The Walking Dead: Blaze of Glory

After much applause, Rick and Carl finally return to the stage for their encore.

Well, holy crap, that was a real barnburner!

The Walking Dead ended it’s strong Season 2 homestretch run with a brilliant finale that not only set the farm storyline ablaze but also redefined the dynamic of the group of survivors as they head towards an ominous new setting in Season 3.

First, “Behind the Dying Fire” picks up with Rick and Carl returning to the house after their double-barreled take down of Shane in last week’s episode. But they soon realize they’re not alone as thousands of zombies now approach not far behind. (They are tipped off by the rumble from the zombies’ footsteps!) They quickly retreat to the barn and hatch a scheme to lure the zombies into a fire trap. At the same time, the rest of the gang (at the house) have taken to their vehicles to play zombie shoot-’em-up before eventually realizing their only option is fleeing the farm for good. The entire opening sequence is a splendid torrent of horrifying panic, desperate action, and nail-biting suspense, easily ranking as one of the best moments in the show’s brief history.

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Awake: The Other Side of the Pillow

“Of course I’m awake. I’m awake with my wife, I close my eyes, and I’m awake with my son.”

The above quote is spoken by Detective Mike Britten (Jason Isaacs) to one of his psychiatrists but is also a sly elevator pitch to the audience about what to expect when watching Awake. Sometimes the most interesting concepts are the ones that at their core are the easiest to explain. With Awake, NBC attempts to avoid the pitfalls of so many other high-concept series by avoiding the weight of a dense mystery that so frequently alienates new viewers and at the cost of quality storytelling and acting. Needless to say, they achieved that quite admirably.

Awake wisely plummets right into the reality (or realities) of the show, eschewing the stereotypical origin story. Britten, wife Hannah (Laura Allen) and son Rex (Dylan Minnette) are in a car accident. In one reality Hannah dies from the accident, in the other Rex has perished. The show picks up some time after this accident, with the survivors of each reality already past the initial grief of their loss and trying to move on with their lives. Except for Britten, who awakens each day to the different reality.

Jason Isaacs IS Awake

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The (Sleep) Walking Dead?

Why don't you tell me I'm boring to my face, punk?

Early in season 2 of The Walking Dead, the wandering band of survivors came across a farm that offered a dramatic change of scenery. After a harrowing journey from the outskirts of Atlanta then through the city and then out through a highway, the survivors seemingly found some respite from the constant torrent of zombies, though still struggled with their own internal conflicts, loss, a missing child, and a now tenuous dynamic with the farm’s occupants (starting with the accidental shooting of Carl).  That idyllic farm seemed to exist inside a bubble free from the zombie plague, replacing the urban dehumanized zones and frightful forests with sprawling plains and cozy pastoral quarters.

A lot of critics and fans have complained about the slow pacing that has followed thereafter, seemingly wishing the survivors were more immersed in the apocalyptic world off of the farm and on the run. This is despite the fact that various endeavors into town (and eventually on the farm) have brought them into confrontation with the very hordes of zombies they thought they were safe from.

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Comic Book Men: Podcast is Prologue

Some of the negative reviews circulating about Comic Book Men (which debuted tonight on AMC) have implied that the show does nothing to dispel the myth about comic book store geekdom. However, if you dig beneath the surface, you will find that they are both embodying its best virtues and satirizing its extreme flaws, while showcasing the very fact that “geekdom” has grown to such broad levels that there’s no longer a valid stereotype to exploit.

In its first episode, Comic Book Men provides very cursory background information for the Men in question, all under the employ of Kevin Smith, as it is quick to jump into the meat of the show. Walt runs Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash in Red Bank, NJ, Mike is his lieutenant, Ming is one of Smith’s web employees who crosses over, and Bryan is, well, that’s complicated. Bryan and Walt are longtime friends of Kevin’s and, as has been well documented, inspirations for his Randall and Brodie characters, respectively. The two, along with Brian Quinn, have some renown as the Tell ‘Em Steve-Dave podcast (a must-listen for those with ear buds and spare time). While Bry doesn’t work at the Stash, as you see in this episode, he’s certainly essential to wit of the show. [Read more…]

Primetime 8: Favorite Television Shows of 2011

In 2011, Television once again proved why it’s the definitive medium for long-form epic storytelling as premium cable channels continued their reign over both  network television AND film. A few new shows became huge critical darlings (and rightfully so) while some recent favorites continue to build on their initial success. And of all my lists for 2011, television was by far the hardest to whittle down to eight.

(Of note, I’m actually still getting caught up in the worlds of Breaking Bad and Sons of Anarchy and were not able to view their 2011 efforts live so don’t view their absences on this list as an indictment of their quality. I fully expect to be caught up on both by this time next year.)

1. Homeland

In a strong year for television, a debut series about terrorism on the home front was the most intelligent, compelling hour of drama. Bolstered by outstanding acting performances by Claire Danes, Damian Lewis and Mandy Patinkin, Homeland was possibly one of the best-reviewed series on television this year and was well worth the buzz. Oftentimes I would describe the show to non-viewers as “24, but not preposterous.” It was the best way to describe the suspenseful, twisting, terrorism-themed show while emphasizing that it’s a very concentrated, serious story. (Without all of 24’s layered insanity.) And where most television shows would’ve gone down the heroic path, Homeland turned heroism on its head and explored the gray area between good and bad to utmost perfection.

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