If one was writing a TV Guide blurb for "Twice As Far," tonight's installment of THE WALKING DEAD, it could read something like "Idiots randomly crashing into one another." For that matter, that description would be entirely adequate for more eps of TWD than not. I think I'm more forgiving of it at some times than at others. This evening, I didn't feel inclined to grant its perpetual shortcomings much mercy. The filler, the Idiot Plot Syndrome, the random characterizations--this one had it all in spades. Whatever else one may say about it, this was a damn sorry excuse for dramatic television. An aggressive insult to every viewer.
The one feature of TWD against which I've probably raged more than any other is the random characterizations. I'm a firm believer in strong characters who are conceptualized as real, three-dimensional human beings and plots that go where they go because of who those strong characters are. When, as with TWD, characterizations are dictated solely by the plot of the moment, have no internal consistency and are radically changed on a dime then changed again then changed again, one doesn't have characters, just a random mess--stand-ins for the real thing that have no continuity beyond having the same faces and the same names. There's no point in even trying to develop any affinity for such "characters"; if you find something you like, it will be gone when the next storyline comes around, whenever the plot dictates they become someone else entirely.
Daryl is a rare example of a character who was actually developed during the course of TWD, rather than just subjected to this process. In the series' first season, he was just a unidimensional hot-headed asshole caricature. In response to the godawful Sophia storyline, he actually grew and matured into the noble, uber-capable redneck with a heart of gold that quickly made him the most popular character on the show. Whereas there have been many entirely different versions of every other major character, he's pretty much stayed the same since. While every other character on the show has had entirely new personalities grafted on to them over and over again, he's been the rock, the one they haven't
touched. When Rick 5.0 appeared and wanted to turn Michonne over to
GINO, Daryl was the one who said this was wrong. When Rick 8.0 appeared and was casually
plotting against the Alexandrians, Daryl was the one who recognized it
was the wrong path to take. That's his role in the show; he's the hero. I
like Norman Reedus and I like this aspect of Daryl a lot.
In the current storyline though, he's suddenly getting the same treatment as the rest. It started when Jesus first appeared; Rick had undergone the latest of his random transformations and had suddenly decided it was a good idea to recruit new people to the safe zone while out of the blue, Daryl was suddenly the fellow very skeptical of this, the one who, after Jesus was injured, just wanted to leave the guy laying. This has continued since. Near the beginning of tonight's ep, he's talking to Carol about the people who, earlier in the season, stole his motorcycle. Carol notes that he had saved them. "It's who you are. We're still stuck with that."
"No, we ain't." Daryl replies. "I shoulda' killed 'em."
But no viewer of that ep would have considered that an appropriate response. These were people who had just escaped a dangerous cult and, for understandable reasons, didn't trust anyone. One of them was afflicted with diabetes, a real curse in a post-apocalyptic world and a reason for the others to be particularly defensive. They caused Daryl some inconvenience and at the end, they stole his bike, which wasn't very neighborly, particularly after he'd saved them, but it's hardly a hanging offense. This callous, murderous Daryl who comes to the dumb and inappropriate conclusion that he should have simply killed them is Daryl 2.0--entirely at odds with the Daryl we've known since season 2. His new outlook isn't a consequence of anything he's experienced.
Carol is another who, when the storyline changed, became a different character. To date, I've sort of looked at the new characterization that has been imposed upon her as making her a bit of a throwback to some of the earlier, less appealing Carols but tonight made clear she's definitely Carol 4.0--an all-new version. I really liked Carol 3.0, the sly wisecracker who is
always on top of the situation, always with a twinkle in her eye and
always ready to do what needs to be done. I'll freely concede this version of Carol had practically no connection to any of her
previous incarnations--this was another arbitrary characterization created in the shadow of Z NATION--but it worked. Even when she was wrong, such as when she was plotting with Rick against the Alexandrians, she was a delight to watch.
In the current storyline, that personality has been entirely abandoned.
When, last week, the Saviors captured the new 4.0 model, her apparent panic, which looked at first like a typical Carol 3.0 ruse, turned out to be real. She spent tonight's ep smoking and looking droopy-faced then at the end
wrote Tobin a "Dear John" letter. Says she's sorry, she never meant to
hurt him, didn't want it to have to end this way--every cliche to which
TWD is heir. The big reason she says she's leaving not only Tobin but the safe zone as well is that she just can't kill
people on behalf of those she loves anymore. This is entirely
inconsistent with every previous version of Carol. Carol 2.0 is
the one who, in order to protect everyone else, mercilessly killed two
people merely because they got sick. The one who taught children
to kill and insisted even the weak ones learn it. Even the much wimpier
1.0 model told Andrea to screw GINO silly then pike him in his sleep.
And of course, 3.0 took on the whole army of Wolves and even executed
the one Morgan tried to capture. Immediately before the current
storyline began, she was willing to try to take down Morgan in order to
eliminate even the perceived threat of that last Wolf he'd imprisoned. That's Carol. She does
what has to be done because she understand the consequences of not
doing it. Now, the new 4.0 appears and writes Tobin to say that if she stays, she'll have to kill
on behalf of the others and she just can't bring herself to do that
anymore. Meaning she knows there will be trouble but she, one of the few
capable ones, is going to leave the others to the mercy of whatever it may
Nothing--nothing--has happened to lead Carol to such a radical change of personality. Like Morgan earlier in the season, she's caught the "all life is precious" bug as if it was some airborne disease. As usual, the writers want the story to go a certain way and they just change their "characters" in whatever way is necessary to get it there. To put the matter bluntly, their character assassinations of both Carol and Daryl suck.
When it comes to redshirt characters who have been targeted for death,
TWD's usual formula is to suddenly thrust the mark into the spotlight,
giving them lots of time and trying, in their final hour, to make the audience care about them before they're put to rest. Tonight, Daryl, Rosita and Denise go off in search of a pharmacy. Denise has never been out in the zombified world and being the closest thing they have to a medical professional--should be a blue shirt instead of a red, btw-- never should be allowed out in it but while the other two don't want to bring her along, they do finally acquiesce, for no other reason than that the writers want them to do so. In the field, Denise proves to be one stupid, potentially fatal screw-up after another. While in the pharmacy, our heroes hear a zombie but it's behind a closed door so no need to worry over it. Denise, who has never fought or killed a zombie in her life, opts to break away from the others without alerting them and go check out the noise. And she opens that door. That time around, she gets lucky enough not to get eaten or to unleash a zombie herd on the others but later, as they're walking home, she comes across a derelict vehicle with a zombie in it. There's a cooler on the car-seat and for no reason at all, she decides there could be something useful in it, a cooler that has obviously been sitting there for years. Daryl and Rosita tell her to forget it and walk on, the experienced hands paying no attention to their amateur charge solely because the writers want things to go that way. Heedless of her experienced comrades, Denise opens the car door, unleashing the zombie and nearly getting herself killed. When it's over, Rosita and Daryl are very disapproving of this course of action and Denise goes into one of TWD's trademark speeches to try to justify it but her random diatribe, which isn't going anywhere anyway, is interrupted with an arrow from the forest mercifully pierces her brain.
The arrow came from Daryl's old crossbow and the fellow wielding it turns out to be the guy who stole his motorcycle. He's now suddenly an utter villain and leading a group of armed, like-minded thugs. He demands Daryl take them back to the safe zone so they can loot it. Daryl 2.0 really, really wishes he'd killed that guy. The thugs have captured Eugene, who had earlier been in the field with Abraham looking for a machine-shop at which Eugene intends to manufacture bullets. Eugene manages to distract them then bites the dick of the bike-stealer, allowing the others to get to their weapons and put the thugs to flight.
Yes, that actually happened. And for a moment on which TWD's writers had imposed some gravity, it was actually pretty funny. Humor is nearly non-existent in the world of TWD but Eugene and Abraham are sometimes given amusing dialogue. This week, they were allowed to go at one another in some brief verbal jiu-jitsu. At one point, Eugene set out to prove his new manliness by piking a zombie and it turned out to be one on which molten metal had, at some point, been poured, encasing its head in an impenetrable coating! Though it looked as if this material was edited in from some entirely different program--*cough* Z NATION *cough*--it was genuinely amusing.
A lot more of this and a lot less of everything else that happened in this ep would have been most welcome. I've been analyzing recent TWD as having entered the "stuck around way too long" seasons. Its bad habits have gotten much worse, it openly mocks its viewers and it has now taken to eating itself, a process that is presently chewing up two of its only good characters, who happen to be two of the only good things left about it. Too bad.
 This choice is, in itself, an utterly bizarre and arbitrary
plot imposition. Carol has no relationship with Tobin to end with a
"Dear John" letter. The two have only ever shared maybe 3 or 4 scenes.
There were two very awkward attempts at kisses, but no larger
been shown or even hinted. They're essentially strangers but when Carol
decides to leave, she writes him and not any of the people with
whom she has lived for years.
 She argues she knows what meds to choose; when they get to the drug store, they simply opt to take everything, which is obviously what they would have done all along.