The Walking Dead does Groundhog Day in another oddly off-kilter anthology tale.
This recap of Tales of the Walking Dead season 1, episode 2, “Blair/Gina”, contains spoilers.
It’s a pretty common sentiment that zombie media is played-out and tedious, and you’d think an anthology format would be a good excuse to turn that idea on its head. The first episode of Tales of the Walking Dead tried to do so by setting what was essentially a romantic comedy against the backdrop of an undead apocalypse. The second, “Blair/Gina”, tries to do it by using a narrative conceit that’s almost as tired as zombies themselves – a Groundhog Day-style time loop.
Tales of the Walking Dead season 1, episode 2 recap
The odds aren’t exactly in favor of this episode, then, and I must admit I found the gimmick fairly tedious. But, also like the first episode, the secret weapon is character. Parker Posey and Jillian Bell play the title characters, an insurance boss and her put-upon secretary, and they’re both so good here that you can forgive a lot of missteps elsewhere.
And it helps that the relationship between these two is really at the center of the drama. Set at the very beginning of the outbreak and mired in the uncertainty of a mysterious plague that is supposedly sending people hungrily berserk, both Blair and Gina die during a gas station standoff and wake up in the office once again. It quickly becomes apparent that they’re both experiencing the same thing over and over, so working out their differences – Blair is bossy and self-absorbed, while Gina is insular and doesn’t say how she feels – becomes crucial in figuring out a way for both to make it past what quickly emerges as a 5 pm deadline.
Blair and Gina both begin as broad archetypes – the horrible boss and the overworked employee. But they evolve beyond that, and their relationship goes to some interesting places. It’s predictable in the sense of them both learning to understand and sort of like one another, but Posey and Bell have great chemistry, and their dialogue crackles. It’s fun to watch them interact for the duration of the episode, even if the whole thing raises more questions than it answers, plot-wise.
For instance, is this canon? There was no indication in the first episode that it couldn’t have taken place within the established universe, but this one raises the possibility of a magical component that has never been addressed elsewhere. You can even feel some nervousness in how this is addressed in dialogue. At one point, Gina suggests outright that Blair might have a personality disorder that she has somehow inherited; the idea that both are crazy isn’t compelling, but I suppose it’s a useful excuse for the gimmick being impossible to justify otherwise.
Usually, time loop stories are about some kind of moral awakening, so I was pleased to see this one working on the terms of its central relationship. And the titling structure of this anthology is beginning to make more sense now. “Evie/Joe” was about both characters equally and the development of their relationship; the same is true of “Blair/Gina”. It’s an interesting angle to take, and it’ll be especially intriguing to see how it manifests in next week’s outing, which is about Alpha.
Anyway, it’ll still split the fanbase, and I’d be lying if I said the tone and gimmick really allowed this episode to feel like part of the established Walking Dead universe. But we’ve seen a lot of stuff in that universe – perhaps something a bit new isn’t altogether a bad thing?