This review contains spoilers.
The Walking Dead has shown an admirable ability to focus on one particular storyline at a time this season. There’ll be some splitting up, but we’ll get a Bethisode or a Carol and Daryl caper, or something else focusing on one particular group of our scattered survivors, and very little of what the show did in its second season—split everyone up, then split every episode up. That split style works for something like Game Of Thrones, which features divergent enough cast members and settings to help the viewer keep up with who is where.
That doesn’t work quite as well with The Walking Dead, because if you’ve seen one post-apocalyptic zombie hellscaape, you’ve seen ’em all. However, the characters look different enough that it’s pretty easy to figure out where you’re starting and where you’re going, be you with Abraham and unconscious Eugene or Sasha and Tyreese or Beth and comatose Carol. The focusing has mostly been successful – as much as I might want an uninterrupted Carol and Beth arc – but a trip back to the old style of doing things might help advance both plots without paying unnecessary attention to two people who are mostly just laying there after having suffered a traumatic injury.
This week starts off at Gabriel’s church, where Sasha is smashing up a pew to presumably make weapons. Everyone seems to be making weapons, because there are two members of their group in trouble, and only one way to get them back. Well, two ways. One way, Rick’s way, is going to leave a pile of bodies. The other way, Tyreese’s way, is going to involve a pretty simple kidnap and exchange idea. This is a pretty clever shift in the show’s dynamic. Last season, Rick was all about being peaceful and nobody dying; this season, after learning the hard way that you don’t leave an enemy alive in this environment, he’s gung-ho to murder anyone and everyone. Tyreese, despite everything he’s gone through, is the voice of more rational, reasonable responses and says that the best way to handle things is to not murder everyone who looks at you the wrong way. Indeed, he didn’t even kill the guy with the hat who threatened Judith, though that might not have been for lack of trying.
One of the show’s big ideas this year is showing the effects of this new world on the characters. Every loss seems to be adding up to something, actually causing problems for the grief-riddled survivors, rather than simply being either talked to death or ignored, as was in past seasons. There’s still talk about those that have passed, but they seem to have more meaning now, because they seem to shake people up. Sasha is still grieving Bob’s loss, and that’s the weakness that Officer Lampson (and writer Seth Hoffman) uses to complicate the plot. She’s not thinking straight, and that’s how she falls for the pretty obvious set-up Lampson needed to make his escape. Still, it’s kind of nice to see characters screw up due to their fragmented emotional state—kind of like Abraham with much higher stakes.
It’s a very tense set-up, and a very tense scene. Even though it doesn’t feel like it’s going anywhere in any hurry—we’re an episode away from the mid-season hiatus, so it’s not going to be resolved until then—it’s a stressor on the nerves thanks to director Billy Gierhart. Beth’s little sneak through the hospital to capture epinephrine for Carol was really well-executed. Rick and company’s little trap for Dawn’s officers was also really well done; I liked the idea that the two had another cop around for support, and I further like the fact that Rick’s group still came out on top thanks to superior numbers and more willingness to get their hands bloody. Even though a lot of the beats are what you’d expect, are still pulled off well. You can’t always reinvent the wheel, or in this case the ambush.
There’s a little bit of wheel-spinning, but at this point in the season that’s to be expected. More surprising, the show’s slow-down isn’t actually a bad thing. They’ve chewed through a lot of plots this season, and it makes sense that something like, say, an assault on an armed hospital full of possibly-innocent people kept in check by corrupt cops, would require more planning than a trip to the grocery store. The fact that I’m still really entertained by the events transpiring should be a testament to the program’s improved quality. It’s taking its time with the rescue, and adding just enough forward progress on that plot to keep things moving without becoming grief porn.
Read Ron’s review of the previous episode, Consumed, here.
US Correspondent Ron Hogan is ready for Carol to be back in fighting shape. Any day now, and by any day I mean probably next episode, given the way things seem to be moving. Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.
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