A review of tonight’s “The Walking Dead” coming up just as soon as we get a show of hands…
I try not to talk about “The Walking Dead” comics all that much in these reviews. As I say in the usual spoiler disclaimer below, the goal here is to treat the TV show as a TV show, rather than getting into a constant loop of compare-and-contrast with what Robert Kirkman did on his own. But I will say that I stopped reading the comic not long after it introduced the character that TV audiences got to meet tonight – mainly so I can also say that I may ultimately have a different reaction to this version of the Governor than I did on the page.
Glen Mazzara, Kirkman and company have made plenty of changes to the story and characterizations from the comics, and they’ll continue to do so. But beyond that, the show has the advantage of whatever the actors bring to these characters. Andrew Lincoln as Rick is, to me, more compelling than the Rick of the comics to this point, and our first glimpse of David Morrissey as the Governor suggests this may be a more complicated character than the one who was the tipping point for my desire to stop reading.
I knew going in that Andrea’s host was a bad guy(*), and the idea that he’s working with Merle – whom we last saw in a non-dream state as a hateful redneck lunatic – is a trouble sign. At the same time, you can see the appeal of Woodbury to Andrea, and to the other residents we’ve met so far, and you can understand why the locals look to the Governor as a leader. Nuance in a villain is always welcome, particularly as we’re first getting to know him. As written, and as played by Morrissey, this is a guy I’m interested to watch, and one who was able to carry an episode that didn’t once feature a glimpse of Rick, Lori and the rest of the gang at the prison. (Fair play, I guess, after Andrea and her friend were MIA last week.)
(*) Though I’m curious how early on the non-comics readers tumbled to his true nature. Was it simply the association with Merle? When we saw him keeping the samurai sword on his bookshelf? The revelation of the secret lab? All the whispered conversations we didn’t hear? Or was it not until he and his men ambushed the National Guards unit?
For that matter, good on the writers for dramatically reshaping Merle, under the guise of the Governor forcing him to calm the hell down or take a hike. Michael Rooker is among the better actors to appear on the show to date, but even he couldn’t do anything with the character he had to play back in season 1. This is a character who’s still very obviously dangerous, but no longer an overheated caricature, and he provides a nice contrast to Dallas Roberts (late of AMC’s “Rubicon”) as the Governor’s tea-brewing scientist pal.
My one major issue with “Walk With Me” has to do with Andrea’s traveling companion Michonne. The time jump forward between seasons was tremendously helpful in showing the evolution of Rick’s group, but only because we knew who they were and what they were like when last we saw them months earlier. The contrast in seeing how well the group works together, in seeing Carol become more assertive, Carl treated as more than just a kid, etc., was possible because they aren’t strangers. We met Andrea’s friend for a half-second or so in the season 2 finale, but we’re basically starting from scratch here with her and with this friendship. Andrea talking about what a mystery her friend has been all these months covers for some of that, but it still feels like important information is missing from us – or, at least, from those who haven’t read the comics (assuming she’ll be written close to how she was there going forward). Her suspicions about the Governor are less useful given how little we know about her coming into this episode.
But overall, “Walk With Me” was another tense, solid outing for what, in the early stages, is shaping up to be the most consistent season so far.
Once again, let me remind you again of this blog’s No Spoiler rule and how it applies to this show, as I’ve had to delete a bunch of comments the last few weeks that violated it. Basic things to remember before commenting:
1. No talking about the previews for the next episode.
2. No talking about anything else you know about upcoming episodes from other sources – and, yes, that includes anything Mazzara and Kirkman have said in interviews.
3. No talking about anything that’s happened in the comic that hasn’t happened in the TV show yet. As with “Game of Thrones,” the goal is to treat “The Walking Dead” TV show as exactly that, and not as an excuse for endless comparisons with the comics. If you want to talk about the comics, feel free to start up a discussion thread on our message boards.
With that in mind, what did everybody else think?
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org