Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Walking Dead: 4.15 "Us"

Dear Josh–
Well, after last week's episode, which I would say is the best episode of The Walking Dead yet, and one that set the internet on fire when it happened, we were bound to get an episode that was slightly disappointing in comparison. And yet it gets us one step closer to the end, and everyone finally meeting up at Terminus… which is apparently a ghost town where Mary lives and keeps her potted flowers. But more on that later. 

I'm going to say something off the top that will probably make me very unpopular among fans (sorry, Efthymia), but it really bugged me in this episode: I think Glenn and Maggie have become an insufferable couple, willing to plough over everyone else just to get back together. A couple of weeks ago we saw Maggie abandon Bob and Sasha, knowing that she was their best hope of staying alive, because she just had to get to Glenny-Wenny that much faster. Bob followed Maggie like a lost puppy, and Sasha just wanted to give up on her and see if they could save themselves. But knowing that she couldn't live on her own, Sasha had to follow Bob, who was following Maggie, and Maggie just kept on truckin' like it didn't matter that they were desperately trying to keep up with her. Now this week, Glenn puts Tara's life in peril just so he can find his Maggity-Googity. He knows Tara's got a gimpy leg, and that she feels personally responsible for the death of his father-in-law, so she follows him into what appears to be certain death, rather than just giving it one more day and going around and finding them on the other side (awesome irony: those who choose to go around and take the longer route get to the other end of the tunnel before Glenn and Tara. Nice one, Glenn). And it looks like Tara IS going to die when she gets a boulder stuck on her foot and can't move. For a second, I really thought they were going to sacrifice her and rid us of the last vestiges of the Governor's group. I'm glad they didn't; even though I didn't like her at first, she brings a new life to the group. Especially now that Glenn has lied about who she was when introducing her to Maggie. But honestly, Glenn, you could have just stuck with the group and gone around, not put Tara's life in danger, and been one extra set of hands to help keep Emmett safe. But oh no, you had to rush on into that tunnel like you HAD to get to Maggie quickly, as if she needed you. Seriously, Glenn, Maggie has bigger balls than you and always has. She will be just fine

Now that they've been reunited and are burning Polaroids together in the corner of the tunnel, I hope the rest of them abandon them in the night and leave them to make lovey-dovey eyes at each other.

And I say this knowing that I would have driven a car over every single one of the survivors to get to my husband and kids faster, but hey. Let me be a hypocrite on this one. :) 

Back to Tara, I thought the other annoying thing about this episode was turning her into a total cliché. Who gets pushed and accidentally falls over and somehow sprains their leg? AND THEN gets it caught under a rock? Oh yes, writers. Please remind us that she is but a lowly girl and we must make her the damsel in distress so good ol' Glenn can come to her rescue. (How happy was I was it was actually Maggie packing heat and saving her life in the end?) I just HATE when there's a scene on any television show and they're running and oh! The GIRL trips and falls and the GUY has to help her back up. UGH. Actually, I'm usually annoyed when anyone trips. It's the oldest horror suspense trick in the book. I guess they couldn't have done it with Glenn because we've already seen him at death's door with Maggie nursing him back to health, but there were other ways to make Tara vulnerable other than having her trip… and then trip again. 

We hadn't seen Rick/Michonne/Carl in over a month, and we get to see them again along with Daryl and Jeff Kober's Claimers. What did you think of them in this episode, Josh? 

Hey, Nikki --
I've just been reading about a new beer to be released by a small Philadelphia brewer in tribute to 'The Walking Dead'. The Dock Street Brewing Co. will introduce a pale stout dubbed Dock Street Walker to coincide with the broadcast of season four's finale episode this weekend. And how else, you ask, might this tribute concoction distinguish itself, outside the simple honorific and the artifice of custom labeling? Glad you bring it up. Because Dock Street Walker will be brewed with the usual assortment of wheat and oats and hops and barley, but tempered with organic cranberries and – no kidding – smoked goat brains.

I believe I'll join you in the teetotaler's corner this time, ma'am.

Well, we're almost at the end of these again; somehow we only have one more episode left of the season. When I stop to consider it, the beginning of season four does seem like a long time ago (think: before this winter started). Still, the time's flown. Our schedules have proven so mutually chaotic of late that this back half of episode discussions was a bit of a mess, and I hate that I wasn't able to dedicate more time and attention to such a strong set of chapters in this long, gloomy tale we follow. The recent focus on character and relationships has given the narrative a balance it has always struggled to maintain with any consistency, and these efforts likewise encouraged me to reinvest in the show as something more than a morbid game of What Will They Do Next.

Some parts have been stronger than others, of course. I don't share the same degree of irritation as you and others regarding Maggie and Glenn (and I admit it's impossible for me to divorce myself from any preexisting sense of goodwill for the couple as a result of my time reading the comics), but I do agree that they have been largely underserved in this stretch, two charismatic individuals reduced to little but engines for finding each other, and that's a shame. Rick has seen similar circumstances of late, with his biggest post-prison showcase spent hiding silently under a bed. He only had a few lines in this episode as well, but they were wrapped in another charming Carl/Michonne scene, and anything that injects some levity and sweetness into the typically grim proceedings is significant in and of itself.

As the audience, however, we know that Rick and his traveling family is being hunted right now by a nasty group of scavengers, none of whom would hesitate to murder each and every one of them, Carl included, whether from pure spite or some misplaced sense of justice for their fallen comrade. The inevitable clash between them seems the most likely backbone of the coming finale, no doubt leaning on the fact that Daryl will be unwittingly pitted against his old friends. Daryl's story has been as rich as anyone's during these recent episodes, and watching his hard-fought capitulation to Beth's hope crusade all wash away in the wake of her disappearance, only to be replaced by this band of hooligans espousing the same old bitten cynicism and cutthroat greed as he'd known in his previous life, has been tragic but truly compelling. If the next step in that downward trajectory is the inadvertent killing of one of his friends, the fallout will be immense. Then again, things could easily tilt the other direction, too, leading instead to Rick, Carl or Michonne killing or injuring him before they realize who they're fighting.

Either way, the stage is set for a white knuckled ride Sunday night. The teaser for the group's arrival at Terminus was so uncharacteristically serene – no guards, no lookouts, not even a locked gate – that things are bound to go sideways there in some manner as well, but I get the feeling most of that conflict will be saved for season five. In the meantime, there are still six more survivors headed down the tracks, and surely blood will be spilled before they reach the end of the line. None of them is truly expendable, yet I get the sense that not everyone will make it.

What do you think, Nik? The death of another child seems unlikely with the grief of 'The Grove' still so fresh, so I presume Carl is safe for now. And the end of Daryl, Carol or Michonne would surely cause a fan revolt. Does this mean Tyreese is doomed? Or do they have the guts to kill off their leading man?
- j

Dear Josh,
You know, your comments about Rick barely being in the season echo something I’ve been thinking a lot lately: that we haven’t seen much of him, and I haven’t missed him. He’s essential to the core of the show… or, at least, he was, until he went through his major traumas (losing his wife, losing his mind, trying to claw his way back to sanity and not lose his children), and at the mid-season break he believed he lost Judith. I think next week we’re going to see him reunited with her, but will he last long beyond that? Carl has grown up to the point where he doesn’t feel like he needs Rick, and now he has Michonne by his side. Her evolution from unsmiling, cold warrior to the smiling woman who walks along railway ties in a bid to win a chocolate bar away from a teenager has been wonderful to watch, and Carl isn’t alone. When the entire gang gets to Terminus, they’re going to work as a unit. They’ve been separated, and they know how terrible it’s been being out there on their own, so it’ll be nice to see them all together.

Daryl, as you say, is with the ugly gang who believes you can just own something by pointing to it and saying, “Claim.” Kober, who looks like Kris Kristofferson in this episode, teaches Daryl that the gang strictly abides by cooperation, no stealing, and no lying, and they beat their colleague to death when he lies to prove a point. (Frankly, can I just say that while the other guy was a dick, it was hardly a contest there: Kristofferson looks at Daryl and says, “You told the truth.” What ELSE was Daryl going to do? Say, “Oh yeah, I took the rabbit”? Obviously he told the truth, because he was in the right. I thought it was a strange test. Watching them fight for the rabbit and then judging THAT would have been more fair, I think.)

As you say, Daryl was just about to come over to Beth’s side and become domesticated, so to speak, and now he’s back with the Wild Bunch. As Kristofferson says, “There’s nothing sadder than an outdoor cat who thinks he’s an indoor cat.” But… the indoor cats live longer, and are generally happier, and part of a unit, and don’t have to scavenge for every bit of food. It’s this revolt in Daryl’s mind between two ways of thinking that will always continue to tear him apart. 

I am definitely a little concerned about Terminus. I don’t trust it. It’s too quiet, there doesn’t appear to be anyone there (are they all sleeping in the middle of the day? Maybe they stay awake at night instead?) and if it’s just Mary, that’s a hell of a big grill she’s got for one person. And who the hell needs four layers of sweaters?! As they walked in, I couldn’t take my eyes off the flowers in the pots along the walls. And then I thought, “Uh oh.” The flowers are exactly what Carol told Lizzie to focus on before she shot her in the back of the head.

If Rick is going to be the victim in next week’s episode, it would certainly refresh the show once again now that they’re all back together: they’d have to find a different way of leadership, different people will be involved in the decision-making, and the entire dynamic will change.

But if it does end up being the last episode for Sheriff Grimes, I just hope they let him see Judith one last time.  

Until next week, my friend. 

P.S. Incidentally, while searching for photos to go with this post, I came across this. Which... pretty much makes me think yeah, Terminus ain't gonna be a Holiday Inn. Remember that painting that Michonne found in the house with all the dead people? Oh shizz...


Colleen/redeem147 said...

As was pointed out in a comment when someone else made the comparison between Tasha Yar and the painting - it also has the same type of clothing and hairstyle as the dead woman in the house, so it's probably her.

I think Glenn going into the tunnel had less to do with wanting to be with Maggie than it did with the writers thinking, "Hey, wouldn't it be cool to show a bunch of zombies lying trapped in the rocks?" Then again, I'm still pulling for Fred and Gunn. I can deal with sappy.

Efthymia said...

I take no offense, although I still find more excuses for Glenn than I do for Maggie. He did make some stupid choices in this episode, but where he only had hope, he now had proof that Maggie was alive and close, and I think this understandably clouded his judgement. But he didn't abandon Tara in the tunel (which, I'm ashamed to admit, I thought he might do), probably understanding how he was responsible for her situation.
Maggie, however, (a) shows absolutely no interest whatsoever in Beth's fate, (b) abandoned Sasha and Bob before they actually got to have the argument about how they should move on and (c) now has gone and jinxed everything by making Glenn burn her photo and saying he won't need it anymore -WHY WOULD YOU SAY THAT?!!!
Finally, what you found annoying Stephen King found "Totes adorbs" (his words), and he also tweeted "Glenn and Maggie are back together. Sunshine floods my previously gray life.", making me love him even more (which I didn't think was possible).

I still find Eugene incredibly amusing. I'm up for a great disappointment, aren't I?
Also, I was happy they decided to dress Rosita more apropriately and show that she does have a personality.

Terminus is creepy.

Rebecca T. said...

This week I was thinking that breaking up the larger group has allowed us to get to know these newer characters in a way we wouldn't have if they had all been together. And I really like that. I even found the group Daryl has fallen in with to be intriguing. Yes, they are rough, but the simple rules set up to "claim" something, to not lie, etc. make a lot of sense and seem to be working to keep them from killing each other continually.

I did shed happy tears when Maggie and Glenn were reunited, but I was also annoyed at the burning of the polaroid. Really? Because there are so many places to get pictures now... Also, I was furious (as Efthymia was and is) that Maggie's immediate thought now that she found Glenn wasn't - hey, I should go look for Beth. It didn't even seem to come into her mind! This is her baby sister who has NO ONE ELSE. And I don't know if I can forgive Maggie for not even saying one thing about needing to find her.

I don't understand how Terminus can look that way. There are no guards against Walkers of any sort - no actual guards, no counter-measures, not even a pit or some spikes. It was completely surreal and immensely creepy and I'm rather scared as to how that is going to play out.

I hadn't considered the possibility of losing Rick, but I think out of all of the characters he could be the expendable one, though that would be a HUGE game-changer pulling the show completely away from the comic books in a very different way. I'm so nervous and excited about the final episode!

Anonymous said...

Another season of TWD comes to an end - I'm thinking Maggie or Glenn dies this week.

Claimed! (thanks for making me hear that all week in the office)

Looking forward to the Spring Shows - bring on Mad Men & GoT! Also looking forward to Turn (I love the Revolutionary War).

Thanks for the great recaps!

-Tim Alan

Unknown said...

Ok Nikki, somewhat off topic here... I've commented once or twice before during the Lost years (still missing them!) but it's occurred to me that very few people are talking about Hannibal, now in its second season, and I for one would be really interested in your take on that show. Sorry to put this msg in here, but it seemed the easiest way

Nikki Stafford said...

Jason: It's so funny you should say that because it's the one show I've been thinking about blogging on by myself, and the problem is, with it being on Friday I often don't get to see it until later. But after this week's episode, I really want to write something about it! I'll see what I can do for you. :)

Unknown said...

Nikki, that's simply awesome. I followed you pretty religiously during Lost, even found myself pointing out what you would blog about in advance of your posts. Hannibal is dark, but (sorry for the pun) with a lot of meat to pick apart, and I look forward to anything you post about it. Thanks so much!