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Monday, February 11, 2013

Walking Dead 3x09: The Suicide King


Walking Dead is a show that is at its best when its racing along, when it doesn't slow down enough for the characters to settle into a rut and say stupid things. But after the breakneck pace of the first half of this season, especially the episodes leading up to the mid-season finale, a slow down episode like this one was a necessary chance for the characters to catch their breaths, impart some important information, and get ready for their next move.

After a pretty rousing cold open in which Rick and Maggie more or less single-handedly storm Woodbury and rescue Daryl (and Merle...), things settled down for a lot of talking, but for the most part, it was important and well-written talking. The departure of Daryl, Glen's more or less unspoken frustration and rage at being unable to protect Maggie and the conversation between Carol and Beth (in which Carol likens Daryl's relationship to his brother with her relationship with her abusive husband), were all great scenes that featured the characters realistically reacting to the current situation. Even T-Dog 3.0 was given a few snippets of characterization, enough so that I might just have to start referring to him by his actual name. Season Two showed that too much time spent dithering and talking about unimportant things in lieu of action can grind this show to a halt; thankfully, the writers seemed to have learned their lesson, and are at least grounding the non action scenes in realistic reactions that are true to the characters. I wouldn't want a half season of episodes like this, but the occasionally "talky", while still necessary, is hopefully no longer an "evil".

Other Thoughts
While I have no doubt that Daryl and Merle will remain a significant part of the series moving forward (there's no way the creators are going to write out fan-favorite Daryl for any significant length of time), I'm hoping Daryl's departure marks a continuation of his realization that his brother is an asshat and not the start of a Dixon Brothers pseudo spin-off within the show.

So the ending: on the one hand, it's probably for the best that Rick's mental breakdown is deepening and won't be neatly resolved. On the other hand, I'm not sure I'm excited to watch him become as much an antagonist to the group as the zombies or the Governor. In terms of the later, I really want to see a badass showdown between Rick and the Governor, and I fear that won't happen if Rick is whacked out of his gourd. 

I do like how the show is both deepening Rick's madness and developing T-Dog 3.0's character by making it clear to us that T-Dog 3.0 is, at least, a genuinely decent guy who, not unlike Rick once upon a time, isn't yet willing to throw out basic decency in the name of survival. Much as the parallels are being formed between Rick and the Governor (both are cracking further in the wake of the Woodbury raid), and as much I want to see a Rick/Governor showdown, it seems like T-Dog 3.0 is being setup as a possible counterpoint to Rick and the Governor, something which should be interesting to watch as well.

So Andrea remains colossally stupid. She finally learns about Glenn and Maggie, but seems to buy the Governor's line that the attack which led to their rescue was unprovoked. It seems like we're heading in a direction where she's simply not going to believe anything Rick's group says and stands by the Governor no matter what, which would be disappointing. Even her rallying of the people in Woodbury, while the right thing to do from her perspective, more or less just ensured that the Governor would have an army to send after Rick.

I did enjoy just how stupid the people of Woodbury are though, thinking the world outside their city would somehow be safer. They really don't know/remember what it's like out there. 

Speaking of, it seemed like there were suddenly fewer people in the city (even accounting for the deaths). If we're meant to assume the crowd Andrea quieted represented most of the population, that seemed small compared to the large number of people seen attending the zombie gladiator games earlier in the season.

I liked how, in the scene in the woods when Rick, Maggie and Glenn were moving the car, there were walkers approaching all around them, but they just did their job and moved on -  a nice indication of the fact that while the zombies remain an ever-present threat, these people are familiar enough with that threat to know when to react and when to just keep on keeping on.

Also, Hershel telling Glenn he's like a son to him was genuinely touching, in part because Hershel is pretty great at saying stuff like that.

Revealing the the baby's crib to be a mail carrier was pretty clever; I'd love to see more little details like that.

Rick refusing to shake T-Dog 3.0's hand was a dick move. Even if you are just going to kick him out, at least  respond to common courtesy.

9 comments:

  1. I can't say as I fault Rick for not accepting the new bunch. He doesn't know anything about them and they said themselves that Hershel and them were the first decent people they'd met in forever. The first people Rick met after the barn massacre drew on him and another of their bunch (Randall) said that their group raped at least two girls to death. Three of the five prisoners turned out to be sketchy (and the only surviving one is a creeper). The alliance with Michonne is tenuous at best and of course Woodbury is a war waiting to happen. And these four show up just as Rick launches the Woodbury offensive? And while of course the group doesn't know it two of the four newbies stood ready to take the prison by attacking Carl and Carol. Crazy or not, Rick isn't wrong.

    Although it's inevitable that the final showdown will be Rick vs. Governor, how much more interesting would it be if the character who was most directly harmed by the Governor, Maggie, got to be the one who takes him out. But of course that will never happen because women on this show are not allowed to have any agency and if they dare even to try to assert it they get shouted down.

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  2. @Anonymous: Crazy or not, Rick isn't wrong.

    My concern with him rejecting the newbies outright is more about his inability/lack of desire to entertain outside counsel (ie the Ricktatorship), which was one thing when he was (relatively) sane but is another thing entirely when he knows he's going through some shit.

    I'm not saying he should welcome them unquestioning with open arms, but considering they're well contained, under watch, and that Hershel is willing to vouch for them, it's probably not the worst thing to say "I'll think about it" and let them hang around, restricted, to check them out, rather than just dismissing them wholesale with seemingly very little thought.

    how much more interesting would it be if the character who was most directly harmed by the Governor, Maggie, got to be the one who takes him out

    That would indeed be pretty awesome, but I agree that this show's track record when it comes to handling its female characters suggests that's not going to happen.

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  3. You're right about a mostly talk/character episode being a fine idea to assess where things stand, and this was nicely done.

    I realize that the constant green-screen (well, green-wrap) work might be prohibitively expensive, vs. whatever tricks they pull with Hershel's leg, but I'm constantly distracted by the fact that the thing covering Merle's supposed stump is long enough that it obviously has the actor's hand inside.

    Did you take the closely framed shot of Beth's slightly lingering kiss on the cheek to Rick — Hey, I remembered Beth's name! — to be indicative of her maybe wantin' to be more than just one of Li'l Asskicker's group mommies?

    I've already forgotten the baby's actual name, only recalling that it was sort-of meh or stodgy, and I think that "normalizing" Li'l Asskicker into, say, Lily would've been a fun move. The fact that they're using a mail-carrier box for a bassinet is a great touch.

    I'm right with you on the Dixon Brothers, the concerns over the Rick development plot-wise (even though, as you say, it's probably necessary to explore), and Tyrese.

    I find Tyrese deserving of his own name, as well as too reasonable for this world, although I'd have gotten the hell out of that place at the end too. Hershel and Tyrese's conversation was a great little scene, with Hershel being both sympathetic and protective of his own family's hard-fought status quo; I'm constantly impressed with Scott Wilson.

    The crazy bunch of people demanding to leave Woodbury, followed by how forcefully Andrea's speech seemed to work, reminded me that the Governor really lucked out in terms of the people he lords over being super-suggestible.

    I didn't get the size of the crowd either, given that that we were told that the entire town was out on the streets — even if that was slight hyperbole (some folks might have decided not to join the commotion), you don't round up from a couple dozen at best to, oh, nearly a hundred, which is what I figured the Woodbury population to be.

    Since I was curious enough, I did a quick but judicious (as I still haven't read the comics) search. A previous episode numbered the population of Woodbury at 73. The baby's name is Judith.

    I think I actually said out loud "Shake his hand, Rick." If not, I sure thought it pretty loudly.

    And I loved that we saw walkers in the distance in various directions during that conversation at the car.

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  4. @Blam: but I'm constantly distracted by the fact that the thing covering Merle's supposed stump is long enough that it obviously has the actor's hand inside.

    Ditto. I'm not sure what the solution is, but there has to be some kind of "movie magic" practical effect that could use to make it less obvious, some kind of perspective trick or something.

    Did you take the closely framed shot of Beth's slightly lingering kiss on the cheek to Rick — Hey, I remembered Beth's name! — to be indicative of her maybe wantin' to be more than just one of Li'l Asskicker's group mommies?

    The thought had occurred to me briefly, but I dismissed it when I remembered there was some hints at a Carl/Beth romance, and I wasn't willing to accept that this show would try to do a Carl/Beth/Rick triangle (though I probably shouldn't put it past them).

    I also remembered Beth's name this time; her conversation with Carol was sufficient to actually make her standout for a change.

    I've already forgotten the baby's actual name, only recalling that it was sort-of meh or stodgy

    Yeah. I remembered that it was noticeably taken from one of Carl's teachers, a decision which I remembered thinking made sense even while it doomed the name to obscurity, but not the name itself.

    I'm constantly impressed with Scott Wilson.

    Me too. He's quickly become one of the show's biggest assets.

    The crazy bunch of people demanding to leave Woodbury, ... reminded me that the Governor really lucked out in terms of the people he lords over being super-suggestible.

    Seriously. It's a town full of morons, with Andrea, apparently, as their queen.

    A previous episode numbered the population of Woodbury at 73

    That number doesn't seem too far off the crowd we saw in this episode, especially if we account for a half dozen deaths, Merle's departure, the Governor's absence, and assumedly at least a few people like the guards on the wall that aren't freaking out, but I still swear there was more than 73 people at that first zombie fight. But maybe I'm just remembering it wrong.

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  5. I for one am not a fan of crazy Rick. I get that living that world and trying lead people in that kind of world would likely drive a man insane but I'm just not a fan of watching it happen. Perhaps it's just that I struggle with rooting for someone who isn't able to take a step back and look at things objectively and logically.

    That being said, I enjoyed the rest of the episode. I even swallowed Daryl's departure easier than I thought.

    @Blam: "Did you take the closely framed shot of Beth's slightly lingering kiss on the cheek to Rick — Hey, I remembered Beth's name! — to be indicative of her maybe wantin' to be more than just one of Li'l Asskicker's group mommies?"

    That stuck out at me. But then I decided it was just Beth showing appreciation that Rick brought Maggie back alive.

    @Teebore: "Seriously. It's a town full of morons, with Andrea, apparently, as their queen."

    All you have to say is that it's a town with Andrea as their queen. The rest is redundant.

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  6. @Dr. Bitz: I get that living that world and trying lead people in that kind of world would likely drive a man insane but I'm just not a fan of watching it happen.

    I hear ya. While I think it makes sense and, actually seeing non-zombie dead people aside, is probably pretty realistic, I'm not too wild about the prospect of watching Rick unravel this way. We'll see how it goes though...

    All you have to say is that it's a town with Andrea as their queen. The rest is redundant.

    Ha! Too true.

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  7. @Teebore: It's a town full of morons, with Andrea, apparently, as their queen.

    Ha! They must be blind, too, because the one-eyed man is king.

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  8. Jeez, somehow I missed this whole episode. My DVR failed to record it, but got the following one, which I watched, and felt like I was missing something (Andrea gave a speech? When did Daryl and Merle escape?), but I figured maybe my memory of the pre-winter break stuff was spottier than I'd realized.

    Nice to know I wasn't so forgetful after all!

    Now the question is, do I bother to go back and re-watch this one when I have so little TV time to begin with, or do I just plow on ahead...?

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  9. @Blam: They must be blind, too, because the one-eyed man is king.

    Bravo sir, bravo!

    @Matt: Now the question is, do I bother to go back and re-watch this one when I have so little TV time to begin with, or do I just plow on ahead...?

    Honestly, you'd probably be okay plowing ahead. I mean, this wasn't a bad episode, but it wasn't terribly essential, either. Once you get past the Merle/Daryl escape (which happens in the cold open), it was mainly all character development stuff.

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