Review: Walking Dead Finale - ‘Welcome to the Tombs’

Season 3, Episode 16 - A season finale without much bang

I’m a reader of The Walking Dead comic book, so going into this last episode of season 3, I expected to see the grand shoot-out that was the end of the prison vs. Woodbury story arc.  Of course, they’re changing things up a bit for the television series, so that shoot-out never happened.  What we got instead was something that almost worked, but felt less like a finale and more like just another of the better episodes.

We start out with poor Milton, having his face punched in by the Governor.  In order to get some revenge on both his former buddy and the captured Andrea, the Governor stabs Milton in the gut and locks him in with the girl so that he will turn into a zombie and eat her.  She’s all tied up, but Milton does manage to get a tool nearby so that she can at least attempt to escape.  A tense game of Andrea’s speed vs. Milton’s ability to stay alive ensues.

Meanwhile, back at the prison, the Governor brings in his troops to have a full-on war.  But Rick and his gang are smarter than that and they set a trap for the incoming enemy.  Zombies are released, snipers shoot down the invaders and the whole thing goes straight to hell.  The survivors run, but their worries are not over yet.  The Governor, upset about the loss, goes nutso on his allies and guns most of them down.  So much for Woodbury’s army.

But one person survives by playing dead and when Rick and the gang come chasing after the Governor to finish him off, she lets them know what happened.  They then head off to Woodbury, find Tyreese and Sasha waiting and let them know exactly what went down.  The end result is that the remaining residents of Woodbury move into the prison, to become a community (and probably zombie-fodder) for season 4.

While I am a bit jaded because of the mass character deaths in the comics, I still think this episode was less than it could have been.  There is a nice story arc started concerning the evil growing within young Carl and the complications of Rick having to look out for dozens of people now, but the Governor is still alive despite his presence being played out enough as it is.

All-in-all, it made me want to stop watching The Walking Dead altogether.  If this is the best twist they can come up with, how will a fourth season get any better?  Well, Scott Gimple is taking over as showrunner next season, and he’s the guy who put together episode 15, which I consider to be the best of the show thus far.  So, we might see some truly deep character development and great atmospheric scenes.  I guess I’ll be around after all, even if I am feeling a bit disappointed.

Review: Walking Dead - ‘This Sorrowful Life’

Season 3, Episode 15 - The body count begins as the end looms near

This week on The Walking Dead, the writers gear up for the great confrontation between Team Governor and Team Rick.  The main focus of this week’s story involves the potential exchange of Michonne for peace that Rick was promised by the Governor.  It all starts off smooth enough, with Rick preparing to set a trap to grab Michonne and haul her off to be handed over.  But he has a change of heart and can’t do it.  As it turns out, the slightly crazy leader is still grounded in some degree of morality, a sharp contrast to what his rival, the Governor demonstrates.

The twist of this story is that Merle - that’s right, the racist bastard we all love to hate - sees himself as the answer to this moral dilemma.  He grabs up Michonne himself and sets off to meet the Governor.  He knows that going there is most likely a one-way trip for him, but he does it anyway, an attempt at redemption of sorts.  Along the way, he and Michonne have a little chat and Merle, at last experiencing the full weight of his fatally pragmatic attitude, decides to let her go.  He doesn’t turn around, however, and sets his own sights on taking down the Governor and as many of his troops as is possible for one man with a high-powered rifle.  How this turns out… I’m not gonna spoiler it for you.  It was just too damn good to ruin.

I was very pleased with this week’s episode, particularly the ending.  Everyone has chosen their sides, though some fence-sitters still remain in the form of Tyreese and his daughter and the Governor’s right-hand man.  I’m guessing that these undecideds will really determine the outcome of this Sunday’s final showdown.  Only one more episode to go, and the creators of Walking Dead better damn well go out on a big bang or I’m going to be sorely disappointed.

Review: Walking Dead - ‘Prey’

Season 3, Episode 14 - A solid block of Woodbury and a bad day for Andrea

 

This week on The Walking Dead, we get a deeper look at what’s going on in the town of Woodbury.  As the show winds up to its final two episodes, both camps are making plans to take their rivals down.  Woodbury and The Governor are on the offensive while Rick and his gang are playing defense.  One Woodbury resident, namely Andrea, isn’t so happy with the way things are going on her side of the conflict, however.  And so this time around, after discovering some of the Governor’s more sadistic tendencies, she decides that she’s finally had enough and is going back to the group that raised her.

But the Governor isn’t too pleased with this development and takes it upon himself to hunt her down.  He manages to find her and a tense hunter and prey (hence the title) scenario ensues, with Andrea trying to keep away from the crazy man while making her way through a run down warehouse.  When at last she manages to make good her escape and everything looks okay, things turn out for the worse.

In the background of this main thread is the development of Tyreese and his gang.  They happen to be the ones who let Andrea leave the town and make her initial escape and she warns them that the Governor is not what he seems.  And then when they’re sent out to help round up zombies for an offensive plan of the Governor’s, Tyreese isn’t so happy with the idea of letting a horde of walkers loose on the prison gang, regardless of their relationship with Woodbury.  On another note, the bespectacled crony of the Governor, Milton is slowly losing his faith and may be responsible for a serious breach of protocol.

This episode didn’t develop the storyline too much, but it did set up several characters and put them in positions where, when the hammer of war falls, they’ll have to think hard about which side they’re on.  Tyreese is a fan favorite from the comics and having him working with the Governor is a huge departure from his role there.  Milton can go either way, though I suspect he’s not going to let the Governor just do as he pleases any more.  And Andrea is in a position similar to what Michonne had to face in the comics, which could lead to some seriously screwed-up story arc in the near future.

I’m guessing that they’ll finish the Woodbury vs. prison story arc in the next two episodes, so there’s not too much more they can do other than let the bullets fly.  If they try to hold onto it longer they risk dragging this arc along way too long and boring the crap out of fans.  Woodbury holds an important place in the development of the story, but enough is enough.  With the showrunner changing for season 4, let’s hope they wind it up nice and clean and, above all, with some serious drama.

Review: Walking Dead - ‘Arrow on the Doorpost’

Season 3, Episode 13 - Rick and the Governor finally face off before the big battle

After the tense emotional content of last week’s episode of The Walking Dead, one might expect the pacing to pick up a bit.  This week, however, is pretty much just as slow as the previous.  This time around, instead of dealing with the mental crisis of a friend, Rick has to face off against the group’s biggest enemy, the Governor, in an effort to barter peace before the real warfare begins.

Pretty much the entire episode revolves around Rick the Governor talking terms and conditions of the two camps living peacefully side-by-side.  The Governor isn’t having it though, and he wants nothing more than the surrender of Rick’s group.  When he realizes that tactic isn’t going to work, he tries something else - asking Rick to hand over Michonne in exchange for peace.  The truth of the matter is, of course, that the Governor is just trying to kill off a few more opponents before he begins his full assault.

In the background, Daryl and Hershel chat with a few of the enemy camp and we’re shown that the members of both sides of the conflict are just human.  In the end, it’s only the leaders who are perpetuating the war.  We are left with the impression that if Rick and The Governor weren’t there, the two groups would be getting along fine.  Aside, perhaps, from Merle, who insists on trying to ditch the prison so he can go take a shot at the Governor while the negotiations are going on.  The rest of the group back at the prison stops him in his tracks, so he’s left to brood.

It was nice to see the two generals of this small war finally meeting face-to-face.  It makes for a good set-up for the inevitable bloodbath that is to come.  The pacing of the episode conveyed the message well and created a tense pause before the last three episodes roll the season to a close.  I’m looking forward to seeing how this all finally plays out, particularly who will live, who will die and where everyone is going to end up once the smoke clears.

Review: Walking Dead - ‘I Ain’t a Judas’

Season 3, Episode 11 - Not much action, but at least the characters are settling in.

As we pick up this week on The Walking Dead, there’s a debate raging within the prison gang about whether or not they should pack up and leave their new home.  The Governor has already shown that he’s out to get them and Michonne knows that the crazy bastard isn’t about to give up until one side or the other is dead.

As if to prove that point, every person in Woodbury capable of holding a gun is being trained up to fight.  It looks like the Governor is going in full force to deal with the situation.  To make matters worse, Tyrese and his crew have wandered into the Governor’s care and they happen to know how to get into the prison through the back door.  Needless to say, the Governor is pleased with his new find (and to have four more bodies on his side).

In the meantime, Andrea sneaks out of Woodbury to go have a chat with Rick and the prison group.  She still thinks that some sort of peace can be achieved, despite the body count on both sides.  Her reunion with the group is less than happy, since they’re all aware of her involvement with the Governor by this point thanks to Merle.  Still, she says hello, tries to convince them to talk peace and then returns to Woodbury.  Before she takes off, Carol advises her that the entire conflict can come to an end if Andrea just takes care of the Governor on her own, once and for all.  Andrea has to make that fateful decision, and I think we all know how that will end up.  What’s the third season going to come to without the main bad guy, after all?

This episode was pretty damn slow, that’s for sure, but it did a good job of settling the characters in on their respective sides of the conflict.  Of course, it’s a far cry from the way the comic books panned out, since Tyrese and his little group is sitting in Woodbury along with Andrea - all of whom were in the prison in the comic storyline.  It makes me wonder what they plan on doing with it and even more curious about whether the fate of Woodbury will play a bigger role in the series.

With just five more episodes to go, people are going to need to start dying soon.  They’ve a huge conflict and a giant body count to live up to if they’re to match the comics.  They certainly can’t change it too much, else the stories from the comics will be out the window.  Personally, I could be happy with them going either way, though hardcore Walking Dead fans might riot.

I guess we’ll just have to see what happens this Sunday.

Review: Walking Dead - Home

Season 3, Episode 10 - The set-up from last episode begins to build steam.

We come to this week’s episode of The Walking Dead with three distinct stories going on.  Rick is going crazy in the prison while everybody else tries to cope, Daryl and Merle wander the countryside on their own and the Governor and Andrea try to keep Woodbury intact.  But while last week felt like a pile of set-up that was paced rather sluggishly, this week pays off as the conflict escalates and things begin to so south.

Rick is completely crazy at this point.  He begins wandering around outside the prison doing “stuff” and talking to Lori’s ghost.  Everyone else just watches him go and crosses their fingers that his brain will return to normal at some point, hopefully before he takes shots at anyone.  Meanwhile, Glenn is forced to take the reins of the group.  But his only concern is getting revenge on the Governor and so he’s not focused enough to really hold things together.

In Woodbury, the Governor sweet-talks Andrea a bit more, praising her for her ability to keep the people calm in the face of last week’s crisis.  He is, however, not the nice guy he pretends to be (no, really?).  While he says that the conflict between Woodbury and the prison is done, he secretly sets out with a small group to take pot shots at Rick’s gang.  Conflict ensues, shots are fired, a few people get killed (not gonna say who).

Daryl and Merle are still out on their wilderness adventure, though it proves to be short-lived.  After a brief encounter with another small group of survivors, Daryl realizes that his brother is a complete ass and decides to head back to the prison.  His place is with the group and he figures it out.  Merle, however, comes along, which should prove for some interesting conversation come next week.

Some complained that this episode was slow, that there was too much conversation.  But conversation is one of the show’s staples and, at least in my opinion, this week was anything but slow.  Almost every scene had a purpose and the climax of the episode was tense without being over-the-top and promises even more action as the season winds up.  I was very happy with this week’s installment and am looking forward to the showdown between Rick’s and the Governor’s forces.  I do, however, wish Rick would come back from crazy-town.  It’s not as well done as it was in the comics.

Review: Walking Dead - The Suicide King

Season 3, Episode 9 - A complicated if cluttered return to the series

Episode 9 of The Walking Dead, ‘The Suicide King’, picks up where the series left off during mid-season break, with Daryl and Merle reunited and in an uncomfortable position courtesy of the Governor.  The leader of Woodbury gives them an ultimatum - fight each other to the death and the winner will go free.  Luckily for the both of them, Rick and the gang head to the rescue.

Of course, once the rest of the group discovers that Merle is in-tow, they aren’t exactly supportive.  So the choice is put forth to Daryl to either stay with the group or run with his brother.  Daryl chooses blood first and exits the scene.

Back at the prison, new addition Tyrese and his crew are still awaiting judgment on whether or not they can stay.  While things look like they might go well for them, and the group can certainly use the help considering their recent losses and the inevitable vengeance that the Governor will bring, Rick is still a bit nuts and freaks out on them.

In Woodbury, the people are recovering in the aftermath of Rick’s raid to free Glenn, Maggie and, eventually, Daryl and Merle.  They’re ready to flee, despite the dangers of the outside world.  But Andrea, taking on the role of the voice of the Governor, talks them out of it, assuring them, rightly, that it’s much safer in Woodbury than out on the road.

Though there was plenty going on this episode, there really wasn’t a lot of character development.  They tried to squeeze in way too much, in my opinion.  Glenn and Maggie are dealing with what happened to them, Hershel is trying to get involved in that, Carol deals with Daryl leaving, Rick deals with being crazy, the Governor deals with Woodbury and the new arrivals deal with their uncertain fate at the prison.  There was so much happening that it just became cluttered.  It’s as if the writers wanted to set up the entire second half of this season in one go, although the set-ups were only minor at best.

The thing I’m enjoying thus far is the changing way that Woodbury is being addressed as compared to the way they handled it in the comic series.  In the books (spoilers), the conflict between Woodbury and the prison is very cut-and-dry.  They hate each other, they fight and people die. 

In the TV series, they appear to be giving Andrea more of a role in the town, which could lead to twists in the way they use Woodbury as a plot point, hopefully.  This could be a great opportunity to deal with something different instead of breaking down all the character development into a firefight of slaughter and ending it there.

I am also looking forward to seeing if they really go the distance and kill as many people as died in the comics or if the conventions of TV will prevent them from staying true to the comics in that regard.  Although this intro episode wasn’t the best, I still have hopes for what the next few weeks will bring.

Bad news, Grimm fans

We have to wait another three months!

After being informed that we’d return to new episodes of our beloved Grimm this month, the sadistic folks over at NBC decided to change their minds. Instead, we’ll have a new show this month called Do No Harm replacing Grimm until spring! This announcement was not even vaguely apologetic, by the way…

I don’t know about you, but I may grow a few gray hairs waiting for my Monroe to return. And if Juliette ends up with the captain, I may just barf.

The new show, Do No Harm, seems interesting enough, even if the plot’s been done several times before (but then again, so has Grimm’s, in different incarnations, right?). It’s a Doctor Jekyll/ Mr. Hyde type show, but it’s about a doctor who has to keep the darker version of himself under control. Why does this reek of Dexter to me? It’s not the same premise, but it feels like trying to piggyback off of Showtime’s success.

Will you be watching Do No Harm? I just might to see what it’s like—there is that literary monster component that we love in Grimm, after all—but I think I’ll mostly just pout until March 8, when Grimm is supposed to finally return.

Mythbusters: Your surprise partner in learning

You can add “How It’s Made” to that list, too.

Last night, while we were making rockets in our 4-H club, the kids were asked if they’d ever learned about effervescent tablets before. Two girls shot up their hands and said, “Yeah, on Mythbusters!” That’s right. Mythbusters is an amazing learning experience and yes, lots of girls like the show, too.

Of course, that said, it’s still bloody annoying. Jaime’s beret and mustache alone make me not want to watch. Everybody’s got their annoyed buttons; those happen to be mine. That said, I like Adam quite a bit, and it goes without saying that Kari Byron is pretty freaking awesome—not to mention a wonderful role model for our kiddos to look up to. She also blogs over at Geek Mom for those interested.

That got me thinking about the television shows that I don’t like but that my daughter happens to enjoy. In addition to Mythbusters—which it turned out that every child in the room enjoyed last night!—she also loves the show How It’s Made, which I could care less about. That said, she doesn’t just learn about models and molds; she also learns about physics, chemistry, vocabulary, and history.

It’s actually a pretty amazing all-in-one program that reminds me of the little snippets I used to enjoy on Mr. Rogers—a program that my daughter loves to this day as well. Unfortunately it’s rarely on television now, though; we tape it when it’s on every other Monday on PBS.

There’s also the Magic School Bus, which most kids I know have enjoyed at some point as well. We used to tape it, too, but I’m not sure if it went off the air or what, but it stopped showing up on our DVR.

The cool thing about it being 2012, of course, is that you can simply look it up on YouTube to watch it. I was also surprised at the environmental stewardship that David the Gnome has taught my child and wonder if that’s where little treehugger me began.

What surprise shows did you discover as a child—or as a parent—that were also learning experiences? I obviously don’t mean Stand by Me, which, though it’s my favorite movie, is only going to teach you about vulgarity, being a twelve year old boy growing up in Castle Rock, and what a dead body looks like (among other non-educational things). What did you surprisingly learn from, and would you recommend it to other parents?

Where's Emma?

Once Upon a Time does the unthinkable.

Last week I moaned and groaned about how they barely even reunited the families after the curse was broken on Once Upon a Time before splitting them right back apart for huge plot twists. Like I said, I’m cool with that—after a tiny break to see the families exist as families.

The one positive thing I saw out of all of this, of course, was the fact that Emma and Snow could bond not as friends and roommates but as mother and daughter, which would surely be an interesting and dramatic turn of events. Not so, cry the writers as they not only whisk them off to another world—but completely ignore them for the entire second episode!Um, what was that? We had this incredible women-driven dramatic fairytale all last season—and now you’re going to tote Charming as the town savior and lead character in episode two of the second season? Couldn’t you wait until the end to go all testosterone on us?

To be fair, it was also a heavy Queen episode, which I did enjoy; we got to see the softer side of Regina as she realized she had become what she had never meant to be, and she did something positive to help change her own behavior. I had to cheer for that one, even though the tree grabbing Henry was pretty awful. I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of her attempting to control her adopted son by force, either.

But this isn’t her show. It’s not Charming’s or Henry’s, or even Snow’s, either. They’re all centerpieces, but the show belongs to Emma—and now after an entire season of relying on her to break their curse, she’s suddenly absent from the entire thing.

Am I the only one pissed off about this? “She’ll be back next episode!” I can hear some people say. “They showed previews!” They certainly did—just like they did last week. And we saw her and Snow for all of two seconds.

Let’s not forget that one of the reasons this show is so wildly popular is that it features a heavily female cast, which is in great demand by at least 50% of viewers. Let’s keep the show as special as it was, shall we? Enough princes have their own leads and their own savior moments on every other show on every other network as it is.

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