I know that this is probably the wrong reaction to last week’s episode, When the Dead Come Walking, but pretty much all I want to do is ship for Daryl and Carol. I mean, their names even rhyme, and I’m sure without much workshopping, we could come up with a cute name like Bennifer or Brangelina. D’Caryl? ….aaaand a quick search of the Intertubes offers up Caryl, complete with tumblrs, twitter handles, and unbelievably adorable fan art. Holy hannah, but do I love the Intertubes.
Carol’s come a long way from her incarnation in the comics, or even from last season, where she was a dishrag in both incarnations. I can’t rightly remember if she had a daughter in the comics, but mostly last season she got to be distraught mom. But she, like Maggie, has done some amazing work this season, and it’s possible that it’s more the actress than the writing (like Maggie.) The actress who plays Maggie has this big expressive face, all eye-whites and teeth, and her reaction shots absolutely anchor scenes like Rick finding out about Lori’s death or Glenn’s torture. The actress who plays Carol plays it smaller, with more flicks of the eyes and sly humor, but she also just nails the small moments: a look passed to Daryl (♥♥♥♥) before he sets out, the wordless understanding that passes between her and Rick when she meets Asskicker/Judith without her mom. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Walking Dead does so much better when characters don’t talk, but honestly, this is still pretty much up to the actor to bring it.
Which brings me to Michonne. I’m sorry I’ve been doing this so much this season, and I will throw in my hedging that comic and show have diverged so much that nothing I say about the comic could ever be a spoiler for the show, but I’m really bumming that two of my favorites from the comic, Michonne and Andrea, have become so shabby in the show. Andrea was a cold sniper in the comics, competent and hard-edged, and watching her blonde it up so bad with the Governor just depresses me. Michonne…I don’t even want to say this too loudly, but I’m thinking the actress just isn’t up to the task, short of some good physicality when it comes to fight scenes like the one that opens the show. Maybe that scene where she’s interrogated by Rick and Daryl is badly written, maybe not, but comics Michonne was a ton more sly than the bald-faced glowering that went on there, especially considering the smart reaction shot that had her observing the Rickocrats quiet emotional upheaval of Carol’s survival and her revelation of Lori’s death. We should have had moments of quiet and humanity from Michonne at any point to date, but we don’t have much more than nostril-flaring and hard stares.
I am not, nor have I ever been, much of a fan of torture sequences – it’s all so much Sun Tzu by way of 9/11 – and given the whole descent into feudalism we’ve got going on, it feels a little cheap. Which is not to say that Glenn didn’t bring it big time – Merle’s assessment that he’s the sneaky one is pretty right on, pulling out a can of whup ass when Merle unleashes a walker on him. But godamn it, rape. Shows like Walking Dead do not have the nuance to be able to pull off the Governor’s sexual assault of Maggie – and that was sexual assault, right down to his gross “comforting” of her – even while I admire the way the actress played some very tricky scenes. I get the whole “things worse than death” they’re trying to pull, but action-driven horror shows that are fundamentally about how two white men manage leadership should not fuck around with rape. You guys can’t handle the truth; don’t even try.
So, what else? Oh, the the sequence where they find the cabin-bound dead-dog dude was almost funny to me, because if this had been last season, we would have spent several long episodes getting to know dead dog dude, but here it was in the house, stand off, run through, out to the porch to be eaten by walkers. Why doesn’t he seem to know about walkers? Why does he ask for a badge? Whatever! Moving on! Merle’s racist stuff about T-Dog was also inadvertently funny: remember that dude who once had a line? Aww. I don’t know what to think about how dumb mad scientist dude is about his colon cancer friend, but it was nice to see Andrea not be a total waste. I still want to punch Andrea though. I think that’s probably it for incidentals.
This episode is obviously very much setting up the mid-season finale, moving the players from one place to the next for their inevitable conflict. The writers are also obviously playing hide the football with Merle and Daryl, and let’s hope they don’t fumble that meeting. This whole season for me has been met and often exceeded expectations for me, cut with horrible anticipation about how badly the writers might blow it. Which on some level is a pretty great metaphor for life with the walking dead.