Sunday, July 12, 2015

Thirsting and Trudging Towards the Next Narrative Arc: THE WALKING DEAD, Season 5, Episode 10, “Them”

Original airdate 15 February 2015.

Third of a series in which I review episodes of The Walking Dead in no particular order. WARNING: SPOILERS OUT THE YING-YANG, because, seriously, I’m among the last people in the solar system who has just started watching this. If you’re way-behind weird like me, give this post a pass.

Remember in my post about the previous episode how I thought we were going to get on with the next story arc? Thank God no one reads this blog, because this episode made a liar out of me.

“Mopin’, mopin’ mopin’/Like they gave up hopin’
Even Daryl’s mopin’/RAWHIIIIIDE!”
I’d thought the group had done enough “processing” of their grief over their bad decisions and the resultant fatalities. No, we have to dedicate an entire episode to Daryl moping over Beth, Sasha fuming over losing her brother Bob, Abraham sulking over dedicating the better part of his apocalypse to deception, etc. It wasn’t quite the festival of melodramatic soap opera bitchiness that caused me to change the channel in the middle of a second season episode at Herschel’s farm, but it came close. 

All this was done in the course of the group trudging slowly along down the same woodsy Georgia piedmont road we’ve seen for five seasons that we’re supposed to take for somewhere in northern Virginia now. We have a striking visual of dead frogs belly-up on a dry creekbed. We see Daryl digging in the dirt and pulling up a big ol’ earthworm and eating it. All this, and everyone is moping over their past decisions, whether they should have zagged when they zigged, and, God help us, “Are you sure you don’t want to talk about it?”
“I dunno, I could swear we’ve been on this road before.” To be fair, every planet in the Stargate universe—even in the Pegasus galaxy—looked like the hilly, misty woods of coastal British Columbia. Ten, 12 years of this, and no one ever said anything. I might as well shut up.

As they trudge, trudge, trudge along, the undead gather behind them. They attract more and more as they go. Rick and the crew realize they’re going to have to make a stand before the numbers become more than they can handle. Sasha goes off the plan and endangers everyone. They dispatch the mob, though, and resume trudging.

A pack of feral dogs attack. I find this interesting, as one does not see many dogs and cats in zombie apocalypses. (A friend of mine wrote the lone exception I know to this.) Admittedly, I have no idea how to address that in my own zombie books, but it stands to reason that feral dog attacks would be high on the list of things to defend against while out in the open. Here, it just serves to make sure everyone gets something to eat.

So what does infant Judith eat? Aside from practically glowing with serene cleanliness among the grime-streaked survivors, she doesn’t complain much for someone who isn’t ready for solid food, let alone starvation conditions.

I’ll be happy she doesn’t complain, however discordant her presence is in the series. (In the comics, she died from the same bullet that tore through her mother when the Governor made his final attack on the prison.) Never mind how they deal with the issue of diapers and wet-wipes. Is that what Abraham’s carrying in that bag? You need a big bag when you’re traveling with infants. Trudging right along....

Our intrepid heroes come upon a cache of water in plastic jugs in the middle of the road, with a note indicating that they were left there by a “friend.” Uh-oh. Despite their thirst, they resist the urge to drink it. Fortunately, a thunderstorm breaks. Everyone is happy for that free, untainted water from the sky. Then the thunderstorm starts getting severe. They take shelter in a barn Daryl was moping at a few scenes back. 

There’s more talky-talky as they settle in, and Rick makes his grand pronouncement, “WE are the Walking Dead!” It’s far less cheesy than it was in the full-page splash in the comics, but cheesy nonetheless. 

Then someone looks out and notices a bunch of zombies want into the barn out of the storm. After a splendid visual of electric blue undead revealed in a flash of lightning (what’s a whole parking lot full of dead people doing all the way out here the sticks?), we cut, and it’s morning. Apparently a handy little tornado blew through and skewered the dead on various tree limbs while leaving the flimsy barn standing. What the heck. Another great visual. 

Seriously, I can forgive a lot for a great visual. For all my complaining, if there is one thing about this show that’s done exceptionally well, it’s how they film this thing. The photographers, cinematographers, and sound people totally own it. Big-budget, high-end feature films wish they had crews like the one on The Walking Dead

A couple of the women from the group go out in the morning to enjoy this tableau and a finely photographed sunrise. I forget which two women, as it’s been weeks since I’ve watched this (I’ve been busy writing my own stuff), but the main thing is we finally meet our true catalyst for the next storyline, a supernaturally clean young man named Aaron.
At last, a development!

SEASON-WIDE SPOILERS: It’s my understanding that the crew goes to the community of Alexandria (not to be confused with the Washington, D.C. exurb, I trust) where Rick will get lethal over someone named Porchdick and make the original Alexandria residents question the wisdom of accommodating Rick’s crew in the first place. The narrative will touch on the old trope of how Prolonged Exposure to Crazy Makes You Crazy Too. In the season finale we’ll meet the Wolves, the nasties who attacked and destroyed Noah’s mystery subdivision neighborhood in the middle of the woods.

This will lead us to Negan; I’m guessing he’ll at least be hinted at in next season’s finale. The most interesting thing about Negan is that Robert Kirkman does a narrative leap after the resolution of that long-ass storyline, setting everything a year into the future. I’ve read those comics. I don’t see that working. Ideally, the TV series should end with the completion of the Negan storyline, which will put the series well past the 100-episode mark for syndication, and the show will go out on a high note.

We all know that’s not going to happen. For my sake, I hope they don’t take the rest of the zombie craze down with them when they burn it out. I have my own personal stake in this, after all. I should probably catch up on the rest of the season before the spinoff, Fear the Walking Dead, begins on 16 August. We’ll see.