Monday, March 7, 2016

For THE WALKING DEAD, It's Not Tomorrow Yet; Looks More Like Yesterday [Updated Below]

I'm fairly certain no one watched tonight's installment of THE WALKING DEAD--I'm sure everyone was watching the Democratic presidential debate over on CNN instead. "Not Tomorrow Yet," the unwatched TWD ep, does have a bit of a parallel with the Democratic National Committee's efforts to minimize voters' exposure to any candidate not named Clinton--both are tales of unmerited hubris on the part of very bad leaders leading to a fall. Beyond that, it becomes less distinct; unlike with the DNC, TWD's characters don't really have a better option.

That isn't to say the latter go about what they do in a wiser manner. Rick has to convince the Alexandrians they have to fight Negan's group of "Saviors," which means he has to make another of TWD's patented speeches. The Saviors are brutal, merciless killers and pirates who try to rule the area with an iron fist but Morgan, that countdown clock still ticking away on his head, wants to negotiate with them instead of attack. Give away the element of surprise and warn them off. That idea doesn't get very far. When Morgan asks Rick if he's sure they can beat the Saviors, Rick inadvertently gets at the dramatic problem at the center of this storyline: "What this group has done, what we've learned, what we've become, all of us, yes, I'm sure."

Rick's group, of course, hasn't proven itself capable of handling much of anything. They tend to be their own worst enemies, people who screw up even the most basic tasks so badly that people die. They do it over and over again and it's impossible to ignore that when the series keeps throwing it in viewers' faces in storyline after storyline. Here, the writers persist in trying to craft a story around the characters having this very high opinion of their own abilities after having crafted a long-running series that refutes this at every turn. Rick and co. don't just hold to this uber-confidence in a vacuum; they do so in spite of everything they've experienced.

The writers are clearly aware of this problem. Tonight, in an effort to buttress the badass-ness of Rick's group, they have one of the Alexandrians tell Carol she does things that scare him. Later, they have one of the Hilltop residents offer the same sentiment to Rick. "The Saviors, they're scary but those pricks got nothing on you." But Rick hadn't done anything to earn that. And the writers then further underscore our heroes' incompetence by having them attack a Savior compound without even a single reconnaissance run. They just go in blind against an enemy of entirely unknown strength, stabbing then shooting and hoping for the best. While blundering around like this, they manage to kill nearly everyone but the ep ends with the tables being turned. Yep, our heroes have underestimated their enemy. Shocking for such a group of pros, right?

It wouldn't be TWD without TWD speeches, so Glenn delivers one to Heath about killing. Tobin, the Alexandrian who finds Carol scary, makes a speech in which he outlines his belief that Carol is the mom of the safe zone.[1] In a scene that appears present only to burn screen-time, Tara talks to Father Gabriel about telling her girlfriend she loved her as a means of covering up something else; Jesus gives it a punchline about her knowing what she's fighting for. Hallelujah!

It's the habit of TWD to cut the pace down to a crawl in the second half of a season, perhaps because the budget runs out, but these last three eps have bucked that trend. Though a big improvement over the rest of this season, they haven't really been any great shakes and this, though the most action-packed, was definitely the least of the three. Fortunately, no one will ever know--they all watched that Democratic debate instead.



[1] It's good to see the series remember Carol exists and the pre-title sequence, in which Carol is making and distributing beet-and-acorn cookies, is actually very well done. Carol 4.0 is unfortunately looking more and more like Carol 1.0 here, slipping back into that disposable--and, more troublingly, expendable--non-character she was before.

UPDATE (8 March, 2016) - Something I forgot to mention is that this ep featured one of TWD's magical time-jumps, this one from night to day. This sort of thing is so common on TWD that I've come to ignore it unless it has some impact on the story. This one did though. Rick's plan was to attack the Savior compound in the wee hours of the morning when most would be asleep. There's absolutely no reason to assume there aren't shifts--another reason to conduct a proper recon before attacking--but Rick does and, this being TWD, just gets lucky. His team enters, kills the Saviors in a lightning-fast strike then when they make their way out the back, it's broad daylight, hours of time having passed. They mull around a bit, Heath takes a Savior vehicle and leaves and the rest soon learn the enemy has captured Carol and Maggie. The preview for next week's ep showed the capture itself--the Saviors were able to creep up on them because it was still blackest night. This means the Saviors had Carol and Maggie for hours and no one even knew. In all that time, no one in the main team had communicated with their own checkpoints or vice-versa--checkpoints that presumably had orders for what to do if they don't hear from the main team (come get us us, alert the others, etc.).


  1. Suddey,Rick's group have refound their ninja like abilities- in the harshest of settings, yet they struggle to walk through the woods without having zombies creep up on them- a scenario that's occurred repeatedly this year.

    Fascinating stuff.

    Not only are the shows characters personalities interchangeable, depending on narrative need, their skill sets are also prone to wild swings, one minute they are Hugh grant bumbling around trying to climb a fence in the romcom Notting hill , the next, Arnold Schwarzenegger taking out an entire island of mercs in Commando...

  2. Huh. Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.

    The last few episodes have actually been.. ok. It's sad that half the time I'm simply thrilled for a few minutes that I've forgotten I'm watching TWD. But despite the missteps, it wasn't typically dull, nor typically nonsensical and best of all they even maintained a decent continuity for character actions (except the part where they all became fearsome for some reason but hey brownie points for not shying from action).

    While Glenn's monologue was a bit heavy-handed, it was serviceable -- nothing like their usual. That's what I appreciated most. They kept their sermons to a minimum. People did stuff. Thangs. They might have come up with a half-baked plot to ambush the Saviors, but that's about 50% more baked than a usual TWD plot.

    Usually, some character just draws the short straw and spazzes out in a crucial moment, or someone begins acting melodramatically different to their character one episode before. I personally even liked that they're willing to compare Carol 4 to Carol 1. Must be they're hoping to bust out the Carol 4S pretty soon.

    I mean, the episode even looked different, more interesting. Or was that just me?

    If they stick with this, it can only get better, right? Right?

    And so the cycle of abuse continues.

  3. Its a cheap reason. But the producers have admitted the random time jumps between night/day are due to how much time it takes to film and gets all the make up done And filming in neighborhoods with people living in them and the constraints the city puts on them etc.. so they just roll with the wierd time doffrences between scenes. Its lazy and cheap but thats why