Another episode of tv's highest-rated zombie soap has just meandered by, and I must confess "Hounded," this week's mangy melodrama, has me somewhat up a tree. What manner of creature is this? Certainly not the lovable, lop-eared flea-bag suggested by the title. The episode isn't good, yet it seems wrong to call it a turkey, because TWD has set such an appalling standard for full-blown turkey-ism. I suppose I could just cut-and-paste my review of "Walk With Me," from a few week's ago:
"Insofar as viewer expectations are
concerned, the breathtaking idiocy and awfulness that, in season 2,
became its standard succeeded in setting the bar so low that anything
that isn't just as breathtakingly awful and idiotic can't help but seem a
To an extent, "Hounded" has changed my mind about how to properly evaluate this particular species, though. Being an improvement over the absolute rubbish that constitutes TWD's regular output doesn't seem enough to earn it any praise anymore. I certainly have none for it. I don't have much of anything for it. Up a tree. It's that kind of episode.
It's mostly filler, but pointing this out doesn't really seem to say anything. Most of what happens on TWD these days is filler.
Absolutely nothing interesting happens. Last week, the writers showed some of TWD's patented Character Development by having Rick instantly go from being Rick to the way-over-the-top bad tv/movie version of Stark Raving Mad. He spent this week's ep taking imaginary phone calls from dead people, while the writers rolled out another example of their skills in this area; a thug from Woodbury, part of Merle's merry band out to murder Michonne, goes from pissing-his-pants scared and practically having to be dragged around to, in a span of mere minutes, gung-ho stone killer, who wants to pursue Michonne into a zombie-infested area, and openly defies Merle. At this last, Merle, in what I'd like to see as a bit of metatextual commentary by actor Michael Rooker, draws his gun and blows the guy's head off.
Some of the characters from the prison meet some of the characters from Woodbury. Nothing very interesting, there, either. In the comic, the Governor had gleefully descended into abject barbarism, the living embodiment of everything bad the Brave New World of the undead could do to someone. The prison, on the other hand, was a community where the characters tried to maintain some semblance of the prior civilization. All of this has been removed from the television version, replaced with empty melodrama and a standard-issue b-movie villain. A conflict is coming, and this week brought it a step closer, but it's without substance, and it's hard to give a damn about it.
"Hounded" is aggressively mediocre, an episode that, like several this year, gives off a vibe that even the awful writers behind TWD have lost interest in it. It's a challenge to write something interesting about such an episode. To consistently do so about repeated eps of this caliber is really tough. It could be argued I chose poorly when I made TWD the subject of my first foray into weekly blogging about a series, but looking back over my output, it hasn't been so bad. Even when I was feeling quite burned out, I still managed to say something. This week, a proper metaphor may elude me, as "Hounded" is neither fish nor fowl, but it is rather foul, and perhaps the fact that I've made it this far through such a generally subpar series but find myself so entirely uninspired by this week's offering says enough.
 UPDATE (19 Nov., 2012) - The writers are bringing the same skills and thoughtfulness to Rick's "character arc" this season as last. In season 2, the gutsy, smart, take-charge leader-of-men Rick from S1 was arbitrarily devolved, suddenly written as weak-willed, indecisive, overly emotional, and dumb, just so he could "evolve" (revolve?) back to some semblance of a leader. This season, he was written as instantaneously transforming from Rick to this cartoon version of madness presently playing itself out--so entirely insane that he's already taking imaginary phone-calls and hearing the voices in his head. Rick eventually got to a point of near-madness in the comic, but he went through a lot worse for a lot longer before he started having imaginary conversations. The stress of leadership--which was much worse in the comic--had taken him frighteningly close to the breaking-point several times. Unlike the television version, Rick and Lori had a good marriage. He and his wife loved one another, and losing her, after everything else, was just more than he could bear. The television version stripped away all of that development, in favor of Just Add Water Instant Lunatic. Paradoxically, it stripped away most of his reasons for becoming crazy in the first place--his "marriage" was a poisonous thing he'd basically abandoned--while at the same time making him much crazier than he was in the comic.
 And I'd like to see it that way because Rooker really is great at what he does, and far better than the material he's being given, here.
 Speaking of disinterest, the characters couldn't be bothered to search for Carol last week. After she disappeared, they simply declared her dead, without a trace of evidence for this, and even dug a grave, which they then filled in with dirt and marked with her name. She turned up alive this ep.
 I'd argue it!
Something else: During last week's baby formula fiasco, we were told the group had failed to find any formula during any of their scavenging throughout the entire 9 months of Lori's pregnancy, and discussed having to drive a long distance to even look for any. Then, they manage to find some almost immediately after they start looking for it. In "Hounded," they find a huge supply of it at the store just down the road from the prison.