Careful. There’s spoilers in the following review.
Happiness is fleeting in the apocalypse. That’s the message written all over this episode. Oh, everything starts out puppies and kittens, but by the time the credits roll, everyone’s newfound happiness has been shattered one way or another. Maybe you should go re-watch episode 501 to balance things out a little.
As always, Roberta is the first to face heartbreak in what should have been the perfect place for her to settle. At least until her mind finally catches up with all the miles her body has traveled in the name of saving humanity, that is. The decision is more or less made for her by Cooper, unfortunately. His loneliness is a weakness neither of them can overcome. So when Murphy’s impeccable tracking skills lead him straight to the farm, that very same fear of isolation puts Murphy in danger. If there’s one thing you don’t do when faced with the exhausted leader of a survivor group, it’s break their trust. Warren’s loyalty will always fall with those who fought by her side, no matter how perfect a lover may be. For probably not the last time, Roberta saves a bound/gagged Murphy and off they go to reunite Operation Bitemark in the northern communities.
With the Newmerica vote hanging in the air, Doc, 10k, and Sarge are shuffled into what seems to be the most populated and organized settlement, Altura, so they can partake in the actual rebirth of democracy. It’s not as simple as “Pass Go, Collect $200.” In order to make sure every citizen receives the aid and support they need, everyone must go through a health screening to determine who’s alive and who’s a Talker. 10k’s unique state of being is nearly discovered, but the examiner finds a pulse after some intensive searching. The others in the party who died before arriving aren’t handling the process as well. On top of the struggle to fit in, there’s also whispers that the bizkits are running low. Is this paradise too good to be true already?
The team might want to give them another chance to come through on all these grandiose promises. Turns out George was one of the first people Warren saved when the apocalypse kicked off, and George is using the strength she saw in her savior to fashion a safe haven for everyone. Normally we’re not treated to flashbacks on this show, and honestly they tend to detract from the plot, but this particular flashback speaks volumes about Warren’s power to lead before she ever dreamed of leading her own group. Not to mention it gives us a source for the phrase, “Puppiez and kittenz,” which has become a mantra for Roberta when they’re in need of bravery. Beyond the Easter eggs hidden in George’s history, the easy friendship between Warren and the would-be world leader reminds us that Warren hasn’t had a real one-on-one conversation with another woman in quite some time. Their conversations are some of the better parts of the episode.
Not everyone thinks George is a brilliant leader. The dissidents range from angry, lonely humans who lash out from fear, to the Talkers who embrace the idea that their undead condition somehow makes them better. Of the latter, Pandora seems to be the head of the snake. Unfortunately, the character herself is a two-dimensional sexpot who causes mischief. I can toss out a handful of rice and hit an identical character from literally every TV show currently airing. It’s somewhat annoying to watch the show make great strides to represent women better, only to then lean back on a character prototype that really needs to find its way to the trash heap of history. We get it. Pandora is a bad guy. Now can you write her like an actual person instead of walking sexual organs?
This is an episode of reunions. Remember Red? Red vanished mysteriously quite some time ago, leaving 10k distraught and self-destructive. Her reintroduction is a study in how men muck up their own lives by failing to confront their emotions. 10k spends the entire episode driving himself up a wall because he’s too afraid to show how much he misses Red after hearing rumors she may be involved with someone else. A former traveling companion who wasn’t quite as missed, at least not by Murphy, is Dr. Sun Mei. Just like Red, Sun vanished without a trace way back when they originally planned to venture to Newmerica. She’s used her time away from the group well, becoming a scientist for Altura and running a whole new study on the Talkers. In a stunning turn, Citizen Z shows up shooting live footage of the upcoming vote for his viewers. The gang are all present and accounted for at last, with one notable exception. In a lesser way, we’re also reintroduced to Zona via Roman Estes, the CEO of Altura, who says he left Zona after disagreeing with their plans, a.k.a. the whole Black Rainbow business.
Estes’ new haven may not run as smooth as he hopes. At the episode’s end when George is set to read the results of the long-awaited vote for a new constitution, the podium blows up. Lt. Dante acts like Pandora is to blame, slinking off to check on the woman’s activities after she leaves the meeting hall just before George’s speech. We have no clue who all survives the blast, but I’ll be quite vexed if we’re forced to say goodbye to George already. The death rate on this show should teach me to never pick a favorite character from the newbies, but here I am, already hoping my new favorite isn’t a notch on Z Nation‘s executioner’s ax.
A New Beginning: Review for The Walking Dead 901 by R.C. Murphy
You know the drill. There’s a ton of spoilers in this review, so proceed accordingly.
Despite the show being back on the air during its normal time frame, it feels like we were away from Rick and the gang for way too long. Or maybe it’s just that 2018 feels like 10 years packed in a single year’s box, held together with cheap packing tape. The Walking Dead gives fans a good way to vanish from the real world for a little while, as it always has. But did the production team manage to grab the waning attention of fans burnt out by the exhausting All Out War story line?
I’m honestly not sure this premiere is strong enough on its own to do that, and it’s a little worrying considering what all we know for sure is coming down the pipeline as far as actor departures from the show.
The bulk of this episode deals with an idea the producers introduced at SDCC this summer: Reclaiming old technology in order to ensure a future for their communities. In the opening montage, it’s clear that Sanctuary’s corn crop failed. The factory’s dirt is sour. All they can do with the produce is turn it into biofuel, and the yield isn’t nearly enough to keep everyone driving out to source supplies to fully replenish Negan’s former home sweet home nearly 2 years after the war ended. To speed up the process of healing the ground, they need a better, faster way to plow. There’s also a few other things they need, so everyone’s off to Washington D.C. to raid the Smithsonian. Makes perfect sense. How many scouting teams would’ve had the time or energy to take things like covered wagons before now? Aside from some minor walker damage, everything in the museum is intact.
The plan to get it all out, not so much.
This episode, like so many before it, is plagued with basic logic errors so great, one cannot help but yell at the television. There’s a vast difference in writing a tense scene in which a beloved character has a close call, and writing a series of foolish calls that are obviously wrong while still (still!) presenting the person giving the orders as the best possible leader for these people. This problem continues into the next set of problems while getting their loot home. How on earth did they create this relay network, yet when it comes to actually planning and executing what should be a moderately easy mission, they do things like fail to make sure all the bridges are secure? The latter oversight cost Ken his life. Always know your exits. It’s a basic lesson all women, police, and military learn.
Perhaps it’s because of all the bad calls that the power struggle is more pronounced this season. The first problem comes from everyone’s need to put an outside in charge of Sanctuary to keep the dissidents in line. Daryl wants out. Being in the building triggers his PTSD, but he stops just shy of admitting as much to Rick. Carol, however, hears and understands why Daryl needs to get away from there. Not sure she’s going to have much better luck, not with guys like Justin lurking on the fringes with his passive aggressive quips, and the constant reminders that someone in the community actively wants Negan back. The second problem comes to light curtesy of the unchecked, crumbling bridge. Turns out Hilltop has it good. Really good. They’re flush with people, produce, and ideas. And for this entire time, they’ve been loaning out supplies right and left to keep everyone afloat. Yet everyone defers to Rick. He gets the praise. Maggie, in a moment I wish to frame and mount on a wall, point-blank tells Rick that the power dynamic will change because she knows her worth, and that of the people under her care. Rick, to his credit, acknowledges it and doesn’t seem all that torn up to have a little pushback. The third problem is proof that Maggie needs the spine of steel we saw in her conversation with Rick because someone’s out for her head. I’ll give you one guess who it is. Gregory was never going to let the election results stand, and Maggie should have known he’d take a funeral as a chance to plot against her. In another show of power, Maggie hangs Gregory in the middle of town using one of the most painful methods ever. It’d take a brave fool to go toe to toe with her anytime soon.
A quick note to wrap up . . . . Can we have a spin-off romantic comedy with Carol and Ezekiel? Seriously, all I want is to see these two happily joking with each other until the end of time. No cameos. No walkers. Just a blissful couple in an empty world being adorable. It’s been a rough year. We deserve this one nice thing.
Welcome to the Newpocalypse: Review for Z Nation 501 by A. Zombie
Don’t rush ahead without looking for spoilers, first. They’re sneaky like that.
Z NATION — “Welcome to the Newpocalypse” Episode 501 — Pictured: Keith Allen as Murphy — (Photo by: Oliver Irwin/The Global Asylum/SYFY)
What’s probably the most noticeable thing about season five thus far is how drastically different the tone is right out the gate. They haven’t taken us all the way back to a season one vibe, that just wouldn’t work with a scattered, three-part story. However, going into this season it feels more . . . natural. Perhaps once they dropped the technology-driven story line, it allowed the plot to follow where the characters want to go on when acting on their own accord. And for quite some time the group had a few solid goals: reach Newmerica, and to run away somewhere less complicated. Operation Bitemark didn’t reach both goals as a unit, but everyone goes where they need/want to and it does wonders at making our old friends more recognizable. The entire Murphy and Bob walk at the end is peak Murphy. He’s never been so at ease with himself. We need more of this.
Doc leads the Newmerica-bound group with his heart, not so much his head. Which is how the show managed to make me crack part of my jaw off . . . then the scene plays out and Doc’s ruse is revealed. Round of applause to you guys for giving a dead person a heart attack. His makeup choices aside, Doc is doing an admirable job of getting not only his people to the new promised land, but also anyone they stumble across along the way. The ragtag group is mostly composed of folks who suffer side effects from the black rain. Yes, yet again our heroes are the source of some horrific ailment unleashed upon the dwindling human population. And as usual, there’s a twist. We’ll get to that in a moment.
Have you ever purchased an item online thinking it was assembled, only to receive an itty bitty box for what’s supposed to be a six-foot bookcase? That’s pretty much what Newmerica turns out to be. All that radio chatter made it sound like there is an actual established civilization up north, one just shy of building its first fast food place, at that. Someone up there must have worked in advertising before the Z hit the fan because they really sold the place well. What’s really waiting way up north for the gang? A dozen or so settlements caught in a political battle over a constitution in order to properly call the territory Newmerica. Guess it’s better than finding out Skeezy and Sketchy are running a new con. But can these people help when they can’t even agree on basic laws of the land yet?
If one overlooks the obvious appeal of the Z biscuits George hands out, this would-be leader still has the charisma it takes to unite people in a common cause. She’s empathetic. Calm. Approaches every scenario with a level head, even though the other party involved probably just wants to eat her brain. And unlike other leader-types the team has encountered, George freely offers information, aid, and shelter to all. Even the still-talking dead in the group.
Remember those side-effects? A major one is the fact that once the afflicted perish, they don’t stop doing what they were doing in the first place; they just continue existing, but with a craving for brains. Much like Murphy, actually. Where they differ is the black rain victims will turn full Z if their hunger is not addressed. Someone out there has the time and created possibly brain-laced crackers for this new variety of undead, Talkers. It’d be grand if the group found the Z wizard and made friends. You know, so they’ll never be without food for their dead pals. Nothing ruins a friendship faster than being snapped at.
But what about Warren and that huge cliffhanger from season four? Like a cat, Warren lives to fight another day, despite this being her closest call yet. Well . . . if we overlook the nuclear incident. And the gut shot. Okay, the apocalypse hasn’t been kind to Roberta. Things are looking up for her during this episode, though. After miraculously walking away from the crash with major, but not fatal wounds, Warren finds a farm with a lone occupant, Cooper. Wouldn’t you know it? This is the exact kind of place she looked for during those moments when the mission became too much for her. It’s quiet. There’s work to be done, and it rarely involves dealing with the dead. To cap it off, Cooper turns out to be a balm for the holes in her heart. A happy, smiling Roberta is someone we haven’t seen in years. Even if she’s only happy for this one moment, I’m glad the show let her just live for an episode. Even heroes need a day off.
Her time away from the group dwindles, though she doesn’t know it. There’s a hard decision coming for Roberta. Can she step away from the promise of a future in this new land with the people she’s come to love as family at her side? George won over the others in a couple minutes, maybe her magic will coax Roberta to the north, as well. Whichever way Warren goes, I think the main goal will be to finally settle and build a place to call home.
And He Shall Be a Good Man: Review for iZombie 413 by A. Zombie
Before you march into this battle, make sure to watch your six for episode spoilers.
It’s been a rough year for Seattle, and things are not looking up for the newly crowned zombie haven. Despite Peyton’s best efforts, the federal government halts all support to the city. Fillmore-Graves’ kidnapping scheme is for naught. Liv and Levon’s sacrifice for each other won’t matter if the people they’ve saved starve to death. The city needs a plan. Unfortunately for them, their self-appointed leader is so focused on slaughtering anyone who breaks the rules, he can’t find a way to work together to stay alive.
Starving to death, or being devoured by ravenous zombies, isn’t the first or even third priority for Team Zombie in this episode. Everyone thinks they know what they need to do, then the calls start—Liv and Levon are being executed in the morning. One thing this show did well was make sure Liv’s chosen family were worthy of her never-ending sacrifices. They prove it in this episode when those friends drop literally everything to hatch a rescue plan. Even Major makes it back into Seattle in time to deliver a heartfelt pep talk to Renegade’s crew. Gladwell, driven by Ravi and Major’s concern for their friend, risks her livelihood to be the mole in Fillmore-Graves and feeds the rescue squad intel. You’ve got to admit, that team is scarily efficient. In no time at all they have a solid plan in place, including contingencies for any security FG set up in the park. They also waste all that time for nothing. The documentary Levon produced forces Chase to bump up the execution time and change locations after the crew releases it to garner civilian support for Renegade. The plan goes from expertly planned to basically a pitchfork mob with some extra strength.
We should have known we weren’t going to get a huge fight scene. This show hasn’t pulled one off yet. In this episode they attempt two large-scale fights which fall so flat, they can use them as tarps to cover all the dead zombies left at the end. The execution scene starts off pretty good. Wonderful moments from the actors, and of course the shock-not-shock from yet another dead boyfriend story line conclusion. At this rate, all we can do is shake our head and ignore the writers the next time they say the boyfriend might survive to see another season. Where this scene fails is the actual action sequence. It’s edited with cut-to-black frames. The editing is supposed to make the scene tenser, but in this instance the cuts take out any interesting action, giving us a few seconds with Major jumping instead of an altercation between unarmed resistance fighters and the regime in charge. And while the end of the fight is super satisfying for obvious reasons, the editing left much to be desired as far as a conflict goes. The same can be said for Angus’ final charge into battle. There’s so much time dedicated to showing how much force the zombies are up against at the gate, only for us to see a little bit of running, then close-ups of battlefield executions. The production brought in a tank and didn’t let us see Angus’ head getting knocked clean off by it? Why even bother? I got my hopes up for nothing. Well, not exactly nothing. Angus still pays the price for his evil deeds while alive and undead. This time he’s staying dead. Good riddance.
With the acting leadership, save Peyton, pushing up daisies, someone else has to fill the void before there’s a power vacuum in the tumultuous walled city. We knew Major was tapped to lead, but thought it nothing more than a ploy to test his loyalty. Turns out the best way to test someone is to present them with the truth and see what they’ll do. Major takes the reigns before someone with bad intentions beats him to the punch. His first act is to join with the military to stave off the zombies rushing the gates. The second most important thing to take care of? It’s the pressing problem everyone overlooked in order to rescue Liv. With few resources at hand, Major looks to the only people he knows can get brains into Seattle, Blaine and Don E. Guess Blaine will do okay without his father’s help, after all. The trio strike a deal which will drastically change how everyone sees the resident bad guys in the upcoming fifth, and final, season. From the looks of it, our whole crew will go out on top of their world. That’s probably just wishful thinking after four years watching the writing team emotionally torment the star characters.
The happy note for the season is, we’ve got a functioning relationship within the plot that doesn’t end in death before the wedding. Unfortunately, it takes a little bit of logic jumping to get there. Also, we’re going to have to ignore the fact that Michelle even exists, because that’s a ball of unresolved feels I’m pretty sure got dropped somewhere under the writing team’s table. But, hey, Clive smiles for an entire scene, and that’s the happiest we’ve seen this character, well, ever. The wedding scene is one of those great rom-com moments, capped by a literal miracle. Liv gives up her chance to be normal again, gifting Isobel’s curative brain to Dale as their wedding gift. If my tear ducts weren’t so rotted, I may have cried a little.
This season as a whole got a little messy. The plot was huge, with so many remaining loose threads I’m not sure if they were intentional or a product of realizing there’s no way to address that many issues in one go. We can only wait and see if the same writing problems make it to the final season. It’d be a shame for this show to go out with grousing from the fanbase, though.
Rated: TV-MA (Contains violence, gore, and adult language)
Starring: Martin Freeman, Simone Landers, Susie Porter, Caren Pistorius, and Anthony Hayes
When we think about current affairs in genre films, the adage has ventured far from, “Less is more.” With streaming services like Netflix dipping their toes in the game, we’ve seen stronger and stronger independent horror films popping up like mushrooms after rain. Given such support, filmmakers seem to be willing to venture further from the standard ho-hum zombie flick. Cargo is not a movie you’ll watch through your fingertips. But that’s not to say the movie lacks anything. The emotional and cultural depth are what put it on new level. So while this movie has less, well, everything than something like World War Z, it’s not one to overlook because it’s, “Just another indie movie.”
Even Netflix doesn’t believe in it, giving me a sixty-something percentage on the compatibility scale, despite my watch history being almost entirely genre films—including several indies with similar vibes, but inferior cinematography.
Here’s the plot rundown:
Australia’s coastline and major cities teem with people infected by a cannibalistic virus. Aboriginal people still connected to the old ways make their way to their ancestral homes seeking refuge from the “ghosts” haunting the plains. Other lucky souls make it away from the worst by sticking to the waterways.
Andy, his wife Kay, and their infant daughter Rosie are supremely lucky to have a houseboat and a smaller motor boat at their disposal. But food is scarce. Scavenging for supplies comes at a steep cost. With a 48-hour timer on Kay’s final moments, Andy makes the call to find help at the nearest town. Kay never makes it after they cross paths with a wandering ghost on the road. Andy winds up infected in the chaos. The ghost isn’t alone, trailed by his daughter Thoomi. The pair are on the lam, Thoomi fearing her people will put her father to rest without giving the Clever Man a chance to reunite his soul with his ghost. Which, ultimately, they do while the girl is imprisoned by Vic.
Vic, the man with a plan for “after” the apocalypse, will get his way no matter what—just ask his wife-not-wife, Lorraine. Andy likewise has a run-in with Vic, also ending with his imprisonment. Together, Andy and Thoomi escape with Rosie. They help each other across the unforgiving Australian landscape in search of anywhere safe for Rosie to grow up. Eventually Thoomi’s home is the only logical choice. Getting there will take every last bit of life left in Thoomi and Andy.
Right out the gate, one can’t help but wonder over how well the filmmakers utilize Australia as the setting in general. With so few city or building locations for the characters to return to, it makes sense to use what they have in abundance to fill in the gaps and establish the groundwork for a seriously well-shot movie. As said earlier, you won’t watch this one through your fingers, and that’s because you won’t want to miss a second of the gorgeous Australian landscape.
The cast makes acting in a location-heavy genre flick look easy, and it’s far, far from it. On this shoot in particular, the weather was downright terrifying, but one would never know that from the way everything’s edited together, aided massively by the seemingly effortless acting from the leads. Freeman and Landers are on the exact opposite ends of the experience spectrum, yet you’d never know it unless you looked further into the film. Their skill and ability to use it to forge a bond on-screen is what makes Cargo so compelling in the second half. Despite the audience knowing early on how things will probably end, they’ll still find themselves rooting for the duo to win against this unseen foe.
Said foe isn’t unseen for long. The zombie effects are a far cry from what we’ve seen lately. I know I say that at least once a year, but this time it’s real, dang-it. For one thing, these zombies are a little goopy. Their blood is gelatinous, discolored, and ample. Each victim undergoes a slow change, suffering seizures and leaking goop until their orifices seal over with it, which signals the final death and transformation. The eye and mouth sealing effect is downright nasty. World’s worst eye boogers. As for the rest of the makeup? The zombies are generally pale with oozing wounds, relying heavily on movement and the crusty face to sell the idea. It works for what this is, and that’s not a grand zombie chase across the countryside. It’s two broken families desperately finding a way to make sure the next generation sees the future, and that’s nearly impossible because mankind’s corruption has rotted the world so much, even the dead are wrong.
A breath of fresh air, Cargo far exceeded my expectations. I’m going to give it four smoldering corpses out of five. Grab a few friends and treat them to just under two hours of quality time together watching this movie. It’s a great way to take a break from the corruption rotting the real world.
You’ve Got to Hide Your Liv Away: Review for iZombie 412 by A. Zombie
Oh no, darling! You can’t possibly go on without knowing there’s spoilers in this review.
With just two episodes left in season four, it’s expected that the plot will whip into a whirlwind with hopefully enough momentum to push the ongoing story into the next season. The problem with this season is there’s too many stories. Too many new characters. Even if one watches this episode without commercials, it seems to take an eternity to get through all the important bits. Why? Because every scene, every moment has to count. The number of info dumps in the episode is staggering. Info dump is a term for dialog laying out a substantial portion of a story line with little to no action to accompany it. It’s usually something novel writers are guilty of, but a few shows have taken to this style of storytelling as a shorthand to get to the good stuff. At least this show, unlike GoT, didn’t use the one sex scene to info dump with breasts on screen in order to keep viewers’ attention.
The Brain of the Week case this time around goes to Ravi since Liv’s occupied with Renegade problems. While the victim this time is a woman—yes, what a shocker—she’s insufferably narcissistic. McKenna is, was, the kind of girl to walk up to a bar, ignore the bartender, and place an order via their “squad” of wannabes. The selfie queen, and former zombie, is a New Seattle celebrity. The Scratching Post brings her in as an “influencer” of sorts one evening, but by the time the sun rises, McKenna isn’t part of the undead or living crowds. Finding out who wants her dead isn’t hard. Ravi’s sole vision leads to a Brother Love follower who dishes the dirt about the pseudo priest’s call to rid the world of the woman’s offensive behavior. Angus himself didn’t do the deed, he’s too careful for that. Yet he still shows up to the interrogation wearing his robes, carrying the hammer we’ve seen him use against humans. Don’t get your hopes up. Angus walks free when Tucker, the bigot turned by Gladwell, confesses to the murder. It’s not a lie, either. Tucker doesn’t do any time for the murder, thanks to Lambert’s interference. Because that’s just what we need, a Fillmore-Graves employee drunk on Brother Love’s Flavor Aid. The day this story line ends cannot come soon enough. It’s cluttering the plot and, quite frankly, the religious extremist plot doesn’t hold any appeal since it’s been done a million times before.
Liv still gets a personality shift from a brain, but it’s not because she decides on her own to eat this particular, love-stricken woman. In a rush to save Liv from herself, Major wanders up and casually kidnaps her, like he didn’t leave his Chaos Killer days long behind. His security clearance gets them out of Seattle and into the next state to a safe house. It’d seem like an extreme measure, but everyone who knows Liv is Renegade—including Clive, now—agrees that her first move after Fillmore-Graves publishes a statement threatening Curtis will be to turn herself in to Chase. Matter of fact, that’s what Liv is doing when Major nabs her outside the apartment. Where this story goes wrong is when Major uses old lovers’ brains to lull Liv into a false sense of security. He roofies her. We’re not quibbling over this fact. There’s no legitimate reason for Major and Liv to ingest these brains, save to give Major his happily-ever-after no matter what. The thing that gets me is, the actors are so good together, we’re almost charmed by these scenes. For the entire season, the Liv and Levon connection felt forced, marred by Liv the pickup artist coercing Levon into sexual situations. Their relationship only feels right once in a while. This episode is one of those moments where the relationship works, and then there’s Major screwing it up by drugging his ex for one more chance to play house after his repeated failures as a partner. Not to mention, this story line is a mess. Repeated info dumps. The sub-story with the missing couple is ridiculous. Are we honestly to believe two zombies can be in a house for a day before hearing the others in the basement? Then there’s the return of Roche. Out of the blue. Just shows up, forcing Liv to save Major after he destroys the last of her trust in him. Major’s on the outs with everyone, suddenly. His bro Chase even calls it quits after sending Hobbs to do a little loyalty test. Major’s going to have to do a lot to out-hero Liv now that she’s turned herself in to save Levon . . . who turned himself in to save Curtis. For Chase, it’s a case of, “Double the execution, double the fun.” He’d gladly triple it if he gets word of Major’s part in everything.
Using the chaos from his father’s speeches, Blaine has one hell of a plan on-deck. But first, he has to get God to send a sign so Angus will put the plan into action. That requires a secondary plan and, uhh, brain snow. Gotta hand it to them, brain snow is a brand-spanking-new concept. One I’d like to inspect. Closely. Hey, you can’t eat the yellow snow; no one said not to eat the pink-ish gray snow. Man, if Blaine gets his way, the plot for the next season is going to be super complicated.
Or maybe not. There’s a slim, and I mean slim, chance that Ravi’s long-shot testing with Isobel actually yielded an answer to the zombie problem. Once Ravi cleans his brain of McKenna’s influence, he dives into his grand experiment. The techno babble goes way, way over my head. However, the results are unmistakable. Thanks to whatever glowing chemical Isobel’s brain produces, Ravi cures a rat in virtually no time at all. Is it a definitive cure? Of course not. It’s one test subject in one testing sequence. Science requires far more work before Ravi declares he’s found anything beyond a hard-to-identify chemical in Isobel’s brain, let alone the cure to zombiesm. That being said, he needs to test faster before Blaine and Angus turn half the USA into the undead. Or he runs out of brain to test.
In happier news, Clive and Dale realize they’re grown adults. This entire season, they’ve simply failed to talk to each other in any meaningful way, as grownups who want a life together should. Clive’s fear made him blab to Liv about the kid thing, instead of taking it to his romantic partner. Dale’s fear of Clive’s desires make her lie about a non-existent lover. It takes a reality check from someone on the outside to convince them to talk. And wouldn’t you know it? They actually want the same thing—each other. The ‘ship still sails!
A. Zombie Reviews: Day of the Dead: Bloodline (2018) By A. Zombie
Rated: R (Contains: bloody violence, gore, adult language, nudity, and sexual violence)
Cast: Johnathon Schaech, Sophie Skelton, Jeff Gum, Marcus Vanco, and Shari Watson
Let’s address the elephant in the underground bunker right off the bat. Yes, this movie has the same name and basic premise as the Romero movie. That’s pretty much all they have in common, though. When it comes to all these tired reimaginings of cult classics, this may very well be my least favorite. The writers took the bare minimum from the original, enough to call this mess an homage or whatever, and ran with their own bizarre plot dripping in misogyny.
The plot, at a glance:
The zombie apocalypse takes the world by surprise. Caught up in the chaos is Zoe, a young med school student with a focus on epidemiology. To make matters worse, when the dead rise, Zoe is in the middle of fighting off attempted rape from Max, a man with unique blood and a sick obsession. Fast-forward five years, Zoe survives and Max is long gone, but not forgotten. The bunker Zoe calls home serves as a military outpost and scientific research station. In other words, humanity’s last chance to find a cure. If a more mundane epidemic doesn’t take them out, first. A sick girl may be Patient Zero of a new infection. Luckily there’s still medication locked away at Zoe’s nearby medical school. Miguel, the jerk in charge, agrees to the trip. The scouting team recover the medication, and unfortunately, Max, as well. The rapist’s blood kept him in a half-zombie state after the attack. He tracks Zoe through the compound. Despite their history, she saves him to maybe create a cure. Through the testing phase, Max harasses Zoe. Stress and lack of time after Miguel finds out leads her to agree to an ill-considered plan to get fresh rotter blood to test against Max’s. Undead swarm the bunker. Max breaks free. Zoe has to choose between keeping Max alive for her tests or ending his murder spree. For the sake of humanity, she makes the right decision.
The rape sub plot is the most infuriating piece of screenwriting this year. How? How does one look at the Bub character and think, “You know what his backstory is missing, bro?” “Family and friends?” “Psht. Nah, man. A sweet young woman to rape.” Frankly, it’s an insult to the work put into creating that character. They’re only saved from Romero fans grabbing pitchforks because they changed the character’s name. The guy is still styled after Bub post-turning, so they’re not hiding it very well, either. In typical fashion, once the rape idea is introduced, Zoe then relives the moment countless times. Max speaks to her as a zombie, claiming her as his. At one point she has to draw his blood and calls herself his property in order to make him comply. In what universe does someone take a beloved, if flawed, movie and turn it into a story about how not even death can stop a rapist from getting what he wants? This one. This crappy universe wins the prize for being simply the worst.
Sometimes the acting saves a bad script, though nothing’s saving this one from what I mentioned above. In this case, the performances are not where they’ll find praise for the movie. Few of the actors deliver a steady performance the entire film. In a few scenes, they sound like they barely remember the script. As for the content of what the characters say? It’s some of the most Captain Obvious filler dialog taken straight from someone’s first-time horror script. “This is a thing you are seeing with you own eyes, let me repeat exactly what’s happening with no new information.” That’s what I hear, instead of what I’m sure someone thought was witty dialog.
Maybe the makeup stands apart from everything else this year and they can use that for bragging rights! Yeah. Not really. Max’s makeup is disturbing, but the mouth effect loses impact after about the millionth time he roars. We can’t ignore the jet-speed blood spatter effects. They’re beyond ridiculous. In the opening scene we’re expected to believe all these people are full of pressurized blood capable of shooting halfway across a football field. The one zombie which stuck in my mind is the first, and the makeup is subtly perfect. The rest blur together in a wash of blood. At least the fake blood itself was high quality and super believable.
Just face it, this was a bad idea. It’s one thing to want to make your own zombie film, tons of people have and I’ve enjoyed each for its own merit in the end. But to force this kind of garbage onto a known, respected franchise is absurd. Play in your own sand box, don’t crap in someone else’s, let alone that of a dead man. I’m giving this film one and a half desiccated eyeballs out of five. Pass on it and go take a walk in a park, instead.
Insane in the Germ Brain: Review for iZombie 411 by A. Zombie
Clean off your hands and don’t touch any of the episode spoilers below.
This episode is . . . problematic. Countering a slew of character issues are a few golden moments. We witness this sweet farewell to someone too young to die, but they greet Death bravely. Chase has empirical proof of how far Major will go to prove he’s firmly with Fillmore-Graves. Not to mention, the romantic drama in Clive and Dale’s corner is just a gut-kick. These sub-stories tell me the production team can indeed make us care for the characters in ways which will make softer souls tear up. So why on earth are all the Brain of the Week cases in the last half of this season so cringe-worthy?
This week’s victim, Vince, winds up having his head bashed in after cross dressing to perform in a skit critical of the HR representative at his office. Right off the bat, the premise is pretty transphobic—oh no, it’s a man in a dress, let’s laugh about his penis! Ravi calls back to the penis gag several times in a couple minutes. Why? Why address the victim’s genitals at all if the trauma is to his head? Vince’s privacy is further obliterated when his office rival discloses his mental illness without any pressure from the police whatsoever. Then we’re slapped with a red herring in the form of Liv’s vision starring Softball Bigot and his pals. Because Of Course the first real suspect for the murder is a man who freaked out because his masculinity was bruised after drunkenly hitting on a Man in a Dress. This is probably the lowest, most loathsome way to treat this character—a character who isn’t even transgender, by the way. But boy oh boy, do they code Vince’s final night like a trans panic murder. It doesn’t take an overly enlightened person to see what the writers intended, here. And you know what? It’s gross. They should have shelved this idea and brought in a new brain for the episode. All the needed, really, was a victim for Crybaby Carl that’d bring him into the PD’s spotlight. It could have been literally anyone inside the city walls, not (yet another) white man, with a mental illness, who happens to be dressed as a woman. This whole rant of a paragraph doesn’t even cover the insensitivity of how they handle Vince’s mental illness after Liv eats his brain. As far as characters go, Vince is literally a Mad Libs page which finds itself on a camping trip, only to wind up toilet paper because someone didn’t pack right.
On the big-picture side of the plot, Don E. helps Angus reach a global audience. The disturbance from his visceral hatred for humans ripples far, far from the theater-turned-church. In the end, the violence wraps back around to affect the people Angus swears he cares for, yet he escapes, as always happens with this man. In Seattle, hungry zombies feel at liberty to envision devouring humans passing by on the street, and possibly act on it if it were darker and more secluded, perhaps? Local politicians, including Peyton, are on their way to their D.C. flight—where they hope to prove humans and zombies can coexist—when the edited broadcast goes live. Fillmore-Graves sees a gigantic PR disaster. Major’s guilt over dismissing Angus as a serious threat makes one want to smack him upside the head. Of course this monster would continue to be a monster, genius. Why not keep him under stricter observation? Particularly by zombies who aren’t so inclined to fall under his influence. Angus is a wildcard none of the leaders in town can afford to entertain anymore. I suspect instead of Renegade as the next public execution, Chase will swap to Brother Love. It’d certainly go a long way toward convincing the United States government that they shouldn’t nuke the city.
Before Peyton leaves, she and Ravi visit her parents for dinner. To say the scene is awkward is an understatement. Once again, Ravi manages to undermine Peyton’s authority. Admittedly, it’s to
tell her bigoted father to shut his trap, so there’s mixed emotions involved. The odd group do reach a consensus on one matter when it comes to Peyton’s safety—they’d all rather her stay in D.C. instead of coming back to Seattle. She, of course, is having none of this silent retreat plan. Any problem in Seattle is hers to meet head-on. Seriously. She’s the closest thing they have to a mayor currently, unless they’re going to give up all pretenses and just call Chase Commander of the city.
Peyton’s position is vital to the Underground Railroad. Unfortunately, the need for her help comes after she’s gone. Doing her best to battle the brain’s influence, Liv busts into the border wall office dressed as Peyton. Why on earth would she be so bold? Well, Suki and a newcomer were stopped and held in the overly crowded waiting room. Liv lost one coyote to the authorities already, she’s not about to lose another. It’s a close thing, though, after she subtly freaks out due to the desperate people clamoring for help from the “mayor.” It seems reckless for them to bring in someone at this time, but the visitor is someone who desperately needs to reconnect with her daughter . . . Isobel.
Going into this story line, it was obvious Isobel wouldn’t stick with the show long. Then the actress made us all want to protect this darling, morbid as heck young lady. Even Isobel’s tired efforts to startle everyone by pretending to be dead provokes a little smile thanks to Izabela Vidovic’s acting skill. Where this story really works, and works well, is when Ravi comes to say his final goodbye. That goodbye comes after a heart-rending bout of denial. Rahul Kohli delivers his strongest performance yet in this scene. Seeing what could have been as far as a connection between all these characters makes one wish Isobel came in sooner. At least then maybe we would have seen the no doubt hilarious driver’s ED scene.
On the overlord side of the plot, Chase Graves screws up his own victory party. Big time. To even earn said party, first Major risks himself by knowingly walking into a bad situation in order to meet Roche’s boss. His team manage to not completely screw up the job and the bust is a resounding success. Then they fail to secure a weapon during prisoner transport, losing Roche in a city where he’s got all sorts of ties to people capable of making him vanish. After hearing the news, Chase snaps, blaming Gladwell for more or less everything that’s gone wrong in the last few months, if we’re honest. Anyone else uncomfortable with Chase being a neo-Nazi stand-in who routinely murders black women? Gladwell survives, so far, thanks only to being a zombie. Her partner doesn’t fare so well. Major would’ve died without those two in a stunt he only pulled in order to appease Chase. Now his white knight has blood on his hands. Will Major continue to march in Fillmore-Graves’ little army? He knows there’s a better cause to back just waiting for a savior dumb enough to join in.
As I said before, there’s just too much going on for this season. I’m loving certain sub stories, like Isobel’s visit, but dread Liv’s everyday work with the PD. Somewhere along the line, the focus went from telling quirky police stories with a zombie detective to complicated season-arcing plots which only vaguely fit together if one squints at the facts really hard and tilts their head. It’s a symptom of writers thinking they’re clever, yet the edited product is far from it because there’s only 40-ish minutes to tell all these stories. Sometimes less is more.
Yipee Ki Brain, Motherscratcher!: Review for iZombie 410 by A. Zombie
Where you going, punk? Don’t you know there’s episode spoilers in this neighborhood?
Major is the new hero is town. Well, at least in the Fillmore-Graves building. How long will his cohorts hold him in high esteem once they learn his ex-girlfriend is Renegade? What about his roommate, the underground zombie doctor? Sure Chase Graves trusts Major with literally his life right now, but he’s also a man about to watch everything he built crumble because he failed Dictatorship 101—which clearly states a leader should make sure he’s got a steady food supply for his people, or they’ll kill him. History is rift with leaders given a violent boot from the timeline when they couldn’t provide. Chase leans hard on Major to fix all his problems, and may even force the former Team Zombie member onto the guillotine before his own well-groomed head hits the steel. It’s clear after the final confrontation with Liv, Levon, and Major that he’s very much on the wrong side of history, here. His former friends will not be merciful if they all survive the chaos about to erupt from the religious corner of the city. His only hope is to get Roche to give up his boss. It won’t be easy. These guys are working a serious game, with the police and Fillmore-Graves completely unaware they’ve even sat down at the chess board.
Liv herself is pretty uninspiring this episode. The Brain of the Week belongs to Detective Benedetto, the epitome of scumball LEO. This charming chap was capped giving confession at church. Clive’s got three main suspects, all of whom were involved in a crime with a huge loot hidden somewhere in the city, according to AJ, one of said suspects. AJ claims Benedetto must’ve been killed because he wants the loot for himself. The theory sticks, seeing as Liv’s pretty much useless on this guy’s brain. She can’t even really work the case after whacking one suspect with a fish. Thanks to this, we never see any more action from the case unless it’s through Clive’s enthusiastic retellings. He gets the guy, by the way. And it is funny as hell to watch Clive fling himself around to replay his big off-screen fights.
Since Liv’s off the case, she spends way more time taking care of Renegade’s duties in this episode than in previous. It doesn’t seem like much, since most of the work is done in a montage, but she’s pretty serious about the trafficking thing, even on the brain. Everything’s running smoothly. Even one of her coyotes feels secure enough to announce he’s getting married. Then Fillmore-Graves happens. Curtis, the newly engaged guy, is nabbed and threatened by Chase himself. Curtis spills a cover story about Brother Love, which buys Levon enough time to get Liv for a rescue mission. Only, Renegade’s blessing comes with their scratch, and that’s the only thing Liv can give Curtis in the end thanks to FG’s security measures at the safe house.
The one person Liv still can’t save is Isobel, who’s now officially staying in Seattle to run tests with her mother’s blessing. Over a month-long montage, we see Ravi performing virtually every non-evasive test possible. Unfortunately, they all yield answers he could’ve predicted. Nothing special jumps out from her tests screaming it’s the key to a cure. Ravi’s upset about it, but what can he do? Well, he can start by not becoming a helicopter parent to a teenage girl overnight. Thanks to some serious binge-watching, Isobel has a huge crush on one of the actors from Liv and Ravi’s favorite show, Zombie High. With Liv on a brain with the impulse control of a gnat, she sets up a date for Isobel, sending Ravi into a full-blown meltdown. Why? Because Isobel’s finally feeling her mortality and being reminded that she’ll likely never fall in love every time she sees her new adult guardians flirting can’t be doing good things for her mental health. The post-date scene with Ravi policing Isobel’s right to her own body is pretty much what I expected from this writing team. At least they’re clear on the messages they send to women.
Parenting takes a vastly different form when we hop over to see how Blaine is dealing with Angus and his flock. By all rights, Blaine should just catapult his father over the wall and be done with the manipulative bastard. Somehow, some way, Angus manages to get back in his boy’s head. Blaine takes up the offer to join his father at church. He even plays a song for the congregation! A few flattering words likening Blaine to Jesus and the guy is putty for his father to shape into a new weapon. Wonder if Lambert will report Blaine’s activities to Graves, or if he likewise will fall under Angus’ influence. That’d be a huge shift in power for the city, and the city cannot handle a power struggle so soon after the mass zombie creations.
Mac-Liv-Moore: Review for iZombie 409 by A. Zombie
Watch your step. This review contains mad episode spoilers.
Another week, another bland white man for Liv to eat. This time around, it’s a rapper, which she eats in the world’s whitest definition of a wrap I’ve ever seen. Where’s the greens? Some mustard? This guy’s so boring, they tell us ahead of time by having mayonnaise as the only flavoring in his “final meal.” Liv’s turn as a rapper is probably the least inspired story gimmick yet. Here’s another case with a story where they could’ve picked literally any other victim, but chose white man #492 to inform how we see Liv’s world. When do we get to see her world through someone more like Liv? Or, you know, Liv herself? Surely she has to be tired of constantly yanking around her loved ones’ emotions in the name of the job. Why can’t Liv have a brain tube vacation and police the old fashioned way? This is a Seattle teaming with known zombies. She can’t be the only one willing to allocate the extra time for the cause. By the way, does she get bonus pay for these duties now since it does impact literally her every waking second while on a case? I’m just saying, pay the woman for the actual effort expended, not just her in-morgue hours.
One half of a feuding rap duo and his girlfriend are shot, then dumped on Ravi and Liv to investigate by Fillmore-Graves. Discovering who killed the lovebirds isn’t the problem. The problem is that he’s a known zombie serial killer, and I don’t mean a phony like the Chaos Killer; this Zombie Killer started with his family. Somehow he is probably the only one who survives the bus massacre. Once free, he doesn’t go into hiding to save his own skin. Oh no. He goes back on the hunt. Fillmore-Graves decides to get to him first, putting the entire city on lockdown until they catch their prey.
The lockdown puts everyone in a tough situation. Liv and Peyton are forced to hide Isobel in plain sight at the morgue after movie night is cancelled. Not ideal for them, but Isobel loves it. She’s gleefully morbid, having come to grips with her fleeting mortality long ago thanks to her condition. That playful morbid streak is why Ravi winds up finding her in one of the body drawers and subsequently discovers her condition. Which is how, in the end, Ravi also learns that Liv is the new Renegade. It’s great that they’re telling the truth and all, but she’s a city employee with ties to the police, moonlighting as a human trafficker; at some point Clive will find out and have to make a decision about his loyalty. And now there’s a teenaged girl caught in the middle of all that who’s volunteering to maybe, possibly, become the answer to everyone’s prayers about finding a zombie cure. Because this plot doesn’t have enough going on, already, right?
In another part of the police building, the gentlemen of the group take advantage of the enforced downtime to spend some quality time together . . . playing DnD. It’s great that they all have hobbies and all, but the scene goes from funny to sexist as whoa when Michelle asks to sit in—and provide a much-needed character type—only for the men to act like she walked in on them discussing the size/shape of what’s in their pants. Their blustering dies down eventually, but Michelle’s place in their social circle probably won’t be defined by her playing skills after one of the guys catches her and Clive making out in the neighboring room. Goodness, why can’t these writers let us have something pure and good once in a while?
Fillmore-Graves isn’t playing around when it comes to finding the Zombie Killer. Every team is on-task. The only person not on the streets is Graves himself. Major’s squad is the least effective during the search mission. Probably because instead of focusing on these secondary characters like professionals, they drag the lone WoC into a domestic spat during work to yet again undermine her authority as a FG agent. If Gladwell ever gets a fair shake from this writing team, I’ll eat my shoe. They’ve done their best to make her irrelevant since day one. Why drag her in when any number of nameless FG employees could popular Major’s team? I don’t care about these characters or their failed relationship. I certainly don’t care that Major is so ineffective a leader, he can’t get them to stop fighting. The only interesting thing from that entire team is when Major just happens to be in the right place at the right time at the end to help Chase before he’s taken out by the Zombie Killer. Major being a savior isn’t new. It doesn’t require rehashing failed minor character arcs. Certain parts of this season shouldn’t have made it to the final script. It’s just too many new people, too many plot threads flapping in the wind this close to the season’s end.
The person who uses the lockdown to their best advantage has to be Blaine. He’s been sitting on a plan for a while, now’s the time to hatch it and rake in the cash. It’ll require specialized help, though, so Blaine brings in the best computer-oriented brain for Don E. to enjoy. Once his pal is on-board, they waste no time setting up a Dark Web auction for one of the cures stolen from Ravi last season. You know, the kinda-cure which leaves the patient with monthly brain cravings that hasn’t been fully tested? There’s a slight hitch in the plan; they have no definitive proof that the cure works. To no one’s real surprise, Blaine stages a snuff film in order to get video evidence for the auction site. The shocker comes when Mayor Baracus finds himself surprisingly human, and then dead for good. For those keeping score, that means Peyton is the acting mayor. Things just got super awkward in the Charles/Moore household.