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.

Grade: C+

– Dean Stell



  • Please don’t split your review. the way you are reviewing it already is great. I’ve read the comics up to volume 11 and I appreciate the way you are watching as a reader.
    I agree this show isn;t on the level of Madmen or Sopranos or Boardwalk Empire but I wonder if that isn’t the fact the source material locks it down. In any case I enjoy the show for what it is; a tense action packed melodrama.

    • dfstell

      Thanks for the reassurance. I do these things for you guys, so I aim to please. It seems we’ve only got one voice for splitting things up. Hell….if I were really professional about this I would probably have a stronger opinion about how it should/shouldn’t be.

      It is funny how this show works and it really confounds me. I mean, when they’re doing the dashing through a zombie-filled prison, this show is unlike anything that’s ever been on TV. Maybe the X-Files was able to pull off that level of tension? But, I can’t think of anything else. American Horror Story? When the show is going that, it is ELITE, top-shelf stuff. But, when it slows down it sags SO badly…..which is a shame because so many of the plot moments we comics fans demand from The Prison are slower paced moments.

      I speculate that they have some disadvantages when it comes to getting the quality of writers that Mad Men or Breaking Bad would have. One, it is a “zombie” show. Two, it is an adapted story. Three, it is adapted from a comic book. You can just imagine if a group of television writers get together for coffee, the dude who is writing for the “zombie show that is adapted from a comic book” is way lower status than the guy writing for Breaking Bad or Man Men. It probably stands in the way of getting the real A-list dramatic writing talent. But…..they CAN get take their pick of talented TV people who have wanted to work on a horror-themed show because TV has almost no horror. And….maybe that explains why the horror is so good? I dunno…..

      Anyhow….thanks for your comments! I love having people contributing!

  • Nigel Higgenbottom IV

    Thanks for the reply! I read WCBR all the time – keep up the great work!

    I am wary of spoilers, but that leaves me in the position of not being able to read a lot of blogs. It is also great to read WCBR when I can’t afford $4 for some comics.

    Thanks for your considerations

    • dfstell

      No worries. We’re a mutual admiration society here. All of us folks at WCBR do this in our spare time, and it’s so appreciated to know that someone took the time to contribute their own thoughts. Even if they don’t agree with us, as long as it’s polite, we love it. It makes it feel like doing these things are worthwhile.

      I think we do a pretty good job here at WCBR. We offer pretty good coverage and have a few guys like Alex and MQ who have authored enough stuff that they have a really lengthy track record.

      Spoilers are a tricky thing. I sometimes do try to do spoiler-free reviews, but I usually find I just don’t have much to talk about otherwise. Of course, the answer would be to just give the comic the 100 words it merits, say it’s “fine” and move on. 🙂

  • katmore9

    Nice review. Before I get into the specifics of the points you made, I can see why you might split up your review. But unlike Av club (or other TV review sites), this is primarily a comic book site. Because of that, I actually like that you reference the comics in your reviews. The points of comparison between comics and show are one of the main reasons I look forward to these reviews… So, if you have to split up your reviews going forward, (*sigh) fine.

    That said, in terms of your review, I don’t get how this episode got a C+. Yes, I agree with you: the ‘telephone’ was rushed a bit, the characters’ perspectives in this show (and even the comic) are third-person, so internal thinking/monologues don’t quite work when rushed, and Andrea is a tad weaker than in the books. But C+?! C’mon! You’re tough. lol

    4) Until Michonne starts speaking more and glaring less, I’m not going to be a fan… although that thing with the severed limbs spelling “GO BACK” was pretty awesome. I need to see her developed more, and I’m worried this show might screw her character up like they did Andrea’s.

    2) At first, I was worried about Maggie getting “the Michonne treatment” you mentioned from the Governor, but it’s different. He’s got Andrea now, so there’s no need to “treat” Maggie that way. Merle, on the other hand…

    7) Wasn’t a part in the prison storyline where Michonne escaped and the Woodbury guy lied to the Governor about her being dead as well? If so, then yet another thing that come from the books.

    6) I’m glad Carol’s back too. 🙂

    Finally, you mentioned in a comment to kill off “rick, carl, michonne, and andrea”. Um… why?

    • dfstell

      LOL….goodness…..we’ll never please everyone with the comics/no-comics talk. I’m not going to split things up if it makes things choppy, but if I there is an easy break in the review…..I’ll take advantage and see how it goes.

      As for the grade….those are really hard to do. I’m trying to adapt our comic grading system for TV. So C+ means “slightly better than the average TV show”. There problem with this episode is that there isn’t much on the “good” side of the ledger. The effects for the zombie splatter was good and the Merle/Maggie/Glen scene was good. Darryl was good when he found Carol, but that was kinda neutralized by the lameness that Carol has just been nudging the door for 3-4 days and can’t call out. Merle with the other “hunters” was neutralized by the redshirtness of the other guys. On the bad side we had everything by Rick, Carl, the Governor and Andrea. I gave it some bonus points for “concept”.

      It really is tough though. Since I don’t review other shows, I don’t have a list of old grades that I can look at and say, “Well… was better than THAT one, but worse than this other one.” It also gets hampered by the other shows I watch. Just right now on Sundays I also watch Homeland, Boardwalk Empire and Dexter. Those three are light years ahead of TWD in acting, story, writing, directing, etc. I DO think TWD is better than two other shows I watch right now: Revolution and Last Resort. I kinda assume those two are “C” shows for the most part, but I could be wrong.

      The reason I said that I’d kill Rick and Carl is I’m getting sick of people saying that I want the show to be like the comics. But, I don’t think this show can ever be a great show until they get rid of Rick and Carl. The acting/writing combo are just lousy. Think of other great shows right now: Homeland has Damien Lewis & Claire Danes, Boardwalk Empire has Steve Buscemi, Dexter has Michael C. Hall, Breaking Bad has Bryan Cranston, Mad Men has John Hamm. I mean…..Andrew Lincoln isn’t even playing the same sport as those other actors. He’s just not good enough for this show to be great. But, they have some actors who have potential. Maggie’s got some, Merle/Darryl can do some things, David Morrissey is usually good (don’t know what’s wrong with him here), so they could have a good show, but it’ll never be good as long as Rick is around.

      Andrea could probably be salvaged by shoving her back into the background. I guess Michonne deserves more time. Maybe I was just being overdramatic.

      Plus, if we got rid of them, the comparisons to the comics would stop. 🙂

      • Richard

        Oh ok. I see your rationale now. That’d be a BIG move to kill them because the books, according to Robert Kirkman, follow Rick’s journey into the zombie apocalypse. Since the show also started with Rick, I think they’re going along the same idea.

        I actually like Andrew Lincoln as an actor. Sure, he’s not comparable to those other actors you mentioned, but c’mon. He’s a relatively ‘new’ face. So no… I don’t want to see him gone. Heck, he hides his accent pretty well. (I only recently found out that he’s British). However, I can’t ignore the point you’re making: if they kill him off, there’s a fresh slate… but who’d lead? (I don’t see a leader there.)

        I put that back to you and everyone else who agrees with killing off rick.

        • dfstell

          I’m not so sure this show needs a central character. I mean….they’ve got so many characters right now that even Rick isn’t getting a lot of time anyway. I’d look at it from the standpoint of which actors deserve more time on screen: Darryl, Merle, Maggie, Glenn & Herschel. Which actors deserve less: Rick, Carl, Andrea and maybe Michonne.

          But, they also just announced that they have an actor coming in to play Tyrese. And he’s a pretty good actor too. He played Cutty in The Wire and he was really good there. Let him be the leader. They’ll probably bring in some Abraham-like solider dude. Let him be the leader.

          The thing is, with Carl and the timeline, they’ll always have problems. That kid will be 5’6″ by the time they shoot next season and shaving by Season 5. Is that kid such a good actor that the entire structure of the show should revolve around him? I don’t think so.

          I’m glad you mentioned the accent. I live in NC, so the lousy Southern accents are kinda annoying. I just kinda wonder: Was any of these actors SO strong that we couldn’t have just gotten some Americans to play the parts? I mean….part of the reason why Michael Rooker plays a hillbilly redneck is that he’s from Alabama. He probably knew some growing up there. I just don’t see what’s so great about Andrew Lincoln that we couldn’t have gotten any random actor to play the part. 🙂

          • Richard

            It’s funny. I’ve watched this show from the beginning and suddenly within a week I hear 2 different people talking about Rick dying. (A coworker mentioned the idea yesterday saying they wouldn’t kill Carl and leave Rick alive to go even more batshit crazy so both will die.) Now when I think about it, maybe it isn’t that farfetched. The show’s producers have all alluded to “even bigger things” this season after episode 4. So maybe… but it’s risky. There’s a comfort level I’m sure some fans of the books feel seeing familiar characters on the show. Taking that away could alienate some viewers. (Just a theory…)

            Hmm… it’s been a good while since I’ve watched the Wire, but wasn’t Cutty the guy who opened the boxing gym? If so, great choice for Tyrese! (If not, then I have no idea.) I actually gave up hope that he’d be included in this series, but this is great news… unless they screw him up like Andrea and Michonne (thus far).

            Oh yeah, I don’t think the Governor will abuse Maggie. They’ve built him up to be clean cut, so I can’t him giving her “the Michonne treatment”. Plus he has a ‘girlfriend’ now in Andrea. However, Merle still has an axe to grind, and if Glenn doesn’t talk fast enough, Merle may just help himself to Maggie.

    • Theophilus

      Katmore9, referencing the comics is fine and should be a part of the review. Avoiding spoilers is the issue as a lot of people haven’t read them, or in one of my friends cases, he is reading with the show, so has only read up until about issue 30.

      • Richard

        Oh, I get it now. Thanks for the clarification 🙂

  • Theophilus

    Oh and maybe for your review… do a TV version first and then a ‘There be Spoilers below’ section at the end. AV Club do this sort of thing well, at times. Ps. I read the comics and I like the differences, the fact there is something new in there for the faithful masses keeps it interesting. A think a pure comic book adaption would have been a little hollow.

    • dfstell

      I think you’re dead on. I mentioned with Nigel below and will clarify in my next review that I really don’t want the show to be like the comics. The problem with the show isn’t that it isn’t faithful to the comics; the problem is that it just isn’t a very good show. They seem to have weird instincts about what to take from the comics and what to ignore. I just don’t really get it.

      As I said to Nigel below, I wish they’d really deviate from the comics. The worst characters right now are Rick, Carl and Andrea. Kill them and move forward with the characters that DO work.

      I am going to make a stab at splitting the review up, but doing spoiler and non-spoiler is really difficult. I’ve tried it before with comic reviews and I find you often have nothing to talk about in the non-spoiler section except to say “It was boring/exciting!” It’s one reason I’d prefer to put the “Conclusion” statement at the front of the article, but editorially that’s not how we roll at WCBR.

      Glad you liked the reference to Rosencrantz & Guildenstern. I LOVE those sort of alternative viewpoint versions of popular stories and I think there could be a great TWD episode of someone charismatic like Darryl on some mission (hunting for opossums?) and seeing the important events of the episode happening in the background.

  • Theophilus

    You mentioned Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. You sir get an A+ for your review (even though I didn’t agree with it all).

  • Nigel Higgenbottom IV

    Tv aint comics. I think u are being a little hard. If the show spent 4 episodes with Rick fielding phonecalls from his insanity,then it would have been a repeat of the criticism of people talking and debating forever in the prison like the did on the farm.

    The number of episodes per season is agonizingly short and everyone criticized the pacing on the farm last season.

    Im glad they let rick crack like an egg in a done in one.

    I liked the pace and the shocks – when the zombies attacked Merle and no name, I nearly jumped. The people almost make you forget the zombies.

    With all due respect, you make good points, but you seem stuck in “but the comic is sooo much better, let me tell you how for the next several hours” mode of reviewing.

    I appreciate the spoiler alert, but can’t you make the reviews a little more spoiler free?

    Can’t you stop stop talking about how superior the comic is, which we get, and review TWD purely as TV without referencing the comic every third sentence?

    I read this website relgious ly so please dont be offended – also I never read the comics. I am just reacting to your review.

    • dfstell

      Hey Nigel…..Thanks for the thoughts. I choose to review these from the standpoint of someone who has read the comics. Some of that is because I have read them and really have a hard time reviewing the TV program without reference to the comics. That’s just because when I see the show, I’m making comparisons….i can’t help it. Plus, it invites those comparison by being 80% faithful to the comics and putting little fanboy easter eggs in the show.

      But the other thing is that there are already so many people reviewing the TV show without reference to the comics. Andy Greenwald at Grantland is doing a wonderful job and he’s never read the comics and never intends to. He’s a more insightful guy than me and a WAY better writer than I’ll ever be. There are also similar TV-only reviews at, The New Yorker, Slate, Rolling Stone (sometimes) and a few other places. All of those people are WAY better writers than I am, so if I’m not letting my reviews have a comics flavor, then there really isn’t much of a point to my doing them (because I’m not as good of a writer and not quite as insightful).

      Let me be crystal clear though….I don’t think the show’s failings are because it isn’t exactly like the comics. The show just isn’t very good, period. And since the show struggles, I think sometimes they might be well served to take more lessons from the comics, but they shouldn’t use it as a roadmap. In fact, I think they should kill Rick, Carl, Andrea and Michonne (all TWD Comics Hall-of-Famers) and continue a show with Merle and Darryl (non comic characters) along with Maggie, Herschel, Carol, etc.

      Trust me, after this season…..there will be little reason for the show to be faithful to the comics. It isn’t so much that the comics are bad thereafter, but The Prison/Woodbury was as good as the comics every got. So, it is a little frustrating that the only thing the TV show milked from that sequence is some damn good zombie killing action. That time in the comics had such a sense of hope/hopelessness as the characters kept thinking they were safe, only to have something rip that away. The pacing last season was dumb because Herschel’s farm wasn’t a pivotal time in the comics, but The Prison was and I just wish I could’ve seen it handled better. I know there are limited numbers of episodes per season, but lots of short season shows manage to mix it up. The Sopranos did. Mad Men does it virtually every episode. Dr. Who does it. About the only great shows that DON’T do it are The Wire and Breaking Bad, but those are pantheon level shows. TWD can’t even touch those programs.

      As for spoilers, I don’t know what to say. It’s a called a spoiler warning for a reason. 🙂

      Thanks for contributing! I really appreciate the comments (especially since this is purely a hobby for me that I wedge in around a professional job, family, farm, etc.). I never know quiet how best to do these reviews and I truly appreciate the input.

    • dfstell

      Actually Nigel….your comment gave me an idea. Perhaps next week I’ll TRY to split the review into two portions: One purely on the merits of the TV show and the other relative to the comics.

      It may not work (getting the flow of these things is never easy), but it is worth an effort. Thanks for making me think of how to mix it up!