Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The Walking Dead Season 6, Episode 14: Twice As Far

Sigh... it's an old, old song I've sung many times before. After three or four  very strong and action-filled episodes, The Walking Dead follows them up with slow-moving filler and side quests as it waits around for the season finale.

I'm getting really tired of TV series that are written around their mid season breaks. It reminds me of the way comic books are written these days. 

Way back in the before time, comic book writers let their stories dictate their length. Short stories were told in one issue. Longer stories were told over the course of three or four issues. The world made sense.

But a few years ago things began to change. Comic publishers started reprinting stories in trade paperbacks. It was decided at some point that five issues was the perfect length for one of these trades. Overnight, comic writers began "writing for the trade," stretching and padding their stories into five issues, whether there was enough content or not, just so they could fit into the trade paperback format.

And that's exactly what's happening on The Walking Dead, and all serialized TV shows in general. They're being "written for the trade." Storylines are now designed so there're two finales one in the middle of the season, and one at the end, whether it flows naturally or not. Never mind if there's not enough story to fill the episodes prior to the finales. Just stretch and pad what content you have until it fits!

Twice As Far is definitely a result of this padding. Yes, a character dies, but other than that nothing much of interest happens, the storyline isn't furthered in any significant way, and it's obvious this is filler episode, one you could probably skip if you're binge-watching. Feh! 

MASSIVE SPOILERS FROM HERE ON! YOU'VE BEEN WARNED!

The Plot:
Exciting things are happening in Alexandria. Olivia organizes the food inventory. Carol sits on her porch, brooding over her crucifix. Morgan finishes building his jail cell. Exciting! 

Rick asks Morgan what the hell he's doing. He says he built the cell so Rick would have a place to incarcerate any future murderous psychopaths, instead of killing them. Based on the size of the cell, Morgan must not expect to ever house more than one prisoner at a time.

Dr. Denise Cloyd tells Rosita and Daryl about an apothecary she found on a map. She says it may not have been looted, and could be filled with badly needed medicine. She insists on going with them. They reluctantly agree to take her along. They drive for a while until they encounter a fallen tree in the road, and walk the rest of the way. They find the apothecary and enter.

Elsewhere, Abraham and Eugene investigate an abandoned foundry. Eugene says bullets have become a precious commodity, and he believes he can make new ones. A walker approaches and Eugene insists on killing it himself, to prove he's adapted to the world or something. He fumbles with the zombie a while until Abraham steps in and kills it. Eugene throws a tantrum, and Abraham tells him he's on his own and leaves, proving both these grown men are really six years old.

Meanwhile at the apothecary, the group hits the jackpot as they find it stocked full of drugs. As Daryl and Rosita pack up the supplies, Dr. Cloyd finds a keychain labeled "Dennis." She wanders into the back room, finding an immobile walker and the remains of a dead baby in a bloody sink. Or at least I think that's what she sees. Honestly it's hard to tell. Whatever she sees freaks her out and she runs outside. Rosita says they tried to tell her she wasn't ready for life outside the walls.

As they walk back to the truck, Daryl sees the keychain and asks Dr. Cloyd about her late twin brother Dennis. She says he had a dangerous combination of fearlessness and anger. Daryl says he sounds like his own brother. Denise sees a cooler in a walker-filled car and for some reason decides it must be full of unimaginable treasure, and has to have it. She opens the door, grabs the cooler, and somehow ends up with the walker on top of her. Rosita moves in to kill it, but Denise finally gets the upper hand and stabs it in the head, I guess to prove she could do it.

She opens the cooler and finds it's full of sodas. Rosita says she's stupid for risking her life like that. Denise starts ranting about how Daryl and Rosita are stronger than she'll ever be or something, as an arrow suddenly goes through the back of her head and out her eye. Yikes!

Several Saviors then appear, with Eugene as their hostage. The leader of this group of Saviors is Dwight, the skinny guy who stole Daryl's crossbow and motorcycle several episodes back. A lot's apparently happened to Dwight since then, as the entire left side of his face is now horribly scarred. Looks like Negan wasn't pleased that he ran off.

Daryl recognizes Dwight and says he should have killed him when he had the chance. Dwight agrees, and orders Daryl to take them back to Alexandria, or he'll start killing them. A terrified Eugene sees Abraham skulking nearby, behind some oil barrels. He creates a distraction by calling out Abraham's presence, then bites Dwight in the crotch. Abraham fires on the Saviors, as Daryl and Rosita kill several more and take their guns. The gunfire attracts a group of walkers, and Dwight, who's managed to free himself from Eugene's jaws, orders a retreat. Daryl gets his crossbow back. He starts to chase the Saviors, but Rosita calls him off, as Eugene's been shot.

Cut to Eugene waking up in the Alexandria infirmary. He tells Abraham he wasn't selling him out, just creating an opening. Abraham apologizes for doubting Eugene's survival skills. Abraham then goes to Sasha's house and says life's too short in this world, and she invites him inside. Daryl buries Dr. Cloyd as Carol watches, looking thoughtful.

The next day Tobin finds a letter from Carol explaining she's leaving because "she can't love anyone because she can't kill for anyone," whatever the hell that means. She says not to come looking for her, advice that will no doubt be ignored next week.

ONE LAST SPOILER WARNING! I'M NOT KIDDING! PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK!

Thoughts:
• Wow, this week we get a rare Rosita-centric episode. Actually I think this is the first ever episode to give her more than a couple of lines. She was a fairly major character for years in the comic, and has been criminally underused on the show ever since she was introduced.

Of course this sudden spotlight on her all but guarantees she'll likely die in the season finale...

• Morgan finishes building his jail cell, and given the amount of screen time it's received, it's sure to become an important set in seasons to come.

Oddly enough, the cell door features a working lock. How the hell'd Morgan manage to construct that? A couple weeks ago we saw him welding bars together, which is perfectly within the realm of possibility. But a lock? I don't see how he could make something like that by himself, and I doubt there are many jail supply stores around the Alexandria area.

• During their little spat, Eugene tells Abraham he had full control of the situation. Abraham scoffs at him, saying, "You'd have better luck picking up a turd by the clean end!" 

Oh, Abraham. I'm going to miss you after Negan kills you.

• Speaking of Abraham and Eugene, here's a small sampling of the sparkling repartee in their big scene:
Abraham: You about ready to spill the pintos on what the hell it is we're doing here? 
Eugene: We're gonna manufacture bullets here. I've been chewing the cud on this for a few days now. The Hilltop's dry, our supply's finite. So not only are bullets vital for defense, but per the law of supply and demand, a full cartridge is now the coin of the land. 
Abraham: Making bullets from scratch. 
Eugene: Spent casings, but the innards are all us. And by us, I mean me. 
Abraham: And you think you can do that... here? With just this? 
Eugene: Well, the digs will require a thorough scrubbing. We'll have to scare up a hella ton of lead, but, yes. I most definitely almost certainly think I can do that here. 
Abraham: That, my friend, is some damn fine genuine outside-the-box thinking
OK, their semi-formal, faux witty dialogue is kind of amusing, but… no human being talks that way. They sound like aliens who've just assumed human form, who think that's how people actually talk and are trying to fit in. 

• So Daryl has no problem with the gears on a motorcycle, but can't get the hang of a stick-shift truck?

• On their mission, Daryl, Rosita and Dr. Cloyd find a tree in the middle of the road and are forced to walk the rest of the way. Rosita wants to take a shortcut along a set of railroad tracks that go through the woods. Daryl says, "Go whichever way you want. I ain't takin' no tracks." 

Who could blame him after the events of Season 5 ? I'd be leery of tracks too after the whole Terminus incident.

• As soon as Dr. Cloyd started talking about her alcoholic parents and her twin brother Dennis, I knew she this was her last show. It's the old Walking Dead Backstory Curse, which states that the minute the show starts to flesh out an underdeveloped character, they're doomed to die. They haven't used it much the past couple of seasons, but it was in full effect in this episode.

• Dr. Cloyd gets a surprise arrow through the eye as she's ranting about something to Daryl and Rosita. She even tries to finish her sentence ("wake… up") before collapsing! 

For some reason I don't quite understand, the writers altered this scene from the way it happened in the comic. See, in the comic, Abraham and Eugene went out on a scouting mission and discovered a foundry that could be used to manufacture bullets, just like they did in this episode. On the way home, Abraham gets shot in the head with an arrow by the Saviors, right before they attacked Alexandria.

I'm not sure why the show changed this incident, but I assume it's because they've got something bigger planned for Abraham (like a meeting with Negan). 

• Don't feel too bad for Dr. Cloyd. Even if she hadn't died here, she was still doomed. In the comic she was bitten on the arm by a walker, but refused treatment so she could save the life of her boyfriend Heath (she wasn't gay in the comic). She died of her injury shortly afterward and was put down by Michonne before she could reanimate.

• One last thing about Dr. Cloyd's death. A couple of years ago, Walking Dead fans complained that the series was killing off all its black characters, as it was seemingly only allowed one person of color at a time.

With Dr. Cloyd's death, people are actually complaining that the series is similarly killing off all its gay characters. 

Jesus Jetskiing Christ! Don't people have enough problems without deliberately looking for new things to fuel their outrage?

I guess all these complainers conveniently forgot that Tara's still on the show. And Aaron. And Eric. Gay characters, one and all. And if the show follows the comic, the recently introduced Jesus is gay as well. By my count that makes at least four gay characters left. So why all the outrage? Does belonging to a minority group mean a character should be shrouded in walker-proof armor?

• A few episodes ago in Knots Untie we met Dr. Carson, an obstetrician who lived in the Hilltop colony. The episode took great pains to awkwardly introduce him to the audience, only for him to disappear immediately afterward.

Welp, now we know why they went to all that trouble. Alexandria's one and only doctor was just killed off, so Maggie will need an obstetrician. She'll now have to travel to the Hilltop, and will likely end up staying there and becoming their new leader— just like in the comic.

• Immediately after Dr. Cloyd is killed, Dwight and a group of Saviors surround Daryl and Rosita. We've seen Dwight before— he had a run- in with Daryl back in Always Accountable in which he captured him and appropriated all his gear.

Dwight's gained a nasty looking burn scar since we last saw him, no doubt a sample of Negan's brutal form of punishment. His scar looks much less gruesome here than it does in the comic, which is disappointing. 

In the comic it appears his left eyelid is gone, so he's constantly squirting Visine into his eye to keep it from drying out. I'm betting that simulating a lidless eye would involve some green screen and CGI and would probably cost too much on a weekly basis. So instead we get Medium Rare Dwight instead of Well Done Dwight.

• Dwight tells Daryl he hasn't quite gotten the hang of his stolen crossbow yet, because it "kicks like a bitch." Is that true? Do crossbows really kick? I've never shot one, but I've shot a bow before, and I don't remember there ever being a noticeable kick to it.

• Dwight implies that the Saviors know where Alexandria is. I'm assuming they've just now learned of its location (from a certain person at the Hilltop), or else they'd have invaded long before now.

• Eugene, who's being held hostage by the Saviors, saves the day when he leans over and bites Dwight hard, right on the dick. It seems iffy that he'd be able to clamp his teeth onto anything through Dwight's denim jeans, but I'll give the show this one.

• This episode marks the FOURTH time someone from Rick's crew has murder-death-killed a group of Saviors. If the writers are trying to play up the Saviors as a threat, this is not the way to go about it. At this point they look about as dangerous as the Little Rascals. I'm sure that'll all change once Negan finally shows up in the season finale, but still.

The Saviors are bad news, there's no doubt about that. But at this point they've only managed to kill one of Rick's people, while his crew has killed thirty or forty of Negan's. At this point when Negan finally appears and starts killing Alexandrians, it's almost going to look justified.

• Back in Alexandria we see Sasha on a guard tower, standing watch over Alexandria. Given the fact that Dr. Cloyd just got a surprise arrow through her eye, is it really a good idea for Sasha to be standing there all exposed like that? Shouldn't they have some sort of shield to peer through?

• At the end of the episode, Carol decides she can't stay in Alexandria another minute and has to go on walkabout or something to do some half-baked soul searching. Yawn. The old "I Can't Stay/Don't Come Looking For Me" subplot. How many times have we seen that before?

Carol's leaving seems less like character development here and more like the writers trying to figure out something for her to do. And are they having her leave again so she can play Calvary and rescue everyone again, like she did at Terminus?

3 comments:

  1. As a gay man myself, I have no problems that some gay characters bite the dust.
    However, this time it was a bit much since:
    A: Tara has already lost one lover - cut her some slack!
    B: It is a known trope that lesbians for some reason have to be "punished" in tv-shows, and if they don't get killed, they turn evil. And usually get killed anyway. So with Denise I kinda see the problem.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for the comment!

    I completely forgot about Tara's first girlfriend. She was one of the Governor's people in Season 3 or 4, right?

    I guess I don't watch enough live TV these days, because I didn't know the "Kill All The Lesbians" trope was a thing. I will take your word for it.

    Personally I didn't see Denise's death as fulfilling a trope, but the writers' clunky and obvious way to get rid of Alexandria's only doctor, which forced the entire cast to have to get Maggie to the OBGYN at the Hilltop, so they could all get captured by Negan and set up the season finale.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Yes, she was.

    There are blogs upon blogs about The Evil and/or Dead Lesbian on TV out there. And now this show has had BOTH tropes, affecting the same character, nonetheless!

    As I said, even as a gay guy I don't mind gays getting offed, but SOME things make you stop and wonder.

    Now, I know that the author of the comic is not a homophobe and I definitely don't think the series' creators are either, but I do think that sometimes these things pop in unconsciously.

    ReplyDelete

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