AEOS Double Review: Chef and Birdman (2014)

Having just caught Chef (2014), I decided that it would work well to write a double review of it with Birdman (2014), considering both films deal with artists and critics and their relationship to one another. Here are my reviews for two of the best movies I’ve seen so far in 2014.


 AEOS Review: Chef (2014)

I missed out on all of the Chef hype this past summer, so I recently rented it when I had a free night. Many of your reviews I read echoed that there was no major twist to the story, but that it was just a good story told. So I rented it with the expectation that I would get to watch a simple, but good story unfold.

Chef is Jon Favreau’s movie through and through. He produced, wrote, directed, and starred in it. Favreau has worn all of those hats before, but not usually all at once, and not for a film as successful as Chef has become. So it must have been a pretty important story he wanted to tell in order for him to put that much effort into it. And it really does show in his character, Carl Casper.

Casper’s priority in life is to constantly push boundaries in the kitchen. When food critic Ramsey Michel (Oliver Platt) arrives at the restaurant, Casper argues with the restaurant’s owner about the menu, decidedly bowing to the owner’s demands to keep the menu simple and the same, which pleases the general crowd of hungry customers. The next day, Casper reads Michel’s words that ultimately rips both his work as well as the restaurant apart.

But the heart of the story of Chef is Carl’s relationship with his estranged family, particularly his son Percy (Emjay Anthony). With his family taking a backseat to his career, this minor setback in receiving a bad review somewhat unites Carl and Percy. When news of the bad review travels online, Percy teaches Carl how to set up a Twitter account, thus sparking a somewhat accidental fight between both Carl and critic Michel. Ultimately, Carl loses his job after a YouTube video of him yelling at Michel goes viral. So he decides to open up his own food truck.

Chef is a movie that has a lot of unexpected funny moments, and I think it would entertain both movie critics and families alike. Chef centers around a relationship between a father and his son, and it shows the repercussions from both when Carl is involved in Percy’s life, and when he’s not present. There are touching moments that remind us viewers that we don’t always need a dramatic tale told in order to be entertained. Failure is an inevitable part of life, and the greatest lessons are often learned in how we react when we experience failure. Carl Caspers is a simple character, but he represents a lot of ordinary people who are talented, yet jobless. But more so than that, Carl Casper is a great representation of an artist who wants to be his own boss, but struggles between working the safe job with a safe paycheck, or taking a risk that could fulfill him or leave him empty-handed.

Social media also plays a significant role in the film, showing both how it can destroy or elevate a person’s reputation. I like that this theme wasn’t constantly repeating itself throughout, but that it acted as a more subtle idea in the background.

All of the acting felt very subdued, which worked well for the tone of Chef. I didn’t really think either Scarlett Johansson’s or Robert Downey Jr.’s roles were that pertinent to the film; most any actor or actress could have filled those roles. It almost seemed to me like they were cashing in favors to Favreau, but I could be reading into it too much.

Overall, I think Chef was a great film for the year, although in a few years will probably be forgotten. That said, I appreciated its simplicity, and I liked the relationship dynamic between Carl and Percy. I give Chef 

Eye Art1Eye Art1Eye Art1
EYES ON SCREEN.

 

What did you think of Chef? Did you think the plot was too simple, or did you think that was the strength of the film?


 AEOS Review: Birdman (2014)

A couple months ago, I read a review on a movie called Birdman (or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance). It just looked odd, especially the picture of Emma Stone not looking like Emma Stone. I wasn’t even sure if I was going to see the film, but after all of the high praise for it, I decided I might as well give it a try.

Michael Keaton plays Riggan Thomson, a once hailed and beloved actor who was known best as Birdman, a superhero character he played in not one, but three films. After turning down a fourth Birdman film, Riggan struggles between playing father in his broken family and making himself relevant again in his Broadway debut. Of course, things becomes less simple when theater diva Mike Shiner (Edward Norton) joins his play’s cast.

So many themes are overlapping each other in Birdman, but the primary takeaway is Riggan seeking significance in his career and clarity in his life while trying to come out from under the shadow of his days playing Birdman. Speaking of Birdman, who is he exactly, considering he is the title of the film? I consider Birdman to be Riggan’s alter ego, sitting on his shoulder, shifting between the good and evil sides of Riggan’s conscience.

Usually I would assume a movie with such a multilayered script to gain its strength mostly from its sharp and interesting writing, but Birdman really soars not only because of writer-director Alejandro González Iñárritu, but also because of an essential lead and supporting cast who are able to carry Birdman beyond its script.

Michael Keaton makes an astounding comeback, able to access a full range of emotions, but captures the audience in his most vulnerable moments. His conversations with his daughter, Sam (Emma Stone), are some of the most wrenching parts of the film, but you’re happy to go along this trip with Riggan because Keaton uses some of his real-life experiences to play Riggan so genuinely on screen. It is no surprised he has received multiple award nominations already.

Emma Stone might not play a large role in Birdman, but hers is an essential one that gives viewers probably the best commentary in the film. I wouldn’t have expected to see Stone tackle as dark a role as rehab druggie Sam, but she’s definitely proven that she can play more than just comedic and light-hearted characters. Edward Norton also seems to play an exaggerated (?) version of himself in Birdman, resulting in some of the most unexpected and amusing scenes I wouldn’t have expected from him. I could continue to mention multiple actors who added to Birdman, but I don’t want to forget to mention Zach Galifianakis, who played straight to the funny and weird and eccentric, using Birdman almost as a stage to show off that he can be funny without being the funny man.

The ending of Birdman is most telling, because it leaves viewers wondering why. It gave Riggan the critical review he sought from theater critic Tabitha Dickinson (Lindsay Duncan). It also may or may not reveal what was going on in Riggan’s head, and how he was dealing with everything. I like how it served as the finale of both the play and the film. There was a great build-up, and I was definitely not expecting it.

Complementing the script and acting was a memorable and unique score composed entirely with just a drum set by Antonio Sánchez. Though I wouldn’t listen to it in my free time, I felt like the drumming worked well with the eccentricity of the film, and it set the tone for Keaton’s character and played off his emotions, swelling and diminuendoing as the movie went along.

Emmanuel Lubezki’s camera work is also the big talk of Birdman, and rightfully so. Viewers really felt the experience of working in Broadway, the camera offering the “one, continuous take” of characters walking down the cramped, claustrophobic setting of a theater backstage.

I found relevance in Birdman in watching actors play characters that loosely mirrored their real lives. Beyond that, we get to witness the relationship between the artist (in this case, actors) and the critic. In addition, we get a behind-the-scenes view of a play, a washed-up actor’s life, and the consequences of how fans, viewers, and critics perceive artists in a different light when an actor seeks relevance in a fictional world where relevance is rarely long-lasting or authentic. Did that end scene give Tabitha Dickinson the sincerity she demanded from Riggan? What was Alejandro González Iñárritu trying to tell viewers in Birdman?

Although Birdman doesn’t dispense the same conversation Interstellar left us with this year, it does ask questions about how artists want to be perceived, and it also points the finger at critics to consider how we critique by offering a look behind the curtain. However, not all critics play hard ball like Ms. Dickinson, and not all actors are looking to be authentic like Riggan.

Birdman will likely make its mark on 2014 awards ceremonies, hitting reviewers’ and critics’ nerves. I found the conversation and thought process following the film to be more eye-opening and interesting than the film itself. Perhaps it’s my own fault. It’s not a movie I want to watch over and over again, but it gained my respect in offering up such a multi-dimensional character as Riggan Thomson in such a sharply edited film that only boosted its already strong writing. I give Birdman 

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1/2 EYES ON SCREEN.

 

What did you think of Birdman? What was the ultimate takeaway of the film for you? What are your theories on the ending?

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Double Trailer Break for 2015: The Last Five Years and The Walk

Hey all! It’s been a while since I got to showcase some trailers that have caught my interest. The first one made a splash on my Facebook page, becoming a trending topic for a few days. Starring Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan, The Last Five Years is a musical about the ins and outs of a relationship between a struggling waitress and novelist.

 

Based off this trailer, the plot feels a little bit like (500) Days of Summer (2009), except it looks like the story is told from both of the leads’ perspectives. I have never seen a production of The Last Five Years, so I’m unfamiliar with the music. But it looks like Anna Kendrick likes to repeatedly dip her toes in the musical pool, given last year’s Pitch Perfect where she first unveiled her vocal skills in the catchy, trending song “Cups,” and the upcoming movie adaptation Into the Woods, which will be opening in wide release Christmas Day. Given Kendrick’s Broadway background and experience, she seems to be a perfect fit for the role of Cathy.

Anna Kendrick Singing

Jeremy Jordan, who plays the male lead role of Jamie, doesn’t seem to be a newbie to singing on-screen either. I recognized him from the short-lived musical show Smash (2012-2013), and I noticed his acting credits included the musical film Joyful Noise (2012), both a musical production and film I have never seen. His voice sounds incredible in the trailer, however, so I think The Last Five Years might serve as a launching pad for the actor and singer if it performs successfully at the box office.

We also get a movie poster that chronicles the journey Cathy and Jamie’s relationship, which seems to work well in communicating the message of the film:

The Last Five Years has been making the rounds in the festival circuit for both the U.S. and Canada. It opens on February 13, 2015, just in time for Valentine’s Day. Will you be seeing this?


The next movie trailer that caught my eye is for The Walk, a Robert Zemeckis film starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

 

This is the first teaser trailer that’s been released for the film. Not only is it directed by one of my favorite directors of all time, but it also stars one of my favorite actors, which makes The Walk a must-see film for me next year. Aside from my personal interest, The Walk piqued my curiosity because it isn’t the first film to tackle the subject of Philippe Petit, an entertainer who wanted to walk a wire strung between the Twin Towers in 1974. The Oscar-winning documentary Man on Wire (2008) first told part of the story that is based off Petit’s book, To Reach the Clouds (2002), the book upon which The Walk is also based.

Entertainment Weekly posted about the the film in this article, where you can read more about it. EW also revealed the first picture released for the film, which features both Gordon-Levitt and Charlotte Le Bon.

The Walk is set to release on October 2, 2015 in the U.S.

Will you be planning to see The Walk or The Last Five Years in theaters next year? What do you think of the trailers? Sound off below!

AEOS Review: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Pt 1 (2014)

What’s interesting about Mockingjay Pt 1 (2014) is the criticism its received for being a movie adaptation of half a book more than being critiqued for the movie it is. That’s not to say I’m hating on my fellow critics and movie fans as much as I’m saying that the film got a bad rap before it even screened.

Of course, there’s nothing the movie could do to repair itself from its already negative standing among critics. To offer up only a first half of a story and leave the audience hanging for a year is a cruel move. But I think punishing the film for this is like pointing the finger at the victim rather than the wrong-doer. Historically speaking, Twilight and Harry Potter started the trend of YA book series being adapted into films, and then slicing the epic finale into two films. The short version we understand this as? A cash grab.

The cash grab has become the center of discussion revolving around Mockingjay Pt 1, thus painting it black and predicting its future location on FYE clearance shelves next to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt 1 (2011) for years to come.

David Yates let me read only the first half of the Deathly Hallows before shooting this pointless film . . .

Personally, I walked into the theater expecting what everyone predicted: a cash grab that left me bored, disappointed, and unimpressed. But I’ll get back to that in a little bit.

Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) is now bunkered in District 13, where she’s demanding for the rescue of Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), walking around angry and confused, and desperately hoping she can finally be left alone after suffering and surviving two Hunger Games.

As fellow readers and fans of the book series, we all know that Katniss will still be put on display in the third book. But instead of fighting to the death for public entertainment, instead she’ll become the official symbol of hope, representing the good in this battle against the evil Capitol, run by dictatorial President Snow (Donald Sutherland).

And it’s “moves and countermoves,” as Mr. Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) reminds viewers. It’s all about how Katniss is perceived. She’s to be an ally for District 13, a glimmer of hope for fighting districts, a threat to the Capitol, a demand to come home for Peeta, and perhaps a pillar of strength both for herself and Finnick (Sam Claflin), as they seek strength in knowing they’re loved ones are suffering at the hands of Snow.

RIP, Mr. Hoffman.

Seeing Mockingjay Pt 1 has really made me want to reread the book upon which its based. I wasn’t expecting the action, the blanks to be filled in, and the perspectives outside of Katniss’s to entertain me the way writers Peter Craig, Danny Strong, and book author Suzanne Collins presented them in this third film installment.

This new dark chunk in the dystopian cake seemed to present a new layer of young adult film adaptations to movie viewers. For me, the message was sent that for being a film based off a popular young adult series, that Mockingjay Pt 1 wasn’t required to sit in a box labeled “YA adaptations.” Mockingjay Pt 1 played to its strengths and took risks, not just because studios required the book to be split into two films, but because both the writers and director Francis Lawrence actually seemed to want to make a good movie.

While the previous movies showed Katniss’s struggle to deal with the hypocrisy of the Capitol and ultimately survive in the hunger games, Mockingjay focused its time on how Heavensbee, President Coin (Julianne Moore), and Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) along with Effie (Elizabeth Banks) and an entire camera team presenting Katniss to the public, which proved to be a greater struggle than fighting in the games for Katniss. In the games, Katniss could be her true self among strangers, because she understood she needed to survive, and she felt comfortable with a bow and arrow. But force her in front of a camera and ask her to rally the districts while she was still suffering PTSD and desiring to recover Peeta wasn’t working. So they took her to the ruins of District 12 and a makeshift hospital of other districts’s survivors.

It seems like more and more seasoned actors and actresses join The Hunger Games (2012) universe with each movie, and they support the foundation of an already solid script and coherent direction. While Jennifer Lawrence plays the star, it is the supporting cast that ultimately sells the film, from Woody Harrelson to Stanley Tucci, to newcomer Julianne Moore.

I actually pull off the gray hair rather well, yes?

James Newton Howard scores this third film, playing off the original themes he created in the first Hunger Games film. The special effects are even amped up, including explosions and some exciting action scenes. One particular scene had me especially fascinated and on edge, as we got to see some District 13 soldiers go on a rescue mission inside the Capitol while Katniss kept Snow on the line to “distract” him. The additions the movie offers that readers missed out on seem to work well for movie audiences, filling in the holes instead of confusing viewers who haven’t read the books.

Mockingjay Pt 1 did include a few things that bothered me, such as the wigs Jennifer Lawrence donned. It was obvious it wasn’t her real hair, and I found it distracting throughout the film. I also felt like Gale (Liam Hemsworth) wasn’t given enough to do, so he seemed to just be walking around, hoping to add to the film with his good Aussie looks since he rarely got any lines.

Despite those issues, I left the theater much more impressed than I expected to be when I walked in. I think if viewers and critics alike can overlook the obvious cash grab ordeal that has hovered over the film, I think many people can agree that Mockingjay Pt 1 is a solid installment in Collins’s epic book-to-screen adaptations. While the odds were certainly not in the film’s favor to succeed with critics, I give Mockingjay Pt 1

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1/2 EYES ON SCREEN.

It’s your turn now. What did you think of Mockingjay Part 1? Do you think it deserves a place beside the first two films? Sound off in the comments below.

Month in Review: November 2014

Popular Posts in November

Fairy Tale Blogathan: Sabrina (1995)

Matinee Podcast: Big Hero 6 (2014)

Shame List #25: The Shining (1980)

Not a Review: Interstellar (2014)

AEOS Review: Whiplash (2014)

New Movies I Saw in Theaters

Big Hero 6

Birdman
Review coming soon!

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1
Review coming soon!

Interstellar

Theory of Everything
Review coming soon!

Whiplash

Best Movie [I saw in theaters] This Month

Whiplash

While Whiplash probably made me more uncomfortable in a movie theater than what I’m accustomed to, I cannot help but praise this film as one of the best of the year. It’s a film I’d like to add to my collection, even if I watch it only once every couple of years. The performances do not carry, but rather complement a film that gives us great music, an interesting perspective on performance arts, and a great story to tell.

Worst Movie [I saw in theaters] This Month

 Theory of Everything

Now technically I saw Theory of Everything early this month, but since the film was released in November, and I’m a bit behind in posting November’s month in review, I thought it was safe to add to this month. Theory of Everything isn’t so much a bad film as it’s more of a “been here, done that” misdemeanor in film. That isn’t to say that I didn’t enjoy the film, or that I think it’s a bad film. I don’t. It just happens to come in last place for the new films I saw in theaters over the month of November.

Looking Forward to December

It is a little crazy to think we are nearing the end of 2014 this quickly. I, for one, have had an incredible 2014, having returned to blogging this July after a long year and a half hiatus. But I’ll save that talk for future posts. December boasts a LOT of big films, similarly to November. I doubt I’ll catch all, much less most of these films this month. But hey, that’s what January is for, right?

Because there are so many films I’m itching to see this month, I’m going to limit this list to my top five I’m most excited for.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (12/16)

I have so much love for the Lord of the Rings universe Peter Jackson created on-screen. While I have not been a fan of the first two The Hobbit offerings, I am still excited for this finale. We really haven’t gotten to see much of the actual material from the book unfold on screen, so I’m looking forward to what Mr. Jackson has in store for us.

Into the Woods (12/25)

I’ve been anticipating Into the Woods since a teaser first arrived online. Now while I haven’t seen the musical production of this, I think the premise is interesting, and I’m very excited to see so many of the actors and actresses I love grace the screen in a musical. My sister and I have established a tradition over the past several years to see a movie in theaters Christmas night. Since I met my hubby Matt in 2012, he has come along, making it that much more fun. Into the Woods is the movie I hope to see this Christmas.

Unbroken (12/25)

I know way less about Unbroken than I’d like, but I’ve read raving reviews for the book it is based on. I’ve also researched how Angelina Jolie came into contact with the man whose story is Unbroken, so I’m curious to see how Jolie’s latest return to the director’s chair will pan out. This movie promises inspiration for a story that looks devastating. It reminds me a little bit of 12 Years a Slave (2013) in the trailer.

Big Eyes (12/25)

I haven’t always been a huge fan of Amy Adams. Sometimes I love her, and other times I don’t care for her roles. But Big Eyes attracts me even more given that Tim Burton is the director. While Burton always dabbles in the unusual, Big Eyes doesn’t seem to be his usual fare. And with Christoph Waltz, I can’t help but be curious about this unusually appealing film.

Selma (12/25)

Selma will be a limited-release film that I probably won’t get to see until January. That said, this movie looks incredible from the trailer, and it’s full of huge actors. I’ve been seeing trailers for this only within the past month, so my guess is that the push will be around Christmas/New Years into January. I really think this movie is going to be nominated for a lot of awards.

Since December is such a huge month for films, here is a list of other films released in December I’m still excited to see, even if I don’t get to them until January/February next year:

Wild (12/3)

Inherent Vice (12/12)

Annie (12/19)

American Sniper (12/25)

The Gambler (12/25)

A Most Violent Year (12/31)

It’s your turn now. What were the best and worst movies you saw in November? What movies are you anticipating in December? Please join the conversation below, because I would love to know your thoughts.

My Hometown Blogathon: Chicago

So first, I owe one huge apology to Caz over at Let’s Go to the Movies for being severely late in posting for her blogathon, since it was due right around Thanksgiving. I loved the idea that she came up with for a blogathon, and being from (the suburbs of) Chicago, I was excited to post about some of my favorite films that feature the Windy City.


Here are five of my favorite films that highlight the city of Chicago:

5. My Best Friend’s Wedding (1997)

My Best Friend’s Wedding (1997) is not only one of Julia Robert’s funniest films, in my humble opinion, but it also features multiple Chicago locations, including a very famous chase scene that ends in Union Station. The picture above cracks me up because the girl fight goes down in a bathroom at U.S. Cellular Field (Comiskey Park), home of my favorite baseball team, the Chicago White Sox. Although My Best Friend’s Wedding appears on the surface to be just another bland rom-com, there are some hysterical moments, and it sets the tone for future romance films that don’t end happily ever after. But hey, at least there will be dancing.

Below is one of the most memorable scenes from the film, where Julianne (Julia Roberts) and Michael (Dermot Mulroney) are on a boat, passing under some of the bridges in Chicago.


4. While You Were Sleeping (1995)

Another rom-com that makes my list is While You Were Sleeping (1995), because its most pivotal scenes take place at an L train station in Chicago, the most memorable scene when Peter (Peter Gallagher) falls onto the tracks with an incoming train. Bullock makes for a believable character who could live in the city, and I think she does so successfully in While You Were Sleeping.

I didn’t have the easiest time finding clips from the film, but the trailer for the film below shows that most of the background and setting for the film takes place in the Windy City.


 3. The Blues Brothers (1980)

I have Ryan at The Matinee to thank for pushing me to finally watch this beloved film that features almost more of Chicago than any other film I have seen thus far. So much Chicago scenery, roads, and famous landmarks are shown in the film. One of my favorite scenes is the opening scene in which John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd jump the 95th Street bridge over the Calumet River in a police vehicle.

 

At the time, this climactic final scene (at the “Palace Hotel Ballroom”) was performed at a country club, but later became the South Shore Cultural Center, receiving its name from the neighborhood in Chicago where it started. The Hollywood Palladium is where the indoor concert scenes were shot.


 2. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)

John Hughes, the director, writer, and producer for Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986), felt very strongly about the city of Chicago when penning and directing the film.

He’s quoted, saying,

“Chicago is what I am. A lot of Ferris is sort of my love letter to the city. And the more people who get upset with the fact that I film there, the more I’ll make sure that’s exactly where I film. It’s funny—nobody ever says anything to Woody Allen about always filming in New York. America has this great reverence for New York. I look at it as this decaying horror pit. So let the people in Chicago enjoy Ferris Bueller.”

I never realized that Hughes was under fire for choosing Chicago over New York. His passion to have the city play a character in the story shows, as its architecture, well-known tourist attractions, and features are grandly put on display.

I wonder what Ferris would have thought of the 360 degree TILT ride now offered at the John Hancock Building.

 

I never had an experience quite like Ferris’s and his friends at the Art Museum, but it’s still one of my favorite places to visit in the city.

 

And I couldn’t not include the video of the parade scene with Matthew Broderick on a float belting “Twist and Shout.” The scene took two Saturday to shoot in the middle of downtown Chicago. Apparently radio stations announced that people could play extras in a “John Hughes movie,” and 10,000 people showed up for it.


 1. The Dark Knight (2008)

When Caz first announced this blogathon, I immediately thought of The Dark Knight (2008). It’s one of the most well-known films to have been shot in Chicago, probably because Chicago gets to play Batman’s city, Gotham, and that is pretty awesome.

As someone who grew up near Chicago, not in, but visited it often, there are certain areas in the city that I can pick out more easily when I’m watching a film. One of the most prominent locations was Lower Wacker Drive, as well as the Metra entrance at Millennium Park, where Batman (Christian Bale) was chasing the Joker (Heath Ledger).

 

The Gotham General Hospital, which the Joker blows up in the film, was actually the old Brach’s Candy Factory located on North Cicero Avenue. You can check out the explosion below.

 

Of course, there are so many notable films that have been filmed in Chicago, that I just chose five films that I really enjoy. Other major films that were filmed in Chicago include the following:

Sixteen Candles (1984)
The Untouchables (1987)
When Harry Met Sally (1989)
North by Northwest (1959)
Nothing in Common (1986)
Home Alone (1990)
Road to Perdition (2002)
Public Enemies (2009)
The Company (2003)
The Fugitive (1993)
Risky Business (1983)
Hoop Dreams (1994)
High Fidelity (2000)

Thanks again to Caz for hosting this blogathan, and apologies for the tardy post.

It’s your turn now. What is your favorite(s) film(s) filmed in Chicago? Are there any prominent films shot in your hometown? Please join in on the fun below!

All Eyes on the SMALL Screen: The Walking Dead, Ep 8

Episode 7 didn’t see a lot happen in Robert Kirkman’s universe for The Walking Dead. So I decided to forgo a review on that episode and wait for the midseason finale, which slowly built to a painful end. Although for most followers of the show, it came as no surprise that a main character would be killed off, considering all of the interviews and warnings that this week’s episode would be “heartbreaking.” So enough chatter, let’s get into the episode.


Plot Breakdown

Back at the Hospital . . . 

Beth is still residing at the Grady Memorial Hospital with Officer Losing Control, otherwise known to us as Lerner, being on the receiving end of about 900 speeches that somehow justifies Lerner’s actions to herself, in her own mind. Carol finally wakes up, despite being taken off life support, thanks to Beth’s sly skills of obtaining medicine. Lerner has connected the dots that Beth knows Carol. Oh, and Beth helps Lerner take down one of her officers after he overhears the two ladies discussing that Beth will be eternally indebted to Lerner for her protection.

Back at the Church . . . 

Michonne, Carl, and Father Gabriel are holding down the fort at the church. Carl has lent Gabriel a knife so he can “defend himself.” Of course, Gabriel uses the machete to break out of the church, go to the school, and discover the remains of what the Termites left, allowing us viewers to revisit Bob’s cooked (and tainted) foot. It’s questionable why this scene would matter, much less make it into this packed episode, aside from the fact that it seems like the writers were trying to be metaphorical. Gareth’s mother, Mary, had apparently left a Bible, which Gabriel discovered. I’m not sure of what the connection there is, but at least the Father’s eyes had finally been opened to the reality of the apocalyptic world they are living in.

When a group of walkers break down a door, Gabriel is forced to retreat back into the woods to get to the church. Again, we get to see the tables turned as he bangs on the door, begging to be let in. We get to see the words scratched on the outside of the church, the place where others died when the Father locked them out. Being the good people they are, Michonne and Carl let him in, and in doing so, lose hold of the stronghold the church has become.

But what better time for the calvary to arrive then now? Abraham, Rosita, Tara, Glenn, and Maggie, along with a bedridden Eugene, return to the church in a firetruck. Michonne breaks the news that Rick & Co. are retrieving Beth and Carol from a hospital in Atlanta, and for the first time in season 5, we get to see Maggie truly care that her sister is, indeed, alive. They quickly decide to join forces with the rest of the team to recover Beth and Carol in Atlanta.

Back in Atlanta . . . 

Rick and his crew have been successful in acquiring a few of Lerner’s police officers in order to organize a friendly exchange with no bullets fired. Simply put, it’s a few of Lerner’s guys for Beth and Carol. It doesn’t get too complicated until after Sasha’s let her guard down, and one of the officers escapes, running for his life. When Rick finds the runner, he hits him with a police car, puts a bullet in his head, and tells the dead body to “shut up.”

Back at their base, the other officers plead for a friendly exchange despite losing one of their men. The plan continues, and we’re finally back in the hospital. Carol is first exchanged with one officer. Next, Beth is exchanged with another officer. And then Officer Lerner, perhaps in an effort to not seem weak in front of her officers, demands that Noah returns to them since he was one of her best workers. Noah doesn’t put up much of a fight, but Rick’s company struggles to stand for this, considering the deal was already made. Emotionally struck by the situation, Beth hugs Noah, faces Lerner, and using the scissors she hid in her cast, strikes Lerner in the shoulder. Sadly, the next action ends in a bang (I couldn’t help myself), and Lerner reacts by shooting Beth in the head. Following suite, Daryl shoots Lerner. An all-out gun fight is about to start, but one of Lerner’s officers puts it to a halt before any more blood is shed.

Of course, the episode has built to a dramatic finale. The rest of the group has just arrived to see Rick leading the group, giving a quick, solemn shake of his head, followed by an emotionally distraught Daryl carrying Beth’s dead body. Cut to one devastated Maggie, who never got to reunite with her sister after the battle at the prison from season 4.

And that, folks, is the end of the first half of season 5. And if that picture below doesn’t kill you inside, then you might have a heart. Just kidding.

Discussion Questions/Thoughts for Episode 508

  • Will Eugene live? It’s a likely possibility this guy will live, but what good is he now?
  • How will Maggie and Daryl deal with Beth’s death? We’ve seen characters, especially Rick, go through every emotion in dealing with a loved one die. Beth’s death hit harder than most, considering the way in which she died, and the fact that she never reunited with her sister or other friends beforehand. Maggie’s been a strong character throughout the show, and she has a husband to lean on. Daryl has lost yet another close friend, yet he seems to box up his emotions whenever necessary.
  • What are the repercussions of Beth’s death? Adding to my previous question, how will the rest of the group’s dynamic and emotional state be affected by Beth’s death? Will it push them to make another decision? The preview for the next half of the season seemed to point to that.
  • What’s next for the gang? Speaking of that preview, Michonne got to talking about a destination, versus their wandering. A lot of people are predicting the next big set will be Alexandria, a safe zone that includes electricity. Yet how will they deal with the idea of a safe zone when the last two included a sociopathic Governor and a herd of cannibals?
  • How does Father Gabriel fit into things? Is there something more to the Father than what we’ve witnessed so far? How will he influence the outcome of the remaining episodes of the season?
  • When will Morgan finally join up with Rick? We got another lovely little tidbit featuring Morgan, who always seems to be just a bit behind Rick. Yet he didn’t know it was Rick until he found the map in the church, which had Abraham’s note including the name “Rick Grimes.” So my question is, when (and where) will they finally meet up?!

 Favorite Moments from the Episode

  • Glenn and Maggie returning to the church to reunite with Michonne
  • Daryl shooting Lerner in the head
  • Morgan’s post-credit scene

We got a lot of answers, a heavy episode that included a major character death, and now some new questions. What did you think of the mid-season finale? Do you think it was too early for Beth to die? (I did.) Sound off below, because I’d love to know your thoughts!