Five minutes into “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance” (2011), it’s clear that this is a better movie than “Ghost Rider” (2007). A great car-and-motorcycle chase through the hills of Eastern Europe (where the film is shot) ends with Moreau (Idris Elba, doing a Marvel twofer that year with “Thor”) flying through the air over the side of a cliff, but delivering bullets to the enemy’s tires while falling to his apparent demise.
Inevitability doesn’t make for great TV. That’s what fans of “The Walking Dead” are finding out in this seventh season (which will resume Feb. 12). It began with a masterful (if utterly harrowing) episode: Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) viciously kills Glenn and Abraham. It was a carefully executed – no pun intended – episode that has informed every millisecond of Negan’s screen time since then, especially when he has his barb-wire-laced baseball bat in hand: We wonder if he will cut loose again.
In my past posts about “The Walking Dead,” I’ve analyzed how some communities stand as metaphors for forms of government – Woodbury as a fascist state, Terminus as a communist state, the Hospital as an autocratic state, and so forth. I may have jumped the gun, though, because now I think the show serves as an examination of how any modern civilized, organized society (as we know it) forms from the roots up. If modern civilization in 2016 can be boiled down to humanity’s ongoing struggle to find a balance between killing for the sake of security versus not killing because all life has value, “The Walking Dead” is a beautiful, stripped-down metaphor for this struggle.
Sunday’s episode of “The Walking Dead” featured cinematographically beautiful scenes of Morgan and his mentor, Eastman, practicing the martial art of aikido, along with powerfully acted moments of Morgan begging Eastman to kill him. But the most memorable part of the episode is Eastman’s monologues, which — taken together — tell the story of how he learned to value all life.
In Sunday’s episode of “The Walking Dead” (8 p.m. Central Sundays on AMC), Alexandria leader Deanna jokes to Rick “I guess the communists won.” She offers Rick and Michonne the jobs of constables, which they accept, and says she’s in the process of coming up with the ideal jobs for the rest of Rick’s group. Upcoming episodes will tell us whether the show is attempting to make a serious statement about communism or if Deanna was merely throwing out a one-liner. But before we move forward, we should ask if Alexandria is a true representation of communism.
Everyone is (rightly) reacting to the shocking end of Sunday’s mid-season finale of “The Walking Dead,” but the biggest moment in terms of reverberations for future stories might’ve happened before the opening credits. Bob No. 2 is running back to the hospital and doesn’t stop when Rick orders it from the police car’s loudspeaker. Rick rams Bob No. 2 with the car, then executes him in the street, following it up with an Eighties movie-style quip of “Shut up.” It’s a line that would make “Escape from L.A.’s” Snake Plissken proud — “Nobody draw until this hits the ground.” (He shoots everyone.) “Draw.”
“The Walking Dead” (8 p.m. Central Sundays on AMC) rarely gets mentioned when lists of “most libertarian TV shows” are compiled, but that might change when the series ends and we see the full picture. Season 5 in particular seems to be embarking on multi-episode vignettes about various forms of government that could arise in makeshift towns in a zombie apocalypse, and their relative merits or lack thereof.
Sunday’s episode of “Talking Dead,” which followed the fifth-season premiere of “The Walking Dead” (8 p.m. Central Sundays on AMC), asked viewers if they thought Rick’s gang was justified in mowing down everyone in Terminus. Giving me a spark of faith in humanity, 97 percent said yes.
I have a friend, Shaune, who’s a big horror movie fan, but he has found the current character stuff on “The Walking Dead” rather boring. This is understandable: Television has never been able to be as flat-out scary as movies. There’s something about a dark theater, big screen and big sound. Plus, weirdly, the fact that characters are more secondary (and disposable) in movies than on TV helps the scare factor. When watching an “X-Files” monster-of-the-week, for example, you don’t have to worry that Mulder or Scully will be killed off. When watching a horror movie, everyone’s expendable.
With Rick lying on a sofa without moving, Carl puking up his breakfast and bizarre dream sequences popping up (albeit from Michonne, not Carl), Sunday’s mid-fourth-season premiere of AMC’s “The Walking Dead” obviously called to mind the “Buffy” episode “The Body.” It’s a credit to the show’s unpredictability that I thought they might kill off the main character, and a credit to its structure that it didn’t seem too hoary when Rick turns out to be alive.