Yup, you guessed it. There’s spoilers in this review. I highly suggest you watch before reading.
Last week I mistakenly labeled episode 214 as the penultimate, when this week’s episode is the one leading into the now-inflated finale. My bad. In my defense, these last few episodes blurred together with nothing truly standing out until the last fifteen seconds in this episode. That gunshot is the only reason fans are hanging in to see the finale. They don’t care about this boogeyman we’re promised. They’ve bitten the Daryl-is-in-danger bait and swallowed the hook.
How did we get to a point where the most reliable defender for Alexandria winds up with an enemy bullet in him? I don’t even know. A lot of the logic they have Daryl working on right now doesn’t fit the Daryl we’ve known since he first calmed his roll and became a team player. Yes, people regress when stressed, but for him to completely snap and spiral in this guilt loop is whoa, wait, what? He’s a better man than the one they needed in order to lure so many valued fighters into the middle of nowhere. Yet again, they’re relying on the revenge trope to undermine character growth and create bad situations. Even Rosita gets sucked into Daryl’s mindset. Not that Glenn and Michonne fare much better after leaving the two to hunt Dwight and his gang. They’re surrounded and used as, yup you guessed it, bait. Snap. Reel. Toss the catch into the ice chest. Well, not yet. We know Daryl was shot, but not the severity of the wound. I’m gonna guess it didn’t tickle, though.
So that’s four fighters out of the way. Five including Carol, who snuck out during shift changes early in the morning with a fully-loaded go bag and a coat with some interesting modifications—which I totally want should the undead hit the fan at some point. They want Carol to seem traumatized, on the brink, but she’s premeditating pretty much everything that’s happened in the hours after burying Denise. An insane person would not take the time to cook herself that much food, let alone pack enough gear for a few weeks and sew a friggen gun into her coat sleeve. It’s like they don’t know who the character is anymore. Oh, wait. I’ve said the same thing since they set her on the Morgan witch hunt. A hunt which is flipped on its ear with Morgan and Rick awkwardly buddy copping it through the countryside looking for Carol. An homage to Rick and Shane’s fight way back in season two? Possibly, but the whole mistrusting Morgan story line is so convoluted, their discussion has no impact other than, “Duh, we know that’s how Rick thinks now.” It’s not a surprise he thinks Carol’s murders at the prison were justified. He just sanctioned widespread murder to wipe out the Saviors. Nor is it a surprise Morgan feels this is a poor plan. Killing leads to killing. Morgan saved a man, who saved a woman, who saved Carl’s life. Which is the preferred outcome? This is something they’ll never agree on. Matter of fact, things between the men are downright tense after they follow the blood trail to a barn and a man just looking for a horse. Rick assumes the armored man is a Savior or fled from Hilltop and wants to shoot him—ignoring the encroaching walkers. Morgan sabotages the shot. There’s some eye daggers before they continue the hunt for Carol, any surviving Saviors, and the Horse Guy—who may or may not be a hint to another comic book tie-in. We never find out what happens after Carol leaves the road where she killed a handful of saviors.
We have seven fighters incapacitated thanks to Daryl’s revenge scheme, Morgan chasing Carol, and Maggie’s sudden complications from the kidnapping. Seven of their best fighters just happen to be out of town the episode before the Big Bad huffs, puffs, and blows their gates in. Why stack the deck against the protagonists this way? Oh, right? They have no tension left for Negan’s arrival. All they can do is make overwhelming odds for the characters and hope it’s enough to make fans ask questions on social media, driving up word of mouth advertisement and allowing them to repost the few good things fans say or ask in order to convince everyone their poor plotting for season six was worth it in the end. Going into next week, I’m convinced they’ve lost the love of story and are simply milking the cash cow until they can switch beasts and attempt to get milk from the shriveled dugs Fear the Walking Dead sported throughout its freshman season. Basically, they have no writing integrity because they got too comfortable being the best in their genre and stopped trying to do new things. Rehashing old ideas and generalized plots is nothing new or surprising. We did most of this before with The Governor. Honestly? I get more enjoyment from just about every other post-apocalyptic show than what the Walking Dead franchise has offered in three years.
You guys remember Evil Dead, Evil Dead II, and Army of Darkness, right? If not, please educate yourself on some of the most hilarious cinema featuring murderous corpses. Well, some of them were corpses. Others were possessed. Either way, the Deadites are a force to be reckoned with.
Ash, our debonair hero, thought he’d put those suckers to bed thirty years ago. Flash-forward to present-day. He’s fat, hiding it with the most ridiculous girdle worn by man, and hornier than a chihuahua on Viagra. The opening sequence for the series is literally everything diehard Evil Dead fans want to reintroduce Ash. At the drop of a woman’s undergarments, he’s able to get laid—his sole goal in life, it seems. The mood is soured when his for-now lover’s face morphs into a Deadite. Hard to keep going after that, huh?
But why is Ash seeing Deadites at every turn? Well, see, he wanted to get laid by the blonde artsy woman with words tattooed around her wrists not long before the show’s timeline starts. StonedAsh managed to focus through the haze long enough to grab the nearest book—the Necronomicon. Whoops. So they read from the friggen book, of course, and here we are, smack in the middle of Deadite Country.
Elsewhere, two State Police officers are dragged into Ash’s mess when they’re called to a domestic dispute. Only, the house is abandoned. People had been there, judging from the table-load of drugs and booze left behind. Oh and the corpse crouched in a corner, hands still raised to fend off whatever scared her to death, could be a clue. I don’t know. I wasn’t a cop before turning undead.
Amanda Fisher and her partner, Carson, find one other person in the house—Ash’s blonde date who read from the book. You know where this is going, right? Fight time. Blondie cranks her head around 180* and dislocates her shoulders before launching at Carson. Amanda takes some wicked-huge scissors to the hand. Then things get really out of hand, ending with Carson and the blonde woman without heads. That escalated quickly. Later in the episode, we learn that Amanda is out on leave pending an investigation into the shooting and a psyche evaluation, because how many people say their partner went crawling on the ceiling before attacking them? A kind, and kinda hot, stranger—played by Lucy Lawless—more or less tells Amanda she’s not nuts. A fact Amanda confirms by going back to the crime scene, where she finds Carson’s shirt fibers on the chandelier.
Over at ValueStop, Ash attempts to swindle Mr. Roper out of his paycheck and possibly, maybe, forgetting Ash is supposed to work that day so Ash can run like a scared rabbit into the sunset before the Deadites find him. But first, he has to make a fool of himself in front of the new woman Pablo brought in to work with them. Hello, Kelly. I like your lack of accepting misogynistic nonsense and skill with a wrist lock. That’s how you introduce a female character, ladies and gentlemen. Take note.
Ash’s plans to bolt come too late. The Deadites are on his trail. In a scene calling back to Army of Darkness with the army of MiniAshs, he fights a possessed doll, only to be saved by clueless Pablo. Well, not totally clueless. Pablo’s brujo uncle warned about a man who would be the only one capable of defeating the evil dead, El Jefe. Putting two-and-two together, Pablo figures out Ash is that guy. Cool. They’re saved. Except Ash still wants nothing to do with the hero biz. He’s out of that game. Paid the ultimate price.
They’re only hope gone, Kelly and Pablo don’t know what to do next as things get weirder around the store. Kelly receives a video call from her father, with guest star—her undead mother! Off to save Mr. Maxwell. But first, a pit stop.
For a man living in a trailer, it sure is taking Ash a long time to skedaddle. He’s gotta think about Eli, man. Poor bearded dragon didn’t ask for any of this. He just wants to chill and eat. But it’s a good thing Ash is so ill-prepared to leave. Pablo’s pit stop requires the man himself to fight Kelly’s Deadite mother. Yeah, Ash isn’t on board with that plan, either. He doesn’t get much of a choice. The Deadites are in the trailer park, changing his weird, yet kind neighbors into joke-cracking killers. One grabs Kelly, strangling her through the trailer’s window.
He’s always been a sucker for a woman in need. Ash flings an ax at the Deadite, severing its arm. The trailer starts rocking—and not for any goodtime reasons. Cue the quick change into GoodAsh. Admit it, you all swooned when you saw the blue shirt. Bonus badassery, a foot-trigger, spring-loaded shotgun storage compartment in the trailer’s floor. I want one of those. But Ash loses a point for admitting he needs to do cardio.
There’s one more Deadite fight, this time with sweet as cream Vivian. She’s silly enough to stand between Ash and . . . wait for it . . . are you sure you’re ready? The chainsaw. They knock each other all over the trailer. Ash ends up, yup, on the ground. Pablo is pinned to the wall with a knife in his right shoulder, leaving Kelly to fend for herself against something she’s never seen before. Her bravery flees, though she manages to hold DeadViv at bay just long enough. For what? For the most awesome moment in the show. Pablo flings the chainsaw to Ash using his foot. Angels sing. The engine revvs. DeadViv is so excited her head just flies off.
Of Wolves and Men Review of “The Walking Dead” 516 – “Conquer”
Let’s get the messy part out of the way—this episode didn’t warrant an extra twenty minutes of screen time. All it did was give producers a chance to dump all the plot threads into a pool and pray it all untangles in the end. They should’ve refined the story into something a little more cohesive that fits the normal forty-two minutes per episode. Every plot element was unnecessarily drawn out. It’d be different if the time was spent on much-needed character development or laying down a solid base for next season. It wasn’t. They flung everything off the table and fans are supposed to be happy with how the story lands until October. As far as finales go, this is The Walking Dead‘s weakest. So what did happen in the finale? Let’s discuss.
You know the drill, there’s spoilers from here on out in this review.
After weeks wondering why Morgan was brought back during a couple quick scenes, we finally get an answer. Kinda. It’s entirely possible, given the state of things in Alexandria by the end of the episode, that Morgan will fill the long-empty “morality of the group” position. A role desperately needed since Hershel’s murder. We were led to believe Gabriel would fill the need, but he’s loonier than a monkey in rubber pants. Morgan isn’t a pushover. When he’s confronted by the men who’ve been mutilating the walkers around Alexandria, he attempts a passive resolution. It doesn’t work, so he thunks them over the head and locks them in the car he’d used as a hotel room the night before. Later, Morgan bails Daryl and Aaron out of a tight spot—they unwittingly walk into a trap set by the same men who attacked Morgan. These men, wolves they consider themselves, could be the big bad for next season. Honestly, they don’t feel too threatening now that Daryl, Aaron, and Morgan know where they are hiding their zombie collection. What kind of weirdo keeps a zombie collection, anyway? (Zombie bunnies don’t count, guys.)
The entire time Rick and company have been in Alexandria, it’s felt like he and Michonne are growing apart. She wanted to find home so bad and he’s fought it tooth-and-nail since meeting the townsfolk. It’s not until Rick wakes in a makeshift holding cell with Michonne watching over him that they finally understand—they want the same thing and are going about it completely different ways. She doesn’t care if he conspired with Daryl and Carol to secure emergency weapons. She’s willing to look the other way while Carol coaches Rick on how to Play The Part—tell Deanna and her followers exactly what they want to hear, just like Carol has done since they arrived. Michonne has overlooked and forgiven a lot in the name of keeping their newfound home. Being a pushover won’t work, she knows it. However, she also understands in order to get what they all want, someone and something’s got to give. Michonne is the law alongside Rick. She can’t run off like Carol, threatening to murder anyone in the way—a message Pete got loud and clear in this episode. Michonne tells Rick, “We don’t need (guns) here. I don’t need my sword. I think you can find a way—we—can find a way. And if we don’t, I’m still with you.” So even though he’s been a paranoid nutjob for weeks, one of his most capable allies is still at his side. How much is Michonne willing to overlook and forgive in her quest for normalcy, though?
Tensions are riding high between everyone, not just the town’s peacekeepers. Toward the end of the episode, there’s a huge clash between Sasha and Gabriel—the crew’s most unhinged members. Sasha spent her afternoon laying in a mass walker grave, wondering what’s wrong with her. Gabriel spent his strolling around, looking for a walker to do what he can’t—end his life. At the moment of truth, he kills the walker. It’s actually one of the best kills in an episode filled with walker deaths. But when Gabriel and his inability to commit to death and Sasha with her equally large death wish are in the same room, the claws come out. “I think I want to die,” Sasha tells Gabriel. He replies, “Why wouldn’t you want to die? You don’t deserve to be here. What you did can never be undone. The dead don’t chose, but the choices you made, how you sacrificed your own . . . .” He goes on, blaming Sasha for Bob’s death, saying Tyreese deserved his death because of what she’d done. Most of what he says is directed at himself, not her. It doesn’t stop Gabriel from attacking Sasha. In the end, Maggie pulls them apart and sits them down to pray.
Another tense duo come to blows in the midst of the big, “What do we do with Rick” problem. Nicholas lures Glenn over Alexandria’s walls and shoots him in the shoulder. The wound isn’t fatal. Throughout the middle and end of the episode, Glenn and Nicholas take turns beating the snot out of each other and the walkers drawn their way by the noise. It ends with Glenn pinning Nicholas to the ground, a gun pointed at his head. Nicholas begs, crying. Glenn visibly wants to kill him. Is psyching himself out for the kill, telling Nicholas repeatedly to shut up. He doesn’t do it. Should he have? Not in this instance. Nicholas is a coward. He made his attempt to rid himself of the one man who knows just how much of a coward he is. Now that the plan has failed, I’m sure he’ll back down. He may even become Glenn’s new sidekick.
The town meeting to discuss Rick’s attack on Pete, the gun he’d hidden, and the threats made after the fight is doomed from the get-go. Deanna’s motivations aren’t without bias. It’s obvious she wants Rick gone. He’s a thorn in her side and constantly questions how she’s run things since the settlement was created. She doesn’t even wait to see if Rick will show up to the meeting that’ll decide his fate—which he won’t, seeing as Gabriel let a zombie into Alexandria after failing to secure the gate and he’s tracking it while his crew stands up for him. All those kind words from Michonne, Carol, Maggie—and let’s not forget Abraham’s eloquent offering—they’re for naught. Once Rick walks in with a dead zombie over his shoulder, it’s pretty much sealed. Instead of rushing to save his own hide, Rick hunted a walker on his own to ensure their safety. Not even Deanna’s admission of Gabriel’s concerns, which we heard last week, matter after Rick’s little speech.
“The ones out there, they’ll hunt us. They’ll find us. They’ll try to use us. They’ll try to kill us. But we’ll kill them. We’ll survive. I’ll show you how. You know, I was thinking . . . I was thinking, how many of you do I have to kill to save your lives? But I’m not gonna do that. You’re gonna change.”
Rick’s place in Alexandria is cemented when Pete comes into the meeting fully prepared to kill Rick—with Michonne’s katana. Reg steps in the way to calm Pete and is killed instead. Without hesitation, Deanna gives Rick the order to put Pete down.
This is the chaos greeting Morgan after he reluctantly agrees to come back to Alexandria with Daryl and Aaron. How will the old friends get along after such a brutal reunion? Who knows? We’ve got quite some time to ponder how things will land in an evolving Alexandria.
Philly Feast Review of “Z-Nation” 103 By A. Zombie
This episode is all about Cassandra’s past. Or is she Sunshine? Whatever name she goes by, her past isn’t easy to stomach.
First, let’s once again ponder why Citizen Z is necessary to the plot . . . . Done trying to come up with something viable? Essentially this character’s sole purpose is to be a long-distance safety net. Only the best he can do to actually provide aid is play music. There’s still no contact with the scientists the group is supposed to take Murphy to in California. Sure, one could argue that Citizen Z is present to demonstrate what isolation can do to a person. However, the writing is so bad, it’s still impossible to feel bad for this guy—who is his own worst enemy the longer he’s without human contact—when he’s pretty set for supplies and even has a dog to pal around with. A dog who eats better than I do.
The group ends up in Philadelphia on their trek toward California. They find the Liberty Bell strapped to a flatbed truck and defaced with graffiti. What are they to do to preserve this chunk of American history? Steal the truck and crash it two blocks down the road. How the hell do these people expect to make it anywhere if they keep killing cars at this rate? At this point, it’s questionable how they can realistically survive in the apocalypse. There’s a lot of TSTL—Too Stupid Too Live—behavior within the crew.
On the outskirts of town happens to be Cassandra/Sunshine’s old camp. It’s a cheery place. Led by a psychopath with an odd connection to a mute woman. For kicks they turn out the girls they bring into the camp, making them prostitutes and con artists. They’re stellar people, really. They’ll even give you the meat off their back if you’re hungry. Oh, sorry. I meant the meat off the back of the men they lure into camp with promises of easy women. It’s easy to get confused.
Of course the psychopath, Tobias, can’t let things lie when he finds out his precious Sunshine is nearby. His guys don’t come back with their target. Instead, they drag Addy back to camp and doll her up to earn her keep. Mack is furious. Warren and Garnett snap into action—threatening Cassandra until she opens up about the cult/camp she lived in before they found her. That’s always the best way to get information. Unfortunately the mystery-inducing dialog to draw out the tension before the big “They’re cannibals!” reveal consists of Cassandra repeating, “They’re worse than Zs. You don’t understand.”
I figured out the Big Secret long before the reveal. It’s not an uncommon one in post-apocalyptic stories.
The dialog in this episode is worse than the previous two, especially for Tobias and his followers. Most of the zombies in the big fight at the end move like bored teenagers. Honestly, the most believable part is when the main crew are scouting for supplies in Philadelphia and Doc has a moment remembering the internet and its special entertainment sites.
As inept as this group is, they’ll be carless and half dead by the end of episode four.
Full Metal Zombie Review of “Z Nation” 104 By A. Zombie
The brain trust SyFy thinks we want to follow through the zombie apocalypse is at it again. This time their antics start in Pennsylvania—smack dab in the middle of Amish country. Their mission is to locate the Emergency Headquarters Infection Control in McLean, Virginia. There’s more than a few hiccups along the way. Yup, you guessed it, more vehicle trouble. Plus, a special guest star. Like it makes up for all the poor decision-making skills demonstrated during the episode.
We get two glimpses into 10k’s past. Unfortunately they cover the same event in his life. The first instance is 10k simply telling the group about how he struggled after his father died—he couldn’t put him down for good even when he came back a zombie. The second instance comes later as a full-blown flashback to the moments before his father passed. Character development is great and all, but most of these characters get one solid tale in their backstory and everything about them leans heavily on that moment.
Unless it’s Citizen Z. We know nothing about this guy aside from he’s a NSA employee who missed a doomed flight out of the frozen tundra. He’s weird as hell and has developed a new hobby—cyber-stalking Addy. This character has gone from quirky to creep in a blink. He hacks into Addy’s social media page and proceeds to carry out hours of idle chit-chat with himself as her. I know he’s lonely and all, but his behavior is disconcerting. It’s also dangerous. Citizen Z mistakenly sends the group toward what looks like a functional helicopter in McLean, Virginia. If he’d paid attention, he should have easily seen the truth.
The car problems on this show have hit ridiculous levels. In this episode, they end up car-jacked and taking over the thieves’ broken-down VW Bug. Further down the road, they find the original thieves in the middle of another car-jacking, but this time a soccer mom, her husband, and their two kids are the ones who drive away in Warren and Garnett’s truck. Shortly after that, the zombies get the family and our survivors recover their truck. Even though they have wheels again, they still opt to locate the helicopter.
Enter, Bill Moseley. Yeah, the crazy face-wearing guy from House of 1000 Corpses. In this episode, he plays bat-poo crazy General McCandles. Doc is the only one who gets through to the general. After Doc sees not only McCandles’ mental condition, but the nasty zombie bite he’s sporting too, he realizes this may be a lost cause. Except, he doesn’t get to pass the word on. McCandles tosses Doc down an airshaft, where he makes friends with the last doctor to upset the general. By friends, I mean they share a joint and there’s a moment where the undead doctor isn’t trying to actively eat Doc’s face. For a little while, we think Doc got blown up for nothing—the helicopter has no propellers and is surrounded by crates of who-knows-what—but he emerges from the building looking way too close to a zombie for comfort.
So the fast-track to California is out. They’ll have to risk driving to California. With the way they go through cars, it’s honestly a miracle they’re still in possession of wheels not attached to roller skates.
You Can Run, but . . .
Review of “The Walking Dead” 508 – “Coda”
By RC Murphy
Here we are! Weeks of slow build up brought us to an unforgettable mid-season finale. Was it the perfect way to tide viewers over until episodes resume in February? Not in the way previous seasons have kept us chomping at the bit to find out what’s happening next. They set a high standard after the season four mid-season finale and its fiery blood bath. The show’s producers would’ve had to set no limits to hit that high a note again.
Warning! Episode spoilers a plenty are waiting below.
The episode starts right after the last left off, with Bob Lamson handcuffed and running away from Rick and his rescue team. Taking matters into his own hands, Rick chases down Lamson in a police cruiser, rams into him, and doesn’t calm down until the barrel of his gun is aimed at the fallen officer. Lamson attempts to sweet talk Rick, say they can go back and make the plan work. Rick’s response, “Can’t go back, Bob,” says a lot about the mentality of everyone in this season. They’ve all crossed lines they can’t come back from. The people they once were are long gone. Lamson may have been a decent guy, but after the walkers came, his moral code was dropped in the mud. But his moral code is still cleaner than Rick’s. And splattered on the pavement after Rick was done pulling information from the injured officer.
Lamson may have been able to maintain a sense of civility within the hospital—and its backward rules when it comes to the wards the cops order around like slaves. Dawn walks right on by as her officers physically and emotionally abuse their wards, never batting an eyelash so long as they leave her alone. Yet we’re supposed to believe her when she says the things she does are for the greater good, that she’s doing it to help people who’ve ended up in situations like Beth. Her definition of help differs greatly from what’s in the dictionary. Dawn helped by telling her to risk her safety and steal medicine to maybe-save Carol, covering up Gorman’s murder to use as blackmail, making Beth act as her maid, and lastly, ordering a young woman to push a police officer down an elevator shaft. At every turn, Dawn put Beth at risk, all in the name of paying off some debt for health care or covering up a justified murder. Nothing Dawn says can be trusted. She got where she is by manipulation and cold-hearted calculation. Two skills she puts to work during the climax for the episode.
At last, Gabriel may understand why his fellow survivors are so efficient at killing when a threat comes their way. After his escape, he made his way to the school where the Terminus folks made camp the night they enjoyed a little Bob-B-Q. Too bad for him, they aren’t very good housekeepers and left their leftovers on the grill. After seeing first-hand what the Terminus people did, he heads back to the church . . . with a gang of walkers in tow. Carl and Michonne take care of the mess, trapping the walkers inside. Gabriel is ready to pull his weight, telling Michonne, “I can’t run anymore.” He could’ve also been talking about the hole in his foot, but I like to believe the good Father will be a solid part of the crew from here on out.
G.R.E.A.T.M. pull up to the church just in time to help. Everyone piles into the fire truck, taking Maggie to Atlanta to help save Beth. Unfortunately, even with the wheels, they’re too late to do any good.
The climax for the episode plays out like an old western—two forces meeting on a road, one leader doing the talking for each side while everyone else is twitchy from nerves. The trade-offs go smoothly. Daryl rushes forward to claim Carol and her go bag. Rick walks the remaining officer forward to trade for Beth. The moment Beth is back with the crew, things go south. Dawn has another stipulation—Noah must return to the hospital. Beth had taken his place in their system. Without either Dawn would have to do her own chores. We can’t have that. Fed up with the manipulation and lies, Beth takes matters into her own hands. Or rather, her own cast, where she’d hidden a pair of scissors before the trade-off. It was the one time Beth didn’t hem and haw about taking action. She saw an opportunity and took it, cutting one head off the hydra working within the hospital. Dawn didn’t go down without a fight. She manages to fire off a single round from her gun. Beth’s bravest act is her final one. A single shot to the head will ensure she doesn’t come back as a walker. It’s a small mercy at the end of a painful few weeks for the young woman.
The reactions to Beth’s death have a bigger impact than the moment Dawn pulled the trigger. Daryl is absolutely broken and takes the kill shot to take out Dawn. Carol carefully pulls him back before the tentative peace the deaths brought is broken. The Greene family have always functioned as part of the heart for the group. Beth’s light kept many of them going during the prison days, her gentle songs and the way she cared for the young ones in their group giving them hope for a future led by the kids she aided. Now it’s just Maggie. She really is alone this time. No big what-if hanging over Beth’s fate. Can she recover from this loss? Can any of them? Losing the innocent members of their strange family takes a toll, chips away a little more of their civility. Another loss like this and they may end up more walker than man.
Don’t skip the final scene! Yes, there is a short bit after the credits. Does this mean we’ll see much more of Morgan in the future? I hope so. It’s time to shake things up and bring back some energy to the story now that we’re not mired in the hospital drama anymore.
We’re one episode away from the mid-season finale. So far the plot has crept toward an outcome completely hidden to the viewers. There’s no big bad guy for the various factions within the survivor’s group to fight. The one main mission for the season was based on a lie. We’ve now got a new mission: Save Carol and Beth. But can that take us through the next two episodes and give fans what they look forward to every mid-season break?
Watch your step! There’s spoilers creeping around under here.
Our intrepid heroes split yet again, leaving Michonne and Carl to look after Judith and Gabriel. The Father is jumpy, touchy about the work being done to fortify the church so it’s a safer place for them to hole up. His regret over the murders done by his fellow survivors eats at him. Michonne and Carl tag team Gabriel. They stress the need to learn how to defend himself. How to move on emotionally after being forced to kill—walker or human. Gabriel saved them by allowing them to camp in his church. This is the only way they know how to repay the kindness, by teaching him how to survive after they leave if he doesn’t travel with them. The pressure from them to grow past his comfort levels forces Gabriel to do something utterly stupid. He escapes through the floor boards and under the church, injuring himself in the process. How far can a limping, pacifistic, guilt-ridden man make it? Is he running from people he sees as cold-blooded killers or from the memories of how he soiled his hands by refusing to aid his parishioners?
There is a new faction within the survivor crew – G.R.E.A.T.M. is the team name Tara cooked up for the group who had been escorting the liar Eugene to D.C. for his mythical walker cure. They’re not a very well-oiled machine at the moment. Abraham put himself in time-out after decking Eugene, his temper steaming hotter than the Georgia highway he’s kneeling on. Rosita attempts to talk sense into him. Fails. Fails to the point where Maggie draws her gun and forces Abraham to kneel again. Maggie is done with his hissy fits and the hiccups in their plan. She’d agreed to go to help. To give her life some purpose after losing her entire family, except Glenn. Without the mission, the entire group is lost. Tara tries to keep the peace, but can’t do anything in the face of Abraham and Maggie’s anger. Glenn eventually steps up and starts weaving a plan, using his people skills to show everyone that the fighting will get them nowhere and they can’t camp out in the middle of a highway forever. He brings them together. By the time Glenn, Rosita, and Tara make it back from a trip to find water—scoring a couple fish for dinner along the way—Eugene is awake and Abraham’s relief that he didn’t kill yet another living being sloughs the foul mood from his shoulders. They may be able to work as a cohesive unit, but where will they go if D.C. is out of the picture?
Rick’s group down in Atlanta seem like they may have a solid plan to get Beth and Carol back. Or maybe not. Tyreese has come a long way since the days when he could not and would not even do so much as kill a walker. However, the thought of barging into a secure building crawling with well-armed police makes him think twice. Not only about the casualties from the opposing side, but civilians and their own crew members. He comes up with a better plan—catch two of Dawn’s officers and force a trade, yours for ours. When Rick moves to reject the safer idea, Daryl intervenes. He’s not taking any chances retrieving the two people he’s come to care about the most because of one of Rick’s rash gotta-get-revenge ideas. The plan goes off without a hitch. Or so I’d like to say. Being what it is, things went downhill quickly as soon as backup arrived to aid the cops lured out by Noah. There’s a shoot-out and violent hide-and-go-seek scene. It ends when Daryl rips the head off a walker and bashes a guy’s head with it. There’s a sit down with the officers in custody. One man, Bob Lamson, appears to be the best bet for making the plan work. He gives Rick some solid advice . . . and then uses Sasha’s obvious emotional weakness against her. Lamson lures her off to the other side of the warehouse and rams her into a window so he can escape. So much for having a plan.
The main walkers for this episode were far different than anything we’ve seen from KNB EFX for the show before. Most of Atlanta was hit by napalm during the initial walker invasion. The unlucky folks who’d been outside the hospital for evacuation were hit in the process. After they died, they came back as animated hunks of bubble gum. Or at least that’s what they looked like with their flesh melting over the asphalt. Wouldn’t want to step in that and try to scrape it off my shoe.
Inside the hospital, things are the same as always. Jerk cops ordering their wards around, and turning that onto Dawn when they feel they aren’t getting their way. One officer orders Dawn to take Carol off the machines and stop treatment, stating it’s a waste of resources. Dawn agrees, and then turns around to use Beth to save Carol. Because any sane office of the law will ask a scared, injured girl to pretend she’s a doctor and potentially kill a woman trying to save her without proper medical training. Yup. That’s one-hundred percent believable.
The next episode if the much-awaited mid-season finale. What’s waiting for viewers? Hopefully something to punch up the energy for the remainder of the season.
Last week, we caught up with the long-lost Beth. This week, we’re on the road with Abraham and the gang determined to see Eugene safely to D.C. so he can work on the virus that may very well eliminate every walker across the globe. To say their trip is a tad rocky in this episode is a gross understatement.
A part of me feels like there were some character tweaks to make this episode in particular hit a certain vibe—not a pleasant one, either. Abraham’s anger has never been hidden, but the extent of his emotional baggage hasn’t been on the screen in this way before. It’s difficult to balance what we know of the man with what we’re shown in this episode. We get glimpses of his past throughout, relating to the early days after the outbreak and his attempts to keep Ellen, his wife, and two children safe. The ease with which he kills stems not from a long military service, but from understanding that sometimes people must die. Others may judge him—his wife was so terrified she took the kids and ran to their deaths—but at least he knows he’s done his part to keep his people safe. There’s a fine line Abraham walks. More than once we saw Rosita, who’s been with him for almost the entire trip from Texas to Georgia, take a step back from his anger. She’s romantically involved with Abraham and looks to him as their leader, but at one point she has to put her foot down before Abraham marches them into a herd of walkers so thick, one can’t see the road through all the decaying flesh.
That’s after they managed to kill every vehicle they rode in for longer than a mile. What is with people after the apocalypse having horrible luck with transportation which doesn’t require manpower? Yes, Eugene sabotaged the bus, but there’s been a string of bad timing with cars running out of gas or crashing throughout the show. Remember Lori and the walker pushing his face through the safety glass? Yuck! It’s like once the dead rose, everyone forgot how to operate cars. Convenient for the writers—it keeps their locations isolated to a specific area and gives them a chance to add in more fight scenes with walkers. Awful for the characters who end up with concussions and who knows what else from all these crashes.
Tara is finding her footing within the group. Unfortunately her footing puts her in the path of Eugene’s weirdness. For most of the episode, I yelled at her to get away from him. She’s naïve and kind. Lately, Eugene has been written like a sociopath. He understands emotions, but they don’t connect with him on more than a surface level. He’s got one concern: his safety. Tara, meanwhile, wants to make sure everyone is okay and happy. That’s a tall order considering the mess they get into after the bus flips in the middle of the freeway.
Speaking of, what sort of sense does it make to walk forward into uncharted territory, given that your ride and supplies catch fire on the road, instead of backtracking to a known safe location? Fifteen miles out from the church, the glass Eugene dumped in the gas tank causes the bus to flip and the engine to catch fire. Despite losing everything except the bag of weapons, Abraham orders everyone to continue on their set path. He’s running from something, which isn’t clear until the end of the episode. What I want to know is, how the heck did they happen to find a walker-free place to sleep in by sunset given there was nothing but forest stretching down the road they traveled? The same sort of plot gap happens toward the end when we though the gang were good to go with the fire engine and suddenly they’re walking toward at least two thousand walkers. Uh, what?
I’d like to take a moment to gloat. All this time, I’ve said Eugene wasn’t what he seemed and guess who was right? Yup, this reviewer. Eugene made the best of a bad situation. He knew he couldn’t hope to make it longer than a day without clinging onto someone and convincing them to help him. He’d done the math, Washington D.C. should be the safest place within the undead-infested United States. But he was in Texas, and that’s a long way to travel alone when one cannot defend themselves. Luckily enough, he stumbled across Abraham at exactly the right moment. A minute or two later, Eugene would’ve stumbled across a woman and two children who’d been eaten by walkers, and a man beside them with the top of his head blown off. Abraham feels he owes Eugene for saving him from suicide. The need to balance the debt pushed him for so long, when Eugene finally told the truth—that he’s not a scientist capable of destroying the walkers with a virus—Abraham snapped. The last we saw of Eugene, he was T.K.O.ed with everyone hovering over him. Honestly? That’s what he gets for getting everyone’s hopes up. Numerous people died to get him to D.C. and it was all a lie.
This episode was still a tad slow, save the last few minutes when the truth hit the fan. If this trend sticks, the show may have a hard time ramping up for what is always an epic mid-season finale. For now, we play the wait-and-see game.
A little forewarning for the second episode of season five—don’t eat anything when you watch. Or rewatch. At no point in your life will it be okay to consume much beyond water while watching . . . and even that’s questionable depending on the strength of your stomach.
Spoiler Alert! The following review contains episode spoilers.
For the first time in too long—possibly since before Hershel’s murder—we witness a survivor group who are somewhat happy. It may be mostly relief. Giddiness from finding each other once again and surviving escape from Terminus with no casualties on their part. Rick smiles and takes time with his children, something he hasn’t been able to do since the prison attack. Even then, he was plagued by Lori’s ghost and could not fully bond with Judith. Everyone has banded together to take care of the baby.
Judith, along with Bob and Glenn, became the heart and soul of the group. Anyone needing a mental time-out takes a turn watching the baby. Tyreese in particular has done a lot of mental healing since his time taking care of Judith. His world simplified to one focus—protect her and provide for her, no matter what dangers lurk around the corner. Because of that focus, he’s ready to forget that Carol killed his girlfriend and move on. He can kill again, without feeling a strangling sense of moral wrongness. Bob and Glenn, in their roles as heart and conscious, focus on Rick and keeping him grounded despite his overwhelming need for revenge. Even though Rick is smiling and reunited with his family, there’s a darkness in his eyes that won’t go away. The pain he’s gone through has forever changed him. Even if Eugene’s scheme to infect the walkers with a super virus that’ll kill them off works, Rick will never be the same. He will need people like Glenn and Bob to thump him over the head and remind him he has two children relying on him to stay grounded and in control of his anger.
Unfortunately, Bob may not stick around long enough to help. We’ll get to that later.
This episode introduced Gabriel Stokes—a priest with a strange sense of humor (and awful comedic timing) and a secret which may or may not come back to bite the entire group in the backside. Gabriel doesn’t kill, not even the walkers who threaten his life. He’s been isolated in his church since the undead outbreak reached his neck of the woods. Luckily for Rick and company, the church is far enough out of the way to have little walker foot traffic. They hole up in Gabriel’s safe haven to take a breather and have a nice wind-down session reminiscent of the party down in the CDC’s basement back in season one. Let’s hope the church isn’t rigged to blow up.
The safety the church offers is an illusion. Rick, Carl, Daryl, and Michonne all sense something isn’t quite right. For days they’ve thought someone may be tracking their movements. Carl found evidence of an attempted break-in at the church, but couldn’t tell if the knife marks on the windows or the threat, You’ll burn for this, were fresh. We know that Morgan isn’t far behind the group, and he was a tad loony-pants the last time Rick saw him, but is he the threat?
Nope. It is far, far worse.
Poor Bob. He’s finally found a groove after the apocalypse—a solid relationship with Sasha, good standing within the survivor group, sobriety, a solid plan to help Abraham and Eugene reach the epidemic center in D.C., and a sense of relief so great he can’t help but weep. The latter proves his undoing. When Bob takes a time-out from the party, someone sneaks up and clubs him over the head. Next thing we know, it’s Bob-aque time. Hold the sauce. He’s still alive, but for how long? Gareth seems like a patient man, despite his disgusting diet choices. The group who survived the Terminus attack is small. How much can they consume before Rick realizes they’re a man down? Do cannibals diet? Guess we’ll find out next week. Cross your fingers and hope Bob makes it out only missing one limb.
Never Again. Never Trust. Review of The Walking Dead 501 By RC Murphy
It must be October. Everyone as far as the eye can see is trapped in Walker Fever—not to be confused with the fever the infected suffer before turning into the undead. We here at the ZSC Command Center are not immune and fell head-first into the fifth season of AMC’s The Walking Dead with snacks at our side . . . which we quickly ignored, given how bloody the first episode of the season turned out to be. With that in mind, let’s see what our favorite band of survivors are up to after being captured last season.
Spoiler Warning! Below are show spoilers. Turn back now if you haven’t watched this episode.
This episode had one flaw—the Terminus flashbacks. There were only two, at the beginning and end, but the information delivered was something clearly conveyed through dialog and set decoration in the middle of the episode. All the flashbacks provided was a little confusion as far as the timeline went. For half the episode, it appeared as though there was a time gap between when Rick and company were captured and the moment Carol and Tyreese were within hearing range of Terminus and all the gunfire. It wasn’t until Carol saw her once-friends bound and gagged that things started to make sense. Sometimes in story-telling, less is more. This was one of those cases.
Rick is still embracing the Ricktatorship, pushing everyone to arm themselves with whatever they can find in the train car. Miraculously, in the short time they were apparently imprisoned, they managed to build a good number of gnarly weapons using rusty nails, leather belts, hunks of wood, and who knows what else. All their work was for naught. Glenn, Rick, Ben, and Daryl were still taken by surprise and dragged into Terminus’ slaughterhouse. Which is the exact moment everyone set aside their popcorn and clutched the couch cushions so tight, their knuckles turned white.
Despite internet rumors, this was not the moment we said goodbye to any main cast members. Glenn is still alive and has taken on Hershel’s role, becoming Rick’s conscious when his desire for revenge threatens the entire group’s survival. It’s a position Glenn has filled before, but his youth and inexperience usually costs him solid ground to stand on in the face of Rick’s anger. This time Glenn seems better prepared to stand up for what he feels is right. He’s got far more at stake with Maggie at his side and committed to staying there no matter what. Not even his good friend will force him to risk her safety.
Carol is far, far removed from the character we met in season one. Now she can walk up and kill a walker without blinking, even while Tyreese stands behind her saying he’s not prepared to kill again. In the face of his perceived weakness and possible judgment, Carol doesn’t balk, doesn’t care. She will live, that’s that. She will make sure Tyreese and Judith live, no matter the cost to her. But she has no plans to stick with them. Being ousted from the group changed her more than the death of her husband and daughter. Solitude fits the new Carol. She’s truly free to do what she wants when she wants after years of being the steel backbone for her family. Will her resolve to remain a lone wolf stay firm after reconnecting with the rest of the group? Hard to tell, but the reunion hug she shared with Daryl was perhaps one of the happiest moments on the show in years.
This episode was all about escalation. One group wrongs another, the afflicted group seeks revenge. That’s how Terminus became a cannibal’s Fantasy Land—their once sanctuary was overrun, the women abused, countless murdered, but they took it back and became something ruthless and without morals. That’s how Carol and Rick ensured Terminus could not recover from their attack and escape. Even Tyreese did not escape without having to step up his game to not only kill walkers, but also a human who posed a serious threat to Judith. By the end of the episode, even viewers felt panicky, waiting to see how far the escalation would go. What would be the ultimate cost of this revenge pushing Rick forward? So far, no one in his group has paid. That luck can only go so far.
We were visited by a long-lost character at the end of the episode. What role do you think he’ll play in the grand scheme of things? Last time we saw this guy, he was twelve crayons short of a full set and sure to die at any time. That’s the wonderful thing about this show, the people we think will die, don’t. Those we wish would live, keel over without warning. It’s impossible to predict what’s around the corner. But that is half the fun of watching. It is also why The Walking Dead was picked up for a sixth season days before the fifth season premiere.