Last night’s episode of The Walking Dead attempted to intersect three separate story lines with mixed results. The entire episode was a build up to the big confrontation between Rick and the Grimettes and the hospital that is currently holding Beth and Carol. For the past month we have seen all the group’s separate stories play out to a satisfying degree. We learned of Beth’s misadventures in the hospital, Carol and Darryl’s journey to save her, the fact that Bob is delicious, and we learned that Eugene is actually just a library creeper and not a world-renowned scientist.
“Crossed” attempted to take all those complex plot lines and make them into one coherent episode and it only sort of worked. The actual confrontation aspect of the episode was pretty great. Even though the group’s plan of kidnapping a couple of Dawn’s officers and trading for Beth and Carol failed miserably on multiple occasions, they kept on pushing through the adversity and coming up with new ideas on the fly in an attempt to rescue their friends. In past seasons, with less hardened characters, we might have just seen them give up after the first fight but they fought through it and showed off some solid character development. They even got the new guy, Noah, involved in the plan.
It felt like the show could have trimmed some of it down and got to the meat of the confrontation, however. There was a lot of repetitive information given to us that we learned from past episodes: for one the fact that Dawn is corrupt and losing control of her little safe haven. The cops that Rick’s group capture say they will help them take down Dawn if they let them go, which apparently was a big ‘ole lie based on the events of the end of the episode. It sowed some seeds of mystery and leads into the next episode well enough, but this episode would have been better served cutting out all the dancing around and getting straight to the actual confrontation. Like an annoying “part 1” of the third movie in a blockbuster trilogy, it was painfully obvious they were stalling and saving all the big moments of the mid-season finale next week. It’s fine if a show wants to save its biggest events for finales, but not necessarily when it’s this blatant.
Between their acting and the writing around their characters, it was especially obvious that these cops were just throwaway characters and some kind of betrayal was coming from the beginning. They were nothing more than generic cop 1 and generic headbutting cop 2.
In the hospital itself, the episode did a decent job showing Dawn’s side of things in dealing with Beth and Carol as well as the impending Rick invasion. Unlike the obvious betrayal from the police officer of Rick’s group, the intrigue laid out with Dawn keeps getting genuinely more interesting. Her motives are cloudy, and watching her slowly lose control (or retain it) is interesting to witness.
The side stories were also mostly hit or miss. Abraham having to deal with the revelation that his entire mission to save the world has been a lie was character development enough, but it could have been summed up in a scene or two instead of dragging it out in random spurts through the whole episode. Abraham is upset, and everyone wants him to not be upset. Got it? Good. The rest of the the scenes for this group were mostly just wandering around and accomplishing general tasks (such as covering up Eugene’s passed out body) – not usually something worth breaking up pacing for in an episode with so many interweaving story lines.
All of this lead to the impact of every character’s big episode arcs missing their mark. Bob and Sasha’s relationship was never that believable to me from the beginning, but Sasha randomly getting too broken up about it when it’s convenient now really got in the way in this episode. Once again, like almost everything in “Crossed” it felt like it was there for the sake of filling in time before next week’s big climax. Even the emotional impact of Beth comforting a comatose Carol, which should have been huge and set up the emotional tone for the mid-season finale, was mostly muted due to the episode’s odd pacing and scattered story telling.
By far the biggest highlight of the episode was Darryl using a walker’s head as a weapon against one of the cops. Of course it followed a scene where, if it were any other show, there might have been a chance of Darryl dying with some genuine suspense, but of course the walker was just a couple inches shy of biting him because plot.
One issue that keeps popping up in the show is the fact that characters are always conveniently deaf. In “Crossed,” for example, Father Gabriel was walking through the woods and a walker just popped up out of nowhere to attack him. He was walking completely alone in the quiet woods and the stumbling, groaning, hungry walker only snapped one trig right before it attacked. There was also, for the second week in a row, a silent ninja car. Last week one of the hospital’s cars came out of nowhere without making a sound and ran into Carol. This week, a car that apparently trained at the same silent dojo attacked the group as it came out of nowhere without so much as a tire screech as it came barreling toward the group ready to save the kidnapped cops.
The writing in The Walking Dead has gotten much better over the last season, but this issue is still one that consistently makes the script look sloppy and like shortcuts are being taken for the sake of plot (in the case of the car attack) or forced tension (every single time a silent walker comes out nowhere).
Overall, the episode just clearly felt like a setup to something bigger. It was a big sloppy mess with too many stories going on at once. If the mid-season finale turns out to be great, this can all be forgiven as a run-of-the-mill filler episode but as it stands now the episode was just average at best. All the complex and interesting story lines we’ve been treated to for the past month were boiled down to their most basic parts and squeezed into a greasy walker sausage.