As much as I admire Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone, I've always been a much more heartfelt fan of Night Gallery. Running from 1970 to 1973, the horror anthology was seen as Serling's horror & supernatural answer to TTZ. For me, it did for horror and its role on television just as much as TTZ did for science fiction and the small screen. Don't believe me? Check out S02E15 "Green Fingers" (directed by John Badham, written by Serling, and starring Cameron Mitchell & Elsa Lanchester) and tell me you're not left feeling like you watched something well ahead of its time. So when I say that the season finale of AMC's Tales of the Walking Dead gave me "Night Gallery" vibes, I'm giving it the highest possible "comparison praise" that I can think to give it.
In S01E06 "La Doña"(directed by Deborah Kampmeier and written by Lindsey Villarreal), Idalia (Daniella Pineda) and Eric (Danny Ramirez) are either victims of their own growing mental trauma or a house that's very much haunted… and looking for revenge. Pineda & Ramirez bring just the right amount of growing intensity to two menacing characters who you still can't help but feel moments of sympathy for, taking control of the episode from the first opening seconds and never letting go. The key word there is "moments" because the duo also presents us with two very unique leads- unique because they force us to look to the TWD universe for some kind of divine (or supernatural?) justice. As for Kampmeier & Villarreal? Give them all of the TWD scripts moving forward! Okay, that's a bit much, but they were an impressive pairing we need to see more from in the TWD universe. So with that in mind, I'm throwing on the "MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD!" sign and throwing down an image spoiler buffer before offering our in-real-time thoughts & observations on "La Doña":
"Tales of the Walking Dead" Season 1 Episode 6 "La Doña" Real-Time Thoughts & Observations
Two quick observations? First, I'm still pissed that we've been denied a second season of Pineda in Cowboy Bebop. Second, that opening minute gave off nice The Blair Witch Project/Evil Dead vibes.
Oh, yeah… serious props to whoever's running the camerawork for this episode. Sam Raimi would be proud.
Soooo… who's Maria (Iris Almario)?
Now sure why yet, but Idalia and Eric have a Mickey/Mallory/Natural Born Killers vibe going, maybe it's how comfortable they both look holding some serious firepower. That scene of the couple walking up toward the house through the gate was a classic horror/haunted house shot.
"Now and in the hour of our death. Amen": Yeah, I can respect Idalia's facial expression.
Another addition to your list of things to avoid (horror edition)? Seemingly abandoned homes with lots of lit candles in them.
So we met Alma (Julie Carmen), who we would normally tag as unfriendly if it wasn't for the fact that we wouldn't trust them in our house, either. And I have a strange feeling Eric is going to take issue with not being able to stay there for the night.
Damn. That's some cold shit. Letting Alma choke to death, but not before smashing her head on the table. And they just watched her die? Yeah, here's hoping that a Night Gallery-level of revenge comes crashing down on them… because they're messing with some strong forces now.
Oh yeah, there's no way Idalia's going to ever get "all" of the blood off of her… damn, that "hallucination" strangling scene in the water reflection was disturbing.
Yeah, definitely Mickey/Mallory vibes as they way-too-easily rationalize what they did as they plan to take the house and make it their own.
"Never had a place of our own": Eric, though I have a feeling that they're not alone.
Yeah, either Alma is still around and not interested in Idalia's sacrilegious prayers, or Idalia's losing it.
Okay. Nicely played. Instead of a cat jumping out of a closet or something, we have a parrot.
Hmmm… Eric wants to know why Idalia waited so long to tell him about this place, but Idalia deflected it by saying she forgot what with everything going to crap and all. Do we believe her? Nope.
One of the biggest shockers so far? How long Ramirez's hair is! Didn't see that coming… thought he put on a wig.
A sudden flash of someone or something standing by a bedside before a candle gets blown out in a panic? Works every time…
So Idalia is trying to be a bit more proactive, reaching out spiritually to Alma with the hope that her "hauntings" stop.
Are walls dripping blood? Check!
Here's the crazy thing about all of this. Either this is all in Idalia's mind (possibly tied into something about her backstory we don't know about yet), or this is another instance where the supernatural is confirmed to exist in the TWD universe.
I'm not sure how Idalia believes that helping herself to one of Alma's necklaces with a cross on it is a smart move…
WE HAVE A WINNER! That's right, we officially have the most disturbing scene from the season. The scurrying, bug-like Jesus figures that came down off the crosses on the wall still have the hairs on my arms tingling and jumping at any little thing.
After Idalia leaves to go on a walk to clear her head (and deal with the voices she's hearing), Eric gets harassed by the parrot (and I know I'm not the only one who thought he was going to kill that bird, right?
As Eric's tension toward the bird grows, Idalia shares that she's been hearing & seeing things. Am I surprised that Eric didn't know how to respond in a meaningful way? Nope.
So Idalia wants to know if Eric's happy that Alma's dead. Not only do we think we know the answer to that already, but Eric's response also doesn't exactly do a great job of convincing us otherwise.
Yeah… in "Eric vs. Parrot: The Battle of the Who Breaks First," it's looking more and more like the parrot will be on the menu as Eric's patience gets thinner and thinner.
One more hallucination (this one of her being bitten after seeing the wallpaper move), and Idalia's ready to leave in the morning.
So it's not just Idalia seeing the hallucinations as we learn more about Eric & Idalia's bloody, murderous backstory. Now we know why the parrot's "What did you do?" is getting to Eric.
Once again, some amazing camerawork as we pan down to see the fallout from Eric's hallucinations (???)… the parrot, dead in his hand just as Idalia walks into the room.
Well, Maria shows up, and apparently, she has a "bone" to pick with Idalia, who she blames for "doing this" to her. Based on the look on Eric's face, there's clearly no way this should be happening.
"You both will pay for what you've done!": Maria, or at least what Idalia is trying to convince him is a hallucination.
Oh yeah, raging headaches and hallucinations, and our "lovely pair" are turning on each other. And while Idalia might think this is their house, Alma offers a not-so-friendly reminder of who really runs that land.
HOLY CRAP! Yup, we got ourselves a "Creepshow" moment…
In the end, Idalia and Eric die in a killing embrace… each convinced that the other was causing the hell that they were going through, never realizing that they had damned each other the moment they entered Alma's home.
And I would be remiss if I didn't give props to the effects crew for this episode. Look, the TWD universe has always been known for its amazing effects. But the season finale of Tales of the Walking Dead ended with a horrifically impressive end scene that will have me rethinking tree branches this Halloween season.