Friday, December 27, 2013

Review: The Walking Dead 118

Non Spoiler Review:
Issue 118 keeps the All Out War arc moving briskly, with Rick and Ezekiel's armies attacking Negan's outposts. Back at the Hilltop Gregory returns to find controversy over his decision to appease Negan.

All Out War continues to be a good read, and the last few issues have not lacked for action or development. Casualties begin to mount and loyalties start to fray, and I'm sure something ominous must be on the horizon despite the current state of Negan's forces.

Spoilers Now!
Gregory is alive, and returns to the hilltop exhausted with the few who abandoned Rick's campaign. He's furious when Maggie asks if the attack was successful, revealing she knew of it. Gregory declares it was him who stopped the suicide mission and smoothed things over with Negan. While Gregory doesn't even know who Maggie is, she accuses him of being a coward, but when Greg replies that Negan is the reasonable party and it's Rick who is crazy, she punches him.

Maggie proceeds to address the crowd telling them it's their time to act to take down Negan lest they be beholden to him the rest of their lives. While Gregory weekly protests, she announces she believes in Rick Grimes.

Back in Alexandria a worried Carl finds Michonne returning absent his father, but she assures him he's working on attacking Negan's outposts. He's relieved to hear the plan worked.

Later Ezekiel makes his way to Alexandria and confides how their first victory had been luck. Dwight had revealed the location of four of their outposts. While Rick led a successful attack against one (despite Eric being killed), Ezekiel's men were massacred, and he was forced to flee. Shiva managed to save him from walkers, but was overwhelmed and killed herself, allowing him to escape. Alone with Michonne, he admits he wishes he had not survived, so his men would see him as a hero and he would not have lost Shiva.

The Verdict:
118 keeps the pace of the storyline and brought some much-needed attention to Maggie so that she could rally troops at the Hilltop. I admit I was surprised that Gregory had actually survived. He's the biggest wild card right now and I can imagine him doing something desperate to retain control.

The first major losses stacked up this month—Eric and Shiva. Right now it's unclear how many men Rick has left, but no doubt the Hilltop will be able to provide some new recruits, unless Gregory somehow manages to rebuild his power base. 

Monday, December 23, 2013

Review: American Horror Story: Coven "Head"

Non Spoiler Review:
Head addresses Hank's backstory and the true nature of his mission with Marie and marriage to Delia. The head in question is Delphine, and Queenie opts to take her under her care and teach her a lesson. Meanwhile, Myrtle schemes to bring the coven back into order, starting with the council and Delia. Nan struggles to remain at Luke's bedside despite his mother.

Who knew that a decapitated Kathy Bates would be so much fun? Her scenes were the funniest of the season so far, and provided a great contrast to the darker elements of the episode. 

Head was one of the best, culminating in what was generally expected, but promising an exciting conclusion to the season when the story resumes in the new year.

Spoilers Now!
In 1991, a young Hank is taken into the woods by his witch hunter father. They've been hunters for generations, his dad explains as they load the rifle. They proceed deeper into the trees until his father flushes out a woman who falls in front of Hank. Hank is told to put her down, and as she begs for her life he can't bring himself to kill her, allowing her time to cast fire against his father before she collapses. As he puts out his burning jacket, the older man reminds his son never to forget what they are.

Fiona visits Marie's salon with the box, asking to talk. Marie reluctantly agrees, and in the back Fiona finds the decapitated body of Delphine standing in the cage. Marie chastises Fiona for using Delphine as a bargaining chip. Fiona wants to talk terms, but Marie laughs at the prospect they can mend the truce. Delphine pipes up from inside the box that Fiona is insane. Fiona wants to stop the petty quarrelling given the witch hunters that attacked the night before. Witch hunters are white women's worry, Marie counters. She also knows Fiona has cancer and can't protect her own. Fiona tells Queenie to go burn the box with Delphine's head, so she takes it away, and Fiona leaves.

Myrtle wants to ensure Delia has no doubts that she had anything to do with the acid attack. Delia never doubted her, she assures her.

In Atlanta, Hank visits the Delphi Trust, home of the witch hunters, to see his father. They're not happy with his progress in New Orleans and especially not that he allied himself with the voodoo queen. He should not take initiative, they remind him as he's only to gather intelligence. That's why he's married to Cordelia. Hank tells him he's more capable than he thinks. But his father already knows about the fire starter he killed, which they had to clean up after, and which ended the lives of a maid and desk clerk as a result. The hunt isn't only about the kill—they only strike when the time is right, and they need Hank back in the house. The acid attack on Delia was authorized by them to ensure she needed Hank. But someday she will need to be put down.

Myrtle entertains the council, who have returned after her surprising phone call and have regrets about the misunderstanding that led to her burning. And they want to hear all about Misty Day. Myrtle explains she has power, compassion and uniqueness. As Pembrooke toasts her she begins to choke on the meal, and she and Quentin are paralyzed. Myrtle chastises them for wanting to eliminate her so they could dominate the council. But she brought them there to help Cordelia—and proceeds to remove an eye from each with the melonballer. With that and her magic, Delia can see again.

Fiona arrives home shocked to find her daughter healed, and Myrtle thanks her for sending her to the flames to bring her clarity. She also cut up the bodies of the council and disposed of them. The two trade accusations of murder and Fiona threatens her with permanent exile. Delia reminds Myrtle she needs to treat her mother as the supreme and her mother needs to stop accusing Myrtle. The real danger is outside. She also realizes that her gift has vanished with the return of her sight.

At the hospital Zoe and Madison find Nan who has been sitting outside of Luke's room. His mother won't let her see him. Luke remains in a coma with Joan at his side. She's furious when the girls enter. However Nan can hear him in her mind. Luke tells Nan information to verify that he's communicating with her so Joan acquiesces and sings to her son with Nan at her side. 

Queenie keeps Delphine's head and brings her home, giving her Roots to watch. She vows to educate her about her people. 

In his hotel room Hank suddenly feels the torture of Marie's magic while her emissary arrives to demand the heads of the white witches. She wants them dead that night or he'll die. Hank is left alone and loads up his weapons.

Delia teaches Misty about herbs, including one that banishes evil that she should use only in extreme circumstances. After Misty leaves, Delia finds Hank behind her. He's astonished to see her sight is back. She won't have any of his affection despite his desire to get back in her good graces. Misty returns, and Hank remembers her—he's the one who tried to kill her at the cabin. He refuses to leave the house but Delia advises him she's filing for divorce. Upstairs Hank leaves with a box of his stuff, but is stopped by Fiona's new menacing guard dog. She explains they needed some protection. The dog leads Fiona to Zoe's room where she finds Kyle. She tells him to leave but Kyle just breaks the dog's neck.

At the hospital Joan suddenly sees Nan as a miracle for giving her a ray of hope. Nan then explains that Luke is telling her God is judging Joan for what she did to his father. His father's death was no accident. In a flashback, he was stung by a swarm of bees, put there by Joan who knew he was allergic. She killed him because he was leaving her. Joan turns on Nan and tells her it's all been a dark trick, sending her away. 

The girls come home to find a far more cogent Kyle playing gin with Fiona. She took the liberty of sprucing him up. He's not all there but he's okay. They need a new guard dog, one who will attack on command, Fiona explains. 

After watching all of Roots, Delphine gloats she kept her eyes shut the whole time. Queenie decides to play her civil rights music instead and joins Marie downstairs as Hank walks in and begins to shooting. He shoots Queenie in the stomach and proceeds into Marie's chamber. Queenie struggles to grab a gun and crawls after. Marie comes out and Hank shoots her in the arm, and is about to finish the job when Queenie puts the gun in her own mouth and shoots. Hank's head blows off. Upstairs Delphine finds herself touched by the images of the civil rights movement.

Hank's father gets the photos of his son's body. Luke wakes up from his coma with his mother at his side. But all he can say is she murdered his father. Joan tells him to go back to sleep and puts a pillow over his face. At the school, Fiona goes to answer the door and finds Marie Laveau. She welcomes her inside and shuts the door.

The Verdict:
Head was a great episode, balancing the ominous nature of the revelation of the witch hunter threat against some hilarious Kathy Bates moments. Meanwhile, Myrtle, Delia and Fiona all shone with some great scenes.

I doubt Queenie is dead, especially with the likes of Misty Day nearby to solve the problem. If she manages not to survive this, Ryan Murphy has some 'splainin' to do given all the resurrected characters currently running around.

The approach to returning Delia's eyesight was especially novel, but I wonder just what purpose the council serves if Myrtle can off them with no all seems very much like the True Blood Authority (meaning, it lacks any authority whatsoever aside from dramatic purpose).

Again, the Luke situation is feeling very tacked on. I have no idea how this will tie into the big storyline, unless his family turns out to have some sort of association with either party. Right now it's a distraction from the main action.

Next episode—Marie and Fiona working together against the witch hunters? Yes please.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Review: The Walking Dead 117

Non Spoiler Review:
Negan and Rick deal with the fallout from the first battle of the war. Holly gets a firsthand view of Negan's state of mind.

117 was a decent follow up to an exciting few issues, and leaves us with plenty to wonder about as Rick's crew prepares for the next attack.

Spoilers Now!
Negan believes he's captured Rick's girlfriend, but Holly informs him she barely knows him and that he never succeeded in killing Andrea either. She goes on to reveal the reason she wanted to bring down their gate was revenge for killing Abraham. Vexed, Negan needs time to figure out his next move so has her taken away.

Negan and his men attempt to cut through the horde surrounding his compound but are forced back inside by shear numbers. He gets his smart people working on a solution while ordering his men to sporadically go out and attempt to trim down their numbers.

On the road, Rick struggles with Holly's decision as the others wonder what fate awaits her. Without delaying too long, Rick announces their plan to press on and take out Negan's outposts before they can be alerted.

Holly is visited by one of Negan's men, David, to check in, but he proceeds to attempt to rape her. Negan suddenly arrives and pulls him off, berating him for descending to that level. They will eventually have to work with these people once the war ends. We don't rape, he tells him, and cuts David's throat. As David dies Negan explains to a stunned Holly they're not monsters.

The Verdict:
The big question this month is how genuine Negan is with Holly, or was David's death a con? He does seem to retain his own moral code given how he kept Carl and Rick alive for so long. But pressed with the reality of the zombies outside his home, will he crack? 

How long will Rick's success last? Cut off from Negan, can the outposts survive? No doubt Rick and Jesus will run into a few surprises during their campaign.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Revew: American Horror Story: Coven "The Sacred Taking"

Non Spoiler Review:
Misty Day appears at the school, bringing a resurrected Myrtle eager to exact revenge on Fiona. With the coven in chaos, Delia decides on an ancient ritual to reveal the identity of the supreme. Meanwhile, Delphine realizes being immortal doesn't necessarily mean she's invulnerable to Marie's torture.

Sacred Taking was an enjoyable episode steeped in ritual and some further hints at the backstory of the witches. Luke and his mother remain a confusing and weak storyline, though, so hopefully this does go somewhere (and doesn't fizzle out like the aliens from last season). 

The season is speeding by, but the series continues at a brisk pace, advancing a lot of plot as far as bringing the various players together for the final act of the season.

Spoilers Now!
Queenie wanders through a sketchy area of town and dispatches with a would be attacker using her magic. Zoe and Madison arrive, wanting her back in the coven even though admitting it's a mess right now. Queenie doesn't believe their spiel, nor the idea that a new supreme is rising, and proceeds to kill the attacker and gut him. As they watch in horror, she explains he raped three girls. Marie needs a dark heart for a spell, and she plans to give it to her. She rips his heart out. Voodoo and witchcraft—war is coming, and they're going to lose, Queenie tells them.

Bedridden Fiona muses over the cancer that has infected her spine and she laments the loss of her beauty. Delia has no sympathy for her, so she's sought solace in Axeman. But she doesn't want him watching her decay. She just needs to figure out which of the girls is coming into the supreme.

Luke's dealing with his mother's outrage with the girl's next door over his wounds from Halloween. She insists he must cleanse himself and gives him an enema (!) to clean him from the inside out. At the school Nan can sense she's hurting him, but Delia orders her to sit down and lectures the girls that no one else can slip through the cracks. Queenie is now dead to her. And they have one shot to kill Fiona.

Delia remains unaware Spalding is dead and Zoe goes to answer the door to find Misty, who declares she's in danger. Myrtle had woken from her healing slumber and warned Misty an assassin was circling the cabin. Misty leaped for cover as a gunman fired inside and the two of them hid in the swamps. Delia asks who is there and takes Misty's hand, getting a vision of her burning and resurrection. She welcomes her into the coven. Misty then asks if her friend can stay and leads them to the greenhouse where they find Myrtle. Delia is elated to find her again and warns her the coven has fallen on hard times. Myrtle declares Misty Day is the next supreme.

Zoe and Madison have been sharing Kyle. Zoe wants him to relearn things so he can have a life while Maddie is not so forward thinking. They have a busy night ahead of him so she leaves him with his lesson. Myrtle and Delia are performing a ceremony called the sacred taking to learn the identity of the supreme. Myrtle is certain of Misty's credentials. Misty doesn't want to be the supreme, but Delia warns her no one gets to choose. 

They join hands, and Delia explains the ritual has been invoked three times in their history—the first was the Salem witch trials when the coven fled south. The supreme was too weak to make the journey so invoked the sacred taking. She took her own life to allow a new supreme to arise to lead them. 

Fiona is sick and delirious. She wanders out of her bathroom to find Maddie dancing there, taunting her that she'll soon be moving into her room. Fiona asks who brought her back, but Maddie says she brought herself back. And they're going to burn her at the stake. She can leave the world that way, or take an overdose of her pills and go to sleep. Maddie leaves and Fiona throws the pills away, but finds Myrtle there.

Myrtle explains she's been resurrected by Madison. Fiona plans to depart the country and wants to leave with the man she's found. Myrtle reminds her she just has two choices and Fiona's dream is just a nasty trick—she'll die alone and disappointed. 

Downstairs the girls await the results of their spell, and when Nan wonders if she could be the next supreme all of them insult her with their silence. She leaves and goes next door, breaking inside to find Luke. She hears his muffled moans and opens the door to the closet to find him tied up inside.

Myrtle continues her temptation, but Fiona won't lament over past regrets. She knows when the party's over and has accepted her fate. She asks her to look after her Delia. Then she takes the pills and asks Myrtle to ensure they hang her portrait in the place she chose and lies on the bed. Myrtle leaves her to die. 

Fiona hears Spalding telling her to wake up. He only has voice in the spirit world now, but sees everything. He offers her a medicine, but she refuses, saying she's finally doing something good for the coven. He tells her she's giving up and has been tricked. He won't permit it. Madison is not the next supreme. She was brought back by another witch. He gives her the medicine that makes her throw up the pills. 

Meanwhile, Queenie goes to see Delphine in her cage, giving her some take out. All they've been doing is bleeding her, she explains, when Queenie asks if she's been fed. She asks what she did to deserve the betrayal. Marie comes in and berates Queenie for feeding her, sending her away. Marie tells Delphine it gives her great pleasure just to know she's in a cage. Delphine taunts her—she can't kill her because she can't die. She suggests Marie throw her back in the box because she's had enough of the world. The natural order will be restored in a century. Marie warns her she has more choices than that and cuts off Delphine's hand. 

Nan leads Luke downstairs but he warns her they can't go next door. His mother finds them, and gets on the phone to the police. He tells her they're leaving and she can't stop them. That's when someone shoots both her and Luke.

The girls wait downstairs as Myrtle plays the piano. But Misty feels no signs of something changing. Fiona arrives, explaining that the signs of the supreme were a migraine for her and asks to talk to the gifted swamp witch

Alerted to the commotion next door, Misty heads over where the paramedics take Luke away. Fiona glamors the officer, explaining the mother is dead and they're waiting on the coroner. She suggests Misty use her talent on the woman. The rest of the girls watch the scene from outside. Delia senses something, finds a bullet and has a vision of Hank. Misty lays her hands on Luke's mother and raises her from the dead.

Zoe returns to her room and Kyle, and explains they're under attack. Kyle speaks—he says this road goes two ways. He loves her. She loves him too. And Maddie listens in.

In the morning Fiona joins her daughter for coffee. Delia demands they not play games. They both know she orchestrated the spell the night before. Fiona compliments her on demonstrating real grit and finally she has hope for the coven. And she's proud of her daughter. Fiona notices the silver bullet Delia found. Fiona senses it's blessed—meaning witch hunters. Delia realizes they need her mother now more than ever. Fiona goes outside and finds a large box on the porch. She brings it inside and opens it up with Delia. It's Delphine's head. Her eyes open and she mouth's help.

The Verdict:
Another action-packed episode even if Jessica Lange's fate was never in doubt. I do wonder what will happen with the Axeman, or if he's simply been left as a loose end to the storyline. Perhaps he may be of help in the coming war with the witch hunters.

The Luke storyline was the weakest and most erratic—his mother's abrupt turn into full blown crazy didn't really feel organic, nor did the sudden closet rescue and shooting. The cut from that to the paramedics seemed like a poor edit. And I won't even go into the comet enema...which surely raises the bar for most disturbing scene of the season.

All the pieces seem to be moving into place for a more unified coven to face their greater threat—Kyle, Misty and Myrtle are all under one roof now. That may mean an alliance with Marie might be close at hand, as well. I could see the series ending with a true peace and unification between the two factions.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Review: The Walking Dead "Too Far Gone"

Non Spoiler Review:
Too Far Gone brings the first half of the season to a close as the Governor rallies his people to take the prison in order to ensure their own survival. Meanwhile Rick finally addresses Carol's absence with Daryl, but there is little time for discussion as the Governor plays his hand.

After a slow moving succession of episodes, The Walking Dead delivered an epic finale in spades. This is truly the series' Red Wedding moment, and one fans have been anticipating since the beginning. While it followed as close as it currently can to the same storyline in the books, Too Far Gone also addressed this season's theme of getting to come back

I'm sure there is a different reaction between those just watching the show and the rest of us who are well-versed in the comic storyline. While feeling the impact, I definitely was not left in shock as I was during Lori's abrupt death in The Killer Within. But those not in-the-know will be left dealing with the heap of their emotions by the end of it.

Spoilers Now:
The Governor addresses his people, pitching the necessity of doing something unsavory to ensure their survival given they will eventually be overwhelmed by a herd of biters. If they stay there they die. He explains the people who destroyed his previous camp now live in a prison, with walls and plots of land for farming. They don't need to kill anyone, but must be prepared to. He has a plan to take it without bloodshed—two captives—Hershel and Michonne, taken when he snuck up and knocked out the latter, and forced Hershel to put down his weapon.

Most of the people in the prison are thieves and murderers, he goes on, adding that they mutilated him, killed his daughter and burned his camp. They have little time to delay before the others realize their people are missing and they lose the element of surprise. Tara is first to say she's in, followed by everyone else. The Governor orders them to pack up and get ready. As they disperse, Lily reminds him she was happy where they are and the idea of killing repulses her. But the only judgement he cares about is that she and Megan are still breathing.

The Governor has Michonne and Hershel in his RV, assuring no one will hurt them and it isn't personal. He tells Michonne he knows his daughter was dead now. But he needs the prison and no one else needs to die. She'll kill him, Michonne counters. Hershel attempts to reason with him, offering him a way to live in peace. The Governor suggests Hershel is a better man than Rick. Hershel sees he's changed, but the Governor counters they will never be able to live together. Hershel appeals to him as a father and the fact they both have daughters. But they aren't his daughters, the Governor replies. The Governor secures their convoy in a temporary safe place by the water, then gets a hug from Megan before he goes.

In the prison, Glen is slowly recovering from the flu. Bob sits with his unopened bottle when Sasha arrives to thank him for helping with the supply run that saved them all. Bob doesn't want anyone's thanks but advises Sasha she should be resting. Rick tells Daryl the truth about Carol. The other is understandably furious and wonders what they're to do with the girls. Rick hasn't told Tyreese yet and isn't sure how he'll take it. Daryl suggests they go find out.

They find him down in the tunnels, but Tyreese wants to show them something first—a rat skin pinned to a board. Tyreese declares they have a psychopath among them, the same one who killed Karen and fed the walkers rats through the fence. Rick begins to explain it's not the same person who killed Karen, when they hear an explosion that rattles the building. They come running outside to find a convoy of vehicles plus the tank sitting outside the gates. The Governor announces he wants to talk.

Rick explains there's a council now. The Governor asks if Hershel and Michonne are on the council, and brings them into view. He suggests Rick will be making decisions today and advises him to come out to have that talk.

Daryl nods to Rick. He speaks to his son, and then goes out across the courtyard to face his adversary through the fence. Daryl tells the others they need to get ready to flee through the back and to get the bus ready with their supplies. He begins quietly passing out weapons to Bob and Maggie, Beth and Tyreese.

Rick offers himself in exchange for Hershel and Michonne. The Governor doesn't want to blast a hole in their new home. They have until sundown to leave or his hostages die. It's not about the past. It's about right now. Rick counters that there are children inside, some still sick. The Governor is offering to let them walk away. There's nothing else to talk about. Even if they attack, the Governor still has superior fire power and will win.

From the fence, Carl wants to kill the Governor right now. Daryl says that would just start something else and to trust his father. The kids begin to load up the bus but Lizzie doesn't want to go. Carol told them to be strong. They should have guns too, she says.

Back at the Governor's camp, Lily sits on watch while Megan plays by the shore, struggling to free a sign in the mud. Lily spies a biter wander into the river and begins to come towards them. Megan calls for her to come over and help. The walker falls down and gets carried away by the water. Relieved, Lily puts down her weapon as Megan manages to lift the sign up and wipes it off. It says Warning. Flash Flood Area. Next to her a hand begins to come out of the wet mud and grabs her. Her screams draw Lily, who rushes over, but the walker bites Megan's shoulder before she can shoot it.

The Governor dispatches some walkers that begin to gather, reminding Rick the noise will only draw more over. The longer they wait, the harder it will be to leave. Rick looks to Hershel. Rick then offers that they can all live together. There's enough room. The Governor doubts they'd sleep well being under the same roof. It wouldn't work after Woodbury or Andrea. Rick knows it won't be easy, but they don't have a choice. They're not leaving and Rick promises to fight back. And gunshots will bring a herd that will take down the fence, he adds. They can all live there or none of them.

The Governor takes Michonne's sword and threatens Hershel. Rick addresses the others, explaining they've taken in some of the Governor's old friends and they're leaders in the prison now. They'll be one of them if they put down their weapons. Nobody needs to die. Rick says they can all still come back—they're not too far gone from the things they've done. They all can change. Hershel smiles at the speech. The Governor pauses. Liar, he says, and slices Hershel's neck.

Carl fires and hits the Governor in the shoulder, starting a barrage of gunfire. Michonne falls and rolls to the ground while Rick takes cover. Hershel is still alive, crawling along the ground, but the Governor finds him and cuts his head off. He looks up to find Lily standing there with Megan in her arms.

Tara hides behind the tank, shell-shocked and unable to use her weapon. Alicia tries to get her to fight but then tells her she'll find her if they get separated.

The Governor shoots Megan in the head, then orders the convoy to start up and break through the fence. Kill them all. The fence goes down under the tank with the Governor's forces following. The tank fires into the main buildings and proceeds up to the inner fence. Maggie rushes in to get Glen and tells Beth to get the bus ready.

Rick tackles the Governor as the tank rams into the last fence. As the bus gets loaded up, Maggie arrives with Glen, but Beth isn't there. She goes off to look for her. The Governor pounds Rick's face. Walkers begin to swarm towards the prison drawn to the commotion.

Maggie finds Bob and Sasha pinned down by a car as he takes a hit. The bullet passed through him. They watch the bus drive off and flee together. Tyreese gets trapped by Alicia and another man, but Lizzie shoots her cohort, then Alicia in the head. Tyreese tells Lizzie and her sister they need to make it to the bus, but they go running off in another direction and he's forced to follow.

The Governor gains the advantage and begins to strangle Rick, but Michonne stabs him through the chest. Struggling to his feet Rick asks about Carl. She doesn't know. As he runs off in search she looks down at the Governor gasping for breath and leaves him there.

The tank continues to barrage the prison but Daryl throws a grenade in the barrel. Mitch jumps out as it blows up only to find himself facing Daryl's crossbow. Daryl shoots him in the chest. Beth comes running over and he tells her they have to go.

Rick stumbles back calling for Carl, but only finding walkers. Then Carl appears, shooting them. Sobbing, Rick asks for Judith, but his son hasn't seen her, and they find the empty baby seat covered in blood. Rick tells them they have to go and they flee the prison.

The Governor lifts his head to see Lily covered in blood and walking over. She raises her gun and shoots him. The herd begins to converge inside the burning prison as Rick tells Carl not to look back.

The Verdict:
Too Far Gone was one of the best episodes to date and ended the storyline quite a bit sooner than I would have thought. Until I saw the tank in the Governor's camp I anticipated the prison arc lasting until the end of this season, but once that prop made its appearance at the fence there was no other path for Rick's group other than to say good-bye to the prison for good.

I do feel the Governor's double episode arc was essential in fleshing out his character a little more as well as the faces in his own camp. While he arrived at the same place he left, he remained more than a two-dimensional villain (with kudos going to David Morrissey for his fantastic well-rounded portrayal). Even the conversation-heavy face off between him and Rick was just as intense as the final battle itself. Having two episodes with the Governor left us with a (slim) bit of hope that he might take Rick up on his offer of rapprochement. His single word liar carried plenty of weight as he ended the life of a beloved character.

I kept thinking how valuable Carol would have been during the attack (and could not help but notice Rick maintaining he couldn't make decisions now because there was a council, despite that Carol was on that same council). My theory is that one of the groups will encounter Carol on the road, even possibly Tyreese's. With Hershel dead, only Rick and Maggie and Daryl (maybe Beth) know the truth about the murders, so her return to the fold could be based on keeping that secret. And by the time Rick is reunited with them it could all be decided upon. Just a theory.

I'm happy that the series continues to pull no punches. Hershel's death wasn't entirely unexpected, given his big climactic speech in Internment that hinted at bad things ahead. He did die during the prison attack in comic continuity anyway, but his presence here also served to fill the absence of Dale, and the series is left without the sage wisdom of either of these characters now.

The attack was especially chilling considering how sick most of the background characters are as they recover from the flu, so having that extra element figuring into the equation added to the tension. The deaths of the Governor's new people got more weight given we've gotten to know them. Some were very welcome, like Mitch, while others like Alicia were shocking, if more for the fact of how great a shot Lizzie is. I even had to go back to the comic to realize that Lily indeed killed the Governor then, as well. So that leaves Tara and Lilly as the only survivors (that we know of). The series needs to replace Andrea in some way, so I'm guessing the two of them might end up with the rest of the survivors eventually.

I did love the chaos of the final moments and the disparate groups that have run off in wildly different directions. Tyreese appears to be with Lizzie and Micah, and I'm assuming the other children made it to the bus. Beth and Daryl are an interesting pairing too, while Maggie (who is seven kinds of awesome right now), Bob and Sasha are off in their own direction. That leaves Michonne on her own again, and the rest of the group with Glen on the bus. And the final scene in the comic is matched with a beautiful shot of Rick and Carl fleeing over the hill and his urgings not to look back. Very effective.

There are lingering questions of course—who skinned the rats? I'm guessing Lizzie, but Micah is also a possibility as I'm certain the series is going to follow the twins storyline now that the group is on the road. I'm leaning towards Micah, given Lizzie has proven herself a capable killer. Also, there is the question the mysterious third group who killed the camp the Governor was spying on. There are a couple of storylines from the comics that could lead them all to cross their paths on the road, too.

As for Judith, my bet is that the series is sticking to the comic and keeping her dead. I will be very let down if they've somehow gotten her to safety on the bus. It would certainly be an odd happy twist for The Walking Dead to pull on its audience and rob Rick and Carl of the angst they earned here.

The Walking Dead closes its mid-season break refreshed, with a cathartic end to the Governor, shaking up the status quo and the potential of new characters arriving on the horizon. While it would have easily made an amazing season finale, I'm happy it wasn't. There's plenty of dark storylines to harvest and I'm excited to see the series within reach of them.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Review: The Walking Dead "Dead Weight"

Non Spoiler Review:
Continuing the Governor's story, Dead Weight finds Martinez taking his former leader and the girls into his own camp, and the subsequent power struggle and angst that results within the group. The Governor struggles to maintain his new family life despite the pressures of their situation that requires a strong hand to lead.

I'm enjoying the excess development forced upon the Governor and his own cast of characters, but the series is definitely feeling like it's plodding through molasses given this abruptly all came at the expense of the prison storyline. Despite this nitpick, the episode ends bringing things back to the present. And with the addition of a certain heavy-duty piece of equipment now under the Governor's command, the mid-season finale promises plenty of action.

Spoilers Now!
Martinez stares down at the Governor for a moment before reaching down to help pull out Megan and throwing the rope down to him. Martinez asks him quietly if he's been on the road all this time. He explains they have their own camp, but the Governor must accept he's in charge and there's no dead weight—contribute or be cast out. The Governor agrees.

The Governor and Lily set up house together in an RV, next door to a tank that a former army man brought. He wishes he could make it better for her (annoyed by the leaky roof) but she's optimistic.

He goes on a supply run with Martinez and some others, Mitch and Pete, to investigate a survivalist camp. They come upon a decapitated corpse tied to a tree with a sign on it saying liar. As they get closer to the cabin they find another labelled rapist. Inside they find another with murderer tacked on him, and who appears to have shot himself. There are two walkers inside—the mother and child—both quickly dispatched. But they also discover the still biting heads from the corpses. 

As they stay there for the night, finding some beer, Martinez reveals he would have left him in the pit had the girls not been with him, but he thinks the Governor's changed. They wonder what happened in the cabin to create such an odd scene. 

Back at their own camp and enjoying their beers, Martinez explains he wanted to recreate what they had before. Lily admits the Governor won't say a word about their former settlement. After everyone disperses, Martinez and the Governor golf on top of the RV. Martinez confesses his cohort is dead and got reckless after they abandoned the Governor. He notices a family really brought him back, though Martinez would never risk something like that again for fear of losing them. He offers to share the crown a little now that the Governor's here. The Governor abruptly hits him in the back of the head with a club and kicks him off, then proceeds to drag him to the walker pit. He doesn't want the crown, he tells him over and over again and feeds him to the walkers.

Lily and Megan return home to find the Governor sobbing. He explains he had a bad dream. In the morning Mitch announces they found the remains of Martinez in the pit, having gotten drunk and likely fell in. Pete takes leadership of the camp, prompting cries for a vote. He assures them it's temporary until they arrange something more democratic, and asks the Governor to come along on a hunt.

Pete confides in the Governor that he needs some help with leading, but they're distracted when Mitch finds another camp ahead of about ten people with ample supplies. Pete suggests they take them in, but Mitch counters they need their supplies, wanting to take what they need and go. Pete refuses. 

They manage to trap a few meagre animals for food by the end of the day. The Governor walks off and they follow him back into the other camp, which has been massacred and pillaged. Mitch is furious that someone else took the supplies, while Pete is horrified they're all dead. 

The Governor returns home, directing Lily and Megan to pack. Things are about to go very wrong, he explains, and he can't put them at risk. They leave at night, including Tara and new girlfriend Alicia, but they stop on the road when they see a crowd of walkers blocking it, trapped in the mud. They return to camp.

In the morning he goes to talk to Pete, and quickly stabs him in the back. Next he goes to Mitch, pulling his gun on him, sitting down to have a chat. He explains Pete is dead. He admits he was right about taking the other camp's supplies. Pete was weak for wanting to do the right thing. His own brother was similar, always being the hero. He's running things now and will do anything it takes to protect the camp, and if he joins him, he'll never have to worry about doing the right or wrong thing...they'll do the only thing.

Later the Governor drops Pete's body in the creek, telling the rest he died on a supply run. Everybody loves a hero. The camp begins to organize and starts construction of a secure perimeter. The Governor warns them to avoid strangers and report back what they see when they search for supplies. 

A walker gets into camp and nearly kills Megan. The Governor shoots it in the head and everyone comes running. The Governor goes down to the dock and stares down at Pete beneath the water. Pete is a walker, struggling to reach the surface. The Governor then takes the truck to the edge of the woods, spying on the prison as he sees Rick and Carl tend to their garden. With gun drawn he moves on to find Michonne and Hershel disposing of the bodies of the walkers from the fence incursion. He raises his gun.

The Verdict:
I'm torn between my appreciation of the the Governor's arc and the derailment of the momentum of the prison storyline. It's unacceptable that the whole Carol/Daryl revelation has yet to happen. I'm also left wondering what the point is if we've basically brought the Governor right back to his post-Woodbury mental state. Did we really need two episodes to hit the reset button?

It will be curious to see if the Governor can put his need for revenge against Michonne aside in favor of protecting his new family. Or if he will let that opportunity cloud his judgement (I'm assuming he doesn't shoot Michonne and Hershel in the opening act next week).

The massacre of the other camp didn't make much sense given the close proximity the Governor, Mitch and Pete must have been over the course of their day out and heard nothing. But it also means there's another dangerous group of survivalists running around close by too. Will they show up again?

What intrigues me more is the preview for next week which sees the Governor at the gates of the prison with his iconic tank—if this storyline is playing out as it did in the graphic novel then the mid-season finale is definitely going to bring an abrupt change of direction for the entire season. I don't know if I'm even ready for that level of plot development coming on the heels of such an erratically paced batch of episodes.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Review: The Walking Dead 116

Non Spoiler Review:
The standoff that ended last issue is broken pretty quickly as Rick and Jesus put their big plan into effect. 

Another fast paced, quick read, issue 116 was an enjoyable one, providing some surprises and call backs to lessons learned from earlier storylines. The result is a very satisfying conclusion to this particular chapter and the promise the war is only beginning.

Spoilers Now!
As Negan and Rick face each other down, the former suddenly realizes there's a mere handful of men from the Hilltop leaving, not half the army as Gregory promised. With that Negan pushes him off the wall and opts for a more diplomatic approach with the invaders.

Rick holds firm to his demands so Negan's men begin firing. Rick's army takes cover and begins picking off the snipers, then unleashes a barrage of gunfire to pin down Negan and his men inside. Negan orders Dwight off to warn the other outposts, but realizes too late just what Rick's plan is—the cacophony has drawn every walker in the area to their position. With the plan working, Rick loads up his troops on the buses, intending on ramming the gate himself with a car.

Holly rushes out to stop Rick, wanting revenge for Abraham. She realizes he's willing to strand himself inside with Negan to break the gate, but Rick assures her he's the only one he won't kill. Holly knocks him down and takes the car, breaking through the barrier and hitting a wall.

As Negan orders everyone inside before the zombies enter the compound, he finds Holly alive, advising her he won't be letting her off that easy. Outside, Jesus is pleased with their first victory, but Rick warns it's just the beginning of the war.

The Verdict:
Issue 116 had some unexpected twists, not the least of which was Rick managing to derail Negan on a couple of fronts. Having grown to expect regular defeat lately, this first victory was a long time coming. The use of the herd as a weapon comes from plenty of past teaching moments and it worked really well as a battle tactic. As Rick comments, he who attacks first, wins.

It looks like Dwight didn't make it out, so I hope Rick and company manage to take down the other outposts before they can be alerted to trouble. Negan does have, Holly, however, and I'm sure she's in for a world of hurt as Negan will certainly want to demoralize his enemies by making an example of her.

What didn't ring right was Rick's decision to drive the car through the gate. Was he planning on being captured? After all the talk from Jesus that his people need him alive as a leader? That makes no sense and he's mistaken if he thinks Negan still needs to keep him alive—what better symbol to parade to their troops than Rick's dead body?

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Review: American Horror Story: Coven "The Dead"

Non Spoiler Review:
The Dead returns the focus to Kyle as he begins to reconstruct his memories and is reintroduced to Maddie, who herself is coming to terms with her return from the dead. Queenie begins to doubt her place among the Salem witches. Fiona's past catches up to her at the school, while she finds herself drawn to the Axeman.

The Dead was a mixed bag, still setting up new pieces in the storyline for future pay off. The Kyle subplot looks like it's finally getting somewhere and Marie returns to prominence, as well. It just felt a bit off and unexciting, but nothing surprising as American Horror Story tends to suffer from these lulls here and there between major developments.

Spoilers Now!
In a flashback to Kyle when he was still alive and hanging with his friends at the tattoo parlor, Kyle has big plans to make something of his life. He wants to be an engineer to insure disasters like Katrina never happen again, and he doesn't want a tattoo that's going to make someone judge him. In the present, chained up in the greenhouse, he's horrified to find his ankle has his frat brother's tattoo. Zoe arrives, holding a gun behind her back.

Zoe explains he knows how this has to end and she should have let him go. The only way she knows to fix it is to kill him. Unfortunately Kyle grabs the gun and puts it in his mouth. Zoe struggles with him and it fires through the ceiling, and she break down, admitting she doesn't want him to die.

Meanwhile, Madison, who has been numb to the world all her life, wants to be able to feel something. That includes taking any poison she can find, to no effect. Even fire doesn't hurt her now, and she can eat all she wants.

Delphine finds Queenie in the kitchen so they go to the drive-thru and enjoy a late night snack. While discussing their odd situations, Delphine suggests the other girls will never see Queenie as her sister because she's black.

Hank calls Delia in the middle of the night wanting to come home. She hangs up, but he promises to see her soon as he sits among an assortment of high powered weapons. Delia gets up and goes in search of Delphine but hears a noise behind her. Madison grabs her before she stumbles on the stairs and Delia gets a flash of her death, including her mother killing her.

Fiona has gone to the Axeman's apartment where he puts on some jazz and gets them a drink. In the bathroom she finds she's starting to lose her hair, but seems to miss the bloodied corpse of the apartment's real owner behind the shower curtain. After a kiss she decides it's a mistake for her and moves to leave. He suggests it's her destiny, but she turns on him. She's a miserable human being, she admits, and he should want nothing to do with her. He offers sex instead of love and manages to seduce her.

In the morning Zoe chains Kyle up in her room and tries to train him to speak. He gets frustrated and Madison comes in, asking who it is. Zoe questions if she remembers it's Kyle given she killed him. Maddie says Delia wants to see her so she'll look after him. When she's gone she asks Kyle if he saw a light when he was dead. She didn't. But they both came back. They're both wondering now if it's been worth the trouble.

Queenie arrives at Marie's salon. She's surprised it took her so long to come see her. Queenie doesn't think the Salem witches like her, but Marie suggests they care plenty. They care about her power, though they'll never be welcome here. Marie reveals they have evil under their roof—she buried Delphine and Fiona dug her up. Queenie doesn't think she's so bad but Marie challenges her to ask her what she's done. If Queenie ever wants to join her, the only price is Madame LaLaurie. As she leaves, she wonder what Marie will do to Delphine. Marie tells her not to worry about that.

Delia confides in Zoe that she sees everything now despite her blindness. The Axeman is a bad spirit that Zoe sent packing, which means she's very powerful and she now has a bulls eye on her back and Fiona is her biggest enemy. She admits her mother has only ever been on her own side. If Fiona concludes Zoe's the supreme, she'll try to kill her, just like she killed Maddie. Fiona is growing weaker but that makes her dangerous. They have to kill her. Zoe returns to her bedroom to find Kyle and Maddie having sex.

Fiona dresses to leave but the Axeman wants her to stay. Fiona suggests the dead body in his bathtub will start stinking up the place. She's no angel either, he says, but she always had someone to tidy up after her. She's called the police and they're on the way, she counters. He knows she'd never do that. She doesn't care to hear anything more about him. He's been watching over her since she was eight, he explains.

In a flashback young Fiona uses her abilities to retaliate against older bully Helen. After Fiona is pushed to the ground it was the Axeman who knocked a shelf down on Helen. Fiona demands to know what he is. He admits he saw her as a daughter at first, but she grew into a fearsome woman and he fell in love. Fiona doesn't believe in ghosts. He just wants to give her pleasure. She tells him to keep his distance and haunt someone else.

Spalding wakes up in his room tied to his bed and Zoe waiting for him, asking how he is. He says he's feeling fine, stunned that he can talk and has his tongue back. She found it in the alcove hidden in a box, still alive because someone enchanted it. He admits it was Myrtle Snow's magic, and that's why he cut it out. She kept it, but Myrtle wasn't powerful enough to restore it. Zoe is. All she wants is the truth, the one thing he can't refuse her. He confesses he didn't kill Maddie and it was Fiona. His family has served the coven for ten generations, he protests. Not anymore, Zoe replies, and stabs him to death.

Queenie goes to Delphine to ask her about the worst thing she ever did. The older woman says the past is best left buried. But Queenie claims she wants to be a true friend and has to see the ugly as well as the good.

Delphine recounts the story of her slave Sally, who gave birth to a baby with a light complexion, obviously her husband's. Delphine decided to make her her new handmaiden to help with her beauty treatments. In her bedroom Delphine explains her own beauty concoction is the only potion that works and asks Sally to guess the ingredients. Sally thinks it's blood. But there's something extra special, Delphine teases, from a boy newly born. She knows who the father is and she needn't bother giving the baby a name. Queenie is mortified and Delphine says she couldn't have a bastard growing up in her house. Sally killed herself the next morning and they buried her with her baby. Delphine points out it was a different time and a different world. She's grateful to have a true friend to guide her.

Zoe showers up to clean off the blood. Madison asks what she's been up to and knows she's upset a little about what happened between her and Kyle. Zoe realizes they can't be together anyway, but Madison suggests otherwise given he's already died once. Being with him is the only thing that made Maddie feel anything, but Zoe doesn't have to give him up either. She takes Zoe to the bedroom where Kyle is sitting and the two welcome her into their bed.

Fiona turns up at the Axeman's bar waiting for him to finish playing. She offers to buy him a drink.

Queenie takes Delphine out to get a new hair style. Delphine is nervous at the prospect, but is excited when they enter the salon, unaware that it's Marie Laveau's, who appears behind her welcoming her back. Delphine tells Queenie she doesn't know what Marie will do to her. But she does, Queenie replies, and Delphine is chained up. Marie suggests Queenie make the first cut and hands her the knife. She'd love to. Afterwards Marie applies the fresh blood to her face. Beautiful, she says.

The Verdict:
The Dead didn't offer anything memorable this week, and played to expectations. Queenie has shifted loyalties to Marie as I thought she would, though how solid that is remains to be seen.

The question of what lies after death continues, and I'm wondering if it will become a major theme as the series progresses. Is there a reason Fiona doesn't believe in ghosts? Is the Axeman more than a ghost? Did the witches do something to him that allow him now to walk the world in a physical form?

While Kyle's storyline hasn't been my favorite, at least there's been advancement on that front. When Zoe indulged in her undead threesome my first reaction was that it was totally out of character. But then I realized it does suit her given she kills everyone she's with. What better sexual companions than two undead ones?

Here's hoping that Spalding breaks the resurrection chain and stays dead.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Review: The Walking Dead "Live Bait"

Non Spoiler Review:
Following last week's surprise reveal of the Governor watching the prison, Live Bait joins him immediately following the massacre of his citizens and his subsequent abandonment by his henchman. Alone and disconsolate, the Governor wanders aimlessly until meeting another group of survivors that reminds him of his past.

Live Bait succeeded in the impossible—humanizing the Governor again. It was also quite a slow burn of an episode, as well, coming on a string of them, but I found I wasn't bored at all. In contrast, there was a high level of tension given it's the Governor we're dealing with, and how he would respond to encountering other people. 

Live Bait refuses to go into expected territory, ending on a surprising note and playing against what most of the audience would have anticipated. The Governor's storyline will continue to get fleshed out next week, but there's the potential for interesting developments.

Spoilers Now!
Following the massacre of the Woodbury militia, the Governor and his two men make camp for the night. As he sits in a fugue in front of his fire he watches a zombie make its way towards him, trying to reach him through the flames until Martinez shoots it. Come morning he emerges from his tent to find they've abandoned him. He gets a rig working and returns to Woodbury, which he burns to the ground. 

Wandering for a couple of months he finally collapses on a street when he sees a girl in a window and goes inside to investigate. He finds two women with the little girl, armed with a gun and bat. He hands his weapon to them and explains the man in charge of his town lost it and he barely got out alive. He offers his name as Brian (from a message he saw scrawled on a barn). Tara, a former cop, and her sister Lily have been waiting for the National Guard. They also have their disabled father (suffering from lung cancer and requiring oxygen) and Lily's daughter Megan, who doesn't talk. They were lucky in having a food truck parked outside their building when the outbreak happened. They ask if he plans on staying, and he says just for the night. Tara warns him not to mess with her family or she'll put him down. Lily comes to visit him after, bringing him food. He takes it, but later dumps it out. 

The Governor brings the plate back and they invite him in. He helps them take their father to his bed. There are walkers moving around in apartments upstairs and the old man says Tara has tried repeatedly to kill them. He asks him to go to a friend's suite to retrieve a backgammon set, something that might make Megan talk again. The Governor does so, and finds the neighbour (who had lost both legs) now turned to a walker and trapped in the bathtub. He kills it and takes the gun in his hand. 

The Governor brings the game back to them, and in his room looks at the family photo he carries. In the morning Lily comes in with a few things for the road. She also gives him his gun back but he tells her to keep it as they need another one. He has the one he found upstairs, and explains that they have to kill the walkers in the brain. Tara's just been shooting them in the body. She reveal her father has stage four lung cancer and nearing the end, with just two days of oxygen left. She asks if he'll go to an old folks home to get any tanks he can find. 

The Governor walks to the place and finds it filled with the former residents. He discovers a dozen oxygen tanks and quickly heads out with them, but his activity has alerted the walkers and he can only escape with two. He brings them back but won't talk about what happened.

Lily insists on tending to his cuts. She admits Megan thought he was her dad when she saw him as he abandoned them a few years before the apocalypse. Megan stays with him while Lily goes for ointment and asks what happened to his eye. He confesses he's a pirate, and when they laugh he explains what really happened was he tried to help someone. 

The Governor stays awhile. Cleaned up and with a hair-cut, he proceeds to teach Megan chess as the girls tend to their dying father. When he passes, they finally bring in Megan to see him. The Governor urges them to go but she wants a minute. The old man's eyes open and he grabs Tara, and the Governor proceeds to bash his head in with the oxygen tank as the others scream for him to stop. The Governor digs a grave and Lily comes out to help bury her father. When they return Megan runs away from him but Tara admits he saved her life, and her father would have been grateful.

He leaves them alone, and when he returns home he burns the photo of his family. He packs up and tells Lily good-bye, but she wants him to take them with him to find some place better. He reluctantly concedes and they leave in the food truck. On the road, Tara admits she's not really a cop, though she was in the academy, and apologizes for lying. When they make camp Lily and the Governor wake up in the night and have sex.

The truck breaks down and they set off on foot to find a car. The Governor spies a herd of walkers ahead. Megan remains frozen but finally runs to him and they head into the woods. The Governor and Megan fall into a pit with a few walkers trapped inside. He violently kills them with his bare hands and promises Megan he won't let anything happen to her. That's when Martinez appears and looks down incredulously on them.

The Verdict:
Live Bait sets up a humbled Governor with a new group of survivors as a contrast to the prison. It's too early to make such grand predictions (after all, we only saw the Governor at the end of Internment). But the series managed to humanize the man in ways I couldn't have thought possible after last season, and raises the question if redemption is possible for anyone in the post-apocalypse. 

I felt plenty of apprehension watching him interact with everyone, and certainly relieved that Tara, Lily and Megan lived to see the end of this episode. Given how so many new characters are offed as soon as they break out of the gate, I hope they stay around as they've received more development in one episode than all the Woodbury characters. 

There's a comparison to be drawn between Carol and the Governor's abandonment of the past, which has become a running theme this season. Only once he lets go of his dead family can he move on and embrace a potential new one. Interesting to see if somehow Carol and the Governor cross paths how they might get along now. But the past isn't far behind with Martinez showing up with all the Governor's secrets. Will the latter kill him or can they agree to make peace now that he appears to be stable?

I'm still satisfied with the low key pacing of this season, mixed with a few skirmishes here and there, as I'm sure the mid-season finale promises a big event. However, it's irritating that we wait yet another episode to get to Daryl's reaction to Carol's absence. It feels like poor pacing to do that, especially if the Governor's story next week doesn't bring him closer to current events at the prison. 

Would I accept a redeemed Governor? It would certainly be an exciting storyline to pursue that would fly in contrast to the graphic novel and ripe for drama with all the characters at the prison coming to terms with the whole idea of it. I doubt that's going to happen, but at least the writers have succeeded in raising that hope. So if (and when) the Governor falls back into his old ways it will be just that more tragic.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Review: American Horror Story: Coven "The Axeman Cometh"

Non Spoiler Review:
The Axeman Cometh introduces a new plot and character to the storyline, as a serial killer crosses paths with the school in 1919. In the present, Zoe's plan to consult a Ouija board to contact Maddie yields mixed results. Delia comes home from the hospital but her new found powers strain her marriage to Hank.

Much like the Black Dahlia from season one, Murphy brings in another historical character, the Axeman of New Orleans, and provides another historical flashback to the witch's school. I have no idea how important this character may be to the season, but he does get slipped into the plot to provide the girls some answers and will have an impact on at least next episode.

Though there were the usual weekly twists and surprises, I found this one to be a mixed bag and one of the weaker ones of the season, but it did have to follow the incredible Halloween two-parter. The Axeman Cometh still entertained, and served best as clean up for last week's mayhem.

Spoilers Now!
New Orleans, 1919. A narrator calling himself the Axeman, who has been terrorizing the city, declares his intention to claim other victims. He sends a letter to the newspaper announcing his plan to spare anyone whose house is playing a jazz band (given he has a thing for jazz). The witches at the school read the article and discuss finding some jazz to play to be on the safe side. One bold witch decides they are powerful (as well as suffragettes) and need to take a stand for once.

The axeman is actually a bartender, and as he walks the streets that night he hears plenty of jazz playing—except the witch school, which is blaring opera. He goes inside where one of the witches waits for him reading tarot cards. He tells her he made his intention clear as she pulls the Death card—his card. Then her schoolmates ambush him and stab him to death.

In the present Zoe goes through Maddie's things and a tiny bottle of liquor rolls out into the closet where she finds a hidden door containing an alcove full of old photos and a Ouija board. She shows the school pictures to Queenie and Nan, explaining how the school used to be full of witches a hundred years before, and now their numbers are down to three. She feels Madison wants them to find her—so she pours each of them a drink of absinthe and vows to watch their backs. Queenie is less than enthused, but partakes. They proceed to use the Ouija board despite Queenie's warnings how dangerous it is. 

First question—are we alone? It moves to no. Did you die here? Yes. Were you murdered? Yes. Who killed you? You did. They ask if this is Madison. No. They ask who it is. Axeman. Queenie puts a stop to it, telling Zoe she best know who she's talking to if she's going to play around with it.

At the hospital Fiona finds herself able to read the minds of those getting chemo with her, something that starts to drive her crazy. She never had the ability before and wonders if it's the medication. The doctor asks her to stay and finish her chemo. He assures her they've chosen an aggressive form of treatment for her. She realizes what she really wants is to belong to somebody.

Investigating the Axeman of New Orleans, Zoe learns he killed eight people and was never caught. Nan explains that his response that we killed him refers to the class of 1919, the year the Axeman disappeared. Nan and Queenie both refuse to continue communicating with him. Zoe is disgusted at their lack of solidarity, so proceeds herself.

She asks where Madison is in exchange for giving him what he wants. He tells her the attic. Zoe goes to investigate, and in Spalding's room is immediately assaulted by the stench. Maddie's decomposing body is in the chest, and Spalding grabs her from behind.

Blind Delia comes home from the hospital with Hank. She's angry she can smell roses. She needs chrysanthemums for strength and protection. Hank touches her again and she gets another vision of the red-haired woman. She demands to know who it is. She had to go blind to see things she couldn't before. Fiona is pleased with their relationship breakdown and laughs she finally has Hank's number. Delia warns him he'll be accountable for all his betrayals and sends him away. 

Fiona explains she's been given the sight, the greatest and hardest gift to live with. When her mother touches her she gets a flash of Myrtle's burning. She's horrified Myrtle is dead and refuses to believe she threw acid in her face. 

Zoe quickly knocks Spalding out with a doll and then Queenie, Zoe and Nan proceed to torture him to confess to the murder. Nan can hear his voice in her head. And he answers yes. He has unique appetites, he reveals. He wonders if they will turn him into the authorities and expose the coven, he adds. Queenie isn't so helpless, and takes a heated spatula and presses it against her face until a welt burns on Spalding's cheek and he passes out. They'll kill him, she says, but Zoe isn't sure he's telling the truth. 

At Misty's cabin, the witch has Myrtle buried in dirt, slowly healing her. Kyle arrives and she cleans him up, but that prompts a flashback of his mother and he freaks out. After breaking a variety of things, including her Stevie Nicks record, Misty is infuriated. Zoe arrives, shocked to find him there. Misty wants him gone, but Zoe says she's taking them both with her as she needs her help.

Hank comes to see Marie, announcing they have a problem. He's angry about the acid attack but Marie assures him she wasn't behind it. She thought she'd hired a professional witch hunter—six years in that house and for nothing. He protests he's killed nine Salem descendants for her (including Cayley, who visited Delia at the school as shown in a flashback). Cayley could start fires with her thoughts. She wasn't open to  Delia's offer and just wanted a good husband. But Marie didn't intend him to play house with Delia. Now Delphine is brought back to life and her Bastian is dead. Marie orders him to bring her the heads of all of them and burn the school to the ground...and she'll let him live.

Zoe takes Kyle and Misty to the greenhouse and chains him up. She shows Misty Maddie's body but she's already rotting and beyond Misty's power. Zoe presses her, providing Maddie's missing arm. Misty concedes and proceeds to do her work. With Zoe's help Maddie begins to revive and scream. Zoe explains everything to Queenie and Nan about their new house guests. Misty wants to be taken home but Zoe offers for her to stay so she has some place to belong. Misty wants to be alone. The school isn't her tribe, and there's bad vibes in the house, she muses.

As Delia takes some pills and gets ready for bed, the Axeman is sitting in the bedroom. I've always hated this room, he says. Delia demands to know who he is. He's been trapped inside the room all these years, until the young witch offered him his release in exchange for a favor. But when the time came for her to release him, she left. He's trapped in there with Delia and refuses to let her out. All she has to do is to sing and dance, he adds.

Maddie slowly regains her senses, but isn't sure how she died and remembers very little. Maddie recalls seeing red, but nothing after that. And there's nothing on the other side, she explains. Just black.

Delia's scream alerts the girls who run up to her room. Zoe says she promised to release him but Delia refuses to allow them. Zoe rushes downstairs to find a spell to make him move on. She pulls out a particular book that calls to her and it flips to the appropriate page. They cast the spell and rush back to Delia's room where she's alone and screaming.

Outside the Axeman walks down the front steps to the gate and starts on his way down the street. At a bar he takes a seat next to Fiona, asking what she's drinking.

The Verdict:
Murphy throws in another historical character with the Axeman, and I wonder how long he'll be wandering around, or how he will be involved with Fiona. What was the true nature of the spell that Zoe (had) selected (for her?). Is there some other twist to it that is yet to come? And is Zoe doing this because she's the supreme or someone else is pulling her strings?

The big revelation this week was Marie and Hank's connection. I was feeling some sympathy for Marie, but it appears she's been working against her truce with Anna for years.

I was surprised to hear the casual line given to Luke, who has been sent home already. Given Fiona's comments last week I assumed he would remain in the house recovering.

My big criticism here is yet another resurrection from the dead. Let's see—Kyle, Delphine, Maddie, Myrtle, and now the Axeman have found their way back to the mortal plane (except poor Bastian) . If death isn't going to stick it's going to be difficult to feel any sense of doom when it comes to character mortality.

To make matters worse, this week was very inconsistent in who can be resurrected—why is Misty leaving Myrtle planted in the ground to heal for so long when Maddie (who has been rotting in the attic and missing a limb, is brought back to life within minutes?). Of course, that might not be Maddie that came back. We definitely need to see some consequences to all this, and maybe that's what Murphy has in mind if some higher power (like the Devil) is going to make its displeasure known with the amount of dead bodies rising at the school.

Some idle thoughts—What's with Fiona's continued Good Samaritan hospital antics? Are they unmotivated acts of kindness or are they more nefarious? And her doctor seemed unusually suspicious, too. Are we to take anything from Maddie's comments that she saw nothing beyond death? 
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