The Walking Dead, S 5, Ep. 9: What Happened and What’s Going On

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Alert.

I have been wondering for the last two days, just what in the hell I was going to say about this episode. It’s complex. It’s arty. It’s visceral. It’s the episode that will end up getting discussed in a film class. Welcome to the biggest acid trip The Walking Dead has given us thus far. And, GODDAMN IT. You had to go and kill Tyreese, didn’t you? He was a good guy, maybe too good. I think even Chad Coleman, the actor who played Tyreese, described his character as the moral center of the group, which he should know is always the death knell for anyone on the show but GODDAMN IT. I generally liked Tyreese.

A note, if anyone is reading this blog for the first time. This particular blog assumes you regularly follow The Walking Dead and are familiar with past characters and plot lines. If this is your first time reading…stop, read everything else I’ve ever written about The Walking Dead, and come back here when you’re ready.

This episode is largely cerebral…in more ways than one, ha ha. Much of the last half of this episode involved the goings-on in Tyreese’s hallucinatory, fevered brain as he makes the journey to the Great Beyond, but on the grander scheme, his internal hallucinations reflect the more general question of what it takes to be considered a citizen of the world.

Visited by the recent dead–on the positive, welcoming side by Lizzy, Mika, Beth and Bob, and on the negative, shit-to-work-out-before-I-die side by The Governor and Martin, a Terminian who Tyreese almost killed once, but didn’t (and who died when Sasha savaged him in the neck with a knife)–Tyreese tries to come to an understanding of the worlds he once lived in, and lives in now. And they’re curiously similar. Reminding us–over and over again–that humans are perfectly capable of being monsters, Tyreese re-audio-hallucinates a BBC radio broadcast reporting on a war-torn nation that has suffered vast brutality; to me, it sounded like reports from the genocide in Rwanda. The radio reporter (voiced by Andrew Lincoln, speaking in his normal, British, non-Rick-Grimes-accent) talked about people being done in with machetes, or set on fire, all of which are things Tyreese has witnessed in the post-apocalyptic world. And the point is, if it wasn’t an actual BBC report…it could have been.

It's better now, they keep on promising.  Image from dailymail.co.uk

It’s better now, they keep on promising.
Image from dailymail.co.uk

What does it mean to belong to the world? Tyreese has a dying-dream conversation with Martin, who was ready to kill Baby Judith, and from whom Tyreese rescued her. Maybe if Tyreese has killed him at that point then he couldn’t have told Gareth where Rick Nation was, and maybe Bob would be alive, maybe it would all be different. Instead, Tyreese holds the image of that baby up as the pinnacle of good that he’d accomplished in the world. Judith is alive, and it is, entirely, all because of Tyreese. When The Governor showed up he started yelling about how Tyreese couldn’t “pay the bill”. He couldn’t be cold, couldn’t be ruthless. Couldn’t be the killer The Governor wanted him to be. Couldn’t kill Carol, who killed the woman Tyreese loved, a woman who was sick with a superflu and was about to infect and/or kill almost everyone around her. But the person who operates from the Governor’s perspective as their personal base is someone who belongs only to himself, only to the notion that the self is paramount and that the idea of a collective “Greater Good” is whatever a single individual decides is right and good, even if it’s morally reprehensible.

The gang's all here. Does the afterlife really have to involved folk singing? Image from yellmagazine.com

The gang’s all here. Does the afterlife really have to involve folk singing?
Image from yellmagazine.com

The Governor, if you remember Merle‘s and Andrea‘s deaths, proved that he was perfectly willing to let someone slowly die so they would turn into the undead. He bit Merle’s fingers off, he murdered Hershel in cold blood, to make a point. Rick is right on par with The Governor, having ripped Claimed Joe’s throat out with his teeth. Rick is the guy who strategically left another member of the “Claimed” group dead and ready to turn, so said dead guy would attack and distract his own gang members, and in this, most current episode, admitted to Glenn that he knew Dawn didn’t mean to kill Beth but didn’t care, he just wanted to shoot her anyway. Without Beth and now without Tyreese, Rick Nation has become an army of assassins, with little to keep them anchored to a humanity that is anything other than carnal.

Michonne, I think, is getting close to being the new voice of humanity, as she is about three steps away from losing her mind. They’ve been out on the road too long, she says, and they need a place to stay. To root. To come back together as a community with a common goal (other than, simply, survival). To build something, and grow plants, and hopefully figure out how to have a sheltered rest.

Tyreese is a great example of Rick’s warning to Carl earlier in the season to never let one’s guard down. For just a few moments, Tyreese was pulled out of the present, lost in a picture of Noah‘s younger twin brothers and what the previously “normal” world was like. Going for pizza. Sitting at a ball game. Hanging out at the playground. Contemplating the loss and promise of the lives of these two young boys, one of whom was dead in the bed next to him, with large chunks taken out of him. Then the other brother came in quietly from behind and took a bite out of Tyreese’s arm. Game over for our favorite moral compass.

Yup, that's about right.  Image from blog.indiewire.com

Yup, that’s about right.
Image from blogs.indiewire.com

And speaking of “carnal”, let’s talk about what happened at Shirewilt, the gated community where Noah used to live. Somebody came at this community, hard. They busted in through a cement wall like they were an army of evil Kool-Aid mascots. They burned and looted and bashed in heads, and it was probably just for the joy of killing. Rick took some time to point out the strategic flaws of Shirewilt as a homestand; I mean, it looked secured, with a big old wall and locking gates. But it wasn’t. If Rick understands the flaws in it as a stronghold you can assume that anyone else with a reasonably sound sense of defensive strategy would see the same flaws. So, the people who busted in to Shirewilt weren’t there to take it over, they just hearkened to the call of bloodlust. And then…they cut walkers in half, chopped off their arms, carved “W”s into their heads and loaded them into the back of a pickup? For…?

And you know they did the head carving while the person was still alive. Just for added evil. Image from moviepilot.com

And you know they did the head carving while the person was still alive. Just for added evil.
Image from moviepilot.com

I would imagine that would make one hell of a decoration around a fortress. Kind of like putting your enemies’ heads on spikes after you chop them off. Is this a way for some group to mark their turf? Since we got a nice, close look at the walker with the W in its head, you can rest assured we’ll see them again some time soon. And–seriously–it seems like any time you have someone willing to manipulate the bodies of the undead, it’s shorthand for “we are dealing with a crazy person”. Think of The Governor and his wall of heads. Michonne was close to crazy–was certainly dangerous–when we first met her with her undead entourage chained to her side, but then again, she’s come to realize that when she does that she’s in a dark, dark place.

Wolves not far, the graffiti said.

So...THAT's ominous.

So…THAT’s ominous. Image from moviepilot.com

Never let  your guard down, not even for a second. Duly noted.

Image credits:

Dead End

Lizzie and Mika

The Gang’s All Here

Head carving

Wolves Not Far

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The Walking Dead, S 5, Ep. 8: Coda

SPOILERS.

I MEAN IT.

If you haven’t watched this episode of The Walking Dead yet and don’t want to know what happens, then avert your eyes, because I will be all up and down this episode.

CONSIDER YOURSELF ALERTED.

That is all.

First, let me just say…I didn’t see that coming. I mean, at one point early in the episode I thought I got a hint of what was going to happen, but still. I didn’t see it coming.

The it, to which I am referring, is the death of old what’s her face. I mean Beth. Beth! Oh my God, they killed Beth! You bastards!

Before I go into the story of Beth…can someone please do something (anything) about Father Gabriel? I mean, he’s…a human, so I suppose that’s something in his favor. But ohhh myyyy gawwwwwd I am so over his zombie squeamishness. I know he locked himself in a church and “La la la I can’t hear you screaming”-ed himself through the first 18 months or so of the new world order, but…dude. Get it together.  I kind of lost all patience for him in the previous episode when he couldn’t kill a zombie because she was wearing a crucifix. Father, she is undead, and would eat you for lunch, crucifix or no. It’s time to adjust.

And can someone explain to me…OK, so, Michonne is a killing machine, no? She sliced her way through a good handful of zombies invading Father Gabriel’s church, and barely worked up a sweat.

Michonne, Master of Badass

Michonne, Master of Badass

Then she, Carl (with baby Judith, of course), and Father Gabriel retreated to the rectory to scoot out the hole in the floor. When they were trying to close the rectory door and put something solid between them and the relentless undead, zombie fingers prevented them from fully shutting the door. Michonne is the woman who cut the jaws and arms off two zombies and wore them as postapocalyptic personal protective gear. Why didn’t she think to slice off those grabby, undead fingers so she could properly shut and lock the door?

Seriously. Just. Cut. The fingers.

Seriously. Just. Cut. The fingers.

Then Abe Ford conveniently showed up in his fire engine, collected everyone, and drove off to Atlanta to rendezvous with the rest of Rick Nation. Hail, hail! The gang will soon be gathered again.

 All right, so, back to Beth. I know, I was extremely hard on her in previous posts, largely because the writers gave her nothing to do besides sing and take care of baby Judith (other than that brief, “I think I want to kill myself” story arc in season 2), but you know, she’s been doing her thing since the prison went down and they all separated. She’d become tough, and honest, and remarkably clear-sighted about their lives and the state of the world around them. During her time in Grady Memorial Hospital with the Dawnians, Beth had become increasingly vocal about the injustices she saw enacted upon the other hospital residents. She’d also managed to put an end to two of commanding officer Dawn‘s incredibly corrupt and abusive officers, so her capacity for ridding the world of dangerous jerks was pretty high. That’s too bad, because there sure seem to be a lot of dangerous jerks out there.

So long, dangerous jerk!

Take that, dangerous jerk!

Through somewhat drawn out negotiations, the Dawnians and Rick Nation agree to a hostage exchange; Beth and Carol for the two officers (still living) that Rick and the rescue team had captured. Herein lie my problems with the misunderstandings regarding Dawn’s nature. She? Is clearly a dictator. She may be making it up as she goes along, and she may have herself convinced she’s doing something “for the greater good”, but she is absolutely the embodiment of a totalitarian dictator. She has people beaten for mistakes. She sees people as bargaining tools. She lets her officers rape the wards, ostensibly to “keep them happy”. The wards are forbidden to leave her stronghold, and must work to pay off a debt to the Dawnians which said wards did not necessarily have any autonomy in incurring (i.e., Beth was brought in unconscious after [probably] being hit by one of the officer’s cars, and was told she was indebted to them for saving her life, which they jeopardized in the first place). She doesn’t want love, just respect. Dawn created a shrine to fallen officers (at least one of which she killed, and another one of which she knew was raping the wards) to propagandize her hierarchical structure. And Dawn manipulated people into doing her dirty work for her, like getting Beth to kill the officer she was fighting with. Because turning one person against an enemy creates a common, dirty, secret bond.

PROPAGANDA!

PROPAGANDA!

To those of us who haven’t lived (or studied) the mechanics of a dictatorial regime, Dawn’s actions may seem inconceivable. I’ve read commentary that has said she was barely in any kind of control, citing things like her looking the other way regarding the sexual abuse of the wards. Their commentary evolves from the assumption that she can’t stop them. What the commenters don’t assume is that she won’t, or simply doesn’t care. It doesn’t take into the account that permissiveness among the chosen elite and brutal strongarm tactics are the trademark of many, many dictators. Stalin killed his perceived enemies and surrounded himself with yes men, who he let…kidnap and rape and beat and enslave, and it was because the yes men knew he would kill them if they tried to overthrow him and failed, that he remained in power. And life wasn’t so bad for people in the inner circle, so why rock the boat. Hey…does this sound familiar?

At the end of the hostage exchange, Carol and Beth are both back with Rick Nation and the two officers Rick Nation had captured were back safely to their own. Dawn–afraid to appear weak in front of her officers–changes the rules and says she wants Noah back or the deal is off. The conversation goes like this:

Dawn: He’s one of mine. You have no claim on him.

Rick: The boy wants to go home. So you have no claim on him.

Dawn: Well then we don’t have a deal.

But what if they think I'm wimpy?

But what if they think I’m wimpy?

The social commentary behind them bargaining about the claiming and servitude of a black man is an entire blog in and of itself. I’ll just spin this out into the webisphere for now. However, if you’re in the middle of philosophizing over media images of social issues, please don’t fail to recognize this, readers.

Foreshadowing alert: this claiming of people hearkens back to the episode “Claimed”, where the group Daryl fell in with post-Beth-capture could call dibs on rabbit halves and beds and such. Initially, it seemed kind of weirdly playground-ish (but with more serious implications). It ended poorly for the original claimers, and there’s no reason to think things will go differently for Dawn. It would have been way more satisfying–and perhaps more appropriate–if one of Dawn’s own officers shot her when she changed the rules of the game, especially because they understand that the ire of Rick Nation was focused on Dawn, not them. When Dawn’s officers didn’t take this opportunity to wrest power from her, Beth knew that Dawn’s demands for power would only grow. She knew Noah would be horribly mistreated, and she knew Dawn had to be stopped somehow. That’s what she “got”, at the end. I can only hope she was trying to stab Dawn in the neck with her mini-scissors, and had the worst aim in the history of being stabby.

Rut-ro.

Rut-ro.

I’m pretty sure Beth knew that a shoulder wound wouldn’t be fatal.

Unless she was still trying–albeit in an incredibly roundabout way–to kill herself.

Alas, poor Beth, we hardly knew ye.

So Beth stabbed Dawn, and Dawn shot Beth, and Daryl shot Dawn (who looked like she had the ridiculous, ludicrous nerve to try and plead for her life), and a bloodbath was averted when Dawn’s officers called to hold fire. “It was always just about her,” the officer says. Rightly so. And I’m pretty sure Khrushchev danced on Stalin’s grave, too.

Ummm...funny story. So I didn't mean to shoot your friend in the head...

Ummm…funny story. So I didn’t mean to shoot your friend in the head…

Interestingly enough, none of the residents of the hospital left with Rick Nation, when Rick offered to take them in. The devil you know, it seems, is better than the devil you don’t.

And then all of Rick Nation got in Abe’s big red truck and drove away.

We did get one last teaser. Morgan showed up again, and he found his way into Father Gabriel’s abandoned church. He gently, mercifully–almost lovingly, really–did away with a zombie trapped under a piece of debris, hissing and biting at him. And then he found a map Abe had left for Rick, and realized he was on the trail of good buddy Rick Grimes and the Rick Nation.

Shhhhhh...

Shhhhhh…

GIVE US MORE MORGAN! WE WANT MORGAN!

The end, until February 8.

Since I’ve been thinking Russian history during this blog, here’s an Epic Rap Battle: Rasputin vs. Stalin, to play you out.

The Walking Dead, S 5 Ep. 7: Crossed

SPOILERS, yada yada, but probably not really, but you know, I feel compelled to say this. Spoiler alert.

There you have it.

The Walking Dead, Season 5, Episode 7. I’m using other people’s images instead of my fancy “pause and take a picture of the TV” method. Because I feel like it today. And I found one truly fantastic series of images regarding this episode which I need to share. But I’m getting ahead of myself, so…on to the bloggery.

First: I am preparing for Carol‘s death. I’m not happy about it. I don’t like the thought even a little. But she has, kind of, become The Terminator and I suppose her story line is running a little dry. She’s in hospital right now with the Beth captor people (do they have a name? The Dawnians? I mean, “The Grady Memorial Hospital Totalitarians” is such a mouthful….) and Rick Nation is trying to bust her out. I think they’ll get her so far out of there, there will be no coming back.

Waah.

If I were asked to summarize this episode in one sentence, I would say this was the episode wherein people do inexplicable things.

Rick Nation goes to Atlanta on a rescue mission to retrieve Beth and #TeamCarol, which is fine and totally makes sense. But. One would think, in the immediate days after Terminus, this group (who BARELY escaped with their lives) would be inclined to shoot first and ask questions never. I mean, the guy who lived there and is providing inside information is inclined to think an assault will work better. But instead… Fine, Tyreese. I get that he’s all “no, we can be all Zen and groovy, we don’t have to shed blood, we can just create a hostage crisis and make trades.”

Which, you know. OK, FIIIIIIIIINE, Tyreese. But then the Dawnians showed that they were determined to fight. What’s a backwoods country boy like Daryl Dixon to do when his opponent starts shooting/swinging/trying to stuff your head into a melty, napalmed zombie’s mouth?

Meet Daryl Dixon, the new advocate for non-violent resolution.  Image from tv.com

Meet Daryl Dixon, the new advocate for non-violent resolution.
Image from tv.com

Well, of course Daryl–DARYL, the man who had to be held back from running out into the street to stomp the faces off the men who hit Carol with their car, yes, that guy–started reasoning with Rick to not kill the man who just tried to kill him.

WHAT.

I can understand wanting to be a monk in the zombie apocalypse. I can understand there must be an amazing sort of emotional exhaustion that comes with constantly poking holes in living and/or formerly living things. I just don’t think the characters have expressed a solid understanding that now is not the time for emotional latitude. Or lenience.

A genius–GENIUS, I TELL YOU–apparently saw the same WTFery I did with this decision-making process and…well, I don’t know if he created this, but he posted it. Behold, a summary of this The Walking Dead plot point:

*dying* Image from tv.com

*dying*
Image from tv.com

So they took hostages. And trusted the one seemingly reasonable person they encountered and…wait a second. Wasn’t it Rick who said, in a previous episode (and I quote):

I need you to hear what I’m about to say. You. Are not safe. No matter how many people are around, or how clear the area looks, no matter what anyone says, no matter what you think. You are not safe. It only takes one second, one second, and it’s over. Never let your guard down. Never.

Unless, of course, it’s this cop guy from the enemy camp, the place you know is holding your friends, who maintains a position of abusive power. No, go ahead, hang on his every word, because he’s certainly going to give you the straight dope.

Hey, Diogenes, I'm the honest man of your dreams. Trust me. Image from dailymail.co.uk

Hey, Diogenes, I’m the honest man of your dreams. Trust me.
Image from dailymail.co.uk

Duh.

I can almost forgive Sasha for letting her guard down around the cop (conveniently, named Bob) because she’s an emotional wreck right now, but then again…THIS IS THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE. You don’t have the luxury to succumb to emotional feelies. Get over yourself.

And…Father Gabriel…WHAT. In the hell. He can’t handle being around the merciless undead, he doesn’t know the first thing about fighting back against them. He throws up when he’s face to face with a walker, or squinches his eyes and waits for a zombie to tear into him. He kind of sounds like this in the presence of anything even the least bit unsavory.

And yet, he thought it would be a good idea to…dig himself out of the church through the floorboards and dash out into the Georgia wilderness? WHAT.

It kind of served him right to find the remains of Bob‘s half-eaten leg, still on the grate over the fire. Take THAT, Mr. Poorly-Formed Escape Plan!

Though in all seriousness, I think the good…bad…inexplicable Father is screwed since stepping on that nail.

Ooh, that's gotta smart.  Image from dailymail.co.uk

Padre, that stigmata’s really gonna leave a mark.
Image from dailymail.co.uk

As for Abe Ford & Co., they were the only ones whose actions made even the slightest sense. Abe is kind of losing his mind since Eugene told him he wasn’t the Savior of the World. Abe is a mess, and Eugene is a drooling mess, and the rest of the group are defensive messes, but you know, at least they’re understandable.

Next week: mid-season finale! I will prepare myself to bid Carol adieu, no matter how much it hurts.

The Walking Dead, S 5 Ep. 6: Consumed

There’s this scene in the movie Back to the Beach (stay with me, this relates) where Annette (Annette Funicello), at the time estranged from husband Frankie (Frankie Avalon), learns that Frankie is planning to throw a bonfire/crazy goodtime party on the beach, and she (and her daughter Sandi (Lori Loughlin)) aren’t invited. Rather than being upset, Annette is elated. Her ensuing conversation with Sandi goes something like this (and it’s not verbatim, I can’t find the script online or a YouTube clip of this scene, so…here’s to my memory):

Annette: Don’t you see, Sandi? He wants me back! He’s throwing this bonfire for me! He’s trying to send me a message.

Sandi: So…when Dad wants to talk to you…he burns stuff?

Annette: Uh-huh.

And that, I feel, is much of what was going on in this week’s episode of The Walking Dead. Carol burned stuff, Daryl burned stuff. They metaphorically burned away negative aspects of their pasts (Carol’s abusive marriage, Daryl’s messed up childhood), and also, you know. Burned stuff. It was sweet, really, and an indication of what life will be like for couples in the zombie apocalypse (walkers, whatever). She finds the two of them a reasonably safe place to stay, he kills and burns the parent and child walkers scratching at their front door, so she doesn’t have to.

To be fair, they were far too creepy to let live.

To be fair, they were far too creepy to let live. Or whatever it is you’d call it that they’re doing.

See? Sweet. Though I suppose that’s sort of what house chores could morph into, in a dystopic hellscape like the world of The Walking Dead. Picture a night after dinner: Honey, could you…? Oh, you read my mind! Come here and give me some sugar, my zombie-burning man.

*grumble grumble* Rick NEVER has to take the zombies out.

*grumble grumble* Rick NEVER has to take the zombies out. *grumble grumble*

But it’s not all roses! Strangely, I find it comforting that we’ll still have those awkward, halting, strangely distant couples’ conversations in the postapocalyptic future.

So close...so close and yet...so faaaaar...

So close…so close and yet…so faaaaar…

But they’re trying (that’s a direct quote), and that’s the important part. This episode broke into two separate parts: the first was the tale of Daryl & Carol, the second revolved around the discovery of Noah and the beginnings of Operation: Beth Rescue.

This didn't start off very well between them.

Things didn’t start off very well between them.

Suspending disbelief for a moment (and this is tough), here’s what happened. Noah, all by himself, managed to get the upper hand on (geek alert: D&D reference coming), basically, a 15th level assassin and a 15th or 16th level ranger, stripping them of their guns and forcing them to fight their way back through the zombie horde. Of course, once they find Noah again they drop him under a bookcase and make him think they’re going to let a zombie eat his head, because you do not mess around with Cararyl.

Mess with the bull, you get the zombie teeth coming fo' yo' face.

Mess with the bull, you get the zombie teeth coming fo’ yo’ face.

 You like that? Cararyl? Because I just made it up.

For me, the real oomph of the episode came right at the end, when Carol goes out into the street ahead of Noah and Daryl…and promptly gets run over by a hospital car.

Ooh, that's gonna leave a mark.

Ooh, that’s gonna leave a mark.

The car was heading in the general direction of our intrepid band of adventurers, ostensibly because (Noah said) “they” must have heard a gunshot (from some Noah/Cararyl zombie adventures) and were coming by to check out the noise. Now. Carol walks out into the street, and we, the viewers, can hear the car tires squeal. Not to stop, no no, but rather, to speed up. 

And then the cops got a gurney out of the back of the car, loaded Carol onto it, and squealed back up the road to the hospital and to Beth.

We-e-e-ell, little lady. You're in luck! We just happen to have this stretcher, right here.

We-e-e-ell, little lady. You’re in luck! We just happen to have this stretcher, right here.

So this answers my one question, when I theorized that Carol was faking an injury in order to get indoors, like she was a super-sneaky secret spy. Clearly, um. No. BUT! Is that what these guys do? Is that how they got their hands on Beth? It could explain the cut on her cheek she woke up with. Beth’s narrative is that she was fighting a walker and then…nothing. She doesn’t remember what happened, which would be consistent with a trauma like that, which wouldn’t allow for the formation of short term memory. This subsequently wouldn’t allow for the short term to make the transfer to long-term memory. You’d think if the cops ran up next to her and fought alongside her, she’d remember that sort of thing. Instead…boom? And off they go? The stronger ones who survive wake up alone, in a strange place, essentially kidnapped, injured, and under the thumb of a dictatorial regime that doesn’t place any value on their captures as fully voiced, fully capable human beings.

The wards are just there to keep the officers happy, sez “we have to do this for the greater good” Dawn.

Ew. Which would mean they’re not just opportunists, they’re predators. 

Seriously, the people are the monsters in this joint.

And if Carol dies, we riot. #TeamCarol

See you next week!

To play you out, here’s a little “Jamaica Ska” from Back to the Beach. To lighten the mood a bit. You know. Kind of a pick-me-up.

The Walking Dead, S 5, Ep. 4: Slabtown

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

Have I made my point? Turn away, if you don’t want to know stuff.

And I’ve just completed two large projects and am currently away from my TV, so I can’t do my totally ratchet yet fun TV still photos. All images are stills culled from the vast resources of the interwebs.

Finally! Beth. Is alive. And in a hospital in Atlanta, far, farrrr away from the friends and family and life she’d gotten to know. And, boy, is she ever not having a good time.

The hospital is run by this woman, Dawn, a former police officer who assumed control after Hansen, her commanding officer, kind of lost it (so she claims) and had to be taken care of. Riiiiiiiiight. Convenient, that he “lost it” and created a power vacuum, one that Dawn (I am sure begrudgingly, with downcast eyes and somber appearance) was able to fill. Because…

…OK, look. Imma cut to the chase here. Dawn? Is the postapocalyptic, small-scale, ruling-only-one-building-instead-of-an-entire-country-sized version of a military dictator, like Josef Stalin, only without the resources of an entire country behind her.

Part Terminator, part small town cop. All Dawn.

Part Terminator, part yokel cop. All Dawn. Image from mysanantonio.com

(Hey, I was a Russian major. Stalin was the first dictator that came to mind.)

Here’s the deal:

Dawn is not afraid to use violence to manipulate others. Example: When she slaps Beth across the face the first time, they’re in a hospital room examining a patient on a gurney. Dawn tells the doctor to save said patient at all costs. Doctor says that he’s not sure if he can, the man’s injuries are severe. Dawn slaps Beth across the face, then turns to the doctor and says, “Try to grasp the stakes here.” She’s on a smaller scale so she’s not quite “I will shoot Beth and charge Maggie for the cost of the bullet”, but she’s totally willing to make Beth the doctor’s whipping girl. Emotionally, sending a bullet bill isn’t that much more of a leap.

Beth got a hurt on from Officer Dawn.

Beth got a hurt on from Officer Dawn. Image from TrashTalkTV.com

Dawn gives her officers carte blanche to do practically whatever they want, particularly with young women, in order to keep them “happy”. No, I’m not reading too much into anything. Dawn says to Beth, “The wards are nothing, they’re here to keep my officers happy.” Which begs the question: when Beth was “saved” on the side of the road (her take: I was fighting a walker, and then everything went black), was she “saved” with the intention of saving her, or was she “saved” with the intention of turning her into a sex slave? Ew.

Creepy Officer Gorman. We're glad he's dead. Image from anthonyvecch.wordpress.com

Creepy Officer Gorman. We’re glad he’s dead. Image from anthonyvecch.wordpress.com

And, Dawn has some glossy-eyed ideal of what makes up the concept of “the greater good”. Even worse, she is a self-appointed protector of said good, which creates zealotry and all sorts of justifications, as that thinking lends itself to the ends justifying the means. And the means can be anything from sex abuse to murder. So be it, right? Ick.

At the end of the show, Carol got wheeled in, seemingly unconscious, on a gurney. Her surprise appearance prevented Beth from stabbing the doctor (who, really, has it coming…some day…soooommmme…daaaaaay….) and surely getting herself killed in turn, which is a good thing. BUT. It also makes her vulnerable, because suddenly there’s someone on the inside that Beth cares about. Noah, the orderly she’d befriended, was on the successful end of their escape attempt, and Beth smiles as he runs through the fence despite her own position on the ground, handcuffed, about to be returned to the hateful Dawn and douchey doctor.

Forget your troubles, come on, get happy. Image from wtbuzz.com

Forget your troubles, come on, get happy. Image from wtbuzz.com

Why does Beth smile? Sure, Noah gets out and that’s nice and all. But mainly, she smiles because she is free. Noah can’t be used against her, Joan (another ward, who dies in the course of the show) can’t be used against her. Any actions Beth chooses to engage in (like getting stabby on a doctor) can’t be taken out on anyone else, and in a dictatorial system that’s strangely liberating. 

When Carol gets rolled in? That upsets Beth’s emotional freedom. It would be nice to think they’re going to take on Dawn & Co a la “Sisters are doing it for themselves” and bust a move all Thelma and Louise style. Instead. They are now each other’s emotional hostages.

Thanks for nothing, Carol! Image from www.craveonline.com

Thanks for nothing, Carol! Image from http://www.craveonline.com

So, who does Daryl have with him, that he tells to come out of the woods? My bet is, it’s Beth’s friend Noah. And what’s going to happen? Rick Nation is going to invade Atlanta and take back their ladies, and it’s going to be an unholy bloodbath. And that’s all the time I have this week because I have to get to a hockey game. Yay!

See you all next week, when I have more time…! 🙂 

Here’s a little Eurythmics featuring Aretha Franklin to play you out.

The Walking Dead, S5, Ep. 3: Four Walls and a Roof

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

Have I made my point? Turn away, if you don’t want to know stuff.

First, let me make this abundantly clear: when Beth finally frigging returns to the series on which she is ostensibly a regular, and she isn’t dressed in leathers and feathers and dragging Channing Tatum behind her on a chain, then an enormous opportunity has been lost and she seriously needs to contact her agent to renegotiate her contract. (Video clip = NSFW/kids)

Yeah, just like that.

Second: I realize I am probably opening my inner psyche up to be plumbed by armchair psychologists out there, but here goes. This episode had a scene that was incredibly brutal, where Rick Nation slaughters…and by slaughters I mean, HOLY HELL, kills the shit out of…the remaining Terminians, turning them into so much hamburger (pun fully intended). And you know…I was OK with it. I don’t know. Does this mean I’m desensitized to violence? Or does my mindset mean that if I survive a zombie apocalypse and end up in a confrontation with a professed group of cannibals who’ve eaten the leg off a member of my family, set said crippled, half-eaten family member outside my safe house as bait to lure me out, and engineered a home invasion with the intention of killing and eating the rest of my family, I’d not mind killing them with extreme violence, myself?

Son, you done made one mighty big mistake.

Son, you done made one mighty big mistake.

Because woah, the demise of the Terminians was extreme. But sorry not sorry; I thought Gareth & Co had it coming. Every bit of it. Join or Die” might have worked for Ben Franklin in the dawning of the United States, and to some degree the principle makes sense in a world where survival hangs so tenuously from a thread. There’s something to be said for the safety of numbers. But the deal from Gareth wasn’t a post-apocalyptic, “In unity there is strength, let us be brothers!” No. It was more “There is no nobility in the world, and I am sociopathically detached from my human side. The only difference between myself and the walkers out there is my ability to calculate environmental threats. But I still want to eat human flesh, and if you don’t join me and my group, then you’re next on the menu.”

It's like playing Where's Waldo, but with zombies. Walkers. Whatever.

It’s like playing Where’s Waldo, but with zombies. Walkers. Whatever.

Can I just point out: that is a gorgeous bit of cinematography.

I found it ironic that Gareth thought to plead for his life, promising that if Rick would let them go they would never, ever see him again. What was it he said when Bob tried to bargain with him, tried to tell him that they have a person who believes he can resolve the zombie crisis, while poised over a trough waiting to be bled out? “You can’t go back, Bob,” he said. Still, it seemed he half-expected Rick to let him go, so long as he promised to never, never ever, try to eat the members of Rick Nation again.

As an aside, wasn’t there an episode involving The Governor called “Too Far Gone”? Yes, yes there was. I am sensing a theme. Apparently, even in the barking mad world of the post-zombie-apocalypse, there is an edge and you can go over it, and if you do…yeah, it’s not good for you.

Really, Gareth. I told you this was a bad idea.

Really, Gareth. I told you this was a bad idea.

My boyfriend found the level of violence enacted by Rick Nation upon the Terminians shocking, and I know the extreme violence of the scene was brutal and controversial. I get it. They could have been more merciful, more expedient, more humane, less invested in a blood orgy. They weren’t. And Rick did get a look on his face akin to that of a velociraptor in Jurassic Parkbefore delivering Gareth unto his final reward with–as promised in episode one–a red-handled machete.

Yep. Pretty much the same.

Yep. Pretty much the same.

But it is an icky, icky world they live in. Last season, Rick tore someone’s throat out with his teeth, and when he did that he seemingly had no choice. This season, he dispatched the somehow-even-worse-than-zombies clan of cannibals, and it seemed that in the interest of humanity, he had no choice. They would move on to the next victim, and the next, and the next. You can’t let that live. Though OK, OK, fine, they could have been less crazy-eyed and stabby about it. But they weren’t. Moving on.

So, Bob. Poor, poor Bob. Poor, I always wanted to hear more about his backstory, about how he managed to survive not one, but two, overrun encampments, wherein he was the only survivor. The viewer got to see just how detached from any semblance of civilization the Terminians were, talking to Bob while eating his leg in front of him. I mean, seriously. Gareth was right, for him (at least) there was no going back.

Bob Stookey presents: Worst Day Ever, a play in one act.

Bob Stookey presents: Worst Day Ever, a play in one act.

And yes, Bob was bitten, Bob was dead anyway, long before being dragged into the woods and made into a snack. Gareth & Co’s eating of him–infected as it was (and thank you, friends, for blowing up my Facebook feed with posts that screamed, “TAINTED MEEEEEEEEAT!”, but I digress)–opened the door for us to ask, what WOULD have happened to the Terminians if they weren’t killed by Rick Nation? Would Bobmeat have, ironically, killed them? We’ll never know. But we can wonder, and wonder what this is foreshadowing. Because I can’t imagine introducing the idea of tainted meat and not ever using it again.

As an observation…OK, so Bob received a noble death, or at least as noble a death as one can get in this show. He was surrounded by loved ones who sat vigil with him until he died, and he got to have some prophetic last words. He told Rick, “Nightmares end. They shouldn’t end who you are.”

You. You have a gift, you.

You. You have a gift, you.

Nice, right?

Um.

Is it me, or are Bob’s last words, basically, “Stay gold, Ponyboy”? (And if you don’t get the “stay gold” reference, read and/or watch SE Hinton’s The Outsiders immediately and welcome to an immutable icon of American culture. Nice to have you with us.)

So at the end of the show, the group is split again, as Abe heads to DC with Rosita, Eugene, Glenn, Maggie, and Tara, and so much for safety in numbers, amirite? Seriously, what is UP with Abe? And with Eugene? They act as though a giant clock that only they can see is ticking. Maybe he’s sick of it all and just wants the apocalypse to come to an end (the horror..!), but who doesn’t?

Rick stays at the church with the remainder, waiting for Daryl, who returns at the end of the episode with a mysterious someone in the woods behind him. Who’s he got? I have no idea. Is it Carol? Probably not, considering he got this look on his face when asked where she is:

That's not a good face.

That’s not a good face.

Side note: if she’s dead, I will be really, really pissed. #TeamCarol

Fingers crossed that it’s Morgan, because, you know. Morgan. I mean, he showed up for like five seconds at the end of one episode, once. So what’s his story? Where does he fit into all of this? Of course I think it would be nice if Daryl is just being cagey about Carol and yes, she’s with him and was just back in the bushes having a pee and he was kind of embarrassed about it because lady-business and all. But this show is never nice, and particularly not in the first three episodes of this season, which has been all about how nothing is ever safe. Sure, Rick makes that speech to Carl, but there’s also the name of the episodes…”No Sanctuary”….”Four Walls and a Roof” (which is what their church/safehouse gets called). There’s no “Hooray, we’re home!” in any of it.

In next week’s trailer, Daryl says he’s seen Beth, and she’s different. Here’s hoping for leathers and feathers, y’all!

*Photo of velociraptor from http://es.jurassicpark.wikia.com/wiki/Velociraptor

The Walking Dead, S 5, Ep. 2: Strangers

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

Are you alerted? Good.

I’ve been thinking and thinking about what to say regarding this past week’s episode of The Walking Dead. And really, I don’t have a whole lot of theoretical insight into the episode. I mean, it was mostly an expository episode, dig? Like, it was setting us all up so we can move forward into the rest of the mayhem-filled season. There were, of course, a few interesting developments. Here we go.

–They met this preacher man, Gabriel, who apparently just cannot frigging deal with walkers.  They make him cry like a baby and throw up. He doesn’t carry weapons. He says he hasn’t killed any walkers (nor has he killed any people…at least not directly). Gabriel has a vicious penitential streak, as he wistfully looks into the distance, cryptically speaking about his multitude of sins. If he wrote posts like this on Facebook I would accuse him of Vaguebooking.  But he’s so caught up in his zombie fear and sin complex that he seems ready to martyr himself as said object of his (at least one) sin walks toward him with dinner on her mind.

Somebody has DEFINITELY got issues.

Somebody has DEFINITELY got issues.

Gabriel is weirdly glib, joking about things like stealing the squirrels Daryl had trapped for food (side note: is there no game in the Georgia woods? No ducks or deer or geese or…anything? Sorry, I digress). If you couldn’t figure out how to fight off the zombies around you, why do you think you would stand a chance against the clearly experienced woodsman armed with a crossbow?

Nothing gets between Daryl and his squirrels. Nothing.

Nothing gets between Daryl and his squirrels. Nothing.

I don’t believe for a minute that he could survive on his own. I don’t think he could do it even if he had a secret underground tunnel that led him to a zombie-proof bunker stocked with fifty years worth of food and a magically replenishing supply of ammunition, so there’s a part of me that is sure he’s got bigger, meaner friends somewhere.  And someone’s got some kind of rage against him, carving the sentence “You’ll burn for this” into the wood on the side of his church.

Rut-ro!

Rut-ro!

–The members of Rick Nation are fiercely loyal unto Rick, essentially telling Abe and Rosita that without Rick’s say-so (side note: he eventually says so), nobody from Rick Nation is leaving their group to accompany Abe’s peeps to DC, regardless of whether or not Eugene has “the cure”, whatever that means. Which is as it should be in the post-zombie-apocalypse world. When your world has turned completely inside out, why not build your home underneath the strongest tree? And he has shown that he is both willing and capable to do what must be done in order to keep his tribe alive (except for when he thought it best that they all walk derp-first into Terminus, and then had to have his and everyone else’s bacon–literally–saved). I guess we all make mistakes. Thankfully, Carol showed up, ready and willing to blow things up and rescue them all. #TeamCarol

Glenn spent a few minutes mooning over the Bible passage, “And let us not grow weary of doing good. For in due season we will reap if we do not give up.” Which sounds an awful lot like something Hershel would have said. The question isn’t so much whether or not Glenn, as the new moral compass in Rick Nation, will die but rather, it’s a question of whether or not he’ll make it to the end of the season.

What's the over/under on Glenn's survival time?

What’s the over/under on Glenn’s survival time?

–Carol doesn’t want to talk about it, about her time in exile. Any of it, and “it” generally means, that day, you know the one. Where Lizzie was told to just look at the flowers.

Yeah, that day. Understandable if she doesn’t want to rehash that old chestnut, even if it means leaving Daryl in the dark about what happened while she was away (“Well, I had to shoot a kid in the head, and…”).

–And Daryl just wants to know if they can “start over”, whatever that means. Go back to that simpler time, living in the prison, when he was “Pookie” and Carol hadn’t killed two people and burned their bodies in the side yard? Ahhh, l’amour. Instead, they end up getting into a car they found, that somehow is operable, to chase the car that Daryl had seen speeding off the night…WhatsHerFace?…was abducted.

And the chase is on!

And the chase is on!

For the record, WhatsHerFace? Still not present in this episode. The car she was taken away in has gotten more screen time than her.

–Rick is Mr. Incongruity. On the one hand, he’s quite sensibly all about safety, and how the security of their group is, hands-down, their number-one priority. Before taking off for a supply run he sits Carl down and says:

I need you to hear what I’m about to say. You. Are not safe. No matter how many people are around, or how clear the area looks, no matter what anyone says, no matter what you think. You are not safe. It only takes one second, one second, and it’s over. Never let your guard down. Never.

Got it? Great. Which is why it makes no sense that later that very night, in a building manned by a stranger Rick has already said he doesn’t trust, he’s all, “Hey, I know Daryl told me just last night that he knew someone was watching us but fuck it, let’s not post any guards anywhere, make it easy for our own people to slip off into the chaos-filled woods unnoticed, and have a mini-feast and a few glasses of wine, what do you say?”

I need everyone to be alert, so drink up!

I need everyone to be alert, so drink up!

Huh?

And so it makes it easier for Bob…oh, Bob…to slip off into the woods, for reasons as of yet undisclosed by the TV show. Earlier in the episode Bob had been part of the supply run (that involved Gabriel standing like a martyr about to be eaten) when he’s grabbed by a zombie and pulled below the water they’re all standing in. They kill said zombie…walker, whatever…and Bob says he’s OK, but not without a soulful look at his own chest, 

Nope, fine, fine. Except for this bite wound...

Nope, fine, fine. Except for this bite wound…

Later that night–because there are no guards and everyone’s busy getting drunk–Bob goes out into the woods to have a cry. He seems despondent. Was he bitten? Was he wandering off into the woods so he can kill himself rather than subject Rick Nation to his inevitable fevered death and turning? We don’t know, and it probably won’t matter, because he’s been clunked on the head and taken captive by Gareth, who is clearly mad and, after removing Bob’s leg at the knee and roasting it (and eating it right in front of him…), he’s also clearly hungry. And tyrannically cruel.  And calculating. He doesn’t want to kill Bob, see, because they don’t have the facilities for curing and storing meat like they did at Terminus, so if they keep him alive and just eat him in parts then his own body will make sure his Bob-meat doesn’t go bad. Did I mention he’s mad? And now he’s eating what is in all likelihood zombie-infected meat, which can’t be good. Like, we thought mad cow disease was bad, but this..?

Oh, Gareth, you are SUCH a crazy dickwad.

Oh, Gareth, the lesson you should take from this is: always check your prey for bites.

Oy. I suppose the joke is on him.

Fans of the graphic novel know this fate originally befalls that version of Dale, but TV Dale has been dead since season 2. Largely because he was annoying.

Never let your guard down, indeed. If only Rick had taken his own advice. Onward to episode 3!

Here’s a dedication, going out to Bob and all the horrifically cannibalized zombie apocalypse survivors out there.

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