Monday, November 4, 2013

WALKING DEAD Breeds "Indifference"

This season of THE WAKING DEAD started strong, and it was my sincere hope that last week's extremely unfortunate regression to Mazzara-era TWD would prove to be an isolated incident. To an extent, tonight's installment dashed that hope, but it wasn't a complete dash. Instead, it turned out to be a frustratingly mixed bag. Some of the Gimple Gang's reforms were still in evidence, and there were some good moments sprinkled throughout the night's proceedings, but they're lost in such a melange of Mazzara-ism that my overall reaction is summed up by the title of the ep: "Indifference."

The last two eps should have been one ep. The excess padding required to make of them two isn't nearly as extensive as it was throughout most of Mazzara's TWD. It's basically a single ep worth of plot (plus perhaps a little spill over into a second) stretched to cover two (Mazzara would use that much to fill 4, 5, and 6 eps). There's still too damn much of it.

Last week, those dispatched to a medical facility to retrieve meds for the dying ran into a herd of walkers and had to flee on foot. By the opening of tonight's tale, they're overdue, and Rick is set to go out and forage around in nearby houses for medication. Anything that can help. There's a fantastic opening sequence with Rick attempting to fuel a vehicle for his trip. His gas can is nearly empty, its contents apparently having been used by Carol to burn the corpses of those she'd murdered in the first ep. He imagines Carol committing her double murder, and the images in his head are crosscut with a conversation between Carol and the demented little girl who has been entrusted into her care. Rick decides to take Carol with him. His decision to go at all is questionable, given the demonstrated instability of the prison's security at the moment and the severe lack of manpower on hand to deal with any problems that may arise, but a large and growing number of people at the prison are sick and dying and need antibiotics if they're to have any chance of living. Rick's trip is a desperation move and certainly plausible, given the situation.

Both its desperation and its plausibility entirely collapse in the execution, though, because, as so often happened in the bad ol' Mazzara days, the writers then begin piling on the padding and drive a stake right through the heart of any sense of desperation the scenario should engender. The ep follows both those dispatched on the original mission and the adventure by Rick and Carol, and both are, for the most part, handled in an utterly lackadaisical way. No one in either group seems to be in any sort of hurry or exhibits any sign that they're in any way pressed for time. This necessitates some Mazzaraesque plot-dictated arbitrary characterization. Throughout his time on TWD, Tyreese has been shown to be entirely devoted to his sister. Here, that beloved sister is back at the prison, very sick, possibly dying, and he's ridiculously stuck in Angry Black Man mode. He drags his feet, looks sour, and behaves as if he doesn't even care if he lives or dies. More generally--and also dismally echoing the previous two seasons--the action is routinely brought to a complete halt for sequences of talky melodrama. Again, no sense of urgency. Did Rick and Carol find anything that may be useful? We're never told. They're never shown as frustrated by having found nothing, either.[1]

The night wasn't a total loss. The Gimple Gang did offer up a few good moments along the way. The highlight of the ep happens when Bob, the alcoholic medic, stumbles while on the ledge of a building and his bag, presumably containing the crucial meds he's just looted,[2] is grasped by a large group of zombies below. He fights like hell to hold on to it, nearly being pulled off the ledge himself, but with some help he's finally able to get it free. And then it turns out all he had in it was a bottle of hooch. He says he wanted it for the quiet moments. Daryl, in disgust, starts to give it a toss, and Bob goes so far as to put his hand on his holstered gun as a thread. Daryl isn't impressed. It's a great, tense scene.[2a] There's also a nice little bit about watches.

Carol, amidst a lot of melodramatic yammering, gets in a few good moments as well, but in the end, it comes across as rather pointless, because the writers ultimately choose to repeat a variation on a major mistake they made last season with Merle. Merle was essentially a stock, unidimensional redneck character given far more life than he deserved by the most excellent Michael Rooker. When he was finally given something to do, he became interesting. More importantly, he brought an interesting dynamic to the group that could have been milked for a great deal of dramatic material. And then, of course, he was killed at the end of that very episode, a complete waste that typifies the very bad decision-making of the last two seasons. This season has been spent building a very interesting Carol, and creating an interesting relationship between her, her "class" of children, and, in particular, the two girls left in her care by the death of their father. As tonight's ep spent more and more time with her--more time than she's ever been given--I feared she was going to be killed at the end of it (the pattern of the two previous seasons was to always telegraph character deaths in this way). As it turned out, she didn't die, but the fate she's given isn't much better--Rick, unable to accept that she's murdered people,[3] exiles her from the prison, and, presumably, from TWD for the time being. The effect is the same; a complete waste.

The Gimple Gang came out of the gates this season looking like they'd finally solved the riddle of producing quality TWD. It's frustrating to see that fall apart then see embedded in an episode like this the hints of what it could be if the Gang could follow through on what they started.



[1] They are, however, shown collecting tomatoes from a staked vine, presumably over a year and a half after anyone was around to stake them, at the edge of a perfectly-manicured lawn.

[2] In a painfully idiotic moment, Bob is shown looting from a massive case of medication, dictating to Michonne what to grab, rather than taking everything. It got worse still when, after the group encountered minimal zombie presence throughout their trip into the facility, the zombies are suddenly everywhere when it comes time to leave, and, though significantly decomposed, are seen to be carrying the disease from the prison (50 miles away).

[2a] UPDATE (4 Nov., 2013) "Spectre," a comrade in criticism on the IMDb's WALKING DEAD board, has reminded me of an acute idiocy from last night's ep, one I intended to mention but forgot. At the end of the ep, as the group dispatched to the medical facility was about to head for home, they're plotting their route back and their gas needs, and they figure their travel time at 7 hours. The facility from which they're returning was established as being in Georgia and 50 miles away from the prison. Presumably, they're cooking up some course to avoid the big herd they encountered on the way there, but the entire state of Georgia is only about 300 miles, longways north to south--7 hours is enough to traverse that entire distance about 1 1/2 times, even if they only drove the speed limit (on the road, it's not quite as linear as that, but their estimate is certainly Mazzaraesque idiocy to the nth degree).

[3] And Carol being the murderer in the first place really didn't make any sense at all. It was out-of-character and stupid and seemed to be included solely in order to provide a nice shock ending for last week's otherwise awful ep.


  1. Considering m.mcbride is given a spot on the title screen and it being stated over the summer she was promoted to main cast she will definetly be coming back. Theres still a lot of season left

  2. McBride was promoted to series regular back in season 2. I have no doubt she'll return. It's an incredibly bad idea to exile her, though. What's the point in doing all that work then taking it in that direction?

    1. It was also a bit of a copout that they happen to run into 2 survivors with a working car who also die. Allowing carol to have a car. It would of been much more horrifiying to have rick ditch her with out any transportation.

    2. Also liked their video game logic of not running into zombies untill getting the meds then they are everywhere and carrying the prison diseasr

  3. For someone so thorough you seem to miss some distinct and interesting possibilities. Some think maybe Carol didn't actually kill those people and almost everyone thinks Carol will be back. Her story is obviously not over. Maybe she'll find Sam, the other survivor they found.

  4. I forgot to mention that business about the zombies having the prison disease! I just added it to a footnote.

    Carol will certainly be back at some point, Jack; that's why they didn't kill her. I certainly don't think she'd fess up to killing those folks and accept exile for it if she didn't do it. I had an ugly thought as I was writing my review that maybe they'd pull an Andrea on us--separate her and have her find GINO. Except for her being the killer, the TWD gang have made her, for the first time, an interesting character with an interesting dynamic to bring to the table. And then they exile her. It boggles the mind.

  5. I guess compared to the last two seasons, these episodes seem like works of art, but when compared to what they could be, they are quite lacking.

    I agree that shuffling off Carol after investing time into making her interesting (especially since this series is short on characters of interest), was a boneheaded idea.

    I thought that when she turned the car around at the cul-de-sack, she would gun the accelerator and mow Rick down - go back to the prison and say he was zombiechow. After all, she murdered the other two to protect herself, why hesitate for Rick? Then I remembered this is TWD and they would never do anything unpredictable or kill off a character not sporting a redshirt.

    Maybe it was just my desire to get rid of Rick that made me think that way. After the latest development, her character seemed more interesting than his.

  6. Cinema Arch, big fan of your blog, you highlight errors and inconsistencies like no one else, and is often pretty comical. I approve.


    I disagree with your thoughts on ditching Carol. Yes, both missions lacked urgency, and yes they were attacked by magical teleporting Zombies, and yes there was a fair degree of filler.

    However, the Carol/Rick discussions were the best part. The thing I love about the Walking Dead is the moral greyness. It's people doing terrible things to survive (the game covers this beautifully)and after three seasons where this survival had been relegated to obscurity I loved the morality back and forth between them. Was Carol right? Was Rick right? You can argue both ways until the cows come home. But, you also have to argue that actions have consequences, and as such the price Carol paid for 'survival at all costs' was isolation. I loved it. Ditching Carol made perfect sense. Rick said he simply can't trust her.

    Whereas the Daryl side of the story I found dull and season 3-esque. Pointless melodrama, no urgency, everyone losing their minds over something relatively trivial.

    But again, good work. Love the blog. Just wanted to air my thoughts.

  7. Why hasnt anyone connected a bunch of walkers to a turbine so the wwlk in circles to create electricity. Zombies are a vital natural resource that have not be exploited yet.

  8. The 'moral greyzones' of Carol's actions would be a lot more plausible if what she did had actually halted the sickness in any noticeable way.

    Right now she just killed them for nothing because she felt she had to.