Hostiles and Calamities: Review for The Walking Dead 711

Hostiles and Calamities:
Review for The Walking Dead 711
by R.C. Murphy

Whoa, speed demon. Before you read on, know this review contains episode spoilers. Now you may proceed.

Eugene isn’t the only story here. We’ve got two men making important decisions over the blessedly average-length episode. See, guys, they can indeed pack some decent story into forty-something minutes.

While Eugene finds his footing in the primary Saviors compound, Dwight has the rug yanked from under him. It’s not hard to connect the dots—Sherry freed Daryl, then ran away, and her ex-husband is the only one on-site to take the brunt of Negan’s anger. Unlike Daryl, it takes Dwight one night in the closet to get his Negan on, promising to hunt down his ex for the Big Man. That’s when things actually get good. Dwight never finds Sherry. He visits their old house and finds a note explaining why she did what she did, and why she is gone for good—likely already dead, given her lack of survival skills outside the ability to manipulate men. We’ve known for a while that Dwight isn’t a complete pile of rubbish. He fought to keep his sister-in-law healthy, only giving up in order to save Sherry once her sister passed and there was no need to keep the stolen insulin. For some, it is better to reside in the arms of the devil promising an easy life instead of struggling through a desert to reach the angels in a far-off, peaceful land. The price for that stunt was pain, originally. Now Negan cost Dwight the company of his still-loved wife, who was sole supplier of the meager good moments Dwight can hold onto with his memory problems.

Side note: Any time a disorder like this is handled with tact and care, a fairy gets its wings. This is not one of those instances. Sure, her letter was meant to sound heartfelt, but it fell short. Sherry mentions Dwight’s problem as her last manipulation tactic. It’s pretty crappy to gaslight a guy on your way off the mortal coil by stating you hope his mental disorder warps his sense of reality so he can cope with working under a monster.

Fortunately, it lights a fire under Dwight instead. From here on out, this is the guy to watch. He wastes no time in securing his place at Negan’s side by offering up a stress release tied to Daryl’s release—likely spurred by the afore-mentioned memory problem and that ever-present sense of doom. Hope no one was fond of top Negan toadie Dr. Carson. Poor guy catches the wrong end of a bad mood after Dwight plants enough evidence to convict him in the Court of Negan for the grave crime of freeing Daryl.

Eugene absorbs many, many important lessons in the episode, but none as important as what they all learned during Dr. Carson’s final moments—make yourself irreplaceable. There’s never been a place for Eugene in the world. He lied to Abraham to secure a spot in a vehicle headed anywhere safe, and perpetuated said lie for the sole purpose of garnering favor with Rick’s group. After the truth came out, everyone fell back on the notion that he doesn’t get respect because he’s weird, book smart, and lied to his best friends. The writers were good with leaving him there, wallowing in his omeganess until they needed a permanent outsider’s point-of-view in the Saviors’ camp. Who’s completely disposable? Eugene. Who’s most likely to piss off fans by falling in line with the bad guy? Eugene. He was set up to turn teams back when they reached Alexandria, guys. This is some long-game stuff going on in the writing room which could’ve resolved so much sooner to really shake up the show. Fans deserve more than Rick’s lame war-making attempts.

Over the hour, Eugene morphs from a pickle-jar clutching coward to a video game junkie with his finger on the Saviors’ pulse. Probably, maybe literally since the doctor died. How’s that? Eugene is not a doctor, you say? He was once upon a time, remember? The Lie is in play again. Will Eugene stumble and expose the truth? So far he’s pretty sturdy on his feet, dodging one attempt to use his kind heart to do harm. The wives thought the new guy would help poison Negan. They grossly underestimated a frightened man’s ability to figure out any plot which may endanger his safe place in the world. For so long as it is necessary, Eugene is Negan.

Look at all that character work! Look at it! There’s no lame zombie gimmick undermining the story. No grandiose ego-driven statement negated efforts from primary characters—Rick’s assurance he’d get his new fighters completely ignored the fact that Michonne’s ingenuity saved Rick in the pit and there’d be no army without her. The characters in episode 711 act, react, and plot their future in wholly believable ways. How is it they captured Dwight and Eugene’s struggle, but the Rick story line constantly fails to deliver? Next week’s preview looks like more of the same half-thought Rick antics, too. I’d rather spend more time watching Dwight work to screw up the Saviors from the inside out, honestly. I’m way, way over Rick’s suicidal war-mongering mission.


New Best Friends: Review for The Walking Dead 710

New Best Friends:
Review for The Walking Dead 710
by R.C. Murphy

Warning!!! This review contains episode spoilers.

The plot jumps across most of the main cast, yet gets very little accomplished other than confirming there’s a load of egotistic white men about to sacrifice civilians for a war none of them can win without God Himself putting His large foot down in the middle of the standoff. But this is television. God is the production team, and God’s footprints are all over this season, trampling any actual character motivation, and writing short-cuts to what They think are the “cool” story bits. In doing so, the writers lean heavily on character tropes they wove into a few men and it comes off really . . . bonkers. Like, shooting up a pizza parlor after buying into a bit of obviously false propaganda bonkers. Feel me?

But first, what’s up with the weirdos in the junkyard?

Let’s dig into Rick’s time with Jadis and her crew of near-identical and eerily silent folks. The language thing grated on my nerves. I know it has a point, to show that the group has been isolated for so long they’ve formed their own version of American English, but the heavy-handed use of their particular vernacular meant I had to watch the episode twice to fully comprehend Jadis’ explanation on how she came upon Gabriel and the items stolen from first the boat, then Alexandria. Even then, none of that truly mattered because Rick went into the junkyard ordeal knowing he’d win. His conversation with Gabriel after successfully negotiating with Jadis sucked the air from the plot and inflated his head. Rick was never ever in danger. He scoots through it with an impaled hand and an ally. Again. This guy can’t even make sure his son stays in the same county as their home, but somehow always manages to convince people he’s a magician capable of pulling miracles from his backside. Rick makes a ton of promises he can’t follow through with, all while sacrificing even more of the community’s food and keeping their strongest people from securing enough supplies so they can actually prepare for winter. Seasons are still a thing, and when one relies on the land to provide literally everything, gathering fresh produce to preserve is the difference between seeing Spring blossoms and eating your neighbor to keep your children’s hunger pangs at bay. But these are things which are never really addressed. No one is panicked about the missing food, nor the fact that the nearby area has been picked clean and there’s little to no fuel left to waste driving aimlessly. But Rick made new friends by wrestling a zombie, so it’s all okay. Little Timmy can just put the last of the BBQ sauce on his Auntie for Christmas dinner.

Plus, GoT did the “hero fighting a beast in a pit” thing way better.

The other problematic man hits a far different nail on the head—the white terrorist. Richard spots a kindred soul in Daryl almost immediately. They waste no time getting cozy over talk of bows and arrows. Then they march into Richard’s trailer, which is covered in guns and homemade incendiary devices, and its gets creepy. Here’s two hair-triggered white guys holed up in a secret location, armed to the teeth, and planning an attack. Sure, Daryl didn’t know Carol was the intended sacrifice, but that he went along with Richard’s hair-brained scheme at all is pretty scary. His moral code is so loose, free-range terror, no matter the intended target, doesn’t make him think about consequences. It’s not until the writers invoke the sacred Caryl maybe-‘ship that Daryl considers someone other than himself and the guilt from the wrong he committed through Negan’s baseball bat. And, really, if our hero needs a woman involved in order to do the right thing, he’s not a real hero. Richard, on the other hand, is a much more serious problem. In this episode he goes from lone wolf gunman, to luring in an accomplice, and by the time Daryl is done reading him the riot act for endangering Carol, he’s primed to become a suicide bomber. Daryl sees this, says the words himself which will more than likely set Richard on a suicidal path, yet allows the loose-cannon to walk away. That’s where I’ve always had an issue with Daryl, they write him as a self-centered twenty-something who can’t see past his greasy hair and hurt feelings long enough to actually protect anyone. He had every chance to stop Richard and wasted it. When Daryl does jump into action at the episode’s end, it’s by leaving The Kingdom alone. On foot. Headed to Hilltop. With a giant Negan-approved bullseye on his forehead. Because, again, he reacts and doesn’t think about consequences. Sorry, Daryl fans, but I’ve got a feeling they may be setting him up for a serious injury or death. This character literally has no future, no goals for one, and no potential to be a productive member of whatever society survives Rick’s pointless war.

Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon, Melissa McBride as Carol Peletier – The Walking Dead _ Season 7, Episode 10 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

“But Daryl didn’t tell Carol about Glenn and Abraham, that’s not selfish!” Yes it is. It’s completely selfish for Morgan and Daryl to perpetuate this lie in order to spare her. Yes, she’s fragile. But she’s not an idiot. Death happens. It’s guaranteed when the Saviors are involved. Lying just proves they can’t step out of their safe spaces long enough to A) Admit attacking the Saviors was stupid, and B) Comfort a grieving woman. The latter proves too difficult for many television writers, so they opt for shallow, deceitful men to protect the strong woman’s emotions. Coddling Carol will accomplish nothing, except maybe getting her killed when she inevitably overacts to the situation—the writers also have no clue how to handle Carol’s complex mind, but Melissa McBride does her damndest to perform the character’s heart through a jumbled script.

Rick got new friends, but owes them weapons he cannot secure. Tara knows where weapons are, but it’d involve breaking a promise and compromising the security of countless people. Alexandria has maybe enough food for the week. Daryl is on a suicide hike to Hilltop. And Carol is probably, maybe already figuring out some of her friends are dead and about to do something ill-advised. How is this preparing for a war with Negan? It really looks more like the other communities are about to implode. Maybe the war will be won by burying him with the bodies of Rick’s people. That’d certainly be something new.


Rock in the Road: Review for The Walking Dead 709

Rock in the Road:
Review for The Walking Dead 709
by R.C. Murphy

Gregory might be a pain in the backside, but he’s spot-on when he says his people are in no shape to take on the Saviors. First, why hasn’t the coward been deposed? Second, how in the world are we honestly supposed to believe these Hilltop farmers will just up and put complete faith in the war plan? It’s not even a real plan. Rick wants vengeance. That’s his plan. The whys and hows are nowhere to be seen. But the second the group—who barely survived a handful of dead in their walls—hears that Rick’s gathering troops, they’re ready to run in front of a bullet for him? It’s not logical. That’s not how people think. Rational people who say, “Yes, I believe in your cause enough to die for it,” still need facts. How will Rick supply weapons for his army? Do they have enough food and medical supplies for the civilians, let alone an army in siege? Transport for everyone? Do the writers have any clue how war happens? I dabbled in staging historical battles for public entertainment and could probably come up with a better game plan for defeating Negan than anyone in the writer’s room at this point. Except, I’d have to backtrack to the beginning of season six to maybe, possibly establish a plot worth watching.

I do not understand how anyone thought forty-nine minutes of diplomatic discussions and two minutes of undead action was a keen way to start Rick’s war.

About that action bit, though. It’s complete rubbish. Let’s think about this like a General would. I need info on the Other Guy, so I send a scout to take a peek, record valuable information, and return within a certain timespan. Why would that scout then risk moving enough stuff around in the enemy’s backyard to draw attention to their covert mission? That’s not how espionage works. Rick should have never been that close to Negan, first of all. The scouting mission had the potential to disclose perimeter defenses, driving routes to cut off or intercept, and possibly given the war council a clue about how many Saviors Negan actually controls. Rick blew it for, what? A couple rockets for a launcher they don’t have any more and old, weather-exposed TNT? He commanded a car full of Alexandria’s strongest fighters and they’re nearly eaten like apocalypse pedestrians for Rick’s non-plan. Not only did he nearly get them all killed, but Negan now knows someone has been near their compound, and they have some of the explosives. Only an idiot would assume one pack of TNT does the same damage as over half a dozen, plus the rockets. Negan is not an idiot—unless the writers show their hand and write him that way to justify a ridiculous, pointless scene.

The point of using espionage in war is to undermine a superior power with their own information. If the bad guy knows what information you have, they can change it.

So, here’s the run-down: Hilltop says no way, but a band of brave fighters blindly sign up to fight anyway. The Kingdom, despite Rick lecturing Ezekiel like he wasn’t a dozen rungs ahead on the leadership skills ladder, respectfully steps back from the war council. Gabriel stole all their food and gear, then drove off at 3 AM. But Rick’s got dynamite, so they’re totally going to win the war. It’s a mess, run by a guy who’s blinded by ego and hate. Wait. That sounds familiar.

Oh and it looks like we’re going to meet yet another survivor group, because Rick blindly wandered into their trap.

I do have to stop before wrapping this up to point out the one shiny, kind of awesome thing the writers added during Rick’s trip to The Kingdom. Too many times, we’ve seen Rick plow on without considering those left at home to hold the fort. Ezekiel doesn’t lead from the front lines like Rick; he’s home caring for the people who gave everything to keep his people safe and happy. He spends time with the fighters who’ve suffered great physical and mental trauma. There’s not a moment when he’s amongst his people that the evidence and truth about war doesn’t scream for attention. The injured aren’t sequestered in a hospital or clinic, though. Once they heal, they’re absorbed back into society and given a way to help others—in this particular scene, two amputees appear to teach archery with not one instant wasted on making them appear weaker or more inept than Rick’s crew. To see the sensitivity with which they handled this touchy social issue is, frankly, surprising. The writers chickened out over the chance to treat lesbians on equal footing as straight couples or the token gay couple, opting for death over character development requiring a smidge of emotional growth on their part. Not to mention, the gay couple is constantly separated, leaving tender moments between them too few to fully believe they’re a couple. We also have the ever-present singular black man issue, as well—who can honestly say it’s not problematic when the writers treat characters from one particular race as a Highlander-type scenario. It’s pretty much guaranteed that the show will literally collapse and form a black hole if there’s another Asian brought on as a lead character. And we’ll just pretend I had a five-thousand word rant over Rick blithely passing his parenting duties to complete strangers while constantly putting himself and their home in danger. While the writers get a gold star for treating the disabled as real people, they’ve got a long way to go on so many other issues.

The second half of the season is not delivering as promised. The mid-season premiere is so underwhelming, die-hard fans could read a paragraph synopsis and not feel cheated out of fifty minutes. Honestly, guys, just jump to the moment Rick and Michonne hop in the cars on the freeway. That’s all the showrunners paid attention to, so why not follow their lead? Next week better have more plot. Stringing along the fans by putting minimal effort into the story while buying new houses with the profits is a crappy way to keep a fanbase.


Into The Unknown, Vol. 3

Into The Unknown, Vol. 3
by R.C. Murphy

Their numbers are tragically far, far fewer than those the main group has buried over seven seasons. Guess it just got easier to write deaths opposed to penning compelling reasons why anyone would distance themselves from Rick’s flawed leadership. Whereas we mourned the loss of numerous great characters in the Life After Death articles, in this sister-series I’ll take a stab at predicting what happened to our absent survivors, and we’ll catch up with the actors who brought them to life.

The patients and police inside Grady Memorial Hospital were never that endearing. They held onto a backwards work-for-safety program which enslaved countless people whose only downfall was the ill fortune to get sick or injured. While not every officer involved in the scheme was cold-hearted, they weren’t winning any humanitarian awards. This was a warning shot, a preview of what would come during the Negan era on a far larger scale. But did the hospital’s residents find as much success once their standing power structure crumbled seconds before Rick and company left them to own Atlanta? Sure, Amanda stepped up to present herself as a voice of reason. That doesn’t mean anyone let her take charge. They’d tasted power. Giving it up wouldn’t be easy. Luckily for Amanda, the officers who posed the deepest threat magically caught a case of dead. The flipside is, they lost half their fighting force and the patients don’t seem nearly as eager to strap on a bullet-proof vest and fight the undead as their deceased overlords. Holding the hospital would be hard, especially after all the human foot traffic drew walkers closer and closer. Given their resources, the best bet would be to stabilize the still-ill patients and begin moving to a smaller, more manageable safe haven. They had vehicles at the ready—one such car ran over Carol. All they had to do was find a building which hadn’t been blown to hell by the US government. Barring a surprise mutiny, Amanda would have been able to move her people to a safer building, while continuing to provide the only medical services within a hundred miles or more.

Teri Wyble proved to be the stand-out star hidden amongst the tough-as-nails Atlanta police officers throughout the Beth-kidnapping saga. We had a sense of who Rick was dealing with through their interactions with Beth, Noah, and the other patients, but Teri’s bone-chilling performance during the scene where they discuss how to use Amanda and Licari to get Carol and Beth is what sold the real threat behind Dawn’s regime. Since waving goodbye to the run-down hospital, Teri joined Powers for its second season as Nicole Glantz—a persistent investigative journalist for PTB News. She has also appeared on Zoo, and the military mini-series Six on the History Channel. In 2015 Teri joined Arnold Schwarzenegger and Emilia Clarke in Terminator Genisys. The following year she was in the Tom Cruise action flick Jack Reacher: Never Go Back. Her next project is Shock and Awe, also starring Milla Jovovich, Jessica Biel, and Woody Harrelson.

Sonequa Martin-Green as Sasha, Tyler James Williams as Noah, Chad Coleman as Tyreese, Christopher Matthew Cook as Officer Licari and Teri Wyble as Officer Shepherd – The Walking Dead _ Season 5, Episode 8 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

As probably the only practicing doctor in a hundred miles, Steven Edwards had the weight of the world on his shoulders. Bringing such an overwhelmed but cool headed character to life fell to the talents of Erik Jensen. Once his time TWD time ended, Jensen appeared on Major Crimes, The Blacklist, TURN: Washington’s Spies, Chicago P.D., and High Maintenance. Mr. Robot fans will recognize Jensen from his recurring role as conspiracy theorist and talk show host Frank Cody. Early 2017, Jensen appeared in Police State with Sean Young and fellow TWD alum Seth Gilliam. When not in front of the camera, Jensen spends his time on the stage.

Not all the tough-guy officers living inside Grady Memorial died in the name of Dawn’s endless thirst for power. Licari survived purely because he knew when to back down in order to see tomorrow. Christopher Matthew Cook filmed Roundball, Mr. Right, Ctrl Alt Delete, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, along with a guest appearance on Zoo since shedding his Atlanta police uniform. In 2016, Cook joined Nicholas Cage and Willem Defoe in the crime drama Dog Eat Dog.

Franco lived in the fringe, just doing what Dawn ordered while not pulling attention to himself. Honestly, that’s all most people want and will do anything to protect their quest to blend in where they’re safe from most threats. Post-TWD, Rico Ball—the man who brought Franco to life—appeared as Deion Brown in the romantic drama Love N Success. Ball has also appeared in 3-Headed Shark Attack and The Boss. Last year, he was in the first season of Zoe Ever After.


Into the Unknown, Vol. 2

Into the Unknown, Vol. 2
by R.C. Murphy

Their numbers are tragically far, far fewer than those the main group has buried over seven seasons. Guess it just got easier to write deaths opposed to penning compelling reasons why anyone would distance themselves from Rick’s flawed leadership. Whereas we mourned the loss of numerous great characters in the Life After Death articles, in this sister-series I’ll take a stab at predicting what happened to our absent survivors, and we’ll catch up with the actors who brought them to life.

The ultimate fate of the Vatos has been up for debate since information leaked during TWD’s second season production linking at least one of the actors to the season premiere. Before the second season hit AMC, the scene in question—featuring Vatos leader Guillermo as a walker in the overrun nursing home—was cut. It’s not cannon if it’s never aired in the episode, right? That’s what we at the ZSC like to think, and it’s not just because we have a soft spot for these guys.

So what did happen after Rick and company armed the Vatos and left Atlanta for good? As always, I have theories. It was only a matter of time before the patients at the home gave in to the perils of old age and stress from constant walker threat. Sad to say, but the only way the Vatos survive is because their patients succumb to the inevitable. Guillermo and Felipe wouldn’t stay put after that. Not in an unsecure building smack dab in the middle of walker territory. We don’t know much about undead numbers in the areas around Atlanta, save the quarry, to really nail a new base of operations for the guys. With a crew in tow, going vast distances without a ride wouldn’t work. Hell, even driving fifty miles in the apocalypse is a huge risk. In the end, I fully believe the strongest Vatos would have made it out of Atlanta. Maybe they headed toward the ocean. Maybe they found a stronghold near their home city and fortified it. Those guys had too much heart and too many smarts to linger in the dead’s city once their obligations to their patients ended, or even before if things took a turn for the worst. G and his guys aren’t the type to sit and wait to die. For TWD writers to consider otherwise proves they don’t even understand their own characters’ motivations.

Guillermo provided one of the most surprising moments for Rick, simply because the guy’s leadership style didn’t involve slaughtering everyone and taking what they wanted. Matter of fact, G wasn’t even in a power position at the old folk’s home, just stayed because it was the right thing to do. That strong moral backbone is why Neil Brown Jr. was the perfect man to play the role. Keeping up with the guy’s career is a whole ‘nother matter. Post-TWD, Neil hit Hollywood hard and fast, appearing in projects like Battle: Los Angeles, Weeds, Rivers 9, Insecure, and NCIS. Then he got The Call, he’d landed the role as DJ Yella in the N.W.A. biopic Straight Outta Compton, which also stars O’Shea Jackson Jr, Jason Mitchell, Corey Hawkins, and Aldis Hodge. In 2016, Neil joined an eclectic cast, and an even weirder writer/producer, for BBC America’s Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. Neil, and his furry costar Bentley, steal every scene they’re in. Dirk Gently will return for a second season. Catch Neil alongside Johnny Depp and Forest Whitaker in the upcoming film LAbryinth. He’s also in Sand Castle with Henry Cavill and Glen Powell, which will stream on Netflix in the near future.

It takes a special sort of soul to give up any hope of salvation in order to tend to those in need. Felipe could’ve split, leaving Abuela and the others to the undead. He didn’t. Not only did he stay, he still provided the nursing care the residents needed. Noel Gugliemi proved to be ideal for such a kind-hearted, but tough character. His smile is infectious, spreading to each fan he meets during numerous convention appearances. On the small screen, Noel has been a regular on Fresh Off the Boat, with appearances on The Mentalist, Chosen, and Bones. For the blockbuster Furious 7, Noel reprised his role as Hector, joining franchise regulars Vin Diesel and Paul Walker for another action-packed film. Since TWD he’s also appeared in The Dark Knight Rises, For the Love of Money, The Purge: Anarchy, and Vigilante Diaries. Catch him in the upcoming films Pope opposite TWD co-star Neil Brown Jr, and Charlie Charlie which also stars Tom Sizemore and Eric Roberts.

Vatos member Jorge never backed down from a fight. He provided the security G and Felipe needed to keep the patients safe. James Gonzaba went on to film several short films after TWD. He’s appeared on CSI: Miami, and fans can find him in the films The Return of Johnny V. and Gino’s Wife.

Ah, Abuela. No one was going to get anything past her, let alone the very men keeping her safe from day to day. Gina Morelli provided the perfect amount of sass for the role, giving me endless joy while watching a wall of strong men part like the Red Sea for her entrance. After the show, she went on to film several projects, including an appearance on the TV movie Fabulous High.

Need a hand, Miguel? I’m not sure Anthony Guajardo will ever live down the moment when Reedus flung Merle’s hand onto his lap. It’s pretty much burned into fans’ memories. Anthony was the first Vato on screen, giving us plenty of attitude and laughter. Since leaving the show, he’s worked on several short film projects like The Symphony of Silence, Arose the Coward, and Emily. Anthony joined Daeg Faerch and TWD co-star Noel Gugliemi in the 2016 teen drama Ditch Party. Recently, Anthony wrapped production on The Pizza Joint and The Margarita Man, so keep an eye out for the release dates.


Into the Unknown Vol. 1

Into the Unknown Vol. 1
by R.C. Murphy

Their numbers are tragically far, far fewer than those the main group has buried over seven seasons. Guess it just got easier to write deaths opposed to penning compelling reasons why anyone would distance themselves from Rick’s flawed leadership. Whereas we mourned the loss of numerous great characters in the Life After Death articles, in this sister-series I’ll take a stab at predicting what happened to our absent survivors, and we’ll catch up with the actors who brought them to life.

Morales and his wife Miranda may be the wisest characters in TWD history. The morning after walkers ambushed the quarry camp, they grabbed their kids—Louis and Eliza—and left before they joined the others in the graves poor, delirious Jim dug. Anyone in the camp with half a brain should’ve left behind the Grimes love-triangle mess, which had in a way compromised the safety of the camp. Grasping at the flimsy straws the CDC trip offered wouldn’t help in the long run, either, and Morales understood this. If his family were destined to die, he wanted to be near kin. I don’t blame him. I’d rather die with family than alone or surrounded by strangers. With meager supplies, Morales and family would have to use the freeway on their way to Birmingham, Alabama in order to scavenge enough to get by on their own for an undetermined time. That near two-hundred mile trip is a breeze nowadays. With the dead out and freeways clogged with abandoned vehicles, it’d probably take an entire day to reach their destination. Did they find their family? I like to think an uncle or cousin escaped unscathed, establishing a safe community for the area, and Morales takes over as their leader. Morales presented himself to Rick not as The Leader of the quarry group, but a person willing to make hard calls to spare everyone else the burden, so it’s only natural he care for his own community.

The charisma Juan Gabriel Pareja displayed in his first scenes on the show is all-natural and requires no acting, something fans have come to learn over the years as he makes appearances alongside TWD alumni at conventions throughout the United States. Pareja has been busy on the small screen, securing a recurring role on Amazon’s Goliath, which also stars Billy Bob Thornton, Maria Bello, and William Hurt. He also co-starred on shows like Castle, The Mentalist, and Hawaii 5-0,. Pareja did some voice acting post-TWD, lending his talents to the video games Battlefield 4 and Dead Rising 3. Catch Pareja in action in Crackle’s Mad Families, alongside Charlie Sheen and Leah Remini.

Viviana Chavez didn’t have an overabundance of screen time while the Morales family camped with the others. Miranda was soft-spoken and supportive of her husband. Often, her time was spent with the camp’s children. On the flipside, Viviana is quite outspoken, and quite busy. Recently, she’s joined forces with several other film creators to create Bed Head Media. She also operates a photography business, Vivify Photography. On the screen, Chavez has been on a slew of fan-favorite shows like Homeland, Reckless, Sleepy Hollow, and Quantico. She’s also landed roles in Nightcrawler, Furious 7, and The Accountant.

As half of the total children in the quarry camp, Noah and Maddie Lomax provided a way to establish some fond memories for Carl before his path took a dark turn after his mother’s death. The Lomax siblings, portraying Morales’ high-energy kids Louis and Eliza, were the reason behind some of the rare light-hearted moments on the show. They’re also the only non-Grimes children on TWD to survive for more than two seasons so far. Maddie has taken time away from acting post-TWD. Noah went on to star in several films, including Safe Haven, 99 Homes and Brave New Jersey to name a few. He also has guest-starring spots on The Middle and Bones.


Life After Death: Vol. 12

Life After Death: Vol. 12
by R.C. Murphy

Unfortunately, the reality during an apocalyptic scenario is that most people will not make it far with their families intact—these folks tend to fall to the wayside on the show quite often. Some of them shuffled off the mortal plain with next to no one left to mourn their passing, even amongst their neighbors. One we wished had made it to the current time line completely stole the show for a too-brief time. Then there’s the one with so much potential, killed off before the writers would have to tackle any hard questions about women’s sexuality when it isn’t in a heterosexual relationship.

We’re taking a look back at season six’s dearly departed, and catching up with the actors who brought them to life.

EEmbryWhen you need to kill off someone, but make it seem impactful, you write the perfect jerk. Carter was season’s six’s sacrificial lamb—slaughtered by the group’s incompetence to make a point that Alexandria does indeed need Rick’s people to teach them the way, and that any who speak up against him will meet the wrath of God. Seriously, that’s how a lot of the deaths for season six felt, like the writers were over-reaching and showing their hand when they plucked problematic characters from Rick’s takeover path with little fallout for the hero. A shame, really. Ethan Embry, the man behind Carter’s short yet impactful time on TWD, could’ve brought a lot to the table acting-wise. He was perfect as a “friendly” antagonist, countering Rick’s attempt to steamroll into town and set up a military camp in what had been a peaceful settlement.

Post-TWD life has been pretty busy for Embry. He starred in The Devil’s Candy opposite Shiri Appleby and Pruitt Taylor Vince, along with Fashionista starring Amanda Fuller and Eric Balfour. Embry stars in Cheap Thrills, which is currently available to stream on Netflix. On January 13th, Amazon will release Sneaky Pete. The series was created by Bryan Cranston and David Shore (House), with stars Ethan Embry, Giovanni Ribisi, and Marin Ireland. Embry also plays Coyote Bergstein on Netflix’s hit comedy Grace and Frankie. The series stars Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin. It has so much fan appeal, Netflix secured a third season before the second season aired. The third season will be released on the streaming service May 2017.

MTraynorNicholas never really endeared himself to anyone, let alone TWD fans, during his half-dozen appearances on the show. He, like Carter, were guys determined to keep things as they were before the prison refugees joined their community. After Glenn bruised his ego, he made it his life’s mission to eradicate the newcomers. In the end, Nicholas’ childish reaction to criticism killed numerous people, including himself. His final act, suicide, did have the unexpected bonus of saving Glenn. Guess Nicholas’ life wasn’t a complete waste.

Michael Traynor didn’t pull the long straw when it came to characters fans would clamor over for years to come. That being said, Traynor is such an awesome guy, they love him anyway. He can often be found living it up at various horror conventions throughout the United States, appearing alongside other TWD stars to meet their fans. Traynor went on to guest star on Freeform’s The Fosters for several episodes. Playing the father to a teenager possessed by an alien creature, Traynor appears in the upcoming sci-fi thriller Ascension alongside Christie Burke and Ana Mulvoy-Ten. He also stars in another thriller, this time with a horror twist, in Needlestick. In October 2016, Traynor appeared in the Youtube Red original thriller The Thinning. His next project is the ’80s drama Juke Box Hero, out later this month.

It’s no secret I loathe flashback episodes on TWD, but when they introduced Morgan’s personal savior, Eastman, it was worth the flashback trauma. He’s calm, collected, a pro with a staff, has a goat, and is obsessed with making the perfect cheese. Basically, this is the guy you want around when the crap hits the fan. Eastman’s story is far from cut and dry. Matter of fact, I constantly lament FTWD not existing as Eastman’s story instead of the lackluster plot they opted to follow. We didn’t get nearly enough time with a seriously complex character, nor did we get to fully enjoy the tension in his background which made him such an intriguing person.

JCLynchWe also didn’t get enough time to bask in John Carroll Lynch’s brilliance. This guy has been on the genre fan’s favorite list for years, only adding to his status in our hearts with his TWD appearance. After, he returned to American Horror Story for AHS: Hotel, joining the weirdest dinner party ever as John Wayne Gacy. Lynch appeared as James Rivington on TURN: Washington’s Spies. Joining Jennifer Beals and Olivia Thiriby, the trio starred in the thriller White Orchid. Lynch also appeared alongside Matt Bomer and Maura Tierney in Anything. In December 2016, Jackie released with Natalie Portman in the title role and Lynch playing Lyndon B. Johnson. Later this month, the biopic The Founder releases, starring Lynch as Mac McDonald, along with Michael Keaton and Nick Offerman. SyFy’s creeptastic Channel Zero returns in 2017 for a second season, with Lynch coming onboard as John Sleator.

When the apocalypse happens, anyone with a trace of medical training will be king. Or in this case, queen. Denise didn’t start out her time in Alexandria as the community’s doctor. Thanks to Pete’s little self-destructive outburst, she was thrown into the position and forced to adapt or get people killed. As far as competency goes, she doesn’t do too horribly. As far as fair treatment from the writers? Not the same story. Denise suffers from the writers thinking they could handle two sets of gay characters. Aaron and his husband were established before Rick’s people got to town, leaving the romantic bits between the men sparse, without the passion from new lovers and rife with awkward moments where the writers flounder finding reasons for them to touch without it being “too much” for a predominately straight target audience. Conversely, Denise and Tara form a bond over their awkwardness within the show’s action. It morphs into a relationship which could have been refreshing, but never gets any time to develop—like the writers thought its mere existence was enough to convince viewers they were being inclusive and sensitive to gay viewers. It leaves us forced to believe two women in love can’t find enough time to be in a relationship, or even touch each other, if there’s anything else going on in their lives. Denise is another victim of the writer’s half-handed attempt to do something different, but when it proved too tricky (damn being sensitive to an already media-tormented people) they put her in Daryl’s story line to kill her. Sigh.

MWeverNot to fear, Merritt Wever isn’t gone from the airwaves for long. She’s laid low since saying goodbye to Denise in such a violent way, but is set to make a splash in her next project. Mever will appear as Mary Agnes in Netflix’s upcoming six-episode series Godless. The show is set in the American West during the 1880s, where a couple of warring outlaws find themselves in La Belle, New Mexico—a town completely devoid of men.


Hearts Still Beating: Review for The Walking Dead 708

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Hearts Still Beating:
Review for The Walking Dead 708
by R.C. Murphy

Watch out, there! Episode spoilers lurk in this review.

It took seven additional episodes for Rick to realize a woman was right. Not only that, Michonne has echoed the sentiment the entire time, only backing down when he’d momentarily convinced her things would work out. Rick is surrounded by women telling him to stop being a door mat. Does he listen? Nope. Not until several other people kick the bucket and Negan gets the chance to show off for the people who didn’t witness the murders Rick obviously failed to explain in great detail. Are the writers intentionally adding misogyny to Rick’s bag of tricks? Why take seven episodes to do the only thing which makes sense, unless it’s to prove Rick can think for himself without some chick butting in? Maggie calls for war and she’s too emotional to make a rational decision. Rick has two friggen corpses right outside his house and when he jumps to, “We have to declare war,” it’s completely natural to believe he’s in his right mind. Because men handle death better. Because Maggie’s marriage deemed her an emotional risk. Because the writers have no clue how to actually cobble together an interesting war story which doesn’t revolve around men with guns at the helm. I called it weeks ago; Maggie should be the general in this army. Rick is so wishy-washy, he sparkles. That is not who you want leading the charge against Negan.

twd-708-aratrositaEveryone on a suicide mission, please stand up. Whoa. That’s a lot of ill-advised—nah, you know what? It’s dumb. It’s idiotic to have half the main fighting force split and scamper off like little mercenary rats. Defying the odds, they all head in different directions, but still manage to find what they want. Carl didn’t want to be marched home by his shirt collar, that’s for sure. But he still got a couple shots off in Negan’s presence, and let’s not forget the man himself admitted to being afraid of Carl’s particular brand of crazy. Rosita got the easiest commute when Negan happened to show up just as she’s obtained her precious bullet. And, as predicted, she throws away her shot. Well, unless you count Lucille’s non-fatal wound. On top of blowing her chance to kill Negan, Rosita more or less hands Eugene to the Saviors—a new bullet-making toy Negan happens to find on the road—and Olivia’s skull is ventilated by Arat during the search for the bullet-maker. The “Let’s Kill Negan” chemical isn’t just in the water in Alexandria.

twd-708-carolmorganRichard interrupts a short catch-up chat between Morgan and Carol, petitioning her to appeal to Ezekiel about going to war—though it took him ten minutes to get to the point. Carol’s reaction is exactly what we expect; she’s out of the war game and just wants to be left alone to read on the couch. Morgan isn’t all-aboard the war train, either. Richard won’t let the idea go, and with how the episode ends, he’ll get his war soon enough. Michonne is the only one to leave on a suicide mission and come back without taking a shot at her target, because she chose not to endanger herself or her people by foolishly attacking an armed body large enough to steal the stubborn from her spine. The only action Michonne sees after kidnapping the Savior, Isabelle, is when the woman instructs her on the best method of survival—shoot Isabelle, take the truck, go home, and hide the truck so well no Savior ever finds their missing property and comes for answers.

twd-708-mandateOn the other side of the fence, there’s people like Gabriel, who just want to keep everyone alive and as happy as possible. We also have the token sympathizer, Spencer. It doesn’t take long for him to figure out the game, especially after the blonde Savior, Laura, all but shags him there by the truck for a job well done fetching supplies. With his newfound momentum, Spencer spruces up for a man-date with Negan, complete with a bottle of whiskey in tow. The pair hit it off so well, they opt to play a game of pool out in the gorgeous weather. The town gathers to watch, and it does not a thing to still Spencer’s tongue. What’s galling is the writers failing to have anyone step up and tell Spencer to shut his entitled, bratty mouth. Yes, Negan shuts him up in his way, but there’s a couple dozen people standing around who know Rick can’t realistically be held accountable for the Monroe family’s deaths. It’s ludicrous to bring most of the cast in and use them as wallpaper for a scene we see coming fifteen minutes in advance. Mix it up a little. Want to show dissention in Rick’s ranks? Use the crowd in the scene, not as props. Let them speak for once. Why drag around the remaining handful of Alexandria characters and not use them? Looking back at seasons past, there’s only one or two people left from each main safe-haven Rick visited. Why? Because character development is a luxury one doesn’t possess when driven by a network to make everything bigger and better. More blood! More fighting! But, god, please no more getting to know the guy who lives three houses down from Rick. He might just have some insight, but we’ll never know because he could be replaced with a cardboard standee and it’d be just the same as it is now. Unless that guy goes batty and kills everyone, he’ll never get a chance to be more than a generic-named background noisemaker.

In the episode’s big moment, they brought everyone together in Alexandria to silently watch Spencer do the dumb thing and get dead. Surprise. Not. Snooze.

Pro tip, writers: Stop holding the dreaded relationship conversation right before you plan to kill a character. It gives the death away every single time.

Rick and Aaron bring supplies, but fail to remove a rude note from one tub. Aaron receives the punishment for such insolence while Rick wrings his hands. Who does that? Who finds an offensive note and thinks, “Let’s leave this here for the psychos to find.” The same guy who keeps racking up debt from an overlord because he can’t keep his people in line. We’ve known for years that Rick isn’t a leader. Spencer just went about trying to depose him the wrong way.

twd-708-warcouncilarrivesMichonne comes back to tell Rick they have to kill Negan. He has the gall to say he knows. See my first paragraph again if you need a refresher on, “The friggen man just can’t admit the women are right.” We end the episode in Hilltop with a lot of hugs. Why, though, is there two minutes of awkward reaction shots before they head inside? Why is Rosita with the war council when she screwed up so much? Do we care that Daryl and Jesus made it to Hilltop? Nah, I care more that Daryl bludgeoned Fat Joey for no real reason while pretending his decision to murder was better than any decision Joey would’ve made in his future—all a pretense to bring Daryl back to his more aggressive form, which won’t work when the character has no substance to work from.

They’re promising war when TWD returns in February. I’ll assume all the gut-wrenching moments the actors and producers warned us about are in the final episodes, because nothing I saw in these eight wowed me and made me think anyone in the TWD camp gave a crap about making a quality story.


Sing Me a Song: Review for The Walking Dead 707

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Sing Me a Song:
Review for The Walking Dead 707
by R.C. Murphy

Warning! This article contains episode spoilers.

twd-707-neganjoeyconfrontcarlRest your worried minds, Daryl fans. You won’t need secret decoder rings for his new mute lifestyle. He’s not a poor, injured bird needing a helping hand. Contrary to just about every fan theory floating around after Negan’s big visit to Alexandria, Daryl’s tongue wasn’t cut out, nor were his lips somehow secretly sealed shut—guess y’all are so bored you’ve resorted to outlandish theories to pass the time like this is the Westworld fandom. The dude simply had the wherewithal to keep his trap shut while around people Negan would hurt in a blink if it guaranteed Daryl would finally fall in line. That good sense flew out the window once the guys reached home-sweet-home. One would think with Carl going all Rambo, Daryl would be extra mindful to provide an example in how not to get dead. Instead, he constantly oversteps his bounds—an intentional, ham-handed way to get Daryl alone in his time-out closet so someone can just hand him the key to freedom. Passive character is passive and only gets dragged along to boost viewer numbers.

twd-707-spencerfindsstuffThe story is overly padded with side missions to find stuff or make stuff . . . and things. The Rick arc is pointless. Why do we need to follow he and Aaron on a fruitless—so far—supply run? Then we leave them without having any real conflict beyond, “Oh, there may be stuff in that boat in the zombie-pond.” Spencer accidentally scores a big hit after rifling through a dead guy’s pockets. Spencer could accidentally cure the dead and I wouldn’t care. His character isn’t. He’s Silly Putty, copying whatever’s around him, but half-assed and backwards. When Spencer does attempt to become a valuable part of society, he fails to support anything beyond his own interest in predictable ways. Rosita drags Eugene to the one place he doesn’t want to go—the warehouse with the makings for the now defunct bullet factory he and Abraham planned. After a lot of belittling, Eugene gives in and makes her precious bullet. At this point, any character out on a suicide mission should just get it over with. twd-707-michonnetakeshostageOh, Michonne is already ahead of me, there. She’s following a trail straight to Negan, and opts to use a shortcut by abducting a Savior at sword-point. Jesus is with Carl up until he’s tricked into bailing from the truck, then he’s just gone. Whatever. There’s so many plates in the air, every single one will come crashing down in an incomprehensible mess instead of a cohesive mid-season finale.

The big story in the episode is Papa Negan’s reaction to Carl Jack-in-a-Boxing out of his truck with an automatic weapon in hand, killing a couple Saviors. Negan doesn’t snatch the whelp by his scruff and introduce his face to the pavement, though he has every right. Nor does he raise his voice to the kid, that’s saved for Daryl’s constant backseat nagging. Nah, Negan takes Carl inside, introduces him to the wives, orders snacks for them, and they sit to chat about Carl for just a little while. Keep in mind, Carl hasn’t really had a parent figure since season one. After Rick returned, Lori focused on her love triangle, leaving Carl to wander as he will. After Lori’s death, Rick dives into his plan to save humanity, leaving Carl to raise himself—and everyone else to raise Judith. Having a man sit and talk about him and not to him must’ve been weird. Not as weird as Negan’s obsession with Carl’s ragged eye socket. The talk buys time for the real show of power—where Negan provides the example Daryl wouldn’t, demonstrating what happens when rules are broken. The entire thing is orchestrated by Negan, down to Dwight—who’d met the iron after his insulin heist—passing the red-hot implement of justice to the bossman straight from the fire. I’ll tell you from experience, once you’ve had a severe burn over a large portion of skin, you’ll never forget the instant your nerves registered the pain.

Carl’s lack of enthusiasm, or fear, calls for drastic measures. No, Negan doesn’t reintroduce him to Lucille. They go on a little road trip, instead. For the second time, Negan rolls into Alexandria like he owns the place. Which, I guess he does. With Rick out doing next to nothing, Negan makes himself at home in his house, kicking back with Olivia and Carl. Making obscene comments. Ordering some really good lemonade. Oh, and he spends more time cooing at Judith, whom Carl attempts to hide, than Rick has done in ages. Rick is always just there with the kids. He doesn’t really react to them. He holds Judith, but always thinks of stuff ‘n’ things and stares in the distance. Carl could impregnate a horse at this point and Rick would wave it off.

We end with Negan threatening to kill and bury them in the garden before he moves in and takes over the little slice of heaven in Alexandria. Please do it. I’m tired of seeing everything from Rick’s point-of-view.


Swear: Review for The Walking Dead 706

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Swear:
Review for The Walking Dead 706
by R.C. Murphy

Episode spoilers below! You’ve been warned.

There’s so much foretelling in this episode, it’s pretty much an outline of how far down the humanity rabbit hole Alexandria will go in the coming episodes to appease the Saviors. The temptation to make Rick and company Those Guys, the ones who’d rob a woman-only group in order to save their own hides, is irresistible. Oh, it may not seem in the cards by episode’s end, but the idea is planted.

twd-706-heathinrvHow do we meet this new Ocean Side community? By Tara washing up on the beach like a piece of debris blown off a yacht. But that’s not even what happens first. This episode suffers from an acute case of flashbackitis. So we open with soggy Tara nearly being stabbed by the world’s most aggressive tween, then jump back to her and Heath arguing about not finding anything during their two-week outing. It does this constantly, without real rhyme or reason, throughout the episode. Like teasing Heath’s welfare will finally make him a part of the TWD universe instead of using a rising actor’s name to leave on the credits for attention. Why bother bringing in hard-hitters if they get two powerhouse minutes in as many seasons? AMC likes to collect actors in their stable, then never unleash their potential. And for this reason, they jacked up continuity to force tension over the welfare of a character fans don’t know well enough to mourn. A shame, really. Heath’s passionate speech in the RV is some of the best emotional reaction work on the show. They made him virtually forgettable, but made it clear he’ll never forget what they did at that Savior outpost.

twd-706-attemptedexecutionontaraOkay, but seriously, what about the new community? After Tara wakes, she stalks her savior, Cyndie, through dense forest until she finds dilapidated cabins, but thriving people. Some seriously jumpy people, at that. As more of Ocean Side comes into view, one thing is evident: There’s only women, girls, and boys under a certain age. Anyone with a twisted mind took a whopping two seconds to figure out why this particular group came along at this point in the story—they’re the example of why not to fight the Saviors. An ill-advised war cost them every single man, plus any boy over ten, as well as their trust in humanity. Thanks to the Saviors, Tara’s greeted with gunfire and not a hot meal. It takes some talking, and Tara’s awful lies, to garner her freedom. Even that’s fleeting once Natania, Beatrice, and Kathy—presumably the women in charge—realize the grand story Tara tells of killing people at the satellite facility is confession that she attacked the Saviors. The latter two ladies take Tara out of the community, promising to help her find Heath, who ran off after she was swarmed by walkers. In reality, it’s an execution. Tara holds her own for a little in the fight, but Cyndie saves her bacon again, defying her groups’ kill-strangers-on-the-spot mandate in order to actually help Tara. There’s no Heath to be found, of course. He’s long gone, having driven off when Tara went into the river. The writers do take the time to stage a false alarm. It’s almost as if they actually care about Heath.

I’m not buying it.

twd-706-walkersEven the walkers in this episode are pretty disappointing. The gimmick? A group buried walkers under fine sand and left them that way even after the living abandoned camp. Tara dislodges the sandcastle from hell by tugging on a duffle bag and out crawl a couple dozen walkers. For the most part, the makeup is done with heavy, dirty prosthetics or masks. Both leave the supposedly shriveled walkers with floating head syndrome—where it’s obvious the creature’s face is over a human one because the head is two inches too wide—instead of it reading as an actual monster. Rubber masks are for background actors, not foreground close-ups. What on earth were they thinking with this one? As far as walker gags go, the sand gimmick doesn’t sell as a threat, seems impossible it’d still be intact after all this time, and the sand-encrusted walkers look like rejects from the Universal Studios maze, not the show’s typical carefully-crafted feature creatures for the week.

Yet again, we’re distracted with a lot of nothing instead of getting what we want—Negan from Negan’s point-of-view. The Ocean Side community coming in now does about as much good as tits on a male dog story line wise. Not with the way it’s written. Not coming so long after Glenn and Abraham’s death, and spending a day inside Negan’s home-sweet-home. Sure. Okay. Negan had a bunch of men and boys killed. This is fully within the realm of believability from what we’ve seen. Shock us with his actions at last or get to the war already. This pointless floundering between does nothing but give airtime to advertisers. The episode’s only upside is Tara getting some solid laugh lines. Not worth an hour of my day.