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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As always, we’ll see what happens!

Insomnia File #11: Summer Catch (dir by Mike Tollin)


What’s an Insomnia File? You know how some times you just can’t get any sleep and, at about three in the morning, you’ll find yourself watching whatever you can find on cable? This feature is all about those insomnia-inspired discoveries!

Summer_catch

Whenever I look at my cable guide, I always notice that channel 834 is listed as being “MorMax.”  For some reason, I always assume that MorMax stands for Morman Max and I’m always expecting that it’s going to show movies about Joseph Smith and Brigham Young.  But actually, MorMax stands for More Cinemax.

Anyway, last night, if you were having a hard time sleeping around midnight (though why anyone would ever try to go to sleep before midnight is beyond me), you could have turned on MorMax and watched the 2001 romantic comedy Summer Catch!

Though it may be hard to believe today, there was a time when Freddie Prinze, Jr. was a pretty big deal.  From 1997 to 2001, Prinze appeared in 179 movies.  Well, actually, he only appeared in 10 but since they were all aimed at teenage girls and played on cable constantly, it felt like 179.  (Seriously, there was a time when I could not get through an entire day without seeing at least a few minutes of She’s All That.)  For the most part, all of these films were pretty much the same.  Freddie Prinze, Jr. plays a kind of dumb guy who falls in love with a girl.  Prinze’s character was usually from a working class family and had at least one wacky friend.  The girl was usually from a rich family and had one bitchy friend who would be an ex-friend by the end of the movie.  There was usually at least one scene set on the beach or at a swimming pool, the better for Freddie to remove his shirt and his costar to chastely strip down to her underwear.  There was usually a falling in love montage and at least one big misunderstanding.  Freddie would always flash the same goofy smile whenever the misunderstanding was cleared up.  Even at the time that the films were being released, nobody was ever under the impression that Freddie Prinze, Jr. was a particularly good actor.  But he was likable, unthreatening, and hot in an oddly bland sort of way.

(Speaking of oddly bland, check out the titles of some of Prinze’s films: She’s All That, Down To You, Boys and Girls, Head over Heels, and, of course, Summer Catch.)

Summer Catch opens with Ryan Dunne (Freddie!) explaining that he’s just a working class kid from Massachusetts but this summer, he’s going to be playing amateur baseball in Cap Cod and hopefully, he’ll get signed to a professional contract as result.  (Freddie adopts an inconsistent “pahk ya cah by the bah” accent and its kind of endearing to see him trying so hard.)  Ryan, of course, is just a local guy who mows lawns for a living but he’s determined to succeed.  He just has to stay focused.

However, that’s going to be difficult because he’s just met Tenley Parrish (Jessica Biel).  The Parrishes own a vacation home on Cape Cod and they are so rich that they can afford to name their oldest daughter Tenley.  Soon, Tenley and Ryan are a couple but Tenley’s father wants Tenley to marry a rich boy and Ryan’s father is too busy being all surly and working class to appreciate Ryan’s dreams.

(Tenley’s father, incidentally, is played by Bruce Davison because all snobbish WASPs of a certain age are played by Bruce Davison.  Ryan’s father is played by Fred Ward because Summer Catch was made in 2001.)

Because every Freddie Prinze, Jr. movie needs a hyperactive and wacky sidekick, Ryan’s best friend on the team is a catcher named Billy Brubaker (Matthew Lillard.)  Billy is known as “Bru.”  There’s a lot of scenes of people saying stuff like “Yo, Bru,” and “Come on, Bru!”  After a while, I found myself hoping for a scene where Bru went crazy and started shouting, “My name is Billy, dammit!  BILLY!  DAMN YOU ALL TO HELL!”  Instead, however, we get a subplot about how Billy can’t get any hits until he has sex with and wears the thong underwear of a local baseball fan.

Anyway, Summer Catch is an extremely predictable film.  It’s not surprising that this was one of Freddie’s final star vehicles because, other than his heroic effort to maintain a Massachusetts accent, even he seems to be bored with it all.  Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Summer Catch is that there’s next to no actual conflict in the film.  Oh sure, Ryan and Tenley have a few misunderstandings but it’s never anything serious.

If there’s an unheralded hero to Summer Catch, it’s the uncredited guy who we hear providing commentary during the games.  Seriously, I would have been so lost if not for him constantly saying stuff like, “This is Ryan Dunne’s chance to show what he can do,” and “Billy Brubaker needs to get a hit here…”  They should have made the entire movie about him and his efforts to remain up-to-date on all the players.

Because Summer Catch was a baseball film, I begged my sister Erin to watch it with me so that she could explain all the baseball stuff to me.  For the record, Erin says that the game scenes were okay (and I personally liked all of the totally gratuitous slow motion) but that the film wasn’t really a deep examination of baseball.  To be honest, I really wasn’t expecting that it would be.  I just wanted to make my sister stay up late and watch a movie with me.

Previous Insomnia Files:

  1. Story of Mankind
  2. Stag
  3. Love Is A Gun
  4. Nina Takes A Lover
  5. Black Ice
  6. Frogs For Snakes
  7. Fair Game
  8. From The Hip
  9. Born Killers
  10. Eye For An Eye