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.


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.


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.


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.


Hearts Still Beating: Review for The Walking Dead 708

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Sing Me a Song: Review for The Walking Dead 707

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

Warning! This article contains episode spoilers.

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

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

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

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

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


Heart of Darkness: Review for Z Nation 309

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Heart of Darkness:
Review for Z Nation 309
by A. Zombie

zn-309-guiltyKeep It Simple, Stupid—a good thing to keep in mind when resources are sparse and backup doesn’t exist. Hector and Roberta’s Plan A leaves a lot to be desired. First, they observe Murphyville, clocking the routines to find a weakness. The sole weakness is a gap in the zombie moat when Murphy heads toward his personal outhouse. Alrighty then, just cut the fence, sneak in, and have a nice chat with Mr. Murphy. Not so easy. The zombies in the moat follow Roberta, trapping her in the ordinary people’s outhouse. She escapes, but her presence is discovered. Murphy’s on alert. They blew their chance at surprise. Time for a new plan.

Surprisingly, Plan B is even flimsier than the first. The gang leaves their camp outside Spokane, opting to wander the surrounding areas in search of backup. Who, exactly, are they looking for? The Red Hand and Escorpion. There’s not exactly an address for the group. All they can do is follow the corpses and the writing on the wall until they find a fresh kill. Hector is on record as firmly against the plan from the get-go. He’s perpetuated that level of violence, understands how unhinged this new Escorpion must be in order to keep going as long as he has, and wants nothing to do with it. Yes, people change, but sometimes the change is for the worse. A lesson every fan learns by the time Plan C unfolds.

zn-309-escorpionfightAt the scene of the latest Red Hand slaughter, they’re attacked by zombies. Dr. Sun is astoundingly incapable of handling herself in this fight, though she does fine later in the episode. Her distress gives a chance to introduce Hopper, drug dealer to the Red Hand and rather chatty Cathy. Sure, he can take them to Escorpion. Hope no one’s claustrophobic. The leader’s base is hidden in the Seattle underground, along with a collection of freaky, scurrying zombie hands. Hopper plays with their heads. Constantly makes uncomfortable sexual advances. He even kills three men and unleashes the resulting zombies on them—a test to see if they deserve to meet Escorpion.

The biggest not-surprise of the season came when Vasquez walks out calling himself Escorpion. What is a twist, his mind is so warped by grief and trauma, he doesn’t remember anything before taking on the Escorpion mantle. He knew so much about Hector, his mind absorbed it and made that narrative his life’s story, not the horrific tale he actually lived through before joining Operation Bitemark. Roberta’s reaction is perfect. She’s devastated that this man, who she got so close to, doesn’t know her from the next thief he’ll murder. There’s nothing she won’t do in order to make him remember her, going so far as to touch the healed scar on his stomach and delivering one hell of a kiss. It’s not good enough to break the delusion. Nothing is enough to make Vasquez see himself.

zn-309-outhousesHector’s seeing too much of himself in this imposter. The rage, self-loathing, and guilt driving Vasquez in his new endeavor pushed Hector to do vile things for La Reina and the Zeroes. There’s no bottom to that well. Hector has a rope to climb, the slim sliver of hope Operation Bitemark and Roberta provide. Vasquez has nothing. He gave it up, opting to run from anything positive he could have found in order to bathe in “guilty” blood across the West Coast. When Hector and Roberta are locked in a cell together, he sees it as his chance to repay her for the hand up from his personal hell . . . by knocking her out and escaping to settle the matter himself. Except, he doesn’t have enough time to get to Escorpion before she’s found and revived. Damn.

Helpless doesn’t suit Roberta and she sure as hell isn’t one to stand by playing fragile woman why the men in her life fight, but there’s a moment when they allow her to be overwhelmed. It’s been a treacherous road. These men provide some of the very few shining moments in the gloom and losing either for good is an idea she’s unable to comprehend. But she must. Vasquez is completely insane. Hector beat himself mentally by reliving the moment he killed Vasquez’s family before he was given a weapon to fight physically. The fight between the men is tense, short, and heartbreaking.

Plan C flies in under the radar at the last possible moment.

With Hector bleeding from multiple stab wounds, Roberta puts her final plan into action. Killing Vasquez may have stolen the last drops of humanity in her heart. We’ll see. It sure didn’t help when he spends his dying moments finally calling her by name and asking for mercy. Roberta sends him on his way with a, “Yeah. Go home to your family,” and fans everywhere grab Kleenex. Then a puke bucket because they keep Vasquez’s decapitated head on-screen for a seriously long time as Plan C finishes playing out.

Every cult needs a head crazy. Roberta just elected herself to that position. Hopper leads the Red Hand in reverence to their newly-crowned leader. Everyone bows. No one argues. At last, Roberta has her army. But will the power corrupt her as it did the men who stood in her place before?


Swear: Review for The Walking Dead 706

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

Episode spoilers below! You’ve been warned.

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

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

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

I’m not buying it.

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

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