SEASON 9; EPISODE 6
I must admit that after the final scene of last week's episode of The Walking Dead, I was pretty apprehensive about what the future of this series – and the franchise as a whole. We've lost many big characters over the years but the recent departures of Rick and Carl Grimes have really changed the face of the show. How the writers deal with this is going to be interesting but also extremely important. Rick's departure leaves a gaping hole and although the show has morphed into something of an ensemble piece, he has been the one constant throughout and to lose him at this point feels particularly damaging. However, his absence provides the opportunity for fresh characters and impetus and ideas, something that has been lacking somewhat in the last few years.
However if episode six is any indicator of what is to come then we may need to check our expectations. The six year time jump has undoubtedly caught audiences off guard (myself included) and part of the reason that many are a little frustrated with it is because we have only just started getting used to how things were after an 18 month time jump at the start of the series. To leap forward again feels a little hard to take. To call it an insult to the audience may be going too far but you do wonder if the writers realise that this toying around with the narrative and characters does more damage than good. Sure, a time shift sort of wipes the slate clean a little, but the issue here is that things still feel very 'samey'. And although it's very very early days and no definite judgement should be made on whether this new chapter of the show is a success or a failure, there were several reasons to feel slightly aggrieved this week.
Firstly, not too much seems to have changed in six years does it? Apart from everyone sporting a new hairdo, the only real things of note are Michonne's mysterious scar on her back and the absurdity that is Rosita and Father Gabriel. You do wonder if they just pick names out of a hat now when deciding who to pair up on the show. Those two characters really have very little history together and whilst I get that a lot can happen in six years, this is just something that I am not buying. These kind of things have got to feel a little logical and some groundwork needs to be laid, even if it's just a little. Next week don't be surprised if Negan and Maggie are shacked up or something. Alexandria does seem to have developed a little and there seems to be some form of governing body in place, but other than that not too much really seems to have occurred. Six years is a long time in the real world, but in Apocalypse world? - it seems mad that there haven't been some major conflicts, events – and losses, in that time. Maybe I'm jumping the gun and we will learn of some stuff that has gone down in the Post-Grimes era, but I'm not that confident.
Frustratingly, the show seems to have opted to walk down a well worn path in a narrative sense as well. A new group is discovered, they are let in to the group, there is debate regarding what to do with them etc etc. I'm kind of hoping that any paranoia and suspicion of the newcomers is over and done with as we've been there and done that many times before. Also, dialogue wise, I do wish the writers would cut down on the poetic waffle that we get some times. I'm all for rousing speeches and a bit of romanticism but the attempts at pained existentialism can get a bit tiring week after week.
Interestingly the new group are being moved to Hilltop (well that's the plan anyway) and although they seem like a nice bunch at this stage I can't be too bothered with caring about any of them too much right now. There have been a lot of changes to the show recently and the introduction of Judith Grimes and her brother are enough to think about for the time being. It's really too early to judge Judith as a character but my initial reaction has been a little lukewarm. She's clearly a talented young actress but there is a fine line between cute and saccharine and there were several scenes that felt more like the latter. It's a tough gig playing Rick Grime's daughter – and it'll be interesting to see what they do with the character so I am not going to get too down on the whole thing just yet.
Carol on the other hand...I mean, I just don't get what's happening there. I get that she's protective of Henry etc but seeing her return to her cold, killing frenzy days just baffled me. She's been a character who has always been torn between pacifism and hakwishness but it felt like an arc that had been examined thoroughly and reached a conclusion (that being a Rick Grimes style Zen attitude). But here we go again. The writers may feel like it's something new and exciting but it feels more like a regression into a place where we have been before. Surely there's nothing left of that story to tell?
The whisperers showed their faces in the last scene of the episode and their introduction now means that we can expect them to play a pivotal part in the mid-season finale. Readers of the comic books will know what to expect, the rest of us will have to wait and see. That is unless next week, they decide to skip it all together and jump ahead 20 years....