Posts tagged the walking dead

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Starbreeze / Overkill Pre-E3 & The Walking Dead Game Launch Event

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With E3 2015 wrapping up a couple days ago, we’ve been seeing some pretty cool announcements coming from the electronic world over the past week. Some fantastic-looking new games, new systems, new gadgets. Nerdy fun to be had by all.

Just before E3, however, I got to have a bit of that fun for myself. Recently, Overkill Software had an event they called the Hype Train for their game, PayDay 2. This happened back in February/March, but you can still see some of the info from it here. This event effectively solidified Overkill/Starbreeze as my favorite gaming company around today. While studios like Electronic Arts are nickel-and-diming us gamers with in-game purchases, and a studio like Gearbox is suspected of plagiarism, it’s getting hard to tell who the good guys are in gaming. Overkill made that a little easier with the Hype Train. Here are the basics: Overkill set a list of goals to reach with corresponding PayDay-themed prizes. These goals were met by fans purchasing the game, DLCs, characters packs, etc. Anything at all PayDay-related that was purchased from their official outlets in this time period went toward the Hype Train. As prizes were unlocked, anyone with the game got access to these prizes. So even if you just had the base game, but didn’t or couldn’t buy anything during that time, you still got the Car Shop Heist and the Hoxton Revenge Heist. The way they went about this event was very cool in that it was obviously for the fans. Instead of just being out to make a quick buck, they promoted the game and the additions in a way that engaged the community, and rewarded fans. I’ve seen a few cynical groups of fans criticize the gaming company for involving money in the event at all, but that criticism seems extremely short-sighted. Of course a business has to make money in order to continue releasing their brand of awesome. At least in Overkill’s case, they did it in a way that really gave back to their fans and their community – and not just the factions that could pay for it at that particular time.

One of the prizes released during the Hype Train affected me, directly. There was a possibility that a prize would be unlocked where Overkill would fly 10 heisters to L.A. for a Pre-E3 event. I’ll be honest – the details were incredibly vague at the time, and whether it would even happen or not had not even been announced yet by the time you had to enter to win this prize. However, to enter, all you had to do was send Overkill a tweet during a certain time frame. What does one tweet cost you?  Nothing. Nothing at all. I sent my tweet back in March, went about my life, and actually forgot about it.

That is until early June when I started getting messages from Overkill on twitter.  When they first started trying to get my attention, they hadn’t yet told me I won the trip. I was mid-sentence in a conversation with my husband, and checked a notification on my phone. I trailed off in conversation, and my eyes got very big. My husband asked what was going on, and I responded with “SOMETHING IS HAPPENING RIGHT NOW.” A few minutes later, Almir Listo, producer of the PayDay franchise, let me know I had won, and asked if I’d be available to fly to L.A. in exactly one week. Naturally, I freaked out, put everything in life on hold, and went. This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  I’ve been a big fan of the PayDay games for a while at this point, but even bigger, I have grown to respect and love Overkill as a gaming company. PC Gaming is one of my biggest hobbies in life these days, and these hotelguys were doing it right. I absolutely jumped at the chance to fly across the country and meet with them in person.

The following week was a blur of sustained excitement, and early on the Saturday morning following the announcement, I was on a plane. I arrived at the same time as several other heisters, and we instantly bonded. Everyone invited along, and everyone who met up with us from the studio were amazingly friendly and welcoming. We were all extremely excited.

We got to the hotel Overkill had us staying in – the Grafton on Sunset BLVD in West Hollywood.  A beautiful hotel that was rock-themed, newly renovated, and in a great location.  I walked with some of the other heisters to a nearby burger place, and had lunch. Afterwards, we were all in need of a nap – each of us had been traveling since early that morning, and were in for a long night ahead of us.

A few hours later, we were picked up in a limo, and given a tour of Hollywood before being dropped off at the event.

The party was at the Hollywood House of Blues. Technically, it was only half a block from our hotel, and we easily could have walked, but the limo ride was fun either way. There were 3 floors of drinks, food, music, fun people, games, and announcements. It was crazy. Immediately upon walking into the gate, I met Damion Poitier – the voice of Chains in the PayDay games. He was incredibly nice, and all for hanging with the fans. He also made the absolute best faces in all the pictures that were taken of him that night (see his twitter feed for more of these amazing faces).damion  We also chatted with Eric Etebari, the voice of Dallas, throughout the night as well. In fact, every time we turned around, there was either Damion or Eric. I’m pretty sure they wanted to be BFFs, but were too shy to say so (right? RIGHT??).

We were also greeted by shambling zombies everywhere. Since this event was the launch party for Overkill’s The Walking Dead, they made a point to really put you in the mindset of hanging with zombies. Now – I organized a large-scale Zombie Walk for years. We had some incredible zombies over the years, but none with the constitution of these Walkers. Never once did I see a single zombie break character, even for a second. One in particular made a point to sneak up behind various party people, waiting just inches from the back of their heads to notice him. The reactions were priceless.

zombie Next were the announcements.

Overkill’s The Walking Dead was obviously a huge one. There are a couple other TWD games out right now, but they’re both completely story-driven, not shooters. Since the Left 4 Dead franchise, I think we here in the gaming community have been itching for an awesome, new zombie-themed shooter. We saw a bit of the gameplay and graphics from the new TWD game, and it’s looking pretty badass. And it looks like there will also be a little crossover from the PayDay franchise. The game doesn’t come out until next year, but I’m already psyched for it. You can watch the trailer for it, and find out more details here.

Next was the announcement of PayDay 2 coming to consoles. In fact, they had several machines set up with PayDay 2 loaded up to try it out. I’m not a big console person, myself, so I asked some of the other folks in my group how it held up in terms of a console shooter. Since they were all fans of the PayDay franchise on PC previously, they were able to definitely say that the translation from PC to console was very well done. The controls are intuitive, and the game played just as well on console. So if you’ve been wanting to play PayDay 2, but just aren’t into keyboards and mice, look forward to that release.

 

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Lastly, and possibly most importantly, we were surprised with the announcement of the StarVR system. This entire thing looks amazing. The StarVR system is Starbreeze’s answer to the recent Virtual Reality craze. It’s a headset that’s lighter than the Oculus, and instead of smaller circles to look through that are straight-ahead, the StarVR system has a wide screen that allows for peripheral vision. This may sound like a small difference in systems, but in reality, the way the StarVR is laid out allows you to really, and truly immerse yourself into the game much more than most other VR systems that are announced right now. Granted – the StarVR is still in process, as are many other virtual reality systems, and some changes and competitors may still arise. At the moment, though, it looks like Starbreeze is on the right path with this one. Here’s a Hands-on view from the E3 conference:

Overall, there were a ton of unexpected, and fantastic surprises at the Pre-E3 party. Friendships were forged, and a ridiculous amount of fun was had.

The next day, we had dinner plans with the Overkill gang, but were free until then. Some heisters explored Hollywood, some hung out at the hotel and gamed a bit. I had some friends in town, so I joined them for a killer waffle brunch. Then we were all given an address to meet up at.

The address led us to the historic Chinese Theater in Hollywood, and the shopping center behind it. It was a little bit confusing to know where we were going at first, but once we saw that there was a Dave & Busters, we all thought ‘of course they’re going to take a bunch of video game nerds to the gaming place.’ We were right – and thrilled to be.

starbreezeWe were joined by Almir Listo, Simon Viklund (who composes all of the music in the PayDay games), and Karl Lakner (art director for Overkill). A relaxing dinner with great conversation was followed by a lot of selfies and group pics. We all got the chance to really talk with these accomplished fellows one-on-one, and ask any burning, heisting questions we may have had.

However, at the end of it, not all of us were ready to call it quits. Almir had to leave us, but Simon and Karl were dead-set on seeing a movie. We walked over the Chinese Theater, and all grabbed tickets for Jurassic World, but still had a couple hours to kill, so we went back to D&B’s to play some games. I got to shoot ridiculous amounts of aliens and terminator-bots with Karl, and then even more dinosaurs with Simon. A few of the other Overkill guys joined us for the movie – and were more than happy to talk about the weapons, explosions, and landscapes they designed for the PayDay games, and what went into them. The gentlemen we got to meet from Overkill were easily some of the nicest, friendliest, and most welcoming people I’ve met in a long time.

The next morning, I flew the 7 hours back to my usual side of the country.

It was a crazy, jam-packed, exciting, whirlwind of a weekend that I never expected to happen.

 

I cannot thank the guys at Overkill, and especially Almir and Karl (who were both incredibly friendly and accommodating) enough for the experience. You guys made 10 little heisters’ lives incredibly bright for that weekend.

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The Walking Dead: Comic Book vs TV Series [Episode Two: “Guts”]

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Transitioning a story from one medium to another is a tricky business. It never fails, when a book, video game, television show or movie is adapted into another format someone will always tell you, the original was better. Why is that? Is there some unwritten rule that once a story’s been told you’ll never see, read, or play a better version?

Over the next few months I’m going to explore that notion with one of my favorite stories, The Walking Dead. Before it became AMC’s highest rated program of all time it was already an award winning comic book series. Both mediums tell the story of a group of survivors in a zombie apocalypse, but how they’re presenting their story is completely different. Not only are there the inherent differences between a comic book and television series, but the TV series has taken certain liberties when it comes to adapting its source material. Not surprisingly, some fans have taken issue with this.

Each article in this ongoing series will focus on an episode of the TV series, discuss what was comic book inspired, what’s a deviation, and whether it’s good or bad. Plus, which version had the most gruesome zombie kill! Y’know, for the kids. It should be noted these posts will contain SPOILERS for the TV series as well as all corresponding comics.

(more…)

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The Walking Dead: Comic Book vs TV Series

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Transitioning a story from one medium to another is a tricky business. It never fails, when a book, video game, television show or movie is adapted into another format someone will always tell you, the original was better. Why is that? Is there some unwritten rule that once a story’s been told you’ll never see, read, or play a better version?

Over the next few months I’m going to explore that notion with one of my favorite stories, The Walking Dead. Before it became AMC’s highest rated program of all time it was already an award winning comic book series. Both mediums tell the story of a group of survivors in a zombie apocalypse, but how they’re presenting their story is completely different. Not only are there the inherent differences between a comic book and television series, but the TV series has taken certain liberties when it comes to adapting its source material. Not surprisingly, some fans have taken issue with this.

Each article in this ongoing series will focus on an episode of the TV series, discuss what was comic book inspired, what’s a deviation, and whether it’s good or bad. Plus, which version had the most gruesome zombie kill! Y’know, for the kids. It should be noted these posts will contain SPOILERS for the TV series as well as all corresponding comics.

(more…)

Review and Interview: Plague Town

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Review: Plague Town by Dana Fredsti
and
Mini-Interview by Prof. Jenn

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I had the great pleasure of conducting a Mini-Interview with author (and stage combatant) Dana Fredsti, whose first zombie novel came out yesterday, April 3rd. Below please enjoy said interview, as well as my review of Plague Town.
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Interview: Dana Fredsti
by Jenn Zuko Boughn

1) Your bio mentions you are addicted to bad zombie movies of all kinds. When you began working on Plague Town, were you going for bad/pulp, good, or so-bad-it’s-good? How did the book change as you wrote it, and as you revised?

First of all, thanks so much for having me as your guest here! I love meeting other people who practice theatrical combat!

Second, I have to add that while I am addicted to bad movies, zombie and otherwise, I do watch good movies too, especially the really good zombie movies out there.  I just tend to rhapsodize about the bad ones because they bring me such joy…   At any rate, when I started Plague Town, I wanted it to be good.  I wanted it to be funny, scary, and the sort of thing that both fans of urban fantasy and zombie literature (no, I will never get tired of saying “zombie literature”) would enjoy. I don’t think, btw, it’s possible to set out to write something that’s so bad it’s good and actually achieve the goal because most things that fall into that category are made/written with a very sincere intent to make a good movie or write a good book.  If you try and do that from the get-go, I think you end up with a self-conscious piece of crap that’s cringe-worthy.

I don’t outline (at least I didn’t until my editor started making me outline *grumble*) more than a very basic “this is my main character, these are a few of the other characters, it needs to end on this note” page of notes, so while I did know where I wanted Ashley to end up, I wasn’t entirely sure how she’d get there.  Her narrative voice is consistent throughout, but other characters developed as I wrote, as did a lot of the plot twists. A few of the major twists were planned from the beginning, but I wasn’t sure when/where/how they’d manifest in the storyline until I actually reached a point where it served the plot to put them in.  The revisions, on the other hand, were different in that I had Steve Saffel (my wonderful Titan editor and He Who Makes Me Outline) had some very clear ideas of what was needed to improve the original book and worked very closely with me to make sure we were on the same page.  Ashley aged by ten years to take a step away from having Plague Town be identified as Y; more gore was allowed (the original book was geared more towards paranormal romance readers and the publisher didn’t think they’d like some of my gorier ideas); the relationship between Ashley and Gabriel (her instructor) is still there, but toned down a bit to make it fit a little more believably into a crisis situation; and the pace has been picked up quite a bit. If you hear the sound of a whip being cracked, that would be Steve telling me to pick up the pace. J

2) Ashley is touted as being “Buffy but with zombies.” What else inspired you to begin this project? Was the story always planned as a trilogy, or did that develop as Plague Town did?

The concept for the book was originally pitched to me by Lori Perkins of Ravenous Romance.  Her pitch was essentially “How would you like to write something like Buffy the Vampire Slayer? …Except with zombies. But different.”  My answer was, of course, an immediate “yes” because I love me my zombies and Buffy is one of my favorite shows of all time.  Lori also pitched it as a trilogy when she started shopping it around to other publishers. I had to actually write a short synopsis of each novel for her to show how I saw the story arc developing with subsequent book.  Which isn’t quite the same thing as an outline, but close enough that it had me hyperventilating.

3) What can we look forward to in the sequels?

Well, definitely more zombies. The titles (Plague Town, Plague Nation, and Plague World) more or less give away the fact I plan on spreading the infection with each book.   I use what I call “interludes” to do this, which are a lot of fun because they give me a chance to show the readers what’s happening without being locked into Ashley’s point of view and geographical location.  I love writing first person narrative, but it can be limiting.  Aside from more carnivorous corpses, we’ll find out more about the background of other characters introduced in the first book, as well as the shadowy paramilitary organization that recruited the wild cards to help fight the zombie outbreak. I plan on killing off characters too. If it’s one thing Joss Whedon has taught me, it’s don’t let your audience/readers get too complacent about the safety of main characters. Which is difficult for me because I truly hate killing off characters I like (it’s why my first book was a murder mystery – I wrote it to enact literary vengeance on a couple of people in real life who I could not stand), and I get pissed off at authors who do so.  That being said, it makes for better drama and sometimes you need to sacrifice someone to give another character the chance to grow. Or, in Willow’s case after Tara dies, to have your hair go from red to brunette and try to destroy the world.

4) We have theatrical swordplay in common, so I have to ask: what was it like working on Army of Darkness? Did that flick have anything to do with your continuation of zombie love into this book? Any crazy anecdotes from being a choreographer and Deadite?

Working on Army of Darkness was a great experience, not only because it was just a lot of fun (if a lot of work, long hours, cold nights and hot days), but people just get such a kick out of finding out I worked on it. My then boyfriend, who was the onset armourer on the film, had many drinks bought for him when he was working on a film in Norway, just because his fellow crewmembers found out he worked on AoD.  It’s fun to be part of a cult film, even though none of us knew it would be so popular when we were filming it.  I got to choreograph my own fights and got paid to perform them.

I don’t really think of AoD as a zombie film, so no, it didn’t really have anything to do with my continuing passion for all things undead and flesh-eating, but the place it’s earned in pop-culture definitely influenced me a bit. As in, you might recognize a couple of references to it in Plague Town. J  No spoilers, though!

Since you do theatrical combat, you’ll appreciate this anecdote! We were paired up with different partners for the various scenes and one of my partners (let’s just call him “Tank”) was just not that good at following choreography, although he thought he was. Big guy, lots of strength, no concept how to pull blows and make things look real without battering the crap out of his partner.  And I’m not exactly a frail flower of a woman either.  At any rate, we were doing a sword/shield fight and he was supposed to push me away with the flat of his shield, but every damn time we ran the fight he used the bottom V-shaped edge instead.  This pointy piece of wood rammed into my stomach (thankfully somewhat protected by the layer of latex from my Deadite costume) repeatedly over the course of a couple of hours.  It hurt like hell (imagine someone punching you on a bruise a few dozen times) and I let him know what was happening, but Tank knew better ‘cause he was a guy and I was just a girl, doncha know. I ended up with a nasty-ass bruise and a bad case of homicidal rage.

I also ended up in the emergency room one night. This time I was working with another partner, someone who was a little more reliable, but we ended up getting our wires crossed at one point so he cut at the same time I did (one of was supposed to parry) and I ended up taking a whack with the edge of the sword across my forearm.  Everything went numb and I dropped my sword.  We were using aluminum blades, but they had a fairly thick edge and this was not a gentle cut. I was told under no uncertain terms I would be going to the emergency room by the onset medic (who thought the arm was broken) for insurance reasons. If I hadn’t had that latex layer, I would have had a broken arm.  As it was, I was out of action for a day or two.  I was so not happy… The worst of it, though, was the guy I was working with (who I did not blame for the incident) was overheard talking about what a big baby I was for going to the emergency room and how I should have just toughed it out.  Guess we’ll just chalk up that bit of assholery to a big old case of projected guilt.  It still pisses me off to think about it, though.

See, you’re getting all my “war stories.”

5) How does your theatre work inform your writing work, and vice-versa?

I would say that doing theater and film gives me a good sense of realistic dialogue and also a decent sense of dramatic pacing when I’m writing. I hate clunky dialogue (and sometimes wonder if some writers have ever tried reading their books out loud to hear how the dialogue sounds), although I admit that watching bad actors utter already stiff and unrealistic dialogue brings me much joy.  Does this make me a bad person?  Or a good person who appreciates bad movies?  ANYway, as far as vice-versa, I’ve written a few screenplays and have heard my dialogue spoken aloud and acted in a couple projects I either wrote or co-wrote, so I’ve had direct experience with the fact that what I think looks great when it’s written down doesn’t always translate into believable dialogue. Seriously, it’s one thing when another actor tells you your dialogue doesn’t work for them.  You can always dismiss it as being their ineptitude or lack of talent. “My dialogue?  Genius!  I’m sure Shakespeare ran into this attitude too.”
But when you are trying to do a scene that you’ve written and it clunks, it’s hard to be an egotistical prima donna unless you’re schizophrenic. It’s a great reality check.

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Book review: Plague Town
by Jenn Zuko Boughn

Plague Town is a novel about our hero Ashley, who discovers, when a zombie epidemic hits her college town, she’s what they call a “wild card,” or someone who’s immune to the zombie virus. Because of this, she falls in with a super-secret covert-ops group that has been dedicated to eradicating zombies for quite some time. She gets trained in zombie killing as basically becomes a bad-ass katana-wielding walking dead chopper. It’s a fun ride, and delightfully gruesome. I notice the sequels will be Plague Nation and Plague World so (as Ms. Fredsti states in the above interview), we’re only going to have more zombie-slaughtering goodness as the sequels come out.

Here’s my take on Plague Town, in list form. Because lists are fun.

What I liked:
1) We’re really invested in the danger the main “wild card” characters are in. They’re not just super-powered invincibles, there is actually quite a bit of tension and danger for them, even though they are technically immune. The huge fight scene with the zombie barricade towards the end of the book is nail-biting.

2) The “interludes” Ms. Fredsti refers to in the above interview are a fantastic idea. I mean,  come on: Zombie POV? We actually get to be inside the heads of the walking dead? That’s even creepier than just being a zombie hunter.

3) It’s charming and fitting that the setting is a college town–we get free use of laboratories, smart people in charge, and a great “front” for the zombie-killing organization. It’s also adorable that our hero is taking a class about plagues and epidemics at the beginning of the story. Great baldly obvious foreshadowing, and very funny.

4) Fredsti has a fresh take on our favorite zombie tropes, as well as includes classic tropes we want. For example, the zombies shamble and moan. The characters are all contemporary, so they have quite a few delightful meta discussions about zombie pop culture even as they prepare to fight them off in their reality. One of the characters quotes movies when he’s nervous. It’s fun that the story comments on itself in that way–a very postmodern approach. We even have your classic badass, ex-military survivalist character as well, who is exactly what we expect, in a good way.

5) Saving the cats. Tugged at  the heartstrings. That is all.

What I didn’t like:
1) Ashley’s inner monologue. I get that she’s written to be a sassy, sarcastic badass, but. Her inner (and sometimes outer) snarky commentary on everything gets a bit old. There are a couple places where it doesn’t really fit that she’d have a sarcastic thing to say–she wouldn’t be in that sort of emotional state. Not every single moment. It makes her a bit more abrasive than snarkily funny, and since it’s in first-person POV, it gets wearing. Also, sometimes her “witty” commentary isn’t witty, it’s borderline to full-on cliche.

2) I didn’t get much depth from Gabriel or from Professor Fraser, and their changes as we get to know them better aren’t fleshed out enough. I have a feeling we’ll get to know them better in the sequels, but it was hard to find any sort of sympathy for them, as they were pretty wooden, and then unconvincing, whereas smaller pivotal characters (e.g. Mack, Lily, and Nathan) were well-rounded.

3) Maybe this is just me, but I thought that having Ashley wield a katana was just a little…I dunno. Cheesy. This could totally just be me. Go read the book and come back here and tell me if you agree.
Bottom Line: Plague Town is a fresh and fun addition to the reams of zombie pop culture out there these days. It’s nice to have a female central character, and a balance of romance and badassery.

Plague Town can be found wherever books are sold April 3rd.

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Meltdown Comics & Nerds in Babeland Present: Course in Zombiology

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Join us Thursday, January 20, 2011, at 7pm PST at Meltdown Comics in Los Angeles or at nerdsinbabeland.com/chat in the discussion for our first ever Comic Book-of-the-Month club, focused entirely on The Walking Dead. Learn more about the books, the television series, or just geek-out with a bunch of fellow Walking Dead-Heads. Want to know more? Then read on!

Have you ever wanted to get into comic books but have no interest in superheroes and/or mutants? Or, perhaps you have never thought about getting into comics but happen to be a huge fan of all things horror/zombie/gruesome? Or you are already obsessed with The Walking Dead and just looking for people to geek out about the book and series with? At the meet-up, we will discuss the book series from the beginning, and why it might be the perfect book for you to pick up if you’ve been toying with the idea of getting into graphic novels but haven’t taken the plunge.

Jenna Busch (Moviefone Minute, Huffington Post, Cineboobs) will be leading a discussion on the hit AMC program show based on the series, followed by a discussion lead by Stephanie Wooten from Nerds in Babeland on the best-selling comic book series.  In between the discussions we will even provide a zombie make-up tutorial by Jackie Bagwell, an owner & organizer of Ashtoberfest (a week-long festival dedicated to all-things zombie).

All attendees will get 20% off all purchases at Meltdown, Inc during the duration of the event. Can’t be there in person because you don’t live in Los Angeles? Show up to the online chat and receive a discount code good for 20% any online order placed through Meltdown Comics.

What: Comic Book-of-the-Month club.

When: Thursday, January 20, 2011 7PM PST.

Entry fee: $6.00 You’ll also have the opportunity to enter a raffle in order to win a copy of a Walking Dead graphic novel.

Where: http://bit.ly/meltmap

RAINCHECK: TWD BOOK ONE is currently out of stock from their distributor. Get 20% off if pre-purchase during the event.

Check www.nerdsinbabeland.com for live streaming online with an online chat component for those who cannot join us in person.

Produced by: Nerds in Babeland (with the help of Girls Read Comics Too & All Things Fangirl)

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The Walking Dead: A Look Back, Season 1

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I was going to write about the last episode but I lost track of time with the holidays and I moved and whatever else occupied my time in the last couple weeks.  Either way I figured, why spoil the ending?  If you want to see it you have full reviews from every other episode from me and if you have gone 5 eps deep then watching the finale will be well worth it.  I did really enjoy this arch but of course like any new show there is always a testing ground.  I still have not read the graphic novels but plan to, to get more in depth with the series for when it returns for its second season.  Yes, it was picked up and why shouldn’t it?  I really enjoyed what they did with this season and I am happy to call myself a fan.

From what I have read the second season will be twice as long as the first and, sorry to say, but we have no set date as to when it will air.  I feel like we may have gotten a taste of what this show has to offer and if you ask me most of us will be out for flesh if it doesn’t have a date set in the near future.  It is always terrible when you have a show you are falling for and have no idea when you will get more.  There are a few snags that could cause the new season not to air until October of 2011 though.  Frank Darabont, the executive producer/director, has let go of his entire writing staff and there are talks of not bringing on another one.  Instead he is commissioning out freelancers to write the episodes.  Also, AMC is the new hot place to be if you are an awesome tv series that has style and substance.  They already have two hit shows coming back in 2011, Mad Men and Breaking Bad, and they will be airing a new series called, The Killing, sometime in the new year.  That is quite a full plate for a network that used to show nothing but classic movies.

This show is looking like it will have quite an impact.  The first episode was released at the perfect time, at the end of the spooky Halloween season, and I really believe that gave this show a leg up to get the buzz out there.  I can only speculate what the next season will look like with all the freelancing and amazingness that will bring.  From what I have reviewed and what I was excited about from this show I was totally blown away.  From the beginning to the end you really see the relationships opening up and even the violence, which was something I knew AMC could handle, has been tasteful and gruesome at the same time.  The entire cast has been a great choice so far.

There is a soap opera kind of feel to it with some of the characters, but I think that makes for good drama.  As the show started, and since I am a proclaimed nerd, I had no problem believing there were crazy zombies running around out in the world.  The characters react exactly how I would expect them to and there are some tough decisions shown that really make you step back and contemplate how you would handle it.  Let’s be honest here, no real situation is ever so cut and dry.

So let’s get into the meat of it all.  When the series starts you are kind of a time before when you get to meet Rick Grimes, a cop, and his partner, Shane.  When Rick is put into a coma and wakes up mysteriously alone in the hospital the reality of a world alone sets into place.  The story leads us to Rick searching and eventually finding his family, which include his son Carl and wife Lori.  Lori was under the impression he was dead and so has sought comfort in Shane.  As time goes on you realize that Shane is not happy to be left at the wayside when Rick returns, but this is all under Rick’s nose and he has no idea the turmoil both of them are going through now that he has returned.

Not only are you dealing with betrayal on some level but in other stories you are seeing the decisions of deciding on death as a viable option to living in this hell.  What is there really to live for in a world like this?  You see everyone around you die eventually and so why wouldn’t it be a good option?  Well, that is unless you have someone to live for.  These people are all they have and at this point if they don’t have each other there is no reason to go on.  Not all of them have the strength to be optimistic like Rick and push on thinking they can save the world.  This innate American idea that we are bigger and meant for more definitely resides in a guy like Rick, a leader.

Then you see the struggle that comes over Andrea when she does realize she is that person for someone, Dale.  He had seen his entire family die and yet kept going.  He let Andrea and her sister, Amy, into his heart and gave that place to them.  Those relationships become stronger as time progresses.  Bonds formed through great tragedy are stronger because you can really see someone for who they are.  Sometimes though that isn’t the person you thought you would see.  A really great example of that comes out in Carol’s husband, Ed.  Now it is possible that he could have been this way before the world ended but her transformation is what really struck me.

Carol seems like a simple housewife who does what she is told.   Ed is her overbearing abusive husband.  They make a good couple until the sisters, who are definitely more outspoken and liberated, interfere to make Carol feel ok about laughing and having fun despite this dark time.  You may think that she may not change because she runs to the side of him even after he beats her, but when he turns and has to be taken down she is the one to do it.  The escape!  Not only an escape and a victory but one she can feel good about and not snap to obtain.  Slight victories like this are well deserved by these travelers and when they get them you must believe they will take them.

The many triumphs and disasters that these people go through are shown on their faces and their reactions and actions throughout every situation.  You really feel what they are going through.  An amazing moment is when the group is in the city together and they have to escape somehow.  An option is to walk among them but how is that possible?  Well, take a clue from Shaun of the Dead, act like them, and of course smell like them.  The hacking of an already dead body is a head turner but touching at the same time.  Rick memorializes the moment and makes them remember that life in this afterlife is all about survival.

Some amazing revelations have been made through all of this as well.  We are finally clued into how long this has all been going on in the end of this season.  They meet a scientist in the CDC named Dr. Jenner.  Now, in my life previous to becoming obsessed with zombies I had a phobia.  After seeing 28 Days Later and saw how fast they could be and the fact that maybe this could happen something came over me.  I didn’t like that thought and eventually had to overexpose myself to the whole thing so that now, maybe it is still kind of a phobia, but at least I know what I can and am ready to beat the hell out of some stumbling brain eaters.  In this series we learn a little more about what is happening physiologically.  It is a spark in the brain that goes out.  Where there were so many neurons and electrical impulses lighting up before there is only one area that seems to be relit and it is the basic most primal area.  No function but survival is left.

The first season comes to DVD/BluRay March 8th, buy it, rent it, netflix it and help this series spread a widely and quickly as the disease they portray.  Remember to also like them on their facebook page and follow them @WalkingDead_AMC on twitter.

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The Walking Dead Ep.5

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Episode 5 review… **spoilers**

In the last episode I talked all about a bubble these people have built for themselves trying to hold onto some semblance of their former lives and this episode opens with most of them coming to terms that some more then others are settling better in a world of death and terror.  This episode is all about family and doing what is best for them.  Every family is needing something different and even though sometimes it is not pretty you have to respect the wishes of those who feel they are doing the right thing.  Not only that but you have to have faith.  That is something that is not very plentiful in this time.  When you have a hunch that things are going to go a certain way and you know you have to follow it you are riding on faith.  We see time and time again in this episode that people are being tested to believe that there are solutions in this world.  They are not helpless if they try to move toward what they feel will be best.  It is a tough road to follow when you have no believers but I do see that in a time of desperation when there are no solutions that following someone is salvation.  You may be broken and have no options but when someone is so adamant about what the next step is and you can’t even see the light at the end of the tunnel it is just easier to follow.

Andrea refuses to let her sister go and Rick is trying to reach out to Morgan, who met before he ever ventured out to Atlanta. Atlanta belonged to the dead now and hopefully the radio frequency would reach his former friends so they could not fall into the trap and be overtaken by what would lie ahead of them.

Once we get into the meat of the episode we open with them pulling the dead to burn the geeks and bury their own that died in the attack.  Almost immediately we learn that Jim has been bitten.  It is only a matter of time before he is stricken with fever and then turns to a walker.  Rick, being the optimist, thinks they could find the CDC, Center for Disease Control, to see if they found a cure and Shane believes they should go to Fort Benning where they may have some protection if the army is still together.  Daryl, being the hothead that he is, brings up one big thing that they don’t tolerate any walkers in their camp but, as Rick stops him, they don’t kill the living and Jim has only been bitten thus far.  They take him away where he gets his fever and begins to deteriorate.

Dale tries to help Andrea with her loss by admitting they were the first people they ever cared for since his wife passed from cancer years before.  With that I think Andrea finally lets go.  She has been sitting with her sister all night and finally up until she turns.  You would think this be a weird thing but   Everyone is dealing with guilt on this day and so we turn to Carol.  We actually see the first hit when she gets Ed in the head and as she swings over and over again we begin to see maybe this is her salvation.  She was for so many years a slave to him and beaten by him to not be her own person.  While she may be upset for her loss I also feel she may be able to finally live free without him.  You can hear it in her groans as she makes sure the job is done right.  How much relief she must feel and without guilt at this point.  A fantasy any beaten wife sees in her mind is to kill her husband and since she didn’t do it and the situation is what it is then she can move on without guilt and still get to in a way kill him herself.  I think this is a huge step forward for Carol because you can see she is a strong woman who is held down.

While they are burying their dead you see how upset they all are but this is a form of letting go for most of them.  They have to bury their dead to say goodbye and have means to an end.  They may not have wanted them to go and it is terrible but to be honest those are now in a better place then the people in the camp.  There are tears shed but mostly for a former relationship and life I am sure they are all realizing may never exist again.

Shane is upset with Rick for leaving and this makes Lori question him as well.  While everyone else has given up Rick is still new to this life and would like to believe that they can find a cure and get relief and not just keep surviving.  Thinking outside of the box can end this but what Rick doesn’t know is that these people have been living this.  They have been struck down time and time again.  To talk of things that may not exist and cause them more danger only seems like pipedreams and not a solution to all their problems.  This does become a struggle between Shane and Rick as more time goes on.  Rick believes he must lead them to the CDC while Shane things it would be stupid to lead them further down the rabbit hole.

The boys go into the woods and are talking about what is best for the camp even though Rick is constantly thinking about what is best for his family.  He semi-insults Shane when he makes the comment about him thinking of what to do differently if he had a family.  Of course Rick doesn’t realize that Shane had replaced him in his absence in more ways then one.   In Shane’s mind he did have a family and the return of Rick has made that go away.  Not only is it a power struggle to be a leader but to Shane, Rick signifies the loss of his family.  It really isn’t Rick’s fault either and unfortunately no one has told him.  At one point Shane has a clear shot to take Rick down and he seriously thinks about it because he is being challenged.  You see the madness in Shane’s eye and no matter how much he wants to play it off Dale is wise enough to see that this power struggle may come to a battle to the death.  Once they come back to camp he decides that he has to back Rick because the most important thing is that the camp stays together.  Even though he thinks the plan will fail he has to stand by him mostly I feel because of his guilt he feels for betraying Rick.

Now we come to a crossroads and there is a family to splits off.  They are all traveling in cars together in a caravan.  It seems like it can be hopeful as they move forward until the RV breaks down because of the hose that was told would never hold.  Not only that but Jim is getting to a breaking point and his color is changing and is wishing for death.  He wants to be with his family.  Dale seems to be the most sensible one at this point in time and even though we are constantly seeing a struggle between Shane and Rick, Lori breaks it down with one simple statement when they are contemplating leaving Jim behind to die.  She says that it isn’t either of their calls.  In a world riddled by death and destruction if you wish for death who is to deny it for you.  To be honest, it is admirable that he sacrifices himself and not try to hold on for himself or them because ultimately it will only end up hurting the group in the end.  It becomes a sad day to loose some to another path and also to let Jim go.  They all have to learn to let go one way or another as time goes on though.

Day 194, 63 days since the disease went global.  We finally have time frame for how long the world has been like this.  This is a broken up transmission we are seeing a man who is living underground who is loosing a sense of what is going on.  We see him in a bio-hazard  suit inspecting what looks like flesh and attempting to come up with a cure?  This is the CDC but it is one guy.  He has isolated the virus and then something goes wrong.  Once he is clear of the room the room is fully decontaminated, which means the samples were burned and gone.  The only samples he had that were being used to test.  One man solely looking for the cure of the world.  This is a huge loss on his part and makes the statement that he will blow his brains out the following day but has decided to get wasted that night.  A valid choice since, well what else are you going to do?  That is until you realize there are living breathing real people approaching your facility.

DEAD PEOPLE EVERYWHERE.  That terrible sound of flies everywhere.  You can see that the place must smell retched by the fact that none of them can stop covering their mouths.   This is the front of the CDC.  They are sitting ducks surrounded by the dead and slowly closing in walkers.  Rick pleas with a camera hoping to get somewhere and when none of them believe him and they try to pull him away all of a sudden a light shows the way to a new beginning.

Stay Tuned for Ep.6…

Jess

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The Walking Dead Ep.4

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Episode 4 review.. **spoilers**

This series has been shaping up to being amazing and it is only the 4th episode and you are feeling for these characters.  Not only feeling for them but understanding their struggles.  You really start to come to terms with how mentally all of them are having to cope with what is around them.  Each one of the members of the camp have been building a bubble to keep the insanity out and the stability they once had intact.  The problem with this is that the game has changed.  No matter what they try to do to keep the kids believing that those walkers are far gone while they are up in the mountains the reality is that one day that might not be the case.  We already saw that happening in the last episode when they found a walker chomping on a deer Daryl killed.  Not only are they trying to keep out the dead but also their own craziness.  The world has ended and yet there are still little things each of them will do to try and maintain.  In this episode you start to see that whatever those little things are it will not save them in the end and what they really should be maintaining is a good sense of action.  Putting your guard down for even a second is grounds to accepting death.  It is not an easy life and not only any of them have chosen but it is what they have to accept.

The opening is with the sisters reminiscing about their previous life.  They start by talking about their parents and how they were both taught by their father to fish.  We learn they are 12 years apart but now all they have is each other and they are both glad to be what they have.  We move to our lookout, like a Meercat sitting atop a rock keeping an eye for eagles and other predatory birds, instead they are watching to make sure their isn’t a predatory on foot.  It leaves off with one of them digging holes in the distance, but for what?

So once we get into the meat of the episode we are back on the roof where we left off.  Daryl is upset but saves his brother’s hand for memory and they get to tracking the blood droplets left behind.  It leads back into the building and down a stairwell that is super scary.  We find out that Merle may be alive even with the blood loss because he had seared the end of his cut off arm to keep from dieing from blood loss.  We have no idea where he has gone and there is a struggle between Daryl and Rick to leave the building and search for Merle.  You begin to see that emotion cannot be your source of motivation in a world like this.  Rick is the sense of reason and thinks with logic and not his heart.  Glenn proposes a strategic plan to gather the guns and his alone in this.  He is smart and fast and we only learn once Daryl asks that he used to be a pizza delivery boy.

While Glenn is running to grab their prize Daryl actually finds another living, breathing human.  What?!  Not only do they have to worry about geeks but now they were almost mugged and Glenn was kidnapped?  Not really anything these guys were expecting.  The new boy shows them where their group hideout is a hopefully get to meet their leader, Guillermo.  This is a tense situation.  There is really a gang in this point in the game but then again it makes sense.  While everyone has alliances and before the world has fallen apart a gang would be as good as family.  Now they are stuck to make a trade.  They thought it would be simple, the new boy for Glenn, but instead he is realizing that maybe G is not thinking with compassion or fairness.  Rick decides that he is not going to get bullied around by these men and is rightfully rewarded in the end.  By chance an older woman comes out and the gang we learn are really guards for an old folks home hidden in the back.  Maybe they have misjudged G and his group.  Instead of bulling around they actually were nurses and special care providers turned thugs after the fall of the world.

The world hasn’t changed but it is shown now for what it is.  It is a dream that these older people will ever leave the city and they all look to G as their leader when no one else would stand up and fight for them.  This is a noble situation and as a sign of humanity Rick gives them almost half their weapons and ammo.

Who thought digging holes could be therapeutic.  He is on a mission and even his partner doesn’t understand for what but in times like these any little thing that can keep you occupied and not from getting overwhelmed then you just can’t fault them for that.  The entire camp comes out to confront Jim.  This impromptu intervention is all for the good of the camp.  Their reasoning is because his madness is infectious.  The kids in the camp and the adults are uneasy and want to maintain a level existence.  This is a powerful scene because you really can feel the desperation they are all experiencing.  You are helpless and no matter how much you want to deny or pretend because they have built a bubble for themselves, inevitably the swarms will overrun and they are outnumbered.  Jim is taken down and we learn of his guilt.  He is alive only because the walkers were too busy eating his family and didn’t notice him getting away.  That is quite a burden to have on your shoulders in a world that seems to have very few victories left.

The two sisters come back victorious with two long lines of fish to bring back for the camp to chow down on.  A victory is hard to attain in these days and the bubble these people have built for themselves is a safety not only to keep alive but to keep sane.  Once Jim has come to his senses and the camp’s morale has been restored they all sit together and eat.  A rare family moment.  They are happy and learning about each other.  Dale’s sense of time and his watch is all about a sense of hope for the future.  He talks about the watch as a sense of forgetting time and not trying to conquer it but it kind of goes over many of their heads.  It is a paraphrasing of William Faulkner short story, “The Bear.”

The climax comes when the camp is overtaken by walkers.  All of a sudden the bubble is burst and guns shots ring free through the mountains.  One by one people are bitten and the tragedy they all faced when the initial outbreak took over is being relived.  Maybe Jim had a premonition of the future.  This is a scary thought but the madness they all wanted to keep the kids and themselves from feeling was actually what is keeping them all alive.  They cannot forget that they are living in a world of terror.  No matter how ‘safe’ it may seem once they let their guard down it will only pop up later to come and bit them, literally.

Of all that is lost in this night, Amy dieing in her sister’s arms the night before her birthday is the epitome of what they are trying to bring across.  The opening sequence of the two of them spending time together was a foreshadowing of what will happen now.  They only have each other and that is still only fleeting because in the end they will be outnumbered and some will die at the hands of the dead.

Stay tuned for Episode 5…

Jess

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The Walking Dead Ep.3

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Episode 3 review.. **spoilers**

This is all about family and the dynamics we see between them all living with each other and dealing with what they would not normally stand for in other circumstances.  We start to see much more of people’s personalities dealing with sexism and betrayal and also what little bit of integrity some of them may have.  At this point most of them are not looking out for one another but looking out for themselves.  A few have taken charge to make sure that the good of the group is considered in every decision no matter how big or small.  As some will decide to pursue different paths, as long as the good of the group is intact then they have the support of everyone.  We start to learn a little more about the “walkers” and are introduced into a new term, geeks.  As the story starts to develop the characters we are beginning to understand how difficult it really is to live together.  Even though they may not get along and there is no one really stopping you from leaving someone behind or kicking the shit out of them not one of these people would wish death on the other regardless of how terrible they are to one another.  It is a weird line that is drawn and may eventually have to be crossed as  time goes on.

Where we open the episode you see Merle cuffed to the roof and is totally mad.  He is mumbling and then like he was in a dream snaps out of it and violently is trying to escape his prison.  When he takes a second look there are geeks at the door trying to get at him.  He sees a saw that he can use to cut the cuffs?

Then we start to get into the meat of the episode.  Rick and the rest of them return from the city and Rick is reunited not only with his family but his old partner, Shane.  He is overrun with joy and doesn’t even notice the looks between Lori and Shane.  She is riddled with guilt and you can tell confused.  She does still love him and you can clearly see that when they are laying in bed together.  It is almost like a re-consummation of their marriage that night.  She gives him his ring back and they do it, but what really gets me is that he is so overrun with joy that he doesn’t even pick up the subtle instances of her guilt across  her face.  Not only did she leave him but she has been bedding his partner this entire time.  I am torn between how I feel about her because could you really blame her?  If you lost your husband/wife and were put in a situation that they have, would you really stay faithful?  If you weren’t would you tell the other person when they finally found you?  Her entire situation is very delicate and I am just not sure at this point how I feel about it honestly.  Later in the episode she finally addresses her situation with Shane.  We find out that he told her that Rick had died and therefore is now her source of blame for everything.  Now we get a better understanding about what has led to her actions now.  I start to feel a little more sympathy for them all but still think that Rick should know about what has happened in his absence.  He can’t really be upset because this is a time of crisis.  He also seems like one of the most levelheaded guys so far.
The group does end up finding a walker just outside the camp eating a dead deer and all in turn the men who ran to the rescue beat it down until one finally chops its head off.  You can see this is a stress reliever but now there is new element to scare them.  They chose a high space up in the mountains to get away from where populated areas would have these creatures thriving.  Now they found one so close to home, does that mean the cities are running dry?  They are having to travel further and further for food.  We also get a little lesson about what it takes to kill these walkers.  Even though you can chop their heads off is the brain is still intact then they will just be an alive head.

The sexism comes along when Ed is confronted by one of the ladies down by the quarry.  They are down there doing the laundry and complaining to each other about what they miss in their former lives.  Once they are laughing and actually beginning to enjoy the company a little better Ed, who is Carol’s husband, comes along to comment on their work ethic.  He disgraces them all when he openly hits Carol in the face.  Shane is there to save the day but also take some of that aggression he has pent up from his talk with Lori.  Just like a beat up housewife, Carol runs to his rescue after he is beaten down a bleeding.  Instead of the women standing for their own a man has to come along and take that from them.  Shane is a leader in this camp and I do believe he has tarnished his reputation just a bit.  The ladies at first are comforting Carol and then back off completely to kind of openly shun Shane for his rather savage display of leadership.

The episode climaxes with Shane beating Ed and then the group who has gone back to Atlanta to rescue Merle.  They finally reach the roof to find a big surprise that sends his brother into a screaming fit.  There is a reason they left us hanging in the beginning of the episode to build up to this exact moment when they realize Merle is no longer there and all they find is his sawed off hand.

Stay tuned for Episode 4 and 5 to come soon…

Jess

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The Walking Dead Ep.2

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Episode 2 review (there are spoilers)

After the premiere you can only expect this show to take off running.  It was a build up to introducing such a crazy scary world that these people are living in.  Rick is in Atlanta surrounded by zombies but we open at the camp of survivors.  This episode is really setting up the camp people and their relationships with each other.  You have to think these people have spent how many days with each other already.  They are starting to get to know one another and ultimately getting involved.  If it was the end of the world who would you want to be stuck with?  Strangers have no reason to be mean or hide who they are with each other anymore.  Not only that but lust becomes a thing of necessity.  I can only imagine being so overrun with survival and pushing your needs aside to the point that it becomes inevitable to act on desires that you may have pushed away in a civilized world.  Your primal brain begins to overtake and civility can deteriorate over time.

The normal rules don’t apply anymore.  How can you survive together in a world that has new rules?  Primal rules.  Leaders will be leaders and the rest will follow.  Rick is a natural leader and he pushes to the front and takes the reigns.  His former partner, Shane, is another leader type.  Level headed enough to see that emotions can get you killed.  Others will fall back into their natural states of being.  Lori, Rick’s wife, has already found a replacement and a new father figure for her son.  And honestly why shouldn’t she?  There are conflicts within the smaller group in the city that don’t seem to be more then their former selves not coming to terms with the new reality they all face.  They are holding onto the past and instead need to adapt to a new way of thinking.  At this point everyone is on a level playing field and if you can’t bring something to the table you may be left behind.

You not only learn this but you are also learning more about what this ‘walkers’ are capable of.  It is interesting to see that they are even using tools to get what they want.  The glass in the front of the story is broken eventually by a walker with a rock in his hand.  They are attracted to sound and smell.  There is a great scene where Rick and Glenn walk through the crowded streets of walkers and covered in the guts and blood of one of the dead.  They have to hack up a dead guy and pull him apart to spread on themselves.  Rick pulls out his wallet.  He does this as a sense of memorial to the dead he has to hack up and uses it as a means to make it ok because without Wayne they could not live.  It is graphic and disgusting for the sounds you hear.  Once the two get onto the streets to find transportation the walkers don’t seem to notice as long as there are not any sudden movements.  It isn’t until an inconvenient rain causes more problems because their ‘death scent’ is washed away.

They get the cars and now it is time to escape.  Merle ends up getting left behind and as a last chance hope of humility the door is locked with a chain and a padlock.  At least if he is going to get left behind then he can stand a chance to live another day.  It is sad for the fact that you kind of root for him to be left behind and for dead, but he still is a victim of this savage lifestyle.  No one deserves to be left for dead and turn into one of these not dead.  There is nothing saying they should take him with them but you kind of feel for the guy.  When the key is shown to him and he knows his life is in the hands of the guy he beat up you see in his face you already knew he was going to get left behind.

You get left with a few mixed feelings at the end of this episode.  You feel upset for Merle and the fact that he was so upset and primal in his fear to be left behind.  Then you also feel triumph for the rest of them getting out alive.  There is a victory that comes in a red sports car.  You have to imagine that Glenn must be so ecstatic about not only winning something against the walkers but getting rid of some tension by driving off in a bleeping car out of the city.  Unstoppable and uncatchable.

Next time.. You get to enjoy when Rick gets reunited with his lost wife and son and that dynamic.

Stay tuned next time.. same bat time.. same bat channel

Jess

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