There’s a particular shot of a walker in this week’s Walking Dead that summarizes the episode to the point that makes me wonder if another thousand words are necessary. While spending time in the woods during “The King, The Widow and Rick,” we see an impaled zombie trying to desperately grab a plastic bag. He’s going nowhere, looking miserable, but still determined. That’s what we get this week. Almost all of the characters go nowhere interesting, they seem pretty banged up and entirely in sad mode, given some recent deaths, but sure, they are determined to win the war.
Sometimes these middling episodes have something to offer. It’s because the focus is usually a bit narrower and the small character moments play well in the midst of an installment more focused on moving the chess pieces around a bit. That’s not the case here. Checking in with nearly everyone except Negan and the Sanctuary folk may give us some perspective on who is where, but the drama, for the most part, is not all that involving. That tends to happen eight years into a series that continues making the loss of every minor character/setback supposedly feel like something important enough to see the other characters mourn for an entire episode.
There are highs and lows here. The highs (and it’s really just one) come from two of the best actors on the show, so it makes sense. Carol and Ezekiel eventually share a scene and it’s nice. Melissa McBride and Khary Payton rank high on the list of actors consistently good on this show with characters who mostly work (Carol gets dinged a bit for actions from a season and a half ago), so it’s great to see their scenes play out effectively enough. That likely comes from the writers knowing what to do with them.
It’s easy to see similarities between these two and other previous characters in their position, but the show does well to acknowledge why this is unique to them. Ezekiel is not the first Walking Dead character to have his optimism shattered, but the way Carol relates to him to bring him back to a place where he can lead has a personal touch. Their shared history makes these characters interesting together, and the show benefits from finding something to build from. The same can’t be said for the rest of the episode.
We see other pairings, and they just feel adrift, as if the show had a “depressed” setting and floated around to different characters to show us what that looks like for every other actor. Aaron and Enid, for example, seem stuck in a constant pout. Understandably, we know what Aaron is going through, but does the show benefit from having us watch him be sad in a way we’ve seen plenty of times for a character we had no real connection to? As he exited the episode, with Enid coming with him, all I could think was how we could have been filled in with a couple of sentences a week later, were these two suddenly presented to us, rather than waste time with all the mourning.
Carl gets some time to shine this week, although letting Chandler Riggs be on his own hasn’t yielded much good. We see him catch up to Saddiq, the man looking for supplies only to be chased off by Rick. Fortunately, Saddiq is a good man and even his reason for killing walkers is a good one (to honor his parents), but because Carl makes terrible choices, they are both nearly killed.
Michonne and Rosita get the first significant thing to do this season and it’s for the sake of closure. It’s easy to comprehend but feels more like an excuse to put these two into action after leaving them out of all the fighting that made up the first quarter of this season. I guess some good comes of this because Rosita uses a rocket launcher on a guy, but nothing significant happens. That is until Daryl shows up. He and Tara arrive, they join the ladies, and the team heads to the Sanctuary to end things with Negan. This will go badly, as we all can predict.
Maggie gets the most significant chunk of the episode, as she must deal with the Savior prisoners at Hilltop. Given how she’s placed in a position that challenges her morality and plays intriguingly enough with Jesus and Gregory, I should be inclined to like this portion of the episode the most. The problem is how Maggie is not the best character, so I more or less see what the show’s trying to pull. The Walking Dead likes to get by on twisting the roles that characters play, but without actors who can sell certain nuances, it tends only to mean so much.
Not hurting is her choice to throw Gregory in with the rest of the saviors. As well all know, I think Xander Berkley is killing it on this show, so he’s not a problem when it comes to seeing that performance. This does ultimately help to build up Maggie as well, so my hopes surround the show doing well by Lauren Cohan to make these choices mean something down the line.
Regardless of how the comics function, I’m pretty sure AMC is aware of which characters are popular enough to want to provide more for. While that may be annoying for those who enjoy the show’s “no holding back” approach to killing off major players, this series has also been refraining from that aspect for a while at this point. It’s why we see certain shifts or emphasis and it’s also why Rick is still around.
Andrew Lincoln is continually giving this show his all, no question, but it’s starting to wear on me. It’s mainly because of all his awful speeches. Bringing up the comics again, I know Robert Kirkman and his team have a lot of characters speechify in them, but the series isn’t done any favors by replicating that aspect. It makes for a dry opening this week, and it’s followed up with Rick’s failed attempt to win over the garbage people. I may like the weirdness of said garbage people, but I just don’t have much care for whatever Rick’s plan is with them right now. Still, they did lock him up, and I can’t say I’m not intrigued by whatever the next steps will turn out to be.
If anything, “The King, The Widow and Rick” was too much of a drag to have me find more in what was presented. I’m happy to take in a slower episode if it gives the characters enough interesting material. However, this episode was like checking in with all the worst guests at a party. There’s just not much life here, and it brings down the momentum of the season that has been having issues with building a steady rhythm. Hopefully, everyone is pulled out of their funk now, because I’m ready to see this war get back into action (and ideally make me care).
- Zombie Kill of the Week: Saddiq smashed a walker’s head into a tree trunk. Not bad Saddiq. You’ll fit right in with this crowd.
- Rick’s Polaroid photos paid off this week until they didn’t. The garbage people don’t see much in him.
- Daryl and Tara really hate that Dwight.
- Jerry is an awesome dude.
- Morgan is still MIA.
- Rosita blew up a guy with a rocket launcher. Just wanted to re-state that.
- Thanks for reading and feel free to hear what me and a few other fans of the show have to say about the series on The Walking Dead TV Podcast.