After last week’s overwritten midseason premiere of The Walking Dead, the series returned this week with one of its stronger installments. “The Lost and the Plunderers” is helmed by longtime The Walking Dead director David Boyd, who was a cinematographer before he was a director (he was the director of photography on Firefly, the first three episodes of Deadwood and most of the first season of Friday Night Lights), and it shows. The episode is well shot, more restrained than usual, and Boyd adds his own flourish, using title cards to introduce each segment of the episode, each of which revolves around a different character.
It is a successful device, but it also serves to remind viewers of how inconsistent the direction is on The Walking Dead. On a show like Better Call Saul, there are occasional flashes of the director’s personality, but the series has a consistent tone, color, and style. The Walking Dead, meanwhile, is always trying something new, based on the director. Some weeks, it’s shot like a slasher film, some weeks like a B-horror movie, and occasionally (and unfortunately) like a Lifetime melodrama. Sometimes — like last week’s episode — it’s a combination of two or more styles.
Boyd — aided by a script from Angela Kang (next season’s new showrunner) keeps things more simple and subtle. In fact, no words are spoken for the first four minutes. There’s also a scene early on where Michonne — still grieving over the death of Carl — is dispatching a crowd of walkers and viewers can sense almost exactly what is she is thinking: That these zombies used to be human beings with families, just like Carl. When a zombie’s skin is separated from its face, there’s a palpable sense of sadness to the moment.