So we’re done with the holidays hiatus, and the zombies are chewing again. Spoilers ahead, obviously.
One of the beautiful things about an ongoing zombie story, much like a soap opera, is writing characters in and out is the simplest thing in the world. In soaps, the explanations are always something crazy and eye raising. When zombies are involved, exiting someone — or several someones — is as simple as a bite. Or bites. And usually screaming.
TWD wrote out an entire family, the Andersons, in less than a minute last night. A kid locks up in fear amid a zombie horde (we’ve seen that before, re: Sophia), mom’s mind snaps at the sight of her youngest child being consumed before her eyes and sends her into a reboot cycle before she too is a zombie snack, and finally the oldest is taken out when he just can’t man up and recognize that his dad was a complete piece of shit that deserved to die.
Harsh? Yeah, but that’s the post-apocalypse. By definition, it’s not fluffy and soft. It also clears out a trio of actors from the call sheet, which is good since we’ve got some other Alexandrians who aren’t just background characters to deal with. There’s a limit to how many speaking roles can fit into a 40minute show each week.
The episode made up for a lot of teeth grinding moments in the latter half of the first section of season six, prior to the break. First, the Alexandrians appear to have been bled and shocked out of their comfortable little “it can’t happen to us” bubble. The survivors have been given a good shake up and forged in undead fire. That should knock a good chunk of the annoying “you Rick people are bloodthirsty alarmists who we hate” that was being flung far and wide last year.
Second, the core group — or the current core group — has been brought back together. As the joke among horror movie fans goes, “Oh look, they’re splitting up.” Well, they split up, but are now back together. Hopefully they all stay together for a while; it’s always more fun when the narrative stays concentrated rather than jumping hither and yon. The first half of this season was entirely jumps back and forth among all the divided sections of the core group.
Third, Enid has found a purpose; she’s a group survivor now. Or, so it appears that she’s decided. Last season she was a sole survivor, the one who expected everyone to die and leave her on her own again. And several times, looked to be ready to jump out early on the mere chance that people were going to fuck up and get eaten by zombies. In this episode, she’s thrown in pretty firmly with Rick’s group; or, at least, with Glenn and Maggie. Time will tell, but there could be some good stuff ahead for us if she’s broken out of her JSS shock.
Fourth, it is just vaguely possible that Morgan might have realized the truth of the lawless post-apocalypse; that some people just need killing. Holding life sacred and worth saving at great cost is a laudable goal, but is often more than a little unrealistic when there’s no larger authority structure to swoop in and deal with the dirty laundry. The crap he pulled in episode eight, just before the break, seems to have worked out without any ‘good guys’ paying the price for Morgan’s decisions. Which it easily couldn’t have. Presumably Morgan will be able to modify his outlook sufficiently to walk the Earth like Caine without leaving decent folks on the hook for his idealism. Let us hope.
Now, I will say this about the episode. Everyone’s got triggers. One of mine, and a pretty big one, is any variation that revolves around “our heroes are captured and under the control of other people.” I don’t really feel I have to explain why I don’t like it any more than other people have to defend their triggers. I just hate stories that do that; where the hero/heroes is/are captured and forced to do things, where the good guys are rounded up and manipulated with threats and coercion. I just flat out hate it. Always have, always will. It really turns me off, and I often skip past or flat out drop stories that do it.
For example, the Terminus storyline that captured and then brought — literally — (some of) our heroes to the slaughtering trough was exceedingly not fun. “But Dave, that wasn’t supposed to be a fun storyline.” Yeah, I get that. But it wasn’t fun even in that “what will happen, ooooh the tension the tension the tension” way. Not for me. Even after Carol showed up and broke everyone out, I still don’t like the capture and slaughter trough stuff. I don’t like the “drop your weapons, okay now get in the train car” stuff just as much as I didn’t like the “kneel at this trough so we can cut your throats prior to butchering you guys to eat” stuff. At all. The whole mess was unfun for me as a fan.
I bring it up because episode nine opened where episode eight left off, Darryl, Abraham, and Sasha at gunpoint by a squad of Negan’s goons. And the episode does the whole “we’re in charge and there’s jack shit you can do about it” bit, up to where the squad leader literally says “when you have to eat shit, you should just eat it.” Darryl used one of Abraham’s rockets to settle that little scene to the good, but … I left off reading TWD comics a while ago, but I did make it up to the Negan stuff. I have a decent idea what’s coming. TV fans are going to go apeshit if what happens in the comics occurs on the show. I’ll just say that, if the show follows the same kind of storyline track, this won’t be the last time we have a “our heroes are at the mercy of Negan and his forces, making them do things they don’t want to do, making them watch things happen to each other than they don’t want to have happen”.
It’s really going to suck. I really hope the writers have figured out a better tack to take. Because, personally … triggers man. We’ve all got triggers, and I’m not going to enjoy a Negan storyline that repeatedly flips mine. Here’s hoping the second half of the season goes in a more satisfying direction. Because, frankly, I think it’s pretty doable to have Negan be the complete asshole bastard he is in the comics without having to capture and torment/control the good guys.
Zombies are back on Sunday nights. Until next week, eat more brains!