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Sunday, November 23, 2014

ARROW Struck By Cupid's "Bow"

Article first published as ARROW Review Season 3 Episode 7 Draw Back Your Bow on Seat42F.



It must be Valentine’s Day on the CW’s ARROW because Cupid, a.k.a. Carrie Cutter (Amy Gumenick, TURN: Washington’s Spies), has arrived in Starling City and has her eye on a certain hero. Friends may tell Oliver (Stephen Amell) to “Draw Back Your Bow,” though, because this Cupid cutie is more than a little nutso, as her real name also indicates, and she embarks on a killing spree to get his attention. Not exactly a match made in heaven.

Gumenick is deliciously delightful as Cupid. Her character is off her rocker and a danger to society, but the actress still brings a fun charm to the role that demands people sit up and watch her. Carrie will never be part of Team Arrow nor a serious love interest, but she makes such an impression here that I hope she becomes a recurring player, popping up periodically to cause further turmoil.

Oliver isn’t having none of it, though he could be forgiven for being tempted, because his heart belongs to another. I’m not sure I understood just how deeply Oliver’s feelings for Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) went until I watched “Draw Back Your Bow.” He’s so bad at expressing himself that it’s hard to tell what he’s thinking. However, his complete lack of any interest at all in Cupid’s flirtations, and she is very attractive on the surface, likely indicates his heart is spoken for and can’t be swayed.

Felicity may not be in the same boat, though. Ray (Brandon Routh) buys her a very expensive dress, loans her a necklace worth millions, and, most importantly, pays attention to her and praises her. Plus, his body is every bit as good at Oliver’s, and as Felicity say while drooling over a shirtless Ray working out, she definitely has a type. Though their dinner date with clients is labeled “purely platonic,” there is no mistaking that Felicity, at least, is interested in taking things a little further by evening’s end.

Ray is the one that stops sex from happening, but why? I can’t believe he’s not interested in the beautiful Ms. Smoak. His every action and word speaks to the contrary. Could it be that whatever secret plans he’s been cooking up for the city prevent him from getting involved with anyone right now? Is he that altruistic? He can’t possibly be the opposite (evil), or why knowingly keep Felicity close? He’s a bit confusing in “Draw Back Your Bow.”

Weirdly, Diggle (David Ramsey) is the one who tries to play matchmaker, encouraging both Oliver and Felicity to admit their feelings to one another. This isn’t something he’s done a lot of in the past, and suddenly having not one, but two scenes in which he does so seems off. However, he’s also recently had a baby, so he’s probably more emotional than usual, which could explain the behavior. After all, that warm happiness is surely what sparks him to invite Oliver and Roy (Colton Haynes) over for a family dinner, a very sweet moment in the hour.

There’s also flashback, of course, in which Oliver and Tatsu (Rila Fukushima) work together to find a missing Maseo (Karl Yune). I assume the connection ARROW makes between this flashback and the present story is that both circle around love, but that’s a weak thread and there are no other obvious connections. The fact that ARROW has to make such tenuous ties these days is probably a sign that, as I’ve long been saying, these past scenes are unnecessary. Any time they occur, I’m itching to get back to the main plot the entire time.

ARROW is a CW show, and follows some of the elements of such. Programs on this network often have eye candy, and “Draw Back Your Bow” delivers plenty of that for both sexes to enjoy, no gender bias present. They also tend to be a little more melodramatic than typical scripted dramas, and ARROW falls into this a bit, too. But it’s hard to argue that the show isn’t enjoyable, and the plot is usually engaging enough to get past those features, as it is in “Draw Back Your Bow” and most ARROW installments. That’s why I like it.

ARROW airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET on the CW.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

GETTING ON And On And On

Article first published as GETTING ON Review Season 2 on Seat42F.



HBO’s GETTING ON is back! For those that missed the six-episode first season a year ago, feel free to jump on into season two when the premiere episode, “No Such Thing as Idealized Genitalia,” airs this weekend, no prior knowledge needed. But for fans, you’ll delight in seeing the staff of the Billy Barnes Extended Care Unit of Mt. Palms Hospital in Long Beach, California again, who are basically up to the same things they were when last seen.

Dawn Forchette (Alex Borstein) is continuing to work for Dr. Jenna James’ (Laurie Metcalf) research study. Dawn doesn’t like working for Dr. James, and why should she? Dr. James is emotionally abusive and takes advantage of Dawn whenever she can. But for Dawn, who isn’t feeling well (something explored with a very unexpected twist late in the episode, and that will extend to future installments), she’s tired of bending over backwards to fit Dr. James’ requests in with her regular work and getting absolutely no appreciation for the effort. In fact, Dr. James expresses the opposite of appreciation.

Dr. James is under a lot of stress, admittedly. She is still fighting Dr. Paul Stickley (Mark Harelik) to get her research funded, something far from a certainty in her business. She has to put up with the hospice corporate vulture she hates (Jayma Mays, Glee) trying to make inroads in the hospital (again, something that will continue throughout the season because of another beautiful twist). She is drawn into a fight with an obnoxious patient (played by a familiar face I can’t quite remember – feel free to let me know who she is in the comments) for bed space. And she has to deal with the annoyance of Nurse Patsy de la Serda’s (Mel Rodriguez) “green” program, which results in lights turning off in the bathroom after mere seconds. But does that justify her behavior towards Dawn? Nope.

Technically, GETTING ON is a comedy. The laughs come at the characters’ expense, though. Is it fun to see Dawn get dumped on my Dr. James? No, but there’s something inherently amusing in the way Borstein shows the pathos of the downtrodden character. Does one laugh at Dr. James issues in the bathroom? Of course not, but again, there are some sight gags that will elicit a smile, even as we feel sorry for her. It’s smart, slow-burn comedy.

In “No Such Thing as Idealized Genitalia,” Nurse Didi Ortley (Niecy Nash) emerges as the heart of the show. This is something she’s been seen as before, but the role is reinforced in her behavior this week. Whether it’s taking care of her family or her co-workers, whether they could actually be called friends or not, Didi is a person who has compassion for others. This, all while making next to no money, and meeting much resistance for requesting even the smallest of raises.

This hospital highlights the ridiculousness of bureaucracy and the flawed nature of human beings. It does so without judgment, reflecting familiar traits in slightly exaggerated ways. There are very few moments you’ll laugh out loud at, but you will be amused as much as depressed by the proceedings. Though a scene where the characters finally get to air some grievances will come close to getting a chuckle.

In considering quality television, GETTING ON excels. It’s an authentic piece with nuanced characters. The cast is across-the-board excellent, both the stars and the supporting players. The world is well-developed, and if anything has changed in season two, it’s that the writers know their parameters better, making for a more fully realized premise. I highly recommend checking it out.

GETTING ON airs Sundays at 10:30 p.m. ET on HBO.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Prayer For GRIMM To Improve

Article first published as GRIMM Review Season 4 Episode 4 Dyin' On a Prayer on Seat42F.

Grimm - Season 1

Unfortunately, this week’s installment of NBC’s GRIMM, “Dyin’ on a Prayer,” was another case-of-the-week snooze fest. A Gollum attacks an abusive husband. Nick (David Giuntoli) and Hank (Russell Hornsby) have to investigate, bringing in Trubel (Jacqueline Toboni) when they think a Wesen might be involved, since Nick is still without his Grimm powers. The fact that, while certain people involved in the case are Wesen, the murderer itself is not, makes it even more like every other crime procedural on television.

GRIMM airs Friday nights at NBC. If there were ever a night and time to break the standard formula and do something interesting instead on broadcast television, it’s that one. Add to that, GRIMM has already done several good arcs in the past that depart from the common structure, with a heavy supernatural mythology. Why, early in its fourth season, would it revert to a weaker story makeup? If viewers want a run-of-the-mill police story, they have a plethora of other choices. GRIMM should stick with what makes it special, not try to be like everyone else.

I do like the Rabbi (David Julian Hirsh, Weeds) who calls forth the Gollum to protect his nephew, David (Jakob Salvati, Red Widow). There is massive opportunity for character development here, a man who abhors violence, but accidentally sets it loose, not understanding what he is doing. The Rabbi is very clearly a good man, and is plenty willing to pay for the consequences of his actions. Unfortunately, “Dyin’ on a Prayer” spends very little time exploring that element.

There are subplots that entice this week. Adalind (Claire Coffee) continues her escape from the castle, only to be stymied by a weeping wall which threatens to drown her. Her fate is not shown. Again, this is another cool concept that is actually visually pretty impressive. There are real stakes in these scenes. But they are brief, barely a few minutes of the hour, and underdeveloped.

“Dyin’ on a Prayer” teases us with a story involving Monroe (Silas Weir Mitchell) and Rosalee (Bree Turner) dealing with haters, who don’t believe Wesen should marry a different breed of Wesen. This hate-crime thing is probably a little dated, but when a brick is thrown through the shop window, I sit up and take notice. Unfortunately, that one moment is all GRIMM does with this, not making any effort to show us how the characters deal with the attack.

A third storyline in which Elizabeth Lascelles (Louise Lombard) figures out what Adalind did to Nick is cool. She is an intriguing character, and has some great lines. I don’t know how long she’ll stick around, but she is a welcome addition to the recurring cast. However, in spite of providing a nice capper to the episode, she is also barely used.

A fourth (yes, fourth!) possibility for greatness emerges when Wu (Reggie Lee) brings his suspicions about Trubel to Captain Renard (Sasha Roiz). Renard knows who Trubel is, of course, and must protect her, so doesn’t give anything away to Wu. It is past time Wu is brought into the secret loop, though, and the more he pushes, the more likely that is to happen.

So, in summary, GRIMM gives us four excellent threads (five if you count the Rabbi, which is arguable) in “Dyin’ on a Prayer,” and still chooses to make the vast majority of the episode revolve around the one storyline that is boring and trite. The ingredients for a truly excellent series are present, and the writers tease us with them without delivering on any. How frustrating is it when a show that has been so good in the past stubbornly refuses to maintain that quality on a consistent basis? I can’t wait to get past these crap episodes at the start of the year and to this season’s real plots, which are surely coming, but not nearly quickly enough.

GRIMM airs Fridays at 9 p.m. ET on NBC.

THE GOOD WIFE Sees "Red"

Article first published as THE GOOD WIFE Review Season 6 Episode 8 The Red Zone on Seat42F.



Numerous players on CBS’s THE GOOD WIFE go into “The Red Zone” this week. Alicia (Julianna Margulies) tries to do what she thinks is right and good, but quickly learns that, like Games of Thrones’ Jon Snow, she knows nothing (about campaigning or how things she does will play to the public). Cary (Matt Czuchry) considers testifying on his own behalf, since any witnesses that can help him are dead, but prep for said testifying goes horribly wrong. Kalinda (Archie Panjabi) is caught between the woman she loves, the man she loves, and a cold-hearted murderer. So, it’s just a typical day at Florrick / Agos / Lockhart.

First, let’s talk Alicia. She is still living her life like she’s not looking for votes. She takes on a new client (Californication’s Madeleine Martin) just as she’s supposed to be pulling back just because her brother (Dallas Roberts) asks her to. Then, she accompanies Finn (Matthew Goode) to a soup kitchen because she genuinely feels the need to give back, but unconcerned about appearance, the trip backfires when skewed pics are taken and posted online. Alicia protests that it goes against common sense to avoid these things, but Eli (Alan Cumming) basically tells her to get over it.

Candidate Alicia is going to be different than Lawyer Alicia. Now that she’s made the decision to run, she’s also made the decision to change, to become a politician. She resists, of course, but she does want the office, so she can’t help but make allowances. “The Red Zone” finds her listening to Eli and Johnny (Steven Pasquale) and the focus group they conduct. She may not like it, but she is coming around to how the game is played.

Can Alicia do this and still hold onto herself? I think so. Her case against Louis Canning (Michael J. Fox), which she wins be default, proves that. It’s a way to show her keeping a grip on the woman she’s become, the woman worthy of the office.

The question is, though, how far will she go? When her opponent is Castro, one could see her making quite a few sacrifices because he’s an evil bastard and needs to go down. Now that she’s up against a much more upstanding citizen, she may be tempted to hold back. Alicia hates Prady, who did trick her, but she has to admit he’ll do a much better job as State’s Attorney than Castro, so that might give her pause at a key moment.

Cary needs a pause in “The Red Zone.” With trial fast approaching and no one left to help him, he takes Kalinda’s advice to testify for himself. But angry that Kalinda is lying to him, sleeping with her old flame, Lana (Jill Flint), Cary gets emotional when Viola Walsh (Rita Wilson) and Diane (Christine Baranski) attempt to prep him. This Cary seems entitled and arrogant, and while we the viewers who know and love him can understand his frustration and rage, a jury will not. It takes Alicia in a moment of brutal honesty to make him pull back and find his center.

I’m really worried about Cary. He is drowning. He reaches out to Kalinda for an emotional life raft, and she snatches it away. Whether because she doesn’t feel the same way or because she’s trying to protect him, the reason doesn’t matter. Cary is alone with this and things are not looking good, even once he gets his head on straight.

Funnily enough, it is Kalinda that can save him. Kalinda is also backed into a corner, being intimidated by Lemond Bishop (Mike Colter), who doesn’t like her sleeping with a fed. Kalinda knows how dangerous Lemond is, how he’s killed those that inconvenience him. Kalinda alone at the law firm could come forward to testify against Lemond and stop him once and for all. It’s losing a valuable client, whom they’ve at least temporarily lost anyway, but it’s the right thing to do, if she can manage to stay alive while doing it.

I’m not sure if Kalinda is at that point yet, but she should be. By choosing not to stick a card in Lana’s wallet, Kalinda has marked both herself and her girlfriend for death or further threat. This is the time Kalinda needs to come clean to Lana or other law enforcement officials and go into witness protection. Though, knowing Kalinda, should she decided to go on the take-Lemond-down path, she’ll want to gather more evidence first or wear a wire, which could end tragically. Panjabi is slated to depart at the end of this season of THE GOOD WIFE anyway; might the show make her exit a little sooner and a little more permanent?

“The Red Zone” is another outstanding installment of THE GOOD WIFE, jam-packed with gripping story and numerous, great, recurring guest stars. The stakes seem high, the drama feels real, and no one is in a great position, making fans drool with anticipation for the next episode. I’m impressed the show has kept this up at such a high level for over a year now, and hope it continues indefinitely.

THE GOOD WIFE airs Sundays at 9-ish ET, depending on football, on CBS.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

STATE OF AFFAIRS Is Solid

Article first published as STATE OF AFFAIRS Review on Seat42F.

State of Affairs - Season Pilot

Anyone who remembers the Grey’s Anatomy behind-the-scenes drama of a few years ago won’t exactly be excited for Katherine Heigl’s return to television. NBC decided to take a chance on her anyway with STATE OF AFFAIRS, premiering this week, which has Heigl in the leading role. With some good actors around her, though, and an interesting premise, this series is not half bad, though far from great.

Heigl plays Charleston “Charlie” Tucker, a CIA Analyst responsible for assembling and delivering the president’s daily briefing. Charlie is haunted by her past, though, suffering PTSD from witnessing her fiance’s death in the Middle East, leading to copious drinking and erratic sexual decisions in her off-hours, before somehow still managing to be a put-together woman at work, doing her job well, even at 2AM. Will this catch up with her? Or might her therapist, whom she resents having to see, eventually be able to help her work through her issues?

STATE OF AFFAIRS does suffer from an abundance of coincidence and believability-stretching elements. The president whom Charlie serves is Constance Payton (Alfre Woodard, Desperate Housewives, Star Trek: First Contact), who just happens to be Charlie’s dead fiance’s mother. Constance is bent on revenge for her son, which makes one wonder how she manages to stay in office and be a good leader as the first black female POTUS. There’s also a mystery surrounding the day of the death about which Charlie is repressing memories. This all feels a little too contrived to me.

Charlie’s team is equally preposterous, eagerly standing by her at the risk of their own jobs, without pausing to consider what might happen to them. Even if they like her, they shouldn’t be so willing to jump off a cliff for her, at least not without agonizing over the decision.

Charlie has a scene in the pilot in which she defies her boss in order to do a noble thing, putting the life of a doctor captured by terrorists ahead of petty vengeance. This is supposed to establish Charlie has a genuine hero, but instead, drags STATE OF AFFAIRS down. For one, why do TV shows always have to have one person who ignores authority because they inherently know the right thing, proving themselves better than everyone else? For another, why would a briefer have the power Charlie has to affect events?

Yet, I still want to watch this show. One big reason for that is because it is a political drama. I love the machinations of politics, various factions battling one another for power on the national stage. There are many shows that have done it a lot better and more authentic than STATE OF AFFAIRS; The West Wing and House of Cards spring to mind, or even Scandal. But there is still some draw that this show has in that arena.

For another, besides Woodard, whom I enjoy, the show has David Harbour (The Newsroom, Manhattan) as Chief of Staff David Patrick and several familiar guest actors sure to be recurring. These performers are entertaining to watch and raise the show a bit above Heigl’s expected quality.

STATE OF AFFAIRS does have the afore-mentioned personal component in Heigl’s character, but unlike new CBS stinker Madam Secretary, doesn’t allow it to make the show melodramatic or whiny. The scenes outside of the work place are well used to add depth to the character, but not the meat of each episode. Hopefully, it stays that way.

STATE OF AFFAIRS is popcorn in the way 24 was. It gets the adrenaline pumping and it’s fun to watch, but it’s never going to win any awards for being the best acting or writing on television. For my money, that’s good enough for now, and compared to a very weak crop of fellow freshman dramas this fall, this one is certainly one of the better recent entries on the broadcast networks.

STATE OF AFFAIRS premieres Monday, November 17th at 10 p.m. ET on NBC.

ONCE UPON A TIME Needs a Long Look in the "Mirror"

Article first published as ONCE UPON A TIME Review Season 4 Episode 8/9 Smash the Mirror on Seat42F.


A lot happens in last night’s special two-hour ONCE UPON A TIME on ABC, “Smash the Mirror.” We see the rest of the Arendelle flashback story, bringing us up to the point in which the Snow Queen (Elizabeth Mitchell) comes over to our world. We witness the battle for Emma’s (Jennifer Morrison) soul, both internally and externally. And a former villain is given hope for a happy ending. Let’s get started.

First, despite the glaring flaws in this fall’s run, the Frozen tale has been nearly flawless. “Smash the Mirror” picks back up where last we left it, Anna (Elizabeth Lail) imprisoned by her aunt. Elsa (Georgina Haig) learns of this and quickly concocts a plan to stop the Snow Queen, refusing to believe ill of her sister. Their plan fails, unfortunately, with Elsa ending up in an urn, Anna and Kristoff (Scott Michael Foster) frozen (hehe) in the castle, and the Snow Queen messing with Elsa’s memory before The Apprentice (Timothy Webber) sends her to our world, circa 1982.

The story of the sisters, Elsa and Anna, is a strong one. Anna goes to other realms to save Elsa, and Elsa never stops believing in Anna, even when Anna is under a spell that makes her say horrible things. There is an argument to be made that Nasty Anna is buried deep inside the real Anna, an expression of the suffering she has endured. But an essential part of Anna is that she keeps hope and moves past such issues, always deciding to believe in Elsa. Seeing Elsa pay this back is extremely gratifying, and it’s this bond that the Snow Queen will never have.

There’s very much a there-but-for-you-go-I element in “Smash the Mirror.” Had the Snow Queen’s surviving sister stuck by her, no matter what bad things the Snow Queen accidentally did, her fate might have turned out very differently. The Snow Queen desperately wants what Elsa and Anna already have. Knowing they won’t accept her as one of them, she goes to extremes to force such a relationship. What she will have to end up realizing, but hasn’t yet, is such bonds cannot be forced. They have to be given freely.

ONCE UPON A TIME does make the plot quite cohesive, providing a believable way the Snow Queen comes to our land, sets the stage for her memory spells, and provides a possible motivation as to why she does what she goes. Once the Snow Queen knows she can make people forget and start with a clean slate again, it would be tempting to do so anytime things go bad. That’s surely what happened with Emma, though we haven’t seen that yet.

The Snow Queen is a formidable foe. She goes toe-to-toe with Rumple (Robert Carlyle) this week and wins. While she herself is not the instrument of victory, she does manages to link Emma and Elsa to herself, which is the next stage in her plan, and goes against Rumple’s desires. It will be interesting to see how she can be defeated because, despite knowing she must fail, she is in a pretty good position at the episode’s end.

Emma is still a bit out-of-character in “Smash the Mirror.” After making Henry (Jared S. Gilmore) very slightly bleed, she goes into a panic, and eagerly accepts Rumple’s offer to remove her powers. It takes her forever to get to his cabin, and the others have plenty of time to track her, which doesn’t seem right, but from an emotional standpoint, these hours do a better job of illustrating the turmoil in Emma’s heart than others have. She wants to rid herself of power because she’s afraid of it, but Elsa, who has personal understanding, gets through to Emma and helps her accept herself.

It’s a little strange how easily Emma has things under control at the end of the episode, a new stage for ONCE UPON A TIME. Yet, perhaps it’s a timing thing. Finally able to see who she is and live up to her potential, she gets a handle on the powers. Even if the path to get there is a little bumpy, there are some strong character moments for Emma, and her fireworks scene is an earned triumph.

More uneven than Emma is Rumple’s plot, though. This Rumple takes Hook’s (Colin O’Donoghue) heart and seeks to destroy Emma so he can have power and take over the world. This is absolutely ridiculous. Rumple has never been shown to have these ambitions, and in fact works directly against such things in past seasons. The Rumple in “Smash the Mirror” is a completely new character than before, and not in a good way. ONCE’s biggest glaring mistake this year is to toss out Rumple’s entire arc and start fresh with an unrecognizable antagonist. It makes me ill to see how he has been handled.

Hook, to a lesser extent, is in a similar boat. His actions, from betraying Emma, to confessing to her, have bene erratic and nonsensical. I get the urge to be a hero and worthy of Emma, but then it’s more confusing when Hook acts against those interests. He has been used poorly as of late, too.

On a polar opposite, Regina’s ONCE UPON A TIME arc has been stellar. This week, she gets assurances from Robin Hood (Sean Maguire) that she’ll have a happy ending, ponders the path not taken, has a touching moment with her son, and is given encouragement by Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin), of all people, who admits her own bratty past. I was worried for a bit the show would let Regina slip, negating her growth, but the other characters have rallied around her, even those who one doesn’t expect to, and in their eyes, Regina finally sees her best self reflected.

What’s more, Robin’s discovery in the library, with the help of Will Scarlet (Michael Socha), gives Regina hope. Robin finds an alternate page to Henry’s storybook, one in which Regina is not a villain. This proves the book isn’t set in stone so Regina can still change her ending! Yay!

Which begs the question, are new pages being added to the book? If so, why hasn’t anyone mentioned it? And because the page just appears in Robin’s bag, does that mean the author is still around? Possibly hiding in the magic library? Maleficent is still in the basement, isn’t she? And where is the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, who can see past and future, these days? Anyone else get the feeling the Apprentice might actually be the Sorcerer? Hmm.

For everyone awesome ONCE UPON A TIME moment, and there are many in “Smash the Mirror,” there is an unfortunate one, sometimes small, but always present. When looking at the TV schedule from last night, ONCE is only about the sixth or seventh best show on Sunday nights (behind The Walking Dead, The Newsroom, The Good Wife, and arguably several others) right now. There are a heck of a lot more than six shows on Sundays, but that’s still not a position to really brag about. If only it would get its act together, like it did a year ago, it could rise to match or exceed some of its currently-better peers. The potential is high, but the series just doesn’t live up to it as much as it should, making its wins, such as last night’s episode, bittersweet.

ONCE UPON A TIME airs Sundays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.

THE WALKING DEAD "Consumed" Review

Article first published as THE WALKING DEAD Review Season 5 Episode 6 Consumed on Seat42F.


The title of this week’s episode of AMC’s THE WALKING DEAD is “Consumed.” This refers to the way fire consumes, metaphorically and literally. As Daryl (Norman Reedus) and Carol (Melissa McBridge) track the missing Beth, they reflect on how their old selves have been burned away, possibly multiple times, and whether they are phoenixes or ashes. We also see Carol remembering some actual fires, both ones alerting her to danger, and ones highlighting her own mistakes.

Carol has become a fan-favorite character, right up there with Daryl, for many good reasons. Her memories show Rick (Andrew Lincoln) burning the bridge with her, the people Carol murdered at the prison, Carol burying the girl she shoots, Carol rushing to save her friends at the prison and Terminus, and Carol considering fleeing again. These are all pivotal moments in her character’s journey over the past season or so, and by keeping them brief, THE WALKING DEAD does a good job of reminding us of them without hammering them in too hard.

Because of all of these things, Carol isn’t sure she wants or deserves to be a part of the group any more. She agonizes over decisions made. She is too close to the source, though, to see it clearly. The rest of us have a fuller picture of her, remembering everything she has done, who she was, and how far she has come, not just these glimpses. Daryl gives voice to our side of the story, telling Carol that she “ain’t ashes.” She is still a human being who is as deserving of love as anyone else.

Daryl has a similar arc, though less prevalent in “Consumed.” As Carol says, he has grown from a boy into a man, stepping up to do what must be done. Daryl obviously still has doubts about himself, unlike how he sees Carol, because he takes a book on abuse from the shelter they stay at. This clues us in to things Daryl has trouble saying out loud. But again, Carol gives voice to our thoughts when she reassures Daryl about who he is.

There are many things to love about THE WALKING DEAD, but these characters are at the top of the list. Not a lot happens in “Consumed,” but that’s just fine because it gives us time to examine these personalities a bit more closely. While circumstances have shaped everyone in different ways, such as Rick into a badass leader, it has made Carol and Daryl much more noble and worthy people than they would have been in the old world. It has stripped away their previous issues and given them a second chance. They are both using this new start well.

The fact that Daryl and Carol are hunting for Beth and helping each other at the same time proves this point. “Consumed” sees Daryl burning abused children Walkers for Carol and willing to go over a bridge in a van. Carol does the latter, too, willingly for a girl she hasn’t seen in awhile and probably owes nothing to. They are heroes, plain and simple.

“Consumed” also unites them with Noah (Tyler James Williams), who stalks them and steals their weapons. Had this been all we’d seen of Noah, it would be difficult to use him this way or know whether to trust him. Because we know he’s also working to save Beth, though, one hopes for him to get a chance to talk to the pair so they can discover their common ground and work together. Thankfully, THE WALKING DEAD finds a natural way to do this, as it would be all-too-easy to make it clunky.

Noah is one of the fastest characters audiences have come to trust, and Daryl has been semi-comfortable with, too. This unique ability he has to worm his way into hearts, surely helped along by excellent writing, makes him an individual to watch, and one I hope sticks around. Circumstances ally him with Daryl, but choice can make him part of the group.

“Consumed” brings us up to other points seen, where Daryl returns to camp and an injured Carol is brought into Beth’s hospital. This means, with two hours to go in this half season, we’re promised action and large-group stories. I like how the first half of the year has danced back and forth between those exciting times and these character focuses, striking a terrific balance in a show known for both.

THE WALKING DEAD airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on AMC.