I have mixed feelings about this episode. On one hand, I’ve been pleading via blogging (PvB?) for The Walking Dead to take more chances with its storytelling because the show is so very linear and so serious. It tends to just be a series of “And then _____ happened. And then _____ happened. And then _______ happened. And then…” Even when the storytelling is tight as it has been thus far in Season 6, it can be monotonous.
So, then TWD tosses us a bottle episode and it doesn’t quite feel right. Perhaps the show has been linear, monotonous and serious for so damn long that it feels weird to deviate? Or perhaps it was good to do a bottle episode, but it was just the wrong time?
In the end, it was a good episode at the wrong time.
The positives for this episode were pretty straight forward. We all knew that somehow Morgan had gone from the jittery and insane man from Season 3’s “Clear” to the no-killing, calm monk we see in the present. I’m not sure that I needed to see how he got from Point A to Point B, but the journey was enjoyable mostly because we got to see two very solid actors in Lennie James and John Carroll Lynch. Good things tend to happen when you toss two good actors together and let them just sorta run with it.
I especially liked Lynch’s Eastman. I mean, THAT’s the dude you want to hang out with in the apocalypse. He has a very nice cabin, not too many zombies, is handy with aikido, has a calm demeanor and is even trying to make goat cheese. He’s kinda the perfect guy to play the monk in the zombie apocalypse. On one hand, it seems a little convenient that Morgan ran into a man who could keep him safe, cure his psychological trauma, teach him a new path of non-violence AND even teach him aikido. On the other hand, what in TWD isn’t convenient? Every character on the show has had some luck here and there, so I can roll with Eastman’s convenience.
However, a lot of the rest of the episode fell a little flat for me. It was a little too long and way too predictable. Once we met Eastman, it was easy to think, “Oh, that guy teaches Morgan to be calm and to fight with a stick. The end.” While it was enjoyable watching John Carroll Lynch do his thing, you knew (a) Morgan would find peace, (b) Eastman would die and (c) the poor goat would die. So, the episode was good, but not necessarily fun, because “fun” requires some unpredictability. Also, I’m not sure the episode needed 90 minutes.
And, it’s hard to get away from the timing issue. Just last week, we had that fake out with Glenn’s “death.” It just sucks to keep us waiting for another week when the online mood is very much to “Glenn Lives!” As I said last week, it was a pretty patronizing fake-out (if that’s what it was…and I tend to think it was), so stop nursing it.
A very nice bottle episode that succeeds mostly due to the presence of two excellent character actors. Probably not the right time for the episode, nor did it need to be 90 minutes.
FInal thought: When I think of aikido, I - of course - think of Steven Seagal. I can't help but regret that TWD didn't take the other path and have Morgan run into Seagal himself: fat, bandana-ed, self-promoting, guitar playing and silk robe wearing. Think of the Bill Murry cameo in Zombieland. Seagal would teach Morgan everything he knew while also filming a documentary about himself surviving the apocalypse. He'd keep Morgan in his cage and force him to listen to his music. Later, he would show up in Alexandria to take credit for Morgan's staff skills. If would have been awesome. Why can't TWD allow something like THIS to happen?