Tuesday, August 23, 2016

TV Review: The Tick (Pilot)

Rating: 3 ½ out of 5 Stars

Bottom Link: Amazon's Tick Reboot Has a Darker Tone Then the 2001 Series But Shows Some Promise

Amazon has made available (at this link) the pilot of their reboot of The Tick so that viewers can watch it and vote on whether they want it to continuing as an ongoing series on the streaming service. The Tick originated in comics as a superhero parody created by Ben Edlund back in the 1980’s and then showed up his own acclaimed animated series in the early 1990’s. In 2001, a much-beloved live action series bowed with Patrick Warburton starring in the title role (which was tailor made for him), but that was cancelled after only nine episodes were produced. Warburton, along with Edlund, spent several years trying to revive the series or trying to get it to move to the big screen and that eventually led to Amazon greenlighting a pilot for a reboot. Sadly, Warburton had to bow out from the starring role due to other commitments, but remained onboard in an executive producer capacity.

The new Tick series takes a very different approach from the previous live action version as well as the animated series and comics. This one has much less of the gleeful insanity of the 2001 series and Peter Serafinowicz gives a more muted performance as the Tick, though he does appear to be channeling Warburton at times. And the pilot focuses more on Arthur, the Tick’s side-kick / partner, with a darker, grittier feel. It appears to be taking the tragicomic route, a la Tim Burton, with Arthur as the quintessential flawed Burton-esque character, and director Wally Pfister (long-time cinematographer for Christopher Nolan) holds it together pretty well for the first thirty minutes. Whether this approach would work for an ongoing series, and whether existing fans of the character will drink the kool-aid of this very different tone remains to be seen. It also appears that the pilot is setting up the series to take the serialized route, which I don’t believe is ideal for The Tick, but perhaps they can make it work.

I enjoyed the pilot well enough that I would like to see more episodes, and I gave it the thumbs up in the voting process. It doesn’t quite satisfy my jones for more of the Patrick Warburton Tick, but with him not in the lead role anymore maybe they decided a different direction was the best plan (note that the majority of the creative team from the 2001 series is still onboard for the reboot). This one might be somewhat of a slowburn, but I believe it deserves a chance. Go check it out at this link, and cast your vote. This time we are the ones who get to decide what shows should be airing (on Amazon at least), so be sure to participate while the opportunity is there.

From Amazon.com:

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Babylon 5 Re-Watch: Episodes 1 - 4 Have the Show Off to a Slow but Decent Start

The Babylon 5 re-watch is on!  These are my thoughts on the episodes as I work my way through the full five seasons (plus the movies).

S1 Ep 1: "Midnight on the Firing Line"

In this episode, the Narn launch an unprovoked attacked on a Centauri colony to reclaim a system they claim was once part of their empire.  You can read the full synopsis at this link.

This episode offers a much better launching point into the grander story that the show will tell.  Less concerned with the exposition that pilot had to muddle through (more on that at this link), it gets to jump right into the thick of things and start demonstrating the tensions between the major races.  The Narn attack will have a significant impact on latter events and we really start to understand the hatred between the Narn and the Centuari in this episode.  We also get a notable glimpse of the Centauri as an empire in decline, which has much significance to the developing story.  Plus, this establishes Mollari’s personal connection to these events with his nephew on Ragesh 3 as well as his vision of his future demise.  Note also that G’Kar is set up in more of the villain role early on and we are much more sympathetic to Mollari at this point.

Apart from the main conflict, this episode establishes Ivanova’s antipathy toward the Psi-Corp and also adds other small touches like the Earth Alliance election and Garibaldi’s love of Daffy Duck (his second favorite thing in the universe).  All around, it is a heck of a good start for the first season proper and gets the story rolling, even if that does not become apparent for another year.

Essential Viewing? Yes.  A must see episode that sets things in motion important to the overall story arc.

S1 Ep 2: "Soul Hunter"

One of the nefarious race of Soul Hunters comes aboard Babylon 5 seeking to collect the soul at the time of death of one of the important figures on the station.  You can read the full synopsis at this link.

This is mostly a stand-alone episode, but a decent one at that.  It builds further on the Babylon 5 universe and it also hints at the importance of Delenn to her people.  We also see more hints of Sinclair’s importance to the Minbarri which will play a pivotal role later in the show.  The Soul Hunters themselves are not that important as a race, though they do show up again in the in the 1998 TV movie Babylon 5: The River of Souls (which itself is mostly a stand-alone story).  Overall, this gives us a decent episode that moves the world-building forward a bit more.

Essential Viewing? No. But still worth a look.

S1 Ep 3: "Born to the Purple"

Mollari pursues a new love interest, a Centauri dancer named Adira, but his infatuation with her could prove disastrous to his career.  You can read the full synopsis at this link.

This is a Londo-centric episode which is a good thing because he is one of the strongest characters of the series.  It shows us that he is more than just the blusterous politician that we see on the surface and we continue sympathize with him as a person.  His affection for Adiri leads to a major turning point later in the series, but also gives us some important character development.  The show continues to flesh out the other characters as well, even if only through quick glimpses.  The Garibaldi / Ivanova side story is not a major plot point, but it successfully gives a better window into both of those characters.  A good episode that continues to move things along.

Essential Viewing? Not necessarily.  Londo’s affection for Adira is re-established later, but if you have seen this episode it makes later events all the more poignant.

S1 Ep 4: "Infection"

In this episode, a former colleague of Stephen’s shows up with alien technology that ends up proving a threat to the ship.  You can read the full synopsis at this link.

This is one of the padding episodes from Season 1 as it is mostly a stand-alone story the drags up the old sci fi trope of a doomsday weapon that gets out of control.  It does a decent enough job with that well-worn idea, but it doesn’t add too much that is original.   I like the idea it introduces about corporations raiding dead worlds looking for technology they can exploit.  Sci fi TV had not really addressed the idea of corporations as a significant presence in the future (with the exception of 1987’s Max Headroom), and B5 does get some mileage from that throughout the series.  We also get some more indications that the Earth Alliance is far from an ideal government plus some more character embellishment for the main human players.  But this does little to move forward the over-all arc.  With twenty-two episodes per season, that’s to be expected, and this wasn’t a particularly bad tale.  It’s just mostly dispensable.

Essential Viewing? No. Mostly padding with little significance to the main story.

General Thoughts:  The series is off to a decent start with one essential episode among these four and three moderate to good episodes (but no clunkers).  The show does feel somewhat derivative at this early point in the game, though definitely not a retread.  The dialogue is very stilted as that was not a strong point for J. Michael Straczynski at this point in his career.  This is particularly cringe-worthy in the interstitial scenes when attempts at banter or humor are worked in with the human characters (the aliens always do a much better job with this).  But you can see where the show was already demonstrating promise, and looking back you can also see how much story and character building is worked into each episode, even if it is only small bits here and there.  At this point, I am definitely pumped to continue with the re-watch because I know that the show is only going to continue to get better.

Buy Babylon 5 Season 1 on DVD from Amazon.com:

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Audiobook Review: Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

Book Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Audiobook Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars (Highest Rating)

Bottom Line: This book delivers an imaginative and engaging urban fantasy tale kicked up to the next level by Gaiman’s narration.

This story originated as a six-part television series that aired on BBC in 1996 and Gaiman later adapted it to a novel form which followed the series pretty closely and also expanded on the story in some parts.  It involves a man name Richard Mayhew--an average, up-and-coming, middle-class British chap--who finds himself dragged into the mysterious world of “London Below”.  That is a setting, mostly beneath the streets of “London Above”, where people who have “slipped through the cracks” live in a semi-Medieval, feudal-like existence.  Mayhew joins up with a girl named Door, who can open any door or lock, and a man known as the Marquis de Carabas, who procures favors from those who he encounters, and finds himself reluctantly pulled into a battle with a fallen angel.

I first encountered the television series version of this story when I ordered the DVDs during my early days with Netflix (long before they had grown into the streaming juggernaut they are now).  As with any British sci fi / fantasy TV series, it had plenty of budget challenges, but I still found myself fascinated with it.  The premise and story itself seemed a bit odd (seemingly romanticizing the homeless as mystical and magical characters), but I was drawn into it mostly on the standout performances of Patterson Joseph as the Marquis and Hywel Bennett and Clive Russell as the nefarious Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar.  The characters throughout the story are what stood out the most to me, with those three leaving the strongest impression.  Richard Mayhew basically gives us this tale’s version of Arthur Dent and ends up being one of the weakest from the show (future Doctor Peter Capaldi has a nice turn, though, as the Angel Islington).

Since I had fond memories of the series, I decided to listen to the novelization which Gaiman wrote after the TV series had aired.  I found myself immediately pulled into the story once again, and actually I found that I liked it even better than the TV version.  Gaiman’s masterful prose brings the setting to life much better than the limited TV budget could (he added back many things that the BBC cut from the original script) and his world-building delivers a fully fleshed out universe with a ton of potential (though unfortunately he has only done one more story in this world so far: “How the Marquis Got His Coat Back”).  The romanticizing of the downtrodden people of the city does not come off as creepy here like it did in the series, but the characters still jump off the page just like they jumped off the television screen.  The ending is still a bit disappointing, but the book is worth it for the journey it provides.  Consider this a darker, urban fantasy take on Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy or Dirk Gently books, but not in a derivative way.

As for the audiobook, Neil Gaiman himself provides the narration.  Now I generally say that authors should stick to writing and leaving the voice-work to the professionals, but after listening to this, Gaiman gets added into the exception category along with Harlan Ellison.  His delightful reading enhances his already spot-on writing, and you can tell that he is having a ton of fun with the more colorful characters like the Marquis as well as Croup and Vandemar.  In fact, I would dare to say that he nearly outdoes the already excellent performances delivered by the actors in the TV show.  Gaiman should definitely lend his voice to more audio productions because he surely has a talent for it.  He helps to take this book to the next level and I highly recommend checking this one out in audiobook format as it is a great book that gets the audio treatment it deserves.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Babylon 5 Re-Watch: The Gathering

The Babylon 5 re-watch is on!  These are my thoughts on the episodes as I work my way through the full five seasons (plus the movies).

This was the two-hour pilot that launched the series and established the setting and the characters.  We are introduced to two of the main human characters, Commander Sinclair and Mr. Garibaldi, and four of the main alien characters: G’Kar (Narn), Mollari (Centauri), Delenn (Minbarri), and Kosh (Vorlon).  You can read the full synopsis of the episode at this link.

The pilot was definitely not one of the high-points of the series.  The directing is stiff, the dialogue is stilted, and the acting is often wooden, especially the human characters most of whom show a lack of commitment to their roles at this point (a clear exception is Jerry Doyle as Mr. Garibaldi).  The alien characters make a better show of it, especially G'Kar and Mollari who steal every scene they are in (as they would throughout the series), and even Delenn stands out better than most of the human characters.  Of course two of the Earth people in the pilot would not continue on (with Tamlyn Tomita replaced by Claudia Christian as the X-O and Johnny Sekka replaced by Richard Biggs as the doctor), and Patricia Tallman (telepath Lyta Alexander) would skip out for a couple of seasons before returning as a regular.  The CGI may seem pretty cheesy at times to the modern eye, especially close-up shots, but the fact is that it looked pretty first-rate when this originally came out.

The other unfortunate thing about the pilot is that it essentially delivers a crime mystery instead of a more science fiction oriented tale, but that still gave JMS the chance to introduce the main players for his epic tale and start to establish who they are.  We definitely see some hints of the depth of the characters he has created, especially with Mollari, G'Kar, Delenn, and Garibaldi.  Plus, the pilot starts to establish the character interplay such as the friendship (of sorts) between Mollari and Garibaldi, the friend / enemy relationship between Mollari and G'Kar (the Narn has the upper hand early on, but that will change soon enough), and the alliance that Delenn starts to build with Sinclair that will then pass on to Sheridan.

An important strength of this show is that it set out to tell an ongoing story, but it didn't feel the need to layer mystery upon mystery to that tale.  The X-Files was just getting started at FOX and Lost was over a decade away, so their convoluted mysteries had not heavily influenced sci fi TV at that point.  Sure, B5 has its mysteries that it establishes early on (i.e. the "hole" in Sinclair's mind), but it is not trying to obfuscate the story at hand and keep the audience in a perpetual wtf-mode.  While The X-Files and Lost would get plenty of mileage from that, many lesser shows followed that path only to deliver muddy, confusing yarns that went nowhere.  Babylon 5 fortunately followed a much more linear path and used its mysteries and allusions judiciously throughout its run without becoming overwhelmed by them.

Essential Viewing? Yes, I guess so since it sets up the story.  The pilot can be plodding at times and weighted down by exposition, but what follows is worth it.  And it gets much better from here.

Interesting Fact: J. Michael Straczynski re-edited a “special edition” of the pilot after TNT picked up the show for its fifth season.  That includes fourteen minutes that were not in the original movie and he also cuts out a few parts.  The new version also replaces the original score by Stewart Copeland with one by the show’s regular composer Christopher Franke.  The special edition is the one included in the Babylon 5: The Movie Collection DVD and that is the one that I viewed for the re-watch.

Buy Babylon 5: The Movies from Amazon.com:

Saturday, July 23, 2016

I Would Rather Be Watching Babylon 5

The last few years I have been putting up a post shortly before the Fall season in which I ponder whether I want to invest my time in the many (many, many) new and returning sci fi / fantasy shows on the upcoming schedule or if I would rather revisit a classic sci fi TV show like Babylon 5 (you can see last year's post at this link). Well this year, I am writing the post early because I have already answered my question: I would rather be watching Babylon 5. Despite the fact that the Too-Much-TV era has given us heading helping of viewing options--and some really good ones at that like Game of Thrones, The Expanse, Daredevil, The Man in the high Castle and more--I find myself increasingly disenchanted with the glut of genre shows across the TV channels and streaming services (you can get a glimpse of that at this link) and with the networks offering them. And rather than invest myself in these many shows that often fail to rise above mediocrity and/or that the networks have little commitment to, I would just prefer to go back and re-watch B5. I’ve seen the show all the way through once, and most of Seasons 1 through 4 twice, and that is a show that stands up to multiple viewings. I loved it the first time around (witch I watched live as it aired in the pre-DVR era) and I know that the re-watch will deliver a return on the time invested. As for many of the new and returning shows? Not so much. And here are four of the primary reasons why:

1. The current glut of original programming: New shows are getting cranked out in what is commonly referred to as the Peak TV era, but how invested are these networks in these offerings? Their spaghetti-against-the-wall strategy in an attempt to score the next Game of Thrones or Walking Dead or Empire has emphasized how many of these are little more than corporate products with a primary mission to grab viewers, not deliver good television. Think about all the shows from just the last few years that have been mediocre to downright bad or that may have shown promise when they started but failed to live up to that. Just a few examples include Falling Skies, Defiance, Under the Dome, Extant, Damien, Beowulf, Minority Report, Heroes Reborn, Revolution. I could go on and on. Then think of the promising shows that were quickly squashed because they didn’t grab an immediate audience based on the overnight ratings (and yes, the networks do still watch those closely): Siberia, Constantine, Limitless, Forever, Almost Human, Dracula, Cult, Witches of East End, and more. The quality we are getting these days amongst the many genre offerings is often mediocre at best and when we do get good shows they are not give much chance. Of course that’s not a new trend, the scale has just been enlarged. But it proves that not much has changed other than the number of shows hitting the schedule each year.

2. Even the shows that stick around are not that good: We’ve had a lot of one or two season and out shows, but several have managed to make it past the three season mark. Unfortunately, many of these just haven’t been worth sticking with. Shows like Agents of SHIELD, Arrow, The Flash, Once Upon A Time, and more got off to good starts but could not sustain momentum. I gave up on both the ABC shows mentioned above by their second seasons and The CW entries have become such copy-and-paste affairs that I have a hard time sitting through them any more (and they completely squandered the promising Legends of Tomorrow premise). I made a decision a couple of seasons ago to drop shows that I was hate-watching, and most of the ones that have been around for several seasons have moved into that category for me. Even one of my favorites, Person of Interest, disappointed a bit with its final season, but I still consider it a stand out show.

3. The networks are still not listening to the viewers: Despite all of the technological advancements and the ability to measure engagement on the social networks and other platforms, the broadcast networks and--to a lesser extent--cable channels continue to remain old school when gauging the success of their product. Shows like Constantine, Agent Carter, Limitless, and Witches of East End have proven to have a very engaged audience and it seems like these are the ones the networks should be holding on to. As far back as the original Star Trek, audience engagement (then demonstrated by letters written to the network) has proven a good indicator of long-term success. But despite the fact that nearly instant information is available now beyond the Nielsen ratings to measure the audience, the networks have shown little interest. Instead, they drop the shows that fail to pull in decent overnight numbers and move to the next entry in the pipeline. I have reached out to the networks multiple times and asked them to tell the viewers how they can work together in the current environment to keep well-liked shows going, but have had no notable response. Massive social network campaigns have been mounted to save shows, but with no success. The audience has proved it is there, but the networks still want those Nielsen numbers. This has become much less of a factor with cable shows as we have seen low-rated shows (according to Nielsen) like The Expanse, 12 Monkeys, The Shannara Chronicles, Scream, and more escape cancellation. But the broadcast networks are definitely still living in the past.

4. AMC turned hostile against fans of The Walking Dead: Everything that I mentioned above has been going on for several years now, but point number four is the tipping point for me. The Walking Dead has been my favorite show on television (at least until the unbelievable Season 6 Game of Thrones just delivered), but the events of its last season soured me on the show and television in general. The manipulative story-telling tricks TWD pulled (which I go into in more detail at this link) were completely unnecessary for the highest rated scripted show on television. But even worse, after leaving fans hanging with a finale that delivered a very unsatisfying ending to an already marred season, the network took a hostile stance against fans trying to predict the outcome of that episode (and I have some very harsh words about that at this link). AMC invited the speculation and then lashed out at the fans that tried to fill in the blanks during the long wait for the show’s seventh season return (and I offer my prediction, lawyers be damned, at this link). I am expecting some backlash from the viewers on that as well as all of the misguided decisions from this past season. And even though this show has been my favorite, I’ve decided to take a break from it this year.

Instead of The Walking Dead, I will be watching Babylon 5. And I plan on watching it on Sunday nights, especially when TWD (and Fear the Walking Dead) will be airing new episodes as part of my protest against that network and the current television environment in general. I know that I will enjoy B5 and I know that I will get something from the re-watch. As for all the current offerings on television? That’s a crap shoot. Sure, I will tune in for some shows. I will check out HBO’s Westworld. I will watch the second season of The Expanse and probably The Magicians as well. The Man in the High Castle is a must-watch (though I’m a bit worried about the departure of Frank Spotnitz as showrunner). And there are a few others I will tune in for as well (can Legends of Tomorrow redeem itself in its second season?). But the Babylon 5 re-watch is on and I’m definitely pumped for that. The Too-Much-TV era may be verging on giving us 100+ sci fi / fantasy shows throughout the year, but I am burnt out on what it has to offer. Time to go back to the classics and enjoy watching sci fi TV once again.

You can follow my Babylon 5 Re-Watch posts at this link.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Audiobook Review: Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

Book Rating: 4 ½ out of 5 Stars

Audiobook Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars (Highest Rating)

Bottom Line: This book delivers a quintessential piece of 19th Century horror / sci fi that presents some challenging moral quandaries.

In this classic 19th Century tale,  a lawyer--Gabriel John Utterson--finds himself entangled in the affairs of his friend, the upstanding Dr. Henry Jekyll, along with a rather surly dwarf of a man known as Mr. Hyde. The latter, a person of loathsome appearance and demeanor, has been seen around town and was guilty of assaulting a girl, which Dr. Jekyll later paid retribution for. Hyde has an unspecified connection with the doctor and Utterson is particularly dismayed when Jekyll revises his will to include Hyde as a beneficiary. This all comes to a head when a man is violently murdered and Mr. Hyde is linked to the crime, becoming a fugitive from justice. Utterson tries to talk with Jekyll about the situation, but the doctor assures his friend that they beastly man will not return. Later, though, Jekyll withdraws from almost all human contact prompting his butler to seek Utterson’s aid. They eventually break into Jekyll’s quarters and find the dead body of Mr. Hyde, though in the doctor’s clothes. They also find a letter written by Dr. Jekyll that describes his experiments in which he tried to separate his good side from his evil side but which instead produced the alter ego Mr. Hyde. Jekyll could at first control the transformations, but later found that he would morph involuntarily into Hyde. And then he found that he could no longer recreate the potion that prompts the metamorphosis because the key (tainted) ingredient he had previously used no longer exists. Eventually both personalities succumb to death and in his dying words Jekyll writes (as he transforms for the final time into Hyde) “I bring the life of that unhappy Henry Jekyll to an end”.

This infamous novella written by Robert Louis Stevenson was first published in 1886 and has since become an iconic piece of genre fiction and has been retold countless times in film, on television, in comics, on the stage and more. The reason the story has lived on is that Stevenson managed to deliver a powerful tale that resonates with his readers and definitely touches a primal nerve of sorts. The first nine chapters of the book, written from the point of view of Utterson, give us a mystery tale as the lawyer tries to find out the truth about Mr. Hyde and his connection to Dr. Jekyll. But it is the final chapter that propels this book into the realm of literary masterpiece. This chapter unveils the final journal of Dr. Jekyll as he details his experiment and descent into the depths of his own dark side. But instead of simply looking at this from the simplistic point of view of good vs. evil, Stevenson adds another dimension to his tale by acknowledging the fact that both sides co-exist within us all and that we must learn to cope with our own dark sides in order to not be controlled by it. Jekyll tried to control his own licentiousness by devising a means to eradicate his dark side, but instead that created the Mr. Hyde alter ego. And this evil side of him gradually overtook the good side and ultimately destroyed both. Stevenson gets into some pretty heady (and cutting edge for the time) psychological territory in this chapter, and the moral issues he raises still provide subject for debate today.

I have to admit, though, that I found the ending a bit unsatisfying. After the revelations of the final chapter, all written in the words of Jekyll, I wanted to see the reaction of Utterson as well as some additional resolution of earlier plot threads left hanging. But that did not come as the novella ends on Jekyll’s words quoted above. On the plus side, this tale is not overly wordy like other important genre works from the 19th century like Dracula and Frankenstein. The relatively brief length of this book makes it a quick read, unlike the two mentioned above (or the thousand-plus page bloatfests we currently see hitting the shelves these days), but a short chapter wrapping up the loose ends would have been nice.  But then that's just a quibble and who am I to try and perfect a literary masterpiece?

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is often looked at as a horror story, but the fact is that it is also a proto-science fiction tale as well. Jekyll’s experiments that lead to the creation of Mr. Hyde come about through scientific endeavors and have no supernatural links. In this sense, the book is similar to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein which based the creation of that book's monster on scientific knowledge of the time. Stevenson also works in some of the early discoveries of psychology, a field that had established itself as a new scientific discipline at about that same time (separating itself from philosophy where it had previously been relegated). But whether you consider it horror, science fiction or both, it is a must-read for all genre fans.

Since Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is in the public domain, there are many audio adaptations and dramatizations available for this work, but I decided to check out the Librivox version and was pleasantly surprised. For those not familiar with Librivox, they are the Project Gutenberg of audiobooks, offering free audio adaptations of works in the public domain available for download. This is the third work I have reviewed from Librivox and the other two were of varying quality as far as narration goes. Their version of Stevenson’s book gets the first-rate treatment, though, with narrator David Barnes giving us a professional quality reading. Whereas some of the readers for Librivox (all volunteers) provide barely passable narrations, Barnes delivers an excellent vocal performance and makes the story a pleasure to listen to. Why pay good money on a professional adaptation when you can get one just a good for free from Librivox? You can download it as MP3 files at this link and I highly recommend this version whether you are a regular audiobook listener (used to a professional level of quality) or just trying them out for the first time.

Friday, July 1, 2016

SPOILER ALERT!!! Here's Who Died at the End of the Walking Dead Season 6 Finale


You have been warned . . .

So The Walking Dead left us hanging on a huge cliffhanger at the end of the Season 6 finale. The show gave us the long anticipated introduction to comic book villain Negan and he bashed in the head of one of the major characters with his barbed-wire-wrapped bat Lucille. But then we don't know who it was because of the point of view shot they used and the fade out as the episode ended, leaving viewers hanging until October to see which one of their favorite characters died. I've already discussed in detail (at this link) how this sort of manipulative ploy to keep viewers on the hook for seven months is completely unnecessary for the most-watched show on television and actually denigrates what has been a high quality television entry throughout its six seasons (though it slipped some this past year).

Of course the cliffhanger launched endless speculation across the web on who died with people picking apart those last few minutes to find any possible clues. And that led to AMC becoming spoiler-Nazis and going so far as to threaten legal action against sites like The Spoiling Dead claiming copyright infringement. I have some very harsh words about AMC's ill-advised stance at this link.

And that has led me to this point where I am going to throw out my predictions on who I believe was at the wrong end of Negan's bat. Now before I proceed, I just want to say that personally I hate this sort of crap. Picking apart episodes to find spoilers is just a waste of time and there are plenty of better things to do with your hours in the day (like tying to stay caught up with the massive number of sci fi / fantasy shows currently on television). At my Twitter site, I rarely pass along spoiler-filled headlines, and those annoy the crap out of me if I have an episode waiting for me on my DVR and I'm trying to maneuver through the Twitter-verse. But AMC has pissed me off so bad with their hostile stance toward fans, especially after they are the ones who set up the situation in the first place that has so many people speculating (that ending has network-exec-tinkering written all over it).

So spoil I am going to do, because I have a pretty good idea who was Negan's victim.

Now I should point out that I have no inside information and I haven't seen any leaked scripts and I'm not looking at the pictures from the Season 7 production or anything like that. I base my predictions mostly on an analysis of the final sixth season episode along with the trends we have typically seen on the show and from television in general. So if AMC wants to come at me with their lawyers for offering a critical analysis with predictions in a country that supposedly believes in free speech, I'm right here.

Note that I do not have any spoilers in the title of this post and that only those people who freely choose to read past all this rambling will learn my predictions. But one last time in case you missed the multiple instances above: WARNING. SPOILERS. AHEAD!!!!!!

So let's do this as a process of elimination:

Rick is not the one who died. He is the main character in the show and he is still alive in the comics.  Plus. the finale sets up a whole story arc where he must face the consequences of his arrogance, i.e.  thinking he and his people can take on anyone and anything in their zombie-pocalypse world. Also, Negan said that he wouldn't kill Rick.

Daryl is safe too. He's the breakout star of the show, even though he was criminally under-utilized this last season. The fans would also absolutely revolt if Daryl was the one to die, so there's almost no chance the show would go there. But there is one contingent to that. Daryl could be the one to die if Norman Reedus wants off the show. But despite his lack of screen time, I don't believe that is the case. He has opened a restaurant and bought a house in the Georgia area where the show is filmed, so he has settled there for now. And I don't think his restaurant or his bike show are cutting into his time too much. So unless they have completely kept under wraps a desire by Reedus to leave the show that made him internationally famous, I consider him safe.

Next, I'm eliminating all the women from contention. It's a pretty brutal death that the character suffers and I don't think AMC wants to deal with a violence against women controversy. I could be wrong about that, but I just don't see them chancing that. Carl as well, because that invites violence against children claims (though admittedly Carol did execute Lizzie back in Season 4). Plus, Negan's comment about if anybody does anything cut the boy's other eye out and feed it to the dad.

So that leaves us with four possibilities: Aaron, Eugene, Glen, and Abraham. I'm going to toss Aaron out first because he's not a major enough character and that would be far too anti-climactic after seven month's wait (plus, it invites more bury-your-gays controversy). So consider him safe.

Next is Eugene and the episode surely seemed to telegraph that he was destined to meet Lucille up close. There was the (almost too) long goodbye between him and Abraham where they also buried the hatchet on their past issues. There was the scene with him giving the recipe for bullets to Rick upon the assumption that he would not survive the ordeal. And there was his sacrifice of going off in the RV alone as a diversion so that the others could sneak away from the Saviors. But . . . all that was so telegraphed that I think it was used as a diversion from the real victim. Eugene was made to seem like the obvious choice, so I'm betting its not him.

Which leads me to my top pick . . . good ol' Abraham. And here's the case for him being the person who went one-on-one with Lucile: First, he's a pretty tough cookie and Negan made a comment about the person taking the initial hit "like a champ". Two, he's already dead in the comics. He's the one who took the arrow through the eye instead of Denise. Three, Abraham had a pretty defiant stare-down with Negan during that final scene that may have brought him undue attention. Four, and most important, the scene where he and Sasha talked about having a baby. Nobody gets to be happy in The Walking Dead and future plans are almost always a death knell in this show (go back through all the episodes and you will see the trend). This is actually a common trope through many television shows as well. Characters start to make future plans, or they finally hook up after a long time and then one dies shortly thereafter (which means that if I'm wrong about my assumption on the women above, Sasha could be the target).

But then there is one other character still in the running and that one ties to the point-of-view scenes we saw throughout the final episode. There were several quick POV shots from inside the trailer holding the people Dwight had captured, and a theory going around the internet suggests one of that group met their demise because Negan's final attack was also at the POV angle. Among the people I have narrowed it down to, that leaves only Glen. But would they really go there? After the much reviled faux-death earlier this season and teasing his death several other times over the course of the show? He is the one who gets bashed in by Lucille in the comics, so its possible. And his previous non-death could have been trying to throw us off from his ultimate fate. So he could be the one who died, though I believe fans would consider that a very unsatisfying resolution considering the all the baggage the show has around his character.

That keeps my top choice as Abraham, but Glen is a close second. And Eugene is a distant third. But I do strongly believe it is one of those three. Not because I have any inside information, mind you, but based on my critical analysis of the episode along with what I know about the comics (I have not read that far, though, I have just heard the spoilers). I could be completely off-base here, and Negan's victim could be a character I haven't even considered. But I feel pretty confident it is one of those three and would put the most money on Abraham.  (Does Vegas have a line on this one?)

I won't be watching the Season 7 premiere, though, because I have decided to boycott the show (which used to be my favorite) this coming year and start my re-watch of Babylon 5. AMC's actions against their viewers after stringing them along and providing an unsatisfying ending to the Season 6 finale are just inexcusable. I will watch all of the seventh season at some point, though. It's still a great show, despite the ill-advised network tinkering, and I will want to get caught up. But I will likely wait until it comes out on DVD and then buy a used copy just to make sure AMC doesn't get any of my money. And I'll be watching the spoilers from the Season 7 premiere to find out if my predictions were right, because I'm not a spoiler-phobe.

We'll revisit at that time and see if I called it, but in the meantime you have my predictions to chew on and feel free to offer your own. But be warned: the big bad corporate monster AMC may come after you if you speak your mind and try to make a guess on how that ill-conceived cliffhanger from Season 6 turns out.  And if you want to see how to do a season finale right, go watch Game of Thrones, especially all of Season 6.  AMC, that's you I'm talking to.