Kieran Mathers watches dull things happen very slowly…
I really wasn’t looking forward to reviewing this episode. For the fifth week in a row, the party of survivors wanders through the woods in search of the missing Sophia. There is also friction with the patriarchal Hershel (Scott Wilson) over access to his farm and the liberties being taken by some of the group.
So thank goodness for red-neck hero Daryl (Norman Reedus) whose Touching the Void-style survival exploits reward us with a great series of scenes. His relationship with his missing brother Merle (Michael Rooker), last seen handcuffed to a rooftop in Season 1, is revisited as a means of fleshing out his insecurities about his role in the group, and his eventual acceptance at the end of the episode is lovely – a real highlight.
The focus on Daryl is especially welcome considering that he is one of the characters created solely for the TV show and not taken from the comics. The series has already put clear blue water between itself and Robert Kirkman’s source material, opting for a decidedly ‘inspired by’ style of adaptation, but it’s nice to see the show capitalising on its own universe a little more.
As I mentioned in my review of the first episode, The Walking Dead suffered a budget cut this season and the last few episodes have clearly scaled back the action, focussing instead on dialogue and character moments to keep people interested. While necessary, this approach is now beginning to show signs of strain and the one day, one episode set-up really isn’t helping the drama. The characters’ conversations are getting repetitive – there are only so many times you can argue about compassion vs. survival before we realise we’ve heard it all before – and, worse, unnecessary. Shane (Jon Bernthal) has already demonstrated his philosophy in the most forceful way possible, as has Rick (Andrew Lincoln). They don’t need to debate it any further.
Another complication is that the basic reality of survival, which drove so much of the action in Season 1, seems to have been forgotten. For example, what do our heroes eat? Where do they find their food? How does Herschel gather the fuel to power his generator? Character drama is great, but these questions need answers as well.
The most damning indictment of this show is that the last few episodes have been boring for long stretches. With no immediate danger, there is no tension and most of the characters feel so well established that death seems extremely unlikely for any of them. Equally, the discussions of breaking the group up and going it alone are dull and illogical. Everyone has survived some truly horrific events, as evidenced by this episode’s strong pre-titles sequence but at no point does anyone seem to realise that collectively they have a chance while, individually, they are doomed.
Luckily, the episode ends with a cliffhanger that goes some way to restoring my interest. But the show will have to work much harder in the coming weeks to keep it.