It appears Lindsay Lohan finds a similarity between herself and one or more blondes portrayed in Grand Theft Auto V. TMZ writes that LiLo is taking legal action over parts of the game that she feels appropriate her persona — quests like helping a starlet escape the paparazzi and photographing another starlet having sex at the Chateau Marmont. GTA V made $1 billion within its first three days in stores; I like to imagine that Lohan has a crack team of lawyers always watching out for opportunities like this.
At long last, after slogging like a one-legged walker through a Georgia mud slick, The Walking Dead reached the Season 3 finale Season 4 midway point with all the subtlety of a tank storming a prison wall. Beloved characters died; not-so-beloved characters died. The prison went up in a final symbolic fire. The result: a midseason finale of fits and starts that continued Season 4’s cherished tradition of spinning its wheels for 30 minutes only to ultimately shoot like an ill-aimed Acme rocket out into the great beyond.
You're forgiven for thinking it’s still May 2013, because apparently the writing staff does. Maybe it’s showrunner’s remorse for that hiccup of a Season 3 ender, but Scott Gimple & Co. did a rewind with Episode 8, giving us the Governor vs. Grimes grudge match (and accompanying AK-47 soccer riot) that we’d all been anxiously anticipating — eight months ago. This time, the violence and mayhem were less anticlimactic; it was even dark, melodramatic fun in spots.
Still, following the nonevents of the first half of Season 4, there's no doubt what our first question needs to be:
Most seasoned political observers agree that F. Scott Fitzgerald’s famous maxim “There are no second acts in American lives” is as misunderstood as it is misused. Many gifted leaders, often of questionable character, have managed to rise, phoenixlike, from the ashes to mount comebacks for the ages. Take Richard Nixon. Or Steve Jobs. Or the Governor.
It took six episodes, but The Walking Dead has finally built up momentum in its fourth season following the merciful conclusion of the stagnant plague plot that was essentially a redux of Season 2’s stultifying farm cycle. “Dead Weight” gave this season a full head of steam as it cruises down psychopath lane, setting El Guv on a promising collision course with Rick Grimes and his not-ready-for-zombie-time players.
Andy Greenwald: Two years ago, after watching the first few episodes of Homeland, I wrote the following: "To be clear, [Carrie Mathison], as played by Claire Danes, is extremely good at her job. Too good, perhaps." At the time, I was struck by how Homeland was the rare show to directly challenge the male-dominated paradigm of prestige television. It wasn't afraid to portray Carrie breaking bad — binge drinking, whore's bathing — but it was also tough enough to suggest she wasn't fundamentally broken. She was the best at what she did, even though what she did wasn't very pretty.
How quickly things change. Last year, Carrie's supposedly unshakable love of country went weak in the knees in the face of her ardor for admitted terrorist Nicholas Brody. At season's end, she was so busy playing CIA-sanctioned footsie with him that she failed to notice the worst domestic attack since 9/11 being planned and carried out all around her. In the waning moments of the finale, rather than do her job and find out what, exactly, Brody knew, she came down with a case of the feelings (call it a different kind of Carrie fever) and escorted her suspicious prince to the Canadian border. Their farewell was rapturous. The resolution? Nonexistent.
“Behold! The day is come, foretold by the IMDb, when he of the One Eye shall rise again and walk through the cul-de-sacs of the dead, fearing no bites. He shall save us from pestilence, and the boredom of watching it get cured. He shall wield a bone like a can opener, and there will be backgammon and oxygen for all.” —Book of Hershel, 4:6
That’s right, all ye Walking Dead faithful: The Governor is back! And for those of us who’d grown a tad weary of the West Georgia Correctional Facility follies, El Guv strode through last night’s episode like our own one-eyed savior, providing a radical change of pace as Georgia’s most bloodthirsty Grinch felt his villainous heart starting to grow. Forget Rick’s failed pig farm, Hershel’s existential crisis, or even Carol’s Williams-Sonoma self-defense classes: Episode 6 was all Guv, all the time.
Except that this Governor wasn’t last season’s psychopath rock star with the sexual charisma of a young Bill Clinton. For his return, the Governor rocked it acoustic-style. This was Philip Unplugged, minus the zombie cage matches and fish tanks full of severed heads. I was captivated by this flashback-story curveball, so much so that I looked past its less-subtle moments. But it’s been a while, and there’s so much catching up to do with our new bestie “Brian,” so let's get to this week's questions.
Bill Simmons: I don’t mean to backseat drive with The Walking Dead, especially in the middle of such a stellar season. But they’re missing the boat with poor Carl, who went through puberty during these first three Dead seasons in the worst possible way — no cute girls in his age range, no older cougars that he could ogle, no dirty magazines, no Internet porn, no privacy, and, of course, zombies and blood everywhere. Instead of being a semi-normal 13-year-old kid, I guess we're supposed to think Carl is turning asexual, or that he’s turning into a future serial killer … or both. And that’s no fun.
Not only does Mario get to ditch the silly "Italian" voice for this new short film, he gets a whole gritty backstory that buries the Dennis Hopper movie under so much question-mark-brick rubble. And it's not just Mario! This clip is one of four, with Luigi as an addict and Peach and Toad forthcoming. Evan Daugherty, who penned Snow White and the Huntsman and the upcoming Divergent, wrote and directed. [h/t ComingSoon.net]
It's Monday, which means it's once again time to worship at the Church of the Good Zombie and confront all those bouts of existential nihilism we suppress during the week by YouTubing puppy and baby videos. We can watch dogs licking laughing newborns all we want, but eventually we must face the fact that we're all merely a lethal lack of horse penicillin away from the Void. So, open your bibles to the Book of Hershel and let us ponder the eternal questions, such as where’s the best place to store assault rifles in case of a zombie fence breach?
Watching The Walking Dead remains an hour for introspection and contradictions. Try as one might to watch with a light zest and armchair blood lust, cable’s highest-rated show sometimes slaps us across the face with a Steinbeck quote burdened by moral pretensions the show simply can’t support. But just as our souls are ready to break under the weight of the heavy-handedness, the show rewards us with the touching sight of a father and son, AR-15’s confidently nestled in the crooks of their arms, mowing down a mass murder of zombies. One minute, we're rolling our eyes at Hershel’s insistence that all preemptive undead braining be done in private (and just as the freshly turned are ready to give the show's stars some love bites); the next, we’re praising God that someone had the good sense to keep a shotgun in a hermetically sealed cell block full of patients knocking on undeath’s door.
And oh yeah — the Governor’s back. So, children, let us not ask to understand the mysterious ways of showrunner Scott Gimple as we ponder this week’s Three Questions. Some things are for Gimple, and Gimple alone, to understand.
Forgive me for going all Dangerous Minds for a second, but I once had a brilliant teacher who taught with a hard-boiled idealism and alcohol tolerance more often found in Dashiell Hammett novels than in real life. Not surprisingly, some overprotective parents got the teacher axed. As such, this week’s The Walking Dead stirred up some long-buried feelings of sadness as it sent another maybe-unhinged-but-damn-compelling character into the wilderness. Yes, I’m talking about Carol.
Even if you don't agree with Carol's stance on preemptive euthanasia, there’s no denying that she has long been one of the most interesting characters on a show whose other headliners can often soliloquize the viewer to sleep. She went from being a helpless victim of domestic abuse to being a grieving mother to being the story-time drill sergeant teaching wide-eyed tweens how best to shiv any zombie punk that came at them in the prison yard.
The 73-year-old writer/director who once gave us Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead (but has since burdened us with Diary of the Dead and Survival of the Dead) doesn't want to hang with America's biggest modern zombie enterprise. “They asked me to do a couple of episodes of The Walking Dead but I didn’t want to be a part of it,” George A. Romero tells The Big Issue. "Basically it’s just a soap opera with a zombie occasionally. I always used the zombie as a character for satire or a political criticism and I find that missing in what’s happening now." Tough to fault Romero here — yes, Dead is the most-watched thing since the sky; no, it's not especially good or particularly different from a cyclical daytime soap. (Also, my god, can anyone really spend almost 50 years doing zombie stuff almost exclusively? No justification needed if you just felt like sitting this one out, George, really. Call up Reese Witherspoon, make a rom-com.)
Harrison Ford is 71 now, and he's just so over trying to be cordial when he doesn't want to be. For example, take erstwhile Grantlander and current GQ-er Zach Baron's attempt to highlight Ford's apparent interest in the sci-fi genre, on the eve of Ender's Game. "If you say so," Ford said/likely growled. Quizzed on our national interest in Hunger Games–style narratives, Ford offers the flat, "Beats the shit out of me." Old Harrison Ford just cracked the top three for Harrison Ford roles.
One of The Walking Dead’s incidental pleasures — a thrill totally independent of plot progression or body count, both of which were on the low side last night — is that it helps us appreciate all the little perks of civilization we might otherwise take for granted. I’m not even talking Louis C.K.'s marvels of air travel. Take Theraflu, for example. What wouldn’t Glenn or Sasha (or the nameless day-player carrion the writing staff have sacrificed to the zombie influenza) have given this week for some boiled water spiked with acetaminophen? Instead, all they got was Hershel’s homeopathic elderberry tea, which, much like Beth’s flinty pep talks, really doesn’t cut it while coughing up your own lung and staring from the dirty window of a prison quarantine block at the graves you dug that morning.
This week’s The Walking Dead seemed tailor-made to help anyone who has ever bemoaned relationship woes over a pint of microbrew IPA or Chunky Monkey ice cream (i.e., everyone) keep it all in perspective. Sure, who can’t relate to thinking you’ve finally found your soul mate, only to watch him or her degenerate into a ragged, mindless shell of a former human self whose only motivation is the next meal? But imagine all the other challenges of post-zombie-apocalypse dating! Like, after a night of moonlit Supermax cuddling, do you walk your date back to her cellblock and risk seeming over-eager? Or do you play it cool and trust that she won’t fall victim to undead-influenza or the zombified cellmate who vectored it straight into the water supply?
Worst of all, you can make all the right calls and still find your beloved dragged from her quarantine cell and set ablaze like a Southern California hillside by some mysterious psychopath with clever ideas about vermin control. Which is to say, it is with a heavy heart that we bid adieu to Tyreese’s new squeeze, Karen, as we prepare to argue with our bookie about whether putting her on Death Watch last week merits a payout.
But Karen’s story arc this season, though brief, is not meaningless, for it leads to this week’s first of Three Questions.
AMC's Mad Men and Breaking Bad will always be remembered as cornerstones of Television's Great New Age Characterized by the Shiny Mineral of Your Choice, but The Walking Dead, like it or not, is going to be remembered as the cable series that delivered the hardest punch to network TV. The Hollywood Reporter writes that 16.1 million viewers tuned in for Sunday night's Season 4 premiere on AMC, setting a new record and earning an 8.3 rating in the 18-49 demographic, "making it bigger than any broadcast series this fall and even stronger than last night's competition from Sunday Night Football." These zombies have been TV's top scripted draw for a full year now, with TWD’s Season 3 premiere pulling 12.4 million viewers. It's a merry time to be AMC, with BrBa’s finale setting a series record just a couple weeks ago.
Don’t you just love October? The leaves are turning, whiffs of spiced pumpkin lattes fill your local Starbucks, and the decapitated heads are ripening at the zombie patch. That’s right, fanboys and hate-watchers: Basic cable’s highest-rated show is back. But after Ranger Rick and his ever-shifting backing band ended last season by vanquishing the one-eyed, surplus Nazi better known as The Governor, then incorporating the survivors of his demented Mayberry into their prison paradise, it’s a whole new game. This season already feels radically different, even if it looks fundamentally the same. Most of the characters we loved to hate — [cough, Andrea] — are gone, taking selfies alongside Gus Fring and ASAC Schrader in TV heaven. Scott Gimple has taken over as showrunner. And Rick — he of the agonized facial hair — has finally found that precious balance between survivalist lunacy and Hamlet-esque handwringing.
Maybe it’s those Three Questions that Rick and his Jedi Council have come up with to determine who gets to feast on their homegrown, 100 percent organic kale and who’s left to fend for themselves. So, in honor of this thin thread Rick has found to keep a leash on his fragile sanity/humanity, I figure Three Questions is a pretty good lens through which to examine the nihilist community garden that is The Walking Dead.