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The Walking Dead has a problem. Well, it has several problems, but it has one major problem that is quickly turning the show into a chore to watch: its strings are showing. Now, to some extent, all shows telegraph their narrative moves a bit. It’s rare that a show can manage to pull off a complete shocker that actually makes sense within the confines of the story, and when it happens, it’s magical to see. The exact opposite was the case in this week’s episode of The Walking Dead.
In “East,” Scott Gimple and company pretty much eschewed any attempt at trying to surprise anyone with the arc of the episode. As soon as Daryl barreled out of Alexandria like a bat out of hell, I knew the episode wasn’t about rescuing two of the show’s most important characters (who, frankly, didn’t need or want to be rescued). It was about making sure the important characters were in a position to be captured by the Saviors and taken to Negan. And, lo and behold, three of the show’s key characters are now in the clutches of the Saviors (along with poor Rosita, who is looking like the Red Shirt of the gang should the Saviors decide to get a little feisty before delivering their bounty). And who wants to bet both Rick and Abraham will be rolling out in search of them once they fail to report home? After all, what’s the point of introducing the show’s baddest villain if Rick isn’t there to meet him?
But I would have been able to simply roll my eyes at the clear plotting of the show if it hadn’t been decided that the only way to get several of its smarter characters into such dire straits was to have them make completely stupid decisions. Let’s go over the current situation in Alexandria, shall we? After another skirmish with the Saviors, in which our heroes were victorious but at the cost of the town doctor, Maggie (with the blessing of Rick and Michonne) decided that the group needs to be prepared for when the Saviors decide to come calling. So, they cracked open the arsenal and are distributing weapons and hiding others. It’s a pretty sound plan, and it signals that Rick isn’t taking the current threat to the town lightly. But then, Daryl, noted survivalist and tracker who acts in a very deliberate manner all the time, decides it’s time to hunt Dwight down and make him pay for everything. Instead of letting Daryl go it alone, Glenn, Michonne, and Rosita peel out after him, into the woods, where the Saviors have proven they know the land and can hide pretty darn well. OF COURSE THEY ALL GOT CAUGHT.
And, frankly, they deserved to get caught. All of them. If you are going to do something that the audience knows is stupid- like heading out into the woods that are controlled by the Saviors- you deserve to get what’s coming to you. And when Rick (and probably Abraham) head out to search for them in the finale, he deserves to get captured as well. Heck, if that Savior who is trailing Morgan manages to live long enough to find him, he deserves to be captured, too. I’m even finding myself hoping the Negan proves just how badass he apparently is by killing a number of them. Because I’m pretty tired of these characters making stupid choices and then getting out of the situation with only a slap on the wrist (or the death of a secondary character). On a show where the only real stakes are whether your favorite character will live or die week-to-week, The Walking Dead needs to start rewarding the stupid choices of its leading characters with serious consequences.
So, next week, I would like a meaningful body count. And it pains me to say that, since I do still enjoy watching some of these characters try to survive in this world. I won’t shed a tear if Daryl finds himself in serious peril from that gunshot, or if Negan decides to make an example of Glenn or Michonne. I would only be disappointed that the series didn’t find more interesting things for these characters to do (particularly in the case of Glenn, who has been wasted as a character for years now). After all, the show has hyped Negan to the point of a demi-god over the past four month, and has hyped the finale to unreachable heights through cast interviews over the last few weeks. If our core cast of characters make it out unscathed, I’m not sure I’ll be back come next season.
— I’m so disappointed with the direction of Carol’s story that I don’t even want to write about it at this point. I understand what the show is trying to do with the character, but it has been written so poorly that it’s a complete injustice to the show’s best character. I’m actively hoping that they do something major to reboot the character- like having her join up with Negan’s gang in secret or something. Melissa McBride is so good that I still enjoy her scenes, but man, the show needs to step it up.
— I did enjoy the Morgan-Rick talk, which was long overdue (one of the hazards of the show continuing to have such a large cast is that Rick and Morgan haven’t shared a scene since the beginning of the season). I appreciate that Morgan realizes his pacifism isn’t the way of the world, but it might have been nice of him to talk to Carol about that before she decided she had to bolt (I assume that’s a conversation that will be broached should the two of them meet up).
— Looks like things are not looking good for Maggie. Gee, it would be nice to have a doctor around right about now…
— So, the Saviors routinely go from easy to dispatch to excellent at tracking down the group. I’m not really sure how afraid we should be of them, considering they were overwhelmed by three people last week, yet managed to get the jump on four this week. Also, how many Saviors are there? Hundreds? They seem to get killed in bunches, yet spawn even more.
— I would bet a significant sum of money that the final shot of the finale is a blood squib hitting the camera.