Tag Archives: Season 6


Fun fact — “alien DNA ” and “demon sperm” were both plot devices on “The X-Files” (1993-2018). The former was part of a background story arc throughout most of the show’s seasons; the latter was the subject of a Season 6 episode entitled “Terms of Endearment.” (Aside from being a great episode, it’s notable because it stars horror icon Bruce Campbell.)

Stella Immanuel may be an irresponsible quack, but she really knows her sci-fi television.


A review of “The Walking Dead” Season 7.

[THIS REVIEW CONTAINS GENERAL, MINOR SPOILERS FOR SEASON 7 OF “THE WALKING DEAD.”]  I loved Sunday’s season finale of “The Walking Dead” — it was well executed, well performed (especially by Andrew Lincoln), and well written.  It was even beautifully scored.  (The closing narration and montage, combined with the music, were surprisingly moving.)  It had some great twists, unexpectedly good CGI, and some nice callbacks to the original comics.  (One surprise we see actually occurs with respect to another major character in the books.)  Towards the end of the episode, I was riveted.

The finale, however, can’t really redeem Season 7 as a whole.  I would honestly rate the season a 7 out of 10.  This was definitely one of the lesser seasons; I believe it would be the one I liked the least, if not for the inexplicably poor Season 2.

Maybe I was a little grumpy about “The Walking Dead” even before the season started.  Like a lot of viewers, I felt that the “cliffhanger” where Season 6 left off was absolutely manipulative on the part of the writers.  It pissed me off, and I went into Season 7 with reservations.

Then I was reminded about some of the smaller complaints I had about the show in the past.  I strongly differ with my friends about this show’s character development — I think it’s inconsistent at best.  And “The Walking Dead” seems to have so many characters that it can’t seem to decide who is a major character and who is not.

There’s a bit too much cheesy melodrama, like the schoolyard dynamics among the good kids, Maggie and Jesus, and the meanie, Gregory.  (This subplot was drawn from the comics, too — but it played out there in a far more adult fashion.)

Then I had a new quibble or two — one was a lack of proper minimal exposition.  We know extremely little about Jadis and the survivors in the garbage dump, despite the major role they play in the story.  They seem … sort of like a cult, and sort of like a performance art group, but that’s all I could tell you about them.  (The Internet tells me that some fans refer to them as either “the Heapsters” or “the Garbage Pail Kids.”  I find both appellations pretty funny.)

My biggest complaints about Season 7, however, were that it was too much of a downer, and that it was too slow.

We start the season with a front seat to Negan’s gory, merciless punishment of Rick’s de facto family.  And then the victimization of our favorite characters simply … continues for the length of the season, until the last episode’s climax.  You see that cool image at the bottom of this blog post?  The advertisement depicting bad-ass Rick and his allies getting ready to “RISE UP?”  (It actually looks a lot like the posters for the “Walking Tall” films.)  Well … we don’t see much of that until the final episode. I told one friend that “The Walking Dead” was disappointing me because it had grown tiresome “seeing Negan beat everyone all the time.”

And some episodes felt like filler.  Yes, there were some nice “milieu” -type stories — it was actually a lot of fun expanding the show’s world, to see other settlements, like The Kingdom, The Sanctuary and Oceanside.  But I think the plot needed to move forward more quickly.  (For a far better discussion of these issues, check out Ryan Roschke’s excellent review over at Popsugar.)

Hey … I’m still a fan.  I’m just not as satisfied a fan as I used to be.  I certainly looked forward to “The Walking Dead” every week, and never missed an episode.

And this season did have its high points.  Dwight emerged as quite an interesting, compelling character, thanks in no small measure to Austine Amelio’s portrayal of him.  The character interaction among him, Daryl, Negan and Rick is great stuff — I find myself wishing that the lion’s share of the season was devoted to those four.  I am finally starting to understand that Norman Reedus is indeed a really good actor — his performances were strong throughout the entire season, but must notably upon his return to Alexandria and his embrace with Rick.

And there were moments of nice action and horror as well — the sand-buried walkers pursuing Tara and Health spring to mind, not to mention the neat trick Rick and his group use to dispatch an entire herd of zombies on the interstate.

Let’s hope that Season 8 will pick up a bit, now that “war” is underway.



My review of “The Walking Dead” Season 6

Season 6 of “The Walking Dead” ended terribly last Sunday night, with a gimmicky, redundant, cartoonishly filmed cliffhanger that seemed like a power trip for the show’s writers and a shameless trick to ensure ratings for the Season 7 premiere.  Even that blunder, however, can only partially mar an otherwise great season of television; I’d still give the sixth season a 9 out of 10.

Seriously, Sunday night’s closing minutes were a big disappointment. We did not — I repeat, we did NOT — get to see which of our heroes would fall victim to new arch-villain Negan and his barbed-wire baseball bat, “Lucille.”  (I don’t think that I’m writing a spoiler here, as I’m informing the reader of an event that was not yet depicted.)  We get to see the dramatic and frightening events leading up our heroes’ capture — overall, the episode was pretty good, I think.  And we get to see some iconic images and hear dialogue that we remember from the original comic series.  And we finally get to see Jeffrey Dean Morgan appear as the new big-bad, something the show’s marketing suggests AMC believed fans would be happy with alone.

But the season ended with a cheesy point-of-view shot of the nameless individual who Negan executes, then a black screen along with the muffled screaming and shouting of those protagonists who are left to witness their friend’s murder.  (Check Youtube — some pretty ardent fans have actually analyzed the sounds and provided subtitles, supposedly providing clues as to who the victim was.)  And the manner in which it was filmed was kitsch — it reminded me of the over-the-top POV shots employed by Sam Raimi.

I think this is poor storytelling.  The Saviors storyline has been building for at least half a season (earlier if you consider the first encounter with Dwight), and the death of one of our heroes was the universally expected, logical conclusion of that.  The cliffhanger also felt like a little bit of a “f*&% you” to the fans.  The show’s creators know that its viewership was so eagerly anticipating an answer to the million-dollar question — “who dies?”  And they showed us that not only have they enjoyed stringing us along, they’re going to enjoy gratuitously stringing us along for another seven months until Season Seven.

And, hey, it looks as though this parsimonious storytelling will be the case with tie-in promotions as well.  I read today over at Hollywood Reporter that Robert Kirkman has produced a 48-page comic containing Negan’s backstory.  As you may read at the link below, however, only four pages at a time will be made available to fans, as they are released monthly in a comics preview catalog, “Image +.”  (And I’m unclear about whether readers will have to pay for that.)  C’mon.  Gimme a break:


Furthermore, the final scene was a little problematic in other ways.  I liked Morgan’s performance, but I he didn’t knock my socks off as he apparently did for other fans.  The monologue scripted for him was far too long.  Much of it is lifted from the comics; I think that a lot of it did not translate well from page to screen.

Finally, the cliffhanger was redundant — didn’t the season’s penultimate episode also tease a major character death in its final seconds, employing a cheap visual trick to obscure this person’s fate?

Ah, well.  Like I said, I think Season 6 actually was stellar.  We hardcore fans tend to criticize our show a lot (hence my bitching above).  Our criticisms are often well deserved, but I think we might have been spoiled a bit by “The Walking Dead.”  After six years, five of which were downright addictive, it’s easy to lose sight of how groundbreaking the show has been.

There has never been anything else like it on television.  The fact that it’s the first real zombie apocalypse serialized horror show is obvious, along with its new levels of gore, pathos and goddam amazing makeup effects.  But think also about its breadth and scope — since Season One, I think it’s gone to great lengths to tell an epic story.  Budget constraints — including a limited range of shooting locations in rural southern Georgia — restrict it somewhat.  But like no other show before it, it portrays a horrifying apocalypse from the points of view of a very broad and constantly changing ensemble of characters.

Sometimes this broad and changing ensemble works against the show.  I think one of its weaknesses is that it sometimes doesn’t feel like a well crafted, deliberate story at all, but rather a kind of “reality show” like “Survivor” (2000 – 2016).  Instead of watching in suspense to see who is “voted off the island,” we instead watch in suspense to see whether our favorite fictional character meets a grisly end.  I wouldn’t be surprised if people placed bets.  (I’ve heard that people indeed used to bet on “Survivor” in Las Vegas.)  Consequently, it feels more like bread-and-circuses than real meaningful storytelling within a post-apocalyptic context.

But “The Walking Dead” still manages to be damned good.  Early on in Season 6, I commented to another fan that the show actually seems to be getting better.  It’s getting smarter, with more ideas, and greater attention to detail.  I honestly get the sense that its writers sit down and think about the plausibility and logistics of various elements of this imaginary world.

It has essentially become a war story, even when it’s often just a neverending war of attrition with a universal enemy.  The writers grasp this, and they pick up the ball and run with it.  Attention is paid to strategy, logistics, leadership, morale, levels of training and commitment — Rick’s grand plan to lead the newly released “herd” away from Alexandria in the season’s earliest episodes is a great example of this.

And there is far more world-building.  Based on my familiarity with the comic book series, I recently advised another fan that the entire structure of the show would change.  Instead of people moving place to place and negotiating the various threats there, we now see stationary groups of survivors either fighting or cooperating with one another’s societies — something we’ve previously only really seen with The Prison vs. Woodbury.  This creates a range of larger, more layered and interesting storytelling possibilities.  And there are more enclaves even than we’ve seen so far.  (I’m trying to keep this spoiler free.)

Complementing this new change in story structure are elements of the show that seem to have improved even further.  The action and suspense have increased greatly.  I found myself on the edge of my seat during a few episodes — the one that comes to mind is when our heroes invade the satellite station.

The horror elements are new and stronger.  Story arcs involving the Wolves were extremely unsettling.  (I myself wanted far more of that bizarre little clutch of psychopaths.  Are they a cult?  Do they have a coherent ideology?)  The Saviors, whose survival skills and competence match or exceed Rick’s group, are frightening, especially for those of us who are already acquainted with them through the comics.

I even find I like the show’s drama better in this and recent seasons — more so than in the show’s early years.  Yes, the sad, unsupported, inexplicable recent character change in Carol was a disastrous choice.  And Abraham’s love triangle was a mostly inscrutable nod to the comics.  But there were a lot of other good things to be found this season — Morgan’s backstory, Nicholas’ character arc, the arrival of Jesus and the outcome with Denise.

All told, it was a great season.  Maybe someday a DVD special edition can rectify its final minutes, and supply a necessary face for Negan’s anonymous victim.  Hey, the show obviously wants to milk each cow for all it’s worth, right?



My sad, ironic “Daryl Dies” theory for “The Walking Dead”


Okay, I am almost always wrong in my TV prognostications, but I can’t resist sharing my newest “Walking Dead” fan theory, as it seems like something nobody else has picked up on.

In the (quite outstanding) Season 6 mid-season premiere this past Sunday, Daryl Dixon receives a minor knife wound from one of Negan’s men.  It isn’t a dramatic moment; it occurs off screen.  It also isn’t a plot point, as it affects nothing else that occurs during the episode’s story.

Yet the writers do make an effort to show that it happened.  We see it below his left shoulder, Sasha talks to him about it, and we see him being treated by Denise at the show’s ending.  It seems to have been placed there for a reason.

Well … in the comics, something similar happens to certain minor characters.  After a pitched battle with Negan’s forces, they succumb to the zombie contagion after receiving minor wounds from knives or crossbow bolts.  (Daryl isn’t a character in the comics, but a bad guy wields a crossbow.)  They die, to the surprise of their friends and the doctor treating them.  That’s because Negan has instructed his men to contaminate all of their blunt or bladed weapons with tissue from the zombies.  (It’s a particularly nasty plot development in a pretty brutal comic series.)

Of course, I am nearly always wrong on these things.  And it could just be a red herring — it wasn’t too long ago that we saw Rick nursing a wounded hand throughout an episode or two, leading to fan speculation that he’d been bitten and infected.


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A quick review of the Season 6 premiere of “The Walking Dead.” And is a major death hinted at?

I tend to obsess a little about spoilers, so I’m reluctant even to describe the plot of the Season 6 opener for “The Walking Dead.”  The story I thought we’d see absolutely wasn’t the story we saw, and the very first scene should be a terrific surprise for the viewer.  Suffice to say, this episode was fantastic — I’d give it a 9 out of 10.

After five seasons, even a diehard fan of the program can ask about its screenwriters, “How long can they keep this up?”  This is a horror subgenre that’s hard to keep fresh.  But the show still succeeds.

The writers are trying, and it shows.  I suggest that this actually is sometimes a pretty smart show.  A nice amount of thought has gone into the major action set-pieces since the start of Season 5 — everything from strategy, tactics, terrain, diversion, leadership, and even differing levels of training for new or seasoned combatants.  When one protagonist refers to our heroes’ adversaries as “an army,” I began looking at this episode as … “military horror?”  Is that even a thing?  Anyway, it’s a refreshing change for fans of zombie horror who are tired of the spate of second-rate movies on Netflix — those typically show attractive twenty-somethings in vague battles, cheerfully rattling off dry one-liners while swinging impact weapons, despite their lack of any training or experience.  This episode offered horror fans both exploding zombie heads and an intelligently staged battle to follow.  Nice stuff!

Also present were the other things that people love about the show — great character moments, surprise character development, and terrific dialogue.  The exchange between Morgan and Carol was goddam beautiful, and it makes me rethink my longstanding (and unpopular) criticism that this show sometimes struggles with characterization.

The suspense and tension tonight were absolutely perfect.  I was on the edge of my seat until the end of story.  And the final surprise development and cliffhanger there really drove me nuts, even if I have a pretty good idea why it occurred.

There is one question here that I am embarrassed to ask.  I’m afraid I’m going senile.  Am I the only fan who absolutely does NOT remember the character of Ron?!  I … I thought that Alexandria’s Hester Prynne here had only ONE son, young Sam!

Hey, one more thing — if I’m onto something here, I’m going to be damn proud … and I don’t think this counts as a spoiler, as it is only an unconfirmed suspicion on my part.  We see an erratic Abraham manically and cavalierly battle some zombies here.  When asked why he was behaving strangely, he replies that he’s “taking the bull by the balls.”

He sounded a hell of a lot to me like the erratic Roger manically and cavalierly battling zombies during a fateful scene in George A. Romero’s “Dawn of the Dead” (1978).  He keeps blurting, “We got this by the balls, we got this by the balls!”  And both scenes involve people getting in and out of vehicles.  The 1978 sequence ends poorly for Roger because of his carelessness.  Does this mean that Abraham is likewise doomed?


A tiny review of Season 6 of “The X Files.”

Season 6 of “The X Files” is probably the best season of the series, in my honest opinion. It deserves a perfect 10.

The mythology episodes (and their conclusion in the “Two Fathers/One Son” story arc) are the best ever – a perfect blend of science fiction, horror, mystery, suspense and spy thrillers. It’s fantastic the way Chris Carter gave us convincing special effects for a 1990’s tv show.

Standalone episodes were also at their best, with gems like “Drive,” “Milagro,” Arcadia” and “Monday.”

The only failure was the truly horrible episode, “How the Ghosts Stole Christmas.” It was truly as stupid as it sounds. It just can’t drag down the otherwise amazing season, though.