A New Beginning: Review for The Walking Dead 901

A New Beginning:
Review for The Walking Dead 901
by R.C. Murphy

You know the drill. There’s a ton of spoilers in this review, so proceed accordingly.

Despite the show being back on the air during its normal time frame, it feels like we were away from Rick and the gang for way too long. Or maybe it’s just that 2018 feels like 10 years packed in a single year’s box, held together with cheap packing tape. The Walking Dead gives fans a good way to vanish from the real world for a little while, as it always has. But did the production team manage to grab the waning attention of fans burnt out by the exhausting All Out War story line?

I’m honestly not sure this premiere is strong enough on its own to do that, and it’s a little worrying considering what all we know for sure is coming down the pipeline as far as actor departures from the show.

The bulk of this episode deals with an idea the producers introduced at SDCC this summer: Reclaiming old technology in order to ensure a future for their communities. In the opening montage, it’s clear that Sanctuary’s corn crop failed. The factory’s dirt is sour. All they can do with the produce is turn it into biofuel, and the yield isn’t nearly enough to keep everyone driving out to source supplies to fully replenish Negan’s former home sweet home nearly 2 years after the war ended. To speed up the process of healing the ground, they need a better, faster way to plow. There’s also a few other things they need, so everyone’s off to Washington D.C. to raid the Smithsonian. Makes perfect sense. How many scouting teams would’ve had the time or energy to take things like covered wagons before now? Aside from some minor walker damage, everything in the museum is intact.

The plan to get it all out, not so much.

This episode, like so many before it, is plagued with basic logic errors so great, one cannot help but yell at the television. There’s a vast difference in writing a tense scene in which a beloved character has a close call, and writing a series of foolish calls that are obviously wrong while still (still!) presenting the person giving the orders as the best possible leader for these people. This problem continues into the next set of problems while getting their loot home. How on earth did they create this relay network, yet when it comes to actually planning and executing what should be a moderately easy mission, they do things like fail to make sure all the bridges are secure? The latter oversight cost Ken his life. Always know your exits. It’s a basic lesson all women, police, and military learn.

Perhaps it’s because of all the bad calls that the power struggle is more pronounced this season. The first problem comes from everyone’s need to put an outside in charge of Sanctuary to keep the dissidents in line. Daryl wants out. Being in the building triggers his PTSD, but he stops just shy of admitting as much to Rick. Carol, however, hears and understands why Daryl needs to get away from there. Not sure she’s going to have much better luck, not with guys like Justin lurking on the fringes with his passive aggressive quips, and the constant reminders that someone in the community actively wants Negan back. The second problem comes to light curtesy of the unchecked, crumbling bridge. Turns out Hilltop has it good. Really good. They’re flush with people, produce, and ideas. And for this entire time, they’ve been loaning out supplies right and left to keep everyone afloat. Yet everyone defers to Rick. He gets the praise. Maggie, in a moment I wish to frame and mount on a wall, point-blank tells Rick that the power dynamic will change because she knows her worth, and that of the people under her care. Rick, to his credit, acknowledges it and doesn’t seem all that torn up to have a little pushback. The third problem is proof that Maggie needs the spine of steel we saw in her conversation with Rick because someone’s out for her head. I’ll give you one guess who it is. Gregory was never going to let the election results stand, and Maggie should have known he’d take a funeral as a chance to plot against her. In another show of power, Maggie hangs Gregory in the middle of town using one of the most painful methods ever. It’d take a brave fool to go toe to toe with her anytime soon.

A quick note to wrap up . . . . Can we have a spin-off romantic comedy with Carol and Ezekiel? Seriously, all I want is to see these two happily joking with each other until the end of time. No cameos. No walkers. Just a blissful couple in an empty world being adorable. It’s been a rough year. We deserve this one nice thing.


Time to Visit the Z-poc Once More

Time to Visit the Z-poc Once More
by R.C. Murphy

Well, Syfy did it again. They withheld information about the starting date for Z Nation until a month before the premiere. Which is a tad annoying, given how supportive the fanbase has been since day one. You’d think they would be eager to share the good news with us, like in the past when the schedule was usually sorted around July. However, over the last few years, there’s been less and less press for the show from any official sources which aren’t the producers’ Twitter pages or behind-the-scenes selfies from the cast. Matter of fact, so few outlets have snagged this news, the only way to verify beyond social media that Z Nation does indeed return on October 5th was to find the little note on the show’s website banner.

The same frustration about the late announcement for the premiere date stretches over to the fact that there’s still no full trailer online, despite there being one floating around in the ether that was shown at SDCC in July. The best we have since then is a teaser attached to the announcement for the season five premiere. It is only available on Twitter from an official source, so that’s the link you get. At least it’s something to get us ready for next month, right?

In the teaser we’re given a glimpse at the latest generation of zombie, Talkers. There’s also a good look at a couple new characters. For most of the teaser, Katy O’Brian, as George St. Clair, gives Operation Bitemark the lowdown on the Talkers. In other clips, a man in a black hat and Warren face off with a zombie, and Murphy and 10k have their first encounter with a Talker. Bet Murphy’s surprised he’s not the only supernatural creature capable of holding a conversation anymore.

We’ll be back with news about Roberta and the gang soon. A. Zombie will bring you reviews for Z Nation after season five begins on October 5th at 9 PM.


Yipee Ki Brain, Motherscratcher!: Review for iZombie 410

Yipee Ki Brain, Motherscratcher!:
Review for iZombie 410
by A. Zombie

Where you going, punk? Don’t you know there’s episode spoilers in this neighborhood?

Major is the new hero is town. Well, at least in the Fillmore-Graves building. How long will his cohorts hold him in high esteem once they learn his ex-girlfriend is Renegade? What about his roommate, the underground zombie doctor? Sure Chase Graves trusts Major with literally his life right now, but he’s also a man about to watch everything he built crumble because he failed Dictatorship 101—which clearly states a leader should make sure he’s got a steady food supply for his people, or they’ll kill him. History is rift with leaders given a violent boot from the timeline when they couldn’t provide. Chase leans hard on Major to fix all his problems, and may even force the former Team Zombie member onto the guillotine before his own well-groomed head hits the steel. It’s clear after the final confrontation with Liv, Levon, and Major that he’s very much on the wrong side of history, here. His former friends will not be merciful if they all survive the chaos about to erupt from the religious corner of the city. His only hope is to get Roche to give up his boss. It won’t be easy. These guys are working a serious game, with the police and Fillmore-Graves completely unaware they’ve even sat down at the chess board.

Liv herself is pretty uninspiring this episode. The Brain of the Week belongs to Detective Benedetto, the epitome of scumball LEO. This charming chap was capped giving confession at church. Clive’s got three main suspects, all of whom were involved in a crime with a huge loot hidden somewhere in the city, according to AJ, one of said suspects. AJ claims Benedetto must’ve been killed because he wants the loot for himself. The theory sticks, seeing as Liv’s pretty much useless on this guy’s brain. She can’t even really work the case after whacking one suspect with a fish. Thanks to this, we never see any more action from the case unless it’s through Clive’s enthusiastic retellings. He gets the guy, by the way. And it is funny as hell to watch Clive fling himself around to replay his big off-screen fights.

Since Liv’s off the case, she spends way more time taking care of Renegade’s duties in this episode than in previous. It doesn’t seem like much, since most of the work is done in a montage, but she’s pretty serious about the trafficking thing, even on the brain. Everything’s running smoothly. Even one of her coyotes feels secure enough to announce he’s getting married. Then Fillmore-Graves happens. Curtis, the newly engaged guy, is nabbed and threatened by Chase himself. Curtis spills a cover story about Brother Love, which buys Levon enough time to get Liv for a rescue mission. Only, Renegade’s blessing comes with their scratch, and that’s the only thing Liv can give Curtis in the end thanks to FG’s security measures at the safe house.

The one person Liv still can’t save is Isobel, who’s now officially staying in Seattle to run tests with her mother’s blessing. Over a month-long montage, we see Ravi performing virtually every non-evasive test possible. Unfortunately, they all yield answers he could’ve predicted. Nothing special jumps out from her tests screaming it’s the key to a cure. Ravi’s upset about it, but what can he do? Well, he can start by not becoming a helicopter parent to a teenage girl overnight. Thanks to some serious binge-watching, Isobel has a huge crush on one of the actors from Liv and Ravi’s favorite show, Zombie High. With Liv on a brain with the impulse control of a gnat, she sets up a date for Isobel, sending Ravi into a full-blown meltdown. Why? Because Isobel’s finally feeling her mortality and being reminded that she’ll likely never fall in love every time she sees her new adult guardians flirting can’t be doing good things for her mental health. The post-date scene with Ravi policing Isobel’s right to her own body is pretty much what I expected from this writing team. At least they’re clear on the messages they send to women.

Parenting takes a vastly different form when we hop over to see how Blaine is dealing with Angus and his flock. By all rights, Blaine should just catapult his father over the wall and be done with the manipulative bastard. Somehow, some way, Angus manages to get back in his boy’s head. Blaine takes up the offer to join his father at church. He even plays a song for the congregation! A few flattering words likening Blaine to Jesus and the guy is putty for his father to shape into a new weapon. Wonder if Lambert will report Blaine’s activities to Graves, or if he likewise will fall under Angus’ influence. That’d be a huge shift in power for the city, and the city cannot handle a power struggle so soon after the mass zombie creations.


Mac-Liv-Moore: Review for iZombie 409

Mac-Liv-Moore:
Review for iZombie 409
by A. Zombie

Watch your step. This review contains mad episode spoilers.

Another week, another bland white man for Liv to eat. This time around, it’s a rapper, which she eats in the world’s whitest definition of a wrap I’ve ever seen. Where’s the greens? Some mustard? This guy’s so boring, they tell us ahead of time by having mayonnaise as the only flavoring in his “final meal.” Liv’s turn as a rapper is probably the least inspired story gimmick yet. Here’s another case with a story where they could’ve picked literally any other victim, but chose white man #492 to inform how we see Liv’s world. When do we get to see her world through someone more like Liv? Or, you know, Liv herself? Surely she has to be tired of constantly yanking around her loved ones’ emotions in the name of the job. Why can’t Liv have a brain tube vacation and police the old fashioned way? This is a Seattle teaming with known zombies. She can’t be the only one willing to allocate the extra time for the cause. By the way, does she get bonus pay for these duties now since it does impact literally her every waking second while on a case? I’m just saying, pay the woman for the actual effort expended, not just her in-morgue hours.

One half of a feuding rap duo and his girlfriend are shot, then dumped on Ravi and Liv to investigate by Fillmore-Graves. Discovering who killed the lovebirds isn’t the problem. The problem is that he’s a known zombie serial killer, and I don’t mean a phony like the Chaos Killer; this Zombie Killer started with his family. Somehow he is probably the only one who survives the bus massacre. Once free, he doesn’t go into hiding to save his own skin. Oh no. He goes back on the hunt. Fillmore-Graves decides to get to him first, putting the entire city on lockdown until they catch their prey.

The lockdown puts everyone in a tough situation. Liv and Peyton are forced to hide Isobel in plain sight at the morgue after movie night is cancelled. Not ideal for them, but Isobel loves it. She’s gleefully morbid, having come to grips with her fleeting mortality long ago thanks to her condition. That playful morbid streak is why Ravi winds up finding her in one of the body drawers and subsequently discovers her condition. Which is how, in the end, Ravi also learns that Liv is the new Renegade. It’s great that they’re telling the truth and all, but she’s a city employee with ties to the police, moonlighting as a human trafficker; at some point Clive will find out and have to make a decision about his loyalty. And now there’s a teenaged girl caught in the middle of all that who’s volunteering to maybe, possibly, become the answer to everyone’s prayers about finding a zombie cure. Because this plot doesn’t have enough going on, already, right?

In another part of the police building, the gentlemen of the group take advantage of the enforced downtime to spend some quality time together . . . playing DnD. It’s great that they all have hobbies and all, but the scene goes from funny to sexist as whoa when Michelle asks to sit in—and provide a much-needed character type—only for the men to act like she walked in on them discussing the size/shape of what’s in their pants. Their blustering dies down eventually, but Michelle’s place in their social circle probably won’t be defined by her playing skills after one of the guys catches her and Clive making out in the neighboring room. Goodness, why can’t these writers let us have something pure and good once in a while?

Fillmore-Graves isn’t playing around when it comes to finding the Zombie Killer. Every team is on-task. The only person not on the streets is Graves himself. Major’s squad is the least effective during the search mission. Probably because instead of focusing on these secondary characters like professionals, they drag the lone WoC into a domestic spat during work to yet again undermine her authority as a FG agent. If Gladwell ever gets a fair shake from this writing team, I’ll eat my shoe. They’ve done their best to make her irrelevant since day one. Why drag her in when any number of nameless FG employees could popular Major’s team? I don’t care about these characters or their failed relationship. I certainly don’t care that Major is so ineffective a leader, he can’t get them to stop fighting. The only interesting thing from that entire team is when Major just happens to be in the right place at the right time at the end to help Chase before he’s taken out by the Zombie Killer. Major being a savior isn’t new. It doesn’t require rehashing failed minor character arcs. Certain parts of this season shouldn’t have made it to the final script. It’s just too many new people, too many plot threads flapping in the wind this close to the season’s end.

The person who uses the lockdown to their best advantage has to be Blaine. He’s been sitting on a plan for a while, now’s the time to hatch it and rake in the cash. It’ll require specialized help, though, so Blaine brings in the best computer-oriented brain for Don E. to enjoy. Once his pal is on-board, they waste no time setting up a Dark Web auction for one of the cures stolen from Ravi last season. You know, the kinda-cure which leaves the patient with monthly brain cravings that hasn’t been fully tested? There’s a slight hitch in the plan; they have no definitive proof that the cure works. To no one’s real surprise, Blaine stages a snuff film in order to get video evidence for the auction site. The shocker comes when Mayor Baracus finds himself surprisingly human, and then dead for good. For those keeping score, that means Peyton is the acting mayor. Things just got super awkward in the Charles/Moore household.


Worth: Review for The Walking Dead episode 815

Worth:
Review for The Walking Dead episode 815
by R.C. Murphy

Danger zone! I mean, uh . . . spoiler zone, beware!

The Saviors take a break from war to scrub the refuse from their ranks. The level of manipulation in this episode reaffirms how damn good Negan is as a character. But why did we have to wait this long to get into the intriguing bits of his personality? This entire season takes place in such a truncated timeframe, what feels like years to us is nothing for them and it’s just not working anymore when it comes to character development. The production cannot save the pacing with one solid episode here and there, but I’ll take what they’re offering simply because these actors are giving their all every day on set. It’s just a shame the writing isn’t reflective of what we know the actors can do. We should’ve already seen this side of Negan. JDM keeps alluding to it, doing his best to BE Negan around all this macho, chest-pounding, ridiculous fallout from the Sanctuary attack. It’s not until he confronts Simon that I feel we’ve met the real Negan. He plays his opponent like a fiddle, getting whatever information he wants from the wannabe leader in order to flush out every single backstabber lurking in the shadows. When Rick tries to get rid of his detractors, it creates hell for everyone around him. Negan does the same with cold efficiency and only the people he feels need killing wind up dead. Weird how that happens. It’s like he knows how to lead a group. Not that I condone murder, but this is the fictional apocalypse and Negan’s got the loyalist, healthiest crew in the region shown on-screen now that Rick ruined The Kingdom and Alexandria, on top of Gregory abandoning Hilltop to chase promises for his own safety over his peoples’ future.

Tension is a whole distinct character in the Savior scenes. Negan’s carefully considered course of action to reaffirm his place at the top seems so clear-cut. Seems being the key word. Dwight thinks he’s mostly in the clear, as long as he’s careful not to get wound up in Simon’s scheme. Which is, quite frankly, impossible because Simon needs his fellow leaders to back his play before someone else steps up to challenge him. At no point does Simon consider Negan’s actual fate. The look on his face when Negan pops up is worth every second watching Simon slime his way to the top. He wants to be the boss? First he’s gotta beat the boss. These post-surprise scenes are some of few in eight seasons to make me lean forward, eager for the outcome. Then comes the actual twist, putting Dwight right where he doesn’t want to be—exposed as a traitor and spoon-fed information to harm his new pals at Hilltop. Negan’s mysterious hitchhiker is Laura, the sole survivor from Dwight’s betrayal outside Alexandria. Let me tell you, her joy in exposing Dwight should be bottled and sold. Whatever comes from Dwight handing over the intentionally false map, Laura will be first in line to celebrate. Conversely, Gregory’s regret over helping Dwight may be the only mood bigger than Laura’s rabid revenge, seeing as he’s back in the prison cell at Hilltop after delivering the map.

At the end of a long day the last thing Negan wants is anyone from the opposition contacting him out of the blue. Driven by Carl’s memory, Michonne does just that and risks reading his letter to Negan over the radio. Boy is it the wrong day to approach the man. Dude snaps. He lays the end out for her nice and clear; the only way out of this is through mass casualties on Hilltop’s behalf. The Saviors didn’t pick this costly fight, but they’ll end it. Negan’s done throwing away resources butting heads with Rick.

In order to fight, the Saviors will need way more ammunition. The folks at Eugene’s outpost can only move so fast, but it’s not good enough for their boss. Let me just pause right her to say, we need to petition the showrunners so they’ll never, ever, ever show Eugene eating on-screen again. Back to matters at hand. Eugene’s workers trudge along despite the nasty food and shoddy pep talk. Even Gabriel is roped back into the production line. Things look bright for Hilltop for a while when Rosita and Daryl manage to kidnap Eugene with little incident. That is until Eugene straight up pukes on Rosita and runs. If I didn’t dislike this character before, I certainly do now. Disgusting little snake hides and just returns to his outpost like he isn’t covered in ash and God knows what.

Aaron’s self destructive streak reaches new lows as he slowly starves to death outside Oceanside. No one extends a helping hand to the outsider. When walkers find him, he’s too weak to fight them all off. But the gall of this guy comes when he passes out, wakes to his rescuers’ faces, then lays into them about avoiding the war. To cap it off, he blames them for Natania’s death. They should’ve smacked him good. I’ve heard some bull on this show, but lecturing a bunch of traumatized women for avoiding a war none of them should be involved in really takes the cake. Why must these women in particular come in to mop up Rick and Negan’s mess? Leave them alone. They’ve lost too much already.

It’s finale time. Wonder how much of this wreckage they can fix in order to transition smoothly into season nine. Probably not enough.


Do Not Send Us Astray: Review for The Walking Dead 813

Do Not Send Us Astray:
Review for The Walking Dead 813
by R.C. Murphy

Watch out for those episode spoilers waiting to ambush you.

Well, this episode certainly has a different tone than anything we’ve seen this season. It’s almost like they remembered that the genre is more than a bunch of angry men hitting each other. Sure, there’s a long firefight in the middle, but bookending it are a good ol ghost story and a little love note to low budget zombie flicks.

Hilltop is more than prepared for the Saviors when they finally roll in after dark. Maggie’s focus isn’t on the gift Georgie gave them. She admits after that her plan is to lure the Saviors into Hilltop so Negan dies where Glenn rests eternally. Which, you know, I get to a point. What puts her on a different level is Maggie, unlike Rick, looks at that same graveyard after the fight and knows she caused those losses. Dianne positions herself at Maggie’s side quite often, first providing encouragement, then as a source for us to check into Maggie’s emotions at the episode’s end. “What is it,” Dianne asks at the graveyard. “The cost,” Maggie replies. The price for this war is getting too high for her conscious. This last move, pushed by desperate fear on her and Rick’s behalf, has taken everything from their people. Alexandria and the Kingdom are lost. Hilltop’s remaining gardens can’t produce enough food and their stores went to the Saviors as payment. The populations of the communities combined have been wiped out, with countless more passing in this episode alone. Will this be the straw to break the alliance’s back? She may be new to the job, but Maggie doesn’t seem like the type to put her people through that kind of horror again.

The fight itself perfectly illustrates why Simon is a crap leader who’ll send his people straight to their deaths. Not only has he failed to send a scout ahead to check for traps on the road, which they then drive over, but Simon follows right along with the plan set to trap them by chasing Daryl through the gate into the first ambush. He does it again when Maggie signals for the lights to be doused and smoke bombs set off. Sure, he divides up his forces, but the bulk of the Saviors are front and center for the second surprise attack from the main house’s windows. If they followed Negan’s plan, attacking with bows from outside to wound as many as possible and picking off what they could with other gore-coated weapons, the Saviors would’ve lost half a dozen men maximum. Simon can’t even claim a win here at all. It’s not his part of the Savior’s fight which yields a higher body count. Negan’s bio warfare tactic claims far more Hilltop citizens while everyone’s sleeping. He may be the bad guy, but you gotta admire his problem-solving abilities, which are so great, he doesn’t have to be within ten miles for a plan to go right.

There’s a whole lotta weird going on in Morgan’s head. I . . . I kind of like it. The flashbacks and such were getting tired, but this new approach to Morgan’s mental illness is top notch horror fuel. Ghost Gavin won’t stop badgering the guy. He’s always there, beside Morgan, ragging on him about something which is never given a name, really. I assume this is Morgan’s mind telling him he should’ve been the one to kill Gavin in the most spectacularly screwed up way imaginable. How long until others notice Morgan’s talking to the air? How can he convince his subconscious that there’s no way to re-kill a guy? This is a great twist to this character. And of course it’s coming about the time he’s jumping shows so I’ll either be forced to watch FtWD or wave goodbye to all this character development. Not today, Satan. I’ll just enjoy the time I’ve got left with Morgan and his bloody Jiminy Cricket.

The other side of Morgan’s story is where his influence has led Henry after his brother’s death. This kid’s determined to bloody his hands via vengeance. First he goes after Ezekiel and Carol for refusing to arm him to fight in the main battle. Later, the kid steals the prison cell key, takes a military grade rifle, and casually threatens a group of men like a good little terrorist in the making. This is why we must teach men that “eye for an eye” thinking will only lead to bloodshed. Justice is not a mirror to reflect the offender’s pain back onto them. That’s not how humanity as a whole decided to handle the people who are too dangerous to remain amongst us. Not only will Henry grow into the very type of man he’s trying to kill, but he’s unleashed those men back into the world when Maggie had them safely sequestered where they couldn’t cause harm. Someone get this kid in-hand, already. He’s not Carl. This isn’t even a good attempt to set up a child character with the same mentality. It’s just tossing angry male patterns into the wind, hoping it works because otherwise they’ve lost their young white man representation on a show dominated by the dumb decisions made by middle-aged white men. How will the white guys find themselves in this show without someone young and angry at everything? Yes, that’s sarcasm. It’s also to illustrate that we don’t need every stereotype on-screen in every show. The writers are blatantly writing Henry to be the new Carl in ways which will never work. All these years listening to how fans treated that character, yet none of it reflects in Henry’s story line.

Jason Douglas as Tobin, Melissa McBride as Carol Peletier – The Walking Dead _ Season 8, Episode 13 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

That final action sequence with Tobin and the others injured in the fight turning walker is aces. Some of the tensest zombie action we’ve had on the show in a while. Honestly, I’m shocked Tobin is the one to go in this episode. He’s been that one person I look for in the crowd to see whether or not Alexandria is present in certain scenes. For as little as they used him, Tobin being a constant for the Alexandrian people was reassuring. As long as he makes it, this won’t be another prison or Woodbury situation. And then he doesn’t make it. Worse yet, he turns on the people he protected. I didn’t think losing this one guy would hit so hard, but the more I think about how much I assumed he’d survive, the more my brain wants to reject reality. Carol’s reaction to Tobin’s demise is probably what pushes it over the edge. She’s genuinely gutted to see him turn. Melissa McBride yet again acts her backside off to really drag those emotions from the fans.

Will Maggie allow her people to continue this fight after she’s seen the cost? Rick will not give up until Negan’s dead, and Maggie wants that as well, but this isn’t justice anymore. Hilltop realizes that now. Can they back out of the war when they’ve become home base for an army?


Brainless in Seattle Part II: Review for iZombie 404

Brainless in Seattle Part II:
Review for iZombie 404
by A. Zombie

Watch out, you may swoon over the episode spoilers below.

Brother Love’s influence spreads through the downtrodden zombie citizens in Seattle. One man uses his rough encounter with Fillmore-Graves goon Russ Roche as fuel for Angus’ new persona to toss on the smoldering fire within the community. To them, he’s the only to reach out a kind hand since their sudden departure from living society. He feeds them. Picks up their spirits when they’ve resigned themselves to being “dead” to the people they love. Not to mention, he has this uncanny ability to pick a target for his rage and project that onto the masses with a few magnanimous acts to sew the seeds of Us vs Them. Major steps right into this perfect storm on the search for Tucker, the man Gladwell scratched while being recorded. After his friends abandon Tucker, he steals the phone with the video and finds solace in the anger Brother Love preaches. That’s where Major catches up with him. The congregation shout at the Fillmore-Graves employees. Angus uses the moment to praise the Chaos Killer, and issue a stern warning that if Major ever shows his face at church in Fillmore-Graves clothes again, that’ll be his last day having a face. And people think this dude’s a role model. Okay, Sure, Jan.

The Scratching Post crew drops a load of truth bombs in this episode thanks to the brain Blaine and Done E eat in order to find Renegade. The guys use honesty as the best policy, allowing the brain to cough up visions while they operate their businesses almost as usual. There’s a plethora of hilarious throw-away lines from these two. Blaine eventually gets enough information from his illicit snack to find the laundromat where Renegade operates. The calm sanctuary I enjoyed last time is a horror show this episode after Blaine’s guys shoot their way in to grab Mama Leone. Chase Graves doesn’t look too thrilled to be face to face with his supposed nemesis, but it seems like he’ll go through with Blaine’s deal. Wonder how Graves will justify his actions to Mama Leone’s face.

Catching Bruce the coyote takes a lot of patience, a dash of subterfuge, and a large dose of overacting. After several days running a stakeout at the building Bruce uses to torch his victims, Clive and Liv need a new method. Mama Leona, before she’s taken to Fillmore-Graves, tells Liv to try an online ad. Ravi offers himself as the bait, really overworking an upper crust British accent during the video call to set up a meeting with Bruce. The acting doesn’t get better when Ravi waits for Bruce with SWAT, plus Liv and Clive, on standby. Despite the flightiness from the romcom brain, Liv’s passionate about putting Bruce in his place when he claims they have no evidence. I think Mama Leone’s chat about wanting to feel needed after becoming a zombie put some pep back in Liv’s crime-fighting step—that conversation also reminds us how awful Blaine actually is when he’s not oozing charm.

Throughout the various stakeouts and meetings to prepare for catching Bruce, Liv is relentless about talking around Clive’s relationship problem. So much so, Clive snaps at her when she flat out says he should break up with Dale without giving a reason why. It takes the entire episode for Liv to open up about what she saw at The Scratching Post. Turns out Clive and Dale are trying an open relationship, but he’s not keen on hearing the details. Sorry, my man. If you haven’t already heard these details, you’re not in an open relationship, you’re just grasping for a connection that isn’t there. Communication is key, but Clive’s always been a locked door emotionally. It’ll bite him in the ass.

The Great Tim Saga comes to an end. Thankfully. When the gang head to The Scratching Post for the human/zombie mixer night, and Liv’s maybe-date, they must first face off with The Not-yo Man Major Savage. Gladwell and her new partner dose their commanding officer with blue wrestler brain as a joke. It leads to a heartfelt, but laughable scene with Major and Liv having a post-breakup talk about how much they just want to see the other person happy, no matter what. Kudos to the actors for getting through that scene at all. Every time Major opens his mouth, one can’t help but laugh hysterically. With that talk, and several others from Peyton about fate, ringing in her brain, Liv manages to just converse with Tim for the first time since they met. That’s when she finds out he’s a whackadoo Brother Love follower. Good riddance to bad rubbish; she tosses him like a pair of torn pantyhose. The episode wraps with the same sort of fun energy that charmed me during the last episode. We have most of the central cast in one place, hanging out, being silly, dancing, and no one’s worrying about anything. I forgot these characters could laugh so much without their faces cracking. Here’s hoping we get to see more of this, but I’m pretty sure the fun days are gone, what with Team Overlords getting ahold of Renegade and all.


The Key: Review for The Walking Dead 812

The Key:
Review for The Walking Dead 812
By R.C. Murphy

Warning, this review contains episode spoilers.

If I knew anyone as destructively stubborn as Rick during the apocalypse, I would’ve chained him to a house long ago for everyone’s good. It’s utterly ridiculous for this unhinged character to claim to lead anyone, let alone for his people to still treat him as the person who has their future in mind. Of all the community leaders, Rick’s focus is the narrowest, not moving beyond neutralizing a threat he provoked. Instead of moving on when the threat presented itself, he fought. Instead of treating Negan as an equal and negotiating, he took it as a personal affront that anyone would step in to interfere with how his people live. And now, with his son’s dying wish for peace ringing in his ears, Rick’s only focus is killing Negan. Like that’ll solve every problem he brought with him to Alexandria. Negan isn’t the most destructive force in this universe, Rick’s fear has a far higher body count. He took a community on the cutting edge, months from reclaiming modern technology on a mass scale, and turned it into smoldering ruins.

That’s the purpose of “The Key” as an episode, to fully illustrate how far this slice of humanity has fallen under Rick’s umbrella. While the men butt heads to see who’ll come out as the Supreme Leader, a group of women participate in a negotiation which will be the sole reason any of these people live to see another generation through adolescence. Not only are the women leaps and bounds ahead of the men as far as future preparations go, but they master the art of compromise with minimal shouting and only one daft, fear-driven, outburst. The initial meeting with Georgie, plus her associates Hilda and Midge, isn’t the best first impression because Maggie reacts to the offer to barter like Rick reacts to anyone presenting themselves as possessing a better plan for the future—everyone’s armed, on edge, waiting for the other shoe to drop without actually hearing the words coming from the other party. When Michonne puts the brakes on back at Hilltop, remembering what Carl asked of them, that’s when reason wins the day. The future must have a position at the council table, otherwise what are they fighting to protect? Are the people they’ve lost along the way not worth building something more than a temporary encampment from which one fights day in and day out? If they continue down this path, the future leads toward Mad Max territory, and that’s just not what some of these people want. So they’ll fight their own way. It’s about time. Maggie ends the episode radiating hope. That’s what Rick dropped down the road, along with a heap of the integrity which made him a compelling leader at the beginning. Without any hope, his people trudge to the next catastrophe, mentally saying their goodbyes because Rick’s plan has claimed too many lives to count at this point—starting at the quarry and up to now where we’ve got just three characters left from season one. With Georgie’s help, Maggie may just be able to salvage the three communities this mad warmongering tore apart. It’s nice to see hope return to this show. Refreshing, even.

Hilltop better use their time wisely; a hearty dose of hope won’t stop the incoming Saviors. Negan’s forces do, however, have to deal with a slight delay, first.

Wound like a top shot off a drill, Rick can’t stay at Hilltop after he arrives and inserts himself into the perimeter patrol in a nearby town. He’s the first to spot the Saviors on the move, yet holds off alerting the others to chase Negan. Of course he does! I’ve got to give it to them, though, it’s a fun sequence altogether. And a bit ridiculous. Rick’s just gonna Rick no matter what at this point and all that’s left is enjoying the weird trouble he gets himself into every episode. The car chase sets up the unhinged action once the guys get to the basement scene rather nicely. I’m not sure I’d believe Rick would fight a guy in the middle of a flaming walker horde without him first chasing the guy down like he’s back in his sheriff’s uniform. His mindset is right there in his eyes in the close-ups during the chase. If Negan saw Rick’s face then, he wouldn’t have goaded him once they got inside the building. Dude’s dropped all his marbles and everyone else trips over them, yet again.

Despite the sheer amount of WTF on Rick’s part, the flaming zombie gag is solid. Negan’s reactions say everything. He knew the guy wasn’t all there, now he sees firsthand how dangerous Rick is when he feels he has nothing to lose. Oh, he has things to lose. As I said before though, he’s so narrowminded, he’s not really thinking about Michonne, Judith, or the civilians caught in future crossfire. How does this show decide to illustrate such character depth? By lighting Lucille and some walkers on fire, then having Rick and Negan fight around them. Only this show could make its fan base believe the main character would be so willfully self-destructive yet somehow both men survive.

Negan’s survival spells trouble for a certain lieutenant with the gift of gab. Simon wastes no time campaigning for himself once the Saviors roll out of Sanctuary toward Hilltop. When Rick takes Negan out of the caravan, Simon is slow to respond, hides several smirks. The entire time, Simon jaws at Dwight, working him toward his side, a side where the Saviors just move on. Move on is slang for kill them all and find new people to harass, by the way. Dwight’s slow to the new lingo, having been with the Alexandrians for a little while. It’s not until they meet with the Saviors post helping Simon cover Negan’s tracks after he disappears from the car wreck that he realizes, this guy does not have the same agenda as I. Well, you think? Simon’s days are numbered, but that number is indefinite since Negan’s sitting in the front seat of Jadis’ car with a gun to his head.


Brainless in Seattle Part I: Review for iZombie 403

Brainless in Seattle Part I:
Review for iZombie 403
By A. Zombie

Before you zip on by, please know there’s episode spoilers in this review.

The human smuggling subplot takes the spotlight in this episode, highlighting a too-real fear about trusting a stranger with your complete safety while in the pursuit of something highly illegal. In this case, romance trumps common sense, bringing Annie Wallace to New Seattle on Love’s light wings . . . okay, so they roll into town in a nondescript vehicle. This episode encourages one to wax poetic, believe it or not. There’s a lot of ridiculous commentary on lust versus love, but the non-romance portions of this romcom are probably some of my favorite scenes from the last two seasons.

You’re soulless if you don’t enjoy a good makeover montage once in a while, I’m just saying.

Back to our victim. Annie unfortunately never meets up with her online sweetheart. Once she is in the city, Bruce the coyote shows his hand, murdering the girl to sell her brain on the black market. She’s a scrapper, puts up a bit of a fight, leading the killer to leave part of her brain behind—just enough for Liv to make milk chocolate brain-bons. This woman went through life falling in love with every other person, always assuming they approached her with good intentions. That’s rarely true, as shown by how easily Annie fell into Bruce’s trap instead of finding someone like Renegade, who so far appears to be the genuine article, someone who just wants to help. Annie’s brain makes its way to Romero’s, where Don E purchases it to feed their high-end clients, along with a mime’s brain to mix things up a little.

The undead are reaching the desperation point with the low brain supply. Fillmore-Graves suspects there’s only four months of brains on-hand for the expanding New Seattle population. Legal sources ae slim. Illegal sources can’t bring them in fast enough without garnering interest from the government. As it is, Clive suspects there’s a serial killer connected to Annie’s death, bringing them that much closer to pinpointing the cause as a black-market brain trade. Cracking down on border crossings isn’t dissuading the desperate from entering the city for what they see as their only chance to thrive—for example Annie witnesses an execution when they pull up to the gate. Desperate for a hand-up against the coyotes, Chase Graves appeals to Blaine’s business sense for aid. If Blaine delivers Renegade, he gets to run his businesses without interference. It’s too good a deal to pass up. By the episode’s end, Blaine locates, and devours, one of Renegade’s clients. Yet again proving he’s one of the most determined people in this universe. Finding the woman herself won’t be as simple. Liv can’t even locate her again after revisiting the laundromat and has to wait for Mama Leone to find her instead to ask about the other coyotes in town.

By far the worst part of the episode is Liv’s constant, “Oh, this is the guy for me. He’s amazing!” On the flip side, this easy-going, happy Liv pumps life back into this character. She’s hanging with Peyton again. They harass Ravi into a makeover montage, which brings such a smile to one’s face, their nose might just crack off. Not saying it happened to me, but I heard a friend suffered such a sad fate. Ahem. Anyway, I’m thankful we get another crack at this version of Liv. She’s the Liv we’ve been missing and didn’t realize it. Although she never actually finds it, Liv drunk on love is by far the best Liv. That truth makes it even harder to accept the production’s decisions to kill everyone Liv’s fallen for since the beginning. Give us what we want, people. Content Liv without the angst for a little while longer, please. And more montages.

On the romance flipside, Bozzio might be stepping out on Clive. While playing tonsil hockey with a random guy she fell in love with, Liv spots Dale in a similar situation moments before she takes the guy off the dance floor at The Scratching Post. Of course romantic-brained Liv thinks the only way out of the situation is to tell Clive the truth. So far she’s declined to come right out with it. Instead Liv winds up harassing the new uni, Michelle Hunter, insinuating that she should hook up with Clive. Yes, it’s a moment worthy of a thousand facepalms.

The romcom brain antics go into the next episode, thank goodness. It seems unlikely they’ll wrap the entire brain trade story now, but I suspect we’re heading back toward the good ol days where Team Zombie went head-to-head with Blaine’s empire. Mix in his new, powerful allies and this fight is far more one-sided than last time when Major almost single handedly wiped out the brain smuggling business by blowing up a butcher’s shop. Speaking of Major, will he stick by the company when he learns they sent the city’s mob boss in to do their dirty work?


Dead or Alive or: Review for The Walking Dead 811

Dead or Alive or:
Review for The Walking Dead 811
By R.C. Murphy

Don’t just rush ahead! Watch out for episode spoilers.

In the wake of Negan’s fiery revenge in Alexandria, the village’s people are on the run. Saviors hold blockades on all the roads. The only reason Daryl gets the Alexandria survivors to the halfway point is because none of these oh-so intelligent souls think to look under the freeway they’re guarding. In order to ensure his people make it to Hilltop unscathed, Daryl’s willing to listen to Dwight when the reformed bad guy suggests they pass through the swamp, declared too dangerous to pass by Negan and therefore unguarded during the lockdown. So long as everyone keeps up and cooperates, they’ll get there in one piece. Oh and if we ignore Tara’s existence since she’s still on this whole “Kill Dwight even though he’s useful” kick. She’s so focused on him, Tara is willing to turn away from a walker-filled swamp where her friends are clearing a path in order to yet again threaten Dwight, and yet again fail to follow through. The posturing is boring and isn’t helping with Dwight’s story at all. If anything, it’s making him repeat the same tired redemption story, which isn’t nearly as interesting as his actions. These writers will always talk a plot to death long before they let the characters do what they need to do. Show, don’t tell. I’m not sure how such a basic thing escapes this writing team, but here we are.

Despite Tara, Dwight’s story and his tentative friendship with Daryl steals these scenes. We see Daryl fight the urge to rely on anyone, but Dwight’s resolve to help is a balm for the renegade’s soul. This is probably the most useful version of Daryl to date. Why, though? Why now? Is it because he’s able to act on his own plans with Rick in mourning? We don’t see a lot of initiative from Daryl on large scope problems, he’s the type to sit back and wait for someone to point him at something he can kill. When they reach the swamp, he’s already shedding his reliance on Rick’s leadership. His call to cut through the swamp on Dwight’s suggestion, the willingness to put his body on the line to secure a path through the walkers, and his refusal to flip his lid when told how close the Saviors are is a surefire sign that this character is finally maturing past the plateau he reached after Merle’s brutal demise. This Daryl may even surprise us and attempt to recover Dwight, since the guy proves himself big time by leading the Saviors away at the swamp, losing his hard-won freedom from the organization.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan; group – The Walking Dead _ Season 8, Episode 11 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

The rescue will get interesting, if it happens. Negan’s strategies adapt to whatever pressure comes from outside forces. If the Saviors were a single creature, I’d say octopus. They’re wily beasts and there’s numerous studies devoted to their cognitive ability to take advantage of any situation. Step one in the wargame adaptations puts Eugene at the middle of a new outpost, charged with supplying the Saviors with bullets at inhuman speeds. There’s also a degree of comfort to bribe Eugene, keep him productive. In true fashion, this character uses his miniscule power to lord over a woman in such a manner I fully believe his mother’s ghost smacked him upside the head. The second step introduces bio warfare to this universe on a large scale. Negan encourages his people to use walker blood/innards to contaminate their weapons. Why waste so much effort killing when a single infected scratch will sign everyone’s death certificate—unless it’s a case like Hershel where amputation stopped the disease from passing into his blood system, but how many will get that lucky in the midst of war? They barely have medical care as it is, there’s no way Siddiq and the others with minimal training will keep up with the incoming infection rate thanks to this new fighting strategy. Hilltop will go from a safe haven to a walker corral.

Speaking of, the upcoming siege isn’t the most pressing threat to the remaining community. Hilltop’s food supply never recovered from paying off the Saviors. Feeding the citizens alone will deplete their pantry in less than a fortnight, and they’ve promised humane imprisonment to the Saviors, so they’ve got maybe a week of food max. Scouts are out searching, but they’ve picked the county clean. Jesus won’t walk in with half a grocery store this time. The stress from trying to figure out how to balance being a prison and a home leaves Maggie at her wit’s end. But not so much that she doesn’t see the odd behavior from Morgan and Henry, who’ve appointed themselves as the guards outside the Saviors’ cell. After speaking to Gabriel and some others, Maggie does some deep thinking about how to groups treat each other. In the end, Maggie plans to allow the Saviors a little more freedom in the form of armed escorts to take them from the cell to work details. They get to move around more and she gets the gardens ready for the next planting season. You know someone, likely Jared, is going to screw up this system by next week.

We’ve finally caught up with Dr. Carson and Gabriel after they slipped free from Sanctuary with a little inside help. The infection burning through Gabriel’s veins is attacking his vision. Worse yet, the stolen car is dead and they’ve got no clue where they are in relation to Hilltop because the navigator can’t even read a map an inch from his nose. Following God’s plan, as detailed by a man whose brain bakes itself with each step they take, leads the duo to an abandoned home. Somehow while looking suicide in the face—the homeowner failed to make contact with other survivors and ended it long before the men arrive—Gabriel still thinks his God wants all of this to happen. It’s hard to deny that when so many things go right for them thanks to Gabriel’s vague feelings about their destiny. The much-needed antibiotics, an impossible shot to save Dr. Carson from a walker, the hidden treasure of car keys and a map are all lovely red herrings leading us to think maybe, just maybe Gabriel is blessed by an otherworldly power. He’s not. He’s just lucky and manages to use it all up before they drive away from the house. That fortunate gunshot drew the Saviors. Gabriel’s brash belief leads Dr. Carson to fall into the same fallacy, only what he assumes is a sign from above is just another way to get dead faster by assuming everything will go right. No matter how many times he’s fallen from his faith, Gabriel always bounces back. I’m not so sure that’ll happen this time. He’s well and truly broken, covered in blood from a man who he thought would be the savior everyone needs during this trying time.

But do they need a savior? Or does this group simply need to cut their losses and move on before this war takes everyone’s life? If I were in Hilltop when the Alexandrian refugees arrived, that would be the only sign necessary to kick my butt in gear to leave by morning. This war is no longer who’ll win or who’ll lose, but who will see reason and leave the others to kill themselves while they find a new safe haven to call home.