TV Report: ‘The Walking Dead: A’ Season 4 finale

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Season 4, Episode 16: “A” | Original air date: March 30, 2014

The Walking Dead” final was the best episode of a weak fourth season. It was stronger in action and drama than the most of the previous 15 episodes. It didn’t make up for the dull, draining and repetitive march to get to this point, but it’s was a rare sign of life in this series about the zombie apocalypse.

Rick (Andrew Lincoln), Michonne (Danai Gurira) and Carl (Chandler Riggs) are surrounded by the gang of rednecks Daryl (Norman Reedus) has been hanging with since Beth (Emily Kinney) was kidnapped … or ran off … or whatever. Rick killed one of the rednecks’ guys while he and his gang were napping at a house early in the second half of the season.

The rednecks decide to go “Deliverance” on Carl and kill everybody else, including Daryl, who stuck up for his pals. Rick kills the lead redneck by biting him in the neck zombie-style. This weirds out Carl. Later Michonne confesses to having done gross things to her stoner friends who let her son get killed. Everybody is a monster these days. It’s a lot of exposition and not particularly revealing given what we’ve already seen on screen.

With Daryl in tow, the group arrive at Terminus. In the words of Admiral Ackbar, “It’s a trap!” Rick spies Glenn’s (Steven Yeun) pocketwatch, a gift from the beheaded Hershel (Scott Wilson), on one of the seemingly friendly types at Terminus, as well as riot gear and a panco that belonged to members of his survivors. They try to shoot their way out, but are led into a trap. They’re locked into a train care with Glenn, Maggie (Lauren Cohan) and most of the rest of the gang.

Rick ends the season with an attempt at a tough guy line: “They’re gonna feel pretty stupid when they found out … they’re messin’ with the wrong people.”

Carol (Melissa McBride) and Tyreese (Chad Coleman), fresh from killing all the children in their care except baby Judith, Rick’s daughter, haven’t showed up at Terminus yet. And then, of course, there’s poor Beth, who disappeared in a car several episodes ago. Perhaps a big team up leads to another shootout with the people of Terminus.

This has not been a very good season of “The Walking Dead.” But this was a good episode and it was enough to sell me on watching the season premier next fall. So at a very basic level, the series did its job. But when it comes to level of entertainment, the series has seen a sharp decline. It will take more than catch phrases and a good cliffhanger to keep me watching.

Then again, maybe it doesn’t. The ratings are the best they’ve ever been and despite my displeasure, I watched every damned episode. Maybe it’s the show that can do no wrong and sets out to prove it.

TV Report: ‘The Walking Dead: Us’

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Season 4, Episode 15: “Us” | Original air date: March 23, 2014

The Walking Dead” is out of surprises. This disappointing season has plodded along, especially in the second half, feeling dazed and tired. The show has resorted to low-rent trickery to create faux drama.

This week, Glenn Rhee (Steven Yeun) and Tara (Alanna Masterson) break off from the group of nitwits who think Eugene (Josh McDermitt) is a scientist with the cure for the zombie apocalypse. Glenn and Tara march through a dark tunnel with only a flashlight.

The tunnel is filled with zombies. Surprise. Tara slips and gets her foot caught in rubble. This is possible the second-oldest cliche in the horror genre. The oldest is when a damsel slips and falls when being chased by a monster. Which Tara did earlier in the episode.

Also, Tara is gay. And she has a crush on Alisha (Juliana Harkavy), one of the dopes trying to get Eugene to Washington, D.C. Perhaps “The Walking Dead” is going to incorporate some lesbian love scenes in future episodes. The show has been pretty heteronormative up to this point. Gays need love at the end of the world, too.

Elsewhere, Rick (Andrew Lincoln), Carl (Chandler Riggs) and Michonne (Danai Gurira) walk along train tracks. Michonne loses a bet and is forced to split a candybar with Carol. Look everyone. These three misfits have become a family.

Daryl (Norman Reedus) adjusts to life in his new gang of losers. Their leader tries to convince Daryl he’s still a bad guy by using slogans from the Southern redneck greeting card line. Example: “There’s nothing sadder than an outside cat who thinks its an inside cat.” Or something like that. Maybe it was “Stupid is as stupid does.” I forget. 

Glenn and Tara are rescued in the tunnel by Eugene’s group, who joined up with Maggie (Lauren Cohan), Bob (Lawrence Gilliard, Jr.) and Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green). They shoot a lot of zombies. Glenn and Maggie reunite. It’s a Hallmark moment. Then Maggie burns the picture Glenn took of her while she slept.

She said she did it because he wouldn’t need a picture of her anymore as they would always be together. I think she did it because girls have a weird thing about having their picture taken while they are asleep. At least that’s what I’ve heard. I certainly don’t have any direct knowledge of that.

A conspiracy theorist might suggest that this is foreshadowing and that Maggie is likely doomed because she burned her own photo. It may also be bad voodoo in some ancient Haitian cultures, the same people who created the zombie legends.

I doubt it. Lauren Cohan mentions are the highest getting traffic items on this blog. People like her, or at least looking at her. I do, too.

I really don’t have much to say about this episode. Most of the season seems like a placeholder. But, frankly, I enjoyed it. At this point in the year, I’m happy for any programing that isn’t about broken brackets, squeaking shoes and dimwitted former jocks spouting cliches like a flamethrower of obviousness.

So my standards may be kind of low.

TV Review: ‘The Walking Dead: The Grove’

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Season 1, Episode 14: “The Grove” | Original air date: March 16, 2014

“The Grove” provides the most moral and emotionally resonant moment in the largely disappointing fourth season of “The Walking Dead.” Yet even then it is dipped in repetitive tedium that’s drug the show down, especially in the second half.

Carol (Melissa McBride) travels with Tyreese (Chad Coleman),  Mika (Kyla Kenedy) and her older sister, Lizzie (Brighton Sharbino), and Rick’s infant daughter, Judith.

The group comes across a beautiful, unspoiled house with a fence, pecan trees and deer in the area. They decide to stop traveling along the train tracks and set up a home here. Guess where this is headed. Yeah, it all goes to hell, just like it did for each group of characters who scattered way from the prison after it was destroyed in the mid-season finale.

They keep playing that same note with only slight variation. Everybody is headed toward the much built-up survivor city of Terminis now, with two episodes left in the season. Also, in case you were wondering, everyone is sad, emotionally damaged and probably quite smelly at this point.

Carol continues to preach survival skills to the young girls in her charge, to be hardened killers, just like her. This is parenting in the zombie apocalypse. Kill or be killed is the new golden rule.

Lizzie seems on the verge of mental collapse. She treats the zombies as pets and considers letting one bite her. Then, of course, a horde of scorched zombies waddle out of the woods. , Carol and the girls blast away. Carol is pleased by the way Lizzie pumps out ammo as fast as she can pull the trigger.

Lizzie seems stronger and more well-adjusted after the murder fest. Then she stabs Mika to death in order to turn her into a zombie. It turns out she was the one feed rats to the zombies at the prison, which lead to the weakening of the fence for hordes. She also filleted a rat for fun. If Dr. Phil were still alive, he would suggest young Lizzie has the the markings of a future serial killer.

So Carol, who is good at executing her fellow survivors in the name of survival, takes Lizzie for a walk in the wildflowers, shoots and kills her. Later, Carol confesses to Tyresse that she murdered Karen (Melissa Ponzio), his girlfriend, and David, to stop the spread of the flu.

She slides a gun across the table to Tyreese and says, “Do what you have to do.” Tyreese forgives her in perhaps the most impressive moment of the season.

But it’s also another sign of why the series has run thin. They only way to manufacture drama at this point is to kill characters, whether they be freshly introduced newbies destined to become zombie bait or established characters who are killed for the sake of keeping the body count rising and Chris Hardwick in hashtags.

The concept has played out. They’ve got nothing left to surprise the viewer. People keep watching. The show pulls numbers that puts a lot of network shows to shame. But a lot of people like Peeps, the Easter candy. In neither case does it mean they’re right.

TV Review: ‘The Walking Dead: Alone’

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Season 4, Episode 13: “Alone” | Original air date: March 9, 2014

So “The Walking Dead” is now “The Lord of the Rings.” Most episodes are spent walking around and contemplating life after the zombie apocalypse.

I probably shouldn’t compare the series to “The Lord of the Rings.” There are people who think that stuff is really good, both in print and cinematic forms. I don’t. I find it dull, just as I find “The Walking Dead” dull in this half of a season.

We learn how drunken medic Bob (Lawrence Gilliard, Jr.) came to be with the former prison crew in the cold opening. Glenn (Steven Yeun) and Daryl (Norman Reedus) ask the usual series of questions. How many zombies have you killed? How many people have you killed? Blah. Blah. Blah.

There’s no clear reason why this scene is in the episode, but when you’ve got half an hour worth of plot and an hour to fill, this is the kind of stuff you get.

Daryl and Beth (Emily Kinney) do some walking. The find a funeral home and raid the food stores. Beth gets kidnapped. This would be interesting, but the writers have chosen to show us Bob falling in love with Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green). They kiss. Everybody swoon.

Sasha wants to stop walking (you go, girl!) and set up shop in a nice railroad station. Their walking companion, Maggie (Lauren Cohan), though, wants to keep looking for Glenn. So she walks off on her own.

Bob and Sasha give chase. Sasha decides to stay at a railway station. Bob goes on. Sasha discovers Maggie lying on the ground next to the train tracks. Sasha breaks a window. This alerts the zombies.

It’s not really clear why Maggie was sleeping on the ground or why Sasha is breaking windows. But making sense really isn’t the point of this show. It’s the juicy squish of zombie killing and pretending the rest of the nonsense trimmed around that is a deeper drama than it really is.

Daryl goes looking for Beth. He meets up with a gang of rednecks. He decides to join up. I think they’re trying to tell me that Daryl’s evolution into a good guy is easily undone once he loses the anchor of the more moral characters on the show, like his almost girlfriend, Beth.

But it mostly feels like the writers are introducing us to a bunch of new characters who will be killed in the coming weeks, i.e. red shirts on “Star Trek.”

Maggie, Bob and Sasha decide to go to Terminus, the magic city at the end of the railroad tracks. Elsewhere, Glenn finds a sign to Terminus, too. He’s on his way. Everybody is going to have a reunion.

Yippie.