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Sunday, February 10, 2013

Review: The Walking Dead: The Suicide King

Season 3 Episode 9
Grade: D+

Verdict: In its return from mid-season hiatus, The Walking Dead starts off with a wheel-spinning episode that introduces bizarre, unearned character turns and one of the most unintentionally hilarious closing scenes I've witnessed in a show of its type.

The mid-season premiere of the Walking Dead focused on three different fronts: Rick and company's escape from Woodbury and travel back to the prison, the growing unrest at Woodbury due to the intruders and the citizens' feelings of safety fleeting away, and Tyreese's crew trying to appeal to Hershel's better nature in an attempt to stay at the prison rather than harsh environs outside.

Last season, for all its flaws (and their were oh-so-many), had a very strong mid-season finale that at the very least pulled my attention back to hoping the show could possibly recollect itself after being saddlebagged with an awful plot driver for its first half. This most recent mid-season finale felt far more abrupt and lacked natural flow; it just felt like the conclusion of another episode. My excitement, thusly, was not as high as it could be for this season's return tonight.

One of my common complaints about the last half-season was related to the show's occasional poor production values and how it can at times undercut the dramatic tension that a director is trying to build. This is never more apparent than in the cheapness of the Woodbury set and the lack of scope used. In tonight's opening moments, I was quickly reminded of why I so disliked the way the township has been established. At any given time, you only see about 20 or so citizens, be it at the Gladiator-style fighting matches or at community gatherings. Honestly, unless they have some kind of hidden cache of mercenaries, what kind of threat is the town to begin with? The production's inability to do something as simple as add more extras undercuts the biggest plot point of entire season.

Unfortunately, the hits don't stop there. Once we finally leave the Woodbury area with Rick, Glenn, Michonne, Maggie, Darryl, and Merle, Darryl leaves the group to stay with his brother who the others don't want to come back with them. This is a fair development, but it's quickly undercut by a scene of "Angry Glenn!!", who rips a walker out of a truck and stomps its head in. None of Glenn's motivations make much sense except to give Steve Yeun something to do. Even his anger over "what he did to Maggie" doesn't really ring true, especially in comparison to the actions taken by the Governor in the comics. Perhaps that's a bias on my part, but having seen the true horrific actions that took place there, everything on the show just feels terribly tame by comparison. But the writers are still trying to grip on to the same level of pathos we feel in the comic, and it all feels terribly unearned.

Tyreese, Sasha, and the two guys whose names they kept saying but I couldn't really be bothered to remember, were fleshed out a little better. We were given the requisite background knowledge of how they came together and a little of what they'd been fighting through. Clearly, Tyreese, with his earnest honesty and  calm demeanor is meant to sort of portray a saner mirror image of Rick, who is lapsing deeper into psychosis. Tyreese doesn't get a lot to do, other than be nice guy that you wanna see stick around. His character is an important one in the mythos, and as of right now he's one of the few things I keep leaning on as a reason to try and tune in. Chad Coleman, who plays Tyreese, is a phenomenal actor, and along with Danai Gurira, is pitch perfect in the role, particularly appearance-wise.

Everything that occurred in Woodbury was awful, starting with the scenes of the tens of people trying to escape and Martinez threatening to shoot those who attempted it, which led to Andrea of course having to "get to speechifyin" to rally the citizens behind their town. Every word that came out of Andrea's mouth was eyeroll-worthy. Her cliche-laden, cloying monologues have been one of the lowest points of the show consistently, and we get another one here. I can't define her speech as anything but some of the worst writing I've seen from AMC since, well, the stuff Lori was spouting out. And we thought the writers hated the African American characters; I'd rather be as dead as T-dawg than having to spout the stuff Laurie Holden gets the honor of reciting when the cameras roll.

When Rick finally gets back to the prison, Hershel gets a few nice moments with Glenn and Maggie, and I have to say I appreciated his character arc finally coming full circle with his loving acceptance of Glenn "as his own son," it was a nice touch and Scott Wilson is a terribly underrated performer in a fairly thankless task most of the times, especially now that all he gets to do is play doctor and hobble around. Rick's first meeting with Tyreese to determine if they can stay felt like it was going to go the predictable route of "refusal before he's talked into it," but then came the surprise - and wow was it terrible. I'm not sure there's anything I can say about Ghost Lori other than that it reminded me of something out of a high school production of Macbeth. I wanted to laugh out loud, but I think the shock nailed me so badly I couldn't even react. It was a painfully cheap way to scuttle the new folks out the door, and it makes Rick look completely batty in the process. One of the strengths of the comic was that his delusions were only known to a small few and he held the brave face of a leader throughout it all. Instead, here we get overt silliness and writers nailing the audience over the head with "this guy is going crazy! cuh-razy!!!".

It simply wasn't the best way to start its second half; at its best, The Walking Dead can be gripping, visceral drama. Unfortunately those moments are getting fewer and fewer, and episodes like "The Suicide King" feel more like "television for idiots."
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  1. I'll take credit for you using the Macbeth part at the end since I mentioned Banquo/Hamlet's Father =P. I agree whole-heartedly with this episode. What is more frustrating is that most people who watch the show didn't even realize it was bad.

  2. Ha, I didn't even catch that! Great minds...

  3. I'm pretty much done with this show now. The writing and most of the acting is absolutely atrocious. How is this show "critically acclaimed" in any way, shape or form? It's laughably bad.

    1. This week's was only moderately better...only ever so slightly...sigh.


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