The Walking Dead- Midseason Premiere Thoughts

Season 7 was of The Walking Dead was originally one of my most anticipated since it would focus on Negan, one of my favourite comic book villains and the best villain that The Walking Dead comics have had to date. Season 6 introduced Negan and ended with a money-grubbing tease that left a bad taste in my mouth and made me skeptical of what season 7 would offer.

The season 7 premiere featured a drawn out encounter with Negan that was obviously done to pad screen time, but I was willing to overlook it for the first episode. Then the second and third episode focused on The Hilltop and The Saviours respectively. It has always bothered me when The Walking Dead does this, instead of cutting between the different stories. Shows like Game of Thrones have far more characters and locations to deal with and do a better job of giving each party their necessary time. I have no problems with Tara and Heath as characters, but giving them an entire episode was ridiculous.

Some may argue that focusing on one location gives more opportunity for character development and builds anticipation for other story arcs. In this case, I beg to differ. Cutting between different stories during an episode forces writers to be more concise with their storytelling, so that an entire episode doesn’t end up serving as filler. Instead of 40 minutes (without commercials), writers are forced to use tighter writing to express the same story in 20. Or they can possibly stretch the different stories over multiple episodes.

The way it stands, the eventual conflict with Negan gets dragged out to episode 9 since three episodes didn’t show Rick and Alexandria at all. Since The Walking Dead is sticking to longer seasons (the past few have been 16) it seems the desire to reach a certain amount of episodes, instead of just telling a story naturally, interferes with the storytelling. The Marvel Netflix shows have a similar issue, since Marvel makes them all thirteen episodes. I felt like Luke Cage, in particular, could have been shortened. The midseason break also seems like a move designed to keep The Walking Dead on air as long as possible, especially now that other AMC hits like Breaking Bad and Mad Men have completed their runs.

I never considered The Walking Dead one of the best shows out there, especially since the acting is inconsistent at best. It ranges from great (Lincoln), mediocre (Serratos) to awful (Riggs). With all that said, I was not that excited for the mid-season premiere.

Firstly, I am sure that Gabriel didn’t actually betray Rick since it would derail his entire arc as a more committed member of Alexandria. When he is driving away in the car, I thought I was seeing things, but online articles have confirmed that someone else emerges in the passenger seat. Earlier in the season, we saw someone spying on Gabriel at the wall and on Rick and Aaron at the boat. It appears that person reached out to Gabriel, and is probably aligned with the community that confronts Rick’s group at the end of the episode. I loved Rick’s smile; the look of a man who has found his army.

I thought the group might be Oceanside, but Oceanside was previously introduced as a female-only group. In the comics, the group is co-ed and Michonne joins them for a while. Unless they’ve added men since their last appearance in the show, this appears to be a brand new group that was never shown in the comics. If they are a new group, it almost comes across as a deus-ex machina, but I’ll reserve judgment until the next episode. The show better not focus on another group for the entirety of the next episode.

Some fans have had a hard time grasping why Rick’s group didn’t want to fight back earlier. Hopefully this episode makes it clear they were worried about their lack of numbers, relative to The Saviours.  Additionally, Negan has made sure to consistently put Rick in a bind by making the lives of others tied to his. Yes, Rick could have beaten Negan to death with Lucille when Negan visited Alexandria, but then The Saviours would slaughter everyone.

Like the comics, Gregory is content to stick his head in the sand and submit to Negan’s rule. Xander Berkeley chewed some scenery in this episode, and hopefully we won’t see too much of that in the rest of the season. If his arc follows the arc from the comics, we’ll be seeing him around more and this show doesn’t need more weak acting.

While Ezekiel is happy to join Rick’s alliance in the comics, he is hesitant here due to the risk of losing everything they’ve built. It is a fear that Rick had as well, and it is likely Ezekiel will change his mind. Ezekiel’s refusal also brings up another issue. In the comics, Dwight is actually a double agent who is working with Ezekiel to take Negan out. The show has already hinted at Dwight’s animosity towards Negan, for taking his wife and burning his face. We know that his motives for wanting Negan gone are there, but it looks like he may not be a double agent in the show. This doesn’t bother me too much, since his reveal seemed like a last minute decision in the comics. If Dwight was a double agent the whole time, why did he kill Abraham if he didn’t really have to?

Morgan reunites with Rick for the first time since Carol’s disappearance from Alexandria, and his own hesitation to go to war seems to have impacted Ezekiel’s decision. Although Morgan is willing to kill in self-defence, it seems the fear of all the lives that will be lost in the war makes him hesitate to join an all out war. The only positive thing to come out the meeting with Ezekiel is his offer of asylum for Daryl. This episode also made me wonder if Daryl will find Carol and convince her and Ezekiel to join the war.

While Rick doesn’t get what he wants from Ezekiel, he does came across explosives that he plans to put to good use against The Saviours. Rosita appears to have learned some valuable things from Eugene, and this appears to be the start of an arc that is meant to make us root for her character more. However, I still despise her character. Her sheer stupidity in trying to kill Negan with only one bullet got someone else killed and got Eugene taken away. Her attitude to Sasha also fails to make her endearing. Also, there’s the fact that she was in a relationship with Spencer of all people. The girl’s got poor taste.

Have to say I am more excited for issue #165 of The Walking Dead comic, than the next episode of this show.

Ben Affleck Will No Longer Direct The Batman Solo Film

It would be an understatement to say that BatmanvSuperman got mixed reviews from professional critics and fans upon its release. Some argued it was one of the best comic book films ever made, others regarded it as a cinematic travesty. Personally, I found the film to be average. Jesse Eisenberg’s performance as Lex Luthor and the film’s third act were its greatest weaknesses in my opinion. The film asked interesting questions and had some amazing scenes, which made it even more frustrating that the entire film couldn’t be as powerful.

One thing that many people agreed on, whether they liked the film or not, is that Ben Affleck’s performance as Batman was amazing. Of course, there are some haters but many negative and positive reviews single out Affleck as a redeeming factor.

After Affleck’s portrayal many fans were excited to hear that he would be behind the camera and in front of it for the Batman solo film. Unfortunately, that dream will not come true. Perhaps we should have seen this coming. There was meme after meme making fun of Affleck’s apparent irritation with being asked about Batman, and even Affleck’s own statement that constant questions about the film are a “pain in the ass”.

Affleck says he is still committed to the film as an actor and producer, but feels like he would be unable to handle all three aspects well. Some may think this decision is tied to the recent box office and critical disappointment of Live By Night, but I believe that the attention this film received may have made Affleck hesitant to take on all the key responsibilities.

Now the question is who will direct this film. I feel that if Snyder were to direct, it would get a poor reception from the film geeks simply due to his name being attached. If IMDB is any indication, many people consider him one of the weakest cogs of the entire DC Extended Universe. It’s true that he is mainly a visual director, but I think he can do a great job if he also has a great script.

Earlier reports indicated Affleck and DC Comics Geoff Johns were writing the script for the film. While Live By Night may have faced less critical adoration that Gone Baby Gone, The Town or Argo I still like the odds of getting a good script from Affleck. Geoff Johns’s work with the New 52 has faced some mixed reviews but I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt for this script as well.

Off the top of my head, I would love to see what Denis Villeneuve would do with a Batman film. This is pretty much a pipe dream but I had to share it. I have not see Arrival yet, but Sicario and Prisoners, and love how he handles morally grey characters. Not to mention that his cinematography is amazing and is what made me think of him directing a Batman film.

Many of the best films I have seen relatively recently have not been from directors I knew or expected much from, with Deadpool and Ex-Machina being the best examples. Maybe Affleck’s decision is a blessing in disguise. Some new blood could be exactly what the DCEU needs.

Netflix’s Punisher

With Iron Fist and The Defenders coming out later this year it can be easy to forget about the Netflix series that follows.

After seeing him in The Walking Dead and Fury (2014) I thought Bernthal’s casting as Frank Castle a.k.a. The Punisher was perfect. He went on to become the best thing about Daredevil’s second season, providing a deadly foil to Matt Murdock. After watching the season and reading The Punisher Max and War Journal, the Punisher quickly became one of my favourite comic book characters.

While the Marvel Cinematic Universe is (MCU) is sometimes hampered by the desire to remain family-friendly, the Netflix shows capture a more adult world that is also not afraid to embrace the more fantastical elements of the comics. Many people didn’t like the mystical aspects of Daredevil’s second season, probably due to the contrast with the gritty first season. However, I didn’t mind these additions. My biggest gripe was the love story between Matt and Karen, which wasn’t foreshadowed at all with the previous season. This season began and they were suddenly in love.

With that said, The Punisher is a series that might work better (at least for the first season) with more grounded villains. Most of the villains in the aforementioned comics were figures involved in crime syndicates such as the mafia or IRA. While The Punisher obviously lives in the same universe as Thor and The Hulk, and has fought some of these figures in the comics, I hope the solo series starts with his work on the streets. Daredevil ended with Castle donning his costume as he continued his personal war on crime. I want to see that story expanded, as Castle continues to target criminal enterprises.

While Daredevil emphasized Castle’s pursuit by law enforcement, the Max comics frequently imply that the police tolerate his presence. There is a story arc where corrupt policemen frame him for the murder of one of their own, but for the most part the police realize he makes their jobs easier and scares some people off the streets. It would be interesting to see this dynamic in the series as well. I have heard the series will be inspired by the Max run, and I am especially hoping that the “Slavers” arc is adapted.

Set pictures have revealed that Karen Page will appear in the series. She tried to act as Castle’s voice of reason in Daredevil, creating a character dynamic that had far more chemistry than her and Murdock’s. It is likely she will be trying to steer him away from vigilantism, or a less violent alternative. If the character’s written properly he won’t be changing his mind, but their conversations could lead to more interesting insights about how Castle views the world e.g. the rooftop conversation in Daredevil.

One of my main worries is the length of the seasons. Every Marvel Netflix show is thirteen episodes, which feels like too much at times. Luke Cage was a good show, but I feel like it was hampered by the length. Shortening the series by an episode or two could have led to some more concise storytelling. Since the series needed to be padded to 13 episodes I feel like all of the legal wrangling in the last few episodes was added to get the series to the necessary length. Since The Punisher kills his enemies there will be definitely be less police and courtroom proceedings to worry about. However, some other plot twists could be utilized to pad the series unnecessarily. Until the thirteen episode rule changes we’ll have to hope the writers adapt to give us 13 episodes that don’t feel bloated or stretched out.

Besides that concern, this series has a lot to offer. The few comics I’ve read present a swath of interesting supporting characters and villains that will help to support one of my favourite anti-heroes as he makes his solo tv debut. What is your most anticipated Marvel Netflix show of 2017?

 

The Rock Will Lead a Black Adam Solo Film

Deja Vu

As I discussed recently, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson had a meeting with DC Entertainment to discuss the upcoming Shazam film slated for a 2019 release.  Years ago, The Rock was cast as Black Adam, the film’s villain. Little was heard about the project until The Rock’s meeting with DC, and today we have even bigger news.

Black Adam will get his own solo film, prior to the introduction of Captain Marvel (a.k.a Shazam) in a later film. Some people love this idea, I am not one of them.

I don’t believe that The Rock is a great actor, but he is still one of my favourites. His charisma is off the charts and Ballers shows that he is also developing as a more serious, dramatic actor. I follow his Instagram religiously and respect his work ethic above all else. With that said, this move comes across as one fuelled solely by Johnson’s star power. The official reason provided for the solo film is that Black Adam has a very interesting backstory that the film-makers want to have room to tell. Johnson also says that is the main reason he wanted to play Black Adam, as opposed to Captain Marvel (he was offered both parts).

However, that reason seems like a smoke screen used to rationalize a move made with star power in mind. Some people argue that it doesn’t make sense for Johnson to play a villain opposite another actor, instead of a lead. Maybe they would have a point if we weren’t living in the golden age of comic book films. Big name actors (measured by pedigree or box office power) have all had relatively small parts in comic book films, compared to relative new comers. Spoilers for The Winter Soldier: Chris Evans gets his Captain America franchise while Robert Redford plays a villain who gets killed off at the end of the film. Jamie Foxx played Electro in The Amazing Spider-Man 2. No one said Scarlett Johansson’s star power warranted her getting a Black Widow solo film before The Avengers, and Black Widow’s backstory is also very interesting.

Black Adam may have a great backstory and he may be a great character, but he was a character created for a hero. The Joker is my favourite villain and while I love his origin in The Killing Joke, I wouldn’t want to see a Joker solo film before a Batman film. Part of what makes many villains so great is their interaction with the hero. The push and pull between different conceptions of right and wrong, the way that the characters provide foils for one another.

Additionally, The Rock emphasized that DC films would now be bringing more “optimism, hope and fun”. That does not fit with Black Adam’s backstory or his persona as a whole. If this will be a story about a slave rising to power, I hope the writers don’t throw in one-liners simply to add some “fun” in.

The 2nd Logan Trailer

I think many people will agree that the first Logan trailer was one of the best of 2016. The second red-band trailer has come along, with some new footage and a different vibe from the first. While the first trailer helped to set the tone of the film and introduce X-23, it was a teaser in a sense that it still kept the plot under wraps.

This second one reveals more, which some people may not like. It is now clear that Dafne Keen is playing X-23, and the cast list on IMDB has now been updated to reflect this as well. I knew that the filmmakers would want to reveal X-23 in the trailers in order to entice the general audience, who wouldn’t know about the character. For that reason, I wanted to avoid this trailer, but I ended up giving into my impulses.

For those who do not know, Laura Kinney a.k.a. X-23, is a female clone of Wolverine who was introduced in the comics in 2004. She was cloned from one of Wolverine’s blood samples, but since the Y chromosome in the blood sample was damaged, only a female clone could be created. She is referred to as X-23 since 22 failed cloning attempts preceded the 23rd successful one.

The Logan trailer actually had one comment by someone complaining about X-23 being introduced due to a need for “progressiveness”. It looks like the poster deleted the comment after a herd of people called him out for his ignorance. As I’ve said before, people will say they are not bigots and complain anytime a character who isn’t white, male and straight is a hero in a movie. The first trailer was Wolverine’s, this one is X-23’s.

Anyways, moving on from the misinformed.

One interesting thing this trailer brings up is the kind of upbringing X-23 has faced so far in life. She nearly kills a convenience store cashier for trying to stop her from stealing, with Logan being the only thing stopping her. “Not okay!” When the leader of The Reavers tries to control her he also addresses her like a dog, “No, no…”. It’s obvious she has been raised as a slave, a weapon or both. She reminds me of Jet Li’s character in Unleashed, raised to kill but emotionally and socially stunted as a result. While Wolverine may think of himself as an animal, he can still help to civilize X-23.

We still don’t see too much of the villains, which was a relief. Between the reveal of X-23, and additional footage of the action scenes, I did not want to finish this trailer feeling like I watched the whole movie.  We don’t see Wolverine’s claws go through someone’s head, like we did in the first red-band trailer, but there is plenty more to enjoy. The choreography for X-23 looks like it will lead to some of the best hand-to-hand (so to speak) fight scenes in the X-Men universe. While X-23 is small, the choreography allows the character to rely on agility and speed more than Wolverine might. While bloodshed doesn’t guarantee a good film it was a treat to finally see blood spilling as Wolverine and X-23 wreaked havoc on the men in their way.

The trailer also included a meta moment where X-23 is revealed to be a fan of the X-Men comics. As Logan says, “Maybe a quarter of it happened, and not like this.” In this fictional world, the X-Men have inspired comic books that exaggerate or distort real historical events. This reminded me of Garth Ennis’s The Boys, where superheroes are actually sponsored by comic book companies and get their own titles if they are popular enough. These fictional X-Men comics include Wolverine’s original costume, which makes me wonder if Wolverine actually wore his costume at some point in this timeline,  or if the drawing is just a nod for the comic book fans.

The song in this trailer may not be as epic as Johnny Cash’s cover of “Hurt”, but Kaleo’s “Way Down We Go” is amazing in its own right. The last shot of this trailer is gold and I am sure it will fuel more “Last of Us” comments.

 

March 3rd is not that far away, and I plan to see this film on opening day.

Kill Or Be Killed

Hello everyone,

Comicommand is back and the first articles of the new year were uploaded yesterday, including my article on Ed Brubaker’s “Kill or Be Killed” (2016).

Check it out below or on the site.

 

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I first came across Ed Brubaker’s work with Incognito, a short but interesting series about a former supervillain in the witness protection program. Kill or be Killed (2016) frequently popped up in any discussion of Brubaker and I was quick to add it to my reading list.

The series follows Dylan, a college student who is visited by a demon after a failed suicide attempt. The demon advised Dylan that he spared his life, but must now kill one person a month in order to continue living. After the demon breaks his arm and uses host bodies to assault him, Dylan begins his quest to eliminate people who deserve to die.

Dylan’s father committed suicide when he was younger, which indicates he may have inherited certain dispositions from that side of the family. What makes the story so interesting is that Dylan has tried to commit suicide previously, so we know that he is mentally troubled. For all we know, his vision of a demon is all a part of his own delusion: a sort of split personality that prods him to begin his quest. The series is only on its fifth issue so there is still plenty of time to see if this theory is right.

Dylan may be mentally troubled but many of his struggles are universal. He is yet another student trying to figure out his life, and who struggles with girls. His best friend, Kira, is dating his roommate and he mostly sees her only when she visits her boyfriend.

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People Who Deserve It

Even though the protagonist is relatable, the story can fall apart if the transition to crime-fighting is handled poorly. Brubaker excels at creating a realistic portrait of attempted vigilantism that reminded me somewhat of Kick-Ass. Dylan is able to get a gun pretty easily, since his deceased father had one buried in his possessions. This plot point might seem too convenient but it fits since we know Dylan’s dad committed suicide, he is likely carrying out his mission with his father’s murder weapon.

The toughest part for Dylan is finding people who deserve to die. He realizes that he can’t rely on movies as a blueprint, knowing that muggings and other crimes don’t routinely happen on subways or dark alleys when he is present. He finds his first target because he remembers that one of his childhood friends was molested by his older brother. He already knows the person’s name, and Facebook gives him everything else he needs, including the person’s work place.

When he’s successful with his first hit, he can’t remember if he said something to the target before he shoots him. Maybe he did. Maybe he didn’t, and his mind is retroactively adding in a cool one-liner that one of his favourite movie characters would say. Dylan faces success, but he also faces plenty of failure. His actions escalate, bringing more consequences for him. As the story progresses, we’ll likely see consequences for his loved ones too.

Kill or Be Killed is a deconstruction of vigilantism, a love story and a story of mental illness. Brubaker deftly handles Dylan’s development and I am eager to see how the series ends his journey.

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The Rock and DC Comics- Tonal Change

Two days ago, The Rock posted to Instagram about a meeting he had with DC Comics concerning the DC Extended Universe (DCEU). The Rock was announced as a lead for the DCEU’s Shazam (yes, the hero is actually called Captain Marvel but due to copyright issues he is just Shazam at the moment) adaptation, playing the role of the villain Black Adam.

However, there has been little word on the project since then. Henry Cavill posted a picture of he and the Rock sharing a drink in late December, fueling speculation that The Rock would make an appearance in the next Superman solo film, especially since Cavill hinted at bright things for the future.

The Rock is one of the few stars who can engage audiences off charisma alone. He is not the greatest actor, but his work on Ballers shows that he is developing. I am excited to see that the project is coming together slowly but The Rock’s summary of the meeting leaves me slightly worried.

“Had a very cool and strategic meeting with the heads of DC about their entire universe. As a hard core DC fan, to get a real sense of the tonal shifts and developments coming in these future movies has me fired up. Something we, as DC fans have all been waiting for for a very long time.

Hope, optimism & FUN.

Even when talking about the the most ruthless villain/anti-hero of all time finally coming to life. Prepare yourselves DC Universe.”

I have discussed the obsession with making comic book films “fun” before and how this belief is founded on nonsensical assumptions.

“I am not anti-fun or anti-humour. I simply do not like it when the device is overused. While some Marvel films have juggled it well, such as The Winter Soldier (2014), the Thor series has been severely brought down by terrible and consistent one-liners imho. While Loki’s humour is handled well, Jane’s (Natalie Portman) and Darcy’s (Kat Dennings) end up being the Jar Jars of the franchise. My problem is not only the overuse of humour, but how Marvel has successfully conditioned people to believe that this humour is the mark of a good comic book movie. Nowadays, any film that lacks the same level of levity is deemed too “dark”, “gritty”, “depressing, “brooding” or “pretentious”. A lot of the criticism levied towards Man of Steel (MOS) before it was even released came from this misconception. The trailers were serious in tone, nothing about them screamed “dark” or “brooding”, but people were so used to Marvel’s marketing by this point. The MOS trailers did not have enough one-liners, enough levity in comparison to Marvel’s trailers, so people were thrown off. Everything is relative, and since the MOS trailers were found to be lacking in humour, they were immediately deemed too dark.

This brings up another issue I have with Marvel’s brainwashing. I often hear people throw around the word “dark” like it is an insult in itself. As if saying a film is dark is as bad as saying the acting was terrible, the writing was terrible etc. A film can be “dark” and also be good… While Marvel has darker material in some of its films, and has Netflix shows with much darker tones (Daredevil, Jessica Jones) it appears that Marvel’s status gives it more room to experiment than any other property has. Marvel’s trailers, films and tv shows can have darker tones without people complaining about them trying to “copy Christopher Nolan”, “not being fun” etc. While Marvel is allowed to experiment, change and adapt, DC is now forced to appeal to Marvel sensibilities in order to be less divisive among audiences.”

You don’t have to tell me that BatmanvSuperman (Bvs) of Suicide Squad (SS) had issues. The villains and third act for both films sucked. Some dialogue was weak, some acting was weak, Eisenberg was a terrible Luthor etc. I am not a DC “fanboy”. I don’t think that DC can do no wrong. I just hate the fact that people believe that the solution to these films is to make them more “fun”. Some of the things added to SS to make it more fun, actually made it worse, such as the overly abundant musical segways. The emphasis on adding more “fun” in could cause the writers, directors, studios etc. to overlook other issues, such as a weak villain or weak storytelling (which is not always tied to tone). Like this writer says, “‘Justice League’ Is Reportedly “A Mess” & That’s Fine, As Long As It’s a Fun Mess.” Words can not describe how much I detest this mentality. Sadly critics and audiences will probably love the film more for its tone even if everything else is terrible.

The Justice League trailer already had me worried that the studio is putting even more pressure on the directors and writers to lighten things up. Bruce Wayne seems completely out of character, and so does Barry Allen. Wally West (Allen’s nephew-in law) is the version of The Flash that is known for being comic-relief. Allen is a more serious character, but it seems like the writers have just changed Allen completely in order to get more room for humour. Wayne can be funny as well, but I find his humour is best when it is done similarly to the dry humour we’re familiar with from Alfred.

One of the best examples of Batman’s humour, in my opinion, comes from the animated film Superman/Batman Apocalypse. After a newly arrived Supergirl damages $50,000 worth of batcave equipment, Superman asks Batman to send him the bill.  Batman then says: “On a reporter’s salary, right.”

That kind of humour adds levity, without coming across as out of character. Unlike the “more or less” exchange in The Justice League. That is the issue I have with some of the “fun” people insist on, especially because people normally ask for fun because DC is dark relative to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). When there is an insistence on having “fun” in every scene it can just kill dramatic tension. As Jeremy Jahns said in his review of Doctor Strange, “Sometimes I want an epic moment instead of a funny one.”

 

 

 

Outcast

I’ll be back to writing for comicommand soon, and should have an article for them around January 15. My first piece for the new year will be a piece on Ed Brubaker’s Kill or Be Killed. Until then, I wanted to share some thoughts on another ongoing series that I’m reading.

Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead is undoubtedly the comic that turned me into a serious comic book reader. It started with Rick Grimes, then moved on to Spider Jerusalem, Jesse Custer, Billy The Butcher, Mark Grayson, and now Kyle Barnes.

After binging on Invincible and then having to wait until February for the next issue, I eagerly sought out Kirkman’s latest series. After giving us a post-apocalyptic zombie tale, and then a superhero story, Kirkman delves into demonic possession.

Outcast follows Kyle Barnes, a man whose life is plagued with demonic possession and who is ostracized in his hometown after allegedly hurting his wife and daughter. While Kyle knows something changed his wife, making her attack their daughter, no one else believes him. As he returns home, Reverend Anderson helps to open his eyes to the truth of demonic possession.

Although I have not seen many films related to possession, I have always been interested in the subject. Firstly, Paul Azaceta’s artwork truly helps to bring the story to life from the first frame onward. The style is somewhat simple, compared to works like Punisher: Max, but is reminiscent of Invincible. Azaceta fits the comic’s atmosphere of horror by seamlessly transitioning from relatively simple frames, to ones that are genuinely unsettling.

 

Kirkman is also able to explore a religious theme, without creating a story that is pro or anti-Christian. Kyle represents the skeptic, while Reverend Anderson is the holy man who slowly makes Kyle accept the truth of exorcism. The story could come across as formulaic with this set up, but Anderson is a layered character who believes in the Lord, while also having his own doubts about institutionalized religion and God. Anderson’s thoughts are some of the most interesting parts of the story.

Kirkman also adds interesting modifications to the exorcism mythos, which are slowly explained as we get further into the series. In some ways, the exorcism links to several other issues in Kyle’s life. His mother abused him due to her possession and his wife abused their daughter. Both of these periods have significantly affected Kyle’s psyche, which leaves him in a dark place that aligns with the overall tone of the comic. Every triumph that Kyle faces is followed by another revelation that causes more pain or a setback from the forces that are working against him.

With each issue, we learn more about the possessed and the overarching conflict continues to build with Issue #24, which was released today.

Like The Walking Dead, Outcast currently has its own television show as well. One season is complete, and it has been renewed for another. Clearly, it isn’t the phenomenon The Walking Dead is, but maybe the show isn’t as hampered by filler. That’s a post for another day.

The Walking Dead- The Return of Filler

It’s Walking Dead season, so I hope you can all bear more The Walking Dead articles. I have previously shared my very strong praise for season 7, and I still stand by my praise for the first four episodes of the season. I did not like the fact that episodes 2 and 3 were entirely devoted to one location and group, but I figured that could be excused if the show cut down on the rest of its filler. One of my biggest issues with other seasons were entire episodes devoted to more minor characters. Episode 5 got us back to familiar territory, with a focus on The Hilltop and Carl and Enid (my most hated couple on the show). Now episode six gives us an episode devoted to Tara (Alanna Masterson) and Heath (Corey Hawkins). I am happy to see Corey Hawkins on screen again after he killed it as Dr. Dre in in Straight Outta Compton, and Tara has consistently been one of the more level-headed characters on the show. This episode still comes across as filler.

I don’t have a problem with the time given to minor characters, I am bothered by the insistence on developing them in one episode instead of splitting it up among multiple episodes. Rick’s struggle with Negan is a central part of this season and we went two episodes in a row without seeing it because the show runners insisted on avoiding it. Just like the cliffhanger, this seems like a maneuver that is meant to guarantee higher ratings for later episodes.

Some may argue that the singular focus allows us to become more attached to the characters and let them shine. Firstly, if an entire episode is devoted to a character we don’t care about that much (relatively), it can make people care less about the episode and make them impatient for the return of a favoured storyline or character. Even though episodes 2 and 3 were pretty good, I couldn’t help but shake this nagging feeling as well.  Of course, if the episodes were edited differently we would still have the same runtime. However, I feel as if the desire for filler makes writers add more storylines and interactions that help to justify a full episode for a character. At least ten minutes could have been shaved off episode 3 without impacting the main takeaways from the episode. The same goes for episode 2. It’s the equivalent of padding an essay with flowery words and phrases to reach a word limit.

All characters and locations have been reintroduced at this point so let’s hope we get more concise storytelling from this point on. It’s disappointing to see a season start so strong, only to fall back to the same things that prevented the show from truly being great. There were red flags in the first episode as well, namely the dragged out encounter with Negan. However, I ignored it, blindly hoping that the show was getting the filler out of its system. I was wrong, and now we’ll see if this season gets up to the quality of 6,5 and 1, or slides down to 3 and 2.

What are your favourite seasons of The Walking Dead?

 

The Walking Dead’s Ratings Dropped Drastically-And For Stupid Reasons Apparently

Warning: Spoilers for Season 7

The Walking Dead season 7 premiere drew the show’s second biggest audience, with 17 million viewers. I am sure that the cliffhanger contributed to this. I originally did hate the cliffhanger but have grown to see some purpose in it, aside from getting more ratings for the premier. A friend at work mentioned that people’s hate for Negan is, for lack of a better word, “fresh” now. We didn’t see who he killed last season and have months to discuss it. We tuned in one sunday night to see Abraham and Glenn die.

The first death hit me hard since Abraham was one of my favourite characters. The second death is what caused a real firestorm online. After the infamous dumpster incident earlier in the season, Glenn undoubtedly met with death in the season 7 premiere, with a gory death pulled straight from the comics. Watch any reaction to the episode on YouTube, and you will see how people were dismayed that Abraham died, but became nearly hysterical when Glenn met his end.

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Since I read the comics, I was almost looking forward to the death. It is a sad, but pivotal moment for readers, driving home the danger Negan represents.

Episode 7.5, “Go Getters” experienced the lowest ratings since season 3, before Daryl’s fangirls were in full effect. Obviously, such a drastic drop is a huge development. When I came across the news the first cause that came to my mind was the issue of filler. Episodes 2 and 3 were pretty good but I could not help but feel like they were dragged out. One focused on Carol and Morgan, one focused on Daryl. In both cases, the episodes could have been condensed to show more characters and stories. Episode 4 thankfully features less filler, but then episode 5 brought back more filler and more of the Carl and Enid relationship: a weak love story with zero chemistry and two of the weakest actors.

The comments in this Yahoo article feature some complaints of filler, but the majority of them don’t blame that for the ratings drop. They blame the death of Glenn. It was to graphic and mean-spirited. It eliminated a fan favourite and made fans lose interest. One person even says that it will be looked back on as the moment the show jumped the shark.

Firstly, I was almost amused to see that the comments echo my comic book stigma article. People who watch this show, which is based on a comic, refer to the readers as basement dwellers. They’re not losers like us so what happens in the comics doesn’t matter. I find this argument to be nonsensical since the television show would not exist if it weren’t for the comic. The show you love, the character you are mourning over, would not exist if another “basement dweller” didn’t love comics and decide to write his own one day. An adaptation rarely follows its source material note for note, but I think it is fair to hear fans out on one of the source material’s most iconic moments. I have to wonder if people would have as much animosity if the source material was a book instead.

Despite TWD consistently being a violent show, it appears that many people felt that this last episode crossed the line. Perhaps because brutal violence was inflicted on a main character this time. This brings me to my next issue with these complaints. If characters are going to come across dangerous situations, whether it’s from humans or zombies, where is the dramatic tension if we know that our favourites won’t die? Do you want the show to keep introducing red-shirts to get killed instead? Glenn becomes one of the first people from the original group to die in a long while, and his death served the same purpose on the show. Do the show writers have to keep killing off ancillary characters like Denise?

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Yes, it sucks that Rick and Daryl are submissive for the moment. People are wondering why they don’t fight back. Remember that they did fight back when Negan’s men originally gave them the terms. That resulted in them being surrounded. Daryl fighting back is what led to Glenn’s head getting turned into ground beef. Daryl feels guilty for that, but so does Rick. Rick assumed Negan was just another threat they could overpower, and he was wrong. He referred to Negan as nothing but “hot air” in the comics and quickly found out he was mistaken. Carl could have shot Negan. Rick could have beat Negan with Lucille, but what would that accomplish in the long run? Negan’s men pillaging Alexandria and killing everyone in it. Bad guys win sometimes, and good guys lose sometimes as well. Rick won’t be like this for the rest of the show but people need to grow up and realize entertainment can’t always give us happiness.

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All of these complaints about TWD being too mean-spirited remind me of how people always criticize DC comic book films for being too bad because they’re too depressing. Maybe people would like it more if this post-apocalyptic tale just became all sunshine and rainbows and nobody died anymore. When Negan swings his bat it bounces off people’s heads like rubber, but gives a nasty headache. That way there is still some danger but not too much.  This rampant mentality is the reason I knew Daryl wouldn’t be killed by Negan. The fangirls would stop watching because they’d lose someone to drool over during episodes. The show is meant to be bigger than any single character. The only character that is arguably an exception is Rick Grimes, since the series starts with his singular perspective.

Another complaint I have to address is the mantra that “this show is supposed to be about surviving zombies. Not your fellow man.” I could write an essay on how poorly thought out this argument is. Firstly, the show would become boring if every single season revolved around the zombie threat alone. If people are complaining about Rick’s group finding one bad group of people after another, how do you think they would react to Rick’s group killing zombies again and again or trying to avoid another herd? The zombie apocalypse represents a breakdown in civilization, whether in terms of institutions and nations, or in terms of people’s relations with one another. With zombies running rampant and humans split up into pockets, you can rest assured that people like The Governor and Negan would emerge. Some of the comments question why people would fight against one another in such tumultuous times and I have to ask what world these people have grown up in. People will fight and scheme against each other for the same things they always do: power and resources. Spencer is trying to paint Rick as a bad leader because he wants to rule Alexandria like his mother did. He feels like Rick stole his birthright. Negan simply craves power, which is manifested by his desire to control the communities and their resources. People aren’t always rationale. They can be petty, immature, greedy, selfish beings and that doesn’t change whether it’s a zombie apocalypse or not. Ask yourself, would you honestly prefer 7 seasons of the group just fighting zombies? Would you be interested in the show if the group came across one dangerous situation after another, but everyone always made it through alive unscathed?