It was back in nineteen forty-two, I was a member of a good platoon. We were on maneuvers in-a Louisiana, One night by the light of the moon. The captain told us to ford a river, That’s how it all begun. We were — knee deep in the Big Muddy, But the big fool said to push on.
With “MARCH MADNESS” in the air, it might be a good time to break out this analogy. I covered the NBA for nearly twenty-years, in a previous lifetime, and consider myself a basketball purist. Growing up in the sixties, I got to witness two of the greatest coaches of all time: John Wooden, the bench-boss for the UCLA Bruins, and Red Auerbach, head coach of the Boston Celtics. Both men stressed the fundamentals of the game, and chastised their teams for taking last-minute, desperation shots. A major part of the success of their teams, was the ability to get the ball close to the basket, before attempting to score.
A strategy employed by both coaches to get into position for high-percentage shots, was a crisp passing-game. It served three purposes, advancing the ball closer to the basket, keeping the defensive team off-balance, and eating valuable minutes off the clock, to keep their opponents possessions down. A great passing game’s a beautiful sight to behold, and as graceful as ballet. However there might not be a more deflating moment during a game, when the offense makes “one pass too many,” leading to a turnover.
The NBC series “The Blacklist,” decided to shake-up the snow-globe throughout the show’s fifth season. We rejoined Raymond Reddington, back in September, when the former “Concierge Of Crime,” found himself living in a cheap motor-lodge, and wearing hand-me-downs. Many viewers assumed that this campaign would be devoted to the restoration of Raymond Reddington, to his former status. However a fortunate encounter with a postman named Anthony, quickly restored his depleted coffers after he setup a network of high-end safe-houses, used by criminals on the lam.
The series went into its fall-hiatus after altering the show’s dynamic irrevocably, in a move that angered many of the show’s long-time fans, and cheered by others. Jon Bokenkamp and company, decided to put an end to the tempestuous relationship between Lizzie and Tom Keen, as Tom became a casualty of this season’s “BIG BAD” Ian Garvey, dying in November. The show also fast-forwarded rejoining Liz and Raymond after she awoke from a ten-month coma. When the series returned in January, viewers reentered their universe after another time leap.
Liz completed her physical-therapy, and living in Alaska under an alias, trying to deal with her grief. She pronounced herself healed and returned home, after she channeled her inner Charles Bronson, and executed four contract killers. She felt no remorse for her actions, considering it just a warm-up for the carnage she would wreak on those who took her husband from her.
Thus began a long and drawn out dance as Keen started embracing her demons, as she first explored and eventually started to inhabit her dark-side, while searching for those responsible for Tom’s death. She even took inspiration from Blacklist members, utilizing the Stewmaker’s skill set to dispose of Bobby Navarro’s corpse. She became so laser-focused on her mission, that she sent her daughter Agnes to live with Tom’s mother, and gave up her badge.
This new dynamic altered the series cadence, with episodes branching off into three different story-arcs, sometimes but not necessarily intersecting. While the Task-Force primarily deals with the Blacklist members after Samar meets with Raymond, we follow Reddington and Keen on their journeys. Red and Elizabeth share a common goal, making Garvey pay for killing Tom and Nik Korpal, however he’s intent on keeping the occupant of the duffel bag’s identity from Keen, while she’s determined to learn Reddington’s secret.
Here’s where we get back to the basketball analogy. While the game carried on in a slow-downed pace, the execution remained top-notch. Bringing in key players off the bench such as Dominic Wilkinson, Earl Fagen, Raleigh Sinclair, and Abraham Stern, kept the action entertaining. Until the squad made “one pass too many,” and threw the ball out-of-bounds.
One of the many reasons that the “Cabal,” story-line successfully played out over nearly three seasons, was the pacing. Bokenkamp and the rest of his team doled out information in small doses, keeping viewers intrigued. Fans watched as the mysterious relationship between Reddington, and Alan Fitch, got revealed leading to our discovery of the shadow organization as well as the “Fulcrum.” Eventually viewers realized that the organization played a large part of Keen’s life since childhood.
The story-arc finally culminated, when Laurel Hitchin asked Reddington to get rid of “The Director,” Peter Kotsiopoulos. That happened in dramatic fashion, getting thrown out of a private jet and crashing to his death in a European family’s living-room., in a move nobody could have predicted. That’s also been a critical factor in the appeal of the series, the writers ability to zig instead of zag. Leading viewers down a pathway that seems familiar, then suddenly veers off into an unexpected direction took this series to a rarefied level.
In this viewer’s eyes, the show-runners’ seemed to have lost some of that magic over the last few episodes. Part of that reason stems from telegraphing its short-term plots. Norman Singleton became “Dead Man Walking,” the moment Liz took him into her confidence, and brought him to the Post-Office. When he told her that after they captured the dirty cop, she needed to pickup Agnes, and he’d get a new lawyer, I suddenly recalled Keen asking Tom, why everybody they love dies?
Why would a police detective in his own station-house fear the threats of a dirty cop, and instead of arresting him, goes on a ride that he realizes will lead to his death? Especially when that detective has an established with a Bureau Task-Force, and Raymond Reddington? Just by picking up his phone, his daughters would either be in protective custody, or safely relocated before Garvey could make his one phone-call. We saw that demonstrated in the most recent episode, as Reddington safely relocated witness Tony Mejia and his grandmother, keeping them out of Garvey’s hands.
When we met Bureau psychiatrist Sharon Fulton, she reminded me of a combination of Laurel Hitchin and Julian Gale. While being unsure if Fulton would be a friend or foe, she made this viewer feel hinky, thinking that was far more to the character than she revealed. When Keen asks Fulton whether Anthony Hollis could be the man she’s searching for, she failed to realize that it would take someone with the doctor’s intelligence to discover the serial killers’ identities. Her obsession with darkness dulling her skills, she embraced Fulton as a mentor, not realizing the psychiatrist skillfully played her.
While enjoying Aram Mojtabai suddenly taking a more active role on the Task-Force, was there any doubt that Reddington engineered Tony Mejia’s extraction from FBI custody? (It’s just a matter of time until Aram encounters the man with David Bowie eyes again.) Or that Raymond would hand the young man over to Garvey? Tony and his grandmother have likely been relocated to a far more upscale existence, than either of them dreamed of experiencing.
Elizabeth Milhoan Keen/Masha Rostova, was by no means an innocent babe in the woods when the man we know as Raymond Reddington, entered back into her life. Her methods could be questioned, but not her morals. The woman we’ve come to know over the past five years, could be mercurial and impulsive. However unlike Reddington, we’ve never questioned that she had a true moral compass that always pointed north. That’s why Raymond told Lizzie, that when he looks at her he sees his way home. That’s why he described her to Fulton, as everything that he’s not.
When she brutally executed the four men in Alaska, and in Bobby Navarro’s accidental death, we could justify them all as self-defense. However in “The Capricorn Killer,” Keen crossed a huge moral line, she allowed Sharon Fulton to escape, and to continue tracking down and executing serial killers. We’ll never know if Keen would have smothered the “Sandman,” to death, something that seemed impossible to contemplate at the onset of this season.
While the acting’s been incredible throughout this campaign, the story seems stuck “In The Big Muddy,” over the last few episodes. The much-anticipated first encounter between Raymond Reddington and Ian Garvey, proved to be anti-climactic to say the least. There are now six episodes remaining in the show’s fifth campaign, seemingly heading into a sixth season. I made my predictions on this season back in December, if you desire you can read my theories and feel free to leave your commentary. My concerns aren’t with next season at this point, it’s more a matter of getting season five back on course. Hopefully the man we know as Raymond Reddington, will sail this season safely into port.
So far, season five of The Walking Dead has had a record-breaking body count. The season’s finale is an extended episode, up to ninety minutes from the usual sixty. One can’t help but wonder if the usual body count for a season finale of this show might increase, as well.
Personally, I can’t decide if I’m pulling harder for Nicholas or Gabriel. Fairly certain that I won’t get that lucky.
First, we see a long-wrecked car in a wooded clearing. Morgan is sleeping in the backseat, huddled down but sleeping comfortably. He wakes peacefully and, upon reorienting himself to his surrounding, catches sight of a rabbit’s foot hanging from the car’s rearview mirror. He smiles. Luck, indeed.
And, for the first time in a very long time, we get TWO Morgan scenes in a row! He’s cooking his MRE breakfast over a little campfire in the woods when he’s approached by a tall, long-haired, lanky man with a gun. Morgan greets him evenly and suggests that he lower his weapon. The man (who, we see as the camera pans, has a W carved into his forehead) keeps the gun drawn on Morgan and begins to babble about the original settlers in the area. Keeping the drawn on Morgan, the man explains, without much prompting, about how they coerced the native people into hunting the wolves. But, things aren’t like that anymore. The wolves do the hunting these days. Morgan easily agrees, not tipping his hand that he’s certain he’s talking to a crazy person.
The Crazy continues, chattering on about how it’s nice to talk to someone. Sure, he sees people when his group runs through camps, or when they find people in their traps, but it’s not the same. Morgan, stone-faced, continues to listen as Crazy demands all of Morgan’s supplies. Morgan asks to keep a little, so he can keep going, but Crazy is going to take him too. Morgan wants to stay alive though, and tries to state his case while going for his gun. Crazy thrusts his own gun closer, ordering Morgan to be still. A tense moment passes, then Crazy’s friend jumps from the bushes to ambush Morgan.
That was a mistake. Even though Morgan doesn’t have his gun, he has a long wooden staff that he goes all master-fighter on the two with. He tries to warn them off, but people with W’s carved into their forehead usually don’t listen to reason so great. He puts them down, shoves them into the car that he slept in the night before, honks the horn a few times to see if any walkers are nearby so he can eliminate them if need be, and leaves them. He pauses only to grab the rabbit’s foot from the rearview mirror.
And we’re underway.
In Alexandria, Rick awakens in an unfinished room on a decent bed, his wounds cleaned and dressed. Michonne has been watching over him. She wanted answers from him the minute he woke up. She explains that Pete has been separated from Jessie and the boys, put into another house. More importantly, she wants to know why Rick didn’t tell her about his suspicions or his plans. He had to move fast, he replies. He knows he doesn’t have much of a good answer but the two have stayed alive because of their instincts, and she appears to understand his urgency. Even though she understands it, she doesn’t want Rick to continue behaving in such a way. They need to be accepted into Alexandria,
because outside was tearing them apart. Rick understands, on some level, but he can’t reconcile the daffy simplicity of the Alexandrians way of running things.
Before they can continue, Abraham, Glenn, and Carol enter. Upon seeing that Rick is awake and talking, Carol confronts him about the gun he had. She answers her own confrontation, though, accusing him of taking it from the armory and chastising him for such a stupid action. (Carol, Our Lady Badass, covers for her people before they need to cover themselves).
Glenn reports that Deanna is holding a meeting. Is it expressly to kick Rick out? Or just to try? Maggie’s going to request a meeting with Deanna to explain things, and to try to get a handle on how things might go.
Carol launches into the viable defense she’s prepared for Rick. He was concerned that someone was being abused. He took the gun for protection. Pete came after him first. It’s about 70% true, and that’s probably good enough to convince these dummies to let them stick around. Just tell them a story, she advises. These people are children, and children like stories. Carol’s been playing a role since they arrived, because she knows that’s how they want to see her. If she can do it, so can Rick.
Rick nods, but then orders a plan to rush the meeting and take Deanna and her family hostage in case things look bad. They’ll demand the armory or throats get slit. Glenn objects—now they’re like Terminus! No, Rick clarifies, they won’t actually hurt anyone. They’re too soft, they’ll give in before anyone gets hurt.
Because Glenn must have everything in black and white, he blatantly asks Rick if Rick wanted this kind of thing to happen. Rick didn’t, he says, he just snapped because he couldn’t handle their passive way of living. And that’s the way it is. They have a plan in case things go bad, and that’ll be that. He lays back down to sleep until it’s time for the meeting.
Maggie meets with Deanna, trying to contextualize Rick’s actions and advise against a bunch of frightened strangers having sway on her friend’s fate. She reminds Deanna of the reasons why they need each other, but Deanna is too troubled by the violence that has happened since her family’s arrival. Reg reminds Deanna that it was Michonne, not an Alexandrian, who put an end to Rick’s outburst. Deanna doesn’t appear to be moved. She’ll let the people have their say and make her decision, and with that, she dismisses Maggie.
Frustrated, Maggie leaves, but she’s caught by Reg on the way out. He knows that she’s right about Rick needing to stay, he’ll try to bend her ear if he can.
Carol goes back to see Rick, alone this time. With no preamble, she explains that she knows it’s unwise to tell Michonne and Glenn the truth about the guns and hands Rick another weapon. Rick is tired of lying, but Carol isn’t sympathetic. Rick doesn’t want to overrun Alexandria, but he doesn’t want to lie and pretend to play by their rules. Well, sunshine, says Carol, Queen of Post-Apocalyptic Sass , you don’t get both. Rick takes her point, and gathers himself. He wants to go home, so he sets out on the brief walk. A group of men are talking on the sidewalk, and he meets their eyes and greets each one by name.
The men are clearly unnerved by a man with multiple facial and hand wounds strolling along like nothing is unusual.
Maggie finds Glenn sitting outside upon returning from her meeting with Deanna. It went like they had expected it to, she reports. She plans on spending the day talking to as many people as possible, trying to explain Rick’s case so they won’t be so frightened of him. Glenn is supportive, but not certain he’ll join her. He’s still clearly rattled by Noah’s death and the lies that Nicholas is telling.
Speaking of Nicholas, he’s creeping and spying on Glenn as the scene goes on. After Maggie leaves, Nicholas (armed with the J gun that Rick stashed in the blender) makes certain that Glenn sees him climb over the walls and into the forest.
Rick returns to his house, wanting to see his children. Satisfied that they’re safe, he has a very frank discussion with Carl about what happened the night before, and what they’re planning for tonight. Carl isn’t happy about the threat of violence, but he understands that the people within Alexandria are weak and need to be awakened to this world’s harsh reality.
Pete’s dealing with his own harsh reality by drinking and sitting in the dark. He reluctantly answers the insistent knock at his door and is dismayed to find Carol on the other side, holding a casserole. Before he can turn her away she steps inside, shuts the door, and shuffles him against a nearby wall. She reminds him that he needs to be performing postop care on Tara. He growls at her to leave.
She shifts the casserole to one hand and pulls out a knife with the other. Calm, Gives-Zero-Shits Carol holds the knife against his throat and face. She could kill him right now, she says, not unhappily. She could, and she will, if he gives her any reason to. She knows no one would believe that she did it because she doesn’t like him, but they’d definitely believe it if she said he tried to hurt her.
He squirms. She continues. He’s a weak, nothing of a man, and in this world he should be dead already. But he’s here, and he’s lucky, and if he plays his cards right and does smart things, she won’t kill him. She sheaths her knife, shoves the casserole into his stomach, and walks out.
“I want my dish back, cleaned, when you’re done!”
Pete drops the casserole on the hallway and goes back into the living room. Crashing and stumbling, he’s enraged that he’s not in his own house.
But he’s close enough to see Rick stop by to talk to Jessie. She tries to shoo him away but Rick refuses to be sorry for what he’s done. She understands, but it’s still not a good idea for them to be seen together. Rick accepts, and turns to walk away. As he goes, she tells him that she realizes that he was right, after all.
Gabriel has been mostly doing Gabriel things (meaning, chores and weeping) all morning, but he decides to go for a walk. Spencer lets him out, reaffirming that Gabriel doesn’t want a gun before leaving the town. Gabriel is sure. God will protect him. Um, OK.
Gabriel comes upon a walker eating another person, and weeps and is distraught. He confronts it, he’s ready for it, he claims. I was personally rooting for the walker to have a Gabriel Burger, but instead Gabriel whips out a rope and chokes the walker. It takes a few tries before he manages to decapitate the rotting thing with the ligature, and he continues to weep and whimper as the walkers head continues to gnash its teeth on the ground. He pulls out a blade and spikes it, then goes to the person-not-yet-walker that was being eaten and spikes it, too.
He returns (without a spot on his white shirt, somehow), looking even more disturbed than usual. Spencer wants to talk to Gabriel about his spiritual troubles, and Gabriel says he’ll try to find the time. Spencer takes off, embarrassed of what he’s asked, and calls to Gabriel to make sure he shuts the gate.
Note: Do not, under any circumstances, let the emotionally-disturbed person who is failing to connect with reality in charge of locking up.
Daryl and Aaron have seen a man in a red poncho wandering through the woods, and have begun to track him to see if he’s a worthy recruit. They manage for a while, but unfortunately lose him. Instead, they find a cannery, which doesn’t appear to have been disturbed much. They might not be able to find the person, but if they can manage to bring back a lot of food, their mission will be a success.
They eliminate the few walkers they find wandering around the lot and begin to look for any supplies they might be able to take. Aaron spots an Alaska license plate and gathers it, happy to be able to start his collection over again. Daryl is as amused as someone who never collected anything can be. Chuckling, he opens the door on another tractor trailer parked by the loading docks.
Daryl, you should be more careful when you open doors.
That tractor trailer was full of walkers, who begin to flood out the door quickly, springing what quickly is revealed to be a very aggressive trap. The other trailers are also filled with walkers, all with W’s carved into their foreheads. Aaron and Daryl move to make it back to the road, but the lot is filling with more even more branded walkers. They find refuge in a nearby car, figuring that they can wait the swarm out before trying to make a break for it.
Except, no. Aaron finds a scrawled note stuffed between the seats. “Bad people are coming. Don’t stay.” So much for that idea, then. They consider their fate in silence, trying to ignore the rotting faces and hands scrambling at the glass. Things look grim, and they both know it.
Daryl opens up a bit, confessing that he feels better out in the world than he did in Alexandria. Even now, it feels more like him. Aaron counters that, while that may be true, Daryl also belongs somewhere safe, and the fact that he tried to integrate means a lot. Maybe, Daryl relents.
He lights a cigarette and tells Aaron that he’s going to leave the car first to cause a diversion so Aaron can make to the fence. Aaron won’t let that happen. They’re in this together. Daryl tries to refuse, but Aaron won’t be moved. Daryl takes a few more draws and they decide to go on three. They count.
And then the walkers begin to drop away. Morgan has found them, somehow, and he’s taken it upon himself to save them. Save them, he does.
As space clears around the car, Aaron and Daryl get out to fight, as well. It’s an ugly melee, but a successful one. They manage to fight their way to the perimeter and close the fence again. Once they’re secure, the men introduce themselves in the shaky way that strangers who have just cheated death together do. Aaron, astonished and grateful, invites Morgan to join himself and Daryl on the trip back to the community.
Morgan is also grateful, but he declines. He’s actually a bit lost, he confesses. He’s looking for something in the area but isn’t quite sure where to find it. Aaron and Daryl offer to help. Morgan produces the map he found that Abraham and left for Rick. Yeah, Daryl can probably help Morgan find Rick Grimes.
Also outside the walls in Alexandria, Glenn is pursuing Nicholas through the woods. Glenn finds the body of another tied and tortured walker, but before he can react, Nicholas shoots him in the shoulder. The two men fight each other through and against walkers throughout much of the episode, with Glenn nearly getting chomped on at least once because Nicholas abandons him.
But back inside the walls, Abraham has gone to visit Tara. He turns away, though, when he sees that Eugene is sitting with her. He’s asleep, Rosita explains, and tells him to go on ahead. Once Abraham settles into the chair, she drops a bedpan, starting Eugene awake.
Abraham doesn’t want to have this conversation, but Eugene has some things to say. He’s sorry for lying, and unspeakably grateful that Abraham’s talents and wits for survival delivered him to DC anyway. Abraham is sorry for almost killing Eugene, but Eugene knows he probably had it coming just a little bit.
Rick is resting, waiting for the meeting, when Michonne approaches him. They a short-sentenced conversation about the guns that he, Carol, and Daryl stole and why they did so. He tries to hand over the gun that Carol brought to him, but Michonne doesn’t take it. She asserts that she knows they all have to try to make this work. She doesn’t need her sword, she explains, and Rick won’t need his gun. She doesn’t accept it as he offers it again, though. She leaves him to have a few more minutes to gather himself before the meeting.
Rick begins to check his weapons and arm himself, prepared to do what’s necessary against the Alexandrians if they decide against his fate. Bob’s words, “this isn’t the real world. This is a nightmare. And nightmares end,” echo across his thoughts. Pausing to look out the window, Rick scans the horizon for danger as he probably will for the rest of his life. At least he’s adjusted to finding it. He realizes the gate is open. He rushes down the street and finds the gate covered in walker detritus, flesh torn on the locking mechanism from a corpse that staggered into it before continuing further, into Alexandria.
At this point, the narrative layers quite a bit, between shots of the meeting (which starts without Rick and Glenn, to Maggie and Michonne’s protest), Glenn and Nicholas fighting in the woods, Rick finding and fighting off the walkers that got in through the open fence, and Gabriel, who stumbles into his
garage-church to find Sasha (who spent the day flinging dead walkers into a pit and taking a nap on them) looking for his guidance. Gabriel instead rants against her wickedness, insisting that she doesn’t deserve the utopia of Alexandria. Maggie, Abraham, and Carol speak in defense of Rick Grimes. The brawl between Glenn and Nicholas comes to a head when Glenn pins Nicholas down, pushing the barrel of a gun into his head, but is unable to pull the trigger for all of Nicholas’ pathetic weeping. Sasha and Gabriel begin to fight, but Gabriel vs. Sasha is like Comatose Antelope vs. Lionness and she soon puts him down on the floor, rifle drawn on him. Deanna recalls Gabriel’s warning to the group in the meeting, but Jessie (with a fresh black eye) isn’t necessarily convinced that he’s worth listening to. Maggie leaves the group to go find Gabriel.
Also, the Wolves have guided Red Poncho Man to their sprung-but-empty trap and slash his throat, killing him and leaving him to turn. As they work to lure the walkers back into the trailers by triggering remote noise-and-light lures, one discovers Aaron’s pack with pictures of Alexandria and its inhabitants.
Meanwhile, Rick has taken down the walkers who got into the town, and slings one over his shoulder. He carries it into the middle of the meeting and dumps it in the middle of the crowd. See, this is why you can’t have nice things, he tries to explain. Your gate was open and you’re all idiots and this needs to stop! Deanna demands to know why the gate was open, and Spencer admits that he left Gabriel to close it. Gabriel is still not at the meeting. Maggie found Sasha ready to shoot him and intervened. Gabriel continued to weep. Maggie should have let Sasha kill him. He doesn’t deserve to be alive, he sobs. He doesn’t deserve to be alive, because they’re all dead because of him. Them, who? Well, we don’t know.
Before the meeting can continue, Pete shows up, armed with Michonne’s sword and, again, roaring drunk. The open gate is proof that Rick and his people don’t belong! He’s flailing and dangerous. A few Alexandrians move to disarm him, but Pete lashes back at them.
In doing so, he catches Reg and slices his throat open, mortally wounding him. Deanna screams an rushes to hold her dying husband. Abraham springs across the crowd to restrain and immobilize Pete. Pete, for his part, doesn’t appear concerned that he just killed someone as he continues to shout against Rick. Sobbing, Deanna catches Rick’s eye.
“Do it,” she orders.
Abraham adjusts his hold on Pete slightly, so he won’t be harmed as Rick walks over to execute Pete on the spot. Everyone is stunned.
But no one is more stunned than Daryl, Aaron, and Morgan, who have just arrived on the scene.
Michonne collected her sword after Pete misused it and murdered Reg. She wipes the blood clean and moves to hang it above her fireplace again, but she reconsiders. Instead, she puts on her harness and slides the sword back into its harness.
She and her group will need to make it work within Alexandria. But Alexandria will have to work with her group, as well.
And that’s all for season five. Lots of people are dead and a completely new future awaits.