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Homeland Recap Season 6, Episode 2, "The Man in the Basement"

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Homeland Recap: Season 6, Episode 2, "The Man in the Basement"

JoJo Whilden/Showtime

Homeland Recap: Season 6, Episode 2, "The Man in the Basement"

At the start of “The Man in the Basement,” both Peter Quinn (Rupert Friend) and Homeland are trapped in basements of their own making. Both have lost their connection to the outside world, and are wrapped up in scenarios of what Shakespeare once deemed “sound and fury, signifying nothing.” For Quinn, this means sitting in a dark room, drowning out the concerns of his housemate and caretaker Carrie Matheson (Claire Danes) by listening to right-wing conspiracy theorists, looking to make order from the chaos of his life. For Homeland, this means burying itself in small character moments that stand miles apart from the show's political thriller roots.

Homeland Recap Season 6, Episode 1, "Fair Game"

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Homeland Recap: Season 6, Episode 1, "Fair Game"

JoJo Whilden/Showtime

Homeland Recap: Season 6, Episode 1, "Fair Game"

The FBI, in full riot gear, breaks down the door to an apartment in the projects of New York City, screaming at a mother (Zainab Jah) and her daughter (Ashlei Sharpe Chestnut) to get down on the ground, the stove left unattended. The target is Seikou Bah (J. Mallory McCree), an intelligent, tech-savvy Muslim teenager who's been posting videos online that are critical of the United States government; when the family refuses to answer questions from the icy agent Ray Conlin (Dominic Fumusa) without a lawyer present, he abusively kicks them out of the apartment in the cold and dark of midnight so that his team can execute their search warrant. Under Keith Gordon's efficient direction, this entire sequence takes little over two minutes, and it's a jarring (and potentially critical) acknowledgment of the increasingly jingoistic actions America takes in order to protect itself.

Doctor Who Recap 2016 Christmas Special, “The Return of Doctor Mysterio”

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Doctor Who Recap: 2016 Christmas Special, “The Return of Doctor Mysterio”

BBC America

Doctor Who Recap: 2016 Christmas Special, “The Return of Doctor Mysterio”

When the classic Doctor Who was first sold to Mexico in the 1960s, the show was retitled, with a stentorian voice declaiming “El doctor misterio!” at the opening of each Spanish-dubbed episode. According to Steven Moffat, showrunner of the present-day Doctor Who, this title—which the series still uses in Mexico—was the spark that served as the initial inspiration for this Christmas special, in which he creates a very enjoyable mash-up of Doctor Who and the superhero genre.

The Walking Dead Recap Season 7, Episode 8, "Hearts Still Beating"

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The Walking Dead Recap: Season 7, Episode 8, "Hearts Still Beating"

Gene Page/AMC

The Walking Dead Recap: Season 7, Episode 8, "Hearts Still Beating"

This season's start was as bleak as any in The Walking Dead's history, but the show's midseason finale closed on a major note of hope. Tested by the fire of Negan's (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) sadistic dictatorship, Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and most of his core group wound up stronger than ever, determined to stand up to their tormentor—and to do it together. “Hearts Still Beating” ends on a shadowy figure who's spying on our survivors, the close-up of his (or her?) boots establishing that it's the same person who shadowed Aaron (Ross Marquand) and Rick on their supply run earlier that day.

The Walking Dead Recap Season 7, Episode 7, "Sing Me a Song"

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The Walking Dead Recap: Season 7, Episode 7, "Sing Me a Song"

Gene Page/AMC

The Walking Dead Recap: Season 7, Episode 7, "Sing Me a Song"

The Hitchockian opening scene of tonight's episode of The Walking Dead, “Sing Me a Song,” makes clever use of Michonne's (Danai Gurira) inscrutability. Walking down an initially empty country road and whistling “The Farmer in the Dell” to attract her prey, Michonne is the epitome of the existentially alone western hero she personifies more than anyone else in Rick's group as she sets a walker-lined trap whose purpose is disturbingly opaque. The close-up of the sword and walkie-talkie she leaves behind as she drags a body down the road is a particularly unsettling bit of misdirection: Is she planning to commit suicide by walker? And even if she's doing something else, like setting things up to make it look as if walkers got her so she can go underground, how long can she survive without that sword?

The Walking Dead Recap Season 7, Episode 6, "Swear"

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The Walking Dead Recap: Season 7, Episode 6, "Swear"

Gene Page/AMC

The Walking Dead Recap: Season 7, Episode 6, "Swear"

The beginning of “Swear” echoes the ending of “Go Getters,” in which Jesus and Carl exchanged a long look in the back of the Savior truck they'd separately boarded, in a faceoff between the old and new world order. This time, Cyndie (Sydney Park) is the pragmatic but pacifist adult trying to play by the old rules, while Rachel (Mimi Kirkland) is the child young enough to have adapted without question to brutal post-apocalyptic survivalism. As in the last episode, the child's point of view seems to be in the ascendancy. Cyndie's status as an adult and the granddaughter of one of her group's leaders would have made her an undisputed authority figure in the pre-walker world, but when Cyndie and Rachel find Tara (Alanna Masterson) on the beach, Cyndie's humane impulse to spare Tara's life just barely prevails over Rachel's grim insistence on shooting the stranger on sight, as instructed.

The Walking Dead Recap Season 7, Episode 5, "Go Getters"

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The Walking Dead Recap: Season 7, Episode 5, "Go Getters"

Gene Page/AMC

The Walking Dead Recap: Season 7, Episode 5, "Go Getters"

One of the things that has kept me loyal to The Walking Dead over the years is its matter-of-fact feminism. Some of the best fighters and most strategic thinkers in Rick's (Andrew Lincoln) gender-neutral meritocracy have always been women, and they were usually toughened up by the kinds of trials that all too often turn women into skilled survivors, like the spousal abuse Carol endured or the loss of an adored child that galvanized Michonne (Danai Gurira), a somewhat passive and subordinate housewife, into becoming a latter-day ninja. Even Paula, the Savior who captured and nearly killed Maggie (Lauren Cohan) and Carol in season six, gained our respect—and a soul-sister acknowledgement from Carol—for her focused ferocity after we learned that she had been a mousy, abused secretary in the pre-walker world who seized on the apocalypse as her chance to stop eating so much as one more morsel of paternalistic shit, even from her own men.

The Walking Dead Recap Season 7, Episode 4, "Service"

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The Walking Dead Recap: Season 7, Episode 4, "Service"

Gene Page/AMC

The Walking Dead Recap: Season 7, Episode 4, "Service"

“Service” approaches war and other forms of carnage, which appear more and more to be the true subject of The Walking Dead, from a new direction, focusing on the stockpiling of weapons. Its two parallel themes, exploring who controls those weapons and the shifting allegiances within Alexandria, may explain the extra length of this episode, which actually feels less repetitive than many hour-long episodes from the show's past seasons that have pounded home the same point one or two times too many.

The Walking Dead Recap Season 7, Episode 3, "The Cell"

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The Walking Dead Recap: Season 7, Episode 3, "The Cell"

Gene Page/AMC

The Walking Dead Recap: Season 7, Episode 3, "The Cell"

The latest colony explored on The Walking Dead is Negan's dispiriting dictatorship, a world of gunmetal grays and muted greens and blues whose residents exude an air of beaten-dog obedience. Angela Kang's screenplay efficiently establishes both the riches that are available to the Santuary's elite and the price paid by one and all for their relative safety and comfort.

The stage setting starts with the opening scene, in which Dwight (Austin Amelio) moves through the compound to build a sandwich, taking bread from a group of chefs in a big kitchen, adding mustard so unnaturally yellow it can't be homemade, and passing by a bunch of chickens to get tomatoes and lettuce from a garden. The room where Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) receives people is a time capsule from the pre-walker world, with its comfy armchair, bookshelf, and matching kitchen cabinets. Luxuries like booze and cigarettes appear to be plentiful, at least for Negan and his inner circle.

The Walking Dead Recap Season 7, Episode 2, "The Well"

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The Walking Dead Recap: Season 7, Episode 2, "The Well"

Gene Page/AMC

The Walking Dead Recap: Season 7, Episode 2, "The Well"

Given The Walking Dead's fondness for settling every conflict with a bloody fight to the death (or undeath), I suspect the show's creators arranged for Carol (Melissa McBride) and Morgan (Lennie James) to encounter the Kingdom mainly so its residents can team up later with Alexandria and the Hilltop against the Saviors in a war to end all wars. But even if that's the ultimate goal, watching the two most pacifist members of Rick's group explore this seemingly humanistic new world provided a much-needed respite from the nihilistic violence of the seventh season's premiere episode, “The Day Will Come When You Won't Be”—and a welcome change of focus, from how to merely survive in a post-apocalyptic world to how to live.