The Walking Dead Season 4 – Episode 7 – “Dead Weight”

walkingdeads4e7Warning: full spoilers for the episode follow

This season has had a fairly defined message that seems to plague each of the characters: how far are you willing to go – and at what cost? The Governor found himself in a position where he had pushed this notion to the limit, killing many of his own people in cold blood. “Live Bait” seemed to bring The Governor back from the brink, giving him purpose and family. But it seems that the past can’t be righted – or forgotten – as we find ourselves with a man not just where he began , but more focused and meaner.

This failed retribution story is a fascinating one, and one I wasn’t sure was going to play out. Sure we got the eye-patch reveal a few episodes back, but that could have just as easily proved to be a red herring. The Governor seems to have found his drive again – first it was revenge for his daughter and now it seems to be the protection of his new family that has forced him back into the brink. It’s an interesting theme, and one that tries to force the sympathetic villain hand, but two episodes were definitely not enough time to flesh this out. Despite the obvious time skips – and, yes, to point out this definitely would prove to be enough in universe time to have this family bring “Brian” in- it hasn’t given us enough time to care about these people at all.  Not enough show, and too much tell.

That’s not to say the little moments in this episode don’t work. Brian’s initial resistance to leadership was also a great moment, particularly when he dragged Martinez kicking and screaming into the pit, yelling about how didn’t want it. Combine that with when he tried to get away from becoming leader, and was only held back, and it paints an interesting picture. The Governor knows he is somewhat deranged, and despite his best attempts to run away from this, he can’t. So the only way he knows his family is safe is when he is in charge.

Taking charge is what this man does best, and when he realises that the only way he can do so is to remove the weak pieces from the board, you see some key moments. Picking off the old leadership is smart – it’s just a shame it wasn’t handled by the writers with the same equal planning. As the old leadership is picked off one by one, there is no conceivable way that  these killings would take place so that no one would notice, or that no one would question these newcomers, especially Mitch (played by early season Fringe star Kirk Acevedo, who should prove to be a good addition) who should be more upset at his brother’s death at the Governor’s hands.

In the end it seems that this was really the only logical conclusion to this two episode story arc. The writers should be commended for attempting a breakdown of a character who really hasn’t been given anything besides being a one-note villain. It’s just a shame it wasn’t given more time.

But hey, at least next week we get to see that tank in action right?

A couple of observations

  • Tank! I really hope they don’t squander it.
  • Pete (Enver Gjokaj) was really great this episode, and that actor isn’t given nearly enough time. I would have liked to have seen more of him.
  • So Tara is probably the first homosexual character on the show? I can’t recall any other.


The Walking Dead Season 4 – Episode 6 – “Live Bait”

The Walking Dead _ Season 4, Episode 6 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMCWarning: full spoilers for the episode follow

Let me preface this review by saying I think David Morissey is a fantastic actor. I love every scene he is in, and even when the writers painted him into the one-note villain he had become, I still enjoyed seeing Morissey handle the reins. He gives the show one hundred percent, and is clearly loving it, so anything I have to say about The Governor (or Brian now I guess) is purely down to the writers. Because this episode has pushed the character in a direction I didn’t think he could be taken, and because it does so in little over 42 minutes, it will have to be judged once this particular arc is over, making this a particularly hard episode to review.

When we saw The Governor last, he had killed a lot of innocent people just because they pissed him off. In most shows, this would be the point of no return, as the my-way-or-your-dead approach is a fairly reprehensible act. But the writers here have been keen on asking the “how far can you go before you lose your humanity” question for a while now, so the attempt at humanising the character once again makes sense in that regard.

That’s not to say that it is necessarily the right choice to make, but it remains to be seen whether it will pay off in the end. Too much happens in this episode to allow the viewer to accept that this a changed man – but maybe that’s the point. Maybe The Governor has gone too far that he cannot truly return to being a person who represents any form of humanity, that this brief moment of affection for a family is going to end as quickly as it started. A show usually would subtly push this character change over many seasons. Lost’s Benjamin Linus (handled by the brilliant Micheal Emerson) comes to mind, but The Walking Dead has never been particularly subtle.

As mentioned before, David Morrisey is a great actor. He handles the brooding, self punishing character well, jumping from anger as he burns down Woodbury, to an almost dead man walking before he meets with the Chalmers family. It invites a certain calibre of actor to pull off the man who is both self-flagellating and trying to move on, and his scene with Meghan explaining what had happened with Penny  was fantastic. At one point I could not tell whether “Brian” was laughing or crying, and to this point I’m still not sure. It’s subtle, yet effective

The Governor’s new family were serviceable in the end. Tara’s fake bravado came off as a bit much for the actress to convey, but she calmed down towards the end of the episode, and Lily seemed to really only be there for The Governor to shack up with. Meghan was really the obvious tie to The Governor’s humanity, and while the actress had a hard time sometimes, her look was just close enough to Penny to be an overt reference to his humanity.

On the zombie front, the retirement home scene was fun and tense, and reminds me of the similar location back in the first season, and the amputee zombie in the bathtub was heartbreaking, but the herd scene at the end was my favorite zombie kill this season. Pulling the head back of the zombie was brutal and vicious, and highlighted how much The Governor cared/cares for Penny/Meghan. That’s probably no easy task to accomplish, and was excellently handled on the special effects front.

One thing that really stood out this episode was the direction. There was a lot of dream-like shots that lent themselves well to the idea that this family life may very well be only a fantasy that The Governor is living right now. The sound design in the final pit scene was great, as the sound of assault rifle fire was there but it took a while to notice them.

Any judgement of where The Governor is going will have to wait. While this episode does push the boundaries of where the writers can take this character while still making sense, it remains to be seen if it pays off. There is still at least one more episode of this standalone arc, so it will be very interesting to see how we get to the point we see him outside the prison. Lets just hope they can handle it right.

A couple of observations

  • Possibly current day The Governor is more “Brian” than evil? Could be an interesting direction to take him in.
  • The cut from killing the father with the oxygen tank to burying him was great and simple piece of editing, that was enough to convey that the zombie he was killing was a man he had respected. Another example of the solid direction this episode.
  • Still going to be another week until Daryl’s reaction to Carol’s departure, folks.
  • My girlfriend, who is a make-up artist, informed me constantly about how badly done crazy-Governor’s wig was done. I just thought he looked like a discount Kurt Russell

The Walking Dead Season 4 – Episode 5 – “Internment”

walkingdeadWarning: full spoilers for the episode follow

I always took Rick as the foil to Carol’s less empathetic form of leadership. It made logical sense, as she was the only other person who produced any discernible leadership qualities to date. However, after the events of “Internment” I’ve finally realized that it is in fact Hershel – who is the yin to Carol’s yang – a leader who focuses on hope and individuality, rather than the good of many.

It also helps he’s pretty badass too.

“Internment” is indeed Hershel’s show, and he holds his own very well. His insistence at keeping up morale (his “sad soul kills faster than any germ” line was a standout moment) even when everything looks at its worst is an incredibly noble moment. Living at the end of the world must be an incredibly heavy burden to bear, and less reminders of what is actually happening can serve to help rather than hinder. It is in direct contradiction to how the lack of security failed the survivors early on in the season, but it does appear that the writers are siding with Hershel this time around, in the mere fact that his deeds were rewarded with not everybody dying.

That’s not to say that he hasn’t come out unscathed – this is a man who once believed that the zombies could be saved of course, so his hesitance when forced to kill one of his patients felt natural. Also equally powerful was his speech to Rick about God’s plan, even when confronted by Caleb’s reminder that he can’t save them all, he feels this is all still a test of faith. Scott Wilson handles this all fantastically, his confident and kind manner undercut by a subtle sadness at how much work he still has to do.

Action was surprisingly prevalent for an episode based around Hershel, as we were treated to two large climactic set pieces. Rick and Carl’s fight was fairly par for the course as far as zombie mow downs go, but Hershel’s escalating action with only a handful of zombies was fantastic. Tension kept on mounting, as disaster after disaster compounded into a frantic attempt at saving anyone they could. This is punctuated by the final scene of Hershel breaking down in his own cell, acting like a father who has been strong for the people he loves, and when he is finally alone gives himself time to mourn. It was all a fantastic scenario and highlighted how, as Daryl put it, Hershel is one “tough sumbitch”.

Rick’s story was much more subdued this week, if you can call putting down a herd of zombies with automatic weapons subdued. It’s a culmination of Carol’s insistence that Rick can’t just forget the end of the world is happening, as he slowly is beginning to fall back into a position of power. As he calls his son to help kill the horde, there’s the realisation that he can’t protect his son from violence like a normal civilized society can. What he can do is remind him of those values, and the shot of the peapod juxtaposed with his pistol is a realisation of that line of thought.

One last thing that I usually leave relegated to the observations at the end of the review, is the moments where the audience is forced to suspend their disbelief, and this happens fairly regularly. It has become a bit of a joke how many dumb decisions these survivors have made. Simple things like the sick only being locked in their cell much later than they should have been, or the lack of more protection from the horde beyond a fairly poor fence line are all things that are set up to manufacture these climatic events. There isn’t any inherent problems with the events themselves – they are often exciting and well produced – it’s the journey to get there that needs to be addressed. A show shouldn’t have to force the viewer to sit down and rationalise the steps these people take, and that has been tiresome for quite some time.

Despite this problem, “Interment” really highlighted how society hasn’t failed yet, and that good things can still happen to very good people. It did border on very grim at some points, but in the end it does still leave hope for these people at the prison.

Some observations:

  • Despite being certain Glen wasn’t going to die this episode, his almost dying was still fairly emotional and I’m glad he is on the mend
  • Speaking of dying, I’m going to make a prediction here so I’m going to slap on a minor spoiler warning. I have watched enough television to know that once a character realises their purpose or fulfills that purpose, is usually when they depart the show. Hershel has had his biggest characterisation yet, and I have a feeling the next time we have an episode focused on the man is when we will lose him.
  • The Governor is back! While his reveal was cool, it will be interesting to see how they pull him out of his villain mould, or whether they will at all
  • The whole “leave me and my son alone” schtick wasn’t suspicious at all Papa Redshirt. Not at all.

The Walking Dead Season 4 – Episode 4 – “Indifference”

twd-s4e4Warning: full spoilers for the episode follow

The Walking Dead has always been a show about the human aspect of the apocalypse. While it may have stumbled quite a lot in this area during its run, it has always been a soap-opera set in the zombie apocalypse – and that is a good thing. Rather than following George Romero, and turning the undead  into a political statement, Robert Kirkman and team have always focused on how people react when faced with the end of the world. “Indifference” embraces this  as it continues to explore of the most interesting dynamics this show has seen in a long time, and despite a less than stellar sub-plot, provides one of the slower, but probably the best episode of the season so far.

Lets get the big point out of the way – I am glad they made Carol the culprit of the Dave and Karen killings and not Lizzie. It brings much more depth to her character, and unless we find out later on that Carol was covering for her, provides a much more plausible scenario. That’s not to say that their conversation at the beginning of the episode wasn’t any less dubious – Lizzie’s mental state is obviously deteriorating, and an inability to understand that the walkers are in fact dead is troubling. Now that Carol’s out of the picture, it’s not looking good for anyone who is going to be shacked up with her.

Yes, I do believe this is goodbye for Carol, which is a shame. Her character has been one of the strongest on the show for quite some time now, and Melissa McBride has been carrying the bad guy torch in absence of any typical villain figure within the show. That’s not to say she has become a villain herself, in fact she could not be further from it. She has become the yin to Rick’s yang, becoming an embodiment of what happens when the leader drops empathy in favour of a more realist approach, as shown when she was happy to put the new kids to good use. She made a choice in killing Karen and David, and had she succeeded in her intent would we be singing her praises? Or would we have ended up in the same position we are in now?

This doesn’t mean that Rick’s decision to exile her was any more right. Both these characters acted in an ultimate form of leadership, and Rick’s choice only highlighted the hypocrisy further. Neither character consulted with the others in their incredibly major decisions – and Rick punishing Carol in this manner is hypocritical, but ultimately incredibly human. People act act on emotions rather than the facts, and although Rick may be hiding from his leadership, he still makes leadership decisions. Carol also falls victim to this, in her insistence for Lizzie to not call her “mom” only to plead with Rick to let her take them with her is contradictory but believable. This show has been trying to accomplish this a few times with both Lori and Andrea, but only now have they really succeeded.

Daryl’s expedition fared less successfully however, as it really couldn’t live up to the same standards as the other story. Tyreese began acting a little melodramatic, but in the end was willing to let the anger go – which is welcome if not a little rushed. Letting go was a key point throughout this story, as Michonne was able to realise that her hunt for the Governor wasn’t doing her any favours. Stookey’s  alcoholism was brought up again, and his standoff with Daryl was good, but the rest of this storyline just felt like it carried a lot less impact than the more major events happening to the other group.

“Indifference” was thought provoking and incredibly well written for the most part. Despite a B-story that paled in comparison to the main event, it was a fantastic episode. Saying goodbye to Carol for now will be tough, but Rick has made great strides in characterisation this season, and if this episode is any indication hopefully it won’t prove to be that major a loss.

A few observations

  • Sorry about the incredibly late review again. Life gets in the way, but I will be on a more punctual time schedule from now on.
  • “You can be a farmer, but you can’t just be a farmer” “It was a nice watch” – Carol was full of some great lines tonight
  • It’ll be sad to see Carol go, as Melissa McBride has really held her own so far this season. She’ll be back, but I hope it will be sooner rather than later.
  • I wonder how Daryl and Tyreese will take to this news…
  • Michonne smiled again!
  • Keeping the events focused on only the groups outside the prison was a smart choice, as precious screen time has been spread too thin so far this season.
  • That couple was much too friendly, and her leg was very cleanly severed. I have a feeling Rick will be seeing his watch again very soon.
  • Infected zombies are an awesome way of adding extra danger to the routine of putting them down.
  • Rick’s speech about remembering Lori was incredibly sad, and his insistence on remembering her was a great counterpoint to Carol’s. I could have written an entire essay on this episode alone

The Walking Dead Season 4 – Episode 3 – “Isolation”

walkingdead-isolationWarning: full spoilers for the episode follows

“It’s always better to be safe.”

Who would have thought the lengths to which Carol was willing to follow through with those words, especially considering the timing. What had appeared a simple lamentation of the unfolding events, only intensified as the episode went on. This Carol is completely unrecognisable from where she began, and in a smart route for the writing team, has at the very least been a part of a necessary evil, rather than actually becoming evil herself. While it feels like we’re not getting the full picture here, it does feel that it is a completely plausible direction for the character to be heading to.

“Isolation” was full of moments like this, where necessity to do what you believe is right is one of the only things people can do at this point, as the survivors in the prison find it is not all that it is cracked up to be. The group is starting to look a lot like it did at the beginning of last season, as the plague begins to whittle down the number of red shirts remaining. Logical choice would be to abandon the prison, as it can be hardly sanitary at this point, and as witnessed by the serene moment between Carl and Hershel, the outside world doesn’t seem all that bad, as a healthy colour green acted as a strong contrast to the drab palate back in the prison.

Hershel continues to be a real beacon of kindness throughout, as his scene with Maggie and Rick really drove home that there really isn’t much time left for anyone inhabiting this world, so it becomes what you do with whatever time you have left – especially when loved ones are involved. It feels like they may be building to a natural end point for this character (read: death), considering that he may not have much more growing to do in the series.

Rick and Tyreese however still have a ways to go, as both characters featured in their own kind of meltdown this week. The main difference between the two was that Rick’s actions made sense. There has been a running theme in his character throughout the series, with the seeds being placed in the very first episode – that he may not inherently be a good person. Troubles in his relationship before the outbreak, coupled with bursts of rage, over-controlling, and tendency to act violently suggests that the only thing holding him together is societal morals and the presence of others. So when Tyreese lashed out like he had, Rick’s rebuttal was understandably troubling, but made complete sense. it can be so easy for the man to become like the crazy lady in the first episode, that if something truly devastating should happen to the group, he may just end up there.

Tyreese’s anger problems felt forced however. He has known this woman for, at the very most, 30 days, and while the end of the world would have a certain bearing on one’s psyche I’m sure, for him to sit in the car at the end of the episode felt unnecessary. He had just promised his sister Sasha (for who I will be sorely upset if she dies) that he would help her get through this, so to then almost throw not only his life away and potentially the others, her only chances at survival, feels incredibly dumb. Yes, it does provide an opportunity to have a parallel for the particularly cool gym battle in the comics, but even the scene provided was a bit underwhelming. It doesn’t help that Coleman’s performance felt too one note this week, and I will definitely be looking for a less brooding Tyreese as the series moves on.

Besides the melodrama, the zombies continue to impress. It’s clear that the series budget has increased, as we were treated to not only a herd, but also more uniquely designed zombies as well. The herd provides a nice “oh shit” moment, but the real star is the moss covered zombie in the forest, who was expertly crafted, and reminded me of the human mushroom farm from the Hannibal TV series. The monsters continue to be the more consistent characters on the show, and seeing that this season so far has given us iconic versions of them, we can only wait to see how they top it next.

“Isolation” continues the upward curve of this season, and while the writers continue to struggle with charcterisation, the show has never looked better. Besides, we still need to find out who was feeding the zombies, and who the voice on the radio was, so there is plenty of mysteries to keep this show running for the foreseeable future.

Couple of observations

  • Again, I neglected to write more about Glen and Maggie this week, but they both seem to be relegated to the background – more-so than the others. But please don’t die in there Glen!
  • I also have noted that many people across the internet seem to think it was the crazy girl who killed Karen and David. Despite her overacting, her character could conceivably do something like that. Interesting to see how it plays out.
  • Why haven’t they locked everyone in their cells yet? People are dying then re-animating! It always amazes me how stupid these characters can be.
  • It wasn’t Stookey who burned the bodies like I had thought. Still don’t trust him though.
  • Someone else pointed out to me that there were no onscreen deaths this week. Beth can happily change her calendar now.


The Walking Dead Season 4 – Episode 2 – “Infected”

Careful with that, you'll have an eye out

Careful with that, you’ll have an eye out

Warning: full spoilers for the episode follow

In the world of The Walking Dead, the zombies aren’t your biggest problem – it’s empathy. Caring for others will get you hurt, will get you killed, and considering the entirety of last season was dealing with the ramifications of not caring enough, “Infected” begins to answer the question of what happens when people care too much.

“Infected” picks up right where the last episode left off, with another decent horror film-like sequence continuing the trend from last week. Zombie-Patrick is let loose upon the group, and while it does force the audience to have a certain sense of disbelief, it does highlight how much of a false sense of security the survivors have gained in their new home. The apocalypse is still happening outside, and the people inside just got reminded of that.

Rick was also forced to take a reality check this week, as he was pulled out of his farming retirement to begin making decisions again. It’s great to see Rick finally having to deal with the fact that this world is suited to how he handles things, and that Farmer Rick is merely a fantasy that he will never really be allowed to live during the zombie apocalypse. Yes, it does look like he may be walking back down the path he walked last season, with all the close ups of Rick looking suitably wild and angry as he puts down the zombie horde, but it was also nice to see the sadness in his realization that was who he needed to be, as he sacrificed his pigs for the greater good.

Carol, however, seems to be the only one in the apocalypse who actually has her head screwed on the right way. Her tough love act with the two girls is the standout moment of the episode, especially when she tells them very bluntly that they are weak. She understands through the loss of both her abusive husband and her child that empathy doesn’t work for the dead, or the dying, and the best way to deal with them is a swift death. Carol’s acceptance of the way things are is only augmented by Mellisa McBride’s delivery , as she scolds the children with the same intensity a mother would when her child runs with scissors.

But Carol’s not the only one dealing with loss. This episode also gave us the biggest hint into Michonne’s life before the infection began. I was worried that this plot line would devolve into Michonne sulking for the remainder of the episode, but her reaction to the baby crying was a welcome surprise, as it gave depth without destroying her mysterious persona. A daughter? Niece? We probably won’t find out and I hope we never will.

Outside of character moments, we once again were treated to more disgustingly amazing blood and gore. The zombie dragging its intestines around was suitably gross and it’s surprising it wasn’t done earlier. Karen, who I was certain was going to get killed in the pre-credits sequence, ended up completely immolated, which was incredibly disturbing. It’s bad enough that the survivors were split between infected and uninfected, but for one of the only people to show symptoms to be burnt alive? That does not help with the already rock bottom morale, and it is sure to create a split in future episodes. It seems directly tied to the person who was feeding the zombies rats at the beginning of the episode, and is beginning to sow the seeds of mistrust throughout the group.

In the end “Infected” continues to show the viewers what happens when the group dynamic of last season is completely reversed, and while it continues to strain on audience acceptance of how these events occur, it still manages to maintain the solid start to the season.

Couple of observations

  • Maggie and Glen have been relegated to the background for these first few episodes, but their small sub-plot is providing the much needed levity to the main events so far this season. Hopefully it gets expanded in future episodes
  • I know I said it last week, but Carl is really shaping up to become a more solid addition to the cast. Chandler Riggs has really grown into his role. His adversity to using the gun felt believable, and it genuinely felt like he was acting like Rick’s son.
  • I find it incredibly hard to believe they went thirty days without an incident, considering how bad it has been over the last two.
  • No matter how many times they show that blonde woman crying over her husband, I’m just not going to be able to care. I cared more about the death of the piggies than that woman’s plight.
  • Why aren’t there internal guards/ precautions against this kind of incident? Especially considering they took on the Governor’s people, and he’s still out there. This show strains too much on believability sometimes, and can really pull the viewer out of the experience.
  • The girl upset over the death of Nick the Zombie was creepy, if a little over-acted. Hopefully the girl’s state of mind is brought back in later episodes.
  • Biting the man’s neck so he wouldn’t scream? C’mon.

The Walking Dead Season 4 – Episode 1 – “30 Days Without Accident”

Not even the zombie apocalypse stops Workplace Health & Safety

Not even the zombie apocalypse stops Workplace Health & Safety

Warning: full spoilers for the episode follow

For the first time that I can remember, Michonne smiled. She probably has smiled before in the series – but not like this. As Daryl is being grilled by one of the red-shirts (Brad?) about his past life, surrounded by the corpses of hundreds of dead, hunting for supplies, Michonne allows herself a laugh and a smile, which sets the tone for “30 Days Without Accident”. Yes it’s the end of the world, but not everything is all that bad. Until it is.

Lets get to the biggest plot point, which is the inclusion of the “big bad” that the producers had been teasing. A deadly disease has come to the prison, and as one would expect, probably will be around for a while. Patrick, one of the many red-shirts the Woodbury citizens will provide, falls ill, gets a fever, and promptly dies within the course of a single day. It is a bit far fetched that this would (a) not be noticed, and (b) be able to kill him as quickly as it has, so it does ask for a certain sense of disbelief. What is interesting about this whole ordeal is how the episode provides multiple “Patient Zero” for audiences to question: was it the sick pigs? The fact the children hung out with Nick the zombie all day? Or was it because of the wonderfully meta moment where Patrick has a fanboy geek-out over Daryl? Providing multiple explanations only helps to deepen mistrust within the prison ranks, and could potentially lead to a great The Thing--like standoff.

The episode otherwise splits neatly into two separate story threads. Daryl and the gang’s expedition to the supermarket was definitely the highlight of the episode, as we were treated to a particularly awesome sequence with zombies crashing from the ceiling, providing a definite horror movie moment. It also gave us another of the more memorable zombies in a long time, as one of the poor things was hung from the ceiling by its guts. As mentioned before, the scene where the gang were guessing Daryl’s previous occupation was a nice touch, and will do well for building up to the moments where things aren’t going quite to plan.

The other story, Rick’s encounter with the crazy lady, felt a bit too familiar. While it’s always nice to catch up with the world outside the prison, it felt too reminiscent of his excellent re-encounter with Morgan last season. Coming across a character who reminds Rick of what he could become is a bit stale right now, especially considering this is a woman who we have zero investment in, and really only serves to highlight the three questions that Rick asks new survivors.

“30 Days Without Accident” sets up the season well. While times have been okay for a month now, it wouldn’t be The Walking Dead if everything didn’t go wrong all at once. Now all we need is a hint at what the Governor is up to. Then everyone would be in trouble.

Couple of observations

  • Carol has enjoyed an excellent arc throughout the series, and the tough mum act really suits her well. I hope they expand on this in further episodes.
  • Speaking on Carol – are her and Daryl a thing now? I really hope not, as I have always read their relationship more as a familial one.
  • This episode also has the introduction of Bob Stookey, who people will remember from the comics. His battle with the alcohol was a nice touch, considering it was the choice not to fall back into that hole which almost got him killed.
  • Fans of the comics will know to keep an eye on Stookey. Fans of the show should do so too.
  • Carl is definitely much better than where he was in season two. It’s interesting to see how these events are really messing with his childhood.
  • The council eh? I wonder of Rick’s a part of it, or whether he wants to sit out considering the Ricktatorship.
  • Finally, sorry about the late review. This week got busy outside of the site, and I plan on being more prompt with the reviews in the future. Look for episode two’s review real soon

The Walking Dead – What I Think So Far

michonne-walking deadWarning: Spoilers for The Walking Dead TV series, as well as minor spoilers for the comic series follow

Starting this week, The Comics Herald will be reviewing the new episodes of The Walking Dead television series. Being a fan of the series, throughout its iterations in comics, games and of course the television show, I thought it be best to bring readers up to speed with my thoughts on AMC’s zombie hit before I began reviewing the latest season. This will include spoilers of course, as will all my reviews for the series, so you have been warned. Twice.

What I Like:

The Zombies

Yes. It’s a show about zombies. On cable television. I continue to be amazed that this show even exists, and pulls massive numbers in the ratings, prompting it to have the largest cable audience ever. But I digress.

The creative team really have come into their own in the overall aesthetic of the show. The zombies have their own look, which is masterfully created through continually impressive prosthetic make-up, and there always manages to be a few standout individual zombies that really set the tone. From the little girl and the bicycle girl in the premiere, to the creepy Governors Daughter, the show has continued to outdo itself in creative ways to show the living dead. Spattered with a healthy dose of blood and gore of course.

It takes liberties with the comics

This is a major problem I have with other shows that decide to stick closely to the source material. Game Of Thrones did not hold my interest for purely because people who were watching it with me knew exactly what was going to happen and when. It takes the fun out of watching a show week-by-week when there are people who will know how it is going to end. The Walking Dead overcomes this problem by using the source as a basis, rather than a bible. It allows for expectations to be subverted – characters who were alive in the comics are dead, and vice-versa. It’s having the cake and eating it too, having the pure fan service of seeing these characters on screen, while at the same time being legitimately worried for them. It keeps it both familiar and fresh.

The Characters

In taking liberties with the source material, some of The Walking Dead’s best characters have spawned from the deviations. Norman Reedus is obviously excellent as Daryl, and this newer, more charming version of the Governor, is handled excellently by David Morrissey. Other standouts include Carol (who has enjoyed a really intriguing character arc), Hershel and of course Glen, each of which have enjoyed some of the more consistent characterizations throughout the series. As for the deceased, I was a huge fan of Shane too, especially considering he too outlived his comics counterpart. On occasion The Walking Dead gets its characters right, and when it does it’s a treat.

What I Don’t Like:

The Characters

You did notice the “on occasion” didn’t you? When The Walking Dead’s characters are firing on all cylinders, it does so excellently. When it isn’t, the engine begins to stutter and act in ways it really shouldn’t. Andrea and Lori are the main offenders here, despite the former beginning promisingly, and the latter offering a small amount of redemption in the end. I’m willing to include Dale here too, especially as towards the end he began grating on my nerves. At times it’s a small niggle, with characters making small mistakes that make me raise an eyebrow, but other times it is downright infuriating. It also doesn’t help that when a character becomes unlikeable enough (Andrea, Lori), or when the writers really don’t know what to do with them (T-Dog), they tend to be killed off. It’s the fact that there seems to be a large disconnect between these and the well written ones that often makes me scratch my head.

It often gets stuck

See the entire middle section of the second season. Too often the show finds itself spinning its wheels, as characters meander about repeating the same mistakes over and over again. This could be a problem with the genre, as consistent tension and action can be too overwhelming, but the moments where characters sit around moping about the end of the world, however realistic, get old quickly. I also imagine staying in the same place for too long perpetuates this,  which is a worry going into the fourth season when they remain at the prison. Hopefully this changes, and the writers manage to squeeze more life from their home.

What I’d Like To See

A Deeper Rick

While Rick Grimes doesn’t fall under the “bad character” category, he exactly doesn’t fit under the good one either. Rick is incredibly flat, often reacting to events around him, rather than truly taking charge. I’d like to see more of the Rick we saw at the beginning of season three, where the “Ricktatorship” took point, but eventually fell apart anyway. No matter how many times the other characters tell us how important he is, we really need to see it. Take him out of the equation for a while, and show us how important he is.

Bigger Threats

While we already know the producers have teased something big coming to the survivors, I’d like to see a better defined antagonist. The Governor is definitely set to return, but I felt the whole Woodbury army was underused, and considering how quickly the remaining members of that community defected to our heroes, I would love to see some good old fashioned deceit and sabotage from these new members.

Bigger Smiles

I know this is a show about the end of the world, but having characters regularly hitting just the one note (read: depressed) gets old quickly. Michonne is the biggest offender here, as her brooding has gotten old quickly – crack a smile, tell a joke. They may be surrounded by zombies at every turn, but for their own sanity, and ours, just act a little lighter. The more upsetting events will have more impact if the lighter moments are just that little bit lighter.

As I am writing this, the premiere has aired already, having snuck up on me without me realising, so the review will be up not long after this post has. Otherwise reviews for the episode should be up on the site the following day.


Review: Moth City Season 3 Part 1 – Tim Gibson

MC-Season-3-part-1_v1Moth City is almost completely unrecognisable from where it began. While writer/artist Tim Gibson warned us, introducing this series as a blend of film noir, horror and the Chinese manhua, but nothing could prepare fans for how much horror it would manifest. This issue twists the doomsday clock that much closer to midnight, blending pulp zombie fiction and family drama in a way that teases a tipping point so exciting, that readers sticking to the Comixology releases are going to have a hard time waiting. Moth City may be unrecognisable, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t better.

Gibson is right at home in the horror genre. His art style is suitably grimy, with his almost grind-house infused colour palate a perfect compliment to the blood and gore that features throughout. Again, he manages to impress with his panels that infuse motion, and his characters have become more detailed as the series has gone on. Gibson appears to have become more comfortable with the series as it has progressed, and this issue gives him plenty of opportunities to showcase that.

Speaking of characters, allegiances also have been drastically challenged since the series began. No longer is Governor McCaw a typical American tycoon, but has been built up as a father who ultimately cares for his daughter, and will stop at nothing to save both his island and family. Also a great touch is Jun, a man battling with the smart-zombie infection (all the hunger plus all the brains), whose own desire to protect his wife outweighs his want to eat her. It’s a nice play on the zombie tropes, and will definitely set up some cool moments before the series end.

And the end is near – only three more issues of Moth City remain, as the island hurtles to fever pitch. Just make sure you get on this series now, because it’s going to be a great ride.

Forever Evil #1 Review – Geoff Johns & David Finch

ForeverEvil_Teasers_2_NW_R1Finally, after wading through a prelude disguised as an event (known as Trinity War), we get the main course. Forever Evil promises big – the main heroes of the DC universe are missing, presumed dead, and the newly emerged Crime Syndicate have taken their place, turning Earth into a haven for villains. But (as the marketing material is keen to remind us) evil is relative, setting the stage for something truly special – villain on villain action. And I could not be more happier.

The series is told from Lex Luthor’s perspective, and while he may be the protagonist, he is definitely far from sympathetic. Geoff Johns toes the line here – making Luthor endearing without turning him into a hero is not a simple task but, again, speaking relatively, he may as well be a saint in this event, and Johns handles Luthor’s new position admirably.

The many other villains of the DCU make appearances throughout the issue, and while the Bat-family gets the most time to shine, we still manage to get time with others, foreshadowing character allegiances. Included is a twist you may recall was used in Marvel’s own event Civil War, but if done right can really mix things up for the DC universe hero community.

There’s something to be said about some good old fashioned villains being evil. Johns, at least initially, really nails the whole vibe of the Crime Syndicate – these guys are pure, kryptonite snorting evil. This is the rare case where over the top is the only thing that would work in this case, and based on the first issue alone, these guys ratchet it up to eleven. That being said, they seem to be pushed to the side this issue, not giving us a whole lot of time with this group, leaving their reasoning behind, and not addressing some of the major cliff-hangers from Trinity War that possibly should be answered, but these gripes are minor if this characterisation continues this way.

Following on from this, Finch’s design of the characters is truly memorable. Each of the Syndicate members has a Justice League parallel, giving the team a sense of familiarity, while deviating from the source enough to be suitably villainous. The standout here is Ultraman, Superman’s parallel, who Finch draws subtly enough that at first glace he looks like the Man of Steel, but upon closer inspection has just enough wrong with him to know somethings up.

Outside of the characters, this issue is filled with Finch’s usual rough art style, and it completely works. A world steeped in evil lends itself well to his art style, and he imbues an impressive amount of detail to each and every panel. This is Finch drawing at the top of his game.

Forever Evil #1 sets up something quite delicious, and while it remains to be seen whether this issue is an indication of where this series will go, right now it looks as if its heading in the right direction. We’ve been burned with events already this year, but Forever Evil may just restore these stories to their former glory.