“No, no, no…” is what this episode inspired me to say again and again. As I feared in reviewing last week’s episode, once the budget for zombie-splatter gore diminished, the same stale group of writers would again assert control over TWD and the results would be uninspired.
An important caveat is that this is a comic review site and I come at this episode as someone who has read the TWD comics. If you have not read the comics, there might be more anticipation in this storyline than there is for a comic reader.
There was so much draggy and soggy moments in this episode and almost nothing crackled. This show continues to waste insane amounts of time on whether good people can do bad things. That’s an interesting question and has been the root of some of the best TV dramas of the last 10-15 years, but this concept has been MUCH better explored in shows like Breaking Bad or The Sopranos or The Wire or pretty much anything. When I see fist-bump Tara being agonizingly integrated into the group and forgiven for her past sins, I just think how poor the acting/writing/directing are when compared to a show like Breaking Bad. What makes it worse is that TWD constantly reminds us what these characters have done: Tara was “there” when The Governor attacked The Prison, Carol shot psycho-Lizzie in the back of the head, Rick has done “stuff,” Bob was part of groups that died, etc. It’s just so damn tedious to be constantly reminded that these characters have done some questionable things, but remain fundamentally good people and are worth rooting for. And if you were slow on the uptake, we got a patented moment where Rick squatted down to tell Carl how it was (except that Carl has to sit down for these squat-talks because Carl is now 6 feet tall). The writers are just much more fascinated with these topics than any of the viewership. If you doubt me, Google “was Walter White a bad person” and you will find serious, Ph.D.-level ethical debate about the main character in Breaking Bad. Now do the same for any TWD character and you’ll find almost nothing. It’s not just me. Nobody cares. Just move on, and splatter some zombies while you’re at it.
The other problem with these characters is that their stories are all the same. Virtually every character has done “something” (often referred to as “it” during dialog; as in, “Are we going to tell them about IT?”) and the show demands that we reanalyze this same dynamic of a basically good person who had to do some questionable things to survive, over and over and over… Where is the diversity of storytelling and character creation? Why do we have to see the same basic story repeatedly?
And that leads us into the meat of the story with Gabriel the Priest and what happens to Bob at the end. The constant questioning of Gabriel was really annoying. I mean, this is a group that has accepted all of the main characters and their flaws, why not cut a priest some slack? Just because he seemed a little evasive and didn’t pass the Three Questions Test with flying colors, this is a group that just made nice with Tara and Carol. Weird… And Bob seemed doomed when he started being all kissy-kissy with Sasha. Black characters are always in mortal danger in horror movies, as are people who act like they might like to have sex. Bob should know better, but it’s likely that actor Lawrence Gilliard just wanted off this drama-light show so he can do something better with his time. I imagine him volunteering very fast when they needed someone to be eaten off the show.
As a comic reader, this story seems really, really close to what happened in the comics. Perhaps too close. I’ve already experienced that story and don’t really need to see a live-action version. I’m sure there will be some shake-ups, but even at the end when Gareth was talking to Bob, he kept referring to his group as “hunters” which was obviously to make it easier to understand that they were the same characters from the “Fear the Hunters” arc in the comics. It’s all the same. We have Gabriel the Priest who is haunted by the fact that he (probably) ignored his flock’s attempts to get into the safety of his church because he didn’t want to share the food. Then we have a member of Rick’s gang kidnapped and lose a leg. We even have it open-ended as to whether Bob was bitten by a zombie before being eaten. In the comics, it was Dale who was kidnapped and eaten only to tell The Hunters that they were eating “tainted meat.” I just feel like the show is singing us a song that we already know (if we’ve read the comics). Why make me feel that way? Why not make it similar to the comics, but different enough that I don’t feel like I know what is coming next?
The whole episode is so totally compromised by the repetitive storytelling and the adherence to comics that it’s hard to find much to cheer for, but since I am a glass-half-full guy, let’s look at a few positives.
First, Carol continues to overpower every scene she is in. Honestly, just make the show about Carol. Let’s go back to last season when she was exiled and just follow her around.
Second, the water-logged zombies were pretty cool. As soon as you saw the zombies wandering around in waist-deep water, you knew our protagonists were getting in the water. Even though it was probably stupid to have the characters just block the zombies with shelving and stab them, the excitement of one pulling Bob under was pretty sweet (as was the make-up effect when they splattered that one). Anytime you put characters in murky water with crawly, biting things by their feet, it is going to be golden because every viewer has been in the ocean where something unseen brushed against their leg.
Third, the return of Gareth is very welcome. He seems like just a dude who is doing some pretty lousy things to survive. It’s just so refreshing to see a TWD villain who doesn’t have the camp turned up to 12 (like the Governor or Merle). No stupid accents. No overdone redneck behavior. No weird plantation-aristocrat vibe. Just a bad man who eats people.
However, those slight positives are not enough to save this episode. Any defender of this episode must start by telling me how the line, “I miss Andrea” made it into the final product.
Very mediocre. Everything that this show aspires to has been done BETTER by other shows, and it is frustrating that they don’t play to their unique strengths more. People who haven’t read the comics may have more anticipation of what is to come, but if you’ve read the comics you sure feel like you know what will happen next.