A badly injured Rick Grimes revisits the past, wondering if he's done the right thing along his path.
AMC’s The Walking Dead
Season 2, Episode 12: “Better Angels”
Directed by Guy Ferland
Written by Glen Mazzara & Evan T. Reilly
* For a review of the previous episode, “Judge, Jury, Executioner” – click here
* For a review of the Season 2 finale, “Beside the Dying Fire” – click here
This penultimate Season 2 episode begins with a speech by Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln). As they bury Dale (Jeffrey DeMunn), he talks of honouring him. They will do things “his way” from now on. They will secure their safety and their future. Things are looking up, despite Dale’s death. Shane (Jon Bernthal) is a bit strange, as usual. T-Dog (Irone Singleton), Andrea (Laurie Holden) and the others are all pretty upset by the loss recently, as is Glenn (Steven Yeun), even Hershel (Scott Wilson) understands the sorrow.
Meanwhile, they’re planning on cutting Randall (Michael Zegen) loose, as was the earliest plan. Shane doesn’t want any of it, still causing friction between him and Rick. This only increases with every passing chapter of Season 2. Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) gives Shane the evil eye on the side, hoping he’ll eventually quit pining for her. He won’t, though.
Rick: “Dale could get under your skin. He sure got under mine, because he wasn‘t afraid to say what he thought, how he felt. That kind of honesty is rare and brave. Whenever I‘d make a decision, I‘d look at Dale. He‘d be looking back at me with that look he had. We‘ve all seen it one time or another. I couldn‘t always read him, but he could read us. He saw people for who they were. He knew things about us – the truth who we really are. In the end, he was talking about losing our humanity. He said this group was broken. The best way to honor him is to unbreak it. Set aside our differences and pull together, stop feeling sorry for ourselves and take control of our lives… our safety… our future. We‘re not broken. We‘re gonna prove him wrong. From now on… we‘re gonna do it his way. That is how we honour Dale.”
Carl (Chandler Riggs) tells Shane about the walker who killed Dale. That he didn’t shoot it. This is a tender moment, if it weren’t for Shane playing would-be-dad to the young boy. He tries to assure Carl it wasn’t his fault and tries to make him hold onto the gun he took from Daryl’s (Norman Reedus) bike. He doesn’t want it anymore, afraid of his own abilities.
Over in the shed, Randall (Michael Zegen) is still being kept tied up. Everybody else is trying to go about their business. Glenn is shacking up with Maggie (Lauren Cohan), or at least she’s trying to make that happen, even if he’s still a bit leery about the situation. Best of all, Hershel is offering up his home as a home for the whole group. He’s come around to having them as a part of his life and hopefully this will continue to be good, for all of them.
On the side with Shane, we find Lori revealing she doesn’t “even know whose baby this is“. A shocking moment, which we all should’ve seen coming. She seems to flop back and forth between things. Here, she’s falling back into things with Shane. Even if it’s only a brief scene. Still, she isn’t doing any favours. Shane now has more reason to believe there is something left for him and Lori.
At the same time, Daryl and Rick come together closer, as the former says there’s “no reason you should have to do all the heavy lifting“. Then there’s more bravado and angst from Shane, who guilts Rick about talking to Carl and so on. A confrontation, a nasty one, is on the horizon. Those who’ve read the comics already know this, but when will it finally come? And how? Will it be the same as in the comics, or different?
Rick sits with Carl, strangely under the noose that was once prepared for Randall. They talk about life, “no more kid stuff” Rick says. This is a new life, a new world, an entirely new existence. He tells Carl how everyone will eventually die, they’re all going to shuffle off eventually. Best of all, the tension with Shane, I think, has prompted Rick into making sure his own son grows into a man, in this new and vicious zombie world. I love these small father son moments which come out now and then, and still do on the series. Well written and also the chemistry between Chandler Riggs and Andrew Lincoln works excellently for their relationship as characters.
The darkness in Shane further leaks out. He goes into the shed where Randall is tied. He sits on a chair in front of the young man, quiet, almost going crazy right there. Something deadly is brewing inside Shane, it’s only a matter of time before it escapes and damages everyone and everything around him. This scene is intense, brooding. You never know what might go down next.
Lo and behold – I didn’t see this coming. Shane takes Randall out in the forest. He asks the kid to take him back to his group, he wants out of the one he’s in currently. There is no future for Shane, as he sees it, among Rick and Lori and the others. But then he ends up breaking Randall’s neck. He smashes his own face into a tree, then heads back to the farm with a concocted story. He makes it seem as if Randall is now a huge threat to the farm and everyone on it.
This all leads Daryl, Glenn, T-Dog, Rick and Shane out to look for Randall. Supposedly. What’s the plan here? It’s as if Shane has something up his sleeve, some nefarious deed in mind. With everyone out looking, Rick by his side, Shane might just soon try to craft the group into one with which he wants to stay.
Sly glances pass between Rick and Shane in the dark of the woods. You can see Rick isn’t so sure what happened, but goes on following his former best friend anyways. The suspense here is unbelievable, as they move deeper and deeper into the trees. Daryl is a tracker and notices some suspicious elements to Shane’s story, finding tracks “in tandem“, blood on a tree, a scuffle of feet. Shane isn’t looking so truthful now. But everyone is at risk currently, out in the open, in the dark, with zombies shambling around all over the place. Not to mention Daryl and Glenn come across the dead body of Randall, finding out he wasn’t killed by walkers, or anything else, except a snapped neck.
Off alone together, Shane keeps Rick going further. Away from the group, separating them more by the minute. Eventually, they come to a big clearing. Rick continually questions Shane about what happened, which doesn’t get a whole lot of response. We see Shane slowly grip his gun in his pants. The look on Rick’s face spells everything out, though, he holsters his own gun. “So this is where you plan to do it,” says Rick to his once best friend. Two great actors toe to toe in this scene makes it something special. Incredibly intense. Those who read the comics know how it ends, yet still there is an air of tension you aren’t sure about. Rick walks and talks with a gun on him. “You won‘t be able to live with this,” Rick tells Shane. “I‘m a better father than you,” Shane replies not long after.
But once Rick unarms himself, all but begging Shane to give it a try, the situation changes. He talks Shane almost into his arms, giving over his gun. Then Rick stabs him deeply: “You did this to us. This was you, not me – not me!”
With Shane bleeding out in the field, Rick is left with what he’s done. Although it wasn’t wrong the act itself had to be tough. They were once the best of friends, for what seemed a lifetime. So much history. All the while, we get cuts to images in the mind of Shane; the zombie virus working its way into the folds of his brain. Then Carl shows up, seeing Rick over the dead body of Shane. He pulls a gun on his father. But not really – he puts a bullet through the undead Shane coming up behind Rick. A heavy act, one that needed doing. Only problem is the gunshots caught the attention of walkers. Lots of them.
The end of this episode is intense, knowing what’s on the verge of stumbling into the farm. Stay tuned with me while I review the Season 2 finale, “Beside the Dying Fire”.
AMC’s The Walking Dead
Season 2, Episode 10: “18 Miles Out”
Directed by Ernest R. Dickerson
Written by Scott M. Gimple & Glen Mazzara
The start of this episode commences with Shane (Jon Bernthal) trapped alone in a bus. Walkers attempt to get inside, clawing and growling. He closes the doors tight, backs against them and tries to hold out. Long as possible.
Cut back to Shane on the road with Rick (Andrew Lincoln). They stop abruptly on an open, desolate stretch. Rick decides they have to chat together. He brings up Otis, the fact Shane believes he can’t protect Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies), Carl (Chandler Riggs), his unborn child. There’s lots of tension here. Rick tells him “you‘re not going to be dangerous anymore“. The past between Lori and Shane comes up briefly, but the bigger man – Rick – shows us his strength, as a man, as a human being. He lays claim to his family, as if it had to even be done. Although, there is still something in Shane which won’t let go. Not all the way.
In the trunk they have Randall (Michael Zegen). What are they doing with him?
At the ranch, Maggie (Lauren Cohan) chats with Lori about Glenn (Steven Yeun). A bit of enlightening talk comes from Mrs. Grimes, but at the same time she has a bit of a male-female view of the world, at least in this new post-zombie apocalypse. Either way, it’s comforting for Maggie, at least some of their talk.
Trying to find a place to give Randall “a fair shake“, Rick and Shane stop off in a quiet area. Only a scattered walker moves around. Rick is determined to try using their knives more, instead of wasting bullets, as well as causing noise to draw them. He lures one in with his own blood on a fence then stabs it right in the forehead. Good plan, and something which will continue throughout the entire series. They’re slowly learning how to adapt in this savage new world.
Something I have to mention again – amazing practical makeup effects on the part of KNB, specifically Howard Berger and Greg Nicotero. There are so many instances of this, including when Rick walks up on a pile of burned walker corpses. Tons more. Each episode you get at least a couple awesome zombies, nasty blood and gore and all.
Also, we briefly see Shane and Rick talk about whether or not a couple bodies were bitten. Rick says they must’ve gotten scratched somehow. For those of us further into the series, we know what’s coming. For the time being Shane and Rick agree – must be a scratch.
Beth presents as suicidal. She even takes the knife off a plate Lori brings in the room, hoping to maybe end it all. Lori does her part and tries to track down the other Greenes. This is definitely a situation they need to keep under control. Last thing either Maggie or Hershel (Scott Wilson) needs is to lose Beth, too. And to suicide, even worse.
Leaving Randall out on his own, Rick and Shane head off back for the farm. The young guy cries out for help hoping to be saved. He lets slip he “went to school with Maggie“, which shows he knows about the farm anyways. No matter what they do. Now, Shane is worried he might get back to his group and that this might cause something terrible down the road. Immediately, Shane goes for the kill, but Rick stops him.
More breakdown with Shane. He’s gone insane, he can’t follow Rick without having something to say. After a bit of back and forth, Rick throws the first punch and misses. He and Shane end up rolling around on the ground, grunting, throwing more punches, headbutts. Their friendship has officially taken a wrong turn, their problems devolving into violence. The struggle goes on for a while, to the point of Shane almost killing Rick with a massive wrench – this brings on a horde of zombies hiding in the surrounding buildings, only creating further trouble. Good one, Shane. This is what prompts him climbing into the bus where we found him at the episode’s outset.
Andrea and Lori are in each others faces. The latter thinks the men don’t need her help out watching the camp, showing us a pretty old school view of things. At the same time, Lori tries to tell her “we are trying to create a life for the living” and I do agree, in a certain sense. But Andrea is a bit stubborn and hard-headed. She thinks Lori sort of glides by and everything is fine for her. They’re at one another’s throats because of Beth. Andrea thinks they don’t need to do anything for her, Lori wants to assure Beth that life is worth living. Is it? Or can it be, somewhere in the future? At least, for all her faults, Lori hasn’t given up on a normal life. Someday.
Finding himself in a tricky situation, Rick uses a walker head almost like a silencer. Out of another jam. He is one hell of a tough bastard. At the ranch, Beth is more determined to go out on her own terms, asking Maggie to go with her into death. Such a contrast between Rick’s groups and the Greenes. They are far apart in thought. But there’s also part of me that doesn’t disagree with Beth, who feels it isn’t worth living if life is being gutted, hauled apart by zombies eventually.
Rick is about to get away from the hordes of walkers nearby. He even has Randall with him. Then, it appears as if he’s about to leave Shane in the bus, trapped with all the zombies outside. Is this where Shane finally gets what’s coming to him?
Of most concern is Beth. She locks herself in a bathroom and opens up her veins with broken glass. Maggie and Lori get in there to find Beth bleeding everywhere: “I‘m sorry,” she weeps. At least they found her in time.
At the bus, Shane is saved when Rick comes back. He didn’t plan on leaving his former best friend after all. Rick diverts the walkers so Shane can get out the back of the bus and into their vehicle, Randall at the wheel and duct taped at the neck around his seat. Off they go, the three amigos. Alive and well, out of another terrifying few moments.
Andrea’s optimistic about Beth and her suicide attempt saying “she wants to live“. But nobody is happy with Andrea for leaving the young girl alone, letting her almost kill herself. Likewise, Lori does agree there’s some truth in what Andrea said, that Beth does hope to keep living. It was simply a cry for help.
Headed back to the Greene farm, Rick puts Randall back in the trunk again, hood over his head. No matter what happens, Rick is taking precautions. Still, though, he tells Shane: “If you wanna kill me you‘re gonna have to do better than a wrench.” He further goes on to say he needs time to think about what they’ll do with Randall, that if murder is on the table it can’t be done in split-second decisions. He also lays claim, once more, to his family. Making Shane realize it’s either fall in line, or fuck off. Or possibly worse. For now Shane has a second chance with Rick.
The next episode, nearing closer to the Season 2 finale, is “Judge, Jury, Executioner”. Stay with me and I’ll recap/review another one soon.
AMC’s The Walking Dead
Season 2, Episode 9: “Triggerfinger”
Directed by Bill Gierhart
Written by David Leslie Johnson
The brief opening of this episode sees Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) overturned in her car. Crashed. Pregnant. And worst of all, walkers are trying to get in at her.
Cut back to the bar where Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), Glenn (Steven Yeun) and Hershel (Scott Wilson) remain. They decide to leave after the encounter with two men, which left the same men dead at the end of Rick’s gun. Only a vehicle shows up before they can make it out; people exit calling for Dave and Tony, the two now dead corpses on the floor. It’s obvious now they were part of a bigger group, probably trying to find another group to push out of an encampment. The human threat in this new post-zombie apocalypse world is very clear, and getting clearer.
Meanwhile, Lori tries to get herself out of the smashed up car before a walker breaks through the windshield and takes a bit out of her, as well as the unborn baby in her belly. A frightening moment as is, but add to the fact Lori’s pregnant then it becomes even more scary. Luckily, she is a bit of a bad ass and manages to kill the zombie in the window then escape onto the road. Where more walkers find her.
Back at the ranch, Shane (Jon Bernthal), Dale (Jeffrey DeMunn) and all the rest are sitting down for a meal. When Carol (Melissa McBride) calls for Lori, they all discover she’s nowhere to be found. Andrea (Laurie Holden) mentions seeing her earlier, Carl (Chandler Riggs) can’t remember the last time he saw his mother. Everyone gets fairly worried damn quick. Carol tries enlisting Daryl (Norman Reedus); he’s not having any of it, sick of being the go-to-guy for heading out on the search. Above all else, Shane is adamant on going to find Lori. Even if it’s on his own.
In the bar, Rick finds himself, Glenn and Hershel pressed down on by the group looking for Dave and Tony. Eventually, Rick tells the men outside their friends “drew on us“. It’s evident they had to do what needed to be done, but the guys outside don’t seem keen on just walking away. Soon enough gunfire breaks the air and things are more tense than ever. Guns blazing, Rick, Glenn and Hershel do their best to make it out alive.
The situation changes when one of the men trying to avenge Dave and Tony doesn’t get away with the others. He’s partly impaled on a fence, but Hershel and Rick don’t want to leave the boy. He’s only a young guy and neither of them want to leave the kid to be eaten. Hershel suggests maybe they ought to “put him down“. Instead, they decide to try amputating part of his leg; the only way out. Although, in a sticky situation Rick hauls the leg up and off the fence and gets them back out on the road.
Hershel: “You want me to cover Glenn?”
Rick: “You missed all that gun training. It could‘ve come in handy now.”
Hershel: “Nah, I can shoot. Just don‘t like to.”
Shane finds Lori out on the road, bleeding and injured. She wants to find Rick and does not want to go back, so Shane lies telling her they’re all home at the farm again. Uh oh; he’s going to regret that. You’d think he might do anything possible to get her back, or win her over, something. Rather than that Shane’s digging himself more holes.
The tenuous relationship between Carol and Daryl continues on. He’d rather be alone and off on his own. He feels unappreciated and yells at Carol. She’s seen worse than that; her now dead husband was a vicious, brutalizing bastard. The way Daryl lashes out says more about him than anyone else. But in a moment when Carol flinches we can see him shift a little inside, and Daryl perhaps understands he’s overstepping boundaries.
When Lori figures out Shane lied there is more anger, more fighting. In front of everyone, Shane lets out the fact Lori is pregnant, which shocks everybody. Particularly Carl (Chandler Riggs) who feels left out not knowing about his potential new brother or sister. Afterwards, he is happier about knowing of the baby and being included in everything: “Big brother Carl, that‘s pretty cool, huh?” he remarks.
More than that, we see continually how Shane cannot let her go. He’s going to cause more issues, just wait. He and Lori have more confrontation once everybody leaves the room. She’s tired of his lying, from the first lie he told about Rick, to this one. And so on. The anger in her cannot be overcome now, Shane has nothing to fall back on. “What happened with Otis happened because I love you,” Shane says to Lori. After which she tells him she told Rick about their relationship.
In other news, Beth (Emily Kinney) is still catatonic. Comatose. Andrea (Laurie Holden) tries to comfort her sister Maggie (Lauren Cohan), whose worry is strong for both Beth and her father Hershel. Everything before the Greenes is falling apart, from the farm to their family, to the world. It is excruciating to see them go from sheltered to worldly, in a matter of a few episodes. They’re slowly becoming more like Rick and the other survivors.
Dale is still worried about Andrea. She can’t see the true nature of Shane, doubting in Rick at the same time. I wish she’d finally understand that Dale is only looking out for her, he isn’t trying to bang her. Sure, I have no doubt he’d have sex with her if she wanted to, but that’s not why he cares. He bonded with her, and her sister. Andrea just feels too scared of this new world, of everyone in it.
Not long after, Rick, Glenn and Hershel arrive back at the farm. They’ve still got the injured young man in tow, Randall (Michael Zegen). This is another source of contention for Rick and Shane, as well as Rick and some of the others. Nobody wants an outsider in their camp. Yet Rick and Hershel want to fix him up and help him out. Others are not so sure. Hershel finally has words with Shane, too. Long time coming.
Maggie and Glenn talk again. He’s afraid because of what their love does to him. He hid in the bar because he thought of her, his love for her. It made him weak. Sadly. Here’s to hoping this won’t tear them apart. The love should lift him up, not make him less strong. Furthermore, Maggie is slightly upset by Hershel leaving, getting drunk, especially considering the state of her sister. Everyone and their relationships are in shambles now, for the current moment.
The more Rick and Hershel do things their way, the more Shane dissents. He tries to latch onto Andrea saying “I should‘ve left with you when I had the chance” and talks about how the situation with Randall may bring on more destruction, war, “something worse“. Is their bond headed anywhere? Or will Andrea soon figure out how vicious and brutal Shane is? I’m not sure she will. At least not until it’s too late.
In their tent, Lori tells Rick that Shane believes he is the father of her child. This is only more stress and tension for Sheriff Rick. Lori tries to tell her husband Shane is “delusional” and scaring others. She also shares her thoughts about what Shane did concerning Otis. This situation is quickly becoming out of control, with Shane transforming into a monster. When Lori puts a thought in Rick’s head, he realizes how dangerous Shane is, and what may have to be done to put an end to that danger.
Excited for the next episode, “18 Miles Out”. Lots of new developments, lots more tension and wildness to come.
AMC’s The Walking Dead
Season 2, Episode 8: “Nebraska”
Directed by Clark Johnson
Written by Evan T. Reilly
* For a review of the previous episode, “Pretty Much Dead Already” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Triggerfinger” – click here
The shocking finale of “Pretty Much Dead Already” continues.
After Shane (Jon Bernthal) let the walkers in the barn loose and they were all shot down, Hershel (Scott Wilson) has decided to kick everyone off his land. Rick (Andrew Lincoln) is bumping up against Shane hard, the latter not wanting to accept anything. Carol (Melissa McBride) is distraught over losing Sophia permanently, as Daryl (Norman Reedus) helps to comfort her. Meanwhile, Beth (Emily Kinney) is traumatized after her dead mother is further smashed in the had by Andrea (Laurie Holden). The Greenes have had to go through some terrifying moments since the survivors showed up, and it couldn’t have been easy. Regardless of how you see the zombies and the apocalypse.
Glenn (Steven Yeun) talks with Maggie (Lauren Cohan) about moving on. Now that Sophia’s been found/is dead. Although, her death hits everyone hard. Carl (Chandler Riggs) is upset, too. But agrees his dad did the right thing, putting her out of the endless misery of the undead. Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) seems completely dumbfounded, probably wondering what happens next for their group. Of course they’ve been cast off the farm, she’s pregnant. I don’t blame her for worrying.
T-Dog (Irone Singleton) and the others decide to start burying the bodies, as well as having a service for Sophia to help Carol. “We bury the ones we love and burn the rest,” says Andrea.
There’s still lots of tension between Dale (Jeffrey DeMunn) and Shane. They have got serious problems and they are not going away anytime soon. Shane asks “What have you done for this group?” and chastises Dale for only fixing vehicles, and so on. Not fair – who would fix the R.V. if it weren’t Dale? Then where would they be, especially after being kicked out? Nowhere. Shane’s simply lashing out in every direction because he’s a cowardly, arrogant piece of shit.
Carol: “That‘s not my little girl. It‘s some other… thing. My Sophia was lost in the woods. All this time, I thought. But she didn‘t go hungry. She didn‘t cry herself to sleep. She didn‘t try to find her way back. Sophia died a long time ago.”
There’s trouble brewing with Hershel. He’s in his room, packing a small suitcase. Afterwards, he takes out a flask and lays it there. We know his father was a vicious drunk, perhaps Hershel was at one point, too? I hope this isn’t the road he heads down.
Maggie is worried Glenn might leave when his group does. She wants to figure things out because time is short. Everything is interrupted when Beth collapses in the kitchen. When they take her upstairs, she’s laying in bed as if catatonic. At the same time, Hershel is gone. Nowhere to be found. His flask is still there, but Rick starts wondering if maybe Hershel went out to find a bar. He and Glenn decide to head out and look for the old man.
Carol’s in a bad way. She wanders up to the farm, dirty, in her own world. Shane takes her aside and helps wash all the dirt off, as well as offers his apologies for what happened to Sophia. He says he was “just trying to keep everybody safe” by opening the barn, but what came after was unexpected. All the while, Dale and Lori talk about Shane – the former shares his belief Shane killed Otis while out on that run. Something that disturbs Lori to her core. Shockingly accurate how Dale is about what happened that night. “I knew guys like him,” says Dale, “and sooner or later he‘s gonna kill somebody else.”
On the road again, at least for now, Rick and Glenn head out to find Hershel. Glenn brings up how Maggie confessed her love, though, he thinks it was heat of the moment stuff. Rick assures him she knows her own feelings. Nice little touching moment between two friends, something we don’t often see in this post-apocalyptic world.
At a bar in town they find Hershel. He’s sitting alone, obviously, having a drink. The three men sit together for a time. Hershel feels responsible for what happened with Sophia, that everyone was waiting around to try and find the girl out there somewhere. They talk of a number of things. Mostly, Rick tries to convince Hershel he did nothing wrong; he was only “holding out for hope“.
But one of the scariest part of this episode? Lori takes it on her own shoulders to head out looking for Rick. They need Hershel back, as soon as possible. And out of nowhere, Lori hits a walker then flies into a ditch, flipping the car. Pregnant, no less.
Hershel: “I didn‘t want to believe you. You told me there was no cure, that these people were dead, not sick. I chose not to believe it. But when Shane shot Lou in the chest and she just kept coming, that‘s when I knew what an ass I‘ve been. That Annette had been dead long ago and I was feeding a rotten corpse! That‘s when I knew there was no hope. And when that little girl came out of the barn, the look on your face – I knew you knew it too. Right? There is no hope. And you know it, like I do. Don‘t you? There is no hope for any of us.”
In the middle of conversation, Rick, Hershel and Glenn are stumbled upon by two men named Dave (Michael Raymond-James) and Tony (Aaron Munoz). The five of them sit around together, sharing a drink and toasting to “our dead“. Slowly, the situation gets more and more awkward. Or well, confrontational. Tony and Dave are trying to find a place to rest their heads, but do they have people with them? Rick isn’t so sure they’re totally alone. When the two men find out there’s a farm involved, a place where Rick, Glenn and Hershel stay, they hope to find there way in as guests. No such luck. Rick doesn’t want to take any chances, which is smart.
The conversation whittles away until finally a real confrontation emerges – Rick is forced to pull his gun, blasting Dave and Tony to the grave. An impressive, exciting end to this episode. This is the first time Rick has killed a non-walker, a living person – juxtaposed nicely with the burning of the walker corpses back at the ranch. Very telling moment, which signals this is DEFINITELY a new world where they’ll have to adjust even further.
Next episode is titled “Triggerfinger”. Looking forward to seeing more of what Rick and the others get up to, where they’ll head, what’s next.
AMC’s The Walking Dead
Season 2, Episode 7: “Pretty Much Dead Already”
Directed by Michelle MacLaren
Written by Scott M. Gimple
* For a review of the previous episode, “Secrets” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Nebraska” – click here
Beginning at the farm, the seventh episode of The Walking Dead‘s Season 2 gets underway.
Tensions are high. For Glenn (Steven Yeun) there’s the new tension with Maggie (Lauren Cohan), after he spilled the beans about the barn to Dale (Jeffrey DeMunn). Even more than that, Glenn decides he has to tell the whole group. When Daryl (Norman Reedus), Rick (Andrew Lincoln), Shane (Jon Bernthal) and the rest hear about it, trouble begins.
Instead of going to Hershel (Scott Wilson) they head down to the barn. Inside, naturally, they find a bunch of walkers. Shane wants to leave and get away from the danger. Carol (Melissa McBride) doesn’t want to leave on account of her little girl, neither does Daryl. Rick doesn’t want to leave, but only Dale and Glenn know his motives. An infight is brewing, with Shane already questioning Rick’s leadership before now.
Who will win out? They have to tell Hershel. If not bigger trouble is on the horizon.
Glenn tries talking with Maggie. She’s pissed and does not want to talk much. Their newly founded relationship is on the rocks for now. In other news, Carl (Chandler Riggs) is asking if Sophia’s dead and Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) tries her best to keep his spirits up. For his part Carl says “I‘m not leaving until we find Sophia“, and in general he doesn’t want to leave the farm. His mother isn’t sure how to exactly react. She knows they may not be there much longer.
Daryl’s busy trying to get back out on the road to do more searching, even though he needs to rest up his injury. He and Carol draw closer, though, not in a romantic way. They’re very friendly and are becoming even more so, but it isn’t a sexual relationship. They have a strong friendship budding. Talking together, he misunderstands her concern and calls her a “stupid bitch” momentarily sidetracking their bonding.
Andrea (Laurie Holden) plans on heading out to look for Sophia. She and Dale are still having their own friendship issues. He’s concerned about her and the semi-relationship she has with Shane; he knows more about the man than anyone else right now. “Is that how you wanna be – like him?” asks Dale. Andrea thinks she knows the guy, but Shane is a bad, bad dude. After their conversation Dale seems to be planning something with the bag of guns in the R.V., but what exactly?
At Hershel’s dinner table, Rick comes to have a chat. The older man is a tough, solid man, and also stubborn. Rick tells him about their discovery of the barn. Except it doesn’t lead to much productive talk: “I need you and your group gone by the end of the week,” Hershel says. They have more talk of walkers, what they are, what they were and what they’ve become now. Sheriff Rick tries leveling with Hershel about how the farm is sheltered and hasn’t seen exactly what the world has turned into beyond its grassy fields.
However, the turning point comes when Rick drops the bomb of Lori’s pregnancy on Hershel. Their little rendezvous ends on intense, angry terms.
Wilder still, Rick reveals the pregnancy to Shane whose reaction nearly drops his face to the ground. He congratulates Rick, but there’s something else there, something behind the facade. Has Rick ever considered Shane could be the father? I can guarantee Shane is thinking it right now.
In the kitchen, Maggie doesn’t look very happy about her father deciding to cast Rick, Glenn, Lori and all the others out in the road. He tries to tell Maggie the group will be fine. Although, she warns him things aren’t as he sees them. She is beginning to see all that herself.
A confrontation between Lori and Shane sees more of his animosity. He questions how fit Rick is for this new world. How many times he’s saved her life, Carl’s life. Shane seems to be intent on having a life with her, one way or another. Is he going to eventually try and kill Rick, like the moment he had his gun sighted on him? Shane ends up talking to Carl, too. Agreeing they need to stay and such. But the darkness under Shane is always there, ever present. He’s willing to do whatever they need to in order to keep Lori safe. He is turning coat now because of that, only that. And if he’s got to take charge of the place himself, I believe that’s exactly what Shane will do.
He ends up back at the R.V. looking for the guns. They’re gone. With Dale, we assume. Shane heads out to look for him, veins popping out of him everywhere.
Hershel takes Rick out into the woods to show him something. Down by a little pond, two zombies are stuck in the water. Hershel wants to turn back time, to cure the sick. He has a couple rods for grabbing animals, likely from his vet work. He tells Rick this is how it is if they’re to stay on the farm: no more killing.
Glenn and Maggie finally have a real talk. He tells her “secrets get you killed” and hammers home the point that he cares for her, as well as his people. He’d rather her be alive and hating him. But that’s not the case. She does have feelings, they both do. Seeing them both come together is a beautiful thing I hope will last.
Somewhere in the forest, Dale is hiding the guns. He and Shane have a bit of a rigid conversation. The older of the two obviously wants to protect people from Shane. In his mind, Shane is the saviour of the group. The true leader. He wants to take everything by force, deal with consequences later. Dale points a gun at him, but Shane walks right to the gun barrel, letting it press against his chest. A small speech from Dale makes us realize exactly the type of people they both are, if we didn’t already.
Shane: “Hell man, if you think about it, in the cold light of day, you’re pretty much dead already.”
With everybody up at the farm, Shane arrives and puts guns in everybody’s hands. He has decided the rules for himself believing the place to be dangerous. Then, as T-Dog (Irone Singleton) exclaims “Oh shit“, Rick shows up. He and Hershel have the two walkers in tow. Shane, obviously, goes absolutely mental.
This whole preamble leads into one of the most intense, wild sequences of the entire series so far. Only two seasons in, but this show brings it! Shane first fires on one of the walkers they brought back; a couple in the body, finally working up to a bullet in the head. Time slows down. Hershel has clearly had enough and drops to his knees. Shane takes charge then opens up the barn, which lets all hell loose.
Out stumbles walker after walker after walker. Bullets fly, each person with a gun taking down the living dead.
And then the worst of all imaginable happens: from the barn comes one last walker, Sophia Peletier (Madison Lintz). The devastation in Carol is evident, having been there next to the barn all that time, looking for Sophia when she was already dead. Surprisingly, though, it is Rick who owns up and fires the bullet which kills the little girl for good. A brutal, effective moment. Rick does have what it takes, he just thinks more than someone like Shane. Still a very emotionally charged moment, even more so with the way this was filmed. Excellent finish to the episode.
Next up is “Nebraska”, another exciting chapter in AMC’s Season 2 of The Walking Dead. Stay with me, fellow Deadheads!
AMC’s The Walking Dead
Season 2, Episode 4: “Cherokee Rose”
Directed by Bill Gierhart
Written by Evan T. Reilly
* For a review of the previous episode, “Save the Last One” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Chupacabra” – click here
“Cherokee Rose” starts with Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus), Dale Horvath (Jeffrey DeMunn) and the others coming down from the highway to the farm of Hershel Greene (Scott Wilson). Everybody’s concerned about Carl (Chandler Riggs), who is doing much better now thanks to Hershel.
But the two groups couldn’t be more different. Hershel, his daughters Maggie (Lauren Cohan) and Beth (Emily Kinney), Otis’ wife Patricia (Jane McNeill), they all have faith in God. Or at least Hershel does, most of all. They aren’t accustomed to life in the real world having stayed on the farm so long until now. At a funeral for Otis, there’s a moment where Shane thinks back and forth to when he killed the man, giving a sort-of-eulogy, and even though Shane is a bad dude, he is a part of the group with Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln). They are a different breed. Doing what he did to Otis was terribly wrong, but still, there’s a sense of that group knowing certain things need to be done in this post-zombie apocalypse world.
Plans are laid out. Hershel doesn’t want any guns toted on the property; another point of contention between Rick an Shane, though the latter gives up his arms. They’re all heading out, in various shapes and forms, to continue the search for Sophia. One thing I’m always thinking of while watching The Walking Dead is how life is drastically different, not just the living dead, but life for young people in particular. Growing up is tough enough. Now they’ve got to grow up in a world where work is life. You never really rest up, not truly. There is always a plan, always work to be done and a task assigned.
So Dale is off to fetch water. Rick gave a lot of blood recently, and Hershel suggests he take it easy. Shane wants to drive out to the interstate and look for Sophia, as does Daryl only in the woods. Andrea (Laurie Holden) doesn’t like giving up their guns, but Shane isn’t exactly without weaponry; he shows her how to use one, load one, clean one properly, their bond growing slightly.
The biggest thing so far is that Hershel wants to make it known Rick, Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) and the rest of their group are not staying permanently.
A brief moment between Glenn (Steven Yeun) and Lori sees her asking for items when he’s out on a run. It’s hush, hush. Private stuff in the “feminine hygiene section“. Tampons, or something more?
T-Dog (Irone Singleton) wants Dale not to mention some of the things they talked about while on the highway. Dale of course agrees. At the same time, he discovers something in the well before any of them drink the water: a bloated, nasty zombie. They all want to deal with it appropriately, as Shane, Maggie, Lori, Andrea and Glenn show up to put their heads together. Shoot it, risk contaminating the water, if it already hasn’t happened. But how to get it out either way?
Seems they need “live bait” and Glenn gets roped down into the well. When a pipe breaks, he falls nearly into the mouth of the walker. Luckily, he is one crafty fellow. After the others pull him out Glenn has lassoed the zombie for their purposes. Glenn is the man.
Hershel: “In all the chaos you found your wife and boy. Then he was shot and he survived. That tells you nothing?”
Rick: “It tells me God‘s got a strange sense of humour”
Out on their own, Glenn and Maggie ride horses into town. Like two gunslingers. He tries his best to impress her, while Maggie is sort of off in her own world. She was fairly traumatized when T-Dog killed the bloated well zombie. No doubt Hershel and their small group have treated things differently. Glenn and Maggie make their way through some stores to find supplies. He makes things look a bit awkward, looking for Lori’s items but fumbling and holding up a box of condoms. “I’ll have sex with you,” Maggie tells him after his bumbled conversation. A hot, passionate moment begins to build, as these two come together physically and emotionally. Hooking up isn’t simply hooking up in the post-zombie world. You have to connect where you can, when you can, because who knows how long anybody has? For now, Glenn and Maggie enjoy one another.
At the ranch things are going on just fine. Except Rick tells Hershel “you need to reconsider… asking us to leave.” They have a tough, intense conversation about the group’s future on the farm. “Some men do not earn the love of their sons,” Hershel tells Rick. “I don‘t see you having that problem.” Staying is a possibility, though, Hershel wants to think it over. Even further, he casts a bit of mystery saying there are things he will not discuss about the farm, how they do things, or what not. But things seem a little shady, even while Hershel is obviously an upstanding, honest, righteous man. There is something he’s not telling us.
When Glenn and Maggie arrive, we get a passing look between him and Lori when he gives her the item she requested. What is it that has him so confused or upset?
For the time being, Daryl brings Carol (Melissa McBride) a rose and tells her a story: “It‘s a Cherokee Rose. The story is that when American soldiers were moving Indians off their land on the Trail of Tears, the Cherokee mothers were grieving and crying so much ‘cause they were losing their little ones along the way from exposure and disease and starvation. A lot of them just disappeared. So the elders, they said a prayer; asked for a sign to uplift the mothers‘ spirits, give them strength and hope. The next day this rose started to grow where the mothers‘ tears fell. I‘m not fool enough to think there‘s any flowers blooming for my brother. But I believe this one bloomed for your little girl.”
Rick apologizes to Carl for lying earlier about Sophia, all simply in hopes he wouldn’t upset his son. We get a tender scene between them, as Carl remarks he’s just like his father after having been shot. This is where Sheriff Rick gives his hat over to the boy, saying he’s “in the club now“. Almost like a passing of the torch. Bit of a masculinity thing, yet I still love that moment here. It’s a rare and beautiful moment that doesn’t often get to come about because the group is constantly on the run, or trying to survive, or grieving. We have to take the tenderness when it comes and this is certainly one of the best of these scenes in the entire series, especially the first couple seasons. It follows on a little with a quiet follow-up scene involving Lori and Rick, where he puts away his Sheriff’s badge, the uniform. She doesn’t want him to put it all away so soon, too quick. She knows the world still requires a man like Sheriff Grimes, at least from time to time.
Outside, Lori goes by herself to a dark spot in the field. She takes out the item Glenn brought her back and puts it to use: a pregnancy test. Is this going to yield a child? Such a devastating thing in this new world. Also, would it be Rick’s baby, or does it belong to Shane? Nevertheless, the test is positive. Almost a death sentence like back in the Victorian Age and before.
Exciting developments here in this episode. Terrifying ones, too.
Can’t wait to rewatch the next episode, “Chupacabra”; a personal favourite of mine. Stay with me for another review.
AMC’s The Walking Dead
Season 2, Episode 3: “Save the Last One”
Directed by Phil Abraham
Written by Scott M. Gimple
* For a review of the previous episode, “Bloodletting” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Cherokee Rose” – click here
We start on Shane (Jon Bernthal), shirtless in front of the mirror, shaving his head in the sink. He looks dead on the inside. Cut to him and Otis (Pruitt Taylor Vince) trying to escape the building where last we saw them in “Bloodletting”. Over the top in voice-over, Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) tells his wife Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) about the time Shane stole their principal’s car in high school, as they sit with their comatose son Carl (Chandler Riggs). The parents are obviously stressing, worried Carl won’t make it through. But most of all, Loris wants Rick to eat and stay strong for him. For all of them. Also, she doesn’t want to hear him talk about Shane and make her guilt any worse than it already is at the present moment in time.
In the R.V. out on the highway, Daryl (Norman Reedus) can’t sleep. Between Carol (Melissa McBride) crying in bed and Andrea (Laurie Holden) loading bullet clips, there is no rest. Nobody is exactly tired. With Sophia out there and in who knows what sort of condition everybody is on edge and not quite right. Andrea and Daryl go to look for the girl. Dale (Jeffrey DeMunn) isn’t too pleased with their plan, but that’s no matter.
Glenn (Steven Yeun) and T-Dog (Irone Singleton) arrive back at the ranch. They meet Maggie (Lauren Cohan) properly on the porch. She brings them inside and Glenn greets with “painkillers and antibiotics“. Things are fairly grim inside with Hershel (Scott Wilson) tending on Carl, as Rick and Lori still sit close with their son. Everybody is aimed at getting the boy better. “Whatever you need,” T-Dog tells them all. Things are tense waiting to see whether or not Shane and Otis get back, and with the proper equipment. Tough decisions may be on the horizon.
Bits of Daryl comes out. His rough childhood and such, through a conversation with Andrea as they search for Sophia. We can tell that Daryl grew up in a typically hillbilly fashion, absentee parents, almost dangerously. It’s nice to get things like that out of characters without a ton of exposition. Just little stories along the way rather than crowding each and every episode with too much character development. The characters grow organically, at the right pace, which is something I’ve enjoyed greatly up to this point now at Season 2’s first beginnings.
Lori and Rick are at odds. She seems to think death may be better than living in a terrible world with the zombies. Rick is never a quitter, under any circumstances. It’s discouraging for Rick, as a father, a parent. She talks about Jacqui, how she “doesn‘t feel it anymore” and it’s clear that Rick doesn’t “accept that“. More talk of what Jenner told Rick, though, it is subtle and brief. What was it? I know already, but still it intrigues me to see how Rick deals with knowing it the whole time and nobody else does.
Shane is still trying to make his way out of the high school, flooded with the living dead. His ankle in a bad way, backed up against a fence. There’s a feeling of everything falling down on top of him. Groans and grows on every side. Then Otis appears, shooting off a few walkers. Reunited they start making their way to safety. At the ranch, Carl wakes up and things are stable for only a few seconds before he fades off again, seizing savagely.
Maggie and Glenn have a talk together. This is the beginning of a relationship between the two, which starts with him trying to pray, and her interrupting. It’s a nice little talk between the two involving God and the human need to keep on surviving, “no matter what happens“.
Shane does whatever it takes to survive. But in the worst kind of sense.
Hershel decides they have to make a choice on Carl. Shane and Otis don’t arrive on-time, so things have to start going. The I.V is setup, Carl is moved onto a surgical table, and Hershel begins preparations for the surgery. Then Shane appears. He has everything required, all the equipment. No Otis; he died.
Maggie is upset by the death of Otis, as Glenn comforts her. They bond slightly over who they’ve lost and what has happened to each of them since the fall of mankind and society. Her mother is gone, step-brother. Everybody has lost someone and they take comfort in the fact so many of them are going through the same situation. Good news comes as Hershel announces Carl is stable, though, he feels at a loss as to how to break the news to Patricia about Otis. A tragic thing for anyone to have to do.
Shane is getting dark and scary, his eyes showing all the guilt and hate he feels inside; this brings us back to the scene from the opening where Shane shaves his head in the sink. Fitting enough, he is given clothes to wear: they belonged to Otis. I worry about where Shane is headed as a character and exactly what he’s fixing to do, where he is going to go, down which path. He flashes back to the moment where he left Otis, seeing it again. Otis is left behind for the zombies to chew on while Shane takes his opportunity to get away, letting them eat after putting a bullet in Otis’ leg. It is a vicious, cold-blooded moment where the true nature of Shane’s existence shows. He is a bad man who will do whatever serves him best, in that moment. There is nothing he won’t do, as evidenced already by his behaviour with Rick, Lori, and now with what he’s done to Otis. He shaved his head because part of his hair got ripped in the struggle between him and Otis. A disgusting act of cowardice by a twisted man. This is going places.
More and more, the second season of The Walking Dead gets intense. Stay with me and I’ll review the next episode, too: “Cherokee Rose”.
AMC’s The Walking Dead
Season 2, Episode 2: “Bloodletting”
Directed by Ernest R. Dickerson
Written by Glen Mazzara
* For a review of the previous Season 2 premiere, “What Lies Ahead” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Save the Last One” – click here
This episode takes a step back from Carl (Chandler Riggs) being shot in the woods, right in front of both his father Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and Shane (Jon Bernthal).
Starting out, we’re flashed back to before the fall of humanity. Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) is at the playground, talking about Rick to her friend. They talk about the troubles of their relationship. Lori says they were “married so young” and perhaps that’s part of their issue. This scene is actually the moment where Shane tells Lori about the shooting; the one which puts Rick in the hospital bed where he’ll lay until the zombie apocalypse comes. Shane tries to takethe blame for the situation, as they look at Carl coming towards them with a smiling face.
Now, we’re back in the present with Rick – this time it’s Carl who took a bullet. Such a tragic parallel. Father runs with his dying son in his arms. The man who accidentally shot him is Otis (Pruitt Taylor Vince), who runs almost dragged by Shane, telling them to “talk to Hershel“. Up at a big ranch house, Maggie Greene (Lauren Cohan) calls out to her father Hershel (Scott Wilson). He has a bunch of supplies and takes Carl into a bed where he begins trying to treat the boy. Others are working around Hershel – his daughter Maggie, his other daughter Beth (Emily Kinney), Patricia (Jane McNeill). It’s a frantic, bloody scene. But now there’s a new influx of characters for the series. The Walking Dead just got stronger.
Rick is rightfully devastated, worrying for his son. Otis feels terrible for what happened. He’d been out hunting and then the worst happened all of a sudden. Meanwhile, the other group is still in the woods. Lori heard the gunshot and worries. Daryl (Norman Reedus) says to keep moving looking for Sophia, which Andrea (Laurie Holden) and Glenn (Steven Yeun) agree with, as well as Carol (Melissa McBride). On they go, sadly. Now there’s two children at terrible risk, possibly on the verge of death. Poor Carl and Sophia. Not a world made for the children, or the weak, the sick. Not for anybody, I suppose.
Back out on the highway, Dale (Jeffrey DeMunn) is fiddling with car parts while T-Dog (Irone Singleton) seems restless, worrying about everyone still being gone. Likewise, Dale worries about T-Dog; the cut on his arm is pretty rough and giving him trouble. An infection is on the loose, which makes Dale even more concerned.
Bits of gruesome imagery. The highway is just like one long extensive cemetery. Creepy as all hell.
Dale: “Listen, your veins are very discoloured. You got a hell of an infection there. You could die from blood poisoning.”
T–Dog: “Oh, man. Wouldn‘t that be the way? World gone to hell, the dead risen up to eat the living and Theodore Douglas is done in by a cut on his arm.”
Little Carl soldiers on as Hershel extracts the bullet fragments from his wounded side. Amazing to have someone like Hershel there. The wasteland could be even worse without someone having medical knowledge. Rick donates blood for Carl and also worries that Lori is out there, not knowing a thing about Carl.
But things are bad. Carl needs actual surgery for Hershel to figure everything out. They need a respirator, its equipment, sutures and so on. Otis suggests the high school, where a FEMA shelter had been setup, which probably has supplies. Shane agrees to go out, and Otis wants to tag along; he feels responsible for everything. Otis was a volunteer EMT, so he knows what they’re looking for and Shane takes him out on the road. A dangerous journey, but necessary.
Out of nowhere, Lori and the group are found in the woods. By Maggie. On horseback. Daryl is sceptical, although Maggie takes Lori and rides back to the ranch after telling her what’s happened to her son. Things are tense. Up on the road, Glenn tells Dale about Carl being shot. The group are split up, but only temporarily.
Hershel and Rick have a chat on the porch. The former is a family man just trying to make sure his own survives. Hershel relates the zombie virus to AIDS, but Rick tries to tell him: “This is a whole other thing.” He doesn’t yet realize what’s happening, saying that’s it is simply “nature correcting itself” and that eventually things will set themselves right. So terribly misguided, it seems. But a good man.
Out headed towards the high school, Otis and Shane try to keep from drawing attention to themselves. A massive horde of zombies is crowded around the building. A medical trailer sits on the opposite side from where they hide. At the same time, Daryl, Dale and the others on the highway try to decide whether or not they should stay or go, in regards to Sophia. They send Glenn with T-Dog, out to the farm. My favourite part of the episode? Daryl has his brother Merle’s stash of drugs, a massive Ziploc with a ton of bottles in it. Appears “Merle got the clap on occasion“, as well as other things. Amazing little moment in a ton of bad, dark times.
The most interesting part of the episode, though, is definitely when Shane and Otis find themselves in a tough spot. Trying their hardest to get the medicinal supplies Hershel needs to operate on Carl, they’ve put their lives on the line. Tons of zombies are diverted for a little while after they fire off a couple flares from a police cruiser. This gives them time. And they need time, as Carl’s condition gets worse with too much of it passing.
Otis and Shane find the items they need. But going back is a lot more difficult than it was getting in. Trapped in a building’s entrance they both try to figure out some way forward through their insurmountable predicament, facing row after row of zombies.
Next episode, after this exciting cliffhanger, is “Save the Last One”. Can’t wait to review and recap that one, after seeing it again. Stay tuned.
Sicario. 2015. Directed by Denis Villeneuve. Screenplay by Taylor Sheridan.
Starring Emily Blunt, Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin, Victor Garber, Jon Bernthal, Daniel Kaluuya, Jeffrey Donovan, Raoul Max Trujillo, Julio Cedillo, Hank Rogerson, Bernardo P. Saracino, and Kevin Wiggins. Black Label Media/Lions Gate Films/Thunder Road Pictures.
Rated 14A. 121 minutes.
The opening of Sicario provides us a definition of the term. The first involves Romans, the Jews killing people who invaded their homelands. The second offers up the term as Mexican for ‘hitman’. Immediately, along with the pulsing pound of the score by Jóhann Jóhannsson (who worked with director Denis Villeneuve previously on Prisoners), the film sets us up for a grim story. In fact, the initial 3 or 4 minutes are dark – unbelievably so – and the tone is set.
One of the things I admire about Villeneuve, from his early feature Maelström to the most recent Prisoners, even Incendies, is the fact as a director he sets the atmosphere, mood and tone of his work so smoothly and so quickly that it’s almost ridiculous. Not in a bad way. He immerses us in the bleak lives of the characters sitting in the middle of his stories. We’re right alongside them. In Prisoners, before the main action of the plot even takes place you get this frightening sense of an ominous story to come. Similarly, Villeneuve draws us into Sicario‘s web with a dark and brooding landscape, plus a heavy dose of nihilistic action set within the morbidly electrifying world of the Federal Bureau of Investigations and the Mexican cartels. Never once does this film let go. Always tense, never ceasing with its suspenseful atmosphere, filled by doubt and an almost raw animal quality. The agents who inhabit this story, everyone involved, they are each predators; all fighting to rule the jungle.
During an FBI raid of possible kidnappers, Agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) and the rest of the team find corpses stashed in the walls of the house. Kate and others take a breather, as the investigation team starts a crime scene. Then an IED explodes in the back of the house, which kills two officers on the scene. Dave Jennings (Victor Garber) later recommends Agent Macer to a CIA Special Activities Division, and undercover officer/DOD adviser Matt Graver (Josh Brolin). He and a group of operatives are tracking down those responsible, including a hitman for a Juárez cartel named Manuel Diaz. Willingly volunteering her time, and possibly life, Kate takes part in the team.
Once Kate meets a partner of Graver, Alejandro Gillick (Benicio del Toro), she’s told they are headed to Juárez. This changes everything. Suddenly her journey with the team becomes more likely to be deadly. After they finally land in Juárez, we follow Agent Macer and the others closely, right alongside the action. The drug wars are running high, hot, heavy. The blood is not done flowing, on the streets of America nor certainly is it anywhere near finished in Juárez. Kate has to transform into a different, tougher, more brutal agent if she is to survive the job with which she’s been tasked.
Kate: “The fuck are we doing?”
One reason I walked away from this film thoroughly satisfied is because, while certain elements are things we’ve all seen before, the screenplay from Taylor Sheridan contains a lot of good stuff. It isn’t a ton of cliched CIA/FBI nonsense jammed together with the tired view of cartels with which we’ve been inundated in the movies. Sheridan provides solid dialogue, as well as paces the film pretty well. For an action film that contains a nice helping of dialogue, there doesn’t feel like any points where the pacing lags. That’s always a downer for a movie relying on action to drive the audience’s attention span. But it isn’t predominantly action. This film has so much intrigue and mystery, specifically pertaining to Benicio del Toro’s character, his backstory and origins. Not to mention the already infamous scene where Alejandro in the interrogation room most likely rapes a man; that’s debatable but I believe a running theme in this film, pertaining to the cartel and also the methods of CIA/FBI Agents, is that the horrors we do see are nothing compared to the ones we don’t see. It’s all about the surface, appearances, and the hidden underbelly. So Alejandro as a character embodies much of that theme himself. Overall, the writing is very subtle in places where it could easily have gone over-the-top, typical, or just full-on cliche.
Next is the fact I thought a female protagonist in Sicario works perfectly. We need more strong but also flawed female characters in cinema. Not to say Agent Kate Macer is flawed in a negative sense. Although, in terms of having to become part of this dangerous drug war world Kate has flaws – she is too human. Throughout the film we watch her struggle with the weight of moral ambiguity in the face of trying to attain the greater good. A man is usually who we see in this situations, whether on television or in the movies. Nice to watch Emily Blunt play an interesting character, especially thrown into this typically male-dominated environment, and we follow along to see how she either fits in, or falls out. And she is not perfect, again, I repeat, not perfect. Just like male characters we see who are allowed to be tough and also ridiculously flawed, Blunt plays Agent Macer as someone not perfect, even if she is tougher than nails. It’s the duality that needs to be allowed to female characters, much as it is for the men. Because they are just as interesting, if not more so depending on the situation. Personally, I dig how she navigates the patriarchal world of law enforcement and particularly the one concerning cartels, eventually proving her worth in the part she plays.
There are a wealth of great characters in this film. Aside from that, again I have to say, Villeneuve does a fantastic job making everything look so dark and murky, even in broad daylight. There are a few elements to all that. First, the cinematography courtesy of Roger Deakins is slick, rich, it has a vibrant quality in every kind of light, whether among the shadows or in the dusty sunlit streets of Mexico. Deakins is a master behind the lens and his work with Villeneuve only continues to affirm that, every damn time. They are a perfect pairing, almost with the same sensibilities in terms of how subject matter ought to be captured through the cinematographer’s eyes. Regardless, they work so well as a team. Secondly, as I mentioned at the start Jóhann Jóhannsson’s score provides the appropriate music at every last turn. At the start the opening sequence is driven by his foreboding music, throbbing in our ears and right through the chest. Later, the intensity amps up when the action gets frenetic, or generally swells, gets deeper and more gloomy when the story turns darker, darker still. Jóhannsson compliments the story in the best way, which only helps the work of Deakins and Villeneuve look/feel better along the way.
If I said Sicario were anything less than a 5-star film, I’d be lying. I’m not saying it has to be perfect. I’m saying it does an amazingly impressive job with every aspect of the film, from music to production design to the writing, the direction and the cinematography. Every bit of this movie is enjoyable. It enthralled me from beginning to end. Seeing it in theatre is worth it, as the visuals look even more gorgeous on a big screen. Nevertheless, I’m looking forward to seeing it on Blu ray, which will absolutely be a whole new experience. This is written well, captured well. Denis Villeneuve is a fantastic and fascinating director who is worthy of watching, film after film. I hope he keeps making things with an edge, a darkness in them. He manages to bring across those tough stories so well, with a shadowy yet human quality. This one is a furious, enjoyable romp through drug war territory with a deep and fractured look into the people who fight it, how they do, as well as the lengths to which they’ll go under the guise of a ‘greater good’. At times nihilistic, Sicario is always a treat for the eyes, the ears, and that dark spot in your soul where only little tiny bits of hope cling.
AMC’s The Walking Dead
Season 1, Episode 4: “Vatos”
Directed by Johan Renck
Written by Robert Kirkman; Based on the comics by Charlie Adlard, Kirkman & Tony Moore.
* For a review of the previous episode, “Tell It to the Frogs” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Wildfire” – click here
After an intense third episode, “Vatos” starts with sisters Andrea and Amy Harrison (Laurie Holden/Emma Bell) fishing in a boat with We-no-nah on its side. They talk about their father a little. Their age differences created differences in how they were raised, specifically how their dear ole dad decided to show them each how to fish. Completely different, almost radically to them. They’re two separate identities, which provides us insight into where they’re headed on this series. What does Season 1 have in store for the Harrison sisters? I know already. Although, it’s great fun to go back and pick up more about everything on a third or fourth watch of the episodes. Bell and Holden play well as sisters and their bond only furthers with this opener.
Up on the R.V. stands Dale (Jeffrey DeMunn) on watch, looking out over everyone else like Jim (Andrew Rothenberg) whose time is spent digging holes. He looks tired. A little crazy. I imagine they’re all tired and slightly crazy, in every way.
Back on the rooftop in Atlanta there’s still more trouble. Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) is a bit buckwild after finding his brother Merle (Michael Rooker) gone – not completely, his bloody hand is still sitting there. Drawing his weapon on T-Dog (Irone Singleton) quickly, Daryl is savage. Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) puts a stop to all that with Glenn (Steven Yeun) watching on. After things calm down slightly Daryl takes his brother’s hand and puts it in Glenn’s knapsack for safekeeping. They make their way through the building, looking to see if Merle stayed put. But no sign yet.
Dale checks on Jim, who as I said is pretty tired. Or something. He isn’t well. Dale’s worried he might “keel over“, going too hard at the digging. I suppose everyone has their way of dealing with a terrifying world after the zombie apocalypse comes raining down. Only Dale brings Jim and his behaviour to the attention of everyone else, believing they’ve got a new problem on their hands. When Shane goes to Jim, everyone at his back, things become awkward. This prompts Jim being tackled to the ground and restrained by Shane. At least it sets the place at ease a little while. Or does it? Jim makes a shocking confession and puts everyone out of comfort once more.
Daryl: “Toughest asshole I ever met, my brother. Feed him a hammer, he‘d crap out nails.”
On Merle’s trail, as well as looking for the guns, Rick, Daryl and the others try to stick together. They try to make a plan, one on the fly as usual. Glenn offers to make a run for the bag of guns. He draws up a little diagram on the floor, giving everyone their orders. When Daryl asks, almost admirably, what Glenn did before this he gets the reply: “I delivered pizzas. Why?” Amazing. Such a wonderfully written scene. Even better after when Daryl says he has “balls for a Chinaman” to which a wittier reply comes from Glenn – “I‘m Korean.”
They run into trouble when a bunch of Mexicans run them into a trap. Daryl is beaten down and Glenn gets taken hostage. The group is split. Only they’ve also got themselves a young Latino to hold hostage on their side.
At the camp, Jim is now tied to a tree. He may as well be on trial as a witch. But this is another instance of Shane needing total control. Perhaps if they left Jim alone nothing would’ve come of his nonsense. At the same time, who knows? He actually apologizes for possibly scaring the children, so that’s something. He still doesn’t remember why he was digging, though. “Somethin‘ I dreamed last night,” Jim tells Dale.
Shane: “Jim, nobody is gonna hurt you – okay?”
Jim: “That‘s a lie. That‘s the biggest lie there is. I told that to my wife and my two boys. I said it 100 times. It didn‘t matter. They came out of nowhere. There were dozens of them. Just pulled ‘em out of my hands. You know, the only reason I got away was ‘cause the dead were too busy eating my family.”
Trying to make a trade, Rick and Co. go to see the Mexican crew in the city who took Glenn. Their leader is a man named Guillermo (Neil Brown Jr). He’s willing to talk, a little bit. Rick and Daryl attempt to deal with the men. They’re after the guns in the street. Sheriff Grimes lays claim to the guns, but Guillermo and his people want them: “I‘ll take what‘s mine,” he says to Rick. But Rick is ready, if anyone ever was. He stands toe to toe with them. He says he owes Glenn and won’t back down.
Making the trade-off, Rick sends the young Latino back over to Guillermo. Though, the man steps to Rick viciously instead of acting sensible. Guns cock and the place is almost ready to light up. Out of nowhere, an old woman comes out into the bunch of men pointing guns at one another. Seems there are a ton of old people in there, all of them relying on Guillermo. Now, things have changed. The old woman who wandered into their fight brings everyone together in a moment of heart among the cold world of the undead outside. Genuinely love this whole scene, as it shows us compassion hasn’t completely gone out the window right away. Not in certain corners. And it goes to show, these Mexican guys are willing to put their lives at risk to keep these elderly people safe and healthy for as long possible. Even when the living dead have pretty much infested the world. Nice commentary thrown into the writing, which is always present when you take on zombies. Robert Kirkman does great things in that sense, over and over. The archetypal zombie story is perfectly poised for throwing in socioeconomic and political commentaries, so I’m glad the show has those bits and pieces instead of focusing solely on the horror. Further than that, we watch the characters grow. Episode by episode, like any other series. These characters, though? They’ve got a lot of growing to do in the new, shattered world.
We see Rick make a deal in mutual admiration of Guillermo after they talk: he gives them some guns. A nice choice in an ever hardening life. Afterwards, Rick and the crew head out and find their van gone. They assume it’s possible Merle did it and “took his vengeance back to camp“, as brother Daryl puts things eloquently.
A nice evening by the fire has Dale quoting William Faulkner – pretty well I might add: “I give you the mausoleum of all hope and desire… I give it to you not that you may remember time, but that you might forget it now and then for a moment and not spend all of your breath trying to conquer it.”
Quickly, the fun is interrupted.
In his tent, Ed is bitten by a zombie. Worse still, Amy gets a bite, too. The entire camp is overrun, as Rick and the others just make it back. Everything is chaos, with baseball bats flying, skin and organs being eaten. Gunfire sounds everywhere. With Rick and the others back things clear out, but the damage is done. Lives have already been lost. One thing we can be sure of is that The Walking Dead will tug at the heartstrings. In her arms, Andrea watches Amy die and the episode finishes as Jim says: “I remember now – why I dug the holes.”
A very tough, equally as excellent episode with lots of developments. Digging this watch-through so much. Noticing things I didn’t the first couple times, finding more characters enjoyable in different ways. Looking forward to the next episode, penultimate Season 1 finisher “Wildfire”. Stay with me, friends and fans alike.
Fury. 2014. Directed & Written by David Ayer.
Starring Brad Pitt, Shia LaBeouf, Logan Lerman, Michael Peňa, Jon Bernthal, and Jim Parrack.
134 min. Rated R.
David Ayer’s new thriller Fury is by far one of the most brutal and honest films set during the Second World War ever made. Not only does it present the agony of war, it also works as a great character piece.
Brad Pitt leads the cast as Don ‘Wardaddy’ Collier, a sergeant who rides aboard the titular tank, Fury. Alongside him are his three most trusted men. However, after one of those men dies the crew is saddled with a fresh young army recruit (Lerman) hauled from desk duty to fight in the second Battalion. The five men continue through Germany together, killing every Nazi they find, and try to hold onto their humanity in the face of war and death.The film looks beautiful and everything feels very real (this also marks the first time an actual Tiger tank has been used on a movie set). Ayer shot with film instead of digitally, which gives Fury a very bleak, grim feeling as the tanks and the troops behind them trek through miles of mud. The way it’s filmed gives an almost nostalgic feel reminiscent of other great war pictures. No doubt there will be more than a few comparisons to the blockbuster Steven Spielberg film, Saving Private Ryan. Regardless of its predecessors, however, this film holds its own as one of the best World War II films out there.
Fury is not delegated solely to bombs, bullets, and the horrific images of war. Ayer wonderfully crafts the film from its opening with a blurry shot of a figure on horseback. It moves slowly through an area where a fight has recently occurred. Bodies lay everywhere. Ashes and fire are all around. The figure, a German, comes into view riding a pale white horse: one of the Four Horsemen, symbolizing death. Wardaddy ambushes the man, killing him, and sends the horse on its way. For a moment he has driven death out. Later, we see the white horse again galloping away once more. When the film nears a close you begin to understand Ayer’s use of symbolism.
Fury is mainly about what war does to those who engage in and are surrounded by it. It is a film about men trying to hold onto their humanity under the most gruelling conditions. One of the central struggles of the characters is their justification of death as preventing worse deaths for others. How does a man keep on being human even after holding a gun to another man’s head and pulling the trigger? And what if a man is forced to do that is worse? Ayer explores these dilemmas throughout the film with help of some stellar acting on all parts.
Pitt earns his keep as a continually interesting actor. His portrayal of Wardaddy is fairly subtle and restrained. He looks and acts the part of a haunted war veteran. In solitary moments where the camera sticks on him Pitt conveys a side of war not often seen, as he fights with the emotion inside him trying to escape. The supporting cast is just as top notch. Shia LaBeouf proves capable of playing a quiet character instead of the usual loud cockiness he displays. Joe Bernthal, best known from AMC’s The Walking Dead and Michael Peňa who starred in Ayer’s earlier film End of Watch, are both in fine form playing men who have seen and done too much to simply return to normal after the war is over. However, it is Logan Lerman that really shines. Playing the rookie soldier on the tank crew alongside Pitt, he displays great acting talent, and conveys the terror of many young men drafted and thrust into battle during World War II without ever having so much as fired a gun. Overall the main cast works together to depict the weary strain of war on those who’ve fought.
I cannot recommend Fury enough. The cinematography is something to behold and really captures the grit of World War II’s muddy trenches. Honestly, for a dark look at war this movie is dripping with gorgeous shots. I love the camerawork. Certain shots here were just perfect. Ayer really set the tone with an overall atmosphere of tension. There was literal fog often rolling over the war fields, and it help to create the mood: a sense of dread hung over each scene.
There are fairly divided opinions on both Shia LaBeouf and Brad Pitt, and depending on which side you fall it could skew how the movie plays, but I believe they each put in a fantastic performance here. This is a tightly scripted film driven by the emotional force of the actors.
I’ve seen a review or two saying this movie was “so grim” and other such statements. One reviewer even claimed he felt like he “needed a hug” afterwards. I mean, there are so many things wrong with this way of thought. A movie, unless otherwise specified, is not meant to make you feel warm and fuzzy. Especially not one about the brutal nature of war, and during World War II no less. This is all about the grim picture. This is meant to make you feel unsettled and even a bit terrified, at least for the characters. I can never stand when people feel they have to like a character, or be made to feel good because of a character’s actions or by the plot – whatever. It’s all about whatever the character or plot is intended to do: final cause. This is the purpose of Fury – to unnerve you, displace your feelings and take you out of those comfort zones. Just as it must have felt for any of these men to be drafted and stuffed into a tank together. To be shoved out into the fields of some town in another country, on another continent. To be told you’re going to either live or die – there is no middle ground.
So, in essence, Fury should really make you feel conflicted in certain ways, it should absolutely leave you with a grim feeling, and looking for hugs afterwards. If so, it has absolutely served its final purpose.
There are countless war movies out there. What sets one apart from the pack is its honesty. Ayer pulls no punches about the realities of war from the script to the action sequences. Many war veterans often say that the real heroes never came home; Fury is a cinematic testament to this statement.