A Look at The Walking Dead- Season 7, Episode 10: “New Best Friends”

Now to find out just why the hell Rick had that goofy grin on his face as he and the others encounter a new community.  But before that, let’s check up on the Kingdom.  This is “New Best Friends.”

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The episode begins Ezekiel and some Kingdom members in a clearing as they await the arrival of the Saviors.  One member, Diane played by Kerry Cahill, manages to down a walker that’s wearing a dress similar to her sister.  Don’t think too much about that.

Anyway, the Saviors soon arrive and receive their offering of fruit and supplies.  The leader of this small group, Gavin, played by Jayson Warner Smith, finds the load a bit light, but everything is accounted there nonetheless.

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Jared, though, wants Richard’s gun, even though he’s the one who hit Richard first. When we end up with a standoff, Ezekiel tells Richard to give Jared his gun.  Jared collects and tries to get in a strike, but Morgan blocks it with his staff, so he loses it in the process. Jared strikes both Richard and Morgan with the staff, but Benjamin intervenes and knocks Jared off of his feet.

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Both Gavin and Ezekiel realize that this can’t stand, but Ezekiel relents and says that Richard won’t attend any future exchanges.  Despite that, Richard could still be first on a potential lineup.  Gavin acknowledges that yes, this wasn’t Richard’s fault, but things may need to become more visceral.  And despite the connection Morgan has with his stick, , he won’t be getting it back.

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Back at the Kingdom, Ezekiel is impressed with Benjamin’s abilities, but admonishes him for seeking a fight just because he knows how to fight.  At least Jerry is impressed with Benjamin’s skill.  As for Richard, he’ll receive a talking-to from Ezekiel later.

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Daryl, meanwhile, figures that Morgan went with Ezekiel to meet the Saviors, and he’s less than pleased with that.  After all, Morgan knows what the Saviors are and Daryl says that if Carol saw what happened to Morgan, as well as if she learned what happened to the others, she’d be leading them right to the Saviors.  She would, yes, but that’s just why she left.

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Following this, Daryl meets with Richard, who is in the middle of target practice with a bow and arrow.  The Saviors are smart enough to know that Richard shouldn’t have a gun.  He gives Daryl a crossbow because he knows that they want the same thing.  As such, Richard will need Daryl’s help because the Kingdom needs something to move Ezekiel if the communities want to eliminate the Saviors.

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After bringing Daryl to his hideout and revealing his cache of weapons and explosives, he the two end up on a road that the Saviors frequent.  They’ll hit them with guns, followed by Molotov cocktails- the fire is so the fight looks bad, as the Saviors will no doubt be pissed about some of their soldiers being killed.

In addition, Richard left a trail from their current location to the weapons cache to the cabin of that someone Ezekiel cares about and occasionally brings food, even though they don’t live in the Kingdom.  Richard figures that when the Saviors find their friends dead, they’ll follow the trail and attack the woman living in the cabin.  Even if she’s not killed, this should be the push Ezekiel needs to join the upcoming war.

Daryl picks up on the fact that it’s a woman Richard is talking about and demands to know her name.  Richard does spill that it is, in fact, Carol, and he hoped that Daryl didn’t know her, but he also didn’t think that Daryl would care because he knows what needs to happen.  It doesn’t help that Carol is just living out there and waiting to die.

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Immediately, Daryl wants no part of this and just as the Saviors’ vehicles approach, he grabs Richard and a fight breaks out.  Richard fights back and the two end up in another standoff that results in no Savior losses.  They’re running out of time and Richard reminds Daryl that if he and his people want to move against the Saviors, they’ll need the Kingdom. And what they have to do may require sacrifice.

They’ve already lost so much and Richard can tell that Carol living on her own isn’t a good thing.  Daryl promises that if anything bad happens to Carol, he will kill Richard, who is ready to die for the Kingdom anyway.

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So let’s go back to the junkyard, where the inhabitants that time forgot soon circle the survivors.  One woman, who I’ll identify later, asks if Rick’s group is a collective or if there’s a leader.  After Rick gets in his introduction, the leader tells Rick that her group owns his life, as well as the others.  They can’t buy them back since the group is holding Gabriel.  Before anything else happens, Rick wants to see Gabriel alive.

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Sure enough, Gabriel is brought out.  The leader of this group tells Rick that the boat things Rick and Aaron found were taken, so the group took Gabriel.  In that case, Rick acknowledges that his group has nothing to trade for their lives.  Plus, their lives already belong to the Saviors, and if Rick’s group is killed, these people will be taking from the Saviors, who will no doubt come looking for this group.

So there are two options: they kill you or own you.  But there’s a way out: join Rick in fighting them.

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The leader refuses and Gabriel is taken away.  A skirmish breaks out between the two groups but it comes to a halt when Gabriel holds a knife to one of the group’s members: Tamiel, played by Sabrina Gennarino.  He demands that he and the others be let go and tells the group that the Saviors have communities and items that these people would want.

The group lowers their weapons and Gabriel is given a chance to speak: if these people join Rick’s group in fighting the Saviors, they’ll be rewarded.  Sounds nice, but these folks want something now.  Gabriel tells the leader that Rick can do anything.  If there’s anything the group needs, say it and Rick’s group will get it.  Instead, the leader tells Tamiel and Brion, played by Thomas Francis Murphy, to take Rick Up Up Up.

Who says Up Up Up?  I couldn’t help but think of the Upside Down from Stranger Things. But I digress.

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Rick is taken up on high and looks at the world’s worst green screen-I mean, looks at the vast, expansive junkyard while the leader tells him that her group has been here since the outbreak.  They take, but don’t bother.  Things grow harder and are changing again, so maybe it’s time the group changed as well.  She needs to know if Rick is worth it, so she pushes him into a sectioned-off area of the junkyard that none of the others can reach.

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And what makes this area so special?  Well, it’s home to a spiked walker that Rick must fight.  He takes advantage of whatever he can, such as a keyboard, but almost every move he makes results in him getting cut in the process.  After Michonne suggests that Rick use the walls of trash to his advantage, he buries the walker in mounds of trash.  He then finishes the walker with a glass shard.

This might be the closest we ever get to a Walking Dead/Mortal Kombat crossover yet. You could substitute the walker for Goro, Reptile, or any other secret or challenging character you must face when asked to test your might.

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Okay, anyway, Rick emerges victorious and the group lowers a rope for him to climb.  The leader says that if Rick can get his hand on a lot of guns, the group will help him.  Rick is confident that they will win and he promises a third to the group once this is all over.  The leader, however, wants half. They go back and forth and the leader soon agrees to a third as well as keeping what her group stole.

I mean, Rick’s not really in a position to negotiate, so he agrees to the leader’s terms. Turns out her group waited by that boat for a long time for someone to get the supplies for them.  Again, they take, but they don’t bother.  Sort of a dick move, but sure.  The walker, by the way, was named Winslow.  The leader, who finally identifies herself as Jadis, played by Pollyanna McIntosh, tells Rick to leave since the deal expires.

As Jadis’ group falls back, a bloody Rick stumbles out and tells the others that they have a deal.

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Carol gets a visit from Ezekiel and some followers who were out clearing the dead. Ezekiel respects Carol’s privacy, yes, but the dead, not so much.  He’d hoped they would be quiet enough to avoid getting Carol’s attention.  She then receives some cobbler from Jerry before heading back in and returning to her book.

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However, there’s another knock at the door.  This time, it’s Daryl, and she’s more than happy to see him.  He tells her that, despite Morgan saying she left, he was out there and happened to see her.  When asked why she left, Carol tells Daryl that she had to go.

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Back at the junkyard, Gabriel tells Rick that while on post, he heard a noise and one of the members jumped him in the pantry.  Jadis was upset about not getting the boat supplies, so they took him hostage and made him pack up everything.  Rick is just glad that Gabriel got them here.  Gabriel tells Rick that he was beginning to lose faith, but then he saw Rick nodding at him and knowing that Gabriel didn’t just walk away.

Gabriel knows things will be right again, but there will be tough times ahead before that. He then asks why Rick smiled and what made him so confident.  Rick responds that someone showed him how enemies can become friends.  If you’re talking about Gabriel, Rick, keep in mind that you’re the one who saw him as an enemy.  Not the other way.

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Alright, enough of this gooey shit.  Rosita wants to stay out so they can find guns for this deal, to get back to Alexandria, but Tara implores that they stay together and find supplies. Rosita, though, would rather go it alone because there’s always another fight brewing. She won’t let anyone get in their way.  If they have to take from other people, she doesn’t care.

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Jadis demands that Rick bring her guns soon or else.  Despite having no idea where to look, Rick is confident that they’ll find some firearms.  Since Tara has been out further than the others, Rick asks her if she at least knows where they shouldn’t look. She does at least know that much.  Before leaving, Rick grabs a cat statue to replace the damn gorgeous one that Michonne lost.

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Back at Carol’s place, she tells Daryl that she couldn’t lose any of the others, including him.  She could have killed if any of her people were hurt, but then there’d be nothing left of her after that.  Daryl confirms that the Saviors came.  When asked if they hurt anyone, Daryl, after thinking over his response, tells her that the Saviors are no more and that everyone at home is fine.  The two then eat.

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Later, Daryl leaves, but warns Carol to watch out for herself.  He then sits outside of Shiva’s cage and tells Morgan- who is impressed with how Shiva warms to Daryl- that he found Carol and understands why Morgan lied to protect her.  However, they still need the Kingdom on their side, but Morgan doesn’t believe he can persuade Ezekiel.

Daryl tells Morgan that whatever he’s holding onto is gone, but Morgan believes that the two of them are the same.  After all, if Daryl had told Carol what really happened between their group and the Saviors, she’d be with him right now.  For that, Morgan is glad.  They’re all holding onto something.  Daryl ends this by telling Morgan that he’s headed back to the Hilltop tomorrow morning.

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Indeed, the next day, Daryl departs as the episode comes to a close.

So if negotiations broke down last week between Rick and the Kingdom, this week focused on terms slowly deteriorating between the Kingdom and the Saviors, but also allowing Rick to somehow find a new alley in the junkyard that time forgot.

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But let’s start with the Kingdom.  We saw on the first encounter that Ezekiel is being very patient when the Saviors humiliate or abuse his followers, but he’s refusing to let them fight back.  Doesn’t matter that the Saviors instigate an incident, he disciplines his followers.  I get that keeping this deal a secret from the Kingdom as a whole is for their own good, but he has to know that his followers have a breaking point.

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We know how much Richard is itching to fight, Benjamin is getting better and got in a strike during this week’s encounter, and now Morgan has lost his stick.  The Kingdom members aren’t trying to start a scuffle- they’re just defending themselves.  If Ezekiel is going to continue having problems with that, then it’s only a matter of time before the simmering tensions explode.

Hell, we now know just how far Richard is willing to go to bring down the Saviors, even if it means sacrifice.  His plan is foolish.  I can’t even call it a desperation tactic because if that were the case, he’d be willing to sacrifice himself, not someone else.  But why try and lure the Saviors to Carol and assume that her death would convince Ezekiel in going to war?

As far as Ezekiel knows, Carol keeps to herself, so he’d have to be suspicious why the Saviors would target Carol in the first place.  At least Daryl realized Richard’s plans and put a stop to it.  For the time being.

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The reunion between Carol and Daryl was warm, heartfelt, and earned, given the strength of their bond.  When Daryl asked Carol why she left, that was an emotional moment for them both, made stronger by the great chemistry between McBride and Reedus.

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But then the moment goes further when Daryl refuses to tell Carol about who the Saviors killed.  He’s doing it because he sees Carol’s state of mind and doesn’t want to bring her any more suffering.  More than that, Carol mentions that if she killed again, there’d be nothing left of her.  Why add an extra level of heartache to someone who is already in pain?

At the same time, Daryl not revealing the truth makes me think that Carol is going to find out eventually.  Most of the time in television, if a character is keeping a secret, then the big revelation is going to hurt even worse because someone was kept in the dark about the news.  And I’m curious what could become of Carl and Daryl’s friendship should she find out that Daryl lied, even if to protect her.

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But let’s move onto the Garbage Pail Kids, and I know I’m not the first one to refer to them as that.  Their English seems old-fashioned, they don’t talk often despite having so many people, so recruitment must be a test of patience, and they don’t look like they can put up much of a fight in hand-to-hand combat, anyway.

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However, there’s still strength in numbers and Rick knows that these people could be of some use, even though he doesn’t know them, has little to offer, and isn’t in a position to negotiate.  There’s something humorous about Rick being so confident and optimistic that he can arrange a guaranteed deal with this community when they could be more a hindrance than help.  But crazier things have happened.

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Like that spiked walker.  That was a thing of inspiration from this show’s production team. It felt like a mini-boss you take on before reaching the final challenge of any video game. And I liked the way in which Rick had to defeat it.  He didn’t have a weapon, and despite looking pretty scared when he first saw the walker, he fought and survived a challenge that apparently some people have lost.

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That being said, can we talk about the shitty green screen effects?  I’m not an expert on green screen, CGI, or really anything in general, but when Rick stood atop that trash heap, it looked very distracting, especially when what looked like a plane flew by Rick in the background.

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But onto the character stuff, I’m glad at how far Rick and Gabriel have come.  Here’s a preacher that Rick didn’t trust from the start, but now, after all they’ve endured together, Rick never believed that Gabriel would abandon him and the others.  It really does show how Rick, despite hating Gabriel for a period of time, can come around and soon call the man his friend.

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Speaking of friends and enemies, Rosita is saying and doing anything it takes to make enemies among the group.  Between Sasha, Morgan, thinking Gabriel stole from them, and now quarrel with Tara, Rosita is going to piss off the wrong person and I would bet that the next confrontation she has could get physical.  I expect that if Rosita gets under another person’s skin, that person is going to throw a punch.

“New Best Friends” gave Rick some new allies from the reject Mad Max cosplayers and gave Daryl and Carol the reunion that they deserved.  With Daryl now headed to the Hilltop and Rick’s group now looking for weapons, the lead-up to war with the Saviors continues.

A Look at The Walking Dead #164: “A Fallen House”

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This issue fascinated me for a variety of reasons.  We’re still in the middle of dealing with the roamer herd making its way through Alexandria, Rick and Negan get a chance to bond in the strangest of ways, and Carl is slowly growing into more of a leader with the Hilltop residents, among other reasons.

For now, and I could be wrong, it looks like the survivors will be able to thin out the herd in no time at all.  Not in “No Way Out” speed, but judging from how quickly Andrea and the others are working, they’re able to draw away the herd in massive chunks.  It could be enough to draw out the residents, in addition to Rick and Negan, so they can help further cut down the roamer herd.

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So I’m guessing either the Hilltop residents covered a lot of distance or it doesn’t take that long to get from there to Alexandria, because Maggie and company arrive in no time at all. Good because this draws Maggie into the fray and towards a possible confrontation with Negan, but also puts Carl in a leadership role in Maggie’s absence, which I’ll touch on again later.

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The bulk of issue #164 revolves around Rick and Negan stick in one of the Alexandria buildings while they’re surrounded by the roamer herd.  This could’ve gone down two ways: one is that they’re at each other’s throats because of all the shit Negan has put everyone through, or the two could have the smallest semblance of a conversation while they wait out the danger around them.

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We get the latter.  Part of that is because there’s no way in hell that Negan will shut the fuck up, especially when he’s stuck with Rick Grimes of all people.  He’s saved Rick’s life twice now and since he’s trapped with him, the least they could do is attempt to talk.  It helps that Negan has seen the fear in residents when they fled for their lives, versus him and Rick, who ran, but managed to remain calm.

Of course, Rick has no reason to indulge Negan.  As he says, if there was a point when he and Negan could have been friends, that time has passed.  Even at this point, I imagine it’s hard to forgive Negan for killing Glenn, among other things, but he’s proven his worth to Rick, Andrea, and the others, and after saving Rick’s life, the least the two could do is talk.

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And talk they do.  Here I was thinking Rick would name a specific kill or moment where his life changed- something like Lori’s death, Carol’s suicide, or Carl almost getting raped, for example- but no, it’s something much more tragic.

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As strange as this sounds, Rick and Negan are more alike than we realized.  Rick admits that the worst thing he did was just survive when other people who should have lived ended up dying.  For all the suffering Rick has seen, it’s changed the man he is today, but now we see he carries this guilt, as if he also should’ve died like the others.

Was it fate that did those people in or were they just weak?  Who knows?  Either way, we see just how much Negan hates weakness in people.  As we learned during his introduction, he gets off on people fighting against him.  Spencer was a coward who tried to work with Negan while screwing over Rick.  Rick was willing to comply with the Saviors’ demands, but he still despised Negan and let him know it.

Some people are just not equipped to handle this new world, and Negan knows that.  He’s seen his share of cowards lose their lives because they lacked the will to live or just knew how to find trouble.  In Negan’s twisted way, it becomes easier to kill people who he believed would get themselves killed anyway.  This isn’t an excuse for what he did to Glenn, but I get Negan’s perspective, especially after seeing what he’s been through.

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I don’t know if this was an intentional move on Robert Kirkman’s part, but this issue and Negan baring his soul to Rick are both given more weight through “Here’s Negan” and watching him grow increasingly frustrated with the people he ran into getting themselves bitten or killed.  You can read and enjoy this without reading “Here’s Negan,” yes, but I think looking at it helps you understand Negan’s case.

There, we saw him leave his wife to rot and it’s eaten away at him ever since.  Unlike his recently departed bat, Negan never got to give his wife a proper burial.  And should he live through all of this, I’d be curious to see if he would ever return to the hospital to see if there’s anything left of his wife to bury.

To veer off-topic for a bit and put on my speculation hat, I’m curious how the Saviors came to be.  We know how much Negan hates cowardly people, so how did he come to convince a large group of people, some of whom couldn’t have been as brave as others, to follow him?  That’s more a discussion for “Here’s Negan,” but with Negan talking about how he hates spineless people, I’d like to know more about the beginning of the Saviors.

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For now, though, I’m excited to see Rick and Negan working together.  With the folks outside able to thin out the numbers, this should give the two an opportunity to either escape or at least kill a few roamers and make their way through Alexandria.  But with Rick having lost his cane and Negan still able to do…well, anything, there’s no telling what could happen.

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Anyway, the rest of the issue deals with the groups on the outside still drawing away as many roamers as possible, but there are some character moments.  We get Eugene and Heath talking about how being outside the walls makes them feel complete.  It keeps them busy.

This is what the residents of the Alexandria Safe Zone lacked before Rick and company arrived.  They grew complacent because of their supposed safety within their walls.  Not that Heath or Eugene are weak.  Not at all.  But I like how dealing with this herd and being in the middle of this unpredictable sea of the dead gives them value. As the two admit, it’s fucked up, but I love it all the same.

And again, this is what the Alexandria residents would have benefited from if they didn’t close themselves off from the world.  Rick and company are battle-ready and more than willing to step into danger because they’ve lived and survived that lifestyle for so long while they’ve been on the move.  As was the case when they first arrived in Alexandria, taking a step back would make them soft.

Plus, we see how much Eugene specifically has learned not just from working with Rick, but dealing with roamers so much that he can pick up on subtle details that will help him lead away the roamers that he sees as simple creatures.

This is such a short scene and I didn’t expect to talk about it as much as I did, but that’s how much it stuck with me.

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Meanwhile, we have Dwight, Laura, Andrea, Magna, Yumiko, and the others also leading away the herd through noise, and it’s great that they’re making such good progress, but hopefully they don’t get surrounded, as Laura feared.

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Now back to Carl.  He’s rallying the Hilltop folks to fight against the dead now that the herd is thinning.  I don’t know if this the best idea since Maggie did tell him to stay behind.  She said get ready to move if it gets unsafe, but the situation looks like it’s getting better unless the herd heads his way.

But the good thing is that this shows Carl’s continual growth into a position of authority. Though far from the oldest person here, he’s assuming the role of leader and convincing the Hilltop people to help finish off what remains of the herd.  Through this, I can see more Hilltop folks warming to Carl not just because he’s Rick Grimes’ son, but because of his determination and leadership.  Hopefully he’s not leading some folks to their deaths.

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No, that honor might fall to Sherry.  I’m not sure if this plan has been thought out that well, but what do the Saviors expect will happen when they enter Alexandria?  Rick and the others will be too tired to fight?  Hell no.  If anything, they’d be more than willing to indulge the Saviors again.

In addition, just how many Saviors are left, anyway?  I imagine there’s still a sizable number at the Sanctuary, but Sherry doesn’t have a lot of people with her at the moment. Between Alexandria, the Hilltop, and the Kingdom, the other communities eclipse them by a wide margin and Rick is already anticipating an attack from them.

Not to mention the Saviors would still have to contend with the roamers as well.  It sounds like a suicide mission, but hey, maybe the Saviors can squeeze out a victory.

Either way, “A Fallen House” is a good issue with its biggest strength being the conversation between Rick and Negan as the two realize, that for how different we may think they are, they’re more similar than we realize.  The herd is beginning to thin out, so here’s hoping the survivors can stamp out the Whisperers’ plan before it gets worse.

A Look at Legion- Season 1, Episode 2: “Chapter 2”

So now that David Haller is in the hands of Melanie Bird, it’s time for David to learn more about his powers, look back at his past, and take a deep dive into his own mind.  And this doesn’t involve a trip to Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters.

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The episode begins with David and the others still on the run from wolves, black masks, and Mackenzie Gray’s character, who we can now call The Eye.  As the journey continues, we overhear Melanie Bird say that the human race is evolving.  She and her group believes that David is a powerful telepath- potentially telekinetic- meaning he can control matter with his mind.

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As David rests in the facility known as Summerland, Dr. Bird tells David that The Divisions were created by the government to track and study people like him and Syd. Ones who cannot be controlled are killed.  She asks if David is hearing voices and then tells him to focus on them, despite the pain this power is causing him.

Dr. Bird tells David to concentrate on finding a single voice calling out his name.  It’s like turning down a big volume knob.  As David focuses, Dr. Bird explains that this is called telepathy.  For now, David can rest.  Tomorrow, memory work begins.  Syd joins David, who is curious about what Melanie meant by memory work.

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Let’s find out together. The next day, Melanie poses a question: what if everything people said about David’s supposed illness was a lie?  Instead, the voices and hallucinations could just be his powers.  And Melanie can help him rewrite the story of his life.  Right now, David wonders if there’s even time for that with Division Three still in pursuit.

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There’s time, though.  Dr. Bird tells David that he is important to her, so she needs him clear and focused.  They, along with Ptonomy, sit at a table with rods sticking outward. This, Dr. Bird says, is how her group looks back, finds a person’s abilities, and what triggers them.  More than that, you’re made whole.  They grab the rods and memory work begins.

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The three travel to the past and watch a young David and Amy running through a field.  This is memory work, thanks to Ptonomy’s gift as a memory artist.  Right now, Ptonomy just wants David to take all of this in, as talking to his younger self and sister could change the memory.  It’s best he not do that.

Right now, the idea is for David to accept that this is real, and then the group can focus on taking David back to moments when his ‘illness’ started developing. Melanie will show that this was really just David’s gift and he will soon be whole again.

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In essence, this is David’s museum and he can do whatever he wants.  He glimpses moments from his youth, like his mother doing garden work with him and marking his height on the wall in their home.

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As for David’s father, he was an astronomer, but he passed away.  We then watch as David’s father, who we can’t see, reads his son a bedtime story.  As David watches his younger self, he soon backs away and the room begins to shake.  All of a sudden, voices begin flooding in again.

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He breaks free from the memory work, afraid of the memories, but Syd implores him to calm down.  She felt the same way on her first time, too.  A frantic David, now wanting to leave, is soon put to sleep by Ptonomy.

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We then flash back to David speaking with Dr. Poole, played by Scott Lawrence, who asks David about his home life and girlfriend, who apparently left him.  While David asks for gum, Dr. Poole notes that the end of a relationship could be disruptive for someone with David’s condition.  David’s sleeping just fine, and he states that vapor has helped. Poole asks what David meant by ‘the vapor.’

More than that, he notes that the dynamic of fighting and then making up isn’t good for David, who still has flashes of when he destroyed the kitchen.  He needs a more settled environment.  David promises to work on that.

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We follow David as he leaves his appointment and meets up with Lenny, who asks if he’s good in the head.  Turns out that Lenny got her hands on a kitchen range from a girl she finger-banged.  Kinky.  She and David start walking through an alley.

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David soon awakens and receives a glass of milk from Ptonomy.  The first time in memory work is always the worst.  Syd threw up her first time.  She’s doing talk work with Dr. Bird, who thinks that David is the key to winning the war and other things.  David admits that he’s impressed with Ptonomy’s memory artist abilities.

Ptonomy explains that his father had a shit memory due to artillery shell in the war causing him to go deaf in one ear.  As a result, he was never good with facts.  He’d just snap his fingers whenever he forgot Ptonomy’s name.  Odd, since Ptonomy remembers everything.

And he does mean everything, like his birth and even being in the womb.  Imagine being inside your mother’s body, warm and blind, and then light after some intense pressure. Ptonomy then asks David about that book his father read him- “The World’s Angriest Boy in the World”- because if David’s parents read that book to him before bed, that’s messed up.  David doesn’t remember, but Ptonomy is certain that David’s memories seem clear.

David would rather not talk about it, but hey, it’s not Ptonomy’s deal, either.  He’s just the memory guy.  Okay, fair enough.  Meanwhile, The Eye leads a squadron of soldiers as they continue their pursuit…

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Later, at a swing set, David tells Syd that he doesn’t see how the memory work is helping.  Syd thought the same when she first arrived.  Once she got there, all she wanted was to rescue David.  It wouldn’t have mattered what she saw when she was in David’s body.

She still doesn’t understand it.  After a flash, she remembers switching places with David and everything in the dayroom growing louder.  Between that and the lights, Syd never felt that way before.  And then, in addition to glimpsing the blob with yellow eyes, Syd realizes that she’s responsible for killing Lenny.  David knows that it’s not Syd’s fault.  As Lenny said, you don’t give a newbie a bazooka and act surprised when they blow shit up.

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However, Melanie and the others, as well as Division Three, heard Syd using David’s powers. Melanie’s group thought they had found David, but it was actually Syd.  Sure enough, Syd soon returned to her own body when en route with Melanie’s team.

David confesses that he’d love to hug Syd or at least hold hands, but that’s uncomfortable for Syd.  The closer she gets to someone, there’s this feeling that she equates to being covered with ants or feeling little anxious needles under her skin.  It’s all she can do not to scream.  That sucks, but as David points out, they’re at least having a romance of the mind.  Sweet.

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We then cut to David receiving an MRI scan of his brain.  The doctor overseeing the process is Cary Loudermilk, played by Bill Irwin.  He instructs David not to move or sneeze because it could jumble the scan.  As Dr. Loudermilk rattles off a few words, David admits that he talks to himself, too.  That or the voices.  Cary wasn’t talking to himself, though.  He was talking to Kerry.  The other Kerry, mind you.

After noting that David has a large amygdala, Cary tells David to think of someone or something that he loves.  He begins the scan.

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We then cut back to Amy telling David that she thinks that a man- Bill, I’m guessing?- is going to propose to her.  David is happy, but Amy doesn’t know for sure.  She knows that David and girlfriend, Philly, gets him.  David doesn’t think so, but Amy asks why her brother why he can’t have what everyone else has: a nice home and a family.  David’s reason?  Because he’s sick.

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Still in the past, while David is transfixed on a dog, Lenny tries to give her stolen kitchen range to The Greek, played by, Eddie Jemison in exchange for drugs.  As they speak, their voices become more distorted.  The Greek has no need for a stove, even if it could be used to cook, heat a room or, hell, even kill himself.

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Soon enough, Lenny does manage to score some drugs that she inserts into a blue bong. David wonders why the drug is blue, but they’re always blue. Lenny asks David how Dr. Poole’s place is since they could probably slip in one day when he’s not home.  There’s great score potential, after all.  The two soon start inhaling fumes from the bong and they begin to go on a trip.

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Oh, but this is all part of memory work.  When time freezes, Dr. Bird asks David what he saw when he looked at Lenny, but David doesn’t see the point in that because he was high.  Melanie insists that David brushing his abilities off on schizophrenic delusions is part of an old narrative.  The things he sees are real.  Speaking of, let’s go through time again.

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Ptonomy takes us back to David’s session with Dr. Poole.  At one particular point, he notes a glitch- a time jump.  It’s important that David remember everything.  Even if he was focused on something else, the surrounding memory should be intact.  If David is still confused, Melanie and Ptonomy will help him find the truth.

The session resumes and Ptonomy spots a flash of David’s kitchen incident six years ago when he used his powers.  He tells David to concentrate on where he went.  So long as David makes his mind blank, Ptonomy can take them to that particular moment.

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So we return to David as a child.  David insists that he’s not doing this as the bedroom door suddenly shuts.  The room rumbles and shakes as the copy “The World’s Angriest Boy in the World” falls to the floor.

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Back in the present, Syd checks in on David, as Dr. Bird won’t tell her about David’s memory.  David asks Syd if they’re really safe at Summerland.  Right now, yes, but she knows that people are searching to experiment on them.  Syd promises that she’ll protect David.  Well, she thinks it, as David realizes, but Syd doesn’t think so.

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After a brief cut to the MRI scan as Dr. Loudermilk tries to figure out where David’s memories are stored, we return to David’s session with Dr. Poole, who asks when David started seeing another world out of the corner of his eye.  It began when David was 10 or 11, but the pills Dr. Poole prescribed should help with that.  Poole asks if David is supplementing- since he used the word ‘vapor’- but David denies it.

Then Poole asks what David remembers from the years when the visions started.  David rattles off a series of constellations and ends up talking about his father studying the stars. Some nights, David’s father would wake him up in the middle of the night and the two would drive out in the truck to look up at the sky.  Dad said the stars talk to everyone, including him, but David thought he meant it in a metaphorical sense.

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As for what the stars said, David says he’s not supposed to talk about that.  Besides, he’s soon drawn to the closet door opening by itself.  Dr. Poole, assuring David that he’s in a safe place, closes the door and says that it’s just a closet.  Nothing can hurt him.

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Back to the MRI scan, David apparently hears a woman’s voice, but it wasn’t Kerry. It was Amy’s.

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We see Amy visit the facility, where she learns that there are apparently no records of David Haller or Dr. Kissinger at this hospital.  Amy asks the clerk if she’s being coerced, but the woman instead proposes that Amy herself be admitted for observation.  She then asks if Amy ever saw a psychiatrist for paranoid delusions.

As Amy prepares to leave, she hears David’s voice.  David, in astral form, calls out to her, but he can’t reach her.  At the same time, The Eye enters the hospital.

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Back to the scan, Cary notes a spike in neural activity.  He leaves, but the scan continues anyway.  And then David spots the Devil with Yellow Eyes standing before him.

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Soon enough, David finds himself out of the chamber.  Why?  Because the chamber itself, as Dr. Bird and the others soon see, is right outside Summerland.

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David tells Dr. Bird that Amy is being held by Division Three, but Bird tells David that he can’t help her.  He soon packs up and tells Syd that he’s leaving, but not because of Syd herself.  He tells her about seeing his sister while in the MRI machine.  He can’t just leave his sister.  Syd insists that David stay long enough to learn to learn what they can do together.

That way, after the work, they can rescue her.  Plus, Syd knows that Amy won’t be killed by Division Three because she’s bait.  David relents.  He’ll stick around.

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The episode ends with The Eye bringing a fish tank of leeches with him into the dingy room where Amy is being held.  It’s time to begin.

We’re now at episode two of Legion and it’s not as off-the-wall as the pilot, but that’s just fine.  The effects are just as outstanding as before, but this one slows down a bit in order to take us on a voyage through David’s mind.

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As Dr. Bird says, he has to move past the message that’s been parroted to him for years. He’s not just some schizophrenic, but has special abilities that could prove beneficial both to himself and Dr. Bird’s team group at Summerland.  Things are changing as he learns not just about his powers, but whether he can accept what is real and what’s just in his memory.

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At least he has a great support network.  We don’t know all of Melanie Bird’s motivations, but I like how she’s helping David understand his powers and how he can tap into them, as well as see them more as a gift instead of curse.  It’s no accident that her mentoring is very similar to that of Charles Xavier aiding mutants come to terms with their powers.

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But is that all?  She just helps mutants learn to harness their abilities?  Because as Ptonomy mentioned, Bird believes that David is the key to winning the war and other things.  What other things?  If we’re talking about a war with humans who capture and experiment on them, then that makes sense.  But to what end?  And what other things does Ptonomy mean?

I doubt we’re talking about an all out war against humanity for experimenting on humans, though it would not be unwarranted.  It’s like Dr. Bird has all the teachings of Professor X, but maybe shares Magneto’s desire to battle against humans.  That could be a stretch since there’s no reason yet to think Bird believes in mutant supremacy, but I am curious to see the depths of her plans for David.

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As is, I liked both her and Ptonomy going into David’s mind to see what triggered his mutant abilities.  I like how fractured some of these trips felt.  Between the direction and writing, it feels like whenever the scene glitches or cuts in and out, it’s he’s still battling with his mind or that he can only remember things in fragments and pieces.

David feels like he’s always on the edge.  He can sort of keep things under control, but either when pressed or taken to a certain point in his life, he loses it, as seen when he watches his father read a bedtime story to his younger self.  This is as much a journey for him as it is for us as he still processes his true capabilities as a mutant.

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I like the slow, methodical approach the show is taking to filling out David’s backstory and not spelling it all out at once.  We see his drug escapades with Lenny before they were institutionalized, Dr. Poole discussing David’s condition, and David’s relationship troubles with his girlfriend, but these are just as important in telling us more about him as they are in revealing moments that led to his abilities manifesting.  Memory work is brutal.

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By the way, the combination of Ptonomy’s abilities and the group grabbing the rods while at the table felt very reminiscent of Cerebro.  And Ptonomy, from what I got here, is a very laid back mutant who has been through this many times.

Being able to remember every single thing from your life, even before your birth, though, is a scary thought, coupled with examining moments where a person’s powers manifest. Sounds like a stressful job, but he handles it with care and it’s nice that he, like Syd and Bird, isn’t trying to force David.  After all, as he said, he’s just the memory guy.  He can only help unlock one piece of the larger puzzle.

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For now, even though David is as conflicted as ever, he stays because Syd assures him that the training will help him unlock his true potential.  Not to mention it allows the two to bond more.  Their relationship is an odd one- well, they are an odd couple- but there’s such strong chemistry between Dan Stevens and Rachel Keller that I soak up any screen time they have together.  I loved that “romance of the mind” line.

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In addition, there’s still much more to learn about Syd and her abilities.  We learn that she was in a similar position to David when she arrived, but don’t know the full scope of her powers.  She has an intimate connection with David due to being in his body and accidentally killing Lenny when she lost control, but David accepts her nonetheless.

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And she’s even willing to go as far as holding hands, against her rule, if it meant David would stay.  Sure, some of that is out of concern for him not putting in the work yet, but part of that also has to be from how she cares about him.

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But at the moment, David doesn’t have a choice but to stay if he wants to improve so he can safe Amy without fail.  I do wonder what plans The Eye- and I’m guessing Division Three as a whole- have for her.  The fact that she went looking for David should prove she doesn’t know where he is, but that doesn’t mean she can’t be coerced or tortured.

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And on an unrelated note, we learn more about David’s father and his interest in astronomy.  I hope we see more of him later on, not just to learn about David’s upbringing, but to see if Legion will play with David’s connection to Charles Xavier.

Chapter 2 peels back the layers of David Haller’s mind as he tries to understand his abilities, what triggered them, and how he’ll be useful to Melanie Bird.  We see more of David’s powers and vulnerabilities, but with time, he’ll hopefully gain more control of his powers.

At the same time, we see his continued struggles, glimpses of the Devil with Yellow Eyes that continues to torment his mind, and on top of that, Amy is in the hands of The Eye. David better start training hard.

A Look at The Walking Dead- Season 7, Episode 9: “Rock in the Road”

So our main characters have had more than enough of living under the Saviors’ rule.  With the second half of the season underway, it’s time to rise up, gather resources, and prepare for war.  Let’s jump back in with “Rock in the Road.”

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The episode begins in Alexandria.  After flipping through his Bible, Gabriel abandons his post and visits the pantry.  We hear a crash and then see Gabriel loading up as many supplies and cans of food as possible.  He packs up, leaving his Bible behind in the process, gases up a car, and drives off…with someone in the passenger seat.

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Over at the Hilltop, Gregory declares his deal with Rick’s group null and void since they failed to eliminate the Saviors.  As such, they aren’t trade partners and never met. Hell, Gregory feels Rick owes him for taking in Sasha and Maggie…the same people who helped save the Hilltop while Gregory hid.

Rick insists that they can defeat the Saviors.  It’s a better alternative than living under the Saviors’ thumbs while people die.  Gregory would rather continue his arrangement with the Saviors, so Maggie steps in and asks how many people the Hilltop can spare.  Tara insists that people will step up and fight if given the chance, but Gregory doesn’t believe the Hilltop residents are untrained fighters.  They just grow things.

Even though Gregory agrees that life would be better without the Saviors, he’s unwilling to lend his assistance.  Hell, as far as he’s concerned, Rick and his group didn’t even visit the Hilltop today.

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Though Gregory’s bullshit is difficult to bear, it turns out that the survivors may not need him after all.  Enid has told a group of Hilltop residents all about Rick’s plan and if there’s a chance that they beat the Saviors, then they’re willing to fight.  It’s a start, but even if Rick’s group found more weapons, they still lack the numbers.  The distance and geography work against them since Negan has so many outposts.

More than that, the Saviors will no doubt come to Alexandria in order to find Daryl, so it’s imperative that the survivors return.  However, Jesus reveals that he has one of the Saviors’ long range two-way radios, so they can listen in on anything happening at the Sanctuary.  There’s no rush to get back to Alexandria.  Instead, Jesus says that it’s time he introduced the group to Ezekiel…King Ezekiel.

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So Jesus leads them to the outer edge of the Kingdom, where they meet Richard and Alvaro, played by Carlos Navarro.  Jesus tells Richard that he’d like an audience with Ezekiel. Richard is skeptical of these newcomers, despite Jesus’ insistence that they’re good people who want to make the world less dangerous.  Richard will allow the group entrance, but only if they surrender their guns.  All two of them.  No big deal.

Though Richard is glad that Jesus, and not Gregory, has a backbone and a brain to boot, he doesn’t believe these trades or protection pacts will matter until they start dealing with the Saviors.  In response, Jesus believes this is the day that Richard will finally smile.

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So the survivors are brought into the Kingdom, which does have adequate numbers. They reunite with Morgan, who updates Rick and Daryl on Carol’s situation after she left Alexandria.  She’s fine, but just wanted to get away from everything, so after getting patched up at the Kingdom, she left.

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So Jesus brings Rick’s group to Ezekiel and his tiger.  It’s not often you see a tiger, more so in the apocalypse.  Rick states his case- Alexandria, the Hilltop, and the Kingdom all have one thing in common: they all serve the Saviors.  Alexandria fought them once and won, but taking out one outpost didn’t eliminate the entire threat.  So…can you really call that a win, Rick?

Okay, whatever.  Ezekiel is upset that Jesus told others about his deal with the Saviors.  And that only became known after Jesus told Ezekiel about the Hilltop’s travails with the Saviors.  This arrangement isn’t known to the public for a good reason.  In Jesus’ defense, he broke the Kingdom’s confidence so Ezekiel could hear Rick’s plan.

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Ezekiel is hesitant in joining Rick’s fight against the Saviors, but the group points out that they’ve lost good people to the Saviors.  It’s here that Morgan finds out the fates of Abraham, Glenn, Spencer, and Olivia, not to mention Eugene being taken hostage.  And though Daryl escaped, he’s still a target.  Jesus thought this arrangement with the Saviors was manageable, but that’s changed.

For all the strength of Rick’s group, they lack the numbers and weapons.  If they strike first, together, they can win.  Richard likes this idea, as he doesn’t want to wait for things to get worse.  The time to strike back is now.  Ezekiel asks Morgan for his input.  Morgan admits that a lot of people on both sides will die, so he wonders if there’s another way to do this, like capturing Negan.

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Rick then tells a tale that I think he’s been itching to share for weeks: there was this road to a kingdom, and there was a rock in the road.  People would avoid it, but horses would break their legs on it and die and wagon wheels would fall off.  As such, people would lose the goods they wanted to sell.  For example, this one little girl’s family had a cask of beer that fell off.  As her family had no money, this was their last chance to get food.

The girl cried and wondered why the rock was there to hurt others.  So she dig and dug so deep and hard that her hands bled, but she after hours, she managed to remove the rock. However, just as she was prepared to fill the hole, she saw a bag of gold in that hole. The king put that rock in the road because he knew the person who dug it out deserved a reward that would change their life forever.

A bit of a shitty king, but I suppose he had a point.  Anyway, after Rick’s monologue, Ezekiel invites everyone to stay until tomorrow, when he will deliver his decree.

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Out in the woods, Benjamin runs into Carol, who heard him from a mile away because Carol has super hearing.  He explains that he didn’t run because he’s training to be a better fighter.  Carol tells Benjamin not to wander around alone at dark, but he tells her that Ezekiel will keep checking on her to make sure she’s okay since he looks out for the people he cares for, after all.

Benjamin offers her some food and water- he carries extra in case he runs into someone who needs it.  After all, there’s not a lot of people left and you have to help each other.

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That night, Benjamin tells Ezekiel that he’s getting better with the stick, as he managed to take out two walkers.  During his unaccompanied trip, he ran into Carol and said that his reason for carrying food and water is the same reason the Kingdom should work with Rick.  These visitors are willing to risk everything.  If the Kingdom doesn’t help, then Rick’s group may not win.

But on the off-chance that they do, they will have saved everyone and the Kingdom would have done nothing to assist.  And Ezekiel did say that he wants Benjamin to be ready for anything.  With this in mind, Ezekiel thanks Benjamin for his sage counsel.  The king is pleased.

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The next day, Ezekiel tells Rick and company that life at the Kingdom came at a cost, as he sent people to battle the dead when he didn’t have to.  He wanted to expand and create more places like the Kingdom.  Rick counters that the dead don’t rule them.  The world beyond the Kingdom isn’t as good and some people don’t have it good at all. Understatement of the century, Rick.

Ezekiel has to worry about his people.  He’s trying to hold onto this uneasy peace with the Saviors.  He won’t offer aid now, but he does offer Daryl asylum for as long as necessary since the Saviors don’t enter the Kingdom.  Daryl, though, wonders how long that would even last.  The group leaves unsatisfied and empty handed.

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Sasha tells Rosita that saw this coming, but she’s still upset.  Rosita doesn’t see why Sasha is telling her this, though.  Just because they both had sex with Abraham doesn’t make them friends.  Okay, does Rosita have a bug in her ass or something?

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Morgan wants Rick so he can hopefully change Ezekiel’s mind.  Richard, though, is more on board with Rick’s plan.  It doesn’t help the communities are just making the Saviors stronger by giving them food and arms.  Also, Daryl won’t be leaving.  Rick wants him to stay at the Kingdom.  That way, he can hopefully convince Ezekiel or, even better, stare him into submission.  That’s actually not a bad idea, Rick.

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On the road, the group overhears Negan’s eulogy of Fat Joey- apparently without Fat Joey, Skinny Joey is just Joey- and soon arrives at a blockade of cars in the road.  With a base not too far, they figure that the Saviors want to make it hard for people to reach this outpost.  The plan is to move the cars around and move them back so the Saviors don’t know others entered this area.

As the group gets to work moving the cars, they notice some explosives and steel cables needed for dealing with a walker herd.  The group welcomes themselves to these explosives, but they need to disarm them first.  Backing up won’t make a difference if the explosives go off.  At the same time, the group hears on the radio that Negan has ordered a search party to go find Daryl.

So now the survivors need to get the explosives and get to Alexandria before the Saviors. Good thing Rosita is an expert at disarming bombs.  Do you remember when Rosita was a pro at this?  I don’t.  Anyway, they need to unwrap the secondary explosives and make sure the casings aren’t messed up.  The explosives still need to be triggered to be set off, though there’s one in particular that Rosita doesn’t like.  She’s particular like that.

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Then, in the distance, Carl spots some approaching walkers.  There’s still time to disarm them and get the cars back on the road.  Sure, the Saviors will know that their bombs are missing, but this herd needs to stay on the highway.  The group may need it later.

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Jesus and Sasha head back to the Hilltop on foot.  As the others move the cars, Rick and Michonne cut through the wires and try to get as many weapons and explosives as possible.  They soon head to and hotwire two cars connected by the wiring and, in a set piece I’m sure most of us loved, they mow down the herd as the wire cuts through as many walkers as possible.

I guess it’s a good thing there was no rock in the road.  Rick and Michonne soon rejoin the others and head out just as the walkers are engulfed by an explosion.  Nice going, Rosita. But hey, they made it.  As Michonne tells Rick, they’re the ones who live.

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They return to Alexandria in no time.  Rick tells Tobin that everyone needs to get ready, but there’s no time for that, as Simon and a group of Saviors have arrived not for a tribute, but to find Daryl.  And Simon isn’t dumb enough to believe that Rick doesn’t know about Daryl’s disappearance.  So Simon wants everyone to partner up and search for Daryl.  That way, they can all watch him die if he’s found.

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The Saviors go through every nook and cranny of Alexandria, leaving a mess in the process, but don’t find Daryl.  In the now empty pantry, Aaron tells Simon that  but no sign of Daryl.  In the now empty pantry, Aaron tells Simon that it’s getting harder to find things for their community when they spend so much time gathering for Negan.

Again, Simon isn’t here to collect, but that day is coming.  Simon thanks Rick for his cooperation and tells him that if Daryl shows up, there’s no statute of limitations.  Well, at least Simon acknowledges that there’s still a statute of limitations in the post-apocalyptic world.  Tobin and Aaron tell Rick that Gabriel has disappeared, the pantry has been cleared out, and he stole a car.

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Aside from Rosita, no one wants to believe that Gabriel would steal from them.  Not to mention that Gabriel left his Bible, and Rick finds that curious.  He then sees the word ‘Boat’ written in a notebook.  So how would Gabriel know that Aaron and Rick were out there?

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As Aaron packs up, Eric confesses his concern, as Aaron did get the shit kicked out of him.  Eric doesn’t want Aaron to go after Gabriel, but after everything the community has endured, Gabriel is one of them and has proven his worth.  Despite the fear of what could happen if the Saviors returned while Rick and the others were out, Aaron is still set on leaving.

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After Rick and Aaron lead the group to the lake, Rick spots some footprints.  The group follows them and ends up in a clearing where, all of a sudden, they find themselves surrounded by a group of armed men and women.  And through it all, Rick eventually smiles.

So we’re back for the second half of the season and off to a good start as the main survivors get to work building an army to take down the Saviors.  Sure, they don’t make much progress since both Gregory and Ezekiel aren’t on board with this plan, but it’s only a matter of time before Rick has his united coalition to combat Negan.

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Before, when he decided to go for one of the outposts, Rick thought his plan was foolproof.  Attack the Saviors before they made the first move.  And despite doing that and more, the Saviors struck back and hard, so Rick needs to dial back his overconfidence. Rather than do it alone, he’s hoping that the Hilltop and Kingdom are just as fed up with Negan’s reign as they are.

Rick and company have proven time and time again that, when committed, they can overtake any challenge.  Hell, upon first learning about Negan, Rick said that confrontation has never been something the group has had trouble with, and then he met Negan.

So brute strength and heart alone won’t do it.  There’s strength in numbers and like the girl who dug out that rock in the road, Rick has to overcome obstacles in order to get back to some semblance of peace.

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Not just with Negan as that obstacle, but also in convincing the other communities that this is a fight they can win.  At this point, Gregory’s opinion is irrelevant since people at the Hilltop trust Maggie’s leadership and are already willing to put their lives on the line if there’s even a one percent chance that the Saviors can be defeated.

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And Ezekiel has every reason to be concerned.  He’s already kept his arrangement with the Saviors a secret and he doesn’t want to send more people to their deaths.  Why take the risk when there’s no guarantee of victory?  He’s sympathetic to Rick’s plight, yes, but not at the cost of his people.

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While Richard and Benjamin are already on board with fighting, I wager it’s going to take a major incident to push Ezekiel into joining Rick.  As Daryl asked, how long will the Saviors agree to not enter the Kingdom?  Someone is going to get hurt, killed, or the Saviors will break the peace because they can.  And that will what be what convinces Ezekiel that the Saviors must be removed from the equation if there is to be true peace.

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Also, I’m glad we got to spend a bit of time with Morgan, not just to get his reaction to who has been killed, but to see that he’s still keeping Carol’s location a secret.  And he’s still grappling with his stance on killing.  He did it to protect Carol, but despite hearing what the Saviors have done, he’s still looking for alternatives rather than going to war.  But like when he saved Carol, he may have to kill again to protect those going into battle.

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And even though Carol wants to stay out of the conflict- for now- she’s still a skilled warrior, as seen when she tells Benjamin about how to stay stealthy.  I’m unsure if she’s going to remain on the sidelines, but I imagine all that’s happened to her friends will at least get a reaction out of her.  Enough to draw her back into combat?  No idea.

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I like that we don’t spend an entire episode’s worth of Rick and company trying to recruit. It would’ve been easy to spend half the episode at the Hilltop, the other half at the Kingdom, and just end it there.  But these people have to keep moving because despite needing the numbers, they still have to contend with the Saviors, more so now that Daryl is a fugitive.

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Not to mention the fact that they’re desperate for weapons, which made the sequence on the road more hectic…even though these characters have such thick plot armor that we know they were never in any real danger, despite Rick and Michonne being surrounded.

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Plus, The Walking Dead has good set pieces when it comes to eliminating batches of walkers, but cutting through them with wire and two cars?  That’s some inspired ingenuity right there.  A bit ridiculous, but fun as hell all the same.

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Onto some character bits.  I can do without Rosita being such a prat to Sasha.  Where’s this coming from, by the way?  They seemed to be on good terms, last I checked.  If anything, I would think they’d be drawn closer since they both loved Abraham.  But no, she brings up that shared connection as a way to be cold to Sasha, who only expressed her disappointment about the situation.

More than that, she’s quick to throw Gabriel under the bus when he was the one to tell her that she didn’t need to sacrifice herself if it meant killing Negan.

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If I had to guess, maybe Rosita’s just salty that she couldn’t kill Negan from a few feet away.

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But what is Gabriel doing, anyway?  I wonder if it has to do with this new community we see at the end of the episode.  And though Rosita has turned her back on Gabriel, I’m happy that the others, especially Rick, trust that Gabriel wouldn’t just betray them.

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As for this new community, just who the hell are they?  At a first, quick glance, it’s easy to think these were Oceanside residents, but we saw men among them, so that rules them out.  But judging from Rick’s smile, he sees some advantage in this group.  Potential cannon fodder-I mean, soldiers for the war against the Saviors?  Who knows?  Here’s hoping we find out next time.

A Look at Legion- Series Premiere: “Chapter 1”

San Diego Comic-Con 2016 was a great time for fans.  The Walking Dead’s trailer for the seventh season promised something great that would hopefully make up for the Season Six cliffhanger ending.

Marvel Studios introduced The Defenders and officially confirmed the news we all knew- that Brie Larson had been cast as Carol Danvers.  And DC, in addition to showing a trailer for Wonder Woman, gave a surprise look at the upcoming Justice League film.

But never mind that.  My eyes were glued to Legion: an X-Men series coming to FX. And the reason for my focus on this all had to do with one man: Noah Hawley.  Mr. Hawley won me over with his two seasons of Fargo, so to hear that he would be writing an X-Men television show excited me more than anything from the DC Extended Universe, Marvel Cinematic Universe, or other world.

It helped that the X-Men themselves, as far as films go, were in an odd position.  Deadpool surpassed expectations, X-Men: Apocalypse made money, but wasn’t as well-received as Days of Future Past, though I enjoyed the film myself.  Aside from Deadpool sequels leading to X-Force and Josh Boone directing an upcoming New Mutants film, it didn’t seem that there was a lot on the horizon for the X-Men.

Then Legion came along and the trailer looked like something we hadn’t seen before from most comic book based shows or films with the possible exceptions of Preacher and Doctor Strange.  And FX itself has been on a roll lately with its programming, so the idea of Hawley bringing his writing abilities not just to another FX series, but an X-Men one at that, seemed pretty interesting.

Despite the back and forth on whether Legion would or wouldn’t address or be a part of the film universe, and even the odd notion that this show would be part of the MCU, I was still excited regardless of whether this show would acknowledging that David Haller is Charles Xavier’s son, as well as the rest of Haller’s connection to X-Men canon.  Hawley has shown that he is a good writer, so I was in no matter the continuity.

But I’ve gushed enough.  It’s time to sit down, put your brains to work, and jump into the mind of David Haller.  Let’s take a look at Legion.

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The series begins with, of all things, a young boy going through the phases of his life. This is David Haller, and let’s watch as he grows up, wrecks police cruisers with his mind, and is eventually given prescriptions to deal with the voices in his heads.  Oh, and he’s had a brush with suicide as well.  All to the sound of “Happy Jack” by The Who.

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We then end up at the Clockworks Psychiatric Hospital as David, played by Dan Stevens, speaks with his sister, Amy, played by Katie Aselton, who has come to give him a birthday cupcake.  He can’t have it, though, so Amy tastes it herself.  David doesn’t even get a party or better drugs.  Some birthday, indeed.  To him, today is just the 260th Thursday on the Mental Health cruise ship..

Amy is certain that David is getting better at dealing with the voices and seeing things that aren’t there.  David wants to come home, but his doctor maintains that if David believes he’s seeing people that aren’t there, then he is, in fact, crazy.  Amy offers to talk with the doctors on David’s behalf, but that won’t be happening now.  As David is taken away for his meds, he tells his sister that something needs to happen soon.

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As David is wheeled into the hospital, all while having flashes and seeing what may or may not be there, he’s saddled next to Lenny Busker, played by Aubrey Plaza, and the two observe a drooling specimen.  Lenny is torn on whether the drool is spit or possibly yogurt.  Requires further research, I’m sure.

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The two then spot a woman heading into the main room to receive her meds.  This is Sydney Barrett, played by Rachel Keller…and you know what?  Let’s just stick with Syd. Anyway, Lenny admires Syd’s hair and ass, she finds her a tad jittery.  David rushes out of his wheelchair and over to Syd, but his attempt to give her a Twizzler ends with him getting far too close and bumping into her. She leaves in a rush.

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That evening, as David sleeps, he hears the voice of his doctor, who asks him how he feels.  David feels and is having visions of a devil with yellow eyes.  The thoughts become so intense that David’s bed, now in the air, comes crashing down.  This noise gets the attention of doctors who rush in and sedate David.

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The next day, David, Lenny, and other patients have a session with Dr. Kissinger, played by David Ferry, when Syd joins the session.  She’s not here to contribute, though- she’d prefer everyone continue talking so they can keep pretending their problems are just in their heads. However, she does say that David is probably here because someone told him that he wasn’t normal.  But hey, Einstein and Picasso weren’t normal either.

To Syd, maybe David’s so-called problems aren’t problems at all or even in his head.  She talks of magazine cartoons where a man is on an island with a single palm tree.  She thinks often of when people say go to your happy place.  In essence, maybe people are wrong when they call the likes of Syd crazy.  Maybe those things, the voices they hear- that’s what makes them who they are.

Because he must be bold, David asks Syd if she’ll be his girlfriend.  And like that, she agrees.  There’s one caveat: David can’t touch her.  According to Syd’s file, she doesn’t like to be touched, even though animals apparently need physical contact to feel love. Syd welcomes David to find her at dinner.

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At dinner, the two bond as Syd tells David all about her dislikes: for example, she doesn’t like orange or cherry-flavored things.  Oddly specific.  Later that evening, when the two are alone, Syd tells David that after the sun goes down and the light is right, if you un-focus your eyes, and then look back out, you see how the hospital disappears and it’s like watching yourself outside.  David implores Syd to hold still and look out the window.

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He closes his eyes and begins to focus as he hears a voice asking him about a girl who was taken.  David is certain that there was a hospital and that Syd is real woman, but according to The Interrogator, played by Hamish Linklater, tells David the hospital has no records of Syd ever being a patient and Kissinger probably won’t back David’s story anyway.

More than that, The Interrogator just wants to focus on David’s schizophrenia.  The Interrogator hypothesizes that David’s state of mind is due to his illness.

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We cut to Kissinger telling David that his job is to assess whether David is a threat to others or himself, given that he did try to commit suicide.  David then goes into his history: he was expelled from college and wasn’t thinking straight most of the time.  The anger and voices in his head drove him mad.

As for his suicide attempt, David tells Kissinger that the voices didn’t tell him to tie the knot and try to hang himself.  Hell, they tried to stop him.  Though David survived, police still found rope burns on his neck.  David feels better now, but he’s asked if he feels he can control things with his mind.

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The Interrogator asks David if he could control things, and this prompts David to ask if he’s being accused of Syd’s death.  He isn’t.  For now.  The Interrogator just wants the truth.

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The episode flashes back to David in his bed as he dreams of Syd, who soon joins him in his room.  She tells him to remain under the covers while she sleeps on top of the sheets with a divider between them.  Turns out Syd will be getting out soon since Kissinger has said she’s clear.  She wants David to get better so she can leave, too.  David goes in for a kiss, but Syd recoils.  Remember, no touching.

In the present, The Interrogator asks why David didn’t touch Syd.  Well, it was a mental hospital, so it might not have felt right.  When David is granted a break, The Interrogator leaves the room, walks through a drained swimming pool, and ends up in a gym where soldiers are arming themselves.

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The Interrogator speaks with a man who is observing the interrogation.  The Interrogator tells the man that David has had a spike in telepathic activity.  David may know that he’s crazy, but part of him knows that his power is real.  And if the readings are correct, David Haller may be the most powerful mutant ever encountered.  After what happened in Red Hook, that’s a bit of an understatement.

The problem is that David doesn’t fully understand or know how to control his power, so some, including the old man here, believe David should be killed before he realizes what he is.  The Interrogator at least wants to give David until the end of the day.  After all, there hasn’t been a study like him before.  But if things go south, David is to be moved to Level Two.

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David, meanwhile, asks if he can be left alone, but the man in the room with him just leaves him a dog figurine before leaving David in the room by himself.

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We flash back to David arguing with his girlfriend he continues to hear voices.  He manages to silence them, but not for long as the kitchen begins to rumble and, in seconds, everything goes haywire.  Drawers, cabinets, everything opens and kitchenware explodes and flies all around him.  David cowers in fear, but he soon spots a blob with yellow eyes staring at him.

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The Interrogator returns with some doctors in order to read David’s brain while they talk. He implores for calm, saying that he’s afraid for David since he’s off his meds and could be a danger to both himself and others around him.  David believes that the doctors are afraid of him, but he does agree to have the electrodes placed on his head.  He then begins to tell The Interrogator about a certain incident.

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We flash back to Syd about to leave the facility.  Dr. Kissinger tells her that she can leave David a note.  As he escorts her out, they’re interrupted by Lenny, who needs a minute to talk with Syd about lady stuff.  This lady stuff up being about a new candy bar that Lenny would love Syd to but and mail to her.

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Then David rushes in just as Syd tells him that she was looking for him.  Against Syd’s request, he goes in for the kiss.  In a flash, after David sees a field of televisions, the world goes topsy-turvy and the two are knocked backwards.

The facility is put on mandatory lockdown.  Doctors restrain David while Kissinger whisks Syd away.  As the doctors try to restrain David, a red hue overtakes the room as everything goes dark.  David soon sees the blob creature again.

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At the same time, Kissinger leaves Syd alone in a small infirmary.  With new curiosity, Syd observes her hands, heads to the mirror, and…starts cradling her breasts.

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This is where The Interrogator cuts off David, who insists that he ended up switching bodies with Syd due to her powers, which would explain why she doesn’t like being touched.  Ah, okay.  Objects in the interrogation room begin to rattle as a frustrated David tells The Interrogator to leave, but The Interrogator wants David to continue.

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So back in the past, Kissinger joins Syd, unaware that it’s actually David.  Syd, meanwhile, in David’s body, is freaking out.  Kissinger and Syd soon head down a hallway that is now bereft of doors, but not room numbers.  The two continue to hear screams from within the walls, but they soon find the dead body of Lenny sticking halfway out of the wall.  Back in the present, The Interrogator asks David if Syd has any extra-sensory powers.

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Kissinger takes Syd outside, though she insists that Syd herself is still in the facility.  As the two leave, they spot several people, The Interrogator apparently among them, exiting a limousine.

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David confronts The Interrogator on whether he was one of the people who exited the limousine.  The Interrogator denies this and and demands that David tell him about the people in the limousine, but David begins to lose control again.  How much?  Well, he sends The Interrogator’s pen into the man’s cheek.

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David rises and turns the interrogation cell upside down as everything and everyone within goes haywire.  David seems satisfied with what he’s done, but then he gets the gas.

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The story continues as we hear the voice of David’s mother.  David, still as Syd, eventually regains control of his own body.  He heads off with Syd’s suitcase.

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He ends up at Amy’s place and tells her that he’s been released, so now he needs a place to stay for awhile.  Amy is surprised, but agrees.  She runs it past her husband, Ben, played by Matt Hamilton, who is also fine with this new arrangement.

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After feasting on some waffles- Eleven would be proud of him- David is taken to a setup downstairs in the basement.  Amy instructs him not to answer the phone.  As David gets himself settled, he gets a visit from Lenny’s ghost.  She insists that she’s not upset about David killing her.

And it’s not Syd’s fault because she was just a passenger in David’s body.  Lenny isn’t too bothered about her death.  She would’ve just kept popping pills.  Besides, David has enough problems on his hands because people who know about the hospital incident are coming for him.  In addition, because of what Syd did while she was in David’s body, David himself is in deep shit.

The shit is so deep that it causes David to destroy the basement lamp.  This gets Amy’s attention and she heads downstairs to discover what David has done.  And in a moment I can’t help but love, she removes all of the gardening tools.

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Then, David, Syd, and the rest of the inmates take part in a dance number.

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Okay.  Syd implores David to wake up and he does as we return to the present and find David in a now filled pool surrounded by The Interrogator and some guards.  If David pulls any funny stuff, he’ll get 100,000 volts.  David laughs, calling this a delusion.  The Interrogator tells David that Syd was taken under the assumption that she was David.

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David insists that he did go looking for Syd.  To prove that, the episode then flashes back to David using a pay phone and calling the hospital to learn about Syd, as he’s pretending to be her father.  However, the hospital has no records of Syd.  David then notices two people- two of the same that exited the limo- following him.

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He manages to give them the slip, but then he spots Syd’s face on someone else’s head- some real Voldemort shit here- and soon Syd herself appears and tells him not to stop. Thing is Syd’s not really here.  This is just the memory of the day David called the hospital and Syd has been projected into his memory, where his pursuers can’t track him.  The agents speaking to him aren’t cops, either.

As for the current pool situation, Syd tells David to slide out of his chair get in the water, and wait until he sees her.  Before David can do anything else, he’s hauled into a van.

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Back in the present, The Interrogator asks David about the two people who chased him. David realizes that the third person who exited the limo wasn’t The Interrogator, but a woman.  When asked about where Syd is, David tells The Interrogator that he’s about to find out.  With that, David slides into the water.  This prompts the guards to open fire and there’s soon an explosion.  Charred skeletons land in the pool.

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When David emerges, he finds Syd waiting for him, along with the two people who pursued him: Ptonomy Wallace, played by Jeremie Harris, and Kerry Loudermilk, played by Amber Midthunder.  Syd, wearing gloves, reminds David not to touch her skin.

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The four exit through a hole in the wall and enter a war zone as they duck and dodge gunfire.  As the group reaches the bottom of the hill, David implores Syd to stop and asks if any of this is real.  What if they’re just back at the hospital and none of this happened? Syd insists that she and everything happening around David is real.  She even came back for David because she loves him.

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And it’s here that Syd introduces David to the other woman who exited the limousine: Melanie Bird, played by Jean Smart.  Melanie beckons David to take her hand, and as David spots the yellow-eyed blog yet again, he takes Melanie’s hand as the episode comes to a close.

Wow.  This is a fantastic start for Legion and while I was left scratching my head many times, knowing this will require a second, maybe even third watch, this was a great pilot.

I’ll come out and admit that aside from knowing that David Haller is Charles Xavier’s son, more on that connection in a bit, I know next to nothing about this creation from the minds of Bill Sienkiewicz and Chris Claremont.  And to be honest, that doesn’t seem to matter.

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As products like Batman BeginsThe Dark Knight, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier, just to name a few, have shown, some of the most memorable superhero or comic book based properties can come from those that don’t even feel like they’re based on comic books.

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Hell, even on the Netflix side of things, Daredevil often feels like a crime drama and Jessica Jones is a noir.  The main characters just happened to be based on prior source material.

So despite the word ‘mutant’ being name-dropped once and only once, despite David’s abilities, I get the sense that Legion wasn’t made exclusively for X-Men fans.  It’s made for those who like drama, science fiction, and people who enjoy a look at the psychological.

And I’ll admit my bias towards the man based on his prior work, but Noah Hawley is a great pick for this.  Fargo alone is proof that Hawley is a great writer, can deal with an ensemble cast, give them complex material, and make a compelling piece of television. With him on board, he’s given us a very unique comic book based property that doesn’t feel like any other adaptation right now.

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We have certain expectations of superhero and comic based properties nowadays.  The street-level MCU programs we get on Netflix are a departure from what we get on network television like Agents of SHIELDGotham, or any of the many Greg Berlanti-created programs.  While those programs are good in their own ways, they often tend to follow set patterns and conventions.

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Legion, though, isn’t interested in conventions.  Rather, it breaks them.  Hell, the show killed Aubrey Plaza in the pilot.  Now I know she’ll appear again, but it’s still a bold move. The show is non-linear, not everything gets explained right away, if at all, our protagonist doesn’t see himself as a hero and isn’t even sure what’s real, and the approach in storytelling, whether in its script or visuals, set it apart from the other comic properties.

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What’s more, it helps that this show isn’t tied to any continuity.  While SHIELD likes to play up the ‘It’s all connected’ game and act like it’s still relevant within the MCU, Legion, despite the conflicting reports we received, is not interested in the continuity established by the X-Men films.

Could the show eventually tie into the films?  Yeah, I suppose, but right now, there’s no need.  And not being bound by any pre-established plot allows Legion to stand on its own and tell a unique story.

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And that great storytelling is complimented by equally impressive visuals and cinematography.  Hawley’s direction puts you right into David’s mind as we see his view of the world, what happens when his powers manifest, when he loses control, and how he processes everything around him.  It all gave me a similar experience to when I saw Doctor Strange at the cinema.

It’s a well-done psychological drama and it pays respect to some recent greats that we’ve gotten in the past few years.  Spending so much time on a main character’s mental state gave me huge Mr. Robot vibes, though unlike Elliot, David’s powers are quite real. Whether everything around him is all real is another question.

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And an unstable mental patient unsure how to control their abilities, but they have a huge love of waffles?

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Not sure if this show was filmed or written at the same time as Stranger Things, but I think David and Eleven would make great friends.

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Legion is X-Men meets Mr. Robot meets Stranger Things and it’s a great blend of what makes those three properties great, in addition to having some great humor to boot, such as Amy taking away the sharp tools so David doesn’t cause more harm to himself or the basement.

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I’m a big fan of non-linear storytelling when done well and Legion excels in that. The trips to David’s youth or journeys through his mind aren’t just there to fill in the blanks or give us extra story, but also show his mental state, as he’s unable to maintain control of his powers.  More than that, while these flashbacks and glimpses show us David’s upbringing, his scattered mind makes it hard to determine what’s real.

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David accepts that he has clear problems, but are these really issues just because he’s been told that?  Legion asks who gets to determine what’s normal.  Syd, for example, believes those nuances make us who we are.  Geniuses and prodigies are often called oddities or any number of words that make them seem outside the range of normal, as if being outside what society expects makes you a pariah.

These are the sorts of the things that mutants often deal with in the X-Men series, but Legion isn’t pulling an X-Men: First Class here and making statements like “Mutant and proud.”  Hawley is a much smarter writer than that and this show, from what I can tell, is less concerned with the mutant agenda and more with unpacking David’s mind, challenging as that is.

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It’s almost like we’re experiencing David’s journey along with him, as the trips, flashbacks, and distortions don’t just mess with your mind, but give visual examples to his schizophrenia.  He’s in an endless battle with his mind, and, as Kissinger says, could be a threat to others as well as himself.

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The casting was on the mark for this character.  I love the many facial expressions of Dan Stevens, as if he’s always contemplating if what he sees and hears are real or just in his head.  And if they’re real, is this a sign of his powers manifesting or is he imagining everything?  He’s already uncertain of what he sees, as he mistakenly saw The Interrogator exiting the limo instead of Melanie Bird, so who knows if he’s to be trusted.

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His relationship with Syd is an interesting one.  As evidenced by the kiss and her unwillingness to be touched, Syd has great powers just as David does.  Is she just as much a threat to others as David is, or has she accepted her abilities in the same way that she’s fine being seen as abnormal?  It looks to be fate that she and David are linked, but I’m curious to see how this odd relationship develops.

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And another good casting.  I already loved Rachel Keller based on her work on Fargo’s second season, but she’s excellent here as well.  And while the name Syd Barrett is an obvious nod to Pink Floyd, I don’t believe Keller’s character here is based off of any mutant in X-Men mythology.  But Syd is so serious about not being touched. Someone at Fox needs to have needs to have Keller play Rogue at some point.

Hell, Fox as a whole needs to take a few pointers, and this is where I’ll go on a mini X-Men rant.  Look, I liked Apocalypse, but not as much as Days of Future Past.  And with Fox set to do another run at Dark Phoenix, you need not just a great director, but also a writer who can get into a character’s head and explore their psyche.  If Legion is any indication, it’s that Hawley has what it takes to add complexity to Sophie Turner’s Jean Grey.

Even though there’s nothing concrete about the next main series X-Men film, aside from this rumored title of X-Men: Supernova, if the people at Fox, whether that’s Simon Kinberg, Lauren Shuler Donner, or whomever is steering the X-Men film ship, aren’t looking at Noah Hawley writing prowess and the fresh take he could bring to the X-Men, then they aren’t doing their job.

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I said this on Twitter, but could you imagine taking this visual flair and storytelling about controlling your powers and applying it to Jean Grey’s struggle to combat the Phoenix? The writing is on the wall and should Legion prove to be a success, Fox should consider having Hawley help writing the X-Men films.  Between LegionFargo, and his other projects, Hawley is a busy man, I’m sure, but Fox should consider it.

With all that said, Legion hits the ground running and doesn’t fall back on traditions when it comes to a comic-based property.  And with so many questions, I can’t wait to see where this all heads.  Will David be able to control his powers?  How, if at all, will Melanie Bird be able to help him?  Will the government still pursue David?

Free to work outside of the X-Men universe, Noah Hawley has set to tell his own story and he’s given us a complex look at the inner workings of David Haller’s mind.

In a time where we hear ‘superhero fatigue’ tossed around, for whatever reason, this show does well to set itself apart from what you’d expect from a comic book adaptation.  It’s stylish, unconventional, thought-provoking, and is a fresh take on the X-Men property. Legion is off to a great start and I’m all in for the journey.

A Look at The Walking Dead #163: “Conquered”

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The Whisperer War arc is over.  But the long-lasting effects of the Whisperers and their massive herd are still being felt with the massive heard unleashed on the Alexandria Safe Zone residents.  Beta and the remaining Whisperers don’t even need to engage Rick and company right now.  The roamer herd will do the work for them.

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There’s no time to breathe or blink in this issue.  Right from the start, Rick and gang are mounting an offensive to stop this oncoming rush of the dead.  That by itself is an uphill task, and this herd eclipses what the residents had to deal with back in “No Way Out.” There, the numbers were huge, sure, the survivors could contain and gradually thin out the swarm of roamers.  Not so much here.

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So of course we’re gonna be concerned about anyone going out to try and take this threat head-on, but I love the fact that Andrea, Eugene, Dwight, Michonne, and Jesus- did I miss anyone?- are going to the herd to try and split it apart.

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It’s not a bad idea in theory, but in execution, even though it’s the best this group can offer right now.  And this squad does figure out early on that there’s almost no way to lead this many roamers away from Alexandria, especially when the herd is headed in a straight line.  It would take precious time that this group doesn’t have when the herd is already within striking distance of Alexandria.

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With that in mind, I like the idea of divide and conquer.  Every little bit lessens the impact the herd will have on the Safe Zone, and if anything, this lets Michonne and Jesus be the badasses we know them for as they get to work cutting down a few roamers at a time.

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It hacks away at the herd even further and gives this group an opportunity to eliminate some of the roamers instead of just leading them away.  I’m still concerned for this group, though.  Eugene was exhausted last time, but he tells Rick that he’s ready for this battle. And I’m hoping the energy Michonne and Jesus are exerting while cutting down roamers doesn’t inhibit their ability to escape.

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Now let’s get to the Safe Zone itself.  There’s some great tension and fantastic imagery here.  Between Cliff Rathburn, Stefano Gaudiano, Charlie Adlard, we get some good visuals of the herd pressing towards Alexandria.  It’s much more claustrophobic, I feel, than the herd in “No Way Out” just due the size and volume of the herd ready to break down the gates.

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But Alexandria has defenses to keep the roamers at bay, and while it’s good that Alexandria has spikes to impale roamers, I wish the residents here took a page from the Saviors.  Remember, roamers are kept in place in traps right outside the Sanctuary, and that particular scent of the dead keeps away other roamers.

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Enough about that, though.  Let’s talk about Negan and his rallying call.  Here’s a guy who has brought terror to the Alexandrian residents, but now, after proving to Rick that he wants to change and going as far as killing Alpha, there’s no fucking way Negan will sit out a battle.  I wager they would have rallied behind Rick and stabbed the walkers anyway, but Negan gave them that extra push.

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And the look on Rick’s face right he implores the residents to “Listen to the man” is beautiful.  Thinking back on what these two have been through and done to each other, it’s a new development for them.  Even if Rick hates Negan for what he’s done, he did go to Negan for advice on convincing the residents to crush the Whisperers, and Negan had many opportunities to screw over Rick and leave, but he hasn’t.

Perhaps he’s changed.  Maybe he could turn over a new leaf.  As much as we want to hate Negan for what he’s done, the man has shown that he has a calmer side, as we saw with how he treats his wives, apologizing to Carl after making him cry, or how he bonded with Alpha…before he killed her, anyway.  Point is, in this one moment, Negan, not Rick is the one who led the charge.  And rather than shirk away, the people listened.

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Obviously it wasn’t enough, but it was one of two things I didn’t think I’d see from Negan. The second came from Negan rescuing Rick.  Again, he saved Rick.  This is the same guy who is responsible for breaking Rick’s leg in the first place and now he’s goddamn saving his life.  That is just great.  And I love how in-character it is, as Negan still says “You’re a hard fucking man to please, Rick Grimes.”

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And watching this all from the outside are the Saviors, who are still in wait to pick up the pieces once the herd is done with Alexandria.  What I wonder is how long the Saviors will keep up this stand.  I’m sure Sherry is a competent leader, but she’s not Negan.  And do the Saviors want to risk losing more of their numbers by escalating another battle between them and the other communities?

That’s not to say the Saviors, like the remaining Whisperers, couldn’t just slip into the background and reappear at an inconvenient time for the survivors.  Hell, the reason the Saviors aren’t striking out at Rick now is because they’re letting the Whisperers wear him down.  Whether they’ll have a similar impact to when they were led by Negan, we shall see.

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“Conquered” was a good read and over pretty quickly, now that I think about it.  But it was a fun one nonetheless and with the herd breaking into Alexandria, Rick’s group is now separated from Andrea’s as they continue to combat the sea of roamers.  Negan stepping up and not just helping, but saving Negan’s life was a surprise, but after all he’s done to prove he’s changed, it felt earned.

And now, these two enemies have no choice but to join together and deal with a mutual threat.  Complimented by some great artwork, issue #163 was an enjoyable issue.  And hey, for only 25 cents this time around, you can’t go wrong with this one.

A Look at Gotham- Season 3, Episode 14: “Mad City: The Gentle Art of Making Enemies”

You know the thing about chaos?  It’s fair.  And in Gotham City, the everyday citizens just need a little push to embrace their darker sides, assuming most people in Gotham even have good sides to them.  Point is with Jerome switching off the lights and mass hysteria in the city, it’s a dangerous night to be in Gotham City.  Let’s jump into the winter finale with “The Gentle Art of Making Enemies.”

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The episode begins with the GCPD precinct under attack.  Jim, Harvey, and the rest fight off as many people as they can, but the crazies continue to stream in with no sign of Jerome in sight.

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Penguin and two flunkies arrive at a garage and find an unharmed Nygma.  Oswald is overjoyed to see his friend, but Nygma has other plans, as he quickly guns down Oswald’s two cohorts.  He then shows Isabella’s wrecked car to Oswald and admits that he knows what Oswald did.  Now it’s Nygma’s time for revenge.

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With panic in the streets, Kathryn- remember her?- speaks with an unnamed man named played by James Remar.  Remar’s character has a name, but we’ll get to that later.  The two discuss the current panic in Gotham, with Kathryn noting that the city will bend long before it breaks.  The man believes that the GCPD can fix this mess, and Kathryn notes that this faith in Gordon could be dangerous.

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Back at the GCPD, power is still out and there’s no word on Jerome’s location.  Mobs have taken over the city and now ordinary citizens have taken Jerome’s words to heart. This would be a good time to have a leader calm things down, but Mayor Cobblepot is currently missing.

However, Jim figures that if Jerome is taken down since he’s the symbol, the public might calm down.  The task now is finding out what he wants since he wanted to plunge the city into darkness.  Jim goes to find Leslie.

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Nygma secures Oswald to Isabella’s car and tells him all about his plan, including stealing the remains of Oswald’s father- which now rest in a dumpster.  Oswald forgives Nygma, saying that killing him isn’t the way, and soon confesses to killing Isabella.  Hell, he thinks Nygma should thank him.  Ed counters that he could’ve been happy, but Oswald is certain that Ed would have eventually killed Isabella, just as he did with Miss Kringle.

After, Ed would’ve hated himself, but then Oswald admits that he did it for love.  Ed doesn’t believe that.  To him, love is about sacrifice and putting someone else’s needs before your own, and Ed believes that Oswald would sacrifice anyone to save himself.

Nygma then shows off his death trap, which looks more to the point than the one he had in Batman Forever.  Suspended above Oswald is a cauldron of acid that’s being held in place by a chain.  Once the ice block melts, the chain will loosen and the acid tips. Oswald pleads for his life, saying that his love for Ed proves that he can change, but Ed believes these are the words of a desperate man about to die.

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Back at GCPD, when Jim asks Leslie if Jerome said anything vital, Leslie responds that Jerome did say that he wanted his face back…and that he asked if Leslie was still with Jim, so of course Leslie brought up how Jim killed Mario.  When Leslie is done being an ass, she eventually admits that Jerome didn’t tell tell her his plan, but he did remember that the last thing he planned to do before he died was kill Bruce Wayne.

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As if on cue, we cut to Wayne Manor, where Alfred and Bruce get a phone call.  Before Alfred can answer, he senses someone else in the room and is knocked out before he can stop Jerome and his cronies from entering the room.  They start trashing the place and Jerome soon gets his hand on and smashes the owl figurine.

Jerome tells Bruce that he’s here to kill him.  Bruce remembers the night that Jerome took over the benefit.  He’s not afraid, though- just disappointed.  After Jerome comes back to life and makes this spectacle, killing Bruce in Wayne Manor when few will see it lacks flair. This isn’t some regular kid.  Bruce Wayne’s death should mean something, damn it!

So yeah, maybe Jerome should have an audience.  Jerome figures that Bruce is stalling to buy time, but he does agree that it’s time to take this murder show on the road. Jerome knows the perfect spot.  He takes Bruce with him, but Alfred is to remain at the manor.

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Back at the death trap, Oswald’s life hangs in the balance and acid drips between his legs when a lone officer enters the area.  Oswald pleads for help, but the officer demands to know what Oswald did.  Since there’s no time for an explanation, the officer cuts through Oswald’s ropes and frees him just in time as the acid spills over and eats through the car.

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Back at Wayne Manor, Alfred taunts and distracts the henchmen long enough for Jim to enter so he and Alfred can overtake them.  Alfred then tells Jim that Jerome has taken Bruce hostage.

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Where at?  Some theme park from hell that is apparently the one spot in Gotham City that still has power, despite Jerome cutting the power, but whatever.  Jerome’s goons put Gotham’s citizens in the games and royally screw with them.  Jerome beckons Bruce for some fun before the main event.

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At GCPD, Jim and Alfred discuss Bruce’s situation when Bullock enters and tells them that Jerome and his followers have taken over a few places over town, including the Boardwalk Circus.  And remember that Jerome was raised in a circus.  The three head off with a strike force set to meet them at the location.

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Back at the circus, Jerome isn’t a fan of Bruce’s new paint job, so he fixes it by stabbing one of the clowns and smearing fresh blood on Bruce’s face.

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Oswald returns to the manor and finds Butch and Tabitha waiting to finish him.  They were instructed by Barbara to not kill Oswald, but Butch doesn’t see Barbara as his boss. Penguin taunts Butch, saying that his days of being someone in Gotham are over.

But Tabitha reminds Oswald of when she put a knife in Gertrude’s back.  Penguin had a chance to get revenge by killing Tabitha, but didn’t, so he shouldn’t try to turn her and Butch against each other.  The two take him hostage.

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Back at the carnival, Bruce asks Jerome if there’s a plan to this madness, but Jerome insists that the people don’t want a plan- just an excuse to do terrible things.  All they need is a little push.  Bruce is confident that a few maniacs won’t hold the city hostage forever, and that’s true, but Jerome’s point the average people in Gotham City have shown their true colors now that the lights are out.  That’s the point.

Bruce is confident that there are good people in Gotham, but Jerome believes otherwise. In his mind, Gotham has no heroes.  Before Jerome can go through with the dunking game, Bruce pushes him.  He’s ready to fight, but Jerome just pushes the button and drops the man into into the vat of piranhas.

As Jerome staples his face, he then his staple gun on Bruce, who soon buckles under the pain.  Time for the main event.  At the same time, Jim, Harvey, and Alfred arrive at the carnival with backup still two minutes due to the riots. The three soon head in.

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Under the big tent, Headmaster Jerome is ready to begin the show when he silences one goon in particular for being too loud.  He congratulates his followers on successfully bringing chaos to Gotham City and thanks them by presenting Bruce Wayne himself. As Gotham’s billionaire playboy is brought out, Jerome begins loading a cannon with a cannonball and sharp objects.  Of course.

As Jerome loads the cannon, Bruce manages to pull one of the staples out of his arm and uses it to loosen the handcuffs.  As Jim, Alfred, Bullock, and the rest of GCPD arrive, Bruce drops one of the staples, but he makes use of another one and escapes just before the cannonball fires.

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At the nightclub, Oswald is brought before Barbara and deconstructs her entire plan to turn Nygma against him and destroy everything that Oswald created, all ending with his death.  And now that Barbara has what she wants, there’s no need for Nygma.  As for Oswald’s options: he can either help Barbara find Ed and live or stay quiet and die.

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As Bruce escapes into a hall of mirrors, Jerome follows him.  Bruce steps out and admits that he wanted Jerome to follow him.  It’s time for Jerome to pay.

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Barbara orders Oswald to call Nygma and say that he’s alive now that Ed knows Oswald isn’t the head of the underworld anymore.  Oswald won’t give up Nygma to save himself. He thinks back to Ed’s words about selflessness.  Sure, Oswald should want Nygma dead, as Ed betrayed him, but Oswald now doesn’t even know if he ever loved Nygma. Ed just happened to see Oswald as no one else had since his mother.

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But Oswald killed Isabella because he wouldn’t share him.  Oswald should’ve been ready to sacrifice his happiness for Ed’s, so he’s now ready to die.  It’s so insane that even Ed can’t believe it, as he soon enters the scene.  Oswald now sees that Barbara and Ed were in this together because Ed wanted to take what Oswald believed, not just what he had.

He wanted Oswald to die knowing he was incapable of loving another person, but since Oswald has just proven that he can, Ed is unsure how to proceed from here.

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Back in the hall of mirrors, Jerome sets his gun down and beckons Bruce to come. Bruce, believing that Alfred has been killed, is ready to do what’s right.  He tackles Jerome from behind- not Jerome’s favorite move- and punches Jerome over and over, but Jerome just laughs and taunts Bruce to keep letting out his anger.  Before Bruce can deliver a killing blow, he looks at the mirrors and sees what he’s about to become.

He leaves Jerome and heads outside to reunite with Alfred.  When Jerome stumbles out of the mirror hall, Jim takes the opportunity to punch off Jerome’s face.

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The next day, word of Jerome’s arrest has spread and the streets of Gotham are quiet again.  Once Jerome’s is reattached, he’ll be sent back to Arkham.  Harvey offers to buy Jim breakfast while Leslie takes her leave.

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While Alfred stitches up Bruce, Bruce tells Alfred how he feared for Alfred’s life.  Alfred, though, is proud of the man Bruce has become, but Bruce admits that he almost killed Jerome.  Yes, he controlled his anger, but after all the pain that Jerome caused, the idea of killing him felt right to Bruce.  Hell, it felt like justice.

Alfred tells Bruce that there’s a fine line between justice and vengeance, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t one.  Tonight, Bruce didn’t cross that line.  That’s the first rule of Alfred’s training.  Bruce is unsure what he’ll do with this training, but Alfred says that if Bruce is to continue, he’ll need rules that he must never break.  And what is the first rule that comes to Bruce’s mind?  He will never kill.

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If anything, Kathryn is at least pleased with the recent turn of events.  Gotham could have been lost for good, but soon, the Court will act and the Bruce clone will be called upon. The clone is unsure how he’ll help, but he’s just a part of the plan.  Things could go wrong if he refuses, but no one refuses the Court.  No one.

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Jim pours himself a drink when he gets a surprise visit from the man speaking with Kathryn, who we can now identify Uncle Frank Gordon.

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At the docks, Nygma holds Oswald at gunpoint.  Oswald pleads for his life yet again, saying that murder will change Nygma.  While Nygma has killed before, this murder will be the death of someone that Nygma loves, even though Nygma is adamant that he doesn’t love Oswald.  The point is that Oswald still killed Isabella, so Nygma still wants Oswald to suffer, and there’s no way to talk out of this.

Oswald reminds Nygma that when they met, Nygma was just a loser working at the GCPD.  Oswald is the one who created Edward Nygma and he sees Ed for who he is and can still become.  It seems like Oswald is getting through to Ed, but Nygma admits that he still loved Isabella.  And since Oswald killed her, he must suffer, so Nygma fires.  Before Oswald can react to the bullet in his stomach, Nygma pushes him into the water.

So here we are at the oddly timed Gotham winter finale and it was a good one.  Granted, a lot of that has to do with Jerome managing to elevate an episode, even if I think he leans too much on Ledger’s performance.  To the show and Monaghan’s credit, Jerome does come a bit into his own here and he begins to feel like his own incarnation instead of one that falls heavily on what’s come before.

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There are shades of Joker plans here, whether it’s putting on a spectacle at a carnival, taunting his enemy to kill him and lose himself in a blind rage, or throwing a city into chaos. Gotham is a campy show, but when it goes dark, it does so very well when it hits the mark.  This is one of those times, as you have the city plunged into darkness, all citizens in danger, and mass chaos in the streets.  Should make for a good watch.

And that’s a downside of this finale: we don’t get the human element or see how ordinary citizens are affected by this darkness or Jerome’s words.  We know that mobs have taken over the city and people have bought into Jerome’s message, but only because we’re told.  If need be, a quick snippet or montage of seeing how regular folks have been impacted would have been nice.

Not that Gotham often deals with the everyday citizen of the city, though we did get a bit of it in the first season, but for an event as big as killing the power and imploring people to do what they want and kill who they want, it would have made the stakes seem bigger if we saw that widespread panic from a citizen’s perspective.

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For example, think back to The Dark Knight Rises when Bane told the people of Gotham that the city was now theirs.  We saw scenes of folks taking up arms, breaking into and tearing the rich out of their homes, and Jonathan Crane holding trials to judge Gotham’s elite.  Sure, we didn’t get an entire movie’s worth of this, but we did see the impact Bane’s words had.

We’re talking about all power cut.  The scope of Jerome’s plan is huge.  He turned off the lights and gave people the push they needed to reveal their true selves.  This doesn’t take away from the episode, but it’s that old adage of Show, Not Tell.  Don’t have Jim just tell the audience that there’s mob rule in Gotham City- let us see that so we can feel how this has led to disarray for the average people in the city.

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That aside, what we got was very good with the Bruce and Jerome confrontation.  While I’m still iffy on why Jerome is fixated on killing Bruce just because it’s the last thing he remembers- keep in mind that these two have only had one encounter prior- it did allow Gotham to give us a sort of Batman/Joker face-off without these two actually being those characters yet.

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It hit all the familiar notes: the Joker tempting Batman to cross a line, Bruce establishing that there is indeed a line between justice and vengeance, and admitting how much a psychopath like Jerome deserves to die for all he’s done.  It has what you’d expect from and even though we’re looking at kid Batman and kid Joker, David Mazouz and Cameron Monaghan have good enough chemistry that I could see this rivalry lasting.

A Dead Man Feels No Cold- Bruce hopes that killing changes him

Plus, this is significant growth for Bruce.  In “A Dead Man Feels No Cold,” he told Selina that he hoped that committing a murder would change him, much to her warning.

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Here, even though it’s a bit on the nose with him saying this early in his journey that he would never kill, not to mention the swelling musical score accompanying this declaration, this is a who will will later don the cowl and become Batman.  All the scene between Bruce and Alfred needed was for a bat to fly into the room, but his act does prove that Gotham has its heroes, big and small.

Also, Bruce’s motivation was that he thought Alfred had been killed.  It’s not an unfair assumption and the motivation comes from a good place, given how Alfred had been left alone with Jerome’s followers, but come on: Alfred has taken plenty of beatings, has been stabbed, and outnumbered before in a fight, but came out just fine.  No reason to think Alfred couldn’t get out of this situation as well.

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Then there’s Jerome, who I’m guessing wants fame and attention since he did agree that Bruce Wayne’s death should mean something.  At the same time, like in The Dark Knight, he sees madness in people.  Like gravity, it just needs a little push and Jerome here is an agent of chaos.  He just has to kill the lights, give a message on television, and then watch the fireworks when the chips are down.

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Jerome seems to see society for what it is: harsh, cruel, and unusual.  The people walk around wearing masks, but dream of doing terrible things to one another.  Granted, the people of Gotham City are already awful, corrupt citizens, so Jerome probably just hastened their bloodlust.

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And the carnival is a hellish, yet cartoony sight, I’ll admit, and appropriate for Gotham. Though I’m still left wondering how Jerome found the time to orchestrate this or how the carnival has electricity, it was a nightmare that fits the tone of this show.  Using citizens in the games, smearing a goon’s blood on Bruce’s face, and stapling his arm, it was gruesome at times.

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With Jerome out of commission and locked Arkham, though, it seems like peace may return to the city, but his message and impact have no doubt been left on Arkham, if his followers are any indication of anything.  And given how easy it is to break into almost anywhere in Gotham City, I’m sure this isn’t the last we’ve seen of Jerome.

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Moving onto Oswald and Nygma, I’m wondering whether Nygma intended for Oswald to survive.  After all, he wanted to see if Oswald had what it took to put someone else’s needs above his own, and that wouldn’t have happened if Oswald had died, so maybe that one inept cop who wasn’t helping control the riots was just a plant.  Who knows?

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Oswald is smart enough to see through most of Barbara’s plan except for her working with Nygma, and it makes me wonder what happened to the cunning and calculating Penguin from the first season.  I don’t want to say his emotions have blinded him to logic, but if he saw through Barbara twice now, it’s unfortunate for him to still fall into this trap.

He seemed desperate enough to do or say something to save his own ass, but he did refuse to give up Nygma, so perhaps he has gained a bit of selflessness, as he admitted that he didn’t want to share Nygma with Isabella.  Despite that, and even though it looked like Nygma might have reconsidered, he shot him anyway.

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First, I don’t think that Oswald is dead not just because he ended up in this same situation in the pilot, but because I don’t see Gotham killing off The Penguin in this way, even though there’s precedent with the show killing Maroni and Sarah Essen.  But second, I’m curious what’s next for Nygma, given how Tabitha and Barbara still want to kill him. But if Nygma could mastermind this entire plan, these two should be no issue.

It’s strange that Gotham just returned in the new year and we’re already headed for another break until April.  Even still, despite my minor issues, this was a very good and, at times, dark episode of Gotham that explored the Batman/Joker dynamic without actually having those characters at the moment.

With Jerome headed for Arkham, our not-Joker is out of the picture for the moment, but don’t forget about the Court of Owls, as the organization is still a major player behind the scenes.  And with Uncle Frank apparently in cahoots with them and paying his nephew a visit, the Bruce clone, and the owl statue now shattered, I expect the Court to play a larger role for the remainder of the season.