Not going to spoil the 2/8 episode in the lead.
Scott Gimple’s script was fantastic. Nicotero creates a warped, surreal drama that tells a very sad story. The entire series has been, so far, compelling and realistic.
But I didn’t like this episode.
One of the things I love about this show is how every scene of devastation tells a story. Most post-apocalyptic shows (like Z Nation, for example) throw us into locations that look like they’ve been abandoned for years. They’re dirty, crumbling and have blood tossed around, but there’s no logic or intrigue to them. In The Walking Dead, communities have their tragedy laid out for us. Sometimes it is the literal trail of blood from a burning house leading to a rotting corpse. Other times, it is the subtle gunshot through a front window leading to another shot of a corpse on the floor inside with half its head missing. This isn’t about random, anonymous violence, either. Family photos are front and center. Costumes and make-up tell us a little about every zombie, taking us from the classic Romero-era caricatures (Krisha, biker, nurse, cop) to everyday people with the telltale marks of their ordeal from rain and dirt to gashes and gouges to shit stains on their pants.
There’s a moment of hope when we see the front gates of Noah’s community secured, but that’s short-lived. A quick look over the wall (it couldn’t be THAT safe if a kid in a gimpy leg can hurdle it like a house cat) reveals homes burned and burned corpses on the lawn. The quiet walk through the neighborhood tells the story better than dialogue. Everything is as it was in the final moments of the community. Some homes are still smoldering, so we’re left to wonder if the looters are close by.
In this episode, Gimple hits us over the head with the idea by turning (potentially valuable) baseball memorabilia and turning them into a “clean shirt” and a weapon. Even in that too-fine-a-point moment, you have another story about the home where those items were found. It had been looted. Someone thought those items were important before realizing or being told to drop them for more important supplies. When you review the moment up to that scene you see signs pointing to this along the road to the set piece for this episode. A small clock left in the middle of the road. Discarded items off to the side. And when we begin to put it all together, we see the broken wall and the walkers split in two, they tie in to the weird collision between a car and a truck full of still-snarling corpse torsos. The “W” carved into the walker heads is intriguing and should lead to something later in the series. Even if it doesn’t it represents the very complex and violent world that this show has built for our amusement.
The story of Noah’s community is the understated brilliance of this series. By now the killing of walkers is routine. Even herds of them don’t instill the same menace they once could. This is why I didn’t like the episode or the way Tyreese went down.
It underscores the premise that no one is safe. Well. Rick, Michonne, Daryl, and (for now) Carol are safe thanks to the blessing of contract or viewer-fueled immunity. Tyreese, however, was too stupid in the moment for his own character. He didn’t need photos on the wall to remind him of potential hostiles in the room. Yes, we all falter, but he was so careful up to that moment to be taken off guard.
But that’s not why I didn’t like it. I get that it MIGHT have gone down that way.
But this episode played out like a beautiful funeral to apologize for a lack of reason. It tried to justify and tie up a life unfinished. I can’t find fault with that because that’s most of our own lives and TWD’s attention to such detail is apparent. But why it had to tell this story and tell it now escapes me.
I guess that’s the question we ask about Death all the time.
I assume we’re going to deal with the impact of Tyreese’s death later on in the show. It didn’t seem fair to bury him from a distance, show some fleeting slo-mo shots of his closest friends and just move on.
Post Script: The fact that Tyreese is black shouldn’t play into my disappointment because the show has a fairly diverse cast. The opening scene in the lead car, with Tyreese, Michonne, Noah, Glen, and Rick is very telling. It does bother me that it feels as though one black character must die before another can shine.