Friday, January 23, 2015

Mini movie review: Under the Skin

To say that the recent movie Under the Skin is based on Michel Faber's novel of the same name is not quite accurate; "very loosely based on" would be more accurate.  Scarlett Johansson drives around Glasgow, picking up men, finding out if there is anyone who will miss them and then taking them back to her place.  She is not quite human, ScarJo's character, and there are nefarious ends for the men she picks up.  (And that is where the "very loosely based on" changes to "a whole different story, really.")

Divergence from the source material aside, Under the Skin is a wonderful little genre movie, beautiful and slow and creepy.  There is hardly any dialogue.  The music is atonal and alien, as though filtered through the main character's not-quite-human senses.  There is very little plot, although there is a clear beginning, middle and end to the story.  It is tense in parts, melancholy in others, awful and squicky in a couple more.  It appears that Scotland is a very grey and rainy place. And yes, this is the movie where ScarJo goes completely bare nekkid.  It is unmomentous and not played for titillation.  She has a very real woman's body: beautiful, yes, but hardly unrealistic.  And the way she wears this body, carefully, awkwardly, as though it doesn't exactly fit, is part and parcel of this role.

With Les Revenants, this movie is the second bit of visual media that is classified as genre but doesn't line up exactly as horror/science fiction/fantasy.  You don't need to have read the original novel to enjoy the movie version of Under the Skin but it is my recommendation that you do both, since the two make good companions, different as they are.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Just finished watching: Les Revenants

I just finished watching S1 of the French television series Les Revenants or, in subtitles (thank goodness because my French pretty much ended when I graduated from high school), The Returned.  I am of two minds about this horror-tinged show.  On the one hand, I found it interesting, well-acted, beautifully shot and gorgeously atmospheric.  On the other hand, I kept falling asleep.

In a nutshell, The Returned is set in a small town in the French Alps.  All of a sudden one day, some previously deceased townsfolk come back.  With as few spoilers as possible, they are: Camille, a fourteen year old girl who died with her classmates in a school bus crash four years ago; Simon, a sexy young rock-n-roller, who died ten years ago on his wedding day; Victor, a young boy who won't or can't say anything about his past; a local teacher's wife; and Serge, whose many issues have carried over from his life into his death.  These people all look just like they did when they died and don't remember anything about their deaths.  They are all ravenously hungry too - for regular people food, not tasty brains - and don't seem to sleep.  They return to their homes, or what used to be their homes, where the people they left behind are surprised to see them.  As you might imagine.

The series unfolds its stories slowly, taking its time with the characters.  It is wonderfully done, but it also asks all sorts of questions that it has no intention of answering and we as viewers just have to accept the open-endedness. Why these people?  Why not the rest of Camille's classmates?  Why do they look the same?  Why is the reservoir going down?  What do the returned want?  Even by the end of the first season, much remains unanswered.

There's apparently an American remake (of course there is) premiering on A&E in March.  I may have to check it out to see how it varies from what I just watched.  But don't shy away from the French original just because it has subtitles.  Les Revenants/The Returned is both haunting and frightening - two different things - and worth a watch.  Just don't doze off - the subtitles don't do much good that way.  (And if you stick around long enough, there's even a little bit of nicely icky body horror.  Fun!)

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Mini book review: Under the Skin by Michel Faber

I haven't seen the Scarlett Johansson movie, Under the Skin, yet but when I learned that it was based on a novel of the same name by Michel Faber, I immediately pounced on the book.  SLIGHT SPOILERS AHEAD.

Out in the Scottish Highlands, not far from Inverness, Isserley cruises the roads, looking for hitchhikers.  English is not her native language.  She's scarred and stiff, big eyes magnified behind thick glasses.  She drives like an old lady and keeps the heat cranked high.  She's tiny, with uncomfortably stiff posture and big, voluptuous breasts.  She's choosy about whom she picks up: no women, nobody too skinny or too old or too young.  When she does pick up a hitchhiker, she talks to them, trying to discern if they have anyone at home, if anyone will miss them.  The men usually open up to her and most of them can't stop staring at her breasts.  Once she has learned enough about them, Isserley either drops the hitchhikers off, closer to their destinations, or drugs them into unconsciousness.

I'm not going to tell you what happens to the men after Isserley captures them - reading about it is all part of the [disturbing] fun of Under the Skin.  I will say that Faber does a wonderful job introducing his main character.  Even if you go into this novel not knowing anything, you know something is not quite right with Isserley.  But what is off is subtle: odd phrasing, her awkwardness, strange vocabulary.  I knew about Isserley from what little I know about the movie, but when it was finally stated outright, it was still a surprise.

There's not that much plot to follow in Under the Skin - it's more of following along on Isserley's journey with grotesqueries and some social commentary.  I haven't read anything by Faber since The Crimson Petal and the White, which I quite enjoyed as well.  Having read Under the Skin (book) and given what I know about the film, it is my understanding the movie is apparently "loosely based" on the source material.  I'm fine with that because I really liked the book and will be interested to see how they adapted it.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Mini book review: The Accidental Highwayman: Being the Tale of Kit Bristol, his Horse Midnight, a Mysterious Princess and Sundry Other Magical Persons Besides by Ben Tripp

The Accidental Highwayman: Being the Tale of Kit Bristol, his Horse Midnight, a Mysterious Princess, and Sundry Other Magical Persons Besides, by Ben Tripp, is as entertaining a YA fantasy as its title is long.  Kit Bristol, former orphan, is in the employ of one Master James Rattle, also known as - as in a secret identity - Whistling Jack, the notorious 18th century English highwayman.  When Whistling Jack is killed, Kit takes his outfit, his bulldog Demon and his horse Midnight, and finds himself on an adventure beyond his wildest imaginings.

A witch, to whom Kit has been tasked to deliver Demon, assigns to Kit the quest his master had been on: to rescue the faerie princess Morgana from an arranged marriage with the human King George III of England.  Not only must Kit revamp his world view to include the presence of magical beings, he must now contend with those beings: feyin, pixies, goblings, ogres, gryphons, enchanted mirrors and maps and the like.  In addition, the human Captain Sterne, is convinced that Kit is actually Whistling Jack, and is pursuing him singlemindedly, determined to hang him for the thief and rascal he is.

The best word I can think of to describe TAH:BtToKPhHMaMPaSOMPB is swashbuckling.  Kit surprises himself with his bravery and loyalty, charging into his exciting adventures wholeheartedly to support the Princess Morgana and his new faerie friends.  The story moves right along, the writing lighthearted and clever, annotated with footnotes.  This volume is the first in a planned trilogy of Kit and Morgana's adventures - I have no doubt that the subsequent books will be as much fun as this first one.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Year end

It's like a ghost town around here ...

I dunno, y'all.  I don't really have anything to share.  I've been watching SyFy's three night Ascension which, meh, is a poor, pale imitation of SyFy's BSG, despite Tricia Helfer's best efforts.  I'm getting into the original French The Returned (or, Les Revenants), which I really like - moody, atmospheric, creepy and subtitled - but it is not fast paced and I've fallen asleep twice (two out of the three episodes I've watched).  The Flash, Arrow and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. had strong mid-season finishes; I'm not dropping Gotham yet but things do seem a little heavy on the comic book side, especially when you factor The Walking Dead in too.  And while I'm looking forward to Cougar Town's return for one more season (although I hope they don't focus on Trav and Laurie's upcoming baby too much), I'm not sure if I'll bother trying to track down Yahoo's season of Community when it appears.  that ship may have sailed.

Bookswise, I'll be picking up a couple volumes from the library in the next day or so - The Accidental Highwayman: Being the Tale of Kit Bristol, His Horse Midnight, a Mysterious Princess, and Sundry Magical Persons Besides by Ben Tripp and Michael Faber's Under the Skin - and am looking forward to both of those.  In the meantime, I'm reading Mr. Mouse's copy of It's So Easy: and Other Lies by Duff McKagan, former Guns 'N Roses bassist.  Suffice it to say, Mr. McKagan has led a much more exciting life than I have.

And now the holidays are upon us.  Hopefully I'll be able to do some solid page turning and bring you some reviews.  Until then, may everything be merry, happy and healthy from the Mouse house to yours.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Mini book review: Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes

There is a monster loose in Detroit, a serial killer making twisted body art out of his victims; the first one found is little eleven year old Daveyton, cut in half with his torso fused to the hindquarters of a deer.  Detective Gabriella Versado running the case for the DPD homicide division, but none of them has ever seen anything like this.  Jonno Haim is a down-and-out journalist, recently arrived in Detroit, nursing a broken heart and trying desperately to reclaim his career by exploiting Detroit's ruin and rebuilding.  He finds his way into the underground Detroit art scene and, just by virtue of being in the right place at the time, starts following the serial killer story, ignoring traditional media and going straight to the internet for his audience.  Also enmeshed online: Layla Stirling-Versado, the detective's teen-aged daughter who, along with her best friend, has started up the hobby of trolling for and outing online predators.  And then there's TK, homeless and an advocate for the homeless, trying to make better lives for Detroit's destitute and displaced.

These four points of view race through Lauren Beukes's psycho-thriller Broken Monsters, at first circling around each other before finally becoming thoroughly intertwined.  For my part, I was thoroughly entertained, fascinated by the description of modern Detroit and caught up in the crime story.  Things fall apart slightly at the end of the novel, when the killer's psychosis bleeds into the other characters' reality; I don't mind supernatural elements in novels (see: almost everything I ever read) but up until then the supernatural stuff was only in the crazy person's head - having it manifest in the "real world" of the book was confusing.  That's a small quibble, however, because Broken Monsters is a fast-paced, entertaining and disturbing read, good enough that I'm going to look for Beukes's first novel, The Shining Girls, a time-travelling serial killer.

Friday, December 5, 2014

The Walking Dead S5E8 "Coda" 11/30/14

Mid-season finale time!  Will they rescue Carol and Beth?  Someone's bound to die - who's it going to be?

Atlanta.  After head-butting Sasha, Lamson runs and runs, trying to get away from the walkers stalking him because his hands are still ziptied behind his back.  He's also running away from Rick, who is chasing him.  Rick jumps in a handy police car and gains on Lamson, using the car's PA system to tell him to stop.  Lamson doesn't stop, just runs and runs - until Rick hits him with the car, sending him flying and landing face first on the asphalt.  Rick is sick of this shit.  Lamson begs for him to help, panting that he thinks his back is broken.  Rick's like, all you had to do was stop.  Lamson asks to be taken back to the hospital.  Rick: "You can't go back, Bob."  And then he shoots him in the head.  "Shut up."

Church vicinity.  Where does Father Gabriel go after escaping the church?  Over to the school where Gareth and his cannibals had been camped out.  He looks at the detritus left behind, keeping an eye on the increasingly agitated walkers trapped in the school.  Then he looks at the campfire and realizes that it's a human leg (Bob's leg) sitting there, charred and chewed.  There are maggots squirming on the leg.  He freaks out - understandably - and then the walkers break free and come after him.  He runs back to the church, limping on his hurt foot.  Walkers surge out of the woods and he runs to the church's front doors, pounding on them and screaming to be let back in.  Carl and Michonne confirm that it is him and then they break open the doors they'd nailed shut, pulling him inside.  The doors are ruined now, however, and the walkers pour in.  Michonne makes with the slicing and dicing as they all retreat into the rectory.  One by one, the three of them (plus Judith in a backpack) sneak out through the hole Gabriel made in the floorboards earlier.  While the bulk of the walkers are inside the church, Carl and Michonne put down the few stragglers still outside and then nail the church doors shut again, trapping the walkers inside.

Atlanta.  Rick rejoins the group and they discuss how the plan may have been changed in light of Lamson's recent demise.  The cops say that the story they'll tell Dawn is that Lamson was killed by the rotters so that she doesn't have any reason to distrust Rick and his group.  They'll still attempt the trade.

At the hospital, Dawn keeps trying to raise Lamson and Shepard (the chick cop) on the radio and is frustrated when they don't respond.  She and Beth talk and, as much as I [now] like Beth, I don't care about this at all.  Dawn is not an interesting character, even as she's supposed to be a threat.  The writers haven't given her much by way of decent dialogue or character development.  I guess this scene is supposed to show Beth getting a little closer to her.

Church.  The walkers begin to break out of the church.  Michonne, Carl and Gabriel are at a bit of a loss as what to do next.  Fortunately, they don't have to do anything: Abraham et als. drives up in the firetruck, smashing through the church's front steps and blocking the doors.  After hugs for Michonne, Glen tells her that Eugene lied.  She takes it in stride, telling Maggie that they learned that Beth is alive and that the others went to get her back.  Maggie gets all teary - WHICH IS HILARIOUS BECAUSE ALL SEASON SHE'S NEVER MENTIONED BETH AT ALL - and they saddle up to go to Atlanta to help.

Hospital.  More Beth and Dawn bonding by the open elevator shaft where Beth has gone for some alone time.  Blah blah blah they are interrupted by yet another of Dawn's asshole cops.  He has snuck up on them and heard Dawn call Beth a cop-killer.  He threatens to tell the others unless she steps down.  Dawn pulls her gun on him blah blah blah and then they tussle, beating this shit out of each other.  Dawn gives almost as good as she's getting, but he's a little bigger than she is.  Beth tries to help and while the other cop is distracted, Dawn hits him in the throat.  Choking, he staggers backwards towards the open elevator shaft.  Dawn screams Beth's name and Beth jumps up and shoves the cop into the elevator shaft.  Dawn, quietly: "Thank you."  Afterwards, Dawn finds Beth hanging out in Carol's room.  More blah blah blah.  And on the bed, behind Dawn, Carol stirs, waking up.

Outside the hospital.  Rick and crew has arranged for a meeting.  While the others cover him with rifles from the surrounding rooftops, Rick walks out onto the top floor of a parking garage.  Two of Dawn's cops drive up.  They draw their guns; Rick puts his down on the ground.  Rick proposes the trade.  One of the cops asks, "Where are your people?"  In answer, Darryl (or Sasha) sniper-shoots a walker that was coming up behind the cops.  Rick: "They're close."  Heh.  The cops are surprised but agreeable to Rick's proposal.

Hospital.  Rick's group walks in, cops Shepard and Lecari still handcuffed, the other two cops accompanying them.  Beth and Carol change back into their own clothes and Beth sneakily stuffs a pair of scissors into the case on her right wrist.  The exchange/stand-off takes place in a hospital corridor.  Dawn and her remaining three cops stand in front of Carol (in a wheelchair), Beth and Dr. Whatsisname.  Everyone holsters their weapons.  It's tense but people seem reasonable.  There's a one-for-one exchange first: Carol for Lecari.  Then Beth for Shepard.  Rick's group gets ready to go when Dawn speaks up: "Now I just need Noah.  And then you can leave."  Rick's all, that wasn't part of the deal.  Dawn is insistent, even as Shepard asks her to back off.  Noah comes up and says he'll stay with Dawn, sacrificing his freedom so Beth and her friends can get away.  Beth runs up to him and hugs him.

As Noah walks down the hallway, Dawn murmurs smugly, "I knew you'd be back."  Beth can't stand that, can't stand listening to Dawn any longer.  Beth walks up to her, standing close: "I get it now." And then Beth rams those scissors into Dawn's shoulder.  In an immediate reaction, Dawn fires her gun RIGHT THROUGH BETH'S HEAD.  [Holy shit.  I did NOT see that coming.  I had to rewind it and watch it again right away.]  Dawn looks shocked.  Everything goes into slow motion, everyone's stunned and horrified reactions.  Darryl steps up and puts a bullet right through Dawn's forehead as her lips form the words, "No - I didn't mean to."  And then everyone is pointing all the guns at everyone else.  Shepard spreads her arms wide and shouts, "Hold your fire!  It's over!  It was just about her.  Stand down!"  Amazingly, everyone does, although Carol has to take a whimpering Darryl's gun from him.  Rick's group is shocked, stunned, ragged with grief.

Outside, the firetruck pulls up in front of the hospital.  They all (except Eugene, who seems to be alive, if not really with it) get out and approach the hospital, weapons out.  They're there to see Rick's group come out, to see Darryl carrying Beth's body, tears streaming down his face.  Maggie screams and falls to her knees, reaching out to clutch at her dead sister's limp hand.

It ends there, but there's a tag scene: Morgan has been tracking the group, carving symbols into the trees.  He finds the school and delivers a coup de grace to an immobile walker.  Then he finds the church and after a moment of prayer, he finds the map Abraham left for Rick, showing him the route to D.C.

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

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Mini movie review: Snow White and the Huntsman

WTF was the point of Snow White and the Huntsman?  I mean, that was AWFUL.  I continue to believe that Kristen Stewart cannot act her way out of a paper bag.  She basically didn't speak a line until the halfway point of the movie and then, even after that, barely spoke.  Which was fine, actually.  Plotwise, it seemed like huge chunks were removed from the movie:  take William (Sam Claflin), for example.  Why was the William character even there?  Not as the love interest (his kiss wasn't what woke Snow White up), nor the mentor, nor anything else.  He was completely unnecessary.  And the huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) was scarcely a developed character either - why put him in the title?  Charlize Theron did her best to chew up all the scenery she could as the evil Queen, which was at least entertaining, and she looked spectacular.  But - most egregious of all - who the hell thought the haircut on the Queen's brother was a good idea? No no no no no no no.

If you haven't seen Snow White and the Huntsman yet, don't bother.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Walking Dead S5E7 "Crossed" 11/23/14

This week my excuse for not getting this recap up until now is because Mr. Mouse's parents (the Mouse-in-laws) came to visit us for Thanksgiving.  It's apparently rude to watch zombie shows in front of non-zombie-loving company.  I get that.

Church.  As Rick's group prepares to go after Carol and Beth, they fortify the church against attacks because Carl, Michonne, Father Gabriel and Judith are staying behind.  Gabriel is struggling mightily as the others dismantle the organ, sharpening the pipe ends and planting them as a fence around the door.  "Are you going to take the cross too?"  After the raiding party leaves, Carl and Michonne nail the doors closed as Gabriel freaks out a little and tries scrubbing the bloodstains off the floor.  Dude is not stable and I don't trust him for a minute.

Raiding party.  The raiding party consists of Darryl, Rick, Noah, Tyrese and Sasha.  Sasha is still struggling with Bob's death.  When they get to Atlanta, they hole up in an old factory (?) and Rick lays out the plan: attacking the hospital and killing lots and lots of people.  It's a pretty bloody plan and Tyrese is not at all comfortable with it.  He suggests that they snatch up a couple of Dawn's cops and offer her a trade: her people for theirs.  Surprisingly, Darryl sides with Tyrese against Rick, saying this way, "Everybody goes home."  Rick is taken aback but finally agrees.  (Of course, this being The Walking Dead, we all know that they'll end up doing Rick's plan after Tyrese's plan fails - because nothing can ever go right for these poor people.)

Hospital.  Beth, on floor scrubbing duty, tries to be in Carol's room as much as possible without arousing suspicions, holding her hand and whispering that she is there.  Later, she hears Dawn and one of the cops deciding to take Carol off life support.  Beth gets super-upset about this when Dawn orders her to turn off the machines so as not to waste resources.  But after the cop leaves, Dawn strangely gives Beth the key to the drug locker and tells her to give Carol whatever she needs to try to save her.

Eugene's group.  Eugene is still unconscious; Abraham is still zoned out.  They're out of water but the giant walker herd hasn't noticed them yet so Glen, Rosita and Tara go off to get water from a stream back aways.  Maggie stays behind to keep an eye on Abraham and Eugene.  I kinda love Maggie when she and Glen are not all lovey-dovey.

Church.  Carl tries to teach the useless Gabriel how to defend himself.  Gabriel reluctantly takes the proffered machete but can't deal learning how to smash it into zombie skulls that aren't that soft.  "I need to go lie down," he says.  Some time later, Michonne checks on Gabriel, making sure he's okay.  After she leaves and he closes the door behind her, he turns back to the center of the room where he's using his new machete to pull up floor boards.  Oh, Gabriel, you idiot.

Hospital.  Beth asks Dr. _____ what to give Carol to save her.  He demurs, saying that Carol suffered internal injuries so it's just a guessing game.  Beth presses him and he tells her to try an epinephrine drips.  Carol won't wake up right away but it should help.

Glen, Rosita and Tara.  When they get to the creek, the water is super-muddy.  Rosita, however, knows how to make a water filter using gravel and a piece of her shirt.  Eugene taught her how to do it.  Then Rosita gets more lines than she's gotten the whole show, telling Glen and Tara how she met up with Abraham and Eugene.  Then, as they wait for the water to pass through the filter, a fish jumps and Glen's all, food!  They rig up some nets and catch some fish and Rosita even knows how to clean them.

Maggie, Eugene and Abraham.  After the others have gone off on their water quest, Maggie rigs up a sunshade over Eugene.  Eventually, she offers Abraham some water and tries to get him to talk to her.  It's seems like he hasn't given up entirely.  There's some noise from under Eugene's sunshade and Maggie runs back there with a grin to check on him.  Maybe Eugene's coming around but I'm pessimistic and think he's maybe dead and turned.

Raiding party.  Using Noah and some gunshots as bait, Rick's group lures two of Dawn's cops out and captures them.  In order to draw things out a while longer, another cop drives up and rescues them, only to drive a little ways away until wrecking the car on some walker bodies and then running off on foot.  They abandon the car in a truly gruesome spot: a parking lot that had been burned, fusing partial walkers to the asphalt.  The group splits up and the camera focuses on Darryl.  At this point, things get a little tense because no one has died in a while and if they kill Darryl off I SWEAR TO GOD I'LL QUIT THIS SHOW.  One of the cops lunges out and tackles Darryl, knocking him to the ground.  The cop is much bigger than Darryl and Darryl gets pinned between two of the fused walkers, the cop choking him while immobile but still lively walkers try to chew his face off.  Darryl flails around wildly for something to use as a weapon.  And then, it happens:  Darryl grabs onto a walker's head, pokes his fingers into its eye sockets for a good grip, rips the head off the walker's neck and bashes the cop in the head with the now-decapitated skull.  It is amazing and disgusting and incredibly original.  Bravo!  Then Rick is there, with his gun.  He is tempted to just shoot the cop but Darryl convinces him that three captives will be better than two.  Since when did Rick become the loose cannon and Darryl the voice of reason?  I love Darryl.

The raiding party takes the captive cops back to the factory.  The cops cooperate, telling Rick et als. how to deal with Dawn.  One of them, Lamson, is very calm and rational, seemingly honest.  (But I've been watching this show for 5+ seasons now and I don't trust any new characters.)  He tells them how to approach Dawn, how to reason with her.

Hospital.  Beth bribes another of the wards with a couple of fresh strawberries.  He starts coughing and retching and clutching at his throat and three cops rush over to him.  While he provides the distraction, Beth raids the drug cabinet, taking what she needs.  As she walks past, the coughing ward is suddenly fine.  Beth goes into Carol's room and hooks her up with the epinephrine drip.  She stands there, holding Carol's hand and whispering to her.

Church.  Gabriel has pulled up enough floorboards to wriggle down through the crawlspace under the church.  When he stands up outside, he has managed to step right on a long nail which pierces his foot.  He pulls out the nail and hobbles off into the woods.  He has not taken the machete with him.  He's not too far into the woods when a lone walker attacks him.  He manages to throw her/it to the ground where it gets impaled through the chest on a stump.  He picks up a rock to crush its skull but when he sees the small, gold crucifix around its neck, he can't do it.  He limps off, still not having killed his first zombie.

Raiding party.  Rick thanks Lamson for his insider information with respect to negotiating with Dawn.  Rick, Darryl, Tyrese and Noah head out for the hospital, leaving Sasha to guard the prisoners.  Lamson sighs heavily and tells a sympathetic Sasha (because his first name is "Bob" and she's still all hung up on her Bob dying) that he saw a former friend/current zombie fused to the asphalt out there.  He's all sad about it because the guy saved his life once.  Sasha says they can't go outside but she's a good shot and they can put it out of its misery.  They go to another part of the factory; Lamson's hands are still ziptied behind his back but his legs aren't tied.  Sasha looks out the window, searching for that walker.  Lamson suddenly rushes at her, bashing her head against the glass and knocking her out.  Then he makes a run for it.

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

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Walking Dead S5E6 "Consumed" 11/16/14

At long last ... it's the Carol and Darryl show!  Not a lot happens plot-wise but it's awfully nice to spend time with my two favorite characters.  Also, the show is none too subtle with its smoke symbolism because Carol comes right out and explains it all for us.  I've helped by using CAPITALS.

Flashback.  Carol drives off after Rick casts her out for killing and burning those two sick people in the prison.  She cries a little, scared to be on her own, then rallies and holes up in a law office in some small town.  She's not that far away, however, and sees the black SMOKE when the Governor attacks and burns the prison.  She drives back and sees the destruction, eyes wide and jaw dropped.  All her friends (or former friends) are scattered.

Now.  Darryl and Carol chase the car with the white cross, Darryl telling Carol what happened with him and Beth.  They follow all the way to the outskirts of Atlanta.  When their car runs out of gas, Carol says she knows a place nearby where they can hunker down for the night.  They go into a big office-type building.  Carol finds some keys and leads Darryl further and further in, through a series of doors until they come into a small room with a bunkbed.  It's a shelter for abused women and children and she and Sophia stayed there once when she was still married to her horrible husband.  At one point in the night, they hear a couple of walkers banging on one of the doors.  It's a former woman and small child; they can't get in.  Carol makes a move to go put them down and Darryl stops her, saying, "You don't hafta.  You don't."  In the morning, Carol wakes up to find that Darryl has killed the mother and child walkers and is respectfully burning their bodies.  She thanks him as the black SMOKE rises to the sky.

Flashback.  Carol and Tyrese bury the two little girls as white SMOKE (from Darryl and Beth's burning the shack) billows into the sky.

Now.  Darryl and Carol continue into Atlanta on foot, looking for signs of vehicles with those white crosses.  They get into a tall building, hoping for a better view.  At one point, there's a contingent of walkers camped out in a hallway.  No, really: the zombies are trapped in sleeping bags and tents.  "Some days I don't know what the hell to think," mutters Darryl as they take out the sleeping bag zombies.  They leave the ones in the tents because they don't seem to be getting out anytime soon.  Unbeknownst to our heroes, however, someone is watching them.

They make their way to an office on a higher floor.  As they look out the window, searching for the white crosses, Carol mentions that Darryl still hasn't asked her what happened with Tyrese and the girls.  Darryl: "Well, I know what happened.  They ain't here."  Carol: "It was worse than that."  Then they see a van with two of the crosses in its back windows, half-hanging off an overpass.  They decide to take what supplies they can find and head over there to see where it leads them.   On their way back out of the building, Noah - Beth's escapee friend - gets the drop on them and takes their gun and crossbow.  "Sorry about this," he says, opening the zombie tents, "But you look tough."  Noah bolts and Darryl quickly deals with the emerging tent zombies.  Carol brings up her pistol, shoots a walker and then aims at Noah's back.  Darryl knocks her hand down.  She glares at him.

As they find their way out, Carol complains that [Noah] stole their weapons and she should have been allowed to shoot him.  Darryl retorts that he's just a kid.  She goes on, getting a little wound up, saying that without weapons they could die, and she doesn't want Darryl to die, she doesn't want any of their friends to die but she can't stop it and that's why she left the church because she just needed to be somewhere else ... Darryl cuts into her rising hysteria, sharply saying that they aren't somewhere else.  They're here, trying to do their best.

They walk out onto the overpass to that van.  There's nothing in it except a gurney stenciled with "GMH" - Grady Memorial Hospital.  Darryl suggests that that may be where Beth's kidnappers are holed up, but before they can discuss a plan, the van is surrounded by walkers.  There are too many to fight off so they climb into the van and strap themselves into the front seats.  Holding each other's hands, they brace themselves ... and the walkers knock the van off the overpass.  It's a pretty cool stunt (defying the laws of physics a bit so that it lands wheels down), especially when several walkers follow the van down, crashing onto the roof and windshield.  Darryl and Carol have survived the fall but they're pretty battered and Carol can't really use her right arm.  Clinging to each other for support, they leave the wreckage and head off towards Grady Memorial.

They make their way into another office building near the hospital and keep watch.  They talk a little, Carol saying that in her old life, when she was married to ol' asshole Ed, she just waited for something to change instead of making the change for herself.  When the zombie apocalypse happened, that person GOT BURNED AWAY.  At the prison, she felt she became the person she should have been.  And then she GOT BURNED AWAY (like when she burned the sick people and couldn't save the little girls).  Darryl:  "Hey.  We ain't ashes."  They are interrupted by banging and shouting and shooting.  Upon investigation, they find Noah battling some walkers.  Carol almost gets taken out because of her hurt arm but Darryl takes care of her.  He also nearly takes care of Noah, dropping a heavy bookcase on him and intending to leave him defenseless against the walkers.  Carol pleads with Darryl and finally he relents and spares Noah.

Flashback.  Carol, after blowing up the propane tank that would ultimately free Rick et als. from the cannibal Terminus people, strips off her zombie guts-covered poncho and wipes her face, crying, as black SMOKE from the explosion billows behind her.

It's a good thing they kept Noah alive too because it quickly comes out that they all have Beth in common.  Noah tells them about the hospital set-up and says that they'll have to be careful because they will have heard the shooting.  A cop car cruises by and Noah panics, "We gotta go.  We gotta go!"  He says that they can get into the hospital through the basement of the building next door.  Darryl lags behind, helping the badly limping Noah along, while Carol runs on ahead.  She dashes out into the street and is immediately hit by the cruising cop car, rolling up and over the hood.  Darryl lunges for her but Noah pulls him back.  They watch as the cops take out a gurney and load the unconscious Carol into their car.  Noah says that the cops will take Carol to the hospital where they can help her; if Darryl goes out there now, it'll be a big fire fight which won't help Carol at all.  Darryl watches helplessly as the cops and Carol drive off.  Noah: "We can get her back.  We can get Beth back."  Darryl: "What'll it take?"  Noah: "A lot.  They got guns.  People."  Darryl:  "Yeah?  So do we."

Last scene:  Darryl and Noah find a truck and drive out of Atlanta, back to the church [where Noah will be the person hiding in the bushes when Darryl and Michonne meet back up].  Now they've got two of their people to rescue.

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