Spoilers, per usual.
This really strange dude who lived in my freshman dorm was fond of rolling up and saying to people, apropos of nothing, “100% of smokers die,” as he pulled hard on a smoke. Zombie stories are pretty much this statement, only with everyone, and real soon. It’s a numbers game, and we’re all redshirts.
In terms of narrative, this long, slow dirge for humanity is going to be hard to pull off long term, which makes Kirkman’s continuing comics (which I have not followed, past the prison sequence) such an interesting exercise I can see how it might fall into holes, playing out Rick’s creation of new community, and then that community’s eventual demise like an episode with the A-Team where they roll into town and sort out the bad from the good and then roll on. Continued existence is going to boil down to soap mechanics, or action movie mechanics, and this episode does both in a way I found pretty satisfying.
“Hounded” covers a lot of ground, running at least three plotlines, maybe four if you consider the stuff in the prison as separate arcs. Most of this was taunt, almost understated stuff, although maybe understated is just in comparison to the usual histrionics. It opens with Merle and a bunch of redder shirts than usual hunting Michonne through the usual Georgia underbrush, and while the zombie cryptoquip was maybe lame, the sequence let Michonne be the badass she is. Everything Merle did was telegraphed 15 minutes before it happened, sure, but beheadings are always fun to watch.
Andrea continues to be terribly blonde, and while I’m not surprised by her falling into bed with the Governor – call me Phillip – in this incarnation, I’m not exactly happy about it. On the one hand, I like her admission that she likes the zombie fights, that she understands them. Things like the zombie fights are usually run to make us, the viewer, understand that the people involved are without morals or reason, so we can write them off and revel in their deaths. When someone like Andrea, who is, admittedly, still seriously blonde, can admit she likes the catharsis and action of the fights, it kinda validates all of our morbid rubbernecking from the couch. On the other hand, quit being so damn blonde. I say this as a blonde, so, you know, I’m not being racist.
And Rick, ah, man. Here’s where the mortality issue comes in. We’re going to be dealing with character death for episode upon episode – 100% of Rickocrats are going to die, it’s just a matter of time scale. But this is the really shitty thing about death: they don’t all matter the same way. When Rick lost Lori, man, that was a mind job. You pretty much know he has to be bananas when he’s on that phone, his series of stark, honest confessions about what he’s done and why, but the writers play it pretty close. I kept watching that walker he shot and then gut-stabbed last episode like it was going to heave up and come for him, but it never did. Death is final in the end, it’s 100%, and the acting out of Rick’s grief was just right.
And Daryl, my God, his strange eulogy for his mother while he hunts through the prison for leftover walkers was just poetry, even if Carl’s “I shot my mom” felt accidentally funny. (Sorry Carl.) And Daryl’s realization that it must be Carol’s corpse banging the door in the closet was wrenching, even if I was pretty sure she was alive. (Seriously, why did they dig a grave for her last week if there was no body? Whatever, tv does as it will do.) But her being alive is a small bright moment against the horrible, inevitable statistics of this show, one I will take, given the end.
Because here’s where the soap mechanics come in: in all the shitty Georgia strip-malls, Merle’s gonna stumble on Glenn and Maggie in this one? Okay. I mean, sure, we’ve set up our antagonists, and we have to get them in conflict in some way or another, and this is it. I’m kinda dreading next week, based on some stuff I know from the comics, but maybe Kirkman & writers will avoid the mess they made there. Fingers crossed. Here’s hoping against the statistics.