Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Walking Dead: Season 4, Episode 2 (Infected)

WARNING: This is as much of a RECAP as it is a REVIEW, so here there be SPOILERS!  You have been warned.

I've been very hard on The Walking Dead at times, but only because I thought the show was truly top-notch during the first two seasons and I positively treasure the source material.  Season 3 was lackluster, and the Season 4 premiere was good but not great.  With that in mind, I'm glad I get to rave about it again, because I thought this week's episode was a fantastic outing that really boosted my expectations for Season 4.  There was suspense, terror, action, and drama, and most importantly, Rick started acting like Rick again.  Praise Jesus!  I know the dude has been through a lot, but he is the centerpiece of the program, and the show faltered when he lost his way.

Early on, we learn that someone is feeding the zombies surrounding the prison rats, and that's definitely not cool.  We get a tender moment with Tyreese and his girl.  Tyreese serenades her with Cole Porter's "I've Got You Under My Skin" but that isn't good enough to get her to spend the night with him.  She departs, unknowingly leading zombie Patrick (the kid who died in the shower at the end of the premiere last week) back to her cell block.  We think he's going to make a meal out of her, but he hears a sound and eats this dude in a nearby cell instead.  This was gory, and gory is good. 

Early the next morning, Michonne is getting ready to go out again and Rick and Carl are getting ready to do some farming.  Carl wants his gun back, Rick changes the subject.  Then we hear gunshots and the shit really hits the fan.  Michonne turns back and has some difficulty getting back in the prison.  She winds up twisting her ankle, but Carl snags a rifle and he and Maggie come to the rescue. 

Meanwhile, it's an ugly scene in the prison.  Rick and Daryl lead the charge, taking down walkers and trying to herd survivors to safety.  There's a tough scene with Carol and this dude with two young daughters who was bitten during the attack.  He asks Carol to take care of his daughters and she agrees.  The oldest of the two girls says they should be the ones to finish their father off after he passes, but she can't do it so Carol scrambles dude's brains with a knife.  That's motherhood in the land of The Walking Dead.  There's another tough scene where Rick and Daryl go around finishing off anyone who is set to turn.  It's not an easy job, but someone has to do it.

Rick, Daryl, Hershel, Bob, and some new doc discuss what's going on and decide that everyone who was in the cell block needs to be quarantined.  After examining Patrick's corpse, they believe they're dealing with a deadly flu strain and they don't want it to spread.  Tyrees'es girl is coughing, which worries the team.  They advise her to go with the others who are being quarantined (on death row, no less) and she mentions that David has been coughing too.  So they both get to be quarantined.  Tough times at the prison.  Carol and the girls have a little chat by the fence, with Carol basically telling the older daughter she has to toughen up or she's not going to make it.  The older girl doesn't seem too receptive, mostly because she's upset that a walker named "Nick" has been killed.  She says he was "special" and we have to wonder if she was the one who was feeding the walkers.  Maybe she's just batshit crazy.  Time will tell.

Shortly thereafter, Rick is digging a grave when Daryl thanks him for helping out.  Rick says he wasn't that helpful without his gun.  Daryl disagrees.  "When the shit hits, you're standing there with the shovel," he says.  That's when Maggie hits the scene, screaming that the walkers are taking down the fence.  Sure enough, a growing cluster of walkers is threatening to bring the fence down.  Sasha spies a pile of rats on the ground and realizes that someone has been feeding the walkers at this spot, but there's little time to dwell on that.  The fence is coming down.  Rick tells Daryl to go get the truck.

Back in the prison, there's a tender scene with Beth and Michonne.  Beth asks Michonne to hold baby Judith, and Michonne says "No!" in a sharp tone, yet she relents and takes the crying baby.  She begins to cry too, and though it's never stated, we sense that Michonne was once a mother.

Back at the fence, Rick and Daryl come up behind the cluster of walkers in the truck.  Rick has all the piglets from his little farm.  He takes one, slices it open, and tosses it to the ground.  Walkers converge on the fallen pig.  They repeat this a couple of times, and here's another tough job for Rick and Daryl.  Andrew Lincoln was off the charts in this scene.  While Rick and Daryl draw the walkers away, Glenn and Sasha use beams to reinforce the fence.

We get a scene with Carol and Carl, where she asks him again not to tell his dad about the knife-fighting lessons she's giving the kids during story time.  We get a scene with Carol and the girls she has taken under her wing, Lizzie and Mika.  Carol tells Lizzie, the older of the two, that she's not upset about this walker named Nick, she's really upset about her father.  Carol puts a flower in Lizzie's hair and gives the girl a knife for protection.  This was kind of creepy.  That girl doesn't need a knife, she needs help.  Maybe she'll get it now that Carol is going to be taking care of her, but I've got a bad feeling about that girl.

Carl tells his dad about Carol's knife-fighting class, but encourages his dad not to tell the parents or prevent Carol from continuing with the lessons.  Rick agrees and gives Carl his gun back.  He also puts his gun back on, and that's when we really start to believe that Rick's back.  I guess he needed his little break--it was well-deserved, but it lasted too long and the show really lost some serious momentum as Rick grappled with his situation.  The group needs a leader and the show needs a stronger Rick at the forefront, so this is good news all around.

Tyreese is going to visit his girl in quarantine, but all he finds is a trail of blood.  He follows it outside and finds the remains of both his girl and David.  They have been burnt to death.  Zombies don't kill people like that, so we've got more trouble at the prison.  That's how the episode ends, and as you can tell, a lot transpired in Infected.

It was a strong episode, and it differently raises a number of interesting questions.  It also seems to place Rick back in the driver's seat where he belongs, and that prison is starting to feel more and more like a deathtrap.  For the first time in a while, I'm really excited to see where all of this going.  Maybe I'm overselling, but when you consider the horror and action that we saw in this episode, as well as the drama and character development, I think the end result was a really good episode that generated a lot of intrigue.  The season premiere was pretty good, the second episode was really good, and I'm eager to see what next week's show will bring. 

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Walking Dead: Season 4, Episode 1 (30 Days Without An Accident)

Warning: this is as much of a recap as it is a review, so here there be SPOILERS.  You have been warned.

 The new season of The Walking Dead kicked off last night with a nifty pilot.  Before I get too excited, I'm going to remind myself that Season 3 also got off to a great start and did a wonderful job of building toward a truly lackluster finale that made the entire season seem like a grand waste of time.  Yet there was a lot of promise on display in 30 Days Without An Accident, and there's too much talent involved in this show for another botched season, right?  I think so, though it should be noted that while this was a nice pilot, it didn't have the same magic as the material in the first two seasons.  Maybe I still miss Shane, but I've lamented enough.  Let's recap, folks!

So, the opening served to show us that things are honky-dory at the prison.  Rick's a farmer, the new guests dig Daryl (seriously, who doesn't?--although I can't be the only one wondering how he has managed to stash a stylist away somewhere during the zombie apocalypse), and Beth Greene has a boyfriend!  Unfortunately, said boyfriend's introduction had me thinking he wasn't going to make it long and he didn't even survive the pilot.  Some members of the group were gearing up for a supply run and Glenn didn't want Maggie to go.  It's good to know that the Glen/Maggie soap opera is still in full-swing.

Michonne hit the scene on horseback, bearing comics for Carl and a razor for Rick, who doesn't need a shave any more than I do.  Michonne notes that she didn't find "him" and I imagine that the "him" she's referring to is the lame-ass AMC Governor (who would last about ten seconds in a fight with the comic book version of his character) who will definitely show up at some point this season.  Anyway, Rick heads out to check some traps and Michonne joins up with the group going out for supplies so she can hang with Daryl.  I assume that everyone who signed up for that gig really just wanted to hang with Daryl.

In the woods, Rick meets a creepy girl that we instantly recognize as a threat while checking the traps.  She tells him some sob story about bringing food back to her husband (this sob story raises obvious questions Rick doesn't bother to ask) and asks if he has a group nearby.  He admits that he does and she asks if she and her man could join up.  Rick says that she'll have take him to the dude and he'll ask them three questions (kind of like the guy on the bridge in Monty Python and the Holy Grail) to determine whether or not they're in.

The group looking for supplies hits up some kind of superstore.  Glenn is among their ranks, and we realize he didn't want Maggie along because she may be pregnant.  This new guy on the show, Bob, a former medic who has recently joined the camp, stops to salivate over some booze.  He picks up a bottle, nearly takes it, and then slams it back down.  He does this with enough force to topple the entire shelving unit, which pins him to the ground.  Bob's worth to the group is obviously debatable.  Zombies that are chilling on the rooftop along with a crashed helicopter hear the shelving unit collapse and make their way toward the center of the roof, which is apparently made of paper mache.  Within seconds, it's raining walkers in the superstore and we finally get an action scene.

While the supply run group battle the undead, Rick and the creepy lady continue their trek through the woods.  They talk as they go, and nothing she says makes her seem less creepy or more trustworthy.  This is a situation Shane would have done a much better job with, but I digress.  The supply run group wins the battle, but Beth Greene's boyfriend Bob doesn't make it.  I'm guessing that no one else liked the dude, because no one bothered to put him out of his misery while he suffered a pretty brutal demise.  Anyway, this was a gruesome action scene that was pretty damn exciting, though I didn't like seeing two chicks slice up walkers with swords.  That's Michonne's bag. 

Creepy girl finally leads Rick to her campsite and promptly tries to kill him.  Her husband (what's left of him, at least) has been reduced to the contents of a sack that moves and she reveals that she was going to feed Rick to him before stabbing herself.  As she's dying, she asks Rick what the 3 questions were.  They were: How many walkers have you killed?  How many people have you killed? Why?

Rick makes his way back to the prison.  So do the people who went on the supply run.  As the episode winds down, we see Michonne studying a map, focusing on Macon.  Maybe that's where the lame-ass AMC Governor is.  Rick and Hershel talk about the creepy girl and her woeful demise.  Daryl and Beth share an awkward hug that would probably make Carol jealous.  Newcomer Patrick, a goofy teen, stumbles into the shower and collapses.  The camera pans around a bit and then returns to this unlucky fellow, who has died and re-awakened as a walker. 

That's how the pilot ends.  All things considered, it was entertaining, and there are definitely some new wrinkles.  I liked the action and gore and it will be interesting to see where all of the new developments lead.  I'm really tired of Rick being a dope, but that's apparently his character now.  I don't think the quality of the program is on par with the first two seasons, and it has always been vastly inferior to the comic series, but this could be a strong season.  Surely it will be better than Season 3, and truth be told, we're only one week in.  Maybe AMC will really dazzle me and Season 4 will wind up being just as compelling as either of the first two seasons.

Agree?  Disagree?  Don't be afraid to chime in.