Monday, March 23, 2015


Another week where I initially passed on writing about THE WALKING DEAD but I've decided to offer up some thoughts anyway.

"Try" was a big improvement over last week's installment. The Safe Zone settings and storylines continue to work. The cold opening wherein Deanna and her family sit around with long faces and listen to her now-dead son's CD is surreal--they're a tad on the elderly side for Nine Inch Nails, which isn't exactly nostalgia-invoking music for the just-departed--but that incredibly poor choice aside (the sequence would have worked best with no music at all), the rest of it works. Carol leaves a casserole at the door with a condolence letter; Deanna leaves the casserole outside and burns the condolence. Yikes!

There's friction in paradise. Deanna interrogated her dead son's cowardly and murderous sidekick whom Glenn inexplicably brought back to town after the weasel had murdered Noah. Weasel-boy makes up a story wherein he's the hero and the others just left poor Aiden to die. Deanna expresses skepticism of the weasel's account. Glenn, meanwhile, tells Rick what really happened. Did Glenn bother to tell Deanna? There's no indication of it. It's possible it could have happened off screen but TWD is a series that perpetually indulges in that most brainless of movie and tv tropes wherein the only reason a story is allowed to continue is because the people in it don't communicate to one another the basic information that would prevent it from doing so, and this is likely another example of it. For her doubts about weasel-boy's tale (which could just as easily be a consequence of her knowledge that her son was a real dumbass), our heroes seem the butt of most of her suspicion. She doesn't need a casserole left at her door; she needs the truth.

Rick, in his 8.0 villain mode, tells Glenn the Alexandrians don't know what they're doing. "...their rules? We don't answer to them." Glenn notes the obvious--"we are 'them,' Rick." Glenn's view is that they have to teach the Alexandrians; Rick is still planning his big takeover.

In a later conversation with Deanna, Rick raises the matter of Pete beating his wife and she reveals that she already knows about it. Rick's solution is to separate them. Deanna asks what he would do if Pete didn't accept that and Rick goes right for the nuclear option. "I kill him." Deanna doesn't have much use for that solution. Her own is to "exile him, if it comes to that," but she's known about the problem for a while and hasn't done anything and doesn't do anything and is skeptical of doing anything.

This is arbitrarily-imposed silliness. For that matter, it's moronic for Rick, given the situation, to have put this to Deanna in the first place. As happens so often on TWD, the story proceeds because the principals refuse to have an adult conversation. Obviously, the abuse is intolerable. Rick is the constable and Deeanna the leader of the town, which makes it their job to deal with the situation. So what do we do about it? The question is never addressed. If worse came to worse and Rick wants Pete dead--as he clearly does--Pete could have simply been made to disappear one night, never to be seen again.

Rick, in a very well-done sequence, confronts Jessie about the abuse then ultimately ends up in a fight with Pete. By the end of it, with Deanna and a few of the other townspeople standing around,[1] an entirely out-of-control Rick pulls his purloined gun and launches his coup attempt. "You want to live? You want this place to keep standing? Your way of living is done!" He rants and raves in similar "I am your king, bring me your gold" fashion until Michonne turns up and clocks him.

Deanna isn't looking very favorably on the idea of Rick staying in town and after that little stunt this is entirely understandable but it must be said that Deanna has been handled pretty poorly in these last few eps. She greeted our heroes, upon their entry into the Safe Zone, with a great deal of enthusiasm. Her darkening attitude toward them has appeared rapidly and with very little actual cause. Her ranting at Rick about how killing people was "uncivilized" would carry a lot more weight if the previous ep hadn't established it was the Alexandrians' policy to simply leave people behind when they get in a jam.

Other developments: Michonne and Rosita learn of Sasha's seemingly suicidal hunting of the dead outside the walls of the Safe Zone. Too much time is spent on this, a matter of very little consequence--it seems to be present solely to provide some gratuitous zombie-killing[2] (or set up Sasha for death). Carl and Enid have some fun frolicking in the zombie-infested forests. Most significantly, Daryl and Aaron, out in the bush, find signs of another group of humans, then find the corpse of a woman who was intentionally tied to a tree and left for the zombies.

This was a surprisingly well-directed ep, with several nice flourishes.[3] The director was Michael Satrazemis, who I didn't immediately recognize but it turns out he did "The Grove" last year, which was excellent, and "Slabtown" earlier this season (he's been a cameraman on the series for some time). The writer of record for "Try" was Angela Kang. She remains a bit of an enigma. In her early work on the series, an ep bearing her name was guaranteed to earn a place at the bottom of the drearily deep TWD barrel. In season 4, she emerged as Kang the Conqueror and authored some of the best eps in the entire TWD canon. This season, it's been back down in the muck again with "Four Walls & A Roof" (co-authored with Corey Reed) and "Coda." This wasn't quite a return to the Conqueror but it was closer to it than to her other work.

Next week is the season ender. "Try" didn't provide much of a set up for it, which makes me think there's a bigger story behind AMC's recently announced expansion of the last ep to 90 minutes. In spite of significant warts, the Alexandria Safe Zone story has, overall, been a winner for TWD and "Try" is another relatively solid entry, if one that, frustratingly, continues to get tripped up in TWD's usual bag of bullshit problems. It would be nice if I could offer some non-attenuated praise for it but the series just doesn't earn that. Not yet.



[1] The Safe Zone is supposed to be a large community, but perhaps because of budgetary concerns there are never more than a handful of people around.

[2] And I dislike that sort of thing. More than that, it's patronizing (from creators who have no grounds to patronize anyone) and offensive. When he took over as showrunner, Glen Mazzara interpreted the dissatisfaction with the dullness of the series at that time as stemming from a lack of action and opted to throw zombies at the problem rather than fixing it. The result was just a lot of zombie killing and action attempting to mask the fact that nothing was really happening. Scott Gimple, when he assumed the showrunner job, initially backed away from this but as with so many other bad habits, he eventually fell back into it. The lack of scenes of zombie-killing has never been TWD's problem.

[3] The fight between Rick and Pete was very well done and very realistic for a tv fight (though not necessarily "realistic" in Pete being able to more than hold his own). Some slow-mo running through the forest by Carl and Enid, a nice lingering shot of a zombie before a break, the gruesome discovery, by Daryl and Aaron, of the woman fed to zombies and so on.


  1. I definitely agree that it was better than last week mainly for the direction. With that said I still had problems with it. Mostly Rick.

    In the book Rick's past as a police officer is pretty important throughout and Kirkman made it a recurring "theme/trait" with Rick. His sense of justice and righteousness shines through many times.(I could give examples)

    In the show his past as a police officer is basically just treated as a backstory but doesn't really define the character in any way, which is why Rick in the show tells Jessie that he's doing this as a special treat for her and wouldn't be as interested in doing what's right if it wasn't her on the line.

    I don't know how much you like the comics but i would guess you like them pretty much, certainly this is something to note if such is the case.

    1. I was a big fan of the comic for years before the series came along and you're absolutely right about them. TV TWD leaves most of the good stuff from the comics on the cutting-room floor or pointlessly alters it in such a way as to make a hash of it. Rick is attracted to Jessie, but it would be his job as the town cop to deal with this problem even if he didn't even know her. The tv version always goes for the melodrama. It's one of my constant criticisms. Rick isn't just an entirely different person than when he was a cop, he's an entirely different character than he was only a few eps ago.

    2. Agree about the melodrama.

      I'm not saying Rick went about this thing right in the comic but his reasons for the confrontation was more emphasized and not as simple as it was presented on screen. Not to mention that it's easier to buy Rick having this kind of break-down in the book since he's at the time still taking phone calls from his wife.

  2. I'm glad they're doing ok with the Alexandria storyline, especially since they're adapting it so close to the comics. My gripes though are that Deanna's not characterized well and I'm fearing that Nicholas will get the Allen treatment and get killed off as a bad guy. If they manage to divert TV "Nicholas" into comics Nicholas I'll be surprised and satisfied.

    Scott Gimple is writing the finale, and he's kind of an enigma lately, and although most of his episodes are some of the best eps of TWD, his last ep, "What Happened...", made me conflicted. I don't hate it like you did, but I don't really like it as well.

    So far, season 5 has been a step down from season 4, which if you look back in retrospect had more good episodes than bad, but Alexandria's doing ok so far. I'm thankful "Try" didn't do the filler/set-up approach done by "Us" and "Crossed".