TV Review: The Walking Dead [SPOILERS]
The Walking Dead – “Made to Suffer”
Season 3, Episode 8
Halfway through their most consistently strong season, The Walking Dead wrapped things up for 2012 in a strong fashion.
The show played to its strengths by largely ignoring any chance for discussion or character development (aside from new guy Tyrese becoming one of my favorite characters just from being played by Chad Coleman, a.k.a. Cutty from the Wire). While their introduction was a great chance for Carl to show that he’s about as capable a leader as anybody in Zombieville U.S.A., we don’t really know or care about the new people.
But that’s what The Walking Dead is. Pretty much every character, except Rick, ranks somewhere between not fully explored (your Carls and Darryls) and blank slates (Michonne). This AMC series will never be Mad Men or Breaking Bad. Hell, it’ll never be Rubicon, but if the series can’t be an especially impressive drama, at least it can be consistently exciting and interesting.
Even if I still didn’t know anything about Michonne, she was part of the most exciting scene of the episode. Her murder/putting down of Penny immediately turned into one of the more visceral fights in the history of the show. Watching her and the Governor claw and grab at each other, rolling around on the floor with the undead zombies heads, was terrifically engaging. As chilling as the fight and its aftermath was, I think it works out great for the Governor. The death of his zombie daughter should have pushed him into full-on megalomania, and he learned the same lesson as Snake Plissken and Xander Harris: that eye patches just make you cooler.
The invasion of Woodbury and Carl’s rescue/imprisonment of Tyrese’s group were both terrific highlights of where this series has been strongest: highlighting the Us vs. Them mentality of the zombie apocalypse. It’s very easy for Rick and company to start blasting away at the people of Woodbury, the vast majority of whom had no clue what the Governor was doing or that Glenn and Maggie even existed. They were a threat, and it was more convenient (and safer) to have shot their way out. It’s the same reason the town is ready to tear Darryl and Merle limb from limb at the end.
As an enormous fan of the post-apocalyptic setting (I’ve watched The Postman about a dozen times), the reason I’m drawn to these stories is that removing mainstream society, and all the conventions and expectations that come with it, allows creators to explore what they feel humanity is about without all the window dressings. Glen Mazzara and company have been telling us that at its base, man isn’t some especially noble creature that will hold tightly to our ideals. Humans in the world of the Walking Dead just want to survive. Period.
What’s made this season so much better thematically than the last two has been that they’ve moved beyond trying to maintain the old society. Rick’s entered a world where his only concern is the protection of his people. In the wake of Lori’s death, it’s clear he’s becoming more and more unhinged; though the vision of Shane that cost poor, undeveloped Oscar his life did seem to come out of left field. The writers this year have copied Rick’s attitude, cutting through the storytelling bull to do what they have to do.
What the Governor did in killing the National Guardsmen, and torturing Glenn and Maggie, was certainly more brutal than Rick squeezing Michonne’s wounded leg to get an answer out of the near mute character (Rick is our “hero” after all). But, they were both violent against people that did them no harm just for the sake of the preservation of Us and expediency.
There’s plenty of story to tell when the series returns in February, but at the end of the day the new characters are as disposable as Oscar and all the other prisoners (except Cutty, you stay away from Cutty, Mazzara!). But if the rescue of Darryl and war with Woodbury makes the Governor and Rick more and more alike, then that’s a show I’ll be fascinated to watch.