This week was a bit of a middling ep of THE WALKING DEAD. "Alone" is a big step down from last week and had several problems but still enough noteworthy moments to keep them from entirely overwhelming the proceedings.
The ep threw me a curveball with its opening, a series of events I
read as a great little joke aimed at Mazzara-era TWD. The cold opening
is excellent, a music-video flashback showing how Bob, his previous
companions having been wiped out in some conflagration, wandered
aimlessly through a world gone dead before being found by the prison
group. It's a terrific, bleak little minimalist essay on a fellow who
has been through hell and seems to have lost everything, including any
understanding of why he's bothering to continue walking around
breathing. Bob has, to date, been a bit of a background character, and
whenever such a character was given a prominent spotlight on Mazzara-era
TWD it meant he'd be toast before the ep ended. After this flashback,
focus shifts back to the present, and Bob, Maggie, and Sasha are huddled
in a bank of fog fighting off zombies as they appear. It's a pretty
good sequence. For a moment, it seems as if our heroes will be
overwhelmed, and almost immediately Bob is bitten, which, of course, is
certain death. When the fighting is over and he inspects himself,
though, it turns out the zombie got only a mouthful of the bandage
covering a gunshot wound he received at the prison. Bob makes it through
this evening's episode, smiling most of the way. And yes, that was worth the laugh I offered it.
I was pleased to see that, after being given a bit of a spotlight
in the last ep, Beth didn't die this week. Score another for the Gimple
gang. She even had a few more
good moments with Daryl, with whom she's growing closer. There was a
great horror-movie sequence wherein an unseen assailant apparently
brings a gaggle of zombies to the door of the funeral home where the two
are staying. With the creatures virtually piling over one another to
get at him, Daryl leads them to the basement and has to fight them off
with only a pair of embalming tables separating him from the horde. He
manages to escape, but someone--probably whoever brought the dead
there--has kidnapped Beth and driven away. Beth may not make it yet!
As all of this indicates, this was yet another episode featuring
various groups of characters wandering the countryside in the wake of
the fall of the prison, the fifth such ep so far. It featured an
unnecessary amount of filler. Nowhere near as bad as usual, but the pace
could have used some real tightening, particularly in the sequences
featuring Bob, Maggie, and Sasha, which have been overly repetitive (and
not only in this ep).
While the wanderings of the characters give viewers a look at
more of the world in which the series is set--something TWD has needed
for a long time--it's also the case that the longer they wander, the
more rankling is the Idiot Plot issue. On Mazzara's TWD, every bit of
plot progression was made entirely dependent upon every character being a
complete idiot at all times, and this is yet another example of it.
"Too Far Gone" established that the prison group did, in fact, have a
rendezvous point in case anything went wrong--it's impossible to imagine
people in that situation wouldn't. But there's been no mention of it since.
Tonight, Maggie and co. were looking for Glenn, not by trekking to any
planned rendezvous but by making ever-widening circles away from the
prison. Worse, the last several eps have set most of the major
characters to following a series of signs along the railroad promising
safe haven at the end of the line. They're doing this instead of looking
for one another. Tyreese, who is with Carol and the children, is following the tracks instead of looking for his sister. Sasha, traveling with Maggie and Bob, hasn't done anything to try to
find her brother, and has wagged in disapproval of Maggie's efforts to
find Glenn. While Maggie has searched for Glenn, she's shown no interest
at all in finding her own sister, and, tonight, gave up the search for
Glenn too, choosing to follow the tracks and mark the signs with
messages to him. Beth hasn't looked for her sister. Daryl, who is with
her and for whom the group was the closest thing he'd ever had to a real
family, hasn't looked for anyone either--he just assumes they're dead.
He and Michonne would be the most capable in tracking down the others;
she, with Rick and Carl, is, instead, just following the railroad. The
characters walking the tracks instead of looking for one another have
expressed the belief that they'll probably find any of the others who
are still alive at the promised sanctuary, a completely ridiculous
assumption with no in-story rationale that has been inserted solely
because the writers want the characters to follow that railroad to
whatever awaits them at the end.
The other weakness in
"Alone" is the silly melodrama that accompanied the Bob/Sasha/Maggie
plot. Sasha, for no real reason than to provide a plot, suddenly wants
to stop and find a new place to live rather than following the tracks to
their terminus. Maggie, hearing Sasha's plans, abandons her companions
in the night, intent on following the railroad herself, a completely
ridiculous and unnecessarily dangerous decision--traveling together is
obviously safer, and if the other two want to stop somewhere, Maggie
could continue from there alone if she liked. But the Theme of the
evening, reflected in the ep's title, is that Maggie just can't do it
alone, so she leaves only to be reunited with Sasha later, to whom she
offers up some of TWD's trademark cliché-ridden anti-naturalistic
speechifying about how she just can't do this on her own. The trio are
reunited. Everyone smiles. Isn't that sweet?
So tonight is, like so many eps this season, somewhat a mixed bag. Not a bad show by TWD's ridiculously low standards,
and with some worthy moments, but still indicative of a series mired in
some unfortunate habits and still falling well short of its potential.
They find an embalming room where zombies who have died have been
stretched out and professionally prepared for burial, a sign that
someone, whoever managed the funeral home, still thought they were
worthy of that respect. It's a small touch, but of the kind TWD needs,
and I liked it. The moments spent with Beth and Daryl have taken on a
vague atmosphere of wandering souls trying to find, in a world of
horrors, some semblance of a good life, one worth the living. I like this very much.
Tonight, the writers inserted a hint of an explanation, that Sasha is
afraid to know if Tyreese is alive or dead--the sort of "explanation"
that only flies on bad soap melodramas.