The Walking Dead, S5, Ep. 10: Them

SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS

Alert.

And a note: I am out of town right now, so my post about this week’s episode is going to be very short. Which seems right, somehow. 

The one word that kept going through my head during this episode of The Walking Dead?

Sparse.

Bleak, maybe. There were, absolutely, moments of bleak. But they were mostly sparse. The staging was simple and uncomplicated. The script…well, there was a lot of dead space, wasn’t there? Didn’t clog the script up with too many lines, did they? And the characters are worn down to their nubs, with no emotional cushion to speak of, just open nerve.

This episode served to let the viewers know where all the members of Rick Nation are, mentally, before heading into the final six of the season. They’re hungry and in want of water. They look grubby and smelly (more on that in a minute). And they’re exhausted. This episode showed the group overall but focused on a few key players who are, in no particular order…

Maggie. Oh, Maggie. She is angry and grieving. Grieving for the loss of her family, the loss of her world. With Beth gone the only family she has left is Glenn, and it seems like she’s keeping him kind of at a distance. Perhaps she’s thinking, if she puts up a wall between them, then his inevitable death won’t hurt as much? (Hey, even without the zombie apocalypse, death is inevitable.)

Sasha: Is angry and grieving; first Bob died, and now Tyreese is gone. It’s tragedy stacked on top of tragedy. She only wants to poke holes in things and make them die. And it’s making her careless.

Daryl: Sat down and had some feels over Beth. Even started to cry. That sound you heard was the sound of a million vaginas swinging wide open, ready to mate with Sensitive Redneck Man.

Rick: Philosophized. I’m still not sure how I felt about it.

Eugene: Tried to drink a bottle of mystery water that showed up mid-camp (bearing the note, “from a friend”…sure, I trust that). This was two-fold. He was crazy with thirst, yes, but I also thought he did this because he was trying to take one for the team. If the water is poisoned and he dies, well…he sort of owed Rick Nation a big solid, since he lied to them. Abe Ford, subsequently, slapped the water out of his hand, which was also two-fold. On the one hand, Eugene can suffer with thirst like the rest of them. On the other hand, he didn’t want to watch Eugene poison himself and die. It was a way for Abe to tell Eugene he was getting past Eugene’s lie. Nice. Harsh, but nice.

And then, as I was contemplating how dirty and smelly they must be, an impossibly clean guy showed up asking for Rick. I felt like he wandered in from a different set and was, clearly, lost. It was cognitively disconcerting.

Kind of like this.

Kind of like this.

And there you have it.

Tune in next week!

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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

The Walking Dead, S 5, Ep. 5: Self Help

SPOILERS.

A BIG  SPOILER, ACTUALLY, IF YOU HAVEN’T ALREADY WATCHED THE EPISODE (and/or read the graphic novel).

SO, YOU KNOW. SPOILERS. SPOILRRRRR. JUST CALL ME SPOILY McSPOILINGTON.

OK, so.

Here we are.

Episode five, season five jumps quickly to Abe in flashback, beating a man to death in a grocery store, with a lethal can of beans in his hands. The camera travels through the grocery store, which is littered with Abe-fueled death. We don’t know who these people are, or why Abe has snapped a tether. And we don’t really find out. We just know it has something to do with his family, and he has smote relentless death unto his fellow man.

Abe Ford, at the end of a very bad day.

Abe Ford, at the end of a very bad day.

And herein lies my MAAAAAJOR problem with this episode. It wasn’t the acting. I thought the acting was perfectly fine. Or the directing. I mean, the production values were generally as high as ever. But I thought the writing was sorely…sorely…lacking.

For those of you who don’t read the graphic novel and weren’t able to infer what was going on from Abe’s flashbacks, in the early days post-apocalypse, Abe and his wife and family had joined up with a group of survivors, all neighbors, all people he’d known for years and had barbeques and watched football with on Sunday afternoons. People you know and trust, right? So. He was out on a supply run and when he came back, discovered that his wife and daughter had been raped by his friends and neighbors. Boom. He snapped, and went all Skullcrusher. His relentless violence freaked his family out so much that they fled from him, figuring they’d take their chances in the great wide world. Which, of course, was a terrible decision, and led to them getting eaten by zombies.

Since I don’t read the graphic novel I’m sure you’re wondering, how do I know this?

They explained it all on The Talking Dead. Which I watch all the time and enjoy very much indeed, but–let’s face it–it shouldn’t be up to host and stand up comic Chris Hardwick to deliver relevant plot points from the TV show unto the viewers. Not that I don’t like Chris Hardwick; I do. He’s funny. He’s smart. And I’m not saying I needed to see a rape scene to make it clear to me what happened. But it shouldn’t have been Chris Hardwick’s job to get me that information. 

Anyway. Back to the show.

Aside from Abe’s backstory, the other significant plot point in this episode is that Eugene finally outs himself as a fraud (well, duh). Abe, obsessively single-minded in his purpose, launches himself into a vicious fight with Glenn over the next leg of their mission to get Eugene to DC so he could stop this whole apocalypse thing.

I AM SO ANGRY!

I AM SO ANGRY!

Eugene has been trying to cockblock the mission to DC for a while. Remember when he shot their old truck and rendered it unusable? Or when he convinced Abe and Rosita that they should help Glenn find Maggie? Or when he tried to get the group to stay with Rick Nation in the church? In this episode, he told Tara that he put glass in the fuel line of the bus they were in, so it wouldn’t run. Eventually, it seems a conscience has worked its way into Eugene’s mental mechanism and at last he’s done with the fighting and the lying and trying to figure out more ways to derail their DC jaunt. When Abe and Glenn get ready to come to blows (and seriously, they’re about to go at it, hammer and tongs) over the direction the DC crew should take, Eugene finally (FINALLY) yells, “I’m not a scientist! I’m not a scientist! I lied…I don’t know how to stop it…”

*cue the sound of a needle scratching across a record*

So. All the emotional investment Abe had put into Eugene was for naught, and the mission to get Eugene to DC–the only thing that propelled Abe forward–was pointless. Subsequently, Abe was pointless. And as a result, Abe saw it fitting to nearly beat Eugene to death, so much so that Rosita actually stepped between Abe and Eugene, hand on her pistol, ready to shoot if Abe made one more move toward him.

Hold on a second, there, Killer.

Hold on a second, there, Killer.

Even Rosita–who I don’t think has said more than a few words in any given episode, before this–now has a sense depth and a personal moral code. But as far as Abe goes, writers, you let me down. Abe remains one-dimensional. He’s a military guy and he’s been written as that thick-necked military guy who’s only got one move, which is HULKSMASH.

Image from rap.genius.com

Image from rap.genius.com

If they’d explained more successfully why Abe flipped a switch in the grocery store, or made him less likely to want to beat up Glenn or practically kill Eugene, then you know. OK. We all have bad days, but are complicated creatures underneath. I mean, even the Hulk suffered melancholic internal struggles.

Maybe some of the flashback was supposed to cover Abe’s emotional turmoil but again…it didn’t translate as well as I would have liked.

So. What’s going to happen now?

I would imagine Glenn and Maggie will turn around to try and rejoin Rick Nation. Why hang out with the dangerous, meathook-wielding borderline psychopath when hanging out with the cooler, more calculating, machete-wielding Ricktator is an option?

I’m pretty sure Eugene wasn’t beaten to death (largely because on The Talking Dead, Josh McDermitt–the actor who plays Eugene–was still in his Eugene hair, while in real life he’s non-mulleted and sports a kind of sandy blond hipster ‘do, and they’re in the middle of filming the second half of Season 5 now), though he certainly had his clock cleaned. I think Abe, Rosita & Eugene will also head back to Rick Nation, since what the hell else are they going to do? Abe is a man who needs direction and now doesn’t have any, and if I were the rest of his group I’d want to get away from Captain Unstable and his Flying Fists of Doom, ASAP.

As for Abe, he needs to think long and hard about what he’s about as a person and just how much he owes Eugene, whose calls for help–as we saw at the end of the episode–prevented Abe from eating a bullet. Eugene saved Abe’s life.

Abe=foreground, gun slowly coming out of his mouth. Eugene=mid-screen, barely ahead of some hungry walkers.

Abe=foreground, gun slowly coming out of his mouth. Eugene=mid-screen, barely ahead of some hungry walkers.

Particularly in the zombie apocalypse, it seems, no good deeds go unpunished.

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.

The Walking Dead, S 5 Ep 1: No Sanctuary

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Alert.

Soooo. The Walking Dead‘s season 5 premiere was on Sunday night (computer problems caused the delay in my posting, many apologies), and it was… Something. Full. Jam packed! With blood and gore and zombie mayhem.

But that was only part of it. Did I mention there was blood and gore?

OK, so. To sum up: the vast majority of our hearty and intrepid group had, one way or another, made their way to Terminus. The members of Rick Nation that were assembled at Terminus were:

Rick, Carl, Michonne, Daryl, Maggie, Glenn, Bob, Sasha, Abe, Rosita, Eugene, and Tara

…where they were herded by the Termains into one railroad car (big mistake, Termians! Divide and conquer, not consolidate so the conquerees can plan their escape, duh). They were supposed to wait for their untimely deaths and eventual repurposing as Termian dinner. Yes, the Termians were hipsters, so they repurpose, they don’t simply kill and eat. In the pursuit of nose-to-tail no-waste perfection, they probably had a plan to use their victims’ bones as the boarding around an ice hockey rink (refrigeration capabilities to follow). Yes, the people at Terminus were cannibals. Yes, we suspected it all along, and now we know it.

Poor hippie Sean. (Remember him from the episode where Rick exiled Carol? Yup. Same guy.)

Poor hippie Sean. (Remember him from the episode where Rick exiled Carol? Yup. Same guy.)

You’re either the butcher or you’re the cattle, they said, blah blah blah. And they’re all, we’ll kill our captives and bleed them out over a trough, and if one of our own should die, then he or she will become dinner too because nothing is personal and we can’t help it if everyone is made out of delicious meat, we are clinical, institutional evil, et cetera, et cetera. Right. Got it, Termians. Who else did we have to worry about?

Carol and Tyreese were still on the railroad tracks, with baby Judith (world’s most unlikely zombie apocalypse survivor), making their way to (but not quite at) Terminus. Carol is increasingly suspicious of Terminus because of reasons. Plus, she is so full of badassery, it’s almost ridiculous. #TeamCarol

Old What’sHerFace…I mean, Beth…is running the risk of being Old What’sHerFace all over again, since she was missing for the last two episodes of season 4 and was the only major cast member to not be featured in the season 5 premiere. George reassures me that she’ll have her day, and it seems like we’ll be clued into her circumstances in next week’s episode but nonetheless, this week? Beth WHO? Moving on.

There are a few themes that the writers seem to be addressing fairly regularly throughout the series. One recurring theme discusses the concept of what makes a monster. Sure, the zombies are terrible, but they’re just eating, and it sucks that they’re compelled to eat live human. But if they were compelled to eat only….grass, or squirrels, or pomegranates or something, an entire cottage industry would develop around the care and maintenance of pet zombies and their peculiarities.

You all know it’s true.

But the people…the people are the ones who do some truly terrible things, like institute cold, detached evil. Or, as we saw in the time jump at the end of this episode, be the group that’s so evil/rapey/kill-y it turns decent people clinically evil. Or be the sort of people who would kidnap What’sHerFace. And how could we forget The Governor, and his trophy room full of zombie heads in fish tanks? (Though even he didn’t descend into cannibalism, except for that one time he bit Merle’s fingers off. I mean, the town he founded was essentially Mayberry, in comparison to Terminus. And I digress.)  Even amongst our intrepid heroes, Rick has bitten someone’s throat out AND, in this very episode, has promised a relentless pursuit unto the death for all Termians, almost as though he were…compelled…to hunt and kill. Everyone else in Rick Nation is like, Dude, they’re scattered, they’re either going to run or die, so relax, MMMkay? While Captain Rick quiets down, I don’t think his lust for Termian killing has subsided one teensy bit.

Turning the idea of monster-dom even further on its head, Carol draped herself in a poncho (looking a whole lot like Clint Eastwood in A Fistful of Dollars), smeared herself in zombie gore to mask her human scent, and infiltrated Terminus in a herd of zombies (walkers, whatever, get over it) to rescue the blood-gutter-bound inhabitants of Rick Nation, and we’re with her all the way. Go, Zombie Carol! Take your undead horde and go get those bad guys!

IMG_0347

She’s got a fistful of somethin’, alright.

What? So now we’re siding with the zombies? They’re not the bad guys any longer? Unexpected. But OK. I’m listening.

Furthermore, the moral center of the group? Always dies. First, Dale “The world we know is gone. But keeping our humanity? That’s a choice,” died (though I still maintain he was killed largely because he was super-annoying). Hershel “Life is always a test” died. And now we have a new moral center, in Glenn, who almost–not once, but twice–took a baseball bat to the back of the head in this episode. Later, when Glenn realized  there was at least one captive locked in a Termian railroad car, he said, “We have to let those people out…that’s still who we are.”

Sigh.

IMG_0346

Foreshadowing?

It is official. Glenn is the new moral center. Let us get ready to kiss Glenn’s ass goodbye. And if, in the time jump at the very end of the episode that showed us the beginnings of cannibal Terminus, the cruel leader we saw was the character Negan from the comic book (which I suspect), then Glenn is definitely toast. Comic readers, you know what I’m saying.

IMG_0352

Could smiley evil dude on the right…

negan the walking dead

Be smiley sociopath from the comics? Image from businessinsider.com

 

Now, for the other quandary from episode 1: WTF was Eugene talking about? Sasha finally pinned Eugene down (figuratively, of course) and said (paraphrasing, perhaps), “Hey, just level with us. What is it that you’ve got? Why are we going to defend your mulleted head?” He said:

Even if I provided step-by-step instructions complete with illustrations and a well-composed FAQ and I went red-rain, the cure would still die with me…I was part of a 10-person team with the Human Genome Project to fight weaponized diseases with weaponized diseases, pathogenic microorganisms with pathogenic microorganisms, fire with fire. Inter-departmental drinks were had, relationships made, information shared. I am keenly aware of all the details behind fail-safe delivery systems to kill every living person on this planet. I believe with a little tweaking on the terminals in DC we can flip the script, take out every last dead one of ‘em. Fire with fire.

IMG_0349

Dude, I have no idea what you’re saying. But you’re pretty pleased with yourself for saying it.

Right. So. I can’t figure out if he’s full of shit or…what. On the one hand, he’s got a fair share of “anti-government conspiracy whack job” sprinkled in his speech. He’s using big words that sort of go together, but don’t necessarily say anything. This speech sort of reminds me of the nonsense speech the clock gives in Beauty and the Beast, when he takes Belle on a tour of the Beast’s castle.

On the other hand…Eugene does say, “The cure would die with me.” And he talks about fighting diseases with diseases.

Is Eugene immune?

I’ve been wracking my brain trying to understand the nature of Eugene’s relationship with Abe and Rosita, and it hasn’t made a lick of sense. He’s a burden. He can’t fight, he’s actually a detriment if he’s got a weapon in his hand. I can’t believe that he would come across as that smart that he’s got them bamboozled. Unless he’s physically worth protecting. Unless they know this for sure. Unless, maybe, they’ve seen him recover from a bite that would have killed anyone else. And there’s some kind of “we’ll have to talk to them (meaning, Rick Nation) later” private conversation that Rosita and Abe were having, but who knows what that’s about? Some folks think they don’t like having the baby around, because really, Judith is kind of a detriment too, though at this point that baby isn’t going ANYWHERE. Nothing they can do about her, really, except leave. I suspect their side chat had more to do with Abe and Rosita’s agenda with Eugene than with anything else. They’d gotten everyone in Rick Nation back together. I think they just think it’s time to head to DC.

Despite the bloody zombie mayhem, we had some happy reunions. Rick and Carl got to reunite with Judith, Daryl ran to Carol. *sniffle*

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Awww. Totally dysfunctional family joy.

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And women across the land were once again seethingly jealous of Carol.

Poor What’sHerFace has to wait until next week to hope for reunion. And in all this, one thing I noticed was the silence. There were no joyful squeals and hoorays at the sight of newly reacquainted loved ones; all the greetings of long-lost, feared-dead friends were given in relative quiet, with hugs and pats.

Because you never know what is near enough to track you to your sound.

That’s how it goes in the zombie apocalypse.

And then! Part of next weeks preview showed us that Morgan has returned and is tracking Rick Nation. Wild card! He’s a killing machine with an anti-zombie agenda, almost as relentless as the zombies themselves. If he’s in the game, then there’s no telling what will happen with the Rickites.

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Morgan: What “don’t mess with me” looks like.

So, to repeat: Glenn will die, this season. We’ll meet Negan. Carol will continue to be badass. So will Morgan. Eugene is immune. Beth will have something interesting to do, or she will ask to leave the cast. And Rick will continue to hunt Termians, because revenge is where his heart is.

See you next week!

In the meantime, here’s a little Bad Lip Reading and “Carl Poppa”.

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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