I’m beginning to think that the combination of Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and Carl (Chandler Riggs) is just toxic to the narrative flow of The Walking Dead. Carl works well when paired up with other characters, which is what saves most of this episode, as he and Michonne (Danai Gurira) go on a supply run and Gurira gets the opportunity to play Michonne as a real person rather than a scowling archetype.
And honestly, their time together was very nicely done (after a painful opening scene where Carl reminds himself of baby Judith and gets sad – seriously, that scene exposed the limits of Riggs’ acting abilities). Gurira gets to play it a little goofy (with some spray cheese) as Michonne tries to cheer Carl up and is all the more endearing for it. At the same time, she also talks about her son and the script keeps it natural and believable. We’re finally getting to see just what Gurira can do.
Unfortunately, that was just a third of the episode. The rest of our time was spent with Rick hiding under the bed as a group of bad people set up residence in the same house he and Carl had claimed, and with Glenn (Steven Yeun) and Tara (Alanna Masterson) as they – and we – get to know the new cast members.
As far as Rick’s storyline goes, it was fairly tense, but stretched believability a little too far for me. I mean, there’s an entire town of empty houses out there but this group of violent would-be rapists and probably-murderers happens to break in to this house and proceed to argue over who gets to sleep in the ONE adult bed. If you can suspend your disbelief and just roll with this statistical anomaly, then it’s good and nerve-wracking.
Just also ignore the fact that when Rick is finally discovered – after surprising a dude in the bathroom – nobody downstairs or sleeping in the bedroom down the hall, hears their EXTREMELY LOUD fight. But I do give the writers props for having Rick kill the guy and then leave the door cracked open so when he turns, the bad guys have to deal with a walker in their midst.
That’s really the only part of Rick’s story that I liked.
It would have been nice to find out just who these invaders were. Are they the ones who wiped out that camp that the Governor wanted to rob? Their leader was played by Jeff Kober, who is hopefully not going to be wasted on a throwaway role that appears in just one scene. According to IMDB his character’s name is Joe, but after his recurring role on Sons of Anarchy you’d think he’d be perfect for a larger role here.
I loved their intro last week, and the cold open this week was strong. Abraham’s obvious enjoyment while killing walkers should be disturbing, and it was good to have Tara call him out on it. The rest of their story was a little thin and really just served to emphasize how awesome Glenn has become over four seasons. At the same time, the revelation of the newbies’ secret mission lacked impact.
I think that’s mainly because these new characters are not as sympathetic or interesting as they were when they showed up in the comics. And while it’s cool that they look like they’ve just walked off the page, when Dr. Girlfriend stops watching to ask “Why is she dressed like that?” about Rosita’s short shorts and braids, and I respond with “That’s how she dressed in the comics,” her reaction was a frown and “There’s not just zombies out there. There are briers too. She should put some pants on.”
And I had to agree.
I didn’t really care for the flat-affect, semi-autistic reading of Eugene’s lines either. I get that he’s kind of hopeless and desperately needs somebody to protect him, but it would have been nice to get to know him a little bit, so that his COMPLETE INCOMPETENCE with a gun was established before he wasted a shit ton of ammo and killed their truck.
Essentially, by skipping introductions, all we know so far is that Abe has no problem with violence (for a good cause), Eugene is completely incompetent (despite claiming to be a genius), and Rosita is hot (yeah, she’s just hot so far). This is one time this season that more dialogue would have been a good thing.
Hopefully, with Rick, Carl, and Michonne on their way to Terminus at the end of the episode (with new clean clothes) we’ll get the band back together sooner rather than later and get some movement on the Carol (Melissa McBride) vs Rick front before we dive into the newbies and their whole “Eugene knows what caused the apocalypse” idea.
Because if you’ve read the comics, you know what might be coming, and they’re going to need to lay a lot more groundwork to make that work.