The Walking Dead Mid-season Report

walking-dead-daryl-beth-season-4
Standard

The Walking Dead has made noticeable strides towards becoming a competent television drama. Carol has been turned into one of the shows most beloved characters, behind only Daryl and Rick (and arguably Glenn). It learned how to end conflicts fairly quickly. The group’s Terminus situation was wrapped up in three or four episodes. We also haven’t apparently seen the end of Morgan! Let’s hope he sticks around for a while.

Unfortunately, the finale took a minor step backwards. Instead of letting the story dictate what happens, the show runners decided to end the mid season finale with a bang. Literally, and figuratively. There was no reason Beth should have been killed in that situation. The deal was done. She was home free, mere minutes away from seeing her only living family member. Instead she decided to make an attempt on her “mentor”’s life. Dumb, dumb, so dumb. If I have anything positive to say about the scene, it’s how well acted it was by Rick and Daryl. That moment swiftly came to an end when you see Maggie start wildly screaming.

Lauren Cohan, while immensely attractive, is not a great actress. On top of that, I have no attachment towards her character. She didn’t bring up Beth once this whole season (or much of last season if I recall). Who really tunes in for the Glenn/Maggie relationship? Maybe it’s more authentic in the comics, but the show hasn’t done well by them. Whenever either of them are in danger I end up hoping for one, if not both, of their demises. Beth and Daryl had more chemistry towards the end, which is why Daryl’s reaction stung.

I’m sure most people are fine with the group going from spot to spot, foe to foe. But eventually you need to map out an end game. There has to be some background as to what the virus is. Otherwise why keep watching? To see what underdeveloped minor, POSSIBLY major, character will die during the season. The arc with D.C. was a good start, even if it Eugene’s confession came as a shock to no one.

The Walking Dead is a fine show. I respect the viewership numbers it brings in. I’m for any show that will gravitate the medium away from cop procedurals. Every Sunday I’ll watch, just don’t ask me to care.

The Walking Dead 2-4

wd-slabtown-504
Standard

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.

The Walking Dead – “No Sanctuary”

rick-no-sanctuary-season-5
Standard

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”

strainnew
Standard

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 – “Loved Ones” and “The Third Rail”

the-strain-the-third-rail
Standard

The Strain is not a good show. The actors are putting in some of the worst work of their career (I want to support my fellow “Bald Brother”, Corey Stoll, but him and his wig are making it difficult), the dialogue has more cheese in it than any calzone I’ve ever ordered, and much as I trust Guillermo when it comes to special effects, I can’t help but laugh every time I see The Master.

Yet I keep coming back, Sunday after bloody Sunday. If I don’t find out what happens at the end I’ll go crazy. As terribly written as they are, I’m invested in all the main characters. Eph, Fet, Setrakian, and Gus at least. I look forward to the showdown between Eph and his, now Strigoi, wife. I want Fett to live up to his true potential in this new, infested world. There are bigger plans for Gus whether he knows it or not, and I’m eager to see where his path leads. And most of all, I want to witness the end of Setrakian’s story. I want to continue seeing into his past and living in his present. Revenge is a dish best served cold, and Abraham has two dishes reserved especially for Eichorst and The Master.

You can’t change what you love. When it comes to post apocalyptic disaster stories, I’ll always support it. Even the amateur hour that is The Walking Dead maintains appeal. There’s nothing like seeing humanity have their world turned upside down.

Kelly is the new pupil of The Master, Gus has gone nomad, and the “Old Jew” wants to take on a nest full of Strigoi. Bring on the last two episodes.

The Strain – “Creatures of the Night”

thestrain_108_5-460x316
Standard

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”

The-Strain-introduces-Quinlan-the-Vampire-Vampire-Hunter1
Standard

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.