Dead or Alive or: Review for The Walking Dead 811 By R.C. Murphy
Don’t just rush ahead! Watch out for episode spoilers.
In the wake of Negan’s fiery revenge in Alexandria, the village’s people are on the run. Saviors hold blockades on all the roads. The only reason Daryl gets the Alexandria survivors to the halfway point is because none of these oh-so intelligent souls think to look under the freeway they’re guarding. In order to ensure his people make it to Hilltop unscathed, Daryl’s willing to listen to Dwight when the reformed bad guy suggests they pass through the swamp, declared too dangerous to pass by Negan and therefore unguarded during the lockdown. So long as everyone keeps up and cooperates, they’ll get there in one piece. Oh and if we ignore Tara’s existence since she’s still on this whole “Kill Dwight even though he’s useful” kick. She’s so focused on him, Tara is willing to turn away from a walker-filled swamp where her friends are clearing a path in order to yet again threaten Dwight, and yet again fail to follow through. The posturing is boring and isn’t helping with Dwight’s story at all. If anything, it’s making him repeat the same tired redemption story, which isn’t nearly as interesting as his actions. These writers will always talk a plot to death long before they let the characters do what they need to do. Show, don’t tell. I’m not sure how such a basic thing escapes this writing team, but here we are.
Despite Tara, Dwight’s story and his tentative friendship with Daryl steals these scenes. We see Daryl fight the urge to rely on anyone, but Dwight’s resolve to help is a balm for the renegade’s soul. This is probably the most useful version of Daryl to date. Why, though? Why now? Is it because he’s able to act on his own plans with Rick in mourning? We don’t see a lot of initiative from Daryl on large scope problems, he’s the type to sit back and wait for someone to point him at something he can kill. When they reach the swamp, he’s already shedding his reliance on Rick’s leadership. His call to cut through the swamp on Dwight’s suggestion, the willingness to put his body on the line to secure a path through the walkers, and his refusal to flip his lid when told how close the Saviors are is a surefire sign that this character is finally maturing past the plateau he reached after Merle’s brutal demise. This Daryl may even surprise us and attempt to recover Dwight, since the guy proves himself big time by leading the Saviors away at the swamp, losing his hard-won freedom from the organization.
Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan; group – The Walking Dead _ Season 8, Episode 11 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC
The rescue will get interesting, if it happens. Negan’s strategies adapt to whatever pressure comes from outside forces. If the Saviors were a single creature, I’d say octopus. They’re wily beasts and there’s numerous studies devoted to their cognitive ability to take advantage of any situation. Step one in the wargame adaptations puts Eugene at the middle of a new outpost, charged with supplying the Saviors with bullets at inhuman speeds. There’s also a degree of comfort to bribe Eugene, keep him productive. In true fashion, this character uses his miniscule power to lord over a woman in such a manner I fully believe his mother’s ghost smacked him upside the head. The second step introduces bio warfare to this universe on a large scale. Negan encourages his people to use walker blood/innards to contaminate their weapons. Why waste so much effort killing when a single infected scratch will sign everyone’s death certificate—unless it’s a case like Hershel where amputation stopped the disease from passing into his blood system, but how many will get that lucky in the midst of war? They barely have medical care as it is, there’s no way Siddiq and the others with minimal training will keep up with the incoming infection rate thanks to this new fighting strategy. Hilltop will go from a safe haven to a walker corral.
Speaking of, the upcoming siege isn’t the most pressing threat to the remaining community. Hilltop’s food supply never recovered from paying off the Saviors. Feeding the citizens alone will deplete their pantry in less than a fortnight, and they’ve promised humane imprisonment to the Saviors, so they’ve got maybe a week of food max. Scouts are out searching, but they’ve picked the county clean. Jesus won’t walk in with half a grocery store this time. The stress from trying to figure out how to balance being a prison and a home leaves Maggie at her wit’s end. But not so much that she doesn’t see the odd behavior from Morgan and Henry, who’ve appointed themselves as the guards outside the Saviors’ cell. After speaking to Gabriel and some others, Maggie does some deep thinking about how to groups treat each other. In the end, Maggie plans to allow the Saviors a little more freedom in the form of armed escorts to take them from the cell to work details. They get to move around more and she gets the gardens ready for the next planting season. You know someone, likely Jared, is going to screw up this system by next week.
We’ve finally caught up with Dr. Carson and Gabriel after they slipped free from Sanctuary with a little inside help. The infection burning through Gabriel’s veins is attacking his vision. Worse yet, the stolen car is dead and they’ve got no clue where they are in relation to Hilltop because the navigator can’t even read a map an inch from his nose. Following God’s plan, as detailed by a man whose brain bakes itself with each step they take, leads the duo to an abandoned home. Somehow while looking suicide in the face—the homeowner failed to make contact with other survivors and ended it long before the men arrive—Gabriel still thinks his God wants all of this to happen. It’s hard to deny that when so many things go right for them thanks to Gabriel’s vague feelings about their destiny. The much-needed antibiotics, an impossible shot to save Dr. Carson from a walker, the hidden treasure of car keys and a map are all lovely red herrings leading us to think maybe, just maybe Gabriel is blessed by an otherworldly power. He’s not. He’s just lucky and manages to use it all up before they drive away from the house. That fortunate gunshot drew the Saviors. Gabriel’s brash belief leads Dr. Carson to fall into the same fallacy, only what he assumes is a sign from above is just another way to get dead faster by assuming everything will go right. No matter how many times he’s fallen from his faith, Gabriel always bounces back. I’m not so sure that’ll happen this time. He’s well and truly broken, covered in blood from a man who he thought would be the savior everyone needs during this trying time.
But do they need a savior? Or does this group simply need to cut their losses and move on before this war takes everyone’s life? If I were in Hilltop when the Alexandrian refugees arrived, that would be the only sign necessary to kick my butt in gear to leave by morning. This war is no longer who’ll win or who’ll lose, but who will see reason and leave the others to kill themselves while they find a new safe haven to call home.
Time for After: Review for The Walking Dead 807 By R.C. Murphy
From the looks of it, sense and reason has abandoned everyone during this mad rush to rid the world of Negan. Rick allocated most of his town’s resources for the fighters, sparing precious few capable people to guard their children and pacifists while he fails to negotiate with the Scavengers. The Kingdom will need generations to recover from their massive losses on the battlefield. Hilltop is a powder keg with a couple dozen torches crammed in a cage just inside their fence. Daryl’s leading an off-mission strike force straight into the heart of Savior territory. So far the only one to speak a word of sense is Rosita. It took watching Sasha lurch out of a coffin and her own near-fatal injury for Alexandria’s wild woman to learn a little caution. For Rick, there will never be enough cautionary moments like that. He’s wired to take control no matter what life throws his way. At some point, dumb luck will run out. With the Saviors one step closer to freedom, that point could be now.
But first he’s gotta get out of that shipping container.
Jadis has a simple plan to rid herself of this roach who insists her people must join the fight: kill him with a walker and celebrate the death with a sculpture. I guess it makes sense in her head. As per usual, when Rick’s pitted against the undead, he comes out on top. The armored walker becomes his primary weapon against Jadis and her guards. They fight over Jadis’ gun, but Rick gets the upper hand, pinning the leader’s face in the dirt perilously close to the snapping walker head. Truce time. The pair talk terms, with Rick coming out on top because of course he is, he’s the white savior who just takes what he wants at every single turn. Honestly, Rick’s story lost its appeal because he never grows beyond this desire to be at the top. What we’re seeing now? It’s the same behavior which cost them the prison and three-quarters of Alexandria’s population since his arrival. But good ol Officer Friendly has his new fighters. They head to an outpost, ready to trigger the end to his plan . . . only to discover Daryl’s beat him back to Sanctuary.
We all knew this was a stupid idea when Daryl said it the first time. Now it’s just ridiculous that despite the two ballsiest fighters in their ranks pulling out for moral reasons, he still feels compelled to go off-book to subvert the mission everyone worked and bled for to make a success. Oh, Tara’s still right there, ready to kill ’em all with a grin on her face. What’s pushing her other than the dead girlfriend thing? Regret that she didn’t get the women in Oceanside killed sooner so Alexandria could have the guns. For character motivation, it sucks. Everything about Tara’s behavior screams she’s going to get herself killed soon. Rosita got a second chance, not sure that’ll be the case here. The writers are making sure we’re not going to mourn too hard when Tara’s bloodlust goes awry. Pushed by her eagerness, Daryl rams a truck into Sanctuary, letting the undead inside. They don’t realize the quickest mind in the east is already at work scheming his way out of this mess in the name of his master.
Eugene is a worm. But a worm with convictions which put his safety as important as, oh, a Christian’s belief that Jesus died for their sins. He’s serious when he says numero uno is his sole concern. The only reason Negan is even considered in Eugene’s plan is because the guy’s got means, motive, and a mean streak a mile wide which will come in handy. Everything Eugene needs to do puts him head to head against Dwight and Gabriel. The latter man finds himself in the infirmary in Dr. Carson’s care, a condition Eugene says he brought upon himself. For Dwight’s part, he’s doing his damndest to keep the bloodshed to a minimum. His goal is to save everyone. Only Negan dies in the original plan. That will not happen should the bat-wielding guy get an earful about his good pal helping the enemy. They call a timid truce. Inspired by a request to fix a boom box, Eugene builds a speaker drone to draw the undead away. Dwight halts the maiden flight moments before the truck sends everyone into emergency mode. This is where Eugene’s bluster slips. He freezes once, flies into a rage, and winds up making a deal with the devil before drinking himself stupid. It’s a knee-jerk reaction to an immediate threat. The walkers have to go. The only way is if they unload the armory into the growling mass trapped on the first floor. He’s got what he needs to make more bullets, all he needs is the time. Time he gets. Negan okays the action and they unleash lead hell in the warehouse. Eugene is so focused on the undead, he doesn’t bother trying to find another time to tell Negan about Dwight after they’re interrupted. And as far as getting the doctor out? No way! The doctor stays put should Eugene need his services. At least the guy knows what he needs. Doesn’t mean I gotta like him.
We’re at the mid-season already, yet it feels like we haven’t gotten very far. A lot of people died, but the odds are more or less still the same, given the Scavengers flipping sides. Everyone is down on ammunition, the Saviors more so after clearing house. Negan is still alive. Rick’s free to cause more chaos. Culling the supporting cast doesn’t exactly mean they’ve progressed the plot a lot in seven episodes. Siege warfare told long-form isn’t always compelling for network television and we’ve seen this kind of thing before on the show so the reactions and deaths are predictable. Even this reformed Rosita’s desire to let fate roll without her interference was foreshadowed. We wanted something new, but this war they promised is more of the same Rick-driven drama they’ve given us for eight season—which has never, ever made sense from a survival-focused standpoint. Pretty much everything this guy does is on our Don’t Even Consider It list. Where can they go from here? We’re right back where we started, only now the bad guy’s really pissed off.
The First Day of the Rest of Your Life: Review for The Walking Dead 716 by R.C. Murphy
Hold your horses. I know you’re excited, but just so you know, there’s episode spoilers in this review.
I’ve been practicing that pep talk since the end credits ran and still don’t want to accept the message I, personally, saw in this finale. It’s just so . . . tiring. An age-old tale, one playing out in our current news feeds, if one cares to see the parallels.
But, really, do we need another story where gays, people of color, and women are the only reason white men survive their own bad decisions? Nah, dude. I was good with those stories a while ago. Let’s move on to a tale where everyone owns their bull, doesn’t hold petty grudges, and the fighting isn’t dependent on men’s egos.
I will admit, I was partially wrong about Dwight. Which is glorious because Negan came to the same conclusion I did—Rick had no plan and if someone were to spoon-feed him an easy out, he’d snatch it like a seagull in a tide pool at low tide. Well, that’s exactly what happened. Now, Dwight does look a smidge guilty throughout the invasion until bullets fly, then it’s survive or turn walker. Did he leave that wood figure with the message at the gate? I don’t know. He’s a smart enough guy to take one look at Rick’s desperation and understand that’s not the person to trust with your life. Too many others fail to understand this. The last few seasons have been awash in blood shed during Rick’s ill-considered schemes to get one step ahead of the bigger fish in the pond. He’s staying afloat in the apocalypse on a raft of souls. At least when Negan does it, he owns up to it.
In typical fashion, Rick escapes with apparently the most manageable injuries of those shot during the botched attack, seeing as he’s upright when Michonne and Rosita are left bed-ridden at the conclusion. That’s his big punishment after he dragged his people into an uneven deal with the Scavengers, harassed and mentally terrorized women and children to strip them of all their weapons—weapons which they cannot return now, if Rick ever intended to in the first place—sent numerous people to their graves because he just had to bait Negan into taking action, and left their homes vulnerable to constant attack when said baiting backfired. Rick pays for his ineptitude this season with a banged up hand, superficial scrapes and bruises, and what’s essentially a deep bullet graze to his side. Michonne pays for her loyalty to her lover with broken facial bones and who knows what else. Rosita pays for her part in the assassination plan by getting shot, but her wound is more severe and requires longer recovery time.
Then there’s Sasha, who, despite all her potential, is the latest sacrifice to Rick’s ego. The price for stepping out of line is becoming the catalyst for Alexandria to shoot itself in the foot. Not only does Sasha stoop to suicide-by-pill, but her death moment lasts a blink so that Rick’s war can begin in earnest. I can just see that plotting conversation now. “Well, how will they get a shot off if the Scavengers hold them at gunpoint?” “Zombie Sasha.” “What? I mean, there’s a bunch of things we could—” “Kill Sasha. Sonequa has a movie to film and that character is too complicated.” Note: Suicide is not noble. It is not the way to help your friends and loved ones get ahead, even if you feel like a burden. Sasha had so many other ways to get out of her position. Given outside influences, like the actor’s schedule, the writers opted to take a shortcut in Sasha’s story. No one should ever feel suicide is a viable shortcut option—from writers looking to punch up their work, to those like me who’ve lived with depression for years. There’s always another way. Trying to make Sasha’s suicide into a glorious take-one-for-the-team moment is appalling. Adding in bitter-sweet scenes with Abraham is just a cheap shot. I can’t be mad that they hauled Cudlitz back onto the small screen for some of the sweetest scenes he’s had on TWD. I just can’t. Those clips where Sasha remembers, or fantasizes, about Abraham were the only thing keeping my eyes on the screen. Their chemistry as a couple is so appealing. Well, once it got past that awkward beginning stage. But, like so much in this finale, the moment cheapens when one understands those scenes are a manipulation tool to make up for the lack of surprising action outside Abraham’s sudden appearance.
The plot is pretty straightforward. The Kingdom marches to join forces with Alexandria. In Hilltop, Maggie is done waiting around and will take her new people to likewise join the budding army. Over in Alexandria, Dwight spins his tale. Rick takes the bait. Everyone springs into action, laying out road blocks to slow the Saviors, and even setting up explosives at the gate. The Scavengers arrive in garbage trucks, and then spend half the episode being obvious double-agents as they “help” stage the ambush. In the Savior’s convoy, Eugene implores Negan to stand back and let him do the talking. Which he does. Rick gives Rosita the okay to bomb Eugene’s smug self. The bomb fails. That’s when the game is up. Jadis and her people turn their guns on everyone in Alexandria’s walls. Negan and Rick chat. Mostly, Negan makes demands and derides Rick for his audacity. Sasha pops out of the oh-so-dramatic casket as a walker, surprising Negan for perhaps the first time on the show. The fight breaks out—as far as fights goes, it’s a typical TWD gunfight with quick cuts and the body count is almost entirely third-string characters who didn’t even have names. Jadis shoots Rick, and after that it takes but moments to cow Alexandria into submission. Negan makes good on his promise to go after Carl as the next sacrifice for Rick’s hubris. Rick grandstands with the same tired, chest-pounding rhetoric he’s uttered since the day Negan killed Glenn. Then, Shiva happens. The cavalry arrives on her heels, saving everyone—except Michonne, who fights on her lonesome and is presumed dead for a while. The Scavengers and Saviors flee. Alexandria plays clean-up. In a voice-over, Maggie gives a speech to Rick about coming to help them because Glenn helped Rick, and that’s how they all started this life—or some utter rubbish because I couldn’t listen after she basically threw Glenn under the bus for every death Rick’s poor leadership has caused in seven seasons. Yeah. No. Don’t use a favorite character to boost the poorly-written character who in-part caused his death. That’s the same as Maggie forgiving Daryl, giving him an ego boost, and watching quietly while Daryl continues to express the behavioral problems which killed Glenn in the first place. The white guys don’t get a free pass because the woman from an interracial couple says their sins are washed away.
Much like I thought, this episode isn’t even the proper beginning to the war. It’s the warning shot. How will the showrunners handle a full-out war with bloodthirsty Negan? They’ve balked at every turn, admitting they downgraded the violence after the season opener, while still swearing Negan is Negan is Negan. Not when you trade Lucille for a whiffle bat. Maybe the downtime will help them reaffirm what, exactly, they want to do with these characters. If they don’t change something, the fans will leave. It’s the cool thing for reviewers to drop TWD from their rotation right now. Good thing I’m not cool. I really, truly want to see if they can get over these hang-ups and dig into good storytelling again. Bring on season eight and the war. I mean, war prep was boring, but surely being in the thick of it will yield more tension beyond those awkward pauses when Rick and Negan talk alone together.
Sing Me a Song: Review for The Walking Dead 707 by R.C. Murphy
Warning! This article contains episode spoilers.
Rest your worried minds, Daryl fans. You won’t need secret decoder rings for his new mute lifestyle. He’s not a poor, injured bird needing a helping hand. Contrary to just about every fan theory floating around after Negan’s big visit to Alexandria, Daryl’s tongue wasn’t cut out, nor were his lips somehow secretly sealed shut—guess y’all are so bored you’ve resorted to outlandish theories to pass the time like this is the Westworld fandom. The dude simply had the wherewithal to keep his trap shut while around people Negan would hurt in a blink if it guaranteed Daryl would finally fall in line. That good sense flew out the window once the guys reached home-sweet-home. One would think with Carl going all Rambo, Daryl would be extra mindful to provide an example in how not to get dead. Instead, he constantly oversteps his bounds—an intentional, ham-handed way to get Daryl alone in his time-out closet so someone can just hand him the key to freedom. Passive character is passive and only gets dragged along to boost viewer numbers.
The story is overly padded with side missions to find stuff or make stuff . . . and things. The Rick arc is pointless. Why do we need to follow he and Aaron on a fruitless—so far—supply run? Then we leave them without having any real conflict beyond, “Oh, there may be stuff in that boat in the zombie-pond.” Spencer accidentally scores a big hit after rifling through a dead guy’s pockets. Spencer could accidentally cure the dead and I wouldn’t care. His character isn’t. He’s Silly Putty, copying whatever’s around him, but half-assed and backwards. When Spencer does attempt to become a valuable part of society, he fails to support anything beyond his own interest in predictable ways. Rosita drags Eugene to the one place he doesn’t want to go—the warehouse with the makings for the now defunct bullet factory he and Abraham planned. After a lot of belittling, Eugene gives in and makes her precious bullet. At this point, any character out on a suicide mission should just get it over with. Oh, Michonne is already ahead of me, there. She’s following a trail straight to Negan, and opts to use a shortcut by abducting a Savior at sword-point. Jesus is with Carl up until he’s tricked into bailing from the truck, then he’s just gone. Whatever. There’s so many plates in the air, every single one will come crashing down in an incomprehensible mess instead of a cohesive mid-season finale.
The big story in the episode is Papa Negan’s reaction to Carl Jack-in-a-Boxing out of his truck with an automatic weapon in hand, killing a couple Saviors. Negan doesn’t snatch the whelp by his scruff and introduce his face to the pavement, though he has every right. Nor does he raise his voice to the kid, that’s saved for Daryl’s constant backseat nagging. Nah, Negan takes Carl inside, introduces him to the wives, orders snacks for them, and they sit to chat about Carl for just a little while. Keep in mind, Carl hasn’t really had a parent figure since season one. After Rick returned, Lori focused on her love triangle, leaving Carl to wander as he will. After Lori’s death, Rick dives into his plan to save humanity, leaving Carl to raise himself—and everyone else to raise Judith. Having a man sit and talk about him and not to him must’ve been weird. Not as weird as Negan’s obsession with Carl’s ragged eye socket. The talk buys time for the real show of power—where Negan provides the example Daryl wouldn’t, demonstrating what happens when rules are broken. The entire thing is orchestrated by Negan, down to Dwight—who’d met the iron after his insulin heist—passing the red-hot implement of justice to the bossman straight from the fire. I’ll tell you from experience, once you’ve had a severe burn over a large portion of skin, you’ll never forget the instant your nerves registered the pain.
Carl’s lack of enthusiasm, or fear, calls for drastic measures. No, Negan doesn’t reintroduce him to Lucille. They go on a little road trip, instead. For the second time, Negan rolls into Alexandria like he owns the place. Which, I guess he does. With Rick out doing next to nothing, Negan makes himself at home in his house, kicking back with Olivia and Carl. Making obscene comments. Ordering some really good lemonade. Oh, and he spends more time cooing at Judith, whom Carl attempts to hide, than Rick has done in ages. Rick is always just there with the kids. He doesn’t really react to them. He holds Judith, but always thinks of stuff ‘n’ things and stares in the distance. Carl could impregnate a horse at this point and Rick would wave it off.
We end with Negan threatening to kill and bury them in the garden before he moves in and takes over the little slice of heaven in Alexandria. Please do it. I’m tired of seeing everything from Rick’s point-of-view.
The Well Review for The Walking Dead 702 by R.C. Murphy
Whoa! Hold on a minute. There’s episode spoilers below. Proceed with caution.
Why does it feel we were cheated out of more depth in the premiere after seeing what the production team did to present a fully-fleshed Kingdom?
Lennie James as Morgan Jones, Melissa McBride as Carol Peletier – The Walking Dead _ Season 7, Episode 2 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC
Because we were cheated. The premiere, as I said before, was edited specifically to make cliffhanger naysayers wait for any story resolution. That petty decision killed the episode’s pacing, making this week’s feel refreshing, but not for any reason the TWD crew wanted. It’s refreshing because something actually happens. Carol and Morgan go places, do things, grow as people, and find their place in the world during the scant forty-something minutes allotted. Rick stared at some zombies, got people killed, and ended up exactly where we knew he would—in league with Negan.
I guess what I’m getting at is, they don’t know how to write or direct their main character or the super-bad guy they’ve brought in to shake things up. High-tension moments for Rick and Negan turn laughable when silence is held for thirty seconds too long. But when Carol and Morgan discuss her departure from The Kingdom and having the free will to do so, I couldn’t turn away. There is no immediate threat to either character. No hammer over someone’s head at another location to instill concern in the fans when the scene’s substance is lacking. It’s just two people discussing the future with the weight of their weariness in their voices, and I wanted more. More frank discussions about who these people have become since leaving Atlanta. More Carol not giving an ounce of crap about what anyone thinks and calling them on their bull. More time with Morgan as a teacher, not a killer. And I definitely want more long conversations in the dark with Ezekiel and Carol.
Does his apple taste as sweet as promised? Man, there’s so many innuendos at the episode’s end, my head spun. And I loved it. We needed new characters to come in and remind us, not to mention our favorite survivors, that laughter is a thing. A joke won’t bash in your head. Giggling won’t cost an arm or a leg. No one will bite your face off if you smile at the stupid pun dancing through your head. Society for us, and on the show, is a nightmare. Finding the people who’ve still got the ability to look at the bright side of life is vital to balancing the mental trauma from the apocalypse—and this year’s election. That being said, Jerry is totally my favorite thing since sliced cheese. His zany antics balance Ezekiel’s carefully calculated demeanor. We need, nay we deserve a Jerry-centric episode. Someone make this happen, please.
Do I need to mention the tiger? Shiva is a wonderful addition. Her animation isn’t clunky and she’s “grounded” in the room, but I feel they did too much by adding a couple unnecessary shots during Carol’s initial introduction to King Ezekiel. Save your budget. Gonna need it for fake blood during Negan’s episodes.
Speaking of our favorite a-hole, he’s got his fingers in The Kingdom’s pies, as well. Smart cookie that he is, Ezekiel uses Morgan as backup several times throughout the episode, namely when they’re gathering and delivering tribute to the Saviors. These little piggys aren’t all they seem. They’ve been eating walkers for who knows how long before they’re butchered and handed over. Presumably this is done in order to make the Saviors sick during a long game of revenge. All I can think of is Bob yelling, “Tainted meat,” while the TERMINUS survivors enjoy their Bob-b-que. With The Kingdom paying tribute regularly, Rick is bound to end up on pickup duty one day. What a day that’ll be. I hope Morgan knocks Rick’s face sideways with that stick of his before one word is said.
Come on, we all know Rick’s earned it.
Looks like we’re catching up with Daryl next week. Expect man tears, dirt, blood, and probably unnecessary male nudity. They’ve got to do something to bring female fans back to the television, and selling Daryl as a sex symbol seems to be the only plan in the TWD playbook. Maybe they’ll surprise me and make the episode truly deep and meaningful. Yeah, and I’ll win the Lotto next week, too.
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?
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.
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.
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.
The Walking Dead SDCC 2016 Coverage By R.C. Murphy
The annual walker invasion at San Diego Comic-Con took place from July 21st through the 24th. Okay, there were a few thousand other people there, as well. Comic-Con is kind of a big thing, if you’ve lived under a rock for the last few years.
One of the most anticipated panels this year was The Walking Dead. Lucy had some ‘splainin’ to do about that angst-generating cliffhanger ending. Which is why Robert Kirkman struck that iron while hot shortly after the producers took the stage. Aside from numerous statements defending the ending since the finale, he simply added that fans would love the payoff from waiting so long for the reveal. We’ll agree to disagree, as we have since he first stepped on a soapbox to defend knee-capping Negan’s big moment.
What’s new for season seven? The producers confirmed a visit to The Kingdom, plus many more survivors and locations. Gale Anne Hurd meowed at one point, which baffled show fans who haven’t delved into the comic world. Kirkman admitted that once the show took off, he included things in the comics they’d never put on television. The show’s other producers picked up the gauntlet and plan to include some of the outlandish comic ideas into season seven. Sometimes these things bites one in the backside. In this case, one idea can bite off an entire backside and then some.
Right before they premiered the trailer, Nicotero shared new walker concept art. Looks like we’ve got more burned walkers on the way, plus the older walkers continue to become more mummy-like, and I don’t even know what happened to the bulgy walker. Death by bee hive attack?
Okay, on to the trailer.
I was really looking forward to seeing Jeffrey Dean Morgan swaggering on the screen. Instead, we got a rehash of the finale’s final scene, along with a cliché memorial video of sorts superimposed over Lucille. I would’ve gladly taken just the cropped shot of him slamming Lucille down on an unseen victim after a pan of the group by the RV. Instead they padded the footage with what is essentially an overly emotional teen girl’s video scrapbook. All that’s missing is the sappy song. The second half of the trailer delivers new characters, but too fast to identify any faces. We meet Ezekiel, leader at The Kingdom. Something we’ve rarely seen on this show is animals. Well, that’s about to change. There’s beasties coming. Most notably, Shiva, Ezekiel’s pet tiger. Funny how a few years ago, the show’s budget was nitpicked right and left. Suddenly they’re okay with tossing huge chunks of cash in to make CG animals.
The actors hit the stage when the trailer wrapped. Andrew Lincoln told fans, “Hang in there, guys.” He went on to say Jeffrey Dean Morgan has way too much fun as Negan. Which, as we already know, is probably creepy as hell on set, despite JDM’s infectious smile. There’s just something about a grinning guy wielding a barbed wire-wrapped baseball bat to make one’s sphincter clench. Lauren Cohan said, “We go to very physical and emotional places.”
Pretty standard quo for this show, but things are just beginning to take a turn for the worst. Nicotero confirmed it when he said this [their current situation with Negan] isn’t rock bottom.
The panel devolved into talk about on-set pranks and several cast members doing impressions of other actors. They did air the footage from when Reedus dumped a ton of confetti in Lincoln’s car air ducts. The first time I watched it, I couldn’t breathe because I laughed so hard.
I wasn’t happy with TWD at the end of season six, and they still haven’t done much to convince me they grossly mishandled Negan’s entrance. Yes, we get a flippin’ tiger next season, as well as a smarmy yet charming Big Bad, but fans are kind of a puppy kicked too many times. They’ve promised so many grand things, what happens if these season seven grand plans fizzle like the drawn-out Beth storyline?
Once you jump the tiger, there’s no going back. Hope they have a solid game plan going into this highly unpredictable season.
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.
Is there something in Alexandria’s water? Not only are main characters losing their marbles—Maggie, Carol—but there’s another rash of B characters doing half thought out things and ending up taking tea with Death. Once again, we’re stuck waiting for the main plot to reach something resembling a conclusion while stalled with side stories writing off characters who make the show messy. Why else would they put an arrow through Denise’s eye? She’s the other half of the show’s only currently visible homosexual couple. Yes, we have Aaron and his husband, but their shock value wore off, so they introduced the lesbians. It’s like that thing they keep doing where there’s only Michonne, Glenn, and one other person of color in the main crew. Never mind them stumbling across minorities known to live in the areas they’ve visited and lived. Having visible LGBT couples is morally compromising. Bringing in Negan, Captain Inappropriate from everything we’ve been promised, means pushing boundaries which are already pretty stretched by their half-handed attempt to embrace diversity. This is where the show loses this game of chicken with the fans. They push, push, push, and when fans don’t flinch or react the way they want, they change course and drop the idea in a convenient way. Commit to something other than fanservice. We want a coherent story, not to catch them sweeping things under the rug to make room for something I’m starting to lose faith in.
We start with another poorly handled time jump, this interval expressed as a few Groundhog Day like montages featuring the town guards changing shifts, Gabriel on patrol in the fence, and Carol smoking while obsessing over the crucifix from the last episode. Morgan finishes the jail cell, telling Rick it’ll give them more options next time. He’s not wrong. This is the only time we see Rick, by the way.
After the opening credits, it’s pretty much just characters which haven’t had much screen time or character growth. Which makes one wonder why anyone would put the penultimate episode for the season in the hands of characters no one cares about anymore. “But, Daryl!” He hasn’t had a meaningful part in the plot other than playing Terminator since the season began. His part in this episode is basically to escort Denise to her poor life choices. Rosita is in the same boat, her story only complicated by falling in bed with Spencer and planning dinner with him. Denise leads Daryl and Rosita to a fully-stocked apothecary. They score the loot, but Denise plays snoop, scaring herself after finding a walker and what may have been a drowned child. No one is hurt. All they have to do is walk back to the truck and drive home. Then Denise continues to self-sabotage in the guise of self-help, breaking into a walker-protected car to raid an ice chest for soda. Daryl is pissed. Rosita is dumbstruck. Denise suddenly starts yelling a bunch of stuff which really doesn’t make sense, but the gist is she doesn’t feel brave and stupidly almost getting eaten to steal soda means she’s brave enough to openly love Tara. She only took Daryl and Rosita to encourage them and feel safe.
Safe until Dwight—the guy Daryl failed to kill when he stole his motorcycle—shoots her in the eye.
While the trio were shopping, Abraham took Eugene to a warehouse where the Brainiac wants to produce ammunition. It’s a great plan. Then Eugene gets a bug up his backside about his bravery as well, calling dibs on a walker he so cannot kill. He and Abraham fight after the big man steps in to help. It ends with Abraham just leaves his buddy after Eugene fires him from protection duty. This is all so Eugene can get captured by Dwight and his many companions and used as leverage against Daryl and Rosita. Abraham hangs around, somehow accidentally finds them, and helps send the bad guys back wherever they came from. In the process, Eugene is shot. They carry him back home to patch the wound—just a graze.
After Daryl and Carol bury Denise, Carol leaves a note for Tobin stating she should’ve never come back and she’s leaving again. For good. Don’t try to find her. Because, when they can’t figure out how to salvage a character, it’s easier to have them just walk off into the sunset. I honestly don’t think she’s gone. Carol will either end up dead at Negan’s feet in the finale, or forced to kill and save them all. They can’t spend the entire season messing with her only to have her leave a Dear John letter like a coward. Then again, character integrity seems to be the hardest continuity issue for this show to maintain.
I’m tired of the camera gags they use more and more often on the show to prove, “Hey, it’s from a comic book. We do comic book like things! Aren’t we cool? Don’t we do awesome, obviously cartoony things like that Dead-whatever guy?” First, they use CGI to put blood on the camera lens. In this episode, there’s more of that nonsense, plus binocular POV shots and a jump gag from Maggie’s POV shot like it was meant to be in a 3D film, not on standard cable television. We’re talking one of those monster in your face, then suddenly a knife through their head almost into the POV character, moments. They even turned the walker with the knife to give that slow dimensional pull back. Why the hell would they put in a shot which, aside from a cheap scare, doesn’t fully translate to a standard definition viewing experience? It seems like they’re toying with an idea for something down the road—maybe 3D versions on Blu-ray for season 6—and we’re catching glimpses of the man behind the curtain. It’s not my bag. None of it. 3D hurts my head. Watching them refine the process for the show’s home release is like watching water boil around food I’m allergic to.
Whoops! Watch out! Man, that was close. An episode spoiler nearly got you. They wait below.
Honestly? They could’ve skipped to the last two minutes of this episode. The whole ordeal with Carol and Maggie held captive in the meat processing plant is here to stall for time. Even the characters are stalling in the episode where they stall so they don’t blow the Negan reveal with anything considered speed or fan service. Fans have asked for Negan by name and loudly since TERMINUS was teased. Producers used it to their advantage, thinking if they keep trolling out line after setting their Negan-shaped lure, fans will gladly stay put and watch the shiny thing. Fish get bored. People get bored just as quick. They should’ve snatched that line tight ages ago and reeled everyone in for what I’m sure will be a stellar performance at least from Jeffrey Dean Morgan. Keeping us in the lurch doesn’t mean we’re eager to see what they’re withholding. It means by the time we get to Negan, who cares? There’s only so much self-inflated hype about a character people will tolerate. How many times have we all seen headlines promising a gruesome finale and Negan’s mug on our screen? Personally, if I had a dollar for each, I could afford to do makeup on my own army of undead and produce a short movie.
The plot is straight-forward: The Saviors refuse to trade Maggie and Carol for their guy Primo right away. The ladies, their three women captors, and one injured man, head to the slaughterhouse the Saviors use as a safe house. Carol plays meek. Maggie is outed as being pregnant and questioned, which leads to a lot of nothing revealed on either side. Paula, the woman taking charge, picks on Carol for being weak, does the same to Maggie for having the gall to breed given the apocalypse and all. Paula pretty much is an avatar for Strong Woman Who Needs No Man. That’s all you need to know about her. Molly is a dying smoker. I don’t know if the other woman ever gets a name. Donny bleeds out from the wound Carol gave him before they were captured after being KOed by Paula for attacking their captives to get revenge. Eventually they kill enough time to jam in a bunch of killing after the last commercial break. Carol is left alone when the Saviors, minus Donny, gear up for the trade they will turn into an ambush with their incoming backup. She gets free, using a random rosary which just happens to fall out of a walker’s pocket. Carol frees Maggie. They argue, again, about whether or not they should finish the plan or run. Carol wants to run. She’s done risking Maggie’s life. Maggie is bloodthirsty and irrational—they’ll blame her pregnancy for the a-typical character behavior, no doubt. In the end, they kill their captors, lure the backup to the slaughterhouse, and burn them. The ladies save themselves, but the menfolk and other backup are right at the door as they exit. Because in a boring as hell episode, we’ll make it all about women’s empowerment and not plot progression.
“But that whole ‘We are all Negan’ thing! It’s important!”
You’re a sheep. We know there’s A Negan. We know he’s probably not coming until the finale. Going from experience with this show, either the episode will be so much Negan, we grow tired quick or he’ll be a thirty second tease at the episode’s climactic cliffhanger ending. The Savior’s dialog is meant to be a red herring for the characters. Not us. Not in the day and age where social media ensures we know everything coming up for shows and movies. Even people who avoid as many teasers and trailers as possible are still overwhelmed with this information. There are few surprises in entertainment anymore. Negan is perhaps the worst kept considering how often people drag out interviews with the show’s actors relaying the harrowing days on set filming the finale. I’m not buying it. I can’t. They’ve talked a big game a lot lately, but cannot deliver anything nearly as solid as the prison attack story line. It’s just fluff. No substance.