The Walking Dead: Out of and Into Character

Here we go again, TWD. I see what you did: lull me into a false sense of security with last week’s episode; it had real emotion, realistic reactions, actions that had far-reaching consequences, and (my favorite) graphic walker-related violence. So now, when I watch this week’s episode, it’s like when you go into the fridge, grab the iced coffee (you don’t know my life), drink a big ass gulp BUT wait, that’s not iced coffee! That’s ice tea. Which is aight, I guess.

It wasn’t a bad episode. I guess.

It served a purpose: every episode can’t be lakes of fire and one-eyed boys, some have to be Rick and Daryl playing Dukes of Hazards in the rural south with a white dude named Jesus. I guess.

“If it had done a freeze frame of Daryl chasing Jesus with a voice-over saying, “now how these boys gonna get outta this one” it would’ve felt right at home.” ~ Will Evans

Abrupt tonal shift and all that. The writers risk our emotional fatigue if every episode is the dam at quarry breaking loose or the human butcher shop that was Terminus. See we get a week off to watch the lovable antics of another scruffy white dude, a ragamuffin really. A likable ne’er-do-well with a penchant for thievery and lying with a smile.

So not only does Daryl get ran for his shit again, but this time Rick is there and hapless (a surprising change of character) and gets his pockets picked like an extra in Oliver Twist. Okay. Sure. But that’s where the convenient time lapse gets shady AF for me.

Between this episode and last, Carl has healed quite a bit*, Rick has become an optimist, and Daryl has decided to adopt Carol’s trademark philosophy of “fuck everyone that ain’t us.”

Poster currently hanging on Rick’s wall.


Posters currently hanging on Daryl’s wall

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So Rick is now the world’s most optimistic killer. Honestly, though, if I was Rick and I knew how this episode was ending, I’d be insufferable because I would be radiating pure joy from every pore in my body.

Happy Rick is, I guess, anti-shooting thieving motherfuckers? I find that hard to believe, but okay. Darryl, though? Why did no one kill this dude? First this blaspheming dude runs into them. Then he steals their truck. Then they run a half marathon (they be crossfittin’ back at the Alexandria compound to stay in shape, evidently) to catch dude. Then he Houdinis himself not only out of restraints, BUT ONTO THE ROOF of their MOVING truck? What? Where is Sam Jackson and why hasn’t he recruited this trench coat wearing pickpocket for the next movie? And never, not once, does shooting him – even in the knee – seem justified? They got the Morgans; it’s like cooties, but it makes you soft and then dead.

The writers are asking me to believe too much too suddenly. And that’s cool, except…

On the other side of Alexandria, characters are putting in that emotional work to get me to care about them: Carl and Spencer. And I’m a bit ashamed since I’ve either been indifferent to or hated these dudes all series and was content with that arrangement.

In The Walking Dead universe, having already failed to keep their loved one alive, the survivors often end up face to face with their failure. It, having morphed from the person they loved into a thing trying to kill them. This is how Carl had the worst bar mitzvah ever. Nothing says you’re a man now like killing your mom in the basement of a prison.

This is where we find Spencer this week, wondering outside the wall, looking for the carnivorous husk of his dead mother. Or rather, this is where Michonne finds (after she, btw, abandons her post along the wall to go see about his super special feelings.)

I think that we’re supposed to feel sorry for Spencer because it sucks to lose a parent? Lose, by the way, is the worst way to describe death; you know where they are: a morgue, a gravesite, an urn, whatever.

Death doesn’t give a fuck about your feelings right? So we have that in common with Spencer. But, I’m not especially moved by that or at least, I don’t want to be. Spencer, let’s not forget, was the guy who along with his incompetent partner-in-crime, Nicholas, got lots of people dead in pre-Grimes era Alexandria. Spencer was basically Sir Robin of Alexandria. But now that his dad is dead and mom is dead and half the town’s residents are dead, he’s feeling compelled to make peace with his past by… stabbing the his mom’s walker in the head. [sigh]. Okay, I guess.

But the stabbing isn’t the thing that gets me here, it’s the trifecta of two motherless boys and a son-less mother in the forest looking after all the ghosts. Carl essentially tells Enid to kick rocks so he can lead walker-Deanna to Spencer. Carl doesn’t know that Spencer is pacing the woods (regularly) looking for his mom; it just seems like the right thing to do for.

Carl is perhaps the only one of the main cast who can understand, for obvious reasons. That Michonne is with him, that she is finding a semblance of happiness and domesticity in what is essentially a blended family is powerful, too. Who, do we imagine, put Andre to peace when she returned to find the gruesome scene? This is a woman who walked with her dead for so long that she passed as one.

For her to offer herself as family to Spencer demonstrates a shift that has been long coming, but is still rewarding. And perhaps more so than the initial foray into Alexandria because she is now more complete. She is not a woman choosing between leaving her sword hanging on a wall a relic and being at home with people she loves. She is – she must be – both.

Carl, too, has been seen as a caregiver: he gets more screen time with Judith than Rick, he refused to kill Ron (mistake!), and now this. This is a far cry from the boy Herschel had a your-son-is-a-killer-in-the-making talk with Rick about all those seasons ago at the prison. This is what makes the show watching: the slow evolution of characters. This is why the time jump and the complete Rick/Daryl role reversal on the stranger danger issue is so jarring.

That said, while Deana is being finally out to rest by the only three who can or should do it, Rick still out here, thinking about Michonne and her fresh ass breath like:

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