Lauren Cohan and Danai Gurira in AMC’s The Walking Dead
Something occurred to us last night watching this episode. We honestly wouldn’t care if Rick died. In fact, we might even welcome the prospect. Then it occurred to us that, of the entire cast, which has grown considerably, the only people whose fate we truly care about are Carol, Michonne, and Daryl. Taking that sentiment even further, it took us a few moments to realize that we were actually a bit disappointed to find out no long-time group members got killed in the attack. We hope we don’t have to work our way through a Lost-like season where all the background or minor characters get killed and the people whose names appear in the credits every week miraculously survive each week. This is turning into a bitchfest and we want to state right now that we liked this episode and think it may signal good things for the coming season, but allow us to work through this.
The major long-term failure of the (highly successful, it has to be said) The Walking Dead is that it never gave us characters to care about all that much and it left far too many of the named characters somewhat ridiculously undefined over the long haul (T-Dog being the patron saint of this problem). When it has tried to define some previously very vaguely defined characters, they pretty much wound up ruining them to the point that killing them off was the only option left in the story (Shane, Lori, Andrea, and even Dale to a certain extent, because he’d become insufferable). We can definitely see the bones of the slightly new direction the show’s taking this season; a new direction which is allowing for some much-needed character-strengthening and world-building, along with a deepening of the story and how it’s being told, allowing for themes and symbols to be deployed. This is a good thing. A really good thing, in fact.
But the writers are working like crazy to shoot their symbolism wad (so to speak) all over Rick and by extension, Carl, drowning the audience in the whole “Is he a lawman or a farmer?” question by having people constantly focus on – of all things – the items of clothing Rick and Carl are wearing, as if symbols are what’s on everyone’s mind in a world where 90% of the population died off a few years ago. “Why aren’t you wearing your hat?” Who the hell cares? Why are you all sleeping soundly through a zombie attack at night? Why not ask that question?
But the point is being made, of course, that Rick, and by extension, the entire community he’s silently leading (while modestly claiming he’s not because he’s So Tortured By His Actions) are all just getting too darn comfortable and fat, living high on the hog in their luxury prison. It’s a theme all right. It’s just a theme we don’t much find interesting or believable at this point. We’ve pretty much covered the “The world has changed and people need to change with it to survive” concept on this show so this deeper examination of it doesn’t entice us.
Bottom line: Rick bores the hell out of us and we cared more for the poor little piglets he was slaughtering (in a plan that had us howling at the screen since it left every single walker outside the fence alive) than for his angst over having to carry a gun. Think about that: last night’s episode dealt with how upsetting Rick found it to spill blood and carry a gun. Seriously, people? At this stage in the game that kind of thinking only comes across ridiculously self-indulgent.
Carol has turned out to be one of the most fascinating and well-written characters, as has Daryl. Any time the story focuses on them, it improves tremendously. And in one mostly silent scene, Michonne suddenly vaulted to the top of the list of most interesting of the characters. That silent crying while holding Little Ass-Kicker was far more interesting and emotionally affecting than a dozen scenes of Rick staring at something and looking upset. In fact, the writing and performing of these three characters is so good right now that it gives us hope for the season going forward. If they can create a core group of well-rounded people that we feel we know, it will make this story so much deeper and more entertaining. We really, truly hope that the fact they spent so much time on Rick’s angst in the first two episodes (while efficiently giving us rich bits with these few other characters) means they’re getting his bullshit out of the way first before they start tackling some of the others. Maggie and Glen, for instance, really need some work. We like them, but they’re getting incredibly one-note.
And hey, we hate to be those “If there really was a zombie apocalypse, we would totally rule because of our superior strategic thinking” guys, but since the plot is hinging on several of these points, we have to ask some questions.
- Why have they done absolutely nothing to shore up that relatively flimsy chain link fence? They’ve been there long enough to grow crops and raise some animals and there appears to have been a large enough work force in the group to accomplish major tasks like that. Plus there were already invaded once. And as Rick rather impotently noted in his patented heavy-lidded and silent way, the fences are mere feet away from the crops which are supposed to sustain their community. That fence comes down and they’re out of a year’s worth of food. We realize resources are limited, but they managed to find some logs to shore up the posts pretty quickly when it looked like the fence was about to come down. Why haven’t they done that for all the posts? Why does everyone seem to have so much time to wander around and have discussions? Subsistence living, even communal subsistence living, requires back-breaking work from dawn until sundown. Yes, an hour-long show depicting wood-gathering, hunting, and planting is obviously not going to titillate the masses, but Rick’s pigs were treated like some cute hobby and the crops come across like a vanity garden. Meanwhile, twenty walkers can easily take down the fence. And speaking of which…
- Why do they have no strategies for dealing with the mass of walkers outside the fence, constantly trying to get in? After all this time, and with the kind of resources to be found in a prison of that size, they never came up with a way to dispose of masses of walkers in one fell swoop? They can’t form patrols or something to go out in the field beyond the fence and do some clearing? They have riot gear and these things die if you wield a pointy stick at them. Clean them out and dig a ditch in front of the fence. Or put more of those wood spike things around the fence so they can kill themselves trying to get at it.
- Why live in the prison at all if you’re not going to utilize its advantages? We didn’t get to this in last week’s review, but the season opener did a pretty good job of subtly enforcing why the prison was a better option for the group than Woodbury. We feel that the argument is being made that communal living is far more advantageous than the old, civilization-based idea of people living in separate housing, spread out over a town. That actually does make a lot of sense. Resources need to be pooled and people need to stick together to protect each other. The nearest person in the community can’t be a yard and a house away in a world like this. So how come there are no night watches? How come people wander around the almost pitch-black prison at night by themselves? A buddy system is the bare minimum of strategically protecting yourself and your community. It should be a hard and fast rule in a place like the prison. And on the flip side of that, how come everyone leaves their cell doors open at night? Even a jerry-rigged closed cell door would offer protection from a walker or prevent a new walker from getting out of their cell.
Oh, well. If they weren’t stupid about their safety, we suppose the show would get pretty boring. After all, competent people constantly making the correct decisions does not a compelling drama make. We really mean it when we say the show feels much more focused and willing to dig a little under the surface. We might get cranky over how dumb these people tend to be about their safety, but that’s because we’re rooting for them to survive.
Well. Most of them, anyway.
[Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC]