The Walking Dead: JSS

Posted on October 19, 2015


Lennie James in AMC’s “The Walking Dead.”


The Walking Dead keeps asking the exact same question over and over again. And while you could claim it represents a theme, we have to wonder why this theme keeps being set up as a question that the creators of the show tend to answer definitively every time.

Is Rick right or is Shane?

Is Rick right or is Dale?

Is Rick right or is Herschel?

Is Rick right or is Andrea?

Is Rick right or is Tyreese?

Is Rick right or is Carol?

Is Rick right or is Deanna?

Is Rick right or is Morgan? (See this episode’s variant: “Is Carol right or is Morgan?”)

And the answer as to who’s right, every single time, is the person advocating for cold-bloodedness over kindness, which, in every instance but the arguments with Shane and Carol, was Rick. In other words, since practically Day One (and every single day after that), the show has posed a question and provided an answer: Rick is right. Everyone else is wrong. Okay. Point made. About a dozen times over by now. We’re not sure why the show is still posing this question and providing the same answer every time. It would be one thing if the answers were ambiguous and opened up a whole discussion about foxhole morality and what makes a human being and whether or not we’re all just savages deep down, but there’s no real point. The Walking Dead is a show determined to get its viewers to avoid asking these questions. The Walking Dead is a show that has one point of view and goes out of its way to either kill or humiliate any character who doesn’t adhere to it. And we didn’t realize it until just now, as we articulated these thoughts, that this is probably the main reason why the show frustrates us; its “moody teenager” take on the world. Everyone sucks and fuck you if you think otherwise. Don’t even talk to me. 

As we said, this is a theme – we would argue THE theme – of the show. People cannot afford to be kindly and naive in the face of the zombie apocalypse. WE are the walking dead. Humans are the true monsters. etc, ad nauseam. That’s absolutely fine. We’re totally behind that as a mission statement for this kind of story. In other words, we cheered at the sight of Carol dropping the casserole pan (almost literally) and getting her freaking ninja on. Alternately, we found practically every scene of Morgan in this episode – even the ones where he was kicking ass – to be tiresome and annoying. Don’t get us wrong, we love Morgan as a character and we love Lennie James’ quietly intense portrayal (which, let’s be honest, blows almost all the other actors in the cast out of the water). But to have a character stand in the middle of an ongoing massacre and self-righteously intone “We don’t have to kill people” is to make that character look like a right moron. Carol didn’t even have to argue with him. She just had to get on with the work of killing all her opponents. Eventually, reality will get ahold of Morgan and either change his mind or kill him. He’s great with that broom handle, but in the end, he’s just a Tyreese who can kick ass; a Dale who can take care of himself; an Andrea without the gender issues.

And sure, Carol looked pretty traumatized at the end as she tried to wipe the blood off her face and hands, but even if she feels badly, is there anyone in the audience who thinks she acted wrongly? The fact that she feels bad lets us know she’s still human under that veneer, but it doesn’t remotely force anyone watching to question whether she acted rightly. The surviving Alexandrians are all the answer one needs. Whoever is still standing at the end of this episode has Carol to thank for it.

So why bother posing this as a question anymore? And is this really a theme worth exploring at this stage in the game? And come to think of it, why are we even posing this as a question when we’re pretty clearly coming down on the side that says “Enough with the morality plays?”

It’s because – dammit – this was a hellaciously fun episode in a lot of ways. You put Carol in ninja mode and set her loose on a bunch of savages, girlfriend is going to entertain the fuck out of anyone watching; that’s a fact. You give Morgan a chance to show off his staff skills and that’s going to be a treat to watch. Hell, even Carl got to be a hero. Now, it hasn’t escaped our notice that we’re cheering on the ass-kicking while whining about the deeper questions being asked, but we tend to think such thinking reveals why the show is successful. We all tune in every week to watch traumatized people find the strength buried inside them to righteously kick some ass when they get threatened. We do not, we surmise, all sit down every week so that we can have the exact same morality question posed to us every time. In other words, The Walking Dead is an ass-kicking hour of cathartic violence with pretensions of being deeper than it is. It’s why so many critics and recappers love to talk about it.

Mind you, this is not necessarily a complaint. As we said, we enjoyed this episode tremendously (even as we bitched and moaned about how incredibly stupid most of the Alexandrians tend to be). We just wish the show would drop some of its pretensions and just get on with telling the story. There’s no need to keep asking who’s right anymore because the question has been answered, over and over again.

Picture credit: AMC Television

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