From January 2016

Cotillard & Fassbender in a Properly Haunting Macbeth

Macbeth. 2015. Directed by Justin Kurzel. Screenplay by Jacob Koskoff, Michael Lesslie & Todd Louiso; based on the original play by William Shakespeare.
Starring Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Paddy Considine, Lochlann Harris, Lynn Kennedy, Seylan Baxter, Brian Nickels, Hilton McRae, James Harkness, Ross Anderson, David Thewlis, Sean Harris and Elizabeth Debicki.
See-Saw Films/DMC Film/ACE/Film 4/Creative Scotland/Studio Canal.
Rated 14A. 113 minutes.
Drama/War

★★★★★
POSTER You either love Shakespeare, or you haven’t got any time for him. That’s just the way it goes. I’ve never met anyone who says “Oh yeah I read a bit now and then”. You read Shakespeare plenty or don’t give a shit. Honestly. He’s one of those acquired tastes. I’ve always enjoyed his work because of the death, the mystery, intrigue, all the murder and deceit and disguises. Shakespeare wrote such wild and exotic stuff, it’s just hard to crack through some of his dialogue if you don’t study it. And that’s why I think you either love him or hate him. Bottom line.
Justin Kurzel came on with an amazing debut, Snowtown, which is based on the real serial killings of Australian murderer John Bunting. That was one macabre yet compelling films. It almost dulled the violence and atrocity to a point where, by the end, you’ve nearly become bored by it. Yet somehow the story, the people involved and those caught up in Bunting’s whirlwind of murderous impulse, it all keeps you interested. So here in Macbeth, there’s a certain aspect of the titular character which parallels that whirlwind feeling. Not in the same way. But the play is of course called Macbeth. We can’t forget about Lady Macbeth, whose power is almost without rival, as well. It’s the attention paid to the characters themselves, which Kurzel did so well in Snowtown, that makes this Shakespearean adaptation thrilling and worthy of respect. The look and feel of the entire film is amazing, the acting even better. But best of all is the resonance Shakespeare’s words still have today, on film, and how Kurzel manages to give us a wonderful take on the source material with a simultaneously beautiful and grimly captured vision of that fearsome Scottish play, so they say in the theatre.
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Macbeth (Michael Fassbender), Thane of Glamis, receives a prophecy from a trio of witches, which tells him one day he will become the King of Scotland. Succumbing to his deadly ambition, his own manifest destiny, and driven to action by his equally power hungry wife Lady MacBeth (Marion Cotillard), he murders the current King, Duncan (David Thewlis).
However, after the deed is done Macbeth becomes wracked with paranoia, guilt, fear. He slowly starts to unravel, right from the beginning. Likewise, Lady Macbeth finds herself similarly plagued as her husband. Their murderous, power mad impulses don’t stop there. Later on, she takes to sleepwalking, a living effect of her and her husband’s crimes. Their lives become that of a King and Queen, but their climb to the throne is marred with blood and stained with betrayal.
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The atmosphere of the film all around is incredibly well crafted. Immediately the battle scenes take you into a world torn by war. Those sequences are wrapped in fog, slow motion moments which wrap you up inside them before moving to a different, exciting shot. Another aspect of this film I loved: the editing. Specifically I thought the way they did the coronation scene was perfect. Macbeth switches back and forth between observing the people chanting for him and the night where he stabbed King Duncan to a bloody death in his bed; on top of that, Fassbender looks almost sickly already with paranoid guilt, which makes things all the more powerful. There are a ton of instances where editing provides us with that kind of impact. Editor Chris Dickens has done a few solid movies like Slumdog MillionaireHot FuzzShaun of the Dead, but I would say this is absolutely his best work to date.
Then there’s the combination of an epic score from composer Jed Kurzel, whose best work is found in Snowtown and Dead Europe, along with gorgeously captured cinematography by Adam Arkapaw who has done impressive things on True DetectiveTop of the LakeLoreSnowtown and Animal Kingdom. I love how the cinematography captures both the exteriors so vividly and in a sort of morbid light, then all the interiors are in the depths of the darkness, only lit up rarely. Films always impress me when they seek a shadowy look and tone while also keeping that quality throughout, not just in the literally shadowy scenes. It isn’t easy, but Arkapaw has a talent for that quality.
These two elements together, beautifully composed shots with a grim tone and a score that goes from an ominous lull to a crashing roar, fuse into what becomes a shadowy nightmare of paranoia, guilty thoughts, and plenty of brutality. These are masters at work. Jed Kurzel’s music haunts us in certain scenes; always lurking, sometimes crashing down on our heads and ripping us from our moorings. The visuals Arkapaw help Justin Kurzel direct us through a heavy, brooding adaptation of Shakespeare.
Macbeth: “I am in blood, stepped in so far.”
I read a review recently that said Michael Fassbender was boring as Macbeth. Serious? The frailty, the fragile nature of the character which he brought forward is stunning. In similar fashion, Marion Cotillard also conveys the madness of Lady Macbeth so well. They’re each fitted for the role. I don’t see how Fassbender was boring, nor can I see anybody complaining about Cotillard. For his part, Macbeth comes across as violent, ruthless and full of mixed emotions, but he is essentially a puppet. Not saying Lady Macbeth is the root of all the problems, she didn’t literally make him kill Duncan. But Macbeth is not the strongest one. Lady Macbeth is. She has all the ambition, it simply has to flow through Macbeth himself. They’re both fragile, but Fassbender brings out the weakness of Macbeth strong and evident, which allows us to see the power of Lady Macbeth, relegated to the title of his wife. She is the one in charge, because she has to be. Macbeth is almost a statement on these war weary souls who live only to fight, to become King, to rule with power; they’re all fuelled by their ambition, but through a stronger outlet. Often, it is their significant other. For Macbeth, it is the Lady Macbeth who fuels his quest to power. They both do themselves in, she only started things out with their private talks. She feels the guilt just as much. If not more. Fassbender and Cotillard bring to live to well-worn stage characters, transforming them into dreadful, amazing film characters.Macbeth
For me, a flawless adaptation of Shakespeare. It doesn’t have to have everything the original had because this is version of that Scottish play. But this 5-star film has Justin Kurzel directing the hell out every last frame, giving us a view into the paranoia and guilt of both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth with intensity, savagery at times. The entire film is a haunted portrait of madness. Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard are both engaging, as well as powerful in their own respect. And there’s also Paddy Considine of whom I’m a big fan, he brought his talent to the table here in an unsettling way.
Old scenes are given brand new life in this retelling of William Shakespeare’s (arguably) most famous work. The atmosphere and mood of the entire piece is so thick, so rich you could cut it through with a knife. Absolutely a Shakespearean adaptation worth seeing. Can’t wait to snatch this up on Blu ray.

Villeneuve Crosses the Border of Criminality with Sicario

Sicario. 2015. Directed by Denis Villeneuve. Screenplay by Taylor Sheridan.
Starring Emily Blunt, Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin, Victor Garber, Jon Bernthal, Daniel Kaluuya, Jeffrey Donovan, Raoul Max Trujillo, Julio Cedillo, Hank Rogerson, Bernardo P. Saracino, and Kevin Wiggins. Black Label Media/Lions Gate Films/Thunder Road Pictures.
Rated 14A. 121 minutes.
Action/Crime/Drama

★★★★★
POSTERThe opening of Sicario provides us a definition of the term. The first involves Romans, the Jews killing people who invaded their homelands. The second offers up the term as Mexican for ‘hitman’. Immediately, along with the pulsing pound of the score by Jóhann Jóhannsson (who worked with director Denis Villeneuve previously on Prisoners), the film sets us up for a grim story. In fact, the initial 3 or 4 minutes are dark – unbelievably so – and the tone is set.
One of the things I admire about Villeneuve, from his early feature Maelström to the most recent Prisoners, even Incendies, is the fact as a director he sets the atmosphere, mood and tone of his work so smoothly and so quickly that it’s almost ridiculous. Not in a bad way. He immerses us in the bleak lives of the characters sitting in the middle of his stories. We’re right alongside them. In Prisoners, before the main action of the plot even takes place you get this frightening sense of an ominous story to come. Similarly, Villeneuve draws us into Sicario‘s web with a dark and brooding landscape, plus a heavy dose of nihilistic action set within the morbidly electrifying world of the Federal Bureau of Investigations and the Mexican cartels. Never once does this film let go. Always tense, never ceasing with its suspenseful atmosphere, filled by doubt and an almost raw animal quality. The agents who inhabit this story, everyone involved, they are each predators; all fighting to rule the jungle.
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During an FBI raid of possible kidnappers, Agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) and the rest of the team find corpses stashed in the walls of the house. Kate and others take a breather, as the investigation team starts a crime scene. Then an IED explodes in the back of the house, which kills two officers on the scene. Dave Jennings (Victor Garber) later recommends Agent Macer to a CIA Special Activities Division, and undercover officer/DOD adviser Matt Graver (Josh Brolin). He and a group of operatives are tracking down those responsible, including a hitman for a Juárez cartel named Manuel Diaz. Willingly volunteering her time, and possibly life, Kate takes part in the team.
Once Kate meets a partner of Graver, Alejandro Gillick (Benicio del Toro), she’s told they are headed to Juárez. This changes everything. Suddenly her journey with the team becomes more likely to be deadly. After they finally land in Juárez, we follow Agent Macer and the others closely, right alongside the action. The drug wars are running high, hot, heavy. The blood is not done flowing, on the streets of America nor certainly is it anywhere near finished in Juárez. Kate has to transform into a different, tougher, more brutal agent if she is to survive the job with which she’s been tasked.

Kate: “The fuck are we doing?”
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One reason I walked away from this film thoroughly satisfied is because, while certain elements are things we’ve all seen before, the screenplay from Taylor Sheridan contains a lot of good stuff. It isn’t a ton of cliched CIA/FBI nonsense jammed together with the tired view of cartels with which we’ve been inundated in the movies. Sheridan provides solid dialogue, as well as paces the film pretty well. For an action film that contains a nice helping of dialogue, there doesn’t feel like any points where the pacing lags. That’s always a downer for a movie relying on action to drive the audience’s attention span. But it isn’t predominantly action. This film has so much intrigue and mystery, specifically pertaining to Benicio del Toro’s character, his backstory and origins. Not to mention the already infamous scene where Alejandro in the interrogation room most likely rapes a man; that’s debatable but I believe a running theme in this film, pertaining to the cartel and also the methods of CIA/FBI Agents, is that the horrors we do see are nothing compared to the ones we don’t see. It’s all about the surface, appearances, and the hidden underbelly. So Alejandro as a character embodies much of that theme himself. Overall, the writing is very subtle in places where it could easily have gone over-the-top, typical, or just full-on cliche.
Next is the fact I thought a female protagonist in Sicario works perfectly. We need more strong but also flawed female characters in cinema. Not to say Agent Kate Macer is flawed in a negative sense. Although, in terms of having to become part of this dangerous drug war world Kate has flaws – she is too human. Throughout the film we watch her struggle with the weight of moral ambiguity in the face of trying to attain the greater good. A man is usually who we see in this situations, whether on television or in the movies. Nice to watch Emily Blunt play an interesting character, especially thrown into this typically male-dominated environment, and we follow along to see how she either fits in, or falls out. And she is not perfect, again, I repeat, not perfect. Just like male characters we see who are allowed to be tough and also ridiculously flawed, Blunt plays Agent Macer as someone not perfect, even if she is tougher than nails. It’s the duality that needs to be allowed to female characters, much as it is for the men. Because they are just as interesting, if not more so depending on the situation. Personally, I dig how she navigates the patriarchal world of law enforcement and particularly the one concerning cartels, eventually proving her worth in the part she plays.SICARIO Day 16 S_D16_04262.NEFPic3
There are a wealth of great characters in this film. Aside from that, again I have to say, Villeneuve does a fantastic job making everything look so dark and murky, even in broad daylight. There are a few elements to all that. First, the cinematography courtesy of Roger Deakins is slick, rich, it has a vibrant quality in every kind of light, whether among the shadows or in the dusty sunlit streets of Mexico. Deakins is a master behind the lens and his work with Villeneuve only continues to affirm that, every damn time. They are a perfect pairing, almost with the same sensibilities in terms of how subject matter ought to be captured through the cinematographer’s eyes. Regardless, they work so well as a team. Secondly, as I mentioned at the start Jóhann Jóhannsson’s score provides the appropriate music at every last turn. At the start the opening sequence is driven by his foreboding music, throbbing in our ears and right through the chest. Later, the intensity amps up when the action gets frenetic, or generally swells, gets deeper and more gloomy when the story turns darker, darker still. Jóhannsson compliments the story in the best way, which only helps the work of Deakins and Villeneuve look/feel better along the way.
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If I said Sicario were anything less than a 5-star film, I’d be lying. I’m not saying it has to be perfect. I’m saying it does an amazingly impressive job with every aspect of the film, from music to production design to the writing, the direction and the cinematography. Every bit of this movie is enjoyable. It enthralled me from beginning to end. Seeing it in theatre is worth it, as the visuals look even more gorgeous on a big screen. Nevertheless, I’m looking forward to seeing it on Blu ray, which will absolutely be a whole new experience. This is written well, captured well. Denis Villeneuve is a fantastic and fascinating director who is worthy of watching, film after film. I hope he keeps making things with an edge, a darkness in them. He manages to bring across those tough stories so well, with a shadowy yet human quality. This one is a furious, enjoyable romp through drug war territory with a deep and fractured look into the people who fight it, how they do, as well as the lengths to which they’ll go under the guise of a ‘greater good’. At times nihilistic, Sicario is always a treat for the eyes, the ears, and that dark spot in your soul where only little tiny bits of hope cling.

Martyrs 2.0 – The Little Remake That Shouldn’t

Martyrs. 2016. Directed by Kevin & Michael Goetz. Screenplay by Mark L. Smith; based on the original characters from Pascal Laugier’s film.
Starring Troian Bellisario, Caitlin Carmichael, Kate Burton, Bailey Noble, Toby Huss, Diana Hopper, Lexi DiBenedetto, Taylor John Smith, Peter Michael Goetz, and DaJuan Johnson. Blumhouse Productions/The Safran Company/Temple Hill Entertainment.
Unrated. 81 minutes.
Drama/Horror/Thriller

★1/2
COVERI always try to give remakes a fair shake. Slightly different story when you have to push through a favourite film being remade, especially if it comes out poorly. Though I love Spike Lee, as a filmmaker, his remake of Oldboy is one of the worst in recent memory. And that’s been a favourite of mine for years. When I heard Pascal Laugier’s frantic, bloody, wild movie Martyrs was being remade, it didn’t exactly excite me. Sure, I love when a fresh take or update can be done on a film, such as Alexandre Aja and his efforts on The Hills Have Eyes. But more often than not, an excellent foreign language film gets turned into nonsense by way of North American directors and writers.
Sadly, this new version of Martyrs is not up to the task of making things fresh, exciting, or even much different. It is definitely not a shot-for-shot remake, but it also doesn’t have a lot of what made the original French film so impressively visceral and continually interesting. This re-imagining, remake, or whatever word you choose to employ, didn’t have to go for big gore and get as graphic as Laugier. What it did need, though, is the emotional resonance, the quality techniques of Laugier and the original team, and generally a better screenplay if it were meant for glory. Not near being one of my favourite remakes. Another great film gets an unjust treatment for North American audiences, many of whom are probably too lazy to read subtitles and watch the original, evident by how many foreign films get remade here in the West. If that weren’t the case, if the demand weren’t so high, I’d assume people were seeking out the original pieces of work. In this case, I certainly suggest you watch Laugier’s movie. It’s leaps and bounds better than this mediocre, run of the mill dishwater.
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Two young girls come together as orphans at a young age, Lucie (Troian Bellisario) and Anna (Bailey Noble). Lucie escaped from a terrifying, abusive situation of captivity, which Anna helped her get past.
Cut to years later. They’re grown young women. Lucie finds the family who supposedly held her captive, then shotguns them all, including the kids, to death. She calls Anna frantically, telling her what happened. Her friend arrives to try and help things go smoother, as far as is possible. But Lucie spirals out of control. Soon, Anna is in the house, bodies everywhere, and a group of armed people take over.
Brought to room and tortured, Anna discovers what Lucie went through. The two girls are pitted against their captors. Although, the past comes back to bear on their present situation. As things are revealed the capture of Lucie as a young girl becomes more clear, the movie behind it all unearthed. Can they survive this? Will Lucie be able to make it out of the horror a second time?
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*SPOILER ALERT: TURN BACK OR THOU SHALT FOREVER BE SPOILED!*
One thing I quickly disliked about this version is that the screenplay from Mark L. Smith (The RevenantVacancy) decides to keep both of the main women alive. Whereas in the Laugier original, the Lucie character dies. What I love about that original screenplay is that the Anna character is then forced to deal with the aftermath of the situation, as well as the group who come to find her, forcing her to also suffer the torture her friend once did years ago. In this film there’s this sense of a bunch of subjects captured at once, while Anna and Lucie then also find themselves captives. Part of why I enjoyed the original French film is that Laugier went for a definitively tragic and truly epic plot. Smith, though he did amazing stuff with The Revenant, makes the mistake of going for something more hopeful. Realistically you have to look at the group doing these experiments; they are obviously massive, a solid organization, so to just do another escape thriller with this setup is wasting a lot of potential. The original capitalized on all its brutality, as well as emotions, and went for a dark ending. Without spoiling anything, this remake cops out. Some say the original was all nihilistic. Except for the fact the people torturing the hopeful martyrs, for all their faults and bloody terror, are seeking a way to discover what makes someone into such a portal to view what’s in their eyes, seeing beyond life and into the chasm of death. So, it’s not really nihilistic, not in true terms. But any of the impact of the film is taken away in this screenplay. Not at all impressed with Smith’s choices.
The execution isn’t a whole lot helpful either. Tons of exposition that the original never needed, as well as so much sanitized horror. It all combines into a real mess. There are, yes, several moments of decent blood, and also several intense sequences. Yet none of this adds up to even half the impact Laugier came off with, which does nothing to make me enjoy this needless remake. There was a grim, moody atmosphere and a gritty tone to the original. Here, most of the movie feels glossy, bright even in the darkness, and overall there is nothing technique-wise that ever grabs me. Kevin and Michael Goetz did 2013’s Scenic Route and I actually enjoyed that a good deal. It was entertaining, gritty at times, funny even. Lots of good stuff. Their follow-up film is nowhere near as good. Hopefully next they’ll go with an original film with a better story because they’ve proved themselves on the previous movie. Martyrs is a step backward.
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I’ll give the film a 1&1/2 star rating, solely because I did enjoy aspects of Bailey Noble’s performance, even if I wasn’t a fan of the plot. Likewise, Troian Bellisario is decent enough to keep your attention particularly later when the torture commences once more. But this is an unnecessary remake. Honestly, I try to give these remade films a chance, however, they more often than not let me down big time. This one is no different. Over the past few years this is one of the worst. Again, I hope the Goetz brothers go forward and make something better. As I hope Mark Smith pushes on and finds better success with another movie. These are better artists than the movie suggests. Martyrs, the original, is worth your time. Despite what others say about a totally boring, gory film, Laugier made an impact with that one, which I will never forget. Skip this, see his original. You’ll thank me.

The Knick – Season 1, Episode 7: “Get the Rope”

Cinemax’s The Knick
Season 1, Episode 7: “Get the Rope”
Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Written by Jack Amiel & Michael Begler

* For a review of the previous episode, “Start Calling Me Dad” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Working Late a Lot” – click here
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The Knick‘s seventh episode keeps on pumping, as the opening scene brings us back in time with Dr. Thackery (Clive Owen) and Dr. Christiansen (Matt Frewer) meeting Dr. William Halsted (Michael Cerveris). This is a time before all of the madness which took Thack along his path. Christiansen calls John a “comet in the sky“. We see how uneasy Thackery is before heading into the operating theatre. Then Christiansen shoots up his cocaine, implying Halsted is where he first learned to take the drug in order to keep his energy up. In fact, William Halsted is who Dr. Thackery is modeled after, so watching this scene is very intriguing. The meeting of two men: one fictional, the other his real life counterpart. The surgery goes on in the theatre, as Drs. Christiansen and Thackery attempt to make progress heading towards the 20th century.


Cut back to 1900’s present moments. Thack is woken up from his drugged sleep to find that Ping Wu (Perry Yung) is having medical troubles. In an instant, John has a tracheotomy performed and Wu can breathe once again. He saves the day then has a fresh bowl of opium loaded. Y’know – for victory.
In other news, a young black woman is accosted on the street by a man belonging to Bunk Collier (Danny Hoch). He assumes she is a prostitute, but it appears she is higher class. Out comes her man and things get wild. A fight in the street begins. As you can imagine, people aren’t too pleased about “the nigger“, and not long after a stabbing victim – Phinny Sears – arrives at The Knick – Tom Cleary (Chris Sullivan) says a “dirty coon” got him. Then there are crowds of people at the hospital doors, pressing inward. With Dr. Everett Gallinger (Eric Johnson) and Cornelia Robertson (Juliet Rylance) arriving to work, everything is almost riotous.
Dr. Algernon Edwards (André Holland), Dr. Bertie Chickering Jr (Michael Angarano) and Dr. Thackery are all working on the man, along with the help of Nurse Lucy Elkins (Eve Hewson). The medical table is crowded after Everett arrives; he isn’t happy about Edwards being there, nor is he thrilled to see the pump Edwards invented working so incredibly well in the hands of John. Outside of the hospital, the stabbing victim’s wife is calling for something to be done. She wants the man who stabbed him strung up. I wouldn’t doubt they’d all take the first African-American who came by to be hung. When Dr. Edwards arrives to check the patient, he is treated just like any other black man at the time. Sad and hideous behaviour.


Sears is in a bad way, and the situation around him, as well as outside, is not improving. He perishes from the wounds with his family and fellow officers at his side. The grieving wife and mother wants all the “fucking darkies” brutalized. A mob is out looking for blood now, attacking people on the streets. Witnessing this, Thackery rushes to the road. He may not have been totally into Edwards being at the hospital first, but now he is seeing the ugly side of racism rear its head. The consequences of allowing lax, subtle racism go without punitive measures. New York City comes alive with people beating black men and women alike. The streets burn with the hate of racist mobs. African-Americans limp down the street and make their way through the back doors of The Knick. All of a sudden inside Everett inadvertently causes some fighting, a man insisting there are “no niggers allowed“. A boy sees where the black patients are heading then goes to alert the crowds and the police outside: “Get the rope,” an officer says which prompts the door at the hospital’s front to be ripped off.
Chaos reigns after the doors are open. White men everywhere with clubs, knives, bottles, looking for the nearest, blackest individual. Herman Barrow (Jeremy Bobb) is running around trying to get everyone safe, he even discovers Algernon’s makeshift clinic downstairs. Thack starts to get everyone on the move, intending to take the African-American patients elsewhere for treatment. He didn’t want to lead the charge on equality at his hospital. Although, now it’s out of his hands and he takes the lead running.


Transporting patients literally undercover, Thack and the others start to bring patients to a safer destination. Even Cleary, without horses to haul his ambulance, pulls the thing himself. Algernon hides under a stretcher, as patients are wheeled along under sheets like dead bodies. It is a tense, suspenseful moment. Especially once they’re stopped briefly by a very thick Irish-voiced individual. Nurse Lucy makes a sly remark about leprosy and a man’s testicles falling off, which helps them keep heading down the road. There’s also Sister Harriet (Cara Seymour) who commands the crowds away, damning them all to Hell if they touch any of the African-Americans. What a wild and frenetic few scenes together. Funny when Barrow hears about all the prostitutes out on the street uptown, no police around to do anything; he’s worried about his little mistress, that maybe she might be in trouble or simply that someone else is fucking her. Who knows. Either way, there’s too much going on to be worried about Herman.
Arriving at a negro infirmary, Thack, Cornelia and the rest bring their patients to a Dr. Williams (Stephen Tyrone Williams) – an old friend of Dr. Edwards from Harvard. Great little moment, as we get peeks of more racism, and a Dr. Thackery willing to work with anyone now. He is changing, slightly. Maybe this event is something that will spur on his working better with Edwards, seeing exactly what he and his people have to go through every single day of their lives. Over at The Knick, young Bertie is left to do his own surgery from pictures alone, but looks to be doing fine.
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With everything clearing out, Cornelia heads back to the hospital, as do Algernon and Cleary with the ambulance. Thack offers to see Nurse Lucy home safely.
But when Cornelia and Algernon arrive at the basement clinic, their relationship heats up intensely. She is highly impressed by Edwards, his setting up of the makeshift clinic, his resolve in the face of crisis during the riot, everything after. They are a long, emotionally charged kiss in the fading light. They hold one another close and, no doubt, will soon take one another right there.
Thack and Lucy experience their own romance. She invites him into her boarding house, then further into her room. They’re alone. Dark and shadowy. All the tension between them before now comes to a head, culminating between the sheets of Lucy’s bed. Where will this take them? Does Dr. Thackery have a new confidante? Or is this only going to become a source of betrayal re: Bertie?
Will it hurt?” asks Lucy before Thack undresses her. “I can make it painless and perfect,” he replies. In the morning, a crushed vial of cocaine is on the floor, the room a mess. And John nowhere to be found, only a disheveled, tired Lucy. She remembers their previous night’s tryst in bits, pieces, little edits, as we come back to her getting ready in the morning. I suppose it turns out cocaine isn’t only good for taking the edge off surgery. Thack finds a use for it just about anywhere.


The next episode, “Working Late A Lot”, brings us closer and closer to the end of Season 1. Only a couple more left. It’ll be interesting to watch where things progress from here, heading into the second season. Stay with me, fellow fans.

The Knick – Season 1, Episode 6: “Start Calling Me Dad”

Cinemax’s The Knick
Season 1, Episode 6: “Start Calling Me Dad”
Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Written by Jack Amiel & Michael Begler

* For a review of the previous episode, “They Capture the Heat” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Get the Rope” – click here
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This episode begins, again, with a ringing phone. Now, it is at the Chickering household and the call comes for Dr. Bertie Chickering (Michael Angarano). At a very early hour. Just so happens it’s Dr. John Thackery (Clive Owen). But then Dr. Bertram Chickering Sr (Reg Rogers) isn’t too pleased with the early calls. Even less impressed with Thackery and his early morning experiments.
When Bertie gets to the lab, there are naked Asian women sitting with Thack. They’ve been there a couple days straight: “We took a few small breaks,” John says with a saucy, sly grin. He has lots to show Bertie, hoping to improve on the placental problems they’d encountered when Dr. Christiansen was still around. The plan, says Thack, is to put pressure on the wound while performing a Cesarean inside the wound, rather than outside. Watching these innovations on the part of Thackery is amazing, almost like witnessing a piece of history. The excited way in which Clive Owen delivers these lines shows us both Thack’s own happiness to push forward into the future of medicine, as well as his raging cocaine addiction. Furthermore, the way he employs the prostitutes to help with his new experiments is sort of hilarious, especially the way he reels Bertie in to the entire thing. Well written opener to the sixth episode of The Knick‘s Season 1.


In less exciting and sadder news, Dr. Everett Gallinger (Eric Johnson) and his wife Eleanor (Maya Kazan) are all but watching their child perish from meningitis. She is upset that Everett “brought this into our house” while he is devastated. Sister Harriet (Cara Seymour) tries to tell Eleanor there isn’t much to be done, at all. Though, Everett mentions a slim chance bloodletting procedure, and the mother wants anything, everything to be done in order to try saving their child.
Inspector Speight (David Fierro) and Cornelia Robertson (Juliet Rylance) are still trying to figure out the typhoid outbreak. He has a fairly well connected map of the disease spreading around New York City, so they’re merely trying to discover the link: ice cream. Or “whats in the ice cream“. Turns out a woman named Mary Mallon (Melissa McMeekin) made all the ice cream which got everyone sick; Typhoid Mary.
Meanwhile, Herman Barrow (Jeremy Bobb) is trying to acquire an x-ray machine that doesn’t cost $3,000. The salesman of a second hand unit introduces Herman to the machine and takes an x-ray for him. “This should take about an hour,” the man tells him. Incredible how advanced we’ve become since.


Dr. Algernon Edwards (André Holland) and Cornelia sit together for a talk. He seems pensive, perhaps depressed. His life at The Knickerbocker Hospital isn’t what it promised to be at the start. Here, we get insight into the young life of Algie, as an almost additional member of the Robertson clan, having played with Cornelia and her brother Henry as children. We can tell there is more to the relationship between Algernon and Cornelia, so it’ll be interesting to watch more of that come out as the season progresses.
Abby (Jennifer Ferrin) and her syphilis treatment is coming along. The poor thing is strapped constantly into a contraption which keeps her arm over her head, the skin from her inner bicep stitched to her nose. “Its always looks like rain,” Abby tells John, “if you only look at the clouds.” Her spirits are high, though, it’s probably only because of having to deal with her illness so long. She has become accustomed to it, sadly.
Then there’s Thackery dealing with the greasy salesman, Luff (Tom Papa) who hawked a second hand x-ray machine off on Barrow. He comes in with a liniment oil already emblazoned with Dr. Thackery’s face, ready to sell. Essentially, Luff is only concerned with his share of the “booming market” in medicine. He even talks about Dr. Pepper, whose “brain tonic is doing so well they’re serving it at fountains all around the city; as much a beverage as it is a remedy.” John doesn’t have much time for it, shooing Luff out and calling him a “moldy rogue”. Already in 1900, the vultures of capitalism are peeking their heads out and trying to make money from whatever they can in the burgeoning field.


Bertie is taking Nurse Lucy Elkins (Eve Hewson) out on a date. They have a pretzel and walk together, enjoying one another’s company. Smiling, talking. A new relationship is beginning here, but will the small looks between Lucy and Thackery become anything? Will that further cause tension between John and Bertie? Either way, for now Bertie clearly likes being with Lucy, and she seems to, as well.
In an African-American bar, Algernon is having a drink. His eyes are dangerous and his face looks almost vacant. The bartender talks about “the Big Nig“, someone to whom Algernon should not go looking for a fight. He does, though. And afterwards we watch him ice down his side, clearly after having gone for a fight with the man. Glad we didn’t get another scene of Edwards fighting, but that it’s merely alluded to heavily. Nice editing in this particular scene.
More sadness now, as the Gallingers finally lose their child to meningitis. Eleanor is apparently lost in her own mind, not thinking straight. She can’t accept the death of their daughter. Sister Harriet and Everett are both equally concerned. Of course, “the powerful wave of melancholia” is coming, and Harriet suggest perhaps they ought to adopt a baby that was left on the church steps recently. A way to get through things. Everett’s left to consider whether or not they ought to take the child in.
Such a juxtaposition to see Tom Cleary (Chris Sullivan) waiting outside for Harriet: “Weve got work to do,” he says. She goes from caring for children to abortion so quickly. Not that I have any issue with it, just an interesting parallel.
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Inspector Speight and Cornelia finally track down Typhoid Mary. She is at a new home serving ice cream again. Once the news of her typhoid is let out, everybody at the table eating drops their spoons, afraid they might contract her nastiness. Awesome little scene where Mary tries to run away and then Cornelia tackles her – “Definitely a new century,” Speight laughs remarking he’d “never seen a society girl join a fracas that quick.” This part had me laughing, in the best sort of way. Cornelia is a tough cookie.
At The Knick, another pregnant patient comes in and Thack gets himself ready by shooting up a good dose of cocaine. Bertie is along for the ride, once more. “Are you sure we’re ready?” he asks Thack. But John is all ready, he wants to go and figure things out. He wants to move forward and try getting the procedure right, on the table, in the operating theatre. No more experiments. So they used their new contraption to enter the vaginal canal and attempt to succeed where they’ve only managed to fail until now. Thack cuts into the stomach and forges on. Their new technique helps to slow the bleeding, allowing the successful delivery of the baby. The placental repair is named after all three men who influenced its development: Christiansen-Thackery-Chickering. A new step into the modern world of medicine and childbirth.
Late at night, Thack is working. He hears something downstairs and eventually comes upon the makeshift black emergency room which Algernon has been running. John wants them all out, so the gig is up. So it seems. This could be bad for Edwards, as well as the patients he will no longer get to service. He shows Thackery the extent of the little clinic, what he’s been doing down there with limited resources and under the virtual cover of darkness: “Are you out of your fucking mind?” John asks sternly. Things change slightly when Thack sees the blood pump Edwards made out of a vacuum cleaner: “Thats not the only thing Ive come up with down here,” Algie assures before introducing his solution for the inguinal hernia. John agrees not to say anything for now, as long as the door stays locked and nobody else wanders in. Even better, Algernon’s hernia treatment is heading for the big time and tenuous agreement is struck between the two doctors: “Dr. Edwards,” begins Thackery, “may I officially welcome you to The Knick?”


Cornelia is being readied to marry Phillip Showalter (Tom Lipinski). He believes she’ll be a perfect little housewife instead of continuing on with any business after their marriage. A tense, sort of creepy scene sees Phillip’s father Hobart Showalter (Gary Simpson) confront Cornelia in her room, as she happens to be undressing for the day. The name of the episode comes from these moments. He’s got lots of ideas about what needs to happen after Cornelia is hitched to Phillip. It is an unsettling and nervous scene, but sets the tone for Cornelia’s further relationship with Hobart and the Showalter clan. You could feel something more almost breaking through, and yet the episode finishes her on a strange, awkward note. Very interested to see where it all goes from here.


The next episode is titled “Get the Rope”. Stay tuned with me for another go round.

Black Mass: Welcome Back, Mr. Depp!

Black Mass. 2015. Directed by Scott Cooper. Screenplay by Jez Butterworth & Mark Mallouk; based on the novel by Dick Lehr & Gerard O’Neill.
Starring Johnny Depp, Joel Edgerton, Benedict Cumberbatch, Dakota Johnson, Kevin Bacon, Peter Sarsgaard, Jesse Plemons, Rory Cochrane, David Harbour, and Adam Scott. Cross Creek Pictures/Grisbi Productions/Infinitum Nihil/Free State Pictures.
Rated 14A. 123 minutes.
Biography/Crime/Drama

★★★★
black-mass-posterThe story of James ‘Whitey’ Bulger is a wild one. I remember when the excellent drama Brotherhood came on, with Jason Clarke and Jason Isaacs; that had roots in Bulger’s story, the parallel between him and his political brother. It’s a story that, if you know anything about it, is intense and has many layers. Almost as if it were written and made up. Yet the details most certainly are not made up. After things eventually went further south for Whitey, he went on the run as a Most Wanted face on the FBI’s list. Only a few years ago, at age 81 ripe and tender, he was apprehended and in 2013 his trial started.
So naturally, after seeing Scott Cooper was taking on an adaptation of this man’s boisterous, wild life, it had every bit of interest I needed. Black Mass gives us big heaping slices of the life of Bulger, from a time when he was already known to later on when he became one of the most well known names of the underworld. A ton of what makes the movie interesting are the central performances, particularly Johnny Depp in one of his strongest roles – ever – and then there is great writing on top of great directing from Cooper. This intense and at times fairly grim tale is weaved out of real life, pumped full of bravado, but best of all it breathes air into a true villain out of the history books.
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James ‘Whitey’ Bulger (Johnny Depp) is a tough customer. One of the worst. He’s a notorious criminal from South Boston whose reputation precedes him. Better yet, he’s the brother of prominent politician Billy Bulger (Benedict Cumberbatch). While Billy is busy climbing the political ladder, Jimmy is on the streets busting heads, killing, doing the most illegal of business.
But a terrifying deal is struck behind the scenes between Jimmy and the FBI, led by John Connolly (Joel Edgerton), who just so happens to have grown up on the same street as the Bulger boys. Using the FBI to essentially take out competition and aid his nefarious dealings, from guns to drugs, Whitey spins the entire deal into a downward spiral. Soon enough, the FBI informant in Jimmy is lost and he is officially on the Ten Most Wanted List. His story is one of family, corruption, ego and above all else – crime.
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Immediately we’re introduced to Whitey Bulger as someone who does not mince words, nor does he put up with anything he sees as bullshit. No nonsense. The opening scene with Depp his eyes are piercing through the darkness, Bulger is sitting in silence and watching Johnny Martorano (W. Earl Brown) – an extremely dangerous and feared man in his own right – sloppily eat peanuts on the table, which he does not like. And makes it known. But this semi-funny scene brings a little more to the front. If you understand who Martorano is, then it’s even further evident that Whitey does not care who is in front of him. He says it like it is and couldn’t care less what anyone feels about it. The menace is present enough in the shots where Depp is barely visible through the darkness, almost like a predator laying, waiting in the black. More of that comes out later, though, it is heavily featured in this first moment. As time goes by, it isn’t only the contacts Depp wears that makes the eyes of Bulger burn into your soul. It is the absolute dead eye stare Depp seeps through the frame, it won’t let you go. With only a few looks Depp conveys the nastiness in Whitey.
Everyone is really solid here. One of those ensemble casts you dream of, as there’s a number of performances to enjoy. Of course you can’t not talk about Cumberbatch, whose American Boston accent is pretty great, and natural. Not just that I found he was well contrasted with Depp; they truly felt like brothers, two guys at the opposite end of one spectrum. Their chemistry was good when they shared the screen. Then there are smaller roles that worked well, such as Peter Sarsgaard (always a fan), Rory Cochrane, and more. But I also have to mention Joel Edgerton. He is a talent, one who can play interesting roles with lots of weight. He is compelling from scene to scene, especially considering what his character is involved in, and Edgerton definitely sells the performance. He and Depp do nice work together, too. Having all the actors in this film together is a definite plus. Without them these real life characters would’ve felt like caricatures and bad impressions. With them, Whitey Bulger, John Connolly, Billy Bulger and the rest of them all appear to us vividly and full of passion.


There are certainly similarities at times to the classic Martin Scorsese mob picture Goodfellas. Cooper does an excellent job mirroring some of the music montage moments in that film, excellent homage. Although, it isn’t borrowing too heavily. This is its own story, its own film all the way. But apart from some of the techniques Cooper uses to move the plot along, particularly the first montage with “Slave” by The Rolling Stones, there are plenty differences. The writing doesn’t fall back on homage. We get lots of exciting dialogue, which in turn obviously brings us fun, intense, and likewise exciting relationships between characters, scenes that come to life. It’s not just some period piece jumping from one decade to the next with a couple decent characters. The screenplay is solid. I love the pace of the movie, from start to finish. Never once during the 123 minute runtime did I find myself hoping for more excitement. There are bits of extensive expository dialogue, but only in the sense that we need it re: FBI actions, and so on. Then, we also get our fill of the character development, the violent scenes, the mob talk. There could’ve easily been too much, or not enough, of all these aspects. Instead, Cooper & Co. offer us up a good variation most of the time.
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Easily a 4 star film. There could’ve been a few things edited better, to ramp up the intensity and suspense, but overall the pacing of the film especially keeps things proper. Boasting a massively impressive performance from Johnny Depp, as well as a handful of great supporting roles, Black Mass packs a heavy, bloody punch. Maybe people see too many parallels with other films and that Scott Cooper drew off classics too much. Not I. This is a truly compelling story that deserved to be told and this was told in fine fashion. There are moments you’ll laugh, moments you will root for a good outcome. But this is a dark, twisting story. There are no happy endings. Regardless, the film is very well made. It has a wonderful atmosphere and a constant tone that brings out the best in every aspect of the production. This is top notch and one of the best crime biographies of the past decade. Some bits and pieces need tuning, though, if any Depp shows us he’s not done yet. Not by a long shot.

The Walking Dead – Season 1, Episode 6: “TS-19”

AMC’s The Walking Dead
Season 1, Episode 6: “TS-19”
Directed by Guy Ferland
Written by Frank Darabont & Adam Fierro; Based on comics by Charlie Adlard, Robert Kirkman & Tony Moore.

* For a review of the previous episode, “Wildfire” – click here
* For a review of the Season 2 premiere, “What Lies Ahead” – click here
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The Season 1 finale “TS-19” shows us Officer Shane Walsh (Jon Bernthal) in the hospital where Sheriff Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) lies motionless, stuck in a coma. The military has descended upon the building, killing people indiscriminately. Zombies wander the halls. Nobody worries about Rick, as he looks about dead anyways. They leave him, and lucky for Shane he isn’t noticed either. He tries his best to wake the comatose Sheriff, but to no such luck. Things slowly get worse and finally Shane does the only thing he can do: run. Can we blame him? I do. Maybe it’s too much to expect that Shane would take Rick, bad shape or not and get the hell out of there. Instead, he bars the door and leaves. Then tells Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) her husband is dead, taking over husband duties. I don’t know about anyone else, but the more I found out about those last moments, the more I hated Shane for it. Sure, maybe Rick would’ve died off the machines after awhile. Shane could have at least tried.
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Cut back to the CDC.
Rick and the gang are let inside by Dr. Edwin Jenner (Noah Emmerich). On edge, they have a tense first meeting with Jenner. Daryl (Norman Reedus), Glenn (Steven Yeun), Dale (Jeffrey DeMunn) – everyone is sceptical. But then again, so is the doctor. He requires a blood test as “the price of admission“, to which Rick agrees heartily, and quickly.
Such a stark, striking contrast between the outside crumbling world and the inside, sterile, healthy environment of the Center for Disease Control. Everything is so white, so clean and orderly, as opposed to the absolute chaos outdoors. Stranger still is the dinner table scene where everyone sits around eating, drinking wine, laughing and generally having a good time. Yet in the background, Dr. Jenner is sitting morbidly quiet. He knows too much, that’s the problem.
We watch as the survivors lean back into normal life. If only for a moment. Andrea (Laurie Holden) ends up on the bathroom floor vomiting into the toilet. Dale comes to her aid, talking with her and trying to be there. Only she’s all doom and gloom, she does not see light at the end of the tunnel. At the same time, Lori browses through books, drinking more wine. She and a drunk Shane have a confrontation, one which reveals further and further how much he is hooked on Lori. A bit of a violent moment transpires between the two, changing things for the worse, as Shane almost rapes her. Hideous.
The next morning things are semi-normal. Everyone hungover, eating breakfast. Lots of chat and laughs. “You feel as bad as I do?” asks Rick – “Worse,” replies Shane. When Dr. Jenner arrives everyone, of course, has their questions. He shows them information on the TS-19 sample. It turns out TS-19 was infected, they gave themselves over to be willingly studied. The information Jenner shows includes lots of in-depth MRI data, scans of the subject’s brain. Even though there is a lot of talk about the virus, maybe some think it’s too much, I dig it because the way it’s presented is intense. Watching everyone slowly understand what Jenner is showing them can be emotional.
Things get scarier once Rick and the group discover not much time is left until the generators run out of power. The computer system says a facility-wide decontamination will begin after that time. It sounds ominous, especially considering Dr. Jenner leaves them all casually when asked about it himself.

Slowly, the building’s energy starts to shut down. Various lights and air conditioning systems begin powering off. Daryl, Rick, everyone is on edge. With a half hour left on the big red digital clock, it looks as if there are dark, dangerous times ahead. Rick and Shane start rounding everyone up to get going. Jenner starts his camera up again, as if conducting further experiments. The doors shut locking everybody inside. Jenner tells them all about what’s about to happen when the timer hits zero. And doesn’t it make sense for what the CDC is (at least in this series; it isn’t really like that)? Clearly the place would have intense, extreme and definitive measures for situations such as this, apocalypse and all. A foreboding few minutes pass while the survivors learn all this, clock ticking down in the foggy background. It is terrifying really.
The try to break down the doors, but that clearly isn’t going to work. Meanwhile, Jenner wants to convince them all instant death is better than being in this world, out there with zombies everywhere, the virus bearing down on everybody. “There is no hope,” says Jenner: “There never was.” The doctor sees the zombie virus as “our extinction event“.
In the end, we discover Jenner’s wife was TS-19. She wanted him to keep going, as long as possible. Rick and a few of the others convince him to open the door, to let them out. Despite his protest.
On the way out, Jenner tells Rick something none of us hear. No one else there does, either. What is it? Later this will be an intense revelation. For now, Jacqui (Jeryl Prescott) decides to stay with Jenner and doesn’t want to leave, neither Dale nor T-Dog (Irone Singleton) can convince her. Even worse, Andrea says she wants to stay. Dale is terrified and tries to tell her the best option is to go. He refuses to leave without her, as the others are up top trying to get out of the locked down building.
Carol (Melissa McBride) proves to be crafty and provides a solution: a grenade she found in Rick’s pocket during his first day at the camp. A risky move, but one that needed to be made.

Andrea: “Dont pull this, Dale.”
Dale: “Im not pulling anythingif you stay, I stay, too.”
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When Rick and the others make it outside, it is a zombie wasteland. Far as the eyes can see. They get back into their vehicles and head out. Just as we watch Andrea and Dale crawl out the front of the building, as well. Inside, Jenner and Jacqui await the inevitable and hold hands before eternity comes in death. A massive explosion destroys the CDC and crumbles the building into bits, rocking the entire city block around it.
As Bob Dylan sings “Tomorrow Is a Long Time”, the survivors begin their journey. Headed somewhere, anywhere else. What is it that Jenner told Rick? He hasn’t told the rest of them yet, so what will Season 2 hold for Rick and the others? No telling (except I already know because I’ve seen the series too many three times over).

Stay with me. I’m heading into Season 2 again. Each review will be posted as I go along, so if you’re reading them thanks for sticking around, and I hope you enjoy the show as much as I do. Whether it’s your first viewing, or your fourth. Or tenth. Next episode is Season 2’s “What Lies Ahead“. See you soon.

The Walking Dead – Season 1, Episode 5: “Wildfire”

AMC’s The Walking Dead
Season 1, Episode 5: “Wildfire”
Directed by Ernest R. Dickerson
Written by Glen Mazzara; Based on the comics by Charlie Adlard, Robert Kirkman & Tony Moore.

* For a review of the previous episode, “Vatos” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “TS-19” – click here
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After the panic and blood of the previous episode’s finale, The Walking Dead lurches on into the zombie apocalypse with penultimate Season 1 finisher “Wildfire”.
This episode begins as Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) tries to call Morgan Jones (Lennie James) on the police radio. Their connection is interesting, and something I found people seem to have forgotten by the time Season 6 rolled around. Sad, they have a great relationship and Morgan is an important figure in Rick’s life in the new wasteland of Atlanta. Rick holds onto this. Because really, there’s nothing making him call to Morgan, trying to help. He does it because Morgan helped him, helped Rick realize what this new world has become.
Then we remember Andrea (Laurie Holden) losing her sister. Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) tries her best to comfort Andrea, but it’s a tough thing this early on in the world of zombies. Death and loss haven’t fully yet become an integrated part of their lives yet. So Andrea is reeling, naturally. Others like Daryl (Norman Reedus), Glenn (Steven Yeun) and T-Dog (Irone Singleton) get rid of the corpses, all the dead walkers. They burn the bodies. Meanwhile, Rick and Shane (Jon Bernthal) talk over how the death of her sister is driving Andrea a little crazy. But when Rick tries to talk with her, Andrea pulls a gun; she isn’t quite done.


Daryl wants to make sure Andrea’s sister doesn’t reanimate. The others aren’t as eager to just put one through her head. Still, they all go on about their business. Glenn insists their people are buried, not burned like the zombies. He even confronts Daryl over it, ensuring they retain some sort of humanity. Although, Daryl’s not happy: “Yall left my brother for dead. You had this comin‘.”
Then Jacqui (Jeryl Prescott) discovers Jim (Andrew Rothenberg) has a bite. One of the zombies got to him. When people circle him, Jim gets defensive. They find the teeth marks around his ribs after lifting his shirt. Dale (Jeffrey DeMunn), Rick and the others look on, not sure exactly what to do.
What’s interesting, going back through the series already knowing where everything is currently, is seeing the difference between the attitudes of human beings at the beginning, and seeing them where they are now. In Season 1, these people were still struggling with watching people come back from the dead. Despite zombie movies and all that, none of us would react too well witnessing any of that. So there’s a reluctance to simply put one through a person’s head at this moment in time. Later, they’ll begin to figure out there are necessary steps in this new world in order to secure one’s own survival, and the survival of others.
A scene between Andrea and Dale has him talking about losing his wife. She had a difficult, rough bout with cancer. She was able to get through and keep her spirit. He wasn’t and became angry, saying he “felt cheated“. Eventually, Dale tells Andrea she and her sister were special to him. The first people since his wife passed with which he connected. This is an important and emotional scene, as it sets up a relationship that exists between these two which lasts a long while. A friendly, caring relationship. One of my favourites early on in this series. More than that, Dale helps Andrea ease through the death of her sister. As best she can, anyways.
Brings me to something else I love about The Walking Dead: the human component. Yes, a zombie movie or show in this case is going to fixate on the actual undead. Obviously, right? But part of what makes any good zombie film properly enjoyable is that there are strong characters bringing human emotions, troubles and dreams into the mix. So Andrea and Dale, that’s one part of why I love the first season. Not to mention a little later, Carol decides to take the pick-axe from Daryl to finish off her dead husband, and she lays into him, over and over, splashing brain matter everywhere; one last chance to get in her licks on such a despicable, abusive man.
However, the most human of moments in this episode is when Andrea’s sister Amy comes back. The turn. Her almost milky-pupiled eyes open again, then it’s almost as if Andrea gets the chance to both let go and also simultaneously realize how people come back, as well as what must be done when that happens. It’s a semi-beautiful scene until sadly Andrea has to put her down.


Disturbing bits and pieces come with Jim, left alone in a camper. His mind is slipping into the deep darkness of the zombie virus. He sweats and shivers in the corner on his bed, pleading with his own brain: “No, no, no. Not this.” I hope nobody else gets taken because of the lack of willingness to put Jim out of his misery.
More interesting things are happening with Shane creating friction between himself and Rick – part jealousy, part genuine yet too much concern. Then there’s Rick trying to do his best for his family, as well as everyone else in their group. He is a leader. Naturally born that way. Further than that, he was a Sheriff. Before the collapse. Nevertheless, I find it intriguing to see Rick try and juggle all those human problems while dealing with the inhumane terror of their new lives. Lot of weight to carry on one set of shoulders, and it’s all bearing down on Rick, as if he were anointed the supreme leader after he came into the camp.
More and more, Shane is pushing the boundaries into what’s acceptable. He still wants Lori. And I get it, maybe the thought to tell her Rick was dead didn’t come as a malicious choice. But now Rick is back, he is alive. Shane ought to have the manhood to step back and leave everything alone. He can’t, though. Even when he and Rick are alone together he continually drives hard about Lori, Carl. Then, we see a brief moment where Rick is in the sights of Shane’s gun, and he almost goes to pull the trigger. Or does he? Coming up on him is Dale, and I’m pretty sure he understood what was just happening. Shane sweats it silently pretending it’s nothing. But boy, does Dale ever sense trouble.
After the decision to head out for the Center for Disease Control (CDC), Rick calls out on the radio for Morgan. He even offers to leave a map there, in case Morgan comes. Everyone is getting ready to head out. Jim still sits alone, sweating and rocking in bed. Not everybody wants to go, such as Morales (Juan Pareja) and his family. The rest head out together. On the car Glenn stole in the city, Rick leaves his note for Morgan. Onward, and hopefully upward. Though, don’t count on any of that just yet.
These moments are fairly intense, especially with John Murphy’s “Sunshine (Adagio in D Minor)” playing in the background. When the R.V. breaks down and the gang pull over, things slow down. And poor Jim sees his final minutes, asking to be left on the road rather than go on in excruciating pain. Tragic scene as they leave Jim next to a tree, where he wants to remain.


Jim: “Just leave me. I want to be with my family.”
Rick: “Theyre all dead. I dont think you know what youre asking. The fever; youve been delirious more often than not.”
Jim: “I know, dont you think I know? Im clear now. In five minutes I may not be. Rick, I know what Im asking: I want this. Leave me here. Now thats on me. Okay? My decision. Not your failure.”


The episode’s name comes to us in the form of an Operation Name at the CDC. We’re introduced to Dr. Edwin Jenner (Noah Emmerich) on a self-recorded video. He is underground at the CDC, it seems. Things are certainly not going well, as we can imagine.
Here we’re treated to classical music. Jenner goes about his routine, hauling out a sample labeled TS-19; brain sections. He does lots of things in the lab, running a machine and taking out further, smaller cell samples of the TS-19 subject. After knocking over a beaker things go haywire and Jenner has to head into decontamination. Worse than that, his TS-19 sample is compromised and completely ruined – full decontamination all but nukes the laboratory, to Jenner’s dismay. Cut to him recorded again on the small camera. This time, drinking. Those TS-19 samples were valuable, “the freshest“. Perhaps the loss is massive, more than we could know. I like that this is only alluded to, not fully explained. The statement comes heavily after Jenner tells the camera: “I think tomorrow Im gonna blow my brains out. I havent decided yet.”
The heaviest part of this whole situation is that Rick and the others arrive right after we witness Jenner and his suicidal thoughts. They believe there’s something at the CDC worth coming for, right as we’re seeing the virtual death of the ambitions of the CDC, or at least that’s the feeling we get. With the survivors stepping up to the CDC’s doors, can Rick find any reason worth staying? Or will this push them further out into the zombified world? Standing at the doorstep, zombies approaching, Rick has to make a decision. Nobody else is really on his side, but he stands firm for the moment. He sees a camera moving and knows someone is inside. Before Shane can tear Rick away, the door opens, the episode ends.


Next episode is the Season 1 finale, “TS-19”. Stay tuned with me as I rewatch the series, another review is coming up soon!

The Walking Dead – Season 1, Episode 4: “Vatos”

AMC’s The Walking Dead
Season 1, Episode 4: “Vatos”
Directed by Johan Renck
Written by Robert Kirkman; Based on the comics by Charlie Adlard, Kirkman & Tony Moore.

* For a review of the previous episode, “Tell It to the Frogs” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Wildfire” – click here
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After an intense third episode, “Vatos” starts with sisters Andrea and Amy Harrison (Laurie Holden/Emma Bell) fishing in a boat with We-no-nah on its side. They talk about their father a little. Their age differences created differences in how they were raised, specifically how their dear ole dad decided to show them each how to fish. Completely different, almost radically to them. They’re two separate identities, which provides us insight into where they’re headed on this series. What does Season 1 have in store for the Harrison sisters? I know already. Although, it’s great fun to go back and pick up more about everything on a third or fourth watch of the episodes. Bell and Holden play well as sisters and their bond only furthers with this opener.
Up on the R.V. stands Dale (Jeffrey DeMunn) on watch, looking out over everyone else like Jim (Andrew Rothenberg) whose time is spent digging holes. He looks tired. A little crazy. I imagine they’re all tired and slightly crazy, in every way.
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Back on the rooftop in Atlanta there’s still more trouble. Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) is a bit buckwild after finding his brother Merle (Michael Rooker) gone – not completely, his bloody hand is still sitting there. Drawing his weapon on T-Dog (Irone Singleton) quickly, Daryl is savage. Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) puts a stop to all that with Glenn (Steven Yeun) watching on. After things calm down slightly Daryl takes his brother’s hand and puts it in Glenn’s knapsack for safekeeping. They make their way through the building, looking to see if Merle stayed put. But no sign yet.
Dale checks on Jim, who as I said is pretty tired. Or something. He isn’t well. Dale’s worried he might “keel over“, going too hard at the digging. I suppose everyone has their way of dealing with a terrifying world after the zombie apocalypse comes raining down. Only Dale brings Jim and his behaviour to the attention of everyone else, believing they’ve got a new problem on their hands. When Shane goes to Jim, everyone at his back, things become awkward. This prompts Jim being tackled to the ground and restrained by Shane. At least it sets the place at ease a little while. Or does it? Jim makes a shocking confession and puts everyone out of comfort once more.
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Daryl: “Toughest asshole I ever met, my brother. Feed him a hammer, hed crap out nails.”


On Merle’s trail, as well as looking for the guns, Rick, Daryl and the others try to stick together. They try to make a plan, one on the fly as usual. Glenn offers to make a run for the bag of guns. He draws up a little diagram on the floor, giving everyone their orders. When Daryl asks, almost admirably, what Glenn did before this he gets the reply: “I delivered pizzas. Why?” Amazing. Such a wonderfully written scene. Even better after when Daryl says he has “balls for a Chinaman” to which a wittier reply comes from Glenn – “Im Korean.”
They run into trouble when a bunch of Mexicans run them into a trap. Daryl is beaten down and Glenn gets taken hostage. The group is split. Only they’ve also got themselves a young Latino to hold hostage on their side.
At the camp, Jim is now tied to a tree. He may as well be on trial as a witch. But this is another instance of Shane needing total control. Perhaps if they left Jim alone nothing would’ve come of his nonsense. At the same time, who knows? He actually apologizes for possibly scaring the children, so that’s something. He still doesn’t remember why he was digging, though. “SomethinI dreamed last night,” Jim tells Dale.
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Shane: “Jim, nobody is gonna hurt youokay?”
Jim: “Thats a lie. Thats the biggest lie there is. I told that to my wife and my two boys. I said it 100 times. It didnt matter. They came out of nowhere. There were dozens of them. Just pulledem out of my hands. You know, the only reason I got away wascause the dead were too busy eating my family.”
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Trying to make a trade, Rick and Co. go to see the Mexican crew in the city who took Glenn. Their leader is a man named Guillermo (Neil Brown Jr). He’s willing to talk, a little bit. Rick and Daryl attempt to deal with the men. They’re after the guns in the street. Sheriff Grimes lays claim to the guns, but Guillermo and his people want them: “Ill take whats mine,” he says to Rick. But Rick is ready, if anyone ever was. He stands toe to toe with them. He says he owes Glenn and won’t back down.
Making the trade-off, Rick sends the young Latino back over to Guillermo. Though, the man steps to Rick viciously instead of acting sensible. Guns cock and the place is almost ready to light up. Out of nowhere, an old woman comes out into the bunch of men pointing guns at one another. Seems there are a ton of old people in there, all of them relying on Guillermo. Now, things have changed. The old woman who wandered into their fight brings everyone together in a moment of heart among the cold world of the undead outside. Genuinely love this whole scene, as it shows us compassion hasn’t completely gone out the window right away. Not in certain corners. And it goes to show, these Mexican guys are willing to put their lives at risk to keep these elderly people safe and healthy for as long possible. Even when the living dead have pretty much infested the world. Nice commentary thrown into the writing, which is always present when you take on zombies. Robert Kirkman does great things in that sense, over and over. The archetypal zombie story is perfectly poised for throwing in socioeconomic and political commentaries, so I’m glad the show has those bits and pieces instead of focusing solely on the horror. Further than that, we watch the characters grow. Episode by episode, like any other series. These characters, though? They’ve got a lot of growing to do in the new, shattered world.
We see Rick make a deal in mutual admiration of Guillermo after they talk: he gives them some guns. A nice choice in an ever hardening life. Afterwards, Rick and the crew head out and find their van gone. They assume it’s possible Merle did it and “took his vengeance back to camp“, as brother Daryl puts things eloquently.


A nice evening by the fire has Dale quoting William Faulkner – pretty well I might add: “I give you the mausoleum of all hope and desireI give it to you not that you may remember time, but that you might forget it now and then for a moment and not spend all of your breath trying to conquer it.”
Quickly, the fun is interrupted.
In his tent, Ed is bitten by a zombie. Worse still, Amy gets a bite, too. The entire camp is overrun, as Rick and the others just make it back. Everything is chaos, with baseball bats flying, skin and organs being eaten. Gunfire sounds everywhere. With Rick and the others back things clear out, but the damage is done. Lives have already been lost. One thing we can be sure of is that The Walking Dead will tug at the heartstrings. In her arms, Andrea watches Amy die and the episode finishes as Jim says: “I remember nowwhy I dug the holes.”


A very tough, equally as excellent episode with lots of developments. Digging this watch-through so much. Noticing things I didn’t the first couple times, finding more characters enjoyable in different ways. Looking forward to the next episode, penultimate Season 1 finisher “Wildfire”. Stay with me, friends and fans alike.

The Walking Dead – Season 1, Episode 3: “Tell It to the Frogs”

AMC’s The Walking Dead
Season 1, Episode 3: “Tell It to the Frogs”
Directed by Gwyneth Horder-Payton
Written by Frank Darabont/Charles H. Eglee/Jack LoGiudice; Based on the comics by Charlie Adlard, Robert Kirkman & Tony Moore.

* For a review of the previous episode, “Guts” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Vatos” – click here
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This episode starts with Merle Dixon (Michael Rooker) alone, going crazy on the rooftop where he was accidentally left. Handcuffed. Talking to himself. It’s fitting for a racist piece of shit, but at the same time terrifying. Putting myself in his place I imagine going insane would look pretty correct. Out of nowhere, it’s as if the reality of his situation sets in. Merle becomes savage trying to tear the pipe he’s cuffed to from its moorings. Worse yet, the undead are pushing through the door at the rooftop. The chains put in place by T-Dog (Irone Singleton) are barely holding, and Merle hasn’t much faith left in him. Only enough to give God one last prayer, hoping something, anything may come to his aid; that is before cursing God out, saying he won’t start begging now.
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Merle (to himself): “Thats right. You heard me, bitch. You got a problem? Bring it on if youre man enough, or take it up the chain if youre a pussy. You heard me, you pussyass noncom bitch. You aint deaf. Take it up the damn chain of command or you can kiss my lilywhite ass.”
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The others – Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), Glenn Rhee (Steven Yeun), Andrea Harrison (Laurie Holden) and more – are headed back towards camp where Lori Grimes (Sarah Wayne Callies), her son Carl (Chandler Riggs) and stand-in-dad Shane Walsh (Jon Bernthal), as well as Dale Hovarth (Jeffrey DeMunn), are all waiting for their friends to return. Everything seems like a family, as Shane talks about catching frogs with Carl, exchanging cutesy little moments with Lori. Then in the distance, the car alarm from Glenn’s vehicle. They’re headed home.
When Lori and Carl see Rick return, it’s an emotionally charged scene. They are finally reunited after a long trip, after Rick essentially came back from the dead. Even better is the fact nobody knew Lori was Rick’s husband, so the surprise is wild all around.
We also start understanding the deep relationship between Andrea and her sister Amy (Emma Bell). That’s an important one in the first little while here during Season 1, I like that we instantly sense their connection, even before as Amy worried where Andrea was near constantly. Later on, around the fire Rick talks to everybody about his experience, and we start to gain a sense of the whole group, what sort of people they are, if only for brief moments.

 


With everything stirred up, we come to understand Merle has a brother named Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus). People are worried what may happen after he learns what happened to Merle, being left behind and all. T-Dog clearly feels bad and wants to take responsibility for what went down. “Thats on us,” he tells the group. And it’s true. They all had a hand in it, so to speak.
A tender scene sees Lori and Rick back together sexually. Although, the weight of everything else wears her down. She hasn’t told Rick about anything that happened. Outside, on watch, is Shane. And he is certainly wounded, too. Even if he doesn’t deserve to be, still, there is a lot of trouble here. Just wait for it to break out.
In the morning Rick figures out who everyone is, such as the kindly Carol Peletier (Melissa McBride) and others. And suddenly, Carl is yelling. A walker is nearby eating a dead deer. Rick and the rest beat the zombie down and kill it, as everybody else watches on. Dale gets the last swift chop to the head. After that, they talk about how they rarely get walkers so far up the mountain, and determine food is getting more scarce in the city.
Then up shows Daryl. He’s the one who shot the deer, but the zombie finished that fun. He’s an exciting character right off the bat, lots of life in him immediately. He’s a hunter, a tough guy. Plus, he tracked down some squirrels for dinner. Except when he comes to wonder about Merle the situation takes a turn. Except Rick wants to help, he agrees to go back to Atlanta with Daryl. Lori isn’t thrilled, but even more than that Shane has a problem: because he’s jealous and he doesn’t want to see Rick walk away after coming back. In a dangerous world, there’s no guarantee of coming back. Immediately we see Shane and Rick start butting heads slightly, with the former worried about putting lives at risk. Nothing will change the Sheriff’s mind. He wants to go back for Merle, as well as the bag full of guns on the street he dropped.

 


Sneaking back into the city, Andrea and the women stay behind. They each talk about what they miss: “I miss my vibrator,” says Andrea after they all list regular everyday items of which they’re fond. Only Carol’s husband Ed (Adam Minarovich) comes around acting like an emotionally, physically abuse husband often will. In other news, Shane and Lori are having issues, as she blames him for believing Rick was dead. I guess you could say, what else would Shane do in that situation? But there’s no reason for Shane to swoop in on the man’s wife after the fact. Either way, he straight up told Lori that Rick died. He didn’t know that, only his assumption. So I don’t see how anyone can feel on Shane’s side.
Ed continues to loom over the women. Andrea has no time for any of that and gets in his face, which draws a bit of mouth and dirty looks from Ed; he calls Andrea a “college educated cooze“. What a classy piece of work. He orders Carol around like a piece of meat before smacking her across the face. This prompts a pent up Shane to go primitive on him, beating Ed to a pulp in front of the women by the lake. Looks like Ed is about to be laid up a good long while. He deserved a beating. Yet even Shane and Carol both are a bit taken aback after the one-sided fight is finished.

 


The finale of the episode sees Merle’s hand found cut off on the top of the building, hacksaw next to it. Daryl is obviously upset, as the others look on in horror.
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Stay tuned. What will “Vatos” bring? Can’t wait to watch it again and experience it all over.

The Walking Dead – Season 1, Episode 2: “Guts”

AMC’s The Walking Dead
Season 1
, Episode 2: “Guts”
Directed by Michelle MacLaren
Written by Frank Darabont; based on the comics by Charlie Adlard, Robert Kirkman & Tony Moore.

* For a review of the premiere episode, “Days Gone Bye” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Tell It to the Frogs” – click here


After the initial episode, The Walking Dead switches gears slightly. We cut back to the camp of survivors on the outskirts of Atlanta. There’s Dale (Jeffrey DeMunn), Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) and her son Carl (Chandler Riggs), Amy Harrison (Emma Bell). They’re each doing the best they can to get by, for the time being. Everyone has their share to do, and every thing has a purpose. Still, while Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) is currently stuck in a tank surrounded by zombies, his wife Lori is out there with his best friend Shane (Jon Bernthal), unaware he’s alive, all but moving on without him entirely.
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But back to Rick. An amazing, impressive overhead shot comes down from on high to the tank again. Over the radio is Glenn Rhee (Steven Yeun). He and Rick talk for a minute, almost a darkly comical back-and-forth between the two. Glenn calls the zombies geeks, so I dig how everybody has their own term for the undead; first it was Morgan (Lennie James) with the word walkers, now Glenn has his word.
When Rick forms a tenuous plan with Glenn, it sees him fleeing the tank with a gun in hand, only the dead in front of him. Eventually, he reaches Glenn in an alleyway. They climb up one of the buildings. “Nice moves there Clint Eastwood,” says Glenn after they pause for a breather. Below them a fierce pack of zombies crowds the alley, trying to reach up towards the living flesh. Rick and Glenn find their way down into one of the nearby buildings, which takes them through a path with which the latter is obviously familiar. Once they reach another building, out come a couple people with padding, helmets and baseball bats to fend off a few of the undead.
Inside? Things aren’t much friendlier. Andrea Harrison (Laurie Holden) confronts Rick with a gun in his face. Nobody in the building is happy, as the gunfire drew the geeks toward their hideout. Others there include T-Dog (Irone Singleton), Jacqui (Jeryl Prescott), Morales (Juan Pareja). Then up top is the crazy hillbilly Merle Dixon (Michael Rooker), who decides to start firing off his own shots. After a bit of racist confrontation, Merle has everyone at gunpoint. He even clocks Rick. After the Sheriff wakes up, though, Merle gets knocked on his ass and handcuffed to a pipe.


The remaining crew try to determine what to do next, all the zombies pressing against the glass downstairs. Sewers are one option, which they head down to investigate. Glenn heads in while Rick stays behind, on account of being a good shot. He and Andrea make amends, so that’s something, right?
On the roof, Merle tries to get T-Dog to help him out of the cuffs. More racist trash out of Merle’s mouth ensures that won’t be happening. Meanwhile, the zombies are pushing harder and harder almost crashing into the building’s lobby. When they tell Rick the walkers understand humans by smell, he has an idea – smear themselves in zombie guts. They fetch a couple corpses. Inside the bodies are torn open, guts hauled out. Everybody smears a load of blood and entrails all over the jackets of Rick and Glenn, conveniently taken from the store in the building. But what I found most interesting is how Rick bothered to take the identification of the corpses out, reading the names, et cetera. This will change as the seasons go on. Great to see how he tries to keep the spirit of humanity alive in the early days by honouring the victims.


Glenn: “Oh, this is bad. This is really bad.”
Rick: “Think about something else; puppies and kittens.”
T-Dog: “Dead puppies and kittens
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Covered in zombie guts, Rick and Glenn move through the streets. Up on the roof everyone else watches reluctantly. Back out at camp, everybody worries for Andrea and the others. Obviously they’re a whole group, which puts us in the position of watching Shane trying to replace Rick, being a husband-ish figure to Lori and father-ish figure to Carl. All the while knowing Rick is likely headed back to the camp site with Glenn, T-Dog and everyone else. Over the radio Dale hears T-Dog, but not for long as the weather proves noisy for the transmission. Consistently it seems Shane is running things back there, making decisions for everyone else. Lots of control. Perhaps he doesn’t want to let go of the old order, cop and all. Either way, not everyone is happy with his leadership decisions.
Making their way further, Glenn and Rick run into an unexpected, unfortunate obstacle: Mother Nature. Rain begins to pour down on them, washing away their zombie scent. This causes the undead to start smelling the flesh on their bones, hungry, thirsty for blood and meat and brain. Terrifying sequence with the two of them fighting their way through the rest of the street. Love the way this was filmed, looks so incredible. Visceral, too. All the close shots, then the wide ones showing us how many zombies are lining the street; it gives us the scope of the devastation, even in small ways like that.


When Rick and Glenn get themselves wheels and speed back for the others, T-Dog is faced with either leaving Merle handcuffed, or helping him free. On the way over he trips, and they both watch the key slip down a drain. Gone. Facing no other choices, T-Dog leaves Merle. Will this come back to bite him, or the others? We’ll see. Those of us who’ve seen up to the current episodes know what happens. Regardless, not only does T-Dog leave he chains the door to the rooftop, hoping to give Merle at least some hope.
The undead crowds the building, busting through the doors. Everyone manages to make it out, as Rick pulls in with a truck to take them. It’s a frantic escape and heavy on intensity. You’ll find your adrenaline pumping. Because aside from Rick, at this point nobody is truly safe. Particularly, having to watch Merle, despite who he is, chained to the rooftop and left by himself is a bit gut wrenching. All the same, if Rick wasn’t there to help them all who knows what Merle might have ended up doing.
The rest of them get out safely, as well as Glenn flying in the car he found. A bittersweet end to this series’ second episode.


Stay tuned. I’m going to rewatch “Tell It to the Frogs” and review/recap it soon.

The Walking Dead – Season 1, Episode 1: “Days Gone Bye”

AMC’s The Walking Dead
Season 1, Episode 1: “Days Gone Bye”
Directed by Frank Darabont
Written by Frank Darabont; Based on the comics by Charlie Adlard, Robert Kirkman & Tony Moore.

* For a review of the following episode, “Guts” – click here
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The very first episode of The Walking Dead begins almost exactly like the comics. Almost.
Sheriff Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) stops his car on a deserted stretch of road. Cars are overturned everywhere, left in any place here or there. With a Jerry can in hand, Rick heads through a quasi-tented city made of tarp and cars. Then he sees a bunny slippered young girl in a bathrobe shuffling along the street. He calls – “Im a policeman” and “dont be afraid” – but when she turns around, it’s a zombified little creature, half a mouth. Still dragging a teddy bear.
So the initial scene with Rick Grimes, where we’re introduced to him, takes a little step back from the comics. Then shifts gears after watching Rick blow a little zombie girl away. Amazing, intense opener for this series when it first premiered. I remember it really got my attention.
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Afterwards, we cut back to Sheriff Rick actually working. In the seat next to him is Officer Shane Walsh (Jon Bernthal). They talk about women, as men often do when they’re alone. This is now pretty much where the first comic started out. We get Frank Darabont elaborating these opening moments, drawing out the relationship between Shane and Rick before the world goes to shit. Nice move. Soon we move to the gunfight, where Sheriff Rick and his second-in-command Shane come up against fleeing criminals.
And then Rick takes a bullet, putting him down. The first one doesn’t do the trick. Another one from behind misses the vest and nearly blows a hole through his side. Here commences The Walking Dead.
We watch as Rick sees Shane hover above him. Eventually, Rick wakes up thinking he’s there. Only the flowers Shane brought are dried, dead.Something terrible has happened. The clock doesn’t even work anymore. Stumbling out into the halls, he discovers the entire hospital deserted. Not a soul is there. He’s also aware of having grown a beard. The world is different now, only it seems Sheriff Grimes was the last one to figure it out. Not to any fault of his own. In a hallway, the mutilated body of a woman sits on the floor and Rick realizes life has changed drastically. Bullet holes line the walls. A door is barricaded at the end of a hallway with the inscription DON’T OPEN, DEAD INSIDE scrawled across it in spray paint.
Seeing Rick outside in the world, walking past rows of covered bodies, then panning out to a wide shot of the hospital where we can see him lost among an almost-field of them. A little further and he finds evidence of a military operation. Abandoned. The world is truly done. His first confrontation with a zombie sees him taking a bike, the half-body crawling towards him in a disgusting heap. Back at the Grimes house, Rick finds nobody. And the world gets a little worse again, at least for him.
The most difficult is when Rick isn’t sure whether or not he’s dreaming. It’s tough to imagine waking up to a world like that.


A man named Morgan Jones (Lennie James) and his son come across Rick. The boy actually cracks him with a shovel. Waking up, for the second time in an unfamiliar place, Rick is tied to a bed back at Morgan’s place. Or the spot where he and the boy are holed up currently. It’s clear Morgan does not trust too many people. Not nowadays. “Did you get bit?” he asks Rick, who for his part doesn’t understand what any of that means. Things get friendly after awhile. Morgan appears to still have a civil nature, correcting his son speaking improper English, his son insisting on saying a blessing before eating supper. Rick couldn’t have been jumped by better people. Especially considering he needs to be explained a bit about the world, as it is now. Here we get the first time “walkers” is used – from Morgan. Rick learns about how to handle the zombies, particularly the need to take out the head. Of course it’s not an easy adjustment, learning to kill people. Even if they’re not actually people any longer.
One creepy sequence sees a zombified Mrs. Jones come to the door, slowly, trying to turn the knob. It’s not their home, but she died there after things went bad. Morgan believes he “shouldve put her down“. Who could do that, though? Not as easy as it seems for those of us watching zombie films and reading the comics. If it were real, the decisions would come harder.


When Rick and Morgan part ways, he gives the latter a police radio. This will become an important link between these two for a while to come. Their moment of departure is a nice one, on amicable terms, and it’s clear they’ve bonded. One of the first important relationships of the series to come.
Rick heads out on his own. First, back to find the half-zombie from earlier and put her down: “Im sorry this happened to you,” he tells her. Morgan starts target practice from the upstairs window, as his terrified son Duane hides downstairs. Until suddenly he sees his wife in the crosshairs, almost looking into his eyes; Morgan can’t manage to pull the trigger, though. It’s not something he can do just yet, if ever.
On the highway outside Atlanta, former Sheriff Grimes tries to reach someone, anyone on the police radio. At a nearby camp some people pick him up – several wide-eyed people are clearly astounded to hear his voice, including Dale Horvath (Jeffrey DeMunn), and former Officer Shane Walsh. Although, they can’t exactly get Rick on the radio, only static keeps coming through.
It also happens to be that Rick’s wife Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) and son Carl (Chandler Riggs) are also at the camp site. Unfortunately, Shane seems to have everybody locked down and plans of going to search for the voice on the radio are vetoed. Turns out Shane and Lori are involved now. A tragic thing we’ll be dealing with for seasons.


On the road, Rick comes across more macabre sights including a family dead by murder suicide, GOD FORGIVE US scratched on the wall behind them. To see the strain of this type of situation bear down on a man who, until the past couple days, was in a coma and unaware of the crisis, it’s a wild ride. Emotionally we’re seated right alongside Rick.
Perhaps my favourite part of “Days Gone Bye” is near the end where he comes across the horse. Aside from Morgan and Duane, this is the only living creature Rick has encountered that wasn’t trying to eat his flesh right off the bone. So it’s a fun, tender moment. Not only that, we’re also brought back to the Wild West, the Frontier Days, as Rick hops backwards in transportation, to an earlier time. And it’s fitting because the world is wiped out. Humanity takes a step back, so may as well put Sheriff Grimes on a horse and ride him into Atlanta.
In the city the streets are deserted. Like everywhere else.
But a horde of the undead stop Rick, his horse, around the corner of a city block. They swarm him. The poor animal doesn’t make it out. Although Rick does. Just barely. Hopping into a tank on the street, he manages to find temporary refuge. When things seem to have gone as far as they’re about to go, a voice comes over the radio: “Hey you. Dumbass. Yeah, you in the tank. Cozy in there?”


Excited to rewatch the rest of these episodes. Up next is “Guts” where we’ll find more characters, more zombie apocalypse and plenty of horrific action.