Proceed with caution. There’s episode spoilers ahead.
Fear may very well be the one monster Operation Bitemark cannot defeat. So far this season it has pushed them from guaranteed happiness and two separate safe havens, which were perfectly fine up until fear crept into the hearts and minds of the citizens inside the fences. Aside from the crew, and George, everyone alive and undead has fallen hard to fear’s influence. Oh, our heroes are not untouched by it. George in particular falters greatly under the pressure of keeping her people calm and rational while someone out there intentionally sabotages Newmerica before it’s even born. Thankfully Roberta has her back.
Just because the vote didn’t go through doesn’t mean they aren’t still planning for a future of some sort in Altura. As part of their memorial service, each deceased persons’ DNA is stored in the memorial wall. Estes has a plan for the DNA, no doubt. He has a lot of plans that haven’t come to the light just yet, but we do know he’s tripled down on controlling the Talker population. His goons have been given free rein, allowed to bring in the undead however they like. The fear Estes spreads with his speeches does nothing to soothe 10k. If he could, the kid would’ve been gone before they finished treating his wounds. His concern over being rendered useless cranks into high gear, leaving Red and Sun Mei scrambling to find a way to return his trigger finger. They better hurry. Things are deteriorating faster than anticipated and they’ll need one of their best fighters back on his feet in order to help Roberta over in Pacifica.
Like Altura, Pacifica was presented to Roberta like a magical unicorn—for heaven’s sake, the place even has a huge library—but upon arrival, they find that the people are restless, terrified of the new changes in their world. Changes she and her people put into effect. Again. Not only do these people have to wrap their heads about walking, thinking corpses, but there’s also an obvious threat directed at the safety of everyone inside the Newmerican colonies. As our heroes arrive in town, the humans are huddling together in a town meeting, tossing hateful rhetoric around like a beach ball. With George and Roberta in the room, they only calm down a little. Just enough to agree to sleep on any decisions about excluding the Talkers from the community. Beating the humans to the punch, every last Talker in Pacifica flees to meet Dante. They’re off to a guaranteed safe place for them. A safe place marked with an odd symbol. Some might say it’s a sun, but dang if it doesn’t look an awful lot like the top of the Z-whacker.
Unfortunately for the Talkers, their timing leaves them the prime suspects when Pacifica suffers its own bombing attack with a side of zombie horde. Many humans who spoke against the undead are amongst the injured or eaten. Kaya and JZ are amongst the missing. Can humanity recover from so many direct attacks on their desire to revive civilization? Only if they get to the root of these bombings before the population is wiped out.
Escape from Altura: Review for Z Nation 503 by A. Zombie
Before you jump into the chaos, just be aware there’s episode spoilers below.
Our harbingers of doom have done it yet again. The moment they mosey into a functioning slice of civilization, it eventually implodes around them. Yet in this case, they’re not the actual cause; they’re just in the wrong place at the wrong time. The bombing, the tensions in the camp, they were already in motion when Doc, 10k, and Sarge arrived. Someone else intentionally sabotaged Altura’s safety net and subsequently the vote to bring all humans, alive or undead, together as a nation again. That someone must have known true equality was coming and cut it off at the pass the hard way.
Getting to the root of who planted the bomb has to take a backseat for a while. Fallout from the bombing leaves a drastic shift in the living/dead ratio. Massive trauma compounded with awakening hungers makes the new Talkers rise ravenous. And who’s there calmly talking the freshly turned down from the ledge like a pro? George handles everyone with genuine concern in her eyes, diffusing the first of many problems to arise after the bomb with hardly a tremble in her voice. Citizen Z and the others help as much as they can given the bizkit shortage and their own superficial injuries. What else can they do? Not much, but Citizen Z does provide possible footage of the bomber . . . only it’s confiscated by Estes before they rewind to the right moment.
I’m going to tip-toe out on the ledge and guess that Estes is a Talker. All of the bombing and blaming Dante is a ploy to keep humans separate from the undead so at some point it’ll be easier to create a zombie-driven society with enslaved humans. The only reason to segregate is to eventually use ones power over the others; since humans are mortal and therefore seen as inferior by some Talkers, they embrace the idea that natural progression put them at the top of the food chain, so they should be the only leaders. It makes sense if one realizes Estes’ entourage are all undead. Yes, he does lock up Altura’s Talkers, but the everyday person in the colony is poor, a person of color, etc. Only the “useful” or rich Talkers are allowed freedom. This whole plot is white nationalism painted with zombie colors.
With Altura compromised and Dante on the run from Estes, the gang takes their leave from their new home. Again. Unfortunately, not everyone makes it out the fence before the starved Talkers turn. It was only a matter of time before our next hard goodbye, and that time has come. During the final push to make it through the damaged fence, 10k, Red, and Sarge are cornered. There’s too many for them to fight and nowhere to run. 10k is bit, but before the zombies drag him down, Red cuts off his injured hand and Sarge charges in to knock the undead back. This is not like any of her fights before. There’s no escape. Sarge goes out on her own terms, though, using a grenade to clear the horde so the others can survive.
On the road to the most likely refuge for Dante, Roberta and the others find evidence of a larger plot in the form of tortured, burned Talkers bound and left for dead. Also on the road is a lone Murphy, who ran when lockdown was called. I shouldn’t say alone, he has a follower. A helpful follower, at that. The blend army still lives! In a much, much smaller form. But they seem to be well organized and overjoyed to have their leader back. At least someone’s day wasn’t completely awful from dawn to dusk. Maybe they can even help the gang with their newfound Estes problem.
Warning Signs: Review for The Walking Dead 903 by R.C. Murphy
Yup. You guessed it. There’s spoilers in this review.
Rick’s little experiment crumbles around him, yet he still somehow holds out hope that everyone can and will live together. Like one speech from only one community leader absolving murderers and thieves of their sins is enough to make their victims magically forgive. It’s painfully obvious that others in power positions do not agree with Rick. Matter of fact, the only ones on his side by the end of the episode are Carol and presumably Ezekiel. But even Carol has her doubts about letting the former Saviors into their trust bubble. She takes them case by case, but the others don’t have the luxury of being able to compartmentalize thoughts and emotions with Carol’s skill long enough to work past the knee-jerk, “these are bad people,” reaction. Rick wants so badly for the Saviors to be redeemed in the eyes of society. Why? Why risk everything for these people? Because he is those people. Rick has seen and done just as many awful things. In another person’s narrative, Rick is a power-hungry monster who has left nothing but destroyed communities in his wake. Maggie and Daryl’s decision during this episode’s climax will send Rick into a spiral where he’s forced to assess his sins.
In order to put that self-assessment off for as long as possible, Rick takes to lollygagging around Alexandria. Well, after he and Michonne finish “discussing” the idea of having a baby together. He makes a doctor’s appointment for Judith, takes his favorite ladies out for a picnic, and goofs off instead of returning to the bridge worksite. In typical TWD fashion, they’re making Rick as happy as possible before yanking the rug out from under the character. It’s quite a task, keeping Rick happy. And it never lasts for long.
The assassinations send the former Saviors into a panic. As a group, they’ve been banned from carrying firearms, putting them at a distinct disadvantage against a serial killer using something similar to a crossbow. Cooperation between communities fails completely. By episode’s end, Sanctuary’s citizens walk out en masse, citing fear for their safety as their main concern. They’re right to be afraid, but are too late to save those with the largest targets on their heads. Those Oceanside ladies sure did work a great con, by the way. They were way, way down on my suspect list, though it is not out of character for that particular group to look at how Maggie solved her problem and emulate it. Can Maggie take them at their word now? Was Arat the final name on their revenge list or will they somehow remember another Savior who wronged them and start the cycle again? I’ve no doubt that this is not the last death of this nature. I do doubt that Maggie will get her revenge as easily as she seems to think it’ll happen.
At this rate Michonne won’t ever get a chance to pass her new laws, what with everyone running around playing assassin and all.
One subplot finally getting some traction is Anne and the mysterious helicopter. Spooked by accusations of being the serial killer, Anne returns to her old home to recover a walkie talkie linked to whoever operates said helicopter. The conversation the two have is in code, but the meaning is clear. In order for the mystery man to follow through with their plan, she has to make some form of payment. A human payment. Love-distracted Gabriel falls right into the trap by failing to agree to run off with Anne to a newer, better place. Either she’s going to ditch him and find other payment, or hand him over to the mystery man.
Peace has already reached its limits and Rick hasn’t made nearly as much progress as he wanted. Pushing society to development faster than it can handle keeps backfiring. Yet he drives on like there’s a fever burning his veins and the only cure is everyone living in perfect harmony. Sure, he says he’s bettering the world for everyone, and in Carl’s honor, but his decisions come from deeply selfish roots. That alone is why the wheels will totally come off Rick’s wagon over the next few weeks.
The Bridge: Review for The Walking Dead 902 by R.C. Murphy
Yup. There’s spoilers in the following review. You’ve been warned.
For once, the main plot is pretty straight forward on this show. Okay, there’s been a few single group or subject episodes, but the Cool Thing for quite some time has been to pack in as much drama as possible, from as many sources as possible, to overwhelm viewers in order to make an episode feel like it meant something instead of letting interpersonal relationships in a smaller group do the same thing. When the writing team steps back and lets the characters push the tension again—instead of like during All Out War where we clearly saw where they meddled to make the plot work—it’s a slow-paced episode, yet still fully highlights how much drama there is left to milk from the Rick/Savior story line. Infighting from a small, encamped group brings us back to the good ol’ days of squirrel flinging. Who doesn’t like that?
In the episode, the communities have banded together to repair the storm-damaged bridge which detoured the group heading back from D.C. with supplies. They’re over a month in and from all outward appearances, it looks like the various groups are doing well in their makeshift camp beside the river. Everyone’s got someone to smile at in the morning—even Jerry! It doesn’t take long for the shiny veneer to wear thin once Eugene runs down his ever-growing list of problems.
Problem one: Food. Extra labor means extra calories needed to keep the workforce on their feet. Sanctuary still isn’t pulling edible vegetables from their fields. Alexandria has never really recovered from Negan’s last raids, so their pantry is more dust than anything fit for human consumption once they pulled food for the project. Oceanside can only provide so much. Which leaves Hilltop once again footing the bill to keep the masses fed. That may not happen unless they can find the missing fuel from Sanctuary, since all they’ve got other than the tractor is an imprisoned blacksmith and a broken plow. Water looks like another hard spot for the work crew. Keeping fresh, yet purified water on-hand in quantities fit for hard labor can’t be easy with the camp setup.
Problem two: Missing former Saviors. About half a dozen gone without a trace. Even before Alden makes it back with a report that Sanctuary hasn’t seen the men, nor have their families, I knew something smelled fishy. That last scene with Justin confirms what I thought—a serial killer is taking out the ex-Saviors one by one. Yeah, it’s a totally predictable thing to happen, but the intrigue it brings to the show will be great. The added pressure on the reformed baddies to socialize, plus exhaustion from labor, plus concern about their well-being leads to a series of fights throughout the episode, and one near-fatal communication error.
Problem three: Gravity waits for no man. The levee put in place to divert water for the bridge project is failing rapidly. According to Eugene, the only way to make sure they finish on time is to work nonstop. That means not waiting for the walker herds—named using a similar method to hurricanes, I believe—to pass on their own so they can detonate TNT and stay on schedule. Due to tensions with Sanctuary workers, and the incident which cost Aaron his arm, that schedule is pretty much useless. Yet Rick still brags to Negan about having hope at the end of the day. That’s gotta be the exhaustion talking.
Away from the worksite, Michonne takes it upon herself to source the food necessary to get the bridge built. The response is cold at first. Maggie is tired of bleeding supplies needed for her people and getting little to nothing in return. Not only that, but unless the ethanol magically shows up, she has to finally make a decision about Earl’s punishment for attempted homicide or they’ll have no way to get the next round of crops in the ground. It’s the perfect opportunity for Michonne to pitch the idea for standardized laws once again. This time Maggie is listening, not overwhelmed by her anger. But Michonne alone can’t get Earl out of jail. It takes a long, hard conversation about his drinking for Maggie to see that Earl, like her father Hershel, just needs the chance to show his good without the booze doing the talking for him. If Hershel hadn’t gotten another chance, many of the survivors we’ve come to love wouldn’t be with us anymore.
The episode is fashioned as a bragging session from Rick to Negan. It’s so, so tacky for Rick to keep going to this guy, using him like his personal diary. “Dear Negan, Today a guy’s arm was cut off because I somehow magically trusted a man, who got in a fist fight over a kid’s job, to keep some lumberjacks from being eaten alive.” If Negan does break out and kill everyone, Rick’s asked for it by continuously poking the bear when he should have dropped him in an oubliette and walked away.
Careful. There’s spoilers in the following review.
Happiness is fleeting in the apocalypse. That’s the message written all over this episode. Oh, everything starts out puppies and kittens, but by the time the credits roll, everyone’s newfound happiness has been shattered one way or another. Maybe you should go re-watch episode 501 to balance things out a little.
As always, Roberta is the first to face heartbreak in what should have been the perfect place for her to settle. At least until her mind finally catches up with all the miles her body has traveled in the name of saving humanity, that is. The decision is more or less made for her by Cooper, unfortunately. His loneliness is a weakness neither of them can overcome. So when Murphy’s impeccable tracking skills lead him straight to the farm, that very same fear of isolation puts Murphy in danger. If there’s one thing you don’t do when faced with the exhausted leader of a survivor group, it’s break their trust. Warren’s loyalty will always fall with those who fought by her side, no matter how perfect a lover may be. For probably not the last time, Roberta saves a bound/gagged Murphy and off they go to reunite Operation Bitemark in the northern communities.
With the Newmerica vote hanging in the air, Doc, 10k, and Sarge are shuffled into what seems to be the most populated and organized settlement, Altura, so they can partake in the actual rebirth of democracy. It’s not as simple as “Pass Go, Collect $200.” In order to make sure every citizen receives the aid and support they need, everyone must go through a health screening to determine who’s alive and who’s a Talker. 10k’s unique state of being is nearly discovered, but the examiner finds a pulse after some intensive searching. The others in the party who died before arriving aren’t handling the process as well. On top of the struggle to fit in, there’s also whispers that the bizkits are running low. Is this paradise too good to be true already?
The team might want to give them another chance to come through on all these grandiose promises. Turns out George was one of the first people Warren saved when the apocalypse kicked off, and George is using the strength she saw in her savior to fashion a safe haven for everyone. Normally we’re not treated to flashbacks on this show, and honestly they tend to detract from the plot, but this particular flashback speaks volumes about Warren’s power to lead before she ever dreamed of leading her own group. Not to mention it gives us a source for the phrase, “Puppiez and kittenz,” which has become a mantra for Roberta when they’re in need of bravery. Beyond the Easter eggs hidden in George’s history, the easy friendship between Warren and the would-be world leader reminds us that Warren hasn’t had a real one-on-one conversation with another woman in quite some time. Their conversations are some of the better parts of the episode.
Not everyone thinks George is a brilliant leader. The dissidents range from angry, lonely humans who lash out from fear, to the Talkers who embrace the idea that their undead condition somehow makes them better. Of the latter, Pandora seems to be the head of the snake. Unfortunately, the character herself is a two-dimensional sexpot who causes mischief. I can toss out a handful of rice and hit an identical character from literally every TV show currently airing. It’s somewhat annoying to watch the show make great strides to represent women better, only to then lean back on a character prototype that really needs to find its way to the trash heap of history. We get it. Pandora is a bad guy. Now can you write her like an actual person instead of walking sexual organs?
This is an episode of reunions. Remember Red? Red vanished mysteriously quite some time ago, leaving 10k distraught and self-destructive. Her reintroduction is a study in how men muck up their own lives by failing to confront their emotions. 10k spends the entire episode driving himself up a wall because he’s too afraid to show how much he misses Red after hearing rumors she may be involved with someone else. A former traveling companion who wasn’t quite as missed, at least not by Murphy, is Dr. Sun Mei. Just like Red, Sun vanished without a trace way back when they originally planned to venture to Newmerica. She’s used her time away from the group well, becoming a scientist for Altura and running a whole new study on the Talkers. In a stunning turn, Citizen Z shows up shooting live footage of the upcoming vote for his viewers. The gang are all present and accounted for at last, with one notable exception. In a lesser way, we’re also reintroduced to Zona via Roman Estes, the CEO of Altura, who says he left Zona after disagreeing with their plans, a.k.a. the whole Black Rainbow business.
Estes’ new haven may not run as smooth as he hopes. At the episode’s end when George is set to read the results of the long-awaited vote for a new constitution, the podium blows up. Lt. Dante acts like Pandora is to blame, slinking off to check on the woman’s activities after she leaves the meeting hall just before George’s speech. We have no clue who all survives the blast, but I’ll be quite vexed if we’re forced to say goodbye to George already. The death rate on this show should teach me to never pick a favorite character from the newbies, but here I am, already hoping my new favorite isn’t a notch on Z Nation‘s executioner’s ax.
A New Beginning: Review for The Walking Dead 901 by R.C. Murphy
You know the drill. There’s a ton of spoilers in this review, so proceed accordingly.
Despite the show being back on the air during its normal time frame, it feels like we were away from Rick and the gang for way too long. Or maybe it’s just that 2018 feels like 10 years packed in a single year’s box, held together with cheap packing tape. The Walking Dead gives fans a good way to vanish from the real world for a little while, as it always has. But did the production team manage to grab the waning attention of fans burnt out by the exhausting All Out War story line?
I’m honestly not sure this premiere is strong enough on its own to do that, and it’s a little worrying considering what all we know for sure is coming down the pipeline as far as actor departures from the show.
The bulk of this episode deals with an idea the producers introduced at SDCC this summer: Reclaiming old technology in order to ensure a future for their communities. In the opening montage, it’s clear that Sanctuary’s corn crop failed. The factory’s dirt is sour. All they can do with the produce is turn it into biofuel, and the yield isn’t nearly enough to keep everyone driving out to source supplies to fully replenish Negan’s former home sweet home nearly 2 years after the war ended. To speed up the process of healing the ground, they need a better, faster way to plow. There’s also a few other things they need, so everyone’s off to Washington D.C. to raid the Smithsonian. Makes perfect sense. How many scouting teams would’ve had the time or energy to take things like covered wagons before now? Aside from some minor walker damage, everything in the museum is intact.
The plan to get it all out, not so much.
This episode, like so many before it, is plagued with basic logic errors so great, one cannot help but yell at the television. There’s a vast difference in writing a tense scene in which a beloved character has a close call, and writing a series of foolish calls that are obviously wrong while still (still!) presenting the person giving the orders as the best possible leader for these people. This problem continues into the next set of problems while getting their loot home. How on earth did they create this relay network, yet when it comes to actually planning and executing what should be a moderately easy mission, they do things like fail to make sure all the bridges are secure? The latter oversight cost Ken his life. Always know your exits. It’s a basic lesson all women, police, and military learn.
Perhaps it’s because of all the bad calls that the power struggle is more pronounced this season. The first problem comes from everyone’s need to put an outside in charge of Sanctuary to keep the dissidents in line. Daryl wants out. Being in the building triggers his PTSD, but he stops just shy of admitting as much to Rick. Carol, however, hears and understands why Daryl needs to get away from there. Not sure she’s going to have much better luck, not with guys like Justin lurking on the fringes with his passive aggressive quips, and the constant reminders that someone in the community actively wants Negan back. The second problem comes to light curtesy of the unchecked, crumbling bridge. Turns out Hilltop has it good. Really good. They’re flush with people, produce, and ideas. And for this entire time, they’ve been loaning out supplies right and left to keep everyone afloat. Yet everyone defers to Rick. He gets the praise. Maggie, in a moment I wish to frame and mount on a wall, point-blank tells Rick that the power dynamic will change because she knows her worth, and that of the people under her care. Rick, to his credit, acknowledges it and doesn’t seem all that torn up to have a little pushback. The third problem is proof that Maggie needs the spine of steel we saw in her conversation with Rick because someone’s out for her head. I’ll give you one guess who it is. Gregory was never going to let the election results stand, and Maggie should have known he’d take a funeral as a chance to plot against her. In another show of power, Maggie hangs Gregory in the middle of town using one of the most painful methods ever. It’d take a brave fool to go toe to toe with her anytime soon.
A quick note to wrap up . . . . Can we have a spin-off romantic comedy with Carol and Ezekiel? Seriously, all I want is to see these two happily joking with each other until the end of time. No cameos. No walkers. Just a blissful couple in an empty world being adorable. It’s been a rough year. We deserve this one nice thing.
Welcome to the Newpocalypse: Review for Z Nation 501 by A. Zombie
Don’t rush ahead without looking for spoilers, first. They’re sneaky like that.
Z NATION — “Welcome to the Newpocalypse” Episode 501 — Pictured: Keith Allen as Murphy — (Photo by: Oliver Irwin/The Global Asylum/SYFY)
What’s probably the most noticeable thing about season five thus far is how drastically different the tone is right out the gate. They haven’t taken us all the way back to a season one vibe, that just wouldn’t work with a scattered, three-part story. However, going into this season it feels more . . . natural. Perhaps once they dropped the technology-driven story line, it allowed the plot to follow where the characters want to go on when acting on their own accord. And for quite some time the group had a few solid goals: reach Newmerica, and to run away somewhere less complicated. Operation Bitemark didn’t reach both goals as a unit, but everyone goes where they need/want to and it does wonders at making our old friends more recognizable. The entire Murphy and Bob walk at the end is peak Murphy. He’s never been so at ease with himself. We need more of this.
Doc leads the Newmerica-bound group with his heart, not so much his head. Which is how the show managed to make me crack part of my jaw off . . . then the scene plays out and Doc’s ruse is revealed. Round of applause to you guys for giving a dead person a heart attack. His makeup choices aside, Doc is doing an admirable job of getting not only his people to the new promised land, but also anyone they stumble across along the way. The ragtag group is mostly composed of folks who suffer side effects from the black rain. Yes, yet again our heroes are the source of some horrific ailment unleashed upon the dwindling human population. And as usual, there’s a twist. We’ll get to that in a moment.
Have you ever purchased an item online thinking it was assembled, only to receive an itty bitty box for what’s supposed to be a six-foot bookcase? That’s pretty much what Newmerica turns out to be. All that radio chatter made it sound like there is an actual established civilization up north, one just shy of building its first fast food place, at that. Someone up there must have worked in advertising before the Z hit the fan because they really sold the place well. What’s really waiting way up north for the gang? A dozen or so settlements caught in a political battle over a constitution in order to properly call the territory Newmerica. Guess it’s better than finding out Skeezy and Sketchy are running a new con. But can these people help when they can’t even agree on basic laws of the land yet?
If one overlooks the obvious appeal of the Z biscuits George hands out, this would-be leader still has the charisma it takes to unite people in a common cause. She’s empathetic. Calm. Approaches every scenario with a level head, even though the other party involved probably just wants to eat her brain. And unlike other leader-types the team has encountered, George freely offers information, aid, and shelter to all. Even the still-talking dead in the group.
Remember those side-effects? A major one is the fact that once the afflicted perish, they don’t stop doing what they were doing in the first place; they just continue existing, but with a craving for brains. Much like Murphy, actually. Where they differ is the black rain victims will turn full Z if their hunger is not addressed. Someone out there has the time and created possibly brain-laced crackers for this new variety of undead, Talkers. It’d be grand if the group found the Z wizard and made friends. You know, so they’ll never be without food for their dead pals. Nothing ruins a friendship faster than being snapped at.
But what about Warren and that huge cliffhanger from season four? Like a cat, Warren lives to fight another day, despite this being her closest call yet. Well . . . if we overlook the nuclear incident. And the gut shot. Okay, the apocalypse hasn’t been kind to Roberta. Things are looking up for her during this episode, though. After miraculously walking away from the crash with major, but not fatal wounds, Warren finds a farm with a lone occupant, Cooper. Wouldn’t you know it? This is the exact kind of place she looked for during those moments when the mission became too much for her. It’s quiet. There’s work to be done, and it rarely involves dealing with the dead. To cap it off, Cooper turns out to be a balm for the holes in her heart. A happy, smiling Roberta is someone we haven’t seen in years. Even if she’s only happy for this one moment, I’m glad the show let her just live for an episode. Even heroes need a day off.
Her time away from the group dwindles, though she doesn’t know it. There’s a hard decision coming for Roberta. Can she step away from the promise of a future in this new land with the people she’s come to love as family at her side? George won over the others in a couple minutes, maybe her magic will coax Roberta to the north, as well. Whichever way Warren goes, I think the main goal will be to finally settle and build a place to call home.
And He Shall Be a Good Man: Review for iZombie 413 by A. Zombie
Before you march into this battle, make sure to watch your six for episode spoilers.
It’s been a rough year for Seattle, and things are not looking up for the newly crowned zombie haven. Despite Peyton’s best efforts, the federal government halts all support to the city. Fillmore-Graves’ kidnapping scheme is for naught. Liv and Levon’s sacrifice for each other won’t matter if the people they’ve saved starve to death. The city needs a plan. Unfortunately for them, their self-appointed leader is so focused on slaughtering anyone who breaks the rules, he can’t find a way to work together to stay alive.
Starving to death, or being devoured by ravenous zombies, isn’t the first or even third priority for Team Zombie in this episode. Everyone thinks they know what they need to do, then the calls start—Liv and Levon are being executed in the morning. One thing this show did well was make sure Liv’s chosen family were worthy of her never-ending sacrifices. They prove it in this episode when those friends drop literally everything to hatch a rescue plan. Even Major makes it back into Seattle in time to deliver a heartfelt pep talk to Renegade’s crew. Gladwell, driven by Ravi and Major’s concern for their friend, risks her livelihood to be the mole in Fillmore-Graves and feeds the rescue squad intel. You’ve got to admit, that team is scarily efficient. In no time at all they have a solid plan in place, including contingencies for any security FG set up in the park. They also waste all that time for nothing. The documentary Levon produced forces Chase to bump up the execution time and change locations after the crew releases it to garner civilian support for Renegade. The plan goes from expertly planned to basically a pitchfork mob with some extra strength.
We should have known we weren’t going to get a huge fight scene. This show hasn’t pulled one off yet. In this episode they attempt two large-scale fights which fall so flat, they can use them as tarps to cover all the dead zombies left at the end. The execution scene starts off pretty good. Wonderful moments from the actors, and of course the shock-not-shock from yet another dead boyfriend story line conclusion. At this rate, all we can do is shake our head and ignore the writers the next time they say the boyfriend might survive to see another season. Where this scene fails is the actual action sequence. It’s edited with cut-to-black frames. The editing is supposed to make the scene tenser, but in this instance the cuts take out any interesting action, giving us a few seconds with Major jumping instead of an altercation between unarmed resistance fighters and the regime in charge. And while the end of the fight is super satisfying for obvious reasons, the editing left much to be desired as far as a conflict goes. The same can be said for Angus’ final charge into battle. There’s so much time dedicated to showing how much force the zombies are up against at the gate, only for us to see a little bit of running, then close-ups of battlefield executions. The production brought in a tank and didn’t let us see Angus’ head getting knocked clean off by it? Why even bother? I got my hopes up for nothing. Well, not exactly nothing. Angus still pays the price for his evil deeds while alive and undead. This time he’s staying dead. Good riddance.
With the acting leadership, save Peyton, pushing up daisies, someone else has to fill the void before there’s a power vacuum in the tumultuous walled city. We knew Major was tapped to lead, but thought it nothing more than a ploy to test his loyalty. Turns out the best way to test someone is to present them with the truth and see what they’ll do. Major takes the reigns before someone with bad intentions beats him to the punch. His first act is to join with the military to stave off the zombies rushing the gates. The second most important thing to take care of? It’s the pressing problem everyone overlooked in order to rescue Liv. With few resources at hand, Major looks to the only people he knows can get brains into Seattle, Blaine and Don E. Guess Blaine will do okay without his father’s help, after all. The trio strike a deal which will drastically change how everyone sees the resident bad guys in the upcoming fifth, and final, season. From the looks of it, our whole crew will go out on top of their world. That’s probably just wishful thinking after four years watching the writing team emotionally torment the star characters.
The happy note for the season is, we’ve got a functioning relationship within the plot that doesn’t end in death before the wedding. Unfortunately, it takes a little bit of logic jumping to get there. Also, we’re going to have to ignore the fact that Michelle even exists, because that’s a ball of unresolved feels I’m pretty sure got dropped somewhere under the writing team’s table. But, hey, Clive smiles for an entire scene, and that’s the happiest we’ve seen this character, well, ever. The wedding scene is one of those great rom-com moments, capped by a literal miracle. Liv gives up her chance to be normal again, gifting Isobel’s curative brain to Dale as their wedding gift. If my tear ducts weren’t so rotted, I may have cried a little.
This season as a whole got a little messy. The plot was huge, with so many remaining loose threads I’m not sure if they were intentional or a product of realizing there’s no way to address that many issues in one go. We can only wait and see if the same writing problems make it to the final season. It’d be a shame for this show to go out with grousing from the fanbase, though.
Rated: TV-MA (Contains violence, gore, and adult language)
Starring: Martin Freeman, Simone Landers, Susie Porter, Caren Pistorius, and Anthony Hayes
When we think about current affairs in genre films, the adage has ventured far from, “Less is more.” With streaming services like Netflix dipping their toes in the game, we’ve seen stronger and stronger independent horror films popping up like mushrooms after rain. Given such support, filmmakers seem to be willing to venture further from the standard ho-hum zombie flick. Cargo is not a movie you’ll watch through your fingertips. But that’s not to say the movie lacks anything. The emotional and cultural depth are what put it on new level. So while this movie has less, well, everything than something like World War Z, it’s not one to overlook because it’s, “Just another indie movie.”
Even Netflix doesn’t believe in it, giving me a sixty-something percentage on the compatibility scale, despite my watch history being almost entirely genre films—including several indies with similar vibes, but inferior cinematography.
Here’s the plot rundown:
Australia’s coastline and major cities teem with people infected by a cannibalistic virus. Aboriginal people still connected to the old ways make their way to their ancestral homes seeking refuge from the “ghosts” haunting the plains. Other lucky souls make it away from the worst by sticking to the waterways.
Andy, his wife Kay, and their infant daughter Rosie are supremely lucky to have a houseboat and a smaller motor boat at their disposal. But food is scarce. Scavenging for supplies comes at a steep cost. With a 48-hour timer on Kay’s final moments, Andy makes the call to find help at the nearest town. Kay never makes it after they cross paths with a wandering ghost on the road. Andy winds up infected in the chaos. The ghost isn’t alone, trailed by his daughter Thoomi. The pair are on the lam, Thoomi fearing her people will put her father to rest without giving the Clever Man a chance to reunite his soul with his ghost. Which, ultimately, they do while the girl is imprisoned by Vic.
Vic, the man with a plan for “after” the apocalypse, will get his way no matter what—just ask his wife-not-wife, Lorraine. Andy likewise has a run-in with Vic, also ending with his imprisonment. Together, Andy and Thoomi escape with Rosie. They help each other across the unforgiving Australian landscape in search of anywhere safe for Rosie to grow up. Eventually Thoomi’s home is the only logical choice. Getting there will take every last bit of life left in Thoomi and Andy.
Right out the gate, one can’t help but wonder over how well the filmmakers utilize Australia as the setting in general. With so few city or building locations for the characters to return to, it makes sense to use what they have in abundance to fill in the gaps and establish the groundwork for a seriously well-shot movie. As said earlier, you won’t watch this one through your fingers, and that’s because you won’t want to miss a second of the gorgeous Australian landscape.
The cast makes acting in a location-heavy genre flick look easy, and it’s far, far from it. On this shoot in particular, the weather was downright terrifying, but one would never know that from the way everything’s edited together, aided massively by the seemingly effortless acting from the leads. Freeman and Landers are on the exact opposite ends of the experience spectrum, yet you’d never know it unless you looked further into the film. Their skill and ability to use it to forge a bond on-screen is what makes Cargo so compelling in the second half. Despite the audience knowing early on how things will probably end, they’ll still find themselves rooting for the duo to win against this unseen foe.
Said foe isn’t unseen for long. The zombie effects are a far cry from what we’ve seen lately. I know I say that at least once a year, but this time it’s real, dang-it. For one thing, these zombies are a little goopy. Their blood is gelatinous, discolored, and ample. Each victim undergoes a slow change, suffering seizures and leaking goop until their orifices seal over with it, which signals the final death and transformation. The eye and mouth sealing effect is downright nasty. World’s worst eye boogers. As for the rest of the makeup? The zombies are generally pale with oozing wounds, relying heavily on movement and the crusty face to sell the idea. It works for what this is, and that’s not a grand zombie chase across the countryside. It’s two broken families desperately finding a way to make sure the next generation sees the future, and that’s nearly impossible because mankind’s corruption has rotted the world so much, even the dead are wrong.
A breath of fresh air, Cargo far exceeded my expectations. I’m going to give it four smoldering corpses out of five. Grab a few friends and treat them to just under two hours of quality time together watching this movie. It’s a great way to take a break from the corruption rotting the real world.
You’ve Got to Hide Your Liv Away: Review for iZombie 412 by A. Zombie
Oh no, darling! You can’t possibly go on without knowing there’s spoilers in this review.
With just two episodes left in season four, it’s expected that the plot will whip into a whirlwind with hopefully enough momentum to push the ongoing story into the next season. The problem with this season is there’s too many stories. Too many new characters. Even if one watches this episode without commercials, it seems to take an eternity to get through all the important bits. Why? Because every scene, every moment has to count. The number of info dumps in the episode is staggering. Info dump is a term for dialog laying out a substantial portion of a story line with little to no action to accompany it. It’s usually something novel writers are guilty of, but a few shows have taken to this style of storytelling as a shorthand to get to the good stuff. At least this show, unlike GoT, didn’t use the one sex scene to info dump with breasts on screen in order to keep viewers’ attention.
The Brain of the Week case this time around goes to Ravi since Liv’s occupied with Renegade problems. While the victim this time is a woman—yes, what a shocker—she’s insufferably narcissistic. McKenna is, was, the kind of girl to walk up to a bar, ignore the bartender, and place an order via their “squad” of wannabes. The selfie queen, and former zombie, is a New Seattle celebrity. The Scratching Post brings her in as an “influencer” of sorts one evening, but by the time the sun rises, McKenna isn’t part of the undead or living crowds. Finding out who wants her dead isn’t hard. Ravi’s sole vision leads to a Brother Love follower who dishes the dirt about the pseudo priest’s call to rid the world of the woman’s offensive behavior. Angus himself didn’t do the deed, he’s too careful for that. Yet he still shows up to the interrogation wearing his robes, carrying the hammer we’ve seen him use against humans. Don’t get your hopes up. Angus walks free when Tucker, the bigot turned by Gladwell, confesses to the murder. It’s not a lie, either. Tucker doesn’t do any time for the murder, thanks to Lambert’s interference. Because that’s just what we need, a Fillmore-Graves employee drunk on Brother Love’s Flavor Aid. The day this story line ends cannot come soon enough. It’s cluttering the plot and, quite frankly, the religious extremist plot doesn’t hold any appeal since it’s been done a million times before.
Liv still gets a personality shift from a brain, but it’s not because she decides on her own to eat this particular, love-stricken woman. In a rush to save Liv from herself, Major wanders up and casually kidnaps her, like he didn’t leave his Chaos Killer days long behind. His security clearance gets them out of Seattle and into the next state to a safe house. It’d seem like an extreme measure, but everyone who knows Liv is Renegade—including Clive, now—agrees that her first move after Fillmore-Graves publishes a statement threatening Curtis will be to turn herself in to Chase. Matter of fact, that’s what Liv is doing when Major nabs her outside the apartment. Where this story goes wrong is when Major uses old lovers’ brains to lull Liv into a false sense of security. He roofies her. We’re not quibbling over this fact. There’s no legitimate reason for Major and Liv to ingest these brains, save to give Major his happily-ever-after no matter what. The thing that gets me is, the actors are so good together, we’re almost charmed by these scenes. For the entire season, the Liv and Levon connection felt forced, marred by Liv the pickup artist coercing Levon into sexual situations. Their relationship only feels right once in a while. This episode is one of those moments where the relationship works, and then there’s Major screwing it up by drugging his ex for one more chance to play house after his repeated failures as a partner. Not to mention, this story line is a mess. Repeated info dumps. The sub-story with the missing couple is ridiculous. Are we honestly to believe two zombies can be in a house for a day before hearing the others in the basement? Then there’s the return of Roche. Out of the blue. Just shows up, forcing Liv to save Major after he destroys the last of her trust in him. Major’s on the outs with everyone, suddenly. His bro Chase even calls it quits after sending Hobbs to do a little loyalty test. Major’s going to have to do a lot to out-hero Liv now that she’s turned herself in to save Levon . . . who turned himself in to save Curtis. For Chase, it’s a case of, “Double the execution, double the fun.” He’d gladly triple it if he gets word of Major’s part in everything.
Using the chaos from his father’s speeches, Blaine has one hell of a plan on-deck. But first, he has to get God to send a sign so Angus will put the plan into action. That requires a secondary plan and, uhh, brain snow. Gotta hand it to them, brain snow is a brand-spanking-new concept. One I’d like to inspect. Closely. Hey, you can’t eat the yellow snow; no one said not to eat the pink-ish gray snow. Man, if Blaine gets his way, the plot for the next season is going to be super complicated.
Or maybe not. There’s a slim, and I mean slim, chance that Ravi’s long-shot testing with Isobel actually yielded an answer to the zombie problem. Once Ravi cleans his brain of McKenna’s influence, he dives into his grand experiment. The techno babble goes way, way over my head. However, the results are unmistakable. Thanks to whatever glowing chemical Isobel’s brain produces, Ravi cures a rat in virtually no time at all. Is it a definitive cure? Of course not. It’s one test subject in one testing sequence. Science requires far more work before Ravi declares he’s found anything beyond a hard-to-identify chemical in Isobel’s brain, let alone the cure to zombiesm. That being said, he needs to test faster before Blaine and Angus turn half the USA into the undead. Or he runs out of brain to test.
In happier news, Clive and Dale realize they’re grown adults. This entire season, they’ve simply failed to talk to each other in any meaningful way, as grownups who want a life together should. Clive’s fear made him blab to Liv about the kid thing, instead of taking it to his romantic partner. Dale’s fear of Clive’s desires make her lie about a non-existent lover. It takes a reality check from someone on the outside to convince them to talk. And wouldn’t you know it? They actually want the same thing—each other. The ‘ship still sails!