The Walking Dead definitely needed something, but was last night’s episode it?
Glenn may or may not be dead. If the usual T.V. tropes hold true, Glenn has gone off to the great satellite provider in the sky, or at least delivering pizzas in Purgatory – but Glenn was one the best people on the show along with his wife, Maggie. He referred back to his first episode, got out a sentimental watch, talked about having to get back to Maggie, just as another minor character spoke about his wife making him a better man after the Zombie Apocalypse, only to become a snack for former lobbyist from Washington, D.C. trapped in a quarry, it’s hard to tell the difference, but if you look closely at their eyes, the Zombies have a little more life in them than actual lobbyists and are slightly less dangerous.
But my money is on Glenn being covered in Nicholas’ entrails and sliding under the dumpster they fell off of avoiding afternoon feeding time. It’s very not, Walking Dead. The Walking Dead has traded in avoiding any happy convention whatsoever. This has actually worked for the show, if I vowed never to watch it again so many times because it left me mildly suicidal. I keep a bottle of Prozac next to the remote. But there’s a peculiar redemption to characters just surviving and learning to live with such a gruesome world. And they are more like actual real people because simply: awful things happen to them and have consequences. While somewhat maligned, I thought the second season earned its emotional punches and moments of scariness by taking a breath here and there and spending eight weeks looking for a child that died a long time prior. This was the new world. Even the reunification of main character Rick with his family initially is wrought with betrayal and eventual murder.
The fifth season seemed just a series of shock deaths, to the point of numbness. Tyrese, Beth, and Noah all had narrative life left in them and unresolved issues that died with them. Less than complex characters were taking their place and Rick was becoming a one-note annoyance. “These people don’t get it.” Maybe a few tears and reflection upon Shane wouldn’t be so unbecoming of his character. Only Deanna, the new titular leader seemed to have the subtleties of reflection upon actions. But then she bought in with Rick and the gruesome awfulness that is the world of the Zombie Apocalypse.
Last year I wrote, I wanted to see the social dynamic change some on the show. At some point, running from Zombies in the woods gets a little old. The prosthetics are awesome and completely accurate anatomically, but scary like rats or a nest of wasps. Dumb things a smart person and group can learn to deal with. It was time to reassemble some of what was, the parts that did in fact need to be kept. Not for the sake of survival, but for meaning. Didn’t anyone care about finding a book on say, epidemiology?
We got the usual hordes of zombies, gruesome deaths, and conflict between the nice, the nuts, and the survivalists. Been there and done that with more complex, human overtones. The group stopped tolerating difficult people. Shane, Lori, and Andrea were all pills in their own way, and wiped away in that order, but their presence made for drama, which was interesting. Now everyone is an enemy or friend, no shades of gray.
But if Glenn actually benefits from sparing Nicholas and lives to see Maggie again, the world they live in might be worth surviving. Right now, every enclave turns to manure. Oddly, no one has mentioned the presence of the letter A on the steps next to Carol after the Wolves’ attack. Probably drawn for Alexandria, it also is the name of the letter on the boxcar Rick and group are trapped in in Terminus. It was written on trees as the Termites plotted their revenge. Does Carol, with the darkest secrets of anyone, have a reckoning that pushes forward? Tyrese and his forgiveness are gone. But does it remain in the people left behind?
Sadly, I’m bored with shock deaths of characters. If I felt moved by them before, they just seem like a trope at this point. Glenn not dying would be interesting.
The Walking Dead has always dealt in the subversion of expectation. Hope would be the creepiest device of them all now.