*Let me just say first off that in the history of our relationship that spans a lot of years, I don't think John and I have ever come down this passionately on opposite sides of a television show. He loved last night's episode; I thought it was not so great. Obviously, I'm right. Here's why.
1. The flashback cold open was a wasted opportunity: I was happy to see The Walking Dead decide to spice things up with a little backstory. But the backstory in this case was so milquetoast and focused on a character (i.e. Lori) who is so lame that she is beyond redemption. The flashback took us to what Lori was doing (picking up Carl at school) when Shane told her that Rick had been shot. And right before Shane pulled up in his sheriff mobile, Lori was in the process of telling her friend how she's so mad at Rick because he's so nice. This is akin to a woman complaining that she can never find jeans lower than a size zero. This is not a problem that will endear you to us, Lori.
HOW TO FIX IT: Spread the flashbacks around. Give us some Dale-the-Wall-Street-Broker moments. Or Daryl-the-Governer's-gigolo. Surprise us. Bring some more depth and intrigue to the cast of stock characters.
2. Rick Grimes = The worst thing about Jack Shepherd. On LOST, Dr. Jack Shepherd was always running around trying to fix things, going on adventures, and sticking his nose in people's business. Jack needed to be the hero, and so does Rick. After it took him such a long time to get back together with his family, would Rick really be willing to leave his dying son in a stranger's house in order to go find Lori? I don't know, maybe he would, but found this little character tic frustrating. And, really, it's Rick's only character tic, so it's the only one I have to go off of.
HOW TO FIX IT: A show like this does need someone willing to step up and be the hero, and I suppose it has to be Rick. But if he's going to be an idiot who threatens to ride off into Zombieland on minus-2 pints of blood, I need to know what in his character would make him do that. Otherwise, he's just flighty and kind of a bad dad.
3. Just stop it with the zombies for five minutes. Wouldn't it be more unsettling if The Walking Dead could go for one whole episode without one human-brain-ivore? I hate to invoke Breaking Bad here, because not all shows can be Breaking Bad, but The Walking Dead could take a few cues from that show in the tension department. On Breaking Bad, Gus Fring could be walking around the meth lab doing nothing but removing articles of his clothing, and my heart would be jumping through my sternum. I get no such rush from The Walking Dead, a show on which every moment is fraught with the danger of death. The writers have to let the characters sit and breathe for a few minutes, to feel safe, and then bring on the zombie attack. Otherwise we become desensitized to the gore.
BONUS FIX: If the writers would just chill out for a second and let our band of merry travelers rest for a few days at the good veterinarian's house, it would give them a some time to let us get to know the characters a little bit better. Maybe we'd care about them more.
4. Because right now, every single person on this show is no more real than that cardboard cutout of Ted Danson from Three Men and a Baby that everyone thought was a ghost. Rick is the hero. Lori is the mean mommy. Low Rent Jamie Lee Curtis is the basket case/cannon fodder. Shane is...OK maybe Shane's a little complex. He's a total frenemy to Rick. He looks out for the guy, obviously loves him, but also likes to sexually assault his best friend's wife. Maybe Shane is this show's Single White Male.
HOW TO FIX IT: Watch Season 1 of LOST and you'll get the idea. The flashbacks on that show brought depth to the characters beyond what they were willing to show on the island. The island was a place for the survivors of 815 to start new lives and right wrongs. The caravan of folks on The Walking Dead are in the same boat. Why do they behave the way they do? I want to know. I want to care about these people so that when the zombies come to eat them it makes me cry. Is that too much to ask?
BONUS HOW TO FIX IT: At this point, they should probably just kill off all the super lame characters and focus on the ones who actually seem like real people underneath it all. So, basically feed anyone who's not Rick, Shane, Daryl, Glenn, or Dale to the zombies. And have them meet new people (preferably well-rounded women people) on the road so that they can repopulate the earth.
5. Fix the point of view issues: Carl getting shot aside, this show lives and dies on its zombie scares. And in the last two episodes, those scares have consisted of what I'd like to call the "Zombie Surprise." The Zombie Surprise kind of worked when Andrea got separated from the pack in the woods. She looked over at someone whom she assumed she knew and that person turned out to be a zombie. Zombie Surprise! But then at the high school, Shane and Otis got out of the car and looked around while crouched near the ground. The didn't see any zombies. Shane was all, "I'll stand up and take a look." And what did he see? A batrillion zombies in front of the high school milling around and making A LOT of noise. Shane didn't hear that noise when he got out of the car? Zombie Surprise fail. The same thing happened in the last episode where Rick and Dale were looking through binoculars or whatever and didn't spot the zombies until they were right up on their asses. Epic Zombie Surprise fail.
HOW TO FIX IT: Recognize that zombies are noisy, slow-moving creatures that, when in a pack, will never be able to sneak up on anyone remotely paying attention. Make the rules of zombie engagement and stick to them. (Also, can't the zombies smell the living? Wasn't that a thing last season? Why are these folks no longer concerned about being smelled?)
- The new guys, Hershel and Otis, kept referring to Carl as "your boy," which is probably why there are so many LOST mentions in this review.
- "Am I the only Zen one around here?" Daryl says this. And it most certainly does not sound like something a Daryl-type person would ever say. Who is Daryl...really? A secret surfer dude? A Buddhist monk? Just a redneck with really bad writers?
- Dr. Hershel doesn't believe that the CDC is gone and with it a cure for zombieitis. Does he know something we don't know or is he just super optimistic?
- Zombie Rules According to The Walking Dead: Zombies only make sounds when you can hear them. You can only see zombies when you're looking for them. If a zombie falls in the woods and no one's around to hear it, does it make a sound?
- Most informative personal backstory tidbit of the night: Merle used to get The Clap on occasion.
- OK, Shane punching a zombie was pretty badass.
What did you think of this episode of The Walking Dead? Is the show fine as it is, or does it need fixing?