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Spoilers ahead for the latest episode of The Walking Dead, so if you aren’t caught up with “Go Getters,” feel free to take care of that now. I’m fine waiting – I can use the time to crush a dude’s Camaro with my tractor.

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After a strong start to their seventh season, The Walking Dead seems to be falling into a rather mediocre rut. Last week’s extended, Negan-centric was a bit of a chore to get through – even if Jeffrey Dean Morgan continues to shine as the nefarious Negan – and this week’s offering, “Go Getters,” wasn’t any better. Don’t get me wrong here – the show is far from producing the active annoyance I’ve felt toward it in seasons past, but lets be honest here: after debuting the highly anticipated Negan and his Saviors, The Walking Dead is slipping back into its old habit of showing several episodes worth of milquetoast storytelling, peppered with occasional moments of near-or-actual greatness.

And with “Go Getters,” it’s happening in spite of the benefit of spitting the episode into two different storylines: Maggie and Sasha at the Hilltop, and the Carl & Enid Roadshow (more on all this shortly). For whatever reason, Walking Dead showrunner Scott Gimple has almost always chosen to let a given episode unfold from one character’s point of view, or from within a single location. This is a vapid and tedious approach to telling a story that involves many players; imagine if Game of Thrones spent an entire episode focusing on, say, Walder Frey artfully insulting his family (okay, that would actually be pretty awesome, but you get my point). If we’re supposed to believe that, with the addition of several new characters and locations, the world of The Walking Dead is getting bigger, then it’s probably not a bad idea to actually show the audience what you want them to believe.

I appreciate Gimple’s attempt to shake up the narrative this week by cutting between two different stories, but I feel it’s too little, too late. It had been so long since we saw anything at the Hilltop that I had to lean too heavily on the “previously-on” segment that preceded the episode itself, which is never a strong sign for the integrity and interest of a story. If we had a scene or two taking place at the Hilltop in earlier Season 7 episodes – nothing earth-shaking, but enough to remind us that the place still exists – I would’ve had a much easier time jumping back in. I’m having trouble connecting with or caring about what’s happening because of the cinematic whiplash I feel when I’m jerked to another location every time a new episode airs. Maybe the inter-cutting of storylines in “Go Getters” is a sign of things to expect from the show moving forward, but in the meantime, lets jump into tonight’s episode.

Image: Gene Page/AMC

Image: Gene Page/AMC

“Go Getters” begins with Maggie awakening in the infirmary at the Hilltop colony, and we learn this is the first time she’s been conscious and lucid since Glenn was killed. Sasha takes her to visit Glenn’s grave, where she places Glenn’s watch, which was originally given to him by Maggie’s father Hershel. This scene was meant to be an emotional gut-punch as we commiserate with Maggie, but like with so many times with Maggie in the past, her response to the death of a loved one felt forced and unearned.

This is not an attack on actor Lauren Cohan; she has always brought a well-realized, existentially complicated edge to Maggie’s character. No, the failure in her character falls squarely on the shoulders of The Walking Dead‘s writers, and Scott Gimple in particular. Think back to Beth’s death. In the several episodes between their separation at the prison, and their subsequent reunion after Beth’s death in Slabtown, we heard nary a peep from Maggie about being sad and uncertain about her little sister’s whereabouts. Then, when she sees Beth’s body, she breaks down, and rightly so, but it felt dialed in because there was no emotional framework for that scene to depend on. It was the same when she visited Glenn’s grave in “Go Getters”; instead of feeling something meaningful when Sasha produced Glenn’s watch for Maggie, I only felt disdain for Gimple at the ham-handed attempt to oversell a moment that should have gone down easy, if bitterly. Again, had we been closer to Maggie in the episodes between the premiere and “Go Getters,” the scene very likely would have worked.

Image: Gene Page/AMC

Image: Gene Page/AMC

The best scenes inside the Hilltop were the ones involving Gregory, the Hilltop’s de-facto leader, and Simon, Negan’s “right-hand man.” The character of Gregory, played to smarmy perfection by the ubiquitous Xander Berkeley, adds a certain flare to the typical “coward in the apocalypse” archetypal character we’ve seen so often in seasons passed. The only reason he’s still alive is because his people are complacent and fearful enough to let it continue, but after his very conscious – and unnecessary – decision to turn Maggie and Sasha over to Simon, it seems his days as leader are numbered, and Jesus heavily implies he wants Maggie to take the reins. Though I dislike Gregory as a person, I’m loving him as a character; in a world full of seriousness and sadness, he’s just the kind of low-rent slimeball this show needs. He brings a degree of levity into a dark story that desperately needs it, even if that levity comes with equal portions of hubris and cowardice. With that said, I’m glad he got his just deserts when he tried to turn over Maggie and Sasha.

As far as Simon is concerned, I wouldn’t care if The Walking Dead suddenly became an hour-long showcase of the character. Actor Steven Ogg, who’s had recent smaller roles on shows like Better Call Saul and Westworld, is probably best known for his amazing voice work as Trevor Phillips, the meth-head criminal with a heart of gold from Grand Theft Auto V. Ogg distills the character of Simon into something that resembles pure menace, which is best showcased by the uneasy meeting between Simon and Gregory. I’ll be interested to see what happens to Simon; he’s seems happily subservient to Negan, but he also possesses a brand of intellect and charm that could potentially pose a threat to Negan. Though he may never try to overthrow his boss, Simon makes one wonder how truly in control of the Saviors Negan really is.

Image: Gene Page/AMC

Image: Gene Page/AMC

Though the Hilltop storyline takes up much of “Go Getters” run-time, we have to talk about the other plot unfolding in the episode. If the Hilltop segments were plodding, then the scenes between Carl and Enid were refreshing. Of course Carl was going to follow Enid, but his destruction of a perfectly good car to kill a single zombie seems like an asinine waste of precious resources, even for a teenager. But their talk about Carl’s reasons for wanting to kill Negan (he says he’s glad he remembers what Negan did to Glenn and Abraham because it will make killing Negan easy) served to underscore the larger thematic and characterological paradigm of The Walking Dead as a whole: the story is just as much about Carl as it is about Rick.

I don’t think I’m out of line in saying this show, when at its best, is about Rick’s emotional journey, nor do I think I’m off base when I say that much of Rick’s journey is motivated by Carl’s well-being. For Rick, Carl’s well-being is measured by nothing more than how safe Carl is on a day to day basis. But somewhere in all of that, Rick came to terms with the fact that Carl has spent most of his life living in a zombie-infested apocalypse, and is, in many fundamental ways, desensitized to the bloodshed and attendant emotional response. The kiss Carl shared with Enid – clumsy, apprehensive, and real – was a welcomed development for his character, as well as Enid’s. Maybe I’m just an old-fashioned softy, but it really was nice to see this sort of connection in a world that so often prevents them. Let them roller-skate, I say! Their burgeoning love may end up being prevented after all, however, now that Carl has stowed away on one of Negan’s trucks, heading for an uncertain future. But hey, at least Jesus has his back.

 

3/5 stars: Though it had some great scenes, “Go Getters” ended up being one of many The Walking Dead episodes in which its parts are better than the whole.

 

 

 

Entertainment

Donald Trump as Seen by Google’s Deep Dream

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THIS CONTENT WAS REPUBLISHED FROM AN EARLIER DATE.

Last Summer, Google unleashed Deep Dream, their neural network that takes pictures and tries to identify patterns and overwrite them, on an unsuspecting public. When you put an image into Deep Dream, what you get when it “wakes up” is often nightmarish. Dogs, birds, insects, pagodas are inserted at random places in the image, giving it a surreal and sometimes beautiful–if terrifying–aspect.

So, since this election season is already off-the-charts surreal, I thought to myself, “What would it look like if we ran some candidates through Deep Dream?” Well, now I know.  I started with Donald Trump, who is already deeply weird and unsettling. The results are spectacular.

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Satire

From the MRA Evidence Archives: The Journal of a Normal, Average Feminist

Awoke and whispered to my boobs, Bea Arthur and Jackie O, “It’s Tuesday. You know what that means, ladies? Time to oppress some dudes.”

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barbie doll head being gripped by dirty hands
THIS CONTENT WAS REPUBLISHED FROM AN EARLIER DATE.

 Tuesday July 5, 2016

Awoke and whispered to my boobs, Bea Arthur and Jackie O, “It’s Tuesday. You know what that means, ladies? Time to oppress some dudes.”

Walked to work wearing my plunging crop top that says, “This is what a feminist looks like,” hot pants, and six-inch heels. Tossed my hair a lot and sexily chewed my lower lip. Dropped change so I could slowly bend over and pick it up. It took me about an hour to walk five blocks, which is standard.

Exceeded my catcall goal by seven, a personal best. Super flattering, of course, but will pretend to be terrified and make men feel bad about it with a bunch of tweets. That’ll show them.

Some dowdy librarian tried to help me with the change I kept dropping, and she got catcalled too! No one invades my catcalling turf. Slapped the books right out of her hands. Mostly by Hemingway, whom I both hate and would totally do if he were alive.

Arrived late per usual, but the boss didn’t say anything, just stared at my tits and gave me a pass. I had buttressed Bea Arthur and Jackie O in a push-up bra stuffed with the hard-earned cash of some beta male I cheated on. Good thinking.

By Friday I hope to a) screw my way to executive assistant, b) replace some poor slob who works really hard, or c) file a sexual harassment lawsuit. We’ll just see what the week brings, like whether or not the boss is a lesbian. Fingers crossed!

Spent the rest of the workday playing Candy Crush and convincing Dale from accounting to do everything for me. Stringing Dale along is why I keep coming in. It makes all the pretending to work worth it. I might boink him someday, but I want to see how low he’ll stoop for a bit of action.

I don’t get off on it per se, in so much that I don’t get off. Ever. At all. But I pretend that I could, just to make all the guys I’ve ever been with feel like losers. Watching them fumble and feel emasculated without pants is like Christmas – if I were to sleep with Santa and watch him fumble and feel emasculated without pants.

mens-rights-venn-diagram

Went to happy hour after work and didn’t pay a dime. Cosmos just appeared in front of me. Dumb guys just handed me cash for being hot, and I filled my bra until Bea Arthur and Jackie O ballooned up like the boobs of evil women on TV. My role models, natch.

Some dude wearing a huge, purple hat came up to me and said I looked like an uglier Angelina Jolie. He lifted his shirt to show that his torso was hard, rippling, and embroidered with diamonds so he had every right to tell me that. I hooked up with him in the men’s room. That’ll show him.

Went home and let loose a series of drunken, liar tweets about how hard my life is and how I want equality. Even inebriated, it’s important to keep my stilettoed foot on the neck of men everywhere. Those tweets and opinion pieces just skewer them. More powerful than the laws of God or man are the messages I hastily type with my thumbs.

A good Tuesday over all, but did not receive free coffee by sexily slow jamming my order. The barista must’ve taken the red pill.

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Food

Woman begs city council to bring back McRib

The McRib Shortage of ’15. It was the single greatest tragedy this country has ever endured. But one woman, one brave voice, said, “No. This will not do.” #mcrib #sheslovinit

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mcrib-woman

Well over a year ago a tragic event occurred: In the fall of 2015, the executives of McDonald’s made a grave decision, the consequences of which are still felt to this day. They decided that when the McRib was released that year it would… it would allow the regional managers to decide whether or not they would offer the McRib. As a result, a staggering 45 percent of McDonald’s locations elected not to offer the McRib. It was the single greatest tragedy this country has ever endured. But one woman, one brave voice, said, “No. This will not do.”

First off, shout out to Reader James from Lake Elsinore, CA for alerting us to the tale of hardship and heroism. You see, when Xanthe Pajarillo, a “McRib activist,” realized that none of the ten McDonald’s locations in her hometown of Santa Clarita would be offering the McRib, she did what any reasonable red-blooded American citizen would do. She brought the issue before the city council.

Now it is no secret that the McRib Shortage of ’15 nearly brought the nation to a standstill. In fact, if it weren’t for the release of a special McRib locator app, experts speculate that America would have ceased to exist as it does today. But amidst all of the rolling blackouts, the deaths, and the riots, we overlooked all of the smaller, personal tragedies that took place because of the cruel decision made by nearly half of McDonald’s regional managers.

In her impassioned plea to the Santa Clarita city council, Pajarillo explained just why the McRib meant so much to her and her family, and why the city council had to act in order to bring it back.

“The removal of the McRib from the menu has affected my family, because every Thanksgiving, my family would, like, order a 50-piece chicken McNugget and like, 10 McRibs. It was like, a tradition in our family, and now it’s like—well, like my family’s holiday spirit is kind of messed up and broken.”

Recently Pajarillo heroic speech before the city council has gone viral, gaining attention at the national stage across social media. Since that dramatic event, Pajarillo has continued to fight for the return of the McRib, even going so far as to release a song dubbed “The McRib Blues.” In it, she lays bare her soul and the souls of those like her to whom the McRib is more than just a barbecue pork sandwich, but is instead, a way of life.

There are those out there, deplorables who hardly deserve mention, that call her bravery nothing more than a stunt. Performance art holding up a mirror to America’s consumerism and obsession. However, others stand by the truth. Pajarillo is a hero, fighting for both a sandwich, but also for something more. Something ephemeral. That little piece of Americana that brings us all together. The McRib.

Fight on, brave warrior, fight on.

♪ Cause we have right to eat what we like, McRib is worth the fight ♪

Still can’t get enough of the McRib? Learn how a McRib is made, courtesy of BuzzFeed.

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