The Other Side: Review for The Walking Dead 714 by R.C. Murphy
Warning! This review contains episode spoilers.
There’s absolutely no sense of urgency going into the final two episodes for season seven. Sure, every character on-screen is doing something to prepare for this upcoming war, but they’re going about it in such bone-headed ways, there’s no enjoyment, just grim knowledge that the writers will kill off more characters after a flimsy attempt to make them loveable.
The Saviors roll into Hilltop on a mission to ferret out Daryl. It’s the prefect chance for Gregory to polish his reputation. In Simon’s opinion, the push-over leader might as well be the talking Welcome Mat from the Beast’s castle—sentient enough to be useful, but unable to enact any real change on his own. In a rush to save his skin, Gregory licks Simon’s boot with flattering talk about booze—men are so damn weird—and finally launches a desperate bout of word-vomit alluding to another party vying for power in the village. For his effort, and for graciously allowing Dr. Carson to become Negan’s personal physician, Simon invites Gregory to his place for drinks and a discussion about the power struggle. Who does Gregory see at a threat this time around? Not Maggie, who he’s fashioned into his own personal demon since her arrival. No, Gregory makes a 180-turn, focusing his paranoia on Jesus . . . in the same episode where we finally learn what lies behind the long-haired man of mystery. Chew on that for a while. Guess misogyny wasn’t enough of a shield for Gregory, they had to make him a bigot, as well. Can we just stop putting men like this on television? It’s no longer cathartic to see them attacked by the undead, or however they wind up dying, but instead reaffirms the notion that no matter how bad a person you are, in the apocalypse you can still get ahead by hating everyone who’s different. Want to smash the patriarchy with your art, TWD writers? Start by denying them someone to identify with and see how they like the turnabout.
Katelyn Nacon as Enid, Sonequa Martin-Green as Sasha Williams – The Walking Dead _ Season 7, Episode 13 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC
With the Saviors in town, Maggie and Daryl are finally forced to deal with each other when they take cover in a basement together. Was it the long-awaited verbal smackdown from a grieving widow? NO. And that’s a damn shame. Maggie is very forceful in the way she forgives the man directly responsible for her greatest loss to date, going from back-patting to straight up cheer squad for Daryl’s ego. The moment isn’t a sweet reconciliation. It’s downright infuriating to watch Daryl escape consequences for his childish behavior yet again. I mean, not only did his punch get Glenn killed, but he’s gone on to mope about it like a teenager denied the car for an evening joyride. Yes, I heard his apology. It’s empty. He is forced to apologize because he’s stuck in Maggie’s presence and afraid she’ll lay into him before he can slap a Dollar Store bandage on the problem. His apology is a reflex, bred from years of verbal abuse in his family, but it’s not a sign he’s learned a lesson. Maggie forgives him so the fan-favorite character isn’t in the dog house anymore. That’s the only motivation behind what should’ve been a powerful confrontation scene. Instead it teaches that empty apologies are currency to cover the cost of assisting in a murder. Whoops! Sorry your lover died. Wanna go shoot arrows together?
Give me a break from all this man-appeasing bull.
Okay, but I didn’t mean you should produce what’s probably the worst girlfriends road trip in the history of mankind, TWD folks.
Rosita and Sasha are forced to deal with each other yet again. Guys, this entire story line is just daft, let’s get that out of the way. No woman is going to buddy up with her dead lover’s ex to go shopping, let alone assassinate someone. Why put oneself in a position to be verbally or physically attacked by someone who obviously holds a grudge? Drama doesn’t make women’s hearts beat. Sasha’s finally achieved the good life. She just has to wait for the right moment to lead, or help lead, Hilltop. Instead, her mental progress is dust-binned in favor of a fruitless assassination plot. Rosita, for her part, does her best to screw up. Even when she opens up emotionally, it’s to admit she’s spent years using men with no intention to make a future with them, nor explain why she left. For the record, that’s not how feminism works, so let’s not make Rosita into some fort of feminist figurehead. She’s just a cruddy person who, instead of asking to learn a skill, she shadows lovers, takes what information she wants, and is gone not long after. No matter your gender, that’s awful behavior.
Two episodes left in the season and nearly an entire episode is devoted to developing secondary characters who’ve been neglected—except Sasha, who’s regressed to where she was mentally after Tyreese died. The writers use an entire episode for an info dump. Good writers spread information throughout the piece. They don’t stop in the middle of the arming-up scene and waste an entire chapter to delve into why a character has mired in two-dimensional Angerland for years, or to give a free pass for bad behavior because Tragic Backstory is a magical cure-all. It’s not. It’s cliché, lazy writing. Seven years down the line, these people are so far removed from the world, they no longer understand how to use fan’s emotions to pace the story’s flow. We should be desperate to know what happens next week. I watched one preview, shrugged, and assumed the next two episodes will be over-filled with action stemming from Rick’s rash decisions, with the season finale ending on a cliffhanger. I highly doubt the war is here yet. There hasn’t been enough tension to warrant a conflict of that magnitude, not with the side trips to frolic at the county fair and all the time it takes to don kid gloves for handling Daryl’s ego. Maybe next year we’ll finally get there. Have hope. We’ll get that war, guys.
Bury Me Here: Review for The Walking Dead 713 by R.C. Murphy
Head’s up! This review contains episode spoilers.
Pardon me while I try to wrap my head around something. A white man is radicalized through his own apathy at a refugee camp. He suffers heart-shattering losses due in part to this. When he’s safe, he turns to leadership-approved violence to cope. When his vengeance against the Saviors is constantly put on the backburner, the man turns to terrorism, going so far as to stalk and recruit an accomplice. Turned away from his vendetta yet again, this time by a kindred spirit, he executes a dramatic suicide-by-baddie ploy to finally spread his message. When his poorly considered exit claims another life instead, he backtracks and blames everyone else, only ever taking ownership of his original cowardice at the camp where his wife perished in a fire. Despite the method of his murder, this man dies thinking he’s a martyr. His end at the hands of a man half a sneeze from Full Crazy is pathetic, really. What was Richard ever going to add to the community? He came in ready to go out with a bang. A glory hog to make up for past sins. His death delivers a message: Terrorism hurts those who are given the dubious position of profiting from destruction with no consideration for civilian safety. How much effort does it take to stop and ask yourself, “How many people will die because of what I’m going to do?”
Okay, I think I’ve got it now. I understand. The writers weren’t happy just making a point, but they yet again proved said point with the tried and true white martyr story. The story line pushed the tension a little, mostly because fans were waiting for Richard to die, and motivated exactly one person to take up arms against the enemy. I wasn’t sure who’d end Richard’s woe-is-me festival. It was a tie between Morgan, Ezekiel, Gavin and co., or Carol should she catch wind of his intent to drop The Kingdom in the middle of the war without any time to prepare. Trying to guess gave me about a minute of enjoyment. Then the writers blew the surprise with foreshadowing when they took this as their golden ticket to trigger Morgan—adding an “unpredictable” element to liven things up, I presume.
Now we’re down a fighter and the Saviors have word that mutiny has been on The Kingdom’s mind. Thanks, Richard. Your legacy thus far is astounding.
Morgan is pretty much useless now, except for clearing the undead from around the community’s perimeter. That puts the burden of caring on Carol’s shoulders once more. She knows the truth at last, even if asking requires her to examine why she turned her back on humanity. Kudos to the writers for passing on clunky dialog in favor of allowing McBride to just react during two character-changing conversations—the first changed how she sees herself living in the mad world, the second demolishes the emotional barriers holding her back from engaging in battle. The minute she suspects her people suffered, she straps on her badass cap and goes to get answers she knows will break her heart. And they do. McBride’s genius is in her eyes as Morgan lays out what happened in Alexandria since their departure. Without much to-do, she delivers a gut-twisting performance. It’s probably one of my favorite acting moments in the series from the last three seasons, despite the tears it inspired.
Richard the Coward shoved the Kingdom into the warpath, whether Ezekiel thinks they’re ready to defend the front lines and the home front simultaneously or not. Morgan went ’round the bend again and can’t stop killing walkers. To clean up the mess, Carol’s coming out of violence retirement. It shouldn’t come down to one woman to smack sense into everyone, but since we’re here, I’m glad Carol is that woman. The Kingdom is being dragged into a mess they want nothing to do with. How will the average citizen react to the news?
Next week, Hilltop is likewise forced to choose their side in the war. Can they kill off Gregory as their sacrifice to the war gods, like the Kingdom did with Richard? His misogyny is tired and boring. We need to move on to more productive narratives, not the same ol’ men-holding-women-back bull, if this show is to get anywhere during the last three episodes in the season.
Say Yes: Review for The Walking Dead 712 by R.C. Murphy
Warning: Episode Spoilers Below.
Just when one thinks they’ve finally picked up speed, everything grinds to a halt so Rick can get in bed with a freaky gun-obsessed cult . . . oh, and Michonne, of course. Skip the pre-credits scene. It’s pretty much just sex cut with clips with them grabbing supplies. Has there been this much sex on-screen since the Lori/Shane era? Why now? It’s not the action-break fans need to deal with the lack-of-momentum in the plot. I got more enjoyment from the couple’s silly moments than the intimate scenes. Laughter leaves them more vulnerable than sex—they weren’t attacked mid-coitus, they fell through the roof during a light-hearted scouting mission. TWD writers are desperate to make Richonne work. Like Gretchen’s quest for Fetch, it’s just not happening. Do I hate the idea of their relationship? No. That being said, the writers spend so much time forcing them into “couple situations” that the characters never mature in their affection organically. I just don’t see love there. I see a gimmick.
We know they hump and grab gear, but really the main goal for the mission is guns. Which they find by funny happenstance while chasing a deer they spotted near camp. There’s a large compound not far from their van and they missed it. Huh. Anyway, they find a fenced-off building, which may have been military, along with a carnival. Uhh, okay. Sure. Stranger things have happened—like Alexandria’s scouts and the entirety of the Saviors magically missing a dump covering several square miles with twenty or thirty foot tall rubbish piles. The episode’s point is, Rick gets guns dropped in his lap. They do have to work for it. Kinda. There’s a lot of things magically going right for them that make the effort laughable. All-in-all, they kill a few dozen walkers, grab a van-load of food and guns, then take off to fulfill the new deal. There’s one moment where Michonne fully believes Rick, not the random deer, is zombie lunch. As always, it’s a death tease. When the moment is rehashed later to get the feels out, Rick babbles about them all being on a suicide mission to save the future. Why don’t I see these two in a relationship? When Michonne admits the depth of her love, Rick deflects and focuses on his self-appointed savior gig.
Meanwhile in Alexandria, Rosita has a series of self-important hissy fits. The tantrum culminates with Rosita stealing a rifle and convincing Sasha to go on a suicide mission of their own. Why don’t fans have many favorite characters outside the original quarry crew? Because the rest come on the stage with one foot already in the grave. Everyone has that same death wish mentality. Sasha has been there, done that. Do we need her to be the flaming moron agreeing to aid Rosita just because they slept with the same man? Nah. Women don’t work that way. Besides, Sasha matured from her death-beckoning days. Matter of fact, if she wanted, she could lead Hilltop—in part with Maggie, or on her onesies. The point is, Sasha still has potential. Rosita hasn’t shown the same kind of potential since she became the Angry Spurned Woman in the community. Anger is one-dimensional when used as the backbone for building a character. Pigeonhole someone in that stereotype too long and they just take up space in the plot. It may be time to say goodbye to Rosita. I just hope she doesn’t take Sasha out with her.
Jadis and her people . . . already over it. She and Rick haggle over the gun delivery—it’s not enough to arm her large group. Let’s be honest, this whole story line exists to enable Rick’s wanderlust and suicidal tendencies. If this all actually leads to genuine war with the Saviors, I’ll be surprised. More importantly, if the Jadis deal goes as planned at all, it’d be a miracle. I have zero faith in Rick’s judgement calls.
In the next episode, Carol jumps back in the fight. Maybe she can put some oomph back in the show.
Hostiles and Calamities: Review for The Walking Dead 711 by R.C. Murphy
Whoa, speed demon. Before you read on, know this review contains episode spoilers. Now you may proceed.
Eugene isn’t the only story here. We’ve got two men making important decisions over the blessedly average-length episode. See, guys, they can indeed pack some decent story into forty-something minutes.
While Eugene finds his footing in the primary Saviors compound, Dwight has the rug yanked from under him. It’s not hard to connect the dots—Sherry freed Daryl, then ran away, and her ex-husband is the only one on-site to take the brunt of Negan’s anger. Unlike Daryl, it takes Dwight one night in the closet to get his Negan on, promising to hunt down his ex for the Big Man. That’s when things actually get good. Dwight never finds Sherry. He visits their old house and finds a note explaining why she did what she did, and why she is gone for good—likely already dead, given her lack of survival skills outside the ability to manipulate men. We’ve known for a while that Dwight isn’t a complete pile of rubbish. He fought to keep his sister-in-law healthy, only giving up in order to save Sherry once her sister passed and there was no need to keep the stolen insulin. For some, it is better to reside in the arms of the devil promising an easy life instead of struggling through a desert to reach the angels in a far-off, peaceful land. The price for that stunt was pain, originally. Now Negan cost Dwight the company of his still-loved wife, who was sole supplier of the meager good moments Dwight can hold onto with his memory problems.
Side note: Any time a disorder like this is handled with tact and care, a fairy gets its wings. This is not one of those instances. Sure, her letter was meant to sound heartfelt, but it fell short. Sherry mentions Dwight’s problem as her last manipulation tactic. It’s pretty crappy to gaslight a guy on your way off the mortal coil by stating you hope his mental disorder warps his sense of reality so he can cope with working under a monster.
Fortunately, it lights a fire under Dwight instead. From here on out, this is the guy to watch. He wastes no time in securing his place at Negan’s side by offering up a stress release tied to Daryl’s release—likely spurred by the afore-mentioned memory problem and that ever-present sense of doom. Hope no one was fond of top Negan toadie Dr. Carson. Poor guy catches the wrong end of a bad mood after Dwight plants enough evidence to convict him in the Court of Negan for the grave crime of freeing Daryl.
Eugene absorbs many, many important lessons in the episode, but none as important as what they all learned during Dr. Carson’s final moments—make yourself irreplaceable. There’s never been a place for Eugene in the world. He lied to Abraham to secure a spot in a vehicle headed anywhere safe, and perpetuated said lie for the sole purpose of garnering favor with Rick’s group. After the truth came out, everyone fell back on the notion that he doesn’t get respect because he’s weird, book smart, and lied to his best friends. The writers were good with leaving him there, wallowing in his omeganess until they needed a permanent outsider’s point-of-view in the Saviors’ camp. Who’s completely disposable? Eugene. Who’s most likely to piss off fans by falling in line with the bad guy? Eugene. He was set up to turn teams back when they reached Alexandria, guys. This is some long-game stuff going on in the writing room which could’ve resolved so much sooner to really shake up the show. Fans deserve more than Rick’s lame war-making attempts.
Over the hour, Eugene morphs from a pickle-jar clutching coward to a video game junkie with his finger on the Saviors’ pulse. Probably, maybe literally since the doctor died. How’s that? Eugene is not a doctor, you say? He was once upon a time, remember? The Lie is in play again. Will Eugene stumble and expose the truth? So far he’s pretty sturdy on his feet, dodging one attempt to use his kind heart to do harm. The wives thought the new guy would help poison Negan. They grossly underestimated a frightened man’s ability to figure out any plot which may endanger his safe place in the world. For so long as it is necessary, Eugene is Negan.
Look at all that character work! Look at it! There’s no lame zombie gimmick undermining the story. No grandiose ego-driven statement negated efforts from primary characters—Rick’s assurance he’d get his new fighters completely ignored the fact that Michonne’s ingenuity saved Rick in the pit and there’d be no army without her. The characters in episode 711 act, react, and plot their future in wholly believable ways. How is it they captured Dwight and Eugene’s struggle, but the Rick story line constantly fails to deliver? Next week’s preview looks like more of the same half-thought Rick antics, too. I’d rather spend more time watching Dwight work to screw up the Saviors from the inside out, honestly. I’m way, way over Rick’s suicidal war-mongering mission.
New Best Friends: Review for The Walking Dead 710 by R.C. Murphy
Warning!!! This review contains episode spoilers.
The plot jumps across most of the main cast, yet gets very little accomplished other than confirming there’s a load of egotistic white men about to sacrifice civilians for a war none of them can win without God Himself putting His large foot down in the middle of the standoff. But this is television. God is the production team, and God’s footprints are all over this season, trampling any actual character motivation, and writing short-cuts to what They think are the “cool” story bits. In doing so, the writers lean heavily on character tropes they wove into a few men and it comes off really . . . bonkers. Like, shooting up a pizza parlor after buying into a bit of obviously false propaganda bonkers. Feel me?
But first, what’s up with the weirdos in the junkyard?
Let’s dig into Rick’s time with Jadis and her crew of near-identical and eerily silent folks. The language thing grated on my nerves. I know it has a point, to show that the group has been isolated for so long they’ve formed their own version of American English, but the heavy-handed use of their particular vernacular meant I had to watch the episode twice to fully comprehend Jadis’ explanation on how she came upon Gabriel and the items stolen from first the boat, then Alexandria. Even then, none of that truly mattered because Rick went into the junkyard ordeal knowing he’d win. His conversation with Gabriel after successfully negotiating with Jadis sucked the air from the plot and inflated his head. Rick was never ever in danger. He scoots through it with an impaled hand and an ally. Again. This guy can’t even make sure his son stays in the same county as their home, but somehow always manages to convince people he’s a magician capable of pulling miracles from his backside. Rick makes a ton of promises he can’t follow through with, all while sacrificing even more of the community’s food and keeping their strongest people from securing enough supplies so they can actually prepare for winter. Seasons are still a thing, and when one relies on the land to provide literally everything, gathering fresh produce to preserve is the difference between seeing Spring blossoms and eating your neighbor to keep your children’s hunger pangs at bay. But these are things which are never really addressed. No one is panicked about the missing food, nor the fact that the nearby area has been picked clean and there’s little to no fuel left to waste driving aimlessly. But Rick made new friends by wrestling a zombie, so it’s all okay. Little Timmy can just put the last of the BBQ sauce on his Auntie for Christmas dinner.
Plus, GoT did the “hero fighting a beast in a pit” thing way better.
The other problematic man hits a far different nail on the head—the white terrorist. Richard spots a kindred soul in Daryl almost immediately. They waste no time getting cozy over talk of bows and arrows. Then they march into Richard’s trailer, which is covered in guns and homemade incendiary devices, and its gets creepy. Here’s two hair-triggered white guys holed up in a secret location, armed to the teeth, and planning an attack. Sure, Daryl didn’t know Carol was the intended sacrifice, but that he went along with Richard’s hair-brained scheme at all is pretty scary. His moral code is so loose, free-range terror, no matter the intended target, doesn’t make him think about consequences. It’s not until the writers invoke the sacred Caryl maybe-‘ship that Daryl considers someone other than himself and the guilt from the wrong he committed through Negan’s baseball bat. And, really, if our hero needs a woman involved in order to do the right thing, he’s not a real hero. Richard, on the other hand, is a much more serious problem. In this episode he goes from lone wolf gunman, to luring in an accomplice, and by the time Daryl is done reading him the riot act for endangering Carol, he’s primed to become a suicide bomber. Daryl sees this, says the words himself which will more than likely set Richard on a suicidal path, yet allows the loose-cannon to walk away. That’s where I’ve always had an issue with Daryl, they write him as a self-centered twenty-something who can’t see past his greasy hair and hurt feelings long enough to actually protect anyone. He had every chance to stop Richard and wasted it. When Daryl does jump into action at the episode’s end, it’s by leaving The Kingdom alone. On foot. Headed to Hilltop. With a giant Negan-approved bullseye on his forehead. Because, again, he reacts and doesn’t think about consequences. Sorry, Daryl fans, but I’ve got a feeling they may be setting him up for a serious injury or death. This character literally has no future, no goals for one, and no potential to be a productive member of whatever society survives Rick’s pointless war.
Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon, Melissa McBride as Carol Peletier – The Walking Dead _ Season 7, Episode 10 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC
“But Daryl didn’t tell Carol about Glenn and Abraham, that’s not selfish!” Yes it is. It’s completely selfish for Morgan and Daryl to perpetuate this lie in order to spare her. Yes, she’s fragile. But she’s not an idiot. Death happens. It’s guaranteed when the Saviors are involved. Lying just proves they can’t step out of their safe spaces long enough to A) Admit attacking the Saviors was stupid, and B) Comfort a grieving woman. The latter proves too difficult for many television writers, so they opt for shallow, deceitful men to protect the strong woman’s emotions. Coddling Carol will accomplish nothing, except maybe getting her killed when she inevitably overacts to the situation—the writers also have no clue how to handle Carol’s complex mind, but Melissa McBride does her damndest to perform the character’s heart through a jumbled script.
Rick got new friends, but owes them weapons he cannot secure. Tara knows where weapons are, but it’d involve breaking a promise and compromising the security of countless people. Alexandria has maybe enough food for the week. Daryl is on a suicide hike to Hilltop. And Carol is probably, maybe already figuring out some of her friends are dead and about to do something ill-advised. How is this preparing for a war with Negan? It really looks more like the other communities are about to implode. Maybe the war will be won by burying him with the bodies of Rick’s people. That’d certainly be something new.
Rock in the Road: Review for The Walking Dead 709 by R.C. Murphy
Gregory might be a pain in the backside, but he’s spot-on when he says his people are in no shape to take on the Saviors. First, why hasn’t the coward been deposed? Second, how in the world are we honestly supposed to believe these Hilltop farmers will just up and put complete faith in the war plan? It’s not even a real plan. Rick wants vengeance. That’s his plan. The whys and hows are nowhere to be seen. But the second the group—who barely survived a handful of dead in their walls—hears that Rick’s gathering troops, they’re ready to run in front of a bullet for him? It’s not logical. That’s not how people think. Rational people who say, “Yes, I believe in your cause enough to die for it,” still need facts. How will Rick supply weapons for his army? Do they have enough food and medical supplies for the civilians, let alone an army in siege? Transport for everyone? Do the writers have any clue how war happens? I dabbled in staging historical battles for public entertainment and could probably come up with a better game plan for defeating Negan than anyone in the writer’s room at this point. Except, I’d have to backtrack to the beginning of season six to maybe, possibly establish a plot worth watching.
I do not understand how anyone thought forty-nine minutes of diplomatic discussions and two minutes of undead action was a keen way to start Rick’s war.
About that action bit, though. It’s complete rubbish. Let’s think about this like a General would. I need info on the Other Guy, so I send a scout to take a peek, record valuable information, and return within a certain timespan. Why would that scout then risk moving enough stuff around in the enemy’s backyard to draw attention to their covert mission? That’s not how espionage works. Rick should have never been that close to Negan, first of all. The scouting mission had the potential to disclose perimeter defenses, driving routes to cut off or intercept, and possibly given the war council a clue about how many Saviors Negan actually controls. Rick blew it for, what? A couple rockets for a launcher they don’t have any more and old, weather-exposed TNT? He commanded a car full of Alexandria’s strongest fighters and they’re nearly eaten like apocalypse pedestrians for Rick’s non-plan. Not only did he nearly get them all killed, but Negan now knows someone has been near their compound, and they have some of the explosives. Only an idiot would assume one pack of TNT does the same damage as over half a dozen, plus the rockets. Negan is not an idiot—unless the writers show their hand and write him that way to justify a ridiculous, pointless scene.
The point of using espionage in war is to undermine a superior power with their own information. If the bad guy knows what information you have, they can change it.
So, here’s the run-down: Hilltop says no way, but a band of brave fighters blindly sign up to fight anyway. The Kingdom, despite Rick lecturing Ezekiel like he wasn’t a dozen rungs ahead on the leadership skills ladder, respectfully steps back from the war council. Gabriel stole all their food and gear, then drove off at 3 AM. But Rick’s got dynamite, so they’re totally going to win the war. It’s a mess, run by a guy who’s blinded by ego and hate. Wait. That sounds familiar.
Oh and it looks like we’re going to meet yet another survivor group, because Rick blindly wandered into their trap.
I do have to stop before wrapping this up to point out the one shiny, kind of awesome thing the writers added during Rick’s trip to The Kingdom. Too many times, we’ve seen Rick plow on without considering those left at home to hold the fort. Ezekiel doesn’t lead from the front lines like Rick; he’s home caring for the people who gave everything to keep his people safe and happy. He spends time with the fighters who’ve suffered great physical and mental trauma. There’s not a moment when he’s amongst his people that the evidence and truth about war doesn’t scream for attention. The injured aren’t sequestered in a hospital or clinic, though. Once they heal, they’re absorbed back into society and given a way to help others—in this particular scene, two amputees appear to teach archery with not one instant wasted on making them appear weaker or more inept than Rick’s crew. To see the sensitivity with which they handled this touchy social issue is, frankly, surprising. The writers chickened out over the chance to treat lesbians on equal footing as straight couples or the token gay couple, opting for death over character development requiring a smidge of emotional growth on their part. Not to mention, the gay couple is constantly separated, leaving tender moments between them too few to fully believe they’re a couple. We also have the ever-present singular black man issue, as well—who can honestly say it’s not problematic when the writers treat characters from one particular race as a Highlander-type scenario. It’s pretty much guaranteed that the show will literally collapse and form a black hole if there’s another Asian brought on as a lead character. And we’ll just pretend I had a five-thousand word rant over Rick blithely passing his parenting duties to complete strangers while constantly putting himself and their home in danger. While the writers get a gold star for treating the disabled as real people, they’ve got a long way to go on so many other issues.
The second half of the season is not delivering as promised. The mid-season premiere is so underwhelming, die-hard fans could read a paragraph synopsis and not feel cheated out of fifty minutes. Honestly, guys, just jump to the moment Rick and Michonne hop in the cars on the freeway. That’s all the showrunners paid attention to, so why not follow their lead? Next week better have more plot. Stringing along the fans by putting minimal effort into the story while buying new houses with the profits is a crappy way to keep a fanbase.
Their numbers are tragically far, far fewer than those the main group has buried over seven seasons. Guess it just got easier to write deaths opposed to penning compelling reasons why anyone would distance themselves from Rick’s flawed leadership. Whereas we mourned the loss of numerous great characters in the Life After Death articles, in this sister-series I’ll take a stab at predicting what happened to our absent survivors, and we’ll catch up with the actors who brought them to life.
The ultimate fate of the Vatos has been up for debate since information leaked during TWD’s second season production linking at least one of the actors to the season premiere. Before the second season hit AMC, the scene in question—featuring Vatos leader Guillermo as a walker in the overrun nursing home—was cut. It’s not cannon if it’s never aired in the episode, right? That’s what we at the ZSC like to think, and it’s not just because we have a soft spot for these guys.
So what did happen after Rick and company armed the Vatos and left Atlanta for good? As always, I have theories. It was only a matter of time before the patients at the home gave in to the perils of old age and stress from constant walker threat. Sad to say, but the only way the Vatos survive is because their patients succumb to the inevitable. Guillermo and Felipe wouldn’t stay put after that. Not in an unsecure building smack dab in the middle of walker territory. We don’t know much about undead numbers in the areas around Atlanta, save the quarry, to really nail a new base of operations for the guys. With a crew in tow, going vast distances without a ride wouldn’t work. Hell, even driving fifty miles in the apocalypse is a huge risk. In the end, I fully believe the strongest Vatos would have made it out of Atlanta. Maybe they headed toward the ocean. Maybe they found a stronghold near their home city and fortified it. Those guys had too much heart and too many smarts to linger in the dead’s city once their obligations to their patients ended, or even before if things took a turn for the worst. G and his guys aren’t the type to sit and wait to die. For TWD writers to consider otherwise proves they don’t even understand their own characters’ motivations.
Guillermo provided one of the most surprising moments for Rick, simply because the guy’s leadership style didn’t involve slaughtering everyone and taking what they wanted. Matter of fact, G wasn’t even in a power position at the old folk’s home, just stayed because it was the right thing to do. That strong moral backbone is why Neil Brown Jr. was the perfect man to play the role. Keeping up with the guy’s career is a whole ‘nother matter. Post-TWD, Neil hit Hollywood hard and fast, appearing in projects like Battle: Los Angeles, Weeds, Rivers 9, Insecure, and NCIS. Then he got The Call, he’d landed the role as DJ Yella in the N.W.A. biopic Straight Outta Compton, which also stars O’Shea Jackson Jr, Jason Mitchell, Corey Hawkins, and Aldis Hodge. In 2016, Neil joined an eclectic cast, and an even weirder writer/producer, for BBC America’s Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. Neil, and his furry costar Bentley, steal every scene they’re in. Dirk Gently will return for a second season. Catch Neil alongside Johnny Depp and Forest Whitaker in the upcoming film LAbryinth. He’s also in Sand Castle with Henry Cavill and Glen Powell, which will stream on Netflix in the near future.
It takes a special sort of soul to give up any hope of salvation in order to tend to those in need. Felipe could’ve split, leaving Abuela and the others to the undead. He didn’t. Not only did he stay, he still provided the nursing care the residents needed. Noel Gugliemi proved to be ideal for such a kind-hearted, but tough character. His smile is infectious, spreading to each fan he meets during numerous convention appearances. On the small screen, Noel has been a regular on Fresh Off the Boat, with appearances on The Mentalist, Chosen, and Bones. For the blockbuster Furious 7, Noel reprised his role as Hector, joining franchise regulars Vin Diesel and Paul Walker for another action-packed film. Since TWD he’s also appeared in The Dark Knight Rises, For the Love of Money, The Purge: Anarchy, and Vigilante Diaries. Catch him in the upcoming films Pope opposite TWD co-star Neil Brown Jr, and Charlie Charlie which also stars Tom Sizemore and Eric Roberts.
Vatos member Jorge never backed down from a fight. He provided the security G and Felipe needed to keep the patients safe. James Gonzaba went on to film several short films after TWD. He’s appeared on CSI: Miami, and fans can find him in the films The Return of Johnny V. and Gino’s Wife.
Ah, Abuela. No one was going to get anything past her, let alone the very men keeping her safe from day to day. Gina Morelli provided the perfect amount of sass for the role, giving me endless joy while watching a wall of strong men part like the Red Sea for her entrance. After the show, she went on to film several projects, including an appearance on the TV movie Fabulous High.
Need a hand, Miguel? I’m not sure Anthony Guajardo will ever live down the moment when Reedus flung Merle’s hand onto his lap. It’s pretty much burned into fans’ memories. Anthony was the first Vato on screen, giving us plenty of attitude and laughter. Since leaving the show, he’s worked on several short film projects like The Symphony of Silence, Arose the Coward, and Emily. Anthony joined Daeg Faerch and TWD co-star Noel Gugliemi in the 2016 teen drama Ditch Party. Recently, Anthony wrapped production on The Pizza Joint and The Margarita Man, so keep an eye out for the release dates.
Unfortunately, the reality during an apocalyptic scenario is that most people will not make it far with their families intact—these folks tend to fall to the wayside on the show quite often. Some of them shuffled off the mortal plain with next to no one left to mourn their passing, even amongst their neighbors. One we wished had made it to the current time line completely stole the show for a too-brief time. Then there’s the one with so much potential, killed off before the writers would have to tackle any hard questions about women’s sexuality when it isn’t in a heterosexual relationship.
We’re taking a look back at season six’s dearly departed, and catching up with the actors who brought them to life.
When you need to kill off someone, but make it seem impactful, you write the perfect jerk. Carter was season’s six’s sacrificial lamb—slaughtered by the group’s incompetence to make a point that Alexandria does indeed need Rick’s people to teach them the way, and that any who speak up against him will meet the wrath of God. Seriously, that’s how a lot of the deaths for season six felt, like the writers were over-reaching and showing their hand when they plucked problematic characters from Rick’s takeover path with little fallout for the hero. A shame, really. Ethan Embry, the man behind Carter’s short yet impactful time on TWD, could’ve brought a lot to the table acting-wise. He was perfect as a “friendly” antagonist, countering Rick’s attempt to steamroll into town and set up a military camp in what had been a peaceful settlement.
Post-TWD life has been pretty busy for Embry. He starred in The Devil’s Candy opposite Shiri Appleby and Pruitt Taylor Vince, along with Fashionista starring Amanda Fuller and Eric Balfour. Embry stars in Cheap Thrills, which is currently available to stream on Netflix. On January 13th, Amazon will release Sneaky Pete. The series was created by Bryan Cranston and David Shore (House), with stars Ethan Embry, Giovanni Ribisi, and Marin Ireland. Embry also plays Coyote Bergstein on Netflix’s hit comedy Grace and Frankie. The series stars Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin. It has so much fan appeal, Netflix secured a third season before the second season aired. The third season will be released on the streaming service May 2017.
Nicholas never really endeared himself to anyone, let alone TWD fans, during his half-dozen appearances on the show. He, like Carter, were guys determined to keep things as they were before the prison refugees joined their community. After Glenn bruised his ego, he made it his life’s mission to eradicate the newcomers. In the end, Nicholas’ childish reaction to criticism killed numerous people, including himself. His final act, suicide, did have the unexpected bonus of saving Glenn. Guess Nicholas’ life wasn’t a complete waste.
Michael Traynor didn’t pull the long straw when it came to characters fans would clamor over for years to come. That being said, Traynor is such an awesome guy, they love him anyway. He can often be found living it up at various horror conventions throughout the United States, appearing alongside other TWD stars to meet their fans. Traynor went on to guest star on Freeform’s The Fosters for several episodes. Playing the father to a teenager possessed by an alien creature, Traynor appears in the upcoming sci-fi thriller Ascension alongside Christie Burke and Ana Mulvoy-Ten. He also stars in another thriller, this time with a horror twist, in Needlestick. In October 2016, Traynor appeared in the Youtube Red original thriller The Thinning. His next project is the ’80s drama Juke Box Hero, out later this month.
It’s no secret I loathe flashback episodes on TWD, but when they introduced Morgan’s personal savior, Eastman, it was worth the flashback trauma. He’s calm, collected, a pro with a staff, has a goat, and is obsessed with making the perfect cheese. Basically, this is the guy you want around when the crap hits the fan. Eastman’s story is far from cut and dry. Matter of fact, I constantly lament FTWD not existing as Eastman’s story instead of the lackluster plot they opted to follow. We didn’t get nearly enough time with a seriously complex character, nor did we get to fully enjoy the tension in his background which made him such an intriguing person.
We also didn’t get enough time to bask in John Carroll Lynch’s brilliance. This guy has been on the genre fan’s favorite list for years, only adding to his status in our hearts with his TWD appearance. After, he returned to American Horror Story for AHS: Hotel, joining the weirdest dinner party ever as John Wayne Gacy. Lynch appeared as James Rivington on TURN: Washington’s Spies. Joining Jennifer Beals and Olivia Thiriby, the trio starred in the thriller White Orchid. Lynch also appeared alongside Matt Bomer and Maura Tierney in Anything. In December 2016, Jackie released with Natalie Portman in the title role and Lynch playing Lyndon B. Johnson. Later this month, the biopic The Founder releases, starring Lynch as Mac McDonald, along with Michael Keaton and Nick Offerman. SyFy’s creeptastic Channel Zero returns in 2017 for a second season, with Lynch coming onboard as John Sleator.
When the apocalypse happens, anyone with a trace of medical training will be king. Or in this case, queen. Denise didn’t start out her time in Alexandria as the community’s doctor. Thanks to Pete’s little self-destructive outburst, she was thrown into the position and forced to adapt or get people killed. As far as competency goes, she doesn’t do too horribly. As far as fair treatment from the writers? Not the same story. Denise suffers from the writers thinking they could handle two sets of gay characters. Aaron and his husband were established before Rick’s people got to town, leaving the romantic bits between the men sparse, without the passion from new lovers and rife with awkward moments where the writers flounder finding reasons for them to touch without it being “too much” for a predominately straight target audience. Conversely, Denise and Tara form a bond over their awkwardness within the show’s action. It morphs into a relationship which could have been refreshing, but never gets any time to develop—like the writers thought its mere existence was enough to convince viewers they were being inclusive and sensitive to gay viewers. It leaves us forced to believe two women in love can’t find enough time to be in a relationship, or even touch each other, if there’s anything else going on in their lives. Denise is another victim of the writer’s half-handed attempt to do something different, but when it proved too tricky (damn being sensitive to an already media-tormented people) they put her in Daryl’s story line to kill her. Sigh.
Not to fear, Merritt Wever isn’t gone from the airwaves for long. She’s laid low since saying goodbye to Denise in such a violent way, but is set to make a splash in her next project. Mever will appear as Mary Agnes in Netflix’s upcoming six-episode series Godless. The show is set in the American West during the 1880s, where a couple of warring outlaws find themselves in La Belle, New Mexico—a town completely devoid of men.
Hearts Still Beating: Review for The Walking Dead 708 by R.C. Murphy
Watch out, there! Episode spoilers lurk in this review.
It took seven additional episodes for Rick to realize a woman was right. Not only that, Michonne has echoed the sentiment the entire time, only backing down when he’d momentarily convinced her things would work out. Rick is surrounded by women telling him to stop being a door mat. Does he listen? Nope. Not until several other people kick the bucket and Negan gets the chance to show off for the people who didn’t witness the murders Rick obviously failed to explain in great detail. Are the writers intentionally adding misogyny to Rick’s bag of tricks? Why take seven episodes to do the only thing which makes sense, unless it’s to prove Rick can think for himself without some chick butting in? Maggie calls for war and she’s too emotional to make a rational decision. Rick has two friggen corpses right outside his house and when he jumps to, “We have to declare war,” it’s completely natural to believe he’s in his right mind. Because men handle death better. Because Maggie’s marriage deemed her an emotional risk. Because the writers have no clue how to actually cobble together an interesting war story which doesn’t revolve around men with guns at the helm. I called it weeks ago; Maggie should be the general in this army. Rick is so wishy-washy, he sparkles. That is not who you want leading the charge against Negan.
Everyone on a suicide mission, please stand up. Whoa. That’s a lot of ill-advised—nah, you know what? It’s dumb. It’s idiotic to have half the main fighting force split and scamper off like little mercenary rats. Defying the odds, they all head in different directions, but still manage to find what they want. Carl didn’t want to be marched home by his shirt collar, that’s for sure. But he still got a couple shots off in Negan’s presence, and let’s not forget the man himself admitted to being afraid of Carl’s particular brand of crazy. Rosita got the easiest commute when Negan happened to show up just as she’s obtained her precious bullet. And, as predicted, she throws away her shot. Well, unless you count Lucille’s non-fatal wound. On top of blowing her chance to kill Negan, Rosita more or less hands Eugene to the Saviors—a new bullet-making toy Negan happens to find on the road—and Olivia’s skull is ventilated by Arat during the search for the bullet-maker. The “Let’s Kill Negan” chemical isn’t just in the water in Alexandria.
Richard interrupts a short catch-up chat between Morgan and Carol, petitioning her to appeal to Ezekiel about going to war—though it took him ten minutes to get to the point. Carol’s reaction is exactly what we expect; she’s out of the war game and just wants to be left alone to read on the couch. Morgan isn’t all-aboard the war train, either. Richard won’t let the idea go, and with how the episode ends, he’ll get his war soon enough. Michonne is the only one to leave on a suicide mission and come back without taking a shot at her target, because she chose not to endanger herself or her people by foolishly attacking an armed body large enough to steal the stubborn from her spine. The only action Michonne sees after kidnapping the Savior, Isabelle, is when the woman instructs her on the best method of survival—shoot Isabelle, take the truck, go home, and hide the truck so well no Savior ever finds their missing property and comes for answers.
On the other side of the fence, there’s people like Gabriel, who just want to keep everyone alive and as happy as possible. We also have the token sympathizer, Spencer. It doesn’t take long for him to figure out the game, especially after the blonde Savior, Laura, all but shags him there by the truck for a job well done fetching supplies. With his newfound momentum, Spencer spruces up for a man-date with Negan, complete with a bottle of whiskey in tow. The pair hit it off so well, they opt to play a game of pool out in the gorgeous weather. The town gathers to watch, and it does not a thing to still Spencer’s tongue. What’s galling is the writers failing to have anyone step up and tell Spencer to shut his entitled, bratty mouth. Yes, Negan shuts him up in his way, but there’s a couple dozen people standing around who know Rick can’t realistically be held accountable for the Monroe family’s deaths. It’s ludicrous to bring most of the cast in and use them as wallpaper for a scene we see coming fifteen minutes in advance. Mix it up a little. Want to show dissention in Rick’s ranks? Use the crowd in the scene, not as props. Let them speak for once. Why drag around the remaining handful of Alexandria characters and not use them? Looking back at seasons past, there’s only one or two people left from each main safe-haven Rick visited. Why? Because character development is a luxury one doesn’t possess when driven by a network to make everything bigger and better. More blood! More fighting! But, god, please no more getting to know the guy who lives three houses down from Rick. He might just have some insight, but we’ll never know because he could be replaced with a cardboard standee and it’d be just the same as it is now. Unless that guy goes batty and kills everyone, he’ll never get a chance to be more than a generic-named background noisemaker.
In the episode’s big moment, they brought everyone together in Alexandria to silently watch Spencer do the dumb thing and get dead. Surprise. Not. Snooze.
Pro tip, writers: Stop holding the dreaded relationship conversation right before you plan to kill a character. It gives the death away every single time.
Rick and Aaron bring supplies, but fail to remove a rude note from one tub. Aaron receives the punishment for such insolence while Rick wrings his hands. Who does that? Who finds an offensive note and thinks, “Let’s leave this here for the psychos to find.” The same guy who keeps racking up debt from an overlord because he can’t keep his people in line. We’ve known for years that Rick isn’t a leader. Spencer just went about trying to depose him the wrong way.
Michonne comes back to tell Rick they have to kill Negan. He has the gall to say he knows. See my first paragraph again if you need a refresher on, “The friggen man just can’t admit the women are right.” We end the episode in Hilltop with a lot of hugs. Why, though, is there two minutes of awkward reaction shots before they head inside? Why is Rosita with the war council when she screwed up so much? Do we care that Daryl and Jesus made it to Hilltop? Nah, I care more that Daryl bludgeoned Fat Joey for no real reason while pretending his decision to murder was better than any decision Joey would’ve made in his future—all a pretense to bring Daryl back to his more aggressive form, which won’t work when the character has no substance to work from.
They’re promising war when TWD returns in February. I’ll assume all the gut-wrenching moments the actors and producers warned us about are in the final episodes, because nothing I saw in these eight wowed me and made me think anyone in the TWD camp gave a crap about making a quality story.
Sing Me a Song: Review for The Walking Dead 707 by R.C. Murphy
Warning! This article contains episode spoilers.
Rest your worried minds, Daryl fans. You won’t need secret decoder rings for his new mute lifestyle. He’s not a poor, injured bird needing a helping hand. Contrary to just about every fan theory floating around after Negan’s big visit to Alexandria, Daryl’s tongue wasn’t cut out, nor were his lips somehow secretly sealed shut—guess y’all are so bored you’ve resorted to outlandish theories to pass the time like this is the Westworld fandom. The dude simply had the wherewithal to keep his trap shut while around people Negan would hurt in a blink if it guaranteed Daryl would finally fall in line. That good sense flew out the window once the guys reached home-sweet-home. One would think with Carl going all Rambo, Daryl would be extra mindful to provide an example in how not to get dead. Instead, he constantly oversteps his bounds—an intentional, ham-handed way to get Daryl alone in his time-out closet so someone can just hand him the key to freedom. Passive character is passive and only gets dragged along to boost viewer numbers.
The story is overly padded with side missions to find stuff or make stuff . . . and things. The Rick arc is pointless. Why do we need to follow he and Aaron on a fruitless—so far—supply run? Then we leave them without having any real conflict beyond, “Oh, there may be stuff in that boat in the zombie-pond.” Spencer accidentally scores a big hit after rifling through a dead guy’s pockets. Spencer could accidentally cure the dead and I wouldn’t care. His character isn’t. He’s Silly Putty, copying whatever’s around him, but half-assed and backwards. When Spencer does attempt to become a valuable part of society, he fails to support anything beyond his own interest in predictable ways. Rosita drags Eugene to the one place he doesn’t want to go—the warehouse with the makings for the now defunct bullet factory he and Abraham planned. After a lot of belittling, Eugene gives in and makes her precious bullet. At this point, any character out on a suicide mission should just get it over with. Oh, Michonne is already ahead of me, there. She’s following a trail straight to Negan, and opts to use a shortcut by abducting a Savior at sword-point. Jesus is with Carl up until he’s tricked into bailing from the truck, then he’s just gone. Whatever. There’s so many plates in the air, every single one will come crashing down in an incomprehensible mess instead of a cohesive mid-season finale.
The big story in the episode is Papa Negan’s reaction to Carl Jack-in-a-Boxing out of his truck with an automatic weapon in hand, killing a couple Saviors. Negan doesn’t snatch the whelp by his scruff and introduce his face to the pavement, though he has every right. Nor does he raise his voice to the kid, that’s saved for Daryl’s constant backseat nagging. Nah, Negan takes Carl inside, introduces him to the wives, orders snacks for them, and they sit to chat about Carl for just a little while. Keep in mind, Carl hasn’t really had a parent figure since season one. After Rick returned, Lori focused on her love triangle, leaving Carl to wander as he will. After Lori’s death, Rick dives into his plan to save humanity, leaving Carl to raise himself—and everyone else to raise Judith. Having a man sit and talk about him and not to him must’ve been weird. Not as weird as Negan’s obsession with Carl’s ragged eye socket. The talk buys time for the real show of power—where Negan provides the example Daryl wouldn’t, demonstrating what happens when rules are broken. The entire thing is orchestrated by Negan, down to Dwight—who’d met the iron after his insulin heist—passing the red-hot implement of justice to the bossman straight from the fire. I’ll tell you from experience, once you’ve had a severe burn over a large portion of skin, you’ll never forget the instant your nerves registered the pain.
Carl’s lack of enthusiasm, or fear, calls for drastic measures. No, Negan doesn’t reintroduce him to Lucille. They go on a little road trip, instead. For the second time, Negan rolls into Alexandria like he owns the place. Which, I guess he does. With Rick out doing next to nothing, Negan makes himself at home in his house, kicking back with Olivia and Carl. Making obscene comments. Ordering some really good lemonade. Oh, and he spends more time cooing at Judith, whom Carl attempts to hide, than Rick has done in ages. Rick is always just there with the kids. He doesn’t really react to them. He holds Judith, but always thinks of stuff ‘n’ things and stares in the distance. Carl could impregnate a horse at this point and Rick would wave it off.
We end with Negan threatening to kill and bury them in the garden before he moves in and takes over the little slice of heaven in Alexandria. Please do it. I’m tired of seeing everything from Rick’s point-of-view.