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TV That Matters: The Walking Dead, How I Met Your Mother, Homeland

By: Matt ErnColumnist

The Walking Dead- “When the Dead...” Grade: B This episode was a mixed bag for me. It did fine setting up the action for next week’s mid-season finale, with Rick storming Woodbury to rescue Glenn and Maggie, and the Governor sending a team to scout out the prison. On the other hand, I was a little disappointed with the extent to which the Governor interrogated his hostages. After spending all season teasing out and hinting at the darker aspects of his personality, I thought this would be the time to have him let loose and show his teeth. His forcing Maggie to strip was upsetting, but Merle does most of the torturing. We knew that Merle would be capable of torture, and he’s got a grudge to settle against Glenn, but I was hoping for more from the Governor this week. The prison stuff, all worked well. It’s good to see the group of survivors finally teaming up with Michonne. I’m awaiting next week when they enter Woodbury and Daryl and Rick meet up with Merle again. The episode’s other story was more interesting in theory than in practice. Andrea helps Milton with an experiment to see if the dead retain any trace of their personalities when they turn and come back as zombies. Milton has been conditioning an old, dying man in Woodbury to answer questions about his life while listening to a specific song that he will then play as he asks the reanimating body the same questions. Andrea is there to kill the zombie should the experiment go wrong. Unlike Milton she’s seen what it’s like when someone turns and knows the test will ultimately be in vain. “When the Dead Come Knocking” has all the trappings of a really good episode that somehow left me feeling a little hollow. Hopefully next week’s finale will live up to my expectations and offer a decent end, at least until the spring.

HIMYM - “Twelve...” Grade: B- “How I Met Your Mother” is a show that’s really showing its age. I mean that in the nicest way possible. I love the show. But more often than not, the show trades broad silliness for actual, realistic plot. The Barney/Robin stuff was pretty emotional at first, but the show has taken most of the wind out of those sails by explicitly telling us that they end up together. So watching them go back and forth for seasons has dulled whatever nice payoff might have come from their conversation at the end. There’s no emotional stake in Barney backing off (although we all know it’s only temporary). This is an episode about Marshal. More specifically, it’s an episode about a completely fantastical trial in which the other lawyer resorts to dropping pens in front of the female jury and playing a video he shot and edited of himself topless DJ-ing. I would forgive some of the more broad comedy if I thought it was particularly funny, but in this case it really didn’t work for me. The ending was interesting, but only mildly. Marshal has resolved to try and become a judge, an interesting development for his character; but we’re told that the story will probably take “months” to reach its conclusion and I don’t know if I’ll really care by the end of the season when we inevitably find out. Also, the Ted/Barney/Robin plot about competing to see who was the bigger badass as a teenager barely constitutes a storyline. It gets only a little screen time and is pretty easy to predict from start to finish. The only thing keeping me from grading this episode in the C range is the fact that Lily’s teenage-badass flashback is a homage to “The Wire” so really the whole episode can’t be a waste if I get to see neighborhood children run away whispering “Lily comin’.”

Homeland- “Two Hats” Grade: B+ It wouldn’t be “Homeland” if the show didn’t throw a few major plot twists into this week’s episode. Unlike last season’s more organic twists, some of these felt like they came out of nowhere. Following up Brody’s abduction last week, he regroups with Carrie and the rest of the CIA team to reveal that he was taken to meet Abu Nazir, here on American soil to orchestrate a bombing at a homecoming for several hundred soldiers. The plan hinges on getting Roya to the event, so Brody’s job is to convince Walden that she should be the lone reporter allowed to cover it. While the CIA prepares to strike against Nazir and take out his terrorists before they can hit the homecoming, Saul and Virgil begin investigating Quinn. After turning up some evidence in Quinn’s apartment, Max tails him onto a bus where he has a meeting with a man Saul recognizes to have been in charge of top-secret operations in the past. During the sting at the end of the episode, Estes is shown to be in cahoots with Quinn, who is sent to kill Brody once Nazir is captured. But the team isn’t able to get Nazir and Estes calls off the hit. Quinn’s status as a black-ops specialist is certainly a game changer, as is the plot to kill Brody once he outlives his usefulness. But as far as I can remember, there haven’t been many hints dropped in the past that might indicate Quinn was anything other than the CIA analyst he’s presented himself as. The twists last season all made sense within the context of the plot. While I’m not opposed to Quinn being called on to kill Brody, it does seem like it came out of nowhere for the sake of surprising the audience. Hopefully the remaining episodes reveal a little more of Quinn’s origins and shed light on his motives.

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Paul Baribeau at Fat Heart House