Frenemies:  Review for Z Nation 410

Frenemies:
Review for Z Nation 410
By A. Zombie

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

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

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


Time for After: Review for The Walking Dead 807

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Crisis of Faith: Review for Z Nation 408

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

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

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

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

But first, a pit stop, maybe?

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

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

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

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


Warren’s Wedding: Review for Z Nation 407

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The Damned: Review for The Walking Dead 802

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?


Back From the Undead: Review for Z Nation 406

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

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

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

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

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


Mercy: Review for The Walking Dead 801

Mercy:
Review for The Walking Dead 801
By R.C. Murphy

It’s a grandiose plan, that’s for sure. Armed to the teeth and prepared with steel-plated vehicles, a large militia formed from Hilltop, Alexandria, and Kingdom fighters begins the episode by running through the last gut checks and minutiae required to successfully survive the day ahead. The plan itself is pretty simple: Rick will convince the Savior sergeants to step aside and give them the head of the snake, or they’ll pin everyone in the building with gunfire and another teams will draw walkers to it to finish everyone off. Rick has an unreasonable moment when he once again fixates on personally murdering Negan himself instead of compromising on any method to contain this threat. Because that plan has worked so well any other time he’s tried it. The only difference is now Rick’s dragged two other communities into his vendetta in order to secure weapons since he got all his taken away.

Maggie and Ezekiel don’t seem all that put out with Rick and his whole scheme, which is weird because if I ran a community the last thing I’d do is let some guy drag me into a fight he keeps provoking. Yes, the Saviors are giant turds, but Rick is the one who set everything in motion by insisting he and he alone should lead the most ruthless group in a fifty mile radius. Honestly, this has gone on so long, I firmly believe they never should’ve stayed in Alexandria once the threats became too much. But this is someone else’s sand box and they want Rick to pull everyone into all-out war, so off they go after a hearty round of pep speeches from each leader. Before anyone points out that Maggie is not the official leader, she’s the only one other than Jesus looking out for those people at the moment and he doesn’t want the job, therefore Maggie is in charge. No one has a problem with it, either.

On that thought, it’s strange that Maggie’s pregnancy doesn’t progress in the least, but the show’s children all aged greatly during the hiatus. They’re insisting she participate in the war, or at least the first part of the plan at Sanctuary. That being said, the optics of sending an obviously pregnant woman into a fight is pretty sketchy and I can understand why they’d hold off a little longer on the great bumpining. As a Glenn fan, though, I just want proof he’s living on in some little way. The longer they put off actually acknowledging that their most successful woman is also a mother, the more frustrated I get. Maggie can be both at the same time, just let her be her whole self instead of treating her like Mrs. Potatohead, cherry-picking different traits to use each season/episode.

Seth Gilliam as Father Gabriel Stokes – The Walking Dead _ Season 8, Episode 1 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

For once, the battle plan goes more or less as intended. There’s no great triple-cross putting people in the middle of a trap. Rick amazingly keeps his calm until the end of the firefight when the bloodlust finally gets to him and he again fixates on being the soul responsible for wiping Negan off the map. The dialog is kinda laughable at points. It’s painfully obvious Rick is buying time so the secondary team can get the walkers in position and he fails to make a compelling argument against violence which just leads to a firefight. A firefight in which some of his best fighters are elsewhere. Remember, the real plan is to kill them with walkers and save the cavalry for cleaning up the rats who jumped ship before they closed in. The only snag in the plan comes at the end when they’re forced to flee or get trapped in the walker horde. Just about everyone makes it into a car. Then Gabriel goes back to grab Gregory—who threw in his hat with Negan, and then ran like a startled chicken when the fighting began, only to get pinned by gunfire in the walkers’ path. One of them makes it out of Sanctuary in an armored car. It isn’t the one we want to get away.

The stage is set to watch the fallout from this fight stretch across at least the first half of the season. They’ve got more Saviors to contend with, not to mention that snake still has its head and until Negan is out of the picture, Rick won’t rest.


Reality isn’t that Great


Reality isn’t that Great
by R.C. Murphy

There’s endless possibilities in Las Vegas, Nevada. Heck, the place was pretty much built to satisfy whatever outlandish urge pops into one’s mind. Want to spend an entire paycheck in an hour? Vegas. Itching to watch stellar acrobats? Vegas. Have a hankering to try literally every kind of food imaginable crammed into one large room? Yup, Vegas has you covered. It’s not all gambling and eating. The playful side of Vegas has expanded exponentially over the last couple decades. The grandiose hotels found that diversity in attractions drew in more customers. (Duh?) Now we’ve got things like rooftop roller coasters, live shows to rival some Broadway productions, not to mention countless museums and indoor malls.

The MGM Grand is adding yet another attraction to draw in customers who aren’t into games of chance.

On September 8th, MGM Grand opened a 2,000 square foot Virtual Reality playground. Located inside their adults-only, high-tech gaming lounge, Level Up, visitors will have the opportunity to play through one of three virtual scenarios—including one set in the zombie apocalypse. The game lasts thirty minutes, costs $50, and teams may be comprised of up to eight members. Each team member will wear a wireless VR headset. The VR weapons are likewise wireless to give players a truly immersive, teatherless experience. Players are encouraged to really explore the vast gaming arena while working through the intense co-op VR games.

The VR experience is sponsored by Zero Latency, a company with several VR arenas globally. The Vegas location is the first in the western United States. Below are the game descriptions from Zero Latency’s website.

Zombie Survival

Compete against your friends and protect your fort from hordes of killer zombies!

Caught in the middle of a zombie outbreak, your team is bunkered in a fort. A rescue team is on its way and you must stay alive until they make contact. Work together to build barriers and fight off the undead hordes until help arrives!

Singularity

How will you fair against killer robots and drones?

You and your team are sent to investigate a secret military space station that has gone dark. Fight your way through killer robots, rogue drones and merciless gun turrets to reclaim the high-tech military black-site. How will you fair against AI?

Engineerium

Be prepared to have your reality turned upside down in Engineerium!

You are transformed into an ethereal, ancient alien, who must work with your clan to ascend through a mind-bending, mystical world to be reunited with your tribe. Be prepared to have your reality turned upside down!


Playing Alongside Old Friends

Playing Alongside Old Friends
by R.C. Murphy

The Walking Dead franchise draws big business for everyone involved. It only makes sense that game developers would scramble to snatch a piece of that pie. There’s a few TWD games already out in the world, namely the tension-ridden series from Telltale Games and it’s spin-offs, A New Frontier and Michonne. Telltale teamed up with Zen Studios to produce The Walking Dead Pinball, which allows players to play pinball on location maps from Telltale’s main TWD game, including the addition of player choice to determine the ongoing story. Scopely released its addition to the franchise in 2015 with The Walking Dead: Road to Survival—a game recently plagued with glitches which inspired spending freezes from dedicated players and several intense press releases from the developer promising to do better for the game’s devoted fan base.

Two more developers have stepped in to bring more undead fun to the masses this year. First up is Disruptor Beam’s The Walking Dead: March to War. While not set in the television universe and taking most of its cues from the comics, it still has events inspired by the show. In this strategy game, players develop alliances with each other in order to not only survive the walkers wandering through Washington D.C., but also the humans they encounter while building a secure home base. Players have a twenty mile map to work in, encompassing all the iconic buildings and monuments in the nation’s capital. If they’re having a hard time figuring out what to do, players have the opportunity to bring Rick and Negan onto their advisory council. Help is always needed, according to the developers. Getting by on one’s own in the game is apparently pretty difficult. March to War is free for iOS and Android devices. But you get what you pay for, and this is a new game. Expect some glitches while the developers roll out updates. The graphics aren’t stellar. There’s also been several complaints about monetary purchases failing.

The newest addition to the TWD franchise will be The Walking Dead: Our World from developer Next Games. Whereas all the other TWD-based games focus on player vs player fighting or dive deep into what’s basically a pick-your-own-adventure game format, Our World is vastly different. The game is, essentially, Pokémon Go but with walkers instead of brightly colored creatures. Augmented reality games were all the rage last year and Our World feels like it may have missed the boat by, oh, six months or so—that’s being generous since there’s no actual release date yet. That delay may be in their favor though, giving developers more time to work out the quirks which made other AR games difficult to play, or downright ridiculous due to the programs inability to read the distance to the ground accurately. Game play for Our World shows grounded characters, so there will be little chance of watching Michonne or any of the other television characters floating four feet in the air as they slay the undead. When it does finally release, the game will be available for iOS and Android systems.


Zombie Reviews . . . Day of the Dead


Zombie Reviews . . . Day of the Dead

by A. Zombie

Rated: Not Rated (Contains extreme violence, strong adult language)
Language: English
Starring: Lori Cardille, Terry Alexander, Joseph Pilato, Richard Liberty, Jarlath Conroy, and Sherman Howard

In tribute to the man who brought us all to this weird zombie life, I snagged Day of the Dead for a re-watch . . . and realized I’d never covered the film for this website. Well, that’s just wrong. We’re going to remedy the problem right now.

Sarah and her band of scientists are perhaps the last to continue research work during the zombie apocalypse. They’re aided by thuggish army personnel who’ve just about had their limit of hunkering down in an abandoned missile silo while the man they call Frankenstein carries out gruesome experiments. The team’s goal is to find any way to lessen the zombie impact in an earth overrun by the undead. Sarah wants a cure. Her blood-coated coworker, Dr. Logan, thinks he can tame zombies using positive reinforcement and their own latent human traits. It works. Somewhat. There’s one zombie who’s not like the others: Bub. But their progress with Bub isn’t enough for Rhodes, the military man in charge. He snaps and all their hard work hits the fan.

Now, admittedly, Day of the Dead isn’t many people’s favorite Dead film. The language is beyond foul. The racism makes any sane person’s blood boil. The way the men treat the only woman is abhorrent, and while there’s no sexual violence, it sure is threatened a lot. We’re meant to be disgusted by these men. The best shortcut was to make them outrageously racist, misogynistic, and flat out a-holes of the highest caliber. They’ve existed in an echo chamber of hatred while stuck underground. Basically, this is Romero saying that if you put a bunch of awful white men in a jar, they’ll become even more hateful before turning on each other just to have someone to fight other than their own thoughts. Unfortunately, they weren’t alone and those caught in the crossfire are people who don’t deserve to be treated so badly. Almost everyone pays with their lives because Rhodes is, deep down, a frightened little boy who requires a death grip on everything he can possibly control since the world above is absolutely insane.

The ethical questions raised by Dr. Logan’s experiments lead to some of the best conversations Romero’s ever brought to the table, on-screen and off. At what point do the undead stop being human? For Logan, it is never, ever clear. He has no qualms about using the military men as fresh zombies to operate on while he searches for what makes them tick. On the other hand, he treats Bub as an adoptive son, is painfully patient with him, and goes to great lengths to ensure the zombie’s well-being. This is night and day compared to the way Logan talks to the scientific team and the military men. With humans he speaks from a place of deep entitlement, never bothering to hide that he believes himself to be far superior to them because he’s so dang smart. He gets away with it, for the most part. However when Sarah snaps and puts Rhodes or his men in their place, she’s nearly shot. Logan made himself important, far more important than his peer, and forced Rhodes to see her as disposable. Frankenstein was never in the silo to help humanity. He was there to help himself by gathering knowledge about the one thing no one else had access to, and did it in a way he knew Sarah wouldn’t replicate so she could never be on the pedestal he built for himself.

There’s so much going on with the dead in this film. This is where Romero drove home the notion that they’re not much different from us, only they have something primal driving them instead of the complex rules humans live by every day. They’ve got more freedom than the humans. Even Bub and the others imprisoned in the silo for experimentation are at liberty to do what they want because there’s no social rules for the undead. Their only restriction is placed on them by another species. They just are whoever they are and nothing can change that. Bub already possessed the reasoning capabilities Logan exploits in the film. How do we know that? Land of the Dead. In that film, the dead communicate, have returned to a human-less life where they repeat the tasks ingrained in their minds from their living days, and eventually band together to seek something which is missing from their lives. If Bub were taught how to reason, future generations of zombies wouldn’t have been able to accomplish their great trek to Fiddler’s Green. We owe a lot to Bub.

The makeup FX are some of the best . . . for 1985. Except for a few background actors in full masks who accidentally shuffled too close to camera, the zombies are a collection of what everyone considers a stereotypical zombie. Go look at your local zombie pub crawl. Most of what’s there can also be found in the final act of Day of the Dead. There’s even a clown, for heaven’s sake. Romero did it all back in a decade when zombies weren’t the cool thing to produce. That influence echoes throughout anything dealing with the undead to this day.

Day of the Dead signaled a change in the way the undead would be presented for decades. For that reason, and so many more, I’m giving it four oozing eyeballs out of five.