The Saviors take a break from war to scrub the refuse from their ranks. The level of manipulation in this episode reaffirms how damn good Negan is as a character. But why did we have to wait this long to get into the intriguing bits of his personality? This entire season takes place in such a truncated timeframe, what feels like years to us is nothing for them and it’s just not working anymore when it comes to character development. The production cannot save the pacing with one solid episode here and there, but I’ll take what they’re offering simply because these actors are giving their all every day on set. It’s just a shame the writing isn’t reflective of what we know the actors can do. We should’ve already seen this side of Negan. JDM keeps alluding to it, doing his best to BE Negan around all this macho, chest-pounding, ridiculous fallout from the Sanctuary attack. It’s not until he confronts Simon that I feel we’ve met the real Negan. He plays his opponent like a fiddle, getting whatever information he wants from the wannabe leader in order to flush out every single backstabber lurking in the shadows. When Rick tries to get rid of his detractors, it creates hell for everyone around him. Negan does the same with cold efficiency and only the people he feels need killing wind up dead. Weird how that happens. It’s like he knows how to lead a group. Not that I condone murder, but this is the fictional apocalypse and Negan’s got the loyalist, healthiest crew in the region shown on-screen now that Rick ruined The Kingdom and Alexandria, on top of Gregory abandoning Hilltop to chase promises for his own safety over his peoples’ future.
Tension is a whole distinct character in the Savior scenes. Negan’s carefully considered course of action to reaffirm his place at the top seems so clear-cut. Seems being the key word. Dwight thinks he’s mostly in the clear, as long as he’s careful not to get wound up in Simon’s scheme. Which is, quite frankly, impossible because Simon needs his fellow leaders to back his play before someone else steps up to challenge him. At no point does Simon consider Negan’s actual fate. The look on his face when Negan pops up is worth every second watching Simon slime his way to the top. He wants to be the boss? First he’s gotta beat the boss. These post-surprise scenes are some of few in eight seasons to make me lean forward, eager for the outcome. Then comes the actual twist, putting Dwight right where he doesn’t want to be—exposed as a traitor and spoon-fed information to harm his new pals at Hilltop. Negan’s mysterious hitchhiker is Laura, the sole survivor from Dwight’s betrayal outside Alexandria. Let me tell you, her joy in exposing Dwight should be bottled and sold. Whatever comes from Dwight handing over the intentionally false map, Laura will be first in line to celebrate. Conversely, Gregory’s regret over helping Dwight may be the only mood bigger than Laura’s rabid revenge, seeing as he’s back in the prison cell at Hilltop after delivering the map.
At the end of a long day the last thing Negan wants is anyone from the opposition contacting him out of the blue. Driven by Carl’s memory, Michonne does just that and risks reading his letter to Negan over the radio. Boy is it the wrong day to approach the man. Dude snaps. He lays the end out for her nice and clear; the only way out of this is through mass casualties on Hilltop’s behalf. The Saviors didn’t pick this costly fight, but they’ll end it. Negan’s done throwing away resources butting heads with Rick.
In order to fight, the Saviors will need way more ammunition. The folks at Eugene’s outpost can only move so fast, but it’s not good enough for their boss. Let me just pause right her to say, we need to petition the showrunners so they’ll never, ever, ever show Eugene eating on-screen again. Back to matters at hand. Eugene’s workers trudge along despite the nasty food and shoddy pep talk. Even Gabriel is roped back into the production line. Things look bright for Hilltop for a while when Rosita and Daryl manage to kidnap Eugene with little incident. That is until Eugene straight up pukes on Rosita and runs. If I didn’t dislike this character before, I certainly do now. Disgusting little snake hides and just returns to his outpost like he isn’t covered in ash and God knows what.
Aaron’s self destructive streak reaches new lows as he slowly starves to death outside Oceanside. No one extends a helping hand to the outsider. When walkers find him, he’s too weak to fight them all off. But the gall of this guy comes when he passes out, wakes to his rescuers’ faces, then lays into them about avoiding the war. To cap it off, he blames them for Natania’s death. They should’ve smacked him good. I’ve heard some bull on this show, but lecturing a bunch of traumatized women for avoiding a war none of them should be involved in really takes the cake. Why must these women in particular come in to mop up Rick and Negan’s mess? Leave them alone. They’ve lost too much already.
It’s finale time. Wonder how much of this wreckage they can fix in order to transition smoothly into season nine. Probably not enough.
Baby Proof: Review for Ash vs Evil Dead 305 by A. Zombie
Nothing’s gone right for Natalie in weeks. First, kidnapped by a psycho who feeds her companion to a wee demon. Now she’s bound to a chaos magnet with a mobile ball of evil and teeth on the loose. Worst yet, the numbskull she has to rely on thinks the best plan is to capture the baby, not just shoot it in the head and walk away. Her suffering doesn’t last long. Mini Ash’s appetite puts any normal teenager’s to shame. Showing his age, he does wind up playing with his food. Which is where the squick factor rises sky high. Mini Ash uses Natalie as a meat suit for the episode’s big fight. Basically, he just pops in and out of her neck and nether region, like Whack-a-Mole, but far, far more disgusting. The sound effects will be the soundtrack in my personal hell when the day comes. Never the less, our hero persists. Ash caps off his spawn’s exit routes with bowling balls and bundles the package up in the car’s trunk. At last he has real proof to show Brandy that Ms. Previtt isn’t human. Like every time where Ash attempts to prove himself sane in public, his proof vanishes, leaving him looking like the real monster. But it doesn’t take a demon baby to convince Brandy to listen to her father. Going against reason, she’s giving him another chance to prove his side of the story.
Before Brandy meets up with Ash, Ms. Previtt, and Ms. Previtt’s blood-coated child, she has to stab a guy and watch him nearly die. Negotiations with possessed Pablo and mouth on Kelly’s leg go south when Pablo rips open the trailer’s roof to grab Brandy. Kelly knocks the young woman free, only to wind up tangling with her demonic best friend. Brandy ends it by stabbing Pablo in the chest. The possession fades instantly. Pablo doesn’t wake in the human realm, however. Dagger in hand, Pablo faces his uncle and the woman messenger who will lead him through the ritual to reconnect his blood with his family and not the evil tainting it. The ritual is a callback to the type of “figure out which of the one thing is right” from Army of Darkness. Only this time our hero gets it right. Pablo is reborn as Brujo Especial.
Kelly welcomes Pablo back with a kiss. It’s such a wholesome moment tacked onto that brain-melting fight that I wished the scene lasted a few more minutes. Instead Pablo rushes off to save the world alongside his pal because he knows crap’s about to hit the fan. Fans. All industrial sized. It’s a good thing Pablo didn’t mess up the ritual like Ash borked his or no one would have Ash’s back. Why not Kelly? She’s on a separate mission to take Ruby off their problem list for good.
Do Not Send Us Astray: Review for The Walking Dead 813 by R.C. Murphy
Watch out for those episode spoilers waiting to ambush you.
Well, this episode certainly has a different tone than anything we’ve seen this season. It’s almost like they remembered that the genre is more than a bunch of angry men hitting each other. Sure, there’s a long firefight in the middle, but bookending it are a good ol ghost story and a little love note to low budget zombie flicks.
Hilltop is more than prepared for the Saviors when they finally roll in after dark. Maggie’s focus isn’t on the gift Georgie gave them. She admits after that her plan is to lure the Saviors into Hilltop so Negan dies where Glenn rests eternally. Which, you know, I get to a point. What puts her on a different level is Maggie, unlike Rick, looks at that same graveyard after the fight and knows she caused those losses. Dianne positions herself at Maggie’s side quite often, first providing encouragement, then as a source for us to check into Maggie’s emotions at the episode’s end. “What is it,” Dianne asks at the graveyard. “The cost,” Maggie replies. The price for this war is getting too high for her conscious. This last move, pushed by desperate fear on her and Rick’s behalf, has taken everything from their people. Alexandria and the Kingdom are lost. Hilltop’s remaining gardens can’t produce enough food and their stores went to the Saviors as payment. The populations of the communities combined have been wiped out, with countless more passing in this episode alone. Will this be the straw to break the alliance’s back? She may be new to the job, but Maggie doesn’t seem like the type to put her people through that kind of horror again.
The fight itself perfectly illustrates why Simon is a crap leader who’ll send his people straight to their deaths. Not only has he failed to send a scout ahead to check for traps on the road, which they then drive over, but Simon follows right along with the plan set to trap them by chasing Daryl through the gate into the first ambush. He does it again when Maggie signals for the lights to be doused and smoke bombs set off. Sure, he divides up his forces, but the bulk of the Saviors are front and center for the second surprise attack from the main house’s windows. If they followed Negan’s plan, attacking with bows from outside to wound as many as possible and picking off what they could with other gore-coated weapons, the Saviors would’ve lost half a dozen men maximum. Simon can’t even claim a win here at all. It’s not his part of the Savior’s fight which yields a higher body count. Negan’s bio warfare tactic claims far more Hilltop citizens while everyone’s sleeping. He may be the bad guy, but you gotta admire his problem-solving abilities, which are so great, he doesn’t have to be within ten miles for a plan to go right.
There’s a whole lotta weird going on in Morgan’s head. I . . . I kind of like it. The flashbacks and such were getting tired, but this new approach to Morgan’s mental illness is top notch horror fuel. Ghost Gavin won’t stop badgering the guy. He’s always there, beside Morgan, ragging on him about something which is never given a name, really. I assume this is Morgan’s mind telling him he should’ve been the one to kill Gavin in the most spectacularly screwed up way imaginable. How long until others notice Morgan’s talking to the air? How can he convince his subconscious that there’s no way to re-kill a guy? This is a great twist to this character. And of course it’s coming about the time he’s jumping shows so I’ll either be forced to watch FtWD or wave goodbye to all this character development. Not today, Satan. I’ll just enjoy the time I’ve got left with Morgan and his bloody Jiminy Cricket.
The other side of Morgan’s story is where his influence has led Henry after his brother’s death. This kid’s determined to bloody his hands via vengeance. First he goes after Ezekiel and Carol for refusing to arm him to fight in the main battle. Later, the kid steals the prison cell key, takes a military grade rifle, and casually threatens a group of men like a good little terrorist in the making. This is why we must teach men that “eye for an eye” thinking will only lead to bloodshed. Justice is not a mirror to reflect the offender’s pain back onto them. That’s not how humanity as a whole decided to handle the people who are too dangerous to remain amongst us. Not only will Henry grow into the very type of man he’s trying to kill, but he’s unleashed those men back into the world when Maggie had them safely sequestered where they couldn’t cause harm. Someone get this kid in-hand, already. He’s not Carl. This isn’t even a good attempt to set up a child character with the same mentality. It’s just tossing angry male patterns into the wind, hoping it works because otherwise they’ve lost their young white man representation on a show dominated by the dumb decisions made by middle-aged white men. How will the white guys find themselves in this show without someone young and angry at everything? Yes, that’s sarcasm. It’s also to illustrate that we don’t need every stereotype on-screen in every show. The writers are blatantly writing Henry to be the new Carl in ways which will never work. All these years listening to how fans treated that character, yet none of it reflects in Henry’s story line.
Jason Douglas as Tobin, Melissa McBride as Carol Peletier – The Walking Dead _ Season 8, Episode 13 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC
That final action sequence with Tobin and the others injured in the fight turning walker is aces. Some of the tensest zombie action we’ve had on the show in a while. Honestly, I’m shocked Tobin is the one to go in this episode. He’s been that one person I look for in the crowd to see whether or not Alexandria is present in certain scenes. For as little as they used him, Tobin being a constant for the Alexandrian people was reassuring. As long as he makes it, this won’t be another prison or Woodbury situation. And then he doesn’t make it. Worse yet, he turns on the people he protected. I didn’t think losing this one guy would hit so hard, but the more I think about how much I assumed he’d survive, the more my brain wants to reject reality. Carol’s reaction to Tobin’s demise is probably what pushes it over the edge. She’s genuinely gutted to see him turn. Melissa McBride yet again acts her backside off to really drag those emotions from the fans.
Will Maggie allow her people to continue this fight after she’s seen the cost? Rick will not give up until Negan’s dead, and Maggie wants that as well, but this isn’t justice anymore. Hilltop realizes that now. Can they back out of the war when they’ve become home base for an army?
Brainless in Seattle Part II: Review for iZombie 404 by A. Zombie
Watch out, you may swoon over the episode spoilers below.
Brother Love’s influence spreads through the downtrodden zombie citizens in Seattle. One man uses his rough encounter with Fillmore-Graves goon Russ Roche as fuel for Angus’ new persona to toss on the smoldering fire within the community. To them, he’s the only to reach out a kind hand since their sudden departure from living society. He feeds them. Picks up their spirits when they’ve resigned themselves to being “dead” to the people they love. Not to mention, he has this uncanny ability to pick a target for his rage and project that onto the masses with a few magnanimous acts to sew the seeds of Us vs Them. Major steps right into this perfect storm on the search for Tucker, the man Gladwell scratched while being recorded. After his friends abandon Tucker, he steals the phone with the video and finds solace in the anger Brother Love preaches. That’s where Major catches up with him. The congregation shout at the Fillmore-Graves employees. Angus uses the moment to praise the Chaos Killer, and issue a stern warning that if Major ever shows his face at church in Fillmore-Graves clothes again, that’ll be his last day having a face. And people think this dude’s a role model. Okay, Sure, Jan.
The Scratching Post crew drops a load of truth bombs in this episode thanks to the brain Blaine and Done E eat in order to find Renegade. The guys use honesty as the best policy, allowing the brain to cough up visions while they operate their businesses almost as usual. There’s a plethora of hilarious throw-away lines from these two. Blaine eventually gets enough information from his illicit snack to find the laundromat where Renegade operates. The calm sanctuary I enjoyed last time is a horror show this episode after Blaine’s guys shoot their way in to grab Mama Leone. Chase Graves doesn’t look too thrilled to be face to face with his supposed nemesis, but it seems like he’ll go through with Blaine’s deal. Wonder how Graves will justify his actions to Mama Leone’s face.
Catching Bruce the coyote takes a lot of patience, a dash of subterfuge, and a large dose of overacting. After several days running a stakeout at the building Bruce uses to torch his victims, Clive and Liv need a new method. Mama Leona, before she’s taken to Fillmore-Graves, tells Liv to try an online ad. Ravi offers himself as the bait, really overworking an upper crust British accent during the video call to set up a meeting with Bruce. The acting doesn’t get better when Ravi waits for Bruce with SWAT, plus Liv and Clive, on standby. Despite the flightiness from the romcom brain, Liv’s passionate about putting Bruce in his place when he claims they have no evidence. I think Mama Leone’s chat about wanting to feel needed after becoming a zombie put some pep back in Liv’s crime-fighting step—that conversation also reminds us how awful Blaine actually is when he’s not oozing charm.
Throughout the various stakeouts and meetings to prepare for catching Bruce, Liv is relentless about talking around Clive’s relationship problem. So much so, Clive snaps at her when she flat out says he should break up with Dale without giving a reason why. It takes the entire episode for Liv to open up about what she saw at The Scratching Post. Turns out Clive and Dale are trying an open relationship, but he’s not keen on hearing the details. Sorry, my man. If you haven’t already heard these details, you’re not in an open relationship, you’re just grasping for a connection that isn’t there. Communication is key, but Clive’s always been a locked door emotionally. It’ll bite him in the ass.
The Great Tim Saga comes to an end. Thankfully. When the gang head to The Scratching Post for the human/zombie mixer night, and Liv’s maybe-date, they must first face off with The Not-yo Man Major Savage. Gladwell and her new partner dose their commanding officer with blue wrestler brain as a joke. It leads to a heartfelt, but laughable scene with Major and Liv having a post-breakup talk about how much they just want to see the other person happy, no matter what. Kudos to the actors for getting through that scene at all. Every time Major opens his mouth, one can’t help but laugh hysterically. With that talk, and several others from Peyton about fate, ringing in her brain, Liv manages to just converse with Tim for the first time since they met. That’s when she finds out he’s a whackadoo Brother Love follower. Good riddance to bad rubbish; she tosses him like a pair of torn pantyhose. The episode wraps with the same sort of fun energy that charmed me during the last episode. We have most of the central cast in one place, hanging out, being silly, dancing, and no one’s worrying about anything. I forgot these characters could laugh so much without their faces cracking. Here’s hoping we get to see more of this, but I’m pretty sure the fun days are gone, what with Team Overlords getting ahold of Renegade and all.
Unfinished Business: Review for Ash vs Evil Dead 304 by A. Zombie
Whoa, pal. Watch out for episode spoilers below.
Now may not be the right time for Ash to go on some weird bonding trip with Brock, but it’s happening. The duo vanish from Ash’s house in the midst of bagging parts from the reanimated body pretending to be Brock, but wasn’t Brock because Brock’s ghost has no idea Brandy exists until Ash vent-rambles to his father. Are you confused yet? Welcome to the Evil Dead fandom, we subsist solely on confusion and fake blood.
Ghost Brock and Ash hop back to 2012 via the elder’s memories. Back when Ash’s interests include laying low and not much else, Brock has a visitor insisting he must speak to the savior. The adamant Knight of Sumeria has the missing Necronomicon pages which he must give to Ash. Brock’s having none of it, telling the guy to get going and that Ash wants nothing to do with the demon stuff, it’s already ruined his life quite enough. In typical Williams fashion, Brock opts to nut-shot the Knight instead of escorting him from the hardware store. Which is how Brock winds up with a dead man in his cellar. This guy just boards up the door, locks the building, and never turns back. This family doesn’t know how to deal with anything. Lock up a dead Knight, who isn’t actually dead by the way. Leave Cheryl’s room untouched like some weird shrine. Ash can’t even deal with Evil the right way, constantly butting heads with anyone who shows him which path to take. If coping skills were oxygen, they would’ve asphyxiated long ago.
On the bright side, since the Knight is still in the basement, that means Ash just has to break into his own cellar and pickpocket a corpse. And fight an evil wall painting with what appears to be a mystical television of sorts showing Brandy’s friend in distress. Or as we call it, just another day at Ashy Slashy’s Hardware Store and Emporium.
On the flipside, the mayhem in the basement sends the Necronomicon into fits. Ruby arrives home in time to receive a warning from a servant to The Dark Ones. That thing in the basement? It’s a portal, and The Dark Ones are about to use it to make their way to this realm. The only Knight Ruby knows about is Dalton. He’s still reenacting Vlad the Impaler’s greatest hits, so Ruby jaunts over to the cabin for a little chat. Dalton’s not the one who triggers the portal, of course. In a bid to still appear powerful, the fool brags about finding the dagger. We don’t have to worry about that problem again, before Ruby’s spell to push back Evil broke, Dalton blows off his head.
Kelly’s in more danger now, and the punches just keep coming. It doesn’t take long to figure out where Pablo went after running down Dalton. With Brandy tagging along to keep her safe, Kelly’s truck is rammed by deadite Pablo on a motorcycle. He’s intent on dragging Brandy through the windshield. By some miracle, the ladies fight him off long enough to get back to Ash’s. Kelly takes a bite to the leg, but it doesn’t stop her from wanting to capture and cure Pablo. I’m not so sure her feelings will be the same after the bite on her leg transforms into Pablo’s mouth.
The good thing to come out of Ash’s trip down memory lane with his father is Brock knows every woman in Elk Grove. When Ash needs to find Ruby’s new place, it takes Brock all of a second to think up the location for the real Ms. Prevett’s house. The woman Ash seeks isn’t home. He does find unfortunate hitchhiker Natalie upstairs handcuffed to a sink. She’s singing to a baby way, way older than what we saw in the last episode, but just as terrifying. Being who he is, Ash assumes he can just chainsaw his way through the handcuffs, not fully comprehending why Natalie keeps gesturing for him to be quiet. When he finally gets the gist, his robo-hand shorts out, leaving he and Natalie attached to the sink, facing off with a shrieking hellspawn. Ain’t fatherhood grand?
The downside to the short episodes is when the action gets going, I get greedy and want more right away. This episode leaves every plot thread except Brock’s flapping in the wind. Waiting a week to find out what happens is cruel, but this show’s magic would be lost if they had extended episodes. Admitting the truth doesn’t mean I have to like it, though.
The Key: Review for The Walking Dead 812 By R.C. Murphy
Warning, this review contains episode spoilers.
If I knew anyone as destructively stubborn as Rick during the apocalypse, I would’ve chained him to a house long ago for everyone’s good. It’s utterly ridiculous for this unhinged character to claim to lead anyone, let alone for his people to still treat him as the person who has their future in mind. Of all the community leaders, Rick’s focus is the narrowest, not moving beyond neutralizing a threat he provoked. Instead of moving on when the threat presented itself, he fought. Instead of treating Negan as an equal and negotiating, he took it as a personal affront that anyone would step in to interfere with how his people live. And now, with his son’s dying wish for peace ringing in his ears, Rick’s only focus is killing Negan. Like that’ll solve every problem he brought with him to Alexandria. Negan isn’t the most destructive force in this universe, Rick’s fear has a far higher body count. He took a community on the cutting edge, months from reclaiming modern technology on a mass scale, and turned it into smoldering ruins.
That’s the purpose of “The Key” as an episode, to fully illustrate how far this slice of humanity has fallen under Rick’s umbrella. While the men butt heads to see who’ll come out as the Supreme Leader, a group of women participate in a negotiation which will be the sole reason any of these people live to see another generation through adolescence. Not only are the women leaps and bounds ahead of the men as far as future preparations go, but they master the art of compromise with minimal shouting and only one daft, fear-driven, outburst. The initial meeting with Georgie, plus her associates Hilda and Midge, isn’t the best first impression because Maggie reacts to the offer to barter like Rick reacts to anyone presenting themselves as possessing a better plan for the future—everyone’s armed, on edge, waiting for the other shoe to drop without actually hearing the words coming from the other party. When Michonne puts the brakes on back at Hilltop, remembering what Carl asked of them, that’s when reason wins the day. The future must have a position at the council table, otherwise what are they fighting to protect? Are the people they’ve lost along the way not worth building something more than a temporary encampment from which one fights day in and day out? If they continue down this path, the future leads toward Mad Max territory, and that’s just not what some of these people want. So they’ll fight their own way. It’s about time. Maggie ends the episode radiating hope. That’s what Rick dropped down the road, along with a heap of the integrity which made him a compelling leader at the beginning. Without any hope, his people trudge to the next catastrophe, mentally saying their goodbyes because Rick’s plan has claimed too many lives to count at this point—starting at the quarry and up to now where we’ve got just three characters left from season one. With Georgie’s help, Maggie may just be able to salvage the three communities this mad warmongering tore apart. It’s nice to see hope return to this show. Refreshing, even.
Hilltop better use their time wisely; a hearty dose of hope won’t stop the incoming Saviors. Negan’s forces do, however, have to deal with a slight delay, first.
Wound like a top shot off a drill, Rick can’t stay at Hilltop after he arrives and inserts himself into the perimeter patrol in a nearby town. He’s the first to spot the Saviors on the move, yet holds off alerting the others to chase Negan. Of course he does! I’ve got to give it to them, though, it’s a fun sequence altogether. And a bit ridiculous. Rick’s just gonna Rick no matter what at this point and all that’s left is enjoying the weird trouble he gets himself into every episode. The car chase sets up the unhinged action once the guys get to the basement scene rather nicely. I’m not sure I’d believe Rick would fight a guy in the middle of a flaming walker horde without him first chasing the guy down like he’s back in his sheriff’s uniform. His mindset is right there in his eyes in the close-ups during the chase. If Negan saw Rick’s face then, he wouldn’t have goaded him once they got inside the building. Dude’s dropped all his marbles and everyone else trips over them, yet again.
Despite the sheer amount of WTF on Rick’s part, the flaming zombie gag is solid. Negan’s reactions say everything. He knew the guy wasn’t all there, now he sees firsthand how dangerous Rick is when he feels he has nothing to lose. Oh, he has things to lose. As I said before though, he’s so narrowminded, he’s not really thinking about Michonne, Judith, or the civilians caught in future crossfire. How does this show decide to illustrate such character depth? By lighting Lucille and some walkers on fire, then having Rick and Negan fight around them. Only this show could make its fan base believe the main character would be so willfully self-destructive yet somehow both men survive.
Negan’s survival spells trouble for a certain lieutenant with the gift of gab. Simon wastes no time campaigning for himself once the Saviors roll out of Sanctuary toward Hilltop. When Rick takes Negan out of the caravan, Simon is slow to respond, hides several smirks. The entire time, Simon jaws at Dwight, working him toward his side, a side where the Saviors just move on. Move on is slang for kill them all and find new people to harass, by the way. Dwight’s slow to the new lingo, having been with the Alexandrians for a little while. It’s not until they meet with the Saviors post helping Simon cover Negan’s tracks after he disappears from the car wreck that he realizes, this guy does not have the same agenda as I. Well, you think? Simon’s days are numbered, but that number is indefinite since Negan’s sitting in the front seat of Jadis’ car with a gun to his head.
Brainless in Seattle Part I: Review for iZombie 403 By A. Zombie
Before you zip on by, please know there’s episode spoilers in this review.
The human smuggling subplot takes the spotlight in this episode, highlighting a too-real fear about trusting a stranger with your complete safety while in the pursuit of something highly illegal. In this case, romance trumps common sense, bringing Annie Wallace to New Seattle on Love’s light wings . . . okay, so they roll into town in a nondescript vehicle. This episode encourages one to wax poetic, believe it or not. There’s a lot of ridiculous commentary on lust versus love, but the non-romance portions of this romcom are probably some of my favorite scenes from the last two seasons.
You’re soulless if you don’t enjoy a good makeover montage once in a while, I’m just saying.
Back to our victim. Annie unfortunately never meets up with her online sweetheart. Once she is in the city, Bruce the coyote shows his hand, murdering the girl to sell her brain on the black market. She’s a scrapper, puts up a bit of a fight, leading the killer to leave part of her brain behind—just enough for Liv to make milk chocolate brain-bons. This woman went through life falling in love with every other person, always assuming they approached her with good intentions. That’s rarely true, as shown by how easily Annie fell into Bruce’s trap instead of finding someone like Renegade, who so far appears to be the genuine article, someone who just wants to help. Annie’s brain makes its way to Romero’s, where Don E purchases it to feed their high-end clients, along with a mime’s brain to mix things up a little.
The undead are reaching the desperation point with the low brain supply. Fillmore-Graves suspects there’s only four months of brains on-hand for the expanding New Seattle population. Legal sources ae slim. Illegal sources can’t bring them in fast enough without garnering interest from the government. As it is, Clive suspects there’s a serial killer connected to Annie’s death, bringing them that much closer to pinpointing the cause as a black-market brain trade. Cracking down on border crossings isn’t dissuading the desperate from entering the city for what they see as their only chance to thrive—for example Annie witnesses an execution when they pull up to the gate. Desperate for a hand-up against the coyotes, Chase Graves appeals to Blaine’s business sense for aid. If Blaine delivers Renegade, he gets to run his businesses without interference. It’s too good a deal to pass up. By the episode’s end, Blaine locates, and devours, one of Renegade’s clients. Yet again proving he’s one of the most determined people in this universe. Finding the woman herself won’t be as simple. Liv can’t even locate her again after revisiting the laundromat and has to wait for Mama Leone to find her instead to ask about the other coyotes in town.
By far the worst part of the episode is Liv’s constant, “Oh, this is the guy for me. He’s amazing!” On the flip side, this easy-going, happy Liv pumps life back into this character. She’s hanging with Peyton again. They harass Ravi into a makeover montage, which brings such a smile to one’s face, their nose might just crack off. Not saying it happened to me, but I heard a friend suffered such a sad fate. Ahem. Anyway, I’m thankful we get another crack at this version of Liv. She’s the Liv we’ve been missing and didn’t realize it. Although she never actually finds it, Liv drunk on love is by far the best Liv. That truth makes it even harder to accept the production’s decisions to kill everyone Liv’s fallen for since the beginning. Give us what we want, people. Content Liv without the angst for a little while longer, please. And more montages.
On the romance flipside, Bozzio might be stepping out on Clive. While playing tonsil hockey with a random guy she fell in love with, Liv spots Dale in a similar situation moments before she takes the guy off the dance floor at The Scratching Post. Of course romantic-brained Liv thinks the only way out of the situation is to tell Clive the truth. So far she’s declined to come right out with it. Instead Liv winds up harassing the new uni, Michelle Hunter, insinuating that she should hook up with Clive. Yes, it’s a moment worthy of a thousand facepalms.
The romcom brain antics go into the next episode, thank goodness. It seems unlikely they’ll wrap the entire brain trade story now, but I suspect we’re heading back toward the good ol days where Team Zombie went head-to-head with Blaine’s empire. Mix in his new, powerful allies and this fight is far more one-sided than last time when Major almost single handedly wiped out the brain smuggling business by blowing up a butcher’s shop. Speaking of Major, will he stick by the company when he learns they sent the city’s mob boss in to do their dirty work?
Apparently Dead: Review for Ash vs Evil Dead 303 By A. Zombie
Before you dive in, just gotta let you know that there’s episode spoilers in this review.
Hope you sent your good suit to the cleaners before tuning into this episode.
Funerals are never comfortable occasions. Unfortunately, Brandy has to learn this the hard way, starting with the funeral home’s decision to restore Candy Barr’s head without asking the family what they’d like done with the body before burial. Yeah, the writers went there. So, uh, Scotch Guard your suit, too, and let’s attend the funeral of Candice Barr, loving mother and hastily-wedded wife. She’s gonna rest in pieces.
Unprepared as usual, Ash’s true colors come flying through the second he enters the church for the service by snagging flowers from a vase for Brandy. It’s the lack of care which leads to the primary problem during the funeral scenes: Deadite Candy. If he’d just checked in with someone during the body’s prep, he could’ve told them to leave her as-is for a closed casket service. Whose bright idea is it for Brandy to be near an open casket after seeing her mom’s decapitation anyway? Ash tries his best to fix the problem without his daughter being further traumatized. Like every good deed Ash attempts, it goes horribly wrong.
The coffin fight won’t win awards for stunt work, but it’s by far the most unhinged in terms of propriety. Yes, worse than the Slip N Slide with semen. Just about everyone’s been to that one funeral as a child where they spend most of the service convinced the deceased will crawl from the casket. This is the culmination of all those fears, plus a garbage bag load of Ash’s failures as a family man. Spice it with a dash of embalming fluid and they’ve created a funeral scene to top anything we’ve seen on TV before. Some of the best deadite detail work so far this season went into choreographing this scene and creating stages of damage to Candy. The payout during the eulogy is worth being mortally aghast on Brandy’s behalf while her parents have their final fight. It’s so well done, I felt like a heel for laughing as Ash puts Candy’s mutilated head back with her body.
Brandy will never forgive her father for what he’s done now, and Ruby knows as much. Or is it Ms. Prevett? Either way, the school’s counselor thinks the best place for Brandy is at her home, away from the father the girl just met and the inevitable chaos dogging his heels. After Brandy runs from the funeral, Ruby confronts Ash to taunt him before driving the girl to go get her things. A brash play, but this Ruby spent months laying the groundwork for her plan and has the town’s trust thanks to her hard work with the school. Ash, in comparison, is as trustworthy as a hungry coyote tasked with watching a chicken coop. It’s easy to see how Ruby’s calm demeanor appeals to a young woman better than her brash, vulgar father who couldn’t even re-kill his wife without it turning sexual in some way.
Someone in mourning probably shouldn’t be left alone in an unfamiliar place. To ensure Brandy gets what she needs from the house, and to lift her spirits a bit, Ruby sends someone to keep her company. Everyone’s getting a second chance in this episode, including Brock. He bonds with his granddaughter a little at Ash’s expense. The lead-in to the reveal is solid. The new energy from Brandy’s presence does wonders for the show’s tension. We needed fresh eyes on the evil. Everyone else is too jaded. Watching Brock’s second demise through Brandy’s POV brings back the era of startled, inappropriately timed laughter for the franchise. The groan-worthy schticks are okay, but nothing beats fighting not to laugh at someone’s genuine horror in a completely ridiculous situation.
The rest of the Ghost Beaters, plus Dalton, are sent on a critical Save The World mission by the Brujo’s masked messenger. An old, evil book isn’t the only thing salvageable from the cabin’s wreckage. The Kandarian dagger is still down there somewhere, waiting for whoever digs it up first. The gang’s on-task, wasting no time. Kelly is the one to find the dagger. Its powers draw Evil their way. Dalton gets caught in the chaos. As a deadite, he tries to drive a wedge between Kelly and Pablo, blaming Pablo for impaling the fallen Knight on a tree branch. It’s not clear if Kelly buys it, and Dalton doesn’t get another chance to convince her what with a truck grille in his brain and all. Will the Ghost Beaters go through Knights like Spinal Tap goes through drummers, or are they about to answer for Dalton’s death? Maybe they’re already paying the price since Pablo’s MIA after the deadite’s death.
Booth Three: Review for Ash vs Evil Dead 302 by A. Zombie
This is a rare moment where we need to issue a content warning. This review and the episode it concerns contain adult content. Also, there’s episode spoilers below.
One would think cramming Ash’s head up the rectum of a cadaver would be the lowest point on the gag factor for this show. I’m here to tell you, it got worse. So much worse. I’ve actively forgotten the episode thrice in self-defense since watching it. When the teaser said Evil would go for Ash’s seed, they meant all of it. Even what’s left “in the tank,” so to speak. With that in mind, let’s catch up with the Ghost Beaters the morning after Ash’s estranged wife lost her head.
First, we’re taking a quick pit stop on the side of a country road. After consummating her relationship with the Necronomicon, Ruby’s pregnancy progresses at lightning speed. Wherever she’s going, that trip’s on hold. The precious demonspawn refuses to wait any longer. Luckily, a hitchhiking couple spot the distressed driver. The guy screws up enough courage to check the gore-coated car. Great timing, too. The baby needs its first meal. The baby and Ruby have an astounding bond, and a grandiose plan for the future: kill Ash and his bloodline so his demonic spawn can take the savior mantle.
In Elk Grove, things inside the Williams’ household are tense. During her first night under her father’s roof, Brandy doesn’t sleep a wink on her dead aunt’s bed. Due to his complete lack of empathy, Ash’s attempts to console his daughter are met with a burning desire to burrow into the center of the earth and vanish forever. Brandy’s day doesn’t look up until her school counselor leaves a message. We can’t blame Brandy for passing up Ash’s brand of comfort. He’s brash and doesn’t even know tact is a word, whereas the counselor is all heart, giving Brandy a shoulder to weep on without judgement or emotional burden. Too bad it’s Ruby in disguise because Brandy genuinely needs an adult on her side who isn’t emotionally younger than herself.
There’s not a lot of reassurance coming from the other adults in the Ghost Beater house. Matter of fact, things are downright hostile whenever Pablo addresses Dalton or the Knights of Sumeria. There’s a dangerous mix of jealousy and distrust driving Pablo’s mouth, and it’s such a setback for a character who literally rose from the dead after being possessed by one of the evilest things to crawl from the Darkness. Why bring him back to be angry and petty about everything? Also, don’t we get enough toxic masculinity from the main character? Dalton is oblivious to anything which isn’t defeating the Dark Ones or worshipping El Jefe, which makes Pablo’s posturing that much more ridiculous. Throwing off the uncomfortable vibes tossed her way, Kelly still makes an effort to help Pablo by passing on Dalton’s warnings about the returning Sumerian script. The Evil touched Pablo once already, if his condition persists, he will be consumed by it and kill them all. Proof comes when Pablo has a vision where a nude, masked woman passes on a note from Pablo’s uncle, the Brujo, stating pretty much the same thing. Ever helpful, the Knight also gives the duo a rundown of how his people fit into the story. Basically, while the Dark Ones were banished by one of their own, the Knights took advantage and stole the Necronomicon. That book was then stolen again by a Knight hoping to harness the Necronomicon’s power. Spoilers, it didn’t work.
Something in the conversation with the group at the breakfast table inspires Ash to run a quick errand after dropping Brandy off at school to talk to her counselor. See, Evil keeps referencing Ash’s seed, along with threats to his offspring. Being a giver, Ash spent years donating to Cryobank, a facility which aids infertile couples, if you catch my drift. Ash isn’t a sometimes giver. He’s been donating frequently. Most of the samples at Cryobank belong to Ash or Brock. One shudders to think of how many Williams offspring are running around. While the desk clerk checks records for him, bribed by a 30% off coupon, Ash takes a private moment in booth three. Just another deposit for a good cause. He’s interrupted when the magazine he’s ogling is possessed. Yes, they start this week’s big fight with a living adult magazine, every man’s best/worst nightmare. The fight spills into the clinic’s lab. The lead technician, Mrs. Lam, turns deadite. She’s got one mission. Ash can’t stop her from smashing vials of semen on just about every surface in the lab. The tile floor turns into a Sperm Slip ’N Slide. It’s not until a CO2 canister bursts that Ash finds a way out of his mess. Mrs. Lam gets a faceful of CO2 and Ash shatters her skull.
Somehow, Ash walks away with only one stain to give away where he spent his afternoon. Astounding since the lab’s still dripping his “mansauce” when he pulls in front of the hardware store to regroup with the Ghost Beaters.
With the threat to his progeny breathing down his neck, Ash opts not to hyper-focus on the Evil about to kill his daughter. Oh, she’ll be cared for; he claims Brandy is his priority. But on the other hand, Ash believes he’ll have no problems running his business, building a family, and defeating a foe they haven’t met yet. Okay, they have met, but Ash doesn’t know that the last Ruby he spurned is the one behind the attacks. Boy is he going to be surprised. Pretty sure that’s the theme for his life: a surprise at every turn.
Head’s up, there’s episode spoilers in this review
Keeping with the trend that Liv only eats the worst people in Seattle, this week she’s stuck with the brain from Sandy Brinks, a rude, old white woman whose hobbies include casual racism, sexually assaulting her staff, verbally abusing anyone with a heartbeat, and pickling her liver. She’s the kind of rich person who lets a golf ball fly downrange without notice. Ironically, it’s a golf ball through the eye which puts Mrs. Brinks’ mean spirit down for good.
Brace yourselves. This Liv is extra awful.
How bad can it get? Well, the moment she ingests Sandy’s brain, Liv begins treating Clive like The Help, going so far as to refuse to sit beside him in the front seat and constantly questioning his intelligence. This isn’t the only racist behavior recalibrated for zombies in the episode. When Major is on patrol with the rookie Fillmore-Graves recruits, they run into a group of human supremacists harassing a restaurant owner who just happens to not be white, as well as a zombie supporter. When it looks like they’ll disperse, which of the guards do they manhandle in retaliation for being talked down to by Major? Gladwell. I’d be all for this writing team attempting to dismantle established racism with biting humor and social commentary, but as always, they’re too ham-handed.
Brinks’ brain leads Liv to alienate everyone in her social circle. There’s not one person she doesn’t talk down to, including Brinks’ driver during an emotional interrogation. The woman sexually manipulated him, much to his shame. Despite that information, Liv blurts out that he took money to continue the relationship, therefore making him a WHORE. Yes, she says it in capital letters, like a scarlet A she intends to brand on the man’s forehead with the ferocity of her accusation. Which shouldn’t have come as a surprise given how the show’s handled sex workers in the past, but this isn’t a willing adult doing his job as intended. His continued arrangement with Brinks took advantage of his position on her staff—textbook harassment. In the Court of Liv’s awfulness, that seems to translate to real consent, not prolonged coercion. Someone needs to take a long look at the way they view the world and how it keeps shoving problematic language in Liv’s mouth.
No one on Brinks’ staff is without reason to kill her, for glaringly obvious reasons. The suspect winds up being a mother whose sick child is denied permission to pass New Seattle’s wall in order to undergo a life-saving surgery. In probably the best twist, Liv’s awful behavior wears off in time to help this family. Is that enough, though? Saving one child can’t possibly cover up all the awful things this character has said and done in the name of distracting herself from her new reality by diving in head-first. Everything Liv’s done for four seasons bred from a deep desire to not hate herself for changing into something else—the classic “teen girl hits puberty and loathes her new body” story, but with a grown woman and zombies. We have a deeply selfish character, constantly drawn to similar brains, and it’s only now that we see her reaching out to do something more than the bare minimum with her new self. I get self-loathing taking over, but this is fiction and foisting every bad behavior onto one character and expecting the audience to pity her after four years of refusing to mature is short-sighted. That’s not saying she’s irredeemable, it’s just going to take a lot of work.
The secondary story line with Angus is about as pleasing as a root canal without medication. Religious fanatics in genre pieces are so old hat, the idea has returned to the dirt and waits to begin the lifecycle anew as something completely different, maybe a butterfly or hummingbird. Angus has these zombies all riled up, feeding them brains from an unknown source. They even hold a parade, hosted with church resources. What’s most uncomfortable about this whole thing is my ability to no longer overlook the news stories released in December and January concerning the actor. Why? First, the producers kept a line in which Angus greets a girl by saying, “Well aren’t you the most beautiful girl in the world,” and she’s maybe six, obviously afraid. Later, there’s a moment in which Angus switches from speaking normally to male parishioners during communion to his tone going breathy, slightly deeper for the woman. Both instances were . . . off. Uncomfortable to watch, and not just because the guy’s too good at playing crazy. We’ve been promised this season is the last for Angus. That moment cannot come soon enough. Let’s get the creepy old man stereotype off a show which uses more than enough appalling personalities to manipulate the plot.
The story line with Mama Leone has the most promise for this season. So many things have gone wrong in Seattle since Liv turned Z, it feels like there were no good people left, or those who claimed to be good were too easily influenced by the promise of power, like Major. Yet when we get to the laundromat with Ravi, Liv, and the sick boy, the show’s tone changes drastically. Liv is remorseful in ways she rarely expresses unless confronted. There’s no one lurking for a gotcha. It’s just a group of people doing the best they can to help those who have no voice in their new world. Please let this be the swing in Liv’s life we’ve waited for. I’m all for Liv joining the resistance, fighting the zombie establishment. The base is laid, what with Liv and Major on the outs again over their differing opinions on how to handle to handle integration between humans and zombies, not to mention Major’s seeming lack of concern about humans suffering under the new regime. Peyton will be a good ally should Liv go down this road, with her insight into what the Mayor has planned, as well as glimpses of policy from Fillmore-Graves.