Heaven Just Got a Little Bit Smoother: Review for iZombie 301 by A. Zombie
There’s not much of a time gap from the finale to the season opener. A whopping two minutes, actually. That’s so we can continue to watch Stoll wield her impressive skills. Within moments of hundreds dying in an attack, she’s spun a story, added input from Liv, and ordered her people to blow the building to destroy evidence. Wow. I can’t even walk and chew gum without really focusing—decaying brain and all. The new boss in town butts heads with Team Z at a follow-up meeting the next day. But not everyone thinks she’s a tad paranoid to fear D-Day—Discovery Day, when humans learn zombies exist. Major’s turn with zombie hunting left him with a unique perspective on how the average person would handle the news. Considering his path, everyone is doomed. They may as well tell the zombies to invest in those weird cavern homes. Stoll’s plan for the city means there won’t be an army of Majors running around. How far do her preparation plans reach? Well, she’s obtained the only enhancement drug for the undead, has a slew of armed soldiers, and it only takes one second to “breed” a new zombie fighter, compared to the traditional eighteen or so years it takes to make a human soldier. I’d say she’s off to a good start, and knows it. Clive is so not on board with anything he hears in this meeting. He’s still trying to mentally hurdle the Big Z news, let alone the notion that his city is in a turf war, where one side will eat the other side if given too much freedom by their leadership. It’s not all doom for him this day. He sees Wally, a kid who used to live in his building, who just happens to be a zombie. The peeks at Clive without his copface are so quick, one almost misses the chance to see what’s really behind the badge. We may get more of these glimpses, seeing as the zombie haven plans may be what cost Wally’s family their lives later in the episode.
Seeing as the party and ensuing riot were pretty massive, there was bound to be a few slip-ups when cleaning evidence and making sure any survivors were on the right team. There’s two notable mistakes haunting the gang so far—a dead body with brains in the stomach, and the cowardly front gate guard, Billy Cook. The guard finds his way to nutjob talkshow host Chuck Burd’s radio booth. Unfortunately, Clive and Liv are too late to stop him from dropping the z-bomb on live air. Burd has enough proof to become a serious pain in the backside to the zombie-protection movement. He’s one of those who love to incite violence just to have something else to yell about. The second problem for the gang rolls into the morgue, accompanied by Ravi’s old boss, Katty Kupps from the CDC. Talk about tension; none of it sexual. Ravi and Kupps snip at each other pretty much nonstop until he and Liv get the call about Wally’s family. The fighting could get tiresome. Or we could simply enjoy Christina Cox while she’s on the show and hope her character morphs to something more than just Ravi’s antagonist.
There’s turmoil at the mortuary. Don E. is done playing punching bag to people more powerful than him. He’s also one-hundred-percent convinced Blaine is faking amnesia as a power play. With a terse conversation, the band splits. Blaine may not know who he is, but he knows he doesn’t have to take abuse from someone who accidentally admits he’s lied about the business arrangement between them. In a last petulant effort to rob Blaine, Don E. searches the basement. He says one last goodbye to Chief, and checks his pockets for the missing cash. That’s when Don E. strikes gold—Angus DeBeers’ frozen body. Cha-ching. It’s not a couple grand in small, non-sequential bills, but if he can convince Angus to work together, the income will flow like the Mississippi. Judging from their first business meeting, it’s going to be hell for anyone standing in their way.
A missing father may be the last thing on Blaine’s mind. Actually, he’s not on his mind at all since he doesn’t remember having a father, let alone freezing the surly jerk. Nor is he concerned about Stoll, whose husband he blackmailed and she thinks had murdered. No, Blaine’s mind is all about helping Peyton. And boy does she need help. Boss is on the run, tucked in a country which won’t ship him back home for her to punch in the nose. With that major worry taken care of, she should’ve been able to relax. Only, now someone’s harassing her via Twitter. Why not call on Ravi for help? He’s wigging after finding out she slept with Blaine. Because that’s how well-adjusted men earn the trust of their dearest once again.
Damn. My eye rolled under the desk.
The gang is still recovering from the Max Rager party. It won’t be a quick fix, especially since the brain keeping Liv from mourning Drake wore off. Settle in for some head-in-sand determination from Liv as she flails around, coping in her own headache-inducing way. Oh, and next week, Major turns into a teenage girl. So can’t wait for him to, like, finally get some chill, or whatever. I can’t believe I wrote that sentence. Anyway, I wonder how his new boss will take to the weird brain shenanigans from the morgue crew. Stoll doesn’t seem like one to suffer fools lightly.
The First Day of the Rest of Your Life: Review for The Walking Dead 716 by R.C. Murphy
Hold your horses. I know you’re excited, but just so you know, there’s episode spoilers in this review.
I’ve been practicing that pep talk since the end credits ran and still don’t want to accept the message I, personally, saw in this finale. It’s just so . . . tiring. An age-old tale, one playing out in our current news feeds, if one cares to see the parallels.
But, really, do we need another story where gays, people of color, and women are the only reason white men survive their own bad decisions? Nah, dude. I was good with those stories a while ago. Let’s move on to a tale where everyone owns their bull, doesn’t hold petty grudges, and the fighting isn’t dependent on men’s egos.
I will admit, I was partially wrong about Dwight. Which is glorious because Negan came to the same conclusion I did—Rick had no plan and if someone were to spoon-feed him an easy out, he’d snatch it like a seagull in a tide pool at low tide. Well, that’s exactly what happened. Now, Dwight does look a smidge guilty throughout the invasion until bullets fly, then it’s survive or turn walker. Did he leave that wood figure with the message at the gate? I don’t know. He’s a smart enough guy to take one look at Rick’s desperation and understand that’s not the person to trust with your life. Too many others fail to understand this. The last few seasons have been awash in blood shed during Rick’s ill-considered schemes to get one step ahead of the bigger fish in the pond. He’s staying afloat in the apocalypse on a raft of souls. At least when Negan does it, he owns up to it.
In typical fashion, Rick escapes with apparently the most manageable injuries of those shot during the botched attack, seeing as he’s upright when Michonne and Rosita are left bed-ridden at the conclusion. That’s his big punishment after he dragged his people into an uneven deal with the Scavengers, harassed and mentally terrorized women and children to strip them of all their weapons—weapons which they cannot return now, if Rick ever intended to in the first place—sent numerous people to their graves because he just had to bait Negan into taking action, and left their homes vulnerable to constant attack when said baiting backfired. Rick pays for his ineptitude this season with a banged up hand, superficial scrapes and bruises, and what’s essentially a deep bullet graze to his side. Michonne pays for her loyalty to her lover with broken facial bones and who knows what else. Rosita pays for her part in the assassination plan by getting shot, but her wound is more severe and requires longer recovery time.
Then there’s Sasha, who, despite all her potential, is the latest sacrifice to Rick’s ego. The price for stepping out of line is becoming the catalyst for Alexandria to shoot itself in the foot. Not only does Sasha stoop to suicide-by-pill, but her death moment lasts a blink so that Rick’s war can begin in earnest. I can just see that plotting conversation now. “Well, how will they get a shot off if the Scavengers hold them at gunpoint?” “Zombie Sasha.” “What? I mean, there’s a bunch of things we could—” “Kill Sasha. Sonequa has a movie to film and that character is too complicated.” Note: Suicide is not noble. It is not the way to help your friends and loved ones get ahead, even if you feel like a burden. Sasha had so many other ways to get out of her position. Given outside influences, like the actor’s schedule, the writers opted to take a shortcut in Sasha’s story. No one should ever feel suicide is a viable shortcut option—from writers looking to punch up their work, to those like me who’ve lived with depression for years. There’s always another way. Trying to make Sasha’s suicide into a glorious take-one-for-the-team moment is appalling. Adding in bitter-sweet scenes with Abraham is just a cheap shot. I can’t be mad that they hauled Cudlitz back onto the small screen for some of the sweetest scenes he’s had on TWD. I just can’t. Those clips where Sasha remembers, or fantasizes, about Abraham were the only thing keeping my eyes on the screen. Their chemistry as a couple is so appealing. Well, once it got past that awkward beginning stage. But, like so much in this finale, the moment cheapens when one understands those scenes are a manipulation tool to make up for the lack of surprising action outside Abraham’s sudden appearance.
The plot is pretty straightforward. The Kingdom marches to join forces with Alexandria. In Hilltop, Maggie is done waiting around and will take her new people to likewise join the budding army. Over in Alexandria, Dwight spins his tale. Rick takes the bait. Everyone springs into action, laying out road blocks to slow the Saviors, and even setting up explosives at the gate. The Scavengers arrive in garbage trucks, and then spend half the episode being obvious double-agents as they “help” stage the ambush. In the Savior’s convoy, Eugene implores Negan to stand back and let him do the talking. Which he does. Rick gives Rosita the okay to bomb Eugene’s smug self. The bomb fails. That’s when the game is up. Jadis and her people turn their guns on everyone in Alexandria’s walls. Negan and Rick chat. Mostly, Negan makes demands and derides Rick for his audacity. Sasha pops out of the oh-so-dramatic casket as a walker, surprising Negan for perhaps the first time on the show. The fight breaks out—as far as fights goes, it’s a typical TWD gunfight with quick cuts and the body count is almost entirely third-string characters who didn’t even have names. Jadis shoots Rick, and after that it takes but moments to cow Alexandria into submission. Negan makes good on his promise to go after Carl as the next sacrifice for Rick’s hubris. Rick grandstands with the same tired, chest-pounding rhetoric he’s uttered since the day Negan killed Glenn. Then, Shiva happens. The cavalry arrives on her heels, saving everyone—except Michonne, who fights on her lonesome and is presumed dead for a while. The Scavengers and Saviors flee. Alexandria plays clean-up. In a voice-over, Maggie gives a speech to Rick about coming to help them because Glenn helped Rick, and that’s how they all started this life—or some utter rubbish because I couldn’t listen after she basically threw Glenn under the bus for every death Rick’s poor leadership has caused in seven seasons. Yeah. No. Don’t use a favorite character to boost the poorly-written character who in-part caused his death. That’s the same as Maggie forgiving Daryl, giving him an ego boost, and watching quietly while Daryl continues to express the behavioral problems which killed Glenn in the first place. The white guys don’t get a free pass because the woman from an interracial couple says their sins are washed away.
Much like I thought, this episode isn’t even the proper beginning to the war. It’s the warning shot. How will the showrunners handle a full-out war with bloodthirsty Negan? They’ve balked at every turn, admitting they downgraded the violence after the season opener, while still swearing Negan is Negan is Negan. Not when you trade Lucille for a whiffle bat. Maybe the downtime will help them reaffirm what, exactly, they want to do with these characters. If they don’t change something, the fans will leave. It’s the cool thing for reviewers to drop TWD from their rotation right now. Good thing I’m not cool. I really, truly want to see if they can get over these hang-ups and dig into good storytelling again. Bring on season eight and the war. I mean, war prep was boring, but surely being in the thick of it will yield more tension beyond those awkward pauses when Rick and Negan talk alone together.
Something They Need: Review for The Walking Dead 715 by R.C. Murphy
Warning! There’s episode spoilers below.
The action targets three story lines; a blessing since the Oceanside invasion is a snooze-fest and utterly predictable. If it were the sole story line in the episode, it would have been one of the most boring hours of television in creation. The only curveball in the episode is Tara’s complete lack of give a dang once decision time is up and the invasion begins in earnest. Mind you, they have a plan to rob women and children, yet ask any Alexandria resident exactly how they plan to employ these guns against Negan and there’s crickets. So why would Natania trust a woman holding her at gunpoint with no provocation, and then just hand over every gun to hyper-aggressive people who can’t say what they’ll do with them? Obviously Natania is never going to agree to such ludicrous demands. The second Oceanside’s leader fails to say yes, Tara blames her for making the only logical decision available. Women and children needlessly suffer emotional and physical harm for failing to fall in line with Rick’s demands. Didn’t anyone stop to think that if they used explosives to scare the residents, it’d also attract zombies? Why hold civilians in an unsecured portion of unfamiliar territory? Nothing about the invasion’s resolution makes sense, unless you realize it was written to indebt Oceanside to Rick, therefore forcing Natania to surrender their weapons to the people who saved them or look completely unhinged. Don’t forget, Oceanside could have protected themselves had Rick not ordered his people to disarm their fighters and hold everyone outside the secure perimeter. How does Rick react to her grudging gratitude? By taking every last gun in the community. That pettiness is exactly why this show is going downhill. Enough tit-for-tat revenge schemes. How about an episode where Rick treats an outside group with respect? Would it have killed him to speak to Natania in person before getting her people attacked, or is he like our sitting Vice President, unable to be alone in a room with a woman who isn’t his spouse?
Who’s holding him accountable for his questionable decisions? It sure as heck isn’t God—a.k.a. the writers.
Who does suffer drastic consequences for their actions on TWD?
Sonequa Martin-Green as Sasha Williams – The Walking Dead _ Season 7, Episode 15 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC
It all boils down to punishing women. Sasha’s irrational decision to join Rosita’s mission means she must be pushed, in this case via David’s rape threat and molestation. When Rick jumped on the crazy-hair train and promised Jadis a ton of weapons they’d never have a chance of finding? He’s rewarded with armloads of guns falling in his lap with little to no effort on his part and a whole lot of grandstanding. Daryl’s decision to hit Negan cost someone their life, yet his punishment on-screen is some dog food sandwiches and gopher duty. Excuse me? How is raping Sasha going to make Rick’s war happen? It isn’t. It’s a message to women to stay in their place, listen to the man in charge, and to rely solely on the good graces of another man in order to make it anywhere in life. This show if chock full of these jabs at the strong woman stereotype. Maggie endures a dozen moments like this per episode in this season alone—and let’s not forget her near-rape moment back during The Governor’s reign of terror. There are few exceptions to this rule when it comes to TWD women. At some point or another, they’re a forced-sex object. Can’t the writers move past this already? Name anything a man finds terrifying and I guarantee it’ll also frighten a woman. Lean in close, writers. Not every strong woman needs a rape story in her history in order to make her a true survivor and therefore worthy of becoming a leader.
Playing off the rape threat, Sasha depends solely on Negan to survive the night locked in a closet with a soon-to-be walker when he gives her a knife and several “difficult” decisions to make. Obviously she isn’t going to lay there and wait for an attack—that’s what David wanted to do in the first place, now he gets a second change to molest Sasha after death? Bull. But we’re supposed to believe Negan Is Great And Merciful. He’s not. He’s the bad guy, and despite Jeffry Dean Morgan’s insane amount of charm, he will remain a scum-sucking monster no matter how much positive PR the writers give him. Standing up against rape doesn’t negate murder, mental abuse, and torturing those who step out of line. Negan gives Sasha the right to life, and orders to strategize how to stop Rick’s plans before they fully hatch. She turns around and makes some grand lie about wanting to kill herself in order to manipulate Eugene into giving her a weapon to use on the bossman.
I’d like to remind writers that suicide is not something to arbitrarily throw into a script because your character needs or wants something. Too many depressed people are ignored or belittled when they do reach out during an emotional crisis because pop culture trains us to believe they’re exaggerating, or worse trying to manipulate. There were numerous ways for Sasha to convince Eugene to give her a weapon, yet when hard-pressed to deliver something clever, the writers use the lowest form of mental manipulation. F for effort. Go back and write something which doesn’t harm an already ostracized subset of people.
Back in Hilltop, it’s really more of the same. Maggie’s role as a leader solidifies as she expounds expert farming advice to receptive ears, much to Gregory’s chagrin. This is where it gets eye-roll worthy. Gregory stalks Maggie, cornering her to discuss her intentions in the community now that their doctor serves Negan. The scene is only fun when it comes to realizing Gregory can barely tie his shoe in a tense situation, let alone protect a pregnant woman and take on a zombie. Of course Maggie saves him. She also has the gall to tell passersby that he just made his first kill. The second she shames him in public, Gregory rushes to look up Simon’s address and plans a trip to tell Daddy about Maggie’s bad behavior. Gregory is that manager who’s so afraid a woman in his employ will take his position, he winds up ruining his own career undermining hers. Simon doesn’t want Gregory to whine at his doorstep. He only gave the guy his address to get information about whatever Rick’s planning. Once Gregory fails to deliver more than babbling about women taking over his mansion, he’s walker food. I know, I know. I keep predicting Gregory’s death. At some point it’ll happen. I honestly cannot see that character surviving until season eight. He’s just too . . . pathetic.
The finale is around the corner. I have absolutely no expectations and have passed up every preview so far. All I know is Dwight’s about to hand Rick the key to this war, and I’m livid that everything goes so smoothly for a guy who honestly can’t pry his head from his backside long enough to realize he’s gotten everyone killed thus far, with more deaths yet to come.
The Other Side: Review for The Walking Dead 714 by R.C. Murphy
Warning! This review contains episode spoilers.
There’s absolutely no sense of urgency going into the final two episodes for season seven. Sure, every character on-screen is doing something to prepare for this upcoming war, but they’re going about it in such bone-headed ways, there’s no enjoyment, just grim knowledge that the writers will kill off more characters after a flimsy attempt to make them loveable.
The Saviors roll into Hilltop on a mission to ferret out Daryl. It’s the prefect chance for Gregory to polish his reputation. In Simon’s opinion, the push-over leader might as well be the talking Welcome Mat from the Beast’s castle—sentient enough to be useful, but unable to enact any real change on his own. In a rush to save his skin, Gregory licks Simon’s boot with flattering talk about booze—men are so damn weird—and finally launches a desperate bout of word-vomit alluding to another party vying for power in the village. For his effort, and for graciously allowing Dr. Carson to become Negan’s personal physician, Simon invites Gregory to his place for drinks and a discussion about the power struggle. Who does Gregory see at a threat this time around? Not Maggie, who he’s fashioned into his own personal demon since her arrival. No, Gregory makes a 180-turn, focusing his paranoia on Jesus . . . in the same episode where we finally learn what lies behind the long-haired man of mystery. Chew on that for a while. Guess misogyny wasn’t enough of a shield for Gregory, they had to make him a bigot, as well. Can we just stop putting men like this on television? It’s no longer cathartic to see them attacked by the undead, or however they wind up dying, but instead reaffirms the notion that no matter how bad a person you are, in the apocalypse you can still get ahead by hating everyone who’s different. Want to smash the patriarchy with your art, TWD writers? Start by denying them someone to identify with and see how they like the turnabout.
Katelyn Nacon as Enid, Sonequa Martin-Green as Sasha Williams – The Walking Dead _ Season 7, Episode 13 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC
With the Saviors in town, Maggie and Daryl are finally forced to deal with each other when they take cover in a basement together. Was it the long-awaited verbal smackdown from a grieving widow? NO. And that’s a damn shame. Maggie is very forceful in the way she forgives the man directly responsible for her greatest loss to date, going from back-patting to straight up cheer squad for Daryl’s ego. The moment isn’t a sweet reconciliation. It’s downright infuriating to watch Daryl escape consequences for his childish behavior yet again. I mean, not only did his punch get Glenn killed, but he’s gone on to mope about it like a teenager denied the car for an evening joyride. Yes, I heard his apology. It’s empty. He is forced to apologize because he’s stuck in Maggie’s presence and afraid she’ll lay into him before he can slap a Dollar Store bandage on the problem. His apology is a reflex, bred from years of verbal abuse in his family, but it’s not a sign he’s learned a lesson. Maggie forgives him so the fan-favorite character isn’t in the dog house anymore. That’s the only motivation behind what should’ve been a powerful confrontation scene. Instead it teaches that empty apologies are currency to cover the cost of assisting in a murder. Whoops! Sorry your lover died. Wanna go shoot arrows together?
Give me a break from all this man-appeasing bull.
Okay, but I didn’t mean you should produce what’s probably the worst girlfriends road trip in the history of mankind, TWD folks.
Rosita and Sasha are forced to deal with each other yet again. Guys, this entire story line is just daft, let’s get that out of the way. No woman is going to buddy up with her dead lover’s ex to go shopping, let alone assassinate someone. Why put oneself in a position to be verbally or physically attacked by someone who obviously holds a grudge? Drama doesn’t make women’s hearts beat. Sasha’s finally achieved the good life. She just has to wait for the right moment to lead, or help lead, Hilltop. Instead, her mental progress is dust-binned in favor of a fruitless assassination plot. Rosita, for her part, does her best to screw up. Even when she opens up emotionally, it’s to admit she’s spent years using men with no intention to make a future with them, nor explain why she left. For the record, that’s not how feminism works, so let’s not make Rosita into some fort of feminist figurehead. She’s just a cruddy person who, instead of asking to learn a skill, she shadows lovers, takes what information she wants, and is gone not long after. No matter your gender, that’s awful behavior.
Two episodes left in the season and nearly an entire episode is devoted to developing secondary characters who’ve been neglected—except Sasha, who’s regressed to where she was mentally after Tyreese died. The writers use an entire episode for an info dump. Good writers spread information throughout the piece. They don’t stop in the middle of the arming-up scene and waste an entire chapter to delve into why a character has mired in two-dimensional Angerland for years, or to give a free pass for bad behavior because Tragic Backstory is a magical cure-all. It’s not. It’s cliché, lazy writing. Seven years down the line, these people are so far removed from the world, they no longer understand how to use fan’s emotions to pace the story’s flow. We should be desperate to know what happens next week. I watched one preview, shrugged, and assumed the next two episodes will be over-filled with action stemming from Rick’s rash decisions, with the season finale ending on a cliffhanger. I highly doubt the war is here yet. There hasn’t been enough tension to warrant a conflict of that magnitude, not with the side trips to frolic at the county fair and all the time it takes to don kid gloves for handling Daryl’s ego. Maybe next year we’ll finally get there. Have hope. We’ll get that war, guys.
Bury Me Here: Review for The Walking Dead 713 by R.C. Murphy
Head’s up! This review contains episode spoilers.
Pardon me while I try to wrap my head around something. A white man is radicalized through his own apathy at a refugee camp. He suffers heart-shattering losses due in part to this. When he’s safe, he turns to leadership-approved violence to cope. When his vengeance against the Saviors is constantly put on the backburner, the man turns to terrorism, going so far as to stalk and recruit an accomplice. Turned away from his vendetta yet again, this time by a kindred spirit, he executes a dramatic suicide-by-baddie ploy to finally spread his message. When his poorly considered exit claims another life instead, he backtracks and blames everyone else, only ever taking ownership of his original cowardice at the camp where his wife perished in a fire. Despite the method of his murder, this man dies thinking he’s a martyr. His end at the hands of a man half a sneeze from Full Crazy is pathetic, really. What was Richard ever going to add to the community? He came in ready to go out with a bang. A glory hog to make up for past sins. His death delivers a message: Terrorism hurts those who are given the dubious position of profiting from destruction with no consideration for civilian safety. How much effort does it take to stop and ask yourself, “How many people will die because of what I’m going to do?”
Okay, I think I’ve got it now. I understand. The writers weren’t happy just making a point, but they yet again proved said point with the tried and true white martyr story. The story line pushed the tension a little, mostly because fans were waiting for Richard to die, and motivated exactly one person to take up arms against the enemy. I wasn’t sure who’d end Richard’s woe-is-me festival. It was a tie between Morgan, Ezekiel, Gavin and co., or Carol should she catch wind of his intent to drop The Kingdom in the middle of the war without any time to prepare. Trying to guess gave me about a minute of enjoyment. Then the writers blew the surprise with foreshadowing when they took this as their golden ticket to trigger Morgan—adding an “unpredictable” element to liven things up, I presume.
Now we’re down a fighter and the Saviors have word that mutiny has been on The Kingdom’s mind. Thanks, Richard. Your legacy thus far is astounding.
Morgan is pretty much useless now, except for clearing the undead from around the community’s perimeter. That puts the burden of caring on Carol’s shoulders once more. She knows the truth at last, even if asking requires her to examine why she turned her back on humanity. Kudos to the writers for passing on clunky dialog in favor of allowing McBride to just react during two character-changing conversations—the first changed how she sees herself living in the mad world, the second demolishes the emotional barriers holding her back from engaging in battle. The minute she suspects her people suffered, she straps on her badass cap and goes to get answers she knows will break her heart. And they do. McBride’s genius is in her eyes as Morgan lays out what happened in Alexandria since their departure. Without much to-do, she delivers a gut-twisting performance. It’s probably one of my favorite acting moments in the series from the last three seasons, despite the tears it inspired.
Richard the Coward shoved the Kingdom into the warpath, whether Ezekiel thinks they’re ready to defend the front lines and the home front simultaneously or not. Morgan went ’round the bend again and can’t stop killing walkers. To clean up the mess, Carol’s coming out of violence retirement. It shouldn’t come down to one woman to smack sense into everyone, but since we’re here, I’m glad Carol is that woman. The Kingdom is being dragged into a mess they want nothing to do with. How will the average citizen react to the news?
Next week, Hilltop is likewise forced to choose their side in the war. Can they kill off Gregory as their sacrifice to the war gods, like the Kingdom did with Richard? His misogyny is tired and boring. We need to move on to more productive narratives, not the same ol’ men-holding-women-back bull, if this show is to get anywhere during the last three episodes in the season.
Hostiles and Calamities: Review for The Walking Dead 711 by R.C. Murphy
Whoa, speed demon. Before you read on, know this review contains episode spoilers. Now you may proceed.
Eugene isn’t the only story here. We’ve got two men making important decisions over the blessedly average-length episode. See, guys, they can indeed pack some decent story into forty-something minutes.
While Eugene finds his footing in the primary Saviors compound, Dwight has the rug yanked from under him. It’s not hard to connect the dots—Sherry freed Daryl, then ran away, and her ex-husband is the only one on-site to take the brunt of Negan’s anger. Unlike Daryl, it takes Dwight one night in the closet to get his Negan on, promising to hunt down his ex for the Big Man. That’s when things actually get good. Dwight never finds Sherry. He visits their old house and finds a note explaining why she did what she did, and why she is gone for good—likely already dead, given her lack of survival skills outside the ability to manipulate men. We’ve known for a while that Dwight isn’t a complete pile of rubbish. He fought to keep his sister-in-law healthy, only giving up in order to save Sherry once her sister passed and there was no need to keep the stolen insulin. For some, it is better to reside in the arms of the devil promising an easy life instead of struggling through a desert to reach the angels in a far-off, peaceful land. The price for that stunt was pain, originally. Now Negan cost Dwight the company of his still-loved wife, who was sole supplier of the meager good moments Dwight can hold onto with his memory problems.
Side note: Any time a disorder like this is handled with tact and care, a fairy gets its wings. This is not one of those instances. Sure, her letter was meant to sound heartfelt, but it fell short. Sherry mentions Dwight’s problem as her last manipulation tactic. It’s pretty crappy to gaslight a guy on your way off the mortal coil by stating you hope his mental disorder warps his sense of reality so he can cope with working under a monster.
Fortunately, it lights a fire under Dwight instead. From here on out, this is the guy to watch. He wastes no time in securing his place at Negan’s side by offering up a stress release tied to Daryl’s release—likely spurred by the afore-mentioned memory problem and that ever-present sense of doom. Hope no one was fond of top Negan toadie Dr. Carson. Poor guy catches the wrong end of a bad mood after Dwight plants enough evidence to convict him in the Court of Negan for the grave crime of freeing Daryl.
Eugene absorbs many, many important lessons in the episode, but none as important as what they all learned during Dr. Carson’s final moments—make yourself irreplaceable. There’s never been a place for Eugene in the world. He lied to Abraham to secure a spot in a vehicle headed anywhere safe, and perpetuated said lie for the sole purpose of garnering favor with Rick’s group. After the truth came out, everyone fell back on the notion that he doesn’t get respect because he’s weird, book smart, and lied to his best friends. The writers were good with leaving him there, wallowing in his omeganess until they needed a permanent outsider’s point-of-view in the Saviors’ camp. Who’s completely disposable? Eugene. Who’s most likely to piss off fans by falling in line with the bad guy? Eugene. He was set up to turn teams back when they reached Alexandria, guys. This is some long-game stuff going on in the writing room which could’ve resolved so much sooner to really shake up the show. Fans deserve more than Rick’s lame war-making attempts.
Over the hour, Eugene morphs from a pickle-jar clutching coward to a video game junkie with his finger on the Saviors’ pulse. Probably, maybe literally since the doctor died. How’s that? Eugene is not a doctor, you say? He was once upon a time, remember? The Lie is in play again. Will Eugene stumble and expose the truth? So far he’s pretty sturdy on his feet, dodging one attempt to use his kind heart to do harm. The wives thought the new guy would help poison Negan. They grossly underestimated a frightened man’s ability to figure out any plot which may endanger his safe place in the world. For so long as it is necessary, Eugene is Negan.
Look at all that character work! Look at it! There’s no lame zombie gimmick undermining the story. No grandiose ego-driven statement negated efforts from primary characters—Rick’s assurance he’d get his new fighters completely ignored the fact that Michonne’s ingenuity saved Rick in the pit and there’d be no army without her. The characters in episode 711 act, react, and plot their future in wholly believable ways. How is it they captured Dwight and Eugene’s struggle, but the Rick story line constantly fails to deliver? Next week’s preview looks like more of the same half-thought Rick antics, too. I’d rather spend more time watching Dwight work to screw up the Saviors from the inside out, honestly. I’m way, way over Rick’s suicidal war-mongering mission.
New Best Friends: Review for The Walking Dead 710 by R.C. Murphy
Warning!!! This review contains episode spoilers.
The plot jumps across most of the main cast, yet gets very little accomplished other than confirming there’s a load of egotistic white men about to sacrifice civilians for a war none of them can win without God Himself putting His large foot down in the middle of the standoff. But this is television. God is the production team, and God’s footprints are all over this season, trampling any actual character motivation, and writing short-cuts to what They think are the “cool” story bits. In doing so, the writers lean heavily on character tropes they wove into a few men and it comes off really . . . bonkers. Like, shooting up a pizza parlor after buying into a bit of obviously false propaganda bonkers. Feel me?
But first, what’s up with the weirdos in the junkyard?
Let’s dig into Rick’s time with Jadis and her crew of near-identical and eerily silent folks. The language thing grated on my nerves. I know it has a point, to show that the group has been isolated for so long they’ve formed their own version of American English, but the heavy-handed use of their particular vernacular meant I had to watch the episode twice to fully comprehend Jadis’ explanation on how she came upon Gabriel and the items stolen from first the boat, then Alexandria. Even then, none of that truly mattered because Rick went into the junkyard ordeal knowing he’d win. His conversation with Gabriel after successfully negotiating with Jadis sucked the air from the plot and inflated his head. Rick was never ever in danger. He scoots through it with an impaled hand and an ally. Again. This guy can’t even make sure his son stays in the same county as their home, but somehow always manages to convince people he’s a magician capable of pulling miracles from his backside. Rick makes a ton of promises he can’t follow through with, all while sacrificing even more of the community’s food and keeping their strongest people from securing enough supplies so they can actually prepare for winter. Seasons are still a thing, and when one relies on the land to provide literally everything, gathering fresh produce to preserve is the difference between seeing Spring blossoms and eating your neighbor to keep your children’s hunger pangs at bay. But these are things which are never really addressed. No one is panicked about the missing food, nor the fact that the nearby area has been picked clean and there’s little to no fuel left to waste driving aimlessly. But Rick made new friends by wrestling a zombie, so it’s all okay. Little Timmy can just put the last of the BBQ sauce on his Auntie for Christmas dinner.
Plus, GoT did the “hero fighting a beast in a pit” thing way better.
The other problematic man hits a far different nail on the head—the white terrorist. Richard spots a kindred soul in Daryl almost immediately. They waste no time getting cozy over talk of bows and arrows. Then they march into Richard’s trailer, which is covered in guns and homemade incendiary devices, and its gets creepy. Here’s two hair-triggered white guys holed up in a secret location, armed to the teeth, and planning an attack. Sure, Daryl didn’t know Carol was the intended sacrifice, but that he went along with Richard’s hair-brained scheme at all is pretty scary. His moral code is so loose, free-range terror, no matter the intended target, doesn’t make him think about consequences. It’s not until the writers invoke the sacred Caryl maybe-‘ship that Daryl considers someone other than himself and the guilt from the wrong he committed through Negan’s baseball bat. And, really, if our hero needs a woman involved in order to do the right thing, he’s not a real hero. Richard, on the other hand, is a much more serious problem. In this episode he goes from lone wolf gunman, to luring in an accomplice, and by the time Daryl is done reading him the riot act for endangering Carol, he’s primed to become a suicide bomber. Daryl sees this, says the words himself which will more than likely set Richard on a suicidal path, yet allows the loose-cannon to walk away. That’s where I’ve always had an issue with Daryl, they write him as a self-centered twenty-something who can’t see past his greasy hair and hurt feelings long enough to actually protect anyone. He had every chance to stop Richard and wasted it. When Daryl does jump into action at the episode’s end, it’s by leaving The Kingdom alone. On foot. Headed to Hilltop. With a giant Negan-approved bullseye on his forehead. Because, again, he reacts and doesn’t think about consequences. Sorry, Daryl fans, but I’ve got a feeling they may be setting him up for a serious injury or death. This character literally has no future, no goals for one, and no potential to be a productive member of whatever society survives Rick’s pointless war.
Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon, Melissa McBride as Carol Peletier – The Walking Dead _ Season 7, Episode 10 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC
“But Daryl didn’t tell Carol about Glenn and Abraham, that’s not selfish!” Yes it is. It’s completely selfish for Morgan and Daryl to perpetuate this lie in order to spare her. Yes, she’s fragile. But she’s not an idiot. Death happens. It’s guaranteed when the Saviors are involved. Lying just proves they can’t step out of their safe spaces long enough to A) Admit attacking the Saviors was stupid, and B) Comfort a grieving woman. The latter proves too difficult for many television writers, so they opt for shallow, deceitful men to protect the strong woman’s emotions. Coddling Carol will accomplish nothing, except maybe getting her killed when she inevitably overacts to the situation—the writers also have no clue how to handle Carol’s complex mind, but Melissa McBride does her damndest to perform the character’s heart through a jumbled script.
Rick got new friends, but owes them weapons he cannot secure. Tara knows where weapons are, but it’d involve breaking a promise and compromising the security of countless people. Alexandria has maybe enough food for the week. Daryl is on a suicide hike to Hilltop. And Carol is probably, maybe already figuring out some of her friends are dead and about to do something ill-advised. How is this preparing for a war with Negan? It really looks more like the other communities are about to implode. Maybe the war will be won by burying him with the bodies of Rick’s people. That’d certainly be something new.
Rock in the Road: Review for The Walking Dead 709 by R.C. Murphy
Gregory might be a pain in the backside, but he’s spot-on when he says his people are in no shape to take on the Saviors. First, why hasn’t the coward been deposed? Second, how in the world are we honestly supposed to believe these Hilltop farmers will just up and put complete faith in the war plan? It’s not even a real plan. Rick wants vengeance. That’s his plan. The whys and hows are nowhere to be seen. But the second the group—who barely survived a handful of dead in their walls—hears that Rick’s gathering troops, they’re ready to run in front of a bullet for him? It’s not logical. That’s not how people think. Rational people who say, “Yes, I believe in your cause enough to die for it,” still need facts. How will Rick supply weapons for his army? Do they have enough food and medical supplies for the civilians, let alone an army in siege? Transport for everyone? Do the writers have any clue how war happens? I dabbled in staging historical battles for public entertainment and could probably come up with a better game plan for defeating Negan than anyone in the writer’s room at this point. Except, I’d have to backtrack to the beginning of season six to maybe, possibly establish a plot worth watching.
I do not understand how anyone thought forty-nine minutes of diplomatic discussions and two minutes of undead action was a keen way to start Rick’s war.
About that action bit, though. It’s complete rubbish. Let’s think about this like a General would. I need info on the Other Guy, so I send a scout to take a peek, record valuable information, and return within a certain timespan. Why would that scout then risk moving enough stuff around in the enemy’s backyard to draw attention to their covert mission? That’s not how espionage works. Rick should have never been that close to Negan, first of all. The scouting mission had the potential to disclose perimeter defenses, driving routes to cut off or intercept, and possibly given the war council a clue about how many Saviors Negan actually controls. Rick blew it for, what? A couple rockets for a launcher they don’t have any more and old, weather-exposed TNT? He commanded a car full of Alexandria’s strongest fighters and they’re nearly eaten like apocalypse pedestrians for Rick’s non-plan. Not only did he nearly get them all killed, but Negan now knows someone has been near their compound, and they have some of the explosives. Only an idiot would assume one pack of TNT does the same damage as over half a dozen, plus the rockets. Negan is not an idiot—unless the writers show their hand and write him that way to justify a ridiculous, pointless scene.
The point of using espionage in war is to undermine a superior power with their own information. If the bad guy knows what information you have, they can change it.
So, here’s the run-down: Hilltop says no way, but a band of brave fighters blindly sign up to fight anyway. The Kingdom, despite Rick lecturing Ezekiel like he wasn’t a dozen rungs ahead on the leadership skills ladder, respectfully steps back from the war council. Gabriel stole all their food and gear, then drove off at 3 AM. But Rick’s got dynamite, so they’re totally going to win the war. It’s a mess, run by a guy who’s blinded by ego and hate. Wait. That sounds familiar.
Oh and it looks like we’re going to meet yet another survivor group, because Rick blindly wandered into their trap.
I do have to stop before wrapping this up to point out the one shiny, kind of awesome thing the writers added during Rick’s trip to The Kingdom. Too many times, we’ve seen Rick plow on without considering those left at home to hold the fort. Ezekiel doesn’t lead from the front lines like Rick; he’s home caring for the people who gave everything to keep his people safe and happy. He spends time with the fighters who’ve suffered great physical and mental trauma. There’s not a moment when he’s amongst his people that the evidence and truth about war doesn’t scream for attention. The injured aren’t sequestered in a hospital or clinic, though. Once they heal, they’re absorbed back into society and given a way to help others—in this particular scene, two amputees appear to teach archery with not one instant wasted on making them appear weaker or more inept than Rick’s crew. To see the sensitivity with which they handled this touchy social issue is, frankly, surprising. The writers chickened out over the chance to treat lesbians on equal footing as straight couples or the token gay couple, opting for death over character development requiring a smidge of emotional growth on their part. Not to mention, the gay couple is constantly separated, leaving tender moments between them too few to fully believe they’re a couple. We also have the ever-present singular black man issue, as well—who can honestly say it’s not problematic when the writers treat characters from one particular race as a Highlander-type scenario. It’s pretty much guaranteed that the show will literally collapse and form a black hole if there’s another Asian brought on as a lead character. And we’ll just pretend I had a five-thousand word rant over Rick blithely passing his parenting duties to complete strangers while constantly putting himself and their home in danger. While the writers get a gold star for treating the disabled as real people, they’ve got a long way to go on so many other issues.
The second half of the season is not delivering as promised. The mid-season premiere is so underwhelming, die-hard fans could read a paragraph synopsis and not feel cheated out of fifty minutes. Honestly, guys, just jump to the moment Rick and Michonne hop in the cars on the freeway. That’s all the showrunners paid attention to, so why not follow their lead? Next week better have more plot. Stringing along the fans by putting minimal effort into the story while buying new houses with the profits is a crappy way to keep a fanbase.
Starring: Dougray Scott, Jessica De Gouw, and Elen Rhys
Here’s something a tad different, yet the movie somehow follows all the checkpoints of a solidly uninventive plot. I grabbed The Rezort to review primarily because it boasted a complete lack of pointless make-out scenes and nudity. Horror movies don’t need sex to make them interesting. Human emotions go far deeper than that. While there’s nothing horribly surprising about how this film’s plot unfolds, there’s a world of nuance in not only how the characters handle a resurgence of the undead outbreak, but it demonstrates how humanity will always manage to shoot itself in the foot when they attempt to drag war-time normality into post-war life.
Melanie survived the zombie war, but it left her an orphan. The emotional damage from years spent scrambling to survive leaves her with PTSD and an inability to move on thanks to nightmares. Someone at her support group suggests immersion therapy, giving her information about The Rezort—an island off the Australian cost filled with undead, where the rich go to pretend they’re brave and safely shoot zombies. She and her boyfriend Lewis, who fought in the zombie war with no obvious mental repercussions, decide to give immersion therapy a try. They’re tossed in with a group of others and off they go into the park, with naught but a few hidden fences keeping them out of real danger.
You see where the plot goes from there. The fences fail after a zombie activist group sneaks a virus into the resort’s computer system and it’s a race to escape before the island is torched by the government in the Brimstone protocol. The characters are, for the most part, prototypes: The Survivor Girl, Her Boyfriend With A Dark Secret, The Warrior Old Guy, The Mindless Morons, The Employee With A Heart, The Clueless Activist, and The Heartless CEO. We never form attachments to them. Hell, most of their names fly over the audience’s head up until their death scene. As each main character bites the dust, it confirms the unoriginal writing process for this script. The only character with soul is Mel, and she is the survivor girl, so we expect her to be an actual character. To show how little effort goes into the characters, it’s not even that satisfying when Vivian, the CEO, is attacked by the zombies she created and imprisoned. Here’s a character who took refugees and turned them into a profit, but without character depth it’s just a fact tossed out to sound interesting right before a death gag featuring numerous zombies tearing a body apart.
Vivian’s actions do lend to some intriguing discussion about what happens when the rich put everything they have during wartime into one venture, and then must move on once they’re found on the winning side of the war. In this case, the Rezort isn’t formed until right after the war. It comes across as a novel way to contain remaining undead while making a buck from a free resource. But what happens when there’s too many keen to relive the “glory days,” where it was marshal law and everyone walked around armed to the teeth? How does one keep up with that kind of demand when the zombie outbreak is under control? Make more zombies, of course. Just use what you have. No one will miss the refugees—a startling statement, but look at Syria. At the cost of the most fragile, the wealthy can have a weekend vacation in paradise. It’s disgusting, and exactly the same mentality countries like the USA currently adopt.
The message in The Rezort is the real take-away here. It’s not the characters having fun or even Mel mistakenly trying to cure her PTSD by participating in forced slavery. It’s the complete lack of care for the human lives affected by the war which is the story. It’s a corporation looking at people who only want to know when they’ll have a home or a full stomach again and determining their lives count for nothing except a paycheck down the line, which should petrify anyone with any concern for their fellow humans. It also just so happens that this film is shot beautifully—except for the opening shaky-cam footage—and has some rather impressive FX makeup for the zombies. Overall, I’m giving The Rezort four oozing eyeballs out of five. It’s not Shakespeare, but it’ll start a conversation about the state of our world.
Everybody Dies in the End: Review for Z Nation 314 by A. Zombie
The episode rolls onto the screen, following The Man and the hounds on his tail, Addy and Doc. The worst babysitters ever get some help from Grandpa, the zombie Lucy sent off on an unknown mission in the last episode. He’s kinda sweet. Too bad the nice guys always bite the big one in the end on this show. Grandpa does a pretty good job of leading Addy and Doc to the Zona base hidden in Mt. Casey. Only one problem: Their backup was last headed toward Puget Sound. They have no clue if and when help will arrive, so Addy makes an executive decision—she’ll climb the mountain without any gear or training; Doc babysits Grandpa. She seriously spends most of the episode uselessly scaling a mountain when the rest just walk in the front door not long after.
Dr. Sun and Roberta cobble together a communication rig and contact Kaya to get an update on The Man’s location. Thank goodness someone is at Northern Lights manning the computers. Citizen Z and Kaya’s uncle have been missing for twelve hours, and there’s not much hope left for their survival. Updated on the change in pick-up locations, the rescue team shifts gear and heads off. They end up stopping again long before reaching the mountain.
All the drugs in 10k’s system were bound to gunk up his system. The serums constantly battle the infection hidden in Murphy’s bite. In a blink, 10k goes from fully functional to each breath coming out a death rattle. By the time Roberta’s team pushes ahead to Mt. Casey, he’s pretty much toast. Only a Hail Mary can pull him from the drug-induced full-body shutdown. Do they really have time to try an experimental procedure on 10k? Not really. Roberta clearly states that Lucy is the priority, but somehow they all wind up playing doctor instead. How do you save a problem like 10k? Same way Dr. Merch accidentally saved Murphy—kill him. Dr. Sun drops the death bomb on Murphy’s reality with no preamble. When the zombies attacked during the original vaccine procedure, Murphy’s heart stopped. He’s been dead for four years and somehow looks better than some people after a week at the spa. Suddenly his brand of living doesn’t seem so bad, so long as one isn’t squeamish about eating brains.
Yet again we almost lose 10k. The doctor’s plan works, thankfully, snatching him from Death’s greedy paws once more. What will the long-term effects be? No clue. We’re not even sure 10k is technically the same kind of undead as Murphy. There’s no clue what balance of vaccines are in his system. If Dr. Sun doesn’t take the opportunity to study him, as well as Murphy and Lucy, she’s insane.
Curing the world will have to wait a little longer.
Roberta, Doc, and Murphy race from 10k’s newly-revived side to intercept The Man and Lucy before their transport arrives on the mountaintop. Being somewhat sane again, and the rational shot-caller since Murphy’s too emotionally compromised to effectively lead the rescue, Roberta attempts to talk The Man down from his plan. Why break up a family which never had a chance to bond? Why torment a child? It takes no time at all for civil debate to end and the bullets to fly. Murphy uses Roberta to distract The Man, shooting him so Lucy can race to his side.
It’s not the reunion anyone anticipated. Yes, Lucy readily embraces her father. Then she hits him. Several times. There’s also quite a bit of yelling about abandonment and her mother. Yada, yada, yada. There’s no time for personal problems with The Man still fully functional. Murphy and Roberta take him on, but he slips their grasp yet again. The Man hits Murphy and Roberta with the same bullet, in that order. If they survive, Roberta’s life will be incredibly different. As will their personal dynamic. There’s always been an almost loving respect from the pair, which strengthened greatly around the time they passed the Grand Canyon. How much will it deepen when they’re mentally connected? Then again, Roberta may buck against the change like 10k has, which resulted in his death and magical resurrection. Murphy or Roberta may die from the gunshot. We don’t know! The episode ends with the Zona aircraft—actually a United States Airforce vehicle from Zone A—firing a weird weapon at everyone on the mountaintop.
Know who’s not on the mountaintop anymore? The Man, because Addy pushes him to get him away from Lucy and the aircraft. Addy herself goes over the edge, too. Then 5k sprints over and jumps after them, wings outstretched like he can actually fly. I don’t even know what’s going on now. If the kid saves Addy, whatever. I’ll buy it. There’s no use over analyzing anything they do on here.
We’ve got the two lead characters bleeding to death. The team’s sniper just died and came back to unlife as a fully functional Blend, or something. They’ve gained a hormonal teenaged girl who can control zombies—except the Zona guards inhabiting the mountain our heroes are trapped atop, who keep turning in droves as their version of the cure fails. Their main fighter fell off a mountain. They did have two new mouths to feed, but now it’s just Red because 5k took a flying leap. Oh, and let’s not forget the impending doom hovering above the crew.
It’s going to be a very, very long wait until season four. I’ve got no clue how they’ll wiggle out of this corner. Though, it’s not as tight as the corner they wrote themselves into when Murphy nuked the entire USA, so it’s doable. Maybe. Hopefully.