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.