Monday, March 6, 2017

THE WALKING DEAD Say Yes To The Deer

There was a moment on "Say Yes," tonight's installment of THE WALKING DEAD, wherein Rick and Michonne are discussing the future and imagining the downfall of Negan's order. Someone, Michonne suggests, is going to have to be in charge of reordering the world of the survivor communities."It should be you," she tells Rick. "You can do it. You'd be good at it." Rick, of course, has never shown himself to be "good at" much of anything in TWD's long run. One of show's tropes is that the writers, perpetually lost in the fever of Idiot Plot Syndrome, always show Rick to be entirely incompetent then, to justify his continuing position as leader, try to do an end-run around their own bad plotting by having the other characters constantly talking about what a great leader he is. Don't believe your lying eyes! Immediately after Michonne suggests he's cut out to be Maximal Leader, the writers give us another look at Rick's typical leadership skills. He and Michonne, out scavenging for guns and supplies, have happened upon what appears to be an old county fair that, when the world was falling apart, was apparently used by the military as some sort of base of operations. Everyone there, soldiers and civilians alike, are long dead but the many soldier-zombies are still toting their weaponry. Jackpot! But there are probably over a hundred zombies inside the fairground. Does Rick high-five Michonne and return home to collect some extra muscle to take the place? Nope. He decides he and Michonne will try to take on this army of the dead all by themselves.

Clearly, the guy who should be running the world.[1]

The discovery of the fairground, which also came with tons of still-boxed-and-shrink-wrapped MREs, was another magic-trick by the writers who, having wasted over half this season on filler material, are now jamming in these huge, paradigm-altering discoveries one after another. When last we saw Rick, he'd cut a deal with the Garbage People (who were another magic trick); if Rick could arm them, they'd fight with him. Presto! The next time we see Rick, he's finding exactly what he needed, and no one from any of the communities, all of whom have been scavenging throughout this area for something approaching two years, have ever come across it! Other than being just what they needed, the site doesn't make a lot of sense. There are shell-casings scattered around that suggest there was some sort of ferocious fight yet the perimeter fences appear to be entirely unbreached and most of the soldier-zombies are walking around with their weapons conveniently slung and holstered, as if they somehow died without having used them at all. Bored to death while on guard duty? One of the mysteries of TWD.

Adding to the feeling of the ridiculous magic of the discovery, our heroes come across the site in the first place by following an animal spirit-guide. Actually, it's supposed to be a deer but it's rendered in CGI and looks it. It's poking around when Michonne spots it and decides to try to score some venison. And yes, she and Rick do talk about the Deer. Trying to follow it (in a way that proves they've never been hunting in their lives), they walk over a hill, find a fence and beyond it is the fairground. Alas, our heroes will get no more help from this particular spirit-guide. It turns up again later in the ep inside the fairground where it's eaten by a mob of zombies. The lumbering creatures would, of course, have no chance of catching--or even getting near--a real deer but it seems spirit-guide deer aren't as fleet of foot and their real-world counterparts. The writers use the moment to stage their cheapest gimmick of the ep. Rick spots the Deer and, in the midst of killing a massive horde of zombies, decides it's the ideal time to entirely stop what he's doing and try to shoot it. He climbs out on a Ferris wheel to get a better angle, never gets a shot, falls among the dead and is apparently eaten. This is seen from Michonne's point of view; while seasoned viewers should immediately recognize this as some sort of fake-out--the zombies are eating the Deer[2]--she's horrified by it, drops her sword and just sort of stands there in disbelief when Rick suddenly pops out of a crate over to the side like, yes, a rabbit out of a hat. The entire scene is poorly shot and edited in such a way as to reinforce this impression. The deer was nowhere around where Rick fell and Rick was on the ground, prone and surrounded. Escape was impossible and some of the dead in that same shot even drop to their knees to get at  him. There's a very brief cutaway to Michonne then back to the dead, who are having a feast. Then Rick pops out of a box over to the side of the carnage. Absent magic or his being gifted with the powers of the Flash, his getting there is entirely impossible. No zombies followed him to the box either and while he popped out at the dramatically appropriate time--surprise!--there was no other reason for him doing so; for all he knew, the zombies he had just evaded were right on top of him. Perhaps the good spirit-guide Deer, recognizing that Rick is such a great and irreplaceable leader, teleported him to the box and sacrificed itself to save him. Whatever the case may be, it seems remarkable that the writers would pull a stunt like that given the very negative reaction to Glenn's dumpster dive last season but perhaps they were feeling cheeky.[3]

They certainly were elsewhere in the ep, where they once again turn to Z NATION-inspired wackiness for a pretty good little comedy setpiece. Rick and Michonne are trying to push a car into an opening in an internal fence at the fairground to seal off one part of it from the other and allow them to more easily battle the dead. When Rick gets to the car, he discovers a zombie is lodged in its windshield, the creature's head right over the wheel! Rick has a hatchet but does a double-take when he sees it's wearing a helmet! So Rick goes around to the front of the car to pull it out. He grabs its foot and pulls. The foot comes off in his hand. He grabs it by the waist. It splits in half. After much grue, he does finally get it out. He and Michonne start to push the car to the fence and they're fired upon by a zombie with a machine gun! The creature's gun is slung on its shoulder and the trigger was being touched off by some rebar in which the critter had become entangled. Michonne dives into the car trunk to avoid getting shot and Rick discovers the car has no breaks--it coasts right past the hole they meant to fill and right in the midst of the hordes of zombies beyond. What a revoltin' development. This sequence was the highlight of the ep, the one thing that made it worth watching. As happened with another ZN-style setpiece a few weeks ago, someone apparently forgot to let the editor in on the joke. He again edits it as if it was a straight action sequence and again, this makes it even more funny. ZN is a much better show. TWD is much improved by ripping it off.[4]

Our heroes somehow manage to defeat the hundred+ zombies and recover, in total, 63 guns,[5] which, after having been out in the weather for a couple years, appear to be in almost pristine condition. Instead of taking a selection of these weapons and stashing them for his own community's use, Rick takes all of them--every gun--to the Garbage People. Hey, he's a great leader with a record to keep up! Jadis, their leader, tells him it isn't enough. There are twice as many Garbage People as guns and besides, if they agreed to fight now, the plotline couldn't be artificially stretched over several more eps. Rick has to barter with her to get to keep any of the weapons.

Rosita is becoming increasingly angry and bent on going after the Saviors--when Jadis says there aren't enough guns, she becomes enraged.[6] Earlier in the ep, Rosita stops in to see Father Gabriel and goes on an entirely irrational tirade about how, back when she had a gun and a single bullet, Gabriel had talked her out of suicidally trying to kill Negan with it. She asserts that if she hadn't listened to him, Olivia would still be alive, Spencer would still be alive and Eugene wouldn't have been taken by the Saviors. Viewers with a memory of that ep will recall that Rosita actually disregarded Gabriel's advice and did try to kill Negan with that gun. She failed and Olivia was then killed and Eugene taken because of that attempt. And, of course, if she'd succeeded, there's no reason to expect the Saviors would have done anything other than murder the entire Safe Zone population. By no scenario would there be no dire consequences for that action. TWD's ugly misogyny is one of the few long-running defects that has actually been reformed to an extent over the years. It's disappointing to see this sort of backsliding to the days when the women were all written like the writers' least favorite ex-wives. Rick and Michonne found a large cache of guns but because she couldn't find any and is so gosh-darn ragey, impatient and irrational, Rosita sets off to recruit Sasha to help her kill Negan, both conceding this will be a one-way trip for them.[7] As for the consequences to their family back home in the aftermath, they devote not a word. We all know women are overly emotional and entirely irrational, though, right?

When Rosita is explaining why Rick and co. aren't yet ready to make their move, she says they need more guns, more people and, with a tone of bitterness, "more excuses," which, along with her entire current plotline, sounds suspiciously like some sort of unflattering metatextual commentary on those who have taken note of how much time the series has wasted this season. It wouldn't be the first time TWD's writers compound their own shortcomings by taking petty swipes at critics. This mission upon which Rosita and Sasha have embarked is doomed to fail, thus showing those writers were right all along and, as they would have it, putting egg on the face of all those people who want the show to hurry along and the characters to rush into things instead of drag, drag, dragging along with filler-packed snail's pace eps that don't go anywhere. Am I crazy for thinking that perhaps a better solution would be to write a series that didn't earn so much criticism?

--j.

---

[1] Doing it themselves would have been entirely feasible if they'd used the old cover-yourself-in-zombie-guts trick--proven perfect camouflage to walk among the dead. But as usual, the characters only remember this when the writers' plot needs them to do so.

[2] Is this apparent death the final appearance of the Deer? Well, if it is a spirit-guide, I wouldn't count on that. What would TWD be without the Deer?

[3] They're also feeling somewhat romantic. The entire ep sees Rick treating this supply-run like a date with Michonne. After she briefly thinks he's been killed, she tells him she couldn't live without him; in reply, he tells her he could live without her, seeing as how there's all these important future things to be done. Don't it make you feel warm and fuzzy? Rick, it seems, is just as great a lover as he is a leader.

[4] TWD could certainly learn more from ZN. For example, the very nature of a fairground, where this ep takes place, offers many opportunities for gags. TWD made almost no use of this unique setting, other than having Michonne use her real rifle on the shooting gallery (right after that happened, the roof on which she and Rick were standing collapsed and they dropped out of the scene, another visual gag).

[5] And having learned absolutely nothing from their experience with Negan, wherein the detailed log they kept of all of their weapons ensured he was able to confiscate all of them, our heroes made a manifest covering all of these new finds as well.

[6] In one of those inept editing quirks one sometimes gets from TWD, the very next scene is set back at the Safe Zone and Rick is looking for--yep--Rosita, who, after sharing the scene seconds earlier, is supposedly missing.

[7] Sasha says she has a map Jesus created of the outside of the Saviors' compound. Instead of sharing this critical intel, it's presumably going on this suicide mission with her.


Email: jriddlecult@gmail.com
Twitter: @jriddlecult

2 comments:

  1. I think this show is exhausted. Hopefully, Netflix's Kingdom will be a much zombie show.

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  2. Great review jriddle. I think there have been worst moments on the show but never an episode that failed on so many multiple levels. Story, tone, pacing, direction were all off for this episode. After 7 years of this the show is just stuck in place treading water. Seasons 1 and 2 had their flaws but at least there was hope the show could grow and improve. Now it's just a matter of how long people will keep tuning in. Maybe we are part of the problem? :)

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