Did The Walking Dead Jump the Shark?

Like most of America – hell the world – I waited with bated breath for the reveal of who is “IT” in Negan’s sick game of “Eeenie, Meenie, Minne, Moe.” I am a spoiler follower, so I knew the characters who were not victims based on sightings of them during filming. I had narrowed it down to two possible victims, Abraham and Glenn, but when reported sightings of Steven Yuen on set began to trickle in, I figured he was safe and being hidden from public view.

But then the rumors.

Two victims, the rumors said. And renowned spoiler sites began confirming these rumors as facts. And even leaked photos of both victims the day of the airing entered my mailbox. But still I wouldn’t believe it.

Two victims make no sense.

The Lucille moment is such a pivotal one in the comic book. Not only does it highlight the end of a beloved original character, it introduces the horror of a new villain and marks the first time Rick is truly broken. His hubris is revealed and causes his fall. This is possible because of Glenn’s death, someone who saved his life, someone who has been with him since the beginning, someone who was the heart and soul of the group.

Not to diminish the television Abraham, but he was never the “right hand man” that his comic counterpart became. He was at times comic relief, the voice of the obvious, and at times almost cartoonish. He was beloved, yes, but not in the way the comic Glenn nor the TV Glenn was.

Abraham’s death by Lucille could have still been a pivotal moment, but instead of that iconic scene getting the respect it deserved, and the character getting the emotional response he deserved, it was completely diminished by the almost immediate and surprise death of Glenn, once again by Lucille. Two victims, one on top of the other, lessened the impact of the first death, the moment we viewers have been waiting months to see. Abraham’s last stand and heroic facing his end was forgotten within moments and overshadowed by an even more emotional death, a death that every comic book fan had been waiting for and yet dreading at the same time. Even the cast reactions to the second death was more profound than Abraham’s. In essence, Abraham’s death became minimized.

It appeared to me that Abraham became IT as a “placeholder” or a red herring to distract and deceive the audience until the “real” death occurs. Once Negan fell on Abraham, the audience assumed Glenn was safe. All that foreshadowing of him with bats, his viewing the photos of Negan’s victims on the wall, and his cheating death under a dumpster (WTF was that all about in hindsight?) were all just teases. Glenn survived. His TV character has taken a different route. He would live to see his baby born.

Then, just as the horror of Abraham’s death starts to set in, just as we are about to mourn him and process how he accepted his fate, the story strays from the comic story line. Instead of the obedience such a head bashing would inspire, we were witness to an inexplicable moment of defiance on the part of Daryl who attacks Negan for taunting Rosita. Where the hell did that come from? Daryl tends to fly off the handle, but given what just happened I would think some thoughts of “oh shit, he just bashed my friend’s skull in. Perhaps if one of us acts up, he’ll do it again” might just pop up. Nope. Daryl goes suicide squad on Negan, but instead of getting the bat or even a crossbow himself, Negan turns on Glenn, giving him his comic book end frame by frame except it’s in response to a Daryl outburst.

I’m a firm believe that Glenn deserved that iconic death. The impact of it brought Rick into complete submission in the comic book and is one of the most famous scenes in the series. The producers have teased us about it for two seasons, foreshadowing what could be his eventual end. But somehow, having it follow another death, having it not be as random, and having it be a result of Daryl’s defiance didn’t sit well with me. If Glenn was going to get his big moment, he should have gotten it all to himself, not at the tail end of a “fooled ya!” moment.

Likewise, if the producers saw fit to give Abraham that scene, then he too should have had the scene all to himself so that the impact of it could set in. Instead, his death was diluted and nearly forgotten after the “real” victim Glenn was killed.

The fact that the producers did this bait and switch after already making us wait half a year for the death reveal is unsettling and some would say was a jump the shark. They went for shock value and tricking the audience rather than for full impact. This is the first time I’ve seen the producers switch out quality for “gotcha.” I gave them a pass on the cliffhanger gag figuring the payoff would be worth the wait, but it wasn’t. They tricked us not once, but twice. Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice…..

If the producers really wanted two victims, really wanted to make each death mean something, and really wanted to trick the audience into thinking Glenn was safe just to pull the rug out from under them, then they should have done what Dashiell Driscoll recommended in his article on the finale: “You know what would’ve been awesome and unexpected and perfect? If season six ended the way it should’ve, with us seeing Abraham die sans dumb cliffhanger, and then season seven opened with Glenn’s death. It would’ve been really shocking!” That to me would have saved us all a lot of headache. It would have also provided us with time to mourn Abe properly, to digest the depravity of Negan and the situation Rick found himself in, and still could have given us the shock of Glenn’s death on the return of the season. Each death would be a moment instead of both deaths being rammed into 10 minutes.

That all being said, the deaths themselves were well done. The gore, although criticized by some, was necessary to unsettle the audience and highlight that this villain is like none that Rick has ever seen before. It’s not so much the presentation of the episode that upset me, but the structure of the episode and the intent of the producers to trick the viewers. When a series goes for “shock” rather than awe, that usually gets the label of “jump the shark.” Of course, a shark is only jumped if the series suffers in ratings after the stunt is pulled, so time will tell if people will look back at those two deaths as the beginning of the end of a truly great series.

 

 

 

 

 

A Date with Lucille: My Predictions for the Finale

For years now, the question “Who does Negan kill in the TV series?” has been on the lip of every Walking Dead. We all know the unfortunate victim of the bat is Glenn in the comic series, and there seemed to be plenty of foreshadowing to indicate that the TV series would follow suit. However, Glenn’s recent dumpster crawl now makes it highly unlikely that he’ll have a date with Lucille just 8 episodes after he was presumed dead. Now the question heats up yet again.

So who does get to meet Lucille head on? I’m going to take a gander at this. Now, I do have some spoiler information that can help me eliminate certain characters but other than that my guess is as good as anyone else’s:

Here it goes:

50% Abraham – I think they’ve been gearing up to this all season with his PTSD, his dumping of Rosita (which happens in the comic prior to his death), and his questioning the meaning of life, birth, and relations in a post apocalyptic world. Hooking up with Sasha is a bad sign (relationships – death) and his comic book death being given to another character (Denise) sure makes him open to die by Negan’s hand.

40% Michonne – Wait, her???? One of the top three characters on the show? How could I? Sadly, I could. First of all, she has hooked up with Rick. While hook ups are never good in this series, the fact that she and Rick do not have a relationship in the comic gives me pause to wonder….why? Why hook them up now? They sure look happy…that’s never a good thing. And notice the apple reference while they were in bed? Adam and Eve and the fall of paradise anyone?

But there’s more. Danai Gurira is a playwriter, yes a playwriter, who has written three off-Broadway dramas. One of them, Eclipsed, just opened on Broadway a few weeks ago. In fact she has been traveling the talk show circuit promoting it. Is it possible she asked to be released from her role to purse a career as a Tony nominated playwriter?

5% Glenn – I’ll give him this much only because it would so obvious and so expected if it happened that maybe it actually will. Steven Yuen’s recent movie signing makes my odds jump from 0% to 5%, but Reedus has proven that you can do film, TV pilots, and the show I(both Maggie and Negan are also in movie together, Dawn of Justice). Personally, I don’t see how you almost kill him half a season earlier and then kill him off in this fashion. That fact people are waiting for it is making me believe it won’t happen.

5% Other – the other is vague, I know, but I have to throw it in there. Here’s who it WON’T be:

  • Maggie – she’s on her way to her comic book character’s fate, the leader of the Hilltop. That’s pretty clear.
  • Morgan and Carol – they were filming at a different location than the Negan scene
  • Daryl – his body double mistakenly tweeted he had signed on for season 7 to be Daryl again, then took it down quickly, presumably after producers saw it. Besides, Daryl has a purpose now – kill or redeem Dwight. He can’t die at Negan’s hand if he hasn’t achieve either of those goals.
  • Rick – that’s pretty obvious
  • Tara and Heath – they are on a 3 week run so Alana Masterson could be on maternity leave; they weren’t even on set

Who does that leave? Aaron, Sasha, Eugene, & Carl. All of them were seen on location during the midnight closed set shoot. (Sasha is questionable. There are conflicting reports. Rosita also is questionable as she was not reported to be seen on set at all that day.) Out of these four, who might the “other” be? Eugene is the only one who makes sense to me, but that is clearly a long shot.

Unfortunately, the question won’t be answered until October (the finale is said to be leaving audiences with a cliffhanger regarding who Negan choses), but most set stalkers will figure out the victim’s name by his or her lack of presence on location in May. Until then, it’s anybody’s guess……

 

 

 

 

The Walking Dead Season 6 Midseason Finale: Seeing The Big Picture

For years now I’ve been writing analysis, not reviews per se, of episodes of the Walking Dead. I’ve always marveled at their subtle use of symbolism, surprising utilization of foreshadowing, and slow development of theme and characterizations. They take chances with story structure, experimenting with nonlinear progression of the plot, flashbacks and cold openings, and “bottle episodes” meant to highlight the conflicts of just one character or small group of characters. Each individual episode would stand alone as an independent piece of storytelling, yet also provided a link to a greater arc that usually climaxed in the midseason finale, careened full speed into the second half of the season, and came together in a finale episode. However, this season I found such analysis difficult to do on one signal episode at a time. Although the episodes in season 6 did continue the use of unconventional story structure and progressed the development of certain characters, they seemed more to be leading up to the penultimate midseason destruction of the walls of the safe zone (and as the 2 minute extra scene showed, the first utterance of the name “Negan”). The themes that I loved to see explored in past seasons were boiled down to one oft asked question, “Is any place truly safe?” – a theme that answers itself as soon as the tower falls and the Walkers flood in. This season more than any is a season in which the viewer has to see the big picture and where each episode is leading rather than to watch each individual episode for the quality of the story told within it.

This is in no way to say the season was “bad” – or as some would argue, “jumped the shark” – it’s just to say it is different, and showrunner Scott Gimple has never shied away from unique before. Some of his best episodes utilized his trademarks of nonlinear storytelling (“Save the Last One”), irony and foreshadowing (“Pretty Much Dead Already”), characterization and symbolism (“Clear”) and symbolism. Ironically, some of his iconic episodes were in season 2, a season most criticized as being “too slow” yet had one of the biggest midseason reveals of the series. Season 2 showed the “slow build” of carefully stacked and crafted episode, and many of those episodes contained the elements of effective storytelling that I have come to expect from the show since Gimple took the reins as showrunner. So, when season 6 opened with a brilliant nonlinear structure, a trademark of Gimple’s, I expected another such season. “First Time Again’s” cold open was actually a midpoint event in the episode, with flashbacks leading up to the moment portrayed in a Hitchcock-esque black and white. The scenes jumped back and forth through time from past to present, leading us to the “plan” of Rick’s to draw the Walkers away from their inevitable parade to Alexandria’s door step by use of a slow motorcade led by Daryl, Abraham, and Sasha (a ride they would spend most of the season on). Flashback showed the citizens of Alexandria dealing with the fact that their safe community is, well, not safe, and that Pete’s son Ron is severely pissed off. There are some minor moments of conflict revealed between Morgan and Rick and Daryl and Rick, but the real battle of conflicting beliefs doesn’t occur until the next episode between “Kill or be killed” Carol and “Life is Precious” Ninja Morgan. Episode 1 set the scene that danger was afoot and the Alexandrians better toughen up or their community was as good as gone.

The second episode utilized flashback to examine the story of a minor character, Enid. Once again, a cold open was used to set the rest of the episode up, and Enid’s story is heartbreaking as the viewer sees why she is so distrustful. “JSS” also sets up a major character conflict in the season, Carol v Morgan. We see the unsuspecting and far too trusting Alexandrians be brutally murdered not by Walkers but by humans, a Manson-like cult of butchers who literally bathe in blood. The action was intense, and the fact that the Wolves attack took exactly 45 minutes and was “timed” by Carol’s kitchen timer was a fascinating use of real time story structure. Other than that, the episode did not have much “meat” to it. A battle of survival philosophies began (a debate that has been argued before between Rick and Shane in seasons 1 and 2), a flashback to show the harshness of survival was shown (another issue we have seen before), and a sanctuary was breached (the prison? the farm?) – all high points in the episode, but all done before throughout the series. “JSS” was a thrilling ride and you knew it was leading to something even bigger, but it wasn’t the kind of episode I could really “analyze.”

By the time “Thank You” aired, it was obvious the Gimple once again was employing “varying perspectives” in his episodes. The first half of the season takes place over the span of just 24 hours and each episodes show a different perspective of the same events and epoch of time. Episode 1 was outside the walls with the large group, episode 2 was inside the walls, episode 3 was “Glenn’s group” with some of Daryl and Rick’s point of view, and so on…..The big moment of course was the apparent “death” of Glenn, an event that once again manipulated point of view to make the viewer think he was dead, and showed a different point of view (Glenn’s this time) to inform us of his survival. Here I think is one of the best episodes in the 6a season. The journey of David trying to get home to his beloved Betsy before he dies and turns parallels Glenn’s journey to make it home to Maggie. Like David, Glenn appears to be unable to make it home to his wife and is taken by Walkers with no “closure” or goodbyes. Also, Heath learns a lesson about survival and how vicious the Walker world is as he is covered in blood, which  he cannot distinguish if it is his friend’s or walker’s (as Michonne told him would happen). But the beauty of the episode is the journey home, what is learned, and what is left unfinished.

Next up is a series of episodes, all from within that 24 hour window, whose job it can only be to sustain our anticipation – and at times frustration – over learning Glenn’s ultimate fate. An entire 90 minutes is devoted to the back story of – Daryl? no – Deanna? no way – Father Gabriel? uhuh – Sasha? nope – MOGAN. I love Morgan, although I can’t stand his new found Zen-ness, but an entire extended episode devoted to him? That can only mean one thing – this demise. His master died because of his philosophy, and death seems to be the result of Morgan’s life sparing beliefs. Given who is coming in the season finale, I think we can guess Morgan’s fate and at whose hands. “Now” was, I believe, an attempt to get the viewer to care about Alexandrians before they get massacred yet again. I call it the “Woodbury Lesson,” a major flaw of season 3 in which the show didn’t let the viewer learn about the people who lived in Woodbury before executing them or saving them. “Now” suffered from the “Woodbury Mistake” but may have taken it over the line. Infuriating still is the episode “Always Accountable,” the only episode in which Daryl, Abraham, and Sasha get off their slow ride and have any lines or significant actions. Daryl gets kidnapped by Hewy, Lewy, and Dewy, while Abraham clears his past and comes on to Sasha. Other than that, this episode served only as the vehicle to introduce the Saviors and Dwight (whose name is never mentioned).

The pity of the season, despite it’s good moments and rising action, is that in order to tell the story of some lesser characters (Deanna, Jesse, and Morgan to an extent), most of our core group was sacrificed. Rosita, Tara (Tara who?), and Father Gabriel had little more than a walk on role. Maggie and Glenn were separated yet again, which seems to be the only way they develop, and characters like Sasha, Abraham, and Daryl are underused. Abraham, by the way, continues to impress. He’s got the best dialogue of anyone on the show, and the delivery of the lines is perfect. Abe’s PTSD feels very real to me and I love his bravado yet inner demons. He’s a character I’d like to get to know better, but he was regulated to one episode with fan favorite Daryl.

I do believe the series has gotten better at handling character development, and, for the record, I think season 4b, the season where the group was splintered after the prison fell, was the best of the series, not because the group was split up, but because they were together – paired up – and allowed to interact. The show is at it’s best when the characters interact WITH EACHOTHER and unfortunately we’ve seen very little of that this season. Rick has had few lines with Maggie all season, and he had only one small scene with Glenn, Daryl, or even Tara. I don’t think he’s spoken a word to Abraham all season, and I don’t recall Michonne speaking to anyone from our main group outside the walls. Abraham and Sasha reminded me how good the group interactions can be. This group works because they have chemistry, and it draws all of us into the story.

The reason the group wasn’t allowed to interact with each other was in fact the 24 hour time window of the season and the varying perceptions. I get that. The concept was brilliant and well done, but it did deprive us of seeing our heroes all together. That is why the episode by episode analysis doesn’t work. We are analyzing one day here, replayed through different lenses. Therefore to analyze it we must look not at each perspective, but how the different views come together as a whole, big story – the story of the day the walls fell in Alexandria. The story of the day Glenn almost died. The story of the day Alexandrians learned how to survive. The story of the day…..fill in the blank. After all, the day isn’t done yet, and neither is the story….

But for that, we must wait until February.

For now, we look at The Story of The Day as one whole complete package. Then, the season can make sense.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TWD Finales: A Countdown of the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

In anticipation of the season 5 finale of The Walking Dead, I began thinking of all the finales of the past 5 seasons – midseason finales and season finales. Season 5, in my opinion, has been one of the finest season since it’s premiere, yet it’s midseason finale left me very lukewarm. I was fearful the finale might do the same as it seems difficult to keep up the intensity they have had all season long. However, I was gravely mistaken as the finale was one of the best finales in the series. In celebration of Sunday’s final episode until October, I am going to evaluate each finale in order of the best to the worst, starting with the one that I feel was a complete waste of air time and unworthy of TWD standards…..

9. “Welcome to the Tombs” (season 3 finale) – I will never ever understand this episode. I get that then episode was refilmed (particularly the ending and Andrea and Milton’s demise) because the show runner Mazzara had been replaced by current show runner Gimple, and that Gimple wanted to give Andrea a better send off and let her “explain” herself more, but it didn’t work. Among TWD fanatics, we laugh at everything in that episode, from Andrea’s pedicure, to the hour of her using her feet to grab pliers, to her monologues as Milton lays dying, to the horrid anticlimactic “prison attack.” Killing Milton was a waste as he could have been used as part of the season 4 story arc (especially with the prison flu arc) and killing Andrea was more about getting rid of a character they had screwed up and couldn’t fix. I don’t know what the prison attack was all about, and why The Governor would kill everyone is beyond me. An anticlimactic way to end an uneven and poorly pacing season. I’ve always wanted “This Sorrowful Life” to be the season’s finale episode, leaving Woodbury in place as the major nemeses for season 4, but instead we got an illogical episode pieced together by two different showrunners.

8. “Coda” (season 5 midseason finale) – All “Coda” did for me was put to bed the Bethyls who were hoping for a relationship to develop between Daryl and the kidnapped Beth, but in reality, I felt the episode was boring, unsatisfying, and confusing. What was up with Dawn? Why was she trying to connect with Beth? And what’s with the demand for Noah after the exchange was set? And Beth’s attack on Dawn was juvenile and self-destructive. The “Daryl uses a Walker head in the tar” was cool, and Rick’s gunning down of Officer Bob was also cool, but other than those two scenes, the only purpose of the episode was to kill off Beth after spending 2 episodes focusing on her. The death itself was so fast I had to ask, “What happened?” and I’m still asking.

7.  “Made to Suffer” (season 3 midseason finale) – Highlights include the Michonne and Governor fight, and the reunion of the Dixon brothers. The mission to rescue Glenn and Maggie was suspenseful, but overall the episode just missed the mark for me. In fact, it was so uneventful, other than the Michonne fight, I don’t remember much of it.

There is a  jump in quality between #7 on the list and #6. Every episode from 6 to 1 are truly high quality episodes, while everything above 6 is sort lukewarm. So now, for the best….

6. “TS-19” (season 1 finale) – A computer sequence showing the brain regenerating, a countdown to destruction, and a decision to end it now or continue the fight makes this one a great finale. It was a short season and many comic purists were upset with the CDC addition to the TV show. However, I felt it was a necessary addition, showing us exactly how and why the dead reanimate and giving us a look at the life and death decisions people would have to face throughout the series. And Jenkins gave us a cliffhanger that took all of season 2 to resolve: “What did he whisper in Rick’s ear?”

5. “A” (season 4 finale) The reason this didn’t rank higher is that it seemed like two different episodes to me: the first half had the incredible Claimers sequence, which features a near rape of Carl, the near killing of Rick, the reunion of Daryl and Rick, and Rick’s throat bite. Then there was the Terminus half, which was good but not amazing. A high-speed run through a maze of bullets, Gareth’s awesome dubbing of Michonne, Rick, Carl, and Daryl (The samurai, the leader, the kid, and the archer), and a classic comic book inspired last line made it a great episode and awesome end to Gimple’s first full season as showrunner. However, the second half didn’t rise to the intensity of the first half and the introduction of Gareth seemed almost anticlimactic.

4. “Beside the Dying Fire” (season 2  finale) – Michonne appears. That should say it all, but the epic battle between the walker herd and the heroes as the barn falls is another reason why this episode ranks high. It was all action, not much in way of character moments, but it was the type of finale that was needed to cap off a season of character interactions. Beautiful cinematography, haunting images, and two powerful moments: Rick revealing they are all infected with the virus (ending the speculation “what did Jenner tell him?) and advent of the Rickatorship makes this a pinnacle episode. And then, the reveal of the prison in the distance to McCreary’s haunting soundtrack.

3. “Conquer” (season 5 finale) – Specifics will be analyzed in my next blog post, but this is the highest ranking of the season finales. Action, the return of a lovable character, and conflict both internal and external makes this a perfect finale.

2. “Too Far Gone”  (season 4 midseason finale) – This was the battle we all waited for. The battle we should have gotten during last season’s finale. The Governor. A tank. A beheading. “Kill ’em all.” Finally, the prison battle was here. Season 4 spent half the season fixing the mistakes of season 3. Characters long ignored had to be developed. The Governor somehow had to get another army and even another tank (lucky him to find two tanks during the apocalypse!). He needed a reason to go after Rick and the prison again. The prison needed to be a home worth fighting for. All this had to happen before the battle happened. In essence, the show needed direction. Gimple provided all of that and more. Although some complain about the Governor episodes leading up to the finale, I thought they were necessary to get us to that place where the battle could happen. And the move to make Hershall the executed at the prison gates instead of Tyresse = brilliance. I screamed. I cried. Rick’s speech summarized the theme of the entire first half of the season, and David Morissey was amazing as the Governor. Megan’s death, however, had me screaming even louder as yet another innocent falls in a world of undead and people who don’t know how to deal with them.

1. “Pretty Much Dead Already” (season 2 midseason finale) – Sophia in the barn. The barn massacre. Shane’s fabulous “you gotta fight” speech. This was the episode that hooked me on the show forever. This episode had me shaking for weeks. The irony of Sophia being right next to them the entire half season, of Shane killing the only person who could have told them where Sophia was, and of Daryl’s assurance that they would find her (well, they did, just not in the condition they hoped) made this a top-notch episode. Bear McCreary’s amazing ending composition added to the suspense, and the pain staking look on Hershal’s face as his loved ones are killed yet again made me actually feel sympathy for the walkers. And Rick, finally, being the one to step up and put Sophia down proved that he was their leader, the only one who could do what needed to be done. This is the bar by which I measure all finales.

Teaching The Dead: Red as a Color Motif and Symbol of Loss and Emotion in TWD

“I see red!”

Morgan’s monologue in which he describes the death of his son in season 3’s episode of “Clear” was a chilling (and Emmy worthy) moment. One of, if not the, best episodes of a lackluster season (and arguably one of the 10 best episodes of the series), those three words established what would become a reoccurring motif and symbol in the series – the color red.

When Morgan shouts he saw “red” as his Walker wife bit his son, he is doing much more than describing the red blood that spilled from Dwayne. He is also proclaiming his passion – his anger at his son’s demise, his regret that he didn’t put his wife down when he had the chance, his vengeance for all Walkers, and his loss of sanity as that death put him over the edge. Red is color of passions of all kinds – deep love, regret, desire, anger, vengeance, hatred. Therefore, the reoccurring images of red is entirely fitting in a series that touches upon these emotions in our characters.

The most obvious use of the color is the red blood that is spilled as Walkers kill their victims, but the red is also visible as humans kill other humans as well. The man on man murders are usually perpetrated out of emotion, be it a deep need to protect the family they love, revenge over past wrong, or a desire for power. It is interesting to note that the decaying bodies of the undead do not “bleed” red blood; it is instead black, almost tar like, yet our heroes are coated with red blood after attacks. The death of humans, and the onslaughts caused by the living, are marked with red, but the putting down of the undead are not. The undead kill out of robotic instinct, while humans kill out of passions. Therefore, red literally marks the humans, their emotions, and their losses, especially the loss of humanity as they delve deeper into savage behaviors.

The most recent use of the color occurred in  week’s “Try.” The red balloon was seen three times throughout the episode and was used to symbolize the loss of control of Rick’s emotions. Rick is being consumed by many different “feels” since landing in Alexandria – anger over the recent loss of lives, desire to gain control of the place, lust over the married hairdresser, and rage over her abusive husband. As the red balloon rests on the pond’s surface, his emotions are in check, but boiling under the surface. He’s able to stop himself from attacking Pete, telling him instead to just “Keep Walking.” But the higher the balloon rises in then episode, the more Rick losses control, finally going “full Shane” on Pete, beating him the way Shane beat Ed and delivering a speech about “fighting to survive” which rings eerily similar to Shane’s speech before the barn massacre of season 2. Rick is becoming Shane, even lusting after a married woman, and this loss of emotions, and loss of himself, is illustrated through the red balloon.

But that’s not the only use of “red” in the episode. Fire is also red. Fire as in the note that Deanna set ablaze from Carol. Once again symbolizing emotion – in this case, grief and anger – it’s interesting that the burning note was written by Carol as fire has been used to symbolize her since she set Karen and David alight last season. In fact, an entire episode, Consumed, was dedicated to exploring fire as a motif in the series and using it symbolize Carol’s journey from mousey housewife to Betty Crocker series killer (see my blog for more on that episode https://teachingthedead.wordpress.com/2015/03/06/teaching-the-dead-fire-smoke-and-resurrection/ ). Fire once again is “red” – from the burning of the barn, to the fall of the prison, to the funeral pyres of the dead, and the burning of Terminus – the motif is throughout the series. There is loss in each burning: loss of home, loss of hope, loss of self (and in Carol’s case a reemergence of a new self), and loss of life.

Let us also not forget a more subtle use of the color, the red handled machete that Rick promises Gareth he will use to kill him. Once again, here is emotion (anger, revenge) and a loss of control and humanity, as Rick butchers Gareth as he’s on his knees in a church. Not that Gareth didn’t deserve to die, but bravo to the show writers for changing the location of the massacre from the comic book location of their camp to a church, a place of sanctuary. Just as Terminus was no sanctuary for Rick’s group, the church was no sanctuary for Gareth’s group, and to spill blood within its walls is further loss of humanity. The sight of Gabriel trying to clean the blood from the floors is symbolic of Rick’s decent into savagery, but also symbolic of Gabriel having blood on his hands that he cannot wash off. I can hear “Out damn spot!” echo as he scrubs…..

Also from season 3 we have the orange backpack of the hitchhiker, a backpack so warn and sun faded that it looks red at times. Rick left that hitchhiker to his fate – death – while the Rick of old would have helped him. But here is a Rick slipping into savage cold survival, and the backpack with any supplies it might hold becomes more important that the human who carried it. Then backpack is worth stopping for, not the man.

And so red is used through the series to show emotions and symbolize the loss of humanity and drive to survive. I will predict the color red will also harken the arrival of the character that began this motif, Morgan, as he reunites with the group in the season finale. Red is passion, and Morgan is the epitome of passion and loss, a theme explored throughout the series.

Teaching the Dead: Random Thoughts Going Into the Season 5 Finale

Guess you can’t consider this a “lesson,” just some musings about the season, particularly the second half, of season 5 as we all buckle up and get ready for the finale.

1. Is there anyone else who thinks Deanna is actually Janeway from Star Trek: Voyager? Seriously……

5x12_Deanna Janeway_Season7

OK, maybe she aged a bit, but they look similar, don’t they? In addition, I see similarities in their leadership styles: maternal yet strong. Both wanting to integrate people from different backgrounds, both putting outsiders in leadership roles, both questioning their own decisions, and both striving to make a community where there is none. Maybe Janeway slingshot herself into an alternate universe where Earth was unable to eradicate all disease and a zombie plague did take over?

2. Rick = Shane 2.0

Yep, now Rick is the one who looks cray-cray. The difference is, now that we the audience has seen all that can happen “out there” we get it better than we might have when Shane went “full Shane.” Lusting after another man’s wife? Check. Want the husband dead? Check. Threatening to kill the living? Check. Screaming about you have to “fight to live?” Double check (check out Shan’s speech before the barn massacre for eerie similarities).

3. Tara’s still unconscious, and I didn’t even notice. I’m not getting Tara as a character anymore. She should have “red shirt” written on her.

4. For those who think the show is “pandering to fans” by forcing Daryl into the spot light, STOP! – Short of scouting with Aaron, slurping spaghetti, and brooding on a porch, he’s very much stepped aside to make way for other characters to shine since the hospital arc. Carol has had much more screen time, Glenn has had more screen time, and we’ve even seen about as much of Tara. I’ll admit there’s been motorcycle and arm porn, but they sure aren’t focusing on him. If anything, I want to see more Daryl.

5. Daryl ain’t dying – Not now, not ever. Unless Norman Reedus wants to be released from his contract, he’s safe. Negan won’t kill him, walkers won’t kill him, and he won’t join The Saviors. He’s not Dwight, and he’s not responsible for the butchering of Tyreese’s character or Abraham’s. He’s a unique character that “took off,” a lovable sidekick like a Hans Solo and identifiable to the series like The Fonz was on Happy Days. (You realize the Fonz was supposed to be a very minor character in the early days of the series, right?) Argue his character, argue he’s run his course, argue he’s useless, but you can’t argue his appear or longevity.

6. Glenn’s dying, I’m just not sure if it’s in the finale or the premiere next year.If Negan doesn’t take him out, Negan will get Abraham. Glenn needs to die to make way for Maggie to grow into the leader we know she will be. I predicted on another site a few weeks ago that if they continue to make Glenn into a leader, push him into the spotlight, and put him in less and less scenes with Maggie that he’s a goner.

7. The Wolves will be a mash-up of the Scavengers and the Whispers. I’m just not sure if they will throw Negan’s group into that mash-up, which will determine how soon he enters the picture.

8. Dale flashback in the finale, and the reappearance of Morgan.

9. Apparently, Noah was a far more loved person in our group than I thought. His death has shook EVERYONE, even more than Beth’s death, or Bob’s, or Tyreese’s. He was mentioned like a zillion times last night. Only Sasha to me has shown true grief over her losses.

10. Carol is psycho. Moreso than Lizzie, who apparently rubbed off on her. Completely off her hinge, and I think more dangerous than Rick, who is exploding publically and therefore is not a surprise to anyone. Carol is sneaky, manipulative, and cunning.

Teaching the Dead: Meaning of Titles and Nods to Dale

For the past five weeks, I’ve been trying to figure out what the titles of the episodes from the second half of season 5 of the Walking Dead have meant. I was pretty certain they meant something, as show runner Scott Gimple always places meaning in just about everything. The last two seasons have been full of symbolism, motifs, running and developing themes, and parallels to previous events and characters. There was meaning in there somewhere….

The titles:

  • Remember
  • Forget
  • Spend
  • Try
  • Conquer

Just words. The only thing they have in common is that they are single words and they are all part of the “Alexandria Story Arc.” I’ve tried to match them to the plot or theme of the episode, but they don’t fit. I’ve tried to make them into a sentence, but can’t do it.

Now I get it….

I cannot take credit for figuring out the puzzle, as I first read it on a blog from Uproxx. It takes us all the way  back to season 1 in the episode Vatos. Dale explains why he keeps winding his watch while they are enjoying a “fish fry.” Moments later, Walkers attack and kill most of the camp.

His explanation is a quote from Faulkner:

I like what, uh, a father said to son when he give him a watch that had been handed down through generations. He said “I give you the mausoleum of all hope and desire, which will fit your individual needs no better than it did mine or my father’s before me, I give it to you not that you may remember time, but that you may forget it for a moment now and then and not spend all of your breath trying to conquer it.”

There are the words in the last line of Dale’s speech, the titles of the episodes. (Source: http://uproxx.com/tv/2015/03/the-walking-dead-easter-egg/)

Why?

We’ve seen a few nods to Dale this season. The RV that takes them to the Safe Zone looks amazingly like Dale’s vehicle and Glenn’s ability to fix the RV harkens images of Dale. There seems to be a subtle and not-so-subtle attempt to remind the viewer of him.

But why?

The reasons may be linked to additional images from the season.

Throughout the series, the motif of watches/clocks/timepieces and the theme of time have been prevalent. From Rick’s watch given to Sam (who dies), to Carol’s watch given to Rick (from her husband, also dead), to the clock in the street that Tyreese sees (before he dies), there is a pattern. Not everyone who sees a clock dies, but the theme of time hangs over them as a reminder that time is fleeting.

Or as Dale said, that time cannot be chased and should be forgotten. You cannot conquer time, any more than you can conquer death.

Dale’s speech is the reminder of time hanging over their heads, and the time pieces we see are physical symbols of Dale’s message.

So where is this going?

A major timepiece in the series, and one that has a palce among the opening credits, is Hershall’s watch, which was passed on to Glenn, taken at Terminus, then returned. Hershall, the former owner of the watch, is (you guessed it) dead. Who owns the watch now?

Glenn.

Who had the greatest connection to Dale, the character whose speech is giving us the title of the last five episodes of the season?

Glenn.

Who is reminding us of Dale by repairing the RV?

Glenn.

This does not bode well for Glenn.

Add to those images many scenes with Glenn and a baseball bat, nearly getting hit with one in “No Sanctuary”  and then using one as a weapon at Shirewilt and I’m going to draw the conclusion that Glenn’s days are numbered. I believe that Negan will make his appearance far earlier than most analysts are predicting and that Glenn will get his iconic comic book death sooner rather than later.

We may even get a glimpse of Negan in the finale.

Could he be part of the “Wolves?”

Remember Noah’s mother’s corpse? Her head was bashed in by something with the shape of a baseball bat (this was also confirmed on The Talking Dead). Negan may have had a hand in the attack on Shirewilt.  Yes, it’s early for Negan’s arrival, but that may be the eliminate of surprise they are banking on.

I’m increasingly more convinced of Glenn’s impending death at Negan’s hands, and I think these nods to Dale and time are foreshadowing it. Add the baseball balls and Glenn’s increasing role and presence on-screen, and well, it doesn’t look good for our pizza delivery boy.

Not convinced yet? Here’s something else to chew one. Jeffrey DeMunn was seen in Atlanta eating lunch with another departed character Shane during the time the second half of the season was being filmed. Why would Shane and Dale be in Atlanta? To film a flashback sequence? Although their visit would not have matched up with the filming of the finale, it is possible they were filming out of order, especially if those two actors were between projects.

A flashback with Dale in it also doesn’t look good for the longevity of Glenn.

One more nugget to add:

safe_image

A picture from Norman Reedus’ instagram account, showing off his new bike that  last week. Who’s in the right hand side of the picture?

Dale,  in costume.

I’m  certain the episode titles, the nods to Dale’s RV, and now this photo guarantees a Dale flashback in the finale, and I guess its up for the individual to judge if that has any bearing on Glenn’s ultimate fate.

SPOILER ALERT !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Editor’s note – I just read the summary for the finale and apparently Glenn DOES survive. With that knowledge I now say he has one season left on the show, possible half a season. I also still hold to my belief that Negan will make his appearance sooner rather than later, and I wonder if they filmed a Dale flashback to keep on ice until Glenn’s death. There is a scene after the credits roll that has not been revealed to us, so it must be something big.