Monday, October 29, 2012

Sunday reviews: Excellent outings for "The Walking Dead" and "Homeland"

   David Morrissey of "The Walking Dead," and Claire Danes
   and Damian Lewis of "Homeland"

Wow. That was a damn good night for TV, featuring fantastic episodes from two shows I could easily rank among my favourites.

With "The Walking Dead," I place more emphasis on "could" since I don't think I've really liked an episode of the show since the season 2 premiere. Last year I found that much like the creatures who threatened our heroes, "The Walking Dead" became very stagnant and slow moving, thinking what it was doing was enough to be effective...and it wasn't. With the reputations of critical darlings like "Mad Men" and "Breaking Bad" preceding it, AMC's zombie hit attempted to reach that level of storytelling and character development, and for the most part failed. I longed for the days of season one when the show was just running around and shooting zombies - a show I could at least enjoy as a guilty pleasure. After a season finale I didn't hate last year, I came into the third season with renewed optimism but still some reluctance to forgive, and this week was a major step in the right direction. I've spent two weeks yearning for a return to stories focusing on Andrea and Michonne, and having long grown tired of Rick and the gang's wacky misadventures, how refreshing it was to watch an episode where they are reduced to but a passing mention from one handed Merle, of all characters. More importantly, how refreshing it was to be introduced to new characters on this show who didn't make me want to stab my eyes out. David Morissey's mysterious "The Governor" (just "The Governor," never his real name) piques some serious interest, certainly more than the blink-and-you'll-miss-them prisoners from last week. I almost convinced myself I wanted to see more of them, and by the time they were dead I couldn't care less. Instructions for next week, writers: take us back to Woodbury, and shows us more of the Andrea/Michonne relationship. Also, I'm in no rush to see Rick and his soul family again. But I doubt you'll be interested in taking me up on that last bit.

"Homeland" continues to be a televisual force of nature with tonight's episode "Q and A," in which Carrie and Brody have an hour long conversation that simultaneously wins Claire Danes and Damian Lewis next year's Emmys. Holy. Crap. I was on the edge of my seat during most of the interrogation scenes, but no more so than in the second half of the episode when Carrie turns off all the cameras and gives Brody the "Wouldn't it be nice to stop lying?" speech. Have you ever seen such outstanding acting it actually wanted to make you pull your hair out? After tonight's episode, I can say that I have - weird as that may be. Whenever I discuss "Homeland" with my brother, the question we usually come back to is "What now? How does the show possibly continue into a second season? How does the show finish season 2? How does the show go into season 3?" After Brody's arrest last week, the question was never more prevalent. And tonight's answer of immunity for Brody in exchange for his help in unravelling Abu Nazir's plot is going to make for one hell of a second half for what is already a fantastic sophomore season. Then, we come to Kim Bauer and her cougar  Tyra and Landry's 12 state killing spree  Dana and Finn's hit-and-run. Already people online are comparing those fondly remembered subplots to tonight's adolescent antics, and while I'd like to think those people are wrong, there's too much evidence to suggest this doesn't spiral out of control (especially considering enough of the creative team behind "24" is now working here). Prove me wrong, kids. Prove - me - wrong! Still, all in all, a phenomenal episode. The funny thing is, given how absolutely exceptional Danes and Lewis are, it's almost plausible that they could turn around and top this next week. But to ask that would be greedy, because tonight, we got "Q and A" - one of the best television episodes of the year.