The Walking Dead: Season 3, Episode 9 – “The Suicide King”

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The back half of season 3 opens where the first half ended. We’re in the Woodbury walxing arena and the Gov declares that this Daryl vs. Merle battle is a fight to the death (which will presumably confirm where Merle’s loyalties lie). Andrea pleads with the Gov to end the fight, calling him Philip to appeal to his human side. The Gov refuses to stop the fight, in fact, he decides that it wouldn’t be a walxing match without some walkers. Of course, it can’t really be a fight to the death when the guys holding the walkers come in so close that Merle and Daryl can hardly land a punch. Continue reading

The Walking Dead: Season 3, Episode 8 – “Made to Suffer”

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Time for the midseason finale of The Walking Dead, and not a moment too soon!

Morning. Rain. A forest. A lone walker stumbles among the trees. Out of nowhere comes none other than Dennis “Cutty” Wise (Chad Coleman) from The Wire. His name is actually Tyreese and apparently he’s a fan favorite, but I’m going to call him Cutty, at least until he proves himself (and then probably after that too). Turns out, Cutty’s not alone. He seems to be the leader of a group that includes Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) and what looks like a father-mother-son team of redshirts (walker-fodder? disposables?) who probably won’t make it through the second half of season 3. In fact, as if she could read my thoughts, mom gets bitten. Cutty’s crew (henceforth known as Cutting Crew) arrives at a large, partially ruined brick structure. Sasha votes they off mom and go inside. Cutty overrules her, decides to spare mom for now and the group enters…the prison? Nice little reveal. Continue reading

The Walking Dead: Season 3, Episode 7 – “When the Dead Come Knocking”

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The Walking Dead returns in a couple of days. I thought it was about time I caught up on my season 3 posts.

When we last left the prison gang, Rick had learned a valuable lesson about the true meaning of Christmas, Daryl finally found Carol and Michonne showed up outside of the prison gates. Rick takes his sweet time deciding whether or not to let her in. While she’s waiting, she kills a few walkers and then passes out. They carry her inside and Rick immediately takes away her sword. Isn’t that pretty much what Michonne’s story has been this year? Someone takes away her sword and she spends the rest of the episode scowling. Daryl shows Rick that Carol is still alive and the two of them hug. Michonne looks on thinking that maybe these people aren’t trustworthy after all. Continue reading

The Walking Dead: Season 3, Episode 6 – “Hounded”

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I must admit, I wasn’t the biggest fan of this episode as I was watching it. Then, while constructing this post, I realized what the writers were doing with certain parts of the story, which increased my enjoyment significantly. Whether by design, or not (I’m guessing not), this episode contains a parallel to a celebrated piece of classic literature. Not everything in the episode ties in, but I think there’s enough there, so just go with it.

We open with Merle and three guys out on the hunt. Initially it seems like they’re looking for Daryl (as the “previously on…” suggests), but it turns out they’re hunting for Michonne on the Gov’s orders. They come across a “biter gram” that Michonne has made out of walker parts, telling them to go back. I really liked the biter gram. It was weird and funny, though it seems like a lot of work to go through, stopping to leave an elaborate message for the people who are chasing you. Neil Unpronounceablelastname, one of the guys with Merle, seems a bit upset by this whole “hunting a living human” affair. He doesn’t have too much time to complain before Michonne appears, killing the other two randoms and running away, but not before getting shot by Merle who shouts “are we having fun yet?” apropos of nothing (but a love of Party Down).

"So that's why they call you Neil."

“I knew there was a good reason I decided to call you Neil.” [rim shot]

Later, after convincing Neil to start growing a pair, Merle and Neil track Michonne down again. Of course, they’re all attacked by walkers. Michonne neatly slices open the abdomen of one walker, who promptly spills his guts all over her. It’s appropriately gross and hilarious. She gets away and Merle and Neil argue about whether to go back and tell the Governor that they’ve killed her (Merle’s idea) or to follow her into the “red zone” and finish her off (Neil’s idea). In the end, Merle provides the more persuasive argument, shooting Neil in the head (but not before making an attempt to pronounce his last name, a nice touch). Merle starts back to Woodbury.

Well there's 8 bucks wasted at Woodbury Martinizing.

Well there’s 8 bucks wasted at Woodbury Martinizing.

Meanwhile, at the prison, Rick is on the phone with the phantom caller from last week. It’s not Jacob Marley jangling the chains he forged in life, but a woman who claims that she and her group are in a safe place “away from them,” likely meaning the walkers. Rick pleads with her to let the gang join up with her and she says she has to check with the rest of her group. It’s a nice sincere moment as Rick clearly shows he has the gang’s best interest at heart and that he really just wants to be in a place that is far away from all of this death and (re-)killing. The woman on the phone then tells Rick that will be visited by three ghosts who will teach him that he needs to change his ways before it’s too late. Certain that this caller is not simply “an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard or a crumb of cheese” Rick rationally decides to go have breakfast with everyone. He walks into the room as if nothing really happened last week. They ask him about clearing the cell block and after telling them he’s killed a bunch of walkers, he leaves abruptly to await the arrival of the first spirit.

Herschel, seriously, leggo my Eggo.

Herschel, seriously, LEGgo my Eggo.

The Ghost of Christmas Past is a guy who asks Rick about the sins of his youth, or at least the last two seasons. He wants to know how many men Rick has killed (the answer is 4). Also, in a clear parallel to showing Ebeneezer Scrooge how he “lost” his fiance, the ghost also asks Rick how he lost his wife. Rick is suspicious that the guy knows so much about him. After the call, Herschel hobbles in and Rick tells him about the phone calls. I don’t think Herschel really believes that Rick is receiving calls, but he plays along anyway.

As for the rest of the gang, Glenn and Maggie decide to go out shopping for supplies and Daryl, Oscar and Carl take a walk through the prison. Daryl continues to be awesome, telling Carl a story about how his mother got drunk and fell asleep while smoking a cigarette, which then lit her on fire and burned her to death. Happy stuff, but at least he’s trying. Carl shares his own uplifting story about killing his mother and I’ll be damned if he doesn’t deliver his lines about such heavy subject matter in a non-grating/annoying way. Way to go Carl! They guys kill a walker who just so happens to be wearing Carol’s knife in his neck. It’s a sad reminder for Daryl.

Back in Woodbury, the romantic comedy continues. Andrea tells the Gov that she wants to start pulling her weight in her new hometown and he gives her a chance to learn to shoot a bow up on the wall. Andrea and her bowhunting instructor, we’ll call her Katniss, swap stories about killing their own family members, until a walker shows up outside the wall. Katniss misses three shots and Andrea says “screw it,” jumps over the wall and takes out the walker with a knife. This may be the happiest Andrea has been since entering Woodbury.

Booyah!

Booyah!

Andrea visits the Gov’s office, where he tells her that she can’t be on wall duty because jumping over is a breach of the rules. Andrea admits that she’s a woman of action and she secretly liked last week’s Walxing match, though she wasn’t glad that she liked it. The Gov tells her that he knew she liked the fights. He also informs her that she likes him, because he’s super-confident and clearly knows where this storyline is going. I’m happy to at least hear about some inner conflict with Andrea, though it doesn’t slow her initiation into the cult of Woodbury.

Glenn and Maggie arrive at the strip mall. They kiss, they look happy, they joke about an unseen duck toy. Little do they know, Michonne is watching them. Worlds colliding people! The trio becomes a quartet when Merle arrives on the scene. He pretends to be friendly and excited to see Glenn, who tells him that Daryl is still alive. Of course, the good feelings last only so long before Merle takes Maggie hostage and forces Glenn to drive the three of them back to Woodbury. Michonne remains hidden.

Another nice master shot. I guess I'm just a sucker for extreme high angles.

Another nice master shot where we can see Glenn, Maggie and Michonne. I guess I’m just a sucker for extreme high angles.

Andrea and the Gov share a drink and clumsily veiled talk about the last time they had sex. I guess that means they’ll have sex soon. They kiss. Later, they have sex. The afterglow is interrupted by Merle, who has returned with the new captives. He explains the deaths of his three companions and tells the Gov that Michonne is dead. The Gov is upset that Merle didn’t bring back her sword and also her head, as the helicopter pilot is getting lonely in the penthouse aquarium. Merle makes an excuse and the Gov goes back in to Andrea. “Everything okay?” she asks him. “Hell yeah,” he says, presenting us with the most awkward line/delivery of the episode (season?). These lovebirds are too much.

"Maybe I'm taking things a little fast, but I'd like you to meet my daughter."

“Maybe I’m taking things a little fast, but you like kids, right?”

Back in prison, Rick receives a call from the Ghost of Christmas Present, a woman who tells him that it would be good for him to talk about his wife’s death. He needs to accept that she’s gone and open up to those around him now. Also, it might be a stretch, but in keeping with the Dickens parallel, the next two scenes we see are scenes of happiness with Glenn and Maggie arriving at the store and Andrea and the Gov sharing a drink. Of course, the Cratchit family celebration probably didn’t lead to kidnapping or sex, or at least not kidnapping. The Ghost of Christmas Present also uses Rick’s name before hanging up on him, raising his suspicions even more.

Distraught Daryl sits in the hallway stabbing Carol’s knife into the floor and the wall. I’m not entirely sold on the relationship that Daryl and Carol had. It helps to think of them as friends and confidantes, rather than a traditional romantic couple. Perhaps they loved each other in a platonic way. While Carol has still been a frustrating character, I think considering their relationship in this light adds weight to their past interactions. Did I mention how much I liked last week’s Cherokee Rose scene? That’s kind of undercut by the fact that Carol is alive. Of course, I was pretty sure she had to be alive, despite the show throwing us a curve by filling in her grave. Daryl finds her in a closet and carries her to safety. This truly is a Christmas Carol!

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So this is where the writers have been keeping you. How unnecessary.

The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come calls Rick, and she’s much more vocal than Dickens’ version. It turns out she’s none other than Lori, and she informs Rick that the first three ghosts were Amy, Jim and Jacqui (from way back in season 1). Rick finally has a chance to tell his wife how much he loved/loves her. The call breaks up as Lori tells him something to do with their kids, “take care of them,” perhaps (or something more sinister?). Rick is transformed by his experience. He decides to change his sullen, serious, distant ways and embrace the group, the family that he still has. He returns and picks up his baby daughter, holding her close.

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Carl, Beth, Herschel, Rick, and baby all walk out into the courtyard. Who should they see at gate, but Christmas carolers, in the form of a group of moaning walkers and an entrail-soaked Michonne hoping to share in the merriment, and perhaps a bit of the Christmas goose! To conclude the episode, who could say it better than Herschel:

Next week on The Walking Dead: The group invites the Woodbury gang to help them tackle A Tale of Two Cities.

The Walking Dead: Season 3, Episode 5 – “Say the Word”

“Say the Word” opens on the Second Annual Woodbury Community Block Party. It looks like a heck of a lot of fun, but Michonne refuses to join in. Instead, she takes a look up at Governor Pip’s apartment window. You see, he’s in there brushing someone’s hair. Nope, it’s not a severed head, it’s his daughter. Of course, his daughter is a walker. Yep, another big secret. Sure it isn’t the walker sex dungeon I mentioned previously, but it’s still early in the season (and an episode with a few other reveals). The Gov locks his daughter away again and then heads down to deliver a speech in front of the crowd of adoring Woodbury-ans. What a great charismatic leader!

“Here’s hoping for an early renewal for season four!”

While the Gov’s pumping up the crowd, Michonne breaks her sword free from his quarters. She finds his John Doe-esque serial killer notebooks and almost breaks open the door to his head-quarium room. Before she can get the door open, she hears the Gov coming. She hides when he comes into the room, arguing with his mad scientist about whether it’s okay to use the community’s power for the celebration, instead of the scientist’s experiments. The Gov wins, intent on the block party being even better than last year’s! Michonne takes her sword out the back window and stumbles up on the Woodbury Community Walker Zoo. It does not feature a petting zoo. Michonne sets the walkers free and cuts them all down. She doesn’t want to get rusty. Of course, she gets caught and has to meet with the Gov.

Our obligatory “Michonne alone in the center of the frame” shot for this episode

I must admit, I was pretty excited about the scene between Michonne and the Gov. Our two new main characters are finally squaring off one-on-one and arguing about who gets to use this as an Emmy submission episode. The Gov explains that Michonne needs to be punished for her transgression, unless, of course, she wants to join up with the Woodbury Community Militia. They need a good swordswoman (swordstress? swordtrix?). Michonne gets ahold of her katana again and tickles he Gov’s adam’s apple with it. She’s had enough of this. She ends up leaving Woodbury, but she’s unable to convince Andrea to leave with her, so I’m going to declare the Michonne/Gov face-off a tie. What’s the over/under on episodes until Michonne reaches the prison?

As a side note, this episode is entitled “Say the Word,” clearly implying that “Sussudio” is intended to be the omitted last word of the title. Take a moment to Imagine Sussudio from The Governor’s perspective, singing about Michonne. It kind of makes sense, particularly for this episode.

Later on, Merle, the mad scientist and company drive out to a walker trap and go fishing for zombies, reeling in a few good ones. Merle kills one female walker (who is unable to bite through the mad scientist’s homemade duct-tape-sleeved shirt) and then he and another guy begin to de-tooth another walker. Perhaps Merle’s mother told him to be a dentist. The freshly caught walkers are replacements for the ones Michonne killed. They are needed for the main event: The Woodbury Community Middleweight Walxing Championship!

Are you not entertained!?

Merle and one of the fly-dancers from the first Christmas episode of Community face off in a ring of walkers on chains while everyone in the crowd watches and cheers them on. It’s almost as intense as the commercial for Crossfire (Crossfire!). Andrea is clearly disgusted, and I’m a little put off by this whole thing. Is this really one of the big secrets that Woodbury is hiding? I think it’s a good idea for a middle-of-the-road zombie movie, but it feels a bit out of place here, especially the fact that everyone but Andrea is going crazy for this. Of course, the Gov’s explanation of the fight makes things a little better, I guess. He tells Andrea that the fight is a way to blow of steam, and a way to teach people not to be afraid of walkers. Also, it’s staged (so that’s why they were removing walker teeth). Whether that works or not, I find it hard to believe that everyone would simply go along with this ridiculous form of entertainment from the start. Then I realized that this is the south, and hey, NASCAR. I think Andrea’s second-guessing her decision to stay a little longer, after all, with Michonne gone she no longer has a partner for the three-legged race.

Oh yeah, we also get some time at the prison. Rick is catatonic for a bit. Herschel mentions that the baby (a girl!) needs formula. Daryl is the first person to volunteer. Ain’t he the best? He and Maggie head off on his bike to hunt for baby supplies. Glenn starts to dig three graves. I guess that means we lost Carol too? It’s nice to know that T-Dog’s sacrifice was even more pointless. Glenn and Herschel share a nice moment together, which is undermined by the fact that Glenn spends the time talking about how great a guy T-Dog was. His actions in closing the gate saved Maggie too. Also, as Glenn notes, apparently “when the evacuation started, T-Dog drove his church van to the home of every senior he knew.” Sorry writers, this posthumous character development simply isn’t working. Too little, too late.

“…and there was the time when T-Dog found homes for all of those orphans, and the time he donated his kidney to that nun, oh, and the time he cured polio…”

Rick decides to go on a rampage with an axe. He kills a bunch of walkers in disgusting fashion. He’s gotta harness that stuff for when the Gov shows up. Glenn catches up to Rick and tries to convince him to come back to his kids. Rick resists Glenn, who gives up. Meanwhile, Maggie and Daryl search a creepy, abandoned daycare. The best part, other than the possum Daryl finds in a closet, is the wall covered in paper cutouts of children’s hands. It’s great. They find a some supplies and formula and bring it back to the prison. Glenn asks Carl what the baby’s name will be. Carl immediately offers up the names of every female character who has died on the show. How creative. The best part of this scene is Daryl, who grabs baby “in memoriam” and begins to bottle feed her. The guy continues to impress.

Could you have imagined this back in season one?

Rick continues his journey into the bowels of the prison. He stumbles upon the delivery room, but doesn’t find Lori’s body. He does find a bullet stuck in the floor beneath a huge blood streak. He follows the blood to a walker who appears to have eaten his fill of something. Rick blows the back of the walker’s head off and then proceeds to stab it in the stomach a bunch of times. Maybe he wants to get Lori’s wedding ring back (yes, I know a woman as pregnant as Lori was probably wasn’t wearing her wedding ring on her finger, but still). Either that or he just wanted to see her face one more time (see what you get when you nitpick my “jokes”?).

Daryl heads out to the prison yard to pay his respects to the three graves. It appears that three graves were actually dug, but who are they for? I think T-Dog is a given. Also, Daryl gets the hat trick for this episode, pulling a Cherokee Rose out of his pocket and placing it on one of the graves. It’s a very sweet little moment. I love this guy. The third grave though? It is decidedly unclear, but at this point I don’t think anyone went back for Lori’s body. Considering what Rick found, I think maybe there wasn’t a lot left to be buried. Plus, Rick is still in the delivery room at this time. I don’t think they would waste the effort to bury Andrew either. I’m forced to assume that the third grave is for Herschel’s leg, buried Santa Anna style.

Yes, I can see that the third grave hasn’t been filled yet and is clearly waiting open for leftover Lori. Seriously, stop nit-picking.

The episode closes with Rick sitting despondently in the delivery room. Here’s a guy who is grieving, broken and angry. He then hears the cries of his new daughter echoing through the prison. Way to twist the knife. But, that’s when the phone starts ringing. What a great way to bring Rick out of his funk. I only hope it’s not a wrong number.

“Yes my refrigerator is running.”

Next week on The Walking Dead: Daryl teaches everyone proper swaddling technique.

The Walking Dead: Season 3, Episode 4 – “Killer Within”

25% of the way through season 3 and we’ve got a pretty big episode. The scale isn’t huge, like the first two episodes of the season, but some important things sure happen. Birth, death, romance, violence, the Walking Dead delivers. Now whether it all works, well, we’ll have to wait for some fallout next week. Oh, and though I don’t usually do this: spoilers early and often below.

For the second consecutive week, the “previously on…” segment before the show spoiled something that I have to assume was supposed to be a surprise reveal. Why show Andrew (the guy Rick locked out of the prison in the courtyard of walkers) at all, especially if you’re not going to reveal him until near the end of the episode? Oh well. Anyway, Andrew is alive and he’s cutting locks and luring walkers into the safe zones of the prison. I assume Andrew was the unseen person watching Carol from the woods in episode 2. The other “good” prisoners, Axel and Oscar, plead with Rick to let them join the Grimes gang, but Rick is having none of it. It seems harsh, but it’s in keeping with Rick’s hard-line stance on outsiders. Rick doesn’t trust anyone.

No, you can’t join us, but you can have Carol

The rest of the gang seems to be doing pretty well. Glenn and Maggie have taken up lodging in a guard tower, from where they descend with some embarrassment. Carol must be jealous, wishing she was up there with Daryl. Maybe if she stopped dressing like a cancer patient (she isn’t is she?).

Chloe looked the way Meryl Streep’s skeleton would look if you made it smile and walk around the party being extra nice to everybody.”

T-Dog actually has multiple lines in the opening act, and a few more later. It’s almost as if they’re trying to make up for something…. Also, Herschel decides it’s time to get moving again. Lori, along with Carl and Beth (who share another supposed-to-be-cute glance) help him up and out into the courtyard.

Look at me! Up and about! I haven’t done this in twenty years!”

As Lori sees Rick in the distance, she smiles at him. He kind of smiles back, or at least he looks at her. Of course, it’s hard to tell if they can actually see each other well from such a distance, but it’s really a nice contrast to the last time we saw them, feet away from each other, but unable to allow their eyes to meet (at least on Rick’s part). Here, with the prison yard separating them, Lori and Rick can share a semi-happy moment. Maybe things are starting to look up for them.

Nope. Just as everyone is enjoying Herschel’s newly regained mobility, Andrew’s walkers attack. Herschel and Beth lock themselves away safely, Maggie, Carl and Lori head back for the home cell block. Everyone else tries running to the rescue and T-Dog gets bitten.

“How did I survive this long?”

Yep. That’s it. Of course, he takes a good chunk of the episode to finally die, and who knows, we may see his heavily-chewed on corpse again down the line, but that’s the end of T-Dog. I can’t say I actually have strong feelings about this death. T-Dog has always been a problematic character in that he never had anything to do. The problem is compounded by the fact that T-Dog has really been the only “semi-important” (note the quotes) minority character on the show apart from Glenn. Racial issues aside, he has never been a particularly well-developed character, and I found that I couldn’t really care all that much about his death. Yes, it was heroic, but he died saving Carol, a character who is almost as uninteresting as he is.

No obvious place for this.

I’ll get back to the prison in a bit, but I need to spend a bit of time with the Woodbury crew. Michonne discovers fresh bullet holes and blood in one of the trucks the Gov liberated from the military men last week. She knows he’s full of crap. Of course, just as she finds these clues, the Gov shows up to deny things again. Later, Michonne and Andrea talk about leaving and finding an island to live on. It seems they’re going to leave Woodbury after all (yeah right). Andrea also talks to Merle, in a scene that is introduced almost like a romantic encounter. Of course, Merle also sees it as such, asking Andrea why they never hooked up (hook-hand jokes aside). Andrea gives him a map to the farm and Merle decides he’s going to hunt for Daryl.

Elizabeth Bennet may end up with Mr. Darcy yet

Merle takes his plans to the Gov, who convinces him to stay saying that Woodbury couldn’t operate without him. I guess a resident redneck asshole is a requirement. The Gov does tell Merle that if he can find more concrete evidence, he will help to look for Daryl himself. I can’t really tell if this will amount to anything, but I could see Merle somehow tracking the Grimes gang down and getting the Gov to try take them in, or take them out.

Before Andrea and Michonne leave Woodbury, Andrea shares a drink with the Gov. I don’t know if any of you have seen it, but I’ll be damned if Morrissey isn’t doing his best impression of Sterling Hayden in Johnny Guitar for this role. He sounds just like Johnny at times. Anyway, Andrea opens up to the Gov, telling him about her plans with Michonne and the fact that her entire family is gone. He tells her that he lost his wife in a car accident before the world went to hell and his daughter is all that he has left. The sparks, of course, start to fly.

“Don’t worry, I save the roofies for the second date.”

The Gov tells Andrea that he’s still interested in things like family life (and perhaps a domestic union with her?). Andrea gets up to leave and the Gov tells her that she’s always welcome back in Woodbury. He also tells her that his name is Phillip. So there’s that. After he kind of creepily opens the door for her, Andrea leaves and eventually goes back to Michonne to tell her that she wants to stay a couple more days. Of course, we saw this argument coming last week, but I want them to stick around in Woodbury. I’d love to get to know some of the people there, and maybe find out that there’s even more to this little community than the Gov’s shady dealings.

Now back to the prison. Rick starts to accuse Oscar and Axel of letting the walkers loose, but then the prison alarms start to go off, something they couldn’t have done. Oscar tells Rick that someone has started the backup generator. He, Rick and Daryl go one way to find it, while Glenn and Axel go another way. Eventually, Rick’s crew finds the generator room. (Non-)surprise! Andrew is there! He and Rick fight it out, but eventually Oscar gets the drop on them both, holding them at gunpoint. Despite Andrew’s request for him to cap Rick, Oscar does the right thing and kills Andrew, then hands over the gun. Looks like we’ve got our new T-Dog!

They say this cat Oscar is a bad motherf–SHUT YOUR MOUTH! (I’m just talkin’ ’bout Oscar)

Meanwhile, after being chased out of the home cell block by loose walkers, Lori goes into labor. Yes, it’s zombaby time! Maggie and Carl are almost completely unprepared to deal with the situation, but Carl does a good job of not reacting when he sees another woman pull his mother’s pants off. Maggie knows enough to realize something is wrong when Lori starts bleeding profusely after trying to push the baby out. Lori realizes that the baby will need to be cut out of her. Yikes. There’s actually a really nice moment when Lori, accepting her fate, talks to Carl and tells her son that he his a good person and that he must always do what’s right. “If it feels wrong,” she says, “don’t do it.” I can’t tell if she’s trying to keep him from turning into his father, or accepting the fact that he’s just like his dad and encouraging him to embrace it.

Maggie cuts Lori open and delivers the baby. Lori dies. Carl decides that he is going to be the one to prevent Lori from coming back as a walker. “This is for all of the times you wouldn’t let me go off with Shane and play with guns!” he yells. Just kidding. Poor Carl, though. This kid’s really growing up even more than before. I really hope Chandler Riggs can sell the emotional drama in the weeks to come. We only hear the single gunshot as Maggie holds the new, and newly motherless child.

Having said so much about T-Dog, I should probably say a bit about Lori as well. I didn’t have as much trouble with her character. Yes, she did take that stupid car trip last season, and yes, she was constantly forgetting to watch after he son and then yelling at him for getting into trouble. Still, she did have some real complexity with the Rick-Lori-Shane love triangle as well as the whole baby issue. Plus, she was really the only person that Rick could talk to about anything he was feeling inside. He didn’t have to hide from his wife like he had to hide from the gang. I think I’ll miss Lori most because of that. She was a strong woman behind a strong man. I wonder what her death will mean for Rick going forward. He seemed to be pretty removed already, and set in his course, but the look he shared with Lori at the beginning of the episode said otherwise. Unfortunately, that was the last time he saw his wife alive.

Everyone from the prison meets up and the end of the episode. Well, everyone but T-Dog and Lori of course. Rick sees Maggie come out with his children (plural) and Andrew Lincoln goes into emotional roller-coaster mode. He’s overwhelmed. There’s some excitement about his new child, which gives way to confusion about where Lori is, which turns into understanding as he looks at the blood on his son’s hands. Good Lord, can you imagine what this guy is feeling?!  What kind of relationship will he ever be able to have with his new child, let alone the other child he already has? That’s not even considering the morality of the decision to bring a child into the world of this show. Lincoln sells it all really well. He’s the brightest spot on the show so far this season. I constantly forget that he’s British (very British, his real last name is Clutterbuck–also, Ian Anderson is his father-in-law).

So where does that leave things? Hard to say. I don’t know why the gang would leave the prison, unless Andrew has done some other kind of damage that would prevent them from staying. Despite Herschel’s sprightliness, he’s probably in no shape to move much. Oh, they also have a newborn without a mother. Of course, the addition of the baby, along with Axel and Oscar puts the Grimes gang at plus-one for the episode, which is pretty good for this show. I bet they stay put until the inevitable showdown with the Gov. I do like the two location dynamic I mentioned in the episode 3 post. There are new people and things to be explored in Woodbury and new drama to be mined at the prison.

There’s also the greater question about killing off main characters. T-Dog was basically peripheral, but counting him, we’ve lost four main characters in the past 7 episodes (Dale, Shane, T-Dog, Lori), plus some recurring folks at the farm, the farm itself, and Herschel’s leg. I think the show still has enough core people that we care about to keep things going, but I also think they need to be careful. Maggie and Herschel have certainly grown on me since their introduction last season. Perhaps Axel, Oscar and Michonne will prove themselves worth caring about too. And who knows, the Gov might not be all bad.

Next week on The Walking Dead: Whoops, Maggie’s pregnant!

The Walking Dead: Season 3, Episode 3 – “Walk with Me”

I’m playing catch-up with The Walking Dead because I’ve just been a bit busier than usual, so apologies if this post (and perhaps the next post) is shorter and less focused than you’d like. Yes, I’ll make the assumption that some people actually read this and enjoy what I have to say, if not care about it.

So, episode 3. It’s all about the Governor, baby. I suppose you could say it’s all about Andrea and Michonne as well, since we don’t spend any time with our usual gang at the prison. The episode opens with a military helicopter going down and Andrea and Michonne (and Michonne’s pet walkers) going to investigate. When they arrive on the scene, Michonne finds a dead crew member or two. It also appears that another one of the crew has split.

“Hey man, you wanna go halfsies on whatever I find in this chopper?”

She can’t look around further because some guys in trucks show up. They kill the bisected soldier who has turned (though not technically into a walker, I suppose) and they rescue the pilot who is still alive. Our ladies are almost found out when Michonne’s pet zombies start making noise, but she decapitates them to keep them quiet. Unfortunately, none other than Merle Dixon shows up, complete with new-and-improved battle hand. Merle takes the ladies as “prisoners.” I think it’s too bad they didn’t make Merle’s return a surprise. Sure, we were all expecting him back at some point, but they shouldn’t have showed him in the “previously on…” segment or put his name in the opening credits. I’m guessing SAG rules or something required Michael Rooker to be listed in there, so, no surprise.

Buster Bluth let me borrow his combat hand (Army had a half-day)

Another new name in the opening credits is David Morrissey. Morrissey plays The Governor, the apparent ruler of the gated community of Woodbury, where he and Merle have taken Andrea and Michonne. It’s a nice little walled off neighborhood with 73 (soon to be 74!) residents and bunch of extra guns and ammunition. Andrea and Michonne are not technically prisoners in Woodbury, they can leave at any time. However, if they choose to stay, in a place with food, water, showers and a Caribou Coffee, they can’t have their weapons. I got a definite Stepford vibe upon first seeing Woodbury, and while that may not be entirely accurate, there are definitely darker things going on here, as this episode reveals.

After Merle removes his battle hand and shows off his stump (a touch I quite enjoyed because it’s pretty much impossible for a TV show to have a character lose a hand and keep it from looking like the actor is tucking his arm into his sleeve or the actor is hiding his hand inside its extra-long prosthetic), we actually get to meet The Gov. There’s no way we’re actually supposed to trust this guy, but he’s not a huge jerk right away, which is nice. He even keeps Merle in line and has a nice sit-down breakfast with the ladies where he talks about his grand plan to bring civilization back.

But, of course, there’s a dark side to the Gov. He has a secret lab complete with a mad scientist who examines Michonne’s pets and finds that when deprived of arms and lower jaws, walkers are quite docile. The Gov also believes that walkers still have a trace of the person they once were inside of them, which raises the question about Michonne’s pets, Perhaps they knew her, which is why they kind of obey her. Maybe they were family members or ex-boyfriends. The Gov also has a model of Woodbury in the lab, but for what purpose remains to be seen.

“Please excuse the crudity of this model as I didn’t have time to build it to scale or paint it.”

Perhaps the worst thing the Gov does involves the rescued helicopter pilot. The Gov visits him in his “hospital” room and questions him about the accident. The pilot, who kind of looks like a chubby, young William Shatner, reveals that there are more military men out there. The Gov promises that he’ll bring them into Woodbury.

There was…something…on the wing

However, the Gov’s idea of bringing them in is a bit different than most people. He arrives at the military camp alone, waving a white flag, but then, after a short exchange he and his hidden squad of goons murder every last one of the soldiers. He steals all of their stuff and drives their vehicles back to camp. Then, standing atop one of the new trucks, he addresses the townsfolk of Woodbury, lying to them about the soldiers.

Mankind. That word should have new meaning for all of us today.”

After his speech, the Gov talks to Andrea. She asks him what his real name is, but he refuses to answer. “Never say never,” she somewhat laughingly tells him. “Never,” he quite seriously responds. Still, it seems that Andrea is starting to drink the Woodbury Kool-Aid. I think she may also be headed for a falling-out with Michonne. As for the Governor, he goes home and unlocks a room with a special key he has around his neck. Is it going to be a zombie sex dungeon? Will he reveal that he’s actually been bitten a bunch of times and is immune somehow? Nope (at least not yet). He sits down in his easy chair and basks in the glow of his collection of severed heads, staring back at him from several aquariums on his wall. He’s got Michonne’s pets in there, and, alone at the top of his creepy pyramid, is the head of the helicopter pilot.

They don’t say much, but they sure are purty to look at

This episode had a very different feel than either of the last two. I can’t say that I was particularly excited to be following Andrea and Michonne, despite the mystery surrounding the latter. I do hope we get to learn more about her as the season progresses, however, I get the feeling that even Andrea doesn’t know much about her mysterious rescuer. Working in this episode’s favor is the strong introduction of the Governor and the community of Woodbury. Morrissey is a good addition to the cast as a potential Big Bad for the season (or longer) and Woodbury gives us a brand new setting that could potentially work as a nice counterpoint to the prison. No longer is the entire gang stuck in one location like last season on the farm. Now we get a couple of different places between which to move back-and-forth. The only thing that holds the episode back is the shortage of characters we know and care about. Yes, we have Andrea, plus we’ve already met Merle and Michonne, but I don’t care about any of them on the level of a Rick, Daryl, Glenn & Maggie, or even Lori and Carl. It is really nice to meet new people and see new places, though, and the Gov really has me intrigued. Also, the Prison and Woodbury stories have to come together eventually. The Governor has too much space left in his aquarium room for that not to happen, right?

Next week on The Walking Dead: Woodbury High holds a bake sale for their marching band

The Walking Dead: Season 3, Episode 2 – “Sick”

I felt pretty good about last week’s post on the premiere episode of season 3 of The Walking Dead, so I decided I’d try another one to see if it would take. Here goes.

Just to get this out of the way, this episode does not feature Andrea or Michonne, so it has about 3 fewer minutes of those two characters than last week’s episode. Also, for as lukewarm as I was on certain parts of last week’s premiere, I really enjoyed this episode. There were some odd moments of head scratching, but after my initial viewing, I felt like this was actually one of the series’ best hours. Hopefully it’s a good sign of the wonderful, dark things to come.

When we last left the gang, Herschel was minus a leg below the knee and a group of prisoners had appeared. No time has passed since then and really, not much happens beyond the gang loading up Herschel and running straight back to the “safe” cell block. Oh, a riot zombie returns, but T-Dog passes the test this time, remembering that a knife (or fireplace poker, or whatever) can’t penetrate a helmet. The crew gets back to the cell block, but the prisoners follow. Rick takes them all out in the yard to chat things over.

Chillin’ out, maxin’, relaxin’ all cool and all shootin’ some b-ball outside of the school…

It turns out, the gang released these guys when they broke into the cafeteria. Apparently they had no idea that the zombie apocalypse was upon them, or at least, they didn’t know the extent of it. Now that they’ve been freed, they want their cell block back from Rick and the gang. Rick cuts them a deal: he, T-Dog and Daryl will help them clear a new cell block in return for half of the food in the cafeteria. When Rick mentions that they must have a bunch of food for five men to survive for ten months, the greasy, long-haired leader (apparently his name is Tomas) of the group gives a shifty look. At first I thought that these guys were eating other prisoners, but later we see that they do have a bunch of food, so there’s something else going on. The prisoners take the deal.

“Actually, we’re getting our food fr–, I mean, yeah, we’ve only got a little bit of food left. I’m not trying to hide anything. Or maybe the writers just don’t know what they’re doing. Or maybe I’m a bad actor. What’s the over/under on minutes til I die?”

Back in the cell block, everyone is concerned about Herschel. How will he keep up with all of the running the gang usually does? Who will deliver Lori’s baby? Will he look good in cutoffs? Someone mentions the need to find the infirmary, not realizing they should just ask Lori because she knows all about prison medical care. Rick pulls Glenn aside and tells him that he (Glenn) needs to be there if Herschel dies. I must admit, I didn’t get it at first, thinking that Glenn just needed to be there for Maggie’s sake. Actually, it’s a really nice little moment of Rick telling Glenn that he needs to blow away Maggie’s dad should he zombify. After all, a Herschel Walker is notoriously hard to tackle (there it is). Glenn later handcuffs Herschel to the bed as a precaution.

Lori and Rick share a couple of nice moments in this episode. Lori pulls Rick aside to talk to him about them and about what he plans to do with the five prisoners they’ve set free. She brings up their relationship problems, noting that she’s not going win any mother of the year awards. At this point, I’m sure the majority of long-time Walking Dead viewers loudly vocalized their agreement. The first step is admitting that you have a problem, Lori. When she asks about the prisoners, Rick basically says that they’ll probably have to kill them. Lori backs him up, saying that she knows he has no malice in him and that he’s not a killer, therefore, he should feel free to kill anyone he wants without feeling guilty. Yikes.

In a really nice scene that doesn’t feel as forced as the song in the last episode, Maggie takes a moment to talk to her unconscious father. She tells him that if he needs to let go, he should. She just wants him to be at peace. Shortly after, Carl shows up with a bag of supplies from the infirmary. What an episode for great revelations! Carl finally does something that is not only helpful and logical, but it also isn’t entirely stupid. Of course, Lori immediately goes off on him, yelling at him as she usually does instead of praising his self-motivation.

Then something weird happens. Carol takes Glenn away from Herschel’s bedside and out into the yard. Suddenly she has decided that it’s time for her to practice her medical skills since it will likely fall to her to deliver Lori’s baby. She wants to try to perform a Cesarean section on a dead (re-dead?) female walker. Glenn doesn’t ask the obvious question, why are we doing this now when we’ve got a man dying/zombifying inside the prison? Instead, he helps her retrieve a cadaver. It all seems a little nonsensical, but then again, it’s Carol, and I should probably know better. I guess this is just setup so we can get a POV shot of someone (something?) watching Carol from the woods outside of the prison.

And here we have the last living example of the Carolus Nonsensicalus.

Back to the newly expanded cell-block-clearing party. Rick takes a moment to explain to the prisoners how important it is that they attack only the head when fighting walkers. Apparently seeing no reason to trust that Rick knows what he’s talking about, the prisoners proceed to charge into the first wave of walkers, stabbing, punching and kicking them everywhere but their heads. Rick, Daryl and T-Dog look on in disbelief. The prisoners finally get the hang of it and the walkers start falling. My favorite zombie moment occurs when a handcuffed zombie decides it’s time to break loose, ripping the handcuff off of one hand and taking all of his fingers along with it. Fun stuff. The guy I hoped was Tone Lōc in last week’s episode (his name is actually Big Tiny), gets scratched by a walker. As everyone debates on whether to quarantine him, Tomas smashes his head in. So much for Tone Lōc.

My best effort to capture the zombie ripping his own hand off. Don’t worry, there’s better gore below.

Rick is a bit wary of Tomas now and Daryl tells Rick “just give me a signal” if Rick wants him to put Tomas down. Another wave of walkers is unleashed and Tomas decides to throw one right at Rick. Daryl comes to the rescue and after the mayhem dies down, Rick decides that the best way to deal with Tomas is to plant a machete between his eyes. It’s a wonderfully dark surprise and reminds me of the time Michael Raymond-James took a detour from hanging out with Donal Logue in Ocean Beach to antagonize Rick in a bar in season 2. It didn’t end well for him either. Apparently there was a plan to kill Rick. Axel, one of the three remaining prisoners claims that he had nothing to do with it. Oscar, another prisoner tells him to “stop talking.” That makes me think there’s something more going on that we’re not aware of. The third prisoner, Andrew, takes off running and Rick chases him down. Andrew finds himself in a courtyard full of walkers and Rick locks Andrew outside, leaving him to make new friends. Stone cold, man.

Danny Trejo would be proud

Rick and the boys release Axel and Oscar into a new cell block that appears to be populated only by handcuffed corpses who were executed on the floor outside their cells. We never see them close enough to figure out if they were walkers when they were shot. We get another great-looking shot of the new cell block. I’m continuing to enjoy the camerawork on these master shots, both interior and exterior.

We get a short scene of Herschel dying with Maggie by his side. She starts yelling for help and, presumably because Glenn and Carol are still on their nonsensical cadaver hunt, Lori comes in and starts doing mouth-to-soon-to-possibly-be-undead-mouth. We get a scare as Herschel reaches his arm around Lori. Turns out he just hasn’t had a good kiss in a while and he was just trying to put the moves on Lori à la Squints. He slides back into unconsciousness until Rick arrives, then he wakes up and reaches out for Rick. Rick takes Herschel’s hand and gives him a look as if to say: “I know a man with a wooden leg named Smith.” Clearly, everything is going to be okay…

I still have dibs on his suspenders

…except if you’re Rick and Lori. They meet on a catwalk to talk. Rick tells Lori that she saved Herschel’s life by giving him mouth-to-mouth. Lori tells Rick that he saved Herschel by cutting his future shoe expenses in half. She then says “I thought maybe you were coming out here to talk about us. Maybe there’s nothing to talk about anymore.” Rick replies by awkwardly putting a hand on her shoulder and telling her “we’re awful grateful for what you did.” Then he leaves. For better or worse indeed! The best part about this scene is that Rick never once looks at his wife. Maybe he won’t, or maybe he can’t. Whatever it is, it’s a really nice touch and a depressing way to end a pretty dark episode of the show.

Next week on The Walking Dead: Carl makes friends with Herschel’s severed leg.

The Walking Dead: Season 3, Episode 1 – “Seed”

The Walking Dead is back! Now whether that’s a good or bad thing is, of course, up to the viewer. I’m inclined to think it’s a decent thing, but I also don’t think it’s as amazing as the shows ratings would have you believe. I’m going to nitpick the first episode of the third season here. Obviously, I have no authority to pick any nits, but I feel like I’ve earned it a little bit since I’ve watched the show since the beginning. And hey, at least it gets me writing. The Walking Dead has aired 20 episodes to date and I think that maybe 3 of those episodes are high quality television. The rest are all over the map, but I’d say the show on the whole is slightly above average. I won’t compare it to other AMC shows, because that just seems unfair. On to the episode.

Some time has passed since the end of season 2. Herschel’s sporting a beard that is well on it’s way to “mountain man” status. Carl’s hair has grown longer and he’s looking a bit older. Beth (is that her name), in contrast, seems a little bit younger, no doubt so the writers could provide us with the Carl/Beth romance (I hesitate to say “sexual tension”) that nobody was asking for. Also, Lori is way more pregnant. So pregnant, in fact, that she has difficulty keeping her fake belly from sliding around like a detached kneecap. Oh, we also get a brand new credit sequence, which is nice.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t the prison just on the horizon at the end of season two? Has our merry band really been “going in circles” all winter without ever stumbling up on the prison? It seems unlikely, but maybe I’m misremembering. Anyway, they find the prison and an odd walker-slaying-fest ensues. Here’s my first big nitpick. I’m not a gun expert by any stretch, but the effects used for muzzle flashes and gunshots look just terrible. Of course, maybe they’re more realistic and I’m just used to the more dazzling weapon effects that have become my standard based on a steady diet of film and television. I’m guessing it’s some kind of budget issue, where they couldn’t afford to spring for guns that actually moved, fired blanks and ejected shell casings. Also, they probably didn’t want to pay a gun safety supervisor to be on set or train everyone, or something. I don’t remember the gun effects being this bad in previous seasons, but maybe they were. Whatever the reason, the muzzle flashes look like someone just used the “spray paint” mode in MS Paint to give a little flash of yellow over the end of the barrels.

Note: Upon re-watching, some of the guns appear to move and drop shells, others don’t. Rick’s rifle has absolutely no kick, which seems odd, but again, I’m no expert.

It’s kind of fun to watch the actors try to sell that their firing real, moving weapons, especially when what’s her name (Carol, the woman with the short hair who has done nothing but lose her daughter so far in the series) is complaining about her shoulder hurting because the kickback of the rifle. Also, was it just me, or was Rick’s pistol equipped with a homemade silencer fashioned out of a flashlight? I guess they didn’t want to worry about adding a couple of extra muzzle flashes when he is picking off zombies.

There it is.

Before they enter the prison, the merry band spends a night in the prison yard they’ve conquered and Beth and Maggie sing “The Parting Glass” in a scene that’s supposed to be touching and poignant, showing us a bit of humanity left in this awful world. Unfortunately, while the scene kind of works, it plays more like the writers saying “Hey! Here’s a scene that’s supposed to be touching and poignant, showing you a bit of humanity left in this awful world.” The band decides to enter the prison, but from here out they conserve ammo (and muzzle flash animation), using only hand-to-bony-decaying-hand weapons.

Rick, Daryl, Glenn, Maggie and T-Dog fight their way through a bunch of walkers to get into the prison. Here’s where we get something really fun resulting in something kind of stupid. The posse is attacked mostly by prisoner zombies, but as they reach the walls of the prison, out stumble some prison guards zombies in full riot gear! It’s a great visual and really, it’s something I hadn’t considered. Now the stupid part. The posse acts as if they have no idea how riot gear works. Daryl fires a crossbow bolt straight into the protective visor of one riot zombie. It bounces off harmlessly. Others grapple with the zombies trying to stab then through the armor and face plates, to no avail. Finally, Maggie stabs a zombie to (second) death under the chin, then proceeds to act like she’s made the best discovery since the writers decided to shoot Carl in season 2.

“Guys! Guys! They have a Cheesecake Factory here!”

Everyone else catches on and begins to stab the riot zombies under their helmets and in their necks. Thank goodness someone realized that the armor was not actually their skin, but instead a protective layer that can be pushed aside in order to land a killing blow! We do get one pretty great moment when rick rips a gas mask off of one undead guard and the walker’s face proceeds to peel off along with the mask. Probably the best zombie moment of the episode.

Gently peel away for refreshing exfoliation

With all that said and done, the merry band gets into the prison and sets up camp in a walker-free cell block. Rick and Lori are clearly far from marital bliss. Carl and Beth are inching closer to marital bliss, over Herschel’s dead body (and we’ll have to wait until next week to see whether this statement if figurative or literal). Glenn and Maggie set up together in a cell. We do get one nice moment near the end of the episode where Lori talks to Herschel about the possibility that her baby, which she hasn’t felt moving recently, might already be dead inside her and might try to claw its way out. It’s a legitimately scary prospect and I’m actually interested to find out exactly what happens with Lori and the baby. Sarah Wayne Callies sells the scene pretty well.

Another great thing about the episode is how the some of the prison interiors are framed. Most of the master shots to open and close scenes are just gorgeous. I think the camerawork is one of the show’s strengths. I wonder how much if it has to do with the show working off of the graphic novel, or at least the producers considering the graphic novel roots of the series. Whatever it is, the prison has a really great atmosphere.

Before dealing with the “shocker” ending, I feel I should mention Andrea and Michonne (who has yet to be named, as far as I could tell). Apparently Andrea is sick and Michonne is taking care of her, hunting down Aspirin and decapitating walkers. Andrea convinces Michonne that it’s time to leave their hideout, so they do. And that’s really all we get. It seems strange just go give Andrea the flu for no reason, so I’ve got to assume something will come of her illness. Maybe Laurie Holden wants to quit the show? However it turns out, they don’t do a great job of setting this pair up for us. Maybe they want to maintain the mystery.

Now for the shocker. Everyone but Carl, Beth and Lori go exploring in the prison. A bunch of inmate walkers attack and Herschel gets an ankle bite! Oh no, who is going to deliver the zombaby? The gang drags Herschel to “safety” and Rick proceeds to amputate Herschel’s leg with a tiny hatchet. There’s no “tell us how to fix you, Herschel” moment, Rick just starts hacking away and it’s pretty gruesome, especially considering the lack of anesthetic. I’m dubious as to weather the amputation will work to stop zombification. My guess is I’ll finally have a chance to use the “Herschel Walker” jokes I’ve been saving up since season 2. During the amputation, another group of inmates appears in a window in the room. Notice I didn’t say inmate “walkers,” as these guys are living, breathing human beings. Yay?

Please tell me that guy on the left is Tone Lōc

Next week on The Walking Dead: Don’t drop the soap.