A New Beginning: Review for The Walking Dead 901

A New Beginning:
Review for The Walking Dead 901
by R.C. Murphy

You know the drill. There’s a ton of spoilers in this review, so proceed accordingly.

Despite the show being back on the air during its normal time frame, it feels like we were away from Rick and the gang for way too long. Or maybe it’s just that 2018 feels like 10 years packed in a single year’s box, held together with cheap packing tape. The Walking Dead gives fans a good way to vanish from the real world for a little while, as it always has. But did the production team manage to grab the waning attention of fans burnt out by the exhausting All Out War story line?

I’m honestly not sure this premiere is strong enough on its own to do that, and it’s a little worrying considering what all we know for sure is coming down the pipeline as far as actor departures from the show.

The bulk of this episode deals with an idea the producers introduced at SDCC this summer: Reclaiming old technology in order to ensure a future for their communities. In the opening montage, it’s clear that Sanctuary’s corn crop failed. The factory’s dirt is sour. All they can do with the produce is turn it into biofuel, and the yield isn’t nearly enough to keep everyone driving out to source supplies to fully replenish Negan’s former home sweet home nearly 2 years after the war ended. To speed up the process of healing the ground, they need a better, faster way to plow. There’s also a few other things they need, so everyone’s off to Washington D.C. to raid the Smithsonian. Makes perfect sense. How many scouting teams would’ve had the time or energy to take things like covered wagons before now? Aside from some minor walker damage, everything in the museum is intact.

The plan to get it all out, not so much.

This episode, like so many before it, is plagued with basic logic errors so great, one cannot help but yell at the television. There’s a vast difference in writing a tense scene in which a beloved character has a close call, and writing a series of foolish calls that are obviously wrong while still (still!) presenting the person giving the orders as the best possible leader for these people. This problem continues into the next set of problems while getting their loot home. How on earth did they create this relay network, yet when it comes to actually planning and executing what should be a moderately easy mission, they do things like fail to make sure all the bridges are secure? The latter oversight cost Ken his life. Always know your exits. It’s a basic lesson all women, police, and military learn.

Perhaps it’s because of all the bad calls that the power struggle is more pronounced this season. The first problem comes from everyone’s need to put an outside in charge of Sanctuary to keep the dissidents in line. Daryl wants out. Being in the building triggers his PTSD, but he stops just shy of admitting as much to Rick. Carol, however, hears and understands why Daryl needs to get away from there. Not sure she’s going to have much better luck, not with guys like Justin lurking on the fringes with his passive aggressive quips, and the constant reminders that someone in the community actively wants Negan back. The second problem comes to light curtesy of the unchecked, crumbling bridge. Turns out Hilltop has it good. Really good. They’re flush with people, produce, and ideas. And for this entire time, they’ve been loaning out supplies right and left to keep everyone afloat. Yet everyone defers to Rick. He gets the praise. Maggie, in a moment I wish to frame and mount on a wall, point-blank tells Rick that the power dynamic will change because she knows her worth, and that of the people under her care. Rick, to his credit, acknowledges it and doesn’t seem all that torn up to have a little pushback. The third problem is proof that Maggie needs the spine of steel we saw in her conversation with Rick because someone’s out for her head. I’ll give you one guess who it is. Gregory was never going to let the election results stand, and Maggie should have known he’d take a funeral as a chance to plot against her. In another show of power, Maggie hangs Gregory in the middle of town using one of the most painful methods ever. It’d take a brave fool to go toe to toe with her anytime soon.

A quick note to wrap up . . . . Can we have a spin-off romantic comedy with Carol and Ezekiel? Seriously, all I want is to see these two happily joking with each other until the end of time. No cameos. No walkers. Just a blissful couple in an empty world being adorable. It’s been a rough year. We deserve this one nice thing.


Walking Dead Stars to Visit PaleyFest NY

Walking Dead Stars to Visit PaleyFest NY
by R. C. Murphy

With the TWD premiere fast approaching, the cast and production team is in full promotional mode. The icing on the cake before this year’s season 9 premiere on Sunday, October 7th on AMC has to be TWD’s place amongst the handful of shows chosen to feature in this year’s two week celebration of the television format at PaleyFest NY.

On October 6th at 3 PM, The Walking Dead will hit the festival stage with stars Norman Reedus, Melissa McBride, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, and showrunner Angela Kang. Other guests may still be added to the lineup for the panel portion of the festivities. The panel will be moderated by EW‘s Dalton Ross. Fans in attendance will also be treated to an early premiere of the first episode from season 9.

As of this moment, the main theater for this TWD event is sold out. Don’t despair if you’re still planning to attend. PaleyFest does offer a significantly cheaper ticket to watch panels in an overflow theater with a video feed of the event.

This year’s PaleyFest NY lineup includes: Outlander, Drunk History, David Tennant, Documentary Now!, Sunday Morning, Murphy Brown, Shark Tank, The Good Fight, The Conners, and Top Chef. There is also a four-hour workshop on October 13th for festival attendees who wish to learn more and want to eventually work in television.

About PaleyFest:

Named for William S. Paley, founder of CBS and The Paley Center for Media, PaleyFest is a must-see pop cultural event produced by the Paley Center that brings fans together with the stars and creators of their favorite shows for panel discussions with audience Q&A. PaleyFest takes place both in LA & NY. The next PaleyFest LA takes place spring 2019.

PaleyFest NY 2018 runs from October 5th through the 18th.


Who’s the Boss?

Who’s the Boss?
by R.C. Murphy

Thanks to the stinger at the end of TWD’s season eight, fans knew going into season nine that there would be quite a bit of drama around how, exactly, this newfound peace will be lead and nurtured to last into future generations. In order to make it work, they brought Maggie to the forefront to take over as leader for Hillside. It’s the perfect arrangement, putting the farmer’s daughter in charge of the farming community, and Maggie has the backbone to see that her people not only pull their own weight, but are showed the respect they deserve. “But we’ll see that Maggie is just, you know, she’s not gonna just fall in line with everything Rick’s doing because she has to take care of her own people now. She’s got her own agendas and she’s gonna follow them,” showrunner Angela Kang explained during The Walking Dead Season Nine Preview Special.

Too bad Rick disregarded that respect when he alone made the decision to keep Negan imprisoned in Alexandria.

As seen in a recent teaser, Negan doesn’t plan to sit quietly in a corner to rot under Rick’s watchful eyes. His monologue is manifestation of the fear eating at Maggie since the second Rick gave Negan the role as prisoner of war. The guy will never lay down and stop plotting to save himself. Matter of fact, Rick, Maggie, and their folks built the exact thing Negan strived for—a cooperating network of communities with a constantly flowing supply chain. The main difference is, there’s no preferential treatment in this new society. No room to grow into a management position and lord over everyone. For Negan, that’s a flaw he’ll gladly fix once he finds a way out of Rick’s little prison.

Teaser:

It won’t be an easy fight if Negan does get out. Probably. Maybe. In a clip from one trailer, there’s a call for help from the Saviors, with a reply echoing the group’s standard response when asked who they were. So obviously someone out there is still feeling loyal. But are they enough to upset the applecart this far down the road thanks to the time jump? Hilltop looks pretty secure in the few glances we’ve gotten from the various trailers/teasers. If Alexandria got the same sort of treatment, it might be enough to hold Negan in and his still loyal followers out. But none of that matters if Negan works his magic from the inside, playing with people’s heads. Not to mention, Negan has the added bonus of looking for gaps in everyone’s armor while they deal with the Whisperers.

A little quick casting news, since we’re here discussing Hilltop anyway. The production team announced the addition of two new characters straight from the comics (with a few changes to fit the story). Joining the bustling community for season nine is Brett Butler as Tammy Rose, and John Finn has been cast as Earl, Hilltop’s blacksmith.

The Walking Dead returns to AMC on October 7th.


Fear the Walking Dead Crawls Back to AMC

Fear the Walking Dead Crawls Back to AMC
by R.C. Murphy

Over the course of the fourth season for Fear the Walking Dead, the production team flipped the show on its head. And the season isn’t even halfway finished. Gone is the linear timeline—with no promises from the showrunners to return to the storytelling style from before. Fans were treated to a whole new set of characters and their ever-evolving problems. A strong love story came in, highlighting the need for happiness in the show to keep it feeling fresh. Happiness that wasn’t yet another temporary, overly dramatic, possibly ill-considered relationship for Alicia. Then came the biggest turn in the show’s history: The family is no more. In order to move in a new direction, they cut most of the ties to the past via Madison doing what she did best, right to the very end. Not only was it a shock to the fans, but the cast, as well. Coleman Domingo spoke in an interview about the dual departures, going into how hard it was to lose coworkers who’d been there since day one. What did it take to translate that emotion to the screen? “It required intense amounts of grace, and patience, and frustration, and being honest about your feelings,” Domingo said.

I’ll be honest, I lost track of this show again, despite the appeal of Morgan’s crossover—the character is amazing and I kinda wanted to keep in touch with his story. When the Madison/Nick news dropped, I regretted lagging behind and seriously considered a quick season four catch-up. Other things the cast and production team said during their 2018 San Diego Comic-Con panel made it even more apparent that the deeply problematic show I left behind is not the show that’s on air now.

Not only that, much like the cast from the sister show, those who were onstage for the FtWD SDCC panel appeared happier. More relaxed. The jokes and banter were actually funny. At one point, everyone in the hall wished Alycia Debnam-Carey a happy birthday. More than the renewed joy, even the concepts they spoke about morphed from discussions which highlighted the cringe-worthy, racist nature of the previous seasons’ plots, to pointing out how the incoming storm teased in the trailer is, essentially, a visual representation of Alicia’s grief. It’s a massive difference and makes the show more inviting to new audiences.

And let’s not forget the drastic uptick in poo jokes thanks to Lennie James and the showrunners, Andrew Chambliss and Ian Goldberg. Believe it or not, it’s completely relevant to the show. Let’s just say they’re bringing in a whole new level of realism to Morgan’s story line and leave it at that.

The second half of season four will find Morgan struggling to figure out if he belongs with these people, or where he belongs if not with them. Alicia’s forced to mourn her family while enduring a storm chalk full of airborne undead. She’ll even have her own character-centric episode at last. Strand grasps for comforts from the days before hell came to Earth and seeks shelter in a mansion, complete with wine cellar. Everyone else from the stadium will use the remaining episodes to find their purpose and place in a world suddenly devoid of their leader. Chambliss told Syfy Wire, “The back half of this season has all of our characters asking themselves . . . ‘What do we do to move forward? Who are we to each other? How can we come back from all these really dark things we did?’ We really view this as an ensemble show, and we’re going to be telling stories throughout the back half of the season that will focus on different characters grappling with those existential questions in different ways.”

On top of the already introduced new characters for season four like Jenna Elfman’s multiple-named character, Maggie Grace’s Althea, and Garret Dillahunt’s John Dorie, there are even more new faces coming onboard to flesh out the ensemble. Aaron Stanford, who just wrapped the astounding Syfy series 12 Monkeys, makes his way over to FtWD for even more genre weirdness. Parks and Recreation‘s Mo Collins has the potential to bring a whole new vibe to the cast with her vast comedic career. Tonya Pinkins, who played Ethel Peabody on Gotham, is also slated to make her appearance soon. Daryl Mitchell, better known for his comedic roles in Galaxy Quest and 10 Things I Hate About You, will bring something different to the franchise—a disabled character played by a disabled actor. It’s about dang time the genre got better about disabled representation, and Mitchell’s on-screen energy makes the casting choice just that much better. Stephen Henderson (Fences) rounds out the new FtWD cast that’s been announced so far. It’s an insanely talented group coming onto the show at a time when everything is in flux.

Oh. Oh, man. So this is what it’s like to be actually excited about the show again. Never thought that sensation would ever return.

Speaking of returns, Fear the Walking Dead returned to AMC on August 12th, so there’s no need to wait any longer. Jump into season four. Go ahead. I think it might actually be worth the time.


TWD Lovefest at SDCC 2018

TWD Lovefest at SDCC 2018
by R.C. Murphy

The summer of 2018 has been quite transformative for the cast and crew for AMC’s smash hit series The Walking Dead. Right off the bat during the San Diego Comic-Con panel we know something’s changed. There’s a serious difference in the energy onstage. It’s not just Yvette Nicole Brown’s infectious enthusiasm, either. For heaven’s sake, even Andrew Lincoln has an earnest smile on his face throughout the entire thing instead of just looking as tired as he should be after filming. Let’s be honest, working on the show is hard. We’ve all heard the stories about the heat and ticks. Usually everyone’s rough around the edges and thankful they’re in an air-conditioned building. Not this year. This year they vibrated with excitement. Too much excitement, sometimes. New showrunner Angela Kang let fly an f-bomb during a mutual respect fest with Jeffrey Dean Morgan at one point. Most everyone took a minute to sing Kang’s praises, in return. This was a level of affection between the production team and the cast we’ve yet to see, honestly. Even amongst the production team, too!

Promoting Kang seems to be the Thing. That Thing some fans have waited for to turn the tide. Dare we hope things are actually changing for the better? Keep in mind, Kang is responsible for the heart-wrenching episode where the gang says goodbye to Dale. You know, the one with that amazing speech? Including this too-fitting gem: “If we do this, we’re saying there is no hope. Rule of law is dead. There is no civilization.” Color me a little excited to see a return to that style of drama on the show.

The SDCC panelists for 2018 were: Angela Kang, Scott Gimple, Robert Kirkman, David Alpert, Greg Nicotero, Gale Anne Hurd, Andrew Lincoln, Danai Gurira, Lauren Cohan, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, and Norman Reedus.

Right off the bat, after everyone settled down, Kang confirmed that the long-awaited time-jump will happen leading into season nine. Maggie has the baby at last! Thus endeth the longest pregnancy on cable television. Kang alluded to the survivors building on the hope seeded in season eight, while simultaneously watching the infrastructure from the old world crumble around them to return to nature’s rule. Nicotero later expanded on this idea by pointing out how far-outdated (he says “ancient”) technology will have more value for the survivors than, for instance, guns with their finite amount of ammunition and supplies to continue making it. So they knock off a few museums and make off with the covered wagons, who cares? Now they’ve got the means to move without scrounging for fuel that isn’t there anymore. But all that forward progress has other kinds of consequences, as Gurira pointed out. Some people will want to do things their own way. We saw a group at the end of season eight who were very much not onboard with Rick’s “kill them with kindness” plan. That distrust doesn’t just vanish. Cohan talked super vaguely about how Maggie will deal with Negan’s continued survival in this better world she’s helping build—basically, she will deal with it, so just wait and see.

As Lincoln pointed out, there was a rather large elephant on the stage with them. For weeks the rumor mill churned out talk of his departure from TWD. Kirkman accidentally spilled the beans on the reality of the exit in his own panel before the TWD one in Hall H, so all Lincoln had to do was try not to cry while confirming his exit. He went on to pour his heart out, sharing the devotion he’s felt from the cast/crew and fans for the last decade. In an aside, he pointed out that his two of his all-time favorite episodes are coming up in season nine. Wonder if it’ll be easy to spot them. He later called the upcoming season, “Cowboys and zombies.” Which is more in-line with where some thought the show would go than where it ended up during “All Out War.”

Expect some new settings in the new season, specifically D.C. (at last!). Other new things include new styles of undead, according to Nicotero. Kirkman teased a “whispering zombie”, as seen in the trailer. There’s some new animals on the show, namely horses, which forced the production team to relearn the meaning of patient, it seems. Lastly, there’s a handful of new cast members joining the gang. Zack McGowan will play a Savior. Dan Fogler will be Luke. Samantha Morton was announced a little later as Alpha, the leader of—well, look at that—the Whisperers. Guess that explains the talking supposedly-dead person. There will be more cast announcements soon, no doubt.

The main panel portion rounded out with some funny stories from the cast. Gurira and Lincoln ribbed each other about their horse riding skills. Reedus gushed, yet again, about the forbidden wheelie he popped during filming while Lincoln clung to the back of the seat valiantly delivering his lines. There was even a prank war update, complete with a heated discussion as to the validity of Lincoln’s latest volley in the long-standing battle of wits. Brown passed question duty off to the fans for about nine minutes to end the panel.

The Walking Dead returns to AMC on October 7th. There is a season nine preview special, hosted by Brown, on Sunday, August 5th at 9 PM.

Season nine’s trailer:


Wrath: Review for The Walking Dead 816

Wrath:
Review for The Walking Dead 816
by R.C. Murphy

Watch out! This review contains episode spoilers.

Try as they might, all the flashbacks and slo-mo close-ups in the world can’t bring my heart in line with how it should feel after watching this long-anticipated finale. The outcome, while favorable for the survivors we’ve traveled alongside for eight seasons, is dust on one’s palate; it just doesn’t satisfy. In an episode where they end a several-year story line, one would expect a little more substance. Even the flashy parts are lackluster recreations of past season’s greatest hits. How many shoot-outs have we seen with these groups? How many bullhorn monologues? How many times has an underdog person or group come out of the woodwork to save Rick at the last minute? We’ve seen so many variations of someone else saving Rick that when he’s supposed to protect everyone from his war, it’s still everyone else who does the hard work to neutralize the bulk of the threat, but he still claims the victory and dictates the terms.

Rick makes one cut, then calls himself sheriff in a land freed from its tyrant.

It takes a slap-dash army to topple the biggest threat in town, that’s for sure. Hilltop’s remaining fighters follow the trail Negan left for them, even while believing they’d outsmarted the ol’ fox. The usual suspects are in the militia, save the recovering ex-Saviors who are told to stay behind with the kind of empathy extended to dog poo on one’s flip-flop. Why the cold shoulder? Well, it starts with Morgan flipping out while they’re doing walker-centric chores outside the fence, and ends with Maggie still seeing Alden and his compatriots as fingers on Negan’s tyrannical fist. Is it a great idea to leave so many able-bodied and motivated men out of the fight? Nope. It doesn’t matter, though, because someone else arrives to lend helping hands. Though why anyone thought traveling so far from home to pick a fight with two pistols, Molotov cocktails, and hand-to-hand weapons is a good idea is beyond me. Oceanside has nothing to prove or sacrifice for anyone. They’re not even the saviors Aaron claimed they could be here because someone else swoops that spotlight right off of them, if we’re judging on the level of actual help rendered.

I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but . . . Eugene comes out looking like a diamond by the end of a season in which he actively helps Negan slaughter the people who kept him alive despite every selfish thing he did before defecting. Just when we thought Eugene and Gabriel were throw-away characters after they finished the bullets, the writers rouse them from mid-story mire to inspire yet another of their Oh So Smart Plot Twists. I mean, as far as twists go, it surprises the heck out of me to even consider Eugene lashing out against his new meal ticket, let alone to go back to a community in which there’s not one person who can look him in the eye without remembering a loved one they lost due in part to his actions. And let’s get this out now, I in no way trust Eugene. He succumbs to pressure too easily. It’s a liability. Sabotaging one fight in the name of the perceived good isn’t rehab enough for the broken relationships left in Eugene’s wake. What future does he have in a community where no one trusts him beyond the raw knowledge he has in his head? When he’s not given a hero’s welcome, will Eugene still offer his help to rebuild the communities ravaged by the war?

So what happens to the Saviors with a wounded Negan in custody care of sheriff Grimes for the indefinite future? Nothing. Nothing! Tra, la, la. Rick, finally listening to his son’s final wishes now that even Morgan says he’s lost too much to continue on, makes this speech about how they’re all free now, but those who cling to the war-mongering way of life are warned to kiss the idea goodbye. Which is, ya know, hilarious considering every time Rick encounters a new community, he meets them with barely concealed hostility. True to his word though, Rick sends helpers to Sanctuary to repair damages, and in return they send food for everyone else. Even the remaining Scavenger gets an invitation to join resources with this new collation, though Jadis is scrapping her artistic moniker for her given name, Anne.

All’s well in the neighborho . . . or not. There’s a group within Rick’s party who harbor deep resentment over Negan’s survival. They even tie Michonne to this mess as a conspirator since she obviously is okay with this lifetime imprisonment plan. Maggie is a reasonable person, except when it comes to this one thing. Negan’s demise, to her, is worth upending the fragile peace forged on the final battlefield. The upcoming mutiny isn’t their largest concern, though. Walker numbers are on the rise. A massive herd lurks too close for comfort. Can they use their combined resources and the building plans gifted to Maggie to fortify all the communities against the threat that never really dies?

The episode wraps by leading into Morgan’s transition to Fear the Walking Dead, which I tried to watch. Only, the video feed to constantly died and I took it as a sign to move on, just like Morgan is moving on after giving us so many wonderfully weird and powerful moments in TWD season eight.


Worth: Review for The Walking Dead episode 815

Worth:
Review for The Walking Dead episode 815
by R.C. Murphy

Danger zone! I mean, uh . . . spoiler zone, beware!

The Saviors take a break from war to scrub the refuse from their ranks. The level of manipulation in this episode reaffirms how damn good Negan is as a character. But why did we have to wait this long to get into the intriguing bits of his personality? This entire season takes place in such a truncated timeframe, what feels like years to us is nothing for them and it’s just not working anymore when it comes to character development. The production cannot save the pacing with one solid episode here and there, but I’ll take what they’re offering simply because these actors are giving their all every day on set. It’s just a shame the writing isn’t reflective of what we know the actors can do. We should’ve already seen this side of Negan. JDM keeps alluding to it, doing his best to BE Negan around all this macho, chest-pounding, ridiculous fallout from the Sanctuary attack. It’s not until he confronts Simon that I feel we’ve met the real Negan. He plays his opponent like a fiddle, getting whatever information he wants from the wannabe leader in order to flush out every single backstabber lurking in the shadows. When Rick tries to get rid of his detractors, it creates hell for everyone around him. Negan does the same with cold efficiency and only the people he feels need killing wind up dead. Weird how that happens. It’s like he knows how to lead a group. Not that I condone murder, but this is the fictional apocalypse and Negan’s got the loyalist, healthiest crew in the region shown on-screen now that Rick ruined The Kingdom and Alexandria, on top of Gregory abandoning Hilltop to chase promises for his own safety over his peoples’ future.

Tension is a whole distinct character in the Savior scenes. Negan’s carefully considered course of action to reaffirm his place at the top seems so clear-cut. Seems being the key word. Dwight thinks he’s mostly in the clear, as long as he’s careful not to get wound up in Simon’s scheme. Which is, quite frankly, impossible because Simon needs his fellow leaders to back his play before someone else steps up to challenge him. At no point does Simon consider Negan’s actual fate. The look on his face when Negan pops up is worth every second watching Simon slime his way to the top. He wants to be the boss? First he’s gotta beat the boss. These post-surprise scenes are some of few in eight seasons to make me lean forward, eager for the outcome. Then comes the actual twist, putting Dwight right where he doesn’t want to be—exposed as a traitor and spoon-fed information to harm his new pals at Hilltop. Negan’s mysterious hitchhiker is Laura, the sole survivor from Dwight’s betrayal outside Alexandria. Let me tell you, her joy in exposing Dwight should be bottled and sold. Whatever comes from Dwight handing over the intentionally false map, Laura will be first in line to celebrate. Conversely, Gregory’s regret over helping Dwight may be the only mood bigger than Laura’s rabid revenge, seeing as he’s back in the prison cell at Hilltop after delivering the map.

At the end of a long day the last thing Negan wants is anyone from the opposition contacting him out of the blue. Driven by Carl’s memory, Michonne does just that and risks reading his letter to Negan over the radio. Boy is it the wrong day to approach the man. Dude snaps. He lays the end out for her nice and clear; the only way out of this is through mass casualties on Hilltop’s behalf. The Saviors didn’t pick this costly fight, but they’ll end it. Negan’s done throwing away resources butting heads with Rick.

In order to fight, the Saviors will need way more ammunition. The folks at Eugene’s outpost can only move so fast, but it’s not good enough for their boss. Let me just pause right her to say, we need to petition the showrunners so they’ll never, ever, ever show Eugene eating on-screen again. Back to matters at hand. Eugene’s workers trudge along despite the nasty food and shoddy pep talk. Even Gabriel is roped back into the production line. Things look bright for Hilltop for a while when Rosita and Daryl manage to kidnap Eugene with little incident. That is until Eugene straight up pukes on Rosita and runs. If I didn’t dislike this character before, I certainly do now. Disgusting little snake hides and just returns to his outpost like he isn’t covered in ash and God knows what.

Aaron’s self destructive streak reaches new lows as he slowly starves to death outside Oceanside. No one extends a helping hand to the outsider. When walkers find him, he’s too weak to fight them all off. But the gall of this guy comes when he passes out, wakes to his rescuers’ faces, then lays into them about avoiding the war. To cap it off, he blames them for Natania’s death. They should’ve smacked him good. I’ve heard some bull on this show, but lecturing a bunch of traumatized women for avoiding a war none of them should be involved in really takes the cake. Why must these women in particular come in to mop up Rick and Negan’s mess? Leave them alone. They’ve lost too much already.

It’s finale time. Wonder how much of this wreckage they can fix in order to transition smoothly into season nine. Probably not enough.


Still Gotta Mean Something: Review for The Walking Dead 814

Still Gotta Mean Something:
Review for The Walking Dead 814
by R.C. Murphy

Watch out! This review has episode spoilers.

Something weird is going on back at the Scavengers’ scrap heap. I’m not talking about Jadis’ adorable pod home, which is so at odds with the persona she presents the world, the change is mindboggling. No, what has me scratching my head is A) the Tetris piece walker on a cart, and B) why hasn’t anyone addressed this friggen helicopter thing yet? Negan’s in the same confused boots, but far worse circumstances seeing as he’s lashed to a cart of his own. These scenes are great pace changers, with a few awkward timing bits like when Jadis shuts Negan up with Lucille, only to draw short and stand there for a few beats. It didn’t feel threatening, but that’s an example of how editing can change a scene. A tighter cut would’ve made her threat jarring. In typical style, Negan talks his way free without unnecessary bloodshed. We get a glimpse of a gentler side to the man behind the bat, and insight into how well Jadis adapts to life without her chosen family. It’s no big surprise to see that she’s barely holding in there after her plan to flag down the helicopter fails.

The theme for this episode is the survivors doing whatever it takes to save each other from their traumas. Michonne lives her life in memory of the kindness Andrea payed her by saving her from isolation in the wild while literally dragging her emotional baggage around. Carl’s letters are all about using his end-of-life insights to inspire the people he loves and respects to save each other. Carol goes the extra mile to save the last people she’s allowed into her heart, reflective of how hard Morgan and Ezekiel worked to bring her back from the brink a few times. Even Jared fights to save his guys by being brutally honest about the best method to get in good with the Saviors again. On the flipside, Rick uses the promise of salvation to sway the Saviors hiding with Jared into trusting them after the roadhouse is surrounded by walkers. Morgan’s only promise is death. Dude drops a great speech about the incoming herd—it’s no wonder the others turn on Jared later. Because they have no guilt when it comes to killing perceived threats, it takes one second for Rick and Morgan to turn on the men who cut them free. They mow through the Saviors while taking out the undead. Jared’s death gag is slow, full of shrieking. The production sets a higher and higher bar for Morgan’s kills. Utilizing the dead to his advantage leads to an agonizing demise for his enemy, different from the quick deaths from a gun or staff.

Joshua Mikel as Jared, Lennie James as Morgan Jones – The Walking Dead _ Season 8, Episode 14 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

Morgan’s trip into the woods began far differently. After passing up Ezekiel’s offer to join him on a search for Henry, Carol instead pairs up with Morgan for the rescue mission. Her motivation is purely in the interest of keeping her friend alive given his alarming outbursts of late and propensity to devolve into rambling. Also, the whole he sees dead people thing is concerning. Morgan isn’t a medium, folks. These are hallucinations, as proven by Henry’s fate at the episode’s end. Even if he understands that truth, Morgan doesn’t see a different path ahead. There’s nothing but death to his left and right, yet it doesn’t touch him so he just keeps going, listening to the visions which nag him to Do The Right Thing. This may be the last time Carol tries to reach out to her friend. They part ways on the road between Hilltop and Sanctuary. Morgan’s need to put down the dangerous men he didn’t kill way back when he first had the chance overrides his desire to save Henry. Once Carol has any sign to track the kid, her priority flips. The mission is a success all around, with Henry safe and the escapee Saviors taken out of the war, but we’re seeing the end of an era with the probable dissolution of the Carol/Morgan friendship.

Side note, did anyone feel a little déjà vu? When Carol finally hears Henry and tracks him to a cave in a creek bed, it felt eerily similar to a scene from when the gang were looking for Sophia. Can’t remember exactly which, though. It’s just a weird sense that they’re been there before.

Looks like Tara’s finally ready to forgive and move on with her life. Daryl, not so much. He’s not buying the idea that Dwight’s shot was intentional to keep her from being infected by someone else. But seeing as he can’t get to the guy he wants to take out, Daryl finds another way to keep himself occupied. Rosita has an epiphany which may be the turning point in the war and takes the idea to Daryl. If they can cut off the Savior’s ammunition supply, they can cut the legs from under the giant with minimal work. All they gotta do is capture the man with the plan, Eugene. Rosita and Daryl find Eugene’s outpost and make a quick plan. She’s itching to get back at the guy for jumping sides. Eugene’s in so much trouble.

There’s many, many questions in the air as the season wraps up. Who does Negan pick up on his ride back home? How can Hilltop sustain a war with their meager supplies and three combined communities? Which problem will implode first, Rick’s constant warmongering or Simon’s bid to dethrone Negan? What will be the straw to break the camel’s back when it comes to Morgan’s mental state? We have much to learn, but we have no time. Expect some cliffhangers, that’s for sure.


Do Not Send Us Astray: Review for The Walking Dead 813

Do Not Send Us Astray:
Review for The Walking Dead 813
by R.C. Murphy

Watch out for those episode spoilers waiting to ambush you.

Well, this episode certainly has a different tone than anything we’ve seen this season. It’s almost like they remembered that the genre is more than a bunch of angry men hitting each other. Sure, there’s a long firefight in the middle, but bookending it are a good ol ghost story and a little love note to low budget zombie flicks.

Hilltop is more than prepared for the Saviors when they finally roll in after dark. Maggie’s focus isn’t on the gift Georgie gave them. She admits after that her plan is to lure the Saviors into Hilltop so Negan dies where Glenn rests eternally. Which, you know, I get to a point. What puts her on a different level is Maggie, unlike Rick, looks at that same graveyard after the fight and knows she caused those losses. Dianne positions herself at Maggie’s side quite often, first providing encouragement, then as a source for us to check into Maggie’s emotions at the episode’s end. “What is it,” Dianne asks at the graveyard. “The cost,” Maggie replies. The price for this war is getting too high for her conscious. This last move, pushed by desperate fear on her and Rick’s behalf, has taken everything from their people. Alexandria and the Kingdom are lost. Hilltop’s remaining gardens can’t produce enough food and their stores went to the Saviors as payment. The populations of the communities combined have been wiped out, with countless more passing in this episode alone. Will this be the straw to break the alliance’s back? She may be new to the job, but Maggie doesn’t seem like the type to put her people through that kind of horror again.

The fight itself perfectly illustrates why Simon is a crap leader who’ll send his people straight to their deaths. Not only has he failed to send a scout ahead to check for traps on the road, which they then drive over, but Simon follows right along with the plan set to trap them by chasing Daryl through the gate into the first ambush. He does it again when Maggie signals for the lights to be doused and smoke bombs set off. Sure, he divides up his forces, but the bulk of the Saviors are front and center for the second surprise attack from the main house’s windows. If they followed Negan’s plan, attacking with bows from outside to wound as many as possible and picking off what they could with other gore-coated weapons, the Saviors would’ve lost half a dozen men maximum. Simon can’t even claim a win here at all. It’s not his part of the Savior’s fight which yields a higher body count. Negan’s bio warfare tactic claims far more Hilltop citizens while everyone’s sleeping. He may be the bad guy, but you gotta admire his problem-solving abilities, which are so great, he doesn’t have to be within ten miles for a plan to go right.

There’s a whole lotta weird going on in Morgan’s head. I . . . I kind of like it. The flashbacks and such were getting tired, but this new approach to Morgan’s mental illness is top notch horror fuel. Ghost Gavin won’t stop badgering the guy. He’s always there, beside Morgan, ragging on him about something which is never given a name, really. I assume this is Morgan’s mind telling him he should’ve been the one to kill Gavin in the most spectacularly screwed up way imaginable. How long until others notice Morgan’s talking to the air? How can he convince his subconscious that there’s no way to re-kill a guy? This is a great twist to this character. And of course it’s coming about the time he’s jumping shows so I’ll either be forced to watch FtWD or wave goodbye to all this character development. Not today, Satan. I’ll just enjoy the time I’ve got left with Morgan and his bloody Jiminy Cricket.

The other side of Morgan’s story is where his influence has led Henry after his brother’s death. This kid’s determined to bloody his hands via vengeance. First he goes after Ezekiel and Carol for refusing to arm him to fight in the main battle. Later, the kid steals the prison cell key, takes a military grade rifle, and casually threatens a group of men like a good little terrorist in the making. This is why we must teach men that “eye for an eye” thinking will only lead to bloodshed. Justice is not a mirror to reflect the offender’s pain back onto them. That’s not how humanity as a whole decided to handle the people who are too dangerous to remain amongst us. Not only will Henry grow into the very type of man he’s trying to kill, but he’s unleashed those men back into the world when Maggie had them safely sequestered where they couldn’t cause harm. Someone get this kid in-hand, already. He’s not Carl. This isn’t even a good attempt to set up a child character with the same mentality. It’s just tossing angry male patterns into the wind, hoping it works because otherwise they’ve lost their young white man representation on a show dominated by the dumb decisions made by middle-aged white men. How will the white guys find themselves in this show without someone young and angry at everything? Yes, that’s sarcasm. It’s also to illustrate that we don’t need every stereotype on-screen in every show. The writers are blatantly writing Henry to be the new Carl in ways which will never work. All these years listening to how fans treated that character, yet none of it reflects in Henry’s story line.

Jason Douglas as Tobin, Melissa McBride as Carol Peletier – The Walking Dead _ Season 8, Episode 13 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

That final action sequence with Tobin and the others injured in the fight turning walker is aces. Some of the tensest zombie action we’ve had on the show in a while. Honestly, I’m shocked Tobin is the one to go in this episode. He’s been that one person I look for in the crowd to see whether or not Alexandria is present in certain scenes. For as little as they used him, Tobin being a constant for the Alexandrian people was reassuring. As long as he makes it, this won’t be another prison or Woodbury situation. And then he doesn’t make it. Worse yet, he turns on the people he protected. I didn’t think losing this one guy would hit so hard, but the more I think about how much I assumed he’d survive, the more my brain wants to reject reality. Carol’s reaction to Tobin’s demise is probably what pushes it over the edge. She’s genuinely gutted to see him turn. Melissa McBride yet again acts her backside off to really drag those emotions from the fans.

Will Maggie allow her people to continue this fight after she’s seen the cost? Rick will not give up until Negan’s dead, and Maggie wants that as well, but this isn’t justice anymore. Hilltop realizes that now. Can they back out of the war when they’ve become home base for an army?


The Key: Review for The Walking Dead 812

The Key:
Review for The Walking Dead 812
By R.C. Murphy

Warning, this review contains episode spoilers.

If I knew anyone as destructively stubborn as Rick during the apocalypse, I would’ve chained him to a house long ago for everyone’s good. It’s utterly ridiculous for this unhinged character to claim to lead anyone, let alone for his people to still treat him as the person who has their future in mind. Of all the community leaders, Rick’s focus is the narrowest, not moving beyond neutralizing a threat he provoked. Instead of moving on when the threat presented itself, he fought. Instead of treating Negan as an equal and negotiating, he took it as a personal affront that anyone would step in to interfere with how his people live. And now, with his son’s dying wish for peace ringing in his ears, Rick’s only focus is killing Negan. Like that’ll solve every problem he brought with him to Alexandria. Negan isn’t the most destructive force in this universe, Rick’s fear has a far higher body count. He took a community on the cutting edge, months from reclaiming modern technology on a mass scale, and turned it into smoldering ruins.

That’s the purpose of “The Key” as an episode, to fully illustrate how far this slice of humanity has fallen under Rick’s umbrella. While the men butt heads to see who’ll come out as the Supreme Leader, a group of women participate in a negotiation which will be the sole reason any of these people live to see another generation through adolescence. Not only are the women leaps and bounds ahead of the men as far as future preparations go, but they master the art of compromise with minimal shouting and only one daft, fear-driven, outburst. The initial meeting with Georgie, plus her associates Hilda and Midge, isn’t the best first impression because Maggie reacts to the offer to barter like Rick reacts to anyone presenting themselves as possessing a better plan for the future—everyone’s armed, on edge, waiting for the other shoe to drop without actually hearing the words coming from the other party. When Michonne puts the brakes on back at Hilltop, remembering what Carl asked of them, that’s when reason wins the day. The future must have a position at the council table, otherwise what are they fighting to protect? Are the people they’ve lost along the way not worth building something more than a temporary encampment from which one fights day in and day out? If they continue down this path, the future leads toward Mad Max territory, and that’s just not what some of these people want. So they’ll fight their own way. It’s about time. Maggie ends the episode radiating hope. That’s what Rick dropped down the road, along with a heap of the integrity which made him a compelling leader at the beginning. Without any hope, his people trudge to the next catastrophe, mentally saying their goodbyes because Rick’s plan has claimed too many lives to count at this point—starting at the quarry and up to now where we’ve got just three characters left from season one. With Georgie’s help, Maggie may just be able to salvage the three communities this mad warmongering tore apart. It’s nice to see hope return to this show. Refreshing, even.

Hilltop better use their time wisely; a hearty dose of hope won’t stop the incoming Saviors. Negan’s forces do, however, have to deal with a slight delay, first.

Wound like a top shot off a drill, Rick can’t stay at Hilltop after he arrives and inserts himself into the perimeter patrol in a nearby town. He’s the first to spot the Saviors on the move, yet holds off alerting the others to chase Negan. Of course he does! I’ve got to give it to them, though, it’s a fun sequence altogether. And a bit ridiculous. Rick’s just gonna Rick no matter what at this point and all that’s left is enjoying the weird trouble he gets himself into every episode. The car chase sets up the unhinged action once the guys get to the basement scene rather nicely. I’m not sure I’d believe Rick would fight a guy in the middle of a flaming walker horde without him first chasing the guy down like he’s back in his sheriff’s uniform. His mindset is right there in his eyes in the close-ups during the chase. If Negan saw Rick’s face then, he wouldn’t have goaded him once they got inside the building. Dude’s dropped all his marbles and everyone else trips over them, yet again.

Despite the sheer amount of WTF on Rick’s part, the flaming zombie gag is solid. Negan’s reactions say everything. He knew the guy wasn’t all there, now he sees firsthand how dangerous Rick is when he feels he has nothing to lose. Oh, he has things to lose. As I said before though, he’s so narrowminded, he’s not really thinking about Michonne, Judith, or the civilians caught in future crossfire. How does this show decide to illustrate such character depth? By lighting Lucille and some walkers on fire, then having Rick and Negan fight around them. Only this show could make its fan base believe the main character would be so willfully self-destructive yet somehow both men survive.

Negan’s survival spells trouble for a certain lieutenant with the gift of gab. Simon wastes no time campaigning for himself once the Saviors roll out of Sanctuary toward Hilltop. When Rick takes Negan out of the caravan, Simon is slow to respond, hides several smirks. The entire time, Simon jaws at Dwight, working him toward his side, a side where the Saviors just move on. Move on is slang for kill them all and find new people to harass, by the way. Dwight’s slow to the new lingo, having been with the Alexandrians for a little while. It’s not until they meet with the Saviors post helping Simon cover Negan’s tracks after he disappears from the car wreck that he realizes, this guy does not have the same agenda as I. Well, you think? Simon’s days are numbered, but that number is indefinite since Negan’s sitting in the front seat of Jadis’ car with a gun to his head.