Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more…

Let’s start with the deplorable applesauce scene.  So lemme get this straight. They wrote a scene where Rick and Aaron are left alone in a cabin; Aaron is bound, and Rick violently tries to spoon-feed him applesauce, while they discuss whether poisoning Judith with applesauce would even be a good plan…

Such a bullshit moment…  I’m amazed that a scene like that gets into a TV show, much less the most popular show on TV.  Wasn’t there a point where Andrew Lincoln was thrusting applesauce at Aaron and he breaks character and says, “WTF?  Really?!?  This is absurd!”  And a director screams at him to, “STFU and read your lines actor-man or you don’t get PAID!  Be more like ‘Aaron’ and throw yourself into the role!”  And Rick makes some snotty comment about how the “new guy is an ass-kisser” and the scene rolls on against better judgement.

Of course, the applesauce scene was just one of many scenes that are intended to show that Rick might not be fit for civilized society.  There’s nothing wrong with the concept of a Good Guy turning into a kinda bad guy, but why does The Walking Dead have to be so blunt about it.  Where’s the nuance?  Just about every commercial break on TWD you see ads for Better Call Saul, which reminds us of Breaking Bad and how to masterfully manage a character’s transition to a dark(er) side.  I think the problem with TWD is that they never relent.  It’s just to grim.  No humor, no hope, it’s just hard to get excited about Rick as a character or a traveling companion.  The show has never made me buy into the concept that I’d want to be part of Rick’s group to begin with (I think I would’ve left in the middle of the night), so it’s hard to feel the intended emotions when Rick the Hero needs to chill out and accept some help.

I guess I’d just like to see the story be a little more nuanced.  Whether a character is paranoid or not is supposed to be a fun discussion topic for fans.  The only real argument you could have with Rick is that “he needs to calm down” or “wait and see,  I bet this new community doesn’t turn out any better than the last one.”  And that isn’t even really a discussion. Just a “wait-and-see.”  And there’s too much talking.  Let the actors act, leave it silent sometimes.  Let us guess what they’re thinking.

There were also a few moments in this episode where they seemed to be playing for shock that just wasn’t there.  Like when Aaron revealed that it was HE who left the water in the road; there was a pause to allow the audience to think, “OMG!  It was AARON who left the water in the road!” as if the water in the road was one of the great mysteries of the the universe.  To be clear, it isn’t a big deal or a disappointment that Aaron was the water-leaver, it’s that they filmed the scene with a deliberate pause so that this incredible revelation about water could sink in to the viewer’s mind.  Who cares?  Why would anyone think THAT would be drama?

And the “reveal” that Aaron is *gasp* gay was just weirdly handled.  For one thing, it was presented as a slight shock that Aaron was gay, but I’m not sure why that’s weird?  We just met the guy.  We know nothing about him.  We don’t even know if he’s telling the truth about his settlement, much less what types of people he is attracted to.  It would be surprising to find out that Abraham is gay because Abraham’s sexuality is established, but Aaron is new and a blank slate.  He can be gay and it isn’t surprising.  It’s like playing up left-handedness for shock when a character is new and hasn’t displayed a hand-preference by writing, shooting, fighting, etc.

But I was also annoyed at a deeper level by how they handled his gayness.  I mean, he was awfully neat and thin, and Seinfeld made fun of the stereotype that gay men are all neat and thin over 20 years ago.  Why play the same tired stereotype?  And then it was clearly presented that his gayness was supposed to shock us.  C’mon! It’s 2015.  All the squares saw Brokeback Mountain 10 years ago and got the shock out of their systems.  No need to be shocked by gayness anymore, so stop playing gayness for dramatic effect.

Anyway, enough thumping this episode around for being kinda cumbersome and lurching…

What was pretty tight was the zombie pursuit toward the end.  Even if I DO think the zombies are getting a little juicy, the full-sized American sedan sloshing its way through was pretty gnarly.  Try doing that in a Hyundai Santa Fe!  The scene that really got me was the image of the zombies illuminated in the headlights of the stopped car through the ichor-streaked windshield.  Geez, that was an awful situation!  Some of it is getting a little gross though… Like Michonne trying to pull intestines out of the radiator or Glenn giving the windshield a hobo-window-washing with his sleeve.  The chase through the forest worked really well too.  Ever since Tyreese died, the zombies are suddenly threatening again and that’s a very good thing.

But, that was only a few hot minutes in an otherwise self-important and dull episode.  What’s frustrating about TWD is that it makes the same mistakes over and over again.  It isn’t a terrible show, but every time they consciously decide to do things they aren’t excellent at, the audience suffers.  There is a better TV show inside, TWD… I just don’t think they’ll ever let us see it.

-Dean Stell

 

Grade

B-

Conclusion

Forty minutes of lukewarm, heavy-handed drama and five minutes of pretty hot zombie splatter. How are you supposed to grade that?