Happy birthday to me, Happy birthday to me, Happy birthday to me....I'm going to watch some delicious zombie guts and brains for my treat…Happy Birthday to me. That's right, just as the clock struck midnight and I turned an (undisclosed) older age last night, I rung in the special day by watching an episode of The Walking Dead as the series returned to AMC last night. That's not weird at all, right?!
It has been a long wait in between episodes, which was a strategy that apparently worked for the series. Last night's episode brough in 12.3 million viewers, which was a series high and broke yet another record as the highest basic cable rating for a series...ever. Up against the Grammy's and the finale of Downton Abbey, it seems that like the zombies, this show is, in fact, unstoppable.
Now…this is all the good news. My one complaint is that I wish that the episode that we have waited several months for had been slightly more exciting. It started out with a bang, with the Merle and Daryl fight in Woodbury and I was truly fearful we were about to lose yet another character in their fight to the death. Then mass chaos reigned in town, as Rick and his gang showed up to rescue the brothers and put a dent in the sublime quality of life in the fake, creepy town. However, just as the cold open ended, so did much of the excitement. Then....there was a lot of talking….a lot and lot of talking. Was this actually a weird crossover episode of The Talking Dead?
I'm not going to complain too much, because I understand that it is likely that this episode was necessary to set up the second half of the season. Alliances and groups were clearly established and that will very much affect what happens in the coming episodes. One of the bigger unknowns is...what is Andrea going to do now? I have a feeling she has finally seen the light about what a bad person the Governor is, but I'm not sure where this will lead. She actually very much stepped up to unite and help the people of Woodbury, and I wonder if in his absence, she will become their new leader? It's interesting that although she found out her friends were alive, she didn't particularly do anything to rush out and rejoin the clan. I'm not really a fan of Andrea, so I don't really care what happens to her, but with all of the new clans forming, I am curious to see where she will land.
I have learned from comments from people that have read the graphic novels Tyreese is a favored character and I am quickly starting to become part of that camp. I'm not sure if it is the actor (Chad L. Coleman) or the character, but I love the energy that he brings to the show. I love Rick and he is one of my favorite characters, but ever since Shane left (and he has been losing his mind) it feels like there has been a lack of a good, sane person (if you could call Shane sane) to help lead people through this disaster. Tyreese seems to be seeing the most clear of any survivor and I loved his quote as he talked about how existing in this world is "only making the living, less like the living." We have discussed it before and the true theme of the series is once again coming through, as they explore the loss of humanity under apocalyptic stress and question really are the savages – the biters or the humans?
I also must note that the shot in which the first zombie stuck his head into the wall at Woodbury was pretty badass. He had a very human quality and I thought that was an even cooler way to blend this question of zombie vs. humanity.
The loss of Daryl to Merle really hit a lot of Rick's group and especially Carol hard, I found that to be a parable between new family and old family dynamic and how they change under stress. It hit Carol very hard that Daryl left them and I'm sure she feels left behind for his blood family. However, did Daryl really leave to be with Merle or because he knew Merle would cause conflict with the others and he wanted to protect him. I truly hope they explore this notion.
Along these lines, I was very sad that Rick's crazytown hallucination made Tyreese and friends actually leave the prison. I kept wanting to scream "He's not talking to you! He's talking to dead-Lori! Please don't go!" Also, holy shit, Rick is still crazy! It seemed like he had recovered after his episode with the dead people on the phone, but nope, dude has still lost his mind. This was clearly the other most exciting moment of the episode and interesting how it was book-ended with the beginning and the end.
The entire episode left a lot of questions hanging for the next episode and I think main one is, what will the group do when they realize Rick in many ways has lost his marbles? Will they still follow him as their leader? Will they try to find Tyrese to bring him back? Who will protect them when the Governor comes calling, because I think we all know that is not far away.
While the episode was a bit slow, it is another one that set up big developments that will be coming (I hope). With the Daryl/Merle alliance, Woodbury unstable, the status of Tyreese and friends and Rick's clan unknown, we are no longer left with one location and one set of people to follow and I think it will be very fascinating to see how all of these factions interact and where they all go next. No matter what, I'm happy the series is back and can't wait for more gory, delicious fun.
Speaking of delicious, I think enough time has elapsed since watching Glenn bash a zombies head in with his foot and I can go eat some cake now. Yummy.