The Walking Dead SDCC 2016 Coverage By R.C. Murphy
The annual walker invasion at San Diego Comic-Con took place from July 21st through the 24th. Okay, there were a few thousand other people there, as well. Comic-Con is kind of a big thing, if you’ve lived under a rock for the last few years.
One of the most anticipated panels this year was The Walking Dead. Lucy had some ‘splainin’ to do about that angst-generating cliffhanger ending. Which is why Robert Kirkman struck that iron while hot shortly after the producers took the stage. Aside from numerous statements defending the ending since the finale, he simply added that fans would love the payoff from waiting so long for the reveal. We’ll agree to disagree, as we have since he first stepped on a soapbox to defend knee-capping Negan’s big moment.
What’s new for season seven? The producers confirmed a visit to The Kingdom, plus many more survivors and locations. Gale Anne Hurd meowed at one point, which baffled show fans who haven’t delved into the comic world. Kirkman admitted that once the show took off, he included things in the comics they’d never put on television. The show’s other producers picked up the gauntlet and plan to include some of the outlandish comic ideas into season seven. Sometimes these things bites one in the backside. In this case, one idea can bite off an entire backside and then some.
Right before they premiered the trailer, Nicotero shared new walker concept art. Looks like we’ve got more burned walkers on the way, plus the older walkers continue to become more mummy-like, and I don’t even know what happened to the bulgy walker. Death by bee hive attack?
Okay, on to the trailer.
I was really looking forward to seeing Jeffrey Dean Morgan swaggering on the screen. Instead, we got a rehash of the finale’s final scene, along with a cliché memorial video of sorts superimposed over Lucille. I would’ve gladly taken just the cropped shot of him slamming Lucille down on an unseen victim after a pan of the group by the RV. Instead they padded the footage with what is essentially an overly emotional teen girl’s video scrapbook. All that’s missing is the sappy song. The second half of the trailer delivers new characters, but too fast to identify any faces. We meet Ezekiel, leader at The Kingdom. Something we’ve rarely seen on this show is animals. Well, that’s about to change. There’s beasties coming. Most notably, Shiva, Ezekiel’s pet tiger. Funny how a few years ago, the show’s budget was nitpicked right and left. Suddenly they’re okay with tossing huge chunks of cash in to make CG animals.
The actors hit the stage when the trailer wrapped. Andrew Lincoln told fans, “Hang in there, guys.” He went on to say Jeffrey Dean Morgan has way too much fun as Negan. Which, as we already know, is probably creepy as hell on set, despite JDM’s infectious smile. There’s just something about a grinning guy wielding a barbed wire-wrapped baseball bat to make one’s sphincter clench. Lauren Cohan said, “We go to very physical and emotional places.”
Pretty standard quo for this show, but things are just beginning to take a turn for the worst. Nicotero confirmed it when he said this [their current situation with Negan] isn’t rock bottom.
The panel devolved into talk about on-set pranks and several cast members doing impressions of other actors. They did air the footage from when Reedus dumped a ton of confetti in Lincoln’s car air ducts. The first time I watched it, I couldn’t breathe because I laughed so hard.
I wasn’t happy with TWD at the end of season six, and they still haven’t done much to convince me they grossly mishandled Negan’s entrance. Yes, we get a flippin’ tiger next season, as well as a smarmy yet charming Big Bad, but fans are kind of a puppy kicked too many times. They’ve promised so many grand things, what happens if these season seven grand plans fizzle like the drawn-out Beth storyline?
Once you jump the tiger, there’s no going back. Hope they have a solid game plan going into this highly unpredictable season.
Starring: Jay Gallagher, Bianca Bradley, Leon Burchill, and Keith Agius
Rated: Not Rated (Contains violence, adult language, and mild nudity)
Synopsis: Barry is a talented mechanic and family man whose life is torn apart on the eve of a zombie apocalypse. His sister, Brooke, is kidnapped by a sinister team of gas-mask wearing soldiers & experimented on by a psychotic doctor. While Brooke plans her escape Barry goes out on the road to find her & teams up with Benny, a fellow survivor – together they must arm themselves and prepare to battle their way through hordes of flesh-eating monsters in a harsh Australian bushland. [Synopsis written by Kiah Roache-Turner and Tristan Roache-Turner]
This film came through the food slot on my cell door a while ago . . . and was promptly lost under a bone pile in the corner. I found it today and decided to give it a go—it’s not often I’m given the chance to watch a zombie flick from another country and I had hopes this would be an Australian La Horde in some way. Spoilers: It isn’t. Nor did it deliver a Mad Max vibe, as billed in the majority of press written by their marketing team. Homemade safety gear does not automatically make a film a skip away from entering the Thunderdome. Pair all this with a disjointed story telling gimmick for the first forty–five minutes and the film falls a little flat. Once they get past the getting-to-know-you bit with the characters and setting the apocalypse, it’s a tolerable hack-n-slash flick with enough comedic moments to overlook some flaws. I mean, how can one dislike a film with golden phrases like mouth farts?
One thing the movie has for it is an original approach to the ecological repercussions of the undead during the apocalypse. Surely people turning into freaky creatures at the drop of a hat means other things are wrong. Turns out, whatever airborne virus changes humans also makes combustible materials inert. How’s a guy supposed to save the day if he can’t drive? Simple, use zombies as fuel. The gas they emit is highly flammable. And smells like farts. That’s a key take-away from the film.
Okay. Not really.
As much as I enjoyed the witty banter between characters, there’s not a lot of depth to anyone except Barry. His story through the first half is gut-wrenching. However, once he gets back on track to finding his sister, the story unravels into a series of deaths designed to have little to no actual impact on the hero until he pairs up with Benny. Side note: There’s three lead characters with similar names. It’s like they got stuck on the B section in a baby-naming book while penning the script. Barry’s sister, Brooke, becomes the sole female survivor in the story. As such, she’s bogged down by metaphysical gifts to make her unique and special, and more powerful to the men holding her captive. It’s like the writers couldn’t fathom an everyday woman capable of escaping. While, yes, Brooke’s ability to control zombies is pretty neat, it becomes a plot crutch, leading to several long moments where she’s supposed to call the undead and leaves the action to happen around her, without the only woman on screen really doing anything aside from standing and scowling.
The hero zombie makeup is pretty decent, featuring sunken eye sockets and mild wounds since most zombies turn without being bitten thanks to the zombie gas in the air. However, there’s a few background zombies who get close-ups and their splotchy greasepaint makeup breaks the continuity established for the dead. It’s jarring to see four zombies in a row in detailed FX makeup with full-face appliances, only to zoom in one another which looks like their makeup took maybe fifteen minutes to apply in the back of a car with a palm-sized mirror.
Overall, Wyrmwood proved slightly disappointing. I wanted something grander, crafted with care for the genre. What they delivered needed more time in editing to make it flow better and maybe a few reshoots to elaborate more on everyone except Benny. I give the film three decaying hearts out of five. It’s an okay film to add to your zombie-flick marathon come October.
Warning, the following contains show spoilers and a strong opinion.
I’m a die-hard fangirl. When a show gets my attention, I hang on to the bitter end—anyone who saw my reaction to True Blood‘s final season know what happens when a show lets me down like a frayed guide rope while climbing Half Dome. At least that show started pretty strong. This show never really found its footing. Every time I thought they’d stepped up to the plate, wanted to be good horror, they failed to follow through. In the two episodes before the mid-season break, they lean toward the macabre. First with Celia’s guests in the cellar. Then they opened the mid-season finale with Ofelia’s face peeling off, only for it to be a dream. The cellar bit? We saw the same plot on TWD when they found the walkers in the Greene’s barn, put there because Hershel believed they weren’t lost causes. Celia saw it as evolution, driven by divine intervention in the form of zombies. Both think the undead are worth our love and care. No part of me was surprised to discover Celia ran a freaky suicide/mercenary side business. Nor did the religious slant surprise me. When they steered the Doomed Ship Lollipop toward Baja, I knew they’d use the culture this heavily. Why not? It gives them the perfect scapegoat to rehash the tiresome but-they’re-family plot. On Z Nation the Zeroes, based just south of the border, worship death. I guess FtWD thought they could do something similar and have it work as anything but somewhat insulting to an entire culture’s intelligence just because they’re constantly portrayed as chill with Death.
The effects gags just aren’t worth the effort to pay attention to the story-telling anymore. In the season opener, I called them out for using the boat propeller in the face gag. Since, it’s been more of the same bland infected action. Why? They set the first half of the season on a boat. Their human bad guys were as interesting as watching leg hair grow. So where does that leave us on the tension front? Bickering and nagging, occasionally silenced by an actor in zombie makeup limply shaking his arms at the lead actresses while they flail a fishing pole at it. Some shows are salvaged by the action when the story goes bad. But when nothing happens in the story or the action? What’s the point? Then it’s just people making bad decisions, living on a yacht, and yelling at each other.
“So we’ll make one of them insane!” Nice try, guys. I’d totally buy it . . . if Chris had any actual reasons not to trust Madison and her family. At what point have they left him behind or put him second? Madison and Travis drove into a riot to save him. They made a deal with perfect strangers in order to secure safe haven until the riot passed. Nick jumped off the yacht thinking Chris wanted to swim away or drown himself. They staged a funeral so he’d have a chance to deal with his mother’s death. So why he’d snap, threaten Madison and Alicia, and run away to hold a family hostage is beyond my reasoning. Nick is a more likely choice, seeing as they laid the groundwork for it with his rampant drug use. He does some batty things, like willingly walk around covered in walker goo on numerous occasions—so much so, the original scene from TWD in “Guts” has lost its impact entirely. Now he’s fearless and buying into Celia’s bull about life eternal. Also so apparently broken, Madison—mother of the decade—asks Strand to sort her crap out while he’s digging his lover’s grave.
If I even start on how they’ve written Madison, I’ll break my keyboard. She’s by far the nosiest, indecisive, and nagging character ever to survive to season two in a show. Seeing as she’s the universal mother figure, I hate to hear what the people at the writing table say about their mothers. Somebody in that writing room needed a hug as a child.
The characters have no backgrounds. They’re all blank until they need convenient problems—Chris’ insecurity and psychosis, Daniel’s PTSD and hallucinations, Nick’s trip down sociopath lane. Alicia led the group to their first real bad guys in the season and we still know nothing about her except she’s impatient and bravery makes her do rash things. Travis has the personality of a jellyfish, only finding a backbone to salvage the weird Chris-Is-Crazypants story. Strand actually has this decent backstory, except it came too late in the game to salvage the damage done before Tom was introduced, and then swiftly killed off to avoid that whole messy gay character issue. Leaving Strand the outcast yet again, essentially a blank slate so he can resume being a prick. Instead of writing a world and characters living in it, they’re writing caricatures to manipulate how viewers see the world and what happens in it. It’s not good storytelling. There’s no consistency. Narrators, the characters driving the story, must be consistent. Someone suddenly sporting a raging case of PTSD leading him to burn a building at the behest of his dead wife just means the writers wanted to blow something up for the mid-season finale. It works for Z Nation because explosions are a part of parodying the genre. It does not work for FtWD in episode 207 when it’s painfully obvious the only reason any of this took place was to burn things on camera. Again, this entire story was lifted from TWD season two, right down to the main survivor group disbanding at the end.
So why should I keep watching? If this show refuses to stick to their characters, follow a coherent story, or just rob content from the mothership, it really isn’t worth my time. I watched in the hopes that someone would bring another quality genre show into viewers’ living rooms since TWD is bogged down by expectations. What I got was essentially the discarded ideas from the main show, stretched beyond believability, and crammed into a glitzy, Hollywood setting. The grand settings are an attempt to mask everything the show lacks. All it did was tie their hands trying to make zombies work on water. I mean, there are ways, but it requires thinking outside the box. AMC didn’t buy outside-the-box. They wanted TWD, but with a longer name. What they can’t buy is my time.
This is the last review I’ll scribble for FtWD. There’s no salvaging the mess they’ve made. I’m jumping ship before it gets worse.
Call me crazy—most people do, anyway—but I was under the impression most television shows currently on the air wanted viewers to connect with and actually like the main character. If Bailey Barker’s brain is as close to pre-z Liv, it’s a wonder they based a show around her at all.
At her core, the Liv we find somewhat plucky and charming at times should be interesting beyond her profession. I have no doubt if allowed to live her life, Liv would’ve gone on to become an extremely competent doctor. She’d probably stick to the ER though because her bedside manner is like being comforted by a decade–old dead guy. I could never imagine hyper-focused Liv with a private practice. Yes, they dragged out the “She’s missing Drake,” tidbit yet again to drive home the idea that she can’t cope as a functional kinda-human without her beau by her side. But while she’s at it, can she come over to clean the command center?
With Ravi in on the truth behind the Chaos Killer’s identity—thanks to sleuthing far better than the pros, by the way—he’s on board to help Major figure out how to stay alive. There may never be full trust between any of these people when all these secrets hit the fan. So what’s one more? Major insists Liv remain on the outside. At least until their mad scheme is complete. The guys need to figure out how to cure the memory side effect from Cure 2.0. Unfortunately the lab rats can’t talk. In a streak of utter brilliance, Major offers up the pain in his backside to play guinea pig. The Chaos Killer has one last victim on his list. Vaughn Du Clark is slated to become a zombie, then get cured, memory wiped, and cured from the side effect. For a hair-brained plan, it’s not half bad. Too bad Major is an idiot who must secretly hate dogs. The pet groomer he conned a few episodes back leads Bozzio straight to Major as he’s in the middle of nabbing VDC. I’ve seen karma work wonders on television before, but Major’s circled back tenfold to kick him in the junk while he’s down.
What does this mean for Blaine? The guy still has no clue what’s going on. Don E. and Chief set themselves up to run the Lucky U and brain businesses, leaving the funeral home for Blaine to run. He knows there’s something not right, though. Blaine takes a trip to the police station to find Ravi in the morgue since he’s the only doctor he knows. Clive and Bozzio don’t buy the memory act. Neither does Peyton when she confronts him about killing her case against Boss. There’s some astounding acting during the scene where Ravi lays it all out for Blaine, all the grim details he has about the guy’s past. Bonus laugh, Major is so zen on coffee shop owner brains, he has the clarity to pity Blaine instead of just trying to kill him for ruining their lives.
I was hesitant to see if they could pull all the plot threads together for the season finale. There are some things which just slip past—Liv’s MIA family, Ravi’s ability to forgive so quickly, Peyton showing up just to nag or use people, etc.—and we take them just to get to the point. I’m way more invested in Blaine’s story line than Liv’s with Drake. Even Major’s story line is more entertaining, though it should have resolved before now to make it believable that these people managed to miss his involvement with the whackadoo company owner. The random dirty cop story line with Benedetto featured in the episode even begins to make sense in the grand scheme—one of the detective’s great catches is a Lucky U dealer who won’t talk because he, “works for zombies.”
Another LU dealer is the murderer in the episode. He’s killed by Chief, undoubtedly leaving evidence which will lead back to the funeral home. I would applaud the writing skill it took to get this all to work, but I can’t until Liv gets an actual personality. Gotta have standards.
Warning: This article contains episode spoilers and a strong opinion.
How on earth does the show’s producers expect anyone to give half a damn about this show? I don’t get it. Since day one there’s been nothing personally at stake for the main family. The only deaths are fringe losses, people who weren’t even fully fleshed out with a personality, let alone on screen long enough for the viewers to care about their fate. Liza kicked the bucket, so what? Travis’ reaction and Chris’ weird corpse cuddling pretty much made her death a circus side show. Daniel lost his wife, who was only on screen to be the religious figure and when she became problematic for the writers, she died. Even in this episode when we should have genuine concerns about Travis’ survival, it’s not there. Not even remotely. My biggest concern was making it to a commercial to get more coffee before I fell asleep from all that excitement. We got one infected man on screen. He kills people we don’t know. Yawn. Snooze. Wake me when it gets interesting.
Interesting doesn’t mean Madison lords over the yacht crew, nagging every single one of them about this, that, or the other. We get it. She’s a mother. She cares about all these people. There are other ways for her to say, “I love you” without nitpicking every decision they make. I’m waiting for the scene where she follows Nick into the bathroom to wipe his backside. Then on top of this become The Madison Knows It All Show, she’s apparently the only able-bodied person on board who can handle any tough task. Strand is conveniently unwell after his swim—I told you he wasn’t shot; FTWD’s social media people tried for days to make viewers react to his possible injury and all I did was laugh. Daniel is looked over once again because he’s not family. Ofelia could wander around nude with a flamingo on her head and no one would notice her. Nick is grounded because mommy is worried about him. Chris can’t handle his own mental mess long enough not to screw up. And Luis? That guy is still around? Just listen to the dulcet tones of a man in the apocalypse whining about money. Pro tip, dude, money means jack-all now. That leaves Madison to play the cavalry and she’s no Agent May (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.).
But why does Madison have to stage a one-woman rescue? Here’s the quick version of the plot: The yacht crew (read: Madison) decides they won’t head south as planned just yet. Madison cashes in a favor from Strand, buying them half a day to find Travis and Alicia. Daniel manages to get information on the pirates from Reed and leaves Chris to watch their captive. With the information, they find a possible location for Connor’s crew. On the pirate side, Travis is locked up by request of Alex, the woman they left adrift in episode 203. She blames Travis for her plight. In the main cabin, Alicia is treated to a dinner she doesn’t get to eat, cooked by Connor himself. He’s called away and Alicia runs into Jack. Jack teaches her how to track other boats for looting. Eventually they concoct a plan to steal a boat and run after the approaching Abigail because Alicia assumes the boat’s early arrival means her family wasn’t taken to shore as promised. Back on the yacht, the crew is hailed by Connor, who tells Reed—his brother—to bring the Abigail in. Madison replies. They agree to a hostage trade. Just then, Chris shoots Reed. But it’s okay, even at point-blank range, Chris doesn’t destroy Reed’s brain. They truss up and head bag the new infected and Madison takes him to do the trade. Alicia hides from the pirates when they look for her. Travis is taken to the docks. The trade works . . . until the bag comes off Reed’s head. Connor flails and is bitten. Travis fights free from the last pirate on the dock. Madison just stands there. Alicia and Jack have a “How dare you” moment before she slides down the side of the dry-docked boat Connor made his home. Madison, Travis, and Alicia return to the Abigail. Jack watches, looking like a kicked puppy.
Now we’ve got no immediate danger for the family. No tension save the meager and trite “family comes first” bull everyone repeats ad nauseam. And they’ve killed off the only season-arcing baddies. Where to go now? Mexico and the mysterious people who still take cash to cross the border? That’s not interesting. That’s idiotic. Any person with half a brain understands money means nothing. So the guy says no he can’t take them. What’s stopping them from just sailing to the Baja coast and skipping the border crossing altogether? This show continues to fail to have a plot. Every time they get close, everything resolves in favor of the yacht crew. I get more excitement watching my turtle kill snails.
Surprise! Spoilers! It’s the only surprise we’re discussing this week.
Once we were all done scratching our head over Nick’s game of tag with an infected man, the show ran a course so predictable, I could not make myself focus on the screen. This is insane. Why can’t the show manage to start interesting and stay there? Not only that, but I keep catching their attempts to play games with viewers. “Oh, we teased Jack and the Never-Competent Pirates in 201, we better let them lay low until 204. That’ll really shock the audience!” Yeah, no. The arrival of Jack and the others—who are so inconsequential, they don’t get proper credits online so I cannot confirm their names without rewatching the entire episode and I’m so not mentally prepared to do that, it’s akin to torture—was about as exciting as I’d thought it’d be. They cook up a ruse to get onto the yacht using the pregnant woman’s condition to their advantage. Once Madison sets her eyes on the distressed woman, it’s all over. Strand is the only person to freak out appropriately, but he can’t arm himself because Daniel stripped the magazine from his gun. Now we know why all the paranoia last episode. They needed Daniel to be the one to do the dumb thing and salvage the most boring pirate invasion I’ve seen on television to date.
The pirates climb onboard, point a gun, and have run of the ship. Chris even asks, “Do I shoot them,” at one point, like they haven’t been actively trying to dodge these pirates for three episodes. Did they magically forget the threat which had been on their backside not that long ago? Even a warning shot would have proven the group we’re watching has some chance to make it for the long run. If they can’t? Why the hell are we still following them? Why torment viewers with boring characters if the endgame means they die?
With the pirates onboard and Strand without a weapon, he bails. Takes a raft and scurries like a rat off a sinking ship. He’s shot at, popping the raft. Really, Strand’s escape attempt is to take him from the main story and force flashbacks on the show—like the endless flashbacks on TWD season six weren’t bad enough, now this show’s caught the way-back virus. I’m all for character development, but everything we learn from Strand’s flashbacks could have been handled within the plot timeline. There’s no reason to detail his business plans. We already know he’s shady enough to rob someone. The only new information is his homosexuality, again something they could have included later in the season as an actual surprise. Instead they try to salvage his character from Stereotype Land by info-dumping his background and sexuality in unnecessary flashbacks. While they did attempt to drag out the Big Gay Surprise until the episode’s ends, I knew right away what would happen when Thomas touched Strand’s tie in their first scene together. For those with their head in the sand, it’s a thing. They’re a couple. Men on television do not do casual tie-grabs and hand-holding, let alone kissing. Again, this show can diversify itself to oblivion, but cannot weave these characters into a cohesive story with true depth.
During the pirate raid, Travis farts around pretending he can’t start the yacht. That’s pretty much the plot for the episode. The side plots are Strand’s flashbacks and Alicia negotiating her family’s survival with Jack. Everyone else is tied up and left in the main cabin to bicker or plot escape attempts they never actually see through. There’s no actual action until Connor, the pirate leader, arrives. He sees use in Alicia and Travis, so bags their heads and drags them to his speed boat. Connor isn’t as lame as the other pirate characters. He has morals. But it may be an illusion of a coherent character. He may just be a walking bag of morals. Time will tell.
On shore, Nick’s bizarre game of tag turns into a quest to find a location Strand sent him to. Nick meets with Luis, Thomas’ assistant, who is supposed to lead Strand to the house in Baja. Luis has no clue about the others on the yacht or the plan to take them to Mexico. But because Nick says Strand sent him, Luis grabs a raft and off they go to get the others. They arrive just in time to kill the remaining pirates Connor left. Madison manages to do one thing—stab the man who did all the talking before his boss arrived. The gang is stuck there on the yacht until Luis knows Strand is safe. They’re only getting to Mexico with him. Time to turn around and find the man left for dead. Oh, look, he’s still alive. Hooray. What about Travis and Alicia? They can’t even make a supply run on an empty beach without nearly dying, how are they supposed to attack armed pirates?
I don’t know how they expect fans to hang around for two more episodes, let alone stick out the entire fifteen-episode second season and the already-purchased sixteen-episode third season. There’s nothing exciting. Scenes which should hold our interest fizzle into predictable messes or are so incomprehensible, they frustrate viewers. I keep waiting to be wowed. I want to be wowed.
Pretty sure this is going to end in disappointment again.
Surf’s up, and so are the spoilers. Surf at your own risk.
The episode opened with, predictably, the survivors the yacht crew would encounter later in the episode. New characters usually bring in a breath of fresh air, but we already know how this will end. We’ve seen this dance before between Madison and Strand. There is no reason to keep dragging new survivors out if they’re only going to kick the bucket. Save the budget for guest stars and hire a few new writers to call them on rubbish plot management. This episode has no real plot, by the way. It’s a pit stop sponsored by deus ex machina. They needed to buy time for Madison to get good and riled about Strand’s Mexico secret, so the boat broke. Then when they needed to make a quick getaway, suddenly an all-day repair took two minutes. There’s no tension in the plot. The group gets in trouble, finds survivors they’ll leave for death, and magically survive to screw up someone else’s life the following week. The only variation is location.
Madison, Strand, Ofelia, and Travis stayed on the stalled boat during repairs, the kids and Daniel hit the beach to salvage supplies from a plane wreck. While searching, Nick ended up in a pit with not one, but two infected. Chris wanders off from the group and finds the lone survivor from the wreck. The man’s spine is shattered. Chris gives him a brutal mercy killing. Before Travis finishes finding the hand lodged in the water cooling system, the beach crew are greeted with Alex—the woman from the first scene—and a lot of infected. They grab what they found in the wreckage and bail, snagging Alex’s life boat and her injured friend Jake. There’s another predictable fight amongst everyone, with Strand firmly on the “No” side. They reach a compromise; Alex and Jake will be towed after the yacht until San Diego with some food and water. Before they made it a mile, Strand doubled back and cut the life boat free.
Madison is insufferable. I could go on for days about how flat her character is. She only has an opinion to differ Strand’s. The character doesn’t even make sense to Travis, who has been downgraded to an indentured servant’s social level given how little choice Madison gives him while she wants to save the world with nothing but a boat and friggin’ rainbows. Madison becomes the perfect pawn for writer’s to manipulate. Someone’s gotta be nosey and bitchy? Better send Madison. What about Daniel? He’s the Old Wise Man, shouldn’t some of these mental battles be between him and Strand? Hershel and Dale weren’t ones to pass the buck, let alone to a woman, when group tensions rode high. Why is Daniel any different? Oh. Wait. They don’t want to make a minority character “problematic.” Instead they use Madison as women tend to be used in post-apocalyptic fiction, only there to make matters worse. Diversity is the one thing they got right for FtWD. It’s also something they keep toeing around, leaving Madison to be the bothersome one for fear of backlash. Just write people. Come on. You can do that, guys. No more stereotypes, please.
I feel like I’m losing my mind when it comes to the dialog on this show. There were several instances where conversations had no resolution, yet the characters moved on with the plot as though they’d actually said something in the previous scene. When Madison confronts Strand about Mexico, there’s grandstanding about putting family first—probably a red herring about Stand having family—and threats thrown around, but I never felt like they agreed on what to do about the house in Baja. Later in the episode, it’s like they sat there and negotiated a cohabitation plan. The conversation was nothing near that. Then there’s the virtually incoherent conversation with Alicia and Nick on the beach when Nick puts on the captain’s shirt. I was on board with Alicia marveling that her brother is actually with the family, but it took a metaphor turn which didn’t pan out with the performances. Do you know why? It’s a horrible bit of dialog. When dialog doesn’t make sense, actor’s more often than not cannot salvage it for the performance. Instead of the director and writers finding something which fit for Nick and Alicia, they kept the clunky line and killed—yet again—the relationship between brother and sister. The love the writers put on the page is as warm as the crabs crawling from that one infected guy. These people could all be total strangers and it wouldn’t change the relationship dynamics on the yacht one bit.
This is the song that doesn’t end . . . There is nothing unique or original about this show. Finally, I said it. They rehash things done by other shows—even their own mother show—put it near water, and call it new. The episode title fits the entire show so well; a creature eating its own tail, creating an unending cycle. In the show’s case, the cycle is driven by poor writing. They sit at their computers to scribble an episode and pat themselves on the back for being so creative, drowning out any who say their writing isn’t the bee’s knees.
On to next week. I predict more water, more fighting, and clowns juggling chainsaws.
This is one character who will always be made the butt of the joke. Just when things get serious, she finds herself in a strip club white girl bouncing her butt at Peyton in hopes of sparking a vision. Why not, you know, go to the dead woman’s house to trigger something? Track down the ex-boyfriend and talk to him? Surely the dead woman wasn’t a walking, disrobing, stereotype.
Oops, cat’s out of the bag. Yes, Peyton makes another return to the show, filling her place as Liv’s roommate. There’s a change in their relationship now that Peyton knows about zombies. I’m not sure I like it. Cassidy, the dead stripper, was ready to turn in her boyfriend Nick. He just so happens to work for Boss, and she just so happens to have accidentally found a stash house where the empire bags drugs. A lot of drugs. Peyton needs the information in her bashed-in head. Liv is the only key to unlock it. Their interactions after Liv goes dumb on stripper brains turns from friends to boss and underling. Liv didn’t even want to eat the brain. She’d picked out another, safer, brain for lunch. I get Liv pushing herself to be useful and utilizing the powers she’s gained to remain relevant, but why would Peyton use her friend like she’s one of those psychic quarter machines? Yes, she’s desperate. If Boss isn’t put away soon, he’ll send someone after Peyton. But that is no excuse to use a friend with no regard to her motivation behind constantly exposing herself to brains which make her completely looney. Solving murders is what makes Liv tick post-zombiehood. Peyton isn’t concerned with the murder at all, just the information she can pry from Liv and Cassidy’s brain. They do eventually figure out who did it thanks in part to actual police work—running credit cards and known customers through the system with a vehicle description—and help from our favorite weatherman, Johnny Frost. Liv’s big help for the murder case was a vision leading them to the sole eye witness capable of IDing the vehicle.
Things aren’t looking up for Blaine after taking the emergency-only cure Ravi provided. Sure, it made Blaine human again, but he can’t remember anything. Seriously. Tell him a color and two minutes later, he has no clue you even spoke. Don E. and Chief try to keep it under wraps. They pass off his odd behavior when Liv and Peyton visit to discuss his missed meetings as him being confused because he’s out of the loop or tired. Eventually when Blaine doesn’t recover himself, they take him to Ravi to run tests. There’s a glorious moment where David Anders is utterly brilliant, showing how terrified Blaine is not having a memory to solidify his identity. His goon squad will not help matters. Don E. and Chief see a gap in the drug trade—Blaine buried their business, literally, and Boss just lost a major stash house thanks to Liv’s visions. It’s a gap they want to fill. Don E. even goes so far as to turn zombie as insurance policy against assassination. Not the pair’s brightest move. They’re rats sinking a sinking ship. If Ravi can’t reverse the cure’s effects, they’ll need a way to make a living anyway.
The huge news for the show is what’s going on with Ravi and Major. It all ties back to that freaking dog. The morning newspaper has a story charting the Chaos Killer’s victims. One photo is the dog and its owner, which triggers another round of, “Where did you get him? Where did he go?” Which leads to Major failing to convince Ravi that the dog they once housed and the dog in the picture are different. At some point, Major had to consider Ravi’s access to the police and his ability to charm anyone. Bothered by their morning talk, Ravi asks Bozzio about the dog. In return, she asks if he can ID the man in a surveillance picture from Blaine’s. Ravi lies, of course. He won’t say anything until he can find proof. First stop? Breaking into his roommate’s safe. It takes a while, but Ravi uncovers Major’s Chaos Killer kit. Later, he confronts Major with the evidence. Still, Major cannot tell anyone about his link to Max Rager. Pushed to the brink of panic, the adrenaline rush triggers Major’s reversion to zombie. Before he attacks, Ravi doses him with the same injector gun he uses as the Chaos Killer. I’m elated someone finally can call Major on his bull dung Long Ranger idea. Instead of alerting Liv to danger, he hid it from her. In doing so, he put everyone in danger. If Du Clark learns that Ravi has been testing zombies on his own, Ravi will either end up working in an underground bunker until he’s no longer useful or he’ll be murdered to keep the zombie information zipped tight. Either way, exposing Max Rager’s schemes to Team Zombie personnel means everyone in their little friends circle has a target on their forehead. Du Clark sent Janko to nab his own daughter. He won’t hesitate to take out the team.
I am growing tired of our Big Bads for the season. Boss is a tiny man with anger issues and not much substance other than freaky. Du Clark’s threats have been so vague when it comes to the core characters, each time he orders a new death, it’s not surprising and lacks the impact death should have. My hope is these last episodes will wipe out both problems, introduce a few new ones, and finally let Clive in on Team Zombie’s existence.
Can we rename the show Neurotic People on a Boat? Pretty sure we’re seeing the emotional trend for the season: Trust No One. Unfortunately for FtWD, they’re not The X-Files and all the paranoid decisions the characters make don’t drag us into the tension the writers are trying to make happen. Much like “fetch” their attempt to make something happen with these characters isn’t working. Matter of fact, I believe I loathe Travis more now than before. Aren’t we supposed to be on the same side as the family? I understand writing Nick as the antihero, but Travis’ constant freak-outs over nothing, or at least anything he can articulate clearly, are driving me insane. He endangers the family by calling out for people who may or may not be friendly, babbles endlessly in an attempt to drum tension, and flips his lid when Chris learns the proper way to dispose of the infected. The only time he makes any sense is when he tells Madison no at the episode’s climax—if that’s what you want to call it—and she wants to take on more mouths to feed.
Let’s backtrack to the plot now that I’m done venting about a main character who needs to go back to the writer’s room for a rewrite.
The yacht is being tracked by a large vessel. Strand tells everyone the only way to shake them is to drop anchor in a cove and wait for the following ship to pass. Travis suggests Catrina Island, where he hopes to talk to the ranger on duty at the station. Lucky for them, the ranger George, his wife Melissa, and their three children are holding the infected on the island at bay with a fence. The yacht is allowed to stay at the dock for the night. Strand, Daniel, and Ofelia stay onboard. Daniel is only there to obsessively track Strand and pilfer through his things. Ofelia gets a one-off scene where she says she understands her father now because he’s cruel, just like the new world swarming around them. On the island, George fills Travis in about the outbreak. In a few sentences, the writing team takes the easy way out, using the forest service stations nationally as ground zero for outbreak information in each area. Essentially, they destroy fifty percent of the nation’s population off screen by simple telling Travis, “Well, these stations went dark so just assume every human there died.” We know they die. We’ve watched TWD and understand cataclysmic events. Why write this weird logic leap to explain what we already know or can guess? Again, the writers show they have no faith in the viewer’s ability to tell a story themselves unless they’re guided by the nose the whole time. I don’t like television which assumes the average viewer isn’t intelligent.
Then comes the meddling this show is infamous for, because what else will Madison do with her time? Somehow the episode comes around to Melissa begging Madison to take her youngest son and only daughter with them when they leave. Melissa can’t go, her MS is pretty much a death sentence and she knows it. George is a nutjob and won’t leave the island. Their eldest son is as unreasonably unstable about leaving their home as his father. While this is going on, Nick searches the house for drugs. He finds pills he says are bad news, but leaves them where he found them when the daughter finds him snooping. The next morning just as everyone’s getting ready to head out—including the children—the boy comes in to say the girl took a pill. It rolls downhill from there in predictable fashion.
These characters are cursed. Every time they touch something, people die in droves. One might say the writers do it to show kindness has its cost same as hatred and fear-mongering. I say it’s because they honestly do not know how to go about getting characters from their morning coffee before work to where Rick and his people are emotionally on TWD. It’s so much easier to jump into the middle of the story and build background in as they go. With FtWD, they’re at the beginning with only forward to progress. Yet they keep chaining down character growth by giving them emotional templates to fill, not actually delving into what makes the characters work. We should see different people now, subtle, but different. Travis and Madison are the same obnoxious people as in episode 101. The others? They’re dang near invisible, they’re so dull. It’s a shame. Alycia Debnam-Carey was amazing on The 100, but one wouldn’t know it from the lackluster material they’re giving her as Alicia.
What good does it do to say, “Hey, write this better,” when AMC keeps purchasing a new season before seeing the full numbers and fan reactions to episode 201? They have their moneymaker, they’re going to shake it until they break it. Which may be soon, given fan’s lack of interest only two episodes into the second season.
New season, new outlook on how the show will progress. It’s something I do with every show hitting its sophomore season; drop expectations and watch like it’s a whole new beast. Only this beast is no monster. The mistakes are so similar to season one, I couldn’t maintain optimism the entire episode. As usual with Walking Dead properties right now, they wrote to do a couple cool things in the episode instead of writing for plot integrity or to repair the damage they did to the characters’ identities, or lack of identity.
Everyone is still flat stereotypes. Madison spends the episode micromanaging, ignoring Chris, and contradicting herself. Travis is a tool, unable to cope with his son because Big Tragic Death. Chris spends half the episode cuddling Liza’s corpse, and no one thinks this is concerning behavior. Ofelia is a ghost, seen but only heard once or twice. Daniel is the Wise Old Man collecting information. Nick is useless. Alicia gets the role of “naïve young girl who lures enemies to their location.” Because how else would they bring in human enemies without Alicia doing something completely against character? Anyone raised in the digital age knows to prioritize personal information. Alicia knows humans are dangerous. Military men, who are supposed to help civilians, threatened to rape her. There was ample footage of riots from when the outbreak started. The only reason Alicia talks to Jack is to introduce human threats. What about Strand? He’s still an A-class jerk lording it over everyone because he has the means to control them—without his boat, they’re dead. I could’ve told you what each character would do without watching the premiere.
The plot is pretty simple. The gang splits, some prepping the boat, the rest grabbing the gear. And Liza. Chris won’t leave Liza, even after the infected find them on the beach. The fighting hasn’t gotten any better. They still film them like a Blair Witch outtake. Instead of making it exciting, the fights are yawn-worthy. These people couldn’t rip wet paper, but they can narrowly escape being wrestled to the ground and eaten. Everyone makes it on a dinghy, Travis with his burden coming in at a laughable pace to give a dead guy time to shamble into the surf and set up a cool kill. But to be honest, I’ve seen so many things killed by boat propellers, their whole clunky setup isn’t worth it punchline. I would’ve been more impressed if they gave into the urge to use the gag altogether as long as the gang are on water. To top it off, Madison—who just bludgeoned several infected—gets queasy about the kill. She wasn’t queasy before, why now? On the big boat, everyone goes to their corners or piddles around the yacht. They argue about rescuing refugees, Strand making the call to keep going. Alicia does the dumb thing. They have a funeral at sea for Liza, which Chris has a fit during and after. When Chris cools down, he opts to skip eating the mystery fish Daniel caught and goes for a swim. Nick joins him. Somehow both missed the smoldering wreck in the water.
There’s so much fake fog, it’s ridiculous and looks like a set on a pond. Nick hears someone in the wreck and goes to play savior. Did I mention the infected in the water? Well, they’re there, too. Inside the boat, Nick does maybe five seconds of searching for the survivor, thirty seconds struggling with a dead woman, and grabs the travel log for the wrecked boat. Nick only lives because Travis hollers. Seriously. The dead woman just stopped fighting because of a noise. What? Is it a smell thing? Nick was wet, so only his movements and noise drew the infected? There are so many better ways to show this than for the infected to just stop when a foot from food. No one dies. There’s human enemies on the way. They could be Alicia’s Jack and company, or a separate band of pirates. They’ll get all grr with everyone, Madison will play tough woman, Travis will try, and eventually Strand will bully their way through since he is the only one with answers, it seems.
Boy I hope they get it together soon. If they pull out Monopoly on the yacht, I’m jumping in the infected-laden ocean.