Sunday, May 17, 2015

Movie review: Mad Max: Fury Road

Just go see it.

Mad Max: Fury Road is quite possibly the best action movie I've ever seen.  There is nothing extraneous in it; it is taut, linear and exposition-free.  The mostly practical stunts are incredible - Cirque du Soleil performers were apparently hired to fling themselves around on long, bendy poles whilst attached to battle-cars careening through the desert.  Tom Hardy, as the new Max, is good and has a complete character arc even though he has scarcely any dialogue.  Charlize Theron, on the other hand, is incredible and a complete bad ass.  I want her on my side when the apocalypse comes.  The non-headlining characters are amazingly well-rounded; the Wives refuse to be victims and Nicholas Hoult, as warboy Nux, is both hilarious and heartbreaking.  The two hour movie is nearly non-stop action; when the theater lights came up, I was completely exhausted and yet, if I'd been given the option, I would have watched again, right then, immediately.  The worst part of the whole thing was having to get into my meek, poky little Subaru Forester afterwards and then drive calmly home, obeying all the traffic lights.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Mini book reviews: Alanna: The First Adventure and Sabriel

I think I picked these books out of an NPR Book Review page, probably something listing a bunch of young adult/science fiction and fantasy titles - I can't think where else I would have found them.  They aren't new books - Alanna is from 1983; and Sabriel is from 1995.

Alanna: The First Adventure - by Tamora Pierce.  When their father decides to send them off for training, eleven year old twin, Alanna and Thom, hatch a plan: tomboy Alanna, who wants to be a knight, will disguise herself as a boy and go off to learn sword-fighting, horsemanship, chivalry and the lot, while her brother Thom, who has a facility for magic, will go to school to learn to be a sorcerer.  Young "Alan" makes friends - and enemies - quickly at the castle, and throws herself into learning how to be a knight, showing remarkable skill with a sword; she is also unable to entirely distance herself from magic, and once she saves the prince's life, she becomes entangled in palace intrigue.  As the title suggests, the book follows Alanna's exploits, only barely checking in on Thom, following her through the first couple of years of her training.  This Alanna book, the first in a quartet, is written for very young adults, or better yet children.  The writing is not particularly sophisticated, the characters are not well developed and the plot seems written in rather broad strokes.  I've read children's fantasy that are clever, intriguing, well-written and intricately plotted - this is not one of them.

Sabriel by Garth Nix.  Sabriel is a particular kind of sorcerer, an estranged native of the Old Kingdom and daughter of the Abhorsen, trained to go into Death, ushering lost souls into the light and keeping Death's more gruesome denizens from overrunning the earth.  On her eighteenth birthday, she was supposed to meet with her father; he never shows up, instead sending a messenger to her with his enchanted tools and bells for safekeeping.  Sabriel enters the Old Kingdom, on a quest to look for him.  Along the way she makes some strange acquaintances and good comrades, and ends up wading deeper into Death than she ever has before.  I liked Sabriel more than I did Alanna, but again, this book seems lightweight (despite all the death and destruction and scary scenes) somehow.  It switches point-of-view oddly a couple of times, which was distracting enough to pull me out of the story, and the characters are pretty thin.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Daredeviling

POSSIBLE LIGHT SPOILERS FOR THOSE WHO HAVEN'T WATCHED YET.  IF THERE ARE ANY OF THOSE LEFT.

I know, I'm supposed to be finishing up Ultraviolet but I have gotten completely sidetracked with Netflix's Daredevil. I haven't been totally binge-watching it - limiting myself to two or three episodes a night because (1) it lasts longer that way and (2) I fall asleep if I try to stay up longer than that.  I feel not binge-watching it probably is a good thing too: I just love it but it is extremely violent and quite often graphic.  I'm talking on-purpose self-impalement through the eye and pulpy decapitation via repeated car door slams, in particular.  I don't think these two instances were necessarily gratuitous because in the first example, it showed how scary the Kingpin is that a minion would rather off himself gruesomely than deal with the aftermath of betraying the boss; and in the second, the character doing the decapitating has, up until this point, been remarkably smooth and controlled and the sudden switch is all the more terrifying.

I think Daredevil is very well cast.  It's grim and dark (both literally and emotionally/figuratively) and yet still human and funny.  Some of the action/fight scenes are simply amazing, including this one spectacular one-take shot with Matt Murdock vs. many, many Russians in a long corridor.  I've seen up through E8 and am hoping to get through the rest of the season this weekend.  Avengers ... Ultron is just going to have to wait.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Meanwhile ...

I'm currently girding my loins at the prospect of beginning the recaps for True Blood Season 6 - I know that's my usual summer go-to but ohdearlord I just can't face it, not yet.  Television-wise I'm sort of saturated with comic book shows (Arrow, The Flash, iZombie, Gotham, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) and am almost done with Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, which I do like but am finding uneven.  I'm holding off on starting Daredevil (which is getting very good reviews) until I finish Kimmy but I have also succumbed to the DVD temptations of Ultraviolet: it's only six episodes and how can you NOT love a dark and stylish, late 1990s British vampire show where they don't ever say "vampire" and also a young Idris Elba?  It's like that show was made for me.

I have also cracked a book or two, including:

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson.  A lightweight, YA urban fantasy with a first person narrator (naturally).  Set in modern day London, American teenager Rory Deveaux starts her new boarding school just as a Jack the Ripper copycat begins menacing the city. Rory becomes entangled in the intrigue as she starts seeing people that none of her new friends can see.  Highlights include boarding school traditions, field hockey, a little bit of romance and secret ghost hunters.  It's the first book in the series, Shades of London.

Also, and which I liked much better:

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman.  Again with a first person narrator, this is YA high fantasy and much, much more complicated plot-wise; this one has dragons, court intrigue, musical theory, secrets and lies.  Seraphina Dombegh is the court's assistant music mistress, talented beyond her years but not quite comfortable around all the lords and ladies.  When Prince Rufus gets murdered, it seems like a dragon may have done it, which could derail the forty years of peace between humans and dragons.  Seraphina is caught in the middle because she has a secret: she is half dragon herself, an abomination whose dragon mother died and whose human father seems to want nothing to do with her.  She gets drawn into things as her musical student, Princess Grisselda, and the Princess's cousin/fiance, Prince Lucian Kiggs, begin to dig deeper into the mystery surrounding the murder as the tension between humans and dragons builds in the kingdom.  Seraphina is an interesting character: stubborn, smart, lonely, talented, brave and conflicted about her dragon heritage.  There's a twisty plot; the characters are interesting and have arcs, becoming deeper as the story goes on.  I will definitely read the next one, Shadow Scale, to see what comes next for Seraphina, 'Selda and Kiggs.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Walking Dead S5E16 "Conquer" 3/29/15

Season 5 finale time!  After all the rampant speculation on the interwebs - Glen's gonna die! Carol's gonna die! Norman Reedus is selling his Georgia home so Daryl's gonna die! - everyone was pretty wound up and nervous about what was going to go down.  Despite some very, very gnarly zombie effects, the last episode of S5 would turn out much less carnage-y than I feared it would be.  Plus, Carol?  Total BAMF.  As if we didn't already know that.

Morgan!!! It's Morgan, hunkered down for a nap in a derelict car somewhere in the woods.  He gets up and boils some water for soup or oatmeal.  Before he can partake, however, a sketchy looking dude walks out of the underbrush, pointing a gun at him.  They talk a little, calmly, almost pleasantly.  Morgan asks what the W carved into the guy's head is for.  The guy explains about how all the wolves in the area were killed by the settlers.  But the Wolves are back now.  Things get a bit tenser when the Wolf stops Morgan from sipping his soup/oatmeal, saying that he's going to take everything that Morgan has and he's going to kill Morgan to boot.  Morgan shrugs and puts the mug down.  After a little more talking, a second Wolf comes out of the woods behind Morgan.  Not to worry, though: Morgan has traded his former feral-craziness for some badass quarterstaff moves and he proceeds to clobber the crap out of the two Wolves.  When they are unconscious, he stuffs them in the car he'd been sleeping in and honks the horn a little to draw any local walkers in.  I have a feeling he probably should have killed them - I'm afraid his mercy will come back to bite him (or someone else).

Daryl and Aaron.  The recruiting team parks their chopper and car, respectively, and heads into the woods on foot.  They're following someone's trail.  Aaron says that when they get close enough, they'll set up a microphone and listen until they're sure whether the potential recruit is worthy.  A bit later, they spot the guy they've been trailing.  He's wearing a red rain poncho and rubbing some wild leeks over his face and hands.  Daryl grunts, impressed that Red Poncho Guy knows such natural mosquito repellent.

Rick.  Rick wakes up, woozy and heavily bandaged, in a room that isn't his.  Michonne is there, watching him.  She asks him WTF he's doing and why didn't he tell her what was going on.  Glen, Carol and Abraham show up and Carol immediately pounces on Rick: "Where'd you get the gun?  You took it from the armory, didn't you? Stupid."  Rick catches on quickly to her ruse and agrees.  Glen says that there's going to be a meeting tonight to discuss what to do.  Carol tells Rick what to say - Pete, abuser, etc. - and finishes with, "Just tell the story that they want to hear. It's what I've been doing since we got here."  Michonne, baffled: "Why?"  Carol: "Because these people are children and children like stories."  Damn.  Carol is stone-cold.  Abraham wonders what happens after all the talking, when they still want to kick Rick out.  They come up with a plan to use their knives (the armory is now guarded), grab Deanna and other key people, and force the Alexandrians to surrender to them.  Glen wants to know if Rick planned all this.  Rick says no, he just hit his limit and screwed up, and now they have to deal with the fall-out.

Maggie.  Maggie is with Deanna and Reg (Deanna's husband).  Deanna says that tonight's meeting is just for people to talk and then she'll make the decision about Rick.  Maggie pleads his case a bit, citing all the things Rick (and by extension, the rest of the group) has been through but Deanna is all, I'll do as I see fit.  Maggie takes her leave and Reg chases after her.  He is on her side and tells her that he'll tell his wife that Alexandria needs Rick and his group - that's what he's going to tell everyone.  Maggie feels a little bit better about that at least.

Sasha.  Outside the community's walls, Sasha has dug a pit.  She collects all the walkers she killed from the clocktower and dumps them in.  Then, she stares into the pit and climbs into it, lying down on top of the dead zombies.  It's a cool visual but her character is so thinly drawn that I just don't care about all this PTSD/depression/what-have-you she's going through.

Rick.  Carol comes back after the rest have gone.  She hands him another gun, saying she didn't tell the others about the guns she took because she's just not sure where they stand.  Rick sighs, saying he doesn't want to lie anymore.  Carol: "You said you don't want to take this place.  And you don't want to lie?  Oh, sunshine, you don't get both."  Later, Rick leaves wherever it was he'd been put, walking down the street without challenge.  Deanna watches him go by, a scowl on her face.  He heads home, where Carl is waiting with Judith.  He warns the boy that he may have to hurt or kill some townspeople to keep from being exiled.  Carl shakes his head, saying all Rick needs to do is tell the Alexandrians just what it is like outside their walls.

Glen and Maggie.  Maggie fills Glen in on the deal with Deanna, saying that she's going to spend the rest of the day talking to people and campaigning for Rick.  She heads off and he sits, lost in thought until he sees Nicholas scaling the walls.  Curious and/or pissed off, Glen follows him.

Gabriel.  Father Gabriel, wearing nothing but a white shirt and not carrying any weapons, leaves Alexandria via the front gate.  Deanna's remaining son Spencer questions the wisdom of going out unarmed but Gabriel says he's just going out for a short walk.

Daryl and Aaron.  Outside a fenced cannery/warehouse, Aaron shrugs: they've lost the trail of Red Poncho Guy but they're found this place - they need more food and this is a potential gold mine.  Daryl seems a little fashed at giving up on chasing their recruit but ultimately agrees.  They quickly kill the few zombies wandering around in the fence and head inside.  Four or five semi trucks are backed into the loading dock, doors closed.  Daryl opens one of the trailers - which trips a wire and suddenly ALL of the trailer doors fly open.  And the trailers are FULL of walkers.  The zombies swarm out and they are everywhere.  Daryl and Aaron take cover under a trailer, just to regroup, but they can't stay there and scramble out again.  Daryl snatches up a length of chain and when he's out from under the trailer AWESOMELY DECAPITATES THREE ZOMBIES with one lashing of that chain.  Best. Zombie. Death. Ever.  They try to make a run for it but there are way too many zombies and there's no way to get clear.  They make their way to a small station wagon, left parked behind the trailers.  They jump inside - Aaron crushes a walker's skull trying to get the door closed - and are safe for the moment.  For the moment.  There are so many zombies, all looking at them through the glass.  They look for something to block the windows, hoping the zombies will get disinterested, but there's nothing there but a scrawled note on a scrap of paper: "TRAP BAD PEOPLE COMING DON'T STAY."  Well, duh.

Carol.  Carol has brought a casserole over to Pete, who is sitting in a house in the dark, telling him that he needs to go check on Tara (remember Tara?  Massive head wound?).  He is not well-pleased to see her.  When he starts to get belligerent, Carol calmly unbuttons her cardigan and pulls out a hunting knife.  "I could kill you right now," she says, almost conversationally.  "I could.  I will.  And then, who is going to believe I did it because I didn't like you? No one.  They'll believe you tried to hurt me."  Pete laughs nervously, leaning in at her, and she pushes the point of the blade right up under his chin.  That stops him.  She tells him that the way things have played out, he has a chance - him here, Jessie over there.  "You're a small, weak nothing.  And with the world how it is, you're even weaker.  Play your cards right maybe you don't have to die."  She shoves the casserole dish into his hands, snarling that she wants her dish back - clean - when he's done.  When Carol leaves, Pete throws the casserole to the floor and stomps into another room, breaking things and shouting, "This isn't my house!"  Carol, you goddamn glorious puppet-master.

Glen.  Out in the woods, Glen hears Nicholas moving off but has lost sight of him.  Bad move, Glen.  Because Nicholas can see him and wastes no time shooting him with the gun of Rick's he pilfered an episode or so ago.  The bullet hits Glen in the shoulder and knocks him over, backwards down a ravine.  When Nicholas runs up to check, Glen is nowhere to be seen.

Rick.  Because Rick can't stop being a fairly creepy stalker, he swings by Jessie's house where she is halfheartedly picking up broken glass from the window Rick and Pete crashed through.  She tells him that he shouldn't be here, that they shouldn't be seen talking, but he insists that he just wants to know if she's okay.  He also says he's not sorry he did it, not matter what happens or what he ends up having to do.  As he turns to go, she tells him that he was right.  And across the street, a glowering Pete watches Rick walk away from his house and his wife.

Daryl and Aaron.  The guys are realizing that there's really no way out of this for them.  But Daryl laughs a little, saying that back at Alexandria, inside houses, he felt all closed up, but out here - even trapped in this little car - he feels more like himself.  "Pretty messed up, huh?"  But Aaron understands.  He says that the moment he knew he needed to bring Rick's group back to the community was when he watched Daryl lead his group to safety in the barn during that storm.  That was when he was sure they - and Daryl - were good people.  Daryl thinks about this for a couple of seconds and lights a cigarette.  And then he says, "I'll go.  I'll lead 'em out and you make a break for the fence. Just let me finish my smoke first."  And at that moment, thousands and thousands and thousands of Daryl fans screamed in horror at their televisions.  But Aaron's like, "No, no way.  We do it together - whether we make it or not - we have to."  Daryl nods in agreement and they decide to make a run for it, count of three.  One, two ... and a zombie's head splatters all over the window.  The guys are shocked.  It's Morgan!!!  And the guys realize not to look a gift horse in the mouth.  They rush out of the car as Morgan lays waste to enough walkers for them to get clear.  All three of them run for the fence and dash through the gate, slamming it closed behind them.  They introduce themselves and Aaron gasps out a thank you.  Daryl wants to know why.  Morgan: "Because now all life is precious."  Aaron starts his Alexandria sales pitch, noting that whoever set that trap is likely on their way.  Morgan says he has his own destination, but he's lost and could they maybe point out where they are on his map.  He hands his map to Daryl and it's the one he found with Abraham's note to Rick on it.  Daryl looks at the map and then looks intently at Morgan.

Gabriel.  Gabriel whistles as he walks, approaching a feeding walker.  He's decided to commit suicide by zombie and spreads his arms wide, whispering, "I'm ready" as the monster lurches closer.  But as the walker gets within biting distance, Gabriel can't go through with it.  He struggles with the zombie and manages to pull its head off.  Crying, he smashes the still-growling head with a handy rock and then walks over to the still-twitching victim and smashes his head too.  Then he crumples into a fetal position in the middle of the road and sobs.  You know, this guy is a good enough actor but I just don't care.

Abraham.  Abraham brings some flowers for Tara.  Rosita is keeping watch over her and Eugene is there too, asleep in a chair.  Abraham makes to leave when he sees Eugene, since they still have unresolved issues, but Rosita waves him in, then knocks a metal pan off the counter.  The racket wakes Eugene, forcing Abraham to deal with him.  They talk, both awkwardly, each apologizing to the other - for lying about Washington D.C.; for trying to kill Eugene over the lie - and also Eugene thanking Abraham for saving his life countless times.

Gabriel.  After his crying jag, Gabriel returns to Alexandria and Spencer opens the gate for him.  As the preacher walks back inside, Spencer leaves the gate open for Gabriel to close, in what is CLEARLY a plot device, saying that he wants to sneak off to the meeting.  The kid was like five feet away and he couldn't close the gate?  That's bullshit and even a flaky guard would never have done that.  Weak writing, especially since the meeting won't actually get going until after dark.  Regardless, Spencer runs off and Gabriel, who is in a daze of self pity, doesn't close the gate.

Glen.  Nicholas heads back towards Alexandria through the woods.  When a zombie approaches, he draws his knife and tries to be brave enough to put it down without shooting it.  But he isn't brave enough and shoots it instead, and that's when Glen comes charging out of the underbrush at him.  They fight, kicking, screaming, punching, clawing, stomping on knees, gouging fingers into gunshot wounds, and the ruckus they make draws several zombies.  Nicholas rolls away and a zombie falls on Glen.  He's weakened from being shot and I actually get a little nervous - because we're an hour in and no one has died yet.  Will it be Glen?

Rick.  Before the meeting, Michonne goes to check on Rick, asking if he's ready for the meeting.  He tells her that he, Carol and Daryl stole guns from the armory, working it out together.  He says he's been lying to Michonne because he wasn't sure how she'd take it and he hands over the gun Carol brought him.  Michonne:  "You think I'd try and stop you?"  Rick, with a bit of humor: "Well, you did hit me over the head."  Michonne is not joking around, however, and tells him that she did it for him, not the Alexandrians.  She says she thinks they can find a way to live here without their weapons ... but if they can't, she's still with him.  "Something's gonna happen.  Just don't make something happen."  And then she gives him his gun back and heads out to the meeting, telling him not to be too long.  As he gets ready to go, he looks out the window and immediately goes tense.  Next shot: Rick running down the street towards the open gate.  He slams the gate closed, noting a trail of blood drops heading into town.  Oops.  Something is loose in Alexandria.

Sasha and Gabriel.  But before we can get to the excitement of possible zombies roaming the town, we have to pause to go to the chapel.  Sasha is already there when Gabriel gets back.  She is lost, she says, and asks for his help.  And Gabriel decides to try suicide by Sasha instead, telling her no, he can't help her, she doesn't belong her because of what she did, beating those people to death back in his church.  He knows all the right buttons to push, invoking Bob and Tyrese, and she gets more and more distraught, finally struggling with him, getting him on the floor and shoving her rifle in his face.  "Do it," he whispers.

The meeting.  Deanna has gathered everyone (and there really don't seem to be very many Alexandrians - I wonder what the community's population is/is supposed to be) to talk about Rick and what he did and what he said.  Maggie and Michonne protest that Rick and Glen aren't here yet; Carol, with a sweet smile on her face, says that she's sure Rick will be here and she's sure they can work all this out.  But Deanna forges ahead.  Many of Rick's people - Maggie, Michonne, Carol (doing her best manipulative Stepford-talk) speak up on his behalf but Abraham is the best and I'll quote it in full:  "Simply put, there is a vast ocean of shit that you people don't know shit about.  Rick knows every fine grain of said shit.  And then some."  After that, Deanna tells the group the shortened version of what Gabriel told her about Rick and his group.  Jessie speaks up, saying since Gabriel isn't at the meeting, what Deanna is providing is just hearsay.  Maggie takes this opportunity to sneak away to look for Rick and/or Glen and/or Gabriel.

Not in the meeting.  Nicholas tiptoes through the woods, limping.  And then Glen, who is apparently unkillable, walks up behind him and clobbers him on the back of his head, dropping him.  Rick runs through the streets of Alexandria, looking for whatever got in.  He finds what he's looking for when he hears a dog barking.  It's four or five zombies.  He puts several down easily, knife through the skull, but the last one manages to get him on the ground.  Rick can't reach his weapons and so instead, squeezes and squeezes and squeezes until the zombie's head pops, splattering goo and rot and nasty liquid all over Rick's face.  SO GROSS.  Back out in the woods, Glen sits on Nicholas's chest, punching him for a while and then pulling out a gun.  Shaking, spitting, near hysterical, Glen pushes the barrel of the gun into the other man's forehead.  Nicholas begs for his life, shrieking, cowardly.  Glen comes very close to pulling the trigger ... but because he's still a good guy, he doesn't do it and even ends up helping Nicholas stagger back to Alexandria.  Meanwhile, back at the cannery, those two Wolves that Morgan didn't kill have caught Red Poncho Guy.  They slit his throat and then, using a remote, turn on flashing lights and loud music which are emanating from the trailers.  The zombies follow the distractions back into the trailers and the Wolves reset their trap.

Also not in the meeting.  Maggie enters the chapel before Sasha can pull the trigger and gently takes the gun away.  Sasha is crying.  Gabriel starts crying too, saying "They all died because of me."  Maggie takes his hand in hers, agreeing, "They did."  And then the three of them sit and quietly pray together.  Because faith in God has been so helpful thus far.

The meeting.  Some Alexandrian speaks up, saying that all he wants to do is protect his family and if that means exiling some or all of the newcomers ... well, he doesn't get to finish that thought because a gore-drenched Rick has finally arrived at the meeting.  And he's brought a visual aid: the corpse of one of the zombies he just killed.  He throws the corpse down and all the Alexandrians recoil.  (None of Rick's people even flinch.)  He says there wasn't a guard and the gate was open - he didn't bring the zombie in, it got inside on its own.  (Deanna glares at Spencer and he scampers off, back to his post.)  "They always will [get inside], the dead and the living.  Because we're in here.  They'll hunt us and find us and try to use us, try to kill us.  But we'll survive.  I'll show you how."  He says that he'd been thinking of how many Alexandrians he'd have to kill to save their lives - but now he thinks he doesn't have to [kill anyone].  He knows they'll change.  "Luck runs out."  And on top of those sage words, a drunken Pete staggers into the meeting, waving Michonne's sword wildly and raving, "You're not one of us! You're not one of us!"  Reg goes up to calm the doctor down.  Rick puts his hand on his gun and gives Carol a glance.  She shakes her head, hissing, "Not now" because she knew her confrontation with Pete would set him off OMG Carol you manipulative genius.  But Pete will not calm down and keeps waving that sword until he inadvertently slashes poor Reg's throat.  Reg goes down, choking and splashing blood everywhere as Deanna wails and cries.  Abraham pounces on Pete, knocking him to the ground and holding him there.  Reg bleeds out quickly.  Wild with grief, Deanna looks up at Rick, her constable, and snarls, "Rick.  Do it."  And without hesitation, Rick pulls his gun and shoots Pete in the head.  And just then Daryl and Aaron and Morgan walk up.  Morgan, Mister "Life is Precious," looks at dead Pete and looks at his old acquaintance, and says, shocked, "Rick!"

Post credits.  Michonne goes to the mantel to hang her sword back up.  She pauses, jams the sword back in its scabbard and slings it across her back.  It goes well with her constable's uniform, I think.  And back at that cannery, as Red Poncho Zombie lurches around the fenced-in yard, we see a message graffitied onto a derelict car: WOLVES NOT FAR.  That can't be good.

So, as I said, not very carnage-y.  Carol, Daryl and Glen all survived - all our gang survived, surprisingly.  As much as I am relieved that none of my favorites got killed off, this season finale seemed a bit anti-climatic, like it's just setting us up for the Wolves in S6.  I guess we'll find out.

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

Friday, March 27, 2015

The Walking Dead S5E15 "Try" 3/22/15

Deanna, her husband and her remaining son sit around the house, mourning Aiden and listening to one of his "Run Mix" CDs.  You know, because Nine Inch Nails is such excellent bereavement music.  Elsewhere: Carol makes a casserole and writes a sympathy card; Sasha, looking more and more unstable, takes up her post in the watchtower and takes out a zombie.  Her aim is still good as ever.  After a knock on the door, Deanna finds Carol's casserole, left on the doorstep.  She picks up the card and goes back inside, leaving the casserole there, then takes the card to a candle and burns it, unread.  Also, outside the walls, Daryl and Aaron see the flicker of a campfire out in the distance.  There's someone else out there.

Deanna watches the tape she made of her interview with Nicholas after the disastrous run from last episode.  This interview is intercut with shots of Glen (talking to Rick).  Nicholas blatantly lies about what went down, claiming that Glen left Aiden to die and was actively trying to push him out the revolving door and into the waiting zombies.  Nicholas: "They did this! It was them ... these people have to go - they are not like us."  But Glen, he tells the truth, sadly, exhaustedly, tells the truth about Nicholas's cowardice and Noah's death.  He speaks earnestly when Rick mutters that [Rick's group] doesn't have to abide by the Alexandrian rules.  "We have to make this work!" - Noah wanted it that way.

That night, as she and Rick watch Jessie and her sons from across the way, Carol asks if he's thought about what to do about Pete.  She says that Sam told her that his mom put a bolt on the inside of his closet and told him to hide in there when the fighting gets bad.  Carol: "If walkers hadn't gotten Ed, I wouldn't be standing here right now."  Some time later, Pete comes up to Rick, who is standing in a small park, revolver in hand, staring into the middle distance. Pete is looking a little drunk and a little clueless and Rick growls at him to "keep walking."  A befuddled Pete stammers and then moves on.

In the morning, Michonne gets up, looks at her new constable uniform and sighs.  Rosita comes in and tells her that she thinks Sasha spent the night in the watch tower (Abraham is up there now) but then didn't come back home.  They grab up some weapons (a handgun for Michonne, a big knife for Rosita) and go outside the walls, looking for their friend.  It's the first time either of them has gone outside the walls since they got to Alexandria and Michonne thinks it already feels different - she says she feels like she was asleep in there.  They start finding a trail of dead zombies, all shot in the back of the head.  Michonne: She's hunting them.

Rick finds Deanna at some new grave sites.  He says that there's a problem with Pete; she says that she'd hoped it would get better.  Rick is incredulous that she knew about the situation and did nothing about it, but she points out that Pete is a surgeon and has saved lives.  Rick: "He's beating his wife."  He suggests separating Jessie and Pete but Deanna is like, what if he doesn't agree to that, decides to ignore it.  Rick's all, I kill him - you obey the rules or you die, that's civilization now.  Deanna is NOT having any of that: at worst they'll exile Pete.  Rick says you can't throw him out because he'll just come back and attack Alexandria.  She is adamant - they don't kill people here.

Everyone is out in the woods today, even the teenagers!  Enid calls out that she knows Carl is following her ("You're very loud.").  He thinks they should go back but she doesn't want to.  She likes being out in the world,  she feels like it's where she belongs, running through the woods, and as he chases her with a grin, Carl realizes he likes being out there too.  They come across a sole walker.  Enid has a trick: she winds up an egg timer and throws it near the zombie.  The ticking, and then the ringing, distracts the monster.  They run off to safety and sit down on a log to talk.  Except she won't talk about what happened to her before she got to Alexandria.  Then they hear a herd of walkers approaching and have to hide in a convenient hollow tree.  The herd moves past, unwitting; Carl touches Enid's hand and they almost kiss.  Some of the walkers that lurch past, they have the W carved in their foreheads.

Glen finds Nicholas washing out the van.  He says that the four people he and Aiden left behind, and Noah, are on him - Nicholas must carry those deaths.  Glen tells him that he had better not go outside the walls anymore.  He's not threatening Nicholas, "[he's] saving [him]."  Nicholas isn't having any of that shit, of course, and later goes outside the walls to collect that gun that Rick hid away in the jar before coming to Alexandria - that gun that was missing when Rick tried to retrieve it an episode or so ago.

Michonne and Rosita finally find Sasha - "I'm tired of playing defensive," she snarls - just a sizable herd of walkers comes up.  As Sasha starts taking them down, shot after shot, Michonne has some flashbacks to when she was still out on the road, wielding that sword, slaughtering zombies.  She raises her own gun and when Sasha complains that she doesn't need any help, Michonne tells her, "This isn't for you."  And then the zombie-carnage begins in earnest, Rosita stabbing skulls, Michonne and Sasha efficiently taking shots.  Sasha pauses to reload and a zombie knocks her down; as she reaches for her knife, Michonne takes the walker out.  Sasha shoves the body off her, slaps Michonne's outreached hand away and cries out, "I don't want your help! You can't help me- nobody ..."  She trails off, tears shining in her eyes, then stalks off into the woods.  After a brief pause, Michonne and Rosita follow her.

Somewhere further out, Daryl and Aaron track a trail of zombie parts strewn on the ground.  Daryl notes that whoever did this seems to be taking parts with them - and it happened not very long ago.  A little ways on, they find a naked dead woman tied to a tree.  She had been tied there, alive, and left for the zombies to tear apart.  Again, Daryl notes that this just happened not long ago.  Daryl grabs the body by the hair, lifting the dead woman's hair.  There's a W carved in her forehead.  And then she opens her eyes as a zombie.  Without flinching, Daryl punches his knife into her skull.

Oh fabulous: back in Alexandria, Rick finds Jessie working in her garage and confronts her about Pete beating her.  She says that she can "fix it."  Rick's like, no, but I can.  She protests and says that Rick will only make things worse.  Rick points out that anything "worse" means Pete kills her.  She asks him why he cares, why is this so important to him.  "I'm married," she reminds him, saying that she can take care of herself.  Then she goes inside, closing the garage door on him.  Rick walks away, stopping in the middle of the street.  He looks vaguely unhinged, like he's just barely holding himself together as he watches the Alexandrians go about their business, walking dogs, chatting on porches.  Then he whirls and goes back to Jessie's house.  He tells her about Sam asking for a gun to protect her.  Now she's in tears.  And, for some reason, she starts acting like she likes him too, asking, "Would you do this for someone else? Would you do this for anyone else?"  And when he says no, she whispers that yes, she wants him to take care of her.

And then Pete comes in, disheveled and drunk.  He is not pleased to see Rick there, so close to his wife.  He tells Rick to leave and Jessie stands up to him, telling her husband that he's the one who needs to leave.  Pete starts shouting and Rick tries to get him to leave with him.  Pete gets more riled up and the punches start flying - and a grappling Rick and Pete fly through the front window, bounce off the porch and crash into the street.

This is an ugly, brutal fight: attempted eye-gauging, throttling, smashing of heads on asphalt.  Everyone comes running, sprinting - Glen, Carol, Nicholas, Rosita.  Rick and Pete are like animals.  Jessie tries to pull Pete off Rick and he shoves her away; Carl tries to pull his dad off Pete and gets shoved away as well for his trouble.  Finally, Deanna runs up and screams at the two men to stop.  Rick staggers away, pulling his illicit pistol out.  Everyone backs up a few steps.  [Note: while all this is going on, a herd of walkers swarm part of the walls and Sasha, back up in the tower, methodically takes them out.]  Rick, blood-soaked and sounding like a lunatic, rails at the Alexandrians, saying that they don't know how to deal with the reality of their situation, that they pretend like they know what's out there but they don't.  He says, if you want this place to stay standing - starting right now, they have to control who lives in Alexandria.  Deanne, tensely:  "That's never been more clear to me than right now."  Rick all but giggles, "Me? Me?  You mean me?"  My god, this man is teetering on the edge of insanity, isn't he?  He keeps ranting and raving ... until a uniformed Michonne comes up behind him, unseen, and clobbers him over the head, knocking him unconscious.  Good lord, woman, what took you so long?

Some of my friends are floating theories on what's going to happen on Sunday's 90 minute finale.  Their consensus is CARNAGE.  The internet has been thinking Glen's going to bite it - in which case they ought to just kill Maggie off too, because she'll have lost a fiance, sister and father in short order, not to mention all the rest of her family back in S2, plus she's hardly ever onscreen anymore - but my friends are thinking it'll be Carol.  I hope it's not Carol: she and Daryl (and Michonne and sometimes Glen) are my favorites.  And if they kill Daryl off, I will quit this stupid show.  The comics apparently have Carl losing an eye at some point around now, and some horrible outside people (the Wolves? the Wolverines? I dunno, I gave up on the comics because they were just way more gory and horrific than I could handle) kill Glen quite gruesomely.  I truly have no idea what's going to happen, other than what little was shown in the "next time" tag.  I don't suppose they'll kill off Rick - I wouldn't really have an issue if they did.

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

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Book review: Perdido Street Station by China Mieville

I struggle a bit with how to describe Perdido Street Station by China Mieville:  steampunk-science fantasy?  It's self-proclaimed "New Weird," I guess, complex and realistic world-building that jumps off into both science fiction and fantasy realms.  One thing it isn't supposed to be is comfortable and in that regard, Perdido Street Station is very successful.

A half human/half bird creature (a garuda) comes to fringe scientist Isaac in the scruffy city of New Crobuzon, asking for his help.  As Isaac researches the solution to the garuda's problem, he comes across a biologic specimen that is strange and beautiful and, once it reaches adulthood, wreaks a kind of havoc never before seen in New Crobuzon.  Isaac, his lab partners, his part-insectile artist lover, the criminal underworld, the city's municipal government and even more fantastical New Crobuzon denizens are drawn into the terror.

That all sounds pretty good ... except for that Mieville seems to be much more interested in his world-building than in constructing the narrative.  Perdido Street Station is plot-light but description-heavy, going on and on about the neighborhoods and architecture and subversive politics and the xenian inhabitants of the rotting city (cactus people! human/machine hybrids! Alien face-hugger-shaped parasites that show up for a couple of chapters and then disappear!).  It's very difficult to connect and relate to the novel's protagonists when the author keeps such distance from them.

Perdido Street Station is also not a fun or happy book.  There is very little levity to break the bleakness and things end badly for pretty much everyone.  I'm not a Pollyanna, I don't need all the books/movies I consume to be happily ever after.  But unremitting rot, horror and squalor for 700+ pages is rough - even the grimmest of Stephen King's book have some light bits.  I'm glad I read it, I wanted to finish it, and I'm intrigued by the premise behind another of Mieville's books, The City and the City; I just can't wholeheartedly embrace this one.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Walking Dead S5E14 "Spend" 3/15/15

Let's just get this spoiler out of the way right now: Noah dies tonight, a horrible, awful, gruesome zombie death, probably the most nasty zombie kill this show has done to date.  It's pretty shocking, especially for something on television.

It's a quiet morning in Alexandria.  Father Gabriel walks into what they're using for a church and marks a page in his Bible.  He is distracted for a moment by a bowl of strawberries, left for him by a grateful parishioner.  Then he turns back to his Bible and begins to methodically rip pages out of it.  It looks like he pulls out the whole New Testament: no turn the other cheek in this post-apocalyptic world, eh, Father?  It's all an eye for an eye now.

As Darryl and Aaron head out of town on a recruiting trip, Noah meets with Deanna' husband, Whatsisname Architect Guy: Noah wants to learn how to build things, preparing for the future, in it for the long haul.  Later, the crew is gearing up for a supply/scavenging run.  Eugene needs some converter something or other to fix the solar power grid; he doesn't want to go on the run but they - Glen, Aiden, Noah, Tara and Nicholas - insist that he come along so they pick up the right parts.  Glen and Aiden seem to have resolved their differences - in fact, Glen seems to be the de facto leader of this run, something that Aiden seems completely comfortable with.  Tara presses Noah to find out what he learned about some Alexandrian girl - seems like they each might be kind of interested in her.  They all pile into a van and drive off, godawful techno music blasting for some reason.  In another part of town, Rick is being all constable-y when he stops by Jessie's house to find her picking up after someone has vandalized an art project/sculpture she'd been working on with her kids.  He is acting slightly less creepy but still.  She tries to shrug it off, saying it isn't important, but he just smiles, saying he needs something to do today.

The supply crew checks out the warehouse, relaxed but wary.  A lone walker approaches and Noah takes it down.  "Nice shot," Glen says ... and this is where it becomes clear that Noah will not survive the episode:  connecting with people, earning their respect, becoming friends, planning for the future?  You just can't do that on TWD or you'll get killed off.  Anyway,  they scout for exits to the warehouse - there is only one, with the back door surrounded by swarming walkers, held in check by a chainlink fence.  One way in, one way out.  They go in cautiously, checking for zombies.  They find some behind another chainlink fence but deem it safe enough to search for what they need.  They spread out, two people to an aisle, looking for the converters.  Tara and Eugene find crates of the equipment but a walker creeps up on the group, unnoticed at first.  This walker is wearing armor and a helmet, a former soldier apparently.  Aiden starts shooting at it, not noticing that there is a grenade attached to its vest.  Glen notices and shouts for Aiden to stop but it is too late: one more shot pierces the grenade.  BOOM.

In the aftermath, Glen, Noah, Eugene and Nicholas are okay, shaken and cut but not badly injured.  Tara is unconscious with a bad head wound, however.  And Aiden, Aiden is stuck to the shelving, impaled on a couple of pieces of steel.  Nicholas says he's dead and their attention turns to the approaching zombies who have gotten out of the cage.  They narrowly escape the walkers, collect the limp Tara and take refuge in a nearby office.  Tara is in bad shape and they realize they need to get back home soon.  Then, horribly, they hear cries and moans from out in the warehouse: it's Aiden and he's still alive.  Nicholas waffles, suggesting that they abandon him, but Eugene insists: he will take care of Tara while Glen, Noah and Nicholas go fetch Aiden.  Wow, Eugene, manning up!

Back in Alexandria, little Sam knocks on Carol's door, looking for more cookies.  She is very brusque with him - having lost her daughter, Mika and Lizzie, she is not at all inclined to befriend another child.  She tells him that she'll show him how to make the cookies but he'll have to steal a bar of chocolate for the recipe, and another bar for her.  She shoves him out the door, not expecting to see him again.

Out in the field, Abraham is part of a salvage crew collecting sheet metal from a construction site so they can expand/reinforce the walls around Alexandria.  The crew gets interrupted by a small herd of walkers.  The Alexandrians are, generally speaking, terrible shots.  Francine, the lookout, falls out of the front loader bucket when someone shoots out the bucket's hydraulic hose [I'm not mechanical, don't really know what it is].  As walkers swarm her, the crew chief orders the crew to back off to safety, abandoning her.  Abraham is all, WTF? He runs forward and grabs Francine.  Their retreat to the rest of the crew is cut off by zombies so he shoves her into the cab of the front loader and then crawls underneath the machine himself.  As the zombies move forward, Francine shoots the ones further out while Abraham makes like a lumberjack and hacks up "the uglies in the front."  

Back in town, Dr. Pete stops by Rick's house, seemingly three sheets to the wind and offering beers to the new constable.  Rick is nonplussed, apologizing for not having found out who vandalized the artwork.  After some awkward, "Let's be friends, man, we kinda have to be," Pete leaves.  Rick stares after him, rubbing the wedding ring on his finger.

At the warehouse, Eugene is getting nervous that the guys haven't come back yet.  He steels himself, hoists Tara to his shoulder and makes his way out of the warehouse, shooting zombies with relatively good aim.  Meanwhile, as Noah keeps watch, Glen and Nicholas try to pull Aiden off the steel beams.  He screams horribly, drawing the attention of the walkers.  They can't pull him free.  Nicholas leans in and whispers in Aiden's ear, "You left them.  We both did.  That is who we are.  I'm sorry."  Noah begins firing at the approaching walkers, muttering at the others to hurry.  Nicholas bolts, leaving Glen to try to free Aiden himself.  Aiden clutches at Glen and confesses that the four people on his last crew, the ones who died, had been left to die by him and Nicholas.  Glen looks at him in horror and then Noah shouts, "They're here!" and hauls Glen away.  The walkers converge on the impaled Aiden, going straight for the intestines.  He screams and screams until he dies.  And I thought THAT was going to be the most awful scene of the episode.

Over at the construction site, Abraham gets in the crew chief's face: "That's how it is with you people? You leave people to die?"  Crew chief: "We have a system!  Tell 'em, Francine."  Francine: "Screw you, asshole" and punches the asshole in the face.  The crew chief is all, well, let's call it a day but Abraham is all, we've got four hours of light left - you good with that, Francine?  She is and the crew gets back to work as Abraham designates two lookouts.  The crew chief goes back to Alexandria and tells Deanna what happens.  To his credit, he says that Francine would have died if Abraham hadn't taken charge, plus Abraham is now leading the crew better than he ever has.  There is no bitterness or rancor: he simply realizes that Abraham is a better man for the job.  After he leaves, Deanna muses to Maggie that once again, one of Maggie's group has been placed in a position of power.  Maggie simply says you need us, we're good at this.

To Carol's surprise and annoyance, Sam comes back with the chocolate.  They make the cookies and Sam tries to ask her questions.  She resists and he says, "We don't have to be friends.  But it doesn't have to be quiet."  She is taken aback by this and begrudgingly answers some of his questions.  When he asks her why she stole the guns, she says it's because you sometimes have to protect yourself.  He asks if he can have a gun - but it's not for him.  Carol, concerned, wants to know who it's for.  Sam takes off running.  Carol's like, oh shit, Dr. Pete is beating on his family.

At the warehouse,  Glen and Noah catch up to Nicholas as he tries to leave via the other exit.  It's a revolving door and there are lots of walkers waiting outside ... and approaching from the inside too.  The men end up barricaded inside the revolving door, Nicholas in one section, Glen and Noah in another.  They have to coordinate pushing evenly so the door doesn't turn and open enough to let the walkers in.  Suddenly, wonderfully, that terrible techno music sounds as Eugene drives up in the van, music blaring.  He yells at the walkers to get their attention, drawing most of the outside ones off.  Still, at least a dozen are pawing at the revolving door.  It's close and scary and very tense.  Nicholas starts to panic and pushes the door open enough to get to the outside.  But this turns the door enough for the inside walkers to reach in and grab Noah's leg.  He screams, clutching at Glen, but the zombies are too much and he is dragged out of the door, eyes wide.  Glen wedges himself in the door and, screaming and crying, is forced to watch as his friend is quite literally pulled apart.  Like, the zombies press Noah up against the glass, tear into his belly and pull his face from his skull.  Right there on television.  Yeesh.  

Minutes or moments later, Nicholas runs up to Eugene in the van.  "We're leaving!" he shouts.  Eugene is all, where are my friends?  They tussle and Nicholas throws Eugene to the ground and dives into the van.  But Glen is there, and he hauls Nicholas out of the van and bludgeons him into unconsciousness.  He helps Eugene up and mutters, "Help me get [Nicholas] in the van."  Eugene: "Where's Noah?"  Glen: *sad face.*

In Alexandria, Carol knocks on Jessie and Pete's door.  A drunken Pete answers, not that happy to see her.  She asks if Sam is okay and Pete is all, why wouldn't he be?  She asks to speak with Jessie and Pete says that it isn't a good time, closing the door in her face.  Carol marches herself right over to Rick's and tells him that Pete is hitting Jessie, and maybe Sam too.  When he asks how she knows, she just knows.  Carol: "I know how this is gonna go with Pete.  There's only one way it can go.  You're gonna have to kill him."  Rick just stares at her, creepy and bug-eyed.

Father Gabriel comes to Deanna's house.  He tells her that he is grateful to be in Alexandria but she has made a mistake in letting in the others: Rick, his group, they're not good people - they've done unspeakable things.  As a concerned but stealthy Maggie eavesdrops from around the corner, Deanna says, Rick told me that they had to do some hard things when they were on the outside.  But Gabriel insists that Rick et als. will only look out for themselves.  They're dangerous and they will destroy what she's built.  He rants a little about fallen angels and false light and not deserving Paradise and Deanna thanks him for coming.  She shows him out and leans against the wall, mind churning.  And from outside, you can hear the van pull up and Glen screaming for Maggie, screaming for help.

Monday, March 9, 2015

The Walking Dead S5E13 "Forget" 3/8/15

In a nutshell: Sasha is a mess, Darryl is really making an effort, Carol is scary and Rick, well, Rick seems to be heading down the rabbit hole.  Also, my DVR freaked out a little bit in the middle of the party so if someone could explain the significance of the A on peoples' hands, that would be awesome.

Sasha can't sleep what with photographs of the house's previous occupants staring down at her.  In the morning, she takes a rifle and a silencer out for target practice; she also takes all those framed photos with her and shoots the hell out of them.  She's super-twitchy, eyes darting around, looking for walkers.  Hoping for walkers, actually.  After she's shot those photos to shit, she sits down on a stump and whisper-begs to the woods, "Come and get me."

Carol, Darryl and Rick have a surreptitious rendezvous out by the ramshackle house where Rick and Carl killed all those walkers last episode.  They plan a gun heist: Carol says that the guns are stored with the food stuffs and there's a window that just closes with a latch.  She'll manage to get in there and unlatch the window so they can liberate some guns.  Just in case.  In the meantime, she says, everyone needs to try to fit in with the Alexandrians.  She looks pointedly at Darryl when she says this.  A lone walker comes lurching out of the woods and Carol takes it down.  They look at it closely once it's dead: someone had carved a "W" into its forehead while it was still alive.  That's disturbing.

Rick and Michonne meets with Deanna, who has conscripted Maggie to work with her.  Deanna has grand plans for eventual government! industry! community! but Rick would more like to talk about security for Alexandria.  It comes out that they have no lookouts up in the clock tower.  Deanna is like, there hasn't been any reason, but all of Rick, Maggie and Michonne are all, we need to keep an eye out!  Sasha comes up and volunteers for as many shifts as possible but Deanna isn't sure she's stable enough yet.  She tells Sasha that if she will come to the party she (Deanna) is throwing this evening, welcome Rick's group, she'll consider it.  As Rick strolls down the main street some time later, Carol sees him and breaks away from the housewives with whom she has been sharing recipes.  They decide that tonight - during the party - will be the night they steal the guns.  Carol tells Rick that he can't do it - he's too visible a personage - but since she's basically become invisible, she'll do it.

Darryl is tromping around in the woods by himself.  He finds Aaron and, when the other man asks if he can tag along, grumpily allows it if Aaron can keep up and keep quiet.  As they walk, Aaron reaches out, saying that he knows how Darryl feels as an outsider with the the Alexandrians because he and Eric are outsiders too.  But if he gets to know the people, the people will get less afraid of him and he will become less of an outsider.  Aaron suggests that Darryl try going to Deanna's party.  Darryl shrugs it off, saying that he's got nothing to prove.  They come into a clearing and there's a pretty black horse grazing there.  Aaron says he's been trying to catch the horse, to bring it back inside the walls before the zombies get him.  Darryl takes the rope Aaron has been carrying and almost gets it around the horse's neck (one of the Alexandrian children named the horse "Buttons").  But a small herd of walkers emerges out of the woods.  Buttons runs away and Darryl and Aaron efficiently put down the walkers.  Aaron is pretty handy with his gun and Darryl gives him a grudging look of respect.  Once the walkers are dead, they start tracking Buttons again.

Carol stops by the pantry to pick up ingredients for cookies for the party.  Her real intent, of course, is to unlatch the window.  While she's browsing the shelves, a couple of big fellows come in to check out some guns, heading outside to do some wall repair before the party.  One of them asks Carol if she's afraid of guns.  She smiles gently and says no, but she's not very good with them.  The man, very politely and sincerely, tells her that if she ever wants to learn to shoot, he would be happy to teach her.  Better to be safe than sorry.  Carol thanks him and they all leave the armory/pantry.  The window is now unlatched.

The party begins in the early afternoon.  Our group is clean and showered and I don't even recognize Rosita without her Army cap.  Abraham frowns, saying that he doesn't know about [the party].  Rosita notes that they have beer.  Abraham: I'm gonna give it a try.  Deanna introduces Rick to her husband, the architect who put up Alexandria's wall.  He seems like a decent guy and Rick actually smiles.  It looks genuine.  People keep rolling in.

Darryl and Aaron keep following Buttons, putting down zombies as they go.  There is one moment when a fallen walker grabs Aaron's leg and Darryl has to save him.  "Thanks," says Aaron.  Moments later, Aaron shoots another one who was coming up behind Darryl.  "Thanks," says Darryl.  They find Buttons, who is backed up into a fence cornered by some walkers.  "I got the ones on the right," says Darryl.  They are too late to save the poor horse, however, who is pulled down by the zombies.  The two men kill the zombies as they munch on Buttons's intestines, and then Aaron puts a bullet in Buttons's head, putting him out of his misery.  Aaron looks miserable too: "He always ran."  Darryl shrugs, saying that Aaron was just trying to help him.

Inside the party, Noah is feeling shy and uncomfortable.  He tries to bail but Glen and Maggie latch onto him, saying that he's family and they'll stick with him.  They put on brave faces and begin to mingle.  Outside the party (it has somehow gotten to be nighttime now, even though in the last scene with Aaron and Darryl and poor Buttons, it was clearly afternoon), Darryl peers through the windows.  He has showered and changed his clothes but he can't make himself go inside.  As he walks away, Aaron comes out onto his own porch, gives Darryl props for trying to go to the party and then invites him in to have dinner with him and Eric.

At the party, Carol notices the pantry-keeper in attendance and heads off to do her thievery.  Jessie comes up with her husband and introduces him to Rick.  His name is Pete, he is the community's doctor and he does not seem at all menacing like he did the other night on the porch - although he is a little brusque with his wife.  Jessie stays to talk with Rick and to my eye, he is starting to get a little weird, staring at her too long and too intensely.  Totally staring.

Sasha finally works up enough courage to come to the party.  Another of Deanna's sons, Spencer, greets her at the door and offers to introduce her around.  He's a little too friendly for her, however, and she scurries inside to find someone she knows.

Darryl slurps up Eric and Aaron's spaghetti [not a euphemism] enthusiastically, wiping his mouth on his sleeve before remembering his napkin.  After dinner. Aaron takes him into the garage where there is a motorcycle frame and a whole bunch of random parts.  He tells Darryl that he's been collecting parts whenever he sees them but he doesn't know what to do with them.  He asks Darryl to be the community's other recruiter.  Eric shouldn't/can't do it anymore because he can't take care of himself.  But Darryl is good out there, can judge people's intent accurately and, at times, still needs to be out there in the world.  "The main reason I want you to help me recruit is because you [know] the difference between a good person and a bad person."  As Aaron has been talking, Darryl has been poking around the engine parts, checking out the bike frame.  But he's been listening and when Aaron pauses, he says, "I ain't got anything else to do ... thanks."

Michonne and Abraham have a bit of a moment at the party, out on the porch, in the quiet.  He's a little drunk, which makes him some poetical, but he's not incoherent.  He says that he's come to realize that things have come to work out pretty damn well for him.  And what about Michonne, what has she done?  "I put on this dress," she says.  Abraham smiles, "Try again."

Carol easily climbs into the pantry/armory, grabs a square of chocolate out of the freezer and then starts putting handguns in her bag.  She is interrupted by Sam, Jessie and Pete's younger son, who has followed her, having hoped that she was going to make more cookies.  Carol, without batting an eye, turns ice-fucking-cold.  She says that she'd be happy to make him more cookies but he can't tell anyone he saw her here.  Sam protests that he tells his mom everything.  Carol moves in on him, slowly, backing him into the wall.  And she says that if he tells his mom, one morning he won't wake up in his bed - he'll wake up outside, beyond the wall, tied to a tree and too far away for anyone to hear him scream when the monsters rip him to pieces.  Or he could not tell anyone and get cookies, lots of cookies.  Jesus, Carol! Yikes!  The scene would be slightly more effective if the kid playing Sam was a better actor but still - damn.

Back at the party, Jessie brings Judith back to Rick.  He says that the only reason he's here is for the baby and Carl, but he gets what Jessie has been telling him: here isn't that bad.  And then, as she hands him the baby, he kisses her.  And it's completely creepy.  Jessie smiles awkwardly at him and goes back to the party.  Ick.

Meanwhile, Deanna has dragged Sasha into a group of chatty women, telling her she doesn't have to talk.  Sasha clearly just can't do this and she starts to panic, eyes darting around, listening to snippets of inane cocktail conversation.  These people sound like the zombie apocalypse never happened and Sasha can't deal.  Bookclubs!  Dentists!  Tea!  Eating canapes!  Drinking wine!  One woman corners her, asking her what her favorite meal is because she's planning on making dinner for each of the new arrivals and she's worried that she'll cook the wrong thing.  Sasha, wildly: "You're worried?  THAT'S WHAT YOU'RE WORRIED ABOUT???"  She runs out as the party goes silent, staring.

The next day, Sasha waits at the gate while Deanna brings her the scoped rifle.  Deanna asks her what it is exactly that has her so spooked.  Sasha: "This.  This isn't real."  Deanna snaps that she knows Sasha has been through a lot but that is bullshit.  She hands over the rifle and lets Sasha out of the town.  Back in one of the group's houses, Michonne puts a couple of nails over the mantle and hangs up her sword with a sigh.

Also out of the town, Darryl, Carol and Rick are meeting at the derelict house again.  Carol opens her bag of guns and offers the men their pick.  Darryl, to the others' surprise, declines to take a gun, saying that they don't need these right now and, like she said, he's going to try to make it work.  Rick the scary creeper takes one, though.  When they go back to town, Rick strolls the streets.  Jessie and Pete are out walking.  They wave to him and keep going.  He stops and stares creepily after them, and put his creepy hand on his illegal gun.  Then he cocks his head to one side, hearing something.  As a chipper and pleasant song [that I don't recognize] starts to play, Rick walks to the wall.  The music distorts creepily as Rick puts his hand and his head against the metal panel.  An overhead shot shows a walker on the other side of the wall, scrabbling at it just opposite Rick.  Creepy.

Three more episodes.  There's a whole lot of characters on this show right now ... so I'm guessing the carnage will start to mount soon.

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

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Walking Dead S5E12 "Remember" 3/1/15

How would you do, suddenly thrust back into society after struggling to survive outside in the zombie apocalypse?  In this episode, they'll talk about it a lot.

Rick's group, with Aaron and the limping Eric, slowly enter Alexandria's gates.  They are all wary, skittish.  Darryl's got a dead possum, carrying it by the tail, "dinner."  As the shields close over the gates, Rick tells Sasha to take out an approaching walker.  She's a great shot and nails the thing at distance.  As the Alexandrian gate guard watches, agog, Rick mutters, "Good thing we're here."

Aaron takes them to meet Deanna, the de facto leader of Alexandria.  She's a former Congresswoman and very good at reading people.  She sits down with each (or most) of the group one on one, filming the sessions for future reference.  Rick goes in to see her first.  He looks so sketchy, feral even.  He leaves a rancid handprint on a wall as he roams the room.  She tells him that her people have been hunkered down here basically since the zombie apocalypse started.  It's got a solar grid, cisterns, gardens and orchards, very nice houses tucked behind solid walls.  Rick is all, you need to keep your gates shut because people on the outside will come in and take what you've got.  He wants to know what Deanna wants from him and his people.  She wants them to help her community survive and thrive.

The group has to turn in their weapons if they're going to stay.  Taking their cue from Rick, they unload, Carol fumbling sheepishly with getting the strap from her huge rifle over her head.  Then Aaron takes them to two big houses, side by side, and tells them that they can stay in either or both.  These places are spotless, furnished in country-chic Restoration Hardware.  Because they are suspicious, they all hunker down in one, making beds in the living room.  They take hot showers (nearly ecstatic at being able to do so) and Rick shaves off his nasty-ass beard.  There's a knock on the door and it's a friendly neighbor lady, Jessie.  She works at the pantry and has brought food and supplies.  She also used to be a beautician before the zombie apocalypse and she offers to cut Rick's hair.  He acquiesces, but as she chats innocuously with him, he struggles with trying to accept gracious help from a perfect stranger, with trying to remember how civilized people behave.   "It's okay if you're not okay with all of this yet," she tells him.

Darryl's interview with Deanna: He walks around her living room, still carrying that damn possum.  She asks him if he wants to be here and he replies, "The boy and the baby - they deserve a roof, I guess."  He won't sit down and is clearly uncomfortable being inside.  Afterwards,
Darryl sits on the porch, cleaning his possum (not a euphemism), and when he's done, he doesn't bother to wipe up the blood and guts.  He is clearly NOT HAVING ANY OF THIS.  It took him so long to build relationships with the people in his group, to cast off his past and carve out his place, to earn their respect.  Being back in civilization puts him off balance - even if the Alexandrians are on the level.  Perhaps especially if the Alexandrians are on the level.

Deanna stops by their house that evening to check on the newcomers.  It looks so weird to see them all sitting in a living room with electric lights.  Rick says that he heard she gave them all jobs.  She says yes, and she's got something in mind for him and Michonne, and she's closing in on something for Sasha, and she's "just trying to figure Mr. Dixon out."  She bids them goodnight and leaves.  That night, unsurprisingly, Rick can't sleep.

Michonne's interview:  Michonne says that if this [place] is what [Deanna] says it is, then it's what they've been looking for.  "We're ready for this."  Deanna asks, "All of you?"  Michonne pauses for a moment, then answers, "All of us."

The next day, some of the group goes exploring.  Rick loses sight of Carl and Judith for a moment and panics.  Jessie finds him and calms him and takes him to some older neighbors who are thrilled to see a baby again.  Then Carl goes to meet Jessie's son Ron and two other teenagers, Mikey and Enid.  Enid is pretty defensive: she just came in "from outside" recently too and doesn't seem to trust anyone yet.  Ron and Mikey ask Carl if he wants to play video games, or go to Mikey's house to play pool.  Carl is taken aback a bit at all this normal teenager stuff.  The other boys are sensitive to it, seeing his discomfiture; Enid just snarls, "Pull it together, sport."  Carl pulls it together and says, yeah, let's play some video games.

Carl and Judith's interview:  He remarks that this is the kind of place his mom would have liked.  When Deanna probes, he tells her that not only did his mom die but he was the one who had to kill her afterwards.  "It had to be me."

Later, when Rick asks his son how Ron's was, Carl asks him what he thinks of Alexandria.  They agree that it seems like it's a nice place.  Carl likes the people too, but thinks "they're weak.  And I don't want us to get weak too."  That night, neither Rick nor Michonne can sleep.  She tells him that she is willing to sign on to whatever Deanna's got for them.  Rick seems to be leaning in that direction but hasn't made a final decision.  He goes out for a walk.  The streets are quiet in the middle of the night but there's a man smoking on a front porch.  The man speaks, "You're Rick."  Rick stops, nods.  The man, not introducing himself or coming into the light, says, "My wife cut your hair." Rick nods again.  The man, with a bitter twist to his voice, "Welcome to Alexandria."  Rick keeps walking.

Carol's interview:  Carol sits, smiling sweetly at Deanna.  "I did laundry, gardened, always had dinner on the table for Ed every night when he came home. [pause] I miss that stupid, wonderful man every day." OMIGOD CAROL IS SUCH A BAD ASS - SHE DOESN'T TRUST THIS PLACE AT ALL.  She goes on to say that she really hasn't had much to offer her group - they've just been nice enough to protect her. HAHAHAHAHA.  When Deanna asks her where she thinks she'll fit in, she chirps, "Do you have anything like Junior League? I'm a real people person!" Oh dear god I love Carol.

Afterwards, Carol comes out of their house, dressed in tan pants, an oxford shirt and a periwinkle blue cardigan.  She grins at Darryl, off to her new job making food for the older folks.  Her goals is to meet as many folks as possible.  His look of disbelief is fantastic.  She stares at him, "Have you taken a shower yet?"  He very clearly has not.  Carol: "Take a shower.  We need to keep up appearances, even you."  As she walks off down the sidewalk, he calls after her, "You look ridiculous!"

Glen's interview:  "We need to make this work ... because we were almost out there too long."

Rick leaves Alexandria, walking around its walls, checking them out.  Back inside, Carl catches a glimpse of Enid climbing over the walls.  Intrigued, he follows her but she disappears into the woods and he loses her.  Good job, Carl.  Rick has found his way back to the derelict house where he hid that pistol.  He runs into a couple of walkers but doesn't really care ... until he discovers that someone has taken the gun he hid.  Someone was watching.  The walkers close in and Rick pulls out a knife.  Carl joins him and they turn to face the threat calmly.  They put down the zombies one by one, helping each other, using whatever is handy for stabbing the creatures in the head.  They are professional and efficient.  They are determined not to become weak.

Meanwhile, Glen, Tara and Noah have been recruited by Deanna's son Aidan as a potential supply run crew.  Those four, plus the gate guard Nicholas, head outside the gates on a trial run.  Aidan is a self-proclaimed douchebag, handing out handguns and insisting that the crew follows his instructions precisely.  However, Aidan and Nicholas have tied up a zombie that killed four of their people last month and are torturing it, picking away at it for revenge, a "pre-game ritual" to remind them what they're up against.  Glenn: WTF?  But the zombie has gotten loose and the two douchebags are upset about it.  They whistle and call for it, drawing it closer, but tell Glen et als. not to kill it: they want to chain it back up.  While Glen and Noah watch in disbelief, the zombie breaks away from Aidan and Nicholas, lurching at Tara.  She grapples with it, its skin PEELING OFF IN HER HANDS OH YUCK, but unable to either get away from it or kill it.  Glen charges in, burying his knife in its head.  Aidan is pissed that he lost his plaything.  Tara, having nearly been bitten, is more pissed (rightfully so).

When they get back inside Alexandria's walls, Aidan gets in Glen's face, saying that the three of them will have to get new jobs as they clearly aren't cut out to do runs.  What an asshole.  Glen does his utmost best to stay calm and keep the situation from escalating.  As they argue and push each other, our group members and Alexandrians draw near, including Deanna.  Aidan snipes to his mom, "Why'd you let these people in?"  Glen can't help himself: "Because we actually know what we're doing out there."  Aidan takes a swing, which Glen easily ducks; then Glen drops him with one punch.  Nicholas charges in and Darryl grabs him, dropping him.  Rick races up and pulls Darryl off the other guy before he can hurt him - which is probably good timing because Darryl looks like he's a little pent up.  Aidan climbs to his feet and Michonne gets in his face: "You want to end up on your ass again?" Heh.  Deanna stares angrily at her son.  "Rick and his people are part of this community now.  In all ways.  As equals."  She orders Aidan and Nicholas to come talk to her after they turn in their weapons.  As the crowd disperses, Deanna asks Rick and Michonne to be Alexandria's constables.  They accept.  Darryl sniffs loudly and stalks off.  Then Deanna thanks Glen for knocking Aidan on his ass.

That night, Rick slowly walks in front of his group wearing a sheriff's uniform.  They all stare.  Darryl is outside smoking and Rick asks if they're good.  Darryl says yeah.  Carol, in her cardigan, comes out on the porch and asks if they're staying.  Rick says yes, and they can probably all start sleeping in their own beds.  Carol is concerned that if they stay they'll get weak.  Rick nods, saying that Carl said the same thing.  But, he says, "We won't get weak.  That's not in us anymore.  We'll make it work.  And if they can't make it, then we'll just take this place."  He smiles a little, and Carol and Darryl exchange an ambivalent look behind his back.

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