There were two ways a 90-minute season finale of The Walking Dead could have gone. On the one hand, there could have been a massive showdown at Alexandria paying off all of this season’s building tensions and dangling plot threads. An explosive conclusion to a better-than-average back half of the season. That would have been something. Instead, we got a few payoffs and a lot of repetition of story beats that have already been beaten into the ground in previous episodes. And yet, despite the lack of fireworks, it was still better than most season finales on The Walking Dead.
(It should be noted that season finales on this show tend to be among the worst episodes. So being the best season finale really isn’t something to brag about.)
I think we can all agree that Rick Grimes owes his buddy Shane an apology. Shane was prone to ranting, plotting, making decisions based on his own interests and lusting after married women. Now Rick is stealing his act. In season two, that made Shane a villain who had to be put down. In season five, it makes Rick an anti-hero?
Okay Walking Dead. I’m impressed. This back half of the season is the best run of episodes the show has had since the first season. I have taken a couple of weeks off of writing Walking Dead recaps. Usually, that’s an indication that I am losing interest in the season. But not this time. The last couple of episodes have been relatively quiet. But they have done a really good job building things for this episode and what is to come in the remaining two episodes this season.
The group has found relative safety in the Alexandria community. The last couple of episodes have been filled with great moments that illustrate how the characters are adjusting to their new environment and how the citizens of Alexandria are dealing with the new arrivals. For example, Michonne hung up her sword over her mantle. Carl has started playing with kids his own age. And Carol has gone undercover by playing up her pre-apocalypse personae.
This episode, some of the conflicts that have been percolating come to a boil.
So, what’d you think of the Oscars? Too long, right? And Birdman? Whatever. Overrated. But hey, at least it’s over. Unlike The Walking Dead which is still going. I watched both shows last night more out of obligation that desire. Of the two, The Walking Dead was easily the less onerous.
I have said it before and I will say it again. The Walking Dead works best when the characters shut the hell up. The show has a lot of strengths, but dialogue definitely isn’t one of them. And yet, most episodes of The Walking Dead are wall-to-wall dialogue. Fortunately, this episode avoids the writers’ Kryptonite which allows a lot of the shows’ strengths to really shine.
The title of the mid-season premiere of The Walking Dead is “What Happened and What’s Going On?” Despite some film school flourishes and the death of a major character, the answer to both questions is “Not a lot.” I think the title is supposed to reflect what The Walking Dead creators hope audiences will be asking themselves as they watch the episode. It’s filled with misdirection. But when you strip away some experimental story-telling, this was just another mediocre episode.
Regular readers of Le Blog know that I am nothing if not a compulsive planner. This is especially true of my semi-regular trips to Walt Disney World. I try to plan for every eventuality. What do we do if it rains? What’s our back-up plan if a ride breaks down? Where do we go in the event of a zombie apocalypse?
There’s a lot of Disney World planning tools out there that will help you with the first two questions. But there are surprisingly few resources available to help you out in the event of a zombie attack at Disney World. Until now.
Historically, The Walking Dead has a tradition of disappointing finales. Since the show does two finales per year (counting the mid-season finale), that gives audiences two massive letdowns to look forward to every year. Coda, the mid-season finale of season five, continued the not-so-proud tradition.
The thing that stuck out to me about Consumed is that we pretty much knew what was going to happen before the episode even started. In Slabtown, we saw Carol being wheeled into the hospital. The only question was “how did she get there?” Turns out the answer was a completely implausible car accident. How does that even happen in a world without traffic? Ninja car? Carol is officially the worst pedestrian in the apocalypse.
We knew from Strangers that Daryl returned to camp with someone and that he wasn’t exactly in a chipper mood. A lot of people guessed that Daryl’s guest was Noah after meeting him in Slabtown. The episode revealed how the two strangers met. Noah disarmed them and basically left them to die. They teamed up less because it made sense than because the plot dictated that they must.
What I’m getting at is that we already knew the outcome of all of the events of Consumed. What we didn’t know was pretty obvious. And sometimes the explanation I came up with on my own was better than the one the show gave us.
This is the second season of The Walking Dead for show-runner Scott Gimple and a pattern is starting to arise. The Walking Dead has always had a large cast of largely disposable characters. It was hard to get overly invested in characters like T-dog or that other guy who was not T-Dog when most of their screen time was spent waiting for their big death scene. Once a character like Not T-Dog bit the dust, the characters on the show would try to convince the audience of the significance of the loss by talking about a bunch of things we never saw the characters do while they were alive. Glenn was especially prone to telling us how important the show’s red shirts were after they had their names removed from the opening credits.
Last week, I took a break from my semi-weekly Walking Dead write-ups. Didn’t want to do it. It was only the third episode of the season. But Four Walls and a Roof was pretty much a continuation of the lackluster Strangers. I just couldn’t muster up the enthusiasm to write up an episode that covered so much of the same territory as the previous episode. Although I was tempted to do so just so I could point out how idiotic Abraham’s “let’s all split up in the middle of the night when we know we’re being watched” strategy was. Abraham wouldn’t last long in a slasher movie.
I really don’t have a ton to say about this week’s episode, Slabtown. I even considered taking another week off from writing up The Walking Dead. But then I thought about it further and I realized that’s probably what The Walking Dead wants me to do. How else to explain the decision to focus an entire episode on Beth?!? Last season, the show devoted an entire episode to Beth and Darryl which was a questionable decision that resulted in a poor episode. But at least the offset Beth with the show’s most popular character. No such balancing was in effect this time around. Slabtown is all Beth for a solid hour!
The Walking Dead has thrown down the gauntlet. They are now making episodes just to goad me into not writing about them. Although the episode offers very little to digest, I can’t NOT write about it.
After last week’s action-packed premiere (which I still maintain would have worked better as a season finale), it was unavoidable that The Walking Dead would slow down a little. And sure enough, the second episode of the season settles into the usual Walking Dead chat-fest built around an inventive action set-piece. That’s not inherently a bad thing. I’m on record as liking character development when it is done well. Unfortunately, The Walking Dead does a pretty terrible job of developing its characters.
“You’re either the butcher or the cattle.”
It’s the post-apocalyptic circle of life. The strong eat the weak. At Terminus, they really take that expression to heart.
The season five premiere of The Walking Dead is one of the most action-packed episodes in the show’s history. It sticks to the show’s strengths which makes it a very satisfying viewing experience. If I have a quibble, it’s that this episode should have been last season’s finale. The last eight episodes of season 4 built up to this moment. And then, they left us hanging. Now sixth months later, we finally got the bloody catharsis last season was building towards.
Spoilers after the jump.