Original air date: October 12, 2014
Review (with SPOILERS): You won’t find many episodes of The Walking Dead that nicely encapsulate what the series does well (at times), while also reminding you that it is a deeply flawed dramatic series. It’s a hard episode to review and I found myself liking it less the more I thought about it. So many rewrites…
I can totally see why half my friends loved this episode, but I see a lot of nits to pick…
The Glass Is Half Full: You won’t find many scenes on basic cable more intense and uncomfortable than the opening scene in the abattoir. It first built dread with an agonizingly long build-up: ominous knife sharpening, practice swings with the bat, creepy/cold stainless steel everywhere, lots of cuts to bodies on slabs… It’s all kinda preposterous! I mean, that knife was probably sharp already, right? But, it gives time to ponder the threat to Rick & Co. and to contemplate the mechanics of everything– why the bat? Why are they kneeling? How’s this slaughtering going to happen? Long pauses are uncomfortable.
And then they start executing the no-name guys and – ugh – the SOUNDS! The smack of the bat on a head and the rush of air coming from the severed windpipes. Yeesh! They really put a lot of effort into making sure that we were uncomfortable as hell. And then they killed FOUR no-name guys when we kinda got it after just one. It was awful. But it was also really effective. Rick & Co. wanted to leave that room, and so did the everyone else watching this scene. Tthe creators really committed to that scene, and they were able to invoke a universal feeling of discomfort with their audience. The bar for causing discomfort just keeps going up.
The zombie scenes were a total romp. The herds rumble along, eating the no-names and getting vanquished by the heroes and we are entertained. It’s all good fun. It should be routine at this point, but they keep finding little innovations like the Flame Zombie or nifty ways to kill them and it keeps working.
The other bonus from this episode is that we weren’t forced to endure monologs from either Rick or Carl. Perhaps the writers realized that we don’t really want to hear Rick talking about how good people do bad things sometimes or hear Carl talk about anything. So Carl spent the episode locked in a train car and Rick was literally gagged. Andrew Lincoln is a fine physical actor, so the less talking and more doing, the better. Nobody likes monologs and perhaps they’ve figured that out after 4 seasons. Hopefully we never have to endure a Rick monolog as his companions listen in rapt attention.
It’s also encouraging that we aren’t going to linger in Terminus for a whole season the way we loitered at the Farm and the Prison. One of the cool things about a post-apocalypse story is the opportunity to see lots of different micro-societies, and it would be a shame if we didn’t see more of the countryside. I’d rather leave Terminus with questions than stay past the story’s freshness date.