The Momentum Blog
The Plan in Space
Harris entered the flight deck and made his way straight to the central tier and the captain’s seat, and watched as his team spilled in around him. Doc took his usual seat to Harris’s left, McKinley beside him, while Brown sat to his right. As he looked around at the other crew, it felt strange to see Murphy, Steinberg, and Cavelera sitting where Carter, Louis and Smith once had, on the upper tier. He glanced over his other shoulder and saw Welles and Yughiarto taking up the other two seats, to the right of the aisle. He wondered whether Welles was going to be stubborn and throw up again. He smiled to himself at the memory of her first takeoff with the Aurora.
He looked down to the first tier, to the flight deck console where his pilots were seated. Hunter was talking into his headpiece and Packham was responding. Their hands were darting here and there to the various controls, running through their pre-prep for launch. So far so good, he thought, they’re working like a team.
Right on cue, the voice of the UNF Ground Control came over the loudspeaker, and Hunter engaged with them, confirming the Aurora’s clearance for launch. The loudspeaker went quiet. Hunter slowly pushed up the throttle on the control panel and the ship’s low humming sound increased dramatically. The loud starter beep came over the PA and the UNF computer-generated countdown began. Hunter confirmed that he was ready to rock, and Harris pulled the pre-selected disc from his pocket and threw it to him. Packham took the disc and inserted it into the appropriate slot on the desk.
“T minus 20 seconds to takeoff,” the countdown called over the loudspeaker again.
Hunter looked over at Packham and nodded an Are you ready? at her. She nodded back, then Hunter grabbed hold of the control stick in front of him, took a deep breath and exhaled measuredly.
Carrie sighed, disappointed, despite the Aurora’s successful launch. This was her third takeoff now, but alas, that bubble of air was caught in her throat again, and her stomach swirled. She saw Harris studying her as he left the flight deck. She was just waiting for the others to do the same, prepared to take it on the chin this time. Besides, needing an anti-nausea shot wasn’t such a bad thing. It meant she’d have some legitimate time with Doc.
Of course, McKinley grinned at her as he walked past. Brown did too, but Doc shot her a sympathetic smile. She took some deep breaths and tried to control the bubble. As she exited the flight deck, she saw Doc talking to a green-looking Yughiarto and patting him on the shoulder. He looked up at her. “You need a shot too, corporal?”
She nodded. He motioned for her to follow and they made their way to his examination room, where he attended to Yughiarto first. In fact, seeing how ill the soldier looked actually made Carrie feel a bit better. Doc asked him if he was going to be sick. Yughiarto shook his head, but didn’t speak, his eyes remaining on the floor.
Doc nodded then turned to Carrie. “Corporal?”
She turned her shoulder toward him. “When is this going to get easier?” she asked, as she felt the sting of the needle in her arm.
“Well, you didn’t throw up this time, so it must be easier, corporal,” he replied with a smile.
She locked eyes with him for a second, before he turned and threw the needle away, then swabbed her arm.
He looked back at Yughiarto. “How you doing, sergeant?”
Yughiarto nodded, the color returning to his face. Carrie herself felt that warm glow sweep over her too, taking the bubble of sickness with it.
Doc came back with two cups of water and handed one to each of them. “Sip it, don’t skol it.” He watched them for a moment, his hands on his hips, then nodded. “Well, no-one threw up. We’ve had our first success for the mission!” He locked eyes with her again, then made his way to the door. “C’mon, soldiers. Dinner’s a-waiting!”
Carrie exchanged a relieved look with Yughiarto and they followed.
Craig’s recent post about The Hobbit got me thinking. It seems like everyone I’ve spoken to (apart from Craig, obviously) was disappointed or at least a little underwhelmed by the first Hobbit movie. Now I am a huge fan of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy (I have a statue of Gandalf on my bookshelf at home – don’t tell anyone), but The Hobbit was unnecessarily padded and overlong.
But anyway, this post isn’t about the things that were wrong with that film. Because despite the problems we all had with it, despite the fact that nobody really enjoyed it as much as any of the Lord of the Rings movies, we’re still all going to see the second instalment when it comes out in a few weeks.
With a lack of enthusiasm we’ll all wander over to the cinema, head down and shoulders hunched, preparing to fork out our hard-earned money for a film we feel obliged to see. And this experience will be familiar.
Movies we were obliged to see:
Star Wars: Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith
Ugh. Episode 1 disappointed but could have just been George Lucas being rusty as a filmmaker. We happily gave Episode 2 a chance, but it just confirmed that the magic was gone. But still, we dragged ourselves to the cinema to complete the journey, and finally see how Anakin became Darth Vader. And while it was an improvement over the first two episodes, it still didn’t deserve a worldwide box office haul of $850,000,000.
Hey, James Cameron is back after a huge hiatus. Hey, he’s making a visionary sci-fi film with realistic digital characters. Hey, here’s the trailer. Oh. It’s like Ferngully? Oh. But we went to see it because of all the hype about the visuals. And everyone else was doing it! But that $2.7 billion final total still seems like a clerical error to me.
The Matrix Revolutions
The Matrix is a tight, fast-paced sci-fi thriller that is visually unique and stylish. The Matrix Reloaded is bloated, slow and looks like a lame knock-off of the original film. But maybe, as with The Phantom Menace, it was a stumble, and The Matrix Revolutions would bring it back. Still, it didn’t look promising. We reluctantly went, and it made $427,000,000 worldwide.
The Amazing Spider-Man
The first two Spider-Man movies are classics of the superhero genre, with part 2 being a strong contender for greatest superhero movie of all time. But then there was part 3, and then Sam Raimi walked away and then the studio pressed the reset button. Everyone wanted another Spider-Man. There was so much potential. But nobody wanted to see another take on the origin story a mere handful of years after the third instalment in what was a pretty decent take on the character. The desire to see Spider-Man continue won out, and we all went. A $752,000,000 global total has ensured that not one, not two, but three sequels are now in various stages of production.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
The first film made a billion dollars but is easily the least liked of the middle-earth films. The 48fps presentation left audiences cold and the fact that it took over three hours to tell ninety pages of the source novel smacked of a studio and filmmaker stretching their story out just so they could make another trilogy. So here comes the sequel. And we will go see it, because we were entertained by the first one, and this one has a dragon. But we won’t be particularly enthusiastic about it. I would be surprised if this winds up earning anything near what the first one did but it’s guaranteed to be a sizeable hit.
Are there any films you felt obliged to see? Let me know in the comments.
I was earning an honest day’s pay as a special agent in the Office of Special Investigations, doing my best to apprehend Senior Airman Angus Whelt, officially AWOL from Lackland Air Force Base roughly three hundred miles to the east. Whelt wasn’t inclined to make it easy for me and my current partner, Hector Gomez – not the Hector Gomez who plays shortstop for the Colorado Rockies but the carsick Texas Ranger Hector Gomez who was throwing up onto the floorboards in the passenger seat beside me, making the cabin reek of regurgitated spicy ground beef, corn chips and refried beans as we bashed along a dirt trail close to the US–Mexico border.
Whelt wasn’t making it easy for us because if we caught up with him he’d soon thereafter be doing a big slice of federal time. He was on the run because OSI had closed in on his narcotics operation. “Doctor” Whelt and his partner, Airman First Class William Sponson, also AWOL, were, according to various sources, the dealers of choice at Lackland until someone tipped them off about OSI closing in on their asses. So they fled. The Air Force grinds its heel on drug dealers and neither man was too keen about becoming something sticky on the bottom of the Air Force’s boot. We knew where Whelt was – playing hard to get on a dirt bike at our eleven o’clock. Sponson’s whereabouts were presently a mystery.
Ahead, an overhang in the bend jutted out suspiciously – a root ball maybe. I yanked the wheel hard over to clear it. Our rental – a Jeep Patriot from Thrifty – hit it anyway. Or maybe the damn root ball hit us. The impact jarred like an uppercut and pitched the vehicle on its side, up on two wheels. We teetered there like a stunt car, on the verge of rolling over while I wrestled with the wheel. Gomez was thrown sideways against the window. He left behind a smear of something on it: either bile or banana smoothie, I was too busy to make a positive ID either way. Fortunately, nudging the opposite berm jolted us back down onto the relative security of all four wheels.
“Je … sus!” Gomez said, bouncing around beside me, one hand braced hard against the ceiling.
Whelt was on what looked like a Honda motocross bike. He’d chosen to make his escape on it with good reason: the asshole rode like a Crusty Demon. His record said that he’d been some amateur national motocross champion before joining the service. Any moment I fully expected him to loop his bike in midair and flip us the middle finger.
He suddenly speared off the trail and took to the virgin bush, the bike’s rear wheel spewing a rooster tail of rock and sand as he rode a divergent course from ours, away from the trail. Shit, I’d known he was gonna do that eventually. I glanced across at my partner, the Ranger, fighting the heaves. He was a mess. And, yeah, re window smear: banana smoothie.
If we were going to catch Whelt, we had to follow the guy into the rough. Gomez looked over at me, read the play instantly and shook his head, his eyeballs large. Like we had a choice.
I turned into the low dirt wall that bordered the trail we were on. The jeep’s front wheels hit it with a sickening graunch and the hood reared up as the front wheels clawed at the sky. The rear wheels punched into the berm next and the vehicle reacted, bucking viciously fore and aft. When everything settled a little I stood on the gas pedal and steered for the crest, the tires scrabbling for traction while the front air dam smashed into rocks and low bushes.
My hope was that Whelt would make a mistake and put his bike down so that we could catch him, cuff him and take him in, but that hope was fast disappearing over the hill in front of us, standing up on the footpegs, the bike leaping and bounding over the terrain as it was designed to do. Behind Whelt meanwhile, the Patriot, designed for Walmart parking lots, didn’t at all appreciate the treatment we were giving it.
“Hey!” Gomez said, pointing.
He was indicating the US–Mexico barrier fence in a depression below us, an eighteen-foot-high, rust-colored steel mesh barricade that looked about as solid as a parked freight train, one that snaked across the land as far as I could see.
“What’s he … up to?” Gomez wondered aloud.
“The Great … Escape.”
The pounding, crazy ride was making talking difficult.
“What’s . . . that?”
“The Great … Escape … with Steve McQueen. Movie.”
“McQueen’s running from the N … Nazis. Steals a bike, makes a break for Switzerland …” I swerved to avoid a boulder and ran the jeep nose first into a ditch. A thick wave of dirt spewed up and over the hood and windshield. “Only the border’s … fenced – like we got here,” I continued.
“Lemme guess, he jumps the fence,” said Gomez. Whelt had stretched his lead, almost gone. “You think that’s what this guy’s gonna do?”
I doubted tunneling was on his mind.
Ahead, another hill. Whelt was already beyond the crest, only his dust visible.
Gomez shouted: “It’s a movie, so … he makes it, right?”
“No, he gets … hung up on the fence.”
I wasn’t ready to give up. And anyway, it was this or paperwork. I steered toward the crest, foot to the floorboards. We came over the rise, the jeep’s motor racing, tires spitting gravel, the dust thick inside the cabin.
“Whoa!” Gomez yelled, bracing for impact as we shot over the crest.
My left boot beat him to it, standing on the brake pedal. The jeep slid sideways one way and then the other as we ploughed down the hill, coming to rest while a rolling ball of our own dust overtook us. Below, in the crook between the hill we were on and the one beyond it, was a crowd of people and vehicles. A crowd of illegals – Mexicans. Significant numbers of Border Patrol Agents were marshaling them together. There were well over fifty people and a dozen off roaders down there, out in the middle of nowhere. The attraction that brought everyone to this particular point appeared to be a break in the fence, a five-by-ten-foot section of the steel mesh simply cut out by an oxyacetylene torch. On the other side of the fence, the Mexican side, were chewed-up tracks of numerous vehicles that, presumably, had brought the illegals to this point. A departing dust ball on the southern horizon confirmed it.
Several of the BPAs were looking up at us, presumably wondering who we were and what the hell we were doing. One of them was starting to move in our direction, hand on the butt of the pistol on his hip, coming to investigate. I scanned the area for Whelt and found him on the crest of the hill opposite. He’d stopped and was looking back at us. Okay, so the guy wasn’t upside down in midair but he was still flipping us the bird. No way were we gonna negotiate our way through this parking lot and catch him.
Gomez wiped his mouth clean with a wad of Kleenex. “Shit.”
“You were saying about real life?” I asked him.
My cell was buzzing in my pants pocket. Taking it out and looking at the screen, I saw I had half a dozen messages from a familiar Maryland number: Andrews AFB, home of the people keeping me in the style to which I ought to have left far behind by now at age 34 – the OSI. Gomez wandered down to talk with the BP Agent coming up the hill, his ID and badge held above his head, while I checked in. My supervisor and buddy, Lieutenant Colonel Arlen Wayne, picked up after a ring and a half.
“Vin …” Arlen said, the signal sketchy. “Where are y …”
“Where am I?”
“I can’t hear you,” I said. “I’ll call you back later.”
“… NO …”
There was a bar and a half of signal strength registering on the display. I walked around, trying to find another bar or two. “That better?”
“Yeah. Where … you?”
“On the border with Gomez letting Doctor Whelt slip through our fingers.”
I noticed a major dent in the Patriot. The panel just below the front fender had been stove in. I bent down to have a closer look and saw a pool of hot engine oil spreading on the gravel between the front tires, ants running from the steaming black tsunami. I hoped I’d checked the insurance box on the rental agreement and, if not, that Thrifty were a bunch of understanding folks.
“For … bout him,” Arlen said.
“Did you just say forget him?”
“They . . . his buddy, Spon …”
“They found Sponson?”
The rest was even more garbled though I gathered he wanted to know how far away from El Paso we were. “Thirty miles, give or take,” I told him.
Arlen sounded like he was in a dentist chair, a drawer full of cutlery in his mouth. But I caught the key message: Get to Horizon Airport at El Paso and monitor the El Paso Sheriff’s Office radio in the meantime. “We’ll hurry. Call you when we get there,” I confirmed.
Just before the line went dead I heard him say, “Vin … slaughter. Jesus, some real bad shit.”
Our other runaway, Whelt’s pal Airman First Class William Sponson, had turned up in less than ideal circumstances. Arlen didn’t often swear. It had to be some extra fucked-up ass-burger to move him into four-letter-word territory. Unlike me. A wisp of steam escaped through the jeep’s grille. Fuck, shit and urination. This pile of spot-welded horse flop was going nowhere in a hurry. “Do you remember checking the insurance box on the rental agreement?” I asked Gomez as he walked back up the hill toward me.
This is a regular column in which I recap this season’s episodes of The Walking Dead. It comes out later than everyone else’s recaps but it will be more sarcastic and contain more errors.
This season has slowly been building up to something and it delivered in spades in this, the mid-season finale. Just a note on mid-season finales, The Walking Dead seems to do these much better than its actual finales. Season 2 ended mid-season with the discovery that the missing Sophia had been a zombie in Herschel’s barn the whole time, season three ended mid-season with Daryl and Merle finally being reunited in a to-the-death zombie arena battle, and this…well, read on. And of course, MASSIVE SPOILERS AHEAD FOR THIS EPISODE AND SOME ISSUES OF THE COMICS.
Tanks for agreeing to see me! Get it?
At the end of the previous episode Brian (“don’t call me the Governor”) had lined up Michonne in his gun sights. But instead of shooting her he kidnaps her and Herschel. He takes them back to his camp and outlines his plan to his people. He wants the prison. He’s going to drive the tank up to the fence and threaten to kill the hostages unless Rick’s group moves out. If they move, all well and good. If not, he kills the hostages and storms the prison. It’s a stupid plan, because he backs himself into a corner. If Rick refuses, Brian is forced to show his true nature to his people, even though he’s pretty much promised them that nobody has to die. He may act like a changed man, but beneath the surface this is all about one thing – revenge.
So the previous two-parter in which we see the Governor almost become a good man and then become an asshole again was kind of pointless? The entire arc just returned him to who he was before. The show has struggled with this character, on the one hand it wants to portray him as someone who is hugely evil, but it also wants to show him as a complicated character with hidden depths and motivation. Unfortunately they have often seemed like two different characters. They can deliver the evil, they can deliver the hidden depths, but never at the same time.
In my opinion he works much better as the evil baddie. Revenge is a pure and believable motivation for him and doesn’t need to be layered beneath his grief for his lost family and his desire to protect his new one.
At any rate, he convinces his new group to go for it with an “it’s either us or them” speech. Herschel attempts to persuade Brian that both groups can live together, start with a clean slate and let the past be the past. But Brian is convinced it won’t work. He still claims he doesn’t want violence, but Herschel sees through it.
“Guys, seriously, I’m not evil anymore.”
When he rocks up to the prison, announcing his arrival with a blast from the tank, he calls Rick down for a chat. The discussion is tense, but does go in circles a little. With Herschel and Michonne on their knees, threatened with execution, Rick has no choice but to talk. Andrew Lincoln does a great job in this scene. He begins by begging for the lives of those within the prison, there are sick kids in there after all. He begs Brian to use his common sense, if violence starts then the prison will be ruined for everyone. He appeals to Brian’s followers, do they really want to face a war? And finally, Rick makes the offer that proves he’s a new man. He offers to open the gate and let everyone in, they can live in separate cell blocks until they’re ready to cooperate, but he’s prepared to leave the past behind and start fresh.
“Well it looks like I’ll be heading off now.” Be heading? Beheading? Hello, is this thing on?
And then the shit goes down. Rick has outmanoeuvred Brian, offering a peaceful resolution where nobody has to die, and everyone gets to be forgiven for whatever sins they committed outside the prison walls. But Brian can’t accept that. His true colours shine through, all he wants, all he ever wanted, was revenge. He takes Michonne’s sword and cuts Herschel’s neck open. Then the gunfire begins.
The following sequence is probably the best in the history of the show. The gun/tank battle is perfectly staged and contains some unforgettable moments, including Brian chasing after the injured Herschel so he can hack off his head. There’s a real sense that everyone is in peril, including the untouchable Daryl, who is left looking like he’s going to get bitten by a walker until he reemerges, using said walker as a shield.
And halfway through the battle, Brian’s new “wife” comes to say hi. Only she’s carrying the corpse of Brian’s new “daughter”, Megan. He left them somewhere they were meant to be safe, but Megan wound up being bitten by a walker that had been buried under some clay she was playing in. And then Brian shows his transformation is complete by blowing the girl’s brains out before she can reanimate.
“I believe you said something about us being perfectly safe?”
The tank continues to blow shit up until Daryl lobs a grenade down the main gun and blows it up. That’s right, Daryl kills a frikkin’ tank! And he then shoots the driver in the heart with an arrow.
Meanwhile, Brian and Rick are fighting to the death. Brian manages to beat the living shit out of Rick and then begins to strangle him, in a disturbingly realistic scene. And then the most FUCK YEAH moment in four seasons of this show, Michonne runs Brian through with her sword, rescues Rick, and leaves the fatally wounded Brian to become food for the walkers (he’s saved from that particular fate by his new wife, who blows his brains out as revenge for destroying her family).
To make a long story short, the prison is destroyed and overrun by walkers, Brian is dead along with many of his people, and Rick’s group are scattered. A bunch of the Woodbury people (and a still not-well Glen) escape on a bus, Tyreese escapes with some of Carol’s former students, and all the others make it out either by themselves or in small groups. Boom. Done.
Oh wait, what’s that? Baby Judith? Yeah, where is she? Is she on the bus? Oh, look, Rick has noticed her baby carrier. How could someone leave it there like that? Lucky Rick walked past-OH MY GOOD IT’S FULL OF BLOOD AND THERE’S NO BABY!
Megan. Herschel. The Governor. Lots of extras and people who have had four or five lines. And possibly baby Judith!
“That ain’t her!”, delivered by Daryl when Rick tells him that Carol killed Karen.
“Am I?” Brian’s “wife” when Brian tells her that the good people at the prison are with bad people.
Best moment with a walker?
The scene where the zombie wakes up from under the clay and bites poor Megan.
Which regular cast members will die this season?
I was right about my Herschel prediction! You all owe me a coke.
Who is the psychopath?
So someone has been feeding rats to the walkers. Tyreese discovered a rat that had been cut open and pinned to a board. Is there a psychopath amongst the survivors? In the comics there were several unstable people who were in the group at various points. But I’m going to say at this stage I think it’s Carl. He was spiralling out of control last season. Has he become a better person, or just found a new way to channel his violent tendencies?
What will happen in the next half season?
Well, they’ll all be on the road again, and will have to meet up. I imagine there will be a bit of a Glen searching for Maggie storyline. Carol is still out there, so it’s inevitable that someone will run into her, but who will it be? Tyreese, who is still ignorant of her (alleged) role in Karen’s death? Or Daryl, who is hugely upset that she’s gone and that she’s admitted to being a killer.
The show has loosely modelled itself on the comics (although there are vast differences). If they follow that loose structure again then the next plot will be about the group meeting up with a couple of survivors who are heading to Washington, because one of their number thinks he knows how the virus began. Also they meet cannibals.
Is Judith actually dead? There was no body to be seen, and it’s not confirmed whether the blood was hers or someone else’s. She dies in the comics during the battle with the Governor, but the show hasn’t always stuck to the fates of the various characters. It’s possible she’s still alive, but it’s also possible that the bloodied baby carrier was the only way that AMC were comfortable showing her death. I’m going to predict that she’s still alive.
Well that’s it until February!