“Running is not an option.” — Glenn Rhee
[some spoilers within]
The series returned from it’s two month hiatus with even bigger numbers that still continues to surprise many tv pundits. The Walking Dead seems to be the show that no behind-the-scenes problems or storytelling and characterization problems can kill like other shows that has similar problems. The show is not on the same level as HBO’s Boardwalk Empire and Game of Thrones, FX’s Justified and Sons of Anarchy or even AMC stablemates Breaking Bad and Mad Men, but it’s a show that looks to have become must-see tv because of the very things tv pundits and critics have been complaining about.
Tonight’s episode, “Home”, was a microcosm of why the show has been such a frustration to hardcore fans of the comic book and the zombie genre, but also why the show still continues to bring in huge viewing numbers. Numbers that has begun to rival shows on the major networks and not just shows on cable. It was an episode that made me wonder if the season’s trip to redemption from season 2′s wildly uneven tone was suddenly being wasted. Then the second half of the episode arrived like a bullet to the head and we’re reminded why the show has gained such a huge following.
“Home” opens up with Rick still in the grips of the psychotic break we saw and experienced to end the previous episode. This part of tonight’s narrative is beginning to look like one of this season’s weaker ones. While I thought it was good to show the source of Rick’s growing mental instability the way the writers have gone about it makes Rick such a wildly uneven character when the “crazies” hit him. We understand that the burden of leadership has cost the poor man since he rejoined his family but whenever he begins to hallucinate it’s quite a glaring change. The same could be said about Glenn’s sudden rage-fueled need to avenge himself on the Governor for what he thinks was done to Maggie. We’ve seen leadership qualities in Glenn throughout the series’ run, but this need for vengeance for something that didn’t happen to him looks so out of character for Glenn. He’s almost channeling his inner-Shane and, despite what fans of TV Shane’s character might think, that’s never a good thing.
Tonight’s episode was all about the concept of the word “home” what it means to people surviving in a world where no place is safe. The prison and Woodbury are homes for two different survivors. On the one hand, we have Rick and his band of survivors who have survived some of the worst this zombie apocalypse has thrown their way and learned the hard way to survive. On the other side we have Woodbury where most of it’s population never learned to survive but relied on those in power to keep them safe. People in power who really do not have their well-being in mind, but just a resource to dominate and use when it suits them. One home has been invaded and it’s illusion of safety shattered by Rick and his people. Tonight we see the Governor repay that action in his own way.
Home is now a concept that doesn’t seem like a logical thing in this new world order and tonight’s episode went too talky about whether it was safe to remain in the prison or whether it was their best chance of survival. It didn’t help that Rick was on his crazytown jaunt through the woods outside the prison, Glenn was going all Shane on everyone and Hershel was starting to sound very Dale-like. Not very good combinations considering the writers on this show could never handle the quieter and philosophical moments on the show.
Where the episode was saved was when the bolts, bullets and blood flew in abundance in the second half. This first begun with Daryl doing something that Merle would never see himself doing on his own and that’s helping a band of strangers cornered by a large group of zombies. We see how much Daryl’s time with Rick away from the influence of his more volatile big brother Merle has made Daryl a better man without taking away his inherent badassness (yes that is a made up word that should be used more often).
The Governor’s payback against Rick and his people becomes a bookend to the midseason finale where Rick attacked Woodbury. The prison’s illusion of safety has been destroyed and with it one of their own who seemed to be finding his role. Axel was beginning to become a character of note then the Governor and his bullet happened and we’re once more left with the the core group which entered the prison.
If there’s one thing this show has done well since it first began two years ago it’s action and gore. I think it’s what this show does well that keeps people from tuning in for new episodes. There’s a chaotic feel to the action that makes them such a fun thing to watch. These people are not action heroes and not trained professionals in killing but it doesn’t keep them from trying to be both which goes to one of the core tenets of the zombie apocalypse genre. These people should be working together but the inherent mistrusts people have when put into extreme situations keeps that from happening. It’s why things got out of hand and things fell apart for everyone. It looks like it’s happening again but in a much more smaller scale with this war between Rick and the Governor.
With the season now putting the showdown between the two groups front and center it should keep things basic and that’s a good for this show. Basic and simple narratives keep the show moving at a fast-pace. It’s when everyone has some downtime to reflect on the nature of things that the show falters. Here’s to hoping that the first half of this episode was something that had to be done to set things up for the rest of the second half of this season. If it’s not then maybe there was reason why Glen Mazzara will not be returning as showrunner for season 4.
- Tonight’s episode of was directed by series newcomer Seith Mann and written by series regular Nichole Beattie.
- We have ourselves another cameo of a series regular killed off with Sarah Wayne Callies appearing as a figment of Rick’s fractured mind during the episode’s cold opening.
- Interesting how this sequence is musically scored by the same music theme from way back in the series’ pilot. At first, I thought the return to this motif in the cold opening was announcing the announced return of Lennie James’ Morgan Jones character from the pilot.
- Glenn trying to make up for Rick’s latest bout of craziness as leader of the group is both refreshing and, at the same time, funny as he’s clearly trying to overcompensate for what happened to him and Maggie during their time in Woodbury.
- We may be starting to see one of the reasons why Glen Mazzara was replaced as showrunner for the upcoming season. Only two episodes into the second half of season 3 and we’re starting to see the bad habit of the show spinning it’s wheels as it rehashes some philosophical questions about survival and leadership.
- Andrea being put in charge of Woodbury while the Governor “pulls himself together” would be a much more interesting turn of events if Andrea wasn’t such a broken character played by a performer who can’t seem to find that fine line between cocky and annoying that her character seems to be written as.
- The best performance of this second half of the season seems to consistently be from Lauran Cohan as Maggie Greene. She has another fine performance tonight as Maggie as she pretty much puts Glenn in his place.
- Good to see the writers resisted the temptation to revert Carol back to being an emotional mess once she found out about Daryl choosing to leave the group.
- Speaking of the Dixon Brothers: it looks like Daryl really regrets choosing blood over his new family as Merle continues to be Merle. His attitude towards the Latino family besieged by walkers on the creek bridge is so hilariously racist yet something that continues to stay in character. It definitely helps in making the question of whether Daryl stays with Merle or goes back to the group not become a protracted affair as we see at the end of the sequence.
- The first half of the episode was quite a bore that highlighted the very flaws this show has had throughout it’s current broadcast life, but the second half saved it by showing just why people continue to return to watch each new episode every Sunday.
- Axel, we hardly knew you but at least you lasted longer than Oscar. I must say that his death mirrored very well the way he died in the comics.
- It would seem that it’s easier to headshot zombies when they’re stumbling towards Rick and his people than to actually hit the Governor and his shooters when they’re standing still.
- Zombie Kill Count of tonight’s episode: 35 (at least 15 more off-screen).
Past Season 3 Episode Review