The WALKING DEAD Strike Back… The Zombies returned from their short hiatus last night, and they lunged right for our jugulars. The other walking dead – our heroes – escaped the hospital and divided into separate crews desperately searching for hope.
This episode introduced the use of flashbacks and flash-forwards into the WALKING DEAD storytelling. It begins with a flash forward, jarring us as we try to figure out where we are. These hallicunatory images flutter in and out of focus creating a surreal atmosphere structurally framing this entire episode.
The “flashbacks” gave us a glimpse into world of the initial zombie outbreak. A radio relays the news from the past, gently guiding us into the future SPIN-OFF series which will tell it’s story during the spread of the dead plague. I hope this is a one-time technique. I’m not sure I want this series to employ complex storytelling techniques reminiscent of the multiple timeline juggling act in LOST.
The main mission this week was to follow through on Beth’s wishes: getting Noah home. Rick leads Michonne, Glenn, Noah, and Tyreese into a sub-division of homes. Noah crumbles at the sight. His hometown is destroyed. He mourns at the neighbourhood’s sign, acting as the town’s own tombstone… and his family’s grave.
The group battles what to do next. Should they stay here and make a new home? Or should they hit the road again? By the end, it seems like they choose to pursue Washington, in the hope that some fraction of the government may have survived.
I liked the brief social commentary as Michonne breaks a framed baseball jersey. This was no doubt autographed and meant a lot to the owner. So much, that they deemed it necessary to bring outside and to their car during an escape. Is it greed? Or love of baseball? It comments on what we value. And how it’s all gone. Money. Sports. Entertainment. No more. Ditto, for laundry. Michonne had a good joke about finding a clean shirt. Imagine our heroes all clad in jerseys – a team – busting heads in uniform like THE WARRIORS came “out to plaaaaay”.
I assume most readers have watched the episode, but I will delve into (clearly marked) SPOILER territory soon. Obviously, I’m going over plot points and my reactions (which kinda sorta definitely ruin the show if you haven’t seen it); however, I feel like I should mark the bigger TWISTS clearly, just in case. But first… How about Glenn’s transformation? Wow.
It’s unexpectedly frightening to consider how much the group has changed. By that I mean, internally – how their morals and ideals have shifted from experience. For example, Glenn seems to be lost up the river with Colonel Kurtz. This APOCALYPSE NOW has finally claimed Glenn’s innocence. I suppose this could somehow benefit Glenn. It seems like all those who have hope or optimism are dead now. This stretches back to Dale and Hershel. Nice people don’t survive the apocalypse. It’s such a depressing and bleak outlook.
We just lost Beth last episode, and now (metaphorically) we have lost Glenn. Where will this dangerous path lead us? By the end of the series will our surviving characters be nearly unrecognizable? They’re already shells of their former selves, how much further can they devolve? Or will the Series Finale witness the death of our final survivor? Imagine the show ends with everyone dead. Wow. That would be bold, but then again what twist in WALKING DEAD isn’t.
When Glenn’s relationship with Maggie got more serious, we saw a lighter side of the group. There was hope for the future. Love fights to survive too. The group fought to protect each other. With Glenn he also risks his life to protect Maggie. I wonder if this strong drive to keep Maggie safe leads him to evolve into someone more suspicious and less forgiving.
Glenn has always grasped onto hope, but now it seems like he’s given up on it – hope has sifted through his fingers. He’s thinking personal survival first. He’s not going to waste time weighing trust of a stranger. He’s been burned too many times. It’s a sad evolution to witness. Glenn has lost himself. I fear that his new decision making skills could endanger his own life, or someone in the group.
These same experiences seem to have hardened most of the group. They are more organized. They are better prepared for disaster. They have split up their group. Sure they cover more ground this way, but if one group should encounter trouble the other still has a chance to save the day. Story-telling wise, I think this allows us to spend time with one crew this episode and another the next.
I like this technique because every character isn’t forced to have a moment every hour. There’s only so much time each episode, so devoting 5 minutes to each person doesn’t make for the most compelling story. We also get to look forward to our favourite characters next time. Like now, a lot of are thinking what’s up with Daryl’s crew? Next episode, will probably focus on him (and his crew). It must be a fine balancing act, but I think the show-runners weigh it rather well.
I look forward to those visual story-telling moments too. I like it when our crew discovers the aftermath of tragedies. A blood spattered tent. A telephone pole crashed onto people. And tonight it was the disembodied limbs scattered on the town’s perimeter. What happened? I like how these visual clues hint at a backstory.
Another strong visual story-telling sequence was the truckload of torsos. These walkers have initials carved into their foreheads. Does that “W” mean his name is “Walter” or something? Was that carved before or after death? I like how this discovery informs the earlier one. Those bodyparts belonged to these torsos. Why were they separated? A warning?
What was that tag spraypainted in the neighbourhood: “The Wolves Are Here” (or something like that) ? Are these arms and legs to feed stray wolves? Or are The Wolves a gang of barbaric marauding thugs? Who are they? Will they prey on our heroes? What will happen when they encounter one another? Regardless of the answers, I love that THE WALKING DEAD poses these questions through images – nudging us to participate and actively co-create this reality.
Now entering SPOILER TERRITORY… Reading this stuff will ruin the episode…
Okay. Consider this prefaced. So…Tyreese joins Noah as they recon his family home. Noah needs to know if they died. Tyreese leads the way – just in case. All seems peaceful… until it isn’t. Ty get’s hammered. He’s bit in the arm by Noah’s brother(?). And this is where the episode steers towards surrealism.
As he battles loosing consciousness, Tyreese’s guilty conscience manifests itself. He sees those who have died before. He feels a heavy responsibility for their demise. This hallucinatory visualization of a dream-like limbo is rather effective. Although, I thought the radio from the past felt rather forced, even if it does show his first dive into guilt. He feels like others died because he didn’t help them during the outbreak. Instead, he stuck by the radio to hear what he didn’t want to, but what he needed to – to prepare. Despite these motives, the flashback stuff didn’t work so well, for me.
I appreciated the dark lure of the fallen. They assure him safety and warmth in death. If he joins them on the Other Side all will be well. I was freaked out because I wondered if they were telling the truth. It felt devious. Like he could live if he listened to himself. But he listened to his negative thoughts instead. I felt like Tyreese thought he deserved to die. He caused so much death, that now he welcomes it upon himself. I like the complex inner dialogue beneath the scene.
This vision (hallucination?) of the Afterlife was definitely compelling. It was a good way to work in some appearances by former cast members. I found Beth’s singing to be most haunting. While compelling, the themes here were never over-the-top. They were more like philosophy light. The image of acceptance made me feel melancholy. The girls reach out, like God in the Sistine Chapel painting, and Tyreese reaches back, thus crossing over. This moment felt poetic, rather than heavy-handed.
WALKING DEAD continues to keep us on our toes each week. Nobody is safe… still.
There is no such thing as home anymore. What is the ultimate goal now? Should our heroes find help from others? Are they self-sufficient at this point? Should they start forming their own community?
When you try and imagine what these guys should do next, you begin to realize how hopeless these characters must feel? There is no easy answer. There is no right answer. No matter what they do, there are worst threats them zombies out there. People. Which begs the question: Who will the group meet next? And how evil will these Wolves be?
What did you think?
Was the flashback stuff out of place or heavy-handed?
Do you want more backstory? Or do you prefer to make that up yourself?
Who will be the moral compass now?
How will Carol react to the death?
What do you think of Glenn’s transformation? Do you get a bad feeling about this?
How will Maggie react to Glenn’s newly acquired bleak ethics?
What are the rest of our crew up to?
Where will they head next? What obstacles await our heroes?