New world. New rules. The Walking Dead returns for Season 9 on Sunday, October 7 at 9/8c.

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TWD still has trouble ginning up genuine tension for me. Having just watched another Romero movie (Diary of the Dead), I'm starting to come to the conclusion that it may be me, not the show.

As I said on the Movies I've Watched Recently thread, I found the special effects sub-par on the movie, and the survivors dumb enough that they deserved to die. And I doubt I would have felt that way 10 years ago. But the first few seasons of TWD spoiled me -- not only for zombie movies, but for later seasons of TWD!

I remember my heart being in my mouth during the Terminus episodes. It felt like anything could happen, and none of it good. But I no longer feel that way. I know which characters have plot armor -- not only because of my familiarity with the writing on the show, but because I know which actors just signed contracts (and who didn't).

Set-pieces, which I didn't notice before, are now obvious to me. (How did all those walkers manage to get themselves into position for an archer to drop a roof on them with a single shot? I would have thought that insanely good luck and cheered at one point -- now I roll my eyes.) At certain points in the show, I have learned when a zombie incursion is to be expected (third act) and when it's not (during an important conversation).. "Time for an action set-piece," I think to myself. And lo, there it is -- notably self-contained to whatever area the F/X guys have rigged.

So last night was a pretty good episode. It wasn't a great episode, but I'm starting to wonder if I'll ever consider any episode a great episode again. It's not you TWD, it's me.

Anyway, Michonne is still being an irritating jerk, but maybe that X scar (one that Daryl seems to share) will explain it, whenever they get around to explaining it. My guess is they took in some survivors who turned on them.

Also, there seems to be more friction between Michonne and Maggie than their last scene would explain, so there must have been some horrible event there, too.

Was the relationship between Yumiko and Magna supposed to be a reveal? Maybe not, and that's good. OTOH, of course the only relationship in this group is gay. Is there any other kind? Aside from white/black, that is. I'm not complaining, but noticing a trend, that cisgender white/white no longer seems to exist in the apocalypse. All couplings have to be "edgy."

Speaking of, the deaf girl's sister is played by what appears to be a male actor. Connie? Kelly? I've forgotten their names -- they both start with a hard-C sound. What's up with that? She seems too old to be pre-adolescent, so I'm guessing ... trans? Male identifying as female? That's OK, but I'd guess the Alexandrians might have to be corrected on the pronouns since they don't know her -- but they all went along with "she/her" immediamente. Even if they don't care one way or the other, which they probably wouldn't, they still would be guided by their eyes.

Why is Luke alive? His survival skills seem nil. The new Eugene, I guess.

Back to the siblings. I'm trying not to laugh at the slinghots. Yes, you can build a pretty powerful slingshot, but A) where did they learn to do that without an Internet? and B) a slingshot powerful enough to put a rock through a human skull? Unlikely.

As to Maggie, how sad that her exit was off-camera, when such a to-do was made about Rick. Probably one of the reasons she was leaving. Anyway, she's off with Glenda the Good Witch Mary Poppins Fairy Godmother the most unlikely apocalypse surivivor I've seen yet. I hope they're gone for good, because I just can't swallow Georgie.

“Speaking of, the deaf girl's sister is played by what appears to be a male actor.”

They are two female actors playing two female roles. (I thought the one was the other’s “little brother” at fist.)

“Yes, you can build a pretty powerful slingshot, but… a slingshot powerful enough to put a rock through a human skull? Unlikely.”

Eh, I think that ship sailed a long time ago. The skull is the hardest bone in the human body, yet it routinely cracks like an eggshell on this show.

“As to Maggie, how sad that her exit was off-camera…”

I suspect there are previously filmed scenes with Lauren Cohan we have yet to see (just as Frank Dillane continued to appear in the sister show for several episodes after Nick was killed).

Oh, that would make sense -- filming her exit before she left, and trotting it out later. I bet you're right.

And you're right about the human skull thing. Yeah, Daryl doesn't even break stride when he stabs a walker in the head, and there's, like, zero resistance. Maybe we can assume that when you turn into a walker your bones soften. I mean, it's all made up, so let's make something up.

I like Dog! Some of the critics didn't get it, saying things like "he's trained the dog to bark when there are walkers in the traps." No, that would alert more walkers. The dog brings a piece of a trapped walker to Daryl. That's a smart dog!

I've wondered about keeping dogs in the apocalypse. You'd have to train them to only bark in combat, and only growl for warning, or something. Dogs that bark for other reasons would attract walkers. I don't know if it would be practical.

I'd think dogs, at least big ones, would survive OK. They'd give birth under houses or something, as they do anyway, and they're lots faster than walkers. As we've discussed before, the vermin population of the world would explode, so there'd be lots to hunt.

I'd also think horses would be OK. We've seen three horses taken down by walkers so far, and in at least two of those cases I thought the horse should have gotten away. They're fast, they're strong -- a couple of kicks to open a path and off they'd go.

I also think cows would be extinct pretty quickly.

Speaking of vermin, we've seen some flies! It was around some non-walker dead stuff, and Daryl noted that dead walkers keep animals away. So they obviously smell alarming to animals, and maybe that's why they don't attract flies. At this point, we have to assume that they don't attract flies, since they never have.

I watched Talking Dead, and my one real takeaway is that those children (teenage Sophia and her brother) are sadly very good at Hollywood-speak. It makes my teeth ache. (Also, some adult should have vetoed that plunging neckline.)

The mid-season finale aired last night.

[SPOILERS]

I am happy with the group’s first encounter with the Whisperers. As in the comic, the secret of humans wearing skin suits was revealed quickly.

Negan’s on the loose. In the comics, he went back into his unlocked cell before escaping for good, but this is a different status quo (with no Rick and no Carl), so I’m glad they skipped over that bit and got on with it. The preview for the second half of the season seems to indicate he’s out to kill Judith, but I can’t believe that even of Negan.

I hope the death of Jesus won’t cost the show viewership. Tracy met Tom Payne at a con, which makes the death even more personal for her.

Now that the show is on its mid-season hiatus, I plan to catch up on the comics, starting in the middle of volume eleven (the “New Beginning”), which is roughly where the TV show is now, I think. Still, it’s going to be a long until February 10.

I haven't seen the show yet, but I knew about Jesus because I didn't work hard enough to avoid spoilers on the Internet.

I'm glad you were pleased with the episode; it makes me look forward to it. I expect some flak on the death of Jesus about "bury your gays," but the actor has indicated he was ready to move on. It's a true surprise, since that didn't happen in the comics (where Jesus is still a prominent character). I'm curious if this will take the place of the "heads on stakes" shocker, or if it's in addition. If the latter, I hope they change some of those heads, because they're running out of characters I give a crap about.

I thought I remembered Jesus still being alive in the comics, but it has been awhile: the Whisperers collections were the last ones I read. I can't imagine them not doing the "heads on stakes"--it's just too vivid a visual shocker to skip. But so much has changed about the character status quo that there's no predicting who the victims will be. The cynical answer may be "the actors that are ready to leave the show."

That's certainly the practical answer. But overall, I'm very impressed with the way Kang has reinvigorated the show, and I'm inclined to trust her. The time jump skipped over a lot of what could have been really painful parts of the series for fans -- seeing favorite characters falling out of favor with each other -- and jumped right back to when the team starts to slowly come together. It's 5YL Legion of Superheroes, but with the Walking Dead!

And poor Jesus as Blok.

Finally saw the mid-season finale. And I thought it was very well done.

Of course, the logical, read-too-many-comics-stories part of my brain was pooh-poohing things like "why are they shooting compound-bow bolts in a fog, where they're more likely to kill a friend than a foe" and "why are they shining flashlights at a forest in the distance when that won't help them see anything, but will identify their position to anyone in viewing distance." But that actual battle -- and Eugene's terror -- was well done.

I'm less well pleased by the endless conversations that walk around whatever the eff happened to separate the communities. It was interesting when they established that something big happened that we don't know about, but dragging it out without giving us a single clue is just bad storytelling. I'm already bored with not knowing and irritated at being jerked around. You have to be better at this, Walking Dead, because there are other show around that are better at it.

Also, it's sad that Carl's storylines are being assigned to Henry, because what Henry did in this episdoe would make perfect sense for Carl, and we would be rewarded for being longtime viewers by the scene, but with Henry we don't know him well enough for this to be nearly as significant -- or for us to care.

Then there's Negan, who I think needed to die a long time ago. (If Negan had died instead of Glenn, think how much more we'd like this show.) I thought that in the comics, too. But here he is, out in the world again. At least on the show his escape makes more sense than in the comics.

Why were the new people out with Michonne to rescue Eugene & Co.? I thought they weren't trusted? Agh -- make up your mind, Walking Dead.

Anyway, for all my complaints, the fog-in-the-graveyard battle scene was so good, and the payoff with Jesus so startling, that I will give the show much credit.

THE WALKING DEAD #127-132: Now that the TV is on hiatus, I thought I go back to the comics and pick up the story from the approximate point the TV show left off. The middle of volume eleven is “A New Beginning” and seems like a good place to start. I’m not going to “spoil” anything that hasn’t been shown on TV yet (if that’s even possible given how many details they change), but I will point out some of the differences between the comics and the TV show we have already seen.

For one thing, there is a scene in which Magna and the new folks sneak in to the jail and speak with Negan face-to-face. He puts on a performance that he is unjustly imprisoned, but they don’t buy it.

Eugene and Rosita are a thing (not Gabriel and Rosita).

Carl whittles figurines and gives them away or sells them. they are quite popular.

Anna is Carl’s love interest in Alexandria; Sophia on the Hilltop.

It is Ken and Marco (not Eugene and Rosita) who first hear the Whisperers speak.

Andrea pretty much has Michone’s role.

It is Doug who is killed by a whisperer, not Jesus.

It is Dante who discovers the Whisperers are wearing skins.

THE WALKING DEAD #133-144: I read v12 over the weekend.

Rosita is pregnant, but it’s not Eugene’s.

Gregory is still around (at least for a while).

Giving comic book/Carl’s story to TV/Henry makes sense; even if they’d’ve kept Carl around, he’d grow beyond this storyline.

There is a romantic triangle between (or, I guess “among”) Doc Carson, Jesus and Wes.

Gregory poisons Maggie, but she survives.

The action shifts away from Rick and Alexandria to concentrate on Alexandria.

Sea-faring (not “pirate”) Michone returns.

Negan does not escape when [what’s her name] leaves the cell door open.

The long-awaited fair is held.

I have a few more notes that I either forgot what they meant or I’ve deemed too “spoilery” after all.

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