Last week Operation Bitemark mostly struck out. George and Doc failed to save Dante from vigilantes. The others were more successful, but their efforts are little more than a stopgap measure. With the boom in Talker population, the half dozen boxes of bizkits won’t be enough. If the bakery is to get back in business, the team has to figure out what happened to the flour from Heartland.
Preferably before the undead citizens of the colonies get hungrier.
Heartland seems to be composed of almost entirely Talkers. They’re starving, lurking in the streets to beg any passersby for brains to eat. While they’re not aggressive yet, they’re on the edge. A little push and they’re gonners. There’s no way these poor people can bring in the harvest in this condition. But they’re also beyond listening to a group of strangers.
Luckily Doc and George roll into town around the time when it’s obvious the field workers can’t understand that the group is there to help. The car won’t be enough to keep hungry Talkers away for long, so Addy suggests they head to a farmhouse on the edge of town. It just so happens to be the farm where the flour is processed and stored. The same one the hungry workers should be running instead of starving to death. But just because most of the workforce is gone, doesn’t mean the farmhouse is abandoned. A brave soul named Charlie still mans the fort. Someone else lurks in the home, eventually flushed out by a determined Addy. Determined to check on her boyfriend, that is. Finn and Addy have been working together in their Talker Underground operation. The details of said operation get a tad confused as the story unfolds and sounds more and more like Addy knows everything the others are just now struggling to discover. Why not take them straight to the flour source? I’m not sure if that’s weird writing showing its hand or ham-fisted intrigue to give Addy’s time away more mystery.
While they get settled in the farmhouse, and learn about Charlie’s sacrifice, there’s mischief afoot outside. Pandora rears her masked head once again to cause trouble for George and her plans for a future. With her trusted helper, Pandora riles up the Talkers, sending them toward the farm with promises of nourishment. Which is convenient because the gang needs to round them up anyway so Charlie can give each just enough of his brain to keep from turning feral. Side note: Charlie’s special effects are not that great later in the episode, but the detailed early shots paired with the mere idea of what he’s doing is enough to make the ick factor high for squeamish viewers.
During the roundup, Pandora and her goon are pinned in with the other Talkers. They use the position to their advantage later when everyone thinks the coast is clear. Finn is injured again in the last attack, this time mortally. Addy opts to stay behind to help him adapt, and to help the farm recover.
In the rush to check on Finn, the group separates, leaving Doc to get injured, and 10k is too ill from his infected wound to make it on his own long or save Doc. Here’s hoping the others catch up in time. They’re probably going to need all hands on deck in order to talk to the indigenous group who control the water, therefore controlling if/when the mill at the farm will run again. This really is the longest side quest for a snack ever. It’d be disappointing if the rest of the season is comprised of little missions like this with the bad guys running laps around Operation Bitemark. These aren’t even good bad guys. Pandora is still the most hastily written character in the history of this show. No depth. At all. Our team deserves a better class of villain.
Doc’s Stoned History: Review for Z Nation 507 by A. Zombie
Watch your backs. There’s spoilers around the corner.
Things in Newmerica spin out of control faster than George and her new support team anticipate. In order to save the budding country, the team must split up. George hitches a ride with Doc back to Altura for Dante’s trial. Roberta leads 10k, Murphy, and Addy on a new side mission: locate the bizkit factory on the outreaches of known civilization. It all sounds simple enough, but each team hits several unexpected speed bumps in their plan, threatening to leave the remaining Talkers to suffer a slow re-death.
If everyone had a history teacher like Doc, well, more people would have at least a vague clue as to how much our founding fathers let us, and themselves, down by failing to build certain assurances into the Bill of Rights from the get-go. But they’d be totally flummoxed about the actual timeline of events in the USA’s early history. This impromptu history lesson—and a surprise visit from Skeezy and Sketchy—comes to us thanks to a minor accident with a zombie, a sprained ankle, and Doc’s preferred method of medicating. A lot of it. The man has a never-ending supply. Forget Mary Poppins’ carpet bag, we need to understand the science behind Doc’s pocket stash. For, you know, medical reasons. What? It’s not like anyone’s making pills anymore and they need something to manage pain. Interspersed around Doc’s baked ideas on the formation of the United States are a lot of deep concepts about what, exactly, makes us human and why expanding that idea now before it’s too late—like the founding fathers did—may just be the thing to keep the world from devolving in yet another civil war.
But what happens when the opposing side is still ten steps ahead of you? Sometimes good intentions and hard work aren’t enough to win a battle, or even a minor skirmish. This is one of those times. Despite doing everything the right way, down to preparing a legal battle in order to save Dante, it doesn’t stop the worst from happening. Dante isn’t getting a trial. He’s already been found guilty by the Talkers behind the mayhem. They follow through with his death sentence in a brutal way . . . by making George be the one to give him mercy. So much for doing things the legal way.
Making a bizkit run isn’t as easy as rolling into town, bartering for a couple boxes, and heading back to Limbo. That anyone is daring enough to mass produce anything in the apocalypse is a surprise, but it’s the people behind the life-saving treats who are far more unexpected. Now’s about the time one remembers that the gang is in Canada, and thankfully some of the oh-so-friendly locals are behind the bizkit enterprise. Well, they will be a lot friendlier once everyone stops shooting at each other and the Talker members of the family get a little snack. I’m not sure anyone can be prepared for that twist once Mum shifts from ravenous zombie to Talker. Sure gave me whiplash.
Unfortunately, reviving Mum isn’t enough to restore the full manufacturing power of the bizkit factory. The specialty flour they switched to after brains grew scarce stopped coming in, but there’s just enough regular flour and brains lying around to whip up a batch to keep Limbo peaceful. Or at least as peaceful as any place owned and run by Murphy can be. The brain-fetching sequences might be a little too much for squeamish viewers, or mouth-watering for the undead audience. To each their own, right?
The gang has a new, new side mission. Their next stop is Heartland, where someone makes, or made, the enriched bizkit flour. They’re going far off the path to establishing Newmerica in order to provide for everyone. Hopefully people remember this when it comes time to vote again. If they can vote again.
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.
Well, Syfy did it again. They withheld information about the starting date for Z Nation until a month before the premiere. Which is a tad annoying, given how supportive the fanbase has been since day one. You’d think they would be eager to share the good news with us, like in the past when the schedule was usually sorted around July. However, over the last few years, there’s been less and less press for the show from any official sources which aren’t the producers’ Twitter pages or behind-the-scenes selfies from the cast. Matter of fact, so few outlets have snagged this news, the only way to verify beyond social media that Z Nation does indeed return on October 5th was to find the little note on the show’s website banner.
The same frustration about the late announcement for the premiere date stretches over to the fact that there’s still no full trailer online, despite there being one floating around in the ether that was shown at SDCC in July. The best we have since then is a teaser attached to the announcement for the season five premiere. It is only available on Twitter from an official source, so that’s the link you get. At least it’s something to get us ready for next month, right?
In the teaser we’re given a glimpse at the latest generation of zombie, Talkers. There’s also a good look at a couple new characters. For most of the teaser, Katy O’Brian, as George St. Clair, gives Operation Bitemark the lowdown on the Talkers. In other clips, a man in a black hat and Warren face off with a zombie, and Murphy and 10k have their first encounter with a Talker. Bet Murphy’s surprised he’s not the only supernatural creature capable of holding a conversation anymore.
We’ll be back with news about Roberta and the gang soon. A. Zombie will bring you reviews for Z Nation after season five begins on October 5th at 9 PM.
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.
A. Zombie Reviews: Day of the Dead: Bloodline (2018) By A. Zombie
Rated: R (Contains: bloody violence, gore, adult language, nudity, and sexual violence)
Cast: Johnathon Schaech, Sophie Skelton, Jeff Gum, Marcus Vanco, and Shari Watson
Let’s address the elephant in the underground bunker right off the bat. Yes, this movie has the same name and basic premise as the Romero movie. That’s pretty much all they have in common, though. When it comes to all these tired reimaginings of cult classics, this may very well be my least favorite. The writers took the bare minimum from the original, enough to call this mess an homage or whatever, and ran with their own bizarre plot dripping in misogyny.
The plot, at a glance:
The zombie apocalypse takes the world by surprise. Caught up in the chaos is Zoe, a young med school student with a focus on epidemiology. To make matters worse, when the dead rise, Zoe is in the middle of fighting off attempted rape from Max, a man with unique blood and a sick obsession. Fast-forward five years, Zoe survives and Max is long gone, but not forgotten. The bunker Zoe calls home serves as a military outpost and scientific research station. In other words, humanity’s last chance to find a cure. If a more mundane epidemic doesn’t take them out, first. A sick girl may be Patient Zero of a new infection. Luckily there’s still medication locked away at Zoe’s nearby medical school. Miguel, the jerk in charge, agrees to the trip. The scouting team recover the medication, and unfortunately, Max, as well. The rapist’s blood kept him in a half-zombie state after the attack. He tracks Zoe through the compound. Despite their history, she saves him to maybe create a cure. Through the testing phase, Max harasses Zoe. Stress and lack of time after Miguel finds out leads her to agree to an ill-considered plan to get fresh rotter blood to test against Max’s. Undead swarm the bunker. Max breaks free. Zoe has to choose between keeping Max alive for her tests or ending his murder spree. For the sake of humanity, she makes the right decision.
The rape sub plot is the most infuriating piece of screenwriting this year. How? How does one look at the Bub character and think, “You know what his backstory is missing, bro?” “Family and friends?” “Psht. Nah, man. A sweet young woman to rape.” Frankly, it’s an insult to the work put into creating that character. They’re only saved from Romero fans grabbing pitchforks because they changed the character’s name. The guy is still styled after Bub post-turning, so they’re not hiding it very well, either. In typical fashion, once the rape idea is introduced, Zoe then relives the moment countless times. Max speaks to her as a zombie, claiming her as his. At one point she has to draw his blood and calls herself his property in order to make him comply. In what universe does someone take a beloved, if flawed, movie and turn it into a story about how not even death can stop a rapist from getting what he wants? This one. This crappy universe wins the prize for being simply the worst.
Sometimes the acting saves a bad script, though nothing’s saving this one from what I mentioned above. In this case, the performances are not where they’ll find praise for the movie. Few of the actors deliver a steady performance the entire film. In a few scenes, they sound like they barely remember the script. As for the content of what the characters say? It’s some of the most Captain Obvious filler dialog taken straight from someone’s first-time horror script. “This is a thing you are seeing with you own eyes, let me repeat exactly what’s happening with no new information.” That’s what I hear, instead of what I’m sure someone thought was witty dialog.
Maybe the makeup stands apart from everything else this year and they can use that for bragging rights! Yeah. Not really. Max’s makeup is disturbing, but the mouth effect loses impact after about the millionth time he roars. We can’t ignore the jet-speed blood spatter effects. They’re beyond ridiculous. In the opening scene we’re expected to believe all these people are full of pressurized blood capable of shooting halfway across a football field. The one zombie which stuck in my mind is the first, and the makeup is subtly perfect. The rest blur together in a wash of blood. At least the fake blood itself was high quality and super believable.
Just face it, this was a bad idea. It’s one thing to want to make your own zombie film, tons of people have and I’ve enjoyed each for its own merit in the end. But to force this kind of garbage onto a known, respected franchise is absurd. Play in your own sand box, don’t crap in someone else’s, let alone that of a dead man. I’m giving this film one and a half desiccated eyeballs out of five. Pass on it and go take a walk in a park, instead.
Chivalry is Dead: Review for iZombie 408 by A. Zombie
Dost thou not proceed with caution? Verily, there be spoilers lurking below.
Well, this brain is pretty much the DnD brain, but without the witty break where Team Zombie sits down to play out a game. Liv drops so much ol-timey language, only renaissance faire actors can decipher everything she says after chowing down on the brain from avid LARPer, Garrett. I’d like to go on to say there’s a world of variety in this case-of-the-week, but it boils down to yet another domestic dispute which relies heavily on lack on communication in a relationship to push a rather weak plot. Okay, sure, it’s sometimes fun to have a case reflect the lives of those involved, but it’s four seasons in and the domestic dispute cases, primarily ones where the woman is the partner who steps out, are the vast majority of what we see on-screen. The case outcomes are becoming increasingly predictable in order to push all the other story lines. How does one go from a dead guy in armor, to a zombie Thunderdome, to undead LARPers, yet decide in the end to make a woman’s sex life the sole reason for murder? Find another scapegoat, writers. Women are allowed to do what they want, when they want, with their bodies. This constant commentary on how women behave without any solutions in this mythical reality is akin to duct taping a cracked window in the middle of a category 5 hurricane. Fiction gives us a way to work through these problems, yet again and again this writing team barely scratches the surface on social commentary. For a show aimed at millennials, they don’t seem to understand how they think and process messages presented via entertainment.
This is where I have to come back to Angus’ story line. The concerning thing is, even after being called out for harboring a known harasser, this team still uses takes/dialog for Angus which lean toward highly inappropriate. In this episode, Angus orders his flock to savor their high-class meal. The tone and language he uses? It could very easily be used to explain a certain sex act, right down to his command that they swallow. Blaine even makes a subtle joke to back up the entendre. What are we supposed to do with this in-your-face disregard to a known problem? Not only are we forced to endure constant poor-taste dialog from Angus, but he’s also a vital part of Blaine’s sub plot. Every time I think they can finally write him out, he’s back, being useful in ways other characters could also be, so why Angus? Why not write in someone else with the manpower to do what needs to be done and leave Angus in the well?
Blaine’s problems don’t end with his father. Boss is back in town, ready to cash in on a pay day he’s waited for since one of his guys turned state’s evidence to rat him out. Casper is the only one who knows where Boss’ remaining cash is . . . or is he, now? Peyton, also after a quick buck in order to actually help the Underground Railroad, gets to Casper first. Which our bad guys don’t realize until far, far too late. In order to get his hands on the cash, Boss needs to snag Casper during his transfer to a minimum security prison—as promised in his deal with Peyton. Blaine doesn’t keep that kind of manpower handy anymore. Boss’ associates are all dead, in jail, or just done with him. This is where Angus’ flock comes in handy. They tip the bus, eat the prisoners, and hand over Casper for Blaine to enjoy. While I am not keen on Angus’ part in the plot, the moment where Boss, Blaine, Don E., and new goon Crybaby Carl watch/commentate on the mayhem is some of the purest comedy this show’s had in a while. There’s no gore on-screen. Just the guys’ reactions. And it’s hilarious.
Infiltrating the brain-smuggling group is pretty easy for Major since he’s great at manipulating people, then failing to follow his own moral code when it matters. For the most part, all he has to do is show up, get drunk, and make sure Russ doesn’t catch wind of his true purpose. Considering Russ is always inebriated or brain-wasted, it’s stupidly easy. Great for Major since he foolishly talks to Liv in public at the Thunderdome. After he passes whatever “test” Russ has, Major gets to tag along on a rough-up job for the brain thieves. The one thing showing promise for Major despite his deep ties to Fillmore-Graves? He lies to keep the scared zombies alive, though Russ really wants to kill them.
On the Renegade side of life, Liv’s having a hard time maintaining the separation between work, home, and illegal activities. First, Peyton catches her and wants to join the good fight. Then Isobel, one of the women being smuggled, calls in a panic while Liv’s at work. Liv’s old-timey brain antics actually scare Isobel a little, not a good thing considering these people are trusting her with their lives. Yet Liv never clarifies why she’s acting so weird, leaving Isobel to worry right up until the moment they meet at the end of the episode . . . and Liv’s scratch doesn’t cure her. So while, yes, they finally have the money to proceed at full-steam ahead, either Liv can’t make new zombies, or they’ve just found the terminally-ill key to reversing the zombie condition bottled up in a frightened young lady. Honestly? This is the kind of plot development they should spend more time on. The sub-plots are usually good, but this season some of it feels like stretching just to keep up the male-oriented story lines active. Let it go, writers. Let it go. You’ve got something good with the Renegade plot. Just focus on that, please.
Judgement Day: Review for Ash vs Evil Dead 309 by A. Zombie
Let’s not just jump in head-first without checking for spoilers, now.
Yeah. There’s spoilers in this review. See? Aren’t you glad you waited?
This penultimate episode dredges up more questions than they can ever hope to answer in the scant time we have remaining with our heroes, but has technicalities like that ever stopped this creative team from throwing everything they’ve got into expanding the universe Ash is supposed to save? No. It hasn’t. So while fans still grapple with the reality that this is the end, Ash and his friends continue to fight the good fight, no matter what Evil throws their way.
Everyone’s pretty much on the same page when it comes to choosing the best idea to win the day. Unfortunately, success requires them to divide up and tackle problems solo. Ash leaves Brandy at home, armed with the boom stick, to keep her safe. He sends Pablo—who now magically sees through the Necronomicon in order to spy on Ruby—to protect the portal from their foe. El Jefe himself is off to secure Kelly’s body so he can fulfill a promise to his departed friend. Splitting up is, as always, probably the worst idea any of them could cook up.
Brandy winds up wrestling a demonic cell phone which impersonates her mother, Candy. The phone creature reminds me of something from Aaahh!!! Real Monsters, cute, but in reality disturbing as heck. This fight is also where we see how hard Arielle Carver-O’Neill worked to make sure Brandy didn’t actually fall as far from the Williams tree as she likes to think. There’s a few teases about Brandy treading deep in her father’s evil-fighting path, but they’re just visions to mess with her mind. The bit where she snaps and finishes off the phone with the motorized plow is pure Ash. It’s great to see all this character growth right up to the end.
Pablo’s mission is pretty much over before it even begins, really. By the time he makes it to the hardware store, things are obviously not okay. Downstairs, the rift does its thing, and refuses to listen to Pablo when he recites the incantation to steal it. Which is when Pablo should have bolted. But he doesn’t. He hangs around long enough for The Dark Ones to rough him up, take the removed Necronomicon pages, and start their reign of terror. Miraculously, Pablo survives a hand into his chest. He’s also gains a natural invisibility cloak when it comes to Evil’s deadite minions. Is that a gift from The Dark Ones or Pablo’s own power coming through like a champ? Could be either at this point. Let’s not examine it too closely and be grateful another of the Ghost Beaters hasn’t crossed over.
Recovering a corpse is one thing. Recovering a corpse possessed by a sorceress with a demonic best friend is a slightly more difficult task. One Ash is barely able to complete, and only then because he gets a lot of help from the world’s most unlikely source. No, it’s not Zoe. The poor Knight is the center of a spell to conceal the Necronomicon from The Dark Ones, and after Ruby mines her for resources, Kaya ensures the Knight can’t get away. I’ll give it to Ash, he fights hard to beat Ruby. It’s just not good enough when she can, oh, crush a chainsaw with her bare hands.
No matter how strong Ruby is, she is no match for The Dark Ones. Once they arrive, they run the show. They rip Kaya from Kelly’s body—which Ash recovers to keep safe—then returns her to her own flesh, only to incinerate her a moment later. Well, that’s one bad guy taken care of. Ruby stands her ground against the ones she betrayed. They grant no mercy and absorb her energy. Both death effects are well-done and provide fitting endings for this season’s incoming foe, as well as the woman dogging Ash’s trail this whole time. Would I have like to see a little more fighting between Ruby and TDO? Totally. The show’s half-hour format, plus this being the second-to-last episode, means they don’t have time to luxuriate in a good death. Not when they’ve got so little time to introduce a slew of new evil beings for the big finale.
What’s next? Everything has gone wrong. Ruby is gone, but things far more powerful than she walk Elk Grove’s streets like they own ’em, and they have the complete Necronomicon. Kelly’s body may be safe, but everyone’s a tad too occupied at the moment to open the rift, even though they could probably use another fighter. Probably? What am I saying? Of course they need Kelly. There’s a giant demon-thing crawling out of the street!
Don’t Hate the Player, Hate the Brain: Review for iZombie 407 by A. Zombie
Oh! Watch out, there. This review has episode spoilers.
It’s no secret I detest scripts where Liv delves into the puddle-depth minds of A-class jerks. This episode is no exception, what with the constantly toying with the rape culture theme like it’s a new Axe body spray samples in a frat house. The plot is, as usual, heavy-handed with some of the messaging, on top of the PUA propaganda dropping straight from the lead actress’ mouth. Yes, it’s propaganda. Written by men who see women as things to possess or use, and then they have the gall to call themselves Pick Up Artists instead of what they are, pure trash. Seattle is a large city. It’s diverse. How on earth are we to believe there’s an epidemic of nothing but dumb white men dying in this place over the course of four years? Television gods, please save our hero from a life steeped in mediocrity.
Despite my dislike, it happens, so let’s see how Liv manages to further screw up her life by again living like a clueless white dude.
Said dude is named Max. Max is a PUA for hire, selling his services to dateless men hoping he will act as the ultimate wingman. Folks, he sucks at it, quite frankly. But, even though he’s boorish, insulting, and disregards his client in front of her, Max still finds a woman to take home for a good time. God grant me the success rate of awful men like this. Max kicks the bucket right after finishing his after-work activity. How on earth does a healthy man die without warning? Someone poisons—somewhat miraculously—only the inside of his condom. The suspect list is long, full of women used by Max in his great scheme to make himself look important. There’s no re
al suspects in the group, though one or two provide essential clues which prompt a vision for Liv—Max facing down a scared Fillmore-Graves agent named G. Marsh.
Chatting with the autocrat in charge won’t be comfortable, for anyone. Just about the entirety of Team Zombie has various rough encounters with Chase Graves this episode. Only one person will make it through this takeover with any actual power left, and that’s Graves’ new right-hand man, Major. Stationed above the other FG officers, Major gets handed delightful tasks like ending the brain tube smuggling ring via friendly infiltration and terrorizing a small-press newspaper. Even Peyton gets a metaphorical slap on the cheek from Chase when she and the mayor confront him about the armed men who shot up the newspaper office. Graves is so set in his plan, he’s going full T***p, claiming any reports of Fillmore-Graves misdeeds are “fake news.” Chase does manage to help Clive and Liv with their investigation, but relishes making them wait to talk to the recently-frozen Marsh.
New kinds of people in the world means new ways for men to abuse women, and of course this show points the spotlight right at it while forcing Liv to perpetuate the poor behavior. Before the deep freeze, Marsh hired Max and his technique worked. Marsh, being a piece of walking dog poo, didn’t tell the woman he hooked up with that night about being a zombie, then later asked Max to get on the stand during a Fillmore-Graves trial to claim the victim begged to be turned. You know, rhetoric straight from the rape culture handbook, and handled with the sensitivity of a bull in a china shop. Some detective work leads Clive and Liv to find the woman’s ID. Turns out she is in their group of disgruntled women in Max’s wake and cooked up a story to distance herself from her trauma, along with her new name. New things don’t change how much these men violated he
r. With Marsh frozen, she unleashed her anger on Max, using her job to create the perfect murder weapon for a womanizer. None of us are sorry she killed the guy, so this is just another chance for the writers to force awful ideas into Liv’s head.
Liv spends the episode simultaneously hitting on Levon and helping him plan for the next batch of newcomers over the New Seattle wall. They desperately need to secure ID cards for the incoming zombies, or a way to feed them, whichever is easier. They start at Brother Love’s church, where he miraculously provides for his flock. The meeting is a mess from the get-go, what with Angus’ new bigot pal oh, so ready to assume everyone’s a threat. Then there’s the whole whacky Ten Commandments for the undead, which somehow doesn’t convince them to run the second they read it. Angus’ reticence to disclose his brain source is alarm number three Levon and Liv overlook in the name of the greater good. It’s capped off by Angus uncomfortably flirting with Liv by praising her as a pure zombie specimen, like any good white supremacist would when trying to bring young women into the club as bait for others. The deal breaker is, oddly, Angus’ relationship with Blaine, and not the unwelcomed flirtation. Liv gladly finds a new way to proceed when Max’s murder case takes her and Clive to the office where all zombie paperwork is processed and held. The end of this scene is great. Clive knows something’s sketchy on Liv’s end, because he’s a good cop and friend. He just about tackles that security guard to help Liv steal the card-maker he doesn’t even know she took, he’s just following his gut, and his guy says his partner needs assistance.
If only Clive had as much insight into his relationship. Instead of talking to Dale, as he should have the second his jealously rose to cause a fit, he goes off of Liv’s word about what she saw and proceeds to go out on the town several times looking for a quick hook-up. Well, he finally just ends up contacting a professional to take care of his needs. Which flings all sorts of red flags in the air for Dale, since she hasn’t done more than make out with a few men after declaring their relationship open. Men, just talk to your ladies. Seriously. Eighty percent of romcom scenarios would never happen with open, honest communication.
Liv’s new criminal enterprise is at risk . . . thanks to a pair of headphones. Guess we’ll find out next time what Peyton thinks of her roommate, the human smuggler.