The Walking Dead returns for season seven

Before we begin, beware of spoilers ahead.

Oh man, us hardcore The Walking Dead fans waited a while for this prestigious series with its brilliant ratings to return and now it has, how do we feel? General viewer consensus has been mixed with some in awe and others reeling. I’m kinda’ middling.

The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be (yes, another splendid episode name) began where season six left off; new bad guy Negan was poised and ready to kill and us audience members were finally made aware of who met his beloved barbed wire bat named Lucille. FYI, anyone who wields a bat for sport is probably not to be trusted. It was with an achingly slow pace that we finally discovered it was Abraham and Glenn who met their end – goodbye Michael Cudlitz (a personal favourite of mine) and Steven Yeun. It’s fair to say that the killing off of the latter series veteran will upset many.

jeffrey dean morgan in the walking dead

jeffrey dean morgan in the walking dead

The episode was split into malevolent monologues from Negan (played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and grotesque moments of ultra violence. For a series known for its impressive special effects this is a whole new level of gore – some might say too much. The Walking Dead has always been so good at balancing sentimentality with its emotive writing, The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be succumbs to the spectacle of brutal violence and loses its humanity. That, you could argue, is the point as we get to know Negan and see a shift in the dynamic of Rick‘s group but for a season premiere we – as a loyal audience – expect more.

Andrew Lincoln is a treasure as always, he could lead this popular series on his very own as he embodies group leader Rick, and this first episode is carried predominantly by him. We are slowly but surely seeing a strong leader unravel and this is an intriguing thematic element in itself. The Walking Dead shines when it’s writers focus on human drama and its exploration of humanity in general never misses the mark.

This is a welcome return from The Walking Dead and surely it can only get better from here, but for a series that is known for its stellar openers this falls incredibly short considering its farewell to two key characters.

The Walking Dead – if you didn’t know, it’s back!

Unless you’ve been under a rock, you’ll be totally aware that AMC’s The Walking Dead is back – and it might just be better than ever. I talk a lot about the exploration of humanity seen in recent seasons of the Robert Kirkman-created zombie drama, but in No Way Out and The Next World, writers have delved into the bravery of the Alexandria community, and the new-found courage of many of its inhabitants. The series has also, at this stage in its popularity and success, reinvented the zombie genre and turned it into something fresh and new. It’s changed in its thematic qualities and the way in which those are explored, it fuses evocative scores and stylised fighting scenes with thoughtful dialogue and tender moments of conversation. Zombies are now fair game in a drama and don’t just sit in the horror genre, meaning this is T.V. that is accessible for most.

Through the medium of television, the creators behind this fantastic show have had the time to evolve the narrative and this is where the genre suffers in film but thrives on T.V. There isn’t a need for constant action because we know and care about the characters and want to see their individual stories develop. Now, after a lengthy six seasons and 77 episodes, audiences are seeing an actual journey – not necessarily one of physicality, but one of mentality. Frequent director Greg Nicotero is studying his characters with succinct detail, demanding emotion and realism – both of which have been seen (perhaps more so than in seasons past) as genuine facets of strength which demonstrates the ability of the ensemble cast.

The sudden change of pace is refreshing and makes for a non-formulaic set of episodes that means The Walking Dead continues to stray away from the conventions of modern television. While the first eight episodes of the sixth season were disappointing in their slow descent to eventual anarchy in Alexandria, these final six could save a series that many have questioned is waning in its effectiveness. We have had emotion and wit, and carefully crafted tension that is generated from an atmosphere created through the use of lighting and locale, and – most importantly – we have a set of characters we root for.

Welcome back, Walking Dead.

The Walking Dead: Season Six – The Series So Far

The Walking Dead came racing back onto our screens three Sunday’s ago and with a new series came three things: Hoards of the undead, bloody mayhem and brutal kills. The idea to up the anti on the graphic violence is an interesting choice considering the strength of seasons four and five based on the character driven narratives and exploration of humanity they both encompassed. Having said that, season six has thus far presented fans with a visually-impacting thrill ride that has thrown a lot at its audience very, very quickly.

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steven yeun as glenn in the walking dead

Who really are these Wolf madmen? Where did Ron appear from all of a sudden? What has happened to Morgan in the time since he last saw Rick? And, most importantly; Has the latter gone completely bat-shit crazy? There are a lot of questions to be answered and thirteen more episodes in which to do so – hurrah. While the series started in a buzz of hectic Walker-sitting and machete-wielding murderers on the loose in Alexandria there was still time for a bit of character development via the always popular background stories. We’ve been able to get to grips with why Enid is so solemn (if the whole Zombie thing wasn’t enough) and had an introduction to one or two new faces. These include Denise, a new doctor in the community, and Heath, an Alexandria resident who is getting to grips with the authority of Rick and Co’ having been out on a run since they arrived.

The most intriguing element so far, thematically speaking, is the idea that Rick is slowly becoming some kind of antagonist to the residents of Alexandria, and even to those he has been with for some time. As Andrew Lincoln steps up as an actor of immense talent, we see a dark side to the lead character who (if we really think about it) lost his mind somewhere in season four. The underlying sub-plot of this has been brewing for some time, as has Carol‘s lack of compassion. The pair have become a kind of terrifying duo that, as an audience, we aren’t sure whether to still root for, or wish people to run from.

Lincoln still predominately leads the show with Steven Yeun as Glenn supporting him in a role that had everyone’s heart in tatters this week. The arrival of new characters always brings an extra dimension to the series and forces new on-screen friendships and shows of camaraderie that – if acted and scripted well – are genuinely moving. Episode one, First Time Again, didn’t match up to the level of intensity and sheer shocks of season five’s No Sanctuary which blew the lid off of previous openers (and apparently this year’s premiere couldn’t quite compete). JSS and Thank You have more than made up for the slow burner of the first inauguration and if writers choose to keep this pace – and maintain the aesthetically impressive action sequences – The Walking Dead’s sixth season could easily be its best yet.

Note: My reviews are based solely on the television series as a viewer with no knowledge of events taking place in the graphic novels.

Fear the Walking Dead: The Good Man, review

The power of Fear the Walking Dead is in the terror it has so successfully conveyed. Among a sea of negativity, the final episode has delivered in performance and narrative, and it can really only go up from here. While not everyone will agree – based on the number of online articles that have so confidently written off the series – Fear the Walking Dead has established itself as a winning formula, one that doesn’t need to draw comparisons with its sister show The Walking Dead.

In honesty, I was pretty worried that series two wouldn’t surface at all following the heap of critical condemnation that this first incarnation has received but, fear not, AMC and Kirkman and co’ have announced that it’s happening. And, it’s happening on a boat. Did anyone else just hear The Lonely Island and Akon then? No, just me? Moving on…

The final episode, The Good Man, said goodbye to characters we were only just getting to know and said hello to a new world. Travis (Cliff Curtis) finally snapped and it turns out Andrew (Shawn Hatosy) really wasn’t such a good guy after all. That new world is one where Walkers do rule and the army are irrelevant. If anything, the presence of the US soldiers in this first season has intelligently suggested that darkness in humanity doesn’t need a hoard of the undead to rear its ugly head; it was there all along. Whether we see that in Reuben Blades’ Daniel Salazar or in any one of the gun-happy army boys, it’s present. That presence is powerful, scary and well-acted. I like it, I like it a lot.

I was the first to nay-say when I heard the initial Fear the Walking Dead reveal. Why did we need a new zombie series? What would it bring to audiences? It turns out that what it brought (and hopefully, will continue to bring), is a lot. The characters might not currently be engaging spectators on the level that Darryl, Rick and Glenn do, and it might not be a minute-by-minute gore fest, but FTWD is slowly but very surely building an insane tension that is brewing like a fancy tea. Expect to find yourself clasping your face and shouting out at the television set come your home-viewing of this final episode as you feel the fear, because that slogan was right; it begins here. The hair-raising score, the questionable actions of those in charge, and the responses of characters who could be me and you – the components for a great television series are all there. While these elements might need some honing, they are well on their way to becoming damn near impressive.

Th show can only get better, and I’m certainly excited to see what happens next with the culturally diverse family that have been placed on our screens, not just to fight flesh-eating zombies, but to break down barriers and represent the multiple groups that make up contemporary America. Well played, AMC.

Fear the Walking Dead – The Dog and Not Fade Away

The motives of army and government officials are always questionable in the zombie genre. Characters wait for their arrival, but events always go down-hill amongst their presence. We’ve seen it in 28 Days Later, Resident Evil and now in Kirkman’s Fear the Walking Dead. With only two episodes to go until the end of season one, the pace of the drama is picking up as the US army takes charge. Episode three, The Dog, and this weeks installment, Not Fade Away, were fantastic examples of Kirkman, Erickson and crew at their best. These latest episodes have also succeeded in proving one simple, yet entirely important, point: Fear the Walking Dead is a completely different entity to The Walking Dead. The only real similarity is the zombie narrative, and comparisons can no longer be drawn.

Surprisingly, the dark content isn’t related to the undead thus far. The real interest is coming from Frank Dillane’s Nick. He’s sneaky and clever as a drug addict willing to do anything to get his fix, and that anything is genuinely questionable. Dillane has an engaging quality despite his little screen time in the past two episodes and his sub-plot is increasingly becoming one of the best of the series. Cliff Curtis is exceptional as the head of the family. Travis wants to believe everything will be just fine and in a sense, he’s you and me, he represents the home viewer. Ruben Blades as Daniel provides enigma in terms of an interesting back-story and his moments of dialogue give us an insight into his torrid past. The Walking Dead has focused itself heavily on the theme of humanity, particularly in seasons four and five, as Rick and co’ have come to realise the biggest threat are those left alive. That same theme is seen in this new series, but straight off the cusp and warped to escape cliches and complaints.

Can we trust the army? Definitely not. Will all of the main cast survive series one? I bloody hope so. Fear the Walking Dead has proved itself to be a series of dramatic worth, with a talented cast – who might just be that little bit better than the large ensemble of TWD – who drive the tense narrative forward. I like it, I like it a lot.

 

Fear the Walking Dead: So Close, Yet So Far, review

With only four episodes to go (gutting, I know) and a whole lot of ground still to cover, episode two of AMC’s Fear the Walking Dead didn’t do a lot in terms of picking up the pace. While we say goodbye to another character – which isn’t necessarily emotional considering how early on in the story we are – we also say hello to some gruesome content. Interestingly, said material is in relation to Nick‘s (Frank Dillane) drug problem, rather than people eating one another. The cold turkey sub-plot is still the most intriguing element to the multi-layered narrative, and the introduction of a new family into the mix is promising. What we have here is a small selection of characters, of different backgrounds and ethnicity’s, and this in itself realistically depicts a contemporary America (ignoring the zombies, of course). Kirkman’s current creation is genre-busting at its very best.

Despite the slow-movements of the virus taking its grip on Los Angeles and the lack of zombie-human combat scenes, director Adam Davidson and co have carefully created an intense and somewhat frightening portrayal of a city in distress. With The Walking Dead we never had the early days of the apocalypse, meaning we didn’t witness the collapse of society as the outbreak takes hold  of America. To produce a series that is entirely dedicated to portraying the beginnings of what Rick, Daryl and gang have been left to deal with is an exciting prospect, and one which I – and I’m sure millions of other viewers – can’t wait to watch unfold. From riots and police ‘brutality’ to distant screams and an ominous non-diegetic score, Fear the Walking Dead is shaping up to be an outstanding series from a talented team of writers, directors, and actors.

 

Fear the Walking Dead, Pilot: review

While I’ve been vocal since the big reveal of a new series that I’m not keen on the Fear the Walking Dead title, in the build-up to Sunday’s pilot episode, I began to come around to the idea of a brand new The Walking Dead spin-off. Penned as a sister series, FTWD brings audiences a bunch of new characters, a vibrant LA setting, and an insightful look into the build-up to the apocalypse. The Walking Dead begins in the midst of the outbreak- most people have already been eaten or turned, and we are placed with just a handful of survivors, with little in the way of clues or answers regarding the initial virus. This in itself raised lots of questions for members of the fan canon, more so now that the Robert Kirkman mega-series is about to go into its sixth season. Because of the total success of the graphic-novel adapted AMC series, I was pretty doubtful at how original, compelling – and even enjoyable – Fear the Walking Dead would be. It turns out, following the 90 minute premiere episode, it’s pretty damn good. To that, I let out a sigh of relief as I begin to eagerly await the next installment.

curtis, dickens and dillane in fear the walking dead

curtis, dickens and dillane in fear the walking dead

The whole idea that this prequel begins right at the start of the outbreak is such a refreshing approach to a genre which is still loved by many, but tired in several aspects. It’s rare to watch an undead project that gives its audience the low-down from the beginning moments of what caused humans to become flesh-eating monsters, and to see writers Kirkman and Dave Erickson work with that here is an exciting turning point for this category of entertainment. Gale Anne Hurd and David Alpert are attached as executive producers, and while the majority of WD‘s crew have turned their attentions to the making of this new series, we are inundated with a host of unfamiliar faces. With no Andrew Lincoln or Norman Reedus in sight, we dive into the turbulent world of 18 year old heroin addict Nick (Frank Dillane), his worried mum Madison (FNL alumni Kim Dickens), his sister Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey) and new step-dad on the scene Travis (Cliff Curtis).

Appearing as a drama series and containing few familiar tropes of the horror genre, Fear the Walking Dead has boldly set out to become something of originality. While the ‘Walking Dead comparisons will remain for the first few episodes, expect Kirkman’s escapades into the world of Hollywood zombies to surpass expectations and become independently – and rightfully – known as its own work. Clearly a slow-burner, don’t expect tonnes of gratuitous gore and a decaying cityscape all in series one, but what you can get geared for, is a character-driven narrative that concentrates on relevant societal themes. I won’t give anything away in terms of spoilers, because it needs to be seen from a fresh perspective, but if the remaining five episodes can shape up to be anything like this initial introduction, we are in for a televisual treat. It’s nice to be pleasantly surprised, right?