"Thank You," tonight's installment of THE WALKING DEAD, may have set a record. We see, near the beginning, an Alexandrian redshirt, fleeing from the zombie horde that has turned toward the safe zone. He's whining that Rick has dragged them out there to die. Seasoned viewers will know what that means. But they may be surprised by how long it takes: it's less than a minute after said whine when one of TWD's patented teleporting zombies materializes and makes hash of this heretic.
were multiple incidents of zombie teleportation this evening, along
with some action and suspense, some massive plot-holes and a genuine
shock along the way.
The big holes in "Thank You" begin
with some basic geography. No one has ever said exactly how far the
zombie-snagging quarry lies from the safe zone but it has been made clear it's a very
short distance. In the season opener, Deanna told Rick to drive Pete's
body "a few miles" west for disposal; when Rick and Morgan did that very
thing, Ron successfully followed them on foot. That's when the quarry was found. Once the zombies escaped the quarry, they walked even closer
to town--the fact that the road would bring them right to the safe zone
was a plot-point for why Rick wanted to act right away and his proposed plan, which involved bringing them even closer to town before turning them, was a source of argument. Our heroes
turned the herd in a different direction at an intersection by
constructing temporary walls across the road and leading the creatures
around the "corner." Just as the herd cleared the turn, there was a
blaring noise from the direction of town and a large number of the
creatures broke away and began following that sound.
At this point, the creatures should be very
close to town and our heroes, who were between them and the town, even
closer. Morgan ran back to the safe zone in last week's ep and stopped
the noise, which was a truck horn. The clarity with which it was heard
at the herding operation also means the distance couldn't be great.
in this ep, our heroes run and run and run toward the safe zone but
never even seem to get close to it. Then, they walk and walk and walk,
dicking around and talk, talk, talking, as characters on TWD will do
when they should be far more concerned with other matters. Michonne
assures them they've put at least half an hour between themselves and
the zombies! Almost certainly a reference to shuffling zombie speed, to
be sure, but even half an hour worth of lead figured in that way really
should have put them back home. Instead, they end up in a deserted town
where, it seems, some of the herd have teleported ahead of their undead
brethren and are there to cut off our heroes. So instead of getting the
hell out of dodge while the numbers are still on their side, they
dick, dick, dick around some more, eventually coming up with the
brilliant plan of finding a large building they can set ablaze so as to
draw away the zombies (which, with all the dicking around, arrive soon).
This presents a potentially big problem for Rick's
plan. Rick broke with the larger group early in the ep, returning to
retrieve a big RV they left at the intersection where they turned the
zombies. The distance in this case is flat-out said to be one mile yet
it takes Rick 20 minutes while running to get to the RV. His plan
is to get on a road between the safe zone and the herd and get it to
follow him, leading it, once again, away from town. Glenn setting a big
fire to draw in the creatures--thousands and thousands of them--would,
if successful, pretty much kill off this idea and leave all those
creatures in the immediate area but neither Glenn nor anyone else seem
terribly concerned about the implications of the action.
it turns out, it didn't matter anyway. The building Glenn intended to
burn had already burned down (my kind of luck). He and the
ever-worthless Nicholas are then hemmed up by the zombie army, Nicholas
shoots himself and his lifeless corpse drags Glenn over into the midst
of the flesh-eating ghouls!
likes to pinch a penny and as one of the surviving season 1 castmembers,
Steven Yeun--Glenn--was always likely to be high on the potential
death-list for this season. Everyone who, in the first year of the
series, signed a five-season contract renegotiated before the current
season began and is likely making a great deal more money now. As Noble
Willingham put it in THE LAST BOYSCOUT, "I believe it's just gonna' be
cheaper ta' kill that son of a bitch." Still, Glenn's death was a
legitimate surprise, something TWD hasn't managed in a very long time.
TWD always telegraphs the death of a significant character. That didn't
happen here. The closest thing one can say is that Glenn has been
relegated to a bit of a background character lately and has shown
remarkably poor judgment re: Nicholas. Poor judgment that ultimately led
to his end. One could see this as progress--when he died without prior
ceremony, it was as if he hadn't died at all. It's a significant break
from the usual and possibly some recognition by the creators of the
tiredness of their own formula. Last-ditch efforts to mix things up a
bit can lead in some positive directions but, it must be
confessed, the late-series openness to undertaking such stunts can ultimately make an even bigger mess of things.
Something to watch as the series continues.
were some WTF moments. A character volunteers to be left behind for the
zombies, not because she has any sort of mortal wound that would prevent
her from surviving but because she has a sprained ankle that slows her
down a bit. Not exactly death wish material. Later, she's overrun by the
creatures and the others just watch her eaten alive, no one putting a
mercy bullet in her. Still later, another of the Alexandrians goes down
and Michonne and co. do the same--just look on horrified, separated from
the mayhem by a fence, while the guy is torn to pieces. They watch for a
long time. Daryl, who is helping manage the front of the quarry
herd--the ones who didn't follow the sound of the truck horn--breaks off
at one point, leaving Sasha and Abraham to continue Pied Pipering the
critters. His intent is to help the others but all he does is run up the
road on his bike in a long series of scenes before returning to where
he started, having done nothing. Material present just to eat up
screentime with some Daryl.
It's tempting to see this ep's geographical problems as a metatextual commentary on the series itself. Taking a long time to do things that shouldn't take long at all. Is it a show that knows where it's at anymore? And so on. The ep ends on a
cliffhanger, Rick in a tight spot. On the occasions when TWD manages to
build any tension, it's the series' usual practice to immediately dispel
it by going amateur-hour-at-film-school on viewers--throwing out the
drag-weights, slamming on the brakes and bringing everything to a halt.
The preview for the next ep looks as if it's going to follow in this
dismal tradition, ignoring this week's events entirely and focusing,
instead, on a tale of how Morgan became a Jedi master. A tale to be told
in--no kidding--another 90-minute ep. AMC, it seems, is going to milk this cow right to the grave.
 While they heard the truck horn loud and clear in the season opener, they didn't
hear the much louder burst of full-auto fire that preceded it.
Throughout this ep, they don't hear any of the gunshots from the battle
with the Wolves at the safe zone until nearly the end, a time when that
battle should have already been over.
 Rick gave
them very clear instructions to go, go, go, kill anything in their
path, don't stop, don't hide, get home. They ignore every part of it.
 No one, however, thinks of either the old "cover yourself in zombie stink" trick, which would allow them to travel among the herd without molestation or the "cut the arms and jaw off a zombie" trick, which has the same effect. Michonne has used both. Here, she thinks of neither (particularly amusing, given that she's made to offer a longwinded, self-righteous speech about how she and the others know what it's like to be out in the zombified world and how the Alexandrians don't).
UPDATE (27 Oct., 2015) - I've been discussing the question of geography in various venues where I post my work and the exchanges led me to go back and look up some things, reconstructing the characters' movements as closely as it possible.
The quarry was located a very short distance to the West of the safe zone. The business with Ron in the season opener absolutely precludes it being any more than a mile or two. That makes sense, given that Rick and Morgan were simply disposing of a body--they wouldn't bother hauling it out very far.
When the zombies were freed, Daryl initially led them East. The road on which the herd were traveling was established in the season opener as leading directly to the safe zone. That's why our heroes built a wall at an intersection in it and turned the herd on to a different road, so it could be directed away from the safe zone. So from the original short distance--a mile or two--one must deduct this, whatever it was. And it was, it seems, quite a bit; at one point before the turn, we see a shot featuring what's probably more than a mile of zombie-filled road behind Daryl before the turn.
That doesn't yield any precise mileage but it's clear there's very little distance left when the truck horn began to blare (and, as previously noted, the horn itself couldn't be heard at any real distance). Our heroes should have been practically in sight of home. Absent geographical teleportation, there's certainly not enough space to put half-an-hour's distance between Michonne's group and the zombies. Half an hour's distance should have placed Michonne and co. beyond the safe zone.
In the course of my exchanges on this subject, it was also suggested that I could be wrong in writing that the horn blew "just as the herd cleared the turn," and that the editing of the season opener could mean the herd could have actually been traveling for many miles after the turn, taking our heroes further from home. This doesn't hold any water either though. The distance traveled past the turn isn't precise but one can get it pretty close. The job of the foot-soldiers in the herding operation was to cover the herd and make sure it stays together until it reaches point "green," at which time the foot-soldiers will go home and Daryl, Sasha and Abraham will take the herd 20 miles out. During the turn, Team Rick manned the walls while Team Glenn took care of the store zombies up ahead. After the zombies made the turn, these two teams rendezvoused and Rick told them to spread out and cover the parade as planned--clearly a meeting that's taking place right after the creatures cleared the turn. Carter volunteered to take the front, ran a short distance then was attacked and killed, all on camera and within less than a minute. Rick sent Morgan back to update those at the safe zone at this point--again, a time when we can say with near certainty that the safe zone is probably less than a mile away. Before Morgan departs, Rick tells him they're about an hour from point "green." An hour at zombie speed would probably cover less than two miles. The horn begins to blare very shortly after this but edits make it unclear how much time has past. We don't know exactly how long they traveled after Morgan's departure but they never made it to point "green," meaning it was less than 2 miles. Probably significantly less.
When the horn begins to blare, everyone on foot runs away from the herd and toward home. After a time, Rick decides to break away from the other fleeing footsoldiers and return to the walled intersection to retrieve the RV with the intent of using it to lure the breakaway herd back on course. The RV gives us a hard distance reference--it's flat-out said to be a mile back. This means the herd hadn't moved very far and that this is all taking place within what should be spitting distance of the safe zone. It also immediately raises the question of why everyone else didn't just go with Rick. The intersection where the RV is parked leads directly to the safe zone. In fact, when the zombies begin to follow the horn toward the safe zone, they
pass a cheap roadside stick-up sign that says the next right will take
one to the Alexandria community--the right, that is, at that intersection. Had they gone with Rick, they could have probably walked a couple hundred yards past the RV and they'd be home.
But this is THE WALKING DEAD.
 At one point in this ep, Sasha and Abraham assert they've moved the herd "five miles out," and the plan is to move them 15 more but that's an error. The 20-mile distance
they were supposed to lead the herd began after the "green" point, which they wouldn't yet have reached. They couldn't yet have taken the herd five miles beyond that either. That's hours of work and there's no way to squeeze that in.