A review of tonight's The Walking Dead coming up just as soon as I put up my feet and eat some pickles…
This show. This show, man.
After a mostly disastrous fall stretch of episodes, and a silly mid-season premiere, it seemed as if The Walking Dead had righted itself and was about to go through one of those creatively fertile periods that inspires me to stick with the show through all the dumb moments. But in the space of two episodes, all my goodwill has vanished again. Last week's episode was a mess on nearly every level, and I spent most of tonight's episode actively rooting for the death of all the characters who had stupidly left the security of Alexandria because the plot needed them to. And on top of that, the lingering whiff of Glenn crawling under the dumpster robbed whatever power that cliffhanger might have had about Daryl getting shot(*), since the show has now conditioned us to not believe anyone is dead unless there is overwhelming on-screen evidence spanning multiple episodes, and maybe not even then.
(*) I do wonder if Dwight's closing line about how Daryl will be alright, which plays after we've already cut to black (following the blood squib hitting the camera lens), was a late addition in response to the dumpster backlash: Gimple, Kirkman, and company realizing that perhaps they needed to stop attempting this particular trick.
For each good thing recent episodes have accomplished, the show has found a way to undermine it through shortcuts and other bad choices that seem to be more about keeping the narrative on track with what happened in the comics than fitting in with what the TV versions of the characters would think or do. Carol transforming from remorseless action hero to a Morgan disciple who cries every time she's forced to kill someone might have worked if the show hadn't rushed it; her running away from Alexandria at this precarious moment doesn't fit with any version of the woman we've been watching for years. And other characters – including the majority of the best fighters – roar out of the gates at a moment's notice, even though, thanks to Dwight (who has healed amazingly quickly from the injury he suffered in an episode set only a day before this one), everyone is aware that the Saviors not only continue to exist, but know exactly where Alexandria is. One character going out into the world when the odds are very high that the Saviors are nearby, probably lying in wait for one of them to be stupid enough to do exactly this, is a credibility stretch. That half the main cast does it? That's just a show that really needs to have people tied up and delivered to Negan, and doesn't particularly care how it happens. The Saviors themselves are either wildly incompetent or incredibly dangerous, depending on the needs of the plot; ditto how they're alternately presented as leering sociopaths and cold pragmatists. (It's hard to imagine Dwight and Paula being part of the same group.) And what little I know of Negan himself makes me less interested in seeing what comes next, not more.
When I'm at a point with a show where all I can see are the narrative strings being pulled by the creative team, and where my view of the characters is so wildly different from that of the writers (who, for instance, can't allow Rick to ever be wrong about anything, even though he's often clearly an idiot), then it's pretty much time to stop watching. Every TV show is a relationship, and this one feels poisoned beyond repair for me. I'll stick with it through next week's season finale just for the sake of completism, but barring a whole bunch of creative miracles, I think I'll be happier walking away after that. The show's still an enormous hit; it sure doesn't need me.
What did everybody else think?
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at email@example.com