Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Walking Dead Season 5, Episode 12: Remember

As I predicted last week, this episode marks a new direction for The Walking Dead that'll change it forever, as Team Rick finally finds a safe haven. Well, sort of safe. As safe as anything can be in their world.

It was fascinating to watch the main characters, all of whom have been surviving in the wild for so long, trying to deal with the luxuries and amenities of civilization again. Carl in particular seemed to have trouble relating to normal teens again. I guess killing your own mother after she dies giving birth to your sister will do that to a kid.

I don't particularly trust Deanna Monroe, the leader of Alexandria. There's no way she let a group of violent mercenaries like Rick & Co. into her community out of charity. She's got an ulterior motive, one which probably involves protection— most likely from a rival group.

Once again we see that at this point there's very little difference between Rick & Co. and most of the other groups they've encountered. Sure, we know what's happened to Team Rick that's made them this way, but to an outside observer they probably look like a psychotic murder gang.

SPOILERS!

The Plot:
Picking up where we left off last week, Rick and company enter the Alexandria Safe-Zone. They're told they'll have to give up their weapons, but Rick refuses to do so until he talks to their leader Deanna.

The group meets with Deanna, who interviews (and records) each of them individually. Rick tells her she and her people have grown soft behind their walls, and warns her to keep the gates closed against marauders.

The group finally agrees to give up their weapons and are given two empty houses, complete with electricity and running water. They take advantage of the amenities, showering and shaving for the first time in months. Except for Daryl of course, who's got to be smelling pretty badly by now. They still don't trust the Alexandrians though and refuse to be split up, staying together in one home.

Rick meets his neighbor Jessie, who offers to give him a much-needed haircut. This is met with disapproval by Jessie's husband, who I'm sure won't be causing any trouble in future episodes. Carl meets some kids his own age, but has forgotten how to simply "hang out." One of the teens is a morose young girl named Enid, who definitely has a secret.

Glenn, Tara and Noah join Deanna's son Aiden on a supply run. Aiden is much less experienced than Rick's people at killing and avoiding walkers, and his actions almost cause Tara to be killed. Back at Alexandria, Glenn confronts Aiden which results in a brawl. Well, make that "Aiden takes a swing at Glenn, who effortlessly hands him his ass." Deanna breaks up the fight and says the new group are now equals, and appoints Rick and Michonne as the police force.

Later Rick meets with Daryl and Carol. They all agree that civilization has made the Alexandrians weak. Rick says that if the residents can't learn to protect themselves, then he and his group will just take over.

Thoughts:
• Last week's episode ended with Rick hearing the laughter of children coming from the other side of the Alexandria wall, and finally accepting that Aaron and his group weren't going to try and eat them. I joked that it would be funny if he went through the gate and saw that the sound of the kids was coming from a tape player.

Welp, in this episode Team Rick goes through the gates and guess what? No kids! So where was the laughter coming from?

• In the comic, the leader of Alexandria was a man named Douglas Monroe. Here he's had a gender change and is now Deanna Monroe. This is the 2010s after all, and above all else we have to be diverse and all-inclusive. I'm honestly surprised the producers stopped there and didn't make Deanna an African American Muslim lesbian anti-vaxxer amputee who believes in equal rights for the dead.

• Deanna interviews all of Team Rick and videotapes their responses. That's something I never thought I'd see on this show talking head interviews, ala The Office or The Real World.

Note that Daryl brought the possum he killed to his "interview."

• Deanna tells Rick that Alexandria has its own solar grid, cisterns and sewage treatment plant. Well that was certainly convenient!

She also mentions that Northern Virginia was evacuated early in the zombie crisis, so they've never encountered many walkers or even people. Again, that was certainly convenient, and helps explain how the hell they were able to erect walls all the way around the community without being constantly gnawed on by walkers.

She also admits that she's done some bad things herself, but doesn't elaborate. Did she kill someone? Banish them for not playing along? Set a glass on her antique table without a coaster?

I'm going to go out on a limb here and predict that Deanna knows Alexandria is soft and weak, and wants to add Rick and his group for protection, most likely from some other community that's becoming a threat. She's not fooling anyone she's not bringing them into the fold out of the goodness of her heart.

• Deanna tells Rick that it's precisely 3:37 pm. He immediately sets his watch, revealing that he's been guessing at the correct time for months.

So how does Deanna know the exact time? She says she's been living in Alexandria since the early days of The Fall, so I suppose she could have been wearing the same watch every day since, and kept it wound and accruate. It still seemed odd to me though.

• Rick tells Deanna that she should keep the gates closed and not let anyone in, ever. He says there are people out there who measure you by what they can take from you.

Who's he talking about here? People like the Governor? The Termites? Or him and his own group?

• Rick takes a long, hot shower, probably the first one he's had in... months? Years? He then shaves off his abundant mountain man beard. A couple things here.

First of all, a few months ago fans were losing their sh*t because they saw photos of a clean shaven Andrew Lincoln, taken before the season had finished filming. These people were absolutely convinced this had to mean Rick was being killed off, and Lincoln no longer needed his beard.

Readers of the comic knew that theory was bushwah, and that the real reason he shaved was because this Alexandria storyline was coming up next.

Secondly, I've mentioned this next point again, but it bears repeating. It's nice to know that even in the middle of a horrible zombie apocalypse, even after Rick's very humanity has been chipped away bit by bit until he no longer feels anything, he still has the time and motivation to do some manscaping.

Back in the first season, Rick sported quite a crop of chest hair. Now his entire torso is smoother than a baby's bottom. And he didn't do the pruning in this episode either— his hairlessness was first seen back in Season 4 in the episode Claimed. Whatever real world reason Andrew Lincoln may have had for shaving him entire body, he's making Rick look like an idiot. I don't know why this bugs me so much, but it does. I think because it's such a blatant and ridiculous continuity error.

• Rick meets his new neighbor Jessie, who offers to cut his hair. I'm assuming she's being set up as a love interest for Rick, despite the fact that she's married.

Rick meets her husband briefly, as he sits menacingly on his shadowy front porch. He has the charming ability to say "Welcome to Alexandria" and make it sound like "F*ck you." I wonder if he's the doctor Aaron spoke of last week? In the comic Alexandria had a doctor who wasn't a very nice person, but the community tolerated his behavior because they needed his expertise.

• As the entire group huddles together in one house, we see Carl reading a book that says "Wolf Fight" on the back. A couple episodes ago we saw graffiti in Noah's old neighborhood that read "Wolves Not Far." Is that some more foreshadowing? Possibly for the group who chopped up the walkers?

• Michonne exits the bathroom and says she couldn't stop brushing her teeth. Just last week I was wondering about that how has this group has been dealing with their dental health all this time? Are they brushing regularly? Probably not. Poor tooth health would be a bitch in a zombie apocalypse.

• Deanna interviews Carol, who mentions how much she misses her big, dumb, lovable husband Ed. She then says she's a "people person," asks if there's some social group she can join, and starts dressing like Barbara Billingsley. She's definitely playing Deanna here, putting on a "soccer mom" act so she can infiltrate the community and find out what's really going on.

This of course puts Deanna's claim that she's "good at reading people" in serious doubt.

• It suddenly struck me in this episode that Carl's getting a little too old to be wearing that sheriff hat. He could get away with it when he was nine or ten, but as a gawky teenager, it ain't working.

• Carl meets some teens his own age, including a girl named Daria, er, I mean Enid. She's a typical snarky teen who recently joined the community and just happens to occasionally scale the wall of her fortified village and venture into the zombie-filled woods alone.

She's definitely got a secret. I'm guessing she's the one who stole the gun Rick hid in the woods last week. I also wouldn't be surprised to find out she's some kind of spy or scout for another nearby group.

• Rick sneaks outside in order to inspect Alexandria's perimeter. He walks past the walls, which are all braced with slanted steel beams on the outside. Isn't that backwards? Wouldn't you want the braces on the inside, to protect the walls from outside things trying to knock them down?

If the braces are on the outside, all a Governor-type psycho would have to do is crash his truck into a couple of them and boom! The wall falls down and you've got instant access to the community.

Far be it from me to argue with Deanna's architect husband, but putting the supports on the outside just doesn't seem right.

• Deanna's son is named Aiden, because he's an incredible douche and that's the douchiest name the writers could come up with (Sorry, Aidens of the world). He's the leader of the Supply Run Team, and is the episode's Designated Asshole™. You know, a character who acts like a jerk for no other reason than because the script says so, to make life tough for the hero. Think Draco Malfoy in the Harry Potter books.

• Glenn, Tara and Noah are chosen for supply run training. Really, Noah? The kid with the messed up ankle? Shouldn't he be on dishwashing duty or something until his leg heals or the doctor can reset it?

• Glenn has a little scuffle with Aiden, after he almost gets him killed. Deanna breaks up the fight and shouts to the populace that Rick and his people, who've been in Alexandria a grand total of two days, are now equals, and appoints Rick and Michonne as constables.

Favoring these violent newcomers so quickly doesn't seem like a particularly good idea on Deanna's part, especially for someone who, as I said before, claims to be an "expert" at reading people.

Monday, March 2, 2015

This Week In Odd Supermarket Sightings

A couple of years ago I went on one of my patented, crowd-pleasing rants about Big Cereal's insidious new practice of surreptitiously shrinking their product boxes while keeping the price the same.

I specifically called out Kellogg's for aiming their Shrink-O-Tron ray at their Crunchy Nut cereal, reducing it by almost a full ounce while leaving the price at an inflated $3.99 or whatever it cost.

Wiseacre that I am, I quipped that if left unchecked, we'd eventually see ridiculously thin boxes of cereal like the one on the right here.

Looks like my little joke was frighteningly prescient. Take a look at this suspiciously narrow box of cereal I spotted in the wild on my latest expedition to the grocery. It's a good two inches narrower than its neighbors on either side. If it gets any narrower it's gonna be hard for it to stand upright without assistance.

I have no doubt that this svelte new box holds significantly less than the previous version did, while costing exactly the same (if not more).

I was right about the boxes getting thinner in the future— I was just wrong about the direction.

———————————————————————————————

I also recently spotted this at my local grocery— yes, we now live in a world in which it's possible to buy muffin tops, sans the boring, less delicious and disposable bottoms. Just like in the 1997 The Muffin Tops episode of Seinfeld.

All will hail and pay homage to our new prophet and seer, Elaine Benes!

Saturday, February 28, 2015

This Is Not Logical

Damn, Daamn, DAAAMN!

I stopped posting celebrity obituaries on my blog a few years ago, but I'm making an exception in this case. 

By now you've all heard the news that Leonard Nimoy, TV's Mr. Spock, has died at age 83.

We all knew this day was coming, as Nimoy's health began failing in recent months. Of course that doesn't make the news any easier when if inevitably arrives. This one cuts particularly deep though. I've been watching Leonard Nimoy on TV for pretty much my entire life-- since I was six years old in fact. It seemed like he'd always be around. Losing him is quite a blow, and makes me want to find Adam West and Stan Lee and give them both a big hug.

Over the years I've been within ten feet of William Shatner and the entire cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation, minus Patrick Stewart. And I've talked with both Denise Crosby (Tasha Yar) and Robin Curtis (Saavk II). Sadly I never got the chance to meet Leonard Nimoy. Now I wish I had.

Nimoy was much more than an actor. He was a writer, poet, singer (!), photographer and a very successful film director, whose films grossed hundreds of millions of dollars. Sometimes I wonder if he racked up all those other achievements just to prove to people that he was more than just a pair of pointed ears.

When I was younger I thought Spock was the coolest person imaginable, and did my best to emulate him. Hey, there are worse role models for a kid. Some would say I copied his cold, emotionless demeanor a little too well.

His Star Trek co-stars all have nothing but praise for him, citing him as a professional and a gentleman, and as far as I know he was never embroiled in any tabloid scandals, which is more than most in Hollywood can say.

If nothing else, props to him for patiently enduring the hundreds of thousand of fans who over the years ran up to him, gave him the Vulcan salute and said, "Live long and prosper."

Friday, February 27, 2015

Fifty Shades Of Hay

The film Fifty Shades Of Grey continues to take the box office by storm, racking up an astonishing $400 million dollars worldwide in its first two weeks alone.

Based on the novel by author E.L. James, the erotic odyssey has divided audiences; some praise it as a tale of female sexual empowerment, while others dismiss it as "mom porn," or worse, a handbook for domestic abuse.

Of course it's no secret that Fifty Shades Of Grey started out as nothing more than steamy Twilight fan fiction. James wrote a series of salacious adventures starring Edward and Bella  and uploaded them to an online forum. Fans were so delighted by the tale they demanded she publish it for real. Fans who, by the way, obviously had no earthly idea how copyright laws work. 

James ultimately agreed with the public and decided her lascivious love story needed to be shared with the world. To that end she simply took her derivative work and replaced Edward and Bella with Christian and Ana, removed all the vampire and supernatural elements and violin! She had a brand new original soft porn trilogy fit for publishing. 

Against all logic, common sense and reason, Fifty Shades Of Grey became a huge hit, and James sat back and watched the semi trucks full of cash roll in!

I was so inspired by her success that I decided to start writing my own erotic fan fiction, based of course on one of my favorite TV shows, the 1960s sitcom Green Acres.

In my story, Betty Jo Bradley is an innocent young women who lives with her family at the Shady Rest Hotel in Hooterville. One day local farmer Oliver Wendall Douglas visits the Shady Rest, ostensibly to get away from his home for a while. He  tells Betty Jo that his wife Lisa finally had enough of country life and left him, moving back to New York City. The two begin a casual friendship.

Douglas begins taking a special interest in young Betty Jo, giving her lavish presents and showing her the night life in nearby Pixley. Betty Jo is taken by Douglas' sophisticated big city ways, and becomes enamored with him.

Douglas invites Betty Jo to his farmhouse and asks her to sign a non-disclosure agreement, laying out the "terms" of their relationship. She adds a few terms of her own to the contract and then signs it.

He then shows her a secret room under his dilapidated home, filled with numerous excess farm implements sold to him over the years by Mr. Haney. The two then begin an erogenous and often violent sexual relationship involving role playing and bondage, as Douglas uses the various farming tools on the innocent Betty Jo.

I call my new erotic fan fiction Fifty Shades Of Hay. If you need me, I'll be sitting by the phone, anxiously awaiting a call from a Hollywood producer who wants to turn it into the next box office bonanza.

Yeah, I know, this was a long way to go for that joke.

Sixteen Other Things Brian Williams Claims To Have Done

Last month NBC newscaster Brian Williams landed in hot water after admitting he fabricated the story of his helicopter taking fire in Iraq back in 2003. NBC has suspended Williams for six months over the incident, and it's not yet clear if he'll ever return.

Oddly enough, this isn't the first time Williams has embellished the truth. Here are Sixteen Other Things Brian Williams Claims To Have Done: 

• Took an Orcish arrow to the shoulder during the Battle Of The Five Armies.

• Invented Clamato.®

• Decapitated the Kurgan during battle, held his severed head aloft and shouted. "There can be only one!"

• Portrayed the little-known third Darrin Stevens on Bewitched.

• Was the actual author of Shakespeare's plays.

• Taught Tom Brokaw to do that weird "L" thing when he spoke in order to sabotage his career and take over his position.

• Sustained injuries when his starship was attacked by the Borg at the Battle Of Wolf 359.

• Trained the MTM kitten to meow on command.

• Was Lando Calrissian's co-pilot during the attack on the Death Star II.

• Came up with the concept of sitting behind a desk, dressing in a tailored suit and reading pre-written news stories to a television audience.

• Alerted the Colonial Militia of the approach of British forces before the battles of Lexington and Concord.

• Played "Bub" on the first five seasons of My Three Sons.

• Invented the internet, but fearing no one would believe him, talked Al Gore into taking the credit.

• Deduced the shocking plot twist in The Sixth Sense after hearing the title alone.

• Urged William Wallace to paint his face blue.

• Somehow got in trouble for exaggerating the truth while working for a news organization that deliberately feeds misinformation to the public on a daily basis.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

That Takes A Lot Of Ba... Er, Guts

My local animal shelter, the Vanderburgh County Humane Society, is having a benefit dinner to raise money for the spaying and neutering of pets. That's a good thing.


However, this is the logo they're using for the event. The spaying and neutering event. 

I... I'm not quite sure how I feel about this.

Man, I'd have given a year's pay to have been able to sit in on this marketing meeting. You don't see a lot of testicle-based ad slogans these days.

Marvel's Agent Carter Season 1, Episode 8: Valediction

Welp, so ends Season 1 of Marvel's Agent Carter. Will there be a second season? I hope so! When I first read that Marvel was producing a series about Captain America's non-superpowered gal pal, I thought it sounded as dull as dishwater. Fortunately that wasn't the case, and I enjoyed the show much more than I expected. Here's hoping for additional seasons!

If the series does continue, I think it'd be a good idea to follow this eight episode per season formula. That seems like just the right amount. It's enough time to set up a story arc without all the filler that longer seasons tend to have.

If there is a second season, I'd like to see a bit more adventure, rather than so much workplace drama. Don't get me wrong, seeing Peggy struggle for respect in the chauvinistic world of the 1940s was important, and a good way to shine a light on the inequalities that still exist in our time, but it's bee even better to see her team up with the Howling Commandos much more often.

It'd also be nice to see a bit more "retro" high-tech on the show. You know, death rays, jet packs, Nazi cyborgs, things like that. Embrace your comic book heritage, Agent Carter!

The series does have one major problem that I haven't yet discussed— it's a prequel. As regular readers of my blog know all too well by now, I cannot stand prequels. Why? Because no matter how bad things look for the characters in a prequel, we know nothing lasting's can happen to them. We know Dottie's not going to kill Peggy Carter, because we've already seen Captain America visit her when she's in her 90s. Howard Stark isn't going to be shot down over New York, because he still has to father his son Tony.

It's tough to generate much suspense when you already know the future histories of the characters.

That said, the writers did do an admirable job of ratcheting up the tension on the show. We know Peggy's not going to die, but she might get drummed out of the SSR. Stark can't die either, but will he bomb New York with his crazy gas? Maybe? Who knows? So well done there, writers.

SEASON ENDING SPOILERS AHEAD, INCLUDING A SURPRISING CAMEO APPEARANCE IN THE EPILOGUE!

The Plot:
The SSR investigates the incident at the movie theater from last week, and Peggy deduces that the audience savagely killed one another. Agent Sousa finds a suspicious canister and accidentally doses himself with the gas, causing him to try and kill Agent Thompson until he's subdued by the police. 

Meanwhile, Howard Stark shows up at the SSR and is placed under arrest. He somehow talks himself out of it, explaining that he invented the berserker gas, which he calls "Midnight Oil," as a way to keep soldiers awake. Unfortunately it had the unexpected side effect of turning soldiers into berserker killing machines. It was co-opted by an army general who used it at the Battle Of Finow to kill Russian troops. Stark feels guilty about this, and wants to use himself as bait to flush out Dr. Faustus and Dottie and get back his stolen tech. 

Dr. Faustus and Dottie are on their way to an airfield in order to carry out their master plan. They intend to fly a plane full of Midnight Oil over downtown Manhattan during the V.E. Day celebration. Suddenly Faustus hears Stark on the radio, and comes up with a new plan. Faustus and Dottie capture Stark during a press conference and take him to one of his hangars. There Faustus hypnotizes him into flying a plane over New York and releasing the Midnight Oil gas himself.

With a little detective help from Jarvis, the SSR arrives at the hangar. Thompson and Sousa capture Faustus, and Peggy battles Dottie, seemingly killing her. Jarvis pursues Stark in a second plane, intending to shoot his boss out of the sky if need be. Peggy radios Stark, who's been hypnotized into believing he's retrieving Captain America's body from the Arctic. She manages to talk him down at the last second. Peggy then sees that Dottie's body is gone, just like the killer in a slasher movie.

Stark disappears again afterwards, but not before allowing Peggy and Angie to live rent-free in one of his many townhouses. Jarvis gives Peggy the vial of Captain America's blood, which he took without Stark's knowledge.

Peggy pours the blood into the river, indicating she's finally over Steve Rogers and is ready to move on with her life (and no doubt turning an unsuspecting fish into a super soldier).

SPOILER WITHIN A SPOILER!
In the obligatory epilogue, we see Dr. Faustus thrown into a jail cell, wearing an elaborate orthodontic device on his head to prevent him from speaking. His roommate emerges from the shadows, revealing himself to be Arnim Zola, creator of the Winter Soldier. Yikes!

Thoughts:
• The concept of a gas that causes people to fly into a berserker rage and kill one another is very similar to a plot point in Kingsman: The Secret Service, which was released in theaters a week or so before this episode aired. 

I'm sure it was just a coincidence, but it's funny that two such unrelated properties had the same plot at the same time.

By the way, Stark called the berserker gas "Midnight Oil." My favorite band!

• I thought Agent Thompson and the rest of the SSR accepted Stark's story a bit too quickly. He went from Public Enemy #1 to trusted civilian advisor in seconds. They had a lot of story to wrap up in this episode though, so I suppose it's something we'll just have to roll with.

The same goes for Peggy's status in the SSR. Just a couple episodes ago she was drummed out of the SSR and accused of treason. Then after a simple nod from Chief Dooley before he exploded last week, she's back to being one of the boys again, barking out orders and chasing down evildoers with a shotgun.

• While examining the massacre at the movie theater, Agent Sousa finds a metal canister on the floor. He holds it inches from his face as he fiddles with it, dousing himself with the Midnight Oil gas. I'm starting to understand how he lost his leg— he probably saw a landline during the war and kicked it to see if it was active.

• Speaking of Sousa and his leg, or I guess lack of one— the extent of his injury and his agility seem to change based on the needs of the script. 

Most of the time it looks like he can't bend his knee, suggesting his entire leg is artificial. But when he finds the gas canister in the theater, he kneels down to retrieve it. I'm sure they probably had leg prosthetics with knees in the 1940s, but I doubt they were that nimble.

• Howard Stark's press conference was very reminiscent to the one Tony Stark gave at the end of Iron Man. The same goes for Peggy trying to talk down Stark in the plane— it was all very similar to the last moments between her and Steve in Captain America: The First Avenger. I'm sure this was all intentional, since this is Marvel and they like to connect everything.

• So does Dr. Faustus need to touch his ring to hypnotize someone or not? In previous episodes he's always spun his ring around his finger as he bores into someone's head, indicating it's a necessary part of the process.

In this episode Agent Sousa corners him and Faustus seemingly gets inside his head while his hands are in the air. Granted Sousa's got his ears plugged and isn't listening, but Faustus doesn't know that, and certainly seems to think he's influencing him. 

So if he doesn't need the ring to control minds, why'd he use it earlier?

• Dottie wears another outfit that's a subtle 1940s equivalent of Black Widow's costume.

• The big showdown between Peggy and Dottie was well done, but awfully short. Peggy knocked her out the window practically before the fight even got started. After so much buildup all season, I was expecting a little more.

• After Dottie falls out the window, Peggy looks out and sees her seemingly lifeless body lying on an airplane wing in a pool of her own blood. I get that Dottie's a super tough Black Widow agent, but dayum! That was a hell of a lot of blood she lost. And from a head wound yet. No doubt Dottie's staggering and vomiting all the way to the ER.

And did anyone in the audience NOT expect to see that Dottie'd crawled away at the end, like a female Jason Vorhees?

• Once Thompson and Sousa capture Dr. Faustus, they tie a gag around his mouth to prevent him from talking and controlling their minds. 

Here's a fun little experiment. Take a handkerchief and place it across your open mouth. Now pull it as tight as you can around your face. Have you done so yet? OK, now try to speak. Can you still talk? Of course you can! Sure, your voice is a little muffled, but you can still speak at least as clearly as the average ventriloquist!

I can't really blame the Agent Carter writers too much for this idiocy. This "mouth gag" trope has been going on since the earliest day of cinema.

• Once again, I'm a little disappointed in the scope of Leviathan. In the first episode the characters practically wet themselves just hearing the name. From that I got the impression it was a huge organization like HYDRA, but it appears to have been staffed by a scant four or five people. Surely there's more to it than that?

• Peggy seemed to take a backseat to the rest of the characters in this episode. There's no reason why she shouldn't have been the one flying the plane toward New York, thinking she was rescuing Steve Rogers, while Howard Stark tried to talk her down. It's her show, after all.

• At the end of the episode Jarvis hands Peggy the precious vial of Captain America's blood, saying she deserves to have it more than Stark or the American Government.

It's a good thing Peggy planned on dumping the blood, because it was probably no longer viable anyway. All through the season it was housed inside a cryogenic sphere, implying it needed to be kept on ice. For some reason Jarvis takes it out of the sphere and stores it in his hot, sweaty coat pocket before handing it over to Peggy.

• This would have been the perfect time for a cameo appearance by Daniel Whitehall, to further tie the series to Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. He was alive and causing trouble in WWII, so why not?

• In the epilogue we see Dr. Faustus in jail, wearing an elaborate metal appliance on his head to prevent him from speaking. How's he supposed to eat with all that metal clamping down on his mouth?

• I was very surprised to see Arnim Zola pop up in the epilogue as Faustus' cellmate. Hey, SSR guys, or US Government or whoever's jailing them— it's probably not a good idea to keep German and Russian criminal masterminds together in the same cell! Just FYI.

Kal-quaman?

This week director Zach Snyder revealed an image of actor Jason Momoa as Aquaman, from the upcoming movie Batman V Superman: Superheroes On Parade.

So apparently at some point in the movie, Aquaman is transformed into Khal Drogo. Got it.

Wow, are you sure Momoa's not playing one of the villains in the film? Someone like Dread Man, or The Deadly Scowl? Seriously, he looks more like a biker gang member / Maori warrior / Burning Man attendant / Rob Zombie than he does the king of Atlantis.

I'm betting this change is due to the perceived lameness of the Superfriends version of the character. You know, the one where he could only talk to fish, not command them, and couldn't stay out of water for more than an hour, to the mirth of the general public.

I suppose I shouldn't be surprised by Aquaman's new makeover, given the grim, gritty and "grounded" nature of all the DC Comic movies. Superheroes shouldn't be fun, laws no! They should look terrifying and be feared as they kill ten times more innocents than they protect!

Personally I think Momoa would have made a better Sub-Mariner over at Marvel, but what do I know? Marvel Studios currently owns the movie rights to Prince Namor, so I wonder... did DC hire Jason Momoa as Aquaman just to pre-empt a potential Marvel Sub-Mariner movie?

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Walking Dead Season 5, Episode 11: The Distance

This week marks a turning point on The Walking Dead, as the mysterious Aaron makes Rick & Co. an offer that will change the series forever.

As a reader of the comic book, I know who Aaron is and that his offer's on the level. Despite that, the TV writers did a great job making him seem somewhat suspicious, and sowing the seeds of doubt in the characters' minds (as well as the minds of the audience). They almost had me believing he was lying.

Rick's initial treatment of Aaron seemed harsh, but who can blame him? His little group's already been held captive by a psychotic one-eyed madman, and just a few months ago they came pretty close to being the main entree at a cannibal banquet. Who could blame him for being a bit mistrustful?

He did hang on to his suspicion long after the rest of the group believed Aaron though. It was interesting to see the subtle little shift in power as Michonne told him they were going to Alexandria, and he needed to dial it down a notch or twelve.

This episode would have made a good season finale. It would have been infuriating, as we'd have had to wait nine months or more to find out what's behind the Safe-Zone's gate, but a good finale nonetheless. In fact I'm actually surprised they didn't end the season here. That means there's probably something bad looming on the horizon again.

As I said before, this Alexandria story arc marks a huge change in the show. That's probably a good thing, because the group's been constantly on the run for five seasons now. How much longer could they realistically milk that formula? It's high time for a shakeup on the series.

SPOILERS!

The Plot:
Picking up where we left off last week, Maggie and Sasha bring Aaron into the barn. He admits he's been observing the group and thinks they'd make a good addition to his community. Rick is immediately distrustful of his offer, especially after Aaron says, "People are our greatest resource," which is pretty darned similar to Terminus' motto.

Aaron tells Rick he has a partner hiding nearby, just in case there's trouble. He also says there are two vehicles parked up the road that will take them to his Safe-Zone. Rick sends Glenn, Maggie, Michonne, Abraham and Rosita to find the vehicles and see if Aaron's story checks out.

Glenn's team finds the vehicles, which suggests Aaron's telling the truth, and drives them back to the barn. Aaron is reluctant to reveal exactly where his community's located, but says he'll drive them there in the morning, via Highway 16. Rick still doesn't trust him, and says he'll drive, taking Highway 23 at night. Aaron says 23 isn't safe, as his people haven't cleared it of walkers, but is ignored.

Rick, Glenn, Michonne and Aaron take the lead car, while the rest of the group follows closely behind in an RV. Of course Highway 23 is lousy with walkers, and Glenn plows through them in the car, eventually becoming separated from the RV. The car stalls after the engine is packed full of slimy walker parts. Aaron flees into the woods and is nearly killed by a walker. He's saved by Glenn, and the two of them rescue Rick and Michonne.

They reunite with the RV group, who've found Aaron's partner (and boyfriend) Eric, who somehow broke his ankle. Aaron reveals that the Safe-Zone is located in Alexandria, Virginia. The group heads there the next morning. During a break, Rick hides a gun near an abandoned house, which I'm sure won't become significant before the end of the season. They pull up to the gates of the Alexandria Safe-Zone, but Rick is still distrustful. He finally realizes Aaron was telling the truth when he hears the sound of children playing inside. Everyone leaves their vehicles and heads toward the front gate.

Thoughts:
• Aaron's obviously recruited candidates for Alexandria before, but his methods do make him seem somewhat suspicious. Things like not telling the group he has a partner hiding nearby, admitting he's been observing and listening to them for days, and worst of all, the fact that he knows everyone's names. No wonder Rick doesn't trust him.

• Um, Rick, I know food's scarce and Judith's hungry, but feeding her raw acorns is probably not a good idea.

Acorns are full of tannic acid and are extremely bitter, and are toxic in large amounts. They can be made edible, but only after extensive rinsing or boiling to remove the acid. Mashing them in a bowl ain't gonna do it. No wonder Judith was crying.

• Aaron tells Rick he brought applesauce for Judith. Rick is of course distrustful, fearing Aaron may have poisoned it. He forces him to taste it first. Aaron refuses, which again, seems highly suspicious on his part. Rick eventually forces him to eat a spoonful. A couple things here.

First of all, Aaron tastes the applesauce and doesn't fall over dead, so Rick immediately feeds it to Judith. I guess in Rick's mind, poison must work instantly, so the applesauce has to be OK.

Secondly, Aaron says he doesn't like applesauce because his mom used to force him to eat it to make him more "manly." I had no idea applesauce was such a masculine food. Take that, Popeye and your spinach!

• Aaron suggests they take Highway 16 to the Safe-Zone, because his people have cleared it of walkers. 

How the hell did they do that? Sure they could clear the road, but what's to stop it from filling up again a few hours later? It'd be like using your hands to try and keep the center of a bucket of water dry.

• I'm not exactly sure what part of the country the group's been the past few episodes, but wherever it is, every "highway" looks like the exact same stretch of secluded two lane road with a forest on each side.

• On the way to Alexandria, Rick finds a stash of license plates in Aaron's glove box. Gosh, that's not suspicious at all. As creepy things go, that's just one or two levels below making a necklace out of the fingers of your victims.

Apparently Aaron gathers the plates from cars he encounters on the road, and sheepishly admits he's trying to collect license plates from all fifty states. I hate to break it to him, but he's never gonna have a complete set, unless someone drove over from Hawaii before the apocalypse.

• In the car, Michonne takes another look at Aaron's spooky, washed-out photos of the Safe-Zone. She suddenly notices there aren't any people in any of them and becomes suspicious. She immediately asks him Rick's Three Questions. You know, the three magic questions that are guaranteed to determine if someone is trustworthy: 1. How many walkers have you killed? 2. How many people have you killed? 3. Why?

I've never understood how these questions are supposed to prove anything useful. They seem like bullish*t job interview questions, such as "Tell me about your weaknesses." You ask a bullish*t question, you get a bullish*t answer.

• Rick's boneheaded idea to take the uncleared Highway 23 backfires when they encounter a road full of walkers. Glenn plows through them, painting the windshield in a thick coat of blood and gore that's very reminiscent of Emil's demise in Robocop.

• Rick and the others lose sight of the RV and stop, like idiots. When they get back in the car, of course it won't start. Ah, it's the classic Untimely Stalling Car trope.

• Zombie Kill Of The Week: Rick shoots a walker in the eye socket with a flare gun, causing its head to become a lovely translucent lamp shade.

• As the flaming-headed zombie burns brightly, the other walkers are momentarily distracted by the flickering light. I'd forgotten that the walkers on this show are fascinated by fire. Apparently so did all the other characters. Why haven't they used that fault to their advantage recently? They could have escaped the walkers following them last week by lobbing a few torches behind the herd.

• This was pretty subtle, so you might have missed it... Aaron and Eric are a gay couple! 

I have absolutely no problem with gay characters on the show. None at all. What I did think was ridiculous was the show's heavy-handed introduction of Aaron and Eric. Jesus, could they have been more blatant? First they stared longingly at one another across the room. Then in case you didn't get it, they embraced and kissed. Then, just to drive the point home, Aaron tenderly held Eric's face in his hands. And for the dimmer members of the audience who still hadn't figured it out, they cooed and cuddled for a moment. You know what? I think those two might be gay!

I'm surprised the writers didn't have the two of them turn to the camera and wink as they wrapped pink feather boas around their necks as they sang, It's Rainin' Men.

Compare this to the Season 4 episode Dead Weight, in which we saw the show's first homosexual couple, Tara and Alisha. Those two quietly hooked up with nary a fanfare. In fact Tara's still with the group, and her sexuality is no big deal. Why the difference?

We get it, The Walking Dead. You've got two gay men on the show now. You're the most diverse and all-inclusive zombie show on cable.

Maybe now that Aaron and Eric have joined the cast everyone will quit asking if Daryl's gay.

• When the RV dies, Abraham says they're screwed because they need a new battery. Glenn shows him a compartment inside the RV where extra batteries are stored. When Abraham asks how he knew that, Glenn smiles wistfully and walks away.

This was of course a subtle little nod to Dale, whose RV used to break down at regular intervals back in the first and second seasons. It was a nice little bit of acting by Steven Yeun as Glenn here.

• On the way to Alexandria, the group sees Washington DC, their former destination, off in the distance.

I'm wondering exactly where they're supposed to be here. A few episodes ago they found out Eugene was lying about a cure for the zombie plague, but decided to make their way north to DC anyway. Alexandria is south of Washington DC. So to drive past Washington they'd have to be coming from the north. 

I suppose maybe they could be coming up from the south and heading west— then they might be able to look to their right and see DC. The cities are six to seven miles apart though, so it still doesn't seem like they'd able to see it. Geography!

• Halfway through the episode I knew we weren't going to see the inside of the Alexandria Safe-Zone in this episode, and I was right. We only get to see the front gate. Because why take just one episode to show us something when you can drag it out into two?

• Rick still doesn't trust Aaron or believe that Alexandria is safe until he pulls up to the gates and hears the sound of children playing inside. At that point he finally relents and agrees to take his family through the gate.

Wouldn't it be funny if next week they entered and saw there was a tape deck blasting "The Sounds Of Children" into the air? And there was a group of hungry cannibals staring at them licking their lips? No? Too far?
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