creating makeshft shivs out of a zombies splintered forearm bones.
  • Axel is still an unknown factor on the show despite helping Rick and his group earlier in the season, but his interaction with both Beth and Carol was both creepy and hilarious.
  • Carl doesn’t like Axel making the moves on his woman.
  • Nice move by Mazzara and the producers to bring back Jon Bernthal to make a brief, but important cameo, in tonight’s episode as Shane.
  • Despite being outnumbered it’s really interesting to note how much more dangerous Rick’s group when compared to the Governor and his Woodbury Bunch. Even the Governor admits that his people are survivors and not military who he thinks Rick and his people are.
  • Carl is becoming more and more like Rick: Taking charge though he doesn’t seem to want to and looking at the world through a pragmatist’s eyes.
  • Even Tyreese can see that Carl is more man than boy now. Carl has improved and gotten a major reset this season while another character like Andrea just continues to stump the writers.
  • Fight between Michonne and the Governor was even better than the one between Rick and Shane from season 2 and that’s saying something considering those two’s fight was one brutal of a fight.
  • We end the episode with a side profile view of the Governor’s face that’s literally a cover artwork from the comic book.
  • Zombie Kill Count of tonight’s episode: 12.

Past Season 3 Episode Review

  1. Episode 1: “Seed”
  2. Episode 2: “Sick”
  3. Episode 3: “Walk With Me”
  4. Episode 4: “Killer Within”
  5. Episode 5: “Say the Word”
  6. Episode 6: “Hounded”
  7. Episode 7: “When the Dead Come Knocking”

Review: The Walking Dead S3E07 “When the Dead Come Knocking”


“I’ll call the cops!” — unnamed hermit

[some spoilers within]

We’re getting close to the halfway point of season 3 of the Walking Dead. It’s been a season of many surprises and most of it coming from what looks like a soft reset by the show’s newest showrunner Glen Mazzara. He and his writers seem to be on a mission to fix the myriad of problems and issues the show ended up showing during it’s first full-length season with it’s second one. We don’t get as many prolonged quiet and slow moments that sucked any sort of momentum the show’s episodes would gather. We’ve also seen episodes this season that seemed much tighter in a narrative sense. No more dangling subplots that would stretch over several episodes. There was a concern that the fate of Carol would remained unanswered after the game-changer fourth episode of the season, but the writers didn’t stretch out the mystery as we saw it answered during last week’s episode.

Last week we saw a moment in the show that somewhat mirrors the original comic book source as Merle was able to take both Glenn and Maggie hostage and back to Woodbury. Something similar happens in the comic book, but other than Glen being the common participant in both iterations the show’s writer continue to mine the original source but do so in their own way and giving the moment more of an emotional impact moving forward than the original ever had. So, we find two of Rick’s group in dire straits while finding a surprise newcomer just outside the prison fence.

Tonight’s episode, “When the Dead Come Knocking”, and it marks the show’s penultimate entry this season before the mid-season finale that looks to pit the season’s two groups of survivors against each other. While we don’t actually see the two groups finally confront each other we get a lot of pieces being moved across the show’s board that the mid-season finale should be quite an apocalyptic event.

We do get a lot of Michonne finally doing more than glower at everyone around her and get hints at some personal issues that might be something leftover from before the zombie apocalypse. Her reaction to Rick grabbing her arm spoke volumes and why she was so intent to keeping Andrea with her. Her distrust of men could mean many things, but the fact that she’s willing to help Rick get his people back from the Governor speaks volume to Rick as a leader. Where the Governor charmed and cajoled and promised Michonne that she was free to go the same didn’t happen with Rick. He was literally quite the opposite. He bullied, demanded and promised her nothing but confinement until her motives could be better ascertained. While she might not be trust Rick right now it looks like Michonne prefers his no-BS way of doing things to the disingenuous one by the Governor.

It’s the difference between how Rick deals with strangers and how the Governor does things when in the same situation that tonight’s episode focuses on. While Rick has become hardened by his time in this new world of zombies since awakening from his coma he still seems to retain a semblance of the humanity that he’s been trying to leave behind in an attempt to keep his people alive. We’ve seen Rick do some unforgivable things this season, but we still hope that he doesn’t go full-on Col. Kurtz. It’s Rick’s attempts to balance cold-hearted pragmatism with his sense of right and wrong idealism that has made this character much more complex than it’s comic book counterpart.

On the other side we have the Governor who continues to pull the wool over Andrea’s eyes who still fails to see that the haven she has decided to stay in is quite rotten to the core and it all starts with it’s “benevolent” leader. We see less and less of his charming side and more of the sociopath he’s turning out to be. Tonight helps cements the idea that the Governor never came back from whatever abyss he went through in the beginning of the zombie apocalypse. He has stayed there in the justification that what he does he does so for the greater good of everyone. Yet, we see how even his inner circle of fighters and muscle fear him. It doesn’t help that the Governor was more than willing to use the prospect of rape to get what he wants.

So, we have this season’s two leaders on a trajectory, especially after tonight’s episode, to finally meet. On one side we have Rick who has gone through his own brand of hell on earth and seem to have come out the other side just as resolute, but still with some compassion to keep his humanity intact. On the other is the Governor who looks like Rick’s opposite mirror image. A man willing to do the worst and beyond if it means he keeps what he thinks is his.

There was some decent moments in tonight’s episode and most of it involved Glenn and Maggie as we saw just how far the two were willing to go to keep the information the Governor wants from him. It took an entire episode of the two lovebirds (and by now, especially after tonight we should finally realize the survivors really do love each other) to finally crack and it’s interesting to see who it was of the two who finally spilled the beans and for the reason why they finally broke. It was some fine work by both Steven Yeun (who got his  Hulk out moment as he goes one-on-one with a zombie while tied down) and Lauren Cohan (who also had to go through some major indignities that made tonight’s episode very difficult to watch). Even David Morrissey shined with his performance tonight as the Governor even if it meant watching him attempt some very awful things to his two new “guests”.

“When the Dead Come Knocking” is quite an apt title as the episode ends on a cliffhanger note with Rick, Michonne, Daryl and Oscar arriving outside the walls of Woodbury. The title could mean their arrival means more zombies will be following them to cause havoc on both sides. Or it could mean that death has come in the form of Rick’s group and it’s finally come for the Governor and his people. Either way one looks at it the mid-season episode next week look to be epic and a bloodbath waiting to happen.

Notes

  • Tonight’s episode was directed and written by two newcomers to the series with Dan Sackheim and Frank Rezulli respectively.
  • Things are not going to be looking good for our erstwhile hero Glenn Rhee. His character has definitely grown some since his appearance way back in Season 1. The tough times he and the rest of the group has had to live through looks to have toughen him up some.
  • Michael Rooker continues to be quite a surprise this season. He might have dialed back some of his redneck, racist histrionics from season 1 but he still gives off that same aura but a bit more wilier.
  • Love how Daryl has become Carl’s big brother this season. Makes one wonder what those two went through together in the time between season 2 and this season.
  • While still not the best child actor the scene between Chandler Riggs and Andrew Lincoln was a nice poignant moment between father and son concerning Lori and Lil’ Asskicker aka Judith.
  • Andrea makes an appearance several times tonight and each and every time the air seems to get sucked out of the room and the episode slows down. Even the potential that is Milton in these scenes seem to be lessened because of her in the same scenes.
  • Glenn just went all straight warrior on that zombie. He may not be the biggest in the group but he sure can fight.
  • As I thought it would be it looks like Maggie’s role in being a prisoner in Woodbury takes the place of another character’s in the same situation in the comics.
  • With all the zombie killing and the deaths of characters in this show’s three seasons the scene between Maggie and the Governor might have been the hardest to watch.
  • Interesting how nonchalant Rick and his people have become when its just a lone zombie bearing down on them.
  • Oscar looks to be fitting in well as T-Dog’s replacement in the group. Though I love his reaction when he realized what Rick, Daryl and Michonne were going to do with the unnamed LaMOE (Last Man On Earth) whose cabin they group escaped a big group of zombies to.
  • I this episode might have been the very first time we saw the zombies swarm and devour a body (outside of poor Secretariat in the pilot episode) in full daylight. The gore on the show whenever someone gets eaten seems to always occur in low light or night time.
  • Funniest moment in tonight’s episode: man being devoured by a horde of zombies then the show cuts to a KFC commercial.
  • If people think the relationship between Glenn and Maggie is one of convenience should have it changed after tonight’s episode.
  • For all his charms and good looks it looks like the Governor might have just earned himself the undying hatred of many of the show’s fans with tonight’s episode as we see more and more of his sociopathic tendencies.
  • Despite Daryl having become Rick’s right-hand man through it all it will be interesting to see which side he will pick when he finally meets up with Merle again next episode. As the saying goes, “Blood is blood.”
  • Zombie Kill Count of tonight’s episode: 17.

Past Season 3 Episode Review

  1. Episode 1: “Seed”
  2. Episode 2: “Sick”
  3. Episode 3: “Walk With Me”
  4. Episode 4: “Killer Within”
  5. Episode 5: “Say the Word”
  6. Episode 6: “Hounded”

Review: The Walking Dead S3E06 “Hounded”


“Eat. Drink. Be Merry. Tomorrow we die.” — Phillip “The Governor” Blake

We’re now over a third of the way throughseason 3 of The Walking Dead. The season began in such a fast pace that it almost as if the writers were trying to exorcise the demons of the very deliberate and pastorial season 2. The question that now arose was whether the writers will be able to keep the fast pace going through most of the season. There was bound to be some slow spots through the 16-episode run for this season, but the series seems to have avoided it, so far.

“Hounded” marks the sixth episode this season. Last week’s episode was a break from the action and this break continues with tonight’s episode. We get a pre-credits opening of Merle leading a small group of Woodbury tough guys on a hunt to find newcomer and resident badass Michonne. It would seem her suspicions about the Governor and the “idyllic” Woodbury was right on the nose. Before we can say “look it’s Evil Glenn” the Merle quartet was suddenly down two men, but Michonne gets winged by a Merle shot for her troubles.

After the intro credits we find ourselves back in the prison with Rick as he’s speaking to the voice on the phone which ended last week’s episode in a cliffhanger. Everything Rick ever wanted since the first season he hears from the female voice on the phone. A haven that’s safe from zombies, raiders and internal struggles. It’s a call from paradise that Rick has wanted for his family since he reunited with them midway through season 1.

The episode concentrates on these two paralleling storylines with some visits back in Woodbury to see how Andrea continues to fall under the Governor’s spell and just reminding everyone why she’s now the most hated character on the show now that Lori has exited. It’s these Andrea scenes that seem to slow tonight’s episode even more than it already has. It doesn’t help that the writers haven’t been able to find a way to course-correct the character after two season’s worth of a bungled job. Maybe it’s a character that’s broken beyond fixing or the actress portraying her (Laurie Holden) who always comes off in every scene as being too cocky for her own good. There’s still time to get this character turned around, but with Mazzara and company already making good on correcting the show’s past season mistakes both in it’s storytelling and in underused and underdeveloped character I don’t see much hope that Andrea will survive the season (plus she seems to be the last of the original Darabont veteran troupe hired for the show initially).

We find that the hounding of Michonne by Merle mirrors the hounding of Rick by those on the other side of the phone. While the former was one storyline that was a literal hounding the latter was a psychological one as Rick realizes that those he has been speaking to were not as he thought they were. We see Rick finally have the proper breakdown into grief at Lori’s death that the previous episode didn’t even attempt to do. We hear him confess his regret for not being able to keep his family safe and finally admitting that he still loved his wife and would do anything to get her back to tell her that.

It’s a lot to process and the episode suffered because of it. The scenes back in Woodbury did nothing other than make Andrea look even worst as she finally succumbs to the Governor’s charms. It’s this inconsistency in her character that has made her such a frustrating character to believe in. One moment she’s regretting not listening to Michonne then the next moment she’s in with the Governor. These scenes took away from the two storylines that dominated tonight’s episode. With just those two the episode was already stretched thin as it was.

So, tonight’s episode might have been a lot of set-up for what looks to be the long-awaited confrontation between Team Rick and Team Governor, but it also looks like it’s the third season’s first truly weak episode. We don’t learn anything new about any of the character old and new. We do get reminded that some of the show’s past mistakes still linger and keeps it from really taking off. So, the question about whether the writers will be able to keep season 3’s pace of quality tv has been answered. It’s just one episode but it highlighted just how much improvement the show still has to go. Fortunately, we’re not getting a sense that the writers intend to keep subplots from dragging along (the Sophia and Greene Farm being great examples of pacing killers). Now it’s time to see if the Mazzara Crew can get back on track with the final two episode of the season before it goes on a winter break.

Notes

  • Tonight’s episode was directed by series newcomer Dan Attias and written by series regular Scott M. Gimple.
  • Evil Glenn, we hardly knew you and now you’re gone.
  • Andrea just will continue to be the new target of hate for fans of the show. She just seems to always have smug look on her face even when she has no reason to be smug about.
  • Her skill in killing the zombie outside the wall did show that she’s probably one of the better killers in Woodbury outside of Merle and the Governor himself.
  • Hershel looks to be taking over as the voice of conscience for Rick. He looks to be taking on the role in the show that was originally taken by our dear departed Dale Horvath.
  • Rick must’ve really gone on a major killpocalypse in the prison in the previous episode if things were clear enough for Hershel to limp his way through safely.
  • Merle builds the kid’s courage up and just as easily takes it away with a bullet.
  • The Maggie and Glenn duo continue to be a very cute thing in a show that’s very lacking in the cute department.
  • Maggie continues to be this show’s version of the comic book Andrea which means she’s the team’s female badass until Michonne comes along.
  • Interesting how the show continues to deviate from the comic book’s narrative but still manages to create new scenes reminiscent of what was on that path not taken.
  • Nice how Glenn stays consistent with how he treats outsiders after mentioning in last week’s episode that the group should be very wary of anyone that’s not part of the group.
  • It seems like the show is setting things up to have a Dixon Brother showdown.
  • Nice to see the writers making sure that subplots introduced this season that has a chance to slow things down considerably get some sort of resolution: missing Carol and mysterious phone call.
  • Not many zombie kills this week, but the magicians over at KNB EFX still managed to make what kills there were memorable: zombie stomach sliced open and out slides out the goods.
  • Zombie Kill Count of tonight’s episode: 5

Past Season 3 Episode Review

  1. Episode 1: “Seed”
  2. Episode 2: “Sick”
  3. Episode 3: “Walk With Me”
  4. Episode 4: “Killer Within”
  5. Episode 5: “Say the Word”