The Walking Dead: Season 5, Episode 3–Four Walls and a Roof

“Nightmares end. They shouldn’t end who you are.”

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(SPOILER WARNING!)

Seemingly already sure on its feet three eps into the new season, this week’s Walking Dead was a solid story that advanced the plot nicely while providing some thrills, scares and action. After the pyrotechnic spectacle of the season opener and the more thoughtful tone of last week, this was effectively a low key but tense real-time siege thriller along the lines of Assault on Precinct 13 or Rio Bravo, contained within bookend scenes that continued to explore the theme of where the characters are going, and how far they’ve become removed from the people they used to be.

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Constantine: Season 1, Episode 1 – Non Est Asylum

“Whoever you are, I’m a nasty piece of work – ask anybody.”

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(SPOILER WARNING!)

John Constantine is my favourite comic book character. In a world of idealistic, spandex-clad superheroes fighting for truth, justice and the American way, he stands apart as a voice of realistic cynicism, puncturing all that pomposity with a smile, a smoke, and an unapologetically British sense of snark. In his trademark rumpled trenchcoat, he’s a self-aware poseur whose mask of grey morality hides a very real sense of idealism and justice. Devious, manipulative and rubbish in a fight, he’s a realistic believable human being in fantastic world that sits side by side with a very recognisable United Kingdom (and, sometimes, other countries). A man who uses brain, not brawn to solve problems – and isn’t above getting his hands very, very dirty in the process.

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Doctor Who: Series 8, Episode 10 – In the Forest of the Night

“The forest was in all the stories that kept you awake at night. The forest is mankind’s nightmare.”

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(SPOILER WARNING!)

“A long time ago, when we all lived in the forest and no-one lived anywhere else…”
Much has been made of Doctor Who’s tendency, under the aegis of Steven Moffat, to veer explicitly into fairytale territory. Stories like The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe (also largely set in a forest), overtly recall the sometimes darkly magical tales we’re all told as children. However, In the Forest of the Night is an interesting attempt to not only evoke a traditional fairytale forest, but to analyse and explain the archetype and its place in folklore.

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The Walking Dead: Season 5, Episode 2–Strangers

“People are just as dangerous as the dead, don’t you think?”
“No. People are worse.”

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(SPOILER WARNING!)

After last week’s slam bang season opener, this week’s Walking Dead was, as I expected, a slower-paced affair, allowing the characters room to breathe. After last week’s slate-wiping exercise, it also had to set up a new bunch of ongoing plots, along with a new major character – that’s a lot for an ep2 to do. Not that it was bereft of shocks and horror; having learned from the dreariness of season 2, the show never forgets to chuck in some gruesome Walker action at least once an episode. Sometimes it’s gratuitous, but sometimes, as it was here, it’s actually relevant to the plot.

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Doctor Who: Series 8, Episode 9 – Flatline

“I am the one chance you’ve got of staying alive. That’s who I am.”

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(SPOILER WARNING!)

On writing duties for the second week in a row, Doctor Who newbie Jamie Mathieson is on a roll, producing yet another excellent episode after last week’s Mummy on the Orient Express. Presumably serving as this year’s ‘Doctor-lite’ episode, Flatline boasted an imaginative and scary monster of the week concept, some well-fleshed out guest characters, and most interestingly, thrust Clara into the spotlight as a Doctor-substitute, allowing the script to examine (and gently poke fun at) the Doctor’s usual method of operation.

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The Walking Dead: Season 5, Episode 1–No Sanctuary

“You’re either the butcher – or the cattle.”

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(SPOILER WARNING!)

Hallowe’en being nearly upon us, ‘tis the time of year for a new season of AMC’s The Walking Dead. The last season was frustratingly uneven, with a first half that seemed to pack in all the plot and action and a second half that can best be characterised as aimless wandering around the countryside and sometimes encountering zombies. The first half was thrilling, the second half thoughtful; ideally you want a season (like the one before that) which balances both more evenly.

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Doctor Who: Series 8, Episode 8 – Mummy on the Orient Express

“There’s a monster on this train that can only be seen by people about to die. If you do see it, you only have 66 seconds to live.”

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(SPOILER WARNING!)

Fun fact – the very first horror movie I ever saw was set on a train. 1970’s Horror Express is a chilling tale of a preserved prehistoric monster menacing the passengers of the Trans-Siberian Express (including, inevitably, Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee), in the early years of the 20th century. It’s not the best horror movie ever (and certainly not the most scientifically accurate), but it still works very well due in large part to that setting – a moving railway train on an epic, lengthy journey from which there is no escape when the monster comes for you.

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