The Walking Dead – Strangers Review
"Choppy, but Interesting Episode"
"Strangers" was an interesting episode for The Walking Dead
. We were given the chance to spend time with various characters, and various character combinations, learning a bit more about several tangential characters. But the overall pacing of the episode was painfully slow, with strange and choppy narrative choices that served the bring down the episode's energy level to the point where I felt a bit lethargic just watching it. That being said, there was enough interesting plot and character devices to save the episode from itself.
Let's start with the more mundane elements of the episode. It turns out that after a season spent separated from each other, reuniting and getting the band back together isn't as simple as one might think. Particularly if you're Carol. I'm still not entirely clear on what specifically motivated Carol to head for the door and the getaway car while the gang was throwing back wine and singing Kumbaya in the church, but it's a mystery I hope the show doesn't brush to the side. I'm also happy that Daryl had the wherewithal to follow her, since if anyone can get to the bottom of what is going on with Carol, it's Daryl. And the prospect of a Carol and Daryl adventure to save Beth? That's pretty much the best thing the series has cooked up in a long while.
The rest of the episode tried and ultimately failed to be a slow burn of tension. Sure, I think everyone watching shares Rick's suspicion regarding Father Gabriel (claiming you locked yourself away from the world for months in a church doesn't fly on my BS meter). And the battle against the water walkers was different. But there was just too much time spent building tension that didn't pay out. Rick rolled over and gave into the Washington plan without any sort of a push back, which was strange in and of itself (even stranger, utilizing Judith as the means of agreement- while it was cute, it was also out of character with who and what Rick has become, even if you make the argument Judith is bringing back his humanity). Granted, Father Gabriel's true colors (whatever those might be) will likely be exposed in the coming weeks. But spending an entire episode highlighting the reforged bond between the group through a series of short disjointed scenes between character pairs, while ratcheting up the tension without a major pay-off hits me as a lost opportunity.
In terms of the tension, I guess, in a way, we do get some pay-off there in the form of the appearance of the remaining Terminus members, but even that shocking moment at the close of the episode was telegraphed pretty clearly throughout the episode. Rule number one on The Walking Dead
: If a secondary character suddenly gets a lot to do or say, he or she is in serious trouble. So, as soon as Bob began chatting up a storm, I knew something pretty awful was in store for him. My initial assumption was that he had gotten bit or scratched by the walker in the food pantry (a theory that was enhanced by his body language and his decision to walk away from the group and cry), so I wasn't all that shocked when he was taken by Gareth and his brood of cannibals. (Also, were we supposed to be surprised they were cannibals? Because I thought they were super clear on that fact last week, but it felt like Bob's missing leg was supposed to be a shock.)
For fans of the comics, this storyline likely seems super familiar (confession: this is as far as I've read in the comics, so I know this story's resolution, but am in the dark regarding points beyond). And I love that the show is incorporating this particular story from the comics into the series. I have a strong feeling that this one will play out very closely along the same lines, as well. I just wish the show had heightened the stakes a bit more. Perhaps chosen a more central character for this particular storyline (in the comics, the character in danger is one of the more central characters to the story, not someone on the periphery like Bob). An extra five or six lines and a reminder that Sasha has a thing for him does not make me care about Bob more. If The Walking Dead
wants the threat of death and dismemberment to have an impact on its audience, it needs to take the time to build up characters- all of the characters. Imagine the audience reaction if Daryl or Carol had been in Bob's place. This was a pretty good episode. But it could have been a true game changer.
-- Does anyone else think that Tara has a thing for Maggie? Because that's certainly the vibe I was getting. And I really hope the show doesn't go there. Let poor Tara acclimate to the group without throwing in a romantic entanglement.
-- After all those comments on the group staying together, Daryl and Carol just up and drive off without letting anyone know where they are. Which clearly means everyone is going to think they were taken with Bob. Which will almost certainly complicate the impending Bob rescue mission. But, the thought of Carol, Daryl and Beth (arguably, three of the best characters on the show) in their own storyline? That's worth watching Rick and company scramble in vain to find their missing members for a few weeks.
-- We know someone is watching the group. The question is- was it Morgan or the Hunters? I have a feeling Morgan might turn out to be crucial to saving Bob before it's too late (although, I guess the idea of "too late" is relative, in this case).
-- The show does a lot of things well. One thing it doesn't do well? Super-villain speeches. Gareth's was laughably bad.
-- We now have three vets of The Wire
on the show: Lawrence Gilliard, Jr. (Bob), Chad T. Coleman (Tyreese), and Seth Gilliam (Father Gabriel).