Sunset Overdrive First Impressions

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I don’t exactly remember when I learned about Sunset Overdrive, but I remember being incredibly bummed out when I saw the reveal trailer. I wasn’t bummed out because I thought the game looked bad, in fact I felt quite the opposite, I was bummed because the game was an Xbox One exclusive.

When I began to consider buying into the new console generation, I decided I would buy a PS4, maybe a Wii U eventually, and probably an Xbox One sometime way down the road. I bought my PS4 in May, and then I picked up a Wii U in July after going through a pretty serious Nintendo bender, but I was adamant that I was going to wait until at least Halo 5 to buy an Xbox One.

I caved and bought one two months later, in September.

I caved because in my opinion, Xbox has the best exclusives in 2014. I was sold on the thought of playing Forza Horizon 2, The Master Chief Collection, heck I even enjoyed Ryse: Son of Rome (I know, it came out last November, whatever), but I was most excited for Sunset Overdrive. Sunset Overdrive sold me on the Xbox One, and I’ve grown to love the console, but Sunset was what I was pining for.

Sunset Overdrive’s pitch was that it wasn’t similar to other games. It’s wacky, over the top, and humor driven. I like humor. It’s colorful and alluring. I like colorful. It’s largely an unstructured sandbox. I like that too! It’s also big on customization. I FREAKING LOVE CUSTOMIZATION!!!

Then, back in June, rival developer Ubisoft fell under fire for the lack of playable female characters in their newest game, Assassins Creed: Unity. It was a PR nightmare, with officials from the company stumbling over themselves trying to give a politically correct answer tiptoeing for fear they might say they wrong thing… which they usually did. At this point, Insomniac Games, developer of Sunset Overdrive saw this as a chance to get ahead. They quickly released an episode of their video series “Sunset TV” which, as you can probably guess, is about Sunset Overdrive. In this episode they revealed that personalization is everything in this game. You can be a female, a male, whoever you want to be. Does your guy want to wear a skirt? Whatever you want! They even slyly placed imagery of a female character wearing an outfit incredibly similar to those worn by the assassins in Assassins Creed.

I thought this was awesome. I love when companies have the tenacity to call one another out, especially in the highly competitive world of video games. Better competition means better games right?

Well, customization is the first thing that disappointed me in Sunset Overdrive. With all the hype surrounding being whoever you want to be, and a bunch of comparisons being made to a Tony Hawk Pro Skater game, I figured the customization had to be on par with THPS’ “Create-A-Skater” mode. Well, as it got closer and closer to release, it was revealed that there would only be two different body types for each gender. There’s skinny and bulky. You know, the two body types we normally see in games. A little disappointing, sure, but I figured the game would still probably feature a ton of customization. I was wrong.

I picked the game up on Tuesday, and left myself relatively in the dark about it so I didn’t spoil anything. I came home from the mall, popped it in, and got ready to create a character. At first, you’re just creating a base character for the opening tutorial, so there aren’t many options. That’s fine, but when the game opened up and I got to dive into the customization, I was severely disappointed.

There are multiple skin shades to use, which is great, but only three pre-set face types you can use. Uh, okay. So I went on to hair. You can pick from a decent bit of hairstyles, but you only really have two choices: super wacky, or bald. Okay, whatever. I guess I have to lighten up and embrace the cartoony style of the game. Well, you see, clothes are unlocked throughout the game, so the initial selections are a bit paltry, and your only options are pretty much extremely wacky, or stuff with Vans logos on it. This was all really disappointing to me. I thought I could be anyone I wanted in the game? Instead I’m stuck with a skinny guy with a generic face, a three foot high faux-hawk, and covered in Vans merchandise. Maybe this changes as I unlock things, but right now, at about five hours in, I’m really disappointed.

After exiting customization, I expected to be let loose on Sunset City. Eh, not so much. After about an hour of basic fetch quests, I realized that this game is very different than what I expected. Outside of boss battles, every mission is a fetch quest or tower defense. I’m not kidding, every mission I’ve run has been one of the two. Characters are funny at first, but become hollow stereotypes quickly, and the humor wears on you. Some jokes are genuinely funny. I’ve laughed out loud quite a bit at this game, but when every other word is a punchline, it gets exhausting. One thing I can appreciate though is their take on video game tropes. They often make inexplicable events like talking to another character on the phone while not actually holding a phone funny and lighthearted. This holds up as a redeeming quality for the dialogue outweighing the constant “below the belt” humor.

Traversal was touted as another feather in the cap for Sunset, and while it is simple and fun, the camera can often make it frustrating. Furthermore, it’s been pretty repetitious from what I’ve played thus far, though I did get the ability to boost in the air before calling it quits earlier today. That addition seemed to spice things up a bit, but it’s largely jump, bounce, grind, rinse, and repeat. It doesn’t help that there is only one controller setup to choose from, and it seems slightly over-encumbered, using “X” to grind, and roll, and wall run, and switch from grinding to sliding.

Gunplay and weapons, yet another aspect of the game that was highly marketed, are fun and arcade-like. This aspect I’ve enjoyed a lot, and it’s clear that Insomniac didn’t want to let the comabt get bogged down too much by reality and complex systems. That’s okay, as it’s easy to pick and get firing. My only complaint is that even with the use of power-ups and a pseudo-leveling system, old weapons quickly become obsolete.

When I started seeing reviews for the game come back with scores that were largely positive, I expected a lot. Many have compared this to a Dreamcast style game akin to a Jet Grind Radio or Crazy Taxi, and it isn’t hard to see how those comparisons are made. Sadly, this game feels like it is a Dreamcast era game. Nothing less, and nothing more. It will certainly take quite a bit more from the rest of my time with this game to have me lumping the survivors of Sunset City in with the classic GG’s of Neo-Tokyo.

Marvel Announces So Many Movies That I’ve Begun to Question the Point of Human Existence

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We all might die of old age before the conclusion of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Our kids’ kids may die of old age before we see the end of this universe, and in no way is that depressing. Marvel have all but reinvented the super hero movie genre with their incredibly ambitious and well-executed live-action universe.

Late last year it was announced that the live-action universe would expand beyond the staple movie releases and ABC’s Agents of Shield to multiple Netflix series’, including Daredevil, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist among others.

A shot of Daredevil's early costume from the Netflix series.

A shot of Daredevil’s early costume from the Netflix series.

This year at San Diego Comic-Con that Marvel had plans for years to come, including a sequel to the then unreleased Guardians of the Galaxy. While that may have seemed a bit over-ambitious at the time, Guardians turned out to be a smashing success, grossing nearly $800 million out of what is arguably a c-list comic. At this point, it seems as if Marvel can do no wrong.

Today the subsidiary of Disney announced even more super hero-y goodness, revealing plans through the year 2019(!!!). 2019! While that may not seem far away, let me put it into perspective. The first film entry into the MCU was 2008’s Iron Man. That’s 11 years of interconnected movie magic, with even more on the horizon it would seem.

Today’s reveal in Los Angeles unveiled Marvel’s outline for phase three of their cinematic universe, including the following films:

  • Captain America: Civil War (May 6, 2016)
  • Dr. Strange (November 4, 2016)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy 2 (May 5, 2017)
  • Thor: Ragnarok (July 28, 2017)
  • Black Panther (November 3, 2017)
  • Captain Marvel (July 6, 2018)
  • Inhumans (November 2, 2018)
  • Avengers: Infinity War Part I (May 2018)
  • Avengers: Infinity War Part II (May 2019)

Most of these movies have been rumored for quite sometime, especially Captain America: Civil War which recently added Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark to their cast. Marvel pulled a fast one on fans, originally showing the logo for the film as “Captain America: Society,” but later revealing it was indeed Civil War. In addition, information on how the famed comic story arc would come to life given the fact that there are not many secret identities in the MCU at the moment. Instead they will be approaching it in a fashion similar to Captain America: The Winter Soldier, where the drama will come from the government trying to determine who each hero reports to, and using them as an extension of the government.

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Next on the slate, Dr. Strange, have been in the public eye quite a bit recently with the alleged fallout of talks between Joaquin Pheonix and Marvel around the time of New York Comic-Con this year which led to a plethora of actors being rumored to be involved including Ewan McGregor, Matthew McConaughey, and Jake Gyllenhaal among others. Previous to these supposed developments, my personal favorite for the role, Jon Hamm, was rumored to be involved, but Hamm shot those rumors down back in August.

Most recently, news has broken that Benedict Cumberbatch will be the sorcerer Steven Strange, though no official word has been released from Marvel yet.

It will certainly be interesting to see how Marvel brings the Sorcerer Supreme to life.

It will certainly be interesting to see how Marvel brings the Sorcerer Supreme to life.

Following Strange will be Guardians of the Galaxy 2, which seems like an absolute no-brainer. At this point in time details are mum, but for a production like Guardians, that isn’t necessarily a terrible thing. The element of surprise was part of what made the original Guardians so great, so if Marvel can keep that aura of mystery and discovery going into Guardians 2 it pay huge dividends.

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Thor: Ragnarok will most likely be the conclusion to the Thor/Loki story. Thor is probably the Avenger I am least familiar with, which is what has made his movies so interesting to me. Ragnarok is essentially the Norse apocalypse, resulting in the deaths of figures such as Odin, Thor and Loki (those names sound familiar, so this may be the last we see of Asgaard or Thor altogether. What’s most exciting about this installment is that it may introduce fan favorite, Beta Ray Bill, an alien who is deemed worthy of Thor’s power by Mjolnir after Thor is separated from his trusty hammer. Bill also has deep ties to the Ragnarok story from the comics, and after an Easter egg in Guardians of the Galaxy, it seems like a near lock that we will see his character sooner or later.

Beta Ray Bill in all his dino-esque glory.

Beta Ray Bill in all his dino-esque glory.

The following three films, Black Panther, Captain Marvel, and Inhumans are all properties that I am personally not too familiar with, so I won’t be going into too much detail outside of basic summaries and what could connect them to the MCU.

Black Panther, who will be portrayed by Chadwick Boseman of “42” and “Get on Up” fame, is a prince from the fictional African country of Wakanda by the name of T’Challa. Black Panther was also the first black superhero in the Marvel universe, predating other heroes like the Falcon, Storm, and Luke Cage. The fan favorite is a hero with genius-level intellect, enhanced agility, and Olympic level strength. He also wears a suit made of vibranium, the material that Captain America’s shield is comprised of. There was much speculation before today’s announcement that we might see T’Challa in the Avengers: Age of Ultron, as the trailer for the second ensemble film featured images of Captain America’s shield laying broken on the ground, as well as an unknown character being portrayed by Andy Serkis who looks an awful lot like Panther’s nemesis, Ulysses Klaw.

Concept art for the Black Panther costume we will see in the film.

Concept art for the Black Panther costume we will see in the film.

Captain Marvel will be the first female-led film that Marvel has released, continuing what appears to be a push for more diversity within their universe. The Captain Marvel incarnation being used will be Carol Danvers, a human woman who is caught in a Kree explosion and seriously injured. Years later, Danvers resurfaces with super-human powers including flight, super strength, and energy absorption. This story has the potential to be a nice tie-in with Guardians of the Galaxy, as the Kree were heavily featured in that film. There are currently no names attached the film, unlike the aforementioned productions.

Carol Danvers as Captain Marvel

Carol Danvers as Captain Marvel

Inhumans is another production that may have cosmic ties. After being experimented on and subsequently abandoned by the Kree, these heroes were once a primitive offshoot of human beings who were being modified to act as a war asset to Ronan the Accuser (Remember him from Guardians of the Galaxy?). Eventually the people experimented on would go on to found their own society, and eventually super-human powers, becoming the Inhumans. From there, the story gets kind of complicated. Each Inhuman has a different sort of power, and draw a lot of parallels to the Mutants in the Marvel world. Of course, Fox owns the film rights to any all X-Men properties, including the word “Mutant,” so this may be Marvel’s workaround to explaining certain characters who overlap from the X-men into other teams, like Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver who will be featured in the Avengers: Age of Ultron. There have also been rumors that Vin Diesel is attached to the franchise.

Marvel's Inhumans, led by Black Bolt.

Marvel’s Inhumans, led by Black Bolt.

To wrap up the current timeline, the third Avengers film, Infinity War, will be split into two parts. These films will be a culmination of all of the previous films, tying up the Thanos/Infinity Gauntlet storyline that has been teased for quite some time now. It’s probably safe to assume that each installment will feature an eclectic cast of heroes that will be different than it’s counterpart due to Marvel juggling contracts with their big stars, as well as giving all of their heroes a fair amount of screen time.

It appears that Thanos has gathered all of the Infinity Stones, as well as the Gauntlet. That ain't good.

It appears that Thanos has gathered all of the Infinity Stones, as well as the Gauntlet. That ain’t good.

Missing from the reveal today was any news on whether or not we’ll see Spider-Man making his way into the MCU, as had been heavily rumored recently. We also probably won’t be seeing any standalone films for Black Widow, the Hulk, HawkeyeFalcon, or War Machine either, which is kind of disappointing given the rich stories that could be told with these characters, especially the Hulk.

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All in all, some pretty crazy stuff coming out of the Marvel camp today. We have an insane amount of comic book based films coming out in the next six years alone, including Marvel’s Ant Man which will wrap up Phase 2 of their cinematic universe. There may even be some films that haven’t been announced yet. Here’s to hoping we all don’t get fatigued by the massive outpouring of spandex and superpowers, and the competition between these comic cinematic universes encourages high quality productions.

Your move, DC.

ADDENDUM: Check out the new trailer for Avengers: Age of Ultron that was aired during Agents of Shield last night. It isn’t very different from what we’ve already seen, but it does have some footage of the team trying to lift Mjolnir which is pretty funny.

Predictions and Speculation for The Walking Dead Episode 504: Slabtown

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WARNING: This post will contain spoilers for season five of AMC’s The Walking Dead. Information for all previous episodes will be discussed, and speculation on future episodes will be made. Any concrete information on events beyond episode 503: Four Walls and a Roof will be marked with spoiler tags.

Is it Sunday yet?

The first three episodes of season five have been pretty crazy. By the end of episode three we had gotten some resolution as far as the Terminus/Hunters story arc goes, and even more questions regarding the trip to DC, where exactly Daryl went, and who he was keeping tucked away in the woods. Well, we may not get all the answers we’re looking for immediately, but we can speculate.

First and foremost, if you haven’t seen the official teaser for episode 504: Slabtown, you can do so right here:

It appears that we’re finally going to get to see what happened with Beth. It’s actually been quite awhile since we’ve seen Beth. The last episode featuring the character portrayed by Emily Kinney was episode 413: Alone. In that time we’ve seen Daryl join a new group, eventually turning on them after they went after they attacked Michonne, Carl, and Rick. Glenn found Maggie with aid of Abraham and company, Carol was forced to do the unthinkable after Lizzie killed her sister Mika, which led to Carol confessing to Tyreese that she had murdered Karen. The group has been captured by the Termites/Hunters, subsequently broken out thanks to the aid of Carol, gained a new member in Father Gabriel, lost Bob due to surviving members of Terminus, and finally closed the book on the Termites/Hunters. We’ve even seen Tara, Maggie, and Glenn split off with Rosita, Abraham, and Eugene to head for Washington. That’s a lot of story between then and now.

To put things into perspective, we’ve seen Morgan more recently than Beth. Think about that.

This all leads me to believe that the next few episodes probably won’t be in chronological order, instead falling in line with the previous story arcs. We’ll most likely pick up with Beth shortly after she was abducted by the car with a cross on it.

I can only assume we’ll see a large deal of exposition on the group who has taken Beth in, as we haven’t seen anything like them in the show or comic before. Beyond that, it gets hard to predict. Who knows how long it will be before we see Rick and co. again. The showrunners like to let things linger a bit after a lot of action unfolds. Think back to the episodes that focused on the Governor last season. We’ll probably see two or three episodes of similar quality and structure.

I’d also assume that we will get introduced to some new characters during the Beth arc, including — LIGHT SPOILER– Noah, a fresh face to the series portrayed by Tyler James Williams. Tyler James Williams was spotted on set a few months back, and the casting was officially announced around a month ago.

To add some validity to this prediction, Noah can actually be seen in the official season five trailer, apparently fleeing with Beth, also adorned in hospital scrubs. You can see Noah in the frame very quickly right at about the 2:47 mark:

There are also a few scenes in the trailer that we have yet to see, including the “short bus,” as Abraham so affectionately called it, crashing into another car and possibly flipping over, as well as Eugune manning the hose on a fire truck, blasting away walkers, Maggie alongside Glenn and Abraham in what seems to be a new town, and Abrham dropping to his knees tearfully. I also noticed that in all of these scenes Maggie, Abraham, and Glenn are wearing the same clothes they had on when they left the group back at the church, so it’s possible we may see these events unfold soon as well. I don’t think that will happen within the next episode however.

This next part treads into spoiler territory, so be warned. –SPOILERS– back in July, photos of the set surfaced that featured the crew shooting scenes involving Carol and Daryl in Atlanta. The outfits that the two are wearing in these photos are in line with what they had on when they drove off after the cross-marked car in episode 502: Strangers. In addition to this, there were rumors from spectators that they saw a white van falling off a bridge at one point, and Carol being hit by a station wagon marked with a cross similar to the car that took Beth.

I couldn’t find any reliable documentation on these rumors, so normally I would dismiss them, but they fall in line with a scene leaked on Reddit featuring Beth where she sees a very tattered, unconscious Carol being wheeled into the hospital on a gurney. The scenes are no longer available, though you may be able to dig them up if you look hard enough. –END SPOILERS–

It’s hard to really say where they’re going to go with this next episode and beyond. This new group is uncharted territory as Beth, Daryl, and this specific incarnation of Carol aren’t even featured in the comic, let alone this new group. From the trailer we’re to assume that these new characters are bad guys, but the folks behind the Walking Dead have a history of tweaking trailers to throw us off.

I’ll be curious to see how long this side story carries on for.  I can’t see it taking up the rest of the first half as there are five whole episodes left. My assumption would be two episodes away from the main group, with the remaining three tying up all loose ends, and the group setting off for DC by the mid-season break.

— POTENTIAL SPOILERS– More news has surfaced lately on where the season might take us, including a giant set in Senoia, GA featuring a housing development surrounded by by massive walls that would appear to fall in line with the Alexandria setting. In addition to that, a local paper reports that AMC is attempting to reach an agreement to leave the walls standing through 2019. This certainly would fall in line with the massive amount of time the group spends in their most recent home in the comic, the Alexandria Safe Zone, a safe-haven meant for politicians just outside of Washington, D.C.

To add some credence to this, Andrew Lincoln was recently seen with his beard shaved off  which is similar to how the character looks after adjusting to a more relaxed setting behind the walls of the safe zone in the comic.

All of this is particularly interesting to me, because I’m curious to see if the safe zone will be moved to Georgia within the cannon of the show, or if the set constructed will be set in D.C., but actually shot in Georgia because of how deeply rooted the production is within the region. Either way, it will certainly be interesting to see how the group gets to this point, especially with Abraham and the mission to get Eugene and his cure (or possible lack there of) to Washington. –END POTENTIAL SPOILERS–

So there you have it, I’ve laid out all I know so far, and all we might see coming up in the not too distant future of the Walking Dead. Let me know what you think in the comments, and please “like,” share, and subscribe!

The Walking Dead Episode 503: Four Walls and a Roof Recap

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WARNING: This review contains spoilers for the most recent episode of AMC’s The Walking Dead, as well as minor spoilers for the “Fear the Hunters” story arc from the graphic novel. Proceed at your own risk.

Just like that, it looks like we will be fearing the Hunters no more. This was a really great episode, and in fact, I’m borderline exhausted by the break-neck pace this season has taken so far. It feels like we’ve gotten more action in the past three episodes than in entire past seasons. That said, it looks like we’ll be winding down to a slower, very Beth-centric episode next week. But fear not! I think we’ve seen the last of Farmer Rick for quite some time.

This episode picked up right where we left off last week, with a newly amputee Bob tied to a flag pole while Gareth and his super creepy pals feasted upon our good pal’s leg. Last week we were given a pretty good inclination of where this episode was going, especially if you’re a reader of the comics.

All signs pointed to Bob being bitten at the food bank in episode two, and that was exactly what had happened. Bob reveals almost immediately to Gareth and the Hunters that he’s “Tainted meat!” The delivery of this line, and just the all around performance of Lawrence Gilliard Jr. (Bob) was fantastic. They really couldn’t have found a better actor to portray this scene from the comic, despite the fact that it was a different character all together.

The scene is ripped straight from the comics.

The scene is ripped straight from the comics.

After the big reveal, the Hunters dump Bob back at the church after Father Gabriel opens up about his shady history to the group after being intimidated by Sasha and Rick. As it turns out, and was fairly obvious, Gabriel had turned away his parishioners after locking the doors to the church, which resulted in numerous deaths including women and children. Though the group is clearly not pleased with the revelation (Carl looks particularly horrified, possible because he trusted Gabriel the most), their attention is diverted to the recently returned Bob.

Bob tells the group what happened, including fact that the Hunters could not get to Carol and Daryl because they took off in a car together, and even reveals his bite. At this point, it’s nearly unanimous that the group must take out the Hunters before anyone else is put in jeopardy. This causes a rift between Rick and Abraham leading us to some of the best tension between lead characters since Shane was alive. Ultimately Abraham agrees to not only wait until noon the next day, but to help the group take care of their dirty deed. The stipulation in this deal is that Maggie, Tara, and Glenn must come with him if the others insist to wait for Daryl and Carol.

Before the group takes off, we get to see some really nice parallels between Sasha and Tyreese come into play. Tyreese urges Sasha to stay with Bob because he wished he had that sort of time with Karen, and encourages Sasha to forgive if only so that she can spend Bob’s final moments with him. Sasha insists on “being a part of this,” and our favorite survivors set off into the woods after agreeing that this is the smart thing to do. Rick insists that the Hunters won’t be expecting them to think clearly, and they must react.

Now, I thought this was a little funny, considering that Gareth is much more strategic than his comic counterpart, Chris, and the first time I watched the episode, I thought Rick was an idiot for leaving the church unprotected, as I’m sure many others would agree. However, on the second viewing I noticed that Rick pauses for a moment and the group leaves the church, and looks at the giant “A” painted on the side of the church in what appears to be blood. After seeing that, I’m fairly certain that Rick’s plan was to stage it as if he was leaving all along, waiting for the Hunters to trap themselves.

The following shot that transpired was incredibly cool, and reminded me of something you’d see in an early 90s, point-and-click adventure game. We saw Rick and co. make their way into the forest, and Gareth and the Hunters arrive from the wooded area across the road from the church just a few moments later. This was all in one shot, an it was really cool to watch.

When the Hunters arrive at the church, I also thought it was just a little too easy for them to break in given all the trouble Gabriel’s parishioners seemed to have, but I’m going to assume that was part of Rick’s plan, right? Right.

The scenes that played out after the Hunters entered the church were absolutely terrifying. The church was pitch dark, the ambient music was tense and pulsating like the music we heard with the Governor in seasons three and four. Gareth was also incredibly creepy, and the whole scene gave off this home invasion vibe. It really felt like someone was in your home, it just made my skin crawl.

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Just as we think the remaining members of Rick’s group are in trouble, two of Gareth’s group members are dropped right in front of the door they are about to kick in. Rick and his group appear from the shadows in what might be the most awesome stealth move in cable TV history, and we get to see a much darker side to Rick than we’ve ever seen before. Gareth points at the door, threatening to shoot into the office, and gets his pointing fingers shot off, another scene almost shot for shot from the comic.

TV Rick wasn't as brutal though, as in the comic he toys with the Hunters a bit.

TV Rick wasn’t as brutal though, as in the comic he toys with the Hunters a bit.

It wasn’t really clear who shot at Gareth, but I suppose we’re to assume it’s Rick. In the comic it was Andrea, who was both still alive and had a stake in the affairs similar to Sasha. It’s probably best not to get too tangled up on who did what, but I’d like to think Sasha put that night scope to good use. Assuming Rick fired the shot is giving his aim a lot of credit, especially in a dark church.

A brief stand-off ensues until all of the Hunters drop their weapons, and Gareth orders Martin (ugh) to stand down. You know, Martin, that smug P.O.S. that Tyreese beat the daylights out of? Yeah, him. Don’t worry though, he wasn’t long for this world.

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Gareth begs Rick to let him go, and promises they’ll never cross paths again after Rick let’s Gareth know that he’s in the mood to conserve some ammo. This scene was great. The irony was amazing, as this scene was a near parallel to the scene back at Terminus where Gareth was ranting about shell counts and Rick’s group was kneeling before him. Just like back then, forgiveness was not on the menu (Get it? Food reference. I’m funny.) and Rick fulfilled his promise to Gareth that he would kill him with the red handled machete that Rick and co. buried outside Terminus.

As the gore-fest ensues, we see a range of emotions throughout the group. Rick and Sasha appear to find satisfaction in the brutality, where Abraham goes about it as business as usual, and the rest, specifically Maggie, Tara, Glenn, and Tyreese seem mortified. Tyreese watches on as Sasha dispatched Martin, something he could not do, and Maggie, Glenn, and Tara lower their weapons in absolute horror.

After all of the Hunters are dead, Michonne finds her Katana on one of them (!!!), and the rest of the group emerges from the office as we get a great shot of Rick and Sasha standing back-to-back, upset at what they had to do, but seemingly resigned to the fact that this is how it has to be. It was neat to see how they’ve kind of become one in the same, and it highlighted a lot of the similarities between them.

Father Gabriel looks upon all of the gore in the aisle of his church, and says “But this is the house of the Lord.” to which Maggie, who had set aside a bible earlier in the episode, responds “No. It’s just four walls and a roof.” This made me wonder if Maggie isn’t slowly giving up her faith after losing her father, and seemingly her sister, as well as seeing the kind of people who are left in the world.

The next morning we see the group saying their goodbyes to an ever fading Bob, the scene reminiscent of a gathering you’d see at a funeral home. As the group is leaving Sasha and Bob alone to say their goodbyes, Bob asks that he have one last private moment with Rick. The conversation that followed was one that I was unexpectedly touched by. Bob essentially makes it clear to Rick that he’s the good guy, and that he (Bob) would not have died happy if Rick hadn’t taken him in. Bob also tells Rick that he has the ability to change the world for Judith, and Rick shakes Bob’s hand one last time.

As he’s drifting off, Sasha spends the last moments with Bob, who is still his ever-positive self. He makes Sasha smile one last time before passing, as Sasha asks “So what is it, the good that comes out of this bad?” She doesn’t receive an answer though. Bob is gone, and Sasha is left to figure that out on her own.

As Sasha is preparing to prevent Bob from turning, Tyreese enters and takes her knife from her so that she doesn’t have to. Tyreese does the deed, finally do what he absolutely has to. Bob is buried in a marked grave outside of the church, and the group gathers to send off Maggie, Tara, and Glenn along with Abraham’s group.

The goodbye scene between the two factions was touching, reminding me of someone sending their kids off to their first day of school, or seeing them off to college. Rick is visibly uncomfortable with sending Maggie and Glenn off, though it seems that this splinter has been growing since early season four when Glenn suggested to Maggie that they leave after having a pregnancy scare.

Before leaving Abraham hands Rick a map detailing their route to Washington, with a crude note scrawled on the bottom:

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Rick then joins Tyreese in digging graves for the Hunters, and asks how his journey from the prison to Terminus was. Tyreese tells Rick “It killed me,” to which Rick responds to after taking a beat “No it didn’t.”

You would think that would be a great place to end the episode, but we were treated to more.as Michonne is seen sitting on the church steps later that night. Father Gabriel joins her, opening about the fact that he still hears the screams of the people he left outside, and Michonne lets him know that it’ll never go away, but it doesn’t happen all the time. It appears that the two are sort of kindred spirits. Some bushes rustle, and Michonne approaches, drawing her sword. The rustling intensifies as the approaches, and A GIANT TIGER JUMPS OUT! Just kidding, it’s Daryl. Michonne laughs, and asks where Carol is. Daryl, appearing to be dressed differently than when he left, pauses for a moment, looking concerned, then turns to the woods behind him and says “You can come on out,” and the episode ends.

OVERVIEW:

9.5 out of 10 = Spectacular 

This episode instantly became one of my favorites. We saw a big-bad dispatched, Rick crossed the brutal side of the line, a rift was seemingly created within the group, tensions mounted between not only Rick and Abraham, but also Sasha at Tyreese at some points, and we had an emotional send-off to someone who turned out to be a really good character. Michonne even got her katana back, whether she wanted it or not.

At the end we were left with some questions, ones that I don’t believe we’ll get resolved quickly, but we’ve been spoiled so far this season. I have a pretty good idea of who is with Daryl, and it isn’t Carol, Beth or Morgan. I’ll be positing that with other predictions tomorrow.

POSITIVES/NEGATIVES:

+ So, so much happened within the hour.
+ Tensions within the group rise.
+ Many shots ripped straight from the comic again.
+ No more cannibals.
+ Sweet sendoff
+ Katana!
+Daryl is alright… for now.

– There was more symbolism in this episode, like a portrait of the Last Supper above where Bob was laid, but at this point it seems pandering. We get it already.
– Can Rosita speak? How about Eugene? I don’t even think Carl had a line in this episode. The bigger the group gets, the more characters we see getting the T-Dog treatment and I don’t like that.

Examining the Theological References in The Walking Dead Episode 502: “Strangers”

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DISCLAIMER: I am not a theological scholar. My analysis is very broad, and may even be incorrect. I do not intend to imply that the following observations are exactly what the people behind AMC’s The Walking Dead intended to portray. These following observations are neither my beliefs, nor the beliefs of any persons involved with this blog, wordpress.com, AMC, or anyone else who may be involved with the production of The Walking Dead in any way, shape or form.

The church Fr. Gabriel leads is St. Sarah’s.

  • St. Sarah is the patron saint of gypsy people.
    • This can be interpreted that Rick’s group is currently a pack of travelers, gypsies in a way. It could also be hinting toward the group’s eventual travels toward Washington DC.

During a scene of dialogue in the church, multiple bible verses are listed on the hymn board in the background. Most of these verses appear to reference the rising of the dead.

  • Romans 6:4: “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”
  • Ezekiel 37:7: “So I spoke this message, just as he told me. Suddenly as I spoke, there was a rattling noise all across the valley. The bones of each body came together and attached themselves as complete skeletons.”
  • Matthew 27:52: “- and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life.”
  • Revelations 9:6: “During those days people will seek death but will not find it; they will long to die, but death will elude them.”
  • Luke 24:5: “And as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said to them, Why seek you the living among the dead?”

In part of the church there are multiple crude drawings, presumably from children of the parish, that summarize the Burning Bush and 40 Years of Wandering.

  • The Burning Bush was a bush that was covered in flames, but not engulfed by fire. It was here that God appointed Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt and into Canaan.
    • This could be drawing a comparison to Rick leading his followers out of Georgia and toward Washington DC.
  • Moses would wander for 40 years in search of the Promised Land for his people. Moses would then die within view of the Promised Land.
    • This could be referencing Rick leading his followers through years of trials and tribulations, possibly hinting that Rick may perish before the survivors ever find peace.

After fleeing from a walker he recognizes, Fr. Gabriel spreads his arms against a wall, posed like Christ on the cross.

  • I felt as if this symbolism was unnecessary and a little too “on the nose,” not to mention that it may border on offensive for some.

The Walking Dead Episode 502: “Strangers” — Summary, Thoughts, and Impressions.

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WARNING: FULL EPISODE SPOILERS TO FOLLOW

This week’s episode of the Walking Dead was an interesting one. It was assumed by most that we would see a much slower episode given how explosive and fast-paced the premiere was. That said, we still saw A LOT this episode. In addition, there was a whole lot of well-placed symbolism to take in that you may have missed (I’ll be examining that symbolism in an article following this review). We also got to see some story arcs begin to unfold that are straight from the pages of the comic, leaving a great deal to unpack from this episode.

First and foremost we got to see the cast reconcile their transgressions toward one another, as forgiveness and being able to “go back” is a big theme that is carrying over from previous seasons. We FINALLY see Rick acknowledge the fact that he knows who Tara is, and it was really cool to see him be fine with that. We also see Tyreese and Carol discussing what happened with Karen and David, but also what transpired between Lizzie and Mika. Tyreese reveals that he isn’t willing to discuss that, and it appears throughout the episode that Carol isn’t willing to discuss any of it anymore, not even with Daryl.

Personally, I’m fine with Carol and Tyreese downplaying the past. There’s no use in bogging down the new season with old story lines. I’m sure they’ll come into play later on, but it’s best the show doesn’t dwell on them for the time being with so many other things going on.

When the episode quickly jumps to night time, we also see Rick speaking with Carol, and asking her permission to join her since he feels he left her to this sort of life on the outside, and they both seem to understand that it worked out for the best that he sent Carol away.

From there on we begin to suspect that someone is watching the group as we see a figure lurking in the distance, and Daryl thinks he does as well, eventually alerting Rick the next morning. –This part didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. Now, we see in the previews for the next episode that Sasha has a night scope, and Rick mentioned night scopes to Gareth in the premiere, so why not use one here? They did just break out of what is essentially a murderous prison camp. Shouldn’t they err on the side of caution?– Anyway, Daryl alerts Rick to his suspicions the next day, but the group is quickly distracted by screaming in the distance.

After following the screams and taking care of a few walkers, we get to meet Father Gabriel whose ineptitude for avoiding the undead is only matched by his sense of humor. Fr.Gabriel reveals that he has been hiding in his church nearby, but has recently run out of food and has begun to venture further and further out in search of resources (food seems to be a big plot point early in this season, as well as late last season). He also reveals that not only is he rather unacquainted with the undead, but he also refuses to dispatch them due to his deep faith and the fact that God abhors violence.

Rick and company are obviously suspicious of Gabriel, but decide to follow him back to his church, and upon inspection they begin to suspect there is something fishy going on below the surface of Gabriel’s facade.

Once settled, Gabriel reveals to the group that there is a wealth of food across town at a food bank, but it is overrun with a dozen walkers. This number is so insignificant to the group at this point that they splinter off into different factions. Maggie, Tara and Glenn recover some silencers, Carl and Tyreese stay behind with Judith, Carol and Daryl gather some water and find a car that Carol leaves behind in case of emergency, while Rick leads Michonne, Sasha, Bob, and Gabriel to the food bank.

While at the food bank, the group encounters a flooded basement full of deformed walkers akin to the “well walker” from season 2. The group dispatches them after some clever strategy, despite Gabriel running off after seeing a walker he recognized from before the turn. Bob is pulled under by a rather skeletal walker that no one sees under the water, but appears unscathed. Appears. Keep an eye on Bob, just saying he was pretty fishy in the back half of the episode. Despite all this, the group makes off with multiple carts of food items, and appears to be well stocked for quite awhile.

When we get back to the church, Carl shows Rick some scratches around the windows of the church where it appears someone tried to enter, as well as the words “YOU’LL BURN FOR THIS” carved into the side of the church. Anyone familiar with the comics will already have been connecting some dots at this point, but if you have not read the comics and are interested, I’ll let you know what issues to check out following the review.

That night is a feast of sorts, as the group gathers for a joyous meal for the first time in a long, long time. At this point we see Gabriel looking over a photo of the walker from the food bank before the turn, and Abraham gives the group his best “be all you can be” speech. At this point, Abraham asks the group straight up whether or not they’ll join him. Rick, agrees and it seems that the future is sealed for our favorite survivors, until Bob steps outside. Bob, looking in at the church begins to break down, and is suddenly attacked by someone in the shadows.

Carol also disappears, but is quickly tracked by Daryl. It appears Carol was going to sneak off in the night in the car that she found earlier. As Daryl is confronting her, a car passes them with a cross on the back window, similar to the one on the car that took Beth. Daryl breaks out the lights to Carol’s car, and the two chase after the fleeing vehicle.

Just as the episode is ending, we get to see where Bob ended up. We see from Bob’s perspective as it’s revealed that it is indeed Gareth and the few Terminians left (including Martin, the man who Tyreese appeared to have beaten to death in the premiere) who took him. Gareth gives a monologue about how they really didn’t want to hurt them, revealing that his new group, whom he referred to as hunters now, is currently eating Bob’s leg. Gareth states that he believes that this event is a form of cosmic justice since Rick and co. drove the Terminians from their home. The episode ends as Bob appears to be weeping… or is he laughing?

OVERVIEW:

8.5 out of 10 = Pretty Damn Good

Fr. Gabriel appears to have done some horrible things to survive, things he is only willing to confess to God. It also makes sense that not many people would have come across the church as many travelers would have been more likely to head toward terminus.

Was Bob bitten? If so, is he now “tainted meat?”

Where are Carol and Daryl headed? Are the survivors likely to leave for DC without their entire group accounted for?

POSITIVES/NEGATIVES:

+ This is how a slower-paced episode of the Walking Dead should be.
+ Introduction of Fr. Gabriel
+ Many, many shots ripped straight from the comic
+ Religious Symbolism
+ Rick is a badass
+Everyone is a badass, who am I kidding?

– Daryl not thinking to use the night scope
– Love interest of Fr. Gabriel seemed kind of forced

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If You Enjoyed This Episode, Check Out These Issues of the Comic:

Volume 11: Fear the Hunters (Issues 61-66)

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This section of the comics began almost shot for shot with this episodes. While we don’t get as much back story on the “Hunters,” a lot of the core plot points are in place save for a few changes:

  • Bob’s character has essentially taken the place of Dale in the comics.
  • Sasha has essentially taken the place of Andrea in the comics.
  • Thus far, Fr. Gabriel’s back story seems largely the same as this volume of comics details.
  • Gareth’s role is taken by a character named Chris who is very similar.