While I was enthusiastic about this anthology series based on the premiere episode, I never expected Tales of the Walking Dead to go down this road. Yes, it’s fitting to add some humor, based on the casting choices, but this week throws characters into a Groundhog’s Day-style time loop, and I am all for that choice. This is precisely the kind of thing I want to see from a spin-off show with the ability to do anything it wants, and “Blair / Gina” easily delivers when looking at the absurdity of the situation and finding ways to challenge it.
From the start, the dynamic between the two leads is clear, even if a bit obvious. Hiring Parker Posey and Jillian Bell means getting very specific types of characters, especially in a show already relying on a heightened atmosphere. Posey plays Blair, the head of the office at an insurance company, and is exactly the self-obsessed mean girl we’ve seen her play since Dazed and Confused. That doesn’t make it bad, as Posey is very good at walking the line of making a horrible personality still watchable. Bell is Gina, the put-upon receptionist who is clearly holding in all her stress until it’s time to blow. Facial expressions are crucial to her effectiveness, even after she becomes more confrontational.
With the previews highlighting a bit where Blair lets herself get eaten by a walker, I was not ready for where this was going. Was that a major spoiler or an early suggestion that Blair would be annoying Gina, even after becoming an undead flesh eater? The turn it takes is even better. Set right at the start of the zombie apocalypse, watching the series of events that lead up to a huge explosion that resets the timeline had its own level of thrills. This may be the least scary The Walking Dead will ever be due to the screwball hijinks director Michael E. Satrazemis aims for with this episode, but I did appreciate the tension between Blair, Gina with a shotgun, and a Homeland Security agent, as they all deal with a high-level threat ready to happen.
Resetting the timeline to a key moment in the office, I appreciated how the show used visuals to let the viewer in without explicitly making it clear until a few scenes later. Yes, this story gimmick is much more commonplace now than it was back during the Bill Murray days in 1993. With that said, it’s a conceit that can always be fun when used well, and the effort made to have an audience understand it allows for creative filmmaking choices.
Once Blair and Gina both recognize the scenario they are stuck in, I’m happy the show worked in a montage of ridiculous attempts to escape their predicament. Since it always ends in a tanker truck explosion, watching the ludicrous ways these two screw things up is a lot of fun. To be more specific, seeing Bell and Posey trying to manage this large tanker truck, and making big bug eyes while erratically turning or having one try to eat the other makes for a series of situations that were likely as fun to shoot as they were to watch.
Of course, some meaning does have to be found in this, and this is where one singular episode needs to be dealt with through good writing to be handled effectively. I’ve already noted how the previous episode made good on what The Walking Dead can do very well – one-offs with a small set of characters. This week’s episode is no different. Because Posey and Bell are also good actors, seeing them confront the things that have been so bothersome rings true, even without having seasons’ worth of time spent with them. More specifically, this episode takes Posey’s Blair to task for being awful, and she offers a sense of understanding to Bell, who hates her the most. It’s good work, and it leads to nice office scenes that include Gina blowing up at Blair by calling out why the rest of the employees hate her, and then a reverse where Blair deals with each.
Pushing through that arc means getting a final section where the two work together, ideally recognizing how to beat this time loop. It involves effectively stealing the tanker truck together and using their bond and understanding to do good. In this case, it means pouring a bunch of gas onto a horde of walkers below a bridge they are on to save people running away. Perfectly fitting the tone of this episode, the cool way to show this is a failure, only to allow Blair to shed one more part of her irritating persona (her lucky pink neck accessory).
Ending how it should – on a bit of humor – their act for the sake of good still leads to the tanker exploding, but the ladies survive, albeit with singed hair to give them a hilarious new look. As the two walk off together, hopefully reaching Gina’s family, the mutual respect feels earned, and all is well in this mini tale. The next episode appears to be focusing on a character we already know, but I’ll be curious if that or other tales will continue taking this premise to such extremes as a time loop. The sort of inventiveness seen this week gives me hope.
- Zombie Kill of the Week: Tanker BBQ from above.
- Gina presumably breaking all the mugs is a pretty great stance against authority.
- Obviously, we don’t need to know the “why” and “how” of this time loop, but it would be fun to know if anyone else was also affected. Of course, this episode also throws in the psychosis known as Folie a deux, which is an interesting way of dealing with how these two characters connect.
- There sure were some questionable effects when dealing with driving and explosions. Not enough to put me off, as the fun of the episode made it feel at least somewhat self-aware. That said, filming conditions makes it clear that only so much budget can be allotted to these closed-off stories.
- The women having a full-on slap fight was also funny, especially given Posey’s ridiculous outfit.
- “I stayed here and got eaten. It was the worst way to go.” – Terrific delivery.
- “For Jasmine.” – Another hair joke and a great cap to the episode.
- Thanks for reading, and feel free to hear what I and a few other fans of the show have to say about the series on The Walking Dead TV Podcast.