The Walking Dead – “Alone” Review: A Lot of Talking, Not Much Story
I feel a bit like a broken record repeating this, but The Walking Dead
has continually had a problem finding the right balance of action, character development, and forward story momentum. And "Alone" really suffer from this inability to find the correct balance, leading to an episode that is engaging in fits and starts, but is ultimately way too overloaded with failed character development and a lack of forward momentum.
While last week's episode was a showcase for Daryl and Beth, their work in "Alone" feels (for the most part) like a rehashing of what we had already seen previously. Evidently, burning down a shack in the woods is quite the bonding activity, as both Beth and Daryl seem to be getting along a great deal better than they were in the early section of "Still." And it looks like the show wants us to root for some sort of relationship between these two, which still strikes me as a bit on the icky side- at least until we get a true statement as to how old Beth is actually supposed to be.
The Daryl-Beth side of the storyline goes nowhere fast, showing Beth learning how to track (poorly), the pair finding a lovely mortuary (fully stocked with a food supply) to settle down in for the night, and ample time for awkward flirting. It isn't until roughly the halfway point that we get some forward movement in the story, with the house being ambushed by walkers (I'm guessing some sort of trap- as who leaves a house nice and stocked with food and doesn't return within the span of a day) and Beth kidnapped. Knowing how dark this world can be, I have a really bad feeling regarding Beth's fate. Especially considering the charming gang Daryl runs into near the train tracks at the episode's close.
Does some excitement at the end redeem this story's slow start? Not in this instance. With the ensemble cast the show has, and the limited number of episodes left, Walking Dead
can't afford to spend 15 minutes of screen time with a stagnant storyline. With what we learned from both Beth and Daryl last week, Beth's kidnapping and Daryl's anguish over it would register just as strongly without spending time playing house in the funeral home. In order to continue to service the competing storylines (at least until the inevitable reunion, now that everyone is heading in the same direction, more or less), there needs to be better time management with the remaining stories.
Speaking of poor time management, the second half of "Alone" suffers from the opposite of the Daryl-Beth tale. The Bob-Sasha-Maggie story has an excellent beginning, but takes a creative nosedive afterward. Considering we know next to nothing about Bob, it is great to get a small look into who he was prior to being picked up by Glenn and Daryl. It also helps explain his negative attitude in the early episodes of the season (where he claimed to be simply buying time with the gang before they ultimately died and left him, as his former groups had). While I would like to know a bit more about his pre-zombie life, seeing Bob survive on his own is key to understanding him a bit better. This man is a survivor, even if he would much rather be with a group.
The rest of the story tries and fails to add depth to both Maggie and Sasha. I was hoping that the clash between the two- Maggie, holding out hope, while Sasha takes the realist position that everyone is likely dead by now- would have sent up an interesting decision regarding how to move forward as a group. But rather than make a bold split, the writers opted to colored Sasha's attitude toward heading to Terminus as her "being scared." What is she scared of? Well, they never actually say. I'm guessing dying? Or finding out Tyreese is really dead? I don't know. And honestly, I don't really care.
We've had Tyreese and Sasha around for a season and a half now, and know next to nothing about them. Heck, we didn't even get clear confirmation they were siblings until the start of this season. I'm not going to care if Sasha is scared if I don't have a reason to actually care about her. Perhaps some of the time spent fruitlessly arguing about whether to stay or go could have been spent giving us some insight into who Sasha is as a person? However, considering we've gotten some Beth, Daryl, and Bob backstory in the last two weeks, that might just be too much to ask for.
-- Now everyone except for Beth is at or walking down the tracks. I'm guessing we'll get a reunion in the finale. I feel weird for wanting this, but I hope we lose some people of consequence along the way.
-- I don't like the looks of the gang Daryl has fallen in with. They are most definitely the ones from the house with Rick, and I assume they are also the ones who set the trap and took Beth.
-- Another episode without Rick and Carl. I almost missed them. Almost.