Walking Dead: season 7 – midway review

It’s funny… the ‘mid season’ break of The Walking Dead seems like it’s splitting hairs calling it mid season, because the show is basically over for a few months. It even had a mini finale and everything (as it always does). Although this means as fans we get left in the lurch, and I often find I half forget what happened in the first half of a season by the time the second half comes around. It feels, at least to me, that the show’s creators have to rekindle my interest. Which they nearly always do (or at least by a few episodes in).

But maybe that’s just me.
Anyway, as usual, I’m off topic before I’ve even begun.

So let’s talk about the first half of season 7, which has been interesting and actually a significant change in terms of the journey of the characters. Indeed, almost fundamental, in that an encounter with a new bad guy has shaken them all to their core. The guy? Negan, the despotic leader of a violent group known as the Saviours, who’s played with relish and gusto by Jeffrey Dean Morgan. And what a way to keep a show fresh. Seldom has an actor that’s been drafted in to play a big character – in such an established story – managed to cause such an upheaval. In the most delicious way possible, of course.

Often it’s the case where actors make the mistake of hamming up the baddie, sneering and moustache twirling until the cows come home. That’s not what you want in this day and age. I mean, this ain’t the 80s or even the 90s. You want menace and charisma in equal measure, and you want him or her to flip between the two on a dime. Which Morgan does as Negan like a natural, it’s delightful.

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And everyone loves to hate a bad guy, right? It’s like we’ve all got Stockholm syndrome when they start abusing the characters that we know and love. But then, that’s what the show’s creators wanted Morgan to bring when they cast him. And boy, did he deliver. It helps that Negan is meant to be the biggest threat old Rick and the gang has ever had to face (at least in the comics, and the show is shaping up that way too).

But just so I don’t get carried away, waxing lyrical on the Negan bandwagon, there’s the main cast to consider, too. Because it should not be underestimated just how fine a performance the majority of them put in. We take it for granted now (as most of them have been around for a good few seasons, and some since the start), but that’s our failing, because they really are outstanding and know their characters inside out.

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And top of that tree has to be Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes, the heart and soul of the show. After Negan more or less breaks him by dispatching a number of notable characters in a highly brutal and visceral way, Rick is left utterly hollow, devoid of any fight he may of once had. And gone is the confidence, swagger and resolute nature that had served him well as a leader up until then. He’s unsure of his path and focused on the safety and survival of the group alone. And the others cannot handle seeing him this way.

It’s not the Rick we’re used to but perhaps the one we need, as the show had become a bit samey in recent seasons. Or you could say that Rick was losing himself and his way, that he needed focus. Maybe Negan, as his nemesis, gives him that? Particularly as he breaks him in such a profound way, that the payoff for us as an audience is going to be that much bigger when Rick finally bests him. As he surely must do this season, no?

And this break has taken us up to a nice point, bringing the group back together. Where for most of the season they’ve been disjointed and fragmented, hiding out in different communities, or on different quests after one another. Originally I had planned to talk more about the ins and outs of the show in terms of plot, but that seems unecessary. I prefer to just offer my general thoughts and feelings on the season so far. And to say that, with the mildly hopeful ending, it seems to have set things up for the second half to be most interesting indeed. Or as some might say, one hell of a shitstorm.

Walking Dead: No Sanctuary

Rick Grimes. I wonder if any of the gang call him Grimey? With each season of The Walking Dead Rick’s group of survivors get filthier and filthier. For the start of this season Rick (Andrew Lincoln) has reached borderline tramp levels of filth. An unkempt beard, lank hair, dirt and blood all over his face and clothes that look not so much worn, as worn to breaking point.

The reason to labour on about the sartorial appearance of the group is, simply put, you can use how they look as a barometer of how worn down they are, how much trouble they’re in, and indeed, how desperate and determined they’ve become.

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A large chunk of the previous season focused on the group’s desire to reach Terminus. Hoping against hope that it was a safe haven for survivors. This being Robert Kirkman, of course we knew this wouldn’t be the case. In fact, it was about as far from a safe place as you can imagine and was more akin (spoiler!) to some sort of Eli Roth wet dream.

Some might say the last season – or least the latter half of the last season – was fairly low key. Following events at the prison the group had become divided and were all gradually making their way – albeit unknowingly – to the same destination. I actually enjoyed this change of pace and tone. Prior to this, so much screen time had been devoted to the claustrophobic atmosphere of the prison that, as a viewer, it felt refreshing to see the group out and about. Despite the fact that it was a concern that they had become divided. Will they reunite or get slowly picked off? It was a worry.

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This is testament to the fact that they’re a great group of characters. Well written and well played. We care deeply about their fate. So much so that the makers of the show hit us square in the face with an incredibly tense opening sequence (and episode) which sees Grimey and the gang face certain death. Much like Game of Thrones this show isn’t afraid to kill off big names, so you genuinely fear for them.

I don’t want to say how it plays out, but it’s an impressive opener. So that we’re not entirely put through the emotional wringer there is some respite towards the end, with various characters being reunited for the first time in a long time. And so, as viewers, we’re fairly satisfied – and somewhat relieved.

Continuing from last season there’s still a running storyline where some of the group are trying to get a scientist to a place where he can release a cure to the zombie problem. Whether or not the group make it there in this season or more manner of horrors are thrown in their path remains to be seen.

Whatever the case it’s heartening (in a gory sort of way) to have the show back and for Grimey and the gang to (mostly) be back together again. If the opening episode is setting the tone for this season then we’ll be in for a belter.

Go Grimey!

 

Walking Dead season 3: First episode review

I’ve been a fan of The Walking Dead since the start. It’s Andrew Lincoln’s best work to date – although I’ve always liked his portrayal of characters, particularly Egg in This Life, a great 90s drama about a group of law graduates.

However this show is not just about Sheriff Rick Grimes, like most fans I’ve come to care about many of the characters and the dynamic between the group. Also, the writing is first rate – the way scenes are constructed, the dramatic situations that build throughout an episode and each season as a whole. At no point do you feel the writers are being lazy or formulaic. It’s truly a brilliant show.

Anyway, on to the first episode…
I’m going to assume that, if you’re reading this, you’re familiar with the first two seasons and the main characters. To recap, at the end of season 2 Rick and his band of survivors had to flee Hershel’s farm, which had become overrun with our favourite shambling friends.

hershelThe story picks up a few months later when the group – having survived the winter – are moving around the local area, searching for food and looking for a base to replace their lost farm.

Immediately from the first few minutes of the episode you sense a shift in tone – the main characters are dirtier, leaner, more ruthless, and much more adept at dispatching the dead. They move like a well drilled SWOT team – even young Carl Grimes (Rick’s son), who’s grown up and become hardened to the gang’s way of surviving.

There’s a fantastic opening sequence where they all move silently through an abandoned house, efficiently killing zombies and clearing rooms. No dialogue is exchanged throughout the whole scene and it’s superbly tense and dramatic – vintage Walking Dead you might say. It’s why this show amassed such a loyal following in just two seasons.

In terms of plot I’m not going to say too much about the first episode, other than that the group – on their trails – discover a prison, which they duly move into in search of safe haven.

Suffice to say that – even in the small amount of time we see them in the prison – their chosen location turns out to be less than safe. The episode ends on a brilliant cliffhanger, with Rick demonstrating quick thinking in an impossible situation – but then we’ve come to expect nothing less from this show. Roll on the rest of the season!