Archive for the ‘Fun and Games’ Category

Spoiler Alert: If you have not seen The Walking Dead season 7 episode 2 on October 30th, turn back now! This is your only warning.

This isn’t a review, but more of a look at the successes and failures of storytelling through mass media. I think last night’s episode was a clear success based solely on the characterization, but the storytelling was well done, too.

Although last week’s episode was the big reveal, this episode was even more revealing. Morgan and Carol are back, rescued by people from The Kingdom.

Now, I love the renaissance festival, but at first glance, The Kingdom isn’t such a place. Until you meet King Ezekiel and Shiva.

 

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“Hast thou come to feast upon pomegranates?”

 

It’s a great form of characterization for this show. We’ve seen a deceptive character before in the Governor, and his attempt to make Woodberry seem like Main Street, but his deception was for a sinister purpose. Carol can also be deceptive, hiding her true  nature to give her the upper hand. Ezekiel is something new. He’s a character playing a character, not for deception but to keep his people’s minds at ease.

At first, it’s easy to think that maybe he’s unstable and perhaps has a mental illness. After the fall of civilization, a person with delusions of grandeur could be given the opportunity to live out their own reality. Carol is barely able to contain herself when she meets him, and I think her face said what those of us who haven’t read that far in the comics were all thinking.

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As we learn, however; Ezekiel has not fallen off his rocker. He knows he’s not the king. Showing up with a tiger made him legendary, and he just went along with it, using his time in Community Theater as a jumping off point. The people like having a king and painting his quotes all over the town in scrolling font. (Do they have a stencil or did a calligrapher survive?)

Okay, so maybe it still is a little nutty, but at least they aren’t carving up people and roasting them on an open fire. When you really think about it, running around in armor with swords, spears, cleavers, and bows and arrows really isn’t that much different than what our own group of survivors has been up to. Daryl with his crossbow, Michonne with her samurai sword, and even Rick with his axe are merely missing the fake accent and regal titles. Plus, most of the people in the kingdom are dressed as modern day people and they even have guns on hand for emergencies. It’s an interesting mix.

They’re also under contract with Negan’s army. One of the things I enjoyed most about last night’s episode was the subtle rebellion. Ezekiel doesn’t want to risk the lives of his people, but he also knows the Saviors are bad. So, they feed the pigs walkers. This is an interesting concept and brings up some questions.

First, do the pigs turn from eating the contaminated meat? We don’t know and they are soon butchered off camera1. Secondly, the fact that pigs are fine eating a still squirming walker is kind of terrifying. I know pigs can chew through bone, and eat rotten food, but this is a whole other level. Last, if you eat meat from an animal that has eaten a walker, can you be turned? This last question is interesting because it’s kind of like marinating the pig from the inside. Corn fed cows taste different than grass fed cows. Does bacon from a walker fed pig have a strange taste?

If it is the making the Saviors sick, they haven’t noticed it yet.

Also, Ezekiel hasn’t told his people about the Saviors. He’s done this on purpose to prevent them from wanting to fight. The situation wears heavily on those who know, as is evidenced by the knight who gets into a scuffle with a Savior. It’s clear that Ezekiel understands the danger where others do not, and makes me wonder what he’s seen or been through with Negan. Then again, he was a zookeeper tending to tigers, which gives him insight into dealing with unpredictable wild animals.

There was also great characterization this week for Morgan and Carol. They have both been shaken to the core. Morgan is hiding it a little better, trying to resolve who he was with what he became and what he needs to be. He’s a man in a crisis of faith. Carol, however; is on the opposite end. She’s seen her confidence in what she became crumble and hated what she saw: an angel of death. They are the same but different, and somehow they both need to find the middle.

I’m curious to see what Carol learns from her solitude, and what her actual plan turns out to be. With the Saviors running around it’s hard to believe she’ll be left alone living right off of the road in her little house.

Also, how will they respond when they find out what happened with Rick and Company?

Next week it looks like we’re going to meet up with Daryl and what tortures are in store. Will Burned Face Guy switch sides? Is the teaser trailer only teasing? Maybe we’ll find out, or we won’t.

Other thoughts:

Shiva eats as much as ten people. What are they feeding her? Walkers? She seems happy.

Carol moved into such a cute little house with its own gothic cemetery. There has to be a story there.

Could Ezekiel be the key to healing both Carol and Morgan… and maybe even Rick?

The Kingdom is a nice little town, too bad all I could think was “this place is going up in flames.”

Thank you for reading and if you have anything to add, please feel free to leave a comment.

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This post will contain spoilers of not only the season 7 premiere of The Walking Dead, but also the season six finale. If you haven’t watched these episodes, you’ve been warned.

First off, this isn’t a review. I like to analyze mass media as a means to understand the successes and failures of storytelling. What follows is my intellectual opinion.

Way back in April I discussed why the season six finale of The Walking Dead was such a disappointment. I had a lot to say at the time. Six months later, I do not feel any differently.

I’m going to come right out of the gate and say that the season seven premiere should have been the season six finale. It holds all of the key elements of storytelling that were missing and still ends with a cliffhanger, although a slightly different type. Instead of “The Lady or the Tiger” ending we are left more with “What are we going to do now? Everything is in ruins.”

I have nothing against cliffhangers. I actually use them in my own writing, but they need to be finely crafted and utilized correctly. There are three reasons to end a story on a cliffhanger.

1)      To compel the audience to return to a story after an unspecified break in the narrative.

2)      To open a dialogue about the story, either internally or with other audience members, that further drives emotional investment in the story.

3)      To assure the audience that there will be a continuation even when the current story has come to a close.

It can be argued that the season six finale accomplished these things, and it did. People were compelled to return to see who would take a bat to the head. There was a very vocal, and often angry, dialogue happening in the audience. There would definitely be more story, because how could it end like that without a resolution? (Although in the world of television there is no real guarantee that the show will return, although we all safely knew this one would.)

So what’s the problem?

The problem comes down to the underlying storytelling, which had been shaky for the duration of the season. The audience was annoyed already about the “close calls” that Glenn endured. Add to that the finale dragging out in a log repetitive sequence of events, and then coming to a close mid-action. If they had moved the story down the line to where the premiere ended, with a fitting sendoff for two major characters, and tie the season up in an emotional package brimming with questions about the future.

Consider the premiere of season six. It begins with a strange flashback episode. Everyone in Alexandria is working together to build a zombie funnel to lead the walkers in the quarry away from the town. We learn this in a patchwork of pieces.

Now consider the premiere of season seven. It utilizes a very similar device to drag out the truth of who took the bat, and had it been the finale, it would have been a balance to the premiere. Instead, it’s just a “filler” tactic, and that whole story with Negan and the axe could have been told after the death instead of before.

Rick’s character arc is another package that could have utilized in the finale. All season he was riding high on his ego, believing that he and his crew were the biggest of the bad and nothing could tear them down. To watch him break beneath Negan’s smiling face was incredibly important to the story, a piece of the puzzle that could have simmered in our minds for six months. Negan is a special kind of monster, and to have had a proper introduction last season would have given us time to build him up even bigger while we waited.

Next, we have Glenn’s “fake deaths” throughout season six, teasing the truth. Had the season seven opener been the finale, it would have tied those strings together. Of course, it’s emotional. Glenn is a beloved major character with a pregnant wife. No matter when he died it would have been a blow to the audience. However, from a storytelling point of view, it could have been handled better.

We also have the story arc with Abraham, Sasha, and Rosita in a very awkward love triangle. Abraham is more of a comic relief type character, and by putting six months between any emotional attachments the audience may have had about their situation, which makes it far less powerful than if it had happened when it was fresh.This is especially true because his relationship with Rosita was never really a focus of the show until that point. It also makes his relationship with Sasha feel contrived. What was the point of it? So that Sasha could lose another person she cared about?

This is especially true because his relationship with Rosita was never really a focus of the show until that point. It also makes his relationship with Sasha feel contrived. What was the point of it? So that Sasha could lose another person she cared about? It was merely added to give some sort of emotional attachment to Abraham. More development between him and Eugene would have served this purpose in a more organic way.

Lastly, we have the scene of the whole cast at the table enjoying a meal, with Glenn and Abraham at the head. A beautiful world destroyed by one crazy man with a bat. Having that as the last image of season six would have left the community in a much darker, much more immersive sendoff for the two major characters.

 

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“Hey, man, nice axe.”

 

Now that we’ve looked at why this should have been the finale, let’s look at the foreshadowing that was given to us multiple times to make sure we didn’t miss it.

“This is my axe.”

Rick may be broken now, but he is still the protagonist; the anti-hero. Negan is the antagonist. That means that the conflict will continue until it is resolved. Will we lose more of our favorite characters along the way? There’s a high probability that we will. However; I have a feeling we already know how Negan is going to die.

Rick has used the axe for a long time now. It has been nothing more than a prop, more noticeable than a kitchen knife but not as iconic as Michonne’s sword or Daryl’s crossbow. It’s not overly flashy or recognizable, just an axe that could be sold at your local hardware store.

This season the axe has taken  a prominent place in the story and becoming a focal point for the conflict. If Negan doesn’t meet his end by the axe being driven into his cocky smirk and I’m totally wrong here, it will be a missed opportunity. What a perfect way to tie up the story arc in a neat little package. Of course, we already know The Walking Dead doesn’t like neat packages, even the kind that strengthens their storytelling.

Other Thoughts

  • Are Negan’s people truly loyal or do they function solely on fear? Fear is a great manipulator but there are more minions than there are Negans, the right leader merely needs to appear to start the rebellion.
  • Negan took Daryl instead of killing him, and although having a hostage is a great ploy, it would have been stronger to take Carl or Michonne. There is likely more to Negan’s reasoning in taking him than he let on.
  • Will Maggie lose the baby? Perhaps she will lose her mind? Or maybe she will be the next angel of death seeking revenge in a world that is far too cruel.
  • Will Carol and Morgan find the reinforcements that are desperately needed in the fight against the Saviors? Or were those weird guys last season more bad guys?

Hopefully, we have answers to these questions throughout the season.

I was tagged to do this sunshine game again. This time by Elle Karma. That means it’s different questions with new answers, so not exactly the same.

The way this game works is you answer eleven questions, nominate eleven people, and ask eleven questions. Okay, well, I’m kind of a hermit and re-nominating the same writers over and over isn’t for me. If you would like to nominate yourself to answer my questions, feel free! Then you can pass it along to others if you choose.

Here are the questions posed by Elle:

How many cups of coffee/tea/adult beverage must you consume to effectively write?

I do not require beverages to write. A cup of coffee or tea is nice to have, but not necessary. I do not drink adult beverages, because I have a very strong sense of taste and the alcohol overpowers me. I drink a lot of water, at least 64 oz a day.

What genre best describes your personality?

As much as i want to say something cool like fantasy, sci-fi, or maybe even mystery….. I’m going to have to go with self-help. I’m really good at being enthusiastic and cheering people on, but if I actually help them in any way isn’t clear.

If you were to get rid of one state in the U.S., what would it be and why?

I feel no ill will to any state in particular. They call remain part of the Union…. for now….

A penguin walks through your door right now wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why is he here?

The penguin would say, without taking a breath, “What do you mean my doctor wants me to be seen for my diabetes? I know my blood test was really high, (and has been for the last 5 years,) but I wasn’t fasting. I already know everything about diabetes because I took a class in 1982, and I’m sure that absolutely no new research or information could help me. Also my doctor said this was free, but now you’re telling me it’s not free? What? Everything your doctor recommends is automatically free. Isn’t that how healthcare in the USA works? You’re going to tell my doctor I’m not going to schedule? Now, hang on, hang on. I didn’t say I wouldn’t schedule. What do you have available?”

This is my life…..

If Tolkien and Austen were to have a Rap Battle, who would win? Why?

They’re both great, but Tolkien came up with his own language, so I’m going to have to say he would win. (Sorry, Jane!)

What is your honest opinion on garden gnomes?

I love garden gnomes. They are that wonderful combination of creepy and cute all in one little ceramic package. I hope to have my own collection, but currently have none.

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‘You’re not afraid of little old me, are you?”

If you had to create a horocrux, what object would you use and where would you hide it?

My hororcrux would probably be a garden gnome dressed as a clown and hidden in a den of immortal spiders. That way it would be far too terrifying for anyone to try and get it.

What footwear do you typically wear while writing?

I usually wear shoes. If not shoes, then slippers or socks. Regardless, however; I always am wearing skin.

Do you shower before you start your day or shower before bed?

Yes.

If you could be any kind of sandwich, what would you be?

Because of that very strong sense of taste, I don’t like mixing too many foods together. Sandwiches are mostly the enemy. I do like peanut butter and jelly, though. Or maybe grilled cheese. I would be one of those, probably, but…. being a sandwich seems somewhat terrifying.

If you’re the kind of person who actually responds to challenges when tagged on Twitter, why do you feel compelled to respond?

I am compelled to respond because it helps build community, even though I’m a hermit. This goes back to that whole self-help book thing.

Questions for Those Who Want Them
  1. If you’re a writer, what is your main character’s favorite color? If not, what is your favorite fictional character.s favorite color? (Make a guess anyway.)
  2. What animal do you prefer to see as a fictional character?
  3. Based on personality, if you were one of these fictional characters, which would you be: Elf / Dwarf / Hobbit / Goblin / Orc?
  4. If you could wear outfits from any time period, (even to work or school!) which would you choose?
  5. Cosplay – for or against?
  6. What is your favorite midnight snack?
  7. If you ever became an eccentric (or are one currently) what would be your best quirk?
  8. If you don’t know the words to a song do you improvise? If so, what is a funny one you can share?
  9. Where would you go in a time machine? Would you stay?
  10. With a scary movie do you prefer monsters or real life suspense and why?
  11. Zombies, vampires, werewolves, or other?

Okay, that’s all of my questions. Have fun if you decide to answer them! You can either tag me on Twitter @RRWillica to let me know you answered, or you can link back to this post. If you choose not to do either, I’ll never know.

Two weeks ago I posted the Super Silly Editing Challenge. The story was written using only random sentence generators, and the point was to find sense in nonsense. Sadly, there were no participants to showcase this week. I still would like to see what other people come up with, and if anyone ever does, let me know!

And now the results of Sense in Nonsense.

The chill night air is oily from the afternoon street fair. A fire eater is seen bathing in the fountain. John runs by, clucking his tongue at such an unsanitary sight. The glamorous effect of the performer is broken by his disregard of the law.

“The police will arrest him for such a display,” the lovely secretary says.

Passion or serendipity has presented itself.

John is discouraged by the lawlessness and says, “Three times last week I saw a suspicious worm shake hands with an unsavory character.”

“You must be joking!” The lovely secretary is drawn into conversation.

“Let me sit by you and we can talk. I prefer it to sitting over here.”

“What is wrong with that seat?” the lovely secretary asks, looking at the seat curiously.

Taking advantage of her distraction, he sits beside her. The lovely secretary is surprised but doesn’t challenge him.

John makes and attempt at small-talk. “I would like very much to see pictures of you.”

The lovely secretary dodges the request with a smile. “You have very large nostrils for such a small gentleman.”

Her observations makes John feel like a fool. “How could I garner your attraction?”

“I am rather discriminating when it comes to love.”

John feels regret having asked, but has another trick up his sleeve. He can sense there is still a chance to win her favor!

“I have a large septic boil on my back.”

The lovely secretary fidgets at the revelation.

“Would you burst it for me please?” A wide smile stretches John’s face.

The disgusting request is granted. The lovely secretary squeeze’s John’s boil with unexpected strength. She strains against the abscess. A wash of  liquid begins to leak through. John’s boil explodes with a puss the color of custard and leaks down his back in a wide stream.

She recoils in horror. Even compliments cannot change what she has witnessed, and any attraction she felt evaporates.

John pulls away from the lovely secretary and regains his focus. “I needed your help this tonight.”

“Any cheerful memories we may have shared have been spoiled,” she confesses.

“Then I do not see why I should thank you for your help.”

“How do you think that makes me feel? Your confusing behavior is not enough to form an attraction!” the lovely secretary says, but knows he will not understand.

“Your unhappiness confuses me. Why can’t you at least pretend you love me?”

“I do not reciprocate your feelings, and any chance of doing so is fast evaporating,” the lovely secretary sighs.

John’s anger thunders through his mind. “I was an idiot to talk with you.”

“I was equally stupid to help you.”

The truth deflates John’s ego. “All of my hope is gone.”

“If you don’t want to lose an opportunity, John, then be grateful when people help you.”

-FIN-

_______________________________________________________

Is it the best story ever? No! But it was fun to challenge myself this way. Perhaps I will hold another Super Silly Editing Challenge in the future.

In other news, we are only one week away from launch day of Darkness Falling: Shadow of the Seeker! I will not be posting a character analysis this week due to having a lot to do before the 18th. I am working on a couple at the moment, however; and hope to be posting them on a regular basis soon!

Thank you for reading and feel free to leave a comment or critique. See you next week!

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During this past week I decided to try to write a story using only random sentence generators. If there’s anything that can get me laughing until I can’t breathe, it’s randomized sentences and MadLibs. Needless to say, it wasn’t easy getting something semi-understandable out of the nonsense.

Now that I have my random story, my goal is to edit it into an actual story. What’s the point of this exercise? Turning nonsense into sense is a great way to practice editing. It’s similar to solving a puzzle. In the beginning the pieces appear to be a confused jumble of colors, but once you start to put them together you discover something recognizable.

Everything in the story was given by the random generators, including the characters. The only change I made was John was Two-finger John.

If you would like to participate in the editing challenge, here are the rules:

  1. The characters must remain the same. (John and the lovely secretary.)
  2. The plot of the story must remain the same. (The plot is John wants the lovely secretary to burst a boil on his back. It’s a horror story.)
  3. The tense of the story must remain the same (present tense.)

I will post the results of my own editing in two weeks on Saturday, June 11. If you want to play along, post your results in the comments of today’s post by Thursday, June 9th 2016 along with a link to your blog, and your story and link will be included in the June 11th blog!

This is meant to be fun as well as strengthen our writing and editing skills.

Below is the story to be edited:

RandomStory3

The random generators I used to create this story are:

watchout4snakes

Random Word Generator

SmartPhrases.com

Random Word Generator

Nonsense Generator

Thank you for reading and I hope some of you decide to play along with this challenge!

This post contains spoilers from Fear the Walking Dead which aired May 22, 2016. If you have not seen the episode come back later.

What in the hell did we just watch?

Seriously, this episode was a nightmare. It wasn’t the type of nightmare that forces you to stay awake because there may be a zombie in the closet. Oh no. This was the type of nightmare which ends with you staring in utter confusion as the preview for Preacher starts to play.

To top things off, the episode was moving at a frantic pace in order to cram all of the ill conceived plot devices in before the hour ended. The storytelling was disjointed and chaotic. Perhaps that was on purpose to showcase the chaos happening on the vineyard. All it did was serve to show just how little plot and character development was being used.

Fear the Walking Dead needs to change the title to Missed Opportunities. The list of weird, pointless decisions in the storytelling continues to grow. It’s too bad because for a couple of episodes it was starting to get better.

I want to discuss insanity. Mental illness is a real issue with real problems and real stigmas in the real world. Using mental illness as a turning point for a character can be catastrophic, and that’s the feeling I get from this episode. It was already bad enough last week when Chris started to fall off the deep end. Nick has always had issues because we know he was a drug addict, but his sudden flip to siding with Cecilia made very little sense. To top it all off, Salazar falls into religious delusions and hallucinations about his wife. That’s three characters making huge changes in two episodes. Is there something in the water? Maybe the land is cursed.

Let’s break down the demise of three lines of character development:

Chris

We discussed last week that he could be suffering trauma. Sure. This week he goes full tilt crazy by fleeing into the night. Not only that, but he ends up holding a stranger’s child hostage. Really? He becomes the pirate he killed. Did he also eat Reed’s heart and cut down one last immortal before the final battle? From being a scared kid to terrifying a kid, this leap is too far and too fast.

Travis, my least favorite character, was actually one of the better characters of the episode. Staying with Chris until he is well is what Travis would do, and that’s the best we can expect from the episode.

Nick

Okay, so Nick has always been a special character because he has issues that are unique to every other character. Being a drug addict comes with a set of problems. Nick’s drying out ended quickly. From being half dead at the quarantine to totally cleared up the very next day on the Abigail.

His discovery of the blood making him invisible was good. He never tells anyone else and they obviously just think he’s crazy already. Why is Nick covering himself in blood all the time? Even after he tells Madison outright that he’s invisible, she doesn’t put it together. It’s fine, she tends to be slow on the uptake, but still frustrating.

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“For the last time, it’s not a vampire phase.”

I do believe he thinks he’s invincible. That’s not far fetched at all. What I don’t believe is that he teams up with Cecilia instantly. Sure, she might persuade him over time, but within a 24 hours a stretch. I get that he wants to stay safe, and even thought maybe he was just playing along. Nope. The end of the episode proves otherwise. It doesn’t make sense. He abandons his family for people he just met? I don’t buy that, not after begging to let them stay.

Salazar

This is a tricky one. Could the boy at the church have triggered massive PTSD? Sure. Out of all the issues happening, this breakdown is the most plausible. It would have been nice to have had hints of this throughout the season, especially knowing he is leaving Ofelia behind with people he doesn’t trust. I think this could have been powerful, but it wasn’t, merely because it happened in such a chaotic episode. We also lose one of the best characters in the series.

On top of that, we now have yet another antagonist and conflict resolved within a couple of episodes. The pirates were built up and then easily dispatched. Alex from flight 462 and the pregnant pirate are left behind with no resolution. (Will they come back despite hundreds of miles and needing “payment” to cross the boarder? Probably, because that’s predictable.) Getting into Baja after so many arguments was boring. Cecilia was introduced with such fervor from the church scene last week, and now she’s gone. This place we worked all season to reach is burning to the ground.

Our cast is now cut into the three groups. Travis with Chris, Madison and friends, and Nick with the fanatics. Where are we going from here? Who knows. When we get there it will only last one episode.

I believe the show is trying very hard to differentiate itself from The Walking Dead. Crazy people is not really that different. Rick has been slowly descending into madness ever since the Prison. The little girl who believed the dead were her friends is another example of insanity the show recycles.

Fear the Walking Dead had an amazing opportunity to be different, and they bypassed that in season one. Instead we get halfhearted attempts to build tension for characters we do not yet care about.

Do we want to get the characters on the water? Great. There could have been a far more organic solution to that than Strand meeting Nick in the quarantine and seeing potential. Do we want to deal with pirates? Okay, let’s actually deal with pirates. Do we want to go to Baja? Fine, but let’s go there for a reason that will keep us there, not because of a mystery that turns out to be pointless.

Give the characters plausible motivation to drive the story other than contrite plot devices. That is the lesson of Fear the Walking Dead.

This is the mid-season finale. That means the rest of the story begins August 21. Will I be interested in watching the rest? Maybe or maybe not. Now that we are at the end, however; I want to change up the blog.

Starting next Monday I’ll be writing up character analysis from different popular shows, movies, and even some books (or characters that exist in multiple media.) I want to dig up the clockwork and show how a well built character functions (or how a poorly built character comes apart at the seams.) I’ll continue to use spoiler alerts at the top of those posts. I hope you join me!

Thank you for reading! If you have anything to add please feel free to post in the comments.

 

This post contains spoilers from Fear the Walking Dead on May 15, 2016. If you have not seen the episode, come back later.

The key to good storytelling is consistency.

It’s similar to a muffin. In every little bite you expect there to be a little bit of soft bread, and a little bit of blueberries, chocolate chips, or whatever. You don’t suddenly expect there to be a pebble or a puff of flower. Last night’s episode of Fear the Walking Dead was a pebble.

I have a lot of issues with the episode and they all are rooted in the inaction of season one. It’s easy to forget that the survivors in Fear the Walking Dead were sheltered for a good portion of time at the start of the zombie apocalypse. How long they were under the protection of the National Guard wasn’t really clear. We were thrown forward in time from the first night of chaos to an unspecified date. If we calculate time based on the facts that we know, it was long enough for the army to cut down several hundred thousand zombies (LA is huge, and the streets were empty once they took Travis out on patrol.) They also set up a highly functional medical quarantine where the very important “we’re all infected” fact was learned.

The first time Travis was taken out of the quarantine, he didn’t understand what really happened out in the world. There was a scene where the soldiers attempted to get him to shoot a zombie waitress from long range, and Travis is confused by the ordeal. The first real encounter with the dead is when Salazar released them from the stadium during the rescue of Nick. From there they ran straight to Strand’s house, were forced to say goodbye to Chris’ mom, and boarded the Abigail. The end of season one and the start of season two happen on the same day.

This is important because we have been with our survivors every step of the way from that point. The number of times they have encountered zombies has been limited. 1) The island with the crazy family. 2) The beach with the wreck of Flight 462. 3) Some random floaters. 4) Nick’s walk to Luis’ house. 5) Zombie pirate. You can list them on one hand!

Yet last night the survivors get into a scuffle with the zombie church goers from the top of the show. The scene adds to the confusion with these free range zombies hanging out where they died.. We all know how easily walkers get distracted. Maybe the poisoning had just happened. It’s hard to say because of the order in which the episode was run. Church. Avoiding the border patrol. Then back to the church. Sure, I guess it could have happened shortly before they arrived.

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“The power of Christ compels you!”

That’s another thing; the border patrol. We’ve been building up all season to get past them for what? This plot point which has been a driving point for much of the season was completely useless. We didn’t even see the exchange (or lack thereof) go down. The only thing we got out of it was getting rid of another throw away character that never needed to exist in the first place due to his not adding very much to the plot at all. He was a “saving grace” to get our cast out of a corner with the pirates, that was all. Adios, Luis, we hardly knew you.

At the church, our highly sheltered survivors battle the fresh zombies, easily stabbing them in the head with relative ease. They’re acting like pros when they are not. Their intimidation level is way too low for the lack of time spent in danger. To go along with this, when Nick is talking to Cecelia about how he’s “so tired of the killing” it’s a head scratching moment. Sure, we’ve seen some death, and yes, I can see people being scared and not wanting more people to die, that’s not the issue. It’s traumatizing, and I don’t doubt he wants to be safe. The real issue was the way in which he delivered the line. He said it like Rick, or Maggie, or Michonne. It doesn’t add up.

I admit that writing a series is hard. It’s easier for The Walking Dead because they already have strong source material. Fear the Walking Dead is having a case of the prequel blues. It’s based on the fuzzy, mysterious world building that birthed The Walking Dead, but it’s missing the point of being a prequel. It went from prequel to “we’re just going to see what’s happening in another part of the world.” That’s fine, of course, but it still takes place in the past. The characters need to be learning what we already know, and there is a fine line to walk between moving too slowly for the audience, and moving too fast for the characters. Right now this show is struggling with the latter.

This is why spending time in the early days of the apocalypse would have been better. We moved these characters from “early days” into “a lot of bad has already happened.” It feels as if the show is trying to recreate the confusion Rick felt after waking up in the hospital. I’m going to tell you now that it can’t be done, especially for long-time fans. It can’t be done for the new fans at this point, either, because of the inaction of season one. It would have been more interesting to watch them deal with things before anyone knew anything. (And I’m not talking about the confused mush that we were given.)

Another big issue with last night’s episode is with Chris. He’s gone from timid kid feeling guilty about letting pirates onto the boat to a psychopath wanting to murder his step-family.

What?

Yes, Chris is suffering trauma, but this is an unexpected turn, and not in the mind blowing “oh my god, why didn’t I see it coming?” type of way. What was his motivation for this twist? Madison not believing that Pirate Reed was about to turn, and that’s why he shot him. Okay, so she doesn’t believe him one time and now the best answer is murder?

Is there a possibility that Chris could make a turn toward this type of behavior? Sure. Does it make sense that it happens right now? Nope. The primary reason it doesn’t is because only two episodes ago he was hesitating to kill possibly innocent strangers. Suddenly turning on one of the few people with whom he has an attachment in the entire world doesn’t fit his character at this point. It could eventually. But right now is too soon.

Chris’ character arc is now suffering from what I consider “Anakin Syndrome.” That’s basically when you want to showcase how a character turns to the Dark Side but have completely goofed up in their development. They are too caring, just, friendly, or innocent in their behaviors when suddenly, out of the blue, they massacre a village full of Sand People.

Using the “annoyed with authority” trope is exactly what happened to Anakin (and a big reason why the Star Wars prequels are terrible.) It seems to be what’s happening to Chris. Madison’s concern of Chris’ behavior is plausible, and the fact that she overreacts to everything is annoying, sure. At the same time, Chris killing Pirate Reed could be a tiny first step in the direction of antagonist, rather than the flying leap he is making.

My last thoughts are on Cecelia. I want to call her Evil Hershel. The Abigail compound in Baja is reminiscent of the Greene Farm; picturesque, self-sufficient, and housing zombies. The big difference here is that Cecelia doesn’t think there could be a cure. She’s fully accepted that the zombies are dead. They’re just, you know, like any other ancestor spirit except we can see them.

I’ll admit I don’t know much about the beliefs of the dead in Mexico much farther than the celebration of the Day of the Dead. I could be wrong, but I don’t think the beliefs include the idea that our ancestors are just beyond our field of vision trying to rip our guts out for a snack. The fact that she’s totally okay with her dead family becoming flesh eating monsters is disturbing, even more than Hershel hoping for a cure. At least they keep them locked up, I guess. The real creepy, possible psychopathic killer in the episode (other than Cecelia, obviously,) is the little boy who feeds the zombies a live puppy and doesn’t blink an eye. Our survivors need to keep an eye on that guy.

Next week is the mid-season finale. What consequences will our survivors be able to bring the show back level before the break? Maybe we’ll find out next week but with this show, who knows!

 

This post contains spoilers from Fear the Walking Dead on May 1, 2016. You’ve been warned.

This is not a recap of the episode, but a discussion of the successes and failures in storytelling from popular media. Hopefully we can all learn and grow together as writers.

Fear the Walking Dead has steadily been turning itself around, or so it seems, replacing inaction with action. Once again, last night’s episode upped the game by putting the cast in motion rather than forcing them to stand still. Again, we are faced with the best episode of the series so far. I hope to say this every week for the next three weeks.

Today I want to focus on some of the character arcs and how the choices characters make can drive a plot. Last night’s episode was very good mostly because characters behaved as their previous characterization dictates. That’s a key element in believable storytelling. This episode had some great moments which could be character altering for several survivors. Last week Chris faced a similar experience with the man begging to be killed on the plane. This week we bring danger and trauma to everyone on board the Abigail.

We finally learn about Strand, who truly is a shady guy and always has been. I’m happy to say Strand’s past was revealed in flashbacks and not just him telling the story. (Show not tell!) We learn he used to buy junk debts, he’s a con artist, and a thief. We also see him get caught up with the true owner of the Abigail, named Thomas Abigail, and they fall in love. It’s the classic tale of wealthy man meets shady guy in a bar and makes him his henchman. Strand is racing to Mexico not only for a safety, but to be with his man, who also is in charge. That information puts a lot into perspective.

Of course, Strand is all about “survival of the me” when it comes right down to it. Jumping ship when the pirates show up was fitting, proving his bark is worse than his bite. He’s a rogue, not a fighter. The real reason the rest of our survivors are alive is because Strand really isn’t a killer, he’s a henchman; a scout.

Madison makes a big character move when she attacks one of the pirates. I’m still unsure that she has what it takes to survive long-term, but that moment is a big turning point. I only think she will survive because I believe the point of Fear the Walking Dead is to have a woman as the focal character where The Walking Dead has Rick.

Madison, however; isn’t a leader. Travis isn’t a leader, either. They’re “parents.” They try to parent the cast the way they parent their kids.I would like to see Madison make more changes in the direction of being a good leader. She certainly doesn’t add up to Michonne, Carol, Maggie, or Sasha at this point – all of which could be leaders. Carol made big changes. Can Madison do the same?

This episode again showed why the teens drive the story. Alicia’s error with speaking to the pirates finally comes into play. Yes, it was a stupid mistake but now we have true conflict.  Alicia continues to make her mistakes, trusting the younger pirate, and even giving him a hug. Come on, Alisha, your boyfriend may be dead but don’t’ go jumping at the first pretty face you see. Actually, do jump because otherwise there won’t be a story.

Their conversation is important. A new name is thrown into the game; Conner. From the young pirate (I think he is Jack?) we learn that Conner is in charge, but he listens to Jack’s council. Everyone is waiting for Conner to decide what happens, and maybe Alisha and her family will be allowed to join Conner’s group. Why does this seem familiar? Oh, right, it sounds a lot like Negan and his Saviors. This group feels like a mirror of that group, only younger and in their raw beginnings.

Unlike Negan, we get to meet Conner this episode.

In order to play the hero, Travis reveals his skills as a mechanic, which he hopes will save his family. Good ol’ Travis, finally doing something stupid to help the story along. In the end, Conner takes Alisha and Travis hostage. Excellent. Now we have a rescue missions to either solidify them as a team or tear them apart.

Lastly, I want to talk about Nick on his secret mission to the shore. First off, how much time does he spend in his room that no one noticed he was missing? Were they all just pretending they didn’t know where he was? I couldn’t tell. Also, where is this non-firebombed town? Perhaps we should be scrounging for supplies?

BloodShirt

“If this is what napalm does, we should have stayed on land.”

Despite these questions, last week I said that Nick is becoming my favorite character, and that continues as he progresses from drugged out teen to zombie apocalypse survivor. Maybe it’s because of his past that he isn’t as afraid of the walkers as everyone else. Having survived the withdrawal of his addiction might put things in a different perspective. Plus, he is still an addict, just because he’s not currently using doesn’t mean he’s magically cured. The drive of teenage immortality and whatever drove him to drugs in the first place could be in play.

Nick isn’t Carol or Daryl at this point, but I would say he has a lot of characteristics similar to Glenn. He’s more reckless than Glenn, but he has the same confidence to be able to go into an infested area. He’s also smart like Glenn in being observant to zombie behavior. Glenn was able to rescue Rick in the beginning not because he wasn’t afraid, but because he has observed the walkers and understands how they respond to the world. Nick is quickly gaining this same type of information.

Nick also has the same attitude toward the walkers in this early stage that we often see in the current cast of The Walking Dead. He has the nonchalance to their presence in the world., accepting when they appear without being terrified. There will be walkers and we can get past them. He is still learning but I would like to continue to see him grow in this direction.

Nick picks up Thomas Abigail’s henchman Luis, and they save the day, as much as it can be saved. The real question is if Luis is truly a savior or if he will only bring more conflict in the days to come.

Other Questions

Will Strand finally decide the other survivors are worth saving, now that they’ve saved him?

Will Alicia continue to follow her teenage hormones and get everyone into more trouble?

Will a zombie baby chew it’s way out of the pirate mom’s tummy?

Hopefully we find out with only three episodes remaining of the season!

As usual this post contains spoilers from Fear the Walking Dead season 2 Episode 3. If you haven’t seen the episode please come back later.

This is not a recap but a discussion of how we can learn from the successes and failures of storytelling from popular media and improve our own writing.

I’m going to begin today by saying this episode is by far the best in the series. Once again, it is the teens that set things in motion. Even Strand, as shady and suspicious as he is, could leave us all dead in the water with his desire to remain isolated.

At this point Nick is my favorite character with Chris and Alisha tying for second. Sure, staying safe is what we would all desire in a situation such as the zombie apocalypse. That isn’t why we watch this show. Kids doing dumb things, like walking up to a zombie while covered in blood, is far more fun than watching Travis and Madison argue.

A lot happened in last night’s episode, but I want to focus on character intentions, which go hand in hand with motivation and core beliefs. To set a character in motion, we first need to know why and their plan.

Core Beliefs: Important values and beliefs that guide a characters

Motivation: what a character desires.

Intentions: The plans a character makes to meet their motivational or belief core goals.

Motivation and intention can also cause conflict, either when two characters are at odds or a character is forced situations that go against their core beliefs. We get to see this in action a couple of times this episode. Core beliefs are very important to your character, because it will dictate their behavior. Putting them in situations where they have to choose between their core beliefs and survival are great for causing conflict.

We started off with the Abigail sucking a zombie into the engine. This forces our survivors to anchor while Travis attempts to fix the problem. We all know it’s also because with Strand on board we need reasons to force the boat to stop. (At least this one is plausible.)

Let’s look at the different motivation and intention combinations of the evening.

First we have Alisha who at her core wants to be helpful. This drives her motivation to go to shore and her intention to find supplies.

Next we have Salazar. He has two motivations. The first is to take control of the Abigail away from Strand, who is not trustworthy. The second is to protect Ofelia who is out of antibiotics. For the first motivation he reveals the Mexico destination to Madison, his intention is to win her to his side. For the second motivation he offers to escort the teens ashore with the intention of finding antibiotics.

ftwd3

Hopefully the Abigail is well stocked with Fabreze.

Madison’s core is to keep the teens safe and help others. Her every move is dictated by these two motivations. These core motivations come into conflict when she confronts Strand about Mexico and he reveals he has a safe place in Mexico. In order to keep her kids safe, she will have to keep Strand happy. In order to keep Strand happy, she can’t help others. This has already been true, but now she has a solid reason not to argue when he tosses newcomers overboard.

One of the most important things about intentions is that they will not always work out in a character’s favor, and this drove the action of the episode. Finding supplies in the wreck was not an easy task. Much of the luggage was destroyed by fire or water. Although Salazar found some medication, he didn’t find antibiotics. Salazar’s plan to increase Madison’s suspicions about Strand was also a failure, because to meet her motivation her intentions have shifted.

All of these motivations and intentions are building toward a greater conflict. Following this dynamic, you can create deeper characters who act for a reason rather than doing things merely to move the story forward. They present consequences, both positive and negative.

The highlight of this episode, of course, is when Salazar encounters Charlie from Flight 462. We met Charlie, Jake (who is severely burned,) and some others at the beginning of the episode. The others are gone, and only Charlie and Jake remain. What happened to them in between is a mystery.

Now we come to the next set of motion/intention. Arriving back at the ship, Strand once again is unwelcoming of newcomers Charlie and Jake. He doesn’t want them on the boat. This time, Madison flounders because she is caught between her core beliefs and her desire to keep Strand happy. Instead of doing so grudgingly as we saw in the past two episodes, this time her motivation and reasoning is clear.

Strand has one motivation, which is to get where he’s going with as little “dead weight” as possible. His intention is to ensure the other survivors do not hinder this plan. For a minute as I watched him struggle I thought he might crack. I thought he might feel guilty. If he did feel guilty, he ended it by cutting Charlie and Jake free from being towed, leaving them to die.

Hopefully they return in future episodes, and Charlie’s speech about this being the hardest day will bring about consequences to our survivors.

Other Notes

My favorite scene was when Nick was drenched in zombie juice and “communicated” momentarily with a walker.

Chris’ character development will hopefully take an interesting turn now that he’s suffered the trauma of a mercy killing.

Will Ofelia die of infection and become a zombie?

Hopefully the next episode will continue the trend of action and conflict. Thanks for reading and if you have anything to add, please feel free in the comments.

This post will contain spoilers of Fear the Walking Dead season 2 episode 2.
If you haven’t seen the episode please come back later.

As always, this is not an episode recap but a discussion about the successes and failures of Fear the Walking Dead and how we can improve our writing by learning from them.

Last week for the premier I was pretty disappointed. Perhaps my disappointment would have been less if The Walking Dead season finale hadn’t also been utterly disappointing. I chose to give it another episode to see what happens next. I’m happy to say the second episode was much better and they actually did something that I thought should be done, go ashore despite the risks. (I know I can’t take credit, because episodes are filmed in advance, but it still feels vindicating.)

It’s Probably Pirates

After seeing a light on an island, the gang of survivors decide to dock the Abigail. This doesn’t really make sense to me, as Strand has been against making contact with anyone, but suddenly going ashore to an inhabited island with strangers is okay. “Information” doesn’t seem like something he cares about. Partly, I think he did it to use the island to hide their boat from the mysterious ship following their trail. The radar can only pick up mass, so hiding a smaller mass against a bigger mass is a good idea.

If you think like an antagonist, however; this doesn’t work at all. After being followed for a long distance by a ship that is faster (which was pointed out last episode,) the Abigail wouldn’t just disappear off the radar. If you were a pirate wouldn’t you want to find out why the smaller ship docked on an island? There could be supplies, something everyone needs desperately, especially because all of the coast was torched.

I’ll theorize that maybe the bigger ship isn’t pirates; it could be more survivors. It could be the downed flight 462 (highly doubtful but with this show you never know.) Whether good or bad, everyone needs supplies. It’s still early in the apocalypse, there is plenty of room for overly trusting survivors.

This red flag is brought to you by the question “Why did Strand allow them to go ashore?” The answer for this episode is “because we need to get them off of the boat somehow.” Not the best answer, but at least we get off the yacht.

ftwd2

“We need to go ashore. We have to empty the toilets.”

They’re Creepy and They’re Kooky

This episode did a good job of building the tension with the ranger station family. From the top of the show we think two little tykes are about to become walker snacks. At the very end we watch as the Abigail leaves two brothers behind, having to face down what remains of their once loving mother. All of it is tinged with the sorrow that should come with the end of the world.

My favorite moments in this episode were the subtle foreshadowing of what was coming. First the kids making a gift of shells for the walkers. Next, we have the mom flickering the light in hopes of getting help for her children because she “doesn’t see a future” for them on the island. There’s the eerie red dots on the action figure’s heads, and Henry telling Nick about “power pills” to prevent him from having to get shot. Willa singing ring around the rosy and Alicia telling her the flowers didn’t heal the victims of the plague. Oh yes, so many juicy little bits.

Foreshadowing is not always easy to pull off. You don’t want to give away too much or be obvious. Subtle hints that make the audience question motives help drive home the reality once the truth is revealed. Travis did a good job holding up the confusion of why a mother would send her children away from a seemingly safe place into unsure waters? Clearly she doesn’t think they will be going to Walker University to get a degree in brain eating.

A Defensible Position

I think the saddest thing is that the island could have a made a good base. I know that Fear the Walking Dead wants to keep the survivors moving to avoid being too similar to The Walking Dead. That’s fine. There was a lot of potential in that island. It just needed more fortification. Of course, the dead bodies washing up on shore would eventually make it uninhabitable if you can’t dispose of them.

Then again, maybe walkers make good fertilizer. Did Rick already cover this at the Prison? I can’t remember.

Like I said last week, I don’t watch The Talking Dead, but I usually catch the opening. Last night Chris Hardwick was saying how this episode proves living on an island isn’t safer. Once again, this felt like the writers trying to insult the fans and our theories, which I think is in really poor taste. Do they want us to stop watching? Because I’m sure they will be laughing really hard if the show is canceled due to poor ratings. This episode proves nothing other than why you should keep your dangerous medicines in childproof containers on a high self instead of on a dresser in a coconut shell candy dish (or whatever the heck that was.)

Bring out Your Dead

I wonder how long Travis will need before he learns that walkers are for head stomping? I think it would be hard to realize that “chores” now include pick-axing a former human in the brain. Travis needs some schooling and I have a feeling it’s not going to pretty when it happens. Until then, good for Chris in helping their hosts with the daily walker cleanup. Even if it is out of his anger and grief about his mom, it once more shows that the teens are adapting faster than the adults.

Power Pills

Nick is turning out to be a favorite character. He has problems, true, but he’s also pretty smart. Maybe that’s why he has problems. Besides, complex characters are far more interesting.

Despite his drug issues he does have a compassionate heart. Hopefully he grows during the series. Being a recovered addict who has helpful pharmaceutical insights gives him an important role to the survivors. I bet Madison never saw that coming. Also, I appreciated that everyone just quietly accepted that he was snooping without accusations. They know what he was looking for, no need to make a scene.

Wave Goodbye

This episode was nice in that it had a beginning, middle, and an end. It left us with questions, but in a good way. Did the older brother finish what his father intended? Or does he try to live it out with his brother in a house full of ghosts and memories? Will they be another Morgan in that the family will come across them again?

The characters were well defined despite the short time we spent with them. Watching the plan to rescue Willa and Henry fall apart was heart wrenching. In The Walking Dead we come across families who made similar plans as George, ensuring their children never lived the horror of the zombie apocalypse. In this episode we got to meet one of those families, and it made for the best episode yet of Fear the Walking Dead.

Other Thoughts

Strand has been shady from the start but now it seems we’re getting closer to learning the truth. Is he a pirate? Gun smuggler? Or worse?

I’m glad Salazar is along for the ride. Until the rest of the crew gets up to survivor speed his dark past is going to be useful.

I would like to see more from Ofelia. She played a major role in getting the survivors out of the quarantine and I hope she is equally important this season.

Perhaps next week we will get to find out what happened to flight 462.

Thank you for reading and if you have any thoughts please feel free to leave a comment.