My brief essay on THE WALKING DEAD's Theme for this season--can you come back from the bad things this world has made you do?--could have almost served as my review for tonight's episode. My point in that earlier piece was that TWD's writers should go with what works, rather than making everything subservient to some big Theme that will probably dictate things that don't, or that, at least, don't work as well. The writers failed to learn this lesson with Carol; after making her emerge, rather spectacularly, as the most interesting character on the show, they assassinated her character in the name of the Theme then sent her into exile. Last week, they took GINO, Glen Mazzara's bland insult to the viewers from last season, and transformed him into "Brian Heriot," a much more interesting character with a better story. The ep ended with Heriot encountering Martinez, one of his henchmen from his GINO days, and I feared the Theme was about to claim another interesting direction the series had taken.
And, as it turned out, I was right.
Weight" is a good title for tonight's installment. Heriot and his new
family are taken in by a new group of survivors who have gathered around
Martinez. He doesn't want to be there, doesn't want to think about his
past, and certainly doesn't want Martinez to talk about it. In typically
over-the-top TWD style, he becomes so averse to it that when
Martinez suggests sharing power over the group, Heriot bashes the fellow
in the head with a golf-club and feeds him to a group of zombies,
shouting "I DON'T WANT IT!" over and over again. A consequent leadership
vacuum leads to what he perceives as a dangerous situation, and he
loads up his new family and flees into the night. He comes upon what
appears to be a mud-bog in the road in which a pack of zombies the width
of the road are mired up to their waists. It's unclear what this is,
how it got there, or if it's some kind of intentional obstruction; no
explanation is offered. Because of it, Heriot returns to camp, and
doesn't leave! The danger he perceives in staying apparently isn't
significant enough to dictate simply going around this mess or taking a
It does, however, dictate his throwing off his Heriot identity
the next morning and becoming GINO again, that thing against which he
was so dead set that he insanely murdered Martinez for merely
suggesting. He wants his new family to survive, and the writers pretend
as if this new motive justifies this move--on TWD, there's never any
middle ground.. He kills the camp's leader, co-opts his right-hand man,
and sets himself up as ruler again--full GINO mode with the flip of a
switch. A little later, when his new "daughter" is nearly eaten by a
zombie, he kills the creature then icily stalks off, without even
bothering to inquire about the child's condition.
The ep tries to present a man struggling with his identity. The problem is that his GINO identity was, as I noted last week, "a poorly-constructed, unspeakably silly
cartoon villain." There are a few nice touches along the way--some solid, deceptively subtle
cinematography, and when GINO kills the group's leader, he dumps the
body off a pier with a weight on its leg so that, when the fellow
resurrects, he can go back out and look at the creature struggling under
the water--a rather rich image. For the most part, though, the story
isn't compelling--the GINO character is anti-compelling, the motivation
for his switch is laughably weak (virtually non-existent), and the
extremes from which he swings far too extreme.
All of this is done to set up a confrontation with the
prison--one that will be familiar to readers of the comic--and to have
it fall right at the point of the mid-season break. That, far more than
any dramatic considerations, is probably what accounts for both the
instantaneous nature of Heriot/GINO's transformation, and its
extremities. That thought can't help but remind me of how, earlier this
season, the creators wasted most of two episodes and parts of another
by slamming on the brakes and piling on the filler. Time that could
have been spent integrating a more credible evolution of this character
(and would have been better spent doing just about anything remotely
 That develops in a rather amusing way as well. Heriot, while out on patrol with some others, spies another camp of survivors. They consider killing the group and taking their supplies, but the new leader vetoes the idea. No need to act like animals, right? A few minutes later, they look in on the camp again, and someone--perhaps a group of ninja--have turned up and managed to gun down the entire camp and make off with its supplies without any of Heriot's group hearing a thing, though they're in the immediate vicinity.
 Nor do the mud-zombies that prevent him from leaving prevent him from driving to the prison on what appears to be the next day.
 Consistent with both the cartoon villain aspect and the completeness of the transformation, they even given GINO his old wardrobe and gun, and have him angrily spy Michonne outside the prison.