The Story: TWD is back after a several month hiatus. Will anyone die? Will Daryl and Merle fight? Will Rick cheer up?
A few things (with SPOILERS): Not good. Not good at all… There were a few glimmers of hope in this episode, but they were just HOPE. As in, “I hope that plot thread leads us somewhere interesting.” Let’s not get too optimistic as the creative talent on this show has shown little penchant for pouncing on opportunity, nor has the hiatus fixed TWD‘s central problem that Rick is more annoying than compelling.
1. Boring, boring, boring…: Imagine TWD was a “found footage” story and sometime, hundreds of years after the zombie apocalypse, a person finds two videos. One is marked, “Dixon boys. Redneck overland adventure.” The other is marked, “Rick and the prison.” Which would you rather watch???
It would have been infinitely more interesting if the cameras had followed Merle and Darryl off into the forest. They’d kill zombies, they’d fight about the optimal way to skin lizards, they’d make alcohol… Heck, Merle would probably rig up some redneck catapult system and use it to fling his own poo over the wall into Woodbury.
Instead, the creators let their two most interesting characters – and best actors – disappear into the forest so that we could see more brooding back at the prison. It isn’t much fun watching Herschel hop down steps to warn Tyrese’s newcomers about Rick’s crabby attitude or see how Rick’s baby cries when he holds it (“You’re not my daddy!) or Carl doing… Well, whatever Carl’s doing. The worst thing to happen to this show is that it is an adaptation of a comic book. They’re too focused on the general storylines/characters, and they’re telling boring stories instead of doing what works.
2. Rick is still being an ass: The whole “drama” about whether Tyrese’s group will be permitted to stay was so much false conflict. We all know that Tyrese and Company are staying. Let’s look at facts: First, Tyrese is a fan-favorite character who was oddly omitted from the first couple seasons of TWD. Second, Tyrese is being played by an actor who played a cult-favorite role on The Wire. Third, the producers of TWD made a big deal about the introduction of Tyrese. Fourth, there are a bunch of “Tyrese storylines” for the show to tell. There is no way that Rick will seriously send Tyrese away, so why all the strum and drang about it? Why waste ~10 minutes of the show with this false drama? All this is doing is showing that Rick is a jerk who won’t shake a man’s hand when earnestly offered. It’s fine for Rick to be mistrustful, but that mistrust could be better depicted in other ways.
3. Andrea the orator: Imagine you have defied the odds and survived the initial onslaught from the zombies. You found safety in Woodbury. You are now concerned about the stability of a man who calls himself “The Governor” and gather with 30 other concerned citizens to form a yammering mob: YOU WANT TO SEE THE GOVERNOR AND KNOW WHAT IS GOING ON, DAMMIT!!!!! Suddenly, the Governor’s attractive blond girlfriend – a newcomer to the group – orates for a few seconds about pulling together in these trying times. Are you satisfied? Would you quietly go back to your home and await word about the direction of the community? Well, that’s what the Woodbury characters do in the TV show. I certainly didn’t find it plausible. And what is going on with Andrea’s relationship with the Governor? She’s seen the weird gladiator fights, the zombie child, the fish-tanks, learned that he secretly kept her friends hostage, etc… And when he starts to blow her off, she actually says, “don’t drive me out!” as if this is some serious love-of-a-lifetime relationship to be fought for. WTF?
4. Everyone is angry with everyone else: Of course everyone is stressed out and angry about the lack of food, safety and trust. I’m just not sure that this much white, hot anger is the way to show it. Remember that electric scene in Season Two where Rick, Glen and Herschel ran into “The Guys from Philly” in that old bar? THAT was how to show the awful reality of people trying to be human in a fallen world. THIS is just a lot of people yelling through gritted teeth. Can you imagine how unpleasant the set would have been during the shooting of this episode?
5. Not a good time to crack up: Maybe the group will follow the comic storyline and remove Rick from power when he shows signs of insanity. Snapping when seeing your dead wife and waving a gun around isn’t the best way to make people trust you. The question is why the group doesn’t just toss Rick over the fence? Carl would probably be in agreement! What has he ever done positive for the group aside from metaphorically “holding them together?” He’s certainly not helping them prepare for a certain onslaught from the Governor.
6. Same old problems: The primary problem for this show is that characters at the center of the action tend to be annoying and unlikeable while those on the periphery are more interesting. Lori was awful. Shane was awful. Rick is awful. Andrea and Michonne are awful. The Governor is awful. And to be clear, a character doesn’t have to be good-hearted to be interesting. I like complex and interesting people. In fact, I like complex and interesting people more than I like nice people. None of these central characters of TWD are anyone you’d want to spend any time around. But I would like to hang out with Tyrese, Glenn, Maggie, Carol, Darryl and even Merle. Hell, hanging out with Merle would be interesting.
7. A few glimmers of hope: As I said initially, not everything was a loser in this episode. For one thing, the creators have teamed-up the Dixon boys and that should produce some good fun in the future. Those are two of the best characters – and actors – on this show (coincidence?) and they should be able to soar by themselves without all the Rick-baggage holding them back. I doubt we’ve seen the last of them. I wonder if they’ll play some role of riding to the rescue if/when the Gov attacks the prison? I also think it’s intriguing that the show could explore the Carol/Tyrese relationship from the comics. The actors playing both characters are folks I’d like to see more, and it would set up some an interesting dynamic whenever Darryl returns. A third promising development is that there were hints of a bigger Glen/Maggie romance when Herschel told Glen he was “like a son”. Again, excellence can happen when you combine good elements. Everyone likes Glen/Maggie/Herschel. Good things will happen when those actors are on screen together. Just keep Rick away and it’ll all be good. He’s the rancid meat in the sandwich.
Conclusion: A concerning debut to the second half of the season. This show is burdened by having central characters who are so unlikeable and uninteresting. There is potential for a pretty good show, but it’ll never get there as long as Rick draws breath.
– Dean Stell