The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be: Review for The Walking Dead 701

BEEP!BEEP!BEEP! Spoiler warning!

Yeah, the warning is right on top this week. We’ve got a lot to discuss and little time to pussyfoot around with generalizations and all that rubbish. You guys waited months for this episode. Was it worth the anger at the producers and writers who said we’d be glad for so much time to stew over who died? Do you feel cheated by the dual deaths? How about all that brain matter on the ground, was it too much? Most importantly, are any of us really feeling the emotion between Rick and Negan or will the directors continue leading it to an awkward place where it’s laughable?

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I, personally, feel cheated out of the surprise. The producers showed their hands months ago when they continuously stated that the show would gradually realign with what happens in the comic books. One death talked about constantly is Negan murdering Glenn. Hell, someone just released an action figure featuring Glenn’s mangled face as it’s shown on the page—which is almost identical to what’s on screen for that heartbreaking apology to Maggie. Almost in the same breath as the realigning statements, TWD higher-ups denied that Glenn would die. Red flag. Red flags everywhere. It was raining them at SDCC 2016. Since then, I’ve spent the time away from TWD saying goodbye to my favorite character. So when Negan first hit Glenn, my reaction was a resigned sigh. Then profanity, and more sighing. The show which constantly states they want to break boundaries and do new things is still utterly predictable.

Abraham’s brutal murder wasn’t overly shocking either if one stops for even a minute to think as Negan would when sizing up his newest assets. Manipulation is his bread and butter. One look at Rick’s people and how they handled interactions with the Saviors told Negan everything he needed to know—kill Abe because he’s ride-or-die loyal, keep Daryl because he’s mentally fragile and can be manipulated just like Rick. This is easy for Negan. Twisting people’s minds to do what he wants is the sole reason he’s not rotting in a walker’s gut. So why would an astute audience willingly overlook this? Why, TWD writers, would you go for the two characters who make the most sense if your desire was to shock, surprise, and devastate? Anyone with half a brain who tunes in regularly knew we’d lose Abraham. Daryl sells too much merchandise. Rick’s demise would’ve been awesome, but ultimately disappointing because the lead-up to the murder scene was so lackluster and drawn-out. Killing a woman would’ve started a feminist war in the fanbase. Carl was a good candidate, but he’s got too much potential to carry the show forward now. Plus in Negan-sense, he’s a carrot to dangle in front of Rick to ensure good behavior. The remaining gentlemen, as much as we adore them, just wouldn’t have the same impact. I would’ve been more shocked by that scene if Negan didn’t kill anyone, but just as pissed off with the direction the show took for the season premiere.

I mean, since when is five minutes of Rick staring at a set we’ve already seen before gripping television? He’s supposed to have a breakdown during the whole axe-fetching scene. Okay, that’s believable. So why did it involve long shots of walkers shuffling through smoke cut with the footage shown at SDCC with Lucille and the main cast? The scene felt like something from an indie band’s music video—a lone, agonized man surrounded by the cheesiest surroundings ever, just to feel spooky. Then, to make the death scenes mean even less, they show clips with Rick imagining everyone else getting a kiss upside the dome from Lucille. Why? We already know what he’s thinking. A good actor can do that, and Andrew Lincoln is no slouch when it comes to his face betraying every thought in Rick’s head.

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They wanted to come into the Negan Era with a loud noise. In order to make noise, the plot’s gotta move faster than a snail’s pace. Inertia. Ever hear of it? The ball doesn’t roll and keep rolling without a hell of a push. It took the show fifteen minutes to get to the murders. I almost turned it off, thinking they’d strung us along for yet another week, and I was done if that were the case. It wasn’t, but the scene is buried so far in the episode, it does no good other than to turn stomachs. The only reason the scene is hidden in the episode is because of the backlash from the season six cliffhanger. Many fans felt as I did; we’ll watch the opening scene for season seven to learn who died and move on to another, more entertaining show which actually strives to write coherently. In a direct thumb-nosing to the noise-makers speaking against the cliffhanger, they cut together the episode just to make us wait through a couple commercial breaks. How nice of them to ensure the show makes a buck from a group who’re pretty likely to throw out their TWD fan badges after learning who died. I’m not tossing my badge in the fire just yet because I have hope the Negan era will smooth out, but it’s a near thing after this episode.

The violence in the episode really struck some sour notes across the fandom. Every complaint I see is met with a laugh. Fans derided the writers when there wasn’t enough undead violence. They scream for blood anytime a character or group disrespects the main cast. Yet the bad guy, who we’ve been warned about constantly since the show began by fans of the comics, comes in and does exactly what he’s supposed to, and it’s suddenly too much for the delicate flowers planted on their couches. Take up gardening if you can’t handle fake blood on a show centered on how messed up humanity is without actual rules to govern it. Were the close-ups too much? Possibly. I’m not one to judge. Horror and gore are my jam. I only started watching TWD to see what KNB FX could do with extended time to develop creatures and death gags; they’ve yet to disappoint. I will state that wanting a show built on the premise of killing things in order to survive to shy away from gruesome murders is like expecting a unicorn to lick away your tears while curing cancer. It won’t happen.

For the most part, we already knew what’d happen plot wise: Someone dies, Rick and Negan have a long moment to deal with Rick’s stubbornness, the Alexandria crew is absorbed by the Saviors, and Maggie wants blood, but she’s in no position to even walk, let alone lead a war. Daryl as the cause of Glenn’s death was the lone surprise for me—as I stated, I saw the death coming, just not how it’d happen. We’ve waited since Merle’s death for Daryl to be relevant to the plot again and now I want him to be the next big death on the show. Why? Because Daryl knew dang well that someone else, not him, would die for that single punch. They all knew Negan’s M.O. by that point. Abe died because of Rick’s hubris, yet that wasn’t lesson enough for everyone’s apocalyptic savior? Yeah, no. I’m beyond done with their failed attempts to make Daryl into an actual character. He’s been a two-dimensional promotional tool for so long, they’ve forgotten the character has a brain.

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Now that the clunky season opener is behind us, maybe the ball will roll through season seven better. But, wait, we’ve still got a whole ‘nother group to introduce over at The Kingdom. If that episode is as awkward and poorly timed as the Negan/Rick glare-downs in the RV, I don’t know how much longer they can continue to pretend they know how to produce a show, let alone write one with so much potential for real depth and ability to shine a light on the massive problems in today’s society. They keep dropping the ball. I’m tired of waiting for someone in the TWD production office to finally pick it up and run it in for a touchdown. It’s time they returned to giving fans entertainment of substance instead of shilling the Walking Dead name and filling their coffers.


Road Trip

Review of “The Walking Dead” 505 – “Self Help”

Last week, we caught up with the long-lost Beth. This week, we’re on the road with Abraham and the gang determined to see Eugene safely to D.C. so he can work on the virus that may very well eliminate every walker across the globe. To say their trip is a tad rocky in this episode is a gross understatement.

Whoa, there! Careful, there’s spoilers lurking below.

wdead18A part of me feels like there were some character tweaks to make this episode in particular hit a certain vibe—not a pleasant one, either. Abraham’s anger has never been hidden, but the extent of his emotional baggage hasn’t been on the screen in this way before. It’s difficult to balance what we know of the man with what we’re shown in this episode. We get glimpses of his past throughout, relating to the early days after the outbreak and his attempts to keep Ellen, his wife, and two children safe. The ease with which he kills stems not from a long military service, but from understanding that sometimes people must die. Others may judge him—his wife was so terrified she took the kids and ran to their deaths—but at least he knows he’s done his part to keep his people safe. There’s a fine line Abraham walks. More than once we saw Rosita, who’s been with him for almost the entire trip from Texas to Georgia, take a step back from his anger. She’s romantically involved with Abraham and looks to him as their leader, but at one point she has to put her foot down before Abraham marches them into a herd of walkers so thick, one can’t see the road through all the decaying flesh.

That’s after they managed to kill every vehicle they rode in for longer than a mile. What is with people after the apocalypse having horrible luck with transportation which doesn’t require manpower? Yes, Eugene sabotaged the bus, but there’s been a string of bad timing with cars running out of gas or crashing throughout the show. Remember Lori and the walker pushing his face through the safety glass? Yuck! It’s like once the dead rose, everyone forgot how to operate cars. Convenient for the writers—it keeps their locations isolated to a specific area and gives them a chance to add in more fight scenes with walkers. Awful for the characters who end up with concussions and who knows what else from all these crashes.

the-walking-dead-episode-505-eugene-mcdermitt-tara-masterson-post-980Tara is finding her footing within the group. Unfortunately her footing puts her in the path of Eugene’s weirdness. For most of the episode, I yelled at her to get away from him. She’s naïve and kind. Lately, Eugene has been written like a sociopath. He understands emotions, but they don’t connect with him on more than a surface level. He’s got one concern: his safety. Tara, meanwhile, wants to make sure everyone is okay and happy. That’s a tall order considering the mess they get into after the bus flips in the middle of the freeway.

Speaking of, what sort of sense does it make to walk forward into uncharted territory, given that your ride and supplies catch fire on the road, instead of backtracking to a known safe location? Fifteen miles out from the church, the glass Eugene dumped in the gas tank causes the bus to flip and the engine to catch fire. Despite losing everything except the bag of weapons, Abraham orders everyone to continue on their set path. He’s running from something, which isn’t clear until the end of the episode. What I want to know is, how the heck did they happen to find a walker-free place to sleep in by sunset given there was nothing but forest stretching down the road they traveled? The same sort of plot gap happens toward the end when we though the gang were good to go with the fire engine and suddenly they’re walking toward at least two thousand walkers. Uh, what?

the-walking-dead-505-111989I’d like to take a moment to gloat. All this time, I’ve said Eugene wasn’t what he seemed and guess who was right? Yup, this reviewer. Eugene made the best of a bad situation. He knew he couldn’t hope to make it longer than a day without clinging onto someone and convincing them to help him. He’d done the math, Washington D.C. should be the safest place within the undead-infested United States. But he was in Texas, and that’s a long way to travel alone when one cannot defend themselves. Luckily enough, he stumbled across Abraham at exactly the right moment. A minute or two later, Eugene would’ve stumbled across a woman and two children who’d been eaten by walkers, and a man beside them with the top of his head blown off. Abraham feels he owes Eugene for saving him from suicide. The need to balance the debt pushed him for so long, when Eugene finally told the truth—that he’s not a scientist capable of destroying the walkers with a virus—Abraham snapped. The last we saw of Eugene, he was T.K.O.ed with everyone hovering over him. Honestly? That’s what he gets for getting everyone’s hopes up. Numerous people died to get him to D.C. and it was all a lie.

This episode was still a tad slow, save the last few minutes when the truth hit the fan. If this trend sticks, the show may have a hard time ramping up for what is always an epic mid-season finale. For now, we play the wait-and-see game.


Stranger Danger

Review of “The Walking Dead” 502 – “Strangers”

 

The-Walking-Dead-Season-5-Promo1A little forewarning for the second episode of season five—don’t eat anything when you watch. Or rewatch. At no point in your life will it be okay to consume much beyond water while watching . . . and even that’s questionable depending on the strength of your stomach.

Spoiler Alert! The following review contains episode spoilers.

For the first time in too long—possibly since before Hershel’s murder—we witness a survivor group who are somewhat happy. It may be mostly relief. Giddiness from finding each other once again and surviving escape from Terminus with no casualties on their part. Rick smiles and takes time with his children, something he hasn’t been able to do since the prison attack. Even then, he was plagued by Lori’s ghost and could not fully bond with Judith. Everyone has banded together to take care of the baby.

The-Walking-Dead-S5Ep2-Strangers-Review-Gabriel-and-what-has-he-done.-590x329Judith, along with Bob and Glenn, became the heart and soul of the group. Anyone needing a mental time-out takes a turn watching the baby. Tyreese in particular has done a lot of mental healing since his time taking care of Judith. His world simplified to one focus—protect her and provide for her, no matter what dangers lurk around the corner. Because of that focus, he’s ready to forget that Carol killed his girlfriend and move on. He can kill again, without feeling a strangling sense of moral wrongness. Bob and Glenn, in their roles as heart and conscious, focus on Rick and keeping him grounded despite his overwhelming need for revenge. Even though Rick is smiling and reunited with his family, there’s a darkness in his eyes that won’t go away. The pain he’s gone through has forever changed him. Even if Eugene’s scheme to infect the walkers with a super virus that’ll kill them off works, Rick will never be the same. He will need people like Glenn and Bob to thump him over the head and remind him he has two children relying on him to stay grounded and in control of his anger.

Unfortunately, Bob may not stick around long enough to help. We’ll get to that later.

This episode introduced Gabriel Stokes—a priest with a strange sense of humor (and awful comedic timing) and a secret which may or may not come back to bite the entire group in the backside. Gabriel doesn’t kill, not even the walkers who threaten his life. He’s been isolated in his church since the undead outbreak reached his neck of the woods. Luckily for Rick and company, the church is far enough out of the way to have little walker foot traffic. They hole up in Gabriel’s safe haven to take a breather and have a nice wind-down session reminiscent of the party down in the CDC’s basement back in season one. Let’s hope the church isn’t rigged to blow up.

TWD_502_GP_0519_0016The safety the church offers is an illusion. Rick, Carl, Daryl, and Michonne all sense something isn’t quite right. For days they’ve thought someone may be tracking their movements. Carl found evidence of an attempted break-in at the church, but couldn’t tell if the knife marks on the windows or the threat, You’ll burn for this, were fresh. We know that Morgan isn’t far behind the group, and he was a tad loony-pants the last time Rick saw him, but is he the threat?

Nope. It is far, far worse.

Poor Bob. He’s finally found a groove after the apocalypse—a solid relationship with Sasha, good standing within the survivor group, sobriety, a solid plan to help Abraham and Eugene reach the epidemic center in D.C., and a sense of relief so great he can’t help but weep. The latter proves his undoing. When Bob takes a time-out from the party, someone sneaks up and clubs him over the head. Next thing we know, it’s Bob-aque time. Hold the sauce. He’s still alive, but for how long? Gareth seems like a patient man, despite his disgusting diet choices. The group who survived the Terminus attack is small. How much can they consume before Rick realizes they’re a man down? Do cannibals diet? Guess we’ll find out next week. Cross your fingers and hope Bob makes it out only missing one limb.


Never Again. Never Trust.

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Never Again. Never Trust.
Review of The Walking Dead 501
By RC Murphy

It must be October. Everyone as far as the eye can see is trapped in Walker Fever—not to be confused with the fever the infected suffer before turning into the undead. We here at the ZSC Command Center are not immune and fell head-first into the fifth season of AMC’s The Walking Dead with snacks at our side . . . which we quickly ignored, given how bloody the first episode of the season turned out to be. With that in mind, let’s see what our favorite band of survivors are up to after being captured last season.

Spoiler Warning! Below are show spoilers. Turn back now if you haven’t watched this episode.

This episode had one flaw—the Terminus flashbacks. There were only two, at the beginning and end, but the information delivered was something clearly conveyed through dialog and set decoration in the middle of the episode. All the flashbacks provided was a little confusion as far as the timeline went. For half the episode, it appeared as though there was a time gap between when Rick and company were captured and the moment Carol and Tyreese were within hearing range of Terminus and all the gunfire. It wasn’t until Carol saw her once-friends bound and gagged that things started to make sense. Sometimes in story-telling, less is more. This was one of those cases.

Screen-Shot-2014-10-12-at-7.12.17-PM-e1413167251179Rick is still embracing the Ricktatorship, pushing everyone to arm themselves with whatever they can find in the train car. Miraculously, in the short time they were apparently imprisoned, they managed to build a good number of gnarly weapons using rusty nails, leather belts, hunks of wood, and who knows what else. All their work was for naught. Glenn, Rick, Ben, and Daryl were still taken by surprise and dragged into Terminus’ slaughterhouse. Which is the exact moment everyone set aside their popcorn and clutched the couch cushions so tight, their knuckles turned white.

Despite internet rumors, this was not the moment we said goodbye to any main cast members. Glenn is still alive and has taken on Hershel’s role, becoming Rick’s conscious when his desire for revenge threatens the entire group’s survival. It’s a position Glenn has filled before, but his youth and inexperience usually costs him solid ground to stand on in the face of Rick’s anger. This time Glenn seems better prepared to stand up for what he feels is right. He’s got far more at stake with Maggie at his side and committed to staying there no matter what. Not even his good friend will force him to risk her safety.

PHcADFWtICstgg_1_mCarol is far, far removed from the character we met in season one. Now she can walk up and kill a walker without blinking, even while Tyreese stands behind her saying he’s not prepared to kill again. In the face of his perceived weakness and possible judgment, Carol doesn’t balk, doesn’t care. She will live, that’s that. She will make sure Tyreese and Judith live, no matter the cost to her. But she has no plans to stick with them. Being ousted from the group changed her more than the death of her husband and daughter. Solitude fits the new Carol. She’s truly free to do what she wants when she wants after years of being the steel backbone for her family. Will her resolve to remain a lone wolf stay firm after reconnecting with the rest of the group? Hard to tell, but the reunion hug she shared with Daryl was perhaps one of the happiest moments on the show in years.

This episode was all about escalation. One group wrongs another, the afflicted group seeks revenge. That’s how Terminus became a cannibal’s Fantasy Land—their once sanctuary was overrun, the women abused, countless murdered, but they took it back and became something ruthless and without morals. That’s how Carol and Rick ensured Terminus could not recover from their attack and escape. Even Tyreese did not escape without having to step up his game to not only kill walkers, but also a human who posed a serious threat to Judith. By the end of the episode, even viewers felt panicky, waiting to see how far the escalation would go. What would be the ultimate cost of this revenge pushing Rick forward? So far, no one in his group has paid. That luck can only go so far.

We were visited by a long-lost character at the end of the episode. What role do you think he’ll play in the grand scheme of things? Last time we saw this guy, he was twelve crayons short of a full set and sure to die at any time. That’s the wonderful thing about this show, the people we think will die, don’t. Those we wish would live, keel over without warning. It’s impossible to predict what’s around the corner. But that is half the fun of watching. It is also why The Walking Dead was picked up for a sixth season days before the fifth season premiere.

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Parlay and Promises: A Review of The Walking Dead 313

The-Walking-Dead-Season-3-1Review of “The Walking Dead” 313 – “Arrow on the Doorpost”

Occasionally, the non-stop action of a show has to take a backseat in order to allow characters a chance to build toward something spectacular, like the epic clash on the horizon between Rick’s group and the people of Woodbury. Unfortunately, these “talking head” episodes are full of inaction, intrigue, and contests of wit and strength as characters measure each other for what will surely come in the next episode or two. With only three episodes left in the season, was it wise to allow an entire episode to be spent talking? We’ll see.

**Warning, there be spoilers ahead!**

walking_dead_313It’s taken thirteen episodes for Rick and the Governor to share more than bullets flying past each other and angry words spread through third parties. Sadly, the encounter was predictable. Rick stood on his high moral ground and Phillip dug it out from under him. The Governor twisted Rick’s words around, trying to make him the bad guy, taking advantage of Rick’s fragile mental state in order to plant seeds of doubt in his opponent’s mind. Phillip used several tactics to get under Rick’s skin. He tried to play humble, saying he hadn’t appointed himself as governor, but the people chose him to lead them. In the next breath, he went from humble to sadistic. Before we could recover from his evil streak, Phillip flew into a story about how his late wife died before the zombie outbreak happened. But how much of the story is true? How much of his emotions were true? Phillip is a textbook sociopath. He mimics emotions he sees in others, but they never last long. He can charm the pants off everyone. He has absolutely no remorse for the death and destruction he’s caused. It was difficult to keep up with Phillip’s rapid-fire subject changes in his parlay with Rick—which was the point. He was feeling Rick out, getting a bead on his foe to see if he’s mentally capable of out-maneuvering him. Phillip’s power is smoke and mirrors, with a dash of pure intimidation thrown in the mix. Without his intelligence and taste for blood, he’d be just another guy trying to survive.

TWD_GP_313_1009_0123-600x399Rick, for all his mental shortcomings since Lori’s death, managed to keep up with Phillip’s ever-changing conversation. But whereas the Governor talked, bragged, and played his mental games, Rick brooded in silence. He did what so many people fail to do, he listened to the person he is at war with. And through listening, Rick realized one important thing—no matter what deal they strike, Phillip will never allow the people in the prison to live. When Rick did speak, he played right into Phillip’s hands. Only on one occasion did he gain the upper hand, when he told Phillip killing Michonne was beneath him—it wasn’t worth his time to kill one woman. Rick is way out of his depth. The wars he’s fought within his group and the emotional trauma he suffered from the death surrounding them every day, they’ve left him with little resources to deal with the current threat. It wasn’t until Rick returned to the prison that we caught a glimpse of how he planned to play out the war. Rick lied to his group about the Governor’s intentions. And despite what he said to Hershel later, I think he did it to keep a leash on the wildcards in the prison. How quickly would Merle turn around and try to give Michonne to the Governor in order to save his baby brother from the battle ahead? Sure, Rick wanted his people scared, honed for the war, but he also wanted to make sure he was the one holding all the aces so no one could surprise him later on.

671564-twd_gp_313_1009_0234Andrea’s part in the war is changing. What it is changing to, I have no clue. She had her chance to kill Phillip and she didn’t take it. Hershel invited her to come back to the prison, she got back in the car with the Woodbury folks. How long can she play monkey-in-the-middle before someone (Phillip) gets tired of her indecision and disposes of her for good? Playing both sides of the fence is dangerous. Mostly, it is stupid. Andrea’s little bubble of reality has burst. The man she’s been protecting wants the blood of the people who kept her alive. The only ally she has left is Milton. He knows most of what goes on in Woodbury, but Phillip has been keeping him ill-informed just to throw Andrea off. Yet despite everything, Andrea thinks she alone can prevent the clash between the two survivor groups. I’m not quite sure if she’s been hit on the head one too many times or has allowed the little bit of power Phillip gave her to go to her head. She does not want to be caught in the middle of this conflict. If Andrea were smart, she’d move on and get far away from Woodbury and the prison.

In better news, Glenn and Maggie kissed and made up. Every episode since they were rescued from Woodbury, they fought their own personal war. A war bred from the intensity of the emotions dredged up during their torture and interrogation. Sometimes, no matter how painful it is, a person needs to talk through what is plaguing them. Maggie did her talking, but Glenn was so wrapped up in his inability to protect her and the guilt it raised, he couldn’t let go of the control he’d blanketed himself in to cope. It is refreshing to see them together again. Love is rare in the world they live in. More often than not, it turns into betrayal that is more likely to kill a person than the undead at their doors. Just ask Shane. He thought he loved Lori and his betrayal to Rick morphed into the actions which caused his death.

Is one life worth more than many? Will Rick play the ace up his sleeve and give Michonne over to the Governor in order to save his people? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

 


Buried in the Trenches

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Review of “The Walking Dead” 312 “Clear”

Talk about jerking on our heartstrings. This episode was chalk-full of teary moments. We really need a warning before the episode airs, along with the violence warnings, telling us to grab a box of Kleenex before emotional episodes. For the first time since Rick’s group arrived at the prison, the entire episode took place outside the prison gates nor on the streets of Woodbury. Most notably, there were only four main characters involved. However, the ghosts of many others lingered at the edge of every conversation taking place.

**As usual, there are spoilers below. You’ve been warned.**

312 5In “Clear,” Rick and Carl come full circle as far as their travels go. They’ve been on the run for over a year, yet when things are dire and they need a hand up to get ahead of the Governor’s scheming and army-building, they go home to King County, Georgia to find what they need. The only problem is, the sheriff’s station has been completely cleaned out. There’s nothing left, save a single bullet for Rick’s Colt Python.

Before they even reach King County, Carl questions Michonne’s motives about every single thing she does. At one point, I expected him to ask why she breathed the way she did. Carl is hyper-vigilant. All of the betrayals they’ve suffered warped his growing mind. He’s paranoid, watching everyone they encounter for signs of malice. His paranoia makes him ruthless. He is becoming more and more like Shane, Carl’s mentor before he was forced to put him down like a rabid dog after Shane’s violent encounter with Rick. Carl takes the tough shots and is beyond taking orders from Rick, who he no longer views as a viable leader for the group. However, Carl is young. His emotions range from cold to molten rock at the drop of a hat, much like his father’s. He is still ruled by a child’s lack of impulse control. It could land him in serious water. Again. Hey, is Carl in the house?

312 3Thankfully, Michonne has the presence of mind to keep an eye out for Carl, despite knowing his misgivings about her intentions toward the folks living in the prison. For the most part, we only hear Michonne speak when spoken to, or when she’s laying into Andrea for everything wrong she’s done since walking into Woodbury. However, with Carl she speaks up and gives him someone to connect to when he’s obviously so, so lost without his parents. Daryl did something similar right after Lori died. Why is it the most broken people know how to treat an emotionally fragile child better than his father? We get to see a softer side of Michonne here, not only because of her time alone with Carl. You know what? She’s got a sense of humor on her. The woman is also apparently a ninja, as they observed on Talking Dead after “Clear” aired. It took her seconds to climb a building and just as long to walk around the restaurant to recover the item Carl dropped. Forget rednecks and their prowess with crossbows and automatic weapons, I’ll take Michonne and her sword for the Orange Brigade.

312 1At long last, the number-one question asked by Walking Dead fans can be put to rest. Morgan didn’t end up a footnote lost in the madness of everything that happened after Rick met up with his family outside of Atlanta . . . and there was much rejoicing. Kinda. See, Morgan is nuttier than a basket of kittens. When someone makes Rick and his hallucinations of Lori look sane, there needs to be some serious medication put to work ASAP. Possibly shock treatment. Something, anything to recover Morgan’s wits. It is painfully obvious early on that Morgan is alone. His son Duane’s death is revealed in a scrawled note on the walls of his home, “Duane turned.”

The walls of Morgan’s home are as chaotic as his mind. One word is scribbled over and over again amongst the rambling, “Clear.” We could spend days discussing what this word means to him. Morgan doesn’t use it in a normal sense—all’s clear. The word haunts him, taunts him. He failed to clear the dead from around his house, namely the reanimated corpse of his wife, and it cost him dearly. “Finally was too late,” he says. His failure to clear the way destroyed Morgan’s life as he sees it. He is trapped in King County, not by the dead walking the street, but by the dead walking around in his mind whispering, “Clear.” Was the word one of the last things he said to Duane before he went on the ill-fated search for food? We may never know why everything and everyone must be “cleared” in Morgan’s mind. His lucid moments are few and far between.

312 4Rick cannot cope with Morgan’s mental breakdown. He sees too much of himself reflected in his one-time friend’s eyes. Rick works himself into a panic as he watches the snatches of sanity Morgan regains slip away. If Morgan cannot overcome the grief consuming him, does Rick have any chance at all of resuming his life or is he doomed to wait for the day the rest of his family perishes, slowly losing his mind? His grip on reality and the interpersonal relationships keeping him grounded are slipping. He has no control over Carl, though they have begun speaking to each other again. Rick leaves Judith’s care to the women in the camp for the most part. Carl is the one to think of finding something as simple as a collapsible crib to bring back to the prison. Morgan’s insanity is proof there are depths to which Rick can fall if he doesn’t start fighting to keep his mind in check now.

Morgan claims weak men like him have inherited the earth. With everything happening between the prison group and Woodbury, it’s easy to see what he is talking about. The powerful men, the ones who know how to take charge and organize others into action, make it pretty far in the apocalyptic lifestyle. People need someone to listen to sometimes. Someone who thinks rationally and quickly. But for all of the power the leaders wield, they want more and get caught up in mad power struggles to prove they are the only one worth following in a time of dire need. Rick had this problem with Shane when he joined the group at the quarry. Shane stationed himself as the leader and in walked Rick, doing what he always does—helping folks in need. Shane couldn’t let that stand. He started an emotional war with Rick. What did it cost Shane? Several pints of blood and a huge portion of his skull. And now Rick finds himself embroiled in another war, this one with Phillip. The new war is violent and will consume everyone in its path—including the two powers driving it on. Morgan may have a point. The weak can hide. They hunker down, gather supplies, and fortify their safe haven. For the weak, the only power struggle comes when they must venture out amongst the dead to forage for food. And if they are as well-prepared as Morgan, they have all the power in that war.

Was this broken shell of a man what you were expecting when Morgan finally returned to the show? Let us know what you think in the comments below.

 


King of Rocks and Corpses

Review of “The Walking Dead” 309–“The Suicide King”

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At last we are free of the special hell AMC dumped us in at the beginning of December when they announced “The Walking Dead” would go on their mid-season hiatus. Rick and his crew were greeted by 12.26 million viewers on Sunday night, breaking their record of 10.87 million viewers during the season 3 premiere. What can we say? We really wanted to see what happened to Team Prison and Team Woodbury.

Let’s get down to business. Warning: There may be spoilers below.

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During one of the (very) few calm moments during the episode, Carol and Carl patrol the fence line, waiting to catch sight of the folks who went to Woodbury to rescue Glenn and Maggie. Aside from their voices and the wildlife around the prison, it is dead quiet. The noises millions of people create leave a void when they’re cut off by the apocalypse. It is one of the many things we take for granted in our everyday lives. The sound of a jet flying over, the hum of cars driving down the street, even the shrieks of children playing instead of crying out in fear. We also take for granted the chance to open up and love freely, without the fear the person who has your heart will end up dead minutes after you kiss them, or they decide to go off on their own without saying goodbye because they feel it is right. Loyalty, much like love, has no real place in the zombiepocalypse. Trust is the last thing to be thrown to the wayside once you’re forced to fight to stay alive every minute of every day. How many times have we seen the living attack Team Prison in three seasons of the show? Far too many. It is sad when you can’t trust the people you should be able to band together with and thrive.

Carol made another great point later in the episode while talking to Beth about Daryl and how she understood where his head was at. Is she right, once you’ve been made a victim, will you always be a victim? So many of Team Prison fit into this mold—Maggie after the Governor finished interrogating her, Rick post-Shane and Lori, Beth was victimized with her desire to take her own life. Then of course there’s Carol herself. She knows full well if her deceased husband walked in the door alive and well, she would fall into old habits and allow him to take control. It was how she lived for so long and it was easier to submit to the will of someone stronger than fight with him all the time. Daryl fell right into step with his brother, just the way Carol hoped she wouldn’t in her own situation. Some things are so deeply ingrained in us, we can’t break free. Can the others fight the victim role or will the strong people around them force them down, even if unconsciously?

Then we have Andrea who tries so hard to make herself seem the victim at all times in order to garner pity, attention, and power. Sorry, was that a tad harsh? Andrea accidentally shot Daryl in her attempt to prove she could be important to Rick’s group, even after being told not to. She fought with Michonne—the woman who kept her safe and alive after she couldn’t move fast enough to catch up with the group before they were forced to abandon the farm—and allowed her to leave Woodbury. Why? Michonne had a hinky feeling about the Governor and didn’t want her or Andrea trapped in his claws. But it was too late, Phillip had already worked his mojo on Andrea. Then when he was injured, angry, and pulled back from the town to lick his wounds and plot revenge, Andrea played the betrayed party and ensured the town sees her as the important one, the person to lean on for strength when they’ve been apparently abandoned by their leader. How far up can someone climb on the backs of others before they fall? She’s got a long trip down if her power play in Woodbury doesn’t pan out.

TWD_TR_309_0810_0720One of the most anticipated moments in episode 309 was the Dixon reunion. The first thing I noticed was how cowed Daryl looked when confronted with his brother. He wasn’t the alpha survivor we’d seen rise in the ranks of Team Prison. Daryl let Merle take the lead, dictate what would happen—not only when they were trapped in the fight pit in Woodbury. And when push came to shove, when faced with the decision of family vs. safety, he chose family. Merle on the other hand, is well aware the zombie bowels have hit the fan. He plays brave for his brother, but there are hints he’s just as scared. Merle hides behind lewd language to make himself feel bigger, bolder. Unfortunately all his bravado accomplished is sending the Dixons out on the road on their own with one backpack full of supplies and weapons. How far can two lone men go with only their wits and guts to get them through the walkers?

imagesDid Rick try hard enough to keep Daryl by his side? Team Prison started a war with Team Woodbury and he’s allowing his strongest asset to walk out the door without so much as a real fight. He chased off Tyrese’s group, four able-bodied people who were more than willing to assist them no matter what in exchange for a roof over their head. And to make things worse, Rick snapped at Glenn, the one guy who has been on his side since day one when Glenn talked him through the crowded streets of Atlanta to safety inside the department store. Glenn is fed up with everything. He knows Rick isn’t playing with a full deck anymore and hasn’t since Lori died. So many fans tried to say Rick was better after he held the baby and gave her a proper name. I knew better. It takes more than one bittersweet walk with your newborn to get over the losses and betrayals Rick has been through. Unfortunately for Rick, he has no clue how to cope. The path he’s on is a dangerous one, not only for him, but those who trust him to keep them alive.

And who out there recognized this guy?

Celebrity Zombie

Rick has bats in his belfry. Who should take over leadership of Team Prison? Let us know in the comments below.


Don’t Suffer Alone

Review of The Walking Dead 308 “Made to Suffer”
reviewer: RC Murphy

If the scene inside the homes of our loyal brigadiers was anything like the inside of the Zombie Survival Crew command center before the mid-season finale of The Walking Dead aired…you have my sympathies. We were all on edge—anticipating and dreading the hour to come. Last year’s mid-season finale left even the strongest zombie slayer in tears. It set a very high bar for what we wanted to see from season three. And you know what? It delivered. By forty minutes into the show, it felt like we’d run a marathon right alongside Team Prison and Team Woodbury. But wait; there is a new team in town—Tyrese and his small band of survivors.

This episode in particular had a lot of interesting pairings throughout. We’ll go through a few of them while covering the wild ride of episode 308.

Caution: There may be spoilers below!

Carl, Tyrese, and Sasha

Tyrese hit the screen swinging for the fences. His first moments were strong, gruesome, and showed us exactly the flavor of survivor he is. He is a leader cut from similar cloth as Rick when Rick first joined up with the group at the quarry. The road through the Zombiepocalypse is not an easy one. How on earth is Tyrese capable of still caring at a level Rick abandoned during their time at the farm—when he was trapped in the bar and had to kill to save himself, Glenn, and Hershel? Carl recognized this quality in Tyrese, not when he first found his group in the boiler room of the prison fighting for their lives, but when Tyrese told him they take care of their own dead. Carl has fashioned himself to be the same sort of leader. He does what is necessary to spare the people he’s taken it upon himself to keep safe. Carl is fully prepared to bury his father and take charge—not out of malice, but a sense of duty. Someone has to ensure the safety of the women and Hershel. Whether or not Carl and Tyrese will get along, it is hard to say. Tyrese did step up to Carl’s defense when the very vocal Sasha tore into him. She is a wild card, demanding respect and trust blindly from the people they meet along the way. Obviously she has not run into the sort of vile people Team Prison has.

The Governor, Andrea, and Michonne

This is a pairing we’ve seen before on The Walking Dead. However, the last time these three shared screen time, it was not nearly as intense. The Governor had more time to pour his crazy-laced Flavor-aid down Andrea’s throat before this confrontation. She’s bought into his lies hook, line, and sinker…until she actively catches him trying to keep her out of the firefight by giving her house-call duty. It is hard to tell if Andrea was just being petulant or if she smelled a hint of the real Governor peeking out in his panic to contain the situation. It was very apparent, in the time they’d been set up as a town, the Governor and his men had always been the aggressors in altercations with the living they deemed as enemies. This lack of true defense know-how leads him to react in a way, which has become, unfortunately, typically American. The Governor calls Rick and his group terrorists, using fear to rile his people up enough to give him permission to run them down fox-hunt style. He will eat up Woodbury’s resources, resources gathered to keep them alive and safe from the zombies beating down their doors, trying to get revenge for what has been done to him personally—all in the name of justice. Yee haw! Michonne had the right idea—cut the snake off at the head. Sure, the Governor has lieutenants to take his place, but they don’t have the appeal he does. Something about him always struck her as wrong. Boy did she find out why when she stumbled into his Man Cave and discovered Penny, the biter daughter he’s been keeping locked up like an asylum patient, and the infamous fish tanks o’ heads. The fight between Michonne and the Governor was long anticipated and did not disappoint. At certain points, it seemed as though Michonne would join the heads in the tanks. When Andrea came to see what was going on, the tension between her and Michonne was dang near another body standing between them. How rattled is Andrea’s faith in the Governor now?

Ow, sorry, I need a break. There is something in my eye. Okay, who is next?

Rick and Shane

You’re not reading that wrong. Just when we thought Rick had gotten over his issues with his former best friend, they come roaring back. This time in the form of a visual hallucination—far more startling than the auditory hallucinations he suffered after Lori’s death. It was so out of the blue, so staggering, I did not know how to react. Shane is dead, really dead. Bullet in the brainpan dead. The guy Rick mistook for Shane looked nothing like him. Were we wrong to think Rick was mentally capable of taking the reigns back from Daryl?

Daryl and Merle

Since fans found out Merle was returning to The Walking Dead as more than a hallucination of Daryl’s behalf, they’ve been clamoring for a Dixon Reunion. In my head, I saw it as the brothers sitting down to stew some squirrels and share a couple warm beers, telling of their best walker kills. Unfortunately, the writers for the show aren’t nearly as nice as I am (looking at you, Mr. Kirkman). First off, the Merle Daryl knew back when he left the quarry to grab supplies at the department store is long gone. This is a more refined Merle, clean and given a purpose in life—help the Governor save the human race no matter what. Heavy emphasis on No Matter What. Merle has some sense; he didn’t blindly chase after Michonne and reported her dead, instead. Admittedly, he was distracted by Glenn and Maggie and learning the location of their new safe haven. That distraction became his downfall in Team Woodbury. Unfortunately, his strange fixation on finding Daryl is what leads to their reunion. Both were bound and dragged before the people of the town to pass judgment—are they terrorists or will they be set free? The Governor used them as a scapegoat to cover his backside. That is good leadership.

Now for the really bad news…we have to wait until February 10th 2013 at 9:00 PM e/p to find out what will happen to Merle and Daryl.

If you get The Walking Dead withdrawals, AMC will be running all three seasons, up to episode 308, of the show on New Years Eve and New Years Day. Keep an eye on Twitter, some of your ZSC commanders may live-tweet a few of the episodes.

What do you think will happen to Daryl and Merle? Let us know in the comments below.


Don’t Answer The Door

Review of The Walking Dead 307 “When The Dead Come Knocking”
reviewer: RC Murphy

We’re one episode closer to the dreaded, the unthinkable, the torturous mid-season finale of The Walking Dead season three. Everything so far has been building to the confrontation between Team Prison and Team Woodbury. Which side are you on? Let’s take a look at each team and their actions in episode 307. Maybe that’ll help you make your decision.

Team Prison has gained a very strong ally in Michonne. That is, if Rick decides he can trust her. It honestly looked as though he wanted to leave her standing in the middle of a field of walkers. Not to mention bearing witness to how easily she disposes of the living that prevent her from continuing in her relentless drive to survive the apocalypse. Rick’s distrust of strangers is at an all-time high. That the two prisoners, Oscar and Axel, made it into the “inner sanctum” of the crew’s trust is astounding. So many strangers have attempted to harm the group; Rick has developed serious trust issues. Most of those may actually stem from Lori and Shane working inside the camp to hurt him, even though they thought they were doing it for Rick and the group’s benefit. Look where that got them.

Once Rick watched Michonne work with her sword, he saw potential and stepped in to help her. However, Rick wasn’t the savior of the day.

It was a bullet from Carl’s gun that took out the walker inches from ripping into Michonne. He didn’t hesitate. He lined up a clear shot and took it. Carl has nothing to prove at this point. It was his gun tasked to put his own mother down after her emergency c-section. After, a coldness crept into Carl. He’s been different, slightly distant, but nowhere near as isolated by his grief as his father. Rick took a while to work out his grief, to the point where we didn’t know if he’d come back to the group in one piece. During that time, Carl helped clear the prison of lingering walkers and took care of his newborn sister. Heck, he even named the baby—Judith. At some point, Carl tasked himself with being the man of the family. And you know what? It is a role he fits into well. Carl has done a lot of growing up since season one, back when he wouldn’t still for a haircut and went off with Shane to catch frogs. He’s matured enough to be in charge of the prison while the others are off to Woodbury on a mission to rescue Glenn and Maggie.

Merle, Merle, Merle…you are a tiger, fully incapable of changing your stripes, no matter how hard you try. We are finally seeing the old Merle, the one Rick and the others left handcuffed on the rooftop. He is a master at warping the truth to suit his needs. In his world, he needs to be the perpetual victim. He uses the pity his twisted stories garners to sucker people into trusting him. His attempt to do the same with Glenn fails miserably. Glenn will not give up the location of the others. Why does Merle want to get to Daryl so bad? He doesn’t strike me as a sentimental man. He was the one who left Daryl to fend for himself for most of his childhood. Caring now raises too many questions. Namely, is he trying to recruit Daryl to the Governor’s army? The Governor seems concerned that once Merle sees his brother, he’ll switch sides. Guess we’ll find out soon, huh?

Andrea thinks she has seen the darker side of Woodbury and the Governor, Phillip, after the undead WWE match from before and the scientific endeavors in this episode. She couldn’t be more wrong. He used the experiment with the dying man to keep her out of the way so she wouldn’t find out about Glenn and Maggie. Was it overly important? No. She knew full well what would happen once the subject was reanimated. Any of the other soldiers could have stood by and dispatched the biter just as easily. It is the same thing Phillip has been doing with her all along—keep Andrea distracted and complacent. How will her opinion of him change once Team Prison comes into Woodbury? Will Andrea jump ship and go with Michonne and Rick? She trusted both of them at one point. Throwing her lot in with a guy who lies as well as he breaths is seriously stupid.

The Tough Guy of the Week Award goes to: Glenn. Obviously.

Glenn remained utterly calm in the face of Merle’s storm. Somehow he managed not to die (with a few too many close calls for Team Glenn to be comfortable, to be honest). And despite the condition he was in, he wasn’t the one to break. His faith in Rick kept him rock solid through the interrogation. Hopefully that faith is founded.

Next week is the mid-season finale. What do you hope will happen when Team Prison and Team Woodbury clash at last? Let us know in the comments.


The Sound of Grief

Review of The Walking Dead 306 “Hounded”

reviewer: RC Murphy

Talk about an action-packed episode. A lot happened in Woodbury and at the prison. To make things easier, I’m going to start with the Woodbury crew.

There is no love lost between Merle and Michonne. This week we’ve seen what happens when they attempt to hunt each other. They are equal in their abilities to fight and think like the purest of predators. Michonne is stealthier, able to use the wilderness to her advantage. She is also a very quick learner, collecting information about the walkers to use to her advantage. Merle isn’t that savvy. He’s all hack-and-slash. Anything that gets in his way ends up with a bullet in their head or that wicked arm-baronet he’s rigged.

Merle also has a very distinct disadvantage—he is a believer. This is a side of him we never saw until the Governor took him in, cleaned his system of drugs, and set him on a path to a specific purpose. Unlike Hershel when we first met him, Merle is not crippled by his belief in God. He knows during the end days, one has to look closer to earth to find someone to follow. His ten commandments came straight from the Governor’s mouth. Merle is happy to be a disciple in this strange cult that’s formed in Woodbury. He will go to any lengths to spread the word, even cutting down unbelievers like Michonne. Despite the fact that she could be one of their strongest allies in the fight to survive.

Andrea doesn’t see the cultish side of Woodbury. She thinks the darkest secret behind those tall walls is the undead MMA match we witnessed in last week’s episode. Oh honey, it gets a lot worse. No matter how much you dig, they’ll keep deflecting your questions; convince you there’s nothing amiss. For all of her time fighting, scraping by during the winter, Andrea is still very naïve. She wants to believe in the good in people—so long as that good goes toward making her life more comfortable. There’s an internal struggle she’s fighting. The need to have a place to call her own that is safe and the thrill of the kill, taking down walkers to earn her keep. The last time we saw Andrea fight this hard to prove herself, Daryl nearly had his head blown off. The Governor keeps a tight leash on his little army. She is too wild, too unpredictable. Will he tame her to suit his purpose?

It seems like he fully plans to tame her through…softer means. We all saw it happening long before it did. But I will admit, seeing both of them let their guard down long enough to have a private moment was surprising. Then again, how low were the Governor’s, I mean Phillip’s, mental walls? If he’s playing a game with Andrea, he is winning. She is utterly clueless and falling for each and every smooth line he feeds her. Someone needs to shake some sense into Andrea before it is too late.

Now let’s see what is going on in the prison with Rick and his crew.

Warning! There may be spoilers below. If you have not watched episode 306 of The Walking Dead, turn around and go watch it.

The sound of grief is different for everyone—a sob escaping as you walk past a spot that triggers memories of the one you lost, the roar of anger at your inability to keep a loved one from harm. It could be the deafening quiet filled with everything left unsaid before they left this world, or the sound of a kiss to remind yourself that you’re still alive.

The sound of grief may even be a phone ringing in an empty room.

Daryl’s way to cope is to jump into action. He can’t sit still and do nothing while the group stews in their grief. The show of emotion makes him uncomfortable. However, he doesn’t run from it, he acknowledges it. Daryl took Carl aside and showed him a glimpse of his past, just enough for Carl to know he has someone he can relate to. He is not alone, despite the loss of his mother. He will survive and grow to be a stronger person. Of all the people for Carl to look up to, Daryl is the first I actually want him to be like. He’s capable, smart (but not book smart), a quick thinker. Daryl also cares on a level no one else is capable of. How else would he be able to know at a glance that it is Carol’s knife in the walker? He does have a breaking point, but it is handled in private. His anger over failing Carol almost cost him the chance to find her again.

You have to look outside of your grief or you’ll be blind to important things.

Rick is beyond blind. He’s put himself into total isolation. That he remembered to clean up and speak complete sentences is a small miracle at this point. His gourd is cracked. No, it isn’t just cracked; he stuck that sucker in a blender and hit frappe. Rick’s behavior is causing some serious concerns. The minute Rick admitted to talking to someone on the phone, the warning bells went off in Hershel’s mind. We saw the thought on his face, “If Rick has snapped, what will happen to us? How will I tell everyone that the man we’ve relied on to keep us alive will no longer be able to help?” To be honest, I don’t think Rick can any more. When one begins to hear the voices of the dead calling, there’s no going back. You’ve passed Go, gone straight to the asylum—forget about the two hundred dollars.

The group will have to deal with a new face at the prison in next week’s episode. This arrival is what ties the two groups of survivors together and brings us one step closer to a face-off with Rick and the Governor. Can Rick handle it, though? His people need him to rally and save the day.

What do you think? Will Rick rise to occasion and help his people? Let us know in the comments below.