The Mettle of Man: Review for Ash vs Evil Dead 310 by A. Zombie
You hear that? It’s the whisper of episode spoilers coming from the review below. Careful, friends.
It seems like yesterday we got the news that Campbell would done the chainsaw once again for a TV show. Once they found their groove, it honestly felt like the kind of show which could go on for quite a few years before they ran out of things to say and do. Three years isn’t enough time to really tell this story, but that’s what they got, and they didn’t skimp on the opportunity to send Ash off into the sunset in style. The flipside of that is, unfortunately, the format doesn’t lend to wrapping the story lines for everyone. While Ash’s story feels complete in its perfect incompleteness, fans are left wondering how far the other Ghost Beaters made it after they drive off. I won’t be rude and say it’s proof of a spin-off, but let’s think of it more like a Make Your Own Adventure finish. It’s not as satisfying, but we’re thankful the production got a chance to wrap up the current story and give the hero an appropriate send-off.
But, seriously, how the heck does Ash manage to luck out against a demon the size of a sky scraper? No one makes chainsaws that big!
Like any good hero, Ash is totally, completely prepared to march to his certain doom just because a creepy old book told him he’s the only one who can do it. Ha! That’s a lie. Ash has this grand—and perfectly acted—breakdown after the gang finally makes it off the streets. Streets where Elk Grove citizens offer Ash up to the demon like that’ll solve all their problems. The meltdown starts when he’s confronted by a deputy who wants Ash to magically fix everything. It hits full stride when our hero plops himself in his recliner, grabs a beer, and has a nice profanity-laden rant venting decades of frustration over his destiny. Brandy knocks some sense into him, thankfully. That doesn’t mean Ash won’t need encouragement of the stinky, green kind, first.
Ash Williams telling anyone not to smoke weed is pretty much the best punchline they could have written to encapsulate how much he’s changed since becoming a father—this flavor of sentiment is echoed in the future-flash when one of the first questions he asks is about Brandy.
Before they take on Kandar, Ash wants to recover Kelly from the dead place. No easy feat, that. Deadites roam the streets, drawn to Ash and Brandy. Only Pablo is safe out there, but there’s no way they should split up to send Pablo alone. And that’s how Ash and Brandy wind up surrounded by deadites in a tunnel under Elk Grove after having a seriously touching heart-to heart in which Brandy, unlike so many others, acknowledges her father’s pain over being ridiculed about this stuff for years. The bonding continues after they arrive at the hardware store. While Pablo uses his powers to walk in the other realm, the remaining duo take care of the few deadites who find them with Kelly’s body. The number of times we get to see a real relationship between the family members is staggering for a half an hour episode which also includes copious footage with army jets attacking a giant demon. That’s testament to this team’s love for the characters. They wanted to show that Ash could be loved and understood by someone who wasn’t just going to die or leave. He’s earned it.
If we do get a spin-off, it better delve deep into whatever emotion pushed Pablo’s outburst after he returns from the rift, but Kelly seemingly doesn’t make it. Three seasons of slow-burn feelings boil over when Kelly wakes and the pair kiss—with witnesses! These two have come far, with their friendship/relationship, and as people others can depend on. It makes sense that when Ash says his goodbyes and lays a portion of his burdens on the future, it’s by handing the torch to both Kelly and Pablo—her as a leader, he as the mythical savior.
Outside the hardware store, things are worse than they thought. The military forces only feed Kandar’s power with every attack. Leadership is calling for a quick end, which means one thing in the good ol’ USA—a nuke. Which is exactly the wrong thing to do, and Pablo tells them as much. No one’s listening to reason with monsters on the loose globally, though. That’s when Ash makes his choice. He passes his responsibilities on to the future generation, then steals the Kandarian dagger and locks the Ghost Beaters in an Army transport.
The final showdown is pretty much a list of things to check off titled: What Outrageous Things Hasn’t Ash Done Yet? Top of the list is, “Drive a tank.” Doesn’t matter that he drives it with the skill of a teen learning how to drive stick shift for the first time, he’s still having a blast on his way to his certain demise. The tank won’t do anything against Kandar, but the dagger with its namesake? That will almost certainly do some damage. Ash rigs the dagger to blast from the tank . . . and promptly screws up because he doesn’t know how to operate a tank. He eventually figures it out, but only after long enough for us to get a seriously good look at the spindly-legged demon. It’s not a good kill on this show unless some of what he’s killed ends up on Ash. Which is why Ash is a hundred-percent sure he’s going to suffocate to death in a tank at the end
In interest of not being giant jerks, the production team flashes forward. Ash is saved from the tank by the Knights of Sumeria and put in stasis of some kind. He’s awakened again when The Dark Ones make their next move and most of the world is an arid desert. We’re blessed with some great digital work with the futuristic medical appliances, like Ash’s new hand, but little actual story. Like I said, this isn’t a solid goodbye, but more of a way to send the characters on to new adventures off-screen. I want to be upset about that, but I’m not. The way everything comes back full circle in several aspects is pleasing, doubly so because this show was a shot in the dark idea to begin with. No horror fan a decade ago dared assume we’d get more Evil Dead adventures, let alone three years of them. Yes, it ended before we wanted. However, there’s always a chance for that spin-off, or we can simply celebrate having a little more time to laugh and cringe with our favorite evil slayer.
Chivalry is Dead: Review for iZombie 408 by A. Zombie
Dost thou not proceed with caution? Verily, there be spoilers lurking below.
Well, this brain is pretty much the DnD brain, but without the witty break where Team Zombie sits down to play out a game. Liv drops so much ol-timey language, only renaissance faire actors can decipher everything she says after chowing down on the brain from avid LARPer, Garrett. I’d like to go on to say there’s a world of variety in this case-of-the-week, but it boils down to yet another domestic dispute which relies heavily on lack on communication in a relationship to push a rather weak plot. Okay, sure, it’s sometimes fun to have a case reflect the lives of those involved, but it’s four seasons in and the domestic dispute cases, primarily ones where the woman is the partner who steps out, are the vast majority of what we see on-screen. The case outcomes are becoming increasingly predictable in order to push all the other story lines. How does one go from a dead guy in armor, to a zombie Thunderdome, to undead LARPers, yet decide in the end to make a woman’s sex life the sole reason for murder? Find another scapegoat, writers. Women are allowed to do what they want, when they want, with their bodies. This constant commentary on how women behave without any solutions in this mythical reality is akin to duct taping a cracked window in the middle of a category 5 hurricane. Fiction gives us a way to work through these problems, yet again and again this writing team barely scratches the surface on social commentary. For a show aimed at millennials, they don’t seem to understand how they think and process messages presented via entertainment.
This is where I have to come back to Angus’ story line. The concerning thing is, even after being called out for harboring a known harasser, this team still uses takes/dialog for Angus which lean toward highly inappropriate. In this episode, Angus orders his flock to savor their high-class meal. The tone and language he uses? It could very easily be used to explain a certain sex act, right down to his command that they swallow. Blaine even makes a subtle joke to back up the entendre. What are we supposed to do with this in-your-face disregard to a known problem? Not only are we forced to endure constant poor-taste dialog from Angus, but he’s also a vital part of Blaine’s sub plot. Every time I think they can finally write him out, he’s back, being useful in ways other characters could also be, so why Angus? Why not write in someone else with the manpower to do what needs to be done and leave Angus in the well?
Blaine’s problems don’t end with his father. Boss is back in town, ready to cash in on a pay day he’s waited for since one of his guys turned state’s evidence to rat him out. Casper is the only one who knows where Boss’ remaining cash is . . . or is he, now? Peyton, also after a quick buck in order to actually help the Underground Railroad, gets to Casper first. Which our bad guys don’t realize until far, far too late. In order to get his hands on the cash, Boss needs to snag Casper during his transfer to a minimum security prison—as promised in his deal with Peyton. Blaine doesn’t keep that kind of manpower handy anymore. Boss’ associates are all dead, in jail, or just done with him. This is where Angus’ flock comes in handy. They tip the bus, eat the prisoners, and hand over Casper for Blaine to enjoy. While I am not keen on Angus’ part in the plot, the moment where Boss, Blaine, Don E., and new goon Crybaby Carl watch/commentate on the mayhem is some of the purest comedy this show’s had in a while. There’s no gore on-screen. Just the guys’ reactions. And it’s hilarious.
Infiltrating the brain-smuggling group is pretty easy for Major since he’s great at manipulating people, then failing to follow his own moral code when it matters. For the most part, all he has to do is show up, get drunk, and make sure Russ doesn’t catch wind of his true purpose. Considering Russ is always inebriated or brain-wasted, it’s stupidly easy. Great for Major since he foolishly talks to Liv in public at the Thunderdome. After he passes whatever “test” Russ has, Major gets to tag along on a rough-up job for the brain thieves. The one thing showing promise for Major despite his deep ties to Fillmore-Graves? He lies to keep the scared zombies alive, though Russ really wants to kill them.
On the Renegade side of life, Liv’s having a hard time maintaining the separation between work, home, and illegal activities. First, Peyton catches her and wants to join the good fight. Then Isobel, one of the women being smuggled, calls in a panic while Liv’s at work. Liv’s old-timey brain antics actually scare Isobel a little, not a good thing considering these people are trusting her with their lives. Yet Liv never clarifies why she’s acting so weird, leaving Isobel to worry right up until the moment they meet at the end of the episode . . . and Liv’s scratch doesn’t cure her. So while, yes, they finally have the money to proceed at full-steam ahead, either Liv can’t make new zombies, or they’ve just found the terminally-ill key to reversing the zombie condition bottled up in a frightened young lady. Honestly? This is the kind of plot development they should spend more time on. The sub-plots are usually good, but this season some of it feels like stretching just to keep up the male-oriented story lines active. Let it go, writers. Let it go. You’ve got something good with the Renegade plot. Just focus on that, please.
Judgement Day: Review for Ash vs Evil Dead 309 by A. Zombie
Let’s not just jump in head-first without checking for spoilers, now.
Yeah. There’s spoilers in this review. See? Aren’t you glad you waited?
This penultimate episode dredges up more questions than they can ever hope to answer in the scant time we have remaining with our heroes, but has technicalities like that ever stopped this creative team from throwing everything they’ve got into expanding the universe Ash is supposed to save? No. It hasn’t. So while fans still grapple with the reality that this is the end, Ash and his friends continue to fight the good fight, no matter what Evil throws their way.
Everyone’s pretty much on the same page when it comes to choosing the best idea to win the day. Unfortunately, success requires them to divide up and tackle problems solo. Ash leaves Brandy at home, armed with the boom stick, to keep her safe. He sends Pablo—who now magically sees through the Necronomicon in order to spy on Ruby—to protect the portal from their foe. El Jefe himself is off to secure Kelly’s body so he can fulfill a promise to his departed friend. Splitting up is, as always, probably the worst idea any of them could cook up.
Brandy winds up wrestling a demonic cell phone which impersonates her mother, Candy. The phone creature reminds me of something from Aaahh!!! Real Monsters, cute, but in reality disturbing as heck. This fight is also where we see how hard Arielle Carver-O’Neill worked to make sure Brandy didn’t actually fall as far from the Williams tree as she likes to think. There’s a few teases about Brandy treading deep in her father’s evil-fighting path, but they’re just visions to mess with her mind. The bit where she snaps and finishes off the phone with the motorized plow is pure Ash. It’s great to see all this character growth right up to the end.
Pablo’s mission is pretty much over before it even begins, really. By the time he makes it to the hardware store, things are obviously not okay. Downstairs, the rift does its thing, and refuses to listen to Pablo when he recites the incantation to steal it. Which is when Pablo should have bolted. But he doesn’t. He hangs around long enough for The Dark Ones to rough him up, take the removed Necronomicon pages, and start their reign of terror. Miraculously, Pablo survives a hand into his chest. He’s also gains a natural invisibility cloak when it comes to Evil’s deadite minions. Is that a gift from The Dark Ones or Pablo’s own power coming through like a champ? Could be either at this point. Let’s not examine it too closely and be grateful another of the Ghost Beaters hasn’t crossed over.
Recovering a corpse is one thing. Recovering a corpse possessed by a sorceress with a demonic best friend is a slightly more difficult task. One Ash is barely able to complete, and only then because he gets a lot of help from the world’s most unlikely source. No, it’s not Zoe. The poor Knight is the center of a spell to conceal the Necronomicon from The Dark Ones, and after Ruby mines her for resources, Kaya ensures the Knight can’t get away. I’ll give it to Ash, he fights hard to beat Ruby. It’s just not good enough when she can, oh, crush a chainsaw with her bare hands.
No matter how strong Ruby is, she is no match for The Dark Ones. Once they arrive, they run the show. They rip Kaya from Kelly’s body—which Ash recovers to keep safe—then returns her to her own flesh, only to incinerate her a moment later. Well, that’s one bad guy taken care of. Ruby stands her ground against the ones she betrayed. They grant no mercy and absorb her energy. Both death effects are well-done and provide fitting endings for this season’s incoming foe, as well as the woman dogging Ash’s trail this whole time. Would I have like to see a little more fighting between Ruby and TDO? Totally. The show’s half-hour format, plus this being the second-to-last episode, means they don’t have time to luxuriate in a good death. Not when they’ve got so little time to introduce a slew of new evil beings for the big finale.
What’s next? Everything has gone wrong. Ruby is gone, but things far more powerful than she walk Elk Grove’s streets like they own ’em, and they have the complete Necronomicon. Kelly’s body may be safe, but everyone’s a tad too occupied at the moment to open the rift, even though they could probably use another fighter. Probably? What am I saying? Of course they need Kelly. There’s a giant demon-thing crawling out of the street!
Don’t Hate the Player, Hate the Brain: Review for iZombie 407 by A. Zombie
Oh! Watch out, there. This review has episode spoilers.
It’s no secret I detest scripts where Liv delves into the puddle-depth minds of A-class jerks. This episode is no exception, what with the constantly toying with the rape culture theme like it’s a new Axe body spray samples in a frat house. The plot is, as usual, heavy-handed with some of the messaging, on top of the PUA propaganda dropping straight from the lead actress’ mouth. Yes, it’s propaganda. Written by men who see women as things to possess or use, and then they have the gall to call themselves Pick Up Artists instead of what they are, pure trash. Seattle is a large city. It’s diverse. How on earth are we to believe there’s an epidemic of nothing but dumb white men dying in this place over the course of four years? Television gods, please save our hero from a life steeped in mediocrity.
Despite my dislike, it happens, so let’s see how Liv manages to further screw up her life by again living like a clueless white dude.
Said dude is named Max. Max is a PUA for hire, selling his services to dateless men hoping he will act as the ultimate wingman. Folks, he sucks at it, quite frankly. But, even though he’s boorish, insulting, and disregards his client in front of her, Max still finds a woman to take home for a good time. God grant me the success rate of awful men like this. Max kicks the bucket right after finishing his after-work activity. How on earth does a healthy man die without warning? Someone poisons—somewhat miraculously—only the inside of his condom. The suspect list is long, full of women used by Max in his great scheme to make himself look important. There’s no re
al suspects in the group, though one or two provide essential clues which prompt a vision for Liv—Max facing down a scared Fillmore-Graves agent named G. Marsh.
Chatting with the autocrat in charge won’t be comfortable, for anyone. Just about the entirety of Team Zombie has various rough encounters with Chase Graves this episode. Only one person will make it through this takeover with any actual power left, and that’s Graves’ new right-hand man, Major. Stationed above the other FG officers, Major gets handed delightful tasks like ending the brain tube smuggling ring via friendly infiltration and terrorizing a small-press newspaper. Even Peyton gets a metaphorical slap on the cheek from Chase when she and the mayor confront him about the armed men who shot up the newspaper office. Graves is so set in his plan, he’s going full T***p, claiming any reports of Fillmore-Graves misdeeds are “fake news.” Chase does manage to help Clive and Liv with their investigation, but relishes making them wait to talk to the recently-frozen Marsh.
New kinds of people in the world means new ways for men to abuse women, and of course this show points the spotlight right at it while forcing Liv to perpetuate the poor behavior. Before the deep freeze, Marsh hired Max and his technique worked. Marsh, being a piece of walking dog poo, didn’t tell the woman he hooked up with that night about being a zombie, then later asked Max to get on the stand during a Fillmore-Graves trial to claim the victim begged to be turned. You know, rhetoric straight from the rape culture handbook, and handled with the sensitivity of a bull in a china shop. Some detective work leads Clive and Liv to find the woman’s ID. Turns out she is in their group of disgruntled women in Max’s wake and cooked up a story to distance herself from her trauma, along with her new name. New things don’t change how much these men violated he
r. With Marsh frozen, she unleashed her anger on Max, using her job to create the perfect murder weapon for a womanizer. None of us are sorry she killed the guy, so this is just another chance for the writers to force awful ideas into Liv’s head.
Liv spends the episode simultaneously hitting on Levon and helping him plan for the next batch of newcomers over the New Seattle wall. They desperately need to secure ID cards for the incoming zombies, or a way to feed them, whichever is easier. They start at Brother Love’s church, where he miraculously provides for his flock. The meeting is a mess from the get-go, what with Angus’ new bigot pal oh, so ready to assume everyone’s a threat. Then there’s the whole whacky Ten Commandments for the undead, which somehow doesn’t convince them to run the second they read it. Angus’ reticence to disclose his brain source is alarm number three Levon and Liv overlook in the name of the greater good. It’s capped off by Angus uncomfortably flirting with Liv by praising her as a pure zombie specimen, like any good white supremacist would when trying to bring young women into the club as bait for others. The deal breaker is, oddly, Angus’ relationship with Blaine, and not the unwelcomed flirtation. Liv gladly finds a new way to proceed when Max’s murder case takes her and Clive to the office where all zombie paperwork is processed and held. The end of this scene is great. Clive knows something’s sketchy on Liv’s end, because he’s a good cop and friend. He just about tackles that security guard to help Liv steal the card-maker he doesn’t even know she took, he’s just following his gut, and his guy says his partner needs assistance.
If only Clive had as much insight into his relationship. Instead of talking to Dale, as he should have the second his jealously rose to cause a fit, he goes off of Liv’s word about what she saw and proceeds to go out on the town several times looking for a quick hook-up. Well, he finally just ends up contacting a professional to take care of his needs. Which flings all sorts of red flags in the air for Dale, since she hasn’t done more than make out with a few men after declaring their relationship open. Men, just talk to your ladies. Seriously. Eighty percent of romcom scenarios would never happen with open, honest communication.
Liv’s new criminal enterprise is at risk . . . thanks to a pair of headphones. Guess we’ll find out next time what Peyton thinks of her roommate, the human smuggler.
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 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 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.
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 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 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.