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


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

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

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

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

Rick looks off in the distance.  Walkers are approaching.

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

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

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

And so on and so forth.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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


the-walking-dead-episode-711-eugene-mcdermitt-6-9351

Hi everyone!

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

As for last Sunday’s episode of The Walking Dead

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Few Thoughts on …. The Walking Dead 7.5 “Go Getters” (dir by Darnell Martin)


the-walking-dead-go-getters-645x370

So far, season 7 of The Walking Dead has been pretty inconsistent.

Often times, I have felt like a lone voice in the wilderness, vainly defending the season premiere and continuing to hope that, at some point, Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s portrayal of Negan is going to become something more than a one-dimensional caricature.

Like a lot of people, I kind of enjoyed the second episode but, in retrospect, that was mostly because of the weirdness of King Ezekiel and the majesty of Shiva.  The episode itself was extremely slow and featured one of those overly sentimental musical montages, the type of thing that never holds up particularly well on repeat viewing.

The Cell … oh, I tried to enjoy The Cell but basically, it was just an hour of Daryl not speaking and Negan doing his Negan thing.

And then there was last week’s episode, which appears to be going down in the history books as the consensus pick for the worst episode of The Walking Dead ever.

So, with all that in mind, I am going to cautiously state that I think that the latest installment, Go Getters, was a definite improvement over the last few episodes.  It was hardly a classic.  It certainly wasn’t The Walking Dead at its absolute best.  But, at the very least, it held my attention for 60 minutes, it seemed to actually move the story forward (as opposed to just being a stagnant portrayal of doom and gloom), and it left me looking forward to seeing what would happen next week.  Coming nearly halfway through an uneven season, Go Getters provided just a little bit of hope for the show’s future, telling us,  “The Walking Dead‘s not dead and growling in Herschel’s barn just yet!”

Of course, it helped that Go Getters was centered on Maggie, the only one of the main characters who has not left me pissed off or disappointed this season.  Following the deaths of Glenn and Abraham, Maggie and Sasha are hiding out at Hilltop Colony.  Gregory wants to kick them out, Jesus wants to protect them.  Eventually, the Saviors show up and we get to know Simon (Steven Ogg, investing the role with such menace that it’s hard not to wonder how different the season would be if he had been cast as Negan), who is one of Negan’s liuetenants.  Simon collects his tribute, humiliates Gregory, and leaves.  Meanwhile, Carl and Enid show up at Hilltop, having run away from Alexandria.  One-eyed Carl has decided to take revenge on Negan and who can blame him?  At this point, he has to know that his red-eyed, sniveling, neutered father isn’t going to do anything…

(Which brings up an interesting issue: we’re supposed to look down on Gregory for being so weak and subservient to the Saviors but really, he didn’t do anything different from what Rick did last week.  We’re supposed to give Rick a pass but not Gregory, which doesn’t seem quite right.  Gregory may be an ass but, as we should all know by now, nice guys don’t survive the apocalypse.)

So far, each episode this season has featured a different community being harassed by Negan.  I’m assuming that these communities are eventually going to come together to take out the Saviors.  If that’s the case, I can understand and even respect the deliberate build-up.  At the same time, this season is moving so slowly (and has been so repetitive) that it’s hard not to get frustrated when you’re watching on a weekly schedule.  One gets the feeling that Season 7 will be better when binge-watched but, for now, I find myself wishing the show would pick up the pace.

But, with all that in mind, I liked Go Getters.  I love the fact that Maggie refuses to surrender.  Despite all of the terrible things that have happened to her and the people that she loved, Maggie has not given up.  She hasn’t turned into a weak shell, like Rick or Daryl.  Nor has she retreated to a world of fantasy, like Carol.  Instead, Maggie lives, Maggie fights, and Maggie endures.  Glenn may be dead but Maggie the Cat is alive.

GO MAGGIE!

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


05-negan-twd-w529-h529

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

abraham

banglennup

glenn