The Walking Dead: Pretty Much Dead Already

Dale: “I may not have what it takes to last for long, but that’s okay. At least I can say that when the world goes to shit, I didn’t let it take me down with it.”

I was really hoping that Sophia wasn’t in the barn. And this episode was a different kind of intense than I expected.

I spent a lot of time thinking about the title and how people live with the impossible. I think we all have those things, the things we say we couldn’t survive. This episode was full of those things. How do you go on when the woman you love doesn’t love you? How do you go on when those you love most have died? How do you live with yourself when you have to kill a little girl, one you think you’ve failed? I don’t think that Dale is the one who is pretty much dead already. I think he has been able to hold onto who he is even as the world crumbled. I think this refers to Shane and Hershel, who have been unable to move through the mess and keep themselves intact.

Scott Wilson as Hershel was phenomenal. You could read it all on his face as they shot the walkers. He had refused to accept that his loved ones were gone, but he knew it somewhere. I don’t think it was shock that prevented him from taking the snare pole from Rick. I think he knew that what was happening had to happen, but it will completely break him. And he must have known that Sophia was in the barn. Was he trying to protect the group by making them leave before they found out? A misguided gesture but one that I believe he would think was kind. He didn’t want them to have to live with any more of the pain that he was wrestling with and suppressing. The intelligence and complexity of the writing for this show impresses me every week.

I’ve also been impressed with the way this show examines masculinity. Shane is the hyper-masculine guy who saves your life but is a complete asshole most of the time. Glenn is sweet and kind but not stupid. He can save your life as well. Rick is the stand-up guy who is trying to stay civilized and do the right thing. Shane sees him as weak, but Rick is the one who will save your life with his brain and he won’t just save his own, he’ll save the group as well. If you just look at things categorically, then Shane is your best bet for survival -- but will it be worth sticking around if all there is is survival of the fittest? The most recent anthropological research actually shows that one of the reasons that humans have survived and thrived for so long is because of altruism, because we take care of each other.

There were also some lovely relationship moments in this episode. Maggie challenging her father was powerful. There was pain in Hershel's face and it was obvious that he loves her. It appears that she has always been the child who challenges him. Glenn telling Maggie how he felt about her was sweet as only Glenn can be. Then there was the breakdown of Shane and Rick’s relationship. Shane doesn’t know that Rick is aware of his relationship with Lori. That’s one secret that wasn’t fully disclosed. But I think my favourite moment was the exchange between Carol and Daryl. He obviously isn’t used to having anyone care about him.

So we have a different kind of mid-season cliffhanger. It is all about emotion and the impact that this final scene will have on our survivors. I feel like they pressed pause in the middle of a scene and I can’t wait for them to hit play again. February seems like a long way off.

Bits and Pieces:

Glenn, in true Glenn fashion, just blurts it out that there are walkers in the barn. They do underestimate him. They were barely listening before that.

It seems like our little group hasn’t learned much. It was not a bright idea yelling and carrying on in front of a barn of walkers.

I love the egg in the hat. Maggie is my kind of woman.

Dale is much smarter and much more observant than anyone realizes. He knew that Shane was going to lose it. He sees a lot on top of that RV.

I can’t decide if I am glad that Dale didn’t shoot Shane. And Shane knew Dale wouldn’t do it. Maybe he should have shot him -- in the foot maybe?

Loved some of the camera work in this episode, especially during the final scene.

Quotes:

Glenn: “Why would you waste an egg like that?”
Maggie: “I think it was rotten.”

Dale: “Is that how you want to be, like him?”
Andrea: “He’s not a victim.”
Dale: “You don’t know him.”

Rick: “Your barn, your farm, your say.”

Maggie: “A new command I give to you, love one another as I have loved you.”

Glenn: “I’d rather have you pissed off at me and alive than liking me and dead.”

Glenn: “Secrets get you killed.”

Maggie: “It’s about you. It’s about who you are going to be.”

13 comments:

Paul Kelly said...

What an excellent mid-season finale. I guessed the twist literally seconds before it happened. I was like... "Hey, wouldn't it be cool if...." and out she staggered. I found the first half of this season heavy going. The show's innate gloominess gets to me at times. But the second half, despite the gloom, has had me gripped. I was hoping they'd find Sophia before the end of the season. Now I kind of wish they hadn't. Great review, Doc. I've loved your insights.

Panda said...

Great review. I'm never sure where I stand with TWD, but the final scene of this episode was undoubtedly powerful. The show can be heavy going, and though I wish there was less doom and gloom, I think the fact is that it's an investigation of the survival of humanity in the face of complete hopelessness, so it's necessary. Can't wait for the next one.

I also loved the egg part too. Lauren Cohan shines no matter what the role.

HellBlazerRaiser said...

The “mid-season finale” was quite good.

But there are some major storytelling flaws in this show that need to be fixed, hopefully for the second half of the season.

The decompression is rapidly bringing the show down. There were six episodes with hardly any story movement and the same character beats repeated and pounded into the ground.

Instead of dragging the search for Sophia out to 7 episodes – with at least 3 or 4 days going by within the show's internal chronology – all 7 episodes should have taken place over 1 day, supplemented with flashbacks.

The show runner should adopt the LOST format – flashbacks exploring the characters, but limiting the flashbacks to as far back as Rick's shooting.

They don't need to and shouldn't tell us HOW the zombie outbreak broke out. But I'd like to SEE what the characters were doing when the outbreak broke out.

For example, in CHUPACABRA, instead of imaginary Merle irking Daryl, they could have given us a flashback to the moments before Merle and Daryl saw their first "walker." Maybe they had stumbled out of the Winchester and were singing WHITE LINES when they saw a walker shuffling toward them....

Instead of Andrea being all maudlin and shooting Daryl, we could have been shown what she and Amy were doing when they saw their first walker.

What was Glenn doing when all of this was starting?

They don't need to feature EVERY on-contract cast member in every episode.

We know "T-Dog" is a token character, so stop showing him doing nothing.

Give us some intel on Hershel's people, since they – even in their fleeting scenes – were more fleshed out than "T-Dog."

Carol should have (as Mother Abigail would advise) made a stand – get out there and FIND your child! (At least she would have done something (maybe even have saved Sophia).

I'm starting to get annoyed with the show.

Andrew Lincoln and Jon Bernthal are overacting to the point that I chuckle when they try to be deep or pensive as their characters lecture someone, ponder their situation or stare off into the distance.

TVNerd said...

I can't help but disagree with some of your points Hellblazerraiser. I've found the acting and storytelling this season to be superb. It is a slow burn show, and to change that would be to change the nature of the narrative. This show doesn't require big action, because the action we do get is so visceral.

In a way this is a lot like an extended Romero film, deep character building with snippets of excessive violence. This balance would be lost if it became too much of a shoot em up. Those character interactions are paid off when the walkers threaten what they've built.

I also agree with you that the Sophia plot was dragged out for a little too long, but at the same time I wouldn't trade that last moment for anything. It sent a very clear and unmistakeable message to the audience.

I think the big mistake is separating out the two halves of the season. We have had seven episodes of build up, and that tension might wain with the extended break. I do wish T-Dog had more of a purpose, he does fell like a filler character.

Finally I think the idea of doing flashbacks to the beginning of the outbreak is a great one. That one scene where they watched the city get bombed was really powerful, and explained why Lori went for Shane.

I did love this review, and I very much enjoyed this episode. Keep up the great work.

TVNerd

Josie Kafka said...

HBR, I hope you are referring to the Duran Duran cover of "White Lines," because that is a beautiful image.

:-)

HellBlazerRaiser said...

It was a reference to Shaun and Ed from SHAUN OF THE DEAD.

:)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e9tAKtdncAY&feature=related

Billie Doux said...

Great review, Doc.

Whatever The Walking Dead is doing, it's working for me. I think TVNerd has a point about the slow burn. While the show is on, I'm very into what's going on with the characters, and at the same time, I'm always on edge waiting for a zombie attack. This sort of tension seems pretty much perfect for the end of the world.

Like Paul, I had a feeling right before it happened that Sophia was in the barn. On Talking Dead directly afterward, the show runner -- is it Robert Kirkman? Kirkland? said that they had initially planned to show that Otis was the one who caught Sophia and put her in the barn, and that's why Hershel and his people didn't know she was there.

I'm glad Lauren Cohan's Maggie made it. Maybe she'll survive the season and become a cast member. Fingers crossed. I'm so glad Daryl made it, too. And I want Shane GONE. He thinks being strong is being vicious. It may keep him alive, but it's the wrong way to go. And it certainly isn't good for the rest of our merry band.

Ben said...

I have always kind of thought that "The Walking Dead" referred as much to our humans as it does to the zombies, and this episode more or less confirmed that. The whole series seems to be about the thin line between being a monster and being a person.

Shane is surrendering his humanity to survive and probably has a better shot at it than others, but those most likely to "survive" are the walkers themselves who have no emotion or concerns at all. They have been "dehumanized" and what Hershel was arguing for wasn't so much not acknowledging that as not letting us forget that they were people. He, without knowing it, was trying to protect everyone from dehumanizing themselves and becoming metaphorically dead. Ultimately this was untenable because it was a denial of reality but it highlights the question of how to fight monstrosity without becoming a monster.

In this, it is really significant that Rick was the one who put down Sophia. Everyone else was "video game" shooting at nameless monsters. When a really hard thing had to be done, it is Rick's humanity that lets him do it. It is pity and guilt and duty, not survival, that motivates him.

the whole episode brought to mind the Nietzsche quote "Battle not with monsters, lest ye become a monster, and if you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you."

Patryk said...

Scenes like the last one are the reason I love television. The slow pace of episodes past made it even better. If nothing happens for some time it just amplifies the time when something actually does happen.

Dimitri (remember me?) said...

Since we've reached the hiatus, I just wanted to congratulate you, Dr Nanamom, for your fine coverage of the show. I knew the Walking Dead reviews would end up in good hands (though I expected Gustavo's for some reason), and indeed they did. I love your female perspective, given how male-oriented the drama tends to get. Balances out the testosterone nicely.

Anyway, I look forward to your reviews next year and happy holidays (yes, I will be the first to be doing that).

drnanamom said...

Thank-you everyone for the comments. I love reading them. This show is so complex that I find I am thinking about the episodes for days afterwards and it is great to read different perspectives whether you enjoy the episode or not. I must admit that I was getting a bit antsy at the pace but as Patryk said it all made sense with the mid-season finale. Nice to hear from you Dimitri. Thanks for the kind words. I can't wait to see what happens next.

Banastal said...

Interesting how it is mentioned that Shane traided his humanity for survival - I think he never really had it. He only had his interests in mind. Although it appears in a way that every time he does something horrible - it is the right thing to do as hard as it is to admit it, the problem with his approach and sticking with him for survival is the fact that you don't know when he will turn on you to survive. You can't really depend on him to have your back - as he only worries about his. Just like in the Otis situation - he did not sacrifice himself to save everybody - he sacrificed Otis. So can do it to anyone.

John said...

Note that Daryl found where Sophia had been sleeping in the abandoned farmhouse. The thing that got me going at the time was: Sophia wasn't there. She had left because she was a zombie. Once you really think about the sequence of events in TWD, it is a depressing show. It is my favorite program- tightly knitted together.
Roidy