Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Sundance London 2013: Upstream Colour Review

Director/Writer: Shane Carruth

Starring: Amy Seimetz, Shane Carruth, Andrew Sensenig, Thiago Martins

Synopsis: Kris (Seimetz) is kidnapped one night, drugged and forced into a life cycle of a microscopic presence. Along her tough and confusing journey she finds a kindred spirit also caught up in a wider sense of existence. The two support each other to piece together the fragments of their confused life.

If the above synopsis doesn’t inform you already, Upstream Colour is a very tough film to describe. With some viewers this will be its greatest facets, and viewed in the completely opposite way by others.

Sitting down for a Shane Carruth movie is the equivalent of Ergodic literature – a very demanding exercise in entertainment and perception. There are many illogical aspects to his work, yet it’s his ability to meticulous craft deep logic that he’s praised for. Following the story appears to be easy for the first 30 minute of Upstream Colour – a woman kidnapped, drugged and then victim to the insertion of a worm into her body. This worm has the ability to alter her entire biology, and is a fascinating concept for a story. It’s the science-fiction of Richard Matheson, with a subject that covers for more than one idea (in this case: drug use, subsistence and even the theory of everything). As Kris, the kidnapped woman, is freed of the worm of a series of bizarre days under its spell she finds she is now lost in what was her reality. This is where the narrative veers off to the cryptic, then convoluted further by the introduction of Jeff (Carruth) who appears to have been through the same trauma.

If your attention slips ever so briefly during the film you will lose some intrinsic piece of understanding. Every shot, sound and symbol has been carefully envisioned by Carruth and this is a wondrous achievement. He is using the cinematic form in every capacity and largely succeeding. Some shots that illustrate the microscopic essence of life are stunning – developing this overarching theme boldly and constructively. There are then interconnected images and sounds that are edited together with finesse; all exemplary in their edifice.

Going to the film with absolutely no idea of the story could lead to frustration as there are few clues to piece it all together in one. Give the film a few days to digest, watch the trailer, and take another stab at it and you should expect a more satisfying experience. Take the Walden; or Life in the Woods by Henry David Thoreau that is referenced continually – read the book, or delve into its ideals and you will discover more about Carruth’s reason for it (one stab in the dark: life at its most basic and the connection of living organisms to one another).

Carruth is in the director’s chair, at the writer’s desk, in front of the camera, composing the music, editing the scenes, and filming the remarkable cinematography – he is already an auteur, completely in control of his project, and Upstream Colour is his crowning glory. Albeit, this film is tough and often irritating with its audacious enigma, but it is refreshingly smart, able to generate thought and discussion.

By Piers McCarthy. Also posted on LiveForFilms

Sundance London 2013: Muscle Shoals Review

Director: Greg “Freddy” Camalier

Starring: Rick Hall, Wilson Pickett, Keith Richards, Mick Jagger, Aretha Franklin, the Swampers, Alicia Keys, Bono, Jimmy Cliff

Synopsis: Shedding a light on the relatively untold story of Muscle Shoals – a town in Alabama home to some of the greatest music ever recorded.

As the gravelly, iconic voice of Keith Richards utters – “it’s immortal...it’s in the grooves, man”. The “it” he’s referring to is the sound of Muscle Shoals – the soul and seminal quality of some of the best music ever etched into a vinyl record. For music enthusiasts they may already know the history and importance of Rick Hall and the titular area in the deep south of the US. Still, Muscle Shoals may impart some fresh information for those learned folk. And for those less acquainted with it all, this documentary will tell you everything you need to know.

Kicking off with a profoundly good choice of song – Wilson Pickett’s “Land of 1000 Dances” – the film immediately emphasises the power and vivacity of this music. Soundtrack is, without question, one of the film’s finest elements, but it’s how Camalier pairs it with an image that cements the doc’s magnetism. As you listen to the funk, soul and slow-jams all recorded in the magical studios of Muscle Shoals, you are also given photography of the surrounding area. The majority of the montage happens at the beginning, introducing you to the land that housed the whole story. The film will inspire many people to visit the landmark area with the cinematography being another component advertising the charm of the place.

As a handful of admired musicians continue to praise the locale from start to finish, the legacy can never be queried. Stories from Percy Sledge, Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards (to name a few) about their successful stint in the studios prove Muscle Shoals’ significance. However, these interviews are not the key to the story – it is Rick Hall and the Swampers’ chronicle that gets the deserved limelight. Without those engineers, musicians, producers, and visionaries the world would be without some superb songs.

Being the mastermind behind this musical revolution, Rick Hall gets a healthy amount of screen-time. His stories of creative input (such as Hall writing Clarence Carter’s “Patches” after the death of his father) and quest for perfection are insightful, though some snippets feel superfluous. The Swampers have less to say themselves but, fortunately, are spoken about more frequently by others – they are another vital part to defining the music. As many won’t realise, the instrumental work behind so many of this wonderful rhythm and blues music was conducted by these white dudes. Nearly all of the interviewed artists enjoying pointing this out and rightly so; it speaks volumes about racial awareness, which becomes a rousingly investigated subject.

There is more that could be said about the tracks recorded in the Muscle Shoals studios but it would require an entire series of films. Camalier does a terrific job of diluting that extensive history without making it seem flat or lacking. One thing that the film would have benefited from would be the deletion of filler shots (contrived photography of Hall or the Swampers standing in certain spots of the town), replaced with old stock footage or photos. Overall, however, it is an awe-inspiring account with a host of well renowned interviewees thrilled to talk about that special place where the music “comes up through the mud”.

By Piers McCarthy. Also posted on LiveForFilms

Monday, 29 April 2013

Sundance London 2013: Metro Manila Review

Director: Sean Ellis

Writers: Sean Ellis, Frank E. Flowers

Starring: Jake Macapagal, Althea Vega, John Arcilla, Moises Magisa

Synopsis: A farmer, Oscar (Macapagal), his wife Mai (Vega) and his two children are struggling on the rice hills of northern Philippines. In hope of finding prosperity they move to the bustling metropolitan of Manila. As difficult as it is finding work, Oscar finally gets hired as an armoured truck driver/security. It’s a dangerous job that magnifies the criminality and corruption around him.

Cinematic vérité is a tough aesthetic to crack - it relies on believability in the work of fiction. Sean Ellis’ Metro Manila is one of the latest films able to capture a realism that’s practically faultless.

Even with a run-time that feels slightly longer than it should in sections, the majority of the editing and structure is brilliantly handled. Starting the film off with a brief but informative character and setting introduction, Ellis sets a tone that is intrinsic up until the last shot. It is mostly a migrant story, with some crime thriller integrated into it, reliant on the gloom of the dog-eat-dog world outlook. The crime aspect will not play into the film until half way, but from the start it's without a doubt that this is aiming to be a biting and elegiac drama (and nothing but successful with this aspiration). You are never without sympathy for Oscar and his family, achieved through a meticulous combination of writing and acting.

The role of the husband is commonly the one who brings home the bread. Oscar is the epitome of this persona, constantly striving to protect his family and give them all he can. Played with undeniable and awards-worthy elegance by Jake Macapagal, this is one of the most caring and altruistic husband/father characters since George Bailey. Oscar is the common man, both fearful and brave when it comes to facing harsh realities. As he becomes close to his armoured car partner, Ong (John Arcilla), he greatly highlights the decency of man aside the more flawed representation of humanity.

Also trying to help the family is Oscar’s wife Mai. As perilous as Oscar’s job can be, Mai is part of a seedy men’s club, having to strip away her innocence in order to get money. As the audience see the grim life Mai has to experience, Oscar can only imagine. In one heartbreaking scene, Oscar fights the tears away during a night out with co-workers - his tears mixing with the liquid of copious alcohol - thinking to himself of what Mai is concurrently having to do.

Moments of drama and upset are always touching – Ellis knowing how to create an atmosphere expertly. The scenes of tension and violence equal Ellis’ dramatic capabilities, with action ferocious and heart-pounding. The armoured car focal point could have been exploited with several stick-ups and hijackings but Ellis holds back, making the moments all-the-more nail-biting because of it.

Ellis’ direction, cinematography and writing (co-credited with Frank E. Flowers) are stunning, anchored by a sterling cast and location work. Nearly every element seems honed to perfection, with a superb ending to certainly leave a definite impression. Occasional scenes drag out but this is mostly an artistic and acting triumph.  

By Piers McCarthy. Also posted on LiveForFilms

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Sundance London 2013: The Kings of Summer Review

Director: Jordan Vogt-Roberts

Writer: Chris Galletta

Starring: Nick Robinson, Gabriel Basso, Moises Arias, Nick Offerman, Erin Moriarty, Alison Brie, Megan Mullally, Marc Evan Jackson

Synopsis: Fed up of their parents, Joe (Robinson) and Patrick (Basso) – with the addition of new friend Biaggio (Arias) – flee to the woods to start up a new life living off the land.

During those formative teenage years, many tired and tetchy youths have thought about hitting the road and leaving their parents behind. The notion itself is steeped in both danger and adventure, with some life-affirming stories, and others deeply melancholic. For the Funny or Die presents… director Jordan Vogt-Roberts and first-time writer Chris Galletta, the idea in their mind is that of pure delight. They show the oppressive environment of high school, and the gloom of being grounded; so when the boys take to the forest, you can sense the joy.

The Kings of Summer will continually be referenced in relation to Stand By Me and Superbad but it’s funnier than the former, and buries the latter in its wake. It sadly won’t always be viewed as an original due to the similarities in tone to past films, but it very well should be. The comedy is extremely well-balanced between the boys’ stories and the parents’, and the emotion is always touching and relatable. Written with such acerbic humour, and with a cast of characters that you wish you could watch for hours on end, this is the best teen comedy in existence.

Superbad, Role Models, American Pie et al are seen as the funniest teen comedies because they push the boundaries of decency. Laughing at what you shouldn’t is often staples of decent farce but there’s a limit to it. With the amount of raunchy comedies hitting cinemas nearly every month, it’s a pleasant surprise to see something that doesn’t require it. The jokes in The Kings of Summer are not always clean and the few low-brow ones will get the deserved laugh, but its’ the heightened wit and wordplay of the script that proves its quality. Furthermore, with people like Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally on top form, there’s laughter all round.

The parents who drive the kids to the woods are wonderfully realised – with snippets of very real characteristics such as mollycoddling and those outlandish or extreme, like consistently talking about the child’s supposed psychology every time they’re in his presence. Whenever any of the parental figures are on screen you are bound to be in fits of laughter. The same reaction often crosses over to the boys, who’s sojourn into the green land of Ohio is laced with slapstick and quips. Arias steals the show with his off-beat Biaggio character and this happens for him in all of his scenes. Robinson, on the other hand, is funniest when he’s in a battle of wits with his father. Having this one-on-one play from the beginning sets up Robinson’s charm, carrying on throughout (and expectantly will all through his career). The Joe character is then able to add heart and poignancy for the woods scenes later on the film, always with opportunity for humour whenever the film needs it.

The three lead actors may not have the capacity to steal the scenes away from learned actors such as Offerman and Mullally, but you cannot debate their comedic abilities. Arias, especially, has the makings of a true comic actor, with an appearance that makes you chuckle, and a clear sense of timing. Nick Robinson and Gabriel Basso are similarly funny (though Basso largely plays the straight man) but are more on hand to give the film the emotion for its coming-of-age genus. Minor (yet greatly cast) characters such as the police officers, a delivery guy, and Eugene Cordero’s ass-kissing hopeful son-in-law, constantly inject moments of side-splitting humour never letting you forget how well the screenplay is scribed.

Some scenes do play out in a clichéd fashion and occasional set-pieces can be seen from a mile off. Still, it is boasting some wonderful cinematography to side with the narrative proceedings, and endless quotable lines. It should become the new favourite for a generation – a few decades after the 80′s had Rob Reiner’s classic – brimming as it is with hilarity and heartfelt moments.

By Piers McCarthy. Also posted on

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Sundance London 2013: The History of The Eagles Part One Review

Director: Alison Ellwood

Synopsis: The first in a two-part documentary about The Eagles; Part One looking at their humble beginnings up until 1980’s breakup.

With the most popular artists (in whatever sphere) there always a flurry of books, films or memorabilia surrounding them. More lately, it is the documentary chronicle of such artists that seems to be the new popular medium. Last year's Crossfire Hurricane about The Rolling Stones, the Oscar-winning Searching For Sugarman and the upcoming Beware of Mr. Baker are just some of the more recent examples. With the former, director Brett Morgen tried to fit 50 years of rich history into a 111 minute - a bold and, ultimately terrible, approach. Further to the Stones doc, there was little left to say after Gimme Shelter, The Stones in Exile and Sympathy for the Devil (to name but a few out of a heap on the "Greatest Rock 'n Roll" band’s docs). So, when you see Alison Ellwood's The History of The Eagles Part One you take into account the how exclusive the project is, and the triumph in splitting their story into two halves. The 120-minute Part One is a progressive, in-depth and investigative analysis of The Eagles with footage never seen before and a bunch of very honest interviews from each member (talking heads rather than voice over - another low-point of Morgen's Crossfire Hurricane).

Beginning with footage from a 1977 concert, the documentary immediately proves to you how talented the band is (if you weren’t already aware). In the cinema environment, with complete surround sound, it magnifies their brilliance and their sublime melodies. Any music documentary should make a point of illuminating the musical talent (even the new Snoop Lion film, Reincarnated, whilst having a poor reception, was often commended for highlighting the music well). The Eagles are not in any need of proof but it brings a smile to your face, and a whole audience to tap their feet, to hear, see and feel the band at play – reiterating the illustriousness of their composition.

Another key feature of a music documentary is its impetus or ability to dissect the album tracks. The Classic Albums series are the best at these (as well as Spike Lee’s Bad: 25 and Under African Skies about Paul Simon’s “Graceland”). The History of The Eagles Part One contains some similar analysis in part. More than anything it is the lyrics and opening riffs or licks that are explained – also enlightening you on the mood of the moment and showing the evolution of the song. Three of the most enjoyable tales of track origins are (unsurprisingly) “Hotel California”, “Life in the Fast Lane” and “Victim of Love”. The latter is part of the story’s major conflict – the beginning of the end with Don Felder.

For those already in the know about the history there should hopefully be something new to learn in the staggeringly honest interviews. Despite the tension between Felder and the remaining members, he zealously gives his takes on events, working well for evening out opinions and creating an overall respect for each member’s openness and understanding. Those new to the band, or at least the history, will be terrifically entertained and educated.

Not only does it explore the band’s triumphs and troubles in work, it also gives an assured, if slight, overview of the various epochs. In those years was the music that inspired them (The Beatles, Elvis Presley), the drink and drugs, and the celebrity. One hilarious anecdote from Joe Walsh (whose presence in the film is always amusing) about him and John Belushi trying to get into a fancy restaurant will long live in your memory afterwards.

For those not at all interested in The Eagles the doc is a tough sell; you can find other gems about music and contemporary American history but it’s obviously Eagles-heavy. For the band’s fans, and music aficionados in general, this is A-grade material.

By Piers McCarthy. Also posted on LiveForFilms

Sundance London 2013: Blackfish Review

Director: Gabriela Cowperthwaite

Synopsis: A chronicle of Tilikum, a killer whale captured and trained at SeaWorld, that killed several trainers in captivity.

The vast ocean is home to millions of creatures – some harmless, and others extremely dangerous. Whilst the Orca whale has not been known to harm many humans, Blackfish aims to show that in an unnatural environment, they may be prone to shake up the statistics.

The 30-foot-deep tanks at SeaWorld at Orlando, Florida apparently hold many secrets. In Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s documentary we are privy to the murky depths of those tanks and the horror that happened several times within them. Starting off with footage of what you believe to be an attack, Cowperthwaite illustrates the tension that courses through the film right from the beginning.

Arranged with talking head interviews, illustrated depictions of court cases, and collections of incredible footage, Blackfish glides through its run time, as elegantly as some of the Orca performances. To watch the whales is enjoyable enough, but with the added danger that attracts the “killer” connotation, you are captivated. Tilikum is a mysterious focal point, forever surprising both you and those that had the (mis)fortune of being in his company. Much like Nim in Project Nim and the grizzlies in Grizzly Man, there’s no telling to how the fierce creature will behave – waiting for the assumed action constantly has you on edge.

One misjudgment, perhaps, is the lack of discussion about Dawn Brancheau, the third victim. Dawn’s death bookmarks the film and as the biography of Tilikum advances, we realise that Dawn’s death is soon to be upon us. Having seen an array of footage where Tilikum lashes out, there is the thought that we will see something of Dawn’s demise. It’s part-morbid curiosity, part-expectation (after witnessing quite a lot of horrifying footage) that we’ll see something of the attack. The lack of footage and the short eulogy of Dawn subtracts from some of the predicted poignancy. More empathy can be found in the tragic story about a trans-atlantic trainer, Alexis Martínez, who was also killed by a captive Orca.

There is also little suggestion about how to better - or eliminate – the cruel confinement of the resort whales. Despite this minor flaw, however, there is plenty of material to shock and disgust you about the situation – in a way,  Cowperthwaite’s smart way to avoid spoon-feeding you a boycott message. You will leave Blackfish surprised and stunned by all that is shown, and definitely with your own developed opinion that SeaWorld, Marineland, Loro Parque et al need to be closed down.

Helped by an eloquent score from Jeff Beal and Cowperthwaite’s fine-tuned direction, Blackfish can be extremely affecting at times. The unpredictable nature of these types of mammals and the strange connection people have with them (where death is nearly always at your door) continually makes for an interesting documentary. Blackfish may not stay with you as long as Herzog’s Grizzly Man manages to, but there’s no doubt that you’ll ever forget the footage and the emotion behind the story.

By Piers McCarthy. Also posted on LiveForFilms

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Iron Man 3 Review

Director: Shane Black

Writers: Drew Pearce, Shane Black

Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Ben Kingsley, Don Cheadle, Guy Pearce, Rebecca Hall, Paul Bettany, Jon Favreau, William Sadler, James Badge Dale, Stephanie Szostak

Synopsis: After the epic battle fought alongside the Avengers, Tony Stark (Downey Jr.) is hard at work on further Iron Man advancements. However, with all work and no play, along with the trauma of nearly dying in the New York fight, he’s been left relatively scarred. Even with bouts of panic attacks, vicious terrorism erupting from The Mandarin’s outfit forces Stark to overcome his anxieties and help to protect and save his country.

Spring has finally started to dawn – the sun is shining, the wind’s no longer creating that numbing cold effect, and the big movies are upon us. So, in an interesting turn of events, how is it that the first major blockbuster of this year has an abundant wintery/Noël ambience? Check the director’s name (Shane Black) and you have your answer – the Lethal Weapon, The Long Kiss Goodnight, and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang writer/director is a slave to his favourite holiday season, bringing it in to his take on the Iron Man series. Using the Christmas setting is not an intrinsic aspect of the narrative, but it does underscore the director/writer’s presence, making this another distinctly Black film (and for those who know of his talent, that can only mean good things).

Much like Joss Whedon was able to expertly handle the Marvel universe whilst putting his own stamp on The Avengers (witty dialogue and memorable group dynamics), Black and co-writer Drew Pearce have an astute knack for balancing the extravagant and everyday. On top of this, it wouldn’t be a Shane Black film without the noir pastiche; after Downey Jr. And Black’s triumphant try at the genre with Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, it seems the duo were made to work at that style. Whilst Iron Man 3 can’t be a complete exercise in film noir, it includes a winning combination of a protagonist’s voiceover, an existential crisis, and the twists and turns of investigation.

The Mandarin is the most elusive villain we’ve seen in the Marvel lot so far, perfectly fitting for what Black is going for with number 3. The aforementioned investigation by Stark is riddled with rough encounters with henchmen and femme fatales, and red herrings that no reviewer should have the indecency to reveal. The film’s first 20 minutes (mostly shown in the trailer) is bland and uninspiring, merely setting up Stark hot on the Mandarin’s case; it’s purely there for expositional reasons and can be completely forgiven once the takes place. Joining in the villain role is Guy Pearce, not as scene-stealing as Sir Kingsley but charismatically caustic all throughout. He plays a large role up until the end, making it twice as exciting with his take on the Killian character. 

The last half, with a surprisingly gripping last 20 minutes (so far removed from the boring brawl in Iron Man 2), leaves you realising that this film may be Marvel’s best so far. Forgetting the largest disappointment that, by the end, Rebecca Hall has had very little to do, there is still an epic sky-fall set-piece and a verifiable threat that does make you ponder over various outcomes.

Moving past how it starts and it ends; it is the middle section that holds the most value. As Tony gets accidentally exiled the film turns into a character-driven search-for-the-soul drama with imagery reminiscent of Sergio Corbucci’s Django, Frank Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life and Billy Wilder’s Double Indemnity. It’s an assured cinematic journey that just happens to be in the familiar, commercial Marvel universe. The production value may be high but there is no tawdry texture to this huge blockbuster – it’s a rich film, helped enormously by the writers and director’s approach.

As mentioned, the beginning contains nothing more than some story set-ups and introductory action. Nevertheless, as dull as it may seem in comparison to the last two thirds, the first section can almost be seen as warm-up of what’s to come. The quips and witticisms of the outset are common but nothing than what’s in store for you after the first hour. You can always expect Black to write irreverent and sharp “banter”, and know well by now that Downey Jr. is a master at delivering it. Funnier than most of the comedies from the last few years, Iron Man 3 has some exceptional dialogue in it – magnified, in passing, by the odd jibe from minor characters (such as henchmen giving their two cents, or citizens of a rural town hilariously speaking their mind).

If Marvel continues on like this there is no telling how well they will do. From Favreau, to Branagh, to Whedon, there is some great talent underscoring the success; Iron Man 3 further reminding everyone of that. Expect so much more from what the trailer shows you, and stay for the customary post-credit scene – be enthralled by another superhero movie. This review had to leave out saying more than it could, as a few surprises await (the PR team have done a tremendous job of saving so many treats for the final thing), but know this – it is an excellent noir-superhero hybrid raising the bar high once more for those that follow.


Sunday, 7 April 2013

The Walking Dead Season 3 Episode 16 (Finale) Review

Season 2 of The Walking Dead was saved by its finale, and the expectations for the third season are expectedly high.

Major spoilers follow

We know the anger swelling up inside the Governor and our first shot of “Welcome to the Tombs” is his one good eye, looking squarely at us. We are taking on the POV perspective of Milton, being beaten furiously by his old friend. There’s nothing but rage in the one good eye, with no indication of remorse for throwing a round of punches at his sidekick. Milton asks whether he killed Andrea and we cut to Governor tossing the injured scientist at Andrea’s feet. The two are now together in this, and about to get even closer.

David Morrisey in this opening is superb, with a lack of guilt and a growl so intimidating it sets up the end episode perfectly. He orders Milton to kill Andrea but the soft, innocent man can do no such thing and tries to attack the Governor. It’s a battle of strength and Milton understandably overpowered by the Governor, stabbed and left to die. “Now you’re gonna die and you’re gonna turn; and you’re gonna tear the flesh from her bones...In this life now, you kill or you die. Or you die and you kill” We are all waiting on the war but this side-plot is certainly one of the most interesting dilemmas in the series so far – much like Glenn being tied up with a walker in the room, Andrea has to wait to death to come her way. A great prologue, with definite pressure mounting.

There’s a fair bit of montage editing as the prison group get ready, and a soft music playing over as each discuss the possible outcome. As Rick and Michonne have a tender moment discussing loyalty and togetherness, we quickly cut to the Governor, barking to his soldiers about the death and destruction the others caused. It’s another biting contrast between each side – the pensive and the petulant.

Whilst the Governor and his crew rush in, guns blazing, Rick et al are seemingly absent. We then see our heroes emerge from cover, firing precisely as they can at the villains of the show. The action in episode 10 was the best I have seen in recent television, and it would be extremely difficult to top it. Episode 16 is unable to do so, but high-octane explosions and some all-too-real bullet fractures (one zombie’s head coming clean-off is a pause and rewind type of moment) still advertise the show’s capabilities with warfare scenes.

As thrilling as the prison raid is, it’s the close-quarter tension of Andrea and a dying Milton that makes this episode memorable. Drama builds with every one of Milton’s fading breaths. He explains how he left a tool by her foot and if she can reach it she can cut herself free and “stab me in the head”. A simple yet nail-biting sequence of Andrea trying to pick the tool up with her feet achieves such dread because of the brilliance of direction and editing (the drop of the tool to shot of Milton rasping).

As the prison and Woodbury groups fire on one another, it’s the surprise attack from our protagonists that earns a victory. The Governor and his troop fall back, leaving some to dash off into the woods. Hershel and Carl await anyone and one lost soul from Woodbury stumbles into their company. Carl holds him up with his silenced pistol, warning him to drop his weapon. As the shotgun is lowered, Carl shoots. Carl’s later part in the episode is the figure of ethical debate, though I would agree with his decision, especially as the shotgun barrel was not facing the floor as it was being lowered. Carl talks about all the people who were let go or ignored and later came back to wreak havoc and death – there’s definite reason in his thinking and he’s as convincing and confident as his old man.

Other ethical issues include the Governor going ape-shit on his team. One soldier proposing defeat is shot dead, and then more follow; the Governor eradicates the lot (leaving only a trio, and a woman who escapes lying under another dead man’s body). Said woman is found by Daryl, Rick and Michonne and becomes a great bargaining chip to inform the Woodburians (?) of the Governor’s maniacal nature. As she’s been one in Tyreese’s band, our team is able to get into Woodbury with her help and Tyreese and Sasha’s past relations.

Inside they find Andrea, dying after a skirmish with the undead Milton. It’s a sad but strangely bland scene that does not garner that much emotion. Andrea is a loss, but not a severe one, after becoming too close to the Governor and too distant from the prison group.

We end with a busload of the Woodbury folk being brought to the prison. The “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” comparison is there, and it’s a patriotic moment of the show; these are American heroes – the survivors, the leaders. As Rick looks up for the ghost of Lori he sees nothing but the shining sun – a nod to his new health and happiness. Still, the Governor is at large somewhere in the area and it’s not all that ends well.

We still have conflict unresolved and whilst I was immediately disappointed in the lack of resolution, knowing Season 3 already has a backbone is comforting and exciting. The wait will be long but Season 3 has been tremendous, and leaves Season 4 with an eminence to reach and exceed.

By Piers McCarthy. Also posted on Flickering Myth