A New Beginning: Review for The Walking Dead 901 by R.C. Murphy
You know the drill. There’s a ton of spoilers in this review, so proceed accordingly.
Despite the show being back on the air during its normal time frame, it feels like we were away from Rick and the gang for way too long. Or maybe it’s just that 2018 feels like 10 years packed in a single year’s box, held together with cheap packing tape. The Walking Dead gives fans a good way to vanish from the real world for a little while, as it always has. But did the production team manage to grab the waning attention of fans burnt out by the exhausting All Out War story line?
I’m honestly not sure this premiere is strong enough on its own to do that, and it’s a little worrying considering what all we know for sure is coming down the pipeline as far as actor departures from the show.
The bulk of this episode deals with an idea the producers introduced at SDCC this summer: Reclaiming old technology in order to ensure a future for their communities. In the opening montage, it’s clear that Sanctuary’s corn crop failed. The factory’s dirt is sour. All they can do with the produce is turn it into biofuel, and the yield isn’t nearly enough to keep everyone driving out to source supplies to fully replenish Negan’s former home sweet home nearly 2 years after the war ended. To speed up the process of healing the ground, they need a better, faster way to plow. There’s also a few other things they need, so everyone’s off to Washington D.C. to raid the Smithsonian. Makes perfect sense. How many scouting teams would’ve had the time or energy to take things like covered wagons before now? Aside from some minor walker damage, everything in the museum is intact.
The plan to get it all out, not so much.
This episode, like so many before it, is plagued with basic logic errors so great, one cannot help but yell at the television. There’s a vast difference in writing a tense scene in which a beloved character has a close call, and writing a series of foolish calls that are obviously wrong while still (still!) presenting the person giving the orders as the best possible leader for these people. This problem continues into the next set of problems while getting their loot home. How on earth did they create this relay network, yet when it comes to actually planning and executing what should be a moderately easy mission, they do things like fail to make sure all the bridges are secure? The latter oversight cost Ken his life. Always know your exits. It’s a basic lesson all women, police, and military learn.
Perhaps it’s because of all the bad calls that the power struggle is more pronounced this season. The first problem comes from everyone’s need to put an outside in charge of Sanctuary to keep the dissidents in line. Daryl wants out. Being in the building triggers his PTSD, but he stops just shy of admitting as much to Rick. Carol, however, hears and understands why Daryl needs to get away from there. Not sure she’s going to have much better luck, not with guys like Justin lurking on the fringes with his passive aggressive quips, and the constant reminders that someone in the community actively wants Negan back. The second problem comes to light curtesy of the unchecked, crumbling bridge. Turns out Hilltop has it good. Really good. They’re flush with people, produce, and ideas. And for this entire time, they’ve been loaning out supplies right and left to keep everyone afloat. Yet everyone defers to Rick. He gets the praise. Maggie, in a moment I wish to frame and mount on a wall, point-blank tells Rick that the power dynamic will change because she knows her worth, and that of the people under her care. Rick, to his credit, acknowledges it and doesn’t seem all that torn up to have a little pushback. The third problem is proof that Maggie needs the spine of steel we saw in her conversation with Rick because someone’s out for her head. I’ll give you one guess who it is. Gregory was never going to let the election results stand, and Maggie should have known he’d take a funeral as a chance to plot against her. In another show of power, Maggie hangs Gregory in the middle of town using one of the most painful methods ever. It’d take a brave fool to go toe to toe with her anytime soon.
A quick note to wrap up . . . . Can we have a spin-off romantic comedy with Carol and Ezekiel? Seriously, all I want is to see these two happily joking with each other until the end of time. No cameos. No walkers. Just a blissful couple in an empty world being adorable. It’s been a rough year. We deserve this one nice thing.
Insane in the Germ Brain: Review for iZombie 411 by A. Zombie
Clean off your hands and don’t touch any of the episode spoilers below.
This episode is . . . problematic. Countering a slew of character issues are a few golden moments. We witness this sweet farewell to someone too young to die, but they greet Death bravely. Chase has empirical proof of how far Major will go to prove he’s firmly with Fillmore-Graves. Not to mention, the romantic drama in Clive and Dale’s corner is just a gut-kick. These sub-stories tell me the production team can indeed make us care for the characters in ways which will make softer souls tear up. So why on earth are all the Brain of the Week cases in the last half of this season so cringe-worthy?
This week’s victim, Vince, winds up having his head bashed in after cross dressing to perform in a skit critical of the HR representative at his office. Right off the bat, the premise is pretty transphobic—oh no, it’s a man in a dress, let’s laugh about his penis! Ravi calls back to the penis gag several times in a couple minutes. Why? Why address the victim’s genitals at all if the trauma is to his head? Vince’s privacy is further obliterated when his office rival discloses his mental illness without any pressure from the police whatsoever. Then we’re slapped with a red herring in the form of Liv’s vision starring Softball Bigot and his pals. Because Of Course the first real suspect for the murder is a man who freaked out because his masculinity was bruised after drunkenly hitting on a Man in a Dress. This is probably the lowest, most loathsome way to treat this character—a character who isn’t even transgender, by the way. But boy oh boy, do they code Vince’s final night like a trans panic murder. It doesn’t take an overly enlightened person to see what the writers intended, here. And you know what? It’s gross. They should have shelved this idea and brought in a new brain for the episode. All the needed, really, was a victim for Crybaby Carl that’d bring him into the PD’s spotlight. It could have been literally anyone inside the city walls, not (yet another) white man, with a mental illness, who happens to be dressed as a woman. This whole rant of a paragraph doesn’t even cover the insensitivity of how they handle Vince’s mental illness after Liv eats his brain. As far as characters go, Vince is literally a Mad Libs page which finds itself on a camping trip, only to wind up toilet paper because someone didn’t pack right.
On the big-picture side of the plot, Don E. helps Angus reach a global audience. The disturbance from his visceral hatred for humans ripples far, far from the theater-turned-church. In the end, the violence wraps back around to affect the people Angus swears he cares for, yet he escapes, as always happens with this man. In Seattle, hungry zombies feel at liberty to envision devouring humans passing by on the street, and possibly act on it if it were darker and more secluded, perhaps? Local politicians, including Peyton, are on their way to their D.C. flight—where they hope to prove humans and zombies can coexist—when the edited broadcast goes live. Fillmore-Graves sees a gigantic PR disaster. Major’s guilt over dismissing Angus as a serious threat makes one want to smack him upside the head. Of course this monster would continue to be a monster, genius. Why not keep him under stricter observation? Particularly by zombies who aren’t so inclined to fall under his influence. Angus is a wildcard none of the leaders in town can afford to entertain anymore. I suspect instead of Renegade as the next public execution, Chase will swap to Brother Love. It’d certainly go a long way toward convincing the United States government that they shouldn’t nuke the city.
Before Peyton leaves, she and Ravi visit her parents for dinner. To say the scene is awkward is an understatement. Once again, Ravi manages to undermine Peyton’s authority. Admittedly, it’s to
tell her bigoted father to shut his trap, so there’s mixed emotions involved. The odd group do reach a consensus on one matter when it comes to Peyton’s safety—they’d all rather her stay in D.C. instead of coming back to Seattle. She, of course, is having none of this silent retreat plan. Any problem in Seattle is hers to meet head-on. Seriously. She’s the closest thing they have to a mayor currently, unless they’re going to give up all pretenses and just call Chase Commander of the city.
Peyton’s position is vital to the Underground Railroad. Unfortunately, the need for her help comes after she’s gone. Doing her best to battle the brain’s influence, Liv busts into the border wall office dressed as Peyton. Why on earth would she be so bold? Well, Suki and a newcomer were stopped and held in the overly crowded waiting room. Liv lost one coyote to the authorities already, she’s not about to lose another. It’s a close thing, though, after she subtly freaks out due to the desperate people clamoring for help from the “mayor.” It seems reckless for them to bring in someone at this time, but the visitor is someone who desperately needs to reconnect with her daughter . . . Isobel.
Going into this story line, it was obvious Isobel wouldn’t stick with the show long. Then the actress made us all want to protect this darling, morbid as heck young lady. Even Isobel’s tired efforts to startle everyone by pretending to be dead provokes a little smile thanks to Izabela Vidovic’s acting skill. Where this story really works, and works well, is when Ravi comes to say his final goodbye. That goodbye comes after a heart-rending bout of denial. Rahul Kohli delivers his strongest performance yet in this scene. Seeing what could have been as far as a connection between all these characters makes one wish Isobel came in sooner. At least then maybe we would have seen the no doubt hilarious driver’s ED scene.
On the overlord side of the plot, Chase Graves screws up his own victory party. Big time. To even earn said party, first Major risks himself by knowingly walking into a bad situation in order to meet Roche’s boss. His team manage to not completely screw up the job and the bust is a resounding success. Then they fail to secure a weapon during prisoner transport, losing Roche in a city where he’s got all sorts of ties to people capable of making him vanish. After hearing the news, Chase snaps, blaming Gladwell for more or less everything that’s gone wrong in the last few months, if we’re honest. Anyone else uncomfortable with Chase being a neo-Nazi stand-in who routinely murders black women? Gladwell survives, so far, thanks only to being a zombie. Her partner doesn’t fare so well. Major would’ve died without those two in a stunt he only pulled in order to appease Chase. Now his white knight has blood on his hands. Will Major continue to march in Fillmore-Graves’ little army? He knows there’s a better cause to back just waiting for a savior dumb enough to join in.
As I said before, there’s just too much going on for this season. I’m loving certain sub stories, like Isobel’s visit, but dread Liv’s everyday work with the PD. Somewhere along the line, the focus went from telling quirky police stories with a zombie detective to complicated season-arcing plots which only vaguely fit together if one squints at the facts really hard and tilts their head. It’s a symptom of writers thinking they’re clever, yet the edited product is far from it because there’s only 40-ish minutes to tell all these stories. Sometimes less is more.
As if this week wasn’t busy enough, what with everyone rushing to see Black Panther approximately a dozen times before Saturday, we’ve still got a trio of zombie shows making their way back to the airwaves starting Sunday, February 25th.
Speaking of Black Panther, there’s a new Walking Dead season eight mid-season premiere trailer rolling before the feature film. By the way, the movie includes TWD star Danai Gurira in one of her fiercest performances to date, so don’t miss it. There are also trailers with about half a dozen other TWD alumni in them right now. I went to see a super hero movie and still had a chance to enjoy footage showcasing some of my favorite zombie-killers. Wins all around.
Here’s the latest trailer to help you wrap your head around saying goodbye to a certain young character:
The Walking Dead returns to AMC this upcoming Sunday at 9 PM.
Opting to go head-to-head with TWD, Ash vs Evil Dead‘s third season hits STARZ on Sunday at 9 PM. This season we’re learning about Ash the Family Man and what lengths he’ll go to in order to protect the family he kinda-sorta didn’t know he had. Evil finds a new target, Brandy, Ash’s daughter, and it’s determined to get to his offspring no matter what. It’ll take some cryptic warnings from Ruby, the reformation of the Ghost Beaters, and a lot of weird supernatural stuff to save everyone from a bigger, badder threat than ever before.
Season three looks like a heck of a ride, doesn’t it?
While still basking in the glow from some of our favorites returning to TV, don’t forget to tune into The CW on Monday, February 26th for the season four premiere of iZombie at 9 PM. Everything’s changed after zombies were revealed to the general public. New Seattle is walled up, but humans still scramble to get inside in order to save themselves from mortality. Zombie life is big business. But as we all know, embracing capitalism with both arms eventually rots society from the inside out. Will it happen quicker in this New Seattle thanks to the ruthless nature of some zombies? Not if Liv and her team can help it.
The Damned: Review for The Walking Dead 802 By R.C. Murphy
Timing issues continue to plague The Walking Dead in season eight. In this case, it’s pretty apparent that episode one and two were shot with every intention of tying them into one giant episode, and then the network to waved off the idea. That’s the only reason it makes sense for this episode, comprised of mostly fight scenes and awkward talking head bits, to be bookended by slow-motion reaction shots from the main cast. This is almost as bad as season one of Fear the Walking Dead where every scene was cut together with a slow pan of downtown Los Angeles. Did they run out of witty ways to engage the audience right off the bat? If this is war, as they’ve touted since the season eight media push began, why does this initial strike feel like it’s taking days, not hours?The groups split after the attack on the Sanctuary to carry out the rest of the eradication plan. Carol and Ezekiel lead Kingdom fighters to a Savior scout position where they lose the guy after a surprise grenade and walker ambush. They spend the entire episode walking and talking in the woods. Jerry gets a good whack in on a stray walker in their path. Ezekiel and Carol take the travel time to debate the merits of remaining hopelessly optimistic when in fact the odds of winning are heavily stacked against them. Well, that and a little flirting—subtly done, but still there. These actors have an entirely different conversation with their expressions and it’s testament to their skills that they progressed this unsaid thing between the characters while Carol’s basically saying she thinks they’re all going to die.
Group two, comprised of Alexandria people and lead by Aaron and Eric, hit a Savior stronghold safeguarded by Mara and her team. The plan is simple: Kill as many Saviors as possible and let the undead grab whoever survives the firefight. The fight itself is just like the shootout at the Sanctuary. Good guys hide behind armored cars, pop out their heads like perfect little targets, and shoot erratically at the bad guys, missing about 80% of the time. Yet again, the Alexandria cast takes the brunt of the losses, leaving a few named characters mortally wounded at the episode’s conclusion.
That’s not to say there weren’t any friendly losses within the satellite compound. Much like the last time they hit the location, the gang swept in—through the newly made zombie mote without much problem—and hit everyone in every room along every hallway. Somewhat. The slaughter stopped when Jesus’ conscious spoke up. His hesitation lead to an argument with Tara . . . in front of a Savior posing as a victimized worker. They nearly got killed in the name of a forced moral moment from the writing team. Tara’s mood swings likewise draws one from the action. She has every right to hate these people and want them dead, but the language she uses doesn’t always feel like something Tara would say as opposed to a character who’s always been abrasive and on the social outskirts. As much as she argues, Jesus’ stance on the conflict doesn’t change. Now they’ve got a gang of Saviors at gunpoint and a plan to finish which didn’t account for restraining and monitoring those who gave up without a fight.
Morgan may take umbrage to the very notion of Saviors surviving the onslaught. His cool took a hike quite some time ago. We’re dealing with a man similar to the broken soul they encountered hunkered down in a fortified city, speaking to himself and drawing on the walls. He walks into the fight without a worry, assured he’d survive because, “I don’t die.” Of course, dude, but maybe at least try not to offer yourself up as a nice, large target? In the process of Morgan totally losing his marbles, we’re treated to a rather nice fight sequence through the compound’s hallways. A new layer to Morgan’s story also came to light in this episode, with Jared recognizing Morgan and talking as though they’d worked together before under Negan. Which, honestly, makes sense. Morgan is a man everyone wants on their team if they need to keep the body count—alive or undead—high. Especially when he’s back on his Angel of Death gig. For as slow as the episode felt, once we dropped into Morgan’s head, time zipped right on by.
While everyone kept the Saviors busy, Daryl and Rick searched Mara’s compound to find a gun cache someone told them about before the ambush. Stage two of the plan is all about getting these guns in order to hold the line against incoming retaliation. So of course neither man finds the loot. Rick goes a step further, possibly orphaning an infant in the course of fighting toward what he thought was the gun room, not a nursery. Guilt-ridden and distracted, it gives someone the chance to get the drop on Officer Friendly. Morales is probably one of the most asked about characters whose survival was up in the air after they left the group. It’s great to see the writers dipping back into season one—with Morales’ return and the Little Girl Zombie tribute in the season eight opener—and make the show a little fun again. That’s certainly something we haven’t seen in a while, those little nudges from the past where things were simpler, before one man’s anger and ambition cost his friends and family their safety.
Ambition is contagious. Many of the other leaders show signs that they may stretch their people and resources to the limit in order to subdue the Savior threat. Is there a sane voice to pull everyone back before disaster strikes and they lose forward momentum in the war?
Being a fan whose interests aren’t necessarily the norm isn’t easy. We’re a small group. The shows we love don’t pull in the same kind of money or numbers as Game of Thrones or The Big Bang Theory, except TWD, of course. But it’s those smaller-budget zombie shows which really have fan’s hearts in mind. Or so I thought. There’s been some odd things happening in the background this year as far as production news goes. Yes, most shows we follow were represented at SDCC, but the information they gave us was as substantial as wet Kleenex. Now we’re a couple weeks out from the beginning of the Fall TV schedule, and two heavy-hitters for Team Undead have yet to announce an actual release date.
I’m looking at you Z Nation and Ash vs Evil Dead.
Starz has somehow delayed AvED’s announcements, despite filming being on schedule the last time we checked in with them. They’re trying to pacify fans by shoving Bruce Campbell out in the world to give interviews, all punctuated by the phrase, “In the third season, which has no release date yet.” None dare ask the man himself for a release date anymore. He deflects that question straight to his Starz overlords . . . who’re remaining mum through not only fan’s frustrated rants, but some tension from their star as his own frustrations rise thanks to this seemingly unprovoked delay from the network—this is an old struggle for them, as Campbell is notoriously short with fan questions he can’t answer due to network politics. Will we have the usual Halloween-time premiere? Will the show even make it to the small screen in 2017 at this rate? I’m trying not to be Debby Downer, here, but when a network broadcasts crickets instead of news, things don’t look good for the future of the show. That being said, AvED season 2 just hit Blu-ray/DVD, so if you’re jonesing for more gore-drenched laughs, at least you’re covered for a little while.
Syfy has been equally as quiet about Z Nation‘s return this Fall, though they’re slightly ahead of Starz by giving fans the vague promise of a September release, but that’s pretty much it. We know the gang is still filming up in Oregon. The museum which serves as their studio still allows fans to peek at the process, and the ZN Twitter page occasionally posts a filming update to advertise the experience. As for Syfy’s main accounts? Nada. Nothing. I scrolled for a bit while doing research and discovered the network is horrible about advertising their own shows, but has plenty of love for Game of Thrones and anything pop culture that they don’t create. It’s a serious disservice to their fans, actors, and production teams. What’s the point of using social media if you advertise someone else’s work ahead of your own daily? Yes, Syfy rebranded to (finally) accept geek culture as part of the network, but at what cost? Their focus remains outward, with most of their factoids and news coming from non-network sources. Meanwhile shows like Z Nation—not to mention their other women-lead shows Wynonna Earp, Dark Matter, Killjoys, and Van Helsing—are mired in uncertainty in regards to future seasons because it looks like a mere handful are interested online. But only because there’s nothing from the network to get excited about and share with the world in order to bring in new fans.
For an industry where numbers matter, Syfy and Starz seem utterly unwilling to do even a little footwork to bring in enough fans to justify a future for their horror-centric shows. The fans are here, guys. We’ve always been here, holding our breaths, waiting for shows to fill the gaps between halfway decent genre films. Don’t ignore people who want something to watch when you’ve got exactly what they need . . . except you can’t be bothered to spend the time/money to promote it. Z Nation and Ash vs Evil Dead are exactly what we’ve been begging for since TWD became bogged in their own success. It’s mind boggling that these networks still cannot tap into a built-in genre audience. Maybe peek out of your caves once in a while, dudes. Connect with the real world, perhaps? And for heaven’s sake, announce premiere dates more than 3-4 weeks in advance. Some of us have parties to plan.
Update: Murphy’s Law is real, folks. After this article was scheduled, Syfy finally announced that Z Nation will begin on September 29th at 9 PM. Of course, they didn’t come up with their own nifty graphic or anything. Instead the ZN Twitter account made the announcement by retweeting a post from the show’s co-creator, Craig Engler.
Twenty-Sided, Die: Review for iZombie 309 by A. Zombie
This week, Liv turns into a Dungeons and Dragons dungeon master. Only, she’s a cartoon of a human interested in table top gaming and ends up dramatically narrating everything. The second the brain is inconvenient, Liv magically remembers she can pilfer leftover Fillmore-Graves brain goop from Major. So the writers dragged yet another subculture through the mud, got a lot wrong according to my expert, and dropped the gag because it was too annoying to bring into Liv’s new relationship? Okay, sure.
There’s no resolution to this case, either. After the DM is poisoned during a gaming session, the red herring winds up being Dan the DM’s secret hobbit-fetish driven relationship with fellow player Zoe, and how the three other men in their gaming group likewise wanted to date her. I’ll admit, I almost turned off the TV and walked away from the episode. First, Ravi calls the gaming group nerds several times in a five minute span, then they bring on yet another case of Jealous Man Syndrome, in theory placing the blame for the murder on a completely innocent woman through her romantic choice. But she had nothing to do with what happened to Dan, because Dan was a secret international hacker. The FBI takes the case from Clive and Liv, leaving it all up in the air, along with the stench from all those decomposing, ancient DnD jokes they resurrected like it hasn’t been Hollywood’s favorite pastime to demoralize “geeks” since the Eighties.
Bringing the FBI into the case does allow the writers to kick Clive one more time via a face-to-face with Bozzio. She’s taking Dan the Dungeon Hacker’s case, yet absolutely refuses to take any BS from Clive when he runs outside to catch her before she’s gone for good again. We seriously need more scenes like this for Clive. He’s been the robot detective for three seasons, with half-second glances at something more under the scowl. I’d gladly follow the show for more from emotionally-expressive Clive, even if Liv were to bite the dust in the zombie/human war.
Major needs no help getting all up in his feels. With yet another new lease on life, Major stews in his recent past, cataloging what few good things remain after becoming the Chaos Killer . . . or Chaos Kidnapper, rather. There’s no shortage of motivation, Ravi has a trunk-load of hidden hate-mail from the CK era. Within the mountain of anger is one letter showing compassion. Shawna writes that she’s also found herself in a situation where she’s blamed for something she didn’t do and invites Major to reach out to talk anytime. He takes her up on the offer after watching Justin and Liv leave for Baracus’ fundraiser. Shawna doesn’t seem completely crazy, so there’s a chance Major gets to do something other than mope soon.
The Travelers may not be the bumbling fools we hope they’ll turn out to be. During the benefit, someone shoots Baracus. Things with these guys needs to wrap up quickly before the body count grows.
Ravi almost manages to be the savior he’s convinced he needs to be in order to woo a woman. While in the Travelers meeting, he steps in to put a kibosh on Harley Johns’ idea to kidnap a zombie, starve it, and live broadcast the outcome via internet to expose zombie-kind. The problem? These yokels have no clue how dangerous a cornered zombie can be. Outing himself as a morgue worker, and former CDC employee, Ravi warns them about a zombie’s ability to infect with a scratch. The mob calms down and agrees to the rational plan—wait for Ravi’s cure so if anyone is injured, he can cure them. Hint, there’s no way Ravi’s following through with that idea. He only needed to buy time.
Not nearly enough time, it seems. Thanks to Blaine’s little blue brain experiment, the Travelers have their hands on a genuine zombie . . . Don E. The dude stumbled into the street, tripping hard on doctored war veteran brain. The visions from Blain’s double-strength memory-enhanced brain are all consuming, pulling Don E. from the real world so much, he’s only aware of danger after Johns locks him in the back of his van and delivers him to Ravi. I mean, at least the dude isn’t at a secret government lab, but this means Ravi has to not only extract himself from the hate group, but also rescue an addle-brained zombie.
At peace again, Peyton actually has energy to focus on work. First priority? Figuring out what happened with Weckler. The best way to learn about a person after their death is to talk to someone they trusted with their deepest secrets. This expert laughed at the notion that Weckler, distraught after losing his wife, would spend his meager income on a dominatrix. Which is pretty much what I’d already figured out. So who’s the puppeteer behind the mentally unstable man? It’d be easier to list the powerful men in town who hadn’t paid tribute to the deceased dominatrix; finding one man amongst her client list with that kind of sway over legal matters isn’t going to be easy.
Perhaps the answer just slithered back into town. We wrap this week by saying hello to Boss as he’s smuggled into Seattle. This can’t be good. His Unfinished Business list is longer than my arm. Drat. Peyton just got her life somewhat together, too.
Next week, make sure the Ghostbusters are on your speed dial. Hopefully the episode will be a nice pallet cleanser going into the final episodes. I’d certainly like to laugh instead of groan during the show.
Eat a Knievel: Review for iZombie 308 by A. Zombie
Didn’t anyone on the iZ team look at the optics of a jealous white guy burning a black man alive for impregnating his white girlfriend during an ill-considered prank? We’re not above the race talk in a zombie setting. We’re certainly not allowed to forget that unconscionable crimes are perpetuated against people of color all over the United States thanks to the vitriol coming from the sitting president’s supporters. Yet again I’m left to wonder if this show’s production staff is horrifically isolated from the world or if they’re willfully ignoring the negative messages laced throughout this last season in particular. They have a whole sub story about chasing down men committing zombie hate crimes, then stage a murder where a young black man is burned alive for defiling another man’s “property.” In a world with infinite possibilities, countless ways to murder, and the ability to combine any color of people in a situation, these writers opted for too many instances of white men killing people of color. Let’s not forget, the Travelers are primarily white Republican types and their first known victims were a black family.
It’s not okay for the writers to make a buck on killing people of color. It’d be great if they quit preaching that women who step out of line will lose their lives or suffer great personal loss. Just knock it off already. It’s not entertaining. You’re attacking your target demographic! There’s no rational reason to target women and people of color so often. None. If that is truly all these writers can come up with, it’s time to put iZombie to pasture and give the money to creatives who’ll bring some actual representation to women-led shows and not trot them out like a freakshow.
The gimmick of the week: Liv eats an immolated professional prankster, tries to staple a guy’s tongue, and channels her destructive nature into a weird “same brain” date with Justin—which includes impalement by lawn dart.
Fillmore-Graves is left scrambling when someone, likely Travelers, blows up the corporate helicopter with Vivian Stoll and her advisors on board. This happens moments after Stoll privately outs Major as human and demands answers, along with a sit-down with Ravi. Major gets another chance to die for zombie kind, hooray. The new commanders seem far tenser than Stoll. I wouldn’t be surprised if the first act of outright zombie/human war comes from Fillmore-Graves. That bunch has itchy trigger fingers.
Blaine hatches a plan. Boy does it work well. There’s just one catch. He had to turn zombie again in order to put everything into motion. Once Blaine is back on his feet, he wipes out all of Angus’ goons. It’s rather impressive to watch Blaine now compared to Blaine pre-human. It’s the same man. Same memories. But this Blaine is flat-out done. He’s either going to rule the city or bite a bullet. So far, everything going in his favor. Good ol’ pops isn’t as lucky. Well, I hope he can hold his breath. The upside to another hostile deBeers takeover is Don E. and Blaine teaming up again to expand on the base Angus founded with The Scratching Post and all those back office meetings.
The episode wrapped with Liv leaving Ravi alone to infiltrate the anti-zombie hate group. Yeah. Like that’s going to end well. None of this will end well. War is knocking on the door.
The bad-news pair catch up with Doc and Addy near Wall Drug Store—which is apparently a battleground territory for the budding post-z political system. As expected, they’re riding in style, complete with an armed and gorgeous escort. President Sketchy—yes, you read that right—liberated the limousine from the President Bill Clinton collection at a museum in Little Rock, Arkansas. Sketchy proves he’s a people’s president, giving Addy and Doc a ride after their likewise-liberated Murphymobile overheats and keels over on the roadside. Must mean they’re really good friends. Doc and Addy might feel differently, but they’re stuck now as the presidential motorcade rolls into Wall Drug Store for the next stop on the campaign trail.
Funny, I don’t remember sexy dance routines as part of the typical political process. Then again, after the last year, anything is possible.
After coaxing the skittish locals from their hiding places with his sweet moves, President Sketchy wins over the crowd with half-truths, and a promise to build a giant wall around the north-west quarter of the USA. All the people have to do is donate to the cause. People who have so little, they don’t even have a clean water source within walking distance, and a serious number of them are falling ill by the minute.
Before Doc and Addy force Sketchy to do anything about the more immediate problem, another claimant to the deserted USA throne waltzes into Wall Drug Store. John L. Lannister and Sketchy are probably the worse candidates for the job. They’re full of hot air, empty promises, and so much ego it’s a wonder they fit it inside a limo. This is the moment in the show where they really unleash the full potential of the political-frustration-turned-humor brewing in the writer’s room. Hell, there’s even a jab at TWD when Sketchy and Skeezy argue about the newcomer, revealing they thought Lannister died— no one could’ve survived being surrounded by zombies near a dumpster! Yeah, but it only got that TWD character a little further down the road before he became a splat on the dirt. Lannister’s odds aren’t in his favor.
In the name of democracy, the presidential hopefuls agree to hold a debate, followed by a vote for the first post-z POTUS. Addy asks a load of hard-hitting questions, which the candidates dodge with Neo-like ability. They’re as skilled with words as they are at hand-to-hand combat—which is to say, they can’t even give each other a black eye, let alone convince anyone to follow their ideals for a renewed nation. The debate ends abruptly when a man from Rosebud, the town where Wall Drug Store gets their water, rushes in to tell them the entire town turned Z. The messenger does the same, leading the candidates to race to kill his reanimated corpse first. Neither succeed. Addy saves them.
In Rosebud, it’s bad. The entire population is undead, or committed suicide. Here’s a handy lesson for survivalists: Filters do no good if a zombie head is crammed in the system. Not only is Rosebud a ghost town, but the tainted water is what’s killing the WDS citizens, as well. Good thing they have a doctor on-hand. Kinda. What Doc lacks in in-depth medical knowledge, he makes up with the sheer ability to pay attention. Doc is a sponge, absorbing helpful tidbits here and there. Sure, those helpful tips get lost in the z-weed haze occasionally, but Doc’s always able to make things happen for the better. In this case, he realizes the simplest path is the best and treats the zombie remnants in the water like poison. All it takes is some activated charcoal down the hatch to counteract the urge to chomp on someone.
The people are healing, no thanks to either presidential candidate. There’s still the vote to handle. Or they could focus on the water issue and do something constructive with the attention they’ve grabbed . . . . Nope. Sketchy and Lannister opt to use Doc’s news about the tainted water as another barb to jab each other with while doing nothing to enact any change. The people do as bid and begin the voting process, anyway. What can they do? Their government has spoken.
Angry townspeople from a nearby city speak louder, though. They expose the hucksters and their nation-wide scam to rob impoverished people of their meager supplies while doing no actual work to fulfill their promises. The argument devolves into a fight, which morphs into a zombie attack. Sensing no winner in the situation, Addy and Doc steal the limo and run after ensuring the WDS Mayor has the zombies handled. That leaves Sketchy, Skeezy, and Lannister to flail and mudsling over their joint loss. Literally. They’re left wallowing in mud while Addy and Doc ride off in style. Fitting style, at that. The people at Wall Drug Store unanimously wrote-in Doc as the new President of the United States. I’m all aboard with that plan, man.
Out with the old baddies and in with the new. The Necronomicon has returned home to Hell after an extended vacation topside to chill with his Deadite homies. They’re probably lounging around a lava pit telling tales of possession and taking bets on how long Ash will last against Baal. One demon lord doesn’t seem that imposing in a franchise where the lead character faced an army of sassy skeletons and survived. Then Baal whipped out his massive powers.
Unlike some shows where the bad guys all have the same M.O., this one strives to venture into new, different lands. While having an episode plot based around “Who’s really the bad guy,” isn’t shining and new in the idea department, turning Baal into a skinwalker leaves a lot of fun to be had in a cliché plot device. It also allows the SFX department to give Baal’s goons a style not easy to forget. I mean, I’d wet myself if a skinless woman fell through my ceiling and ripped a prostitutes’ arm off, let alone forget it happened anytime soon. One failing in Baal’s powers is this seductive bullcrud he pulls on Ruby. She’s a badass, killing evil right and left; then Baal swivels his hips and she literally can’t form sentences? It’s a huge disservice to the female characters on the show to go from an episode where they clean house without any men to back them up, to Ruby practically begging for a little action from the guy who killed two women inside the sheriff’s station without blinking. Using sex to negate Ruby’s strength is a low blow. Ash gets laid all the time and he still gets the evil-slaying job done. Baal has so many other evil things he can do, let’s lay off the whole, “His groin is mesmerizing,” thing. Okay?
With everyone locked in the sheriff’s station wondering who’s got Baal crawling around in their skinsuit, tensions run higher than Chet’s blood-alcohol level. Sheriff Emery and Ash are at each other’s throats the entire time Linda is at the station. It comes down to Kelly to calm everyone down. By that I mean she grabs the sheriff’s gun and holds everyone hostage—when they’re technically already in a hostage situation. The Inception-like hostage situation happens again elsewhere in the station when Ruby goes to retrieve her dagger. Baal uses a deputy to work his D-Mojo on her, rendering her pretty much useless until the episode’s end when she just happens to help Ash save Linda.
Like having a skin-stealing demon on the loose wasn’t bad enough, Pablo’s got a mean case of what-the-hell-is-that spreading across his stomach. Personal theory, dude’s turning into something akin to the Necronomicon. Why else would he have Sumerian written across his torso? No one signs up for oozing boils and a dead language willingly. Ruby is thrilled about Pablo’s condition. Pablo would rather French kiss a shotgun. But, hey, he should be proud. He’s the key to saving the world . . . after dooming it by tossing the Necronomicon in Hell and freeing Baal.
Looks like more skin-jumping good times aren’t all that’s ahead for the show. Ashy Slashy may just finally win the girl this time around. Sheriff Emery isn’t the man his wife thought after shrieking throughout the fight with his skinless deputy. Linda breaks up with him then and there, totally falling for Ash’s blood-drenched swagger. All of them are out of their minds considering their having a lovers spat over a bisected, skinless corpse.
That’s the joy of this show. It doesn’t really care so long as Ash looks a fool, there’s about twenty gallons of blood used, and someone at home says, “What the heck is going on now?”
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.