Jeffrey Kopp

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Jeffrey Kopp is the Community Editor of the Niner Times. He is a senior double majoring in Communication and Political Science. His interests include writing and keeping up with an excessive amount of television shows. He is also the go-to expert on all things “The Walking Dead."

TV REVIEW: ‘American Horror Story: Hotel’ – ‘Be Our Guest’

Spoiler Warning for this week’s SEASON FINALE of “American Horror Story: Hotel”

AMERICAN HORROR STORY -- Evan Peters as Mr. March. CR: Prashant Gupta/FX
AMERICAN HORROR STORY — Evan Peters as Mr. March. CR: Prashant Gupta/FX

Vampires, ghosts, serial-killers and demons are just some of the insane and disturbing residents of this season of “American Horror Story.” After several uneven episodes, the season finally began to pick up near the end. The finale had many things going for it; unfortunately the end result was more or less unsatisfying. Rather than providing closure to the main characters, only a few receive proper conclusions.

The quote above can be used as a brief synopsis for the entire season as death lingers around every corner of the hotel. Following the death of The Countess, Liz and Iris decide to take the Hotel Cortez over and turn it into a more high-class and welcoming establishment. Rooms are upgraded and Wi-Fi is finally offered to the guests, but there is one small problem. The ghosts are killing many of the guests, therefore giving the hotel a damaging public view. A meeting is called by Iris and Liz as a way to persuade the ghosts to stop murdering the guests. Sally shares the fact that she and Will Drake are the only two that are killing as everyone else is caught up in the luxuries of eternal life. Sally and Will argue that killing makes them feel more alive and has no real consequences. Iris and Liz counter their argument by referring to Will’s failing business and the possible effects that may be felt by the hotel; Will owns the hotel which may be sold. Mr. March appears and backs Liz and Iris to which Sally protests; Mr. March threatens to bring the addiction demon back upon Sally if she doesn’t obey his orders. The group meeting scenes between ghosts were a major highlight of this episode and help to showcase the everlasting effect that some characters have.

Fortunately, one of the characters that received necessary closure was Liz. Iris and Liz decide to help Will and Sally get over their killing addictions by providing distractions. Iris presents Sally with an iPhone to help connect her to the world, even though she cannot leave the hotel premises. A humorous montage shows Sally quickly becoming addicted to the world of social media while walking away from her old demons. She develops a worldwide fan base and finally begins to feel alive again. Sally’s new found love of social media seems like a clever metaphor from the writers to show society’s addiction to the Internet; social media makes ordinary people ghosts to the world. Meanwhile, Liz helps Will regain control of his dying fashion business empire. Will gives her control to make executive decisions within the company in order to boost public awareness and awe. By using mystique and exclusivity, Liz and Will are able to restart the dying brand and turn it into a worldwide phenomenon, therefore saving the hotel.

Iris senses that Liz is not fully content with the new overall feeling of joy and decides to invite someone to help out. Hardcore fans of the series will remember Billie Dean Howard (Sarah Paulson’s first role in the series) from season one, “Murder House.” Billie Dean is an incredibly gifted and respected psychic medium who is brought to the hotel in order to contact Liz’s deceased lover, Tristan Duffy. Billie Dean notes that she can hear the voices of countless spirits and finally manages to speak with Tristan, however, he does not wish to communicate with Liz. Instead, Donovan’s spirit reaches out to Iris and provides comforting words to her from a happier place. Liz shares that she is happy for Iris, but declares to Billie Dean, “Love kills a lot more than hate.”

Sometime later, Liz is present to see the birth of her granddaughter. However, the unpredictability of life presents itself to Liz in the form of prostate cancer. Rather than slowly succumbing to the disease, Liz decides to gather her ghost friends for one final murder. Each ghost is given a weapon to kill Liz with, but The Countess steps in at the last moment and declares that she wants to be present to “help (her) transition, one last time.” The Countess slits Liz’s throat, allowing for her to return moments later as a ghost. This scene was oddly touching and definitely highlights the acting talents of Denis O’Hare, who portrayed this season’s standout character, Liz. After she returns as a ghost, Liz is reunited with Tristan and the two embrace.

The final act of the episode is both confusing and lackluster. A time-jump to Devil’s Night in October 2022 reveals that Billie Dean has turned the Hotel Cortez into a major tourist destination for paranormal aficionados. The hotel has become famous as a hotbed of ghostly activities, namely the murderous “Ten Commandments Killer” John Lowe. The Lowe family (minus Scarlett, who is sent away to boarding school, because her family just does not care about her at all) move into the hotel, however John has been killed by the police. He did not, however, die on the hotel property, therefore he can only visit on Devil’s Night. Billie Dean begins taping her television show from John’s former room in the hopes that she will be able to interview him. John’s ghost arrives and shares his story, then invites her to Mr. March’s annual Devil’s Night feast where she meets history’s infamous serial killers. The killers gather and threaten Billie Dean (with the help of Ramona Royale, who is a vampire and can leave the hotel) to abstain from speaking about the ghosts of the Hotel Cortez anymore. Finally, John returns and reconnects with his family, including a grownup Scarlett. The episode ends with The Countess seducing a man in the bar by telling him, “You have a jawline for days.”

The episode started off exceptionally strong, but tapered off as the end drew near. Rather than providing closure for the many main characters, Billie Dean Howard received much of the final screen time. Being that “American Horror Story” is an anthology series, the season finale should fully wrap each storyline as the next season will not be a continuation of the previous. In terms of acting and dialogue, however, this episode should be commended. Overall, this season has been my least favorite so far. There were plenty of high points, but it always felt like some element was missing. What mysteries will Season Six hold? “American Horror Story” will return this October on FX.

TV REVIEW: ‘American Horror Story: Hotel’ – ‘Battle Royale’

Spoiler Warning for this week’s episode of “American Horror Story: Hotel”

AMERICAN HORROR STORY -- Denis O'Hare as Liz, Kathy Bates as Iris. CR: Ray Mickshaw/FX
AMERICAN HORROR STORY — Denis O’Hare as Liz, Kathy Bates as Iris. CR: Ray Mickshaw/FX

The hallways of the Hotel Cortez become a graveyard as this season of “American Horror Story” nears its end. The various storylines begin to collide leaving numerous characters dead and left to haunt the premises. “Battle Royale” is a definite high mark of the season and sets the stage for a thrilling finale.

The last episode ended with one of the greatest scenes in the history of the series; Iris and Liz storming into The Countess’ penthouse suite with their guns blazing as “Hotline Bling” plays. This episode picks right up in the middle of the action. The Countess takes several hits, but manages to scurry away while Donovan is left fatally wounded. Iris, shocked and horrified that Donovan was caught in the line of fire, shares a final moment with her dying son. Donovan begs Iris to make sure that he doesn’t die inside the hotel, as anyone that dies on the property is forced to spend eternity as a ghost haunting the hallways. With the help of Liz, Iris manages to drag Donovan to the street before he succumbs to his wounds.

Meanwhile, The Countess is revealed to have been saved by Sally who shares the story of how she came to be at the Hotel Cortez. In 1993, Sally was a songwriter for a pair of grunge music artists who shared in a mutual love for heroin. Sally and the two artists head over to the Cortez where the check into a room and get “really high” together. Sally then sews herself to the two so that they may be closer than ever, however, the two artists begin overdosing. Miss Evers appears and taunts Sally who pleads to call for help. Days pass and Sally is left sewn to her now deceased friends as the addiction demon appears and begins torturing her. She eventually rips herself away from the bodies leaving her emotionally damaged. While incredibly disturbing, Sally’s backstory was much needed and helps viewers to understand her motivations and reasons for being at the hotel. Sally saves The Countess using the blood of her vampire children to perform a transfusion. This deeply affects The Countess emotionally as her vampire children are left dead to save her.

Following the death of Donovan, Iris is left heartbroken and depressed. Liz presents the ashes of Donovan to Iris prompting her to creepily spread them on herself and all over a hotel room. Miss Evers cheerfully cleans up the mess as Iris takes a moment for herself on the hotel roof. Kathy Bates once again delivered a sensational performance by showing a grieving mother. She later teams up with Liz to free Ramona Royale, who is still locked away in a sealed off hallway of the hotel. Inside the hallway, the bodies of the vampire children litter the floors leaving Iris and Liz shocked; they also discover the corpse of Will Drake. Ramona reveals herself and attempts to attack a frightened Iris. Liz alerts Ramona that they all have a common goal, to kill The Countess. Ramona declares that she must feast on human blood before she will help.

Liz and Iris prepare to head out of the hotel to find a victim for Ramona when a familiar face appears in the hotel lobby. Fans of “American Horror Story” will immediately recognize Queenie (Gabourney Sidibe) from the series’ third season, “Coven.” Queenie is in town to be a contestant on “The Price is Right” and shares with Iris and Liz that she is guaranteed to be a contestant because the Supreme Witch blessed her ticket. Queenie is tricked into being Ramona’s meal, although, Queenie refuses to go down without a fight. Using her witch power as a human voodoo doll, she attempts to kill Ramona, but is suddenly stabbed by Mr. March. Ramona feasts on Queenie’s blood and presumably absorbs her powers. Angela Bassett gave yet another strong performance this episode after being horribly underused throughout the season.

Following her bloody meal, Ramona makes her way to the penthouse suite where she confronts The Countess. Ramona promises to kill The Countess, however, the two unexpectedly begin to resolve their differences. The Countess shares that she is finally ready to leave the hotel and the two have a final romantic fling. The Countess packs her bags and heads to the elevator to leave when John Lowe appears and begins shooting her relentlessly. John’s final murder in his Ten Commandments spree is complete; “Thou Shalt Not Kill.” is the basis for the murder of The Countess. Mr. March shares how proud he is of John for completing the murderous bout. Sally also congratulates John then proceeds to attack him with the intent of killing him so that he may return as a ghost; Mr. March, however, puts a stop to this.

The end of the episode shows Mr. March and Miss Evers preparing for The Countess’ return as a ghost. Mr. March is eager to spend time with The Countess, however, Miss Evers shows extreme jealousy towards her. Miss Evers reveals that she was the one that called the police to alert them of the murders committed by Mr. March. The promise of eternal life with Mr. March is established as the reasoning behind the actions of Miss Evers; this angers him and decides to banish Miss Evers. Mare Winningham and Evan Peters both delivered incredible performances and greatly helped to develop both characters.

“Battle Royale” is a fantastic penultimate episode for this season of “American Horror Story.” After a rather unevern season, the final set of episodes truly showcase the great heights this series can reach. Each character received their time to shine and helped to propel the story forward. What madness awaits the characters in next week’s season finale? Be sure to tune in to “American Horror Story: Hotel” next Wednesday at 9 p.m. on FX.

TV REVIEW: ‘American Horror Story: Hotel’ – ‘She Gets Revenge’

Spoiler Warning for this week’s episode of “American Horror Story: Hotel”

AMERICAN HORROR STORY -- Matt Bomer as Donovan. CR: Prashant Gupta/FX
AMERICAN HORROR STORY — Matt Bomer as Donovan. CR: Prashant Gupta/FX

After nine incredibly inconsistent episodes, “She Gets Revenge” satisfies on every level and delivers the best episode of the season. Rather than focusing on backstory for individual characters, this episode blends the ensemble cast and gives each character their moment to shine.

The opening scene shows an elderly couple checking into the hotel; a voice-over monologue from Liz Taylor sets the scene. The elderly woman is suffering from cancer, so the couple decides to commit suicide together in the hotel room. This act greatly touches Liz, who considers following the idea of the couple, however, Iris declares that she should clear up unfinished business first. Iris and Liz decide to create a suicide pact as both have lost their will to live any longer. The main piece of unfinished business to take care of is Liz’s long-lost son. Miss Evers calls and invites the son to the Hotel Cortez to reunite with Liz. For her help, Miss Evers is rewarded with several modern day cleaning products, including detergent, a washer and a dryer. These scenes were incredibly humorous and highlights the character of Miss Evers greatly.

The evil plan of The Countess to inherit Will Drake’s fortune is shown to be fully underway. The Countess calls the police to report Will missing only to be surprised when his ghost suddenly reappears. The Countess makes Will fully aware of her plan and mentions that she will use Will’s son, Lachlan, as she is his legal guardian. The characters of Donovan and The Countess both parallel one another in this episode. Donovan visits The Countess’ other lover, Valentino, who he abruptly murders. Meanwhile, The Countess invites Natacha to the hotel, who she also murders. The reasoning behind these murders is simply for love; The Countess wants to be with Valentino, while Donovan wants to be with The Countess.

John’s story in this episode is finally relevant to the rest of the plot as he helps Alex deal with the vampire children. Alex’s worries that if the vampire children are not dealt with, The Countess will kill both her and Holden. John and Alex pay a visit to where the children are now living, however, they are not so willing to listen to reason. John and Alex manage to bring the children back to the hotel where they lock them in a sealed off hallway. Ramona Royale reveals herself to the children in the hallway, however, it’s still unclear what Ramona will do to them. John also has a great dynamic in this episode with Sally, who repeatedly questions what will happen when Alex finds out that he is a serial killer. Sally appears to be jealous of the rekindled love between John and Alex and promises revenge. Mr. March also alerts John that he only has one more murder left in his Ten Commandments killings.

AMERICAN HORROR STORY -- Wes Bentley as John Lowe, Chloe Sevigny as Alex Lowe. CR: Prashant Gupta/FX
AMERICAN HORROR STORY — Wes Bentley as John Lowe, Chloe Sevigny as Alex Lowe. CR: Prashant Gupta/FX

The more touching storyline of this episode follows Liz and her son, Douglas (Josh Braaten). After checking in, Douglas visits the bar when he strikes up a conversation with Liz. Douglas is seemingly unaware of the true identity of Liz and the two discuss each other’s lives; Liz encourages Douglas to follow his dreams and drops hints about being sorry for abandoning the family. After their meeting, Liz is still ready to follow through on the suicide pact. She later returns to the bar where Douglas admits that he knew exactly who Liz was all along. He also reveals that he is following the advice Liz gave him and that he accepts who she is, claiming “there’s plenty of room for another woman in my life.” Liz alerts Iris that she cannot go through with the suicide attempt after her meeting with Douglas. Iris, who has already made herself a tribute video for her three Instagram followers, is saddened and worried that she will be alone once again. Liz formulates a plan to take over the hotel from The Countess and turn it into a much nicer place; “we are the ones who should inherit the earth.”

The next set of scenes are some of the most hilarious in the entire series. Donovan, in the penthouse suite of the hotel, dances to Drake’s “Hotline Bling” as The Countess tearfully returns from viewing Valentino’s body. She turns the music off and the two seem to have a moment of rekindling. Suddenly, the music returns as Iris and Liz burst in, guns blazing, leaving the fates of Donovan and The Countess unknown. This was an unexpected ending to the episode and definitely speeds up the pace of the story.

“She Gets Revenge” uses the perfect mix of emotion, humor and action to develop the characters and story. One of the major negatives of this season has been the pacing, however, this episode has the ideal pace for the various complex storylines. Did The Countess and Donovan survive this shootout? What does the future hold for the Hotel Cortez? “American Horror Story: Hotel” returns on Jan 6, 2016 on FX.

TV REVIEW: ‘American Horror Story: Hotel’ – ‘She Wants Revenge’

Spoiler Warning for this week’s episode of “American Horror Story: Hotel”

AMERICAN HORROR STORY -- Cheyenne Jackson as Will Drake. CR: Ray Mickshaw/FX
AMERICAN HORROR STORY — Cheyenne Jackson as Will Drake. CR: Ray Mickshaw/FX

Following last week’s dull and uneventful episode, “American Horror Story” finally begins to tie up loose ends and bring the major storylines together. The more interesting characters take the center stage and help to deliver one of the season’s best episodes.

Much of the episode revolves around betrayal and how it affects each character. The Countess is shown to be preparing for her wedding with Will Drake; she is only marrying him for his money and plans to kill him afterwards. Will, completely unaware of the plans of The Countess, wishes for a grand and elaborate wedding, however, The Countess shares she believes they should keep it simple. She also manages to seduce Donovan back into her life by promising the two will be together after Will is dead. Rudolph Valentino comes back into the story as yet another love interest for The Countess. The episode truly highlights the fact that The Countess is willing to manipulate a person’s love to get what she wants.

Iris is given a decent amount of screen time as she attempts to rid the Hotel Cortez of some “filth.” A pair of pornstars and their cameraman check into the hotel, prompting Iris to brutally murder them. Donovan walks in as Iris is cleaning up her mess and reminds her of Ramona Royale’s plot to kill The Countess. This particular story arc has received very little attention prior to this episode. Angela Bassett has also been horribly underused, but finally is given a considerable amount of screen time in this episode.

Through flashbacks, viewers and Donovan are told a depressing tale about Ramona’s history. In 1992, Ramona moved back into her parents’ house only to discover her father suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Ramona’s mother eventually succumbs to her own personal illness; this death effects Ramona’s father greatly. Fearing that she will lose her father, Ramona infects him with the ancient “vampire” virus with the hopes that it will reverse the affects of his disease and cure him. Unfortunately, the virus only stops the Alzheimer’s from worsening and leaves her father “frozen in amber.” Unable to hunt for himself, Ramona provides her father with fresh blood from her hunts. The pain of seeing her father in such a state causes her to put him out of his misery by drowning him in a bathtub. Ramona later shares that after his death, she was also left “frozen in amber,” but managed to snap out of it and use her father’s strength to heal.

A disturbing sequence picks up with Alex and the mysterious vampire children from several episodes ago. Alex discovers the children are now on the run from the police after murdering and feasting on several innocent people. The group of children are led by Alex’s former patient who suffered from measles; many of the children are now fearful of what will happen to them. Alex comforts the children and warns them the police will eventually catch up to them. She invites them to the Hotel Cortez and promises there are others like them. This particular storyline needed to be addressed, but felt somewhat out of place in this episode. However, this will likely become more relevant as the story progresses. What awaits the horde of vampires at the Hotel Cortez?

Back at the hotel, Ramona makes her move to kill The Countess, but is shockingly betrayed by Donovan, who has once again fallen under the spell of The Countess. Ramona is locked in a neon cage surrounded by cameras where she will be “hate-watched.” Iris warns Donovan of the path he is taking and claims that The Countess will only hurt him. The Countess also begins to plot against Natacha so that she may have Valentino all to herself. Meanwhile, an enthusiastic Will Drake prepares for the impending wedding, however, Miss Evers alerts him that The Countess only has sinister intentions. She very clearly lays out exactly what will happen to him if he goes through with the wedding. Will refuses to listen and banishes Miss Evers from the hotel.

The intimate wedding takes place with only Drake’s son, Lachlan, and Liz Taylor in attendance. After the ceremony, The Countess savagely declares that Liz will find love one day and hands over her bouquet; following the murder of Taylor’s love, Tristan Duffy, this moment only sparks more animosity between the two. At the hotel bar, Mr. March introduces himself to Will and reveals that The Countess has a secret infant son, Bartholomew. After seeing the baby in the nursery, Will is horrified and is knocked unconscious by The Countess. He wakes up confused and frightened next to Ramona’s cage. He releases her, but realizes that the two are trapped in a soundproof hallway. Suddenly, Ramona slits Will’s throat and feasts on his blood as Miss Evers gleefully watches over. Satisfied, The Countess also watches over the cameras. Now that Will is dead, who will The Countess betray next?

“She Wants Revenge” demonstrates this season’s ability to deliver a truly great episode. By focusing on the more interesting characters and storylines, the narrative begins to converge the major individual plot points. This episode is packed full with shocking moments and character development. As the end of the season nears, what does the future hold for the Hotel Cortez? Be sure to tune in to “American Horror Story: Hotel” next Wednesday at 10 p.m. on FX.

 

TV REVIEW: ‘American Horror Story: Hotel’ – ‘The Ten Commandments Killer’

Spoiler Warning for this week’s episode of “American Horror Story: Hotel”

AMERICAN HORROR STORY -- Wes Bentley as John Lowe, Evan Peters as Mr. March. CR: Prashant Gupta/FX
AMERICAN HORROR STORY — Wes Bentley as John Lowe, Evan Peters as Mr. March. CR: Prashant Gupta/FX

After the season high last episode, “American Horror Story” disappoints this week with an episode filled with predictable and confusing flashbacks. This season has struggled with maintaining interest in specific story arcs and characters. This episode definitely answers some of the major questions, but fails in regards to character development.

The main focus of this episode is John Lowe and his investigation of the so-called “Ten Commandments Killer.” This storyline has received a relatively minor amount of screen-time this season, with plot points being scattered throughout the previous episodes. Following the death of a key witness, John begins demanding answers about the killer from Liz Taylor. Sally volunteers to take John to room 64, where she claims that he will find answers. In the hotel room, John discovers a display case full of murderous souvenirs. Sally explains that Mr. March’s search for a successor led to John himself: “It’s you John.” This revelation was extremely predictable, especially after “Devil’s Night” where John was invited to Mr. March’s gathering of serial killers.

After Sally reveals to John that he is in fact the Ten Commandments Killer, he slowly and hazily begins remembering how he came to be the murderer. He decides to confess his crimes to Detective Hahn (Richard T. Jones). Flashbacks are used to help show John’s story beginning in 2010 when he first visited the Hotel Cortez. At the hotel bar, he meets Donovan, who introduces him to Mr. March and The Countess during their monthly meeting. Over the course of two days, March and John discuss law and morals over absinthe. Mr. March then involves The Countess by having her abduct John’s son, Holden; this kidnapping is the catalyst for John’s entire story this season. The loneliness John feels pushes him to find comfort at the hotel where becomes romantically involved with Sally; their relationship is more sexual than emotional.

John is also propelled into his first murder by Mr. March, and his first victim is a pedophilic hotel guest. After killing, John decides to commit suicide by hanging himself; however, this suicide attempt is abruptly halted by Mr. March. The flashbacks also show the beginnings of a rift in John and Alex’s marriage and the Lowe family as a whole. John learns that Alex once met for coffee with his partner, Detective Hahn. Sally instigates John to act against Hahn by referencing “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” In the present time, John’s memory of the past five years comes back to him and he brutally murders Hahn. John returns to the hotel where he presents Mr. March with a souvenir from his latest slaughter. The souvenir case is revealed to have room for two more mementos prompting March to tell John, “Death is your art.” Who will be the next two victims of the Ten Commandments Killer?

The latest episode of “American Horror Story: Hotel” was a definite step down from “Flicker” and truly highlights many of this season’s major weaknesses. Many of the more gripping storylines of previous episodes have seemingly been forgotten. The considerable reveal of this episode was rather lackluster, but did manage to connect many of the dots of John’s story. Sarah Paulson and Evan Peters both delivered strong performances as their respective characters. As the season draws to the end, the other characters will need to be further developed in order for the story to fully make sense. Be sure to tune in to “American Horror Story: Hotel” next Wednesday at 10 p.m. on FX.

TV REVIEW: ‘The Walking Dead’ – ‘Start to Finish’

Spoiler Warning for this week’s episode of “The Walking Dead.”

Father Gabriel and the group try to escape the herd. (Photo courtesy of AMC.)
Father Gabriel and the group try to escape the herd. Photo courtesy of AMC

This is the episode that the entire season has been building up to. The herd of walkers have infiltrated Alexandria and major conflicts come to a head. Being that this episode is the mid-season finale, tragedy and horror strike our band of characters and mass chaos ensues.

Last week’s episode ended with the massive cliffhanger of the lookout tower collapsing and bringing part of the wall with it. This episode begins with an incredibly eerie scene involving Jessie’s young son, Sam, who is completely terrified of the outside world. The song “Tiptoe Through the Tulips” plays as Sam colors a picture of himself tied to a tree (an allusion to Carol’s threat to him last season). In his room, a line of ants are shown crawling on to a leftover cookie (yet another allusion to Carol). This line of ants is meant to symbolize the walkers and foreshadow the coming events.

A new camera angle of the tower collapse is shown, followed by the invasion of the herd. This moment is the catalyst for all events in the rest of the episode. As the walkers swarm in, Rick furiously screams at everyone to run to their homes. Deanna and Rick begin shooting at the walkers, however, Rick orders her to flee for safety to which she ignores. Walkers begin swarming Deanna causing her to fall on a metal saw blade. Rick quickly helps her up and the two limp down a street in search of refuge. Michonne, Carl, Ron and Gabriel join them and fight walkers as they rush down the street. Jessie notices their struggle and begins shooting walkers before ushering everyone into her house.

Maggie is left on her own as she battles walkers and stumbles to the lookout post near the gate. An incredibly tense sequence follows as Maggie struggles to climb a ladder up to the post. She finally makes it up to the post where she is left exhausted, lying on her back and looking at Glenn’s green balloons in the sky. Meanwhile, a frightened Eugene, equipped only with a machete, picks up Rick’s walkie-talkie and says “help,” revealing the mystery cliffhanger from “Always Accountable.” Tara and Rosita rescue Eugene and the trio flee into a nearby garage, leaving the walkers pounding on the door. Rosita fears that this invasion will be the end of Alexandria and believes that Abraham is dead, however, Tara immediately shuts this down and tries to lighten the mood. Eugene is able to pick at a lock, allowing the three to escape the garage. From outside the walls, Glenn and Enid watch in terror as the herd flow into Alexandria. Enid believes this to be the end for everyone left inside, but Glenn believes that they must help and formulates a plan of climbing over the wall.

On the main floor of an Alexandria townhouse, Carol and Morgan have escaped the herd; however, Carol appears to have suffered from a concussion. One floor below, Denise and the Wolf sit and talk. The Wolf shows Denise his infected wound prompting her to begin treating it, albeit cautiously. Carol, completely aware that Morgan is hiding something, tricks him and sneaks downstairs where she orders Denise away from the Wolf. Morgan rushes down and stands in front of the Wolf, protecting him from Carol. Throughout the episode, Carol and Morgan argue about allowing the Wolf to live. Armed with a knife, Carol threatens to kill Morgan in order to kill the Wolf, therefore, preventing anyone else from dying. Morgan uses his staff to strike Carol’s knife out of her hands and the two begin physically fighting. Morgan throws Carol to the ground, knocking her unconscious. The Wolf manages to grab Morgan’s staff and uses it to knock him unconscious; he then uses the knife to hold Denise hostage as Tara, Rosita and Eugene rush in. The Wolf demands their guns and slowly walks out of the house into the walker-infested streets with Denise still hostage. Melissa McBride and Lennie James gave incredible performances as Carol and Morgan with both characters essentially being complete opposites. What will the Wolf do with Denise? How will Carol react when she wakes up?

Carol and Morgan fight about the Wolf as Denise watches. (Photo courtesy of AMC.)
Carol and Morgan fight over the Wolf as Denise watches. (Photo courtesy of AMC.)

Back at Jessie’s house, Michonne and Rick rush to treat Deanna’s wounds. Sam watches in complete horror as he slowly begins to realize what is happening. Michonne is able to treat a gash on Deanna’s leg, but suddenly discovers a bite on her side. Deanna realizes what this means and spends the rest of the episode imparting wisdom on the characters. Michonne shares with Deanna that she believes the plans for Alexandria’s expansion are possible. In Jessie’s garage, Ron and Carl argue about Rick; Ron believes that Rick is going to get everyone killed, to which Carl responds by reminding Ron that his father, Pete, was a killer. Ron locks the door and pulls out his gun, leading to an explosive and intense fight, which draws the attention of some walkers outside. Rick uses an ax to open the door and pull Carl and Ron in as walkers flood the garage; Gabriel, Rick and Jessie shove a couch against the door. Ron and Carl search for other pieces of furniture to barricade the door with. Carl turns the tables on Ron as he orders him, at gunpoint, to turn over his gun. Carl shares with Ron that he has sympathy for him about the death of his father, but essentially tells him to get over it. The Carl versus Ron scenes were especially intense and surely will affect both characters in future episodes.

Rick checks on Judith and discovers an incredibly weakened Deanna. Rick lays Deanna on a bed and the two say their goodbyes. Deanna hands Rick farewell notes for her son, Spencer and Maggie to which he promises to deliver them; she also asks him to look after Spencer and declares, “They’re all your people, Rick,” referring to the Alexandrians merging with Rick’s group. The walkers begin breaking into the house, triggering the group to rush upstairs. They kill two walkers and drag them up the stairs to be used in an escape plan. Rick gathers bed sheets and explains that the “guts” of walkers can be used as camouflage (this is a major callback to the second episode of the series when Rick and Glenn used this technique to escape downtown Atlanta). The bed sheets are used as ponchos to prevent the guts from getting on anyone’s skin. Michonne offers to mercifully kill Deanna, but she responds by saying that she is not ready to die and declares that she will end her life when ready. This scene is incredibly touching and ends with Deanna telling Michonne to “Give ’em Hell.”

Rick and Michonne cut the dead walkers up and begin smothering the guts over everyone. Sam steps out of his room and sees his mother covered in walkers guts; this causes Sam to panic, but Jessie instructs him to be brave. Rick retrieves Judith and slides her under Carl’s poncho. The group, led by Rick make their way downstairs into the walker-plagued living room and out on to the front porch. Upstairs, Deanna hears that the walkers have made their way in and begins shooting at them before screaming. Rather than simply shooting herself, Deanna dies in a blaze of glory using the bullets to contribute in her own way to the clearing of Alexandria. This is completely consistent with Deanna’s character and her insistence that civilization and normalcy can be possible. Her death signifies a major shift in Alexandria and its leadership. Back on the porch, a series of slow-motion shots show our characters preparing to step out into the streets overflowed with walkers; each character has a terrified look on their face. They link hands and begin making their way out, however, a terrified Sam begins calling out for his mom. The episode ends, leaving the fates of the characters a mystery. Will they be able to escape the herd?

A brief after-credits scene picks up with Daryl, Sasha and Abraham as they are stopped by a group of motorcyclists. This group, called the Saviors, state that everything is now the property of a man named “Negan.” Fans of the comic-series will immediately know what this means for the future of the show; the new big-bad villain is on the horizon.

“Start to Finish” uses the horror of the herd and the tension of conflicts to drive the story forward. In typical fashion of “The Walking Dead,” countless cliffhangers leave viewers wondering what is next. This episode was phenomenal and sets the stage for a dramatic and perilous Mid-Season Premiere. With the loss of Deanna, what does the future hold for Spencer and the other Alexandrians? Who will be the next victim of the herd? Tune in to the Mid-Season Premiere of “The Walking Dead” on Feb. 14, 2016 on AMC.

 

 

REVIEW: Emily Kinney rocks the stage at The Visulite Theatre

Emily Kinney performs. Photo by Jeffrey Kopp
Emily Kinney performs. Photo by Jeffrey Kopp

On Monday, Nov. 23, Emily Kinney took the stage at The Visulite Theatre in Charlotte to a crowd of adoring fans. Kinney may be best known for her role as Beth Greene on AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” but she also has a flourishing music career. Her impressive list of other roles on television include “The Flash,” “Masters of Sex” and “The Knick.” This concert was the last on her “This Is War” tour and drew fans both old and new.

Emily wasn’t the only singer on stage; her lead guitarist, Adam Tressler, performed several of his songs to the audience. Tressler, a self-confessed fan of presidents, performed one song about shortest serving president of the United States, William Henry Harrison. Another one of his songs attempted to change the general opinion about Martha Washington. Adam’s album “Footnote” can be found at the following link: http://adamtressler.bandcamp.com/album/footnote.

Following an impressive setlist from Tressler and a short break, singer and pianist Jacob Jeffries took the stage to share his stunning vocals. Equipped with his keyboard, Billy (named by a fan at a previous concert), Jeffries shared several of his songs with the captivated audience. One of his songs, “The Same Song,” as explained by Jeffries, emphasizes the importance of unity and is meant to bring people together: “We all bleed the same blood and we all sing the same song.” Jeffries’ rich voice and talent on the keyboard brought the audience to roaring applause song after song. For one of his final performances of the night, Jeffries invited Kinney and bassist, Hayley Batt, to lend their vocals. Immediately after leaving the venue, I purchased several of Jeffries’ songs on iTunes. His music can be found at the following link: http://www.jacobjeffries.com/music/

Jacob Jeffries performs. Photo by Jeffrey Kopp.
Jacob Jeffries performs. Photo by Jeffrey Kopp.

Kinney finally made her way on stage with her band members, Tressler on guitar, Batt on bass and Dustin Koester on the drums. The crowd, already electric from the previous performers, cheered at the sight of Kinney. Straight from her newly released album titled “This Is War,” Kinney performed songs such as “Molly” and “Berkeley’s Breathing.” During her song, “Take Home Julie,” she asked for the audience to sing along as loudly as possible. She also encouraged audience participation for her song, “Birthday Cake,” by having the crowd snap their fingers. Fans in the audience cheered as Emily performed two songs that her character Beth sang on “The Walking Dead,” covers of Waxahatchee’s “Be Good” and Tom Waits’ “Hold On.” Jeffries returned to the stage to play Billy the keyboard for “Be Good.” After her final song, the crowd began cheering “Encore!” prompting Emily to return and play “Rockstar.” Emily’s excitement and passion could most definitely be felt by everyone in the audience.

This Is War. Photo courtesy of Emily Kinney Music.
This Is War. Photo courtesy of Emily Kinney Music.

During the concert, Emily referred to the venue as a sort of “musical bubble” and declared Charlotte’s crowd as her best audience on tour. Emily’s musical and songwriting talents were put on full display at The Visulite Theatre. Both Adam Tressler and Jacob Jeffries also helped to deliver an incredible concert experience. Emily’s music can be found at the following link: http://emilykinneymusic.com/music/

What to watch over Thanksgiving break

Food, family, friends and football are all important parts of Thanksgiving break, but don’t forget to take some time to enjoy some of the great television shows and events listed below.

Photo courtesy of NBC.
Photo courtesy of NBC.

1. “Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade” (NBC)

A true Thanksgiving day tradition, the annual parade is a display of floats, gigantic balloons and musical performances. This years parade will feature appearances by Mariah Carey, Andy Grammer, Shawn Mendes, Jennifer Nettles, Jake Owen and many others. The festivities begin on Thanksgiving day at 9 a.m. on NBC.

Photo courtesy of Amazon Studios.
Photo courtesy of Amazon Studios

2. “The Man in the High Castle” (Amazon Studios)

Amazon’s “The Man in the High Castle” is a terrifying alternate history story examining what the world would be like had the Allied Powers lost World War II. This ten-episode first season was just released and is a perfect show to binge-watch over the holiday break. The first episode is available to watch for free, however, the rest of the season requires an Amazon Prime membership.

Photo courtesy of Netflix & Marvel.
Photo courtesy of Netflix & Marvel

3. “Marvel’s Jessica Jones” (Netflix)

The newest original series from Netflix is also perfect to binge-watch over the break. Based on the Marvel Comic series, “Jessica Jones” tells the story of a former super-heroine turned private investigator trying to reboot her life in New York City. A Netflix subscription is required to watch the 13-episode first season.

Photo courtesy of AMC.
Photo courtesy of AMC

4. “The Walking Dead” (AMC)

The midseason-finale of “The Walking Dead” is approaching quickly and Thanksgiving break is a great time to get caught up on the first seven episodes of Season Six. With plenty of gripping character development and insane plot-twists, the sixth season has delivered on nearly every level and is a definite must-watch for every TV fan. Recaps for each episode of Season Six can be found here: http://ninertimes.com/tag/the-walking-dead/ Tune in to the midseason-finale on Nov. 29 at 9 p.m. on AMC.

Photo courtesy of AMC.
Photo courtesy of AMC.

5. “Into the Badlands” (AMC)

This action-packed adventure/martial arts series is packed full of breathtaking fight sequences. “Into the Badlands” follows the journey of a highly-respected warrior and a young boy as they travel through dangerous territory. Catch up on the first season before the third episode premieres on Nov. 29 at 10 p.m. on AMC.

TV REVIEW: ‘The Walking Dead’ – ‘Heads Up’

Spoiler Warning for this week’s episode of “The Walking Dead”

Spencer & Rick (Photo courtesy of AMC.)
Spencer & Rick. (Photo courtesy of AMC)

Threats are at an all-time high on “The Walking Dead” as the mid-season finale nears. “Heads Up” is an episode that gives viewers everything they were asking for and then some. Important questions are answered and nearly each character is given their moment to shine.

For nearly four weeks, the largest question on everyone’s mind has been “Is Glenn alive?” That question was finally answered as Glenn is revealed to have survived his fall into the walker herd back in the third episode of the season. The episode begins showing that fateful shot of Glenn and Nicholas falling off the dumpster; however, from a new camera angle, the walkers are shown to be eating the corpse of Nicholas. Glenn manages to slowly slide under the dumpster as the walkers feast on Nicholas’ body. The scenes with Glenn under the dumpster evoke a feeling of claustrophobia and are extremely reminiscent of the series’ first episode in which Rick was trapped under a tank as walkers surrounded him.

Time passes and Glenn makes his way out from under the dumpster after seeing that the herd has moved on. Suddenly, Enid’s voice is heard yelling “Heads up” as she tosses a water bottle down to a dehydrated Glenn. Enid alerts him that Alexandria has been attacked, but flees away from him. Glenn begins heading back to Alexandria, but turns around realizing that he can’t go back without Enid. This truly highlights the good nature of Glenn and the fact that even after everything he has been through, he still chooses to save people. He eventually catches up to Enid at which point she refuses to return with him; after talking to her though, Glenn is eventually able to convince her to return. He is shown to be protective of Enid, who is an orphan and has no real family. The two find green balloons and decide to use them as a way of signaling to the survivors in Alexandria that they are alive.

Back inside the walls of Alexandria, each character is shown to be contributing in some way. Father Gabriel plans a prayer circle for the residents. However, Rick tries to shut it down, showing the betrayal and distrust Rick feels towards Father Gabriel after his actions in the previous season. Rosita offers long-overdue machete lessons to some of the unskilled Alexandrians, including Jessie and Eugene. Eugene freezes up after hearing the groans and bangs of the walkers outside the walls. Rosita uses his fear to teach everyone a lesson about how difficult surviving is when people are constantly dying. After many episodes of being in the background, Rosita is finally given her moment in the spotlight as her true survival nature is put on display. She is also clearly worried about the fact that Abraham has not returned from leading the herd away. Maggie has a heartwarming moment with Rick as she tells him that Judith looks like her late mother, Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies).

Morgan and the Wolf (Benedict Samuel) that he has secretly locked away is another major plot point of this episode. Morgan is called to a meeting with Rick, Michonne and Carol where they question him about the Wolves that he allowed to leave and later attack Rick in the RV. He refers to his belief that “all life is precious” for his inability to kill other humans, but Michonne declares that killing is sometimes necessary. After the meeting, Morgan enlists the help of Denise to help treat the Wolf’s wound. In the infirmary, Denise is shown to be slowly improving her medical skills and gaining confidence in herself. She agrees to help Morgan, but a suspicious Carol investigates their secrecy. She asks Jessie to watch Judith and has a very touching moment with Sam, who asks if killing makes someone a monster. Carol finally confronts Morgan and demands to know who he is holding prisoner. The Wolf is likely to play a large role in next week’s episode as Carol and Morgan continue to conflict over killing others. Will Carol kill the Wolf or will he escape?

The incredibly awkward relationship between Ron and Carl is explored in this episode as Ron receives gun training. Rick agrees to train Ron with a gun, but expresses the fact that the gun cannot be fired due to the unnecessary sound that it would cause. Later in the episode, however, Ron is shown in the armory distracting Olivia and stealing ammunition. He is also seen stalking Carl with his gun out; will Ron try to shoot Carl or possibly, Rick?

Ron & Carl (Photo courtesy of AMC)
Ron & Carl. (Photo courtesy of AMC)

Spencer’ sheer stupidity and recklessness is exhibited as he uses a rope and grappling hook attached to a building outside the walls to try to leave. After shimmying halfway across the gap, the rope begins to weaken leaving Spencer dangling over a pack of walkers. The rope eventually falls causing Spencer to drop to the ground. Fortunately, Tara positions herself on one of the wall supports and begins shooting some of the walkers. Rick, Tobin (Jason Douglas) and Morgan are able to pull Spencer up onto the wall. Rick, angry that Tara risked her life to save Spencer, lashes out and begins yelling at Tara to which she responds by giving him the middle finger. Spencer declares that he was trying to make his way out of Alexandria so that he could lead the walkers away, but Rick demands that he ask for help before trying anything so dangerous. This scene highlights the fact that the Alexandrians are willing to contribute, but are not nearly as skilled as Rick’s group.

Later, Rick apologizes to Tara for his anger towards her, but reiterates his belief that she shouldn’t be so willing to put her life at risk. She shares the idea that helping others is just a natural trait that each member of the group possesses. Deanna arrives and thanks Rick for saving Spencer; this scene is critical in the idea that both groups are now essentially “stuck together.” The characters begin looking into the sky as a group of green balloons rises into the air. Maggie runs over from a lookout post to Rick and Deanna and cries out “That’s Glenn!” This hopeful and positive moment is symbolic as green typically represents vitality and rebirth. Suddenly, a cracking noise can be heard as the weakened lookout tower begins toppling over into Alexandria, bringing a section of the wall crashing in. Hope and life are contrasted by death and destruction that will surely follow this breach. Now that the massive herd of walkers are making their way into Alexandria, every single character will be forced to make difficult decisions in order to survive.

Being that “The Walking Dead” is based on a series of graphic novels, many fans will immediately recognize this sequence of events as the “No Way Out” story arc; this is one of the most deadly and story-changing points in the novels. “Heads Up” is one of the best episodes of Season Six and sets up a truly frightening Mid-season finale. With a plethora of threats now inside the walls, who will have what it takes to survive? Be sure to tune in to “The Walking Dead” next Sunday at 9 p.m. on AMC.

TV REVIEW: ‘American Horror Story: Hotel’ – ‘Flicker’

Spoiler Warning for this week’s episode of “American Horror Story: Hotel”

AMERICAN HORROR STORY -- Kathy Bates as Iris. CR: Prashant Gupta/FX
AMERICAN HORROR STORY — Kathy Bates as Iris. CR: Prashant Gupta/FX

Mysteries are unraveled and questions are answered in the latest episode of “American Horror Story: Hotel.” The story finally becomes clearer while the creepy factor skyrockets. “Flicker” is by far the best episode of the season thus far and sets the stage for a promising rest of the season.

The episode begins as Will Drake is overseeing renovations of the hotel. A pair of construction workers discover a peculiar plate of metal blocking off a section of the hotel. Will orders the metal plate to be removed and the two workers begin venturing through the darkened hallways that were previously inaccessible. Suddenly, the workers are attacked by two vampires dressed in retro-styled clothing. Iris and The Countess soon begin investigating the unusual scene; Iris notes that she has never seen The Countess so frightened before. Prior to this episode, The Countess was seen as essentially flawless and untouchable; however, this episode proves that idea wrong.

The narrative switches to Hollywood in 1925 where The Countess works as an actress in the still up-and-coming film industry. On a movie set, she meets and becomes romantically involved with famed Italian actor Rudolph Valentino (Finn Wittrock). The choice of Wittrock to portray Valentino is rather odd as the actor’s other character, Tristan Duffy, was killed off in last week’s episode. Could Tristan Duffy be a descendant of Rudolph Valentino? While confusing, the storyline regarding Valentino is one of the most intriguing aspects of this season. Valentino and his wife, Natacha (Alexandra Daddario) introduce The Countess to the ways of the Hollywood elite.

One night, The Countess ends up at a party hosted by Mr. March to celebrate the grand opening of the Hotel Cortez. At this party, abrupt news of Valentino’s death is broken to the party-goers. The shocking news sends The Countess into a depressed state leading to suicide attempt which is quickly stopped by Mr. March. The morbidity of Mr. March attracts The Countess into a loveless marriage and she encourages him to murder the wealthy rather than the poor. Watching Mr. March’s murders proves to be only but a mere distraction, as The Countess still mourns Valentino. Following his death, she begins leaving roses daily at his grave, becoming notorious as “The Lady in Black.” Natacha appears and delivers some shocking news: Valentino did not actually die.

AMERICAN HORROR STORY -- Lady Gaga as The Countess. CR: Prashant Gupta/FX
AMERICAN HORROR STORY — Lady Gaga as The Countess. CR: Prashant Gupta/FX

Through flashbacks, the real story of Valentino’s “demise” is revealed. The death was faked with the use of a stunt double and Valentino was infected with the “vampire virus” causing him to be immortal. The virus is traced back to F.W. Murnau (director of “Nosferatu”), who discovered the virus in a Carpathian tribe. Murnau infected Valentino so that he would live on forever, even if the film industry did not. Valentino and Natacha persuade The Countess to join their immortal selves and travel the world together. She accepts, but Mr. March overhears their plan and takes action. He kidnaps the couple and seals them in a small section of the hotel for eternity, or so he thought. The Countess is completely unaware of what Mr. March did to her two lovers until he reveals it at their monthly meeting together. Both Lady Gaga and Evan Peters gave remarkable performances as their respective characters and truly demonstrated a complex dynamic. In the present time, Valentino and Natacha are freed and set out to explore and feast on the new world, but not before feeding on a group of male strippers and “Murder House” real estate agent Marcy. What does the future hold for these two characters now that they are free?

The other storyline of this episode revolves around John and his tireless investigation of “The Ten Commandments Killer.” John uncovers the identity of a key suspect in the investigation and checks himself into the same mental hospital there the suspect is being held. After unprofessionally snooping and assaulting a security guard, John makes his way into the suspect’s room and discovers a young girl who has been protecting the still unknown killer. John manages to persuade the young girl to help in the investigation by leading him to the killer. The two escape the hospital, but the girl appears to have a change of heart and runs right into the path of a speeding bus. Why was the girl protecting the killer?

“Flicker” serves as an incredibly important transition episode for this season of “American Horror Story.” With some of the mysteries out of the way, the story can now progress more fluidly. While the vampire virus should have been explained earlier, the wait was most definitely worth it. Hopefully, the remaining episodes of the season will stay on track and continue with this level of quality. Be sure to tune in to “American Horror Story: Hotel” next Wednesday at 10 p.m. on FX.

TV REVIEW: ‘The Walking Dead’ – ‘Always Accountable’

Spoiler Warning for this week’s episode of “The Walking Dead”

Daryl Dixon (Photo courtesy of AMC.)
Daryl Dixon and the two strangers. (Photo courtesy of AMC)

Ambiguity has always been an important component to “The Walking Dead,” but has the show become too ambiguous? With numerous storylines and threats, “Always Accountable” takes the time to check in with Daryl, Sasha and Abraham as they lead the front half of the massive walker herd. This episode leaves viewers with more questions than answers, but serves to plant seeds for the rest of the season and to develop the characters.

Daryl, Sasha and Abraham find themselves in a difficult situation after successfully leading the walkers away. An unknown group of assailants armed with guns begin shooting at the trio; Daryl falls off his motorcycle while Abraham and Sasha crash their car. Sasha and Abraham shoot and kill several of their attackers and flee to the safety of a nearby town. Meanwhile, Daryl manages to conceal himself and escape into an incredibly creepy burned forest. Much of the episode takes place in this forest where charred walkers and skeletons litter the ground. Daryl comes across two sisters (Liz E. Morgan & Christine Evangelista) and a man (Austin Amelio); the name of only one of these new characters is revealed, Tina. The man knocks Daryl out and ties him up against a tree.

The male stranger begins questioning Daryl at gunpoint, but receives no real information. The strangers then march Daryl through the forest in search of “Patty,” which is later revealed to be the name of a fuel truck. The man shares with Daryl why the forest is burned; this group of survivors set the forest ablaze to attract and kill large amounts of walkers. He explains that they joined a community that they naively believed would help in rebuilding society. The four come across a walker-infested parking lot and Tina faints, therefore allowing Daryl to escape, but not before grabbing a duffel bag belonging to his captors. After escaping, Daryl attempts to radio Sasha and Abraham, but only hears static. In the duffel bag, Daryl discovers a cooler filled with insulin. He quickly realizes that Tina is a diabetic and returns to them, but demands their gun in exchange for the insulin.

Suddenly, several men arrive in the forest and begin searching for Daryl’s captors; these men appear to be the same gun-wielding assailants from the beginning of the episode. This new group is led by a man named Wade (Darin Cooper). Daryl uses a walker as a weapon against one of the men, who is bitten on the arm, which Wade amputates to prevent the infection from spreading. Rather than leaving his captors to fend for themselves, Daryl helps them to escape and gives the male stranger the gun back. This episode truly highlights Daryl’s character and his belief that people are important for survival. While some of his actions during this episode are incredibly irresponsible, they are very consistent with Daryl’s nature.

After escaping the mysterious group, Daryl and his captors come across a greenhouse where Tina finds two corpses of people she once knew. The walkers awaken and manage to bite Tina on the neck as her devastated sister breaks down. Daryl and the male stranger dig a grave for Tina and begin to discuss Alexandria. Daryl asks the famous questions used by the Rick’s group to recruit new members: “How many walkers have you killed? How many people have you killed? Why?” The male stranger answers the questions and Daryl begins leading the two back to find Sasha and Abraham. Distrustful of Daryl, the strangers manage to overpower him and steal his crossbow and motorcycle. Alone and unarmed, Daryl discovers “Patty” in the forest, hidden under brush and leaves. The mysterious male and female strangers, as well as the other curious group lead by Wade are sure to return later in the season. Will they help or hurt our beloved characters?

Abraham Ford (Photo courtesy of AMC.)
Abraham Ford. (Photo courtesy of AMC)

As Daryl trudges through the forest, Sasha and Abraham wait in an office building. Abraham feels the need to kill every walker in sight, but Sasha warns about “leaving breadcrumbs” for the new group of enemies to find. Inside the office building, Sasha calls Abraham out on his recklessness to which he reminds her of her recklessness in the previous season. The two characters have essentially switched roles where Sasha is much more mentally stable and Abraham is slowly becoming unhinged; the opposite was true last season. These two characters have always had a rather interesting dynamic and this episode truly highlights their relationship. They both care about one another, but definitely butt heads at times.

They both decide to spend the night inside the office, but Abraham sets off on a mission. He discovers an abandoned military vehicle containing RPGs and a box of cigars. Near the vehicle, an impaled walker with an RPG launcher strapped to its back dangles off a bridge. The rotted walker eventually slips and falls off the bridge, conveniently leaving the launcher for Abraham to take. He returns to the office and confesses to Sasha that she was correct about his hastiness. He also tells Sasha that he would like to get to know her better; an unexpected romantic relationship may be on the horizon for these two characters. At first glance, Sasha and Abraham seem to be drastically different, but in actuality are very similar. Will Sasha and Abraham be the next relationship in this seemingly hopeless world?

Daryl somehow manages to find the office building that Sasha and Abraham were sheltered in, much to their relief. They load themselves into “Patty” and begin driving back to Alexandria. While driving, Daryl attempts to radio to Rick, but instead hears a meek and unidentifiable voice saying “help.” The obvious and primary theory about who the voice asking for help would be Glenn, whose fate is still a mystery to viewers. Glenn did have one of the walkie-talkies, so this is a definite possibility. The voice could also be a distressed survivor in Alexandria or a member of the group seen in the forest. Hopefully, this particular question will be answered in the next episode.

Overall, “Always Accountable” does more to establish future storylines than it does to explain the current story. This episode is weaker than its predecessors this season, although there are some major high-points and positives. Norman Reedus, Sonequa Martin-Green and Michael Cudlitz all gave remarkable performances and helped to develop their three characters. The new characters are incredibly interesting and set the stage for some very thrilling story arcs in the future; hopefully the male and female strangers’ names will also be revealed. However, the current story arc is so complex and eventful that the new material feels somewhat premature. Who is the voice on the other end of the radio? How will Daryl, Sasha and Abraham get back into Alexandra? Be sure to tune in to “The Walking Dead” next Sunday at 9 p.m. on AMC.

TV REVIEW: ‘American Horror Story: Hotel’ – ‘Devil’s Night’

Spoiler Warning for this week’s episode of “American Horror Story: Hotel”

AMERICAN HORROR STORY -- Chloe Sevigny as Alex Lowe. CR: Suzanne Tenner/FX
AMERICAN HORROR STORY — Chloe Sevigny as Alex Lowe. CR: Suzanne Tenner/FX

Confusion is at an all-time high in the fourth episode of “American Horror Story: Hotel” as the show struggles to balance time between the various characters and explain what exactly is going on inside the Hotel Cortez. Much of the confusion lies in the fact that it is incredibly difficult at times to distinguish who is alive and who is dead. Storylines are established at the beginning of the episode, but receive little to no attention as the episode progresses. Amidst the confusion, the acting in this episode was exceptional. The episode itself, however, is a definite step down from last week’s season high.

At first, the main story for this episode appears to be centered on Alex Lowe as she attempts to figure out what has happened to her son, Holden. Alex has brought Holden back home where he is introduced to the family dog, who was given to Scarlett to combat the loneliness she felt after her brother’s disappearance. Alex begins to perform a checkup on Holden and begins to fully realize that something is very different about him; he is weary around bright lights and has an abnormally low temperature. She goes to retrieve him a glass of juice and returns to find him feeding on the blood of the dog. Completely shocked, Alex takes him back to the hotel where he shows her his coffin. The Countess appears and promises to explain everything to Alex. The Countess explains that she has saved Holden and all of the other children that she has taken under her wing from neglect by their parents. She points to John as being the primary cause of this neglect, referring to the day that Holden was taken on the Santa Monica pier. She offers to turn Alex, which would allow her to spend eternity with her son; Alex initially refuses, but accepts in the final few minutes of the episode. This is where many of the problems begin to form as the explanation is limited to just a few scenes and the story begins to move over to John. The “vampire” virus was far more interesting than the scenes later in the episode, which take up far more time.

The rest of the story revolves around John, who is an absolutely terrible excuse for a detective. Rather than doing his assigned job of finding the “Ten Commandments” killer, he gets drunk at the bar and becomes caught up in the sinister activities of the hotel. He completely ignores the numerous signs of murder that he witnesses; he also doesn’t think to check in with his soon-to-be ex-wife who is searching for answers about their son. At the bar, Liz Taylor introduces him to long-time hotel resident and serial killer, Aileen Wuornos (Lily Rabe) who manages to seduce and lead him back to her room, where she attempts to kill him. After realizing that she may really be the infamous Florida killer, John tries only one time to phone the police, but is stopped by Liz Taylor. Lily Rabe is one of the stand out actresses of this episode as she portrays a freakish cutthroat.

AMERICAN HORROR STORY -- Evan Peters as Mr. March. CR: Suzanne Tenner/FX
AMERICAN HORROR STORY — Evan Peters as Mr. March. CR: Suzanne Tenner/FX

John receives a mysterious invitation to Mr. March’s annual “Devil’s Night,” to which he decides to attend. Also in attendance at this dinner are several infamous serial killers from throughout history including Aileen Wuornos, Jeffrey Dahmer (Seth Gabel), John Wayne Gacy (John Carroll Lynch), Richard Ramirez (Anthony Ruivivar) and the Zodiac Killer. Lowe obviously knows who everyone is, but is severely confused as to how they are all in attendance. The question of why Lowe was invited to this gathering of mass murders is brought up; does he have some other dark aspect of his past that viewers are unaware of? Again, not much explanation is given as to why or how the dead are seemingly returning to the hotel. By this episode, viewers should be receiving clear and concise information as to the ghost aspect of the story. Does everyone who dies in the hotel return to haunt the premises? John is suddenly awoken and finds himself with Sally, who denies any knowledge of Mr. March’s dinner, claiming that he was simply hallucinating.

This episode overall shows this series’ difficulty in maintaining balance on all levels. The various storylines that emerged last week were essentially ignored this episode; Donovan, Iris and Ramona were all absent. The more interesting story arcs were replaced by somewhat boring and endless scenes that felt like they were simply meant to fill time. Alex’s search for answers was the only real story that managed to advance the plot. I am very much intrigued to see how Alex is able to function as a doctor now that she is a “vampire.” This season will only be able to get back on track if it stays focused on the plot and eliminates the unnecessary filler. Will next week’s episode be a step in the right direction? Be sure to tune in to “American Horror Story: Hotel” next Wednesday at 10 p.m. on FX.

TV REVIEW: ‘American Horror Story: Hotel’ – ‘Room 33’

Spoiler Warning for this week’s episode of “American Horror Story: Hotel”

AMERICAN HORROR STORY -- Angela Bassett as Ramona. CR: Ray Mickshaw/FX
AMERICAN HORROR STORY — Angela Bassett as Ramona. CR: Ray Mickshaw/FX

The Hotel Cortez claims several more victims as the story struggles to maintain balance. While bringing the horror in full force, several characters are seemingly ignored. Characters such as The Countess and Liz Taylor absolutely stole the episode with their mystique and emotional drive. This season in particular has had a difficult time giving an adequate amount of attention to each character, and this episode truly highlights that problem.

The Countess finally received some much needed backstory to help viewers understand her actions and motivations in regards to the children she has taken under her wing. In 1926, while secretly pregnant, The Countess travels to the unmistakable “Murder House” that was featured in the series’ first season. Here she meets with Dr. Charles Montgomery (Matt Ross) where she undergoes an abortion; the baby survives and turns out to be viciously violent. The Countess names the baby Bartholomew and keeps him in Room 33 of the hotel. In the present time, Bartholomew appears to not have aged at all since 1926 and has almost super-human abilities. Is he a vampire or some other supernatural creature?

The individual stories of the other characters are far less intriguing than that of The Countess in this episode. A romantic relationship develops between Liz Taylor and Tristan Duffy, who is the current love interest of The Countess. Liz fears that this new relationship will not be accepted and struggles to work up the nerve to tell The Countess. Near the end of the episode, Liz finally decides to tell her, leading to a rather predictable altercation. The Countess shares that betrayal is something she cannot stand the taste of and slits the throat of Tristan with her bedazzled fingernail. After learning the backstory of Liz in last week’s episode, this is a heartbreaking moment, but Tristan is likely to return as a ghost. Tristan’s death brings forward another problem with this season: the difficulty of distinguishing exactly who is a vampire, ghost and human on this show. The exact rules of each supernatural being need to be laid out to the viewers, especially since the season is already six episodes. This mystery is more irritating than intriguing and does not necessarily drive the story forward.

Ramona Royale is one character in particular who is horribly underused in the episode. Royale’s arc this season has essentially remained stagnant and unchanged. Killing the vampire children that The Countess holds dearly becomes Royale’s main goal, however nothing is accomplished. Royale is attacked by Bartholomew in room 33 and is later sent out of the hotel by Liz Taylor. Although, Angela Bassett’s acting talents are superb for the material that she is given.

AMERICAN HORROR STORY -- Chloe Sevigny as Alex Lowe. CR: Ray Mickshaw/FX
AMERICAN HORROR STORY — Chloe Sevigny as Alex Lowe.
CR: Ray Mickshaw/FX

Alex’s story in this episode revolves around John and his apparent hallucinations. Holden appears to John one night and leads him to the drained swimming pool where Alex rests in her coffin. This is a major turning point for John as he begins to realize that he cannot trust Alex. The rest of the episode shows Alex repeatedly manipulating John into believing that he is going crazy. Meanwhile, both parents seem to completely forget about the existence of their daugher, Scarlett, who is left at a friend’s house. Alex does show some general kindness by saving Bartholomew after he escaped the hotel in John’s bag. The dynamic between Alex and John is very interesting to watch, although Alex is extremely inconsistent in both her actions and dialogue.

“Room 33” is yet another step in the wrong direction for this season of “American Horror Story.” The setting and tone are both constantly eerie. However, the story and extreme lack of balance between the characters are major negatives to note. Sally, Iris, Donovan and Mr. March are hardly developed and receive very minimal screen time. With seven episodes left, hopefully the story and mysteries will become clearer to the viewers. Be sure to tune in to “American Horror Story: Hotel” next Wednesday at 10 p.m. on FX.

 

TV REVIEW: ‘The Walking Dead’ – ‘Now’

Spoiler Warning for this week’s episode of “The Walking Dead”

Deanna Monroe (Photo courtesy of AMC.)
Deanna Monroe. (Photo courtesy of AMC)

Alexandria has become a literal prison for the characters on “The Walking Dead.” This episode serves to help develop several characters and to lay the framework for some major events later in the season. With threats both inside and outside the walls, the citizens of Alexandria finally realize that a normal life is simply not possible. “Now” has a few minor problems, but stands strong overall.

We begin the episode with a sense of relative calmness as everyone begins to clean up the remnants of the Wolves’ attack. Michonne explains to Maggie why Glenn did not return; this moment sends Maggie down a dark path for the rest of the episode. Suddenly, Rick’s voice can be heard screaming “Open the gate!” as the massive herd of walkers follows closely behind. He manages to slide in as the walkers begin pounding on the walls and gate; they can be heard all throughout the episode adding to the general sense of fear.

The fear is felt very clearly as everyone gathers for a meeting to discuss what will be done now that the herd has surrounded Alexandria. Rick gives a speech declaring that the walls should hold, but that precautions should be taken such as keeping noise and light to a minimum. Aaron (Ross Marquand) tells everyone that Rick is not to blame for what has happened and shares his belief that he is to blame for the Wolves attacking; last season, Aaron dropped his bag containing photos of Alexandria to which the Wolves later found and used to attack. The character of Aaron was a major highlight of this episode as he attempts to maintain some semblance of hope. Deanna is shown to be struggling and wanders away from the meeting as worried Alexandrians look to her for leadership.

A large focus of the episode is placed on Deanna, who lost both her husband and son last season. She realizes that her hopes and dreams of growing and evolving Alexandria into a thriving society may not be possible. At the pantry, several disgruntled and scared Alexandrians try to take the remaining supplies. Olivia attempts to put a stop to everything, but Spencer steps in and gives a powerful speech about how taking the supplies will definitely lead to their demise. Later in the episode, however, Deanna discovers Spencer drunk and realizes that he has stolen from the pantry himself. She confronts him about it, but he shares that he also believes that they will all be dead soon. He begins lashing out at Deanna, blaming her for the deaths of his father and brother; he also believes her to be wrong for allowing the Alexandrians to be so sheltered from the world. As the episode progresses, Deanna is shown to be more hopeful and willing to live. One scene shows her drawing plans on a map for a garden and wall extensions. She also comes in contact with her first walker, which she furiously stabs with a broken bottle; this walker represents the demons faced by Deanna and her willingness to fight back with anger. She also tells Rick, “I want to live. I want this place to stay standing.” Though, she essentially abdicates her role as leader of Alexandria to Rick. This episode marks a massive shift in her character and I’m really excited to see where she goes from here. Tovah Feldshuh absolutely stood out in her portrayal of Deanna.

The Grimes and Anderson families are slowly beginning to merge, as Rick and Jessie’s relationship begins to take shape. This is one of the major drawbacks to this episode. The character of Jessie has already proven herself to be strong and interesting on her own. She gives an impassioned speech to the Alexandrians about how they must fight if they want to survive; this speech shows that she is capable of being both a leader and a hardened survivor. She also shares a lighthearted scene with her younger son, Sam, who is afraid of leaving the upstairs of their home. However, the romance between her and Rick feels extremely forced, awkward and unnecessary. By linking her to Rick, her character is weakened as it appears that her primary role is to help serve Rick’s story; hopefully, Jessie is given a proper storyline later on in the season.

Jessie’s other son, Ron, begins to lash out at Carl due to Enid’s mysterious disappearance. Carl wants to go out and look for Enid, but Ron protests and an extremely pitiful fight erupts between the two. Ron quickly alerts Rick about what Carl was planning, however, this storyline is relatively minor and doesn’t lead anywhere in this particular episode. Surely this tension between Ron and Carl will grow and become more important later in the season.

At the infirmary, Denise is shown to be treating an injured Scott, who appears to be dying from infection caused by his gunshot wound. Denise is completely overwhelmed and shares with Tara that she wishes another doctor would show up and relieve her of her duties. Tara’s positivity and motivation pushes Denise to work harder and make more of an effort; Denise slowly begins to come to terms with the fact that the citizens of Alexandria are counting on her. She treats Scott’s wound and makes her way to find Tara where an unexpected romantic relationship forms. Being that this is the deadly world of “The Walking Dead,” this new relationship may not last long and may lead to more heartbreak for one of the two. Both Tara and Denise are extremely interesting, so hopefully they will manage to survive the walker herd; it’s refreshing to see Tara being developed more after being thrown in the background for most of Season 5.

Aaron and Maggie (Photo courtesy of AMC.)
Aaron and Maggie. (Photo courtesy of AMC)

The more tragic and emotional storyline revolves around Maggie, who, after receiving the uncertain news about Glenn, begins to shut down. Some of the Alexandrians create an “In Memory” list on the wall of the deceased citizens, with the names of both Glenn and Nicholas being added. Maggie, decides that she must find out for herself if he is alive or not. However, Aaron will not allow her to go without him. He reveals a route out of Alexandria that he believes to be safe; this route turns out to be a sewer system. Maggie is hesitant to allow Aaron to join her, but he insists. The duo make their way through the darkened sewers where they are attacked by two waterlogged and rotted walkers who almost manage to bite Maggie, but Aaron saves her at the last minute. At the end of the sewer tunnel, Maggie realizes that they cannot go out looking for Glenn as they will likely be seen by the herd. From this, Maggie breaks down and shares with Aaron the fact that she is pregnant. Lauren Cohan’s gripping performance made this scene especially heartbreaking as Maggie realizes that she will most likely never see Glenn again. She shares her guilt of allowing him to go outside the walls and tearfully tells Aaron, “I just want to see his face.” The two make their way back and Maggie is later shown wiping Glenn’s name off the wall, displaying that she believes him to be alive. The friendship between Aaron and Maggie is definitely a highlight; Aaron jokingly hints that the baby should be named after him. Maggie’s pregnancy sets up some very exciting possible future storylines.

The end of the episode shows Deanna at the gate as walkers pound and try to break through; a small crack is revealed to be forming in one of the wall panels. What will happen when the walls start crashing down and the herd gets in? This episode, while not the best of the season, helps to spotlight several characters. However, some characters such as Rosita Espinosa (Christian Serratos) and Father Gabriel are extremely underused. Glenn’s true fate is still unknown and the herd proves itself to be a major and frightening threat to our characters. Next week’s episode will focus on Daryl, Sasha and Abraham as they deal with the other half of the herd. What dangers will they face? Be sure to tune in to “The Walking Dead” next Sunday at 9 p.m. on AMC.