Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Good & Bad: 'The Walking Dead' (2/22/15)

Season 5, Episode 11 “The Distance” 

Plot: The gang has emerged from last week’s sojourn through the Old Testament and come out religious-symbolism-free on the other side. Well, at least for the week. Maggie and Sasha bring the mysterious Aaron back to the barn and introduce him to the group. He says “Hey, we’ve got this cool place that’s safe and awesome and I want you to join.” The group responds by hassling him, taking his things, and then knocking him out. Let’s see, from there, basically, the group spends most of the rest of the episode trying to decide whether to trust Aaron or just steal all his stuff and leave him for dead. Eventually they tentatively go with Plan A. On their way to Aaron’s pad, Glenn crashes their ride through all of the walkers in Virginia, the group gets split in half and wood-based walker hijinks ensue. Killing off three characters in three weeks would be overkill and so everyone makes it back to the same place and they meet Aaron’s boyfriend Eric (Glad we got that biblical stuff out of the way when we did). The episode ends as the gang arrives at Aaron and Eric’s compound. Tune in next week when we find out whether this was all a giant mistake or if it’s the best thing ever until some one-eyed jerk comes around and ruins everything.


  • Bad: It doesn’t pay to be nice (in theory). I get being weary of Greeks bearing gifts, or in this case, dorky white guys, but c’mon. Do we need to punch out the guy, hog tie him and steal all of his supplies? Sure, he could be a murderous cannibal tax cheat. He could also just be a nice guy. Rick and crew’s actions seem to go beyond maintaining a healthy suspicion of strangers and plow headfirst into “Yup, we’re dicks now.” Fun game idea: Show this episode to someone who’s never watch a second of “The Walking Dead” and then try to convince him or her that Rick's crew are the good guys. Do a shot every time you say “No, seriously. They really are.”
  • Bad: The only thing that carried me through those long, slow moments of tediously weighing pros and cons was the idea that Rick would say “We’re not going” and the episode would end with Aaron walking sadly back into his settlement to reveal a entire town full of curly mullets, children in sheriff hats, oddly clean and healthy-looking babies --- in short: Grimes Family heaven. Then we’d smash cut back to Rick who’s using a whip and chair to fend off just a sea of walkers while he yells “I regret nothing!” at the top of his lungs.    
  • Good: I will accept your attempts to break the ice with awful humor, Aaron, but only because everyone else on this show is so super serious all the time.
  • Bad: Rick really is a chore in this episode. We get it, decisions are hard. If you don’t want to make them, drift into the background and let someone else take over for a while. Or multiple someone else’s. Where does it say you must always be the literal or symbolic head of that group?
  • Good: Aaron’s story about his mom making him eat applesauce to toughen him up is simultaneously the greatest, dumbest and saddest thing I’ve ever heard. It’s sad because it’s no doubt rooted in truth, but it’s great and dumb because it’s applesauce. Looking forward to next week when we hear all about his time spent at lumberjack camp and how his mom used to push him into bear pits every time they took a trip to a zoo. That’d toughen a kid up.   
  • Bad: Nonsense conflict. So Rick wants Aaron to tell him where the settlement is located. Aaron doesn’t want to do that because he’s scared it might lead to something bad happening to his friends. I don’t understand what he’s talking about. How is telling them where your camp is located any more dangerous than actually leading them there? Couldn’t they just as easily let you lead the way and then just open fire the second the gates are open? Actually, couldn’t they do that more easily since if you go with them, you’ll be there to get the gates open in the first place? What are we fighting about?!?!?
  • Good: What’s up with Aaron and that listening device? Spying on them and whatnot? Wonder if he heard Abe workshopping one-liners while taking his morning constitution in the woods.
  • Bad: So much for Glenn getting promoted from waterboy/shoulder to cry on to group driver. How does he not see that giant swarm of walkers? Why is it that every time a character takes his or her eyes off the road for even a second in this show, something is able to teleport directly in front of them?    
  • Good: Walkers in the woods. This whole sequence was awesome. Being lost in the woods? Scary. Being lost in the woods at night. Scarier? Being lost in the woods at night while something is chasing you? Super scary.
  • Good: That awesome effect where Glenn is shooting walkers and you can see a walker getting gradually closer and closer in the muzzle flashes.
  • Good/Bad: So Aaron is gay. That’s cool, however, the show may have gone overboard with the “Look how cute he and his boyfriend are” stuff. I mean, they are cute, but hell, this is zombie apocalypse world. People ain't got time to be that doe-eyed and lovable.
  • Good: Finally some character development for the baby. Remember, she cries when Aaron shows up, so I’m going to reverse engineer that to mean the baby is a homophobe. Friggin’ babies, man. They can’t just live and let live.
  • Bad: Papa Rick doesn’t want Aaron and Eric sleeping together, presumably because he doesn’t see any wedding rings and this is the south. Just because it’s a zombie apocalypse doesn’t mean the neighbors won’t talk. Or maybe he’s afraid of scheming. I don’t know. Rick was a wishy-washy pain so I just started inventing motivations for him that I found more interesting than “They could be good, but they could be bad (*furrow brow*).”
  • Good: Pulling the rug out from under Abe. He’s so sure they’re going to make it and then BAM! Dead RV.
  • Good: Glenn, knower of RV maintenance. Remember all that time they spent living in an RV like three seasons ago? Paid off. Suck it people who thought they were at Herschel’s farm for too long!
  • Good: Cliffhanger! Are Aaron’s people cool? Are they baddies? Now that Rick is there and his whole lion tamer thing is out of the picture, I kind of hope the gates open to reveal absolutely nothing. The place is 100% deserted. Aaron looks down at a map and is all “My bad guys, wrong one. We’re actually in the next walled settlement over. Sorry.” And then we do the whole dance again next week.  

Monday, February 16, 2015

Good & Bad: 'The Walking Dead' (2/15/15)

Season 5, Episode 10, “Them”  

Plot: Last night’s episode was all about getting a drink. Not a “damn drank” like our dearly departed Beth was so into that one time, but rather the most standard of drinks: water. See, the gang has been on the road for a while now, they’re nowhere near home or their destination (Washington, DC) and they’re running short on essential supplies. So that’s a problem. Also a problem is that within the group itself, there are three distinct factions: the people currently locked in an existential crisis, those trying to cheer up those who are locked in an existential crisis, and those who are just staying out of it. That first group (Maggie, Fr. Gabe, Sasha, Daryl, Noah) keeps getting its emotions all over everyone else, forcing the second group (Rick, Glen, Carl, Michonne) to give them the old “C’mon, buddy. Buck up.” The third group (everyone else) seems content to hang back and sigh loudly until things are resolved. This plays out over the entire episode. Then it rains, everyone has some water, it keeps raining, the gang hides in a barn, teams up to keep out some walkers and by the next morning we seem to be inching down the righteous path of healing. Then some new guy shows up and announces he wants to talk to Rick. Bam! Cliffhanger.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Good & Bad: 'The Walking Dead' (2/8/15)

Season 5, Episode 9
"What Happened and What's Going On"

Plot: TV’s biggest show whose title doesn’t feature an abbreviation or a city name in it returned last night with an absolute orgy of blood, violence, explosions, more blood, additional explosions and then, just when you thought there wouldn’t be any more, there were EVEN MORE explosions! Plots were twisted, untwisted and then re-twisted again, true allegiances were revealed, new characters were flipping everywhere, and it was complete madness. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, “The Walking Dead” stormed back into our lives with the “take-no-prisoners” attitude we’ve come to know and love from the … oh wait no. The only part of that which actually happened was “The Walking Dead” came back last night.
                Let’s see, in reality, last night’s kind of dull and needlessly fancy episode moved the gang from Georgia to a different part of the south (Virginia) to check out Noah’s old neighborhood. Naturally because it was Noah who vouched for it, when they get there, the place was all overrun with walkers. Noah gets emotional, goes to have a walk around, Ty follows and, because Noah was involved, Ty is immediately bitten by a walker. Ty then spends the rest of the episode in one room having hallucinations of a random smattering of recently deceased characters from seasons passed. Noah alerts Rick, Michonne, and Glenn – who’d spent their part of the episode arguing about where the suddenly globe-trotting gang would go next (they picked Washington, DC)– and they all try to rescue Ty but it doesn’t work and big guy dies and everyone is bummed.

  • Bad: Someone in the crew decided that last night’s episode needed to be fancier than your average “Walking Dead” episode. So because of that decision, our opening sequence is essentially a bunch of random images: a shovel digging in loose soil, Fr. Gabe performing some type of funeral, shots of the prison, blood dripping on a picture, shots of rail road tracks, etc. Then, throughout the rest of the episode, those same random shots were repeated over and over again. The intended effect: A very minute, small section of Ty’s life is flashing before his eyes. The actual effect: We’re trying very hard to make this episode where the only thing that happens is we kill off a beloved character different than the last episode where the only thing that happened was that we killed off a beloved character.  
  • Good: Ty goes out like a boss. Dude gets bit, then he gets bit again. Then he hangs on and faces his inner demons/regrets – or at least the ones that are played by actors who had a free spot on their calendar, i.e., not Herschel. Ty’s a good guy and if he had to go he deserved a nice ending, which this tried to be even though it wasn't the best executed nice ending.
  • Bad: Rick, Glenn, Michonne. She wants to stay in Noah’s neighborhood, Rick says no, then they’re going to DC, but no one’s sure, then they decide to go to DC. Their segments such as they were, were booked like an opening to “Monday Night Raw.” Lots of talking circles around things which could have been resolved very quickly. “Hey so this place is a dump, has no real defenses, is overrun with walkers, and Noah likes it here. Now, he’s already killed Beth and dragged us all hundreds of miles from our home for nothing. Hell for all we know, he’s killing Ty right now. So, long story short, let’s go to the biggest nearby town and see how things are there?” Done.   
  • Good: Ty’s demons. Little blonde girls? Yeah, that makes sense. Carol killed them right under his nose. Beth? Meh. His sister sorta got her killed, but I think we can all agree that one was mostly Noah’s fault. Bob? Yeah sure. Mean-Termite guy? Sure, big confrontation a few episodes back. The Governor? Why’s Ty still feeling guilty about crashing at this guy’s pad for like two weeks two years ago? It wasn’t a big deal. Once you found out he was nuts, you left. 
  • Bad: Jesus Christ, does Ty have to spend this much time talking to his inner demons? How can a giant lovable teddy bear who wears a winter hat year-round have so many demons? FEWER DEMONS!
  • Bad: We get it you guys. There's blood on that picture. And it's the same one from earlier!
  • Good: The little blonde girls are all like: “It’s better now!” and the Gov is all “No it’s not!” Classic Gov. It’s not a good or a bad, but rather a missed opportunity. At some point the Gov should have said something to Ty to the effect of: “Look, you need to listen to me because I traveled a long way to talk to you. I’m supposed to be putting together an army of ghosts to lead another doomed-to-fail assault on the prison since that’s the only thing I’m allowed to do on this show.”  
  • Bad: On his way to get Rick and company to help Ty, Noah somehow gets trapped under a door and attacked by walkers.
  • Good: Ty gets the Herschel treatment. Ty got bit on his arm, so they lop the sucker off and begin a mad dash to rendezvous with the rest of the gang to keep him from bleeding out. Nice call back since Herschel couldn’t make it to Ty’s subconscious.
  • Bad: Rick asks Noah if he can hold Ty while they fight walkers. Noah says “Absolutely.” Within seconds, he’s dropped Ty and is about to be torn to shreds until someone else has to swoop in and save him.
  • Bad: So, is this “Noah is completely, ridiculously not worth keeping alive for even a second more” building to anything? In just a few short episodes, he’s descended beyond Season Two Carl-levels of “detriment to the gang.” He’s basically become the show’s Gilligan. I’m really excited for the season finale when they get to DC, they meet the President (played by Chris Hardwick) who tells them there’s a cure. Pres. Hardwick shows them a vile full of a mysterious liquid, sitting carefully on top of a pedestal. Noah walks in from the bathroom, trips, smashes the vile and then uses the instructions on how to make more to try to mop it up, ruining them in the process.
  • Bad: Worst getaway ever. The car gets stuck in the dirt, Rick hits a truck full of torsos. Noah is asked to do things. If this getaway had been even remotely competent, Ty would be walking around with one arm, a ponytail and dispensing southern-friend wisdom right now.
  • Good-ish: The shot of Beth and all the good ghosts driving Ty into the afterlife was pleasant.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

That's Not My Name: The Adventures of Guy and Young Fella

If I had to give my ability to form meaningful relationships with other human beings a grade, I think I’d give myself an NI for Needs Improvement. I’ve got a solid group of friends, a long term girlfriend, positive relationships with family members and neither of my cats have attempted to tunnel out of the house to escape me yet. All of those truths have elevated me above the pitiable U for Unsatisfactory level, however, I clearly don’t deserve an S for Satisfactory, either. I’m just far too socially awkward and stunted for any teacher, no matter how lenient, to put that S on my report card.
                Consider this social phenomenon I’ve been observing over the last, maybe two years of my life. It’s something I can only imagine is not a common occurrence in the lives of most.
                I go to the gym most mornings (Disclaimer: I’m not a hero). While at the gym, I approach no one. I put on a pair of headphones, listen to my music or a podcast, go about my routine and leave. I’ve followed this exact blueprint across three separate gyms over the course of nearly a decade. I ask no questions, I make no conversation, I do nothing beyond a friendly nod and smile at whoever happens to be manning the front desk.
                I’m not a dick. If someone talks to me or approaches me, I will absolutely give them the time of day. I’ve even made one or two friends this way during my time spent getting all jacked up and shredded and so forth. I don’t mind talking to people, it’s just not the reason I’m there.
                In addition to the friends, I’ve also made a rather large collection of … undefinables. This is where my social defect is on full display. Allow me to explain.
                I know a guy at the gym. I know he’s unemployed. I know what job he used to have. I know his wife is pregnant. I know it’s a daughter. I know when she’s due. I know what his wife’s name is. I know he hates ab day. I know what kinds of onesies he’s planning on buying her – the daughter, not the wife. Counter to that, he knows what I do, where I work, where I grew up, that I hurt my wrist playing softball a few months ago, and he knows I struggled to get an MRI scheduled for said wrist.
                Guess what we don’t know about each other? Our names. I know intimate details about his personal life and the same goes for him, but we’ve never actually said “Hi, I’m blank.” We just started on page two of the “How to Make Friends” pamphlet.