Original air date: February 9, 2014

The Story: After the fall of the Prison, the remnants of Rick’s party scatter and try to survive…

The Review (with SPOILERS): Funny how the human mind works.  We are incredibly adept at forgetting bad things like how horrible babies are.  I’ve even heard scientists hypothesize that it is an evolutionary trait that we forget some of the pain, agony, sleepless nights and dirty diapers lest every child be an only child – and the species die out for lack of offspring.

The run-up to The Walking Dead’s 2014 Spring Season was a little like waiting for that second baby to arrive. We’re excited, we hope for the best and we hope that all those bad things don’t happen again, because if we really dwell on the past 3.5 seasons we can still remember the pain.

It really is time to stop hoping for better.  There was probably some plausible reason for hope.  Perhaps new Season 4 showrunner Scott Gimple would have clear highway now that he’d flushed Glen Mazzara’s Season 3 floater.  But, Gimple & Co. have eschewed that clear highway in favor of the familiar ditch.  As they say in BSG, it has happened before and it will happen again.

This was just more of the same for The Walking Dead.  The zombie scenes with Carl were really well done, especially the prolonged scene in the house.  I loved how the camera lingered on the stack of books as Carl and the zombie struggled from room to room, only for those books to come back into play at a key moment.  The prior zombie scene of Carl luring the walkers away, heavily hinting that he would trip and fall, when he never did…  There is nothing careless or accidental within the seconds of these horror scenes.  The talent on this show are true masters of horror and suspense.  They just know how to dance the dance and make us really uncomfortable.  Even when you KNOW that Michonne is not going to be eaten by zombies, you cringe a little every time one walks past her.  They just know how to dial the tension up to about an 8, and leave it there for 5 seconds longer than one would normally be comfortable with.  It’s all the camera angles, amount of zoom, sound, cuts… Simply Brilliant.

Alas, the show wasn’t all bumps and scares.  Unfortunately, the characters also talk.  Even though she was alone, Michonne talked and dreamed…  Robert Kirkman was the writer for this show.  You wonder if he has ever watched the actors on his TV show, because he wrote lines that weren’t ever going to work.  I mean, there was a piece of paper on the TWD set that says:

CARL: [angrily] “It’s a CLOVE HITCH.  Shane taught me.  DO YOU REMEMBER HIM?”

RICK: [sulkily through thick lips] “Yes….I ‘MEMBER HIM EVERY DAY.”

It’s just beyond believable that (a) Kirkman thought some of this dialog would be good for some of his weakest actors and (b) that nobody corrected him.  That dialog would work fine in the comics, but not with Andrew Lincoln and Chandler Riggs.  Carl and Rick have never been good together. There’s never been an iota of chemistry that would suggest a loving, father/son relationship.  Rick reminds me of a poor little league coach who thinks the 5-year olds should listen to him because his hat says, “COACH.”  It needs to stop.  Carl is worthwhile with many characters, but Rick is not one of them.  Rick is worthwhile with almost nobody, and with Carl he is the worst.

I guess there could be some value in this whole “Carl becomes a man.” story.  But, wasn’t Carl already a “man?”  Rick handed him a fully automatic rifle to mow down zombies when the prison was overrun, right?  Carl has been going on supply runs for ages.  Carl has been keeping watch and guarding people.  Hadn’t he been put in charge of killing the recently zombified too? This episode just had no point.  Carl had already “become a man” organically.  Just because this was the story from the comics right after the prison, it doesn’t mean it needed to be inserted in the series.  I almost feel like Kirkman breezes into the TWD offices a few times per year and gets angry at all the comic stuff they are leaving out and reinserts it whether it makes sense or not.

Michonne’s story was equally repetitive.  We’ve already seen her be sullen and draw in upon herself.  That was how she was for the whole third season.  Then she “emerged” and became friends with everyone.  Now she has to go back through the whole cycle of introversion, mumbling to herself, stalking off on her own…

On a side note, the whole Michonne killing zombies with a katana is getting old.  The show is endlessly creative with zombie deaths, but with Michonne it’s like we’re watching an old video game that only had 3 animations and it shows them over and over. Simple, casual beheading,  stab through the brain,  two heads in one swipe, and the chop to the skull.  Also, I need to see some evidence that Michonne is maintaining the edge on that weapon.  I don’t need to see much, just a campfire scene of her talking to people while running a stone down the blade.

The only silver lining from the storytelling is that there was a lot of teasing that Rick could die.  It seems really far-fetched that they’d kill him, but do you remember all the teases of Lori’s death?  And do you remember how those teases intensified after the internet turned on Lori?  There I go again… Trying to forget all the bad and find something to be optimistic about.  I still can’t really imagine TWD killing Rick.  On The Wire [SPOILERS], there was a reason to kill Stringer Bell because everyone and their dog wanted Idris Elba to be in their TV/movie.  I’m not sure there is similar demand for Andrew Lincoln.  TWD is the pinnacle of his career.

Can’t wait for next week when the real actors will be on the show!  Hopefully they wrote some dialog for Chad Coleman that is more nuanced than “angry.”  And maybe could we see Carol again?

Conclusion: 5 minutes of white knuckle horror excellence cannot make up for 40 minutes of terrible dialog, terrible acting and redundant storytelling.

Grade: D

-Dean Stell