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 1: No Sanctuary

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 SPOILERS SPOILERS

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*

IMG_0351

Awww. Totally dysfunctional family joy.

IMG_0350

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.

IMG_0353

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

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

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.

The Walking Dead, S4 Ep 15: Us

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And a note to readers: WordPress has changed the way we can format pictures and such, so no images open in a new window. If you want that to happen, you need to do so manually. Or, you can just use your browser’s back button. Moving on.

Let’s get the easy stuff out of the way.

Maggie & Glenn: reunited!  They have found one another. Glenn saw Maggie’s signs to get to Terminus and threw all sense of caution to the wind, running pell-mell along the railroad tracks, refusing to stop for rest or safety, and climbing through a collapsed train tunnel (from which they could clearly hear zombie hisses).

--Do you hear hissing?   --No, I don't hear hissing. Let's go in! #soundslegit

–Do you hear zombie hissing?
–No, I don’t hear hissing. Let’s go in! #soundslegit

His emotionally fueled personal quest jeopardized the life of injured Tara, who steadfastly refused to leave Glenn’s side as she busily atoned for her “sin” of being deceived by The Governor. Things would have been so much worse for Glenn and Tara if the cavalry–in the shape of the joined forces of Eugene, Abe Ford, Rosita, Maggie, Bob, and Sasha–hadn’t shown up in backlit silhouette at exactly the right moment.

Taroo taroo toot toot taroo!

Taroo taroo toot toot taroo!

So, yay, lovebirds, glad you’ve found one another and can stop risking your friends’ lives in unthought-out and selfish pursuits. Once they were back together, Glenn burned the picture he had of Maggie because she promised him she’d never be apart from him again. Sweet. Ominous. Because who can keep that kind of promise in their crazy world?

No, I love YOU more. No, I love you. No, you. *tongue gargle*

No, I love YOU more. No, I love you. No, you. *tongue gargle*

I’m betting the answer is: not her. But we’ll see.

Eugene: OMG, really? This guy is the embodiment of the worst of the worst of gamers, and this episode opens with him talking to Tara about dinosaurs and what RPGs or video games or whatever, he liked to play the most. And that a zombie dinosaur game would be an awesome pre-order. Like, he’s still thinking about these things like they’re present for him. Like, in his head he’s running through gaming scenarios.  Abe and Rosita, why do you believe he’s got the answers to everything? (Actually, I suspect Rosita kind of thinks he’s full of shit, but she won’t leave Abe and so? She follows.) I’m kind of surprised Eugene is able to tie his shoes without knotting them together and tripping himself, nerd-style. The problem with Eugene is, he’s the dangerous sort of comic relief whose stuffed-shirt brainiac blustering will end up getting someone killed, in much the same way that Glenn’s reckless run into the train tunnel nearly got Tara (and himself) killed.

Fly, you fool!

Fly, you fool!

Rick, Carl & Michonne: walking the tracks! Heading for Terminus! They’re physically not in this episode much, other than to show that Carl and Michonne are pretty securely bonded and Rick is all glowy over the good-timey feelings he gets from both of them. Awwww, so sweet it gives me a toothache. It won’t last.

Oh, you goofballs.

Oh, you goofballs.

The grim, dark little crew Daryl has fallen in with (grimness evidenced by their willingness to kill Len, one of their own, over the fact that Len was a stupid douchebag) is trailing Rick for revenge over the killing and zombification of their friend in the bathroom (called it!).  Joe, the leader of the gang, apparently man-crushes on Daryl, as he’s awfully protective of him AND is psychologically working him really, really hard with a relentless stream of “guys like us” statements. As in, “Guys like us, we practice a reverse judgement of Solomon; we cut the bunny in half and wait for the participants to reveal their true natures.”

And then guys like us, we shoot the folks with a less desirable nature in the eye with an arrow. Because reasons.

Joe wasn't kidding when he said you shouldn't lie.

Joe wasn’t kidding when he said you shouldn’t lie to him.

One of the curious traits of this season’s TWD has been its willingness to be self-referential and go back and forth along its own timeline. The characters’ stories are linear unto themselves, but jump back and forth in reference to other characters’ storylines. They do this again with Daryl’s gang, as they “claim” what they want is theirs, be it a bunny, a place to sleep, or a house.  Remember, the episode where Rick first encounters the Joe gang is called “Claimed“. Unbeknownst to Rick, he broke the rules by being in a claimed house, though I suspect Joe won’t be as lenient toward Rick’s rule-breaking as he was toward Daryl’s. What with Daryl being his man-crush bowman, and all. I mean, who wouldn’t love that vest with the wings on the back?

You should have a little drink there, Daryl, and relax. That's right...

You should have a little drink there, Daryl, and relax. That’s right…

Look, Daryl Dixon maniacs, I’m not saying Daryl reciprocates the feelings. I’m just saying Daryl has a fan, and that his fan also loves murder. That’s all.

Bear this in mind for later in this blog: In the “Claimed” episode, Michonne and Carl go scavenging through the houses in the neighborhood, searching for food (not pudding) and medical supplies and…whatever. In one of the houses they come upon a hallway gallery filled with crappy, mom-has-free-time-so-she’s-painting-flowers-and-we-have-to-hang-them style paintings. In the same house, Michonne and Carl also find the pinkest room in the history of all pinkness, filled with the bodies of a family that all died together rather than try and survive the zombie apocalypse.

The pink? Gaah, you don't know the half of it. Plus desiccated corpses.

The pink? Gaah, you don’t know the half of it. Plus desiccated corpses.

Or so we think. Back to that in a minute.

So, Terminus.

Maggie, Glenn, Sasha, Bob, Tara, Abe Ford, Rosita, and the relentlessly annoying Eugene arrive, and it is positively Paradise-y. It’s quiet. (Too quiet?) It’s open. There are sunflowers blooming along the entranceway, and that gives way to tidy little raised garden beds filled with cabbages and cucumbers and whatever else kind of produce they’ve got going.

Now we know were all the flowers have gone.

Now we know where all the flowers have gone.

Farmer Rick should fit right in here, once he toddles his way down the tracks.  Ahhhh, serene, right? They turn the corner and…finally, someone! Standing in the middle of a grill pit.

A grill pit?

So...what'cha cooking?

Hi. That smells great! So…what’cha cooking?

A grill pit. And she’s all braided and serene and smiley, and introduces herself as “Mary”. My response was much like that scene in The Highlander, when The Kurgan (only one of the greatest movie villains ever, and I will love you for all time for this, Clancy Brown) is in the seedy hotel and the hooker shows up. “I’m Candy,” she says, and his reply?

“Of course you are.”

Because I trust her (and Terminus in general) as much as I would trust Kurgan not to cheat at Scrabble. Though I do get to enjoy the benefit of watching the story unfold from the luxury of my couch, and not from the desperate, “I want four walls and food and a hot shower and I want to not have to fear that zombies are going to break in on my life and force me to have to flee into the woods…again….” center of a zombie apocalypse. Perspective is everything.

So. Mary. Mother of God allusions aside (is that possible?)…what’s she grilling? Because I didn’t see any livestock.

I'd like a side of Beth, please.

Would you like a side of Beth? BEEF! Beef! I mean beef.

AND! Remember those paintings in the house, that I mentioned previously?  Some eagle-eyed writer-fan who’s got me wildly outnerded pointed out that those paintings all mirror things that have happened in the various storylines.  There’s a couple of bunnies, and we all remember what happened when Lizzie met up with a bunch of baby bunnies.  There’s a golden dog, that looks suspiciously like the mangy mutt that lured Daryl to the door and caused the split from him and Beth. There’s sunflowers, much like the ones that greeted them at Terminus. And there’s one painting that had been profoundly defaced.  Eyes and mouth X-ed out, splattered with…blood? Red paint?  Hard to tell. And the thing is…

terminus-painting-e1395646576969

Oh, Mary, please. Picture from comicbook.com

Yep. Looks like her. Looks a whole, irrefutable lot like her.

I can’t tell you how many times I thought, “I should save these episodes on the DVR, so I can refer back to them if I need to.”  And then I didn’t and now I’m furious with myself (next season: done and done) because…if memory serves correctly…this painting was covered with some kind of cloth and propped in front of the door that led to the pink room where Michonne found the bodies. So. Did someone else place the painting there? Force this family to kill themselves? Was it related to Mary? Or did they just hate kitschy folk art this much? Michonne got a good eyeful of this painting; will she recognize Mary if and/or when they get to Terminus? What really happened in that house?

That, I think, is the question that will carry us forward into next season.

But next week, for the final episode: Bloody mayhem is assured. Stay tuned!

We’ll let Guns ‘n’ Roses play us out of this week’s episode with some “Paradise City“. Because it feels right.

The Walking Dead S4 Ep 13: Alone

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

Go about 30 seconds in, you’ll see.

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

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

Moving on.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now what?

Now what?

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

Makin' up a mess of fun.

Makin’ up a mess of fun.

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

Now. Beth and Daryl.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Careful! It’s a trap! (No, really.)

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

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

Nice…uhhhh…suit. When do we move in?

Not.

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

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

Check out my hoopty, y'all.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Last one standing, my ass.

Last one standing, my ass.

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

I'd know that bandanna anywhere.

I’d know that bandana anywhere.

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

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

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

Not.

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

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

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

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

The Walking Dead, S4 Ep 10: Inmates

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There you have it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So long, wishes!

So long, wishes!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hey, lady, could you get the door?

Hey, lady, could you get the door?

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

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

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

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

How on Earth is Glenn still at the prison?

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

Zombie Mayhem Suit. Nom Access: Denied!

Zombie Mayhem Suit. Nom Access: Denied!

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

See why he needs you, Tara?

Then we meet this guy. This fucking guy.

20140217_164417

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

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

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

Sad bunnies. Crazy child. Deranged future.

Sad bunnies. Crazy child. Deranged future.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ummmm…

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

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

Here’s what I’m not surprised about:

  • Everything else.  Mostly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As for Tyreese, who knows where he is?

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

Ow.

Ow.

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

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

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

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

Yeah, that's a whole lot of nope.

Yeah, that’s a whole lot of nope.

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

And so. To The Governor.

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

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

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

Suffice to say…

That's gonna leave a mark.

That’s gonna leave a mark.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh, right, before I so one step further…

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

There.  That should clear up any confusion.

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

Bad things are in store for poor Dr. Caleb.

Bad things are in store for poor Dr. Caleb.

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

Anyhoo.

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

More or less.

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

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

AliBabaBunny

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

Kind of like zombies, but with pulses.

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

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

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

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

Hindsight.  C’est la vie.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here, son.  Have a bean.

Here, son. Have a bean.

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

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

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

I understand that the first one is the hardest.

I understand that the first one is the hardest.

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

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

Because he wanted…no, NEEDED…that gun.

Stabbing zombies in the face.

Poor, poor Dr. Caleb.

Poor, poor Dr. Caleb.

And throwing them over stair railings.

YOU WANT A PIECE OF ME?

YOU WANT A PIECE OF ME?

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

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

Totally taken from the good people of weheartit.com

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

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

And speaking of crazy…

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

Who's a hungry zombie?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Walking Dead: What’s the Matter with Glenn and Maggie?

I was out of town this weekend and just watched Sunday’s episode (S3-E10) of The Walking Dead.  First things first…

It’s Daryl Dixon for the win with the most creative use of a car’s hatchback in a zombie kill!

There’s a zombie under that hatchback. You fill in the rest. Follow the link to see it in full, gory detail. From http://www.uproxx.com

I don’t read the comic book on which the show was based.  I don’t know unless I search out the fan chat in forums about who was originally one of the main group of survivors or who was really in Woodbury or which characters are hopelessly changed between their comic incarnations and their TV ones.  But I do like to watch movies based on comic books and/or video games and one thing is a pretty fair constant: character development is usually clumsy at best (I’ve seen all–ALL–the Resident Evil movies except for the most recent one, and Alice has yet to have actually grown in any way) (that’s not to say they can’t get smarter; I’m talking about witnessing the characters grapple with tough emotional questions).  When monster-action writers start writing about things like internal development or self-reflectivity their work tends to fall apart and seem contrived and hackneyed and really, most of the time, who’s to say that’s so wrong?  You don’t go to a zombie movie so it will force you to contemplate your inner reality (though if you can get that out of a zombie flick, good on you).  When you go to see a zombie movie, you want want shoot-em-up thrills, gore, impressive kills (though I’ve yet to see one that can top the hatchback) and perhaps a glimmer of hope that the zombie apocalypse the characters have just endured will come to an end and they can get back to their regularly scheduled lives.  Do you think about the social implications of the final scene of Night of the Living Dead (not spoiling, if you have lived under a rock for the last 45 years and haven’t seen it)?  No, you talk about the little girl with the trowel.  When you talk about 28 Days Later you don’t contemplate the horror of having to make a kill-or-be-killed decision if your loved one were infected with a rage virus.  You think, wow!  Those zombies were fast!  (To those out there who would argue that the monsters in 28 Days Later are “the infected” and not zombies I say, for the purposes of this blog, let it go.)

But The Walking Dead is TV.  Season 3 is 16 episodes long and so, they have to write for, basically, eight feature-length zombie movies with narratives that tie together.  Of course sometimes the writing–as I mentioned before, NOT a zombie movie’s strongest suit–fails.  I would imagine it’s quite a burden to write for hours and hours of audiovisual mayhem and carnage, while building characters with personalities and relationships that seem real, without sounding trite.  This is where comics have an edge; they can express the mayhem over pages of panels, physically depict how characters build trust, and can do so with limited dialogue.  We’re remarkably good at filling in blank spaces and understanding implied meaning.  But with a TV show, the audience wants to hear the characters speak and relationships have to grow and develop, otherwise you’re basically watching the nightly news.  With zombies.

With this said, I was struck by the rapidly unraveling relationship between Glenn and Maggie.  Glenn, a surprisingly resourceful college student turned survivalist, met Maggie, a member of the Farm Family, when one of the Farm Family shot one of Glenn’s party members, who they then rush back to the farm compound to save.  First came sex, then love, and Glenn and Maggie have been a relatively happy couple in the middle of the chaos and a formidable fighting duo who could hold their own against the zombie masses.  Until they were captured by The Governor, leader of Woodbury, a town/compound not far from where Glenn and Maggie and Co. have taken refuge.

In disgustingly classic war strategy, The Governor exploited Maggie’s gender, forcing her to participate in her own violation by making her take off her top and threatening (but not going so far as to engage in) rape.  She has just heard Glenn get beaten in the next room, and The Governor says that if she doesn’t take off her shirt, he’ll take off Glenn’s hand.  It’s an appalling plot point that was hard to watch and is still hard to see.  After they’re rescued from Woodbury, Glenn and Maggie struggle as a couple and in S3-E10, they have a fight that has since prompted considerable discussion among the fan forums.  “OMG!  Maggie’s such a bitch!” some of the fans said.  Or, “Wow, Glenn’s such an ass!  Why is he mad at Maggie?  She was sexually assaulted.  It’s like he’s blaming the victim!”

OK, OK.  I hear you, people.  And I’m glad to hear these criticisms, because it means people aren’t just watching the show, but thinking about it in more ways than just looking at it as a primer on zombie kill skills.  However, there are a few things to consider in Walking Dead-land.  First: the three seasons on the air have put the cast on the run from zombies for well over a year now, though it’s probably not anywhere near two when you consider another plot twist (for the regular viewers, the Lori/Rick/Shane/uncertainty about who’s the baby daddy storyline, unless of course they don’t care about normal human gestation periods).  That’s a long time to live in a constant cloud of fear and can wreak havoc on even the strongest survivors.  And there’s no end in sight; there’s no cure, there’s just a relentless wave of flesh-eating monsters who don’t sleep or stop moving (anyone else have a little “Landshark” chuckle here?).

Second: Despite their bleak situation, they have worked to establish fairly normal social interactions.  There is a clear leader to their group, family hierarchies remain intact, and there is an element of caring and trust that doesn’t necessarily get conferred onto other people they encounter outside their group.

Third: The Governor went for the jugular.  He violated Maggie.  He had Glenn beaten.  He held guns to both their heads.  He would have executed them if their friends hadn’t shown up in time.

Fourth: When The Governor held a gun to Glenn’s head, he didn’t disclose any information about his group–not their numbers, not their abilities.  But Maggie broke.

She told them how large their group was, holed up in the relative safety of the prison.  Which is a betrayal of literally everyone Glenn and Maggie care about.

Fifth: Rick, the leader of Glenn and Maggie’s group has gone crazy.  Maggie’s father, Hershel, is missing the bottom half of his leg.  And they have a baby to take care of in the middle of all mess.  Daryl, the badass, has left with his brother.  As far as Glenn knows, he really only has Michonne as a tested fighter and Carl, the 12-year-old-boy-turned-child-soldier, as backup.

So in this week’s The Walking Dead, when Glenn’s seemingly freaking out about the safety of the prison, and advocating that they leave, and admitting that they kind of can’t, and seemingly blaming Maggie, he isn’t blaming her for her sexual assault.  That’s secondary in their “do you want to talk about it” discussion; it’s almost like he puts that part in as an afterthought, though she doesn’t want to talk about any of it.  He freaks out and blames her because she put the entirety of the group at risk.  It’s fraught with all the shadowy problems that accompany personal relationships; Maggie doesn’t want to see the man she loves get hurt.  Glenn can’t protect Maggie anywhere near as much as he would like.  This makes them both vulnerable to one another beyond the need to protect themselves from the zombie herds.  But betraying their numbers to The Governor imperils them all.  Glenn didn’t know Michonne had made her way to his camp and had helped his friends put together a rescue plan, and he was willing to die to protect his friends/zombie survivor family.  Maggie, it seems, was not.

That’s where the anger comes from.  The episode where the capture/beating/near rape occurred aired at the end of November; three months later it’s hard for the audience to remember everything beyond the shock of the potential rape.  But I’ll bet money that Glenn is mad at Maggie because of how she exposed their group, not that she exposed her breasts.  If the writers are going to have their characters endure wartime rape and experience the nuanced and conflicting emotions that accompany selfless bravery and fear of agonizing loss, then they need to let their characters grow.  Please, Walking Dead writers, stop referring to the comic book.  The AMC show isn’t a comic book anymore, and stopped being that once the show was renewed for a second season.  It’s high time you switched genres.  Look at Daryl; he was not in the original comic and is easily one of the most interesting, and most complicated, characters on there.  And he’s a fan favorite, which is a good thing.

Oh, yeah, and here are my guesses for spoilers, for the fans reading along:

Hershel won’t make it to the end of the season.  Not because he’s missing a leg, but because he’s starting to sound suspiciously like “I only ever say one thing anymore” Dale.  If they’ve got nothing left for that character to do, then it’s time to go.

Michonne will kill Andrea by throwing her kitana through Andrea’s body in order to kill The Governor, who is using Andrea as a human shield against her old friends.

(Will someone please do in Andrea?  She is a barometer for bad decision-making.  It hurts my heart whenever I see her on the screen.  Or else, writers, stop it and write for her like she has a brain.)

The mysterious, truck-driving, black-bodysuited babe from this episode will disappear for a season in order to build her own army and then reappear in season 5, tracking the main group for revenge.

Tyreese’s group will rejoin the main characters at the end, allowing for the end of The Governor.  They’ll join the main characters, and Tyreese and Rick will battle for who will be king.  Carl will break Rick’s heart when he sides with Tyreese.

And that’s all I’ve got for now!

I swear, I have a schizophrenic taste in movies and TV.

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