Note: Spoilers through Episode 4.06.
At the very least, this episode is different. Different may not always be a good thing, as The Walking Dead has tried a lot of different things this season and therefore sometimes feels like it lacks a strong center, but different is what keeps this show interesting. The cycle inherent to the show’s premise, where the survivors find shelter only to have it destroyed by zombies or other people, can become painstakingly redundant after a while, failing to do much more than move the characters around. So, when it was revealed that The Governor was going to have not one, but TWO flashback episodes in a row, I was intrigued. At the very least, The Governor won’t be attacking the prison yet. That’s something.
So how did “Live Bait” ultimately perform? It was a solid episode, one that took my expectations about The Governor and at least shelved them for a time. The end of the episode may suggest that, yes, tough times are ahead and The Governor will probably be all sorts of crazy soon, but, for now, he’s being treated with a little more subtlety. For the first half of the episode, The Governor barely utters a word. He’s horrified by the actions he took in “Welcome to the Tombs”, unable to deal with what power has done to him. It’s not necessarily atonement that he’s looking for now, simply a peace of mind. It’s a bizarre shift from the character that we saw last season; he goes from a chaotic psychopath to a mute wanderer. That “blank slate” that the episode gives The Governor is interesting, but it ultimately leaves the episode without any real center to revolve around. It makes the experience sort of hard to connect with.
But the journey we see here is really a pleasure to watch unfold. Since The Governor is a blank slate, we’re introduced to a new world with a new set of characters. And after watching the same characters do the same thing for so long, it’s interesting to be able to interact with these new characters. The biggest issue with having new characters, however, is that it’s difficult to connect to the individual characters. They’re ultimately one-dimensional, with a trait or two defining these peoples’ existences. Tara is the hardass who uses that as a defense mechanism, Lilly is the scared woman trying to hold everybody together, and Meghan is a scared little girl unable to deal with it all. At the very least, we’re able to define these people, which is something.
The most praiseworthy quality that this episode has is The Governor’s journey from self-loathing to finding peace with a new family of sorts. The series takes the past that The Governor does have and really works with that, emphasizing his desire for a daughter figure in his life and the difficulty he has connecting with anybody else. It takes interacting with the Chambler family for a while to make him realize that people are what make life worth living, that being somebody else’s rock is better than being a parasite that drains the life out of them. At Woodbury, The Governor was that parasite posing as a rock, a man who would rather control than provide. Here, his interactions with the Chambler family, especially Meghan, brings him back to life in a way, whether it be playing chess with Meghan to put a smile on her face or sleeping with Lilly and discovering the warmth of intimacy. The way this journey unfolds is legitimately heartwarming, even if there is still that disconnect between the viewer and the events on the screen. And the ending, where Martinez shows up once more, takes a rejuvenated Governor and reminds us that there’s always something around the corner to threaten out sanity once more. One of The Walking Dead’s strong messages is that, no matter how many trials you’ve undertaken and succeeded at, there’s always more around the corner.
The episode is also much quieter than a normal episode of The Walking Dead, despite the brutal violence sprinkled throughout the runtime. It’s never a good sign when a show is only good when it is being bombastic and ridiculous, and The Walking Dead is normally only good when it is being one of those two things. Season 2 was the worst offender of this, where it often attempted to use shock value to be riveting instead of putting its effort into interesting storytelling. So, it’s telling that this episode is both quiet and legitimately good. That quiet nature and the way the writing eases off the reliance of conversation as a way to drive story and character both enhances the experience that “Live Bait” has to offer. Not to mention that it goes to show how the writing has indeed improved over the show’s run.
The episode certainly has its downfalls, as some of the writing is still somewhat shaky, as is normal through most episodes of The Walking Dead. Chess metaphors are certainly played out, so scenes like The Governor playing chess with Meghan were strong, yet felt slightly contrived in the way that they attempted to define The Governor through king/pawn relationships. That being said, I can’t be too harsh on that scene, as they at least don’t spell everything out the way they used to on this show. In addition, Tara’s dialogue was rarely that smart, as her desire to “fist bump” The Governor at the beginning of the episode was a little hokey. That being said, that specific scene did speak to the way that The Governor was afraid to engage in any sort of human intimacy, even if it’s as simple as a “fist bump”. So, it’s at least nice that no matter where I look for negatives in this episode, they usually do enhance the episode in some manner as well.
Ultimately, “Live Bait” is one of those episodes that are difficult to judge. It bears little connection to the rest of the series, minus the final shot in “Internment”, where we know that The Governor ends up outside the prison walls, likely in opposition to Rick. Until we see the full length of The Governor’s flashback story, which will end in “Dead Weight”, there’s not much to judge “Live Bait” by, other than how well it builds up this new story. And, surprisingly enough, it builds up this story well enough that I’m actually interested in the fate of this new family.
Final Thoughts: A surprisingly solid episode of The Walking Dead, “Live Bait” changes the formula with mixed results.
There we go. All caught up. I’ll be working on catching up with Homeland soon, though it’s going to take me a fair amount of time to get that done. As for all of my other goals, those will have to wait until I finish up Homeland. Hopefully, I don’t fall too far behind again. Catching up is kind of a bitch. Until tomorrow, loyal followers.
Previous Review- The Walking Dead 4x05: “Internment”
Next Review- Homeland 3x07: “Geronition”
Remember to check out the website that I contribute to:
Note: Spoilers through Episode 4.05.
It was so close. So damn close. “Internment”, for the majority of its runtime, was the strongest episode of the season, its best moments rising above anything that even “Indifference” was able to pull off. However, as inevitable as it was, that ending was what killed it for me. I don’t want to talk about it just yet, as I don’t want it to dominate the review, but it was a stupid, stupid ending in a series that has its fair share of stupid moments. Anyway, aside from that ending, and some of the usual The Walking Dead bullshit, “Internment” was a hell of an episode, bolstered by a technique that “Clear” employed in order to tell its fantastic story: conciseness.
“Internment” was absolutely concise when it came to its storytelling, and it’s that concise nature that always elevates episodes of The Walking Dead above the general sloppiness that permeates many of its episodes. Hershel was the main focus of the episode, and while the episode was compromised by a couple irritating writing choices, the focus on him elevated it above and beyond what it could have been had the focus been on a larger ensemble. Hershel has struggled for a while with the balance between his own idealism and the harsh realities of the world around him, and this episode really tightens that struggle into something legitimately compelling.
As Hershel attempts to save the sick and dying through makeshift medical treatments, people are becoming worse all around him, even his makeshift staff (Glenn and Sasha). Even his friend, Dr. Caleb, is deteriorating quickly, bleeding from the eyes and becoming unable to breathe. Despite that, he still holds strong, taking the dead out of the cell block to put them out of their misery so others don’t have to watch. Everybody seems to look at him like he’s crazy, like they already know what happens, but Hershel is trying to preserve more then life; he’s trying to preserve dignity. What makes this fight so compelling is that it rises above the stakes usually involved in The Walking Dead. Hershel’s desire to preserve what makes people human is important because it’s a desire to be truly alive in a society that mocks attempts to be truly alive. Society after the apocalypse is focused on one thing, survival, and it’s easy to give in to social demands instead of trying to elevate one’s self above those demands. Hershel, in trying to be something better, reflects our own desire to be something better ourselves.
So how does that fight turn out? Not as well as Hershel would have hoped. After trying so hard to save everybody, he loses the majority of the cell block to a zombie outbreak that nearly claims his own life. It’s a riveting sequence, not only because of the zombie action, but because it would be a natural end to Hershel’s character arc, a good time to kill him off. There are so many characters here that have legitimate targets on their backs that there’s no telling who is going to live and who is going to die. In a series that prides itself on killing whoever it damn well pleases, this seemed like the episode that would take out Hershel and maybe Sasha as well. Not only that, but Hershel’s attempts to save everybody is something that has been built on over the course of the episode, so the action has personal character stakes that feel like they matter. When Hershel has to kill Caleb, when he has to get the breathing apparatus that will keep Glenn alive, we can understand exactly why he’s going to such lengths to save those who are still standing. And it’s that understanding of his motivation that elevates the action above the normal bloody violence we saw in an episode like “Home”.
However, the episode doesn’t really have any major deaths, something that actually works in its favor. In keeping these characters alive, it provides us with that strong final scene for Hershel, where he sits in his cell, unable to read the bible because he’s so distraught at the emptiness behind it all. It’s a hell of a scene, not only because Scott Wilson plays it brilliantly, but because it digs into an issue that we find ourselves grappling with. What is the meaning to our own lives, and more specifically, why do we have to suffer so much as we live our lives? It’s a question with more than a couple dismal and uncompromisingly brutal answers, and those answers are ones that we rarely want to even consider. So, when we’re forced to consider the possibility of those answers, like Hershel has to at the end of the episode, there’s little else to do but break down. Our lives may not be meaningless, as Hershel does save more than a couple lives this episode, but in the face of such vicious failure, it’s immensely difficult to remember those small victories.
The episode’s surely not perfect, as its more abstract dialogue rarely hits the mark. The Walking Dead has always tried to be lofty and philosophical, even though the writing has never been able to match the ambition, so random literary references (like Steinbeck quotes) often are more worthy of eye-rolling than legitimate wonder. Not to mention that Rick and Carl’s dialogue (“Keep you from what?” “From what always happens.”) sounds more like an attempt to be intellectually stimulating than an attempt at real dialogue. But that’s a mostly minor complaint, as it’s only a couple moments that seem awkward.
My biggest complaint, and it’s a hell of a complaint, is the ending. Looks like The Governor is back, in all of his goofy-psycho-villain glory, as the final shot is of him gazing upon the prison from afar, accompanied by the usual ambient heartbeat sounds (which I do like). Last season, The Governor was mostly a blessing to the show, even if he devolved into that goofy-psycho-villain that worked less and less as the season went on. Here, I’m not sure what The Governor can do that he hasn’t already done. Another attack on the prison (this would be the third one) would be redundant, though it certainly seems like that’s the route the show will be taking. There’s no way in hell that The Governor will team up with Rick in any capacity, as he’s done so much to the prison survivors that his presence in the prison would mean civil war. So, we’re left with the promise of redundancy, and though there’s certainly a possibility that he could be utilized well in the coming episodes, it’s not a strong one.
“Internment” leaves me with mixed feelings on what happens next. Hopefully, Gimple will be able to elevate this dumb story decision into something that makes some form of sense or has some originality, but it’s far, far more difficult to turn around the resurgence of The Governor than it was to turn around Carol’s murders. So, at this point, I’m not necessarily excited. I’m not necessarily enraged. I’m just waiting to see whether what happens next is anything new.
Final Thoughts: Another strong episode of The Walking Dead marred by a lackluster ending, “Internment” narrowed its focus and was better for it.
I’ll be posting the most recent episode shortly. I figured I’d post all three at once to get up to date in one fell swoop. I’m also working on Homeland, which should be up this weekend, as well as other endeavors that I hope to conquer. However, I’m going to be tackling more responsibilities next week, some of which are rather terrifying, so we’ll see how it goes. Until later today, loyal followers.
Previous Review- The Walking Dead 4x04: “Indifference”
Next Review- The Walking Dead 4x06: “Live Bait”
Remember to check out the website that I contribute to:
Note: Spoilers through Episode 4.04.
While The Walking Dead is still plagued with a plethora of issues, whether they be character related, plot related, or simply the premise of the show dragging the proceedings down, Gimple has done a hell of a job as showrunner. He took a rough back half to Season 3 and transitioned into this infection plot (the first of many detailing the fall of a civilization) without any huge issues. Sure, the show still has an issue with complexity, choosing to dumb ideas down in order to keep things from becoming too abstract, and some character motivation can be a little muddled, but “Indifference” is one of those episodes that makes me excited for what comes next. It reintroduces some of the complexity that made “Clear” the brilliant episode that it was, as well as the thematic cohesion that the show’s best episodes have.
In fact, this episode reminded me a lot of “Clear”, in that it featured two main characters conversing in a way that revealed a great deal about themselves and the world around them, instead of rendering them paper-thin to “prove” a point. Carol and Rick’s conversations were, by far, the best part of this episode, and almost reached the greatness that “Clear” legitimately achieved. Carol’s confession at the end of “Isolation”, that she was the one that killed Karen and David, was not a strong move, as it complicated her character development in a way that felt contrived and unrealistic. And, now that her development has moved in that direction, it’s something that the writers have to work with moving forward. It’s still not a great development, but if the writers can at least do something worthwhile with it, whether they say something strong with it or achieve better character development as a result of a different approach, then at least that lackluster confession can be properly buried.
So how did the writers deal with the ending of “Isolation”? Surprisingly well, as Carol’s conscience is one of the primary concerns of the episode. She’s consistently attempting to justify her actions to Rick as if she’s justifying them to herself. The whole “Is letting a few die to justify saving dozens?” dilemma is a tricky one, and it’s one that Carol cannot find the answer for. There’s no way to know that her solution made any sort of progress, and there’s no way to know what letting Karen and David live would have done, so all Carol can do is try to rid herself of the guilt that seems to be half-weighing her down. However, she’s not all guilt and sorrow. Part of her really has embraced that darker side of her personality, and even though it’s somewhat contradictory to her development in “Infected”, it’s so strong here that the contradiction isn’t as damning.
I say this because the episode deals with extra characters the same way that “Clear” did. They die, because they’re red shirts and all, but they’re also there for a specific reason: to show how Rick and Carol view other people. This is something that the show has done time and time again, but it’s always good to gauge where the characters are at instead of making them ciphers in a series that absolutely doesn’t need that. Carol seems less concerned with what happens to Ana and Sam; she’s so set on letting them prove how hard they are that she doesn’t consider what happens when they set out without the skill necessary to survive. So, when Ana turns up dead, Rick realizes that Carol’s indifference is dangerous, a way to justify murder and death in a world that already has enough of that.
Rick’s character development this season has been pointed at how well he retains his humanity after the events of last season, and it’s telling that he increasingly pushes at Carol’s decision over the course of the episode. At the beginning, he’s unsure as to how to react, unsure as to how to proceed. That omnipresent question (“Is letting a few die to justify saving dozens?”) never really has a solid answer, and he’s pulled the trigger himself a couple times, taking Carol’s approach to solving problems. There’s “Better Angels”, where he killed Shane instead of watching him destroy everything he’s created over the first two seasons. There’s “Sick”, where he killed that prison inmate to stop violence from spreading through the prison. But now, he’s changed. He’s seen what that approach does to a person, as it slowly unraveled him last season. So, when he casts Carol out, it’s a cold decision and one he regrets, but it’s a decision that has a distinct motivation and a solid connection to his past. It’s a character choice that feels human.
Daryl and Co. have a solid storyline in retrieving the medicine for the sick survivors, even if the whole “infection” storyline isn’t as solid as it could be. It’s your standard zombie thrills, which aren’t as interesting as they could be, but Bob’s decision to take whiskey instead of medicine deals in the same issues that Carol/Rick’s storyline deals with. It’s difficult to stop yourself from taking the easy way out, the one that gives in to temptation and fear. Just as Carol’s fear drove her to murder, Bob’s fear of a life without release drives him to selfishness that Daryl simply cannot get on board with. However, instead of casting Bob out, Daryl puts a good scare into him and lets him back into the group. Where Rick takes the easy way out himself by casting out Carol, Daryl takes the more difficult road and attempts to help Bob. This is absolutely the highlight of the episode, the grey area that is underlined in the juxtaposition between Bob/Daryl and Carol/Rick. Rick may be unable to deal with Carol’s dark decisions, but isn’t his own decision to push Carol out just as bad as what Carol is doing?
This season of The Walking Dead is very concerned with that divide between humanity and inhumanity in a society that so feverishly demands inhumanity, and it’s far, far better for it. The worst that this show had to offer dealt directly with characters questioning each other on morals and beliefs (Season 2), so it’s refreshing to see that the show has improved so much at this questioning. Instead of feeling like these characters were preaching to each other, I could actually understand where they were coming from. I could see the motivation behind the words, the desperation that they felt when they tried to convince themselves that they were right. And, if The Walking Dead can keep that keep that kind of depth flowing through the characters’ words and actions, then maybe it can evolve to the kind of show that it truly desires to be.
Final Thoughts: The strongest episode of the season yet, “Indifference” takes a shaky foundation and does great work on it.
I apologize for taking so long to complete these reviews. My workload is increasing, I have more schoolwork to do, and life is generally collapsing in on me. So, at the very least, I’ve managed to complete this, “ and the most recent The Walking Dead episode. It’s a small feat, but one that I’m proud of because of how fucking long it took me to do it. Anyway, Homeland will be coming up as well. We’ll see when I get it up. Could be tomorrow. Could be Sunday. I’m so busy that I’m not entirely sure. Again, sorry, but I’m doing the best that I can. Until later today, loyal followers.
Previous Review- Homeland 3x06: “Still Positive”
Next Review- The Walking Dead 4x05: “Internment”
Remember to check out the website that I contribute to:
So. I’m very, very behind in my reviews. But I’m working to remedy that, as I hope to post The Walking Dead 4x04 and 4x05 reviews today, if I have time. So, yeah, I apologize, but I’m so busy that it’s tough to get anything done.
Note: Spoilers through Episode 3.06.
Homeland is a show that knows how to inject an almost unreal amount of tension into the proceedings, a show that excels when it dives into the cat and mouse game between the CIA and its enemies. So, during the moments when this episode dealt with the attempt to trap Javadi and turn him into an asset, it soared. When it dealt with character motivation and character depth…well, it mostly worked. Homeland is a smart show, one that knows its characters and how to dive into their core, but it also puts them in some stupid situations. Take Dana from Season 2 and her car crash with Finn. Take the “horror movie” chase between Carrie and Abu Nazir. This show is full of great episodes and great storylines briefly marred by stupid turns. “Still Positive” is one of those episodes that makes a stupid turn, though that doesn’t detract much from an otherwise strong episode.
Let’s get the stupid turn out of the way. Apparently, Carrie is pregnant. Apparently, she’s known about it for a while. Apparently, she has a huge drawer completely full of positive pregnancy tests. There are certainly ways that this could improve or be put to good use. But the number of those ways is low. Really low. I can’t see any good future for this season with a pregnant Carrie eventually giving birth or being a mother. Of course, I can’t be too hard on this twist, because it hasn’t moved forward in any negative fashion as of yet, but it’s still concerning. It’s entirely possible that the pregnancy is only meant to eventually remind us of the cost that these CIA members have to live with in order to fight the good fight. Carrie has had to risk and lose her sanity and her dignity in order to even get close to Javadi. Saul has had to risk losing Mira again in order to pay attention to his work. Ultimately, losing a child might be what finally tips Carrie over the edge, forcing her to reconsider if it’s truly worth it to fight these battles.
As for the rest of the episode, it was all far more sure of itself than what we’ve seen thus far. Carrie was able to easily twist Javadi, pushing him into a corner so he can turn himself in to be used as an asset. The lie detector test instantly positioned the episode as an exercise in power and control, which is the most powerful dynamic the show has to offer. In the cat and mouse game between the CIA and the “enemy”, the question has always been: Who has control? And the most exciting thing about that question is that the answer can shift in a matter of seconds. It doesn’t take long for one side to see the window of opportunity and seize it, making the other side scramble to close the window before irreparable damage is done. What makes “Still Positive” so great, and what makes it rise above that dumb pregnancy reveal, was how that control and power shifted so quickly and violently between the CIA and Javadi, and how failing to see that window opening can have irreversible results.
After Carrie turned Javadi around, the CIA operation began to underestimate just how crafty Javadi could be. They failed to see the window of opportunity that he saw, where he knew that he was basically immune now that he had to be an asset for the CIA. So, when he realized that, he took that opportunity to turn the tables on Saul, killing his ex-wife in one of the bloodiest, most awful scenes Homeland has had to offer. With how little Javadi had been characterized up to now, it’s actually nice to see such a brutal scene attached to him because it goes to show just the kind of bastard that he is. Considering that this season is pushing at the conflict between using drones as intelligence and using people as intelligence, this kind of miscalculation goes to show that using people as intelligence can be faulty (brutally so), just as using drones can be faulty. Homeland likes to remind us that control is simply an illusion, that no matter what the CIA does to try to retain control over their enemies, they’ll never completely have it.
Saul’s transformation here is, by far, the most powerful character development in this episode. If cost has been one of the most resonating thematic ideas in the series, Saul’s transformation adds to it in that it shows just how bitter the fight is beginning to make him. The beginning of the season went to show how Dar Adal was the devil on his shoulder, egging him on to commit the six assassinations against those involved in the Langley bombing, egging him on to push people out who are too weak to hold themselves up (Carrie). And it seemed like, now that Dar Adal wasn’t around to poison him, the good ol’ Saul righteousness and wisdom was creeping back into his character. But that’s not all that Saul is. He’s always been bitter about the system, constantly subjected to the bullshit that Estes had to throw at him (the season one drone strikes was a huge one). So, when he’s outsmarted by Javadi, a man he used to know, a man capable of brutally slaughtering his ex-wife, it turns the normally cool and calm man into a vicious, furious one. That final image, of Saul, shrouded in shadow, looming over a beaten Javadi, was undoubtedly the most haunting image of the episode, taking the righteous man we once knew and turning him into a monster.
Dana’s storyline sat in the background of all of this, and while it’s wasn’t terribly interesting, painting Dana as this selfish brat, it resonates with the idea of cost. Her part of the episode revolves around her changing her name and suddenly moving out of the house. Because of 12/12, Dana has lost a part of her identity; in being the infamous Nicholas Brody’s daughter, she’s unable to forge her own way in life. It’s the cost of having a father like him, the restrictions imposed on her as a result of something outside of her control. Of course, in doing this, she abandons those who cannot escape, cutting them loose and leaving them to an even slower recovery. But, here, she creates new hope for herself, hoping that she can cauterize the damage and move forward, crafting something new and forgetting the old.
“Still Positive” wasn’t the key episode the season needs, like “Q&A” from Season 2 or “Blind Spot” from Season 1, but it’s still a great episode, pushing the season forward towards what I can only hope will be even stronger than what we’ve seen so far. A lot of it depends on what the season decides to ultimately do with Nicholas Brody and Carrie’s pregnancy. Both of those story threads are big ones that are up in the air, no real path in place to ground them. But they both eventually have to be grounded. It ultimately depends on whether or not they’ll be grounded smart and slow, melding them in with the rest of the story’s plotlines and themes, or quick and stupid, forcing the whole damn thing to crash.
Final Thoughts: A brutally tense episode of Homeland plagued with a wrong move, “Still Positive” deepens our understanding of Javadi and focuses intently on the best character of the series: Saul Berenson.
Sorry that it has taken me so long to finish up these reviews. I’ve been insanely busy all week, trying to come up with more experimental lesson plans for the week. And those experimental lesson plans take a long, long time to figure out since, you know, this is just my first year as a student teacher. Anyway, hopefully I get more time in the weeks to come, though I highly doubt it. We’ll see. I’ll be reviewing The Walking Dead soon, hopefully later today, with all of the shit I have to catch up on (Dexter, Grand Theft Auto V, etc) being reviewed, well, eventually. Until tomorrow (or later today), loyal followers.
Previous Review- The Walking Dead 4x03: “Isolation”
Next Review- The Walking Dead 4x04: “Indifference”
Remember to check out the website that I contribute to:
Note: Spoilers through Episode 4.03.
Simplicity is what often drags The Walking Dead down, especially because the apocalypse is a subject that has been treated with a far more intricate eye in other works. Think of The Last of Us, a brilliant meditation on what it means to lose and gain humanity. Or The Road, a fantastic yet unblinkingly grim portrayal of what it means to only have love (and dying love) left in your life. So, when “Isolation” took the infection plot and simplified it, I scoffed at the resulting picture. The Walking Dead so often has the opportunity to expand its ideas into something bigger, something grander, but decides to move the other way because it already has a formula (albeit a simple one) that already works for it. “Isolation” may not be a bad episode, but that simplification certainly drags it down.
In previous episodes, the infected that took out an entire cellblock was an unseen threat, one that we didn’t entirely understand. The paranoia that resulted was subtle, but certainly there, and it had some dire consequences (Karen and David’s death). Here, that threat is simplified because it’s given a fairly simple answer: find antibiotics and people will survive. That simple answer (and simplification of the threat) harms the impact of the overall plotline because it makes it less threatening, something that can be overcome with the right tool. Sons of Anarchy is a show that always deals with specific threats, with one “Big Bad” after the next, and that structure only works when each threat is built up as a massive, vicious entity, not just one problem to deal with in order to move on to the next. It only works when the threat is so all-encompassing that there’s no clear solution, no real way to overcome it. In terms of this infection storyline, it seems as if the writers put themselves in a corner. People keep on dying because the infection is so contagious, so there needs to be a simple answer in order to keep it from being unrealistic that half of the main cast isn’t dead. And that simple answer is not only turning the infection into a “Big Bad”, it’s turning it into a weak one.
Despite my frustration with the overarching plot, the misery back at the prison is potent, the threat of main characters dying very real. Characters like Hershel and Sasha have a very real chance of dying, even though Glenn just seems like an attempt to inject some legitimate tension into the proceedings (because, let’s face it, Hershel or Sasha dying wouldn’t really be emotionally devastating). But it is great to see main characters either becoming ill or preparing to sacrifice themselves for the lives of the sickly. Hershel’s decision to treat the sick in the quarantine zone is met with derision from those around him, but he realizes that it’s best to risk your life for a cause that means something, not just for day-to-day survival. Risking his life like that is an opportunity to Hershel, the ability to really be alive again. And being truly alive is the most potent luxury in a place that seems like it’ll be soon void of luxuries.
Where the main characters acted with a general consistency for the first couple episode, this episode has some of them deviating from that consistency, their actions convoluting what was established to be their motivation thus far. Tyreese’s horror at the sight of his dead girlfriend Karen and his infected sister Sasha was great, as was his rage at everything around him. I even like where it’s going, how his rage is inevitably going to snowball downward into other crises and cause other people and other conflicts to spiral out of hand. But his motivation during the supply mission felt odd. I understand that Tyreese went on the supply mission in order to save Sasha. But when they were stopped by the massive herd, when Tyreese sat in the car for a while before standing up and chopping zombies in a blind rage, it seemed like the writers had forgotten about that motivation. It made sense that Tyreese would be so enraged by the beings that inevitably caused his sister’s sickness, but it seemed like the writers just wanted him to be “badass angry” instead of truly conflicted.
Carol is another character whose motivation is becoming frustrating. In that last episode, she seems to soften when faced with Lizzie’s mental instability. But now, we learn that she was the one to stab and burn both David and Karen. For someone who seemed a little edgier but still had a soft side, this is a massive turn for her, and one that wasn’t adequately built up. It’s one thing to be a little colder, a little more bitter. It’s another to murder and burn two bodies, leaving them out in the sun to rot. This season is all about escalation, about the downfall of civilizations and how conflicts snowball out of control, but that escalation has to feel natural. And, right now, Carol reflects that spiraling in a way that doesn’t seem authentic or natural. Of course, the conflict that inevitably comes after this could be great, as I’m sure Tyreese will eventually find out, but as of right now, Carol’s character is immensely problematic.
I may be giving “Isolation” a great deal of criticism, but it’s generally a good episode with some great tension and some high stakes. It’s just frustrating to see The Walking Dead make the same damn mistakes it always makes, where it simplifies ideas instead of expanding upon them to make them something greater. It dampens my excitement instead of making it grow. I still believe that Gimple has what it takes to reproduce the kind of effective narrative that we saw in “Clear”, but as of right now, I’m believing it a little less than before.
Final Thoughts: A decent episode of The Walking Dead marred by some simplifying of plotlines and ideas, “Isolation” pushes things along but doesn’t do much with them.
So, that’s all for the day. I’m going to do Grand Theft Auto V tomorrow, with the series finale of Dexter on Thursday or Friday, depending on when I’m free. It’s a pretty busy week, as I have to get my English 1 students through their first multi-paragraph essay, but I’ll do the best that I can. As for later on, I’ll be moving through more Homeland and The Walking Dead, but who knows how quickly I’ll be able to get that done. We’ll see, I suppose. Until tomorrow, loyal followers.
Previous Review- Homeland 3x05: “The Yoga Play”
Next Review- Homeland 3x06: “Still Positive”
Remember to check out the website that I contribute to:
Note: Spoilers through Episode 3.05.
Homeland has been sprawling a little more than usual this season, and I say that remembering how the second season had that frustrating Dana/Finn plot in the middle of it. The central threat of the season has been identified as Javadi, a character that now has a physical presence by the end of “The Yoga Play”, but there’s not a lot that has been done with him so far. The Carrie/Saul reveal at the end of “Game On” brought some cohesion to the Javadi storyline in that it revealed that Carrie has been going after Javadi this whole time, but there’s still quite a bit that has deviated from that central storyline, namely Dana’s plot and the Brody storyline in “Tower of David”. That deviation is what brings down “The Yoga Play”, an otherwise strong episode with an exciting Carrie plot and a strong finish.
Okay. The Dana plotline this season hasn’t been terrible, contrary to half of the criticism I’ve read over the last couple days. I like what the writers have done with her character, how the focus on isolation has motivated her character arc and connected it to what we’ve seen with Carrie (and briefly with Brody). I even like how she’s resorted to connecting to another broken man in order to distance herself from a society that’s rejected her. It’s all great thematic and character work, and it’s worked to a degree. It’s just that Dana’s boyfriend Leo is such a weak character, that her plotline is so predictable in a show where predictability isn’t usually an issue. It was a matter of time until Leo turned out to be an asshole, a matter of time until Dana called him out on it, a matter of time until she returned to a family that has a hard time accepting her. With a show populated by so many amazing and complex characters, spending a vast portion of time on Dana has always struck me as odd. Why not go back to Brody, or spend more time with Saul and Fara, or develop Dar Adal and Quinn a little more? So, I’m not entirely frustrated with the Dana/Leo drama, but it’s fairly sub-par in comparison to the great work that Homeland usually does. And it feels like a waste of time compared to what could be done with other characters.
Saul’s ongoing struggles as the head of the CIA become even more complicated in this episode, when Saul goes on a goose-hunting trip with Lockhart and other high-ranking government officials. Lockhart is convinced that drone strikes and other mechanized spy techniques are the way of the future, where Saul knows that people are the only way to efficiently get the job done. This is further illustrated when Lockhart guns down a goose that flies right in front of him, but Saul points out that terrorists don’t just reveal themselves like that. They hide, waiting in their holes, until it’s time for a quick strike. But, of course, people like Lockhart are always backed by higher-ups. He’s backed by the President, and there’s nothing Saul can really do to change that. So, with only two weeks left as head of the CIA, he focuses on putting Javadi in his crosshairs. And his work has already taken a toll on him, like it has in seasons past. One of the main themes of Homeland is how the insurmountable weight of work like this will inevitably crush the people doing that work, and we already see Saul’s wife straying from him again, possibly cheating on him with another man. But he barely blinks at the possible betrayal, as he returns focused yet again on finishing more of his work. It’s great to see Saul in the protagonist role again (a role that he’s pushed into yet again as Lockhart becomes more of an antagonist), as it’s one that he fits very well. Only time will tell what price he’ll inevitably pay this time for being that protagonist in a world that never rewards its heroes.
The one thing that the “Game On” ending reveal did was reinvigorate Carrie’s storyline, where today we see her as super-badass spy Carrie instead of impotent Carrie. That juxtaposition is important in that Carrie finally has the opportunity to stretch her wings once more, and does everything in her power to do just that. The only problem is that she’s completely inattentive to the things that still do constrict her, such as Javadi’s surveillance. Moving outside of that surveillance, acting suspicious as she goes about her day-to-day life, any one mistake could cost her everything because Javadi doesn’t want to blow his cover. So, when Carrie decides to active the Yoga Play, when she decides to risk everything for Dana, her motivation doesn’t just come from trying to help someone she cares for; it also comes from her just wanting to stretch her wings and get back to doing the one thing that makes her whole.
And that’s what makes the ending so powerful. All by itself, those last five minutes are a powerhouse, supremely tense with some of the great “predator hunting prey” scenes that brought up “Tin Man is Down”. But when Carrie is forced to strip to ensure that she’s not wired, when she has a black bag put over her head, when she’s led to Javadi’s interrogation room, it’s a hell of a scene that goes to show just what happens when people try to act like they’re more powerful than they are. Carrie is a hell of a spy, one of the best even when she suddenly decides to go off her meds, but that doesn’t change how people like Javadi are infinitely more powerful. He might not completely know what she’s up to, but he’s certainly suspicious, and that’s enough to warrant an interrogation. And what makes this even more exciting is that one-on-one interrogations like Carrie/Brody in “Q&A” or the interrogation in “Blind Spot” are Homeland’s specialty.
“The Yoga Play” is a fine episode, even if I sound somewhat critical of Dana’s storyline, and it’s one that shakes things up a little bit. But I’m also waiting for all of the gears to click, for everything to eventually come together in a far more cohesive picture. And waiting is fine. Television shows are known for their long game. But, right now, Homeland has so many ideas up in the air that I’m becoming more and more wary of the writers’ ability to bring them all together. From the Senator who’s about to take the job as CIA Director to Dar Adal’s negative influence to Brody in Venezuela, I know that there are ideas to bring it all together, but I’m wary of whether or not those ideas will work or not. Only time can tell. As for right now, we have Carrie and Javadi in one room together. And that is the kind of shit that Homeland always does well.
Final Thoughts: A great episode brought down by Dana’s somewhat weak storyline, “The Yoga Play” brings Javadi further into the spotlight.
I’m going to try to review The Walking Dead if I have time today, so we’ll see how that works out. Aside from that, I’m going to try to review Grand Theft Auto V on Friday, now that I’ve spent 37 hours beating the main story, and I’ll be trying to play through Batman: Arkham Asylum so that maybe I’ll eventually play through Batman: Arkham City and Batman: Arkham Origins. We’ll see, I suppose. Until tomorrow (or later today), loyal followers.
Previous Review- The Counselor
Next Review- The Walking Dead 4x03: “Isolation”
Remember to check out the website that I contribute to:
Note: Spoilers about decapitations, lofty dialogue, and Michael Fassbender crying uncontrollably.
Cameron Diaz has sex with a car. It’s a ridiculous scene, to be sure, and it’s one that I thought was absolutely absurd for most of its duration. There’s no plot progression, no real purpose for such an absurd scene, but it’s there. But the further the scene went on, the more that Reiner shrank at the telling of his own story, the more that The Counselor became unsettled by the absurdity of it all, the more it made sense to me. Absurdity is the absolute here, in that the world of greed and avarice that is the focal point of SO MANY MOVIES is still really this abstract thing that we can never fully understand. Maybe that’s why it is the focal point of all of these movies; it’s a facet of our human nature that we try so hard to understand but can never absolutely unravel into something coherent.
The Counselor is a hell of an experience, albeit a difficult one, in that it rewards close, close attention and repeat viewings more than anything else. The plot, a simple one containing a lawyer who does a “one time only” drug deal that goes bad, takes the background to a more philosophical discussion on the nature of men in a world that they don’t fully understand. Instead of diving into the intricacies of the seedy culture within drug-trafficking rings, it simplifies the characters’ roles into ideas more than anything else. The Counselor is a naïve man who decides to make a drug deal for more money. Reiner is a simplistic man who just wants to live lavishly. Westray is a cocky guy who thinks he has the world of greed figured out. Malkina is a succubus of sorts, bleeding powerful men dry with her vastly superior intellect and emotional
Reiner and Malkina were, by far, the most fascinating characters within this story, as their individual roles and their relationship spoke volumes about the story as a whole and the ideas that McCarthy was trying to articulate. Malkina was an abstract character, representative of the system that feeds off of people like Reiner, Westray, and The Counselor, bleeding them dry and moving on to satisfy her hunger elsewhere. She was the Judge or the Chigurh of the story, providing judgment to those who felt that they could step outside of their world into the uncompromising world of greed. Reiner was slowly realizing just how fucked he was within that world, becoming more and more afraid of Malkina and the kind of person she is. The misogyny that he felt was nothing more than his fear being rationalized by his worldviews, as he chose to damn all women instead of realizing that the person he was with is simply too much for him to handle. Just like the cheetahs in the back of his car getting free and waltzing blithely over his corpse, the system of greed that Reiner inhabited slaughtered him and moved right on by without a second thought.
Speaking of those cheetahs, this entire movie is laden with so much fantastic symbolism, from diamonds to cheetahs to motorcycles to the mechanism that decapitated Westray at the movie’s end. Speed is connected to the most potent symbols, such as the brilliant juxtaposition between the speeding motorcycle at the movie’s beginning and The Counselor/Laura slowly writhing under their white cocoon. Or, take for example, the motorcyclist decapitated by the wire stretched across the road. He moves at lightning speed through a dark world until, in one second, the lights flash on and he’s slaughtered in an instant. Every time a major character is murdered, it’s always done by something that differs completely in speed, whether it be a stationary wire or a runner or a car. No matter how fast you go, how much you think you can outrun fate, it always catches up. The cheetahs are the most potent symbol of the movie, from their appearance at Reiner’s mansion to their omnipotent presence at The Counselor/Laura’s engagement to their nonchalant attitude as they stride over Reiner’s corpse. Just like Malkina has her cheetah tattoo (a symbol of just how she’s ultimately an agent of that system of greed), the cheetahs themselves follow the main characters around, attached to them, waiting for the foolish pawns to succumb to their natural fate.
Cormac McCarthy’s work has always been wordy, with an apocalyptic aura of death and inevitability permeating every page, and this movie is no different. Conversations are endlessly quotable, filled with cryptic, witty, and fascinating musings. The violence is vicious and always seems to come out of nowhere. His script, which some critics have slammed for its “pretentious, wordy nature”, is phenomenal, the strongest facet of this movie. It’s so remarkably intellectual in its lofty discussion of the world of greed and the inevitability of the fate of those . I’ve seen some reviewers complain about the predictability of the plot, but those who have complained have never acknowledged how inevitability is one of the major themes of the movie, how it’s all supposed to be predictable. They all die because they’re all supposed to die, because Malkina (the paragon of judgment within the system of greed) is the reaper that strikes down those within that system. And it’s not just Malkina that does so. The absence of the ones that The Counselor and Reiner deal with goes to show just how little control anybody has over what ultimately transpires. Nobody can control what they cannot see.
If this movie has one major issue, it’s that McCarthy’s brilliant screenplay has a somewhat awkward translation to the screen. It reads like one of his books, it feels like one of his books, but when you hear his philosophizing out loud, it’s a little strange and hard to decipher. When you read a McCarthy book, you can always go back and re-read a difficult passage over and over again, but it’s a little more difficult to do so within a movie (this is something that I appreciate as well, because it lends purpose to multiple viewings, so it’s not entirely irritating). But it is most certainly awkward to hear Cameron Diaz say “Truth has no temperature”, no matter how witty it is. Scott simply had an issue adapting it because its an atypical screenplay, one that requires a far more subtle approach, as subtle as the movie already is.
So, Cameron Diaz has sex with a car. But what we find absurd is a world that we’ve never truly seen, just one that has been constantly glamorized until it becomes the focal point of our existence. We can desire money and fame and power all we want, but it’s emptiness that we find. Emptiness and a timer that attaches itself to our bodies, counting down to that fateful moment that it hits zero. Because mere existence within that world is bleeding people to nothing. No matter what people do to try to outrun their enemies, it’s not simply enemies that they have to worry about. It’s whatever gods oversee that world. And you can’t outrun that which can always see you.
Final Thoughts: A movie with some brilliant ideas brought down a little by their presentation, The Counselor is still a fascinating cinematic experience.
Alright. I’m going to try to review Gravity soon, as well as Grand Theft Auto V, when I get the chance. I’m still going to review Homeland and The Walking Dead early on in the week, so look forward to more of that. As for other shows, I’m not sure if I’ll engage in something else yet, but we’ll see how much time I have. It’s tough to find time for much these days, but I’m always trying. Anyway, we’ll see what happens. Until tomorrow, loyal followers.
Previous Review- The Walking Dead 4x02: “Infected”
Next Review- Homeland 3x05: “The Yoga Play”
Remember to check out the website that I contribute to:
Note: Spoilers through Episode 4.02.
There’s this pull between enjoyment and frustration whenever I watch any episode of The Walking Dead. On a single-episode or even seasonal scale, it’s fun to anticipate where the show is going to go next, who it’s going to kill off, and what kind of vicious violence is going to show up next. But when I think about the series as a whole, it’s difficult to really look at it favorably because of the narrative corner that the series has painted itself into. The status quo within the larger world of The Walking Dead deems that humanity and goodness dies to make way for physical survival, and the more these people fight for humanity and goodness, the more it dies. How do you end a television show with a status quo like that? What would the overarching plot mechanic be? Just: survive? Is that good enough?
Well…yes and no. We all fight the dark impulses within ourselves, the pull to succumb to a social order that promotes greed and narcissism. The Walking Dead mirrors our own society, to a degree, where the zombies are a more literal representation of that darkness. It’s a potent idea, one with endless potential for dissection. But it also has the potential to be lazy, to cause the kind of self-perpetuating narrative that The Walking Dead uses all the time, where the survivors run from place to place, trying to survive. For all of The Walking Dead’s seasons, there’s been a great deal of repetition, and while it stills works well in this season, it does sometimes get old to remember the inevitability of the situation.
That being said, inevitability has a strong hold on a narrative and can inject a lot of emotion into a storyline. It’s difficult to watch a character struggle and succumb to the pull of the social order because we often struggle and succumb to the larger forces in our lives. The nice, calm life that the survivors have built for themselves is slowly crumbling, and it’s difficult to watch it all go to hell. Walkers are clustered up at a section of the fence, threatening to cave it inward. A sickness is coursing through the prison, causing the council to quarantine those that show symptoms, paranoia resulting from the ensuing chaos. And Patrick has actually succumbed to that disease within the prison walls, where he reanimated and nearly annihilated an entire cellblock. No matter what the survivors do to preserve their way of life, inevitability will slowly run its course, the stronger forces of the outside status quo pressing their way into the prison.
And it’s the struggle between humanity and the lack thereof that accompanies this inevitability, where people try to preserve their bodies as well as their minds and hearts, but find themselves having to find a balance. Rick can’t really find a balance, instead finding himself sinking deeper into the darkness. He’s tried so feverishly to ignore the harsh realities of that outside world, but as with the crazy woman from “30 Days Without an Accident”, this episode has him facing those realities head on. When the fence starts to cave in due to the massive number of zombies pushing on it, Rick sacrifices his piglets in order to draw them away from the fence. Hard work that he’s slaved over for a month now is lost in a matter of minutes, and the bitterness of such a loss drives him back to the darkness he experienced in Season 3. It’s a depressing turn of events, and probably the most emotionally potent moment in the episode, going to show that Rick, as the natural leader of the group (even though there’s a “Council” now), is always going to have to drag himself down to hold everybody up.
There are some who push further towards preservation of mental and emotional health, and those people seem screwed all the same. Michonne is one of them, and I for one am glad that she’s getting a legitimate character arc this season instead of the gruff cipher she was for most of last season. Her most potent scene of the episode has her holding Judith and weeping with the child in her arms, overwhelmed by the life within the baby. Michonne has been such a silent, cryptic character thus far, and her time at the prison is reviving the humanity within her that had been lost during her tragic experiences outside the prison. That pull between humanity and self-preservation is very potent within her storyline, in comparison to others, because it shakes up the characterization that she’s had for the entirety of Season 3. The same goes for Carol, who now has to take care of Lizzie and Mika after their father was killed by zombies. She’s so fixated on keeping them strong and tough that she fails to realize that Lizzie is mentally unstable. She can’t just sacrifice mental and emotional well-being for physical survival. And so, at the end of the episode, she places a flower being Lizzie’s ear, a reminder that Lizzie is still a human being that needs happiness like any other.
For all the good that’s going on in this show, there’s a lot that bothers me about it, namely the “red shirt” nature of many of the secondary characters and how they’re basically character development for the main characters. We see a lot of secondary characters bite it this week, and we get a lot of emotional scenes showing how attached main characters were to them. Only, we don’t really know anything about these characters other than “well, somebody liked them”, so our reaction to all of this is stunted. Ryan’s death is a great example of this, when he had a heartbreaking conversation with Carol before he passed. Sure, the end result of that is great, as Ryan tasked Carol with watching his daughters and two children will give Carol the balance she needs, but Ryan’s death just wasn’t really worth much because he wasn’t built as a real character. He was just cannon fodder, some guy that was meant to contribute to Carol’s storyline. And when secondary characters are treated like that, it devalues the main characters’ storyline because the emotion that the audience feels isn’t equivalent to the emotion that the show wants the audience to feel. Same goes for Tyreese and Karen, and while the fake-out with Karen in the cold open was good, her death meant more for Tyreese than anybody else. All I could think was: “Wow, sucks for Tyreese” instead of “I feel bad for the stabbed, burnt, dead woman”.
Ultimately, this show has been fairly decent so far this season, much better than the back half of Season 3. But if it wants to elevate itself to the greatness we saw in “Clear”, it needs to stretch outside of the main cast and then break them down a little more. Sure, it’s great that we have so many characters in the main cast, but the writing strength (however improved it may be) isn’t enough to juggle them like LOST did with its MANY characters. But, shaky character work aside, this season is doing a lot of great stuff with the devolution of social order and the influence of higher social orders upon lesser subcultures. At the very least, I’m hoping it follows through with that.
Final Thoughts: Another strong episode with some decent character arcs and a smart, paranoid storyline, “Infected” has the prison devolving further into chaos.
Alright, guys. This is my review for the day. I’ll be reviewing Grand Theft Auto V soon, depending on when I have time to do it. Anyway, past that, I’m hoping to review Gravity, The Counselor, and possibly 12 Years a Slave. I really want to dive back into movies, but who knows if that’ll happen. I’m trying to be a bit more ambitious, so we’ll see how that goes. Until tomorrow (or later today), loyal followers.
Previous Review- Homeland 3x04: “Game On”
Next Review- The Counselor
Remember to check out the website that I contribute to:
Note: Spoilers through Episode 3.04.
Homeland has a thing for pulling its viewers back and forth, giving them a whiplash of sorts. This is true within individual seasons, as well as the series as a whole. Within seasons, plot twists (some ridiculous, some outstanding) shatter our perception of reality just as Carrie’s has been, leading us to question what we know to be true and how we decipher just what is truth and what is deception. Within the show as a whole, seasons pull us in different directions, from the insane second season to this more meditative, calmer third season. I’ve always respected this kind of storytelling, where they’re constantly moving around and trying new ideas, never settling into a groove that works for them. It’s ballsy, and that especially fantastic in an era of television that’s not as ballsy as it could be (minus shows like Mad Men that just don’t give a fuck about spoon-feeding the audience).
“Game On” is still slower than the second season, but it kicks the Saul/Carrie side of the plot into gear, providing us with a great cat/mouse game that ultimately pulls the rug away from under our feet. Last week ended with Carrie finding her own “hole in Iraq”, where she was trapped in the mental ward without any way to really escape, her mind deteriorating as she saw her dismal fate growing clearer and clearer. This week doesn’t start out much different, with Carrie waking to the sounds of another patient/inmate screaming down the hallway, being restrained by four orderlies. It was a hell of a scene to open with, as the patient being restrained looked a lot like Carrie when she was flailing about, an image of Carrie’s possible future if she stayed in the mental facility and was allowed to deteriorate even further. When people have their basic human dignity taken away, they snap eventually, and it took Carrie seeing her future laid out in front of her to kick-start her into action.
But what action could she take? She feverishly fought to be in the good graces of her doctors, but all it took to push her back down was one visit from Dar Adal, who fixed her hearing to keep her in the mental hospital. She’s still powerless in the face of the far more powerful CIA, who seems to push her back down at any cost. But Franklin (the lawyer’s contact) busts her out of the mental hospital, telling her that it’s temporary unless she agrees to meet with his superior. Carrie’s constantly caught between higher powers, groups of people that have pushed her around throughout the entire series, and this law firm is just another one that wants to use her until she’s no longer useful.
Carrie knows this about herself, how she’s just a pawn to be used up by whoever wants to do the using. She’s vastly intelligent, constantly telling these higher powers how she knows exactly what’s going to happen to her. When she sees Dar Adal in the hospital, she knows that she’s fucked. When she sees the flailing patient being restrained, she knows that’ll be her someday. And when she confronts the lawyer, Bennett, she knows that this man is going to want to turn her against the CIA. So she does the only thing she can do: run. But she certainly can’t run far, as the CIA has repossessed her car, frozen her bank accounts, voided her passport, and is tailing her and the people she knows. The most thrilling segments of the episode revolve around her in this cat and mouse chase, her legs carrying her as far away from the reach of the CIA as they can. She even sleeps with her lover from the premiere in order to have a place to sleep and so she can steal a little money from him.
But it’s no use. It never was. Franklin, the higher power, tracks her down and takes her to meet his contact, who (surprise!) wants her to give up CIA information to some client that wants to know about the assassination mission in “Tin Man is Down”. And she’s able to shrug off his advances for a while, at least until he knocks her down with a blow-by-blow of how shitty her life would become if she goes back into the mental hospital. So she agrees to a meeting with Bennett’s client, defeated by yet another higher power that can crush her at a moment’s notice.
And so we come to our first major plot twist of the episode, where it’s revealed that Saul has been working with Carrie to track down this lawyer in order to bring them all one step closer to Javadi. It’s an audacious twist, and one that isn’t fully explained yet, so I’m going to wait until the next episode to give my full opinion of how well it is working. But, as for right now, it does a great job moving the pieces around to a new status quo that sheds the repetition that the season was beginning to indulge in. It certainly begs the question: How much of the analysis above applies if Carrie knew about Saul’s plan from some point before this episode (presumably between “Tower of David” and this episode)? I’d argue that the vast majority of it does, especially considering how the episode portrayed Carrie’s journey in this episode as an escape attempt from the omnipotent forces that be, as well as the fact that she’s still brought back into the orbit of the CIA, one of the forces that controls her.
This shift also moves Saul from “bad guy” to “good guy”, though it complicates his relationship with Dar Adal, which is sure to sour after he realizes that Saul is using volatile Carrie in the plan to take down Javadi. Saul and Fara spend the episode trying to trace the money from the Langley bombings back to some culprit, and they find who they believe to be Javadi under a fake name. Saul and Carrie’s plot to take down the lawyer is another way to Javadi, but it’s a far more difficult path than tracing the money because Carrie is so worn down by her stay at the mental hospital. What made that ending so great, when Carrie broke down in Saul’s arms, was that it perfectly illustrated the role that both of these characters play in the show. Carrie is always the one who sacrifices herself for the greater good, burning out to the point of nearly crashing. And Saul is the fatherly protector that will do whatever is necessary to take down the bad guy and keep Carrie safe. It’s a status quo that’s certainly familiar, but it’s one that the show needed to return to before branching out again.
So what brought this episode down to a “B+”? Well…Dana’s storyline was DEFINITELY shakier than normal, as she and Leo steal Jessica’s car and trade it off for a different car, driving away in order to be free from the powers that be. What undercuts that story is how Leo isn’t much of a character, and that his development in this episode (that he shot and killed his brother in a shady suicide pact) is kind of stupid. Yeah, I understand that Dana and Leo are both social pariahs and that drives their attachment to one another. I actually like that quite a bit. And yeah, I understand that Leo being this shady guy goes to show that damaged people attached themselves to damaged people in order to feel normal. But I can already see Leo becoming an asshole, showing that topless picture of Dana to somebody, turning on her in order to gain something. If Leo turns out to be something different, then great, the show has just been throwing up red flags in order to distract us. But, as with Finn from last season, it’s easy to tell that there’s going to be some drama between Dana and Leo, and this kind of teenage romantic drama isn’t really something the show needs right now. It’s not terrible, or even that mediocre, as I like the character dynamics within the storyline, but it’s not moving towards an interesting place, like Carrie and Saul’s storyline.
Homeland is still a hell of a show, even if its slow and methodical pace this season doesn’t necessarily make it the most exciting show of the season. It’s going to have to pick up the pace a little more as the season moves on, but there’s no reason to be too concerned at this point. Sure, Dana’s story is concerning at this point, but the plotting going on with Carrie and Saul is fantastic. And, as of right now, that’s enough to keep the show as insanely watchable as it has always been.
Final Thoughts: A good episode brought down by a shaky Dana plotline, “Game On” sets up a new status quo for the rest of the season.
I’m glad I was actually able to put out this review Now that I’ve moved from 2 classes a day to 1, I have so much more time on my hands. Anyway, you’ll be getting a Grand Theft Auto V and The Walking Dead review tomorrow. As for Masters of Sex, I just don’t have time to review that one. I thought I had time, but goddammit, I just don’t. So, I’m going to try to review other games, movies, and books. We’ll see how that goes. Until tomorrow, loyal followers.
Previous Review- The Walking Dead 4x01: “30 Days Without an Accident”
Next Review- The Walking Dead 4x02: “Infected”
Remember to check out the websites that I contribute to: