Scott Wilson in AMC’s The Walking Dead
It’s an episode that shouldn’t have worked. In fact, it really wasn’t until we sat down to write this review that we realized we didn’t hate this episode. It turned out to be, in our estimation after the fact, one of the best episodes of the show in a lot of ways; loaded with high tension, character drama, and explosive events happening in multiple locations, allowing for action sequences that felt all that much more heightened. It seems the only thing worse than an attack in this world is a two-pronged attack.
As the horde of walkers at the gate finally overwhelmed it, with only Rick and Carl to hold the mass at bay, and as the sick ward turned to a death ward, with only Herschel and Maggie keeping the dead from feasting on the dying, this was probably the biggest threat we’ve ever seen on this show, even though there were no real “bad guys” forcing the action. Proof once again that this zombie apocalypse scenario works best as a story of struggle rather than a story of warring tribes in the apocalypse (which is why that last shot of the episode was such a disappointment to us).
But it has to be said that a great deal of the tension – and even the cause of some deaths – came down to the characters doing not-so-smart things. We didn’t get into this in last week’s review, but Herschel made a really great point last week about knowing that you’re going to die in this world means the only decision left to you is what you’re going to die for. It seemed like a way for the writers to tell the audience that they have to accept the sometimes-extreme or even nonsensical actions of the characters. We can all talk about what we would do in the apocalypse and how we’d do it so much better than those losers, but in the end, you can’t predict what fear, exhaustion, starvation, and a mountain of death outside your door every day is going to do to your decision-making skills. But as much as we try to be open-minded, we can’t come up with one plausible explanation as to why that flimsy fence wasn’t completely fortified by now, nor can we come up with a reason as to why they let so many walkers accumulate outside the prison. It’s hard work to kill them all, but it can be done, as Rick and Carl ably proved in some fucked-up father-son bonding time. And sure, Herschel can talk about wanting to hold on to the human side of things, but it makes no sense not to immediately plunge a knife into the skull of every person upon death. Failing to do so is a form of sentimentalism that just doesn’t fly for these people, at this stage in the game. And why is keeping sick people in their cells such a hard thing to do? SHUT THE DOORS.
Sorry. We had to have that moment of nerdrage. Despite the dumbness on display, we were on the hook for pretty much the entire hour, helped in no small part by some great performances. In the end, there was a sort of bleak triumph to it all, although it remains to be seen just how victorious the group has been. Rick mentioned that things wouldn’t be the same after this, but we honestly don’t know what that means. We just know that we like seeing this kind of struggle for survival. We groaned out loud in disappointment when the Governor came into view.
In other news, Everyone agrees with Rick about Carol because he’s just the dreamiest. We hope Daryl breaks his jaw. Also: Carl pretty much went through his puberty rite and is now a man. Just let him keep the gun, Rick. He’s better with it than 90% of the group and he seems to be one of the few with his head screwed on straight.