I suppose what I have to say about tonight's episode of THE WALKING DEAD will please those who have suggested I've been going soft on the series this season. When it comes to television, I don't demand anything be perfect. The good stuff in a series should, however, significantly outweigh the bad. So far this season, we've had two solid episodes, and by that standard the second was among the best TWD has ever offered. I've praised them accordingly. But tonight saw the series fall back into some of the very bad habits of the Mazzara era. This made watching the episode a chore, and I found the development very disappointing.
The virtual trademark of TWD's writing during the Mazzara regime
was laziness and stupidity. When the Mazzara writers' room was at
"work," it would craft a single episode worth of plot then use it to
fill 4 or 5 episodes of the series, stretching the material to the point
that all but a few minutes of every episodes was simply made up of
filler and virtually nothing was happening. This process helped
cretinize the already-idiotic writing, as the characters had to be made
to spend most of their time sitting around with thumbs lodged in
orifices, ignoring the obvious or otherwise delaying the taking of
whatever action was needed. After two episodes that, for the first time
since season 1, had each featured a full episode worth of plot, the
Gimple Gang, which had been doing so well until now, slammed on the
brakes, and we got another underwritten thumbs-up-asses episode.
Last week, zombies very nearly toppled the fence around the prison, an as-yet-unidentified murderer went to work inside it, and a virus began to spread among the survivors housed there. In a competently written TWD, addressing these matters would be an immediate priority. The survivors need meds to treat the illness and Hershel knows of a facility that may well have them
and may not have been looted, but it's 50 miles away. It's refreshing
to see a trip of this distance once again discussed as a dangerous one (and a sharp reversal of Rick's season 3 trip across half the state of
Georgia to loot guns he'd already looted). Danger or no, the meds are must-have , and with a large and growing number getting sick and dying, our
heroes prep for the mission. Then they stand around and talk. Then they
stand around and talk some more. Soon, the mission that should have been
the central focus of this episode is shoved aside by a lot of dicking
around, any sense of urgency about it having disappeared, and for no other
reason than the writers' desire to end the episode on a particular
cliffhanger they only get their show on the road in the last few
There is, in the meantime, a nice little minor episode
with Hershel and Carl wandering in the wilderness outside the prison in
search of herbs, but most of the rest of what happens is just filler.
The sick need water, the pump that brings it from the creek into the
prison is clogged with mud, and Rick refuses to help Carol go out to the
creek and unstop it. He says they can do it "tomorrow," as if the sick
won't need water. Actually, he says that solely to provide a pretext for
her going out and doing it herself, so she can nearly get eaten and
have to be rescued. The failure to reinforce the outer fence or
otherwise do something to strengthen the prison's defenses after last
week's zombie attack would be excusable, as there really isn't the
manpower for it at the moment, but when Carol gets in her jam and Rick comes to her rescue, he slips right through two holes cut in both
fences! These would seem to be the holes our heroes cut in order to
gain access to the prison last season. For the sake of that moment,
they're still there, and have never been properly buttoned up. And when
Rick and Carol duck back inside the fence with half-a-dozen or more zombies hot on their
heels, they stand within it, exchange a few words, then walk
off with the big, person-sized gap to the outside still visible!
The bad, anti-naturalistic melodrama of the Mazzara era reared its ugly head several times tonight.
Characters behaving in totally irrational ways, actors going
way-over-the-top in spouting awful dialogue. Tyreese and Rick getting in
not one but two pointlessly ugly face-downs. Hershel making a grand, extended speech before going in to treat the ill. The sudden return of this sort of shit is most unwelcome.
writer-of-record on this unfortunate episode is none other than TWD
creator Robert Kirkman. As with most of the eps with which he's been so
far credited, this one shows virtually no trace of his influence. Something else to ponder.
certainly hope my enthusiasm for this season of TWD hasn't been
misplaced. The title of tonight's episode is "Isolation," and I hope
that's all this ep turns out to be--an isolated regression never to be
 The straightforward revelation at the end that it was Carol who killed and torched David and Karen was the ep's only other nice touch.
 Throughout the evening's proceedings, Tyreese was reduced to
a particularly ugly Angry Black Man caricature, which is particularly shameful. The ep follows the caricature to such a slavish extent that Tyreese even identifies Rick as a cop before going off on him--the Man isn't addressing the needs of the ABM. Tyreese's rage is irrational; he physically attacks people for no real reason, then later jumps down Rick's throat again for inaction because, in the few minutes since the murders were discovered and with everything else going on, Rick hasn't yet solved the crime.
 And when it comes to stupid, the rescue team at the end run into the midst of the biggest herd of zombies we've ever seen because Daryl, who is driving and at a high speed, picks up a radio transmission and is playing with the radio instead of watching where he's going. His excitement over hearing a voice is understandable, but it's another example of Mazzara-era plotting--a significant event in the plot being premised on someone behaving like a complete idiot.