The Walking Dead Season 8 Finale Review

It’s been a pretty enduring season for The Walking Dead, a roller coaster that many fans will prefer to leave behind, myself included. Opinions are divided and most viewers haven’t been happy with recent decisions for the overall direction of the show. Here’s my review of what was an interesting and important turning point for Rick and the gang…

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They had to do something with Negan…

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No doubt JDM has brought a masterclass of villainy to TWD, his arrival two seasons previous will go down in history and turned the whole story upside down. The original execution and motives of such a big character is probably the sole reason for the show’s downturn. I have covered Negan before but my concern has always been what will they do with such a momentous character, a seemingly indestructible force in a fragile world. His whole deal seemed to grow stale after the past two years, and there were scenes where I honestly thought the show’s writers didn’t know what to do him.

This seasons final episode set in motion a direction which sat somewhere between expected and unexpected. We finally got some level of resolve towards Negan and an indication of where his fate will move to next. You could tell especially in his half of S8 that they were doing something, and the pay off came, eventually.

Clearly the show running powers that be have spoken…

Looking around the internet rumor mill its no secret the show runner position for the walking dead has changed mid season, lets face it, they had to change things. You could tell almost straight away in the mid season premiere it was out with the old and in with the new, of course Carl’s death foreshadowed anything drastic and essentially became the theme of events to follow.

Although I truly believe Carl’s death should never have been, it has given the show an almost refreshing direction, now stay with me here, but the Rick we saw in the last episode of this season has been shaped by the loss of his son and the legacy he left behind.

Mercy is the greatest weapon of all, and a key to character development…

We’ve seen Rick take down the big bad before, we’ve seen the group move from settlement to settlement before, we’ve seen them deal with trust issues before. The decision for Rick not to kill Negan has interrupted the stale routine this show has got itself into, they have broken the cycle and maybe without knowing displayed a huge amount of development for the characters of this show. The take away moment from this episode was Rick showing mercy to a defeated Negan and the saviors. He has taken the high road and showed that people can be better than just killing.

That triple cross though…

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Eugene was playing chess quite simply and to see the moment his manufactured bullets backfired was a huge unexpected twist. Something had to happen and this was the moment the tables turned, for the better.

For the greater good of the group

Let’s face it there have been some wonderful character performances throughout the 8 years of TWD. Many of which were on display in this episode which to me felt like a television special. Jerry and King Ezekiel are wonderfully likable characters with a natural chemistry on full display as the episode opened.

Morgan has always been a favorite for me and the deep psychological issues he faces and tackles is superbly depicted. His character may seem erratic but under the hood he knows what is going on, and even referenced to the ‘bar’ scene him and Rick found themselves in a few episodes previous. Their decision to break the bond of their word didn’t fall on silent ears and was addressed, a pivotal moment which has broken the usual vague style TWD carries.

An unexpected emotional moment came to me through Dwight’s retribution and apology to Daryl. He is a man with nearly nothing left and somehow stands out as someone very relevant in the world where Negan is now a prisoner.

I enjoyed Father Gabriel’s journey toward the light, and again it seems his faith has pulled through. Another example of great emotional acting.

There’s still a long way to go

I know for a fact it wasn’t perfect, but this episode was the first good’un in what seems like a long run of dud episodes. Most of the season was in fact a dud without direction and too spread out. With the dissolution of Negan’s reign there seems to be a new fresh route this show could take.

There are still many open plot points which need to be answered, that will always be TWD’s style, but for the first time in a long time, this show has got itself a win, and we still get to keep Negan, something which I am sure will have some level of resurgence and value in later episodes.

A feel good factor

It feels good for the first time in a long time to watch this show, that whole putting the audience though as much shit as the characters has finally been lifted. Carl’s memory and contribution were memorialized throughout the episode playing on the audiences heart strings and perhaps sub consciously nodding to the fact he probably shouldn’t have died, even though his death may have got the Walking Dead out of this rut.

Overall I liked the episode

From the very open of this episode I could tell it was going to be good. The twists and turns which led to Negan’s defeat were simple and straight to the point. I enjoyed the fact it happened just after the halfway point leaving more time to move towards next season’s plot.

The overall character development of this show has been flexed in this episode and I think the cast have ridden a proverbial shit storm out of a shituation. Full credit to the sheer effort they put in to make this whole deal feel so emotionally real. TWD has always captured the emotion above everything else.

Should they really be divided?

That’s the question most people are asking, and I think its another interesting twist. Was it right to publicly show mercy to Negan in front of the likes of Maggie. If so a civil war could be on the horizon. I’m not sure I fully believe the motives of Jesus and Daryl as they align themselves with Maggie, that may be my only criticism of a decent episode of the Walking Dead and for the first time we have no frustrating cliff hanger!

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Stranger Things 2 : Review

There aren’t many TV shows quite like Stranger Things. I could probably count with one hand the amount of shows with as much binge-a-bility, yep that’s a new word around here. We are in a the golden age of television with multiple Netflix original series spreading their vines amongst the calendar year, no pun intended.

stranger things 2.PNGWhat I will share with you now is the sequel to my Stranger Things review of last year And what exactly do I have to say?  A lot because Season 2 is just as good if not slightly better than the first. There may be spoilers ahead but not many.

So what makes Stranger Things the stand out series of 2017?

The Phenomenal mostly young Cast

Season 1 worked with a particular format and as a stand alone holds up pretty well. But sequels are a fantastic opportunity to expand upon the wealth of wonderful characters, with a cast that matches or even surpasses the likes of Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead. Probably the best thing in stranger things is the cast,  but this time around I found very few things wrong with the show at all.

Long gone is the over done; over the top emotion of Winona Ryder. We see her in a more developed role with a concern for her no longer missing son/ partial newcomer Will Byers Will (Noah Schnapp).  For a character who had a handful of scenes last time around he certainly changed the dynamic of ST2 making it different for the better.

Will Byers takes center stage again in all things plot but this time he is present. He becomes one of the top priorities in a rich multi plot narrative driven by the huge range of characters. From the very beginning we are teased by him that something is coming and his time in the upside down had an effect.

David Harbour as Jim Hopper takes the deserved lead. We see his character explore further into himself and the effects of the upside down world that seems to slowly present itself into the real world. There aren’t many television characters as third dimensional as the conflicted but real Hopper with his cigarette smoking, wheel spinning tough love approach to life. All he wants to do is protect his town and not let the past haunt him.

Gone are the spook type secret people or the ‘bad men’ although the shady department of energy lab is still in operation only this time seemingly in more control of their ‘experiment’ with a convincingly shady Dr Owens (Paul Reiser) being at the helm.

He isn’t the only new character in town as Sean Astin appears in true nostalgic Goonies style eventually providing some important input to the group as Bob the Brain. We see a conspiracy theorist investigator type  (Brett Gelman) provide that well known ‘commie’ hysteria of a town where something happened.

stranger things 2 cast.PNGThis wouldn’t be stranger things without the break out character Eleven and Millie Bobby Brown this time stands alone most of the time. Her performance throughout can be best described as award winning, with that power and emotion wrapped in an essence of historic darkness. We are teased that there are more of her types in the world and this is perhaps something further explored in the latter stages of the series.

The most important element of Stranger things 2 is in fact the kids; or the AV club as I like to call them. Lucas, Mike and Dustin who are all on form and not just a trio this time but with Will back in the fold. The AV club are the character glue of Stranger Things and all of them face new challenges alone and together which is all a part of growing up. Newcomer girl Max (Sadie Sink) provides that extra diversity and perspective of an outsider along with testing the group’s integrity.

Eventually they are joined by boyfriend of Nancy , Steve Harrington (Joe Keery)  who exceeds his character from last season complete with best hair do and really comes into his own as the ‘baby sitter’.

The established friendship of Jonathan Byers and Nancy is expanded upon eventually tying into the main plot like all of the familiar faces seen before. And we even get a nod towards the seemingly not cared about Barb from Season 1!

The Story

Let’s face it, you can have all the nostalgia and nods to various 80’s pop culture stuff, but it’s nothing without an original story. And that’s where Stranger Things sets itself aside from other shows. The story, this time around was sharper toward the end but with a slower build to bringing all the elements together.

Characters were deliberately separate making the viewer want to see the reunion and boy did we have to wait, but boy was it worth it.

From the poster you can see breaking out of red sky the big bad looking thing looming, and I must say it looks badass, or ‘bitchin’ shall I say. After spending three of so episodes re introducing the story we are treated with a continuous build all the way to the final episode. It makes for binge worthy watching and even runs like a 9 hour film. I recommend watching more than one in a sitting as scenes continue and overlap episodes. And no this isn’t like Game of Thrones with the constant death, there’s actual story here so if your perception of TV has been ruined by dragons and incest then you may not like Stranger Things.

Last time round we had the iconic light bulb scene and to me it’s what made the series. Season 2 even nods to that and does the same thing in a different way. All of the questions asked in season 1 eventually become answered, and the world isn’t quite what you thought it was.

The nostalgia

Okay I get it, the whole 80’s thing is cool and season 2 expands with the nostalgia. There are nods to basically everything good about 80’s pop culture. We are treated with a Ghost Busters nod and much of the creature stuff is straight out of Alien/Aliens. We see the Goonies and Stand By Me tributed yet again without complaint.

There is cold war/Russian fear which highlights a different time and the music is on point. The original soundtrack will take anyone back to that time and let’s face it the hair styles are in between good, amazing and terrible. If you like watching a car wheel spin away you’re in luck!

The humour

The Duffer Brothers have grabbed at the opportunity to tell yet another riveting, engaging, edge of seat sitting story which keeps you watching to the very end. There were emotional lump in throat moments along with some real laugh out loud lines from a cast of wonderfully gifted performers. I found myslef smiling at the chemistry some of these guys and gals had on screen. This may be the best show on TV right now and it’s all a bit tongue in cheek.

Final Thought

Our return to Hawkins is an expanded coming of age story. It continues right where it left off and even excels in some parts. The universe in which the upside down world has been fully established and makes great old fashioned television, something which has nearly vanished with the mass over produced stuff we see today.

It truly shows that stories can still be told without graphic sexual content or even politics. Yes it can be scary at times, but grow up if you are bothered by that. If those kids can survive the demo gorgon and demo – dogs then you can too.

If you ask me like last time Stranger Things should be known as Better Things!

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