'The Walking Dead' recap and review: 'Home' starts bringing things together
***Warning: Spoilers Ahead***
Last night's episode of The Walking Dead was a big step up from last week's. I had one major problem with it, but 'Home' adequately balanced character development and action, in addition to juggling tones -- something The Walking Dead has sometimes struggled with. 'Home' managed to deliver scenes with interesting combinations of people where we learned things without them having to come right out and say it.
My big problem with the episode can essentially be boiled down to one question: Why did it have to be Axel? Not only does that mean we’ve lost all of the characters that were prisoners, but Axel was a promising character who was just starting to come into his own. I know I raised a similar point when Oscar died, but this show has so many characters that it's tough to get invested in all of them. So it’s pretty upsetting when we get a character we actually like and then have him taken away almost instantly.
That being said, two of my favorite scenes in this episode were the ones between Axel and Carol, who were developing a weird vibe. Axel was funny and brought a casual tone to his scenes -- something sorely lacking in this show, albeit understandably. I understand the strategy of giving us the promise of something and taking it away. Nevertheless, I think that Axel would have had more value as a continuing presence than he did as the episode’s sacrificial lamb. But he did make one hell of a human shield.
'Home' featured very little of Rick -- something that affected how much I enjoyed this episode. I’m not totally sold on the ‘Rick going crazy’ storyline. As far as I’m concerned, it’s progressed too quickly, to the point where there are only really two possible resolutions: either Rick keeps going more nuts, which would probably be death to the show, since it would be hard to maintain a lead character who’s totally off his rocker; or he snaps back to sanity sometime this season, which I’m not totally sure I would buy. So far this season, Rick hasn’t worked well as a main character, which is why it was so nice to see the spotlight on everyone else this week.
Apart from the opening scene (which was one of the best-shot sequences the series has seen), we didn’t see Rick until the last third of the episode. Time flies when you're off in the woods being crazy. I do like the way they’re contrasting Rick with the Governor, who is just as crazy as Rick. The difference is that the Governor is channeling his craziness into a singular destructive purpose, rather than wandering aimlessly. In last week’s episode, the conflict between Rick and the Governor’s camps seemed like a distant thought, but this week made it apparent that war is coming -- a reminder we needed after a fairly plodding mid-season finale.
The scenes in Woodbury were decent; even Andrea failed to irritate me. Her scene with the Governor was actually pretty interesting, even if it was mostly just fun watching her get played by him. His scene with Milton was weird, but I didn’t mind Milton as much this week as I have in the past. I think it's because now that he sees the Governor losing his mind a bit, he realizes what a fool’s errand trying to find a cure for zombie-ism is.
Something this episode had a bit of is humor -- a rare find on The Walking Dead. Humor was present in those two awesome scenes with Axel, and in the scene between Andrea and Milton, which was delightfully awkward. Seeing Milton have so much trouble lying was pretty entertaining, as was Andrea’s frustration. Apart from the Governor, none of the characters in Woodbury fascinate me that much, but it’s nice to see that storyline at least heading in a direction, which it didn’t really feel like it was last week.
The other big development this week was Glenn cracking under the pressure of everything that’s been happening. It's a pretty natural progression from where he was before the mid-season break. I like badass Glenn, but I hope we can find a balance between that and the guy we came to know and love in the first two seasons. I wasn’t totally sure why Maggie was so mad at him this week, but the scenes between them, and him and Herschel, were well-acted, even if a bit of that conflict felt forced.
Merle and Daryl got to be heroes this week, rescuing a family trapped on a bridge. Of course, Merle ends up being a huge d*ck about it, which leads to some conversation between the Dixon boys about their upbringing. Overall, I thought it was nice to see these two wandering around in the woods and being jerks to each other in the way that only brothers can.
And then there was that shootout. As sad as I am for the loss of Axel, Carol hiding behind his body in the middle of an open space was super cool, and I thought that having Rick trapped on the outside for the whole thing was a nice touch, as well. This is all without even mentioning the Trojan Truck Full of Zombies. The battle had all sorts of ups and downs, which made it way more enjoyable to follow than just a bunch of people shooting at each other. This is a quality that the very best actions scenes from this show tend to share, and it’s something that I hope we see more of as the season continues.
'Home' was a big step up from last week. Hopefully it's an indicator of more badassery to come. Look out, Woodbury; it’s on.