Sunday, July 12, 2015

Running Drinking with the bulls

Mr. Mouse and I don't watch a lot of the same stuff.  We have agreed upon Breaking Bad, Deadwood, Justified and Cougar Town, but he would rather have a tooth pulled than watch the genre stuff that I love, and just last week I was horrified to catch him watching a History Channel show on grease.  Not Grease, the classic Olivia Newton-John/John Travolta musical, but grease, the stuff you slop onto moving parts so they don't get stuck.  Seriously, for that I have no words.  We do tend to like the same sort of televised sports (except that he does like motorized vehicles rushing around on tracks and I don't at all): soccer, Olympics both winter and summer (but not gymnastics or figure skating), skiing, American Ninja Warrior, triathlons, curling, etc.  In the last couple of years, we've really stepped up our soccer consumption: Salt Lake City has its own team, Real Salt Lake (who are doing terribly right now, btw); plus the men's and women's World Cup; plus the British Premier League.  We even have our own BPL teams to root for.  He's for Arsenal and I like Swansea, the only remaining Welsh team.

While watching the most recent men's World Cup, we were introduced to Michael Davies and Roger Bennett, also known as Men In Blazers, and then once the World Cup was over, we kept watching their television recap show on the BPL.  Some people find their shtick tiresome but we think it's just the right amount of bonkers.  (Mr. Mouse does miss a lot of their Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, LotR, and other references; I explain where necessary.)  When we learned that the Esquire channel had hired them to cover the annual running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain, we knew we'd watch, despite not really having much foreknowledge of or interest in the event.


We've learned a lot, actually, because Rog and Davo do a good job of adding historical and cultural context, including lots of interviews with notable Spanish and American bull-runners, Pamplonan restauranteurs and local figures, all in between calling play-by-plays of the action and being dutifully horrified at the gorings.  For the record, they seem to be on the bulls' side more often than not, especially when the runners display above average idiocy.  One thing they've been doing with each episode is featuring a local beverage or food.  One that piqued our interest was kalimotxo, a half and half mixture of red wine and regular Coca-Cola.  It's a recently developed beverage, starting in the Basque region of Spain, and the revelers at the Sanfermines festival and encierro, a/k/a the running of the bulls in Pamplona, drink it by the liters.


We tried it (good grief, when was the last time I ever drank Coke that wasn't diet?) and ... amazingly, it isn't that bad, with a sangria sort of feel to it.  Even the New York Times is on board.  I'm not sure we'll drink enough of it to kill that two liter of regular Coke I bought, but it was certainly quaffable.  (Next up?  The Basque combination of chocolate milk and cognac ...)

Poor man's sangria, right there

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Mini book review: Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay

I like big books with intricate plots. Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay has 567 pages (hardcover) and a fairly large cast of characters involved in court intrigue, power struggles, rebellion, honor and poetry.  I do sort of wish I had liked Under Heaven more.

Second son Shen Tai has gone beyond the borders of the empire of Kitai, living in solitude as he works to bury tens of thousands of dead soldiers and lay their ghosts to rest.  He does this to honor his own deceased father.  At first it was terrifying, bleak and alone, ghosts howling and crying at night and no one but bones for company during the day.  But he keeps at his unending, impossible job and, by bringing peace to a few souls, begins to gain some for himself.  This solitary existence is rocked, however, when a messenger brings word that he is being gifted with two hundred and fifty Sardian horses - the most valuable and incredible horses in the world, a gift of inconceivable wealth.  This gift, ostensibly to honor Tai for the work he is doing, thrusts him back into court life as the emperor takes notice of him and lesser mandarins seethe with resentment.  As power players jostle for position around him, and assassins circle, trying to gain control of the horses, Tai must learn who his friends are and how to move in society again.

Set in a slightly fantastical version of China's Tang Dynasty, Under Heaven has hand-to-hand combat, concubines, evil shamans, sexy lychee nut eating and drunken poets.  Kay writes at a remove, however, so that I never felt a connection with any of the characters.  Perhaps part of it is that honor and decorum played such a large part in the characters' lives and the prose is designed to reflect those qualities.  Still, I had been hoping to be drawn in more than I was and, as such, Under Heaven left me a little cold.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Stephen King obviously doesn't need my help

The great and mighty Stephen King obviously doesn't need any of my help selling any books - his author book-jacket blurb flatly states "the author of more than fifty books, all of them worldwide bestsellers" but I recently got the opportunity to knock two more of my all-time-King list: Revival (published in November 2014) and Mr. Mercedes (published in June 2014).  (How does he do that?  Publish two complete novels in the same year?)  I'm not going to count either of these as my favorites but I almost always enjoy a new King read.

Revival follows the life of Jamie Morton, and his connection with the at first charismatic, and later sinister, Reverent Charles Jacobs.  Reverend Jacobs is at first an electricity hobbyist but after a horrific family tragedy, becomes more and more obsessed with the power coursing through the earth and its sky.  Jamie's path keeps crossing with Jacobs; they are inexplicably intertwined, right up to the sharp swerve into The Dark Tower/Lovecraftian ending of the book.

Mr. Mercedes has no supernatural elements and is a straight-up cop thriller.  In an unnamed Midwestern city, a terrible mass murder case has gone unsolved after a masked man driving a tank of a Mercedes plows into a crowd of applicants at a jobs fair.  Retired detective Bill Hodges can't let the case go and, when he receives a letter purporting to be from the driver of that Mercedes, Bill is compelled to solve the case.  Told from twin points of view - Bill's and the killer's - the point of this novel is not to figure out whodunnit (you know who by page 42), but to see whether the good guys will be able to catch the very clever but all too human bad guy.

I liked Mr. Mercedes well enough (certainly moreso than Revival) and was interested to learn that King's latest, Finders Keepers, is a related book, revisiting with some of the characters but following a different plot line entirely.  I prefer my Stephen King on the spooky side but I'm always up to see what he's got for us next.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Movie review: Return to OZ

Disney's Return to OZ, the 1985 sequel to the beloved classic, The Wizard of Oz (1939), is a slightly disturbing return to the land of L. Frank Baum's imagination.  I'm not sure how well it did upon its release - I don't remember it coming out in theaters at all - but if it wasn't well-received, I can believe it.  This sequel is scary (this coming from someone who is still disturbed by the original's flying monkeys).

When the movie opens, we learn that Dorothy (a nine year old Fairuza Balk) has been unable to sleep since the tornado that destroyed the Gales' home and whisked her away to the land of Oz.  her aunt and uncle are at their wits' end and decide to take her to a mental asylum where she will be subjected to electroshock therapy in an attempt to cure her of her Oz-ish delusions.  The asylum is frightening, with unseen patients' shrieks and cries echoing through the halls.  The head nurse is brusque to the point of meanness; the head doctor seems far too excited at the prospect of zapping people with his electricity machine.  As poor Dorothy is strapped to a table and connected to the electroshock machine, a wild thunderstorm rages outside, knocking out the facility's generator.  In the confusion, a mysterious blonde girl frees Dorothy and runs outside with her.  The head nurse gives chase and the girls fall into a raging river, the blonde disappearing under the surface and Dorothy clinging to a battered, floating chicken coop.

In the morning, Dorothy of course finds herself in Oz, accompanied by a (now-) talking hen from back home, Billina (which begs the question, why wasn't Toto able to talk when he was in Oz?).  Looking for Dorothy's old friends, they journey to the Emerald City, only to discover the city in ruins due to the machinations of the Nome King.  Dorothy and Billina are menaced by nasty Wheelers (people with wheels for hands and feet who are fully as terrifying as the flying monkeys) and a very scary witch who switches heads on a whim, but gain some new companions - Tik-Tok, a clockworks soldier; Jack Pumpkinhead; and the Gump - before confronting the Nome King.

Return to OZ is pretty intense.  There are quite a few scary characters - even good, simple Jack is a teensy bit creepy - and the sets are not as candy-colorful as TWoO.  The animation is awkward and has not aged well but Fairuza Balk does a great job as Dorothy, who has been de-aged from TWoO to align more closely with the original books.  What I enjoyed the most about RtO, actually, was how much came back to me from the books, which I adored when I was younger.  Even though it has been literally decades since I've read any of the OZ books, I remembered Billina, the lunch-pail trees, Mombi the witch, the Gump and the Wheelers.  Watching Return to OZ has actually inspired me to revisit the books - you can scarcely ask more of a movie than that.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Mini book review: Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch

Finally a book that has enticed me enough to go after subsequent volumes in the series: Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch!  Peter Grant is a probationary constable with London's Metropolitan Police.  After learning to his dismay that his supervisors plan to put him into an all-paperwork job - Peter is perhaps a little too easily distractable for the Murder Unit - he just happens to speak to a ghost who is an eyewitness to a very strange and violent crime.  Peter learns that the Met actually has a supernatural investigations division, headed by the mysterious Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale.  Nightingale gets him transferred and soon Peter is learning magic, talking with river spirits and going through cellphones faster than you can say "Piccadilly Circus" as they try to discover, with help of Constable Leslie May and terrier Toby, who is behind a string of escalating murders.

Midnight Riot is an excellent entry in the mashed-up British detective/urban fantasy genre.  Written in the first person, with Peter Grant as the sarcastic, interested and sometimes baffled narrator, it is a real page turner with plot advancements coming fast and furiously amid gently pointed and contemporary observations about London's traffic, tourists, police, weather and spicy West Indian food.  I was charmed by Peter Grant and his magical, modern London and I will definitely be picking up the second book in the series, Moon Over Soho, in the near future.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Movie review: Mad Max: Fury Road

Just go see it.

Mad Max: Fury Road is quite possibly the best action movie I've ever seen.  There is nothing extraneous in it; it is taut, linear and exposition-free.  The mostly practical stunts are incredible - Cirque du Soleil performers were apparently hired to fling themselves around on long, bendy poles whilst attached to battle-cars careening through the desert.  Tom Hardy, as the new Max, is good and has a complete character arc even though he has scarcely any dialogue.  Charlize Theron, on the other hand, is incredible and a complete bad ass.  I want her on my side when the apocalypse comes.  The non-headlining characters are amazingly well-rounded; the Wives refuse to be victims and Nicholas Hoult, as warboy Nux, is both hilarious and heartbreaking.  The two hour movie is nearly non-stop action; when the theater lights came up, I was completely exhausted and yet, if I'd been given the option, I would have watched again, right then, immediately.  The worst part of the whole thing was having to get into my meek, poky little Subaru Forester afterwards and then drive calmly home, obeying all the traffic lights.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Mini book reviews: Alanna: The First Adventure and Sabriel

I think I picked these books out of an NPR Book Review page, probably something listing a bunch of young adult/science fiction and fantasy titles - I can't think where else I would have found them.  They aren't new books - Alanna is from 1983; and Sabriel is from 1995.

Alanna: The First Adventure - by Tamora Pierce.  When their father decides to send them off for training, eleven year old twin, Alanna and Thom, hatch a plan: tomboy Alanna, who wants to be a knight, will disguise herself as a boy and go off to learn sword-fighting, horsemanship, chivalry and the lot, while her brother Thom, who has a facility for magic, will go to school to learn to be a sorcerer.  Young "Alan" makes friends - and enemies - quickly at the castle, and throws herself into learning how to be a knight, showing remarkable skill with a sword; she is also unable to entirely distance herself from magic, and once she saves the prince's life, she becomes entangled in palace intrigue.  As the title suggests, the book follows Alanna's exploits, only barely checking in on Thom, following her through the first couple of years of her training.  This Alanna book, the first in a quartet, is written for very young adults, or better yet children.  The writing is not particularly sophisticated, the characters are not well developed and the plot seems written in rather broad strokes.  I've read children's fantasy that are clever, intriguing, well-written and intricately plotted - this is not one of them.

Sabriel by Garth Nix.  Sabriel is a particular kind of sorcerer, an estranged native of the Old Kingdom and daughter of the Abhorsen, trained to go into Death, ushering lost souls into the light and keeping Death's more gruesome denizens from overrunning the earth.  On her eighteenth birthday, she was supposed to meet with her father; he never shows up, instead sending a messenger to her with his enchanted tools and bells for safekeeping.  Sabriel enters the Old Kingdom, on a quest to look for him.  Along the way she makes some strange acquaintances and good comrades, and ends up wading deeper into Death than she ever has before.  I liked Sabriel more than I did Alanna, but again, this book seems lightweight (despite all the death and destruction and scary scenes) somehow.  It switches point-of-view oddly a couple of times, which was distracting enough to pull me out of the story, and the characters are pretty thin.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Daredeviling

POSSIBLE LIGHT SPOILERS FOR THOSE WHO HAVEN'T WATCHED YET.  IF THERE ARE ANY OF THOSE LEFT.

I know, I'm supposed to be finishing up Ultraviolet but I have gotten completely sidetracked with Netflix's Daredevil. I haven't been totally binge-watching it - limiting myself to two or three episodes a night because (1) it lasts longer that way and (2) I fall asleep if I try to stay up longer than that.  I feel not binge-watching it probably is a good thing too: I just love it but it is extremely violent and quite often graphic.  I'm talking on-purpose self-impalement through the eye and pulpy decapitation via repeated car door slams, in particular.  I don't think these two instances were necessarily gratuitous because in the first example, it showed how scary the Kingpin is that a minion would rather off himself gruesomely than deal with the aftermath of betraying the boss; and in the second, the character doing the decapitating has, up until this point, been remarkably smooth and controlled and the sudden switch is all the more terrifying.

I think Daredevil is very well cast.  It's grim and dark (both literally and emotionally/figuratively) and yet still human and funny.  Some of the action/fight scenes are simply amazing, including this one spectacular one-take shot with Matt Murdock vs. many, many Russians in a long corridor.  I've seen up through E8 and am hoping to get through the rest of the season this weekend.  Avengers ... Ultron is just going to have to wait.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Meanwhile ...

I'm currently girding my loins at the prospect of beginning the recaps for True Blood Season 6 - I know that's my usual summer go-to but ohdearlord I just can't face it, not yet.  Television-wise I'm sort of saturated with comic book shows (Arrow, The Flash, iZombie, Gotham, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) and am almost done with Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, which I do like but am finding uneven.  I'm holding off on starting Daredevil (which is getting very good reviews) until I finish Kimmy but I have also succumbed to the DVD temptations of Ultraviolet: it's only six episodes and how can you NOT love a dark and stylish, late 1990s British vampire show where they don't ever say "vampire" and also a young Idris Elba?  It's like that show was made for me.

I have also cracked a book or two, including:

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson.  A lightweight, YA urban fantasy with a first person narrator (naturally).  Set in modern day London, American teenager Rory Deveaux starts her new boarding school just as a Jack the Ripper copycat begins menacing the city. Rory becomes entangled in the intrigue as she starts seeing people that none of her new friends can see.  Highlights include boarding school traditions, field hockey, a little bit of romance and secret ghost hunters.  It's the first book in the series, Shades of London.

Also, and which I liked much better:

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman.  Again with a first person narrator, this is YA high fantasy and much, much more complicated plot-wise; this one has dragons, court intrigue, musical theory, secrets and lies.  Seraphina Dombegh is the court's assistant music mistress, talented beyond her years but not quite comfortable around all the lords and ladies.  When Prince Rufus gets murdered, it seems like a dragon may have done it, which could derail the forty years of peace between humans and dragons.  Seraphina is caught in the middle because she has a secret: she is half dragon herself, an abomination whose dragon mother died and whose human father seems to want nothing to do with her.  She gets drawn into things as her musical student, Princess Grisselda, and the Princess's cousin/fiance, Prince Lucian Kiggs, begin to dig deeper into the mystery surrounding the murder as the tension between humans and dragons builds in the kingdom.  Seraphina is an interesting character: stubborn, smart, lonely, talented, brave and conflicted about her dragon heritage.  There's a twisty plot; the characters are interesting and have arcs, becoming deeper as the story goes on.  I will definitely read the next one, Shadow Scale, to see what comes next for Seraphina, 'Selda and Kiggs.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Walking Dead S5E16 "Conquer" 3/29/15

Season 5 finale time!  After all the rampant speculation on the interwebs - Glen's gonna die! Carol's gonna die! Norman Reedus is selling his Georgia home so Daryl's gonna die! - everyone was pretty wound up and nervous about what was going to go down.  Despite some very, very gnarly zombie effects, the last episode of S5 would turn out much less carnage-y than I feared it would be.  Plus, Carol?  Total BAMF.  As if we didn't already know that.

Morgan!!! It's Morgan, hunkered down for a nap in a derelict car somewhere in the woods.  He gets up and boils some water for soup or oatmeal.  Before he can partake, however, a sketchy looking dude walks out of the underbrush, pointing a gun at him.  They talk a little, calmly, almost pleasantly.  Morgan asks what the W carved into the guy's head is for.  The guy explains about how all the wolves in the area were killed by the settlers.  But the Wolves are back now.  Things get a bit tenser when the Wolf stops Morgan from sipping his soup/oatmeal, saying that he's going to take everything that Morgan has and he's going to kill Morgan to boot.  Morgan shrugs and puts the mug down.  After a little more talking, a second Wolf comes out of the woods behind Morgan.  Not to worry, though: Morgan has traded his former feral-craziness for some badass quarterstaff moves and he proceeds to clobber the crap out of the two Wolves.  When they are unconscious, he stuffs them in the car he'd been sleeping in and honks the horn a little to draw any local walkers in.  I have a feeling he probably should have killed them - I'm afraid his mercy will come back to bite him (or someone else).

Daryl and Aaron.  The recruiting team parks their chopper and car, respectively, and heads into the woods on foot.  They're following someone's trail.  Aaron says that when they get close enough, they'll set up a microphone and listen until they're sure whether the potential recruit is worthy.  A bit later, they spot the guy they've been trailing.  He's wearing a red rain poncho and rubbing some wild leeks over his face and hands.  Daryl grunts, impressed that Red Poncho Guy knows such natural mosquito repellent.

Rick.  Rick wakes up, woozy and heavily bandaged, in a room that isn't his.  Michonne is there, watching him.  She asks him WTF he's doing and why didn't he tell her what was going on.  Glen, Carol and Abraham show up and Carol immediately pounces on Rick: "Where'd you get the gun?  You took it from the armory, didn't you? Stupid."  Rick catches on quickly to her ruse and agrees.  Glen says that there's going to be a meeting tonight to discuss what to do.  Carol tells Rick what to say - Pete, abuser, etc. - and finishes with, "Just tell the story that they want to hear. It's what I've been doing since we got here."  Michonne, baffled: "Why?"  Carol: "Because these people are children and children like stories."  Damn.  Carol is stone-cold.  Abraham wonders what happens after all the talking, when they still want to kick Rick out.  They come up with a plan to use their knives (the armory is now guarded), grab Deanna and other key people, and force the Alexandrians to surrender to them.  Glen wants to know if Rick planned all this.  Rick says no, he just hit his limit and screwed up, and now they have to deal with the fall-out.

Maggie.  Maggie is with Deanna and Reg (Deanna's husband).  Deanna says that tonight's meeting is just for people to talk and then she'll make the decision about Rick.  Maggie pleads his case a bit, citing all the things Rick (and by extension, the rest of the group) has been through but Deanna is all, I'll do as I see fit.  Maggie takes her leave and Reg chases after her.  He is on her side and tells her that he'll tell his wife that Alexandria needs Rick and his group - that's what he's going to tell everyone.  Maggie feels a little bit better about that at least.

Sasha.  Outside the community's walls, Sasha has dug a pit.  She collects all the walkers she killed from the clocktower and dumps them in.  Then, she stares into the pit and climbs into it, lying down on top of the dead zombies.  It's a cool visual but her character is so thinly drawn that I just don't care about all this PTSD/depression/what-have-you she's going through.

Rick.  Carol comes back after the rest have gone.  She hands him another gun, saying she didn't tell the others about the guns she took because she's just not sure where they stand.  Rick sighs, saying he doesn't want to lie anymore.  Carol: "You said you don't want to take this place.  And you don't want to lie?  Oh, sunshine, you don't get both."  Later, Rick leaves wherever it was he'd been put, walking down the street without challenge.  Deanna watches him go by, a scowl on her face.  He heads home, where Carl is waiting with Judith.  He warns the boy that he may have to hurt or kill some townspeople to keep from being exiled.  Carl shakes his head, saying all Rick needs to do is tell the Alexandrians just what it is like outside their walls.

Glen and Maggie.  Maggie fills Glen in on the deal with Deanna, saying that she's going to spend the rest of the day talking to people and campaigning for Rick.  She heads off and he sits, lost in thought until he sees Nicholas scaling the walls.  Curious and/or pissed off, Glen follows him.

Gabriel.  Father Gabriel, wearing nothing but a white shirt and not carrying any weapons, leaves Alexandria via the front gate.  Deanna's remaining son Spencer questions the wisdom of going out unarmed but Gabriel says he's just going out for a short walk.

Daryl and Aaron.  Outside a fenced cannery/warehouse, Aaron shrugs: they've lost the trail of Red Poncho Guy but they're found this place - they need more food and this is a potential gold mine.  Daryl seems a little fashed at giving up on chasing their recruit but ultimately agrees.  They quickly kill the few zombies wandering around in the fence and head inside.  Four or five semi trucks are backed into the loading dock, doors closed.  Daryl opens one of the trailers - which trips a wire and suddenly ALL of the trailer doors fly open.  And the trailers are FULL of walkers.  The zombies swarm out and they are everywhere.  Daryl and Aaron take cover under a trailer, just to regroup, but they can't stay there and scramble out again.  Daryl snatches up a length of chain and when he's out from under the trailer AWESOMELY DECAPITATES THREE ZOMBIES with one lashing of that chain.  Best. Zombie. Death. Ever.  They try to make a run for it but there are way too many zombies and there's no way to get clear.  They make their way to a small station wagon, left parked behind the trailers.  They jump inside - Aaron crushes a walker's skull trying to get the door closed - and are safe for the moment.  For the moment.  There are so many zombies, all looking at them through the glass.  They look for something to block the windows, hoping the zombies will get disinterested, but there's nothing there but a scrawled note on a scrap of paper: "TRAP BAD PEOPLE COMING DON'T STAY."  Well, duh.

Carol.  Carol has brought a casserole over to Pete, who is sitting in a house in the dark, telling him that he needs to go check on Tara (remember Tara?  Massive head wound?).  He is not well-pleased to see her.  When he starts to get belligerent, Carol calmly unbuttons her cardigan and pulls out a hunting knife.  "I could kill you right now," she says, almost conversationally.  "I could.  I will.  And then, who is going to believe I did it because I didn't like you? No one.  They'll believe you tried to hurt me."  Pete laughs nervously, leaning in at her, and she pushes the point of the blade right up under his chin.  That stops him.  She tells him that the way things have played out, he has a chance - him here, Jessie over there.  "You're a small, weak nothing.  And with the world how it is, you're even weaker.  Play your cards right maybe you don't have to die."  She shoves the casserole dish into his hands, snarling that she wants her dish back - clean - when he's done.  When Carol leaves, Pete throws the casserole to the floor and stomps into another room, breaking things and shouting, "This isn't my house!"  Carol, you goddamn glorious puppet-master.

Glen.  Out in the woods, Glen hears Nicholas moving off but has lost sight of him.  Bad move, Glen.  Because Nicholas can see him and wastes no time shooting him with the gun of Rick's he pilfered an episode or so ago.  The bullet hits Glen in the shoulder and knocks him over, backwards down a ravine.  When Nicholas runs up to check, Glen is nowhere to be seen.

Rick.  Because Rick can't stop being a fairly creepy stalker, he swings by Jessie's house where she is halfheartedly picking up broken glass from the window Rick and Pete crashed through.  She tells him that he shouldn't be here, that they shouldn't be seen talking, but he insists that he just wants to know if she's okay.  He also says he's not sorry he did it, not matter what happens or what he ends up having to do.  As he turns to go, she tells him that he was right.  And across the street, a glowering Pete watches Rick walk away from his house and his wife.

Daryl and Aaron.  The guys are realizing that there's really no way out of this for them.  But Daryl laughs a little, saying that back at Alexandria, inside houses, he felt all closed up, but out here - even trapped in this little car - he feels more like himself.  "Pretty messed up, huh?"  But Aaron understands.  He says that the moment he knew he needed to bring Rick's group back to the community was when he watched Daryl lead his group to safety in the barn during that storm.  That was when he was sure they - and Daryl - were good people.  Daryl thinks about this for a couple of seconds and lights a cigarette.  And then he says, "I'll go.  I'll lead 'em out and you make a break for the fence. Just let me finish my smoke first."  And at that moment, thousands and thousands and thousands of Daryl fans screamed in horror at their televisions.  But Aaron's like, "No, no way.  We do it together - whether we make it or not - we have to."  Daryl nods in agreement and they decide to make a run for it, count of three.  One, two ... and a zombie's head splatters all over the window.  The guys are shocked.  It's Morgan!!!  And the guys realize not to look a gift horse in the mouth.  They rush out of the car as Morgan lays waste to enough walkers for them to get clear.  All three of them run for the fence and dash through the gate, slamming it closed behind them.  They introduce themselves and Aaron gasps out a thank you.  Daryl wants to know why.  Morgan: "Because now all life is precious."  Aaron starts his Alexandria sales pitch, noting that whoever set that trap is likely on their way.  Morgan says he has his own destination, but he's lost and could they maybe point out where they are on his map.  He hands his map to Daryl and it's the one he found with Abraham's note to Rick on it.  Daryl looks at the map and then looks intently at Morgan.

Gabriel.  Gabriel whistles as he walks, approaching a feeding walker.  He's decided to commit suicide by zombie and spreads his arms wide, whispering, "I'm ready" as the monster lurches closer.  But as the walker gets within biting distance, Gabriel can't go through with it.  He struggles with the zombie and manages to pull its head off.  Crying, he smashes the still-growling head with a handy rock and then walks over to the still-twitching victim and smashes his head too.  Then he crumples into a fetal position in the middle of the road and sobs.  You know, this guy is a good enough actor but I just don't care.

Abraham.  Abraham brings some flowers for Tara.  Rosita is keeping watch over her and Eugene is there too, asleep in a chair.  Abraham makes to leave when he sees Eugene, since they still have unresolved issues, but Rosita waves him in, then knocks a metal pan off the counter.  The racket wakes Eugene, forcing Abraham to deal with him.  They talk, both awkwardly, each apologizing to the other - for lying about Washington D.C.; for trying to kill Eugene over the lie - and also Eugene thanking Abraham for saving his life countless times.

Gabriel.  After his crying jag, Gabriel returns to Alexandria and Spencer opens the gate for him.  As the preacher walks back inside, Spencer leaves the gate open for Gabriel to close, in what is CLEARLY a plot device, saying that he wants to sneak off to the meeting.  The kid was like five feet away and he couldn't close the gate?  That's bullshit and even a flaky guard would never have done that.  Weak writing, especially since the meeting won't actually get going until after dark.  Regardless, Spencer runs off and Gabriel, who is in a daze of self pity, doesn't close the gate.

Glen.  Nicholas heads back towards Alexandria through the woods.  When a zombie approaches, he draws his knife and tries to be brave enough to put it down without shooting it.  But he isn't brave enough and shoots it instead, and that's when Glen comes charging out of the underbrush at him.  They fight, kicking, screaming, punching, clawing, stomping on knees, gouging fingers into gunshot wounds, and the ruckus they make draws several zombies.  Nicholas rolls away and a zombie falls on Glen.  He's weakened from being shot and I actually get a little nervous - because we're an hour in and no one has died yet.  Will it be Glen?

Rick.  Before the meeting, Michonne goes to check on Rick, asking if he's ready for the meeting.  He tells her that he, Carol and Daryl stole guns from the armory, working it out together.  He says he's been lying to Michonne because he wasn't sure how she'd take it and he hands over the gun Carol brought him.  Michonne:  "You think I'd try and stop you?"  Rick, with a bit of humor: "Well, you did hit me over the head."  Michonne is not joking around, however, and tells him that she did it for him, not the Alexandrians.  She says she thinks they can find a way to live here without their weapons ... but if they can't, she's still with him.  "Something's gonna happen.  Just don't make something happen."  And then she gives him his gun back and heads out to the meeting, telling him not to be too long.  As he gets ready to go, he looks out the window and immediately goes tense.  Next shot: Rick running down the street towards the open gate.  He slams the gate closed, noting a trail of blood drops heading into town.  Oops.  Something is loose in Alexandria.

Sasha and Gabriel.  But before we can get to the excitement of possible zombies roaming the town, we have to pause to go to the chapel.  Sasha is already there when Gabriel gets back.  She is lost, she says, and asks for his help.  And Gabriel decides to try suicide by Sasha instead, telling her no, he can't help her, she doesn't belong her because of what she did, beating those people to death back in his church.  He knows all the right buttons to push, invoking Bob and Tyrese, and she gets more and more distraught, finally struggling with him, getting him on the floor and shoving her rifle in his face.  "Do it," he whispers.

The meeting.  Deanna has gathered everyone (and there really don't seem to be very many Alexandrians - I wonder what the community's population is/is supposed to be) to talk about Rick and what he did and what he said.  Maggie and Michonne protest that Rick and Glen aren't here yet; Carol, with a sweet smile on her face, says that she's sure Rick will be here and she's sure they can work all this out.  But Deanna forges ahead.  Many of Rick's people - Maggie, Michonne, Carol (doing her best manipulative Stepford-talk) speak up on his behalf but Abraham is the best and I'll quote it in full:  "Simply put, there is a vast ocean of shit that you people don't know shit about.  Rick knows every fine grain of said shit.  And then some."  After that, Deanna tells the group the shortened version of what Gabriel told her about Rick and his group.  Jessie speaks up, saying since Gabriel isn't at the meeting, what Deanna is providing is just hearsay.  Maggie takes this opportunity to sneak away to look for Rick and/or Glen and/or Gabriel.

Not in the meeting.  Nicholas tiptoes through the woods, limping.  And then Glen, who is apparently unkillable, walks up behind him and clobbers him on the back of his head, dropping him.  Rick runs through the streets of Alexandria, looking for whatever got in.  He finds what he's looking for when he hears a dog barking.  It's four or five zombies.  He puts several down easily, knife through the skull, but the last one manages to get him on the ground.  Rick can't reach his weapons and so instead, squeezes and squeezes and squeezes until the zombie's head pops, splattering goo and rot and nasty liquid all over Rick's face.  SO GROSS.  Back out in the woods, Glen sits on Nicholas's chest, punching him for a while and then pulling out a gun.  Shaking, spitting, near hysterical, Glen pushes the barrel of the gun into the other man's forehead.  Nicholas begs for his life, shrieking, cowardly.  Glen comes very close to pulling the trigger ... but because he's still a good guy, he doesn't do it and even ends up helping Nicholas stagger back to Alexandria.  Meanwhile, back at the cannery, those two Wolves that Morgan didn't kill have caught Red Poncho Guy.  They slit his throat and then, using a remote, turn on flashing lights and loud music which are emanating from the trailers.  The zombies follow the distractions back into the trailers and the Wolves reset their trap.

Also not in the meeting.  Maggie enters the chapel before Sasha can pull the trigger and gently takes the gun away.  Sasha is crying.  Gabriel starts crying too, saying "They all died because of me."  Maggie takes his hand in hers, agreeing, "They did."  And then the three of them sit and quietly pray together.  Because faith in God has been so helpful thus far.

The meeting.  Some Alexandrian speaks up, saying that all he wants to do is protect his family and if that means exiling some or all of the newcomers ... well, he doesn't get to finish that thought because a gore-drenched Rick has finally arrived at the meeting.  And he's brought a visual aid: the corpse of one of the zombies he just killed.  He throws the corpse down and all the Alexandrians recoil.  (None of Rick's people even flinch.)  He says there wasn't a guard and the gate was open - he didn't bring the zombie in, it got inside on its own.  (Deanna glares at Spencer and he scampers off, back to his post.)  "They always will [get inside], the dead and the living.  Because we're in here.  They'll hunt us and find us and try to use us, try to kill us.  But we'll survive.  I'll show you how."  He says that he'd been thinking of how many Alexandrians he'd have to kill to save their lives - but now he thinks he doesn't have to [kill anyone].  He knows they'll change.  "Luck runs out."  And on top of those sage words, a drunken Pete staggers into the meeting, waving Michonne's sword wildly and raving, "You're not one of us! You're not one of us!"  Reg goes up to calm the doctor down.  Rick puts his hand on his gun and gives Carol a glance.  She shakes her head, hissing, "Not now" because she knew her confrontation with Pete would set him off OMG Carol you manipulative genius.  But Pete will not calm down and keeps waving that sword until he inadvertently slashes poor Reg's throat.  Reg goes down, choking and splashing blood everywhere as Deanna wails and cries.  Abraham pounces on Pete, knocking him to the ground and holding him there.  Reg bleeds out quickly.  Wild with grief, Deanna looks up at Rick, her constable, and snarls, "Rick.  Do it."  And without hesitation, Rick pulls his gun and shoots Pete in the head.  And just then Daryl and Aaron and Morgan walk up.  Morgan, Mister "Life is Precious," looks at dead Pete and looks at his old acquaintance, and says, shocked, "Rick!"

Post credits.  Michonne goes to the mantel to hang her sword back up.  She pauses, jams the sword back in its scabbard and slings it across her back.  It goes well with her constable's uniform, I think.  And back at that cannery, as Red Poncho Zombie lurches around the fenced-in yard, we see a message graffitied onto a derelict car: WOLVES NOT FAR.  That can't be good.

So, as I said, not very carnage-y.  Carol, Daryl and Glen all survived - all our gang survived, surprisingly.  As much as I am relieved that none of my favorites got killed off, this season finale seemed a bit anti-climatic, like it's just setting us up for the Wolves in S6.  I guess we'll find out.

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