The Walking Dead: Do Not Send Us Astray

"Did you really think that cockamamie play would work?"

We saw an uptick in quality last episode. I didn't expect it to last forever, but couldn't it have lasted for more than that single episode?

This is going to be a pretty negative review, so be warned.

A certain amount of suspension of disbelief is always required when watching a genre show, film, book or whatever. We make a bargain with the creators. We accept the inherently unrealistic premise that undead corpses are hungry for our flesh, or dragons are coming to roast us on an open fire, or that a bunch of misogynistic nerds in an apartment would make a friend of Kaley Cuoco. We accept these things, and then it's up to the creators to make this strange new world feel real. And The Walking Dead has always attempted some kind of realism that echoes our own world. It's often a very solemn show that aspires to be about human nature, so it stands out when characters act like fools or when circumstances feel contrived, which is what happened this week. I felt the hand of the author in almost everything. When it came to characters, inconsistency was the name of the game for this episode.

So, Simon attacked the Hilltop. I was looking forward to this battle, but ultimately it only served to make the Saviors look incredibly foolish. And after the battle, the Hilltop suddenly started looking incredibly foolish. It was like the episode devoted equal halves to how stupid these characters can be when the writers force them down a pre-ordained path. But let's talk about the Saviors first.

The only real change between Simon's plan and Negan's plan was that Simon planned to kill, not just maim. In many ways, Simon accomplished what Negan wanted without accomplishing what he wanted. So really, both of them are to blame for what happened at the Hilltop. I'm fully willing to believe that Simon is impulsive and bloodthirsty, but he's also a very clever guy. Remember the first time he ever attacked the Hilltop? Surprising them by smashing a car right through, blaring music to attract Walkers, and then sitting back as everyone panicked? Yet here he acted like a complete moron. It felt strange to see him make so many stupid mistakes in such quick succession. And since this attack was Negan's plan, it means that Negan is stupid too. The very premise of the plan was faulty. Let's count off what happened:

1. Negan/Simon decided to attack an armed, protected settlement (with walls!) that's holding hostages. They did not bring any guns of their own, not even for Walkers. They only brought hand-to-hand weapons, with bows as the only long-range weapons.
2. Simon loudly abandoned and insulted the hostages, meaning they won't be on his side ever again. This was disappointing, since I thought Maggie was being very clever by letting the hostages overhear what Simon was secretly saying about them...but then she let Simon know they were listening. What if he'd commanded them to attack from within while they attacked from outside? What if he'd assured them they'd be rewarded for their loyalty?
3. Simon rushed into an obvious trap, and if they didn't know the Hilltop had guns before, they sure as hell knew now.
4. When the fighting settles, suddenly get all whispery and try to stealth your way in the front door.


This plan was insane, utterly insane and it took me right out of the story to see the Saviors act in such a way. Then again, they've always been inconsistent villains. Sometimes they're competent, sometimes they're morons. People are a resource, but they kill people needlessly all the time. They obey and love Negan, but he treats them awfully and kills them on his own whims. This group should have fallen apart long before Rick ever showed up, and they certainly should not be so powerful. Also, why does it feel like there are maybe a thousand of them?

Daryl and Tara completely switched opinions on Dwight. I'm halfway convinced that the actors just got each other's lines and nobody corrected them. It was incredibly jarring; I'd buy that Tara is begrudgingly convinced that Dwight is on their side, but she seemed completely different from the person she was just a few days ago. Daryl, too. Tara clearly isn't infected; the show isn't going to trick me into thinking she is and Dwight has gone back to the dark side, not even for a moment. It's insulting that the show thinks their viewers are as stupid as their characters. And that brings me to the Hilltop.

There is no excuse for every single person at the Hilltop suddenly failing to recognize the signs of an infected person. The infected were pallid and feverish; that's to be expected from any untreated wound, but not so quickly and in the world of The Walking Dead, everyone should be vigilant by second nature. They also seemed to post a grand total of two guards, which I'm sure is all you need the night after a savage battle with enemies who are still out there and very angry. Instead, everybody went to sleep at once, and it was certainly a deep sleep, wasn't it? Nobody heard the growls, the snarls. Those two guards that went down looked like they were actively trying to be quiet as they died. They did the weak "agh" sound that I do when I bump my knee on a table. I practically heard the director off to the side, saying, "You've had your neck ripped open, but it feels more like you knocked your elbow against something."

I was sorry to lose Tobin, but not surprised. He hasn't had more than two lines ever since Carol left Alexandria. Jason Douglas turned in an excellent performance with the pretty thin material he was given this episode, reminding us that Tobin has always been a straight-up good person. It also made me think that Jason Douglas deserved better than to be made into a glorified extra, but whatever. It's just a shame they didn't work with the character more. It would have had more impact otherwise; personally, I've been waiting for Tobin to die for a long time.

I'm going to start calling Henry "The Child" because (as I've complained about before) he's just a repeat of child characters before him. He barely warrants a name. He's going to either need rescue or die, and it'll be soon. In fact, he'll probably need rescued, someone will die to save him, and then Henry will die a few episodes later to show us all how shockingly real this show is and how nobody is safe. Anyway, The Child released the Saviors for a very flimsy reason. He could have just shot them through the cage. He's irritating, but I do confess it was interesting to see Gregory and Alden react to him. Gregory is always so delightfully slippery, but he can't even deceive a child, which is hilarious to me. We also learned more about Alden. Come to think of it, we saw a lot of Alden this week. He had a brother who died, and now he's pretty officially on the side of the survivors. They've also set him up very insistently as a love interest for Maggie. I can't say for sure if I like him or not, but I'm interested to see where he's going.

Honestly, though, I think they really missed a trick with Alden and Gavin. Wouldn't it have been better for Gavin to be the leader of the hostage Saviors? He'd shown such conflict and humanity, and this episode really made me miss him. Jayson Warner Smith did a great job with a relatively minor character. He made a real impact on me, and I would rather have him around in the Alden role, especially since Gavin already has a pre-existing relationship with Ezekiel (and nasty Jared). Instead, the only good Savior is coincidentally the good-looking one.

Gavin kept appearing to Morgan, so we're getting a repeat of Morgan's old arcs like usual. Did Morgan have much of a relationship with Gavin? Ezekiel and Gavin were close to friends, but he and Morgan were always enemies. Why didn't Morgan see the guy whose guts he pulled out with his bare hands? Or how about Morgan's wife or son? Or Eastman's goat?

I wanted to see Ezekiel and Maggie working in tandem, but instead Ezekiel just gave Henry the contradictory advice of "stay inside and be safe, also protect them." That said, if there was a character who came out of this episode looking good, it was Maggie. I love Maggie-In-Charge, of our days and of our nights, of our wrongs and of our rights. I loved her as this highly capable leader, and I appreciated that Rick was fairly submissive to her. He's aware he's not in charge of the Hilltop, Maggie is, and that's the way it is. They didn't make a big deal out of it, which was cool. Lauren Cohan was intense and commanding, although Maggie's lack of visible pregnancy made me wonder again about the timeline for the show. When did Glenn get killed? When did Maggie first become pregnant? A month ago? Two?

I wish I could say more positives about this episode, but I can't. I can only praise some of the technical aspects. The battle was well-shot; I was always aware of what was going on at any given time. I really hope next week gets us back on track. I know I've been very negative about this episode, but really, it comes from frustration because all the pieces were here. There was potential, and there is something brilliant and even kind of poignant about a battle which nobody won. Simon was humiliated but still managed to infect the Hilltop; Maggie won the battle while losing a bulk of her forces, yet also gained allies through her display of compassion and Simon's lack of it. There was something here, but it just wasn't put together correctly.

Bits & Bobs

- The whole infected weapons thing would probably work better if we hadn't been watching eight seasons of characters mess around with zombie guts in a multitude of ways.

- I'm sorry, was that a doctor that Siddiq was talking to? Have we seen her before? She's not a doctor, right? Because that would make so much of the Dr. Carson drama tensionless. She can't have been a doctor. She was just talking to him as if she was the more experienced medical professional.

- Way to disrespect Merle's memory, Daryl. It's not like he gave his life for you.

- Simon is most likely going to die at Negan's hand. Which is a shame, because that makes things all about Negan and robs the other survivors of a real victory. One of Rick's people killing Simon would be a coup for them. This week, however, he had crazy plot armor. Maybe those leather jackets are enchanted objects that deflect bullets.

- Siddiq also showed himself to be fairly useful, and I got a charge out of Rick leading the calvary.

- Can we get more Ezekiel? And more Jerry, for that matter?

- I feel like I should have said more about Carol, but I'm not sure what to say other than I liked her scene with Tobin and Melissa McBride did her usual wonderful job.

Quotes

Gavin: You know what it is.
For all I whine about The Walking Dead being too heavy-handed with its themes, I didn't get what this line meant.

Simon: Well, Maggie Rhee, this is highly regrettable, but the way I see it, the Saviors you're in possession of there are damaged goods. You know, they've got themselves into their own pickle, and this organization prizes those who, "A," avoid capture and, "B," figure out their own shit when said outcome eventuates. Which, in the end, is my way of saying screw them.
I guess Simon likes people who weren't captured.

Maggie: We can get you outside the gates with a guard. So you can bury your people.
Alden: They're not mine. But I'm glad you see them that way: as people.

Carol: I think I might just accept that some of us are lucky enough to just live, some of us are lucky enough to just fight.

One-and-a-half out of four ominous clocks.

4 comments:

Billie Doux said...

Wow, it's like you're reading my mind, Jonny. What a terrible episode.

I thought it was clearly established many, many moons ago that only a walker's bite could infect someone. Especially since the entire cast constantly gets drenched with blood. It's just nuts that they retconned this, because fans have been arguing about it since the series began, and I thought the rules were firmly established. Are they now saying that walker blood can infect someone if you deliberately cut or shoot someone and introduce the infection? I suppose that kinda sorta makes sense... but really, no, it doesn't.

That was what bothered me the most. But the second most bothersome element of this episode was that no one was freaking awake guarding the Hilltop right after a huge battle in which we could almost certainly assume that the enemy was still close by. Except for little Henry who managed to free the prisoners, of course. There was so much noise with the walkers staggering around, too, and no one woke up?

And I totally agree about Gavin. I was sorry they killed him off because he was somewhat sympathetic and played by a terrific actor. He would have been an interesting character to move over to the "good" side.

I was really confused about the extra doctor thing, too. Was she supposed to be expressing prejudice against Siddiq? Except she took it back. And then she died.

Honestly, it was like someone took a bunch of plot elements and threw them against the wall like spaghetti, and this is what we got.

Terrific review. :) And not just because I agree with every word of it.

Cheryl said...

I agree with Jonny and Billie. Terrible episode.

How did no one wakes up when a full grown man falls down a large stair case is beyond me? And, who dark or not stands out in the open during a battle like Simon and the Saviors did?

Jonny said...

Tobin and the others also turned pretty fast, didn't they? I mean, Thanks, guys!

Gareth and his pals straight-up ate part of an infected person. Did they cook the virus out of the Bob meat?

Okay, so the Hilltop had no idea that the Saviors had infected their weapons, fine. People still showed signs of infection. And even if they dismissed it as just being due to their injuries, those injuries still needed to be taken seriously. Everybody knows that everyone is already infected and will turn upon dying, so in theory, there should be a zombie watch every single night just in case someone dies in their sleep from some undiagnosed trauma. With so many people injured, it makes sense to have multiple guards around, even IF they thought the Saviors wouldn't come back with reinforcements. Just such a silly episode.

I looked up that doctor lady, and her name is Dana. She IS a doctor, it seems. The Kingdom's doctor. I don't know how to react to that. I don't think she was being prejudiced toward Siddiq because of his race, I think they just wanted someone to be mean to Siddiq so he could stand up for himself and have a character moment. Like everything else, it felt forced and irritating. When she said 'I like you' it was like the writers wanted to tell the audience how to feel. 'See how this bitchy person likes Siddiq all of a sudden even though she didn't at first? You should like him too.'

Unintentional comedy of the night: Henry claiming he wasn't dumb and subsequently releasing all the prisoners.

Patryk said...

A lot of stuff happened to yet again trim the herd also known as extras and left a bad taste in our mouths.

It's obvious Dwight missed again just like when he killed Denise instead of Daryl. They should stop giving him bows of any kind. Also Tara is not infected of course.