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 7.16 “The First Day Of The Rest Of Your Life” (dir by Greg Nicotero)


(SPOILERS, OF COURSE)

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

But you know what?

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

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

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

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

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

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

ZOMBIE SASHA!

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

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

RESCUE SHIVA!

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

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

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

I’ll be watching.

Will you?

A Few Thoughts On The Walking Dead 7.1 “The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be” (dir by Greg Nicotero)


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Well, we can all breathe again.

Tonight saw the premiere of the seventh season of The Walking Dead.  All this summer, we’ve been wondering who Negan would end up killing with Lucille, his barbed wire-covered bat.  Glenn seemed to be the obvious candidate, particularly since he had already miraculously (and, some would say, implausibly) escaped certain death on the show and he was also Negan’s victim in the comic.

However, none of us wanted it to be Glenn.  Ever since the show began, Glenn has been one of the most popular characters.  In many ways, he served as a stand-in for the audience.  Sure, everyone loves Darryl and Michonne but Glenn …. well, there was just something special about Glenn.  Whereas both Darryl and Michonne were born warriors and Rick Grimes was a former police officer who had been trained to think quickly in a crisis, Glenn was just a pizza delivery boy.  He was the guy who, by all logic, should not have survived the first week of the zombie apocalypse.  And yet, he did survive.  For sic seasons, we watched as Glenn grew and developed as a character.  When he “married” Maggie, it was more than just a plot twist.  It was proof that, even in the worst of circumstances, love could survive.

So, a lot of us told ourselves that there was no way that Glenn would die.  We told ourselves that Glenn was too popular of a character.  We mentioned all the other times that the show had led us to believe it was going to follow the plot of the comics just to suddenly go in a totally opposite direction.

Myself, I believe that Negan would kill Abraham.  Abraham seemed like the obvious choice, popular enough that his death would mean something but, at the same time, not so popular that the show would risk losing any viewers by killing him.

I was so confident in my prediction that I ever decided to make it official:

And I was right.

But I was also very wrong.

It took about 25 minutes for tonight’s episode of The Walking Dead to get around to showing us who Negan killed.  The episode really pulled out the suspense and I have to admit that I was worried they were going to go the entire hour without letting us know for sure.  (I remember Lost used to do that and it would drive me crazy.)  And when we saw Negan beat Abraham to death, I think a lot of people said, “Poor Abraham but at least it wasn’t Glenn…”

And then, a few minutes later, Darryl charged Negan and, after Darryl was subdued, Negan responded by beating Glenn to death.

(As Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who was so chillingly good as Negan, pointed out on The Talking Dead, Glenn would not have died if not for Darryl’s actions.)

It was hard to watch.  You can say that it’s just a TV show and that there are bigger things to worry about than the fate of a fictional character but, at that moment, it felt as if I was watching an old friend die.  For seven years, Glenn has been one of the show’s constants.  He’s been one of the few stable elements of The Walking Dead.  He’s always been there.

And now, he’s not.

While we were all still trying to recover from the deaths of both Glenn and Abraham, Negan was busy breaking Rick.  Rick has always been the leader.  He’s always been the guy who you can count on to ultimately do whatever needed to be done to protect the group.  Rick was the one who stepped up to shoot Sophia when she came out of that barn.  Rick was the one who, no matter how bad things got, everyone felt they could depend on.  In a world where it was often hard to find meaning or morality, Rick has always stood for something more than just ruthless survival.  And yet, last night, we saw a totally defeated Rick.  Not only did Rick watch helplessly as two of his people were brutally murdered but he was also nearly forced to chop off Carl’s hand.

(I know that a lot of viewers — myself included — were expecting Negan to chop off Rick’s hand in the RV.)

As I watched that scene with Rick and Carl, I couldn’t help but think about the biblical tale of Abraham and Isaac, a story that I have always hated.  God ordered Abraham to sacrifice his son and he waited until Abraham raised the knife to say, “Stop, it was just a test of your faith.”  (Abraham is so overjoyed that he never stops to ask, “What type of God would ask me to do something so terrible in the first place?”)  When Negan ordered Rick to chop off Carl’s hand and then stopped him only after he raised the hatchet, it was Negan’s way of saying that, for all intents and purposes, he is God.

Again, it wasn’t easy to watch.  But at least Maggie doesn’t appear to be ready to surrender.  Rick may have been broken.  Darryl may now be a hostage.  But Maggie is going to keep fighting.

Finally, I have to say that, after watching all of this, I am so incredibly thankful for Chris Hardwick and Talking Dead.  When Chris opened the show by promising that we were going to talk through what we had just witnessed, he wasn’t kidding.  Tonight’s episode of Talking Dead felt like a televised group therapy session.  It helped to see Steven Yeun and Michael Cudlitz on that stage with the rest of the cast.  After we just watched, we needed to see them all together.  We needed to see them laughing and joking and crying and hugging.  We needed that catharsis.

Talking Dead served as a reminder that it was just a TV show and nobody had really died.

So, why do so many of us still feel like we just said goodbye to a member of our family?

One final thought:

RIP, Abraham and Glenn

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Horror on TV: Buffy the Vampire Slayer 3.16 “Doppelgangland”


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Let’s continue our look at Horror on TV with another classic episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer! Just as yesterday’s episode focused on a supporting character (Xander), this episode focuses on Willow!

I was going to say that Doppelgangland was one of my favorite episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer but then I realized that everyone would probably say that. This is an episode that truly shows why countless fans continue to love the show after all these years.

Horror on TV: Buffy The Vampire Slayer 3.13 “The Zeppo”


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OH MY GOD, IT’S BUFFY!

I love Buffy The Vampire Slayer and it’s always bothered me that I haven’t been able to share any episodes on this site. But, fortunately, this Halloween, Hulu has come to the rescue!

The Zeppo is one of my favorite episodes. While Buffy and the Scooby Gang save the world in the background, Xander (Nicholas Brendon) finally gets an adventure of his very own! Actually, there’s a lot of things that Xander finally gets to do in this wonderful episode!

(On a personal note, it breaks my heart whenever I read about Nicholas Brendon getting arrested and I’m reminded that Xander was just a fictional character.)

Seriously, enjoy Buffy the Vampire Slayer!

The Walking Dead Season 6 Trailer


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“Do you have any idea who you’re talking to?” — Rick Grimes

AMC has unveiled it’s official trailer for the 6th season of TV’s most popular show (so popular that it even beats Sunday Night Football on occasion) during it’s San Diego Comic-Con panel at Hall H.

Last we left the Grimes crew saw Rick Grimes get the go-ahead from Alexandria Safe-Zone leader Deanna Monroe to shoot wife-batterer and neck-slashing Pete in his face. It would’ve been quite a satisfying event if not for Rick’s first BFF, Morgan Jones, suddenly appearing out of the shadows to see him do the deed. This is the same Morgan who went from crazy clear to zen clear who thought all life that wasn’t undead was precious.

So, now season 6 is almost upon us fellow fans of the show and it looks like Rick is turning out to be Alexandria’s shogun with Deanna as the figurehead leader.

Will Rick’s Shane-like attitude to leading this expanded group of survivors be a blessing or be the downfall of another safe-haven for the Grimes Gang? There’s still the Wolves out there who now knows where they are. There’s also the looming shadow of the comic book’s Negan and his Saviors possibly making their appearance which could mean just one thing: WAR.

So, grab those ribs and thick-cut steaks and take a big bite and enjoy the trailer.

Review: The Walking Dead S5E16 “Conquer”


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“Simply put, there is a vast ocean of shit that you people don’t know shit about.” — Sgt. Abraham Ford

[spoilers within]

The Walking Dead has been derided as badly-written (early seasons definitely had it’s story issues) with recycled themes and subplots with characters that barely rise above one-dimensional. Only the most ardent fan would take those criticisms of the show and dismiss them outright. The series has had it’s many flaws and the three mentioned have been ones earned through the show’s first three seasons of revolving door showrunners.

There was the show’s original creator, Frank Darabont, who injected a cinematic quality to a tv show that could easily have gone campy (Z Nation), but whose need to control every aspect of the show made him lose the support of the very studio that helped him get the show up and running. It didn’t help that his first half of season 2 where the group searched endlessly for Sophia almost sunk the show.

With Darabont given his walking papers the show turned to series writer and producer Glen Mazzara to right the ship after a listless first half of season 2. Things definitely turned for the better with Mazzara in charge and for the first half of season 3 it looked like Mazzara might have finally figured out what sort of show The Walking Dead should be. In the end, he too ran out of steam as season 3 limped into an underwhelming season finale.

Scott M. Gimple took the reins and things for the show has been improving at a steady rate since season 4 and finally culminates in a season 5 finale that was both full of suspense, action and melodrama in equal amounts that has been the mark of his current tenure as series showrunner. If the show has an award for series MVP it should be handed gladly over to Scott M. Gimple.

“Conquer” starts with a cold opening that already signals that great things are afoot for the rest of the season finale’s extended 90-minutes. We find Morgan asleep (quite peacefully) inside a derelict car in the middle of the woods. We see him wake up and go about what’s probably a daily ritual for him when his breakfast gets interrupted by a stranger who happens to be sporting a “W” mark on his forehead (with dirt instead of carved into). He’s the first person we meet who seems to be affiliated with the very Wolves this second half of the season has been working up as the next Big Bad to threaten Rick and his people. It’s a sequence that gives us a clue as to the sort of bad guys these “Wolves” are going to be for Rick and Company. With some fancy staff fighting and a zen quality to his actions, Morgan more than holds off the two “Wolves” looking to steal his gear and add them to their collection of “W” marked zombies.

The rest of the episode takes on three different storylines involving Rick, Father Gabriel and Glenn.

With Glenn we see him follow Nicholas seen climbing over the walls of Alexandria. While not the most smart thing he has done of late, Glenn has a right to be suspicious of Nicholas who has done nothing but get people (both his own and Rick’s) killed while pumping himself out to be a strong protector when Glenn and the audience know that he’s far from it. It’s a sort of chase sequence as Glenn and Nicholas end up going at it mano-y-mano with Nicholas starting it off with a failed ambush that only wounds Glenn, but does hurt him enough that at times during the episode there was a great chance it was going to be him that would be the significant death to mark the season finale.

The writers (Scott M. Gimple and Seth Hoffman) don’t do the obvious and kill Glenn off, but does make him teeter on the brink of doing what many in the audience hope would happen and that was kill Nicholas once he finally had him beaten down. Instead, Glenn shows that despite his extended time out in the savage wilds outside the walls of Alexandria, he still has some compassion (misguided it might well turn out to be) and the need to see justice done. While Glenn might not have died in this finale his growing role as the voice of reason and compassion in a group that’s become fractured emotionally and mentally means his days on the series could very well be numbered.

Father Gabriel was the more frustrating segment of tonight’s finale. His time with the group has found him to be both naively stupid of the new world around him and mentally unstable because of what he had to do to survive. Yet, we find him talking a walk outside the walls in a bright, clean white shirt like he has cleansed himself prior to make sure he dies with a clean conscience. Instead, the instance a zombie was about to do what he seems to want he finally decides to want to live. But then does another 180 degrees and decides to leave the compound’s gate unsecured knowing it means zombies will definitely wander in.

The writers don’t seem to know what to do with Father Gabriel. From the moment he was introduced they seem to be flailing in the dark with so many ideas on how to treat an unstable man whose faith has been shattered by this new world where the dead don’t remain dead and those who survive must turn to their darker instincts (him included). One moment he’s trying to poison the minds of Deanna about Rick and his people while not confessing to the dark deeds he has done. Next he’s trying to atone for those very sins only to turn around and do something that would add more sins to his ledger.

It’s a shame that Father Gabriel has become such an albatross this season for the show since Seth Gilliam is such a great actor (as his time on HBO’s The Wire has shown). There’s still a glimmer of hope for the fallen priest as we saw when Maggie arrives just in time to keep Sasha from killing Father Gabriel. Will Maggie’s own Hershel-like act of mercy be enough to finally turn Father Gabriel towards something more concrete (whether as a good guy or a bad guy) would have to wait for season 6 this coming October.

We finally come to Rick who is in a sort of timeout after his total breakdown in the previous episode. He finally understands that he might have gone a bit Shane-like and overboard with his behavior, but he also still believes that Alexandria’s best chance of surviving beyond the luck they’ve had before their arrival was for them to stay and takeover. Whether they take over by the examples of their words and deeds or through force if the Alexandrians try to kick them out would depend on the very people who don’t seem to understand what’s truly at stake.

Rick gets a sort of visit from all the differing voices within his group. There’s Glenn and Michonne who wonder if Rick never wanted for their stay in Alexandria to work. Then there’s Carol and, to a certain extent Abraham, who has seen enough of how Alexandria operates to know that these people are like children who have had the luxury of never having been confronted with a no-win situation to wake them up from their fantasy of trying to rebuild civilization. It’s the sort of angel and devil on the shoulder bit that could’ve gone terribly cheesy, but ended up being natural and poignant to the episode’s narrative. A narrative that showed how both Rick and Deanna have been both wrong and right in their stances of how Alexandria should be led.

It would take a death to someone Deanna holds dear for her to finally understand what Rick and his people have bee trying to tell her and the rest of the Alexandrians. Abraham (who has become the show’s go-to-guy for memorable one-liners) said it best himself during the night meeting to decide Rick’s fate. In the only way Abraham knows how he says, “Simply put, there is a vast ocean of shit that you people don’t know shit about.”

In the end, Abraham was correct in that the Alexandrians just do not understand the world they’re living in. They might have the strong walls (not so strong that people can’t climb over them) to keep the zombies out. They have power and running water and some luxuries of the life long past dead. Yet, they’re naive and delusional to think that they won’t have to get their hands dirty to keep their way of life going. These people need people like Rick Grimes and his band of survivors. They might not be the best examples of how society and civilization was before the zombie apocalypse fell on everyone, but they were the ones who best adapted to it and still kept a semblance of their humanity in some way.

So, season 5 ended with not just Rick using a brand of reasoning and a recent example of how things could easily go from good to bad to make his point, but with Daryl and Aaron bringing Morgan back to Alexandria for a reunion between the first two characters we met on this show. Last time we saw Rick and Morgan together was in season 3’s “Clear” and Morgan was definitely not in his right mind while Rick was still holding onto his pre-apocalypse principles. with their latest reunion it looks like things have reversed with Rick looking more and more like the Morgan of “Clear” while Morgan has recovered from his crisis of conscience to come out the other side clear of mind.

We already know that there will be a season 6 and a season after that (AMC knows a goldmine when they see it and this show is literally printing them cash). The questions left unanswered by tonight’s finale looks to be the driving force for the next season. The Wolves now have an idea that Alexandria exists (from the knapsack full of pictures Aaron dropped at the canned food warehouse depot) and will probably try to visit them soon. Then there’s the question of how will Glenn finally expose Nicholas’ cowardice and duplicity to the Alexandrians and whether Nicholas will remain a problem for Glenn moving forward. The biggest question remains on whether these Wolves will involve Negan of the comics in some capacity or just the tip of a bigger danger.

The season closes with a very appropriate scene before fading to black. A car in the canned food depot marked in stark white spray paint with the words: “Wolves Not Far.”

Notes

  • Tonight’s season finale was directed by series exec. producer Greg Nicotero and written by showrunner Scott M. Gimple and series writer Seth Hoffman.
  • The Wolves seem to be a new group made just for the show. They don’t seem to correspond to any past group that the comic book has had Rick encounter and/or fight against.
  • The trailers trap full of zombies with the “W” marks on their foreheads was reminiscent of a similar scene and trap from Resident Evil: Extinction.
  • Aaron had his own moment during the escape out of the car that was straight out of the original Dawn of the Dead. machetezombie
  • Kill of the season has to be when Daryl took the chain, whipped it around his head to take the top of the heads of three zombies with precision. that’s kill of the week stuff that even Zombieland would be proud of.
  • When Father Gabriel fails to secure the main gate and then his subsequent behavior and confession to Maggie at the chapel was also reminiscent of a character from a George A. Romero zombie film: Day of The Dead. When Pvt. Salazar decides to commit suicide by letting in zombies into the secured compound.
  • Lennie James was trained to use a walking/fighting stick by the original Donatello from the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
  • The scene at the meeting where Pete accidentally kills Reg and the aftermath was straight out of the comic book frame for frame.
  • Talking Dead guests tonight are Morgan, Carol and Daryl (Lennie James, Melissa McBride and Norman Reedus) from The Walking Dead.

Season 5

Review: The Walking Dead S5E15 “Try”


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“It’s their world, we’re just living in it.” — Enid

[spoilers within]

Tonight’s episode of The Walking Dead marks the penultimate one for the show’s fifth season. It has been a season that’s seen the series remain on a consistent high. It still had some episodes which fell a bit flat, but overall season 5 has been the show’s best and delivered on showrunner Scott M. Gimple’s promise to keep the story moving forward.

The episode begins with a cold opening that shows the aftermath of the deadly supply run to the solar factory warehouse in the previous episode. We have to stories being told. There’s Glenn still haunted by having to witness Noah’s death by zombies very up close and personal. We see him tell Rick about how he and the others made a mistake and how it led to the deaths of Aidan and Noah. He feels responsible and hopes that it doesn’t ruin their chance in making the Alexandria experiment work. He still believes in the concept that is the ASZ (Alexandria Safe-Zone) and even Noah’s death doesn’t budge him from that belief. Rick, on the other hand, only sees danger and trouble when it comes to the ineptitude of the Alexandrians. His fears and doubts about whether the Alexandrians can pull their weight when it comes to keeping everyone safe has been confirmed.

Deanna, on the other hand, hears a different tale from Nicholas. It’s a tale of how it was he who tried to save Aidan and not leave him behind. It was Glenn who distracted and caused the death of Aidan and whose bloodthirsty attitude got Noah killed. Nicholas spoke about how he would never leave Aidan, his friend, behind and even included newcomer Tara as someone he tried to save. There’s some hints that Deanna has a sense that Nicholas wasn’t telling her the truth of what happened, but we don’t get to hear her voice out these doubts.

“Try” is a very appropriate title for tonight’s episode. We see several characters attempt to try and find a way to make the combination of Rick’s people and the Alexandrians co-exists together peacefully. Glenn, despite what some of these Alexandrians have done, still believes that they need to make Alexandria work. It’s their last chance to go beyond just existing and surviving but actually living life. He’s become the show’s moral compass (hopefully not a death sentence) now that Hershel and Tyreese are gone. Yet, unlike the previous moral compasses in the show, Glenn does understand that sometimes pragmatism must rule the day above all else. He just believes that Alexandria needs a chance to survive the growing pains of their group’s arrival.

Another of Rick’s people trying to make it work is Michonne. She’s had her time in exile in the wilds of this new and dangerous world. Her survival to this point has been in part due to those solitary months on her own with only herself to keep safe. Yet, she has also found out that being alone was a detriment to her psyche’s well-being and finding Rick and his people was what ultimately saved her not just from the zombies but from her own self-destructive ways.

She sees what’s happening with Sasha. A friend and fellow survivor deep in the midst of PTSD who has lost so much in such a short period of time that she hasn’t had the chance to take in and accept those losses let alone mourn them. Michonne understands what Sasha is going through but also realizes that they need her for what’s to come. Michonne wants to make Alexandria work and instability brought on by Sasha’s death wish and Rick’s inability to trust the Alexandrians will only make that prospect harder to achieve.

It is no surprise that the episode ends with Michonne taking control of a situation brought on by Rick’s blunt force behavior in trying to convince the Alexandrians that the way they were doing things were not going to work going forward. Michonne’s belief in the Alexandrians’ survival skills might mirror Rick’s own thoughts on the matter, but where Rick wants a confrontation to be the catalyst of change she seems more than willing to lead by example.

On the other side of things are Rick and Deanna looking to be at loggerheads about what’s truly best of Alexandria. It’s easy to take Rick’s side that the way Deanna and the rest of the Alexandrians have been doing things were just not going to cut it in this new world. It’s a world that Rick and his people have experienced first-hand and lost people along the way, but in the end have survived all it has thrown at them. Deanna, on the other hand, still believes in the rule of law and order, civilization over anarchy. She doesn’t believe in killing those who could be a danger to the ASZ (like Peter who also happens to be the lone physician and surgeon), but instead would rather exile them out into the wilds.

It’s a way of doing things that Rick sees as another way of putting the ASZ in danger. Deanna doesn’t think so and this clashing of philosophies on how things should be done looks to be one that’s heading into a confrontation that puts everyone in danger. Neither side seem willing to try and compromise and find a way to make the two groups con-exist. No attempt to allow the Alexandrians to learn from what Rick and his people could teach them to be better survivors. No attempt from Rick and those who believe him to adjust to this new life. A life that they see as a danger in itself. They see Alexandria’s walls as something that could make them soft and distract them from surviving.

So, we have the extended season finale next week and the question of whether Rick is too far gone to stay in Alexandria will be one of the questions that need answering. Will the group have to suffer through another loss of one of their own for the Alexandrians to finally realize that their survival before Rick and his people arrived have been through blind luck not through the civilizing rule of Deanna? Will Rick and the others just leave Alexandria or will the group finally splinter-off from those wanting to try and make it work and those unable to?

Then there are those zombies with the “W” cut into their foreheads looking to crash the party.

Notes

  • Tonight’s episode of The Walking Dead, “Try”, was directed by Michael E. Satrazemis and written by series veteran Angela Kang.
  • “Keep walking” has become Rick’s version of Carol’s “look at the flowers”. Pete should’ve been sprinting away the moment Rick uttered those wordsa at him with those Rick dead-eyes.
  • Nine Inch Nails’ “Somewhat Damaged” plays during the episodes cold opening and was a nice reminder that both groupsm Rick’s and the Alexandrians, have been damaged in some fashion since the start of the zombie apocalypse.
  • Still wondering how Nicholas knew about the Glock Rick hid in the blender out in the woods (Nicholas was in the ASZ when Rick and the group arrived). Is there someone outside the walls that told Nicholas of the hidden pistol?
  • Talking Dead guests tonight are Yvette Nicole Brown (Community), series executive producer Gale Anne Hurd and Chandler Riggs (Carl Grimes of The Walking Dead)

Season 5

 

Review: The Walking Dead S5E14 “Spend”


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“We know what we’re doing. It’s why you wanted us here.” — Maggie Greene

[spoilers within]

Tonight’s episode of The Walking Dead was shaping up to be a sort of throwaway one. The series seems to have several of these each year. They’re episode that seem to just rehash past themes and ideas to help table set the season finale. Some of them have been good stand-alone ones while other have been some of the series’ low points. One couldn’t fault the writers to come up with another one. It’s become an almost ritual for the show to have low points in the series before peaking once again for the last two episodes of the season.

“Spend” wasn’t a throwaway episode and definitely not one of this season’s low points.

Let’s just start things by saying that tonight’s episode was directed by Jennifer Lynch (daughter of filmmaker David Lynch) and her fine touch with the darker aspects of show’s genre roots showed. It was definitely one of the darker episodes of the series to date. Right from the cold opening of the episode as we watch Father Gabriel having a moment of crisis as he steps into the chapel once again we get a feeling that this episode will not be happy one for everyone.

We get three particular storylines throughout the episode which at times made for some jarring scene changes. The main one focused on Glenn taking Tara, Eugene, Noah, Aiden and Nicholas on a supply run to help fix the ASZ’s (Alexandria Safe Zone) power grid of solar panels. One could be forgiven for thinking that the episode was going to be a ho-hum one as we get some major time with Eugene who wasn’t very happy being dragged along on this supply run outside of the ASZ’s walls. He admits more than once and of his own free will that he’s a coward through and through. Yet, by episode’s end we Eugene go through a harrowing crucible to find the courage that allowed him to survive this long. His own intellect and logic were major factors in him always picking the right group to stick with for the best chance of survival, but when he needed to finally step up and be more combat-inclined he passed with flying colors.

This was in contrast to what we’re starting to see with the Alexandrians as a whole. While not all cowardly, the people who have been living within the relatively safe confines of the ASZ’s walls have shown that they’re willing to abandon friends to the zombies if it meant saving their own life. We see this happen several times with tonight’s episode and in a couple of them we see the devastating result of the Alexandrians’ modus operandi.

This doesn’t sit well with Glenn who has grown from being the quiet, scout we met in the first season to a leader who still exhibits a sense of compassion in addition to the brutal, cold logic needed to survive in this zombie apocalypse. He sees the weak core underneath the smiling and civilized facade of the Alexandrians, but he also understand that in order for him, Maggie and the rest of his group to have a life beyond just mere day-to-day survival he needed to make sure that the ASZ and it’s people learned how to do things the right way.

Despite the violent altercation that he and Aiden (Deanna’s son) had just a couple episodes back, the two seem to be working towards a compromise in how things were to be done. But this being The Walking Dead, the prospect of Aiden learning from Glenn or any of the newcomers to the ASZ was cut short as his inexperience with the world outside of the ASZ’s walls led to his gruesome death (a situation brought on by Aiden’s own stupidity as he accidentally shot a grenade). A death that Glenn and Noah tried to prevent but just ran out of time.

The same thing happens just minutes later as we see Glenn, Noah and Nicholas (who left Aiden to die and as he admitted did to others as well in the past) finding themselves trapped in separate sections of a revolving door with zombies in the other side waiting for the inevitable. I’m one could see where this was heading with Nicholas abandoning the Glenn and Noah to save his own skin…again. Noah would end up drawing the short straw in tonight’s episode. A straw that saw him die even more horribly than Aiden and with Glenn just a few feet away witnessing the whole gory tableau.

We see, in a smaller scale, the same situation happen with Abraham as he joins the construction crew tasked with gathering the supplies to help strengthen and expand the walls of the ASZ. Once again it’s due to the inattention of the groups leader, Tobin, that the Alexandrian’s allow a sizable group of zombies to get close to them. It doesn’t help that Tobin himself ends up shooting the hydraulics on the lifter end of a bulldozer that dumps one of his own people in the middle of an encroaching group of zombies. He and the rest of the Alexandrians decide to haul ass and leave their friend behind, but not Abraham who rushes into the fire, so to speak, to try and make sure they don’t leave one behind.

Unlike Nicholas’ brand of cowardice, Tobin and the rest of the Alexandrians see Abraham’s courage and end up following suit. Tobin himself admits to Deanna and Reg Monroe that if it wasn’t for Abraham not doing things the Alexandrian Way (meaning run and hide when things get tough) then Francine (the one who fell off the dozer lifter) would have surely died. Abraham was the right person and leader to run the construction team and Tobin was man enough to admit to it.

It’s a situation that both Deanna and Reg don’t seem to like hearing. Rick and his people have just recently arrived and already seem to be putting themselves in leadership roles. Rick was one Deanna understood with his law enforcement background, but the fact that both Abraham and Glenn seem to exhibit similar leadership qualities that her own people seem to lack could be the sign that the ASZ might just get a change in how things are run and who runs them.

The third storyline continues the adventures of Rick and Carol as they try to navigate, in their own fashion, this fake Eden they’ve found themselves in. Carol finds herself being followed by Jessie’s youngest son Sam. It didn’t matter that Carol herself threatened Sam with kidnapping and death by zombies, he still kept her secret and only tagging along to have more of the cookies Carol made for him. We find, and Carol, find out in no uncertain way from Sam that his dad might very well be an abusive husband and father. This doesn’t sit well with Carol who has some first-hand experience with a family abuser. It doesn’t take much for her to figure this out. Carol doesn’t hesitate in making sure Rick finds out and her recommendation to Rick on how to deal with Pete shouldn’t surprise people who’ve seen Carol’s growth from battered housewife to all-around badass.

The whole Alexandria Safe Zone arc has been met with some trepidation by fans and critics. It’s another static location like Hershel’s farm and the Prison that led to some very wheel-spinning storytelling. It’s a reaction that’s understandable. Having a regular setting and not keeping the group on the move sometimes led to plotlines that stagnated. When on the move the stories being told in the show seem to have a sense of forward momentum. Even some of the weaker on-the-road stories felt like it had a quicker pace to them. This doesn’t seem to be the case with Alexandria.

The group hasn’t been wasting their time to spend wallowing in the existential problems brought about by the zombie apocalypse. They’ve actually done in their own individual way something to find out more about the ASZ and those who run and been kept safe behind it’s walls. Tonight we find out more of what makes the Alexandrians tick and it’s not a pretty sight. Gabriel might be trying to poison Deanna’s mind when it comes to Rick and the others. He wasn’t wrong when he said that Rick and his people were not good people. They have done some unspeakable things to survive. Yet, Maggie also understands some of Deanna’s own agenda for allowing Rick and his people to join the Alexandrians.

Rick, Glenn, Carol, Abraham, Daryl and others know what they’re doing. They’ve survived out in the wild for almost two years now and even after some devastating losses they still manage to persevere. Sure the group seem to be suffering through a collective form of PTSD, but they still know what it takes to survive and they seem able to do so without having to always fall back on their basest nature to do it.

Will this mean that Rick still doesn’t seem to covet his neighbor’s wife (Rick definitely channeling his inner Shane in the Alexandria story-arc)? Will Sasha ever leave her lookout tower ever and not go on a killing spree? Will Carol hold back from doing what’s necessary when it comes to the Alexandrians (meaning will she kill them all to save the others)?

These were questions that weren’t answered in tonight’s episode, but at least we’ve now been given some reasons why it wouldn’t be so bad if Rick and his people just took over the ASZ and ran things their way. There would certainly be less people dying for stupid reasons and everyone wouldn’t have just predetermined jobs the way Deanna likes things done, but all chipping in to protect with everything they’ve got including their own lives.

There’s a war brewing in the future and whether it’s between the Alexandrians and Rick’s people still needs to be determined. The Wolves are still out there and Noah knew it and wanted to make sure the walls never falls the way his own community walls fell while he was away. It’s a shame and a currency spent that he would never get to see his promise come true.

Notes

  • Tonight’s episode of The Walking Dead, “Spend”, was directed by Jennifer Lynch and written by series veteran Matthew Negrete.
  • Jennifer Lynch’s work as director with tonight’s episode was excellent and here’s to hoping she returns for future episodes for seasons to come.
  • Even in the zombie apocalypse there is still dubstep.
  • Carol seems to have gained herself a lost puppy in Jessie’s youngest son Sam.
  • When did Abraham suddenly become the catchphrase guy. He already gave birth to the catchphrases “dolphin smooth” and “Who’s DEANNA?!”. Tonight we get the best yet when he finds himself surrounded by zombies and all he can do is smile and utter “mother dick”.
  • The death scenes for both Aiden Monroe and Noah were reminiscent of a couple deaths in the end of Day of the Dead: Capt. Rhodes and Pvt. Torrez.
  • Some great work by Greg Nicotero (whose bday was tonight) and his KNB EFX make-up crew with the deaths of Aiden and Noah.
  • Talking Dead guests tonight are Josh McDermitt, Tyler James Williams and Steven Yeun (Eugene, Noah and Glenn of The Walking Dead)

Season 5

Review: The Walking Dead S5E13 “Forget”


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“Because you can tell the good guys from the bad guys.” — Aaron

[spoilers within]

Tonight’s episode of The Walking Dead saw Rick and his people continue to try and assimilate themselves within the safe confines of the Alexandria Safe-Zone. It’s a situation they’ve been hoping to find on their way to Washington, D.C., but also one that seems to have unnerved a good portion of the group when it falls into their lap.

“Forget” is a tough episode to sit through because it highlights both the show’s strength and also one of it’s recurring weaknesses. It’s a well-written episode by series writer Corey Reed with some fine direction from series director David Boyd, but at times the story-arc for certain characters landed with a thud instead of expanding on that character or moving the story forward.

Let’s go with the lowlights before moving onto the highlight of tonight’s episode.

We’ve known that the Alexandria Safe-Zone had time to build itself when the zombie outbreak began. We learn this from Deanna herself during her introduction in last week’s episode. Yet, something about how the writers have done to build-up ASZ (what I shall call Alexandria) as this well-protected haven from Aaron don’t seem to mesh with what they’ve shown on the show, so far. Maybe it’s a slow burn the writers are going for. Maybe we’ll find out how ASZ ultimately survived the lean years since civilization broke down. For now, there’s less a hidden, sinister agenda of how the ASZ has survived this long and more of it’s surprising and lucky they’ve lasted this long.

The next thud would be the story-line for Sasha herself. We see her during the episode’s cold opening unable to sleep in the house Rick had claimed as his. Pictures of it’s previous owners seem to gaze down at her. We later see her venture outside the walls of the ASZ to practice some shooting with those same family portraits as targets. Her behaviors borders on reckless and suicidal. It’s hard to judge the character for this considering she’s lost both her lover and her older brother right after each other. Traumatic experiences will do that to a person, yet when it happens to Sasha it’s hard to sympathize with her. It’s not that she’s a bad person. She just seems to be a badly-written character who doesn’t have her own voice with Bob and Tyreese now gone from the group.

We get description of what sort of character she is from other’s describing her to strangers. Tonight we find out from Maggie that she’s the group’s best shot, but we never really see this skill develop. The rest of the group we find in some way or another how they got to where they are in regards to their skills. With Sasha one day she’s someone who leaned on her older brother for protection then next she’s suddenly the next reincarnation of Annie Oakley.

It’s a weakness in the show’s way of handling such a huge cast of characters. They get rid of characters who were interesting or becoming one, but keeping characters who remain relatively unknowns to the audience. It’s as if the writers can’t find a way to make Sasha become an interesting character without having to repeat themselves in turning her into one (Carol, Maggie and Beth being three who improved over time).

So, while Sasha’s suicidal tendencies could be chalked up to her growing PTSD due to the experiences she has had to deal with recently it’s impact on the story seems to be minimal. It’s not that we as an audience don’t care it’s just that we don’t know Sasha well enough to bother to even care.

That’s not the same when it comes to Rick, Carol and Daryl. These three have begun to form a new sort of triumvirate leadership group. Everyone who has come this far with Rick are survivors in their own right, but it’s these three who have come farthest within the group. They’ve grown from who they’ve were when we first met them. We first met them as the lawman, the housewife and the rebel. They’ve outgrown those initial labels and become complex characters who harbor both positive and negative qualities. They’re not black and white in their behaviors anymore. It’s because of their character growth (most seems to be once Scott M. Gimple took over as headwriter and showrunner) that we’ve come to care what happens to them.

With Carol we see nothing left of the mousy and battered housewife who couldn’t defend herself until pretty much everything had been taken from her. She had gone from victim to survivor in order to never be dependent on others and to protect her new found family. While she has employed a cold logic to how she must survive and protect her people she does seem to be the one in the group who has adjusted best in this new world. She’s able to be the one willing to do the dirty work if it means keeping her group alive another day. Her threat towards Jessie’s young son, Sam, was both hilarious and chilling. Never could we have seen Carol from season 1 through 3 threaten a young boy of death by being zombie bait in order to keep her duplicitous behavior from being outed to the rest of the ASZ community.

There’s Daryl, the rebel loner we first me in season 1, whose lone wolf behavior has become tempered by his realization that he needs Rick and the others to keep himself human and sane. He doesn’t need them as a crutch, but instead sees in them the family he never had growing up and for being the redemption for his past failings. Yes, he still remains sort of an outsider maneuvering his way through the new dynamics that ASZ opened up, but his interaction with Aaron (another one who feels like an outsider despite being a longstanding member of the ASZ community) shows that he’s grown away from his intolerant beginnings in the show and sees in Aaron a kindred spirit. The fact that he’s aired some doubts about their original plan to takeover the ASZ community if they deem it necessary shows that Daryl may still be a badass but he also understands that making something like ASZ work in the end would be to the group’s benefit in the long run.

Then we have Rick. The lawman and father whose personal beliefs and principles have become the fulcrum by which the show has explored varying themes throughout it’s five season on the air. We’ve seen Rick the reluctant leader in the first two season. Finding and protecting his family had been his only concern during those initial seasons, but betrayal and the knowledge that there was no cure for the zombie pandemic unleashed the Ricktatorship which led the group to becoming the hardcore survivalist they’ve become. Yet, even this version of Rick made mistakes that cost him those closest to him. He’s tried to be less a leader and more a provider. We call this Farmer Rick, but we knew it was going to be a temporary reprieve from what we’ve wanted Rick to become and that’s accept his role as leader and take ownership of that role with all the good it brings and all the bad it brings out.

We see Rick take to this role with such a focus that he teeters on the brink of becoming the very thing he despised when he saw the Governor. This Rick is willing to depose those in the ASZ community leadership group if he thought they couldn’t hack it when times got rough. This Rick sees danger everywhere and plans several steps ahead even when we as an audience sees it as a sort of madness creeping to latch onto Rick’s psyche. This Rick seems willing to take what he wants when he wants it even if it means contemplating murder. This is a Rick that seems to be exhibiting the worst qualities of the leaders of three groups who have fallen into the abyss: the Governor, Joe of the Claimers and Gareth of Terminus.

While Rick has learned to become a better leader of the group from having Hershel and Tyreese as his moral compass, they seem to have been pushed to the back of Rick’s mind by the ghosts of the Governor, Joe and Gareth. These three showed Rick that surviving at any cost was the only currency left in this new world. It was all about protecting what was his and that was Carl, Judith and the rest of his group. The people of the ASZ community were strangers to him who he felt were ill-equipped to survive in this new world. He even mentions to Carol and Daryl that this community was lucky to have them as new member because only they could protect them from the bad people beyond the walls. It doesn’t dawn on Rick that he was now acting and behaving in some fashion like those very bad people he warned Deanna about.

“Forget” could easily have become one of the best episodes of the season if it concentrated more on this triumvirate of Rick, Carol and Daryl and just jettisoned the Sasha plotline. Yet, despite Sasha’s role in tonight’s episode we still got a strong foundation on what could be the role of the Power Three for the final three episodes of season 5. Will Carol and Daryl follow Rick if he ever goes too far? We have three more episodes left to find out.

Notes

  • Tonight’s episode of The Walking Dead, “Forget”, was directed by David Boyd and written by series writer Corey Reed.
  • Carol had herself some a breaking Bad moment when she confronted Sam, Jessie’s youngest boy, after he saw her taking guns from the armory. Some have said that her “speech” to Sam was reminiscent of Walt’s “I’m the one who knocks” speech.
  • Deanna’s husband is named Reg. In the comics, Douglas (Deanna in the show) has a wife named Reggie. The show also added Aiden as a second son. We met the other son, Spencer, in tonight’s episode.
  • Interesting choice of a song to end the episode on…Spicks and Specks by the Bee Gees.
  • The shippers of Rick and Michonne seem to have gone insane since they’ve gone on a social media rampage against the actor Alexandra Breckinridge who plays Rick’s potential paramour Jessie in the show.
  • Talking Dead guests tonight are Kevin Smith (writer/director), Ross Marquand (Aaron from The Walking Dead) and Alexandra Breckinridge (Jessie from The Walking Dead)


Season 5