Rifting Apart: Review for Ash vs Evil Dead 308

Rifting Apart:
Review for Ash vs Evil Dead 308
by A. Zombie

Watch out for spoilers in this review!

With only three episodes left altogether, including this one, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to prepare to say goodbye to Ash Williams one final time. Ash as a father is an Ash with a purpose at last. Unfortunately, we’re seeing too late how this character can mature when given the chance. While it’s hard to look at these final episodes without feeling a pang of loss, we also have to acknowledge how lucky we’ve been to get another chance to see Ash in action after the film franchise petered out. With that being said, how will the team wrap up this final season? Hopefully it starts with getting everyone out of the weird limbo they’re stuck in after Ruby’s plan almost goes right.

As usual, when things go wrong in town, Ash is the one to blame. With a BOLO hovering over his head, Ash should take Pablo and run somewhere far from Elk Grove. That’s not why he’s El Jefe, though. Our main man not only doesn’t run, but he boosts the coroner’s van to boot in order to save Brandy’s body from the inevitable autopsy. Know who’s really bad at being a criminal still? Pablo. He’s doing his best to hang in there with Ash’s illicit ways, but deep down, it’s still our Pablo—the one who can’t even jaywalk without breaking a sweat. The fact that these two get away unharmed is proof they’re blessed by a higher being to fulfill their destiny, ‘cause there is about five hundred cops in town working the school murders and yet none come knocking at the hardware store. Where Ash and Pablo leave the stolen van right out front. And Ash’s face is all over the building.

Okay, so they’ve got Brandy’s body. They also have a vague working knowledge of how the whole portal thing goes, and a slapped together theory about how Kelly managed to send a message despite being dead. That’s literally all it takes for Ash to think they can swoop in and save the day. God, to have even an ounce of this man’s confidence. I’d be unstoppable. Ash, on the other hand, is very stoppable—which is exactly what needs to happen in order for Ash to cross to the “dead place,” as he calls it, for this daring rescue.

He’s gotta die, and Evil has to punch the ticket.

Good thing Pablo’s around, and with his new powers, he thinks up a plan that works without picking a fist fight with a deadite. Probably the funniest death yet on this show is Ash’s, simply because of the myriad emotions on Pablo’s face while they work up to the big plunge. If there is any reason to hope this show would continue, it’s simply because it’s cast so well, the actors sell these ludicrous ideas without making it look like work.

In the dead place, nothing works right. The doors lead to the wrong places. No one is in a chatting mood. Oh, and there’s a giant shadow demon which drags whoever it finds to the nether realm. Stunning animation on these bits, by the way. Any time the shadow demon is on screen, it’s simultaneously awesome and extremely stressful because it’s also trying to permanently kill a few characters we love. Yes, there’s Brandy. But we also have Kelly down there, along with Dalton, and even the Classic sits in the dead place, awaiting one last joyride with its owner. Ash eventually catches up with the others by walking through random doors until he hits the right place—which is such a statement about how he operates, it’s a metaphor for Ash’s entire life up to this point, honestly.

All they have to do is get back to the hardware store, where hopefully Pablo will open the rift. Not a simple plan, after all. Dalton winds up sacrificing himself for the cause again, distracting the demon while Ash coerces the Classic into starting. We knew Dalton probably wouldn’t be coming back, but this late in the game, who knows what will happen, right? His sacrifice isn’t wasted and the others make it to the rift.

Which takes a while to open because, surprise, Pablo has to fight a deadite while he’s supposed to babysit Ash’s corpse. The fight itself isn’t much, but the death by paint shaker is a new addition to the murder arsenal, and a good one at that. Pablo’s new powers connect him to Ash via a fuzzy television channel, and he manages to reopen the rift without incident. It’s probably the only thing which goes one-hundred percent to plan, really.

Brandy and Ash are reunited with their bodies automatically after passing through the rift. Kelly, however, can’t even approach the portal thanks to Ruby’s spell. The Ghost Beaters will not leave her behind, though.

That’s assuming they can get to Kelly’s body before Kaya and Ruby alter it in any way which prevents Kelly from using it again. The priestess is in a bit of a tizzy after Ruby’s plan to use Brandy against Ash falters. The Dark Ones will come for them, no doubt. How will they protect themselves? Apparently their plan starts with kidnapping Zoe and ends with changing their destinies. Not sure what’s in the middle, but it doesn’t look good for the Knight.

Two more episodes left. Can the gang rescue Kelly or will Ruby get her epic do-over?


Wrath: Review for The Walking Dead 816

Wrath:
Review for The Walking Dead 816
by R.C. Murphy

Watch out! This review contains episode spoilers.

Try as they might, all the flashbacks and slo-mo close-ups in the world can’t bring my heart in line with how it should feel after watching this long-anticipated finale. The outcome, while favorable for the survivors we’ve traveled alongside for eight seasons, is dust on one’s palate; it just doesn’t satisfy. In an episode where they end a several-year story line, one would expect a little more substance. Even the flashy parts are lackluster recreations of past season’s greatest hits. How many shoot-outs have we seen with these groups? How many bullhorn monologues? How many times has an underdog person or group come out of the woodwork to save Rick at the last minute? We’ve seen so many variations of someone else saving Rick that when he’s supposed to protect everyone from his war, it’s still everyone else who does the hard work to neutralize the bulk of the threat, but he still claims the victory and dictates the terms.

Rick makes one cut, then calls himself sheriff in a land freed from its tyrant.

It takes a slap-dash army to topple the biggest threat in town, that’s for sure. Hilltop’s remaining fighters follow the trail Negan left for them, even while believing they’d outsmarted the ol’ fox. The usual suspects are in the militia, save the recovering ex-Saviors who are told to stay behind with the kind of empathy extended to dog poo on one’s flip-flop. Why the cold shoulder? Well, it starts with Morgan flipping out while they’re doing walker-centric chores outside the fence, and ends with Maggie still seeing Alden and his compatriots as fingers on Negan’s tyrannical fist. Is it a great idea to leave so many able-bodied and motivated men out of the fight? Nope. It doesn’t matter, though, because someone else arrives to lend helping hands. Though why anyone thought traveling so far from home to pick a fight with two pistols, Molotov cocktails, and hand-to-hand weapons is a good idea is beyond me. Oceanside has nothing to prove or sacrifice for anyone. They’re not even the saviors Aaron claimed they could be here because someone else swoops that spotlight right off of them, if we’re judging on the level of actual help rendered.

I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but . . . Eugene comes out looking like a diamond by the end of a season in which he actively helps Negan slaughter the people who kept him alive despite every selfish thing he did before defecting. Just when we thought Eugene and Gabriel were throw-away characters after they finished the bullets, the writers rouse them from mid-story mire to inspire yet another of their Oh So Smart Plot Twists. I mean, as far as twists go, it surprises the heck out of me to even consider Eugene lashing out against his new meal ticket, let alone to go back to a community in which there’s not one person who can look him in the eye without remembering a loved one they lost due in part to his actions. And let’s get this out now, I in no way trust Eugene. He succumbs to pressure too easily. It’s a liability. Sabotaging one fight in the name of the perceived good isn’t rehab enough for the broken relationships left in Eugene’s wake. What future does he have in a community where no one trusts him beyond the raw knowledge he has in his head? When he’s not given a hero’s welcome, will Eugene still offer his help to rebuild the communities ravaged by the war?

So what happens to the Saviors with a wounded Negan in custody care of sheriff Grimes for the indefinite future? Nothing. Nothing! Tra, la, la. Rick, finally listening to his son’s final wishes now that even Morgan says he’s lost too much to continue on, makes this speech about how they’re all free now, but those who cling to the war-mongering way of life are warned to kiss the idea goodbye. Which is, ya know, hilarious considering every time Rick encounters a new community, he meets them with barely concealed hostility. True to his word though, Rick sends helpers to Sanctuary to repair damages, and in return they send food for everyone else. Even the remaining Scavenger gets an invitation to join resources with this new collation, though Jadis is scrapping her artistic moniker for her given name, Anne.

All’s well in the neighborho . . . or not. There’s a group within Rick’s party who harbor deep resentment over Negan’s survival. They even tie Michonne to this mess as a conspirator since she obviously is okay with this lifetime imprisonment plan. Maggie is a reasonable person, except when it comes to this one thing. Negan’s demise, to her, is worth upending the fragile peace forged on the final battlefield. The upcoming mutiny isn’t their largest concern, though. Walker numbers are on the rise. A massive herd lurks too close for comfort. Can they use their combined resources and the building plans gifted to Maggie to fortify all the communities against the threat that never really dies?

The episode wraps by leading into Morgan’s transition to Fear the Walking Dead, which I tried to watch. Only, the video feed to constantly died and I took it as a sign to move on, just like Morgan is moving on after giving us so many wonderfully weird and powerful moments in TWD season eight.


Twist and Shout: Review for Ash vs Evil Dead 307

Twist and Shout:
Review for Ash vs Evil Dead 307
by A. Zombie

It’s time to boogie. Watch out for episode spoilers crashing the party.

It’s a rite of passage for a young character in a horror franchise to attend a dance which is spectacularly screwed up by the bad guys before the character gets a chance to enjoy themselves. With the addition of Brandy, it only makes sense for this show to tackle the top trope in town once and for all. You know what? This take on the disaster dance is probably one of the best so far, just because of how much work the writers put into establishing Ruby’s false identity in Elk Grove. It laid a vital foundation for this episode and how the town treats the Williams family from here on out.

Kaya, disguised as Kelly, uses Ash’s concern over his daughter to hide any inconsistent behavior on her behalf. The smooth sorceress lands an invite to the dance as Ash’s backup. Much needed backup, at that. Several officers are stationed outside the school. One spots Ash when he pulls up out front. Plan B in effect, they split up to enter the school from different directions. Problem is, once they’re inside the school, things go wrong immediately. One must question Ash’s parenting yet again. Sneaking around a crowded school surrounded by police on the lookout for him is probably how Ash should not spend his evening. He’s so desperate to please Brandy, he overlooks the sheer absurdity of his plan and the dangers lurking right under their noses.

Enter yet another doppelganger. Well, alright, so it’s the miniature one, but fully grown to resemble his sire. This particular doppelganger doesn’t tolerate unsavory behavior from partying teenagers. Bodies pile up fast in the school’s halls. By the time Ash finally enters the building, there’s no way he can clean up the mess left by the OtherAsh. Worse yet, anyone he meets in the hall assumes he’s the mad slasher. Including the police. Luckily for Ash, he brought backup. Kaya saves Ash from a trip to jail, but don’t assume she flipped loyalty. She’s only being nice because the police have no part in Ruby’s grand plan for the man.

Ruby wastes no time implementing her scheme. She goes to great lengths to look like she cares about the people Brandy loves who died thanks to Ash’s connection to Evil. By the time we get to the main confrontation on the dance floor, Ruby and Kaya have sewn enough concern in Brandy’s mind to make her believe OtherAsh is her father as he rampages across the dance floor, slaughtering and calling her name. She doesn’t notice when the men swap places, but charges in anyway to defend her peers. Instead of stopping a monster, Brandy faces off with her father, Kandarian Dagger in hand. Just like Ruby wants.

Where’s Ash’s actual backup? Pablo and Zoe stay at the hardware store to examine the spell for the portal. Before they get too far, Kelly calls through to tell Pablo about her demise. Good news is she’s intact in another dimension. Bad news, there’s a creature stalking her. Worse news, Pablo’s reaction to Kelly’s death is a gut punch. The emotions flow freely when he faces off with Kaya at the school, but can’t kill her. Pablo gets away in time to blow the doppelganger secret before Brandy hurts her father, thankfully.

The death of the night has to be Ruby’s little trip into Ash’s saw blade. It’s not even the gore factor which seals it as a great moment. No, it’s Lawless’ hilarious performance as Ruby “sells” the murder in order to force Brandy to act against Ash.

Too bad it’s a wasted gesture. Pablo’s spectacular timing saves Ash from a heartbreaking demise. OtherAsh goes down with his head in a billion pieces. Brandy drops the dagger like it bit her once the truth is out. A huge mistake. Ruby, guts on the outside still, grabs the dagger with the intent of ending Ash herself. Proving heroism runs in their bloodline after all, Brandy saves Ash and the dagger takes another life.

Which is positive news, really. Like Kelly, Brandy’s soul lands in a place where she could possibly get back via the portal in the hardware store. The other side may look like Brandy’s hometown, but the citizens are missing. She’s got no one to rely on, oh and there’s a monster on the loose. Here’s hoping the others can muster a rescue mission before it’s too late.


Worth: Review for The Walking Dead episode 815

Worth:
Review for The Walking Dead episode 815
by R.C. Murphy

Danger zone! I mean, uh . . . spoiler zone, beware!

The Saviors take a break from war to scrub the refuse from their ranks. The level of manipulation in this episode reaffirms how damn good Negan is as a character. But why did we have to wait this long to get into the intriguing bits of his personality? This entire season takes place in such a truncated timeframe, what feels like years to us is nothing for them and it’s just not working anymore when it comes to character development. The production cannot save the pacing with one solid episode here and there, but I’ll take what they’re offering simply because these actors are giving their all every day on set. It’s just a shame the writing isn’t reflective of what we know the actors can do. We should’ve already seen this side of Negan. JDM keeps alluding to it, doing his best to BE Negan around all this macho, chest-pounding, ridiculous fallout from the Sanctuary attack. It’s not until he confronts Simon that I feel we’ve met the real Negan. He plays his opponent like a fiddle, getting whatever information he wants from the wannabe leader in order to flush out every single backstabber lurking in the shadows. When Rick tries to get rid of his detractors, it creates hell for everyone around him. Negan does the same with cold efficiency and only the people he feels need killing wind up dead. Weird how that happens. It’s like he knows how to lead a group. Not that I condone murder, but this is the fictional apocalypse and Negan’s got the loyalist, healthiest crew in the region shown on-screen now that Rick ruined The Kingdom and Alexandria, on top of Gregory abandoning Hilltop to chase promises for his own safety over his peoples’ future.

Tension is a whole distinct character in the Savior scenes. Negan’s carefully considered course of action to reaffirm his place at the top seems so clear-cut. Seems being the key word. Dwight thinks he’s mostly in the clear, as long as he’s careful not to get wound up in Simon’s scheme. Which is, quite frankly, impossible because Simon needs his fellow leaders to back his play before someone else steps up to challenge him. At no point does Simon consider Negan’s actual fate. The look on his face when Negan pops up is worth every second watching Simon slime his way to the top. He wants to be the boss? First he’s gotta beat the boss. These post-surprise scenes are some of few in eight seasons to make me lean forward, eager for the outcome. Then comes the actual twist, putting Dwight right where he doesn’t want to be—exposed as a traitor and spoon-fed information to harm his new pals at Hilltop. Negan’s mysterious hitchhiker is Laura, the sole survivor from Dwight’s betrayal outside Alexandria. Let me tell you, her joy in exposing Dwight should be bottled and sold. Whatever comes from Dwight handing over the intentionally false map, Laura will be first in line to celebrate. Conversely, Gregory’s regret over helping Dwight may be the only mood bigger than Laura’s rabid revenge, seeing as he’s back in the prison cell at Hilltop after delivering the map.

At the end of a long day the last thing Negan wants is anyone from the opposition contacting him out of the blue. Driven by Carl’s memory, Michonne does just that and risks reading his letter to Negan over the radio. Boy is it the wrong day to approach the man. Dude snaps. He lays the end out for her nice and clear; the only way out of this is through mass casualties on Hilltop’s behalf. The Saviors didn’t pick this costly fight, but they’ll end it. Negan’s done throwing away resources butting heads with Rick.

In order to fight, the Saviors will need way more ammunition. The folks at Eugene’s outpost can only move so fast, but it’s not good enough for their boss. Let me just pause right her to say, we need to petition the showrunners so they’ll never, ever, ever show Eugene eating on-screen again. Back to matters at hand. Eugene’s workers trudge along despite the nasty food and shoddy pep talk. Even Gabriel is roped back into the production line. Things look bright for Hilltop for a while when Rosita and Daryl manage to kidnap Eugene with little incident. That is until Eugene straight up pukes on Rosita and runs. If I didn’t dislike this character before, I certainly do now. Disgusting little snake hides and just returns to his outpost like he isn’t covered in ash and God knows what.

Aaron’s self destructive streak reaches new lows as he slowly starves to death outside Oceanside. No one extends a helping hand to the outsider. When walkers find him, he’s too weak to fight them all off. But the gall of this guy comes when he passes out, wakes to his rescuers’ faces, then lays into them about avoiding the war. To cap it off, he blames them for Natania’s death. They should’ve smacked him good. I’ve heard some bull on this show, but lecturing a bunch of traumatized women for avoiding a war none of them should be involved in really takes the cake. Why must these women in particular come in to mop up Rick and Negan’s mess? Leave them alone. They’ve lost too much already.

It’s finale time. Wonder how much of this wreckage they can fix in order to transition smoothly into season nine. Probably not enough.


My Really Fair Lady: Review for iZombie 406

My Really Fair Lady:
Review for iZombie 406
by A. Zombie

Sashay this way, but watch out, there’s episode spoilers ahead.

Never thought I’d type this sentence, but here we go.

This episode kicks off with a little culture for the masses in the guise of Rent, but with zombies. Is it as catchy as the original? I’d say it’s a decent parody, given life by a cast who obviously enjoy the tongue-in-cheek approach to padding out the show’s universe by bringing in a bit of rebellious, culture-shocking theatre. The play’s director and star is our victim for the week. Let’s just say, Nellie is a spotlight in a dark room. When Liv’s in full “theatre actress” mode, not much can slow her down. She puts that energy to good use in order to prove herself to Mama Leone’s crew. Which she desperately needs to do because as far as the other guys are concerned, none of them have enough connections in New Seattle to continue running the underground railroad. They dismiss Liv outright in their first meeting. Sheer willpower, thanks to Nellie, get the engine back on the railroad’s tracks. Is it enough for Liv to act her way through such an important situation? How can she possibly maintain that level of focus while bouncing from brain to brain for the police?

While she’s on a roll, Liv gets things done; there’s no faulting her there. Take two with Mama Leone’s crew goes a dramatically different direction. While still hesitant, it’s through Liv’s sheer exuberance that they’re convinced to follow her lead on a rescue mission stemming from the leadership vacuum in the railroad. After the execution, most of the support team for Renegade’s crew scattered. Including the people responsible for retrieving a shipping container from the docks with several ill humans trapped inside. It takes a day for Liv to whip together a scheme, complete with script and costumes. The actors brought in for Renegade’s crew are great; it takes impeccable timing to make scenes like this work. One of the show’s strengths is their ability to bring in astounding talent every week. Thanks to Liv’s hard work, and everyone’s newly learned acting chops, the mission is a success. Hopefully that means more time with these new cast members.

The first brain Liv is offered spells certain misery should any zombie chow down. Unfortunately, the heroine-addicted Denny Minnis is an important part of Peyton’s mission to make the victim’s lives easier after the horrific bus accident. Minnis’ spouse begs Petyon to find the dog her husband abducted in a huff during their last argument. With Liv unwilling to put herself in that position, hope seems lost. By some wacky happenstance, Ravi is going through his “monthlies” and whims himself down to the morgue to play hero for Peyton. Regret is an understatement when it comes to discussing Ravi’s feelings once the brain’s influence kicks into high gear. In a day, he goes through some of the roughest parts of being an addict. It’s so bad, Ravi’s put on house arrest by his friends, only for him to jump out a window on Payton’s watch and hit up The Scratching Post for drugs. One of these days, Ravi’s need to prove himself to Peyton won’t have a happy ending. Not this time around, though. He helps find the dog. Peyton drops a little guilt off her conscience. Then they smooch. Wait, what? Are we just going to overlook some one the super awful things he’s done after they split? Ravi has been better, but good enough for Peyton’s trust? Guess we’ll have to see where this goes.

Since we miss out on Liv’s take on a drug addict, instead we get an hour of insane antics and random singing. She’s painfully chipper about everything. Even the required sexual harassment class for police and staff. Johnny Frost makes a hilarious return to the show as the instructor for said class. After showing a video demonstrating how not to act in the workplace, he pulls up a volunteer to role play scenarios to further make his point. Liv’s the only one remotely interested in being in the room, let alone reading from a script. This is one of the most intentionally awkward scenes in the show’s history. I dare you not to laugh once Liv really dig into the scene.

On subplot street, Blaine’s got more problems than random not-really junkies popping into his place of business making demands. The church is done being told how, when, and where they eat. Angus latches onto this rebellious streak and leads his flock to Romero’s for a sit-in protest. Even with the lords of the city at his back, Blaine doesn’t feel he has the pull to say no to his father. Not only that, but Blaine lets his emotions get out of control. Backed into a corner, he has no choice, really, but to provide weekly meals for the church. This arrangement won’t last long if Blaine has his way.

We’ve got an emotional subplot from an unusual source showing its face in this episode. Clive’s relationship issues aren’t a secret. However, this is the first time he really addresses any of it in his work environment. During the harassment class, Clive and Dale are used as an example for workplace relationships adhering to the rules. Which is super awkward because he made a date with Michelle, the new officer, without mentioning the open relationship thing. In a rare moment, Clive talks it out with Michelle. The date’s still off, but he got to voice what’s on his mind at last. Clive should know better than to use interrogation rooms for private conversations; Dale hears all of it, including his secret concerns about their relationship. I’m all for Clive’s emotional growth. It’s about time.


Tales from the Rift: Review for Ash vs Evil Dead 306

Tales from the Rift:
Review for Ash vs Evil Dead 306
by A. Zombie

Before you mosey on, keep an eye out for pesky episode spoilers.

Reckless as always, Kelly allows her emotions to take the lead after she gets information from Brandy about where Ruby’s living during her long-term impersonation of a school counselor. Armed with a shotgun and the Kandarian dagger, Kelly barges into the middle of whatever the heck is going on in Ruby’s attic. The fight should be decidedly one-sided, but they’ve done a great job interspersing this scene throughout the episode and gave Kelly just enough weapons which do major damage to give her half a snowball’s chance in hell of hurting Ruby in any meaningful way. Unfortunately, Kelly being human is her ultimate downfall. The dagger she wants to use on Ruby goes into her stomach instead. At last Ruby has a body to offer to her sorceress friend stuck on the other side of the portal, Kaya. We all knew Kelly would go out fighting, but for it to be such an ill-advised fight isn’t as satisfying as it should be when we say goodbye to a hero.

We can’t talk about that fight scene without giving huge props to the special effects team for their work on Ruby’s post-grenade regeneration gag. The limbs are fully detailed. Their movement is bizarre yet mesmerizing. A lot of talent went into realizing that moment. It may be just one in a thousand bloody gags on this show, but it’s one that’ll stick in my mind for a while.

On the run from police after Ash fails to reveal Ruby’s demon spawn as the monster he is, Brandy and Ash hole up in the house to regroup. They’re not alone for long. More Knights of Sumeria wind up on El Jefe’s doorstep searching for answers. The best Ash can offer is a look at the long-lost Necronomicon pages and the notes the dead guy left at the hardware store. Driven by a vision, Pablo joins them later. Overwhelmed by his new powers, Pablo accidentally recites a ritual which opens a portal to the underworld. Because of course that’s one of the random things he inherited with his gift. The Knights are thrilled. Their plan has always been to take the fight to The Dark Ones on the other side. Erring on the side of caution, everyone agrees to send Marcus as a scout, first. It’s a rough round trip. The Marcus who returns isn’t the man they sent through the portal. He straight up absorbs other Knights, then spits acid. It’s a great creature design; new effects with the absorbing thing, but holding echoes of previous creatures Evil’s sent Ash’s way throughout the years with the boils and exaggerated limbs.

Pablo is coming along nicely as a hero in his own right, though he’s not going to get far if he keeps opening portals to hell all willy-nilly. During the fight with the mutated Knights, he doesn’t waste time jumping in to grab a weapon. Nor does he grandstand to take all the glory when he’s obviously out of his depth. This revived Pablo is the sidekick Ash needed the whole time. Can they keep on track with these new powers at their disposal? Hard to tell in this episode because while they’ve gained a powerful brujo, they’ve lost their ballsiest fighter.

The guys don’t know that though, so it’s business as usual when Ash returns home after defeating the newest monster and Kelly’s there waiting to hand him the dagger. I would not want to be the one to tell the guys their friend died in the most senseless way possible, but they need to get in the loop ASAP before Kaya puts Ruby’s plan into action and turns Brandy against Ash.


Still Gotta Mean Something: Review for The Walking Dead 814

Still Gotta Mean Something:
Review for The Walking Dead 814
by R.C. Murphy

Watch out! This review has episode spoilers.

Something weird is going on back at the Scavengers’ scrap heap. I’m not talking about Jadis’ adorable pod home, which is so at odds with the persona she presents the world, the change is mindboggling. No, what has me scratching my head is A) the Tetris piece walker on a cart, and B) why hasn’t anyone addressed this friggen helicopter thing yet? Negan’s in the same confused boots, but far worse circumstances seeing as he’s lashed to a cart of his own. These scenes are great pace changers, with a few awkward timing bits like when Jadis shuts Negan up with Lucille, only to draw short and stand there for a few beats. It didn’t feel threatening, but that’s an example of how editing can change a scene. A tighter cut would’ve made her threat jarring. In typical style, Negan talks his way free without unnecessary bloodshed. We get a glimpse of a gentler side to the man behind the bat, and insight into how well Jadis adapts to life without her chosen family. It’s no big surprise to see that she’s barely holding in there after her plan to flag down the helicopter fails.

The theme for this episode is the survivors doing whatever it takes to save each other from their traumas. Michonne lives her life in memory of the kindness Andrea payed her by saving her from isolation in the wild while literally dragging her emotional baggage around. Carl’s letters are all about using his end-of-life insights to inspire the people he loves and respects to save each other. Carol goes the extra mile to save the last people she’s allowed into her heart, reflective of how hard Morgan and Ezekiel worked to bring her back from the brink a few times. Even Jared fights to save his guys by being brutally honest about the best method to get in good with the Saviors again. On the flipside, Rick uses the promise of salvation to sway the Saviors hiding with Jared into trusting them after the roadhouse is surrounded by walkers. Morgan’s only promise is death. Dude drops a great speech about the incoming herd—it’s no wonder the others turn on Jared later. Because they have no guilt when it comes to killing perceived threats, it takes one second for Rick and Morgan to turn on the men who cut them free. They mow through the Saviors while taking out the undead. Jared’s death gag is slow, full of shrieking. The production sets a higher and higher bar for Morgan’s kills. Utilizing the dead to his advantage leads to an agonizing demise for his enemy, different from the quick deaths from a gun or staff.

Joshua Mikel as Jared, Lennie James as Morgan Jones – The Walking Dead _ Season 8, Episode 14 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

Morgan’s trip into the woods began far differently. After passing up Ezekiel’s offer to join him on a search for Henry, Carol instead pairs up with Morgan for the rescue mission. Her motivation is purely in the interest of keeping her friend alive given his alarming outbursts of late and propensity to devolve into rambling. Also, the whole he sees dead people thing is concerning. Morgan isn’t a medium, folks. These are hallucinations, as proven by Henry’s fate at the episode’s end. Even if he understands that truth, Morgan doesn’t see a different path ahead. There’s nothing but death to his left and right, yet it doesn’t touch him so he just keeps going, listening to the visions which nag him to Do The Right Thing. This may be the last time Carol tries to reach out to her friend. They part ways on the road between Hilltop and Sanctuary. Morgan’s need to put down the dangerous men he didn’t kill way back when he first had the chance overrides his desire to save Henry. Once Carol has any sign to track the kid, her priority flips. The mission is a success all around, with Henry safe and the escapee Saviors taken out of the war, but we’re seeing the end of an era with the probable dissolution of the Carol/Morgan friendship.

Side note, did anyone feel a little déjà vu? When Carol finally hears Henry and tracks him to a cave in a creek bed, it felt eerily similar to a scene from when the gang were looking for Sophia. Can’t remember exactly which, though. It’s just a weird sense that they’re been there before.

Looks like Tara’s finally ready to forgive and move on with her life. Daryl, not so much. He’s not buying the idea that Dwight’s shot was intentional to keep her from being infected by someone else. But seeing as he can’t get to the guy he wants to take out, Daryl finds another way to keep himself occupied. Rosita has an epiphany which may be the turning point in the war and takes the idea to Daryl. If they can cut off the Savior’s ammunition supply, they can cut the legs from under the giant with minimal work. All they gotta do is capture the man with the plan, Eugene. Rosita and Daryl find Eugene’s outpost and make a quick plan. She’s itching to get back at the guy for jumping sides. Eugene’s in so much trouble.

There’s many, many questions in the air as the season wraps up. Who does Negan pick up on his ride back home? How can Hilltop sustain a war with their meager supplies and three combined communities? Which problem will implode first, Rick’s constant warmongering or Simon’s bid to dethrone Negan? What will be the straw to break the camel’s back when it comes to Morgan’s mental state? We have much to learn, but we have no time. Expect some cliffhangers, that’s for sure.


Goon Struck: Review for iZombie 405

Goon Struck:
Review for iZombie 405
by A. Zombie

Warning! There’s episode spoilers in this review

The brain shortage is what will eventually leave New Seattle too weak to protect its infected citizens from the world outside the wall demanding their demise. Fillmore-Graves can’t keep up with demand. On top of hungry mouths without any other option for nourishment, there’s countless brain tubes vanishing into the black market no matter how hard Chase pushes his people to plug the leak. It leaves them backed into a corner, and these guys are in full self-defense mode. The council strongly advises Chase to toss Mama Leone onto the guillotine without a trail. The weight of their failure to provide for the masses is foisted upon Mama Leone’s shoulders in the guise of blaming her for an overpopulation problem. To says she’s sentenced to death is an insult to the justice system. Fillmore-Graves uses the brain shortage to take out a political dissident as a message to anyone who’d disobey them. When it comes to the execution itself, I’ve never seen such a moving scene on this show. Credit to the actors for leaning into it hard and not flinching at the message. This is one of those rare scenes which leaves a lump in your throat. It sets a new tone for iZombie.

Murdering one woman won’t fix the fallout from hungry zombies continuing to live as humans do without nearly enough food to perform the same amount of employer-demanded labor. Judging from the zombie church’s congregation, most new zombies are now homeless and without support systems to aid them until things smooth out in Seattle. Those who are fortunate enough to retain their jobs and houses work themselves to the brink of exhaustion in order to keep the humans from attacking them. Malnutrition in a human saps strength, physically and mentally, making one’s moods unpredictable on top of being too tired to think about work, let along doing it. Compound that with a zombie’s biological needs and the rabid physical response to starvation, it’s not a pretty peek into the near-future. Peyton witnesses how the shortage effects the average citizen in a jarring sub story with a zombie bus driver whose family likewise have changed. The driver is reported by an angry mob for being dangerous behind the wheel at the beginning of the show. Peyton promises to get him more food, which he gives to his family instead. Later in the episode, Peyton finds one of the women from the complaint in custody at the police station and asks the officer with her what’s going on—malnutrition caused the driver to crash the bus. All the blood from wounded passengers sent him into a frenzy. The woman shot him, ending the rampage before it got out of hand. This incident is probably what pushes Chase to put Mama Leone to death harder than the constant nagging from his council.

Fillmore-Graves has much more than a brain shortage to worry about. Before her demise, Mama Leone drops some truth on Chase’s broad shoulders. His company has a PR problem. Right now, the world sees a new kind of people making demands for what some consider the most precious part of a person without giving anything in return. Pleas for brains isn’t what the world should think about when they consider New Seattle and their plight. They need to see the positive, how the undead can help mankind. Mama Leone helps sick humans because it makes her feel like she’s doing some good in the world. As far as just causes go, it’s a great one. Fillmore-Graves doesn’t feel there’s room for that kind of rhetoric in their city, however, and those who demand a scape goat get theirs in the end. Renegade may not be gone for good. Liv wants to take up the mantle after being there to witness Mama Leone’s final brave moments.

This week’s case gives Liv an in to Renegade’s operation thanks to hockey goon Geordie Shultz and his friend, New Seattle newbie Levon Patch. Geordie was one of Renegade’s people cut down during Blaine’s raid. Liv takes a trip back to bullheaded dude land, but this time it’s actually kind of fun to watch her playing up the sport in question. Maybe it’s the visual of a woman zipping across the ice to tackle someone without a second thought. I don’t know. The bigger news, not that Liv joining an underground railroad isn’t a Big Thing, is that Geordie’s brain gives Liv proof she needs to shift police focus Blaine’s way again. Blaine is quick to figure out exactly how much information they have, and that so far all of Clive and Liv’s proof lives in her head. The man is Teflon. Nothing sticks. Not even when he slips up and says something about the laundromat, which the others kept to themselves. Just as Clive and Liv jump to find hard evidence, Peyton delivers the bad news. They have to release Blaine on Fillmore-Graves’ orders. Their investigator, Enzo Lambert, manages to pin Blaine’s murders on the budding hate group, Dead Enders. Lambert exists to find ways to claim a zombie murder is a hate crime. Not one of his investigations are to be trusted.

Major and Don E take a quick road trip to pick up a special package for Chase Graves. Settling Fillmore-Graves’ PR problem is a Gordian knot. Every tug in one direction creates a whole new tension somewhere else. In this case, Chase’s desire to silence an outspoken American general turns into kidnapping and (technically) murder. When Don E falls asleep instead of watching Sloane, the special package, she overdoses on U in the bathroom. Major has seconds to make a decision. They can ask the smugglers to pack up a dead body for the bossman, or he can save her so General Mills, Sloane’s father, doesn’t follow through with his threats to nuke New Seattle. Chase doesn’t seem too thrilled to have a new mouth to feed, but he’s sure glad Major delivers Sloane in one piece. At the rate, she may be the only bargaining chip he has left to save the city.


Baby Proof: Review for Ash vs Evil Dead 305

Baby Proof:
Review for Ash vs Evil Dead 305
by A. Zombie

Nothing’s gone right for Natalie in weeks. First, kidnapped by a psycho who feeds her companion to a wee demon. Now she’s bound to a chaos magnet with a mobile ball of evil and teeth on the loose. Worst yet, the numbskull she has to rely on thinks the best plan is to capture the baby, not just shoot it in the head and walk away. Her suffering doesn’t last long. Mini Ash’s appetite puts any normal teenager’s to shame. Showing his age, he does wind up playing with his food. Which is where the squick factor rises sky high. Mini Ash uses Natalie as a meat suit for the episode’s big fight. Basically, he just pops in and out of her neck and nether region, like Whack-a-Mole, but far, far more disgusting. The sound effects will be the soundtrack in my personal hell when the day comes. Never the less, our hero persists. Ash caps off his spawn’s exit routes with bowling balls and bundles the package up in the car’s trunk. At last he has real proof to show Brandy that Ms. Previtt isn’t human. Like every time where Ash attempts to prove himself sane in public, his proof vanishes, leaving him looking like the real monster. But it doesn’t take a demon baby to convince Brandy to listen to her father. Going against reason, she’s giving him another chance to prove his side of the story.

Before Brandy meets up with Ash, Ms. Previtt, and Ms. Previtt’s blood-coated child, she has to stab a guy and watch him nearly die. Negotiations with possessed Pablo and mouth on Kelly’s leg go south when Pablo rips open the trailer’s roof to grab Brandy. Kelly knocks the young woman free, only to wind up tangling with her demonic best friend. Brandy ends it by stabbing Pablo in the chest. The possession fades instantly. Pablo doesn’t wake in the human realm, however. Dagger in hand, Pablo faces his uncle and the woman messenger who will lead him through the ritual to reconnect his blood with his family and not the evil tainting it. The ritual is a callback to the type of “figure out which of the one thing is right” from Army of Darkness. Only this time our hero gets it right. Pablo is reborn as Brujo Especial.

Kelly welcomes Pablo back with a kiss. It’s such a wholesome moment tacked onto that brain-melting fight that I wished the scene lasted a few more minutes. Instead Pablo rushes off to save the world alongside his pal because he knows crap’s about to hit the fan. Fans. All industrial sized. It’s a good thing Pablo didn’t mess up the ritual like Ash borked his or no one would have Ash’s back. Why not Kelly? She’s on a separate mission to take Ruby off their problem list for good.


Do Not Send Us Astray: Review for The Walking Dead 813

Do Not Send Us Astray:
Review for The Walking Dead 813
by R.C. Murphy

Watch out for those episode spoilers waiting to ambush you.

Well, this episode certainly has a different tone than anything we’ve seen this season. It’s almost like they remembered that the genre is more than a bunch of angry men hitting each other. Sure, there’s a long firefight in the middle, but bookending it are a good ol ghost story and a little love note to low budget zombie flicks.

Hilltop is more than prepared for the Saviors when they finally roll in after dark. Maggie’s focus isn’t on the gift Georgie gave them. She admits after that her plan is to lure the Saviors into Hilltop so Negan dies where Glenn rests eternally. Which, you know, I get to a point. What puts her on a different level is Maggie, unlike Rick, looks at that same graveyard after the fight and knows she caused those losses. Dianne positions herself at Maggie’s side quite often, first providing encouragement, then as a source for us to check into Maggie’s emotions at the episode’s end. “What is it,” Dianne asks at the graveyard. “The cost,” Maggie replies. The price for this war is getting too high for her conscious. This last move, pushed by desperate fear on her and Rick’s behalf, has taken everything from their people. Alexandria and the Kingdom are lost. Hilltop’s remaining gardens can’t produce enough food and their stores went to the Saviors as payment. The populations of the communities combined have been wiped out, with countless more passing in this episode alone. Will this be the straw to break the alliance’s back? She may be new to the job, but Maggie doesn’t seem like the type to put her people through that kind of horror again.

The fight itself perfectly illustrates why Simon is a crap leader who’ll send his people straight to their deaths. Not only has he failed to send a scout ahead to check for traps on the road, which they then drive over, but Simon follows right along with the plan set to trap them by chasing Daryl through the gate into the first ambush. He does it again when Maggie signals for the lights to be doused and smoke bombs set off. Sure, he divides up his forces, but the bulk of the Saviors are front and center for the second surprise attack from the main house’s windows. If they followed Negan’s plan, attacking with bows from outside to wound as many as possible and picking off what they could with other gore-coated weapons, the Saviors would’ve lost half a dozen men maximum. Simon can’t even claim a win here at all. It’s not his part of the Savior’s fight which yields a higher body count. Negan’s bio warfare tactic claims far more Hilltop citizens while everyone’s sleeping. He may be the bad guy, but you gotta admire his problem-solving abilities, which are so great, he doesn’t have to be within ten miles for a plan to go right.

There’s a whole lotta weird going on in Morgan’s head. I . . . I kind of like it. The flashbacks and such were getting tired, but this new approach to Morgan’s mental illness is top notch horror fuel. Ghost Gavin won’t stop badgering the guy. He’s always there, beside Morgan, ragging on him about something which is never given a name, really. I assume this is Morgan’s mind telling him he should’ve been the one to kill Gavin in the most spectacularly screwed up way imaginable. How long until others notice Morgan’s talking to the air? How can he convince his subconscious that there’s no way to re-kill a guy? This is a great twist to this character. And of course it’s coming about the time he’s jumping shows so I’ll either be forced to watch FtWD or wave goodbye to all this character development. Not today, Satan. I’ll just enjoy the time I’ve got left with Morgan and his bloody Jiminy Cricket.

The other side of Morgan’s story is where his influence has led Henry after his brother’s death. This kid’s determined to bloody his hands via vengeance. First he goes after Ezekiel and Carol for refusing to arm him to fight in the main battle. Later, the kid steals the prison cell key, takes a military grade rifle, and casually threatens a group of men like a good little terrorist in the making. This is why we must teach men that “eye for an eye” thinking will only lead to bloodshed. Justice is not a mirror to reflect the offender’s pain back onto them. That’s not how humanity as a whole decided to handle the people who are too dangerous to remain amongst us. Not only will Henry grow into the very type of man he’s trying to kill, but he’s unleashed those men back into the world when Maggie had them safely sequestered where they couldn’t cause harm. Someone get this kid in-hand, already. He’s not Carl. This isn’t even a good attempt to set up a child character with the same mentality. It’s just tossing angry male patterns into the wind, hoping it works because otherwise they’ve lost their young white man representation on a show dominated by the dumb decisions made by middle-aged white men. How will the white guys find themselves in this show without someone young and angry at everything? Yes, that’s sarcasm. It’s also to illustrate that we don’t need every stereotype on-screen in every show. The writers are blatantly writing Henry to be the new Carl in ways which will never work. All these years listening to how fans treated that character, yet none of it reflects in Henry’s story line.

Jason Douglas as Tobin, Melissa McBride as Carol Peletier – The Walking Dead _ Season 8, Episode 13 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

That final action sequence with Tobin and the others injured in the fight turning walker is aces. Some of the tensest zombie action we’ve had on the show in a while. Honestly, I’m shocked Tobin is the one to go in this episode. He’s been that one person I look for in the crowd to see whether or not Alexandria is present in certain scenes. For as little as they used him, Tobin being a constant for the Alexandrian people was reassuring. As long as he makes it, this won’t be another prison or Woodbury situation. And then he doesn’t make it. Worse yet, he turns on the people he protected. I didn’t think losing this one guy would hit so hard, but the more I think about how much I assumed he’d survive, the more my brain wants to reject reality. Carol’s reaction to Tobin’s demise is probably what pushes it over the edge. She’s genuinely gutted to see him turn. Melissa McBride yet again acts her backside off to really drag those emotions from the fans.

Will Maggie allow her people to continue this fight after she’s seen the cost? Rick will not give up until Negan’s dead, and Maggie wants that as well, but this isn’t justice anymore. Hilltop realizes that now. Can they back out of the war when they’ve become home base for an army?