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The Walking Dead: The Grove (2014)
The Darkest Episode To Date
Carol has always been an extremely interesting character for me in terms of her progression in this story. She went from a broken, abused wife to a devastated mother, and now to a mama bear who will do anything and everything possible to protect and defend the people she cares for. She's taken a more active role in defending children, stemming from her loss of her own daughter - Sophia - back in Season 2.
This episode started off like a lot of others, but the unique thing about this installment of the show is that there was so much more tension between the characters. Carol killed Karen - she made that very clear at the end of this episode - and Lizzie is crazy. These are two wild-cards the show had yet to play, and they decided to bring them both out here in this episode.
The death of Mika was surprising and uncompromising. There was no loud music to reveal "this happened, let's be freaked out!", nor was there any large reveal cinematically. We came across Lizzie and her bloody knife just as Tyreese and Carol did, and that made this moment all the more effective. The fact that she would kill her sister in an attempt to prove that they could still love Mika despite the fact that she would be a walker is horribly disturbing, and I'm very glad the writers made that moment as raw as possible (including the fact that Lizzie planned to kill baby Judith next).
What Carol did next only makes her character all the more strong and interesting. She proved herself to be the person who gets things done. She's not ready to lose anyone else, and this stems from the loss of her daughter. She killed Karen and David because she wanted to contain the sickness. And she killed Lizzie because she knew that Lizzie was a danger to everyone around her. In a very Steinbeck fueled moment, Carol killed Lizzie in cold blood. What made it even more heartbreaking was not just the fact that Lizzie was killed, but that she was afraid Carol was "mad at her." This simple line shows that she's still just a kid, albeit a very disturbed one. But there is innocence still inside of her. Her obsession with walkers and her inability to see them as a threat most likely stems from watching Carol kill her father in front of her. But she's still a kid, and that sense of longing for attention and praise is still present.
The final scene was probably the grimmest of the show, even beating out Lizzie's death in my humble opinion. Carol has now had 3 of her daughter's die and her blatant declaration to Tyreese, the reveal that she in fact did kill Karen and David, was a proclamation of her desire to die. She was willing to have Tyreese kill her, most likely as penance for the things she has done.
The main thing the writers keep coming back to is this idea of "can we come back from the things we've done." Carol will forever carry the burden of knowing she killed Karen and David - Tyreese illustrates this in their final scene together - and Carol now has the death of two young girls on her mind. These are not things one can come back from, but they have to push forward. Terminus, despite it's ominous name and - most likely - the threat awaiting everyone, provides some comfort to every character on this show because they are moving forward towards something. They will never be free of the guilt that plagues them, but they know internally that community can mend their ailments.
Overall, I thought this episode was outstanding. This episode was penned from the brilliant Scott Gimple, and it's easy to see elements of other episodes he has written (Clear, This Sorrowful Life, Save the Last One, Pretty Much Dead Already) in this. It is bleak, but at the end there is an element of hope. I would rate this a 9.3/10
The next episode is titled "Us" and all of the groups are expected to be in it - according to the promo. We'll see if this means a reunion or not.
The Walking Dead: Alone (2014)
The True Definition of Loneliness
As these episodes continue, I find myself in the minority often when I say I thoroughly enjoyed this episode. Though not without its imperfections "Alone" proves to be a very engaging look at what it truly means to be alone in this new world and the value of a companion. There were also some big game changing moments, and the group is even closer to getting back together.
It was interesting to get the flashback of Bob wandering through the forest, and it mirrored The Governor's journey in the beginning of his episode earlier in the season. There was something forlorn in Bob's journey; something that proved that he was only functioning on the bare instinct of survival - boarding up a small nook so that walkers can't kill him, but watching the walker try. This was a man who had absolutely no hope with nothing to live for. It was cool to watch Daryl and Glen pick Bob up, and it's an interesting contrast to the Bob we see in this episode.
The zombies in the mist - though a little contrived - was thoroughly thrilling. The horror element of this show was lost after the first season, and the writers this year have really brought it back. These moments - the mist this episode and the trunk last episode - really evoke the ever present danger in the world and I love it.
From here, the story split into two factions: Daryl and Beth & Maggie, Sasha, and Bob. The former had an interesting introduction as we see Daryl coming out of his shell a bit. We can tell that Daryl really found something worth fighting for in Beth and - though a lot of people think it's a creepy dating thing - I find it more as the interaction between an uncle and a daughter. Beth has really stepped up to the plate in these past two episodes, proving that her optimism is not a source of weakness, but instead a well of strength that she must draw on to survive this world. There is a moment where Beth asks Daryl why he's changed, and Daryl was obviously going to say her (before they were rudely interrupted by walkers), and this is rather sweet. Daryl does not love her, nor is he attracted to her. Instead, he needs her. He needs a companion because being alone in this world is the worst thing anyone can experience. It's all the more heart-wrenching when Beth is kidnapped right after Daryl fights tooth and nail for their lives. It will be interesting to see where this is going, especially since Daryl now has a new group - the people Rick hid from in the house.
Sasha went through a bit of a cynical phase this episode, and it's definitely understandable. In her eyes, she lost almost everybody she cared about and she can't afford to get close to anyone lest she experience the same pain when they die. Bob is interesting here because he's very happy just to be with other people. Again, highlighting this notion of loneliness, Bob says that it's better to be with another person than to be alone. Maggie's search for Glen was predictable, but rather heartfelt. It's good to know she hasn't forgotten about Glen and that she's actively trying to find him like he's doing for her.
All of this leads to that ominous name "Terminus" where everyone is bound to meet. Now I'm betting that this "sanctuary" is anything but that, but I'm still enjoying these, deep character driven episodes.
Overall, I'd give the episode an 8.4/10. It had some issues with pacing, as well as some moments which called for suspension of disbelief when there shouldn't have been, but it was a solid installment.
The Walking Dead: After (2014)
A Great Character Driven Episode
Again, I find it interesting that the writers are focusing so much on character development. I love it, and I find that I'm often in the minority when it comes to these kinds of episodes, but I find that this season has been more akin to Season 1 in its use of emotion and symbolism.
Carl is not everyone's favorite character, so doing an entire episode on he, Rick, and Michonne is certainly a risky move for a premiere. However, it worked. Carl's character has been in need of some good development. People need to understand who this character is and how he's departed from 'Stay In The House' Carl. He's changed a lot as a person in general. He's matured a lot, but in the same vain he's still a kid. The moment where he sees the video games and smiles is one of the most heartbreaking moments for me because he has feelings any kid should have, and he then forces himself to shut down those feelings because the only thing the cord is useful for is blocking the door. There were two other great moments: one between Carl while his father was sleeping, and one when Carl thought his dad was a walker. When Carl spews all of his anger at his father, we can see there's a lot of rage there; rage he's most likely suppressed since Lori's death. And he says all of these things, not because he believes them to be true, but simply from hatred and anger at his situation. The second great moment - where Carl is about to shoot his dad - proves that Carl can't survive alone in the world. He's matured for sure, and he's resourceful enough to find food and kill walkers (pudding for the win), but when it comes to being alone he can't do it. When Rick is crawling towards him, Carl can't shoot him, and he even bares his neck and braces for his father to bite him.
On top of all of this, Michonne got some excellent development as well. We learn more about her "pets" from Season 3. The dream was extremely engrossing, in that it leaves everything up to the viewer to interpret. It reminded me of dream sequences in The Sopranos (mainly the one where Dr. Melfi uses pieces of macaroni to buy a soda). We don't know whether or not her "lover" killed himself and the baby, but it's strongly hinted at, and we understand why she had such reluctance with holding Judith earlier in the season. Also, I loved her slaying of the walkers, showing both a physical and mental display of slaying her "demons" so to speak. When she kills the walker which somewhat resembles her from before, she is given a choice: abandon the road she is taking - which would lead her back to the way she was before she found Andrea - or she could go after the footprints (I'm not sure whether she actually knew it was Rick and Carl). The ending provides a somewhat hopeful position for the future, and I wonder where they will take the show from here.
This episode's pacing was slow for sure, but there was a lot of strong character development for Carl and Michonne. I loved the episode, but I can understand people who didn't like it. To them, I would simply say: keep an open mind. We don't know these characters' fates, and we need to cling to every one of them before they go.
The Walking Dead: Live Bait (2013)
Excellent Acting & Character Development
This is an episode that will divide a lot of fans. I'm on the side that loved this episode, though I'm sure plenty of people are already taking to the ratings and reviews to bash it.
This season has been really different. It's slowed down its pace and taken the time to develop its characters. And it's succeeding where Season 2 failed: it's constantly getting us out of the prison. We're not centered in one location. Also, every episode feels fresh. Especially this one.
For fans of the comic, this was a strange episode. The Governor has always been depicted as evil, ruthless, and deadly. Those qualities are certainly present, but the difference is that David Morrissey has made the character human. He's injected emotion, subtext, and humanity into a character which, in the comics, was pretty (pun not intended) comical.
Morrissey is an amazing actor, and he certainly holds the episode together. There's a lot to be explored with The Governor, and I'm glad the writers are taking an unpredictable route: trying to get redemption for The Governor. And Morrissey perfectly displays the trauma he experiences from what he's done. The scene of him in front of the fire, the scene of him side- stepping the walker (showing that he's really only running on a basic instinctual level to survive), the burning of Woodbury (which explains why everyone went back to the prison and also shows The Governor trying to rid himself of his past), and the moment when he folds the picture so it hides his face (he's ashamed of who he's become and he can't look at himself).
All in all, I loved this episode. We got a lot of character development on a character we didn't really know. It made me feel for a character I hated. Not since Shane have I sympathized with an anti-hero. So, though a lot of people will complain that it's "boring" because it didn't have non- stop action, this episode was a success and it brings a new spin on The Governor. I honestly have no idea where they're going with him this season, so this should be interesting.
The Walking Dead: Indifference (2013)
Can You Bury the Past?
This season of The Walking Dead has been a welcome change from previous years. We've had a wonderful change in pace which feels like it's a continuous build from previous episodes. In fact, these four episodes feel like they should be together, not split up into parts. It's flowed a lot better than previous years.
The writers are finally getting character development right. In these four episodes we've seen a lot of changes in everyone, but most notably Rick, Carol, and Tyreese. Carol has been awesome this season. She's transformed from a victim to a fierce lioness. Rick has done just the opposite, attempting to bury his head in the sand (or dirt in this case) and forget the past when, in reality, there really isn't a way to right the wrongs he has done.
"Indifference" combined excellent character development with deep, thought provoking dialogue and, of course, awesome zombies. This show has certainly seen a major improvement in pacing & storytelling since the latter half of season 3. This episode, though not filled with blood and gore, is an amazing look at our characters which we've grown to know and love. These people do not like the choices they have made, and a part of them might disagree with it, for the same reason Rick was constantly looking in his rear view mirror at the end of the episode. But, if we can't come back from the things we've done, how should we move forward? Should we do what Rick has done: trying to bury the past away? Or take Carol's approach: make a move and then move on from the decision?
Excellent episode. Also, for fans of the comic, perhaps a hint at the hunters with that severed limb Rick finds?
A Fantastic Achievement.
Gravity has really polarized opposites. There are people who absolutely love it and hail it as a huge achievement in cinematic history, and there are also people who call it the most boring film of all time. There isn't much in-between space.
I, for the record, loved it. I don't necessarily consider it to be one of the greatest films ever made, but I do consider it a fantastic achievement in the medium of film. There's a lot more to be proud of in this film than to rip on, which is what every filmmaker strives to do.
A lot of the greatness from this film comes from its simplicity. The cast is made of (mainly) two characters. The story is simply a survival tale, surrounding around Dr. Ryan Stone. But this simplicity adds a lot because we don't get muddled down in the beginning minutes with the introduction of a million characters, nor do we have to follow a bunch of stories. Instead of constantly cutting between Houston and Dr. Ryan, we simply hear their conversations through radio transmissions.
As I said, the story is simply a tale of survival: one we've seen a million times. We've also seen the "stuck in space" story as well, most notably in Apollo 13. But Gravity manages to contain itself nicely. The tension this movie creates is so incredibly thick you can cut a knife through it. And the situations don't feel forced. In fact, it's a very linear progression from the start of the collision with the debris to the sequence in the Chinese space station.
Something that was definitely surprising to me (especially considering how big of a name he is for the film) is Matt Kowalski's (played by George Clooney) death. In terms of the story is made perfect sense and fit seamlessly with the events occurring, however with a cast of two big name actors, it was strange to see him die so quickly (especially since they could have gone the Hollywood route and have both survive so they could eventually hook up and get married). So I was definitely a big fan of that moment.
Sandra Bullock did surprisingly well in her role. She's done some good films recently, and she's fleshed out her acting strength considerably. Since the film revolves around her character, we had to instantly care for her character (which is not easy to accomplish). Bullock did an excellent job portraying both a woman scared out of her mind as well as someone who is doing everything she can to survive. A lot of people will parody her hyperventilating for sure, but considering the situation she was in, it does not seem at all out of place for her character to be that freaked out.
Moving to the technical side, Gravity is an amazing look at cinematography and sound and how they affect a viewer's experience. A lot of films have used the quote "there's no sound in space" (I'm looking at you Alien), but Gravity is the first film I've seen that actually does its best to be faithful to the reality of space. The only sounds which occur in space are the radio transmissions. Otherwise, the crashes between the debris and the space stations are displayed through vibrations (which the films does its best to mute). Honestly, though, there is no way space itself can be portrayed in film perfectly because film requires some kind of sound with it. Even in the early days of film when there was no synchronized sound, there were still musicians playing a score, often live. Since space is a vacuum, it would require absolutely no sound whatsoever, and the medium of film simply cannot allow that. So I applaud the filmmakers in doing as much as they could with what they were allowed.
As I was talking about before, the cinematography of the film is astounding. The opening shot - a static shot of the earth revolving - is an amazing foreshadowing of what is to come (in terms of camera-work). I was most impressed with the use of the first person camera. It felt very much like a video game playing out, making it more interactive with the audience. There were also excellent shots of the sunrise over the Earth and the Aurora Borealis. However, the film also did an excellent job of showing the horrors of space: the dark, cold, empty place that it is contrasted with the warm, prosperous (though there are very few places on Earth which still look the way it was portrayed in the end) plentiful planet.
The only faulting point I have is the ending. The main problem I find with the survival movies is it's all about surviving. Perhaps that's not a bad thing as a premise - the fight to survive I mean - however I never really doubted that Stone would survive. I didn't know per se, and the death of Matt certainly made me wonder, but in the end it was pretty predictable. And look, predictable doesn't denote bad quality. The finale of Breaking Bad was predictable and it was one of the most satisfying finales I've ever seen. However, the idea of danger is what is central to this film, and other films in its genre, and if we know that the main character, who is fighting for their life, is going to survive there isn't much suspense involving said survival. I wouldn't have minded if Dr. Stone died in the end. If we can predict that the character will survive, their fight becomes less suspenseful.
Otherwise, though, Gravity is a wonderful exploration of beautiful and intense filmmaking. An excellent, yet small, cast adds a lot to the story, and the writing is spot-on. I definitely recommend this for any passionate film-goer.
Dexter: Remember the Monsters? (2013)
You Had Me Up Until That Final Scene
For all the crap I've given Dexter this season, this wasn't a horrible way to end the show. It was certainly clichéd, and there were a million holes, but I do have to admit that Deb dying was a tearjerker.
So let's start from the beginning: getting away from Elway was smart, but I don't really think it would have held up well. The security would have checked the cameras and seen that Dexter put the bag there, meaning he would be taken in and questioned, not Elway.
Then Dex gets the call that Deb was shot. He, obviously, rushes to her side (but not before sending Harrison off with Hannah).
And here is where the good moments were. Deb and Dex have been the heart of this show from the beginning, and it's only fitting to make the final episode of the series based on them. The scene in hospital coupled with the flashbacks worked for me. They were reminiscent of an easier time for Dexter, before things got really crazy and before the show faltered. I also really enjoyed Hannah tranquilizing Elway on the bus. It's nice to be reminded how much of a bad ass she is, since this entire season has done it's best to dumb Hannah's character down.
And then we got the riding off into the hurricane moment. And look, I didn't mind it that much honestly. Was it horribly clichéd? Yeah, but it was appropriate enough for the show. But that phone call man, that annoyed me a bit. I know the writers were trying to be metaphorical with the "think of that every day until I see you again", but it just didn't come out right for me.
And then there was that final scene.
Why Dexter writers? Why? Why couldn't Dex just stay dead?
The main problem with this ending was it was what everyone had called. Dex goes into hiding. It doesn't work. If Dex had died, there would be something to mourn, especially since dumping Deb into the water symbolized his "final victim" so to speak. But finding out Dex was alive is unnecessary.
So sadly, with all of this combined, this wasn't the worst episode of Dexter, but it was nowhere near the finale I expected. But I guess there's not much we can do at this point.
Farewell Dexter. If anything, your past 3 seasons are a perfect example of why a show should stop when its story stops instead of trying to extend it needlessly.
Dexter: Monkey in a Box (2013)
It's hard watching this series fall to this level
You guys have no idea how hard it is to watch a great show like Dexter fall to this level. When you have a show like Dexter airing its final season next to a show like Breaking Bad, you really begin to see why the latter is getting so much attention.
Let's face it. The writing this season has sucked.
I was willing to suspend my disbelief for about half of the season, mainly because it was the final season and I really wanted to find things in this season which were good. But this episode just hows how bad things have become.
For one, the stupidity of both characters astounded me. How does Dexter know that Saxon will come only for him when he sends out the videos of Saxon murdering people? How does he know that, instead, Saxon won't go for Harrison, Deb, or Hannah? And why does Saxon go for Dexter?? Does he think that Dexter would do something like that (after their "truce") and just go to sleep, not expecting blow back?
Also, the writers used the statement "this is a new Dexter" like ten times this episode. We're not idiots. We know this is a new Dexter. We've known that for quite some time. We don't need to be told every episode that Dexter has changed. Though, I did like the moment at the end where Dexter realizes he doesn't even want to kill Saxon, and so he hands him over to Deb. What happens after is another story, but we'll get to that in a second.
Also, side-note, I don't know the timeline here but what happened to Harrison's stitches? They just magically disappeared.
I feel really bad for Yvonne Strahovsky this season. She's had nothing to do, other than occasionally ask Dexter what he had to do next (which we already know). She's become very flat and boring frankly.
Deb and Dexter's relationship remains the one good aspect of this show and this episode. Their conversation together at dinner was both interesting and believable. Both actors did well in their scenes together, portraying both an understanding that this won't be the end of their relationship, but also noting that they have never really been apart (except for the six months after LaGuerta's death).
And I understand what they were trying to do with the ending, but it flat out didn't work for a few reasons. For one, Deb has already gone through this. Way back in Season 4 she was shot and it was used as a cliffhanger. Now, there's a good chance that Deb could certainly die (I won't rule that out), but the execution of it was poorly done. Also, how does the Marshall not know that Saxon is a wanted criminal? It was all over the news. How did he not notice him? It was just poorly done. Also, another big problem with this Season is they're killing characters we've only met this season. Usually, I wouldn't care about things like that. I mean, look at characters like Miguel and the Trinity Killer. But this is the final season. Dexter will be finished after next Sunday, and the only people who have died are Vogel and the Marshall (perhaps Deb, but we have to wait and see). The big thing holding this season back has been the lack of closure and also the looming possibility of a spin-off. If said spin-off does happen, that means characters like Batista, Quinn, Masuka, etc. will be needed and they won't die. Now, I'm not saying they all need to go in one giant bloodbath, but this season hasn't taken any risks. Plus, where is the story with Masuka and his daughter going? They've done absolutely nothing with it. They have some banter back and forth every episode but that's it. At first it was a cool addition but now that we're in the home stretch I don't see the need for her anymore.
Bottom line, I was very disappointed with this episode. As I said, it's hard to watch a show fall so far as this one has. The second season of Dexter really hindered this season in the long run, because Season 2 could have been the entire plot line for this season and it would have been loads better.
I am going to watch the finale next week, but my expectations are low. I'll be more excited about Breaking Bad than Dexter.
I remember seeing previews for Justified while they were running ads for the pilot. I didn't really thing much of it. I wasn't a TV show type of guy back then. However, once I started to get into really great TV (The Sopranos, Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead), I figured I would give Justified a shot. And boy am I glad I did.
First off, the writing for this show is great. The dialogue is crisp and the actors are perfect. Timothy Olyphant and Nick Searcy, along with a slew of other excellent actors, really bring this show to life.
Though the genre of the show (crime) is very common on TV, Justified still manages to be an innovative show. It's not so much based on the crime cases, but more on the dynamics of the south and families in Kentucky. It also creates fully fledges characters that are so well rounded, it's hard to believe they are acting. The best villain by far is season 2's Mags Bennett, played by Margo Martindale.
Bottom line, this is an excellent show. If you love good crime drama you will fall in love with Justified. It's certainly one of the most underrated shows on TV.
A Good Closer For Season 3
Going into the episode I couldn't tell if they were going to kill off the Governor for the season finale or keep him in for season 4. I like that they didn't kill him, even though I really did want him to die. He's an amazing villain and David Morrissey plays him very well. There's a reason we all hate the Governor: Morrissey's portrayal of him is incredible.
The war did happen, and though it was much shorter than people anticipated it served a purpose. It showed that Rick's group was not going anywhere; that they can and will defend the prison. And knowing that they could drive off an army out of the prison will help them in the future. I especially loved the craze some flash bangs and sirens can cause. Not to mention the tension in the beginning was fantastic, with the Governor and his men tearing down the walls and breaking into the prison.
And, I am happy to say it, Andrea is gone. Though I had started to strongly dislike her character they gave her a good send off, like they did for Lori. I found her death somewhat sad (though I was depressed more by Michonne's crying). I also liked the line from season 1: "I know how the safety works" being thrown in there. A tribute to a character who honestly did just want the fighting to stop.
Lastly, everyone coming back to the prison. I was a little iffy on this, but in the end I did like it. I wonder why they decided to come back to the prison instead of stay in Woodbury, but I imagine that it's because Rick knows he can defend the prison against an army.
Lastly, I think Carl is becoming a more interesting character. This isn't 'stay in the house' Carl anymore. This is a Carl who wants to defend his family and will do so by any means. Though I did foresee him shooting that kid in the woods, I didn't expect him to talk to Rick the way he did. I can see him becoming a tiny Shane or, if he goes really extreme, a tiny Governor.
Overall, this was a powerful episode. It was highly focused and emotional. It also didn't try and wrap up the entire Governor storyline, which is for the best considering that it would feel sudden and forced if they did kill him off this episode.
I am strongly looking forward to Season 4, and it will be interesting to see if the group remains at the prison or if they go elsewhere. Perhaps they could bring Morgan back again?