Friday, April 18, 2014

Bad Haiku about: Superhero Movies (VI)

The skiing conditions were sub-par last Sunday so instead I took myself to a matinee of Captain America: The Winter Soldier.  There's nothing I can say here that hasn't been said elsewhere - pretty good movie, Captain America is a decent, solid man confused and conflicted by our confusing and conflicted times, slight commentary about current drone warfare, blah blah blah.  I liked it - and liked the Winter Soldier's screechy techno-ish score - but found it a bit of a downer.  I know it's all a build-up to the next Avengers movie and so on, but still, I like my superhero movies to be uplifting and, you know, quippy.

Cap is a good guy
but Black Widow was
the best part for sure

That Anthony Mackie/Falcon was pretty darn adorable too - glad he's joined the party.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

OMG not a genre show (well, yes, technically, but not the genres I usually watch)

Mr. Mouse and I pretty much shun "reality t.v."  We do watch The Biggest Loser, Restaurant Impossible and American Pickers, but crap like the Kardashians, that Honey Boo Boo atrocity or people wrassling alligators in swamps makes me want to hurl.  It was with trepidation, therefore, that we turned on the History Channel's Down East Dickering.  Or, if you want to be accurate: Down East Dickerin'.  I must admit that I loved it.

Part of the charm is the entirely on-point accents.  I LOVE Maine accents and they are nigh impossible for anyone who is not a Mainer to get right (see any movie ever set in Maine, for example).  These guys are some wicked local - two of them appear to have some Canuck in them and their accents, while strong, are not quite as "Maine" as the others - and it's all kinds of awesome.  Even though I do not have a Maine accent myself, I have a tendency to pick up other's accents and by the time the last episode was over, Mr. Mouse was rolling his eyes whenever I said anything.  You can take the girl out of Maine but you apparently can't take Maine out of the girl.

The show follows three pairs of dickerers, guys who don't want to work real jobs and prefer to peruse Uncle Henry's for goods and services for which to sell, barter and trade.  One pair is located in the greater Bethel area (I used to spend a lot of time in Bethel and it's fun to see familiar places), one pair is up in Sangerville (Dover-Foxcroft region) and the third is somewhere off Route 1 (maybe Lincolnville-ish?) Technically, only the area around Route 1 is considered "down east" but I'll give them a pass.

I read an online article - which described the show as "American Pickers with a redneck twist," which is absolutely right on - where the author was skeptical about the potential hickifying of two characters' nicknames, "Codfish" and "Yummy."  She thinks this was unrealistic artistic license.  I think it's probably spot on.  The real name of the Codfish guy is "Cordwell" which is pronounced "Codwell" if you're from Maine.  It's not a stretch to nickname someone "Codfish" from "Codwell," in my opinion.  The other nickname, Yummy, could be a bit far-fetched, I suppose.  Except that back in the day I worked at a Maine seaside resort hotel.  One of the local lobstermen was nicknamed "Grunny," which was short for "Grunion" which is a funny little fish.  Grunny, Yummy - not that far apart.

I don't get back to Maine very often.  Now that I've found Down East Dickering, I can get my fix in between trips.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Back into the abyss

It's that age-old conundrum around these parts when the recapping goes on hiatus: WTF do I do next?  I suppose I'll pick up where we left off with True Blood, as that's sort of what we do over the summer.  But I can't start that yet because I'm finishing the final season of Fringe right now, and then after that I plan to rip through S3 of Game of Thrones, and then the final season of Spartacus.  And then we'll go back to those Bon Temps wackadoos (whilst also watching S2 of Orphan Black).  Television's gonna be busy up in here.

Reading-wise, I've been on a slight Gerald Durrell tear, re-reading My Family and Other Animals for the umpteenth time (along with my love for Greek mythology, that book was responsible for making me a huge Hellenophile, culminating in an Ancient Greek college major and a semester in Chania, Crete) and also Menagerie Manor and The Ark's Anniversary.  The latter two books are all about his wildlife park on the Isle of Jersey and his foundation's focus on conservation and saving endangered species; these volumes are not nearly as charming and funny as MFaOA but I was interested and found them quick reads.

Now I'm in book-limbo, needing to get back to the library.  To pass the time I'm re-reading The Hotel New Hampshire for the umpteenth time.  I've forgotten how funny - and dark - that book is.  Fun/weird stuff.  So, anyway, be patient and bear with me.  I'll get some updates here as soon as I can.  In the meantime, what are you reading/watching?


Saturday, April 5, 2014

The Walking Dead S4E16 "A" 3/30/14

That short delay got rather longer than I expected.  But here we go, season finale time, and we're sent into it with a Rick quote from earlier in the season: "We've all done the worst kinds of things, just to stay alive."

Flashback.  The group is at the prison, after the Woodbury folk were assimilated but before the Governor ruined everything.  There's Herschel, one-legged but alive!  He begins to work on convincing Rick to put down his gun and take up his cucumber patch (not a euphemism).

Now.  Rick sits on the road, leaning against a derelict SUV.  He seems to be alone.  His hands and face are coated in blood.  He is shaking, staring off into nowhere.

Flashback to slightly before now.  Rick, Carl and Michonne are camping out as they continue towards Terminus.  Rick teaches them how to set a snare for rabbits:  you find an animal trail, where animals are used to going, make it so they have to continue along that path into the trap, set the wire and hide it with plants so they can't see it until their neck is caught in the noose.  I don't suppose that's foreshadowing at all [sarcastic voice].  They hear a voice screaming for help and run to a nearby clearing where a man is surrounded by more than a dozen zombies.  Carl raises his gun to help the man but Rick grabs him, pointing out that there are too many walkers - there is nothing they can do to save the man and they would only bring the small herd of zombies down on them.

The three of them continue down the road (not the railroad tracks), complaining about how hungry they are.  They find that derelict SUV, dispatch the one decrepit zombie squirming nearby, and camp there for the night.  After night falls, Carl gets some shut-eye in the SUV while Rick and Michonne sit by the small campfire.  They discuss their hopes for Terminus, Michonne wondering if the place is really legit.  I don't suppose that's foreshadowing at all either.  They hear some rustling in the woods but no walkers come out at them so they settle back in ... until Joe and his hardasses sneak up on them, putting guns to their heads.  Joe: "Oh dearie me, you screwed up, asshole."  Rick sits there and from the look on his face, boy does he ever know it.

"Today's the day of reckoning, sir, a restitution!"  Joe is eloquent and jovial, very excited to have caught the man who killed one of his crew.  Then Daryl comes up, rejoining the gang.  He had been lagging behind and didn't know who Joe was stalking.  He pleads for his friends, saying that these are good people.  He offers himself in Rick's place.  Joe: "This man killed our friend [but] you say he's good people.  That's a lie."  And because of their code, two of Joe's gang start beating the shit out of Daryl, because lying is punishable by death.  Things start to get extremely horrible and uncomfortable now.  One of the men pulls a frightened Carl out of the SUV.  Joe:  "First we're gonna beat Daryl to death.  Then we'll have the girl, then the boy.  Then we shoot you and we'll be square."  The man throws Carl to the ground, tells him to stop his squirming and reaches for his belt.  Carl squalls.  Rick headbutts Joe, whose gun goes off by Rick's ear, disorienting him.  Michonne is clouted to the ground, Carl is close to getting raped, Daryl is in shambles on the ground.  Joe grabs Rick in a bearhug and grins, What are you gonna do now, sport?  Rick doesn't hesitate and moves his head forward, quick, latching onto Joe's neck with his teeth.  He jerks his head back, tearing out Joe's throat in a splash of blood.  Wow.  Joe's done.  The man assaulting Carl pauses, amazed.  Daryl rears up and puts down the two who were beating on him.  Michonne grabs a loose gun and dispatches her guy.  Rick staggers over to the guy on Carl and grabs him, sinking a long-bladed knife into the man's belly over and over and over again.  Michonne hugs Carl and they stare at Rick as he methodically guts the man.  The sound effects are pretty effective.

Flashback.  Blah blah blah, Herschel continues to try to humanize Rick and make him a farmer.  They discuss how Carl needs his father to show him the way (this is right after Carl shot that kid): which way is it gonna be?

Now.  In the morning/aftermath, Rick sits leaning against the SUV, bloody and shaking, while Michonne and Carl are in the car, Carl resting and Michonne watching over him.  Daryl brings Rick some water, suggesting he wipe his face.  "We should save it to drink," says Rick.  Daryl: "You can't see yourself.  They can."  Rick washes his face and hands.  Daryl explains how he ended up with Joe's crew - sort of glossing over what happened to Beth: "She's just gone" - and says he knew they were bad, but their simple code appealed to him.  Rick doesn't begrudge him since Daryl was alone out there.  "I didn't know what they could do."  Rick reassures him, saying it isn't on him - and that Daryl's rejoining them is a good thing.  "You're my brother," says Rick, and Daryl looks grateful for that.  Daryl: "What you did last night, anybody would have done that."  Rick:  "No, not that."  Rick acknowledges the darkness inside him and says that keeping Carl safe is all that matters.  Later, as they continue walking along the road, Rick asks Michonne if she's okay.  She says yes and he says that he's okay too.  She says she knows.  He asks how does she know?  Michonne: "Because I'm okay."

As they get close to Terminus, they get off the road and approach through the woods, hoping to observe the place without being seen.  They come up to the chainlink fence and observe for a while.  Carl stays with Michonne.  They have a conversation where she tells him how her son died.  She, her son, her boyfriend Mike and their friend Terry all went to a refugee camp.  It was grim.  She came from a run and saw the camp's fences were down, everyone dead, including her son.  Mike and Terry had been high when it happened.  They were bitten but not dead when she found them, so she let them turn, took off their jaws and arms and dragged them around with her, as we know.  "The walkers didn't see me - I was just another monster ... I was gone for a long time."  But joining the group brought her back.  She reassures Carl that he doesn't have to be afraid of her or his father.  Carl is all, I know, but I'm just another monster too, with these thoughts that I have.  You know, I'm finding Carl a lot less annoying these days.

Before they scale the fence into Terminus, Rick hides a duffle bag full of guns and arrows, "just in case."  Over they go.  They wander through the backside of Terminus (which is much less charming and flowery than the front entrance) and find their way into a building where a woman is broadcasting a "those who arrive survive" pro-Terminus message over a short-wave radio.  Other people are milling about.  Rick's all, hello?  One guy (Gareth) walks forward, saying wryly, "Well, I bet Albert is on perimeter watch."  Gareth introduces himself and welcomes them to Terminus.  He asks them to lay down their weapons, and our group does, nervously.  After a pat down (Alex saying to Daryl, I wouldn't want to see the other guy, and Rick responding, No, you wouldn't), Gareth asks "Alex" to take Rick's group out front to the Welcome Wagon.  Alex hands the weapons back to our heroes and asks them to follow him.  Rick starts to get just the slightest bit of hope into his expression.  They go out front to the flowers and vegetable gardens, and Mary/Tasha Yar at the barbecue.  Rick looks around at the others, noticing a backpack, a poncho, riot gear and a pocket watch in Alex's pocket.  He lunges forward and grabs Alex by the throat.  Daryl, Michonne and Carl pull their weapons and everyone gets all twitchy.  "Where the hell did you get that watch?" growls Rick.  He has recognized it as the watch Herschel gave to Glenn.

After a bit of a standoff, as quite a few Terminus-ers surround them with drawn weapons, Gareth has reasonable explanations on how they got that gear (poncho off a clothesline, riot gear off a dead cop).  Then Rick's group runs for it.  They get shot at, a lot, but the Terminus-ers are herding them down various alleyways, not actually trying to hit them.  Leading them along the trail towards the snare, as it were.  They run past a courtyard and Rick sees a pile of denuded skeletons: not dead zombies and not zombie-killed people, but skeletons that have been stripped of their skin and muscle. Like they've been, I don't know, butchered in the meat-packing sense of the word.  AND I TOTALLY CALLED IT YOU GUYS: TERMINUS IS EATING PEOPLE.  They keep running, past railroad boxcars with people inside calling out for help and into a weird shrine room, filled with lit candles and written on the walls: NEVER AGAIN, NEVER TRUST, WE FIRST ALWAYS.

They run out through the only unlocked door, finding themselves surrounded by Gareth and his now well-armed Terminus-ers, nowhere left to run.  Gareth is less patient now and more bossy.  Rick's group drops their weapons, as instructed, and Gareth sends them all into a boxcar marked "A."  The door is slammed shut and locked behind them.  As their eyes adjust to the gloom, there's movement from the far end of the boxcar.  Glenn walks forward, with Maggie, Sasha, Bob, Tara, Abraham and Rosita.  Everyone looks rather terrified. Glenn and Maggie explain that Abraham and Rosita saved them and are friends of theirs.  Daryl says: "And now they're friends of ours."   Abraham: "For however long that'll be."  "No," says Rick, "They're gonna feel pretty stupid when they find out ... they're fucking with the wrong people."  Well, he actually says "screwing," not "fucking," but it's clear that's what he means.

I don't exactly know why I got the feeling that they were eating people when I saw Mary grilling meat in the last episode, except that it didn't look like any cuts of meat I recognized.  I guess I just got a SPOILER FOR 1987 BOOK/1991 MOVIE Fried Green Tomatoes feeling.  This wasn't a subtle episode - you might have caught my issues with the foreshadowing - but it was pretty powerful, especially with the awful Joe scene and the unveiling of Terminus.  And I didn't hate Rick in it, which is amazing in and of itself.  'Til next season!

Previously on The Walking Dead / next time on The Walking Dead

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Slight delay

This week's The Walking Dead recap may be slightly delayed this week.  We have a house guest through Tuesday morning and the guest room shares a wall with the t.v. room; I don't think it's good host etiquette to keep one's guest awake with screams, shouting and general zombie mayhem seeping through the drywall.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Walking Dead S4E15 "Us" 3/23/14

Rick makes an appearance but it's very brief, so that's okay.  We're almost at the end of the season so the pace is picking up a bit: less character work, as we've had for the last several episodes, and more "let's hurry up and get these people to Terminus."  Still, not much actually happens this go-round. 

Glenn and Tara.  And also Abraham, Rosita and Eugene.  The group tromps along the railroad tracks, Eugene droning on and on about nonsense while Tara largely ignores him.  That night, she and Abraham talk a bit while the others sleep, the soldier interested in her motivations for helping Glenn track down Maggie.  He has figured out that it isn't because she's in love with Glenn - he caught her checking out Rosita's "hypnotic" breasts at dinner - and has narrowed it down to "something you did or something you didn't do."  Tara admits that it was something she did but refuses to elaborate.  Abraham doesn't press her.  The next morning, they find one of Maggie's blood signs instructing Glenn to meet her at Terminus.  Even though they have no way of knowing how far ahead Maggie is, Glenn takes off at a sprint down the tracks after her.

Rick, Carl and Michonne.  Rich is trying to pick up the pace when he turns to find Carl and Michonne balancing on the rails, whomever doesn't fall off to win their bet with the prize being chocolate bars.  Michonne falls off and Carl takes her favorite candybar (over her protestations), and immediately hands half of it back to her.  Come on, he says, we always share.  Rick grins to see them so happy.

Daryl.  Daryl is still with Joe and his nasty, sketchy crew.  Early in the morning, Daryl gets up to track a rabbit.  One of the other guys follows him and shoots the rabbit at the same time Daryl does.  This asshat (Lem?) announces that he "claims" the dead bunny and Daryl is all, WTF? Before it can come to blows, Joe walks up and explains some of the rules he established, to keep things from "going Darwin every couple of hours."  All you gotta do is say "claim" on something and it's yours.  Since Daryl didn't know the rules, Joe's going to give him a pass this time.  He's also going to cut the rabbit in half so each of Daryl and Lem gets some.  Daryl is not pleased.  As they continue walking along the tracks, Joe asks Daryl what his plan is.  He says that Daryl should stay with the group: we don't have to be nice, don't have to be friendly, just gotta follow the rules (claiming, no stealing and no lying).  And if Daryl ain't leaving right now, he's part of the group.  The problem here is that Joe is fairly charismatic and Daryl is a self-professed follower.  You can just see him losing the humanity he gained from his time with Rick, Beth and the others.

Glenn et als.  Abraham protests the pace Glenn is setting, saying they have to stop and rest for a bit.  Glenn's all, it's only noon.  Or, he and Tara will keep going and the rest of them can rest.  Or he'll give Eugene his riot gear and they all keep going together until sundown.  They keep moving until they come upon a "long, dark tunnel full of reanimated corpses."  Maggie went through, according to the blood sign on the tunnel entrance so Glenn is going to do that too (of course) but Abraham doesn't feel sure he can keep Abraham safe so they're going to backtrack and go around.  Abraham gives Glenn his flashlight and wishes them luck.

Daryl. Joe's gang finds a garage full of old cars and they bed down for the night, all the asshats "claiming" all the vehicles before Daryl can, so he lies down on the cold cement floor.

Glenn and Tara.  A ways into the tunnel, they find a section of the tunnel roof has collapsed, trapping a bunch of snarling walkers.  Tara says that the blood spattered on the wall is still wet, so the collapse had to have happened today.  Glenn makes his way carefully forward, checking to see if any of the zombies are Maggie.  None of them are.  Tara joins him and they climb to the top of the pile of rubble, only to see dozens and dozens of mobile walkers on the other side of the cave-in.  The walkers turn, drooling and growling, drawn by the light of the flashlight.  Now what?

Abraham, Rosita and Eugene.  Having back-tracked a bit, they find a minivan, dispatch the zombie trapped inside (there's a sign drawn on the dirty window: Leave Momma Be), consult their map and decide on their route.  Rosita drives and Eugene navigates while Abraham naps in the backseat.  Abraham gets all tricky, however, and they eventually end up back on the railroad tracks on the far side of the tunnel.  Eugene is a total weirdo but he does not want to leave Glenn and Tara behind.  Abraham wakes up and starts shouting at Rosita (Why'd you stop? You never stop!).  Eugene looks down the tracks and says, "Guys - wait!"

Daryl.  Lem can't find his half of the rabbit and accuses Daryl of stealing it from him.  Joe steps in and asks Daryl if he took it.  I didn't take nothin', sneers Daryl.  When Joe dumps out Daryl's bag, the half rabbit falls out.  Lem gets all excitable and Daryl protests that Lem planted it there.  Joe's all, Lem, either Daryl's lying or Lem's a pussy punkass cheatin' coward cop.  It's the latter - Joe saw Lem put the rabbit in Daryl's bag - and Joe tells the other asshats to beat Lem.  Daryl's all, WTF?!! but Joe is like, you know how to follow the rules.

Glenn and Tara.  Glenn sticks the flashlight on the side of the pile of rubble to distract the zombies while he and Tara try to sneak past on the other side.  She slips and gets her foot stuck.  She tells Glenn to leave her and go find Maggie but he refuses, firing into the approaching herd of zombies.  It's looking dire for a minute until headlights light up the tunnel.  A voice shouts, "GET DOWN!" and as Glenn and Tara drop to the floor, a barrage of shots takes out all the zombies.  Glenn staggers to his feet, trying to see into the headlights.  It's Abraham, Rosita and Eugene, and also Sasha, Bob and Maggie - who runs to her husband, laughing and crying and throwing herself into his arms.  Good: now Glenn/Maggie can stop putting their fellow travelers in danger to find his/her spouse.  That night, there is a discussion on what's next.  Abraham, of course, is all "we've got to get Eugene to Washington" and Tara's ready to join up.  Eugene points out that they're not far from Terminus so they should go there first, stock up, maybe recruit some more people to their cause.  Sasha thinks that's a good plan - she is willing to go to Washington but wants to see if Tyrese is at Terminus - and Bob agrees too.  It's settled.

Daryl.  The group heads out and Daryl sees Lem, bloodied and well-dead, tosses in a ditch.  He grabs a tarp, to cover the body (like Beth would have done), but then changes his mind.  He talks some more with Joe as they follow the tracks.  They see a Terminus sign and Joe scoffs, saying that there's no sanctuary there for guys like them.  He tells Daryl about how some guy [Rick, remember] ambushed them in a house a while back, killing one of their guys who then turned on them.  One of their group ("Tony") got a good enough look at his face so they're heading to Terminus to see if they can find him for a reckoning.  Daryl doesn't see anything wrong with that plan.  They continue along the tracks.  Tony sees something and bends down but Daryl calls out, "Claim!" and snatches up the prize, a strawberry plant with one red berry.

Glenn, Maggie, Tara, et als.  They make it to Terminus, letting themselves in through closed but unlocked and unguarded gates.  Everything is neat and tidy, colorful with raised bed gardens.  There are no people tho' until they get in further, past a sign that says to lower their weapons and they will be met.  They turn a corner and there's a lit barbecue with one woman standing next to it.  She walks up to them, unarmed and gently smiling, and says that it looks like they've been on the road a while.  We have, says Maggie, gratefully.  The woman [played by Denise Crosby, a/k/a Tasha Yar from Star Trek] introduces herself as Mary and says that they get them settled and give them something to eat.  "Welcome to Terminus."

Color me skeptical but this Terminus place is creepy.  My first thought: cannibals and whatever is cooking on that barbecue is people.  I've got no reason to think that but that's what I was left with.  

Previously on The Walking Dead / next time on The Walking Dead

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Walking Dead S4E14 "The Grove" 3/16/14

OMG, another episode without Rick! That should automatically give it an A grade.  But instead we have histrionics and unearned tragedy.  On the plus side, we seem to be systematically weeding out characters I don't need to care about anymore.

We open with a shot looking out a kitchen window.  A teakettle is whistling and old timey music is playing.  We hear giggling coming from outside but as the camera pans to the window, we see what looks like a young girl playing tag with a zombie.  That can't end well.

This episode focuses on Carol, Tyrese, Lizzie, Mika and Judith.  They stop for the night along the railroad tracks.  While Tyrese and Mika sleep, Carol sits up, keeping watch, holding Judith and talking with Lizzie.  Lizzie asks if Carol had any kids of her own.  Carol: I did.  She was sweet and didn't have a mean bone in her body.  Lizzie: Is that why she's not here now?  Carol: Yes.  Lizzie gives her a hug and then goes to lie down next to the others, stepping wide around Tyrese who seems to be having a nightmare.

In the morning, Carol dresses a wound on Tyrese's arm with some pine sap, to seal it and fight the infection.  The group continues walking along the tracks, smelling smoke in the air (from Daryl and Beth's fire, actually).  After a bit, Tyrese, Lizzie and the baby sit and rest while Carol and Mika search for water.  When a walker gets trapped between some railroad ties, Tyrese goes out to dispatch it but Lizzie runs after him and asks him not to kill it.  With misgivings, he doesn't bash its head in since it's trapped and not going anywhere.  Meanwhile, on the water search, Carol gives Mika the hard sell, saying that she has to toughen up.  Mika says that she isn't messed up like Lizzie - she knows what walkers are and can kill them - but she could never ever kill a person.  "I don't even wish I could [kill bad people.]"  She is also sweet and without a mean bone in her body.  Carol's all, you have to change!  Then they find a tidy farmhouse in a lovely grove of pecan trees.

Carol and Mika go back and fetch the others, bringing them back to the farmhouse.  By now, a huge plume of smoke is visible above the trees but far enough away to not be a danger.  Carol and Tyrese go inside the farmhouse to clear it; Lizzie holds Judith and Mika pulls out her gun.  The sisters get into an argument about whether zombies are people or not - Mika: They aren't people, Lizzie, they're just dead! - and then a walker staggers out of the house, falling over the porch railing and crawling towards the girls.  While Lizzie just screams, Mika fires off several shots and finally kills it.  The adults run out.  Lizzie is shaking and crying but won't say why.  Mika goes to her big sister and tells her to just "look at the flowers like you're supposed to, and count to three."  So, obviously Lizzie has been fucked up since before the zombie apocalypse and this is a coping mechanism her family put into place.  Lizzie says that she tries to understand but she gets confused.  That night, as Carol and Lizzie crack pecans and Tyrese sinks gratefully into an armchair, Mika looks around with a grin and exclaims, "We should live here!"

In the morning, Carol puts the teakettle on.  And then looks out the window to see Lizzie laughing and scampering just out of reach of a zombie.  Carol runs outside and Lizzie begs her not to kill it.  Carol tosses the girl to one side and kills off the walker.  Lizzie freaks out - complete, over the top hysterics - screaming that "she" was her friend and Carol killed "her," etc. etc.  Carol stares at the sobbing girl, shakes her head and is all, WTF am I going to do with this?

A while later, Carol and Mika try to go hunting for some fresh meat.  They find a deer but Mika can't/refuses to shoot it.  The deer walks off.  Carol looks disappointed but Mika just shrugs, "We have peaches!"  She's pretty cute, Mika.  After that, Carol and Tyrese go off to fetch water - why would both adults go, leaving two little girls and a baby alone? - Tyrese echoes Mika's comment from the night before, saying that maybe they don't need to go to Terminus, maybe they could just stay here.  Meanwhile, Mika notices Lizzie skulking around the barn.  She follows her older sister out to the train tracks and watches as Lizzie feeds the trapped walker a rat.  Mika is all, zombies are bad and they want to kill you!  Lizzie, a beatific smile on her face, disagrees, saying that the walkers just want her to change to be like them.  "Maybe I should change."  As Lizzie holds out her hand to the walker, a number of horrifying burned walkers lurch out of the trees towards them.  Both girls run back to the farmhouse, screaming for Tyrese and Carol.  They duck through the barbed wire fence, Mika almost getting dragged back through.  Then all four of them pull their guns and fire on the approaching charred walkers, even Lizzie.  They kill them all and everyone gets at least one.  Carol pulls Lizzie into a hug: you did it!  Man, those burned zombies were gruesome.  That night, Carol and Lizzie talk about what happened.  Lizzie said that she had to help and now she knows what she has to do.  Carol is all, it's hard and horrible but that's what we have to do now.  Mika pipes up that she doesn't want to be mean.  Lizzie turns to her and says that sometimes you have to, but only sometimes.

The next day, Tyrese and Carol go out again together, leaving the girls home alone.  There's a lot of talking, Tyrese going on and on about his dead girlfriend Karen and how he dreams about her, how she's haunting him.  Carol listens, a guilty look on her face.  It almost looks like she's going to confess to having killed Karen (and the other guy, Whatsisname) but she doesn't, instead saying that the dead aren't haunting them but reminding them of everything they have to do to survive.  He pulls her into a hug and she clutches at him.

They walk back to the house and here it is.  Judith is crawling around on a quilt spread on the lawn.  Mika is lying on the lawn too, Lizzie standing over her, a knife in one hand and up to her elbows in blood.  "Don't worry!" she says, smiling, "She'll come back.  I didn't hurt her brain!"  Tyrese's jaw hits the ground.  Carol pulls out her own knife and steps towards Mika.  But Lizzie draws her gun and points it at Carol, saying that she just wants to wait for Mika to come back and show them all.  Carol coaxes the gun from her, suggesting that Tyrese and Lizzie take Judith back to the house for lunch.  Lizzie says that she was just about to change Judith too - Carol breaks in that the baby can't even walk yet, so that's a bad idea.  Carol says that she'll just tie Mika up so she can't wander off.  Lizzie agrees to this and goes back to the house with Tyrese.  After they've gone, Carol staggers, dropping her gear, gasping.  Then she straightens up and takes her knife in hand, stepping towards Mika's body.

The grownups lock Lizzie in her bedroom, making sure to take all her weapons away.  Then they talk about what to do.  Carol's all, she can't be around people - she and I will go away.  Tyrese says that they'll never make it out there alone.  He suggests that he and Judith continue on towards Terminus (they certainly can't have the baby under the same roof as Lizzie) but Carol points out that they wouldn't make it either.  He says maybe they can help her but Carol shakes her head: "This is just how she is.  She can't be around other people."

Carol and Lizzie go for a walk, ostensibly to pick wildflowers to give Mika when she comes back.  Carol is sad and Lizzie picks up on it.  "Are you mad at me? ... I'm sorry I pointed my gun at you, I just needed you to wait.  I'm sorry!"  But she's only sorry for the gun and doesn't know that killing her sister was at all wrong.  As Lizzie cries and looks at the flowers, Carol steps behind her and cocks her gun.  She's crying but her hand is steady and she puts Lizzie down with one shot to the head.

That night, sitting silently in the house after burying the sisters, Carol slides her gun across the table to Tyrese and says, "I killed Karen and David.  I had to stop the sickness from spreading ... It was me.  You do what you have to do."  She sits there, crying quietly and watches as Tyrese as he works through it.  But he is tired of all the death and, after asks if Karen's death was quick, he says he forgives her.  He'll never forget it but he forgives her.  "We don't need to stay here," he continues.  "We can't stay."

In the morning, they're back on the train tracks, Tyrese carrying baby Judith on his back, continuing on towards Terminus.

Here's the thing.  This was tragic, of course, but it was also not at all subtle and a shameless play by the show to make us feel bad about children dying.  We hardly knew these little girls and yet now we're supposed to feel terrible about what happened to them.  If they'd stuck around for a while, if Lizzie's madness came out more organically over time, if we'd gotten to know them, then maybe I'd cry.  But no.  This was ugly and violent but it was unearned.

Previously on The Walking Dead / next time on The Walking Dead

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Walking Dead S4E13 "Alone" 3/9/14

Yay!  Another episode bereft of Rick and Carl!

Bob.  Bob wanders, alone in the woods.  Damn, am I tired of our heroes walking through the woods. (I do like the folk/rock song that's playing though: Blackbird Song by Lee DeWyze.)  He avoids walkers, finds shelter where he can, drinks NyQuil because he's an alcoholic.  And then, one day, Daryl and Glen find him and, after he answers their three questions (how many walkers have you killed, how many people have you killed and why), he gladly goes with them back to the prison.  Flashback, you see.  Bob doesn't like to be alone.

Bob, Maggie, Sasha.  After the commercial, Bob, Maggie and Sasha defend themselves back-to-back-to-back against a small herd of walkers in a thick fog.  Fog is tough, because the humans need to see what's coming.  They manage to fend the zombies off, but it's a close call and Sasha has to use a couple of their few remaining bullets.  After the melee, Maggie is dispirited to find that their compass got broken.  Bob says they'll be fine, they'll stick to the plan (which is trying to find Glen still, I guess).  After some walking, they find some train tracks and one of those Terminus: Sanctuary signs.  Maggie decides that that's where Glen would be headed so they should go there.  Sasha is reluctant, noting how far away it is.  Maggie and Bob gang up on her, gently, and Bob says that they cannot split up.  They start following the tracks towards Terminus.

Daryl and Beth.  Daryl is teaching Beth how to track and how to shoot the crossbow.  She gets sassy, saying that pretty soon she won't need him at all,  "Yeah, keep on trackin'," he says.  They come upon their quarry: a zombie carrying a gun.  Beth approaches, ready to shot but steps in an animal trap.  Daryl dispatches the walker and frees Beth; her ankle is sprained but not broken, luckily.  She struggles to walk and Daryl volunteers to give her a piggyback.  On the far side of a cemetery, they see a big white house.  As they head there, through the headstones, Beth sees one - Beloved Father - and pauses.  Daryl yanks up some flowers and places them on the headstone; Beth reaches out and holds his hand.

When they get to the house, it is immaculate, clean and filled with antiques - obviously recently cared for by someone.  They search the place, however, and find no one living: there's a prepared corpse in a casket in the living room and a couple more down cellar - this is, at least partially, a funeral home.  Beth thinks it's nice, that someone wanted to give these poor dead folks a decent burial.  Daryl thinks about it, and wraps her ankle.

Bob, Maggie and Sasha.  While Maggie gathers more firewood, Bob and Sasha hang back at their makeshift camp and talk.  Sasha wants to stop wandering.  She thinks Glen is dead and that it's pointless to chase him.  They should find a town with tall buildings to set up in and just survive.  Bob just wants them to all stick together.  In the morning, they find a message Maggie wrote in the dirt before taking off: DON'T RISK YOUR LIVES FOR ME.  Bob insists that they track her down, knowing that on her own, she's at great risk.  Meanwhile, out on the tracks, Maggie finds another Terminus: Sanctuary sign.  She starts to scratch a message next to it with her knife, then hears an approaching zombie and gets a better idea.  She quickly puts down the walker and cuts into its guts, thrusting her bare hand inside.

Daryl and Beth.  As they explore the house, Daryl and Beth find a treasure trove in the kitchen.  "Peanut butter and jelly, diet cola and pigs' feet.  That's a white trash brunch right there," declares Daryl.  Beth starts grabbing cans of food but Daryl stops her, saying that none of this stuff is dusty.  It must be someone's recent stash, so they'll just take some of it.  "And those pig's feet are mine," he says.  Later, Beth finds a piano and sings a little.  Daryl finishes locking up the house and jumps into the casket (the dead guy having been evicted to somewhere else).  After declaring it the most comfortable bed he's had in years, he asks her to keep playing and singing.  DARYL LIKES BETH.  That heart-to-heart she forced him into last episode has softened up our favorite redneck badass.

Bob and Sasha.  Walking on the railroad tracks and talking.  Bob's soooooo glad not to be alone.  They come upon that Terminus sign and see that Maggie has written "Glen, go to Terminus, Maggie" in the walker's blood.  Blah blah blah.  More talking when they bunk down in a derelict barn at night.  Sasha wants to stop wandering; Bob wants to find Maggie.

Daryl and Beth.  At breakfast the next morning, they hear a noise outside but it's just a stray one-eyed dog.  Daryl tries to get him to come inside but the dog runs off.  Beth hopes the dog will come back around.  Later that day, Beth writes a thank you note to the folks who had been living in the funeral home.  Daryl suggests that maybe the two of them don't move on, maybe they should stay here a while and if the folks come back, they can try to make it work.  Beth's all, so you do think there are still good people in the world - what changed your mind?  Daryl, with sidelong looks, mumbles: You know.  Beth finally figures it out.  The awkwardness is broken when they hear the dog outside again.  Daryl goes to let him in but it's a huge crush of zombies bursting into the house.  Daryl staggers backwards, shouting for Beth to grab her stuff and meet him out on the road.  He leads the zombies down into the mortuary - christ, there's like twelve of them after him - and narrowly manages to get away from them, dropping quite a few.  When he gets out to the road, he sees Beth's bag, its contents spilled onto the tarmac.  A big black car peels out and drives away into the night.  "BETH!" Daryl screams, futilely chasing after the speeding car on foot.  Come morning, he is still chasing down the road, staggering, running when he can, following the tire tracks in the mud and the leaves.  Then he comes to a crossroads.  He drops his crossbow and drops to his knees.  She's lost.

Bob and Sasha.  Still walking and talking.  They keep finding Maggie's bloody signs for Glen.  When they come to a small town, there's a brick warehouse near the tracks.  Sasha tries again to talk Bob into stopping and making a go of it here.  Bob's like, no, Maggie is out there alone.  Sasha's like, well, I'm staying here and Bob keeps going, chasing Maggie down the tracks.  (So, he doesn't want Maggie to be alone but he's okay with Sasha doing it?  Your logic does not resemble Earth logic, Bob.)  Sasha goes into the warehouse which, at first glance anyway, seems clean of zombies.  She nearly starts crying but wrestles it down.  When she looks out the window, there are several dead zombies lying by an ice cream truck.  She accidentally knocks the window out of its frame; when it crashes to the ground, one of the corpses pops up: it's Maggie, who is alive and was hiding in plain sight.  A bunch of walkers show up, drawn by the crash, and Sasha runs downstairs to help Maggie put them down.  After the battle - Maggie uses an uprooted street sign as an effective improvised weapon - Maggie asks for Sasha's help in finding Glen. Sasha admits that she's scared to go to Terminus, fearing that she won't find Tyrese there, but agrees to help.  They head off down the tracks, chasing Bob.

Daryl.  After some time, a group of badasses walks up and surrounds Daryl.  It's the biker group (sans motorcycles) that Rick dealt with a couple of episodes ago.  The leader, introducing himself as "Joe," recognizes Daryl as a fellow badass and invites him to join up.  Daryl warily agrees, knowing that he's too vulnerable alone.  I can't see this association ending well.

Maggie and Sasha and Bob.  The girls find Bob and give him big hugs as he grins widely.  They continue down the tracks towards Terminus.

Glen.  Glen, on the tracks himself, finds one of Maggie's signs.

Man, I sure do like that song, even if it is by a friggin' American Idol winner.

Previously on The Walking Dead / next time on The Walking Dead

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Walking Dead S4E12 "Still" 3/2/14

This episode is pretty talky, but it's also pretty much filler - the plot doesn't move forward since all we do is hang out with Daryl and Beth on their quest to get Beth her first drink - so I'm not going to stress about getting too much of the dialogue right.  On the plus side, this has got to be the most concentrated screen time Norman Reedus has had since the series began.

Daryl and Beth scamper through the woods, trying to avoid a herd of zombies.  This really isn't that scary anymore, since all our main characters are turning into survivalist killers and know how to put down zombies.  But there are a lot of walkers in this herd so Daryl and Beth take shelter in the trunk of a big derelict car, tying it closed.  They sit there, through the night, clutching their weapons and hoping the walkers don't get the trunk open.  All we see is their faces, and the light moving as the zombies move past; we hear the growls and grunts and snarls of what sounds like hundreds of zombies.  It's a little tense and pretty well done.  In the morning, once the herd has moved on, they climb out of the trunk into the sunshine.  [And here I call bullshit #1: they would have been so cramped after staying in the trunk the whole night that they couldn't have moved around that well.]  They scavenge some stuff from the wreckage - metal hubcaps, a side mirror, pieces of glass - and move on.  Neither of them has said a word this whole time.  Daryl seems okay with this, Beth less so.

They set up camp, stringing the hubcaps along the perimeter as a warning system, using the glass and mirror to start a fire.  Daryl misses a squirrel (because his crossbow quarrels are starting to deteriorate) but catches, skins and cooks them a big ol' snake.  They eat, not talking to each other.  Finally, Beth has had enough and announces that she needs a drink.  Daryl tosses her a water bottle and she's like, no, a real drink, 'cuz I've never had one.  Daryl isn't interested and so she sets off on her own.  She runs into some forest zombies, of course, but manages to avoid them.  Daryl finds her and takes her back to camp and she pitches a fit: I want a drink!  He gives up and they head off on their quest to get her drunk.

They find a country club - where the zombies wear cardigans and pearls - and the clubhouse is pretty gruesome.  People were camped out in there ... until they gave up and hung themselves, and now three zombies dangle from the ceiling, squirming lankly and growling.  Daryl and Beth make their way through the clubhouse, searching.  Daryl finds a big bag of money and, even though paper currency is useless anymore, is unable to leave it behind.  Beth finds a bottle of wine in the kitchen but ends up smashing it over an attacking zombie's head.  When they get to the pro shop, Beth delightedly changes her shirt.  She only stays clean for a few minutes, however, because when they get cornered by walkers in the locker room, Daryl goes to town on them with a set of golf clubs, dispatching the last of them with a mighty swing that splatters poor Beth with gore.  She glares at him.

Finally, they get to the bar.  She says [paraphrased] that all she wanted to do today was lay down and cry, but that isn't possible so she latched onto getting her first drink.  Daryl shrugs.  She searches the bar and finds an intact bottle of peach schnapps.  Beth: Is it good? Daryl: Nah.  She fusses around, cleaning cups, steeling herself while Daryl throws darts.  And then she can't do it, clutching the bottle and sobbing.  Daryl watches her, looks away, looks at her again.  Then he stomps up, snatches the bottle out of her hand and smashes it to the floor.  He growls, "Ain't gonna have your first drink be no peach schnapps.  C'mon."  Beth dries her eyes and follows him out of the clubhouse.

They walk through the woods a ways until they come upon a ramshackle redneck hovel.  Daryl says that he and Michonne found this place a while ago.  He heads straight to a back shed where, lo and behold, there's a still and numerous mason jars of moonshine.  They take the booze into the house which is appalling - and probably looked almost as bad before the zombie apocalypse.  Daryl pours her a slug: "There's a real first drink right there."  Beth takes a sip and flinches a little: "That's the most disgusting thing I've ever tasted."  Then she drinks again.  [And here I call bullshit #2: there is NO WAY she could be drinking moonshine like that.  No effing way.]

Beth convinces Daryl that they should make the best of it and they commence to drinking. After a bit, Beth teaches him how to play "I Never" (which her friends would play while she watched.  Beth: I never shot a crossbow.  Daryl drinks.  Daryl: I never been out of Georgia.  Beth drinks.  Beth: I've been drunk and done something I regretted.  Daryl takes a big drink.  Daryl:  I never been on vacation.  Beth drinks.  Beth: I've never been in jail.  Daryl, wounded: Is that what you think of me?  Drink up.  Before long, though, Daryl turns into a belligerent drunk (actually, it's kind of abrupt, like a scene was edited out).  He starts shouting about how he never ate frozen yogurt, never got nothing from Santa Claus, never cut his wrists looking for attention.  Beth gets nervous because drunk Daryl is a little scary.  A lone zombie starts banging around outside and Daryl gets an idea: You never shot a crossbow? He grabs Beth and drags her outside.  With a quick couple of shots, he pins the zombie to a tree and then forces Beth to shoot at the trapped walker.  She breaks loose and stabs the zombie in the head with her knife.

She shouts at him, [paraphrasing] you need to feel something for the people we lost, you need to admit how you feel, and you need to let people get close to you.  Daryl finally reaches his breaking point, shouting back that they've lost everyone.  "Governor rolled right up to our gates. [Voice breaking] Maybe if I hadn't stopped looking ... that's on me.  And your dad - maybe I could have done something."  He turns away from her but she grabs him from behind in a hug.  He hangs his head and you can hear his quiet sobs.

That night, Beth is still sipping at the moonshine [bullshit, I say!] although Daryl decides to abstain.  He notes that she's a happy drunk but he's a dick.  They talk and talk and talk, and Daryl is more relaxed and open than he's been, telling her that he was nothing before the zombies came, just a redneck asshole, following Merle around, getting in trouble.  Beth tells him earnestly that he's changed, he's a better man now and he was made to survive this hell on earth.  "I'm going to die but you'll be the last man standing."  Daryl doesn't look that happy at the prospect and notes that perhaps she is not a happy drunk.  At the end, instead of barricading themselves in the hovel, Beth suggests that they burn the house down and leave it, and Daryl's past, behind them.  They slosh the remaining moonshine all over the place and light it up.  They watch the blaze for a bit, each of them giving the inferno the finger, and then march off into the darkness.  [Bullshit #3: Starting a fire in a heavily wooded area with no way to contain it?  Bad idea.  Walking off into the zombie-infested forest in the dark of night, having just burned down a safe haven?  Very bad idea - but a nice visual.]

Previously on The Walking Dead / next time on The Walking Dead

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Three

I've been a busy little reader lately and thought I'd share with you:

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen.  Ugh. What a piece of crap.  I hate chick lit (like Bridges of Madison County, The Mermaid Chair and the like) and this book despite its male narrator, is chick lit.  My friend Spencer - who introduced me to Joe Abercrombie, for which I will be eternally grateful - disliked WfE too, saying that although this book tries to pass itself off as "literature" but is really just a step above a Nicholas Sparks novel.  The romantic/dramatic premise is stupid; I don't like animal abuse, even fictional; and the whole story just abruptly and implausibly ends, like the author was tired of writing and just decided to stop.  Ugh.

Dare Me by Megan Abbott.  This one is about high school cheerleaders, who are a scary breed anyway.  Add to them the teenage girl cruelty, body issues and angst, and sprinkle on some unexpected violence and death and they're terrifying.  Addy Hanlon is the first-person narrator, second in command on the cheer squad to Beth, who runs the squad her own way until a new, young coach shows up.  Coach whips the cheerleaders' bodies into shape, honing their skills and advancing their technique until they are unstoppable.  For this they worship her - except for Beth, who resents the newcomer.  Addy in particular is drawn to Coach, developing a friendship with her outside of cheering, which Beth also resents.  Then there's a suicide and the police begin to look closely at Coach and her cheerleaders, and Addy doesn't know who or what to believe.  Dare Me is a good book, a page-turner, and will do nothing to convince its readers that high school girls are not monsters.

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan.  The third book in my recent reading foray is my favorite, an unusual quest story in which the stakes are not life-or-death (again, thanks, Spencer) but are the solving of an ancient literary puzzle.  Clay Jannon (another first-person narrator) needs a job and finds one as the overnight clerk at the titular bookstore.  It is evident from the moment he steps into the store that this place is weird, with its high shelves filled with obscure volumes - and the oddball characters who come in at regular intervals to borrow these books, not buy them.  Clay is intrigued and he and his friends - a movie practical effects specialist, a Google phenom and a multimillionaire software guru whose bread and butter is anatomical rendering - use new technology to figure out the puzzle hidden in the Old Knowledge [books].  I loved Penumbra.  It's funny, clever and intelligent, with interesting characters, a solid story and a rich mythology - loads of fun.