Michael Cudlitz in AMC’s The Walking Dead
There was some sort of strange magic at work with this episode. Maybe we were in an uncharacteristically forgiving mood as we were watching it, but despite it committing all the sins we’ve been railing against all season, this time, we were entertained. Maybe, if you’re just going to do little character treatments instead of stories for the back half of a season, you should cluster them all together in one episode instead of spending entire hours with one group. Jumping around from Rick to Daryl to Glen gave a sense of momentum and a feeling that we’re right on the verge of something major. So that part? All good. The “I am heading straight into that pitch-black tunnel of undead because MAGGIE?” Okay, dumb. Really fucking dumb.
Honestly, it gets really hard to root for or identify with any of these characters if they routinely insist on doing dumb shit. Heading into a tunnel of walkers, not knowing what’s inside? That’s epic dumb shit. And while we groaned our way through the entire scenario, we actually yelled out loud at our TV when Maggie later revealed she caused the roof to collapse by firing bullets at it, which means Georgia infrastructure is apparently constructed out of plaster. Come ON. In what universe does firing a gun at a tunnel cause it to partially COLLAPSE? And not to be bitches about it (too late) but that collapsed-tunnel set looked like it was made by a high school theater department. None of that rubble looks like it fell from the roof. It all looked perfectly placed and like it had been sitting there for some time. We spent the longest time trying to figure out why Maggie would walk through something like that only to find out “Tee-hee! I shot the roof just like you would have, honey!”
But really, let’s walk quickly past that somewhat embarrassing set piece and get down to why we dug this episode: world-building. Daryl’s group of rednecks with honor and Abraham’s little group of colorful comic book characters have done a lot to expand the borders past the mostly depressed and traumatized people the show has spent most of its time on. The thinking seems to have been you can either be tortured by the reality of this world (Rick, Herschel, Michonne, Daryl) or you can be bugfuck crazy and evil (The Governor). Introducing new people who don’t appear to be either of those things is nice way of opening the world up a little. Sure, Abraham’s quest sounds silly, but he’s not foraging for garbage and getting into shootouts with megalomaniacs. And yeah, Daryl’s new friends are obviously murderous and gleefully lawless, but … actually, the jury’s still out on them. Every indication is that they’re in the story to fuck shit up and inject some violence and conflict into things. The only real reason we hold out any hope that they’re going to prove to be more than that is because we can’t quite believe the show would give us another Governor-like character again. Like the Gov, this new guy has it out for Rick. Unlike the Gov, he doesn’t appear to be crazy. He just has a moral code he thinks works for him in this world. The thing is, we’re pretty sure that was the initial intent with the Gov; to show us someone who’d adjusted their moral code to fit reality. But the writing collapsed on that character very early on and we were left with a psychopath who stayed alive long past the time he should have.
In a way, we feel like we’re being a little foolish here. “THIS murderous guy is TOTALLY going to be different from the last one! For sure!” But looking back at the last few episodes, we’re struck by how bold the writers were to screw around so much with the format of the show and slow things down considerably so every single existing character got a chance to shine and all the new characters got a chance to introduce and define themselves. It was quite the little balancing act. That it worked only part of the time is fairly impressive in its own right.
No, we’re not predicting great things or a sudden turn toward exactly the kind of show we wished we’d been watching all along, but this episode, despite whatever flaws it had, was probably one of the best-scripted episodes this season. There was a flow and a sense that things were heading somewhere narratively. It helps that they’re all literally heading somewhere; the ominously named Terminus. The last minute or so of the episode was as tense as any zombie attack, as the group headed further and further into what looked to us like a very pretty trap. Bottom line: we’re dying (pun intended) to see what happens next – and it’s been a while since that’s happened. But we’ve been down this road before (“Sure, the farm was dumb and they stayed there too long, but just wait until they get to the PRISON.”), so we’re a little cautious. Definitely looking forward to the finale next week. If they do this right, it should be a turning point for the show. Fingers crossed. We’ll see.
[Photo Credit:Gene Page/AMC]