Frenemies:  Review for Z Nation 410

Review for Z Nation 410
By A. Zombie

Something’s foamy in Chicago. With all the damage done to Mother Earth in the name of eradicating the zombie problem, she’s finally fighting back. A thick, toxic foam spreads from Lake Michigan across the city. Some sections are easily ten feet deep. On the outskirts, scant few buildings peek through the foam, blessed oases to recover from exposure to toxins. If only Doc and Murphy stumbled into one of those places, with 10k and Sarge following later. Instead, they’re reunited with Trouble One and Trouble Two, plus an odd yet competent barber who may have a few things to hide. Could it be the Tiny, the silent and heavily armed man upstairs? Or perhaps the carefully placed zombie pit under the barber’s chair? The list of what’s wrong with Sal the barber is long. Which is why Sketchy and Skeezy opt to swindle everyone instead of explaining how dead they all are once Sal hatches his great plan.

Nefarious duos are the honored guests in the episode. There’s our old friends, Sal and Tiny, then in stumbles two dudes who were nowhere near the radar for a surprise comeback, Dale and Roy—you’ll remember them as the saps who let Skeezy bite them during their “The Murphy” scam. Dale and Roy get the drop on everyone by pure chance, stumbling in from the foam shortly after a vomit-slick brawl. If there’s one thing to love about the Sketchy and Skeezy episodes, it’s the insane fight sequences. This one takes the prize for best so far, in my opinion. Cornered by the new pair, the mentally agile hucksters spring their plan. Skeezy’s been bitten by a mummified tanning bed zombie—or so he says. Obviously he can’t stay, so everyone votes, with the new pair breaking the tie. Sketchy opens up about his feelings for his friend before Skeezy is tossed into the foam to fend for himself. Dale and Roy move on with their own scheme, and with a little coaching from Skeezy opt to lock everyone in the basement. With the zombies they don’t know about. In no time at all, the bad guys are taken care of. Skeezy rejoins them, alive and well, and ready to take over the barber shop. The guys are finally settling down to earn a respectable living ripping people off from their own building. Good for them.

Where’s their fearless leader who should’ve kept them out of the mess? Lost in the foam, chasing phantoms and whacking Zs. Roberta can’t make heads or tails of Chicago’s crowded streets. Where there’s not foam, there’s zombies or abandoned vehicles blocking the way, further confusing the woman who’s been discombobulated since waking in Zona. At last she finds someone wearing a hazmat suit. They spot her and run, away from her or toward somewhere safe? Roberta plays chase with the speedy stranger until her body shuts down from exposure to the foam. Somehow she still makes it outside the toxic zone. The stranger? Doubtful he helped much. Turns out it’s Harold Teller, the man who set her on this path. Uh, one problem, he’s dead-dead, not undead. Whatever drives Roberta’s subconscious right now is powerful enough to create a fully-fleshed phantom, but is it compelling enough for fans to see this nameless mission through to season’s end? I don’t know. This seemingly aimless quest for something existing only in her mind isn’t occupying screen time nearly as much as the interpersonal problems in the main group, yet neither are pushing the plot forward with any urgency anymore.

Time for After: Review for The Walking Dead 807

Time for After:
Review for The Walking Dead 807
By R.C. Murphy

From the looks of it, sense and reason has abandoned everyone during this mad rush to rid the world of Negan. Rick allocated most of his town’s resources for the fighters, sparing precious few capable people to guard their children and pacifists while he fails to negotiate with the Scavengers. The Kingdom will need generations to recover from their massive losses on the battlefield. Hilltop is a powder keg with a couple dozen torches crammed in a cage just inside their fence. Daryl’s leading an off-mission strike force straight into the heart of Savior territory. So far the only one to speak a word of sense is Rosita. It took watching Sasha lurch out of a coffin and her own near-fatal injury for Alexandria’s wild woman to learn a little caution. For Rick, there will never be enough cautionary moments like that. He’s wired to take control no matter what life throws his way. At some point, dumb luck will run out. With the Saviors one step closer to freedom, that point could be now.

But first he’s gotta get out of that shipping container.

Jadis has a simple plan to rid herself of this roach who insists her people must join the fight: kill him with a walker and celebrate the death with a sculpture. I guess it makes sense in her head. As per usual, when Rick’s pitted against the undead, he comes out on top. The armored walker becomes his primary weapon against Jadis and her guards. They fight over Jadis’ gun, but Rick gets the upper hand, pinning the leader’s face in the dirt perilously close to the snapping walker head. Truce time. The pair talk terms, with Rick coming out on top because of course he is, he’s the white savior who just takes what he wants at every single turn. Honestly, Rick’s story lost its appeal because he never grows beyond this desire to be at the top. What we’re seeing now? It’s the same behavior which cost them the prison and three-quarters of Alexandria’s population since his arrival. But good ol Officer Friendly has his new fighters. They head to an outpost, ready to trigger the end to his plan . . . only to discover Daryl’s beat him back to Sanctuary.

We all knew this was a stupid idea when Daryl said it the first time. Now it’s just ridiculous that despite the two ballsiest fighters in their ranks pulling out for moral reasons, he still feels compelled to go off-book to subvert the mission everyone worked and bled for to make a success. Oh, Tara’s still right there, ready to kill ’em all with a grin on her face. What’s pushing her other than the dead girlfriend thing? Regret that she didn’t get the women in Oceanside killed sooner so Alexandria could have the guns. For character motivation, it sucks. Everything about Tara’s behavior screams she’s going to get herself killed soon. Rosita got a second chance, not sure that’ll be the case here. The writers are making sure we’re not going to mourn too hard when Tara’s bloodlust goes awry. Pushed by her eagerness, Daryl rams a truck into Sanctuary, letting the undead inside. They don’t realize the quickest mind in the east is already at work scheming his way out of this mess in the name of his master.

Eugene is a worm. But a worm with convictions which put his safety as important as, oh, a Christian’s belief that Jesus died for their sins. He’s serious when he says numero uno is his sole concern. The only reason Negan is even considered in Eugene’s plan is because the guy’s got means, motive, and a mean streak a mile wide which will come in handy. Everything Eugene needs to do puts him head to head against Dwight and Gabriel. The latter man finds himself in the infirmary in Dr. Carson’s care, a condition Eugene says he brought upon himself. For Dwight’s part, he’s doing his damndest to keep the bloodshed to a minimum. His goal is to save everyone. Only Negan dies in the original plan. That will not happen should the bat-wielding guy get an earful about his good pal helping the enemy. They call a timid truce. Inspired by a request to fix a boom box, Eugene builds a speaker drone to draw the undead away. Dwight halts the maiden flight moments before the truck sends everyone into emergency mode. This is where Eugene’s bluster slips. He freezes once, flies into a rage, and winds up making a deal with the devil before drinking himself stupid. It’s a knee-jerk reaction to an immediate threat. The walkers have to go. The only way is if they unload the armory into the growling mass trapped on the first floor. He’s got what he needs to make more bullets, all he needs is the time. Time he gets. Negan okays the action and they unleash lead hell in the warehouse. Eugene is so focused on the undead, he doesn’t bother trying to find another time to tell Negan about Dwight after they’re interrupted. And as far as getting the doctor out? No way! The doctor stays put should Eugene need his services. At least the guy knows what he needs. Doesn’t mean I gotta like him.

We’re at the mid-season already, yet it feels like we haven’t gotten very far. A lot of people died, but the odds are more or less still the same, given the Scavengers flipping sides. Everyone is down on ammunition, the Saviors more so after clearing house. Negan is still alive. Rick’s free to cause more chaos. Culling the supporting cast doesn’t exactly mean they’ve progressed the plot a lot in seven episodes. Siege warfare told long-form isn’t always compelling for network television and we’ve seen this kind of thing before on the show so the reactions and deaths are predictable. Even this reformed Rosita’s desire to let fate roll without her interference was foreshadowed. We wanted something new, but this war they promised is more of the same Rick-driven drama they’ve given us for eight season—which has never, ever made sense from a survival-focused standpoint. Pretty much everything this guy does is on our Don’t Even Consider It list. Where can they go from here? We’re right back where we started, only now the bad guy’s really pissed off.

The King, the Widow, and Rick: Review for The Walking Dead 806

The King, the Widow, and Rick:
Review for The Walking Dead 806
By R.C. Murphy

Warning! There’s spoilers below.

Now’s the time to regroup. The fighting for this stage of the war is wrapped. Everyone who walked away is back home nursing their wounds, mourning their dead, and preparing for the next battle. The captains get in touch via letters, delivered by what must be the fastest messengers in the apocalypse. I mean, like The Flash fast because there’s no way the coordinated a mail drop like this in time to magically get Rick his missives before he walks into his stupidest idea yet.

It doesn’t take a genius to understand that Jadis and her Scavengers will never by on Rick’s side. Yet every time they up the ante against the Saviors, he crawls back to Her Weirdness, seeking an audience and help. Help she’ll never provide. She only lets him in to talk because it seems to amuse her to watch this man all but beg for more bodies to fight a war he could not win with his own resources. This time she makes Rick pay for bothering her nude art time by caging him in a sweltering cargo container, naked.

While Rick marinates in his regrets, the others get antsy. Particularly those who weren’t on the frontlines. Michonne isn’t satisfied by reading Rick’s debriefing letter. Only her own eyes can tell her the truth, so off she goes to take a joy ride to Sanctuary. Rosita hops in to join her, her mood as pale as her complexion so soon after the near-fatal shooting. The women don’t make it to their destination. Opera music, of all things, lures them to a building in the woods. Inside are two Saviors who escaped the attack. They’ve got the Fat Lady, a truck loaded with speakers designed to lure walkers, and need to make sure she’s in shape to save Sanctuary. Despite both being unfit for fighting, Michonne and Rosita take on the Saviors. The latter goes for complete overkill, using a rocket launcher inside to take out the male Savior. They’re not so lucky catching the second one. But someone’s watching out for them and the Fat Lady’s driver is stopped dead in her tracks.

Lest Michonne appear as the only unhinged warrior who freaking knows better than to just walk away from a war plan, Daryl and Tara join the wandering ladies on their trip to Sanctuary. While Michonne just needs visual confirmation of their win, Daryl wants to jump the gun on Rick’s big plan. He thinks the four of them can end the war then and there. How? No clue. He’s still not thinking clearly after learning they lost a third of their fighting force in one go. Desperation has always been Daryl’s downfall. When he’s cornered, he forgets that many hands make light work, that reaching out isn’t a sin, and taking a moment to think about the repercussions of your actions won’t take anything away from the win, should it happen.

In a moment which reminds one of the good ol days when Carl never stayed in the dang house, we catch him aimlessly wandering the woods to find the guy Rick chased off during episode one. He brought along a few snacks and water to help, sensing they were desperately needed. He’s right. While Siddiq is an impressive walker hunter, he’s lousy at securing supplies. The starving man attacks the water like he hasn’t drank in days. Then they get to chatting, which leads to Carl nearly dying in order to honor Siddiq’s mother’s memory. How’re they doing that? Killing the undead to release their souls. Yeah, it escalates quickly. Glad to see Carl hasn’t changed much over the years.

Over at Hilltop, things aren’t going smoothly. Maggie is incensed, unable to believe Jesus would burden them with captives and then feed them from their precious emergency storage. Gregory’s constant cries for death don’t help matters, either, but Maggie can’t leave the former leader alone because last time she did, he sold them out to the Saviors. There’s a solution for all her problems, one she has her people build overnight. The new prison cell will house the captive Saviors until Maggie finds a use for them. Gregory gets the same treatment because he’s scum. No one argues with her decision to lock him up. I’m sure if this were a lighthearted show, there’d be a scene where they all toasted Maggie for putting him in the cell.

The war plan is dissolving quicker than cheap bread in a pond. All that careful planning is going to go sky high once Daryl’s team breaks ranks and attacks again. Where’s Rick to stop them? Oh, right. He lost his freedom because he can’t take no for an answer.

The Big Scary U: Review for The Walking Dead 805

The Big Scary U:
Review for The Walking Dead 805
By R.C. Murphy

Warning! This review contains episode spoilers. Proceed with caution. They bite.

What’s this? Another flashback opening sequence with scenes bearing no weight whatsoever on the actual plot, containing information which could have easily gone somewhere else? Gabriel prays, it’s his thing. It didn’t have to happen in a flashback. As for Gregory, his love pancakes, and the super-secret meeting with the Saviors? Uh, duh? When they came out to chat with Rick, he wasn’t under duress. The play all this time has been to kindly, but firmly lead the little weasel by his nose so his people continue to provide produce for them. The meeting itself more or less took place during the same conversation with Rick, sans a few tidbits and the power squabble. I would’ve been more impressed with the show opening on Negan lunging for Gabriel.

The pair are still trapped in the flimsy trailer surrounded by walkers. Negan relieves his tension by picking on Gabriel, looking for his weak spots since he’s got all the time in the world with the guy. Not really, though. The trailer’s wall are already failing. There’s another problem, too. Instead of mounting a rescue, Negan has a feeling his guys will implode on the leadership front without him there to steer the ship. Which is pretty much what happens. In order to save what he’s built, Negan needs Gabriel to help him fight through the horde. There’s a tussle. And a bargain. In the end, they each confess a sin before slathering themselves with zombie guts. The ruse doesn’t work as well as they hoped.

Power dynamics are often lost on the soldiers. In this case, Negan’s captains understand some of what it takes to run the organization, but not a one of ’em has the wherewithal to see that every last person under them stays in line. They assume he leads by pure fear. Yeah, no. Negan leads by hope. That hope may be the grimiest thing to be dragged out of an apocalyptic landfill, but it still puts a roof over their head, water and food in their bellies, and surrounds their home with an army to keep the dead at bay. The workers are promised isolation from the ongoing war. In return they take what they’re given without complaint and do the work required of them. When the few comforts Negan provided dry up after his assumed demise, the workers’ hope vanish into the dark. Confronted with the chance to actually be Negan, every last one of the captains fails. It takes Negan all of thirty seconds to fix it after he and Gabriel finally make it inside.

It’s going to be a lot harder to fix the mess left amongst his captains. Not only does Simon think he’s in charge, but Gavin also points out that the only way the surprise attack works is because insider information has been leaked to Rick. One smidge of evidence may give the game away. Eugene notices red paint on a gun bag given to the workers which helped in their near-triumphant coup. Dwight has a new chess set, which he painted himself that very day. Odd hobby, but I’ll but it. Not sure Eugene’s going to have a chance to use his knowledge just yet. He’s more preoccupied with Sanctuary’s new guest . . . who’s suddenly got a fever and an overwhelming desire to break the doctor out of there.

Meanwhile back on the highway, Daryl and Rick have a nice chat with Yago, the Savior who almost delivered the guns to the Sanctuary. They get all the details from the guy, down to the identities of the meager few who walked away from the fight. Pretty much the second the guy bites the dust, Daryl is ready to ditch the master plan and improvise. There’s TNT in the wrecked truck. With just a little, they can blow Sanctuary’s gates, let the dead in, and problem’s solved. They can move on already; help the Kingdom regroup. Rick is the rational one for once, bringing up the blameless workers living in the same compound. The guys fight, the choreography echoing the first fight these two had at the rock quarry. Except that time there wasn’t an exploding truck. So much for the guns and dynamite. The guys split, Rick heading somewhere and Daryl’s off to Alexandria.

The somewhere is the giant trash heap of Please Stop Going There Already, according to the previews. Like they didn’t have enough problems with these people already. Sure, let’s try one more time when you’re desperate and the only bargaining tools you had blew sky high because your bestie can’t control his temper long enough to get them clear of a wrecked truck. This isn’t going to end well.

We Interrupt This Program: Review for Z Nation 409

We Interrupt This Program:
Review for Z Nation 409
By A. Zombie

Interwoven through their quest to communicate are glimpses of Z-Day. Day Zero. The Day the Feces Hit the Fan. Whatever you want to call it, the writers took us back to the fateful day and gave a glimpse at how the media handled the situation. It also gives a startling clue as to how quickly the undead spread across the country. In a matter of moments, the news station goes from reporting a downed airplane to zombies eating the face of an Emmy Award winning anchor. One can only hope they weren’t still on-air when the carnage kicked into high gear. The action follows Carly McFadden, weather forecaster turned anchor who is first tapped to break the news about the crash. It’s weird to have hope that someone will survive day one again, but for a little bit that excitement is back. Will she make it? Can the chopper land safely? But we already know the answer. Hope, liar that it is, makes us forget for a second that the chopper is strewn across the road when the gang walks through town.

Back in the here and now, Roberta and Sarge strike out on the satellite front. The connection is severed somewhere. In order to make their call, they’ll have to plug straight into a dish up on the roof. Everyone else wanders the studio. Murphy makes himself at home behind the anchors’ desk. If not for the whole lack of TV and all, he’d be a shoo-in for that local news Emmy. The staff who were trapped inside shuffle toward the noise. They’re regular Zs and no match for the gang, who’ve been dealing with primarily mad-Zs since Red and the others disappeared. Up on the roof, they find Carly and give her mercy. Sarge gets the radio to make the call to Kaya. But by the time they do, her fight’s already over.

Hiding in the panic room will only work if no one finds Kaya, Nana, and little JZ. Considering Zona has all sorts of tricks up their sleeve, Kaya is extra vigilant. She sets up security cameras. Takes a peek around to see if she can figure out why they’re so far away from home. But it’s hard to stalk someone without risking them following her, so she retreats to put out another distress call. She’s followed anyway. The guy stands no chance. Kaya whacks him good. And then has to apologize to Simon. Together at last, the couple waste no time going back out to assess the threat. Unfortunately, they also have to cram in a lesson about mad-Zs since one follows Citizen Z around like a rabid puppy. The dead do more to take out the Zona guards than the living. In the end, Kaya and Simon fail to stop the man with a plan from snatching information about Black Rainbow and erasing the discs. At least we now know Black Rainbow isn’t a complete figment of Roberta’s imagination. My gut says there’s no silver lining to this Zona situation.

Some Guy: Review for The Walking Dead 804

Some Guy:
Review for The Walking Dead 804
By R.C. Murphy

Head’s up, there’s spoilers in this review

Just when it felt like the writers were about to decimate the Alexandria cast to make way for the newer communities, the action flips into high gear for the Kingdom at last, and WHAM, they take their most brutal hit since aligning themselves with Rick in this war. Does anyone make it off the gore-slick field? The dead are rising faster and faster. It takes mere moments for the Kingdom’s army to turn on the scant few survivors. Three, then only two men shuffle off the field with heartbeats. What good did Ezekiel’s grandstanding do if he has no one to bring home in the end?

The problem with possibly half the season playing out over the same day is the unrelenting desire to shake it up somehow in order to make it feel like time is actually passing. Four episodes in and maybe an hour or two has passed on the screen. That drags everything down, despite breaking for intense fight scenes or emotional goodbyes. How does one combat this problem without confusing the plot or halting the forward progress altogether? There’s no one answer, but I’m pretty sure bringing in conversations from before the fighting began which are echoes of things already said isn’t the best method to help time appear to move faster. Repetition doesn’t always sell a point the way a writer intends once it comes out of an actor’s mouth. Ezekiel’s speeches, for example, quickly went from charming, uplifting oases in the turmoil to tiresome, eye-rolling moments where they really just should move on to the next problem instead of verbally beating a dead horse.

That being said, Ezekiel’s arc in this episode alone is some of the best character development the show has seen in, oh, probably three seasons or so. I was there with him emotionally, hobbled by a wound and trapped on the field of his dead. His dead. He brought every single soul onto that silver platter for the Saviors. That knowledge breaks him. We watch this guy’s façade shatter like a mirrored mask, chip by chip sliding away until that moment in the polluted stream when Ezekiel exposes his true self to Jerry. My only complaint is that the jumps back to other conversations broke the emotional momentum for Ezekiel too much. Even then, by the end the emotions dragged me in again for that last bit of heartache.

Is there a petition anywhere to get these people to stop killing animals? At this point, given that both Walking Dead properties are likely to linger on an animal’s death more than any humans—look at Eric, he died off screen and didn’t get a proper goodbye—it’s safe to say they enjoy writing these particular death gags. Which is not something I say lightly. Look at the track record, though. Then look at the scene they gave Shiva. It’s great that they wanted to get as much emotion out of the cast as possible, but the scene itself becomes really uncomfortable to watch. Like we’re hostages forced to endure a pet’s death in order to ensure the safety of the others. We only sit through the drawn out tiger death to make sure Jerry and Carol get Ezekiel to safety. The entire time my gut screamed to turn it off. Walk away. Why put someone through that and call it entertainment? I just don’t get it. And yes, I know they’re sticking to the comics. That doesn’t mean the scene should have lasted so long. Would they devote the same detail to a human’s death? Not usually. Not anymore. There’s so many bodies on-screen at any given time, no one notices if twenty or so never show up again.

Khary Payton as Ezekiel, Melissa McBride as Carol Peletier, Cooper Andrews as Jerry – The Walking Dead _ Season 8, Episode 4 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

The gun plan looks doomed, considering those very guns just took out everyone. Carol ends up being the sole person capable of slowing down the Saviors tasked with taking the weaponry to Sanctuary in order to clear the dead and liberate those trapped inside. It doesn’t take much to get the drop on some of them, but there’s more than she thought inside. Waiting outside seemed more prudent, except there’s still too many to take out solo. Carol is classic, manipulative, cunning Carol this episode. She plays the Saviors for fools, dang near getting the prize by herself. Until she hears Jerry and Ezekiel, who are pinned against a locked gate by an oncoming horde. It’s a good thing she came out of retirement to save these guys from themselves, right?

All’s not lost on the gun front. Carol worries about the future for about five seconds before Daryl’s motorcycle roars in the distance. The cavalry arrives to finish the job and the others stumble back to the Kingdom as a trio, sans a ferocious, loyal protector. How long has it been since they’ve treated us to a chase scene? I can’t remember. It’s a tad ridiculous, believing the Savior couldn’t hit Rick’s Jeep with their huge gun. Barring that, it’s a little bit of action movie fun, down to the crash at the end and the buddy-cop vibes from Daryl and Rick.

Well, one large part of the plan is finally in place. Is the cost worth it? Is any of this worth what’s to come in the near future? Rick thinks so, but I have a feeling he won’t have as much moral support from here on out.

Crisis of Faith: Review for Z Nation 408

Crisis of Faith:
Review for Z Nation 408
By A. Zombie

There’s a hitch in their giddy-up. The zombies never stop coming. A horde from the north is swiftly heading toward a collision with undead coming up from the south. Guess who’s smack in the middle? Our heroes. They take refuge in a church. This one isn’t unoccupied. Dead nuns go after the gang, but are taken care of without too much drama—except the bit where Roberta totally saves Murphy’s bacon and he can barely muster a thanks to her. They have ample time to work things out. There’s no escaping through the church’s doors. Some crack under the weight of so many zombies trying to get in.

Now’s the perfect time to stop and meditate. It seems odd, but though surrounded by zombies, the gang still wants to figure out what’s going on in Roberta’s head. Without Lucy’s connection to her, she’s go no one monitoring her mental health and empathizing with her situation. That’s a lonely place. Murphy’s newly inoculated self can try to do the same, with a little focus. When Roberta finally shows him what she feels day in and day out, Murphy’s entire perception of her changes quicker than one can blink. He’s more careful with her, too, checking on her throughout the rest of the episode.

The gang’s not the only living souls in the church; despite sweeping for more dead nuns, they miss the random guy hiding in the basement. Not sure what it says about our heroes, but their gut says this newcomer is a grave robber, what with all the religious paraphernalia hanging off his coat and all. Things aren’t that cut and dry, but they don’t get a chance to get into it because the zombies are nearly through the doors. Louis, the maybe grave robber, has another way out, but it’s via the crypt.

But first, a pit stop, maybe?

Louis seeks a rare religious artifact, a reliquary holding the finger bone of a saint reputed to heal the sick. The circumstances of the saint’s death, and that of another whose story Louis shares, touches Murphy’s heart. While attempting to raid the grave of a bishop in possession of the reliquary, Murphy opens up a little, shares what’s weighing down his heart. Does this mean he won’t devolve into a jerk again? There’s no guarantees with Murphy, but he’s far more in touch with his emotions and that of his team now that he’s vented some of what’s drowning him.

The uber-Zs have a new trick up their ratty sleeves. This particular strand of zombie spreads through the air. In this case, reanimating the long-dead bishop just as they pop the seal on his tomb. Just great. They desperately needed another uncontrollable problem on their plates.

At this rate only a miracle can save them. The exit Louis sees on his blueprints is blocked by two walls. There’s no other way out. Are those church bells? Turns out there may be a deity watching after the gang after all. Some zombies tangle themselves in the bell cords, drawing the other dead to the racket. Everyone makes it out unscathed, and hey, Roberta happens to find the reliquary on the way out the door. It’s not such a bad day after all. Unless you’re Louis. He parts from the group to continue collecting religious artifacts for the true believers to possess after the apocalypse, and is promptly flattened by a flying nun. Good thing Murphy pocketed the blessed finger bone. What? Didn’t notice that? Watch again, he swipes it from the reliquary just as he turns it over to offer back to Louis palm-down so he doesn’t notice. It’s a smooth bit of slight-of-hand. Maybe that’ll come in useful. Or maybe Murphy wanted a tangible something to hold on to that reminds him of Lucy.

The plan for Newmerica may be changing again. Louis gifts the group a battery and Sarge uses it to check in on Kaya. Things up north aren’t that great. Kaya, Nana, and the kid are under attack by Zona forces with no help in sight. They’re barricaded in a panic room, but that’s only good for so long as they have supplies and power to run the distress calls. Will Roberta chose saving Kaya, following the visions, or Newmerica? It’s not clear where they’re headed, but it’s certainly not into Canada at that particular border corssing.

Monsters: Review for The Walking Dead 803

Review for The Walking Dead 803
By R.C. Murphy

Whoop!Whoop! Spoilers below!

One thing’s for certain in the apocalypse, there’s sure a lot of walking. Why the show’s producers thought we needed an episode relying heavily on scenes of troops moving from one fight to another, I’ll never understand. This is supposed to be war, so how about they save the parades for later? Between the constant time jumping and the moments wasted during long walking scenes with dialog rehashing problems addressed during numerous occasions this season, this episode is the most filler-feeling episode ever. There’s a few golden nuggets of action, everything else is either forgettable, unimportant in the long run, or worse, a heartfelt moment which should be expanded, but passes with little to-do. That’s two episodes in a row which don’t feel right timing wise. Episode 802 because the slow-motion bookends brought the pace to a sharp stop and this one, where apparently the Kingdom possess a time-turner and Hilltop marches down the street, making it home around the same time as Gregory—who drove home from Sanctuary before the secondary attacks even began. What did they get right this week? The feels, as usual.

Joshua Mikel as Jared- The Walking Dead _ Season 8, Episode 3 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

If you were hoping we’d get to keep Morales, I’ve got bad news. Actually I’ve got horrific news. Not only do they get our hopes up for a decent reunion by bringing Morales in at the end of the last episode, then proceed to yank our emotions around for a little bit. All it takes is a little backstory to kill Miranda and the kids. Given the writers’ love for flashbacks, they couldn’t even give us one of those PTSD-colored hallucinations like Morgan has just to get one more peek at Morales’ family? Here is this perfect mirror for Rick to stare into—a man so broken by the loss of his family that it took a bunch of savages to get him to come back to reality—and the show kills him off with no remorse from Daryl. None. He might as well have shot a squirrel. That’s, quite frankly, a waste of time and effort. The whole little side trip to visit with an old pal may as well not happened, save to finally give closure to that last lingering thread from season one. Rick isn’t going to learn from yet another glimpse into the abyss. Negan threatened to maim his son, killed one of his best friends in front of him, yet Rick continues to go after the Saviors; as far as I’m concerned that’s all the proof one needs to understand Rick will never, ever be written to react as an actual human being would. Once upon a time, yes, but now he’s a mess we’re forced to endure until the writers come up with some spectacular way to kill him off. Maybe he’ll go like Morales; a man who defends his family, fights harder after they die in order to survive, and is taken out by an emotionless hunter in the line of duty.

The Kingdom, bolstered by Ezekiel’s endless victory speeches, mow their way through several Savior battalions. Sounds exciting, right? Not really. These attacks are covered somewhat like montages. Yes, it’s as weird as it sounds. When they aren’t bouncing from speeches to quick shoot-outs, they’re walking. Ezekiel promises his people they won’t die. In that they’re successful. Almost. During the last stop on their conquest tour, Ezekiel and his guards fail to properly secure the building after taking out the Saviors on the front lawn, opting to celebrate a little instead, then kill the newly risen undead. The guns Rick and Daryl are searching for were moved without warning, and now they’re cutting down the Kingdom forces. Jerry better make it out, man.

One group does actually spend the episode walking. Hilltop’s brigade march their Savior prisoners down the freeway. The Saviors are bound into chain gangs, following a lead truck carrying the dead. Large groups of people who’re talking attract walkers, of course. The group is attacked by zombies who, weee!, roll down a hill to get to them. Several Saviors are attacked. Even more try to escape. Not on Morgan’s watch. He chases them with every intent of killing Jared and the men he’s leashed to. Jesus intercedes on the Savior’s behalf, attempting to talk reason to Morgan. Yeah, uh, dude’s not home. At all. Morgan’s still actually in the trauma-haze which started when he woke after the near-miss in the satellite station. The fight between Jesus and Morgan is astounding. A ballet, really. It’s always a treat to sit back and watch Morgan’s fights, let’s be honest. They picked a great fighting style for him. Once Morgan snaps back to reality, he bolts. Just leaves everyone behind. Jesus and Tara rejoin the Hilltop group to push onward to home. Gregory has something to say about the new arrivals. No one wants his input and Maggie uses her burgeoning Mom Voice to send the former leader off so they can debate what to do with the new burden Jesus has dropped at Hilltop’s gate. Weird how none of them push Gregory to tell the truth about the car and Gabriel before sending him away to deal with the next emergency.

It’s not clear what the total body count is for Rick’s army so far. Sadly, we do have to say goodbye to Eric this week. Unfortunately Aaron doesn’t get a chance to be there for his husband at the end. Knowing full well death is coming for him, Eric sends Aaron to help hold the Savior’s attention while Rick and Daryl finish searching for the guns. When the chaos clears and the Saviors are dead, Aaron finds Eric’s reanimated body shuffling toward a herd near the road. There’s not even a chance to put him to rest. But I guarantee you if it’d been a lead character, the other characters would’ve gone to great lengths to make sure they didn’t just wander off as a zombie. It’s a little unfortunate that this is how Eric’s time on the show ends, drifting off like a cloud of smoke after years hovering in the background of every group shot as the token LGBTQ+ representative.

Next week we’re . . . still in the same day. Also, we’ll figure out which Kingdom fighters survive the ambush. Judging from the preview, the body count is going to get much, much higher.

Warren’s Wedding: Review for Z Nation 407

Warren’s Wedding:
Review for Z Nation 407
By A. Zombie

The episode begins with a lovely funeral for Lucy. They burn her body in a gigantic pyre, attracting every zombie in the area. At least she’s not making that final journey solo? The tension between Roberta and Murphy during this scene is practically a new character. They spend a lot of their travel time after the ceremony awkwardly avoiding each other, Murphy taking it so far he’s barely sitting in the rickety truck’s bed as they tootle down the road. This tension skews every decision the two make throughout the episode, down to Roberta’s shocking final order when the week’s fun and games wrap. Murphy’s coldness, his reticence to emotionally engage with Roberta in a way which may help her deal with the hallucinations adds a whole new dimension to their problems. Would they have been able to keep Roberta in their reality if Murphy did more back in Zona for her? At the northern-bound camp, she admitted what’s going on in her mind, yet they’re all so uncomfortable with her truth, they’d rather just follow her into this string of ill-considered trips eastward.

Internalizing his angst isn’t doing great things for Murphy’s decision-making skills. He insists they abandon the mission to help a woman zip-tied to a Ferris wheel. Rescuing her wasn’t enough, he volunteers to go inside a run-down house/sideshow to get her son, as well. No more families will be separated on Murphy’s watch. Or 10k’s. Or Doc’s. The guys play liberation squad. Roberta ends up following, probably just so they don’t get dead without her at least trying to save them from themselves. Sarge waits out the second rescue to watch the woman they saved.

Never thought I’d see the day when a show’s plot would center around Juggalos, but here we are. In this case, they’ve renamed themselves Zuggalos, because zombies and all that jazz. These fine, clown-painted folks turned a small carnival into their home. There’s all the recycled drugs one can snort. I wonder if it smells like pee, but really don’t want to know the answer. The Zuggalos also have home brewed drinks and some entertaining ways to pass the long days during the apocalypse. All of which our heroes are treated to when their rescue turns into captivity, and then a . . . rap battle?

The menfolk are all placed in peril—on a spinning wheel, in a whack-the-dolt cutout, and chained to an electrocution platform. Zuggalos keep them entertained while their King and Roberta get to know each other a little better. Little known secret is the mating ritual of the Zuggalo and here we’ve been given a rare glimpse into the magnificent spectacle. The King and Roberta start with music trivia. Things get hot under the collar and they move on to finishing lyrics. One thing after another and they’re so into it, there’s a full-blown rap battle to see if Roberta is good enough to become Zuggalo Queen. And how tawdry, there’s spectators. Of course our girl wins the battle, but will she follow through with the I-dos?

Considering her entire team is in danger, you bet your backside she’s going to play along. While Roberta’s getting ready for her big moment, Sarge finally loses her patience, mostly with Janice the ousted Zuggalo. When the action in the house suddenly goes quiet, Janice’s Mom Sense tingles. Trusting the new woman’s gut, Sarge heads into the house to make sure her team’s okay. But once Janice realizes her baby boy’s trying to wed without her approval, things flip on their head. Janice and the King go after each other. 10k and Doc manage to free themselves just in time to join the fray. There’s no end in sight until Murphy swaps spots with the arguing family and electrocutes them into submission. The peace is fleeting. Janice and her son don’t have even an ounce of the love and respect between Murphy and Lucy, much to his disgust and frustration. Talking from his heart didn’t help them, so he fries the pair.

Murphy’s reaction to the squabbling family puts everything into focus. Roberta comes to grips with her part in Lucy’s death—by following the hallucination she wasn’t there to stop Lucy, neither was anyone else because their focus landed on Roberta’s welfare. When they leave the blood-drenched house, Roberta breaks it down for Murphy, everything she’s going through. Then comes the kicker, they’re heading to Newmerica. Following the visions will only cost them more people they love.

The mission has changed yet again. Here’s hoping we actually make it to Newmerica. Maybe Addy will be there. But, oh man, that’s not going to be a fun first conversation.

Back From the Undead: Review for Z Nation 406

Back From the Undead:
Review for Z Nation 406
By A. Zombie

When the group realizes Murphy won’t make it without medical aid, they try to get through Roberta’s semi-permanent hallucination in order to beg her to pull over somewhere. Since she’s now either part robot or having one hell of a trip, Roberta’s already ahead of the game. Her internal navigation system leads her straight toward Bio-Mod, an abandoned lab somewhere near Eerie, Indiana. Now what? None of them possess nearly enough medical training to treat Murphy’s wound and the infection spreading up his arm. That’s assuming there’s even anything functional left in the building to treat him with.

They don’t get a chance to find anything useful. By the time 10k and Sarge clear the zombies on their tails, Murphy’s already crashed. He’s well beyond Doc’s skills. Roberta isn’t really in the room with them. Before she totally checks out from reality, her sole input is suggesting Lucy bite Murphy. Well, it works. For a little while. Lucy’s particular strand of virus isn’t as strong as these uber-zombies they’ve encountered throughout the season. This new virus takes a lot of energy for Lucy to fight. Too much energy.For what’s probably the last time they can pull it off without beating a dead flying shark, the wonderful Sara Coates rejoins the cast, this time to bring middle-aged Lucy to life. For a while, it’s a little hazy if they did indeed pull the mother/daughter switch because the blue makeup completely changes Coates’ face and she’s just so good at embodying Lucy that it doesn’t feel like another actress—as odd as that sounds. The episode takes a turn for the teary at this point. Murphy’s condition worsens, despite Lucy’s sacrifice. Everyone is assured this is the moment they finally lose the big guy. 10k and Doc are ready to give him mercy. Lucy isn’t ready to give up, though. After everyone leaves to save Roberta from herself, Lucy goes against everyone’s warnings and continues to bite Murphy until he pulls through the fever baking his brain. As expected, Lucy ages far beyond her actual years. The price of saving her father is her life, and it’s one she gladly pays. Once again, Murphy is left adrift in the world without family. Even his chosen companions are cut off from his affections once they carry Lucy out at the episode’s end.

While Lucy fights to save her father, Roberta’s freaky mind-thing leads her through the labyrinthine warehouse. Everything necessary for her mission is easily accessible because somehow she already knows where it is. But what is she looking for is she’s never been there before? A mysterious canister catches her eye. She takes it, and the antidote for whatever’s in there, then has a little nap while the drugs do their thing in her blood stream. I’m not enjoying the Roboberta thing. It’s not meshing with the story at all, something I feared back during the SDCC interviews when they said her mission would remain a secret until the end. This seemingly pointless wandering and constantly endangering her companions has a payout, but the promise is not quite compelling enough to watch a character we’ve loved for certain traits turn her back on everything which made her wonderful. Roberta has been a shining feminine light in the zombie genre. How many other shows would’ve lasted four seasons with a WOC at the helm? Everyone sees this as Murphy’s show, but it’s always been Roberta’s ambition pushing the plot, pushing Murphy into action. Take away Roberta, the real Roberta, and the show just doesn’t have the same heart to it—even with the spectacular performances during Lucy’s story line in this episode.

The monster-of-the-week is quite an intriguing beast. Dr. Caligari spent the beginning of the zombie apocalypse trying to make the best of a bad situation. His company wanted to graft zombie limbs onto humans. You know, make the best use out of a new resource. They’re just dead bodies, after all, and harvesting parts from the dead is an age-old tradition in the science community. One of Caligari’s assistants was infected. She attacked the doctor and another man, Charlie. Charlie turned. Caligari amputated his arm in time, but stupidly grafted Charlie’s hand onto his arm. Bing. Bang. Boom. A new Charlie grows from the attached hand, absorbing the doctor until he’s only hands and a face. A smart face, though, and one who knows Roberta’s never been in the lab before. There is a cop-out moment where instead of getting any information about the canister, the good doctor says something vaguely ominous. Before they get anything else out of him, Roberta feels Lucy and Murphy’s distress. Then they give the doctor mercy instead of sparing him to come back to the conversation like sensible people. All to maintain this mystery quest. The convoluted mess makes my brain maggots ache.