New WALKING DEAD, DEXTER and FRINGE, along with a brief word on the finale of the SHERLOCK miniseries and a look at Syfy’s new show HOLLYWOOD TREASURE. Finally, I give you my take on the sudden end of CAPRICA.
THE WALKING DEAD (Ep. 2 “Guts”) As great as the pilot was, I thought it a bit too over-advertised, almost to the point of beating down any surprise with over-saturation. We were shown most of what to expect, but now, were in unknown territory. I even thought, hey, I’ve read the comics, I still know what to expect. Wrong! Darabont and the Walking Dead team are totally committed to making this series their own, and this week’s episode proved that nobody can predict where they are going to take us. The pilot followed generally close to the comics, with a few deviations along the way. Sunday’s episode strayed way off the comic course, causing me to conclude that my constant comic to screen comparison doesn’t give the series the chance it deserves to find its own legs. Tonight, I treat The Walking Dead Television series as its own unique story. Hell, it deserves it.
The episode started off by briefly introducing us to some of the survivors in the camp outside Atlanta. Here, we see Shane and Rick’s wife Lori have an icky little lovemaking session literally in the shadow of Lori’s wedding ring. Picking up exactly where the pilot ended, we move back down to the tank where Rick lies dormant. Glenn walks him through his escape, a tense zombie obstacle course that leads him to the roof of an abandoned Macys. Here we meet a number of survivors, some straight from Kirkman’s comics, and some new and divisive new characters created for the show. Merle Dixon, the standout among these survivors, is played by the menacing Michael Rooker (Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer). Dixon is the stereotypical ignorant redneck, refusing to cooperate with his multiethnic group and even throwing out a few N-Bombs at T-Dog, another new character. The group does not welcome Rick at first, rather blaming him for the growing horde that is now surrounding the department store. The tension grows as Dixon beats down T-Dog, leading Rick to intervene and handcuff him to the roof. The obvious play of power directs the others to trust Rick, electing him to lead their escape back to camp. This is where things really got nasty. The episode title “Guts” is an understatement. The title should have been putrid rotting guts, which tickle the gag reflex with the tear inducing stench of death and decay. Rick drags a dead, err, second-stage finally dead zombie into the store, ready to cut it up into pieces. In the most honest moment of the episode, Rick stops himself, removing the zombie’s wallet and acknowledging it as the man it once was. Acknowledging the sacrifice, Glenn comically adds that the man was an organ donor. Let the mutilating begin! AMC does not hold back with the gore like I thought they might, and Rick hacks away at the body in grand and gory detail, pieces of flesh, bone, and, well, guts, flying all over the place. The actors really sell the stench as they gag and spread the filth all over their clothes, a deterrent to hold back the zombie horde. Rick and Glenn hold them back for a while, camouflaging themselves as walking dead, but the rain washes the stench off before they have a chance to reach the van they are trying to take. They get there in a slightly over-the-top execution of zombie logic, and slight lack of consistency. Some zombies run, some walk, some can think of using rocks to break glass, while others can’t climb ladders. Zombie details are tough, but I feel a lack of existence thus far for The Walking Dead type. In the end, they get the truck out of Atlanta, leaving Dixon cuffed to the roof, while Glenn hilariously follows in a sweet Dodge Challenger. T-Dog attempts to be the better man and free Dixon, but loses the key in the hectic pace of the moment. I have a feeling Dixon will survive, and be a pretty strong villain for this initial season. Definitely a great episode, even though I found some of the rooftop scenes a bit too reminiscent of the Dawn of the Dead remake. I applaud the show for finding it’s own route away from the comics, and can’t wait to see what comes next.
By the way, The Walking Dead has just been picked up for a full 13-episode second season. Woo Hoo!
DEXTER (Ep.55 “Circle Us”) Dexter and Lumen’s relationship has taken some major turns, I didn’t really see coming. Obviously Dexter is bent on helping bring the men behind Lumen’s torture to Dexter style justice. Obviously Lumen wants her hand in the killings as a twisted therapy session of revenge. And obviously, Dexter is not to keen on Lumen’s help. Both share in some Chinese food, a nice sit down dinner to go over the details of Lumen’s attack. Dexter’s self monologue, comparing their awkward relationship to dropping off his prom date, ends with a handshake between the two, and his hilarious response, “exactly like my prom.” Describing an unseen attacker as a watcher, and a more ambitious attacker as a carefully deviant bastard who like to neatly lay his coat down before the rape, Lumen cues Dexter in to what to look for. The details are so vague, that Dex can’t help but to doubt the success of actually finding these men. In true Dexter fashion, the show intercuts this scene with a man in a pickup truck of immigrant laborers pulling up to the swamp where the dead women have been dumped in barrels. Laying his coat down neatly, he instructs the men to load the barrels into his truck. Damn. Just when you think Dex might catch a break and actually get back to some kill-room executions this season, his lead drives off into the Miami night. But wait! BOOM! The dude was not paying attention to the road, and a drunk driver hits his truck hard. If I was driving a truckload of dead bodies in barrels of formaldehyde I’d be a bit more cautious, just saying. So Dexter has his big break, and, oh wait; now the whole of the Miami police force is at the scene where bodies and barrels are disturbingly spread about the street. But Dexter, the master manipulator he is, does an amazing job of turning the tables of the investigation, planting Boyd Fowlers wallet in the truck. Investigating Boyd’s house (which Dexter conveniently cleared of all traces of Lumen), Miami Homicide turns their eye to Boyd as suspect numero uno (they speak a lot of Spanish in Miami). Dexter has his target, the next kill (we hope), and it’s the head of security for motivational speaker Jordan Chase, who I predicted would be a major player earlier in the season. Chase, the proponent of the “Take It’ self-help seminars, is no doubt a part of this conspiracy. His head of security, Cole Harman, is infiltrated in a close moment where Dexter is saved by Lumen. They get out with a picture, a photo of Cole, Boyd, and we assume the other players in the conspiracy as teenagers. While all of this is happening, Miami Homicide’s focus turns back to the Santa Muerta case, in a nervously tense shootout ignorantly perpetrated by La Guerta. Horrendously botched, the fallout will likely result in major investigations, which will subsequently lead Dexter to have more freedom from a now preoccupied police force. Peter Weller returned again, assisting Quinn in his rogue investigation of Dexter. Weller plays such a hard-boiled crooked son-of-a-bitch, that every scene he appears in oozes with sleazy paranoia. Quinn’s investigation is running dangerously close to the discovery of Lumen who is now living in Dexter and Rita’s old house. At the end of the episode, Dexter brings Harrison to meet Lumen, the three of them sitting down for a meal, looking like quite the happy family. Could this be Dexter’s match? After all, he’s never been so blunt and honest with anyone as much as he has been with Lumen. He can, for once, be himself. We’ll see how this plays out, soon enough.
FRINGE (Ep. 48 “Amber 31422”) This weeks alternate universe episode opened with an aerial shot of the New York skyline, the untarnished bronze Statue of Liberty residing over the still standing Twin Towers. This universe may have been spared the horrible tragedy of 9/11, but they have sustained countless other tragedies of far different ramifications. Remember Jurassic Park, where Richard Attenborough siphoned dino DNA from mosquito’s entombed in amber? Well, in the alternate universe of Fringe, it appears that science has taken a similar approach in their quarantine technique. Amber 31422 is the name of the compound used by the alternate Fringe Division to entomb unstable points in their universal fabric. This week’s episode, so named for the compound, traced the invention of the synthetic amber back to Walternate, who has held a deep secret about its impact for over thirty years. It turns out, those interred in the resin remain alive, a kind of waking slumber where they are conscious and aware. The thing is, nobody knows this, and the hundreds, if not thousands of victims who were trapped in these quarantines are thought by everyone in the world to be dead, collateral damage resulting from the isolation. Memorials and missing person flyers hang on the walls around these Amber coated buildings and areas, a similar memory of the area around the Towers back in 2001. Accompanying these posters are signs reading, “Resin is Wrong,” and Amber Kills,” both telling insights as to the rage that would result from the world discovering the truth behind the quarantines. The case of the episode involves the investigation of a man, removed from the amber by his twin brother, who himself is responsible for the bending of universal matter that led to the sealing off of the building. Investigating the case, Olivia and her fellow Fringe agents realize the truth, something that Olivia can later use when she comes to realize who she is again. Olivia still believes herself to be the alternate universe version of her, but repeated visits by Peter are telling her otherwise. She is seeing a Peter of her minds creation, a sort of Jiminy Cricket for her true conscience, her only guide to the truth. In a series of experiments in the deprivation tanks, Walternate tests Olivia’s ability to seamlessly pass from universe to universe. She does, briefly visiting the Statue of Liberty in the real universe (the Statue in the alternate is home to the DOD), realizing that the Towers are missing from this landscape. She lies to Walternate about her quick diversion, and finally seems to realize that the Peter of her minds creation may actually be telling the truth. Like the entombed victims of Amber 31422, Olivia is now conscious of her waking nightmare as well.
SHERLOCK (The Great Game) I’m so sad that this was only a three-part mini-series. A modern take on Sherlock, is just what the world of TV needed. But why only three hour-and-a-half movies? The networks are clogged with Law and Order acronym mania, and CSI forensic fairy tales. We have lame ass characters with overcool personas, who lack the true narcissistic tendencies from which all of these characters truly derive; Sherlock Holmes. This modern telling of Sherlock would have been nothing without the stellar performances of Martin Freeman as Watson, and the incredible Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock. I won’t go into details of the mystery of the final episode, but instead implore anyone who may have missed the Masterpiece Mystery airing of the series to seek it out on DVD. The end of the finale to my dismay and surprise was not an end at all, leaving the series completely open, in fact, needful of a sequel series. Usually this kind of an ending drives me nuts, but the deep intelligence of these characters, and quirkiness of their senses leaves so much open for future endeavors. Check it out. You won’t be sorry.
HOLLYWOOD TREASURE (Ep. 3 & 4) Syfy launched a great new show last week called Hollywood Treasure. Sure, it’s one of those cookie cutter cable reality shows, but for people like me, it was pretty damn interesting. Think of it like the fan boy, or film and TV aficionados’ version of one of those house-hunting shows you’d find on HGTV. Instead of middle age families, and self-indulging couples looking for their dream homes, we have, well, middle age dorks, and self-indulging rich people looking to rekindle the dreams of their childhoods. If you’re a film geek, you’ll like this. Following the auction house of the generally lame Joe Maddelena and his phony group of artifact hunters, the show makes up for its lack of human personality with the great personality of the artifacts on which it relies. These two episodes had everything from Bruce Lee’s Kato hat, a Cast Away Wilson ball, original HR Giger Alien head, Corpse Bride stop motion model, King Kong film used model plane and artwork, and costume head from SG1. The coolest items were both estimated at being worth millions, and neither of the items owners wished to part with them. The owner of Metropolis Comics in New York owns what is possibly the most valuable movie poster in the world, a huge original six sheet for Frankenstein. This thing is gorgeous, and should be in a museum. The other incredible item was the original artwork from the Fantastic Four number 12 comic, hand drawn by Jack Kirby himself, with handwritten notes from Stan Lee in the margins. To authenticate, Maddelena talks with Stan Lee who excitedly reminisces over the comic and his work with Kirby. If for nothing else, this show is pretty cool for moments like this, genuine memories we all can align with.
CAPRICA (The End) Last week it was announced that Syfy had cancelled Caprica, a move I can’t say I didn’t see coming. The show relied too much on drama in a prequel to one of the greatest Science Fiction shows of our time. This didn’t mesh with fans, and the crossover audience Syfy hoped for, just didn’t stick around. In the end, it’s probably best, as Caprica was destined to bog down the reputation of Battlestar Galactica, ultimately affecting the legacy of the series.
See you next week.