The Story: Sexy-time in Woodbury and Rick is waiting by the phone like a teenager.
The Review (SPOILER ALERT): 1. The telephone comes and goes. - My complaints with “the telephone” storyline are pretty well known. Basically, TWD is a third-person narrative and we viewers should not be hearing any character’s private thoughts. We never hear Herschel’s inner thoughts about corn muffins or Andrea wondering if the Governor brings the heat in bed or Merle evaluating whether some rusty, scrap metal could be welded to his stump. So, we shouldn’t hear Rick’s inner thoughts in the form of a non-existent phone call. Weak, weak, weak.
The telephone was also oddly handled. I hate to compare to the comics because the TV program is a unique beast, but my hope has always been that the TV program would adapt what “works” from the comics and improve it. In the comics, The Telephone had some effective moments. The calls came right after Rick and Carl has escaped the bloodbath at the prison. They were alone in hiding and losing hope when suddenly, Rick gets these phone calls promising a sanctuary from the zombies. Those calls played out for many issues (and months) before we learned that the voice on the other end was Rick’s insanity masquerading as Lori’s voice. That allowed readers to get their hopes up for months that Rick would find a better place for him and Carl, which then made the revelation that Rick is insane more crushing since he was solely responsible for Carl’s safety at the time.
With this TV depiction of the Ttlephone, the writers have adapted only the bad parts from the comics. There simply isn’t enough time for the promise of a sanctuary to register with the viewer. If you use a DVR like I do, there are only ~40 minutes to even ponder the fact. There also was no doubt about Rick’s mental status going into this episode after his Heart of Darkness retreat into The Prison, so The Telephone isn’t telling us anything we don’t already know. Plus, Rick’s gang isn’t exactly unsafe right now. The prison is about as good as it’s going to get. Presumably the gang will get chased from the prison at the end of this season and anytime afterwards would be a good time to use the telephone. Or, if you must play the telephone card now, make it a B-story for a few episodes and let a crazy Rick try to convince the gang to leave the prison for some unknown place of safety. Again, weak, weak, weak.
2. Contact! - One of the fun elements of the Woodbury plotline has been the differences from the comics. Not all the changes have been good, but it certainly keeps us off-balance. Michonne is going to be the vector for contact, but she has more to tell Rick & Co. Seeing the peril that Glen and Maggie find themselves in really makes me concerned. I’m not so worried about Glen, but any reader of the comics has to wonder if Maggie is going to get “the Michonne Treatment.” Just the thought of that makes me cringe.
Actually, thinking of our “heroes” being tortured is a nice way to consider how much we enjoy the character/actor combo. With Lori, every time a zombie came near her, I cheered for the zombie. Same with Shane. Same with Rick. But, I really can’t stand the thought of Maggie getting roughed up. Kudos to the writers, Lauren Cohan and the tank-tops for making her so likable.
3. Andrea! - If you ever wanted to sleep with Andrea, you need to (a) be a self-assured, bad boy and (b) fake a bad Southern accent. Do that, and those clothes are usually coming OFF! The problem I have with Andrea’s character is that the writers are using her to fill a purpose. Andrea is the living morality tale of “what would we do give up to be safe” question. She’s really not a character at this point; she’s a concept. And that is weak. Also, her love scenes with the Governor made me think of Basic Instinct 2 (also starring David Morrissey) and that is a not a good thing.
Hopefully, in the weeks to come, we’ll see Andrea become aware of her old friends both at the Ppison and in her boyfriend’s torture chamber. What will she do? Help them escape? Harbor a grudge over being left behind? Until then, I guess she’s reduced to comparing family killing techniques with her new girlfriend on the wall, carrying her oversized purse everywhere and sipping whisky in The Governor’s private garden as he seduces her to his Scientology cult.
4. Michonne is really growing on me. - You wonder why they rolled Michonne out so slowly. For the first few episodes this season all she did was glower at people and complain about stuff. Surprise: we didn’t like her much. But, now that she’s been given more to do, she’s becoming a more enjoyable character. I still think the ninja-stuff is a little over the top, but that’s mostly because I don’t need this show to look like Revolution.
5. Good make-up replaces CGI. - After last week when we got awful CGI zombie guts, we are back to good, old fashioned make-up special effects. This is very welcome as the make-up portion of this show sets it apart from everything else on TV. I mean, there are a LOT of weak elements on TWD, but you can’t fault the zombie splatter. One almost wonders if the producers saw the bad CGI, decided it looked awful and called the make-up guy to come back to work.
6. Carol is back. - There really isn’t more to say about this, but I’m glad she is back. She brings a softness to a show that is ugly and hard.
7. Governor & Merle. - It was a small element, but Merle has started a problem by lying to the Governor about Michonne being dead. The Gov clearly won’t be happy when he sees Michonne still running around in a few weeks. What will the Governor do?
8. Let’s mix it up. - This show gets monotonous. I wish the creators would show us a different sort of episode sometime. They don’t have to do anything huge, but let’s step away from this consistent third-party view of everything and have an episode that is a slight comedy, or an episode where we follow Darryl around or an episode that follows a particular zombie. Show me a different way to view this show. I don’t mean to turn the show itself into a comedy, but do a sort of “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead” sort of episode. Just look at how Mad Men can tell a consistent narrative over the course of a season, but have each episode have a unique flavor. Each episode is a part of a whole but also a unique finished product. Or look at that episode of Lost with Nikki and Paolo or all of the unique and memorable episodes of the X-Files or the “Pine Barrens” episode of The Sopranos. Mix it up!
Conclusion: This show has its enjoyable aspects, but botches too many things both large and small to be called “good”. The telephone was a waste, but things are looking up for next episode when the groups come into conflict. TWD is better when it is moving fast and the conflict is boiling.
– Dean Stell