Wednesday, February 24, 2016

TV Review - The Walking Dead Season Six (Episodes 9 & 10)


One of the more grisly scenes of The Walking Dead...

  After a 2 month hiatus AMC’s The Walking Dead resumed with the second half of season 6 on Valentine’s Day. When we last left our intrepid band of zombie apocalypse survivors they had just gone through the worst day ever. The group had split in two with leader Rick Grimes and most of the zombie hunters headed to a nearby quarry to lure the thousands of zombies trapped there away from the town while the rest of the town stayed behind the town's massive walls. The friendly confines of Alexandria were then attacked by the Wolves who killed many of the weaker residents while many of the other Alexandrians were killed when the walkers broke the containment and descended on the town, drawn by the gunfire and noise emanating from the Wolves' attack. Slowly the survivors made it back to Alexandria while the town was overrun by zombies, the last of the nefarious Wolves had kidnapped Doctor Denise, Maggie was trapped on a rickety guard tower, and the rest of the survivors were hiding in houses not yet overrun by the zombies. Rick and Carl were leading Rick’s girl Jessie and her two sons through the town after covering themselves in zombie guts to mask their smell. Daryl, Sasha, and Abraham were riding to the rescue in a tanker truck but were shanghaied by a group of bikers who told them their tanker and property belonged to ‘Negan’ (the ultimate bad guy from the comic book).

  The premiere was as action packed and tense as I would expect from such desperate circumstances although it was the most comic-booky episode I’ve seen from ‘The Walking Dead’ with gaping inconsistencies amidst the terror. In the beginning of the episode the 8 member motorcycle gang has stopped Daryl, Sasha, and Abraham. While the leader of the crew is pretty funny (he tells Abraham that “If you have to eat s**t, don’t nibble – bite chew repeat”), he sent one of his gang with Darryl to search the back of the tanker. I don’t understand why you would let any of the prisoners out of sight but if I did I would have sent at least two of my eight man army to keep an eye on Daryl. Naturally Daryl manages to soundlessly kill his guard and blow up the rest of the gang with the rocket launcher from the back of the tanker with a perfect shot even though there is no evidence that Daryl has ever seen a rocket launcher much less fired on and wouldn't at least one of the biker gang have spotted Daryl and his rocket launcher?

  The most gripping scene was when Rick and crew are covered in zombie guts and walking through the streets to get to the armory for their guns or the quarry for their vehicles. Along with series regulars Rick, Carl, Michonne, and Father Gabriel are Rick’s flame Jessie and her two children Sam and Ron. Sam seemed like a normal kid until he caught Carol stealing guns in season 5 and Carol threatened to leave him tied up outside the walls of the town so the monsters could eat him alive if he ever told. Sam may have come back from that trauma until Rick killed his father and started taking up with his mother which led Sam to never leave the upstairs of his house in the whole first half of season 6.

  Alexandra doesn’t seem like a very big town but the walk through the ‘walkers’ took so long that it started in the afternoon and continues until it is dark outside when Sam has a flashback to what Carol told him and starts whimpering which leads to the walkers noticing him and eating him alive in front of the group. Jessie looks on in horror and freezes which leads to her being devoured also with the small complication that she has Carl’s arm in a death grip and won’t let go. Rick has been flashing back to memories of Jessie but finally realizes the honeymoon is over and hacks Jessie’s arm off with his hatchet to free Carl. Seeing his brother and mother eaten and then his mother’s arm hacked off by the man who killed his father unglues Ron and he tries to shoot Rick before being gutted by Michonne’s samurai sword, inadvertently shooting Carl in the eye on one of the comic book’s signature moments. This was the most terrifying three minutes of television I’ve seen in quite a while and I’ll give the show a pass on switching to a night time scene so quickly.

  The rest of the episode featured the rescue of Maggie by Glenn and Enid, the rescue of Glenn by Abraham and Sasha, and the rescue of the town by Daryl. Each rescue was more improbable than the previous one. Enid leads Maggie from a rickety guard tower to walkway at the top of the wall which was two feet away and apparently too much for her to traverse. Glenn who diverted the walkers’ attention from Maggie found himself out of ammunition and cornered by hundreds of walkers when the walkers were gunned down by Abraham and Sasha from another walkway on the top of the fence. I don’t see how they could have missed Glenn given the closeness of the walkers and the angle of the shooters but I like Glenn and was glad to see him survive. As if that wasn’t enough Rick started trying to kill all the walkers with his hatchet and inspired the town to grab their machetes, sticks, and baseball bats and beat back the walker hordes. Then Darryl pours all the gasoline from his tanker truck into the nearby lake and sets the lake on fire with his rocket launcher. The fire makes all the walkers head to the river where they are burned alive. At the end of season two Rick set fire to a barn full of walkers but the walkers didn’t run towards the fire so I don’t know what changed in the meantime.

  The action was great even though it hokey enough to defy belief but after all it is a television show about a zombie apocalypse so I have to allow for a little creative license. But then in episode two there was even more comic book type shenanigans. As Rick and Daryl take a road trip to get supplies they find a truck full of food and have their first encounter with the character named Jesus who is one of the more popular characters from the comic books. Jesus pickpockets Rick’s (a former sheriff) truck keys and steals the truck. Rick and Daryl run after the truck for what seems like hours and catch it when the truck has some sort of flat tire. Jesus then beats the tar out of Rick and Daryl using some martial artistry but our heroes get the drop on Jesus and leave him tied up on the road while they drive off but a few miles later Jesus is on the roof of the truck. The truck ends up in the bottom of a lake while Rick and Daryl overpower Jesus and tie him up yet again and take him back to Alexandria, leaving him tied up with Daryl guarding him. The next thing we know Jesus is in Rick’s bedroom all untied and telling Rick him to wake up.

  As much as I like the Walking Dead the second half of season 6 has been a parody of itself so far with so many unbelievable escapes and moments that the zombies seem believable. The appeal of the show to me has always been that it really seemed as if this is what a zombie apocalypse would look like but I fear the show is devolving into a Saturday Night Live skit about ‘The Walking Dead’. Hopefully the remaining 6 episodes will be less hokey and show more than the occasional grittiness of the first two episodes of this half season.