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So, true story: I was kind of distracted watching this episode.

... I didn't say it was an interesting story.

Well, okay, how about this one: two days after doing the last episode review, I woke up from a dream (I don't remember much but there was a vague zombie-flavour to it; one of the bonuses of bingeing TWD after a hiatus has always been a night or so of rando full-on zombie apocalypse dreams, but consciously processing so much of it, and going at each episode week-by-week seems to have shelved the intensity of that), transitioning from asleep to awake with the very strident internal thought that: [Terminus containers] "D" and "A" had better not be for a pun on "DOA"!

Yyyyyyyyyep. I was working out puns in my sleep. I then determined to refuse to pun or think about it any further, lost all momentum, and then had too much going on to watch 5.03 until last night. So: distracted. Because I mean seriously. As if it's at all likely that this season, with its focus on following paths to their end, in the context of the ever-looming mortality of the human condition, kicking off with slaughtering the four victims from D right beside four of our newly-arrived heroes from A (all who survive!), and with a group-splitting quest to arrive at a facility in DC with which all contact has been lost, would pun on Dead On Arrival. (Especially when the prison's "A Block" was death row. ... TWD writers, YOU ARE ALL BASTARDS and I love you.)

And then Gareth went and blood-painted A on the church. SIR. You are simultaneously MY FAV, and THE WORST. (This all tells you tooooo much about me.) C'MON NOW.



Anyway, since Gareth and Bob pretty much did all the heavy lifting for me this ep, it wasn't like I had to be paying super close attention. To be fair, it was each their last chances to get their Apocalypse Philosophies out there for us, so they were working pretty hard, but it did rather leave me here idling in lazy mode. The other thing is, with the first two episodes of the season doing so much establish-then-expand Stuff, there was way more to track than what I can fit into a post, or even waking hours, apparently. Now is about where things start turning forward as well as still widening out, so episodes become rather leaner, more streamlined pickings for tracking, and, clearly, my brain gives up bothering at all. It's nice. I like this stretch (E.03-07, with usually an intensity-uptick in .04 and .07) of the season. Very relaxing. Also, I brought a supply of Things to tide us over.


Wider season/series perspective:
Before I had my waking epiphany, several more S1 echoes-but-inverted from the first two episodes of the season started making nuisances of themselves, too late to be included in the last post (this whole reviewing thing is for shit). As previously noted, we've got Rick and Carl switching on each other's basic concerns (helping the weaker people vs safety), and the wild/predator beasts motif (S1, the walkers themselves, and Merle "chewing off" his hand to escape a trap, Rick smacking him down along with any lingering ideological concerns with the statement that all there was anymore was "light meat, and dark meat") courtesy of the Horseman of Death. There is also, obviously, the roadtrip quest for a "cure" (Eugene wants to "fight fire with fire"; Jenner's vlog informed us that the spread of the original virus was codenamed "Wildfire"), except this time, it's the group trying to get the man with the hope of a solution to the facility (in DC), rather than get to the facility and the hope of a man with a solution (in Atlanta, by the way, if anyone wants to play along with my brain's stupid game at home). Last time, the eventually-at-odds hope for "the future" resided in the hands of Rick and his ginger-haired analogue, what they could, individually and unsupported, achieve; this time, the (eventually-at-odds perhaps?!?) hope for the future resides in the helpless-as-a-baby charge(s) of Rick and his ginger-haired analogue who they are listening to/steering by. S1 navigated through hospital, nursing home, and the CDC; S5 so far has navigated through Terminus ("Sanctuary"), church – and DC is being billed as a refuge.

We also had Rick's S1 insistence that we don't kill the living (when Daryl was about to put a pickaxe through Jim's skull (Jim! Hi! You got name-checked again this episode! NOBODY ever leaves these guys' hearts, it appears), with the view that if he were turning, he'd thank anyone doing the same to him), and 5.01 saw Rick's first promise to kill the living (do I need to draw out the turning-walker imagery with Gareth there?). 5.02 was also the first time I noticed anyone addressing Rick as "Officer" or invoking his sheriff status/authority/obligation since S1 (Abe, babe, I like you more all the time; and Rick is "Officer Friendly", if you want the full handle), and then this episode picked up pace on the old S1 "Rick's a good man!" chestnut. And lastly, in S1 when Daryl came back to the group from hunting, he threw his brace of squirrels at Rick (who was trying to have an unthreatening "rational discussion" with Daryl about how Daryl's brother was still up on a roof surrounded by things wanting to eat him; turned out to be incorrect) as a feint to attack him; in S5, Daryl comes back to the group from hunting, gets wordlessly drawn on by everyone, puts his brace of squirrels and hands up as a joke and says "We surrender." (and has a rational read on why the group isn't surrounded by things wanting to eat them; turns out to be incorrect). (By the way, "brace of squirrels" has not yet ceased to be funny to me. I'm beginning to suspect it never will.)

Last episode, Abraham observed to this group of survivors that they've levelled-up to where they know how to survive in this world and its inherent dangers, human or inhuman (and the resulting dramatic conflict), and he poses them the question whether just surviving is enough for them, for what they want their lives to be. (It isn't, Abraham. Levelled-up characters get levelled-up threats and challenges to overcome, or the dramatic conflict – and their journey, arcs, and story – is over. Have I mentioned that I like you? I do. Thanks for being here in our time of need. Although I also like that, prior to this, the systemic Call To Action embedded in the series is a heightening of the simple fact of death.) The question really is, does this mark the turn-around? Will the show start trending back upward, cycling through the four horsemen again (whether one-per-season again or faster), possibly foregrounding Carl's navigation between humanity and survival this time rather than Rick's ever-darker self-aware slippery slope? Because, you know, the way it's set up, it ... could. Even Daryl-as-spirit-guide through the coma-nightmare is heading in the right direction for it. I'd find it a far more comfortable watching experience. I'd also find it a faaaaar more surprising one for them to make. This feels very much like Full Hope, with Beginnings of Uh Oh, much like other early season sections right before they hit the skids. But each time, that hope – that state of grace – needs to feel real, plausible, both for the evolution of the world and the evolution of our characters to that point. Otherwise the choice would be obvious and the loss would be meaningless and relatively painless. And that's just no fun at all.

So, there's some Apocalypse Philosophy for you. I just didn't want to feel left out, I guess.


Review and reassessment:
— Martiiiiiiin. Dude. At last we say goodbye, for realsies this time. Even if Tyreese didn't manage to beat you to death that one time, looks like he messed up your left eye but good. Maybe don't threaten the lives of baby girls in the next life, if you had one? Also, way to hold on to that whole "choice" about what you'll do thing almost to the end. Ironically, it read very much like the reason you stood your ground (literally) for a bit longer was that you – unlike the rest of your little crew there – appeared to recognise that Rick and his crew had already made their choice about how this was going to go, and there was nothing left to bargain for or be gained by letting yourself be herded to your knees. Perhaps that's because of your previous encounter with Carol when she had you in the same position, or perhaps it's because you alone of anyone from Terminus actually interacted/talked with any of Rick's people as if they were human beings capable of meaningfully exercising choice and not actually just human-shaped cattle to be herded with violence or words. If it makes you feel any better, I appreciated you.

— Gareth! No torso bullet wounds to speak of, then or now! *makes note to track the internal themes, not just the external manifestations* Butchered (colloquially speaking) by the promised red-handled machete. Well, you can't say the writers don't follow through on the "reap what you sow" concept. If it makes you feel any better, you're still my fav.

— Abraham, I continue to apologise – less obnoxiously – about the potential that you know about the cars-in-white-crosses situation, because that appears to be dwindling in relevance, at least to you. Were those cryptic exchanges with Rosita just about recruiting the group, in the end? Because that seemed ... unnecessarily cryptic. This show doesn't often raise question marks it doesn't intend us to be asking as we go forward, even if the answers are a ways down the track, and keeping in mind that you were awfully keen to leave without waiting for Daryl and Carol to get back. But then, I do over-connect things too often for me just being plain wrong to be discounted. (I don't think a lack of hiding-something is quite enough to walk back the matching-pairiness with Gabriel, but who knows, maybe! We can hope! In any case, I like you. And your magnificent 'stache. Gabe's goatee situation is entirely respectable, but dang.) So for now, *pins the question mark*


Digging into the nitty gritty:
Ohhhhh Gareth. Gareth, Gareth, Gareth. You burned so bright (figuratively; I need to be careful with that kind of commentary on this show), and gone so quick. So much Apocalypse Philosophy! Gazing into your reflection and scratching back at the glass holding back the scratching walkers! Nothing lasts long in this world anymore! You marked your way here so you could find your way back, afterwards – but now that you think about it, what is there to go back to? (On behalf of all us Morgan-loving viewers out here, though, thanks for the breadcrumbs!) Bears eat their own young when they're starving, did you know? You're making the effort to talk to Bob; you're being a human being, here! And you cooked Bob's on-the-turn meat – I mean, you're not barbarians, you're civilised about this – so it'll be fine! Stop freaking out, everybody! (It's nice that speaking is still one of those *signs* of human activity and communication, as established way back with Duane and his handy-dandy shovel. Give me alllllll the talking, I don't care, especially when it's Gareth's chipper self-acceptance and Apocalypse Philosophizing.)

I was very much enjoying the deception-snare mentalities on display by Rick and Gareth, and how their stratagems revealed how they understood the other to think. There was still an aspect of herding in Gareth's assumption that Rick would react to the obviousness of Bob's return in an unthinking, instinctive way – the dangers of conditioning yourself to truly see humans as herd animals, I guess – and not expecting Rick to do the exact same thing Gareth had been doing with Terminus. Except that Rick's counter-snare was devised around using his own young as bait; that's not the action of prey or predator (or a bear!), that's the work of a still-human mind, "thinking straight", that has evolved absolute confidence in his young and his family to gamble everything on them in the desperate situations this world routinely presents.

So. Gareth, refusing to let go of Rick and his group, leads what's left of his own group to pursue their path all the way to its end, A-rriving in Rick's snare in the church. At which point Gareth pleads for them to peacefully go their separate ways (Gareth, honey. Rick's been through this whole thing before with The Governor, which is why he dispensed in three episodes – without direct casualty – what it took him three half-seasons and much loss to work out his way through the first time; however much these guys struggle against having to learn their terribly brutal lessons, once learnt, they stay fucking learnt), and Rick ruthlessly puts them down, clearly changing his mind on his original "let'em turn" judgement at Terminus, refusing to let even their bodies to go on existing and eating.

Then Rick still joins Tyreese in the civilised act of burying them, if not in the same place, still in the same ground with Bob (we're all the saaaaaame! screams insane face-tattooed person Glenn released from a Terminus container; I couldn't catch what the tats were other than what looked like a death-skull grin under the beard, but whatever was on his forehead escaped me; however, I'm beginning to wonder if Rick's lingering scabwound on his forehead isn't connected somehow, unless it was just him recognising that "this could have been us", although it's not clear which levels he really meant that on). And they're buried in/by the church's graveyard no less. It's an investment of effort up until now reserved for the group's own people – as laid down by Glenn in S1; everyone else they burn. Although it makes sense why Tyreese would be twitchy about that particular means of disposal, thus executing the narrative's judgement according to Gareth's own measure: each day above ground is a victory, though even he recognises the whole walking-dead thing lessens that, somewhat.

... Much like the only judgement The Governor would accept of his actions was that his fauxmily was still alive; by the way, Governor, as of this writing, you know whose daughters are still alive and well? (What up, Hershel!) I was also probably a little bit too excited to see the return of the de-fingering punishment (other than my utterly-incidental stupid counting-fingers punning), à la The Governor biting off two of Merle's before he killed him. Although I'm glad Rick just went with shooting them off, in order to disarm Gareth (what up, Merle!), rather than continue the biting streak, since that would seriously undermine the differentiation the show was making between him and Gareth. (Yes, Governor, I know, you also took a "bite" out of Hershel's neck with Michonne's katana, and you tried to kill Rick by choking him by the neck ... you just could never quite find your way *clear* to get it all to come together, could you? Also, WHAT UP, KATANA! \o/ I'm glad Michonne could let you go – and I'm really glad you made your way back.)

So, Bob. Let's chat. First off, you're dying/dead, which in very basic narrative terms means your choices and philosophies that got you there were incorrect, or at least incorrectly applied to your situation (death is always instructive!), so while I appreciate your input, I'm not so sure anyone should uncritically follow it. Nor that they're likely to, frankly. It's nice that nightmares end; that they shouldn't "end" you – ie, change *who you are* – is, well ... maybe? but the fact remains that they do. That you died upon Sasha asking you for an answer to what good could come from all this bad strongly suggests that the best case scenario you're able to offer is that the good is: the bad does end (along with everything else). That, or you can't have one without the other; that the bad affords you, and all people, the choice to deliberately search out the good. You found the good even in being eaten, even if it was just laughing hysterically that you'd already been bit, and that led to your being thrown back (up), to your people, and the opportunity to say goodbye in peace and relative comfort. So well done there. (And you, a dry alcoholic, immediately refused using up any of the group's painkillers to anaesthetize yourself, preferring just to chill out with Sasha ... well, looks like Daryl was right, that a little judicious application of (pure) water will clear the dry battery cell right up.)

But, look. What came back (up) intact/unchanged/viable this episode? A weapon. (And, pending what he's come back with, Daryl.) Not you, in either sense. So, again, it's nice and all that you're asking Rick to look at Judith and tell you that the world isn't going to change. And it is! If we've learned anything from four seasons, it's that everything changes! I just want to know why you seem to think that change is going to be a good one? After all, your people immediately afterwards stabbed you through the temple to keep you from changing. (Also, ps, you know what you get – symbolically at least – when you fight fire with fire? More fire.) You were passed out when Gareth was raving at Rick about being hungry, but – and I'm just spitballing here – isn't it possible that whatever Eugene's going to try could backfire and make things worse? That this, in an ironic subversion of Abraham's inspiring rhetoric, might be the thing to push Rick's group out of the survival status they've earned by virtue of making conditions once more much, much harder to survive? After all, in the foodbank, when Rick – opening up and coming out from behind the well-stocked walls that protected him from the walkers – saved Gabriel, he lost you. A combat medic. And while you were getting pretty damn preachy toward the end there, with all your ~salvation and light~ talk, I still wouldn't call it a fair trade for a self-loathing, woe-is-me-I'm-so-damned, so-far useless priest. It may just be that this season's best outcome will see Rick racing along Abraham's carefully-marked path to try to stop Eugene's attempted solution. He's planning to target the virus in the walkers, but even if that works perfectly (and doesn't just make it worse), everyone's infected with the virus.

And finally, Gabriel, you utter asstwerp. That was a heartbreaking confession, full of the pathos of human weakness and failure to live up to the ideals you profess, and I sympathise; I'm not a morning person either, and callers to a church in great need at personally inconvenient times can be a bitch, although presumably you should know that by now, so I'm still side-eyeing those choices you made. HOWEVER. You DO NOT then get to tremblingly pass judgement on the slaughter that occurred in the sanctuary of your church by saying it's the Lord's house. You profaned it first. It was your actions that made it nothing more than four walls and a roof. Take a leaf from your match-pair Abraham's confession, straight-up acknowledge you were an assholetwerp, say sorry, don't put blame on anyone else, and get on with trying to do your job of helping people, however you can.



Random final items/tracking threads:
— I really want whoever's with Daryl to be Morgan, but I'm not holding out hope on seeing him again so soon. So Carol's off staking out where Beth is, we assume, while Daryl fetches the cavalry?

— Hooray for a whole untapped store of walkers not ten minutes' walk away! Come out and play, guys. School's out forever.

— So, Gabe, with the confession of guilt and failure bringing back the faces of his dead to him all over again, and hearing their voices. Not to mention talking it over with Michonne and getting a not-really absolution – to his not-really I-didn't-mean-to-do-it confession – by way of her Yep that'll happen. Just a heads-up, guy: see if you can't borrow Morgan's body armour and cover up the left side of your torso. The man who died in your place got compared to Jim. (Jim: dead; Daryl: alive; Morgan: alive; The Governor: dead. You're at 50/50. Good luck, bucko.)

— Bob. Really, when all's said and done, shoulda kept that walker-bite-deflecting bandage on your right shoulder, yeah?

— Incidentally, generally speaking – it's not 1:1, Hershel is a notable exception, but – people who veer irretrievably to the human side of the choices/season theme overwhelmingly tend to die by walker, and people who veer irretrievably to the survival side overwhelmingly tend to die by people. Which, consequence-wise, makes sense.

— St Sarah's, hey? That's ... not a overly familiar saint's name, though to be fair, I don't know much about Episcopalians. You know who it immediately connects to, though? Abraham's wife. So, let's see – in that story, we have Abram voluntarily parting with Sarai, giving her up to the pharaoh under false pretences to be married/boinked because she's a dish, rather than risk getting himself killed and Sarai taken anyway if the pharaoh knew she was his wife, not "sister". And in return, receiving ... *cattle* (ie resources, means of transport and labour) and male and female servants. After which, God inflicts diseases on pharoah's household in judgement for having believed/acted on Abram's deception (it was a half-truth full-lie; she was his half-sister, if I'm remembering right?). In the context of a famine, no less (and, btw, Gareth was of the opinion that the pretty ones just taste better). I initially thought linking that story was a stretch, in the "dunno maybe just more over-connecting but it's interesting" vein. But now I'm gonna go pin a few more question marks to what Abraham might be hiding. (Still, he's got the gorgeous Rosita of the Hypnotic Breasts still with him, so ... good for him?) (Also, after this point in Genesis comes Abraham and Lot splitting up, and Abraham gearing up with his people to go to war to rescue Lot, and Sodom and Gomorrah and brimstone-and-fire destruction. So there's also all that, but who the hell knows how relevant it'll be.)

Edited embarrassingly late to add: Wait. Sisters. Maggie (and Glenn and Tara's allegiance). Relevant much?! APPARENTLY I CANNOT OVER-CONNECT WORTH A DAMN. Bloody hell, me.

— Oh, and that reminds me, I did bother to look up the verses listed on the board that got bloodspattered: Romans 6:4; Ezekiel 37:7; Matthew 27:52; Revelation 9:6; Luke 24:5. Gabe, was this just you bible-babbling at yourself, trying to come to grips with your guilt/possible insanity? Cos really that's one weird-assed sermon, otherwise. Although you did go down into all that water and come out alive, while the guy who got full-submersion baptised in it died in your place. So maybe we're just gonna tick them off one by one? Good luck, bucko!


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