For a couple of seasons, my prevailing sentiment was that it was a pretty crappy TV show that did one thing well: horror/gore/tension. It was almost like TWD was like a tennis player who is pretty mediocre overall, but has a blistering first serve and can be a huge threat on a grass court when their first serve is clicking, but is too poor to do much on any other surface.
But maybe TWD is more like a really good boxer, who has a glass jaw and an annoying tendency to get into brawls where said glass jaw is exposed. Maybe it’s a decent show with one glaring weakness: an unhealthy fixation on the morality of its central characters and the need to have Rick and Carl be the primary spokespeople for that morality. Maybe whenever TWD avoids that, it’s a pretty good show?
This episode was pretty light on zombie gore, which sometimes feels like TWD’s only strength. But the episode was tight, well-paced and enjoyable. Who knew? There was also some dreck in the episode, and we’ll talk about that because it’s fun to be snarky, but it didn’t ruin what was otherwise a pretty good episode.
The primary strength of the episode lies in how fast and taut it was in terms of resolving The Hunters storyline. In the past, TWD would have rolled around until the mid-season break with The Hunters and it would have been awful. Now, just three episodes into Season 5 we are DONE with Terminus and Gareth. They didn’t milk it and we are moving on to whatever comes next. I love that! One of the great things about post-apocalypse storytelling is seeing the protagonists encounter strange little micro-societies that could never happen in the real world. It’s an opportunity to see how creative the writers are. How many ideas do they have? And how precious are their ideas/characters to them? I love a story that moves along briskly not only because we get to see more ideas, but it gives me the feeling that the writers have plenty of concepts and they aren’t going to get bogged down anywhere. Gareth was a great villain. I liked him immensely more than The Governor. But in dispatching him so quickly, the writers give the impression of, “Don’t worry. We’ve got this. No need to linger on Gareth. Wait till you see what we have lined up NEXT!” And if what comes NEXT isn’t awesome and incredible? No biggie, because the action will soon move on again. Compare that to how precious The Governor was to the creative talent on the show. They milked The Governor for everything he was worth. Even the people who loved The Governor were over him by the time he finally died, and everyone who didn’t love him just had to watch an annoying TV non-drama for 2 seasons. Just keep the action moving and it’s all going to be okay.
As for the actual events of the episode, they were pretty much ripped right from the comics. I think the lines of dialog were identical in many places. As a reader of the comics, I would have liked to see a little variety, but the basic story is solid, so why fiddle with it? It was quick and brutal. It showcased Gareth as a compelling villain, showed how dangerous his group was and how they’d learned everyone’s name, and showed that Rick wasn’t going to leave them around to kill others. In contrast to when Gareth got that lame “shot-in-the-shoulder-and-falls-off-camera-but-you-know-he-isn’t-dead” in the season premier, there isn’t any doubt that Gareth is dead this time. Yuck. As an aside, I have the original art page where the Gareth character from the comics is on his knees begging for Rick not to kill him. Immortalized on the screen…
There is also a sense of positive momentum out of this episode. Abraham and Gang are off to Washington and I’m sure we’ll see them again. Rick and Co. will be following up on whatever Darryl was up to when he said “Come on out” at the end of the episode. I’m curious to see where the Darryl/Carol/Beth story leads because I enjoy all of those characters. The Trip to Washington story gives me a little more pause, just because I hope that we don’t start having two stories going on at once. Let’s hope that we just catch up to Abraham in 5-6 episodes.
Of course., there were some crummy parts. So let’s take a moment to be snarky… I really didn’t enjoy that deathbed crap from Bob where he thanked Rick for taking him in because he “didn’t know if there were good people left in the world.” Geez… More of the “good people” crap. I honestly haven’t found any blogs/reviews on the web that find this analysis of post-apocalypse morality to be compelling, and I’ve looked pretty hard. Even in a pretty strong episode, this gives me a knot in my stomach. It’s like watching an addict have “just one drink” because you they’re headed for another binge– where the “binge” consists of Rick/Carl talking about “good people.”
And WTF with that whole scene where Abraham gave a speech and then tried to leave? Maybe in a post-iPhone world, people will sit quietly while one person stands up and talks for 5 minutes, but I doubt it. It’s just poor storytelling to have one character need to stand and deliver like that. It shows that the writers have lost the pacing of the story and need to waste a few minutes with one character talking to catch us up. And then once Abraham and Rick started squaring off over the church bus? That dialog was so damn weird! It was like one of those Bad Lip Reading YouTube videos because the dialog made no sense.
Abraham: “I’m leaving.”
Tara: “If you stay one more day, I’ll come with you.” WHA???? Why would Tara’s company be a bonus?
Abraham: “No. I want Glen and Maggie too.” HUH???
Rick: “No. You can’t have them.” Are they slaves?
Glenn: [hissing] “It’s not your decision to make!” I guess they aren’t slaves.
Abraham: “Eugene. C’mon!” Talking to him like a dog.
Eugene: “No.” Very Rain Man.
Abraham: “We’ll stay, but only for half a day. That’s 12 hours.” Thanks for the math.
Seriously, why would it be enticing to Abraham to have Tara accompany them? Why does he want Glenn/Maggie? I took a few liberties with the dialog, but the whole scene was bizarre. And later, when Gareth’s people are searching the church and they cunningly narrow it down to two doors, he says, “We have enough firepower to take down both of these doors, but I’m sure you don’t want that.” The man is a cannibal who is there to kill/eat them all. Why do they care about how much firepower is used to take down a couple of church doors? Just weird… You have to think there was a moment during rehearsal where an actor read one of these lines and said, “Timeout! That’s REALLY what you want me to say? It sounds kinda stupid.”
Don’t ever change, TWD… Even when you’re basically good, there is stuff to tease you about.
A pretty solid episode. It resolves The Hunters story in a succinct and bloody fashion and propels the story forward. Unfortunately, it still has a few reminders of silly TWD stuff.