“The oddness of the hire — middlebrow frat-boy hero emcees Hollywood's glitziest night — was only heightened by MacFarlane's unpleasant demeanor,” The Atlantic writer Richard Lawson wrote of MacFarlane's performance.
“One longed for [MacFarlane] to drop the meta-jokes about the fear that he'd be an inappropriate host and get on with the job of actually hosting, which means keeping the train running, making your guests comfortable, and making the evening more about them than you,” he wrote. “Awash in self-indulgence, neither he nor his 3-hour-and-35-minute show ever seemed to hit a comfortable, confident stride.”
Even the more positive reviews rated his performance a mixed bag, with Huffington Post writer Michael Russnow writing that “when he played it straight, he was great – poised, handsome and charming. But on occasion he spewed classless material, which I'm sure he thought was very funny.”
However, despite the more off-color jokes that offended some viewers, there were some routines from MacFarlane that landed. Here are our five favorite moments from the Oscar host, in no particular order.
1. In detailing the plot of “Argo,” for which Ben Affleck famously lost out on a Best Director nomination (despite the movie eventually winning Best Picture), MacFarlane said, “The film is so top secret that the film's director is unknown to the Academy.” He added a moment later, “They know they screwed up.”
2. "Family Guy" viewers knew already that MacFarlane loves movie musicals, especially the 1965 film "The Sound of Music." He demonstrated that when "Music" actor Christopher Plummer, the winner last year for the Best Supporting Actor prize, was announced to present the Best Supporting Actress award. MacFarlane then acted out the climactic scene from "Music," when the von Trapp family is announced multiple times and fail to appear (they'd fled the auditorium to escape from the Nazis). MacFarlane even had someone appear in uniform to shout, "They're gone!" like a Nazi soldier does in the movie. (Plummer, of course, eventually appeared.)
3. One of MacFarlane's best jokes was also one of his earliest. Moments after appearing onstage, he quipped of the famously taciturn actor, "And the quest to make Tommy Lee Jones laugh begins now." He did indeed get laughter from Jones for that one.
4. MacFarlane's routine about acting out the Denzel Washington film "Flight," about an alcoholic and drug-addicted pilot who manages to fly a malfunctioning plane to safety, with sock puppets was indeed odd. But the moment where he simply showed the puppets being thrown around in a dryer was pretty funny.
5. One of the most pleasant and surprising moments of the broadcast came early on, when MacFarlane participated in two song-and-dance routines. For the first, he sang Frank Sinatra's "The Way You Look Tonight" as actors Channing Tatum and Charlize Theron did a beautiful dance routine. "Harry Potter" star Daniel Radcliffe and "Looper" actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt then joined MacFarlane for a skilled soft-shoe number as the trio sang "High Hopes," a song which became popular through Sinatra.
Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill are 'talking' with 'Star Wars' insiders about appearing in new movies, says Hamill
It wasn’t long after Disney announced its acquisition of Lucasfilm, and intention to produce more Star Wars movies beginning with Episode VII, that Jedi Master Luke Skywalker (that’s actor Mark Hamill, for all the non-SW fanatics reading this) was pressed for information, with regard to insider knowledge he possesses. At the time, the geek-favorite turned revered voice actor revealed that George Lucas had indeed told him ahead of time about plans for a new trilogy - though, apparently he left out that little detail about selling his mon$ter company to the Mouse House.
Since then, new rumors have been popping up around the clock, concerning which veterans of the series are coming back for Episode VII and beyond. ET Online was interviewing Hamill about his direct-to-DVD release, Sushi Girl, when he provided the following about him, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford playing older versions of Luke, Leia and Han Solo:
“They’re talking to us. George [Lucas] wanted to know whether we’d be interested. He did say that if we didn’t want to do it, they wouldn’t cast another actor in our parts – they would write us out. … I can tell you right away that we haven’t signed any contracts. We’re in the stage where they want us to go in and meet with Michael Arndt, who is the writer, and Kathleen Kennedy, who is going to run Lucasfilm. Both have had meetings set that were postponed — on their end, not mine. They’re more busy than I am.”
We recently broke down the scenario of Hamill, Fisher and Ford returning for an Episode VII that draws inspiration from the Star Wars Expanded Universe - in particular, the “Legacy of the Force” storyline that picks up 40 years following the events of A New Hope, allowing the new trilogy to pick in real-world time from a story perspective. Hamill expects the film to take a similar approach (ie. focus on the older characters’ offspring, like Han and Leia’s daughter Jaina) with Luke being a mentor to them like Obi-Wan Kenobi was to him. He playfully added:
“… When I found out [while making the original trilogy] that ultimate good news/bad news joke – the good news is there’s a real attractive, hot girl in the universe; the bad news is she’s your sister – I thought, ‘Well, I’m going to wind up like Sir Alec [Guinness]. I’m going to be a lonely old hermit living out in some kind of desert igloo with a couple of robots.’”
J.J. Abrams is directing Episode VII and expectations are he’ll construct the Star Wars universe using the same techniques from his Star Trek reboot and its sequel, Star Trek Into Darkness – namely, combining practical sets and props with CGI effects on the grand-scale shots and effects-heavy sequences, as opposed to the heavier reliance on digital imagery and tools in the prequel trilogy.
Hamill, for his money, is championing as much old-school technique as feasible:
“I hope they find the right balance of CGI with practical effects. I love props, I love models, miniatures, matte paintings — I’m sort of old school. I think if you go too far in the direction of CGI it winds up looking like just a giant a video game, and that’s unfortunate. … If they listen to me at all, it’ll be, ‘Lighten up and go retro with the way it looks.’”
Sandy Schaefer blogs at Screen Rant.
Only a few episodes after beloved younger sister Sybil died giving birth to her first child, main character Matthew Crawley died (presumably) in a car crash in the last few minutes of the episode, shortly after his wife Mary had given birth to their son.
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Many "Downton" fans were none too pleased with this latest death on the show and turned to social media to vent their frustrations and discuss other recent plot developments. Here are 10 of the best tweets about the finale and the third season as a whole.
--"Just saw the Xmas Special of Downton Abbey. If that is their idea of a Xmas Special, then the producers must be some sick, sick people." --@Amj_Singh
--"Wanted to cancel an appt. today, but don't think they will waive the fee based on my excuse 'I am traumatized over the Downton Abbey finale'" --@JenniferVanDahm
--"Ugh, just finished watching Downton Abbey, which must be British for If You're Happy You Must Die." --@la_florecita
--"Now I get it, Julien Fellowes is just setting us up for 'Downton Abbey: The New Class'" --@kristakitty
--"Thank you, Downton Abbey, for making me terrified of childbirth and of my husband driving. Ugh." --@jen_librarian86
--"Such a great, satisfying ending to Downton Abbey, I had to step out for the last couple minutes, but I'm sure it all ended well" --@pohlmike
--"And the lesson to be learned from tonight's Downton Abbey is: Don't drive happy." --@Steve_Edwards_
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Kardashian joined the show as a co-host with entertainment personality Mario Lopez partway through the second season of the show, in October 2012. Before Lopez and Kardashian took on hosting duties, Pussycat Dolls lead singer Nicole Scherzinger and UK TV presenter Steve Jones served in the positions. (Scherzinger later became a judge when former judge Cheryl Cole left and the show needed a replacement.)
The New York Post reported that Kardashian isn’t being asked back for season three, quoting an anonymous source.
“They are asking Mario [Lopez] to come back, but not Khloe,” a person named as an “insider” told the Post.
But a spokesperson for the reality competition told the Post that nothing was decided yet.
“The producers have not yet made the talent decisions for this year,” the representative said.
Kardashian first became well-known on the reality program “Keeping Up with the Kardashians,” which first aired in 2007 on the E! cable network. The show led to other spin-offs, including one that focused on Khloe Kardashian and her husband, Los Angeles Clippers player Lamar Odom, titled “Khloe & Lamar.” Kardashian has also worked as a fashion designer and has written a novel as well as a book about her life with her sisters Kim and Kourtney.
“The X Factor” is an American version of the British show of the same name, which, like its US counterpart, was created by former “American Idol” judge Simon Cowell. The show airs on Fox and follows aspiring singers, either as a one-person act or in a group, as they try to win a contract with Cowell’s record label. Unlike fellow popular singing competition “American Idol,” judges take on contestants for mentoring, offering them advice about singing and performance style.
“Factor” has already experienced some judging and hosting turnover, with judges and hosts being replaced for the show’s second season. Original season one host Paula Abdul left “Factor” after one season, while judge Cheryl Cole only lasted two audition rounds in the first season before she left and was replaced by Scherzinger. Singers Britney Spears and Demi Lovato came on as judges for season two, with L.A. Reid and Cowell remaining from the first season. Spears and Reid have already stated they won’t be coming back to the show for its third season.
'Beautiful Creatures' and other young adult adaptations will fill 'Twilight' void – for better or for worse
With the release of “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2” (did you forget how long that title was?) last November, the Twilight movie series, adapted from the books by Stephenie Meyer, officially came to a close.
We assume, that is. Brooding vampires could be coming back to a cinema near you if Meyer writes more stories or a movie-only narrative is cooked up.
But movie executives noticed the overwhelmingly successful box office grosses reaped by the story of ordinary girl Bella Swan and the melancholy vampire she loves, and those craving a young adult series fix over the next year won’t be disappointed. For better or for worse, every movie adaptation based on a young adult novel with similar themes will be compared to “Twilight” – whether they’ll be able to come out from that shadow remains to be seen.
One out now, the movie “Beautiful Creatures,” adapted from the 2009 book by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, follows a boy, Ethan, who falls in love with a teenage girl named Lena who belongs to a family of witches. Lena is approaching her sixteenth birthday, on which she will be “claimed” by either the forces of good or evil. The book is the first in a series.
“Creatures” director LaGravanese told Newsday that the two stars of the film initially passed on the movie because they didn’t want to invite “Twilight” comparisons, an apprehension he also shared.
“My own hesitation about doing this was fear of getting lumped into this sort of 'Twilight' world,” LaGravanese said.
Actor Alden Ehrenreich, who plays Ethan, said he was uninterested at first by the pitch he got (which he said was “Twilight meets Romeo and Juliet”), but he was immediately won over when he read the script.
“Whenever you're pitched something that sounds like it's just a rehash of other things that were successful, it's not very exciting,” he said. “Because you assume that means it's not somebody's personal vision, just a meld of certain tropes and conventions… within three pages I knew I wanted to do the film, because this character that I got to play I just identified with so much.”
The film was released yesterday but has suffered in reviews, currently holding a score of 53 on the review aggregator website Metacritic. Monitor critic Peter Rainer gave the movie a C+, writing, "[LaGravanese] outsmarts himself by playing everything too straight. (Mustn’t mess up the franchise.) A dash – only a dash – of Tim Burton ghoulishness might have helped."
But some were won over. Writer Meriah Doty titled her article for Yahoo! Movies “Beautiful Creatures is not Twilight (and you might like it better).”
“The love story in "Creatures" is decidedly relaxed, cerebral, dare I say more authentic and charming than the heightened, over-the-top passion between Bella and Edward,” Doty wrote.
Others are coming down the pike as well. The movie “The Host,” which is scheduled for a March 29 release, is based on the novel of the same name by “Twilight” writer Stephenie Meyer. “Host” is the story of Earth after aliens known as Souls inhabit the planet and start living in the bodies of humans. A Soul named Wanderer takes over the body of a girl named Melanie, who is in love with a boy named Jared, and Wanderer and Melanie struggle to coexist.
Actress Saoirse Ronan will play Melanie and “Red Riding Hood” actor Max Irons will play Jared, with actor Jake Abel of “Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief” playing Ian, a man with whom Wanderer falls in love.
And the adaptation of the first book in the supernatural young adult series “The Mortal Instruments” by Cassandra Clare is scheduled for an August release. “Mortal” follows a girl named Clary who discovers she has powers to fight evil demons. She is forced to try to reconcile her feelings for a boy who also battles evil creatures with the love her childhood best friend feels for her.
Star Wars fans had a lot of questions when it was first announced that Disney was set to purchase Lucasfilm – with the intention of producing an entirely new trilogy in a Galaxy Far, Far Away. However, one of the biggest questions surrounding the future of Star Wars is where the story would go in Episodes 7-9. Would the new films continue the narrative established in the original six installments and bring back fan-favorite actors (now 30 years older) to reprise their characters or would Lucasfilm clean the slate and center the trilogy around entirely new faces?
Now, we’re getting unofficial word that Harrison Ford has signed-on to reprise his role as Han Solo in Star Wars: Episode 7 – lending credence to hopes that the film will directly continue storylines from the prior trilogy – while introducing new characters too. Of course, if the rumor turns out to be true, it would likely mean that other high-profile casting announcements are also in the pipeline.
Now that director J.J. Abrams is officially helming Episode 7, Star Wars-related rumors and reports are at an all-time high. Joining the chorus of unconfirmed reports on the production, Latino Review took to the Fox News Latino airwaves and announced that, according to their sources, Harrison Ford has officially signed-on for a “significant” appearance as Han Solo in Episode 7. Not entirely a big surprise, given that Ford has previously stated he’d be open to returning – if the story would allow for it. When pressed for further information, Latino Review admitted that there scoop was limited to the signing of Han Solo and anything beyond the casting itself would purely be speculation at this point. Latino Review has a relatively successful record with their scoops – so there’s more than enough reason to believe that there’s at least some truth to the report.
So what role will Han Solo play in Michael Arndt’s upcoming Star Wars: Episode 7 story? Assuming that use of the word “significant” was deliberate (and accurate), it’s safe to say that Harrison Ford won’t just appear in a flashback or be viewable shooting a Rodian (first) in the background of a future cantina scene. Where Lucasfilm intends to take the character down the line (for Episodes 8 and 9) is still up in the air but, for Episode 7, it’s pretty safe to say that Ford will have a central role – especially if the film deals in some way with Han Solo and Princess Leia’s children (Jaina, Jacen, and Anakin Solo) as many have speculated.
A lot of fan-favorite Star Wars Extended Universe fiction centers around the Solo children and, even if Episode 7 doesn’t directly follow any one specific storyline (i.e. possible female protagonist – aka Jaina), they could serve as a smart jumping off point for a new trilogy – not to mention provide an excuse for the return of other familiar faces: their mother, Leia (Carrie Fisher), Jedi Master Uncle Luke (Mark Hamill), and Wookie Uncle Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew).
Early reports of the Disney purchase indicated George Lucas sat down with Fisher and Hamill ahead of the final acquisition – mentioning the possibility of Episode 7, 8, and 9. This led many fans and industry insiders to speculate that he might have been putting out feelers to see if they’d be open to returning. As a result, the Han Solo rumor (and possible story implications) makes all the more sense.
Of course, this isn’t the only Han Solo-related report that we’ve heard in the last few weeks. Disney has confirmed that in addition to the core trilogy event films, we’ll also be seeing regular standalone movies set in the Star Wars universe – with spin-offs possibly involving Boba Fett, Yoda, and a Seven Samurai-like Jedi movie from Zack Snyder. A Han Solo standalone film (a prequel) was also mentioned and has quickly become the most talked about option among fans who are eager to see the smuggler’s early days – or at the very least, see him make the Kessel Run in under 12 parsecs.
Harrison Ford in Star Wars: Episode 7 is a strong probability but Lucasfilm has yet to officially announce the casting. So, as with all unconfirmed reports, take this news with grain of salt for now.
Ben Kendrick blogs at Screen Rant.
(Watch out – spoilers follow...)
“Glee” fans were shocked on Valentine’s Day by an episode in which a planned wedding between high school teachers Will and Emma didn’t happen, but many other twists occurred.
The Feb. 14 episode was supposed to feature the wedding between glee club teacher Will and guidance counselor Emma, but Emma ended up fleeing the wedding beforehand. Meanwhile, former glee club member Rachel, who is now attending the fictional New York Academy of the Arts on the show, found out that she may be pregnant.
Emma was panicking before the wedding after having been kissed by Finn, her former student, who was filling in as glee teacher while her fiancé, Will, was away. The guidance counselor ended up leaving before the wedding, but Will decided to hold the event’s reception anyway, which was attended by the former and current members of the glee club.
Cast members had teased that there would be several huge plot developments in the episode.
Actress Lea Michele, who plays Rachel, tweeted to fans to expect something big to happen.
“So excited for #Glee tomorrow,” the actress tweeted on Feb. 13. “The episode is gonna blow your mind! HUGE shocker at the end!!!”
“Glee” is currently airing its fourth season on Fox, which featured many of the original glee club members leaving for work, college, and other pursuits after having graduated at the end of season three. While many shows based around high schools struggle with how to integrate graduation into the show, “Glee” has been praised for how it’s handled the transition, with equal show time being given to the remaining glee club members in high school and the members who left.
The last time alternative rock band My Bloody Valentine released an album, Michael Jordan was on his way towards leading the Chicago Bulls to the second of six NBA titles. A Bush occupied the Oval Office – George H.W. Bush – and gas cost just a little over a dollar per gallon.
Such a hiatus explains the joy My Bloody Valentine devotees felt when the band announced they were at work on a follow up to 1991’s "Loveless." It is why, on Valentine’s Day 2013, indie music fans have an entirely different kind of Valentine to cherish and love.
The band’s unforgettable 1991 album pioneered a hypnotic musical style called "shoegaze" for the doubled-over pose its practitioners assume when playing their instruments. "Loveless" evoked a “wall of sound," burying whispered lyrics under layers of heavy, rambunctious guitars.
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In "Loveless," distortion is not merely an effect applied with the click of a pedal. It is instead the center and the circumference of the album’s sonic landscape. Guitars are tools used to forge a sound so large it might as well occupy physical space, a tone dense enough to send forth some semblance of gravitational pull. When it was released in 1991, the album embodied a logical conclusion of rock and roll music.
Twenty-two years have passed. Michael Jordan is now nearly half a century old. Still, the sheer sonic force of "Loveless" remains unmatched.
That’s not to say nobody has tried. "Loveless" has had an enormous influence on a generation of musicians, including the Smashing Pumpkins, Nine Inch Nails, Radiohead, and just about any indie rock band to play music post-1991.
Even Kevin Shields, the band’s enigmatic frontman, has trembled at the prospect of following an album that often ranks towards the top of “greatest albums of all time” lists.
"I lost it,” he told The Guardian in 2004 on comparisons people have made between Shields and Brian Wilson, Syd Barrett, and other brilliant-musicians-cum-obsessive-recluses. “I lost what I had, and I thought, ‘You know what? I'm not going to put a crap record out.’"
Radio silence endured for a pair of decades, apart from Shields occasionally contributing to one project or another. Rumors of a follow-up to "Loveless" never quite seemed to disappear completely, and Shields dropped tantalizing hints throughout late 2012.
The patience paid dividends. On Groundhog Day 2013, a new My Bloody Valentine album finally became a reality.
It’s difficult to overstate just what that means to followers of this virtually mythical band.
“For those of us whose relationship to music and maybe even the act of hearing has been changed by 'Loveless,' it's hard to believe,” writes Mark Richardson in the influential indie music site Pitchfork. “I'd grown comfortable with the idea that there would never be another My Bloody Valentine album. Even as recently as two months ago, I figured it would never happen.”
But happen it did, and "m b v," the band’s third full-length album, is arresting. From the opening chords to its growling conclusion, it makes big noises, flush with seemingly impossible chord progressions and sounds you thought you’d never hear.
It most resembles the hazy dawdling of "Loveless," but makes use of the post-punk from My Bloody Valentine’s first full-length album, "Isn’t Anything." Bombastic drums undergird the track “who sees you.” A sulphurous guitar, distorted beyond recognition, shudders violently through “only tomorrow.” At points, it peaks, threatening to split the sound wide open.
The song “if i am” serves as a centerpiece, and is My Bloody Valentine at its finest, at once loud and quiet, harsh and soft. Dreamy “oohing” swirls on flirty guitar lines, over buried, pulsing drums. The serenade culminates in a melody that begins simple and sweet enough, and proceeds to collapse in on itself, tying a knot that requires innumerable listens to pick apart.
This is big music; "m b v" demands to be played at ill-advised volumes. It is not an easy album, and it is unlikely to spark a revolution on par with "Loveless." But it guarantees mesmerization and is singular in execution.
It might be it, this time – the end of My Bloody Valentine’s grossly important contribution to alternative sound. But, then again, that’s what they said about "Loveless." Between that album and the band’s latest opus, the apotheosis of rock music is contained somewhere within.
David Unger is a Monitor contributor.
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There is possibly nothing more famous about Hollywood romance than the happy ending – the moment where someone runs after someone else in the rain, or heedlessly runs through security at the airport, or says “Follow that cab” (that would be fun to say) and catches up to the other person just in time and delivers a declaration of love and everything is resolved.
So it’s to their credit that two of pop culture’s favorite romances in movies are two stories where the central couple doesn’t end up together at the end.
One, the 1942 movie “Casablanca,” is often called one of the best movies of all time and stars Humphrey Bogart as cynical club owner Rick Blaine and Ingrid Bergman as Ilsa Lund. Rick and Ilsa met in Paris, just as the Nazis arrived to take over, and hit it off immediately. Rick asked her to leave the city with him and she agrees, but when the time comes to meet at the train station, she’s nowhere to be found. Cut to WWII-era Casablanca, where Rick serves drinks to desperate refugees who are trying to get to America, and one night… well, you know how it goes. “Of all the gin joints in all the world, she had to walk into mine.” Ilsa arrives at Rick’s with her husband, Victor, but she's still very clearly in love with Rick. Will Rick, who doesn't "stick his neck out for nobody,” betray Victor and take Ilsa for himself?
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At the end, he almost fools you – until that famous plane is behind them and Rick convinces Ilsa to go with Victor so Victor will have the heart to carry on with his importance resistance work that might help topple the Nazis.
The other movie is also called one of the best of all time, though perhaps not ranked quite as high (it does have the distinction of coming out in 1939, often called the best year ever for movies). “Gone with the Wind,” based on Margaret Mitchell’s hugely popular novel, follows spoiled Southern belle Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh), who gets a rude awakening when the Civil War begins and she’s forced to fight tooth and nail for the survival of those she loves against the forces of war and, later, poverty. Rhett Butler (Clark Gable) is a sarcastic blockade runner who recognizes in Scarlett a similar lack of morals and falls in love with her almost as soon as he meets her.
For movie viewers, the love story between Scarlett and Rhett is almost throw-something-at-the-TV frustrating. Scarlett doesn’t love Rhett for a long time, but when she finally begins to, it’s just when he withdraws, believing that she’ll never fall in love with him. He makes an overture; she takes it for sarcasm. She tries to reach out; he thinks she’s pitying him.
It all culminates in the famous last scene, when Rhett says he’s done with her forever. Where will Scarlett go? What will she do? “Frankly, my dear…” Well, you know that one, too.
Scarlett’s determined at the end to get him back. Does she? Some hope so.
It may not be violins and endings in the pouring rain, but when two of Hollywood’s best love stories are ones where the two characters are going their separate ways by the end – and we still love them – you know their writers must have done something right.
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When The Walking Dead finished off the first half of season 3 with ‘Made to Suffer,’ it wasn’t the hasty infiltration and subsequent firefight between Rick’s crew and the people of Woodbury that breathed new life into series, it was the introduction of another group of survivors.
So far, season 3 has been about the core survivors meeting new people. Some of these encounters have gone south pretty quickly, e.g., Thomas and the other inmates not named Oscar or Axel (Lew Temple) wound up dead and now the citizens of Woodbury, spurred on by the Governor (David Morrissey), are cheering the Dixon brothers in gladiatorial combat. In terms of overall friendliness, these instances don’t rank too high, but there’s hope in the form of the seemingly capable and mostly affable Tyreese (Chad Coleman) and his dwindling crew – not to mention the ever-scowling face of Michonne (Danai Gurira). All in all, the infusion of new blood had The Walking Dead ready to take on the rest of season 3 with some real gusto.
But for all the life that was put back into the show during the midseason finale, ‘The Suicide King’ seems to come in and suck a lot of that life right back out. Sure, there’s a tense moment at the beginning of the episode that resolves the issue of Daryl (Norman Reedus) and his brother Merle (Michael Rooker) being trapped in Woodbury and potentially having to fight one another to the death, but the scene plays out almost too quickly. Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and his crew attack again, causing a stampede of formerly bloodthirsty Woodburians that, along with all the gunfire and smoke grenades, provides the perfect cover for Daryl and Merle to escape.
And while the action offers fans an opportunity for everyone to breathe a little easier knowing that Daryl isn’t next on the chopping block, it causes the action to shift into the series’ default setting of watching small clusters of survivors argue with one another. No sooner does Rick’s crew find their way back to Glenn (Steven Yeun), Michonne and the ever-lasting Hyundai, than the situation devolves into an argument highlighted by raised voices, guns and a sword. Naturally, nobody wants Merle in the group, but Daryl refuses to abandon his brother like he did before, and soon the Dixon brothers are off on their own adventure somewhere between Woodbury and the prison.
Meanwhile, the situation back at the prison begins to get tense as two of Tyreese’s team, Allen (Dan Thomas May) and Ben (Tyler Chase), propose the idea of overtaking Carl (Chandler Riggs) and Carol (Melissa McBride) and then using their weapons to take the prison for themselves. To their credit, Tyreese and Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) argue that that’s not the way they want this situation to play out, and instantly we know something useful about them as characters. Once Rick arrives at the prison, though, the news of Daryl’s absence hits hard, leaving the group feeling more vulnerable than before and forcing Hershel (Scott Wilson) to mention that if ever they needed some reinforcements, now’s the time.
It’s in keeping with Rick’s arc that his first instinct is to reject every new person’s offer of help, and to look at them as a potential threat, rather than a much-needed addition to his group – which, in terms of maintaining the character that’s been built is a plus. But after the way Tyreese and his group were introduced, and how it really helped make the series feel fresh again, it was something of a bummer to see the character interaction settle back into the stifling sameness of what’s come before. This scenario will undoubtedly play out with the two men working together, and when they do, it will probably be a very successful moment; it just feels as though the first meeting between Rick and Tyreese was a great opportunity to try something new that went back to the start, rather than pushing forward.
Instead, the writers chose to play up the fact that Rick is still cracking under the pressure of keeping these people alive and safe by having him see a vision of Lori – at least it seems like Lori. It’s a confusing moment for the survivors, and rightly so; there’s reason to suspect that an attack by the Governor and the riled-up citizens of Woodbury is on the horizon and the guy everyone has put their unquestioning faith in is suddenly yelling and waiving a revolver around. It’s easy to see this playing into Rick eventually having to put some trust in strangers, but in the moment, it just feelt too reminiscent of the phone call scene that was pulled off far more successfully.
Finally, back in Woodbury, Andrea (Laurie Holden) has to keep the citizens from being shot by sentries as some attempt to abandon the town, and then things get worse after the Governor shoots a bite victim after some walkers make it past the town’s barricades. She makes a quick speech that, despite it’s cloying hopefulness, seems to prevent anyone from trying to leave for the time being, and therefore prevents the need for further violence – against the citizens of Woodbury, anyway. This makes Andrea and the Dixon brothers the undecided factor when the conflict between the prison and Woodbury gets underway. And for Andrea, at least, it’s an interesting position that her character is very much in need of being in.
Although the midseason premiere lacked the energy and the sense of forward momentum that the finale had back in December, ‘The Suicide King’ still alluded to the power of the human vs. human conflict that has been a great success so far this season, and likely will be again in the weeks to come. There were times when the episode felt like it was taking two steps back, but with several episodes left, there’s still plenty of time to start moving forward again.
Kevin Yeoman blogs at Screen Rant.