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.


Everybody Dies in the End: Review for Z Nation 314

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Everybody Dies in the End:
Review for Z Nation 314
by A. Zombie

zn-314-grandpazThe episode rolls onto the screen, following The Man and the hounds on his tail, Addy and Doc. The worst babysitters ever get some help from Grandpa, the zombie Lucy sent off on an unknown mission in the last episode. He’s kinda sweet. Too bad the nice guys always bite the big one in the end on this show. Grandpa does a pretty good job of leading Addy and Doc to the Zona base hidden in Mt. Casey. Only one problem: Their backup was last headed toward Puget Sound. They have no clue if and when help will arrive, so Addy makes an executive decision—she’ll climb the mountain without any gear or training; Doc babysits Grandpa. She seriously spends most of the episode uselessly scaling a mountain when the rest just walk in the front door not long after.

Dr. Sun and Roberta cobble together a communication rig and contact Kaya to get an update on The Man’s location. Thank goodness someone is at Northern Lights manning the computers. Citizen Z and Kaya’s uncle have been missing for twelve hours, and there’s not much hope left for their survival. Updated on the change in pick-up locations, the rescue team shifts gear and heads off. They end up stopping again long before reaching the mountain.

zn-314-kill10ktosavehimAll the drugs in 10k’s system were bound to gunk up his system. The serums constantly battle the infection hidden in Murphy’s bite. In a blink, 10k goes from fully functional to each breath coming out a death rattle. By the time Roberta’s team pushes ahead to Mt. Casey, he’s pretty much toast. Only a Hail Mary can pull him from the drug-induced full-body shutdown. Do they really have time to try an experimental procedure on 10k? Not really. Roberta clearly states that Lucy is the priority, but somehow they all wind up playing doctor instead. How do you save a problem like 10k? Same way Dr. Merch accidentally saved Murphy—kill him. Dr. Sun drops the death bomb on Murphy’s reality with no preamble. When the zombies attacked during the original vaccine procedure, Murphy’s heart stopped. He’s been dead for four years and somehow looks better than some people after a week at the spa. Suddenly his brand of living doesn’t seem so bad, so long as one isn’t squeamish about eating brains.

Yet again we almost lose 10k. The doctor’s plan works, thankfully, snatching him from Death’s greedy paws once more. What will the long-term effects be? No clue. We’re not even sure 10k is technically the same kind of undead as Murphy. There’s no clue what balance of vaccines are in his system. If Dr. Sun doesn’t take the opportunity to study him, as well as Murphy and Lucy, she’s insane.

Curing the world will have to wait a little longer.

Roberta, Doc, and Murphy race from 10k’s newly-revived side to intercept The Man and Lucy before their transport arrives on the mountaintop. Being somewhat sane again, and the rational shot-caller since Murphy’s too emotionally compromised to effectively lead the rescue, Roberta attempts to talk The Man down from his plan. Why break up a family which never had a chance to bond? Why torment a child? It takes no time at all for civil debate to end and the bullets to fly. Murphy uses Roberta to distract The Man, shooting him so Lucy can race to his side.

zn-314-theshotIt’s not the reunion anyone anticipated. Yes, Lucy readily embraces her father. Then she hits him. Several times. There’s also quite a bit of yelling about abandonment and her mother. Yada, yada, yada. There’s no time for personal problems with The Man still fully functional. Murphy and Roberta take him on, but he slips their grasp yet again. The Man hits Murphy and Roberta with the same bullet, in that order. If they survive, Roberta’s life will be incredibly different. As will their personal dynamic. There’s always been an almost loving respect from the pair, which strengthened greatly around the time they passed the Grand Canyon. How much will it deepen when they’re mentally connected? Then again, Roberta may buck against the change like 10k has, which resulted in his death and magical resurrection. Murphy or Roberta may die from the gunshot. We don’t know! The episode ends with the Zona aircraft—actually a United States Airforce vehicle from Zone A—firing a weird weapon at everyone on the mountaintop.

Know who’s not on the mountaintop anymore? The Man, because Addy pushes him to get him away from Lucy and the aircraft. Addy herself goes over the edge, too. Then 5k sprints over and jumps after them, wings outstretched like he can actually fly. I don’t even know what’s going on now. If the kid saves Addy, whatever. I’ll buy it. There’s no use over analyzing anything they do on here.

We’ve got the two lead characters bleeding to death. The team’s sniper just died and came back to unlife as a fully functional Blend, or something. They’ve gained a hormonal teenaged girl who can control zombies—except the Zona guards inhabiting the mountain our heroes are trapped atop, who keep turning in droves as their version of the cure fails. Their main fighter fell off a mountain. They did have two new mouths to feed, but now it’s just Red because 5k took a flying leap. Oh, and let’s not forget the impending doom hovering above the crew.

It’s going to be a very, very long wait until season four. I’ve got no clue how they’ll wiggle out of this corner. Though, it’s not as tight as the corner they wrote themselves into when Murphy nuked the entire USA, so it’s doable. Maybe. Hopefully.


Zombie Reviews . . . Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Zombie Reviews . . . Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

By A. Zombie

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies delivers a timeless tale, rife with fighting, set in a post-apocalyptic, yet historical era. You can’t deny that it is oddly satisfying to watch a group of accomplished young women mow down a ballroom of zombies with naught but long daggers—which were concealed under their gowns—and some serious martial arts skills. Are there issues meshing the worlds? Of course. In the end, the film is visually satisfying enough to overlook most of it. As a boon, fans of the Pride and Prejudice story still find enough of the source to reconnect with their favorite characters in a whole new way. Or, as is one case, finally come to somewhat like what is possibly the most annoying character in literature.

Sam Riley and Douglas Booth in Screen Gems’ PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES.

The Pride and Prejudice story has enough twists and turns to make it a compelling tale. Adding in the undead posed a particular problem: How to keep the romance in the forefront without compromising a solid story about love’s place in the social structure by changing the setting to the apocalypse. In order to achieve this the quickest way possible, the film doesn’t open with the Bennet ladies and their marriage-worried parents—I will note that post-apocalypse Father Bennet has no interest in wedding off his daughters, only training them to survive. Instead, it begins with Darcy on the hunt for a zombie hiding in the midst of the upper crust. As far as first impressions goes, it’s a pretty sharp introduction. The first zombie isn’t a rotter, held back from the full transformation because he didn’t consume human flesh. Nevertheless, he’s infected and must be dispatched. It’s the first-person point-of-view kill which ruins the scene’s impact. Darcy is cunning and ruthless, then there’s this cheesy head-rolling moment with the camera. When it recovers from the point-of-view shift, the camera pans upstairs to a second, far more detailed zombie before the scene changes. The scene is crammed in before the traditional start to the PaP story, and the outcome of Darcy’s escapade, plus his failure to kill the second zombie, is dragged in again as a way to bring zombies to Bingley’s first party. At least it isn’t a single-purpose moment.

For the most part, the story itself is predictable if one is aware of the source material. There’s very few surprises, like Lady Catherine’s part as a one-eyed, sword-wielding leader in the human forces fighting the dead for control of London and the surrounding countryside. Even Wickham’s true nature, beyond being a cad and a narcissist, isn’t really shocking if one follows the natural progression of how the original book unfolds. I would’ve liked to see more effort to adapt the full story into something different. Lady Catherine remaining on the side of the angels bugs me in particular, seeing as she’s pretty awful to Elizabeth no matter what incarnation of PaP is being told. It would’ve been more shocking for her to side with Wickham over a common undead state than to willingly take in the Bennets, whom she sees as barely above her lady’s maid in social status.

Lily James and Bella Heathcote in Screen Gems’ PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES.

This is one horror film where it’s hard to do what we’re accustomed to: hoping all the lead characters bite the big one. Primarily, PaPaZ is a romance with relatable, quirky characters. The zombie war is there in the background to give Elizabeth and Darcy something to bond over, to put them on equal footing at last. That’s the big difference in this retelling of the classic. Elizabeth isn’t some seemingly-damaged suitcase her parents try to sell Darcy—and any other man without a bride— with no concern for her feelings. Yes, Mrs. Bennet’s marriage obsession plays a huge role in breaking apart the primary couple, as it always does, but it’s not as depressing as usual when looking at what Elizabeth has accomplished without a husband. Her prospects with zombies raiding England are better than they were in the actual historical era, all because their new society saw an education with the key sources far beyond the country’s borders as the only way to survive the menace—looking out to find a way to fix the problems within is something few societies embrace. Her progress in women’s self-empowerment doesn’t stop the entire Parson Collins plot from happening, though. He still arrives, annoys, and marries a Bennet daughter. Only this time around, Collins is somewhat tolerable because Matt Smith made him a bumbling fool, not a man coldly calculating how to sleep his way ahead in Lady Catherine’s good graces. Collins provides another opportunity to sew zombie conflict into the Bennet’s lives, but the potential went unchecked. The writer had a focus; Wickham’s established part as villain would be upheld. But why is he the villain? Why not any of the numerous people in Elizabeth’s life who degraded her for her gender or her place in society? Answer? He took a woman (property in the era) without permission. It’s a trope so old, I really hoped it would remain in the classic story and they’d do something different for the Wickham/Lydia plot.

The zombies in the film range in appearance. For the most part, they’re seen at a distance in groups. Few zombies get the close-up treatment, even fewer actually show grotesque wounds like traditional undead depictions. When the camera does get up close and personal with a zombie, I cringe. The design overall is great. Having undead waltzing around in these grand gowns and waistcoats strikes an oddly-pleasing discord. The illusion blows to pieces when one realizes there’s little practical gore on the actors. Featured dead have digital wounds; presumably to enhance the ick, plus make wounds deeper and move naturally during dialog. However, even the church girls on-screen for all of a minute appear to have digital rot on their cheeks instead of practical makeup. That’s where the design decisions stop making sense and become a headache for genre fans. The film cost enough without making the makeup digital. In a way, it feels we were cheated from a proper zombie battle scene because of the zombie design relying on digital gore. Yes, there’s a rather tense bit toward the end when they finally confront Wickham and the undead at St. Lazarus, but the camera is pulled back. Distance from the main threat in the film leaves the undead with the menace of a mosquito, not a lion hunting the countryside. It robs a little justice from Lydia’s rescue, as well, when there’s no real danger from zombies who are too far away to see clearly.

Overall, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies delivers what it promised: A classic story with zombies wandering in to seriously ruin everyone’s day more than Darcy’s absent sense of humor. Is it a perfect retelling of Austen’s novel? Hell no. Is it a decent zombie flick? Yeah, I’ll give it that. PaPaZ gets four majorly dislocated jaws out of five. Grab the film to enjoy beautiful things covered in blood n guts, stay for the witty snits between Darcy and Elizabeth.


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.


Duel: Review for Z Nation 313

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Duel:
Review for Z Nation 313
by A. Zombie

Z NATION -- "Duel" Episode 314 -- Pictured: Caitlin Carmichael as Lucy -- (Photo by: Go2 Z/Syfy)

Z NATION — “Duel” Episode 313 — Pictured: Caitlin Carmichael as Lucy — (Photo by: Go2 Z/Syfy)

Addy tracks The Man and Lucy to a boatyard. The girl plays with new zombie friends, and has no clue where her captor went. Great. Convenient. Time to run. By the way, anytime in the episode you think Addy and Lucy will get away, they make it no more than half a mile before they’re caught again. It’s beyond frustrating. Not just as a fan, but as someone who really does not enjoy watching the hero get their backside handed to them at all turns, especially when there’s someone more than capable of helping standing ten feet away flapping their hands. I fail to grasp how The Murphy’s daughter, raised on tales with her father’s heroic feats to save humanity, would allow the woman she calls an aunt to be beaten within an inch of her life. It makes no sense that she’d stand up to The Man when they’re alone, but the minute Addy steps on stage, Lucy is an infant needing rescue.

That side thought took wings and flew. Unlike this episode.

zn-313-shoppingtripDuring one of their half-mile trips, the ladies stop to replace Lucy’s too-small clothes. Just what every horror fan wants, ten minutes trapped in a department store with a moody tween and her zombie pals. Lucy has no interest in clothes fit for survival. She has no grasp of danger because the undead, the main threat in the apocalypse, treat her like a princess. So why bother grabbing heavy clothes to protect her skin? Addy does manage to find suitable clothes for Lucy; a leather jacket for protection, as well.

While Lucy laments their so-boring task, she pries Addy for information about her parents, particularly her mother. They have similar conversations throughout the episode, with Addy dancing a jog around the truth for as long as possible. Who wants to be the person to tell a child their father is an egocentric jerk with a messiah complex? On top of that, no one needs to be the person to detail how a child’s mother died. But this is TV, and Lucy harps on her unstable identity because she was raised an orphan. The only way Addy sees to work toward peace of mind for the girl is to stop telling fairy tales. Gone is the king and his pie-baking queen. Lucy knows now that her mother killed a lot of zombies to keep her safe—zombies Lucy sees as innocent since no one knew they just wanted to be near the baby, not kill her.

Lucy’s interactions with the zombies take a bizarre twist in this episode. With her sudden maturity, she’s more in tune with how the undead think instead of just ordering them around like self-propelling dolls. For her, the undead are intelligent companions. Addy believes it’s the girl’s wild imagination at work, failing to understand Lucy isn’t drawing names and life stories from thin air. The girl’s powers are pretty heavy-hitting. Though, whoever decided a glass-shattering scream would be her main method to summon zombies needs to sit in a room listening to nothing but Nickleback turned up to eleven for twenty-four hours. Surely there was another power gimmick which wouldn’t result in a migraine for every viewer. Let’s hope with Lucy’s newest growth spurt taking her to a teenager that the screaming fits will fall to the wayside. She does seem far more like her parents—calm but dangerous when cornered—toward the episode’s end.

zn-313-watersidefightThere’s a couple decent fight scenes between Addy and The Man. As I said before, the episode is one long fight with breaks to teach Lucy how to human. For the most part, Addy hold her own, delivering quite a bit of hurt during their clashes. She even gets the chance to almost kill him, though a bulletproof vest saves his life. But when each fight inevitably ends the same way, with Addy knocked down/out and The Man dragging Lucy away, it’s no longer fun to hop from brawl to brawl. It becomes a chore to watch The Man go from fighting to torturing Addy. There’s a line between incapacitating a powerful character enough to believe they couldn’t mount a rescue at the last minute and beating a woman within an inch of death—dislocating her shoulder and drowning her because it looks cool to nearly kill a lead character. But it gets the point across: No matter what Addy does, she can’t save Lucy alone.

Well, I didn’t think the finale would revolve around Lucy’s abduction, but here we are. I’d anticipated the clash in Murphytown to be what swings us into the fourth season. It just makes sense to send off with a civil war. However, if Zona is finally stepping onstage as a real danger, shifting the plot from Operation Bitemark infighting to joining forces against a new big bad makes sense. But is Zona really enough of a threat if they’ve only got one mercenary at their disposal and Murphy’s built an army? The Man is good; not that good, though.


The Siege of Murphytown: Review for Z Nation 312

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The Siege of Murphytown:
Review for Z Nation 312
by A. Zombie

zn-312-robertasnewlookWhen we catch up with Roberta, it’s much like I anticipated. She’s hyper-aggressive. Everything Roberta does or commands reflects only her mission to obtain Murphy’s blood. The soft-spoken way she handled Dr. Sun is replaced by hard, cold truths spoken with venom when they butt heads about whether the Red Hand should be ordered to avoid shooting civilians. To Roberta, if any person in Spokane will even think to stop her, they’re the enemy, and if they’re at his side then they’ve accepted the risk. It’s not like such battles haven’t taken place worldwide in the apocalypse—the Red Hand held a similar invasion on the toy factory. But I don’t think Dr. Sun has seen as much action as everyone assumes, leaving her often shocked at the lengths these American survivors will go to secure their place in the new world order. She’s seen nothing yet. Roberta is all-in on this game, nothing left to lose. That desperation mixed with grief will be her downfall.

With or without confirmation of Lucy’s location, Roberta will press on with her mission. Using her new army, they cobble a whole plan, not just a half-considered series of actions which may or may not blossom into a plan by the time all’s said and done. At last, we see her potential as a leader. For what it is, the plan has few faults and is pretty simple: Kill the power to the fences, stage a distraction at the front gate, then Roberta and Dr. Sun break in on the opposite side to grab stuff from the lab, not to mention the too-vital blood. And for the most part, the plan works brilliantly. Red Hand members grab a Blend guard, Bowden, from the power station and toss zombies in the water to jam the turbine. Hopper uses Bowden, covered in blood and guts, to fish for the other guards at the front gate. Roberta enters Murphy’s compound without a hitch.

zn-312-murphycontrollshisarmyOutside, it’s a whole ‘nother story. What any of them failed to take into consideration is Murphy’s connection to the Blends, not just the zombies. Naturally, these civilians duck and cover when the Red Hand opens fire. It’s up to Murphy to provide them with courage to return fire. Courage he has in spades, by the way. Murphy comes across a world-class coward, but a coward wouldn’t have fought to retain autonomy of his body after countless attempts to turn him into a lab specimen. A coward would have sighed and given in after the Zona crew pulled the wool over his eyes by dangling Dr. Merch in his path like a quick fix to all his problems. A coward certainly wouldn’t stand in the middle of an invasion to direct his people, then remain in the building. The old Murphy may have run and let his people perish. This Murphy, looking rather dapper with is white hair, actually has morals and they say he must find a way to help everyone live. Even if that means they no longer live as humans.

The physical fighting is pretty boilerplate for an apocalypse show. We say goodbye, and good riddance, to Hopper and several background Red Hands, a few Blends as well—though only one of note dies. Roberta kills Hope Chaffin, but it’s Murphy who lies to her family about her demise. Not a good way to keep your lieutenant’s trust, man.

A mental fight for dominance takes place throughout the episode in several high-tension diplomatic discussions between Roberta and Murphy. The pair spend the entire time one-upping each other. Roberta snags 10k and attempts to break Murphy’s hold. Murphy uses the kid to track her location and offers to turn her into one of his kind. She demands his blood. He shoots off a barb about not being able to trust humans anymore, when she was the only one he trusted back at the Grand Canyon to see how distraught he was after the mass zombie murder. It’s a lot of similar tit for tat emotional battle maneuvers until the final face-off in Lucy’s nursery. In a brilliant move, Roberta uses Murphy’s brain-lust to distract and control him. Great. Awesome. Oh, wait. He’s got a ton of people around him he can summon with just a thought. Roberta goes from on top of the apocalyptic world to sitting at Murphy’s feet in a heartbeat.

Just as quickly, they all forget the war to chase a random airplane.

zn-312-roughlandingIt’s about damn time Citizen Z and Roberta meet face to face. Propelled by the knowledge that they may never make contact through the remaining NSA resources, he flew off with Kaya’s uncle to Spokane. Their landing is perfectly timed, dropping them into the end of the battle with news about something far more pressing than who gets to control Murphy’s future—Lucy’s abduction by The Man. Suddenly it’s all hand on deck. Murphy’s first instinct isn’t to rush off with his people. He asks Roberta to get his girl—it may have something to do with Hope’s final words stating that Murphy loves Roberta—and she agrees to help. With a caveat; they have to work out a deal to make the cure before going to the coordinates Citizen Z has for Lucy’s destination.

No Doc in this episode, sadly. Addy is on The Man’s trail, locating several abandoned vehicles and the zombie road signs Lucy leaves along their route. Kaya is pregnant, so expect her to become even crazier about Simon and Addy’s not-a-thing-ever. Red and 5k aren’t actually dead, or hallucinations, and pop up to save 10k’s sanity once the serum Roberta gave him kicks in. We wrap things up with Murphy and Roberta, plus their assault team, loading into vehicles, ready to fetch Lucy. It’s going to be one heck of a fight when we finally have the four most powerful people in this universe in the same room together.


Second Coming: Review for Ash vs Evil Dead 210

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Second Coming:
Review for Ash vs Evil Dead 210
by A. Zombie

aved-210-pastrubybeatenkellyHenrietta doesn’t get the satisfaction of killing her idiot, Sumerian-reading husband. After he bolts with the Necronomicon, he’s stopped dead in his tracks in his VW Bug. The Prima Donna isn’t alone on her stage anymore. Enter Ruby. Again. This one is blonde. And very angry. It takes her no time to secure the book. Since it’s a short-format show, they waste no time jumping into the temporal-paradox thing by having Ruby meet herself. Past!Ruby is aghast she’d eventually team with El Jefe, seeing it as a betrayal. Now!Ruby speaks her heart, warning herself about her fall from immortality. But all Ruby has wanted is a family, turning her back on her children when she’s moments from bringing them into the world is impossible. Plus, she’s super evil. Ruby kills Ruby. Before she’s too weak, Now!Ruby does a little magic with the Necronomicon one last time to hurt her past self, then hands the burden off to Kelly. They really did try to send the kinder Ruby off with something resembling grace and compassion, giving her and Ash time to say goodbye in their own, bizarre way.

Her sacrifice is worth it the minute Ash’s hand reappears and Kelly announces they’ve actually changed the timeline. But wait, if he has a hand then . . . . Yes! Pablo lives. Kidding. Kinda. TheirPablo is in the demon realm. The Pablo in the trunk? Baal. Dude pulled a Skywalker and buried himself in the nearest warm body to survive. Ash’s vision wasn’t grief or drugs, it was Baal putting the whammy on him so he could find a new Ruby to manipulate. This time, Daddy is present for his spawns’ births. The birthing scene isn’t nearly as traumatic when the book vomits them instead of Pablo.

aved-210-henriettafinalformThere is, of course, only one way to settle this beef between El Jefe and Baal—a fist fight. No powers. Man against man, without all that mumbo jumbo. The stakes? The demonic duo and their progeny scoot back south-side if Ash wins. If he loses? Hell on earth. And the spawn get to eat Kelly. The guys fight each other from one end of the cabin to the other. It takes about two or three destroyed rooms for Baal to use his powers. Ash faces off with Chet, who’s amazingly sober, and the fight is as funny as expected. The second ghost of the night appears not as a huge man living in the now, but as Ash’s sister Cheryl. She’s in and out of the scene so quickly, it’s easy to miss it. The Ghost of Christmas Past is Brock. There’s an agonizing moment where it’s impossible to tell if this is a demon trick or if Brock was brought back to life to screw with Ash’s head—I’m still not clear on it. Somehow we go from mourning Brock again to a chainsaw fight. Ultimately, all the fighting is there for the sight gags and cameos. The real fight is one of wits just when it looks like Baal will win. Ash disarms Ball with his crude humor and uses the demon’s own claw to kill him.

Ruby uses the downtime before her lover’s death to seduce Ruby to the darkside. It doesn’t work, of course. Not even after Ruby tries to beat optimism and loyalty to Ash out of her. Their scenes break up the fight, feeling more like an excuse to hit Kelly or have the demon spawn fondle her than anything which adds to the story.

The Necronomicon has a fit. It summons a portal to hell and in go the baddies. Luckily for us, portals are a two-way street. Like the beautiful phoenix he is, Pablo crawls from the ashes of the cabin. Is it really our little buddy? Ash hits him to make sure. Poor Pablo can’t catch a break. What a way to welcome back a hero.

aved-210-ashappreciationdaySpeaking of, Ash’s longtime service to humanity has finally been recognized. Once they return to the present, the town sets up a day just for Ash. Really, it’s a platform for Ash to finally tell the populace how awful they’ve been to him. They don’t mind the blunt outburst. They will probably mind that he’s moving back to town, since he’ll likely be up to his drunken, drugged-out ways sooner rather than later. Ash isn’t the only new person in town, Past!Ruby took her own time stroll. She didn’t perish in the hellfire which destroyed the cabin, and she wants revenge. It’ll be easier than she thinks, seeing as a bunch of kids just stumbled across the Necronomicon at the cabin’s ruins. Here we go again.

Now begins the wait for news about season three.


Doc’s Angels: Review for Z Nation 311

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Doc’s Angels:
Review for Z Nation 311
by A. Zombie

zn-311-docsnewthreadsTo speak the word, one must first follow it. Sounds really deep, huh? Really, it just means Doc uses a busted old radio to follow the signal coming from this absolutely stunning little mini-castle smack-dab in the middle of nowhere. The woman on-air spends her days reading poetry and old stories. Before we see her, we know she’s an odd duck. Foretelling goes a long way on this show. Even knowing Doc’s walking into danger, it’s still fun to tag along to watch him become horribly uncomfortable with the situation he’s bumbled into.

Because, let’s face it, everything that’s happened to Doc since the Zs rose has been a case of him stumbling into the wrong place at the worst possible time. Yet he’s only gotten blown up once, so we’ll just say Fate is on his side. For now.

The impassioned poet doesn’t live alone. Camilla bunks with Linda and Sara, the latter of whom has a keen eye for style and an industrial Bedazzler. I’ll tell you what, the bedecked zombies are some of the oddest I’ve seen onscreen to date, and I’ve seen the Return of the Living Dead series more times than I care to admit. A few zombies escape Sara’s glittery wrath, but for the most part these Zs have every inch of exposed flesh covered in rhinestones. They look like some weird wraith tasked with protecting a pharaoh’s afterlife treasures.

The zombies aren’t the oddest thing at the ladies’ castle.

zn-311-bedazzledzombieBut we can’t let ourselves get distracted by bejeweled dead guys and gorgeous, yet odd women. Oh, no. There’s a mission to complete, and complete it Doc will before he tends to his . . . uh . . . basic needs. The homemade radio station is Camilla’s haven, powered by the same solar panels keeping the women comfortable despite the dead taking over the world. The minute Doc fails to connect to Citizen Z, we know he’s found yet another trap. And this time he’s all alone. No Addy to save the day or Roberta to snag him from death’s door.

Cheers to whichever sicko in the writer’s room gave the women an Ed Gein twist to their self-sustaining lifestyle. The truth lingers at Doc’s periphery during the in-between scenes where Linda, or Camilla, or Sara, attempt to seduce him. They never give him enough time to focus on what’s really in the house, and he doesn’t much care at first. He’s just glad for warm meals, a bed, and time not spent hiking across the countryside chasing what probably feels like a hopeless endeavor by this point.

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The consent lines are awfully blurred in this episode. No one would be okay with this story line if Addy were the one trapped in a house of killers, plied with booze and weed, and found three aggressive people in her bed looking for sex after she clearly secured her safety for the night. But because it’s Doc, and because he’s our clown, this story is supposed to come across funny. It honestly stops being funny the minute the women are in his bed and he’s resigned to sleeping with them. Someone, somewhere along the line should have thrown a flag on this play and called for writing to tweak it. Make it less rapey—something I thought I’d never have to say about this show.

Aside from the clear failure to understand that consent doesn’t require a gender, the episode works in conjunction with the previous as a pallet cleanser. Killing two leading men in just as many minutes was a huge leap for a show which, until now, has protected the main cast with an iron fist. Each death has been carefully calculated and spread apart enough to not bring down the zany antics. Losing Hector and Vasquez, then prepping for war against Murphy and possibly The Man? There’s some tense action on the horizon. This stuff, Doc’s misadventures and the campy conception fairy tale they told Lucy in ep. 310, is vital to keeping the show’s tone as-is. Otherwise it becomes that other show, where everyone is always miserable and downtrodden. There’s no joy in watching abused people get kicked repeatedly. And what everyone needs right now is a little joy in their life, given the state of the news, not endless reminders of how bad things can get.

Bright side, Doc does get a message to Citizen Z and Kaya. He also escapes with his skin intact, scoring a bonus fluffy pink robe on his way out and liberating a bicycle from a zombie who obviously won’t need it anymore. With Doc’s message in-hand, Kaya makes quick work tracking The Man. Looks like the plan is back on track just in time to start a war.


Home Again: Review for Ash vs Evil Dead 209

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Home Again:
Review for Ash vs Evil Dead 209
by A. Zombie

aved-209-drunkanddrivingwithacorpseHow on earth did they go from mourning Pablo to hopping back to the past? A lot of booze, grief, and a joyride, all topped off with an angeldust-laced joint. With that magical mixture, Ash summons Pablo’s smartass spirit—or has a hell of a hallucination—and they work out another plan which is sure to fail, but the gang will try anything to save their fallen buddy. After Ash scares Ruby into compliance by driving erratically, they use the spell on Pablo’s chest to play the time warp again. Ash didn’t travel back to days of old this time. Well, unless you consider 1982 ancient history.

Yeah, about that reading off Pablo thing—he’s riding shotgun on this mission. They lovingly duct taped plastic bags around his body to keep his insides in . . . side. But to make him easier to transport, they have his feet above his head, and it’s really hard to watch any scene featuring Pablo’s bisected corpse. It’s just gross and absurdly sad. Leaving Ash as the catalyst to get Pablo back is plain mean to fans. The odds of him succeeding are slim. This story arc is probably a reset button to really play with the powers in the Necronomicon, and maybe turn Pablo into a real boy again. They destroyed the book, our main antagonist, only two seasons into a show with no projected end, then its replacement fell to pieces from the pressure before fully transforming. There’s no one to fight on the show unless they allow Ash to do his time travel thing. With Ash tinkering in the past to stop the book before it ruins their lives, he’s bound to fudge up their lives in horrific, yet comedic ways. I’ll take it if we get Pablo back. The balance with this cast is vital to the show’s success. Drop just one of the main group and it’ll never have the same vibe again.

aved-209-ashhenriettahumanEpisode 209 is also the prequel to Evil Dead that everyone has badgered Raimi about for years. We’re dropped into the story not that long before Ash and his sister are supposed to visit the cursed cabin in the woods. Ray Knowby, the man who recovered the Necronomicon in an excavation, is at home with his wife, and a student who’s there to assist translating the book. Seems like a peaceful afternoon at a bookworm’s house. That’s until you see that Henrietta Knowby is leashed to a basement support beam like a rabid Doberman and creeptastic Ray needs more than just translating from his student, Tanya.

Meanwhile, the gang drops off their car and tucks Pablo into the trunk—with a helpful note should he resurrect like Jesus on a random Sunday in the Spring. They barely make it five feet when Evil swoops in, chasing them through the dense forest. The gang splits, Ash finding the Knowby’s cabin and the women end up deeper in the wild portion of forest. For the most part, Ruby and Kelly are there to demonstrate more nods to the films. They bitch about Ash, then are attacked by demonic trees. Teamwork saves the day. If Kelly needs a gig after Ash fixes the timeline (ha!), she could totally open a private eye firm where she hunts demons. Maybe Ruby could help, since she’s without that whole immortal thing now.

We take a beat for another infamous Ash Hits Himself fight scene—this is a nod to AoD when Ash is infected by evil and attacked by miniature duplicates of himself, one of which he ingests, boils, and eventually it becomes the leader of the Deadite army. There’s no doppelganger action in the episode, but the creature Ash vomits sure does have a foul mouth. I think I found my new best friend in that little lump of what-the-hell-is-that. Too bad Ash kills it.

aved-209-raytanyaRemember Henrietta from the original film? That makeup stuck with fans for a long time—worn by franchise regular Ted Raimi. Fast-forward to now. In order to bring a classic monster like Henrietta to life, it requires an army, and there’s two of her to really drive home the transformation between human and deadite. Now that doesn’t mean they actually attempted to mask Ted’s identity once the swap happened. Nope. Not that anyone would want to hide Ted. He set the tone for the creatures in the franchise, seeing him don Henrietta’s skinsuit again is oddly satisfying and something I didn’t know I needed from the show until the minute I realized they had indeed swapped the “living” actress for the man who created the role for the big fight—which isn’t even done. There’s more to look forward to in the finale!

Christmas came early, that’s for sure. It’ll be a merry one if we get Pablo back, too. First, Ash has to defeat the hag—again—and snatch the Necronomicon from a man who’s got nothing left to lose, since his wife’s possessed and all. Piece of cake. Cue nervous laughter.


They Grow Up So Quickly: Review for Z Nation 310

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They Grow Up So Quickly:
Review for Z Nation 310
by A. Zombie

zn-310-teapartyMa and Pa take their sacred duty seriously. There’s no B.S. on that farm when it comes to Lucy’s safety. It’s not completely clear how much control the child has on her adoptive parents, though she’s got enough of her birth father’s mental mojo to speak through Pa and make it almost convincing. One thing we learn for certain, her bond with zombies is far deeper than Murphy’s. He sees them as tools. To Lucy, everyone is a friend, alive or dead. She prefers the dead. They listen far better than her new friends, who are awfully distracted by the idea of leaving the picturesque farm. No one is going anywhere until the lady of the hour is ready. She isn’t. They have to play, first. That’s if her usual playmates—a small zombie horde dressed as pirates, clowns, dolls, and there’s even her very own pink-clad princess complete with pointy, veiled hat. Lucy hosts a rollicking tea party, then they break for a good ol’ game of hide-n-seek. Doc’s it. They all survive mostly intact. One zombie-doll steps out of line, forcing Doc to give it mercy before it ate his face. This is where we see the flaw in Murphy’s cloistering plan—for all her powers, Lucy doesn’t understand death or how far her control over it reaches. This may be something biting everyone’s backside once they get her to Spokane.

zn-310-lucyaftertortureIf they get her to Spokane. The z-doll’s final death sends Lucy bolting into the woods. Why is it always the woods? In said trope moment, Lucy’s cornered by an Ender. So accustomed to foul looking/smelling people listening to her, it’s almost lights out for the girl before Addy steps in to chase off the Ender. The fight is fast, ending with Addy pulling a dominance move to frighten the Ender. That growl made me laugh, but it’s to show Addy’s further decent into a killing machine post-Mack. With the direction they’ve taken Addy lately, it wouldn’t be surprising for Roberta to be written out or her role minimalized to follow Addy’s one-woman zombie extinction team.

zn-310-conceptionfairytaleOne near-miss isn’t enough when dealing with Murphy’s kid. Oh no. Just like her father, everyone wants to grab Lucy and use her blood. Someone else lurks on the farm, waiting for the right moment. The Man got the information he needed when he infiltrated Murphyville, and saw his threats through. Just when Lucy finally allows Doc and Addy to take her, plus Ma and Pa, to Washington, The Man K.O.s Addy, stabs Ma and Pa, and takes the conveniently fully-stocked vehicle, with Lucy in the backseat.

Murphy is going to be so pissed.

zn-310-knifegameHe’s got a lot on his plate. 10k’s continuing behavior problems. Incoming blends to wrangle. A child to recover. Adapting what meager technology they have into something more coherent. Murphy’s due to hit another breaking point from the stress, but it’s not in this episode. The action we see in Spokane centers on mental control. We’ve reached an impasse in 10k’s imprisonment. Murphy can either break 10k, or dispose of him and use the resources to bring in someone malleable to his plans. He’ll never admit it, but Murphy has a soft spot for the kid. Which is why he bulldozes into 10k’s brain, forces him to play a knife game, and pushes a new name/mission into the mental oatmeal that’s left after so much abuse. Thomas—10k—is off, with a freshly bandaged hand, at the episode’s end. To where? Not where Murphy truly needs him, which he figures out too late as Lucy’s tortured screams invade her father’s mind. Their bond is strong, only muted by their distance. If they were together, it’d be hard to tell where one ended and the other began. Murphy can’t get his hands on Lucy or he’ll up their power base exponentially. But he can’t allow The Man to kidnap her, either. Maybe Doc and Addy will recover Lucy first.

Like it’s ever that easy on this show.