Monday, December 19, 2016

Hearts Still Beating

Sorry, once again, for the delay. I had to watch this episode three times for it to sink in and I still feel like I'm missing something. Before I get started for real, I can't help myself...

Why didn't Spencer cross the road?
Because he didn't have the guts.

I crack myself up. Sorry. That was a joke we told in elementary - only replace "Spencer" with skeleton. I've been waiting all week to use it.

It's been a week since the season-seven mid-season finale (try saying that three times, fast) of TWD. While this season has felt really, really slow, it's actually following pretty close to it's normal story progression. It is both mid-season and the mid-point of the story (not to be confused with the climax). At this point we've been introduced to all new characters and our protagonists are facing the catalyst for the upcoming battle - they know what needs to happen, but they're not quite done figuring out the details and there are still a whole bunch of loose ends to tie together. While last season danced with the theme of morality, this season - and this episode - is about power.

What we know so far:
  • Negan is the bad guy.
  • Negan rules by fear and intimidation.
  • Negan has the numbers. "We're all Negan."
  • There are five colonies, three of whom Negan controls, one is hidden, and of course, one is where he resides. Everyone within his circle of influence is pretty sick of dealing with Negan. I mean, his own people are practically begging to be shot just to escape.
  • Rick and crew are the only ones who know everyone (though not everyone knows everyone) so they'll be the ones to bring all the communities together.
At the Hilltop:

The story starts with Maggie at the Hilltop, mourning Glen and wearing a hat reminiscent of the one Glen wore in seasons one and two. On TWD, hats play an important role in the lives of the characters. Glen stopped wearing his hat when he and Maggie became a couple, this is thought to be because his character evolved and matured, but maybe it's something more. In some cultures a hat is a sign of protection (Which is the point of a hat anyway, isn't it? They protect the wearer from sun, rain, cold, and wind...). Together, he and Maggie protected one another. Now that she's alone, she wears a hat. Or maybe it's just hot.

That doesn't make her vulnerable though, probably less so. Maggie is craving apples. In history, literature, and lore, apples symbolize everything from knowledge to luck to evil to love. Apples are often depicted as the forbidden fruit in the story of Adam and Eve, holding knowledge and mortality within its peel. In Norse lore, apples grant immortality to the gods. In one Norse story in particular, Loki kidnaps Iduna, caretaker of the apple tree of the gods. In her absence, the apple tree fails to produce fruit and as a result the gods age and become mortal. By taking Iduna (and her apples) Loki takes power away from the gods. In Hearts Still Beating, Maggie takes, and eats, Gregory's apple - removing him from his position of power in the process. Later, when the Hilltopers give her an apple pie (which she eats barehanded - love it) they solidify her as their chosen leader of the Hilltop.

Daryl's Escape:

Any clue what those little figurines were?

Daryl escapes at the prompting of a note left under his door. I'm going to speculate that it was from Dwight (who switches sides in the comics). Anyway. After eating, changing his clothes, and sneaking out of the compound's walls, Daryl finally makes it outside and back to his bike - his apple, his symbol of power and freedom. There, a Savior, "Fat Joey" catches him in the act and says he'll let Daryl go. Daryl kills him with a pipe and it is darkly reminiscent of Glen and Abraham's deaths. He then removes a revolver - Rick's revolver - from the Joey's belt before leaving with Jesus (who was still lurking since Carl's visit) on the bike.

The Kingdom:

Richard talks to Morgan and Carol about needing to take out the Saviors. He tells them how Negan took control and about the fragile peace they've formed. What he says foreshadows the near-end of the episode when Negan confronts Rick at Alexandria. 
"Sooner or later something will go wrong. Maybe we'll be light on a drop, or maybe one of ours will look at one of theirs the wrong way, or maybe they'll just decide to stop honoring the deal. Things will go bad and when they do the kingdom will fall....I'm scared that if we don't do something now we won't only lose more people - we'll lose everything. I know what the Saviors are and I know what they do and I know they cannot be trusted. and I think you know that too."
 - Richard

He accurately assess the character of the Saviors and the future they can expect if they work with them. This is echoed in Daryl's words to Fat Joey's corpse before his escape. "It ain't just about getting by here. It's about getting it all."



The Pond Walkers:

Side note, since Dawn of the Dead, I've always assumed boats would be the safest place in a zombie apocalypse. Hearts Still Beating took that theory and drowned it. I shiver just thinking about it.

Anyway, it's in these scenes that we get the theme of this episode and of the rest of the season. Inside one of the buckets on the boat, they find a note with a big one finger salute drawn down the middle.

"Congrats for winning, but you still lose."

This foreshadows the war to come on both sides. Negan is winning, but he's going to lose. The colonies are going to win. But there will be loss. Why they didn't chuck the note is beyond me, but Aaron takes a beating for it when they get back to Alexandria. On the road we get a glimpse of why Arron allows himself to get beaten and why he is willing to risk his life to scavenge for Negan. His motivation is similar to Rick's - you do what you have to do to protect the ones you love. When he explains this to Rick, Aaron gives the episode its name.
"Either your heart's beating or it isn't. Your loved ones hearts are beating or they aren't."
This ties in with Rick and Michone's conversation later inside the jail. They will fight so their loved one's hearts can beat one more day. Negan will never allow all of them to live. He's killed upward of five Alexandrians so far and, like Richard pointed out and like Daryl pointed out, it's never going to be enough. He left Alexandria with these words, "[Eugene] and whatever you left for me at the front gate and however much you scavenged, it's not good enough."

Spoiler: Negan ends up living in the jail.

Rosita's Bullet:

After guileful Spencer's prophecy about Rick and following disembowelment, Rosita takes her one and only shot at Negan in the second failed assassination attempt so far. Instead of hitting Negan, however, her one bullet hits Lucile, Negan's alter-ego, permanently damaging the bat; and in that instant, it isn't just Lucile who is damaged, but Negan's phallic symbol of power is scarred as well.

United at the Hilltop:

We finally get the feel-good reunion we've been waiting for since the premiere. Everyone hugs. Most of them cry. Sasha and Rosita bury the hatchet. Daryl gives Rick his revolver. This act restores Ricks power which had been in the hands of the Saviors. Our team is back together.

And to tie it all together:
  • Everyone wants to kill Negan. They're all on the same page.
  • They know how powerful Negan is (thanks to Michone's reconnaissance work).
  • They know they all want to kill Negan.
  • They're going to win.
Now all our protagonists have to do is unite all the communities and defeat Negan. That's simple, right? Only two more months until we can watch them do it.

A few more things:

The shoe in the forest: This is another group of survivors that we'll probably meet at the end of the season or at the beginning of the next season - they're either "The Survivors" good guys, or "The Whisperers" the bad guys. I didn't watch Talking Dead to find out which.

Where did the actual church come from? Weren't they meeting in a house before? With folding chairs?

Happy Holidays.



Monday, December 5, 2016

A Twofer

Before I get started...

I usually don't sign out of Blogger, but I guess my daughter was the last one to use the computer; so when I pulled up the main page it was all new and pretty...if you haven't seen it, log out of google and take a look. Based on the new sign in page, I might think about starting a blog.

Side note: We were probably the last people in the US to get a Netflix subscription until last Sunday and since then it's been a Marvel marathon in my house. So I'm behind on TWD. Side-side note: Luke Cage - not bad. I'm not really into the whole super hero thing, but it sucked me in. Daredevil? It's my own personal sleeping pill. Seriously. But I finally commandeered the remote and get caught up on TWD

Season 7 Episode 6 - Swear (Swear? Really? Is that really the name of this episode?)
AKA: The Tara Episode

This week, much to the chagrin of half the internet, TWD did another small group/new colony episode.

Tara and Heath (who I honestly forgot were gone) were out scavenging and were completely clueless about the happenings with Negan and Denise and the Alexandrians. After coming up to a bridge, they found themselves in a precarious situation with sand zombies. Weren't those killer? They were my favorite walkers since the season two "well zombie." Then they got separated when Tara fell off the side of the bridge into the river below.

Tara washed up on shore, unconcious, where her life was spared by a new character, Cindy (the moral compass of Oceanside). Tara followed Cindy into the woods to find a thriving, female-only community. My heart pumped a little bit when I saw them. The first thing that came to mind when Tara stumbled upon them was The Wicker Man and I secretly hoped for a new villain that would rear its ugly head just as Negan dies off - via Oceanside - and lamented that Terminus wasn't a women-only group of cannibals who assimilates the women and eats the men. Sadly, none of those things happened. Oceanside is just another in the growing string of Negan's victims.

After some back story and stew at Oceanside, Tara narrowly escapeed an execution, agian with the help of Cindy. When she arrives at the bridge, Heath is gone, but he left a trail of breadcrumbs for Tara. Tara arrived home (without sign of Heath) and found out that Alexandria has been victim to the wrath of Negan and Denise is dead.

When I'm behind, I'm not in analyze, English nerd mode. There were a few exceptions though - flashbacks. Flashbacks are tricky in the way writing a novel in first person is tricky (I'm looking at you Hunger Games and The Help). It can be done successfully by the right writer. Not everyone can pull it off, however, because it pulls the reader (or in this case, viewer) out of the story. Maybe this is why Daredevil puts me to sleep. Anyway, the Tara episode is full of them and it felt a little disjointed as a result.

The episode, in my opinion, worked despite this flaw. I liked the Oceanside community and Tara's motivation as a character in past episodes finally came to light. There were more children than in any of the other communities so far. I've always assumed that the plague targeted children disproportionately. They have weaker immune systems, their physical limitations would make defending themselves borderline impossible, and their natural curiosity and naiveté makes them vulnerable to attack, so it makes sense. Yet the presence of children seems to be an indicator in TWD world of whether a community is thriving or just surviving and here they are at Oceanside, thiring, going to school, washing up before dinner...having an almost-normal childhood experience. We saw this at the prison in season four too. By contrast, there are no children at the saviors compound, and few, if any, at the Hilltop and Alexandria. I guess this makes Maggie's pregnancy even more significant in that it foreshadows prosperity to come.

Episode 7 - Blazing Hell

So far this season there's been a lot of set up on TWD and not a lot of real story progression. Think of the premiere as the last episode of season six and episodes two through six as a prologue (Which, lets be honest, could've been accomplished in two episodes). Episode 7 is the real beginning of the story.

At this point we catch up with Jesus and Carl, who have been sabotaging the truck of goods on their ride to Negan's compound. Like Heath, blue-eyed Jesus is leaving a trail of sticky breadcrumbs behind them before rolling off the back of the truck just before arrival at the compound. Carl, in his ill-conceived plan, stays inside the truck in hopes of assassinating Negan. His attempt fails and instead, Negan (impressed with Carl's pluck) takes him under his wing, showing him all the spoils that could, presumably, be his. Meanwhile, Michone, Rosita, and Spencer take the same (albeit slower) path to Negan, perhaps never hearing that "revenge is a dish best served cold." And the preacher is full team-Rick.

So far, TWD has been Ricks coming of age story where Rick's biggest enemy has always been himself. If the writers take this story seriously, that will change and the villain of the story will, instead, be his legacy. For several seasons, the balance between good and evil has slowly tipped toward evil in both Rick and Carl. Lori, Carl's mother, was the tie that bound Rick and Carl to the world-that-was and to humanity itself. As her memory fades, so does their humanity. Now under the fatherly hand of Negan (yes, I said fatherly) the evil of Carl's inner nature can be fully actualized in an age old story of father vs. son and Rick will have to decide between trying to save his only son, or sacrificing him on the alter of The Walking Dead.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Go Getters

I'm noticing this morning that there's all kinds of hate going on toward season 7 episode 5 "Go Getters." I didn't hate it. This week, like the Kingdom week, is a set up episode - like Harry Potter at Aunt Petunia's house. It may not be page-turning, but it's putting the characters in place for future episodes.  

Enid and Carl: My favorite part of this episode was the interaction between these two. Carl wrecking the car because he probably hasn't learned to drive was awesome. Getting a licence isn't a right of passage anymore. This kid has had to kill his mentor and friend's reanimated corpse, kill his own mother, be the adult because Rick is incapable, yet the delight on his face while he's driving a car like a "normal" teenager speaks volumes. Then there was the roller skating scene. Suspending disbelief on why there were roller skates on the side of the road - I loved it. Here they are, with flesh eating monsters in every shadow and psychopaths on every corner and they're doing something uniquely human and youthful. Carl and Enid give me hope that life goes on in the bleak world of The Walking Dead.

Maggie and the Hilltop: I implore the writers of this show to consult a real OB/GYN. Please. There are so many other things that could've been wrong with the baby that make more sense given Maggie's symptoms. And my pet peeve: birth control has an expiration date. I don't care that Judith is still in diapers; she should be in first grade - we're on season seven. The writers need to stop acting like family planning is a thing! It's biology. So few women know how to use natural family planning and even fewer know ancient medicine: in the real world, there would be lots of pregnancies and probably a high rate of infant and maternal mortality - just stop. That rant aside...Maggie, Sasha, and Jesus are at the Hilltop to progress the story. Maggie has to become the leader (though Jesus pushing it seemed really contrived on this episode) of the Hilltop community. Enid has to take Sophia's place as Maggie's adopted daughter (since Sophia didn't make it past season 2). Jesus needs to take his place as a major character in the series. This episode's purpose was to get these people where they needed to be.

With that said: The writers need to realize that the waning interest of the fan base is directly related to the insistence of Kirkman and the other writers to follow the comics to the letter. We spent five years investing in these characters and their development over time. The direction that TWD took mid-way through last season is a betrayal of those characters and the viewers who have spent every Sunday night glued to their television sets for over six years. The decisions and motivations of these characters no longer make sense based on who they have become over the course of the series and they no longer make for an interesting story line. We don't expect everyone to live, we just expect to still care that they die. That's where the anger from the fans is coming from. 

PS: Simon is the villain we needed, not the villain we got.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Service

I must admit, I'm a bit shaken by this episode. It wasn't gory. It wasn't even all that violent considering it's setting among flesh-eating zombies. Episode four painted a clear picture of what abuse victims go through every day.

1. Boundaries. Negan has none. If he wants your stuff, he's going to take your stuff. If he wants to be so close you can feel him on your skin, that's how close Negan is going to stand. Abusers don't understand that they stop where their bodies stop or that their rights stop where their body stops. To an abuser, everything is theirs, including your body.

2. Quick involvement. Notice how Negan came a mere days after the encounter in the woods instead of the week he promised? Negan doesn't want to leave enough time for Alexandria to forget him or to realize that they're more powerful than him. He makes himself a constant presence in the lives of the Alexandrians. An abuser will quickly make their presence a constant in your life because they want you to know that they own you, and you aren't your own person anymore.

3. Controlling behavior. I don't think I need to explain this one. Negan is obviously controlling, not only of Alexandria and the Hilltop, but of everyone within his reach. It's Negan's way ... or Lucile's.

4. Hypersensitivity. To say that the Alexandrians - and his own people - walk on eggshells around Negan would be an understatement. Say the wrong thing and he explodes. Notice the body language of the people around him. They keep their eyes down and their shoulders hunched. They choose their words carefully and change them if his body language tenses.

5. Blames the victim. It's Rick's fault he killed Abraham. He didn't want to. Rick asked for it. It's Daryl's fault he killed Glenn. He didn't want to. It's Carl's fault they had to take all the guns...

6. Unrealistic - and changing - expectations. The amount of supplies Negan demands from the communities he's enslaved increases at a rate that these communities cannot realistically obtain them. It takes time to raise a sow. It takes time to grow food. Negan has no concept of this because nature, like everyone else, should bow to his desires. And Alexandria? He wants them to impress him. What does that even mean? Does he want a helicopter? Who knows. Oh. And he wants them to do it without any weapons.

7. Violence and threats of violence. Another obvious one. It's all Negan does at this point.

8. Obsession with weapons. Negan's obsession is so intense that he's given his baseball bat a name and a personality. He probably sleeps cuddled up to it.

9. Isolation. This takes many forms. Last week, Daryl was locked up. This week, nobody was allowed to talk to each other without permission. There is power in numbers. Abusers know this, so they eliminate the numbers. They eliminate the ability of the victim to fight back. So not only does he isolate them from one another, he takes away their only way to fight back - he takes their armory.

10. Sexual cohesion and abuse. The way Negan talked about Maggie made me want to vomit. Negan not only thinks that everyone belongs to him, that everyone is an extension of him, but that all women want him. And he's not going to take "no" for an answer. Negan gets what Negan wants. An abuser thinks they have ultimate power over your sexuality.

Negan's back story is one of an abuser. Lucile was probably the name of his wife. Negan didn't go to Alexandria to take their stuff. He went to Alexandria to terrorize the people - to let them know how big and powerful he is and how small and alone they are. He went because he wants them to know that he possesses them. Negan looks powerful, but in reality, Negan is insecure and small and without the belief that he is big and powerful, his victims outnumber him by at least 100 to 1 and eventually somebody is going to do the math.

This was a long episode and there's more to cover. Before I do, if you are the victim of abuse, I wanna tell you, it is not your fault. Bad people do bad things. Even if it feels like you're alone, you aren't. Make a plan. Be prepared. Get help and get out. Moving on..

This season, so far, is full of parallels. The Kingdom vs. Negan's compound. Daryl vs. Dwight...and now Rick vs. everyone.

Rick vs. Michone: Where Rick is complacent, Michone is determined. When the Governor hurt the people she loved, Michone hunted for him. Rick grabbed a rake. Michone has a strong sense of justice and will take the execution of justice into her own hands. Rick has no moral center. He floats around never quite knowing what to do. Now, in the face of Negan, Michone is target practicing...at least until Rick turns her in.

Rick vs. Carl: It's yet to be determined if Carl turns into the little psychopath he is in the comics, but where Rick is afraid, Carl is brave. Blame it on hormones? Carl was willing to sacrifice his arm when Rick was too weak. Carl was willing to protect their home and their medicine while Rick cowered in fear. One shot, and Carl could've taken Negan out. Maybe it would've been a stupid move, but we'll never know.

Rick vs. the Alexandrians: Rick complies without question. The Alexandrians question everything - especially Rick's leadership that has brought them to where they are.

What got me most wasn't how Rick is different from everyone but how similar he is to Dwight and Negan.

In the face of oppression, Rick and Dwight help Negan terrorize their own people in order to protect them. Dwight takes Negan's name. Rick takes Negan's weapon. Together they are part of the problem.
"All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent."
—Thomas Jefferson

The imagery of Rick holding Lucile is a powerful reminder that Rick is on the same path as Negan. He will do anything to stay in power - including submission to Negan. In his confrontation with Spencer, Rick says, "You say anything like that again to me, I'll break your jaw, knock your teeth out. Understand? Say yes." His people have the same choices as Negan's people. It's Ricks way or death and as Spencer reminds him, Ricks path is paved with bodies to prove it.

Side notes -

What I wish Rick had said in his monologue about Shane: "Shane didn't think I was strong enough to protect my son. Maybe he was right. Things are different now. I am the only one who can protect his daughter."

What I hope happens from here: I want to see Negan's own people corner him at the end. And when he says, "Who do you think you are?" I want Dwight to say, "I am Negan." Before Lucile comes down on Negan's head.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Cell

Here it is, five hours till week four and I just finished watching week three - so I'll make it quick  - Spoilers ahead, though I doubt any current viewers are further behind than I am at this point.

I'm always a bit obsessed with the backstory of our characters. I loved reading the novels about the rise and fall of The Governor because it gave his character so much more depth than "Baddy bad guy with a dungeon and a zombie sparring pit." Daryl's back story is that of an abused younger brother with an alcoholic father and it could be argued that he's one of, if not the strongest characters in The Walking Dead. And then there's Negan.

It would seem that Negan has some sort of background in torture and mind control. Daryl is locked in a cell, naked, cold, in the dark, eating dog food (not a new thing for our survivors - see season 3 episode 1) and listening to what has to be the most obnoxious song ever made on repeat, for eternity. Negan has a way with torture that goes beyond slamming people's heads into pulp. His psychological manipulation is just as dark. Glenn may have gotten the easy way out. But Daryl doesn't break. He endures because people, specifically the people he cares about, and their safety are the only thing that matters, so Daryl is willing to endure whatever Negan can throw at him for them.


Random notes:

The song on Who's the Boss is wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. If they couldn't get the rights to the song, they should've picked a different show.

A good read on mind control: Coraline by Neil Gaiman

I have such a hard time thinking of Negan as anyone other than John Winchester

If the post apocalyptic genre is your thing, I've been binge watching season one of Aftermath this weekend. So far, so good.

Monday, November 7, 2016

I haven't watched The Cell (season 7 episode 3) yet. Stay tuned.  Election Day, this year, seems a better time to talk about death and decaying morals anyway.

Monday, October 31, 2016

The Well


Wow. My favorite episode in a long, long time. 

Spoilers. If you haven't watched Season 7 Episode 2 of TWD, please, hit your back button.

What we're seeing here is a lot of setup for future episodes. We're back to the Morgan and Carol story - which, if I'm being honest, was the only story-line that made season six worth it - and we're introduced to King Ezekiel (Who is also the voice of Cyborg. Can I get a booyah?), his tiger, and his subjects. 

It starts off where Carol and Morgan left off in season six, being rescued by the knights of the Kingdom. Carol is in bad shape and in a wagon of sorts and the new group is under walker attack.  Carol sees the walkers as they were in their former life - as people. It hearkens back to Morgan's time with Eastman who conveys that the walkers were people once - with lives and families. Maybe it's Carol's guilt or maybe it's something bigger. Even in this dark world, however, you can still live with with morals. It's the first time we've really seen this in Carol since Sofia staggered out of Hershel's barn. I think it's telling that she buries the walker inside her new house instead of disposing of it with fire. Burying the dead in TWD is closely associated with those whose conscience and humanity are in tact while cremation is associated with callousness and the loss of ones sanity and humanity. Carol, who once killed and burned two of her own on a rooftop, has come full circle, taking her place among those who are living, not just surviving.

Meanwhile: The Kingdom is peaceful - or as peaceful as anyone can hope in the zombie apocalypse. You have to wonder what is going on behind closed doors because every utopia prior had a dark secret. One can hope that The Kingdom is different. Yeah, Ezekiel seems crazy, but we later find out that it's all for show to keep society going. He's a good, moral, strong, African American leader: any of these traits are the red shirt of TWD world; he has all of them.

But they're under the thumb of Negan and friends. So, there's that. It would seem that Lucille has been at work here too. It is mentioned that a team left to scavenge and eight of them never returned. One can only assume that they met Negan's wrath - or psychosis. Ezekiel has plans, alluded to in his conversations with Morgan, to overthrow Negan's group. He knows that they don't have the means to fight Negan on their own - his people are soft and sheltered and they'll need help. Unfortunately it'll come in the form of Rick and crew who can't seem to figure out a decent plan, ever. In the mean time they're sending Negan tainted pork. 

The tainted pork caused a lot of confusion in the online discussions I've seen. Is he really crazy? Saving on pig feed? Spitting in Negan's preverbal cup? Do they not know that everyone is already infected? Last week I mentioned that a common literary device is to allude to ancient or common stories. There are a couple instances of this in The Well. Feeding the pigs tainted meat pulls from the Biblical story of Ezekiel, a prophet who foretells the fall of Jerusalem in 586 BC.

In the comics there is a war which includes Alexandria, the Hilltop, and the Kingdom against the Saviors (Negan's group). This year and last TWD is starting to head in the direction of the comics, (a disappointing creative choice in my opinion) and so that's probably where we're headed with the introduction of Ezekiel. Now when Biblical Ezekiel was trying to speak to the Israelites about their impending capture he bakes tainted bread - baking it in fecal matter to render it unclean- to symbolize the people of Jerusalem living in foreign, and therefore unclean, land. What does this have to do with anything?  King Ezekiel feeds tainted meat to the Saviors foretelling their fall. He is symbolizing to his knights that their lost members will be avenged and the Saviors will fall into their hands. I'm sure, based on Ezekiel's history with the theatre, that there is a Shakespearean reference, but it's been a long time since High school and I'm no longer well acquainted with Shakespeare.

The second allusion in this episode has to do with Carol. Throughout the episode, Carol is offered pomegranates by Ezekiel. At the surface it seems a little strange. Who likes pomegranates that much? Seriously. Pomegranates have a long history of symbolism. They symbolize prosperity, fullness, happiness, marriage, femininity, and fertility and are sometimes thought to be the forbidden fruit (that's right, not an apple). Obviously, compared to the other settlements we've seen over the years, the Kingdom holds the patent on prosperity on TWD, but that's not all. This particular subplot is brought to you by the story of Persephone and Hades. You can read that story here. Basically, Persephone is kidnapped by Hades and taken into the underworld to be his bride. While she develops feelings for him, she refuses to eat because if she does, she will be trapped there forever. But Hades is clever and before returning her to her mother, he offers her a pomegranate. Persephone takes and eats six seeds, binding her to Hades for six months of every year: here, but not here. Ezekiel offers Carol the pomegranate out of romantic interest (though I see 0 chemistry between them personally), binding her to him and the kingdom - here but not here - which, so far, Carol has presumably refused.

Interesting stuff this week. Next week it looks like business as usual with Rick and crew. I'm so excited. Can you sense how excited? Because I'm not.

Monday, October 24, 2016

The Wrath of Negan

Spoiler's ahead. But mostly criticism. Lots of Criticism. 

I'm in the minority, I know; my favorite season of The Walking Dead was season two. All the characters I liked were alive and what it lacked for in blood and gore, it filled in with story progression and character development. By the mid-season finale of season six...well, I'd pretty much given up on the series (as evidenced in my lack of blog posts).

But what kind of fan just gives up because of one poorly executed season? Not this girl. On October 23rd, I settled in to watch the season seven premiere in hopes that my loyalty would not be in vain. Season seven. What can I say about season seven? If last night's show was indicative of the season as a whole (which Kirkman's interview on The Talking Dead inferred), I would describe it in one word: Disappointing. That's the first time I've said that about the premiere episode.

At this point, it's all about the money for these clowns. The Talking Dead. Fear the Walking Dead. Those stupid one minute things during the commercial breaks. All. The. Merchandise. Don't get me wrong, I think they should make buttloads of money - as long as they continue to tell a compelling story. Sadly, they don't.

Let me give a comparison. The Walking Dead seasons 1 - 5 vs seasons 6 and 7 are like Tangled vs Frozen. Stay with me. Tangled came out in 2010. It took them six years to make Tangled and tell Rapunzel's story. From the original German tale, they took a character with two sentences of dialogue and gave her depth and a couple of songs. Though isolated and emotionally abused, Rapunzel is industrious, quick thinking, caring, loyal, trusting, and lovably quirky. Her one-page source material is beautifully orchestrated into a 100 minute coming of age story that hearkens to the Disney Renaissance. Then there was Frozen. Frozen is loosely based on Hans Christian Anderson's The Snow Queen where a brave, young girl ventures out to save her dear friend from the clutches of the evil Snow Queen (a weather-controlling, child-abducting faerie) where she overcomes three villains before her daring rescue and escape.

Here's how I think the planning for Frozen went. Marketing went down to the production department and said, "Hey, The Princess and the Frog was a wash and Walt's kids are mad they can't buy that 5th island this year. You have two years to make something new - and don't forget to appease the feminists... and go." Then they barfed up a story, removing anything resembling a decent story and character development, wrote way too many songs (earning themselves a ton of awards for lyrics like "Don't know if I'm elated or gassy but I'm somewhere in that zone!"), then they marketed it to death. I can't stand Hans Christian Anderson's writing and it was still 1,000 times better than Frozen. Frozen was just lazy. The worst part? Nobody cared. That's what Kirkman did to The Walking Dead. At some point someone said, "Hey, lets just follow the comics. Our fans are loyal. They'll stick around as long as we keep throwing Olaf t shirts blood and gore in their faces." 

So about last night's episode: they took Negan - this presumably most sadistic of evil men - and gave him a bat and a cliff-hanger. They marketed it for months. Then they killed off Abraham. I could deal with that. His character is by far the most intimidating and it would make sense for Negan and crew to take him out first. Abraham went out in true Abraham style - stubborn, strong, and cursing. Yeah, it would've beem nice to have time to develop feelings for Abraham, but whatever. This is a world where tomorrow isnt a promise for anyone. But after overplaying the whole suspense angle all spring and summer, they couldn't just leave it at that. They had to kill off someone else. Couldn't be Daryl. He's too much of a fan favorite. 

It wouldn't be one of the girls because, lets face it, it's the apocalypse and without affirmative action, girls are only useful for one thing. Samiches...Can't be Rick or Carl because then the show would be over. So they kill off Glenn because cannon.

In previous seasons, the comic's story-line took second seat to a well written story. I mean, Billy and Ben become Mika and Lizzy to propel Carol's character and Judith is still around because she gives the survivors hope and a reason to keep fighting. Andrea died way too early (thank goodness) and Daryl wasn't even a character! Now? Even if it doesn't translate well to the screen and even if it's boring and predictable, the comics are adhered to with the faithfulness of a Harry Potter fan.

Now a good story is at the mercy of the sacrificial pillar of comic fanboys. You wanna know what would've made a better story? Killing Glenn under the dumpster part way through season six. That would've been better. Better still? In season two Maggie calls Glenn "walker bait" after he fishes out the well zombie. It's a nick name that then-meek Glenn opposes. But Glenn is now a better man. A fitting and more touching end to Glenn's story arc would have been to save Maggie and their infant son by sacrificing himself as walker bait. Instead, they took the anticlimactic route and offed Glenn at the business-end of Lucille - just like in the comics. Then they added a cool prosthetic eye and threw in some flash backs and dream sequences via Rick so the common core generation wouldn't get too confused. 

The Walking Dead was once a story of Hobbesism,  where, without the all-seeing eye of authority and social mores, conscience and kindness die and the living fail to differ from the monstrous dead. Now it's blood and gore and jump scares because intellect, it would seem, has already been killed by the mindless hordes of the walking dead.

*Update. I was waiting very impatiently for Rob Bricken'a take over on Gizmodo. I love that his posts are more than just a recap because, duh, I already saw it, and I love the insight he has.  Anyway, it's a good perspective over there and the comments are the best on the internet, really. I wanted to say that, yes, I picked up on the Rick/Carl:Abraham/Isaac component. Alluding to ancient and commonly known stories is an often-used writing device. Keep that story in mind, it may come back at some point.  One more thing, I'm pretty sure Maggie and Sasha took the truck and everyone else took the RV.