The Walking Dead: Dead or Alive Or

"He was helping a stranger. In the middle of all this, he was helping a stranger."

Not quite as interesting as last week, although the plot is at least moving forward.

The reward for least-improved-player goes to Tara, who's forgotten about how she joined Rick's group. I understand that she hasn't seen what we've seen, and she's pissed about Denise, but trying to kill a valuable ally in the middle of a war? Oh, so Dwight can't change sides? Seriously, Tara? I don't know if she was being a true hypocrite or if she's just mad at herself for siding with the Governor, but either way, it's aggravating. If she is still angry at herself, then it's inconsistent. She got over that a long time ago. When they were hiding from the Saviors and she still had a gun on him, I groaned out loud. Tara, I know you're grieving, but haven't you learned your lesson about blind hatred by now?

It doesn't help that Dwight is one of the best things about the show right now, and killing him would be a good way to make me hate his killer. He's done some truly awful things, but so has everyone else. And now he's risking everything with the full expectation that he'll be murdered by his new allies for his trouble. If Dwight was all about self-preservation, he would've stolen a vehicle and split for Vegas by now. Instead, he wandered back into the hornet nest because it's where he's needed. Dwight is freakin' great, okay?

I hate to keep bringing up what a terrible idea it was to kill Carl, but I have to if I want to talk about Henry even a little bit, and I do. And damn, killing Carl was a terrible idea. It's becoming increasingly clear with every new episode that the show just isn't prepared for the thematic resonance of Carl's death, which is what happens when shock value is the only motivation for a writing choice. Carl's death tells us that children, good children, cannot survive in the world of The Walking Dead. I can't help but remember what Lori Grimes said, all the way back when: "Maybe this isn't a world for children anymore." And now, The Walking Dead seems to confirm that horrible suspicion. Sophia, Mika, Lizzie, Sam, Ron, Benjamin, Duane, even the Governor's daughter, they all died. Carl, however, seemed to be proof that even if it's hard, children can survive and even flourish without becoming utter psychopaths. And now, what do we have? Judith, who isn't a character, really. Maggie's unborn child. Enid might be our best Carl replacement, but I'm not holding out much hope for her long-term survival. And then there's Henry.

One of the big problems The Walking Dead has is with repetition. Characters go through the same arcs over and over; Daryl, Morgan and especially Eugene. Then there are new characters who crop up to repeat the arcs of dead characters, and Henry is one of them. In fact, he's a nigh-perfect example of storyline repetition, since he combines several been-there done-that arcs. He's a kid for Morgan to grow close to, mentor and remind him of Duane, like Benjamin. He's a previously cheerful child turned grim and angry, like Carl was midway through the series. And he's a creepy, psychotic kid like Lizzie Samuels. Everything we've seen about Henry has been done before and it's grating. I'm bored of it, just like I'm bored of Morgan turning super-violent over and over. It isn't just repetitive, it robs the previous arc of any power. Remember Eastman? That great performance by John Carroll Lynch? That little story of Morgan's rehabilitation? It's essentially meaningless now, because we're back to where we started. At least Morgan seems to want to guide Henry away from a bloody path; maybe more of the old Morgan is in there than I thought.

Repetition continues to be a problem with Eugene. He's good, he's evil, he's good, he's evil. He's made several impassioned speeches about how he's with the Saviors for good, and by now, I want the show to be clear about him one way or the other. It's a tease to keep us guessing, and truly, I like Eugene. I want him to come down on the side of the angels, but he's so contradictory as a character right now. He's helping both sides at various points, so the audience doesn't know how to feel about him. There is at least a sick part of me that enjoys seeing him manipulate Negan from a weaker position. Most anyone could see that Eugene shouldn't be trusted, but Negan is such an egotist with blinders on that it's believable. Or at least, more believable than Negan ever allowing Dwight into the inner circle after his first attempted escape.

I truly hope we're not going to see too much repetition with Gabriel Stokes, because he's become one of my favorite characters in part because his development has been a wonderful yet believable slow-burn. From a self-righteous coward to a truly righteous man. Seth Gilliam has always been wonderful in this role, and he's wonderful here. It was an excellent choice to put Gabriel and Dr. Carson together; both compassionate men, both coming from different places. I loved that Gabriel's faith was rewarded with antibiotics. It was encouraging in a series where being good is so often equated with being foolish. Unfortunately, we can't have nice things, and Dr. Carson dies for nothing. I also get the feeling Gabriel will be losing his faith, which is a variation of what so many other characters have been through.

What did I like about this episode? Well, I might be going crazy, but I think I liked Negan the best. It's like the show has finally figured out how to handle him, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan's performance has come leaps and bounds. He was genuinely frightening here; still hammy and colourful, but a little more focused inward. That final shot of Negan holding a guts-slathered Lucille genuinely made a chill run down my spine, which hasn't happened since Negan's very first appearance.

Bits & Bobs

- I want to say again how exceptional Seth Gilliam was in this episode. He's always been a constant highlight within the cast.

- If Laura the Savior really died offscreen, I'll be bummed. She was one of my favorite minor Saviors. Not to mention, it's a bit of a lazy retcon.

- I don't have much to say about Maggie, except that I agree with what she's doing even if it feels like the show wants me to disagree. Don't share rations with the Saviors, Maggie, your people do come first. There's a difference between torture and triage.

- That said, it is always a pleasure to see Gregory. I can't help but be massively entertained by that weasel, and Xander Berkeley's performance even manages to evoke some sympathy from me.

- There's at least one Savior who isn't a complete asshole. We saw him last season, and it turns out his name is Alden. I automatically don't trust or like him.

- The blind preacher thing is such a huge cliche I probably don't even need to mention it.

- Tobin is still on the show, getting his first line in...I think a season and a half? It was funny to see him cover Judith's ears. You're good people, Tobin.

Two out of four homemade bullets.


Billie Doux said...

We're so in agreement about Dwight. He has freaking suffered enough and he doesn't even believe he deserves to live. I think I've reached the point with The Walking Dead where I can't handle losing any more characters I care about, and I care about Dwight. Tara, Denise, I get it. But this is war, and you don't throw away an asset like Dwight in a war.

While I really like Father Gabriel, I didn't like the implication that Doc Carson died because he didn't believe like Gabriel did. I'm glad Eugene lied to Negan to protect Gabriel, because you're right, Jonny -- it's frustrating to not know where Eugene truly stands. When the rubber meets the road, and eventually it will, what will Eugene do?

Rosita has become wise. It's a good look for her.

I really enjoyed your review, Jonny. :)

Jonny said...

Thank you, Billie!

I actually had the opposite thought about Dr. Carson. I thought he died because he finally did believe, and the show was trying to tell us that Gabriel's faith was misplaced and based on coincidence...which didn't sit well with me, really. I'm not religious myself, nor am I spiritual, but the cruelty of Dr. Carson's death seemed a little smug on the part of the writers to me.

I want to believe that Eugene will redeem himself. He's in a vital position as the new bullet-maker, which means he could do untold damage to the Saviors right under their nose.