Saturday, April 21, 2018

Slab Bulkhead • Dirk Hardpec • Big McLargehuge • Therm Scissorpunch

Apparently in Disney's new Star Wars: Solo: A Star Wars Story movie, there's a new alien character named "Therm Scissorpunch."

THERM SCISSORPUNCH.

I'm pretty sure that's one of the "manly names" that Mike & the Bots made up in the Space Mutiny episode of MST3K!

Imitation Is The Sincerest Form Of Something Something

Saw this article on Yahoo a couple days ago. Jeffrey Dean Morgan says his performance as Harvey Russell in the new Rampage movie might remind audiences of Negan.

Might? MIGHT? There ain't no might about it!

Russell IS for all intents and purposes Negan. He's got the same cocked head, the same bizarre hip tilt, and the same sh*t-eating grin all through the movie. 

Hell, he even says some of the same dialogue as Negan! In Russell's very first appearance in Rampage, he says to Dwayne Johnson's character, "You're havin' a hell of a DAY!" And a few minutes later he says, "When science sh*ts the bed, I'm the guy who changes the sheets."

Same (or very similar) lines as Negan, with the exact same inflections. It's honestly amazing just how Negan-esque he is in Rampage. I was sitting in the theater imagining that Russell and Negan were actually the same person. I figured Russell was a government agent in Washington DC, then after the zombie apocalypse started he changed his name and formed his own little empire a few miles away in Virginia.

Can a studio copyright a performance? Can AMC sue Jeffrey Dean Morgan for acting exactly like their character in another property? If so, Morgan better lawyer up!

The Flash Season 4, Episode 17: Null And Annoyed

This week on The Flash, the series begins placing all the pieces on the gameboard, as it sets up the rapidly approaching season finale.

For at least the fifteenth time this season, the A-plot in this episode involves Ralph learning to be a hero. This time he's joking around and refusing to take the situation seriously. That's odd, as just last week he was so terrified that DeVoe was going to absorb his brain that he refused to even come out of his room.

Over on The Walking Dead, I've often joked that there's a "Wheel Of Motivation" in the writer's room, and they spin it each week to determine how various characters will act in each episode. I'm starting to think The Flash writers may have borrowed this wheel, or built one of their own.

Barry spends a good deal of the episode scolding Ralph for not taking the situation seriously. The episode obviously wants us to side with Ralph here, and think Barry's being an old stick-in-the-mud. 

Thing is... Barry's actually right! There's a time and place for joking, and it's definitely not when you're on a serious, life-threatening mission.

I really do wish the writers would think of something to do with Ralph besides his weekly "How To Be A Hero" lesson, that he completely forgets by the time the next episode roles around.

For weeks now we've been seeing Marlize, aka The Mechanic, begin having second thoughts about her husband Clifford DeVoe's master plan. I predicted she'd end up switching sides and joining Team Flash to take him down. I really thought that was gonna happen this week, until DeVoe drugged her and wiped her memory.

I still think she's going to end up being his downfall, but first she's gonna have to get out from under the influence of Weeper's tears.


In other big news, Breacher offers Cisco a bounty hunter job over on Earth-19. Which means we're doing the old "Will He Or Won't He Leave His Friends" storyline. Meh. No matter what happens, we know Cisco's not going anywhere, or at least not permanently. There's no doubt in my mind he'll be back next season.

The most interesting development in this episode comes at the end, when it appears that Harry's Thinking Cap is having an adverse affect on him, and may be slowly turning into Harrison Wells, aka Eobard Thawne, aka the Reverse Flash. It's traditional for the series to have a different version of Wells each season, and this is Harry's second. Is this how they're going to write him off the show, to make way for a brand new Wells in Season 5?

SPOILERS!


The Plot:
In the Danger Room, er, I mean STAR Labs, Barry and Ralph practice battling a hologram of DeVoe, aka The Thinker. Despite the fact that last week Ralph was scared crapless at the thought of DeVoe stealing his body, suddenly he's joking and clowning around. Frustrated with Ralph's antics, Barry shuts down the simulation. Iris tells Barry to chill, but he's furious with Ralph for not taking the situation seriously.

In the Cortex, Harry says he used his Thinking Cap to figure out the identities of the remaining two bus metas— Edwin Gauss and Janet Petty. Unfortunately Gauss has seemingly disappeared from the face of the Earth, and Petty is a career criminal with a long list of aliases that'll make her hard to locate.

This frustrates Harry, who punishes himself for not being smart enough to find the metas— especially after his Thinking Cap augmented his brain. He sits down hard in frustration, right on a Whoopee Cushion planted by Ralph. He hurls the cushion at Ralph in anger, as the others roll their eyes at the juvenile humor. Don't worry, this'll all become important later on.

Just then Breacher 
vibes in and grabs Cisco by the throat. As you'll recall, he's the father of Gypsy, Cisco's other-dimensional sort of girlfriend. He also has a strong hatred of Cisco, as he feels he's not good enough for his "little girl." Breacher explains he was on another Earth fighting Lord Crucifer and his horde of vampires, when his vibe blasts suddenly fizzled out. Amazingly he asks for Cisco's help, saying he's the smartest person he knows. A wary Cisco agrees to run some tests on him.


Cut to DeVoe's lair, where he and his wife Marlize discuss their evil plan. DeVoe's still in the body of Izzy Bowen, by the way. Suddenly he/she stumbles and coughs, and Marlize catches him. DeVoe says his new body's deteriorating faster than expected, and Marlize says she'll recalibrate his flying chair to prolong his life. 


She pulls up the chair schematics, and is puzzled to see the alterations are already in progress. DeVoe explains that he started without her, but needs her superior mechanical skills to finish the upgrade. Marlize is suspicious, but buys his explanation.

Sigh... we then cut to goddamned Jay and Silent Bob, who are apparently now part of the Arrowverse and work at a Central City museum. The two of them try to move a crate, but it's too heavy for them to budge. While they wander off to find a dolly, Janet Petty, who calls herself Null, wanders in. She places her hand on the crate, which causes it to float high into the air. It crashes back to the ground and splinters open. She opens a case inside, takes a priceless crown from it and scampers off.

At STAR Labs, Cisco and Caitlin run several tests on Breacher. Caitlin comes to the conclusion that he can't vibe blast anymore simply because he's old. Cisco agrees, but is reluctant to tell him, fearing he'll kill him for suggesting he doesn't have what it takes anymore.

Meanwhile, Marlize works on DeVoe's chair. She drops her mug of tea, and as she's cleaning it up she notices an odd chemical on the floor. She scoops up the substance and studies it.

Team Flash analyze the fingerprints on the museum crate and discover they belong to Null. They somehow track her to an apartment rented by Earl Cox, Ralph's sleazy acquaintance. Barry and Ralph decide to pay Earl a visit. For some reason, Ralph uses his stretchy powers to morph into a facsimile of Joe, who plays "bad cop" and interrogates Earl.

Ralph and Barry notice Earl has a bag full of jewels, and then spot Null hiding out on the ceiling. Suddenly she drops to the floor and touches Barry. He floats up and hits the ceiling, and in the confusion Null gets away.

Back at STAR, the Gang tries to figure out how to cure Barry's weightlessness. Harry uses his amplified intellect to predict the effect will wear off soon, and sure enough, a few seconds later Barry plops to the floor. He rips Ralph a new one for not taking the interrogation seriously, and benches him.

A worried Breacher asks Cisco about his test results. Cisco can't bring himself to tell Breacher that he's simply too old to vibe anymore, so he lies and gives him some antihistamine pills, saying they'll cure him.

Just then Iris gets an alert saying Null's robbing a jewelry store. Barry rushes to the scene and plants power dampening handcuffs on her writsts. She then motions toward the sky, indicating her "getaway car." Apparently she anticipated the Flash's arrival, so she levitated a car before the robbery. It's now plummeting back to Earth, with a terrified driver inside. She tells Barry he can save the citizen or capture her— it's his choice. Naturally, Barry uses his powers to save the panicked driver, allowing Null to pick the cuffs and scamper off.

Cisco finds Breacher's empty bottle of pills, and realizes he thinks he's cured. He vibes the pill bottle and sees Breacher facing off against Lord Crucifer. Breacher tries to vibe blast the vampire lord, but of course nothing happens. Just as Crucifer's about to attack, Cisco appears, grabs Breacher and they vibe back to Earth-1.

Cisco finally comes clean and explains that Breacher's powers don't work because of his age. He doesn't take it well. He tells Cisco he hates his guts and then vibes away. Caitlin says tells Cisco he did the right thing.

Marlize studies the mystery substance, and realizes DeVoe's been drugging her with Weeper's psychoactive tears. 
Appalled, she records a message to warn herself about her husband. She saves the message under a fake file name, only to find it's already been used. DeVoe then appears and tells her she always picks that same file name. Apparently he's been using Weeper and Brainstorm's powers to erase her memory for weeks, so she'll continue to help him. He then drugs her yet again. 


Iris tells Barry he should lighten up on Ralph, so he decides to unbench him. Just then there's an alert of a robbery at a museum gala. Null's there, using her powers to steal the upper crust's jewelry. Barry and Ralph arrive to stop her. Null touches the floor, sending out a wave of gravity-cancelling energy into the crowd.

Barry scoops all the party guests away from the energy wave at superspeed. Unfortunately Null sneaks up behind him and taps his shoulder, sending him flying upwards. With no roof in the way this time, he zooms up into the open sky. Team Flash tries to come up with a way to rescue Barry, but no one can think of anything— including an ever-more frustrated Harry.

Barry rises high into the stratosphere. Suddenly the effect wears off, and he plummets back to Earth. Luckily, Ralph gets an idea. He stretches his arms over to Null and places the dampening cuffs on her feet. He then forms his body into the shape of a giant Whoppee Cushion. His inflated body manages to cushion Barry's fall as he lands. See, I told you this'd pay off later!

Barry thanks Ralph, and says for once his bizarre antics saved his life. Ralph, still in the form of a Whoopee Cushion, lets the air out of his body with a massive, prolonged fart sound.

At STAR Labs, Null's placed in the Secret Super Jail. Breacher appears, dressed in leisure clothing for once. He tells Cisco he realizes he was right, and he's retiring from the interdimensional bounty hunter business. He says Gypsy'll need help, and offers him his old job. Great, a "Will He Or Won't He Quit" storyline for Cisco.

Harry sneaks off, carrying his Thinking Cap. He opens the door to the secret Time Room— the one created by his doppelganger Eobard Thawne—and enters. He places the Cap inside a wall panel, and then activates Gideon. She welcomes him, and he tells her a lot's changed since they last spoke.

Thoughts:

• What's the deal with Ralph in this episode? For the past two episodes he's been clinically depressed, worrying that any second DeVoe would appear and absorb his brain. Then suddenly this week he's constantly joking and clowning around. He's even cracking wise while fighting a hologram of the woman he was sweet on a few weeks ago! Why the sudden and jarring change?

It's been like this ever since Ralph appeared. Every week he acts like a jerk, learns a valuable After School Special lesson about being a hero, and becomes a better person. Then the next week it happens all over again. It's like there's a giant red reset button on his chest. I've honestly never seen anything quite like it on a series before.


• Apparently STAR Labs has its very own Danger Room, that can conjure up solid holographic enemies for Team Flash to practice fighting. That's new!

• It's always a treat to see the awesome Danny Trejo on the show! I hope this retirement storyline doesn't mean we've seen the end of him on The Flash!

• As part of Ralph's jokery in this episode, he plants a Whoopee Cushion in Harry's chair, and of course it makes an embarrassing fart sound when he sits down hard on it. An enraged Harry then hurls the Cushion at Ralph, who catches it and cries, "That was expensive!"

I dunno how things are in the Arrowverse, but here on our Earth you can buy a Whoopee Cushion at the dollar store!


• It's no secret that I am NOT a fan of Kevin Smith's films. I'm sure he's probably a nice guy and all, but I find his films overly talky, poorly filmed and extremely self indulgent. That's why I was less than enthused when I saw these words appear on screen during the opening credits.

Despite his involvement, the episode turned out reasonably well. That may be due to the fact that Smith didn't have anything to do with the script. Maybe he works better when he's directing someone else's work.


• Since Kevin Smith directed this episode, it's inevitable that we'd get a cameo from Jay and Silent Bob. Sigh... I guess that means they're now part of the Arrowverse? What next, finding out that The Flash is part of the Tommy Westphall Universe?

• Jay and Silent Bob crank up the "hilarity" as they sweat and strain, trying to budge a large crate from the museum loading dock. Eventually they give up and search for a dolly in order to move it.


After Null destroys the crate, Joe investigates the crime scene. He tells Barry and Ralph that the reinforced crate weighed two hundred pounds.


Seriously? Two hundred pounds? That's it? So two full-grown men couldn't budge a crate weighing that much? Jesus Christ, you'd think at the least they could have "walked" it into the museum by twisting it back and forth.


• Joe also notes that the crate contained the family crown of the Kahndaq Dynasty. Kahndaq is a fictional Middle Eastern country that's shown up several times over on Arrow. It also appears in various DC comics.


• So Breacher can no longer fire off vibe blasts because of his age, yet he can still freely use his power to open portals to other Earths. Wha...? I guess they're two completely different powers then? That seems... unlikely. 


The vibe blasts and the portal-opening energy seem like they're the same power. He shoots 'em both out of his hands and they look identical as well. Seems like if one aspect of his power was on the fritz, they'd both be.


Of course if his powers failed altogether, then he wouldn't have been able to visit Earth-1 and ask for help, or teleport off to Lord Crucifer's Earth, so... there's the answer.

• At one point Cisco runs a series of tests on Breacher, who then announces he's hungry. Cisco says, "Um, there's donuts in the downstairs break room. Help yourself. It's a huge selection. Yeah. Try the pineapple fritters. And don't forget to try the nacho donuts. Those are really good."


Wondering why Cisco's describing the donut spread in such minute detail? Welp, that's because it's a shameless plug. See, Danny Trejo owns his own Coffee & Donuts chain in California. And yes, they serve pineapple fritters and nacho donuts, among many others. I wonder... was this bit of product placement one of Trejo's conditions for appearing on the show?

• I appreciate the level of detail that went into creating all of Null's many aliases. The production crew went to a lot of trouble to dress up actress Bethany Brown in a variety of wigs and costumes, all for a scene that lasted just a couple of seconds. Kudos!

• Team Flash tracks down Null to an apartment at the corner of Orchard & Broome. As we all know by now, The Flash lovvvvves tossing in references to DC comic book creators. I don't know if anyone named Orchard ever worked on the book, but John Broome was a prolific Flash writer back in the Silver Age.


• Null's a VERY obscure character from DC comics, who first appeared in the 1980s Hawkworld series (which, as you might have guessed, starred Hawkman and Hawkgirl).

As is typical for The Flash, the live action version looks absolutely NOTHING like the source material. The character's been race-swapped, gender-flipped and pretty much anything else you can think of.

For once I'm not gonna complain, as this live-action version of Null is a vast improvement over the faux Tom Petty-looking goon that graced the comic book pages.

• Null appears to be a fan of the Superhero Landing.

• I've brought this up several times over the season, but it's still a fair point. Whenever DeVoe transfers his mind into a new body, he then speaks in
their natural accent. For example, for the past few week's he's been occupying the body of Izzy Bowen, so he speaks in her characteristic Southern drawl.


That just doesn't seem right to me. I don't think your body's physically constrained to a particular accent. Normally I speak like the Southern Indiana hillbilly that I am, but if I had to I could do a passable British, German or French accent. It's my brain that drives how I sound, not my body.


The same applies to DeVoe. The minute he enters another person's body, we should see them speaking with his South African accent.


• Jesse L. Martin does an AWESOME job in this episode, as he plays Ralph pretending to be Joe. Somehow Martin convinced me he WAS Ralph in this scene. It was pretty amazing to watch.

This is the second time this season that Ralph's used his stretching powers to morph into a black man. I get that his powers allow him to change the shape of his face, but how's he changing his skin tone?


• Cisco discovers Breacher's powers are fading simply because of his age. He's afraid to tell him this though, so he lies and gives him some blue antihistamine pills, saying they'll balance out his stamina and restore his powers.

Did you catch that? He gives Breacher little blue pills to restore his stamina. Eh? EH? Get it?


• OK, now I want an episode in which Team Flash joins forces with Breacher and fights Lord Crucifer and his Tenth Circle.

• In a nice little callback to the beginning of the episode, late in the third act Ralph forms his body into a giant Whoopee Cushion in order to break Barry's fall and save his life.

I... I don't want to know what part of Ralph's body formed the Cushion's valve stem though.

The twelve year old in me appreciated the fact that Ralph's Whoopee Cushion-shaped body deflated with a drawn out fart sound.

• I liked Breacher's retirement clothes. Something tells me that outfit's probably pretty close to what Danny Trejo wears on a daily basis.

• According to Breacher, Earth-48 contains a dragon farm.

• This is some heavy duty nitpicking, but whatever. t the end of the episode, Harry enters the secret Time Vault that was created by his futuristic doppelganger, Eobard Thawne.

If you zoom in and look at the above image, you can see that all the wall panels in the corridor are perfectly smooth, except for the one hiding the Time Vault. For some reason, it's covered in a rough, stucco texture. 


Why would anyone make the invisible doorway to their secret room stand out like that? Wouldn't it make more sense for it to look exactly like all the other panels?


• When Harry enters the secret Time Vault, he activates Gideon, the STAR Labs sentient computer. Gideon apparently doesn't realize that Harry's from Earth-2, and thinks he's actually Dr. Harrison Wells, aka Eobard Thawne (I guess?). The two of them then have the following conversation: 

Gideon: "Good evening, Dr. Wells. It's been 1,078 days since we last spoke. How can I be of service?"

Harry: "Hello, Gideon. A lot has changed since then."

That 1,078 day figure sounds suspiciously specific. I wonder... is it accurate?


The last time Harrison Wells/Thawne spoke to Gideon was in the Season 1 episode The Trap, which aired on Tuesday, April 28, 2015. This episode aired on Tuesday, April 10, 2018. There are exactly 1,057 days between those two events! Amazing!


• By the way, speaking of this particular version of Gideon, we were told back in Season 1 that Barry invented her at some point in the future. We never find out exactly when, but most fans are convinced he does it sometime before 2024. That's only six short years from now.


No offense to Barry, but he doesn't seem like he has the skill or know-how to cobble together a conventional computer, much less a SENTIENT one! He'd better start studying computer science STAT!


This Week's Best Lines: 
Ralph: "I still think it's a pretty good plan. I hide my face, I save my ass."

Ralph: "We'd make a fortune. An improv group made up of superheroes? We can take it to Washington. We'd be the DC Comics."
(GROAN!)

Ralph: "Can pigs fly?"
Barry: "No."
Ralph: "They can if you put them on an airplane."
(I didn't include this line because it was good, but because it was so BAD. It's almost as bad as Storm's "Do you know what happens when a toad gets struck by lightning" line from the very first X-Men movie)

Barry: "I just want to get down from here as soon as possible."
Ralph: "Maybe you should try to burp yourself down. Like Charlie Bucket."

Caitlin: "Well, as best I can tell, Null's powers effect the density of his cells. It's like you've been filled with helium."
Barry: "Terrific."
Ralph: "Always knew you were a lightweight."
Barry: "I swear Ralph"

Barry: "Out of the twelve bus metas we've found, DeVoe is in control of seven of them. If he gets Null, it'll be eight. If he gets control of her powers, we're talking about your life here."
Ralph: "Sorry, I was just thinking about the end of LOST. I mean, were they in purgatory? What did Kate really see in Jack?"
Barry: "Ralph!"

Breacher: "You said your antimatter-histamine would cure me!"

Breacher: "I went back to my earth. Saw my reflection in my knife. I saw an older man."
Cisco: "I'm curious. Have you never looked in a mirror before?"
Breacher: "I'm not a teenage girl!"
Cisco: "Okay, you're not a teenage girl!"

Sunday, April 15, 2018

The Walking Dead Season 8, Episode 12: The Key

This week on a fair to middling The Walking Dead, we get the long-awaited confrontation between Rick and Negan, we're introduced to yet another bizarre group of weirdos who aren't in the comic, and the writers manage to save the whole thing with a startling twist at the end. In other words, a typical episode.

The Rick/Negan scene was somewhat satisfying, as their showdown has been brewing for months. While it was great to see them facing off physically, I can't help but think their match was ill-timed. There're still four more episodes to go in the season! Why the hell are they giving us their beat down now? Unless this is just an apertif, and the actual meal's yet to come?

The actual battle was quite interesting, as we got to see Negan on the defensive for a change. Surprisingly all his power seems to derive from his beloved baseball bat Lucille, leaving him all but helpless without it. Fascinating.

This episode may also give us a hint as to where the series is going after the end of the current All Out War storyline. The introduction of brand new character Georgie this week may be an indicator that the series is fixing to veer FAR away from the source material. 

As always, that seems like a really bad idea to me. The show's at its best when it sticks close to the comic. When it diverges is when things start to get wonky. Don't believe me? Welp, the awful Grady Bunch storyline wasn't in the comic, and neither were the detestable and downright baffling Garbage Pail Kids. I rest my case. 

Sadly, The Key also seems to be setting up Simon's ultimate fate, which is likely going to involve his departure from the series. That's too bad, as I like Simon and actor Steven Ogg, and it'll be a shame to see him go. 

SPOILERS!

The Plot:
After saving the Alexandrians last week, Dwight's now unwillingly back with the Saviors. Negan pays him a visit, and asks what happened. Dwight lies and says he killed the Alexandrians and then wandered through the woods until he was found by the Saviors. Negan seems suspicious, but congratulates him on a job well done. He tells him to suit up, as there's still more work to do.

Outside the Sanctuary, Negan and the Saviors are gearing up for war with the Hilltop. Simon tells the troops to shoot to maim. That way their tainted ammo will infect the Hilltopians and turn them into walkers. 
Dwight tries to sneak away during the speech, but Simon sees him and insists he ride with him.

Negan dips his bat Lucille in a bucket of walker blood (again) and gets in his black Charger. The caravan rolls out, as Negan stupidly brings up the rear for lazy writing reasons.

Rick & Michonne enter the Hilltop (which they already did last week— goddamned convoluted timeline!). They're greeted by Maggie, Enid and Jerry. A Hilltopian brings Judith to Rick, and he carries her around for a few minutes before pawning her off on someone again. Rick notices the Savior prisoners in Maggie's makeshift jail.

Later Rick kneels over Glenn's grave. Daryl joins him and they have a chat about all the people they've lost. Daryl apologizes for going off book and attacking the Sanctuary, saying he just wanted it to be over. Rick, who's obviously learned absolutely nothing from Carl's death, says Daryl's right, and they need to end the conflict once and for all.

Some time later, Maggie watches Rick drive off in a truck. She then spots something in the distance— a small green crate with a flag sticking out of it, sitting in the brush.

Back in the Savior convoy, Simon and Dwight chat. Simon's fed up with Negan for wasting so much time, ammo and personnel trying to wipe out Rick's people. He thinks they should cut their losses and run, and wants Dwight's thoughts on the matter. Dwight says he's not paid to think, refusing to be dragged down with Simon.

Back at the Hilltop, Maggie, Rosita, Enid and Michonne (GIRL POWER!) cautiously check out the crate. They find a note attached that reads, "If you fill the crates with food or phonograph records, I will gladly exchange them for a key to your future." It then lists coordinates for a meeting spot.

Maggie suspects a trap, and Enid agrees. Michonne says it's not the Saviors' style, and believes it's someone who genuinely wants to help. She and Rosita think they should meet their mystery benefactor.

Meanwhile, Rick parks his truck at the top of a hill and waits. He sees the Saviors go by, and notices Negan driving alone at the end of the procession. He hops in his truck and roars after them. The Saviors drive slowly through a deserted city. Suddenly Rick flies out of an alley and rams into Negan's car! Negan recovers and roars off, as Rick chases after him.

Simon sees Negan get hit, and realizes this is his chance. He orders the caravan to stop, and tells the Saviors that Negan's been attacked. They all want to rush to his aid, but Simon says (heh)
 it could be a trap to separate the convoy, and they should all stay put. He tells them that Negan's a big boy and can take care of himself. Amazingly the other Saviors listen, and stay put.

Cut to Negan's car lying on its side, and Rick's truck smashed into a pole. I guess there wasn't enough money in the budget to film the crash? Negan crawls out of the wreckage, just as Rick staggers from his ruined truck. Rick wildly fires a machine gun at Negan, somehow completely missing him. Negan ducks into a nearby building, and Rick follows. The two then have a long, drawn out battle inside the dark, dusty building.

Rick throws his trusty axe at Negan, who ducks, loses his balance and ends up hanging from a stair landing. Rick walks up the steps, retrieves his axe and faces the now helpless Negan. He swings the axe at Negan's hands. Negan lets go of the landing at the last second, and plunges down the stairwell into the basement.

Elsewhere, Maggie, Michonne, Rosita and Enid arrive at the coordinates. They see a single van parked in the road, flanked by two tall, thin women named Hilda and Midge. Jesus Christ, not another weird-ass group on this show! A middle-aged woman in a white pantsuit emerges from the van and introduces herself as Georgie. She reiterates that she has vital knowledge for them, in exchange for food and records, and assures them it's not a trick. Maggie doesn't believe her, and for no good reason takes Georgie and her guards back to the Hilltop.

Back in the building, Rick searches the basement for Negan. Rick taunts him, saying his people aren't coming this time and he's gonna die alone in the dark. Negan fumbles around, searching for his precious Lucille. He tells Rick he'll make him a deal— stop being a prick and end the war, and he'll lower his tribute demand from 50% to 20%. Wow, what a bargain!

Rick says he doesn't trust anything Negan says, especially after he slaughtered all the Garbage Pail Kids. Negan's stunned at this revelation, as he never ordered such a thing. He realizes Simon betrayed him, and took it upon himself to kill the group. Just then Rick looks down and finds Lucille.

Meanwhile, Simon and Dwight halfheartedly search for Negan. Simon finally gets Dwight to admit he's thought about killing Negan from time to time. They find his wrecked car, but can't tell if he walked away alive... or dead. Simon says (heh) this is their one and only chance to overthrow Negan. Dwight nods, signalling he's on board.

Cut to the Hilltop, where Georgie and her guards cool their heels while Maggie and the others debate what to do with them. Maggie wants to just take the supplies from Georgie and toss her out. Michonne reminds her that Carl died rescuing Siddiq, who turned out to be a doctor. She says they owe it to Carl to give Georgie the same chance to prove herself.

Rick notices a barricaded door labeled "Eaters." He sets Lucille on fire and uses her to break open the door. Dozens of moldy walkers pour out, and Rick sets several on fire with the flaming bat. Negan sees Lucille burning and freaks out. He lunges at Rick, desperate to get his beloved weapon back. The two grapple for a minute, and eventually Negan flees— with Lucille.

Rick battles a horde of burning zombies and finally escapes the building. Unfortunately Negan's long gone.

At the Hilltop, Maggie gives Georgie a crate full of old records. Georgie thanks her, and gives her all their food, saying it looks like the Hilltopians need it more than her people. She then gives Maggie a thick book she wrote title A Key To A Future. She says it's filled with ancient farming, blacksmithing and survival knowledge. Georgie then says she's going away, and may not be back for a while (?). Maggie thanks her for the food and the book.

Simon and Dwight return to the Saviors. They say they found Negan's bloody-splattered car, but no body. The Saviors look stricken and worried, until Simon asks them, "Who are you?" They all reply "Negan." He says it doesn't matter if Negan's alive or dead— they're going to finish their mission and wipe out the Hilltop.

Cut to an unconscious Negan riding in the passenger seat of a car. He wakes up, unsure of where he is. He looks over and sees Jadis driving the car, as she hold a gun to his head.

Thoughts:
• Last week I noted that when the Hilltopians found out about Carl's death, the soundtrack played a distinctive tinkly, descending piano riff. I said it sounded incredibly similar to the Bella's Lullaby theme from the Twilight movies. 

They use the same theme again this week, mostly in any scene involving the Saviors. I guess because it sounds foreboding and ominous?

And yes, I'm still embarassed that I'm able to recognize music from Twilight.

• Jesus Christ, again with the faces montages!

This has been a running theme all through Season 8, as we've been periodically treated to a series of extreme closeups of the main cast members, accompanied by dark, brooding music.

It started earlier this season in The Damned, as we got a series of closeups of Rick, Daryl, Carol and Morgan.

The closeups returned a few episodes later in How It's Gotta Be, as Rick, Carl, Carol & Maggie (among others) were spotlighted. Some of these closeups seemed like they were even more extreme than the first batch.

Which brings us to The Key. It begins with a montage of even MORE extreme and off-putting closeups of Negan, Simon and Dwight. And when I say closeups, I do mean CLOSE UPS. I honestly don't think the camera could get any closer to them without touching their faces.

I'm looking forward to next week, when the cameraman uses a macro lens to get even closer, giving us a good look at the pores on Rick's face.

• When Rick arrives at the Hilltop, a woman rushes up and practically shoves Judith into his arms. I can't say I blame her. It's definitely taking a village to raise this kid, as by now virtually everyone on the show's been forced to take care of her. Everyone except Rick, that is. 

At this point he's all but forgotten he even has a daughter, as he's too busy making everyone's lives worse than they already are.

• Last week in Dead Or Alive Or, Negan came up with the bright idea of soaking all Savior weapons in walker gore. That way even a glancing blow would infect the Hilltopians and turn them into walkers.

This week we get to see them coat their weapons all over again, I guess to remind the audience of the plan. For some reason, Negan places his beloved baseball bat Lucille in a large bucket of festering zombie guts, and then sits it in the passenger seat of his car as he drives off toward the Hilltop! Brilliant!

He just got done telling his people (twice!) how dangerous and toxic this blood is. What happens if this bucket o' blood starts sloshing around and splashes on him? Sure enough, in just a few minutes his car's gonna get turned on its side, and whaddya know? The bucket tilts over and turns the entire interior red!

• The idea that Negan would drive alone at the tail end of his little caravan is beyond ridiculous. He's the goddamned leader of the Saviors! Would they really let him bring up the rear of the convoy (No. The answer's no)? 

Anyone with even a couple of functioning brain cells knows you put your leader in the center of the line! That way the cars in front and back of the caravan can protect the boss. Jesus!

This was some extremely lazy writing, as the show needed an easy way for Negan to be separated from the others so he and Rick could have their little hand-to-hand fight. Surely there was a less obvious way to go about this though.

And another thing— Rick was perched on a hill just watching for the Saviors to pass. There's no way he could have known Negan would be stupid enough to drive in back. Was he planning on ramming his car even if he was in the middle of the line? Was Rick really intending to sacrifice himself to kill Negan?

Or was Rick just observing, and when he saw Negan at the end of the line he couldn't believe his good luck and decided to attack him?

• After the car crash, Negan and Rick duck into the Lewis Medical Supplies building.

I'd have paid good money if the dislodged sign had read "Uneeda Medical Supply!"

• Rick fires several thousand machine gun rounds at the fleeing Negan, but of course completely misses him with every one.

I guess we're to believe that none of the Saviors heard Rick's gunfire and demanded Simon let them save their leader? C'mon! They couldn't have been more than four or five blocks away!

• Simon tells the anxious Saviors to stay put, while he and Dwight search for Negan.

After a while they come upon the smoking wreck of a black Charger, that's riddled with bullet holes and coated with fresh walker blood. Simon stares intently at this auto, which is identical to Negan's in every measurable sense, and finally declares, "Could be his..."

• Hooray, Jerry's back! It's been a long time since we've seen him. Unfortunately I have a bad feeling he's not getting out of Season 8 alive. I hope I'm wrong, but I'm betting he'll be a casualty in the upcoming All Out War.

• This week the series goes "off book" again, and introduces yet another group of bizarre, ill-conceived weirdos. This time it's a woman who calls herself "Georgie," a pantsuited Glenn Close knockoff who's flanked by two tall, lanky taciturn hillbilly lesbians. 

Georgie believes she has vital knowledge of ancient farming and survival methods, and sincerely believes that she and only she holds the key to the Hilltop's survival. Note that all her secret, arcane enlightenment is simple information that's freely available in any library or high school science book.

Oh, and they also like to say "made-up" words like "flibberschticky, klompf and moisture." Yeah, those are the jokes in this episode, guys.

Sigh...

As I've poked around online the past eight years, I've often heard fans complain that The Walking Dead series sticks way too closely to the comic. Many of these viewers desperately wish the show would move away from the book more often.

No! NO!! ABSOLUTELY NOT! We've seen what happens when the show's writers to come up with its own material! That's how we get dull, stultifying storylines like the Grady Bunch arc, pointless communities like Oceanside (who are mentioned in the comic but never seen) and laughably incomprehensible groups like the Garbage Pail Kids. 

The writers on this series couldn't come up with a compelling group or story if their lives depended on it. And now they've cooked up yet another bizarre and nonsensical community in this episode. 

If anything, the show needs to stick even CLOSER to the comic!

• A few months ago in 
The Big Scary U, Rick was on his way to the Garbage Pail Kids' Dump when he saw a mysterious chopper fly overhead. At the time, I assumed it belonged to Jadis and her people, since that's where it was headed.

Then a couple weeks ago in The Lost And The Plunderers, Simon visited Jadis and asked her what was up with the helipad in back of the Dump. Note that he didn't say "helicopter." In my mind that implied that the chopper belonged to someone else, who regularly visited the GPKs.

So who owns the chopper? Is it Georgie and her people, whatever they're called? They're the most likely culprits, since there's currently no one else on the show it could be. I have my doubts about this though, as neither of Georgie's guards look like they could figure out how to work a can opener, much less a helicopter.

• If the series sticks to the comic, the next Big Bad that Rick & Co. encounter should be the Whisperers, a group of deadly crackpots who wear suits made of walker skins. As you might expect, As you might expect, the two groups go to war.

After that Rick & Co. butt heads with The Commonwealth, a highly organized, technologically advanced city of fifty thousand survivors, whose rosy exterior masks a dark secret.

After the events of this episode, I'm starting to wonder if the show's gonna skip over the Whisperer arc altogether. Are Georgie and her brain-dead minions supposed to be the series' version of The Commonwealth?

It certainly looks that way. Georgie bears a striking resemblance to Pamela Milton, the leader of The Commonwealth. On the other hand, there are some differences. Pamela's sophisticated and elegant, and is impeccably dressed at all times. Georgie looks like she's trying to look stylish, but her clothes are a little too rumpled and ill-fitting for the leader of a 50,000 strong community.

And then there's the fact that The Commonwealth has an army of soldiers outfitted in high-tech armor, that looks a lot like that worn by the Capitol troops in The Hunger Games films. A far cry from Georgie's backwoods simpleton guards.

On the other other hand, it would make sense for the show to jump right over the Whisperer arc. For one thing, Carl featured VERY heavily in that particular plotline. Now that showrunner Scott Gimple stupidly and foolishly killed him off, it'd be difficult to adapt it to the screen. Maybe they've simply decided not to try.

Honestly, other than the fact that the Whisperers wore grotesque suits made of zombie skin, there wasn't much difference between them and the Saviors. Both groups were fronted by maniacal leaders who clashed with Rick's people in an effort to wipe them out. The Whisperers were just another group that caused problems for the heroes. They were simply More Of The Same.

The Commonwealth is a completely new type of enemy. They're led by a cadre of formerly rich people, who want to remake this Brave New World in their own image. It's the One Percent versus the Common Folk. Something we've not yet seen on the show.

Moving right to this storyline would actually make sense, as it could be a shot in the arm for the show. It's not secret that viewership is down lately. Thanks to Gimple's idiotic decisions, the show's ratings are less than half what they were in the show's heyday of Season 4 and 5. Shaking things up with The Commonwealth storyline may be just what the show needs.

All that said, I still don't think Georgie is supposed to be Pamela Milton. But it's possible she may be part of a scouting party who recruits new blood for The Commonwealth. Stay tuned to find out.

• After meeting Georgie and hearing her out, Maggie doesn't trust her. For some reason, she then decides to take Georgie and her guards back to the Hilltop.

What a brilliant and intelligent strategy! She doesn't trust these goons as far as she can throw them, so she immediately brings them back to her home base! Did she at least blindfold them on the way there? Let's hope so, otherwise Georgie now knows exactly where the Hilltop is, how many people are there and how they're all starving.

• This week we get yet another nickname for zombies— Eaters.

• OK, I gotta admit, seeing Rick attack both Negan and a room full of "eaters" with a flaming baseball bat was pretty darned cool.

Interesting as well to see just how much stock Negan places in Lucille. A psychiatrist could write up an entire essay on Negan's relationship with his bat. And the fact that he's constantly waving around a large piece of "wood."

• Georgie may know a lot about Medieval farming and survival techniques, but she can't design a book cover for sh*t. Her attempt at calligraphy there legitimately hurts my eyes.

• At one point Enid and Michonne have a heart-to-heart talk up on the Hilltop's protective wall. Apparently the cameraman was afraid of heights and refused to climb up the rickety structure with them, and instead chose to film the scene on the ground, from eighty feet away. Even more interesting, he films Enid from behind, so we don't even get to see her face!

Eh, don't worry about it. Actually being able to SEE the actors as they perform a scene is overrated anyway. It's much more fun to imagine their expressions and body language.

• Somehow this series just took one of my least favorite characters and suddenly made her interesting. I can't wait to see where this situation between Jadis and Negan is going!
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