The Walking Dead S4 Ep 16: A

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Before I go one step further into any discussion about last night’s episode of The Walking Dead, I just want to address the elephant in the room. YES, OK? I haaaated the final line of the episode as much as everyone else. I thought it was a hackneyed, weak way to end a really complicated episode that pushed the viewer in a bunch of different ways. I’ve had a night to sleep on it so I don’t feel quite as much vitriol today for that line as I felt last night, and I’ll ‘splain why. Later. I don’t want to get too ahead of myself, so now? We move on.

A narrative regarding self-identity runs through this episode and even through the entire season, as it’s become increasingly apparent that the zombies are horrifying and lethal, but people are the real monsters in this world. And they keep blurring the lines between “human” and “zombie” behavior. Sometimes the line is blurred subtly, like in this very episode, as Michonne said in a quiet moment sitting around the fire, “All we ever talk about is food.” Funny. If zombies could talk, I’m sure that would be their primary topic of conversation, too. “Brains! Brains? Mmmm, brains!” Nothing like having a similar agenda as the ravenous undead.

Pardon me; you don't happen to have any food hanging around, do you?

Pardon me; you don’t happen to have any non-brain-type food hanging around, do you?

The human/zombie/what-makes-a-monster narrative started in earnest once the group separated after the prison was destroyed. Lizzie identified with zombies more strongly than with living people. Beth was spirited away by unknown persons (though I’m pretty sure I was wrong in thinking she was taken by The Hunters…more on this in a bit). Joe and his marauders were willing to kick one of their own to death for lying. Michonne had her “I am literally among the ranks of the walking dead” moment as she created new zombie pets, wandering among a herd of walkers until she saw herself mirrored in a zombie and chose to live again. In the same episode, as Rick heals from the insane beatdown The Governor gave him, he let out a strangled gurgle in the dark that sounded weirdly like zombie hissing. I mean, it wasn’t, he lived, y’all can relax. But these episodes illustrate that the apocalyptic dark side isn’t that far away from our protagonists, ever.

With that in mind…season 4, episode 16 opened with an unknown character being taken down by a zombie herd. Too bad for him, but a great way to remind the audience that teeth are a viable weapon because….

Oh, yeahhhh, that's what these things are for...

Oh, yeahhhh, that’s what these things are for…

As Michonne and Rick sit around the fire talking about food, they are set upon by Joe and the marauders, thrilled that they’ve managed to track and catch their prey and take revenge for their fellow gang member, who Rick killed in the bathroom. Michonne and Rick are outmanned and outgunned and Carl, asleep in the car, is out-everything. Sized, gunned, muscled. During this time Daryl–who almost left the group, but instead hung around to see what would happen–realized his friends were the quarry in question, and because he is one noble SOB, makes a plea for his friends’ lives. They’re good people, he says.

The staging for this scene is brilliant.

The staging for this scene is brilliant.

Which, of course, isn’t possible in Joe’s interpretation of good people vs. bad people vs. monsters, because he has judged Rick for the killing of his friend and found him guilty. Anyone saying they’re “good” despite what they’ve done is lying, and you don’t lie to Joe. Done. Game over. Let the brutal beatdown begin.

For the record, Rick Grimes can take one hell of a beating.

And it is a brutal scene. Since Daryl stood up for his friends he’s getting beaten to death by Joe’s gang, who tells Rick that Michonne is next, and then Carl, and he’d have to watch it all. Meanwhile, one of Joe’s inbred, drooling-on-himself-while-evilly-laughing gang members throws Carl to the ground for a bit of a rape, and that? Is when Rick checks out. They have a perfunctory, “let the boy go” back-and-forth, but Joe & Co. refuse. Big mistake. Fight fight fight, scuffle missed gunshot punch, and then Joe’s got Rick, arms and all, wrapped in a bear hug. “What are you going to do now, Sport?”, Joe sneers.

Next question?

Betcha didn’t see that coming. Ha! Next question?

Rick, taking a page straight from the zombie playbook, rips out Joe’s throat with his teeth. Because teeth are viable weapons.

It further blurs the line between man and monster. Joe clearly never thought, with his “Ha ha, Sporto!” comment, that having his throat bitten out was an option. This helps explain Rick’s answer to Daryl the next day, when Daryl says that anyone would have done what Rick did.  “No, not anyone,” Rick replies. Because Joe was a terrible, merciless asshole and not even Joe would go there.  The only other person who has gone bitey on TWD, for the record, was The Governor, who bit Merle’s fingers off just before he shot him and left him to die.

Now what?

Oh, right, lest we forget. Just after biting Joe’s throat out, he makes his way to Evil Dan the drooling would-be rapist and guts him from navel to sternum, staring into his face the entire time.

"This one's mine," he says.

“This one’s mine,” Rick says, staring into his enemy’s eyes as he guts him and stabs him like fifty times. Because that’s not crazy.

So they make their way to Terminus and finally–finally!–someone in this former prison group (and by someone I mean Rick) thinks, hey, maybe our dreams of a peaceful sanctuary are too good to be true. We don’t know who these people are. Let me cache some weapons outside their fencing…just in case.

Earlier in the episode–this is important, pay attention–Rick teaches Carl how to build a slipknot trap to catch an animal. Build a trail the prey will follow, he says, and camouflage the rope. Then the animal will catch itself in the slipknot; it’s practically like the trap does the work for you!

...and then you catch 'em and snap their little necks and eat 'em, son. That's how it's done.

…and then you catch ‘em and snap their little necks and eat ‘em, son. That’s how it’s done.

So. Back to Terminus. Rick, Michonne, Carl, and Daryl creep over the fence all sneaky-like and skulk through the hallways until they find themselves at a big open room filled with scarf-wearing hipsters painting signs and broadcasting on a ham radio. And for some unknown reason, they walk in and introduce themselves. Do they check out the entire compound? No. Do they have even a modest poke at the premises? No. Instead they walk in and practically fall over themselves saying hi to Gareth, the de facto leader of Terminus.

Oh, look! He's got a bowl cut and an underbite. How can you not trust this guy?

Oh, look! He’s got a bowl cut and an underbite. How can you not trust this guy?

Gareth, of course, tells them everything they want to hear. You’re all very smart. We don’t have problems here, only solutions. Come on, let’s take you to the main entrance, get you situated.

It's kind of like a big trail they're leading you down, you know?

It’s kind of like a big trail for you to follow, you know?

Then Rick recognizes his friends’ stuff; he sees Maggie‘s poncho, Glenn‘s riot gear, Hershel‘s pocket watch (which he’d passed on to Glenn in a moment of fatherly acceptance).  Much shooting ensues, though it’s probably best to let the pictures tell the bulk of this part of the story.

They're not shooting at them. They're shooting around them.

They’re not shooting at them. They’re shooting around them.

The good people of Terminus, it seems, are not very good people at all, as they herd Rick, Michonne, Carl, and Daryl to a very specific area.

The only door open leads to "A".

The only door open leads to “A”.

These are clearly not the first people they’ve herded in this manner.

Look at how pitted the walls are. It ain't there first rodeo.

Look at how pitted the walls are. It ain’t their first rodeo.

And then they run them past a bone yard. I like that they’re looking in. See what’s in store for you here? Rut-ro!

The picture's not that clear. But yes, they look suspiciously like human skeletons.

The picture’s not that clear. But yes, they look suspiciously like human skeletons.

Through a fetishized memorial to…prior dinners?

At least that's what I assume this is.

At least that’s what I assume this is.

The good news is, I don’t see Beth’s name on that floor, which is why I don’t think she was taken by this group. The bad news is, we still don’t know what happened to Beth.

The one door that opens out of this room leads them into a back train yard, which dead-ends. This is where Gareth pulls the slipknot tight.

End of the line. For real.

End of the line. For real.

Gareth sends them into a railway car to await their fate, which adds a nice Holocaust-Nazi touch, as does the BS propaganda they’ve posted along the tracks. In retrospect, Terminus’s “Those who arrive, survive” slogan sounds uncomfortably like “Arbeit Macht Frei“, or “Work makes you free”, the phrase wrought into the iron gates of Auschwitz. It appears that Terminus is incredibly well organized and staffed by ruthless folks. Cannibals. Monsters? Of a sort, it seems, and absolutely monster-ish if the Nazi analogy holds. We’ll see how that goes.

Interestingly enough, Gareth apparently doesn’t actually realize he’s reuniting a group, or doesn’t care, or doesn’t have two different “A” group holding cells, because he puts the Rick crew in the A car, where surely he must know he’s also got the guy with the riot gear and the lady with the poncho. Because ahhh, reunion.

So, yeah. Hi.

So, yeah. Hi.

It kills me that Sasha looks so sheepish.

There they are. And here’s where Rick speaks the line that kills me. Once they briefly assess their situation, Rick says, “They’re gonna feel pretty stupid when they find out…(find out what?)…They’re screwing with the wrong people.” ~~~end scene~~~

OK. I know this is taken almost verbatim from an issue of the original comic. But here’s the thing: it SOUNDS like it’s taken from an issue of a comic book. All Rick needs is a cape and he’ll fly his people out of there, amirite? I hate it less a day later; I get that he needed to put forth a call to arms among his team. But I wanted a line that was more real-life sounding and less glib. They just herded him and his friends like rabbits into a death hutch. What’s he got to be so cocky about?

We still have no idea what happened to Beth. And we also don’t know the whereabouts of Tyreese, Carol, and baby Judith, though they were on the Terminus highway. This could be good, it could be bad. There’s a bag of weapons buried in the dirt. And it will be interesting to see if Eugene has the smarts he claims to have and can help them outwit the assuredly clever, manipulative, smooth, lying-to-your-face-like-it’s-his-job Gareth. Or is Eugene just dead weight? He can’t fight; he’s got to do something.

I guess we’ll see in October!

So, to play us out, I’m linking to Mark Knopfler‘s ridiculously appropriate song, “Cannibals”. Click here for the lyrics for those playing at home.

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The Walking Dead S4 Ep 14: The Grove

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Sorry this is a day late. I was out of town, couldn’t do it.  Anyway.

So. This episode. What can I say? There can be some recap, I suppose, but in the end… Lizzie did it. Lizzie did it, Lizzie killed it, Lizzie fed it.  And then…

OK, a quick summary. Carol, Tyreese and the girls (Lizzie, Mika, and baby Judith) were walking through the woods when they came to a cleared grove and a house/situation that seemed almost too good to be true. A secured property, lots of workable farmland, plenty of fresh meat–like venison–that walks itself onto the property, and a shit-ton of fertile and productive pecan trees. What could be better? Why NOT take a load off, set a spell, and actually really really have your own postmodern, post-apocalypse version of The Brady Bunch?

I figured I've made this joke so often I owed it to myself. Enjoy.

I figured I’ve made this joke so often the past few weeks I owed this to myself, and now I can’t really crack said joke any longer. Enjoy.

But of course, in the “too good to be true” vein…it doesn’t last. This episode ties up a lot of loose ends before we go into the final two episodes of the season, and Lizzie seems to be dangling most of the ends. It boils down to this: she is organically broken and at her core doesn’t seem to understand that zombies do not = an altered but nonetheless viable form of life (though she comprehends that they’re dangerous and does things to protect people from them…usually, sort of…when appropriate).

Hi, I'm Lizzie. When trouble comes, I lay on the ground and scream. My kid sister can handle this.

Hi, I’m Lizzie. When trouble comes, I lay on the ground and scream. My kid sister can handle this.

So Lizzie’s “they’re our friends” trope is somewhat selective, and I maintain that in a non-zombie world she would be a budding serial killer. This episode confirms, first by action then by conversation, that she was indeed the one feeding the zombies at the prison (called it!); we even get to see her feed a trapped zombie in this episode, ew.

Yeah, they're all cute when they're trapped but I don't see her helping him up any time soon.

Yeah, they’re all cute when they’re trapped but I don’t see her helping him up any time soon.

And she was the one doing rat dissections in the basement of the prison, though that’s no surprise considering her assault on a bunch of bunnies while chilling out around a campfire one evening.

She does, indeed, play keep-away from a zombie, and then flips out when Carol comes running out to kill it (called it!).

Oh, Lizzie. It's not love. You're just food.

Oh, Lizzie. It’s not love. You’re just food.

Then Carol and Tyreese took off into the woods to gather firewood and check their perimeter and make sure they have a safe, fairly secure place to live, for the time being.  Tyreese took the opportunity to mope and get all, “I’m haunted by dreams of my one true love.” I love the look on Carol’s face as she’s like, OK fine, Heathcliff, but can we gather some firewood?

Carol? I haz a sad.

Carol? I haz a sad.

During this downtime from their subsistence-living, hunter-gathering, hiding in shadows and waiting for threats to pass, Lizzie–who was crazy, operating under her own agenda, alone with two kids smaller than her, and armed with a really sharp hunting knife–takes the opportunity to murder her sister, so she can prove that when zombies return they really just want to be our BFFs.

I love my baby sister! But I love murder more! {{{heart}}}

I love my baby sister! But I love murder more! {{{heart}}}
—Lizzie

Carol realized at this moment that Lizzie couldn’t ever…ever…be trusted with people. With anyone, really, and while it’s obvious that baby Judith would be Target Numero Uno now that Mika was gone, it would just be a matter of time before she moved up to bigger game. Like Tyreese. Or her. Or anyone she wanted to “prove” something to. Rut-ro! So, in the interests of not harboring an adolescent sociopath who was only going to get bigger and more insane because they live in a crazy world, Carol gets Lizzie to go outside with her and then–because there really is no other choice–executes her.

That's the end of that. Sorry, Lizzie. But. You crossed the wrong woman.

That’s the end of that. Sorry, Lizzie. But. You crossed the wrong woman.

Don’t. Mess. With Carol. Hershel always said, “Everybody has a job to do.”  Apparently, Carol’s job is cutting out threats to her group like they were tumors. In all fairness, someone has to do it.

Whether the writers intend for this to be a side effect or not, one of the bits of underlying social commentary that comes up is: being angsty is a self-indulgent luxury, available to those who have some time on their hands. Now, I’m not saying that applies to Lizzie, because she was barking mad, poorly wired, her tether to reality snapped a long time before. But Tyreese…

While they were still at the prison, Tyreese was absolutely vengeance-minded and eaten up by rage (Michonne even had a “I want to kill The Governor, who made me put down my zombified best friend, but that’s not where my heart lives and dude, you’ve got to let it go” talk with him) since Karen died. And her loss–let’s face it, writers, this was a bit of a biff on your part–wasn’t that keenly felt by anyone except Tyreese, since the viewers barely knew her. When the prison went down and he had to re-focus his priorities, he seemed much less alternatively angry and/or glum. Now that he’s got some time on his hands again and is in a place in which he feels relatively safe, he’s back to mooning about Karen, and seems overly depressive and Edwardian-romantic-hero-self-indulgent. There’s things to do. This is the zombie apocalypse. Take off your neck ruffle and get off your fainting couch and snap out of it.

So the other loose end was Carol’s confession to Tyreese that she was the one who killed Karen. He suspected Lizzie, who never admitted to killing Karen even though she ‘fessed up about everything else that she did. But here he is, relaxed and in a safe little house and right away he’s all, “Karen is still dead. And now I think Lizzie did it, because clearly she’s been our under-the-radar resident psycho, and I need to blame someone.” Carol could have let him carry that belief, but in the interests of a) moving forward and b) being fair to Lizzie’s memory (because despite her willingness to be incredibly cold-blooded, Carol is fair), she spills to Tyreese about how she killed Karen, sliding a gun toward him so he can dish up justice how he sees fit.

Hey, Tyreese. Funny story...

Hey, Tyreese. Funny story…

Now, this is after she’s demonstrated her willingness to kill someone she loves in the interests of the Greater Good (an expression I hate, BTW, and I’m not really sure why), so he can’t say that she’s mean or crazed or thoughtless or spiteful. And, Tyreese was on board with Carol dropping the 11-year-old Lizzie, so if he can be OK with this then he can start to wrap his head around Carol’s actions with Karen. And he forgives her, because what else is he supposed to do? He just OK’d an execution. Who’s to say that Karen’s death was any different, really?

And so. There we are. They move on, two kids down and baby Judith strapped to a papoose on Tyreese’s back.

I’ll say this: Carol’s track record for child care is less than stellar. But she tries, she tries.

Questions: There was a fire burning somewhere close by that was a significant plot point, creating completely horrifying crispy-fried zombies.

If there were zombies in Mordor...

If there were zombies in Mordor…

There’s speculation about what was burning. My guess: the town that Rick, Michonne and Carl fled from after the creepster gang invaded the house. Because the gang (that Daryl is now a part of, remember) is trying to flush out the people or person (Rick!) that killed their friend in the upstairs bathroom and got out of the house unnoticed. I’m sure they’re thinking this person can’t be far. That’s gotta leave a scar if you pride yourself on being a gang of violent and implacable dicks, like these guys do

The other question I’ve seen asked around the interwebs: Why, exactly, did Rick banish Carol in the first place?  The short answer: Because he is afraid of her. Because she’s willing to do the wet-work, and he knows that if she decides he is a poor leader or a danger to her group in any way, she’ll take him down. He can’t control her, and he knows it.

#teamcarol #4eva!

Next week: Daryl walks through the woods with the other bow-hunting guy from the murderous creepy gang. And everyone closes in on Terminus. Finally.

And finally. Let the Brady Bunch sing you out with “It’s a Sunshine Day“.  Ev’rybody’s smilin’!

The Walking Dead S4 Ep 13: Alone

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In the movie Grand Hotel, femme fatale Greta Garbo utters the famous line, “I want to be alone.”

Go about 30 seconds in, you’ll see.

Clearly, Grand Hotel is not a safe house in the middle of a zombie apocalypse, because ain’t nobody wants to be alone in this world.

Again, this episode focuses on only two story arcs; that of Bob/Sasha/Maggie, and of Beth/Daryl, as the split group struggles to survive and/or reassemble in their flight post-prison. A few things: 1) I understand the desire viewers have expressed to the show getting back to the show, especially since there are only a few episodes left in this season. And 2) To those of you still bitching about them not deciding upon a pre-arranged meeting spot…they didn’t, OK? They just didn’t. I get mad that they don’t kill every zombie they come across (or every person they know will become a zombie), because it doesn’t make any sense to me, but they just don’t, and I know I have to get over it. So I get over it.

Moving on.

The show opens with a flashback montage of Bob, walking…walking…walking. Trudging, really, since he’s really only walking through the woods with no real sense of purpose, and I love when the show parallels people with zombies. What is he really, in this sequence, other than an overeducated zombie with a developed concept of “I”?  He doesn’t talk, and when he does eventually use his voice it sounds painful to him, like he barely remembers it. He doesn’t have real emotions. He just…shambles, holing himself up in caves, or hiding out on top of trailers, drinking cough medicine and marking time until he dies.

It's like if Eeyore were real, had thumbs, and survived the zombie apocalypse.

It’s like if Eeyore were real, had thumbs, and survived the zombie apocalypse. Thanks for noticing me.

Until he encounters Daryl and Glenn, who give him the zombie apocalypse version of the “What is your name? What is your quest? What is your favorite color?” quiz, then invite him to come back to the prison with them. He happily agrees. Because if he’s with them then he’s no longer alone, and his voice doesn’t sound like a stranger’s.

The Bob/Sasha/Maggie combined story arc begins with the visually terrific battle in the fog, as the three of them group together and fight zombies back to back to back.  It’s effective at showing how survival chances rise when you’ve got a team effort going.  

I got this. No, I got this. No, WE got this.

I got this. No, I got this. No, WE got this.

The impulse to split comes first from Maggie, and then from Sasha, both of whom choose to be alone for different reasons. Maggie wants to find Glenn, becomes convinced she can find him at Terminus, gets a dissenting opinion from Sasha about going there and doesn’t want to ask her friends to do something they don’t want to do. So, she takes off on her own. Which, OK, whatever, and she quickly realizes she doesn’t want to and/or can’t do it alone, so she waits for Bob and Sasha to catch up.  Bob wants to find Maggie; Sasha wants to find a nice spot and start a new homestead. In an attempt to manipulate Sasha, Bob actually says, “I’m gonna try something here” and leans in to give Sasha a “If you stick around, you get some more of this sugar” kiss. Which Sasha returns in exactly the same manner. Neither of them stay with the other.

Look at her face. She's like: What else you got?  Poor Bob.

Look at her post-kiss face. She’s like: What else you got? Poor Bob.

Romance is dead in the zombie apocalypse. OR, Bob’s got absolutely no game.

Sasha starts to set up house in an abandoned building, but–in a beautifully filmed moment, in a stark and cavernous apartment that’s silent but for the sound of the wind–realizes she doesn’t want to be alone, either.

Now what?

Now what?

So she meets up with Maggie, they do some more back-to-back killing to emphasize how much they need one another to survive, and head off down the tracks to find Bob and then Terminus. Yay, happy family!

Makin' up a mess of fun.

Makin’ up a mess of fun.

A note to filmmakers: when Sasha was alone in that room and there was no sound except for the wind…it frigging worked.  Stop bombarding us with extraneous sound! Explore the profound ability of silence to convey setting and emotion. It doesn’t all have to be moody chicks with acoustic guitars playing along in the background.

Now. Beth and Daryl.

Once upon a time, Hansel and Gretel Beth and Daryl were walking through the woods, and they came upon a funeral parlor in the middle of nowhere.

Look! It's just on the other side of that graveyard! Nothing bad happens in a graveyard, right?

Look! It’s just on the other side of that graveyard! Nothing bad happens in a graveyard, right?

The funeral parlor looked nice and clean, and they even remarked that someone had been caring for it.  There was food in the pantry, nicely stacked by someone who clearly has OCD and aligned the labels.  Peanut butter, pig’s knuckles, all things that can stay for weeks/months/years. These items are probably alphabetized by shelf, too.  Everything is clean and sealed, without a crack or dent or a speck of dust.

I can't be the only one who finds this worrisome, can I?

I can’t be the only one who finds this worrisome, can I?

Seriously?  You thought this was OK?  Here are the problems I see with this, in no particular order:

  1. You’ve already acknowledged that someone has taken care of this place; why wouldn’t you think they’d come back?
  2. If they did come back, what makes you think they’d be open to sharing space?
  3. It’s a funeral home! When does anything good ever happen in a funeral home? Did you never watch TV pre-apocalypse?
  4. They went to the house because Beth turned her heel in an animal trap set nearby. Is it realistic to think that with zombies shambling all over the Georgia woods for the past year, no member of the wretched undead would have already triggered that trap?
Careful! It's a trap! (No, really.)

Careful! It’s a trap! (No, really.)

To sum up: Oh, hey, it’s too bad that you’ve been hobbled in an animal trap. Boy, you sure would have been stuck if you’d been out here alone. Look! There’s a nearby house we can stay in! And it’s got food inside! And it’s nice and tidy, except for the lovingly, slightly fetishized embalmed zombie bodies! Let’s. Just. Stay.

Nice...uhhhh...suit. When do we move in?

Nice…uhhhh…suit. When do we move in?

Not.

The only thing that would have been more obvious that this was a bad setup would be if the house were made out of candy.

Since I’m rocking the Hansel and Gretel parallel, my bet is that Daryl and Beth have just encountered The Hunters, a group of cannibals that have been trolling around the comic book and are, apparently, exceptionally evil. The people who took Beth drove off in a pimped out Cadillac with a crucifix on the back window, so maybe they’re some weird religious group instead of cannibals. Or maybe it’s cannibals simply using the car that came with their commandeered funeral home. We have yet to see.

Check out my hoopty, y'all.

Check out my cross-emblazoned hoopty, y’all.

(For the people who have said that Beth drove herself off in the car–no. Analysis fail. She dropped all her stuff, there was no reason for that.)  But I feel like Daryl and Beth were led to the house thanks to the trap (not even metaphorically; I mean really, it was a trap) and then lulled into a false sense of security. I also think the mangy dog that visited the door, and then then subsequent zombies Daryl thought were the dog, were deployed by the same people who took Beth. I’ll explain.

OH MY GOD! THE GUESTS ARE HERE AND THEY WANT PIG'S KNUCKLES!

OH MY GOD! THE GUESTS ARE HERE AND THEY WANT PIG’S KNUCKLES!

The first time the dog showed up, the alarm cans clanked together, so Daryl went to see what it was. Oh, look, it’s a harmless mangy dog!  Later, we heard the cans tinkle together and the dog bark, so Daryl assumed it was mangy dog again.  Only no.  Zombies!  These events happen too close together; coincidence? I think not. Besides, if you’re going to set up a non-candy cannibal meat ensnarement house in the woods, why would you be above using mangy dogs and zombies to your nefarious advantage?

Daryl tries to track Beth in the car for as long as possible but falls down at the crossroads, alone and in despair.

Last one standing, my ass.

Last one standing, my ass.

That’s where he meets “Joe” and Co., the very same folks who invaded Rick’s nice home and took it over. You can see the man who was nearly choked to death for the privilege of sleeping in the bed, right here.

I'd know that bandanna anywhere.

I’d know that bandana anywhere.

Remember: this guy saw Rick hiding under the bed and can ID him (speculation about the brain’s capacity to form memories under traumatic conditions–like nearly being choked to death by your gang leader–aside), and Rick has made enemies of these people since he killed a fellow gang member in the bathroom and let him go all zombie in the house.  I don’t think they’re the same people who took Beth.  I don’t think they have such a swank car. That’s why they’re walking. Daryl–because he is a badass–badasses himself into the gang, because it’s better than being killed by them. With a group like this (i.e., the kind of group who would strangle one another nearly to death for the right to nap in one specific bed, whose leader would say, “Why hurt yourself when you can hurt other people?”), he’s going to have to kill his way out.  It’s not as though they’ll be willing to just let Daryl go. As though they’d say, Oh, OK, 17th-level ranger with a +5 vorpal crossbow of bludgeoning, you want us to let you wander off into the woods where we can’t keep an eye on you?  And possibly alert your own people to us, causing us strife and mayhem that we haven’t planned?  No problem!

Hey, Joe. I heard you shot your woman down. And that other guy. And then there were those five people down the road a piece.

Hey, Joe. I heard you shot your woman down. And that other guy. And then there were those five people down the road a piece. Oh! And those campers.

Not.

Oh, and Glenn has seen signs for Terminus and it looks like he’s heading that way.  Finally.

Of course, I have a head cold so I may be completely out of my mind.  I’m going back to bed.

Next week: Tyreese hands baby Judith back to Lizzie, and we all know how that’s gone before, and creepy yet nostalgic scratchy old-timey music plays on a Victrola while someone (I hate to harp on Lizzie, but she is our resident psycho) plays Keep Away from the Zombie.  Like, someone took the movie Fido a little too seriously.

Here’s a dedication to Daryl and his new-found crew.

The Walking Dead S4 Ep 12: Still

SPOILERS!  YATA YATA, ABANDON ALL HOPE YE WHO ENTER HERE, OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT.

BECAUSE SPOILERS. I MEAN IT.

MOVING ON NOW.

Farewell, dear Whatsherface. We hardly knew ye.

I mean, seriously, we hardly knew ye, which is why I couldn’t remember this character’s name and called her Whatsherface most of the time. So. Farewell, Whatsherface and hello, Beth.

Finally.

And yes, I remember when they were still on the farm and she had her tragic teen moment and threatened to kill herself (and Andrea was all, hey, man, let her go, to Beth’s appropriately freaked and angry family, which really helped solidify Andrea as the character whose behavior you should model the exact opposite of, but I digress).  But for the most part, through this series, Beth was the country mouse who somehow, mysteriously, managed to survive the zombie apocalypse while serving as little more than a human baby sling for much of the past two seasons.

“Still” was the episode in which Beth moves from anonymous, diary-wishing teen to rebellious, moonshine drinking teen ready to give the middle finger to the world around her.  Which was pretty much how I spent most of my teen and young adult years, and I didn’t even have to fight zombies to fuel my inner rage.

Is that a crate full of moonshine in your pocket or are you just happy to...oh, I see. It's a crate full of moonshine.

Is that a crate full of moonshine in your pocket or are you just happy to…oh, right, I see. It’s a crate full of moonshine.

Plus you learn stuff about Daryl.

This episode didn’t move the overall narrative of the show along much, since it focused on Beth and Daryl’s character development. A point to remember: neither character is found in the original comic, so their backstories are being written as the TV series’ writers go.  Daryl quickly became a fan favorite, so it’s not surprising they had him do more stuff, more quickly, than Beth did. I mean, how could he not be a great character to develop? {{{Nerd alert}}} This guy’s like a 17th-level ranger with a +5 crossbow. That’s a fun character to write when there’s mayhem all around.  But Beth? Not so much. Hershel did have other children in the original, but none were Beth and so? She is a wide-open character, who has been more or less shuffled to the backburner, until now.

So Beth and Daryl are on the run, and it seems like these two have been running non-stop since the prison went down. And they’re running, and hiding in the trunk of a car, and running. Then Beth decides she’s done running–at least for the time being–and wants a drink.  They come across a country club (“Golfers like to booze it up, right?”) (Yes, Beth. Yes they do.), which turns out to be the scene of a weird and socioeconomically-fueled slaughter.

A bad day at the 19th hole.

A bad day at the 19th hole.

Wealthy club members (designated by their clothing, jewelry and signs on their bodies like, “Rich Bitch”) were hung and left to turn zombie in their nooses or, simply, slaughtered in their pearls and golf sweaters.  Why were they gathered in a country club in the first place, its windows shrouded with newspapers to try and shield themselves from the zombies’ notice, decked out in nice clothes and with purses stuffed with money?  It seems they were hiding out. It’s as though they’d gathered for some postmodern Masque of the Red Death to try and wait out the apocalypse. But there’s no hiding and in the end, all their money only made for some great kindling.

FIRE! FIRE FIRE FIRE!

FIRE! FIRE FIRE FIRE!

And if you don’t know Masque of the Red Death, consider yourself culturally illiterate until you’ve read it. I’ll make it easy for you: click here. Read. Get back to me. Moving on.

A word about that “Welcome to the Dogtrot” bit of graffiti…a dogtrot is a type of house found primarily through the eastern and southern US, but has been seen as far west as New Mexico.  It’s generally a cabin with a wide open breezeway through the middle (where the dog can trot through, get it?), and the widely ventilated breezeway allows buildings to stay cooler.  Dogtrots in Georgia are mainly found in forested, rural (read: poorer) areas.  While the graffiti gives us no indication, specifically, who commandeered the country club, writing “Welcome to the Dogtrot” guarantees you that it was a bunch of backwoods Have-Nots who finally saw a chance to get the upper hand on the Haves.

Gang name? Social statement? I assume we'll find out more.

Gang name? Social statement? I assume we’ll find out more.

After seeing that, I’d want a drink, too.

While Beth deciding she wants a drink seems like a terrible idea, I also get the impulse. Poor kid. She can’t…go out clubbing and be a woo girl and go parking with boys and go to her prom. She can’t do any of the stupid shit we all do along the way to adulthood. She can only keep running from the ravenously undead while getting increasingly proficient with sticking a hunting knife into their skulls so, dammit, she will do at least one stupid, irresponsible, angry teen thing, and get defiantly drunk.  Daryl, of course, knows where he can get some top-quality hooch.  He takes Beth to the ramshackle, standard-issue redneck shack down the road apiece, the one he says is essentially a replica of the house he grew up in, complete with the stash of moonshine and the hot pink lady’s bust ashtray (filled to the cupline with extinguished cigarettes).

Shmexy. Set dressers, note: These cigarettes have clearly never been smoked. The filters are all cleaned, and they're all evenly stubbed out. Reality: They'd be smoked to their filter ends and then crushed.

Set dressers, take note: These cigarettes have clearly never been smoked. The filters are all clean, and they’re all evenly stubbed out an inch or more from the filter. Reality: They’d be smoked to their filter ends and then crushed.

I’ll spare you the details of the drinking game they played, because of course they played a drinking game, because in a non-apocalyptic world Beth would be a budding college frosh woo girl who does body shots off her roommates.  But we learn this:

We learn that Daryl is a mean drunk, but when he’s mean and lashing out he still manages to be vulnerable. He talks–yells, really–about how he nearly died because of his stupid brother and his stupid brother’s stupid friend, and reflects (angrily) on the pointlessness and casual violence of his former everyday life.  He takes a zombie apart piece by piece while pushing Beth around, “teaching” her to shoot a crossbow.  And he talks about how he feels responsible for Hershel’s head getting cut off, even though that’s silly because it’s not as though anyone could have expected to formulate an anti-tank plan.

Once I stop being an asshole I'll show you my sensitive side. Really.

Once I stop being an asshole I’ll show you my sensitive side. Really.

We learn that before the apocalypse, he was little more than a drifter, tagging along after his brother.  “I was nothing…nobody,” he says, and it was only after the start of the zombie apocalypse that he started to become his own person, choose his own path, and live according to his own set of inner decency, which could only have been trampled on by absolutely total dick brother Merle.

We learn that Beth has a taste for fire.  The episode starts with her building a fire in their makeshift camp in the forest and ends with her helping Daryl burn down the house that symbolized, for him, his empty, pre-apocalyptic life.  Because fire = awesome.  Maybe she’ll team up with Lizzie and start a smoked-meats business.  They can do bunnies, rats, the occasional snake…

FIRE FIRE FIRE!

FIRE FIRE FIRE!

We learn that Daryl really doesn’t want to be alone. When drunk Beth tells him he’ll be the last one standing, he doesn’t seem to find anything flattering about that idea.

And, of course, there’s the finger scene, which was a strangely heartwarming way to end the show. I’m going to imagine episodes of The Brady Bunch ending with the house on fire, the entire family gathered around to give it the finger. Sigh. Doesn’t it just make you feel good?

This is the second Brady Bunch/Walking Dead joke I've made. What's wrong with me?

This is the second Brady Bunch/Walking Dead joke I’ve made. What’s wrong with me?

So. They’re friends and a team and Beth has grown up a little while Daryl has let down his defenses just a smidge around Beth. I’m sure that bets are being made about how quickly the two of them will end up in bed together. I won’t be surprised. The episode I’ll be waiting for after that is when they encounter Carol again, and Carol and her child army purposely hunt down her romantic rival.  Because there’s nothing like hunting human for sport.

Next week:  Foggy zombie thrills in a graveyard!

Let Uncle Dave Macon play you out of this week’s episode, asking you to carve that possum, carve him to the heart.

The Walking Dead, S4 Ep 10: Inmates

~~~SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS~~~

There you have it.

So. We’re still putting together the chess board that is Walking Dead World in the aftermath of the Governor’s rampage on the prison, as Rick & Co. are still making their way through the woods, kind of freaking out to find themselves in groups of two or three, after a horrific expulsion from what had served them well as a fairly safe zone. Some wise person asked of the internets, “But why didn’t they have a contingency plan? Why didn’t they have a predetermined rendezvous point, like you do with your kids if there’s a house fire?”

Because that wouldn’t have made for nearly as interesting TV. Why have them logically organized, when an unstructured dash for survival is so much more thrilling for the viewer?

Maximizing my total geek cred, I couldn’t help myself when a Lord of the Rings moment ran through my head:

There is no strength left in the world of Men. They’re scattered, divided, leaderless.

(The quote in question is all the way at the end of this clip; forward to 3:10 if you also can’t help yourself. Or, congratulate yourself on escaping the Nerdery and living a life less dominated by film/tv/book quotes. True nerds: I expect to see LOTR/TWD comparative essays tout de suite.)

First: YAY! Daryl‘s alive! Ladies, let’s all take a moment to enjoy a collective swoon before moving on.

Finally…FINALLY they did something with that annoying Whatsherface…OK, I mean “Beth“, whatever…Hershel‘s other daughter, the not-Maggie. She’s escaped into the woods with the totally emotionally wooden Daryl, because Daryl and Michonne (as we saw her in the previous episode) seem to share a similar, “Shutting down is better, hoping hurts too much” mindset.  They kill zombies, they argue about having hope, they discover they work well as a team, Beth has a full-on crying meltdown when they come across zombies feeding alongside the railroad tracks. I get it; in her world, threats and horror lurk around every corner. The episode opens with a voiceover of Beth reading a passage from an old diary she kept, reminding the viewer that she’s really only 16 or 17 and the kind of girl and writes in her diary so her wishes can come true. *sniffle*

Which makes it that much more interesting when she burns the pages of her diary for kindling. If wishes were horses then beggars would ride…away from the hordes of flesh-eating undead.

So long, wishes!

So long, wishes!

Next: Yay! Tyreese has Baby Judith, and a big congratulations to these folks, who nailed it at the mid-season finale!

Tyreese also has the girls Mika and the increasingly psychotic Lizzie, and they’re trundling through the woods like a psychotic postmodern Brady Bunch.

Here's the story...of a man named Tyreese...

Here’s the story…of a man named Tyreese…

Lizzie is developing apace as a bona fide serial killer. She is a little young for autoeroticism and alcohol can’t really be a factor for her development,  but traumatic childhood? Check. Animal torture? Check. (Those poor bunnies. More on that later.) If she starts wetting the bed or lighting fires, then we’re in trouble deep. Baby Judith was just a few lungsful away from becoming the first official Crawling Dead, since fortunate timing is the only thing that prevented la Liz from smothering her.  And Judith was only saved because…

Considering my postmodern Brady Bunch joke, it's fitting her name is Carol.

Considering my postmodern Brady Bunch joke, it’s fitting her name is Carol.

Yay! Carol is back! She saw the prison go down and followed Tyreese & Co. into the woods. Tyreese clearly has no idea that Carol is the woman who stabbed his lady love, Karen, in the head and then lit her body on fire.  Which, at the moment, is probably better for all involved. We’ll see how all that plays out, though I suspect there’s going to be a, “Yes, that was me” moment of truth with Carol that will make Tyreese lose his mind. Then he’ll try to kill Carol and attract a zombie horde, which will force him to have to trust Carol to get him out of it. Or, he’ll bring about his own death because of his rage. As a side note, my boyfriend and I were talking about how, despite the crazy circumstances of the post-prison dash, Tyreese seems so much less vengeance-minded-ly insane. It’s like he went, “Oh, crisis, right! Time to focus on saving my bacon and not lash out at my cruel and indifferent world.” Which then got us talking about mental illnesses, and if there is a leisure-time component to them. So. That’s a fun discussion to have with your sweetie as Valentine’s Day weekend comes to a close.  And I digress.

Countless hordes of sleepless, ravenous undead. Me, and one 4-inch blade. I can take 'em.

Countless hordes of sleepless, ravenous undead. Me, and one 4-inch blade. I can take ‘em.

Yay! Maggie is still alive, with Sasha, also yay! Oh, and Bob Stookey is there. This is the third camp that’s been destroyed out from under him.  Maggie is still reeling from the gruesome loss of her father and possible loss of her husband in one day, and sets off “with or without” the other two, who kindly don’t let her go toddling off into the woods armed with nothing more than a…what was that, a 4-inch hunting knife?  She finds the bus that Glenn was supposed to be on (but was not), which has of course become a bus filled with Rolling Death.

Hey, lady, could you get the door?

Hey, lady, could you get the door?

Maggie unleashes her rage and grief-fueled frustration on zombie after zombie after zombie. While the burning of the prison has shut Michonne and Daryl down and given Tyreese clarity, Maggie has become reckless in a desperate search to restore some of her family. Interestingly, she doesn’t say a word about finding Beth. I can’t say I blame her.

Oh my, I just had the worst dream...my home had blown up and then...

Oh my, I just had the worst dream…my home had blown up and then…AAAAAGGGGGHHHHH!!!!

Yay! Glenn is still alive! Once he and his still-pleuritic lungs lurched off the bus in an enfeebled attempt to help Maggie (ironically, saving his life), he ended up getting knocked out in one of two spots in the prison that’s inaccessible to zombies.  Good for him! Though it did generate this text from my nephew:

How on Earth is Glenn still at the prison?

The next thing you know we’ll start Skyping to watch it long-distance together. Ahhh, family times. Yes, they did cover Glenn’s bizarre bit of impractical bravery in the story arc of the prison’s destruction, but Michael, if it makes you feel any better, George didn’t remember that either. Anyway. Glenn–one of the smartest characters–scavenges the prison, gathers a big bag of goodies and a riot control suit, which simultaneously turns Glenn into a live-action action figure while providing the TV viewer with a Glenn’s eye view of zombie mayhem.

Zombie Mayhem Suit. Nom Access: Denied!

Zombie Mayhem Suit. Nom Access: Denied!

As he’s running through the grabbing, bitey chaos he sees Tara, still alive, and still completely flaked out after being party to The Governor’s deranged last tango with Rick. (If you remember, Tara had one of the greatest “Fuck this, I’m out” faces I’ve ever seen.) With the cunning use of psychology, Glenn convinces Tara to get on her feet and out of the prison with him, saving her life even though he knows she was one of The Governor’s people.  But.  Stranger alliances have been made in the zombie apocalypse.  They have a talk, find common ground, Glenn admits he doesn’t want her company so much as needs it, then they beat the crap out of some zombies which finally exhausts Glenn, and he drops to the ground.

See why he needs you, Tara?

Then we meet this guy. This fucking guy.

20140217_164417

I have no idea as of yet what to make of Abe Ford and his crew.  They’re just…present.  And show up in a militarized vehicle, which has never once boded well for our intrepid band of survivors.

Also introduced in this episode: a sanctuary called “Terminus“, which literally means “the end of the line“. That can’t be good.

As for what happened with Lizzie’s bunnies, take a look at what was in a log as Daryl and Beth made their way through the woods.

Sad bunnies. Crazy child. Deranged future.

Sad bunnies. Crazy child. Deranged future.

Remember, the timelines in these stories are linear unto themselves, but not contiguous. They’re all starting at different times, so we’re trying to piece together the timelines.  And it’s sad and poignant–they’re just missing one another.

So now we know, sort of, where everyone is. Next week: Craziness ensues!

The Walking Dead, S4 Ep. 8: Too Far Gone

SPOILERS GALORE! BE FOREWARNED! ABANDON HOPE OF NON-SPOILAGE, ALL YE WHO ENTER HERE!

Here’s what I’m surprised about from last night’s The Walking Dead mid-season finale.

  • I’m kind of surprised Daryl wasn’t angrier about Carol‘s banishment.
  • I’m sorry Hershel died.
  • Rick lost another shirt.
  • I didn’t expect who actually pulled the trigger and put a bullet in The Governor‘s brain.

Ummmm…

  • Oh, and I hope they’re just messing with us and somehow, someone got baby Judith to safety before a zombie (or whoever) had the bad form to bleed all over her car seat.
It's too tidily placed on the ground for her to have been ripped out of here by zombie hordes.  Li'l Ass Kicker is just fine.

Boo.  But!  It’s too tidily placed on the ground for Judith to have been ripped out of here by zombie hordes. Li’l Ass Kicker is just fine.

Here’s what I’m not surprised about:

  • Everything else.  Mostly.

The prison was getting claustrophobic and that story arc was playing itself well out, so I’m not terribly sorry or shocked to see it go.  In the episode where Rick banishes Carol, I was relieved to be in a town and see a setting that wasn’t just gridded catwalks and cement. Besides, as a storyline…what do you do with the prison now?  The superflu has passed and they’re not all spewing blood on one another in quarantined cell blocks.  As much as it pains me to say this, good TV is not made by domestic tranquility.  Not even with relentless hordes of zombies roaming the outsides.  Oh, look, the walls held them back.  Oh, look.  The walls held them back again.  Here, son, have a bean.  And?

So what have we got, now that the mid-season finale has come and gone and the prison has been blown to smithereens by The Governor?

Daryl, in one of the greatest examples of how to manipulate the available resources in the postapocalyptic world–sticks a zombie on his crossbow bolt for use as a “human” shield, fights through to the goddamn tank, and disables it with a grenade.  BOOM.  He’s out in the world with Beth, Hershel’s insipidly boring daughter.  I mean, I don’t want to see Beth die simply because people are an increasingly rare commodity in the zombie world, but damn, I have yet to figure out her point.

I'm already bored talking about Beth. Let's watch Daryl take a zombie for a crossbow bolt cruise.

I’m already bored talking about Beth. Let’s watch Daryl take a zombie for a cruise down crossbow bolt highway.

Maggie‘s stuck with Sasha, recovering from the flu and Bob Stookey, who we’ve learned from past episodes has the uncomfortable habit of being the lone survivor of the bands he’s traveled with.  Here’s hoping Maggie shanks him before his bad luck rubs off on her.

Glenn, still weak with flu, is on a school bus full of children and other sickly types, driving who knows where.  I say we put the PA from an old ice cream truck on the bus, let the music rip to draw the zombies to it and call it a day, because that thing is rolling walker bait.

There’s a pack of child soldiers that Carol created, headed by the incomparable Miss Lizzie, running around in the woods.  They pretty effectively saved Tyreese‘s bacon after he ended up diving into a spot from which he couldn’t retreat during the invasion.  And by “saved” I mean, they shot two people point-blank in their heads so he could get away.

I call you "Killer" 'cause you *slay* me.

I call you “Killer” ’cause you *slay* me.

I like that you can see my Christmas lights twinkling in the upper left hand corner of the screen.

p.s. In the five seconds of this episode that didn’t deal with The Governor’s invasion of the prison, there was a nod to the “who’s messing with the rats” story arc, which I assume will show up again in the second half of the season.  I still say it’s Lizzie.  Remember when she played toesies in Glenn’s blood and sputum?  Ew.  Girlfriend’s got issues.  Hence when Tyreese found the board with a disemboweled rat nailed to it, it begs the question: can it possibly be the work of anyone other than toesie girl?

As for Tyreese, who knows where he is?

So sorry, Hershel.  I knew he was history when they handed The Governor Michonne‘s sword, and Hershel was closest by.  Because you don’t hand a lunatic a katana and not expect him to swing for the bleachers.

Ow.

Ow.

RIP poor little Meghan Chambler/Chalmers/Whatever, who was toast as soon as The Governor, that one-eyed Master of Disaster, The Captain of Crazytown, El Jefe de Horror, the Cyclops of Chaos, promised he would take care of her.  Because everything he touched turned to shit, that’s why.  There’s no reason she should be any different.

Just wait out the raid here, he said. You'll be safe here, he said.

Just wait out the raid here, he said. You’ll be safe here, he said.

Meghan’s mom, Lilly, is off on her own (more on her in a minute), as is her aunt Tara, who drops the mic on The Governor’s militia with perhaps one of the greatest “Fuck this, I’m out” faces in the history of TV.

Yeah, that's a whole lot of nope.

Yeah, that’s a whole lot of nope.

Which was smart of her, since pretty much everyone else who was fighting on the behalf of The Cyclops of Chaos ended up as zombie food.

And so. To The Governor.

Brian Heriot didn’t last long.  The kinder-gentler, yearning for personal reform Governor from…was it only two episodes ago?… Done.  Finito.  I think it’s safe to say the title of this episode pertains directly to The Gov.  His pathos and paranoia and love of power ran too deep for him to stop before hitting absolute bottom.  Kind of like Richard III, with zombies.

Richard III The Governor arrives at Bosworth Field the gates of the prison and draws forth a final battle, where he nearly strangles Rick to death but instead, is stabbed through the chest by “ooh, he so had this coming” Michonne, who’s anti-Gov laundry list looks something like this (and is in no way complete):

  • Remember when you confiscated my sword and wouldn’t let me and Andrea leave?
  • Remember when you kept your zombie daughter in a secret closet?
  • Remember the creepy-ass walker head aquariums you kept in your office, next to your zombie daughter?
  • Remember when you assigned Merle to kill me?
  • Remember when you almost killed Glenn and Maggie?
  • Remember when you tried to make Merle and Daryl duke it out gladiator style?
  • Sorry ’bout the eye.
  • Andrea, Andrea, Andrea.

Suffice to say…

That's gonna leave a mark.

That’s gonna leave a mark.

Michonne left him to suffer in the field, though.  She didn’t finish the job, and left that to the hordes of walkers closing in on him.  Which, in its own way, has got to sting.  Michonne has taken off for parts unknown, and it’s my hope that she’s the one who got her hands on baby Judith and is off in the woods with her somewhere.  Baby tucked in a rudimentary sling strapped to her chest, katana on her back.  Dig it.  You CAN have it all–a career and a baby.

So at the end of the day, Meghan’s mother Lilly dealt The Governor his death blow.  Covered in bits of Meghan–and in rage and betrayal–she did what nobody else was able to do before and bring an end to Richard III the Captain of Crazytown.

If you're looking for Richard, you'll find him crushed under the bootheel of the ravenous masses.

Symbolism much?  If you’re looking for Richard The Governor, you’ll find him crushed under the boot heel of the ravenous masses.

And a word about Rick: of course he didn’t die in this fight with El Jefe de Horror.  Rick’s is the story arc upon which this entire series hinges.  He opened the show in the hospital, vulnerable and alone in his tacky hospital gown.  It’s his journey we’re watching, though other characters come and go along the way and divert us.  But expecting that Rick might die is like expecting Harry Potter to die.  Preposterous.  You don’t kill The Boy Who Lived.  (Note to writers: I am not issuing a challenge!)

So now Rick’s prison people are scattered to the four winds.  Rick is alive, but hurt, but has son Carl the sharpshooter with him.  At least he won’t have to worry about running into The Governor any more.  And he’ll need yet another shirt.

RIP, Rick's second shirt. We hardly knew ye.

RIP, Rick’s second shirt. We hardly knew ye.

As for what’s going to happen…I have no clue.  Since the writers have gone all metaphorically insane-regal, I’m half hoping they’ll run into mad Queen Carol, who’s become a post-apocalyptic Elizabeth Bathory and bathes in the blood of her enemies.  And Lizzie will, of course, have found her, and will be her handmaiden from hell.  Other than that…who knows?  We’ll see in February.  Just keep ‘em coming, AMC.  Thanks.

Here’s a dedication to The Governor, from me.  Presenting The Wonder Stuff singing “Unbearable“.

The Walking Dead, S4 Ep. 5: I Am the Warrior

Sooooo.  The Walking Dead, Season 4, Episode 5.  “Internment”, they called it.

Oh, right, before I so one step further…

SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS!

There.  That should clear up any confusion.

So, The Walking Dead.  Thankfully, this seems to be the end of the megaflu story arc, which is fine with me because I’ve had quite enough of people with bleeding eyeballs.

Bad things are in store for poor Dr. Caleb.

Bad things are in store for poor Dr. Caleb.

Zombies are one thing, but hemorrhagic fevers?  Ewwww.  Quite another.

Anyhoo.

Here’s what we’ve got: One-legged country veterinarian and closest-thing-to-a-doctor-on-site (see: poor Dr. Caleb), Hershel, has voluntarily locked himself in quarantine with the infected survivors in the prison, to try and administer some sort of medical hoodoo.  Carl, Rick’s 14-year-old son, has had a little bit of a romantic past with his gun, though he’s becomes almost freakishly competent (if a little militaristic, she said in a mastery of understatement).  He’s in a separate building, in charge of the vulnerable population (the elderly, small children) but is rarin’ to go in the fight to defend their claustrophobic, PTSD-inducing way of life.  And zombies are massing at the outside fence.

More or less.

The warrior core–Daryl, Tyreese, and Michonne–are out on a supply run (and Glenn is laid up with the flu; Glenn, if you remember, officially became a badass last season, when he broke free from the chair he was bound to and used a chunk of said broken chair to kill the zombie that was locked in the room with him).  Thus, the defense of the prison is left to the kinder, gentler, gentleman-farmer incarnation of Rick, his teenage son Carl, and Maggie, who’s got a lot of fight and isn’t afraid of hard work and a little zombie slaughter but doesn’t usually occupy the front lines.

Oh! And Hershel, an amputee in his…mid-60s?…who can walk thanks to a prosthetic leg they made for him out of spare prison parts.  Don’t ask me what his leg is made of I DON’T KNOW.  I just know he gets around pretty good for something welded out of old cafeteria tables.  Hershel is the constant voice of humanity, the reminder that we need to remember we’re humans and not devolve into winner-take-all, soulless greedmongers, as opposed to this.

AliBabaBunny

It’s MINE! All MINE! I’m rich, I’m a happy miser.
Image from lusipurr.com

Kind of like zombies, but with pulses.

Before I go a step further, I’d like to point out that the primary definition of the word “internment“–in any dictionary–generally means imprisoning a bunch of enemy combatants and/or perceived threats.  It does also simply refer to the state of being confined, but its intial definition has an overt military aura.  When the US rounded up Japanese-Americans after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, they didn’t say they were putting them in safe houses to protect them from unreasonable mobs.  They went into internment camps.  This word underscores the notion that these people at the VERY LEAST are going to have some severe PTSD, that their group operates militarily (even if they don’t want to admit it) and subsequently the kids are growing up to be child soldiers, which is horrifying in its own right, with or without the zombies.

There were a few themes in this week’s The Walking Dead that stood out.  Parents, in this episode, kept trying to protect their kids, and it kept not working.  Hershel doesn’t want Maggie to enter the quarantine building.  Rick doesn’t want Carl to leave the safe zone with the kids.  And this guy didn’t want Hershel to know just how badly his kid was doing in fighting the flu…

Though on second thought, maybe this guy should've told Hershel his kid was on the road to Zombietown.

Though on second thought, maybe this guy should’ve told Hershel his kid was well on his way to Zombietown.

Hindsight.  C’est la vie.

Carl summed up the futility of the (nevertheless completely understandable) parental attempt to protect their kids in the crazy world they live in.  “You can’t  keep me from it,” Carl says to his father and, when his father asked from what?  “From what always happens.”  The shit, he’s saying, will eventually hit the fan and I’ll be in the middle of it, fighting for my life or running, no matter what you do.  So I should be a part of it.

And he is.  They all are.  It’s not long before Rick asks Carl to help him shore up the outer fencing, which has been tremendously weakened by constant external pressure from thronging, pushing zombies.  The braces break, the outer wall is breached, zombies flood the inner walk, and Rick and Carl run for the heavy artillery–machine guns and lots and lots of rounds of ammo–to take down the enormous herd of walkers looking at a Rick & Carl lunch.

Not quite the bonding time one might hope for, but in a zombie apocalypse, you take what you get.

Not quite the bonding time one might hope for, but in a zombie apocalypse, you take what you get.

OK, a Rick & Carl dinner.  Because it’s night, see?

But that brings us to our second theme: everyone’s a warrior, no matter what you might think.  Carl saved his dad’s bacon.  Maggie shot her way in to the internment site because she knew trouble was going down and wanted in.  (In fact, Maggie may be the perfect soldier; she was told to stay out by her father–from one perspective he could be considered her commanding officer.  When gunshots were heard coming from the hospital she initially did not go in to help them and balked at the idea of leaving her job on the fence even though her father and sick husband were in the middle of some gunplay, until she received permission from Rick, who at that point was the officer on duty.)

Rick and Carl did manage to have a quiet bonding moment, eating beans instead of telling Daryl that Carol was banished.  Because who wouldn’t want to put that off?

Here, son.  Have a bean.

Here, son. Have a bean.

But you know, you can’t keep him from it.  Oh, snap!  Did I just quote Carl?

And Hershel.  Sweet, gentle Hershel.  Played by actor Scott Wilson, this episode was Wilson’s shining moment to date.  He was fantastic, almost as cinematically impressive as Agnes Moorehead’s one-woman tour de force The Twilight Zone episode “The Invaders” (for those unfamiliar with this episode, watch it here and learn).  I only give her slightly more cred because she was essentially the only actress for a half-hour show.  But.

Hershel’s running around, saving people, dragging them back to their cells to rest.  He had his first zombie kill (I’m trying to remember…this can’t be his first-first, can it?  or is it just his first in the claustrophobic hospital setting?), which was a solemn moment; he even tried to keep it dignified by pulling a sheet over the zombified’s head.

I understand that the first one is the hardest.

I understand that the first one is the hardest.

But it didn’t take long for him to start breaking zombie arms.

Because he wanted...no, NEEDED...that gun.

Because he wanted…no, NEEDED…that gun.

Stabbing zombies in the face.

Poor, poor Dr. Caleb.

Poor, poor Dr. Caleb.

And throwing them over stair railings.

YOU WANT A PIECE OF ME?

YOU WANT A PIECE OF ME?

Go, Hershel!  Fighting the flu, fighting zombies, intubating the sick with his left hand and stabbing zombies in the head with his right.  I love this guy.

So.  Even the most unexpected person can be called upon to fight in the post-apocalyptic world.  Which is good to know, because next week sees the return of The Governor and the crazy’s about to ratchet up a notch or two.

Totally taken from the good people of weheartit.com

So that’s the third theme in this episode: How do you hang onto hope and hold off the crazy?  Rick and his bean eating, and Hershel and his (usually) gentle philosophy, are the bastions that maintain what we think of as civilization.  Hershel’s running around quoting Steinbeck: A sad soul can kill quicker than a gun.  Smiles, everyone.  Smiles.  How do you stay buoyant?  Somehow through the crazy, when you’re facing someone whose dead son comes running up to eat and kill him, when you’ve got to stab the shell of a former friend in the face to survive…how can your heart stay open?

Look, someone got me a birthday cake with a picture of my six-year-old self on it.  And I had a hard time stabbing a rice paper representation in the head.  So, if it’s me vs. my BFF and one of us is dinner if the other doesn’t get a poke in the brain…If that doesn’t make you a little nuts, I don’t know what would.

And speaking of crazy…

How about our little Lizzie in this episode?  Calling the zombie like it’s a dog?  “Here boy!  Here, come on, good boy.”

Who's a hungry zombie?

Who’s a hungry zombie?  Yes you are.  Yes you are.

Side note: I wonder what book she’s reading.  Anyone?

It seems stupidly brave but also adult and manipulative.  Lizzie knows how to draw the zombies off.  Not only do I think she’s the one feeding them, I think the Governor taught her how to do it and she’s spying for him.

And what was UP with Lizzie playing toesies in the blood and sputum that Glenn horked out of his lungs when he was about to die from the flu?

Girlfriend has issues. That's all I'm saying.

Girlfriend needs a hobby. That’s all I’m saying.

That’s it for this week!  I’ll leave you on a happy note: please enjoy Bugs Bunny in “Ali Baba Bunny”.  I felt like I had to include it since I posted a still earlier.

The Walking Dead: I Think I’m On Team Carol

SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS!

Consider yourselves alerted.  Or spoiled.  Whatever, it’s up to you.

In this week’s The Walking Dead…shit happens.  This episode is largely talky and doesn’t have a TON of zombie mayhem (though it does have its moments), but rather it underlines a few critical plot points.

1)  I’m pretty sure that the little girl, Lizzie (and maybe Mika, her sister) is the person responsible for feeding the zombies.  As S4 Ep 4 (titled “Indifference”, though nothing could be further from the truth) opened, Carol is talking through a barricade with Lizzie, about the reality of a walker’s existence.  Lizzie, under quarantine with symptoms of frigging ebola or whatever superflu is tearing through the prison, thinks maybe being a zombie wouldn’t quite be so bad.

This is what happens when your pseudo-adoptive mom is a knife wielding killing machine.

This is what happens when your pseudo-adoptive mom is a knife wielding killing machine.

Yes, that’s me in my heart-patterned jammies reflected in the TV.  I don’t apologize.

Lizzie apparently (and I only say this because the words came out of her mouth) believes that even after you’ve become a zombie, a part of you continues on.  Which is sad.  It’s difficult enough to contemplate your own mortality, never mind mass extinction, when you’re an adult in the middle of your own existence.  Never mind being a little kid.  Yet the survivors deal with this every day.  And there’s a perverted sort of logic to her; walkers, for all we know, are completely unaware of their surroundings, so you can’t place a moral judgment on them when they eat the living.  They’re as aware of any past relationship they may have had with their victims as we are of growing hair.  Recently on a discussion page, someone said that s/he thought Lizzie has Stockholm Syndrome; not bad, not bad.  I like it.  She is–they all are–kind of held hostage to the zombies (they’re holed up in a prison, after all, while zombies ultimately control the rest of the world), so it would make sense that she’s naively, perhaps psychotically, feeding the zombies out of an insanely misguided sense of identification.

2) Bob.  Bob Stookey. Bob, Bob, Bob Bob Bob.

Oh, so THAT's Bob.

Oh, so THAT’s Bob.

Clearly, Bob has a drinking problem–while out on a supply run with Daryl, Tyreese and Michonne, Bob snuck a bottle of whiskey into his backpack and then caused that group tremendous danger when the zombies latched on to said backpack and he refused to give it up.  He even posed his hand over his gun a la Quick Draw Stookey when Daryl threatened to toss the whiskey. Bad enough.  Plenty bad.  But here’s the thing: he also had that tearful (well, tearful inside, where it counts) conversation with Daryl about being the lone survivor of two different groups of post-apocalypse humans.  REALLY?  Bob Stookey, alcoholic, medic but not warrior, managed to be the ONLY person to outlive two bands of people of undetermined-as-of-yet-strength-but-had-to-be-somewhat-strong-and-resilient survivors?

I don’t think so.

That’s like this line from “Cell Block Tango” in the movie (play, whatever your preferred musical theater format) Chicago. A character, discussing the untimely and unfortunate death of her husband, says, “Then he ran into my knife.  He ran into my knife ten times.”

Forward to about 2:50 for that specific line, or sit back and enjoy the whole thing.  These ladies are pretty fierce.

My point, musical interludes aside, is that I think somehow, for some reason, he caused the massive failure of his previous groups.  One group where he’s the sole survivor?  He got extremely lucky.  But two?  No.  He had this point about wanting to have a drink when it’s finally quiet, but in post-apocalypse zombie world, it is never quiet.  Or maybe the more relevant concept is, it’s never peaceful.  There’s never that night when you can kick back in a chair, have a cocktail, and fall asleep with the windows open, without having to worry about hearing anything more threatening than the chirping of the crickets.  NEVER.  So what kind of psychotic break does he experience when his need for quiet overcomes his need for the safety of numbers?  Especially when the people you’re surrounded by are sickening and dying?

Prediction:  For the season-ending cliffhanger (because they have been renewed for a Season 5, after all), Bob’s going to separate the herd, luring leadership into a basement somewhere and locking them in (or, alternately, sequestering them in separate cells), then bolt the prison doors and let the residents fight it out amongst the flu, the zombies and each other.

And finally…

3) Carol.  Our girl Carol has run the gamut of agony since the beginning of the show.  Aside from the horror of experiencing a zombie apocalypse, Carol has:

  • endured an abusive husband
  • buried her husband
  • lost her child
  • found her child, who had turned zombie and been herded into Hershel’s barn
  • watched Shane shoot her daughter in the head
  • nearly starved to death in a closet
  • almost talked Andrea into killing the Governor after fucking him into a false sense of complacency
  • starts a kiddie knife class

And so on, and so on.  As a character she’s grown increasingly stronger and far more “I can take on this post-apocalyptic hellscape with the best of you”.  So.  Last week she admitted she killed two people in an attempt to stop the spread of the flu.  This week they’re finally having a chat about it.

Here’s my take: Rick?  Is secretly terrified of her.  She’s taken it upon herself to do the wetwork in an attempt to keep their prison-home safe.  In a mad world where the dead control the streets and you call a prison your home, having someone on your team willing to make the calculating and perhaps ugly decisions, and do the corresponding work, is actually an asset.  So long as leadership is strong enough to hold their own against that person.

Rick is not.

Rick shifted out of his crazy-making Ricktatorship, eventually settling on his current position as post-apocalyptic gentleman farmer.  Which is nice and all, but maybe isn’t quite enough when you’re trying to create some claustrophobic semblance of a home for something like 40 people against a relentless crush of ravenous undead.  I mean, it can’t be easy.  And I get that at some point you–or I, or anyone–would want to drop the mic and peace out.  But there’s no “out” here, there’s only clearing your turf.  Again, and again, and again.  I’m not saying I don’t understand the desire for your old life with a wife that made charmingly awful pancakes on a Sunday morning.  But that’s not their reality.  Carol has become an unflinching realist.

I think she's annoyed with him more than anything.

I think she’s annoyed with him more than anything.

Rick has these ties that bind him to the desire for a normalized life, primarily in the form of his kids.  He still wears his wedding band even though Lori’s long gone.  He’s still got his sheriff’s hat.  He may want to build a kinder, gentler society in the middle of the zombie panic, because who wants their kids to grow up as bloodless murderbots?  Carl has already danced pretty close to that edge, and he’s just 14.  Carol’s got nothing; her family is all dead.  And for what it’s worth, I ultimately think her approach is the more practical one.  She says, “I don’t like what I did.  I just accept it.”  Things are ugly out there.  You may want pancakes, but you’re getting the shit sandwich.

So of all the bizarro medieval things he does, Rick chooses banishment for Carol.  She is exeunt from the prison, exeunt from the group she helped nurture and build since the apocalypse began.  And ultimately, she seems kind of OK with it, sort of half-heartedly stating she wasn’t going anywhere without Lizzie and Mika (see above), but giving up on that right away.  She doesn’t breathe a word about Daryl (a/k/a “Pookie”), even though they were clearly an item.  She just walks over to the car they loaded up for her and drives off.

Well, almost.

Earlier in the show there was this long conversation about Carol’s ex-husband and how much of a douchebag abuser he was.  On one level, it served to illustrate how far she’d come from that person who put up with drunken beatings.  But.  At the end of the episode, just before she drives off, Carol turns to Rick and hands him a watch.  It’s from my husband (the abuser), she says, a present for their first anniversary.  Rick accepts it, then Carol says, “I should have gotten rid of that thing a long time ago.”  So maybe, mayyyyybe she was simply jettisoning any last scrap of ties to the past.  Or maybe, just maybe, she was saying, “I got this from an asshole, and now I’m giving it to one.”

I think that’s what she did.  Go, Team Carol!  Because really, Rick.  A little sanctimonious for the times you live in, perhaps?

Prediction: at the very least, she’ll return at the beginning of season 5 to get them out of the mess Bob leaves them in and save everyone’s bacon.  Daryl will schism with Rick over this (but not leave, NOOOOOOOOOOOO!), creating a faction in the prison.  Depending on who survives the flu.  Tyreese?  Still riding the crazy train.  And then there’s that new guy, Sam, running around, whereabouts unknown but he’s sure to turn up later.  You don’t introduce a gregarious new guy willing to leave his hobbled girlfriend as zombie bait if you don’t intend to use him.

What do you think?

Can NOT wait to see what’s up next week..!

This seems like an apropos song to finish with.

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