AMC’s ratings monster THE WALKING DEAD just aired its midseason finale last night (to an incredible 12.1 million viewers). I have been plenty critical of the past season and a half, but this episode proves that there is still plenty of bite hidden somewhere deep within in its bark.
Allow me to give praise where praise is due: last night’s episode was incredible. It proved my theory that the showrunners were desperately trying to turn their ship around and I am happy to say that most of the scenes mirrored the comic book near-perfectly. In fact, I propose a “director’s cut” of the show to excise the second half of the third season and splice bits and pieces of season 4, plugging the entire 8th episode as the season 3 finale.
Unfortunately, the eighth episode was preceded by a whole ton of weird/unnecessary fluff. Head inside for more!
Ahead of the premiere, ROBERT KIRKMAN and company were teasing the “next big threat” to Rick and his troupe which turned out to be… *drumroll please* swine flu (or if you prefer my terminology, ‘lame as hell’). The group of Woodbury exiles and Rick’s original crew were plagued by this complete non-starter plot point for a solid 4-5 episodes before we meet the Governor’s mute beard-face wandering around looking for love. He finds it and then finally reverts to what he always should have been… a complete lunatic. There’s the first half of season 4 in a nutshell.
Oh hey, look at Glen! He has a massive case of sniffles until they shove a respirator down his throat and he is miraculously cured. Everybody who comes anywhere near the virus quickly zombifies minus Hershel for some reason, presumably because his beard doubles as a hazmat filtration system. Tyreese is really pissed about a bunch of stuff. Rick tells Carol to leave for pretty much no reason. Did I mention that The Governor could pull off a mean Jim Morrison impression? And zombies do funny things! They don’t need to just walk any longer, now they fall through ceilings and hide in the bushes and randomly emerge from shallow graves!
My point is that they were really reaching with some of this stuff. There is a great deal of irony in the fact that the graphic novel is all about the characters and their interpersonal relationships that just-so-happened to have zombies in it, while the show almost entirely ignores the character development and when they try (as in the case of the Governor), they slather it on so heavy that it is almost soap opera in quality. Let’s compare how the writers treat TWD characters versus another huge AMC show, BREAKING BAD. A viewer might not know everything about the characters in BREAKING BAD, but you so deeply care about each and every one of them because they are so fleshed out and real. Not so in THE WALKING DEAD, you can hardly care anymore when some relatively big characters die. It doesn’t need to be that way.
But episode 8 redeems it all. Much like the midseason finale of season 2 fired everything up into a high gear frenzy that made me instantly feel better about everything before it, the void has been insta-filled.
Kudos to DAVID MORRISSEY who finally personified his role of The Governor so well, I would consider it almost exactly what the comic intended. The shot of him standing in front of the tank growling “kill ’em all” was very well done. I also like how they handled his death scene, since Lori was long gone and the baby could not be utilized in the same way she was utilized in the comic, it was a good touch to have him cold-heartedly shoot Megan in front of her mother and that be the catalyst for Lilly to finally pull the trigger on him. It’s almost a shame to know he’s not coming back.
Now is the time for opinions… is Rick’s baby still alive? I vote no, and they ‘pulled a Lori’ by not actually showing it. Of course they leave it all up to interpretation, so she might very well have been found by Maggie.
The question now is how do they move forward? Perhaps it was a bit of tongue-in-cheek commentary on the show in the final moments as Rick and Carl barely escape from the prison as it burns when Rick tells Carl “Don’t Look Back”. I sure won’t, but you better believe that I look forward to THE WALKING DEAD returning in February.
C- for the first half taken together, but A++ for the midseason finale alone.