Robot Roundtable: The Walking Dead Surprises [Spoilers]
Sometimes Giant Fire Breathing Robot TV writers just want to chat about TV. When that happens you get the Robot Roundup, a discussion about topics, programs, and news happening in the world of television.
Billy: So we’re here to talk about the big events from the most recent episode of The Walking Dead. There were some intense moments in this last episode, the biggest of which was a very major death: T-Dog. Of course I’m being facetious; the big revelation was the death of Lori, and Carl’s role in it. It’s a major deviation from the comic books and honestly shocked me more than anything the show has done in a long, long time. I just want to get some reactions from you guys, because I loved it. Both in terms of getting rid of that horrible character, and making Carl relevant again. Jim, you wrote our review, what are your thoughts?
Jim: I’d certainly rank it as bigger than last season’s surprise decision to kill Dale. Lori was probably the second most centrally-placed character in the series, and it was a huge alteration to the show’s status quo. More than anything else, this was a great chance to clean house. T-Dog was one of the two most useless and underdeveloped characters in the show (along with Beth, a.k.a. No, Hershell’s Other Daughter). Carol wasn’t much better, so whether she lived or died didn’t really matter. I disliked Lori as much as anyone. Like I mentioned in this episode’s review, it wasn’t a problem with Sarah Wane Callis, but Glen Mazzarra and company NEVER knew what to do with Lori.
Jacob: See I take bit bit of a different approach than Jim on this one. I want to start off by saying that I was never really a believer in the whole “now that Glen Mazzara is the showrunner, from day one things will be different” school of thought. With that being said, I think that I might have been wrong. By making the big location change this season and now wiping away some of the more problematic characters, I see this as his way of completing his fresh start on the project. In addition, I have to give him credit for doing so in a manner that really connected with me. This episode, for instance, I think we see a Carl who is much closer to the kid we see in the comics than anything shown on the series up until this point.
Billy: Right, Carl’s now much more in line with the current Kirkman written version in the comic. I wonder if that is in part an effort to do those comic book storylines with Carl before the actor portraying him gets too old. Jacob raises an interesting point about Mazzara sort of wiping the slate clean. You can even see it in the pacing of this season thus far. Look, we all complained about the farm taking too long. They stretched a three issue arc into thirteen episodes. But now it seems like the opposite is almost true. The prison/Woodbury story stretched over something like thirty-two issues of the comic book, but the pace in this season is breakneck, including losing Lori. Her fate wasn’t set in the comics until much later. I can’t say I’ll miss her much. As for Carol: no body, not dead as far as I’m concerned.
Jim: The pacing has been so much better, and they’ve filled the time giving so many peripheral characters more interesting things to do each week. As a big fan of almost everything the show’s ever done with Carl, this is a great path to take him down. In the comics, Kirkman had a great time twisting the innocent child idea on its head. He instead focused on the idea that Carl was too young to remember a world where this hyper-violence wasn’t the norm. How much of that is a kid growing up too fast and where does that cross the line into sociopathy? If the series spent too long developing Shane’s story last year, I’m thrilled to see Carl’s development get this jump forward.
Jacob: Definitely. And this, to me, is extremely apparent in the death/birth scene, where Lori has her moment with Carl and she kind of outlines that sentiment. She explains how easy it is to fall into your worst habits and desires, and that it will be up to him and his new sibling to move forward in the world as good people. It was a touching scene that, in my mind, both outlined the path many people could take – and that Carl hopefully won’t – and also redeemed Lori by allowing her to reflect on her weakness and poor decisions in time to hopefully help he son.
Billy: Exactly, in her death – if not her life – Lori was the voice of reason. Somewhat ironically, she’s going to have ever so much
more impact on the characters now that she’s dead than when she was alive. Andrew Lincoln’s reaction to the death was incredible. This is clearly going to haunt Rick for the rest of his days, and even if he had drifted away from his wife, Lincoln’s performance there was just a heartbreaking moment that shows that he still did love Lori. Changing gears for a moment, I just wanted to talk about the pacing again. I’m actually in the rare minority that thinks that this year’s pace is TOO fast. The slow pacing last year absolutely killed any chance of a slow paced season 3, but the prison arc was intended to be slower, to give these people a little bit of a breather before the shit hit the fan with Woodbury. But by introducing Woodbury this early, and speeding major deaths up, it doesn’t seem that will happen. I’m enjoying it, but can’t help but feel a little remorseful about what could have been had they not wasted time last season.
Jim: Some shows and creative teams thrive when upping the pace significantly (i.e. Vampire Diaries), but it’s easy to burn through every interesting story you have to tell (i.e. Heroes). One of the big reasons its hard to properly evaluate what this means for the series is that it happened so incredibly early in the season. What show kills off their second most prominent character four episodes into a 16 episode season? I do agree with you, Billy, that they need to slow things at least just a bit here. Lincoln and Chandler Riggs were fantastic with their initial reaction scenes. But the significance of the loss pretty much demands things slow down a little.
Jacob: And I think that this could be exactly what they were going for. I’ll grant you that this is a big “if,” but follow me for a minute. The things that happened in this episode will have resounding effects throughout the series when it comes to the direction that the characters head emotionally. I believe that what we will see these next several (2-3) episodes is a slowing down of the plot to focus on these character beats. Maybe have things in Woodbury keep at a slightly fast-pace to keep some momentum, but allow things at the prison to crawl by while the characters deal with this loss and decide if/how this event changes things for them.
The final scene with Andrew Lincoln channeling Brad Pitt in Seven while Chandler Riggs just walks by deadened was fantastic. Let’s see how this difference in reaction brings friction between them as the child is adaptive enough to move on while the father’s last straw is broken and he has to struggle to keep it together long enough to maintain the safety of the group. The execution of this is what will really make or break the season for Glenn Mazzarra. He needed to kick things off with a bang in order to jerk us back to attention after season two, he got rid of characters that were problematic and now has a fresh start, can he pace the remaining episodes so that the effects of the season down wear off to soon or drag on too long?
Billy: Well, whatever the intention, at the very least it’s interesting to watch again. Thanks for chatting, guys.