It may be time for all of us to just accept that The Walking Dead is always going to be a stupid show. AMC can change showrunners as much as they want. (And, in case you missed it, the network announced during the mid-season break that it will be doing just that at the end of this season.) They can choose to follow the comic more closely or diverge even further from its text. They can rotate the cast, killing off main characters while bringing in fresh faces. But the fact is none of this will stop the show from being incredibly silly and failing to reach any level of quality above “gory guilty pleasure.”
There were other events that happened in “The Suicide King,” which we’ll get to a minute, but all anyone’s going to remember about it is Rick’s end-of-episode freakout in front of his post-apocalyptic family. While being asked to make a judgment on whether to welcome Tyreese and his friends into the group, Rick is distracted by the silhouetted form of his dead wife standing on a prison balcony overhead and soon begins to shout at the phantom woman in histrionic over-the-top fashion. Back in “Hounded,” when Rick first showed signs of a mental break by talking to a now-dead Lori over the phone, I remarked that it seemed out of place but would prove to be harmless assuming it was a one-and-done exercise meant to show how strained Rick’s mind is. Well, so much for that. Not only is Rick’s rapidly growing insanity going to be a lingering plot point, but it’s also apparently going to be wielded with the same blunt force the characters use to kill zombies on this show. There was nothing subtle or clever or the least bit intriguing about that last scene. It was a blast of pure, overwrought B-movie cheese.
Before Rick’s big meltdown, most of “The Suicide King” dealt with the repercussions of Daryl leaving the group … of which there really aren’t any yet. But that hasn’t stopped everyone from whining about Daryl choosing to hit the road with Merle after the two are rescued from the Governor’s gladiator games by Rick and company. During the entire first half of this season, we’ve been guessing that Daryl was going to have to at some point choose between the group and his brother. I think a lot of us assumed that would come in a tense, life-or-death situation, but instead it happens on the side of a deserted road during a few minutes of relative calm. The incessant complaining about Daryl choosing to bolt seems odd. Asshole that he is, Merle is his brother. And it should be obvious to everyone that they couldn’t bring Merle back to the prison. So what else can you do but let Daryl make a choice about what’s more important, his real family or his makeshift zombie-killing one?
Meanwhile, things are going to hell in Woodbury. Rick’s assault on the town to rescue Daryl has left bodies in its wake and the outer wall vulnerable. The pampered residents are so scared some of them are trying to leave. The Governor, now down to one good eye, doesn’t feel like doing much governing, emerging from his home only to put a bullet in a Woodbury citizen who has been bitten. (Was his sudden arrival onto the street to do that deed before disappearing again supposed to be funny? Somehow I don’t think so, yet I found it hilarious.) With him sulking and likely planning revenge, it’s up to Andrea to calm everyone’s nerves and rally the town. Which she gladly does instead of bolting for the nearest exit, which you’d think would be at the top of her list after discovering that (a) her friends are still alive and (b) the Governor was holding Glenn and Maggie hostage without telling her. Instead, she’s worried about the Governor shutting her out. Oh, Andrea, what are we ever going to do with you?
“So was there anything good in this episode?” you might be thinking. Well, Michael Rooker is all ornery and fun before Rick knocks him out with the butt of his gun. (I particularly liked him screaming “you really want to do this now?!” when Rick started pestering him about not being allowed to come with them before they’d even cleared Woodbury’s perimeter.) And Carol has a great little heart to heart with Beth where she tries to explain why Daryl may have chosen Merle over the group.
“Men like Merle get into your head, make you feel like you deserve the abuse,” she says. It’s a nice callback to her early days on the show where Carol’s defining characteristic was being an abused wife, and Melissa McBride imbued her performance in that scene with real depth. Also, Glenn’s transformation into a badass continues this week, although now it comes attached to some emotional baggage that’s getting in the way of all his relationships (with Maggie and Rick especially). It’s welcome character growth.
But don’t get your hopes too high. Remember, we also had this exchange this week:
Tyreese: “I must be the first brother in history to break into prison.”
Redneck prison guy whose name I forget: “Makes me the first white boy that didn’t want to break out.”
Ugh. More dialogue like that, and Rick might have company because I’m going to go crazy watching this show.
A few more thoughts on “The Suicide King” …
– Zombie kill of the week: Glenn boot-stomps a zombie’s head into mush.
– OH MY GOD, CHRIS HARDWICK … you’re not only back with your hashtags, but now you’re also doing live Talking Dead cut-ins during commercial breaks?! WHY, LORD, WHY?!
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