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Sunday, February 17, 2013

Review: The Walking Dead: Home

Season 3 Episode 10
Grade: C

Verdict: What was shaping up to be an even duller episode than last week's premiere was saved by its last few minutes, and at least opens up some possible intrigue for next week.

The Walking Dead has never been a show where one can say you can expect alot of action to break out on a week to week basis. The second season caught alot of flak for leaving its characters to squabble amongst themselves at Hershel's farm with little to no plot momentum, and the third season, past its very exciting premiere and Killer Within (the episode in which Lori meets her demise), has unfortunately followed suit with its prison arc. This episode opened up into standard fare for this show as the we find the two soon to be warring camps on the edge of splitting apart. The prison group is in shambles due to Rick's recent breakdown in front of the group and consistent visions. Glenn takes it upon himself to take on the role of leader with Rick wondering off into the woods to chase "magical ghost Lori", though Glenn is having his own troubles with Maggie still emotionally reeling. Over in Woodbury, the Governor wants to hand-over his own leadership role to Andrea after her "great" speech (quotes are mine) to the townfolk. In between, Darryl and Merle squabble a little bit, then save a family on the road, and then squabble a little more.

Let's just make it clear, we're definitely past the point where The Walking Dead can by any right be called a good show. It utterly struggles in most elements where a show like this should succeed. Its camera-work is terribly pedestrian, and its art direction is frankly so cheap we're at the point of distraction. Last season, I could forgive the show for its staging limitations, because the writers' ambitions were much smaller-scale. Unfortunately, the realization of Woodbury is more akin to a town from a cheap B-Western than the sunny paradise portrayed in Robert Kirkman's source material (this is a phenomenon I'll hereby refer to as the Superman II/Thor problem). With these issues in mind, the show has to rely on good writing and acting, again this is another set of hurdles it cannot tackle.

Take how Andrew Lincoln is handled, for example. His Rick is generally one of the sole highlights of the show for me, but this episode shuffles him to the sidelines. When he is finally brought out of his "sojourn" to speak with Hershel, the best the writers can give him is "I've got uh...stuff out here". Network this definitely is not, but I've seen better writing out of a hacky Julian Fellowes script. Suffice to say, much of the rest of the cast makes Lincoln look like Laurence Olivier. The deficiencies of the supporting cast are highlighted whenever we have to focus on Glenn and Maggie, as neither really have the chops to carry the weighty material that has been thrust upon them. Lauren Cohan is especially atrocious this week, turning in a performance worthy of your local community college theater. The Walking Dead simply doesn't do quiet moments well.

The scenes with Merle and Daryl at least carry stronger performances, and have a couple of nice action sequences when they're attempting to save the family surrounded on the highway. The moral grey-line that Merle continues to walk is one of the few reasons I enjoy watching the show. It feels like only a matter of time before Merle turns on Rick and company, and when that happens I'll at least have better faith in the writers of the show to play some form of long game. David Morrissey as the Governor continues to be a game player as well, despite how bad some of the dialogue he's forced to recite can be, though any plotline involving Andrea at this point falls directly into the "who cares?" department.

In terms of other net positives for this episode, I surprisingly didn't outright hate Carol this week. As I thought her conversations with Axel worked well to soften whatever utterly extraneous vibes that continue to permeate off her whenever she's on camera. I was hoping that Axel would turn murderous, as that angle was one of my favorite story-twists of the comics, but that was not to be when the concluding shots rang out, literally. The Governor arriving at the prison definitely added some much needed perk to a script that was dragging its heels. The driving everyone out of the prison with the truck full of zombies was also a nice twist that I didn't see coming, and at the very least sets up enough interest for me to check back in next week to see what sort of shape the group will be in. Truthfully though, I can't handle another episode without Rick front and center, the Walking Dead's bench just isn't deep enough.

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