The Walking Dead is back for its mid-season premiere, and sadly, I did not like this episode nearly as much as the last few before the break. It was slow, plodding, and unconvincing.
My biggest objection was with Merle and Daryl’s fight to the death. Before the break, the Dixon brothers were put in a tough spot, facing off against each other in a fighting pit, with angry residents of Woodbury (and some harnessed zombies) thirsting for blood just on the outskirts of the pit. It looked like the brothers might have to make some tough choices, and it seemed like one or both of them might not make it out of the fight in one piece. Instead, though, after exchanging a couple of rabbit punches, Rick and Maggie appear deus ex machina style, toss a smoke grenade, shoot a couple of people with their assault rifles, and liberate the Dixon’s without much of a fight. This was a cheap way to weasel two important characters out of a nearly impossible situation. Am I supposed to believe that the Governor and his people, after already being attacked once on the same night, would be lax enough to let two people sneak up close enough to a gathering, open fire, and cause enough mayhem to free two prisoners? The Governor and his henchmen have so far seemed much more ruthless can capable, so I don’t see how they could have been so careless. On top of that, the entire situation was resolved so quickly, in the first five minutes of the episode I think, that it sucked out a major point of tension that could have been used to keep the rest of this rather boring episode interesting. Finally, the scene itself just looked cheap and unconvincing. The extras running around in the background looked like they were strolling rather than running for their life in a hail of gunfire, and I just don’t see how Maggie and Rick, who were taking cover in the same location, rather than splitting up and attacking from two different directions, could have caused enough chaos to allow Merle and Daryl to escape. There was smoke everywhere, how did the Dixons even know which direction to run in?
The rest of the episode was a lot of talk that didn’t really amount to much, though I have to say I am (surprisingly) enjoying Herschel’s transformation from helpless old fool to wise sage and advice giver. His scenes with Tyreese, and then Maggie and Glenn were really good, and the scene with Glenn was particularly touching. Andrea, on the other hand, remains with the Governor, though it’s clear that she’s not trusting him all that much after learning that Glenn and Maggie were held captive without her knowledge. While the Governor seems solely focused on revenge, she tries to rally the remaining citizens of Woodbury with a with a speech about sticking together that I found rather unconvincing. Maybe it was just her delivery. But speaking of revenge, didn’t the Governor send a group of his lackeys over to the prison to attack it just before the ambush? Or did those guys never get a chance to leave? An assault on the prison, just as Rick’s mental health and leadership seems to be totally crumbling, would make for an interesting second episode, though I won’t hold my breath. The Walking Dead seems to have just as many downs as it has ups, and this episode ranked as a down in my book.