So last night, we reached a peak moment in The Walking Dead season: the mid-season finale. (That’s Walking Dead episode 608: Start to Finish for those keeping track at home.) In the past, the show has used this pause to create a suspenseful series, to do a big reveal and set the tone for the second half of the season coming in the late winter. And they botched this one.
First, a great deal of the framework of my complaints about the season are going to steam out of how the showrunners have framed this season. Much of this season has been all about deep looks at one or a small group of characters. From the second episode on, they divided and conquered in terms of storytelling. In some ways, it made sense. There had been other episodes shot in this vein from previous seasons that worked well. But what they misplayed was putting so many of these episodes in a row. All of which trainwrecked in this episode, where they suddenly wanted to pick up the pace and push towards an exciting mid-season spot that, to be honest, they didn’t earn.[divider] The Walking Dead Episode 608 Recap: Start to Finish [/divider]
In way of recap, this episode saw:
- The mad scramble that happened when the church and the wall fell in. Immediately, you had the groups divided. Rick, Jesse, Deanna, Michonne, Carl, Jesse’s kids, Judith and Gabriel wind up holding up in Jesse’s house. Quick assessment showed Deanna is bitten, Sam is completely off his rocker, and Carl almost dies when the older son tries to kill him, only attracting a zombie horde who overrun the lower level of the house eventually. (And Carl decides that the way to friendship is to not spill the beans on the guy who made what was a safe haven unsafe!)
- Morgan, Carol and Denise are with the wounded wolf, who spouts some gibberish that makes me want to re-assign him to philosophy 101 again. If you are going to try and make an intellectual justification about being a psychopath, at least do it with some gravitas. The culmination of this ends when Morgan and Carol come to blows, Morgan knocks Carol out and the wolf takes out Morgan and then kidnaps from Denise, who wasn’t saved by the arriving Eugene, Rosita and Tara, who had been split up before.
- Maggie nearly gets eaten but makes it up a tower, where she later makes eye contact with Glenn, who is trying to figure out how to help.
- The postlude shows Daryl, Sasha and Abraham get stopped by Negan’s men.
- The Rick group remembers season 1 and decides to use the “cover me up in zombie guts” camouflage to escape. Only evidently no one tells Sam to be quiet as they do this and the big cliffhanger is him asking his mom questions in the midst of a huge group of zombies.
So in the midst of a great deal happening, why didn’t the episode work?
- They have selective memory. Suspension of belief has to happen to make any fictional project work but they are pushing the limits. Why didn’t Rick use the camo idea on one or two people to get them out when the walls were surrounded? Doesn’t that seem to make more sense than suddenly remembering it and trusting it to save them all?
- They turn people into superheroes when it helps them. Last week, Tara went 15 for 15 on headshots from 100 foot or more away. Never missed. This episode, she can’t shoot the wolf that is literally 15 feet in front of her, threatening the woman she loved? I want people to become tough, grizzled warriors of the zombie experience, but that level means it needs to stay consistent.
- Carol, Morgan, and concussions. So, it is a bold move to show the effect of concussions on people, as they seemed to be doing with Carol, who hit her head. But do it during the NFL season. Don’t wait until you major competitor for ratings is off the air in the spring! On a more serious note, I am growing tired of Carol, Morgan and how one side has to win. Can’t both ideas find a way to peacefully coexist? And I find it hard to believe that in the midst of everyone she loves being threatened with zombies overrunning the town that Carol’s primary response is going to be going to kill the wolf, who isn’t much of a threat really.
- Big deal deaths are only big deal deaths if you care about the characters. Strong opinions about Deanna don’t exist. In the water cooler talk around this show today, no one expressed serious emotions either way. She was there. Her son is a putz. Her husband died. She likes to plan gardens. And?
- The split up storylines all eventually have to come back together. The reason the Daryl and Beth chronicles worked last year is that they served to do major character development, they abandoned the story for a good while and then we caught up with Beth, AFTER the major storylines had been developed. It isn’t working this season because it feels like the show is suddenly unwilling to focus on moving the story forward. It is like when they were on the farm; nothing really changed or no characters developed. (And I am saying that when the group is experiencing their first real threat from the zombies in several seasons.)
- And most of all: there is a rocket launcher, a grenade launcher and a need for a big explosion. And we didn’t get it.
Is the show still worth watching? Of course. But this episode was not a great effort for any episode, but for a midseason finale especially it fell flat. 3 out of 10 Nerds.