The Walking Dead, S4, Ep. 7: Dead Weight, Indeed

SPOILERS!

Well, that didn’t take long.

Last week’s episode of The Walking Dead saw the return of The Governor, though he was a changed man.  A broken man.  Alone, and it seems the world is a better place when he’s on his own.  But of course, he’s not on his own.  What fun would that be?

Nor is he sane.  At least, not in the technical sense of the term, though I’m sure he adheres fairly well with his own internal logic.

Most of the time.

Look…I’m not saying The Governor has a split personality (OK, fine, a “dissociative identity disorder“), I’m just saying that Gollum had his shit more together than The Gov, and Gollum was driven mad by a magically prolonged life–extraordinarily prolonged–in the company of an object cursed by the greatest evil his world had ever known.

Anyway.

This week, The Governor returns in fine style, though with a little bit of a twist.  He’s got an internal war going on.  He kills Martinez, the head of the camp they come to who agrees–begrudgingly–to take The Gov and his ersatz family in, after Martinez drunkenly admits that he can’t guarantee to the thousandth percent that he can keep his camp safe (because–logic talking here!–nobody can admit that.  Even The Governor lost Woodbury).  While he’s hitting Martinez in the head with a golf club, or dragging him across the ground, or lowering him head-first into the zombie pit, The Governor keeps saying, “I don’t want to, I don’t want to.”

That'll learn Martinez to speak the truth.

That’ll learn Martinez to speak the truth.

Though it sure seems like he wants to.  At least he has the decency to have a psychotic crying jag about the murder, afterwards.  Do note that Martinez almost looks like he’s being crucified.  That’s because this week’s episode was pretty heavily dosed with metaphor and foreshadowing.  In the very first scene, The Governor is doing some laundry while playing chess with (and perhaps inadvertently teaching strategy to) his newly-acquired “daughter” Meghan (whose last name, now, is apparently “Chambler”, though I would swear last week the same source said “Chalmers”, but whatever).  Then the camera pans back and just before the scene cuts out to the opening credits, we see this:

Nothing warms the cockles of my heart like the sight of a madman and his tank.

Nothing warms the cockles of my heart quite like the sight of a madman and his tank.

I’ve already talked about the concept of “Chekhov’s gun” once before, theorizing that you don’t introduce the idea that little kids are weirdly identifying with zombies without having that plot device matter.  If I’ve applied it to the introduction of some kids’ behavior, I will certainly apply it to the introduction of a tank to a survivor’s camp.  So, foreshadowing: the tank?  Will be used.  In all likelihood against Rick’s group at the prison.

While out on a supply run, The Governor and Martinez and Martinez’s two main henchmen, Pete and Mitch, come across a house with zombies and disturbing, chompy, unattached heads (and make no mistake, the insistently bitey detached heads are pure nightmare fuel).  They clear the house and then do a little bit of a raid, and sit on the couch with some scavenged beers for a few moments of manly relaxation.  Pete–who declares himself the de facto leader of the group after Martinez is murdered–happens to have a book in his hands at this time.

Nothing like a little light reading after a zombie raid, eh, Pete?

Well, helloooo, Duke of Clarence.

Pete’s reading Richard III.  And The Governor is the only physically deformed power junkie in the room.  The set designers could have had Pete read any other book in all the world but they chose a play about a murderous, power-hungry tyrant.  Don’t think they didn’t know what sort of subtle message they were sending.  This?  Is NOT going to end well for The Governor.  And certainly not for Pete, since the Duke of Clarence is Richard III’s one obstacle between himself and the throne.  And, as Clarence is dispatched to make way for Richard’s ascension to power, so is Pete.

Now, Pete, is the winter of your discontent.

Now, Pete, is the winter of your discontent.

Though, it’s a safe bet that the Duke of Clarence’s zombie body was never chained by the ankle and thrown into a lake for post-mortem observation.

Thanks to a gristly zombie kill at the end of the show, we see how easy it can be to shred through zombie flesh.  And Pete is only attached by his ankle, which can be a weak link as soft, water-swollen flesh chafes off.  Will we see a return of zombie Pete?

Back to The Governor’s schizoid internal war…once he kills Martinez (repeating all the while, “I don’t want to”), he realizes he’s sliding back down into darkness, and there’s still that tiny part of him that doesn’t want to be evil, that wants to be Brian Heriot, the man whose name he stole and to whom people unreservedly declared their love.  He tells Lily that there’s trouble coming, headed straight for the camp, and he and Lily have to pack up the entire Chambler clan and go.

Of course, he neglects to mention that the danger comes from him.

So they get in a car, they go.  I’m not surprised; why shouldn’t they trust him?  And they drive, and drive, into the night.  Until…

Ooh, don't you just hate when that happens?

Ooh, don’t you just hate when that happens?

They encounter a horde of zombies who are literally stuck.  Mired, if you will, in some random mudpit in the side of the road.  Metaphor!  The zombies are mired in their own dismal, hopeless drama, as The Governor is mired in his.  No fresh starts.  No exit.  Forever.

(Ha! Pete should have been reading No Exit instead!  Though that would have given away too much, I fear.)

I don’t really have predictions about what’s going to happen next week, other than the shit shall hit the fan.  I mean, of course he’s going after the prison; we knew that would happen as soon as he stepped back into the scene.  I still don’t entirely trust the Chambler family.  Clearly they weren’t bait set by Martinez, but I don’t believe them and their naivete.  We’ll see.  And if Richard III–I mean, The Governor–starts yelling about how he’d trade his kingdom for a horse, for the love of all that is good and holy, do not give him one.

What I’m Watching: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

I went to see The Hobbit last night.  It was…OK.  Purists, I’ll spare a thorough discussion of if it sticks closely to the book or not (though, it doesn’t really and it’s not like I can help myself to make some comparisons) and it’s the genre of movie (elves, swords, gruesome antagonists, magic) that you either like, or you really really don’t.  Though I do have a few things to say about it…

1. The movie is long and far too padded.  I know Peter Jackson (from hereon known as PJax) and co. are planning to turn it into a trilogy, and for that I say shame on them and call greedy shenanigans.  It is a good book.  It is even a great book.  It is also a simple story written for young readers, and has few of the complexities of plot that followed when JRR Tolkein wrote The Lord of the Rings.  I can see a two-movie deal, but not three.  Breaking it into a movie trilogy does a disservice to the story by diluting (or inventing new) action and creating a series of movies that can’t stand independently; part of the genius of the LOTR film series is that, while clearly connected in the telling of an epic tale, they are all still different films.  This is like a TV miniseries I can’t see the end of for another two years.  Feh.  Dirty pool.

2. It is gorgeous.

I mean, really.  Look at that place!  The mountains, the lush forests, the patch of farmland that’s become The Shire…perfect!  Set design?  Costuming?  The accessories?  The swords?  Unimpeachable!  It is 166 minutes of pure visual feast, well done indeed.

3.  Except for when it isn’t.  In the book, the character of Radagast the Brown only appears once, delivers information, and goes back into the wilderness.  He’s absolutely portrayed as a hermit-ish loner who is much more comfortable around flora and fauna than he is around things that talk and drink tea.  He wasn’t portrayed as the caricature of some high-strung eccentric adventure-hippie.  (Nor did he have a rabbit-drawn sleigh; see “long and padded”.)  But.  I could deal with that.  The bird nesting in his hair?  I could deal with that.  The pseudo-comic relief of magicking the hedgehog back to life?  I could deal with that.  It was the matted line of bird shit from said nesting bird that ran down Radagasts’s face and was all in his hair and beard that sent me over the edge.  I kind of couldn’t look directly at the screen when he was on and literally (in a grammarian-approved way, absolutely and sadly not figuratively) threw up in my mouth a little at one point because of it.  It’s not like I can’t “handle” grim things on a screen.  I didn’t mind the giant goiter and bepustuled look of the Great Goblin.  I didn’t mind Azog the Defiler and his weird gaping scars.  I even wanted there to be a bit more gore, because they dispatch a ton of enemies–especially in the goblin caves–with precious little blood.  But Radagast’s portrayal was expanded into something so…weird…and unpleasant, that I completely fail to understand.

4.  Martin Freeman was born to play Bilbo.  I’ve enjoyed him in everything I’ve seen him in (and I just looked at his filmography; I still have a lot of watching to do), though he will always have a place in my heart for his work as John, the tentative, sweet, entirely vanilla body double who meets the equally tentative Judy while working on a porno together.

In The Hobbit, Freeman manages to bring Bilbo’s complexities to life; he is a homebody who wants to be back in his hole while having an adventure and becoming a loyal, trusted member of his company.  His life has been sheltered, but he is still brave.  I believe him when he gets the look on his face indicating that he’s facing something he clearly doesn’t want to do, but goes in and does it anyway.  Bilbo embodies a difficult combination of characteristics: he is stodgy, clever, fussy, warm, well aware of social expectations and still has a deep-seated global interest.  Freeman finds a way to express all of this while making him entirely endearing.  Thank you, Martin Freeman.

5.  I can’t believe PJax included some of the songs.  I mean…seriously, Hobbit fans…who among you has not skipped past all the singing in the book?  None of you?  Yep, me neither.  Did we really need “That’s What Bilbo Baggins Hates” in the movie?  It’s not like when I think of dwarves I say, “Oh, they’re such a musical people.”  Come on.  I kept expecting David Bowie to wander over from the set of Labyrinth and bust out a little “Magic Dance“.

6.  Wargs are badass.

7.  What.  Is UP (underline, underline, underline)?  With the hot dwarf?

Hellooooo, Thorin.

No no no no no no no no!  They’re lumpy and bulbous, not fricking leather clad-moody hero-Richard Armitage-long, meaningful stares-buckling some swash-level of hot.  Now I have to go and rethink my entire concept of the sexuality of Middle Earth.

8.  Andy Serkis should be knighted for his portrayal of Gollum.  Check him out reading the part live, to an audience.

Damn, son.  Those are some serious chops.

Would I see it again?  Would I recommend it?  Will I see the sequels?  Oh, heavy sigh.

I will see it again, when I own it on Blu-Ray, because I am exactly the person PJax knows he can manipulate out of her money.  Which is exactly why I will also see the sequels.  He’s got me by the shorthairs, damn him.  But no, I wouldn’t recommend going to see it, not as a story, not on its own.  There are some wonderful points to it, but I don’t believe the story is successfully told.  It’s too padded.  There’s too much exposition and not enough plot and character development.  The movie would be much tighter if it were done in two parts…I mean…it’s not like they tried to break Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows into a stand-alone trilogy. Why would this merit three parts, unless it were to extract a third viewing out of my pocket?  Oh, PJax.  I thought you were awesome, once.  I loved your vision, once.  Now?  Meh, not quite as much.

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