Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Walking Dead Season 6, Episode 13: The Same Boat

After several fast-paced, event-filled episodes, this week's The Walking Dead was a filler episode in comparison, as the show kills time waiting for Negan's inevitable arrival. That said, it was a darned good filler episode, bordering on great. In fact for once I don't have any major criticisms or nitpicks. I said major!

Once again the line between who's good and who's bad is blurred to the point where it's hard to tell. The series has dealt with this pretty much since the beginning, as Rick and his crew have committed an ever-escalating series of violent acts in order to survive. But the show's really pushing them this season, further than it ever has before. I'm not sure that giving us "heroes" who are indistinguishable from the villains is a good idea. For one thing it makes it hard to root for the "heroes." Plus at this point, Rick's done so much damage to Negan's people, that the brutal payback that's coming will seem almost justified.

For some reason the writers have decided to give Carol, arguably the most bad-ass character on the show, a new-found reluctance to kill. I don't find this development all that interesting, plus it seemingly came out of nowhere.

A few episodes ago in No Way Out, she shot the Wolf in the head without flinching. Now she's seemingly adopted Morgan's "Peace, Love And Other Bullsh*t" pacifist philosophy, as she broods over her "Kill Journal." Where'd this new attitude come from? I wouldn't have as big a problem with it if it had been foreshadowed, or there were a couple of transition episodes in there somewhere. I guess it happened offscreen during the time jump between No Way Out and The Next World. Bad form, The Walking Dead! You're a TV series. You're supposed to show, not leave out!

The series has had a problem with these "instant re-characterizations" before. At the end of Season 3, Carl gunned down a twitchy Woodburian just for looking at him funny. Rick worried that Carl was becoming a little psychopath, and it looked like a lengthy storyline was approaching. . Then at the beginning of Season 4, Carl was perfectly fine, and the entire matter was dropped.

Then in the Season 5 finale Conquer, Sasha developed an unhealthy death wish, going so far as to lie down in a pit full of dead walkers. Then at the beginning of this season she was perfectly fine, and it was like her whole storyline was dropped.

Maybe if you watch the entire season in one go, Carol's transformation is smoother and organic, and the thrice-damned season breaks are making it seem so sudden and out of the blue.

The Plot:
Rewinding a bit from last week, Carol and Maggie wait for Rick & Co. to return. Carol sees a man approach and shoots him in the arm. They're then surrounded by three women— Paula (the leader), Molly (an older woman) and Michelle. They're all members of the Saviors.

Paula sees Rick and the others surrounding Primo, the man who tried to ride off on Daryl's motorcycle last week. She radios Rick and tells his group to lower their guns, because they're holding Carol and Maggie hostage. Rick suggests they make a deal and trade prisoners. Paula says she'll have to get back with him on that.

Paula radios for backup, and she and the other Saviors cover Carol and Maggie's heads, put them in a car and take them to a "safe house," which is in an abandoned meat packing company. They kill a walker in a room, then bind the women's hands and feet and lock them inside. Carol secretly crabs a small crucifix that fell off the walker. The Saviors then go through the rest of the building, clearing it of walkers.

Paula and the others return to the room. Carol begins hyperventilating, and they remove her gag so she can breathe. Paula asks her why she's so afraid of dying. Carol pleads with them to not hurt Maggie and her unborn child. The others criticize Maggie for getting pregnant in a world like this. Molly lights up a smoke, and Carol asks her to put it out to protect the baby. This causes Molly to have a laughing/coughing fit. Carol tells Molly that cigarettes will kill her. She says they already have, holding up her bloody handkerchief, saying they're in the same boat. Hey, we have a title!

Donnie, the man Carol shot, is still bleeding. He says he can't feel his arm due to the tourniquet Paula applied. Paula says a rescue crew will arrive in thirty minutes, but Maggie says Donnie doesn't have that long. Donnie blames Carol for his injury, and wants to kill her now. He starts beating Carol, but Paula hits him in the head with her gun, knocking him out. She tells Michelle to take Maggie to another room for questioning.

Michelle questions Maggie, asking where her settlement is located. Maggie wisely refuses to answer. She says that Maggie and her group are not the good guys. Maggie notices Michelle's missing her little finger. She says it was punishment (from Negan) for stealing gas, in an effort to find her missing boyfriend. She says she eventually found him, but he'd been blown up. Three guesses who blew him up.

Rick radios Paula, but she refuses to make a deal without backup. Carol says the Saviors tried to kill her group first, and that Negan sounds like a maniac. Molly says, "We Are All Negan," which doesn't sound like a crazy cultish thing to say at all. Paula tells Carol she's weak. She says she used to be a secretary, but learned to kill when the world fell, and has lost count of the number of live people she's killed. Carol tells Paula she's going to die unless she makes a deal with Rick. When Paula ask if she's going to kill her, Carol says, "I hope not."

Paula finally makes a decision and radios Rick. She tells him to meet her in a nearby field by a sign that says, "God Is Dead," where they'll make the trade. Paula's unnerved by the lack of static on the radio, and fears Rick is nearby, and will reach her before the Savior rescue team. She and the others leave the room to scout around outside.

Carol uses the crucifix to cut the tape binding her hands and feet. She sneaks through the processing plant, avoiding both walkers and Saviors. She finds Maggie and frees her. Carol just wants to leave, but Maggie wants to kill the Saviors on their way out. They return to their room and see that Donnie's died from his gunshot wound. They tie him up next to the door. He reanimates and bites Molly when she enters the room. Maggie finishes the job and kills her.

Maggie and Carol enter a hallway and see it's full of tethered walkers acting as guard dogs. They go around the corner and Chelle attacks Maggie with a knife, just missing slashing her pregnant belly. When Carol sees this she coldly shoots Chelle in the head. They return to the hallway where they encounter Paula. Carol tells her to just run away, but she refuses. They grapple, and Carol impales Paula on a spike, and she's eaten alive by walkers.

The Savior rescue team arrives and calls Paula's radio. Carol picks it up and tells them to meet her inside, on the kill floor (gosh, that doesn't sound ominous, does it?). Carol and Maggie douse the kill room with gas, and hide. The Saviors run right into the kill room. Carol tosses her lighter in and locks the door, burning them alive.

They exit the processing plant as Rick and Co. meet them. Rick questions Primo, asking where they can find Negan. Primo says he's Negan, and Rick shoots him in the head. Carol grips the crucifix so hard her hand bleeds.

• This particular group of Saviors is made up of three women and one man.

I don't remember there ever being any women in Negan's army in the comic. There the only women were kept in his huge compound, and were pretty much "sister wives" for his own personal use.

I'm betting since far more people watch the show than read the comic, AMC felt compelled to balance things out to prevent any complaints about a lack of gender diversity. I'm not saying this is a bad thing, it's just an observation.

• When Carol first started hyperventilating, I naturally assumed she was pretending and acting weak so the Saviors would underestimate her. When she grabbed the crucifix and seemingly began praying, I was positive that's what she was doing.

But now I'm not so sure. Obviously part of it was an act, but I don't think all of it was. I'm kind of thinking her hyperventilating was real, but praying over the crucifix was fake. Especially since later on she sharpened it and used it to escape.

• This "We Are All Negan" slogan is new, and wasn't a thing in the comic. There he ruled his people through fear, intimidation and swift and brutal punishment.

Giving them an "all for one, one for all" philosophy— complete with a catch phase— is something Comic Book Negan would never have done. This TV version sounds more like a charismatic cult leader, ala Jim Jones, than a ruthless dictator. I guess we'll find out which in a couple of weeks.

UPDATE! Looks like I was wrong here. In issue #97 of the comic, one of the Saviors tells Rick, "We are all Negan. He speaks through us and we speak for him. His words are ours." So it looks like it happened in the comic after all. Sorry! It's been a while since I read these issues and I've forgotten a lot of them.

• Obviously the writers are spending this last half of the season setting up the Saviors as a terrifying force to be reckoned with. They didn't do a very good job of that with this particular group of Saviors though. A fat, wheezing old woman with lung cancer isn't going to instill much fear in anyone.

Now that I think about it, maybe that's the writers' plan. Maybe they want Rick, as well as the audience, to underestimate the Savior threat, so when Negan finally shows up and does something horrible, it'll be all the more shocking.

• Kudos to the writers for having Donnie actually die from his gunshot wound. In 99% of movies and TV shows, a character will get shot in the arm, tie a handkerchief around it, and they're good to go, climbing walls, throwing punches and more.

It was nice to see what really happens to someone when they're shot in a major artery. OK, it wasn't nice, but you know what I mean.

• Michelle tells Maggie that she was searching for her missing boyfriend, and found his remains in the middle of the road. Obviously her boyfriend was part of the group that Daryl blew up with the rocket launcher a few weeks ago in No Way Out.

• Was there a scene cut for time in this episode? One minute Michelle is harshly interrogating Maggie, demanding to know where her settlement is located. We cut away for a bit, and when we come back the two are chatting like old friends, sharing stories about their significant others.

• This episode gives us yet another name for walkers: growlers. So far every group of humans we've seen has come up with their own name for them, such as roamer, biters, lurkers, rotters and even "geeks."

So far we've yet to come across any group that calls them what they really are— zombies. Yes, yes, I know that creator Robert Kirkman says there are no zombies movies in The Walking Dead universe, but surely the word itself exists?

• Carol and Maggie pour gas all over the killing room floor, wait for the Savior rescue team to enter, then light it and lock them in.

You'd think the Saviors would have smelled all that gasoline and hesitated to run blindly into the room, but I guess not.

• After Carol and Maggie are rescued, Rick gives Primo one last chance to tell him where Negan is. Primo lies and says, "I'm Negan!" and Rick promptly kills him.

I'm hoping Rick doesn't believe he really just killed the real Negan, and start leaving his guard down. Surely Carol and Maggie will tell him about the weird "We Are All Negan" thing the other Saviors kept spouting.

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