The Walking Dead “Walk With Me”

It’s been a while, but Merle has returned to The Walking Dead. Losing an arm after being chained to a roof in the first season hasn’t improved his personality much, and neither has the intervening time. He comes upon Michonne and Andrea as they (like Merle’s group) are attracted to the site of a helicopter crash.

We also get our first sight of the Governor in this episode, as Merle takes Michonne and Andrea to Woodbury. He’s not quite what I was expecting, at least not in terms of physical appearance. He’s been styled quite differently than the character in the graphic novel. Woodbury also looks more like a suburban shopping plaza, at least from what we’ve seen thus far. This is not a bad thing, just a difference in the way the set has been conceived. The prison, on the other hand, seems to have been modeled very closely on the graphic novel. Regardless, the contrast between the seeming luxuries of Woodbury and the stone bleakness of the prison are quite clear.

I do love Michonne’s constant expression of disapproval and distrust.

The Governor has a nice speech about the rise of civilization, but it looks like he’s mainly concerned with retaining his own position of power.  Well, I would have been gravely disappointed if they Governor had turned out to be a nice guy in this version of The Walking Dead.

The Governor has a good strong John Wayne stance, especially when he’s speaking.


“It’ll All End in Guiness and Man Hugs”

At some point while watching “Orca Shrugged,” the thought popped into my mind, is that Walton Goggins? with breasts? Turns out, the answer to that question is “yes,” and Goggins’s turn as Venus is pretty amazing. A veteran of The Shield, it was only a matter of time before Goggins turned up on Sons of Anarchy (as have many of The Shield‘s actors), but Goggins as Venus gets my vote as best and most surprising guest starring role in a series that is notable for its clever use of guest stars.

I’m catching up on the Sons after falling behind. My other favorite moment from “Orca Shrugged” is the fight between Jax and Galen.  When Romeo asks Clay if everything is going to be okay, he answers, “It’ll all end in Guiness and man hugs.” And that is as good a summation of a typical episode of the Sons as you can get, fighting, drinking, man hugging.

Most of the hugging, however, takes place offscreen.

The only actual man hug in “Orca Shrugs” is between Galen and Clay.

Man Hug Season Total: 10

The Walking Dead 2012 (ep. 2)

Currently watching the second episode of The Walking Dead‘s third season. At the end of episode 1, Hershel was bitten by a zombie on the leg, which Rick proceeded to amputate—with the hope, presumably, that cutting off the infected limb will prevent Hershel from turning.

Each of the three seasons, thus far, has seemed to be structured around a particular stage of the development of civilization. In season one, our group of survivors were hunter-gatherers, foraging in the woods as well as from the remains of civilization. With the move to the setting of Hershel’s farm in season two, we have a move to a society based in small-scale agriculture. This season, with the move to the abandoned prison as the primary setting, we seem to have to moved to a kind of medieval society and social structure. The prison itself suggests a castle or fortress. There are watchtowers and ramparts, from which the survivors can defend the castle (and take out the zombies infesting it); there’s a courtyard; there’s even a kind of moat (a double fence that surrounds the facility).

The prison is not exactly empty. Five prisoners are discovered barricaded inside the cafeteria. This is a slight departure from the graphic novel series, in which we have 4 prisoners, and, at first glance, there seems very little physical similarity between the prisoners in the novel and the ones in the series. Other characters in the series are sometimes dressed or styled to suggest their graphic novel counterparts, but I’m not quite seeing it yet with the prisonrs.  Of course, the television series has been quite clear about establishing its autonomy from the graphic novels—in part to keep fans of the novel series interested by having surprises that aren’t in the comic book series.

Season 2 included multiple western themes and motifs (a shootout in a saloon, the last stand at Hershel’s farm, etc.), but I’m not seeing so much influence of or reference to the genre western in season 3, perhaps because we have so completely move inside. However, episode 1 did indicate an affection for John Ford style framing—especially with Rick, who we see framed in multiple doorways, windows, other open spaces.

There continues to be a good deal of zombie slaughter in this episode. The prisoners aren’t exactly naturals at zombie-killing. Although, they seem much more adept at killing humans. And so much for there by 5 prisoners rather than 4 prisoners. The “extra” prisoner didn’t make it through the episode. Actually, the dead prisoner count continues to rise . . . . Actually, many of the plot events from vol 3 of the graphic novels seem to have been condensed into this one episode. In particular, the tense relationship with the prisoners that is at the center of vol 3,  well, there aren’t that many prisoners left at this point.

With just a hint of irony, Lori comments, “Today was a good day.”


New Book on Clint Eastwood

New Essays on Clint Eastwood has just been published by the University of Utah Press.  It includes essays by WLA notables:  John Gourlie, Richard Hutson, Kathleen Moran, Dennis Rothermel, Matt Wanat, and Brett Westbrook. Click on blurb (from the press) below for more information:

Edited by Leonard Engel
Foreword by Drucilla Cornell

New Essays on Clint Eastwood is a companion to Engel’s previous book, Clint Eastwood, Actor and Director: New Perspectives. It includes discussion of some of Eastwood’s most recent films as well as his earliest work, and deepens our overall appreciation of his artistry and his growth as an ever more accomplished storyteller. The contributors to this new volume examine Eastwood’s body of work as both actor and director: his portrayal of Rowdy Yates in the television series Rawhide, his directorial debut with Play Misty for Me, his directorial and starring role in Gran Torino, and his recent directorial successes with Hereafter and J. Edgar.

A common thread throughout the volume is the respect for Eastwood’s commitment to cinematic storytelling. Indi-vidually and collectively, the essays highlight the variety and complexity of Eastwood’s themes and his accomplish-ments throughout a lifetime of endeavors. Examining his Westerns and detective films illustrates how Eastwood left his iconic stamp on those genres, while discussion of his more recent films expounds on his use of family, history, and myth to transcend generic conventions and to project a hard-won vision of a united humanity beyond the separation of ethnic, racial, and national conflicts. Cumulatively, the essays remind us of his lifelong devotion to perfecting his artistry and his powers as a storyteller.

Walking Dead: Season Three

AMC’s post-apocalyptic zombie western The Walking Dead begins its new season tonight. When we last saw the survivors, the “last stand” at Hershel’s farm had failed, and former sheriff (and The Walking Dead‘s version of the cowboy hero) Rick Grimes had declared, “This is no longer a democracy.” We don’t exactly begin where we last left off. Some time has passed. Lori’s pregnancy has advanced, and Hershel has an impressive white beard.  They also seem to have found a few silencers for their guns. We seem to have skipped over winter.

The group is still wandering in search of shelter. This is somewhat different than volume three of the graphic novel series, but we are back on track with the series before long—as the survivors discover the prison, which should provide the main setting for this season.

We also get to see the character Michonne for the first time—at least, as more than a hooded figure in the woods. Michonne is the machete-wielding  (actually, not a machete, but I can’t remember what type of sword she carries) former lawyer, an African American women who kicks serious butt in the graphic novel series.

The season opener has a lot of zombie killing going on, including a pretty good battle with zombie prison guards in riot gear. Otherwise, there’s not a lot of plot, and I’m finding the continuing zombie slaughter to be a little dull.

Okay, so things just got not dull.  Since this is just airing, I will let it go at that.

Hell on Wheels: 2012 Season Finale

Well, give Hell on Wheels credit for pulling out all the stops for the two-hour season finale, finishing at long last the railway bridge, delivering on the long awaited attack from the Sioux, and taking out a major character or two (or three or more). I do wish the series had done more with the Sioux, who end up being conventional western villains. With the Cheyenne in Season One, we at least got to know several of the Cheyenne characters, Joseph Black Moon, certainly, but also his father and brother. The Sioux remained a distant threat, doing mysterious things with the Swede that are never quite explained, and not really emerging as full human individuals the way the Cheyenne characters did in season one.

The Hell on Wheels camp became the very picture of its namesake, engulfed in flame during the attack, and, in one of the finest moments of the series, we saw the demonic looking “Mr. Swede” enjoying a solitary waltz through its burning streets. And, by the way, if you want to avoid spoilers, you should stop reading here and not go on to the next paragraph.

Lily Bell seems most decidedly dead, killed by the Swede, who killed her primarily, it seems, for the pleasure of making Bohannan unhappy. Bohannon attempts to execute the Swede by hanging him from the completed bridge (which was saved from destruction during the attack), but before he can secure the rope, the Swede leaps off the bridge into the water below. In the real world, the fall would have killed him, but this being television, and the Swede being just too good as a Loki-like villain to kill off, I suspect that he may return. Mr. and Mrs. Durant seem to be on their way to prison for their fraudulant book-keeping, and the season ends with the government representatives asking Bohannan to take over as the head of the railway enterprise, and, well, what else has he got to do? The way the season ended, it seems like the Durants may be on their way out of the series. Joseph Black Moon may also be on the way out, as he has renounced Christianity and plans to return to his people. Elam survives, as does the newly widowed Eva (Mr. Toole committing suicide), and the McGinnis brothers survived the attack (if only Sean can get over his broken heart).

Although I was never that fond of Lily Bell as a character, I liked her scenes with Mrs. Durant. In a series that has not been as good at developing women characters as male ones, Virginia Madsen’s Hannah Durant was a welcome addition to the cast. Given her husband’s ill health, I was hoping he might die and leave her in charge. As a foil to Lily (and vice versa), I could see the two women developing a relationship that paralleled the Elam/Bohannon dynamic. Alas, that’s not to be, as the Fair-Haired Maiden of the West is no more.

Hell on Wheels Update

Well, things have certainly been moving along on AMC’s Hell on Wheels heading into the season finale. It took nearly two seasons, a foiled robbery, and a wounded Durant being put on a train to Chicago for live-saving surgery, but Bohannan and Lily Belle finally spent the night together. The Swede, when not wandering the camp in his Davy-Crockett-style raccoon skin camp has been seen joining the Sioux in their sweat lodge (and has been secretly passing them stolen guns). The Swede also shaves his head, which makes him even more visually striking, especially when blood (as when Bohannan pops him in the head with one of the stolen rifles) is splattered all over his pale skin.  The “white spirit” indeed. He has also become a quite cheerful Nordic saboteur, using a Norwegian penny to jam up an engine that causes an accident at the bridge.

The most surprising development may be the arrival of Mrs. Hannah Durant, who accompanies her recuperating husband back to Hell on Wheels. “My husband is making some changes,” she tells Lily Bell, and then shuts the door on her, and that’s just the first of many doors she shuts on Lily, including the door of her own train car—which she kicks Lily out of and takes possession for her own quarters.

Bohannan lets Lily stay in his place, and goes off to bunk with Elam in his unfinished house. Elam tries to quit the railroad, but Durant tells him, “You die in my employee or you walk back through Indian Territory,” as he rips up the deed that McGinnis sold Elam. And then Durant makes Elam an offer.  As Elam tells Bohannan, “He wanted me to do something you ain’t going to like at all.” I guess we will find out exactly what that is during Sunday’s two-hour season finale.