What I Need from the MST3k Reboot

One of my earliest memories was playing in my grandfather’s living room while he watched TV. I remember him laughing merrily at the screen, and I would occasionally look up. I couldn’t tell you for the life of me what the film on the screen was, but I distinctly remember three silhouettes sitting in the bottom right corner of the screen; A cylindrical object that looked like a gumball machine, a man, and a beaked creature with an unusually shaped head.

giphy

This faint memory was lost to me until the age of twelve, when I sat down in my middle school uniform with a bowl of cereal balanced in my lap as I went channel surfing for a few moments before having to leave for school. I found the title of a movie that sounded familiar to me, but I didn’t quite know why. I felt as though my mother, or uncle, or grandfather had spoken of it before… So I clicked on the channel. I saw those same silhouettes at the bottom right hand corner of the screen. Two robot puppets and a man told jokes over a terrible B-movie from 1955 called, This Island Earth. That’s when my perspective on comedy changed forever. That’s when I discovered Mystery Science Theatre 3000; The Movie. 

giphy-3

I recorded the rest of the film and watched it three times, sometimes laughing so hard that I was unable to breathe. I didn’t know then that Mystery Science Theatre 3000, or MST3k, was formerly a TV show. I didn’t know that the movie I had watched first was actually a dark mark upon the show’s history as a whole, their typical quality of jokes and production stifled beneath studio control. I didn’t know that it began as a small, local project in Minnesota in 1988, I didn’t know that it had a cult following on two popular TV stations, and I didn’t know that Mike Nelson wasn’t always the host of the show. As I rented more and more episodes of the show from the library, iTunes, and any other means by which I could get my hands on new content, I soon became weirdly protective of the show; Team Mike over Team Joel, Team Servo over Team Crow, Team Sci-Fi channel era over Team Comedy Central era, and Team “The Brain That Wouldn’t Die and Werewolf are the best episodes of the series” (BECAUSE THEY ARE.).

That summer, I was sitting in my local movie theatre with my mom, watching previews for upcoming theatre events. An announcement stopped all conversation between us when we heard, “From the team that brought you Mystery Science Theatre 3000 comes Rifftrax Live; Plan 9 From Outer Space!” 

Rifftrax? What’s that?

giphy-4

Mystery Science Theatre 3000 was cancelled in 1999, and the cast and writing staff went on to other projects, including the short-lived series, The Film Crew,  publishing several books, and hosting a movie review segment on NPR. Creator and first host Joel Hodgson and most of his original MST3k team (J. Elvis Weinstein [the original Tom Servo], Frank Coniff [TV’s Frank], Trace Beaulieu [the original Crow/Dr. Forrester], and Mary Jo Pehl [Pearl Forrester]) reunited to make Cinematic Titanic, a live riffing group that would tour the country. The second generation host, Servo, and Crow (Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett) reteamed to make a riffing on a larger scale. Now they could do movies that were more mainstream, not restricted to public domain B-movies alone. Twilight, Pirates of the Caribbean, Roadhouse, Harry Potter…you name it! The way they got around legal issues was by recording their riffs in time with the movie and releasing them as MP3 tracks that could be synched up by each individual customer with the corresponding movie. Their live shows, broadcasted across the country through Fathom Events, were just a further extension of their comedy.

I went to the Plan 9 From Outer Space live show, Rifftrax’s first, and it stands out as one of my favorite movie theatre experiences of all time. These shows introduced me to performers like musician Jonathan Coulton and comedian Paul F. Tompkins, who have also aided in shaping my sense of humor. The Rifftrax team now have done twenty two live shows, one of which was a Mystery Science Theatre reunion, and have three more on the way, including their most recent, Samurai Cop, which I will be attending in a matter of minutes.

 

For almost a decade now, I have been a proud MSTie, trying my best to explain concisely a nearly thirty year-long history of these comedians to friends of a generation that has never seen the showBut then talk began of rebooting the show, bringing this unique comedy to an enitirely new audience…on NETFLIX no less!

But when Joel announced the reboot, I was worried. Which Servo would he use? Which Crow? Which HOST for that matter? Mike took Joel’s spot only when Joel left the show over creative differences with the producing staff. With Joel at the helm once more, what would this new project look like?

The answer that Joel arrived at was the best possible solution; An entirely new staff. For Crow, he chose comedian Hampton Yount, who is an absolute deadringer for the character and is himself a diehard fan of the original series. For Tom Servo (the love of my life in puppet form) he wisely chose Baron Vaughn, who I approve of wholeheartedly; He’s got Tom’s sarcastic wit and is an excellent singer, and that’s all I can really ask for! The new host is Jonah Ray, a brilliant writer, stand up comedian, and close friend of my idol, Chris Hardwick. So at least in terms of our lead cast, I very much approved.

I got a bit more concerned with casting of the new “Mads,” the show’s antagonistic dynamic duo or trio that sends our heroes the “cheesy movies” to monitor their minds. The characters themselves are a fantastic addition, as they will be the offspring of original Mads Dr. Forrester and TV’s Frank. The performers were a bit more confusing…playing Kinga Forrester is internet icon Felicia Day and TV’s Son of TV’s Frank is Patton Oswalt. Both of them are established names with many popular projects under their belt, rather than the relative unknowns who originally performed these roles.

giphy-1

The reboot’s fourteen new episodes drop at 12:01 AM tonight, and with new press coming out this week, my concern has grown significantly. Weinstein, Murphy, Beaulieu, and Corbett, the four previous “bot” performers always handled the puppetry themselves. Now, the bots are wrangled by professional puppeteers from the Jim Henson Studios. Vaughn and Yount only provide the voices and manipulate the mouths of their respective bot to match their movement.

Joel also said in an interview that the riff style has also changed from the original production, stating:

I think the biggest change for the new series is that we really collaborate with the movie more, in that we don’t really talk over the movie. We’re really careful about letting the movie deliver its dialogue. I think we were just a little sloppier before. Personally, I feel like the audience now listens faster and absorbs more so we really wanted the movie to show through and we used the negative space to collaborate with it.

This overall feels like a slicker, more professional presentation for the Netflix audience, but  I’m not sure that that’s a good thing. Call me a purist, but what made MST3k so great and gave it the cult following it got was how improvisational, inexpensive, and homegrown it was. The key performers weren’t established actors. Errors were made in the puppetry and in the joke delivery. It felt like a group of friends coming together to make a funny project. That’s what it began as, at least.

So I need this new MST3k to prove to me that it’s still homegrown. I need this new team of professionals to respect its predecessor and original spirit. I am eager to see how the comedic style has changed in eighteen years of the show being off the air, and I can’t wait to see the third generation players of Ray, Hampton, and Yount interact together. And finally, I can’t wait to see Mystery Science Theatre 3000 find an audience in an entirely new generation.

mst3kgif1.gif

…just do it right. That’s all this MSTie asks.

 

All gifs from giphy.
Advertisements

Another Day of Sun: A Tribute to 2016

Well, that’s a wrap on a pretty insane year all told. I want to look back at 2016, warts and all, the good and the bad.

I’m gonna do so in the only way I know how: through a movie reference. My favorite film of 2016 was undoubtedly La La Land (Chazelle, 2016), and my favorite song from the film was the exuberant, remarkably choreographed song “Another Day of Sun,” which serves as the opening number that takes place in gridlocked traffic (an experience LA inhabitants know all too well).

The song is the main supporting element to the title, “La La Land.” It depicts the stories of thousands of people who still come to Los Angeles based on a dream that began with the advent of Hollywood; to chase their dreams of fame and fortune in the Mecca of the entertainment industry. I’m one of these dreamers living in “La La Land.” The dream persists, despite an excess of competition, uncertainty, and adversity. I feel like this translates to what we all just went through in 2016:


Behind these hills, I’m reaching for the heights…

14125697_1078263572250499_4108141978916611210_o

“2016 is going to be SO much better than 2015!” we all said. Ah, what a simpler time December 31st, 2015 was!

2016 began with its typical new year’s surge of confidence, hope, and resolutions. 2015 in my mind at the time,  was a horrible year. The latter half of it included the death of a grandparent, the death of the family dog, three consecutive illnesses, a sprained ankle, and a smashed pinkie finger JUST as the year wrapped up.

2015 could burn in hell for all I cared. I was ignoring the good things, however: I got to see my favorite actor in person twice. I worked at an amazing production company. I went to The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon AND The Late Late Show with James Cordan. I survived 24 Hour Night at Disneyland and attended two red carpets. But it’s so easy to forget the good and focus on the bad, and that’s exactly what I did. 2015 was the worst, and 2016 would be full of new possibilities and new beginnings.

…And chasing all the lights that shine.

13580653_1045901512153372_4193083248320262511_o

This was the spring that I studied abroad for a semester in New Zealand. Things were going so incredibly well. I made a new group of international friends, learned my way around a new country and culture, and did things that, now looking back, I cannot believe I had the courage to do!

I went to Fiji and Australia entirely by myself! I completed the foremost item on my Bucket List; jumping off the Auckland Sky Tower-on LEAP DAY no less! I directed an original play in a theatre group I was entirely unfamiliar with. I learned the native Maori language. I threw all caution to the wind and chased experiences I never otherwise would have chased!

I even chased a deeply personal change. I told someone I had feelings for them that I had been repressing for years. Even though, unfortunately, nothing came of it or will ever come of it, for the first half of the year, this was just another bout of hope that was putting wind in my sails as I returned to back home and to Los Angeles to finish out the year.

When they let you down…

IMG_8930_Fotor
Auckland Sky Tower illuminated in solidary with Belgium. Photo by author.

I’d like to say that upon returning, that’s when everything changed for the worse, but that would be a lie. Despite being surrounded by new and exciting experiences while abroad, the entire world was rattled by countless terrorist attacks. Throughout the year and especially within the past week, celebrity deaths seemed to follow one another endlessly.

giphy.gif

Alan Rickman, Anton Yelchin, and most recently Debbie Reynolds hit me particularly hard. There was a beautiful quote from Tiia Ohmen, one of the co-creators of the website Fangirl Quest, a photography and travel advise website that maps movie and television shooting locations. This quote offers a perspective about why celebrity deaths affect us so:

Could it be because they’ve given us something to laugh about? To cry about? Because they’ve inspired us to pursue some career ourselves, in acting or music or in whatever it is they did well? Or because they used their publicity to support those who are suffering, inspired us to do good, or told us fight for our rights? Or maybe because they just told us “it gets better”, or “always keep fighting”, and helped us through a rough patch in our lives?

Could it be that they made us feel, and by making us feel they actually made us feel more alive?

The mourning seemed without end: David Bowie, Prince, Gene Wilder, George Michael, Carrie Fischer… And then I lost another grandparent in the blink of an eye.

Loss led into heartbreak, heartbreak led into frustration, frustration led into fear. This fear was also felt universally. I was in a country under the British crown when the United Kingdom left the EU, and I was in the U.S. when voting in my first election; the election that will forever be known as the most divisive since the days of the Civil War. Fear is rampant right now and will continue to be if we let it get to us. But the responses to the adversity that have emerged gives me so much hope.

Get up off the ground…

Kind actions followed every tragedy. Hopeful words lifted everyone’s spirits. Charitable deeds restored hope in humanity.

It is human nature to seek constant improvement and to have hope for the future. I too tried to improve bad situations. Unfortunately, good intentions did not go unpunished, for all attempts to better myself were thwarted by more nonsense: A repeated attempt to join an important group fell short. A career changing competition resulted in disqualification beyond my team’s control. Fitness progress was halted by a contagious disease and then a sprained knee. Before I knew it, 2015 seemed like a blessed memory compared to the things 2016 was dishing out.

Morning rolls around…

source

But, once again, we are at the end of another year and the start of another, and already there is much buzz about how much better 2017 will be than 2016:

As I stated before, the need for self-improvement seems wired in humans. That’s the reason why New Years resolutions exist in the first place: It’s a chance to start again and use a finite amount of time to spark a better change for oneself and one’s community.

…And it’s another day of sun.

But the fear remains in my mind: What if 2017 doesn’t deliver upon the promises we wanted 2016 to deliver? What if it’s just as full of grief, disappointment, and uncertainty…or worse?

But a best friend put it well when I voiced these concerns:

I think all we can really do is stay positive and keep sending out good vibes into the universe, and hope that others are doing the same.

And so morning will roll around tomorrow, and it shall be another day of sun in a new year. At the end of the day, 2015 didn’t do anything to us. Neither did 2016. In order to make sense of our situation, we as a people have characterized these years as having their own identities and wills to make our lives better or worse. When it comes down to it, we are the ones who control our fates. Terrible things happen, but so do the good.

2016 was the year I actually committed to increasing the quality and number of posts featured in this blog, which has been in existence since 2013. This was the year I made friends who live in over a dozen countries around the world. 2016 was the year I was brave. 2016 was the year I was one step closer to figuring out who I am.

So here’s to a better 2017 for everyone. I hope that every resolution is met (c’mon, self. The gym is not a punishment) and that problems that arise can be met with level-headedness and an easy resolution.

It’s another day of sun. 

Header image from StockSnap. All photos by author. All gifs from giphy.

Reading Too Much Into Trailers #2; Beauty and the Beast (2017) Edition

UPDATE: So weirdest thing ever, Nerdist News and I published the SAME THEORY at relatively the same time, so it might be canon, folks! Nerdist is never wrong! Wow, sorry…I just still can’t believe my theory was so on point! Read on, mes amis!

ORIGINAL POST: So a little over a month ago, the first teaser trailer for Pirates of the Caribbean; Dead Men Tell No Tales dropped, and I spent way too much time over-analyzing what little visuals and audio they gave. But heck, it’s really fun, so Ima do it again.

This morning, I woke up, opened up my phone, and was greeted to the sight of literally everyone freaking out and sharing the first official trailer, which left me so chill-ridden that I was nearly levitating out of my bed.

I was a tad skeptical at the recent first look Entertainment Weekly gave at the sudden reveal of the Beast, the final design of the enchanted objects (particularly Lumiere and Plumette), and Belle’s very yellow dress. But once I was able to see all of these elements systematically coming together in motion, it all seemed to fit together far better than I ever expected, and now I am back to anticipating this newest Disney live action adaptation, before the whole conceit becomes very old very quickly.

BUTTTTTTT….it’s now time for intense speculation! One frame of the trailer caught my eye early on, and now that I’ve had a chance to watch it a few times, I have come up with a new theory, and I am now wondering if it will ultimately come to fruition in the final film.

One of the 1991 animated film’s very few plot holes is a relatively big one: In “Be Our Guest,” Lumiere sings the line, “Ten years we’ve been rusting, needing so much more than dusting.” The narrator at the very start of the film, however, explains the conditions of the castle’s curse thusly:

The rose [the Enchantress] had offered was truly an enchanted rose, which would bloom until his twenty-first year. If he could learn to love another, and earn their love in return by the time the last petal fell, then the spell would be broken. If not, he would be doomed to remain a beast for all time.

That would make the Prince (WHOSE NAME IS NOT ADAM, I WILL FIGHT YOU ON THAT! COME AT ME!) eleven years old at the time of his curse. This inevitably leads to the reasoning that of course he was rude to the Enchantress disguised as an old lady – 1) He was just a punk kid, 2) Stranger Danger! Finally, this plot hole becomes even bigger when Belle finds a torn portrait of the Prince looking rather…adultish, don’t you think?

giphy
…no way he’s eleven.

Early on, when I first saw on IMDb that the 2017 film’s crew had cast a King and Queen, I knew at once that we were going to get some more Prince back story, which will hopefully explain this rather large plot hole.

Well, let’s take a look at the torn portrait in this new film.

img_2965

It’s a new take on the classic moment from the animated movie, and we can clearly see that a depiction of an itty bitty Dan Stevens was used to create this image, and also features his mother and father standing behind him.

What interests me, however, is that while the Prince’s visage retains the expected scratches from a rather enraged Beast later on, the King’s face is almost completely scratched out, while his mother remains untouched.

This clues me in to four things:

  1. The film will explain the origin of the curse in great detail. 
  2. The King and Queen’s absence will most likely be explained. My guess? They were either killed by the Enchantress or have subsequently died as a result of the curse (they themselves couldn’t break the curse before a certain amount of time and paid for it with their lives).
  3. The Prince/Beast loved his mother dearly and views her as an innocent, seeing as her image is free from his claws.
  4. The King is most likely to blame for the curse. I don’t anticipate that the film will deviate very much from the original story, and most likely the Prince will still be a child from the onset of the curse, living out ten years before the last petal falls, sealing his fate forever. Therefore, my prediction is that it was the King’s rudeness, and perhaps similar unkind traits exhibited in the Prince, that landed the entire castle into their cursed state.

So, in sum, here’s my prediction for how the origin of the curse came about and will ultimately unfold in the film, or at least, how I would do it:

  • An old beggar woman arrives to the castle on a stormy night, offering the King a rose.
  • She is either refused at the door, or is shown in but treated incredibly rudely by the household staff and the King himself.
  • The King pays her great insult, and the Prince remains at his side, further taunting her.
  • The woman gives the King a final chance to repent for his cruelty. When he fails to cease, she reveals herself to be the Enchantress.
  • In punishment, she kills the King and Queen (a little harsh, might have to be revised, I’ll admit), and sets the curse on the castle staff and the Prince. She still sees the capacity for love in him, perhaps love exhibited by his mother. It is with this hope in mind that she transforms him into a beast and bestows the rose upon him, telling him that he has ten years to learn how to love and earn love in return before his curse becomes permanent.

…I mean, wouldn’t that be cool? I think it solves all of the plot hole problems as well! What do you think? Am I way off track? Right on the money? Can you think of anything else I’m not thinking of? WHY ISN’T IT MARCH ALREADY?!

That’s all folks! Thanks for joining me on what is sure to become a series of, “Reading Too Much Into Trailers.”

All gifs from giphy.

Sigh…Need a Hug After that Walking Dead Premiere? C’mon, Bring It In.

SPOILERS, MY PEEPS. Why would you even click this if you didn’t know who Negan killed tonight?

Okay, hello. How’s it going, champ? Yeah…it’s been a pretty rough day. Hard time to be a Walking Dead fan, huh?

So…as you know, this happened (I’m gonna spare the gruesome aftermath and instead show images from right before Lucille met these skulls):

The recipient of Negan’s twisted game of “Eeny meeny miny moe,” was regrettably Sergeant Abraham Ford. Afterwards, Daryl made the fatal error of trying to take Negan out himself, and doing so caused Negan to rear up and take out a character present in the show since Episode 1.1 and fan-favorite Glenn Rhee. The rest of the episode delved deep into just how sadistic and cruel Negan and the Saviors can be, and was overall incredibly exhausting for anyone who watched tonight.

img_2793

I want to go into my experience watching the show tonight. I am still in shock that my best friend won tickets to see the premiere episode tonight, followed immediately by a live taping tonight of The Talking Dead at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. I got to see my hero, Chris Hardwick, hosting the biggest panel in the show’s history, featuring Andrew Lincoln (Rick), Norman Reedus (Daryl), Steven Yeun (Glenn), Michael Cudlitz (Abraham), Lauren Cohan (Maggie), Danai Gurira (Michonne), Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Negan), Sonequa Martin-Green (Sasha), Christian Serratos (Rosita), Ross Marquand (Aaron), Josh McDermitt (Eugene), Robert Kirkman (creator), and Scott M. Gimple (showrunner). Also in the audience to support were Melissa McBride (Carol), Lenny James (Morgan), Austin Amelio (Dwight), Alanna Masterson (Tara), Tom Payne (Jesus), and Greg Nicotero (director/makeup artist). Everything was perfect. We had incredible seats, were surrounded by 500 incredible fans, and we all got to experience this episode together.

fullsizerender-8
All the panelists (sans Jeffrey Dean Morgan), huddled together in the pouring rain.

I have had the outrageous good fortune to attend several panel events, and every time I leave, I am bouncing off the walls with joy and excitement from what I have just experienced. Not this time. I’m sure it will hit me in a few days how much of an amazing evening this was, but for right now, I am absolutely exhausted.

There are really two things that stood out to me this evening: the first was the sound. Every time something horrible or stressful would unfold, hearing everyone around us scream or cry created this tangible energy. As a group, we were panicked, frustrated, terrified, and grieving. Particularly horrifying was the screech let out from all of us at Glenn’s final, choked-out words: “Maggie, I will find you.”

giphy-4
All of us in that moment.

The second thing that has truly shaken me to my core is the fact that as soon as Negan’s bat hit Abraham’s head, it began to rain. Los Angeles is still in the middle of what appears to be a never-ending drought, and rain is still very much a rarity. Of all days, it rains tonight, on a night that was predicted to have a 0% chance of rain. It rained from that moment throughout the rest of the show and on to The Talking Dead, where it began raining so hard that Hardwick, stubbornly refusing to use an umbrella, had to have his body mic replaced mid-show. The joke throughout the evening was that the episode was so sad, even “Jesus was crying.”

The weirdness doesn’t end there, however. Hardwick wrapped up the 90-minute episode with his typical sendoff, and at that moment, the rain stopped entirely. Soggy and defeated, everyone packed up rather quickly and began to walk back to our respective parking structures. Perhaps it was the adrenaline of the day, perhaps it was all of us walking through a cemetery at night, but we were all silent. It was a harrowing experience.

When I came home, after calling and texting other friends who were watching the episode as it came on in each respective time zone, I went online to see the rest of the United States’ responses. They’re horrifyingly sad.

I want to take a moment to talk about why moments like this can affect fans in such a way. At the end of the day, this is a fictional television show based on a fictional graphic novel. But time after time, in example after example, media is able to capture our imaginations. So why did watching the bludgeoning of two beloved characters send most of the zombie-loving world into an emotional coma tonight?

Because we have spent upwards of seven years with these characters. Because we get to have sixteen hours of time with them over sixteen weeks of the year. We see them at their best and worst, identify with them, and see ourselves in their successes and failures. When we lose them, we lose our family. Tonight I felt like I was in that lineup with the rest of Rick’s group. I was crying just as hard, I felt just as hopeless and panicked. Walking Dead fans are going through a mourning period, and that is normal despite its fictional nature. No one really died. Negan doesn’t exist. But because these characters made us feel, we feel connected to them in a deeply personal way.

I am so sorry. If you’ve read this, you went through similar emotions tonight, and this was just as horrible as was advertised by the cast and crew earlier this summer. But, if nothing else, notice how cool it is that you belong to a community of like-minded nerds that get it. We’re in this together. What Negan did tonight has just become personal, and through this shared pain, we now have an even deeper connection to what will unfold in the rest of this season, and future seasons to come.

img_2743
They gave us tiny tissues because they KNEW we’d need them!
All photos by author. Gifs from giphy.

When the Hunter Becomes The Hunted on “The Walking Dead”

#SpeculationSummer will be officially over within the day, mes amis! That’s right, in just a few hours, the world will at last know who was at the other end of Negan’s barbed wired bat Lucille in the Season 7 premiere of The Walking Dead.

giphy-1

In a strange twist of events, I will actually be at the premiere this evening, sobbing in a cemetery with hundreds of fellow Walking Dead fans. That’s right, thanks to the good fortune of a best friend, we have won tickets to the premiere episode and live taping of The Talking Dead this evening, and I truly cannot wait!

For the time being, however, I want to write about some amazing parallelism between the last scene we all have seen of The Walking Dead, where we were introduced to Negan and took part in perhaps one of the most impactful cliffhangers in television history, and a scene that took place at the top of Season 5. Both of these episodes (Ep. 5.3, “Four Walls and a Roof,” and Ep. 6.16, “The Last Day on Earth”) were written under the supervision of showrunner Scott M. Gimple, and provide examples as to just how surprisingly deep and symbolic a show about zombies can be.

giphy-3

The Walking Dead, in both its comic book and television iterations, quickly evolved from just a zombie survival serial into something far more complex. The tagline, “Kill the Dead, Fear the Living,” is a great summation for what the story has ultimately become: the dead are the reason for the downfall of society, and provide persistent threats to safety of our characters, but they are mere nuisances compared to the people still alive. In the show, we are several years after the outbreak, and anyone still alive has endured much pain and loss, and death has become commonplace. No one still alive is weak or incapable, and most have done dark, despicable things to remain alive. We, the audience, have always followed Rick and his group, and they only recently have they been put into an environment where it becomes clear to us just how much they have changed from civilians at the start of the show, to survivors now.

We could really go for some BBQ right about now. #TWD #BobBQ

A post shared by The Walking Dead (@amcthewalkingdead) on

 

In 5.3, “Four Walls and Roof,” directed by Jeffrey F. January and written by Angela Hand and Corey Reed, Rick and his group face off with the last of the cannibals from Terminus, led by their fearless leader Gareth. Note: I am going to try to remain very civil throughout this whole post, and not go into my Gareth rant. Notgonnarant, notgonnarant, notgonnarant… Okay. I’m good. For now.

Celebrate #RepeatDay with a #TWD Season 6 re-watch.

A post shared by The Walking Dead (@amcthewalkingdead) on

In 6.16, “The Last Day on Earth,” directed by Greg Nicotero and written by Scott M. Gimple and Matthew Negrete, Rick and his group face off with another group of adversaries, although this one might be the most formidable they have ever come across. These are the Saviors, a dominant group in the area that preys upon other groups, taking half of their supplies, and if they are not granted that much, they take lives. At the head of this group is Negan, a former used car salesman who now feeds off of power and control. He’s charismatic and cruel, charming yet terrifying.

I wish to examine the face off scenes in both of these episodes, wherein one side is clearly dominant and the other is forced into submission. In 5.3 “Four Walls and a Roof,” Rick and our heroes have control over the villanous Gareth and what I lovingly call, “The Termites,” whereas in 6.16 “The Last Day on Earth,” the hunter becomes the hunted, as Negan and the Saviors have our heroes cornered. Both of these scenes have striking similarities, as seen in the clip and quotes listed below.

 

  • The submissive party is forced to surrender their weapons and kneel:

RICK: Put your guns on the floor. Put your guns on the floor and kneel.

– 5.3 “Four Walls and a Roof”

SIMON (Negan’s Man): We’ll take your weapons now. […] Okay, let’s get her down and getcha down on your knees. […] (to Rick) I’m gonna need you on your knees.

– 6.16 “The Last Day on Earth”

  • The Reasoning

RICK: You’d do this to anyone.

– 5.3 “Four Walls and a Roof”

NEGAN: But, you killed my people, a whole damn lot of ‘em. More than I’m comfortable with, and for that, you’re gonna pay.

– 6.16 “The Last Day on Earth”

  • Both Submissive Leaders Beg the Oppressive Leader For Mercy

GARETH: You don’t have to do this, we can walk away, and we will never cross paths again, I promise you.

– 5.3 “Four Walls and a Roof”

RICK: (screaming) Stop this!

– 6.16 “The Last Day on Earth”

  • The Promise of a Death by Weapon

RICK: …a machete with a red handle. That’s what I’m gonna use to kill you.

– 5.1 “No Sanctuary”

NEGAN: So now, I’m gonna beat the holy hell out of one of you. This? This is Lucille. And she is awesome.

– 6.16 “The Last Day on Earth”

  • The Brutality

RICK: Besides, I already made you a promise. [Swings machete]

– 5.3 “Four Walls and a Roof”

NEGAN: Anybody moves, anybody says anything, cut the boy’s other eye out and feed it to his father, and then we’ll start. You can breathe, you can blink, you can cry. Hell, you’re all gonna be doing that. [Swings bat]

– 6.16 “The Last Day on Earth”

Aren’t those quote comparisons fun? Let’s break down what actually is going on in these episodes…

In Season 5, Rick and Co. discover that Terminus is not a “sanctuary for all,” as is advertised, but rather a community of cannibals who give new arrivals the option to either join, or become breakfast. Although they escape and do serious damage to Terminus, the few remaining survivors regroup and attack Rick’s new refuge inside a church, dismembering and eating part of Bob in the process. Rick’s reason for killing the last of the Termites is simple; he has witnessed too many atrocities performed by this group to let them go.

giphy-2

In the latter scene, Rick and his group have been commissioned by a friendly group nearby to take out the majority of Negan’s men. They do so in the night, killing most of the men in their sleep. Unfortunately, they don’t realize that the Saviors are far bigger than they ever anticipated, and Negan eventually catches up to them. While he’s furious that Rick and his group were able to kill so many of his men, he makes it clear that he’s only going to take his wrath out on one victim, stating, “I don’t wanna kill you people, I just want to make that clear from the get-go. I want you to work for me. You can’t do that if you’re dead, now can you?” 

Each oppressive group has their own reasons for wanting each side to suffer for their misdeeds, but when we look at the brutality expressed by Rick towards Gareth n’ Friends, it can actually be perceived as being one of the most brutal, unforgiving acts we’ve ever seen our heroes perform. What keeps our protagonists from completely becoming villains in this moment despite their murderous deeds is that the cannibals were relentless killers, and probably wouldn’t have left them alone forever, despite Gareth’s promises. On the other hand, what keeps our heroes from remaining the victims in the Negan lineup is that the only reason why they killed his men was to stop a monopoly of power. Furthermore, the Saviors are taunting and cruel in their murdering in that it feels more like a game done just for fun rather than strategy.

Immediately following the premiere of “The Last Day on Earth,” a fascinating concept was brought up by the panelists on The Talking Dead couch; if the story had opened with Negan’s story, and for six seasons we had been following his travels instead of Rick’s, we would absolutely be cheering on Negan’s authority over that group just as we cheered when Rick took down the Termites. This is truly all a matter of perspective, and it will be fascinating to see how this story unfolds, and if perhaps this “submissive kneeling” will come back, if (and hopefully when) Rick and his gang can take power back from the Saviors.

giphy

…and, you know what? I’ve been good and scholarly for this entire post, so Ima let my freak flag fly, here…

MAYBE ITS COMEUPPENCE, RICK. GIMPLE, YOU POETIC BASTARD, YOU INTRODUCED A POTENTIALLY COMPLEX, INTERESTING VILLAIN THAT BROUGHT A NEW FLAVOR INTO THE WORLD OF The Walking Dead, THEN SYSTEMATICALLY SHATTERED MY DREAMS BY KILLING HIM. YOU ARE NOT FORGIVEN, AND RICK, I HOPE YOU LOSE YOUR HAND THIS EPISODE. I’M NOT EVEN SORRY. 

fullsizerender-8
#RIPGareth #GoneTooSoon #MyBuddyAndrewAgreesWithMe #WeAreSuchPals #NotReallyAtAllButHesACoolDude #REGARDLESS…

Well, that’s my analysis. If you couldn’t tell, I care far too deeply about story things that most people look at, go, “Yeah, I got it. Let’s move on now.” At face value, The Walking Dead is an action-adventure horror show that has really cool effects and some awesome, gory moments. But what I find so amazing is that, especially in recent seasons, some rather artistic decisions in regards to story have taken place, which has made the show very complex, emotional, and rich. The fact that I can break down two scenes that total twelve minutes from a zombie show is an amazing thing.

So, enjoy/weep/throw a chair over The Walking Dead‘s Season 7 premiere, my friends. And if your favorite character tastes Lucille’s steel tonight, all I can say is…

…blame Gimple. Works for me.

 

All images from Instagram. All gifs from giphy. Photo by author.