How does one figure out which Ash is which? Let them babble long enough for you to recognize just why the real one annoys you so much. It works well for Kelly and Pablo. Once they take out BadAsh, the gang is forced to divide and conquer. Ash stays inside to dispose of the bodies before they turn deadite. Pablo and Kelly head outside to stop Brad, Heather, and Brad’s wife from discovering the grisly scene in the cabin. Matter of fact, they’re so willing to keep these hikers from becoming deadite fodder, the duo offer to escort them to the road.
Just one hitch in the plan. When Ash finishes disposing of his doppelganger, and having a chat with the Necronomicon, Amanda’s body is missing. Not for long. DeadAmanda stops the fleeing hikers. Not to be rude, she even performs a puppet show for them. Unfortunately, she is fresh out of puppets, so Brad and his wife have a little room made in their heads to accommodate DeadAmanda’s hands for the performance. What’s the play? Oh, just a little comedy starring Kelly and Pablo, highlighting how pathetic they are. DeadAmanda pins the duo with the corpses, leaving Heather to fend for herself. The woman wisely runs. She makes it pretty far before being caught, toyed with, and thrown into a tree where she suffers a compound fracture. Pablo tries to save Heather. Tries.
Suddenly from the trees, Ruby to the rescue! DeadAmanda doesn’t hang around long for the fight. The second Ruby’s guard is down, the deadite books it. There’s a nice bit where Ruby rants about Ash and his oafish ways with the Necronomicon while dismembering Heather’s friends so they don’t come back. It’s a classic gross-out splatstick gag.
We finally get to see Ash and Ruby together. Though at this point in the game, I’m still not sure which one to trust with the future of mankind. Ash thinks with his junk and accidentally unleashed evil on middle America. Ruby, on the other hand, is a mysterious badass fighter who came out of nowhere, but seems to know a lot about how to fight evil. She could even be a competent ally in disposing of the book.
Ruby convinces Ash the key to destroying the Necronomicon involves defacing—literally—the book with her super special dagger before burying it. At no point during this whole ritual does Ash stop and listen to Ruby’s word choice. It’s not until she’s reading from the book and hell starts creeping closer to the cabin that he thinks to take the book back from her. Damage done, dude. The Necronomicon’s loose face launches at Pablo, wrapping around his face like a mask. What can they do? Does Ruby actually know what she’s doing? Duh? She wrote the thing.
Ruby being the Necronomicon’s creator is a pretty awesome twist to what little folklore was ever explored for the book. Too bad we learn this right before the season finale. Thank goodness we know season two is on the way. Maybe they’ll expand on Ruby and her connection to the Necronomicon. Then again, it could be a finale where Ash kills everyone. Who knows with this show.
Even fans who’ve been upbeat and optimistic got to the last thirty seconds in the finale and probably had a similar reaction to what exploded from my mouth. No, I can’t repeat it. We’re a family-friendly site. It’s so frustrating seeing a glimmer of what they can do with this story line, but realizing it’s too late. The damage is done. Negan’s introduction should’ve come in episode 608, no later than that. Heck, I may have even accepted this ill-advised cliffhanger if it were the mid-season finale. However, after sixteen episodes of virtually nothing, they cannot dangle the Biggest Scariest Bad Guy in front of us and not give any resolution. Yes, death can be a resolution. The group needed to be brought fully into the New World Order. The only way to do that is for one person to die. That’s the deal they’ve been told all along. Each time someone mentions the Saviors taking over, it’s accompanied by a mandatory death to make a point, or in this case get even for a lot of dead guys. Imagine Lord of the Rings ending with Gollum tackling Frodo. Is the ring destroyed? Does Sauron get a clue and regain his property? Every writer knows there has to be resolution to the plot, even if it’s just to wrap up part of what’s going on.
What’s the point of spending all this time and effort to film Negan’s cat and mouse game if the bad guy isn’t really all that bad? Don’t get me wrong, Jeffrey Dean Morgan is better than anticipated as Negan. He blew me away with one smile and, “Pissing your pants yet?” I could not be more pleased with where the show is going in terms of a quality antagonist. Well, an antagonist besides Rick’s massive ego.
Negan stole the show, hands down. He wasn’t the only one delivering a stellar performance despite a script lacking any real depth. Everyone gave it their all. I understand why so many were weary after, but where’s the vomit-inducing portions? The most shocking thing is the hanging, really. Hysterically, they shot that in full detail, yet kept the ever-promised major death a cliffhanger. And while, yes, it has an impact, there’s nothing personally at stake for the characters until they’re shot at and run. Much like the ending; we came into the finale expecting to put any character’s life at stake and came out with no one immediately in danger. There’s six months to shrug it off. Where if they’d given us a death, it’d be six months wondering how they’ll survive without so-and-so.
I’m at the point where I find fun where I can with the show before I lose my mind. Honestly? Negan is fun and I want to see where he’ll go.
Melissa McBride as Carol Peletier; Walker – The Walking Dead – Season 6, Episode 16 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC
It’s irritating that it’s no longer enjoyable to watch the people we’ve grown to love or love-to-hate for six seasons. Carol has been a favorite character since the get-go, but when her life was seconds from ending, I didn’t care. The writing changed her so much, the character begging for death wasn’t the one I’d invested my fan-love into. The best part of her story arc is Morgan killing for her after she warned him that caring will always lead to doing anything to keep them alive. Again, it’s a long, drawn-out arc for a twenty–second payoff.
So here we are, waiting to find out who bites the big one and none of us are happy about it. The TWD team are scrambling to defend their decision. You know what? I’m not even going to bother reading their excuses. That’s what it is now, nothing but excuses. They got too comfortable being on the pedestal. When it came time to put Lucille to work, they didn’t have the guts to push their boundaries, lest they fall. It backfired. How many fans will stay with season seven after the premiere? I have a feeling most will watch to find out who died and move on to bloodier pastures.
Yup, you guessed it. There’s spoilers in this review. I highly suggest you watch before reading.
Last week I mistakenly labeled episode 214 as the penultimate, when this week’s episode is the one leading into the now-inflated finale. My bad. In my defense, these last few episodes blurred together with nothing truly standing out until the last fifteen seconds in this episode. That gunshot is the only reason fans are hanging in to see the finale. They don’t care about this boogeyman we’re promised. They’ve bitten the Daryl-is-in-danger bait and swallowed the hook.
How did we get to a point where the most reliable defender for Alexandria winds up with an enemy bullet in him? I don’t even know. A lot of the logic they have Daryl working on right now doesn’t fit the Daryl we’ve known since he first calmed his roll and became a team player. Yes, people regress when stressed, but for him to completely snap and spiral in this guilt loop is whoa, wait, what? He’s a better man than the one they needed in order to lure so many valued fighters into the middle of nowhere. Yet again, they’re relying on the revenge trope to undermine character growth and create bad situations. Even Rosita gets sucked into Daryl’s mindset. Not that Glenn and Michonne fare much better after leaving the two to hunt Dwight and his gang. They’re surrounded and used as, yup you guessed it, bait. Snap. Reel. Toss the catch into the ice chest. Well, not yet. We know Daryl was shot, but not the severity of the wound. I’m gonna guess it didn’t tickle, though.
So that’s four fighters out of the way. Five including Carol, who snuck out during shift changes early in the morning with a fully-loaded go bag and a coat with some interesting modifications—which I totally want should the undead hit the fan at some point. They want Carol to seem traumatized, on the brink, but she’s premeditating pretty much everything that’s happened in the hours after burying Denise. An insane person would not take the time to cook herself that much food, let alone pack enough gear for a few weeks and sew a friggen gun into her coat sleeve. It’s like they don’t know who the character is anymore. Oh, wait. I’ve said the same thing since they set her on the Morgan witch hunt. A hunt which is flipped on its ear with Morgan and Rick awkwardly buddy copping it through the countryside looking for Carol. An homage to Rick and Shane’s fight way back in season two? Possibly, but the whole mistrusting Morgan story line is so convoluted, their discussion has no impact other than, “Duh, we know that’s how Rick thinks now.” It’s not a surprise he thinks Carol’s murders at the prison were justified. He just sanctioned widespread murder to wipe out the Saviors. Nor is it a surprise Morgan feels this is a poor plan. Killing leads to killing. Morgan saved a man, who saved a woman, who saved Carl’s life. Which is the preferred outcome? This is something they’ll never agree on. Matter of fact, things between the men are downright tense after they follow the blood trail to a barn and a man just looking for a horse. Rick assumes the armored man is a Savior or fled from Hilltop and wants to shoot him—ignoring the encroaching walkers. Morgan sabotages the shot. There’s some eye daggers before they continue the hunt for Carol, any surviving Saviors, and the Horse Guy—who may or may not be a hint to another comic book tie-in. We never find out what happens after Carol leaves the road where she killed a handful of saviors.
We have seven fighters incapacitated thanks to Daryl’s revenge scheme, Morgan chasing Carol, and Maggie’s sudden complications from the kidnapping. Seven of their best fighters just happen to be out of town the episode before the Big Bad huffs, puffs, and blows their gates in. Why stack the deck against the protagonists this way? Oh, right? They have no tension left for Negan’s arrival. All they can do is make overwhelming odds for the characters and hope it’s enough to make fans ask questions on social media, driving up word of mouth advertisement and allowing them to repost the few good things fans say or ask in order to convince everyone their poor plotting for season six was worth it in the end. Going into next week, I’m convinced they’ve lost the love of story and are simply milking the cash cow until they can switch beasts and attempt to get milk from the shriveled dugs Fear the Walking Dead sported throughout its freshman season. Basically, they have no writing integrity because they got too comfortable being the best in their genre and stopped trying to do new things. Rehashing old ideas and generalized plots is nothing new or surprising. We did most of this before with The Governor. Honestly? I get more enjoyment from just about every other post-apocalyptic show than what the Walking Dead franchise has offered in three years.
The fun and screams continue as Team Badass ventures to finally translate the Necronomicon—no, Pablo, I won’t call you guys The Ghost Beaters even if you paid me in fresh human flesh. Ash drags his unlikely partners along to Books from Beyond, owned by Lionel Hawkins, a self-made Necronomicon expert. He’s probably the only guy alive today who can read the book. Good thing nothing happens to him, right?
I’m getting ahead of myself.
The mysterious Ruby Knowby is on the team’s trail. She arrives at Kelly’s parent’s house not long after they drove off. Her taste in cars in commendable, by the way, but that’s not why we’re here. Ruby wants Ash and the Necronomicon. To find them, she needs information. That’s where dear old dad comes into play. Kelly’s father wasn’t properly buried for someone attacked by a deadite. They idiots left his head attached. When Ruby shows up looking for Ash’s trail, she’s attacked by DeadDad. The fight lasts a laughable half a second before Ruby impales DeadDad on his wife’s grave marker and begins her interrogation.
DeadDad isn’t a stool pigeon. He’s of no help to Ruby, refusing to cooperate. That is until she pulls out a wicked knife which just so happens to scorch deadite flesh on contact. Groovy. Where can I get one? We have to assume DeadDad talks. I hope he did. It’s about time Lucy Lawless and Bruce Campbell were on screen together. My patience wears thin waiting for this momentous occasion.
Over at the creepy as hell book store, Lionel is one happy puppy when Ash gives him permission to touch and read the Necronomicon. His joy is cut short when Amanda Fisher, still not back on duty but a pain in Ash’s backside nonetheless, bursts in thinking she’ll just snag Ash and end the newfound problems in her life. Think again. Pablo, fresh from his rejection after Kelly calls him “the little brother I never had,” rushes to Ash’s defense, clocking Amanda on the head with a femur. They cuff her to a ladder, leaving Kelly to watch over the officer while the guys go into the back to learn a little Necronomicon history and royally screw everything up some more.
Translating the book is about 25% skill and 75% talking out one’s backside, or so it seems when Lionel cannot find a clear answer to the Big Problem: How do they close the portal Ash opened in order to get laid? There’s some vague thing about the key being in The Man, which Ash assumes is him. Then the braintrust does exactly what they shouldn’t, plan to summon a lesser demon and ask it how to fix Ash’s boneheaded mistake. It’s Pablo’s idea, which he wants nothing to do with once things are in motion. Lionel is beside himself with joy at the prospect. Ash is still stuck figuring out why him. Don’t hurt yourself thinking, dude.
The women aren’t exactly making intelligent decisions, either. Amanda wakes and is understandably livid about being cuffed to the ladder. Kelly’s sympathy button broke when she watched Ash hack her mother’s head off. She’ll watch Amanda and let the guys do their thing. That is until whatever they’re doing in the back room makes weird things happen out front. Suddenly having another ally seems like a good idea. Amanda even agrees with her; if Ash and the others are trying to stop the deadites, then they should all team together.
They’re not cooking with the same kind of logic in Books from Beyond’s back room. Lionel is eagerly setting up the ritual space, creating an altar and a protective circle to trap the demon—safety first, kids. So long as no one breaks the salt circle, they’re good. I mean, it’s only a lesser demon. How bad can it be?
Bad. It’s bad.
Eligos isn’t some infant-sized demon, as they assumed from the picture in the book. It is downright terrifying, actually. The design for the demon is astounding. Better yet, it’s practical. As in, there was a guy in a rather hideous costume on set for the actors to work with and not a tennis ball on a pole to get the sight lines correct. The only computer effects came in when Eligos had to move and fight. Oh and they blurred his junk for the actor’s modesty. How kind.
Okay, back to what a poorly thought out plan this is.
The demon isn’t particularly helpful. Ash asks how they undo what he’s done. Eligos wants to barter—his freedom for the answer. Yeah, not happening. He asks again, what can they do? “Die quickly; that is my only advice,” Eligos tells the men. He’s so helpful, that Eligos.
Before Ash can make yet another vain attempt to get a straight answer, Amanda bursts into the room. She lied to Kelly. She’s still going to apprehend Ash. When Ash doesn’t comply to Amanda’s order to disarm, she shoots a warning shot beside his chin—it is the biggest target, after all. The show startles Ash. He breaks the protective circle. Eligos got his wish, he’s a free elf . . . I mean, demon.
Eligos attacks. Amanda is knocked out. He digs his powers into Ash’s mind, destroying it from the inside out. The demon is wicked fast, moving in quick jumps around the room, making it impossible to shoot him. Ash shatters a window. It gives Eligos the weapon he needs to prevent Lionel from reading the spell to return him to the other side of the portal. Lionel takes several huge glass shards to the face and dies. Poor Lionel.
Pablo, who spends a good chunk of the fight hunched behind a table with Kelly, grabs a gun and tries to shoot the demon. It does no good, but breaks it’s hold on Ash . . . just long enough for it to circle around and snag them both. As they only one left to save the day, Kelly grabs the Necronomicon—it started the mess, it should end it, too—and whacks Eligos with the book. The demon vanishes in a puff of black smoke. Nifty thing to remember next time they summon pure evil. That was sarcasm.
Amanda can’t catch a break. After Pablo and Kelly head to Ash’s can, Amanda wakes and still tries to apprehend Ash, cuffing him. He slips his wooden hand off and cuffs her instead. She’s left in the book store alone. Or not. Lionel returns as DeadLionel and he’s got his eyes set on Amanda. She better figure out how to escape.
Left at yet another dead end, the team’s spirits are low. What can they do? The most helpful thing Pablo can suggest is visiting his estranged uncle, the family brujo. Given the lack of anything better, off they go to talk to the uncle Pablo hasn’t seen in quite some time.
It’s glorious. It’s bloody. Best yet, it’s simplistic. No complicated or contrived tension between the characters. The plot rolls out naturally. Are there parts which don’t make a lick of sense? Of course. This show is written for the most part to parody other shows which take themselves far too seriously at times. But that’s the beauty of this show. It’s not bogged down by things like physics.
Citizen Z is still on the run from the NSA zombies loose in the base. He left Dog alone in the command center with orders to stay no matter what. But where’s Citizen Z going? To the weapons locker, of course. Hilariously, even though he emerges from the storeroom with two full bags of guns, he still relies mostly on a baseball bat to dispatch any zombie in his path on the way back to Dog.
Matters aren’t quite so easy for everyone else. The broadcast from Citizen Z turns the small town in Wyoming into the O.K. Corral. Everyone and their psychotic mother is on the hunt for Murphy. A few factions are in play for this episode. First, the bounty hunter introduced in episode 201, Vasquez. Then there’s the Skull Face guys—who never stand a chance. The instant Vasquez sees them, he opens fire. That sets the tone for the entire episode. It’s a free-for-all. Every moving body has a target on their forehead, living or dead. There’s also Soccer Mom, fond of a shotgun loaded with less lethal bean bag shells. Her luck runs out after landing a shot to Murphy’s gut; Cassandra—still very much feral—eats her for lunch. Escorpion, played by Emilio Rivera (Sons of Anarchy), uses a rocket launcher as his weapon of choice. His scenes are few and far between, but the damage he does with that launcher are felt for most of the episode after he deafens 10k with a blast. The last bounty hunting crew to get face time are the Rednecks. They’re just dumb enough to fail right in the pursuit of The Murphy.
Throughout the episode, the main crew get their backsides handed to them. This provides odd little flashbacks for everyone. Addy remembers riding her bike down a suburban street. Citizen Z recalls falling in a park and being scooped up by his mother for comfort. Roberta’s subconscious takes a dip in a pool. Doc doesn’t flashback, he has an out-of-body experience. While floating near the ceiling, he watches Redneck #2 strangling him, then spots a letter opener on top of a bookshelf and tells himself to knock it down. Murphy’s vision is, of course, smoking a joint with a beautiful woman.
During the chaos, everyone eventually ends up in the world’s most depressing motel. This place was sad in its heyday. After the apocalypse, it became the place where happiness goes to die alone and forgotten. Redneck #1 and #2 are taken out by Vasquez and Doc in the motel. After #1 collapses, Vasquez decides to join forces with Roberta. She doesn’t say no; he just saved her life. Everyone is scattered in the building. Mack and Addy split up to avoid zombies and find Murphy. He goes down, she up. What neither could predict is the insane number of zombies drawn to the motel thanks to their prey. Caught alone in the stairwell, Mack is swarmed. The nearest door is chained shut. Addy does her best to get to him, but it’s too late. She stays with him, watching the zombies bite him, until he turns and she gives him mercy. Everyone else makes it to the roof where Murphy contemplates jumping. He and Roberta argue, but it’s mostly for show. Murphy jumps, landing in a swimming pool lined with zombies.
He doesn’t make it far. Angry, Addy tracks him down like a bloodhound. She yanks him from the van and beats him until the others drag her off of him. If Murphy hadn’t run from them, Mack would be alive. It’s a harsh truth they all realize the second Roberta asks, “Where’s Mack,” and Addy breaks down. Murphy’s fight leaves him in an instant. Even Cassandra complies when 10k motions her to climb into the van.
Mack’s death is only the second main character loss on the show with any serious impact. It was just assumed he’d continue to be there for Addy even though they aren’t a couple. He made the trip to the compound she called home to make sure she survived the nuclear blasts. No one told him to check on her, he just did it. Mack was the one to suggest they rejoin Roberta’s mission to deliver Murphy to California. As much as he got in the way, he also helped round out the group.
They’re not down a fighter, though. Vasquez hops in the van with everyone at the end of the episode. His plans to sell Murphy to the highest bidder must be out the window after seeing how far the living will go to collect the bounty and promised cure. A solo bounty hunter won’t make it a block with Murphy in custody and he knows it. He also knows the nuclear fallout will make driving westward impossible. They have to skirt the worst damage and hope to find a clear way to the lab. If the lab hasn’t been blown up like so much else in the US.
As promised, Fear the Walking Dead starts with a little undead action. We find Nick Bennett in a church which has been turned into a shooting gallery for heroin addicts where they partake in “Junkie Communion.” He wakes, looking for Gloria, the girl he shot up with the night before. Unbeknownst to him, she’s already up and eating breakfast. Not too sure how much nutrition is in a guy’s face, but it doesn’t stop her from chowing down on a poor sap’s cheek and lips. Nick freaks, as one does when facing an aggressive cannibal with freaky eyes, and bolts from the flophouse. He’s hit by a car when he stupidly stops in the middle of the street to catch his breath.
In the first five minutes, they establish Nick as an unreliable narrator. This position is reinforced after he’s checked into the hospital. A cop asks Nick all the usual questions—what happened, why was he running, where’d he get the smack from? Despite being freaked out, Nick responds with sarcasm and lies, calling his delusional ramblings about blood and gore a, “Runner’s high.” The lies continue when he mother, Madison Bennett, arrives at the hospital. It isn’t until much later that Nick opens up to Madison’s boyfriend, Travis Manawa, about what he saw. He admits he’s terrified to think what he saw isn’t real, but cooked up by his drug-addled mind. “If that came out of me, then I’m insane, Travis. Yeah, insane. I really don’t want to be insane.”
The episode’s tempo drops drastically once Madison and her daughter Alicia leave the hospital and head to school. Alicia is a student at the school where Madison is the guidance counselor. Travis also works at the school as an English teacher. At this point in the show, Alicia is only present to show just how screwed up her brother is compared to a “normal” child raised under the same circumstances. She has a steady boyfriend, a place at Berkeley after she graduates, and a serious chip on her shoulder when it comes to trusting her druggie brother. The last, I’ll give them a pass. It’s gut-wrenching to see a sibling fall into drug dependency and unable to help them in any way that sticks. But couldn’t they do more with Alicia? Anytime she’s given decent screen time, she’s latched onto her boyfriend, repeating, “One more year,” referring to her great escape to college. And then the oh-so-essential personality point, her boyfriend, goes missing. At least she gets more screen time than Chris, Travis’s son, and his mother Liza. There is more zombie footage than their bit part in the episode.
The mid-episode doldrums grabbed hard and fast. In an eye-rolling attempt to break it up, the show kept zooming in on people facing away from the camera and playing, “OMG, this guy’s a zombie,” music. Or they latched onto Madison’s near-belligerent refusal to listen to Nick and Travis when they told her about Gloria and the murders in the church. For heaven’s sake, Travis put his hand in a gore puddle, yet it’s not enough to convince Madison there’s something going on. Instead, she accuses Travis of using her son as a Band-Aid on his broken relationship with Chris. It’s not until Nick breaks out of the hospital that Madison will consider going to the church to see what happened with her own eyes. Even then, she has a minimal reaction to the blood on the floor, yet completely breaks down over a needle in one of Nick’s books.
After Travis and Madison leave the church, they hit traffic—not unheard of on L.A.’s notoriously awful freeway system. They hear police warning people to stay in their cars and gunshots. Travis pulls onto the clearer road and they head home. The next day, however, we find out what happened on the freeway via a viral video the school’s staff watches together. After a car crash, EMT’s treat the victims. One man, lying on a backboard, attacks an EMT. Police beat him with batons, to no avail. Eventually they shoot him about eight times in the chest and, surprise, he stands again. Finally, an officer shoots the man in the head. This isn’t the first documented case of this nature. Tobias, a student Madison has taken under her wing because he’s prime bully bait, brings a knife to school the morning of Nick’s accident. He says, “We’re safer in numbers.” Madison asks why, but he doesn’t really answer. She voices her concern about his future if he continues acting out, bringing weapons to school. Tobias goes on to tell her, “No one’s going to college. No one’s doing anything they think they are.” The kids online are hip to what’s going down. All the adults have their head in the sand, apparently. Well, the adults and Alicia. She assumes the footage from the freeway incident is fake. When the police order the school to cut classes short, her belief wavers a little.
Nick’s a free man. So what’s the first thing he does? Call his drug dealer, Calvin. Madison and Travis think Cal is just Nick’s friend. Yeah, the only friend a junkie needs. Cal and Nick meet at a diner, then drive down to the Los Angeles River. Nick assumes he’s about to score dope. Cal assumes Nick is an idiot and plans to shoot him. They fight. Cal gets a bullet to the gut. Nick bolts like his stolen pants are on fire. Unsure what to do with the corpse, he calls Travis. Yes, because your mom’s boyfriend is always the first logical choice when dealing with murder. Being a good boyfriend, Travis brings Madison along and they all drive back down to the river. Only, there’s no body. Now Madison and Travis think Nick’s completely bonkers. That is until Cal shuffles up behind them when they go to leave. Madison tried to help. Cal mistakes her for a hamburger. Taking matters into his own hands, Nick runs over Cal twice to save his mother. It doesn’t kill the undead, just disables him enough he can’t attack anymore.
All Madison can say is, “What the hell’s happening?” Travis replies, “I have no idea.”
Which is pretty much how I feel after watching a ninety-minute episode for maybe twenty minutes of actual plot. This isn’t TWD, with its non-stop walker action, that’s for sure. But it’s also got a long ways to go in order to become a solid genre show which will keep fans in their seats instead of wandering off for snacks every time Alicia is on screen or Madison waves off Travis’ well-founded concerns for the thousandth time. They could have done so much more with the extra time for the pilot episode, and I don’t mean just cramming in more walkers or slow pans to show downtown Los Angeles.
Of Wolves and Men Review of “The Walking Dead” 516 – “Conquer”
Let’s get the messy part out of the way—this episode didn’t warrant an extra twenty minutes of screen time. All it did was give producers a chance to dump all the plot threads into a pool and pray it all untangles in the end. They should’ve refined the story into something a little more cohesive that fits the normal forty-two minutes per episode. Every plot element was unnecessarily drawn out. It’d be different if the time was spent on much-needed character development or laying down a solid base for next season. It wasn’t. They flung everything off the table and fans are supposed to be happy with how the story lands until October. As far as finales go, this is The Walking Dead‘s weakest. So what did happen in the finale? Let’s discuss.
You know the drill, there’s spoilers from here on out in this review.
After weeks wondering why Morgan was brought back during a couple quick scenes, we finally get an answer. Kinda. It’s entirely possible, given the state of things in Alexandria by the end of the episode, that Morgan will fill the long-empty “morality of the group” position. A role desperately needed since Hershel’s murder. We were led to believe Gabriel would fill the need, but he’s loonier than a monkey in rubber pants. Morgan isn’t a pushover. When he’s confronted by the men who’ve been mutilating the walkers around Alexandria, he attempts a passive resolution. It doesn’t work, so he thunks them over the head and locks them in the car he’d used as a hotel room the night before. Later, Morgan bails Daryl and Aaron out of a tight spot—they unwittingly walk into a trap set by the same men who attacked Morgan. These men, wolves they consider themselves, could be the big bad for next season. Honestly, they don’t feel too threatening now that Daryl, Aaron, and Morgan know where they are hiding their zombie collection. What kind of weirdo keeps a zombie collection, anyway? (Zombie bunnies don’t count, guys.)
The entire time Rick and company have been in Alexandria, it’s felt like he and Michonne are growing apart. She wanted to find home so bad and he’s fought it tooth-and-nail since meeting the townsfolk. It’s not until Rick wakes in a makeshift holding cell with Michonne watching over him that they finally understand—they want the same thing and are going about it completely different ways. She doesn’t care if he conspired with Daryl and Carol to secure emergency weapons. She’s willing to look the other way while Carol coaches Rick on how to Play The Part—tell Deanna and her followers exactly what they want to hear, just like Carol has done since they arrived. Michonne has overlooked and forgiven a lot in the name of keeping their newfound home. Being a pushover won’t work, she knows it. However, she also understands in order to get what they all want, someone and something’s got to give. Michonne is the law alongside Rick. She can’t run off like Carol, threatening to murder anyone in the way—a message Pete got loud and clear in this episode. Michonne tells Rick, “We don’t need (guns) here. I don’t need my sword. I think you can find a way—we—can find a way. And if we don’t, I’m still with you.” So even though he’s been a paranoid nutjob for weeks, one of his most capable allies is still at his side. How much is Michonne willing to overlook and forgive in her quest for normalcy, though?
Tensions are riding high between everyone, not just the town’s peacekeepers. Toward the end of the episode, there’s a huge clash between Sasha and Gabriel—the crew’s most unhinged members. Sasha spent her afternoon laying in a mass walker grave, wondering what’s wrong with her. Gabriel spent his strolling around, looking for a walker to do what he can’t—end his life. At the moment of truth, he kills the walker. It’s actually one of the best kills in an episode filled with walker deaths. But when Gabriel and his inability to commit to death and Sasha with her equally large death wish are in the same room, the claws come out. “I think I want to die,” Sasha tells Gabriel. He replies, “Why wouldn’t you want to die? You don’t deserve to be here. What you did can never be undone. The dead don’t chose, but the choices you made, how you sacrificed your own . . . .” He goes on, blaming Sasha for Bob’s death, saying Tyreese deserved his death because of what she’d done. Most of what he says is directed at himself, not her. It doesn’t stop Gabriel from attacking Sasha. In the end, Maggie pulls them apart and sits them down to pray.
Another tense duo come to blows in the midst of the big, “What do we do with Rick” problem. Nicholas lures Glenn over Alexandria’s walls and shoots him in the shoulder. The wound isn’t fatal. Throughout the middle and end of the episode, Glenn and Nicholas take turns beating the snot out of each other and the walkers drawn their way by the noise. It ends with Glenn pinning Nicholas to the ground, a gun pointed at his head. Nicholas begs, crying. Glenn visibly wants to kill him. Is psyching himself out for the kill, telling Nicholas repeatedly to shut up. He doesn’t do it. Should he have? Not in this instance. Nicholas is a coward. He made his attempt to rid himself of the one man who knows just how much of a coward he is. Now that the plan has failed, I’m sure he’ll back down. He may even become Glenn’s new sidekick.
The town meeting to discuss Rick’s attack on Pete, the gun he’d hidden, and the threats made after the fight is doomed from the get-go. Deanna’s motivations aren’t without bias. It’s obvious she wants Rick gone. He’s a thorn in her side and constantly questions how she’s run things since the settlement was created. She doesn’t even wait to see if Rick will show up to the meeting that’ll decide his fate—which he won’t, seeing as Gabriel let a zombie into Alexandria after failing to secure the gate and he’s tracking it while his crew stands up for him. All those kind words from Michonne, Carol, Maggie—and let’s not forget Abraham’s eloquent offering—they’re for naught. Once Rick walks in with a dead zombie over his shoulder, it’s pretty much sealed. Instead of rushing to save his own hide, Rick hunted a walker on his own to ensure their safety. Not even Deanna’s admission of Gabriel’s concerns, which we heard last week, matter after Rick’s little speech.
“The ones out there, they’ll hunt us. They’ll find us. They’ll try to use us. They’ll try to kill us. But we’ll kill them. We’ll survive. I’ll show you how. You know, I was thinking . . . I was thinking, how many of you do I have to kill to save your lives? But I’m not gonna do that. You’re gonna change.”
Rick’s place in Alexandria is cemented when Pete comes into the meeting fully prepared to kill Rick—with Michonne’s katana. Reg steps in the way to calm Pete and is killed instead. Without hesitation, Deanna gives Rick the order to put Pete down.
This is the chaos greeting Morgan after he reluctantly agrees to come back to Alexandria with Daryl and Aaron. How will the old friends get along after such a brutal reunion? Who knows? We’ve got quite some time to ponder how things will land in an evolving Alexandria.
Philly Feast Review of “Z-Nation” 103 By A. Zombie
This episode is all about Cassandra’s past. Or is she Sunshine? Whatever name she goes by, her past isn’t easy to stomach.
First, let’s once again ponder why Citizen Z is necessary to the plot . . . . Done trying to come up with something viable? Essentially this character’s sole purpose is to be a long-distance safety net. Only the best he can do to actually provide aid is play music. There’s still no contact with the scientists the group is supposed to take Murphy to in California. Sure, one could argue that Citizen Z is present to demonstrate what isolation can do to a person. However, the writing is so bad, it’s still impossible to feel bad for this guy—who is his own worst enemy the longer he’s without human contact—when he’s pretty set for supplies and even has a dog to pal around with. A dog who eats better than I do.
The group ends up in Philadelphia on their trek toward California. They find the Liberty Bell strapped to a flatbed truck and defaced with graffiti. What are they to do to preserve this chunk of American history? Steal the truck and crash it two blocks down the road. How the hell do these people expect to make it anywhere if they keep killing cars at this rate? At this point, it’s questionable how they can realistically survive in the apocalypse. There’s a lot of TSTL—Too Stupid Too Live—behavior within the crew.
On the outskirts of town happens to be Cassandra/Sunshine’s old camp. It’s a cheery place. Led by a psychopath with an odd connection to a mute woman. For kicks they turn out the girls they bring into the camp, making them prostitutes and con artists. They’re stellar people, really. They’ll even give you the meat off their back if you’re hungry. Oh, sorry. I meant the meat off the back of the men they lure into camp with promises of easy women. It’s easy to get confused.
Of course the psychopath, Tobias, can’t let things lie when he finds out his precious Sunshine is nearby. His guys don’t come back with their target. Instead, they drag Addy back to camp and doll her up to earn her keep. Mack is furious. Warren and Garnett snap into action—threatening Cassandra until she opens up about the cult/camp she lived in before they found her. That’s always the best way to get information. Unfortunately the mystery-inducing dialog to draw out the tension before the big “They’re cannibals!” reveal consists of Cassandra repeating, “They’re worse than Zs. You don’t understand.”
I figured out the Big Secret long before the reveal. It’s not an uncommon one in post-apocalyptic stories.
The dialog in this episode is worse than the previous two, especially for Tobias and his followers. Most of the zombies in the big fight at the end move like bored teenagers. Honestly, the most believable part is when the main crew are scouting for supplies in Philadelphia and Doc has a moment remembering the internet and its special entertainment sites.
As inept as this group is, they’ll be carless and half dead by the end of episode four.
Shh . . . . Was that rustle a walker or a spoiler? Tread carefully.
Death rituals in the zombie apocalypse are odd. More often than not, there’s no corpse to bury or they’ve been forced to cremate their pals because there just wasn’t time to dig a grave. Deanna and family memorialize Aiden by listening to one of his mix CDs. Music has been a vital part of this season, keeping the tone just a little off balance. Aiden’s death does the same to Deanna. She isn’t thinking as rationally as usual when it comes to confrontations and playing the intrigue games they’ve already established between the factions. Typically it’d be an ideal time to pounce, but her opponent isn’t playing with a full deck, either.
At least this means Deanna won’t have time to yell at Sasha for going Lone Ranger in the forest around Alexandria. The second Michonne discovers that Sasha is gone again, she takes off after her. Rosita tags along to be the voice of reason. “You seem screwed up that we found something,” Rosita says to Michonne while they’re on Sasha’s trail. She holds a mirror up to Michonne’s guilt about Noah’s death—if she hadn’t pushed, they wouldn’t have been there for him to die. Irrational, yes. Just like Sasha’s quest to single-handedly decimate the walker population. She’s not a human nuke, but does make an impressive dent in the walker numbers near Alexandria—with assistance when the dung hits the fan at one point. Not that Sasha wants or needs Michonne’s help, of course. She’s beyond saving.
Someone else blows off steam by taking out a few walkers. Carl follows Enid out into the woods on one of her numerous outings to simple run free, away from the nightmares. She’s got a few tricks up her sleeve to deal with walkers—including using a kitchen timer to draw them away. At one point they end up cornered by a horde and hide inside a dead tree. Enid tells Carl, “It’s their world. We’re just living in it.” Which them? The walkers who outnumber the living? The adults making all the wrong decisions, costing the children their homes and loved ones repeatedly?
Things in Doc’s house aren’t getting any better. Carol is fed up. She wants to see an end to it and prods Rick toward making a decision. She’s been digging into the problem. Discovered that Jessie tells Sam to lock himself in his closet during Pete’s outbursts, and once Sam came out of the closet to find her unconscious, bleeding on the floor. Rick decides to try negotiating before following Carol’s suggestion to kill Pete. Rick’s idea of good negotiating techniques may need some work. Like, say, not cornering your opponent in a graveyard. Deanna has all the right answers to Rick’s suggestion—separate them—but she’s thrown for a loop at the suggestion that they kill Pete if he doesn’t comply. The answers aren’t enough. Rick pokes at the hornet’s nest, goes to Jessie and tries to make her see that she can’t fix what’s wrong with Pete.
“You’re only going to make things worse.”
“If things get worse, it means he’s killed you and I’m not going to let that happen.”
Why is Rick fixated on solving Jessie’s problems? Is this an attempt to save one woman, therefore saving the countless others he’s failed since waking in the hospital so, so many moons ago? Certainly it can’t be love. How wrong it is that we question his motives so much simply because he wants to do the right thing. But he’s going about it all wrong. His motives may not be transparent, but the window Rick and Pete break through during their fight is crystal clear—and shattered like Rick’s hope for a future in the walls of Alexandria.
Grab your Kleenex and let’s go. Just watch out for the spoilers below.
Let’s get the worst part out of the way. The supply run had potential at first. For once, Aiden didn’t have his head wedged so firmly he couldn’t hear Glenn’s advice. They followed procedure. Well, except Eugene who just didn’t want to be there. Cowards don’t do brave things and helping find replacement parts for the power grid borders too close to heroism for his taste. But the coward wasn’t the problem. Once inside, things start to unravel. Nicholas and Aiden lose their calm once the walkers close in on their location. That’s the only way to explain how Aiden failed to see the grenade pinned to the chest of an armored walker before he took another shot. Unbelievably, that’s still not the worst thing to happen on this run. After both Nicholas and a dying Aiden admit they were the reason four of their previous supply runners’ deaths, everyone jumps from frying pan into the fire. Eugene single-handedly carries Tara through the walkers to the van outside. Nicholas runs the wrong way—ending up cornered in the building’s lobby which they knew was overrun. Glenn and Noah try to save him and each other, but Nicholas’ panic eats his last two brain cells.
Noah’s death is by far one of the hardest to sit through. Steven Yeun’s performance during the scene breaks my heart. It says so much about Glenn and his morals—he let go of Noah, the least he can do is be there for him until he’s gone.
There’s an unspoken code amongst native Alexandrians when it comes to walker interactions. From the examples given during the supply run and at the construction site with Abraham, it’s safe to assume the code is, “Every man for himself.” Abraham is the only man to step up and save Francine after walkers invade their trip to grab supplies for the wall expansion. Slowly some of the others turn back to help, but it takes a while and they’re still not totally convinced they did the right thing providing backup for Abraham. Tobin, their overseer, knows they reacted wrong. He almost got one of his crewmembers killed. After he returns to camp—leaving the others behind—Tobin resigns from his position and tells Deanna to give it to Abraham. Is it wise to put yet another “outsider” in charge? Maggie convinces Deanna that it certainly won’t be the end of the world, plus her people are competent and she has faith in their ability to help Alexandria.
“They’re not good people. They’ve done things. They’ve done unspeakable things.”
Gabriel could undo all the good press Maggie has been putting forward for the group. Usually it’s Rick to put his foot in the crazy mess and drag it all over the carpet. Not this time. The guilt-crippled priest is everyone’s worst enemy. He can’t accept what he sees in himself and instead of dealing with it, finds an external source to blame. Rick, unfortunately, makes a great scape goat—possible more so after Deanna learns of her son’s death. Despite all their mistakes, do they deserve paradise? Is Alexandria the best they will find or is there a better paradise for them to take over?
The takeover may have a hiccup if Rick wants to do this thing covertly and without killing innocents. Over the course of the episode, it becomes alarmingly clear that something isn’t right in the Doc’s house. Sam spends more effort trying to stay at Carol’s house than it’d take for him to walk home. This is after she terrified him into keeping mum about the guns she stole. Even after all her effort, she’s still not the most frightening thing in the boy’s life. Once she realizes something is wrong, she sees the patterns emerge. Rick sees them too when Pete drunkenly accosts him about bringing Carl and Judith in for checkups. When Carol asks Rick to kill Pete, it’s inevitable. She’s been there, done that, and knows it’s going to take something drastic to shut down an abuser his size. Can Rick do it? Can he kill for Carol, for Jessie and her children—whom he hardly knows yet seems to care about her? What happens if Rick does kill Pete? They need a doctor more than a law man. Deanna may reconsider her stance on his place in Alexandria if he costs them the town’s doctor.