A Look at House of Lies- Season 3, Episode 11: “Together”

Well, here’s why you don’t get too close to your clients. With the season finale approaching next week, this week’s “Together” shows the dangers of management consultants becoming too friendly with their prospective partners and friends. House of Lies has shown what happens when the pod mixes the lines between personal and professional before, but here we see directly how dangerous things can become when those lines blur.

Together- Jeannie and Marty after Lukas' shooting

The episode begins immediately following the events of “Comeuppance,” with Lukas’ body being laid in a body bag and officers taking Dre’s statement. Marty and Jeannie decide to head to their respective homes, separately.

The next day, Jeannie arrives to work, sporting a chipped tooth she got as a result of a fall she took last night. She tells Doug to check DollaHyde’s pro forma revenue models before the Barneys meeting because the figures look a little funky to her. Yes, despite the shooting, Dre intends to proceed with the meeting. In addition, she asks Doug about the status of the Deutsche Bank on setting the final IPO for WON, but Doug informs her that Clyde is taking care of that. Where is Clyde?

Together- Marissa and Clyde asleep in Amberly Hotel

At the Amberly Hotel with Marissa in San Francisco, not Los Angeles. He’ll be right over, because apparently a flight from San Francisco to Los Angeles can’t take that long.

Together- Doug tells Jeannie about his new boobs

But Doug has pressing matters to discuss with Jeannie: ever since he’s been sampling the WON product, he’s noticed a slight enlargement in his pectoral region due to a spike in his estrogen levels that could be related to a recent diet change. If this is at all related to WON, it would be a giant clusterfuck for Monica.

When Marty arrives, both he and Jeannie admit that neither of them slept, but Dre is still on their minds. The shooting looked too much like a gang hit, so maybe it’s time to give Dre a call.

Together- Clyde arrives late to the office

When Clyde arrives- that was fast- Doug tells him that Lukas’ death got him thinking about his life and taking stock of what matters the most to him. Ergo, he needs to work on his marriage. It’s always been about Sarah, except when it was about Caitlin. But Doug admits that even though he lusted after Caitlin, he never acted on it. Partially because he came off as a dick, but fine, he never acted on it. Doug’s day isn’t made any better when Jeannie comes in and spills to Clyde about Doug’s new boobs.

Together- Marissa tells Clyde she told McClintock Media

Soon, Clyde meets up with Marissa at a restaurant- that was also fast- and the two recap on their mornings. What, they haven’t been apart that long! But Marissa has been doing well. Great, even. She just sold off McClintock for $4.2 billion. After quiet negotiations for over a week, she finally closed a deal. Never mind telling her consultant and supposed boyfriend. As far as the money goes, she may just blow it on heroin. Who knows?

Yeah, turns out that Marissa is done with Kaan & Associates. She got what she wanted, so time to move on. And while Clyde thought they’d have each others’ backs, Marissa isn’t going to just write Clyde a check just because she let him put his mouth on her vagina. And Marissa rightly reminds Clyde that he came to her by sober living just to drum up business. Not the best way to start things off, Clyde admits, but he thought they had moved past that. Guess not. Well, Clyde decides to just end it. Marissa’s response is simple:

“Okay.”

Yep, just like that. Clyde calls Marissa self-centered, but hey, he’s the one ending things on the grounds that he wasn’t getting what he wanted.

While Doug frets over Sarah not returning any of his calls or texts, Jeannie is more preoccupied with an independent clinical study on WON and tells Marty to look at the date.

Together- Marty and Jeannie talk to Monica about independent clinical study on WON

So the two then grill Monica, whom they believe just wanted the manpower to push her through an IPO. That way, she could sell her shares for a fat sum and screw over everyone else. Monica doesn’t see how the study was relevant, but Marty and Jeannie correctly assume that if they’d known about the study, they would have asked for higher fees, which they will. But they want to ask for enough that Monica will learn a lesson- not enough that she’ll leak it to someone and still find a way to screw everyone over. They settle for 75 percent of Monica’s WON shares. Monica laughs, but it’s the final and only offer. Agreed? Agreed. Jeannie plans to call a few lawyers to draw up contracts.

Together- Marty and Monica talk about their connection

When Jeannie heads to her office, Monica tells Marty that this WON product was supposed to be her ticket back. Taking so many shares will just leave her with scraps. Marty, however, is burned. He thought that the two of them were going to a new place that began when he invited her over. He wanted to believe it, but he realized that if you leave the door unlocked, you can’t be surprised when someone comes in and takes a shit on the floor. Probably could have used a better metaphor, Marty.

Together- Monica tries to get under Jeannie's skin

Monica sets her sights on Jeannie and begins to antagonize her. She calls Jeannie a smug, self-satisfied cunt, but what’s sad is Jeannie apparently believes her own bull. She’s a small town girl who made it to the big leagues. As a tough, disciplined, independent woman, Jeannie is still just a remora clinging to a shark’s back. She would still be at Galweather if Marty hadn’t plucked her out. In Marty’s eyes, according to Monica, Jeannie was just a desperate girl eager to shake off the sticks and have her vagina open for business.

The only reason she rose so quickly at Galweather and has any career at all is because Marty wanted to fuck her. Granted, Jeannie’s played the game well by not sleeping with Marty- as far as Monica knows, anyway- but when the two finally do make love, Marty will see Jeannie for what others already see her as: nothing. Though just an attempt to get under Jeannie’s skin, it does appear to leave some impression on her.

Together- Kaan and Associates meets with DollaHyde and Barneys

She doesn’t have much time to mull it over, as Dre arrives for the relocated Barneys’ meeting. Apparently things are crazy over at the DollaHyde office right now. The Barneys’ executive, played by Kristen O’Meara, suggests moving the meeting back to give Dre time to cope, but he’s ready to work now. Though he still can’t believe that Lukas is gone, he knows that Lukas would want DollaHyde to soldier forward as a testament to his future. Even if that future includes Barneys, which Lukas wasn’t a fan of. But Dre is. Heck, you could even say that Dre would kill to be at Barneys. Well, Marty says that, anyway.

Together- Dre and Marty talk in parking lot about whether Dre had Lukas killed

Marty and Dre take an elevator down to the parking garage. Marty flat out asks if Dre had something to do with Lukas’ death. Dre counters that whoever did it was a professional- they wouldn’t miss. And he can’t have Marty screaming about something like this from the rooftops.

Together- Jeannie goes to the dentists' office

Jeannie, however, doesn’t do any screaming, but she does do a lot of crying at the dentists’ office after having her tooth fixed. The dentist, played by Bil Dwyer, tells Jeannie that crying is a side effect of having so much anesthesia that will have her exhibiting strong emotions.

Together- Doug pays a visit and tries to make up to Sarah

Doug pays Sarah a visit and she finally answers the door. At first, Doug doesn’t know what to say, but then he just spills it: he isn’t the guy that women ever go for. After all, he took his cousin, of all people, to prom. But then someone as beautiful as Sarah comes along and actually wanted to be with him. It didn’t make sense and Doug admits that he didn’t appreciate how amazing she was. He held Caitlin up as this ideal. Sarah does need Doug to say that Caitlin is a boring little bitch, though.

When he does, the two kiss and make up. They head inside and Doug sees that Sarah still hasn’t sold the couch where they shared many memories. Sarah brings it all back to reality by reminding Doug that he hurt her, but Doug appears to be remorseful. All is now well, except for one little thing: Sarah had an abortion last week. Doug is a bit upset since the baby was partially his, but Sarah went on a bit of a spree, and she already wasn’t a fan of using protection…

Together- Marty meets with Dre's wife to talk about Lukas' death

Marty pays a visit to Dre’s wife to talk about Lukas and his theory that Dre had him killed.  However, she can tell that Marty has never been in a good relationship where you open yourself up to another person, share secrets and make important decisions together- good and bad. She and Dre talk a lot a lot, even about him, so it’s best that Marty head home to fix his business instead of coming to fuck with what Dre has with his wife. That will never happen.

Together- Marty finds Jeannie waiting for him at home with a present

So Marty does just that, and finds Jeannie waiting for him. Jeremiah let him in before heading to Chantelle’s, and Roscoe is on a field trip. Very convenient in a television sort of way. Jeannie’s brought him an alcoholic gift, and Marty reminds her of what happened the last time they shared a bottle. No matter. Even if Marty doesn’t want to do something stupid, she does. The two talk and get much closer and drunker at the same time.

They talk of Jeannie’s visit to the dentist, of some photos Marty has of his family and something that Jeannie once said that she feels she shouldn’t have.

Together- Marty and Jeannie reconnect

Soon enough, the two cross that line between personal and professional. After it’s all said and done, Marty tells Jeannie that he loves her. Never mind that you’re supposed to tell the girl that before you get between the sheets, not after.

“Together,” more than any other episode this season, I feel, showed the dangers of getting too close and blurring the lines between personal and professional. We want to form new connections and bonds with people we meet, but we don’t want to get in so deep that it clouds our judgment, as was the case with Doug last week. Does being together always equal happiness? When dealing with absolutes, of course not. Flaws become exposed the more we’re attached to people. We talk too much about what we hoped for instead of being grateful for what we have, and put our expectations on other people, again, like Doug holding Caitlin up to some ideal. This episode both broke and restored bonds, which will leave things quite messy as we approach the end of the season.

Together- Doug learns that Sarah had an abortion

And since I’ve mentioned Doug twice, let’s go straight into him. His ‘revelation’ about Sarah was all too convenient. Were he a better man, he wouldn’t have neglected Sarah in the first place, but this is Doug. I did like how honest he was when he met up with Sarah and told her how he’s not the first guy that women would ever go for. Many men are extremely prideful and arrogant. We don’t like to admit our flaws because we like to feel invincible. Doug’s basically saying that Sarah is too good for him, and despite that, she chose him anyway. That shows how much she really cared for him.

Together- Doug unsure how to react after learning Sarah had an abortion

Doug isn’t great with words or even charming at all. He’s awkward. Maybe not Peter Parker awkward, but he’s very close. While it takes a lot for Doug to admit he’s flawed, he’s only doing this because he screwed up his chances with Caitlin by putting his foot in his mouth. It’s just easy drama.

Had he not messed up that opportunity, he’d still be pining for her, given how certain he was that they had something special. Doug was an ass, and good on Sarah for calling him out on that, though I wish she’d been a bit more aggressive when Doug tried to win her back. She was open to forgiving him and it’s great that they reconciled, but now it seems like their relationship is still up in the air due to Sarah having an abortion. Great that Doug cared for a child that might have been his, but he should have shown that affection sooner instead of approaching a woman in a vulnerable moment.

Together- Clyde about to break up with Marissa after learning she sold McClintock

Which brings me to Clyde, who finds himself in a similar predicament. He came to Marissa when she was in a treatment center for her drug addiction. He made her an offer to help her reclaim her title atop the McClintock empire, and he succeeded. However, that does not mean she was indebted to him. In fact, the sex and drugs may have been payment enough. Like last week with trying to screw over Monica’s talks with Vincent, Clyde thought he made a great play with Marissa, but she’s under no obligation to be with him and could have dropped him at any second. It’s what made it so easy for her to accept the breakup. And it isn’t as if Marissa is in the wrong. Clyde came to her. Ending the relationship isn’t as important to her as it is to Clyde because she has what she needed. Clyde is irrelevant.

Together- Dre's wife tells Marty to back off

And poor Marty. Jeannie warned him from the start about getting too close to Dre and now he knows why. Sure, Marty’s always known that dealing with DollaHyde would be dangerous, but for Dre’s wife to pretty much warn him to back off shows that he’s in too deep. And as mentioned, Marty doesn’t have a deep or strong relationship with someone who can share his most intimate details and secrets- not even someone like Jeannie, Jeremiah, or Monica. With each person Marty opens up to, there’s always something else to hide. And he doesn’t make all of the important decisions with Jeannie because they disagree so often. That said, I did like the brief look he shared with Jeannie during the DollaHyde meeting with Barneys, as it validated everything they both suspected about DollaHyde.

Together- Monica and Marty talk about their connection

Now I’ll focus on those two later, but for now, I wanted to talk about Marty’s relationship with Monica, or lack thereof. When Marty called Monica over during “Brinkmanship,” I got the sense that he started to reconnect with her since they had both hit low points. But with the WON revelations, Marty feels more disappointed than anything else because he genuinely wanted Monica to turn her life around and not be so duplicitous. Both of them are screwed up, but they had a connection. Granted, Marty is in no position whatsoever to call someone out on their double talk, but I doubt he can fully see things from Monica’s point of view because he hasn’t been fired or hit rock bottom yet. That and no one from his team has stabbed him. Yet, anyway.

Together- Jeannie shares a look with Marty during DollaHyde and Barneys meeting

And then there’s Jeannie, who had her own concerns with DollaHyde and has acted on them, just without Marty knowing. Despite what Monica said, Jeannie has risen to her position due to her own volition. The confrontation between two of them felt like an attempt for Monica to rattle Jeannie by calling her nothing. Much like Clyde and Doug, Monica has preconceived notions of Jeannie’s character without knowing that Jeannie worked her way to parity at Kaan & Associates. Remember, Jeannie gutted Marty and can take what she wants, whenever she wants.

Together- Monica calls Jeannie nothing

And while it seems that Jeannie doesn’t appear to be affected by what Monica said, I have to wonder why she went to Marty’s in the first place. Was it to prove Monica wrong? Monica should be small fries for Jeannie, so I’m confused as to whether she did it to prove a point or to actually do something crazy. Given Jeannie’s strong will, I’m surprised she didn’t just brush off Monica altogether.

Together- Jeannie tells Clyde about Doug's boobs

Or maybe it’s the anesthesia and hysteria due to her dentist trip. And Jeannie’s chipped tooth was one of the more humorous subplots of the episode. There was quite a bit of comedy this week with Jeannie and Clyde ripping Doug for his ‘fun-bags’ or Jeannie saying that her chipped tooth makes her look like a meth addict. Even in the dimmest of situations, the writers manage to inject a good amount of humor into House of Lies.

Together- Marty and Jeannie in bed

As for Marty and Jeannie being together, all might seem well, but given how Jeannie told Samantha about incriminating information she swapped for the DOJ contract, these two won’t be so lovey-dovey for long.

As stated, “Together” restored and broke down bonds. The horizon may seem bright for Marty and Jeannie, don’t expect them to stay that way for long, given what happened the last time they drank together. And because of how damaging the information Jeannie gave is, something that big doesn’t just go away. And it’s a setup that I expect will make for an explosive season finale next week.

A Look at The Walking Dead- Season 4, Episode 15: “Us”

Not ominous looking Terminus at all, right?

So after last week’s “The Grove,” we’re back to multiple storylines this week, and we pretty much have to. With the next episode being the season finale, the show has been building toward reuniting the group at Terminus. For the second half of the season to spend so much time on this, it would have to be a pretty big payoff. Whether it’s a happy ending, we don’t know yet. If last week’s episode is an indication of anything, it’s that The Walking Dead can raise your spirits before eating them like so many potato chips. Stole that line from Doug and have no regrets about that.

Us- Abraham and Tara talk

But let’s focus on this week. The episode begins with both Eugene and Abraham making attempts to converse with Tara, though Abraham has a bit more success when he tells her that he’s not about to leave Eugene’s life in her hands. His plan is to keep moving north until they find a vehicle, and then they’ll go their separate ways since Glenn is still set on finding Maggie. They each have their own missions. What happens when their missions are over is another thing.

Us- Eugene, Rosita and Abraham watch Glenn run off

That morning, the five find one of the blood stained notes by Maggie, Sasha and Bob. Glenn sprints down the train tracks with a gleeful grin on his face.

Elsewhere, the marauders awaken to the sound of walkers running into their barbed wire gate. Now see, that is the reason the group from last week shouldn’t have had to spend bullets! Just let them run into the wires, but I digress. The men comment on their missing new member, but as his stuff is still there, he’s probably just taking care of morning business.

Us- Daryl hunts a cottontail

Turns out that Daryl is just out hunting a rabbit. But someone else’s arrows strike first. The man, Len, played by Marcus Hester, says that he claimed it first, which apparently means it belongs to him, even though Daryl spotted it first.

Us- Joe explains the claim rules to Daryl

The group’s leader, Joe, played by Jeff Kober, breaks up the argument and lets Daryl know the rules of the group: once you claim it, it’s yours. Daryl, of course, has never been a fan of groups or rules, but Joe tells him that going at it alone in the world isn’t really an option. It’s still survival of the fittest, yes, but there’s strength in numbers. This guy would probably get along well with Abraham, based on what we know about him. Claiming is how you mark everything you have. Daryl still doesn’t comply, so Joe compromises: he splits the rabbit down the middle. Compromise.

Us- Michonne owes Carl some chocolate

Then we get our one and only scene with Carl, Michonne and Rick, who lets them know that they only have a day’s worth of water left. The two don’t pay him much attention, as they’re too caught up in their bet of who can walk the furthest on the rails. Michonne loses, so she owes Carl chocolate. Again, it’s a small scene, but it’s good for Rick to at least see Carl happy for a moment.

Us- Abraham and Glenn negotiate and decide to keep walking

Back with Glenn and company, Abraham has the group stop at a water tower so they can rest. Though it’s barely noon, Glenn is eager to continue, as is Tara. A walker emerges from the water tower and Abraham pushes Tara aside before the walker splatters on the ground.

It appears as if Tara’s sprained her ankle. I say appears because the fall doesn’t look that bad, but whatever. Glenn and Tara decide to keep going, telling Abraham that they don’t need to keep working together anyway. This leads Rosita to correctly call out Glenn’s crap, saying that Tara would do whatever Glenn wanted on the grounds that she owes him. Glenn offers a compromise that involves him giving his riot gear to Eugene, and Abraham agrees. If Tara’s good to walk, then they’ll keep going.

Us- Joe and Daryl talk

Joe asks Daryl what his plan is. Even if Daryl finds a place to stay, he’ll need a group. Daryl doesn’t have to be nice, just follow the rules is all. Don’t lie. If you do, you’ll find yourself on the wrong side of a beating, severity depending on the offense and general mood of the day. Good to know.

Us- Abraham offers Glenn supplies before he and Tara enter tunnel

At last, Glenn finds another sign from Maggie, and the blood is still wet, so they can’t be too far. All everyone has to do is make their way through the very dark and long tunnel before them.

Abraham notes the sound of walkers from deep within and tells Glenn that it’d be suicidal to head in there without any illumination. So this is where the group parts ways, though Abraham does give Glenn and Tara some food and a flashlight.

Us- Marauders explore shed filled with cars

The marauders arrive at a shed still filled with cars, though none have any gas left. Never mind. Each man makes their claim, while Daryl makes his bed on the ground.

Us- Walkers surround Tara and Glenn

Back in the tunnel, Glenn and Tara find walkers buried beneath a pile of rubble from the collapsed ceiling. The sound of incoming walkers grows louder, but Glenn takes his time to make sure that Maggie isn’t one of the walkers. Sheesh, man, have a little faith in your girlfriend to get further than this. Glenn decides that they’ll have to make the impossible decision of pushing deeper into the tunnel, even though that means running into more walkers.  The two climb atop the wreckage to avoid the incoming mob of walkers long enough for them to jump down safely. Glenn eventually does, but Tara slips and gets herself stuck.

Us- Eugene and Rosita argue over navigation, and incidents

Outside, Abraham, Eugene and Rosita manage to secure a car that still works. Rosita wants to navigate, but Eugene decides it’s best that he does the navigation, despite having minimal incidents in the past.

Us- Eugene tells Rosita to stop the truck

And soon enough, he has Rosita making left turn after left turn until the group comes to a stop.

Us- Joe asks Len if he planted his cottontail half in Daryl's bag

Back with the marauders, Len asks about the missing half of the cottontail rabbit he and Daryl split. He accuses Daryl of stealing it, which Daryl denies. Joe empties Daryl’s bag and, lo and behold, there’s the other half. Daryl still denies any theft. Joe asks if Len planted it himself, and he denies it, which leads him to getting a punch in the face from Joe. The rest of the marauders start beating on Len while Joe tells Daryl that he saw Len plant the cottontail. But hey, Daryl didn’t lie. He understands the rules. And as a bonus, Joe gives him the other half of the cottontail.

Us- Glenn tries to free Tara from rubble

In the tunnel, Tara insists that Glenn leave her so he can go ahead and escape. He refuses, but luckily enough, headlights flood the tunnel, followed by a hail of bullets that down the walkers.

Us- Maggie reunites with Glenn

And in one giant convenience, it’s Maggie, Sasha and Bob, along with Abraham, Rosita and Eugene. Well, that was certainly well-timed, wasn’t it?

Us- Abraham proposes the group continue together to Washington

The groups discuss their next move. They’re only a day’s walk from Terminus and there’s no way right now that they can get to Washington without a working vehicle that would take them that far. Maggie and Glenn have their little moment after being separated for so long, with Maggie insisting that they burn the photo of her that Glenn found in the prison. After all, he shouldn’t need a photo of her anymore. Why they’re all still in the tunnel instead of outside, I don’t know.

Us- Marauders find Terminus sign

As the marauders prepare to leave, Daryl finds Len’s body, riddled with arrows, lying outside. Just when it appears that he’s going to cover it up, he decides against it. The group makes their way along the railroad tracks and approaches one of the Terminus signs. Joe calls it a lie, saying that people like them won’t be welcomed. Not with crossbows at the ready, anyway.

Us- Approaching Terminus

At long last, Abraham and Glenn’s groups arrive at a set of inviting looking buildings. In fact, they walk right in, as the place isn’t locked. It’s a lovely looking place with sunflowers growing throughout. The buildings look very clean and neat, almost too neat.

Us- Mary welcomes group to Terminus

In the center of it all, they meet Mary, played by Denise Crosby. She welcomes everyone to Terminus and offers to fix them a plate after their long journey.

Welcome to Terminus.

If “The Grove” dealt with the pain of loss, then “Us” felt like a necessary attempt from the writers to be more optimistic and uplifting. If the reunion of Maggie and Glenn is an indication of anything, it’s that The Walking Dead can take a moment to give us brief moments of happiness and triumph in a world filled with so many losses. The episode gave us one payoff by uniting Maggie’s group with Glenn and Tara, in addition to meeting Abraham, Eugene and Rosita. With everyone shrouded in so much darkness, “Us” gave us a literal light at the end of the tunnel, though the reveal and setting of Terminus was a bit too overdone in my opinion. More on that later, though.

The episode also set the stage for what I assume will be the reuniting of the remaining groups, maybe minus Beth since her fate is still unknown. As Daryl is with a new group, this just leaves the duo of Carol and Tyreese, along with the trio of Rick, Carl and Michonne, to eventually make their way toward Terminus for one big reunion. Not happy reunion, mind you, because this is still The Walking Dead.

“Us” helped develop characters like Joe and Abraham by telling us about their codes: the values they live by and how they’ve used them to survive in this new world. We learned more about the sense of purpose they have and their new philosophy.

Us- Joe and Daryl drink

And this is where we’ll see what direction Daryl ultimately chooses. Like the marauders, Daryl is a day by day survivor who can get along without much help from others. But there has to be some semblance of order, which is what Joe presents to Daryl. Though Daryl is a newcomer, he abides by the rules. This gains him Joe’s trust over those who have been a part of the group for much longer, like Len.

Daryl just met these men after they happened upon him. He has no reason to trust them, but he also has no reason to lie to them. Sure, Daryl is antisocial, brash and can be an outright brute, but he’s not a liar. He doesn’t open up easily, yes, but when he does speak, he’s up front with nothing to hide. So he fits in just fine, but I get the feeling that he’ll want to make his way back to the others. That’s the group he’s connected with, so I don’t see him suddenly just abandoning them for these marauders, especially when he still doesn’t know about Beth’s fate.

Us- Daryl considers covering Len's corpse

Speaking of Beth, I did appreciate the callback to “Still” when Daryl considered covering up Len’s body. This contrasts with him telling Beth that it didn’t matter whether she took down the body of a female walker, when she insisted that it did. Though I’m not a fan of that episode, Beth did help bring out more of Daryl’s humanity and it was nice to see him briefly acknowledge that. But then he decided against it, so never mind. Maybe Len just wasn’t worth it.

Us- Joe admires that Daryl told the truth

As far as the marauders go, I enjoy Jeff Kober’s performance. He’s given some of the better dialogue of the episode and I liked his conversations with Daryl about survival in a new world with new rules. For the most part, he seems genuine. It’d be easy to cast this lot off as potentially evil since it’s just a random group of men with powerful looking weapons, and they very well may be, but for the time being, I appreciate how Joe doesn’t beat around the bush when it comes to order and the rules. Given how he knew that Len planted the cottontail and rewarded it to Daryl, I get the feeling that he has a lot of respect for his newfound companion.

Us- Rick and Carl

There’s not much to say about Rick, Carl and Michonne since, again, they’re only in one scene. Though I did like the nice touch of the marauders eventually passing along the same track that the three traveled, they aren’t here for much. The scene with the three exists for a breath of fresh hair and some light humor. Like in “Claimed,” Rick seems glad just to see Carl happy and smiling, something he doesn’t get to see that often. I’m glad to see Carl and Michonne’s friendship growing. Granted, they didn’t have much to talk about, so I don’t know if Michonne has gotten better at conversation, but I got a chuckle out of Carl taking the chocolate that Michonne wanted. Since we haven’t seen much of this group since “Claimed,” I get the feeling they’ll be heavily featured during the season finale, if not the main focus.

Us- Glenn and Maggie together again

This just leaves Glenn and Abraham’s groups, both of which I’m mixed about, but I’ll focus on the positive first. First, yes, though I felt it was a bit too easy, the reunion between Glenn and Maggie was a good moment, given how much all they’ve done is pine over each other since their separation. Now they’re together and there’s no need for Glenn to have that picture of her. I figured Glenn would try harder to persuade her, given how he had to fight through the walkers at the prison after getting the photo, but for now, I doubt he’s concerned about the photo anymore. Glenn is determined and while I’m glad that he’s willing to do whatever it takes to reunite with Maggie, he’s a bit too stubborn for his own good.

Us- Rosita calls Glenn an ass

One of my favorite moments in the episode was when Rosita pointed out just how much of an ass Glenn was for just wanting to charge forward without taking a breather. It’s as if he’s saying ‘Screw the end of the world, I’ve gotta see my woman!’ At least Maggie has gotten things done, granted, with the help of Sasha and Bob, but we’ve seen her do more. Glenn has been pretty one note. An admirable note, mind you, but one note nonetheless. Even Maggie took the time to take a breather.

Granted, it was a dumb way to do it by just resting out in the open among walkers, but she stopped when she needed to. Glenn just charges forward. It’s not really a knock because it shows how much he cares for Maggie, but he’s putting her above everyone else, at their expense. When he offers his riot gear to Eugene, he’s only doing it so he can keep looking for Maggie, not necessarily because he’s concerned about Eugene’s well-being. After all, he said, point blank, that the two groups didn’t need each other, so it makes me wonder why he and Tara haven’t just ditched them.

Us- Tara

Tara, I’m mixed about. I think it’s because I have no attachment to her as a character. Yeah, we dig a little into her past, but it’s nothing I could gravitate toward. I mean, she’s a lesbian. We learn that. Why that’s relevant or even brought up when Eugene said he was into Tara, I don’t know. But hey, it makes her distinctive. Not too often to you meet someone named Tara who happens to develop a thing for women and is basically just dead weight for the plot.

True Blood- Tara and Pam

Wait…

Us- Tara and Abraham

This wasn’t a particularly good episode as far as some of the dialogue goes, but I’m glad the newcomers at least had something else to do besides talk about getting Eugene to Washington. I liked Abraham’s talk with Tara about how a mission can become your life. While it sounds like Abraham could be obsessed with this journey to Washington, you get the sense that he’s got more of a stake in this that goes beyond just getting Eugene there. I don’t want to pull too much from what I know about these characters from the comic books, but for now, I’m glad the writers are expanding Abraham’s personality and making him more than just ‘I’ve gotta get Eugene to Washington.’

At the same time, good on Abraham for not just always following Glenn. As stated before, there’s strength in numbers, but those numbers won’t be of any good if there’s no strength in the group.

Us- The group listens to Abraham's proposal

Side-note, it is interesting that Sasha and Bob would willingly go along with Abraham, Eugene and Rosita to Washington despite knowing next to nothing about them or the authenticity of their plan. Regardless of information being classified, it’s odd that they don’t question them at all.

It’s also a little too convenient that Abraham, Eugene and Rosita just happened to meet up with Maggie, Sasha and Bob off-screen at the exact moment that Glenn and Tara needed help.

Us- Maggie hugs Tara

Oh, and I don’t think Maggie will be as forgiving of Tara as Tyreese was with Carol when she finds out that she was in cahoots with the Governor.

Us- Group enters Terminus

And then there’s Terminus, which is a little too cheery for my tastes. No doubt there’s something off about it. The question is what? We don’t know yet and it’s too soon to speculate, but it just gives off an eerie vibe.

Gate not locked? Only one person around and no welcoming crew? Viewers are smart enough to know when something strange is afoot, but hopefully the writers have something well prepared, given how the second half of the season has been building to this moment. If it turns out to be a locale that looks to be innocent on the outside, but has a dark underside, it’s basically Woodbury all over again, and we already know how that turned out.

Us- Destination Terminus

“Us” was the calm before the storm. Some of the characters have finally reached Terminus, with several other members still out there wandering. We got a taste of optimism with the reunion, but this show knows how to take your happiness and turn it upside down in an instant. The episode wasn’t bad by any means. It was so-so. The dialogue was mixed, the conveniences were hard to swallow and the writing wasn’t as sharp as it was in, say, “Inmates” or “Alone.” Given how much buildup there’s been toward Terminus, the show has a lot riding on the season finale. Will it be a satisfying payoff? We’ll see.

A Look at House of Lies- Season 3, Episode 10: “Comeuppance”

That was sort of expected.  After a ride through Compton, things can only go up for the pod, right?

Comeuppance- Jeannie meets witih Samantha from Department of Justice in restaurant

The episode begins in a restaurant with Jeannie meeting a woman named Samantha, played by Rhea Seehorn. Samantha is the Special Assistant Attorney General at the Department of Justice, which is taking bids on a new contract that Jeannie feels Kaan & Associates would be perfect for. Samantha could help, and Kaan & Associates is slowly making its way up the management consulting food chain by landing the McClintock deal, as well as U.S. National Bank, DollaHyde and Colossal Foods.

The name DollaHyde rings a bell to Samantha, who tells Jeannie that Lukas was and still is a major fixture in the drug world. This would obviously conflict with the DOJ contract unless K&A dropped DollaHyde.

Comeuppance- Jeannie tells Marty about potential DOJ deal

So at the office, Jeannie brings the idea to Marty, whose busy going over DollaHyde projections. The multiyear contract with the DOJ sounds enticing, and dumping DollaHyde would put K&A in competition with firms like Kinsley Johnson Partners, DeMark and Galweather before Jeannie threw the grenade. But Marty’s not interested in dropping a top tier client like DollaHyde at this point. Jeannie doesn’t think the little détente between Lukas and Dre will last long and that Marty should cut his losses, but after coming so far with DollaHyde, it’s too late to go back.

Comeuppance- Doug tries to console an upset Caitlin

Elsewhere in the building, Caitlin is upset over a breakup she just had with her boyfriend. Jeffrey tries to play nice, but the creep factor kicks in and Doug, the heroic savior that he is, swoops in to console Caitlin. He tries to contain his overjoyed reaction, but he’s a bit too enthusiastic, for obvious reasons, to talk with Caitlin now that she’s single. Doug doesn’t believe he and Sarah can mend things- even though Caitlin does- and he insists that they go out. Though Caitlin doesn’t think she’d be any fun, Doug eventually gets Caitlin to accept when he reminds that her not having fun means the emotional terrorists win. We wouldn’t want that.

Comeuppance- Clyde talks with Marissa about her former drug problem

Clyde, meanwhile, gets ready for work- one of his shoes is in the refrigerator, for some reason- while Marissa prepares to snort a couple lines of coke. You know, only two weeks after she’s been put back in charge of the McClintock empire. Marissa strokes Clyde’s ego a bit, telling him that the pod should be worshipping him for bringing in a client as big as the McClintock family. Sure, Clyde has been saying this already, but he doesn’t let that distract him. He does stop when Marissa threatens to terminate their partnership if he doesn’t do a few lines with her. Is she kidding? Whatever she’s doing, he decides to have a little fun between the sheets before heading to work.

Comeuppance- Marty's ultimatum to Dre

At the DollaHyde office, Marty sees Lukas and Dre discussing their upcoming meetings. Marty tells Dre that if there’s no decision made today, they’re done, and no more discussing Zhang, either.

Comeuppance- Monica talks to Vincent, creator of WON, played by Fred Armisen

Back at Kaan & Associates, Monica talks with the WON creator, Vincent, played by the man himself, Fred Armisen. She tells him that college kids use WON as a diet supplement and energy stimulant. Vincent would have to be crazy to not capitalize on that, but he doesn’t, since WON isn’t a stimulant, but a meal replacement. It could potentially end world hunger, so it shouldn’t be marketed as an energy drink.

Close by in another room, Clyde and Doug watch Monica fail to convince Vincent to take up her offer, though Clyde is a bit more ecstatic at the idea of watching Monica crash and burn. Doug’s worried about some particular focus groups, but when Monica storms into the room, she beckons Doug to follow her so they can explore market segmentation strategies. Clyde, meanwhile, decides to catch up to Vincent.

Comeuppance- DollaHyde meeting with Mr. Vincent

At DollaHyde, Dre and Lukas talk with a Mr. Vincent of Bloomingdale’s about a potential deal, with one caveat: Lukas will have the final say over marketing and presence of DollaHyde in the store. Marty steps in and tells Mr. Vincent that DollaHyde has been in double digit growth in profit margin since its inception, so this Lukas’ request would be a deal maker, not breaker.

Comeuppance- Jeannie and Marty argue

When the meeting ends, Lukas decides to celebrate with dinner plans and he invites Marty and Jeannie along. Dre, obviously, is less than thrilled with the results, but doesn’t make it known to Lukas. Jeannie, again, doesn’t see the point of continuing with DollaHyde, but Marty shuts it down when he asks if everything has to be an argument with her. So she leaves, telling Marty that she’s not going to argue with him.

Comeuppance- Vincent and Monica crash focus group meeting

Monica and Doug watch focus groups discuss WON with mixed results. But in come Clyde and Vincent, who then storms out and interrupts the focus group. Clyde is unable to contain his glee, but Doug reminds Clyde about how long it took for him to get out of Marty’s doghouse. Now that he’s out, something like this could put him back in. Clyde doesn’t care, though. After all, Vincent would be a small fry compared to the McClintock empire. And screwing over Monica would be payback for the hell that she put Clyde through. And when Monica suddenly smacks Vincent, it appears that things could not get any worse for her.

Comeuppance- Clyde tells Will about Monica's focus group meltdown

Clyde shares the news with Will, who doesn’t share Clyde’s enthusiasm since he never had a problem with Monica. But then Clyde sees Monica and Vincent hug as his world begins to crash. Turns out Monica managed to convince Vincent to market to college kids after all. In effect, Clyde did Monica a favor. She returns the favor by giving him a point of advice: don’t come to work high.

Comeuppance- Jeannie meets with Samantha again

Later on, Jeannie meets with Samantha again and lets her know that she hasn’t dumped DollaHyde yet. However, Jeannie does offer some incriminating financial records on DollaHyde. She’s willing to offer a trade for the DOJ contract. Samantha complies, though she does wonder why Jeannie took such a messy route to get what she wants.

As the office filters out for the night, Doug and Caitlin discuss their dinner plans. Doug suggests that the two check out the Fellini retrospective at The Egyptian. Turns out that Caitlin is a giant fan of Fellini. Who knew? As Will bids the two a good night and leaves, Caitlin asks for Doug’s opinion of Will. As Doug is trying to get into Caitlin’s good graces, he says that he doesn’t like him.

Comeuppance- Caitlin tells Doug that she hooked up with Will in Chicago

But as it turns out, Will is the reason that Caitlin broke up with her current boyfriend. Why? The two happened to be drunk on the road and hooked up one night. It was a big mistake that taught Caitlin the valuable lesson of not hooking up with coworkers. It cost her relationship with a great guy that she genuinely liked. Doug asks when Caitlin hooked up with Will, and she tells him that it happened when the pod traveled to Chicago. But that’s all in the past. Right now, Caitlin could use a really good friend. Well, maybe she should have thought of that before she decided to hook up with Will.

Doug’s words, not mine. And it’s at this point that Caitlin lets Doug have it and calls out the exact same bull that Clyde did earlier: Doug’s been using his break up with Sarah and Caitlin’s break up to manipulate her. In Caitlin’s eyes, Doug is the emotional terrorist. She storms out before Doug can fire back his so-so comeback of calling her vagina ground zero.

Comeuppance- Clyde and Marissa prepare to do lines of coke

Also, a now disillusioned Clyde meets up with Marissa and demands to do some lines of coke.

Comeuppance- Dinner with DollaHyde

When Jeannie finally shows up for dinner, she learns that Lukas already ordered the duck breast for her, given how much she enjoyed it last time. Huh.

After dinner, Jeannie tells Marty that, yes, she hooked up with Lukas a few times, which clashes with her telling Marty about getting too close to Dre. At least the two of them never hooked up. That we know of, anyway. The two run into Dre and Lukas, who congratulates them on a job well done before they take off.

Before the two can get far, an SUV cuts them off. A man emerges from the vehicle with a gun and unloads on the truck before rushing off.

Comeuppance- Lukas riddled with bullets after shooting

Lukas’ body is riddled with bullets. Dre survives.

“Comeuppance” is building up to some serious confrontations as the show approaches the season finale. With so many characters trying to reach a higher point than they are, this episode brought many of them to a standstill. In fact, Monica seemed to be the only character this week who gained anything. There was a lot of buildup for many, but then as the episode slowly wound to a close, all the efforts characters made began to deteriorate. It goes to show how one little thing can make surefire plans go awry, and just when it seems like you’re in the clear, one little thing that can be seen as a throwaway can come back to haunt you.

Comeuppance- Caitlin correctly calls out Doug's BS

Take Doug, for example. The man screwed up a chance with a woman who cared for him in exchange for Caitlin, who only sees him as a friend, not a lover. One of Doug’s biggest character flaws is his naiveté. He doesn’t realize when he’s putting his foot into his mouth until it’s too late and he’s too stubborn to admit when he’s walking himself into a trap. Again, I don’t get why he’s so pressed to land Caitlin when she hasn’t shown nearly the amount of interest that he has in her.

Doug really would benefit from grasping the meaning of subtlety, because he’s about as subtle as a train wreck when it comes to making passes at Caitlin. The way he knows what she likes, it feels more stalker-ish than him finding this out through conversation. With each time he’s timed himself to run into her, Doug is flat out pining over Caitlin. What he sees in her, I don’t know. I mean, Caitlin is pretty, but Sarah is an attractive woman as well, yet Doug didn’t want to give her the time of day.

Comeuppance- Doug and Caitlin make dinner plans

And what’s worse is that Doug could have been a good friend to Caitlin, but he wanted inside of her then and there. Clyde had him pegged completely when he mentioned how convenient it was that Doug would pursue Caitlin not only after her break up, but after he couldn’t maintain a relationship with Sarah. And when Caitlin called him out on it and Doug didn’t have a good defense, you see just how little thought Doug put into pursuing Caitlin. He became too emotionally invested. It’s like when Jeannie flat out called Doug’s proposed art gallery outing a date. Doug couldn’t separate the professional from the personal and, as such, he’s potentially ruined his friendship with Caitlin. Whether he can rebound from this, I don’t know. At least Caitlin was smart enough to see through his crap.

Comeuppance- Clyde trapped

But Doug’s not the only one having a bad day. Clyde’s attempts to ruin Monica’s deal didn’t pan out. When he goes back to Marissa for cocaine, it looks like he’s going back down the self destructive path he worked so hard to bounce back from. Given how much of a rut Clyde found himself in, it’d be a massive slide backward for his character.

In addition, aside from just having funny confrontations with Doug, Clyde doesn’t really have much to do ever since he introduced Marissa and the McClintock idea to Marty and Jeannie. In fact, that’s pretty much all he’s talked about since he arrived at Kaan & Associates. Even before he landed the contract, the rest of the pod talked about when he would present concrete details that Clyde told them would have to wait. And now that Marissa is on board, most of what Clyde has done is just talk about how much money the pod stands to make. It’s as if he’s become a one trick pony. If it’s not Marissa and McClintock, it’s joking with Doug since Clyde has mended bridges with Marty. Ben Schwartz is still funny in the role; I just wish he had more to do.

Comeuppance- Monica tells Clyde about her good news

Trying to trip up Monica for his own self-satisfaction blew up in his face. Sure, Monica is vindictive and evil, but like Clyde, she’s at least trying to bounce back. Again, I really hope he doesn’t regress back into using the same vices that brought him as low as sleeping naked in a car.

Comeuppance- Jeannie gets messy

As for Jeannie, she’s once again taking initiative and making moves without going to Marty for approval, which I like. Similar to what she told Clyde in “Middlegame,” it’s a smart move to not put all of her eggs in the Marty Kaan basket. She’s exercising the power she has as a partner to make an executive move and even though it’s still in the working stages, it’s a massive power play to help garner a DOJ contract.

It’s been evident from the start that Jeannie would meet resistance from Marty on, well, everything, but in addition to Marty telling Jeannie before that he liked her better when they weren’t equals, him telling her that all they do is argue shows the growing strain on their relationship. They agree that DollaHyde is a problem, but they disagree on getting rid of them. This I don’t entirely understand, especially when Jeannie has parity in the firm and could probably just go around Marty to get rid of DollaHyde herself. Jeannie knows she has power. Why is she still going to Marty for his approval? Doesn’t really make sense to me, but Jeannie’s never been afraid to go to war with Marty before, and she certainly isn’t afraid to now.

But as Marty pointed out, it is one heck of a double standard for Jeannie to get on his case about his friendship with Dre, when she openly admitted to hooking up with Lukas several times.

Comeuppance- Marty against dropping DollaHyde

And then there’s Marty, who doesn’t want to take the giant risk on dumping DollaHyde, given how far the pod has come to securing them. Despite the fallout and mess from Compton, he still believes that DollaHyde is worth pursuing. I sort of side with Jeannie on this one. They both know Lukas, and by extension, DollaHyde, is dangerous business, so is it really giving up when neither of them had much faith in the client to begin with? I don’t think so, but Marty still wants to go to bat for DollaHyde and salvage what’s left. Plus, given how Jeannie said that Marty was Lukas’ bitch for having to help pay a large sum of money that Dre didn’t have, maybe this is him getting back at her by dragging this out as long as possible. Maybe.

And Marty had to know that confrontation with Jeannie was unavoidable, but I get the feeling that he’s nearing his limit with her since, in his eyes, she’s taking away the control he so desires. It’s as if because the pod has been through hell to secure a dangerous client like DollaHyde, it’d be ridiculous to turn back, but it would be advantageous in the long run.

Comeuppance- Jeannie tells Marty about when she hooked up with Clyde

But, as always, Don Cheadle and Kristen Bell both deliver solid performances and have great chemistry together and their moments on screen always have some of the better written dialogue of the show. I never get tired of seeing them interact, even the little things like the glances they give each other when trying not to lash out into giant arguments.

Comeuppance- Dre and Marty after shooting

As for the shooting, it’s a game changer, for sure. With Lukas presumably dead and Dre still alive, Marty and Jeannie almost have what they want. They knew Lukas was a problem, so he’s out of the picture. Jeannie wanted to dump DollaHyde, and now the more dangerous side of it has been eliminated. Why, we don’t know yet, but rest assured we will find out.

“Comeuppance” was a much stronger installment than last week’s “Zhang,” in my opinion, with much more focus on the interpersonal relationships and conflicts revolving around the main cast. It showed the obvious flaws in trying to take advantage of people when they’re in a vulnerable state and wanting to capitalize on their fragile state. For characters like Doug and Clyde, assumptions clouted their judgment for the worse and now they have to rebound from their horrible decisions. The episode also furthered the ever growing divide between Marty and Jeannie, a divide that’s just bubbling beneath the surface and sure to blow up as we approach the season finale.

 

A Look at The Walking Dead- #123: “All Out War,” Part 9 of 12

The Walking Dead #123 cover

Part 9 of “All Out War” has Negan set out to make his strike on The Hilltop with the aid of his new weapon: the walkers.  So as shown in the last issue, Negan’s strategy is to infect all those who oppose him by having The Saviors muck their weapons.  While it sounds like a smart strategy, Negan, as far as I know, never goes about actually testing this to see if it would work.  But then, maybe he’s just that confident it will succeed.

One thing Kirkman has a habit of doing is never letting the main characters or the audience breathe, and that’s very clear in this chapter.  After Rick hoping that Negan would give him at least another day, The Saviors attack at sundown.

The Walking Dead #123- Rick and Andrea Talk

Speaking of Rick, I did like his moment with Andrea when he expressed genuine optimism that the world they had created wouldn’t be defeated by Negan.  Rick’s a smarter man than that, and Andrea knows that, but despite everything Rick has been through so far, he still manages to have a glimmer of hope in the face of impending danger.

But this character moment, like the brief exchange between Carl and Sophia, or Maggie and Andrea’s conversation about the future, only served as a temporary opportunity for the characters to calm down for a second and relax.  They were brief enough that allowed readers to get the gist of it before getting a face full of Negan’s fury.

The Walking Dead #123- Negan prepares for an assault on the Hilltop

And never let it be said that Negan is a patient man- he just isn’t.  And how casually he orders one of his men to shoot Kal on the grounds that he wasn’t Rick just shows how much power the man possesses.  Sure, the Governor was a force, but I see Negan as more like an unchained mad dog.  He’s already pissed off, but if you let him go, he’s going to kill.  At least he’s not lobbing grenades all over the place again.  Not now, anyway.

The chapter ends mid-battle with Rick’s fate up in the air.  Again, since Negan never tested this new experiment of his, and given how he doesn’t know about what Dwight’s been up to, I doubt Rick would go out like this.  But good cliffhanger to end on.

The Walking Dead #123- Rick leads the charge

As for Rick’s sudden optimism, it’s very foreboding, for we know that in this world, things can go from tranquil to solemn in an instant.

A Look at The Walking Dead- Season 4, Episode 14: “The Grove”

Whatever happened to predictability?  The walkers?  Living rooms?  Evening TV?  You miss your old, familiar friends, but waiting just around the bend…are smoldering walkers.

This week’s “The Grove” took a darker turn than past episodes.  Like before, part of the focus went to this group heading toward Terminus, but the bulk of the plot focused on character interaction and growth in an apocalyptic world.  What sounds like just another episode of characters walking toward and talking about Terminus turned into something much more brutal.  Again, not Game of Thrones brutal, but hey, baby steps.

We begin on a familiar image: a kettle on the stove, a kitchen stacked with plenty of supplies, a girl in the yard playing tag with her walker friend…

Something doesn’t fit there.

The Grove- Carol talks to Lizzie about Sophia

Anyway, the episode begins proper at night with Lizzie and Carol being the only two still awake.  Despite Carol insisting that she go to sleep, Lizzie is confident that she can help Carol.  Lizzie wonders if there will be other children at Terminus.  Maybe, if their parents kept them safe.  But, then again, Lizzie talks of the people she killed during the Governor’s assault, so it’s just as possible that kids kept their parents safe.  After a brief callback to Sophia, Carol orders Lizzie to sleep, just as the two overhear Tyreese talking in his sleep.

The Grove- Carol applies sap to Tyreese's wound

The next morning, Carol applies some tree sap to Tyreese’s arm wound.  As the group walks, still unsure on how far away Terminus is, we see the key differences- again- between Lizzie and Mika: Lizzie believes that walkers are just different from humans, but Mika doesn’t have a mean bone in her body.  It’d take a lot for her to kill.

The Grove- Lizzie stops Tyreese from killing walker caught in train tracks

As the group continues along, they contemplate stopping to find some water, but before they can get far, Lizzie and Tyreese spot a walker coming along on the railroad tracks.  It doesn’t get very far, though, as it falls between one of the tracks.  Before Tyreese can kill it, Lizzie stops him, telling him that sometimes they don’t have to kill walkers.

Sorry, what?

The Grove- Carol tells Mika to toughen up

Carol, meanwhile, delivers a grave warning to Mika: she’s little and sweet, both of which can get her killed.  Mika’s convinced that she doesn’t have to be tough since she can run.  As much as Mika would like to toughen up, she can’t bring herself to kill, even if walkers are already considered dead.  She doesn’t want to kill people who want to bring her harm.  Rather, she feels sorry for them because she’s convinced that they weren’t like that.  This girl, ever the optimist.

But Carol persists.  Mika will have to change sooner or later.  Things don’t just work out.

As she says this, the two approach a clearing with a few homes ripe for the housing.  Well, that worked out.

The Grove- Mika, Lizzie and Judith ambushed by walker

Carol and Tyreese enter one home and order the girls to remain outside with Judith, no matter what.  Soon enough, one walker stumbles out.  Lizzie’s too shocked to do anything, for some reason, so Mika, after three shots, is able to down it.

That evening, Lizzie is still shook up over almost being killed.  She still doesn’t fully grasp what happened, but she’s trying to.

The Grove- Group settles in living room

While everyone settles into the home, Tyreese just can’t help but find it odd that they’re actually in a living room in a house.  It feels too hard to believe, but Mika, ever the optimist, just tells Tyreese to relax.  The place is so comfortable, maybe they don’t even have to go to Terminus.  They could just live there.

The Grove- Lizzie plays tag with a walker

The next morning, Carol sets a kettle on the stove and we get a payoff to the show’s cold opening, as it turns out Lizzie was the girl playing the walker.  Carol, like most sane people would, rushes out and kills the walker, which sends Lizzie into a frenzy.  She lashes out at Carol for killing her friend.  She didn’t have to do that!  That was her friend!  It’s the exact same thing as Carol plunging the knife into Lizzie!

What?

The Grove- Carol takes Mika to hunt

Anyway, Carol heads off to teach Mika how to hunt.  Already doesn’t seem promising, given how Mika never liked dissecting in science class.  They spot a lone deer and, after a moment’s hesitation, Mika just can’t bring herself to shoot it.  But hey, they’ve got peaches.  Peaches!

The Grove- Lizzie and Mika return to walker at train tracks

Back at the grove, while Carol and Tyreese consider the idea of staying there, Mika spots Lizzie heading off by herself and gives chase.  She finds Lizzie heading back to the train tracks to give a rat to the walker stuck in the tracks.  Mika is convinced that the walkers are bad, but Lizzie insists that she can hear them.  They want her to be like them.  She then holds out her hand and approaches the walker so she can be just like it, but before anything can happen, smoldering walkers emerge from the woods and converge on the grove.  Though Mika gets caught, she’s soon freed and the four soon down every walker.  Not exactly sure why, given how the walkers could just get caught in the barbed wire, but whatever.

The Grove- Carol tries talking sense into Lizzie

Carol is still trying to make sure Lizzie understands what walkers are, even though, you know, she knew that before and is having this sudden switch.  Mika, though, admits that sometimes she may have to be mean and kill people, even though she doesn’t want to.

The Grove- Tyreese tells Carol about seeing Karen in his dreams

Later on, Carol entertains the idea of staying at the grove, though Tyreese admits that it doesn’t mean they have to stay forever.  For now, he just isn’t ready to be around other people.  He’s also been having dreams about Karen.  Sometimes he sees her in a crowd before the world went to hell, but then he sees a stranger kill her.  The memory still haunts him.  Carol counters that maybe the dead aren’t haunting him, but teaching him that people have to live with decisions they make, even if they’re bad.

The two return and find Lizzie standing and waiting for them.  With a bloody knife.  And Judith sitting on a blanket nearby.

The Grove- Dead Mika

Oh, and a dead Mika.  What the actual hell?

Lizzie, gun drawn, insists that they want for Mika to turn, but Carol wants Lizzie to turn over the gun first.  Carol then promises to tie Mika up so she can’t get away.  When Tyreese manages to get Lizzie far away, Carol does what needs to be done and finishes off Mika.

The Grove- Tyreese and Carol discuss Lizzie murdering Mika

After this, Tyreese tells Carol that he cleared Lizzie’s room of any sharp objects.  Turns out that Lizzie also had a shoebox full of mice, painting her as the one responsible for feeding walkers back at the prison.  Tyreese figures that this means Lizzie is the one who could have killed Karen and David, but Carol states that Lizzie would have just let them turn.  And really, given Lizzie’s small body, I don’t see how she could have accomplished that.

The two already figure that Lizzie won’t be anywhere near Judith.  Heck, it’s not even safe anymore to stay under the same roof with her, anyway.

The Grove- Lizzie and Carol's final moment

So Carol takes Lizzie out behind the woodshed-I mean takes Lizzie out to pick some wild flowers.  Lizzie notices that the fire is dying down, but she begins to sob about what she did to Mika and how much she doesn’t want Carol to be angry at her.  As Lizzie continues forward, Carol draws her gun and simply tells Lizzie to look at the flowers.

That evening, Carol finally admits to Tyreese that she killed Karen and David in order to keep the virus from breaking out.  With her gun on the table, Carol tells Tyreese to do whatever he has to do.  Rather than lash out, Tyreese asks if Karen went quick, which she did.  In a move that surprised me, Tyreese doesn’t get angry or lose his temper, but forgives Carol.

Now, he won’t forget it and I doubt he’ll let her forget it, either, but given how much Carol has had to shoulder, Tyreese knows that Carol is going to feel the weight of those murders for the rest of her life.  What she did is a part of her.

And with that, there’s no longer a reason to stay, so Tyreese, Carol and Judith leave the grove and head toward Terminus.

Hot damn, that was a change of pace.

This episode, along with “Inmates” and its early introduction of Abraham, Eugene and Rosita, went against my expectations for how the second half of Season 4 would play out.  I expected each episode would deal with one or several groups from the prison, their struggle for survival and their eventual reunion just in time to meet the three newcomers.  “The Grove” was more than just this group thinking about and heading toward Terminus.  It felt like plunging a knife into your gut, twice, and twisting it just to give you that extra jolt of a reaction.

The writer of this episode, Scott Gimple, also wrote the well done “Clear,” which focused on Rick, Carl and Michonne finding Morgan.  Like that episode, “The Grove” never strays to another storyline.  It’s contained, and it needed to be in order to make these scenes more powerful.  If the episode had cut away to, say, Rick’s group, now, it would just confuse the issue and lessened the impact felt from what Tyreese and Carol witnessed and had to do.  At the end of the day, all of the other groups have characters that we’ve had a chance to connect to, especially Beth, given how we’ve known her since Season 2.  So we as an audience have connections to the other groups, while Lizzie and Mika, as still relative newcomers, still had to forge theirs.

The Grove- Lizzie playing with walker

And did they ever!  Before getting to the actual characters themselves, I just want to comment on how deceptive this episode was: it started off nice and calm with a familiar image of a well stocked kitchen, some nice music playing in the background- all very innocent set pieces.  And then, boom, you see a girl outside playing tag with what looks to be a slow girl until you realize she’s playing with a walker.  It hooked me from the start and made me wonder just what in the hell was going on, only to find out later that the girl was Lizzie.

The episode took a more serious tone than, I think, “Still” and “Alone” did.  Both of those episodes had their serious scenes and moments for character development, but they also took the time to lighten up, such as Beth and Daryl finding the white trash brunch or Bob always being the optimist.  Here, the episode took a hard right and was always serious.  The tonal shift didn’t feel awkward or out of place.  In fact, I’d argue it was necessary.  Seeing Beth and Daryl give the finger to the burning building or Bob, Sasha and Maggie hug when they reunite gave us happy moments that provide a sense of hope that the zombie apocalypse won’t always be bleak and full of tragedy.

But then you remember that these characters do live in a zombie apocalypse where things can be bleak and full of tragedy.

The Grove- Carol about to shoot Lizzie

One of the main points I grasped from this episode is that, ultimately, no one, not even children, is safe.  It dealt with morality and had both viewers and the characters question if murder, even in the worst case scenarios, is the best decision.  While Tyreese and Carol seem to agree that it is, that doesn’t mean it isn’t ugly, and this is best exemplified via Carol, whose having to shoulder more and more burdens that would take a toll on most people, but she’s been able to weather it all and keep on pushing forward.  Carol saw Sophia as a walker.  She knows the world she lives in and what it can do to the people she loves.

This is why she told Mika that she’d have to change.  Things don’t just work out like they did before the world went to hell.  You do what you must to protect not just yourself, but your friends.  It’s what made killing Lizzie that much harder and why the murders that she and everyone else commit against other humans will stay with them: they aren’t exactly doing what’s right, but what they feel is necessary-

The Grove- Mika can't bring herself to shoot a deer

-because Mika wouldn’t do that, and it’s what made her being so idealistic and optimistic, in addition to not wanting to kill, and a prime target for death.

And it’s what put Carol at odds with Rick in the first place.  Yes, like Rick said, Karen and David might have lived, but Carol wasn’t willing to take that chance.  Surely Carol can’t fully believe that what she’s doing is right, but she believes she’s doing it for a greater good.  The ends justify the means, no matter how horrific.

“The Grove” put a twist on how previous groups have reacted when finding homes they could potentially inhabit.  With Beth and Daryl or Rick and Carl, both groups found places that seemed homely and fit enough to stay in, but each time, outside forces put them out and on the move toward Terminus.  But this time, it’s Lizzie’s actions that ultimately forced Tyreese, Carol and Judith out of the grove.  And like Daryl sleeping in the coffin because it was comfortable, Tyreese not knowing how to initially react to being in a living room with a fire showed how much the world has changed for these people.  The simplest pleasures that we take for granted now seem like rarities and luxuries to them.

The Grove- Mika and Lizzie argue

From the start, it’s clear that something wasn’t right with either Lizzie or Mika.  Back during “30 Days Without an Accident,” Mika told Carol that Lizzie was just a little missed up.  I said before that Lizzie came off as more seasoned due to her age, but this episode proved that her mindset isn’t as sharp as I gave it credit for.  It’s strange that Lizzie, who chastised Mika for being afraid, would suddenly become shell-shocked when a lone walker approached her.  She lived through the Governor’s assault and saw her fair share of evil, both in walkers and other humans.  I figured, given what we learned about her already, that she’d be ready to defend herself at all times, but she’s still a child.  This world still scares her.

The Grove- Lizzie almost allows herself to be bitten by walker

And it’s easy to see how this would mess with her head to the point that she’d feed walkers and almost allow herself to get bitten.  For Lizzie to believe that walkers can be loved shows that she just wouldn’t make it in this world.  At least the Governor had enough sense to keep his daughter restrained.  Here, Lizzie is playing in the open with a walker that could have easily scratched or bitten her, and when Carol kills it, the girl goes on a near psychotic breakdown.  It’s maddening, but it just shows how far off the deep end Lizzie has gone and how she’s trying to skew the rules of the world she’s living in.

The Grove- Lizzie after killing Mika

The Grove- Mika's dead

Seeing her stand over Mika’s body with a bloody knife with Judith watching was a haunting image.  She feels that she’s done the right thing, murdering her sister just to prove that she can be loved both as a human and a walker, but it’s not until she’s about to meet her own end that she wishes that Carol not be angry with her.  If the show wanted to give us a reason to care about Lizzie, there it is.  Just sad that it had to come at the expense of her sanity and Mika’s life.

The Grove- Mika tells Carol that they have peaches

Speaking of Mika, I did find her a bit charming this week with her wanting to hold onto her innocence.  Whether it was her being unable to shoot the deer or feeling sorry for people who are evil on the grounds that they weren’t always that way, Mika won’t allow herself to go down the dark path that someone like Carl already walks.  Mika isn’t putting herself above killers, but she does try to see the good in everything, such as when she tells Carol that they can have peaches in lieu of deer.

The Grove- Carol tells Mika that running isn't enough

When Mika tells Carol that she can run instead of being tough, you get the feeling that she’s being a bit too naïve.  She’s got to know that, sooner or later, she’ll have to kill in order to survive, and she does just that.  She’s a little girl, but she’s not stupid, so it was satisfying for her to tell Lizzie that walkers are bad.

The Grove- Lizzie shellshocked after walker attack

This brings up my only qualm with these two characters: their personalities seemed a bit too inconsistent.  It’s because this episode focused exclusively on one group that the shifts seemed all the more glaring.  Now I know character inconsistencies are nothing new for dramas, but it was more obvious in this episode.  During “Inmates,” Lizzie once chastised Mika for being afraid and not being as strong as Sasha, but now she hesitates at the sight of one walker she could have killed and plays tag with one like it was her best friend.  More than that, she told Tyreese that a walker unable to move didn’t have to be killed.  Say what?

The Grove- Mika shooting walkers

And while for Mika, it could be a case of her growing up, for her to say that she doesn’t want to kill, but then tell Lizzie that walkers are bad just felt contradictory.  And when the smoldering walkers attacked, she was more than willing to pick up a gun and shoot to kill.  I’m not a television writer, but the girls should at least be resolute in their respective stances on walkers, not waiver when attacked.  But since both of the girls are dead, it probably won’t be such a big deal anymore.

The Grove- Ben kills Billy in the comic

All right, time for the comparisons.  A lot of people have drawn parallels between Lizzie and Mika to Billy and Ben from the comic, and it’s easy to see why.  Both had adoptive parents, though in this case, the parental roles are reversed.  In the comic, Dale and Andrea adopted the boys and Carol was already dead.  Here, it’s the other way around.  Also, Ben kills Billy and told Andrea not to worry because Billy would come back.  Both involve children committing murders they don’t fully understand and both Ben and Lizzie paid with their lives.  It’s a nice way to adapt that particular plot.  However, one difference is that we see early on how much it pained Carol to kill Lizzie, whereas in the comic, Carl didn’t feel much remorse for killing Ben until he confessed to Rick much later.

The Grove- Tyreese tells Carol about seeing Karen in his dreams

Tyreese really has come a long way since his brawl with Rick over finding Karen and David’s bodies.  He hasn’t had to make the same tough decisions that Carol has, but he’s still a part of it because he knows it needed to be done.  Again, it wasn’t right, but necessary because Lizzie posed a potential threat to the group.  I enjoyed his moment when he couldn’t grasp the idea of being in a comfortable living room because it shows how detached everyone is from their former lives.  What seemed normal before now just feels out of place.  Like Daryl, Tyreese entertaining the idea of staying put at the grove showed his desire to just be comfortable for the time being.  It may have meant more time apart from the rest of the group, but he would have been somewhere that came the closest to resembling an actual home.

The Grove- Tyreese forgives Carol

We all knew Tyreese and Carol would eventually talk about Karen and David, just not when or how.  It’s clever timing on Carol’s part.  I’m inclined to agree with the perspective taken by Matt Fowler of IGN on this episode, where if Carol had admitted this back when Tyreese first talked about seeing Karen in his dreams, he probably would have killed her.  Or at least blown up about it.  On first viewing, I called foul on Tyreese easily forgiving Carol for what she did.  After all, he became incensed at Rick when they first found the bodies, resulting in their bloody fight, and it was clear he was out for blood.  It felt too simple for him to just forgive Carol like that, but really, Carol just killed one potentially psychotic girl who murdered her sister in cold blood.  They’ve got enough on their plate and I doubt Tyreese would want to push things any further.  Though I did like when he told Carol that, while he forgave her, he wouldn’t forget, and neither will she, because she even though Karen and David went easily, she still murdered two people who, as Rick said, might have lived.  That sort of thing will stay with her for the rest of her days.

The Grove- Carol tells the truth about Karen and David

And I really feel bad for Carol, who has to make the worst case decisions and shoulder so many burdens that you can see the toll the murders take just from her facial expressions.

The Grove- Tyreese talks to Carol about the world being haunted

Melissa McBride really does turn in an excellent performance this week.  She’s the supportive mother who has seen the ugliness around her and wants what’s best for her newly adopted kids.  The murders have hardened Carol, but she hasn’t lost her sense of self yet.  She can be stern, but just as supportive as she always has been.

The Grove- Carol talks about Tom Sawyer

Whether telling Lizzie and Mika about Tom Sawyer or joking about Ed, Carol can still show her human side.  Those moments are just as integral to maintaining her humanity as teaching Mika to shoot and telling her to toughen up are integral to survival.  And given how Carol had to deal with an abusive husband, she knows all about survival even before walkers claimed her daughter.

The Grove- Carol keeps it in after seeing that Lizzie has killed Mika

Carol has a lot bearing on her heart, but she’s able to keep it all contained very well, despite the obvious outrage seen on both her and Tyreese’s face when they find out that Lizzie killed Mika.  Side-note, what in the world made these two think it was good idea to leave Lizzie, Mika and Judith alone?  I know Tyreese did the same thing earlier, but I’d think he and Carol would have learned not to leave three girls alone, even if they appear to be in a safe haven.  But anyway, Carol has seen her fair share of horrors.  She killed Karen and David, at first, without any remorse, but she is still not a monster.

The Grove- Carol to Lizzie, Just look at the flowers

This is exemplified most when we see the anguish when she tells Lizzie to look at the flowers before shooting her.  It was tough call to make, but it had to be done, similar to Rick shooting Sophia or Carl killing Lori.  These kinds of calls stick with you.  Yes, there’s the obvious parallel to Of Mice and Men, but it pained Carol even more when Lizzie begged Carol to not be angry at her.  It was a mercy killing.  It was a strong scene helped by a strong performance by McBride, because the child acting, while not terrible, still isn’t all that great.

“The Grove” showed that there’s no easy way out in this world.  Like previous episodes, this one put the group on the track toward Terminus, but unlike last week, we saw how bleak the world can be and is for everyone, child or adult.  Mika told Carol that she wasn’t afraid to kill, just afraid.  This, coupled with an unhinged Lizzie, showed that these girls just did not the survival instinct and, if left alone, would have left them vulnerable to the walkers.  Carol and Tyreese had the chance to bear their souls to each other, but now they have even greater burdens to bear.  The episode had us question what we would do if we’re called to kill.  Do we walk away from a murder as the same person or does it start you down a dark path?  Should we feel remorse for those who try to kill?  Do you commit a necessary, but morally questionable evil for a greater good?  What would you do?

A Look at House of Lies- Season 3, Episode 9: “Zhang”

And just like that, DollaHyde is back.

After taking a brief aside to shift to MediaWolf, House of Lies returns to the misadventures of Lukas and Dre.  Misadventures that, at least for the pod, result in some unexpected turns through Compton.

Zhang- Marty and Dre on driving range

Though we start during a brief flashback with Lukas filming the pod, the episode begins proper, fifteen hours earlier, on the driving range with Marty and Dre.  Marty explains that no one wants to make a loan with Lukas due to his felonies, drug ties and gun running.  It’s just too black of a deal for clients.  What the two need is a high net-worth non risk averse player.  Dre may have just the guy- a guy named Zhang from Guanzhou.  Zhang isn’t fond of strangers, so Dre will travel by himself to pay a visit.  He also knows that Dre is sitting on a gold mine with DollaHyde and has offered loans, so now all Dre has to do is kiss ass the right way and boom, instant deal.

Zhang- Coltrane talks to Roscoe and Lex about the 818

Jeremiah and Chantelle escort Roscoe to school just in time for Roscoe to run into Lex.  One of Roscoe’s friends, Coltrane, played by Cody Sullivan, tells Roscoe about someone doing 818, some krumping thing in the valley.  Roscoe’s interested, though Lex is a bit hostile to the suggestion.  Why?  I have no idea.

Zhang- Caitlin meets Monica

Monica arrives at Kaan & Associates and surveys the building before running into not Marty, but Caitlin, who explains that Marty’s absence is due to putting out a five alarm predawn fire.  That’s fine.  Monica can wait.  She doesn’t have to wait too long.

Zhang- Monica presents WON demographics and statistics to pod

When the pod, minus Clyde, has assembled, Monica presents her pitch in the form of a container full of WON- wholesome organic nutrition.  It’s all you’d ever have to eat or drink for the rest of your fucking days, as Monica puts it.  Problem is that it sounds like every other protein powder ever, and it is, but the Millennials gobble this up, according to Monica’s statistics.  The stats look too good to be true with WON having a large chunk of the market share, but the numbers have been vetted.  She’s deferred all of her normal fees and now taking massive stock options.  All Monica needs is an IPO, but the pod reminds her of the first rule in consulting: no freebies.

Doug takes the container to an office where he finds Clyde avoiding Monica like the plague.  The two get into a back and forth on relationships until Doug reminds Clyde just who Doug is: the perfect wingman.  All of a sudden, Doug turns on his Puss ‘N Goots persona and even crawls onto a table.  What would he do if Lukas Frye entered the room?  He wouldn’t care.

Zhang- Lukas arrives and scares the crap out of Doug

Well, he certainly does when Lukas does enter the room.  Before Doug can go get Marty to let him know about the unexpected arrival, Lukas and his camera crew decide to get the jump on Marty.  The reason?  Lukas and Marty have a meeting on the books today.  Lukas also knows about Dre’s sudden trip to China, so it’s clear once again that Marty shouldn’t assume that he knows everything about Lukas, but he should assume that Lukas knows everything.  While Marty may know about DollaHyde and be best buddies with Dre, he doesn’t know Lukas all that well.  Today’s the chance to turn that all around.  With a trip to Compton.

Zhang- Lukas brings his film crew to Kaan and Associates

You know, the trip everyone wants when they’re pulled out of work.  Well, not everyone, since Will, Caitlin and Jeffrey are stuck dealing with Monica.

Zhang- Clyde, Doug, Jeannie and Marty in Compton

In Compton, Marty again tries to downplay Lukas by telling the pod that this is all just one big passion play.  They’ll end up in some sort of trouble, leaving Lukas to come in and rescue them.

Lukas arrives and lets the pod know that the corner where they waited is the exact same one where Dre and Lukas first met.  The purpose of the trip is to show what’s real to Lukas.  In Compton, everything else is an illusion, like a shot of heroin.  You’ll be fine for one second, but after that, you’re back to reality.

Zhang- At Lukas' DollaHyde warehouse

The group arrives at a warehouse that Lukas claims is the largest hip hop clothing manufacturing plant in the country…until about seven years ago when Dre decided to move production overseas.  No problem.  Lukas kept a few hundred people on payroll so they’re provided for and help fill a few orders.  The pod wouldn’t be surprised if Lukas also healed the sick, too.  Clyde thinks the plant is a financial sinkhole, but according to Doug, the building is on DollaHyde’s books, so it’s not illegitimate.  And Dre hasn’t been to the plant since DollaHyde moved production.  What a dick.

Zhang- Monica with Will, Caitlin and Jeffrey

Back at Kaan & Associates, pod B contends with Monica, who assures them that she knows all of the consultant talk.  If any of them try feeding her bull, she’s already been fed it before.  And seconds later, Caitlin mistakenly ends up trying to feed Monica just that.  Well, at least Jeffrey likes Monica…

As the ride through Compton continues, Lukas points out various landmarks and buildings, among them Bludso’s BBQ, where he and Dre came up with the name DollaHyde- from Douglas Dollarhide, the first black mayor of Compton.  After that, they printed the logos on merchandise and the rest was history.

Zhang- Lukas at Ronjon's Lounge

Soon, they arrive at their destination: Ronjon’s Lounge, which used to be the first official DollaHyde office.  Marty, again, sees this as all theatrics, but Jeannie just urges Lukas to explain why the pod is actually there.

Zhang- Roscoe and Lex play video games online

While playing some video games, Roscoe brings up the event that evening, but Lex just isn’t interested into drama geek shit.  Luckily, Jeremiah offers to drive them both.

Zhang- Lukas introduces Marty and the pod to Dre AND Zhang

So after a few drinks, Lukas brings the pod into a back room where we find Dre and Mr. Zhang, who isn’t Asian, but Black.  Oh, and his name is Lovey: a man you come to in the hood when you need money.

A confrontation ensues with Marty demanding to know why Dre is in the States instead of China.  Dre fights back, saying he already exhausted all of Marty’s resources, but Marty’s aghast that Dre would come to the gutter ghetto for money.  Lukas, by the way, won’t sell, but all of this was worth it just to see Marty try and save face.

Jeannie tells both Dre and Lukas that no one would go public with either of them as the face of DollaHyde.  They’re both just stuck with each other.  Everyone can make this all work, but Dre and Lukas won’t make it work as friends any more.

So after all of this, Lukas keeps the cameras rolling throughout the entire meltdown and is in prime position to watch Marty and Clyde make mad grabs for the camera.

Zhang- Lex the dick

At the 818 event, which looks more like stepping than anything else, Roscoe is thoroughly impressed with everyone busting some crazy moves.  Lex, however, is not, and after both goading Roscoe into busting some moves and being snarky to Roscoe’s friends, Roscoe is ready to go.

Zhang- Roscoe is sad

At House Kaan, Marty discusses Roscoe’s situation with Chantelle just as Roscoe
enters.  Before Marty can be the controlling parent, he’s the supportive parent as Roscoe, without a word, cries silently and embraces his father for support.

Zhang- Lukas wants to keep rolling

This episode, I felt, was less about the pod causing or solving issues, and more about them reacting to forces around them, both with DollaHyde and Monica’s proposal.  As such, more focus went to the adventure aspect of traveling through Compton and the comedic aspects of the show, but less so with actual character development- the exception being Doug and Clyde, who I’ll get to in a second.  “Zhang” showed us more of the mess that Marty spoke of last week with Dre scrambling to get money to pay Lukas for a deal that he’s stated he won’t agree to.  Just when I thought MediaWolf would take priority for the remainder of the season, Dre and Lukas return and prove that this season, beginning with the Free Range and Colossal Foods arrangement, has been almost nothing but one complication after another for the pod.

Zhang- Marty and Dre argue

For all of Marty’s smarts, he, again, has been outfoxed by a man he thought he had pegged down.  And Lukas capitalizes on this.  Like Julian Zannino last week, Lukas can shine a spotlight on Marty’s insecurities: he’s overconfident and a tad too arrogant for his own good.  He assumes to have the best answer to everything, but when confronted with a situation he can’t entirely comprehend, he tries to play it off as an act.  Both Dre and Lukas are convinced that Lukas is a cancer that seeks to destroy DollaHyde.  As with before, and as the episode’s actual intro proved, Marty is a man interested in control.  When things go his way, he’s the cool, confident man we’ve known him to be.  But learning that Dre not only wasn’t in China, but went to a ghetto to collect money shattered any preconceived notions Marty had that fixing this DollaHyde problem would be as easy as Dre originally made it sound.

Zhang- Jeannie

The counterbalance to Marty is, of course, Jeannie.  Again, Jeannie’s trying to take less extreme methods to DollaHyde than Marty is.  Whenever Marty isn’t buying Lukas’ attitude, Jeannie tries to appeal to Lukas through her version of kindness.  After all, it’s part because of Jeannie that the pod is where they are now with DollaHyde, so she’s able to appeal to Lukas in ways that Marty won’t.  Not that he couldn’t, but he won’t.  Since Jeannie’s a partner, it makes sense that she’d exert leadership control, as she’s been doing since she forced Marty into giving her parity.  It’s believably handled since, as exemplified by the MediaWolf deal, Jeannie has a more personable approach to dealing with clients that doesn’t involve becoming personally attached, as Marty did with Dre.

Zhang- Lukas watches his masterpiece bloom

Briefly on Lukas, though.  Again, I’m impressed with T.I.’s performance and how well he can go from being thuggish and dangerous to calculating and smart in one scene.  Lukas has no qualms about where he’s from and, as such, he comes off as a sort of Robin Hood type to the pod.  Despite this, he at least appears to maintain a connection with his roots, while Dre, at least until near episode’s end, couldn’t wait to get out of Compton.  Most of the episode’s more memorable lines, I feel, came from Lukas, such as when he talked about his friend being shot and how we can be laughing with someone one moment, but in the next instant, all the jokes stop forever.

Zhang- Caitlin notices that Jeffrey has, indeed, achieved wood

As far as the new pod goes, my guess is they’re going to be shafted with the B plots, since they didn’t meet with the McClintock family last week and have to contend with Monica this week.  Each of them does get their moment, with Will taking leadership control and assuring Monica that they’ll start grinding models, Jeffrey achieving wood- his words, not mine- when he sees Monica’s data and Caitlin trying to play nice.  Perhaps Caitlin should have met with Christy first to learn a few things.

Zhang- Clyde and Doug on Puss n Goots

Clyde is here to be funny, as always, but he’s also the cold splash of water that Doug needs when the two have their pseudo-confrontation.  Clyde doesn’t want to confront Monica after the hell that she put him through.  Fair enough.  I thought now that he confronted and patched things up with Marty that he’d be more than able to confront Monica, but Marty, as far as I know, never put Clyde through the type of disillusionment that led to him sleeping naked in a car.  Again, as far as I know.

So the two are back to having their playful banter, and it shined through one of my favorite scenes here.  While Doug is convinced that Clyde is tying himself down to Marissa, Clyde is quick to shoot back that Doug is in no position to talking about relationships.  It was just last week that proved Doug couldn’t handle being in a relationship for his own reasons.  Like Lukas, Clyde at least knows where he came from due to past flings and doesn’t try to downplay them.  Doug does.  Otherwise, I doubt he’d be as defensive as he was when talking with Clyde.

Though I would really like some more backstory on this whole “Puss ‘N Goots” persona that Clyde and Doug are so familiar with.  I mean, Doug as a wingman?  It sounds too good to be true, yet Clyde seems to know all about it.  Maybe there are some deleted scenes out there where Clyde and Doug go out on the town.

Zhang- Roscoe pissed at Lex

As far as Roscoe goes, it looks like he’s starting to agree with his father’s sentiment about Lex.  I honestly don’t know why Lex came off as so antagonistic toward Roscoe’s friends.  They don’t make fun of him, as far as I know, so what reason would Lex have to be so negative about something Roscoe wants to do?  It just seems like another reason to dislike Lex after the show tried so hard to make us feel for him when we last saw him.  Again, for me, Lex has been portrayed as a bad apple from the start, so if Roscoe decides to embrace the single life and dump Lex, all the better for him.  But I’m sure we’re not done with Lex yet.  They wouldn’t just have them break up off screen without some sort of follow up.

“Zhang” proved that DollaHyde will continue to be a thorn in the side of Kaan & Associates, possibly for the remainder of the season.  There’s nothing inherently wrong with the episode: the ride through Compton showed us some new locations outside of the sterile office buildings we’re so used to with this show, the dark humor shined as it always does and it showed the increasing divide between Dre and Lukas.  What it doesn’t have is a ton of character development for the main cast.  Maybe, given how much we got last week, this was a chance to just let the gang be themselves, and I’m fine with that.  Monica’s slowly getting her groove back, so I guess that’s fine.  Maybe getting stabbed shocked some sense into her, even if means she’s attracted Jeffrey’s attention.

This episode wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great.  If I had to compare, I’d stack this episode against “Middlegame,” where the bulk of the focus went to both the pod and DollaHyde.  There, we had a good balance of comedy and character development.  This week, though, more focus went to the humor, and as such, it’s still a good episode and while I liked the documentary aspect of it, I didn’t find it anywhere near as memorable.

A Look at The Walking Dead- Season 4, Episode 13: “Alone”

The Walking Dead returns to its multiple storylines in this week’s “Alone” as characters strive to stay together.  It’s all slow buildup to the entire group reuniting, but this one ramped up the action compared to last week, while still allowing for character development and reasons to invest in their individual struggles.

Alone- Bob traveling alone in flashback

The episode actually begins in the past.  Before he ended up at the prison, Bob just wandered on his own from place to place.  He no longer had companions except for his trusty machete.  Whether resting atop trucks or under bridges, he did what was necessary to survive.

Alone-Daryl and Glenn first meet Bob

One day, though, he’s approached by Daryl and Glenn.  The two ask his name and if he ever killed people before.  He did, but only because the woman he killed had asked him to.  They give Bob an offer to join their group, and he does so without asking for the men’s names, saying it doesn’t matter who they are.

Alone- Maggie, Bob and Sasha in fog

In the present day, Bob, Sasha and Maggie remain close in a thick layer of fog.  The murmurs and growls of walkers echo all around until the sounds grow closer.  One by one, the walkers approach.  The three are able to take them all out at the loss of some bullets.  Bob wounds up bleeding, but luckily, the walker bit his bandage.

Sasha suggests waiting until the fog clears up to continue traveling.  Not that they’d go in any clear direction since their compass is broken.

Alone- Maggie, Bob and Sasha find Terminus sign

They eventually arrive at one of the Terminus signs, something that Bob had heard about before.  Bob and Maggie are all for exploring this option, and since Sasha is outnumbered, they decide to head for Terminus.

Alone- Bob and Sasha talk

Later on, while Maggie collects firewood, Bob asks Sasha whether she believes they should stop looking.  She says they should, if only so they don’t die.  The reality of the situation is that they will all die anyway, so the best plan should be to follow the train tracks into a nearby town so they can set up in a building.  If need be, they can talk Maggie into it.

Alone- Daryl teaching Beth how to shoot

The B storyline involves the continuing adventures of Daryl and Beth, who’s still learning how to properly use a crossbow.  She tries to kill one walker, but steps on a trap that ensnares her leg in the process.  Daryl takes her on his back for a serious piggyback- his words, not mine- and they arrive at a cemetery.

Alone- Daryl and Beth explore funeral home

After paying their respects, they investigate the nearby funeral home, which looks a lot like the house that belongs to Sookie’s grandmother in True Blood, but that’s just me.  The home is unnaturally clean, as if someone had just cleaned it.  While Daryl’s not too fond of the corpses dressed nicely, Beth points out that someone still cared for these people after they died.  Well, someone had to, anyway.

Alone- Daryl and Beth find fresh food in funeral home cupboards

They explore the cupboards for food and find what Daryl refers to as white trash brunch: peanut butter and jelly, diet soda and pig’s feet.  Problem is the food isn’t dusty, meaning someone just recently put it there.  So Beth and Daryl, being the considerate people that they are, only decide to take some of the food and leave the rest for whoever found it.

Alone- Daryl in coffin while Beth plays piano

That evening, Beth plays the funeral home’s piano and in a nice bit of morbid humor from The Walking Dead, Daryl decides to make his bed in a coffin.  After all, it’s probably the most comfortable bed he’s had in years.  I’d think the CDC from Season One may come close, but yeah, prison cots don’t compare to the luxury that is a coffin.  He asks that Beth keep singing.  Even if it’s annoying, there’s no jukebox, so he may as well try and enjoy it.

Back to the A storyline, Sasha and Bob awaken to find a farewell note written in the dirt by Maggie: “Don’t risk your lives for me.  Good luck.”  Bob says nuts to this and figures that the two can still follow Maggie’s tracks.

Alone- Maggie kills walker

Maggie, though, approaches a railroad crossing and sees another sign for Terminus.  Before she can carve directions into a wall with her knife, a walker approaches and Maggie makes quick work of it before also carving it open and sticking her hand deep into the walker’s corpse.  Why?  Keep reading.

Sasha questions Bob’s constant optimism.  He’s just happy to be alive, but even more so, he’s not alone.  That’s how it was for him when he lost his first and second group.  Self-awareness is a beautiful thing.

Alone- Bob and Sasha find Maggie's note to Glenn

You know what else is beautiful: handwritten notes.  The two stumble upon a cut open walker and a sign that reads “Glenn, go to Terminus.  Maggie.” But it’s written in blood.  Guess Maggie’s not a fan of knife writing.

Alone- Sasha and Bob awake at night, listening to walkers

That evening, Bob and Sasha are unable to sleep due to the constant sound of walkers throughout.  Sure, there’s a lot of noise at night from creatures or insects, but the sound of a walker is very distinguished.  Doesn’t bother Bob all that much.  When he was on his own, he didn’t sleep much.

Bob asks Sasha why she thinks that Tyreese is dead.  Isn’t it possible that, if he knew about Terminus, he’d go for it?  Or is Sasha just afraid to find out if he’s alive.  Sasha’s really disappointed Bob.  He once thought she was the toughest woman around.  Now, not so much.

Elsewhere, Beth and Daryl prepare to enjoy their makeshift breakfast before a noise at the door distracts them.  It turns out to be a dog.

Alone- Beth writes thank you note while Daryl eats

Later on, Beth plans to leave a thank you note for whoever currently occupies the funeral home.  Daryl decides against it, stating that all of them could work out living under the same roof.  Beth asks what changed his mind and I guess the walkers were as sick of these attempted romantic moments between Beth and Daryl as I am because they’re soon breaking through the door.

The walkers rush through the home and surround Daryl, but he’s able to fight his way through them all in an impressive show before fleeing the funeral home.  Problem is that as he’s leaving, he sees a car take off and Beth is nowhere to be found.

Alone- Sasha and Bob about to part ways

Bob and Sasha find more blood written signs from Maggie until they arrive at a clearing.  They find a high up and secure building, but Bob’s not about to stop looking for Maggie.  So this is where the two part ways.  Bob continues along the tracks while Sasha heads into a building.  As she scouts her surrounds, coincidentally enough, she finds Maggie resting between two walkers in front of an ice cream truck.

Why she’s resting between two walkers in plain sight as opposed to bringing them inside a building, I don’t know.

But anyway, Sasha calls out Maggie’s name.  That, coupled with a window shattering, alerts nearby walkers.  The two manage to take them out before talking.  Maggie had been looking for another walker.  She heard everything that Sasha said about giving up the search for Glenn.

How she heard Bob and Sasha’s conversation without them noticing, given how good they were able to hear almost every single sound at night, I don’t know.

But whatever.  Maggie waited at that spot for Bob and Sasha.  The two then decide to catch up to Bob, which they manage to do rather quickly.  How they managed to do that in such a short amount of time, I don’t know.  They’re both pretty ragged from all the walking and walker killing.

Alone- Daryl surrounded by unknown men

Daryl, however, looks to have been running all night.  He stops to rest at a railroad crossing before being surrounded by a group of men.  One of them approaches and Daryl strikes with a punch to the face.  The man, who is someone that we’ve seen before and who I’m guessing is the leader, is impressed with Daryl’s prowess and weaponry.  However, Daryl is easily outnumbered and outmatched by the group.  Why hurt himself?  The leader introduces himself as Joe.

Meanwhile, Glenn approaches a sign for Terminus.

While The Walking Dead isn’t exactly what you’d call subtle with its attempts at themes, this week’s focus on loneliness and faith felt a bit too obvious and heavy-handed, as if the viewers couldn’t come to their own conclusions.  The episode dealt with the fear of abandonment and confronting the possibility that, after so much time spent together, characters would find themselves traveling the woods by themselves.  That fear, ultimately, is what keeps them together.

And it’s when the characters all have their backs to a corner that we got some of this week’s more enjoyable moments.  The opening sequence in the fog was well staged and very tense.  Seeing walkers just pop out from the thick fog before being taken out was a nice way to start the episode.  Much of it involved the characters, knowing that something’s out there, waiting for a walker to make the first move.  While not as strong as Beth and Daryl hiding in the trunk last week, I still found it an effective way to begin the episode.

Everything’s leading up to a reunion at Terminus.  Whether this will turn out to be a safe haven or highway to the danger zone, we don’t know yet, but the season would pretty much have to end with the entire group reuniting.  Otherwise, why spend so much time on individual storylines where the goal in mind is to have everyone reconnect?

But as far as this week’s episode goes, Bob’s backstory helped fill in some gaps as far as how he got to the prison.  Therein lays one minor issue: it was established that Daryl was the one who found Bob, not Daryl and Glenn.  It’s not a gigantic problem, but it did strike me as contradictory.  I’ll admit that it was a little annoying to have Bob constantly refer to his past.  With each time we cut to him and Sasha, something triggered a memory of when he was alone and fended for himself.  We saw him doing that during the flashback, so I didn’t think it was necessary that he spend so much time talking about things we’d seen play out on screen.

Alone- Bob's backstory

That’s not to downplay Bob, though.  Lawrence Gilliard Jr. turns in a great performance as the eternal optimist.  He’s looking at the brighter side and is the counterbalance to the pessimistic Sasha.  He represents hope and isn’t willing to sit around and wait for death to arrive.  More than that, he doesn’t accept Sasha’s narrative that everyone they ever knew from the prison is dead.  That drive to find his friends is what fuels his passion to keep moving forward.

Additionally, Bob already knows what it feels like to be alone and without hope.  During the flashback, Bob appeared aimless and just living to survive another day.  Now he’s living not just to survive, but get back to the family he’d become a part of.  He’s cautious, but hopeful.

Alone- Sasha and Bob at night

Sasha, however, is more realistic than that.  Her motivation is just to stay alive, but as Bob asked her before: what happens after that?  After you realize that you’ve survived another day, what do you do?  Sasha’s priority is to find somewhere safe.  Even if it means traveling the world alone, despite the obvious dangers, Sasha’s priority is safety and security.  Given the world she lives in, I can’t say I blame her.  She wants to move forward, but will do so even if that means having to drop others along the way.

Bob had Sasha pegged down when he called out for being afraid.  Only when she admitted to Maggie that she was afraid did Sasha accept the idea of sticking together to find the others instead of just finding another place to stay.  To me, Sasha comes off as the most careful of the three: she wants to take things slowly, she’s always keeping track of how many bullets they have and instead of just planning on the spot, she prefers to find a safe location so she can plan things out.  I can’t get angry at Sasha for wanting to be careful.  It’s clear that she cares for the group as much as the others, but, being the rational thinker, she believes the worst case scenario that everyone else is dead.  As such, her drive is to keep moving to keep herself alive.  It’s at this point where, although she and Bob travel a similar path, their roads split.  The train track metaphor could not have been any heavier handed.

Alone- Maggie covered in blood, talking with Sasha

Maggie doesn’t really do much different than when we last saw her.  She’s out to find Glenn no matter what and…that’s about it, really.  Odd as this may sound, Lauren Cohan certainly looks great in blood and it’s undeniable that Maggie takes great satisfaction in killing walkers.

Alone- Maggie dips her hand into walkers' blood

The look on her face when she sinks her hand into the walker’s stomach was chilling.  Maggie doesn’t seem like she’s going down a dark path yet, but being without her boyfriend and having to scour the woods to find him has definitely brought out a darker, survivalist type in her.  I just wish there was more to her character other than writing notes in blood.

Alone- Sasha spots Maggie sleeping near walkers

Before switching to the B storyline, I want to address some of the conveniences involving these three.  Now, The Walking Dead isn’t without its contrivances, but this one just had a few too many.  For example, why was Maggie hiding out among two walkers in plain sight?  I understand that it could possibly mask her scent, but Rick and Glenn had to be covered in walkers’ blood and remains to pass safely through a mob of walkers.  Michonne had the advantage of always having two walkers with her.  Maggie, however, is on the ground outside when any walker could see her.  Why not just kill the walkers and take them inside the building?  She could mask her scent and be hidden at the same time?

Then Bob and Sasha spent an evening just listening to the sounds around them.  Bob commented on how many creatures other than walkers they could hear.  And yet, somehow, Maggie got close enough to hear their entire conversation?  How?  She must have been as quiet as a mouse or ducked behind a tree.

And this one isn’t that big of a deal, but Bob had to have walked a considerable length of time when he parted ways with Sasha.  None of the three appear to be in any condition to do a marathon, but somehow Maggie and Sasha caught up to him in a short amount of time?  Again, this doesn’t irk me as much since it’s possible they jogged or Bob just walked slowly, but it did stand out.

Alone- Beth and Daryl with stash

For the B storyline, Beth and Daryl had a chance to build on their bond from last week, and for the most part, I much preferred how the writers handled it.  Their interaction felt natural and unforced, though I cringed when Daryl hesitated to say Beth was the reason he changed his mind about seeing good in people.  I get that Daryl is becoming more open, but it felt forced.  I’m not in the camp of people who sees these two as having any sort of relationship or view their bond as a threat to whatever people perceive Daryl has with Carol, but I appreciate the connection the two have this week more than last week.

Alone- Daryl's serious piggyback

I did like the little moments: Daryl describing white trash food, Beth playing the piano and Daryl wanting her to continue, and Daryl chastising Beth for not staying put when he checks the funeral home door.  Little things like that I like more than a forced game of “Never Have I Ever.”  Plus, Daryl did still have a chance to kick serious walker butt when the walkers invaded the home.

What happened to Beth, I have no idea.  It’d be easy to assume she’s in the car that drove off, but as of now, it’s just speculation.

Alone- Daryl with men

As for Daryl, it’d appear that he could be headed down a darker path thanks to the group that found him.  Odd that he’d find himself connecting with the same men that invaded the home that Rick, Carl and Michonne stayed in, but it at least connected the two storylines together.  Part of me wonders if these men are a particular group of antagonists that are introduced around this point in the comic book, but, again, it’s too soon to speculate.  All I know is that Daryl’s not the only guy out there with a crossbow.

Like previous episodes, “Alone” is pushing the characters toward Terminus.  There was a lot of good in this episode: both with the horror elements and the character moments.  Beth going missing, Daryl moving with a new group and Glenn finding the Terminus sign do shake things up and should make for an interesting couple of plotlines as the season progresses.  The episode reminded us about the importance of being optimistic in the constant face of loneliness and abandonment.  As far as both storylines, it showed that despite living in a constant hell, there’s still plenty good in people who haven’t lost their humanity.  There were some contrivances and moments that felt too convenient, but they weren’t enough to detract from a solid episode.