A Tangled Web.

The penultimate episode of the season gave us answers to many of the questions we weren’t asking. The answers, likewise, we somewhat predictable, and the main points of the story progressed in ways that anyone who watches The Walking Dead could expect. The real, I guess, intrigue came from the character behavior in this episode.

This show, as I’ve mentioned in the past, has a real issue with its protagonists. Every single character is painted as a melodramatic whiner that points out problem after problem without offering any solutions. We have no reason to root for them or care for them outside of the fact that the show says “these guys are the heroes!”

Travis is the embodiment of this lackluster character writing. For the last five episodes, he has simply walked around pointing out flaws with how the army is handling the end of the world and question their decisions left and right. It’s an absurd trait to have in your protagonist, and the only point I can give him is that he happens to be correct (only because this franchise has a real problem with authority). At the end of the day, his character isn’t really doing anything other than starting the conversations needed to give us exposition. He annoys the commander into getting a ride into town to see the zombie infestation and he constantly brings up the issue of whether or not zombies are still human. He’s a walking exposition machine that sticks out like a sore thumb. He behaves like someone who has watched The Walking Dead and needs to ask the right questions in order to get these two shows in line with each other.

On the other end of the spectrum we have Daniel, who spent the episode shaving layer after layer of skin off his military hostage. This is an interesting turn of events, not because it makes the show interesting (God forbid), but because it makes me wonder what sort of character and, by extension, message the show is trying to deliver. Daniel is torturing one of the lowest people on the military totem pole, asking repeatedly about the meaning of a code word. He wants his wife back from the hospital…a hospital that we see is actually a hospital. Are we supposed the think his actions are justified? Is he supposed to be the Sayid Jarrah of the group? His overall plan is flawed (and it even takes many different forms over the hour), and none of the other character condone his actions…so what is the show actually trying to say to us? You could argue that it wants to tell us that the ends justify the means, but that’s only because this show has a huge problem with authority.

The entire episode fills you with this weird, conflicting sense of unease. It’s not the good kind of unease that comes with suspense and dramatic irony; it’s a bad kind of unease that is the result of a show that doesn’t know what it wants to convey. We see some actions that are logical but are painted as cruel (e.g. shipping sick people off to an isolated location), some actions that are illogical but are painted as noble (e.g. torturing a guy), and some actions that are in the episode just to kill time (e.g. smashing the plates of a rich family). The show, at it’s core, is tone deaf and it makes us wonder what the heck is going on.

By the end of the episode we find out what “Cobalt” actually means, but anyone with any shred of critical thinking could have predicted this two episodes ago (like I did). The military is going to mow down any survivors and head for the hills. It’s setting up for what could be a visually entertaining, but logically incoherent, season finale. There will be the “escape from the evil, corrupt authority” element, the “reunite with Nick and Three Dog” element, and emotionally defeated “where do we go now?” element. And once we get to the intersection of those three, it won’t be long until we ask ourselves the very same question.

Odds and Ends

  • I see that the hospital takes their zombie-killing tactics from No Country for Old Men.
  • Travis is, in theory, not a bad character…he wants to see the best in the world and wants to hold out hope. Unfortunately, when we are watching a prequel where we know that everything he stands for is incorrect, it makes the experience exhausting.
  • You go into a rich guy’s house and you’re amazed by his Radio Shack helicopter? Come on, Chris.
  • The lack of zombies on the show is a (small) badge of honor for the show. At least they are trying to make the characters strong enough to support the show.

    Alex Russo likes to talk about television. You can read more of his insane ramblings on Twitter.

Alex Russo

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