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.
Head’s up! There’s spoilers in the rest of this review.
One of the last hold-outs to fit into life in Alexandria is Sasha. She’s not sleeping. Wakes with the sun to use someone else’s family photos for target practice. At no point does she attempt to get along with the locals—not even effervescent Olivia. How can anyone resist home-cured meats and pickles? Her erratic behavior puts everyone at risk. Deanna won’t put up with her for long. Neither will Michonne.
Sasha isn’t the last round peg refusing to fit in a square hole. Carol, Rick and Daryl are very much on the fence—do they start taking over now or wait to see what their new neighbors can really do? More importantly, how quickly can they establish their own weapons cache? Never mind what’s actually coming out of Deanna’s mouth—making Rick and Michonne the town’s law, reestablishing civilization, a future for their children. Matter of fact, Rick looks terrified at the prospect of Judith remaining in Alexandria past next week, let alone when she’s Carl’s age or an adult. He has to see the potential in her as a leader, but too long scraping by to see tomorrow makes him jumpy, unable to trust in anyone. Which leads to one of the best-acted scenes on this show this season—Carol and Sam in the armory. Melissa McBride does an amazing job showing just how good Carol is at lying to everyone around her. The two sides we see—the soccer mom and the ruthless killer—are drastically different. Carol loves kids, but in that moment she needs Sam more afraid of her than anything else in the world. It works. But is Carol’s remaining humanity really the price Rick should pay to obtain a security blanket?
“…longer they’re out there, the more they become what they really are.”
If Daryl finds out how far down the rabbit hole Carol goes to get the guns, his tune will change pretty quick. As it is, he’s slowly warming up to Aaron. Or at least I assume that’s what it means when he grunts more than five words at a person. The guys had an unfortunate bonding experience with the doomed horse, Buttons. They tried to help and in the end, that help cost Buttons his life. How many times has this happened with humans on the show? So many deaths in the name what’s supposed to be kindness. Except, kindness is as foreign as flying to Disneyworld for vacation in their reality. Losing Buttons doesn’t put a damper on the kinship of sorts brewing between Aaron and Daryl. While everyone else is dragged to the welcoming party at Deanna’s, the guys join Eric for a spaghetti dinner. Over dinner, they pop the question—will Daryl take Eric’s spot as recruiter for Alexandria. There’s a signing bonus, too. Plenty of parts to build a custom motorcycle. Something changes for Daryl during that day. He went from covert meeting in the woods to agreeing to recruit for the town. If he can be won over, who will follow next?
You Can Run, but . . .
Review of “The Walking Dead” 508 – “Coda”
By RC Murphy
Here we are! Weeks of slow build up brought us to an unforgettable mid-season finale. Was it the perfect way to tide viewers over until episodes resume in February? Not in the way previous seasons have kept us chomping at the bit to find out what’s happening next. They set a high standard after the season four mid-season finale and its fiery blood bath. The show’s producers would’ve had to set no limits to hit that high a note again.
Warning! Episode spoilers a plenty are waiting below.
The episode starts right after the last left off, with Bob Lamson handcuffed and running away from Rick and his rescue team. Taking matters into his own hands, Rick chases down Lamson in a police cruiser, rams into him, and doesn’t calm down until the barrel of his gun is aimed at the fallen officer. Lamson attempts to sweet talk Rick, say they can go back and make the plan work. Rick’s response, “Can’t go back, Bob,” says a lot about the mentality of everyone in this season. They’ve all crossed lines they can’t come back from. The people they once were are long gone. Lamson may have been a decent guy, but after the walkers came, his moral code was dropped in the mud. But his moral code is still cleaner than Rick’s. And splattered on the pavement after Rick was done pulling information from the injured officer.
Lamson may have been able to maintain a sense of civility within the hospital—and its backward rules when it comes to the wards the cops order around like slaves. Dawn walks right on by as her officers physically and emotionally abuse their wards, never batting an eyelash so long as they leave her alone. Yet we’re supposed to believe her when she says the things she does are for the greater good, that she’s doing it to help people who’ve ended up in situations like Beth. Her definition of help differs greatly from what’s in the dictionary. Dawn helped by telling her to risk her safety and steal medicine to maybe-save Carol, covering up Gorman’s murder to use as blackmail, making Beth act as her maid, and lastly, ordering a young woman to push a police officer down an elevator shaft. At every turn, Dawn put Beth at risk, all in the name of paying off some debt for health care or covering up a justified murder. Nothing Dawn says can be trusted. She got where she is by manipulation and cold-hearted calculation. Two skills she puts to work during the climax for the episode.
At last, Gabriel may understand why his fellow survivors are so efficient at killing when a threat comes their way. After his escape, he made his way to the school where the Terminus folks made camp the night they enjoyed a little Bob-B-Q. Too bad for him, they aren’t very good housekeepers and left their leftovers on the grill. After seeing first-hand what the Terminus people did, he heads back to the church . . . with a gang of walkers in tow. Carl and Michonne take care of the mess, trapping the walkers inside. Gabriel is ready to pull his weight, telling Michonne, “I can’t run anymore.” He could’ve also been talking about the hole in his foot, but I like to believe the good Father will be a solid part of the crew from here on out.
G.R.E.A.T.M. pull up to the church just in time to help. Everyone piles into the fire truck, taking Maggie to Atlanta to help save Beth. Unfortunately, even with the wheels, they’re too late to do any good.
The climax for the episode plays out like an old western—two forces meeting on a road, one leader doing the talking for each side while everyone else is twitchy from nerves. The trade-offs go smoothly. Daryl rushes forward to claim Carol and her go bag. Rick walks the remaining officer forward to trade for Beth. The moment Beth is back with the crew, things go south. Dawn has another stipulation—Noah must return to the hospital. Beth had taken his place in their system. Without either Dawn would have to do her own chores. We can’t have that. Fed up with the manipulation and lies, Beth takes matters into her own hands. Or rather, her own cast, where she’d hidden a pair of scissors before the trade-off. It was the one time Beth didn’t hem and haw about taking action. She saw an opportunity and took it, cutting one head off the hydra working within the hospital. Dawn didn’t go down without a fight. She manages to fire off a single round from her gun. Beth’s bravest act is her final one. A single shot to the head will ensure she doesn’t come back as a walker. It’s a small mercy at the end of a painful few weeks for the young woman.
The reactions to Beth’s death have a bigger impact than the moment Dawn pulled the trigger. Daryl is absolutely broken and takes the kill shot to take out Dawn. Carol carefully pulls him back before the tentative peace the deaths brought is broken. The Greene family have always functioned as part of the heart for the group. Beth’s light kept many of them going during the prison days, her gentle songs and the way she cared for the young ones in their group giving them hope for a future led by the kids she aided. Now it’s just Maggie. She really is alone this time. No big what-if hanging over Beth’s fate. Can she recover from this loss? Can any of them? Losing the innocent members of their strange family takes a toll, chips away a little more of their civility. Another loss like this and they may end up more walker than man.
Don’t skip the final scene! Yes, there is a short bit after the credits. Does this mean we’ll see much more of Morgan in the future? I hope so. It’s time to shake things up and bring back some energy to the story now that we’re not mired in the hospital drama anymore.
We’re one episode away from the mid-season finale. So far the plot has crept toward an outcome completely hidden to the viewers. There’s no big bad guy for the various factions within the survivor’s group to fight. The one main mission for the season was based on a lie. We’ve now got a new mission: Save Carol and Beth. But can that take us through the next two episodes and give fans what they look forward to every mid-season break?
Watch your step! There’s spoilers creeping around under here.
Our intrepid heroes split yet again, leaving Michonne and Carl to look after Judith and Gabriel. The Father is jumpy, touchy about the work being done to fortify the church so it’s a safer place for them to hole up. His regret over the murders done by his fellow survivors eats at him. Michonne and Carl tag team Gabriel. They stress the need to learn how to defend himself. How to move on emotionally after being forced to kill—walker or human. Gabriel saved them by allowing them to camp in his church. This is the only way they know how to repay the kindness, by teaching him how to survive after they leave if he doesn’t travel with them. The pressure from them to grow past his comfort levels forces Gabriel to do something utterly stupid. He escapes through the floor boards and under the church, injuring himself in the process. How far can a limping, pacifistic, guilt-ridden man make it? Is he running from people he sees as cold-blooded killers or from the memories of how he soiled his hands by refusing to aid his parishioners?
There is a new faction within the survivor crew – G.R.E.A.T.M. is the team name Tara cooked up for the group who had been escorting the liar Eugene to D.C. for his mythical walker cure. They’re not a very well-oiled machine at the moment. Abraham put himself in time-out after decking Eugene, his temper steaming hotter than the Georgia highway he’s kneeling on. Rosita attempts to talk sense into him. Fails. Fails to the point where Maggie draws her gun and forces Abraham to kneel again. Maggie is done with his hissy fits and the hiccups in their plan. She’d agreed to go to help. To give her life some purpose after losing her entire family, except Glenn. Without the mission, the entire group is lost. Tara tries to keep the peace, but can’t do anything in the face of Abraham and Maggie’s anger. Glenn eventually steps up and starts weaving a plan, using his people skills to show everyone that the fighting will get them nowhere and they can’t camp out in the middle of a highway forever. He brings them together. By the time Glenn, Rosita, and Tara make it back from a trip to find water—scoring a couple fish for dinner along the way—Eugene is awake and Abraham’s relief that he didn’t kill yet another living being sloughs the foul mood from his shoulders. They may be able to work as a cohesive unit, but where will they go if D.C. is out of the picture?
Rick’s group down in Atlanta seem like they may have a solid plan to get Beth and Carol back. Or maybe not. Tyreese has come a long way since the days when he could not and would not even do so much as kill a walker. However, the thought of barging into a secure building crawling with well-armed police makes him think twice. Not only about the casualties from the opposing side, but civilians and their own crew members. He comes up with a better plan—catch two of Dawn’s officers and force a trade, yours for ours. When Rick moves to reject the safer idea, Daryl intervenes. He’s not taking any chances retrieving the two people he’s come to care about the most because of one of Rick’s rash gotta-get-revenge ideas. The plan goes off without a hitch. Or so I’d like to say. Being what it is, things went downhill quickly as soon as backup arrived to aid the cops lured out by Noah. There’s a shoot-out and violent hide-and-go-seek scene. It ends when Daryl rips the head off a walker and bashes a guy’s head with it. There’s a sit down with the officers in custody. One man, Bob Lamson, appears to be the best bet for making the plan work. He gives Rick some solid advice . . . and then uses Sasha’s obvious emotional weakness against her. Lamson lures her off to the other side of the warehouse and rams her into a window so he can escape. So much for having a plan.
The main walkers for this episode were far different than anything we’ve seen from KNB EFX for the show before. Most of Atlanta was hit by napalm during the initial walker invasion. The unlucky folks who’d been outside the hospital for evacuation were hit in the process. After they died, they came back as animated hunks of bubble gum. Or at least that’s what they looked like with their flesh melting over the asphalt. Wouldn’t want to step in that and try to scrape it off my shoe.
Inside the hospital, things are the same as always. Jerk cops ordering their wards around, and turning that onto Dawn when they feel they aren’t getting their way. One officer orders Dawn to take Carol off the machines and stop treatment, stating it’s a waste of resources. Dawn agrees, and then turns around to use Beth to save Carol. Because any sane office of the law will ask a scared, injured girl to pretend she’s a doctor and potentially kill a woman trying to save her without proper medical training. Yup. That’s one-hundred percent believable.
The next episode if the much-awaited mid-season finale. What’s waiting for viewers? Hopefully something to punch up the energy for the remainder of the season.
Last week, we caught up with the long-lost Beth. This week, we’re on the road with Abraham and the gang determined to see Eugene safely to D.C. so he can work on the virus that may very well eliminate every walker across the globe. To say their trip is a tad rocky in this episode is a gross understatement.
A part of me feels like there were some character tweaks to make this episode in particular hit a certain vibe—not a pleasant one, either. Abraham’s anger has never been hidden, but the extent of his emotional baggage hasn’t been on the screen in this way before. It’s difficult to balance what we know of the man with what we’re shown in this episode. We get glimpses of his past throughout, relating to the early days after the outbreak and his attempts to keep Ellen, his wife, and two children safe. The ease with which he kills stems not from a long military service, but from understanding that sometimes people must die. Others may judge him—his wife was so terrified she took the kids and ran to their deaths—but at least he knows he’s done his part to keep his people safe. There’s a fine line Abraham walks. More than once we saw Rosita, who’s been with him for almost the entire trip from Texas to Georgia, take a step back from his anger. She’s romantically involved with Abraham and looks to him as their leader, but at one point she has to put her foot down before Abraham marches them into a herd of walkers so thick, one can’t see the road through all the decaying flesh.
That’s after they managed to kill every vehicle they rode in for longer than a mile. What is with people after the apocalypse having horrible luck with transportation which doesn’t require manpower? Yes, Eugene sabotaged the bus, but there’s been a string of bad timing with cars running out of gas or crashing throughout the show. Remember Lori and the walker pushing his face through the safety glass? Yuck! It’s like once the dead rose, everyone forgot how to operate cars. Convenient for the writers—it keeps their locations isolated to a specific area and gives them a chance to add in more fight scenes with walkers. Awful for the characters who end up with concussions and who knows what else from all these crashes.
Tara is finding her footing within the group. Unfortunately her footing puts her in the path of Eugene’s weirdness. For most of the episode, I yelled at her to get away from him. She’s naïve and kind. Lately, Eugene has been written like a sociopath. He understands emotions, but they don’t connect with him on more than a surface level. He’s got one concern: his safety. Tara, meanwhile, wants to make sure everyone is okay and happy. That’s a tall order considering the mess they get into after the bus flips in the middle of the freeway.
Speaking of, what sort of sense does it make to walk forward into uncharted territory, given that your ride and supplies catch fire on the road, instead of backtracking to a known safe location? Fifteen miles out from the church, the glass Eugene dumped in the gas tank causes the bus to flip and the engine to catch fire. Despite losing everything except the bag of weapons, Abraham orders everyone to continue on their set path. He’s running from something, which isn’t clear until the end of the episode. What I want to know is, how the heck did they happen to find a walker-free place to sleep in by sunset given there was nothing but forest stretching down the road they traveled? The same sort of plot gap happens toward the end when we though the gang were good to go with the fire engine and suddenly they’re walking toward at least two thousand walkers. Uh, what?
I’d like to take a moment to gloat. All this time, I’ve said Eugene wasn’t what he seemed and guess who was right? Yup, this reviewer. Eugene made the best of a bad situation. He knew he couldn’t hope to make it longer than a day without clinging onto someone and convincing them to help him. He’d done the math, Washington D.C. should be the safest place within the undead-infested United States. But he was in Texas, and that’s a long way to travel alone when one cannot defend themselves. Luckily enough, he stumbled across Abraham at exactly the right moment. A minute or two later, Eugene would’ve stumbled across a woman and two children who’d been eaten by walkers, and a man beside them with the top of his head blown off. Abraham feels he owes Eugene for saving him from suicide. The need to balance the debt pushed him for so long, when Eugene finally told the truth—that he’s not a scientist capable of destroying the walkers with a virus—Abraham snapped. The last we saw of Eugene, he was T.K.O.ed with everyone hovering over him. Honestly? That’s what he gets for getting everyone’s hopes up. Numerous people died to get him to D.C. and it was all a lie.
This episode was still a tad slow, save the last few minutes when the truth hit the fan. If this trend sticks, the show may have a hard time ramping up for what is always an epic mid-season finale. For now, we play the wait-and-see game.
A little forewarning for the second episode of season five—don’t eat anything when you watch. Or rewatch. At no point in your life will it be okay to consume much beyond water while watching . . . and even that’s questionable depending on the strength of your stomach.
Spoiler Alert! The following review contains episode spoilers.
For the first time in too long—possibly since before Hershel’s murder—we witness a survivor group who are somewhat happy. It may be mostly relief. Giddiness from finding each other once again and surviving escape from Terminus with no casualties on their part. Rick smiles and takes time with his children, something he hasn’t been able to do since the prison attack. Even then, he was plagued by Lori’s ghost and could not fully bond with Judith. Everyone has banded together to take care of the baby.
Judith, along with Bob and Glenn, became the heart and soul of the group. Anyone needing a mental time-out takes a turn watching the baby. Tyreese in particular has done a lot of mental healing since his time taking care of Judith. His world simplified to one focus—protect her and provide for her, no matter what dangers lurk around the corner. Because of that focus, he’s ready to forget that Carol killed his girlfriend and move on. He can kill again, without feeling a strangling sense of moral wrongness. Bob and Glenn, in their roles as heart and conscious, focus on Rick and keeping him grounded despite his overwhelming need for revenge. Even though Rick is smiling and reunited with his family, there’s a darkness in his eyes that won’t go away. The pain he’s gone through has forever changed him. Even if Eugene’s scheme to infect the walkers with a super virus that’ll kill them off works, Rick will never be the same. He will need people like Glenn and Bob to thump him over the head and remind him he has two children relying on him to stay grounded and in control of his anger.
Unfortunately, Bob may not stick around long enough to help. We’ll get to that later.
This episode introduced Gabriel Stokes—a priest with a strange sense of humor (and awful comedic timing) and a secret which may or may not come back to bite the entire group in the backside. Gabriel doesn’t kill, not even the walkers who threaten his life. He’s been isolated in his church since the undead outbreak reached his neck of the woods. Luckily for Rick and company, the church is far enough out of the way to have little walker foot traffic. They hole up in Gabriel’s safe haven to take a breather and have a nice wind-down session reminiscent of the party down in the CDC’s basement back in season one. Let’s hope the church isn’t rigged to blow up.
The safety the church offers is an illusion. Rick, Carl, Daryl, and Michonne all sense something isn’t quite right. For days they’ve thought someone may be tracking their movements. Carl found evidence of an attempted break-in at the church, but couldn’t tell if the knife marks on the windows or the threat, You’ll burn for this, were fresh. We know that Morgan isn’t far behind the group, and he was a tad loony-pants the last time Rick saw him, but is he the threat?
Nope. It is far, far worse.
Poor Bob. He’s finally found a groove after the apocalypse—a solid relationship with Sasha, good standing within the survivor group, sobriety, a solid plan to help Abraham and Eugene reach the epidemic center in D.C., and a sense of relief so great he can’t help but weep. The latter proves his undoing. When Bob takes a time-out from the party, someone sneaks up and clubs him over the head. Next thing we know, it’s Bob-aque time. Hold the sauce. He’s still alive, but for how long? Gareth seems like a patient man, despite his disgusting diet choices. The group who survived the Terminus attack is small. How much can they consume before Rick realizes they’re a man down? Do cannibals diet? Guess we’ll find out next week. Cross your fingers and hope Bob makes it out only missing one limb.
Never Again. Never Trust. Review of The Walking Dead 501 By RC Murphy
It must be October. Everyone as far as the eye can see is trapped in Walker Fever—not to be confused with the fever the infected suffer before turning into the undead. We here at the ZSC Command Center are not immune and fell head-first into the fifth season of AMC’s The Walking Dead with snacks at our side . . . which we quickly ignored, given how bloody the first episode of the season turned out to be. With that in mind, let’s see what our favorite band of survivors are up to after being captured last season.
Spoiler Warning! Below are show spoilers. Turn back now if you haven’t watched this episode.
This episode had one flaw—the Terminus flashbacks. There were only two, at the beginning and end, but the information delivered was something clearly conveyed through dialog and set decoration in the middle of the episode. All the flashbacks provided was a little confusion as far as the timeline went. For half the episode, it appeared as though there was a time gap between when Rick and company were captured and the moment Carol and Tyreese were within hearing range of Terminus and all the gunfire. It wasn’t until Carol saw her once-friends bound and gagged that things started to make sense. Sometimes in story-telling, less is more. This was one of those cases.
Rick is still embracing the Ricktatorship, pushing everyone to arm themselves with whatever they can find in the train car. Miraculously, in the short time they were apparently imprisoned, they managed to build a good number of gnarly weapons using rusty nails, leather belts, hunks of wood, and who knows what else. All their work was for naught. Glenn, Rick, Ben, and Daryl were still taken by surprise and dragged into Terminus’ slaughterhouse. Which is the exact moment everyone set aside their popcorn and clutched the couch cushions so tight, their knuckles turned white.
Despite internet rumors, this was not the moment we said goodbye to any main cast members. Glenn is still alive and has taken on Hershel’s role, becoming Rick’s conscious when his desire for revenge threatens the entire group’s survival. It’s a position Glenn has filled before, but his youth and inexperience usually costs him solid ground to stand on in the face of Rick’s anger. This time Glenn seems better prepared to stand up for what he feels is right. He’s got far more at stake with Maggie at his side and committed to staying there no matter what. Not even his good friend will force him to risk her safety.
Carol is far, far removed from the character we met in season one. Now she can walk up and kill a walker without blinking, even while Tyreese stands behind her saying he’s not prepared to kill again. In the face of his perceived weakness and possible judgment, Carol doesn’t balk, doesn’t care. She will live, that’s that. She will make sure Tyreese and Judith live, no matter the cost to her. But she has no plans to stick with them. Being ousted from the group changed her more than the death of her husband and daughter. Solitude fits the new Carol. She’s truly free to do what she wants when she wants after years of being the steel backbone for her family. Will her resolve to remain a lone wolf stay firm after reconnecting with the rest of the group? Hard to tell, but the reunion hug she shared with Daryl was perhaps one of the happiest moments on the show in years.
This episode was all about escalation. One group wrongs another, the afflicted group seeks revenge. That’s how Terminus became a cannibal’s Fantasy Land—their once sanctuary was overrun, the women abused, countless murdered, but they took it back and became something ruthless and without morals. That’s how Carol and Rick ensured Terminus could not recover from their attack and escape. Even Tyreese did not escape without having to step up his game to not only kill walkers, but also a human who posed a serious threat to Judith. By the end of the episode, even viewers felt panicky, waiting to see how far the escalation would go. What would be the ultimate cost of this revenge pushing Rick forward? So far, no one in his group has paid. That luck can only go so far.
We were visited by a long-lost character at the end of the episode. What role do you think he’ll play in the grand scheme of things? Last time we saw this guy, he was twelve crayons short of a full set and sure to die at any time. That’s the wonderful thing about this show, the people we think will die, don’t. Those we wish would live, keel over without warning. It’s impossible to predict what’s around the corner. But that is half the fun of watching. It is also why The Walking Dead was picked up for a sixth season days before the fifth season premiere.
This is the tale of a rabbit named Percy. He wasn’t a wild rabbit, who spend their days scurrying frantically to and fro to find food where predators wouldn’t find them. No, Percy had the privilege to be born under the care of a kindly older human woman. He came into the world in his mother’s spacious cage on a farm far away from the noise of the city. It was a peaceful place to grow and get to know the world of a pampered pet, as the Old Woman called them. One spring afternoon, a family approached Percy’s mother’s cage. They ooed and awwed, pushing pieces of alfalfa through the bars. His mother taste-tested the offerings, of course, but Percy ate his fill. An hour later, Percy’s world grew dark and terrifying. Stiff brown paper trapped him in twilight. The world bounced and hummed around him. A high-pitched voice—the voice of His Girl—cooed over the hum for time too long to tell. Rabbits never grasped the art of telling time. To Percy, there were only three parts of the day: Time for fresh greens, Time for alfalfa, and Time for greens in the dark. Occasionally, there was Time for treats. The Old Woman said too much wasn’t healthy so she kept the sweet treats for herself. In the humming dark, there wasn’t time for anything except fear. Percy’s nose twitched—the only part of him he dared move. Around the Time for greens in the dark, the jostling and humming stopped. As did the cooing. Percy’s dark, papery world shifted suddenly. He scrambled to stay still. Mother had once said, if he ever lost his standing as a pampered pet, he had to stay still to keep the bigger animals from gobbling him up. Percy didn’t want to be gobbled, but he didn’t have any control over his movements.
His Girl brought light back to Percy’s world. The thick paper darkness parted, revealing her freckled face and funny smile—funny only because her teeth were so much different than his own and some seemed to be missing. Along with her smile came the tummy-flipping scent of fresh green things and a flood of light too white to be the sun. Gentle hands pulled him from the dark and set him on the grass. Percy froze. He’d been banished. Only rabbits not suitable to be pampered pets hopped around on grass willy-nilly. Where was his cage? Where was his mother? Why had the Old Woman given him away to His Girl, only to be tossed outside?
Sadly, this would not be the most frightening day of Percy’s life, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
Once his panic settled, Percy realized this was his cage. A funny cage, it’d been built right on the ground. Fresh grass grew where in his mother’s cage there’d been coarse hay that poked his belly. Clover and yummy flowers grew in one corner. Far, far across the cage sat a tiny house without windows and only one door, the floor lined with soft material to cushion his belly while he slept. Of course, Percy didn’t investigate any of this until long after His Girl gave up hope and left him alone.
By the time he’d finished a nap in his new house and ate four of the purple flowers, and another five clover leaves, the funny noises had begun.
“This is an awfully noisy bunch,” Percy thought. “Thank goodness my cage is outside or I’d never get any rest!”
Try as he might, Percy couldn’t ignore the racket. Hopping to the edge of the cage—something he’d yet to muster the courage to do—he searched the Big House for His Girl. Her noises were the loudest, nothing at all like the gentle words she’d whispered in the jostling darkness that brought him to his new cage.
Shadows passed over the Big House’s windows, some moving faster than others. Crashes drowned out His Girl’s voice. Bang! Bang! The door directly across the Big Yard from Percy’s cage slammed open. Percy jumped and dashed into his clover patch. Hunkered behind the green covering, frozen like a tree trunk, he watched a new man—not one of the two who’d escorted His Girl to the Old Woman’s farm—trip down the steps. A heartbeat later, His Girl bolted through the door. Her shrieks rivaled Percy’s that one time a big dog had knocked into his mother’s cage, nearly toppling it over with them locked inside. Red stuff covered her yellow dress.
“What a messy eater,” Percy mused from his hiding spot. “She’s got strawberry juice all over. Her father won’t like it.” Shortly after he thought, “I wonder if she’s brought any sweet treats to share.”
Percy’s stomach seconded the idea.
The strange man caught sight of His Girl and gave chase. What fun, a game! Percy dared to poke his head above the cover to watch the two race around the Big Yard. His girl shrieked and raced ahead of the strange man, but the man gained ground with every huge step. Right beside Percy’s flower patch, the strange man caught up with His Girl. Unbelievably, more strawberry juice covered His Girl’s dress.
The strange man tackled His Girl to the ground. It looked like a tickle fight—something the Old Woman did with Percy to shoo him to another part of Percy’s mother’s cage while she tidied up. Percy wanted to play. Feeling brave, and hungry for a taste of the strawberry juice on His Girl’s fingers, he hopped through the flower patch to where her hand lay pressed against the cage. Percy tilted his head up and licked the juice.
What kind of strawberries tasted like metal? Percy’s stomach gave a rumble. Then a roar. Maybe it liked the juice, even if it tasted funny. Percy gave it another taste, sneaking a lick at His Girl’s still hand.
A little better flavor this time, though still not any strawberry he’d tasted before.
Starring: Kris Holden-Ried, Emily Hampshire, Shawn Doyle, and Claudia Bassols
Rated: NR (Adult language, partial nudity, mild drug use) From Filmax International:
Kate (Emily Hampshire) works at the hospital in the Return Unit, helping those who have been infected by the virus that turns people into zombies. Kate’s dedication to her work is absolute, but few people realize that for her it is also a personal matter; Kate’s own husband, Alex (Kris Holden-Ried), has been returned.
After various brutal and prolific attacks at the hands of Anti-Return groups and rumours that the “Protein” stock is running dangerously low, Kate fears for Alex´s safety. Suspicious of the government’s order that all the returned should report to a secure medical facility ‘for their own safety’, the couple decides to flee, taking with them all the doses of “Return Protein” they have. At no point does the couple imagine that the real threat is a lot closer than they think…
The Returned came from the same house as the [Rec] series, and the quality shows. I went into the film expecting one of the random, low-budget films that are usually slid under my cell door. Boy was I in for a surprise. While The Returned isn’t a blockbuster, it’s not something to snub at a glance.
Let’s get down to it. The film starts with what feels like a random, bouncy flashback scene. It isn’t entirely clear why we’re seeing this scene until the final minutes where it becomes clear this is a pivotal moment in Kate’s life, one that shapes how she deals with the fallout of so many harsh decisions from those around her. The importance could’ve been made clearer. Possibly by cutting some of the post-production additions—all the “noise” added to make the footage feel old—and pushing the credits until the following scene set in the present time.
As for the characters, I’ve found a rare film in that none of them are, as I call it, Too Stupid To Live. Every decision made throughout the movie is thought out, or when done impulsively there’s decent character-driven reasons, as is the case for Jacob and Amber when they ultimately are forced to make a hard decision that may put them at odds with their friends, Alex and Kate.
There’s not a lot of zombie action on screen. The film instead focuses on society’s inability to adapt to change and accept a new species of people. Because, that’s what the Returned are, something new and unpredictable. Forced to rely on a daily dosage of drugs, the Returned are given the same treatment as homosexual AIDS patients by the media. What happens when they stop taking their treatments? What will they do to others without treatment? How fast will this disease spread if the government doesn’t step in and micromanage their lives? Wouldn’t it be better if they were all just killed—gunned down while idiots seek to coddle the monsters? We recoil at the truth of it—anything new and uncertain is automatically handed a death sentence. That’s the way humanity is hard-wired. Kill the unknown to spare the larger population. Never mind who is traumatized in the process.
The Returned is a slow-burner. The plot pushes steadily forward, forced along by the characters, their decisions and reactions, and not the evil undead waiting to tear them limb from limb. This is not an action film. It’s a statement on a society that cannot change without first destroying itself. If you want hack-and-slash, keep moving. However, if you’d like to think about the implications of how zombies would change everyday life, give The Returned a chance. I’m giving it 3.5 bloody scalps out of five.