‘The Walking Dead’ Mid-Season Premiere Discussion And Why The Series Needs To Set An End Date

There were a lot of episodes of Lost like the mid-season premiere of The Walking Dead, where very little happened except that characters basically journeyed from point A to point B. Those episodes, however, had the flashbacks or the flashwords to provide substance, to establish a theme, or illustrate something about the character that provided enough subtext to make the journey’s end-point meaningful. Last night’s episode felt like a failed attempt at that. Michonne’s flashback neither offered anything particularly interesting about her past (except that her old zombie pets were her lover and his best friend), nor did it particularly heighten the episode’s conclusion.

It was a weak mid-season opener, and if the subsequent seven episodes follow a similar pattern — long journeys followed by little mini-reunions — we’re due for a long half season. The problem is, without The Governor — a nemesis with which the camp can rally against — the only foes now are the zombies and isolation. Scott Gimple is going to have a difficult time extracting any drama out of zombie slaying; there’s little we haven’t already seen (although, Michonne’s beheading spree was fantastic). Meanwhile, there’s not a lot of excitement in the isolation, either. The Frank Darabont era of The Walking Dead demonstrated how wearying it can get for the viewer to watch characters walk through forests for half an hour.

The questions that Michonne’s boyfriend, Mike, posed to Michonne during the nightmare sequence are not dissimilar to the questions some of us have about The Walking Dead right now. What is the point? “Does it even matter anymore? Are we just kidding ourselves? What are we going for? Where’s the happy ending here? This isn’t life. This isn’t anything close … What’s the answer here? Why?

Those feel like the very questions the writers room may have come up with while they were breaking the season’s storylines, and I hope that they can find a why to the season, to the series, soon. Because while I certainly can appreciate a good zombie kill, and while I can find a small measure of joy in the GIF of Carl futilely throwing himself against a door, I hope to God there’s more to this season than eight episodes involving the survivors finding each other, and essentially taking us back to square one.

What did we learn from this episode? That Rick didn’t die. That Michonne had a child, and used to take in the arts. That Carl’s “a man,” a man who taunts zombies, who really likes pudding, and — though he is reluctant to admit it — a man who still needs his Dad. Did we need 42 minutes to establish that?

We’re midway through the fourth season of The Walking Dead, and what this show needs more than anything now is an end point. Someone at AMC needs to sit down with Robert Kirkman and say, “Hey! Why don’t we put a finish line on this. Let’s say, seven seasons. That gives you enough time to find a point, and then start steering your characters toward it.” Otherwise, there’s the very real concern that The Walking Dead doesn’t end on its own terms, but because of the viewers’ lack of interest.

Random Observations

— The return of The Governor really was nothing wasn’t it? Did they need to confirm his death? At least the tiny shred of ambiguity gave something to the conspiracy theorists to ponder.

— I understand how difficult it already must be to survive during a zombie apocalypse in Georgia, but just imagine how difficult it might be if they also had to contend with TWO INCHES of snow!

— Rick’s face in this episode looked like hamburger. Not the kind you buy at the meat counter, but the kind you find out behind a dumpster being circled by flies.

— Carl has got a mouth on him now, doesn’t he? Cocky little bastard. Was there really a need to bring up Shane again to Rick? I mean, Jesus. Rick just lost his home, and his daughter, and Carl’s gonna bring up that sore spot? That’s unnecessary piling on.

— “I don’t need you anymore,” Carl says to a sleeping Rick. Still needs acting lessons, though. Good lord, puberty has not brought out any of Chandler Riggs’ dramatic talents. That kid couldn’t sell a line to Mickey Rourke in the 90s.

— Danai Gurira, who plays Michonne, gave EW a rundown of the episode last night, and didn’t offer much insight, except to note that there’s more to the flashback story. I guess, according to the comics, there’s more to Terry (Mike’s friend) than we know right now. My favorite answer of hers, however, was when Dalton Ross asked her going nuts after seeing a zombie that bears some resemblance to Michonne. Dalton asked, “What’s that all about.” Gurira’s snarky response: “Well, what do you think it’s about, Dalton?”

— In his rundown of the episode for EW, Andrew Lincoln said that the Carl/Rick storyline was basically scene-for-scene from the comic. I feel like it probably worked better when you could quickly flip through it. As the meat of a 43 minute episode, however, it ran long.