Thursday, April 20, 2017

In absentia

Good lord n' butter, I went on an unintentional hiatus here.  The Walking Dead finished up its mediocre season and I just went AWOL.  Well, I'm not back in any big way yet but thought I'd check in to prove that FMS has not been entirely abandoned.

Upcoming:  Season 2 of AMC's Preacher starts back up on Monday, June 19, and I am all excited about getting back into that brand of batshit-crazy.

Ongoing:  I have been trudging through Netflix's Marvel's Iron Fist and I have to say that it is tedious in ways that none of the prior three Defenders series - Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage - were.  The main character is a doofus, really, who is supposed to be the greatest martial artist on the planet.  Finn Jones in no way makes me believe that Danny Rand is an amazing fighter.  And I'm supposed to care about the sibling shenanigans with a big billion-dollar corporation?  The prior three "street level" heroes were all just scraping by: a blind man; a broken, abused, alcoholic woman and a wrongfully-accused black man and now I'm supposed to care about a poor little rich boy?  No thank you.  Seriously, the best part about Iron Fist is whenever Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson) is on-screen, rolling her eyes at what a twit Danny Rand is.

In print:  I've caught up on all The Expanse novels (and am also enjoying the television series on SyFy) and now what am I going to do?  When does the next one come out?  I guess I'll have to track down the novellas and short stories (or else just hope Joe Abercrombie comes out with something soon).

What about you?  What are you reading/watching these days?

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

The Walking Dead S7E16 "The First Day of the Rest of Your Life" 4/2/17

We open with Sasha in the dark, listening to headphones.  She has a funny expression on her face, like she's stoned or having sex or dying or something.  Then she wakes up.  And we're in either a dream sequence or a flashback (or combination of the two) as it's daytime in Alexandria, on the day that the gang takes Maggie to Hilltop, and Abraham is there.  And then her cell door opens, and it's now, with Sasha locked up in the Sanctuary, and Negan has delivered her breakfast and informed her that today she will be helping "solve some shit" so that not many people have to die.  One or two, but not many.  And then it's definitely a flashback: to Sasha and Maggie, post Abraham's and Glenn's deaths by Lucille, sitting on a stump watching the sun go down.

This structure is going to be a HUGE pain in the ass to recap.  Rest assured that this happens a LOT throughout the episode and I will henceforth be shorthanding things.

Back at Alexandria, Rick, Daryl, Tara, Michonne etc. confront Dwight.  Daryl lunges forward again, drawing a bigass knife and threatening to stick it in Dwight's eye.  Tara urges, "Do it!" and the rest of them just watch.  Dwight says that he wants Negan dead and he can help.  Daryl gets himself under control and Dwight says that the Saviors will be arriving at Alexandria tomorrow.  He can slow them down, give Rick et als. a chance to get organized.  He continues, saying that if the Alexandrians can kill Negan and the crew, he will lead the Alexandrians back to the Sanctuary: they can kill the soldiers, convert the workers and then go outpost to outpost and finish things.  They think it sounds good and let him go.  As they watch him leave, Daryl's all, if he's lying, I'm killing him slow, and even if he's not lying, I'm going to just kill him anyway.  Rick points out that if Dwight is lying, they're all fucked and it's all over anyway.

DUDE I CANNOT WAIT FOR PREACHER TO COME BACK IN JUNE.  (There was an ad.  Sorry.)

More Sasha interludes.  Lots of talking with her and Abraham.  I can't decide if seeing him again cheapens his death or not.  Plus, the show never invested in their relationship when he was alive so I'm having a hard time caring about it now.  At the Sanctuary, Negan has relayed the plan to Sasha off-screen.  She says that she can play her part but no one has to die.  He's all, yes they do.  This is punishment.  It's all part of it.  But, okay, just one person has to die.  She thinks about it a moment and says, okay.  Just one person has to die.  [Do you think she means him or herself?]

Jesus has returned to Hilltop from Alexandria.  Apparently Gregory has scarpered [do we care? does it matter?] and it's up to Maggie to decide whether the Hilltop helps Alexandria against the Saviors.  Of course she's going to bring Hilltop to help Alexandria.  Also, Ezekiel (with Shiva), Carol and a small band of Kingdom warriors are heading to Alexandria on foot, ready to pledge their assistance.  They find Morgan en route, still a little crazy and trying to take out walkers and Saviors on his own.  He has sharpened the end of his bo staff (which makes me sad).  He doesn't want to join them, saying he's stuck and better off on his own.  But Carol and Ezekiel are all, don't be stupid, we all need to fight together, come with us.  So he does.

Jadis and her Garbage Dwellers roll into Alexandria, per their agreement.  There's quite a few of them.  Rosita etc. set up explosives and everyone takes strategic positions around town.  Michonne and an unnamed Garbage chick set up on top of one of the taller houses so they can be snipers.  And now we just wait for the Saviors to show up.

Where are the Saviors?  Having to clear the trees that Dwight brought down across the road.  Negan paces impatiently and Eugene takes advantage of the delay to ask if he can try to negotiate with the Alexandrians, to "slow their roll," as it were.  Negan shrugs: sure, why not?

Another Sasha/Abraham interlude (she tries to convince him that they don't need to help take Maggie to Hilltop: so this is a combination flashback/dream/wishful thinking sequence).

The Saviors show up at Alexandria.  Eugene is speaking over a bullhorn, saying that all contingencies have been considered and "compliance and fealty are [the Alexandrians] only escape ... The jig is up and in full effect."  Rick ignores him and is all, where's Negan?  Rick gives Rosita a nod and she hits the switch for the explosives.  But nothing happens: either they wired it wrong or someone sabotaged it.  Oops.  Also oops:  Jadis and the Garbage people pull their guns on the Alexandrians and open the town gate.  They have struck a deal with the Saviors and doublecrossed our heroes.  And Rick never saw it coming because he is the WORST.

So Negan gets out of the truck and prances about, swaggering and talking and talking.  Dwight and Simon set a coffin up on the back of a flatbed and Negan's all, but what about Sasha?  And he raps on the coffin.  "I brought her so I wouldn't have to kill all of you!"  Negan tells Rick that he wants all the new guns they've managed to collect, he wants all of the Alexandrians' food, he wants Daryl ("I gotta get me my Daryl back!"), he wants Rick to pick one of his own people for Lucille and he wants the pool table and its accoutrements - and then Sasha doesn't have to die.  "You suck ass, Rick.  I don't want to kill her but I will!"  Rick's like, I want to see her first.

Sasha/Abraham interlude.  And in the just-before-now, Negan and Eugene take Sasha to a flatbed truck.  There's a coffin loaded on the back.  Eugene gives Sasha an iPod to listen to; Negan asks if she's going to be okay in there without a light.  She says yes, she's just going to sleep for the drive over.  So they put her in the coffin and once they're on the road, she takes that poison pill that Eugene gave her last episode.  So those weird little scenes, where she's in the dark, listening to the headphones, gasping and smiling - she's dying from that pill.

So when Negan opens up the coffin, it's ZombieSasha who lurches out, scrabbling at his face and throat.  Excellent.  Things quickly devolve into chaos, with Alexandrians having to fight two fronts: against the Saviors and the Garbage people.  Rosita gets winged and Tara pulls her to safety.  ZombieSasha manages to eat one Savior (not Negan, unfortunately).  Jadis shoots Rick in the side and pushes him off the wall, telling him to sit down.  Michonne and the unnamed Garbage chick on the roof have a truly ugly, brutal fight, slugging it out, bashing each other bloody.  For a minute it looks like the Alexandrians might actually get the upper hand but no, this is one of Rick's plans and it is obviously going to fall to shit.

The Saviors and the Garbage people subdue the Alexandrians and Negan gets to speechify some more.  He puts Rick and Carl on their knees next to each other and basically says that he's going to Lucille Carl to death and then he's going to pulp Rick's hands (but not kill him).  Carl is pretty stoic about it.  Off in the distance, a woman falls screaming to her death off the roof of that mansion.  Rick and Carl are all OMG that was Michonne and Negan is all, oooo was that someone you cared about?  Rick quavers and drools for a while, then he grows a pair and snarls that it doesn't matter who Negan kills or what Negan does to him, he is totally going to kill Negan - probably not today though.  Negan thinks that's pretty cute but it's clobberin' time now.  He stands up and takes position behind Carl, Lucille cocked back over his shoulder.  It almost looks like Carl is going to get it.

And then my favorite part:  from out of nowhere, Shiva the tiger charges in and eats the face off the Savior standing next to Negan.  To his credit, Negan is like, WTF a goddamn tiger?!!!  The rousing music turns up as the Kingdom charges in, King Ezekiel shouting NOT THIS DAY, and then the Hilltop shows up, guns ablazin' (and unfortunately Negan takes notice of Maggie).  The Alexandrians get their shit together and there are a LOT of bullets flying around.  It's a ridiculous scene because we are never worried that any of the named characters will get killed (not even Michonne because it was the Garbage chick who got knocked off the roof), but everyone gets in on the action and I do kind of love it, it's so stupid.  Shiva eats another Savior.  And MORE TIGER is definitely what this show needs.

The Garbage people fire off some smoke bombs to cover their retreat and they and the Saviors get away, Alexandrians, Kingdom and Hilltop following to pick off stragglers.  But it's over, for now.  The only time that I was really nervous was at the very end, when Daryl climbs up on top of a truck to check the area - right out in the open, with no cover - and I worried that he might get shot then by some bad guy lying in wait.  But no, this isn't that kind of season finale.  Even though back at the Sanctuary, Negan is all THIS IS FUCKING WAR, it ends on a slightly hopeful note:  other than Sasha, no one important was killed (Jesus and Maggie find ZombieSasha out in the woods and tearfully put her down off-camera) and the three communities have banded together against a common enemy and actually gained some ground.  Yay team!

Seriously though, MORE TIGER, please.

Previously on The Walking Dead / next time on The Walking Dead

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Walking Dead S7E15 "Something They Need" 3/26/17

Barnacle-zombies are my new favorite zombies!

So Tara told Rick about the Oceanside women and their armory of guns.  And Rick, who is almost as much of a bully as Negan, truth be told, puts together a plan wherein the Alexandrians raid Oceanside, hopefully not killing too many of its denizens, and take their guns.  Seriously, Rick: that is totally Negan's M.O. ... and you're supposed to be the good guy here.

Hilltop.  Maggie is teaching the Hilltoppers to garden and Gregory is envious of the rapport she has with the hoi polloi.  When she goes outside the walls to dig up a wild blueberry bush to transplant back inside, he follows.

Oceanside.  The Alexandrians get into position, with Michonne and a sniper rifle up a tree, and Jesus and Daryl setting up lines of explosives.  Tara infiltrates the camp and finds Natania (the older woman leader of Oceanside).

Sanctuary.  (Is the Saviors' place called "Sanctuary"? I think it is but I don't know for sure and can't be bothered to look it up.)  Sasha has been captured and stuck in one of the cells.  One of the Saviors, David, lets himself into her cells.  She's tied up and he menaces her, tearing her shirt, touching her chest.  But when he stands up to unzip his pants, Negan is there.  Rape is definitely against the rules and in short order Negan has run a big hunting knife through David's neck.  When David is dead, Negan unties Sasha and starts his hard-sell, starting to work on her to get her to come over to his side.  My christ he likes to hear himself talk.  He's impressed with her balls-out bravery, raiding the Sanctuary on her own.  When he leaves, he leaves the knife and dead David behind, telling her that she can (1) kill herself with it before David reanimates, (2) sit there and wait for zombie David to eat her face off or (3) put David down before he can hurt her.  Her choice - he leaves it up to her, locking the cell door behind him.  Later that day, before David has reanimated - and the rules of this universe are inconsistent because it seems like people reanimate into zombies at different rates, depending on what's convenient for the plot - Eugene brings Sasha a lantern, some water and some blankets.  He tells her he thinks she should join with Negan, with him.  He feels safe with the Saviors and he is such a coward that that's all that is most important to him.  Eugene leaves just as dead David starts to twitch.  Sasha sits there in the corner of her cell, clutching the knife, staring at the not-so-dead-anymore guy.

Hilltop.  Outside the walls at Hilltop, Gregory and Maggie talk, trying to figure out a way to deal with each other - except that Gregory is really a weasel and is considering killing her with his knife when a couple of walkers approach.  Gregory has never actually killed one himself and he tries to be brave; he is too cowardly, though, and Maggie gets up to take it out herself.  Another walker shows up while she is thus occupied and Gregory tussles with it.  It almost bites him before Maggie can put down her own zombie and then kill the one attacking him.  Afterwards, Gregory retches, either from fear or from the yucky zombie splatter smeared across his face.  He goes to his office, starts drinking and pulls out a map.  Looks like he's on the verge of asking Savior Simon for help.  Such a weasel.

Oceanside.  Tara tries to convince Natania (and also granddaughter Cindy, the one who saved Tara's life before) to join with the Alexandrians and fight against the Saviors.  Or at the very least to give up their guns without a fight.  Natania is all NO FUCKING WAY.  Tara runs out of time to negotiate and outside explosions start going off.  The Oceansiders panic and are easily corralled by the Alexandrians.  In the confusion, Natania gets the drop on Tara and walks out to Rick with a gun to Tara's head.  The Alexandrians argue to convince the Oceansiders to join them in the fight against the Saviors and some of the Oceansiders consider it, including Cindy.  Natania is all NO FUCKING WAY.  The debate - if you can call it a debate when people are waving guns around - gets interrupted when a small herd of barnacle zombies make their way into the camp from the beach.  The Alexandrians and the Oceansiders work well together, systematically putting the zombies down.  Cindy ends up saving Tara's life again.  When the skirmish is over, more of the Oceansiders are interested in joining the fight against the Saviors, having seen the ruthless efficiency with which the Alexandrians put down the zombies.  But Natania is all NO FUCKING WAY and she tells Rick to "take your damn guns and go!"  So they do.

Sanctuary.  As we all suspected, Sasha kills zombie David before he can chew on her.  Negan is quite pleased and leans on her a little harder, telling her she should really join up, and she can help him figure out a way to put Rick down for good.  Sasha's all, shit.  Later, Eugene stops by to see her.  He can hear her crying through the cell door.  She begs him to get her something - a gun, a knife, some glass - she can't face being used by Negan to hurt her friends and she needs him to help her kill herself.  Eugene looks troubled, saying he'll consider it.  The camera cuts to an inside the cell shot and Sasha is of course playing him.  She wants the gun/knife/glass to try for Negan again.  Eugene comes back.  He's thought about what Sasha asked for and even though he hopes she will reconsider, he thinks she sounds like she's made up her mind.  So he's brought her something, which he slides under the door.  It's one of those poison pills that he made and he tells her it will do the trick in about thirty minutes.  Sasha stares at the pill in disbelief.  WTF is she supposed to do with that?

Alexandria.  When the raiding party gets home, Rosita is there to open the gate for them.  Everyone is like ???!?!!!? but she just says "There's someone here."  That someone is, of course, Dwight, who has been locked in a cell.  Daryl almost rips his head off, snarling, feral, while everyone holds him off.  Rosita: "He wants to help us!"  Dwight concurs and Rick, seeming more Negan-like than ever, pulls his gun and aims it at Dwight's head: "Okay.  Get on your knees."

Previously on The Walking Dead / next time on The Walking Dead

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Walking Dead S7E14 "The Other Side" 3/19/17

Yawn.  Boring.  A whole lot of nothing much goes on until the very end.  If this show wrote better dialogue, that would help.  But no.  We get a little bit of character development for Rosita - apart from her usual angry and sullen affect - a nice moment with Maggie and Daryl and some solid weaselishness from Gregory.  Other than that?  Yawn.

On the plus side, this recap will go quickly because for the first seven minutes there's no dialogue.  Up at Hilltop, everybody makes and sharpens weapons, practices throwing knives, draws maps of the Saviors' compound for more efficient infiltration.  Maggie works hard, building her cred as the community's de facto leader; she gets a sonogram of the baby even though her stomach is as flat as can be.  Sasha weeds Abraham's grave.  Gregory sulks and drinks alone in his office.  Rosita shows up and asks Sasha for her help.  Jesus opens up to Maggie a little bit (he's gay!)  He also tells Sasha that he thinks she and Rosita should stay and not try for Negan on their own, but he knows they won't.  He says that they need to talk to Maggie before they go.

But the Saviors show up unexpectedly and (a) Sasha and Rosita sneak out of Hilltop via a secret tunnel under a woodbox and (b) Maggie and Daryl - both of whom are of interest to Negan for different reasons - have to hide in the root cellar.  When Savior Simon saunters into the Hilltop mansion, Gregory is all, I've got gin! Let's talk about why you're early.  Simon isn't here for drinking or collecting, however.  Hilltop has personnel that he has been sent to bring back to the Sanctuary.  We're led to believe that he knows Daryl is onsite but it's actually Hilltop's doctor that he's here for: ever since Negan killed their own doc, they need a replacement.  Gregory acquiesces, of course, but he does bend Simon's ear a little, saying that there may be some insurrection issues - nothing serious now, but what happens if something comes up?  Simon's all, come see me directly and we'll talk.  I was sure that Gregory was going to give up Daryl and/or Maggie but he actually keeps his mouth shut about them.

Meanwhile, one of the Saviors is skulking around, looking to see if there's anything interesting to bring back to Negan.  Enid tries to distract him away from the root cellar but she just gets her knife confiscated.  The Savior goes down in the root cellar and it's supposed to be all tense, like he's going to find them or Daryl is going to kill him.  Daryl does make a move in that direction (despite the fact that it would be immediately discovered, bringing ruin down on Hilltop), but Maggie stops him. The Savior grabs a bunch of food and leaves without discovering them.  After he's gone, they come out.  Maggie's all, Daryl, will you look at me please?  He doesn't want to, because he blames himself for Glenn's death, and when he finally raises his head, it's with tears streaming down his face.  "I'm sorry," he mumbles.  She grabs him into a hug, telling him that it wasn't his fault, and that Glenn - and she too - considered him one of the good things left in this world.  Aw!

In an extended segment, Rosita and Sasha try to find a working car to help get them to the Sanctuary faster.  Rosita is all cranky, still sore about Abraham leaving her for Sasha; Sasha keeps extending the olive branch, despite getting a constant brush-off.  Rosita's all, I don't want to talk about anything but the plan.  So the plan, as Sasha sees it, is to set up outside the compound and take Negan out with the sniper rifle Rosita has.  Rosita thinks that's too risky, that they need to get inside and get him up close.  Sasha thinks Rosita has a bit of a death wish and she's likely not wrong.

Back at Hilltop, a crossbow-bearing Daryl finds Jesus.  "Where's Sasha and Rosita?"

The two women set up in one of the buildings across from the Sanctuary, taking turns keeping watch for Negan.  They observe Eugene out there, ordering people around.  Rosita chuckles, assuming that Eugene is playing some angle.  As they wait, Sasha manages to get her to open up a little.  Rosita talks about her past, how she learned to be so capable by hooking up with different guys post-apocalypse - a survivalist, a mechanic, etc. - and then dumping them after she'd learned everything they had to teach her.  Except with Abraham it was different:  he immediately saw she could take care of herself.  Both of them cry a little over Abraham but it seems like Rosita has moved on from any resentment she had for Sasha.  Finally, when Simon's crew shows back up with their captured Hilltop doctor, Negan comes out into the yard.  But they can't get a clear shot since either the doctor or Eugene is in the way each time.  The women decide to move on to plan B: they will infiltrate the compound and take Negan out up close and personal.

After dark, they move to the fence.  Eugene is there, checking on the defenses he has set up.  Rosita's all, we're here to get you out!  He is shocked, a little tearful, but he backs away, saying that no, he won't go with them, he's staying here.  Rosita is all UNGRATEFUL LYING COWARDLY MOTHERFUCKER.  Eugene goes back inside and they start cutting open the fence.  Sasha tells Rosita to watch their perimeter while she cuts the fence.  But when Rosita turns around to climb through, Sasha is already inside and has refastened the fence, locking Rosita out.  Sasha smiles gently, saying, "Go, they need you, it's not your time."  Then she runs into the Sanctuary, shooting a couple Saviors en route.

Rosita bangs angrily on the fence for a moment, then takes off running.  When she pauses for breath, sobbing, there is a figure shown in silhouette in the shadows.  We're meant to think that Rosita's in for it but the silhouette looks an awful lot like Daryl.  (Yes, I suppose it could be Dwight, in which case she IS in for it.)  We'll have to wait to find out what happens ...

Previously on The Walking Dead / next time on The Walking Dead

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Walking Dead S7E13 "Bury Me Here" 3/12/17

Ooh - it's a Carol- and Morgan-focused episode with NO Rick! Yay!

The episode opens with somber Kingdomites loading the back of a big truck with just one canteloupe.  Seems like we might be coming back to that.

A bad dream wakes Carol.  She wipes the tears from her face, lights a lamp and a cigarette.  Seems she's got her friends on her mind.  "Goddamn it," she mutters, getting up.  When the sun is just up, she leaves her house and walks to the Kingdom.  She encounters a number of walkers and briskly, efficiently puts them down, including a group of about five that are gathered outside the Kingdom's gates.  This is how she does it: she grabs a fallen One Way street sign, climbs up a tree and bangs on the sign.  As the walkers approach the tree, she stabs them in the head with the metal sign post, then hops down.  Benjamin is at the gate to let her in and the expression on his face is no less than awe.  Carol goes to Morgan's room and asks what happened with Daryl and Alexandria and the Saviors.  "You need to talk to Daryl about that," says Morgan.  He says that he kept her secret and it's not his place to tell her anything about Daryl now.  He offers to go with her to Alexandria if she wants to make the trip.  But she's not ready yet and heads back to her cottage.  Benjamin is waiting for her: he offers to walk her back home and he asks her if she will teach him to do what she can do.  She refuses and returns home alone.

As she passes through the outskirts of town, she doesn't see Richard watching her.  He ducks around a building and begins to dig.

Ezekiel gazes at his walled garden (where he had that heart-to-heart with Carol), Shiva loose at his side.  A woman cautiously comes out to speak to him, nervous about the tiger.  She tells him that they've found weevils in his garden and they need to cut and burn everything before the weevils get to the main production gardens in the courtyard.  He sighs, but she reminds him that everything will grow back and it will be okay.

Now the focus shifts to Morgan.  Before they leave for their delivery to the Saviors, Benjamin brings him a painting that he scavenged.  Morgan is touched.  He obviously has some affection for the boy.  So Benjamin's days are probably numbered.  Morgan, Richard, Benjamin, fat Jerry, Ezekiel and two or three others head out for the delivery.  En route, they have to stop because someone has blocked the road with a bunch of grocery carts.  They all get out, guns drawn, wary of an ambush.  They find an empty grave behind a building - where Richard had been digging, for what it's worth - makes with a sign 'BURY ME HERE."  Nothing pops out at them though so they clear the carts and keep going.

But they are now late.  And the Saviors do not like to be kept waiting.  Things get testy and guns get drawn, Kingdomites get beaten on.  The Saviors take all the Kingdomites' guns.  The lead Savior, Gavin, inspects the day's offering, which is supposed to be twelve cantaloupes (a strangely specific number, plus that's really not very much) - but one is missing somehow.  Ezekiel is all, there were twelve, I counted them myself!  But Gavin is not having any of it and intends to make an example of someone, to show the Kingdom that they need to follow the rules of the deal.  When a gun is drawn, Richard steps up, ready to sacrifice himself.  But the asshole Savior (who beat Richard up in a previous episode and who took Morgan's staff) is a bit of a loose cannon and it is Benjamin who gets shot.

He gets shot in the leg and it's bad.  He's bleeding out.  The Kingdomites are in a panic, begging the Saviors to let them leave so they can try to save him.  Gavin (who probably wasn't that bad a guy before the zombie apocalypse) yells at the shooter to drop the staff and get in the car.  But before he lets the Kingdomites go, he insists that they bring that last cantaloupe this afternoon, to finish the tribute.  Ezekiel screams that he understands but they have to go.

They drive to Carol's cottage since they gave her a bunch of medical supplies and her house is nearer than the Kingdom.  But they can't stop the bleeding and Benjamin dies, on Carol's kitchen table, holding Morgan's hand.

Everyone is sad - and Morgan runs out of the cottage.  He's losing it a little bit, having lost this boy with whom he was building a connection.  He screams, flashing back to his crazy days after his own son died.  [Some reviewers think that this is out of character, that Morgan wasn't close enough yet to Benjamin that he should have had this break.  I prefer to think that this just shows how thin Morgan's grip was - how much care he had to take, with the pacifism and all, to keep from sliding into madness.]  He kicks a plastic bin and when it goes flying, a lone cantaloupe rolls out from under it.  Morgan stares at it, remembering Richard being the last of them out of the truck when they were stopped by the shopping cart blockade.  And he puts it all together.

He confronts Richard later and Richard confesses to all of it.  He blocked the road to make them late, and hid the cantaloupe so they'd be short, all to provoke a conflict so that Gavin would have Richard shot, which would incite Ezekiel to join Rick's fight against the Saviors.  It was supposed to be Richard who died, not Benjamin.  But, he says, they can still use what's happened.  Ezekiel will be ready to fight.  So they will lull the Saviors with their agreeable behavior - showing them that they understand what is required of them - "We have to do something to make them believe us, to win their trust back" - and then they will put the Saviors down.  But, Richard says, "Morgan, you have to kill or otherwise you might as well just kill yourself."  He also promises to 'fess up to Ezekiel and everyone as to what he did that got Benjamin killed.  Morgan doesn't say a word through all this, just stares balefully at Richard.

At the second drop, where the Kingdomites bring that one sad cantaloupe to Gavin and his crew, Morgan pipes up, saying to Richard, "Did you tell Ezekiel?"  Richard's all, we'll talk about it later.  Morgan: not a fucking chance.  He picks up his staff from where it was dropped at the earlier drop.  When the Saviors arrive, Gavin asks after Benjamin.  When they tell him he died, he snaps at that asshole Savior who shot him to start walking back home now and if he even looks crossways, Gavin will kill him here and now.  The asshole leaves.  Richard brings out that last cantaloupe and hands it over.

And Morgan surges forward, clobbering Richard with his staff, dropping him.  While everyone - Kingdomite and Savior alike - watch in amazement and/or horror, Morgan slams Richard's head into the pavement and then CHOKES HIM TO DEATH.  Damn.  But no one stops him.  When Richard is dead, Morgan tells the assemblage about what Richard did, saying that he was trying to provoke a conflict.  To Gavin:  "I wanted to show you that we get it, that we understand what it is that we need to do, that we know how to go on."  And thus Morgan finishes Richard's plan, winning Gavin's trust back.

When the Saviors have gone, and the Kingdomites return home, Morgan stays behind, finishing Richard with a knife through the temple, dragging him back through town to the grave he dug.  He is struggling, trying to hold onto his sanity as he buries the man.  Afterwards, he stops by Carol's cottage.  He's a changed man now and he asks her if she wants to know what happened in Alexandria.  She can't help herself and he tells her the whole thing as tears stream down her face.  When he turns to go, she stops him, bringing him back, telling him he can stay in her cottage to be safe and away from people.

So he does, sharpening stakes on the front porch,looking around suspiciously at every little sound.  Carol packs her things and heads back to the Kingdom.  She finds Ezekiel replanting his garden with Benjamin's little brother.  She tells the king that she'll be staying here now.  "We have to get ready," she says, "We have to fight."  Ezekiel agrees: "We do.  But not today."

Previously on The Walking Dead / next time on The Walking Dead

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The Walking Dead S7E12 "Say Yes" 3/5/17

Not much happens here this episode.  It's almost cheerful.  Almost.

Rick and Michonne are out on a scavenging run, camping out of a van, scrounging dented cans and random pistols, knocking boots at night.  Rick, who hasn't been sleeping well because of, you know, EVERYTHING (like Negan/Alexandria/etc.), is really enjoying this interlude - getting away and just narrowing their focus, being together, killing all sorts of zombies, just doing what they do.  Michonne keeps saying that they really need to get back; he keeps asking for just a little more.  They both actually seem relaxed for a change.

Back at Alexandria, (a) Rosita is still pissed off and angry at everyone and antsy to get after Negan and (b) Tara is racked with guilt about keeping Oceanside's secret (you remember: those women and how they've got all those guns).  Repeat several times throughout the episode.

After a while, Rick and Michonne find an odd military base/rural carnival combination.  The compound is encircled with several fences, with a decent number of walkers lurching around inside.  Some of those walkers used to be soldiers and are still wearing guns and ammo belts.  Rick and Michonne climb up on the roof of a warehouse-y building to get a better look.  The number of available guns is encouraging and they are not put off by the number of zombies.  "I think this is it!" Rick exclaims excitedly.  And then they fall through the roof.

They are okay, however, and thrilled at what they've landed on: pallets of bottled water and canned goods, plus boxes and boxes of MREs ("meals ready to eat").  They giggle and laugh and gorge themselves, still relaxed.  Michonne brings up what the future will bring, after Negan has been defeated.  The various communities need to work together to succeed and someone is going to have to take the lead to facilitate that.  She thinks it should be Rick.  He doesn't want to do it alone and thinks it should be the two of them together.  She likes that idea.

In the morning, the plan is to clear the nine nearest walkers and then use a derelict car to block the gap in the fence, keeping the rest of the walkers out in the field.  Rick's all, I'll get that one and move the car.  Michonne:  "You're leaving me eight?"  Rick: "You can handle eight."  And she does, with neat efficiency.  It is Rick who can't pull his weight: he kills his one but when he goes to move the car, there's a former soldier zombie (wearing a helmet so Rick can't just stab its brain) stuck in the windshield who keeps falling apart disgustingly as Rick tries to pull him out.  He finally gets the walker out and starts pushing the car towards the gap in the fence.  Michonne helps push but when Rick gets in the car to steer, he discovers that the brakes don't work and the car just rolls through the fence into the field.  Inside the car, Rick rolls up the windows; Michonne hops into the trunk, pulling the lid closed.  "I think we overshot [the gap]," says Rick, "But it was a good plan."

They climb out of the car through the sunroof, taking refuge behind some flimsy fencing to try to pick off the zombies.  But the fences won't hold so they split up, picking their ground in the carnival to spread the zombies out enough to be manageable.  Despite the zombie numbers, they're staying calm, unfazed, secure in their zombie-killing history.  Michonne goes to a fenced-off slide and decimates her herd of zombies.  Rick retreats to the Ferris wheel and starts working through his too, until he gets cocky and climbs the Ferris wheel, thinking to take a shot at an oblivious (and obviously CGI) deer for some fresh venison.  He falls off the Ferris wheel like a complete dumbass as the walkers converge on him and the deer.  Michonne sees him fall and rushes over.  There's a big fake-out: Rick is nowhere to be found and the zombies converge on something, eating and slobbering intestines all over the place.  Michonne, not knowing there was a deer in the vicinity, completely loses her shit, dropping her katana and basically going catatonic.  Until Rick (not dead, of course not) climbs out of a hiding place, tosses her the sword and snaps her out of it.  They quickly carve up the remaining zombies and Michonne flings herself into his arms.  [I'm not a huge fan of this Rick-Michonne romance and I especially don't like the way she seems to be losing her self-sufficiency/bad-assery now that she's in love. Ugh.]  They spend the rest of the day picking up all the guns - and Rick catches a glimpse of Michonne, on her knees and crying as the fear and relief wash over her.

We get a little more wimpy Michonne on the drive back as Rick is all, we're going to fight and we're going to lose people, maybe even each other but we have to carry on because we're fighting for the future.  Michonne: "I can't lose you!" Bleh.

They collect Rosita, Tara and Gabriel and deliver the new guns to Jadis and her cult.  There are 63 guns.  Jadis is all, not enough, need more.  She and Rick negotiate a bit and it is agreed that Rick et als. will get more guns (because Jadis and her cult members don't actually DO anything, just take things from other people) and then they'll all fight together.

Back at Alexandria, Tara runs into Rick.  It appears that she can't take the guilt anymore and says she has something to tell him.  Looks like Oceanside may be getting raided soon.

Meanwhile, Rosita has HAD ENOUGH.  She takes one of the big new guns - a high-powered rifle with a scope - and goes to Hilltop.  She finds Sasha and the two women circle each other warily.  Then Rosita says she needs Sasha's help.  She shows her the gun and they make a plan to infiltrate the Saviors' compound and take Negan out.  They're not going to wait any longer.  And they realize that they can't get caught alive - this is probably a one-way trip for both of them.  But that doesn't seem to be a problem for these two.

Previously on The Walking Dead / next time on The Walking Dead

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Walking Dead S7E11 "Hostiles and Calamities" 2/26/17

We pick up right from when Negan et als. abducted Eugene from Alexandria, however long ago that was in-universe (just days?).  Because we were ALL dying to know what happened to Eugene.  Not much happens here but we get a bit of a character study instead of the usual overwhelming despair.  BONUS:  no Rick!!!

At the Sanctuary (I forget - is that what Negan's place is called?), Dwight discovered that Daryl has  escaped right as Negan gets back from his raid on Alexandria.  Dwight rushes around, panicked, finding the GO NOW note that spurred Daryl to action.  He recognizes the handwriting: his wife Sherry was the one who wrote it and she scarpered too, when Daryl did.  Dwight tucks that note away just in time as Negan and his goons come for him, beating the crap out of him for allowing their prisoner to get away.

Eugene gets taken into the Sanctuary.  He's terrified, mewling, but all they do is show him to his [very nice] room, with books and video games and beer and fresh produce in the fridge, and tell him, "Welcome home, Haircut."  He's been brought in as one of the upper eschelon, not one of the workers.  He is bewildered, twitchy and awkward as usual, but it's understandable: from all his prior experience with Negan, he should expect a baseball bat through the skull.

After one night in the cells, Negan lets Dwight out, reporting that Sherry is in fact gone as well as Daryl.  Dwight says that he thinks he knows where she might go and Negan orders him to go see the doctor, get patched up and track her down.

Negan has Eugene brought out to the yard and does his typical song-and-dance - my word that man likes to hear himself talk - charming and intimidating, blah blah blah.  He asks Eugene whether he's a smarty-pants, if he knows things, if he can be useful.  For example, how to solve the Sanctuary's defense problem: they've got walkers tied to the chainlink fence but they keep rotting and falling off.  Eugene comes up with the inventive idea that they could melt down scrap metal (he saw a smelter in another part of the compound) and pour the liquid metal over the walkers on the wall.  The metal would harden, fastening the zombie to the fence, and if they poured some on the walker's heads, that would protect the walkers from getting spiked in the head.  Negan likes it:  "Goddamn, if that ain't the coolest thing I've ever heard in my life! Not only is it practical, but it is positively badass!"  He is so thrilled that he decides to send a few of his wives to Eugene's room for a party tonight.  No sex, of course.  Eugene:  "Did you say wives, meaning plural?"

Three wives come over with some wine; Eugene plays old video games.  They talk a little and to their credit, the wives are pretty tolerant of just how effing weird Eugene is.  They manage to convince him to do some flashy science projects with homemade helium, fizzy bubbles and some flash/bang.  The next night, two of those wives come back with a sob story about the third wife being depressed and wanting to kill herself.  They want Eugene to make suicide pills for her.  They talk him into it.  He commandeers supplies from the lower-level workers and gets his Breaking Bad on, mixing up the cold medicine in a musical montage.

Dwight goes to his and Sherry's old home, now in ruins.  He finds her wedding rings there, and a note.  "We always said if we got separated, I should come back here and wait for you.  You'd show up with beer and pretzels."  Etc., etc.  Dwight wanders around, sad, as Sherry reads her note (FOREVER) in voiceover.  Finally, he leaves but not before unpacking the beer and pretzels he'd brought with him.  He leaves these on the table in case Sherry comes back.

Upon Dwight's return, Negan assembles the group in front of the furnace.  Eugene watches nervously from the catwalk.  In order to get Negan off Sherry's trail, Dwight has lied and said he killed her and then he frames the Saviors' doctor, hiding a piece of Sherry's note - reading "Goodbye, honey" - in the doctor's desk for Negan to find.  Negan assumes that the doctor let Daryl out to please Sherry: "That is some weaselling shit, right there!"  Blah blah blah.  Dwight heats up the iron in the furnace and when it is glowing red, Negan holds it next to the doctor's face.  The doctor wails and blubbers and confesses, saying he did it and he's sorry.  Negan's all, that's all you had to say!  He drops the iron, smiles at the crowd and then suddenly grabs the doctor and shoves him into the open furnace, holding him there until the man's struggles stop.  Negan:  "Never shoulda doubted you, Dwighty-boy.  Sherry was one of my favorites.  I'm sorry."  Dwight:  "I'm not."  Negan: "Ooh! Ice-cold!"  While Eugene cries, hiding his face in his hands.

The two wives come by Eugene's for the suicide pills.  But he's onto them, saying he knows that the pills aren't for their friend, they're for Negan.  And he won't hand them over.  "You're a coward," they sneer.  "That is a correct assessment," drones Eugene.  Sometime later, Negan stops by, saying he's got a question for Eugene, a big one.  Before he can even finish asking "Who are you?" Eugene has blurted out, "Negan! I am Negan.  Utterly, completely, stone cold Negan. I'm Negan."

Through this whole episode, we think we see Dwight having a change of heart, becoming less Negan's man; we watch as Eugene unsurprisingly embraces the protection and relative luxury that Negan can offer him.  The last scene, with Dwight and Eugene standing together, watching the workers in the yard, Eugene intoning "we are Negan" and Dwight just staring at him - it's not clear whether they stand together or not, whether Eugene is running a long con (I'm guessing not.  He needs the security and comfort Negan can give him).  We all know Eugene is a weasel but boy, I would kind of like to see Dwight come around, show a little depth.

Previously on The Walking Dead / next time on The Walking Dead

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Walking Dead S7E10 "New Best Friends" 2/19/17

We start with Ezekiel, Morgan, Richard and some others meeting with the Saviors for their regular hand-off.  Richard can't keep him mouth shut and starts to get manhandled; Morgan steps in to defend him and ends up getting smacked upside the head.  Ezekiel manages to calm things down but the Saviors confiscate Richard's gun and Morgan's staff, along with the regular tribute.  (I'm guessing Morgan will end up fighting the Saviors with Rick and getting his staff back at that point.)  When they return to the Kingdom, Daryl approaches Morgan and is all, WTF, you're bleeding, the Saviors did that to you, why won't you fight?  If Carol was here and knew what happened to Glen and Abraham, she'd fight.  Yes, says Morgan, she would - and that's why she left.  Daryl still thinks Morgan is being a pussy.  He stalks off and finds Richard who is practicing with a bow (since he is now gunless).  Richard hands him a crossbow, noting that he and Daryl seem to have a lot in common.

A little later, Richard brings Daryl into his big plan.  They collect guns and Molotov cocktails from Richard's hidden stash, then walk out to a road where they will ambush Saviors who pass by.  They'll kill and burn them, and then when more Saviors come to investigate, they'll find the trail to Richard's weapons stash, which then will lead them to a cabin "where some loner Ezekiel cares for" lives alone.  The Saviors will kill her and that, Richard thinks, will be just the impetus Ezekiel needs to fight.  Daryl is all, TELL ME HER DAMN NAME.  And finally, Richard does and Daryl is NO I'M OUT AND IF CAROL EVEN GETS A HANGNAIL I WILL KILL YOUR ASS.  They have fisticuffs - as the Saviors drive past unimpeded - and Daryl's like, I'm serious - you leave her alone.  Richard: "I would die for the Kingdom."  Daryl:  "Why don't you?"

On the Rick side of this episode, things are about to get weird.  Rick, Michonne, Rosita, Aaron and Tara have been captured by this insane and ridiculous group/cult, who all dress in grey and black leather and robes, have very strange names (their leader is "Jadis") and speak like bad fantasy fan-fic. Rick is nearly gleeful about it all, though, seeing in their numbers allies against the Saviors.  They bring out Gabriel and after some rough stuff where Rick's group gets slapped around a bit, between Rick and Gabriel they manage to talk fast enough to get Jadis at least interested in what they have to say.  Gabriel is all, tell us what you need and we'll get it for you, right now.

Editorial note:  I didn't pick up on what this new group calls itself but they are ridiculous.  They live in a damn junkyard.  And how long has it been since the zombie apocalypse came to pass?  Two years at most?  And all these people are so weird now?  Would people really change (change their names) like that?  I get that a zombie apocalypse might make you a little crazy but these folks are right the fuck off the deep end.

Jadis considers Gabriel's words and then she and a couple others "show Rick up-up-up," taking him up to the top of a junk heap.  She wants to see how capable he is: she pushes him off and he falls down into a small clearing, surrounded by junk and currently occupied by a very awesome, be-spiked zombie.  After some struggle during which he manages to impale his hand on one of the spikes, Rick offs the zombie.  Seriously: that is a very clever way to rig a walker to inflict maximum damage.  Jadis is enough impressed to bring him back out of that pit.  She tells him that if he gets her guns - lots of guns, right now - she and her people will join the fight.  There's a bit more haggling after that, but that's the deal.  She lets Rick and his group go, warning them that the guns better come quick because her offer has an expiration date.  (The camera lingers on Tara a bit and I'm guessing she'll be hard-pressed to keep her silence about that all-women community on the coast, you remember - the one with all the guns.)  Also, Rick and Gabriel have a heart-to-heart: Gabriel was kidnapped by one of Jadis's people, who forced him to clear out the pantry; Rick's all, thanks to you, the clues you left behind, we now have these new allies.

Back outside of the Kingdom, Ezekiel and some of his men drop by to see Carol (against her wishes) - they've brought her some fruit cobbler.  She shoos them away.  A little later, there's a knock on her door.  Annoyed, she opens it ... and it's Daryl.  The look on her face when she sees him, on his face when he sees her - these two are the best part of this stupid show.  He looks so fragile.  She is in tears and speechless.  "Why'd you go?" he asks, voice cracking.  She explains it to him - how she couldn't stand to lose anyone else, how if she kept killing people she would lose herself.  She asks him if the Saviors came after she left.  Terrified, she forces herself to ask: "Did anyone get hurt?  Is everyone okay?  Did the Saviors [chokes back a sob] - is everybody back home okay?"  He looks at her a long time, really seeing her here, safe and whole, and then replies: "We got them all.  And made a deal, like Ezekiel.  Everyone's all right."  Later, he asks her if Ezekiel is an okay guy.  Yes, Carol replies, I think he is.  Daryl doesn't overstay his welcome but heads back to the Kingdom after giving his friend a huge hug.  Carol watches him go.

Daryl heads straight for Shiva's cage when he gets back to the Kingdom.  Morgan finds him there and marvels, "You're good with her.  Ezekiel will be impressed."  Daryl shrugs, saying that he figures any guy who's got a pet tiger can't be that bad.  He tells Morgan that he found Carol and that he gets it, why she's there.  But they need the Kingdom and he wants Morgan to handle it.  Morgan demurs, saying it can't be him.  Daryl scoffs, saying wake the hell up.  But Morgan is all, I know you get it - you're the same as me because you didn't tell Carol about Glen and Abraham (because if you did, she'd be here right now, gearing up for war), you kept her safe from it.  Shiva takes this moment to purr and lick Daryl's hand through the bars of her cage BECAUSE SHE'S A GIRL AND HE'S DARYL AND OF COURSE SHE LIKES HIM.  ROWR.  Daryl looks down at her almost fondly, then picks up his new crossbow.  He tells Morgan: I'm going back to Hilltop to get ready for war.  And in the morning, the gates of the Kingdom open to let him do just that.

Previously on The Walking Dead / next time on The Walking Dead

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Walking Dead S7E9 "Rock in the Road" 2/12/17

So, here we are again.  Before we start, I just want to state for the record that Santa Clarita Diet is my current favorite zombie show.  But, you know, yay The Walking Dead.

Alexandria.  Father Gabriel is on the wall, taking watch in the middle of the night.   Then he leaves his post, goes to the pantry and cleans it out of all remaining food, and drives off, a slight smile on his face the whole while.  He's up to something - he's not just deserting.

Hilltop.  Maggie, Jesus and the Alexandria group try to convince Gregory to join them in rising up against Negan and his Saviors.  Gregory, slippery, smarmy, cowardly and very entertaining, is all, no, and don't let the door hit you on the ass on the way out.  The Alexandrians are discouraged but fear not!  Enid has been recruiting and there's a group of Hilltoppers (Hilltopians?) waiting for them outside, ready to be trained and willing to rise up.  Rick's all, this is good but it's not enough.  Jesus is all, it's time for you to meet King Ezekiel.  The Alexandrians:  WTF  - there's a king?

The Kingdom.  Jesus brings them to the Kingdom, where Richard walks them in.  He's all about rising up against the Saviors and is hopeful that Alexandria's strength might be enough to convince Ezekiel.  Morgan appears en route to their royal audience.  Hugs all around.  Rick and Daryl ask him about Carol; Morgan, to his credit, keeps her secret, saying that she was here but she left when she was healed from her wound.  Then they go in to meet Ezekiel ... but before any of the talking starts, the Alexandrians are all WTF JESUS YOU DIDN'T MENTION THERE WAS A FUCKING TIGER.  Shiva's all, rowr motherfuckers.  To their credit, Rick follows protocol, playing along with the royal attitude.  Ezekiel hears what they have to say - they took out one Savior outpost but they need more people - and the Kingdom has the people - in order to put them all down for good - and then invites them for dinner and to spend the night.  The Alexandrians are antsy to get back home.  But the king says will make his proclamation in the morning.

In the morning, despite many of his people being on board with joining Rick, Ezekiel declines to participate [for now, because it's pretty obvious that the Kingdom will get sucked in before this is all over].  He does offer Daryl asylum, however, and Rick makes a reluctant Daryl stay, pointing out that if Negan finds him in Alexandria, they will all suffer for it.  [This, of course, sets up a Daryl and Carol reunion at some point in the near future.  Yay!]

On their way home, the Alexandrian contingent finds a trap that the Saviors have set on the highway: cars blocking the on-ramp to funnel any walker herd up the highway, and a cable hung with explosives strung across the highway median.  They clear away the cars and start to take the RPGs and sticks of dynamite off the cable, realizing that they can use this stuff against the Saviors.  As they work, discarding anything damaged or too unstable, a walker herd approaches.  Rick send Jesus and Sasha off on foot back to the Hilltop to keep Maggie informed.  Carl, Rosita and Tara move the cars back onto the ramp.  And Rick and Michonne jump-start the two cars that the cable is strung between - and drive towards the coming herd.  In what is one of the better (and uckier) gimmicks, they totally clothesline hundreds of walkers.  It's gross and awesome and pretty much genius.

Alexandria.  They all survive - without getting eaten and/or blown up - and make back home with just enough time to hide their vehicle with its cargo of explosives before a contingent of Saviors shows up, searching for Daryl.  The Saviors ransack the houses in their search but don't take anything this time.  After they've left, Aaron informs Rick et als. about Gabriel's disappearance.  Rosita is all, that coward ran away, but Rick finds Gabriel and realizes that the reverend didn't just scarper.  They find his notebook with B O A T scrawled on the last page.  Rick and Aaron are all, how did he know about the houseboat?

So they (Rick, Aaron, Tara, Rosita and Michonne) head back out, ostensibly on a scavenging run (since the Saviors warned them that they'd be back soon for their pick-up), and go back to that houseboat.  They don't find Gabriel but they do find a boot print that they think might be his.  They expand their search, making their way towards some warehouses.  And then suddenly they are surrounded by a LOT of people.  People we have never seen before, all carrying guns and axes and knives.  It's pretty tense but Rick just smiles, a big shit-eating grin on his face.  Because he's just found an army to rise up against the Saviors.

Previously on The Walking Dead / next time on The Walking Dead

Monday, January 30, 2017

Better living through chocolate

It's been AGES since I put a food post up so, in an attempt to assuage the prevailing mood with chocolate, here's a new brownie recipe.  Mr. Mouse and I are attempting to eat a plant-based diet these days which, to us, means not only no animal products but also no oils.  A lot of vegan recipes add fats via oils so I have adapted a "Chewy Vegan Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookie" recipe from www.food.com as follows:

CHEWY VEGAN CHOCOLATE CHIP BROWNIES


¾ cup unsweetened applesauce*
2 cups sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1 Tbsp plus 1 tsp ground flax seed**
½ cup almond milk (or soymilk)
2 cups flour
¾ cup cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 ½ cups semisweet vegan chocolate chips***

Preheat oven to 350◦F.  Add ground flax seeds to almond milk and stir for about 30 seconds, set aside.  In a large bowl, sift together cocoa, flour, baking soda and salt.  Cream sugar and applesauce in another large bowl.  Add the flax seed/almond milk mixture and mix well.  Stir in vanilla.  Slowly mix in dry ingredients.  Mix in chocolate chips. Pour brownie mixture into lightly greased**** 9x13 baking pan and bake for 25-30 minutes or until knife inserted comes out clean.

Note:  the original recipe was for cookies but I found the dough too wet to roll into balls and went the brownie route instead.  They came out very moist and fudgy.

* This is a substitution for ¾ cup canola oil.  The applesauce worked GREAT.

**  I found pre-ground flax seed in the health food section of my regular grocery store; you can also find whole flax seeds and grind them yourself.  Flax seed is somehow an egg substitution in vegan baking.

*** I found non-dairy/non-gluten dark chocolate chips in the health food section and just used a whole bag.  They were actually tasty on their own – not like yucky carob.

**** I used just a tiny bit of coconut oil