The Walking Dead 2-4

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It’s been three episodes since I’ve last talked about the show. In that time Terminus became terminated, my favorite character, Bob, lost his life (after losing his leg), and Beth has taken up a career in the nursing industry.

I’m not nearly as invested in this show compared to the rest of the world. The fan base is massive, as evidence from its NFL Sunday Night Football beating numbers. But at this point I’m watching due to lack of content.  I’m only watching a handful of television dramas right now.

  • The Walking Dead
  • Arrow
  • The Flash

That’s it right there. Breaking Bad ended a while ago. Boardwalk Empire much more recently. The Netflix originals have already been devoured. Justified, Game of Thrones, and Mad Men don’t return until 2015. Sons of Anarchy hasn’t been watchable since Season 3. FX decided to axe The Bridge. And there are a bunch of shows I’ve yet to start (Hannibal, Masters of Sex, The Americans, etc.).

A few years ago, The Walking Dead may have been on sixth or seventh on my “TV Priority List”. Right now it’s probably third behind the CW’s superhero dramas. That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy the show, I totally do. It’s dessert for me. Not essential, don’t have to watch every Sunday. Boardwalk Empire on the other hand, had to be watched immediately. I don’t want people telling me how Chalky died. I need to experience that in the moment. But if someone lets slip that Daryl had a bite taken out of his neck? No worries. Unlike him, I’ll live.

Beth’s episode captured what the show can be. I’m always for the episodes centered around a specific character. The Governor’s weren’t entirely all that special, but it was better than any treatment he received the year prior. It also helps that I find Beth incredibly attractive. Hands off, Daryl!

Keep on doing your thing Dub Dee. Head shot zombies, let Rick growl, and keep trying to make me care about Glen and Maggie (do people really?). I’ll take it all in with genuine enjoyment, along with a good supply of eye rolls.

Critters – “The Ballad of Billy Zane”

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 There were a few things I went into this movie unaware of. One, that it would genuinely scare me. Two, the possibility of gaining a new workout song for the rare gym trip. And best of all, I had no idea Critters would treat me to prime, 80’s Billy Zane. Say one thing about this movie, say it has Billy Zane sporting the “wrap your sweatshirt around the waist” look.

If you want to know my feelings on horror films be sure to read the first few paragraphs from my The Sacrament review (not so subtle plug!). Casper is my favorite “horror” film of all time. I’ve sent the people at TBS letters advocating Casper should be played twenty four hours straight on Halloween. One day, perhaps.

So the idea of tiny furry aliens invading a quiet farm town seemed harmless, and it probably is to anyone over the age of six, but I had to turn the light on half way through the movie. The “crites” steal a spaceship, forcing what I can only describe as a half human/half Jabba the Hutt creature, to hire bounty hunters. These two were the real deal. They had bodacious space guns, the ability to transform into a rock star, and would kill in my weekly bowling league.

As I understand it, this movie was a response to the popularity of Gremlins. The latter is definitely a better movie, but Critters I found to be much creepier. Just looking at the theatrical poster gives me the willies. The crites are balls of fur with a smile full of razors. It’s what I imagine the design would be if they were to ever make a Cheshire Cat horror flick. They attack like the spiders in Arachnophobia. Seemingly shot out of cannons, these little guys can end your existence in the blink of an eye. Zane took a flesh eating Furby to the stomach! It’s horrifying. At least Gremlins had the decency to give us Gizmo. There was a good mix of both comic relief and cuteness relief.

The acting was surprisingly good for what the movie was. When I watch actors in scary films all I’m really looking for is if they look frightened. That’s it. Especially with all the CGI we use today I understand it might be difficult to get worked up over a green screen. Just put in the effort. Don’t pull a Tara Reid like in Sharknado 2: The Second One. I mean come on Tara, it’s a sharknado for goodness sake.

You could do worse when staying in on a Saturday night. This coming fall I suggest giving Critters a try. You’ll scream, you’ll sigh. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry (E.T. fans will). The plot moves fast. They know we want the fur and they give them to us quick. Okay, not really. But the twenty minutes it takes for them arrive goes fast. There’s that 80’s vibe that stays with every movie from the decade. It’s like driving down to the shore, smelling that sea salt air. Not only is the ending satisfying, but it sets up for a sequel. Oh, just one sequel you ask? One sequel may be enough for that hack movie Gremlins. Critters consists of three sequels, four movies in all. Double its supposed better half! That counts for something, right?

The Walking Dead – “No Sanctuary”

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If nothing else, The Walking Dead knows how to do a premier episode. They tend go heavy on the zombie killing, light on everything else. “No Sanctuary” was no exception. After four seasons I can’t say I’m disappointed, this isn’t exactly the show I turn to for deep fictional meaning.

Carol rescues the gang with the help from some of her walker friends. More specifically Rick, Daryl, kicker from The Waterboy, and Glen were saved just in time. Did anyone actually think they were in harm? The whole lining them up sequence was a bit cheesy to me. Rick makes a promise to the lead cannibal that he has a machete waiting with his name on it. Probably the most bad ass moment of the show.

The plot didn’t real move all that much. The whole group escaped without a scratch, reunited with Tyreese and Lil Ass kicker. Daryl and Carol shared a nice moment, but I’ve never cared for their lingering romance. I don’t want anyone in Daryl’s life other than his crossbow. I have to assume that we haven’t seen the last of Terminus, Rick still has a promise to fulfill.

I’m not sure there’s another character on TV who didn’t deserve a punch in the face more than the kid who was going to snap Lil Ass kicker’s neck. For some reason I don’t think Tyreese killed him, though. Those punches were deadly, no doubt, but his status was strangely left in the air. That punk kid had the best line of the episode. “That’s kind of like saving an anchor when you’re stuck on a boat in the middle of an ocean”, in regards to saving babies. Well, he’s not wrong. Enjoyed their interactions more than the zombie attack personally.

My favorite moment came during the after credits scene, Morgan hovering behind Rick and friends the whole way. Any time we get more from that actor I’m all in. He’s been part of two of the best episodes this show has ever done, and it’s not even arguable. Now that The Strain is over it’s up to The Walking Dead to fulfill that horror element in my television life. So far, so good.

The Strain – “Last Rites” and “The Master”

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Well folks, that’s all she wrote for season one of The Strain. I’m not completely sure what the viewership numbers are like. Are many people watching? For those that are, do they like it? Does the show have its own subreddit? How passionate is aforementioned subreddit? What I know is this. The show has moments that are very good, and equal amount of moments that are very, very, VERY bad. It’s quite the balancing act, but one where I think the good prevails. After all, I’m still watching week after week.

Last Rites focused mainly on “Young Setrakian”. It’s revealed that Eichorst conned his young nemesis by trapping him underground, leaving Mrs. Setrakian unprotected. Eventually Setrakian escapes, but it’s too late. His wife has been turned, eager to reunite with her loved one, leaving him no choice but to sever the head from the body. Hopefully this wasn’t the last of the flashbacks. Any involvement between Eichorst and Setrakian (of all ages) is gold. Plus, I want to find out why there is such vehemence towards The Master. Clearly he’s the reason behind all of this, but on a personal level it seems Abraham should want to end Eichorst just as bad, if not worse. Gus takes his rival Creem hostage, leading to an ambush by strigoi. Just when all seems lost, guess who saves the day? That’s right. Hooded vampire assassins! They make their glorious comeback this episode and give Gus a taste of his own medicine via kidnapping.

Our finale squeezed a bunch of things into the shows final hour. Some important, others not so much. Eldritch Palmer is healed, albeit not for eternity. If he wants to live forever he still has to pay his dues (much to his chagrin). Apparently that starts with killing a woman in the CDC, and promoting, by force, Everett Barnes to “guy who can make sure NYC still will not be quarantined”. Oh, and Palmer’s bodyguard finally called it quits on his boss. Looking forward to him joining with the good guys.

Cool hooded vampires explain to Gus what is happening. Basically there’s a vampire turf war, and Gus has proved to be….resourceful. He’s good at killing strigoi and can move during the day. That’s all you need on the resume to bang with these dudes. Hooded Gus is probably my most anticipated moment for Season Two. Meanwhile the gang go The Raid on The Master. I’ll give them credit, they came pretty damn close. But as it turns out, not even the sun can kill that goofy looking bastard. Setrakian is deflated, Nora is chain smoking, and Eph can’t end his boring ex-wife. I was entertained throughout, which is fairly true for the show itself. Amidst all the bumps in the road I kept driving. So after one season let’s break down some pros and cons.

PROS

  • When focusing on Eichorst, Setrakian, and Fet the show is on another level. As I’ve said in almost every other review, Eichorst vs Setrakian is thrilling television. From the visit in jail to the subway encounter, it’s all been gravy. Then we have the legend that is Vasily Fet. He plays the “Daryl” role for this show, and while it is obvious that’s the shows intent, he doesn’t come off as a cheap knockoff. I’m still not positive on the origin of his accent but I’m assuming Eastern European.
  • The set pieces are fantastic. Both of the attacks on The Master, the previously mentioned subway chase of Eichorst, and of course, every time Hooded Vampire Killers pop up. They are the ultimate clean up crew. Not to mention all the strigoi attacks. From the coroner getting gang-fanged, Gus’s fat friend wreaking havoc in the police van, or that opening with the dumb ass taxi driver. Every attack generates some moderate pumping of the heart. Even if the stingers always somehow miss our main characters.
  • I’m going to go give props to the overall story. Where The Walking Dead feels like it makes up a new direction for the show each season (probably due to the rotating show runners), The Strain clearly has an endgame. The plotting this season did leave for much improvement, but each major event feels like it’s leading to something bigger.
  • Sean Astin

CONS

  • For the most part the special effects were what we come to expect from Guillermo, but every time we see The Master it’s just…awful. I can’t stress this enough. He’s goofy as hell. Alan Sepinwall made a good point. In this show less really is more, akin to Jaws. His face is ridiculous. His nails need to be cut. He needs a new look. Maybe adding Eph’s hairpiece will help…
  • …speaking of which. Yeah I’m still not over his hair. It’s killing me. Can we sign a petition for it to be removed for Season Two? Honestly, I don’t think people will care if Eph is just suddenly bald at the beginning of next season. A quick, “Hey, summer in New York is hell”, and boom we’re in.
  • I know I just praised the set pieces, but the actual fighting of strigoi is pretty offensive. When you watch Daryl one shot zombies it looks bad ass. So when I see Setrakian swipe and strike heads like a seventy year old man would, it comes across poorly. The only one who looks like he is realistically killing them is Gus, which I suppose makes sense since he was chosen as part of the Hooded squad.
  • The family storyline sucks. Enough with Eph, his kid, and ex wife. They should of gotten out of town. Too much time is spent on those characters when we want to see more of the previous three I mentioned. I’m fine with Eph, but why can’t it be about his struggle with what’s happening to mankind. All he ever knew has been rocked, scientifically and religiously. This is a man that’s never killed before, why not spend more time on that? I loved the contrast between him and Fet, and who would be better off leading. I’m okay with Nora being the love interest for now. Don’t spend too much time on it, kill her off sooner rather than later. The British chick is a stronger female character, anyways.

So that’s it. A solid first season for FX’s vampire drama. It’s been bumpy but there’s no reason those bumps can’t be smoothed out for the Season 2 premier. If there were many fans of the show hopefully they all check out the books. Reading!

 

The Strain – “The Disappeared”

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Bad things are coming, and much like Gus in this episode, all we can do is run and never look back.

Jim is officially gone, along with Matt. Eph saved Zach just in time before the man he hates most (though Fet is trying to take that honor) had a chance to turn his son. The gang splits up for the present time. Eph and Nora stay at his ex’s house to wait for her, while also disposing of Matt. Zach hangs out with Setrakian while having a good heart to heart with the man. Fet and hot hacker chick go back to her apartment. There we get to see classic Fet in action, giving her stoner neighbor a nice blow to the head. Although I’m not sure how he didn’t get nicked during the attack. Again, the creatures have terrible aim when it comes to main characters. Most people get a direct hit to the neck, while the closest they came to our heroes was a nick to Jim.

Poor Gus. Had to do his best friend between the eyes. Even worse is that he doesn’t know the severity of this plague yet. He’s not aware that the person he shot was not his buddy, it was a whole different creature entirely. I’m sure it’ll only be a matter of time before he meets up with our motley crew. That is if he can survive the night by himself. The kid can box I’ll give him that, but fists don’t do much against these stingers.

It was a strong episodes for flashbacks. Young Setrakian gets his first crack at The Master, which leads to his hands being crushed, a small victory if anything. It would have been a death sentence considering he’s useless without his woodworking ability. Eichorst had no choice (and an easy one I’m sure) but to send him to the executioner line. With imminent death facing down on him, a little luck came his way. One of the allied forces bombed the German camp at just the right moment for Setrakian and his fellow prisoners to escape. He would, as we obviously know, live to fight another day. 

Say one thing for The Strain, say how it knows how to end its episodes. We get our first full glimpse of The Master. As Del Toro-ian as I’d imagine. He seems to rejuvenate a wavering Eichorst, by putting a large worm into his arm. I’m not totally sure what it means, but something dark is on its way. Whether it’s The Master, New Eichorst, Eph’s ex, or more scenes with little Zach, things are heading for the worst.

Random Thoughts

  • Fet pays homage to Arnold with his, “I’ll be back” line.
  • Eph’s wig was pretty bad this episode. Especially during the sex scene with Nora
  • So yeah, not a huge fan of Zach. Makes Carl from The Walking Dead seem like Daniel Day
  • Not only does Eph dislike Fet, but we see Fet trying to connect with Nora. Will the time come where Nora needs a man a little more like the big exterminator?
  • What’s up with that cop transporting Gus? He witness his partner get killed by something as they crash, and doesn’t call for back up or anything. It’s like the people in this world keep ignoring there are STINGERS COMING OUT OF MOUTHS.
  • I miss the hooded zombie/vampire gang

The Strain – “Creatures of the Night”

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Our eighth episode has a Stephen King vibe to it. Where our heroes are trapped in one location attempting to get out. On top of that, one of their own has been infected. It was a mix of Stephen King/Dawn of the Dead/Old School (Come on, it had “Here I Go Again”). Really it’s like a mini horror flick.

Eph, Nora, Jim, and Setrakian, meet Vasily Fet. He claims to work alone at first, but was quick to learn he needs help to survive. And that the old man is a total bad ass. The group came up with another way to kill these vermin, using UV lights to simulate sunlight. It’s an efficient way of killing the Strigoi but unfortunately led to Jim getting nicked by a stinger. The episode deals with trying to escape the gas station but truly it’s about Eph coming to grips with having to do what needs to be done. Jim had to be put down.

The dynamic has changed a bit after this episode. Eph was the uncontested leader of the group. Sure, Setrakian was the most knowledgeable but he is also old and frail. There is only so much he is capable of. The group’s introduction of Fet brings up some issues. He sees all of the Strigoi as vermin. Even the ones who haven’t been fully turned yet. Eph is still in the midst of seeing them as people who can be treated. People and friends, and I’m sure later on, family. He has hope for curing this disease yet, and the mere fact that he still thinks of it has a disease and not a plague says a lot. Setrakian is trying to make him see what this epidemic really is. Fet is more easily swayed, but Eph will have to buy in eventually.

We learn The Master can see through all of the vampires. Making them do his bidding. That’s unfortunate for our protagonists as they are number one on his shit list. In the end we lose Jim (in cold blooded fashion thanks to Fet), but gain the hot hacker chick. As much as I love Sean Astin, I’ll take that switch. No Eichorst. No Gus. No hooded vampire slayers. Still an intense episode with a deadly finish. Eager to see how the group evolves over the next handful of episodes.

The Strain – “For Services Rendered”

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I planned on reviewing episodes seven and eight together but this episode was too damn good. Shall we start with that opening scene? I mean, come on. That’s how you do horror. Frantic woman trying to convince too relaxed guy? Check. Idiot cab driver who doesn’t drive away when he witnesses a fanged tongue shoot at him? Check. Relaxed guy’s face when he figures out his wife is a monster (or more of a monster than usual)? Priceless. The actor may I add was fantastic in the way he freaked out over the creatures. It’s honestly what I would have sounded like. A thrilling start to the episode, with it cutting just before his wife fully gets her stinger out.

Setrakian explains to Eph that to defeat this disease you need to cut the head off the worm. Clearly Eph is skeptical, seeing as how that makes no sense in the scientific world, but if he hadn’t noticed, there are fucking vampires on the loose. I think science is off the table from now on, old pal. The way to get to “The Master” is first through Jim. He’s the backstabber, he’s the first link. Funny to see how Eph refused initially to go back to his betrayer. It’s incredible how people hold grudges. Even during the end of times.

We get deeper and deeper into the relationship between Eichorst and Setrakian. Their conversation about having a choice and taking a chance was riveting. The conversations between Eichorst and both old and young Setrakian are always my favorite part of the episode. It was a perfect lead in to the chase in the subway. I’d never seen Richard Sammel before. Apparently he was in Inglorious Bastards. The man does a bang up job in this show as the villain. The way he said, “Consider your wife dead” to Jim was harrowing. He almost seemed perky. Really great stuff, and adding that with Setrakian’s hatred towards him makes magic.

The highlight of the hour was the caretaker and her reluctance to bring those children back to their house. We knew it wasn’t going to end well for them. They eventually went back to see their father on the verge of turning and a fair glimpse of what their mother has become. All of that was great, it was intense, but it didn’t hold a candle to what came next.

Those hooded guys were BAD ASS. They are like zombie Daryl’s. I’m assuming they are some vampire half breed. They can talk. Clearly they do not like the infected. The way they dealt with the woman’s daughter was dark (although well deserved. If she’d only listened to her mother). Their appearance on the show just piqued my level of interest up a few notches. Maybe this show has a little more depth than I anticipated.

I honestly don’t know what to think of this show. It’s still not the highest of quality, like Breaking Bad or Game of Thrones, but it’s more than just snack food television. It’s on its way to being above The Walking Dead for me. It seems they have a genuine story, from front to finish for these characters. Well, of course they do. It’s already been written as books. But where as The Walking Dead only shows the after math, The Strain is showing everything as it happens. And even more, with Setrakian’s flashbacks. And Eph has been wearing hats more than usual to cover up that awful hair piece. This show is on the rise.

We didn’t get any Fet this episode, and only a few minutes with Gus in jail. I’m sure we will hear more from them in the next episode. Which I will be watching in a matter of moments. A top notch episode with one hell of a finisher.