Deadshirt Is Watching…is a weekly feature in which Deadshirt staff, contributors, and guests sound off on the television shows we’re tuned into, from intense dramas to clever sitcoms to the most insane reality shows. This week: Empire and The Walking Dead!
Sarah Register is Watching…
The Walking Dead
Season 6, Episode 1: “First Time Again”
Sundays at 9/8c on AMC
I know that every first season episode for The Walking Dead is the show’s “biggest episode yet,” but boy howdy, the Season 6 premiere is undoubtedly the show’s biggest episode yet. The opening scene places Rick, his crew, and a group of Alexandrians at the edge of a rock quarry that holds approximately a fuck ton of walkers that are contained only by an unstable semi truck. While Rick yells a plan to herd the dead away from their city limits, the barrier crumbles and their practice run becomes the real deal.
This episode feels like pure fan service in the best way: thousands of walkers and no waiting. While the situation isn’t exactly a puzzler, the show trusts its audience to keep up with the fast, bloody action without explanation before eventually backtracking with alternating scenes occurring in the past and present. The flashbacks are easily identifiable as they are filmed in black and white, and they give ample opportunity to meet up with all the characters while setting a desirable pace for the episode.
Of course, the zombies are just the window dressing of TWD; as it has matured, this show has become almost entirely character driven, and this hour and a half premiere manages to touch on nearly every fan favorite and build a whole season’s worth of new relationships. Most notable is Rick’s dynamic with Morgan, who was finally able to catch up to his old friend just in time to see him shoot a man in the head. Morgan knew Rick back when he was more of a boy scout, and now that Rick is a hardened killer, Morgan is his Jiminy Cricket trying to get him to be a real man again. Lennie James is a treat as a regular cast member; his journey from a father to a deranged one-man zombie clean up crew to a wise sage has been a lot of fun to watch, and I’m enjoying the way he’s shaking up the group with his zen outlook.
Despite the literal zombie parade that Rick et al have to organize, this episode makes it clear that the show still relies on its old habit of creating drama by writing frustratingly stupid decision making (though fortunately dispatching the perpetrator with sweet, swift karma this time). However, I hope that they continue to build upon these insanely compelling characters and let the dead be the only duds on screen.
Episode Highlight: Despite the extreme amount of carnage and character development that this episode delivers, the best moment is the funniest. During one of the flashback scenes, Abraham is tending to Reg’s body right after the poor man’s murder during the town meeting. It’s incredibly sad and serious, and Abraham seems to muse over life’s fragility while throwing back shot after shot of liquor. He removes Reg’s wedding band and, with a sense of finality and respect, goes to set it on top of his whiskey bottle, and then drops it. If this was scripted, then Michael Cudlitz’s performance is impressively organic. The ring fumble drained the somber scene of all of its tension, and when Abraham recovered by drunkenly flashing a peace sign at Sasha who returned the gesture with a look of confusion, I was cackling.
Dylan Roth is Watching…
Season 2, Episode 3: “Fires of Heaven”
Wednesdays at 8/7c on Fox
“Fires of Heaven” picks up with music mogul and accused murderer (he did it) Lucious Lyon out of jail and reveling in his invincibility. Lucious has always enjoyed referring to himself as a god from time to time, but while it may have once been a boast, it seems he’s really starting to believe it. After all, he beat a (false) ALS diagnosis, he undercut a hostile takeover attempt on his company, and now he’s managed to get released on bail despite being a multi-billionaire and an enormous flight risk. Maybe he is a god.
This season has seen the Lyons divided into two camps, which is admittedly a lot simpler and less tangled than last season’s free-for-all over the family legacy. Lucious and heir apparent Jamal continue to run Empire, while Cookie, Hakim, and Anika try to topple them with their upstart label Lyon Dynasty. Cookie has run off with some of Empire’s top talent, but now that Lucious out, it doesn’t take long for him to return fire in a big way. This war is just beginning, and it promises to be vicious and entertaining.
One of the things I most admire about Empire is the way it juggles a cast full of lovable anti-heroes. Hakim crashes his father’s party and spits a rap in his face about how he fucked his ex-fiancée? Awesome. Lucious taking revenge by signing his son’s rising star/fuck buddy out from under him? Classic. Cookie is a bigot, and every slur that comes out of her mouth is delicious. Even the show’s most honorable character, Jamal, is going through a pretty dark period right now, and I appreciate him all the more for it. There are no good guys on Empire, just great characters.
Episode Highlight: Early in the episode, during a tense family dinner, Cookie takes hold of one end of the tablecloth, turns around and casually walks away, dragging the cloth and Lucious’s luxurious meal on the floor behind her. If she’s not the greatest new character of the year then I don’t know who is.