Show: The Walking Dead
Air Date: November 5, 2017
For once I can say that what happened in the latest episode of The Walking Dead at least made some kind of sense. It hung together dramatically. The structure was coherent. It was still dumb and terrible, of course; “Monsters” might have been the best episode of the season thus far, but that’s like being the serial killer with the least amount of victims.
Still, I’m starting to get a sense of what the show is trying to do, and where it seems to be going. Most of what we saw this week involved the wavering morality of Rick and his various allies as they continued their campaign against Negan’s Saviours. What we’re supposed to wonder, I think, is not whether our “heroes” will ultimately triumph against their adversaries, but if they’ll be able to coexist peacefully afterwards. Can they hold onto their humanity? Is becoming as ruthless and unforgiving as their rivals the only way to win? Most importantly, should we care?
Well, should we?
Not right now, no. “Monsters” earned some goodwill by being straightforward; by limiting unnecessary structural flourishes and those dopey attempts at artfulness that are always faintly embarrassing. But the show’s storytelling machinery is so rusted that it’s barely chugging along. You can hear the keening over the monologues. And speaking of monologues – we got an awful one this week. Morales, who was reintroduced last episode after several years of absence, spent so much time angrily lecturing Rick that I was thrilled when Daryl coldly executed him. “It doesn’t matter,” said Daryl in justification, “Not one bit.” I agree. The guy ranted for several minutes and I couldn’t even begin to tell you what his grievance was.
Of course, the purpose of this scene wasn’t to wow the audience with Juan Gabriel Pajera’s awful acting. Just like later in the episode, when Daryl needlessly executes a surviving Saviour, this whole scene is intended as a slight tremor to begin the careful fracturing of Rick and Daryl’s steadfast relationship. Rick is genuinely shocked and dismayed at Daryl’s behaviour – and Rick is never shocked. This is the kind of deep and complex moralizing we expect from a show in which zombies roll themselves down a hill like frolicking schoolchildren.
How’s Eric in “Monsters”?
Dead. And dead largely thanks to Aaron spending an awfully long time pretending to cry rather than administering medical aid. The Walking Dead continues to conflate dramatic import with dragging a scene on to the point of absurdity. Aaron’s dry-eyed wince wasn’t emotional – it looked like he was trying not to shit himself. Twice he tortured us with that face. After leaving Eric sat against a tree, bleeding out, he returned later in the episode to find his husband dead and zombified, shambling away. There’s that face again. Some of these actors are stealing a wage. And I know Eric isn’t an important character and that his death is therefore completely meaningless, but someone could have offered to put him out of his misery. Isn’t that what happens in zombie media?
Is The Walking Dead still “zombie media” at this point?
Good point. There is, after all, a self-styled king with a hilariously fake-looking CGI tiger in this show. The only relationship he has with the undead is that I hope he dies soon. I’m sick to my back teeth of Ezekiel’s outlandish Shakespearean speeches. In this episode he and his group, along with Carol, are hunting down Saviours and attacking their bases. Needless to say, this includes a motivational screed. You know how I said earlier that “Monsters” eschews those faux-artsy pretensions? Forget I said that. This whole sequence is fraught with horrible edits between Ezekiel’s speech (complete with “dramatic” music) and his group firing indiscriminately into the camera. It’s aggressively dumb.
Ezekiel’s proclamations that not one of the Kingdom’s survivors will die in the fighting is an egregious betrayal of basic, sensible character writing. It’s intended to make him look like a prophetic warrior poet; it succeeds in making him look like a moron.
The episode ends with Ezekiel’s men getting ambushed, and a number of them being massacred. This is only a surprise for his men. Perhaps if they weren’t beholden to such an illogical, unattainable standard, they’d have been better equipped to deal with this. But I digress. We’ll find out the consequences of Ezekiel’s idiocy next week.
How’re Jesus and Morgan getting along?
Not well. What’s interesting about this dynamic, though, is that neither of their positions is particularly outlandish. It might be a bit on-the-nose that a man with long hair, a beard and the name “Jesus” is advocating for peace and mercy, but he’s right: It would be absurd to coldly execute the captured Saviours. Then again, they’re dangerous. They’re the enemy. They can’t be trusted. They’re likely to stage an escape attempt, and housing, guarding, feeding and watering them is going to require important resources. It’s a dilemma, especially when a herd of zombies attack and a string of the prisoners escape into the woods. What better way to air your grievances, then, than martial arts. Jesus wins. Morgan sulks.
Despite the silliness of this, it was a pretty good fight. Plot armour being what it is, neither was really in any danger of dying, but for a moment you got the impression that one of them might be. That’ll do after the previous two weeks.
Gregory, that snivelling wretch, returned to Hilltop. Nobody likes Gregory. He’s a weasel. And yet Maggie, for some reason, despite him turning up in Father Gabriel’s car without Father Gabriel, lets him enter the camp. This will inevitably prove to be a remarkably stupid decision, and I hope so. That’ll teach them.
Here’s a final stray observation: Whoever’s responsible for having Daryl and Rick run out of ammo during their gunfight in the Saviour base, thank you. I honestly thought this show had forgotten how guns work.
Should we keep watching?
If you stuck around after last week, sure. This was undeniably better. But at some point you’re going to have to ask yourself what you’re doing here. I have an excuse. What’s yours? Do let me know in the comments. And while you’re there, tell me what people love so much about this show. Apparently I’m missing out.
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