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The Walking Dead: New Best Friends

twd-new-best-friends

The Walking Dead has been ridiculous for a long time now.  But lately, the show seems to be in on the joke which has made the last couple of episodes much more enjoyable than the first half of the season.  When The Walking Dead takes itself seriously, it just keeps hitting the same depressing notes over and over again leaving viewers little choice but to focus on the glaring flaws in the narrative.  But when you’ve got an episode focusing on a group right out of Mad Max complete with a Thunderdome battle between Rick and a zombie in spiky armor, there’s enough entertainment value to not sweat the small stuff.

What’s the small stuff?  Well, this group doesn’t make a bit of sense.  It’s only been a matter of years since the start of the apocalypse.  The show’s timeline has always been intentionally vague but Judith was conceived sometime around the end of society (most likely while Rick was in a coma) and I don’t think she’s walking yet.  If she’s a slow developer, that puts us at two years which is not enough time for an entire group of people to adopt a weird new language.

Then again, we’ve already been introduced to The Kingdom which we accept largely because we know King Ezekiel is putting on a show and his followers are playing along.  Maybe something similar is going on here.  Either way, I don’t care.  I prefer The Walking Dead to be a show where a band of scavengers live in a trash heap led by a charismatic woman with a very serious haircut who says things like “take Rick to the up up up.”  If it’s a choice between a show that veers into Z Nation territory and one every other episode is Negan terrorizing people for 90 minutes, I want to go to the up up up.

We know where this storyline is going.  Heck, Rick’s smile at the end of last episode demonstrated that he had apparently read ahead because there was no reason for him to think being taken prisoner was a positive development after everything he has been through.  Rick tells Gabriel he grinned because he knew the Scavengers were potential allies against the Saviors.  We know that’s how this will eventually play out because it kind of has to.  But all Rick knew about this group at the time was that they had somehow kidnapped Gabriel and stolen most of their supplies.  For all he knew, the Scavangers could have been worse than the Saviors.

Which brings me to another point I could quibble about if I were feeling less charitable.  How many reasonably large settlements are there within walking distance of Alexandria anyway?  So far we have Alexandria itself, The Hillside, the Kingdom, that group of female fishermen (fisherwomen?) with the stockpile of guns which are clearly going to be important later one, the Saviors of course and now the Scavengers.  This is quickly turning into The Warriors.  Negan even carries a baseball bat.

We know Negan has been putting the squeeze on three of these groups while having nearly wiped out the riverside fisherwomen.  You would think these groups would come together on their own realizing that united they probably have the numbers to take on Negan’s forces.  Obviously, that’s going to happen eventually.  But we still have six more episodes to kill this season so for now we just need to enjoy the fact that the show has a CGI tiger in it.

The real highlight of the episode was of course the reunion between Daryl and Carol.  These characters are special and so is their relationship.  Unlike most of the other characters on the show, Daryl and Carol developed into who they are naturally over time.  Since these characters don’t exist at this point in the source material, the writers have been free to let them follow their own path.  And more importantly, Norman Reedus and Melissa McBride have a natural chemistry that makes up for any holes in the writing.

The episode opened with the Saviors picking up supplies from the Kingdom.  Saviors being Saviors, they are dicks about it and a fight breaks out.  If Ezekiel thinks his deal makes him immune to the Saviors’ tyranny, he’s kidding himself.  The scene makes that obvious.  Even Morgan, who has spent the last couple seasons taking his pacifism to stupid extremes, seems to realize that sooner or later the Kingdom is headed for a fight.  (He’s also probably pretty ticked that they took his favorite stick).

Afterwards, Ezekiel’s right hand man Richard tells Daryl what happened.  They both want the same thing – for the Kingdom to join forces with Alexandria to take on the Saviors.   But Richard goes about setting this up in about the only way Daryl might object to – he wants to use Carol as bait.  Nope, not happening.

This leads Daryl to Carol’s Kingdom-adjacent cabin.  For someone who is trying to stay out of the fray, Carol should maybe rethink her home address.  She is constantly receiving visitors.  Then again, if she moved, she’d miss out of Jerry’s cobbler deliveries.  When Carol opens the door, her emotional reaction informs viewers that Daryl is standing just out of frame.  It’s one of the few genuinely emotional moments in a show that is constantly trying to make viewers feel something.

Carol asks Daryl how things went down with that whole Saviors thing.  Not wanting to draw his friend into the whole mess (and also needing to delay her involvement for at least a few episodes) Daryl lies.  He tells her the happy ending he thinks she needs to hear.  We know sooner or later Carol’s going to find out about Glenn and Abraham and that when she does she will be leading the charge for vengeance.  Cynically, I could view this development as one of the show’s typical delay tactics.  I mean, it is.  But this time I’ll allow it because these characters’ history together makes it feel earned.

 

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Posted on February 20, 2017, in TV, Walking Dead and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. I thought I had a pretty good one this week (for a change) and damn it if you didn’t top me. I missed the first airing last night and had to take in the repeat–I was pretty wiped out by the time I sat down to write but it still felt like it had some flair (haven’t re-read it yet). But I think this…

    “I prefer The Walking Dead to be a show where a band of scavengers live in a trash heap led by a charismatic woman with a very serious haircut who says things like “take Rick to the up up up.” If it’s a choice between a show that veers into Z Nation territory and one every other episode is Negan terrorizing people for 90 minutes, I want to go to the up up up.”

    …takes the week.

    I’m definitely enjoying the Z NATION-ification of TWD. Previously, it was just little bits and bobs–Daryl’s liquidation of the biker Saviors, Carol’s momentary transformation into scheming wisecracker, etc.–but now we’re getting something of that anything-and-the-kitchen-sink flavor two weeks in a row. Can’t wait ’til the phyto-zombies show up.

    I’d take issue only with the comment about Carol developing organically. That isn’t really the case. Her personalities have been as arbitrarily imposed as anyone else. The Carol from the opening of season 4 was a logical extrapolation of a woman who’d been through what she had but a woman who could callously murder two innocents was about as stark a contradiction of who she’d been as one could have devised. They’ve put her through changes since; the ZN version of Carol who suddenly appeared when they hit the Safe Zone was definitely the best one. Her current characterization–suddenly, she just can’t fight anymore, for no other reason than that the writers wanted her to leave in order to set up the Kingdom–was another arbitrary imposition that didn’t make a damn bit of sense. To me, the current version is like some dull doppleganger; watching her reminds me of all the things that are wrong with the series.

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    • Much appreciated, but I think you’re selling your write-up short. I enjoyed your take as always. And I have enjoyed being a fly on the wall at your FB community.

      I used to stay up trying to get my article posted before I went to sleep. But I was rarely happy wit the end result. Partially, that’s because I couldn’t even start the show until the kids were put to bed, so I wasn’t even sitting down to write until around 11. At some point, I decided to sleep on it and put something together the next morning. I’m not going to lie. I still dash these out off the top of my head. But I feel like a good night’s rest let’s me come to the article fresh. By the time I actually start typing, I usually have an angle and maybe a line or two.

      More often than not, my articles are written very quickly and with many interruptions thanks to the ol’ 9-to-5. But today being a holiday, I was able to quickly throw my thought together before the girls got up and demanded cinnamon rolls. That says a lot about my write-ups. They are written in less time than it takes children to demand breakfast.

      You’re right about Carol with regards to her first being turned into a killer and then a pacifist. That happens with every character on the show and she’s not immune. But I think her relationship with Daryl has largely come about organically. When we’re dealing with those two characters, it feels more genuine than just about anything else on the show.

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      • I’ve written all but one or two of my articles in the last several years in the immediate aftermath of watching the show, with an eye toward getting it posted before it gets too late. They’re dashed out at a breakneck pace and I’d definitely do much better work if I just waited and worked out a better structure than I usually have. I get a lot better traffic if I don’t though (I get this huge surge of hits right as the show is ending and running for 2 or 3 hours. When I reread this one (as prelude to dropping in an image of that SMOKEY & THE BANDIT trailer I’d described in it), it’s not bad. It definitely helps when the show gives me something to work with. I sometimes forget things I wanted to include and have to add an update. I’m thinking of doing a piece before the next ep on one I forgot to mention this week, the magical healing powers of TWD characters. It’s something I’ve covered from practically the beginning of my writing on the show (and was the subject of a lot of hilarious wars on the IMDb board and other places over the years). In the midseason finale, Aaron took a beating he probably shouldn’t have even survived, yet on Sunday’s ep, set only a day later storywise, he’s walking around like he’s fine–concerned that his boyfriend will freak out about a minor cut he’d just gotten on his head.

        The beginning of season 3 clearly indicated that the Daryl/Carol thing had become a romantic relationship between seasons. She’d been riding around with him and at one point, she gets frisky and asks him if he wants to fool around. At the time, there was a great uproar on the message board about her being too old for him, which is ridiculous–the actors are only about 2 years apart but Carol was being written as older than she was and Daryl was being written as quite a bit younger than he was (basically, a 20-something guy). In any event, that angle was dropped after a single episode and has never been revisited. When she disappeared after the zombies invaded the prison, he didn’t even bother to look for her. Later, during the time they were looking for Beth in Atlanta, they acted as if they were virtually strangers. When they first arrived in Alexandria, this came to the fore again, as Rick, Carol and Daryl had been plotting to stage a coup, Daryl backs off and the two never discuss it. I don’t know; to me, it’s never been written very consistently.

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  2. Scientologists, obviously.

    I was trying to find a logical explanation for the sudden appearance of the Beyond Garbagedome People. A throwback hippie acid commune? Escapees from an insane asylum? Hardcore Trump supporters? Then it hit me: they’re Scientologists.

    Think about it: you guys are assuming they only formed their weirdass cult 2 years ago, but Scientology has been around for decades. They act loonshit crazy? Check. Organized harassment? Check. Living pretty much isolated from the rest of society? Check.

    “We take, we don’t bother.” If that doesn’t sum up their credo in a nutshell I’ll eat my straw hat. With a side order of straw.

    So you see, it all adds up nicely; the zombie apocalypse occurs, which doesn’t stray very far from their entire belief ‘history’ narrative written by founder and insane psychosis mentor L. Ron Hubbard, so the whole gang of brainwashed weirdos from the local church emigrate to the local junkyard to maintain isolation and await the return of Xenu in his fleet of interstellar DC-10s, or whatever. Without any power to supply their e-meters, they simply replaced this test with a welded-up spike zombie. Makes perfect sense.

    Once again you guys are so quick to judge while failing to take the time to peel back the layers of this deep and well-written show. I mean onion. Whatever. Shame on you.

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    • Hysterical. Extra points for working in a well-deserved swipe at Scientology. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it myself. I’ve been addicted to that Lea Remini show despite the fact she kind of rubs me the wrong way. I would totally watch a show about Scientologists post-apocalypse. I bet the helmeted zombie was Tom Cruise. There’s probably a deleted scene in which he jumps on Oprah’s couch.

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