Hard not to talk about death when it’s surrounded us as much as it has.
I feel like I really shouldn’t have to say this again, but I will, just one more time, so all y’all get it through your (possibly) thick skulls: Beyond this point there be SPOILERS. While I would love to cater to the newcomers, and get you all interested in this be-goddamn-rilliant show, sadly (or fortunately, if you’ve been keeping up with it), far too much has developed in the plot for me to even attempt scuttling around the veritable mine-field of spoilers here, so, even though it pains me, I must kindly ask those of you who have yet to listen to, and be blown away by the Season 2 finale, The Harder They Fall, kindly get the hell out of here.
We good? Alright, then let’s get this review STARTED. We’re Alive, after leaving us all typing big bold WTFs into our computers last July, has finally returned, and somehow quenched my personal thirst for auditory Zombie entertainment, despite answering maybe .01% of the questions I’ve been roaming the forums to try and understand for the past five months, and yet it’s that microcosm of answers that they do provide that make all the difference.
Not to seem like a complete tease, but before I get to talking about where we are now in the story, I feel I must address the climactic fall of the Tower, which is, in my opinion, one of the most emotionally painful tragedies to the show, second only to the infamous ‘Datu in the Arena’ story arc from Season 1 (which I will admit, made me cry like a little bitch).
The Tower’s demise to me seemed rather reminiscent of the destruction of the Prison in the comic series The Walking Dead, though while much of the trauma incited by the comic was due to the absolute massacre of almost all of the main characters, much the trauma provided by We’re Alive is from the fact that, to the fans, the Tower was one of the most essential elements to the show, and from the very first chapter onwards, it had become the lone symbol for hope and rebirth in the hell-on-Earth that is Zombie-infested LA.
The fact that it not only survived for so long, but stood its ground in situations similar to the one that finally brought it crashing to the ground, such as the finale from Season 1, made the Tower seem only that much more impenetrable. And even though in the events leading up to it’s destruction, it had become a forgone conclusion that the gang would be abandoning the Tower eventually, there was no amount of cushioning that could have prepared us for the absolute chaos surrounding the Tower’s fall, and how it would affect the future of the characters themselves.
The story doesn’t waste any time in getting right back to where we’d left off last season though, opening with Saul and Victor just escaping the madness of the Tower’s collapse, only to get caught in a turret-toting truck by one of the Big Ones, which leads to an excellent action, turret-fire, chase sequence, which the show pulls off, like so many of it’s other action scenes, marvelously, the excitement and adrenaline it incited actually causing me to sit straight up in bed, feeling as tense as if I was watching a scene from a great shoot-em-up film.
This was of course, interspersed with some rather (understandably) angry dialogue between the two, foreshadowing a complicated relationship in the coming future of the show. Still, on the other hand, the obvious distaste they each hold for the other is rather reminiscent of the relationship between Angel and Kulani, wherein they faced a situation very much like Saul and Victor, and after surviving together long enough, formed a bond of respect between themselves, though the prospects that Saul and Victor have to consider, however, are far more bleak, a fact that may also effect the strength of their partnership more than anything else.
On the other side of the world (as it may as well be), Michael leads his helicopter of survivors to what could be, for all they know, a big dead end, or their very salvation, along the way scratching the surface of the incredible amount of FUCKED UP the presumed death of their loved ones has cultivated in the group. And while Riley may be the most noticeable offender in this respect (we’ll get to her in a second, just you wait), it’s also important to pay attention to Tanya, who has now just lost her only son once again, and so soon after reuniting with him, as well as Datu, who seems, somehow, even more distressed than his usual distressed self, the combination of the two spelling out a possibly very interesting plotline with Hope, of whom the two both share a very deep, and rather possessive bond (then again his may just be one of those cases where I’m reading far too much into it).
But focusing in more on Riley, it’s impossible now not to imagine an episode coming soon, quite possibly even the very next one, where people will finally call her out on her shit. If you’ve been paying any attention to the show, then you know that all this, the drinking, the smoking, the emotional break-downs, are not some spur of the moment thing, this has been a growing concern for just about everyone close to her for a while now, and as evidenced by the little running away fiasco she just pulled, it’s becoming kind of huge problem.
What makes it all the more painful is the fact that since she was first introduced, guarding Pegs in the flower shop, Riley has always been the tough, level-headed female character of the show, her thick French accent, and expertise in Archery, making her a strong, reliable, and rather alluring addition to the group, both on and off the battlefield. It’s knowing this that makes her deep, deep decline so much harder to watch, and at times, like this last episode, rather frightening, specifically, and this is speaking as someone with a close alcoholic relative, the short, almost unnoticeable little snippet of dialogue between Tanya and Michael, as Tanya tries to keep Riley stable during their second take-off, and asks Michael where exactly Riley got the bottle, to which he replies that she, “Must’ve stowed it away,” a sentence that gave me actual chills in my spine when I heard it.
This really is exceptionally scary when you more thoughtfully consider the level to which this has come in realism, where not only can the group not keep track of her problem anymore, but even the listening audience is unable to, not to mention the fact that her stowing it away before they left means she considered that bottle of alcohol a necessity, ambiguously hinting that this may have been going on for longer than any actually realized.
I’ll admit, I’m a little surprised at how Michael took this new development, especially all the trouble it caused, as this seems like just the kind of thing that he would crack down on, like so many other things in the past, yet instead he seems exceptionally understanding, which in this case, isn’t necessarily a good thing. Then again, Michael is still feeling the effect that the tragedy has had on each and every one of them, and if we are to remember for a second the last time he was so broken down by a compromise to the safety of those around him, then we’ll also remember that when Michael feels deep enough shame, he can lapse into an unsure, and rather dangerous personality, such as the infamous insecurity that lead to Michael at one point relinquishing his title as leader to Burt (which didn’t end well for anybody).
Luckily, Pegs is there, and as their little private conversation confirmed, their relationship is still a very interesting, and continually developing plotline, which is fortunate considering that at this point, the only other two strong romantic relationships in the series have hit (possible) dead ends, and even when they were still going, had far surpassed Michael and Pegs’, which at this point isn’t even really definable.
And now, so nearing the end of the review, I’d just like to discuss the title of the chapter itself, which, after philosophizing over it for a while, I realized fit the content of the chapter exceptionally well. The title, Inadequate Strength, refers to many different aspects of this installment, such as the fight at the beginning, pitting Saul and Victor against the horrifically large Big One, but at a more in-depth level, the title also refers to the new enemy the group must face, which is Survivors Guilt, the horrible feeling of being unable to save everyone, to the point of blaming one’s self, a fight against which Riley seems to be losing.
An excellently done chapter, yet I still must criticize some of the lack-luster, and at times pointless writing (for example, the goddamn dog, how the hell did that get on board, when actual people we're left behind to die? It's like that stupid cat in Alien), which I did try to justify, since in a show as grand and large as We’re Alive, it’s the little details that are most important, yet I can’t give it completely special treatment, and still must penalize it accordingly. An extremely high Dapper to the Season Three opener, I’ll be happy to see where the story will go with Fort Irwin, and what exactly that shot at the end means. Bravo.