'The Walking Dead' recap and review: 'Suicide King' spins its wheels around some interesting problems
For better or for worse, The Walking Dead is definitely back. I know that sounds melodramatic, but 'Suicide King' -- the mid-season premiere for season three -- perfectly embodies the things that I find frustrating about this show, while also capturing a lot of the things that I love about it. For the majority of this episode, I understood and appreciated exactly what it was trying to do, but much of the execution felt forced; I could see the writers pulling the strings and manufacturing the conflicts.
It makes sense that in a post-zombie outbreak world, everyone would be stressed, desperate and scared all the time. However, it’s starting to become a little one-note, and the longer we watch Rick and the gang operate in a state of panic, the harder it is to like them. The episode revolves around arguments between people about what to do, where to go, or how to proceed in the aftermath of the raid on Woodbury. There are a lot opportunities for interesting debates, many of which are overshadowed by people acting like douchebags for no good reason.
After the escape from Woodbury, the Governor attempted to have Merle and Daryl fight to the death -- a sequence that is fine, but mostly unremarkable. It’s obvious that there’s going to be some debate about whether or not to allow Merle into the group. I get that a lot of the things Merle says and does can't be seen in the best of light. However, I don’t buy that in a situation where he knows his survival depends largely on ingratiating himself with these people, that he would go on insulting them the way he does. It shows a lack of self-awareness that I don’t think even Merle has.
The discussion between Rick, Glenn, Maggie and Daryl about what to do with him was interesting, but it was weird when everyone responded with shock at Daryl’s choice. Merle is his brother; he’s not going to just let him wander off into the wilderness alone. This goes hand-in-hand with Rick’s treatment of Michonne, who he is aggressive towards and distrustful of for pretty much no reason. As of now, she’s done nothing but try to help his group, and yet he tells her that as soon as she heals, she’s gone. I’m not saying that Merle and Michonne are on the same footing, but it seems to me that despite the fact that Rick is losing his mind, the people around Rick act like his behavior is perfectly normal. Surely someone would stick their neck out for Michonne, much in the same way that, once Daryl has made his ultimatum clear, someone would entertain the idea of bringing Merle in.
The decision-making in a lot of those cenes is what felt forced. For instance, during the big scene in Woodbury, I didn’t buy that the mob of people would actually want to leave. You have walls and food! No matter what just happened in the city, I couldn’t accept that that many people would see the outside as a better alternative. It felt like the writers needed a moment of conflict in Woodbury, so they decided to make everyone feel that way, regardless of whether it made any sense. Then the Governor starts walking around scowling at everyone, a couple zombies get in, and none of it amounts to much. I like the Governor in hard-a** mode, but we’re going to need to see some other sides of him or it will get old really quick. Those shots of blood leaking down from his eyepatch were pretty creepy, though.
I know it sounds like I totally hated the episode, but that’s not true. Interestingly enough, many of the moments I enjoyed the most were the quieter ones, which has not traditionally been the case with The Walking Dead. Maybe it's due to the fact that Scott Wilson (Hershel) is a great actor, but the scenes between him and Maggie -- and the ones with Glenn -- were done with a thoughtfulness that the show often lacks. Hershel really is the heart of the group, as much as they may think it’s Rick keeping them together.
Also, the scenes with Carol were strong, and she handled the news of Daryl’s departure in a way that made a lot of sense. While a lot of the dialogue is less-than-stellar, the show is definitely doing a better job this season of figuring out who some of these people are and letting us watch them change. Bringing up Carol’s abusive ex-husband as a comparison point to Daryl was clever, and these scenes go a long way towards showing this group as a family; I think it’s very important for us to see them as a family, though it sometimes gets lost in all the mayhem.
I also liked Tyrese and Sasha a lot, and the tension between them and the other two guys in their group is promising, although I hope it boils over in interesting ways, rather than just exploding an episode or two from now. Also, is Sasha Tyrese's daughter? They haven't said, but I think that's the case.
Finally, we get to the ending. I mentioned that it was a bit unbelievable how rigid Rick was about all outsiders. So it was nice to see Hershel correct him in this scene, flat-out telling Rick that he’s wrong. I’d love to see the power in the group start to shift as it becomes more and more apparent that Rick doesn’t have his sh*t together. His rejection of Tyrese’s group was crazy, but not as crazy as yelling at the ghost of his dead wife. I’m not sure where they’re going with Rick’s arc this season, or how they’ll pull him back from the edge of insanity, but it’s about time that people started calling him on it.
'Suicide King' probably wasn’t as exciting as it should have been for a mid-season premiere. It had its fair share of problems, but there was an effort made for some quiet moments. This episode mostly showed the way that difficult decisions and questions can spawn faster than they can be solved. Woodbury is coming, so you’d better sort your sh*t out.