The Walking Dead
At this point in the game, I am picking up on some patterns. I now see that there are basically three different sorts of episodes: the ones where nothing happens until the end when there’s suddenly some great scene; the ones where nothing happens and then the episode ends; and the ones that start with some sort of cliff-hanger-type tease that is then addressed later in the episode, interspersed with nothing happening in between. It’s a bit like in old Flintstones cartoons when forward movement is conveyed by having Fred drive his car against a backdrop of a pile of rocks, a palm tree, a house, and then back to the rocks. In the first half of this season, someone must have wheeled a TV/DVD combo set into the room and shown some episodes of Lost (nothing will convince me this didn’t happen), because the show then briefly tried to experiment with flashbacks. It was done in the oddest way, though, where the flashbacks didn’t add any additional information than that which we already knew. It was as though the writers thought a flashback could be used in place of their characters having backstories, instead of as a vehicle to convey them. It was baffling to watch and so when I read about Glenn Mazarra saying that he wasn’t planning on returning to the flashback form because he felt it would slow down the narrative and he was more interested in scenes that pushed the story forward, I thought that was probably for the best.
So you can imagine my surprise when last night’s episode launched almost immediately into not only a rehashing of the exact same forced argument that has been happening all season long — you know, the one where Rick says, “I would do anything to protect my wife and son, everything I do is for them,” and then Shane says, “But you can’t protect them, only I can protect them, everything I do is for them,” and then the audience says, “No one would care about protecting Lori and even Carl we’re on the fence about” — but then was followed by a little digestif of Shane talking about Rick in the hospital and how the cops were shooting not the zombies but the people, and how much he hated to leave Rick behind but he had to if he was going to protect Lori and Carl, whom only he could protect and for whom everything was done. Which means we have now seen Shane leave Rick at the hospital, watched a flashback where he describes leaving Rick at the hospital, and then witnessed a present morning argument during which he reiterates to Rick that he left him at the hospital. Rock, palm tree, house, back to rock.
The location of Shane and Grimes’s fight is the middle of the highway, eighteen miles past the farm. This is where they’ve chosen to get out of the car and discuss where they should drop off the kid from last week’s episode, you know the one with the broken leg in at least twenty different places and also the hole straight through his shin. Hershel must have used the medical supplies that Shane brought back from the high school (which I daresay was worth Otis dying for because whatever tubes and gauze were in that backpack were made of pure undiluted magic) to pull some sort of Holy Grail business on that leg. You know, given Hershel’s recent miraculous cure rate, is it any wonder that he thought he could cure the zombies in that barn? And speaking of Hershel, is Scott Wilson’s day rate at this point so high that they couldn’t afford to have him in this episode? That was weird, right? Oh, I just looked him up on IMDb and I saw a photo of him in In Cold Blood and now I’m feeling all sad that he didn’t get to keep doing that part forever. Do you think he just watches scenes from that movie in his head while he’s saying his Walking Dead lines? I hope so.
Sorry, I shouldn’t make too much fun of the kid’s leg healing so quickly. It has after all been a whole week. A week spent in apparent silence, since everything that was talked about in this episode addresses an issue that came up in the last one. There could be an entire fan fiction franchise born out of the inexplicable time gaps in this show.
The kid’s name is Randall, and Grimes and Shane are of two minds about what to do with him. Shane wants to drive him around for hours and then kill him. Grimes wants to drive him around for hours and then bring him back to the farm, take out his battery pack so he doesn’t have to talk to him, have a nice dinner cooked by the women folk, nothing too fancy, just some chicken and a simple frisee salad and some chilled almond milk, shout at somebody for something, go to sleep, wake up, reload Randall into the trunk of his car, re-drive him around for hours, and then probably still be able to decide whether he should let Shane kill him.
Is Grimes seriously not the worst decision-maker you’ve ever seen? In this case, I’m actually hoping it will work in my favor and he’ll just keep driving Randall back and forth, like a daily commute, because I’m not sure I’m going to be able to handle it if Randall dies. The scene where he took that lady zombie down had a real spark to it and also made me feel all sorts of unfamiliar sensations — interest, concern, panic — that don’t normally bubble up to the surface while I’m watching this show. I know he was given, like, three lines and I don’t know him from Sophia, but the fact that he has no association with that farm really helped.
Speaking of that place where nothing is spoken, the Daughter Hershel has awoken from her catatonic state just in time to kill herself. This plotline really made me throw up my hands. At least that was the mental image I kept picturing in my head. It wasn’t even like I was picturing my own hands being thrown up, just disembodied ones conveying the act itself. Because you would think the show would’ve at least learned a lesson from the Searching for Sophia debacle, which was this: We just aren’t going to care about the potential death of a character we don’t know. Or if it refused to learn that lesson, maybe it could’ve then learned this one: We are very tired of watching survivors of a still undefined and non-wondered-about apocalypse talk other survivors into not giving up. And when you combine those two lessons into one, well then, we’re looking at the Stay Puft Marshmallow man in terms of things you don’t want to do.
I was intrigued by the whole Andrea-Lori fight. It seems that Lori being annoying is now supposed to be an intentional part of her character. I’m not buying it or at least I don’t think that was the plan all along. When Andrea screamed at Lori that she’d had it with Lori’s smugness and long hair (she did mention the hair, right?), that felt out of the blue.
But also, what exactly was that nonsense Lori was saying? This show has always been interested in exploring the uglier underbelly of people’s natures while at the same time never being deft enough to actually pull it off. Merle and first season Daryl were examples of this, spewing racial slurs in the service of proving a point that never materialized. And now we have Lori talking about her lack of choice when it comes to her unborn baby and getting mad about other already undeveloped women characters not doing more laundry? Week after week as these examples pile on, it’s getting harder and harder to believe that these things are being said in the service of a broader story line, especially because such a thing has yet to have ever existed on this show.
I’m having a hard time addressing the resolution of Shane and Grimes’s showdown. They must have gone through an awful lot of tubs of zombie makeup to arrive back at exactly where we started. There is no part of me that believes that Grimes and Shane aren’t going to have that same fight next week and that makes me tired. If Grimes coming back for Shane was supposed to be a twist of some sort, I think it was trumped by the much greater reveal of farm boy Jimmy being the boyfriend and not brother of the daughter Hershel. I take it that season six will address why he wasn’t by her sick bed. Fifty-fifty chance that that whole bite versus scratches conversation is either going to be thing or never mentioned again.
The best scene of this episode happened twice, although I only enjoyed it once. Shane riding passenger in Grimes’s car, while Grimes muses about the upcoming winter and hopes for the weather to be kind. That detail about his cousin who sat in traffic for 24 hours eating birthday cake and listening to Lord of the Rings … that was real writing. I could’ve watched that scene for an hour, just settling in like Shane, staring at the loping zombie in the distance. A scene like that is precisely why this show confounds me so.