Monday, 25 February 2013

Review : The Walking Dead - Season 3 Episode 10 - Home

The long-awaited, ( a whole two months!), return of The Greatest Thing To Ever Happen In Horror Television, came and went last week in an episode that divided the critics and fans alike. Other than its nerve-shredding opening, the episode boasted a markedly slower pace than what we've come to expect this season. After the relentless action that characterised the mid-season finale; many fans expected a full-throttle showdown between our two eight-episode blitzkrieg as it were. Of course, that was never gonna be the case. We're only just beginning the climb toward what will surely be an explosive and satisfying showdown between our two groups. First, there are things that need doing, folks...

That's not to say that this season hasn't had its moments of reflection. Its had many...Maggie and Hershells scene as the daughter awaits the fathers death comes to mind as a shatteringly powerful scene. Or how about Rik and Lori's final conversation, when it felt to all of us that perhaps there was hope for Rik, (and even Lori), to find themselves amid the losses, ( a moment that's impact only deepened as we learnt what would come next). How about Rik's first time holding his daughter, or Daryl and Carols platonic yet deeply affecting relationship, expressed through humour amidst horror, and flirtation amidst devastation? Its been a season that's found a perfect balance of plot and, and has continuously found new ways in which to portray these characters continual growth/deterioration in this environment they've been thrust into. Last weeks THE SUICIDE KING chose to take a breather...let us gather our wits and get a chance to see where our two groups were at. Glen had some brilliant and startling scenes, and it became clear that Phillip has wandered all the way off the ranch with death number two, of his daughter. Not to mention Rik has lost each and every one of his marbles...

Some saw it as an unwelcome return to season 2's ponderous pacing, others such as myself saw it as a much-needed lull in the action to regain composure. Its been heralded as the seasons worst episode, but from a storytelling standpoint, its difficult to see why. We KNOW a storm is coming, we KNOW there will be inevitable losses, and its in the anticipation of these events that the episode found its strengths.

If last weeks episode was less 'fast' than it was 'furious', in dealing with characters mental turmoil and rage through the medium of words, then HOME comes at the material with a whole different perspective. THE WALKING DEAD is arguably at its very best when it forces our characters to make decisions on the spur of the moment. In a show like the mesmerising BREAKING BAD, its all about he dialogue, but with a show set in a desperate post-apocalyptic hell-world, character growth often has a far stronger impact when its told through actions, and not words.

And with that said, you can rest easy, my attention deficit disordered detractor friends, for this weeks HOME is a straight-ahead return to the kind of relentless horror and action that Mazzara has poured into this season. It boasts two of the best action sequences in the shows history, and both serve the story as effectively as any scene of dialogue.

HOME concerns itself with a number of plot strands...on one hand, we have 'The Daryl and Merle Show', wherein our two favourite rednecks wander the undead woods, trading insults and hunting for anything that ain't rotting yet. These scenes are an absolute treat for those of us looking for more insight into who these two men are. The scenes may be brief, but are well-written and brilliantly performed, and they really do bring home just how far Daryl has come as a human being and as a man since he left his abusive brothers side. In one scene, we have what seems a throwaway line of dialogue where Merle ridicules his brothers sense of direction, only to see later, via a sight gag, that Daryl is by far the better woodsman, yet never feels the need or desire to say so. Theres also a really touching scene when Daryl removes his top to reveal a torn up and scarred back, and Merle, for the first time, realises the extent to which his brother suffered at their fathers hands. Its a small scene in a big story, but its one of the best the show has ever given us. Not only does it help identify Merle as an actual human-being, but it expertly draws on our love for Daryl, and gives a wordless insight into his past that says more than any dialogue could. I think after this scene, and taking Daryl in all context from his past to his present, (and what appears to be his future as a bona-fide leader), its safe to say that he's my favourite character on the show. I fucking love this guy. The plot strand between the two brothers ends with a fantastic action scene taking place on a bridge in which Daryl selflessly throws himself into danger to save others, as Merle watches from the sidelines trying to work out just what the fuck his sibling is doing helping these strangers. Its mostly dialogue-free, but it gives us all we need to know about the divide between these two men, while bringing all the carnage and zombie goodness we've come to expect from the show. Oh, and it manages to give us one of the best kills of the entire season, (the car boot know the one!)

'The Daryl and Merle Show' may wrap up too quickly for most, (hell...I'd happily watch an entire season of these two cats, although they do have their own video game in the pipeline!), but theres other places to be, and things to see...

We have the fallout in Woodbury after the 'terrorist attack', as we watch Phillip's wily manipulation of Andrea continue. She may come across as about as far-sighted as Ray Charles, but in many ways its understandable why she hasn't ran like hell from this guy. Sure he has a nifty collection of undead heads, and kept his dead daughter in a cage for periodic hugs and kisses, but he runs a pretty tight ship. And just when she's starting to think perhaps this fucker is a tyrant, he does a one-eighty and hands the towns leadership over to her...quelling her doubts in the process (at least for the time being). He's a smart one, that crazy bastard...

And speaking of crazy, Rik has gone over the rainbow. Any thoughts that last weeks horrifying finale was a mere blip on our leaders radar is soon put to bed, as Rik spends almost the entire episode running around the woods outside the prison, endangering both himself and his group, while he searches for Lori, and redemption. These scenes, in lesser hands, could have come off as unintentionally funny, but we have a lot invested in this guy, and the scenes are very affecting, in no small part to the welcome return of a haunting melody, (or requiem), that debuted way back in the pilot. Theres a wonderful scene between wise old Hershell and crazy Rik, that really ground the whole thing, as Rik confesses to his hallucinations, while acknowledging that his mental condition is less than perfect. Now we're into the home stretch, its become one the this seasons greatest most tantalising themes...two deeply unhinged mad-men duking it out for supremacy, with a whole town and all our beloved survivors caught in teh crossfire. Things are going to get very bloody, very quickly, and where these two guys are gonna go is anybodys guess. Im personally hoping we see Phillip, (and Rik, who I fear is not long for this world), both make it to season 4. Characters this rich would be much missed, and if teh Shane/Rik dilemma was worthy of two seasons, surely Phillip and Rik;s conflict deserves room to breath. Heres hoping. For now though, one thing is for sure, there will be blood, and we get our first taste of it in the episodes climax.

In what may well be the best directed, and most tense scene the show has ever put forward, rivalling the zombie horde on the highway and Rik's tank adventure in the pilot episode, Phillip makes his first move, and its a shocker...

Not least of all the way this mini-siege arrives..

Yep, just as we were all warming to Axel, and Coral was looking at finally getting laid, the poor guy takes a bullet to the brain, as Woodburys finest declare war on the prison, and all hell breaks loose. Its sad to see Axel go, but its one hell of a shocker, and a real 'jump out of the seat' moment. Before we know whats hit us, theres a gunfight kicking off in which it truly feels like no one is safe. I thought Glen was a dead man. And my beloved Hershell came damn close to biting the bucket as well. So did Rik, for that matter, as he's once again saved from certain death by good old Daryl. Its a strangely realistic gun battle we're treated to here, as no one really manages to shoot anyone for quite some time, other than my boy Axel, who's shot about a hundred fucking times as Coral hides underneath the poor fuckers body. Its a hugely intense battle, and with the surprise arrival of a truck full of zombies, delivered like some rotting Trojan horse into the prison, things only get more gripping. THE WALKING DEAD has always held firm to the belief that no character is safe, and its a position that really pays off in these sort of scenes. You really have no idea who's going down, or how bad they'll go out. As a statement of intent, it shows just how far The Governor is willing to go, and gives us yet another glimpse into just what floats this guys boat. He's having a fucking great time. Violence runs through this guys veins, and if this is merely his opening salvo, god only knows what he's got planned for our group.

The episode ends with a close up of Rik's face, which tells us all we need to know about where he's going. His eyes a burning with rage and hatred. The guy has lost his wife, his mate and half his group. And as if this world isn't hellish enough to struggle though, now he's got this fucking mad-dog biting at his heels!? Hell no.

HOME is perhaps one of the most balanced and suspenseful episode's we've yet seen, and it serves as one hell of an introduction as to where this ship is headed. With only six episodes to go, things are going to go straight to hell pretty soon. In the meantime, it'll be great to see how Merle interacts with the group, not to mention the fate of Tyrese's motley crew since they wisely fled from crazy Rik last episode.

Ah, the possibilities....damn I love this show!

One thing though...who the hell was that ninja driving the zombie truck?!

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