The Walking Dead – Season Five Premiere!

WD_Season5“They’re f@$!#ing with the wrong people!” Those were the words that capped off the season four finale. At least, they were before the show’s writers decided to censor themselves and changed it to “screwing”. In any case, the show ended with Rick and his party arriving at Terminus only to find that the advertised oasis was a lie – a trap designed to lure unsuspected people in for some nefarious purpose.

Naturally, the blogosphere explodedediately after with various people offering their own theories as to what Terminus represented and what they intended for Rick and his crew. The smart money appeared to be on cannibalism, as it seemed most consistent with what happened in the comics, not to mention the odd room with all candles and the words “NEVER AGAIN. NEVER TRUST. WE FIRST, ALWAYS” written on the wall.

In the weeks leading up to the premiere, fans were also warned that this season would be darker and bloodier, and the preview poster – which showed Rick sporting a new beard – had the words “hunt or be hunted” scrolled across it. Between all these hints and warning, the fanbase was pretty much stoked and there was no surprises when the premiere opened at a record-breaking 17.3 million viewers, beating out their previous record of 16.1 million.

And this past Sunday, the big reveal happened in an episode that was appropriately titled…

No Sanctuary: episode opens with a flashback where two residents of Terminus – Chris and Alex – are being held prisoner. They reflect on how they chose to remain human in the midst of the crisis, and suffered for it. Flashing back to the present, we see Rick and the others preparing to make a break for it as soon as the door to the railcar is opened. However, they are surprised when a flashbang is thrown in through the roof and they are then carried out.

Rick, Glenn, Daryl, and Bob are then taken to a kill room where they see a body being carved up. Four others are positioned alongside them over a metal trough, and two men begin butchering them one by one. Chris comes in to take stock and pauses the killing long enough to ask Rick about the bag he stashed out in the woods. Things are about to start again when shooting from outside and an explosion sends everyone to the ground. of town, Tyreese, Carol and Judith continue on their way towards town when they come across a herd. They hide and are saved when gunfire distracts and lures the herd away. They proceed towards the source, and find Alex out on sentry duty and talking over a walkie-talkie about Carl and Michonne. They take him prisoner in a small shed and Carol goes on ahead while Tyreese remains behind to watch him with Judith.

After covering herself with gore and mud, she proceeds to the edge of town and sees Rick, Daryl, Bob and Glenn being taken inside. At the same time, the herd begins to approach the fence line and the guards begin to run away. Using her sniper rifle, Carol shoots a gas tank sitting by the fence and uses a firework to detonate it, killing a dozen Walkers and breaching the fence in the process. ensues as the Walkers move in and begin attacking the town and Carol slips in amongst them. Chris leaves the kill room to assess the situation while Rick uses a piece of sharpened wood to saw through his restraints. He kills the two men and then sets the others free, and the four proceed out into the compound. Fighting against both Walkers and guards, they seize weapons and free the others.

Back at the shed, the noise from the explosions and gunfire begins to draw Walkers. Alex gets free, takes Judith hostage and forces Tyreese to disarm and go outside. He steps out and is grabbed by several Walkers, but all noise stops a moment later. Alex takes Tyreese’s knife and begins inching towards the door, and Tyreese breaks back in, slams him on the grounds and begins beating him to death., Carol begins looking for Rick and the others inside. After finding her way into a building, she comes across a stash of stolen goods and finds Daryl’s crossbow. Eventually, she comes to the strange room where she is confronted by Mary, the town matriarch. They fight, Carol gets the upper hand, and Mary explains how the town became the place that it is:

The signs… they were real. It was a sanctuary. People came and took this place. And they raped, and they killed, and they left… over weeks! But we got out, and we fought, and we got it back! And we heard the message: you’re the butcher, or you’re the cattle…

Carol shoots Mary in the leg, and then lets a group of Walkers in to finish her. In the rail car, the rest try to decide whether they should break out into the chaos or wait. Sasha asks Eugene what the cure is, and he explains that he once worked for the Human Genome Project as part of a team that weaponized viruses to fight other weaponized viruses. He claims that with his knowledge, they can kill all the Walkers if they can get to Washington DC. then shows up and lets them out, and they all fight their way to the fence. They make it out and proceed into the woods, where Rick digs up the pack he buried and tells them they are going back to finish the job. The group tells Rick its pointless since they are as good as dead, Carol emerges from the trees and is embraced by Daryl and Rick. She tells them to follow her up the road, where they rejoin Tyreese and Judith.

Rick is elated to learn his baby girl is still alive and Sascha her brother. They decide to move on up the rails again, and Rick finds a sign pointing towards Terminus and wipes out all but two words: “No Sanctuary”. The episode ends with another flashback where Chris, Alex and Mary are being held together, and Chris says they will take it back, repeating the adage: “You’re either the butcher, or you’re the cattle.” in a post-episode peek, we are shown a figure who is following the tracks and comes across the sign. He spots symbols carved into the trees and begins following them. Once he removes his mask, we learn that it’s Rick’s old friend Morgan.

I quite enjoyed this episode, and for a few reasons. For one, it delivered on its promise of a darker, bloodier feel, even though this was hardly lacking in the previous seasons. It also handled the whole “good people gone evil” theme very well. Despite everything they do and the evil they commit, the people portraying the Terminites (Terminans?) managed to capture the inherent sense of desperation and anger powering them.

This is the very core Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead, which is how otherwise good and civilized people can do terrible things when push comes to shove. And since it was something that didn’t happen in the comics, but was loosely based on it, it made for just enough of a surprise. And of course, few people could argue with the fact that the action was pretty badass too, and the reunions pretty heartfelt.

The only things I would criticize is the character arc of Carol. By now, people can’t fail to notice that she’s become the female version of Rambo. At the end, Rick asks her “did you do that?” And by that, he means rescuing them by single-handedly blowing up a section of wall, letting a herd overrun a small town, and then taking out the town’s matriarch. Yes, somehow, a “thank you” and a “welcome back” would seem appropriate.

But this really doesn’t seem fitting for Carol. As I’ve said before, she went from being an abused, put-upon housewife to a bereaved mother, then an independent woman, then a character who had little to do, all before becoming some ruthless woman who immolated people to prevent the spread of disease. Now, she’s a one-woman army who kicks ass and takes names.

It’s cool, but it’s not exactly realistic. What’s more, Michonne is supposed to be the ass-kicking heroine of that bunch, not Carol. The way her character kind of got sidelined in this episode really drove that home for me. And Sasha is also a strong female presence, same as Maggie. So I do wonder if her character’s not just a bit superfluous at this point. And considering she was long-dead by now in the comics, I have a hard time taking her seriously.

Also, Tyreese’s character has seemed just a little too gentle for my tastes. I very much liked how he took out several Walkers with his bare hands and then beat that Alex kid to death. This is the Tyreese I know and remember from the comics, a big, strong, troubled man who did what he had to, even though he didn’t enjoy it one bit. The TV show’s Tyreese, while certainly likeable, seems too much like a big teddy bear to me.

Otherwise, I like what they’ve done so far this season and where they are going. At this point, Morgan is poised to rejoin the group, and from the previews, it seems clear that they are now converging back on comic book material (i.e. finding a preacher and taking him in), all the while working their way towards Washington DC.

*As a side note, I should point out that, despite what some fans saw in the ending, the producers have indicated that that was NOT Negan making an appearance near the end of the episode. However, I imagine that’s what the shows producers intended when they cast that look alike, as the intro of Negan could turn out to be season 5 material. Stay tuned!

The Walking Dead – Season Three, Episode 13

the_walking_deadHappy Monday Morning all! Nice weekend? Good, because it’s time to catch up on this weeks episode of The Walking Dead.

Last week, we got something of a “bottle episode” as Rick, Carl and Michonne went back into the Grimes old stomping grounds to pick up supplies and ended up running into an old friend. It seemed that Morgan, the man who saved Rick after he wandered back from the hospital, had fortified himself in the town and was waging a one-man guerrilla war against the Walkers. He had also lost his son Duane since last they met, and had gone a little batty as a result.

And despite his best efforts, Morgan would not come back to the prison with them since he believed that it was only a matter of time before Rick and his people would die, either at the hands of the Walkers or someone else. Letting them go with their share of guns and ammo, he said goodbye to them, and they returned to the prison to deal with their main problem – the Governor and his army operating out of Woodbury.

Which brings us to this week’s episode, where Rick and the Governor are meeting on neutral ground to hash things out.

Arrow on the Doorpost:
wd3_arrowThe episode opens with Rick, Daryl and Hershel arriving at what appears to be an abandoned silo. After doing a little recon, Rick finds his way into a large warehouse where someone has set up a table on top a raised platform. Making his way to it, the Governor appears and tells Rick they “have a lot to talk about”. After a brief stand-off, they disarm and get down to business (but of course, we see that the Governor has a second gun strapped to the table).

Another car arrives shortly thereafter carrying Caesar, Milton and Andrea. Andrea is surprised to hear that the Governor is already inside and goes in while the others wait out front. Apparently, she arranged the meeting and offered Rick a compromise where they would divide the land between them. However, the Governor rejects it and tells her to leave.wd3_arrow4

Outside, the two camps wait and endure a tense standoff until they are set on by some Walkers and begin taking them out. This gives Daryl and Caesar a chance to do a little “male bonding” as both take out their share with Andreas help. After killing their share, they reflect on how war seems inevitable, and neither one is too crazy about the idea.

Milton and Hershel begin to talk as well, with Milton taking an interest in Hershel’s amputation and how it saved him from being infected. And eventually, Andrea begins to talk to Hershel and asks about Maggie, whether it was true that Governor tried to rape her. Knowing the truth now, she realizes she can’t go back to Woodbury. Hershel invites her to come back to the prison and to her family.

jpegBack at the prison, Glenn and the others are forced to content with Merle, who keeps insisting they go to the talks to kill the Governor. Glenn refuses, which prompts Merle to try and get out on his own. After Glenn, Maggie and Michonne restrain him, he tries to appeal to Michonne’s desire for vengeance. However, she refuses to put Andrea at risk and tells him he’s on his own. Afterwards, Glenn and Maggie finally make up after and decide to blow off holding watch on the field to go have sex.

After talking things over with some whiskey, the Governor finally gives Rick his terms. In exchange for Michonne, he will leave them alone. Rick doesn’t believe it will end there, but the Governor gives him two days to think it over and tells him to return to the silo with his answer. The meeting ends and he leaves with his people, and Andrea goes with him. All parties head back to their respective homes.

wd3_governor1However, upon his return to Woodbury, the Governor reveals his true intentions. He orders Caesar to set up an ambush around the meeting place so they can kill Rick and anyone he can be expected to bring. Milton is surprised and objects, but the Governor insists that its the only way. Sooner or later, they will have to deal with Rick since he doesn’t believe they can ever live side by side.

At the prison, Rick tells his own version of the story: that the Governor wants the prison and all of them dead. The camp is divided, with Merle and Michonne thinking they should strike first while Carol and Hershel think they should take their chances on the road. However, he is willing to trust Rick’s leadership and stay and fight, as long as they are together. Rick tells him what the Governor really wanted, and Hershel agrees its unacceptable.

It’s official. The two camps are going to war!

Once again, I have to say I was happy with what was arguably a pacing episode. It managed to build up the suspense, let us know what’s going to come, and provide some breathing room while we build to the big climax. For some time now, its been obvious that an all-out war between the two sides will be happening, but many pieces needed to fall into place before that could happen. This episode was good in that it established much of that and hinted at where others pieces are going to fall.

And like the last episode it was thematically consistent. I liked how the show cut between the Governor and Rick dealing inside and the grunts talking outside. At once we can see two hardened leaders talking about the undesirability of conflict and how far they will go to protect their people, while their soldiers realize how much they have in common and also confess that a fight is not something they would want.

All the while, its clear that said conflict is inevitable. In a world where two sides have the exact same interests – i.e. survival and protecting their own – it would seem that peace and cooperation are the only way. And yet, that is the one thing they cannot hope to achieve, simply because the need to survive dictates that they destroy each other. As always with TWD, the greatest enemy is not the zombies, but your fellow man.

But I think the best aspect of this latest episode is how it is building towards the big finish. We have only three episodes to go this season and some key factors need to be established before it can end. Namely, there’s position of Andrea in all this, the involvement of Tyreese and his gang, and how Rick and his people plan to confront the Governor and his army and win.

At this point, its clear that Rick and the prison camp stand a better chance now of thwarting the Governor and his army than before. With Merle, Michonne, a small stockpile of guns and the prison walls, they have certain advantages, at least if they are attacked. But of course, the Governor has more people, more resources, and the freedom to use them. In any prolonged fight, he is sure to win.

Which brings up Andrea and Tyreese’s group. As a friend of mine suggested (hi Khaalidah!), she believes the Tyreese group is part of a double-cross. After Rick kicked them out, we didn’t see or hear from them at all until they came to Woodbury, hats in hand and looking for refuge. She thought it was possible that Glenn made a deal to have them do a little spying. However, if the previews for next week’s episode are any indication, they were genuine in their desire to become part of Woodbury, but Andrea will set them straight.

So between the Governor’s planned ambush, Milton and Andrea’s desire to stop him, and Tyreese and his gang’s assistance, its entirely possible we’re building towards a big confrontation that will only be won with the help of some last minute help from those people who are closest to the Governor. That’s what I’m predicting at this point. And even though it means violating the comic book material somewhat, it’s what I’d do if I were one of the writers.

It might be premature and hopeful of me to predict a happy ending, but I think if there’s one thing this show can be counted on, its to keep going and not let things get too bloody. Unlike the comic, which really didn’t pull punches and had a bigger death toll, the show has been looking to strike a balance between grimness and hopefulness, where the characters are constantly looking for a normal life and are actually managing to get closer to it. But of course, there’s always a giant cost involved, so expect plenty more death!

Three episodes to go!

The Walking Dead – Season 3 Episode 12

The-Walking-DeadWell I’ll be damned. Just last week I was complaining that the season was getting a bit stagnant. Then they go and pull one of these! An episode that really gets you in the gut and excites the hell out of ya! And to accomplish this feet of keeping fans interested and roped, they’ve gone back to the beginning of things with the series.

Last week, hints were given as to what was coming. Fearing diminishing supplies of guns and ammo, Rick, Michonne and Carl made plans to head back to Rick’s old hometown to see what they could dig up. And with the threads involving the prison and the town of Woodbury pretty much tied for now, what they find on their mission is the basis of this week’s entire episode.

Here’s what happened:

The episode opens with Rick, Carl and Michonne on the road together as they drive into town. On the way, they pass an uninfected man who begs them to stop, but they continue on. They come to a set of abandoned cars and stop to take on what they can find, and are set upon by Walkers. With barely a concern, they begin dispatching the Walkers, take what they need, and set off again. Once again, they are beset by the uninfected man and leave him behind.

From this opening scene, were are once again told a tale in very few words. After so much time spent being forced to fight and survive, they are immune to the pleas of outsiders looking for help and are free from fear. The habits have become so engrained that they come easily, as does turning a deaf ear to those they do not know or trust.

wd3_clear1They come to town and begin inspecting the police station, which appears somewhat low on guns and ammo. Rick then decides to get a hold of the town’s gun registry, which they will then use to chase down all the firearms remain in town. When they reach the main road in town, they find a series of booby traps, sharpened stakes, and signs warning them to leave. Michonne observes that it looks like someone else has already made this place their home.

Without warning, they are spotted by a man on a roof who tells them to drop their weapons and get out. Not wanting to lose their weapons, or lives, they attempt to take him down with a little misdirection. Rick and Carl run and shoot while Michonne circles around to outflank him. However, the gunman is a step ahead and makes his way down to the street. Before he can shoot Rick, Carl pops out and shoots him in the stomach.

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????After a quick search, Rick learns two important things. First, the man is wearing a vest and is only unconscious. Second, and more importantly, the man is none other than Morgan, the one who saved him after he woke up and wandered back from the hospital. They proceed to take him inside, noticing several booby traps, a massive arsenal, and tons of disturbing messages scrawled on the wall. Over and over again, the word “Clear” appears.

Carl says he’s going to make a run to the nursery store in the hopes of finding a crib for Judith. Michonne reasons he will need help and comes along, but Carl tries to get away the first chance he gets. When Michonne catches up to him and notices they’ve passed the nursery store, he reveals that there’s something else he wants for his sister first.

wd3_clearcarlHe takes Michonne to cafe which appears to be filled with Walkers. After sending in a diversion, they run in to grab a picture from above the bar – apparently of Carl, Rick and Lori. However, the Walkers soon notice them, they have fight their way out, and the picture is left behind. Michonne does him the favor of retrieving it on her own, since Carl wants  a photo so Judith can know what their mother looked like, and this is the only photo left.

Back in his home, Morgan wakes up and uses a stashed knife to cut his bonds. He then attacks Rick and wounds him, but Rick manages to get the upper hand point his gun in Morgan’s face. He begs Rick to shoot him, but Rick pleads with him to remember, which Morgan finally does. The key is the old walky-talky which Rick gave him, and Morgan begins to remember. He tells Rick he looked for him on the radio, but he wasn’t there. What’s more, he explains to him that his son is dead, and that it was his wife who did it.

wd3_morgan1Rick invites Morgan to come with them, but Morgan refuses. He can tell Rick’s situation is less than ideal since he needs some of his guns. Rick assures him things will work out and he can get better, but Morgan is intransigent, saying he has to “clear”. Carl and Michonne rejoining him, carrying a crib. Carl pauses to apologize for shooting him, to which Morgan tells him to “never be sorry.

At the car, Carl let’s Rick know that he thinks Michonne might be one of them. She asks Rick if he sees people, to which she adds that she too used to talk to visions of her dead boyfriend. On the drive back to the prison, they pass the remains of the man they saw twice along the way, and stop to take his backpack.

wd3_clear3In case the intro wasn’t clear, this episode rocked for me. Even though it involved the reintroduction of an old character, it felt very much fresh and new and offered a much-needed diversion into the season. It was also nice that they brought back Morgan, considering that his character played a prominent role in the story at the beginning and was left very much unresolved.

After finding him and seeing what’s become of him, Rick also learns that he couldn’t bring himself to shoot his infected wife, and this is how Duane (his son) died. Because of this, he has become convinced that its only a matter of time before everyone will die. Many times over he says to Rick that “no one gets clear”. It’s not specified what he means by this, but if I were to guess, he means free and clear, as in safe and sound.

The Walking Dead - Season 3, Episode 12 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMCBetween that, the scene at the beginning where they twice turn away a man in need, and the final scene where they find his body and take his things; all of that manages to wrap the most predominant theme of the show up in a nutshell. That have been few episodes with this kind of tight narrative and consistency, demonstrating so succinctly that in this world, survival trumps morality, and sentimentality can mean death.

Yet, at the same time, they do their best to restore some degree of humanity and compassion through kind acts. Rick invites Morgan to come back with them, Carl struggles to get a photo of his mother for his sister, and Michonne helps him to recover something sentimental even though it means risking her life. And the way she begins to bond with Rick shows that human connections remain important in this world.

wd3_clearmichonneAnd of course, it was exciting throughout, especially where Morgan’s traps and arsenal were concerned. After all this talk of shortages and supplies running low, it was good to see so many guns, sharpened steaks, grenades and bullets in one place. It is what I’d want to do in the event of a zombie apocalypse and he pulled it off. So… yeah, you go Morgan!

It also was nice to see Michonne get back to her cool, ass-kicking self. The way they humanized her was nice, though I thought it was a little out in left field. Yes, they’ve done this before, like how they revealed how hurt she was when Andrea chose to stay in Woodbury rather than go with her. And after all she’s been through, she deserves a little kind-heartedness. I just hope it doesn’t last long and she gets back to kicking ass soon!

And of course, with all the weapons and ammo they grabbed, they are sure to be that much more ready when the inevitable war comes. Next week promises to be confrontational, so it’s sure to be coming soon!