Monday, 10 November 2014

The Walking Dead, S05E03, "Four Walls and a Roof" (TV spoilers)

It’s a bob-eat-bob world, the world needs bad men and other lessons

Hey folks, looks like I missed the boat on episodes 1-3, but here I am, anyway! Standby for a weekly review of each episode of The Walking Dead.  Last week, it was “Four Walls and a Roof”, which was a rip-roaring, action-heavy, plot-lite offering, with Glenn, Maggie and Daryl continuing to be part of the scenery and Bob, Rick, Sasha and Gabriel taking centre stage. Dive in for a recap and analysis.

One of the themes TWD keeps foisting on us is that in this world, you have to be ruthless and brutal to survive – this is why Rick shot first in that café back in season 2 and why Rick brutally killed “Joe” and his merry band of psychos by the road in the season 3 finale. Personally, I didn’t need that – I get it. And this week’s murder wasn’t as gruesome as it could’ve been - last season, Rick tore out a man’s throat using his teeth! Another abiding theme is that no good deed goes unpunished – letting the Terminuts live (thank you, thank you) allowed Bob to be abducted, although Bob was going to die anyway. Oddly though, the show still wants us to think of Rick and Carl as decent, because it chose to put up a sadistic, cannibal murderer in front of them. Opposite Gareth, even Rick looks like a decent human being. So the message isn’t that “Rick’s a badass”, but that there are bad men, and then there are BAD men. Rick is the evil we need. Anyway, on with the recap/review.

The episode picks up immediately from the tragic and quite scary situation Bob Stookey finds himself in, with Gareth quietly trying to freak him out by saying very menacing things very calmly (and chomping on bits of Bob’s leg of course). But Bob has the last laugh – he reveals his ‘condition’ to his captors, informing them that they were eating tainted meat. Gareth consoles himself by the fact that they’d cooked his leg first, I mean, they’re not savages or anything. This only adds to Gareth’s desire to take vengeance for the havoc wreaked at Terminus. What were the odds on Gareth saying – “we tried to kill them, they tried to kill us, they won. Fair’s fair…let’s move on”. Oh, none.

Then Sasha et al grill Father Gabriel on the disappearance of Bob, Carol and Daryl and this scene felt interminable, particularly since it was obvious what Gabriel had done. However, it’s fair to give Seth Gilliam his day in the sun – his turn in The Wire was brilliantly understated and here he does the melodrama really well too. I really buy his contrition, although his ‘baseline’ for how humans should behave is so far out of line with where Rick et al are, it’s really quite jarring. Every time TWD introduces a ‘sheltered’ character and they come face to face with what needs to be done to stay alive (as we will see later in the episode), it’s really shocking but also a bit of a drag waiting for them to catch up.

Anyway, Bob (or 4/5 of him anyway) is delivered to their porch and once Sasha’s (understandable) hysterics calm down, the group has a pointless argument about next steps. Abraham, acting as Eugene’s self-appointed guardian, vows to carry on with their quest to Washington DC and he wants the bus, too, while Rick, understandably, disagrees. Glenn, ever the decent young man, brings the two sides to agree. As usual, Rosita is given the cube root of bugger-all to say, but atleast she’s looking all hot and Hispanic in a corner.

One of the less welcome developments in writing this season have been how Maggie, Glenn and Daryl, possibly three of the most liked characters on the show, have been relegated to sidekicks. I say this because most of the time, nothing happens with them and they only enter the fray in relation to something happening to Rick/Carl/Judith or the group generally. The emotional core of the last few episodes has been Tyrese/Sasha/Bob/Father Gabriel. It is probably no coincidence that these characters are all black. One of my criticisms of TWD is its treatment of black characters – although it always has a stock of black characters around, they’re often listless and get killed off early and ingloriously (RIP T-Dawg).

This is particularly galling given that almost a third of Georgia’s population is black (in case you didn’t know, the show started off near Atlanta, Georgia). Of course, the show is based on a comic and of course nobody wants a casting “by the numbers”. However, the show has substantially moved away from the comics so I’m not sure that “get out clause” is there. Anyway, we had two great characters in Bob and Sasha, and now we’ve lost Bob and gained Gabriel. I personally find Tyrese uninteresting, mostly because I resent the show having to explain to yet another character that you have to be ruthless to survive. Haven’t we been through this already?!

This leads us nicely to the most poignant exchange in this episode, between Sasha and Tyrese, on the values of forgiveness. Incredibly, Tyrese trots out his usual nonsense about forgiveness, as if attempting a Bob-flavoured-fondue was a forgivable act. Even more incredibly, Sasha relents and doesn’t join the party out to get Gareth and co. But an incredible rage has built up in Sasha and it will come to the fore by the end of the episode. Tyrese understands that he’s in a “Bob-eat-Bob” world (thank you, thank you, you can all sit down now), but he doesn’t have to accept it.

Then we have cute little scene looking down the grassy path to the church where on the left we see our heroes walk out towards the Terminuts’ camp and after a long pause, Gareth’s camp emerging from the right hand side. This is the kind of thing I like seeing, a sort of kinetic, real-time shot. And suddenly you’re thinking, wait a minute, this is going to be a slaughter, isn’t it? Carl, Judith, etc? I know they’ve got Rosita, Sasha and a few guns, but this was suddenly looking really lairy. Then, a strange thing happens – why does Gareth ANNOUNCE himself? The easy answer might be because he wants to torture and frighten people before killing them. Ok, but then Gareth STALLS. He actually stalls. Why?! Is it because he didn’t want the bullets flying until Rick and co were at a safe distance? This doesn’t quite make sense either. Anyway, this is where I’ve either misunderstood or the show has goofed up: why do Rick et al talk about going to fight them and then circle back? Did Sasha, Carl and co send out a distress signal? Was this Rick’s plan all along? Then why pretend to do different during the “meeting”? Does Rick have a sixth sense?

But anyway, those questions are irrelevant  - the result is, Rick and co have vanquished yet more foes and definitely proven themselves as highly ruthless, cunning and ferocious. Tyrese can blather on about forgiveness and keeping your humanity, but the hardcore of the group believes in kill or be killed. Remember that if Rick had killed all the Terminus people as he planned to, right after escaping from them (episode 3), this would not have happened. Although it just so happens that nothing significant would’ve been avoided, since Bob would’ve died anyway. No matter – the lesson is learned. Remember Rick’s words: “You are not safe. No matter how many people are around or how clear the area looks. No matter what anyone says. … It only takes one second and it’s over. Never let your guard down. Ever.”

Finally, what is the revelation Daryl has in store? I hope his story picks up, otherwise he’s in danger of just becoming part of the scenery.


P.S. Am I right in seeing the electricity work? How are power plants and transmission systems still working?!

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