This week on The Walking Dead the virus outbreak is in full swing at the prison as our heroes go on what appears to be a suicide mission to find antibiotics. Does breaking up the group prove to amp up the momentum of the show?
Let’s bitch it out…
In a word: no. We’re at episode three and at this point, I still feel as if I’m waiting patiently for The Walking Dead to find its footing and get into its groove. So far it hasn’t. There’s something missing from the show and I can’t quite put my finger on it. All of the emotional beats attempted throughout this episode just don’t deliver in the ways they’re intended.
Let’s start with the arguably the biggest reveal: Carol (Melissa McBride) is the one who prematurely burned the forgettable ‘Karen and David’ last week in an effort to save the group from the outbreak (Good job on that!). I’ve previously complained about Carol’s character arc this season, and the fact that I had no reaction to the way she matter-of-factly admits to doing the deed in the episode’s last minutes falls right in line with my position. Carol has changed simply because it’s convenient for the show and NOT because it’s for the good of the character. Is this an effort to paint Carol as a more complex character? Clearly, yes. Is it successful? Nope. Her actions and motivations come across as incredibly awkward and manufactured. Indeed she’s on the council, which can account for her new leadership role, but her actions suggest that she wants the head honcho position and she’s prepared to gain it by making impetuous decisions on her own.
And what about her cowardice? I’m certain we’ll get some future declaration that she was only doing what was best for the group, but why do it all in secret? She admits it only when confronted and that’s what doesn’t connect. Where the hell does all of this come from? I like “Strong Carol”, but I don’t like “Insidious Carol”. I don’t necessarily have a problem with the character exhibiting new shades or morality, but it’s the execution that I have issue with.
There are too many questions that accompany Carol’s actions which ultimately make them feel tacked-on as opposed to the believable evolution that we’ve seen in Rick (Andrew Lincoln) or even Daryl (Norman Reedus). I don’t know what will become of Carol now that Rick’s found out that she’s gone too far (as Chad Coleman’s Tyreese puts it: If gone unpunished, Carol’s actions would make the prison a place that condones murder). Ultimately this is all revealed so sloppily that I have no investment in what follows.
Then we have the crazy fistfight between Tyreese and Rick. As much as we empathize with the agony that Tyreese is going through, the resulting fist fight feels incredibly jarring and out of place. As I said last week, we haven’t spent enough time with Tyreese to feel like his attack on Rick is warranted. Furthermore, are we really to believe Rick has so much residual rage in him that he’s unable to control himself from breaking his hand on Tyreese’s face in retaliation? I’ll admit, I like seeing Rick continually struggle with his demons, but ‘falling off the wagon’ in the way that he does just feels like an attempt to manufacture additional tension between the characters rather than coming from a truthful place.
The episode fails again by giving Glen (Steven Yuen) the virus in an attempt to get us more emotionally invested in the danger of the outbreak. Unfortunately, the opposite happens. Glen himself says how ironic it is that he’d be ‘taken out by a glorified cold’ which merely reveals to us that a cure is swiftly on its way. There’s no way we would lose a major character like Glen in such an unceremonious way (and if we did the show would never hear the end of it).
The only scenes that carry any emotional heft are courtesy of Hershel (Scott Wilson). His ‘risk my life speech’ comes from a genuine place (even if it is a bit histrionic), and his desire to help the sick is directly in line with his character. Is it stupid to walk right into the quarantined cellblocks? Incredibly…but it makes complete sense. Let’s not forget this guy had a healthy collection of walkers in his barn hoping to hold out for a cure. The resulting scene he shares with Doctor S (Sunkrish Bala) are touching as the two acknowledge they wouldn’t be anywhere else, healthy or not. I normally wouldn’t highlight such a mundane scene (featuring a character that’s likely a redshirt) but as much of the episode delivers insincere and strained character development, this quickly stands out as one of its stronger moments.
I’m wiling to give the show the benefit of the doubt, what with a new showrunner and all, but things really need to start shaping up in a more purposeful way for me to feel the kind of urgency and exhilaration I’ve felt in prior seasons. Hopefully breaking up the group for a bit will allow us to feel more connected with individual characters rather passively watching as we hit one meaningless plot point after another.
- Alas, the stupid hat is back – but at least its gold tassels appear to be gone for good. Carl (Chandler Riggs) shows us some genuine growth, as he’s able to still his itchy trigger finger while out on a berry mission with Hershel. It did have me wondering why Hershel didn’t feel it was necessary to kill those two walkers? Have we forgotten what happened to Dale (Jeffrey DeMunn) the last time Carl left walkers alone?
- I like the moment that Daryl shares with Michonne (Danai Gurira) when he acknowledges that he knows she’s been on the hunt for the Governor (an unseen David Morrissey). I am also impressed with the tact he shows in subtly suggesting that Hershel not accompany them on the medicine mission. Daryl has transitioned nicely into the role of leader, which has me wondering why there’s all this chatter about bringing Rick back into the fold. Perhaps Carol going rogue is an indication that Daryl isn’t as astute as he appears to be…
- Speaking of things being “off” – I feel absolutely no suspense when Carol is attacked at the watering hose as Rick came to rescue her. There’s just something about the walker attacks this season that isn’t doing it for me. Perhaps I’ve just become desensitized?
- Conversely, the herd of zombies en route to the veterinary clinic is quite effective, so perhaps I just have a hate on for Carol.
What do you think viewers? Do you think I’m way out to lunch about Carol and feel her character development is warranted? Do you find yourself caring anymore about Tyreese as he goes through various stages of Hulk-rage? Do you think Stookey (Lawrence Gillard Jr.) will ever get more than a couple of lines of dialogue? Who do you think that voice on the radio is? Sound off in the comments section below.
A gentle reminder that we adhere to a SPOILER FREE zone here, so please keep any plot points from the graphic novels to yourself.
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9pm EST on AMC.