THE WALKING DEAD: WORLD BEYOND
SPOILERS AHEAD … SNEAKING AROUND, ESPIONAGE AND BLACKOUTS AT PRECISELY THE RIGHT, AND WRONG, MOMENTS …
Operation take down the CRM is in full swing in Quatervois” and “Who Are You?” which sees a plan to bust-em-outta-twisted-utopia quickly morph into “taking down the man!” thanks to some very dark secrets being uncovered.
Turns out, and this will surprise precisely no one, that the CRM, now with added Jadis Stokes aka Anne (Pollyanna McIntosh) who wears a very Victor Strand survival-at-all-costs energy like a menacing piece of jewelry, has a humongous stockpile of chemical weapons, the better to practice genocidal warfare on supposed allies like Omaha and the Campus Colony where, you will recall, a 100,000 people recently lost their lives as a giant herd of Empties jyust happened to sweep through that part of Nebraska.
What were the odds huh?
Well, as it turns out, pretty low … UNLESS you are the CRM and you’ve already killed everyone and then used the shambling masses to cover up your tracks.
On the war crimes scale of 1 to 10 where 1 is You Evil Bastards and 10 is What Satanic Hell is This, the CRM are currently sitting somewhere on 1.2 billion plus plus plus.
Clear grounds to burn the scientific facility to the ground, yes? Well, on a simplistic equation of terrible things being done in the name of progress, it’s an understandable reaction – how can you stand back and let that kind of grievous, utterly amoral behaviour go unpunished, no matter how laudable the perpetrators believe the end goal to be?
Iris (Aliyah Royale) for one can’t bear to let such a horrific act go unpunished, and after she and Felix (Nico Tortorella) and Percy (Ted Sutherland) let themselves get deliberately “captured” by Indira (Anna Khaja) and handed across to the CRM in an act of theatrics that Lieutenant Colonel Elizabeth Kublek (Julia Ormond) has no choice but to accept on face value, they decide they have to stay and bring down the evil that has positioned itself as humanity’s last great hope (no, that is not Obi-Wan Kenobi, alas; he they could probably live with) rather than spiriting away Dad Leo Bennett (Joe Holt) and Hope (Alexa Mansour) to safety.
It’s an understandable reaction when so many people they knew and loved have been murdered in cold blood simply so some secrets wouldn’t be uncovered, and when, as they will also soon discover, Leo’s girlfriend , Lyla (Natalie Gold) aka the person charged by the CRM to spy on him, is using quite healthy human beings as test subjects to find a cure for the zombie virus.
The whole great ends justify the Mengele-inspired means argument is starting to look a whole lot more shaky now, isn’t it?
Yes, yes it is, and so the spirited part of you with a fierce burning humanity is screaming out that vengeance be enacted and soon! Burn it all down to the ground? Definitely!
But then Hope poses an interesting dilemma – no fan of the CRM, she is well aware that the research being carried out at the facility, some of which happily does not involve healthy human test subjects being killed to see how their newly-zombified selves react to a series of experiments, could actually (a) speed up the necrotic process, thereby getting rid of the millions upon millions of undead wandering the earth, and (b) get rid of the plague altogether, allowing humanity to boldly stride forward to a future glowing with possibility.
It’s all very seductive, but the getting there is so tainted and morally and ethically corrupted that allowing the CRM to keep doing their diabolical thing is unconscionable … and yet, they could cure everything?
Quite the horns of a dilemma and so while Huck aka Jennifer Mallick (Annet Mahendru) and Felix are sneaking around the facility trying to dig up yet more evidence, while Silas (Hal Cumpston) gets captured by CRM soldiers and Jadis watches Huck like a smiling, malevolent hawk, it becomes apparent that while something must be done, maybe destroying everything is not the best approach?
But then how to address the ravenous cancerous evil at the heart of the CRM?
One hint is that the civilian government, which was supposed to step in after ten years to restore back to something normal, might just take on the military arm and hopefully prevail; but then we are talking about people who took out 100,000 innocent souls just to keep the lid of some dark and terrible stuff.
This isn’t go to end well for anyone, I suspect, and while World Beyond is setting up quite the moral conundrum, there is no easy solution and while the show hasn’t exactly got subtlety written into its DNA, you can only hope that in saving the Bennetts and their friends, and the helpful folk at the Perimeter village where an ailing Indira is leader, it also thoughtfully addresses the fact that in burning down the place, as Iris is demanding, that you may be throwing the future of humanity baby out with the morally repugnant water.
Will World Beyond go deep and dark and address this narrative complexity or will it go all CW and give us a pat answer with lots of violence and burning?
Hopefully much will be revealed in the next two episodes … “Blood and Lies” and “Returning Point” ….
FEAR THE WALKING DEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD … AND A WHOLE LOT OF AFFECTING HUMANITY AT LAST!
Thank the Empties, Fear the Walking Dead has found its heart and soul again.
Well, for two profoundly moving episodes anyway, one more than the other admittedly, both of them well-executed character studies that served to restore the kind of humanity that has always sat firmly at the heart of this show.
The first two episodes of the seventh season did not augur well for Fear which seemed to be heading down a Negan-style Big Bad-centric narrative path which hasn’t served The Walking Dead and certainly wouldn’t serve Fear well if it was allowed to take hold.
Thankfully, “Cindy Hawkins”, in which we see how well, or not, June Dorie (Jenna Elfman) and John Dorie Sr. (Keith Carradine) are coping with life deep down in the bunker they took shelter in at the end of season six, and “Breath With Me” in which Sarah (Mo Collins) comes face-to-face with a catastrophic loss, were transcendentally beautiful character focused episodes which affirmed again that the real centre of the zombie apocalypse should always been on the living.
Sure, the zombies make for great visual fodder, but at the end of the day, we watch shows like Fear to see how people cope with inestimable pain and loss, and while the wars and the battles make for blockbuster-worthy action, what ultimately moves many of us is seeing real people grappling with a cataclysmically terrible situation.
It grounds what is an out-there premise in some very real humanity, making for powerfully moving storytelling that was never better on display than in Sarah-centric “Breathe With Me” where the twin sister of Wendell (Daryl Mitchell) spends her days searching for the person who keeps her breathing in an irradiated landscape which is barley habitable.
We briefly see Al (Maggie Grace), Daniel (Rubén Blades), Charlie (Alexa Nisenson), Wes (Colby Hollman) and Luciana (Danya Garcia) who have sheltered with Sarah at an decommissioned fort, but “Breathe With Me” is effectively Mo Collins’ episode, an excursion into the deepest, darkest depths of grief, fiercely trenchant hope and the heartstricken hell of the end of the world.
While Sarah is accompanied for much of the episode by Morgan (Lennie James) and a vengeful ex-ranger called Josiah (Demetrius Grosse), it is her journey from hope to despair and resignation to an unpalatable reality that makes the episode incredibly gripping to watch.
Thanks largely to a superlative performance by Collins and a taut script that neatly balances darkness, light and the grim twilight of reality, “Breathe With Me’ rips out your heart, holds it beating beside you while toying with putting it back in you before ripping it out all over again.
Victor Strand (Colman Domino) makes an appearance in the episode to strut his cartoonishly villainous stuff which, as much as it is vampishly over the top is cruelly callous and nastily vindictive too, but while he attempts to steal the scene, it is Collins, carrying an aching sorrow that can likely never be fixed, who rises above everything as life as she knows it comes harrowingly to an end. (She lives on and goes off with Morgan but the one person who has sustained her through the hell of the zombie apocalypse is absent and she is devastated, as are we all watching her.)
Meanwhile, in “Cindy Hawkins”, we are given window seats to the strange new world of June and John Sr. who are spending their days six feet underground in Teddy’s (john Glover) bunker which is well stocked with food, water, the whole shebang because it is where the now-vapourised serial killer planned to spend the aftermath of the nuclear hellhole he engineered with Dakota (Zoe Colletti) whose zombified remains are shown some mercy when John Sr. finally goes up the bunker’s shaft to the eerie orange of the outside world.
(One thing must be said here – while Fear usually invests in some fearsomely well-realised landscapes and special effects, the stage set used for the above-bunker land is amateur hour, looking like something out of Doctor Who is 1960s or ’70s iterations.)
At first things look almost idyllic.
With power generated by a cycling machine the two bunkermates are fit, healthy, well fed and contented almost, their lives in a comfortable groove of nice meals, board games and nightcaps where another day is ticked off the 300 or so they need to remain underground for before the surface is safe.
But, of course, being trapped under a scorched and deadly earth can never be normal and soon cracks appear, literally and figuratively, as mysterious figures above ground, and no they’re not Victor’s people, try to dig their way down while John Sr. starts to deal with alcohol withdrawal which sees him imagine that Teddy’s last victim, Cindy Hawkins (Brittany Bradford) is appearing to him and urging him to find her body so she, and he, can finally be at rest.
It’s unnerving for John Sr. though strangely comforting too as it impels him to find some peace with his “failure” to bring Teddy fully to justice and find Cindy’s body and scary for June who has to simultaneously deal with her grief over her dead husband (which breeds an understandable unwillingness to go above ground to a world without him), John’s increasingly unhinged mental and emotional state and the people up top who are determined to break into the bunker.
That’s a lot to deal with, physically and emotionally, and it takes its toll on them in many ways and almost costs them their lives before Victor, who seems to be everywhere goddammit, spirits them off to his cult tower in the centre of town.
While lacking the emotional oomph of “Breathe With Me”, which is one of the stand out episodes of the entire seven seasons of Fear, “Cindy Hawkins” is a tight, “bottle episode” that tells an engaging, emotionally intense story in the one confined space and proves that the show still has what it takes to tell deeply affecting stories of the living in a world long given over to the dead.
Coming up next … episodes five and six, “Till Death” and “Reclamation” …