The TWD spin-off is back for another season with new cast members (three kids), new villains (led by "Max Headroom") and, soon, another "crossover" character from the original series (Dwight). We also see a helicopter with the same markings as the one which abducted Rick. Oh, and Daniel Salazar is back.

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My wife is no longer watching this show -- she went to bed and I watched it alone. I expect that to continue, and it may extend to the original show.

Obviously, that makes me reconsider my own attachment to the show, and I have to say I'm on the cusp. AMC showed the last two episodes of last season as a "special" of sorts, which I also watched, and it reminded me how stupid they were. The penultimate one, especially, where people poisoned by antifreeze for many, many hours miraculously recover after drinking a beer. And how NONE of them noticed the seals were broken on all their water until after they were sick. Or noticed that the water tasted funny. Or smelled of antifreeze, which has a powerful odor. Or that the crazy woman managed to poison all the water without leaving any signs that she had done so (such as breaking the plastic that one of the characters had to break to get to the water which we saw her do.)

Watching Black Summer reminded me of what Fear was supposed to be, instead of being TWD Lite. Summer takes place in the early days of zombie apocalypse, before people have become accustomed to the dangers and know how to manage them. Fear has jumped too far ahead, to where we already have a veteran band of survivors, which is roughly what we already saw in pre-Alexandria TWD.

I have to say I'm not encouraged by the commercial that preceded the premiere, a riff on the Avengers all standing in a circle checking weapons and looking to the sky in the Battle of New York. That was really cool, but the Fear swipe was badly done, as well as being borderline insulting. Fear is in no way reminiscent of the MCU, which is far, far better.

My wife says she's tired of zombie shows, but i have to wonder if she's just tired of bad zombie shows, where people act stupidly and suspension of disbelief is shredded by bad writing.

I'm still hoping that Fear will rebound and grab my attention again, but I'm not encouraged by the mediocre writing we've already seen. Bringing Salazar back is reassuring, as at least that guy can act.

Did you see the episode of The Big Bang Theory in which Sheldon contemplated making a commitment to watch The Flash, for however many seasons it would run, regardless of quality?

Back in the ‘90s, one season of The New Adventures of Superman was about all I could stand. I later came to regret my decision, however, and when Smallville began, I decided in advance to watch the entire series, for however many seasons it would run, regardless of quality, using the exact same reasoning Sheldon would later use on The Big Bang Theory.

I have come to realize I must have subconsciously made the same commitment to TWD and FTWD.

As a completist, I don't need any reason to follow a show to its bitter end. I almost can't help it.

Now we have radioactive zombies.

I've got to admit: I'm still enjoying this.

Yeah, that's a nice touch. At first I was sure someone was just using the radioactivity signs as a scare tactic. I should have believed the worst. You can never go wrong with that on this show.

Jeff of Earth-J said:

Now we have radioactive zombies.

I've got to admit: I'm still enjoying this.

Well, we're through the first half of FtWD Season 5. The show returns Aug. 11 for eight more episodes.

FtWD isn't a bad show. It's just not a great show -- I've been spoiled by Peak TV. 15 years ago, this would have been an extraordinary show.

I do like some things. John Dorie is a goofy joy. I'm glad to see Salazar back (although they seem to have shaved off some of his rough edges). Lennie James is so good he can deliver terrible, even preposterous, lines and make them convincing.

I still can't stand Victor, whose stentorian line readins are always irritating. Does he think this is Shakespeare in the Park?

And I'm a little baffled by the redneck chick's speech pattern, too. Her strange turns of phrase and Hee-Haw delivery have me wondering if that's what Hollywood thinks rednecks talk like. I live in the South. They do not talk like that. I don't think any humans anywhere talk like that.

None of the other ladies seem to get much to do, except Alicia, who is such an implacable killing machine that the zombies are no longer a threat. I think that's a mistake. (And it makes me wonder for the 1,000th time how the military couldn't figure out how to survive as well as a backwoods Georgia sheriff, an L.A. schoolgirl and all the rest.)

Which leads me, inevitably, to Things That Are Dumb Enough to Yank Me Out of the Story.

1. The kids live in treehouses, presumably built as zombie refuges. With no back door? Are you kidding me? Only one way in and out? Nobody builds anything with only one way in and out, especially if you're worried about zombies.

And it's a treehouse. By definition, you can climb up or down the tree to get to it. Or throw a rope over any side and climb down. Heck, you might be able to jump down safely, if you hang from the bottom and let go. But no. Let's just stand here and wring our hands as the zombies come in through the front door.

2. Alicia faces the walkers on the foot bridge. That's brilliant! They can only come at her one at a time! Oh, wait, she immediately leaves the foot bridge, abandoning her only tactical advantage, to plow into the crowd, and is immediately surrounded. Idiot.

3, Sherry is leaving cryptic notes for Dwight, hidden in weird places. Lady, that is not a plan for success. That is, in fact, a complete waste of time except on a TV show, where Dwight always manages to find the notes and always manages to translate them correctly. Which is beyond implausible. Seriously, the only way I can buy this is if Sherry had no belief that Dwight was following her, and just played this little game to amuse herself. Because it had little chance of success in our world. In the zombie apocalypse it has less-than-zero chance.

Remember in TWD before Terminus, when Maggie was leaving notes for Glenn to find her? She'd spray paint GO THIS WAY or something in huge red letters. THAT'S how you leave a trail in the zombie apocalypse, Sherry.

If she really wanted him to find her, she might try to wait in one place long enough for him to catch up, rather than play "Match these VIN numbers to one of the 8 million abandoned cars in Texas!" Which is a terrible game.

4. The sirens go off. Um, what? The now-dead nuclear plant engineers didn't provide battery/emergency power to run the generator to prevent a meltdown, but they did for the sirens? Doesn't seem like very good planning to me, dead nuclear power plant engineers.Maybe you deserve to be dead.

5. Grace makes a big deal about Morgan not using his stick any more, since he used it to kill irradiated zombies. She even breaks it at the end of 508. But Alicia uses her exhaust pipe thingy to kill irradiated zombies, and Grace hands it right back to her, saying "It's clean." Seriously?

6. The gas is going bad. I didn't know gas went bad, but I guess it would eventually, like most things. Important parts might evaporate or something. Anyway, I'll buy it. But why didn't it happen on the parent show?

Sigh. I just hurt myself posting these things. I can't help myself.

“FtWD isn't a bad show. It's just not a great show… 15 years ago, this would have been an extraordinary show.”

That’s a fair assessment. I has got a lot better, though (IMO). It occurred to me yesterday that it has moved so far from the early seasons (in terms of cast, anyway), that it almost a different show, an amalgamation of the best elements of Fear combined with “spin-off” elements of the original.

“Grace makes a big deal about Morgan not using his stick any more, since he used it to kill irradiated zombies. She even breaks it at the end of 508. But Alicia uses her exhaust pipe thingy to kill irradiated zombies, and Grace hands it right back to her, saying ‘It's clean.’”

The reason she gave when she took it in the first place is that it was “porous.” He stabs walkers with both ends, though, so I don’t see how breaking it in half would help. Besides, now the length’s off.

“The gas is going bad. I didn't know gas went bad, but I guess it would eventually, like most things. Important parts might evaporate or something. Anyway, I'll buy it. But why didn't it happen on the parent show?”

Take it from a former mower of lawns, gas can go bad. (It can also go bad in an outboard motor between seasons.) That’s always one of the many things associated with this show I chalked up to “willing snense of disbelief” but, now that it’s been address in-show, it’s a “thing” that should forevermore be dealt with going forward… on both shows.

Pretty short “midseason hiatus” … that’s good.

I think the reason for the short hiatus is that there will be a third Walking Dead show next year. If it's 16 episodes per season like the other two, that means that henceforth there will only be four weeks a year without a TWD show. So this hiatus has to be short to make room for the new show (which will begin, presumably, after The Walking Dead Season 10 ends), which has to begin early enough for FTWD to begin on time next year.

We can make a guessing game on what four Sundays will go without zombies! Winner gets enough zombie goo to pass among the undead unnoticed!

Anyway, I take your point about the difference between the wooden stick and the metal exhaust pipe thingie (which, I must say, looks like an unwieldy and limited weapon). I was probably still irritated that Grace was so fanatical about the damn stick that she risked her life -- jumping up in a banking airplaine in flight with an open back to break it, instead of waiting five minutes to see if A) they're all dead so it's a moot question, or B) they're on the ground safe, and she can break it then without endangering her life needlessly.

But it's part of FTWD, apparently, to have manufactured crises at critical moments. Uproxx critic Dutin Rowles labels these manufactured crises "contrivances," and it's a good word that I am adopting henceforth. Here, I'll let him speak for himself:

"Everyone does survive in the midseason finale, although a number of those redshirt kids mysteriously shrank in half by the time they made it to the plane, which is just one of several issues viewers might have had with the episode. There’s also the fact that a shower seems to somehow clean away all of the radiation poisoning Alicia got from the nuclear contaminated blood, rendering last week’s cliffhanger moot. Or the narratively convenient way that John’s walkie-talkie batteries die at the exact right moment he’s saying goodbye to June, or the fact that Daniel — who [sic] we haven’t seen or heard from in several episodes — suddenly materializes with Christmas lights to create a runway just as the plane is on its way, or the fact that a zombie tripped over the Christmas lights cord just as the plane is landing, or the fact that Grace wrecked her truck just as slow-moving zombies began approaching. Three-point turns are hard in the apocalypse.

"In fact, that slow-moving horde may have been the most ridiculous part of the entire episode. Somehow, Alicia couldn’t shake it; and then Grace and Morgan couldn’t steer it away; and then for some ridiculous reason, Morgan, Alicia, and Grace led the entire zombie horde to the airplane as it was taking off. Meanwhile, two zombies — who are too dumb even to open a doorknob — manage to hang on to an airplane as it is taking off. Or the fact that Grace unbuckled her seat belt mid-flight with the backdoor open and stood up to break Morgan’s stick, as though Morgan desperately needed his stick at that moment. Or what about the fact that, in the very same episode that John and Dwight’s car dies because of old gas, they learn from Logan that Clayton has a secret gasoline refinery, and that the refinery holds the only hope for the future. Oh, and the second half of the season will be all about finding that gas refinery, and that Logan isn’t really the bad guy after all, just a pawn for the real bad guys, who are … who knows? More red shirts."

(Another critic, whose work I can't find at the moment, echoed that last line and said, "Why not make the real big bad another black woman? Worked so well the first time.")

Yes, these are "contrivances." That's the word I've been looking for. The show even has me trained to expect them. When the plane was coming in, I thought to myself, "How can they turn the Xmas lights off temporarily, so as to add drama, but get them back on in time for the plane to plausibly land?" And sure enough, that's exactly what happened. I didn't get the specifics. I didn't foresee the zombie attack on the wheelchair guy -- and, weirdly, neither did anybody in the show -- but that was the mechanism they used to add the contrivance I expected.

And I probably didn't expect the zombie attack on the wheelchair guy, because I cannot expand my suspension of disbelief to include his continued survival. I ignore that he exists, or I cannot believe anything I see. Because all the well-armed, well-trained soldiers of the U.S. Army are dead, but this guy who cannot go to the bathroom by himself is still around with nothing to protect him but some spikes in his chair, a shotgun and a bad attitude. I'm all for diversity, but c'mon, man, this is a contrivance.

Anyway, despite all that, the critic enjoyed the episode, and so did I.

"On a micro-level, the entire episode was a disaster. Nothing made sense. Multiple contrivances seemed to be written in just to extend the episode to its full runtime. And yet, I didn’t hate it."

He goes on to explain that it's the actors who save the show time and again, and I am fully in agreement. It's Garrett Dillahunt and Lennie James and, yes, even Alycia Debnam-Carey that make me forget the stupidity of the script as they deftly engage me.

And speaking of Alycia/Alicia, I read an interview with her where she noted that she's the only survivor of the pilot. I had to stop and think about it, but now I'm pretty sure that's true, because I don't think we met Salazar and Victor until later in the season. The rest of the caset, the whole blended family (and Salazar's family) that was originally the crux of the show is dead, save for Alicia.

And I don't miss them a bit. I'm not sure what they were trying to show with all those characters, but I found the Gossip Girl-type family drama in the midst of a crash-course in survival a bit misplaced. Then we went on a journey with Madison where she was slowly becoming the bad guy to protect her family -- which we already saw with Rick Grimes. As The Joker said in the 1989 Batman, "I'm glad they're dead!"

And they've been replaced with better characters played by excellent actors. Heck, in John Dorie, we finally have a character where it's plausible that his every shot is a head shot! (Looking at you, Rick Grimes.)

“There’s also the fact that a shower seems to somehow clean away all of the radiation poisoning…”

Compare that to the shower scene in Silkwood with Meryl Streep.

She didn't even use up all the hot water.

I didn't say anything about the return of FTWD last week, because it was a pretty weak episode.

Frankly, I HATE the whole get-the-story thing with Al. Look, I'm a journalist, and even I say her priorities are misplaced. She's endangering herself and others with this monumentally stupid project, and in a real apocalypse, it wouldn't be tolerated, any more than Quicksilver would have been tolerated in any real-world team of superheroes, police or soldiers.

But hey, this episode made the apocalypse seem like a lark. There's a never-ending source of supplies. Our survivors were never in any sense of danger, except for that one scene with Morgan on a land mine, but we knew he'd survive, because A) he has plot armor and B) we saw him on one of Al's tapes AFTER the land mine incident, so obviously he survived. Oh, and what did everyone risk their lives for? An ASTHMA ENHALER. So we apparently still have first-world problems in the apocalypse. I guess we can relax. The apocalypse will be more like summer camp than what Rick & Co. went through on The Walking Dead. We don't need to stockpile water and canned food after all.

Oh, and the bad guy? Max Headroom. This is not a serious show.

Regarding last night’s episode, I find it difficult to willing suspend my sense of disbelief that an entire shopping mall has gone un-looted this far into the zombie apocalypse.

Morgan criticizes Graces use of the term “candy beanies” for jelly beans. And what is it you call zombies, again? (At least it’s not as bad as “stumblers,” the guy they went to find.) Need we mention how incredibly stupid it was of Grace to break from plan to follow the red-shirted guy?

We watched the promo for The Walking Dead and Tracy commented, “That looks good.” That’s a common cycle. Every year we watch Fear, then the original returns and we are remonded how much better it is.

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