Original air date: October 26, 2014
Review (with SPOILERS): Sometimes I just don’t know what to make of The Walking Dead. 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…
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