The Walking Dead – Season 7, Episode 16: “The First Day of the Rest of Your Life”

AMC’s The Walking Dead
Season 7, Episode 16: “The First Day of the Rest of Your Life”
Directed by Greg Nicotero
Written by Scott M. Gimple, Angela Kang, & Matthew Negrete

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Something They Need” – click here
Pic 1Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) is on the edge of life and death. I only hope she holds on. Will she? Or has she decided to choose death, once and for all? She has a dream, of being back with Abraham (Michael Cudlitz). In their home at Alexandria. Quickly, she’s back with Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan). He’s brought her something to eat. And he has plans to use her to get things “back on track” – whatever that means, we’ll soon find out. She even gets a blueberry, smiley face pancake with eggs and fruit for breakfast. Yum. The sinister plot of Negan begins.
Pic 1ABack at Alexandria, Rick (Andrew Lincoln) has his gun on Dwight (Austin Amelio), who says he only wants things with Negan and The Saviors to end. It’s all pretty tough, Daryl (Norman Reedus) doesn’t like it, neither does Tara (Alanna Masterson). Nobody really trusts him, even though he gives a passionate speech about why he’s done what he’s done. Except Daryl does know more than the others about him, about his wife, what happened with Negan. They also worry about Sasha, that Dwight may be their only lifeline to getting her back, as well as their best way to infiltrate the Sanctuary and end the reign of terror.
So they must prepare, one way or another, for Negan and his Saviors coming soon.
Poor Sasha, she keeps flashing back to Abraham. Not sure which existence is a dream. Flashing to Negan and his plan, his breakfast. Her mind is being absolutely tortured. She sees, more and more, there is no way forward with Negan other than “punishment” and death by Lucille. He wants three to die, but would settle for just one. And for now Sasha agrees: only one.
Negan (to Sasha): “Youve got me wrapped around your little finger, yknow that? And its not a man-woman thing. I mean, if you had a dick I would still have these feelings.”
Pic 2Maggie (Lauren Cohan) is figuring out what to do with Hilltop, with Gregory (Xander Berkeley) off elsewhere, and Jesus (Tom Payne) happy to help her with anything, glad to have her leading the place. What to do? They need to fight. Just depends on how, what they can contribute to help Rick and Michonne (Danai Gurira) and the rest at Alexandria in taking the fight to The Saviors and Negan. I have faith that Maggie can play a big part, she’s a force.
Then there’s another force of fucking nature – Carol (Melissa McBride). She and Ezekiel (Khary Peyton) and Morgan (Lennie James), her pals from the Kingdom are on the road together. Well, Morgan likes to go it alone, but they’re together in one sense. Ezekiel wants Morgan with them. Once again, the man cannot forgive himself or get past things long enough to help those around him. A trouble dude in troubled times. At least he has Carol and his pals from the Kingdom, and Shiva!
Jadis (Pollyanna McIntosh) and her people arrive, garbage trucks and all. They’re an odd bunch; Jadis says she wants to bang Rick later, which neither he nor Michonne like to hear. In other news, Daryl, Rosita (Christian Serratos), and Aaron (Ross Marquand) are wiring an explosive they’ll put to good use soon enough. At the same time, Negan and Co are held up in the road, coming across the downed trees knocked over by Dwight.


Sasha’s decided not to take that pill after all. What she’ll decide in the end ought to be interesting. In the meantime, her friends at Alexandria have readied for the coming fight, even Carl (Chandler Riggs) has himself an assault rifle. Everybody’s braced for war. As The Saviors and Negan arrive, Eugene (Josh McDermitt) is up in front with a megaphone greeting his old friends. Nobody’s impressed with that, particularly after he tells them: “Im Negan.” Rather than suffer any fools, they opt to set off their explosive. Instead nothing happens. Jadis and her crew turn their weapons on the Alexandrians, Dwight hops from the truck with Negan. No explosions. No surprise assault. Oh, fuck.
We win
The tables have turned, drastically. Rick is not happy, as Negan gloats with everyone on his side. He lays it on thick while the Alexandrians await whatever comes next. Then, Dwight and Simon (Steven Ogg) wheel out a casket. Inside is Sasha, says Negan. He’s going to take all the guns, whatever food they can get. Rick also much choose a victim for Lucille. Plus, Daryl and the pool table go, too. Or else Sasha and a few others die.


Rick demands to see her first. So, Negan opens the casket – we get another flash of Sasha and Abraham: “Its always for someone else,” he tells her; a resonant point about The Walking Dead as a series as a whole. We also see Eugene give Sasha an iPod for her ride in the casket. She still has that pill, too. And she takes Abraham’s words to heart, in the worst way possible. She swallows the pill.
When the door comes open, a zombie Sasha appears! She lunges at Negan, then Carl takes the first shot initiating total chaos amongst the crowds. Bullets fly everywhere. Michonne wrestles with the other sniper on the rooftop. Rosita takes a bullet as Tara helps her away from the action. Jadis and Rick face one another down at the wall’s top, then she fires a shot into his side, tossing him over.
With gunfire everywhere, the Alexandrians struggle to stay alive. Jadis brings Rick to Negan, dead bodies litter the streets. The Saviors have Carl, and it seems as if he’s the next target for Lucille. Furthermore, he wants to use the bat on Rick’s hands. “I guess I gotta start all over again,” he taunts Rick. In the distance he also believes he hears Michonne dying. Somehow he stands against the tide, strong: “Youre all already dead,” Rick tells Negan.
But before any more death can come, Shiva leaps in behind them and takes down a man, scaring The Saviors and Negan away. Ezekiel, Carol, Morgan, Maggie, they all appear to push back the villains. And though the biggest baddie’s run off, he’s taken aback by the tiger, the living widow of Glenn “guns blazin‘” and sent packing with his tail between his legs. Nice to see Morgan and Rick together again, as well. Fighting side by side.
Once the smoke clears, Alexandria still remains standing, though the threats likewise live on. And Michonne, she made it out alive, if not a bit worse for the wear. She hasn’t given up, either. Not one bit.
Pic 5Back at the Sanctuary, Negan’s wondering how Sasha actually died. Eugene bullshits saying it was probably suffocation in that casket, but the boss ain’t sold. Nevertheless, he’s prepared for war. Things in Season 8 will get fucking ugly.
Although with the force of The Saviors coming down upon them, Rick and Maggie and the rest are also prepared for war. They slipped this time, managing to regain their footing. Next time, I don’t think they’ll go in trusting another group. It’s all on them now. Alexandria is full of life, with all the groups in one place for a while, each ready to fight for the person next to them.


A great season. Loved this season finale, because we ended last season and began this one on a devastating note, a weak one for Rick and everyone around him. At the end of Season 7, they’ve all regained a strength, and some they didn’t know they had, which will serve them well. We needed this progression, and as Maggie points out in her ending monologue this all began so long ago, at the beginning when Rick and each of them decided to stand for the other, to help, to love, to protect, to fight on the one side

Advertisements

The Walking Dead – Season 7, Episode 15: “Something They Need”

AMC’s The Walking Dead
Season 7, Episode 15: “Something They Need”
Directed by Michael Slovis
Written by Corey Reed

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “The Other Side” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “The First Day of the Rest of Your Life” – click here
Pic 1ATara (Alanna Masterson) finally tells Rick (Andrew Lincoln) about Oceanside, finally. Unable to keep the promise. She already feels guilty, and worse Rick warns that things could go bad. Because, y’know, nothing’s ever easy. Not in the post-zombie apocalypse landscape. Not for anyone, Rick, Tara, or otherwise.
Maggie (Lauren Cohan) is fast becoming one of the better leaders around. She runs much of the production happening at Hilltop, despite Gregory (Xander Berkeley) playing the figurehead. Meanwhile, Rick and Michonne (Danai Gurira) play their part in the coming plan for Oceanside. Jesus (Tom Payne) and Daryl (Norman Reedus) set up their own part, too.
And now see Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green), stuck in that same place where Daryl was at The Saviors compound. In a terrible position. A man tries to play quid pro quo, violently. To which she responds with an excellent headbutt. Before the guy gets to rape level, Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) shows up. Rape is “against the rules” as you’d hope it would be, though I think he plays loose with that term when it comes to his own wives. So he puts a knife through the dude’s neck. Then they have a little chat, he and Sasha. About what’s next for her. She’s left in that dark cell with Rapey Davey, to either save herself and join up with Negan, or kill herself, or whatever she chooses.
Negan: “I just want you to understand, we are not monsters.”
Later, Eugene (Josh McDermitt) turns up with a few comforts, like a pillow (not hypoallergenic) and such. He wants her to accept the offer Negan came in with, as he did. He’s given up, on everything. On himself. There was hope he’d change his cowardly ways, now I’m not sure that’ll ever happen. Eugene is yellow, through and through. Not a great way to honour the legacy of Abraham, and Sasha sends him away.


Maggie and Gregory chat while she gardens. He’s such a crabby, impatient man who really does nothing for his people, except give everything over to The Saviors and not fight them. He wants to put up a “united front” in image to those under him at Hilltop, when she’d rather it were real. They plan on talking later, but I just don’t trust the guy. He’s conniving. He actually looks as if considering killing Maggie, even for just a moment. The thought crosses his mind. Then we see his cowardice, not wanting to be saved by Maggie from a walker then having to be saved, then getting attacked by another one in the meantime. What a sad, sad excuse of a leader. Although she treats him with dignity instead of ridicule. Shows what a good heart she has; I wouldn’t be so fucking nice to a guy like that. But she understands, deep down, what it is to be vulnerable. She still has so much humanity.
In Oceanside, Tara infiltrates the leader Tanya’s cabin. Enacting the plan. The women aren’t happy to see her, wishing they’d killed her instead. She offers the women to join them, telling them what happened to her group, all The Saviors have done. Now it’s time to fight. Tara tries convincing them to talk with Rick, only it’s too late. Michonne, Daryl, Jesus, they all storm Oceanside, setting off an explosion, firing shots. Nobody’s hurt. Yet. In the cabin, Tara gets taken down; revealing no bullets in her gone. All a distraction.
Outside the others have things under control. Then they discover Tara’s held hostage. Rick says he’s taking the weapons, one way or another. They try to convince the Oceanside survivors to fight with them against Negan, The Saviors. And the other women, they start to agree fighting might be better than hiding, waiting for more threats to come. As Tanya gets overcome and a truce looks likely, walkers crowd the woods. Rick’s group and the Oceansiders must band together against a horde of waterlogged zombies. And band together they do, aside from Tanya.


Sasha’s killed undead Rapey Davey. She’s one of the gang, at least for now. Negan still doesn’t trust her, not yet. Not fully. He says he’ll try to “make it fun.” Yikes, I don’t like where this is headed. She might become a pawn in his dangerous game in a way she’d never anticipated. Something scary is coming; know that.
At Hilltop, Gregory seems to be having a crisis. More people know now of his cowardice. He’s confronting his ugly self, that he nearly killed a pregnant woman because he doesn’t feel like top man in charge anymore. So it’s back home, to drink and read a map. He has places to go, apparently.
When Eugene goes to talk to Sasha, she makes apparent she won’t let Negan do whatever it is he plans to do. She doesn’t want to be a tool to hurt Rick and the others. “I have to die, its the only way,” she tells Eugene. She wants out. She begs. But is this something devised by Negan, to test her further by testing Eugene? Her reaction makes me wonder. He brings her back a pill full of poison he made. Painless, he says. The one he made for Negan’s wives originally. It appears she does really want to die. Makes me sad.
Pic 4Rick and the gang go back home to Alexandria where the others await.
And someone else. In the cell Morgan made, Rosita (Christian Serratos) has Dwight (Austin Amelio). This sends Daryl into a fit of rage. But Dwight comes wanting to help. Rick’s cool with that, then orders him: “Get on your knees.” Shiiiiiiiieeeet.
Is former Sheriff Grimes going to pull the trigger, send Negan back a body bag message? I don’t think so. Smarter not to. We’ll see.
Pic 5What a great episode. Love how we get a broad look at a lot of characters, from The Saviors and Negan, to Oceanside, to Rick and Sasha and everyone. Such good writing to juggle so many people and keep it interesting, dramatic, tense. Negan becomes a better character and less cartoonish as time goes by, too. Love Jeffrey Dean Morgan.
Season finale “The First Day of the Rest of Your Life” is next. Can’t wait to see what Greg Nicotero has in store for the last episode of Season 7; been a great one!

The Walking Dead – Season 7, Episode 11: “Hostiles and Calamities”

AMC’s The Walking Dead
Season 7, Episode 11: “Hostiles and Calamities”
Directed by Kari Skogland
Written by David Leslie Johnson

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “New Best Friends” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Say Yes” – click here
pic-1Things at the Saviors compound are looking grim for Dwight (Austin Amelio). After discovering Daryl gone, the others arrive back with their spoils, including Eugene (Josh McDermitt). Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) greets his new guest with a smile, and Lucille.
But what about when Negan finds out one of his captives is missing? Won’t be happy. And someone’s always got to pay. In the meantime, Eugene comes to find he isn’t being killed. Rather he’s given a room, treated fairly well, given a bit of lunch after going through options of food which surprise him. They’ve even got kettle cooked potato chips. The fridge is stocked. Is the weakness in Eugene going to be a problem? Will he succumb to the temptations of this new life and not want to go back to Alexandria?
Oh, and Dwight, he’s already feeling the wrath of Negan, as a handful of Saviors storm his room and beat him hard. Shit.
pic-2Not that we didn’t see it coming. Dwight’s been put in the same room where he put Daryl, one where he’s been before himself. Negan isn’t happy about he and his Saviors looking from “tip to taint” and he’s definitely not happy about one of his wives – Sherry (Christine Evangelista) – having left not long after Daryl. Not happy at all. So now it’s a case of whether Dwight will go find Sherry. If he’ll try and repair the damage between him and his leader. Personally, I hope to see him change, after all the brutality on his part, as well as the brutality he’s seen from others; most specifically from Negan. It’d be one of the biggest redemption songs of the series. One thing we know for certain is, despite all that has happened Dwight does love Sherry, he never stopped.
Negan: “Who are you, Dwight?”
Dwight: “Im Negan
Rough and tumble Laura (Lindsley Register) shows Eugene around the compound. He’s still a bit sheepish, always will be. Soon, he’s brought to Negan. Sweet, sweet Eugene and his jar of pickles! He’s terrified. And who wouldn’t be, honestly? The I’M NEGAN chants. Lucille; know what she can do. Eugene hauls out his old story of being a doctor, et cetera, and for once it’s used well instead of deceiving people who actually wanted to help him. Thus begins survival mode in the hands of the Saviors, as he talks more confident by the minute; the name of this episode comes from his brief explanation. The slope gets even more slippery when Negan, as a token of appreciation, offers to send over a couple of his wives for dinner and conversation later. Sadly, this makes Eugene happier than it ought to, being in the hands of the man who killed his best friend Abraham.
Negan: “Look at you, Dr. Smarty Pants.”


Eugene has a nice night with the ladies, without temptations of the flesh. The women are great fun, too. Witty, smart. They want to know more about his supposed involvement with the Human Genome Project, and he obliges with a bit of tough nerdy talk. He shows off a bit whipping up a bit of helium, doing a neat science fair-like experiment for the wives. What we see further is his getting comfortable with living there. Each scene with him is like a figurative and literal slipping away from his place in Alexandria.
On the road, Dwight searches for Sherry. But what about when he does find her? What happens then? He goes to a house where there lies a picture of them on the floor. Memories everywhere amongst the empty cupboards. And an old note written by Sherry, one he compares to the note left for Daryl at the compound. In another room, a letter explaining what she did: “I let Daryl go because he reminded you of who you used to be, and I wanted to let you forget.” She also tells her husband that being dead would be better than being at that compound, under Negan’s thumb, hoping Dwight will someday get away from him and all the horror.
Back at the compound, Dwight lies saying he found his wife, killed her after she ran into a pack of zombies.
There are other things afoot. The women want help from Eugene, to help their friend Amber. She wants to end her life, the only mercy left. And tragically, it’s one of the best options in an awful world. She is going to die, one way or another. So Eugene agrees reluctantly to provide a relatively pain free suicide for the girl. Nice little montage of him doing his thing to “Everything Right is Wrong Again” by They Might Be Giants.


Punishment is being handed down at the altar of Negan. The man with the bat offers a show for Eugene. The doctor’s been framed by Dwight, to make him look in cahoots with Sherry for all the mess with Daryl. Nothing good for the doc is coming. Love how the scene is framed with Negan and the doctor in the background, just out of focus, as we’re focused on Dwight’s face, grimly bearing the fruits of his shitty machinations. Afterwards, the iron piping hot, Negan gets a false confession.
That ain’t good enough, though. Not for a demonstration with Dr. Eugene in their company. He decides on tossing the doc straight into the furnace for everyone to witness. Watching Dwight play the part of humble servant, good dog, is crushing. He may have not killed his wife. He still just let a man get burned to death.
Eugene figures out that the women want to kill Negan, the pills aren’t for Amber. They threaten telling the leader of his involvement if he doesn’t give over the pills. Except Eugene knows he has a place in the ranks, he isn’t replaceable; so far as Negan knows. One of the women tells Eugene he’s a coward. And he already knows that well enough.
He’s content to hang around, eat pickles. Before a knock comes at his door. It’s the bad man and Lucille. Popping by for a chat. He wants to know who Eugene is – before he gets it out of his mouth, the crying fool replies: “Im Negan.”
Next day he’s out surveying a bit of work with the caged zombies. Hypnotised by Negan. Is he playing the part, or is Eugene genuinely falling into life with Negan and the Saviors?


A solid episode I didn’t expect to love. Eugene’s not exactly a favourite of mine, though it’s changing now. This episode was an interesting look at his character, which in turn provided a couple unique perspectives into the Saviors’ compound, life under Lucille, so on. Can’t wait for “Say Yes” next.

The Walking Dead – Season 7, Episode 9: “Rock in the Road”

AMC’s The Walking Dead
Season 7, Episode 9: “Rock in the Road”
Directed by Greg Nicotero
Written by Angela Kang

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Hearts Still Beating” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “New Best Friends” – click here
screen-shot-2017-02-13-at-1-46-30-amHere it is – the mid-season premiere!
Open on Alexandria. Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) stands on watch at the top of the gate, everything is dark. He passes time reading the Bible. But it’s getting harder to read, you can tell by the look on his face. Soon he goes back to one of the houses, starts piling canned food into a box and looking through the inventory, most of which is going to The Saviors. He packs what he can into a car, gasses up, then heads out into the night.
Is he bringing things to them? No, I think he wants to hide things from them. That could turn things awful tricky.
screen-shot-2017-02-13-at-1-49-37-amBack at Hilltop things aren’t so easy, either. Gregory (Xander Berkeley) argues with Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and his people, he isn’t so convinced the group can do what they say and take out Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) or his Saviors. Maggie (Lauren Cohan), Tara (Alanna Masterson), and the rest try convincing Gregory, but he’s simply not buying it. “Youre either with us or you aint,” Daryl (Norman Reedus) reminds him.
After they’ve gotten nowhere with the fearful leader, Enid (Katelyn Nacon) brings a few people to speak with Rick and the group. One woman named Bertie (Karen Ceesay) tells Maggie that they’re willing to fight, long as they’re shown how to fight and defend themselves properly. This is a good turn of events, they don’t need Gregory when the people at Hilltop are ready to be part of the resistance. Jesus (Tom Payne) also says it’s time that the gang meets King Ezekiel (Khary Payton). Yes!
They go to the Kingdom – Jesus, Rick, Daryl, as well as Michonne (Danai Gurira), Carl (Chandler Riggs), Tara, Rosita (Christian Serratos) and Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green). And there they meet a couple guys on horses, one of whom is Richard (Karl Makinen).
It’s amazing to see Rick and the group when they witness the Kingdom. Even better once Morgan (Lennie James) strolls out to see greet them. He tells Rick and Daryl about Carol (Melissa McBride) wanting to be left alone, too. Afterwards they meet the King and Shiva, and it’s a big of a culture shock. Although Rick jumps on in for a chat. He brings up The Saviors, wanting to band together and bring them down. Everybody discusses Negan, his brutality, why he must be stopped. Jesus also chimes in to say that he once thought their deal was something they could all “live with” but that’s all quickly, horribly changed. On top of that we already know Richard doesn’t like The Saviors, he’s on board to get shit done.
Ezekiel: “And what plans have you, Rick Grimes of Alexandria?”
What comes out is Rick talks about his mother telling him a story when he was a boy, about a road to a kingdom. A little girl and her family went along the road, losing all they had after their wagon hit a rock in the road. The girl, determined never to let the rock hurt another, dug at it until eventually finding a bag of gold. Negan is the rock in the road, and if they’re able to dig him out then at the end of the line is their gold: a world at peace.


Out on his own, Benjamin (Logan Miller) runs into a gun-toting Carol. They talk about general badassery. They also talk about Ezekiel, a little. In this brief exchange, Benjamin instils a tiny smidgen of hope in Carol, somewhere deep down. The fact that this young man still holds hope for mankind, wanting to help others, it sort of goes against everything she’s started believing about the new world.
I love that we get a guy like King Ezekiel, too. Because for so long we went from either Rick’s group and their various people, some good and some bad in the end, then there’s The Governor, all those battles, and then it was Terminus, and so on. Once Negan turned it up you start to wonder, if you haven’t read the comics like many of us, if only the big baddies are kicking around. Finally, we get a guy who’s pure, or at least his intentions are of the purest sort. A little later Benjamin actually becomes the voice of reason for the King, in regards to helping the people of Alexandria: “My dad always said that if youre asked to be the hero, be a hero.”
We find out that Ezekiel has regrets about once sending some of his people into battle, which yielded many dead, many children orphaned. So this is part of why he’s so altruistic at this point in time. He wants to right his wrongs. But Rick has been there, as well. We’ve seen all that. He has demons, he also isn’t a total saint. In the end, Ezekiel won’t agree to help, though offers Daryl asylum from The Saviors. Hmm. Something needs to happen to change the King’s mind. Richard’s on the side of Rick and his friends. That’s not enough. At the moment Daryl’s left at the Kingdom with Rick asking him to try his best on swaying Ezekiel.
screen-shot-2017-02-13-at-2-19-34-amOver the radio Negan’s voice is heard eulogising Fat Joey. Meanwhile, Rick and Co head onto the highway where they find a bunch of cars blocking the way. They move them with their vehicle while Michonne keeps her eye on the horizon; she spots a strange device. It’s a rope across the road rigged to an explosive device. Now, they’ve got to disarm the thing. Rosita has her hands into the trap’s inner workings, as they hear Negan call out over the radio for men to go searching for Daryl. Following that, Rosita gets the main component of the trap disarmed, and they all go about carefully unwrapping the dynamite and other explosives, watching the road for Saviors or walkers.
And sooner than later the undead come shambling from a distance. The group packs up what explosives are in good condition, scrambling to put the cars back in place on the road. A massive horde of zombies works its way up the highway faster than expected, forcing Michonne and Rick into a quick plan.
We get one of the coolest zombie killing scenes EVER, as Michonne and Rick use the wire between the cars from the trap to clothesline tons and tons of the walkers before climbing in with the rest of the crew and scooting to safety. Behind them an explosion goes off blasting more meat into the sky.
Michonne: “Were the ones who live


Once Rick makes it back to Alexandria they’re greeted by a Saviors convoy. Simon (Steven Ogg) arrives, coy as ever. They’re trying to find Daryl, of course. Simon wants to search the entire place and they go about their business, all the while trashing everything like pigs. The Saviors also come across the empty shelves in the storage garage, the stuff we saw Father Gabriel take in the opener. But they don’t care, not until pickup day. When the group is left on their own again people believe Gabriel ran off with their supplies. But what’s the truth? Rick, Tara, some of them don’t believe he’d do that to them.
Turns out they were left a message: BOAT. Mysterious how he knew where Aaron (Ross Marquand) and Rick had gone. So, another journey is at hand. When the crew make out for the boat on the lake they find footprints. They follow them to an old factory in a field where they encounter people with guns, many others with weapons; MANY.
But Rick smiles in the face of it all. Literally. A big shit-eating grin. Is it a ‘bring it on’ smile, or a ‘these people can help us’ grin?screen-shot-2017-02-13-at-2-41-24-amA great mid-season opener after the break. So many things to look forward to, and lots of character development going on, especially when we get a conversation between Aaron and his partner Eric (Jordan Woods-Robinson). We see that everyone has issues, everyone has worries. This will only continue in the next episode “New Best Friends” and I’m excited.

The Walking Dead – Season 7, Episode 8: “Hearts Still Beating”

AMC’s The Walking Dead
Season 7, Episode 8: “Hearts Still Beating”
Directed by Michael E. Satrazemis
Written by Matthew Negrete & Channing Powell

* For a review of the previous episode, “Sing Me a Song” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Rock in the Road” – click here
screen-shot-2016-12-12-at-2-44-50-am
Maggie (Lauren Cohan) is still reeling from the death of her husband, obviously. You can’t expect she’ll get over that quick, if ever. Especially not in this new post-zombie apocalypse world. At the Hilltop community, she’s getting by, as well as expected. Gregory (Xander Berkeley) is being a real dick, though. He doesn’t like anybody else looking like the big dog around his backyard, y’know.
Back at Alexandria, Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) taunts Carl (Chandler Riggs) and baby Judith, then cooks a bit of pasta and suace for dinner. Most interesting is at the Savior’s compound, where Daryl (Norman Reedus) is more and more on the verge of getting himself free; hopefully.
Nobody in Alexandria is happy, not with Negan around. Olivia (Ann Mahoney) tries her best to keep it together with a bit of help from Tara (Alanna Masterson). But Olivia’s the one who has to sit down to dinner with Negan. Pretending like they’re a happy family. She only does it to keep a promise to Rick (Andrew Lincoln), that she’d look after the baby.
We keep seeing that Morse code in Rick’s place, as well. You think that means something? I do. But we’ll see.
Of course Rick is still out and about with Aaron (Ross Marquand), attempting to get out to the boat on the lake where the place is probably loaded with supplies. At home, Rick’s son has to “pass the rolls” to the man who smashed Abraham and Glenn into bloody chunks. Because “Lucille is hungry” and so is Negan.
Possibly the most sinister opening to any episode yet, honestly. Loved it.

screen-shot-2016-12-12-at-2-52-02-am
Eugene (Josh McDermitt), Spencer (Austin Nichols), and Rosita (Christian Serratos) bring their latest finds to the Saviors. One of whom, a lady, hits on Spencer: “Maybe Ill buy you a sandwich.” He plays along, for the time being.
We can’t forget about Carol (Melissa McBride), in her house just outside the Kingdom. And Morgan (Lennie James), he leaves a little something on her doorstep – fruits from the garden. She likes to be on her own, she’s got plenty. Ezekiel keeps on bringing her fresh produce. But she’d rather be alone. Then Richard (Karl Makinen) shows up, too. He has something the three of them need to discuss.
Morgan: “I think youre goinsoft.”
Carol: “I think youre going.”
Out on the lake Aaron and Rick come into trouble, though they fight off the water zombies to get to a canoe in good shape. Only more walkers swarm, and Aaron’s hauled into the water. Dead? No, sir. He’s just a damn good swimmer. They both make it to the boat, in one piece. Barely. They find lots of guns. As usual, not much ammo. Rick and Aaron talk about the deal with Negan – Aaron understands, he was present for the brutality of the man. “What were doing is gonna keep people living. We get to do that. Doesnt matter what happens to us.” The title of the episode comes from Aaron’s talk about keeping people alive, taking what they can. Across the lake, someone watches them both.
At the Saviors’ compound, Daryl runs through the dark halls and ends up in somebody’s bedroom. He searches for a way out, getting some peanut butter on the way and a new shirt. Please, Daryl: get the fuck out of there. He sits first, listening to nearby voices, and then gets on the move.

screen-shot-2016-12-12-at-3-00-27-am
Enid (Katelyn Nacon), Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green), and Maggie hang out together, talk it up. Maggie’s pregnant stomach keeps her eating constantly. Everyone in Hilltop, aside from Gregory, is a fan of her, as well as the other two. But while the expectant mother leaves, Enid confronts Sasha about a lie concerning Jesus (Tom Payne). It’s because Sasha wants to get Negan. And Enid wants in. They just want to keep Maggie out of the equation because she’s too headstrong, even with a baby growing inside her. Yet Sasha tells Enid she has to keep Maggie safe.
Back with Richard, he tells Morgan and Carol about when he came to the Kingdom, about the terrible threat of the Saviors. He wants Carol and Morgan to help him convince Ezekiel they need to take action against Negan, because “things will go bad; and when they do, the Kingdom will fall.” Thing is, he’s come across Carol at a point in time where she wants to let go of everything – the killing, the people, all of it: “I dont want anything to do with your lives, or your deaths.” Interesting to see someone like her, and particularly Morgan, turned away from violence now being forced to maybe turn back; the never ending plague of this new world.
Oh, Spencer – will you die tonight? He gets back to his once nice, well kept home, to find it in complete disarray. Negan and his crew have tossed the place. He cleans the place up, he cleans up, practises his best introduction and leaves with a bottle of liquor. Will he actually dare try something against Negan on his own? Yikes.
In Savior territory, Daryl makes it to the motorcycle lot where a guy finds him. He agrees to let Daryl go. Rather than go on, Daryl beats the man to death, as Jesus shows up just in time. Now they’ve got themselves a gun to boot.


Were all Negan
With Michonne (Danai Gurira) still holding one woman at gunpoint, she finds where she’s headed. Furthermore, we see how people are willing to die rather than go back to Negan, as the woman essentially asks to be put down. And Michonne obliges the request.
In Alexandria, Rick and Aaron get back with supplies. Over on the porch Spencer shares a glass of liquor with Negan. Something bad’s brewing in their little town. When one of the Saviors gets rough with Aaron, this leaves Rick helpless, watching on. Spencer gets a pool table into the street for him and Negan, then brings up the dissent with his leader in Alexandria. Great editing takes us from the pool balls knocking together over to Aaron’s beating, as Rick must stand there, doing nothing. Such an amazing build, between editing, dialogue, action, score. “You should know Rick Grimes has a history of not working well with others.” This takes Spencer into talking about how he believes Rick brought their town down, his family now dead. Then he offers to lead Alexandria.
Does Negan take the bait? Well, he isn’t exactly impressed that Spencer’s not out gathering things, like Rick, who’s “swallowing his hate and gettinshit done.” As he says, that “takes guts.” Oh, is that the cue? If so, pitch perfect line.
What follows is straight from the comics: Negan plays on the word guts again, then plunges a knife deep into his stomach, letting those guts fall right out, horrifying everyone watching on. Another vulgar display of power. Out of nowhere, Rosita fires a bullet at Negan and it digs right into Lucille. HOLY FUCKING SHIT, ROSITA! YOU BAD ASS MOTHERFUCKER. Wow. Did not expect that. Neither did the man himself. Plus, now he’s discovered their homemade bullets. Uh oh. “You may be stupid, darlin‘, but you showed some real ingenuity here.” It’s either give up the secret of the bullets, or get a new carved up face. Rather than carve her up when she refuses to give it up, Negan has Arat (Elizabeth Ludlow) shoot somebody at random: Olivia. Fuck, man.
None of that sits well with Rick. Except Negan wants a thank you, for not killing Carl, for taking Spencer down when he was crying mutiny. All for you, Sheriff Grimes. And Negan isn’t leaving until he figures out who mad the bullets. Eugene doesn’t let anyone else take the fall this time, he confesses. Bad news for him: he’s now Savior property. Alexandria is left devastated, without another couple members, and “in the hole” with Negan worse than ever.

screen-shot-2016-12-12-at-3-31-25-am


As always, Rick blames himself. For everything. Like he asked to be the leader of their group, to be the one to make all the tough decisions. He never asked for that, it was heaped upon him. Then everyone blames him when things go sideways. He doesn’t always make the best or right decisions, yet he always does the best he can.
When Michonne gets back, she tells Rick that she doesn’t want to go it alone. She wants them to go it together, to fight alongside one another. And she won’t give up hope.
At Hilltop, Maggie gets one nice gift: she gets her friends back. Rick embraces her, glad to see her again, and he gets to see she’s safe, healthy. Rick is ready to fight. He’s ready to do what’s necessary. Oh, and Daryl is at Hilltop, too. The whole gang reunited. A heartwarming scene after so much devastation and blood and hurt. One fantastic mid-season finale. Rick even gets his gun back, a figurative recharging of his will to live and to fight for a better life.


I’m so pumped for the back half of Season 7! I don’t care what anyone says, I’ve enjoyed all these episodes. Lots of fun and the show is picking up steam from a few lacklustre moves over the course of the past couple seasons. Great to see them pushing ahead.

The Walking Dead – Season 7, Episode 7: “Sing Me a Song”

AMC’s The Walking Dead
Season 7, Episode 7: “Sing Me a Song”
Directed by Rosemary Rodriguez
Written by Angela Kang & Corey Reed

* For a review of the previous episode, “Swear” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Hearts Still Beating” – click here
screen-shot-2016-12-05-at-2-58-05-am
I’m worried about Michonne (Danai Gurira). She found all those mattresses the Saviors burned on them and now she just can’t bring herself to believe what Rick (Andrew Lincoln) does about the way forward. And now, she’s beginning to revert to a few of her old ways again.
And Rick, he’s with Aaron (Ross Marquand), wondering about Michonne.
At the same time a few greasers sit along the road, driving the truck Jesus (Tom Payne) and Carl (Chandler Riggs) are hiding inside. This is an interesting pair. Jesus is a young guy, though experienced, and a bad ass. I used to hate Carl and then he grew up, got a bit bad ass himself. They might be good together. Except Carl ditches him, very clever, and heads on by himself. This kid’s balls are too big for his own good.
When the Saviors roll into Negantown and Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) comes out to inspect the latest haul, Carl opens fire with an assault rifle. “I only want Negan, he killed my friends; no one else needs to die.” The man himself is impressed: “You are adorable,” says Negan. He is a saucy, mouthy bastard. They disarm the boy, but then the leader welcomes him as a guest. As Daryl (Norman Reedus) watches nearby. Fuck, this is maybe one of the most intense openers of any episode, at least in a long while. Plus we see how big Negan’s home is, and it’s massive.
screen-shot-2016-12-05-at-2-59-57-amscreen-shot-2016-12-05-at-3-05-02-am
Carl is brought inside to see what things are like on Negan’s side. The kid’s also schooled in how to be a bad ass by maybe the ultimate bad ass himself; like him or not. Everyone in there kneels before him. Gross. It’s like he gives a sermon. Or a speech in the way of a dictator.
Back in Alexandria, Rosita (Christian Serratos) doesn’t want to give things over to Negan and his Saviors. She doesn’t like Spencer (Austin Nichols) and his bullshit, either. So she and Eugene (Josh McDermitt) are going to head out. You know where: to find bullet making materials.
We see how Negan is trying to corrupt Carl. He wants to corrupt everyone he comes in contact with, and especially anybody he perceives as more helpless to his violence, such as women and children. He is really one disgusting man. He uses increments of violence to ensure further cooperation just by threat later, like reading straight out of portions of Machiavelli’s The Prince.
Did you notice Carl lean in quick while Negan turned for a second? Definitely said something. Either way, at this point I’m not willing to count out anything when it comes to Carl; whether it’s him getting killed tragically somehow, or doing something wild to get himself free.


We see more of Spencer literally hating Rick. He admits it to Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam). He has a lot of strong feelings. And I can see Spencer going the way of his character in the comics. For those who read them, you know what I’m talking about. Gabriel, though – he has faith in Rick. The priest holds onto Rick’s leadership, while Spencer all but wishes for his death.
Gabriel: “What youre saying doesnt make you a sinner. But it does make you a tremendous shit. Just for now. It doesnt have to be terminal.”
Negan likes the cut of Carl’s jib. He likes that the kid is smart, a bit ruthless. He also wants to see the hole in the kid’s face where that eye used to sit. “Its like talkinto a birthday present,” he taunts. Then Carl shows him. He shames the boy, asking to touch it. Being an all around piece of shit until Carl weeps a little. And this actually provokes a response in the man. He apologises, forgetting he’s been talking to a kid. Wow. Afterwards the title of the episode comes when Negan asks for Carl to sing him a tune. In return for the men he mowed down. And the kid sings “You Are My Sunshine” for the evil nutcase, as he swings Lucille wildly in the background. “Lucille loves beinsung to.”
Oh, my. Now comes something awful. There’s an iron in the fire, and somebody’s due to get branded. Negan preaches another sermon about The Saviors, out there to supposedly save the world. Right on, dude. Someone in their crew has gone against the pack; more so against Negan. So he must be branded for his transgressions. Just like Dwight (Austin Amelio). God, that’s vicious. At least they have a doctor to tend to the burn.


Already with supplies, Rosita and Eugene get back to the bullet making factory. But he doesn’t feel good being there. The memories of Abraham lingering at that place, as well as the fact he isn’t sure about barrelling into Rosita’s half-cocked plan. However, she is damn convincing.
We see Dwight and his former wife Sherry (Christine Evangelista), they obviously still care for each other and are only apart because of Negan. The nasty leader is up trying to “break” Carl, as he does with Daryl. The kid, like Daryl, is strong. He doesn’t give the motherfucker an inch. How will Negan deal with him? Especially when Carl threatens to kill him. So instead of anything else, Negan opts to go for a ride out to take Carl home. He doesn’t notice Jesus on top of their vehicle, nor that Jesus disappears quickly. He does notice that Daryl is ready to kill him if Carl is hurt.
Underneath the door in his closet, tucked in the dark, Daryl gets a message: GO NOW. Is it from Sherry? I’d bet on it. She is a good woman, forced into unimaginable horror.
On a road lays a pile of walkers blocking access any further. This is a pile Michonne has made. She disarms a woman and orders: “Take me to Negan.” Man, everybody is just out for going after the guy alone. Instead of listening to Rick – even though he’s not perfect – they all want to go try taking Negan out by themselves.

screen-shot-2016-12-05-at-3-53-54-am
In Alexandria, Negan strolls through with Carl. He wants to wait for Rick to come home. He goes on to insult Olivia and her weight, then trying to have sex with her; she slaps his face, though. Good woman! Fuck that guy and his bullshit. Luckily he just decides to sit there and wait. And drink a bit of lemonade.
What follows is a hilariously soundtracked montage of Negan settling in around the house, playing darts, feeling the carpet between his toes. He discovers Judith in her crib, despite Carl trying to prevent it. Weird seeing such a horrific pig like Negan holding an innocent child.
While her dad Rick and uncle Aaron are out on their own. They come across a sign, stating a man lives past that sign and he’s ready to kill anybody getting too close. Is he dead? Or is he still somewhere out there lurking? Nearby on the lake is a boat, supplies likely still aboard.
When Spencer, Eugene, and Rosita return to Alexandria they find Negan already there obviously. He’s taken up in the neighbourhood. “Oh, I like it here,” he says with a menacing smile, still holding Carl’s little sister. Thinking about whether he’ll murder Carl and his father.

screen-shot-2016-12-05-at-4-04-21-am
Fuck, this was an intense episode in places. A couple slow parts, but I can see they’re setting a few things up. Lots to look forward to in “Hearts Still Beating” next.

The Walking Dead – Season 7, Episode 4: “Service”

AMC’s The Walking Dead
Season 7, Episode 4: “Service”
Directed by David Boyd  (“Secrets“, “Heads Up“)
Written by Corey Reed

* For a review of the previous episode, “The Cell” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Go Getters” – click here
screen-shot-2016-11-14-at-2-05-06-am
Back in Alexandria once more. Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and Michonne (Danai Gurira) lay in bed next to one another. She rests uneasy, her breath heavy. She heads downstairs and gets a gun from the chimney, then leaves the house, as Rick watches her go.
In an open field Michonne walks by herself. She stops at a rusty old truck and gets up to look around. She sits there, waiting with the rifle in her hands. At the house Rick holds his little Judith. Eugene (Josh McDermitt) fumbles around with a radio outside while Rosita (Christian Serratos) and others hope to gather more for Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) when he arrives.
But he has already arrived: “Little pig, little pig, let me in.” Rick meets him at the gates. As always, Negan talks shit. He’s brought his Saviors, Dwight (Austin Amelio) and captive Daryl (Norman Reedus) included.
Negan lets himself into their little town. Even makes Rick hold Lucille while he waltzes. And seeing Rick hold that bat, new blood splattered over it, there’s a hate in his eyes we’ve not seen in a long, long time. If ever.
screen-shot-2016-11-14-at-2-13-33-am
Negan’s pleased with the looks of Alexandria. Plenty of spoils to take. When Rick tries talking to Daryl, the bad man makes clear he is “help” and nothing more. Scariest part of this guy is that he’s also sexually threatening to the women. We’ve already seen, and heard from his own mouth, about what happened to Dwight; not good. He’s got women amongst the Saviors, as well. But just like hardline right-wing women, there is a seething hatred likely underneath their hard exterior. No telling what Negan’s offered them, what type of options they’ve been given to this point to make them follow his orders. On top of everything else, Alexandria gets pillaged of supplies, so on. Leaves them withered to even think about taking on Negan if they’re struggling to keep themselves in goods to appease him.
Out in the field Michonne takes shots at a walker in the distance. She never quite hits the thing in the head. So it’s back to the sword. Moments later she happens across a deer in the woods, dead, bullet hole in its neck.
More and more we see that Negan is happy with what Alexandria provides: “This is the kind of stuff that just tickles my balls!” Moreover, he finds the tapes Deanna left long ago. The tape shows a bearded, wild Rick. Not the man he is today. Such a stark contrast, one heavy reminder. Then Negan begins taunting some about Maggie (Lauren Cohan), talking about widows in a real nasty manner. Oh, and Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) shows up. They tell Negan that Maggie is dead, buried. We know it isn’t true. That isn’t something we’d not see. But this baseball wielding bastard doesn’t need to know.
A gun goes off down the street. Carl (Chandler Riggs) isn’t letting the Saviors take all their things. He’s holding them at gunpoint. This pisses the big guy off when they catch up. Negan does feel slightly impressed with Carl’s balls. Eventually the kid gives up, his father watching with tears welling in his eyes, not wanting another person – especially his son – dead in front of his eyes. Shitty thing is that Negan will be taking firepower with him when he leaves. Again, withering Alexandria worse than before.

screen-shot-2016-11-14-at-2-25-55-am
Lots of psyching out from Negan. He continually batters people, physically and mentally, no matter with whom he’s dealing. Even his own guys, now and then. With Rick it is brutal. To see such a strong, relentless leader as him be crushed into submission by anyone shitty, let alone this dude, is a bit of Shakespearean tragedy. Yes, it’s needed story wise. And I love it. But still a hard pill to swallow when you love Rick, as well as Andrew Lincoln (gives him a proper role to chew into this season though).
Rosita and Spencer (Austin Nichols) head out and find Daryl’s motorcycle in the woods. “This is where Rick got us,” he tells her. Sad that he sees it that way. A defeatist attitude. Rosita then runs into the woods out of nowhere while he talks.
Negan gets his hands on the RPG the gang used – Daryl specifically – to blow those guys off the road last season. Furthermore, he discovers an accounting error in the books Olivia keeps for the armoury. Missing guns. Uh oh. “Two handguns short.” This might cause trouble. Lucille is thirsty for Olivia.
In the church Rick asks his group who’s holding the guns. Nobody speaks up, though Rick and the core few witnessed what happened to Abraham and Glenn. “Im not in charge anymore; Negan is,” he tells the people in front of him.
Rosita tracks a couple zombies in the woods and then takes down a group of them like a bad ass. She snags a gun off one of them. No ammo. She wants to make sure Alexandria has some protection left when Negan rolls out. “This is not our life,” she tells Spencer. I love her, and hope she continues to be a bigger character from here on in.

screen-shot-2016-11-14-at-2-50-14-am
Whereas Rick panics looking for the guns, Gabriel tries reassuring him that things will change for the better. He has faith in Rick, after all they’ve been through together. Aaron (Ross Marquand) searched Rosita’s room, nothing, and there are less places by the minute to check. When Rick steps on a floorboard there’s a hiding place with canned food, liquor, and… you betcha, a couple handguns. A Savior accosts Enid (Katelyn Nacon) outside like a dirty creep. Nobody can do anything except watch on, which doesn’t make Carl happy, or anybody for that matter.
So Negan’s got his guns, for now Olivia is safe. But the bad man and his bat wants Rick to keep a lid on his people. If not, I imagine more head smashing. Oh, I can’t wait to see someone get the upper hand on Negan! I want his villainy to last, but very much looking forward to the tension once he and Rick (or whoever) go up against one another in a more violent way.
The toughest is when Rick has to go to Michonne for her rifle. He knows that she’s been practising. She refuses to let go of her weapon. Rick is done losing people, regardless the price. I understand that, in a way. Upsets me to see these two divided amongst themselves after so much.
When the Saviors are ready to leave, Rick wants Daryl to stay. Seeing as how they’ve given over so much. No dice. Next time Negan comes through he wants “something interesting” or somebody will get fed to Lucille.


With nothing left Alexandria goes on as it did before, only hungrier, less equipped. At least Rosita has a gun. Not sure what good one will do, but one is better than none. Not everything is swell around town, not even mattresses to sleep on. Rick and Michonne are at odds over this new defeated way of living. For the first time in so long he talks about Shane, and the beginning of the zombie apocalypse, how Lori got together with Shane, the whole story. He admits: “I know Judith isnt mine. I know it.” Although he loves her like his own. He hopes to teach her to survive. Mostly, he talks of having to accept so many things out of his reach. It’s either take this life now, or nothing at all. But for how long?
Back in that field Michonne goes. Up on the rusty truck. On the horizon she sees smoke. In the road are their mattresses, burning. All for the Saviors to have fun with, not for sleeping.
More importantly, Rosita remembers something crucial with no bullets in her gun: Eugene knows how to make ammo.
screen-shot-2016-11-14-at-3-06-49-amscreen-shot-2016-11-14-at-3-07-07-am
Lots of good stuff setting up here. Great dialogue and tension between Rick and Negan, as well as the fact we get more Rosita, which is unusual yet welcome, and the other characters aren’t being left behind.
Next up is “Go Getters” and I’m hoping the tune changes from this episode. Really good one, just felt that by the end the Negan-speak was getting on my nerves. I dig the dialogue, the whole smug personality irks me after a while.

The Walking Dead – Season 7, Episode 3: “The Cell”

AMC’s The Walking Dead
Season 7, Episode 3: “The Cell”
Directed by Alrick Riley
Written by Angela Kang

* For a review of the previous episode, “The Well” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Service” – click here
screen-shot-2016-11-07-at-1-42-12-am
This week, we’re back with Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and his captive, Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus). Will we see a confrontation? Doubtful. I worry mostly for Daryl because he cares too much. Seeing as how, technically, he’s the reason Glenn took a barbed wire bat to the dome – over and over until his brains were mush – I feel as if Daryl’s going to take that on heavily, and psychologically he might never be the same again. It’ll be most interesting because Daryl’s not a comic book character, so his reaction to and involvement with Glenn dying comes totally from the writers here on the series. Let’s hope they do him right.
With Daryl in the clutches of Negan’s Saviors he witnesses how they live, which involves alcohol, lots of fresh food, even watching old tapes of Who’s the Boss? or at least that’s how it is for Dwight (Austin Amelio). Not everyone is so privileged. The Saviors have free run of everything within their grasp. Everyone in sight kneels for Negan, though. What a sad, sorry lot. Dwight pillages food to make himself a sandwich, as Daryl gets fed dog food between two buns. He’s already been down to eating dog chow. Stuck in a dark hole he’ll take what he can get. No less humiliating.
screen-shot-2016-11-07-at-1-46-20-am
Poor Daryl, he has to listen to awful music, tortured how they liked to do in Guantanamo. He’s fed dog food, woken up constantly by the same song. No idea how much time is passing. They’re trying to break him down. The want to make him a Savior, from what I can tell. At one point he’s brought – wearing a sweatshirt bearing a large orange A – to a room where Dr. Carson (Tim Parati) checks him out. They run into Sherry (Christine Evangelista), who’s recently tested negative for pregnancy. Hmm, interesting. Does she belong to Negan? Or are she and Dwight an item? Hard to tell. But you can be sure women are probably closet to second class citizens in this type of society. The doctor has nothing for Daryl other than: “Negan will take care of you.” They run into the man himself. He wants to chat with Dwight. The saddest is seeing Daryl stare at a real room, one with a bed, a chair, books, so on.
Meanwhile, he’s brought outside where a ton of walkers are behind a chain link fence. Other men with sweatshirts, numbers spray painted on them, are in the pen. Dwight threatens Daryl, as if he’s not aware of the danger around him already. Then he gets tossed back in the dark little room to rot. “I aint ever gonna kneel,” Daryl tells his captor. If he doesn’t though, what exactly will happen? Dwight seems to think he’ll kneel. Sooner or later. And the music starts all over again. Enough to drive any normal person totally insane. Negan’s happy with the progress, all said. We get a bit of saucy talk from the leader, mentioning “you know who” – I assume that’s Sherry. I can see somewhere down the line somebody will take inspiration from the coming rebellion against Negan, and one of his own men is someday going to be part of his downfall. That’s my take. One thing’s for sure: Negan has Dwight wrapped around his fist, not even just a finger.

screen-shot-2016-11-07-at-1-58-01-am
Daryl gets himself out of the dark closet and makes it down one of the equally dark hallways nearby. At the same time, Dwight is on the road headed somewhere, trying to move through a crowd of zombies left splattered along the highway. Parts are caked with guts, and then Dwight is nearly taken out once a walker comes flying down off the overpass. Whoa.
In the hallways Sherry finds Daryl. She warns him: “Theres always more. You wont get away. And when youre back, itll be worse.” Negan and his boys find him, too. They crowd around our hero. “Who are you?” Negan asks the guys around him: “Negan,” they all reply in creepy cult fashion. “I am everywhere,” he explains to Daryl. He makes clear that there is no way forward, alive, except to follow him. He even throws back to the bat, about to smash another head. Daryl flinches not even an inch. That doesn’t impress Lucille, though it does Negan. He’s one sick bastard, this guy. The Saviors beat Daryl down on their own like a bunch of bitches. Once he’s put back in the hole, Sherry comes to talk. About the last time she saw Daryl, when they stole his bike. And she admits to being sorry, finally.
On his way home Dwight looks rough. He happens across a man being attacked by a walker, he tackles him. It’s a stray from the flock. He doesn’t want to be a part of what Negan has going on there, not anymore. We discover that Dwight had a wife – Sherry – and that Negan did something bad, to them both; did he claim Sherry as his own? I think so. Either way, being on Negan’s side doesn’t always guarantee safety. Not fully. That’s what we’re coming to understand gradually. Isn’t that the general rule for cults? Because make no mistake: his commune is a cult. This man isn’t allowed to walk away, though. Dwight makes sure of it.

screen-shot-2016-11-07-at-2-09-13-am
More dog food sandwiches for Daryl, more mental abuse. He’s left with one of those Polaroids, y’know, the ones we saw Glenn looking at near the end of last season when they came upon The Saviors’ lair. Sadly, this one is of Glenn’s smashed brains. Daryl gets left in the dark with having to see what he, accidentally, caused for his friend. It is horrific, and breaks his heart into pieces. Plus, more music to drive him mad (Roy Orbison’s “Crying” I believe).
Note: a silently amazing performance in this episode out of Reedus; an actor’s actor right now.
Later, Daryl’s brought to see Negan in that nice room the former stared into earlier. The fearful leader tells the tale of Dwight, his former wife, her ill sister. Seems that Negan wanted to make her his wife, then Dwight ran off with the ladies and stolen medication. We further discover Lucille had to take a victim. Then Sherry agreed to marry Negan, in order to save her husband. Dwight still had to take his punishment, all the same. Yikes, what a fucking horrorshow.
He finally asks Daryl: “Who are you?” No reply.
Will he break?
He asks once again and the nearly broken man replies: “Daryl.” So into the hole, more torture. They won’t kill him. Yet. But before Dwight leaves him alone, Daryl appeals to any bit of humanity left inside the guy. He makes clear that it isn’t only about him. He can’t give up. Not for Negan; not for anybody. I can see a glimmer of hope left deep in Dwight, I’d like to think he can change. However, it’s unclear if that can ever happen. If he could ever live through it. What’s interesting is he wears the old biker cut Daryl wore, wings and all. Sort of speaks hope in itself.


I am loving Season 7! They are stepping up, in big ways. Lot of different avenues for storytelling and different plots from various characters, many angles. Negan allows for plenty of that, as does the opening up of communities in the zombie apocalypse.
Next episode is titled “Service” and I believe we’ll begin to see the communities interact more. Will we see Rick Grimes and the crew, as well?

The Walking Dead – Season 7, Episode 1: “The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be”

AMC’s The Walking Dead
Season 7, Episode 1: “The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be”
Directed by Greg Nicotero
Written by Scott M. Gimple

* For a review of the Season 6 finale, “Last Day on Earth” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “The Well” – click here
screen-shot-2016-10-24-at-1-39-29-am
Our episode’s title comes from Dr. Jenner at the CDC, way back when Rick said he was thankful for all the man had done for them. To which the doc replied: “The day will come when you wont be.”
Today is that day.
We start on Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), his face spattered with blood. Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) taunts him. But Rick replies: “Im gonna kill you.” The nastiness of Negan’s demeanour is so perfectly awful. He digs into Rick, already having taken his victim from the group. He takes the hatchet Rick arrived with and brings Rick into the RV with him nearby. Behind them, a pile of blood and gore.
Who was killed?
screen-shot-2016-10-24-at-1-39-58-am
Inside the RV, Rick cowers like we’ve never seen him do before. Hiding in the shadows. And Negan tries to clue him into the new rule of things. He challenges Rick to take the axe and do him in. But you know it ain’t going down like that. He knocks Rick to the ground, dominating him. Proving a point. “Think about what happened, and think about what can still happen,” Negan all but cackles in the driver’s seat, taking Rick for a ride somewhere.
Then we flash throuh Rick’s mind, as he sees memories of everyone in their group. Glenn (Steven Yeun), Enid (Kately Nacon), Eugene (Josh McDermitt), Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green), Aaron (Ross Marquand), Abraham (Michael Cudlitz), Maggie (Lauren Cohan), Daryl (Norman Reedus) , Michonne (Danai Gurira) – while Negan throws his axe from the RV into a foggy road of walkers, beckoning Rick to go get it. Our trusty leader, the onetime Sheriff Grimes, manages to get on top of the RV, hatchet and all. Although as he stares into the distance either way you can see the hope starting to fade. For the first real time, he’s a broken man. “I bet you thought you were all gonna grow old together,” Negan pokes at him more from inside.


Now we’re back to the eenie meanie miney moe. Negan goes around the line. We watch Rick’s eyes. We see the terror in the eyes of every single person. The taunting of Negan and his bat land on: Abraham. He savagely beats the brains out of Abraham’s head, smashing him over and over. Everyone watches in sickly disgust, as nothing is left of the skull and brains. Nothing. “Look at my dirty girl,” Negan calls to them horrifically. He even taunts Rosita (Christian Serratos) with the bloody end of Lucille. Then Daryl breaks loose, punching Negan.
Will he get the bat, too? No. Even Dwight (Austin Ameli) rushes in to try putting an arrow in Daryl’s skull. Negan won’t allow that. Not right yet: “Thats not how it works.” No, no, no. Another victim for Lucille comes next.
Glenn’s head is smashed in. The front caves. So suddenly. Everybody is brutalised by the sight of Glenn, his eye popping out, trying to speak to Maggie in his last moments. Negan goes on whacking away until there’s only blood and hair left on the end of Lucille. The group is left devastated.
Rick lies on top of the RV, remembering what’s happened. All to well. This is the worst and most wounded we’ve ever seen him.

screen-shot-2016-10-24-at-1-42-18-am
In a crazy moment, Rick jumps from the RV, using the hanged man from the bridge as a grip. With zombies clawing at him, walkers of all kinds trying to rip him apart, Negan pops them all off and saves him. He urges Rick: “Think about what can still happen.” And Rick does. He sees the rest of his group smashed by Lucille, one by one.
Back in the RV, hatched in hand, Rick makes it to Negan. A real sick game, all around. The man with the bat continues his cerebral assault, in such a villainous, nonchalant way that it’s sickening how good Jeffrey Dean Morgan plays the role. When they get back to the group, Negan has Rick kneeling in the middle of his remaining friends. The Saviors put guns to the back of their heads and the wretched Lucille-holding monster calls Carl (Chandler Riggs) to the centre. He wraps a belt around the boy’s arm, puts him to the ground next to dad. Negan proceeds to mark off a spot on Carl’s arm with a marker.
Rick has to cut an arm off his son. With his hatchet. Or else everyone dies.
So, what does Sheriff Grimes do? It’s all a psyche out. Rick has been broken, in front of everyone – The Saviors, his own people, his son. He’s torn every bit of Rick apart, his soul, his manhood, his power. What a vicious cycle. Because you know it’s a cycle. Broken as he is, Rick will be coming back. He will not let this rest, not forever. For now, sure. But not forever.
Things have changed. Whatever you had going for you, that is over now,” says Negan to the crowd. He takes Daryl in the back of their van. Property of Negan. They’ve got a week to start getting supplies together for him. A new day. A new deal. Minus two strong people from their crew. People they’ll never get back, ever again. Literally left in Negan’s dust, the rest of the survivors struggle to figure out how to move on from there.

screen-shot-2016-10-24-at-1-44-08-am
Maggie’s the first to get up. She wants to keep fighting, even if Rick is beaten to a pulp emotionally. He also understands how bad things are right now, she isn’t acting or thinking rationally. But sadly, Rick has also lost control. He has no more power. And Maggie, she’s in a depression spiral, unable to accept that they’ve just got to go back home, pick up the pieces. Now, they take their dead friends with them and do what they can for them.
In a vision, we see all the group, happy, healthy, a baby on Glenn’s lap. As if there weren’t enough tears shed. Negan’s voice rings in the ears of Rick as they load up the RV to leave. He thought they’d all be sitting around, as in the vision, that dreamy world. These days that vision is a far cry, and Rick is realising it. Around him he’s also watching the walkers die off. Everything is dying. Everyone and everything dies.
screen-shot-2016-10-24-at-1-44-31-amscreen-shot-2016-10-24-at-1-44-41-amscreen-shot-2016-10-24-at-1-44-49-am
What a savage episode. Completely numbing. I expected Glenn’s death, but didn’t anticipate such a wildly effective execution. Love how the power dynamics are shifting. No longer is Rick the big, tough guy he was once. Although he’ll get back there it’s going to take a major event, or series of them.
Looking forward to the next episode “The Well” and what it’ll bring!

The Walking Dead – Season 6, Episode 16: “Last Day on Earth”

AMC’s The Walking Dead
Season 6, Episode 16: “Last Day on Earth”
Directed by Greg Nicotero
Written by Scott M. Gimple & Matthew Negrete

* For a review of the previous episode, “East” – click here
* For a review of the Season 7 premiere, “The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be” – click hereScreen Shot 2016-04-04 at 1.21.10 AM
So we’ve arrived at the end of Season 6.
Open on Morgan (Lennie James). He comes across a horse in a field. Towards him walks the man who survived Carol (Melissa McBride) previously.
Back at Alexandria, Carl (Chandler Riggs) is getting ready to roll, as Enid (Kately Nacon) doesn’t quite believe in what they’re all doing. Meanwhile, Rick (Andrew Lincoln) is saddling up. Abraham (Michael Cudlitz), Eugene (Josh McDermitt) and Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) are going, too. Everyone wants to go, no matter what. Aaron (Ross Marquand) is game, as well. In other news, Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) is proving himself a proper savior in his own right. His character development is some of my favourite, honestly, outside of the very main cast.
Out in the woods people are whistling, unseen, and a man runs away, scared. They track him down and beat him. The Saviors? You bet. The tension of this opening, score and all, is impressive. Starts to set up an epic showdown.


On the road in the RV, Rick and crew are heading to Hilltop. Maggie (Lauren Cohan) is having big time pregnancy troubles, and obviously worries. But Rick assures: “Everything weve done, weve done together.” No matter how bad things get he can always at least put a little faith in people, he’s a charming, charismatic leader. Can he save them all from what comes next?
Morgan tends to a wounded Carol. She’s in need of stitches. He wants to help more, though, she isn’t readily allowing any of that. She doesn’t want to go back.
Along the road, Rick and Abraham see The Saviors with the man they’re holding. Uh oh. It’s already starting. Out they go to meet in the middle of nowhere. The Saviors aren’t joking around and make it clear someone’s got to die. Instead, Rick has other ideas. They all slowly back off. For now, things are fine.
For now.


Rick: “You wanna make today your last day on earth?
Savior: “No, but that is a good thing to bring up. Think about it, what if its the last day on earth for you? For someone you love? What if thats true? Maybe  you should be extra nice to those people in that RV because you never knowjust like that. Be kind to each other. Like you said, like it was your last day on earth.”
Rick: “You do the same
Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 1.23.20 AMScreen Shot 2016-04-04 at 1.23.36 AM
Morgan and Carol are alike, yet still at odds. She has to school him on how things are: we must kill if there are people around us. You don’t get to have people and have a normal life. You either get to be with people and kill, or be on your own and not have your hand forced. She pleads with Morgan to leave. “If you care about anyone theres a price, Morgan, and youre gonna have to pay it,” Carol tells him.
The most tense and unnerving part about what’s happening so far is that we know a big, tragic finale is coming, some way. Right now, they’re building up the happy moments, the emotional bits and pieces. Up until the moment The Saviors appear, once more, in the middle of the road. Always waiting, watching. Now the survivors are preparing to do whatever’s necessary. Very eerie atmosphere, as the group tries to figure out how best to get down the road.
Under his nose, Morgan finds himself deserted. Because Carol is adamant about not going back, she’s sick and tired of the new world and how it is to worry, care, love if another person is involved. I understand, sadly. Can’t be easy for anyone to exist. Aside from trying not to get bitten by zombies you’ve got to worry about all of the rest of ordinary life, too.


Another ways down the road the RV encounters a ton of walkers. They’re chained and left in the middle of the road – “a Red Rover,” as Eugene puts it. They discover things belonging to Daryl (Norman Reedus) and Michonne (Danai Gurira) attached to the zombies. Out of nowhere gunfire explodes at them from the hills. They respond and things get real tense. Luckily, they clear the road and get through. Heading deeper into the belly of the beast.
Rick is already dying with anticipation. Now he knows they’re being led in a particular direction. Worse, Maggie doesn’t seem to be doing too well. Then more trouble on the road – Saviors, everywhere. They’ve got nowhere else to really turn. At every last corner there The Saviors are, waiting for their arrival.
Morgan finds rosary beads in the street. Will there be a showdown between him and the Savior left after Carol’s massacre? Will the man find Carol? I’m terrified to find out. Not a second later does he show up. Carol finds herself at the mercy of this man. He puts one in her arm, planning to watch her die on the pavement.


Again and again we’ve been getting views of someone stuck inside a box, or somethng similar. Likely Michonne and Daryl? Who knows. Glenn? We’ll see.
The hardest part about the Maggie situation, for Rick, is watching another pregnant woman go through the post-apocalypse world. Even worse, she’s having a rough time. Hopefully she’ll last. Too many tragedies have fallen upon their group, and they’re no saints, but they don’t deserve all their hardships.
But for Carol’s part, she wants to die. Done with the world, she hopes to leave. Might come sooner than later, as the man puts yet another shot through her leg. Still, she keeps up her sarcasm under duress. Soon enough Morgan arrives. He shoots the man dead, going against his precious life philosophy. Although, it’s for a good purpose.
Afterwards, some armoured folk come out of the forest. They actually own the horse Morgan rode. The men agree to help them. Is this all it seems? Can’t trust anyone right off the bat.
Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 1.33.40 AMScreen Shot 2016-04-04 at 1.34.12 AM
Carol: “The world doesnt decide, you decide. You dont get to walk away and get what you want.”


Through the forest stride Rick and his crew. A tree roadblock keeps them from going further, and then they witness the man from the road earlier being hung. He dies brutally in front of them before a fire starts in the roadblock. Such ominous stuff, as the Savior from earlier speaks from behind the slowly building fire, warning of the last days on earth and such. Spooky.
Everybody’s worried, obviously. I would be. At each turn they’ve encountered a literal roadblock. They decide to ditch the RV and head onward. Eugene first gives over a bullet “recipe“, one that will help them in the future. It’s a very goodbye-type moment. Touching. Plus, there’s a better one with Abraham and Eugene, an honest and beautiful moment between two friends. Definitely touches the heart, and scares me about what will happen in the last ten or fifteen minutes.
So Rick and the crew head out with Maggie, leaving the RV in the hands of Eugene. The score even tugs at the heartstrings, more than ever before on the series. It’s real epic sort of stuff. Again, this worries me. A strong setup for brutal tragedies.


In the woods, Rick and the group hear the whistles. It sends them deeper into the forest. Some of the creepiest stuff EVER on the show. When they run out into a massive gang of Saviors, things turn around quickly. The creep factor goes up, so does the pulse. Rick looks devastated already, as Eugene is seen kneeling on the ground nearby.
Welcome to where youre goin‘,” the Savior from earlier greets them all. For the first time in a long time, Rick is in a position of absolute weakness. Totally castrated, effectively. The games are about to begin. Last time Rick was made to get on his knees, he bit out a man’s throat. What will happen this time?
The light inside the box was the others, after all – Daryl, Michonne, Glenn, Rosita (Christian Serratos). The gang is all back together. Lined up for the big entrance. He has arrived – Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) walks out to see them all. He taunts them about “pee pee pants” and other juvenile phrases. Then he chats with Rick. Tides are about to turn, drastically. “You are so gonna regret crossinme in a few minutes,” Negan says plainly to Rick. The law is laid down.


Negan: “You ruled the roost. You built something. You thought you were safe, I get it. But, the word is out: you are not safe. Not even close.”
Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 1.55.37 AMScreen Shot 2016-04-04 at 2.02.24 AM
In the end, there is punishment. Negan selects himself a victim, introducing everybody to Lucille, his barbed bat, using more juvenile phrases – this time some Eenie Meenie Minie Moe. The whole sequence is so intense you’ll find yourself racing, heart pumping, pulse ready to leap out of your body. The tension is drawn out perfectly.
Only problem is AMC has decided to stick a thumb in the viewer’s eye by not letting us in on who Negan decides to kill. We’re given POV that simply lets us in on the savagery of Negan, the bloody brutality he brings to this world. Not impressed, I must say.


Stay along for the ride. Or don’t. Many say they’ll stop watching because of the ending. Me, I fucking hate it. I do. But I’ll keep watching because I have to know. Although, that being said: Season 7 has to pick up and do some different things, take different routes, figure out a fresh new formula, because after this finale I’m starting to get sick of the predictability of the series. Much as I dig the show there are serious flaws. Here’s to hoping the writers start listening to the roar of fans and switching things up. Maybe that’s what Negan will do overall. We’ll have to wait and find out in October.

The Walking Dead – Season 6, Episode 11: “Knots Untie”

AMC’s The Walking Dead
Season 6, Episode 11: “Knots Untie”
Directed by Michael E. Satrazemis
Written by Matthew Negrete & Channing Powell

* For a review of the previous episode, “The Next World” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Not Tomorrow Yet” – click here


Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) and Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) give us a bit of enjoyable banter to start this new episode. Their relationship is a whole lot of fun, two very different yet like-minded individuals. A new watch post is starting, with Eugene (Josh McDermitt) taking Sasha’s place alongside Abraham. He doesn’t appear to want that at all. Then we cut to him waking up next to Rosita (Christian Serratos). Everything with the zombies going on, and then they’re all still dealing with real life issues from before: love, relationships, jealousy, falling out of love. The zombie apocalypse makes life shit, but even worse is the fact that humans are the worst part about it all, deep down.
In the garden, Maggie (Lauren Cohan) and Glenn (Steven Yeun) do some gardening. They’re hoping crops will grow. Meanwhile, there’s a panic on the street.
IMG_3394
Cut to Jesus (Tom Payne) sitting on the steps outside Rick and Michonne’s (Andrew Lincoln/Danai Gurira) room. Then Carl (Chandler Riggs) pulls a gun on him. The kid also learns about his “mom and dad” hooking up. Uh oh. Well, everyone shows up now, Rick shirtless, Michonne, Daryl (Norman Reedus) and the rest arrive.
We find out now that Jesus is from a settlement. They grow crops, and they’re a lot like Rick’s group. Turns out they trade… with other people.
IMG_3395IMG_3397
Jesus: “Your worlds about to get a whole lot bigger
IMG_3400IMG_3401
Preparing to head out and see what Jesus has to offer, Rick tells Carl about him and Michonne, that he would have said something regardless, only it literally “just happened” that night. But Carl’s fine, like any understanding young fella.
On the ride out, Abraham asks Glenn, roundabout, whether or not him and Maggie were intending to make babies. Glenn tells him: “Were trying to build something.” Along the road, the crew find an overturned car, zombified corpses already hanging out the side, screaming. Rick immediately holds Jesus at gunpoint. Nobody is playing around at this point, not in any given situation. They’re always on guard. Although, Jesus looks worried for his people; Maggie stays behind holding a gun on him, hands tied behind his back, as the others investigate further inside a nearby building.
Inside, Rick, Abraham, Glenn, Daryl and Michonne find several people who they help out and into the R.V. The people have medication which they’re bringing back. One of them happens to be a doctor. This group also has their sad stories. Soon enough, though, Jesus brings them to their community: Hilltop. The perimeter is lined by large wooden posts, almost like an old pre-18th century settlement. Very cool.
Except at the gates, those guarding it get antsy about Rick’s group having weapons. Jesus calms the situation. Even convinces Rick to trust them, allowing them to keep their weapons rather than giving them over. Inside, it’s very much like a 1700s settlement, with a few modern touches. Supplies from a power company made things a little easier. Barrington House sits in the middle of it all, a historic house preserved, which they built Hilltop around. They’ve also got trailers on the land. We meet Gregory (Xander Berkeley), the boss of the whole operation. He tells them to wash up, then they’ll meet. On the way to get clean, Rick tells Maggie to go first then talk with Gregory – when she asks why, he advises: “I shouldnt.”


When Maggie does meet with Gregory, he talks about the museum, the historic site of the house. She grills him about how they’ve managed to survive. Jesus told Gregory about the group’s situation. Gregory comes on a little too strong, treating her like she’s got nothing to offer. Unfortunately, it seems like Gregory doesn’t want what they’re offering – mostly ammunition.
Jesus hopes to help the group. He wants “a few days“, which they agree to.
Then there’s problems with Negan. Gregory’s people come back, without a couple friends. Then one of them stabs Gregory. Hell breaks loose. Daryl breaks an arm. Abraham is almost choked to death. Rick has a knife to is throat, but manages to stab the guy holding it through his neck. More guns are drawn on Rick. Yet Jesus diffuses the situation.
Later Rick asks more about Negan – head of “The Saviors” and a nasty dude. Appears there’s no messing with Negan, a man who beat a 16-year-old kid to death in front of Jesus and their group, to make them “understand” immediately. Hilltop is forced to give half of their supplies (et cetera) over to Negan. Daryl is more than willing to go find and kill Negan, after meeting some of those bikers on the road. If done, Jesus agrees they’ll strike an agreement with their group.
In his bed, Gregory calls for Maggie. She tries to convince him they’re fit to do the job on Negan. He isn’t so hot on making a deal with them. But Maggie stress they’re “willing to work for it” and Gregory finally decides to go for it. She wants half, though, which Gregory wasn’t prepared to hear. She’s got him figured out.


Gregory: “You want anything else? Kidney, maybe?”
IMG_3426
Rick and the others seem to be taking this lightly. They feel invincible, almost. They’re willing to go up against a man about whom they’ve got no idea. Anyone who’s read the comics is aware. For those uninitiated, Negan is a terrifying individual. Michonne knows “its gonna be a fight” – Rick assuages her doubts: “Well win,” he tells her.
At the same time, Maggie and Glenn have Dr. Carson (R. Keith Harris) do an ultrasound. They see their baby for the first time. A rare gift in the post-zombie world. Everyone gets a glimpse as it’s passed around the R.V. There’s a certain light in Abraham’s eyes, looking to Glenn in understanding now.
Everyone drives off into the sunset. But rest assured, their world will not be sunny much longer. The approach of Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan is coming. And there will be blood, no doubt. Plenty.
IMG_3427
Next episode up, getting closer and closer to the end of the 6th season, is titled “Not Tomorrow Yet” and I cannot wait.

Solace: Farrell & Hopkins Lift Up Mediocre Supernatural Crime

Solace. 2015. Directed by Afonso Poyart. Screenplay by Sean Bailey & Ted Griffin.
Starring Anthony Hopkins, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Abbie Cornish, Colin Farrell, Marley Shelton, Janine Turner, Xander Berkeley, Kenny Johnson, Sharon Lawrence, Autumn Dial, Matt Gerald, Jose Pablo Cantillo, Joshua Close, & Angela Kerecz. Eden Rock Media/FilmNation Entertainment/Flynn Picture Company/New Line Cinema/Silver Reel/Supersensory/Venture Forth.
Rated R. 101 minutes.
Crime/Drama/Mystery

★★★★
POSTER
Apparently this film was originally meant to be a sequel to David Fincher’s fabulous, dark masterpiece of gritty crime cinema, Se7en. However, the angle was to have Detective Somerset return, now having gained psychic powers? Naturally it was a case of Fincher being pissed that sent the producers in another direction, having it rewritten then turned into Solace now as we know it. While that idea of a sequel was terribly misguided, the premise of this film is, of course, different in respect to characters. We’ve still got the psychic element yet it works here, as the way director Afonso Poyart presents the material comes off fairly slick, full of darkness and edgy, as well as smart at times. So the slightly supernatural element takes a backseat to a lot of the human drama and the dark nature of the crimes involved in the story.
This is most certainly not near as good as Fincher’s film. Although, it is definitely worth watching. Not only is there an interesting story and plot to Solace, the acting talents of Anthony Hopkins, Abbie Cornish, Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Colin Farrell make everything seem better. In particular, Hopkins adds an air of authenticity to a character I personally might usually find boring, cliche, and he’s one of the reasons I found this movie more compelling than I’d imagined going in. With a few flaws, Solace still proves to be a good crime mystery. It even has a few gritty, rough edges to give it a morbidly interesting shine.
Solace1
Dr. John Clancy (Anthony Hopkins) is clairvoyant. He sees the pasts of others, as well as some of their future, in bits and pieces. For two years after the tragic death of his daughter John lived in isolation. But when an elusive serial killer named Charles Ambrose (Colin Farrell) challenges the FBI in a cat-and-mouse chase, Agent Joe Merriweather (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) enlist the help of Clancy to try and track him down. Coupled with Agent Katherine Cowles (Abbie Cornish), specializing in psychology, they try to use John’s psychic abilities to their advantage; even if Katherine isn’t a believer right away.
But once John starts to realize Ambrose has powers of premonition as well, and they’re much stronger than his own, the game changes. From one end of the city to another, John and the FBI search to find Ambrose before people continue to die, each crime more gruesome than the last.
Pic4Pic3
The visual style of Solace is one of the major reasons I enjoyed it so much. Not every bit of story, every plot point is going to impress people, but I can assure you the atmospheric quality of many scenes in the film are what will draw your attention. Not only are the lighting and colour scheme successful in making the film look dark, moody, there are several amazing dreamy sequences that blow me away. For instance, Clancy sees his visions and they take on this dream-like tone, which gives the movie flair. Some are like slideshows, similar to how thoughts would pass through a mind. Others, such as when they end up finding a dumpster with evidence in it, are so well edited they take on that dreamy element and whisk us away into the thoughts of Clancy. Then there are the moments where he touches people, their futures flashing in postcard images across his brain; some of those are beautiful, some violent, scary.
Solace2
The standout portions of Solace, aside from the visuals, the mood and tone, absolutely come from the performances of Colin Farrell and Anthony Hopkins. With Farrell there’s always an intensity he is able to bring, when he wants anyways. Here it is evident, as his character is both dark and charismatic; a terrible human being wrapped in an enigmatic type of man. Just the brooding look of Farrell at times is enough, he can put the screws on fairly easily for this type of character. The other great part is that Hopkins lends an air of authenticity to an otherwise unrealistic character, as well as the fact he and Farrell have an intriguing chemistry between them. The quiet power of Hopkins comes out in nearly every scene where we see him, even a couple points where he’s pretty hilarious, and a moment with Abbie Cornish where he’s actually mean (though for good reason). With Farrell and his darkness, Hopkins provides a nice counterpoint, and there are also further ways these two characters parallel one another. This would’ve been a truly mediocre film if neither of these actors were cast, so thankfully, no matter how you enjoy the plot, we’ve at least got the pleasure of seeing Hopkins and Farrell in this picture. Their absence would’ve made this movie entirely all style with no substance.
Pic5
This was a 4 star film for me. It could have definitely been tightened up in a few places, in regards to the screenplay. But what Solace lacks in the writing it surely makes up for through its morbid atmosphere, great score and soundtrack, and absolutely in the performances of both Colin Farrell and Anthony Hopkins (wait until the end when you see the latter’s character deepen right before the finish). This totally surprised me, as I’d been preparing myself for a bad movie with some great acting talent in it. Give this the time of day it deserves. Don’t try and look for another Se7en. You won’t find it. Solace is its own film and within you’ll discover a couple treasures and treats along the way – perhaps you’ll even come across some ruminations on life, death, love, and euthanasia. Or maybe not. You be the judge.

A Modern-Looking Wild West in Revenge Western The Salvation

The Salvation. 2014. Directed by Kristian Levring. Screenplay by Anders Thomas Jensen & Kristian Levring.
Starring Mads Mikkelsen, Eva Green, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Eric Cantona, Mikael Persbrandt, Douglas Henshall, Michael Raymond- James, Jonathan Pryce, Alexander Arnold, Nanna Øland Fabricius, Toke Lars Bjarke, and Sean Cameron Michael. Zentropa Entertainments/Forward Films/Spier Films/F.I.L.M.S./Det Danske Filminstitut/Danmarks Radio (DR)/Nordisk Film & TV Fond/Film i Väst/Department of Trade & Industry of South Africa/MEDIA Programme of the European Union/Nordisk Film Distribution/TrustNordisk. Rated PG. 92 minutes.
Drama/Western

★★★★★
i9veequ
I haven’t had a chance to see Kristian Levring’s Fear Me Not, starring one of my favourite actors Ulrich Thomsen. So prior to The Salvation, I’d never experienced any of his films. Two reasons I came to this film: i) it’s a Western with Mads Mikkelsen, & ii) Anders Thomas Jensen co-wrote the screenplay with Levring; I am a huge admirer of Jensen’s films, all of which feature Mikkelsen (Flickering LightsAdam’s ApplesThe Green Butchers, & most recent Men & Chicken), as well as the fact he’s written other great movies like the fabulous and touching In a Better World.
For a long time I’ve loved Westerns. There are a flood of them out there. Although, if you search through them well enough all the cream will rise to the top. The classics will always reign on high, such as Once Upon a Time in the WestThe SearchersHigh Noon, The Man with No Name Trilogy; then we’ve got the more contemporary, now classics like UnforgivenThe PropositionTombstone, and in my mind The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. So there are no shortage of Westerns, nor is there a lack of masterpieces in the genre. That being said, there are many typical Westerns, cliched to bits. Others, while not bad movies, just seem uninspired.
Along comes The Salvation. This film, from screenplay to actual screen, takes on the Western in familiar tones. But all the same, Levring and Jensen’s script tackles a Western revenge tale with an innovative twist, fresh eyes, and from a very emotional standpoint. Not to mention there are plenty of ways you can parallel this tale of the supposed American Dream in the minds of foreigners to the struggle many face today. This is a great film, it is beautiful to look at. Above all else, the actors each play a huge part in making the film come alive and raise the bar for the modern Western genre.
016Danish-American settler Jon Jensen (Mads Mikkelsen) has been in the Land of the Free for a while now. He and his brother Peter (Mikael Persbrandt) have learned the language, they’ve tended their own land and looked out for one another. Plus, they seem to be integrated into the community. However, things change drastically for Jon especially once his wife Marie (Nanna Øland Fabricius) and son Kresten (Toke Lars Bjarke) finally come to live there with him.
Upon their arrival, Jon takes his family by coach back to their home. Along the way, two men, Paul (Michael Raymond-James) and Voichek (Alex Arnold), accost Jon and his family. The conversation starts as only that, conversation, but the tone changes soon enough and the two strangers take Jon’s wife/boy hostage. Kicked out of the coach, he tries to run after them. Jon comes across the murdered corpse of his son. Then further down the road, he finds the coach – one man rapes his wife while the other takes watch outside.
After taking his violent revenge against the murderous rapists, Jon finds himself at odds with the local gangster Henry Delarue (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), whose brother happens to be the aforementioned Paul. When the entire town turns their back on Jon, only his brother Peter stands by his side. That is, until Delarue’s men do the unthinkable to him, as well.
Standing against the insurmountable forces of Delarue and his henchmen, Jon Jensen is forced to take arms in order to have his revenge, or die in the process.
the-salvation-text1If you’re not immediately floored by the whole opening sequence (about the first 20 minutes), then I’m not sure what would affect your sensibilities. Fact is, without showing too much director Kristian Levring creates so much suspense, a thick and undeniably nasty tension, which drew me into the film’s world so savagely it honestly took me awhile afterwards to come back to my senses. Not only is the direction great, as well as the writing between Levring and Jensen, Mads Mikkelsen – a long time favourite of mine since his turn in Nicolas Winding Refn’s Pusher & Pusher II: With Blood on My Hands and recently his work as Hannibal Lecter on NBC’s unusually amazing series – performs his character’s anger and woe so subtly it’s impossible to turn away from the power. I’m not trying to pit American v. European v. anywhere else actors here, not at all. However, there are certainly some (North) American actors who come to mind that are very exuberant, almost too much so at times. Especially when it comes to revenge styled movies, such as this one. For instance, even though I’m a Sean Penn fan (as an actor; not so much as a person), and I love his turn in the movie, Mystic River contains a pretty wild performance out of him – not at all times, though, in some scenes he is very much going heavy. Whereas in The Salvation, right out the gate, Mikkelsen delivers so much intensity and heartache without having to do anything overtly emphatic. He simply acts with all the emotion in him available, just seeping it out of his skin; the look on his face, his body language, the bunch of bullets he pumps into his family’s killer even after the guy is dead. And like I said, these are only the first 20 minutes (19 and a half if we’re getting specific). From there on in, Mikkelsen has lots more to do, and does it to near perfection.
Then we’ve also got Jeffrey Dean Morgan, whose performance as the big bad in this Western comes as a surprise to some. Not to me, though. Even while I’m not a huge fan of the Watchmen adaptation (it’s real good; just not as good as it should/could have been), Morgan impressed me as The Comedian. Also, my girlfriend watched a bit of Supernatural, and I found him pretty good in that. Then in the mediocre movie Texas Killing Fields, he was one of the only things I actually enjoyed a nice deal. But some people seem him as this good guy type. Maybe I’ve not watched enough of Morgan to feel that way. I see him as a guy with a dark side, even though I think he has good range. So here, in The Salvation, I was pleased to see him in a truly outright bad guy role. It doesn’t take long to figure him out, but not in a transparent way – you just feel how mean the dude is, right from his first appearance. It only gets more unpredictable and even more nasty once Morgan shows us how brutish his character Henry Delarue can become, to what level he’ll sink. Again, though, I have to say Delarue isn’t someone I could predict. There’s a moment, just before the half-hour mark (so much intensity so early), where you’ll understand exactly what I mean: I saw parts of it coming, but how he ends this confrontation is spectacularly harsh, and I couldn’t have imagined he was so cold. Not only is Delarue a bad, low man, he does have a tough presence, one of both physical and mental strength. It all sets the stage for an excellent showdown coming between Mikkelsen’s Jon Jensen and Morgan’s Henry Delarue.
salvation2Apart from the acting, Levring’s direction is what makes this film so special. Cinematographer Jens Schlosser provides us with lush visuals, from the wide open plains of the old West to the tighter, more personal scenes involving the characters and the well written dialogue of this screenplay. Schlosser has worked with Levring before on Fear Me Not, as well as served as Director of Photography on Amy Berg’s excellent/heartbreaking documentary Deliver Us from Evil (see it: an important piece of work). I find this one of the most visually exciting Western movies in recent times. John Hillcoat’s The Proposition is another amazing to look at Western from the last decade, though, that one has a gritty, more rough aesthetic. Regardless, I think this movie’s visual beauty has much to do with the emotional intensity and darkness of the subject matter/the performances. There’s a perfect contrast between how pretty the movie is and how devastating its plot and story are, it is a masterful bit of work from every angle.
Once more, I mention the script. So many revenge films are the same, just as Westerns often end up seeming after you’ve seen a ton. While The Salvation is typical in certain senses (rape-revenge setup), there are many ways in which it is not. For instance, like I mentioned earlier in my review, Levring doesn’t go and show everything full-on. Yes, much of the violence is pretty well spelled out in front of us. But I think the early bits, the rape of Jon’s wife, the murder of his boy, they were handled very well. I was very much expecting us to have to actually see Paul/Voichek humping Jon’s poor wife. Though, instead we get to see most of the after effects. This movie doesn’t glorify sexual violence, even if rape is at its core as a plot device/element. The effects and the revenge are the main point, that’s why everything brutal and nastily violent comes so early; literally, the first twenty minutes gets almost all of it out of the way, in terms of the injustice done to Jon’s family. We get lots of violent stuff after this point. Simply, it’s notable how Levring/Jensen go a different route than most would in this case. They still stick very much to the rape-revenge model, they’re just not relying on all its tropes and cliched moves to make things work. Furthermore, setting this is all in the context of Danish settler in America v. “born n’ bred” Americans is an interesting aspect, which you’re not always going to see except in a few other choice films of the genre. All in all, I’m amazed with the screenplay because I found myself unsure exactly of how things were heading to play out. Best part of the plot and story of The Salvation is how subversive it came across at times.
1280x720-mPeWith a big Wild West showdown near the end that can rival some of the best, The Salvation is most definitely a 5 star film. It has guts, plus brains. Even better, the directing from Kristian Levring downplays the usual focus on the rape in order to get to the revenge. Instead, he opts to show us the savagery of the revenge at the other end on top of the heightened emotions from all the characters involved. And at times you’ll find yourself wondering exactly what is about to happen next. With the stellar performance of Mads Mikkelsen in the lead role, alongside Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Eva Green and Mikael Persbrandt in awesome roles respectively, this is a Western you can’t afford to miss. It has all the greatness of any other revenge-thriller, the heart and soul of a perfect drama. Not to mention it’s one of the best Westerns of the last two decades.