Sunday, November 29, 2015

REVIEW: 'The Walking Dead' - Rick Needs to Protect Everyone When the Herd Enters Alexandria in 'Start to Finish'

AMC's The Walking Dead - Episode 6.08 "Start to Finish"

Multiple problems crash together.

The first half of The Walking Dead's sixth season has had a number of problems. Most importantly, the need to cater to so many characters forced the show to pick and choose in each episode which kept the season from finding any kind of constant momentum. There were some great things in these eight episodes. There were also some really stupid things. And yet, not a lot makes a whole lot of sense because it's difficult to understand why the majority of characters act the way that they do. It's simply chaos to have chaos. Heading into tonight's midseason finale, it felt like the show would get back to the action story beats that it does so well after struggling with character moments over the last few episodes. And yet, that wasn't particularly true at all. Yes, the tension is ramped up in this hour because the walkers have gotten through the walls of Alexandria. But the show still wanted to pair up different characters in order for them to talk about things that really aren't that interesting.

The big Rick storyline this season has been him learning to protect everyone in Alexandria because they are all a part of the same large group now. He has always been very hesitant to helping these people because he thinks they are too foolish to survive this zombie apocalypse. Whenever someone from Alexandria would question Rick's order, they would end up dying a few minutes later. That got old rather quickly in this arc. Rick is not always right. It's his stupid plan that got the community into this whole mess in the first place. He looks at the citizens of Alexandria with a superiority complex because he knows how to survive in this world. That's what keeps him and his group of survivors alive. And now, they were being asked to help protect a community that really didn't know anything about the outside world. And yet, Rick's way of doing things was never realistically challenged. The only attempts at showcasing that were in the Alexandrians doing something stupid - like Spencer's attempt to get outside the walls last week. Rick saving him didn't mean anything then and it doesn't mean anything now that the house fell down on the wall and let the herd of walkers inside the community.

Deanna urges Rick to look after everyone who survives because they are all a part of the same group. She knows that he isn't going to change his mind anytime soon though. So when she is bitten and slowly being killed by the disease, she makes him promise to look after Spencer as if he was a part of Rick's group. That is key in understanding the way Rick sees the world. Deanna recognizes that even on her death bed. Rick is holed up in a house with a mix of people from his group and from Alexandria. He is there with Deanna, Carl, Michonne, Father Gabriel, Jessie, Ron and Sam. He doesn't like everyone in that group. But he has to protect all of them because that's the only way to survive. That action may get Rick to see the world in a different way. He is a part of Alexandria now. And yet, Michonne seems to understand that aspect of the community better. She's the one who understands Deanna's vision for the future. Deanna may be dying but Michonne wants to make her dreams a reality. She wants to belief that this community will survive this attack and prosper because someone had the idea of what should happen next. Michonne is more equipped to handle that than Rick. He is all about the action and making sure the community is safe. That makes him a strong leader in the pressure of the outside world. But it makes it difficult for him to understand what this community can be. Granted, he's thinking about the moment and making sure this group of people survives this attack as the walkers enter the house. But there is going to be a future for many of these characters. Rick will have to do something then. Hopefully, his story will make more sense when that time comes.

It is also refreshing that Rick remembers that cover oneself with walker guts can mask a human's smell and allow them to go undetected by the dead. It's a trick that Rick has used before but the show has carefully made sure not to use too much. It's a way out that's easy to explain. It's the only way out of this situation for Rick and his group of survivors in the house. But it's also a trick that can go awry in so many ways. That's what makes it so tense when it's used. But it's also a device the show only remembers to use on occasion. Even when the show does use it, it makes sure that it's complicated in a matter of seconds. In this case, it's Sam who ruins things for the whole group. It's an agonizing and annoying cliffhanger for the midseason finale. Sam is an important character throughout this episode. He keeps wanting to escape the reality of the situation. Jessie even encourages that. But the outside world is still creeping in to corrupt his soul. The show never really earns that moment though. There is no reason why Sam is allowed to escape the reality of the world. It just makes it convenient for the show to trump up a cliffhanger for the episode. When the group leaves the house unharmed, Sam starts to freak out and say "Mom" repeatedly. He wasn't there when Rick was explaining that they need to be quiet. And that's going to bring about so much chaos and death at the start of the next episode next year. But it's also incredibly silly because once again it's the show saying kids are the absolute worst. That's a point the show has made many times over the years. It was even important earlier in "Start to Finish" when Ron foolishly tried to kill Carl which lead to the walkers breaking into the house. Stupid acts like that are what force the narrative into action. But it's just a really lame way to tell a story.

"Start to Finish" focuses a lot of its time on the situation in the house where Rick is at. It doesn't have a lot of time to say what's going on elsewhere in Alexandria. It does break a couple of different character pairings off. But those other small groups of survivors are given very minimal amounts of screen time. So it makes their stories feel incredible rushed. Maggie rushes up the guard tower while kicking away at a bunch of walkers. That's safe for now but it's very unstable. That happens early in the hour and she isn't seen again. Glenn and Enid are still on the other side of the wall. They see whats happening in Alexandria and agree to go help after talking for a bit. But that's all they do. Also, Eugene is the one who cries out for help to Daryl, Abraham and Sasha. But they never show up at all. Meanwhile, Eugene, Rosita and Tara hang out in a garage for a little bit wallowing and reading. They sit just to make them too late to save Denise when she's treating Morgan's wolf prisoner. It is interesting that Rosita, Tara and Eugene found safety in the building connected to where Denise, Morgan and Carol were. But it was a little bit of too little too late. The moral debate between Carol and Morgan is interesting regarding the prisoner. But it still has a very anticlimactic ending of Morgan knocking out Carol and the wolf knocking out Morgan. He then kidnaps Denise and walks outside. She's not dead because her body isn't seen. But it's a very grim prospect. All of these little character bits don't add up to much. It's because the show is over-bloated with stories and characters that don't work. When it returns next year, it needs to simplify a few things. The show has proven in the past that when it goes smaller, great things happen. But that's very unlikely to happen given the speed and intensity the show loves telling stories.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Start to Finish" was written by Matthew Negrete and directed by Michael E. Satrazemis.
  • That farewell scene between Deanna and Michonne was pretty good. However, it's a tad weird that Michonne lets Deanna keep her gun when the rest of the group would need it more. Deanna is willing to kill herself but she doesn't need a gun to do.
  • Deanna keeping the gun was just to make her final scene much more badass. She doesn't take the coward's way out. When she hears the walkers coming down the hallway, she chooses to stand up and kill as many as she can.
  • It was a horrible freakout on the show's part to have Deanna hanging over Judith's crib as if she was a walker only for her to still be herself. Such a lame way to derive tension for a few seconds.
  • The final cliffhanger would have been much more believable if it was Judith who made the noise that brought the walkers towards the group. With it being Sam, it's just stupid because the character is making a very dumb mistake.
  • A two minute tease of the second half of the season aired during the first commercial break of Into the Badlands. That's a very shameless thing for AMC to do to get people to watch the beginning of that new show. But if you missed it, you can watch it here. It teases a new bad guy and nothing else. That name means nothing if you don't read the comic books.