Monday, February 27, 2017

THE WALKING DEAD's Half-Dozen Calamities

Tonight's episode of the THE WALKING DEAD goes beyond Thunderdome but doesn't go anywhere interesting. "Hostilities & Calamities" is, instead, by-the-numbers TWD dreariness incarnate, like a greatest hits package of many of my past criticisms of the series.

1) Filler - Yep, this was yet another filler ep featuring yet another one-line plot in which nothing of any real consequence happened. Eugene is taken to the Saviors' compound and Negan, recognizing his skills, gives him a privileged position. This was the explicit reason Negan took him; if any further explanation had been necessary, a competently written series would have disposed of the matter in half a sentence in a later ep.[1]

2) Slam on the Brakes, Throw Out the Drag-Weights - After two eps in a row that had moved at a relatively reasonable clip,[2] this one brings all that momentum to a screeching halt for that static filler story, which ever-so-slowly deals with entirely irrelevant events that occurred prior to the stuff we've been watching for a few weeks now.

3) Repetition Is The Soul of TWD - TWD has a terrible habit of repeating exactly the same material over and over again and this entire ep was just a rehash of material previously covered this season in "The Cell" and "Sing Me A Song." Eugene take the place of Daryl and Coral from those eps, hanging around the Savior compound, learning how things--the same things--work, recovering Negan's marital arrangements and its discontents, watching Negan do his one-note '60s Batman villain act, going among the workers, learning the hierarchy, seeing the nicer apartments Negan's favored are granted (the apartment Eugene is given appears to be exactly the same apartment Negan used to try to tempt Daryl over to his side). It even replicates the scene from the Coral ep wherein Negan gathers his workers to dispose of someone whom he believes has crossed him. In this case, the fellow is killed rather than merely being burned nearly to death. The b-plot replicates the material from those early eps regarding Dwight, the melodrama with his wife and his rocky relationship with Negan, which is yet again challenged and to which he yet again decides to cling. We even get a brief reprise of the dreadful pop tune Dwight previously used to torture Daryl.[3]

4) Where In Hell Is ____ (Character)? - TWD's habit of breaking up the cast and focusing on filler eps that only involve one or a few characters at a time means that large numbers of characters and entire storylines disappear for extended periods. With the midseason break, it's been 2 1/2 months since we've last seen Eugene; viewers could be forgiven if they'd entirely forgotten about him. As this ep began, we see Dwight discovering Daryl's escape immediately after it happened--again, an event that, for viewers, happened 2 1/2 months ago. The Saviors have, in fact, already visited the Safe Zone looking for the fugitive. Two eps ago.

5) Arbitrary Characterization - Eugene has long been a character defined by his cowardice but last season, the writers put him through an evolution which saw him become confident, assertive, brave even to the point of being stupid brave. TWD is allergic to any real character development, so this season, the writers have reimposed Eugene's previous cowardly persona. This, to be fair, isn't a sin specific to this ep--it was done earlier in the season--but Eugene was the star of tonight's installment, so it rubs one's nose in it more than did his brief appearances in prior eps.

6) Stupid Characters Syndrome - At one point, Negan rightly mocks Rick for not making any real use of Eugene's skill-set but Negan himself later liquidates a doctor. A rare commodity in the zombie apocalypse but the way Negan chucks him in a furnace, one would think medical professionals grew on trees. As another stupid and inexplicable turn, the lesson big brain Eugene takes from this--and enunciates--is that Negan doesn't consider people with special skills like himself to be replaceable! Eugene tells Negan about the machine-shop he put together. This would seem a rather valuable resource as well; Negan shows no interest in it.

"Hostilities & Calamities" is a complete waste of space, aimed only at filling another ep in the season order instead of having to write one. Feels like I've written that one a time or two too.



[1] Despite having no real story to tell and being filled with needlessly long scenes and scenes repeated from earlier eps, tonght's installment was allowed to run 10 minutes beyond its usual timeslot. Gotta' get that ad revenue before this walking dead critter dries up for good.

[2] For TWD, at least--admittedly, a not-insignificant caveat.

[3] There's another Z NATION-style gag at one point, where one of the fearsome zombies Negan has fastened to a fence has rotted so much that it simply falls apart as if on cue. In a bit of idiocy, Eugene suggests covering the creatures in molten metal to preserve their bodily integrity and protect the brain but if applied to the head of a zombie as Eugene suggests, molten metal should, of course, fry the creatures brain instantly.

Twitter: @jriddlecult

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