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Friday, 23 of April of 2021

The Walking Dead – “Save the Last One”

“Tell me why it would be better the other way. Please.”

Walkers reaching for Otis and Shane.

Walkers, waving like they just don't care.

I was hoping for a Halloween gag-reel under the closing credits where the high school walkers danced to “Thriller.” No such luck.

The rest of the episode keeps to this series’s hot streak, though. We’ve traded in a lot of the action for a lot of the talky-talky, which can be a little annoying at times (@ErinHill2 described it really well on Twitter: “As in [high school] Spanish, the minute anything productive happens, everyone has to split up for stilted conversations in small groups.”) but necessary to make up for the lack of character building last season. While I might enjoy it, I can see how some people not accustomed to the slow, agonizing burn of an AMC series might not appreciate so many trembling chats separated by short scenes of a fat dude running away from extras. I assure you, people, you’ll appreciate it when something huge happens. That cheesy dying speech will be more tearjerker than internet meme now that we know these people better.

Not that I know what’s going to happen on this show. I possess no clairvoyance but I have predictions and assumptions. Let’s unpack and wildly speculate!

I may not know who’s going to die but I know who’s getting left behind in storyline. Now that we’re deeper into this season, we see a definite hierarchy in these characters and they grouped them nicely for us.

The Inner Circle: Rick, Lori, and Shane The love triangle reeks of Jack, Kate and Sawyer if Sawyer wanted to be Jack so bad he had no personality of his own. Lori is just about as useless as Kate although less troublesome. These sound like negatives but, really, this is the beginning of something pathologically interesting. Over the past two seasons we’ve seen how badly Shane wants to be Rick, right down to scooping up his wife and playing daddy when Rick was laid out in the middle of walker territory. You can attribute just about everything he does to his desire, almost fetish, to be The Goodliest Cop. He doesn’t want to just be respected. He wants to command respect. He doesn’t just want a family. He doesn’t even want a girl like Lori and a boy like Carl. He wants them. But, most of all, he wants to be the man. He fetishizes Rick and, although Rick is his hero, it looks like Shane is moving into a dark place. Shane possesses a darkness Rick doesn’t have and a desperation Rick could never sink to. He has nothing to lose and that makes for some interesting possibilities.

While we’re on the subject of this triumvirate, let’s discuss ever-present problem with this show because Lori and Rick talk about it at length. I mentioned it last week but this series has a hope problem. Just about every story you’ve ever heard has a hero that hopes for something. There doesn’t seem to be a light at the end of this horrific tunnel and their continuance seems to depend only on moral obligation to live. When deciding Carl’s fate on the porch, Lori pins the question on Rick: why are we still fighting? Rick’s answer is essentially the reason why they continue to live is because there is still life living. The deer is a suggestion that there’s still beauty in this messed-up world so maybe there’s an opportunity to find their own half-acre someplace the walkers ain’t yet and hole up for a piece. I liked it better when I thought their goal was France.

The Understudies: Daryl and Andrea Speaking of suicidal ideation, there’s Andrea traipsing about the forest with Daryl. The set-up is a little awkward (Daryl can’t sleep over Carol’s wailing so he decides to walk around with a flashlight that might as well be a walker beacon) but they address the same tenet of Rick and Lori’s conversation from the opposite perspective: we continue because killing yourself is weak. So when death is eliminated as an option, you live by default. It’s a far more miserable lifestyle but at least insinuates a legacy. Where death represents a sweet end to misery for Rick and Lori, Daryl sees it (and maybe Andrea now, too) as the beginning of shame forever. Their walkabout might seem completely trite and useless since they come back with nary a major plot development but we’re tying up a pretty wild loose end: Andrea’s near-suicide last season and her currently dealing with her mortality in a world for which the storytellers even struggle to come up with a reason for survival. What they got: dying’s for wusses.

The Useless: Dale and Carol I guess someone needs to stand watch and someone needs to be a sniveling mess while most of everyone else is either stoic or stoic-descending-to-eventful-breakdown. Carol’s situation last season helped to serve Shane’s development as he knocked around her husband in revenge for Rick taking back his family. But, now, the abused and lonely Carol is just a snot-nosed liability. She can’t use a gun, she second-guesses the authority of the people in her group without any power of persuasion to make her dissent interesting. Daryl’s being annoyed at her sobbing is a fitting remark on her character in this show: she’s extraneous and her mere presence is upsetting to the rest of this group stepping up. I don’t think it’s the actor’s fault for not bringing more to the role. I think, along with the Wild Cards (see below), they don’t know what to do with her. Dale is in the same boat as a character that basically services Andrea but, as she distances herself from him, whittling his only contributions down to platitudes and home-spun conceptual wisdom, he only major role now is so the audience doesn’t yell, “Why isn’t someone standing on the RV watching for walkers?” I’m not sure if it’s because they don’t know what to do with these characters or if we need to just focus on other places for right now. As I see it, though, these cats could fall off the face of the earth and I’d be okay with them not being found.

The Wild Cards: T-Dog, Glenn, and Carl (maybe Sophia) The Wild Cards are the characters that could probably be dropped any second now but look to be on the precipice of being interesting. Carl, of course, is dying and, by being prostate and occasionally seizing, is at his most valuable in unconsciousness. T-Dog has never had a role in this cast that wasn’t “token” but his sentiments of constant oppression whether by race or whatever can make him interesting in a world that homogenizes the living because they are not undead. Is there room for racial issues anymore? There seems to be plenty for gender issues (girls are weakling cry-babies!). Glenn, a character I thought from the beginning would be my favorite, has done next to nothing since the opening episodes of season 1. In fact, I had to look up his name in IMDb since I totally forgot it. But it appears like he’s about to be more important. At the very least, he’s able to serve as a character that allows musing on God with the Stars being preoccupied. And, if he gets some play from Maggie (I barely recognized Vivian Volkoff all dirty and roughed up), more power to him. It’s about time someone got some on this show where the sex wasn’t rapey, adulterous, or sad cuckold watching. And Sophia, depending on wherever she is, might be interesting soon. But, right now, I’m okay with her disappearing.

I love a deeper series that still retains good action. Don’t hurt my feelings by turning it around and being stupid. Please.

Other things:

  • We can all agree that a character shaving his head to an atmospheric soundtrack equals a person going through the crazies, right? Or at the very least is about to go through an almost comical suicide.
  • I’m starting to get the feeling that this entire storyline with Otis was a cautionary tale directed at our plague of obesity. Are you a fatty? Good luck running from the zombies, butterchubs! Especially when I shoot you in the leg.
  • When jumping from the high window, how does Shane not know to land like a paratrooper? Wasn’t that in, like, the first season of Mythbusters or Ripley’s Believe It or Not or something?
  • “I forgot Jacquie was dead.” Admit it: you totally forgot about her, too. I know I did.
  • Looks like Carl went to the House School of Seizing.
  • “Let ‘im hang.” Another example of humanizing the monster while vilifying our protagonists. Granted that Daryl has always been more of an anti-hero in this series but his arrow is the first act of mercy for a walker since Rick’s taking out the Park Walker in episode 1. And he’s terribly reluctant to fire it. To be fair, the trade really is crappy. Andrea’s response of “I don’t know” sucks. “Waste of an arrow” indeed.
  • Why would Otis’s clothes fit Shane? “Are you calling me a fatso, Maggie?”

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