Out with the old baddies and in with the new. The Necronomicon has returned home to Hell after an extended vacation topside to chill with his Deadite homies. They’re probably lounging around a lava pit telling tales of possession and taking bets on how long Ash will last against Baal. One demon lord doesn’t seem that imposing in a franchise where the lead character faced an army of sassy skeletons and survived. Then Baal whipped out his massive powers.
Unlike some shows where the bad guys all have the same M.O., this one strives to venture into new, different lands. While having an episode plot based around “Who’s really the bad guy,” isn’t shining and new in the idea department, turning Baal into a skinwalker leaves a lot of fun to be had in a cliché plot device. It also allows the SFX department to give Baal’s goons a style not easy to forget. I mean, I’d wet myself if a skinless woman fell through my ceiling and ripped a prostitutes’ arm off, let alone forget it happened anytime soon. One failing in Baal’s powers is this seductive bullcrud he pulls on Ruby. She’s a badass, killing evil right and left; then Baal swivels his hips and she literally can’t form sentences? It’s a huge disservice to the female characters on the show to go from an episode where they clean house without any men to back them up, to Ruby practically begging for a little action from the guy who killed two women inside the sheriff’s station without blinking. Using sex to negate Ruby’s strength is a low blow. Ash gets laid all the time and he still gets the evil-slaying job done. Baal has so many other evil things he can do, let’s lay off the whole, “His groin is mesmerizing,” thing. Okay?
With everyone locked in the sheriff’s station wondering who’s got Baal crawling around in their skinsuit, tensions run higher than Chet’s blood-alcohol level. Sheriff Emery and Ash are at each other’s throats the entire time Linda is at the station. It comes down to Kelly to calm everyone down. By that I mean she grabs the sheriff’s gun and holds everyone hostage—when they’re technically already in a hostage situation. The Inception-like hostage situation happens again elsewhere in the station when Ruby goes to retrieve her dagger. Baal uses a deputy to work his D-Mojo on her, rendering her pretty much useless until the episode’s end when she just happens to help Ash save Linda.
Like having a skin-stealing demon on the loose wasn’t bad enough, Pablo’s got a mean case of what-the-hell-is-that spreading across his stomach. Personal theory, dude’s turning into something akin to the Necronomicon. Why else would he have Sumerian written across his torso? No one signs up for oozing boils and a dead language willingly. Ruby is thrilled about Pablo’s condition. Pablo would rather French kiss a shotgun. But, hey, he should be proud. He’s the key to saving the world . . . after dooming it by tossing the Necronomicon in Hell and freeing Baal.
Looks like more skin-jumping good times aren’t all that’s ahead for the show. Ashy Slashy may just finally win the girl this time around. Sheriff Emery isn’t the man his wife thought after shrieking throughout the fight with his skinless deputy. Linda breaks up with him then and there, totally falling for Ash’s blood-drenched swagger. All of them are out of their minds considering their having a lovers spat over a bisected, skinless corpse.
That’s the joy of this show. It doesn’t really care so long as Ash looks a fool, there’s about twenty gallons of blood used, and someone at home says, “What the heck is going on now?”
Fear the walking Dead SDCC 2016 Coverage By R.C. Murphy
Taking the stage first in the two-hour Dead block in Hall H at San Diego Comic-Con, Fear the Walking Dead kicked off the festivities with the teaser for the latter half of season two.
For the most part, the trailer focus on Nick’s pilgrimage to Tijuana. He meets some kind people, some not so kind people, and even more people with a bizarre connection to the dead. It’s like he’s drawn to this stuff. Madison drags Alicia, Strand, and Ofelia around Mexico looking for Nick with no results. They wind up taking refuge in a hotel which randomly rains dead bodies. But it must be an okay place, Alicia stopped to shower. Travis and Chris’ bonding trip is off to a rocky start as son insists repeatedly that he can take care of himself against the undead or any obstacle in his way. There is a lot more close-quarters fighting with the infected on the way. Alicia does some slightly-very dangerous things to shake her undead assailants. We’ve also got more than just the gangs and weirdos in Tijuana to look out for, as well. Chris and Travis’ problems aren’t all internal for the remaining seven episodes.
Producer Gale Anne Hurd said, “We’re really going to see a lot of things you’ve never seen on television before.” Having seen the TWD trailer, that bar is pretty high. I don’t think FtWD can deliver on the spectacle coming from its sister show. However, if they can get even an ounce of the energy from that trailer to translate to each episode’s timing, I may consider watching it again.
The characters fans saw earlier in the season won’t be quite the same. Producer Dave Alpert said he’s enjoyed watching the characters turn into “battle-hardened warriors.” Kim Dickens echoed the sentiment, saying what Madison did in the mid-season finale revealed a new side to her. We’ll see a more extreme Madison from here on out, perhaps? Madison isn’t the only parent stepping to the plate. Cliff Curtis claimed Travis won’t be a sad-ass when the show returns, he’s prepared to become a, “bad ass dad.” Pretty much every actor spoke up to say their character would get a harder edge for the new episodes. Matter of fact, Mercedes Mason said she wants Ofelia to “pull a Carol” and become “a really violent butterfly.” Coleman Domingo had a different outlook for Strand. He considers Strand a symbol for Western civilization. As his character survives, he will continue to break down.
There was a new face on the panel. Danay Garcia will join the show for the remainder of season two as Luciano. She plays a part In Nick’s story line.
Will the new blood and a kick in the pants for the characters be enough to make it as interesting as the trailer promises? I sincerely hope so. There’s too much potential in that cast to continue to watch them flounder with a poorly-managed script. The danger becomes if splitting the group and the story leads to forgotten characters or story-telling shortcuts which defy what little logic these characters operate by currently. I know there’s not much sense in a guy who covers himself in zombie goo all the time, but you know what I mean. Fear the Walking Dead will continue its second season on August 21st at 9 PM on AMC.
The Walking Dead SDCC 2016 Coverage By R.C. Murphy
The annual walker invasion at San Diego Comic-Con took place from July 21st through the 24th. Okay, there were a few thousand other people there, as well. Comic-Con is kind of a big thing, if you’ve lived under a rock for the last few years.
One of the most anticipated panels this year was The Walking Dead. Lucy had some ‘splainin’ to do about that angst-generating cliffhanger ending. Which is why Robert Kirkman struck that iron while hot shortly after the producers took the stage. Aside from numerous statements defending the ending since the finale, he simply added that fans would love the payoff from waiting so long for the reveal. We’ll agree to disagree, as we have since he first stepped on a soapbox to defend knee-capping Negan’s big moment.
What’s new for season seven? The producers confirmed a visit to The Kingdom, plus many more survivors and locations. Gale Anne Hurd meowed at one point, which baffled show fans who haven’t delved into the comic world. Kirkman admitted that once the show took off, he included things in the comics they’d never put on television. The show’s other producers picked up the gauntlet and plan to include some of the outlandish comic ideas into season seven. Sometimes these things bites one in the backside. In this case, one idea can bite off an entire backside and then some.
Right before they premiered the trailer, Nicotero shared new walker concept art. Looks like we’ve got more burned walkers on the way, plus the older walkers continue to become more mummy-like, and I don’t even know what happened to the bulgy walker. Death by bee hive attack?
Okay, on to the trailer.
I was really looking forward to seeing Jeffrey Dean Morgan swaggering on the screen. Instead, we got a rehash of the finale’s final scene, along with a cliché memorial video of sorts superimposed over Lucille. I would’ve gladly taken just the cropped shot of him slamming Lucille down on an unseen victim after a pan of the group by the RV. Instead they padded the footage with what is essentially an overly emotional teen girl’s video scrapbook. All that’s missing is the sappy song. The second half of the trailer delivers new characters, but too fast to identify any faces. We meet Ezekiel, leader at The Kingdom. Something we’ve rarely seen on this show is animals. Well, that’s about to change. There’s beasties coming. Most notably, Shiva, Ezekiel’s pet tiger. Funny how a few years ago, the show’s budget was nitpicked right and left. Suddenly they’re okay with tossing huge chunks of cash in to make CG animals.
The actors hit the stage when the trailer wrapped. Andrew Lincoln told fans, “Hang in there, guys.” He went on to say Jeffrey Dean Morgan has way too much fun as Negan. Which, as we already know, is probably creepy as hell on set, despite JDM’s infectious smile. There’s just something about a grinning guy wielding a barbed wire-wrapped baseball bat to make one’s sphincter clench. Lauren Cohan said, “We go to very physical and emotional places.”
Pretty standard quo for this show, but things are just beginning to take a turn for the worst. Nicotero confirmed it when he said this [their current situation with Negan] isn’t rock bottom.
The panel devolved into talk about on-set pranks and several cast members doing impressions of other actors. They did air the footage from when Reedus dumped a ton of confetti in Lincoln’s car air ducts. The first time I watched it, I couldn’t breathe because I laughed so hard.
I wasn’t happy with TWD at the end of season six, and they still haven’t done much to convince me they grossly mishandled Negan’s entrance. Yes, we get a flippin’ tiger next season, as well as a smarmy yet charming Big Bad, but fans are kind of a puppy kicked too many times. They’ve promised so many grand things, what happens if these season seven grand plans fizzle like the drawn-out Beth storyline?
Once you jump the tiger, there’s no going back. Hope they have a solid game plan going into this highly unpredictable season.
Warning: This article contains episode spoilers and a strong opinion.
How on earth does the show’s producers expect anyone to give half a damn about this show? I don’t get it. Since day one there’s been nothing personally at stake for the main family. The only deaths are fringe losses, people who weren’t even fully fleshed out with a personality, let alone on screen long enough for the viewers to care about their fate. Liza kicked the bucket, so what? Travis’ reaction and Chris’ weird corpse cuddling pretty much made her death a circus side show. Daniel lost his wife, who was only on screen to be the religious figure and when she became problematic for the writers, she died. Even in this episode when we should have genuine concerns about Travis’ survival, it’s not there. Not even remotely. My biggest concern was making it to a commercial to get more coffee before I fell asleep from all that excitement. We got one infected man on screen. He kills people we don’t know. Yawn. Snooze. Wake me when it gets interesting.
Interesting doesn’t mean Madison lords over the yacht crew, nagging every single one of them about this, that, or the other. We get it. She’s a mother. She cares about all these people. There are other ways for her to say, “I love you” without nitpicking every decision they make. I’m waiting for the scene where she follows Nick into the bathroom to wipe his backside. Then on top of this become The Madison Knows It All Show, she’s apparently the only able-bodied person on board who can handle any tough task. Strand is conveniently unwell after his swim—I told you he wasn’t shot; FTWD’s social media people tried for days to make viewers react to his possible injury and all I did was laugh. Daniel is looked over once again because he’s not family. Ofelia could wander around nude with a flamingo on her head and no one would notice her. Nick is grounded because mommy is worried about him. Chris can’t handle his own mental mess long enough not to screw up. And Luis? That guy is still around? Just listen to the dulcet tones of a man in the apocalypse whining about money. Pro tip, dude, money means jack-all now. That leaves Madison to play the cavalry and she’s no Agent May (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.).
But why does Madison have to stage a one-woman rescue? Here’s the quick version of the plot: The yacht crew (read: Madison) decides they won’t head south as planned just yet. Madison cashes in a favor from Strand, buying them half a day to find Travis and Alicia. Daniel manages to get information on the pirates from Reed and leaves Chris to watch their captive. With the information, they find a possible location for Connor’s crew. On the pirate side, Travis is locked up by request of Alex, the woman they left adrift in episode 203. She blames Travis for her plight. In the main cabin, Alicia is treated to a dinner she doesn’t get to eat, cooked by Connor himself. He’s called away and Alicia runs into Jack. Jack teaches her how to track other boats for looting. Eventually they concoct a plan to steal a boat and run after the approaching Abigail because Alicia assumes the boat’s early arrival means her family wasn’t taken to shore as promised. Back on the yacht, the crew is hailed by Connor, who tells Reed—his brother—to bring the Abigail in. Madison replies. They agree to a hostage trade. Just then, Chris shoots Reed. But it’s okay, even at point-blank range, Chris doesn’t destroy Reed’s brain. They truss up and head bag the new infected and Madison takes him to do the trade. Alicia hides from the pirates when they look for her. Travis is taken to the docks. The trade works . . . until the bag comes off Reed’s head. Connor flails and is bitten. Travis fights free from the last pirate on the dock. Madison just stands there. Alicia and Jack have a “How dare you” moment before she slides down the side of the dry-docked boat Connor made his home. Madison, Travis, and Alicia return to the Abigail. Jack watches, looking like a kicked puppy.
Now we’ve got no immediate danger for the family. No tension save the meager and trite “family comes first” bull everyone repeats ad nauseam. And they’ve killed off the only season-arcing baddies. Where to go now? Mexico and the mysterious people who still take cash to cross the border? That’s not interesting. That’s idiotic. Any person with half a brain understands money means nothing. So the guy says no he can’t take them. What’s stopping them from just sailing to the Baja coast and skipping the border crossing altogether? This show continues to fail to have a plot. Every time they get close, everything resolves in favor of the yacht crew. I get more excitement watching my turtle kill snails.
Surprise! Spoilers! It’s the only surprise we’re discussing this week.
Once we were all done scratching our head over Nick’s game of tag with an infected man, the show ran a course so predictable, I could not make myself focus on the screen. This is insane. Why can’t the show manage to start interesting and stay there? Not only that, but I keep catching their attempts to play games with viewers. “Oh, we teased Jack and the Never-Competent Pirates in 201, we better let them lay low until 204. That’ll really shock the audience!” Yeah, no. The arrival of Jack and the others—who are so inconsequential, they don’t get proper credits online so I cannot confirm their names without rewatching the entire episode and I’m so not mentally prepared to do that, it’s akin to torture—was about as exciting as I’d thought it’d be. They cook up a ruse to get onto the yacht using the pregnant woman’s condition to their advantage. Once Madison sets her eyes on the distressed woman, it’s all over. Strand is the only person to freak out appropriately, but he can’t arm himself because Daniel stripped the magazine from his gun. Now we know why all the paranoia last episode. They needed Daniel to be the one to do the dumb thing and salvage the most boring pirate invasion I’ve seen on television to date.
The pirates climb onboard, point a gun, and have run of the ship. Chris even asks, “Do I shoot them,” at one point, like they haven’t been actively trying to dodge these pirates for three episodes. Did they magically forget the threat which had been on their backside not that long ago? Even a warning shot would have proven the group we’re watching has some chance to make it for the long run. If they can’t? Why the hell are we still following them? Why torment viewers with boring characters if the endgame means they die?
With the pirates onboard and Strand without a weapon, he bails. Takes a raft and scurries like a rat off a sinking ship. He’s shot at, popping the raft. Really, Strand’s escape attempt is to take him from the main story and force flashbacks on the show—like the endless flashbacks on TWD season six weren’t bad enough, now this show’s caught the way-back virus. I’m all for character development, but everything we learn from Strand’s flashbacks could have been handled within the plot timeline. There’s no reason to detail his business plans. We already know he’s shady enough to rob someone. The only new information is his homosexuality, again something they could have included later in the season as an actual surprise. Instead they try to salvage his character from Stereotype Land by info-dumping his background and sexuality in unnecessary flashbacks. While they did attempt to drag out the Big Gay Surprise until the episode’s ends, I knew right away what would happen when Thomas touched Strand’s tie in their first scene together. For those with their head in the sand, it’s a thing. They’re a couple. Men on television do not do casual tie-grabs and hand-holding, let alone kissing. Again, this show can diversify itself to oblivion, but cannot weave these characters into a cohesive story with true depth.
During the pirate raid, Travis farts around pretending he can’t start the yacht. That’s pretty much the plot for the episode. The side plots are Strand’s flashbacks and Alicia negotiating her family’s survival with Jack. Everyone else is tied up and left in the main cabin to bicker or plot escape attempts they never actually see through. There’s no actual action until Connor, the pirate leader, arrives. He sees use in Alicia and Travis, so bags their heads and drags them to his speed boat. Connor isn’t as lame as the other pirate characters. He has morals. But it may be an illusion of a coherent character. He may just be a walking bag of morals. Time will tell.
On shore, Nick’s bizarre game of tag turns into a quest to find a location Strand sent him to. Nick meets with Luis, Thomas’ assistant, who is supposed to lead Strand to the house in Baja. Luis has no clue about the others on the yacht or the plan to take them to Mexico. But because Nick says Strand sent him, Luis grabs a raft and off they go to get the others. They arrive just in time to kill the remaining pirates Connor left. Madison manages to do one thing—stab the man who did all the talking before his boss arrived. The gang is stuck there on the yacht until Luis knows Strand is safe. They’re only getting to Mexico with him. Time to turn around and find the man left for dead. Oh, look, he’s still alive. Hooray. What about Travis and Alicia? They can’t even make a supply run on an empty beach without nearly dying, how are they supposed to attack armed pirates?
I don’t know how they expect fans to hang around for two more episodes, let alone stick out the entire fifteen-episode second season and the already-purchased sixteen-episode third season. There’s nothing exciting. Scenes which should hold our interest fizzle into predictable messes or are so incomprehensible, they frustrate viewers. I keep waiting to be wowed. I want to be wowed.
Pretty sure this is going to end in disappointment again.
Can we rename the show Neurotic People on a Boat? Pretty sure we’re seeing the emotional trend for the season: Trust No One. Unfortunately for FtWD, they’re not The X-Files and all the paranoid decisions the characters make don’t drag us into the tension the writers are trying to make happen. Much like “fetch” their attempt to make something happen with these characters isn’t working. Matter of fact, I believe I loathe Travis more now than before. Aren’t we supposed to be on the same side as the family? I understand writing Nick as the antihero, but Travis’ constant freak-outs over nothing, or at least anything he can articulate clearly, are driving me insane. He endangers the family by calling out for people who may or may not be friendly, babbles endlessly in an attempt to drum tension, and flips his lid when Chris learns the proper way to dispose of the infected. The only time he makes any sense is when he tells Madison no at the episode’s climax—if that’s what you want to call it—and she wants to take on more mouths to feed.
Let’s backtrack to the plot now that I’m done venting about a main character who needs to go back to the writer’s room for a rewrite.
The yacht is being tracked by a large vessel. Strand tells everyone the only way to shake them is to drop anchor in a cove and wait for the following ship to pass. Travis suggests Catrina Island, where he hopes to talk to the ranger on duty at the station. Lucky for them, the ranger George, his wife Melissa, and their three children are holding the infected on the island at bay with a fence. The yacht is allowed to stay at the dock for the night. Strand, Daniel, and Ofelia stay onboard. Daniel is only there to obsessively track Strand and pilfer through his things. Ofelia gets a one-off scene where she says she understands her father now because he’s cruel, just like the new world swarming around them. On the island, George fills Travis in about the outbreak. In a few sentences, the writing team takes the easy way out, using the forest service stations nationally as ground zero for outbreak information in each area. Essentially, they destroy fifty percent of the nation’s population off screen by simple telling Travis, “Well, these stations went dark so just assume every human there died.” We know they die. We’ve watched TWD and understand cataclysmic events. Why write this weird logic leap to explain what we already know or can guess? Again, the writers show they have no faith in the viewer’s ability to tell a story themselves unless they’re guided by the nose the whole time. I don’t like television which assumes the average viewer isn’t intelligent.
Then comes the meddling this show is infamous for, because what else will Madison do with her time? Somehow the episode comes around to Melissa begging Madison to take her youngest son and only daughter with them when they leave. Melissa can’t go, her MS is pretty much a death sentence and she knows it. George is a nutjob and won’t leave the island. Their eldest son is as unreasonably unstable about leaving their home as his father. While this is going on, Nick searches the house for drugs. He finds pills he says are bad news, but leaves them where he found them when the daughter finds him snooping. The next morning just as everyone’s getting ready to head out—including the children—the boy comes in to say the girl took a pill. It rolls downhill from there in predictable fashion.
These characters are cursed. Every time they touch something, people die in droves. One might say the writers do it to show kindness has its cost same as hatred and fear-mongering. I say it’s because they honestly do not know how to go about getting characters from their morning coffee before work to where Rick and his people are emotionally on TWD. It’s so much easier to jump into the middle of the story and build background in as they go. With FtWD, they’re at the beginning with only forward to progress. Yet they keep chaining down character growth by giving them emotional templates to fill, not actually delving into what makes the characters work. We should see different people now, subtle, but different. Travis and Madison are the same obnoxious people as in episode 101. The others? They’re dang near invisible, they’re so dull. It’s a shame. Alycia Debnam-Carey was amazing on The 100, but one wouldn’t know it from the lackluster material they’re giving her as Alicia.
What good does it do to say, “Hey, write this better,” when AMC keeps purchasing a new season before seeing the full numbers and fan reactions to episode 201? They have their moneymaker, they’re going to shake it until they break it. Which may be soon, given fan’s lack of interest only two episodes into the second season.
New season, new outlook on how the show will progress. It’s something I do with every show hitting its sophomore season; drop expectations and watch like it’s a whole new beast. Only this beast is no monster. The mistakes are so similar to season one, I couldn’t maintain optimism the entire episode. As usual with Walking Dead properties right now, they wrote to do a couple cool things in the episode instead of writing for plot integrity or to repair the damage they did to the characters’ identities, or lack of identity.
Everyone is still flat stereotypes. Madison spends the episode micromanaging, ignoring Chris, and contradicting herself. Travis is a tool, unable to cope with his son because Big Tragic Death. Chris spends half the episode cuddling Liza’s corpse, and no one thinks this is concerning behavior. Ofelia is a ghost, seen but only heard once or twice. Daniel is the Wise Old Man collecting information. Nick is useless. Alicia gets the role of “naïve young girl who lures enemies to their location.” Because how else would they bring in human enemies without Alicia doing something completely against character? Anyone raised in the digital age knows to prioritize personal information. Alicia knows humans are dangerous. Military men, who are supposed to help civilians, threatened to rape her. There was ample footage of riots from when the outbreak started. The only reason Alicia talks to Jack is to introduce human threats. What about Strand? He’s still an A-class jerk lording it over everyone because he has the means to control them—without his boat, they’re dead. I could’ve told you what each character would do without watching the premiere.
The plot is pretty simple. The gang splits, some prepping the boat, the rest grabbing the gear. And Liza. Chris won’t leave Liza, even after the infected find them on the beach. The fighting hasn’t gotten any better. They still film them like a Blair Witch outtake. Instead of making it exciting, the fights are yawn-worthy. These people couldn’t rip wet paper, but they can narrowly escape being wrestled to the ground and eaten. Everyone makes it on a dinghy, Travis with his burden coming in at a laughable pace to give a dead guy time to shamble into the surf and set up a cool kill. But to be honest, I’ve seen so many things killed by boat propellers, their whole clunky setup isn’t worth it punchline. I would’ve been more impressed if they gave into the urge to use the gag altogether as long as the gang are on water. To top it off, Madison—who just bludgeoned several infected—gets queasy about the kill. She wasn’t queasy before, why now? On the big boat, everyone goes to their corners or piddles around the yacht. They argue about rescuing refugees, Strand making the call to keep going. Alicia does the dumb thing. They have a funeral at sea for Liza, which Chris has a fit during and after. When Chris cools down, he opts to skip eating the mystery fish Daniel caught and goes for a swim. Nick joins him. Somehow both missed the smoldering wreck in the water.
There’s so much fake fog, it’s ridiculous and looks like a set on a pond. Nick hears someone in the wreck and goes to play savior. Did I mention the infected in the water? Well, they’re there, too. Inside the boat, Nick does maybe five seconds of searching for the survivor, thirty seconds struggling with a dead woman, and grabs the travel log for the wrecked boat. Nick only lives because Travis hollers. Seriously. The dead woman just stopped fighting because of a noise. What? Is it a smell thing? Nick was wet, so only his movements and noise drew the infected? There are so many better ways to show this than for the infected to just stop when a foot from food. No one dies. There’s human enemies on the way. They could be Alicia’s Jack and company, or a separate band of pirates. They’ll get all grr with everyone, Madison will play tough woman, Travis will try, and eventually Strand will bully their way through since he is the only one with answers, it seems.
Boy I hope they get it together soon. If they pull out Monopoly on the yacht, I’m jumping in the infected-laden ocean.
I’m not sure one can write spoilers for an episode so utterly predictable, the only parts which surprised me were the few glistening moments where we saw some actual character development. Nevertheless, that’s why we’re here, to pick apart the show, find more tidbits to feed our need for decent entertainment. So many fans lay their hope for TWD’s future on the Negan storyline. This is it, the chance for the show to realign with the chaos within the comics. Producers have promised fans they’d get what they want from this whole thing. If a nap was their ultimate goal, they succeeded.
(Watch out! Spoilers lurk below!)
Maybe that’s not entirely fair. There are stellar moments in the fight at the end which made the skin on my neck tense. But, honestly, maybe five minutes of quality writing are buried deep in cliché dialog, phoned-in emotions, and Rick being Rick. Some of my favorite scenes are with Glenn and Heath.
The original survivor, Glenn, is not keen to kill again. Heath hyped himself up the moment he heard Rick’s plan at the town hall meeting—exactly the reaction their leader wanted from his little pep talk spouting how they need to “get them before they get us.” It became Glenn’s job to talk sense into the young man. A position Glenn found himself in a lot during season one. Remember the car with the alarm? Yeah, a great impulse idea, but the aftermath cost many lives and their camp. Heath may think it’s the right thing to go into the raid ready to kill, but how would he feel the day after? How about a week down the road when he remembers the way his knife wouldn’t quite go into the skull right? Killing haunts the survivors who’ve been in the wild for long. Glenn’s fault is he wants to spare Heath, retain the young man’s innocence. When it comes time for them to do some of the most intimate killing scenes on the show—attacking Saviors in their bed and dispatching them with a single knife thrust trough the eye socket—Glenn takes the kill guilt upon himself. Being no coward, Heath still gets a few kills to notch on his belt when he and Glenn hold the line to guard the enemy’s armory. But even though his kills weren’t up close and personal, Heath still flees in the morning, more than ready to go on the two-week trip with Tara for supplies.
Where Glenn grows as a character, Carol is undermined at every turn. On top of her unfounded refusal to trust Morgan—up until they created a reason with him holding the Wolf in the cell—they’re now making her the “bad boy” to ease fans into the reality of Negan’s notorious potty mouth, plus reintroducing tobacco products to the show since Daryl’s smoking has petered off. In stark contrast, she’s been acting like the town’s mother, something Tobin calls her out on during a random romantic encounter after sunset. During a day full of doubts, concerns, and knowing death is near again, Carol gathered friggen acorns to make cookies for everyone. Even Sam. It’s been a while since the show side-swiped me with emotions, but I teared up seeing the lone cookie on his grave. Then I got angry—Sam gets more care after his death than before.
Carol’s mom-ness spreads to Maggie’s welfare after the pregnant woman insists she go on the raid. Glenn gave up that fight before it started. Rick is told rather bluntly what Carol thinks, but she never spells out why Maggie shouldn’t be there. It’s more of the same when Carol and Maggie, who were left to guard the perimeter and RV, hear the alarm triggered by a Savior—Sasha kills him, but not in time—and rush to help. Carol stops in her tracks, refusing to let Maggie move. Her hesitation because Maggie will also become a mother is why the episode ended in such a convenient manner. Carol, of all the fighters they have, should understand why Maggie is at the raid. Maggie laid out the terms for Gregory. She dug this hole for Alexandria, now either she helps fill it in or it becomes their graves. In Maggie’s shoes, would Carol honestly sit at home baking? Not this Carol. Even weeks out from her last kill, this Carol wouldn’t let others take full responsibility for something she set in motion.
Short note: Abraham is an a-hole. Rosita should shoot him in the foot.
The raid itself is pretty straight-forward. The group sends Eddy to offer Gregory’s head to the Saviors. Don’t fret, it’s a walker they disguised to resemble the injured Hilltop leader. The guards take too long to examine the head, not in terms of creating tension, but it just felt like, “Oh, they’re going to be d-bags and make Eddy sweat.” After one guard fetches the kidnapped Hilltop member, the gang dispatches both guards without a sound. The Hilltop people retreat to a standby vehicle with Jesus, Tara, and Gabriel. Rick, Michonne, Abraham, Sasha, Glenn, Heath, Rosita, and Daryl enter the compound. They pair up, searching each room they pass. If the room is occupied, they kill the Savior inside. If the door is locked, they pry it open. Why the random searching? They know nothing about they layout, only a vague idea of where the armory is and the location for the pantry. The locked rooms turn up a supply closet, a marijuana growing operation, and the armory Glenn and Heath defended.
Things run smoothly until Sasha and Abraham are caught breaking into a room. After the alarm is pulled, the gang mows through the stragglers—who aren’t unarmed, but have aim like Stormtroopers. Jesus, Tara, and Gabriel join the fight. Jesus saves Glenn and Heath from the lone survivor outside the armory. The other Hilltop men take the car and head toward home. Gabriel shows his backbone, praying for a Savior before putting a bullet in his head.
At sunrise, everyone from Alexandria and Hilltop are still alive. Heath scouts the Saviors’ cars and picks one to take on the trip. He and Tara roll out without much fanfare. Michonne wants to know which dead guy is Negan. None of them, duh? Plus, not everyone died. One guy on a motorcycle makes a run for it. He’s shot down. Rick and company surround him, making demands. A woman’s voice over the radio makes her own demands. When they fail to comply, she informs them that her people have Maggie and Carol.
Of course they do. I knew the second Maggie and Carol were left on the outskirts alone that they’d become a bargaining chip. It’s easier to kidnap the women, despite Carol’s ferocity, than the men on the mission—except maybe Heath. This is how they’ll likely force the face-to-face with Negan. A kidnapping. It’s so uninspired.
So naked Rick and Michonne don’t turn Jesus into swiss cheese.
Matter of fact, once the cavalry arrives to restrain Jesus again, they somehow end up listening to what he has to say. They’re totally onboard with sending the town’s ruling council and the majority of their top-tier fighters with this stranger, as well, even after hearing he’d taken full stock of their supplies and people before essentially turning himself in to Rick. They were more suspicious of Morgan, the man who may be the sole reason Rick saw more than a week outside the hospital after his coma. Yes, Morgan snapped his Slim Jim after his son passed, but he is fully not crazy now and Carol still watches the man like he’s about the club them all to death and make sachets from their skin.
With no real concern whatsoever, Rick, Michonne, Glenn, Maggie, Daryl, Abe, and Jesus climb into an RV—there’s always one which just happens to be nearby—and take off toward an undisclosed location with only their vague threats to keep Jesus from driving them into a trap.
Which exactly what it looks like not long after we rejoin the gang on the road. A car, one Jesus swears belongs to his people, crashed on the roadside moments before they drove past. Now, not only are the fighters separated from the group, they’re being put directly in harm’s way for people who may still turn around and put bullets in their brain pans. There’s an urgent rescue. One of the guys, Dr. Carson, thanks Maggie and Glenn by being probably the only OB left alive in the state and offering to care for their baby. How’s that for luck?
During the entire episode, Jesus is essentially Google—feeding Rick and Maggie exactly what they need to manipulate Gregory, Hilltop’s chicken-livered and misogynistic leader. It’s all too easy, this plot. Somehow we end up at the right place at the right time for these unfortunate people to demonstrate the kind of antics keeping Negan top dog in the county. But with all the bad Negan has done—namely, his men murdering a sixteen year old boy upon The Saviors’ first meeting with Hilltop—Jesus seems not concerned at all about being in the room with two men confessing to blowing up quite a few of the boogeyman’s goons. If that were me, I’d wash my hands of Alexandria, not matter how badly we needed another trading post.
Hilltop itself is designed to resemble a walled medieval estate during wartime, with all the folk from the farms and homes under care of the lord encamped within the walls. It’s so blatant, Gregory turning out to be a world class jerk doesn’t surprise me in the least. It’s even less surprising that one of his own men would then stab him, hoping Gregory’s death would secure the release of a man Negan took captive. Why did he take this guy and kill another Hilltop citizen? Gregory sent his people to deliver their usual payoff knowing it wouldn’t be enough. It’s never enough. Negan will demand more and more. Though Gregory survives, this hasn’t done a thing to teach him to grow a pair and take on the man running their lives from afar.
In comes Rick and his band of killers.
Seriously? This is where the story goes? They veer from attempting to set up a functioning ecosystem in Alexandria to hired mercenaries who’ll just kill and take what they want. These are the people Rick wants to kill, usually. But when it suits them, murder is on the table. They wouldn’t need to kill Negan so soon if they’d stopped to do the boring things like clear fields. But they need food now. Hilltop has a functioning system in place which produces enough food to send half to Negan without forcing strict rationing in Hilltop. If Negan doesn’t need that food being dead and all, Alexandria will take it. Now. Half of whatever is on-hand is cheaper than the cumulative price to keep Negan at bay via bribes.
But again, this is all too easy to follow to the conclusions the writers want. They’re trying to make fans guess who’s going to die. Is it Glenn? Negan and Glenn’s comic book story is well known, spread by every reviewer trying to make the show into something it’ll never be—an accurate reflection of the comics. They drive more nails into Glenn’s coffin during this episode, finally giving us a glimpse at his and Maggie’s child in an ultrasound. Every happy character dies on this show. It’s no surprise. Abraham seems a tad happy himself after some soul searching and a near-death experience, but he’s mostly in the story now to fire large weapons and make us question Glenn’s fate going into the season’s end. Some say golden boy Dixon will bite the big one. It makes sense, seeing as he did blow up Negan’s people.
It’s all so boring, this weird dead pool going on in the fandom. I never watched the show to see who would die. I kept watching because the characters made rational decisions in an interesting setting and the story pace never lagged so much, I wanted to wander off for a snack ten minutes into an episode. They’ve killed the Negan story line before it begins.
This episode is not for the weak-hearted. Matter of fact, I highly regretted filling my coffee mug just one more time before settling in to watch. Twenty minutes into the episode, I paused and took a five-minute break to watch puppy videos. Otherwise my heart would’ve exploded.
Warning! Walking Dead Spoilers ahead, as well as graphic descriptions of violence.
Now, I’m not doing a complete 180* flip on my stance on the show using easy outs. There were simply too many deaths in this episode which in the end tied up a loose thread in the plot. Sure, they were somewhat spectacular deaths, but that then comes down to a simple A-B reasoning for offing the character. A, the character over complicates the plot—yet Father Gabriel, who has done nothing but get people killed, remains safe; heck, he’s mentally recovering from his sins far better than anyone left alive on the show. The B reason for these producer-targeted deaths then shifts to making them so astounding visually, fans will confuse a visceral reaction to the death with a genuine connection to the woefully two-dimensional character.
There’s no ride with these people. No thrills, lulls, love, empathy to make them matter. They’re cannon fodder tossed on the field to make the generals look like they have the numbers to win the battle. Sad thing is, they’re right. The producers gave us cannon fodder and we, the coveted item in the television ratings war, bought into their bluff. “We can change,” they promise. “It’ll be just like the comic books.”
Apparently that translates to adult language, mass slaughter of plot-hampering B-list characters, and the icky kind of tension. The tension a woman gets walking in the dark by herself and heavy boot steps follow half a breath behind her. It’s the wrong tone for where I think they want to take the show heading into the season finale. You can’t run head-first into the terror about to come. This was their toe-dip to warn us. Hopefully this unwanted tension tone shifts. I mean, the primary perpetrator was blown to about six-billion pieces. By Daryl, no less. With an assist from the time-wasting and convenient rocket launcher.
The walker footage for this episode is beautiful. If there’s one thing Nicotero does well in his episodes, you see the FX love up front and center. Good thing, too. Most of the Rick-centric scenes happened mid-herd. The few times there aren’t walkers in-frame, we’re lead to believe they somehow found a corner within the tiny community to hide where one of five thousand walkers couldn’t find them. These moments are when Rick passes Judith, his last tie to his deceased wife aside from his son, to Gabriel. The Father will shelter her in the church until Rick and the others draw the walkers away with the cars they left at the quarry. Jessie tells Sam to go with them. He refuses, stating he can make it.
You know where this is going, right? They’ve intentionally mishandled Sam’s PTSD, hauling us by the nose to the moment when his mental disorder takes the forefront, driving back rational thought and costing the boy his life. Jessie, frozen by grief, is swarmed and eaten, as well. Sorry, Rick. But, wait, why aren’t you moving, Rick? He hesitates just long enough for the walkers to almost get Carl, who can’t move because Jessie has him gripped tight in her death throes. There’s a weird fascination with cutting off hands in genre pieces. Jessie loses hers to save Carl. Father and son recover just in time for Ron to be a moron. Grief-numbed Ron rightly blames Rick for his family’s death. In the following struggle, Michonne impales Ron and Ron accidentally shoots Carl in the eye.
Well, heck. By this point we’ll assume literally everyone is on the chopping block this season. Which is exactly how we’re supposed to feel. They want us so concerned for everyone, it means they don’t have to rely on character growth to keep us on their emotional journey. The only two who knocked it out of the park growth wise this episode are Denise—kidnapped by the lone Wolf until he saves her as they attempt to escape Alexandria, taking a bite in the process—and Eugene, who finally joins the fight without reservations. Characters like Aaron and Heath are only on screen as proof of life and extra bodies in the epic fight montage at the episode’s climax
After Carl is shot, things move quickly. Denise jumps to action, having slipped the Wolf when Carol killed him, but not before Denise had promised to save his life. Michonne helps Denis stabilize Carl. Rick, without saying a word to anyone, grabs a machete and heads outside to, well, collect some heads. He becomes a zombie mowing machine. After some debate, others join him, even Michonne after ensuring Denise had things in hand.
While they fight, Glenn and Enid hatch a plan to save Maggie from the rickety guard platform. The plan is beyond dumb. Glenn will stand at ground level and shoot walkers. Enid climbs the platform. Maggie freaks out, refuses to climb down the wall with the improvised rope, and uses her last bullet. Right at the last second, Abraham and Sasha magically mount the wall and mow down the walkers, all without injuring Glenn. Daryl waits in the truck and Glenn joins him. What will they do? Daryl has a plan. This may be a first, to be honest.
Flaming zombie pond! That’s Daryl’s big plan. Honestly, it’s effective. The nearby walkers shamble into the flaming pond without reservation. When the herd shifts direction, Rick and company mow them down. Though I don’t one-hundred percent believe all the walkers would simply ignore yelling, grunting, sweating live bodies in favor of one big fireball. They win the battle, though. There’s no more casualties. Even Father Gabriel got in on the action before it ended. Okay, so three characters had some emotional growth.
The episode ends with what’s supposed to be a touching monologue with Rick at Carl’s bedside. The kid is alive, but unconscious and honestly doesn’t look too good with a third of his face bandaged. Where this scene went wrong is language choice. Rick doesn’t go into his feelings for his possibly dying son, oh no. Instead he crows over being able to unite the townsfolk for this oh-so important cause. He then goes on to talk about making the town bigger, badder. There’s the hint of emotion, but Rick never gives it a proper label, just that he hasn’t felt it since before he awoke from the coma. The scene has no punch until Rick begs Carl to let him show him the new world. Our hope for Carl is in a single moment, his fingers closing around Rick’s hand.
Obviously, we’re not done with Negan despite blowing up a chuck of his goon squad. How soon he’ll arrive at the gate is a variable no one in Alexandria can account for with any surety. They’re knocking on war’s door while licking their wounds again. Will this too-similar setup have similar endings to Woodbury and the prison? *shakes Magic 8 Ball* Most likely