Someone needed to die on The Walking Dead this week. That was the thought I kept coming back to during “Time for After.” Given the number of bad choices being made (mainly by the side winning this war, no less), it seemed like the only logical route was to see a significant death. For example, if Tara was shot during Daryl’s ill-conceived plan, it would leave an impact, but wouldn’t alter much of the show either (no offense Alanna Masterson, but it’s not like your character has many connections to others at this point). While no one died, it speaks to the hollow stakes that I’ve felt throughout the first half of this season. It’s a shame because this week did have a lot going for it, but it’s ultimately just a decent episode, instead of one that had me tenser about where things could be headed.
In a wise move, the episode opens and closes with Rick. Rather than interject the weirdness of the Scavengers throughout an episode full of Eugene’s particular brand of weirdness, we save all of that for the bookends. It’s a useful choice and leads to some exciting scenes. There’s just one large issue – Rick’s plan is garbage. Much of this season has revolved around a plan largely unknown to the viewers. This week we learn Rick’s plan to recruit the Scavengers relied entirely on him believing he could. There’s no backup plan or surprise guest; it’s just that stupidly simple.
It’s not the most prominent part of this episode and does feature enough entertaining moments to work for the show to a point, but it’s worth noting anyway. For all the good I got from seeing things start to fall apart for Rick in that closing shot, it was silly to learn Rick intentionally went to the Scavengers and just assumed he could pull this off. It speaks to my issue of stakes again. If The Walking Dead is going to hold back specific pieces of information, it best be ready to have a lot planned out that won’t let me question the logic. This was an area that doesn’t hold up to much scrutiny.
Meanwhile, the Sanctuary is surrounded by walkers. I’ve had issues understanding how dire the situation is because the show doesn’t know how to make the Sanctuary and the saviors something tangible. I was happy with the Negan/Gabriel-focused episode from a few weeks back, as it gave some dimension to the Saviors, but the continued look at this group only goes so far when the geography feels confusing. These people are supposedly running low on supplies and not happy with the current order, yet I don’t have much of that impression. Eugene comes close to letting us in on the dire position when he soars his little glider over the large heard. However, this building is so ill-defined that I can’t comprehend how this vast group hasn’t figured out how to clear the heard (they haven’t tried fire?).
That said, there is a lot done with Eugene. I’ve been on the fence about the character’s commitment to the Saviors, mainly because Josh McDermitt makes the role intriguing enough to keep him somewhat of a mystery. This week that’s been cleared up for me, but it is still an interesting challenge for the character. How does one serve a master for the sake of survival, and still hope to keep everyone alive? That’s a great dilemma that benefits the show, rather than run through the same ordeal of compromised morality due to some black and white answers to grey questions. Seeing a character be pushed hard based on internal struggles and not play into the usual solutions for this show means getting something I’d like to see more of.
What I’d like to see less of is random character choices based on imperfect planning. This describes everything going on with Daryl and the gang. It’s never a good sign when Rosita is the only person making sense, but that’s what happened. Daryl has a plan that involves using a truck to smash the sanctuary and have the herd of walkers go inside to take on the Saviors. Rosita and Michonne back out because…the show only needed them last week, I guess. The plan works the way it was supposed to, but never feels like a huge moment. There’s some chaos inside the walls, but even then, it’s not an interesting scenario and is only messing things up for Rick (which is a good thing as far as digging into those much-needed stakes I keep talking about).
Perhaps I just really want more from Norman Reedus. Scratch that. I need more from the writers catering to Reedus. He’s fine, but with nothing but grunts and implications, this whole plan business just feels like a way of keeping his fans satisfied by seeing him on screen, whether or not it makes sense. At least we got some more of Morgan, but even he just seemed to be around, adding some words and sniper fire when necessary.
Eugene is the star this week, though, so it is nice to have plenty of praise for him and the interactions he has with the others. He plays well with Dwight, Gabriel, and Negan for different reasons. They are enough to build some nice dramatic scenes, and I’ll be very curious what his upcoming plan to help Negan is (it involves lots of bullets).
“Time For After” is a better episode than the standstill that was last week’s episode. Being the penultimate episode before the mid-season finale, one can certainly see where things are heading as far as the direction this war is about to take. I can only hope the goodwill that has been built up in the case of some this half-season winds up outshining some of the weaker elements seen in others. Regardless, at least Rick got his boots back, and maybe, just maybe, someone of note will be taken out to ramp up the intensity.
- Zombie Kill of the Week: We don’t quite see the kill, but Rick using the helmeted walker as a weapon against the Scavengers was fun stuff.
- The AHK – Eugene’s preferred acronym for Alexandria, Hilltop and the Kingdom.
- As much as I liked Eugene this week, his style of speech starts to grate after a while.
- Gabriel is dying from wearing zombie guts. Finally, we’ve realized that’s an unhealthy thing to do.
- “I’m too good at this shit.” – Negan’s reason that he won’t die.
- That iPod is still charged, huh?
- “Sculpt whatever shit you want!” – Rick is tired of the Scavengers weirdness.
- 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.