Monday, December 31, 2012

Mini book review: The Dog Stars by Peter Heller

I am on quite a post-apocalyptic roll here, what with recent readings of The Road, Immobility and now Peter Heller’s The Dog Stars. This latest foray into our bleak future takes place in rural Colorado after the flu has decimated the planet. Hig, a bush pilot and fly fisherman, lives near an airfield with his old dog Jasper, growing vegetables, guarding and protecting the homestead with his surly neighbor Bangley. The two men have figured out how to live near each other, despite Bangley’s violently misanthropic tendencies – although I suppose he does have good cause to be so cranky since most strangers they see try to kill them in this vaguely Road Warrior-esque world. One day, years after the plague, Hig hears a voice over the radio in his plane and he decides to see who else may be surviving out there, thinking surely there’s more to this life, tattered as it is. Heller writes The Dog Stars in an abstracted first person narration, which I didn’t particularly care for but which was more fulfilling than the oblique Immobility. Not all questions are answered and there are some sad parts to get through, but ultimately The Dog Stars contains a little hope … which is always a good thing once the apocalypse rolls around.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Mini movie review: Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work

I first heard of this documentary in the local paper last year (?) when it was shown at the SundanceFilm Festival in Park City, where it was very well received. I am only a casual Joan Rivers fan – I don’t know her stand-up at all and I’ve never read any of her books – but I do like her scathing repartee on the red carpet and Fashion Police, and I enjoyed her recent guest spot on Louis CK’s show,Louie. This documentary, which follows Rivers around for a year, shows a side of Joan never seen before, starting with the opening credits where we see her WITHOUT ANY MAKEUP. I found the movie to be interesting and quite touching, in fact: an intimate look at this incredibly hard-working woman who seems compelled to keep working, who worries about money (since she supports innumerable family members, plus her large staff, plus her own life of luxury), who has fought hard for everything she has and opened doors for women comics, who is fiercely protective of her family (but not so much so that she won’t occasionally use them as stand-up material). One of my favorite scenes was when Joan and her grandson were delivering Thanksgiving meals to shut-ins. They met a woman suffering from MS who used to be a photographer and whose tiny apartment was stuffed to the gills with negatives, slides and photographs. Joan Googled the woman when she got home – Flo Fox – and was literally moved to tears as she read her story, remarking on how sad it was to see such a beautiful, edgy, bohemian artist struck down by the disease. Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work shows Rivers’s humanity and grit, that underneath the drag queen clothes and layers of plastic surgery beats the heart of dedicated, loyal fighter.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Mini movie review: The Hunger Games

What can I say, really, about the movie version of The Hunger Games that hasn't been said a gajillion times over.  I loved the book - was startled and upset when it ended and I didn't have the second one in the series lined up - and very strongly feel that both the books and the movie[s] are SO MUCH better than that Twilight crap that everyone loves so much.  Better stories, better writing, better characters/role models, better acting - all of it's better.  That being said, I did have a couple of minor quibbles with the movie:

  • I think Jennifer Lawrence is a fantastic actor (and really, really need to see Winter's Bone which I haven't gotten around to yet) and she did a very nice job with Katniss but she ain't kidding anyone for playing fifteen years old.
  • I understand the need for world-building but it sure seemed like there was an awful lot of build-up and pre-Games and very little time actually spent during the actual Hunger Games for such a long movie.  That being said, the District 12 Reaping was really horrific and well-done.
  • No one even remotely looked like they were starving, which is a HUGE part of the books, especially when it's called the Hunger Games.
  • JL's Katniss seemed much less calculating and conniving than the book's Katniss.  Of course, the stupid DVD I had skipped so badly that I couldn't watch the last 10-15 minutes, so maybe I missed something there.
Anyway, I loved the book and liked (but didn't love) the movie; I'm looking forward to seeing the next installments but will re-read the remaining books so be sure I know what's missing.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Mini movie review: Black Christmas (1974)

Before Halloween, before Friday the Thirteenth, before there were hardly any slashers at all - there was Black Christmas.  This 1974 gem is a horror classic: a group of sorority girls, getting ready to go home for the holiday break, are terrorized by an unseen, unknown assailant.  SPOILERS AHEAD.  The first to go is meek Clare, suffocated and put in a rocking chair in the attic; next is the bawdy house mother.  Hot mess Barb, played joyously by a gorgeous Margot Kidder, spends most of her time drunk and then gets stabbed to death, in her bed, by a CRYSTAL EFFING UNICORN.  (That one is done rather artfully, actually.)  In the end, it isn't even clear if Final Girl Jess is going to make it out alive.  None of the kills are done on-screen but the tension is ratcheted up by a series of creepy, menacing phone calls the sorority house keeps getting, plus you never learn who the killer is or why he's doing it.  Only that he's there, lurking in the house, killing pretty girls.  If you are a fan of the slasher genre, you owe it to yourself to see Black Christmas - the original one.  I hear the 2006 remake is appalling.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Mini movie review: Bernie

Bernie was on Mr. Mouse's list and I gladly moved it up the queue so we could watch it.  As it turns out, I liked it quite a lot and he thought it was a little boring, and wished the Coen brothers had directed it instead of Richard Linklater.  But apparently this movie is a fairly faithful retelling of what went down in the little East Texas town of Carthage in 1996, when Bernie Tiede, a sweet, thoughtful, generous, caring, gay, 38 year old assistant funeral director, shot 81 year old Margery Nugent - his friend and employer and the most hated woman in East Texas - in the back four times and then stuffed her in the garage freezer.  After Bernie was found out about nine months later, when Marge's stockbroker became suspicious that he never got to speak with her himself, no one in town could believe it - or wanted to.  No one liked Margery at all, so they weren't outraged when she turned up dead and hidden under the pot pies.  But everyone loved Bernie and were outraged that he was being prosecuted.  Shirley MacLaine plays Margery Nugent and Jack Black, finally playing it straight (so to speak) and not as the buffoon he usually is, is quite good as the loved and lovable Bernie, a man pushed unwillingly to the brink.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Recently read

The Twelve by Justin Cronin - The eagerly-anticipated sequel to the wonderful The Passage, The Twelve didn't quite live up to expectations for me.  The first third of the book follows new characters, giving some history into the first few days and decades after the virals were let loose upon the world.  The rest returns to Peter, Amy, Alicia and the rest, as they continue to fight the virals after their successful defeating of Babcock at the end of the first book.  There's some fairly unsubtle us vs. them, a la The Stand or, more recently, The Walking Dead, which made it feel like Cronin wasn't trying too hard.  Still, there are some heart-rending moments, and the big climactic battle is pretty exciting.  The Twelve ends clearly setting up book 3 ... wonder how long we'll have to wait for that one.

Immobility by Brian Evenson - This is a post-apocalyptic novel, bleak, spare, well-written, that pretty much leaves you in the dark the whole way through.  Set in Utah (the main character goes  almost right by my house on his way up to the LDS vault in Little Cottonwood Canyon) after what I assume is a nuclear holocaust, Josef Horkai, crippled and amnesiac but unfazed by the extant radiation, is set on a quest.  The reader is as clueless as Horkai: something happened to the world and almost all the people, but we never really learn what; there are some survivors whose bodies adapted strangely to whatever happened, but we don't know why; a long time has passed since whatever happened, but we don't learn how long; we don't really ever understand who, what, why or how.  I get that Evenson wants his readers to share in the protagonist's discomfort and unease, but generally I like to understand what's going on a little better.

The Secret Race - Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France: Doping, Cover-ups and Winning at all Costs - Tyler Hamilton and Daniel Coyle - Quite some time ago, Mr. Mouse asked me to get The Secret Race from the library; he wanted to read the book but he didn't want to give Tyler Hamilton any money because he didn't like him attacking Lance.  There was quite a long wait list and then finally, after Armstrong's recent implosion when he was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles, Mr. Mouse (and I too) got our hands on the book.  After reading it, Mr. Mouse remarked, "If even a quarter of what Tyler says is true, then Lance is a real asshole."  True that.  This book is a scathing indictment of the rampant doping going on in professional cycling.  Tyler never singles Lance out - everyone did it, all the time, because that was the only way they were going to win - but Armstrong clearly uses his money, power and connections to his best advantage.  The amazing thing is that none of these bike racers, Hamilton included, thought what they were doing was wrong.  Sure, they knew it was against the rules but if everyone's doing it, what's the difference?  Hamilton is pretty unflinching and doesn't shy away from his own malfeasance.  I found this book fascinating and terribly sad.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Walking Dead S3E8 "Made to Suffer" (12/2/12)

There's a lot of person-to-person fighting and violence in this mid-season finale.  It's the whole "people are the real problem, despite the zombies" thing.

We open with a brand new bunch of survivors, running through the woods, fighting off a pack of walkers.  There's Tyrese, shovel-wielding Sasha, Teenaged Guy, TG's Dad and Zombie Fodder.  They comport themselves fairly well but Zombie Fodder gets bitten on the arm.  They keep running and climb through a hole in a chainlink fence to get into a crumbling brick building.  Zombie Fodder says they should leave her behind, and Sasha agrees, but the rest of them are not ready to let her go quite yet, even knowing that she'll turn.  Sasha is also nervous about going into this big building they know nothing about but Tyrese points out that it's better than another night in the woods (probably).  The camera pulls back as they enter the building and we see that it's actually the backside of the prison.

Woodbury.  After Andrea leaves the apartment, the Governor pays a visit to his zombified daughter, Penny. The poor thing is pathetic, drooling and growling and snapping at his throat.  He tries to get her to respond to him - aside from trying to eat him - but finally gives up, putting the hood back over her head and shoving her back in her closet-cage.  Elsewhere in town, Glen and Maggie await their fate.  Glen is in rough shape but he rouses himself to get up and go over to the zombie corpse on the other side of the room.  As Maggie watches, he pulls the zombie's arm off and strips out two sharp-ended bones (this is totally disgusting, btw).  Now they have weapons.

Outside Woodbury, Rick, Darryl, Michonne and Oscar watch the men on the wall, trying to figure out a way in.  Michonne leaves for a few minutes, annoying the guys, then returns, leading them in.  Inside the town, the Governor tells Merle that he wants to clean the people out of the prison and then let the biters have it back - he doesn't want to move in there, he just doesn't want anyone else to have it either.  Merle insists that Darryl be spared and the Governor is all, yeah, yeah - and go take Glen and the girl to the "screaming pits" (is what I think he says.)  Meanwhile, Rick's group has made their way into one of the buildings on Main Street.  Rick is impatient with Michonne, wanting to know where Glen and Maggie are being kept - even though she couldn't possibly know this since she herself was outside the walls when they were brought in.  Luckily, a watchman shows up and Rick relieves some stress by threatening the guy and knocking him unconscious.

Prison.  Speaking of luckily, Carol intercedes when a far too interested Axel starts chatting Beth up.

Woodbury.  When the Governor's men come for Glen and Maggie, they attack with their sharpened zombie bones. There are too many of the Governor's people, however, and Glen and Maggie's escape is easily thwarted.  Except that Rick and his group heard the gunfire during the struggle, homed in on the location, tossed in a couple of smoke bombs - that conveniently incapacitated the Governor's men but not Rick's group and also kept Merle and Darryl from seeing each other - and grabbed Glen and Maggie out of there.  They make their way back to the street and soon enough the Governor is informed that the town is being raided.  He tells all the townsfolk to go home and lock their doors, and tells his soldiers to shoot to hill.  Andrea wants to help shoot people but he doesn't want her to know that its her former companions so he asks her to make the rounds and check in on the civilians at their homes.

Rick's group circles their wagons for a moment.  Glen tells Darryl that Merle is alive and here and the Governor's right hand man (so to speak) and still pretty much mean and nasty.  Understandably, Darryl wants to see his brother but Rick lays a guilt trip on him, saying that he needs him to get everyone back to the car, especially now that Michonne's gone AWOL.  Darryl pauses, thinks about it, and says he'll stick with the group.  They reload their weapons and head towards the wall.  And where's Michonne?  She's in the Governor's apartment, waiting for him with her sword drawn.  [Now, in the comics she was given plenty of reasons to hate him and want to kill him, but here he's not really been such a monster and her extreme and murderous antipathy towards him seems misplaced.]  Out in the street, more smoke bombs are deployed - so Andrea and Rick's group can't recognize each other - and lots and lots of shooting.

While Darryl lays down covering fire, the rest of them run for the wall.  Glen makes it over; Oscar gets shot helping Maggie and she gives him the coup de grace before scampering over herself.  Rick has a "I'm still not quite sane" moment when he thinks he sees Shane strides towards him, gun drawn; after Rick shoots him in the head, the guy turns out to be just a guy.  In the smoke and confusion, there's an awful lot of shouts of "Rick!" and "Darryl!" and I find it a little difficult to believe that Andrea and Merle didn't hear any of that.  Rick heads over the wall, leaving Darryl behind to make his way over as best he can.  Nice, Rick.  Let me say this now: DO NOT KILL DARRYL OFF, YOU WRITERS.

Prison.  Beth, Herschel and Carl are hanging out when they hear screams coming down the corridors.  After determining that it's not Carol and Axel (who are keeping watch from one of the guard towers - and I hope that's not a euphemism), Carl grabs his gun to go check it out.  I don't like Carl very much but here he's pretty damn bad-ass.  He finds Tyrese's group cornered by a pod of walkers in the generator room.  He shoots several zombies and yells at the humans to follow him.  Sasha, handy with her shovel, helps clear the way; Tyrese carries Zombie Fodder over his shoulder as she's fading fast.

Woodbury.  As Michonne waits for the Governor, she hears a banging from the locked room.  She breaks the door down and is immediately shocked to see the fish tanks o' zombie heads.  Yes, Michonne, you're right: the Governor is one sick fuck.  Just wait.  She hears the banging again and opens up the closet-cage.  Penny staggers out - but since she's wearing that hood, Michonne thinks she's some poor little girl the Governor keeps chained up.  But then she takes off the hood and Penny lunges at her.  Michonne is all, WHAT THE FUCK and draws her sword.  Then the Governor, who is in the doorway, shrieks "Don't hurt her!"  He drops his gun and pleads with Michonne to spare his little girl.  Michonne is all fuck that and runs her sword through Penny's head.  The Governor loses his mind at this and attacks her.  He and Michonne have a long, brutal, ugly fight that involves:  strangling, clawing, beating Michonne's head against the wall, shoving Michonne's face into a zombie aquarium and more strangling ... until Michonne finally grabs a big shard of glass - thoroughly slashing her hand whilst doing so - and shoving it into the Governor's right eye.  Then there's screaming, lots of screaming.  Michonne is about to cut his head off when Andrea appears, gun drawn, shouting, "What did you do?"  Michonne stares at her coldly and walks out.  Andrea goes to the Governor but pauses, seeing all the zombie heads.  The Governor cradles his now really dead daughter and sobs.

Prison.  Carl takes Tyrese's group to the empty cell block next to C Block.  He politely offers to shoot Zombie Fodder - after killing his dead mom, it won't be no thang at all - but Tyrese says they'll take care of their own, and then pulls out a hammer.  [Really?  You'd say no to a humane bullet and clobber your friend's brains out with a hammer instead?  That's a little twisted.]  Carl leaves them to it but locks them in.  Sasha doesn't like this and starts yelling and banging on the door.  Tyrese tells her to chill out - they're in a safer place than they've been for months, and Carl has promised them food and water - "Let the man alone. His house, his rules."

Woodbury.  After the nurse bandages the Governor up, all his direct reports (Andrea, Milton, Merle) file in to find out what's going on.  Privately, Andrea's all, WTF zombie heads, and Governor, who doesn't really want to talk about it, mutters that they help him deal with things.  Outside the town's walls, Rick, Glen and Maggie draw their guns when Michonne rejoins them.  She looks really bad and doesn't protest when Rick takes her sword away.  She says that Rick will need her help to get back to the car, or go back in for Darryl, whichever.  "You need me," she says, her voice soft for once.

At the fight arena, the Governor tells the assembled townsfolk that they've been attacked (obviously), but worse, betrayed.  And who did the betraying?  Why, Merle the scapegoat, of course.  Merle is shoved into the center of the ring, wondering what's going on.  And why did Merle betray the town?  Because of his terrorist brother, Darryl, who also gets shoved into the center.  As the crowd gets whipping into a frenzy, screaming for their blood, the Dixon brothers eye each other, finally reunited since Atlanta, although it's probably not quite the reunion either had imagined.  The Governor glares at Merle with his one eye: "You wanted your brother - you got him."

That's it 'til the season restarts next year.  Let me repeat what I said before: DO NOT KILL DARRYL.  I will be so very cranky if Darryl is killed off. It's funny, though, how the two most compelling characters on this show are two who aren't even in the source material.

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

Monday, December 3, 2012

Two worth your time

We haven't had much snow so we didn't feel the need to ski all that much this past weekend; spending more time at the house enabled me to watch two very different movies, both of which I really, really enjoyed: Safety Not Guaranteed and How to Train Your Dragon.

Safety Not Guaranteed is a lovely little indie film, which I've seen described as "a time travel film that's not really about time travel."  Starring Aubrey Plaza (Parks & Rec), Mark Duplass (The Puffy Chair, Humpday) and Jake Johnson (New Girl), it's a remarkable movie in that every main character experiences growth - which is all the more impressive when you realize it's only 85 minutes long.  Jeff (Johnson), a Seattle magazine reporter, and Darius (Plaza) and Arnau (Karan Soni), interns, head south to a small coastal town to investigate a curious classified ad:
Wanted: Somebody to go back in time with me. This is not a joke. P.O. Box 91 Ocean View, WA 99393. You'll get paid after we get back. Must bring your own weapons. Safety not guaranteed. I have only done this once before.
Kenneth (Duplass) is the odd, paranoid and yet earnest erstwhile time traveler and author of the ad.  While Jeff alienates him with his douchebaggy ways, Darius manages to make a connection, slowly earning Kenneth's trust and discovering that he may not be as crazy as she thought. As the two of them ready themselves to go back (all the way to 2001), Jeff tracks down an old summer flame and Arnau is reluctantly dragged into his own.  I'm not going to say more because Safety is just wonderful to watch.  By the end of the movie, I was rooting whole-heartedly for the time machine to work - I may have even teared up a little.  Great stuff.

Also great stuff: the animated How to Train Your Dragon in which a scrawny outcast defies the status quo, makes a new friend and saves the day.  The scrawny outcast is Hiccup, an undersized, accident-prone teenage Viking, who just happens to be the only son of the huge and entirely manly head of the clan.  Their island is particularly afflicted with dragons, which fly in, torch the buildings and carry off all their sheep.  The dragons have killed hundreds of Vikings; the Vikings have killed thousands of dragons.  During one nighttime raid, Hiccup manages to wound the fearsome Night-fury dragon, a fast and deadly beast that no other Viking has ever seen, much less killed.  He tracks the Night-fury down the next day, finding it wounded and defenseless ... and is entirely unable to kill it.  Instead he frees it, and it spares his life in turn, and then he sets out taming it and fixing it with a prosthetic so it can fly again.  Of course, when this comes out it doesn't go over well with the other Vikings and it isn't until Hiccup and Toothless (the dragon has retractable fangs) save everyone from certain death that they are accepted.

There's much more to it, of course: the fact that dragons are misunderstood and under the thrall of a more more horrific power; Hiccup's crush on the pretty and entirely bad-ass Astrid; Hiccup's struggles to fit in with his dragon-training peers; the strain between an alpha male father and his bookish, weird son; the charming, sweet relationship between Hiccup and Toothless.  The best parts are absolutely with the boy and his dragon: the animators - who had done very impressive work here, particularly with the ocean, the forests, Hiccup's hair - nailed it with Toothless, who is strong and sleek and full of personality, with some adorable cat-like and dog-like behaviors and expressions.  I must have a soft spot for animated dragons: I cried at the end of Dragonheart (CGI dragon voiced by Sean Connery) and I teared up at the end of HtTYD (but not for the same reasons).

Speaking of voices, How to Train Your Dragon is LOADED with a great cast: Jay Baruchel as Hiccup; Gerard Butler (finally allowed to use his Scottish accent) as Hiccup's father, Stoick the Vast; Colin Ferguson as blacksmith and dragon-trainer Gobber the Belch; America Ferrara as Astrid; Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintze-Plasse, Kristen Wiig and David Tennant as various Vikings.  One teensy quibble: if someone would explain to me why all the adult Vikings have thick Scottish accents while the teenagers are all American, that would be swell.  (Plus, since when were the Vikings from Scotland?)  Regardless, it's a sweet, fun movie and absolutely worth your time.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Walking Dead S3E7 "When the Dead Come Knocking" 11/25/12

Woodbury.  Merle interrogates Glen, who is duct-taped to a wooden chair, trying to find out where Glen's group is shacked up.  He shows that he really hasn't grown that much as a person after all - he is racist, offensive and ugly-violent.  He beats Glen badly but the younger man won't reveal a thing, except how tough he really is.  Maggie is taped to her own chair in the next room and can hear every vicious blow, every ugly word.  It's almost worse for her, not really knowing what's happening to her lover.  Still, it's really bad for Glen.

Prison.  Rick stares at Michonne through the chainlink fence.  She is weakening quickly and as the zombie gore on her dries, the walkers around her get a whiff of what she really is.  They start to move on her and she manages to drop one before collapsing herself.  Carl, who has run up to stand beside his father. can't bear it and begins to fire into the crowd of zombies, giving Rick enough time to open the gate and drag the unconscious Michonne inside.  Carl darts out and grabs the basket of formula.  They check to see if she's been bitten and then bring her into the prison, putting her in a room adjacent to their clean and secure cellblock.  She comes to, nervous at being surrounded by strangers.  When she won't talk, Rick tells her that she'll be safe and they'll treat her wound, but they can't let her leave.  She loves to hear that.

Darryl leads everyone to the cell where an exhausted but lucid Carol is sitting.  Everyone hugs her and Beth brings out the baby.  Carol smiles, then looks around, sees at Rick and Carl and bursts into tears when she realizes what must have happened.  From the other side of the door, Michonne watches.  A little while later, Rick tries again, asking Michonne why she had the formula.  She tells them that Glen and Maggie were taken and everyone gets agitated, nervous and jerky.  Michonne is not inclined to talk more with everyone so touchy so Rick, horribly, pokes at her wound to try to get her to speak.  Finally, when they point out that she  must have come to them for a reason, she tells them all about Woodbury, the town's defenses and the Governor.

Woodbury.  After their latest round of bumping uglies, the Governor asks Andrea to help Milton with something.  Over in the torture chamber, Glen is looking really bad, blood streaming from his nose, mouth and ears, one eye terribly swollen.  He bluffs a bit, telling Merle that their group is really strong, but he overplays his hand when he says that Andrea is still with them.  "Really?" sneers Merle, "Is that right?"

Prison.  Herschel stitches Michonne up as a rescue party is put together: Michonne, Rick, Darryl and Oscar. Rick takes Carl aside and they have a nice father-son moment, the first in a long time.  They talk obliquely about what happened to Lori, tell each other to be careful and even pick out a name for the baby since no one is really a fan of Darryl's choice of "Asskicker":  Carl suggests Judith, after his third grade teacher, and Rick agrees warmly.  The rescue party drives off, leaving the skeleton crew of Herschel, Beth, Carl, Carol, Axel and the newborn Judith to defend the prison.

Woodbury.  Over at Milton's lab, one Mr. Coleman, dying of prostate cancer, is Milton's latest experiment to determine if the walkers retain any of their human selves after transformation.  Mr. Coleman is about to die so he is restrained so that Milton can ask him some rehearsed questions after he reanimates; Andrea is there to put him down when it becomes necessary.  It turns out that Milton has never actually seen a zombie reanimation before (only child, predeceased parents, telecommuter) which makes Andrea roll her eyes - he has no idea what to expect.  She does: Mr. Coleman dies; he reanimates; Milton leans in to ask his questions; and Andrea crushes the Coleman-zombie's skull before it can take a bite out of Milton.

Meanwhile, frustrated with his inability to get any information out of Glen, Merle lets a particularly feisty zombie loose ... while Glen is still taped to that chair.  In a fraught, awesome scene, Glen proves how friggin' badass he is by fending off the zombie until he can shatter the chair against the wall and stab the walker through the skull with a wooden shard.  Seriously - this action scene is intense and fantastic.  Afterwards, the Governor decides to take a different tack with Maggie's interrogation.  And this is where I started to get very, very nervous, knowing what the comics version of the Governor is capable of.  Thankfully AMC didn't go that far - they couldn't, not at their level of cable - but it's still grim.  The Governor starts out charming but when Maggie doesn't fall for it, he makes her take off her shirt and bra by threatening to cut off Glen's hand if she doesn't.  Looming over her and not saying a word, he shoves her face down over the table, standing behind her and taking off his gunbelt.  It's horrible and terrorizing and she is absolutely powerless before him, although she still has the cojones to tell him to do whatever he's gonna do - and go to hell.  The Governor decides to try something else.

Rescue party.  They drive to within one or two miles of the town, then continue on foot to elude any patrols. As they walk, Rick tells Darryl that he's grateful for him taking care of his family while Rick was "working things out."  Darryl shrugs:  "It's what we do."  This may be tested when Darryl realizes his brother is alive.  Then they run into a big group of walkers, too many to successfully fight.  They run for it, taking shelter in a derelict cabin as the walkers surround the building.  Inside, they find a dead dog ... and a sleeping hermit who for some reason (1) didn't mind the stench of his decomposing pet and (2) seems oblivious about the zombie apocalypse.  Once awakened, the hermit won't calm down, threatening them with his rifle until Michonne runs him through with her sword.  Rick decides that this is their best chance and, over Oscar's horrified "You got to be kidding!", they throw the hermit out into the pod of walkers.  As the zombies tear into the guy's abdomen (in an extremely gory shot), the rescue party bolts safely out the back door.

Woodbury.  The Governor and some of his men bring the still-topless Maggie into the room where Glen is being held.  "Now," he says, "One of you is going to tell me where your people are," and puts his gun to Glen's head.  Face to face, Maggie cracks immediately to Glen's dismay, telling about the prison and the diminished size of their group.  Pleased that his tactic worked, the Governor fondles Maggie, then tosses her at an enraged Glen.  Outside, he is incredulous that a group of just ten people could have cleared out the prison, so deep in the "Red Zone" - apparently his people (Merle?) said it couldn't be done.  He asks Merle where his loyalties lie, now that they know Darryl is out there.  Merle pauses for a moment and then says, "Here."  The Governor tells him to send a small group to scout the prison and then goes home to snuggle with Andrea.

Outside Woodbury.  Dark has fallen and Rick's group sneaks up close to the walls, watching the guard change, trying to figure out their next move.  Things are looking to get busy next episode.

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