The Walking Dead: Season 7, Episode 1 – The Breaking of Rick (Review)

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Amidst the sighs of relief that Daryl made through to another season, there must have been cries of anguish over the double dose of death that Negan bashes out in the season seven premiere of The Walking Dead.

While bidding a shocked and teary adieu to Glenn and Sgt. Ford, the thing that overrode the blood and the brains and that bulging eye, was Negan’s systematic and concentrated breaking of Rick.  A true alpha male, the leader with a baseball bat named Lucille knew who to crush to gain control.

Jeffery Dean Morgan, an actor who has made a career playing likable and approachable nice guys, gleefully chomped up great bloody hunks of scenery to own the season premiere. Andrew Lincoln gave as good as he got but the first episode belonged to Morgan full stop.

Greg Nicotero directed this episode, and we have also said that Nicotero rules when he is in the big chair, and it was, perhaps, the bloodiest open to a season yet. It has taken a long time for the comic book’s biggest bogeyman to turn up  but he is here now and what a follow on to last season’s entrance. 

The wait to see who was going to die was excruciating for fans who complained incessantly about last season’s finale. Last night’s season seven open answered the big question.

Was Daryl, the darling of the series, going to bite the big one?

Amazingly, for  a character that does not exist in Robert Kirkman’s TWD universe, Daryl has more lives than a cat and will live on, if for no other reason than to keep Rick in line.

Negan clearly chose Daryl, who is, in essence, Rick’s right-hand man rather than Carl as separating father and son could have backfired.  Instead Negan zeroes in on Rick’s only son as the coup de grâce to any possible resistance. His consistent pressure against Rick and keeping him off-balance helped set Grimes up for that payoff; the chopping off of Carl’s arm.

Rick does not have to go through with it, but the very fact that he starts to, tells all. Grimes is broken. He is no longer the fearless leader of his group.

The former cop could be seen as a calmer, less violent, mirror image of  Negan who has, for the time being, met his match.  That is the thing about the apocalypse, alpha males will eventually meet another alpha male who can willingly stomp them into the ground.

Rick’s new leader is basically the school yard bully. The guy who knows where to push. Happily putting one big paw on a shoulder while forming a fist with the other for a sucker punch.

Carl almost losing his left arm may have been a nod to the comics. In Kirkman’s verse one of the Grimes men loses his hand – Rick actually has his right hand cut off by The Governor – and for a moment it looked like the son was going to suffer his father’s fate, in a manner of speaking.

This was a difficult episode. Watching favorite characters reduced to frightened, crying, snot dribbling messes on their knees was hard. Although Abraham was tough right up till the end and Glenn never had the chance to feel anything but that bat.

The torturous trial that Negan put Rick through was also a tough one to witness.  Once again, it was all designed to make Grimes realize that Negan was in charge. The one who held the reins and could, if needed, step in to “save the day” but only if Rick did as he was bloody well told.

By the end of the episode, Negan takes Daryl prisoner. He is holding Dixon as insurance. Pieces of the crossbow carrying member of Rick’s party will be delivered to Rick’s doorstep if he does not behave.

Maggie is in shock, as are the rest of the survivors, and the bodies are removed from the clearing where they were killed. Negan and his enormous band of followers retreat and they leave Rick and his diminished group  to start gathering things for him.

The prosthetics and FX in the show last night were top notch. Glenn’s eye was horrific and beyond disturbing. To see him reduced to a gory mess trying to mumble out a message of hope to Maggie was gut wrenching.

Abraham being a hard-a** right to the very end felt right. His character had too much rage to go out any other way.

After watching the first episode of season seven a sneak peak was presented. It showed Carol and Morgan about to meet King Ezekiel, a man who has his own tiger on a lead.

The Waking Dead airs Sundays on AMC. Head on over and catch the recent events if you have not done so already. Prepare to cry a little and perhaps have nightmares about that eye.

Cast:

Pretty Little Liars: Exes and OMGs – Babies (Review)

 TROIAN BELLISARIO, LUCY HALE, KEITH SZARABAJKA

Pretty Little Liars opened brilliantly this week with Hanna’s nightmare. It also played out very well later when she gets angry with the rest of the liars because of her dream.  “Exes and OMGs”  brings up the next step in the “Nicole/Ezra/Aria” storyline,  puts Allison back to work and sees  Emily being offered a job at the school.

The prologue to the show has Hanna struggling to convince the rest of the Liars that Noah is A.D, or “Uber A” as they walk down a street in Rosewood.  Caleb is also there and when Hanna storms off to prove her theory, he follows. As they cross the street  a car heads straight for them. Caleb pushes Hanna away and is hit by the car.  The driver is Noah Kahn.

Hanna screams and wakes herself up.

Mrs. Grunwald shows up to see Hanna and her interaction with the psychic is easily the most disturbing part of the episode.  It is clear that Hanna has set herself up as the only Liar who believes that Noah Kahn is A.D.

Spencer and Aria get their “Nancy Drew” on and hunt down Dr. Cochran. They find his daughter (Sprague Grayden), who is also Dr. Cochran. They learn that the male ob/gyn was fired. He can no longer able to practice medicine either.  They leave without learning anything further. 

Later, Cochran calls Spencer. Someone trashed her office looking for details about her father. She believes the two young women are responsible. Cochran gives Spencer the address to her estranged father’s apartment and tells her to bring a bottle of whiskey. She says that it will be the only way he will talk to them.

That phone call from Nicola has indeed bitten Aria in the butt.  Ezra is furious to learn that she never told him about the call and that she deleted it as well. Aria stays around Emily’s until Ezra calms down. Em also has a word with Ezra and she explains that Aria acted on her suggestion.

Hanna is convinced that Noah is A.D. and she has flashbacks to being held in that barn.  She still has scars from the cattle prod, externally and internally.

Alison is having a tough time connecting to her students. In one scene, the class “trouble-maker” points out that it is good to be the king, or queen, and Alison is called to the principal’s office.

He is concerned that she returned to teaching too soon.  Alison assures him that she is fine. The secretary comes in to get a file and Alison realizes that there is information in the cabinet  she can use.

Hanna explains to the Liars that she told them Noah was A.D. “last night.” She manages to have the funniest scene in the episode as she tells the rest of the group off. (It all happened in her dream and Aria is confused.)   Hanna ticks off the reasons that Kahn is the baddy.

Spencer and Aria question the former doctor and learn that Mary did have another baby. He cannot remember what gender the infant was though. Cochran does recall that the first baby was given to Alison’s mother and the second to child services.

Mrs. Grunwald makes the connection between Hanna,  Kahn and that cattle prod.

Aria pays for Ezra to fly to where the FBI believe Nicole being held. Aria  turned in their elopement tickets to Italy to pay for the flight.

Emily bumps into an old flame at the school; Paige McCullers (Lindsey Shaw) and the two have wine and an in-depth conversation. They are both up for the swim instructor position at the school.

Somewhat disturbingly, Paige watches Emily as she talks with Sabrina (Lulu Brudtowards the end of the episode. Ezra flies off leaving Aria to zip up her wedding dress.  Spencer goes through an old photo album lost in  thought and Hanna looks to be setting up a trap for Noah Kahn.

Pretty Little Liars certainly seems to be heading toward a Noah Kahn as A.D. ending.  While this does make a certain amount of sense, there is still the issue of Mary Drake’s other baby.

The entire “Nicole is still alive”  plot line is annoying, she was, as Emily pointed out, buried.  Still Ezra was a distraction and now that Hanna has splintered off from the group Aria will be needed.

Pretty Little Liars airs Tuesdays on Freeform.  Tune in and see who A.D. really is.  Is it Noah, Mary Drake or someone else? Thoughts?

Cast:

Guest starring  Brant Daugherty as Noah Kahn, Meg Foster as Carla Grunwald and Keith Szarabajka as Dr. Cochran. 

Pretty Little Liars: Bedlam – All Roads Lead to Radley…Again (Review)

ANDREA PARKER, SHAY MITCHELL, GWEN HOLLOWAY

You have to  love all the Pretty Little Liars with their tendency to point fingers at nearly everyone as suspect when things go pear shaped (wrong).  Last week saw A.D. texting out testily to the Liars and “Beldam” sees all roads leading to Radley, again.  In season six it seemed everyone who went to school with the Liars spent time the the town’s asylum. Now it appears that it may be a prerequisite for most,  if not all, of  Rosewood’s denizens to have spent time there.

Back to Emily:  In the previous episode she jumped to the conclusion that Ali killed Charlotte based on her friend’s delirious call to the Almighty after she questioned her. Now she thinks she could be wrong. Especially after getting the “midnight” phone call from Alison begging her for help.

Rollins, the secret Brit, who must be A.D. (if he is not he certainly seems to have a vested interest in torturing his wife Ali for no apparent reason,) changes the visiting rules. Only family are allowed in to see DiLaurentis, although that is not a firm and fast rule as he throws “Aunty” Mary Drake (aka Jessica DiLaurentis) out with Emily.

Drake has angry words with Rollins afterward and Em watches with interest through the glazed opaque glass wall.  Even the silhouettes look angry so it is easy to tell that someone is having a falling out.

Aria and Ezra’s book effort hits a stumbling block when Liam (who volunteered to help on their co-authored book) lets his green-eyed monster out of the bag. He pretty much accuses Ezra, Aria’s former English teacher,  of being Humbert Humbert from “Lolita.” Liam also demands that chapters be re-written so the rest of the world will not see a “Lolita” connection. Ezra is not pleased and sees through Liam’s anger dressed as constructive criticism.

Hanna, who has returned from captivity with the help of Mary Drake, has flashbacks of  meeting cute with her ex fiancé Jordan.  Hanna also has another  memory; her  breakup. with Jordan. She remembers what happened  when she  discovers that the bar where they met has been torn down. Poor Hanna reacts badly.

Spencer’s mother fires her for being unfocussed and spending too much time on her friends.  Mary Drake is working her way through the Liars, meeting them individually and, apparently, trying to befriend them all.

Jessica DiLaurentis’ twin sister trots out her own sad backstory, which manages to pin the death of an infant on her dead sibling, that ends with Mary in Radley. Lucas, Hanna’s savior with a multi-million dollar deal looks as trustworthy as a snake with a switchblade. He also looks a bit off…

Pretty Little Liars ends with Ali being drugged via her intravenous drip and having her gurney moved out of her solitary confinement space and down the hall.  As Alison looks on fearfully the double doors at the end of the hallway open to reveal a bright white light.

Season seven of the series has allowed the girls to grow up. It is, after all, five years (plus) later.  This has been a mixed blessing as the characters can now dress like grown women but still suffer from a “high school” mentality when it comes to their impression of the Scooby Gang.

In term of performances, all bring much to the table. They have had six seasons to really learn their characters and it shows.  Sadly, this last trip to Rosewood may be a little contrived (As if the first six seasons were not?).  It will, however,  be interesting to see who made those Mission Impossible type masks and  learn just who Rollins really is.

Pretty Little Liars airs Tuesdays on Freeform.

Cast:

Pretty Little Liars: Tick Tock B*tches (Review)

 HUW J. COLLINS, SHAY MITCHELL

So it is the last season of Pretty Little Liars (aka PTT) and with “Tick Tock B*tches” the show lurches into its last mystery and the possible (Probable?)  burial of Hanna (Ashley Benson). This new “Scooby Gang” now has Mona (Janel Parrish) as a member and they are all looking to find Charlotte’s killer and save Hanna.

The show opens with a Goodfellas moment where a number of the Liars are digging a grave. There are no jokes about wings or legs but a lot of anguish as they dig a hole for, apparently, Hanna. Although it could be for Ali (Sasha Pieterse) since her hubby is trying drive her insane. 

(There are shades of “Let’s Scare Jessica to Death” here…)

There are a few changes in terms of villain, “A” is now “A.D.” and if the show was going to have a season eight, that might have changed to “A.D.H.D.” (Sorry could not resist this one.)

Pretty Little Liars has managed to bring whole new meaning to the mistreatment of women, however young, at the hands of villainous characters. They have also managed to give Hanna enough of an intelligence upgrade that, after a hint from “Dream Spencer,” she managed to escape.

It is clear that Hanna does not need to be the sharpest tool in the shed to escape it, she just needs a dream pal to give her a clue. (It is curious that the “how” is never shown, just Hanna sprinting in the woods with that “cleared up” mouth wound…)

This last season sees unlikely allies, an evil twin, a Brit (or Aussie) pretending to be a Yank and Ali being driven mad by injections and her horrid husband and his ally. Hanna has apparently finally found her brain only to be caught out by the evil twin.

To be fair the episode was fairly inventive. The hiding in the closet bit with Aria (Lucy Hale) and Ezra (Ian Harding) was impressive but not as much as that magic transportation trick outside the bedroom window. All the Liars have also found Alison guilty of murdering Charlotte based upon Emily (Shay Mitchell) asking a semiconscious Ali if she was responsible. 

Ali, all wide eyed and terrified, responds with a “God help me” plea which Em takes as a confession. (Sometimes the mental capacity of all the Liars seems pretty diminished when something like this happens.  Although Emily can be a little…slow at times.)

Another example of the group not performing well can be seen at the bar.  Aria volunteers to check the place out after Spencer (Troian Bellisario) reveals that Mary Drake (Andrea Parkeris talking to a Brit or an Aussie there. Shortly after she arrives and orders a beer we hear muttered dialogue in the background that can be either English or Australia. Then, inexplicably, she leaves the establishment to show  at Ezra’s door for some Aria time.

Not to complain, but this last season seems a little sloppy.  Granted this is the premiere episode but to some extent it does seem a bit slapped together. After watching the season open there was one burning question that remained after the end credits rolled.

Will Hanna cope with Mary Drake? Without Dream Spencer to help her can she outsmart this new threat, whom she clearly believes is someone else?  Or will it be back to the shed for Hanna? Answers and or suggestions in the comment section below…

Pretty Little Liars airs Tuesdays on Freeform.