The Other Side: Review for The Walking Dead 714

The Other Side:
Review for The Walking Dead 714
by R.C. Murphy

Warning! This review contains episode spoilers.

There’s absolutely no sense of urgency going into the final two episodes for season seven. Sure, every character on-screen is doing something to prepare for this upcoming war, but they’re going about it in such bone-headed ways, there’s no enjoyment, just grim knowledge that the writers will kill off more characters after a flimsy attempt to make them loveable.

The Saviors roll into Hilltop on a mission to ferret out Daryl. It’s the prefect chance for Gregory to polish his reputation. In Simon’s opinion, the push-over leader might as well be the talking Welcome Mat from the Beast’s castle—sentient enough to be useful, but unable to enact any real change on his own. In a rush to save his skin, Gregory licks Simon’s boot with flattering talk about booze—men are so damn weird—and finally launches a desperate bout of word-vomit alluding to another party vying for power in the village. For his effort, and for graciously allowing Dr. Carson to become Negan’s personal physician, Simon invites Gregory to his place for drinks and a discussion about the power struggle. Who does Gregory see at a threat this time around? Not Maggie, who he’s fashioned into his own personal demon since her arrival. No, Gregory makes a 180-turn, focusing his paranoia on Jesus . . . in the same episode where we finally learn what lies behind the long-haired man of mystery. Chew on that for a while. Guess misogyny wasn’t enough of a shield for Gregory, they had to make him a bigot, as well. Can we just stop putting men like this on television? It’s no longer cathartic to see them attacked by the undead, or however they wind up dying, but instead reaffirms the notion that no matter how bad a person you are, in the apocalypse you can still get ahead by hating everyone who’s different. Want to smash the patriarchy with your art, TWD writers? Start by denying them someone to identify with and see how they like the turnabout.

Katelyn Nacon as Enid, Sonequa Martin-Green as Sasha Williams – The Walking Dead _ Season 7, Episode 13 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

With the Saviors in town, Maggie and Daryl are finally forced to deal with each other when they take cover in a basement together. Was it the long-awaited verbal smackdown from a grieving widow? NO. And that’s a damn shame. Maggie is very forceful in the way she forgives the man directly responsible for her greatest loss to date, going from back-patting to straight up cheer squad for Daryl’s ego. The moment isn’t a sweet reconciliation. It’s downright infuriating to watch Daryl escape consequences for his childish behavior yet again. I mean, not only did his punch get Glenn killed, but he’s gone on to mope about it like a teenager denied the car for an evening joyride. Yes, I heard his apology. It’s empty. He is forced to apologize because he’s stuck in Maggie’s presence and afraid she’ll lay into him before he can slap a Dollar Store bandage on the problem. His apology is a reflex, bred from years of verbal abuse in his family, but it’s not a sign he’s learned a lesson. Maggie forgives him so the fan-favorite character isn’t in the dog house anymore. That’s the only motivation behind what should’ve been a powerful confrontation scene. Instead it teaches that empty apologies are currency to cover the cost of assisting in a murder. Whoops! Sorry your lover died. Wanna go shoot arrows together?

Give me a break from all this man-appeasing bull.

Okay, but I didn’t mean you should produce what’s probably the worst girlfriends road trip in the history of mankind, TWD folks.

Rosita and Sasha are forced to deal with each other yet again. Guys, this entire story line is just daft, let’s get that out of the way. No woman is going to buddy up with her dead lover’s ex to go shopping, let alone assassinate someone. Why put oneself in a position to be verbally or physically attacked by someone who obviously holds a grudge? Drama doesn’t make women’s hearts beat. Sasha’s finally achieved the good life. She just has to wait for the right moment to lead, or help lead, Hilltop. Instead, her mental progress is dust-binned in favor of a fruitless assassination plot. Rosita, for her part, does her best to screw up. Even when she opens up emotionally, it’s to admit she’s spent years using men with no intention to make a future with them, nor explain why she left. For the record, that’s not how feminism works, so let’s not make Rosita into some fort of feminist figurehead. She’s just a cruddy person who, instead of asking to learn a skill, she shadows lovers, takes what information she wants, and is gone not long after. No matter your gender, that’s awful behavior.

Two episodes left in the season and nearly an entire episode is devoted to developing secondary characters who’ve been neglected—except Sasha, who’s regressed to where she was mentally after Tyreese died. The writers use an entire episode for an info dump. Good writers spread information throughout the piece. They don’t stop in the middle of the arming-up scene and waste an entire chapter to delve into why a character has mired in two-dimensional Angerland for years, or to give a free pass for bad behavior because Tragic Backstory is a magical cure-all. It’s not. It’s cliché, lazy writing. Seven years down the line, these people are so far removed from the world, they no longer understand how to use fan’s emotions to pace the story’s flow. We should be desperate to know what happens next week. I watched one preview, shrugged, and assumed the next two episodes will be over-filled with action stemming from Rick’s rash decisions, with the season finale ending on a cliffhanger. I highly doubt the war is here yet. There hasn’t been enough tension to warrant a conflict of that magnitude, not with the side trips to frolic at the county fair and all the time it takes to don kid gloves for handling Daryl’s ego. Maybe next year we’ll finally get there. Have hope. We’ll get that war, guys.


Bury Me Here: Review for The Walking Dead 713

Bury Me Here:
Review for The Walking Dead 713
by R.C. Murphy

Head’s up! This review contains episode spoilers.

Pardon me while I try to wrap my head around something. A white man is radicalized through his own apathy at a refugee camp. He suffers heart-shattering losses due in part to this. When he’s safe, he turns to leadership-approved violence to cope. When his vengeance against the Saviors is constantly put on the backburner, the man turns to terrorism, going so far as to stalk and recruit an accomplice. Turned away from his vendetta yet again, this time by a kindred spirit, he executes a dramatic suicide-by-baddie ploy to finally spread his message. When his poorly considered exit claims another life instead, he backtracks and blames everyone else, only ever taking ownership of his original cowardice at the camp where his wife perished in a fire. Despite the method of his murder, this man dies thinking he’s a martyr. His end at the hands of a man half a sneeze from Full Crazy is pathetic, really. What was Richard ever going to add to the community? He came in ready to go out with a bang. A glory hog to make up for past sins. His death delivers a message: Terrorism hurts those who are given the dubious position of profiting from destruction with no consideration for civilian safety. How much effort does it take to stop and ask yourself, “How many people will die because of what I’m going to do?”

Okay, I think I’ve got it now. I understand. The writers weren’t happy just making a point, but they yet again proved said point with the tried and true white martyr story. The story line pushed the tension a little, mostly because fans were waiting for Richard to die, and motivated exactly one person to take up arms against the enemy. I wasn’t sure who’d end Richard’s woe-is-me festival. It was a tie between Morgan, Ezekiel, Gavin and co., or Carol should she catch wind of his intent to drop The Kingdom in the middle of the war without any time to prepare. Trying to guess gave me about a minute of enjoyment. Then the writers blew the surprise with foreshadowing when they took this as their golden ticket to trigger Morgan—adding an “unpredictable” element to liven things up, I presume.

Now we’re down a fighter and the Saviors have word that mutiny has been on The Kingdom’s mind. Thanks, Richard. Your legacy thus far is astounding.

Morgan is pretty much useless now, except for clearing the undead from around the community’s perimeter. That puts the burden of caring on Carol’s shoulders once more. She knows the truth at last, even if asking requires her to examine why she turned her back on humanity. Kudos to the writers for passing on clunky dialog in favor of allowing McBride to just react during two character-changing conversations—the first changed how she sees herself living in the mad world, the second demolishes the emotional barriers holding her back from engaging in battle. The minute she suspects her people suffered, she straps on her badass cap and goes to get answers she knows will break her heart. And they do. McBride’s genius is in her eyes as Morgan lays out what happened in Alexandria since their departure. Without much to-do, she delivers a gut-twisting performance. It’s probably one of my favorite acting moments in the series from the last three seasons, despite the tears it inspired.

Richard the Coward shoved the Kingdom into the warpath, whether Ezekiel thinks they’re ready to defend the front lines and the home front simultaneously or not. Morgan went ’round the bend again and can’t stop killing walkers. To clean up the mess, Carol’s coming out of violence retirement. It shouldn’t come down to one woman to smack sense into everyone, but since we’re here, I’m glad Carol is that woman. The Kingdom is being dragged into a mess they want nothing to do with. How will the average citizen react to the news?

Next week, Hilltop is likewise forced to choose their side in the war. Can they kill off Gregory as their sacrifice to the war gods, like the Kingdom did with Richard? His misogyny is tired and boring. We need to move on to more productive narratives, not the same ol’ men-holding-women-back bull, if this show is to get anywhere during the last three episodes in the season.


Say Yes: Review for The Walking Dead 712

Say Yes:
Review for The Walking Dead 712
by R.C. Murphy

Warning: Episode Spoilers Below.

Just when one thinks they’ve finally picked up speed, everything grinds to a halt so Rick can get in bed with a freaky gun-obsessed cult . . . oh, and Michonne, of course. Skip the pre-credits scene. It’s pretty much just sex cut with clips with them grabbing supplies. Has there been this much sex on-screen since the Lori/Shane era? Why now? It’s not the action-break fans need to deal with the lack-of-momentum in the plot. I got more enjoyment from the couple’s silly moments than the intimate scenes. Laughter leaves them more vulnerable than sex—they weren’t attacked mid-coitus, they fell through the roof during a light-hearted scouting mission. TWD writers are desperate to make Richonne work. Like Gretchen’s quest for Fetch, it’s just not happening. Do I hate the idea of their relationship? No. That being said, the writers spend so much time forcing them into “couple situations” that the characters never mature in their affection organically. I just don’t see love there. I see a gimmick.

We know they hump and grab gear, but really the main goal for the mission is guns. Which they find by funny happenstance while chasing a deer they spotted near camp. There’s a large compound not far from their van and they missed it. Huh. Anyway, they find a fenced-off building, which may have been military, along with a carnival. Uhh, okay. Sure. Stranger things have happened—like Alexandria’s scouts and the entirety of the Saviors magically missing a dump covering several square miles with twenty or thirty foot tall rubbish piles. The episode’s point is, Rick gets guns dropped in his lap. They do have to work for it. Kinda. There’s a lot of things magically going right for them that make the effort laughable. All-in-all, they kill a few dozen walkers, grab a van-load of food and guns, then take off to fulfill the new deal. There’s one moment where Michonne fully believes Rick, not the random deer, is zombie lunch. As always, it’s a death tease. When the moment is rehashed later to get the feels out, Rick babbles about them all being on a suicide mission to save the future. Why don’t I see these two in a relationship? When Michonne admits the depth of her love, Rick deflects and focuses on his self-appointed savior gig.

Meanwhile in Alexandria, Rosita has a series of self-important hissy fits. The tantrum culminates with Rosita stealing a rifle and convincing Sasha to go on a suicide mission of their own. Why don’t fans have many favorite characters outside the original quarry crew? Because the rest come on the stage with one foot already in the grave. Everyone has that same death wish mentality. Sasha has been there, done that. Do we need her to be the flaming moron agreeing to aid Rosita just because they slept with the same man? Nah. Women don’t work that way. Besides, Sasha matured from her death-beckoning days. Matter of fact, if she wanted, she could lead Hilltop—in part with Maggie, or on her onesies. The point is, Sasha still has potential. Rosita hasn’t shown the same kind of potential since she became the Angry Spurned Woman in the community. Anger is one-dimensional when used as the backbone for building a character. Pigeonhole someone in that stereotype too long and they just take up space in the plot. It may be time to say goodbye to Rosita. I just hope she doesn’t take Sasha out with her.

Jadis and her people . . . already over it. She and Rick haggle over the gun delivery—it’s not enough to arm her large group. Let’s be honest, this whole story line exists to enable Rick’s wanderlust and suicidal tendencies. If this all actually leads to genuine war with the Saviors, I’ll be surprised. More importantly, if the Jadis deal goes as planned at all, it’d be a miracle. I have zero faith in Rick’s judgement calls.

In the next episode, Carol jumps back in the fight. Maybe she can put some oomph back in the show.


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.