Last night’s episode of The Walking Dead was, as has been the case a fair amount since the second episode of the season, another example of some generally small amounts of plot propulsion with a mixture of character work, some of which feel as though they’re building up to something, and others which seem as though they’ll be forgotten by the time next week’s episode rolls around. Oh, and that girl’s still lost. At this point I probably believe in the Chupacabra more than I do her.
It’s good to finally, finally see some of the tension between Shane and Rick finally come out into the open; it’s been so long that Shane and Lori have been whispering in hushed tones behind Shane’s back that it seems appropriate to start upping the ante between he and Rick as well, even if it was only for a couple of minutes. Shane is, of course, completely in the right with his concerns: risking everyone’s lives for the sake of a girl who almost surely is dead is not a good investment of anyone’s time or energy, even if it’s a good justification for hopefully staying at the farm until they can convince Herschel to let them stay permanently. Assuming they want to after this week’s finale...
And I have to say, I almost believed that Daryl was going to find her when he went down into that ravine, although of course it was an excuse to largely fill time and bring Michael Rooker back in for a cameo. His message to Daryl, that he should care about himself first and not worry so much about the rest of the group, was probably all but wiped out by Sad Lady’s message to him at the end of the episode, although perhaps the fact that he got shot will kick him further into lone wolf Rambo mode in the future. I’d be curious if they bring back Rooker for any more hallucinatory hijinks; I’ve always found people talking to invisible friends to be a bit of a gimmicky, well, gimmick, although here it was mildly credible, I guess.
Also, if that missing girl is still alive (and given the general circumstances that these characters are in, it’s not exactly a question of high tension compared to all the other things they have to worry about), it seems like finding her and her rescue better be a goddamn epic payoff at this point. It still feels like a plot that could sustain an episode, perhaps two at most, but now we’re faced with the prospect of six solid episodes without the thread being tied off. It reminds me a bit of the first season of Homicide, where young Adena Watson was murdered in the series premiere; her case dominated the entire first season, and was even still being mentioned in the series finale seven years later. It worked, though: the writers understood the obsession on the part of the cops (as the show was based on a nonfiction work that had a similar case), and it culminated in an amazing episode that was almost entirely shot inside a single interrogation room.
It reminds me of Homicide because the circumstances are similar, but for some reason the resonance simply isn’t there. The girl was never a particularly well fleshed-out character (to the point where I don’t even remember her name), so there’s little reason for people to care overmuch about her plight, aside from her age. The writers seem to be stabbing at the notion that the search is a reflection of what little humanity these people have left; everyone’s willingness to get up in the morning and put themselves in danger to try and find her is a statement that they still have some kind of hope for a future in the world that they find themselves in. These themes can only be developed, perhaps, over the course of multiple episodes, but expanding on a theme at the expense of a fairly sub-par subplot doesn’t seem to be a smart play for such a young show.
Gradual ratcheting up on tension on Herschel and making him into a credible bad guy seems to be a smart play, as I suppose we’ll find out next episode. I haven’t read the comics in long enough to recall the revelation about the barn and its inhabitants, but it seems unlikely that Herschel will be able to talk his way out of this one. I can’t recall if he actually confiscated the campers’ weapons or simply asked them to keep them out of sight, but that detail seems like it might have some importance if things come to blows between Herschel and the campers. It’s possible that it will; I don’t see the campers staying at the farm past the seventh-episode, which I assume will see them lighting out for somewhere else before the end of it.
Let’s hope something interesting happens before then. The cliffhanger, such as it is, seemed to imply that the next episode would be a turning point for everyone, but who knows? Maybe they’ll pad out another episode by having Herschel’s daughter convince Glen not to say anything about the zombies to Rick or anyone else. Sex can be a powerful motivator.
What’d you think about the episode and how it fit into the season so far? Are you losing interest? It’s growing on me as the episodes spool out, but I’d be curious to know if any of you have pulled through on any threats you’ve made re: not watching it anymore.