‘The Walking Dead’ recap: Apocalypse now

Spoiler alert! The following contains spoilers for the The Walking DeadSeason 7 Episode 4, "Service." To read our recap of Episode 3, click here.The heroes of The Walking Dead are faced with a new reality. They weren’t as strong as they thought they were. They’re stuck following the orders of a man they hate and fear. They’ve lost loved ones and fear they’ll lose more.What was that thing about art imitating life?As we enter the fourth episode of the season, the Negan problem isn't going away. Jeffrey Dean Morgan's villain is still just as boring, just as non-threatening as he was before. An extra-long episode that was basically just the IKEA trip from Hell doesn't really do anything to further his character. The only thing we really learned during "Service" is that the Saviors are more trolls than anything else. They do things for the lulz, not for any real gain. That's why they just burned the mattresses instead of bringing them back to their compound (where Negan is sleeping on a twin, you'd really think he'd enjoy a nice pillow-top).Does that make them scary? No. It makes them annoying. It makes them grating. And by consequence, it makes the show boring and exhausting. And it's a shame, because this show has at points been one of the most exciting on television. The answer is not more Negan. The answer is far, far less Negan.Negan and Dwight spent last week's episode breaking Daryl into his new reality. And this week the writers of The Walking Dead decided to do the same to the audience.It's remarkable how much the show believes that Negan is really scary. He's just not. He's gross and horrible but he's not the kind of villain who makes the audience quake in their boots. He's lazy, and the show has been downright lazy in their characterization of him. Down to the almost laughably cheesy shot of him and his stupid baseball bat silhouetted outside the Alexandria gate. They want him to be a monster. He's just a gnat.The Continue Reading

‘The Walking Dead’ recap: Teenage wasteland

Spoiler alert! The following contains spoilers for the The Walking Dead Season 7 Episode 5, "Go Getters." To read our recap of Episode 4, click here.Now we're getting somewhere.The Walking Dead has been twiddling its torturous thumbs for the past few weeks, neither advancing the season nor giving its viewers anything new or remotely exciting to watch. It's been a bit of a slog. But we have a faint glimmer of hope.Sure, we still have Carl knocking around and a mustachioed Negan stand in, but "Go Getters" gave us a genuinely interesting action sequence, and true movement on the season's arch (thank you, Jesus!). Is it a coincidence that Negan wasn't around and Rick was barely in it? Nope, not at all. Thanks for saving more than just the Hilltop, Maggie!If you were wondering where Maggie was hiding after she was conspicuously absent (and faked dead) at Alexandria last week, it turns out she was at the Hilltop with Sasha, finally getting some medical attention for the pregnancy complication that set them all out on that RV trip in the first place. Maybe she and Sasha should have just walked there, huh?Maggie awakes to find that Gregory, aka the Hilltop leader, is still as much of a bumbling sexist idiot as he was before they got into the Saviors mess. He's useless and own't even let Maggie and Sasha stay at the Hilltop for the duration of Maggie's pregnancy, as the doctor suggests. He's worried about retribution from the Saviors, and he should be, but exiling Maggie and Sasha won't help matters.In perhaps the most inventive sequence on the show in awhile, the Saviors break into the Hilltop and wreak havoc to attract as many walkers as possible. They set up a car with blasting music, light fires and wait for the herd to come. The Hilltop only survives thanks to Maggie and Sasha (and Maggie's tractor skills). Honestly, we'd watch Maggie run over walkers and the car with that tractor on a loop forever.But still, when the Saviors show up later Continue Reading

‘The Walking Dead’ mid-season finale recap: War is coming

Spoiler alert! The following contains spoilers for the The Walking Dead Season 7 Episode 8, "Hearts Still Beating." To read our recap of Episode 7, click here.Don't give up.It's the plea that keeps the our survivors going in The Walking Dead's Season 7 mid-season finale, "Hearts Still Beating." After death, torture, theft, humiliation and heartbreak at the hands of the Saviors, the residents of Alexandria pick themselves up off the ground and move forward. It's what Michonne begs of Rick, the unspoken agreement between Maggie and her friends, and the weary ask of the man in the Kingdom.It's also what The Walking Dead seems to be asking of its own fans.Season 7 has been a downward slide for the show, in quality and in ratings. As I've opined before, many of the problems stem from Negan's exhausting form of villainy, but he is not the only problem. "Hearts Still Beating" simultaneously gave us brief glimpses of what made the show work before this season and reminded us of the season's greatest flaws. A brief appearance from Carol and Morgan is enough to know that sidelining them for all but one episode was a mistake. Michonne's emotional speech made her season of sulking so much more tiresome. The energy of our group of survivors together at the Hilltop only highlighted the slog that kept these people apart.When the show returns in February, it needs a renewed sense of energy to sustain the momentum it began building Sunday night. Walkers, violence and literal guts are not enough to keep the narrative moving. The show needs to find its purpose again. But hopefully "Hearts Still Beating" doesn't just refer to the characters, but to the show itself.How did we get to that moment on the Hilltop, with all our favorite characters reunited with a renewed energy to fight for their families and take down the tyrannical Negan? With, as is routine on this show, a lot of pain and death. Let's take this location by location.At the Continue Reading

‘The Walking Dead’ mid-season premiere recap: We can make it

Spoiler alert! The following contains spoilers for the The Walking Dead Season 7 Episode 9, "Rock in the Road." To read our recap of Episode 8, click here.Well, it’s a start.After opening its seventh season with a run of over-long, graphically violent and generally painful episodes, The Walking Dead returns with a renewed sense of energy and -- dare I say it -- fun. All it took was clotheslining a bunch of zombies. And keeping Negan almost entirely out of the episode.“Rock in the Road” finds our heroes back together, organizing for the fight against the Saviors, which we are all quite ready to be rid of. But it’s clear that The Walking Dead is a much more exciting and gratifying show to watch when Rick and the rest are active in their pursuit of survival, not passively taking abuse. The show suffered when the heroes suffered, and now that they’re ready for war, we’re ready for the new direction the show is going to take us in.Hey Gregory and Ezekial, couldn’t you guys bend a little bit? The first step on the journey to destroying Negan is putting together an army, and Rick makes the case in front of the two communities he knows are also subjugated by the Saviors (that all-women community Tara found hasn’t popped up again). Gregory obviously said no, but our little go-getter Enid managed to rally a few supporters. Jesus, meanwhile, decides it’s time to inform them all of the existence of the Kingdom.In the land of the tiger and the Fallout cosplay, everyone is reunited with Morgan, although he doesn't really help them in their bid to get the Kingdom on Team Kill All the Saviors. He helps convince King Ezekial to stay out of it and preserve the peace they have, even though the King's own people (Richard and Benjamin) want to fight. Daryl sticks around so he won't be found out by the Saviors which oh-so-conveniently places him near Carol and in a place to help convince Ezekiel to pick up the Continue Reading

‘The Walking Dead’ recap: Weird diplomacy

Spoiler alert! The following contains spoilers for the The Walking Dead Season 7 Episode 10, "New Best Friends." To read our recap of Episode 9, click here.OK then.After last week’s exciting premiere, The Walking Dead slowed down a bit in “New Best Friends,” introducing us to possibly the oddest group of survivors we’ve met so far, and giving fans a reunion they’ve been desperate for.As Tara points out to an increasingly impatient Rosita, they can’t do this all at once, they have to prepare. The back half of the season can’t all be massive zombie battles and victories against the Saviors. But the direction the show seems to be going, and the genuinely new things it’s showing, are definitely promising. And did we mention how much it helps to keep Negan offscreen? Because it helps a lot.Something is rotten in the the Kingdom. After deciding to keep his existing arrangement with the Saviors, instead of going to war alongside the Hilltop and Alexandria, Ezekiel is trying to keep business as usual. But Richard is not allowing that. He’s taunting and back-talking the Saviors that come to collect their tribute, who respond by beating him and Morgan and taking Morgan’s stick (the one his mentor gave to him, if you remember).Ezekiel won’t budge on his decision, instead chastising Richard. So the unhappy guard turns to the most sympathetic ear in the Kingdom: Daryl. He’s in on Richard’s plan to start a war between the Kingdom and the Saviors until he realizes it will get Carol killed (Richard is not good at being evasive, he shouldn’t try that again).And while Richard’s slightly ridiculous plan didn’t work out for the best, Daryl's realization that Carol is in a house down the road is the best outcome for everyone on the show. Our two faves have an emotional reunion that requires few words. They’ve been through so much together, they know how the other is Continue Reading

Comic-Con’s first night is a real horror show for fans of ‘Walking Dead’ and ‘It’

SAN DIEGO — More than 125,000 people have descended upon Comic-Con, and if that wasn’t scary enough for the nerd crowd, a few horror movies plus a terrifying TV show were on display during the event’s annual preview night. We'll be on the ground for all of the annual comic-book convention's offerings, but before the pop-culture extravaganza begins in earnest Thursday, here are some of Wednesday’s freaky highlights:The San Diego Convention Center’s floor is packed with booths for all sorts of movie studios, TV networks and comic-book companies, with big properties like Star Wars and Justice League. AMC always puts out a nice spread featuring The Walking Dead, and this year’s presentation is no slouch: Next to the massive fort-like structure is a fenced area where zombies hiss and snarl at onlookers. If that’s too frightening, there’s also a chair where visitors can pose like King Ezekiel next to a lifelike tiger Shiva.At a New Line presentation at a nearby theater, director Andy Muschietti introduced never-before-seen footage from his upcoming Stephen King adaptation It (in theaters Sept. 8). The audience got to see the young members of Derry’s Losers Club (played by Wyatt Oleff, Finn Wolfhard, Chosen Jacobs, Jaeden Lieberher, Sophia Lillis and Jeremy Ray Taylor) in a couple of scenes that bring the group together — from diving off a cliff in their underwear to a rock fight with local bullies — and gave a quick glimpse at the evil clown Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård) waving a disembodied arm. Executive producer Seth Grahame-Smith compared the kid characters' vibe to the friends in Stand by Me: “We believe they have that same kind of relationship.”Keeping the “children in peril” theme, director David F. Sandberg presented an early screening of Annabelle: Creation, which digs into the 1950s origin of the super-creepy doll from The Conjuring and pits her Continue Reading

‘The Walking Dead’ recap: Death becomes him

Spoiler alert! The following contains spoilers for the The Walking Dead Season 7 Episode 13, "Bury Me Here." To read our recap of Episode 12, click here. It was never going to be easy.The war against Negan has been a slow beast in the second half of The Walking Dead’s seventh season. There have been lots of preparations and alliances and intelligence gatherings, but Benjamin might be the first casualty (Spencer, Olivia, Glenn and Abraham were a part of Negan’s war on Alexandria). Richard and Morgan’s soul are the next.Now that the Kingdom is on board, the confrontation between Team Kill Negan and the Saviors looms closer. There are three episodes left of the season, and one will inevitably be spent dealing with the Oceanside community, whether or not they join the alliance. At this rate, is there anything stopping our heroes? If Morgan is an indicator, maybe themselves.We should have known Benjamin and Richard were not long for this world.Benjamin was too soft. He was too nice. He had a cute little brother and he was too interested in the future. Those characteristics almost always spell death in The Walking Dead’s universe.Richard, too, was always in danger. His reckless obsession with taking out the Saviors has already proven to be dangerous to himself (in previous confrontations) and others (his plan to frame Carol for Savior sabotage), but never more so than in this episode.Richard’s plan worked -- sort of. After sabotaging the Kingdom’s tribute of 12 cantaloupes (what a weird and small tribute, by the way), the Saviors get angry and violent. The only problem is Benjamin is the one who gets killed, not Richard as he planned. And Morgan figured out what he did, and ends up strangling him in front of Ezekial and the Saviors in one of the more horrifying moments of the season so far.What’s unclear from this is whether or not Richard’s death was planned. Sure, he planned his death the first time, complete Continue Reading

‘The Walking Dead’ season finale recap: Just getting started

Spoiler alert! The following contains spoilers for The Walking Dead Season 7 Episode 16, "The First Day of the Rest of Your Life." To read our recap of Episode 15, click here.Well, they won the battle. The war has to wait until Season 8.One of the problems with The Walking Dead is its usual season-long strategy is to tease and build up a final episode climax, so much so that the finales often fall below expectations. "The First Day of the Rest of Your Life" promised big change, in the title and all the episodes that came before it, but it didn't deliver. What we ended up with was an over-long episode that twiddled its thumbs before getting to a disappointing battle with an unsatisfying conclusion. Much of the 90-minute episode on Sunday was sluggish and unnecessary, and it ended without killing off Negan, as prior episodes seemed to be indicating it would. Sure, the show can't wrap up everything -- it has to leave us wanting more in another season -- but this lackluster finale felt almost cheap after all the build-up.If Negan and the Saviors are going to be around for another season, the show is going to have to work hard to regain its momentum. We hope it can figure out how to make this tired villain seem fresh again.Who knew the Garbage People were such, well, garbage people?It turns out that the Yoda-speaking, bad haircut-having, landfill-dwelling cult was not the greatest group of groups to ally oneself with. Crazy, right?Negan, as it turns out, wasn't blustering to Sasha when he said he knew there was an insurrection brewing. It seems he had gotten in touch with the Garbage People and cut them a new deal, meaning that they turned on the Alexandrians at the exact moment Negan and his Saviors pulled up. For their lives Negan demanded subjugation, a sacrifice, all the guns they had collected and, of course, the pool table. He even brought Sasha along in a coffin, for special dramatic flair.But Continue Reading

‘The Walking Dead’ recap: The struggle is far too real

Spoiler alert! The following contains spoilers for The Walking Dead Season 8 Episode 2, "The Damned." To read our recap of the Season 8 premiere, click here.There's reaching, and then there's reaching too far. After a premiere last week that seemingly righted the course of The Walking Dead's increasingly unstable ship, the second episode of Season 8 was a sincere let-down that relied on overly-dramatic (to the point of humorous) devices and a "twist" so obscure it will have even the most devoted of fans googling the name "Morales." "The Damned," was, essentially, an overly long battle sequence told in three parts that was often confusing to watch and lacking the emotional stakes of last week's siege. It rehashed many of the themes (and actual sequences) from the Season 6 episode "Not Tomorrow Yet," but it didn't add any nuance or say anything different than it said two seasons ago. This episode tries so very, very hard to create tension and drama where there is none. And nowhere is that more evident than in the extreme close-ups that bookend the hour. This is supposed to be important, but the series can't deliver an episode that actually is.  More: ‘The Walking Dead’ needs to kill Negan to survive It's frustrating to see the series stumble so quickly after a promising start. And it's even more frustrating to see it dig back into the past instead of working with something new. As the aging series continues its eighth season, it needs to avoid retreading on so many plot lines its done before. Morales! Hi! Wow, we 100% forgot that you existed and that you mattered at all, because, you know, we haven't seen you since the pre-CDC episodes in Season 1. By all reasonable indicators, we assumed that you were not very important! But I guess you are now! Good to see you, we guess. If you don't remember Morales (and truly, we cannot blame you), here's a quick refresher on Continue Reading

Recap: ‘The Walking Dead’ Season 8 premiere gets the series back on track

Spoiler alert! The following contains spoilers for The Walking Dead Season 8 Episode 1, "Mercy." To read our recap of the Season 7 finale, click here.This is not last year's sad and slow Walking Dead. If there's one thing we can glean from the explosive but cagey Season 8 premiere (and 100th episode) of AMC's zombie apocalypse series, it's that the show is actively trying to shrug off it's creative problems from last year and perhaps win back some viewers after a ratings decline.  More: Rick & Co. go to war with Negan's Saviors in the new season of AMC's 'The Walking Dead' "Mercy" is nowhere near the best episode The Walking Dead has ever aired, but it's an effect season premiere that manages to add some energy into the aging series and at least partially hits the reset button. (I'd argue that until Negan is dead and gone for good, The Walking Dead won't be truly great again.) It righted a few of the wrongs of Season 7, focusing on our heroes, allowing them agency and keeping them together. That Team Rick actually had numbers and good strategy on its side (Andrew Lincoln told USA TODAY it was "the first time in 100 episodes that Rick has come up with a really good plan") was only an added bonus. The premiere was a promising start to the season, but it will be hard for the series to follow through with equally gripping and smart episodes going forward. The new season (according to the trailers, the cast and filmmakers), is an "all-out war" between Rick and Negan, and it seems we're nowhere close to the conclusion of that war yet, even if Rick won a battle. The episode opens with flashes of what we are going to refer to as Old Man Rick from here on, which some fans may have noticed were also in the trailer the series debuted at Comic-Con this year. We'll get to what Old Man Rick might mean later.But the episode's first few scenes have the benefit of rallying both the Continue Reading