Series Review: The Walking Dead Season 10 (AMC)

Never before have I seen a series take such a steep decline in terms of writing and content as I have The Walking Dead. What once started off as such a juggernaut, has been dying a slow, painful death for a good four or five seasons now, with Season 10 being the most embarrassing one yet.

Originally airing from October of 2019 to April of 2020, the season dragged on thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic and didn’t pick back up until February of this year (with one single forgettable episode airing in the meantime in October of 2020). But no matter when they aired, the majority of the episodes remained as uninteresting as the last one.

When the season first picked back up, the heroes were still in the midst of conflict with “The Whispers,” the most bland and boring group of villains to fill the small screen since the original Scooby-Doo series back in the ’60s (and equally as laughable). Samantha Morton and Ryan Hurst lead said group of “bad guys” as Alpha and Beta, respectively, and were (thankfully) both killed off early on with little to no shock effect at all.

The show has become so overly muddled with various new characters (Princess and the “masked soldiers” come to mind) and settings, it’s become nearly impossible to keep track of (or even care to) what’s even going on. The only saving grace in recent memory were two individual episodes; one involving Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) and Aaron (Ross Marquand) encountering an unstable drifter (played brilliantly by Robert Patrick) while on a supply run, and Negan’s (Jeffery Dean Morgan) backstory episode last night (though unfortunately, even the latter took away some of the mystic of the character by making him into a former gym teacher. Yes, a GYM TEACHER!).

I remember watching the show the night it originally premiered (October 31, 2010) after taking my son out for a night of trick-or-treating. I instantly related with characters like Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), and fell in love with the dramatic tension of the pace and writing. Since then, the show has become unrecognizable, and downright atrocious, with cast members coming and going (Danai Gurira, a.k.a. “Michonne,” is the latest to leave after this season). But thankfully, the show will finally be put out of it’s own misery after season eleven (with of course even more spin-offs than the ones already going, which both have more or less surpassed their source material at this point). If you’ve never watched an episode of The Walking Dead in your life, do yourself a favor, and do not start with a later season like this. Hell, even if you do start from the beginning, don’t waste your time, and just skip the last few pitiful seasons altogether (I certainly wish I had).

Rating: 1.5/5 Stars

Series Review: Night Stalker: The Hunt For a Serial Killer (Netflix)

By: Jesse Striewski

When I was a kid growing up in the ’80s, my first impression of a serial killer wasn’t the likes of John Wayne Gacy or even Ted Bundy, who were both before my time. Yet I can vividly recall seeing the 1989 TV movie Manhunt: Search for the Night Stalker, and always remembered the ending where an angry mob takes down and catches the so-called Night Stalker (I can even remember thinking in my young mind, “so that is what happens to serial killers.”). Ever since then, my idea of a serial killer, of pure evil personified, has always been – and always will be – Richard Ramirez, a.k.a. the Night Stalker.

Netflix has compiled a stunning, four-part documentary series, detailing the crimes and footsteps taken by Ramirez during his 1985 California killing spree. But don’t get it wrong, the purpose here isn’t to glamorize Ramirez’ crimes, but rather give voice to the actual victims, family members, witnesses, reporters, and several other key figures linked to the rampage at the time. But it’s the firsthand accounts from the likes of Gil Carrilo and Frank Salerno, the homicide detectives assigned and closest to the case at the time, that truly offer the most gruesome insight. Hearing many of these horror stories at times are as heartbreaking as they are disturbing.

It’s safe to say that shows/mini-series like these are not for everyone’s tastes. But those who have the desire to get inside of and learn more about the mind of a truly disturbed individual such as Ramirez, will no doubt be able to do that here. It’s a fascinating, albeit harrowing road to go down, that’s not for the faint of the heart.

Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

Series Review: Cobra Kai Season 3 (Netflix)

By: Jesse Striewski

When The Karate Kid sequel series Cobra Kai first emerged in 2018, the world wasn’t quite prepared for the awesomeness that was so unexpectedly unleashed upon it. It instantly united pop culture nerds across multiple medians, bringing back ’80s nostalgia in full force for the young and old alike.

In season one, we were re-introduced to the characters Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) and Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka), who are thrusted back into each other’s lives more than three decades later. Daniel has since gone on to become the owner of a successful car dealership, while Lawrence stayed the same beer-chugging, metal-loving loose cannon he always was. Things shake up when Johnny decides to take a leap of faith and re-open Cobra Kai, which in turn re-opens some old wounds in the process.

Season two focused more on the two old enemies each operating their own respective dojos, with new conflicts arising from their new students (and old mentors). Unlike the first season, more emphasis was put on the rivalries between newcomers Miguel (Xolo Mariduena) and Robby (Tanner Buchanan), as well as Sam (Mary Mouser) and Tory (Peyton List). It also brought back John Kreese (Martin Kove) in a more extended and sinister role, and included a bittersweet, albeit brief tear-jerking reunion with some of the other original members of Cobra Kai (which would unfortunately prove to be Rob Garrison’s final portrayal of Tommy before his passing in 2019).

Naturally, season three takes over directly where the second one left off, with everyone dealing with the repercussions of the final battle that saw Miguel seriously injured and put into a coma. There’s still plenty of unresolved wars between multiple factions, as each character grapples with what happened and tries to return to some sense of normalcy.

And of course, there’s plenty of surprises along the way as well; Elizabeth Shue finally returns as Ali (now actually Dr. Ali Mills Schwarber) after Johnny’s attempt to reconnect with her via social media in the previous season. And even familiar Okinawan faces from The Karate Kid Part II, including Kumiko (Tamlyn Tomito), and Chozen (Yuji Okumoto) return, leading to some tense moments between Daniel and the latter before ultimately bringing some closure. Even former Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider manages to squeeze in a brief cameo, too.

But what makes us invest so much time into shows like Cobra Kai has got to be the reflections of ourselves we’re able to see from these characters and their struggles. They’re far from invincible, and whether you were more of a Daniel or Johnny type growing up, there’s something truly there for everyone.

Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

Series Review: The Mandalorian Season 2 (Disney+)

By: Jesse Striewski

Last year, series creator Jon Favreau surprised the world over with hands down one of the most imaginative additions to the Star Wars universe in recent memory, The Mandalorian. Favreau has opened up all new worlds, ripe with possibilities for the franchise, and it’s no surprise the show has taken off the way it has.

In the first season we met Din Djarin, or “Mando” (played by Pedro Pascal), a bounty hunter who is assigned a bounty known only as “The Child” (now of course known to fans as “Baby Yoda”), but rather than turning him over, ends up going rogue and protecting him in a very father-like role. Carl Weathers and Gina Carano helped round out that season.

Without giving too much away, season 2 expands on that same premise, and brings back a number of the same cast as the first season, and each episode still plays out like it’s own, separate mini movie. But what really moves The Mandalorian along is it’s use of drama, and the addition of such beloved characters from the franchise as Boba Fett, and even the one and only Luke Skywalker, that has propelled season 2 to new heights.

The response and momentum caused from this season undeniably infectious; at least three more spin offs like it have already been announced (The Book of Boba Fett, Rangers of the New Republic, and Ahsoka). From the looks of things, The Mandalorian was only the beginning. This is the way indeed.

Rating: 4/5 Stars