Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Walking Dead S6x15 East

The Walking Dead East recap
Photo Credit: The Walking Dead / Gene Page
After barely catching a breath back at Alexandria, two crucial members of the community decided to leave: Daryl races out to trail Dwight in revenge for Denises' death, and Carol who is unable to stay with Team Family. Jettisoning off into danger, the safe zone is divided. Below includes spoilers of the series so far. You've been warned but hope you enjoy!

East set the stage for the epic finale The Walking Dead has been barreling towards.

Unlike the whole of the internet on Sunday night, this fifteenth episode didn't leave me feeling the same excitement and anticipation as much as I wanted it to.

Like a tumbleweed blowing in the wind, bored comes to mind. Confused and underwhelmed would be the next emotions that come to mind.

If there's one blog series I throw word counts to the wind for, it's these recaps. Analysis of characters and foreshadowing and plot is something I just love to do. I write for everyone who reads, but most of all and hopefully not that selfishly, but my pure love and fandom of this show.

So when East left me feel empty, unlike last week's Twice As Far at least made me feel numb, I tried to get down to the bottom of this unsettling feeling.

Since watching the series from the very beginning, it kills me to say and even express through the latest few recaps, that this season was not my favorite - by far.

Before the official arrival of Negan, a retrospection of the past fifteen episodes, its accomplishments and failures felt like the only way I could get my mind straight before we cross the finishing line.

Part A isn't all that bad. Though I expressed doubts and disdain for the time jumping, and organization of the character's plots, it's the stronger half of the series.

The first eight episodes held so much potential for its predecessors. Even if the season premiere is a complete departure from how season five left us - (Rick and Morgan are face-to-face after he execute Pete and are diving into a wild plan of manhandling thousands of walkers out of a quarry) - it was still interesting and set up what could be - Rick's intense expectation that Alexandrians are just idiots who are going to get themselves killed, for one.

Alexandria's residents were horribly divided for the first time since it's inception. Unprepared community members were open season for the Wolves, while others were stranded to go through with Rick's plan and just hope that everyone at home could take care of themselves.

At the time, Gimple's direction felt off-kilter and inconsistent since nine episodes covered only one or two day's worth of events. After spending a whole week away from the show, it was hard to follow which characters would be featured every week and what they were.

But to re-watch the first nine episodes back-to-back feels exciting. The timeline, now after being away from for a while, seems like it'll be more cohesive to watch one after the other.

Plenty of memorable and exciting moments sprinkled throughout these episodes too: Carol taking out the Wolves on her own by dressing up as one of them, Jessie and Rick becoming a thing (Yes, I liked them together), Jessie launching into Mama Bear Mode, Nicholas' death (which left me reeling) and Glenn's fake death, Abraham's change of heart, Deanna releasing the reigns as a leader over to Rick. Throughout the violent attacks they faced, characters dealt with the loss and separation without stepping too far outside of themselves and what the showrunners forced upon them.

As much as I like Part A (First Time Again to Start to Finish), they revealed blaring problem not even Melissa McBride's acting could mask: comic books and show doesn't know how to blend cohesively.

As Part B gone underway, the hype of Negan came racing through the series with no signs of stopping. We all knew the destination, but how was the journey going to be?

Unfortunately, for me, it was bumpy and haphazard at best. It's actually the back nine episodes that strongly revealed some unavoidable obvious pitfalls.

The show has always been about the group coming to terms with their inner demons and their fight against walkers, and what the apocalypse is turning them into. Yet for two seasons we've noticed the absence of a straight-up villain for two seasons. Season five all but missed any clear villain that could really make for good television. The Termites' cannibalism was sideswiped into three episodes. Officer Dawn was layered enough to not be considered a villain but another leader doing what she could to survive. Everyone just wanted Porch Dick to die. And, the Wolves were foreshadowed as an earlier part of season five. The JSS wolf was mangled into Morgan's haphazard philosophy and not presenting any true antagonistic qualities.

The earliest seasons faced criticism for not using enough material from the comic books. Surely, characters and plot points came to life straight from Robert Kirkman's creations. But they were changed slightly to fit into the show. Here so much from the comic books were inserted just to get to Jeffrey Dean Morgan, but everything was glossed over. The dots don't connect between every episode in terms of tone or focus.

What happens throughout Part B when Team Family doesn't face walkers or humans worth executing? Time jumping became an easy solution to skip over potential conflict and encounters. Meanwhile, character development was continuously told through foreshadowing that went nowhere.

Starting with No Way Out, and Rick and Daryl, who know better, waste a day chasing down much-needed supplies that end up at the bottom of a lake.

That's okay, right? There's always tomorrow in The Next World and Knots Untie for our "so desperate" group jump into bed with the Hilltop Colony. To egotistically gain the upper-hand, they promise to execute the Saviors who they already know has killed five people just for supplies. It didn't make sense - felt rushed and just like we're following the comics for comic's sakes.

Then leaping into conflict, Rick and his crew bounce on up to one of the Savior's compounds with very little genuine knowledge or wherewithal about their self-inflicted enemies.

By them jumping on the "kill or die" bandwagon, we doubt who is the bad guys. To the Saviors, of course, Team Family are the enemies. To us, Saviors are supposed to be the bad guys. It's a good question to present, but as Rick rides an invincibility wave and takes everyone down with him, their tactics feel more gullible than brave or preemptively protecting themselves.

As the lead character, Part A did a justifiable job establishing Rick as finally accepting Deanna's people as his own. But then Part B degraded him into the head guy who pops out of his happy home when it's convenient to get them into a war. There's no constant direction in what kind of leader he's supposed to be or even trying to make the world a better place for Carl. We didn't even get an episode of Rick trying to fulfill his promise to him before they got into another war.

So much of the individual writing was weak. The only common thread besides Carol is Rick taking the worst chance against the Saviors. It's not going to pay off in the worst ways imaginable.  And relying on one actress' performance to carry the emotional weight of the ensemble is too much to ask.

The Same Boat is really the calling card of excellence for the last half of season six, next to No Way Out. Primarily it's because of Melissa's performance. All of the nuanced struggle she's buried comes to light in an amazing exhibition of her own purgatory.

Twice as Far struggles to regain that momentum. Except for Eugene and Abraham's entertaining camaraderie, the writing is just not there for interesting storytelling. Someone's gotta die. Might as well make it a redshirt who earned her stripes.

Good moments happened throughout Part B, but they weren't memorable. Richonne finally took place. Denise died. Anything with foreshadowing Glenn's comic book fate easily and automatically grabs attention. If AMC held a series or season six marathon, I'd probably forget all about Part B.

East did give us that was nice.
Finally, East
East is a good example of the confusion and disappointment lingering throughout this season.

East split up the group so the encounter with the Saviors comes across an ambush. But the divide is actually pretty weak when you look beyond the last few minutes of Daryl's ambiguous fate.

Carol leaves Alexandria. After Rick and Michonne are done with their celebratory coitus and convincing themselves they are untouchable to the Savior's, the community is a priority to Rick again. He departs to find her, and Morgan joins him.

It's great Rick and Morgan team up to search for Carol, but driving everyone out of Alexandria is so painfully obvious. Just as Rick tells everyone to stay and prepare for a fight, half of the community left before him and then he leaves. Not to mention in the past several episodes people have been given the same orders but defy them on a whim. What is the point of the community walls if nobody actually stays behind them? On top of which, what will Morgan do when he finds Carol - force her into his cell and wait it out as her conscience eats her alive?

While she's out on the road, the Saviors block her. Again, Melissa gives a memorable performance as she calculates slaughtering the Saviors. But, it feels like a rinse and repeat from The Same Boat and JSS. This isn't Carol or Melissa's issue but the writers. They won't give her heartfelt connections with Daryl, only situations where she fakes it until she makes it.

No matter what she's facing subconsciously, Carol knows better. No amount of Tobin gabbing could make someone leave so fast. Walkers are everywhere. The Saviors are coming. I don't believe wholeheartedly she'd leave to leave her family to fend for themselves. It's really the writers enforcing an uncertain self-inflicted suicidal fate. It's one of many examples where characters adhere to the comic book vision instead of what we know of them from the show.

Rick and Morgan eventually catch up to the dying Saviors. But Carol isn't there. She's taken off, possibly wounded and leaving us out to dry on her whereabouts. They make up - somewhat. Morgan confesses his sins about keeping the Wolf and tries to use Carol being banished as an example of someone changing. WHATEVER, MORGAN. They're just not on the same page. As soon as Rick realizes how much he's screwed up with the Saviors and can't reason with Morgan about his all life is precious mentality, he heads home.

This all leads to nowhere except pained cliffhangers.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Daryl races out of Alexandria to track down Dwight. Even though Abraham tells Glenn, Maggie, and Michonne to stay behind, they follow. Even Rosita forces her way into their van because she knows where Daryl is heading.

They all seem to be on the same page, yet as soon as Rosita knows where Daryl is, she wants to bow out. Then, they find Daryl and she departs with him. It's confusing - Rick had the same crisis in finding Carol. He wanted to find her, then didn't, but then was like "Oh, well. Let's see where she is."

As soon as you force the group of their comfort zone/home, all hell breaks loose. Michonne and Glenn wander through the woods. During a typical moment of monologuing, they're swarmed by Dwight. Daryl thinks he's caught 'em, but then he gets shot. Presumably in the shoulder. Curtain drops. (Enid gave Maggie a haircut as she experiences stomach cramps. Now, curtain drops.)

Glenn / Steven Yeun gave the next best performance to Carol/Melissa this season because no one else was given enough opportunities to do so. Steven has always been underrated. Glenn is level-headed, following his brain and his heart. He's lost so many people along the way, and he hasn't lost himself yet. Somehow he's always grounded, even after something as horrific as Noah's death, then Nicholas'. He takes it all in and tries to live.

Even though the writers really used him as a tool to keep us excited and scared about him being Lucilled, Steven didn't play into that. He always kept his performance genuine. Norman said during their take, he broke down crying. I almost did too. The way he's pleading for Daryl to come home with them, it's one of many subtle beautiful moments he's given. Their friendship is so heartfelt and Glenn truly doesn't want something bad to go down for him, or Daryl, or anyone.

East wasn't all bad. It offered some interesting moments setting up Dwight versus Daryl, Maggie and Glenn in the shower together, and Abraham connecting with Rick about their loved ones. But Daryl's unknown fate didn't have a major affect on me, as it did the rest of the internet. The forced separation of the group against the Saviors didn't feel like they're finally getting caught. Or that the Saviors were much more intense, stronger watchdogs of the entire region, not just the HillTop Colony but everyone. It felt like the group was going out of its way to finally make this charade come to an end.

Negan is on his way. Finally. It's exciting, terrifying, and will hopefully make season seven worthy of this build-up. When I look back on the entertainment and technical value of this season, there's a lot missing. Should we've been rooting for our longtime favorites to die upon his arrival, to be praying and betting and rooting who will be Lucille'd? Anticipation-wise, yes. But for that to be the only thing we're concerned about as if nothing else is going on? No.

The writers lost the fans' anticipation and didn't bring their best material forward. A better balance could've been struck between what they poorly attempted: readying for the big bad Negan to huff and puff and blow our minds away, and our guys maintaining a consistent course to meeting him.

The Walking Dead is still good stuff. Even the poorest episode isn't the worst general television offers. Nothing on television comes close to making me a faithful fan. I can't wait for the season finale to air. A summer break from Negan is what I need for this to feel fresh again.

Season List:
Still My TOP Favorites: Rick, Carol and Glenn

Favorite (New) Characters. I'm qualifying this in two ways: minor characters who were in spotlight here and there, and familiar characters who just became stronger favorites: Rosita, Sasha, Aaron, Jessie, Sam, Gabriel, Nicholas, Eugene, Deanna, Denise.

Least Favorite Character: Morgan, Enid (liked her in JSS but just got annoying in Heads Up)

Can he really redeem himself: Abraham

Characters You'd Like to See Again: Carl. Where the hell is this kid?!

Least Favorite Episodes: First Time AgainThe Next WorldHeads Up, Knots UntieHere's Not HereTwice as Far, and East

Favorite Episodes: Start to FinishJSSNo Way OutThank YouThe Same BoatNot Tomorrow YetNowAlways Accountable

Who I think would be more interesting to get killed by Negan: Carl. If the writers were going to hand the reigns off to Rick, this wouldn't be a good idea. But if he died: his death would propel Michonne and Rick as a couple and individually, he's a main character so everyone will be rooting for Negan to die, he's lived up to Lori's hopes, it'd strengthen all of the past dad/son moments between him and Rick....)

Who'll likely get killed by Negan Prediction: Daryl or Glenn

This Summer I'll be most likely making posts on Best of Glenn and favorite female characters. So stay tuned!

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