Monday, March 31, 2014

Paradise Lost and Other Disappointments

The journey to Terminus is absolutely interminable! Tara and Ginger are having a nighttime convo. The Tara-Glenn group find Maggie’s bloody missive on the sign to Terminus. Glenn takes off running, just so happy that Mags is still alive!
Daryl’s group of psychopathic merry men (a.k.a. “Claimers”) are still around. Michonne and Carl engage in some lighthearted banter and adolescent rivalry—Carl manages to walk along the railroad tracks without falling and wins the game.
Daryl learns the rules of his group. Everything, including food, is “claimed.” In one case it was a “critter,” or bunny. And Joe, the head of the group, explains evolution to Daryl, who claims that he “ain’t claiming nothing,” because there are no rules any more.
Glenn goes terminator on his group. Tara hurts her leg, but Glenn says no, no, we can go on. Really, Glenn? Love has turned him into a dick. Tara, after all, feels indebted to Glenn for saving her back at the prison; he is fully taking advantage of her sentiment.
Joe’s rules are simple indeed; don’t steal, don’t lie. Joe is full of witty aphorisms, about cats and such like! Charmante.
Glenn is still eager beaver to go through a dark, scary tunnel to reach his one true love. Blinded Tara volunteers to go with him when Ginger says he needs to protect Eugene and sexy combat girl. So, with a gimpy Tara, Glenn is going to risk both their lives. Nice!
Naturally, Glenn and Tara encounter a bunch of walkers crushed by a falling chunk of ceiling in the tunnel. However, there are many more very mobile zombies just beyond the fallen rock. Looks like Glenn and Tara have stumbled upon what is known in the apocalyptic vernacular as a roving herd. After confirming that Maggie is not among the zombies, Glenn must figure out a way to push through. Tara is getting into all sorts of incompetent scrapes: now her leg is wedged after slipping into a crack.
Eugene’s great one-liner: “After I save the world, I still have to live with myself.”
One of Daryl’s compatriots tries to pick a fight with him and it backfires, in a deadly way. Joe saw the dude plant a dead rabbit in Daryl’s stuff, so they all go after the dude to teach him a lesson. A one-time lesson. No do-overs.
Tara is really playing the martyr, telling Glenn to leave her and look for Maggie, but Glenn refuses. Just when you think they are toast, Maggie, Bob, and Sasha show up to save the day with submachine gun fire!
Glenn and Maggie make lovey dovey conversation now that they are reunited.
Joe is looking for revenge on the guy who killed his “colleague” in the house that Rick was hiding out in. The man Rick strangled turned and attacked Joe and his men. One of the men saw Rick’s face as he ran away from the house.

The season finale is upon us! Finally. I am NOT going to miss my weekly blogging about The Walking Dead, let me tell you. It’s tiring.
Rick is teaching his son about the art of snaring critter to eat. Rick stuffs a taxidermied bunny into his pouch. They hear a man call out for help. He’s being attacked by a group of walkers, but Rick decides there are too many to save the man. The three run away and encounter yet more zombies. They walk a bit more and find a truck. Seems like a safe place to hide out in. But Joe and his men find Rick and Joe puts a gun to Rick’s head in the dead of night. Daryl steps in and says that these are “good people,” so Joe should let them go. Naturally, Joe doesn’t agree, and his merry pranksters start to beat Daryl up, presumably to death.
These men are monsters! One starts to torture Carl. Somehow Rick escapes with Joe holding a gun to his temple. In the fray, Rick goes for the jugular and kills Joe with a bite to the neck. Hey, you do crazy shit when your kids are threatened. Then, one by one, all of Joe’s men are picked off handily by Michonne et al.
The scenes in this episode are interspersed with blasts from the past, domestic glimpses into the former Farmer Rick’s life. Hershel said the “war is over,” but he could not have been more wrong. These semi-bucolic scenes remind us how far Rick has come from planting beans.
Rick is now covered in blood and understandably a little shook up from last night’s encounter. Michonne and Carl are resting in the truck. Daryl and Rick catch up. Rick calls Daryl his brother and that those deebags had nothing to do with him. As you recall, Maggie and Glenn and Co. have reached Terminus, and now Rick et al have. They watch the compound from a safe distance.
Michonne admits to Carl that she used her turned boyfriend and his friend as her pet walkers to blend in with the crowd. It worked! She also confesses that meeting Rick and Carl have made her more human, let her get in touch with her humanity again. Carl thinks he’s a monster. He admits it to Michonne. Just saying it out loud probably makes him feel better.
The four scope out Terminus. A bunch of people are doing stuff on long tables in a warehouse. One lady is broadcasting Terminus as a sanctuary over the airwaves—what’s left of them. They have to put their weapons down. The Termians seem too hipster, too pat. Daryl without his crossbow is like…
I was right! Everyone there is armed. The hipster, bearded guy has a gun in his pants, and Glenn’s watch! Hershel’s present. Rick sees the gun, grabs it, and puts it to the guy’s head, asking where did you get the watch, see?
We flash back to Patrick, the young man who started the season by munching his way through the cellblock. He’s playing with legos, and Carl is practicing cleaning his gun, taking it apart. Carl may be a monster, but he really knows his way around a firearm, I’ll tell you what.
Gunfire erupts. Terminus perhaps is not the happy place it purports to be. Rick and Co. run around the complex, evading gunfire. However, if the Termians wanted to hit their target, they could. So, clearly they are keeping them alive for some mysterious reason. They are surrounded. Stuck.
The Terminus group makes Rick and Co. march into what looks like a cattle car. Glenn and Co. are already in there. Yet do not despair! Rick avows to keep on fightin’.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Look at All the Pretty Flowers

“The Grove”
I submit to you my perfunctory summary of the latest episode of The Walking Dead. I’d also like to seize this opportunity to share with you some personal updates about me that have nothing to do with the show, primarily the fact that I’ve been experiencing a brush with my impending mortality. I’ve caught myself holding reading materials, including my iPhone, further and further away from my eyes to make out the words. Somehow during this the corners of my mouth turn down and I suddenly start to resemble Grandpa Walton. If you don’t get this reference, much like my allusion in my last post to the hilarious fake OJ observer of 1994, Google The Waltons and educate yourself, for God’s sake! In retrospect, with the wisdom that I have acquired over the years (20 of them, dear reader), I probably would now admonish the fake OJ observer with “Too soon!” but back in the day it was pretty amusing.  
Coming back to the subject of my aging eyes. You know you are getting old when you walk into a hip and happening store and the first display that catches your eye is that of the funky reading glasses. My shopping companion bought a pair of beautiful, sparkly earrings, whereas I stopped to admire a pair of turquoise-blue and fake tortoise shell glasses. Naturally, I bought them; it was my compromise with my wounded ego, and I am very happy with them.
Now that I have shared with you fears of my own mortality, let us return to the everyday death and gloom that is The Walking Dead. “The Grove” opens with a child, presumably Lizzie, playing keep away with a stumbling walker, with old-timey music playing in the background. The scene is very charming, in an endearingly quaint way. It could easily be a commercial for a new brand of chamomile tea or flavored instant coffee.
One way to burn some calories.

Carol reveals to Lizzie upon questioning that she had a daughter who “didn’t have a mean bone in her body.” Lizzie retorts, that’s why that girl is dead! You sure can consistently rely upon Lizzie for a pithily candid answer. Carol applies a healing sap to Tyreese’s arm wound. Recall that in this world complementary medicines are all the rage, unless you can break into a deserted veterinary hospital. Tyreese, Carol, Baby Judith, Mika and Lizzie are following the railroad tracks to the nebulous TERMINUS (“the end of a travel route; the end of something”). In spite of her psychopathic tendencies, Lizzie does not see walkers as a threat, merely different. Though she does exhibit fear towards them, so what gives? She is so ready to stifle a crying baby, but chastises Tyreese when he is about to mash in a walker’s brains.
Mika says that she knows what the zombies are, but she can’t kill people. Carol worries that Mika won’t be able to defend herself. They spot a secluded house, nestled amongst the trees. Mika happily tells Carol that her mom said that things always work out for the best. The girls spot the fire that drunk Daryl and Beth set. I like the way the characters just miss each other, carrying on their wanderings within half a mile of one another. Mika shoots a walker, narrowly defending baby J and Lizzie. Inexplicably, Lizzie is shaken by the shooting.
Lizzie is starting to irritate me. She doesn’t seem to be able to distinguish between walkers and people. In some key ways, she displays more empathy for walkers than she does humans within her close circle. While she is carelessly playing keep away with a female walker, Carol runs out and kills the zombie to protect Lizzie. Lizzie freaks out, screaming that Carol doesn’t understand, that she killed her “friend.”
Carol and Mika are walking near the forest. Mika is armed with a shotgun. They spot a deer, but Mika can’t shoot it. Guess they’re eating vegan tonight. “We have peaches,” Mika offers hopefully. Tyreese rethinks the original plan to go to Terminus. In a heartbreaking moment, Tyreese says that he trusts all of the people he’s with right now (see Carol: murderer-epidemiologist). Lizzie feeds mice to a walker trapped in the railroad tracks. Her sister is the voice of reason, telling Lizzie to stop feeding them.
Lizzie offers a tasty treat to her new pet.

Suddenly some charred walkers emerge from the forest. Carol shows some mad shooting skills with Tyreese, as do the two little girls, to make short work of the smoldering zombies, who make it as far as the periphery of their new sanctuary.
Lizzie is clearly becoming unhinged. “I know what I have to do now,” she asserts. Carol seems relieved. Mika restates her desire not to be mean. Tyreese grumbles in his sleep as he has another nightmare, probably reliving the gruesome and tragic loss of Karen. Tyreese and Karen walk the grounds the next morning. He admits that he dreams about Karen every night, thinking that she’s still alive. He also relives her death. “The whole world is haunted now,” he intones. But Carol prefers to think of it as the dead reminding the living of what they have to do. She tears up, no doubt feeling guilty over her decision to kill Karen and David.
Carol and Tyreese return to the house from a hunting expedition only to discover that Lizzie has stabbed Mika to death, and now wants to wait for her sister to turn. She’ll “come back.” She was about to kill Judith, too. Lizzie appears bright and cheerful, as if she’s just performed a major good deed or been super-helpful. Carol remains tearful but calm throughout the horrifying scene. Kudos to Carol, who is now forced to stab Mika in the head before the little girl turns.
Tyreese cradles Baby Judith as he tells Carol of Lizzie’s activities. As many Dead fans suspected, she was the one feeding rats to the walkers piling up at the prison fences. She claims responsibility for the splayed and dissected rat that Tyreese and company found nailed to a wall in the prison. Lizzie is damaged goods. What to do? “She can’t be around other people,” Carol repeats. Carol knows what she has to do, and Tyreese is too much of a softie to do it. Lizzie doesn’t want Carol to be mad at her; Carol tells Lizzie to keep looking at the flowers, as she readies her gun.
Carol buries Lizzie next to Mika and the children of the former owner of the property. Now just the three of them remain. That night, Carol confesses to Tyreese that she killed Karen and David. You can feel the rage and sadness bubbling over in Tyreese. Carol assures him that it was very quick and that Karen did not know what was happening. Tyreese’s hand goes for the gun on the table and Carol tells him to do what he has to do. In an incredibly generous gesture, Tyreese tells Carol that he forgives her but he cannot and will never forget what happened.
The leavings of the beginning of a new life cut short at this idyllic place are strewn about the abandoned house. The abundant pecans from the trees; the doll that Mika played with by the fire; the easy chair that Tyreese slumbered in fitfully; and the whistling copper teapot on the stovetop. As Carol, Tyreese and Judith continue to approach Terminus, perhaps they will cross paths with one or more of the other traveling characters. 

Monday, March 3, 2014

Beth Takes Her First Drink and We All Yawn

Beth and Daryl do a lot of running away from walkers, A LOT. This is quite the tenses, as the  infamous fake O.J. observer said way back in 1994 to a thoroughly befuddled Peter Jennings. The duo decides to hide out in the trunk of a defunct car as walkers swarm the area. After scavenging the car for useful stuff, they leave. Huh. Not much to say about that except maybe, “I see Beth, and she look scared!” in the words of the aforementioned OJ observer impersonator. I do hope that most of my readers were either old enough to vote, drink, or engage in carnal relations when O.J. Simpson murdered his ex-wife and her friend Ron Goldman back in 1994. Otherwise, this brilliant reference will be sadly lost upon you unless you Google it!
Back to Beth and Daryl in the forest. One day, Daryl realizes, he’s going to lose all of his crossbow arrows. One of them has snapped in two. Shouldn’t he have a bigger beard by now? If my calculations are correct, he should resemble Grizzly Adams. There’s nothing like eating squirrel and a side of—ew—snake with a pretty lady in tow. Beth wishes she had a chardonnay to wash down that absolutely revolting reptile. Why do you have to go off alone, Beth? Do you not know by now that Daryl is the ultimate zombie fighter? Here come the walkers. She wisely hides behind a tree. Daryl finds her. She’s acting like a petulant teenager, which I guess she kind of is. She’s craving booze, which does not bode well, given her family history (father Hershel was a former alcoholic).
They come across a country club. A golf club makes an excellent head clubber, don’t you know. We are presented with yet another scene of poor souls who attempted to “opt out” of the world by suicide. But they didn’t know about the rule of taking your head out first or else you become a walker. In the kitchen, Daryl finds some seasoning for his various meats. Beth has found some alcohol but has to use the bottle to brain an attacking walker; Bob Stookey’s nightmare! Wasted booze—nooooooooo! You will recall that he is another alcoholic struggling to stay sober when life seems so bleak. Country clubs are already kind of sad when they are functional, so to see a zombified one is even more depressing. Off goes the white golf cardigan Beth pilfered from the club’s store; it’s covered in blood. But she’s OK, folks! In fact, she’s found the wet dream of every teenaged girl, peach schnapps. Will she get drunk and do it with Daryl? Hmmm. I think Beth misses her daddy. She’s crying before she can even open that bottle of schnapps. And Daryl reminds her that your first drink should not be crappy schnapps, anyway! Glad to see that alcohol standards have not slipped in the apocalyptic universe.
Beth shines a light on what COULD be booze.

I just KNEW that he was waiting to find some good old moonshine for Beth! There’s nothing like a first drink that will make your eyebrows fall off and your toenails turn inside out. Beth wants a partner in crime, but shouldn’t someone with his wits about him be keeping watch? Is this entire episode going to be about Beth and Daryl? I’ve already had enough, no offense. Beth engages a highly reluctant Daryl in a drinking game enjoyed by college coeds everywhere: I’ve never done…and then the other person drinks or doesn’t, based upon the other’s answer. This is boring!
Daryl apparently thinks so, too. His prison time comes up. Daryl takes a piss—loudly, in the corner of the room. Daryl is singing his woe is me, I’ve had a bad life song. Things are getting uncomfortable. “I want you to stop acting like nothing matters,” Beth says to him. Daryl says some pretty cruel things about Beth not seeing Maggie again. Then he tears up. Beth embraces him. He’s openly crying now. Yawn. Not impressed with this episode.
Daryl reveals that pre-apocalypse he was “just drifting around with Merle,” living randomly. Beth shares that she thought that life would normalize for her and her family at the prison. She praises Daryl for his ability to adapt and change. They decide to burn down the wreck of a house with the rest of the moonshine.
I’m not sure how I feel about this episode. It does not lend us any new insight about Beth or Daryl. We already knew that Daryl had a tender side, which does not reveal itself too often. And who could blame him? Men and women alike have to assume a hardened stance in this world or they could end up getting seriously hurt, both physically and mentally. It felt like an almost-end-of-the-season episode in which the writers are simply trying to kill time. It did effectively highlight, however, how young Beth really is. We forget that she is just a young girl still subject to mood swings. Note also her desire to experiment with alcohol. I do appreciate the way the writers are handling Beth’s attempts to balance her optimism with the fact that she and Daryl have not yet reconnected with any members of the scattered group.
Like any other teenage girl, Beth kept a diary.

In spite of these revelations, though, this episode lacked the suspense and excitement that has characterized others in season four. Has the denouement already occurred (the destruction of the prison group)? Has the season peaked too early?