The Walking Dead: “Bloodletting”
As most couples do from time to time, we found ourselves bickering while parked in front of the TV last night. Lorenzo was sniping at the screen throughout this episode, causing Tom to ask -during a commercial break, mind you – just what the hell his problem was. “It’s too SLOW,” was the response.
“There’s a kid dying!” said Tom. “Should they just skip over that?”
“No, but do they have to stand around and talk about it non-stop?”
“WHAT ARE THEY SUPPOSED TO TALK ABOUT? THE WORLD SERIES?”
But Lorenzo is not without a point. There seems to be a definite slowing down this season, with two episodes in a row where a decision gets made or a single event happens, and the rest of the episode revolves around the fallout. Last week we spent an entire hour basically searching for the missing Sophia and this week we spent the entire hour dealing with Carl’s medical crisis. Tom’s point was that a kid suffering from a serious gunshot wound being treated without benefit of anything remotely close to a modern medical facility should be enough story for most of the hour, but even he had to admit that things got awfully talky there for a good while once the kid passed out. We were quite happy not to have to deal with a child shrieking in mortal pain for the entire episode but how many times did people have to talk Rick out of leaving his bedside? And why the hell did he have to be talked out of it at all? Carl gets shot and everyone has to talk his father out of leaving him?
We suppose this somehow illustrates what Lori was complaining about in the flashback sequence that opened this episode, where she complained about Rick’s infuriating habit of trying to be a good guy all the time. He’s always trying so hard to be heroic and do the right thing that his ability to connect with his family on a deep level is compromised. Okay, fine. We’re happy to get that pseudo explanation because it helps keep Lori from looking too much like a bitch when she complains, but how much does anyone really want to see Lori and Rick’s marriage explored? Yes, the very best horror stories give you characters with whom you can identify because they have recognizable problems and personalities, but we’re not sure the audience wants or needs this much sitting around and talking.
The only decent thing that came out of all this talking was the continuing rehabilitation of Shane’s character. It seems someone on the writing staff realized they’d come awfully close to painting the character into a corner, what with the drunken sexual assault on Lori last season. It was time for someone besides Rick to be the hero of the group and Shane stepped up, proving that, no matter what else he may have done, he has always been a willing protector of Rick’s family, as much as Rick himself is.
But we would have thought such a radical change in venue and the near-doubling of the cast would have made this episode more interesting. Hershel the kindly vet got a pretty decent introduction, but everyone else on that farm was essentially a face in the background for most of the episode. We’ve been following the same characters since the beginning of this story and we would have liked for such a large infusion of new blood (you’ll pardon the term) to receive a little more screen time and attention. Instead, it’s the Rick-Shane-Lori story center stage yet again.
And sure, there was a lot happening and people had a lot on their minds, but the question of how these people seem to be able to live fairly peacefully in the middle of all this madness needs to be asked and explained for the viewer. This world has been firmly established as one where you can’t just hang out on the porch and chat about your day, but somehow, Hershel’s farm is magic. A little less talking about the Grimes marriage and a little more world-building is called for here.
Still, we got a pretty breathless set piece with Shane and Carl’s shooter making a heroic medical supply run to a former FEMA shelter overrun with walkers. The action was a nice break from all the dialogue, that’s for sure. But it’s not really the lack of action that made us so itchy in our seats last night. It was the lack of story movement. We were prepared for a lot of setting the stage and laying down of character arcs when the season opened, but once a kid gets shot, we expect the story to move. Especially with another kid missing. This was rather starkly illustrated by having Carol, in a relatively calm and cogent manner, stop and have a discussion in the middle of the woods about how she doesn’t want her daughter to wind up like Andrea’s sister Amy. From a writing standpoint, did this really need to happen? Doesn’t that go without saying?
The only interesting conversation was the one between T-Dog and Dale, where the former makes the somewhat metatextual observation that he’s the black guy in a horror movie, which is historically not a great thing to be. Our first thought was, “Oh shit, they’re not going to turn the only African-American character into the Angry Black Guy, are they?” But we have to admit, as paranoid and fever-induced as his ravings may have been, he had a point. You could argue that racial distinctions don’t exist anymore in a post-apocalyptic scenario, but tell that to the only black guy in a group who collectively put their fate in the hands of a couple of small town southern sheriffs and a redneck who blames him for his brother’s death. He’s got a point. He’s also got a point wondering what they were all doing hanging out on that highway for days at a time like sitting ducks. Sure, there were extenuating circumstances, with one kid missing and one kid shot, but it’s nice to see the writers realize, briefly, that Shane, Rick, and Lori shouldn’t be driving all the action, and if they do, then other people in the group are going to start wondering why they put up with it.
Since Carl’s clearly not out of the woods yet and Shane is stuck in a FEMA shelter with a bunch of hungry zombies, it’s safe to say the Grimes family + One are going to remain at the center of the story for the next episode, but we really hope with the introduction of the farm and a set of new characters that we get to settle down for a little bit and explore some of the other drama and relationships in the group.
In other words, we’re okay with people standing around and talking, but we’d rather it not always be the same people doing all the talking. It’s time for Rick, Shane, and Lori to stop sucking up all the oxygen in the story.
[Photo Credit: AMC]