Oh, what a difference a week makes. Fear the Walking Dead is (temporarily) over, replaced by the far superior The Walking Dead.

Not only was the show better, but my wife joined me. She refuses to watch FTWD and is actively angry at it. "How they could take a great idea like 'Walking Dead' and screw it up so badly is almost criminal," she huffed. And I couldn't agree with her more.

Not that this episode was anything to write home about. It was a mostly table-setting exercise. But It had some interesting moments.

Daryl is learning American Sign Language, and even has an ASL guide in his back pocket. Daryl is not exactly intellectually curious, so this is an obvious sign that he and Connie are destined for romance. Maybe now he'll wash his hair. (Or his wig, if that's what it is.)

Aaron has apparently become something of a hothead, and much more of a warrior. Given his lack of hand, I expect a weapon on that stump shortly, and for the character to act out some Rick bits from the comics. He is apparently the leader of the communities' combined armed forces.

Fun to see the new civilization go back to the past for their tactics and weaponry, including a shield wall straight out of Vikings

I was a bit let down by them trying to stop the forest fire. That's not smart, because it's really dangerous, and it's unlikely they'll affect the fire very much. We can't stop forest fires in the present, and we're using machines. They're using a bucket brigade. Their best use of manpower would be digging a ditch between their homes and the fire. The resultant ditch could later be re-purposed as a walker deterrent. Or a latrine.

Also, it took them into Whisperers territory, which they are supposedly are avoiding, but do so a bunch of times in this episode, none of them necessary. And then Carol and Daryl do it for no good reason, and Alpha sees them. It's no more fun to see TV characters acting stupidly for the sake of the plot than it is to see comic book characters do the same. We've all seen it, and none of us like it, so why do writers keep doing it? Anyway, it looks like war. They should have let the forest burn.

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Luis, I don’t know what news you’re talking about (and I think I don’t want to), but I’m of the opinion that the series has improved quite a bit in the last year or so (since the time jump and Rick’s departure). Cutting the Grimeses out of the story has shifted it away from being a heroic narrative to being more of a community narrative, and I think that’s helped it.

That said, last night wasn’t one of the better episodes. I’d heard about Dante before watching (the TV turned on to Talking Dead in-progress Sunday night, and I got the spoiler that Dante murdered someone -- I didn’t know who -- before we could watch the show). And Siddiq’s PTSD (and later, his water realization) was pretty heavy-handed. But having been clued in, I watched for clues that implicated Dante -- and other than the hemlock, it didn’t seem like it was being telegraphed, other than his just being SUCH a nice guy. But I did love when he first entered the cell of his fellow Whisperer, and he warned him, “Don’t try anything” -- a message with very different implications from an ally than an enemy, but reasonable for either to say.

And that’s an excellent question as to why Lydia didn’t recognize Dante (or if she did, why she kept it to herself). Hopefully that will be addressed.

Anyway, despite the overwrought PTSD sequences, I’m sorry to see Siddiq go. I was rooting for him.

A preview of this weekend's midseason finale answers one of our big questions about Dante ...


The episode opens with a flashback focused on what Dante's been doing in secret all this time. Apparently he was fairly new to the Whisperers, and was chosen in part because Lydia wouldn't recognize him. As for why Alpha thought he could be trusted, that's an open question (although she said he acquitted himself well at the barn, during the beheadings) -- but not a plot hole like it would be if Lydia had seen him before but didn't mention it. 

NOVEMBER 24 EPISODE: I thought the line of dialogue about Lydia not knowing Dante was kind of unbelievable, but it at least addressed the discrepancy. We’ve often discussed how Negan might be perceived to be the hero had the show followed his story from the beginning; a taped interview with the actress who plays Alpha reveals that’s how she perceives Alpha. I like the setting of the mine, but how they all (all!) got trapped in it defies my willing sense of disbelief.

I agree about the mine: suddenly they're all trapped in there? But at least it represents another divergence from the comics, which I generally like. It's nice to be surprised.

I kinda smiled in the mine scene not that they all fell in -- which is in itself hard to swallow -- but that they all landed on a ledge safe from the walkers. Hey, if I was gonna build a trap, I'd make sure they all fell into the middle of the undead.

I do like Alpha's deviousness, although the accent still bugs me. Poisoning the water (she's pushing dead walkers into Alexandria's water source upstream, too) and a spy are all roundabout ways to hurt someone. 

I especially like that she's SUCH a different style villain from Negan. On shows like the Flash and Arrow, I keep feeling like we get essentially the same villain with a slightly different trappings. With Walking Dead Negan was head-on brute force. Alpha is much more insidious. Even though she's got also a lot of force on her side, it feels like that's there to buy her enough time to win a philosophical argument against civilization (as she works behind the scenes to stack the deck in her favor).

The Walking Dead returns from hiatus this Sunday, February 23.

SPOILERS for Sunday’s episode.

I am about through with Carol at this point. She has become a liability. Rick had the right idea (when he exilded her) but at the wrong time. After he kicked her out, she later saved them all from Terminus, but she’s made some deadly tactical errors with Alpha and the Whisperers lately. Someone deserved to die. It was critically stupid for them all to get caught in the first place, then compounded that error by setting off dynamite in a highly unstable mine shaft.

Unfortunately, the character who truly deserved to die didn’t. I thought Jerry was dead… twice. First, when he was stuck and the walkers were literally nipping at his heels. Then again, when you think he’s safe and in danger of being crushed while supporting the beam, that’s exactly the kind of fake-out we’ve been trained to expect. I don’t see how Connie and Magna could have survived, but they weren’t featured in “In Memorium,” so maybe they’re going to pull a Glenn with them. One of my co-workers thinker Magna’s experiments with the matches led them to safety, but if so, that would be very much in the style of those old movie serials because I didn’t see that flame flicker at all.

We got a preview of the new WD show (premiering April 12), but whatever happened to those standalone movies featuring Rick? I haven’t heard anything about those in a long time.

I've seen an article here and there about the standalone movies, mainly whether or not Michonne will start showing up there after she leaves the main show. (tl;dr: No one knows.)

I was actually unnerved by last night's episode, a feeling I haven't had for a while. It's not because I was worried about a particular character, but because of the claustrophobic aspect of the cave crawl. Weirdly, I did something very much like that in the Boy Scouts, and volunteered to do so. But that was long ago, and now I don't think I'd have the strength in the right places to make that crawl successfully. So it kinda freaked me out.

No way Jerry makes it, though. If he can make it through AT ALL, it should be easy for the trimmer characters, but they were shown to have difficulty -- so, honestly, it should have been too narrow for Jerry. But he did make it through, and he didn't die (I thought he'd die the same two times you did, Jeff), so I guess he's got plot armor now.

No way Connie and Magna died, as the writers have worked too hard at making them relevant to regular watchers, which hasn't paid off yet, so they'll keep trying. And Connie is going to be Daryl's love interest, I believe, so she'll be back to consummate that. THEN, after we genuinely care about both characters, they'll die. But right now their deaths are meaningless, and the main cast is so small already, I think they'll be back (after the requisite angst). Heck, even the characters talked about them as if they were alive, but just unreachable at the moment. 

Further, the whisperers that went into the cave to kill Daryl & Co. surely didn't squeeze into that tunnel to get there, nor did the hundreds of walkers who got in. There's a way to walk in, since the walkers did. So there's your Plan B in plain sight.

I went ahead and posted this week's column, which is TWD-related.


"Took ya long enough."

My sentiments exactly.

Yes! I think we're on the same page, Jeff, that, A) it looked like the writers were really abusing Carol, but turns out they weren't, and B) come on, we know that Negan is going to kill Alpha, and he did!

On the A point, yeah, Carol has been squirrelly in the past. She got thrown out of the group in Season 4, and she got all "I can't kill any more people" for a while, and then she ran off and lived in the woods by herself for ... reasons. Whatever. She's never been the most stable character.

But who hasn't cheered the battered wife arising to become something ... well, hard to explain? She's no cliche, she's not easily pigeon-holed, she's unique. She loves children, but threatens them. She pretends to be a blithering housewife, while being the biggest badass around. And while she's been behaving badly this season, all of it fit within her profile ... especially with the Negan revelation.

Carol may act stupidly, but not inexplicably. She's always got a plan. And this was it. Now we know. Everything is explained.

On the B part, Negan is a character I can't warm up to, but I will give the writers credit that he's pretty consistent, and that consistency says he's going to kill Alpha. Whether it's to take over (MOST likely) or because he can't stomach her behavior (Negan is a jerk, but he's a jerk within standard behavioral models) or for philosophical reasons (Negan ALWAYS thinks he's right).

Yeah, Negan is going to kill Alpha, or she's going to survive his attack and kill him. But it's a Hitler-Stalin thing, and somebody's going to betray somebody. They just can't live together.

Of course, Negan also killed Alpha in the comics, so there's that.

But the reasons that Negan killed Alpha in the comics weren't present here. Further, the show could have made some hay with them working together.

So it wasn't a foregone conclusion that Negan would kill Alpha because of the comics. The show really could have gone another way.

Except for how the show has consistently characterized the two of them. They had to come to a final conflict, and it was likely to be Negan as the victor, because he's sneakier.

Upshot is: It went exactly the way it should have, and because the writing has been clear, consistent and and deep, it was not only predictable, it was satisfying.

Well done, Walking Dead. I've really enjoyed the last couple of episodes.

Bonus comments:

* I used to think the climactic fight this season would be Daryl vs. Beta. Now I'm thinking Negan vs. Beta. What do you think?

* I still can't warm up to the new kids. The German actress (Magna) is head and shoulders above, for sure, and I'd be glad for her to become a major cast member. But the Asian lady has been written as irritating so she irritates me, the deaf girl defies my suspension of disbelief (it's been about 15-20 years since the world collapsed, and a handicapped person armed with a sling is still alive?), and the other one presents to me as male but says she's female. In a regular world I'd say "so what," but in a world where depending on your neighbor is necessary, you'd better stop lying to me. 

I like Magna fine. But the rest of them? Kill 'em all, please. And stop, Walking Dead online recap/reviewers, stop calling them "new leaders."

Who can help me accept these new "leaders"?

* I roll my eyes at a lot of stuff, but fat people in the zombie apocalypse really does a number on my suspension of disbelief. Alpha, the music teacher, Jerry ... come on. Find some actors that look like they're hungry, OK? Because as I said in my recent column, it's not about how many deer or rabbit you can catch ... it's the fruit and vegetables. If you're on the run (which Magna and her crew were supposed to have been for 10 YEARS), they somehow avoided rickets, scurvy, beri-beri and the rest. They should all be, at the least, losing teeth by now.

And none of them should be fat. NOBODY should be fat.

* And how were they getting water? You have to boil it. Or you die. Period.

* I hate to say it, but sometimes while I'm watching the show, I keep waiting for an important cast member to show up. That's sad.

But when whole shows revolve around gay guy with the mace hand or bearded guy with baby, I'm just dozing off, waiting for an important person to show up and take the show in one direction or another instead of just lazing along with interchangeable people I don't care about looking upset. Then I remember they're all dead.

* My wife couldn't watch Earl try his suicide. Then he failed, which was predictable, but almost worse.

* Speaking of which, when Daryl shows up, he doesn't do a Rick and explain it all to the little one. He just sits down with her, and maybe she'll feel better for that. Or not. He's a man of few words -- no, he's a man of NO words, and stunted emotional behavior, and the writers have never forgotten that. I really appreciate that.

* I am going to give this show points that Daryl picked up a Morning Star, and used it with authority. I don't believe your average redneck would do that -- he'd stick to weapons he was familiar with, because rednecks do NOT experiment with anything -- but I can't deny the thrill of watching him use it. It was the perfect weapon for the scenario he was in, and it was really fun to watch him wale away with it.

Ha, it's funny -- Magda might be my least favorite of the newcomers! Though Yumiko hasn't given me much character either. Two tough girls with trust issues.

But Luke, Connie, and Kelly are favorites of mine. Luke's optimistic personality appeals to me, and I enjoy the resourcefulness of Connie & Kelly, as well as Connie's burgeoning romance with Daryl. As for the viability of people with hearing impairment in the zombie apocalypse, it doesn't bother me at all. A, I don't want to discount the ingenuity and the survival techniques of people with disabilities -- in a lot of ways, they're already more resourceful than people with all five working senses. But also, I'm simply not watching this show for realism. If I were, there  are plenty of straws from seasons and seasons ago that would have broken this camel's back. I'd rather have a variety of people who have a variety of different challenges -- including heavy-set Jerry in a tight space -- than watch the adventures of a bunch of similarly fit, otherwise malnourished people. 

But most importantly -- ALPHA is DEAD. I'm so happy. I like Samantha Morton -- she was amazing in the movie In America -- but her and her nihilistic philosophizing just about killed every scene she was in for me. 

I'll be interested in seeing how much of what Carol's done in the last run of episodes was part of her plan, and how much was genuine emotional reactions. I guess we'll find out in a few weeks, since the next issue looks to focus on what Michonne's been doing int he meantime.  

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