Ah, well. It was probably too good to be true.
Last week’s well-regarded episode, which many have called the best Walking Dead episode since the pilot, was not the signal that the show had found a new energy and heart. Instead it was followed up by yet another talky, plotless hour that illustrates everything wrong with how the show tells its stories. Two armed men who want each other dead enter a room together, sit down, talk about how much they want the other one dead and then … leave. That’s it. That’s the entire story. Oh, and it’s agreed by everyone that Andrea really sucks. Also: Glen and Maggie have hot sex that almost made us wish a horde would stumble on them both and eat them.
Yes. We’re cranky.
But look, an entire episode of chest-thumping and dick-measuring with ABSOLUTELY NO PAYOFF is a terrible idea for an episode. Yes, Rick and the Governor should meet face to face and that should be an interesting meeting, as each man maintains their moral rightness and their willingness to kill the other man to protect their own. That sounds great on paper. What we got onscreen was interminably long and went nowhere. People who make the following complaint tend to get cast as mindless action junkies, but honestly: who really thinks it’s a good idea to do a zombie apocalypse story that’s about 80% standing around and talking? Ugh. We can’t.
Oh, wait; yes we can because we just remembered something.
Andrea: What did he to Maggie?
HE STRIPPED HER OF HER CLOTHES AND SEXUALLY ASSAULTED HER, YOU FU– He’s a sick man.
That is the WORST kind of writing. It was the kind of thing Lost writers got rightly vilified for doing on a regular basis. If they’re going to have the characters stand around and talk all the time – indeed, if they’re going to base entire episodes on that idea – then have the characters say what they mean to each other. It’s beyond irritating that no one seems to come right out and say to Andrea what kind of man the Governor is. Granted, she’s an idiot if she still hasn’t worked that out on her own, but then again if this season was a movie, it would be titled Walking Dead III: Andrea’s an Idiot.
We’re not mindless action junkies. We’re fine if the show goes weeks without any action scenes or zombie attacks. There’s more than enough going on in this world that an interesting story can be told without gore every 5 minutes. But they’re not really telling all that interesting a story. Does anyone in the audience stand with Rick and understand why the group is willing to die for a dirty, hot, zombie-infested prison? Maybe there’s a good reason why they’re not just pulling up stakes and leaving, but we have yet to hear one.
What made last week’s episode so great (besides the acting and the character work) was the world-building atmosphere of it. We see so little (practically nothing) of the world outside of Rick’s group and part of The Governor’s. One of the more intriguing characters this whole season was that guy sleeping in a cabin who wound up getting killed because he wouldn’t shut up. We found ourselves wondering how he got to that point and wondered how many other people are out there and how they’re dealing with things. We realize budgetary constraints aren’t going to have them traveling all over the country, but when we found out last week they’re still within a day’s drive from Rick’s hometown, we realized just how small this world they’re living in really is. Open it up a little more, writers. And settle this damn thing with the Governor already. The buildup was sloppy and now we don’t even care that much how it plays out. The writers clearly think they’re leading up to something epic – and who knows? Maybe they are – but it sure hasn’t felt that way.
[Photo Credit: Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC]