Time for After: Review for The Walking Dead 807

Time for After:
Review for The Walking Dead 807
By R.C. Murphy

From the looks of it, sense and reason has abandoned everyone during this mad rush to rid the world of Negan. Rick allocated most of his town’s resources for the fighters, sparing precious few capable people to guard their children and pacifists while he fails to negotiate with the Scavengers. The Kingdom will need generations to recover from their massive losses on the battlefield. Hilltop is a powder keg with a couple dozen torches crammed in a cage just inside their fence. Daryl’s leading an off-mission strike force straight into the heart of Savior territory. So far the only one to speak a word of sense is Rosita. It took watching Sasha lurch out of a coffin and her own near-fatal injury for Alexandria’s wild woman to learn a little caution. For Rick, there will never be enough cautionary moments like that. He’s wired to take control no matter what life throws his way. At some point, dumb luck will run out. With the Saviors one step closer to freedom, that point could be now.

But first he’s gotta get out of that shipping container.

Jadis has a simple plan to rid herself of this roach who insists her people must join the fight: kill him with a walker and celebrate the death with a sculpture. I guess it makes sense in her head. As per usual, when Rick’s pitted against the undead, he comes out on top. The armored walker becomes his primary weapon against Jadis and her guards. They fight over Jadis’ gun, but Rick gets the upper hand, pinning the leader’s face in the dirt perilously close to the snapping walker head. Truce time. The pair talk terms, with Rick coming out on top because of course he is, he’s the white savior who just takes what he wants at every single turn. Honestly, Rick’s story lost its appeal because he never grows beyond this desire to be at the top. What we’re seeing now? It’s the same behavior which cost them the prison and three-quarters of Alexandria’s population since his arrival. But good ol Officer Friendly has his new fighters. They head to an outpost, ready to trigger the end to his plan . . . only to discover Daryl’s beat him back to Sanctuary.

We all knew this was a stupid idea when Daryl said it the first time. Now it’s just ridiculous that despite the two ballsiest fighters in their ranks pulling out for moral reasons, he still feels compelled to go off-book to subvert the mission everyone worked and bled for to make a success. Oh, Tara’s still right there, ready to kill ’em all with a grin on her face. What’s pushing her other than the dead girlfriend thing? Regret that she didn’t get the women in Oceanside killed sooner so Alexandria could have the guns. For character motivation, it sucks. Everything about Tara’s behavior screams she’s going to get herself killed soon. Rosita got a second chance, not sure that’ll be the case here. The writers are making sure we’re not going to mourn too hard when Tara’s bloodlust goes awry. Pushed by her eagerness, Daryl rams a truck into Sanctuary, letting the undead inside. They don’t realize the quickest mind in the east is already at work scheming his way out of this mess in the name of his master.

Eugene is a worm. But a worm with convictions which put his safety as important as, oh, a Christian’s belief that Jesus died for their sins. He’s serious when he says numero uno is his sole concern. The only reason Negan is even considered in Eugene’s plan is because the guy’s got means, motive, and a mean streak a mile wide which will come in handy. Everything Eugene needs to do puts him head to head against Dwight and Gabriel. The latter man finds himself in the infirmary in Dr. Carson’s care, a condition Eugene says he brought upon himself. For Dwight’s part, he’s doing his damndest to keep the bloodshed to a minimum. His goal is to save everyone. Only Negan dies in the original plan. That will not happen should the bat-wielding guy get an earful about his good pal helping the enemy. They call a timid truce. Inspired by a request to fix a boom box, Eugene builds a speaker drone to draw the undead away. Dwight halts the maiden flight moments before the truck sends everyone into emergency mode. This is where Eugene’s bluster slips. He freezes once, flies into a rage, and winds up making a deal with the devil before drinking himself stupid. It’s a knee-jerk reaction to an immediate threat. The walkers have to go. The only way is if they unload the armory into the growling mass trapped on the first floor. He’s got what he needs to make more bullets, all he needs is the time. Time he gets. Negan okays the action and they unleash lead hell in the warehouse. Eugene is so focused on the undead, he doesn’t bother trying to find another time to tell Negan about Dwight after they’re interrupted. And as far as getting the doctor out? No way! The doctor stays put should Eugene need his services. At least the guy knows what he needs. Doesn’t mean I gotta like him.

We’re at the mid-season already, yet it feels like we haven’t gotten very far. A lot of people died, but the odds are more or less still the same, given the Scavengers flipping sides. Everyone is down on ammunition, the Saviors more so after clearing house. Negan is still alive. Rick’s free to cause more chaos. Culling the supporting cast doesn’t exactly mean they’ve progressed the plot a lot in seven episodes. Siege warfare told long-form isn’t always compelling for network television and we’ve seen this kind of thing before on the show so the reactions and deaths are predictable. Even this reformed Rosita’s desire to let fate roll without her interference was foreshadowed. We wanted something new, but this war they promised is more of the same Rick-driven drama they’ve given us for eight season—which has never, ever made sense from a survival-focused standpoint. Pretty much everything this guy does is on our Don’t Even Consider It list. Where can they go from here? We’re right back where we started, only now the bad guy’s really pissed off.

The King, the Widow, and Rick: Review for The Walking Dead 806

The King, the Widow, and Rick:
Review for The Walking Dead 806
By R.C. Murphy

Warning! There’s spoilers below.

Now’s the time to regroup. The fighting for this stage of the war is wrapped. Everyone who walked away is back home nursing their wounds, mourning their dead, and preparing for the next battle. The captains get in touch via letters, delivered by what must be the fastest messengers in the apocalypse. I mean, like The Flash fast because there’s no way the coordinated a mail drop like this in time to magically get Rick his missives before he walks into his stupidest idea yet.

It doesn’t take a genius to understand that Jadis and her Scavengers will never by on Rick’s side. Yet every time they up the ante against the Saviors, he crawls back to Her Weirdness, seeking an audience and help. Help she’ll never provide. She only lets him in to talk because it seems to amuse her to watch this man all but beg for more bodies to fight a war he could not win with his own resources. This time she makes Rick pay for bothering her nude art time by caging him in a sweltering cargo container, naked.

While Rick marinates in his regrets, the others get antsy. Particularly those who weren’t on the frontlines. Michonne isn’t satisfied by reading Rick’s debriefing letter. Only her own eyes can tell her the truth, so off she goes to take a joy ride to Sanctuary. Rosita hops in to join her, her mood as pale as her complexion so soon after the near-fatal shooting. The women don’t make it to their destination. Opera music, of all things, lures them to a building in the woods. Inside are two Saviors who escaped the attack. They’ve got the Fat Lady, a truck loaded with speakers designed to lure walkers, and need to make sure she’s in shape to save Sanctuary. Despite both being unfit for fighting, Michonne and Rosita take on the Saviors. The latter goes for complete overkill, using a rocket launcher inside to take out the male Savior. They’re not so lucky catching the second one. But someone’s watching out for them and the Fat Lady’s driver is stopped dead in her tracks.

Lest Michonne appear as the only unhinged warrior who freaking knows better than to just walk away from a war plan, Daryl and Tara join the wandering ladies on their trip to Sanctuary. While Michonne just needs visual confirmation of their win, Daryl wants to jump the gun on Rick’s big plan. He thinks the four of them can end the war then and there. How? No clue. He’s still not thinking clearly after learning they lost a third of their fighting force in one go. Desperation has always been Daryl’s downfall. When he’s cornered, he forgets that many hands make light work, that reaching out isn’t a sin, and taking a moment to think about the repercussions of your actions won’t take anything away from the win, should it happen.

In a moment which reminds one of the good ol days when Carl never stayed in the dang house, we catch him aimlessly wandering the woods to find the guy Rick chased off during episode one. He brought along a few snacks and water to help, sensing they were desperately needed. He’s right. While Siddiq is an impressive walker hunter, he’s lousy at securing supplies. The starving man attacks the water like he hasn’t drank in days. Then they get to chatting, which leads to Carl nearly dying in order to honor Siddiq’s mother’s memory. How’re they doing that? Killing the undead to release their souls. Yeah, it escalates quickly. Glad to see Carl hasn’t changed much over the years.

Over at Hilltop, things aren’t going smoothly. Maggie is incensed, unable to believe Jesus would burden them with captives and then feed them from their precious emergency storage. Gregory’s constant cries for death don’t help matters, either, but Maggie can’t leave the former leader alone because last time she did, he sold them out to the Saviors. There’s a solution for all her problems, one she has her people build overnight. The new prison cell will house the captive Saviors until Maggie finds a use for them. Gregory gets the same treatment because he’s scum. No one argues with her decision to lock him up. I’m sure if this were a lighthearted show, there’d be a scene where they all toasted Maggie for putting him in the cell.

The war plan is dissolving quicker than cheap bread in a pond. All that careful planning is going to go sky high once Daryl’s team breaks ranks and attacks again. Where’s Rick to stop them? Oh, right. He lost his freedom because he can’t take no for an answer.

The Big Scary U: Review for The Walking Dead 805

The Big Scary U:
Review for The Walking Dead 805
By R.C. Murphy

Warning! This review contains episode spoilers. Proceed with caution. They bite.

What’s this? Another flashback opening sequence with scenes bearing no weight whatsoever on the actual plot, containing information which could have easily gone somewhere else? Gabriel prays, it’s his thing. It didn’t have to happen in a flashback. As for Gregory, his love pancakes, and the super-secret meeting with the Saviors? Uh, duh? When they came out to chat with Rick, he wasn’t under duress. The play all this time has been to kindly, but firmly lead the little weasel by his nose so his people continue to provide produce for them. The meeting itself more or less took place during the same conversation with Rick, sans a few tidbits and the power squabble. I would’ve been more impressed with the show opening on Negan lunging for Gabriel.

The pair are still trapped in the flimsy trailer surrounded by walkers. Negan relieves his tension by picking on Gabriel, looking for his weak spots since he’s got all the time in the world with the guy. Not really, though. The trailer’s wall are already failing. There’s another problem, too. Instead of mounting a rescue, Negan has a feeling his guys will implode on the leadership front without him there to steer the ship. Which is pretty much what happens. In order to save what he’s built, Negan needs Gabriel to help him fight through the horde. There’s a tussle. And a bargain. In the end, they each confess a sin before slathering themselves with zombie guts. The ruse doesn’t work as well as they hoped.

Power dynamics are often lost on the soldiers. In this case, Negan’s captains understand some of what it takes to run the organization, but not a one of ’em has the wherewithal to see that every last person under them stays in line. They assume he leads by pure fear. Yeah, no. Negan leads by hope. That hope may be the grimiest thing to be dragged out of an apocalyptic landfill, but it still puts a roof over their head, water and food in their bellies, and surrounds their home with an army to keep the dead at bay. The workers are promised isolation from the ongoing war. In return they take what they’re given without complaint and do the work required of them. When the few comforts Negan provided dry up after his assumed demise, the workers’ hope vanish into the dark. Confronted with the chance to actually be Negan, every last one of the captains fails. It takes Negan all of thirty seconds to fix it after he and Gabriel finally make it inside.

It’s going to be a lot harder to fix the mess left amongst his captains. Not only does Simon think he’s in charge, but Gavin also points out that the only way the surprise attack works is because insider information has been leaked to Rick. One smidge of evidence may give the game away. Eugene notices red paint on a gun bag given to the workers which helped in their near-triumphant coup. Dwight has a new chess set, which he painted himself that very day. Odd hobby, but I’ll but it. Not sure Eugene’s going to have a chance to use his knowledge just yet. He’s more preoccupied with Sanctuary’s new guest . . . who’s suddenly got a fever and an overwhelming desire to break the doctor out of there.

Meanwhile back on the highway, Daryl and Rick have a nice chat with Yago, the Savior who almost delivered the guns to the Sanctuary. They get all the details from the guy, down to the identities of the meager few who walked away from the fight. Pretty much the second the guy bites the dust, Daryl is ready to ditch the master plan and improvise. There’s TNT in the wrecked truck. With just a little, they can blow Sanctuary’s gates, let the dead in, and problem’s solved. They can move on already; help the Kingdom regroup. Rick is the rational one for once, bringing up the blameless workers living in the same compound. The guys fight, the choreography echoing the first fight these two had at the rock quarry. Except that time there wasn’t an exploding truck. So much for the guns and dynamite. The guys split, Rick heading somewhere and Daryl’s off to Alexandria.

The somewhere is the giant trash heap of Please Stop Going There Already, according to the previews. Like they didn’t have enough problems with these people already. Sure, let’s try one more time when you’re desperate and the only bargaining tools you had blew sky high because your bestie can’t control his temper long enough to get them clear of a wrecked truck. This isn’t going to end well.

Some Guy: Review for The Walking Dead 804

Some Guy:
Review for The Walking Dead 804
By R.C. Murphy

Head’s up, there’s spoilers in this review

Just when it felt like the writers were about to decimate the Alexandria cast to make way for the newer communities, the action flips into high gear for the Kingdom at last, and WHAM, they take their most brutal hit since aligning themselves with Rick in this war. Does anyone make it off the gore-slick field? The dead are rising faster and faster. It takes mere moments for the Kingdom’s army to turn on the scant few survivors. Three, then only two men shuffle off the field with heartbeats. What good did Ezekiel’s grandstanding do if he has no one to bring home in the end?

The problem with possibly half the season playing out over the same day is the unrelenting desire to shake it up somehow in order to make it feel like time is actually passing. Four episodes in and maybe an hour or two has passed on the screen. That drags everything down, despite breaking for intense fight scenes or emotional goodbyes. How does one combat this problem without confusing the plot or halting the forward progress altogether? There’s no one answer, but I’m pretty sure bringing in conversations from before the fighting began which are echoes of things already said isn’t the best method to help time appear to move faster. Repetition doesn’t always sell a point the way a writer intends once it comes out of an actor’s mouth. Ezekiel’s speeches, for example, quickly went from charming, uplifting oases in the turmoil to tiresome, eye-rolling moments where they really just should move on to the next problem instead of verbally beating a dead horse.

That being said, Ezekiel’s arc in this episode alone is some of the best character development the show has seen in, oh, probably three seasons or so. I was there with him emotionally, hobbled by a wound and trapped on the field of his dead. His dead. He brought every single soul onto that silver platter for the Saviors. That knowledge breaks him. We watch this guy’s façade shatter like a mirrored mask, chip by chip sliding away until that moment in the polluted stream when Ezekiel exposes his true self to Jerry. My only complaint is that the jumps back to other conversations broke the emotional momentum for Ezekiel too much. Even then, by the end the emotions dragged me in again for that last bit of heartache.

Is there a petition anywhere to get these people to stop killing animals? At this point, given that both Walking Dead properties are likely to linger on an animal’s death more than any humans—look at Eric, he died off screen and didn’t get a proper goodbye—it’s safe to say they enjoy writing these particular death gags. Which is not something I say lightly. Look at the track record, though. Then look at the scene they gave Shiva. It’s great that they wanted to get as much emotion out of the cast as possible, but the scene itself becomes really uncomfortable to watch. Like we’re hostages forced to endure a pet’s death in order to ensure the safety of the others. We only sit through the drawn out tiger death to make sure Jerry and Carol get Ezekiel to safety. The entire time my gut screamed to turn it off. Walk away. Why put someone through that and call it entertainment? I just don’t get it. And yes, I know they’re sticking to the comics. That doesn’t mean the scene should have lasted so long. Would they devote the same detail to a human’s death? Not usually. Not anymore. There’s so many bodies on-screen at any given time, no one notices if twenty or so never show up again.

Khary Payton as Ezekiel, Melissa McBride as Carol Peletier, Cooper Andrews as Jerry – The Walking Dead _ Season 8, Episode 4 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

The gun plan looks doomed, considering those very guns just took out everyone. Carol ends up being the sole person capable of slowing down the Saviors tasked with taking the weaponry to Sanctuary in order to clear the dead and liberate those trapped inside. It doesn’t take much to get the drop on some of them, but there’s more than she thought inside. Waiting outside seemed more prudent, except there’s still too many to take out solo. Carol is classic, manipulative, cunning Carol this episode. She plays the Saviors for fools, dang near getting the prize by herself. Until she hears Jerry and Ezekiel, who are pinned against a locked gate by an oncoming horde. It’s a good thing she came out of retirement to save these guys from themselves, right?

All’s not lost on the gun front. Carol worries about the future for about five seconds before Daryl’s motorcycle roars in the distance. The cavalry arrives to finish the job and the others stumble back to the Kingdom as a trio, sans a ferocious, loyal protector. How long has it been since they’ve treated us to a chase scene? I can’t remember. It’s a tad ridiculous, believing the Savior couldn’t hit Rick’s Jeep with their huge gun. Barring that, it’s a little bit of action movie fun, down to the crash at the end and the buddy-cop vibes from Daryl and Rick.

Well, one large part of the plan is finally in place. Is the cost worth it? Is any of this worth what’s to come in the near future? Rick thinks so, but I have a feeling he won’t have as much moral support from here on out.

Monsters: Review for The Walking Dead 803

Review for The Walking Dead 803
By R.C. Murphy

Whoop!Whoop! Spoilers below!

One thing’s for certain in the apocalypse, there’s sure a lot of walking. Why the show’s producers thought we needed an episode relying heavily on scenes of troops moving from one fight to another, I’ll never understand. This is supposed to be war, so how about they save the parades for later? Between the constant time jumping and the moments wasted during long walking scenes with dialog rehashing problems addressed during numerous occasions this season, this episode is the most filler-feeling episode ever. There’s a few golden nuggets of action, everything else is either forgettable, unimportant in the long run, or worse, a heartfelt moment which should be expanded, but passes with little to-do. That’s two episodes in a row which don’t feel right timing wise. Episode 802 because the slow-motion bookends brought the pace to a sharp stop and this one, where apparently the Kingdom possess a time-turner and Hilltop marches down the street, making it home around the same time as Gregory—who drove home from Sanctuary before the secondary attacks even began. What did they get right this week? The feels, as usual.

Joshua Mikel as Jared- The Walking Dead _ Season 8, Episode 3 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

If you were hoping we’d get to keep Morales, I’ve got bad news. Actually I’ve got horrific news. Not only do they get our hopes up for a decent reunion by bringing Morales in at the end of the last episode, then proceed to yank our emotions around for a little bit. All it takes is a little backstory to kill Miranda and the kids. Given the writers’ love for flashbacks, they couldn’t even give us one of those PTSD-colored hallucinations like Morgan has just to get one more peek at Morales’ family? Here is this perfect mirror for Rick to stare into—a man so broken by the loss of his family that it took a bunch of savages to get him to come back to reality—and the show kills him off with no remorse from Daryl. None. He might as well have shot a squirrel. That’s, quite frankly, a waste of time and effort. The whole little side trip to visit with an old pal may as well not happened, save to finally give closure to that last lingering thread from season one. Rick isn’t going to learn from yet another glimpse into the abyss. Negan threatened to maim his son, killed one of his best friends in front of him, yet Rick continues to go after the Saviors; as far as I’m concerned that’s all the proof one needs to understand Rick will never, ever be written to react as an actual human being would. Once upon a time, yes, but now he’s a mess we’re forced to endure until the writers come up with some spectacular way to kill him off. Maybe he’ll go like Morales; a man who defends his family, fights harder after they die in order to survive, and is taken out by an emotionless hunter in the line of duty.

The Kingdom, bolstered by Ezekiel’s endless victory speeches, mow their way through several Savior battalions. Sounds exciting, right? Not really. These attacks are covered somewhat like montages. Yes, it’s as weird as it sounds. When they aren’t bouncing from speeches to quick shoot-outs, they’re walking. Ezekiel promises his people they won’t die. In that they’re successful. Almost. During the last stop on their conquest tour, Ezekiel and his guards fail to properly secure the building after taking out the Saviors on the front lawn, opting to celebrate a little instead, then kill the newly risen undead. The guns Rick and Daryl are searching for were moved without warning, and now they’re cutting down the Kingdom forces. Jerry better make it out, man.

One group does actually spend the episode walking. Hilltop’s brigade march their Savior prisoners down the freeway. The Saviors are bound into chain gangs, following a lead truck carrying the dead. Large groups of people who’re talking attract walkers, of course. The group is attacked by zombies who, weee!, roll down a hill to get to them. Several Saviors are attacked. Even more try to escape. Not on Morgan’s watch. He chases them with every intent of killing Jared and the men he’s leashed to. Jesus intercedes on the Savior’s behalf, attempting to talk reason to Morgan. Yeah, uh, dude’s not home. At all. Morgan’s still actually in the trauma-haze which started when he woke after the near-miss in the satellite station. The fight between Jesus and Morgan is astounding. A ballet, really. It’s always a treat to sit back and watch Morgan’s fights, let’s be honest. They picked a great fighting style for him. Once Morgan snaps back to reality, he bolts. Just leaves everyone behind. Jesus and Tara rejoin the Hilltop group to push onward to home. Gregory has something to say about the new arrivals. No one wants his input and Maggie uses her burgeoning Mom Voice to send the former leader off so they can debate what to do with the new burden Jesus has dropped at Hilltop’s gate. Weird how none of them push Gregory to tell the truth about the car and Gabriel before sending him away to deal with the next emergency.

It’s not clear what the total body count is for Rick’s army so far. Sadly, we do have to say goodbye to Eric this week. Unfortunately Aaron doesn’t get a chance to be there for his husband at the end. Knowing full well death is coming for him, Eric sends Aaron to help hold the Savior’s attention while Rick and Daryl finish searching for the guns. When the chaos clears and the Saviors are dead, Aaron finds Eric’s reanimated body shuffling toward a herd near the road. There’s not even a chance to put him to rest. But I guarantee you if it’d been a lead character, the other characters would’ve gone to great lengths to make sure they didn’t just wander off as a zombie. It’s a little unfortunate that this is how Eric’s time on the show ends, drifting off like a cloud of smoke after years hovering in the background of every group shot as the token LGBTQ+ representative.

Next week we’re . . . still in the same day. Also, we’ll figure out which Kingdom fighters survive the ambush. Judging from the preview, the body count is going to get much, much higher.

The Damned: Review for The Walking Dead 802

The Damned:
Review for The Walking Dead 802
By R.C. Murphy

Timing issues continue to plague The Walking Dead in season eight. In this case, it’s pretty apparent that episode one and two were shot with every intention of tying them into one giant episode, and then the network to waved off the idea. That’s the only reason it makes sense for this episode, comprised of mostly fight scenes and awkward talking head bits, to be bookended by slow-motion reaction shots from the main cast. This is almost as bad as season one of Fear the Walking Dead where every scene was cut together with a slow pan of downtown Los Angeles. Did they run out of witty ways to engage the audience right off the bat? If this is war, as they’ve touted since the season eight media push began, why does this initial strike feel like it’s taking days, not hours?The groups split after the attack on the Sanctuary to carry out the rest of the eradication plan. Carol and Ezekiel lead Kingdom fighters to a Savior scout position where they lose the guy after a surprise grenade and walker ambush. They spend the entire episode walking and talking in the woods. Jerry gets a good whack in on a stray walker in their path. Ezekiel and Carol take the travel time to debate the merits of remaining hopelessly optimistic when in fact the odds of winning are heavily stacked against them. Well, that and a little flirting—subtly done, but still there. These actors have an entirely different conversation with their expressions and it’s testament to their skills that they progressed this unsaid thing between the characters while Carol’s basically saying she thinks they’re all going to die.

Group two, comprised of Alexandria people and lead by Aaron and Eric, hit a Savior stronghold safeguarded by Mara and her team. The plan is simple: Kill as many Saviors as possible and let the undead grab whoever survives the firefight. The fight itself is just like the shootout at the Sanctuary. Good guys hide behind armored cars, pop out their heads like perfect little targets, and shoot erratically at the bad guys, missing about 80% of the time. Yet again, the Alexandria cast takes the brunt of the losses, leaving a few named characters mortally wounded at the episode’s conclusion.

That’s not to say there weren’t any friendly losses within the satellite compound. Much like the last time they hit the location, the gang swept in—through the newly made zombie mote without much problem—and hit everyone in every room along every hallway. Somewhat. The slaughter stopped when Jesus’ conscious spoke up. His hesitation lead to an argument with Tara . . . in front of a Savior posing as a victimized worker. They nearly got killed in the name of a forced moral moment from the writing team. Tara’s mood swings likewise draws one from the action. She has every right to hate these people and want them dead, but the language she uses doesn’t always feel like something Tara would say as opposed to a character who’s always been abrasive and on the social outskirts. As much as she argues, Jesus’ stance on the conflict doesn’t change. Now they’ve got a gang of Saviors at gunpoint and a plan to finish which didn’t account for restraining and monitoring those who gave up without a fight.

Morgan may take umbrage to the very notion of Saviors surviving the onslaught. His cool took a hike quite some time ago. We’re dealing with a man similar to the broken soul they encountered hunkered down in a fortified city, speaking to himself and drawing on the walls. He walks into the fight without a worry, assured he’d survive because, “I don’t die.” Of course, dude, but maybe at least try not to offer yourself up as a nice, large target? In the process of Morgan totally losing his marbles, we’re treated to a rather nice fight sequence through the compound’s hallways. A new layer to Morgan’s story also came to light in this episode, with Jared recognizing Morgan and talking as though they’d worked together before under Negan. Which, honestly, makes sense. Morgan is a man everyone wants on their team if they need to keep the body count—alive or undead—high. Especially when he’s back on his Angel of Death gig. For as slow as the episode felt, once we dropped into Morgan’s head, time zipped right on by.

While everyone kept the Saviors busy, Daryl and Rick searched Mara’s compound to find a gun cache someone told them about before the ambush. Stage two of the plan is all about getting these guns in order to hold the line against incoming retaliation. So of course neither man finds the loot. Rick goes a step further, possibly orphaning an infant in the course of fighting toward what he thought was the gun room, not a nursery. Guilt-ridden and distracted, it gives someone the chance to get the drop on Officer Friendly. Morales is probably one of the most asked about characters whose survival was up in the air after they left the group. It’s great to see the writers dipping back into season one—with Morales’ return and the Little Girl Zombie tribute in the season eight opener—and make the show a little fun again. That’s certainly something we haven’t seen in a while, those little nudges from the past where things were simpler, before one man’s anger and ambition cost his friends and family their safety.

Ambition is contagious. Many of the other leaders show signs that they may stretch their people and resources to the limit in order to subdue the Savior threat. Is there a sane voice to pull everyone back before disaster strikes and they lose forward momentum in the war?

Mercy: Review for The Walking Dead 801

Review for The Walking Dead 801
By R.C. Murphy

It’s a grandiose plan, that’s for sure. Armed to the teeth and prepared with steel-plated vehicles, a large militia formed from Hilltop, Alexandria, and Kingdom fighters begins the episode by running through the last gut checks and minutiae required to successfully survive the day ahead. The plan itself is pretty simple: Rick will convince the Savior sergeants to step aside and give them the head of the snake, or they’ll pin everyone in the building with gunfire and another teams will draw walkers to it to finish everyone off. Rick has an unreasonable moment when he once again fixates on personally murdering Negan himself instead of compromising on any method to contain this threat. Because that plan has worked so well any other time he’s tried it. The only difference is now Rick’s dragged two other communities into his vendetta in order to secure weapons since he got all his taken away.

Maggie and Ezekiel don’t seem all that put out with Rick and his whole scheme, which is weird because if I ran a community the last thing I’d do is let some guy drag me into a fight he keeps provoking. Yes, the Saviors are giant turds, but Rick is the one who set everything in motion by insisting he and he alone should lead the most ruthless group in a fifty mile radius. Honestly, this has gone on so long, I firmly believe they never should’ve stayed in Alexandria once the threats became too much. But this is someone else’s sand box and they want Rick to pull everyone into all-out war, so off they go after a hearty round of pep speeches from each leader. Before anyone points out that Maggie is not the official leader, she’s the only one other than Jesus looking out for those people at the moment and he doesn’t want the job, therefore Maggie is in charge. No one has a problem with it, either.

On that thought, it’s strange that Maggie’s pregnancy doesn’t progress in the least, but the show’s children all aged greatly during the hiatus. They’re insisting she participate in the war, or at least the first part of the plan at Sanctuary. That being said, the optics of sending an obviously pregnant woman into a fight is pretty sketchy and I can understand why they’d hold off a little longer on the great bumpining. As a Glenn fan, though, I just want proof he’s living on in some little way. The longer they put off actually acknowledging that their most successful woman is also a mother, the more frustrated I get. Maggie can be both at the same time, just let her be her whole self instead of treating her like Mrs. Potatohead, cherry-picking different traits to use each season/episode.

Seth Gilliam as Father Gabriel Stokes – The Walking Dead _ Season 8, Episode 1 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

For once, the battle plan goes more or less as intended. There’s no great triple-cross putting people in the middle of a trap. Rick amazingly keeps his calm until the end of the firefight when the bloodlust finally gets to him and he again fixates on being the soul responsible for wiping Negan off the map. The dialog is kinda laughable at points. It’s painfully obvious Rick is buying time so the secondary team can get the walkers in position and he fails to make a compelling argument against violence which just leads to a firefight. A firefight in which some of his best fighters are elsewhere. Remember, the real plan is to kill them with walkers and save the cavalry for cleaning up the rats who jumped ship before they closed in. The only snag in the plan comes at the end when they’re forced to flee or get trapped in the walker horde. Just about everyone makes it into a car. Then Gabriel goes back to grab Gregory—who threw in his hat with Negan, and then ran like a startled chicken when the fighting began, only to get pinned by gunfire in the walkers’ path. One of them makes it out of Sanctuary in an armored car. It isn’t the one we want to get away.

The stage is set to watch the fallout from this fight stretch across at least the first half of the season. They’ve got more Saviors to contend with, not to mention that snake still has its head and until Negan is out of the picture, Rick won’t rest.

Playing Alongside Old Friends

Playing Alongside Old Friends
by R.C. Murphy

The Walking Dead franchise draws big business for everyone involved. It only makes sense that game developers would scramble to snatch a piece of that pie. There’s a few TWD games already out in the world, namely the tension-ridden series from Telltale Games and it’s spin-offs, A New Frontier and Michonne. Telltale teamed up with Zen Studios to produce The Walking Dead Pinball, which allows players to play pinball on location maps from Telltale’s main TWD game, including the addition of player choice to determine the ongoing story. Scopely released its addition to the franchise in 2015 with The Walking Dead: Road to Survival—a game recently plagued with glitches which inspired spending freezes from dedicated players and several intense press releases from the developer promising to do better for the game’s devoted fan base.

Two more developers have stepped in to bring more undead fun to the masses this year. First up is Disruptor Beam’s The Walking Dead: March to War. While not set in the television universe and taking most of its cues from the comics, it still has events inspired by the show. In this strategy game, players develop alliances with each other in order to not only survive the walkers wandering through Washington D.C., but also the humans they encounter while building a secure home base. Players have a twenty mile map to work in, encompassing all the iconic buildings and monuments in the nation’s capital. If they’re having a hard time figuring out what to do, players have the opportunity to bring Rick and Negan onto their advisory council. Help is always needed, according to the developers. Getting by on one’s own in the game is apparently pretty difficult. March to War is free for iOS and Android devices. But you get what you pay for, and this is a new game. Expect some glitches while the developers roll out updates. The graphics aren’t stellar. There’s also been several complaints about monetary purchases failing.

The newest addition to the TWD franchise will be The Walking Dead: Our World from developer Next Games. Whereas all the other TWD-based games focus on player vs player fighting or dive deep into what’s basically a pick-your-own-adventure game format, Our World is vastly different. The game is, essentially, Pokémon Go but with walkers instead of brightly colored creatures. Augmented reality games were all the rage last year and Our World feels like it may have missed the boat by, oh, six months or so—that’s being generous since there’s no actual release date yet. That delay may be in their favor though, giving developers more time to work out the quirks which made other AR games difficult to play, or downright ridiculous due to the programs inability to read the distance to the ground accurately. Game play for Our World shows grounded characters, so there will be little chance of watching Michonne or any of the other television characters floating four feet in the air as they slay the undead. When it does finally release, the game will be available for iOS and Android systems.

Dead-Diego Comic-Con

Dead-Diego Comic-Con
by R.C. Murphy

This year the San Diego Comic-Con panel for The Walking Dead was a vast departure from the way the show’s run things for the last seven years. Yes, the cast was there in force. Yes, the series’ showrunner and producers were on stage to guide the conversation away from spoilers. But Hardwick was nowhere to be seen. There were no prepared questions or discussion, and they jumped straight to audience questions. There weren’t even name tags on the table. The mood on stage was about eight notches down from past years. They’ve had a seriously rough summer, and given everything it’s surprising they still came at all instead of sending a smaller delegation with the trailer. No one would have blamed them for cancelling.

Scott Gimple opened this year’s panel with a touching statement about John Bernecker, an accomplished stuntman who tragically lost his life after an on-set accident a couple weeks ago. Prompted by a fan’s question later in the discussion, Robert Kirkman and Greg Nicotero also took a moment to remember late director George Romero, the man who created the zombie genre as we now know it.

The cast and crew were excited to announce that episode 801 is actually the show’s 100th episode. Danai Gurira misspoke at one point, saying, “100 years,” instead of episodes, to which Lincoln claimed it felt like it. To celebrate the occasion, AMC has a few things up their sleeves for social media and the likes come October. The producers also brought a retrospective video to show the panel audience to kick off the celebration. I’m not sure what clips they used, but Reedus was especially touched by the video and took the chance to gush about his time on the show toward the panel’s end.

The panel had about 30 minutes of fan questions after the retrospective. We didn’t get much about the new season outside the 5-minute trailer. Kirkman did put his foot down about possible future story lines—there will be no immune characters or another search for a cure, ever. They also teased new characters, but intentionally left the answer so vague, I’m just going to assume an alien invasion is a go until proven otherwise. Gimple joked that as part of the 100th episode, Judith will get her first zombie kill. “Three’s old enough,” Gimple said as everyone laughed. Kirkman promised that season 8 will be, “action-packed and fast-paced.” Chandler Riggs and Jeffrey Dean Morgan stated they hope the show story line falls in line with the comics, as both would love to delve into that particular Carl/Negan dynamic. When asked about Glenn’s legacy living on in the baby, Lauren Cohan hoped the writers give Maggie the chance to instill his strengths in the child as it grows, as well as passing on tales of Hershel, Beth, and the extended family they’ve left behind.

The rest of the fan questions prompted some levity in the group, but not much. On a few occasions, Gimple acted as moderator, urging actors who weren’t answering fan questions to talk about, well, anything. To wrap things up, they showed that baffling trailer again.

No, I don’t think they’re pulling a Dallas, guys. Calm yourselves. But the end does raise a whole truckload of questions.


Catching Up with Fear the Walking Dead

Catching Up with Fear the Walking Dead
by R. C. Murphy

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Rob Latour/REX/Shutterstock (8970351m)
Mercedes Mason and Michael Greyeyes
‘Fear the Walking Dead’ TV show panel, Comic-Con International, San Diego, USA – 21 Jul 2017

The main cast each got a little time to talk about where their character has come since the season started, and how the actors feel about where they’ll go in the upcoming episodes. Kim Dickens was quite impressed with how the show’s writers went back to ground Madison’s seemingly unrealistic decision process in severe childhood abuse. She said the reveal was a “beautiful moment where a parent becomes human to their child.” Colman Domingo relished in the chance to rebuild Strand after the yacht joined the other deceased FtWD characters in the great beyond. Frank Dillane wasn’t too clear on what’s pushing Nick now, but showrunner Dave Erickson was there to give the panel’s audience a glimpse into what the production thinks about Nick’s amazing ability to adapt thanks to his troubled past. Alicia was on the outside looking in for family bonding time, according to actress Alycia Debnam-Carey, and has no plans to rely on Madison or Nick to get ahead in their new circumstances at the ranch. She, along with co-star Sam Underwood, defended Alicia’s undefined romantic relationship with Underwood’s character Jake. They were adamant that the relationship will never become that horrible codependent trap all young women on TV fall into at some point, and pointed out how the show has never shied from take-charge women who don’t need men to survive. Daniel Sharman took a minute to quell rumblings that Troy was being taken advantage of or unwittingly influenced by Madison. Their tension isn’t what some assume, but a well-calculated game of manipulation chess. Dayton Callie was on hand to say farewell to the FtWD chaos in his own particular way. Mercedes Mason offered some insight into the changes we’ll see from Ofelia. She’s finally accepted that she’s her father’s daughter, became a total badass in order to survive, but will be very much herself, still. Newcomer Michael Greyeyes gushed about being a fan of the franchise before accepting the role as Qaletqa Walker. What drew him to the character? The fact that Walker was written as an intellectual, a former lawyer. He enjoyed the chance to bring that kind of representation to the small screen.

SAN DIEGO, CA – JULY 21: (L-R) Actors Frank Dillane, Alycia Debnam-Carey and Sam Underwood speak onstage at the “Fear The Walking Dead” panel during Comic-Con International 2017 at San Diego Convention Center on July 21, 2017 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

There were a few fan questions at the end. Most were rehashes of every comic-con panel question ever, so I’ll spare you. Erickson did drop one small tidbit—we’ll never see deadTravis on-screen due to scheduling conflicts and story direction.

I wish we’d gotten more from this panel. It was somewhat lackluster, and downright insulting during one portion where it devolved into a free-for-all about certain actors’ accents. Maybe the footage they showed made up for the shortened discussion time with the actors.