Just like the titular foe, “The Walking Dead” has been shambling around with no clear sense of direction or purpose for a while. This latest season was cut neatly in half, which should have helped the focus of the show, but alas the momentum has flagged considerably as the writers try to flesh out their characters. It has always seemed that “The Walking Dead” writers have bitten off more than they could chew, which is a particular problem in this last run of episodes.
The mid-season finale ended with the prison, which served as a home for all of the protagonists, being destroyed. Now all of the major characters have been thrown to the wind in separate little groups, crisscrossing and missing each other by only a few miles. It’s very obvious that before the season is over everyone will have been reunited, which makes me worry that this whole half season will have been pointless. With only two episodes left, the writers are now in a race to make everyone’s journey mean something.
“We can’t pretend anymore”
Thankfully “The Walking Dead” writers add only a few new characters, leaving them more time to delve into the central characters of Rick, Carl, Darryl, and Carol. It is when focusing on these four that the season is at its best. All four of them have had actual character arcs, which cannot be said for the rest of the sprawling ensemble cast. At this point showrunner Scott Gimple would have to kill off all his ensemble cast in a giant zombie attack and start fresh if he wants to create fleshed out characters. Everyone, even the main floor, has been incredibly inconsistent over the last four seasons. Instead of writing interesting character conflicts, every character has been at the whims of that particular episode, which makes it impossible to understand and care for them.
With everyone stranded, and working their way towards a place called Terminus, “The Walking Dead” has gone back to the basics. Everyone just needs to survive. It’s a good starting point to try and rebuild these characters from, but since past seasons have been filled with speech after speech about survival, it feels like “The Walking Dead” is retreading old ground. Unfortunately, this really slows down the pace as well, with each episode being more low-key than the last.
“There are some things you don’t come back from. You either live with them, or you don’t.”
The latest episode, “The Grove” emphasizes everything that is wrong with this season of “The Walking Dead,” but still manages to be a compelling episode. “The Grove” is easily the best episode this season, and is just as good as last season’s highlight “Clear.” Both episodes were self-contained with only a small group of characters, in this case Carol, the two super fucked up kids Lizzie and Mika, and Tyrese. While following the train tracks that will lead them to Terminus, they find a house and stay there for a few days. The episode is dedicated to figuring out what is wrong with the girls, especially the older one Lizzie. She doesn’t see zombies as a threat, merely as people who can be understood. It ends as poorly as you can imagine.
The biggest problem with “The Grove” is that, while not being exceptionally slow, it is still a low-key hour at the end of the season, when things should really be ramping up. Well, mostly low-key. The other major issue with this episode is that the end is very melodramatic in an “Of Mice and Men” kind of way. Other than that however, “The Grove” is a really good episode. The growing psychosis in Lizzie comes to a head, and how that ends does change Carol and Tyrese in a substantial way. They won’t be meeting up with the rest of their friends the same people that they once were.
“Sanctuary for all, community for all, those who arrive survive”
It is damning praise to say that a pretty good episode has been the best of the season, but at least it points to better episodes on the horizon. This season has changed gears considerably as it tries to emphasize all of its many characters, sacrificing momentum and excitement to do so. I appreciate the writers’ commitment to crafting characters, if only they could do it a little quicker.
My Rating: 6.5/10