Friday, February 21, 2014

Walking Dead second half

I'm trying to stay on top of the Walking Dead on a weekly basis, which is new for me. Normally I'm weeks, if not years behind, so it's new for me to have to wait for a new episode.
I haven't formulated my feelings yet about this second half of season four. I'm loving that they ditched the prison, which was just driving me crazy. It was dreary and such a magnet for nuttyness. That being said, this is a zombie apocalypse, which on its face is nutty.

While the first half of season four had some great dramatic moments - I'm thinking about Rick and Carl being overrun with zombies after the fence falls - but also had some super slow pacing and was somewhat of a repeat of season three with the governor converting seeming normal people to murderers.
I almost wish they'd held the governor back for a reunification a year down the road or something. That would have been a super big surprise. Now that the big bad, other than zombies, has been dispensed with, we are left with the survivors being scattered in the woods.

I personally would not camp out in the woods as Daryl and Beth did. I would be climbing up a tree or finding a house like Rick.
I'm glad to see Glenn is alive and I like his cleverness in finding riot gear and plowing through the mass of dead heads.
My big question is how did all of the prison folk on the bus turn into zombies so quickly? Either one person died and then bit them all or somehow a zombie got on board. It was kind of a sad outcome but I guess it makes room to bring in new characters, like the commandos Glenn and Tara encounter at the end.
It is a little odd to keep bringing in new people as the writers sweep out the old. I guess that's the reality of the kind of show this is. Few can survive and characters must keep dying.  The cycle is also predictable too.

While I feared too that Judith was dead, and I was surprised when Tyrese turned with the baby in his arms. I was happy to see her alive and since the show went so far to lead us to believe she was dead, I knew that when  Lizzie was smothering Judith, she wasn't going to die. She didn't need to cover her nose and mouth to get her to stop crying but whatever, it made for more significant drama if you believed she was in jeopardy.
I didn't get a chance to read the sign that seemed to point to more survivors, but I wonder if it is the governor's old hideout. If it's a new survivor community, I wonder how it will differ from the other communities they seem to encounter that are all run by dictators.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The way of the knife: Fox's The Following

Any regular follower of this blog knows I'm a bit of a binge TV watcher. My Netflix subscription is mostly used by my daughter in watching Spiderman, My Little Pony or Barbie. She's on a Mulan kick right now.
I don't have time for Netflix and the movies are really out of date. BUT -- when I'm off recovering from foot surgery (like last spring) -- I become a bit of a Netflix junkie with its TV offerings. (I am still way behind on AMC's Breaking Bad and Showtime's Dexter because I am watching those with the hubbie, but alas, I only have so much time.)
I finally got caught up on PBS's Sherlock Holmes and now record the current season. While season one and two were great, season three has a lot of fast-forward moments. Dr. John Watson's wedding was just so boring I skipped through most of the episode. Or it was interesting and the fact that I am recovering from foot surgery, the flu and some bizarre week of terrible headaches could have tainted my viewing attitude.
Anyway on to the main topic The Following. I am a Kevin Bacon fan in that I think he does well in choosing good roles to play. If you look through his acting history, he has good taste. Also to his credit he's married to Kyra Sedgwick, the star of TNT's The Closer, a kick ass show that never failed to entertain.

So, I did not watch The Following until last week. I binged on season one and two over the past five days. I had flashbacks to The Vampire Diaries, but I'll explain in a minute.
The show is pretty dark, loves knives and is kind of twisty-turnie in its plot. I think season one could have been abbreviated to eight or nine episodes, down from 15, because it got really repetitive and a bit formulaic. The problem with binge watching is you see everything up close and don't have the advantage of short term memory loss between episodes.
So to sum up season one, in practically every episode a good guy was kidnapped and a bad guy got killed. The bad guys multiplied faster than rabbits so they never ran out of evils, but the number of scenarios where Ryan or Claire or Joey were facing either rescue or peril was ludicrous. It really got kind of silly after a while a nd to a point where I just knew no one significant was going to die -- of course until the end.

Also in almost every episode, especially near the end of season one, there was a dark scene where Ryan or Mike or Debra, or all three in one case, are in a deserted house/abandoned armory/empty hotel under construction -- you fill in your location -- searching for bad guys by themselves, off book, and get caught/knocked out/taken hostage/beat up etc. I started to see flashbacks to season one while watching season two because they are using the same type of setup. It's dark. The protagonist is alone. They are knocked out by the bad guy and the bad guy/girl gets away. These guys really need new foils.
That takes us to the Vampire Diaries. I binge watched about five seasons of that show about 18 months ago and it was the same kind of scenario. Actually, I'm going to venture to say the Vampire Diaries was more thrilling in the first three seasons because the show wasn't afraid to actually kill cast members. See my old review on that mark. At the same time the central characters constantly faced danger/near death weekly that it became a bit absurd.

Which brings us to Kevin Williamson, who is the creator and writer of both shows. I only seem to think of Dawon's Creek when his name comes up, which is strange because I recently checked out his writing history and about 90 per cent of the work he's done is horror/thrillers not teenage dramas. He's of Scream fame, which has to be the movie that gave horror a resurgence when it opened with its over the top horror/gore. I think Williamson was making fun of the genre and I think he does that with The Following and did that with the Vampire Diaries, I don't think he writes for the show any more.

OK. Enough Williamson blather. I see a lot of similarities in these two series. Vampires suck blood in a gory fashion, Joe's followers love to carve up victims with knives. These two series are full of blood-loving characters and since no one runs out of blood, there is always a supply for the gore-loving.
So, I just finished the third episode in season two of the The Following and I really liked it, for two main reasons, because there was some humor and sarcasm, ie: best line: utopian slut palace - and the story finally started moving forward with this year's psychos, who seem sicker and more twisted.
It was clear last season that while most of the characters loved killing, no one seemed to do it for sport or just for the fun of it. The deaths all had a thrill -- or a personal self satisfaction. This season the French loonies are bringing some spontaneity and unpredictability to the show that is much needed.
So far the one important piece missing from this season is emotion. I liked listening to the killers when they visited Joe in prison talk about their adoration for him and their past. In particular, I think they did a good job fleshing out Roderick's devotion and in the end Joe's betrayal of him. I actually felt sorry for Roderick, who was one sick puppy. Same goes for Charlie. I liked that guy and saw it strange/sick and twisted that he let Joe kill him because he'd failed his mission.
Also at the beginning at least, the Emma/Jacob love story seemed quite real and that scene with Emma's mother was very powerful. I just don't see any hints of that kind of attachment in season two, but it's only been three episodes, perhaps it's coming.

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