We’re sensing a bit of an identity crisis with The Walking Dead right now. On the one hand, it’s a standard domestic drama now, with potential adulterous love triangles, domestic abuse plotlines and priests going crazy, all set against a backdrop that looks like the set of Desperate Housewives. On the other hand, it seemed like the creators felt the need to toss in some fairly over-the-top death and gore just to remind you of what’s beyond the walls of their little village. The juxtaposition didn’t quite work for us, mainly because we feel both sides of the story went a little overboard this week, but we appreciate the attempt. A show doing what The Walking Dead is doing right now should be feeling a little identity crisis. It reflects the reality of what the characters are feeling at the moment.
And while we nodded our heads knowingly and muttered the appropriate “Oh shit” when it became obvious that Carol thinks Blonde Lori’s husband is an abuser, we hope it doesn’t say anything bad about us that our immediate followup thought was, “Wait. Who said HE was the abuser in that house?” Granted, Blonde Lori comes off pretty meek around him and he comes off pretty overbearing and confrontational, so all the signs are there, but what happens if Carol’s wrong? Will she follow through with what has become her solution to every problem? That is to say, killing it? Regardless of who the abuser is in that house, the fact that Carol is coming face-to-face with her own demons raises the emotional stakes of the upcoming coup considerably.
And yeah, we should probably learn the names of Blonde-Lori and her husband and commit them to memory, but we figure new characters only get their names memorized once they’ve survived a half-dozen episodes. The good news for them is that they’re not black guys, so their chances look pretty good.
That’s right. We said it.
Noah got shuffled off-stage in one of the grosser deaths the show’s ever depicted, in a sequence so dumb and contrived that if felt like a leftover from a season 2 script. When you spend so much time claiming that your characters are so hardened and so much more equipped to deal with the world out there, a scene like a simple supply run turning into a bloodbath completely upends all that work. No one in that sequence looked particularly smart or hardened. They were all making the same kinds of mistakes characters have always made when faced with a zombie horde in an enclosed space. Never mind all those countless scenes (including the one with Abraham this episode) where dozens of walkers are killed just by hitting each one in the head once. Or all those scenes showing the members of Rick’s group smoothly and efficiently taking out walkers like elite soldiers. Suddenly, the sight of a horde stops everyone in their tracks or forces them into really dumb and highly unlikely situations where people forget how doors work.
We’re sorry, but we can’t deal with the revolving door. It’s one of those goofy-ass situations that just smacks of writers trying to one-up each other with the most insane and contrived scenarios. We couldn’t even feel anything when the inevitable death came, even when the production team decided to turn the gore dials up to 11. Noah’s death seemed like an attempt to really gross out and shock an audience that, by this point, has more than proven that it can’t really be grossed out or shocked by this kind of thing anymore. That the camera lingered so long on the moment made it feel like a kid trying really hard to gross out another kid and not realizing he’s failing at it. We’re not even sure what the point of the scene was, really. That the Alexandrians are ill-equipped to deal with the world out there? We already knew that. And besides, Glen’s side of the team wasn’t exactly cool and contained throughout this clusterfuck.
Also, having Maggie smugly say to Glen that he always comes back and having Noah declare what his plans for the rest of his life are going to be – even going so far as to use the term “long haul” – is some of the clunkiest and more obvious dialogue the show’s managed to put out. We’re fine with ironic foreshadowing and all, but this had all the finesse of a piano landing on a sidewalk.
And finally, even more lines are being drawn separating the Alexandrians and Rick’s group; some by circumstance, like Abraham’s semi-heroic turn leading to him naturally claiming a leadership position, and some by treachery and fear, like Father Gabriel’s Judas turn. The problem with the latter scene was that it was so overplayed, the character coming across so clearly unhinged, that we don’t know how Deanna is supposed to take it seriously. Especially, as she indicated, since Rick already admitted to doing some terrible things. As suspenseful plotlines go, this one feels like a dud, although it gave Maggie a moment to see herself and her group through someone else’s eyes, even if those eyes belong to a total shithead.
We give this episode credit for clearly delineating the points of view separating the inevitable clash to come, but since that kind of subtle characterization and storytelling isn’t really part of the show’s history, perhaps it’s not a surprise that the final product was a little clunky and overdone. It matters more to us that the attempt is being made to do something different and the outcome remains completely hidden to us. Not the best episode of the show, but for what it’s trying to do and what it’s setting up, we can forgive a lot. Except the dumb revolving door bit, of course.
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[Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC]
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