The Walking Dead will never be a show that can take itself seriously enough to not force a walker attack at least once an episode, but it almost manages to do it this week. When the two boring and generally out-of-place fights occur and get out of the way, it opens up to an interesting episode full of intrigue and hints at some darker things to come. Read this week’s The Walking Dead review or you may wake up one night to find yourself not in your bed.
Let’s cut to the chase – seeing Carol play the town of Alexandria like a fiddle is one of the most satisfying things The Walking Dead has put out in years. Not only is it just plain fun to watch her “be invisible” as the grey-haired baker lady by day and gun thief by night, but it further proves that she is one of the best developed characters in the show by far. In a lot of ways, Carol is still the meek battered housewife she was at the beginning of the show, or at very least she remembers how to play the part. Unlike some of the other random skills that characters of the show seem to get at convenient times, Carol’s ability to be the everyday housewife feels completely natural, and seeing it mixed with her now-hardened personality is a match made in heaven. Several times, even within a single scene, she’ll flip a switch and become the calculated killer that once blew up several people and had to execute several children. She’s come a lot further than any other character on the show, and her arc is being handled in such a refreshingly competent way.
On the opposite end of the great character spectrum is Sasha. A constant blank slate who only serves the show to overreact to whatever is happening to the group. In “Forget”, this unhinged personality trait comes through in the form of apparently snapping due to her past losses and the sudden feeling that Alexandria isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Due to the fact that she is never developed as much more than “Tyreese’s sister” or “Bob’s love interest,” it’s hard to really understand or even care about her apparent mental breakdown. While the rest of the cast has thankfully stripped their tough exterior (which more often than not just resulted in them being boring personalities), Sasha still clings to it. I couldn’t tell you week to week what her motives are, who she is, or why she matters, and I don’t think I’m alone in that.
Even Daryl, who is the show’s emotional brick wall of a tough guy no matter the situation, sees his outer shell start to crack while bonding with Aaron. The events of them bonding is idiotic, as the two of them chase down a horse who conveniently gets trapped in a squared off area with walkers of superhuman strength, but the development between the two is fun to watch. Aaron makes the point later on that Daryl – even though he’d never say so or show it – is the best at determining what a good or bad person entails. He’s seen both, he’s experienced both, and he’s not one to let any darker personality traits slip by just to be nice. Rick on the other hand, is too far in the deep end of paranoia to really trust his judgement when it comes to people anymore. Aaron seems to know this, and it should be becoming clearer to the audience as well.
“Forget” is an episode full of symbolism, a lot of which comes from, and is directed at, Daryl. When he’s approaching the aforementioned horse, he remarks “the longer they’re out there, the more they become what they really are,” clearly referencing back to the general “we are the walking dead” theme of the show. The longer the humans – or more specifically Rick’s group – are out in the wild, the more they have reverted to what they really are. Like Rick warned Deanna when they first arrived at Alexandria, humans will do what it takes to survive. Lying, cheating, killing, and stealing is all on the table, and now that Rick’s group has been away from society for so long they are becoming those people that they once feared.
Maybe it’s a stretch, but I also saw this same symbolism in Sasha destroying the pictures at the beginning of the episode. As she’s shooting the images of once happy families one by one, the sounds of walkers chewing, biting, and screaming can be heard, as if Sasha’s bullets are acting as a walker attack. “The more they become what they really are.”
When a real walker attack happens, in true The Walking Dead fashion, it’s extremely uneventful and doesn’t move the episode forward at all. Daryl and Aaron’s pow-wow in the woods would have gone the same exact way had the horse died in another fashion, but instead the mini-group suffers two attacks from completely not-threatening walkers. Despite the fact that neither character is in any real danger, and the walkers are dealt with almost immediately, the music ratchets up as if these attacks hold any tension. At this point walker fights feel like a required checkbox on a sheet for every episode, instead of an exciting rarity that really tests the survivors. This would be fine if they weren’t forced into every episode, considering just how adapted the group is, but that’s not the case.
The further away The Walking Dead gets from random zombie encounters, the better of a series it becomes. Every time it feels like the showrunners finally understand this, they take a few steps back: and that’s what the worst parts of “Forget” are. Luckily, there is plenty of good to balance out the bad this time around, and it appears next week will be more about human-on-human conflict. At least we can only hope.
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