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Thursday, 22 of April of 2021

The Walking Dead – “Bloodletting”

“It’s nature correcting itself.”

Shane wipes the blood off Rick's face.

It's guy love!

Ah, now that’s the agonizing pace I’ve grown to love from an AMC drama.

A running theme to my entries on this show (that is no doubt starting to sound repetitive) includes how The Walking Dead should aim to strike a balance between meditating on the inherent drama of life in a post-apocalyptic world and the action of still trying to escape from the thing that caused it. Episodic storytelling gives the storyteller an opportunity to unpack a horror situation and build deeper, more meaningful connections which can lead to deeper, more meaningful traumatizing experiences for us as an audience. Whether they’re actually trying to strike this balance is unknown to me. I just want it real bad.

“Bloodletting” is a step in that direction, in that we have a couple of action beats but only one of them is a pure action sequence to drive suspense. The other is an action beat used to promote drama, insinuate character development, and possibly introduce a perspective on walker attacks for us to ponder.

Or maybe it’s a mish-mash story poorly told and I’m just layering my hopes and dreams on top of it. Allow me to present my case.

There are actually three action sequences but I’m not counting when Rick, Shane, and Butterchubs the Hunter run with Carl back to the farmhouse. The sequences I’m referring to are the action beat near the middle of the episode and the mission to the high school for the medical supplies.

The episode itself is a slow-burn, particularly for this series. What we’re watching has more of the trappings of a medical drama colored by the zombie apocalypse than it does of a horror genre. Much more focus is on the parental and familial roles with Rick and Lori and among the group in general. Even Dale’s non-story with T-Dog has a parental feel to it. There’s also some intriguing drama with Rick’s need to be part of the action even when it clashes with his character need to do the Right Thing. Clearly, that would be staying with his son but his mind is obsessed with the idea that, in order to be of any help, he needs to run and jump and shoot instead of being with his family. Chalk up another parallel to Jack Shepherd.

Why I bring up the slow burn of the episode is that it definitely needed an action beat in the middle (Shane and the Mouthbreather’s trip for medical supplies is well-constructed and suspenseful but all the way at the end). The action beat is Andrea’s encounter in the forest after she gets separated from her party.

First, it’s a little strange how she gets so stranded from everyone so quickly, as if she’s teleported to a remote part of the woods by the party-store cobweb she walks into. This is her metaphorical dark alley, where we as an audience know is dangerous for her to go but the character doesn’t realize she’s in a bad place. Since this is horror, maybe I should say this is her dark, creepy basement. A lone walker sidles up next to her from out of nowhere, as if it’d been waiting to prey on anything that happened by, and attacks her. She tries to fend it off with skills that seem effectual in theory (stabbing the thing in the chest) but practically doesn’t deter it at all. She stumbles backward, falling to the ground, kicking at the thing to protect herself.

Here’s where it gets kind of rapey: the walker grabs her legs and looks to separate them then we focus on slow-motion of Andrea screaming and shrieking, pawing at the ground, desperate to escape but made useless by terror and violation. Clearly, the walker’s intention has nothing to do with power or even sexual satisfaction. It has everything to do with appetite.

Am I suggesting that this zombie tried to penetrate Andrea? No. I don’t even think that works for a walker. Although I didn’t think that worked for vampires either and then Breaking Dawn came along. But things are definitely complicated through a walker’s instinct for indiscriminate violation by feasting on the flesh of the living, the fact that walkers in general are humanish (this particular one is formerly male), and this event didn’t happen to, say, Glenn.

This is also not to mention that the landscape looks particularly similar to Shane and Lori’s “let’s not look at each other” sex scene from “Guts.” Also, did you get a “knight on horseback” feel from Maggie rescuing her? I won’t even get into the racial intrigue from the walker’s skin color (what’s left of it). I’m not sure if I’m fully qualified to explore all the concerns from this scene but seems important enough to be addressed.

I’m starting to enjoy The Walking Dead again. As long as they keep these episodes coming where we get to examine more sides of this storyworld than the horror aspects, I’m on board. I really hope I’m not setting myself up for failure.

Other things:

  • What was that cold opening supposed to do for us? Show us that Carl likes his dad? To remind us that Rick got shot before the walker disease broke out? Terribly clumsy, kind of ham-handed, would’ve been better if we saw some evidence of Shane and Lori doing it before it all went down.
  • I forgot all about how Shane totally wants to be Rick when he grows up. With the pink-rag face-wiping and the forehead-touching, there’s certainly some chemistry that’s blurring lines of besties, closeted lovers, and a desperate man that wants to usurp the life of the de facto charismatic leader. There are a lot of far-ranging politics in relation to how Shane feels about Rick. Is there no time for even ONE romantic evening for them?
  • Does anyone know why we had to stop and wait around for that conversation between Andrea and Carol where they accidentally jab each other about lost family members? It looked like everyone else was just as annoyed as I was. You can do that while walking, jerks.
  • Are they going to find anything for T-Dog to do or are we just waiting for him to die so we can have the honkiest zombie apocalypse?
  • “Why did I let him come with us?” I don’t know, Rick. I tried to warn you. But instead of learning from The Road, you decided to spoil your son in the post-apocalypse. And now he’s shot in the chest. I hope you learned something. It’s time to grow your beard.
  • Tubby can’t be long for this world, can he? That he’s able to shake those chins behind Shane for their entire escape into the high school is kind of absurd. He’d been walker food ten paces into that run.
  • Seriously, what mutant spider laid the web Andrea walks into and shouldn’t we more scared for that giant monster?
  • Resiliency of humanity: the only silver lining for this series. The doctor’s speech is the only reason why we’re watching this show (other than to see some zombie guts). There’s no other hope for these people except for some sort of evolutionary balancing act in order for humans to combat the walker disease. That he compares it to AIDS is interesting. The series sometimes strays far, far away from the idea that there might be hope left in this world. Hopeless desperation can get tiresome.
  • Did anyone else catch that the meth in Daryl’s stash is blue? Of course you did. I’m glad Walter’s product made it through the collapse of civilization.
  • Did I miss the episode where walkers are attracted to pretty light? Is the disease passed by moths? Even if that was the case, would the paltry light from those flares attract all of them? I’m dubious, guys.

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