Recap

What the Hell is Going On?

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SPOILERS AHEAD (OBVIOUSLY...)


 

The culture has passed me by:

Avengers: Infinity War” can check off yet another record: The second-highest second weekend of all time.

Disney and Marvel’s latest collaboration earned $112.5 million from 4,474 locations in its second frame. The 56% decline was just enough to top the record previously held by fellow Marvel title “Black Panther,” which made $111.6 million in its second weekend. “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” holds the prize for biggest second weekend, with a mighty $149 million in 2015. Only five films have ever hit the $100 million-mark in their second weekends.

In just North America, the superhero mashup has made $450.8 million. Among “Infinity War’s” numerous accomplishments is being the fastest film to gross $1 billion, in just 11 days. And the film has yet to open in China.

I enjoy living in the future. I don't advocate a return to the bad old days. I have a smart phone and I love it when people put out new music. But I couldn't be further out of the cultural zeitgeist if I was walking around dressed like it was the 1890s and talking through the severed end of a flugelhorn. 

What do I have here at the end of watching all 18 of these terrible, terrible Marvel movies? Nothing. I have no idea what has happened. I mean, I don't want to pull the sleeve right off your best jacket, but what the hell was all that about? Some people and some magic stones have fought each other and now the universe is in balance? There is no balance in nature. It's just wild and free and shit goes one way, then another. Is Jesus supposed to show up now? I think that was a joke in Infinity War, which I saw a day ago and can't remember anything about.

Why aren't the Jesus freaks angrier about this movie? It's supposed to be the end-all, be-all of everything and all it needed was for Southpark's version of Jesus to show up, put his hand on the shoulder of Thanos, and say, "who hurt you, my son?" That would have ended the whole movie. No need for any more Avengers because Jesus can shoot a lightning bolt through your eyes if you try to make special weapons or steal magic stones.

I'll tell you how the movie will end next year. Something, joke, something, everybody's trapped in the soul stone! fight, joke, joke, fight, and then another fight and then the little girl makes the bad guy put everything back the way it was and someone hides those magic stones and we get to do it all over again in the reboot.

The whole movie runs through the relationship between the young version of Gamora and the big bad evil daddy figure. Conquering figure adopts helpless child, wah wah, okay, what did we learn? Did we learn more about emotional manipulation and allow a figure who has killed untold trillions of children in the universe to have a soft spot for a little kiddy? Genocide never had a better premise in a film. Let's just breeze past the horror--he's got a heart of gold hidden in there, but he's been hurt and Jesus never came around to save him.

Culturally, this is all just junk. It's light, it's fluffy, people eat it up, and then it dissipates. It amuses and distracts, but it doesn't really do anything beyond that. The only thing it really accomplishes is that, for far too many underpaid Americans, a massive amount of discretionary spending has been ripped out of the middle of the economy, causing people to put off buying tangible things while edging out all of the other crap they don't need. Video game makers have tried to cash in by making Avengers games, but it's just not the same. They need a new franchise, obviously, and it's something about killing. 

Is there any point to any of the Marvel crap? It's just another version of Star Wars for people who still spend a lot of money on other stuff. Someone somewhere is busy thinking up another version of all of this, but edgier, man. Everything has to be the same but just a little darker and meaner and cooler. Dude.

Think of the art that didn't get made because all of this talent, money and energy was tied up making 18 Marvel films. There are actors and actresses here who have real talents. I'm not out of line for suggesting that there are far too few female characters and way too many men who are playing characters that are younger than they are in real life. Mark Ruffalo can actually make real movies for adults. Is this a wise use of his time? And do we need slightly less stupid Andy Dwyer from Parks and Recreation to be the guy who screws up everything? Talk about playing to a cliche. I'll bet when Paul Bettany was doing Richard III, all he could think about was putting a jewel on his forehead and floating about in a robot body while living in Scotland with his girlfriend. Really? You don't think they would have preferred Brighton? Come on. No one lives in Scotland on purpose.

You could have told it all in 3 films that cost a lot less, but no one thinks small like that anymore. It has to be massive! On a scale never before seen! Why sell them three pictures when we can pad this out and make billions off of six different trilogies! Cram it into every nook and cranny! Put it on every product known to man. Well, that's what they did, and that's what they've plopped down in front of everyone. But there are more movies on the way! Here they come! 

Do you know what still has more relevance in the culture? The Beatles, high as kites and out of it, singing Love is All You Need to a world that didn't believe it for a minute. Oh well, this is what you get when you grow old.

The Walking Dead Season Six Episode 11


Don't read this if you haven't seen the 11th Episode of Season Six titled "Knots Untie."

My recap on this is way, way late and I apologize for that. I'm impressed so far with the quality of the show and I am not going to sit and snipe away at the comic or the show--what's the point of all of that? The Walking Dead is a show that is too busy changing to care whether or not people are still mad about Andrea. This was a transitional episode that attempted to introduce a whole new world--a bigger one--while adding in some more characters. The cast of the show is now about as big as the story can handle.

This is the episode where we get to see the Hilltop community. The set they've built is stunning--what other TV show would do something like this?

Michonne appears to be the new "Andrea" and that's the main story so far--the evolution of the characters and the possibility that we will see more insight into their personal lives. Basic human needs are being met, even if there is a food shortage. The existential threat of 10,000 walkers has faded into the past. There's another herd of about 5,000 walkers out there--when will they stumble back towards the survivors? When will they appear? The conflicts that will arise between the good guys and the bad guys will inform the rest of this season and set things up for what I think will be the final season--the seventh season that will begin airing this fall. If they do an eighth season, it will probably cover material that the comic book hasn't--meaning, it will follow the example set by Game of Thrones and give people something they haven't already ingested.

This episode can be measured in melodrama. Abraham is a morose fellow, but he gets laughs with the best product placement in the show's history (do people still use Bisquick?). Glenn and Maggie are hopeful because they've just rescued the best baby doctor still alive. Jesus is going to be trusted, but only barely. Daryl does not have enough to do, as usual. Rick has ended the Ricktatorship and turned things over to Maggie. And opening up the carotid artery of your adversary rates a "what?" when done in public.

We know there's an evil mastermind called Negan out there, and we finally get an idea as to what he's about. He's explained here as an extoritionist. The Hilltop compound is a neighborhood grocery store and Negan is the mobbed up guy who comes in, beats someone to death "right off the bat," and collects his protection money. Rick and the survivors are the vigilantes who are going to take him on and put a stop to the injustice. This is the deal they make, and it's the best one out there. This means that someone in the group of survivors is going to have to be sacrificed for the food they need from the Hilltop group.

Maggie emerges as a the leader that Deanna groomed her to become. Rick knows it, and defers to her because he knows what he's good at. He's the military and Maggie is the civilian, and, in America, it works better if you have the civilians telling the armed forces what to do. She negotiates with the creepy and date-rapey Gregory, who acts like a diffident Humanities professor trying to sleep with a grad student. And Maggie, as the grad student, knows how to flip the tables and get what she wants, which is a significant amount of food and the chance to help Rick sell the plan to get rid of Negan to the survivors.

All of the foreshadowing done on behalf of Abraham--who is torn between leaving Rosita and taking up with Sasha--means that someone's heart is going to be broken. I still maintain, though, that Daryl will meet the end of Negan's bat, not Glenn. It's also possible that Abraham will step in and take Glenn's place so that someone can have some happiness. The speech between the two of them in this episode makes that scenario a little more likely.




The Walking Dead Season Six Episode 10


Don't read this until you've seen episode 10, "The Next World."

Somehow, the gang figured out how to remove several thousand zombie carcasses and find the breathing space necessary to repair the walls and expand the size of the Alexandria Safe Zone. For budgetary purposes, this makes sense. There are bound to be a few more large, expensive sets in the future, but this is now home for Rick and the survivors. A lot has been invested in giving them some measure of stability. They have the basics. Electricity, running water, and relative safety and security are their hard won prizes, even if the supplies are running out.

We have moved ahead several weeks in the time line, and this means that there's a routine now. People have had a chance to calm down, assess their losses, and start living with one another. It's a shame that we didn't see more normalcy among the other characters (you see Tara's arm, briefly, and little else, and that's a shame because the dynamic between her and Dr. Denise looks like fodder for a few more storylines involving gate guard Eugene and whoever else). As soon as a routine sets in on the Walking Dead, critics begin complaining about how the show is boring. I suppose that's the inevitable backlash that's going to build between now and the appearance of Negan in the finale. We're a few weeks away from that, however.

This week's show was an expanded supply run that allowed Daryl and Rick time to bond over music Daryl doesn't want to hear and drive fast on abandoned roads in a nice Cadillac (if I have that wrong, sorry, but it looked like a Caddy to me). Rick talks about "the law of averages" and it looks like they are able to luck out. However, their luck seems to change when they run into the other character everyone's been waiting for, named Jesus by his friends (Daryl is contemptuous of the name, of course). The other storyline centers around Carl and Enid being teenagers in the woods. They won't show a love scene, so they showed us comic books and crabby, moody repartee instead. This all leads to Carl avoiding Michonne and Spencer, who are out looking for one particular walker to put down and bury, properly. Nothing could be more obvious than the fact that they carve a D into a tree when their mission ends.

Adding someone as pivotal as Jesus to the knowledge base of the survivors is what is going to drive the majority of the upcoming episodes, I believe. Jesus is given nearly magical powers as far as fighting ability and deception. He's practically a ninja in uncomfortable clothes as depicted here. All of this makes sense because he represents the comic book arc that everyone has been waiting for.

When you combine the Hilltop people with Rick's survivors, you end up with a very large and potent group of characters that are inevitably going to face off against Negan and his followers. I suppose this is a hamfisted way of settling in behind the story arc that carries the comics forward. There should be enough tricks and turns ahead to throw everyone else off. My belief is that we're going to set up Daryl's death in the weeks ahead.

How do I know Daryl is going to die and that everyone is going to riot? I don't, but that's my guess. The show followed through and removed Jessie from the mix; to follow through and get rid of Glenn in the comic book way would be too obvious. That's why I don't think Glenn will die in the end. I think the show will remix Daryl in his place. I also think Maggie will end up being the leader of the Hilltop community and Glenn will play a supporting role once her baby is born.

The show could use Abraham as a stand-in for Glenn, but I think that because Daryl actually killed Negan's men, the writing is on the wall.

And, yes, we get a wide shot of the additional names added to the memorial on the wall. The episode also teases the notion that Jesus is going to "expand" their world. I'm curious as to what that means. How big will the Hilltop community be and how man Saviors are there? Will the Saviors be more skilled and lethal than the Governor's Woodbury group? We know that Deanna told them that Northern Virginia had been depopulated, and then we discovered ten thousand walkers bottled up in a quarry. What else was misunderstood about life in that neck of the woods?

I don't know what to make of the dynamic between Carl and Enid. This is more of that annoying Emo stuff that will inspire countless think pieces on how the show should remove everyone who's a teenager from the cast. There's also some foreshadowing of a long supply run by Tara and Heath--was that a throwaway or will we see a rescue mission that will involve the loss of more characters?

Oh, and, the elephant in the room. People are freaking out because Michonne and Rick had sex. So what? It's a great thing, and normalcy means the characters look for comfort with one another. I would expect that Abraham and Sasha have gotten cozy with one another, and maybe a few other characters have found some comfort with one another. It's perfectly natural and an interesting way of remixing Michonne and Andrea as Rick's post-Jessie love interest.

This was another strong episode, one that followed up last week's episode with what everyone hates about the show--a lack of an immediate human threat and normalcy among survivors. There are some great stories to tell before we get to the end of this season, one which, if they do it right, will break a lot of hearts. It may be obvious to think that Daryl is headed for certain doom, but that's my guess right now.



The Walking Dead Season Six Episode 9


There are spoilers ahead, so don't read this until you have seen the mid-season premiere of The Walking Dead.

Now, having gotten that out of the way, did you notice how the release of the first four minutes of this episode made everything seem as if everything was about to turn bad for Sasha and Abraham? And if you weren't expecting the return of the rocket propelled grenade launcher that Abraham found, well, I don't blame you. This is a show you can't go to sleep on.

This was a strong episode--much stronger than expected. And the best thing you can say about this episode is that they got the band back together. The worst thing you can say is that it was a mistake to get rid of Alexandra Breckenridge. Everyone knew that Jessie was doomed and so it was not a surprise when she succumbed to the walker herd along with her sons. It wouldn't have made a difference as to whether or not Jessie allowed Sam to leave with Father Gabriel. Her son Ron had been harboring a blood lust against Rick and Carl for a long time. At some point, he was going to snap and try to kill Carl again. Now you know why Michonne is one of the most indispensable characters.

I thought that they were going to remix Jessie with Andrea and make her the version of Andrea that survived Seasons 3, but oh well. Now I read that they're bringing in Alicia Witt. Well, if you already had Breckenridge, why did you need to bring in Witt? I guess we'll never know.

The use of the flashback to Carol's terrorizing of Sam was done to demonstrate that she is due for something awful. This was her way of trying to toughen up Sam to the realities of the world at a time when she and Rick and Daryl didn't trust the Alexandrians. Carol has always been about tough love with regards to kids. She made an honest effort to bring Sam into the present. Instead, it caused him to freeze as they were trying to move through the herd. This could have been done to show that Carol is culpable for the deaths of Sam and Jessie but not Ron. Ron was on his own separate path and his death had everything to do with his inability to process his father's death. Rick's act of killing his father was legitimate. Now you have to make up your mind as to whether or not Carol should have frightened Sam and whether that was justified. The Anderson family is no more. This is one of two moral quandaries introduced over the last few episodes.

The other quandary centers around Morgan and his inability to kill living people. His choices didn't lead to anyone's death, just the temporary escape of the Wolf. Again, we come back around to Carol. She doesn't hesitate this time--she kills the Wolf without reservation, wisely taking custody of the only gun and separating herself from Morgan so that she can do what needs to be done. Morgan, on the other hand, is not broken by what happened. He joins in the fight and he gets past the moment where he realized that he could have ended up being responsible for the death of Dr. Denise. There were at least four redemption moments in this episode. Enid came out of her shell to help Glenn save Maggie, and there was a moment each for Father Gabriel, for Dr. Denise and for Eugene, so can Morgan be too far behind? The survivors are about to be confronted by the worst villain yet. How does Morgan change his fate? Or is he now too far gone? Your morals aren't going to survive the zombie apocalypse for very long.

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Let's not minimize Rick's speech to Carl. This is an opposite speech, different from Carl's monologue when Rick collapsed after the fall of the prison. Rick is mirroring what Carl said but there is no recrimination. He goes all the way back to the pilot and talks about waking up in the hospital. He has a whole world to show Carl but we know what has happened to it. Rick is not dwelling on that--he just wants to keep trying to show Carl what the world could be like. He has hope now that they came together and defeated the walker herd. I think this is where the show really shifts from being about surviving to thriving and to confronting the human threat. This season will be the start of a story arc that does exactly that.

The act of getting the band back together gives us something rare for the Walking Dead. We get to see something incredible and rare. We get to see a moment of triumph for the group of survivors. Everyone pulls together and goes on a walker-killing rampage. It's a methodical elimination of the threat, one that starts small and builds momentum through example. Rick unleashes his rage, and everyone sees it, just like other soldiers will stop retreating and rally around a leader who is fighting back. This is a definite war movie moment set against a vastly different backdrop. You see nameless Alexandrians come out of their shelters and fight. You see Eugene give a monologue about not being able to take a day off. You see Glenn rally to save Maggie and then he, himself gets saved a second time by Abraham (the first time being outside of the prison).

Everything culminates in fire. Daryl sets the lake on fire and it consumes the rest of the walker herd. Fire is the only thing that can save the Alexandria Safe Zone, and now they have hundreds of bodies that need to be burned and disposed of. It seems like they're leaning towards rebuilding Alexandria. If so, why? For the running water and the convenience of suburban living? If anything, they need to look for a new compound to fortify and live in because Alexandria is now a tomb. How do you make everything work for you when what you need is a fortress, not a compound?

And is there anything more badass than Daryl setting a lake on fire?

The Walking Dead Season Six Episode 8


SPOILERS AHEAD! Stop reading this if you are waiting to see what happens in Season Six of TWD.
Well, this was the episode where they lost me.
If you've been reading recaps today, you'll come to understand that the way they wrapped up the front half of Season Six of the Walking Dead is not going to make anyone very happy. And I cannot be contrarian in the face of a lackluster episode or upbeat at the conclusion of eight frustrating episodes. Aside from Morgan's backstory, what is there to recommend this run of episodes? I had a blast watching Fear the Walking Dead, and I can't say that I enjoyed much of anything this season.
What a let-down. Not the direction, not the performances, and not the execution of the episodes. The plotting and the writing have failed.
It's not that we keep crushing hope or hearing the sermon about how things are "different" now. It's not that we aren't used to impending doom and frustration. The show cannot build on happiness or expand on satisfying story developments. We can't have three episodes about the successful creation of a garden where potatoes and string beans are able to live side by side, with some pumpkins thrown in even though they take up a lot of ground water. No, we have to have sadness and loss every damned week.
Eight straight weeks of being punched in the gut has left me wondering what the hell this is all about. It's not easy to write about human misery. It's no fun to list the dead, the sort of dead, the should be dead, the gonna be dead, or the not dead but should be dead. It's easier to move on and do something else.
I think the front half of this season has failed for three reasons. One, they muffed Glenn's mishap with Nicholas and the dumpster. This will go down as a manipulative and unnecessary plot point that created a phony cliffhanger. It was done to generate "buzz." Well, if your show is good, that's all the buzz you'll ever need.
Two, they went with a particular weak mid-season finale and you saw the evidence of that in this episode. Yes, we know that little Sam will mess everything up because he is a sheltered child being brought into the real world for the first time. It would be a mistake to kill off Alexandra Breckenridge, however, because she's the closest thing to a new "Andrea" that they've been able to find. She could be an invaluable character when the rest of Season Six sets up the conflict with Negan's group (whatever they call it). The way things are going, she'll be lucky to survive the third episode of the back half (because, as things stand, we're not going to get any resolution until a few more "filler" episodes have run).
The creative re-mix of comic book story lines has to include some sort of love interest for Rick Grimes. If they don't keep Breckenridge, they're going to have to give him someone to hold on to, if only because of the possibility that it could create better storylines. I think the writers have allowed a whole host of in-house conflicts to put themselves on display this season--the premise that the group would stay inside of Alexandria and do nothing while surrounded by walkers is too far-fetched to be believed. They should have been using poles, crowbars and rebar to draw down the herd. Where's a spring-loaded captive bolt gun when you need one? No one has thought to build one that can be braced and operated from the top of the wall? Come on.
In an hour, fifteen adults could easily kill 1,000 walkers if they worked it out right. You're telling me that this group couldn't have greatly reduced the herd outside? Come on. They had weapons and tools--every garage has at least one shovel and they have an armory. 
I think being down on the creative direction is justified. They even went so far as to give Carol almost nothing to do except get beaten up while holding a knife. That's a sign that no one really knew how to give Melissa McBride anything resembling the material she's been given in the past. Where's Carol's gun? You're telling me she can't get past a middle-aged man with a stick? Why give Morgan a "do not kill" philosophy when it should be a "protect all life" philosophy that allows him to see unrepentant killers for what they are? Talk about a manufactured conflict.
Three, this season divided the work force and failed to bring everyone back together--another phony plot device that simply doesn't cut it anymore. Where the hell is Aaron, for example? How did he play a minor part in fending off the wolves and then disappear? What's happening with Aaron and his partner while the Alexandria safe zone is overrun and why isn't he the one to help Maggie? It's that kind of a plot hole that drives me nuts.
The real story is in the conflict people have with one another, not the made-up drama of their longing for each other. How did Carol and Daryl end up being in different places? They were at their best when they solved problems together. They were and should be inseparable. In Carol, they have the best character on television. She saved everyone a second time and then she got knocked out. What a waste.
I have little if anything good to say about how this all ended, so that's it for me. I hope you found something good to say about it.

The Walking Dead Season Six Episode 6


There are two more episodes to go until we reach the next manipulative cliffhanger for the front half of this season, and things aren't looking too bad. You can look at this week's episode and reach several different conclusions, but here's the one that matters--Rick and the group will confront whatever is out there and kick it up it's own ass.

That's the pronouncement from Abraham, now back in dress blues thanks to a wardrobe malfunction and that's pretty much how things are going to be. No one knows how long they have but it's time to quit worrying about that bullshit and get busy living. This is the most life affirming episode so far and it reveals to us a little more of the situation in Northern Virginia. Yes, there are other groups out there. No, they can't shoot worth a damn. And, yes, there's this asshole named Wade who will prominently feature in a future episode. Wade can't be too happy now that Alexandria just sent a massive herd into his territory.

This episode was divided into two parts--Abraham and Sasha hole up and regroup so they can discuss how crazy or horny they are and Daryl's abduction by a half-assed trio of survivors runs the gamut between trust and betrayal. Everything they were riding in has been shot up or taken but they still come out of it all looking pretty good. Each character is moving in more or less the same direction. The only surprise is when Abraham states his desire for Sasha, who is non-plussed and doesn't give him much to go on. If this leads to strife or jealousy, I would be surprised because there's nothing unnatural about it. Both characters have admirable traits and if this is the new relationship, it signals their impending doom.

My guess is that Abraham or Sasha are next as far as the conclusion of their storylines. This was an episode where any one of them could have died, even Daryl. When he had Wade in his sights, it was shot in such a way as to suggest that Daryl really should have pulled the trigger. When the guy and girl he helped took Aaron's motorcycle and his crossbow, you could tell that Daryl knew that he was only temporarily saying goodbye to these things.

I had to admire the way the show integrated Abraham's back story into his discovery of a pristine set of dress blues in an abandoned office. He even notes the picture of the family man on the wall of his darkened office, reverting back to what he lost when he finds even more treasure while out scavenging. The way it was filmed suggested Abraham was about to meet his end--the same slow motion, intensely focused camera angles used when Glenn "died" a few episodes ago. And I also have to admire the good job they did with Abraham and this new uniform. He respectfully removed the owner's rank, skill badges, unit awards and medals and left the jacket with the insignia that would be appropriate. A real soldier would never wear another man's medals.

The weapon he found strung up on an impaled soldier was likely an RPG-7, which is a copy of the Russian RPG by an American company called Airtronic. It could very well be the Russian RPG version, which is a very deadly weapon and can stop tanks. I don't know what they're foreshadowing, but this is a game-changing weapon that will make Alexandria more powerful than ever. They sure could have used it when the Governor attacked the prison.

All in all, this was a good episode but not a great one. It showed Daryl's ethics at work--he even gets to play three questions (how many walkers have you killed, how many people have you killed and why did you kill them?) with the group of survivors that he ends up helping. Their inexperience and incompetence is fairly surprising--they have a backstory about being brutalized by Wade and they come off as sympathetic at first. The next time we see them, they'll either be dead or begging for help. Please note that the actress who plays on of them was Christine Evangelista, who has a great resume for a show like this. She could be a pivotal character in the weeks ahead, maybe even in the back half of this season.

This might also signal the end of going out and looking for other people to join Alexandria. You couldn't blame Daryl for not wanting to trust anyone else out there. Look what he's gotten for his troubles! He's lost his bike and his crossbow, and all he gained in return was a truck full of fuel named Patty.

Of course that was Glenn on the radio, calling for help (I don't buy into misdirection, and neither should you at this point). Of course we're being punished for caring about his character. And, of course they're going to be instrumental in rescuing not only Glenn but Alexandria itself. That's what the RPGs are for. I didn't see what will happen next week, beyond the bleeding of the walls in Alexandria and the impending threat outside. For a while there, I thought we'd see Enid again.

My lame-assed prediction is that Enid will save Glenn. If not her, then Daryl, Sasha and Abraham are going to have to drive angry to get back there in time.

The Walking Dead Season Six Episode 5


If you're foolish enough to expect closure on the issue of Glenn Rhee, this episode will only infuriate and frustrate you. The corresponding dip in ratings for this season has clouded the issue because here we have a popular show that is firing on all cylinders with an absolutely terrible and manipulative front half of a season underway. If there's a negative reaction, it has to do with the awful way in which we are being introduced to the idea that Glenn's either dead or not dead.

Is this any way to tell a story? Only if you have contempt for your audience.

Anyway, the failure to deal with what happened to Glenn in a definitive manner puts up an argument that doesn't hold much water. From the viewpoint of the people making The Walking Dead, the storyline of what really happened to Glenn in that alley was moved along only marginally during this episode. We have Maggie and Aaron undertaking a fruitless journey through the sewers to try and find a way out of the Alexandria safe zone. This was done more to show off a pair of innovatively rotted walkers as opposed to really giving us any closure on the matter. This delivers Maggie's bombshell--I won't spoil it here--and Aaron's guilt but it leaves the issue open and festering.

The reason why stringing along the viewers doesn't work is because this show is presented from a very omniscient point of view. We are allowed to see everything so that there isn't any ambiguity. We have been given cliffhangers--the worst cliffhanger of all would have been putting everyone in the rail car at the end of Season Four--but we haven't been forced to suffer like this as viewers unless you count Sophia's disappearance and reappearance in Season Two. The difference here being the fact that there was much less invested in Sophia as a character than there is in Glenn.

"Killing" Glenn in an ambiguous way was the bridge too far in this season. We already have the tension created by the massive herd of walkers introduced at the beginning of the season. We already know that there's a Wolf locked in a townhome basement who swears he will kill everyone. We already have Enid running around with survivor's guilt. And we already suspect that Daryl, Abraham and Sasha have a bit of a problem of their own on their hands.

We've killed off half of Alexandria. Now we have the heartbreaking issue of what really happened to Glenn. I believe that this storyline has killed off goodwill and helped drive people away from the show. The simple act of removing him as a character is a choice that could be defended on any number of levels. But by not definitively killing him and leaving things open ended, the show teases the audience in a way that isn't necessary. Any show that does this and goes over the line opens up enmity from the audience and this was neither the time nor the place to try this sort of thing on for size.

Now that this is out of the way, we had a very strong episode featuring Alexandria's surviving residents and their counterparts in Rick's group. They are not meshed together nor are they capable of coming out of their exile from reality--except for Deanna, Jessie and fledgling Dr. Denise. This was a great episode for Tovah Feldshuh, Alexandra Breckenridge and Merrit Wever. We had a lesbian kiss, a straight kiss, and Deanna told some walkers to talk to the hand. Great performances all, and while the story doesn't move forward all that much, we do get to see the reaction to the Wolf attack and the first real test of the walls keeping them safe.

When blood runs down the wall at the end of the show, you already know the answer as to what will happen soon. It might be time to start thinking about an evacuation plan. When Rick kisses Jessie, we know that their blooming love is going to be doomed from the outset by the machinations of her oldest son and the helplessness of her youngest son. Criminally absent was Carol and her casserole.When Crazy Rick disappears and Sane, Tender Rick appears, we already know it won't last. Why isn't anyone trying to reduce the walkers on the perimeter? Why isn't anyone building a fortified citadel where they can all evacuate to if the wall is breached? Why didn't Morgan tell anyone he had a captive?

Collectively, let's all yell argh! and move on to other things.

And so, unfortunately, the fact that Sasha and Abraham are some twenty miles down the road leaves Alexandria without two powerful defenders. We'll deal with their story, and with Daryl's, next week. If there is still no closure with Glenn's storyline, don't worry. There's a mid-season cliffhanger coming, and it will probably extend his fate well into the back half of the season. This will, I think, go down as a poor decision but I've been wrong before.

The Walking Dead Season Six Episode 4


This week, we have an episode that talks about two important subjects in the Walking Dead series--recovering from loss and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

It's great to see a series-defining character like Morgan get his own episode, and it ranks up there as an important detour from the current story line. We are being dragged to a conclusion that seems pretty ominous to me. What happens if Alexandria is destroyed? Where does everyone go?

Here's Not Here has some great dialogue as well as a significant exploration of how people can come back from severe personal trauma. It's a therapeutic episode as well as one that accomplishes a great deal in terms of explaining how a person moves on from deep, deep tragedy. Can you depict insanity with dignity? If so, this is your template for doing just that.

Treating PTSD in this way allows us to see how Morgan has healed without being cured of anything. He still carries doubt, fear, pain, and loss around with him as well as a lucky rabbit's foot. This luck is transferred from the man, named Eastman, who takes Morgan from his own demented hell and makes him a person again. The feral version of Morgan we saw back in Season Three when Rick, Michonne and Carl had a chance encounter with a heavily armed but disturbed version of Morgan gives way to a character not unlike Caine from the 70's series Kung Fu.

This is Morgans's journey and it appears where it does in order to further frustrate the viewers while giving them essential backstory. He goes from a man out of place with no purpose to one who will now walk the Earth and look for people to be with. Everything is about people and everything worth living for involves being with other people--that's the lesson I took from this. You can see the therapeutic results for yourself in the montage where Morgan learns Akido from Eastman. This is how Morgan will live his life, deflecting and redirecting the horror around him with a bow staff. This is a weapon designed not to kill, and this defines the peace that Morgan has made with the world.

This deviation from the imminent walker attack on Alexandria heightens the tension of Season Six. Who will die when the Alexandria safe zone is overrun? Glenn is dead, but is he really? Will we have to wait until Episode 8 to find out what happened when Glenn crawled under the dumpster and fell asleep? Will we have to wait until next year and Episode 16? Holy cow, talk about being put through the ringer. If you haven't already guessed, we're going to be subjected to a lot of this from now on. It's like trying to get through the last two seasons of Breaking Bad--every week, just enough happens to keep you on the hook for more, and those weeks are few and far between.

Did anyone yell "son of a Gunderson" when John Carroll Lynch appeared in this episode? I had to look it up, too. Yes, the same actor who played Marge Gunderson's husband in Fargo makes his single episode debut in the Walking Dead franchise (whether he comes back for flashbacks is anyone's guess, but I suspect we have seen the last of him. This will go down as one as the most significant appearances in the history of the series, and Lynch deserves an Emmy. I mean, the entire cast has a solid body of work to draw from and it is further proof that you will see some of the best actors and actresses out there when you watch this show. For the Emmys to ignore The Walking Dead remains a travesty of the highest order.

This is an episode that defies recapping and analysis. To be honest with you, I've already said more about it than I thought I would.






The Walking Dead Season Six Episode 3


Episode three of the sixth season of the Walking Dead was every bit as terrifying and brutal as the last one, and it featured something no one is really talking about. The Wolves were effectively finished off as a group in this episode, and unless they exist as a scattered clan of interconnected groups, there is little or no reason for the Alexandrians to fear them anymore. However, there are quite a few fewer Alexandrians to do just that.

And that's really my takeaway from this episode--another outmatched group has been driven to what appears to be extinction thanks to the fact that Rick and his group are heavily armed and fight like well-disciplined infantry when up against any living adversary. They have come to this point because of the massive battles they had against the Governor, who looms large over the series even today. Without the experience gleaned from going up against a skilled adversary, Rick's group wouldn't be as sharp and focused as it truly is in terms of defending itself and solving problems.

The front half of Season Six is, apparently, going to focus on the problem of securing Alexandria. And this episode featured the efforts of Michonne, Rick, and Glenn while foreshadowing the urge that Daryl has to break off and go to the aid of Carol. It's not by accident that all four characters carry out this struggle with new personalities and new characters or, in Rick's case, entirely by himself. Adversity comes in the form of swarming numbers, broken plans, a broken knife, a wrong turn, or a walker banging on a closet door. It comes from being conscience of responsibility and accepting of fate. 

When you see the Alexandrians (who are not much more than red-shirted extras from the old Star Trek franchise) die, their deaths are horrible and overwhelming. They are unprepared for the world as it really is--the world unleashed when the bottle was uncorked in the first episode. The emptying of the rock quarry is like the clearing of the conscience in one way because now we get to see what this new form of adversity will bring to the characters. 

Michonne is ready for it, as is Heath. Daryl is always ready for it, but is unhappy with his role in this episode. Rick looks truly frightened when he finds himself in the dead RV. And Glenn realizes it a moment too late because he never should have followed a screw-up like Nicholas.

Glenn's apparent death in this episode is hinted at, but I don't think it actually happens this way. For one, Steven Yeun is still filming the show, and he's either appearing in flashbacks or hauntings or not at all. This could be how the show fools people and tries to get back at a rabid following down in the Atlanta area. For another reason, it's evident that Nicholas is consumed and not Glenn, allowing him a moment to escape. Remember when Tyreese got free from a similar fate, unscathed? It's possible, in the crush of all the walkers, for Glenn to either end up in the dumpster or crawl out through the legs and make a break for it. This is how many people end up surviving stampedes or similar situations (of which, admittedly, there are relatively few).

I wouldn't focus on Glenn's demise in this episode. I would take note of the problems at hand. There are many, many walkers being led away by Daryl, Abraham, and Sasha and those three characters are due for a major story line in episode four if the show travels that route. Ethically, should they really be leading so many walkers away from a place? How's it going to look when it appears that they are leading them towards some other community or settlement? What then?

We know that the Jesus character from the Hilltop Community should be appearing at some point soon; whether that happens in the front half or the back half is anyone's guess. My prediction is that Rick will be saved by Morgan and the Alexandrians. The group has to go on the offensive to ward off so many walkers. Remember the tractors and heavy equipment we've seen so far? Someone needs to put all of that to good use. 

My money is on Aaron, whose discovery in the last episode of his pack among the scattered belongings of the wolves will be the impetus for him to do something to redeem himself. Don't forget--we have Aaron, Carol, Morgan, Rosita, and Tara in Alexandria and that's not a group to sneeze at. I think we'll have Daryl go off on his pseudo-abduction mini-plot (as hinted at in the trailer for the season) and Abraham and Sasha will discover the Hilltop Community by accident. I'm not buying what was teased ever again--I don't think the 90 minute show we will see next week will focus on Morgan's backstory so much as it will be about resolving a great deal of the problems that the group are in now. We have to figure out who Enid, the troubled teenage love interest of Carl, really is and we have to have a come-to-Jesus moment about a lot of things. We have a lot of characters that haven't been used yet and we have a whole new world to play in.

So no, I don't think Glenn is dead. Glenn's story isn't over yet. In one form or another, Glenn has more road to run on and so does this group. When challenged, they are way too dangerous for amateurs. Their only rivals, besides their own crumbling plans, would have to come in the form of professional killers who have seen the right amount of adversity.

The Walking Dead Season Six Episode 2



Don't read this if you haven't already seen "JSS."
Just survive somehow is the second episode of the season, and it's the abbreviated mantra for Enid, who writes JSS on her hand and arrives at Alexandria before Rick's group. This is a powerful way to draw out last week's tension, which ended with a massive herd of walkers making a turn towards the compound.
This episode accomplishes two things. First, we get Enid's backstory, which is as tragic as you would imagine and, second, it removes a significant number of secondary extras from the Alexandrian population. Purely from a logistical standpoint, it makes it possible for this group to coalesce a little better. If there were any Alexandrians who had the idea of throwing Rick and his group out, they're now chopped up by crazy people. It's hard to tell a story when thirty or forty people are running around.
Is there anything rational about the wolves? Nope. They are not looking to take over Alexandria. They're there for the mayhem and the five finger discount. They're bedraggled and disorganized and don't even have guns. They are merciless and manipulative and, when injured, will beg for mercy in order to get the upper hand. This is a group that will have to be hunted to extinction. The fact that Morgan left a handful of them alive means they're going to be a factor in future episodes. Mercy is what you find in civilization so I cannot fault the character for having it. But, in The Walking Dead, you don't leave an enemy alive. We saw that with the Governor and we saw that with Terminus.
There seems to be a running gag with this season, and it involves being indifferent to the fate of Father Gabriel. Last week, when he tried to volunteer to help, Rick dismissed him with a "no." This week, it's Carol's turn to leave the Father for the Wolves. We also see the possibility of a love triangle with Ron, Carl and Enid. Teenagers in love is a possibility that will not end well for anyone during an onslaught of walkers.
This reminds me of how poor I am at predictions. Guess what? Who saw the wolves attacking in broad daylight as a plot twist? We are treated to Carol, staring outside at a neighbor and then we have hacking and cutting and mayhem. Carol has just put on the timer for one of her spring cleaning casseroles and, for the next 45 minutes, we get to see Terminus Carol dress up like a wolf and clear them out. She gets significant help from the rest of the B-list cast, including Rosita and Aaron, as well as Morgan, who delivers far too much mercy for this episode. I thought it would be Ron or Enid that would betray the group to the walkers. Nope, got that wrong.
And what did we learn? Well, the walls of Alexandria are remarkably strong because a semi-truck is able to ram the place and bounce off. Deanna's remaining son Spencer is all but useless as a sniper or a gate guard (although he did spray the semi with automatic fire) and Deanna herself is a non-entity. Who is she going to lead now? What good is she? Maggie is going to feed everyone once they get the perimeter expanded. She already has the seeds and the know-how to make it happen.
We also learned that Carol should have been the focus of the show from day one. There is no other character who has saved more people and accomplished more than Carol. If you counted Rick's setbacks and mistakes against him, you'd have to conclude that everyone should be on Team Carol and doing whatever she says. The fact that Melissa McBride does not already have at least one Emmy is a crime against the Humanities. 
A new character, Dr. Denise Cloyd, was treated to more hijinks from Eugene and Tara and was revealed to be anxious and nervous about performing surgery on people. They should have started with an amputation, but that's neither here nor there when you're reducing the population and getting rid of the C-list extras. Dr. Cloyd is a welcome addition along with Heath, who was introduced last week and overexposed to Eugene.
I'm not even going to bother making another prediction about this season--man, what a lot of twists and turns so far. This is what TV is supposed to do--it's supposed to keep you guessing and keep you interested. Anyone who says that these first two episodes are slow or off is using major amounts of delusion pills. 

The Walking Dead Season Six Episode 1


I didn't think it was going to be this huge:
Fear the Walking Dead just had the best first season of any show in cable history.

With live-plus-three day ratings in for all six episodes, each of which also did gangbusters among live viewers, the AMC spinoff averaged 11.2 million viewers. 7.3 million of those were adults 18-49. That means that the cable network heads into the last months of 2015 with the No. 1 (Walking Dead), No. 2 (Fear the Walking Dead) and No. 3 (Better Call Saul) shows on basic cable.

AMC, which had renewed the series before its debut, is also going to give it a weekly post-show treatment upon its 2016 return. Chris Hardwick's The Talking Dead, a popular companion to the parent series, will air after every episode of Fear's second season.
I did recaps for every episode, which is something I haven't done before. I went through a lot of other recaps, looking for signs that I had gotten something wrong or had made a factual error and, no matter where I went, the reaction was always the same: boring!
Comment after comment rained down--this is a boring show, nothing is happening, blah blah blah. And that tells you one of two things--people are starved for action and they're starved for attention. 
FTWD isn't an action show. It doesn't feature mindless car chases and fight scenes (although it probably will end up having them soon). It's a drama disguised as a horror genre television show. And it's one steeped in the Humanities and elevated by the life or death aspect of the choices put in front of the characters. I guess I'm not surprised by the fact that the show has been marketed as a horror and action show rather than a drama. There's nothing procedural about it other than scratching out some way to survive. To me it's a story of humanity that operates within a framework of asking "how would you survive?"
Well, we already know that you won't survive without people and people are the reason why you probably won't survive for very long. That's the thing that keeps people coming back. They want to see who makes it and who doesn't and that wouldn't happen with flat, phony characters in a horror or action show. It wouldn't happen if there wasn't a struggle with conscience and morality over the simplest of choices.
If you look at this first season as a slow-moving drama, it works on a number of levels. You get the blended family dynamic. You get a slice of Central American history. You get inter-generational conflict. And you get a pretty good idea of where we're at as a society when it comes to treating people addicted to drugs.
Yeah, boring stuff.
These ratings reflect the need for people to connect to an alternate history of the United States. We're talking about events that happened in 2010. We're looking at the context of a global pandemic that mysteriously affects every human brain on the planet. If you succumb to a serious fever, somewhat akin to meningitis or influenza (which look very similar when identified in victims), you die and reanimate and consume human or living flesh. If you survive this, you will reanimate when you die or when you are bitten or scratched by a person who has succumbed to the reanimation process. This basic set of rules affects all of civilization in that it then causes everything to break down. Now, how do you survive?
That's not horror--that's drama. That's life. It's very powerful and the interest in this show reflects that.
Sunday night, I'll start issuing recaps for Season Six of The Walking Dead.

Fear the Walking Dead Season One Episode 6


Go watch the episode, then read this. 

The Good Man.
Who is he? Is anyone good anymore?
The season finale of season one of Fear the Walking Dead hits with wrenching blows, hard choices and one mantra--embrace the madness.
I think the title of this episode is a sneering rejoinder to the idea that anyone can remain good in the face of the zombie onslaught. Everywhere in this episode you see the collapse of society, of civil order, and of the resistance of the survivors to the dead who have begun to form herds and consume the living.
You can see that the choices have become more stark. Where we were looking at ethical choices in the first few episodes, now we're looking at a small band of survivors that cannot save everyone and isn't about to try to do so. The soldiers have abandoned the compound and so Travis and Madison make their move to save Griselda, Nick and Liza. They don't know that Griselda has died but they have extracted information from the soldier that Daniel expertly tortured. They know they have to kill him but Travis argues that he needs to be left alive. And, in this show, whenever you leave someone alive, that choice comes back to bite you. So much for being a good man.
It's interesting to see that the California National Guard has effectively evaporated and retreated. There are forces at Edwards Air Force Base, and they can still send a Chinook, but how long can they hold out?
The answer is, however long their perimeter holds and however long their soldiers can still keep putting rounds down range. Once the logistics of all that catches up with them, it's every man and woman for himself. In this episode, you see how that is going to look in Season Two. The soldiers have the weapons and the vehicles and supplies, so they are taking advantage of that and leaving everyone behind. The heartbreak of driving past families still in their homes around lanterns, still hoping for normalcy, rings out in this episode. The dying are left to Dr. Bethany Exner, and she uses the captive bolt gun to ease their suffering. This breaks her, and so she pulls her own version of the Season One finale of The Walking Dead, also known as Dr. Jenner's decision to remain in the CDC. That's a nice overlap, but wait. Do we get to see Exner finish herself off? Nope, and I suspect she'll come back as a character in Season Two.
In fact, we will probably see her hooked up with troubled teenager Tobias and we'll probably find them leading their own group of survivors--who knows? Some of the military personnel will come back as well in some form or another. We know that the dead present one problem, and the living present another one entirely. Season One has to have its own version of Merle, so I suspect that will be one of the military personnel who either abandoned the civilians or tried to abduct Alicia.
The loss of Liza is the kick in the gut here--the group is safe, they're at Strand's opulent home on the ocean (there are, literally, thousands and thousands of these homes now, and they'll make great locations next season because they face out to the ocean), and there's a chance to collect themselves and look at their options. Strand is going to get on his boat--he is missing someone but we don't get to see who. But Liza is bitten so she has to walk down to the ocean and do herself in. She delivers the logic that will now guide the show, filling in for Dr. Jenner at the CDC in The Walking Dead in this case when she tells Madison and Travis that everyone is infected and everyone will turn when they die of a scratch, a bite, or an injury. Liza tells them that she will die and she will come back, so she asks Madison to finish her off. Travis appears, and you can see where it goes from there. The helplessness of this scene and the loss of Liza informs the direction of the episodes to come.
Is Travis the good man? He goes from pacifist to killer fast. He gets blood on his hands. He basically arrives where Madison has been for a while (neither of them are ever going to go as far as Daniel) and he breaks down on the beach. You see the wonderful effects shots--the abandoned city, the fires that burn unattended, the cars stuck on the freeways, and the first inkling of herds of zombies becoming a menace. You see no living people, but they're out there. The effects work alone has been worth watching. Ever wondered what a dystopian Los Angeles would look like? Now you have a clearer idea of what happens to society.
Daniel has been transformed into his old self--a torturing follower and a man with no ethics. How this plays out is anyone's guess. He has lost his wife and now his daughter Ofelia knows what he is. How can they have a future?
Chris now has to face life without a mother--something Nick and Alicia already know because they lost their father years before Travis appeared in their life and helped to create this blended family. The last thing you see Madison do before she leaves her house is touch where she and her husband once stood to mark their heights in the house where they raised their children. To leave you home is a new reality, and to leave your loved ones behind is what makes this such a compelling show. No one is safe, and, as Strand says, you must embrace the madness.
Is Travis the good man? Is Strand? Who can honestly say? The madness must be embraced, and that won't leave the good man, whoever he is, with any options.
There's still a lot to process about this season, but it's over and done with. The first block of shows is done and now we get to wait until The Walking Dead makes its run through Season Six. The webisodes for the Flight short story is on the way--that's probably how we'll end up meeting Strand and how we'll find out how he ended up trapped in custody with Nick. 
 I'll start recapping and analyzing that piece of the puzzle as well as The Walking Dead because this is the most fun I've had on the old blog in years. Stick around, and stock up on supplies. A trunk full isn't going to get anyone very far.

Moonbeam City Season One Episode 3


Now, this is more like it.
The third episode of Moonbeam City's first season dropped like a bomb last week and I am just now getting around to reviewing it. The rapid jokes, crudity, and overall incompetence of Dazzle Novak is there but so is the development of more characters and better situations.
I liked this episode more than last week's and that's primarily because the sheer nuttiness of the premise worked.
Last week, it was about babies and raves--a Nineties theme that has no business in a show that satirizes the Eighties. This episode, called "The Strike Visualizer Strikes Again" goes after a more obscure theme. 
Remember those cheesy cartoons that play on screens in bowling alleys that depict in cartoon format the success or failure of a bowler? That's the whole episode, set against the backdrop of Moonbeam City's neon trash and decay. There's a maniac on the loose and the police are powerless to stop him--a premise that this show is going to use again and again because it works.
What also works, at least for me, is referencing the superficiality of the Eighties and making something like bowling so important in the life of Dazzle Novak. The day-glo bowling alleys are superbly imagined and the trick is to make something so seriously important, no matter how ridiculous it is, so that the characters can get all bent out of shape over nothing. That's what works in this episode--they rode the bowling alley theme all the way to a massive, gory, violent payoff. 
Kate Mara's Chrysalis has more to do in this episode and Elizabeth Banks needs her own storylines. The whole show should be about Pizazz. Rob Lowe is killing it as Dazzle and Will Forte is keeping his character, Rad, in a permanent state of desperate envy. The writing is clicking and so is the show--it's working on a lot of different levels that should keep it around for a while. I'm hoping the show continues to hit a stride because it's still, visually, at least, one of the most inventive shows out there.

Fear the Walking Dead Season One Episode 5


Mercy abounds in the fifth episode of the first season of Fear the Walking Dead. The characters either show it or deny it to others, and mercy is part of a cover term known as Cobalt. As always, I tend to try to shy away from spoilers but you should really go watch this episode before you read any further.
Cobalt is a strange choice for a military cover name. Usually, you have two words joined together, but whoever added the military to this show wasn't worried about the accuracy. What we're seeing is the breakdown of society and the California National Guard, all at once. This is due to the fact that the whole thing is coming apart and there aren't any resources to stop it--everything is collapsing in this episode and you can feel the tension rising. They've given up on the Human Terrain System because they're losing soldiers left and right. Inside of the compound where Travis and Madison are trying to keep it together, they don't know how good they have it.
We're introduced to a fantastic character who saves Nick from being euthanized. Strand is played by Colman Domingo and I hope he makes it to next season. Heck, all we're doing right now is setting it up so that Season Two becomes a much-heralded event, so you know there will be cliffhangers and suspense next week. What we saw in this episode was astoundingly good television.
I'll break this into five parts because that's what we have to try and follow here--five segments of the same puzzle being masterfully laid out before us. This show has been written at an extremely high level and acted superbly. The direction, the sets, the level of detail--everything about this show surpasses all expectations. And it's no mere spinoff, either. The resources dedicated to this season are considerable.
Daniel and Ofelia Salazar are holding out hope that they get Griselda back from wherever it is that she has been taken. In order to do that, Ofelia has used the trust of a young soldier to try and get information. Daniel, a veteran of living in El Salvador during periods of tremendous violence and unrest, knows that the only thing to do is bleed it out of him a piece at a time, and so he does this, utilizing the torture techniques that he had to witness and were used on him when he was a boy. He was corrupted by his experiences in El Salvador, and knows the methods of torture that will work on someone and get them to talk. Mercy is not in his vocabulary anymore. He is uncompromisingly strong in this episode even though he has given into the same fear that exists on both sides of the torturer's chair. I don't know how a character like this can gain any sympathy now that he's been revealed to be just as bad as anyone he might encounter--perhaps that will make him an asset when tough things need to be accomplished. Madison is a small part of this story, and fades into the background in this episode. She was a badass up till now and what we get is a lot of moping around. She shows a flash of her past self when she asks Daniel if he found out what they needed to know. That made me smile--that's Madison in a nutshell. She's a realist. Daniel's efforts reveal that the Army made a lot of bad choices in the immediate aftermath of civil unrest. An arena full of them, to be exact.
The second bit of story features Strand, who I mentioned above, and Nick. It is evident that they are in a quarantine area and they are not there because they want to be. Strand is a person capable of reading others and he breaks down Travis' neighbor Doug, the man who lost his mind, abandoned his family, and was taken away by the soldiers. Doug is mentally broken, and Strand talks about the attractiveness of the wife he left behind because he was weak. She is hot so she will get with a man who can protect her. Strand has corrupted one of the soldiers (yeah, the Army looks awful in Season One and I had to laugh when an actual recruiting commercial played in the last third of the show) and is able to trade away some personal effects for the key and for Nick's help. We'll see how that goes in the season finale next week. Nick does not strike me as being reliable or loyal. Strand's mercy is self-serving, as will anything resembling Nick's idea of what mercy could be.
The third story line is the help that Travis' ex-wife Lisa gives to Dr. Bethany Exner. Yes, there really was a medical facility and it's breaking down. They're running out of people and supplies and Exner really does value Lisa as a nurse. The problem is, it's taking Lisa far too long to figure out that the captive bolt gun (hello No Country for Old Men and Anton Chigurh)  she sees being used is a mercy she wasn't expecting. This is the most direct reference to the pilot of The Walking Dead. When Rick stumbles out of the hospital and onto the loading dock, he sees the aftermath of what was considered mercy--the sheets stained with the same captive bolt gun wounds that are happening all around Lisa. Will Lisa keep following Exner now that she knows the truth or will she refuse to leave the medical facility once she sees the people in cages? Mercy is motivating Lisa for now, but, deep down, I think she's just as much of a realist as Madison or Daniel.
The fourth story line revolves around Travis' son Chris and his step-daughter Alicia. They are bored so they engage in fantasy. Chris is definitely not her type but he is a willing accomplice. They see how a wealthy family has lived and Alicia asks, "where are they? Where did they go?" and that references back to how Rick's group arrived in Alexandria and found houses with photos of the families that once lived there. We've seen this throughout the original series, with the ghosts of people who are long gone everywhere. They trash the place because looking for resources and scavenging useful stuff just hasn't occurred to them yet. They're using their precious time to lounge about in fancy clothes and then they do a number on the house. Unfortunately, that's probably what people would do if they weren't aware of the fact that the world is coming undone all around them. I know this was supposed to suggest some sort of sexual tension between the two kids, but Alicia's playful banter and off the shoulder looks are wasted on Chris. How did they get her to ride a bike in those short shorts anyway? Someone in costuming really wasn't afraid to get a Lolita moment out of Alycia Debnam-Carey.
The fifth and last story has Travis out with Lt. Moyers and a small group of men. One of them is an NCO but he's not wearing any rank so I don't know what's happening with him. He should have been a Staff Sergeant, at least, and he should have had more control over the soldiers. The unit, however, is breaking down--they're all in the act of getting ready to desert and go look for their own families. Unit cohesion is collapsing little by little and there's no morale. Lt. Moyers is not the guy to actually raise morale. All he has is his rank and what little power he has left. He takes the men out on a run with Travis ostensibly to go to the facility where everyone is being held. But they never get there. Travis sees the Army for what it is--incapable of dealing with the hidden menace that's out there. They stop and Lt. Moyers puts Travis to the test. Can he show some mercy and take a shot and remove an infected person from the population? Travis looks through the scope and sees her name on a name tag--of course he can't pull the trigger (and the question is, will Season Two be a waiting game before he does take one out?) and so he has to have his manhood insulted. We watch them respond to a frantic call for help--the soldiers are still there for each other even though they are not really helping anyone else. And then we get a really good closeup of a SINCGARS (Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System) radio and the horror of having to face the infected in close quarters. Quarantining people didn't turn out to be such a hot idea. Travis watches in horror as what's left of the squad gets in the Humvee and gets ready to desert. They do drop him off at home but I'm surprised they did that. They should have said, "hey man--get your own ride" and then left him there to fend for himself. That's probably the most mercy you're going to get out of a guy frantically trying to get a Humvee ride to San Diego.
Now, I geeked out when the SINCGARS appeared in this episode and I laughed when what passed for discipline among the soldiers was revealed to be the usual small unit bullshit. The show has thus far made the Army look like a collection of inexperienced douchebags and I'm sure someone will complain about how AMC has made the troops look bad. I'm talking Abu Ghraib bad here, and I half expect season two will have some retribution for whatever is left of the California National Guard. Everything they do has been shown, in some way or another, in the popular culture. When you see how the troops treat their fellow Americans, you can't help but remember scenes from The Hurt Locker or any other Iraq War movie that came out when Hollywood was trying to capture that subject. It's sickening but necessary for the horror genre story unfolding before us.
Mercy is in short supply and next week we'll see who gets some of it when Cobalt goes into effect. We see the troops bugging out but we don't know where they're going to go because the herds are coming, son. The herds are coming.
I'm not holding out much hope for a clean resolution or rescue, but I am hoping we see another powerful example of how the beginning of the collapse of civilization because of the zombie outbreak should really center around gathering food and water and guns before it's too late. If you were hoping that someone would be taking care of their future, you're going to be disappointed in this episode. Everyone still acts like those pallets of MRE's (Meals Ready to Eat) are never going to stop coming.

Moonbeam City Season One Episode 2


Historical mistakes are easy to spot, but you're usually being a dick when you point them out. Episode 2 of Moonbeam City's first season opens with a rave, and this was ruined for me when I started to think about the origins of rave parties and things like that.
Moonbeam City was definitely not the home of rave music, and the DJ decks are more 2000s than Eighties. This was something I would have expected in Manchester, England but I'm no fun and I suck. The juvenile delinquency of Moonbeam City is a subplot here but it shouldn't have been the home of a rave. We need to keep the Nineties out of the Eighties if we're going to satirize things, but that didn't stop the episode from being weird, violent, crude and very, very funny. I'm going to turn a negative into a positive and stop complaining at some point, I swear.
As in the pilot episode, the jokes are rapid-fire and moderately crude (if you can handle South Park or Archer, you can handle Moonbeam City). The plot is nonsensical, and so it dredges up the best and the worst of the Eighties all at once. 
The strength of the show is when it plays up the delusional self-importance of the characters and that's not a bad place to start as far as creating multiple story lines. That's why it's disappointing when they deviate from what was cheesy about the Eighties. 
For example, do you remember the film Buckaroo Banzai? There was so much about that film to like when it was released, but I'll bet you haven't thought about it ages (I know I haven't). What I remember was the superficiality and the insane plot that ended up being secondary to the style and the "inside joke" mentality that ran through the film. Oh, and the fact that Buckaroo Banzai was a rock musician and a neurosurgeon--exactly what the Eighties needed.
I'd like to see more of that and less of the Nineties in Moonbeam City, but I probably won't get my way. In fact, put me down as saying that Clancy Brown should do some voice work on MC--that would bring it all full circle.
Episode 2 went further in explaining Dazzle's self-evident delusions of grandeur and Rad's resentment of everything successful that comes Dazzle's way. He is hell-bent on destroying anything good in Dazzle's life, so he's just like a good Eighties villain. He has little motivation beyond envy and no hope of achieving his goals. I would like to see more of Chrysalis--being the only competent person in a show can get tiresome. 
Am I going to give up on this show? Hell, I can't figure out when it's on and finding time to put out a review is hard enough. I like everyone in it and the visual design is extremely well done. I am pulling for more Eighties satire, but, because I'm old and don't spend as much as someone fifteen years younger, I doubt the show will move in that direction. That's okay--I like what I'm seeing and I think it will get better.

Fear the Walking Dead Season One Episode 4

You go to war with the army you have, not the army you want. And, don't worry--your loved ones are safe.
Yeah, right.
This weeks episode of Fear the Walking Dead features the monotony of everyday life, closely held secrets, and young Nick's superior abilities as a cat burglar. Madison Clark is the reason why people are going to love this show, hands down. The elevation of Melissa McBride's Carol in the original series should have been all the warning needed. What gender bias? Kim Dickens is the reason why this show will resonate with viewers. Yeah, we're laughing at dumb Travis right now, but he shows signs of getting it, albeit too late. His son Chris and his ex-wife Liza are in on something as far as a realization of what's going on, while Alicia and Nick Clark are just treading water and dealing with their pain.
It's too soon to expect the level of competence that we've seen after watching five full seasons of the original series. It's way too soon for Madison to be as clued in as she is, but this is more of a testament to her years of dealing with Nick's drug addiction than anything else. A lot of the reviews of this episode are going to draw attention to the fact that people aren't smarter about what's going on. Well, who would be? The world turned upside down two weeks ago, and everyone is acting like this is a really bad earthquake scenario. I find their "incompetence" to be realistic, just like I see Daniel's skepticism to be a tremendous asset.
The military comes off as being the bad guy this week, and so you have to keep referring back to the scenes that appeared throughout The Walking Dead. How many times did they find a "FEMA" camp or a military encampment and find everyone dead and overrun, despite their weapons and their fences? The Governor knew the truth, and the Governor killed anyone in the military any chance he got. Well, you can see why.
In this episode, you see the unit begin to break down at the edges. One lunk is all too eager to pretend to go on patrol in order to get a little sophisticated time with Ofelia, who is probably in it just to get some medicine and not because she's repressed or anything. These troops are probably all waiting for a chance to frag Lt. Moyers but we just don't see that yet. Everyone's boredom and humanity is dumped into the mix--the residents try to stretch their supplies and the soldiers tee off and play golf, patrol endlessly like they are looking for someone to shoot, and then ration everything. They don their protective masks and go on armed patrols, looking to put rounds in anything out there, but you can tell there is a stressed logistics chain because, after less than ten days, nobody has much of anything anymore. It's all coming apart, just not at once.
I don't think this is how real soldiers would operate. First, among American citizens, the National Guard is more citizen oriented and willing to to do more help than harm. Active duty troops live in a bubble, only coming into contact with the communities where they are stationed. The Guard and reserve have more experience with public affairs and disaster relief. These troops look like California National Guard to me. They're not going to be in on some conspiracy because what would happen in that scenario is that someone would start blabbing about it. Second, they have their own families--a lot of them would desert, en masse, to go home to their own if they were in danger, just like cops and firemen would. Third, someone has to realize that as the supplies run out, so does the legitimacy of any military unit. I suppose they could keep things together through fear, but what would likely happen is that, as soon as there is a chance to slip away in tightly organized groups, a lot of them would do so in order to save themselves. This doesn't mean anything bad about the military--this means they're human, after all, and they would be unlikely to follow a jackass like Lt. Moyers.
Resources are collapsing quickly. Fuel and food are going to run out unless someone start's harvesting all of the gardens that still exist. And I think this is where Nick's benefit to the group will be his ability to scrounge. He's seen doing that in this episode with shocking results. I don't know what Alicia can do, other than tattoo herself and scatter among the wind chimes. At least Chris is recording videos of the aftermath that will be of critical help to historians (which is useless, of course, but how will anyone know anything in the future if someone isn't doing what Chris is doing?)
This is why I think it was absolutely the thing for Chris to be doing on the roof. He is able to find evidence of something in the hills around their neighborhood, outside the fences and the razor wire. He tries to show his dad Travis what's going on and Travis is too worried being the mayor of the block. He blows him off. He shows Madison and, like the badass she is, she's outside of the wire, trying to see what's going on. There's a good reason why no one is allowed outside--the military is trying to get control of the "infected" population through patrols, controlling the uninfected, and through intelligence gathering.
What you're seeing here is more of the temporary Army story line with the Human Terrain System in action--everyone is controlled, kept in a single place, and monitored for signs of being infected. They're also looking at undesirables, like Nick, and at people who are taking up more medicine than is necessary. Medical supplies aren't for people who are going to die and turn into zombies. They're running out of everything, of course, or the military is just stockpiling things for their own use.
The writers have blown one aspect of the storyline, and it's a nitpicky thing for me to bring up, but, where are the NCOs? In the Army, a Lt. Moyers is going to have at least one Sergeant First Class out there, supervising and leading the troops. In a unit like this, we're seeing a lot of lower enlisted soldiers. In reality, you'd see more NCOs holding everyone to a higher standard.
We're introduced to a few new characters. The two that stand out to me are the aforementioned Lt. Moyers, a First Lieutenant in the Army who acts like he's a light Colonel, and Dr. Bethany Exner, who is triaging everyone and "removing" the people who can't be saved or helped. She gets rid of anyone who isn't going to make it without more health care than they can afford to provide. Lt. Moyers is just an asshole, so there you go. Dr. Exner represents bureaucratic necessity to me, and she is more than willing to scoop up someone like Liza because she probably things Liza is going to be a realist. Both Moyers and Exner are menacing enough without me spilling all of the beans, but the focus of this episode is control. Imperfect people with questionable motives are now making calls that will affect the group dynamic.
So, we're at a dividing point here. Three characters are removed from the group (and it makes sense to think of them as a group now because we're ten days into the outbreak and they've begun to cohere together as a working unit, even though Travis is still clueless and Daniel is ready to tell stories of El Salvador's death squads.
Madison has a piece of information and so does Chris. This unlikely combination creates the drama of Madison's sojourn out into what's left of East Los Angeles. She sees evidence that people are getting blown away and that there has been grisly activity all around. Everything outside the wire is abandoned, or is it?
And what's with those flashing lights? Well, you have to tune in. Suffice it to say, this was probably the most tense and scary episode so far, ranking up there with the original series in terms of set decoration and design. We've seen a lot of Madison's house, the neighborhood, and now the world as it will look nine days after the world ends. We know that the soldiers are leery of blood and breathing the air and they're no letting anyone, no matter how ill, reside amongst healthy people.
We also know Madison is too savvy to believe anyone's bullshit. The next two episodes are going to be where Travis will eventually catch up to her. Aligned with Daniel, these three will form the nucleus of their group and they will know that you're a fool if you think men do evil just because of fear.

Moonbeam City Season One Episode 1

I have to tell you that an old fart like me loves to see anything that satirizes the Eighties. Moonbeam City is a show that will never run out of plot lines if they keep making fun of the most plastic decade that ever was.
Everything about this show begins with the art of Patrick Nagel. If you click over, I have to warn you--his gallery works are not safe for work but they should be. The aesthetic of his prints forms the visual basis of MC, right down to the use of shadowy blinds whenever Pizazz Miller is dressing down Dazzle Novak. This is not a knock against Nagel--it is homage, if you want to get right down to it.
There are four main cast members. Dazzle is voiced by Rob Lowe and he does an admirable job of being clueless (think of a hyped, oversexed version of his character from Parks and Recreation). Elizabeth Banks steals the melodrama as Pizazz. Will Forte plays the nemesis as Rad and Kate Mara plays Chrysalis, the brainy girl with glasses who props everyone else up.
I think this is where we're really going to hear how far Banks is willing to go to portray crazy--she's the best thing in this show and she knows how to live in this world. They need to add three or four more regulars to this cast or really work the guest spots because there's a lot of talent and subject matter to play with here.
Episode One is full of jokes--the come in rapid fire succession and I have to go back and watch it because I know I probably missed a third of what's in this thing. Everyone seems to get it coming and going, right down to the naming of shopping malls (an Eighties thing for me was how they named the malls in Minneapolis after something-Dale) and the subject of new age musical pieces (can't wait for Music From the Hearts of Space). It's violent and there's a lot of sexual content--think Archer and then add the Eighties sensibility of everything being super serious and earnest instead of smartassed and detached.
At some point, someone has to add some INXS and some Wham! to this show or it's going to explode under the weight of a missed opportunity. 
Dazzle is a little too much like Archer in that his incompetence and irresponsibility is what makes him a good cop, the #1 Cop, as it were. That's an aspect that's been done to death but it makes for tension because his Lana is Chrysalis. Pizazz is more like his Malory Archer and Rad is a combination of everyone who ever tried to destroy him. But, really, we can look past this and find a lot to like about Moonbeam City because the design and the presentation are pretty stunning. The writing is good enough to get past comparisons and, hey. It's not the Simpsons and it's definitely not Family Guy, so there you go.
What I like is the satirization of Eighties culture. Superficiality reigns supreme--the more fake a person is, the more they are central to what's happening. If you hear anything insincere, you're watching the wrong show or misunderstanding the whole thing. The show satirizes the way cops use guns and how cars seem to exist solely for chasing other cars. The only thing missing is the cocaine--wait.
This show probably has more cocaine on it than Season 5 of Archer, and that's saying something. But, really--it's worth watching once you get past the fact that Comedy Central probably needs to send Adam Reed a few checks.

Fear the Walking Dead Season One Episode 2




The second episode of Fear The Walking Dead was full of symbols and hinted at so many things to come, it would make sense to take notes. School just started. Well,school has ended, in many ways, and I think we have a setting that is going to come back in future episodes. People are learning, and they're getting a taste of what it looks like when civilization ends.

Kim Dickens is the alpha female of Fear the Walking Dead. Her character, Madison, has almost all of this episode to herself in terms of accomplishments. She's learning! She's thinking, and she's doing. So far, Travis has washed blood off of the truck and managed to get his ex-wife and biological son trapped in downtown Los Angeles. Maddie has saved both of her children, re-connected with Tobias, and taken out her first walker. And, she's pretty savvy when it comes to knowing who she can help and who she can't help.

As always, I don't do recaps and I try not to do spoilers, so hang in there with me.

Purely as a look at society as it breaks down, there are so many aspects of this episode that ring true. You see traffic gridlocked in places, and there's a heart-stopping aerial shot of Los Angelenos trying to get somewhere--anywhere. The freeway is blocked inboth directions, nothing is moving, and you know what awaits the people trapped in their cars. They will run out of gas and have to abandon their attempt to get to freedom. This was a crucial scene which contrasts from the original Walking Dead shot of Rick Grimes entering Atlanta on the inbound lanes of a freeway that has abandoned vehicles clogging the outbound lanes. In future episodes, this gridlock will have to be acknowledged, making it all but impossible to get anywhere by car.

There are a lot of simple phrases and callbacks in this episode. There's hoarding happening right under their eyes, people are coughing and getting sick, people are confused about what's happening and that makes what is going on take on verisimilitude and a real sense of purpose. We know what's going to happen; the characters are learning quickly enough to keep us from groaning too much, but you can see how different settings are going to be referred back to in future episodes.

Travis sees a cop ignoring the traffic problems and hoarding water; I suspect we'll see Travis looking at cop cars as potential treasure troves for supplies. There's a real disparity in how people have "prepped" and how people have just ignored the warning signs around them. I suspect we'll learn that some people have known for weeks or months about what is coming and have created little empires for themselves already. Maddie sees the immense hoard of food kept in the high school where she works, secured and locked up and known only by Tobias. She says, offhand, "I have food," while not realizing that nobody has stored and stocked up on enough. When pantries run empty, it will be a resource wall all over again, rivaling anything we've seen in The Walking Dead because, in an urban setting, there will be vastly more walkers and more logistical problems to contend with. You think there were herds in rural Georgia? What about what's coming down the 405?

These logistical issues are where I live. That's what interests me in the show--what would I do and how would I solve problems? That's why this episode is so Madison-centric. She's horrified at doing something necessary, and her own sense of ethics has begun to come apart. At the height of the panic, she washes her jacket and lets precious gallons of water run down the drain; I can't help but think that water shortages are going to play a huge part in future episodes, given their desire to "get to the desert" and ride things out. I doubt they're going to film season two in the high desert, surrounded by blowing tumbleweeds and dry mouths. I do think there will be callbacks to how cavalier everyone is to food, water, weapons and shelter. Tobias gives away the game when he notes that the high school is probably the most secure building in town, in terms of being a former fallout shelter.

It's a much faster pace in episode two, and it stands in stark contrast to the pilot. We have a little more invested in the people we're seeing--they're not the elite, they're not heavily armed--there's normalcy in their lives and it's upended by the transformation around them. There's a little more of Travis' previous family, his son and ex-wife and there's more of Nick and Alicia and their dynamic. This is where you start to see how the dramatics will play out. Much of this episode is spent dealing with the reality of Nick and his drug problem. Instead of using the time to warn her neighbor to get inside or look after their supplies, Madison has to "score" so that Nick's withdrawal from Heroin will not risk his life. This prevents Alicia from looking after her own interests as well, leading to more resentment and more problems between the characters. At least run a tub full of water--just like in an earthquake--right?

This is an example of how Season 1 of FTWD is progressing--leaving the slow and methodical pace behind, with characters being developed while everything turns into "a world of shit." And you can see how that's going to be depicted here, with a focus on police brutality while showing how things end up when the police can't control anything (yeah, the military is going to step into that role later on--can't wait to see how that turns out). So far, we have two and a half hours of show and there's a lot going on here. This mini-season will really create the framework of this world and give us a glimpse of how society breaks down.

What I saw were examples of selflessness and selfishness. You see people trying to help one another and you see others preparing to abandon their responsibilities and get out of town. Are you going to be like the family that takes in Travis and his ex-wife and son or do you want to be like Maddie and leave a neighbor for a walker? Those are the hard choices ahead and that's how we will be allowed to have a view into the process.

You can see a great example of it when Lisa Ortiz, who is Travis' ex-wife, shows no grasp of what is happening because the gradual takeover of the walking dead hasn't touched her life yet. She is blissfully unaware until Travis shares his knowledge with her and informs her of how society is coming apart. In real life, how many people would be swept up in events and become victims? How many would be like the poor cop sitting on the back of an ambulance, having his walker bites bandaged up? Does it do any good to pray? And will religion be mocked at all? I kinda want to know.

The transformation of knowledge into skills and abilities begins to happen. You see a female cop shoot a walker in the chest, center mass, like she was trained. And then, she shoots the walker in the eye and that's it--no more walker. You couldn't have a better a-ha moment if you tried. Instead of everyone seeing this and learning, this, you have anarchy and rioting, looting and wanton mayhem. You have people trapped in open spaces while Madison shuts her door, closes her blinds, and stands with her back to the door, knowing what Tobias knows--don't go outside.

This week, we also learned about the plane trip that will introduce a future character--can't wait for that. I will deal with that separately when it comes out. But, wow. What a great tie-in for next season.

Fear the Walking Dead Season One Episode 1



Well, it's late August and Fear the Walking Dead has finally arrived. I've waited all summer to begin writing about the episodes that are going to comprise Season One and so tonight's 90 minute pilot episode has left me feeling like there are lots of great things ahead.

You can read full episode recaps anywhere, but my general impression of the show is that the pilot is going to go down as a pale comparison of The Walking Dead's first episode. And that's okay because we are being shorted on nothing here--this is a different show with a different set of priorities. The viewers of this version of the franchise are going to be a lot more forgiving than the general public was not quite five years ago when the original arrived with a lot more on the line.

Cliff Curtis and Kim Dickens are going to carry this show and they have a great supporting cast so far. New people are going to drop into their lives, so the pilot features characters that we are just now getting to know. But the two characters that stand out for me are Tobias (Lincoln Castellanos) and Russell (Leon Thomas III).

Tobias seems almost like a Morgan character to me. He has the presence of mind to carry a knife and in this universe, being armed early and often means survival instincts are already strong. IMDB has him billed for two episodes--does he die? I have no idea and I wouldn't tell you if I did. But his command of the subject of what's happening with the outbreak in "five states" and whether or not it's a virus or a microbe doesn't go beyond his brief appearance. But what Castellanos does rather well is present a character who closely aligns with what we know is coming, and he gets to be the voice of reason and foreshadowing in an episode where people are still going up to the undead and trying to shake them awake while they're on their feet. Sophistication is coming, and it will take a while.

The other possibility for a "Morgan" type character is the blink and you'll miss him inclusion of Thomas, a seasoned actor who is probably more well known for being onVictorious. He is taught the lesson from the Jack London lecture being given by Curtis--foreshadowing the need for man to struggle against nature. If either of these two characters come back in season two, look for more of these themes to emerge.

I think that what is being set up here is a series of episodes to come that will deal with drug addiction while society is breaking down. Those who have the skill of dealing with it--in this case, the mother, Madison, has the skills needed to wade through her son Nick's problems. His addiction is front and center in this episode and I think a lot of reviewers are missing how important this could be in terms of establishing trust and reliability. Without those things, survival in this universe is next to impossible. How will Nick establish himself as a go-to character? Will we have eight or nine episodes featuring how his addictions and weaknesses kill the other characters? Or will the zombie apocalypse change him as it will no doubt change all of the other survivors?

The City of Los Angeles is a fantastic setting and it becomes a noted character, in and of itself. You hear sirens and gun shots throughout the episode, and you see the characters have been lulled into a sense of false security. They are watching the city begin to unravel and the signs are there, but, with the backdrop of L.A. right there, you can see them ignoring some pretty significant clues. Anyone would ignore those clues--they don't know what's coming but we do. And the city begins to unravel at the fringes and the seams. I'm reminded of Terminator 2 when they go down into the concrete channels of the Los Angeles River and see what happens to a character who is still living in the present world. This is where you will find the evidence of what's happening, all while trains and cars whizz overhead.

The pilot begins with terror, and this is the horror genre of episodic television, of course, but what we're going to see is the breakdown of society and the collapse of everything familiar. I tend to skew towards the "what would you do" line of thinking when it comes to these shows. As in, how would I survive and what would need to be done in order to do so. No, I haven't become a "prepper" but I can see why someone would after watching this.

Overall, the pilot was slow paced, and deliberately so. Why would Curtis go back to the church? Why would they remain in the city when things start to break down? Well, where would they go? They are at home, and their home is beginning to change. The familiar surroundings seen in the pilot are going to make cameos in future episodes, I would think, so it's important to remember the significance of all of these places and settings. The next five episodes are going to tell an important part of the foundation story for these characters, so I'm going to be paying close attention to the fringes, which are now filling up with the infected.

It's okay if people are saying that the pilot sucked. That's not a verdict on the series, however, and it doesn't acknowledge the fact that we were told that the series was going to begin at the start of the zombie apocalypse, rather than in the middle of it, and that this would mean having to have faith in the source material. The clumsy establishment of family relations and characters is always going to have detractors. Rarely do you ever see it done so masterfully that it doesn't lead to criticisms of some sort. This is above average source material and a great way to begin what should be a fairly long and involved story about these people, who are more like the regular viewers of the show.