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’ – ‘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.

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.