Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Best Two Hours

   WARNING : WALKING DEAD SEASON 5 EPISODE 9 SPOILERS BELOW!!!

  After what seemed like forever but was only two months, The Walking Dead finally resumed season 5 on Sunday. The mid-season finale was lowlighted by the nearly pointless death of regular Beth Greene, who was shot in the head when she attacked the gun-toting Officer Beth with a tiny pair of scissors in the hospital where she was being held captive until she worked off her debt of having a cast put on her broken wrist.

  Season 5 started off in an action-packed vein as Rick Grimes’ band of zombie apocalypse survivors fought their way through an encounter with the cannibalistic people of Terminus in an epic battle full of zombies, explosions, and more zombies. The group then found refuge in Father Gabriel’s church for a few episodes while making a large score of food from a nearby zombie infested food bank. Their good fortune was short lived as Terminus leader Gareth and some other Terminus survivors captured series regular Bob, cut off his leg, cooked it, and consumed it in front of him. Another epic battle ensued with the deaths of all the Terminus crew and the group split up with one group taking Eugene the scientist to Washington to cure the world of the zombie virus, Daryl and Carol headed off to find Beth (who was missing since season 4), and the rest to hang out at the church to await the return of Daryl and Carol.

  In the remaining episodes, Father Gabriel’s church was overrun by zombies, Eugene the scientist confessed that he was a fraud that lied about having a cure in order to have the others protect him, and Beth was shot and killed as part of a prisoner exchange gone wrong. I didn’t see any great symbolism in Beth’s death – I saw it as more of a plot device to introduce hospital refugee Noah to the cast. In any event at the end of the season the crew was on the road with no immediate destination.

  The second half of the season opened with the crew burying someone I assumed to be Beth and headed to Noah’s town in Virginia which was a gated community that was a safe haven when he was last there a year ago. There was no mention of why Noah left the safe haven or how he ended up at the Atlanta hospital that was ruled by Officer Dawn and the rest of the officers. A scout team found the gated community had been overrun by zombies and there were severed limbs and bodies everywhere along with a few zombies. Noah was overcome by grief but was consoled by Tyrese, the largest, most physically imposing, but least violent of the crew. Tyrese told Noah that he had to choose whether he wanted to live and that Tyrese himself could have given up long ago but because he chose to live he was able to save others.

Turn around Tyrese!! TURN AROUND!!

  This all sounded great but when Tyrese is looking at some pictures in what used to be the house where Noah’s family lived, Noah’s dead zombified brother snuck into the room and bit Tyrese in the arm! In this show a zombie bite is fatal within a few hours and the rest of the episode consisted of Tyrese hallucinating (or maybe seeing spirits beyond the pale) of friends and enemies that died in previous seasons and having conversations with them. Throughout the entire show I never thought that Tyrese would die. Rick and the gang cut his arm off and loaded him into their car to get back to camp. I thought Tyrese would make it and struggle through with his one arm but as the crew was heading back to camp he started to hallucinate again and gave up on living. In the end, the burial at the beginning of the show was revealed to be Tyrese’s burial.

  It was only an hour long show but this episode of The Walking Dead was as masterful as any movie I’ve ever seen. I went from thinking I knew what was going to happen next to not knowing what was going to happen next to just watching to see what would happen next. The way the funeral at the beginning of the show became the ending scene and the seemingly random shots in the opening scenes all tied together made this the best hour of television I can ever remember seeing.

RIP Tyresee. A man that could defeat a horde of zombies with only a hammer done in by a scriptwriter and a moment of inattention...

  Tyrese was the biggest proponent of choosing life and he starts the half season off by choosing to die. I think the rest of the season will be devoted to the other characters having to make a similar choice of death or life although maybe not in Tyrese’s extreme circumstances. It will be hard to top the first episode of this half season but after the best hour of television I’ve ever seen I’m looking forward to the next seven episodes like I’ve rarely looked forward to anything on my TV.

During the six hour classical games I found chess24.com commentators Nigel Short and Jan Gustafsson to be rather boring but when Caruana and Aronian dropped in to watch the rapid, blitz, and armageddon match between Carlsen and Naiditsch it was one of the best chess broadcasts I've ever seen. Was it the guest commentators or the quickened pace of the games? It was both.

  I got in another great hour of viewing last Tuesday but it wasn’t on my TV – it was on my amazing iPod. I had been following the Grenke Chess Classic from chess24.com’s feed on livestream.com. The tournament was held in Baden-Baden, Germany and featured the current world champion Magnus Carlsen, former world champion Viswanathan Anand, World #2 Fabiano Caruana, and former World #2 Levon Aronian among the 8 player in an all play all format. The daily broadcasts were around six hours long which was far too long for me to pay full attention to commentators Nigel Short (former world championship challenger) and Jan Gustafsson and I followed the tournament by peeking in on the action only occasionally and checking out the boards from the chess24.com website.

  The tournament ended at 10pm of so German time in a tie between Carlsen and Germany’s top player Arkadij Naiditsch. After a short break the pair proceeded to play a tie-break match of two games with 15 minutes per side. Short and Gustafsson were joined in the broadcast booth by Aronian and Caruana and the foursome were shouting out moves, analyzing, predicting the results, and occasionally trash talking each other’s ideas.

  The tiebreak went on well past midnight in Germany as Carlsen and Naiditsch each won one of the 15 minutes games and then drew a pair of 5 minute games, setting up an Armageddon showdown where Carlsen had 6 minutes and the white pieces while Naiditsch had 5 minutes and draw odds. Nigel Short was alluding to some of the commentators having had too much wine and Carlsen won the Armageddon game along with the championship.

  It was a great hour plus of rapid fire chess commentary with two of the top ten players in the world joining the phlegmatic Short and mildly entertaining Gustafsson. The quick pace of the games left little time for boring commentary and provided the back and forth drama of a top sporting event. I’m not sure which hour of entertainment I enjoyed more but I know I will watching the Walking Dead the next seven Sundays while I cannot say when the next time I’ll be watching an hour of chess on chess24.com.