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."
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
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.
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, 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, 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.
 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
 In a painfully idiotic moment, Bob is shown looting from a massive
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).
 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.