The Defenders Season Review

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Instead of reviewing every episode, one by one, like most other reviewers, I’ve decided to just review the entire season.  Rather than 13 episodes, the series has been reduced to eight, which I feel was a really good idea, as this helps the story move along a lot more swiftly, and with less filler, than in the individual shows.  Since the plot is moving faster, and interludes are shortened, it’s not possible to get too irritated by any particular plot point (The Villain), or character (Danny), because you just don’t have much time for it.

Overall, I enjoyed the series. I can definitely say that I like certain characters much better in a team setting, than I did in their individual stories, because a lot of their weaknesses of character aren’t on full display here, and when they are on display, there’s a reason for it. I especially enjoyed all the team action, even just sitting around and talking to each other, because these guys are  a lot of fun together. Their fighting styles and attitudes just mesh really well, and they have great chemistry with each other, which makes for some interesting, and cool fight scenes, and some funny and snarky dialogue.

I think the show played up the reluctant hero angle a bit too much. The characters are always having conversations about how they’re not heroes, and don’t want to be heroes, especially Luke and Jessica. Matt is trying to quit  the superhero game as if he were going cold turkey from some kind of -ism. Danny is the only one who wants to be a hero, and he’s not  remotely equipped to be one.

 

Luke Cage:

 

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We get a slightly deeper understanding of Luke as a person, although there are no huge revelations, or anything. He still doesn’t want to be a hero, he’s still living in Harlem, still trying to figure out what he wants to do with his life, all of this is just as in his own show.  We see the opening moves of a friendship between him and Danny, and Luke and Claire finally go out for that coffee, before being awkwardly interrupted by Luke’s former one night, Misty.

All of the characters get a chance to interact, one on one, during the series, although there’s not a lot of forward momentum in their characters, or relationships. Just hints of things to come. We get hints of a reconciliation between him and Jessica. In the comic books, the two are married and have a baby, but I don’t know if these shows will move in that direction. I’m opposed to it because of Jessica having killed his wife, (and then lied to him about it), and Jessica is also  not in any kind of emotional shape to have a relationship with anyone. Also, she is, ethically speaking, the complete opposite of  Luke, and I just don’t see those two  styles of personality meshing well.

As I mentioned, the showrunner doesn’t do anything new with the character. Luke remains a deeply principled guy who, while okay with kicking ass, is opposed to killing. He is not afraid to call someone on their shit, the way he does to Danny.

I love that all the characters have their place and purpose  in the team, and how their differing fighting styles are showcased. Luke is like Superman. He’s invulnerable to most harm, and is often a shield for the others, when the guns come out. He’s not completely invulnerable though, as Danny is one of the few people that can knock him off his feet (well…Danny and unexpected trucks). Seriously, the man is like a tank. He’s even immune to fire.

The team needs Danny whenever they need a huge, loud distraction, as in the finale, when they needed to reach a safe place, but The Hand was being an obstruction. Danny is like a large explosive device, delivering concussive sound and force, and I like the way his powers are used here, although yeah, the glowing fist still looks kinda silly. Still, Luke and Danny are definitely the team’s two heavy hitters.

One of the most annoying parts of the show is the Rap music that appears whenever Luke shows up on screen. To the showrunner: Hey! Luke does not  need a soundtrack to announce his presence!

Matt is the resident Ninja, and while Danny isn’t too bad in that department, Danny has a different purpose. Matt is the kind of team member who can move in and out of a situation quickly and quietly, warn the team of any impending danger, (and get them out of trouble with the law,  if necessary, I guess.)

 

 

Matt Murdock:

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Matt spends a lot of the first couple of episodes trying not to be heroic, or save people. I think we’re meant to believe that he gave it all up after losing Elektra, but since I wasn’t buying his relationship with her, I didn’t care. The two of them have no chemistry, and the emotional intensity of a pair of titmice, especially when it comes to passionate exchanges.

On the other hand, it was nice seeing him put his lawyer-ly shit down, it was nice to see Foggy and Karen again, and I’m glad the three of them made some effort towards reconciliation, especially after last season’s events, when Karen found out he was Daredevil. The two of them treat, and talk about Matt, as if he were a recovering junkie, so that’s kind of weird, made even weirder by scenes of Matt “staring” longingly at his Daredevil outfit, as if it were an ice cream sundae.

Actually, a lot of Charlie Cox’s acting is off in this series. There’s story movement, but his character remains pretty much the same. His fighting skills are awesome as ever, but Charlie looks like he’s phoning in  his performance. When I called him a Floor Lamp Ninja, I meant that he could pretty much be swapped out by any other martial arts actor, and this would not  greatly affect the plot.

I did enjoy the scene where he tails Jessica on the streets and she susses him out, and when they meet for the first time in their superhero guises. Matt steals that big gray scarf she wears everywhere, to wrap around his face, and Jessica rolls her eyes at him.

 

 

Jessica Jones:

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This show went a long way towards making me like this character. As much as she hates people, Jessica really does work well in a team setting. She takes nothing seriously, which ends up making her the funniest person in the group. Her one on one interactions with Matt are especially funny, and she gives absolutely no fucks about who  Danny is, and is quick to say so, which I thought was hilarious.

A lot of the weakness of Jessica’s show is that its very White Feminist, and her mistreatment of PoC in the show really started, not just to grate on my nerves, but to make me actively dislike her, no matter how much I sympathized with her issues. I know and understand  that she is dealing with the severe trauma of what Killgrave did to her, but trauma is not an excuse for her abuse and mistreatment of characters of color.

I actually had a problem, not just with her,but with the show’s writers as well. Despite women’s trauma issues being  the center of  the story, they still managed to erase  WoC entirely, which is something White Feminism keeps doing, in stories that are supposed to be empowering to women. (The stories end up being empowering only  to White women.) But I still applaud the show for its messages and the general treatment of its (White) female characters. I see why some people liked it, but ultimately the show wasn’t for me.

That’s just the logical reasoning for why I disliked the show. The other reason is there was a lot of triggering shit in that show. I had to stop watching it, for my own self care, because I was not ready!

I liked Jessica in The Defenders, because the focus wasn’t on Jessica’s pain, so we got to see her reacting to other things. She’s still an unlikable, alcoholic, snarky mess, but that’s okay. Who says heroes have to be likable? Its especially interesting because unlikability is rare in female characters, and Jessica is thoroughly unapologetic about herself. At one point she very openly steals a can of beer, from a passed out homeless man on the subway, (because she’s had a long day,) right in front of Matt and Luke, who handle  the act with no more than raised eyebrows.

Jessica is definitely the team’s Tony Stark to Luke’s Steve Rogers. There’s much of the same personality dynamics present, except some of the motivation for  Jessica’s rather  loose ethics stem partially from her trauma at the hands of Killgrave.

 

Danny Rand:

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Yeah, for someone who talked a lot of shit about the Iron Fist series, I think you guys will be pleasantly surprised that I didn’t actually dislike Danny Rand in this show. As I mentioned, the shorter running time for the series means that Danny’s scenes are kept to a minimum, so he doesn’t have as much time to be irritating. Not that he doesn’t give it a big try.

Finn Jones has also had the benefit of some practice on his fight choreography, and better directors and it shows. His fight scenes aren’t the trash fire that they were in Iron Fist, so he actually ends up looking competent. Plus, he just works better with a team of people, than he does on his own.

The team dynamics go a long way towards making Danny likable here, and really, in the next season of Iron Fist, the show runners really need to lean in to the ridiculousness of his story, rather than playing it straight, because yeah, Danny sounds like he’s insane. None of the other team members take his backstory seriously, rolling their eyes every time he mentions he’s the Immortal Iron Fist, an attitude I thought was incredibly funny. And then there’s the silliness of him walking around with a large dragon tattoo on his test. His powers aren’t funny, and the audience is never given to laugh at those, but his backstory is kinda nuts. Mr. I Punched a Dragon!

Another reason I like Danny here, is because the showrunner makes an effort to make his character understandable, in a way that he wasn’t in his own series. In his own series, his behavior is incredibly rage inducing, and frustrating, (and I can’t help but think that this change has at least a little to do with the showrunner being a man of color, who understands the issue in a way the last showrunner didn’t). But here, Danny’s behavior is in smaller doses, and he has more well developed characters reacting to his wtf*ery, so he’s  a lot easier to understand. Granted, if the character had been cast as Asian to begin with, we wouldn’t need all these careful repairs.

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For example, at one point, he and Luke square off, with Luke confronting Danny about his privilege as a rich White man, who chooses to come into his part of town and beat up the impoverished Black people, rather than finding some other way to defeat The Hand’s purposes. The Hand is able to operate with impunity in such neighborhoods because all they have to do is offer money. Luke’s statement is a reminder to Danny that there’s a bunch of other things he could’ve done, as a wealthy White man to defeat the purposes of The Hand, besides beating up the citizens. But then you notice that Danny’s go-to, when dealing with The Hand, is only ever violence. He never tries to thwart them any other way, and thinks he can  simply punch his way to the proper outcome.

For example: Danny and Colleen find a warehouse full of bodies. The Hand is hiring young men from Luke’s  neighborhood to  clean up any evidence that might lead to their organization. Danny and Colleen do not know this. They don’t ask questions, have not investigated the situation, and haven’t bothered to understand the why of any of it. The two of them immediately jump to kicking ass. Danny and Luke first meet when  Luke steps in to protect one of the young men, who has lost his family to The Hand, and feels coerced to work for them.

Luke’s statement about his privilege is meant to remind Danny that there are other perspectives  besides his own. It’s made very plain  that when it comes to The Hand, Danny has a huge blind spot.  Danny doesn’t  think, he just reacts, and that was what happened at the warehouse, which  resulted in Danny brutally beating a (Black) teenage boy. He’s  reckless, impulsive, and has anger issues. He and Colleen don’t have any kind of a plan, beyond destroying The Hand. This gets mentioned a couple of times during the show.

https://www.theverge.com/2017/8/18/16118680/the-defenders-netflix-marvel-iron-fist-sucks

On to the good part: Danny doesn’t get any better at being impulsive, but he does listen to what gets said to him. And the showrunner is a lot better at making clear what Danny’s motivations are, something which is cloudier on his own show. Danny is looking for a purpose. Since he abdicated his responsibilities to K’un L’un (Why?), he’s not only been looking for a way to atone for that, but looking for a new purpose to replace it, and probably looking for a new family too, as he’s one of the few characters that’s at all excited about teaming up. But again he is blind to his rage about The Hand, and as long as he remains blind to his lack of control, as regards them, he can accomplish nothing.

When the rest of the team find out the the The Hand is specifically after Danny, they try to get him to stand down, and stay out of their next fight, rather than just running up on ’em, without a plan. I’m always here for Danny getting his ass handed to him, which the team has to resort to, to keep Danny from fucking up, yet again. There follows a long interlude with him and Luke getting to know each other, and Danny trying to at least understand Luke’s perspective on the world.

So yeah, this show went a little way to making me, if not like Danny, at least understand where he’s coming from in terms I could easily grok.

 

Alexandria:

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Sigourney Weaver turns in a beautiful performance, as I expected, before being unexpectedly dispatched near the end of the series. My biggest problem is that her motivations as a villain are so vague and ill-defined I was completely unable to care what her goals were. We know what she and the other members of The Hand want to do, but we have no idea why they want to take over the world, other than just wanting to do it.

I didn’t focus on her unfathomable motivations. I just tried to focus on her performance.  She and Elektra have great chemistry, reminiscent of Ellen Ripley and Call, the Android from Alien Resurrection, and I found this dynamic fascinating. On a lighter note, I loved her outfits. Alexandra is always impeccably dressed. She just looks like a woman with a lot of money and extravagant but unshowy tastes.

Another problem that I have is that the women in this show rarely get to interact with each other, (although Claire and Colleen get some nice scenes together, and later, Colleen and Misty get to talk). Alexandra spends a lot of time alone. They couldn’t even bother to write her as being friends to Madame Gao, having her treat Gao like a servant, which I found especially distasteful. Here you have a wealthy White woman treating this older Asian woman as if she were the Help, although there are other factors behind why she does it, it was still ugly and racist, even if that was not what was intended.

I still don’t know why the  showrunners bothered to call Sigourney into this show, which she is simply too good for. I had noticed that her presence sidelines the Asian characters putting, them all in a subordinate position to her, and significantly reducing Madame Gao’s street cred, that she’s built over three other shows. As much as I like Sigourney, I feel like the story would have been better served without Alexandra.

 

Elektra:

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I still do not like this character, because I just feel like she’s evil for no  feckin’ reason. I didn’t like her in Daredevil either, because the writers just made her seem batshit insane for no reason. Elodie Young is gorgeous and all, and can actually act, as I’ve seen her elsewhere acting just fine, but I don’t like the way she approached this character. When we first see her here, she has been brainwashed and controlled by The Hand, most especially Alexandra. She’s pretty much a perfect example of the Born Sexy Yesterday Trope.  Later,  she appears to become evil on purpose,and for the life of me, I simply could not care.

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After Elektra’s resurrection, she is mentored in her evil-ness by Alexandra, and it was really interesting watching the relationship between the two of them, but she does eventually betray Alexandra, and turns against The Hand. Once again, for no reason that I could discern than that the writers needed a new villain in the plot.

The show is somewhat formulaic, with the idea of replacing one Big Bad with another, halfway through the season. This happened with Iron Fist, Daredevil, and Luke Cage, where the viewer starts out with one villain, who gets unceremoniously dispatched by the true villain of the story. Basically, a villain bait and  switch.

I wanted to like Elektra. I just don’t. I couldn’t understand her motivations for anything, and I wasn’t feeling her deep love affair with Matt Murdock. Which is not helped by Matt Murdock acting like  “Floor Lamp Ninja”, throughout most of the series. When she’s not smurking evil-ly, she has a blank, wide-eyed, look on her face, which I found kinda irritating. I got no problem with Elektra’s martial skills. Those were exemplary, as always.

 

Colleen Wing:

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She has even less personality growth here then in Iron Fist. In fact, I found her much more annoying in The Defenders, than I did in that show. She didn’t make much of an impression on me for this show, either. Part of this has to do with the shorter length of the series. There’s just not enough time to develop all the characters, so some of them get short shrift and hers is especially short.

The only thing we get from Colleen’s is more of her being Danny’s support network, (as she is told by Claire) and fighting the same endless fight against Bakuto, that she fought in Iron Fist, with Bakuto making the exact same talking points. Why he wants her is anybody’s guess Is he in love? Wants her as a protege? We don’t know or understand. His motivations are pretty vague. As are most The The Hand’s motivations.

Collen’s motivations are even less discernible to us than they were in Iron Fist. That was a problem that wasn’t even approached here. We don’t know why she loves him, and the two are not especially demonstrative, but nevertheless we are led to believe they are a couple. She may be Danny’s emotional support but she’s doing an awful job at helping him deal with his anger issues ,or his ideas about who and what he is. Case in point, it took a near total stranger, Luke , to point out one of Danny’s biggest flaws. The problem may be that Colleen is unable to point out Danny’s flaws because she’s too much like him. She has a go along to get along attitude with Danny that I found irritating, never questioning what he says or does, and mindlessly following him in his quest. She has no story of her own, seemingly having gave it up to be little more than Danny’s helpmate. The writers need to do better with her. Hopefully, if there is a spinoff show with Misty, she’ll be better written.

As per usual there’s nothing wrong with Colleen’s martial skills. In fact the choreography isn’t bad for the whole series, and at least a few of the directors know how to shoot fight scenes well enough to make them all different, and compelling enough, to keep watching. My favorite fight scenes are the team fights though.

 

Misty Knight:

 

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There’s not much character growth with Misty Knight either, but at least her motivations are clear. We know exactly what she wants in the narrative and why she wants it. She wants to solve her case, and get a promotion, (or not be fired), which is hindered by the fact that the people who could help her solve it, refuse to tell her anything, and the fact that, with The Hand, she is totally out of her league.

Misty is a cop, so she has mostly cop concerns, just as she did in Luke Cage. Shit is happening, her friends are in the middle of it, and they won’t tell her anything, because they realize, but refuse to explain clearly to her, just how far out of her depth she is. I kept admonishing Luke (and Jessica) to make clear to her, that the organization they’re  dealing with  doesn’t give a flying hot damn if she’s a cop, and will happily kill her (and her entire fam), but they kept refusing to tell her this, which was becoming really frustrating.

I’ve also seen some shitty meta about how she’s a bad character because she keeps attacking people she needs help from, and I’m like Bish please! She’s not attacking your White faves! She is being a cop, who knows that the information that will allow her to do her job, is being withheld. She’s got one job in the damn show, which is solving her case, and  she can’t do it, because  the four people who know something about it, won’t tell her anything. So yeah, she gonna be irritated, and not afraid to show that irritation.  This is called DRAMA, people!( I’m trying to  remember that I’m dealing with the hysterical children of Tumblr, who think any time  characters of color show irritation at a White character’s actions,  that it automatically makes them a villain. Yep! This is the level of logic I’m dealing with on Tumblr, guys!)

But she comes through in the end anyway, and lets the team handle their bidness. Although, I suspect she’s mostly there because Luke and Claire were in danger. (Remember, Misty doesn’t know who  any of those White people are. They are just mysterious somebodies who are obstructing her job. Luke and Claire are the ones who are her friends..)

Misty is known in the comic books for having a silver bionic arm, and for teaming up with Colleen to be the Daughters of the Dragon. (On an alternate Earth, she even gets to carry Steve Rogers shield, sorta like a female Bucky.) So,  we may get to see her new prosthetic in season two of Luke Cage, and if we’re lucky we’ll get to see her and Colleen team up. Hey! If side characters like the Punisher can get their own show, they can make a Daughters of the Dragon series, (possibly in the style of the Foxy Brown Blaxploitation movies of my youth.) The series should of course be helmed by a Black or Asian woman, because I absolutely do not  trust a White, male, showrunner to get a Black woman, and an Asian woman correct.

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The Hand:

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https://www.bustle.com/p/who-are-the-five-fingers-of-the-hand-the-defenders-reveals-whos-pulling-the-strings-77358

Unfortunately, the shorter the running time of the series does not seem to allow much clarity on who, or what, The Hand is, or why they want what they want. We have some idea of what they’re doing globally, not just in New York, but that’s pretty much all we get.

New York starts experiencing a spate of seismic disturbances, which are being caused by The Hand digging near some sort of fault line, under a plot of land they built an office on. Why they are digging is slightly unclear. I think some dragon bones are involved becasue its briefly mentioned tat this has something to do with how Iron Fist got his power. For some reason ,they also need to capture Iron Fist and beat him up, or make him angry so he can open some kind of doorway to K’un L’un, so the five leaders of The Hand can go back home.

I did pay attention but really that’s the best I can do regarding the rather lackluster plot. I really didn’t care, although i guess its supposed to be some sort of revelation ,that the five leaders are all incredibly old, exiled citizens of K’un L’un. Even the facts of why they’re exiled in the first place isn’t made abundantly clear. I really hope the showrunner and the writers were making some kind of point about cloudy motivations, or something becasue the villains are a mess.

Alexandra gets unceremoniously dispatched and replaced by Elektra, who gives a self important speech about how she’s now the leader of The Hand. I don’t know if its the actress, or the writing, but I was bored by the whole thing. Why we were introduced to new memebers of The Hand only to have them killed right away is anyone’s guess.

Since The Hand is an egalitarian organization there’s a Japanese guy, whose name I don’t remember, a Brazilian guy named Bakuto, an African (Haitian?) guy named Sowande, and Ms. Gao, who I assume is Chinese. Sowande reminds me of the lead character from the movie Beasts of the Southern Wilds who was a procurer of child soldiers. Sowande is brutally tortured and killed by he Defenders after they capture him in an attempt to find out his people’s plans, something which did not sit well with me. And before you come into my inbox and start mansplaining about how the other members of The Hand also get killed, I have to remind you, that none of the other members of The Hand were brutally tortured first. This happens to the sole Black member of The Hand, by people who are, supposedly, the good guys.

Couple that scene with Iron Fist’s brutal beating of a young Black boy in an earlier episode,Jessica jones treatment of its Black male characters,  Daredevil’s treatment of its Asian characters as some type of Yellow Peril (which even the presence of a White woman leader cannot resolve), and Iron Fists White Savior issues, and it becomes clear that the the MCU has some serious racial issues that need addressing. The only disability on display is Matt Murdock’s blindness. Jessica Jones treament of one of its lesbian characters was, quite simply, abominable, and outside of that there is no LGBT representation in any of it. Marvel comic books are doing much better in regards to these issues than the MCU.

One of the ways they can address some of these issues is by hiring different types of showrunners, and writers and treating the creation of these shows (and the movies which have all the same problems) the same way they approach the comic books. The newest phase of MCU movies have gotten a little bit better as far as racial issues (but not by much) and it’s seriously lacking in LGBT and disability representation, and the creators of these projects need to think more deeply about these issues, most especially in its treatment of Asian characters across all of the MCU, as it’s becoming creepily apparent that maybe don’t like people of the Asian diaspora.

Despite all my criticisms though, I actually enjoyed watching it. I’m still glad I didn’t have to spend 13 hours watching it, instead of the eight. The strongest part of the series are the scenes of The Defenders working together as a team. There’s a lot of room for improvement but also a lot of promise for a season two.

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American Horror Story Season 6: Finale

Well, that was pretty confusing, but I actually liked it. It was entirely in keeping with the generally snarky attitude of the entire season’s meta approach to televisual media.

We start off the episode with the courtroom proceedings at Lee’s trial and some shameless overacting from the lawyers, as they plead their case. Lee is pronounced “Not Gulity”. Flora, who testified that she witnessed her mother kill her father, was not a believable witness, because she believed in ghosts.

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We get more backstory on Lee,  but this time told from the point of view of a cheesy MTV: Behind the Music style show called Crack’d, (which was hilarious) and a parody of some type of ConFest, thrown to celebrate the original Roanoke Nightmare, which totally captures the self serving bullshit of the celebrities featured at such events. Each one of the stars of My Roanoke Nightmare are at their obnoxious best, as they showboat to  try to garner as much attention from the audience as possible.  My eyeball rolling didn’t even reach maximum levels during this stage of the proceedings. Clearly the show runners were just getting started.

The episode itself is total crack-meta as it switches from one television genre to another, as shows within shows. From those opening scenes, we move on to a Barbara Walters type of show, with its overwrought and ponderous interviewing style, with Sarah Paulson reprising her role as Lana Winters, the newswoman from Asylum. She is interviewing Lee about  having been found not guilty of killing Mason, and hilariously has  the tables turned on her by Lee. That interview itself turns truly batshit insane when the last of the Polks,  Lot, shows up with a machine gun, and tries to assassinate Lee in the middle of the interview.

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From there, we get a callback to the last episode with some intrepid spiritchasers, called appropriately enough, Spirit Chasers, visiting the Roanoke House during the Blood Moon. I had as little empathy for these obnoxious twits, as I had sympathy for the ones who died in the last episode. That last group didn’t deserve the horrible things that happened to them, but these guys were warned frequently, they watched the second season of Roanoke, so knew what to expect, and the house itself is cordoned off against trespassers with barbed wire. These assholes chose not to believe any of it, and got themselves (and some hapless policemen) murdered by the Butcher’s followers.

Although, when you think about it, the most common trope of all horror movies is people making stupid decisions, so  the show simply ends as it began. Matt and Shelby find a ramshackle old house in the middle of fucking nowhere and decide that would be a good place to live. The Spirit Chasers make the boneheaded decision to trespass on haunted land, where at least a dozen or more people have died. I don’t even believe in ghosts but, just like in that Stephen King story 1408, I don’t have to believe in ghosts to know that staying overnight, in a place where dozens of people have died horribly, is a good idea.

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The spirit chasers meet Lee in the house. She is there hunting Flora. This is the part I find confusing because how did Lee know that’s where Flora would be, and how did Flora get there?  Uber? How did she get inside the house? She’s, like, twelve years old! and the place is surrounded by a  barbed wire fence!  In fact, this moment is so confusing, that when Lee showed up, I thought she and Flora were dead and being reunited as ghosts. I  was disabused of that idea because they showed up on the thermal sensors the spirit chasers were using.

It turns out that Flora came back to the house after her mother’s acquittal, to stay with Priscilla. One of the few truly emotional moments is Lee’s reunion with her daughter, and her utter dedication in protecting her daughter, no matter what. Lee, the ultimate survivor, sacrifices her life to keep her daughter from killing herself, so she can stay behind and protect Priscilla, in Flora’s stead, from The Butcher.

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As the house finally burns to the ground, Flora sees the ghosts of her mother, and Priscilla, waving goodbye to her. Lee, as she has stated so many times this season, would indeed do anything for her daughter.

Now, I have read a rather shitty review which focused the episode on Sarah Paulson’s character and I was greatly offended by the writer’s complete inability to give Lee her due as the actual star of this season, instead of focusing their review on a White character from a previous season, who only shows up in the last episode of this one. This season wasn’t about Lana Winters, as her story has already been told, and I didn’t appreciate seeing Lee being reasoned out of her own story. I can see the parallels from Lana’s story to Lee’s, but that’s no excuse to remove Lee’s adaptability, determination, fortitude, and search for love and redemption, via her daughter, as the primary focus of this season.

 

I’m not saying Lee wasn’t a problematic character, but that’s why I liked her. One of my biggest complaints about TV and movies (among many, many, many, complaints) is the lack of unlikable women. She’s the kind of woman who is hard to like, because she’s complicated, and I like  that her complications make sense, and are consistent. She’s not just given random unlikable character traits to make you hate her.  Quite frankly, none of the white people on the show came across as people I would like to get to know. But I’d be friends with Lee, if I could. She seems like the kind of person that, once she lets you in that zone, you’re in there forever. When Lee loves people, she loves them wholly and completely, the way she does Flora. But if you wrong her, or betray her trust, you will soon be experiencing fine dining in Hell.

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The final scenes of the actual show (and not a show within a show) is a shot of The Butcher, the Blood Moon, and all the police, and emergency service personnel, gathered in the valley below, and completely at The Butcher’s mercy.

Yeah, that’s not gonna end well.

But we knew that when the season began.

Overall, I really liked this season. This is coming from someone who generally hates the overwrought dramedy of Reality TV. I think the seasons have gotten  better and better over time. I enjoyed Freaks and Hotel, but those seasons suffered from a great deal of incoherence, and lack of focus, towards the end, with subplots being introduced that never got follow through. This season remained taut, focused, and nuanced, with a clear thematic goal of parodying Reality TV. I haven’t had this much fun with that sort of mockery since that Cops parody of the X-Files, titled appropriately enough, X-Cops.

And before I go, I have to give a shout out to Adina Porter. The first time I saw her she was playing a witch-con-woman on True Blood, as Tara’s broken, abusive mother. I loved her acting then, and she brings that same sense  of steely fragility to her role as Lee,  although I didn’t immediately make the connection when I saw her. Its funny how she keeps playing these broken widows, desperately  trying to win back their daughter’s love, and she has mastered it. She is an incredible actress that I hope to see even more of after this.

Well, ta-ta til next season, people! I hope you enjoyed this one. Let me know in the comments.

“American Horror Story 6: Chapter 7

Wow! Last night’s episode was a total massacre! Literally!!!

Last episode, we found out that everyone involved in the making of The Return to My Roanoke Nightmare died during the Blood Moon. And with the death of Rory, (Audrey’s much younger husband),  killed by the nurses, to complete the lettering in their favorite word, (MURDER), we were off to the races.

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When everyone goes upstairs to investigate where Rory has gone, they find a pool of blood, with no body. When Rory gets killed, Sydney, his assistant and cameraman are taken down by Crazy Agnes. I didn’t name her, that’s what the show’s  writers named her, and since I disagree with calling homicidal people crazy, and ableism in general, I’m only calling her Agnes from this time forward. Agnes kills the entire film crew with some kind of hatchet, or cleaver, then goes to the Roanoke house and attacks Shelby. But not before Shelby kills Matt while Dominic just stands and watches.

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Shelby is saved, from Agnes,  by Dominic, who wrestles Agnes into submission but doesn’t kill her. Earlier that evening Dominic spent  time trying to talk his way back under Shelby’s skirts, (or yoga pants in her case) but had no luck. Shelby is dedicated to reconciling with her ex-husband.

Even though Matt beat Dominic’s ass earlier that evening, he catches this  little episode between the two of them, and tells Dominic to go ahead and tap that because he doesn’t want her. Dominic thinks this is hilarious.

There’s not one of these people that is remotely  likable. Shelby is indecisive and sends mixed messages to everyone. She ‘s a total flake. Matt has no personality at all. Dominic, Audrey, and Monet are just jerks. Agnes is the world’s worst cosplayer, while Lee is the world’s worst TV cop.

Agnes cuts the phone lines to the house, and the film crew are all dead, so no one can call for help. (Remember everyone’s cellphones were taken, and Diana, Sydney’s first assistant died in a car crash.)

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So characterization is just thrown completely out the window, while characters react to the batshitness that’s happening to them. Although everyone does go from not believing any of it is happening, and thinking Sydney is punking them, to using those stupid little cameras he gave them to film their horrific deaths for posterity.  Everybody films everything. One of the strangest moments is when Audrey films Agnes trying to kill her.

Matt is killed by Shelby. I didn’t see this coming but  he really pissed her off.   When Shelby finds him in flagrante with the Celtic witch, he claims he’s in love with her, and Shelby beats him to death with a tire iron.  Here she is turning down awesome sexual escapades with Dominic (C’mon, you just know he’s a dynamo in the bedroom!) for this fool, only for him to turn around and say he’s in love with the creature responsible for killing everyone. Since Matt never had much character to begin with this isn’t exactly the most surprising event.

I have to note,the show is especially graphic this episode. I don’t imagine those of you with delicate sensibilities have even gotten this far into the season, or are even watching the show, but I’m giving the warning anyway. I’m not a fan of torture porn. I always end up covering my eyes during  especially brutal moments, which means there’s a lot of this episode I didn’t see.I’m just here for the aftermath.

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Lee, Monet, and Audrey sneak out of the house, via the underground tunnels, to go get help for Shelby, who is suffering from Agnes’ knife wound. They bring their cameras along. They  end up being  attacked by ghosts, find Rory’s body, and are then captured by the Polks, who are out in full stench this evening, because hey! Blood Moon!  Whooowhee!!! In a moment of surreal humor, they season Lee’s leg and chop it off.

 

Yeah see, this is what is meant by White people not being able to cook. You don’t season a haunch before its removed from its host. Really people! Who seasons a chicken leg before cutting it off the chicken? Although, I guess its a good thing that they remembered to use seasoning at all. (It looked like it might’ve been sage, since it was green.) After wards, they force feed the leg jerky to Monet and Audrey. I don’t know where the rest of Lee is, or even if she’s still alive.

In an ironic twist, Agnes gets cleavered by The Butcher, as Shelby and Dominic watch, with horror, from the windows.

There’s really not much plot to this episode. It mostly consisted of illuminating the circumstances in which everybody dies, and filming it all while it happens.

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So far, Lee, (until we see otherwise), Monet, and Audrey are still among the living. So are Shelby and Dominic. I expect more character revelations to come out of left field, or even a new plot twist, in the next episode.

If you’re wondering why I’m so flippant about the blood and torture during this episode, after watching the Polks season Lee’s leg, it finally completely dawned on me that this is a kind of Horror mockumentary, like those Christopher Guest films, Best in Show, Mascots, (which is hilarious and on Netflix right now), and This is Spinal Tap. I’m not good with humor that hasn’t been spelled out to me, so while I suspected the show was meant to be funny, I wasn’t certain.

My mind tends to have a more literal bent, so unless its clearly spelled out to me that what I’m watching is meant to be funny, I probably won’t see it. Its  not that I don’t have a sense of humor. It just needs to be switched on.  Like a child, my sense of humor isn’t particularly subtle, either. (I get subtle humor, but you have to tell me its subtle first.) So those of you who caught on that this was a parody of Blair Witch shaky-cam, moviemaking styles, I am here right now. (I may be late to the party, but I made it.)

For further, in-depth ideas, read:

http://www.avclub.com/tvclub/effective-american-horror-story-roanoke-turns-subt-244901

I loved this review. It tackles racial issues that were implied at the start of the series, and issues pertaining to privacy and filmmaking. This particular post had me rooting for Lee to be the last survivor. 

American Horror Story Chapter Six

So yeah, the twist is indeed in, as well as the shift in focus of the show. Everything has been shifted about. In the interests of openness I have to admit it o a hatred of most of reality TV. I’ll watch travel and eatery shows, or shows about wilderness survival, with experts in them, and  I’ve even seen a couple of episodes of Naked and Afraid, but that got boring pretty fast. I am however really liking this season of AHS, mostly because it’s not focused so much  on the inane dramas between the characters, but on the actual horror of the situation they’re all in.

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The idea that we, and the cast, would be revisiting the Roanoke Nightmare House isn’t the twist though. Sydney, played by my precious cinnamon roll, Cheyenne Jackson, is the creator of the show we just watched in the first five episodes, and his proposal to his television backers is that he should gather together the entire cast, go back to the house, and film the results during the Blood Moon. It turns out that what we were watching for five episodes was a huge hit for Sydney and he wants  to cash in on that, despite what has happened to the cast since then. So ,in chapter six, the show goes completely, full-on meta, and I don’t think what we saw tonight is the last of this season’s surprises.

Now, the show has a tendency to go off focus during the season, as the writers get carried away with their storytelling ideas, and start throwing everything into the plot, just to see if it will stick,or just because they like it. This season, with the exception of a few scenes thrown in just to have some action, or a jump scare, has been kept pretty tightly reined in, so I’ve enjoyed it a lot more than previous ones. Tonight’s episode was kept ion point, as well, making it easy to understand, despite how complicated the plot has actually become.

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Since their time at Roanoke, Matt and Shelby have divorced. Matt didn’t care for the fame that came to him because of what happened there, that Shelby called the police on his sister, and accused her of killing her husband, Mason. Yes indeed. That was a dick move on Shelby’s part. Yeah, I don’t like Shelby either. The final straw was when Shelby had an affair with the man who played her husband in the reenactments. His name is Dominic. The actress who played Shelby on the show is actually British, and we get to hear Paulson’s accent, as Audrey, which sounds a bit dodgy. She got married to the actor who played Mott in the last episode, and his name is Monohan. And since he’s so much younger than her ,she’s really super-sensitive about that. I thought it was a scam, on his part, but he seems to genuinely be in love with her.

The actress who played Lee became an alcoholic,  just like the original Lee because she was having trouble dealing with being the public face of the real Lee, who has been accused of killing her husband for the insurance money, and custody of her daughter.  (Angela Bassett’s character is named Monet.) Fans of the show started a petition to have Lee charged with murder, her mother in law is suing for custody of Flora, and everyone treats her with nothing but contempt, including Monet.

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But the worst result of the show is Kathy Bates character, Agnes, who played Thomasina The Butcher, in the reenactments. That actress had a complete mental breakdown and started believed herself  to actually be The Butcher, running through  he streets of downtown Hollywood with an ax, before she was captured and hospitalized. Sydney serves her with a restraining order after a ring of animal organs are found on the new set of the show. He is hoping she will show up on set anyway becasue that will make for great drama. My precious baby is a complete asshole in this role.

When one of the crew gets killed on set with a chainsaw, Sydney’s assistant quits and drives off in an angry huff. She encounters what appears to be a The Butcher by the side of  the road, but is attacked by someone in her car, too, and she crashes. The notecard for her states that she was missing for six months before they found her car, and her body was never found.

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The sixth episode is mostly about the setup, as Sydney lies, cajoles, and coerces all the actual people, and the actors who played ,them into staying at the Roanoke house for several weeks, while they film the entire thing with hidden cameras. And you know it’s going to be explosive because while all the characters have their reason for joining the new cast, they all hate each other.

Matt wants nothing to do with Shelby, who thinks that they might be able to reconcile, during the show. He would love nothing more than to beat the snot out ofDominic, because he slept with his wife. The Shelby actress,Audrey,  is deeply insecure about her marriage, and has nothing but contempt for the real Shelby, as being weak and pathetic. The real Lee  hates the real Shelby. The actress who played Lee, Monet,  hates the actual Lee, and the all actors  have contempt for the actual people they portrayed on the show, laughing and joking about them, whenever they leave the room. Also none of the actors believe in any of the stuff that they say happened to them.

I don’t think this bodes well for non-believers because non-belief won’t save them from what’s happening at Roanoke House.  Like Stephen King’s 1408, what’s happening there isn’t dependent on whether you believe it or not. One of the reasons Shelby, Matt, and Lee survived is because they  simply believed what was happening to them.

Things get off to a rousing start when Lee attacks Shelby, calling her weak and pathetic, just as Audrey does later. Here’s where I have to admit to a certain amount of prejudice towards Shelby myself. As soon as I heard what she did for a living my first thought was that she was a  useless woman, and not someone you want to have in a crisis, but she proved to be okay in that regard. I still don’t like her though.

Later, Matt attacks Dominic and they have a knockdown, drag-out fight, as soon as Dominic steps through the front door. This certainly makes for exciting television for the viewers, but that’s not the point of this episode, because this  isn’t the twist.

It turns out we’re all looking at whatever footage was leftover from a show which never got a chance to air because ,with exception of only one person, the entire cast died.

So we’re really watching final days of everyone involved with the making of My Roanoke Nightmare. And they’re might even be additional twists as the season moves forward.

So yeah,I’m really getting into this. When that note-card appeared onscreen, I got chills. This is awesome!

American Horror Story Season 6

The writers of American Horror Story  have  managed somehow to keep the theme of this entire season under wraps, so I’m going into this review  cold, just like all of you. I got no idea what it’s about or what’s gonna happen. So here we go:

What we have is a documentary style  reality show  of live interviews, mixed with actor reenactments, sort of like the show Paranormal Witness.  This includes all the various tropes of the haunted house, with strange presences , weird videotapes, angry hillbilly locals, and a House on the Borderlands type monster.

It stars Cuba Gooding Jr.  as Matt, the husband of Sarah Paulson’s Shelby, and the brother of Angela Bassett, who plays Lee, as the actors in the reenactments. There are also the live interview actors whose names I didn’t get. So we have two sets of actors. The ones being interviewed about their ordeal, and the more well known cast of American Horror Story, acting out their story. The title of this particular show is called My Roanoke Nightmare.

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There’s a  tearjerking beginning as Matt is assaulted by some street hooligans while walking down the street with his wife, Shelby. And right away we have established race as an undercurrent to most of the action in the show, as the men who assault him yell racial slurs, and its mentioned later that what happened was a gang initiation, where strangers are assaulted for fun. Since the gang that assaults Matt and Shelby consist entirely of white men, the creators neatly sidestep race, while low key commenting on the racial component of urban myths about gangs. (In real life this type of initiation turned out to be an urban myth created  by the media.)

Its never  explicitly stated, but you find yourself wondering heavily about the racial implications behind certain activities, and character motivations, throughout the episode. There’s a current news component to this episode, as it involves questions of police competency, and racism. Since Matt and Shelby are an interracial couple, people’s reactions to them are sometimes alluded to, but not specifically stated, which sounds like a very subtle and ambitious project for the season.

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After the assault, Shelby, who had just found out she was pregnant, has a miscarriage, and the two of them decide to move out of the city. (Sarah Paulson really sells it here. I was near tears in this scene. She’s a phenomenal actress, who simply doesn’t get enough love.) They find an old house in the middle of the North Carolina woods (NC is another racial reference) and bid on the house against some neighborhood hillbillies who warn them that they don’t want it. Now the hillbillies do look suitably dangerous, but I’m not banking on that. They may yet turn out to be helpful allies. We don’t know, but are meant to assume, based solely on their looks, and socio-economic station, that they’re bad people. This is what Shelby and Matt ,who are firmly ensconced in the middle-class, manage to  do, even though Matt is  not unfamiliar with experiencing prejudice based on his looks.

But really Matt! A Black man in the middle of rural America? Is this really a good idea? There’s a reason Black people generally do not frequent the woodsy lifestyle.

At one point Matt does explicitly state that there’s a racial component to the local police’s attitude towards them.

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On their first night in their new home, they experience some great rumblings and crashing outside, and Matt goes outside to discover that the house, and yard, have been vandalized. The next day, while he’s in town, Shelby hallucinates that teeth, rather than hailstones, have fallen from the sky. So,  what we have so far, is a checklist of haunting activities, like Shelby nearly drowning in the hot tub, mysterious objects decorating the house, along with empty bottles that appear out of nowhere, strange noises, and the house being invaded by torch wielding phantoms, while mysterious videos play in the background.

Matt’s judgmental sister, Lee, comes to visit, so that Shelby won’t be alone. I know Matt loves his sister but why would you invite the one person who hates your wife? Oh that’s right! Lee used to be a cop. At first you think this relationship, and Lee, are  cut and dried, but it turns out that Lee has some demons of her own. She lost her job, her husband and custody of her child because of an addiction to painkillers. Lee also disdains Matt’s wife as a woman too soft, and hysterical, to be of any good. While the Shelby interviewee downplays her enmity about Lee, the Lee interviewee is pretty open about her feelings. The two women hate each other and I wonder how much of that hatred is because Lee doesn’t like  Matt being married to  a white woman.

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Again its not something explicitly stated, but the kinds of complaints Lee makes about Shelby are the same kind of complaints I’ve heard black women make about white women. That they are useless, and soft, prone to hysteria, and can’t cook. Shelby’s complaints are low key about race too, about how Lee couldn’t keep her husband, and is too aggressive.

On the first night of Lee’s visit, while the two women are having a seriously heavy fight, some masked, torch bearing people approach the house and the two women are terrorized into the basement, while Matt rushes back to see what’s going on. He asked Lee to stay because he doesn’t trust the local police to do anything. There’s a Blair Witch style decorating of the house, mysterious videos playing on the basement TV, and all the lights are out.

I was kind of saddened at the thought of the two women not getting along. The two of them have much to commiserate on, and if they weren’t so judgmental of one another, would make great allies. The things they believe about one another, simply aren’t true, and are mostly figments of their own prejudices,which again, aren’t exactly racial, but aren’t exactly not-racial either. Shelby is not the soft and helpless damsel that Lee thinks she is. She’s been thorough some difficulties. Lee isn’t the unemotional, hard-ass that Shelby thinks she is, as she is also deeply affected by her losses in life, and if the two of them could get past that, they might do each other a lot of good.

Shelby runs out of the house and  hits an old woman on the road, who subsequently gets back up, and wanders off into the woods.  Shelby runs into the forest after the her, at night, and promptly gets lost. City people just refuse to understand, if you don’t keep the road in your line of sight, you will get lost. It doesn’t matter which way you think you came, as city people do not have the best sense of direction, having never had to develop one. She walks into a clearing with lit torches and a bleeding, pleading man.

So, this episode was definitely intriguing, but not for the plot. For me it was all the thematic tones under the plot that I found more fascinating. I’m not really into any of the haunted house movies that are all the rage right now, having been through the whole Amityville Horror fad of the late seventies, so I saw most of the  haunting activities as a kind of checklist that must be met, for the dwelling to be considered haunted.

Extremely old house with an unknown past.

Angry locals, warning away the happy newbies.

Something making noise outside the house.

Hallucinations.

Near drowning in a shallow tub of water, with camera shots from below.

Hopefully, there will be a few more twists and turns in the plot this season. I found the unexpected characterizations to be much better. I also hope that Shelby and Lee will get out of each other’s way and become better allies, if they live through this.

The Walking Dead : Last Day on Earth

Okay, here it is. The season finale of The Walking Dead. (This level of tension is why I have trouble watching horror that doesn’t have any comedy in it.) Man, I just know, in the immortal words of Kevin Hart:

 

Okay, now that I’ve finally got my emotions in some kind of check about this, I just want to say Wheeww! That was some seriously tension-filled drama right there, even when I knew what was going to happen. In the interests of full disclosure, I did read some bios about Negan before the episode aired, so I kind of had some idea what was going to happen as far as his introduction and where things might go.

Lets get this out of the way up front. All of you who are anger-tweeting the shows creators about not knowing who died, I don’t understand how you didn’t see that coming. Its called a “cliffhanger” and its very purpose is to get you to return next season. That horrible frustration you’re feeling right now is a feature, not a bug. Not just that, but he Walking Dead ends every season on a cliffhanger, so how didn’t you know it was going to do that this time? Not only did I know it was going to be a cliffhanger, I knew where that cliffhanger would and should occur, for maximum frustration levels for the viewer, because if I was the show runner, its how I would’ve done it. I understand why people were angry. (You’re supposed to be angry.) I just don’t understand why people were surprised.

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Well, anyway, there’s not a whole lot of plot to get through in this episode but there is a lot to discuss. Rick And the crew in the RV spent most of their time running away from The Saviors, who were determined that they were finally going to  have it out with this little upstart crew, who kept brutally killing their people (burning them alive, blowing them up with rockets).Trying desperately to get Maggie to Hilltop (we still don’t know whats wrong with her), the crew kept running into larger and larger groups of Negan’s people who kept doing creepier and creepier shit to unsettle them. And it worked! I know I was unsettled.

Why so many people decided they needed to make the trip with Maggie to Hilltop is anybody’s guess. No, seriously! I mean everybody. All of Alexandria’s heavy hitters decided to take a road trip. Really?! I mean Eugene, Abraham, and Carl could have stayed home. I also wonder if, after this horrible event with The Saviors, if all of the fight has gone out of Eugene? I wouldn’t blame him for giving up on being a hard ass after meeting Negan.

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The first group they encountered on the road seemed relatively small, but well armed, and Rick correctly, didn’t want to have a showdown with them, while Maggie was sick in the vehicle, which is exactly the decision the Saviors knew he would make. The Saviors had Rick figured out at every turn, which was also  pretty creepy. Even the seemingly spontaneous idea to split up, with some of the crew on foot and Eugene in the RV, was predicted by them. At one point, Rick and the others come across a line of Walkers chained across the road, and find that one of them is wearing a lock of Michonne’s hair.The tension grows tighter when Rick realizes they have the other members of his group.

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The point of all this is not just to herd Rick and the others towards a particular location, or show him what he’s up against, but also to completely demoralize Rick, so that he stops fighting. Negan wants them alive but needs to bring Rick to heel.  The Saviors want him to understand that this  confrontation is going to happen, no matter what. Actually, what Negan says is correct. The Saviors have been pretty nice to them. Negan is showing Rick that they could’ve killed all of them, at any point along the continuum, but they want don’t want a fight that would potentially reduce both group’s numbers. They want to maximize their gain, which is why Negan  leaves so many, of the groups that he annexes, alive.

Oh, and all that whistling, which I thought was pretty funny at first, is a lot creepier coming from several dozen people in a dark forest.

Oh, but you want to hear about Negan. Well, that was certainly a grand entrance. He talked for a while, and I mostly dismissed the things he said, because whatever it was is  only in service to this ego. Jeffrey Dean Morgan, The Comedian from the Watchmen, did a bang up job, which I never doubted he would.

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I’m less concerned with Negan’s part  of the story and his odd, paternal interest in Carl, than I am  interested in Carol’s  and Morgan’s narrative Morgan, who had continued the search for Carol without Rick, finds an abandoned horse and then  Carol, who has been wounded. She tells him she is leaving the group because she has decided to give up killing, and if she stays she will be forced to kill, because she loves them. She’s  not wrong. Her need to protect the others from danger will push her to kill again.But what she doesn’t understand is that she is not the only one with that burden. Morgan tries to explain to her that the group  needs her and will kill for her too. Which he does, giving up on his pacifist philosophy to save Carol’s life from the Savior who was stalking her in  the last episode.

All of the decisions that the characters made all season have finally caught up with them. Morgan and Carol talk about “The Price”, not knowing that the group is about to pay the ultimate price for having made the decision to kill  any Saviors they encountered, from their first meeting onward. Yet I don’t believe the outcome would’ve been any different. These two groups were on a collision course  even if Rick and his group had never fought back. Negan would’ve killed one of them anyway because that’s what he does with every group.  Rick’s group killing all the Saviors they met simply prolonged the inevitable.

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I also got the impression from Negan that he sort of admires Rick and his crew.  He certainly seemed impressed with Carl. (I thought it was because Rick’s group is so dangerous and Carl’s the youngest one there. Negan seems  very intrigued by that. Probably because there aren’t a lot of very young people left alive in this world.) Rick’s  group, as small as it is, managed to take out a lot of his people. Negan can see that they’ve got skills and training and went through some trouble to craft an elaborate scheme for them. If he can harness them as a resource this is a good thing for The Saviors, although I don’t believe for one second that there will ever be peace between these two groups or that Negan will even survive this.

Questions: Has Morgan decided to give up pacifism? If he does, will there be a price for him too, as Carol says? Where are Tara and Heath and what are they going to think about their new arrangements with The Saviors when they get back? Especially Tara, who doesn’t yet  know Denise is dead. How are the Alexandrians going to handle this news? Who are the people on horseback that Morgan and Carol encounter?

As for who dies? I don’t particularly care because its not who dies that is my main focus. My focus is: what happens after that? What will be the repercussions of Negan killing one of Rick’s crew?

See, Rick and the others aren’t the only ones who have to pay a price for killing. Negan is subject to the same rules as everyone else, and sooner or later he’s gonna have to pay, too.

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The Walking Dead : East

It only appears to be a lazy Sunday morning in Alexandria as various couples celebrate their love, including Carol and Tobin and the new couple known as Sashaham. Carol is having some feels while she suffers a major crisis of conscience. Like everything else, she does it on a grandly quiet scale. She never does half measures of anything. After a last night with Tobin, she packs her bags and sets out, stealing one of the Alexandrian cars, that’s been outfitted with large sharp poles to drive away Walkers.

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Almost immediately, (approximately 12 miles outside of Alexandria), she encounters a Savior patrol. She immediately goes into what I, at first, think is her helpless babe act, but have since come to believe, may not have been an act. She pleads with them, hyperventilating in terror, while fingering that rosary she stole off a Walker last episode, but it’s a strong possibility that may have been actual terror of what she was about to do, rather than what The Saviors were about to do. Also there’s the  possibility that she knew this would happen. Earlier, we saw her sewing a gun into the sleeve of her coat. Was that just a precaution or was she looking for The Saviors when she went set out? We know Carol has a tendency to be preemptive, so I’m inclined to think just that.

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Daryl, hearing that Carol has set off on her own decides, once and for all, that he needs to end Dwight. I had the impression that he’s not just going after Dwight to avenge Denise but to protect Carol as well, should she encounter him.

I can accept Daryl and Carol running off because that’s what they do, but when Rick and the others hare off after them, its a bit much to understand. I get that Rick trusts the Alexandrians to hold down the fort while he’s away, but all of the town’s heaviest hitters decide to run out and chase down the two miscreants. Glenn, Rosita and Michonne run off after Daryl, and Rick and Morgan chase down Carol.

Incidentally, I like how Father Gabriel is coming along as an asset in Alexandria that Rick can depend on. That man has definitely been “Born Again Hard”, as they say. So, naturally, as the one black guy, whose willing to jump into the fray, that means he probably won’t survive. You’ve got two black guys on the show, so one of them has got to die, according to the show’s “Highlander Principle”, of only having one black guy at a time on there. On the other hand, this makes me feel pretty good about Glenn not dying, because he’s the only Asian guy on the show and would have to be  replaced with another, more random,  Asian guy, if he got killed.

On the other hand, this Principle also explains why Denise had to die. You can’t have more than two gay people on a show, and the two who are left can’t be dating each other. (If so, then one of them has to be killed.) I expect Aaron to last for quite some time as he is never even shown talking to his partner.

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Morgan and Rick catch up to the aftermath of Carol’s encounter with the Saviors but see no sign of her. I had to agree with Rick about Carol being a “Force of Nature”. He ain’t lyin’. One Woman! Just One! Managed to take out an entire gang of what?  Six or seven of Negan’s men? (Then again, the people left over after the Apocalypse, aren’t necessarily the smartest ones, just the most ruthless.) Rick and Morgan head off across the landscape to find her.

Glenn and the others don’t find Daryl but they do get captured by the Saviors and I’m not surprised asit seemed to be the sole reason the writers took them out of  Alexandria. I mean they all know the Saviors are out there, and Daryl, as a general rule, is pretty good at handling his shit. He doesn’t need to be rescued by the others and their decision put his life in danger. But that ties into the theme for the evening.

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Providence- fate, destiny, kismet, God’s will, divine intervention. God or nature as providing protective or spiritual care.

This is the discussion that Morgan has with Rick during their search for Carol. He confesses what happened with the Wolf after the attack on the compound. He believes everyone is entitled to a second chance and essentially argues about providence. If he hadn’t saved that Wolf, that Wolf wouldn’t have saved Denise, who would not have been there to save Carl. Of course he and Rick fail  to see that Denise probably wouldn’t have been in danger,  if Morgan hadn’t saved the Wolf’s life, since it was the Wolf who kidnapped her.

This is much  the same sentiment expressed by Glenn to Michonne, about how they were all simply thrown together, to their luck. Glenn helping Rick so many years ago, led to all the events and decisions that branched off from that.

Daryl argues that if he’d killed Dwight the first time he encountered him, Denise would still be alive. Of course, everyone running off to save Daryl from himself, puts all their lives in danger and in trying to save them, Daryl gets shot.

All of the decisions the characters have been making all season long are starting to catch up to them, from Daryl’s decision to let Dwight live, to Morgan’s decisions not to kill anyone, to Denise’s decision to step up and start hunting Walkers, in an attempt to be brave,  right up to Father Gabriel’s decision to start too.

Are these things fate? Providence? God’s Will?

 

Afterthoughts:

Carl finds a gun with a carving of Negan’s baseball bat, Lucille. This is one of the weapon’s stolen from The Saviors. Why do Negan’s people worship him like that? Or are they worshiping Lucille? Its like some kind of cult.

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Maggie and Enid seemed to have bonded as Enid cuts Maggie’s hair. New beginnings, I guess. Later, Maggie appears to have some kind of stomach cramps (although according to Yvette Nicole Brown, from The Talking Dead, that could be due to  the jar of pickles that Enid gave Maggie earlier).

Morgan takes it upon himself to run off to negotiate with Negan’s crew. I understand his philosophy but its simply not one that can work in a world full of Governors and Negan’s, if you want to live. Its why Father Gabriel , Denise and Eugene decided to start fighting Walkers. Its why Glenn is willing to kill people now. A lot of people have decided to turn over new leaves,  and adopt new patterns, since the season beginning. Eugene, Denise, Carol, Father Gabriel, Glenn.

Morgan argues with Rick about providence but he doesn’t just have himself to think about now. Its one thing to have this as a personal philosophy when its only his own life at stake, but despite what happened between Denise and the Wolf, not  being willing to kill  is endangering the lives of  everyone around him.

The theme this week seems to be “To Kill or Not to Kill” on the various shows I’ve been watching, as characters debate the merits of pacifism vs. various forms of violence, and how far should people go in completion of their  goals. I don’t  disagree with people like Morgan, but then I have the luxury of living in a little bubble of the world where that is an option, and no one’s life is at stake except my own, so its very easy for me to practice. It’s a hell of a lot less easy for Morgan to practice this philosophy in a world full of people like Negan.

My vote for who will probably die next is Carol. I think its very possible that Carol’s character arc has reached its end. I get the impression, if she lives, that  the writers will have to focus on someone else’s arc or search for things for her to do. Its possible the writers have said all they have to say about who she was, who she is, and where she’s going.

 

The Walking Dead : Twice As Far

My hearts feeling a little heavier this morning. Last night’s episode of The Walking Dead left me feeling down. One of my favorite, and adorkable, characters is dead, and the other is having such a major crisis of conscience, that she has exiled herself from her friends and family and I don’t know when or if we’ll see her again.

Things started out okay. Some of the scenes were beautiful and funny but I  know it’s not good to get too comfortable with things on this show. It has a nasty habit of pulling the wool out from under your feet at the most unexpected moments.

The Alexandrians split up into two groups as they go on supply runs. Tara and Heath are off on their own adventure, but Abraham, Eugene, Denise, Daryl and Rosita go off together because Denise found a place that may have medical supplies. Then they split up some more. Just like in horror movies, you don’t do that kind of shit in zombie movies either.

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Eugene and Abraham have a “coming-to” when Abraham, in an attempt to still protect Eugene, kills a Walker for him. Eugene is very put out by this. He is trying to convince Abe that he is in the midst of a change. That he is becoming a new man, capable of living in such a ruthless world. I’m not sure I like that idea, because it means that the world has coarsened Eugene, the same way it has Carol. In fact, their conversation is kind of funny, until it takes a bad turn, when Eugene informs Abe that he no longer needs his protection. Abe, insulted, walks off and leave Eugene on his own, which results in a bad turn for Eugene later.

I think the theme of this episode seems to be the “becoming new people” or “evolutions of the soul”. Carol, too, is in the midst of a come-to-Jesus moment, as she rethinks the kind of person she has become vs. the kind of person she wants to be. At the end of the show, she decides its not proper for her to stay in Alexandria. As I said in the last review, Carol loves these people, and now it’s frightening to her to know  how far she’s willing to go to protect their lives.

I don’t know if she has adopted Morgan’s philosophy, but seeing the kind of woman her captor, Paula, was like in the last episode, seems to have opened her eyes to something about herself. She leaves Tobin a note telling him why she’s leaving the group and striking out on her own. Carol is a survivor, I don’t worry for her safety out on her own, but I do worry about her self. I don’t agree with Morgan’s philosophy in this cruel world, but I admit he’s not wrong about it. What Carol was doing was taking its toll on her, and infecting other people, like Eugene and Denise, two of the gentlest souls in Alexandria.

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Carol’s conversation with Daryl seems to confirm something for her. Probably how her attitude is infecting the other members of the group as Daryl expresses regrets that he didn’t kill his captors in the burnt forest. Actually, this is the second time this season that one of Daryl’s decisions has come back to bite him on the ass. His decision to blow up the Saviors hasn’t quite reached anyone yet, but I suspect its coming. So far, everyone who knows about it is either an Alexandrian, or dead. So far! Paradoxically, his decision to let another person live, is what gets back to him in this episode.

Rosita is experiencing a loss of purpose after Abraham walks out on her. She’s trying to find companionship in the arms of Spencer. I think that’s a bad choice. I don’t think Spencer is good for anybody but himself, and is not good relationship material, for anybody. She needs to learn who she is without Abraham.

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Another person who thinks it would be a good idea to adopt Carol’s philosophy is Denise and I kind of wish she hadn’t. If she hadn’t decided that she needed to “man-up” and go out and learn to be tough, she’d still be alive.She has some wonderfully hilarious  interactions with Daryl, who I think is starting to look on her the same way he did Beth, probably because Denise makes no secret about how much she trusts him, even though he scares her sometimes too. (He’s probably unlike anyone she even met in the old world.) The two of them were just starting to bond when they’re  ambushed by the man who stole Daryl’s crossbow.

Denise’s death, like most of the death in this world, is  senseless and  meaningless. Nothing was accomplished by it, she didn’t sacrifice herself to save lives. It was just brutal and mean, and such a gentle soul never deserved that death. But then, gentle souls have never deserved death, its just that such deaths are more prevalent in this world.

I wish she’d told Tara she loved her.

I wish she’s lived long enough to give Tara her favorite soda that Denise found in an abandoned car.

I wish she’d stayed home.

I wish Tara had had a chance to say a real goodbye.

And  I should’ve known she was going to die soon, because we learned so many interesting things about her in this episode and she was just discovering new things about herself.

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Eugene does a complete” Ricktator” on their attacker with some,  get this! serious dick-biting!, (which I totally didn’t see coming, which is understandable because we’re talking about Eugene), after distracting their attackers with the idea that another member of their group was hiding close by. When he said he was becoming a new man, he wasn’t kidding. (Part of me wants to applaud this but another part of me sees Eugene’s inevitable corruption by this world.) He wasn’t actually lying, because Abraham, despite his words to Eugene, was still watching over him, and I’m glad the two of them reconciled at the end of the episode, even though Eugene did sustain a gunshot wound.

After they’re adventures on the outside, Abraham comes back and makes his play for Sasha, who seems willing to give it a try. I’m not sure how I feel about this relationship, though. Rick and Michonne was just a confirmation for me, of what was already there, but this relationship came out of left field, so I’m not sure what to think, or how to shorten their names into a cutesy couple. Sasham? Abrasha? What?

But this episode wasn’t all la-las for me, Alexandria two of its most valuable members. And I still have that horrible feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach that there is more to come.

In fact that seems to be my theme for this season:

There  will be blood!

 

The Walking Dead: The Same Boat

The title is in reference to the parallels between Carol and one of her captors , Paula. Its also a reference to the type of situation everyone is in. Rick and his crew are as much an unknown commodity to Paula and her crew as they are to Rick. Neither can trust the other, but both want to get out of the situation they’re in with lives intact. I think what Paula didn’t count on is Carol and Maggie are  the women of the Ricktocracy, who are every bit as lethal as the men.

Nope! The men were not the momentum of the  episode. This episode was all about the women, most specifically Carol, Maggie and Paula. There’s some interesting philosophical discussions, escapes, zombie killing and cigarette smoking. Carol, the survivor, brings her “A” game to this match. Her first order of business is getting her captors to underestimate what she’s capable of, and for the most part, they buy that she is a delicate snowflake, who has survived the apocalypse by sheer luck.

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From leaving a trail in the forest for Daryl to follow, to staging an asthma attack,  to pretending to be religious, so she could hold onto the rosary she stole from a walker, that she sharpens into a  cutting instrument, everything she does is calculated for maximum survival. Contrast that with Maggie’s manner of negotiation, directly attempting to escape, or rushing in to protect Carol by attacking their captors head on. We  get the odd glimpse from Carol, most especially in her discussions with Paula, that her pragmatism is starting to take its toll . There are a few scenes that call into question just how much of  the emotions  we’re seeing are fake.

 

 

Alicia Witt is absolutely superb as Paula. She seems as tough as Carol on the outside but her personal story closely matches Carol’s. This is not surprising. The only people left in this environment are people with horrible stories of survival. Everyone has experienced some kind of loss. Everyone is just trying to live and take advantage of others to ensure it. (For example, witness Maggie’s negotiation with Gregory, asking for half of everything the Hilltoppers have.)

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Paula too, is just trying to ensure her survival  and that of her group. (Its too bad that none of these groups can see the idea of all of them joining together for maximum survival.) The sad thing is, in another ‘verse, Carol and Paula might even have been friends. During the Talking Dead discussion after the show, Alicia Witt states that there was a line, cut from the episode, where Paula states  that in another life, she would’ve  sent Carol cat memes.

At one point, Maggie, who has been separated from Carol by a woman named ‘Chelle, is told  they are not the good guys. Not only are Maggie and Carol meant to doubt the intentions of Rick’s group but we, the viewers, are too.

Paula starting killing people the moment the apocalypse began, unlike Carol however, she stopped counting how many people she killed when she got into the double digits. There are at least a couple of cracks in her armor because she’s willing to talk about it at all. Carol can look at Paula and see both her own past, and the woman she will eventually become if she continues down this path, just as Morgan warned.

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But what is Carol’s alternative? Carol is who she is because she loves these people as her family.  Having lost her own daughter, she’s taken all her  mothering instincts and applied them to her group. They are her children, her family. Like any mother bear, she will do what she has to do to protect them, no matter the emotional cost to herself. (Contrast that to the early years of her life,when she expended almost no energy on protecting herself.) I don’t see quite this degree of loyalty on the part of Paula though. Paula is willing to let members of her group die to ensure that she lives.Witness how she treats Donnie, the only man in the group, who also insists on being in charge. When he challenges Paula’s authority she has no qualms about putting him down.

The captors retreat to an animal slaughterhouse and Paula stalls for time with Rick, while  waiting for Negan’s  scouts  to arrive. Rick, of course, is not buying this. Daryl has tracked the group to their lair but they only arrive in time to find  Carol and Maggie have not only saved themselves, but killed all their captors and the reinforcements.

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This episode was full of some very interesting characters. There’s Molls, the senior, chain smoking bad ass. I didn’t expect her to be quite as ruthless as she turned out to be. She really does look harmless. too. She is not. There’s ‘Chelle, who has her own wrenching story of loss to tell Maggie. ‘Chelle feels nothing but contempt for Maggie, as she can’t understand why Maggie allowed herself to get pregnant at the end of world. This is one of the most female-centric episodes of The Walking Dead we’ve had in a long time. I love it that the show never sells the women short, entirely in keeping with the pragmatism and survivability of real world women, during times of hardship. This is a world that has weeded out the stupid and reckless.

My favorite moments are also the most horrifying. Paula’s death was, while not sad, definitely not a good way to go, but even worse was what Maggie and Carol did to the reinforcements,burning them alive in one of the kill rooms. I did take note of Daryl’s response to seeing the two women alive. He asks Carol if she is okay and her response is “no”, after which he gives her a big bear hug. Daryl is one of the few people  that Carol shows her true face. Is all this killing starting  to take its toll? Has Carol’s story run its course?

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And what are we to make of the statement, by several of Negan’s people of  “We’re all Negan.”? What manner of brainwashing has occurred to make these people so loyal to Negan? Just how bad are things going to get?

If you’ve read the books, you know the Negan story line and how it ends, and I wonder if the show will follow the books that way. I know something about the story line from the books and I just know, that Rick’s group is not going to walk away from this unscathed.so far, Rick’s group has taken out a good dozen or so of Negan’s people. At some point, they’re going to have to pay for it.

There will be blood.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Title reference is parallels of Carol and Paula, Paula’s backstory

Hostages, Paula, Carol ,underestimating Carol, Carol pretending to be weak, smoking cigarettes, hyperventilating, Carol bends like water to her environment, whatever is required is what Carol becomes, Carol and the rosary/her daughter Carol and Maggie save themselves

Kidnappers:Donnie, Molls, Chelle, Paula

Paula and gang stalling for help, has carols story run its course, Daryl’s response to her safety

The Walking Dead: Not Tomorrow Yet

Wow! This episode did absolutely nothing to relieve the tension of the group’s first meeting with Negan, who has yet to put in an appearance. The group has decided to make a preemptive strike on Negan’s compound but he’s not there. I don’t know where he is or what he’s doing but I’m dreading when he’ll show up. I just know there will be death.

We spend the first half of the episode with the group making the decision to attack the compound and them saying their goodbyes.Morgan, who is at this point, is really starting to get on my nerves, had to stand up and make a plea for diplomacy. I realized after a minute though that its easy to be mad at Morgan because I know more about the situation  than he does. I know Negan is a bad man, who can’t be reasoned with, and Morgan doesn’t have any idea about that. I’m washing my hands of Morgan at this point because sooner or later this is a philosophy that’s just going to get him killed and I can’t allow myself to get emotionally invested in someone I know is going to die due to their own folly.

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Aaron, who must still have some kind of residual guilt left, because his photos of Alexandria led the Wolves right to it, decides he would prefer to fight, and accounts himself well during the battle at Negan’s compound.

Heath, (who manages to look exactly like his graphic novel character),  and Glenn express some reservations about killing human beings. Its one thing to kill Walkers, but its another thing  to kill sleeping, defenseless people, but all of the fighters feel they are doing what they have to do to survive. On the surface they seem little different in their behavior from Negan and his people but dig a little deeper and they are both right and wrong on many levels. We, the viewers, know that Negan is a bad man and sooner or later his attention would have turned to them, but they don’t know this and just have to make the best decisions they can. But by preemptively striking at him like this, there will also be some kind of price to be paid later. Either way, violence was ever  going to ensue.

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But that’s what this world has come to mostly. Small groups of survivors battling it  out for whatever resources are left. At this stage of the game, the only kind of people left are like The Saviors, The Wolves, or the Governor, the more ruthless and opportunistic members of society. This world will continue to winnow out the weak, careless, gentle,  and diplomatic, basically all the people unable to adapt to this new, more brutal, reality. And it will  get worse, until some kind of detente is reached among the various groups of people left.

Denise and Tara say goodbye to each other. Tara, in an attempt to distract Denise from her misgivings, tells her she loves her, but Denise won’t return thesentiment until Tara comes back home. After the fight at the compound, if she survives it, Tara will go out on a two week supply run with Heath. It will be a long time before they see each other again.

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Abraham breaks up with Rosita, in the worse possible way, at the worse possible time. I didn’t really see this coming. I thought he’d stay with Rosita, but he may be planning to pursue Sasha. This leaves Rosita in tears, which is not a good place to be before a battle, but apparently she channels her anger into the fight because she handles her shit very well. This doesn’t look good for Abraham’s future, however.

Carol is angry that Maggie is coming on the mission because Maggie is pregnant and needs to stay home.  When she argues with Maggie later, its clear that she is dealing with some personal issue that Maggie represents. Carol has a kind of death memorial in her house. She has a lot of death behind her, as quite a few people in this world do, but a lot of her deaths are children.

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At the top of the episode we see her making cookies and passing them out to people in town.She leaves a cookie at Sam’s grave. Its clear she is feeling a certain amount of guilt over the things she said to him over the course of their relationship and those statements might have had some direct impact on his reaction to the Walker crisis. He’s just the latest in a lineup of dead children, starting with her daughter. On the plus side, Carol gets her ashes hauled and its about time. (Of course this means her lover will be killed later, I’m sure.)

Everyone sets out for the battle. The first half goes about as well as expected. They pretend to bring The Saviors Gregory’s head, just as The Saviors asked. Its the head of a Walker that’s been doctored to look like Gregory, but its accepted and the Alexandrians get in. By “Doctored the head” I mean that Rick punched the Walker in the face several times because it didn’t look quite enough like Gregory, prompting Jesus to tell Rick that he was scarier than The Saviors. I don’t know. If Rick is scary, how much worse must Negan be. and the foe after Negan, and the one after that, because this is the kind of world that breeds  monsters, and I’m not talking about the Walkers.

Heath, Glenn and some others are supposed to kill any non-combatants they come across. Glenn doesn’t take this lightly. They are killing ostensibly innocent people, he thinks, until he finds the groups murder wall, featuring photographs of people they have brutally killed, which cements his resolve.

The Battle itself is interesting,  carried out in a very Black-Ops kind of way because  Abraham, Sasha and Rosita all have extensive military training, and it shows in the group’s teamwork and tactics. Despite the horror of what they’re doing, the battle still manages to be fun and exciting, to watch.

Father Gabriel gets badass, as he shoots a man in cold blood, after delivering some lines of scripture. Okay, its not Samuel L. Jackson levels of badassery, but it’ll do, because  I was expecting a lot less from him.

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The group successfully takes the armory but after the battle, find that Maggie and Carol have been captured, in the woods nearby. They decide to make a trade for them with one of the men they’ve taken hostage from the compound.

So yeah, I’m not feeling relieved or anything after watching this episode. There’s still no Negan in sight and their situation has just gotten worse.This is actually one of the few non-funny horror shows I can actually watch. I like my horror with a large dose of comedy and this show is not lighthearted in the slightest. I think at the end of this season, which has been very action packed, we are all going to need that 6 month break.

 

The Walking Dead : Knots Untie

I initially thought of Jesus as a rather funny character, this episode remakes him in my mind as someone more sober. He seems to be thee diplomatic glue holding Hilltop, and assorted isolated communities, together. It sure isn’t Gregory, who is something of a milquetoast. He’s not a villain but he’s unwilling to make some very harsh decisions, although he is willing to be an ass. He’s certainly  unwilling to make the kind of decisions Rick made in this episode.

We pick up the story almost where we left off. Jesus is amusing himself in Rick’s house when he’s interrupted by Carl. When he tells Carl he’s waiting on his Mom and Dad to get dressed, the look on Carl’s face is priceless. Later, Rick has a n awkward conversation where he attempts to explain to Carl what happened, which is totally adorbs, but Carl’s cool about it. Ricks new (old) dynamic with Michonne doesn’t bother him. Why would it? They’ve been living in each other’s backpockets for months now.

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Jesus explains that he’s from a community called Hilltop, which actually is on a hill, and used to be some kind of historic recreation, and that his job is to seek out new communities for trade. It really is a whole new world for the Alexandrians.  He’s taken inventory of their community and thinks there’s something to work with. He turns out to be a good guy after all, despite my dread that he might not be. Later, he tells Rick he likes them, thinks they’re good people, and that he took their truck full of supplies because they looked like bad guys. he’s right. Rick and crew aren’t evil but they’re not good for the communities they have disagreements with.

There’s a lot of Abraham in this episode with shots of him wistfully longing for Sasha, while sleeping with Rosita, and asking Glenn awkward questions involving pancake batter. (You have to watch the episode to understand that.) Later, at Hilltop,  Abraham almost gets killed. I wonder what will be the outcome of that event, especially after he told Rosita she was “almost perfect”. (Yeah, she is but  not as perfect as Sasha, apparently).

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Jesus takes them to Hilltop, after being derailed by a car crash. Rick and the others save the survivors from zombies because they can’t fight worth a darn, (which explains their behavior towards Negan and his crew). There’s a standoff with the gatekeepers, but Jesus diffuses the situation (not for the first time) by letting the Alexandrians keep their guns and informing Rick and the others that the Hilltoppers don’t even have any ammo. The Alexandrians have so little to trade  that I wonder what exactly Jesus had in mind when bringing them to the  community.

Rick throws Maggie in the deep end when he appoints her to be their liaison to Gregory, the leader of Hilltop. Her negotiations with Greg are the highlight of the episode. I love a good negotiation scene. She initially gets knocked for a loop but she gets back up and comes in swinging. Gregory, believing he’s got the upper hand, suggests the Alexandrians  work for the community, in trade for supplies, (while implying that he wants to get in Maggie’s pants) Maggie cuts his shit short about that, when she tells him to remember what her name is, and stop calling her Baby.

Maggie figures out that he’s not the only one with leverage after one of his community members stabs him in the stomach at Negan’s behest.The Hilltop is unable to protect itself from people like Negan, so they offer trade instead, but creatures like Negan are greedy things. If you give them an inch, they will take a yard. They’ve been sending supplies to Negan on a regular basis, but he’s been asking for more. At some point they’re going to have nothing to offer. Its the oldest scam in the book. “Give me your lunch money and I wont kick your ass.”

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One of Gregory’s deliveries gets derailed when Negan kidnaps the brother of one of the deliverers and sends the brother back with a very painful message for Gregory, Rick kills the man when he attacks him and his crew. (Watch Michonne step in to protect her man, although Rick can and does take care of himself, she’s always had his back.) The man Rick killed would never have been  trusted again anyway, as long as Negan holds his family. Negan would never have  been satisfied with  just assassinating Gregory. He would’ve asked for more because that’s just how he rolls.

Once again Rick walks into an ostensibly peaceful situation, and  nonchalantly walks out of it, covered in someone else’s blood. Does anyone else think of Rick and the Murder Crew as the nuclear option of the zombie apocalypse? Just drop them anywhere in or near a settlement and they’ll have it gift-wrapped for you in a week or two. They’ve been weapons of mass destruction since season one and have this shit down to an art form.

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Knowing this about Negan, gives Maggie the leverage she needs, to procure half of the Hilltopper’s supplies. She reasons that Negan would have to be killed, at some point, as someone like him  will never be satisfied with appeasement. Also, sooner or later, Negan is going to run into the people who turned his henchman into pavement stew and they’re gonna have to nuke him, anyway.

Maggie and Glenn, using the first rate medical facilities of Hilltop, get their first ultrasound  look at their baby, because conveniently, one of the people they saved earlier was once an obstetrician.

For those of you who have read the books, you have some idea  why every time Glenn and Maggie discuss their future and their baby, I feel a deep sense of dread and  everything that comes out of their mouths feels like a punch in the gut. For those of you who haven’t read the books “DON’T GOOGLE ANYTHING! YOU WILL NOT LIKE IT!”

Rick takes his proposal to the rest of the group and they reach a consensus. I feel pretty awful about the decision they’re making because, as a general rule, Rick and his crew don’t actually look for fights. The fights usually come to them as they seek to protect each other. But this is different. Rick isn’t wrong. Sooner or later, they will have to fight Negan, (probably as a result  of what Daryl did to his henchmen), which means somebody’s gonna die.

I think sometimes the best we can hope for in this show is that its not everybody.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Walking Dead : The Next World

Well, this is certainly a new world we have entered this week. It was also a very enjoyable episode as it was one of the more lighthearted episodes of…ever. When do we ever get to see these characters just be silly sometimes?

Well, tonight we get a Butch and Sundance road trip between Rick and Daryl. They make a pretty good team, most of the time, but these two cannot be allowed to be together too much as they can’t seem to stop one another from exhibiting some of their worst habits. This is not necessarily a bad thing but it did result in some amount of tragedy for Denise’s snacks.

So, Denise and Tara are living together and Tara talks in her sleep. That’s very interesting. I think they’re relationship is one of the most adorable on this show. It’s not one of those great, grand, romances for the ages, like Glenn and Maggie.They’re not a power couple ,like Rick and Michonne. It’s just something the two of them quietly took care of in the background and I like that.

Learning that Rick and Daryl are going on a supply run, Denise is all kinds of  adoracute, when she gives Daryl her list. Michonne, who has an obsession with her teeth, just wants toothpaste, and Eugene, wearing his butt shorts,  requires they bring back  sorghum, (the super grain), after which everything will be just hunky-dunky. He gives his list to Daryl and you can just see Daryl rolling  his eyes “because why is everyone giving ME their list? And what the Hell does hunky-dunky mean?

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We spend most of the day with Rick and Daryl , listening to horrible country music, and driving too fast. They manage to find Eugene’s sorghum at a place conveniently called Sorghum. At a gas station they run into Jesus, who continues to vex them at every opportunity. He keeps showing up out of nowhere, the sneaky little ninja, and manages to get the best of Daryl and Rick when the two of them let their tempers get out of control.

Having found a huge cache of junk food (Denise’s special request) and other supplies, they bicker with Jesus, who wants it for himself. He’s an interesting character. At no point does he try to kill or verbally threaten the two of them, he appears to be unarmed, and has a somewhat Trickster sense of humor.

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Funniest moment of the episode is Daryl and Rick chasing Jesus around a grassy field, when they most certainly didn’t have to do that. They could’ve just let it go, but didn’t, and as a result, lose the cache of supplies in a small lake. Jesus is injured and they reluctantly  take him with them to Alexandria.

Most touching moment is Michonne finding out that Spencer has been going into the forest every day searching for the resurrected Deanna. The last time he spoke to his mom they had a falling out. Carl and Enid encountered her first, but Carl made the decision not to put her down, believing that someone who loved her should have the honor. (It’s  been a couple weeks after the zombie horde and Carl is looking all mature and shit. All he needs is an eyepatch. Those bandages just ain’t cool. ) Michonne doesn’t understand this until Carl explains that he would do the same for her, because they’re family.

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Michonne, Rick, Carl and Judith have all been living like a family anyway, and later Rick and Michonne make it official, which is a pleasant and unsurprising surprise, as this is a relationship that’s been building for a while now, to the great glee of fans of the show. (Hell, I thought they were already sleeping together and we just weren’t seeing it.) I’m always just a tiny bit surprised at who ends up with who, sometimes.

I think Sasha and Abraham make a good couple but I know some fans are going to react badly to having her black boyfriend killed off a season ago for her to be dating a White man later. And that’s if Rosita doesn’t kill Abraham first, because he’s already in a relationship with her and she may not take it well. I’m kind of scared for her now, because killing her off is one way to eliminate that problem.

Now if only Daryl and Carol would show their love. Not that everyone needs a hookup. It would just be nice if he had someone, although Carol may be wrapped too tight right now to be in a relationship with anyone. (Since Daryl is a completely original character, not in the books, he can be shipped with anybody.)

The next morning, Rick and Michonne wake to find Jesus into heir bedroom. How the Hell did that happen because they left him tied up and unconscious in one of the empty houses. with Daryl as a guard, the other evening?

WOW!

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Love at the end of the world as we know it.

And it’s just fine…

 

On A Personal Note: 

I wasn’t sure how to feel about the Official  Richonne relationship at first, but now I’m reluctantly on board and willing to see where it goes. Part of me is elated (YIPPEEE!) and the other part of me felt dread (OH NO!) for Michonne, because whenever characters hook up, one of them dies.

Please creators,  let this awesome Power Couple of the Apocalypse, live forever!

The Walking Dead: No Way Out

Wow!

That is definitely a Big Bang  opening to the middle of the season!

I loved this episode for its action and it’s message, which is basically, “Get off your ass and do something!”

This episode picks up exactly where it left off, with the introduction of Negan’s cronies. If you’ve read the books, then you know this is the name of this, and possibly next season’s, Big Bad, and yeah, his followers are a right bunch of assholes. This is why I stood and applauded when Daryl showed off why he is the total badass we all love,  by blowing ’em to Hell and back, with Abe’s pet bazooka.

I can’t stop smiling about that!

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So Sam’s big mouth didn’t cost the team their lives yet, but Denise is stuck with the Wolf, who may or may not kill her and she is shaking with terror, and Glenn is stuck with Enid, who is now determined to help him save Maggie. Father Gabriel takes Judith to safety at his church, while Rick and the others decide to go for vehicles instead of the armory. Enid finds a gun hidden in the church that she and Glenn have invaded. They try to come up with a plan to save Maggie.

If that Wolf shoots Denise, it will attract the Walkers right to him, but he’s pretty deranged so I’m not sure he’s thinking that clearly. Carol and Morgan are up and about and have to deal with Denise’s kidnapping. The two of them have unfinished business, though. Tara is desperate to save Denise but is talked out of acting foolish by Rosita. Rosita tells Eugene he doesn’t have to fight. She knows how scared he is but he gets some gumption from somewhere. He tells her no one gets to sit it out, including him.

It’s night, and Rick, Jessie, Sam and the others seem to have been wandering among the dead for hours, when Sam starts to panic. Apparently his panic sets off something in the Walkers and they attack him. I’m sure everyone saw that coming. Jessie, distraught and screaming, quickly follows and Ron, with what is once again perfect timing, decides that now is the time to take revenge on Rick and Carl. It’s pointless anyway because if he fires his gun, he’ll be eaten. Michonne takes him out but not before he shoots Carl.

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I’m still having  trouble processing this scene. I keep thinking maybe it’s some elaborate dream sequence in Rick’s  mind.

The Wolf gets bitten while he and Denise attempt to make it to one of the guard towers. She tells him, if they  make it to the infirmary, she’ll save his life. He stopped to save her when the tower was right there. He could have left her. I think he liked being around her, and she and Morgan are probably the first normal persons he’s ever had any prolonged contact with.

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Morgan and Carol talk. From Carol’s  point of view, Morgan’s reverence for life is a selfish gesture, to make him feel good about himself. Carol  sees Denise and the Wolf running  to the infirmary and shoots the Wolf.

Rick runs into the infirmary with Carl, and Denise tries to save his life, but the Walkers have been attracted,  and someone needs to distract them. Rick goes outside with his machete. The others join him. Even Father Gabriel finally grows some nuts, I guess, as he joins in the fight, echoing the sentiments on a sign that Enid read earlier in a church,  and one of the prime components of the Christian belief system,

“Faith without works is dead. What does it prophet, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works?”

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In other words, “God helps those who help themselves.” They can’t just sit and pray.

Enid and Glenn manage to save Maggie from her precarious perch on one of the guard towers. Glenn gets bogged down in Walkers just  before the cavalry of Daryl, Sasha, and Abraham, show up with machine guns.

Talk about a Deus Ex Machina, huh?

Most of Alexandria’s heavy hitters are all mixed in and fighting among the Walkers, but the cavalry has a plan. They set fire to the pond, using the fuel from the tanker, and the Walkers, attracted to the blaze, head into it.

There’s an awesome montage of all the Alexandrians fighting the zombies.

The next day, Rick sits at Carl’s bedside, while all the other injured get taped and sewn shut. He tells a comatose Carl that he’s impressed with the Alexandrian’s survival instincts and of his dreams for Carl’s future. Carl responds by squeezing his hand. This is the second time Carl’s been accidentally shot and I have no idea what to think about that. Carl does lose an eye in the comics, so it’s surprising and unsurprising.

Sometimes I don’t have anything philosophical to share, just  sheer wonder that we’ve been graced with six seasons of one of the most awesome horror series on TV.

This episode was mad shit tonight.

I love this show!

 

 

Hannibal: The series – Apertif

Hannibal the Series is a perfect illustration of the Nietzschean philosophy that when you look into the abyss, the abyss looks also into you, and as you seek to study monsters, be careful that you do not become one.

As I’ve stated before, I’ve become totally obsessed with this show. I wish I’d paid better attention to it. When it was airing, I gave it only the most cursory attention, and felt like I simply wasn’t keeping up with the show or that it was over my head. It wasn’t over my head. Its just the kind of show you have to pay very close attention or you will be lost.

I guess, this makes me a  somewhat late-blooming Fannibal. Everyone who is into the show is already in this head-space, and I probably won’t bring anything new to an analysis of it, but if nothing else, these reviews and essays can straighten out my thinking about the show and characters, and prompt others to become Fannibals.

This series of essays and reviews are  my re-watch of seasons one-three and the thoughts that occurred to me during. Since all three seasons are available on DVD, and I’ve watched all of them, it  will contain  massive spoilers for season two and three as well. If you have never watched a single episode and don’t mind lots spoilers, then please, continue.

Season one of Hannibal is like most season one shows. It introduces the characters and main themes. Bryan Fuller himself, has stated that Hannibal is basically a non-sexual love story between two heterosexual men, Will Graham and Hannibal Lecter. It chronicles their first meeting, what types of men they are,   the supporting players and  the foundation for the second season. Most of the first season is  “killer of the week” episodes that have a particular resonance to a specific character or theme.

This first season, Hannibal Lecter spends in quiet fascination of Will Graham, who is touted as a being of pure empathy, due to some type of neurological disorder, something which fascinates Hannibal and several other characters. When we first meet Will, he is teaching at Quantico and approached by Jack Crawford, the head of a serial killer task force called The Evil Minds Research Facility, a title that Will objects to as tasteless. Later,in their first interview, Hannibal lightly jokes about Will’s tastes, one of the many little cannibal puns Lecter likes to indulge.

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Jack Crawford asks Will where he is on the Autism spectrum, as one of the hallmark traits of Autism and Asperger syndrome, is the inability to make eye contact with others. Will can make eye contact but prefers not to do so, wearing his eyeglasses in such a way that they prevent him from looking directly at people, a tactic that Jack is smart enough to notice. In the episode Buffet Froid (1×10), Will  attempts to save, and bonds with, a young woman named Georgia Madchen, who can look at people’s faces, but because of a similar neurological disorder,  can’t see them. This drives her to psychosis, mirroring the instability Will has been trying to avoid because of his disorder and the influence of Lecter. Later in season two, Will bonds with Peter Bernadone (Su-Zakana: 2×8), a man with a similar disorder, due to a head injury, that won’t allow him to both touch and look at something at the same time, so this inability to SEE is a constant theme.

The first case we see Will talking about isn’t the Garret Jacob Hobbes case but a case involving a family called The Marlowes. Theirs is not one of the cases mentioned in the books but the Hobbes case is. The Hobbes case is the one that caused Will’s mental breakdown, briefly mentioned in the books, which prompted him to retire from criminal profiling. The first and the second seasons of the series is al Ike a prequel to The Red Dragon book, chronicling that breakdown, aided and abetted by Hannibal Lecter.

Jack Crawford seeks Will’s advice on the Hobbes case, which parallels one of the classic serial killer case studies in America, that of Ted Bundy. Hobbes victims are all outdoorsy young women, with dark hair. Ted Bundy was a charismatic serial killer from the 70s, who died in the electric chair in Fla. in 1989. The number of Bundy’s victims is unknown,  but most were young ,attractive, college aged females, similar in appearance to the victims in the Garret Hobbes case in the show. (If you Google the photos for the Ted Bundy case, you’ll see the resemblance.)

Garrett’s motivations however, are the complete opposite of Ted Bundy’s , which were sexual in nature. Hobbes motivation is more like Jeffrey Dahmer’s in that he sought to keep his victims close to him by eating them,(except without the sexual component, which I will get to in a moment). The victims symbolically represent Hobbes’ daughter Abigail, a young woman on the verge of leaving home and leaving her father’s life for the first time. This is Hobbes attempt to hold onto his daughter, trying to  arrest her development by killing and eating  representatives of her, over and over again, because he cherishes her, by  cherishing his victims.

This symbolic type of killing is not unusual in serial killer cases, where the killers take victims that resemble a particular woman, who they feel has wronged them, or that they covet, (as in the case of Edmund Kemper III, dubbed The Co-Ed Killer from the 1970s.) In some cases the killers are building up to killing their coveted victim, but in others, they may be reliving the death of their original victim, over and over again.

There is a deliberate choice on the part of Bryan Fuller, as he says,  to make the motivations of the serial killers on the show, non-sexual in nature. Almost all of the killings on the show are done for benign reasons, the killers often  believe they are helping their victims in some way, or echoing Hannibal’s therapeutic philosophy, they believe they are helping their victims to transcend and be their best selves. The only other killers we meet, who kill for selfsihly negative reasons, is Hannibal Lecter and  Tobias Budge in Fromage (1×8).

In fact, because of Fuller’s attempts to avoid cliches, it’s much easier to think of Hannibal as a “fantasy” show, with killing. Most of the types of killers, on the show are not like actual  real life killers, as most of them are not masterminds like Lecter.  In an attempt to avoid one cliche, however, Bryan Fuller has fulfilled the cliche of the violent mentally ill person. Most mentally ill are liable to be the victims of crime rather than the perpetrators:

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The motivations of real life serial killers are most often sexual in nature. Notice that there are never rape motivations on the show, and although the victims are often mutilated after death, there is never any sexual component to that, whereas in the real world there is almost always a sexual component, right down to the choice of victims, who are often transient women, often prostitutes, who will not be missed when they are preyed upon. Serial killers  don’t like to chase and don’t often prey on those who will be easily missed. Like lazy fishermen, they prey  on people who be  easily lured into their orbit by their habits, or professions. The serial killers on Hannibal often choose very different types of victims, from all walks of life. (In season two, the fisherman motif will be brought up in conversation between Jack and Will.)

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On the show, the killers often mutilate the bodies of their victims too, but never for sexual reasons. Most often those reasons are unique to the individual situations of the killers, (like the Angel Killer in   Coquilles: 1×5), to send a message to a third party, (as Hannibal does in Apertif and Tobias Budge in Sorbet: 1×7), or a belief they are aiding the victims (as in Takiawase: 2×4)), and the bodies are often arranged in artistic tableau meant to convey meaning  to others (Randall Tier in Shizakana: 2×9) . Its more helpful for us  to think of Will’s job as reading the tableau, to determine what the killer is trying to say, something not entirely unlike how real profilers work, but that’s where the resemblance to actual criminal profiling ends.

When we first see Will, we are introduced to the  specific technique he utilizes throughout the rest of the series, to read a crime scene, the pendulum effect. This is important because it is how well Will’s mind works that determines how the  other characters behave towards him. Later, Will’s ability to access this mind-space is affected by his deteriorating mental state, and his reactions to Hannibal’s crime scenes are  changed as a result of Hannibal’s influence. Hannibal’s manipulations affect Will’s ability to see. It is Hannibal’s fascination with Will’s ability to think like any kind of person that begins their romance.

Jack Crawford first approaches Alana Bloom, to do a psychological evaluation of Will Graham and  to be his anchor in case Will gets in too deep. It is Alana  who recommends Lecter to Jack.

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We first see Hannibal eating alone in his house and although we see him savoring the food, his life looks routine, possibly boring. He’s content, and seemingly happy, but there’s no real excitement. Life doesn’t become exciting until he is approached by Jack Crawford, who hires him to give a psychological profile of Will Graham, to assess whether or not Will is in a capable mental state to consult on cases.

The first meeting between Will and Lecter does not go well. Will denies Lecter for the first time here. It’s something he keeps doing throughout the series while drawing ever closer to him. We get a glimpse of Will’s dark-side, when he tells Hannibal that he won’t like him when he’s psychoanalyzed, referencing another mild mannered man who transforms into a raging beast when provoked. And he’s not wrong. There is a beast in Will, that authentic self that Hannibal senses and wishes Will to release. (Like Tony Stark from The Avengers, when he first meets Bruce Banner, Lecter is  curious. He pokes and prods Will to see what will happen.)

Having been introduced to Will and the case they’re working, Hannibal copycats the Hobbes’ case out of curiosity, to see if Will can tell the difference between the original and him. Oddly, the comparison to the copy is what spurs  Will to fully understand the Hobbes case. It is also what first puts Will onto the scent of Hannibal Lecter. The body impaled on the antlers of a deer, and the crows eating the body will become the familiar motif seen  throughout the rest of the series, known as the Dire RavenStag, which is Will’s subconscious representation of Hannibal.When Lecter questions Will the next day, he asks how Will knows that the Hobbes case, and the one he created, are not the same person.

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This is  also the first time we see Lecter feeding Will, which I find fascinating as there  are several scenes of him feeding Will throughout the first season.The second instance is in Releves, (1×12), when he brings Will  Silkie Chicken Soup, as a health restorative. The giving  of food is a mating ritual among certain predatory animals, called Courtship Feeding, and is one of a number of power plays that Lecter engages in with Will, although Will doesn’t know it.

It’s  not explicitly stated, but it is implied,  that he is feeding Will meat from the “field kabuki” that  Will consulted on the previous day. Will’s rejection of Hannibal’s friendship during their  first meal is an instance of Will denying him, while  accepting Lecter’s offer of courtship. The series is full of such push and pull moments of Will both rejecting and accepting Lecter’s advances. By ingesting the body of the victim, one could argue that Will is possessed by Hannibal, and that’s when  the subconscious imagery of The Dire RavenStag, associated only  with Lecter’s killings, begins to haunt him. The Stag is also a sculpture that is one of the props found in Lecter’s office.

Later, when Will discovers Hobbes address, Hannibal calls and warns Hobbes  of his  imminent arrest. This is another test, just like the “field kabuki”, which is born entirely out of Hannibal’s curiosity of how Will is going to react. He watches Will kill for the first time  when Will shoots Garrett Hobbes, and is curious about how such pure empathy can be reconciled with taking a human life. All of their discussions afterwards are Hannibal probing what this must have felt like to Will.

Hannibal’s version of psychiatry involves the  full self- actualization of his patients, which is a legitimate psychiatric technique, but is  twisted in Hannibal’s case, as he doesn’t seem to care if his patients are violent psychopaths, or wish to become monsters. He encourages them regardless of their personal demons. He wants them to realize their authentic self and live up to their full potential, no matter how dark,  and after some amount of probing and poking, perverse creature that he is, decides Will needs to self-actualize. Later, he does this because Will becoming his true self will meet Lecter’s emotional needs.

What  ensues through the first half of season one is a tug of war between Jack Crawford and Hannibal Lecter over Will Graham’s soul, with Jack as the good Angel, on one shoulder and Hannibal as Lucifer, on the other. Bryan Fuller has stated that Hannibal is representative of Satan (i.e. The ManStag or  Horned God, that Will wrestles with in season two). Both Jack and Lecter seek to manipulate Will for their own agendas. Jack’s primary motive is using Will to catch The Chesapeake Ripper (who is actually Hannibal). Jack is walking a thin line of attempting to moderate Will’s instability, while Hannibal’s motivation seems to be encouraging it to full flower. After all, in order to build up, he must break down and that’s essentially what he’s doing to Will, breaking down all of Will’s barriers, his forts, to reach  his authentic self.

Garrett Jacob Hobbes, in desperation, tries to kill Abigail, but she is saved by Will and Hannibal, who afterwards feel responsibilities to her. The episode ends with the two of them book ending Abby’s unconscious body in the hospital. Although I suspect, the reason Hannibal is there is because he was waiting to see if Will would appear. Understanding Will’s attachment to Abigail, Lecter  uses her to manipulate Will’s mental instability, and eventually frame Will for her murder.

 

 

Costumes:

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When we first see Lecter he is sitting down to dinner, in a dark, three piece suit and he is almost never seen wearing anything else. Note,  in his first meeting with Will, he is seen wearing  a  bland, beige outfit with a sweater vest and no tie. I suspect Lecter thinks this is how regular people do casual, and he is trying to mimic and blend in.

Most of Lecter’s suits are subtle plaids with solid shirts, with subtly patterned ties. Contrast those with Jack Crawford’s  FBI power suits, in dark, solid  jewel tones, often paired with colored shirts for that “cool black guy” effect. Will Graham often wears rumpled jackets, plaid shirts and khakis or chinos, with no tie, alluding to his working class background. Almost no one wears denim except Abigail Hobbes, who often wears dark flowery colors with a very youthful, feminine cut.

Music:

This episode features Bach’s Goldberg Variations.

Spotlight:

Alana Bloom

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Alana Bloom is not a character from the books or movies. However, Alan Bloom is briefly mentioned in both the book and movie Red Dragon. Alana is an original character to the series, and what a fearsome Mama Bear she is.

Alana Bloom is The Protector. A large part of her purpose in the series is to protect everyone. First Will Graham, who she tries to protect from Jack Crawford and Hannibal. Later, she takes Abigail Hobbes  under her wing and is fearless in this regard. She regularly dresses down Jack for his behavior towards Will, brings charges of negligence against him in season two on Will’s behalf, and is one of the few people who can get away with dressing down Hannibal, in her zeal to protect Abigail, something that Lecter meekly accepts from her..

Later, in season two, when Will has set his sights on taking down Hannibal as the Chesapeake Ripper, she tries to protect Hannibal as well. She is a mediator, the barrier between all the various male agendas and their attempts to destroy each other and themselves. And she is also a bridge, conveying messages to all of them, about each other, and is the one who facilitates Will’s and Hannibal’s first meeting.

Having been deceived and betrayed by Hannibal, she turns her attention, in season three, to Margot Verger, helping Margot to overthrow the tyranny of her brother Mason.

She is a fearless  mother figure within the narrative , who becomes a real mother by the end of the series. If Alana chooses your side in a dispute, you would be well protected from all comers.

 

The Walking Dead: Start To Finish

Who said, “Things  couldn’t possibly get worse!”? Whoever said  that, needs to shut up, especially when it comes to this show. The writers delight in causing  tension for its viewers. I spent more than a few moments actually on the edge of my seat or screaming at my TV. That’s how good this show is. Mostly at any scenes that involved children.

I read somewhere that children exist, in movies and TV shows, to give  adults a reason to have drama, or to create tension by putting them in danger. They rarely have their own plots and backstories. If that’s the case, then tonight is Sam’s (Jessie’s son) time to shine because there is no more annoying character  this episode. First up,  the blatant metaphor of having an ant invasion in his room, paralleling the Walker invasion outside.

Sam has spent the past couple of days holed up in his room trying to avoid the dangers of the world, like zombies and Wolves. He just wants to be safe. I get that. I think the message here is that you can’t hide because the danger will only come for you later.

Another recurring theme of this season is how different children are coping with the zombie apocalypse. Enid, in JSS, gives up on living in favor of simply surviving. Her argument is to just let everything go,run away, not deal with it or get close to people. This is her way of psychologically checking out.

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Ron’s method of coping is to become deeply myopic. Instead of focusing on the larger dangers, he has winnowed his attention down to  the most immediate problems, which are the loss of his father and then his girlfriend by the Grimes’ family.

Of all of them, Carl seems to be handling the apocalypse the best. Part of it is that Carl is reasonably intelligent and has  a great supporting cast of his father’s friends and followers. He’s been taught by Rick since he was very young. He’s also  able to see the best and worst of Rick, in play, and  then weed out the worst behavior by paying close attention to how his father’s  friends react. So Carl, unlike the other kids, is stepping up to the idea of a being a capable protector and a fighter, with an eye on issues beyond his own needs. Ron, Sam and Enid, were never taught these things. We’ve seen him show his ability to make command decisions a couple of times this season.

We pick up  where we left off, last week, when the watchtower, which had been damaged in the attack from the Wolves, finally gave   up, and fell into the compound. This destroyed part of the wall, allowing the Walker horde to invade Alexandria.

Once again, you have to remember that all of these episodes are happening almost simultaneously or at least within the same couple of  days. Earlier that morning the heavy hitters were out herding walkers, when the Wolves attacked the town and everyone scrambled to get home. During their scramble, everyone is separated. Rick has a near death experience, so do Glenn and Daryl. Enid runs away but is found the next day by Glenn.

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On the second day, Morgan has an intervention with Rick and the others, and is discovered to be holding one of the Wolves hostage. Spencer makes reckless decisions which lead to a falling out with his mother. Maggie confesses she’s pregnant to Aaron, who finds out that it was  his recruitment photos that  led the Wolves to Alexandria’s doorstep.

This same day, Maggie has a near death moment herself and just barely makes it to safety, as the Walkers head to the heart of the town. Everyone runs for safety. Rosita, Tara and Eugene are trapped in a garage, but later, escape. Deanna and Rick hole up in Jessie’s home with Judith, Michonne and Carl. Morgan and Carol, find an abandoned house.

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Deanna, severely injured in their run for safety discovers that she’s also been bitten. She has a lot of advice to impart to Michonne, as she is one of the few people who believes in Deanna’s vision for the town. Deanna tasks her to think about what she wants for Alexandria and for herself. It’s interesting that she didn’t say these things to Maggie, who will be busy with her own issues, soon enough.

Carol, also injured, manages to escape Morgan’s attention for thirty seconds and runs off to kill his captive. Morgan reaches her just in time while Denise, and the Wolf, look on with interest. The Wolf keeps encouraging Carol to kill him, while Morgan tries to talk her out of it.  Carol threatens to kill him too and the two of them duke it out, until Morgan, exasperatedly slams her to the floor, knocking her unconscious.

 

 

 

I love both of these characters, understand both their viewpoints, and see this as an example of Fight Philosophy, where a fight isn’t just two people hitting each other. Its a contest between  competing philosophies, Morgan’s philosophy of Compassion and Carol’s philosophy of Pragmatism. Each one of these ideas has a price. For Carol the price for doing what needs to be done is her soul or sense of self. This is simply not who she is or should be and Morgan can sense that she is headed down a wrong path. Morgan, however,  gets to keep his soul, but because he won’t kill, the price may be his life.

This is made evident when the Wolf, taking advantage of the situation, attacks Morgan, takes Denise hostage and escapes.

Outside the walls, Glenn  and Enid try to figure out a way to get inside and help their friends and family.

At Jessie’s house Sam has a panic attack when he realizes the town has been invaded by zombies. He has to be talked down by Jessie, who tells him to pretend he is a brave person.  The house itself is invaded when Ron, with his usual incredible timing, decides now would be a good time, to hash out his problems with Carl. When Carl finds him in the garage, he tries to shoot him and the two of them wrestle for the gun, shooting out the garage windows, which allow the zombies to get into the house. Later, Carl lies to Rick, about how this happened.

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Rick and the others come to the rescue but are too late to stop the tide of zombies. Short on time, Rick’s risky plan is one I like to call The Zombie Guts Maneuver, first introduced by Glenn, I believe. Once again Sam panics and has to be talked into it by his mother. I don’t think Jessie is going to teach him to be strong enough, fast enough, for him to survive. He’s had a very coddled existence, and is simply not equipped, for this kind of thing, on such short notice.

Unfortunately, they have to leave Deanna behind. Rick gives her a gun, which I think she’s supposed to use on herself, but she goes out in grand (but painful) style, when she elects to use the bullets on the invading Walkers.

The group successfully makes its way through the Walker horde in the house, and outdoors, where their mission is jeopardized by Sam who, utilizing some of  Ron’s incredible timing techniques, (this must run in the family) decides right then would be a good time for him and Jessie to have a heart to heart talk. So yeah, if someone doesn’t do something soon, little Sammy is going to get eaten.

 

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EPILOGUE:

Sasha, Abraham and Daryl are still on their way back to Alexandria, when their vehicle is  commandeered by a gang of men on bikes. Men who say they’re from Negan. Incidentally these are the same guys that ambushed the group earlier, and chased after the trio that captured Daryl, in the episode Always Accountable.

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<SIGH!>

Who said things can’t get any worse?