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: ‘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.

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

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

AMERICAN HORROR STORY -- Lady Gaga as The Countess. CR: Doug Hyun/FX
AMERICAN HORROR STORY — Lady Gaga as The Countess. CR: Doug Hyun/FX

The blood keeps flowing on the latest episode of “American Horror Story: Hotel.” The episode was not without its problems, however many of the more interesting storylines became the central focus. Some of the major questions that viewers had were finally answered, mostly in regards to certain characters. Last week’s “Devil’s Night” was a massive step in the wrong direction for the season, but “Room Service” managed to put everything back on track.

A major theme of the episode is the transformation of characters. Alex Lowe begins to feel the effects of the vampire virus after being turned by The Countess in last week’s episode. One of her patients, a young boy named Max (Anton Starkman) is suffering from measles while his mother (Mädchen Amick) fears that her son may not survive. Alex is physically weak due to the fact that she has not fed on blood recently, and the hospital’s supply becomes a feast for her. After realizing the hopeless situation Max is in, Alex decides to turn him by filling his IV with blood; the vampire virus makes the host immortal. The consequences of this action are absolutely dire, but sets up the main plot line of the episode.

Max is released from the hospital, much to his mother’s joy. The need to feed on fresh human blood drives Max to kill both of his parents, then head off to school dressed in his Halloween costume. At school everything appears to be normal until Max and a friend, sneak away from their class Halloween party. A domino effect situation occurs where Max infects his friend; the two quickly begin turning the rest of their classmates. Max’s teacher and several faculty members become a feast for the newly turned vampire children. All of the scenes at the school were not only frightening to watch, but also incredibly disturbing. With a whole class of vampire children on the loose, the virus is sure to spread at a rapid rate. Who will be the next to be infected?

AMERICAN HORROR STORY -- Chloe Sevigny as Alex Lowe. CR: Doug Hyun/FX
AMERICAN HORROR STORY — Chloe Sevigny as Alex Lowe.
CR: Doug Hyun/FX

The character of Iris also received much of this episode’s spotlight. Iris is now also a vampire, although she is much less inclined to kill people in order to feed. Throughout the episode, she becomes progressively more weak while trying to balance various issues that arise. Donovan introduces Iris to Ramona Royale to help with taking down The Countess, but this story really only lasts one scene and has no real effect on the episode’s plot; this is one of the major problems with this episode.

The rest of Iris’ story revolves around two rude guests (Darren Criss & Jessica Lu) that check in to the hotel. The two guests overload an already weak Iris with difficult requests regarding the room and food. Over the course of the episode, Iris slowly begins to break down and crack following advice from Liz Taylor and Taylor finally receives some much needed character development and backstory this episode. The story of how Taylor came to be the Hotel Cortez’s signature bartender was finally unraveled. By the end, Iris snaps and kills the two discourteous guests. The acting talents of Kathy Bates and Denis O’Hare are once again put on display in their scenes together.

Overall, “Room Service” serves as a highpoint of the season with much of the episode focusing on the vampire virus and its rapid spread. If this season is going to succeed, the primary story needs to remain focused. This episode, while not perfect, does give the season a mighty boost. The evil nature of the hotel is now seeping out to the general public. Who will be the next victim? Be sure to tune in to “American Horror Story: Hotel” next Wednesday at 10 p.m. on FX.

TV REVIEW: ‘The Walking Dead’ – ‘Here’s Not Here’

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

Morgan and Eastman (Photo courtesy of AMC.)
Morgan and Eastman. (Photo courtesy of AMC)

“Here’s Not Here” tells the story of Morgan Jones and his path to peace in one of the most powerful and beautiful episodes of “The Walking Dead.” The main story is put on pause in order to give viewers some necessary backstory for the character of Morgan. A cheese-maker and a goat named Tabitha become companions to Morgan as he slowly works his way to a place of relative tranquility about other people and the world around him.

The episode begins in the present time as Morgan speaks to one of the Wolves that he captured in an Alexandrian house. The narrative switches to the past as Morgan shares his story with the Wolf. Following his meeting with Rick, Michonne and Carl back in King County, Georgia in the third season’s critically acclaimed “Clear,” Morgan has what appears to be a nervous breakdown. Fans of the series will immediately recognize the setting as Morgan’s refuge with the distinct writing on the walls and the walkie-talkie that Rick gave Morgan in the very first episode. A knocked-over lantern sets the home ablaze as the camera pans over several of the phrases on the wall, including “Here’s Not Here,” alluding to the episode title.

Morgan is later shown wandering through the forest and killing walkers with no set plan or destination. He comes across two fellow survivors, a father and son, who he abruptly and brutally murders. This is critical for the rest of the episode and series as it shows how Morgan was completely capable of taking the lives of others which contrasts his current outlook. He wanders and eventually stumbles upon a cabin with a goat outside. A mysterious voice calls out to him and asks to leave the goat alone, but invites him inside for falafels. Morgan begins to hunt for the man, but is suddenly knocked out with a swift slash of a stick. He wakes up inside of a makeshift holding cell in the cabin where the mysterious man introduces himself as Eastman (John Carroll Lynch) and asks for his name. Morgan harshly responds by saying “Kill me” repeatedly; this harkens back to “Clear” where he asked the same of Rick.

Time passes and Morgan remains in the cell, closely watching the daily activities of Eastman, who appears to live a peaceful and normal life in the hellish apocalypse. Eastman reveals that he was a forensic psychologist before the world ended; he takes note that Morgan is clearly suffering from severe post traumatic stress disorder and shares that humans are not built to kill. The character of Eastman is surprising and refreshing on this show as the majority of fellow survivors that our characters come across turn out to be malicious. The art of “aikido” is revealed to be the basis for how Eastman lives his life; the taking of any lives is to be prevented at all costs. Throughout the episode, this set of ideals is slowly passed on to Morgan. Eastman also shares the tragedy of his life: a prisoner named Crighton Dallas Wilton managed to kill Eastman’s wife and two children after being negatively evaluated. John Carroll Lynch performed these scenes with absolute heartfelt emotion and grace.

Eastman begins to train Morgan is the art of “aikido” and a friendship begins to form between the two men. The origin of Morgan’s signature staff is revealed to have been given to him by Eastman as a part of “aikido.” Tabitha the goat is also a major highlight of the episode representing the importance of having something to fight for. One scene shows Eastman head out to search for supplies, leaving Morgan alone. Walkers come and begin attacking Tabitha to which Morgan fights them off, showing a considerable change already in his character. Soon after, Morgan discovers a nearby cemetery where Eastman has buried all of the walkers that he kills. Eastman searches the bodies for identification and makes a grave-marker; this scene is incredibly powerful as it reminds viewers that the walkers were once people.

Tabitha the goat and a walker. (Photo courtesy of AMC.)
Tabitha the goat and a walker. (Photo courtesy of AMC.)

A series of montages throughout the episode show Morgan’s progress. On a supply run, Eastman asks Morgan who he has lost, to which Morgan tearfully tells him his wife, Jenny, and son, Duane. A walker wanders out of the forest and Morgan walks over to kill it, but has a slight lapse of reality as he begins remembering the father and son that he murdered. Eastman pushes him out of the way, but is suddenly bitten on the torso. Angry at the fact that Eastman was bitten, Morgan lashes out and refuses to return to the cabin. Eastman heads back, while Morgan begins aimlessly drifting around again and stumbles upon a pair of fellow survivors; this touching scene shows Morgan spare the injured and frightened survivors as they graciously thank him. Morgan makes his way back to the cabin, but finds Tabitha being devoured by a walker.

Tabitha is buried by Morgan at the cemetery where he notices a very moving sight, a grave for Crighton Dallas Wilton. Eastman explains that after the murders of his family, he captured Wilton and brought him to the cabin’s holding cell where he was starved to death for 47 days. This action taken by Eastman leads him down a dark road and left him in a very similar state of mind as Morgan when the two first met. Slowly the virus weakens Eastman and he eventually decides to end his life, but not before telling Morgan to leave and find other people. A grave marker for Eastman is shown as Morgan gears up and leaves the property. The chilling final shot of the flashback shows Morgan walking down the iconic train-tracks with a sign for Terminus, a nice nod to some of the major storylines of season four and five. Back in the present time, Morgan tells the Wolf that he can change, but the Wolf responds by telling him that he will kill everyone. Morgan locks the Wolf in a secure room (paralleling Eastman locking Morgan in the cell) and walks outside. Just before the episode ends, Rick’s voice can be heard yelling, “Open the gate!” How did he get out of the RV? Is the herd right behind him?

The character of Eastman was a surprising and fantastic addition to Morgan’s story. He displays the fact that genuinely good and honest people still exist in the harsh world of “The Walking Dead.” Eastman was able to help Morgan come back from all of the misfortune and devastation in his life. Lennie James was absolutely stunning in his performance as Morgan in this episode; the emotion and heartbreak could be felt without any dialogue being uttered. The questionable actions taken by Morgan during the Wolves attack are more understandable to viewers after receiving this backstory. One of the best aspects of “The Walking Dead” is the uniqueness and depth that each character possesses and Morgan is a prime example.

“Here’s Not Here” felt almost like a short film rather than an episode of “The Walking Dead.” With the use of emotive and somber music, this episode took viewers on a journey of redemption, loss, sadness, joy and passion. This phenomenal episode helped to develop Morgan’s character, but also establish exciting storylines for the future. Will Morgan be able to pass his ideals on to the Wolf or will his ideals get himself or someone else killed? Be sure to tune in to “The Walking Dead” next Sunday at 9 p.m. on AMC.

TV REVIEW: ‘The Walking Dead’ – ‘Thank You’

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

Nicholas and Glenn (Photo courtesy of AMC)
Nicholas and Glenn (Photo courtesy of AMC)

Walkers, intensity and heartbreak are three words that can be used to describe the newest episode of “The Walking Dead.” The fight to protect Alexandria from the massive herd of walkers is shown in full force. The importance of sticking together and not leaving people behind is the central theme of “Thank You.” This episode shows the sheer brutality of the world that our characters inhabit and emphasizes the fact that no one is safe.

We begin the episode with Rick leading a group through the woods near the herd as the horn blares in the background. Rick, Glenn and Michonne discuss what should be done next to get the walkers back on the path. An unruly Alexandrian begins to blame Rick for everything that has gone wrong, but Michonne quickly shuts him up. Rick communicates with Daryl, Sasha and Abraham over walkie-talkie and tells them to keep leading the front half of the walkers. Daryl, worried about the rest of his group, decides to head out on his own to help leaving Sasha and Abraham alone. Rick tells Glenn and Michonne to get the rest of the group back to Alexandria and warns that not everyone will make it back, referring to the untrained Alexandrians who have little experience being outside of the walls. Rick heads out to retrieve the RV, hoping that it may help in corralling and controlling the walkers.

The major focus of this episode lies in the group lead by Glenn and Michonne. Heath, Nicholas, Scott (Kenric Green), Annie (Beth Keener) and David (Jay Huguely) are included in this group, although Scott and Annie are both injured and need help walking. With a slight lead on the herd, the group finds a town and realizes that both Scott and Annie need to be taken care of if they are going to make it back. A pet store becomes a temporary refuge and allows everyone to catch their breath, but only for a moment. As more walkers begin filling in to the town, Glenn formulates a plan of setting a building on fire as a distraction which would allow the survivors to escape. Nicholas decides that he must help Glenn, showing a vast improvement in his character from last season.

Nicholas and Glenn take off to find a building, while Michonne holds everything down in the pet store. She and Heath begin bandaging Scott and Annie’s wounds, but the two request to be left behind as they believe they are only slowing everyone down. Heath immediately declares that they will not leave anyone behind to which Michonne agrees. One touching scene shows David, who has been bitten, writing a letter to his wife in Alexandria and asking Michonne to deliver it to her if he doesn’t make it back. Michonne responds by writing, “You’re getting home” on her arm. This truly shows the positivity that a few characters are able to hold on to, even in the most dire of situations. Some conflict arises between, Michonne and Heath regarding what Rick said about not everyone surviving. From this, a passionate Michonne imparts some very strong words to him about just how savage the world is and how Heath has only seen a small portion of what her and Rick have seen. Danai Gurira’s acting this episode in particular is absolutely astonishing and solidifies Michonne’s position as one of my favorite characters.

After killing a few walkers inside the pet store, the group notices part of the major herd making their way into the town. They determine that they must leave the store and make their way back to Alexandria without Glenn and Nicholas. After bursting out of the store, Annie trips and is devoured by walkers, but not before telling the group to “just run.” They make their way into an alley, but a fence blocks their way through. As walkers begin closing in, they begin climbing over, first Heath and Scott. Michonne and David are left clinging to the fence as the undead grab and try to pull them down. In an incredibly tense sequence, Michonne is able to climb over, but David is pulled down and ripped apart by the walkers as the camera zooms in on the note that he wrote. While not major characters, the deaths of Annie and David signify the utter peril that our characters find themselves in.

Michonne (Photo courtesy of AMC)
Michonne (Photo courtesy of AMC)

Over on the other side of town, Glenn and Nicholas discover that the building they were planning on setting ablaze has already burned down. They realize their plan will not work and run down an alleyway to escape the walkers, but become trapped and surrounded on a dumpster. With walkers on all sides and very limited ammunition left, Nicholas turns to Glenn and utters a simple, “Thank you.” A dramatic and gut-wrenching sequence follows as Nicholas turns his gun on himself and commits suicide, spewing blood all over Glenn’s face. Glenn and Nicholas’ body collapse into the pack of hungry walkers in slow motion. The camera focuses in on Glenn’s face as the walkers feast. This scene in particular is by far one of the most horrific and disturbing images shown on “The Walking Dead.” Glenn, a beloved character who has been on the show since the very first episode, being ripped apart right in front of us.

However, after re-watching this particular scene, I am not entirely set on the fact that Glenn is actually dead. As the two plummet into the mob, Nicholas’ body falls right on top of Glenn. Therefore, many fans (myself included) speculate that the walkers were actually feasting on the corpse of Nicholas rather than Glenn. Is it possible that Glenn survived this seemingly deadly bloodbath? The answer to this question remains a mystery. Without any doubts though, Nicholas is definitely dead; his character was just beginning down the path of redemption, so his loss is yet another emotional jab.

The episode continues with Michonne, Heath and Scott finally making it back to Alexandria. Rick, inside the RV, radios Glenn, but receives no response. Rick then gives a very impactful speech to Daryl, Abraham and Sasha over the walkie-talkie declaring that they must keep fighting for everyone back home, as hard as it may be. Out of nowhere, two of the Wolves shoot at and attack Rick. He manages to kill them quickly, but discovers a jar of baby food in one of their bags. The look on Rick’s face as he realizes that the Wolves attacked Alexandria highlights the acting talent of Andrew Lincoln. The episode ends with several aerial shots of the herd and Daryl joining back up with Sasha and Abraham, as well as another cluster of the herd surrounding the RV. Somber music plays over the entire final set of scenes; adding to the sadness felt by viewers.

“Thank You” is another one of the series’ best episodes to date, highlighting nearly every character and truly showing just how dangerous and unpredictable this world is. Obviously, the major moment of the episode was the “loss” of Glenn. Hopefully my prediction for his character comes true and we will see him again. If Glenn is really dead, his absence would be a considerable change for the show. The danger of the herd is seen very clearly in this episode; how will Alexandria and its inhabitants fair when the walkers finally arrive? Next week’s 90-minute episode is set to focus on Morgan’s backstory, so it’s likely that the main story will be put on hold temporarily. Be sure to tune in to “The Walking Dead” next Sunday at 9 p.m. on AMC.

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

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

AMERICAN HORROR STORY -- Matt Bomer as Donovan. CR: Suzanne Tenner/FX
AMERICAN HORROR STORY — Matt Bomer as Donovan. CR: Suzanne Tenner/FX

Three episodes in, “American Horror Story: Hotel” finally begins to form a story and develop its characters while maintaining a spooky and frightening tone. Just as I was beginning to lose hope in this season, “Mommy” picked everything back up and delivered the best episode of the season!

This episode gave viewers more backstory for the residents and guests of the Hotel Cortez. In therapy, John Lowe’s wife, Alex, shares the struggles she faced in regards to being a mother and how losing Holden greatly affected her. Her connection to Holden was much greater than her connection to John and their daughter, Scarlett. The tension in the Lowe family is shown very clearly as Alex blames Scarlett for some of the family problems. John and Alex’s marriage is also considerably damaged and Alex files for divorce, but John protests. The relationship between the two is incredibly flawed; however, they clearly still love one another. While at the hotel, a shocked Alex finally discovers Holden standing in the hallway to which he greets her with a chilling “Hello Mommy.” I’m very curious to see where the character of Alex goes as the season progresses. Now that she has found Holden, it will be interesting to see how she interacts with The Countess, who took young Holden. John is also still investigating the murderer who is basing his killings off the Ten Commandments. A group of gossip reporters become his next victims and have their tongues nailed to their desk in reference to “Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness.” This killer and the investigation surrounding the killings are very interesting, but receive very little screen time, therefore making them unmemorable.

Meanwhile, Tristan begins to feel the effects of the seductress ways of The Countess. Tristan wants to kill Will Drake so that he can feed on his blood, however The Countess has other plans. The vast fortune that she once had was lost to the infamous schemes of Bernie Madoff. Therefore, The Countess plots to marry Will first so that she may inherit his wealth. These scenes are likely to be important in the future, however, in this episode they felt more like time filler. Lady Gaga’s performance so far is exceptional and her character has so much potential though.

Another relatively minor and somewhat out of place storyline revolved around the character of Claudia (Naomi Campbell) who worked with Will. In her hotel room, she begins to experience odd and unnerving visions. Without questioning any of it, she lies down in her bed where a disfigured creature comes out the mattress and attacks her. The creature stabs Claudia to death; however, she reappears later in the episode as Alex wanders the halls. While it doesn’t add much to the plot, the scenes with Claudia were extremely scary to watch. On this show, people tend to not stay dead for long, so it is likely that she will be back more.

AMERICAN HORROR STORY -- Naomi Campbell as Claudia. CR: Suzanne Tenner/FX
AMERICAN HORROR STORY — Naomi Campbell as Claudia. CR: Suzanne Tenner/FX

This episode also saw the introduction of new character and former B-List Hollywood star Ramona Royale (Angela Bassett). Royale reveals to the now homeless Donovan that she and The Countess used to be lovers and fellow vampires. Her backstory and dynamic with The Countess was by far the most compelling to watch, highlighting the talents of both actresses. The relationship lasted until 1991 when Ramona met rapper, Prophet Moses, who she believed to be the “great love of her life.” The Countess discovered this relationship and quickly put an end to it by killing Moses right in front of Ramona. In the present time, Ramona seeks revenge on The Countess and hopes to use Donovan. Angela Bassett’s character brings a fresh feel to the show much like her characters on previous seasons did.

The final major storyline for this episode revolved around Donovan and his mother Iris, who wishes to repair their strained relationship. Donovan repeatedly tells Iris how awful of a mother she was when he was growing up and links his history of addiction to her. After a tense argument between the two, Donovan flat out tells his mother to kill herself. Believing she has nothing left to live for, Iris listens to his request and seeks the help of Sally who aids in the suicide attempt. Sally tries to make Iris overdose by giving her a copious amount of heroin, however, the attempt is unsuccessful. Sally tries a different approach by placing a plastic bag over Iris’s head. Donovan has a talk with bartender, Liz Taylor (Denis O’Hare) who changes his outlook and convinces him to try to fix things with his mother. Just as it seems as though Iris has died, Donovan makes his way into Sally’s room where he is saddened to find his mother on the brink of death and attempts to revive her with his blood. This explains the “vampire virus” slightly, however, there is still a significant amount of confusion and mystery surrounding the mechanics of how the virus works. The dynamic between Sally and Iris was incredibly entertaining to watch and also highlighted the talents of Sarah Paulson and Kathy Bates, respectively.

Overall, “Mommy” was a step in the right direction for this season of “American Horror Story.” Hopefully, the story can grow from the seeds that were planted in this episode. With such a high number of characters, some manage to slip through the cracks, such a Liz Taylor, who has barely received any dialogue. The creepy and horrific setting of the Hotel Cortez still remains one of the best aspects of this season and creates an eerie feeling in almost every scene. My interest in this season has definitely been reignited, although the show still has a lot that can be improved. Some general explanation of the mythology regarding the “vampire virus” and the ghosts of the hotel would greatly help. What will be the next shocking mystery that the Hotel Cortez will reveal? Be sure to tune in to “American Horror Story: Hotel” next Wednesday at 10 p.m. on FX.

 

TV REVIEW: ‘The Walking Dead’ – ‘JSS’

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

Carol & Morgan fight one of the Wolves (Photo courtesy of AMC.)
Carol & Morgan fight one of the Wolves. (Photo courtesy of AMC)

The peaceful and quaint streets of Alexandria have become a literal war-zone. Our group of survivors are forced to defend themselves against the vicious group that call themselves “The Wolves.” Nothing will ever be the same after this episode. “JSS” took viewers on a roller coaster ride of intense action sequences and highly emotional scenes. This is by far one of the best episodes of the series, highlighting particular characters such as Carol.

A flashback opens the episode, featuring the mysterious Enid (Katelyn Nacon). She is shown to have lost both of her parents to walkers, leaving her alone in the world. With no home or real destination, Enid wanders and scavenges for food while leaving the letters “JSS” at various locations. “JSS” is later revealed to stand for the phrase, “Just survive somehow.” Eventually, Enid discovers the gates of Alexandria and hears the voices of safety inside; thus explaining the mystery of Enid’s origin. Her flashback is very symbolic as it shows the absolute grimness of the world outside, while Alexandria is essentially an oasis. However, as the episode progresses, it becomes clear that Alexandria is simply a mirage of safety.

In the present time, the survivors in Alexandria go about their daily business; unbeknownst to them that Rick’s plan of relocating the herd of walkers is currently underway. Carl (Chandler Riggs) and Judith go for a stroll, while Carol discusses recipes with some of her new friends. Maggie (Lauren Cohan) and Deanna find a place that they decide will be a garden for the community. This moving scene shows solidarity between Maggie and Deanna who have both experienced heartbreaking losses. Maggie declares that the community will grow and flourish even though there will surely be more setbacks; Maggie, in particular her dialogue, during this scene was incredibly reminiscent of her late father, Hershel, (Scott Wilson) who always kept a positive outlook.

Everything seems calm and ordinary until Carol witnesses a machete-wielding outsider kill one of her fellow cooking friends. From that moment, Carol’s entire personality changes and she drops her housewife identity and becomes the full-blown warrior that she really is. Outside the walls, Maggie and Deanna view the assault firsthand. The Wolves use fire to take out a guard and begin climbing into Alexandria. They use their wide range of weapons, not including guns, to kill anyone they come in contact with. Most of the people that are killed are nameless extras, but the widespread devastation is still completely felt. In the lookout tower, Deanna’s son, Spencer (Austin Nichols), attempts to shoot some of the Wolves on the inside, however his shooting skills are severely lacking. This clearly exhibits just how unprepared the Alexandrians are to deal with the various threats that they face. Spencer spots a semi-truck barreling straight for the gate and manages to shoot the driver, which causes the truck to crash right into the wall. The truck’s booming horn begins blaring, answering the question of where the horn from the first episode was coming from.

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

Maggie alerts Deanna and Spencer that they all must go back inside the walls and fight, but Deanna decides to stay outside with Spencer, claiming that she would only slow everyone down. Jessie and her young son, Sam (Major Dodson) lock themselves in a closet after hearing someone break into their home. Jessie makes her way out of the closet to search for her other son, Ron. She is quickly attacked by one of the Wolves, who knocks her against the wall and floor. Jessie manages to get back on her feet and uses a pair of scissors to stab the intruder numerous times as blood spews everywhere; a mother doing whatever it takes to protect her children. This scene represents a major turning point for the character of Jessie, as this is likely the first time she has ever killed another human. At the same time, Ron, is being chased by a knife-wielding Wolf before being saved by Carl. Ron’s attitude and actions during this episode were extremely irritating, from yelling at his mother to calling Rick “dangerous.” His character is sure to become more unhinged as the season moves forward. He walks right into the house as Jessie stabs the Wolf; this will likely lead to further separation between the mother and son.

The infirmary also becomes a hotbed of action as a new character, Dr. Denise Cloyd (Merritt Wever), along with Tara, Eugene and Eric (Jordan Woods-Robinson) attempts to save the life of Holly (Laura Beamer), a critically injured Alexandrian. Denise is quickly appointed lead doctor in Alexandria, although she is technically a psychologist. Tara pleads for the overwhelmed Denise to save the patient’s life and Eugene calmly tells her that she doesn’t want to be seen as a “coward.” The dynamic between Eugene, Denise and Tara was fascinating to watch and shows that the characters learn from one another, as Tara gave Eugene similar advice last season. In the end, Denise is unable to save Holly, leaving her devastated.

Morgan returns from the “walker parade” early and begins to encounter several of the Wolves. Rather than flat out killing them, he gives them the opportunity to “leave and never come back.” His way of handling the threat is vastly different from Carol’s method of killing any member of the Wolves that she finds. Most viewers will agree that Carol is completely right in this situation and that the threat must be eliminated. In order to kill as many as she can, Carol disguises herself as one of the Wolves, complete with a bloody “W” on her forehead. She makes her way to the armory to gather guns for the survivors, but finds a shocked Olivia (Ann Mahoney). Carol’s other disguise as a helpless housewife is officially shattered as she equips Olivia with a gun and quickly instructs her on how to shoot. Carol is definitely the standout character of this episode. Her desire to rid Alexandria of the various threats and save her friends shows her true heroic nature.

Morgan discovers Father Gabriel fighting one of the invaders and manages to overpower him and save Gabriel. Once again, rather than simply killing the Wolf, Morgan ties him up. However, Carol comes by and shoots him in the head before taking off to distribute the guns. The final surviving group of Wolves surround Morgan near the gate, but he is able to talk them down and allows them to leave. This decision is sure to come back to bite Morgan, as the Wolves don’t appear to be a group that will back down. Also, something peculiar needs to be noted in regards to Enid. After the Wolves leave, Carl finds a note from her with the phrase “Just survive somehow” with Enid nowhere to be found. This brings up the question, is Enid a member of this heinous group? Where did she go? Her calm nature during the attack is an immediate red flag.

After all the dust settles, a grim sight is left behind. Blood stains and bodies litter the streets of the formerly peaceful neighborhood. What will Rick and the rest of the group’s reaction be to the massacre? The looming threat of the walker mega herd still looms and will surely lead to more chaos in Alexandria. Rick’s group is fully battle-ready, while the Alexandrians are simply not. The Wolves are still a threat as well, so it will be terrifying to see when and how they strike next. Morgan’s ideals are also highly likely to clash with some of the other survivors; if he doesn’t change, he may be the next to die. “JSS” is one of the best episodes in the entire series. Will next week’s episode be able to top this week? Be sure to tune in to “The Walking Dead” next Sunday at 9 p.m. on AMC.

TV REVIEW: ‘American Horror Story: Hotel’ – ‘Chutes and Ladders’

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

AMERICAN HORROR STORY -- Lady Gaga as the Countess. CR: Suzanne Tenner/FX
AMERICAN HORROR STORY — Lady Gaga as the Countess. CR: Suzanne Tenner/FX

With another episode of “American Horror Story: Hotel” comes more confusion due to the minimal explanation of the plot. The unique characters of this season began to receive some much needed character development this episode, however, their connection to the overall story is still very unclear. With an hour and forty minute run-time, this episode felt like it was dragging on and on. Several portions of the episode felt unnecessary and quite frankly, boring. “Chutes and Ladders” can be seen as both a step-up and a step-down from “Checking In” last week.

Two new characters were introduced, Tristan Duffy (Finn Wittrock) and Mr. James March (Evan Peters). Both brought some interesting qualities to the table with Duffy being a drug-addicted model and March being the original builder of the hotel. A large portion of the episode was dedicated to explaining the backstory of certain characters. The Countess, Detective Lowe and Mr. March all received flashbacks detailing a critical part of their respective lives.

The Countess shares with Tristan that she is in fact a “vampire.” She never flat out calls herself a vampire, but it is heavily inferred. She turns Tristan into one and explains the various rules of being a member of the bloodthirsty pack. This revelation explains the children that the Countess has collected, however, their true purpose is still not completely clear. Her idea of “hunting” becomes clear to the viewers as well. By the end of the episode, Tristan himself begins luring prey into the hotel. The idea of modern-day vampires, while not original, is intriguing. At the moment, this quality of The Countess still doesn’t add much to the present story though.

Lowe’s flashback was more or less the same from what we saw in the previous episode regarding the disappearance of his son, Holden. However, we did learn about a dark case that he investigated and how it pushed him to give up his rampant drinking habits, which are later brought up by Sally at the hotel bar. Sally’s explanation of addiction gives way to the “Ladders” part of the title; referring to the constant ladder that addicts climb to “reach” their high. John and his wife, Alex, are both shown to be incredibly irresponsible parents. A fashion show organized by Will Drake is taking place at the hotel and John and daughter, Scarlett (Shree Crooks) decide to attend. Scarlett manages to sneak off with Drake’s son, Lachlan (Lyric Lennon). Lachlan shows Scarlett a secret room containing glass coffins where The Countess’ children sleep, including Holden. More poor parenting is displayed as Scarlett is shown taking a bus by herself to the hotel where she attempts to investigate her brother for herself. Rather than telling anyone she has found Holden, she decides to take a selfie with him to surprise her parents later. John and Alex, who have already lost one of their children, neglect to carefully protect their other child.

AMERICAN HORROR STORY -- Wes Bentley as John Lowe. CR: Suzanne Tenner/FX
AMERICAN HORROR STORY — Wes Bentley as John Lowe. CR: Suzanne Tenner/FX

Mr. March is clearly the more compelling, yet disturbing character and his series of flashbacks, narrated by Iris and set in black and white, produced the scary and creepy feel that the show needed. His backstory was set in 1925 during the building of the hotel and showed his truly sadistic nature. A serial killer, March used the hotel to trap people and murder them, at least three a week according to Iris. “Chutes” in the titles refers to the way the bodies would be disposed of. Miss Evers (Mare Winningham) was his loyal accomplice and would clean up his messes, mostly the bloodstained linens. The police soon caught wind of Mr. March’s actions and made their way to the hotel. Before any arrests could be made, Evers and March both committed suicide in grisly fashion. Again, while intriguing, what connection will this backstory have to the still unknown season-wide plot? Also, why were Evers and March both seen in the present-time? Are they ghosts or vampires?

This episode had a multitude of problems, but it did manage to develop some of the individual characters. The setting itself was a major highlight of this episode. The dark and eerie hallways along with the panic-inducing elevators creates the perfect tone. With eleven more episodes to go, the plot needs to be made clear to the audience. With the character development added there is still no one to really root for as the majority of the characters are villains. Most of the victims so far have no real meaning to the viewers. Originally, John seemed to stand out as the protagonist, yet his lack of action and care towards his daughter in this episode proves otherwise. The extended length of the episode was filled with seemingly meaningless scenes, including one with Alex Lowe treating a child suffering from measles. If an episode is going to be longer than normal, it must contain enough gripping material to keep the audience fully invested.

While not terrible, “Chutes and Ladders” shows the struggle of this show to maintain balance between story and horror. A great cast, unique characters and a ghostly setting are simply not enough, the story needs to be brought out of the shadows before this season can be considered truly strong. Tune in to “American Horror Story: Hotel” next Wednesday at 10 p.m. on FX.

 

TV REVIEW: ‘The Walking Dead’ – ‘First Time Again’

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

Rick (Photo courtesy of AMC)
Rick (Photo courtesy of AMC)

“The Walking Dead” returned for its sixth season in the biggest and best way possible. The 90-minute premiere featured new characters, growing conflict and of course, walkers, a lot of walkers. The importance of community is the central theme of “First Time Again,” showing how everyone must work together to achieve a common goal. With the threat of death looming over everyone, the characters are pushed incredibly hard to keep their community standing.

Structurally, this episode is far different than any episode before it. The aftermath of the fifth season’s deadly finale is shown in black and white, while present time is shown in color with the time switching back and forth throughout the episode. This method of switching back and forth worked nicely, showing the contrast between the past and present. Following the highly anticipated reunion of Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and Morgan Jones (Lennie James), the residents of Alexandria begin to unwind and resettle. Alexandria’s leader, Deanna Monroe (Tovah Feldshuh), mourns the loss of her husband, while Tara Chambler (Alanna Masterson) wakes up from her coma in the infirmary and learns what has taken place. The scenes with Tara were a major highlight of the episode, showing her positivity and humor; hopefully her character is developed more as the season progresses. Carol Peletier (Melissa McBride) keeps up her act as a weak and friendly housewife, while hiding her true identity: a survivor that does whatever it takes to survive. Morgan and Rick slowly reconnect after the last time they were reunited back in Season Three.

Morgan’s insistence that “all life is precious” becomes a splintering point between him and Rick. Clearly, there will be conflict between the two, but there were some touching scenes that point to a positive relationship. Morgan meeting Rick’s baby daughter, Judith, represents a mutual trust between them. Conflict also forms between Rick and Jessie Anderson’s (Alexandra Breckenridge) teenage son, Ron (Austin Abrams). The events of the last season have made Ron distrustful of Rick. While outside of Alexandria, Morgan and Rick discover a quarry filled with thousands of walkers. This discovery prompts Rick to create a plan to corral the walkers and lead them away from the vicinity of Alexandria. A town meeting allows for some survivors to share their worries about Rick’s plan, but Deanna ultimately decides that it must be done. Several people volunteer to help lead the walkers away, including new character Heath (Corey Hawkins).

Another new character, Carter (Ethan Embry), begins to question Rick’s leadership and holds a secret meeting to discuss how they can do away with him. Eugene Porter (Josh McDermitt) eavesdrops in on the meeting, but is quickly discovered which gives rise to a tense scene where Carter points his gun at Eugene and threatens to kill him. Rick instantly puts a stop to everything and turns the gun on Carter asking “You really think you’re gonna take this community from us?” Eugene is quickly rising to be a standout character in the very crowded field of characters. His child-like nature and innocence leads to some extremely humorous moments. Hopefully, he manages to survive the season, as his character has so much potential.

In the present timeline, the plan is underway and everyone has their own specific job. Rick, Morgan and Michonne (Danai Gurira) use flare guns to lead the walkers down their pre-established path. In front of the herd, Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus), Abraham Ford (Michael Cudlitz) and Sasha Williams (Sonequa Martin-Green) use vehicles to keep the walkers on the path. A group of walkers trapped in a nearby hardware store becomes a noise problem; the sound of the walkers in hardware store could possibly steer the herd off course. Glenn Rhee (Steven Yeun), Nicholas (Michael Traynor) and Heath make their way to the store to kill the problem before the herd passes by. Last season, the cowardly actions of Nicholas led to several deaths, however, this season he appears to be making up for everything by stepping up and being more of a team player.

Morgan, Rick and Michonne use flare guns. (Photo courtesy of AMC)
Morgan, Rick and Michonne use flare guns. (Photo courtesy of AMC)

The survivors manage to keep the herd moving down the path until Carter is attacked and bitten on the face by a hidden walker in the woods. His screams of impending death draw several of the walkers into the woods, but Rick quickly contains the situation by killing Carter and ordering some of the other volunteers to fire their guns, therefore leading the walkers back in the right direction. Carter’s death was extremely gruesome and shocking, but I am not sad to see him go as he was a possible threat. As the plan seems to be progressing smoothly again, a roaring and mysterious horn sound begins. Rick and Michonne agree that it seems to be coming from Alexandria. As the episode ends, the camera pans out showing the massive herd of walkers turning directly toward Alexandria.

The big question heading into the next episode is who is making the horn sound? Could there be a traitor in Alexandria? My three biggest suspects are Ron, Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) who has made his distrust of Rick’s group abundantly clear, and the Wolves, the group of survivors introduced last season who use walkers as a weapon to steal supplies from other survivors. With the herd headed straight for Alexandria, the relative safety and normalcy of life behind the walls is sure to crumble. Difficult decisions will have to be made by each character in order to survive, although not everyone will have what it takes to survive. Rick and Morgan’s relationship will certainly be tested and put to the limits. It is great to have Morgan as a main character this season after making only short appearances throughout the series.

The sixth season of “The Walking Dead” is off to an incredible start and leaves me wanting more. The sheer number of threats creates a deep sense of uncertainty for the fates of our beloved characters. Who will be the next to go? Be sure to tune into “The Walking Dead” next Sunday at 9 p.m. on AMC.

TV REVIEW: ‘American Horror Story: Hotel’ – ‘Checking In’

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

AMERICAN HORROR STORY -- Kathy Bates as Iris. CR: Suzanne Tenner/FX
AMERICAN HORROR STORY — Kathy Bates as Iris. CR: Suzanne Tenner/FX

“American Horror Story” is back, along with all the blood, guts, mystery and of course, horror, that fans crave. Confusion can be added to that list, because nothing seems to make sense in this premiere episode. With a new story each season, viewers are constantly kept guessing as to what and who will come next. Although not perfect, “Checking In” sets the stage for a very exciting and disturbing season.

The Hotel Cortez in Los Angeles, an enigmatic and retro-styled maze of curiosity is where the season sets its story. Iris (Kathy Bates) welcomes guests into the hotel, but also caters to the needs of the bloodthirsty owner, The Countess (Lady Gaga). Iris checks certain guests into Room 64, where absolute terror await them. Hotel guest Gabriel (Max Greenfield) becomes involved in an incredibly disturbing scene with a faceless demon-like entity and Hypodermic Sally (Sarah Paulson), a resident at the hotel.

L.A.P.D. Detective John Lowe (Wes Bentley) is also drawn to the hotel after he begins receiving phone calls from a puzzling and anonymous killer alerting Lowe that he will strike again in Room 64. Lowe has an unfortunate backstory that haunts him and leads to a rift in his marriage with his wife, Alex (Chloë Sevigny). Their young son, Holden (Lennon Henry), has been missing for several years, but John suddenly begins to see him while at the hotel. At first, it seems as though Lowe is simply hallucinating, however, viewers are let in on the secret that The Countess has taken young Holden under her wing. This revelation sets up a very intriguing storyline for the season, as John is shown checking himself into the hotel as a guest at the end of the episode.

AMERICAN HORROR STORY -- Pictured: Wes Bentley as John Lowe. CR: Suzanne Tenner/FX
AMERICAN HORROR STORY — Wes Bentley as John Lowe. CR: Suzanne Tenner/FX

Iris and Sally have a rather complex relationship that is slowly revealed throughout the episode with the help of flashbacks. In 1994, Iris became involved in the affairs of the hotel after she followed her son, Donovan (Matt Bomer) to a drug-infused date with Sally. Donovan overdoses on heroin, which leads Iris to push Sally out of a high-story window. This particular flashback introduces a still unclear mystery to the viewers. Are the staff and residents of The Hotel Cortez simply ghosts that haunt the premises and lure in new victims? This harkens back to the major plot of the series’ first season, “Murder House.” Whatever the case may be, present-day Iris and Sally still feud over their murderous ways of providing victims for The Countess.

The connection to Season One is furthered when “Murder House” real estate agent, Marcy (Christine Estabrook), returns to the series. Marcy is helping fashion designer, Will Drake (Cheyenne Jackson), in his purchase of the hotel. Drake meets with The Countess, but it seems as though there may be different plans for Drake and his son. She appears to have a desire to collect children and turn them into her own creepy pets that run through the halls and feast on unsuspecting guests. This is just one of the numerous unsettling qualities that The Countess has. Her relationship with Donovan is also explored in a very disturbing way. The Countess and Donovan, lure unsuspecting couples into their hotel suite where a sex-fueled bloodbath ensues. Are these characters vampires, cannibals or just plain psychotic? 

Overall, the season is off to an impressive start; however, the main problem lies within the plot. The gore and horror are brought out in full force, while the plot takes a backseat. Some seasons of the show find the perfect balance of story and horror, while other seasons have neglected one for the other. Last year’s “Freak Show” started off strong, but failed to keep an interesting story for the full duration of the season. Hopefully “Hotel” can establish a clear and gripping storyline for the season, while maintaining the scares and fear that fans love. This season is also missing former series lead, Jessica Lange, who always managed to stand out. This episode proved that the show can stand on its own without Lange, but her absence is noted. A major highlight of the episode was the use of the song “Hotel California” to end the episode leaving a final and telltale message “You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave.”

What other mysteries will the Hotel Cortez reveal to the viewers? With 13 episodes to go, the questions and bodies will surely keep piling up. Be sure to tune in to “American Horror Story: Hotel” next Wednesday at 10 p.m. on FX.

 

TV REVIEW: ‘Fear the Walking Dead’ – ‘The Good Man’

Spoiler warning for this week’s episode of “Fear the Walking Dead”

Travis (Photo courtesy of AMC)
Travis (Photo courtesy of AMC)

Every so often a television episode comes around that truly leaves me speechless. ‘The Good Man’ is one of those episodes. The highly anticipated season finale for “Fear the Walking Dead” managed to deliver on all levels. Fans were treated to an hour of suspense, action, violence, emotions and ultimately, tragedy.

A darkened series of aerial shots of Downtown Los Angeles opens the episode and shows the destruction caused by the apocalypse. We are also reminded of the arena filled with the infected Daniel found at the end of last week’s episode. With the impending consequences of “Cobalt” looming, the gang of characters decide to leave the military-abandoned safe-zone to retrieve their loved ones and head east. Before leaving, Travis and Daniel debate on what to do with the tortured Adams. Daniel wants to kill him, while Travis wants to bring him along. Adams sneakily convinces Travis to let him go. The group head out without Adams, however, Travis is the only person aware of this. The thousands of infected in the arena become a weapon and a tool for the group of characters to gain access to the hospital where Liza and Nick are at. Daniel leads the massive herd towards the military hospital where absolute chaos ensues.

The herd of infected begin attacking the compound as the soldiers use everything they have to hold them off. This chaos allows Madison, Travis, Ofelia and Daniel to make their way into the hospital. Meanwhile, Nick and Strand escape from their holding cell and begin to search for an exit. The confusing layout, flickering lights and hordes of infected make the hospital a deadly maze. Dr. Exner relieves Liza and the other medical staff of their duties after the evacuation becomes impossible. Liza flees and attempts to find her family, while Exner executes the surviving patients.

Strand and Nick become trapped in a locked hallway as the infected pile in and track them down. Madison and the group find the two, but are unable to open the doors. The scene was incredibly tense and emotional as Nick tells Madison to leave him. Fortunately, Liza arrives at the last moment and uses her ID card to open the doors and free Nick and Strand. Liza also notifies Ofelia and Daniel that Griselda succumbed to her injury. The group is finally put in a position where they must kill the infected in order to escape. Even Travis realizes he must kill to protect himself and the others.

Ofelia & Liza fight an infected. (Photo courtesy of AMC)
Ofelia & Liza fight one of the infected. (Photo courtesy of AMC)

The group passes a disturbing scene, a sizable mound of burned human remains from the patients and soldiers who died at the hospital. Ofelia and Daniel break down as they realize their wife and mother is among the dead. After reuniting with Alicia and Chris, a new threat emerges. Adams surprises the group and points a gun directly at Daniel. Ofelia attempts to talk him down to no avail. He turns the gun on her and shoots her in the shoulder. Travis lunges on Adams and furiously beats him, leaving his true fate unknown to viewers. The scene is critical for the character of Travis as he is indirectly responsible for Ofelia being shot. He is now less likely to trust others in the future.

Strand’s home becomes the new destination for everyone. An interesting montage of the characters driving through the deserted city is shown. The infected roam the streets and buildings rage with fire. Strand’s mansion on the beach is shown to be a temporary safe-haven though. A new plan erupts from something Strand shows Nick. His yacht, named Abigail, is show anchored in the ocean. This sets up an interesting storyline for Season 2, as a boat is essentially one of the most guarded refuges in a zombie apocalypse.

The mood is dramatically different at the mansion as everyone begins to settle in. Daniel tends to Ofelia’s non-fatal wound while Madison and Nick reconnect. Everything points to a rather upbeat and calm ending to the season, until Liza tearfully tells hugs Chris and makes her way to the seclusion of the beach. A worried Madison follows closely behind. Liza reveals to Madison that she was bitten back at the hospital; her fate has been sealed and she realizes this. Liza asks Madison to shoot her to prevent reanimation, paralleling what Madison asked of her in Episode 3 “Don’t make Travis do it. It’ll break him.” A devastated Travis discovers the two and a depressing sequence follows. Travis believes that she can be saved, but Liza knows that nothing can be done. Liza explains that everyone who dies will turn and that she doesn’t want Chris to see her as one of the infected. “I’ll protect him” Travis promises to Liza before shooting her in the head. It’s almost poetic in the fact that Travis is the one who mercifully shoots Liza. Despite the fact that they were divorced, it is very clear how much Travis cared about Liza. Chris rushes to the beach to find the lifeless body of his mother as a heartbroken Travis collapses into the sand.

Liza’s death is extremely depressing as she was a character who deeply cared about everyone, even Madison and her children. Liza’s medical knowledge made her a valuable and necessary member of the group, but her death shows that no one is safe in this world. Liza is a character I was completely invested in, so I am very much disappointed to see her go. Her final scene with Chris is tear-jerking as she realizes that his world is about to change; a mother having to leave her child to uncertainty. The episode ends with the camera panning out to the sea, representing the future for our characters; hopefully brighter days are ahead.

How will this loss affect the group? Will ‘Abigail’ be a place of safety? Will Chris be angry at his father? Where will we pick up in Season 2? These are just some of the questions I have at the end of this first season. The first season was spectacular and gave us characters to root for. The show has already been renewed for a second season of fifteen episodes and is set to return sometime in 2016. Next Sunday, the original series, “The Walking Dead” will begin its sixth season. Be sure to tune in on AMC!

TV REVIEW: ‘Fear the Walking Dead’ – ‘Cobalt’

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

Liza (Photo courtesy of AMC)
Liza (Photo courtesy of AMC)

Wow! What an episode! Everything is escalating and our characters’ situation has become extremely dire. “Cobalt” is by far my favorite episode of “Fear the Walking Dead” thus far.

We begin the episode with a rather strange scene featuring a new character, Strand (Colman Domingo). Strand is a mysterious man who happens to be in the same situation as Nick. Both are locked in an internment-style quarantine area at the military hospital. Strand has managed to negotiate and earn the trust of a few soldiers. Through this, he manages to steal a key, most likely leading to an escape attempt with Nick in the next episode. I’m still unsure if I trust this new character, but he is definitely interesting to watch.

Ofelia and Daniel are two other very engrossing characters to watch in this episode. We learned last week that Ofelia has managed to win the heart of Corporal Adams. Ofelia and Daniel are both very frustrated with the lack of information regarding Griselda, who was taken to the military hospital for treatment. Daniel devises a plan to gain knowledge about what exactly the military is doing. The stand out character for this episode is definitely Daniel, who will do anything to protect his family. He is the definition of a true survivor in the world of “The Walking Dead.” Ofelia betrays Adams, who becomes the source of information for Daniel and the group as a whole.

Chris is one of the characters that totally annoyed me for the first three episodes. However, now I feel sympathy for what he is going through. Travis treats him unfairly and his mother is away at the hospital. Alicia senses his uneasiness and tries to cheer him up. The two break into an abandoned home that was once owned by “rich people,” as described by Alicia. I greatly enjoyed the scenes between Chris and Alicia as they destroy the interior of the home for fun and to release their pent-up stress and anger. Although, there seems to be some strange romantic attraction between the two. They aren’t technically related, but I hope they just remain friends.

Chris & Alicia (Photo courtesy of AMC)
Chris & Alicia (Photo courtesy of AMC)

Travis manages to persuade Lieutenant Moyers (Jamie McShane) to take him to the hospital where Liza, Nick and Griselda are. We begin to see unrest among the soldiers as many of them complain of exhaustion. Travis and the soldiers never make it to the hospital as the infected begin to retake the city. Travis still seems to hold onto the hope that the infected are still alive, even as he sees what they are capable of.

Back with Daniel we see that he has tortured Adams for information. Some interesting backstory for the Salazar family is also revealed. Daniel and his family fled a war-torn El Salvador, therefore he knows what people are willing to do in order to survive. Through Adams, it is revealed that there is a military plan in place called “Cobalt.” The plan includes a full military evacuation from the L.A. Basin and a “humane termination” of the remaining civilians. Everything is set to go down at 9 a.m. the next morning.

At the hospital, Liza and Dr. Exner treat sick and injured soldiers and civilians. The scenes at the hospital were incredibly eerie and tense. Liza begins to understand the process of becoming infected. Several patients are brought in with bite marks and Dr. Exner explains that no risks are taken when it comes to bite victims. Unfortunately, my prediction regarding Griselda came true. Her foot was amputated, but septic shock took over her body, which led to her dying in front of a heartbroken Liza. Dr. Exner explains to Liza that everyone who dies, will come back as one of the infected and that the brain must be destroyed in order to prevent reanimation. Liza shoots Griselda in the head to prevent her from coming back.

Even though it was very predictable and we didn’t really get to know her well, Griselda’s death is despairing. In the world of “The Walking Dead,” death is inevitable and common. Griselda is the first of many main characters that will meet a tragic end on this show, but the painful part comes in the reaction of who is left behind. This loss will greatly impact the group, especially Ofelia and Daniel.

This episode definitely picked up the pace from last week. I am becoming more and more invested in these characters and their struggles. The military aspect adds a unique perspective into the beginning of the apocalypse that was not shown on the original series. I’m excited to see if Nick and Strand are able to escape from the hospital. Hopefully, Liza will team up with Dr. Exner to escape as well. With a devastating loss and a deadly countdown looming over our survivors, next week’s season finale is sure to be absolutely insane. Be sure to tune into “Fear the Walking Dead” next Sunday on AMC.