This review contains spoilers.
The Walking Dead has become increasingly dependent on montages set to music, and the more of these the show does, the better the montages seem to get. I must confess to enjoying a good montage, and the opening one of a lonely, wandering Bob Stookey really worked for me. We know that Bob spent a lot of time on his own, but this just emphasizes how alone he was. Wandering down the street, eating what looks like a grapefruit, hiding behind a tree, setting up temporary shelter in a cave, and so on until he’s found by Daryl and Glenn and saved from his hopeless, lonesome situation.
In a way, that opening is more effective than the times Bob has mentioned that along the way he’s been the sole survivor of his groups; akin to how Beth imagines Daryl will be the last man standing, and how last week Daryl said that was a horrible thing to say, with Bob’s introduction we see just how bad that situation really is. The only difference between Bob and the living dead all around him is that Bob’s eyes aren’t all clouded over and he’s eating citrus, not brain meat.
It’s not a good way to live, and it goes a long way towards justifying why Bob’s the only person who wants to keep his little group together. Maggie wants to go to Terminus to find Glenn, Sasha wants to go set up another shelter in a different city, and Bob… Bob just seems to want to find the remaining members of the group, or at least a different group. Plus there’s strength in numbers. Even someone like Daryl could use a friend or two, even if that friend is just Beth (who spends most of this episode threatening to be a love interest strong enough to derail the Caryl shippers like myself). If nothing else, prolonged loneliness and the constant fear of death is enough to make someone go a little Morgan in the head.
Terminus is still the goal for our stragglers, but it appears that they’re making a little more progress in that direction, as well as getting closer than ever to unification judging from the way this episode plays it. Curtis Gwinn, who is credited with the script, does a good job at balancing the three story lines, as well as squeezing in a nice (and well-shot courtesy of Ernest Dickerson) little moment at the end of the episode for Glenn, as well as an interesting new wrinkle in the Daryl segment. The structure, particularly the opening with Bob, adds a bit more heft to the rest of the episode, but it’s the middle sequences that seems to work best. Daryl and Beth testing their newly-formed bonds; Bob and Sasha cementing their budding relationship.
Bob’s not a character we know well enough for him to deserve a whole episode to develop, but a few moments now and then for both him and Sasha provide some much-needed rounding out to Bob’s admittedly weak start (being an alcoholic, nearly killing everyone over a bottle of hooch). Bob needed some competence, as well as a reason to drink. That fear of yet another group dying all around him is a pretty solid fear, given his belief that he’s a bad luck charm has a lot of merit, and it’s only natural that he feel pretty good about breaking that streak, even if he’s a little too optimistic by the standards of those around him.
When checking out the cast and crew for this week’s episode, I discovered that this week’s director, Ernest Dickerson, has directed more episodes of the show than any of the other directors listed. Even Greg Nicotero has only done six, which is kind of amazing considering he’s been so actively involved for the past few seasons in the director’s chair. Still, when it comes to spectacle, Dickerson seems to be the go-to guy. He directed the end of the Greene farm in Beside The Dying Fire and he handled the assault on the prison in Too Far Gone.
This week’s episode doesn’t offer up as big a show piece, but Dickerson does craft one of the more suspenseful, clever moments for this half of the show during the fog scene. It’s the stand-out sequence from this week’s episode; zombies come lurching out of the mist only to meet one of the three defending living humans, repeat as necessary. It’s definitely a cool idea, and it’s implemented very well. Daryl’s zombie escape scene at the funeral home (giving me mini-flashbacks to Return of the Living Dead in the process) is another well-executed scene from the director, using solid camerawork and great blocking to heighten the menace and surprise of the zombie surprise.
If you’re one of the vocal folks who thought last week’s character study was a nadir for the show, you probably won’t like this week’s episode, either. I enjoyed last week, and I enjoyed this week. Since returning from the holiday break, I feel as though The Walking Dead has hit a good streak of episodes, with a good balance between spending time on old characters, fleshing out weaker characters, meeting new characters, and killing things. It’ll be interesting to see if they can keep up the successful streak, or if we’ll stumble a bit at the close of the season.
Read Ron’s review of the previous episode, Still, here.
US Correspondent Ron Hogan would be willing to drink moonshine with Daryl Dixon, but only if there were no zombies trying to kill us. Then again, if there were, I wouldn’t be any safer with anyone else. Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.
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