The Walking Dead made some great strides in the story, then beat itself back with a barbed-wire bat.

Who Knows What?

This a review for the last two weeks of The Walking Dead (East & Last Day on Earth). We’re combining them because they go hand in hand…and because I didn’t watch it last week on account of it being Easter.

Where to even start? We got a whole lot of good, a whole lot of bad, and an unnecessary half hour of television. If you read these reviews even semi-regularly, you know I have an issue with this show’s annoying tendency to introduce interesting ideas, only get distracted by zombies or some cheap plot device. Guess which one derailed this week’s episode!

We start off with the town of Alexandria reacting to the news that Carol has left due to the horrific acts of violence performed by Rick and the gang week by week. I said in my last review that this is a pretty big stretch, considering Carol had been a merciless force of nature up until a few weeks ago. Her sudden turn towards pacifism would surprise even Flowey, and it makes me think that there is something great at play here besides bad writing. Correction: it makes me hope that something is at play her besides bad writing, as Carol has really grown to be one of the strongest characters on the show.

The search parties go on different routes, and its not long until Glenn, Michonne, and Daryl are caught by the Saviors. Can you guess where this plotline is heading? Rick and Morgan’s search is fruitless, but at least Morgan finds Carol’s abandoned car, so at least he has a lead. Morgan goes off for Carol, while Rick heads back to town. While the prior party leads to very little thematically, Rick and Morgan do give us a bit to digest, even if it has been chewed before. If that food-based analogy doesn’t work for you, what I’m trying to say is we get more of the whole killing vs. non-killing philosophy we’ve seen so much this whole season. While it is tired, at least it has a payoff this time around.

The second episode finally saw Morgan answer the question that has been posed so often in this show (but never in a certain superhero film of late)…does killing have a place in society? Carol is being chased down by a Savior and it looks like the end is near for her. He is putting her through a pretty grotesque ringer, shooting limb after limb until she pretty much welcomes death. Morgan appears at the last minute and tells Carol’s attacker to drop his gun and walk away. He refuses and, right before he shoots Carol, Morgan unloads the clip. There you have it…Morgan “All Life is Precious” Morgan has killed a man. While the episode lacked the intensity and weight it deserved, at least he finally answered the question (unlike in a certain superhero show of late).

Meanwhile, Maggie gets real sick and the gang decides she needs to go to Hilltop. Ignoring any conspiracy theories about Enid’s involvement in her untimely illness, this is really just an excuse to get the major players on the road (and that’s okay). What’s important here is not the mission but rather Rick’s attitude. Once stopped by the first Savior, Rick is cocky as all hell, but as they run into roadblock after roadblock, we see his confidence wane. The gang has wiped out dozens of Saviors, but Negan’s still got an army of the guys. Eventually they are stranded in the woods and the man of the hour finally makes his appearance.

Negan is the just the villain this show needs right now. He’s cruel and controlling, but he’s also charismatic and a real comedian (GET IT?). Watching him taunt and torment Rick’s crew with a cool and casual demeanor fills me with hope that he can do what the Governor failed to do way back in season three. Despite the excellent portrayal of Negan, the episode fell flat in the final moments. Why?

BECAUSE OF THE NONSENSE CLIFFHANGER. A good portion of the audience, myself included, knows who Negan kills. It’s a pretty famous moment in the comics and many viewers have been looking forward to this the same way that Game of Thrones fans looked forward to the Red Wedding. So did the show really need to make a cliffhanger out of something we already know? Or is the show going off-book, choosing a lesser character that would both ruin an iconic moment AND lack the emotional levity that the comics had. Or is it something more sinister?

What if THEY don’t even know? What if they gave themselves a little breathing room to see how audiences would react, allowing them to subvert whatever the the prevailing theory is right now? Well, that would be problematic because it means that the show no longer has faith in itself. Perhaps after the negative reaction to the Glenn-under-the-dumpster debacle, the showrunners are playing it safe and failing to commit to even the most iconic of deaths.

Who knows? And, really, what does it matter? This line of thinking heads down a long and dangerous road, blurring the line between story and storytelling. I won’t get into this now, probably because I’m going to do a video about this later in the week. But I’ll leave you with this question: how did the show make you feel after last night, and is that how a show should make you feel?

Odds and Ends

  • That James Bond blood effect looked absolutely terrible.
  • I’m curious to see what the showrunners have in store for Carol (if they even know).
  • “Not cool.”
  • The reveal of Michonne and Daryl’s capture via “things stabled to zombies” was really eerie. Points on that front.

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

Alex Russo

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