Sunday, March 29, 2015

No, Really, what was conquered? (Immediate reaction to The Walking Dead Season 5 Finale)

I enjoyed the finale, very much. I thought Morgan's return was fantastic and his anti-climatic reunion with Rick was handled perfectly. Immediate impressions:

1. What was conquered?  Well, Glenn conquered some fear in letting Nicholas live.  That was actually pretty impressive and it's consistent with his character.  I guess Rick's way of doing business conquered the Alexandrian's denial.  And of course Morgan conquered two huge scum bags with W's carved into their foreheads.

2. What was gained and what was lost? They lost an architect and a doctor but they gained a Jedi in Morgan and a huge dose of reality in the Ricktatorship's way of doing business.  Perhaps most importantly Dianna lost a husband but gained a very competent general.  I love that she gave the order for Rick to kill Pete.

3. Carol is the Paulie Walnuts of this Zombie Apocalypse.  I keep thinking that she will die, but she hangs around. And she's also being asked to deliver some of the comedic relief, albeit a more ironic tone than Paulie's was on the Sopranos.

4. There probably will be a time skip but I don't think it will be as long as I had hoped.  The Wolves are 50 miles out from Alexandria and I don't think those photos will have any revealing signs because Aaron knew they could fall into the wrong hands.  The ones Rick saw had no such signs at least and the ones they added just showed people. (Probably in response to Rick and Michonne's freak out that there were no people in the pictures.)  So they can play with the timeline as much as they want. I expect it will be like the jump between season 2 and 3: a few months but not more than year. Probably the first way to tell will be when we see Judith for the first time.

5. Morgan and Rick are going to have some great conversations next year.  Lenny James has already revealed on The Talking Dead that Morgan had some kind of life-changing experience between when we saw him in Season 3 and his meeting up with Rick and gang in Alexandria.  Rick of course has descended nearly into the kind of madness that Morgan was grappling with back when he had a booby-trapped town to himself.

6. The Wolves have great potential.  I hope they don't screw up the casting.  When Michonne first appeared in the Season 2 finale, they never showed her face.  We did see a couple of the Wolves tonight but they don't have to be the, well Alpha males of the pack. So they will probably cast someone with at least a bit of name or face recognition for that part. The show has an uneven track record of casting.  Hopefully they will cast someone more like Andrew J. West (who played Gareth) than David Morrisey (the Governor).

One interesting thing is that they do not seem to be well supplied. After all those 2 dudes that confronted Morgan had to do so with an empty 9MM.  Makes you wonder how efficient that food trap is.

7. Negan is another year away.  I don't think we will see Negan in Season six but he's probably on track for a Season 7 story arc.  The Wolves should be able to up the cruelty ante and only Negan will be able to top that.

8. Lennie James is the best actor in this company and I love his British accent.

A Final Thought, Much Repeated.

Please for the love of God can this group think a little more Strategically next season?  Now that they have a congressman, a UNICEF veteran and a Jedi to go along with the sheriff, the archer, the samurai  and the soldier, there is no reason they can't start to think more than 2 moves in advance.  A few suggestions:

1. Dig Zombie Pits.  Why on Earth was the Governor the only person to figure out that gravity is our friend?
2. Send a search team to destroy that food truck trap.  It's obviously a tool of very bad people.  You don't want them to survive and you don't want them to kill any more good people, like poor Mr. Red Pancho.  Send a team back and bring enough explosives to destroy that whole yard.
3. Eugene needs to contribute more.  Maybe he can design the perfect way to destroy the Wolves food trap or figure out a way to make bullets. (Something he apparently does eventually in the comics.)

Law & Order was  really successful show that eventually launched two spin off.  Law & Order SUV was more salacious and less challenging than the original. Law & Order Criminal Intent was slightly brainier and attempted to be clever from time to time.  Of course of the 3, SUV became the most successful and is still on the air.  I'm sure Fear the Walking Dead will follow in that vein. But I'm a dreamer and I choose to hope that the smarter version of TWD will come along, eventually.

Conquer what, exactly?

One of my criticisms of The Walking Dead has been its predictability. But I don't think tonight's Season 5 Finale has been telegraphed at all. For one thing, the title is "Conquer" and it doesn't get more vague than that. The last several episodes have had one word titles taken from something that Dale said all the way back in Season 1, episode 4,when explaining why he still kept time on his watch. The words in bold have each been the title of  a recent episode.

  • ‘I give you a mausoleum of all hope and desire which will fit your individual needs, no better than it did mine and my father 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.’

So what is to be conquered tonight? Alexandria? The Dianna Regime?  Time Itself  I really don't know.

 I have expected for a long time that this season would end with relative calm in order to set up a time skip for this off-season. And there isn't an obvious conflict to resolve tonight but it is a 90 minute episode and we do know about a few loose ends that need to be tied up. I think if you put them all together, you can get a good idea of what we're in store for.

1. Rick's Punishment.  Last week ended with Michonne punching Rick's lights out. We know from the previews that Deanna convenes a meeting to discuss what to do with him.  There is a shot of him in a small room that look like it was set up to confine him.  Of course the Alexandrians are going to be inclined to punish him but Dianna's made clear that killing him is not an option. And they're not about to exile the father of a teenager and a baby. We've already heard Deanna's husband rave about how many great things Rick's group said about him.  So they'll probably come up with some ham-handed BS punishment that involves him not being a constable and being put on some petty work detail.  But then....

2. Darryl and Aaron are in Danger and the Wolves are Not Far. Throughout this half-season we have seen a number of Walkers with a "W" carved into their forehead.  A screen shot from Episode 9 shows grafitti in Noah's neighborhood that refers to "Wolves Not Far".  This is probably a reference to a group of bad guys, although no such group exists by that name in the comic books.  Last week we saw Darryl and Aaron come across a couple horribly mutilated people and they saw in the distance the light from a camp fire.  So that's probably the antagonist for tonight.

3. Morgan.  One very clever detail from last week is that the one of bodies Aaron and Darryl came across seemed to match Morgan.  The hand was about the right coloration and it featured a wedding ring like the one worn by Morgan back in Season one.  The clothing also matches the sneak peaks we've seen of Morgan as this season went along.  This has naturally led to some speculation that Morgan is dead and maybe we will see his demise in a flashback of some kind.  I don't think that's right.  I think that was a purposeful misdirect by Nicotero's crew.  They like to have fun like that.

Morgan is the most popular character on the show after Darryl and possibly Michonne.  His return has been hyped since the season opener and I'm actually impressed that they have waited this long to bring him back to the story. They're not going to waste him on a one-off flashback of a death at the hands of bad guys we have never met.

So this is how I think everything gets tied together tonight: Rick gets put in the penalty box.  But then Aaron and/or Darry run afoul of these new bad guys.  My hunch is they have Darryl hostage but Aaron makes it back to Alexandria and wants to raise a posse.  Having been away when Rick went ape-shit on Pete, he will insist on Rick coming. Rick of course will jump at the chance and everyone else form our group (with the possible exception of Michhone) will want him to lead the mission.

He will.  But things will still be hairy. And the group will need saving.  That's where Morgan comes into play, earning hero status and joining our group in Alexandria for good.  All of which leads to the inevitable question about a season finale of The Walking Dead....

Who Will Die?

The Walking Dead's willingness to kill popular and important characters has become its trademark.  When the plot meanders, they usually justify it by killing someone like Tyrese.  And it's a pretty standard part of every season and mid-season finale although the season 4 finale was an exception to this rule.  Season 5 started with a lot of dead weight in the group and they have not been shy about shedding those folks this season.  I still think they have one more big death to go and here's who I think are the likely candidates.

a.  Carol. Her sweet-talking in public, threatening innocent people in private act is a time bomb.  I think someone will see through it tonight and she'll pay a price for her bullshit. Death Chances: 70%

b.  Dianna.  If the danger comes inside the walls, I think Dianna is on the short list of people to be killed.  After all, we need Rick to be the undipsuted Alpha character, right?  (65%)

c. Glenn.  All season long I have thought that Maggie or Gleen would die this year. Glenn seems to be in more danger, having punched that D-bag who stole Ricck's 9MM from the blender outside the gate. (50%)

d. That D-bag Who Stole Rick's 9MM from the Blender.  We need to have a kill to root for. He's the obvious choice.  (50%)

e. Pete See above (45%)

e. Tara.  She's not doing well and her friends are busy threatening the only doctor who can help her.  (40%)

f. Sam.  The story probably doesn't need another kid to slow the story down. But they can always re-cast another actor if they do in fact do a time-skp after this season (35%)

g. Enid.  It's probably better for her survival chances that Carl didn't actually kiss her last week. But she still could become a poignant symbol of Carl's suffering.  (33%)

h. Gabriel.  It's bad enough that the Walking Dead killed off Cutty and DeAngelo this year but is there any worse indignity for fans of The Wire than to make Carver a snitch?  (30%)

i.  Abraham.  Earlier in the season there were some ominous signs about Abraham but lately he seems to have settled in to his expected role as a bad ass and a 2nd tier leader. (20%)

j. Maggie.  I don't think they've set this up right, so I'm leaning against it.  More likely she lives to either Mourn and/or take over the administrative duties from Deanna in a new Rickatorship. (10%)

k. Darryl Okay. This is the big one.  Nothing would hurt the show more than his death. But there's always the chance that Norman Reedus over played his hand in contract negotiations.  I think it's unlikely but if they want to go out with a bang, this is the way to go.  (1%)

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Aaron and Deanna are the People We Have Been Waiting For (The Walking Dead Season 5 Second Half)

It's been a while since I have posted about the Walking Dead.  The first two episodes of the second half of season five were basically filler.  First they gave up on one of the best characters in the company by building an entire episode around Tyrsese dying during a digression that barely advance the narrative at all. The episode after that was even less relevant to the main plot.  We spent an hour learning that Ricks group were hungry and tired. I'm pretty sure we knew that since about the 3rd episode of season one, but they spent an hour hammering it home.

And then we met Aaron. The great challenge before the writers of this show is to take a show that has been about survival and zombie kills and elevate into a show about rebuilding civilization. The prison season had moments of this, and those remain the best episodes we've seen.  But mostly the show has been content to put our friends in danger and expect us to be satisfied with the fact that it sometimes lets them die.  But this approach is losing its power as the remaining characters seem to be easily identifiable as Untouchable (Rick, Darryl and Michonne) or Biding Their Time (Everyone else.)

Aaron is the first character with the skill set to make the show about something more than the endless cycle of being chased by zombies and killing incompetent bad guys.  He worked in the Niger delta for an NGO.  He knows how to negotiate with hostile clans and he knows what really matters in building bridges.  The writing on his first full episode was of course uneven.  (The bit about not wanting to eat apple sauce because his mean mommy made him eat apples to make him more manly? Is that a thing? And  I can't for a minute believe they couldn't find a less insulting way to let us know that the new good guy was also our first gay guy on the show.) But there was good stuff too.  He showed that he knows how to negotiate and how to empathize with desperate people.  There is great potential in him.

Last week we met Deanna the putative boss of the Alexandria Safe Zone.  The best characters on this how bring something to the Zombie Apocalypse that was also meaningful in their old life. Deanna was a Congresswoman. For all our national ambivalence about the current congress, the fact is that the House of Representatives is still the best collection of former High School Class Presidents in the world.  You don't get there by accident and you don't stay there without some people skills.  I think Deanna has great promise, although I suspect her run on the show might be short in order to make Rick the unquestioned leader again.  This story is still a hero's quest and Rick is our hero.

It was great to see Rick back in uniform last week.  Andrew Lincoln is a pretty good actor but the show has demonstrated the limits of his range at times.  Rick isn't very convincing when he's overly anxious or bordering with insanity.  Rick is still a cop and a great one.  I think these next few episodes will give us a chance to see him revert to his basic humanity. That doesn't sound especially exciting but this gets me back to the challenge of the show in the first place.  Can they make this horror show a compelling story about how to rebuild a civilization?  It's a tall task but the Aleandria Safe Zone seems like as good a stand in for the Garden of Eden as anything we're going to get.


There are two kinds of Walking Dead fans.  Those who enjoy the zombie kills and can take the story as it comes and those who really want to see where the story goes.  I'm in the latter group and that makes the somewhat pointless art of predictions necessary.

1. Episode 5 will be relatively calm.  I think we get one more hour of the Group getting acquainted with Alexandrians.  There will be an obligatory action scene, most likely involving Aaron and Darryl teaming up to kill some Walkers outside the walls.

2. The next bad guys will be the people that Deanna exiled.  (But not Negan).  I think the last 3 episodes will involve a now familiar pattern of meet a threat, suffer a setback, beat the threat.

3. Morgan will return in Epsiode 7 and bail out Rick's group in the finale.

4. Deanna will die during this confrontation with the bad guys.

5. Of course someone major will die in the finale.  My hunch is Carol because I don't think Deanna buys her Suzy homemaker act for a second.  If there was any doubt about this, her line to Rick about being a great poker player is a less than subtle tip off.  (Tell, if you prefer.) This either leads to her proving invaluable in an unlikely way (for the 10th time) or she will be mistrusted by Deanna and somehow that will go to shit.  The other contenders for a serious death are Glenn and Maggie but they have not built that up at all.

6. We could get a bonus death of a group member, but it won't be anyone we care about. It strikes me that Abraham might not be very useful in Alexandria but I think he will be very useful once Negan shows up and the group truly finds itself fighting wars.  (Season six could be great!) So I don't think it will be him but between Tara, Rosita, Gabriel and Noah, there are some spare people taking up oxygen in the group.

7. The season will end with relative calm and we'll have a time jump before season six.  I expect that Season 6 will find the group having lived a couple years of relative peace. At some point they have to explain Carl going from nine years old to a teenager in such a short time.  And it would be helpful if Judith were out of infancy.

8. I saved this for last because it's the most specific.  Rick will start a relationship with Michonne by season's end.  Of course I have been wrong before.  But I think this is the love story we have been waiting for.  If you think about the group as currently constituted, you essentially have  four adult couples: Glenn & Maggie, Abraham and Rosita, Darryl and Carol, Rick and Michonne.  Only two of these couples are actually having sex but I think that will change soon.  Alexandria should give them the chance to enjoy life a little.  Come to think of it, I think Darry will finally bone Carol...and then she will die.  His many fans of the distaff gender will finally see him have sex with a woman and then he will be the sexiest thing of all: a widower.

The rest of the group are probably not going to pair up anytime soon. In the comic books Eugene ends up with Rosita after Abraham gets killed but that doesn't feel believable on screen.  Father Gabriel is an Episcopal priest but I don't think he's still wrecked with grief about what he did.  Sasha is still mourning Bob and Carl has made the mistake of falling for a feral Emo girl. (We've all been there kid.)  I don't see that working out well which leads me to my last prediction.

9. Enid is a spy.  No one that young survives on the outside for very long.  I think she is a spy for the next group of baddies.  She's probably the person we saw watching the group as they headed towards Alexandria a few weeks back. And she seemed a little too nonchalant about hopping that wall.  I think she was going with a purpose.  I think she was reporting to her old friends, probably the people that Deanna exiled.  She will deliver the trouble to Alexandria and break Carl's little heart in the process.

Monday, February 23, 2015

This Blog Endorses....Anyone But Rahm (But preferably Chuy Garcia)

Spoiler Warning: 90 minutes of your life you can not get back.

Chicago goes to the polls tomorrow for a mayoral election.  This is a non-partisan primary with five candidates.  There are only two possible results.  Either the incumbent Rahm Emanuel will gain 50.01% and be re-elected or he will be below that threshold and be forced into a run-off in April.

Rahm Emanuel is a competent administrator. He's also a completely conventional politician who is primarily motivated by making Chicago a place for wealthy people to "invest" in and for middle-class folks to visit, either as day trippers from the suburbs or as tourists from around the country.  This election has been the rare time that he has to at least pretend to care about the people who actually live here because we actually control whether he keeps his job or not.

So the important thing tomorrow is to keep that window open.  Six more weeks of a mayor pretending to care about all of his residents is about the best we can hope for.  So this blog humbly endorses Anyone But Rahm.

Two Ways to Choose your Anyone But Rahm Candidate.

The latest poll shows Rahm winning 48% of the vote. His closest competitor, Chuy Garcia is at 26%. The third place candidate is back at 15%.  So if there is a run-off, we know who it will between Rahm and Garcia.  There are two strategic goals to pursue here, leave Rahm looking weak or give Rahm an incentive to run to the left.  But the field does not have a clear-cut Lefty.  It's basically 5 centrists of varying credibility and experience.

 I really wish there was an actual reformer in the field, but there is not.  I've done some research on all of the candidates and none of them particularly inspire me.  But he is the only candidate with a chance of surviving to the run-off.  It's better for him to be strong.  If nothing else, that will give us six more weeks of  Mayor who has to pretend to care about the people who live here.  So in lack of a better alternative, this blog endorses Chuy Garcia as the marginally best candidate of four alternatives to a lousy but not terrible incumbent. I somehow doubt he will use that quote in any of his ads, but it has the advantage of being true.   So please, Vote Garcia.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Scattered Thoughts on a Jumbled Narrative: Walking Dead Season 5 Midseason Finale Predictions

The Comic-Con Pre-season Trailer, discussed throughout this blog in Italics.

Last week's episode was pretty pedestrian.  The previous three episodes focused on just one subgroup of the Survivor's-Beth in the hospital, Glenn and Maggie with Abraham's trio, and then Darryl and Carol's big adventure in Atlanta.  Last week they gave significant screen time to those three sub-groups as well as a 4th story involving Father Gabriel at the church.  The result was a narrative felt that felt rushed and only one truly suspenseful sequence.

More problematic than the distribution of screen time was the rather large story plot that involved Sasha getting duped into doing something incredibly stupid.  I just didn't buy that she would be that gullible.  But this was the device they chose to set up some suspense for tonight's midseason finale. I have also re-watched the pre-season coming attractions for clips that we haven't seen yet.  Discussion of such clips are in italics below, with the time stamp of where the scene can be found.

It's hard to intelligently predict what will happen tonight because the episode ended in a bit of a jumbled mess.  The clips on are also unhelpful for making predictions about the whole story because the lengthy clip focuses on Father Gabriel. The description that AMC posted for the episode is "Rules and Morals have been tossed aside by new enemies. Rick will try to find a  peaceful agreement, but they might prefer violence." That's about as opaque as you would expect but there's at least one hint in there that's worth speculating about.  (See Below.)

1.  Father Gabriel, man about town.

Last week we watched Father Gabriel leave the church without a weapon. He duly ran afoul of a walker, who he was able to neutralize without having to kill.  The preview shows him making his way back to the school where the Termites were camped out when they took Bob captive.  He discovers Bob's charred leg on their abandoned grill.  I would be very surprised if he died tonight, becau he's played by a fairly famous actor, by TWD standards, and the audience has no emotional investment in him yet.  That means they spent money to get him and they're not going to waste him after a handful of scenes.  So he'll probably make his way back to the church and slip back through the crawl space.  Most likely he'll have to kill a walker while he's out there though. That will be his big emotional moment.  And that's just not very interesting so I hope they don't waste a lot of time on that.

2. Abraham and Company, Where to?

The worst story line last week was the one focusing on Abraham's group.  The obvious thing for them to do would have been to head back to the church.  The bit about waiting for Eugene to wake up before moving seemed forced, especially in light of the fact that they were within nose range of a colossal Walker herd.  And the only thing we learned about this group is that Tara is still capable of  joy because she found a yo-yo.  That's a small point but given that I often wish they would let the survivors have a little more fun, I was happy to see it made.  I think Gleen, Tara and Rosita might just be the three mentally healthiest characters left so it was good to see them off on a harmless jaunt to the creek.

What happens next?  The logical thing would be for them to get back on the road and head back towards the church. But I don't think that's going to happen. The only clip in the coming attractions of this group shows Maggie and Glenn in the back seat of what appears to be the Fire Truck.  Glenn has his gun drawn and Maggie looks scared. That doesn't tell us much other than the group runs into some kind of trouble.  One online theory is that Eugene actually died last week and turned to a Walker. I don't buy it, although I do think the show runners left that possibility open on purpose when they had Eugene moan in that awkward way as he regained consciousness.

My hunch is that this group will not meet back up with the church folks or the team in Atlanta.  I think the separation will continue into the 2nd half of the next season, perhaps with Team Glenn heading north for some convoluted reason. Maybe they get caught and/or distracted by a new group of survivors.

A very brief shot at 1:14 of the previews appears to show Glenn and some other characters approaching the giant herd of walkers that their fire truck is now close to.  It's hard to say for sure but I think the figures in the back ground include Glenn, Tara, Eugene, Maggie and Rosita. Two figures are impossible to identify but they could be Abraham and Rosita. They are walking on foot and the fire truck can not be seen. The herd seems to be behind some kind of fence so this might not be the herd that they smelled two weeks ago.

3. Michonne, Carl and Judith: On the sidelines.
One of the strangest points about the story unfolding thithats way is that it will apparently leave Michonne far from the action in a cliff-hanger episode. Maybe she discovers that Gabriel left the church and goes out to find him.  One hellacious possibility is that Rick and Judith will then be caught unawares by walker and Judith will end up dead.  I really hope they don't go for that because I think Judith is the heaviest emotional card that the show has left to play.  It would be a wasted to do it this soon and way too depressing.

At 1:15 of the coming attractions, Michonne is stomping on a walker.  I don't think we have seen this yet and it looks like it might happen near the church, perhaps after she sets out to find Father Gabriel.

4. Team Rick: heading for a fight.
I just watched the previews scenes slowly and learned a few things.  When Rick is shown introducing himself to (presumably) Dawn, Darryl is shown up on the roof of a nearby parking garage. I thought last week that he was with Noah but the pause button makes clear (about 28 seconds in) that it is Sasha.  Another clip appears to show Rick asking Sgt. Bob "Do you want to live." It looks like this scene takes place in the same building where Sasha was left guarding the three police officers.

This would imply that Rick heads back to that building.  Maybe they heard the tumult of Sasha being knocked out. Or maybe the cops get out of that place and confront Rick before he makes it to the hospital and a fight ensues.  I'm starting to think that the "main" story line tonight might be even more convuluted than last week.  Some of the rumors I've read online imply that tonight ends with a cliff hanger, just like last season did.  We might get another spectacular start to a half-season in February. (AMC has probably figured out that big starts lead to big ratings for several weeks after.)
So I think tonight's episode will end with Rick and Dawn in a standoff.  The biggest question is, who might die in the interim.

5. Carol and Beth: Darryl's Not-girlfriends.
Probably the biggest source of speculation on tonight's episode has been Norman Reedus' declaration that he cried for a half hour before filming tonight's episode.  The simplest reading of that is that Norman knows one of Darryl's good friends will die tonight.  Of course Norman could have been crying because of the loss of an actor that he admires.  And he could be exaggerating and he could be trying to drum up interest in the episode.  But precedent suggests that someone important has to die tonight, and Beth and Carol both seem like prime contenders.

I don't think Beth will die.  Two entire episodes have been dedicated to her story and I think she's supposed to be reunited with Maggie at some point.  They also have potential for a nice story line of her and Noah becoming a couple.  There is one clip (2:46) of her looking down an hospital elevator shaft. Another flash in last week's sneak preview showed her in a similar position. I think she lives tonight and I still am going with my theory that Dawn is somehow redeemed.

Carol is a closer call.  The driving tension of tonight's episode is that Rick will negotiate for the safe return of Carol and Beth.  When last we saw Carol she was still unconscious and being kept alive by an IV drip administered by Beth.  Dawn could use this as an excuse to not turn Carol over. "Why should we give you her if only we can take care o her?"  One popular theory is that Beth will die doing something heroic to save Carol.  I think it's more likely Carol will have a miraculous recovery, only to die in a horribly Walking Dead fashion.  Thinks about the guilt consequence for Rick, Beth and Darryl.  That could really drive some emotional baggage for a season and a half to come.

6. Death Predictions.
There is no single logical candidate for death tonight. But I think the most likely sympathetic character death is Carol.  Beth and/or Noah seem like possible deaths also.  Tyrese would be a logical candidate but I don't think they have hinted at that enough. The bald asshole from last week are most likely to die. I think either Dawn or Sgt. Bob will die tonight, and my hunch is Sgt. Bob.

7. Wild Card: Is Sasha Pregnant?
Sonequa Martin was a guest on The Talking Dead last week and revealed that she was eight months pregnant.  I'm not exactly sure of the shooting schedule but it would seem likely that this will become visible by the end of the season.  A convenient way to avoid that is to kill Sasha off. But there are dangers there for at TV show.  Huntery Tylo successfully sued the producers of Merose Place for $5 million dollars when they made a similar decision.

Now I have no reason to think that Sasha was going to be killed, but it would be reasonable for TWD to want to incorporate her pregnancy into the storyline.  Consider that Bob tried to kiss Sasha towards the end of Season Three and was rebuffed.  On that night episode of the Talking Dead, Ms. Green explained that Sasha appreciated the kiss as a gesture but made clear that she had no romantic interest in Bob.

Well something changed her mind.  Maybe the writers decided that it would be better to incorporate the pregnancy into the story line than to try to hide it for a half-season.  Babies certainly create tension and hope.  Tyrese's roll as Judith's primary caretaker takes on new significance if he's about to become an uncle to a child with a dead father.

Sasha being pregnant also repeats the story line of Lori Grimes getting pregnant in Season 2.  (Or One, if in fact Shane is Judith's real father.)  That story line put added incentive on finding a safe, stable place to live, the prison.  It is anticipated that the next major location for the show will be the Alexandria Safe Zone, a spot that has been one of the main locations of the comic book story line for the last several years.

So we may not learn this tonight, but my biggest prediction is that Sasha is pregnant, Bob is the father, and the two major groups will eventually meet up in Alexandria.  Rick and company after all have no idea that Eugene was full of shit. (They would probably pass the overturned church bus on their way north, but I think the producers are more than willing to overlook a detail like that.)

I will miss the show for the winter break.  It's a frustrating show but I've never enjoyed speculating about the plot of any show as much as I do this one.

8. Bonus Prediction: No Morgan Tonight.

Okay, the episode is about to start but I wanted to add a prediction that we will NOT see Morgan tonight but that he will be a major part of the second half of the season.  I'm still intrigued by the clip we saw of him after the credits of the season premiere.  He is in the area near Terminus and he notices an intricate carving in one of the trees.  I think that's a flash forward and we'll know before we see that scene pickup what the significance of the carving is.  The Hunters made a crude mark while tracking Rick's group but this is something much more involved. I suspect it's the sign of a group like Nagin's or some other new bunch of survivors. Okay. It's showtime!


Monday, November 24, 2014

Ferguson Expectations

Someone will agree with Grandpa Simpson.

Earlier today it was announced that the Gran Jury has reached a decision on whether or not to indict Police Officer Darren Wilson for the fatal shooting of Michael Brown. I am writing this about 3 and a half hours before the decision will be made public.

I don't have a strong opinion on what their decision should be, because I haven't paid as close attention to the evidence as the grand jurors (presumably) have.  Whether or not a crime was committed comes down to whether the cop's judgment was merely poor with disastrous consequences or either reckless or negligent to a really high degree.

Because of this ambiguity, I will not have an emotional reaction to the decision itself.  I might develop one on further reflection and consideration of the evidence, but as of today, I don't have an opinion and I don't think there are many people outside of Ferguson, Missouri who have sufficient knowledge to support either opinion definitively.

The reason I'm writing this is because I get the feeling from my social media feeds that there is no shortage of opinions or certainty on this complex subject.  And I don't think most of them are based on the evidence.  This case has become a culture war and people are lining up with their team rather than relying on the evidence.

A Conflict of Interests

The worst aspect of this rush to judgment is what I suspect is going on at the board rooms of major media outlets right now.  Those rooms are (rightly) preparing for either outcome.  But the really cynical part of me thinks that on some level, they are rooting for an outcome. And that outcome does not necessarily align with what their viewers are rooting for.  I expect that the interests of the cable networks and their viewers are somewhat misaligned.

No matter what the grand jury decides, the focus of our media will immediately shift to covering the reaction to that decision.  The best result for a cable news network is a result that will please their viewers, immediately followed by some degree of chaos. MSNBC's dream night would be to have  wants an indictment, followed by rednecks saying it's the end of the country as we know it.  An impromptu Klan march or cross burning would be really great for them.  Fox News wants Officer Wilson to not be indicted but not so much because they care about the facts of that case or are worried about the truth of the matter. They want no indictment to come down because they think it will lead to civil unrest that will scare (and enthrall) their viewers.

One thing we won't get is a rational discussion of the evidence and what it means for the use of force by police in similar situations.  It will be sideshow, and the only thing we don't know for sure is which carnies will draw the bigger crowds.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Walking Dead: 2 Episodes to Go

Season 5 of the Walking Dead has inverted the arc of all its previous seasons.  It started with a large scale battle which spilled over into the next two seasons.  And then the story meandered through three consecutive episodes that did not feature Rick Grimes at all. First we found out that Beth has been kept in a hospital since she was separated from Darryl. Then we followed Glenn and Maggie tagging along with Eugene's group on an aborted trip towards DC.  Last week found Darryl and Carol attempting to spring Beth from the hospital.  Now with two episodes left, it appears ready to revert to form with a two-part siege of the hospital.  But I think the show might surprise again by doing something slightly different.

We know from the preview clips that we will see all three group's for at least some time tonight.  One clip shows Rick plotting some kind of attack on the hospital with Darryl and a few others.  Another clip shows Michonne, Carl, Father Gabriel (and presumably Judith) sitting around the church. That would be a logical group for Rick to leave behind at the church.  He wouldn't want his kids to come and he doesn't yet trust Gabriel enough to leave him in charge of the kids.  Another clip shows Glenn looking out on the horizon as if trying to decide where to go.

What We Can Glean From All the Hints?

1. Tonight's episode is called "Crossed".  That could be a reference to the crosses on the cars used by the police who run the hospital or to the Church itself but it probably also stands for a story point involving two groups crossing one another.  Maybe Glenn's team makes their way back to the church and meet up with  A more intriguing possibility is Morgan crossing paths with Rick (and perhaps others) for the first time this season.  I do expect to see Morgan either tonight or next week but there's nothing firm to go on there.

2. Michonne is left behind at the church.  The most logical candidate to stay behind and keep an eye on the children would be Tyrese. He's a lousy shot and has a deep bond with Judith.  Rick also can trust him implicitly given how much he sacrificed to keep Judith alive. But Tyrese is probably worried about Sasha who is still grieving the loss of Bob.  I think we might see Tyrese insisting to go along on the raid.  Michonne then becomes the logical choice. She's responsible and tough and has bonded a lot with Rick.  I think another dynamic may be developing here.  I think that Rick and Michonne will eventually become a couple. I think it will be a great story line and it was set up in one beautifully flirtatious line from way back in the scene from the season three finale which is shown at the top of this page.

3. I Think Dawn Will Survive the Conflict.  It would have been pretty easy to make Dawn a purely evil character but the writers made an effort to show that her situation is a little more complicated. Noah specifically speaks up with  her (to a point) when speaking to Beth. One common online theory is that Rick and Dawn knew each other form law enforcement circles before the apocalypse. That strikes me as a little too much of a coincidence but I think that Rick may end up making peace with her.

4.  Next Week's Episode is Called "Coda". If you're about my age or older, you probably associate that word with Led Zeppelin's last album, which was released after John Bonham's death and included mostly out takes and garbabe. tells us that a coda is a "more or less independent passages, at the end of a composition, introduced to bring it to a satisfactory close." (Think: Shave and a Haircut, Two Bits!)

If the mid-season finale is truly a coda that would mean that most of the action is wrapped up tonight.  But the description for that episode is New enemies disregard rules and morals. "Although Rick wants to find a peaceful agreement, the enemy seems to prefer a more violent solution." That seems to describe a stand off where Rick is trying to negotiate for the release of Beth and Carol but the cops insist on a conflagration.

So here's my official prediction/hunch for the next 2 episodes.  Rick and company head to Atlanta tonight.  Tonight's episode ends with a cliff hanger. Then next week we have a confrontation between the groups in Atlanta.  Meanwhile Glenn/Abraham go back to the church and are told about what's going on.  But I think Episode 8 will not end with a huge fight.  I think it will end with a cliffhanger and/or an unexpected character death.  This is keeping with the reverse structure of this season, and would allow the 2nd half to kick off with a big bang.

But for once I don't feel like the show is leading to a blindingly obvious course.  And that's a really good sign for the show's future.

One Last Point on Chronology.

The time lines of the three groups seem to be synching up.  This is my best estimation of how time has passed the last few weeks. If my timeline is correct, this whole half of a season covers about a week of time.

Day one: Darryl and Carol take off after the car; Bob is taken prisoner.
Day two: The Hunters try to take the church, Rick et al kill them; Darryl and Carol run afoul of Noah in Atlanta.
Day three: Abraham leads Team B north to DC; Darryl returns to the church with Noah.
Day four: Abraham finds out that Eugene is lying; Rick, Darryl, Noah, Sasha and Tyrese leave for Atlanta.
Day five: Maggie/Glenn/Abraham, etc. return to the church, then head to Atlanta.
Day six: confrontation at the hospital.