Sunday, February 26, 2017

Walking Dead recap: Season 7, Episode 11, "Hostiles and Calamities"

The gods must have heard my prayer. Tonight's episode of The Walking Dead, “Hostiles and Calamities,” takes a break from the hatchet-faced military strategizing and obligatory slicing and dicing that's lately dominated the show to look at Negan's (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) Sanctuary, that Dantean dystopia with an Orwellian name. The death count isn't quite zero in this episode, but Dr. Carson's (R. Keith Harris) Holocaust-evoking demise feels anything but titillating or gratuitous. And, for the first time I can remember, not a single walker is whacked, though one does lose its bottom half, along with some gooey innards, as part of its slow slide toward total disintegration.

“Hostiles and Calamities” opens with Dwight (Austin Amelio) realizing that the Sanctuary has lost one high-value hostage, Daryl (Norman Reedus), just as another, Eugene (Josh McDermitt), is unloaded from one of Negan's trucks. The episode keeps cutting back and forth between Dwight and Eugene so as to compare the equally disturbing, though very different, ways each man earns his privileged perch in Negan's totalitarian dictatorship, and the ways each one metabolizes his adjustment to that sinister system.

The episode's director, Kari Skogland, keeps Dwight in the foreground and the focus on his face in key scenes like the one where he studies the note urging Daryl to escape, recognizing Sherry's handwriting, or when he heats up the branding iron for Negan, whose torment of Dr. Carson plays out as a backdrop to Dwight's carefully camouflaged reaction. Dwight's seething deadpan and occasional murderous side-eye reveal the ominous tension of living in a surveillance state, where the wrong expression could cost you your freedom—or worse. His iron-ravaged face heightens that tension, reminding audiences of the price he's paid for rebellion while deadening his expression even more. When the harsh light of the hallway hits him as Negan releases him from the cell, that burned flesh looks like raw meat. Read the rest on The House Next Door

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