Saturday, 18 September 2021

Review: #TheWalkingDead S11x05: OUT OF THE ASHES

Previously: Review 11x04 RENDITION 





- S 11 x 05  OUT OF THE ASHES - 

Written by LaToya Morgan

Directed by Greg Nicotero


TWD titles often have more than one meaning, but Out of the Ashes probably has about ten, most obviously Carol, Aaron, Lydia and Jerry salvaging what remained at Hilltop, and former Whisperers making it their home.  Then there's Judith rescuing the precious handprints after the decimation of Alexandria.  Gabriel and Elijah emerging from the battle with the Reapers.  Rosita helping Judith rise above her grief over losing so many people she loves.  Discovering that Connie may well be alive—and basically all that they're going through right now: scraping back their lives after the most recent seismic-level devastation.  

I loved this episode - thank you LaToya Morgan, and it's always exciting to see that Greg Nicotero's directing; this felt like one of those 'old school' episodes in which everyone got a look in as it dipped in and out of four different scenarios, with so many events and developments to mull over.  And it was in daylight! The locations are always so excellent and I like to study the detail.

Pre-titles we joined Aaron in his dream; usually I am so not a fan of dream sequences and hallucinations, but TWD always manages to make them relevant and give deeper meaning to the episode.  What an inspired choice to have this chap appear...

... because Aaron always considered the Wolves' invasion of Alexandria in 6x02 JSS to be his fault, after he discovered that they'd found his bag with the photos of the community inside.


Then there was Mays, the battle-scarred psycho from 10x19 One More who Aaron would have taken back to the community if Gabriel had not seen through him.  I'm thinking that dream stayed with him all day, and it was the memory of the first error and the one he nearly made that provoked his uncharacteristically violent reaction towards Keith Whisperer, in his determination to keep everyone safe and, maybe, atone for the deaths of those who died when the Wolves scaled Alexandria's walls.


Meanwhile back in the bathroom, Jerry looked out of the window and saw what he no doubt hoped was a dream: a Walker enjoying a little morning constitutional down an Alexandrian road.  It was so well done - like he thought, 'yeah yeah, there's a Walker', because they're so much a part of the scenery that it almost doesn't seem unusual to look out of the window and see one shuffling along while you're emptying your bladder—and then he thought 'hang on, there's a Walker. Like, here, on the wrong side of the wall—'


Did Aaron blame himself for the collapse of the wall, too, as he was organising the rebuild?  I must say that before he went off with Carol, Jerry and Lydia to retrieve tools and supplies from the ashes of Hilltop, I was thinking what Rosita voiced: is it time to find somewhere else to live?  But Aaron's point of view about it being their home is totally understandable.  It's the place that holds all the memories of those they have loved and lost, and happier times.  It's their stability in such a perilous world.

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~ Hilltop. Also laid waste to by the Whisperers ~



When they got to Hilltop it was so sad to see Barrington House in ruins, to remember what a great community it was, and to think of Jesus, Tara, Enid, the Suttons, Andy, etc.  My question about 'what happened to the Whisperers' was answered, anyway; my guess is that this is the last we will see of them.

Love that little burst of Whisperers' music when they uncovered Keith - and what Jerry said: 'And don't give us any of that Alpha/Beta garbage, either.'

Along with Aaron, there was a bit of an about-turn in attitude from Carol and Jerry, too.  It looks like Carol is over the hump of her grief now that Alpha is dead, and she's able to look at events in a more rational way than she has for a while; she seemed calmer, more 'together'.  She couldn't see the point of harming Keith Whisperer, and warned Aaron 'Don't go down the dark path I did'.  Clever Carol can always see exactly what's going on with others, which way they're heading; remember how she always could with Daryl, even as far back as the farm?

As for Jerry, it was odd to see him so angry, when the sight of Nabila's stolen scarf brought home the fact that these people, these sad former Alpha followers who were 'trying to be human again' (Lydia), were the reason why his wife and children are going hungry.  We've seen him jolly, thoughtful and supportive, raging in time of war, but never so vengeful.

So glad for Carol that there's news of Connie - maybe she can stop beating herself up about that now, too.  See, she wasn't wrong to keep Kelly hoping!  Off they go to the Screaming Cave... sounds ominous indeed.

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Back at Alexandria, it was a bad day for poor dear little Judith - starting with her dealing with the asshole bully in exactly the same way Carl would have done, and Michonne, too, but her Grimes strength could only take so much.


When the straw broke the camel's back in the form of the broken handprint boards, I could have wept for her.  Cailey Fleming is such a brilliant actress; you can feel every tear of her pain. 


Seeing her incredible bravery faltering for a moment is particularly heartbreaking because of her usual resilience.  She knows that her dad is out there somewhere, that Michonne is doing what is best for all of them, but she takes on so much on those young shoulders.  What a beautiful scene with her and Rosita, in which we learned more about how Rosita became the way she is; she was exactly the right person to be with Judith at that moment.  I just love how Rosita's changed with age and motherhood, but she was always no-bullshit wise.


'I remember when you made them.  You were so small.  Carl wanted you to have a memory together'.

The beauty of TWD - nothing is forgotten, all the threads and storylines and those echoes from the past weave together, all the time.

It's great to watch Judith, Gracie, RJ and Hershel become a team - you know that this is just the beginning of them sticking together for many years to come, with a bond like that of (some of!) their parents.  If only TWD was carrying on forever, and we could see them all grow up—oh for a spin-off, but Cailey Fleming would have to carry on playing Judith, growing up.  Like Chandler Riggs did :)


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Away to the Commonwealth - and wow, I wasn't expecting to see Real Stephanie so soon!  Major surprise - I felt like Eugene knew, didn't you?  Or certainly suspected... something.  The expressions on his face as he looked from one to the other said it all.


Also, he's far more laid back about Fake Stephanie than one would expect him to be—he doesn't seem that enamoured, considering the mountains he moved to meet her.  My view: she made one slip-up early on that made him suss out that she was a fake, but he's not absolutely sure yet, so he's not letting on to anyone.  Think about how he kept quiet what he was doing with Negan's bullets in the S8 finale—he didn't give a clue to anyone, and even puked all over Rosita so he could get back to his workshop and make sure his plan could be carried to fruition. 

Was Fake Stephanie offer of radio use a set up, so she could find out more about their community?  Is Real Stephanie under lock and key, in trouble for talking to outsiders?  Or is she in on it?



I get the same feeling about the Commonwealth that Michonne did about Woodbury: that it's way too good to be true, and there is something dark and nasty bubbling just underneath the ice cream kiosks and happy families surface—and it could break out at any moment.  



As for the strict regime - well, who needs that?  Rules for the sake of rules and being treated like naughty school children when you've managed to survive against all odds for the past twelve years or so?  Remember Jessie saying, in
5x13 Forget, 'A lot of things disappeared, but a lot of bullshit went with it'?  That's one of those comments on the changed world that has stayed with me.  Can't imagine anyone going back to the bullshit when they've lived on their own terms for so long - I think even Princess would soon get fed up with it, mall and cupcakes or not. She and Ezekiel, in particular, even look wrong, like they're never going to fit in. 


I must say, I did enjoy Princess distracting Mercer - and did I detect a glimpse of mutual attraction/genuine flirtation there?😍  Alas, thanks to Ezekiel I can never take Mercer seriously now - he's the dude in the pumpkin-coloured space suit, end of.  West Point or no West Point.


Then there's Tomi - now that IS weird.  Can you imagine never having been on the road, or out there, much, at all?  Why hasn't he?  He's an intelligent person—wouldn't he have wanted to go out and about, at some point over all these years, just to see what life's like outside?  And why is he employed as a baker rather than a surgeon?  Wouldn't the latter would be in greater demand? 



The whole place is epitomised by the the revolting Lance Hornsby's cheesy video - surely you'd have to be on soma to want to live there.  It also reminds me of the village in The Prisoner.  Or Westworld.  Maybe they are on some substance to keep them docile.  Or living in quiet terror.  Either way, I'm not buying Cheesy Video Guy or Tomi at all.


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And so to the road between Alexandria and Meridian, and Maggie's still spitting venom at every opportunity; her blood pressure must be sky high.  Negan seems most weary of her constant stomping around and angry asides.  I don't believe there is an answer to it.  Yes, Rick and co killed lots of his people first.  Yes, it's a long time ago now and so much has happened in the meantime.  Yes, but he beat her husband to death in front of her and seemed to enjoy it.  Anyone can argue this one back and forth forever, but the only question now is this: will she be able to let it rest, or not?


Maggie still talks about 'her people', but most of her Meridian chums are dead, she abandoned Hilltop about seven years ago, and she hasn't lived at Alexandria since Hershel Junior was the size of a tadpole; only the core group know her at all.  I hope she can go back to being Quite Nice Maggie again.  You know, the woman who delivered Judith and helped Deanna accept their group into the fold.  Hershel Senior's daughter, and Glenn's wife.

Good to see Gabriel and Elijah safely back at the safe house—looks like Negan's resigned himself to waiting for Daryl and Frost, though something tells me Daryl's going to break out, if the trailer for next week is anything to go by—maybe he'll make his way back to the safe house and they'll all go back to rescue Frost (hopefully remembering to pick up Alden on the way home!).  Then again, I doubt it's going to be that easy....

And what about Connie?  Here's that end scene again... (let us not forget that Virgil was the last person to see Michonne, too!)





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Sunday, 12 September 2021

Review: #TheWalkingDead S11x04 RENDITION

 Previously: Review: S11x03 HUNTED




- S 11 x 04  RENDITION - 

Written by Nicole Mirante Matthews

Directed by Frederick E O Toye



So I was wrong last week about Pope being a former fundamentalist preacher ... but on the right track.  I've seen a few tweets saying negative stuff about this episode, chiefly because it featured no Carol and lots of Leah, the Woman We All Loathe, but I think it was absolutely up to the standard of the rest of the season so far.  And come on - it would be much worse if Daryl had had a relationship with someone nice!

Bit of déjà vu going on here...

It's always fascinating to see inside the enemy's lair and find out what they're all about, and this time it's Meridian, discovered by Daryl as he and Dog followed a Reaper back there.  Daryl being Daryl, when he was outside looking for Dog in the daylight he was constantly looking around, assessing his surroundings...

..and even when he was captured he never took his mind off the ball, counting on his fingers how many Reapers they would have to contend with.  As he was flung into the cage I bet he thought, 'not this crap again ... I hope the menu's an improvement on dog food sandwiches...'

Could this be just an excuse for a picture of an unclothed Daryl? 🤔

(An aesthetic point: Leah sports the 'unfortunately I ran out of hair dye six months ago' grey hair look, whereas Carol totally rocks 'glamorous/ethereal post-apocalyptic warrior chic'.  Go Carol, of course 😉😁)


The conversations between Daryl and Leah were a maze of half-truths, lies, hidden agendas, etc.  Seemed like she still hankers after him, whereas with Daryl it's more like she's someone he cared for but is now part of his past - especially now he's realised he never really knew her anyway.  

'I'm sorry you ended up with these people.'

'These people are my family.  They never stopped looking for me.'

So she was a mercenary right from the start - while Daryl was running around looking for Sophia and finding formula for Judith, Leah belonged to a group that brutally attacks others and strings them up for no reason other than wanting what they have - and all because their leader believes they are the Chosen Ones.  

It was clear that he was thinking 'this woman is dangerous and I need to tread real careful here' - he told her he'd never lied to her and wasn't going to start now, then went ahead and did just that, to protect his own family from her band of psychos.  Yes, even the tall skinny guy who never shuts up.

'They were speaking in code because I was an outsider ... one of their soldiers slipped up.  He was gonna go meet three dozen of their soldiers.  That's way more than you got here'.

Maybe Leah has begun to believe the lie she told Pope, i.e. that she chose them over Daryl.  We know from 10x18 Find Me, though, that she only went back with her Reaper family because Daryl had left.  

In contrast, he did not go back for her until Carol told him that her first priority had to be Ezekiel, Henry and the Kingdom.  He's never been one to stay in one place for too long or have his movements restricted, as Leah tried to do, but I believe he saw his life with her as something that he knew wasn't quite right.   


He said that he was '
scared of letting go' - of looking for Rick, of his intense relationship with a woman who'd committed to someone else ... of the past, and all those people with whom he'd been through so much, who respected and cared for him.  Whereas there was no doubt some truth in that, he made his choice.  At the time, he didn't want to let go.


Leah said they would never have worked anyway, because it's impossible to be happy in this new world, but Daryl knows otherwise.  He's seen Glenn and Maggie together.  Rick and Michonne.  Aaron and Eric.  Rosita and Gabriel - the list goes on.  Impossible if you're with a group like the Reapers, yes.  Being with deranged sadists can turn you into the sort of person who thinks waterboarding a man you love(d) is an okay thing to do, even if you weren't already inclined that way.

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Seemed like Daryl managed to convey to Frost, in the cell opposite, what his story was, and Frost went along with it.  I wonder where Elijah is, after we saw him being dragged off last week?  I don't imagine they're all going to escape just yet.  After passing Pope's trial by fire, Daryl will probably have to stay 'undercover' for a while, for his own safety but mostly so that he can avert Reaper eyes from Alexandria.  





My bet is that Daryl will have to bullshit Leah that he is on board with this 'chosen one' thing; her conversation with Pope showed that she was keen to still have him around.


But how far will he have to go, in order not to get thrown back into the flames?  Having witnessed the brutal murder of Bossie, simply for running from the enemy to save himself, Daryl must know he's got to tread more carefully than he ever has before.  He's wise enough to know that Pope is not going to trust him for a while, yet, and will be watching him like a hawk.




After the burning incident, the knowledge of what he is up against was written all over his face. Sort of 'holy shit, am I in trouble here'.

Did you hear the echo from 7x11 Hostiles and Calamities, when Negan threw Dr Emmet Carlson into the furnace...?


As for Pope, a friend said, 'It's going to take the real Negan to get rid of the wannabe Negan.'  Well, he's on his way... and Maggie's not going to hold back on the vengeance after what they've done to her people.  

Won't be next week, though... here's what's coming:


And look at the trailer for World Beyond Season 2!!
(I think we're supposed to think the white faced person/walker with the beard might be Rick... nah!)



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