Heartland: Review for Z Nation 508

Heartland:
Review for Z Nation 508
by A. Zombie

Watch out for spoilers hiding in the wheat field!

Last week Operation Bitemark mostly struck out. George and Doc failed to save Dante from vigilantes. The others were more successful, but their efforts are little more than a stopgap measure. With the boom in Talker population, the half dozen boxes of bizkits won’t be enough. If the bakery is to get back in business, the team has to figure out what happened to the flour from Heartland.

Preferably before the undead citizens of the colonies get hungrier.

Heartland seems to be composed of almost entirely Talkers. They’re starving, lurking in the streets to beg any passersby for brains to eat.  While they’re not aggressive yet, they’re on the edge. A little push and they’re gonners. There’s no way these poor people can bring in the harvest in this condition. But they’re also beyond listening to a group of strangers.

Luckily Doc and George roll into town around the time when it’s obvious the field workers can’t understand that the group is there to help. The car won’t be enough to keep hungry Talkers away for long, so Addy suggests they head to a farmhouse on the edge of town. It just so happens to be the farm where the flour is processed and stored. The same one the hungry workers should be running instead of starving to death. But just because most of the workforce is gone, doesn’t mean the farmhouse is abandoned. A brave soul named Charlie still mans the fort. Someone else lurks in the home, eventually flushed out by a determined Addy. Determined to check on her boyfriend, that is. Finn and Addy have been working together in their Talker Underground operation. The details of said operation get a tad confused as the story unfolds and sounds more and more like Addy knows everything the others are just now struggling to discover. Why not take them straight to the flour source? I’m not sure if that’s weird writing showing its hand or ham-fisted intrigue to give Addy’s time away more mystery.

While they get settled in the farmhouse, and learn about Charlie’s sacrifice, there’s mischief afoot outside. Pandora rears her masked head once again to cause trouble for George and her plans for a future. With her trusted helper, Pandora riles up the Talkers, sending them toward the farm with promises of nourishment. Which is convenient because the gang needs to round them up anyway so Charlie can give each just enough of his brain to keep from turning feral. Side note: Charlie’s special effects are not that great later in the episode, but the detailed early shots paired with the mere idea of what he’s doing is enough to make the ick factor high for squeamish viewers.

During the roundup, Pandora and her goon are pinned in with the other Talkers. They use the position to their advantage later when everyone thinks the coast is clear. Finn is injured again in the last attack, this time mortally. Addy opts to stay behind to help him adapt, and to help the farm recover.

In the rush to check on Finn, the group separates, leaving Doc to get injured, and 10k is too ill from his infected wound to make it on his own long or save Doc. Here’s hoping the others catch up in time. They’re probably going to need all hands on deck in order to talk to the indigenous group who control the water, therefore controlling if/when the mill at the farm will run again. This really is the longest side quest for a snack ever. It’d be disappointing if the rest of the season is comprised of little missions like this with the bad guys running laps around Operation Bitemark. These aren’t even good bad guys. Pandora is still the most hastily written character in the history of this show. No depth. At all. Our team deserves a better class of villain.


Evolution: Review for The Walking Dead 908

Evolution:
Review for The Walking Dead 908
by R.C. Murphy

Listen hard, folks. You can hear spoilers on the wind. And in this review.

At long last we’re getting a look at the Whisperers. They’ve tormented Rosita and Eugene for several episodes now, but it’s impossible to know where, exactly, the voices are coming from when they’re surrounded by walkers and any of the undead could be a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It’s easy to underestimate the Whisperers based on weird premise alone. But the show wastes no time proving how deadly this new threat can be. What’s the one resource available in seemingly endless quantities in the zombie apocalypse? The undead. Whoever finds a way to tap into that resource and make it work for them, not against them, may just be the ones to survive to see if there is a way to ever truly recover civilization from what seems to be the end.

Given how well the Whisperers control the walker hordes in this episode alone, they’re well on their way to becoming the only ones to see if there’s really a future for any of them.

While Daryl, Aaron, and Jesus work on a way to keep one step ahead of what they think are nothing but erratic walker hordes, Michonne and the new arrivals make it to Hilltop’s gate. It’s a cold greeting from every last citizen. Guess Alexandria isn’t the only community to institute harsher security techniques. Hilltop all but rolls up the driveway when a scout spots the incoming visitors. Inside, things don’t warm up much. Everyone keeps Michonne at arm’s length, and the newcomers are told to sit and wait for Jesus to return. Even Carol is a tad standoffish with her long-time friend. She gives Connie a warmer greeting, going so far as to use her very basic ASL (American Sign Language) skills to introduce herself. Are they all mourning still and unable to face Rick’s widow or has Michonne’s retreat into Alexandria cut her off from the few emotional support outlets she has left?

Matt Lintz as Henry, Jackson Pace as Gage, Kelley Mack as Addy, Joe Ando-Hirsh as Rodney – The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 8 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

Someone who needs to build himself a support system sooner rather than later is Henry. He’s not finding his rhythm at the blacksmith shop just yet. His dreams of Enid waiting around for him to grow chin hairs are dashed upon learning she’s dating Alden. There’s only a handful of kids his age in Hilltop. And, unfortunately, they’re typical teenagers. Just once, I’d like a production team to show that teens can hang out without giving themselves alcohol poisoning and abusing others, but guess I’ll have to wait. Henry, of course, winds up in trouble for his drunken night out after puking on Tara’s boots. His fate is likewise left in Jesus’ hands.

Too late for the rescue team, Rosita wakes from her exhausted sleep to warn the others that there’s serious danger outside, not just commonplace walkers. The rescuers get the same message a few hours later after sunset when a trembling Eugene fills them in on the horde which has made several passes by the barn to look for him. Jesus and the guys brush it off. There’s no way Eugene saw the same horde two or three times in the same day unless he went looking for it, right? Wrong. Daryl learns this the hard way when he completely fails to draw the horde away with fire crackers and Dog’s barking. He has no time at all to catch up with the guys, who are cornered and trying to find a way around or through a stone and iron fence.

Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon, Tom Payne as Paul ‘Jesus’ Rovia, Danai Gurira as Michonne, Ross Marquand as Aaron – The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 8 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

The final scenes with the Whisperers remind us that TWD is indeed a horror show. While it’s a tad annoying to lose so much of the action in fog, the suspense going into the fights saves them from being boring. Jesus’ murder does lack something. I’m not quite sure it hit the right emotional note. Instead this just feels like TWD burying more gays after making sure the characters don’t do anything remotely gay for two seasons.

TWD is taking its customary winter break for the rest of 2018. We will catch up with our favorite survivors, and learn how they plan to deal with Alpha, Beta, and the other Whisperers, on February 10th.


Stradivarius: Review for The Walking Dead 907

Stradivarius:
Review for The Walking Dead 907
by R.C. Murphy

Shh. Do you hear that? It’s spoilers whispering from the review below. Be careful!

Danai Gurira as Michonne – The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 7 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

Seems like everyone’s on their way to Hilltop in one way or another during this episode. Despite Michonne’s new isolationism kick, she’s going to have to reach outside her protective bubble in order to ensure her people will remain safe. Carol is already well on her way to taking care of her people’s future by driving Henry to Hilltop so he can become a blacksmith. On the way they make a pit stop for possible reinforcement first. Other citizens from Alexandria make the trek to the community, as well. Some whose arrival is quite unexpected.

Hilltop isn’t the place it was back when the bridge blew up. There’s been some major changes. They’ve expanded the farm, taking up countless acres outside the main fence in order to have enough to provide food for everyone and grow the herbs they need to treat the sick. There’s a small standing army with new recruits coming in weekly. Tara, of all people, has stepped up to become an assistant the community’s leader. And that leader? Is not Maggie. Yes, folks, the rumors are true. Maggie gets an off-screen goodbye. But it’s not goodbye for good. Showrunner Angela Kang says she plans for Maggie to return in more than just letters in the future. For now Jesus runs the community. Okay, let’s be honest, Tara’s running the show and Jesus has his foot halfway out the door again because he’s too restless to do the job as needed. So restless, he’s secretly training Aaron to fight instead of taking care of business matters.

The change-ups at Hilltop don’t sway Michonne from her plan to take Yumiko and her people to about the halfway point before giving their care over to Siddiq and D.J. for the remainder of the trip. She’s only there to check out the group’s story about leaving their supplies and bolting after their friend died. The story seems to be true, judging from the rampant destruction at their storage container. Not even accidentally killing an irreplaceable musical instrument convinces Michonne to do the right thing and see them to the gates herself. It takes Hilltop messengers with the news about Jesus finding Rosita in bad condition to change her mind about a visit to see some of her old friends.

Another visitor with reservations is Carol’s last-ditch help to protect Henry, Daryl. After putting herself in danger to fetch him from his self-imposed exile, it’s obvious just showing up won’t be enough to pull the guy out of his prolonged, and self-harm-ridden, mourning cycle. Nothing she says truly sinks in. Daryl is afraid to face a world without his friend, so he keeps avoiding it. The guy has a booby trapped camp and a nameless dog, and the unrelenting need to stay by the river just in case he finds Rick’s body. But time has come for him to rejoin the world. Oddly enough, it’s not Carol who gets Daryl moving, but Henry and misadventure with walkers. She’s excited anyway. At least Daryl won’t be alone anymore. He wastes no time once back amongst people and is one of the first to volunteer to find Eugene after being told about Rosita’s message before she passed out.

Will they find Eugene before these whispering walkers do? As much as I don’t like the guy, no one should be left to die alone and scared in the woods. Hopefully they get to him and figure out what’s up with the undead’s odd behavior with minimal bloodshed.


Doc’s Stoned History: Review for Z Nation 507

Doc’s Stoned History:
Review for Z Nation 507
by A. Zombie

Watch your backs. There’s spoilers around the corner.

Things in Newmerica spin out of control faster than George and her new support team anticipate. In order to save the budding country, the team must split up. George hitches a ride with Doc back to Altura for Dante’s trial. Roberta leads 10k, Murphy, and Addy on a new side mission: locate the bizkit factory on the outreaches of known civilization. It all sounds simple enough, but each team hits several unexpected speed bumps in their plan, threatening to leave the remaining Talkers to suffer a slow re-death.

If everyone had a history teacher like Doc, well, more people would have at least a vague clue as to how much our founding fathers let us, and themselves, down by failing to build certain assurances into the Bill of Rights from the get-go. But they’d be totally flummoxed about the actual timeline of events in the USA’s early history. This impromptu history lesson—and a surprise visit from Skeezy and Sketchy—comes to us thanks to a minor accident with a zombie, a sprained ankle, and Doc’s preferred method of medicating. A lot of it. The man has a never-ending supply. Forget Mary Poppins’ carpet bag, we need to understand the science behind Doc’s pocket stash. For, you know, medical reasons. What? It’s not like anyone’s making pills anymore and they need something to manage pain. Interspersed around Doc’s baked ideas on the formation of the United States are a lot of deep concepts about what, exactly, makes us human and why expanding that idea now before it’s too late—like the founding fathers did—may just be the thing to keep the world from devolving in yet another civil war.

But what happens when the opposing side is still ten steps ahead of you? Sometimes good intentions and hard work aren’t enough to win a battle, or even a minor skirmish. This is one of those times. Despite doing everything the right way, down to preparing a legal battle in order to save Dante, it doesn’t stop the worst from happening. Dante isn’t getting a trial. He’s already been found guilty by the Talkers behind the mayhem. They follow through with his death sentence in a brutal way . . . by making George be the one to give him mercy. So much for doing things the legal way.

Making a bizkit run isn’t as easy as rolling into town, bartering for a couple boxes, and heading back to Limbo. That anyone is daring enough to mass produce anything in the apocalypse is a surprise, but it’s the people behind the life-saving treats who are far more unexpected. Now’s about the time one remembers that the gang is in Canada, and thankfully some of the oh-so-friendly locals are behind the bizkit enterprise. Well, they will be a lot friendlier once everyone stops shooting at each other and the Talker members of the family get a little snack. I’m not sure anyone can be prepared for that twist once Mum shifts from ravenous zombie to Talker. Sure gave me whiplash.

Unfortunately, reviving Mum isn’t enough to restore the full manufacturing power of the bizkit factory. The specialty flour they switched to after brains grew scarce stopped coming in, but there’s just enough regular flour and brains lying around to whip up a batch to keep Limbo peaceful. Or at least as peaceful as any place owned and run by Murphy can be. The brain-fetching sequences might be a little too much for squeamish viewers, or mouth-watering for the undead audience. To each their own, right?

The gang has a new, new side mission. Their next stop is Heartland, where someone makes, or made, the enriched bizkit flour. They’re going far off the path to establishing Newmerica in order to provide for everyone. Hopefully people remember this when it comes time to vote again. If they can vote again.


Limbo: Review for Z Nation 506

Limbo:
Review for Z Nation 506
by A. Zombie

Don’t let spoilers sneak up on you. They go for the ankles first.

George’s need to clear her friend’s name and discover who’s behind the plot to undermine democracy leads the gang down a path marked with red sigils bearing a striking resemblance to the one and only Z-whacker. Just because the trail is marked doesn’t mean it’s one hundred percent safe. When they finally find something resembling civilization, a zombie horde chases them into the nearest building. Which just happens to be a wretched hive of scum and villainy: Limbo.

All roads lead to Limbo. At least they do in fledgling Newmerica.

One of the first things everyone notices is the abundance of bizkits on the casino floor. Certain Talkers have more bizkits than they could ever possibly eat themselves, meanwhile elsewhere others are reverting to zombies because their mysterious benefactor who provided them stopped delivering. Like many things inside Limbo, what’s seen is not always the truth. Unless you’re seeing Murphy as the proprietor of said establishment, that’s totally the truth. Big Red has a new gig. Which looks a lot like an old gig he tried to run once, but on a way grander and far more successful scale. Until the gloss wears off his charade, one could totally believe he’s doing really well for himself in this seedy little haven the Blends prepared for him. Then we see the underbelly of the beast.

The Talker underground has to have more than just a trail. Quite by accident, Roberta’s found one of the safe havens on the way. Unfortunately, it’s a safe haven run by Murphy, who is all about maintaining appearances and not charity. He hasn’t fed the newly arrived refugees. They’re all traumatized, injured, and starving to the point of having virtually no personality left. Remember those truths I talked about? The truth is, all the bizkits are on the casino floor. Even the reserves. One gentleman is on a winning streak and has a mountain of nourishment in front of him. Logically the only way to handle this is for Doc to play poker to win the bizkits back, right? It doesn’t go very well. Doc loses everything except one sock. He’s bailed out by the Blends, but it’s too late. The greedy Talker across the poker table opts to eat his forfeited winnings instead of handing them over.

The aftermath is totally a nod to Monty Python’s Mr. Creosote sketch from The Meaning of Life. Gotta feel bad for the poor souls left cleaning up after that mess.

Every Underground has someone, or a few someones, looking over them. One guardian angel in particular has been rounding up Talkers they find on the road and dropping them off by the truckload outside Limbo. And it just so happens to be the same person leaving the trail markers. Who is someone the gang’s missed for a very, very long time. Addy finally makes her return! It’s not quite glorious, seeing as she spends the whole time piss drunk and denying her importance to the Talkers’ survival. She does, however, provide a little help to the living by showing George where Dante has been hiding.

Their timing is awful. If Dante stayed literally underground for a few more hours, the Alturan goon squad who pays a visit would’ve never found him. Or his wife, Marjorie, who’s starved to the point of madness and winds up yet another innocent victim of whatever shadow force is pulling the strings on this brewing civil war.

In order to save Dante from the so-called trial to take place in Altura, George will need all the help she can get. Remember that all roads lead to Limbo? Well, a little more help arrives at the end of the episode when 10k follows the Talker trail markings and reunites with Roberta and the others.

Guess it’s back to Altura to save undeadkind. And to think Operation Bitemark assumed they’d get to relax once they hit Newmerica. Ha!


Who Are You Now?: Review for The Walking Dead 906

Who Are You Now?:
Review for The Walking Dead 906
by R.C. Murphy

Don’t leap ahead without knowing there’s episode spoilers in this review. There. You’ve been warned.

Let’s do the time warp again! Usually when the production team introduces a time jump of any significant period, the fans wind up feeling a tad cheated. For instance, we missed Hershel being born thanks to the last time jump, and that’s really something that should have been celebrated given how poorly the pregnancy was handled in the first place. But for this particular skip in time, we’re brought in at a pretty good place. Not to mention the new additions to the cast, who are knocking it out of the park from the get-go. Cailey Fleming, playing an older Judith Grimes, is a scene stealer, for sure. I sincerely hope she gets to hang around for quite some time. Her exuberance is a breath of fresh air for a show that was getting old and stale.

Danai Gurira as Michonne, Dan Folger as Luke, Nadia Hilker as Magna – The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 6 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

Speaking of newcomers, there’s a new survivor group in Alexandria. Meet Magna, Yumiko, Luke, Connie, and Kelly. Judith saved their bacon at the end of the previous episode and continues to do so now. She’s the one to finally put her foot down to get Magna and her people, particularly the injured Yumiko, somewhere safe. Watching a group of adults constantly one-upped on the humanity charts by a child is something to behold, and Judith does it quite often. She even gets a dig in on Negan when he smarts off while helping with her math homework. Her strong spirit moves only so many people. Michonne isn’t as easily swayed by her daughter’s iron will. Matter of fact, she’s pretty cold about Judith’s desire to help from the instant she sets eyes on the newbies. The community intervenes, led by Gabriel, and agrees to hold a vote over their fate. It’s a sham trial. Michonne already made up her mind and knew all the right ways to push her closed gates agenda on the voters. The minute she’s tired of pretending to care, Michonne exposes Magna as an ex-con who is still in possession of a knife, therefore rendering her untrustworthy.

Magna’s betrayal doesn’t go unpunished. Her group turns on her instantly, with Connie being the voice of reason, telling them all to not make it personal. To just take the help they get and go. And to particularly not go after Michonne with yet another knife Magna somehow found. The woman must be secretly related to Magneto, I swear. It’d explain her name. As expected, Magna still strikes out on her own after dark to settle things. She’s stopped in her tracks on Michonne’s porch by a heartwarming sight. Inside, Michonne’s youngest child, a boy, runs up and hugs her like he’s missed her for weeks, but it’s probably only been minutes. A child’s love is just that big, sometimes. In this case, it’s so powerful that Magna surrenders the knife, admitting to wrongdoings in the path that haunt her. If anyone can understand, it’s Michonne. This turn in behavior spurs Michonne into action. The next morning, the group’s eviction day after the failed vote, she cuts them off and offers to take them to Hilltop to find more permanent lodging.

While Michonne keeps her cool as much as possible in public, privately she’s a complete wreck. Several times in the episode her mind swerves off-track, sending her into conversations with the dead (or presumed dead) who cannot and will never answer. How often does she “accidentally” find herself at the charred husk of the bridge speaking to her husband? Obviously often enough that Judith knows about these one-sided conversations. In one scene toward the episode’s end, we learn so, so much about the family dynamic left behind after Rick’s departure and how neither of the Grimes women have been allowed to mourn properly. Judith tries to work her problems out by helping, rekindling the philanthropic efforts of her father and brother. Michonne? Her emotions are stuck simmering in a pot on the backburner, millimeters from boiling over. It’s not healthy. She’s going to snap one day soon.

Melissa McBride as Carol Peletier – The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 6 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

The only thing snapping in the Kingdom is the old pipes. Now a teenager, Henry does his best to patch things up, but he’s woefully uneducated when it comes to making these kinds of repairs. After a tense conversation with Ezekiel, refereed by Carol, they all agree to send Henry to Hilltop to learn from Earl the blacksmith. With Carol as escort, the pair take off. But first, a detour. In one of Carol’s rare bad decision moments, their side trek takes them too close to the now abandoned Sanctuary where some former occupants still reside. All they want is supplies. Life without a home means no growing their own food and being forced to revert to scavenging. This time they picked the wrong target. Henry wants to fight them, but Carol keeps him from getting killed and hands over whatever they ask for. Until later when she goes back alone to inform Jed and his crew that they pissed off the wrong parent. By inform I mean she lights them on fire. Sometimes Ruthless Carol still sneaks out. She’s determined to never lose another child to the apocalypse. Nor a friend. Before they reach Hilltop, Carol finishes the detour and picks up Daryl. Wonder if he brought any of that fish he caught.

Josh McDermitt as Dr. Eugene Porter, Christian Serratos as Rosita Espinosa;  – The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 6 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

In a bid to open communication lines (and maybe find the long-lost Anne?), Gabriel goes back to work on an old radio. Problem is, the signal isn’t that great. Solution? An amplifier stationed a few miles down the road to boost the signal. Gabriel barely gets the idea out of his head before his new lover, Rosita, jumps at the chance to help. She nabs Eugene on the way out of town to provide technical aid. Probably a mistake in some ways considering he spends the entire trip trying to prove he’s a better partner choice for her than Gabriel. Even after the zombies hit the fan, he tries yet again to express his feelings for her. I’ve never been so annoyed by this man, I swear to Bob. For goodness sake, he fell ten-ish feet, has a messed up knee, and there’s walkers on their tail, but sure, let’s finally admit to a decade-long crush. The pair wind up sliding into a ditch and covering themselves in mud to hide from the walkers.

That’s when things get extra weird. The walkers . . . talk.

Guess we’re finally going to meet the Whisperers. Gotta say, their first appearance is pretty creepy. Looking forward to seeing how this story line progresses.


Killing All the Books: Review for Z Nation 505

Killing All the Books:
Review for Z Nation 505
by A. Zombie

Warning: This review contains episode spoilers.

Explosions stalk Roberta and the gang from settlement to settlement, leaving behind countless casualties. All those new Talker mouths to feed deplete the already meager supplies. The rescue efforts morph drastically from reviving the newly dead to making hard decisions about whether or not it’s more humane to put the new Talkers down before they go rabid. George is not ready for this side of leadership and has a few full blow meltdowns. Then again, who really is ready to look the people they’ve promised to protect in the eye moments before ending their life for good? If not for Roberta’s guidance, George may have faltered too long, allowing a full-blown outbreak to happen within Pacifica’s fences.

It’s not like they’re not already dealing with a zombie horde. Like the other bombing, zombies somehow find their way through the fence after the initial explosion. Later, Doc discovers that the zombies are actually the cause of the explosions, not simply drawn through a sabotaged fence by the loud noises. The zombombs are brilliant, really. There’s no telling where the dead will wander, so it’s a recipe for maximum chaos. Unfortunately, that means when a stray zombomb wanders into the library, Doc is forced to try to disarm it somehow.

Doc has to work fast. Not everyone has been evacuated from the library just yet. While others triage wounded and dying outside, he, Citizen Z and Kaya scour the building. The young couple look for JZ and Nana—who are safely hunkered down in a closet in typical Nana style, so no worries. Doc tracks the wayward Z after getting a little information about the possible bombers from a new Talker. Everyone’s paths cross just in time for a group effort to lead the zombomb into an elevator shaft.

When everyone is safely outside, Altura finally shows up to help. But they’re only helping the humans. And they didn’t bring any bizkits for the newly turned. In order to not be in the dark about Altura’s plans anymore, Roberta sends Citizen Z, Kaya, and their family with the other humans to be her eyes on the inside. With nothing else to do, Pacifica’s remaining citizens take on the arduous task of reorganizing the murdered books.

If they’re going to stop the bombings, Roberta and George need to find Dante and get his story. With Doc by their side, they strike out into the world, once again looking for the missing Talker. Or any answers about the bombings and zombie attacks at all. They’re working with less than nothing since each time they settle into a new base of operations, it’s blown up.

Back in Altura, 10k still isn’t coping with the loss of his hand well. Shooting practice leaves him even more certain he’ll never recover his skills with a gun. The crude hook hand isn’t comfortable and is hard to operate. Instead of continuing to take his frustrations out on Red, 10k goes for a walk. During his walk he encounters Altura henchmen corralling a zombie in a warehouse filled to the rafters with the undead. And then he’s accidentally locked in a van with them. Guess that hook came in handy afterall.


What Comes After: Review for The Walking Dead 905

What Comes After:
Review for The Walking Dead 905
by R.C. Murphy

There’s spoilers in this review. Proceed with caution.

Well. Talk about something completely different. We’ve seen similar storytelling techniques from this production team before, but Rick’s trip back and forth from the Great Beyond or wherever to reality takes the surreal dream stuff to a whole new level. For what they wanted to do for Rick’s final season, it works wonderfully. It even gave them a reason to bring Shane back for a little bit. Jon Bernthal really grew into his acting skills during his time away. His couple minutes back in Shane’s shoes outshined some of his better moments from the first seasons.

All Rick’s visits with the dead are also more than a little heartbreaking.

BTS, Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes, Scott Wilson as Hershel Greene – The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 5 – Photo Credit: Jackson Lee Davis/AMC

As many of you know, the world lost an amazing man, Scott Wilson, not that long ago. He’d opted to keep his illness a secret and worked until he couldn’t anymore. This appearance as Hershel is one of the last projects he worked on, despite the severity of the illness. For as fun as the Shane scene is for Jon’s performance, this final goodbye from Hershel, and Scott, is a hundred times as tragic. Not only is their conversation one of men who’ve suffered great losses, but it’s a secret final farewell no one knew they were witnessing while on set that day.

The majority of Rick’s visions take him back to the hospital where he woke from the coma. Oddly enough, his new wound is in a similar location as the gunshot that took him out before the undead rose. The visions do not, unfortunately, take him to his family as he hopes. I kinda hoped, too. But I think with the visitors we do get, it’s good. A visit from Carl and Glenn would have made it amazing, though. The episode would have felt more like a goodbye with that small tweak to the cameo lineup.

While Rick struggles to stay on his horse in order to draw the walkers to the bridge, Maggie uses her well-earned anger to march straight through Alexandria’s gates, past Michonne, and right into Negan’s cell. Says something about Maggie’s determination when not even Michonne can talk sense to her, doesn’t it? When faced with Maggie’s logic, Michonne can’t look her in the eye and tell her that she is wrong, that continuing with the insane eye-for-an-eye logic only leaves behind a world of suffering. No. Because if she were in Maggie’s shoes, if Negan were the one to put Carl in the ground? Negan would’ve been dead before sunset the following day, no matter what.

So now everything’s going Maggie’s way. She’s in the room with the man who murdered her husband. Does she follow through with her threat by bashing Negan’s skull in with a crowbar? Nah. Her attempts to grandstand and make herself feel good about the impending murder are undermined by Negan’s visceral reaction to the very idea of being freed from his prison. Sure, it’s the hard, painful way, but anyway is up when one has spent so much time in near solitude. At last Rick’s way of doing things makes sense to Maggie. I’m sure he’d be elated to hear she’s moved on from her murderous rage after all this time, but he’s too busy, ya know, bleeding out and occasionally dying while zombies shamble closer and closer.

The others eventually catch wind that something’s not right near the camp. It’s far too late to do any real good, though. Daryl’s plan to collapse the bridge with the undead doesn’t work, leaving Rick the only person between a horde and a free pass to the nearest community. Daryl keeps Rick alive from a distance long enough for Rick to hatch a dangerous plan. Using some mysteriously handy TNT, Rick shoots it and blows the bridge sky high. Flaming walkers pour into the rushing river below. Rick is nowhere to be seen.

Downstream, Anne’s rustbucket RV breaks down, leaving her no choice but to arrange the pickup from the helicopter right there, awfully close to the camp. The bridge explosion startles her. What washes down the river moments later is far scarier. Thankfully most of the walkers are dead or too damaged to go after her. There’s something else in the sea of scorched dead—hope. Switching her plan at the last moment, Anne pleads with the helicopter to take herself and one other, a “B” who is strong, but injured, and she owes him a debt. The last we see of Rick Grimes and Anne, they’re flying off in the well-equipped mystery helicopter.

To add yet another twist, instead of waiting an episode to do a time jump, the production uses Rick’s departure shot to rapidly age the landscape. Now it’s several years later and new survivors are in the field where the helicopter took off from. They’re in trouble. Yet they need not worry. A pint-sized hero lurks in the woods. And she’s got a pretty snazzy hat, too.

I look forward to Judith causing even more chaos than Carl. She’s totally the only sheriff they need in Alexandria.


The Obliged: Review for The Walking Dead 904

The Obliged:
Review for The Walking Dead 904
by R.C. Murphy

Watch out, there’s a horde ahead! A horde of episode spoilers, that is.

Sometimes a dream just isn’t obtainable. Could be because said dream cannot be done with the means at hand. Other times Nature puts Her foot down and reminds one of their place in the world. In the case of Rick’s precious bridge, both forces wind up closing down construction. First, over half of the workforce walks out. Then the former Saviors rob the Kingdom and there’s a firefight with numerous casualties. All that bad news comes after the biggest blow of all—the newly risen river will wash away the bridge supports long before the remaining laborers can finish repairs. Everyone from the camp has a near-death, or actual death, experience during this doomed build. Sometimes escaping one near-death situation leads one right into the path of another, though.

And sometimes that path is cut by the people whom you trust the most.

This particular trip started back when Maggie made it clear that Negan’s survival was the final nail in the coffin of her open cooperation with Alexandria, particularly their leader, Rick. She’s had nearly two years since then to subvert certain fail-safe systems put in place to keep her activities in check. Her most important weapon being Rick’s good pal Daryl. Maggie’s second most important weapon is her rage. It keeps her focused on her mission, despite Jesus’ best efforts. While Maggie rides toward Alexandria, Rick is led astray by Daryl. Their inevitable physical encounter over Negan’s fate isn’t all that satisfying when it’s cut short by the pair falling into a pit. While it’s not his original plan, Daryl still gets the job done, delaying Rick long enough for Maggie to get to Alexandria.

The price for Maggie’s “justice” comes at the episode’s end, when shortly after scrambling from the pit, Rick opts to lead the walkers away from the main road on horseback instead of cutting off Maggie’s mission. At a crossroads with heavy debris, Rick accidentally leads one horde into another, spooking his horse. Our hero is impaled, and we’re left to wonder if this is finally it for Rick. We know he’s leaving, just not how he’s leaving. The production team has said it’s not death, but things aren’t looking too promising for Rick’s continued survival at this point.

What does Maggie hope to get out of her scheme? Will she even follow through? Guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Then there’s Michonne, who is barely hanging in there by the skin of her teeth. While the bridge crew works, she remains in Alexandria to make sure everything runs as it should. Unfortunately, not even the mental drain from being everyone’s stern voice of reason is enough to exhaust Michonne, allowing her a good night’s rest. To blow off steam, she does what any woman would do; she decapitates zombies in the middle of the night. One of her daytime chores puts her in charge of forcing Negan to eat during his hunger strike. They make a deal. All she has to do is chat with a lonely man for a little while. Negan digs his mental hooks deep during the conversation. The theme for Michonne’s story arc in this episode is how her life is so similar to Negan’s. There’s even a moment early in the episode where after finding a lynched zombie, Michonne’s attacked and forced to use a baseball bat to defend herself. The hunger strike ends when she admits they have similarities, however her outlook on the future is far, far better than his. We glimpse where Negan’s head is really at during the end of their second conversation when Michonne reveals that Lucille is still in the field where the final battle took place.

In the junkyard, Gabriel does his best to make what are surely his final moments with Anne as pleasant as possible. If one ignores the fact that she’s about to turn him into a walker as payment for transportation on some creepy sounding guy’s helicopter. The lord must have blessed that man’s tongue. All Gabriel’s talk about forgiveness gets to Anne. Instead of turning him, she knocks him out and runs. The only trace of her left behind is a note pinned into Gabriel’s coat.

Looks like we’re saying goodbye to quite a few characters. Either that or this universe is about to expand again.


Pacifica: Review for Z Nation 504

Pacifica:
Review for Z Nation 504
by A. Zombie

Proceed with caution. There’s episode spoilers ahead.

Fear may very well be the one monster Operation Bitemark cannot defeat. So far this season it has pushed them from guaranteed happiness and two separate safe havens, which were perfectly fine up until fear crept into the hearts and minds of the citizens inside the fences. Aside from the crew, and George, everyone alive and undead has fallen hard to fear’s influence. Oh, our heroes are not untouched by it. George in particular falters greatly under the pressure of keeping her people calm and rational while someone out there intentionally sabotages Newmerica before it’s even born. Thankfully Roberta has her back.

Just because the vote didn’t go through doesn’t mean they aren’t still planning for a future of some sort in Altura. As part of their memorial service, each deceased persons’ DNA is stored in the memorial wall. Estes has a plan for the DNA, no doubt. He has a lot of plans that haven’t come to the light just yet, but we do know he’s tripled down on controlling the Talker population. His goons have been given free rein, allowed to bring in the undead however they like. The fear Estes spreads with his speeches does nothing to soothe 10k. If he could, the kid would’ve been gone before they finished treating his wounds. His concern over being rendered useless cranks into high gear, leaving Red and Sun Mei scrambling to find a way to return his trigger finger. They better hurry. Things are deteriorating faster than anticipated and they’ll need one of their best fighters back on his feet in order to help Roberta over in Pacifica.

Like Altura, Pacifica was presented to Roberta like a magical unicorn—for heaven’s sake, the place even has a huge library—but upon arrival, they find that the people are restless, terrified of the new changes in their world. Changes she and her people put into effect. Again. Not only do these people have to wrap their heads about walking, thinking corpses, but there’s also an obvious threat directed at the safety of everyone inside the Newmerican colonies. As our heroes arrive in town, the humans are huddling together in a town meeting, tossing hateful rhetoric around like a beach ball. With George and Roberta in the room, they only calm down a little. Just enough to agree to sleep on any decisions about excluding the Talkers from the community. Beating the humans to the punch, every last Talker in Pacifica flees to meet Dante. They’re off to a guaranteed safe place for them. A safe place marked with an odd symbol. Some might say it’s a sun, but dang if it doesn’t look an awful lot like the top of the Z-whacker.

Unfortunately for the Talkers, their timing leaves them the prime suspects when Pacifica suffers its own bombing attack with a side of zombie horde. Many humans who spoke against the undead are amongst the injured or eaten. Kaya and JZ are amongst the missing. Can humanity recover from so many direct attacks on their desire to revive civilization? Only if they get to the root of these bombings before the population is wiped out.