We’ve been bitching and moaning all season about the lack of movement in the story, but, at the risk of sounding trite, there’s movement and then there’s movement. Some people took our yearning for movement as literal, which isn’t too surprising in a story this nomadic in nature. That is, when we whine about the lack of movement, what we’re asking for is that the characters literally move from one place to the next. That’s not it. We could spend an entire season with Dale’s RV parked in that traffic jam, so long as the characters are given arcs where things actually happen; where decisions are made, and where action is taken. Granted, we wouldn’t have LOVED an entire season spent in a traffic jam, but our point is, when we complain about the lack of movement in the story, what we’re really complaining about is the lack of story.
There’s just been way too much standing around and talking this season. We don’t expect the show to be an action romp, but surely there’s some happy halfway point between shoot ‘em up action and sitting around and discussing your options ad nauseam. This has always been a problem with shows that go for seriously decompressed storytelling. People forget, but there was a time when it was common to complain about how little time was passing on Lost. The writers can decompress the action until several days take several seasons to recount, but in the end, that’s asking an awful lot of an audience, who has to go and live their lives in the weeks in between story installments, and when a month has passed in real time and we’re still expected to care about Sophia wandering off in the woods, the patience isn’t always there.
However, what Lost did to mostly counter the complaints about the slow passage of time is what this episode did: it moved the characters around within that narrow window of time and gave all of them interesting back stories and side stories to keep the viewer engaged. This has not been the case enough with this show. Traditionally, it’s been the Shane, Rick and Lori show and we think that’s a big reason why so many people are frustrated with the slow pace. That little love triangle is part of a much larger story and it’s too much to ask of the viewer to simply be patient when it comes to learning more about everybody else in the cast and how they’re dealing with the big picture. Last episode gave us a little of that with T-Dog and Dale, but this episode kicked things into … well, “high gear” would be overstating it. Let’s just say the story went from a shuffling zombie walk to a light sprint.
“Movement” doesn’t mean the characters or the story literally have to move. It means that things need to move around within the confines of the story. We can spend the rest of the season on Hershel’s farm, so long as Glen gets a little character-building, or new characters like Maggie get a little more defined and a little more information is given as to how they’re going to fit in the group. We can deal with the lack of literal movement, so long as we’re given dangling narrative carrots like Shane’s apparent crack-up and how the people who know him best were slightly disturbed by his eulogy – a nice character moment with real subtlety: Shane’s increasingly melodramatic recounting of Otis’ death being met by slightly furrowed brows or worried looks from everyone in the group who knows Shane doesn’t normally talk like this. This Otis thing isn’t going away and we’re wondering if someday he’s going to shamble up to the farm with a herd of zombies and an inexplicable bullet wound in his leg.
In addition, we got the narrative bomb-drop of Lori’s pregnancy, which wasn’t exactly handled with subtlety or in any way to make it interesting, unfortunately. The very second she asked Glen to get her something at the drugstore, we all knew what that meant because a yeast infection wasn’t going to be all that dramatic or interesting. A woman pregnant in a world with no access to any medical assistance is a woman in potential mortal danger. Not to mention, trying to take care of a baby in a world where you can’t ever let your guard down for fear of being torn apart by drooling maniacs is no way to live a life. These are important discussions to have and we have no doubt there will be long scenes of dialogue, but Lori’s look of hopelessness after peeing in a field at night was just enough to sell the despair. We hope they don’t talk this one to death. She’s pregnant; she doesn’t know who the father is (most likely) and being pregnant and on the run in a dirty world full of dead bodies is not a great place to be. Please don’t over-write this one, writers.
In other news, Darryl has become so saintly that we fear a massive turnaround is coming down the line, whether because he gets reunited with Merle or for some other reason, we’re still detecting quite a bit of danger underneath the flower-offering sweetness. We suppose the blanket in the closet in the abandoned house is meant to imply that Sophia might still be alive, but we admit, we’re finding it hard to care about her.
But the writers are giving us some setups for conflicts down the road, which is good to see. Hershel and his family seem pretty naive about what the world is like past the borders of his farm. He’s quite content to send the group back out in the wilderness and quite comfortable demanding that they all surrender their guns to him during their stay. We find it just a little hard to believe everyone would agree to that so quickly, but we suppose relative peace and quiet with clean running water and access to electricity (the latter of which still is unexplained) was enough.
And speaking of clean water, let’s hear it for the Scooby Gang, the stupidest bunch of zombie apocalypse survivors you ever did see. We’re all for one good grossout zombie moment per episode and we certainly got that with waterbloated zombie literally ripping in two, but why on earth was the entire group spending time on this at all? The only result of that scene (aside from some nice tension) was to show that these people really don’t know what the hell they’re doing. T-Dog’s disgust with the group made for a nice coda to the scene and reflects back on his now-denied urge to get the hell away from them all.
What we’re saying here is, despite the Scooby Gang being dumb and despite the trite manner in which Lori’s pregnancy fears were revealed to us, and despite the fact that we’re STILL LOOKING FOR SOPHIA, the story finally felt like it was moving again and that things are being set in motion – Glen & Maggie, Lori’s pregnancy, Shane’s crackup, Hershel vs. Rick – that could take us through the end of the season in a satisfying manner. We still think this season is moving too slowly, but for the first time since the show returned, we’re satisfied with an episode and optimistic about the story to come.
[Photo Credit: AMC]