A review of tonight's The Walking Dead coming up just as soon as dibs is dibs…
After several strong episodes in a row, The Walking Dead gives us a real head-scratcher in “Twice as Far.” It was at once a simple downtime episode focusing on a small subset of the cast, and one that ultimately tried to accomplish more than it seemed to know how to pull off in an hour. It ultimately felt either like two or three different script ideas wedged into the same episode, or like a very early rough cut that somehow made it to air before some badly-needed work to bring focus and depth to almost any of it.
You can see the basic parallel structure that must have made sense at the planning stage: take two of the show's less violence-capable characters in Denise and Eugene, send them off on separate road trips where they try to prove their mettle, and only allow one to return to Alexandria alive, all while their adventure convinces Carol – once the deadliest and least remorseful character of them all – that it's time to leave Alexandria before she's forced to kill again.
But very little of it was set up properly – the episode spent a lot of time, for instance, preparing us for Denise's journey with Daryl and Rosita(*), and just plopped us into the middle of Eugene's with Abraham – and the editing was odd. (TWD can get away with being artier at times – think of many of the visual choices in “The Grove” – but they usually fit in with the overall tone of the hour; this was more like someone playing with Instagram filters on photos that weren't in need of it.)
(*) The series may be at a “damned if you do, damned if you don't” point with Rosita, who's been around for more than two seasons now and barely exists as a character at all. Trying to give her backstory and motivations at this late date seems commendable (and they didn't kill her immediately after doing so, as we've seen happen in the past to the likes of T-Dog and Axel, or as happens to an extent with Denise here), but it also calls attention to how long she's been a blank canvas.
And Denise's speech was so loaded with new backstory and motivation about herself and her previously-unseen friendships with Rosita and Daryl that the only shocking way to end that scene would have been for her not to get killed in the middle of it. It played as a clumsy parody of that particular trope.
Worse, after last week's episode spent so much time establishing the Saviors as something other than cartoonish retreads of TWD villains past, the late appearance by Dwight (now scarred and much more vicious than when Daryl first met him) immediately undid all that good will – and, as with the crew that Daryl blew up real good in the mid-season premiere, this bunch proved to be wildly incompetent on top of being leeringly evil. With the element of surprise and manpower, they still somehow got embarrassed because Eugene knew when and where to bite Dwight?
And, of course, all of this was primarily used to set up Carol's jarring decision to leave her loved ones behind in a moment when they would most need her, all because she has been thoroughly converted over to Morgan's side of the argument. It's bizarre. Not only has the show done an iffy job at best of depicting her transformation, but Dwight's role in the episode is another reminder that Walking Dead itself thinks Morgan is a nincompoop for believing this, which by extension makes Carol dumb as well. And to squeeze the entirety of her relationship with Tobin into about 90 seconds total? What was the point of doing that in the first place?
Yeah, this was a weird one, folks. Hopefully, the Saviors are less annoying in the next go-around, and hopefully Rosita has absorbed enough fifth-hand medical knowledge through Denise that Alexandria can survive being doctor-less again.
Before we go to the comments, it's time once again to explain how this blog's No Spoiler rule applies to this show:
1. No talking about anything else you know about upcoming episodes from other sources – and, yes, that includes anything Gimple and Kirkman have said in interviews.
2. No talking about anything that's happened in the comic that hasn't happened in the TV show yet. (Or anything that's been revealed, like character backstory and motivation.) 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.
What did everybody else think?
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org