Evolution: Review for The Walking Dead 908 by R.C. Murphy
Listen hard, folks. You can hear spoilers on the wind. And in this review.
At long last we’re getting a look at the Whisperers. They’ve tormented Rosita and Eugene for several episodes now, but it’s impossible to know where, exactly, the voices are coming from when they’re surrounded by walkers and any of the undead could be a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It’s easy to underestimate the Whisperers based on weird premise alone. But the show wastes no time proving how deadly this new threat can be. What’s the one resource available in seemingly endless quantities in the zombie apocalypse? The undead. Whoever finds a way to tap into that resource and make it work for them, not against them, may just be the ones to survive to see if there is a way to ever truly recover civilization from what seems to be the end.
Given how well the Whisperers control the walker hordes in this episode alone, they’re well on their way to becoming the only ones to see if there’s really a future for any of them.
While Daryl, Aaron, and Jesus work on a way to keep one step ahead of what they think are nothing but erratic walker hordes, Michonne and the new arrivals make it to Hilltop’s gate. It’s a cold greeting from every last citizen. Guess Alexandria isn’t the only community to institute harsher security techniques. Hilltop all but rolls up the driveway when a scout spots the incoming visitors. Inside, things don’t warm up much. Everyone keeps Michonne at arm’s length, and the newcomers are told to sit and wait for Jesus to return. Even Carol is a tad standoffish with her long-time friend. She gives Connie a warmer greeting, going so far as to use her very basic ASL (American Sign Language) skills to introduce herself. Are they all mourning still and unable to face Rick’s widow or has Michonne’s retreat into Alexandria cut her off from the few emotional support outlets she has left?
Matt Lintz as Henry, Jackson Pace as Gage, Kelley Mack as Addy, Joe Ando-Hirsh as Rodney – The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 8 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC
Someone who needs to build himself a support system sooner rather than later is Henry. He’s not finding his rhythm at the blacksmith shop just yet. His dreams of Enid waiting around for him to grow chin hairs are dashed upon learning she’s dating Alden. There’s only a handful of kids his age in Hilltop. And, unfortunately, they’re typical teenagers. Just once, I’d like a production team to show that teens can hang out without giving themselves alcohol poisoning and abusing others, but guess I’ll have to wait. Henry, of course, winds up in trouble for his drunken night out after puking on Tara’s boots. His fate is likewise left in Jesus’ hands.
Too late for the rescue team, Rosita wakes from her exhausted sleep to warn the others that there’s serious danger outside, not just commonplace walkers. The rescuers get the same message a few hours later after sunset when a trembling Eugene fills them in on the horde which has made several passes by the barn to look for him. Jesus and the guys brush it off. There’s no way Eugene saw the same horde two or three times in the same day unless he went looking for it, right? Wrong. Daryl learns this the hard way when he completely fails to draw the horde away with fire crackers and Dog’s barking. He has no time at all to catch up with the guys, who are cornered and trying to find a way around or through a stone and iron fence.
Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon, Tom Payne as Paul ‘Jesus’ Rovia, Danai Gurira as Michonne, Ross Marquand as Aaron – The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 8 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC
The final scenes with the Whisperers remind us that TWD is indeed a horror show. While it’s a tad annoying to lose so much of the action in fog, the suspense going into the fights saves them from being boring. Jesus’ murder does lack something. I’m not quite sure it hit the right emotional note. Instead this just feels like TWD burying more gays after making sure the characters don’t do anything remotely gay for two seasons.
TWD is taking its customary winter break for the rest of 2018. We will catch up with our favorite survivors, and learn how they plan to deal with Alpha, Beta, and the other Whisperers, on February 10th.
Rated: TV-MA (extreme violence, strong language) Language: Korean
Starring: Gong Yoo, Yu-mi Jung, Dong-seok Ma, Soo-an Kim, Woo-shik Choi, So-hee Ahn, and Eui-sung Kim
Occasionally Netflix doesn’t fail the genre completely. Recently they added Train to Busan to their streaming service, which is probably the best thing they’ve done in the last year. It’s hard to believe this film didn’t catch my attention before now, seeing as it was a huge hit across the Pacific. Let’s be honest, the American film media is horrible about giving props to genre flicks not set on their home turf. Pair that with the fact that it’s best watched in the original Korean and film media push it aside for yet another poorly produced American movie which is just a clone of fifty similar films and television shows. This film is a breath of fresh air. It’ll also keep you so far on the edge of your seat, you may fall off by the time the final scene plays out.
Seok-woo is a work-obsessed absentee father dealing with the fallout from a tense divorce. On the eve of his daughter Soo-an’s birthday, he screws up royally. To make it up to her, he relents to her demands to see her mother in Busan. Leaving town isn’t ideal. There’s something going on with one of the funds he manages and his coworker Kim is increasingly concerned about the reports he’s receiving. But a promise is a promise, so off they go. Seconds before the train departs for Busan, an injured woman jumps aboard. She’s infected with something none of them have seen before. When a train worker comes to her aid, the infected woman attacks and chaos erupts. By the time the initial attack is done, there’s only one train car worth of people left. The rest turn zombie and are locked in the middle train cars. News coming in via overhead televisions isn’t any better. Entire cities are overrun with the undead. Several are quarantined. When the train stops at last, it’s only to discover that the military couldn’t hold the quarantine and the dead have taken over. They opt to move on, pushed by an unhinged COO, Yon-suk. Throughout the last half of the movie it’s hard to tell who the real enemy is, the zombies or the paranoid humans trapped on the train.
This isn’t just another action movie with zombies. There’s a message or forty in the way the living interact with each other. We have an intense father/daughter plot which will drive anyone with a heart to tears by the third act. The film’s writer leaned heavily on the notion of ingrained human selfishness and the heinous damage it does to the masses during a crisis. Many of those who perish in the final act only die due to selfishness and their willingness to turn a blind eye to hatred if it means they’ll live to see another day. Panic becomes a new cast member at the end, unseen yet pushing one survivor group against the other with no sound reason. We’ve seen tension like that before, TWD uses it near-weekly, but here it’s so in-your-face wrong that I couldn’t help but yell at the television. That’s the kind of writing I miss, the scripts which make one forget they’re not one of the characters for a couple hours. It’s hard to watch the human cruelty, but even harder to look away.
Those zombies, guys. I haven’t seen character movement like that in ages unless it was in one of countless demonic possession films. These zombies are twitchy, bendy, snappish, and flat out cool. They’re scary solo, and pants-pissing terrifying in a mob. Kudos to the extras who worked on this film. They left everything on the set every day of production. The pay-off created probably some of my favorite mass zombie scenes to date—the train station attack on the stairs and the sequence where Seok-woo, Sang-hwa, and Yong-guk fight from car nine to car thirteen to rescue a group separated from the other survivors. Because there are so many undead, the makeup for them is simplistic. And you know what? I don’t care. They could have slapped white grease paint on them and let them loose and it wouldn’t have done a thing to lessen the performances from the extras and hero zombies.
Train to Busan is the action-packed zombie film we’ve been waiting for since World War Z tried and just didn’t quite hit the mark. There’s some issues, yes, but the writing and action are so solid, the issues get a free pass. I wouldn’t hesitate to watch it again, something I never do with zombie films outside Romero’s contributions to the genre. Train to Busan gets five severed heads out of five. Now what are you waiting for? Go watch it!
Yeah, the warning is right on top this week. We’ve got a lot to discuss and little time to pussyfoot around with generalizations and all that rubbish. You guys waited months for this episode. Was it worth the anger at the producers and writers who said we’d be glad for so much time to stew over who died? Do you feel cheated by the dual deaths? How about all that brain matter on the ground, was it too much? Most importantly, are any of us really feeling the emotion between Rick and Negan or will the directors continue leading it to an awkward place where it’s laughable?
I, personally, feel cheated out of the surprise. The producers showed their hands months ago when they continuously stated that the show would gradually realign with what happens in the comic books. One death talked about constantly is Negan murdering Glenn. Hell, someone just released an action figure featuring Glenn’s mangled face as it’s shown on the page—which is almost identical to what’s on screen for that heartbreaking apology to Maggie. Almost in the same breath as the realigning statements, TWD higher-ups denied that Glenn would die. Red flag. Red flags everywhere. It was raining them at SDCC 2016. Since then, I’ve spent the time away from TWD saying goodbye to my favorite character. So when Negan first hit Glenn, my reaction was a resigned sigh. Then profanity, and more sighing. The show which constantly states they want to break boundaries and do new things is still utterly predictable.
Abraham’s brutal murder wasn’t overly shocking either if one stops for even a minute to think as Negan would when sizing up his newest assets. Manipulation is his bread and butter. One look at Rick’s people and how they handled interactions with the Saviors told Negan everything he needed to know—kill Abe because he’s ride-or-die loyal, keep Daryl because he’s mentally fragile and can be manipulated just like Rick. This is easy for Negan. Twisting people’s minds to do what he wants is the sole reason he’s not rotting in a walker’s gut. So why would an astute audience willingly overlook this? Why, TWD writers, would you go for the two characters who make the most sense if your desire was to shock, surprise, and devastate? Anyone with half a brain who tunes in regularly knew we’d lose Abraham. Daryl sells too much merchandise. Rick’s demise would’ve been awesome, but ultimately disappointing because the lead-up to the murder scene was so lackluster and drawn-out. Killing a woman would’ve started a feminist war in the fanbase. Carl was a good candidate, but he’s got too much potential to carry the show forward now. Plus in Negan-sense, he’s a carrot to dangle in front of Rick to ensure good behavior. The remaining gentlemen, as much as we adore them, just wouldn’t have the same impact. I would’ve been more shocked by that scene if Negan didn’t kill anyone, but just as pissed off with the direction the show took for the season premiere.
I mean, since when is five minutes of Rick staring at a set we’ve already seen before gripping television? He’s supposed to have a breakdown during the whole axe-fetching scene. Okay, that’s believable. So why did it involve long shots of walkers shuffling through smoke cut with the footage shown at SDCC with Lucille and the main cast? The scene felt like something from an indie band’s music video—a lone, agonized man surrounded by the cheesiest surroundings ever, just to feel spooky. Then, to make the death scenes mean even less, they show clips with Rick imagining everyone else getting a kiss upside the dome from Lucille. Why? We already know what he’s thinking. A good actor can do that, and Andrew Lincoln is no slouch when it comes to his face betraying every thought in Rick’s head.
They wanted to come into the Negan Era with a loud noise. In order to make noise, the plot’s gotta move faster than a snail’s pace. Inertia. Ever hear of it? The ball doesn’t roll and keep rolling without a hell of a push. It took the show fifteen minutes to get to the murders. I almost turned it off, thinking they’d strung us along for yet another week, and I was done if that were the case. It wasn’t, but the scene is buried so far in the episode, it does no good other than to turn stomachs. The only reason the scene is hidden in the episode is because of the backlash from the season six cliffhanger. Many fans felt as I did; we’ll watch the opening scene for season seven to learn who died and move on to another, more entertaining show which actually strives to write coherently. In a direct thumb-nosing to the noise-makers speaking against the cliffhanger, they cut together the episode just to make us wait through a couple commercial breaks. How nice of them to ensure the show makes a buck from a group who’re pretty likely to throw out their TWD fan badges after learning who died. I’m not tossing my badge in the fire just yet because I have hope the Negan era will smooth out, but it’s a near thing after this episode.
The violence in the episode really struck some sour notes across the fandom. Every complaint I see is met with a laugh. Fans derided the writers when there wasn’t enough undead violence. They scream for blood anytime a character or group disrespects the main cast. Yet the bad guy, who we’ve been warned about constantly since the show began by fans of the comics, comes in and does exactly what he’s supposed to, and it’s suddenly too much for the delicate flowers planted on their couches. Take up gardening if you can’t handle fake blood on a show centered on how messed up humanity is without actual rules to govern it. Were the close-ups too much? Possibly. I’m not one to judge. Horror and gore are my jam. I only started watching TWD to see what KNB FX could do with extended time to develop creatures and death gags; they’ve yet to disappoint. I will state that wanting a show built on the premise of killing things in order to survive to shy away from gruesome murders is like expecting a unicorn to lick away your tears while curing cancer. It won’t happen.
For the most part, we already knew what’d happen plot wise: Someone dies, Rick and Negan have a long moment to deal with Rick’s stubbornness, the Alexandria crew is absorbed by the Saviors, and Maggie wants blood, but she’s in no position to even walk, let alone lead a war. Daryl as the cause of Glenn’s death was the lone surprise for me—as I stated, I saw the death coming, just not how it’d happen. We’ve waited since Merle’s death for Daryl to be relevant to the plot again and now I want him to be the next big death on the show. Why? Because Daryl knew dang well that someone else, not him, would die for that single punch. They all knew Negan’s M.O. by that point. Abe died because of Rick’s hubris, yet that wasn’t lesson enough for everyone’s apocalyptic savior? Yeah, no. I’m beyond done with their failed attempts to make Daryl into an actual character. He’s been a two-dimensional promotional tool for so long, they’ve forgotten the character has a brain.
Now that the clunky season opener is behind us, maybe the ball will roll through season seven better. But, wait, we’ve still got a whole ‘nother group to introduce over at The Kingdom. If that episode is as awkward and poorly timed as the Negan/Rick glare-downs in the RV, I don’t know how much longer they can continue to pretend they know how to produce a show, let alone write one with so much potential for real depth and ability to shine a light on the massive problems in today’s society. They keep dropping the ball. I’m tired of waiting for someone in the TWD production office to finally pick it up and run it in for a touchdown. It’s time they returned to giving fans entertainment of substance instead of shilling the Walking Dead name and filling their coffers.
Team Zombie rolled into San Diego for Comic-Con 2016, looking quite sharp, I might add. Wardrobe aside, the gang was down a man. Robert Buckley couldn’t make it. However, newly-christened series regular Aly Michalka joined the cast, along with show creators Rob Thomas and Diane Russiero-Wright. They were in good spirits, despite the usual chaos at the con. For a good reason, they began filming for season three this week. Matter of fact, I think I saw Rose McIver post a video from the set on Wednesday with Buckley in tow. The zombie ball is rolling. But how are they going to deal with the fallout from the season two finale?
We said goodbye to our main Big Bad. His company was taken over by Vivian Stoll and her undead army. Rob Thomas said Stoll comes into the show in a unique position. “I’m not sure I file her under Big Bad” Going into season three, Stoll is a reactionary presence to the impending zombie problems once the public finds out. Only, instead of having a standing army to defend humans, this army is made from the undead to carve out a place in the world for them once the truth flies. Power like that can be corrupted. It’ll be interesting to see which side of the fence Stoll lands on, or if she can carefully navigate the line between and remain lawful neutral. Adding so many new zombies to the mix poses some ethical questions for Liv. An example given later in the panel pits Liv’s shocking white hair and pale skin against Stoll’s brood who strive to always blend in, covering the very thing which makes Liv unique.
Team Z will regroup stronger than ever. Liv is determined to keep everyone on the same page. No secrets. Out the gate, they dig into Stoll’s company. Some B-stories aren’t following through right away. The Boss story line will take a back-burner to establish new characters and dynamics. Major will search for Natalie and fulfil his promise to her. Not sure if that’s a solo mission or not. I’d assume not since they finally have everyone on the same page. We’re not done cleaning up the Chaos Killer mess, either. There’s one more Popsicle to defrost. Robert Knepper will return as Angus DeBeers in episode one this season. I’m thrilled. The DeBeers family reunions are a things of beauty.
The creators promise a shift in the story style. Season three will play out more like episodes of Law and Order, where Liv and Clive catch the bad guys, Peyton prosecutes. It looks like more of the crimes will tie into the zombie thing, at least from the way Thomas phrased the style rundown.
Other random tidbits dropped during the panel include a promise from the creators to McIver that they will not kill Liv’s next romantic interest, even if it is Major. This isn’t Supernatural. The hot lead actor can’t keep dying and coming back via some miracle.
Yes, there’s a love triangle with Ravi, Peyton, and Blaine. No, none of them know where it’s going. Though the cast joked about making it an open relationship, including Clive, and dragging Liv along as the fifth wheel.
Don’t get your hopes up for a working cure. Thomas said if Ravi creates a cure, the show is over. He also enjoys writing Blaine’s memory loss too much to give up cure 2.0’s side-effects and move on to 3.0 just yet.
We learned that McIver got to veto one potential brain for season three. From a list of about fifty. Then the night before the SDCC panel, they informed her she would get to play dominatrix this season. Guess that one isn’t up for negotiation. It better be the most integral part of the story this season or I’m going to roll my eyes at yet another excuse to dress Liv down in any way.
The new zombie blood will shake things up for the show, along with a new story format. If they keep the momentum from the finale rolling through the first couple episodes, it should be a fun ride. iZombie returns to CW in October.
The Asylum stepped into some large footprints when they opted to take a zombie film and set it in a Jurassic Park situation. They went for broke, too, holding nothing back when it came to zombie gags, perfectly placed irony, and an attempt to tell a coherent story through most of the film. It really held in there until they’d killed off so many characters, the hero, Ellen, basically had to say, “Forget everyone, I’ll do it myself.” Which still fits the theme laid out in just about every dino-flick when women finally have enough dying and get things done. There’s the usual parallels—mocking the infamous t-rex chase with infected lions, one character ditching the others and running, children coping way better than adults about man-eating animals, etc.—which make the film tolerable. The plot is simple, characters are just deep enough to provide tension, and the sense of funny-wrong doesn’t miss the mark. While there are times where plot points are dragged out for too long, it’s not so bad it bogs down the 90-minute format.
The easiest way to get to know characters where all your effort on a film is spent figuring the logistics of zombie apes is to trap them in vehicles throughout the three acts to do info dumps. It isn’t ideal, but for films like this, it isn’t about the characters so much as putting characters in outlandish situations to see if stereotype personalities will make it out alive. This movie has an okay mix of decent characters and some which needed serious reconfiguring just so fans don’t spitefully throw a beer at the screen when they finally shut up and die. Even Ellen, who we are supposed to like in the end, has character traits which can just stop happening in everything always forevermore, especially her need to repeat how much she feels she’s failing a dead guy. Family obligation isn’t the only reason a wealthy woman would show remorse for So Many Dead People.
The other main characters are the zombie animals. As with all Asylum features, don’t place your bets on being blown away by the computer graphics. There’s a few great shots featuring the lead gorilla character, reaction shots for smaller zombie monkeys, but for the most part the undead characters are blurry and laughable. When the zombie giraffes stepped on screen, I gave up and laughed through the entire thing. It’d take Marvel-sized budgeting to fully render the amount of shots needed to make the zombies work. When it came to fight scenes, they made it even simpler. The actors clutched wadded faux fur for the small animal attacks, and batted away a hand puppet for the terrifying zombie giraffe scenes. The humans who are attacked get slightly better zombie treatment. My favorite gag involves the nesting instincts of a bald eagle. You’ll know when you see it.
Zoombies gets three gnawed cow hooves out of five. It’s a decent Saturday night drink-and-watch with friends.
Starring: Jay Gallagher, Bianca Bradley, Leon Burchill, and Keith Agius
Rated: Not Rated (Contains violence, adult language, and mild nudity)
Synopsis: Barry is a talented mechanic and family man whose life is torn apart on the eve of a zombie apocalypse. His sister, Brooke, is kidnapped by a sinister team of gas-mask wearing soldiers & experimented on by a psychotic doctor. While Brooke plans her escape Barry goes out on the road to find her & teams up with Benny, a fellow survivor – together they must arm themselves and prepare to battle their way through hordes of flesh-eating monsters in a harsh Australian bushland. [Synopsis written by Kiah Roache-Turner and Tristan Roache-Turner]
This film came through the food slot on my cell door a while ago . . . and was promptly lost under a bone pile in the corner. I found it today and decided to give it a go—it’s not often I’m given the chance to watch a zombie flick from another country and I had hopes this would be an Australian La Horde in some way. Spoilers: It isn’t. Nor did it deliver a Mad Max vibe, as billed in the majority of press written by their marketing team. Homemade safety gear does not automatically make a film a skip away from entering the Thunderdome. Pair all this with a disjointed story telling gimmick for the first forty–five minutes and the film falls a little flat. Once they get past the getting-to-know-you bit with the characters and setting the apocalypse, it’s a tolerable hack-n-slash flick with enough comedic moments to overlook some flaws. I mean, how can one dislike a film with golden phrases like mouth farts?
One thing the movie has for it is an original approach to the ecological repercussions of the undead during the apocalypse. Surely people turning into freaky creatures at the drop of a hat means other things are wrong. Turns out, whatever airborne virus changes humans also makes combustible materials inert. How’s a guy supposed to save the day if he can’t drive? Simple, use zombies as fuel. The gas they emit is highly flammable. And smells like farts. That’s a key take-away from the film.
Okay. Not really.
As much as I enjoyed the witty banter between characters, there’s not a lot of depth to anyone except Barry. His story through the first half is gut-wrenching. However, once he gets back on track to finding his sister, the story unravels into a series of deaths designed to have little to no actual impact on the hero until he pairs up with Benny. Side note: There’s three lead characters with similar names. It’s like they got stuck on the B section in a baby-naming book while penning the script. Barry’s sister, Brooke, becomes the sole female survivor in the story. As such, she’s bogged down by metaphysical gifts to make her unique and special, and more powerful to the men holding her captive. It’s like the writers couldn’t fathom an everyday woman capable of escaping. While, yes, Brooke’s ability to control zombies is pretty neat, it becomes a plot crutch, leading to several long moments where she’s supposed to call the undead and leaves the action to happen around her, without the only woman on screen really doing anything aside from standing and scowling.
The hero zombie makeup is pretty decent, featuring sunken eye sockets and mild wounds since most zombies turn without being bitten thanks to the zombie gas in the air. However, there’s a few background zombies who get close-ups and their splotchy greasepaint makeup breaks the continuity established for the dead. It’s jarring to see four zombies in a row in detailed FX makeup with full-face appliances, only to zoom in one another which looks like their makeup took maybe fifteen minutes to apply in the back of a car with a palm-sized mirror.
Overall, Wyrmwood proved slightly disappointing. I wanted something grander, crafted with care for the genre. What they delivered needed more time in editing to make it flow better and maybe a few reshoots to elaborate more on everyone except Benny. I give the film three decaying hearts out of five. It’s an okay film to add to your zombie-flick marathon come October.
Major’s game of freeze tag is over. The FBI push hard on the Chaos Killer case, landing the newly re-zombied trainer in jail. Without food. Yes, this is a rehash from when Liv was arrested. Yes, crisis is averted just in time, yet again—even after Major is arrested a second time for the Meat Cute incident. Blaine, of all people, is the one to smuggle brains from Don E.’s stash after the tight-belted businessman wanted Liv to pay for a brain she plans to use to keep Major from turning the city’s jail into ground zero for the apocalypse. While she handles the food problem, Ravi and Major use video game metaphors to hatch a plan—retrieve a zombie from the freezer, defrost, show as proof Major didn’t kill anyone, release from jail. Simple. Easy. A cake walk.
Max Rager stole the bodies. DuClark also set out hits on Major and Liv as a gift to celebrate selling the company to a military contractor. Ravi gets caught in the crossfire, killing Janko when the mercenary drugs and attempts to abduct Liv. She’s fine. He’s shaken. The dead guy on the floor gives Liv the perfect chance to peek behind enemy lines. Later, she has a vision starring Major’s zombcicles, all nicely defrosted.
In order to get Major out of jail in time without a victim to hand over, Liv finally clues Clive in about Team Zombie. Okay, it takes stabbing herself in the gut to convince him, but he gets the idea and Major is a free man shortly after. I hope Liv bought Clive a new knife. Clive uses a loophole in the case against Major to secure his release. Bozzio is, understandably, livid. His hands are tied. He couldn’t knowingly leave Major in jail to start another zombie outbreak.
During the zombie antics, Boss sends his guys to clean house. The case against him is gone. He should be sitting pretty, save for his competition hitting the streets again. Chief takes a bullet to the brainpan. Don E. talks his way into a gut shot instead of a headshot. Poor hapless Blaine ends up exposed to Boss’ guys and has a hit put on his head. They use Peyton to lure Blaine into a trap. It gets a tad buddy-cop when Ravi and Blaine team up, armed quite impressively, to rescue her. Which is a joke, really. Blaine wiped out the men holding Peyton before Ravi made it in the door. Major joins Liv on Janko brain. They plan to infiltrate Max Rager during their big bash to celebrate the sale properly. To access the secret lab’s elevator, they’ll just take Janko’s hand along for a walk like it’s Thing. Clive disavows any knowledge of said plan—which lasts as long as it takes him to realize the zombies aren’t going to make the rendezvous time. The party scenes are chaos even before a group of idiots turns themselves into zombies with tainted Utopium. The party’s theme? A lockdown. They’re trapped. Just about everyone dies or is turned.
There’s a new savior in town. Vivian Stoll—the woman from the military contractor—saves Team Zombie when they’re trapped during the outbreak. Liv and Major are fine. Clive has a target on his chest being the sole human left on their feet. Stoll’s people clear the building. She gives them free passage to the secret lab.
In the lab, Rita and her father wait to make things just that much worse for the team. She’s ready to promise her front teeth in order to get free or get a cure. He’s hell-bent on winning at least one battle. The gang is separated in the zombie containment area. Drake, unfortunately, is no longer a coherent zombie. The test cures MR forced on them turned him Romero. Man, dating Liv is a curse. More so when VDC forces Liv to choose between saving Clive or Drake. She shoots her boyfriend. There’s really no choice. Drake was doomed to die the day they introduced him. VDC tries twice to gas everyone. Both times fail, with the final attempt ending after Major breaks a glass wall, following VDC into the elevator, and leaving the bad guy trapped in there with ravenous zombies. Upstairs, they open the elevator to find Rita chowing down on Dad brains.
Major takes the kill shot on his ex. Sense a trend? Stoll’s people take over the situation while she snacks on Rob Thomas. Surprise! The military contractors are zombies hell bent on making Seattle their new homeland.
I’ll admit, it’s one hell of a surprise. Unfortunately, I sense this may devolve into a Buffy situation—everything blamed on a mysterious government body who answers to no one, really, and does convenient bad things to make tension for the show. We’ve seen this trope a lot on genre shows. While this new plot twist did bring a lot of dead bodies, it could be foretelling a rather predictable season three.
Warning, the following contains show spoilers and a strong opinion.
I’m a die-hard fangirl. When a show gets my attention, I hang on to the bitter end—anyone who saw my reaction to True Blood‘s final season know what happens when a show lets me down like a frayed guide rope while climbing Half Dome. At least that show started pretty strong. This show never really found its footing. Every time I thought they’d stepped up to the plate, wanted to be good horror, they failed to follow through. In the two episodes before the mid-season break, they lean toward the macabre. First with Celia’s guests in the cellar. Then they opened the mid-season finale with Ofelia’s face peeling off, only for it to be a dream. The cellar bit? We saw the same plot on TWD when they found the walkers in the Greene’s barn, put there because Hershel believed they weren’t lost causes. Celia saw it as evolution, driven by divine intervention in the form of zombies. Both think the undead are worth our love and care. No part of me was surprised to discover Celia ran a freaky suicide/mercenary side business. Nor did the religious slant surprise me. When they steered the Doomed Ship Lollipop toward Baja, I knew they’d use the culture this heavily. Why not? It gives them the perfect scapegoat to rehash the tiresome but-they’re-family plot. On Z Nation the Zeroes, based just south of the border, worship death. I guess FtWD thought they could do something similar and have it work as anything but somewhat insulting to an entire culture’s intelligence just because they’re constantly portrayed as chill with Death.
The effects gags just aren’t worth the effort to pay attention to the story-telling anymore. In the season opener, I called them out for using the boat propeller in the face gag. Since, it’s been more of the same bland infected action. Why? They set the first half of the season on a boat. Their human bad guys were as interesting as watching leg hair grow. So where does that leave us on the tension front? Bickering and nagging, occasionally silenced by an actor in zombie makeup limply shaking his arms at the lead actresses while they flail a fishing pole at it. Some shows are salvaged by the action when the story goes bad. But when nothing happens in the story or the action? What’s the point? Then it’s just people making bad decisions, living on a yacht, and yelling at each other.
“So we’ll make one of them insane!” Nice try, guys. I’d totally buy it . . . if Chris had any actual reasons not to trust Madison and her family. At what point have they left him behind or put him second? Madison and Travis drove into a riot to save him. They made a deal with perfect strangers in order to secure safe haven until the riot passed. Nick jumped off the yacht thinking Chris wanted to swim away or drown himself. They staged a funeral so he’d have a chance to deal with his mother’s death. So why he’d snap, threaten Madison and Alicia, and run away to hold a family hostage is beyond my reasoning. Nick is a more likely choice, seeing as they laid the groundwork for it with his rampant drug use. He does some batty things, like willingly walk around covered in walker goo on numerous occasions—so much so, the original scene from TWD in “Guts” has lost its impact entirely. Now he’s fearless and buying into Celia’s bull about life eternal. Also so apparently broken, Madison—mother of the decade—asks Strand to sort her crap out while he’s digging his lover’s grave.
If I even start on how they’ve written Madison, I’ll break my keyboard. She’s by far the nosiest, indecisive, and nagging character ever to survive to season two in a show. Seeing as she’s the universal mother figure, I hate to hear what the people at the writing table say about their mothers. Somebody in that writing room needed a hug as a child.
The characters have no backgrounds. They’re all blank until they need convenient problems—Chris’ insecurity and psychosis, Daniel’s PTSD and hallucinations, Nick’s trip down sociopath lane. Alicia led the group to their first real bad guys in the season and we still know nothing about her except she’s impatient and bravery makes her do rash things. Travis has the personality of a jellyfish, only finding a backbone to salvage the weird Chris-Is-Crazypants story. Strand actually has this decent backstory, except it came too late in the game to salvage the damage done before Tom was introduced, and then swiftly killed off to avoid that whole messy gay character issue. Leaving Strand the outcast yet again, essentially a blank slate so he can resume being a prick. Instead of writing a world and characters living in it, they’re writing caricatures to manipulate how viewers see the world and what happens in it. It’s not good storytelling. There’s no consistency. Narrators, the characters driving the story, must be consistent. Someone suddenly sporting a raging case of PTSD leading him to burn a building at the behest of his dead wife just means the writers wanted to blow something up for the mid-season finale. It works for Z Nation because explosions are a part of parodying the genre. It does not work for FtWD in episode 207 when it’s painfully obvious the only reason any of this took place was to burn things on camera. Again, this entire story was lifted from TWD season two, right down to the main survivor group disbanding at the end.
So why should I keep watching? If this show refuses to stick to their characters, follow a coherent story, or just rob content from the mothership, it really isn’t worth my time. I watched in the hopes that someone would bring another quality genre show into viewers’ living rooms since TWD is bogged down by expectations. What I got was essentially the discarded ideas from the main show, stretched beyond believability, and crammed into a glitzy, Hollywood setting. The grand settings are an attempt to mask everything the show lacks. All it did was tie their hands trying to make zombies work on water. I mean, there are ways, but it requires thinking outside the box. AMC didn’t buy outside-the-box. They wanted TWD, but with a longer name. What they can’t buy is my time.
This is the last review I’ll scribble for FtWD. There’s no salvaging the mess they’ve made. I’m jumping ship before it gets worse.
Call me crazy—most people do, anyway—but I was under the impression most television shows currently on the air wanted viewers to connect with and actually like the main character. If Bailey Barker’s brain is as close to pre-z Liv, it’s a wonder they based a show around her at all.
At her core, the Liv we find somewhat plucky and charming at times should be interesting beyond her profession. I have no doubt if allowed to live her life, Liv would’ve gone on to become an extremely competent doctor. She’d probably stick to the ER though because her bedside manner is like being comforted by a decade–old dead guy. I could never imagine hyper-focused Liv with a private practice. Yes, they dragged out the “She’s missing Drake,” tidbit yet again to drive home the idea that she can’t cope as a functional kinda-human without her beau by her side. But while she’s at it, can she come over to clean the command center?
With Ravi in on the truth behind the Chaos Killer’s identity—thanks to sleuthing far better than the pros, by the way—he’s on board to help Major figure out how to stay alive. There may never be full trust between any of these people when all these secrets hit the fan. So what’s one more? Major insists Liv remain on the outside. At least until their mad scheme is complete. The guys need to figure out how to cure the memory side effect from Cure 2.0. Unfortunately the lab rats can’t talk. In a streak of utter brilliance, Major offers up the pain in his backside to play guinea pig. The Chaos Killer has one last victim on his list. Vaughn Du Clark is slated to become a zombie, then get cured, memory wiped, and cured from the side effect. For a hair-brained plan, it’s not half bad. Too bad Major is an idiot who must secretly hate dogs. The pet groomer he conned a few episodes back leads Bozzio straight to Major as he’s in the middle of nabbing VDC. I’ve seen karma work wonders on television before, but Major’s circled back tenfold to kick him in the junk while he’s down.
What does this mean for Blaine? The guy still has no clue what’s going on. Don E. and Chief set themselves up to run the Lucky U and brain businesses, leaving the funeral home for Blaine to run. He knows there’s something not right, though. Blaine takes a trip to the police station to find Ravi in the morgue since he’s the only doctor he knows. Clive and Bozzio don’t buy the memory act. Neither does Peyton when she confronts him about killing her case against Boss. There’s some astounding acting during the scene where Ravi lays it all out for Blaine, all the grim details he has about the guy’s past. Bonus laugh, Major is so zen on coffee shop owner brains, he has the clarity to pity Blaine instead of just trying to kill him for ruining their lives.
I was hesitant to see if they could pull all the plot threads together for the season finale. There are some things which just slip past—Liv’s MIA family, Ravi’s ability to forgive so quickly, Peyton showing up just to nag or use people, etc.—and we take them just to get to the point. I’m way more invested in Blaine’s story line than Liv’s with Drake. Even Major’s story line is more entertaining, though it should have resolved before now to make it believable that these people managed to miss his involvement with the whackadoo company owner. The random dirty cop story line with Benedetto featured in the episode even begins to make sense in the grand scheme—one of the detective’s great catches is a Lucky U dealer who won’t talk because he, “works for zombies.”
Another LU dealer is the murderer in the episode. He’s killed by Chief, undoubtedly leaving evidence which will lead back to the funeral home. I would applaud the writing skill it took to get this all to work, but I can’t until Liv gets an actual personality. Gotta have standards.
Warning: This article contains episode spoilers and a strong opinion.
How on earth does the show’s producers expect anyone to give half a damn about this show? I don’t get it. Since day one there’s been nothing personally at stake for the main family. The only deaths are fringe losses, people who weren’t even fully fleshed out with a personality, let alone on screen long enough for the viewers to care about their fate. Liza kicked the bucket, so what? Travis’ reaction and Chris’ weird corpse cuddling pretty much made her death a circus side show. Daniel lost his wife, who was only on screen to be the religious figure and when she became problematic for the writers, she died. Even in this episode when we should have genuine concerns about Travis’ survival, it’s not there. Not even remotely. My biggest concern was making it to a commercial to get more coffee before I fell asleep from all that excitement. We got one infected man on screen. He kills people we don’t know. Yawn. Snooze. Wake me when it gets interesting.
Interesting doesn’t mean Madison lords over the yacht crew, nagging every single one of them about this, that, or the other. We get it. She’s a mother. She cares about all these people. There are other ways for her to say, “I love you” without nitpicking every decision they make. I’m waiting for the scene where she follows Nick into the bathroom to wipe his backside. Then on top of this become The Madison Knows It All Show, she’s apparently the only able-bodied person on board who can handle any tough task. Strand is conveniently unwell after his swim—I told you he wasn’t shot; FTWD’s social media people tried for days to make viewers react to his possible injury and all I did was laugh. Daniel is looked over once again because he’s not family. Ofelia could wander around nude with a flamingo on her head and no one would notice her. Nick is grounded because mommy is worried about him. Chris can’t handle his own mental mess long enough not to screw up. And Luis? That guy is still around? Just listen to the dulcet tones of a man in the apocalypse whining about money. Pro tip, dude, money means jack-all now. That leaves Madison to play the cavalry and she’s no Agent May (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.).
But why does Madison have to stage a one-woman rescue? Here’s the quick version of the plot: The yacht crew (read: Madison) decides they won’t head south as planned just yet. Madison cashes in a favor from Strand, buying them half a day to find Travis and Alicia. Daniel manages to get information on the pirates from Reed and leaves Chris to watch their captive. With the information, they find a possible location for Connor’s crew. On the pirate side, Travis is locked up by request of Alex, the woman they left adrift in episode 203. She blames Travis for her plight. In the main cabin, Alicia is treated to a dinner she doesn’t get to eat, cooked by Connor himself. He’s called away and Alicia runs into Jack. Jack teaches her how to track other boats for looting. Eventually they concoct a plan to steal a boat and run after the approaching Abigail because Alicia assumes the boat’s early arrival means her family wasn’t taken to shore as promised. Back on the yacht, the crew is hailed by Connor, who tells Reed—his brother—to bring the Abigail in. Madison replies. They agree to a hostage trade. Just then, Chris shoots Reed. But it’s okay, even at point-blank range, Chris doesn’t destroy Reed’s brain. They truss up and head bag the new infected and Madison takes him to do the trade. Alicia hides from the pirates when they look for her. Travis is taken to the docks. The trade works . . . until the bag comes off Reed’s head. Connor flails and is bitten. Travis fights free from the last pirate on the dock. Madison just stands there. Alicia and Jack have a “How dare you” moment before she slides down the side of the dry-docked boat Connor made his home. Madison, Travis, and Alicia return to the Abigail. Jack watches, looking like a kicked puppy.
Now we’ve got no immediate danger for the family. No tension save the meager and trite “family comes first” bull everyone repeats ad nauseam. And they’ve killed off the only season-arcing baddies. Where to go now? Mexico and the mysterious people who still take cash to cross the border? That’s not interesting. That’s idiotic. Any person with half a brain understands money means nothing. So the guy says no he can’t take them. What’s stopping them from just sailing to the Baja coast and skipping the border crossing altogether? This show continues to fail to have a plot. Every time they get close, everything resolves in favor of the yacht crew. I get more excitement watching my turtle kill snails.