Around the Web: Bond, Star Trek franchises endure with new movies, books, series

by G. Robert Frazier

Every day I scour the web for interesting articles about writing, reading, and other fascinating stories. I occasionally share those in this space, just because I’m such a cool guy. Today’s roundup consists of two movie franchises with huge fan bases, and no, I’m not talking about Star Wars. Both are fascinating looks at the past, present, and future of characters that have endured no matter the medium. As a bonus, I’ve included an article about a superhero now appearing on your not-so-small home television screen. Enjoy.

Spectre movie poster (886x1280)There was an interesting article on Variety this week about several Bond films that never made it to the screen, including one from Alfred Hitchcock. The new James Bond movie Spectre hits theaters this weekend and I couldn’t be more excited. Bond was one of my mom’s favorite movie series. Even though she had every Bond movie on DVD, she’d still watch Bond whenever it came on TBS. I’ll be thinking of her when the lights go down and the Bond theme song cues up. I know she’ll be watching with me in spirit. I recently read Casino Royale by Ian Fleming as a way to psych myself up for this new Bond movie, and I have to say I am suitably psyched up.  Here’s a review of Spectre to help get you excited. As Rich Gold pointed out in his 1962 review of Dr. No, “As a screen hero, James Bond is clearly here to stay. He will win no Oscars but a heck of a lot of enthusiastic followers.” There’s even a new Bond novel out there, Trigger Mortis by Anthony Horowitz, that drags Bond firmly into 2015 with a live-in girlfriend, Pussy Galore, and a gay friend. And, finally, a long lost Bond novel, Colonel Sun by Kingsley Ames in 1968, is finally being reprinted as a paperback in January.

In case you might have been sleeping under a rock and haven’t heard, CBS All-Access will showcase an all-new Star Trek series beginning in January 2017. In a bold move, perfectly fitting for a series that goes where no one has ever gone before, the digital on demand subscription platform makes perfect sense. Rather than airing the show on broadcast TV and praying for a particular set of ratings each week, the show will have an opportunity to thrive online instead. The series will be executive produced by Alex Kurtzman and will introduce new characters seeking new worlds and new civilizations, while exploring dramatic contemporary themes. Believe it or not, there’s actually a campaign to cancel the Star Trek series before it begins. The folks behind the campaign apparently fear, and with good reason based on the latest movies, that CBS will only screw up the franchise even further. I’m excited to hear about the new series and am hopeful of the new stories yet to be told. Let’s boldly go forward. The exciting news for writers, meanwhile, is the return of Star Trek’s Strange New Worlds writing contest. I’m hoping to enter, but so far I’m drawing a blank on what, or rather, whose story to write.

supergirl-01

Is anyone watching the new Supergirl TV series? It’s clearly targeted towards teens and young adults, but as a comic book fanboy I’ve watched the first two episodes and will likely watch more. The special effects are a little on the cheesy side, but so far the story has been entertaining. I do hope she doesn’t have to keep contending with former Krypton criminals and Phantom Zone menaces, however. Let’s explore something other than the usual, huh? For those of you wanting to know about Superman’s cousin, bamsmackpow.com has put together A Beginner’s Guide to Supergirl. Check it out.

Superheroes on the small screen are all the rage right now. Gotham, which tells the story of Gotham City Police Detective Jim Gordon and a young, pre-Batman Bruce Wayne, has really ramped up the action and intensity this season. The Flash and Arrow are both going strong over at The CW, and NBC has rebooted Heroes Reborn. I’m even enjoying iZombie.

Review: Neil Patrick Harris’ autobiography a hilarious diversion

by G. Robert Frazier

Choose Your Own Autobiography by Neil Patrick Harris (Three Rivers Press, $16) was a fun little diversion from the usual high-octane thrillers and hard-boiled detective novels I like to read. Every once in a while you need something a bit more light-hearted to sort of decompress. This fit that bill nicely.

Choose Your Own AutobiographyTypically I wouldn’t bother with anything about Neil Patrick Harris, let alone an autobiography. Don’t get me wrong. I think he’s a talented actor and he’s certainly making a name for himself following his post-Doogie Howser M.D. fame. But I was never a big fan of Doogie and … wait for It … I never got into How I Met Your Mother either. The best thing he’s been in of late was Gone Girl, and maybe I only liked it because (SPOILER ALERT!) he got killed in the most grisly fashion. (What’s that say about me?)

Bottom line, I don’t really regard him as someone I need to know about in great detail. At least not at this point. Maybe after he is elected president someday … maybe.

But at this point, I’m more than content with a short article in Entertainment Weekly or Variety about him than reading an entire book about his life. I think part of that is he’s still so young and he just hasn’t done enough yet to pique my curiosity further.

I think, somehow, Harris knows this about himself too. It explains why his autobiography is really nothing more than a series of snippets or vignettes from his life collected together as a sort of best of moments. Almost like they are funny stories he’d tell if he were a guest on a late night talk show or as if they were brief flashes of memories from his life. (And isn’t that the way all memories are anyway? I mean, who really remembers their life in a linear timeline?)

There’s no real narrative or arc binding the vignettes together, so to make things even more interesting, Harris allows the reader to pick which vignette to read next by offering a choice at the bottom of each. The idea is brilliant in that regard and immediately makes for a more engrossing and interactive reading experience.  It also allows you to read the book in spurts, without having to keep track of an over-arching theme. If you want to read something else in between chapters, so be it. No harm done, because every entry is self-contained.

To keep you on your toes, he throws in some hilarious “what if” scenarios that usually end badly for him.

Admittedly, several of the more truthful vignettes were also amusing diversions and fascinatingly good reads. Some more so than others.  Depending on how you choose you can actually get to THE END in no time flat, which is what I did. I reached the “final page” so quickly that I actually found myself going back to other chapters I knew I hadn’t read yet to see what I’d missed.

If anything else, the book makes you wonder “what if” your own life diverged in different ways. What adventure would you rather choose if you could?

Note: I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for this review.

Related reading:

7 Things How I Met Your Mother Can Teach About Writing

WIP Update: Webisode, spec script see progress; NaNoWriMo on tap

by G. Robert Frazier

It’s Saturday, and it’s late, but I just realized I did not post an update on my works in progress Wednesday. It’s an idea borrowed (nay, stolen) from another blogger. The purpose being to help hold myself accountable for how I spend my time and as inspiration to actually get something written.

The good news is I did actually get some writing done. Not as much as I would like, mind you, but progress nonetheless. For starters, I churned out a one-page intro to a web series I’m writing. The intro piece, or title sequence, will precede all of the webisodes. I followed that up by writing a seven-page first draft script for the first episode. I can’t tell you what the webisode will be about at this point, other than to say that it will be fun. I can also probably share the title of the first webisode: “Pizza and the Pomeranian.”

It is a first draft at this point. Might be a bit too long for a webisode at seven pages, or roughly seven minutes if one page equals one minute of screen time. So there may be some trimming in order before all is said and done. But it is a start. As the webisodes will all be fairly short, I hope to churn out a couple more of these this week.

Speaking of scripts, I plan to spend the day Sunday tweaking and making some minor revisions to the feature spec script I wrote with my brother. We’ve made a number of notes since finishing the initial draft of the script and now it’s time to incorporate those notes into the script as needed. I’ll then print the script out again in full to read more intently. Then, it will be back to the computer to make additional changes. Ah, the joys of rewriting!

I’ve also got another script in its infant stage. I have an idea and a broad outline, which I shared with my fellow writers at a recent Tennessee Screenwriters Association meeting. They noted a few holes and areas in which to concentrate to make it a more viable script. But perhaps most encouraging was our fearless leader’s words that my idea was timely and has loads of potential! This past week I did some additional research for it by, get this, watching and re-watching an episode of Nancy Grace. Now tell me that doesn’t pique your curiosity.

As if that’s not enough to keep me busy, I also had another idea brainstorm for a possible spec TV pilot/series. I did some preliminary online research. And, I reached out to someone I know from my previous journalism career. He supplied me with some initial information on my subject and expressed a willingness to talk further on the subject. He also gave me the name of another possible resource. So, I am extremely excited for this series as well.

Next month is another matter, as I plan to finish my novel as part of National Novel Writing Month. I’ve already vomited out the first 30,000 words or so and hope to finish the novel by the end of November. One thing I may do this week is reread and tweak the first couple of pages. I have an opportunity to present those pages to an agent/editor roundtable at the Killer Nashville writers conference next week, so I want to make them shine.

I also have my sights set on submitting items to a couple of short story contests in the next couple of weeks. But more on that another time.

Obviously I have a full plate. But after several weeks of stagnation and a lack of motivation, I couldn’t be happier. Stay tuned for more Adventures in Writing…

Review: Fourth Doctor romps in wild, fun adventure of The Drosten’s Curse

Thanks to the proliferation of Doctor Who novels on the market, old school fans of early doctors like Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker, and Peter Davison are still able to revel in new adventures. The Drosten’s Curse by A.L. Kennedy (Broadway Books, $9.99) captures the zany fun of Tom Baker’s Doctor to perfection.

the Drosten's CurseBaker’s Doctor—he of the floppy fedora, multi-colored be-careful-you-don’t-trip-over-it scarf, and long overcoat whose pockets are stuffed with jelly babies—is often regarded by legions of fans as the best Doctor for his fun, over-the-top adventures. And with The Drosten’s Curse, Kennedy takes readers back to that sense of fun and adventure. The end result is a novel that plays like a four-part Baker episode in your mind.

The adventure begins when golfers at a country club start disappearing, thanks to an unseen beasty that has made its home under the greens and the sandpits. It doesn’t take long before The Doctor, who is attracted to unusual events, happens upon the scene. Along with new companions Byrony Mailer, the golf spa’s junior receptionist, and Putta Pattershaun 5, a rather inept bounty hunter, the Doctor is promptly sucked into the madcap melee besetting the club and surrounding town of Arbroath.

Unlike the more commonplace Daleks, Cybermen, and Sontarans in the Who rogue’s gallery, the beasty responsible for the Doctor’s latest woes is a more difficult to define entity. Eventually exposed as a Bah-Sokhar, the creature thrives on the emotions of its victims, especially fear, hate, and depression. Even the Doctor and his companions are lost, their minds hopelessly adrift in negative emotions when the Bah-Sokhar sucks them into its psychological maelstrom.

The Doctor ultimately recognizes things for what they are and rebounds in his usual hyperactive way, babbling nonstop to anyone who will listen—in particular Byrony, who plays a key role in helping aid in the Doctor’s escape from the Bah-Sokhar’s clutches. Putta, meanwhile, provides the comic relief as he stumbles and trips into one misadventure after another while trying to avoid the Bah-Sokhar’s minions, a pair of spooky twins and a twisted grandma who owns the golf course.

The adventure soars from outright humor to startling peril, and Kennedy’s writing style perfectly captures the chaotic action of any Tom Baker Who episode.

Note: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

G. Robert Frazier’s Best of List

With the Grammys behind us and the Oscars ahead, I thought I’d present my own Best of… roundup as well. Consider this, though, more of a people’s choice awards list. I haven’t seen all the Oscar contenders so I can’t rate the high-brow emotional stuff, and I’m not into pop music, so this is just me, the common man, listing my own personal faves. I’ll include a few “worst of’s” as well. Kudos to all the writers who collectively entertained me in 2014 with their originality, wit and fun stories on screens big and small.

Movies:

BEST: Guardians of the Galaxy

While it was a bit goofy at times, especially with Star-Lord’s “dance off” toward the end, I found this movie to be refreshingly fun and entertaining. The characters were unique, the action was top-notch, and the film never got bogged down in the weighty seriousness of other super-hero movies.

RUNNER-UP: The Lego Movie

A kid’s movie? Maybe. But it was just so hilarious and that tune, well, it was awesome. Face it, everything was awesome. Batman and Green Lantern and Superman were awesome. Did I mention this was awesome?

SLEEPER OF THE YEAR: John Wick

Keanu Reeves picked a perfect flick to make his return in a big way. This movie was intense, action-packed, and just plain fun to watch. Of course, the studios are going to try to repeat their success with a sequel. Sigh.

WORST: A Million Ways to Die in the West

This movie was just a flat-out miss. The story was practically non-existent, the jokes – if you can call them that – were bombs, and the acting just tired. Comedies are hard. Maybe one of the most difficult forms of movies to pull off. But this one missed on so many levels.

TV:

BEST: Fargo

How do you take a great movie like Fargo and translate it to the small screen? Like this. This series was so quirky and enjoyable. The performances were first rate and it was full of surprises. No formulaic tv drama here.

RUNNER-UP: The Walking Dead

Some people didn’t like the direction this series took in 2014 with its episodes that singled out individuals or small groups rather than including the whole ensemble, or more specifically, Rick Grimes. I thought it was a great change of pace from the prison/governor episodes and allowed us to get to know each character a bit better. It did seem at times that the storyline sort of forgot people, such as when Beth went missing, but as evidenced by the current season, the writers have atoned for that quite well.

SURPRISE: Last Comic Standing

I don’t really like stand-up comics, but this competition series provided quick laughs when I needed it most.

WORST: Z-Nation

A SyFy Walking Dead ripoff of the worst variety. I think I managed to watch about ten minutes before deleting it from my viewing que forever.

SECOND WORST: Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD

Boring. That’s the only way I can describe what should have been an exciting, action-packed series. This is how you take a Marvel franchise and dumb it down for TV. Ugh.

Books

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Concerts

Best: KISS

Forty years and still the best band in the world, KISS! Def Leppard came along for the ride, but just proved that no one can open for KISS.

Surprise: Arcade Fire

They may not be a surprise to those who were already fans, but their act/songs took me by storm in 2014. I got to see them live in Nashville and that only cemented the deal. My favorite best new group, even if I did discover them a bit late.

Social media:

TWITTER

More and more I find myself turning to social media, particularly Twitter, for quick news. By just scrolling through tweets, I can get a quick assessment of what is the hot topic of the day and what everyone is talking about. Makes me wonder, if no one is tweeting about it, is it really happening?

What were your favorite TV, movies and books of 2014? I’d love to hear your thoughts and recommendations. Just comment in the box below. 

PS…I follow back.

Review: Sleepy Hollow novel fills void until new season starts

Besides The Walking Dead, there’s one show I’m looking forward to more this season than any other: Fox’s Sleepy Hollow.

The first season, in which Colonial soldier Ichabod Crane finds himself thrust into the present to do battle with the Headless Horseman and other no-goodniks, was both smartly written and refreshingly fun entertainment.

Sleepy Hollow coverSo, I was more than excited to recently receive a copy of Keith R.A. DeCandido’s new paperback original set in the Sleepy Hollow universe, Children of the Revolution. The novel was the perfect thing to tide me over while waiting out the summer doldrums and the start of the new tv season next week.

Fortunately, DeCandido does a great job of capturing the essence of Crane’s character and his cast of supporting characters, while weaving an exciting tale about a coven of witches seeking to resurrect their long dead leader, Serilda. I won’t say much more about the plot to keep from spoiling the story, but suffice to say there is plenty of action, gore, scares, and humor that comes from being a soldier out of time while fighting supernatural bad guys.

As with the tv show, the book blends historical fact and fiction to perfection. The afterword includes a fascinating historian’s note about all the facts and not-so-facts that make up the adventure.

Capturing the essence of a tv show in a novel isn’t easy, but readers of many a TV tie-in have come to expect no less from the author. DeCandido, according to the book’s author page, has made a living by scribing adventures in others’ universes, from Firefly to Star trek, from Stargate to Leverage, and more. He was even awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by the International Association of Media Tie-in Writers (who even knew there was such a thing?).

Children of the Revolution fits seamlessly between the first-season Sleepy Hollow episodes “The Golem” and “The Vessel.” The 283-page novel unfolds at a breakneck pace and I could easily envision it unfolding on the tv screen like any other episode.

Of course, the inherent drawback to writing in anyone else’s universe is that you know gong in not much is going to change for the characters. The author can only take these characters so far, lest he infringe on what’s unfolding on the screen. Even so, DeCandido makes it a fun read in any case.

Note: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Writers: You don’t have to do this … but you probably should

It’s a simple enough line of dialogue: “You don’t have to do this.”

But it’s also one of the most common and, perhaps, overused lines of dialogue in today’s movies and TV shows as well. Listen for it, and you will hear it uttered more often than not.

The line exists for one reason only: It represents a decision point.

The main character has one last opportunity to consider his or her course of action. Do they take on the bad guy even though it puts them, their family, their career, etc., at risk? Do they choose the action even if it goes against every moral fiber of their being?

Of course, the character faced with the choice always does move ahead. If not, the movie or TV episode would fizzle on the spot. The goal would go unfulfilled, the viewer would leave unhappy.

It’s unfortunate, however, that so many screenplays telegraph this choice in such a way. It’s not very original in terms of writing, and it sounds cliched. But there it is, time and time again. It’s clearly an audible cue to the viewers that this is an important decision to be made. It is a moment that everything in the film has been building towards. In other words, the big payoff is at hand.

I’m not sure if this line of dialogue has its own chapter in the many how-to screenplay books out there, but it should. Your story, your screenplay, is nothing without it.

 

 

I watch too much TV

I watch too much TV. Who doesn’t in this new golden age of television?

As soon as one television series reaches its end, another takes its place. And I’m right there taking it in.

First and foremost, I watch for my enjoyment. There’s nothing like a heart-pounding, edge-of-your-seat, dying-to-see-what-happens-next episode like The Walking Dead, for instance.

As a writer, I also watch to see what other writers are writing. I study their techniques, from how they develop their characters to the structure of the show itself. I’m fascinated to see how television creators are continuing to push the envelope.

Unlike some networks, I’m also willing to give many shows a good tryout period. I’ll watch several episodes to see how the series is developing. Sometimes I should probably follow the lead of the networks and nix shows a bit sooner. Sometimes the networks don’t give me that option and yank a series I like out from under me, like A&E did with Those Who Kill.

I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to nix watching Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD this season, but I stuck with it and watched the entire season. A comic book lover, I felt a loyalty of sorts to the show and wanted it desperately to succeed. It did get better as the season progressed, thanks to the infusion of the Hydra storyline from the new Captain America movie. I’m actually looking forward to the season finale tonight.

With the sheer number of new shows on the air, I usually can find something to watch. And thanks to my DirecTV DVR, I’ve got whole seasons of other shows waiting in my que to be watched when time permits.

Following is a recap of the 2013-14 TV season as I viewed it (listed by day). You’ll note that I am very action/suspense-oriented. Comedies (with a couple of exceptions) and reality TV programs don’t make my cut.

Sundays:

The Walking Dead – Hands down this was the best show on television this year. The Governor’s raid on the prison complex was both exciting and integral to pushing the show on its new course over the second half of the year. Some people have complained the second-half episodes were too slow-paced and they didn’t like that only a few characters were being spotlighted. But I appreciated the character-rich stories and the renewed suspense of having to deal with zombies out in the open.

Mob City – This series was interesting but too short to do much for me. Looking forward to an expanded season next year.

Turn – I’ve only watched a couple of episodes so far and have several waiting to be watched on my DVR. It’s so-so so far, but I’m a bit of a history buff so I’m anxious to see more of this story unfold. It’s also refreshing to see a period piece instead of the same-old, same-old cop drama.

Crisis – I nixed this show after five episodes. It had an enticing premise, the kidnap of the president’s son and other kids from influential families, and what the parents would do to attain their safe release. But I found I didn’t really care for any of the characters, including the FBI agents. The series just seems flat to me.

Cosmos – I watched a few episodes of this real science series, mostly due to my brother’s infatuation with science and space. But when even he decided the show was boring, it got nixed from the playlist.

Mondays:

WWE Raw – My one guilty pleasure. The wrestling can get a little old at times, but it was fun watching Daniel Bryan capture the title this year. The Wyatt Family was also a cool addition to the locker room lineup.

Hostages – I watched this series all the way through, perhaps because I knew it was a finite series. That is, it was only supposed to last 13 episodes. It was interesting at the outset, but became muddled in the middle and the ending wasn’t as exciting as it should have been. I don’t like the way Toni Collette constantly shifts her eyes off screen and is always opening her mouth in shock. Her acting just seems a bit exaggerated and I think that killed my ability to care for her character.

Sleepy Hollow – This was a great surprise. I initially wasn’t even going to watch it because I felt like I already knew the story of Ichabod Crane. I’m glad I tuned in, however. The TV show took a number of unexpected twists and turns. I also liked the fact that it had a limited run of episodes. With fewer episodes, the writers have to make each episode really count. So, I’m a bit dismayed that it will get 18 episodes in season two. I hope it doesn’t kill the momentum the first season started.

Dallas – An old favorite. Without JR, I was afraid the show might start to founder. But, happily, I’m enjoying every underhanded moment of it. Just like the good old days.

Bates Motel – This season was a bit better than last, but still had ups and downs. It’s easily a binge-worthy show at just 10 episodes. But I still want to see more of Norman going bonkers. I don’t think the writers have really reached their peak on this series yet. This is one series that could benefit from more episodes, I think. Or at least two half-seasons of eight episodes each.

Intelligence – I watched the entire run of this series, and I enjoyed it for the most part. It wasn’t spectacular by any means, but I did like the characters. It was good to see John Billingsley (good old Dr. Phlox from Star Trek: Enterprise) on TV again.

Those Who Kill – This A&E drama was undeservedly short-lived. I thought the two episodes that aired were incredibly moody and loved the character development. I was anxiously looking forward to more when it was yanked for poor ratings. I only just found out the rest of the series moved to Lifetime. I’m hoping I can find the episodes on demand or otherwise will watch them online.

The Following – I missed the first season and tried watching the second. But somehow I just couldn’t get into the characters or storyline. There was plenty of action and violence, to be sure, and it looks promising. But I think I need to watch it from the beginning to really enjoy it. I’ll either have to buy it on DVD or find it on Netflix.

The Black List – This is an intriguing show, but also has been quite frustrating at times. The action is top-notch, but I don’t like Megan Boone’s character (she seems too flaky and weak to be a lead) and, while I liked James Spader in Boston Legal, I can’t stand his tilted-bobblehead-lick-his-lips routine in this series. Does that bother anyone else?

Tuesdays:

Supernatural – Loved this show several seasons ago, but I’m woefully behind on my viewing. I’ve got more than two and a half seasons of episodes to catch up on. I’m actually surprised it’s still on the air after all this time.

The Tomorrow People – Gonged this series after one episode. I just have had enough of the whole people with strange new powers stuff.

Justified – Great dialogue in this series, but it’s so slow moving sometimes. I just want to scream at Raylan Givens sometimes and make him shoot somebody instead of talking everyone to death. I’m happy to hear that he’ll finally go after Boyd in the final season next year.

Fargo – Like the movie, this show is simply brilliant. Billy Bob Thornton and Martin Freeman (Bilbo Baggins) are a joy to watch. Aw geez!

American Horror Story – See my post elsewhere on this blogsite on this series.

Wednesdays:

Arrow – Like Supernatural, this one is just sitting in my DVR waiting to be watched. Guess I’ll have to catch up this summer, since The CW is going to add Flash to its lineup as well.

The Americans – For all the hype around this show, I don’t think it’s really living up to its potential. It can be extremely boring at times. But it’s intriguing at times, too. So I’m still watching.

Chicago PD – Best new cop show on TV. I was almost turned off by the violence in the pilot episode, but I’m glad I kept watching. This is a gritty, in your face cop team taking on the bad guys and I like it.

Thursdays:

The Big Bang Theory – Who doesn’t like these geeks?

Vikings – Another series waiting in the wings on my DVR.

Fridays:

Hawaii Five-O – I’ve decided this is the last season of this show I will watch. I probably should have nixed it a long time ago. This season has been bland, especially with Dano and Kono taking long absences. Chi McBride was a welcome addition to the series, though.

Dracula – Horror buff that I am, I actually liked this series. It was stylish and surprising. I thought Jonathan Rhys Meyers made a great Dracula. Sadly, it won’t be returning for a second season.

Hannibal – Another series in the DVR que to be watched when time permits.

Saturdays:

Doctor Who – Sad to see Matt Smith giving way to Peter Capaldi, but in the Doctor’s universe, change is good. The highlight of the season was the 50th anniversary special The Day of the Doctor.

Addendum:

Somewhere on this list I should also note Breaking Bad. I was a late-comer to this series and I’ve only managed to watch the last eight episodes of the season so far. I’ve got ‘em all on DVD, but just haven’t gotten around to them yet.

 

The burning question ‘Dead’ writers haven’t answered

Before the much-anticipated season finale of The Walking Dead airs this Sunday, I have to get one thing off my chest. It’s a story hole that the writers of the show have so far let slip by them.

In a season of episodes that have been as poignant as they have been shocking, it’s hard to knock the writers at all. But here goes…

What caused the outbreak of the walking dead?

Fans know that show newcomer Dr. Eugene Porter (played by Josh McDermitt) professes to know what caused the plague of zombies and, what’s more, how to stop it. And it’s the job of Abraham Ford (played by Michael Cudlitz) to get him to Washington, D.C., presumably to put his answers to work.

After enduring the prison episodes during the first half of this season, Ford and Porter’s arrival on the show was a welcome change of pace – and exciting. Finally, more than three seasons in, someone is asking “what’s going on” and “can we stop it?”

Sadly, however, the pair instead follows Glenn on his mission to find Maggie and the answer – or at least the quest to find answers – is put on the backburner. What’s more, neither Glenn nor his latest traveling companion, Tara, seem remotely interested in the answers. At no point do they take the bait and ask, “What caused this?”

Even after Glenn is reunited with Maggie and the others, the question remains not only unanswered, but unasked.

Maybe it’s the old journalist in me, but I’m dying to know the answer. If someone told me they know the answer, wouldn’t you at least ask? What else is there to talk about in this apocalyptic landscape anyway?

OK, maybe the conversation took place off screen. It’s not like the viewer is with these characters all the time. But still, it seems like an important enough conversation to have and one that should be held on screen.

Of course, it’s possible that Eugene may be full of it. Maybe he doesn’t have the answers. Maybe he’s just saying he does so that he can get the protection of Ford and the rest of the group. I haven’t read the comics – I don’t want them to spoil this wonderful TV show in any way – but someone should step up and ask. Here’s hoping that someone asks some tough questions in Sunday’s season finale, even if we have to wait ’til October to get the answers.

Addendum (post-season finale):

OK, no answers and no question asked in the season finale either. But who cares? Episode “A” was just too damn intense as it is. I’m happy to wait a few more months…I trust the writers will take us there. Season 4B my favorite season so far!