Zombie Reviews . . . What We Become

Zombie Reviews . . . What We Become
By A. Zombie

Rated: Not Rated (contains intense gore, adult language, and violence)

Language: Danish

Starring: Benjamin Engell, Troels Lyby, Mille Dinesen, Ella Solgaard, and Marie Hammer Boda

Dino and Pernille Johansson live with their small family in an idyllic town, Sorgenfri, where it’s so peaceful, the teens are bored to death by the end of summer vacation. That doesn’t last long. Shortly after the new girl, Sonja, moves in across the street, things start to get weird in Denmark. The news features public service announcements on proper hygiene in hopes of staving off a virus sweeping the countryside. It doesn’t work. Sorgenfri is quarantined. The Johansson family are trapped inside, stealing glimpses through the black tarps covering their home as the military takes over once-quiet streets. One by one, the townsfolk are removed from their homes and carted off in semi-trucks. Others are forcibly stopped by the military. Gustav, the Johansson’s son, gets curious and breaks out of the house to snoop on the armed men, and perhaps check in with Sonja as well. Of course, he makes matters worse.

Let’s be frank, this film isn’t anything we haven’t seen on-screen before. I’ve seen versions of similar trapped-house horror plots for decades. What We Become takes the zombie genre back to its simplistic roots in an era where we’ve been given blockbuster after blockbuster, and even the TV shows are approached like they’re feature films cut into chunks to air each week. What you see is what you get with this film. There’s one main location. A tiny cast. Most of the action is through stolen glimpses outside, the news, or during one of the few seriously ill-thought outings to confront what’s really going on in Sorgenfri. It’s NotLD in Danish. And that’s not a bad thing. It’s simply a predictable thing, which will be what keeps genre fans from calling this film one of their top-whatever. Simple films can be well done, though. This is a perfect example.

Because most of the tension is based on how the family interacts and reacts to an unknown threat, the zombies are saved for the final act in the film. We’re given a quick look at the undead chaos at one point, but the full-frontal shambling dead came in the last fifteen minutes or so. From that point on, it’s all snarls and gnashing teeth. The makeup takes a soft approach to the newly turned zombies. Some hero zombies are pretty gruesome; one of the first we see clearly is pretty torn up. To go from the restrained first acts in the film where the zombie action was off-screen to the undead taking over the town in minutes is jarring, tampered by the makeup on the newly turned, especially those who turn inside the house. They almost look like vampires up until the feeding begins.

The final zombie action is undercut perfectly with one last bout of family drama. What happens when one of their own is ready to turn? It’s a wonderful final moment for the actors. This cast is pretty solid and did what they could with the script. Unfortunately, that script leads most characters down a path which ends with several attempts to fix their circumstances by attempting to leave the quarantine area or interact with the military on their turf. It goes about as well as you’re thinking.

What We Become is a pretty solid toe-dip into zombie storytelling. Yes, it has predictable parts. However, the cast saves the film from being tiresome. Come for the high-tension acting, stay for the comfortable feeling of watching just another zombie movie. Sometimes we all need to unwind and watch cannibalistic monsters terrorize a family, along with a few select neighbors. I’m giving this film three and a half severed arms out of five.


Zombie Reviews . . . Train to Busan

Zombie Reviews . . . Train to Busan
by A. Zombie

Rated: TV-MA (extreme violence, strong language)
Language: Korean
Starring: Gong Yoo, Yu-mi Jung, Dong-seok Ma, Soo-an Kim, Woo-shik Choi, So-hee Ahn, and Eui-sung Kim

Occasionally Netflix doesn’t fail the genre completely. Recently they added Train to Busan to their streaming service, which is probably the best thing they’ve done in the last year. It’s hard to believe this film didn’t catch my attention before now, seeing as it was a huge hit across the Pacific. Let’s be honest, the American film media is horrible about giving props to genre flicks not set on their home turf. Pair that with the fact that it’s best watched in the original Korean and film media push it aside for yet another poorly produced American movie which is just a clone of fifty similar films and television shows. This film is a breath of fresh air. It’ll also keep you so far on the edge of your seat, you may fall off by the time the final scene plays out.

Seok-woo is a work-obsessed absentee father dealing with the fallout from a tense divorce. On the eve of his daughter Soo-an’s birthday, he screws up royally. To make it up to her, he relents to her demands to see her mother in Busan. Leaving town isn’t ideal. There’s something going on with one of the funds he manages and his coworker Kim is increasingly concerned about the reports he’s receiving. But a promise is a promise, so off they go. Seconds before the train departs for Busan, an injured woman jumps aboard. She’s infected with something none of them have seen before. When a train worker comes to her aid, the infected woman attacks and chaos erupts. By the time the initial attack is done, there’s only one train car worth of people left. The rest turn zombie and are locked in the middle train cars. News coming in via overhead televisions isn’t any better. Entire cities are overrun with the undead. Several are quarantined. When the train stops at last, it’s only to discover that the military couldn’t hold the quarantine and the dead have taken over. They opt to move on, pushed by an unhinged COO, Yon-suk. Throughout the last half of the movie it’s hard to tell who the real enemy is, the zombies or the paranoid humans trapped on the train.

This isn’t just another action movie with zombies. There’s a message or forty in the way the living interact with each other. We have an intense father/daughter plot which will drive anyone with a heart to tears by the third act. The film’s writer leaned heavily on the notion of ingrained human selfishness and the heinous damage it does to the masses during a crisis. Many of those who perish in the final act only die due to selfishness and their willingness to turn a blind eye to hatred if it means they’ll live to see another day. Panic becomes a new cast member at the end, unseen yet pushing one survivor group against the other with no sound reason. We’ve seen tension like that before, TWD uses it near-weekly, but here it’s so in-your-face wrong that I couldn’t help but yell at the television. That’s the kind of writing I miss, the scripts which make one forget they’re not one of the characters for a couple hours. It’s hard to watch the human cruelty, but even harder to look away.

Those zombies, guys. I haven’t seen character movement like that in ages unless it was in one of countless demonic possession films. These zombies are twitchy, bendy, snappish, and flat out cool. They’re scary solo, and pants-pissing terrifying in a mob. Kudos to the extras who worked on this film. They left everything on the set every day of production. The pay-off created probably some of my favorite mass zombie scenes to date—the train station attack on the stairs and the sequence where Seok-woo, Sang-hwa, and Yong-guk fight from car nine to car thirteen to rescue a group separated from the other survivors. Because there are so many undead, the makeup for them is simplistic. And you know what? I don’t care. They could have slapped white grease paint on them and let them loose and it wouldn’t have done a thing to lessen the performances from the extras and hero zombies.

Train to Busan is the action-packed zombie film we’ve been waiting for since World War Z tried and just didn’t quite hit the mark. There’s some issues, yes, but the writing and action are so solid, the issues get a free pass. I wouldn’t hesitate to watch it again, something I never do with zombie films outside Romero’s contributions to the genre. Train to Busan gets five severed heads out of five. Now what are you waiting for? Go watch it!


Goodbye, George Romero

Goodbye, George Romero
by R.C. Murphy

There are few people in the world who make an impact so great, the depth of what they’ve left behind is nearly impossible to calculate. Unfortunately, a couple of weeks ago we lost one of those bright, shining souls. George Romero passed on July 16th at age 77. According to a statement given to The Times by Romero’s longtime producing partner, Peter Grunwald, the legendary filmmaker passed in his sleep after a, “brief but aggressive battle with lung cancer.” The statement went on to say that Romero was at peace, listening to the soundtrack from his one of his favorite films, The Quiet Man, with his wife and daughter at his side.

To say we’re all floored at the news is an understatement. None of us at the ZSC would be here doing all things undead without Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. Not a one. What he did with that film, not just the outrageous notion to take zombies from their origin and give them somewhere new to come from, but the social commentary woven throughout, created a new form of horror film. It gave the creators who favor the dark side of fantasy the okay to send a message in what would otherwise just be a bunch of dead bodies shuffling toward their next meal. When I said we cannot calculate the differences Romero made in the film world, I mean it. So many directors currently shaping the entertainment world have spent the last few days expounding on how much they treasured what Romero started and how he stuck to his guns throughout his long career. But no matter how long it was, it’ll never feel like enough time with a man who just seemed to get it, to understand the impact a silly zombie film could really have on social constructs. That he did it with grace, dignity, and kindness just makes it that much harder to say goodbye. It’ll be a long time before I stop wondering when the maestro will drop a new film. It’ll be even longer before the tears stop coming every time his films pop on TV or someone sneaks Night of the Living Dead into their film in homage.

Everyone has that one favorite Romero film they go to time and time again. I have two, because it was just too difficult to pick one. Hell, whittling it down to two was a herculean task. However, I cannot overstate how Bub changed the way I approach acting and writing creature characters, and that’s what finally made Day of the Dead my top Romero flick. The other? The Dark Half. It’s just so spot-on for a Stephen King film, yet so few list it when they ramble off the usual suspects. Romero gifted us with a treasure-trove of films like that, ones which speak to a certain group and give them what they need to hear—but with a lot of gore because that’s fun to work with.

There aren’t enough words to thank him for not just his films, but the care he showed his fellow man. Nor are there enough to fully comprehend the loss. Our thoughts are with his family and friends.


Looking for Mr. Goodbrain Part 2: Review for iZombie 313

Looking for Mr. Goodbrain Part 2:
Review for iZombie 313
by A. Zombie

Liv heaps blame on herself for being dosed with Kupps’ brain. We do find out Chase Graves wasn’t the one to ultimately put Kupps in Liv’s path. However, this whole side trip into Liv Is Unfaithful Land is just another excuse to paint her as the bad guy for having sex. Like we’re honestly surprised she A) accidentally fell into bed with a man, and B) the guy she’s currently dating did so thinking they are exclusive to each other. News flash, Liv isn’t written as one woman. She’s always, always been herself and the brain for the episode—mostly the brain. While Liv may want a relationship, whatever brain she’s on will never allow it to happen. Yet again, Liv’s love life is sacrificed for the greater good—it probably will end up fodder for more jokes during the hiatus at whatever comic conventions the creators attend, too. There’s only so many emotional walls you can slam your main character into before it’s just painful to watch. Ask Buffy fans what happens after years of killing or maiming the main love interest. Hint, they stop caring. If fans can’t bother to care about who your main character wants to settle down with, you’re writing it wrong.

The real bad guy for the season isn’t the Truthers bumbling through outing the undead. It’s not Blaine, or his water-logged father, or even his flighty second hand man and their brain-selling empire posing the greatest risk to Seattle and its zombies. Chase Graves is almost innocent, as well, though once he catches on to the plan, he has no choice but to reroute the orders given from within his company to morph them into something productive, not an all-out attack on humans. In a twist I saw coming once the helicopter incident happened, Carey Gold is the one responsible for the zombie assassinations, along with the plot to put Baracus in the mayor’s seat no matter what. She also put Plan B into motion, a plan which undermines the Zombie Island protocol Fillmore-Graves worked toward up until Vivian Stoll’s demise. In the power vacuum, Gold worked her magic, convincing zombies they must strike first before humans have a chance to assemble their pitchfork-wielding mobs. She never took into account the fact that Chase Graves is sincere in his belief that humans and zombies can live together, given enough help dealing with the whole brain-needing problem. Now she’s got all the time in the world to ponder where she went wrong in her attempt to snag control of the deadliest force to gather inside the USA since it formed. Well, that’s if there’s an afterlife for zombies. Gold, her daughter, and anyone in good faith with her were grabbed by Fillmore-Graves by the time the episode wrapped.

Getting the truth about zombies under wraps again won’t be so easy. Nor is it Graves’ plan now that Gold’s scheme to create more zombies—and therefore the public couldn’t ignore the need for brains—actually worked. After Liv drops the bombshell on the public via newly zombified Johnny Frost, Graves swoops in with a prepared video detailing how the company plans to handle the new rush of undead citizens. It also states that Fillmore-Graves fully expects the USA to be on board with supplying brains for the company now single-handedly holding back an epidemic with teeth. That’s going to go over like a lead balloon. But their services are necessary. The zombie population doubled, if not tripled before Liv put a stop to the tainted flu vaccines. Bozzio is one of the unfortunates who were dosed before word spread—the scene where Clive helps color her hair is so easy to miss, but screams volumes about where their relationship could go. I mean, I’m not saying Clive should go undead, but he obviously cares deeply for this woman on a level most people are incapable of. Bozzio is oddly adaptive to the zombie idea. Which is good since she is one now. But I’m not sure she’d want Clive to join her for the sake of their relationship. There is always a chance Ravi will cook up something—he’s currently testing an honest-to-god zombie vaccine.

On the flip side, Major cashed in his humanity chips and signed back up for zombie soldier duty after Natalie and his fellow mercs died in Johns’ suicide bombing. Major is pretty focused on the job. Jumps right into the trenches in the hours after Discovery Day launches to pass out brain mash. He even plays savior, visiting hospitals to scratch and save the poor souls dying from the flu Gold spread during her evil plot. The gang feels he may have turned his back on humanity. They may be right. As much as I enjoy puppy-like Major, it’s time for him to get serious about his future and stop whining about the aftermath of the Chaos Killer. If that means he turns into soldierbro for a while, so be it. Just as long as he’s not building sex forts or writing sonnets about his couch and all the TV he watched from it. That was getting old, fast.

The zombies are out of the morgue and in the public eye. Seattle is lead by an undead man, and the city’s largest new company is also run by a zombie. Yet there’s still tension. Humans won’t take this new reality with a simple grain of salt. They’re going to fear the change, fear what happens if the zombies are weaponized either through biological warfare or straight up attacks. As bigoted as this last season was in certain aspects, expect that to worsen a thousand-fold while the writers bumble through bringing two kinds of people together. I know they can’t leave well enough alone. They proved it when that racist as whoa little old lady laid into Ravi for no reason. While I’m excited to see the show expand its view, it’s going to be painful watching the writers try to get it right without being horrifically offensive to minorities, LGBT, and women.


Looking for Mr. Goodbrain (Part 1): Review for iZombie 312

Looking for Mr. Goodbrain (Part 1):
Review for iZombie 312
by A. Zombie

Where to begin? Let’s just go for the jugular, shall we? Did anyone else get the impression Chase Graves intentionally dosed Liv with Katty Kupps’ brain? It’s no secret within the company about what, exactly, Liv does for the police department in order to solve murder cases. Chase obviously knew Kupps, and with no effort at all he could figure out why she was in town. He also must have figured out that the woman possessed absolutely no impulse control when it came to romantic encounters with strangers—were at the same hotel since her arrival and even the staff knew Kupps liked to entertain a new date every night. Long story short, Chase roofied Liv. Possibly on purpose. Liv talks herself out of sleeping with every other man Kupps’ brain drew her toward except Chase, and that’s because he manipulates her in the bar by playing flirtation games to keep her on her toes. Everything about the encounter screams date rape, down to Liv’s reaction once her adrenaline levels out after. But it’s okay, because Chase is a dog guy. Dog guys don’t dose zombie girls with brains with high sex drives.

I’m going to punch a wall because this episode is so frustrating.

Ravi finally, finally gets to act like the senior morgue staff member and is invited to sit in on interviews with the folks involved in Kupps’ current CDC investigation. He gets maybe thirty seconds to act like a professional, then Liv has a vision from Ravi and Kupps’ ill-timed tryst. Of course she did. Off the bat, Ravi is undermined by his sexual impulsiveness, and then keeps bragging about it for the entire episode. Then they just roll into Racist Old White Woman Land out of the blue. Yeah. No. Knock that crap off. It’s completely unnecessary. We know these people exist, but giving them screen time just to point out that your lead actor has brown skin is bull. You gave hate enough attention with the Truthers. Often writers fall into the trap of, “I’ll just show them how bad they look!” It’s not that easy to erase deep-rooted racism, folks. All you’re doing is advertising hate speech at this point. And for what? A laugh at the expense of the kindly father she railed against? Give me a break, already. Racist Granny #3 wasn’t necessary for the episode at all.

Baracus is in deep with Fillmore-Graves, but may not be the one ordering the executions, as Liv theorized last week. Either that or he’s one hell of an actor. While they all ponder how involved Baracus is in the D-Day preparations, and the murders to keep it all under wraps, Peyton has something else on her mind—a shiny new job as Baracus’ chief of staff. The gang tells her to take the offer, at the very least it’ll give them an inside man.

Natalie makes a comeback to give Major something to do other than mope on the couch after Chase Graves outs him as human and fires him on the spot. Like before, their scenes are a calm in the storm. The two just click in a way Major and Liv never did, and this new relationship is purely platonic until almost the end of this episode. Which makes the episode’s surprise ending just so much harder to watch. Major is outside with Justin when his farewell party is bombed. With Natalie inside.

Harley Johns has had quite a cruddy few days. Catches a zombie. Proves to some in the world there might be undead amongst them. Then zombies attack, and give him his dooming injury. The same zombies find his secret hideout, only to drug him and lock him in a freezer. The topper is when two other Truthers, including ex-guard Billy, break into the bunker. They defrost they guy, thinking he’s dead, and steal his beer. Probably the best part of Johns’ day is when he realizes delivery arrived just in time for breakfast. His hatred for zombies leads him to strap on a bunch of explosives. Johns is the one who blows up the party. Because we really needed a white terrorist act to round out this . . . morally questionable first half to the season finale.

Let’s just get next week over with. Maybe time away from the table will give the writers something other than racism and misogyny to lean on for plot points. But I’ll tell you right now, my patience with this stuff is wearing really thin.


Gear Up for Z Nation Season 4

Gear Up for Z Nation Season 4
by R.C. Murphy

Thankfully, Syfy has continuously saved Z Nation from the dust bin, no matter how wacky the show’s season finale. I mean, they did nuke a large portion of the USA at the end of season one yet still managed to make a coherent second season happen around a nuclear wasteland. The third season saw Operation Bitemark disband as Murphy sought to regain agency over his future, and his bid to control what happens to mankind in a zombie world. One would argue that splitting the crew was a good/bad choice, since it took away the key to making the outlandish personalities on the show work—Murphy needs Roberta’s practicality to stay out of the deep end. Without her as his conscious, he does things like enslave his friends. And that’s just not cool.

Luckily for us, during an interview this March David Michael Latt, one of the show’s producers, told Cartermatt.com that the gang would indeed come together again. The last two seasons were huge, monstrous things with plot lines racing in every direction, and the characters wound up chasing them in smaller and smaller groups in order to make the overall story work. Latt says that won’t happen in season four. “The good news, or it could be good news depending on how you read this, is that we’re going back to the season 1 definitive objective, the group being together, and the dynamics that make the series so good. The bad news is that it’s really out-there crazy.” As for getting any in-depth plot clues, or even a premiere date, his lips are sealed. The production seems to be on schedule. Barring any huge problems, it’s safe to expect the show to return in early September. But in the end, that’s Syfy’s call to make.

Z Nation fans living around Spokane, WA will have the ability to get a peek at the show’s production this summer. The show is turning the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture into a behind-the-scenes exhibit and functional film studio. The summertime exhibition, Z Nation: Behind the Camera, will include programs focused on local talent brought in by The Asylum who not only work on-screen as zombies and human extras, but also behind the camera. They’re opening up the filming to public viewing, as well, to give everyone a working idea about how much effort it takes to create the mayhem we see every week on-screen. Karl Schaefer, another producer for the show, says this is their way to give back to the Spokane community, a thanks for the support since season one. “The exhibit is kind of aimed at the 15-year-old kid who wants to know how to get into the movie business but thinks, ‘Oh, there’s no way I can do that in Spokane,’ ” Schaefer said. “But we just want to show people they can.” Keep an eye on the museum’s social media pages for the up-to-date program schedule. The exhibit opened with a zombie-filled party on June 10th.

Locals had the chance to audition for remaining background roles this last weekend. Sets have gone up in the museum, with a green screen stage built in the parking garage for effects shots. ZN stars have arrived, ready to tackle whatever weirdness the writers came up with during the hiatus. Keith Allan took a minute to post a zelfie when he rolled into town, saying he was, “About to step back into the apocalypse.” Russell Hodgkinson made a similar tweet on June 9th. We can’t wait to see where the cast takes their characters during the upcoming season.


Conspiracy Weary: Review for iZombie 311

Conspiracy Weary:
Review for iZombie 311
by A. Zombie

Major will never live down being the Chaos Killer. He accepted that. Shawna seems to have a different endgame in mind, though. She’s not content with the sex fort. Oh no. This woman has to share her personal life online, and claims it’s all to boost Major’s public image. Because a half-naked man eating pizza and singing a lame camp song will totally make everyone forget he kidnapped a boatload of people. Whether or not she’s telling the truth, Major is not about to give his time to yet another woman who just wants something from him. Remember Rita, or whatever her real name was? Yeah, they might not say her name at all anymore, but when Major finds out he was double-crossed by Shawna, it is totally there in his eyes, that resigned, “Not again.” I suspect Major will spend a lot of time burying himself in work. Which is going to cause some serious conflict of interest issues the minute Liv finishes putting all the pieces together from the various deaths, which all really have one source. The Truthers never pulled the trigger, yet Fillmore-Graves finds the exact weapons from all their open cases. How’s Major going to feel about being party to murder-for-the-greater-good?

The showdown at the gun range is intense, echoing some of the tension from last season’s finale with all the close-quarters teeth against guns fights. Blaine and Liv do get to show off their zombie skills for once. Which, of course, makes Rachel panic and flee almost immediately. But Team Zombie doesn’t get the win on their own. Fillmore-Graves arrive unannounced, and blow away all but one Truth Hunter. Harley Johns escapes virtually unscathed. Bo Johns winds up as a snack for the zombies involved in the fight. On that note, Liv, Blaine, and Don. E. should never be allowed to feast on conspiracy theorist brain again. The stuff the writers dug up from the loonier side of the ‘net is just absurd, and takes over pretty much every conversation. So much so, Liv is repeatedly told not to confuse conspiracy theories with the facts they need to solve Wally’s murder, plus figure out the real reason why Ms. Greer was strangled by Weckler. No one is up for Liv’s wacky antics anymore. Soon, they may even suggest she rely on brain mash just for some sanity.

Peyton makes better progress than everyone on the cases. She gets the memory card after slightly manipulating Weckler’s daughter—who blows her zombie cover and has a vision in Peyton’s office. The memory card confirms Liv’s vision from Weckler’s brain. It also shows that the man called whoever forced his hand to tell them about the accidental murder. Liv manages to use her current paranoia to spitball a reasonable answer to all their problems, but they’re focused on Baracus, not whoever put the man in the perfect position for a zombie to lead from should humans learn about their kind.

Well, they’re so gonna figure it out thanks to Ravi’s big mouth and weakness for damsels in distress.

This has to be the most ineffective sidekick in the history of sidekicks. Ravi yet again puts zombies in danger. Not through his untested serums and such, but through falling for the oldest game in the book—a woman who simply flirts a little and listens to the man brag in order to get information to sell. Rachel works for a local free newspaper. One of those rags which love to lean on controversy. For instance, one writer is tasked with trashing Major for selling tacky merch, which he isn’t. But the real story is what Rachel gets from Ravi without any real pressure. The guy nearly kisses her and suddenly that’s enough to trust her with other people’s secrets. Sure, Ravi will have it rough being friends with a zombie and all, but that’s nothing compared to what Liv will endure now that her face is the one associated with the newly discovered undead race.

The fallout from the memory card revelations and Ravi’s big mouth will be epic. Will he finally have to answer for his shoddy decision-making skills? Can Liv forgive Ravi? What about forgiving Major once she realizes he’s working for the real enemy?


Eat, Pray, Liv: Review for iZombie 303

Eat, Pray, Liv:
Review for iZombie 303
by A. Zombie

Ravi tells Major he’s got a few weeks left before he must take the cure or die. By the episode’s end, I’m certain that time frame is far, far shorter. This guillotine over Major’s memories is held by a single strand on a frayed rope. He knows it. The painful truth is right there in his eyes while watching Liv play that ridiculous dancing game with his new work pal, Justin. One might mistake it as a nudge toward a rekindled relationship. It just so happens that happy friends are one thing Major has lacked since the zombie thing started, and if he’s going out soon, he might as well do as Liv’s brain-influenced babbling suggests—live in the moment. In the moment doesn’t include bland, bagged brain mush. He and Justin break the feeding protocol to imbibe in the real thing. I’m digging this happier Major. How long until he’s forced to take the cure? What if the memory serum doesn’t work—we’ll talk testing ethics later—and he’s rebooted while serving in a zombie mercenary squad? There’s no real good outcome unless Ravi’s serum does indeed reverse the memory snafu, but that opens a whole new world of problems for Major’s future.

The thing with Ravi and Peyton? The plot went to the place it never should have. Why? So Peyton could say some deep, insightful things and be all grr-arg, woman power! And then they turn around and have Ravi learn absolutely nothing from forcing Peyton into a corner where she had to defend not only her right to make decisions for herself, but her right to have sex at all with anyone who isn’t Ravi. The cap on the entire ridiculous story is after Ravi is a sex-paranoid nutjob in front of Team Zombie while professing his love, Peyton goes to him and appears to at least somewhat forgive him with a kiss. But wait, he’s already slept with the woman he swears he hates more than snails hate salt. Why even trot out this moral lesson? All men will see is that Ravi still has sex with an attractive woman, so what’s the problem with how he treated Peyton? You don’t get to berate someone in front of their friends about who they sleep with, mortify them, and win a prize. To assume Ravi can have whoever he wants, whenever he wants because he said he’s sorry is precisely how this show continues to perpetuate unhealthy romantic expectations. It’s obvious in the weird sub plot stating Liv can’t be happy in bed because she’s secretly unhappy and guilt-ridden over her brain-eating. It’s the way Peyton has been used as a fire hydrant in a dog park since the get-go, men marking their territory right and left. It’s Major caring more about women he barely knows, but the two closest to him are constantly in danger, sometimes through his own doing. It’s the writers assuming every non-STEM employed woman Liv eats is secretly a slut, crazy, or too caught up in “being a woman” to have a career. For a show with a woman on all the advertising, it does a crap job at representing them. I know not one woman who would’ve kissed a man after what Ravi said when he emotionally blackmailed Blaine into taking the memory cure. Not. One. A few certainly would’ve punched him, instead. With a fist, not lips. Got that, iZ writers?

Let’s get to the case for the week. Topher is a mindfulness teacher, focused on helping others look past negative thoughts, to live in the moment without fear. During his solo meditation, someone introduces his personal Shambhala to a Buddha statue. Clive and Liv dig up a far different past for the Zen guy. Once upon a time, he was a venture capitalist with partners Mitch and Devon. Things went sideways, someone turned to drugs for start-up money, and Mitch spent years in jail while the other two moved on to become legitimate businessmen and mindfulness coaches. It doesn’t take a genius to solve the crime once they look past the red herring a “random” homeless guy tosses in their way. Topher’s brain is one of the better personalities foisted on Liv, honestly. His case just isn’t that intriguing.

While Liv and Clive seize Mitch’s future moments to pay for his newest crime, Blaine is having one hell of a week. The last problem on his list is the potentially harmful serum Ravi bullied him into testing. The first problem, really the only real problem Blaine should worry about if he were his old self, is Angus. The old man wastes no time letting Blaine know he’s back from the deep freeze, in part as a test, but mostly to see the fear of God in his son’s eyes. Disappointing day for Angus; Blaine only fears the man he used to be, the horrible person he’s forced to face every time someone coughs up a story he can’t remember. After getting his money back from Blaine, Angus sinks it all into a restaurant. His new business will eclipse the under-the-table brain biz Blaine’s running in the mortuary’s basement. We’re talking top of the line service. For the right price, Angus’ new associate, Dino, will secure any brain their customers desire. Don E. is way out of his element, and seriously missing Blaine, but tries to be clever enough not to get dead. That may require more work than he thought. Angus won’t wait for word-of-mouth advertising. Nope. Don E. will make customers to fill Angus’ demands. If everyone thought Stoll had a bad idea for zombies taking over Seattle, DeBeers is about to make it a thousand times worse.

That’s if Katty Kupps doesn’t expose zombies to humans before they do it themselves. She’s close to connecting the dots. Too close. Seattle is a zombie powder keg. Isn’t it great?


Bury Me Here: Review for The Walking Dead 713

Bury Me Here:
Review for The Walking Dead 713
by R.C. Murphy

Head’s up! This review contains episode spoilers.

Pardon me while I try to wrap my head around something. A white man is radicalized through his own apathy at a refugee camp. He suffers heart-shattering losses due in part to this. When he’s safe, he turns to leadership-approved violence to cope. When his vengeance against the Saviors is constantly put on the backburner, the man turns to terrorism, going so far as to stalk and recruit an accomplice. Turned away from his vendetta yet again, this time by a kindred spirit, he executes a dramatic suicide-by-baddie ploy to finally spread his message. When his poorly considered exit claims another life instead, he backtracks and blames everyone else, only ever taking ownership of his original cowardice at the camp where his wife perished in a fire. Despite the method of his murder, this man dies thinking he’s a martyr. His end at the hands of a man half a sneeze from Full Crazy is pathetic, really. What was Richard ever going to add to the community? He came in ready to go out with a bang. A glory hog to make up for past sins. His death delivers a message: Terrorism hurts those who are given the dubious position of profiting from destruction with no consideration for civilian safety. How much effort does it take to stop and ask yourself, “How many people will die because of what I’m going to do?”

Okay, I think I’ve got it now. I understand. The writers weren’t happy just making a point, but they yet again proved said point with the tried and true white martyr story. The story line pushed the tension a little, mostly because fans were waiting for Richard to die, and motivated exactly one person to take up arms against the enemy. I wasn’t sure who’d end Richard’s woe-is-me festival. It was a tie between Morgan, Ezekiel, Gavin and co., or Carol should she catch wind of his intent to drop The Kingdom in the middle of the war without any time to prepare. Trying to guess gave me about a minute of enjoyment. Then the writers blew the surprise with foreshadowing when they took this as their golden ticket to trigger Morgan—adding an “unpredictable” element to liven things up, I presume.

Now we’re down a fighter and the Saviors have word that mutiny has been on The Kingdom’s mind. Thanks, Richard. Your legacy thus far is astounding.

Morgan is pretty much useless now, except for clearing the undead from around the community’s perimeter. That puts the burden of caring on Carol’s shoulders once more. She knows the truth at last, even if asking requires her to examine why she turned her back on humanity. Kudos to the writers for passing on clunky dialog in favor of allowing McBride to just react during two character-changing conversations—the first changed how she sees herself living in the mad world, the second demolishes the emotional barriers holding her back from engaging in battle. The minute she suspects her people suffered, she straps on her badass cap and goes to get answers she knows will break her heart. And they do. McBride’s genius is in her eyes as Morgan lays out what happened in Alexandria since their departure. Without much to-do, she delivers a gut-twisting performance. It’s probably one of my favorite acting moments in the series from the last three seasons, despite the tears it inspired.

Richard the Coward shoved the Kingdom into the warpath, whether Ezekiel thinks they’re ready to defend the front lines and the home front simultaneously or not. Morgan went ’round the bend again and can’t stop killing walkers. To clean up the mess, Carol’s coming out of violence retirement. It shouldn’t come down to one woman to smack sense into everyone, but since we’re here, I’m glad Carol is that woman. The Kingdom is being dragged into a mess they want nothing to do with. How will the average citizen react to the news?

Next week, Hilltop is likewise forced to choose their side in the war. Can they kill off Gregory as their sacrifice to the war gods, like the Kingdom did with Richard? His misogyny is tired and boring. We need to move on to more productive narratives, not the same ol’ men-holding-women-back bull, if this show is to get anywhere during the last three episodes in the season.


Say Yes: Review for The Walking Dead 712

Say Yes:
Review for The Walking Dead 712
by R.C. Murphy

Warning: Episode Spoilers Below.

Just when one thinks they’ve finally picked up speed, everything grinds to a halt so Rick can get in bed with a freaky gun-obsessed cult . . . oh, and Michonne, of course. Skip the pre-credits scene. It’s pretty much just sex cut with clips with them grabbing supplies. Has there been this much sex on-screen since the Lori/Shane era? Why now? It’s not the action-break fans need to deal with the lack-of-momentum in the plot. I got more enjoyment from the couple’s silly moments than the intimate scenes. Laughter leaves them more vulnerable than sex—they weren’t attacked mid-coitus, they fell through the roof during a light-hearted scouting mission. TWD writers are desperate to make Richonne work. Like Gretchen’s quest for Fetch, it’s just not happening. Do I hate the idea of their relationship? No. That being said, the writers spend so much time forcing them into “couple situations” that the characters never mature in their affection organically. I just don’t see love there. I see a gimmick.

We know they hump and grab gear, but really the main goal for the mission is guns. Which they find by funny happenstance while chasing a deer they spotted near camp. There’s a large compound not far from their van and they missed it. Huh. Anyway, they find a fenced-off building, which may have been military, along with a carnival. Uhh, okay. Sure. Stranger things have happened—like Alexandria’s scouts and the entirety of the Saviors magically missing a dump covering several square miles with twenty or thirty foot tall rubbish piles. The episode’s point is, Rick gets guns dropped in his lap. They do have to work for it. Kinda. There’s a lot of things magically going right for them that make the effort laughable. All-in-all, they kill a few dozen walkers, grab a van-load of food and guns, then take off to fulfill the new deal. There’s one moment where Michonne fully believes Rick, not the random deer, is zombie lunch. As always, it’s a death tease. When the moment is rehashed later to get the feels out, Rick babbles about them all being on a suicide mission to save the future. Why don’t I see these two in a relationship? When Michonne admits the depth of her love, Rick deflects and focuses on his self-appointed savior gig.

Meanwhile in Alexandria, Rosita has a series of self-important hissy fits. The tantrum culminates with Rosita stealing a rifle and convincing Sasha to go on a suicide mission of their own. Why don’t fans have many favorite characters outside the original quarry crew? Because the rest come on the stage with one foot already in the grave. Everyone has that same death wish mentality. Sasha has been there, done that. Do we need her to be the flaming moron agreeing to aid Rosita just because they slept with the same man? Nah. Women don’t work that way. Besides, Sasha matured from her death-beckoning days. Matter of fact, if she wanted, she could lead Hilltop—in part with Maggie, or on her onesies. The point is, Sasha still has potential. Rosita hasn’t shown the same kind of potential since she became the Angry Spurned Woman in the community. Anger is one-dimensional when used as the backbone for building a character. Pigeonhole someone in that stereotype too long and they just take up space in the plot. It may be time to say goodbye to Rosita. I just hope she doesn’t take Sasha out with her.

Jadis and her people . . . already over it. She and Rick haggle over the gun delivery—it’s not enough to arm her large group. Let’s be honest, this whole story line exists to enable Rick’s wanderlust and suicidal tendencies. If this all actually leads to genuine war with the Saviors, I’ll be surprised. More importantly, if the Jadis deal goes as planned at all, it’d be a miracle. I have zero faith in Rick’s judgement calls.

In the next episode, Carol jumps back in the fight. Maybe she can put some oomph back in the show.