SERIES 8; EPISODE 9
After the mid-season break 'The Walking Dead' returned with a very uneven, mostly unsatisfying episode. The narrative and directorial style of 'The Walking Dead' desperately needs to be addressed. The episode opened with the same kinds of scenes I have repeatedly commented upon in these blog posts. The tight shots of character's faces, followed by a series of flashbacks detailing 'how they got there' is a device the writers and directors overuse so much that each episode is starting to feel like the last. I find myself watching each episode with an ongoing sense that I have seen it all before.
After the predictable opening shots, we revisit Carl in the aftermath of that fatal bite (the scenes are accompanied by an annoyingly inappropriate soundtrack that robs the scene of any moving or melancholy moments). As the episode progresses, it becomes quite messy but there are some suspenseful scenes. We have Carl, Rick and Michonne in the tunnel, Carol and Morgan closing in on Ezekiel, and the 'dreams' of a better life. Speaking of which, it transpires these are Carl's dreams, not Rick's. The inclusion of Negan in this dream is mostly inexplicable. While Carl and he have a very specific relationship, and I can understand Carl wants a life of peaceful life for everyone he loves, Negan will always be the man who beat Abraham and Glenn to death. The scenes themselves feel so out of sync with the tone of 'The Walking Dead', they are practically soap-y.
While the scenes with Carol and Morgan were the most exciting, it feels a little like the blind leading the blind. This is because both seem to repeat the same cycle over and over - from the desire to lead peaceful, pacifist lives to indulging in extreme, unhinged violence. Though they are always on opposite sides of the coin. At this stage Carol is fire-fighting constantly just to minimise the destruction Morgan leaves in his wake, because Morgan never seems to be able to find peace for any length of time. When Carol and Morgan find Ezekiel, a gun fight ensues and in a moment where it seems it may be all over for Morgan, he enviscerates the man who is trying to kill him. While he had little choice when it came to fighting back, it was exceptionally brutal. When he had the opportunity to kill the other Saviour, the boy came through and killed him, Morgan-style. In this moment it was starkly obvious the legacy he would be leaving behind. I would like to see the writers explore the impact this one moment had on Morgan, as we may actually cover some new ground with this character.
By the end of the episode, Carl had died, and by his own hand. I know there has been some controversy about the choice to kill off this character and I have to say, I am skeptical that it was the right thing to do for the story. I believe it does not happen in the graphic novel and I fear it may be used as a device to justify an extreme change in Rick's outlook regarding his conflict with Negan. While not necessarily a bad thing in principle, I just hope this is handled with some subtlety so it does not feel heavy-handed.
The episode closes with Rick sat, bloody-handed, as though he does not know how to start again, or where to go. I hope the writers do.