Sunday 26 September 2021

Review: #TheWalkingDead S11 x 06: ON THE INSIDE

 Previously: Review: S11x05 Out of the Ashes

- S 11 x 06  ON THE INSIDE - 

Directed by Greg Nicotero

Written by Kevin Deiboldt

This episode—my goodness.  Brilliant, quite brilliant.  Thank you, Kevin Deiboldt and Greg Nicotero, Norman Reedus, Angel Theory, Kevin Carroll and all the actors, and an extra special 'we are not worthy' to Lauren Ridloff, who was astounding

On The Inside... of the House of Horrors, and the world of the Reapers.  Neither are somewhere you'd want to be at any time, especially not after dark or when there's no one to watch your back.

As for the former, Virgil said that he'd 'never seen people this far gone' - for sure, the scarcely human, Gollum-like creatures who herded him and Connie into their lair made the Whisperers look like debutantes enjoying afternoon tea at Fortnum's.  So clever of the writers and everyone who has a hand in creating the story to envision this darkest of dark possibilities of a broken world, twelve or so years in—I'd love to see more about how they evolved.

The basic scenario has surely featured in most people's nightmares at some point: the house you can't find your way out of, and the fear that you're not alone.  

Connie and Virgil's experience was as insanely terrifying as any Texas Chainsaw Massacre type film, and more so than most.  That 'behind you' moment, where she was desperately trying to communicate with Virgil through the wall because she could see the Hungry creeping up behind him; the way he emerged from the shadows was a perfect horror moment.

... and the knife through the wall was pure The Shining, the background music reminiscent of Psycho.

The house itself would have been frightening enough in daylight, before the zombie apocalypse; it looked as though it hadn't been lived in by anyone who stands upright since being inhabited the people who looked out from those portraits on the wall (before their eyes were scratched out, that is).  Kind of like a horror film version of Grey Gardens.

Immediately evident was that Connie was no longer the calm, pragmatic angel who helped Carol through her claustrophobia in 10x09 Squeeze, or who assured her frightened little sister that 'deaf' was their superpower—and that she had been through something very, very bad... gradually we saw hints of this; the memory flash of Walker faces as she looked through the slats on the window, the notebook that Kelly found.

...and if that wasn't bad enough, Connie had the feeling before they got to the house that they were being watched, then followed.  It's that sixth sense of hers; remember when she felt the presence of what was probably the Whisperers, on the way to Hilltop?

If only Virgil hadn't chosen to go to the house signposted by the rusty old mailbox; only later did they understand that they'd been herded that way, while Connie discovered the evidence in the room with the bones. Hungry, hungry...

We're a long way from the Terminus mode of relatively civilised, early-in-the-apocalypse cannibalism; this made Gareth and Mary's 'welcome wagon' look like a vegan buffet.

A round of applause to whoever thought of emphasising every second of Connie's fear by showing us what it's like to live in a silent world.  We got a taste of it when she rescued Baby Adam in 9x11 Bounty, but this was something else, as she tore down hall after hall in complete silence.  Utter utter terror.  

Near the end, when Virgil was telling Connie to go on alone, I wondered if he'd been bitten.  When they first got to the house it looked like one of the Walkers was getting the dangerous sort of too friendly, and near the end of the episode his face assumed that washed out, red-eyed look that Carl's developed down in the sewer.  And, of course, TWD folk tend to say cool philosophical things when they're on the way out.  Stuff that makes you feel that the current struggle has not been wasted.

'... she gave me another chance.  Michonne.  She pointed me back to the road, and somehow that road led right to you.  So I have to pass on that chance, or it all means nothing ... if you can find your family ... I need you to promise me that you will keep going, whatever happens.'

And she did find her family—because the Fab Four went out to look for her, and Kelly found their abandoned camp, including Connie's notebooks with mention of Michonne from Virgil—and our old friend the orange backpack, though it's unlikely to be the same one, after all this time

The reunion was a joy to see.  And I'd just like to say that this is, indirectly, another 'Carol save'; she stopped Aaron killing Keith Whisperer, so he was alive to tell them about Connie.  As Morgan always said, everything gets a return.


Meanwhile back in Reaperville, Daryl's desperately struggling to keep his head above water while trying to look like he's fully on board with his somewhat misguided ex-girlfriend, and psycho Pope.

Total respect for both him and Frost—Frost for enduring torture to save everyone else, and Daryl for doing the finger cutting off thing; the two of them must have known that if this didn't happen, they'd both be dead.  Though it didn't seem like Pope was convinced, even then.  Something about the way he was eager for them all to go off to the yellow house.

An observation - I loved the ageing up of the residential area.  Every detail.  Marvellous.

Daryl's on very, very dangerous ground, but his big advantage is that Leah is still in love with him, wants him with her, wants to believe in him.  His big disadvantages are that Carver sees him as a surplus fox in a henhouse—he appears to want Leah for himself, or, if not, is very protective of her, and makes no bones about not trusting the newbie: 'We both know who he really is, deep down.  I was there, remember?  After.'  I thought this also implied that Leah was in a bad way after Daryl left, despite her trying to act like the cool hard-ass when he's around. 

The other disadvantage is, of course, Pope, who is a long way from trusting him, and also seems jealous of Leah's emotional attachment to him.

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Daryl's quick thinking in signalling to the others was genius, as was the way he deflected the not-as-bright-as-he-thinks-he-is Carver from the safe house in time to let Maggie, Negan, Gabriel and Elijah escape.

At least those four now know about the situation Daryl has got himself into, and my guess is they're going to hang around to help him.

I wonder if Pope is actually tricking Daryl into letting something out, from fear; I think he's playing both him and Leah, and that the 'what did Frost tell him before he died' scare is a red herring, to make them scared. My guess is that this will end with Leah trying to save Daryl, and getting killed in the process.  Then he can internalise that as his fault, too, as he has done with Hershel, Beth, Glenn etc.  He's going to need some therapy before New Mexico!

The trailer for next week looks as though we're finally going to get somewhere with Maggie not being constantly at Negan's throat - three cheers for that!  One of the fan-produced trailer predicts Gabriel's last episode—I'm going to ignore that for now.  Can't cope!  I wonder what the 'Promises Broken' will be?  I'm thinking Daryl's to Leah, for a start.  And maybe Maggie's promise to come back for Alden—are they too late?  Is that him in the grave?

Now, I must just go back and contemplate the brilliance and televisual triumph of the Connie and Virgil storyline :)

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.


~ 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.


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 :)


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.


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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