Oh, it’s another 9/11 allegory! I got an inkling when Milton revealed his ignorance of walker outbreaks in “When the Dead Come Knocking”, demonstrating an all too familiar level of complacency among the Woodbury folk, one that’s allowed the Governor to murder and pillage every neighbouring community in the name of his American dream. If the analogy didn’t hit your nose hard enough, the would-be leader of the free world now presents the culmination of a conflict he started as a baseless attack on their way of life and passes along the word “terrorist” like clicker cards on the Vegas strip. The political commentary here strikes me as a bit hyperbolic, and one has to question the wisdom of casting our heroes as Taliban analogs, but I do like the resulting action set piece.
As is tradition with The Walking Dead, the carnage takes up most of the mid-season finale so as to give every character the opportunity to shine. Our favourite pizza delivery boy, for example, gets to makes a shiv out of broken walker bones, and his girlfriend Maggie gets to use it to turn a henchman into a Pez dispenser. I love as well the former’s immediate confession to Rick that “we couldn’t hold out.” What makes Glenn so compelling as a character is that he behaves with as much intelligence and sensitivity in regard to emotional matters as he does when facing a flesh-eating ghoul or a racist Woodbury general with a shiny blade for a hand.
On a related note, while I expected the writers to save the long-awaited Dixon reunion for the cliffhanger, I didn’t think the brothers would be on the same side when it happened. One could easily view this as a bit of a cop-out, seeing as the whole half-season seemed to be gearing for a fraternal Romeo and Juliet storyline. However, Andrea and Michonne are already in the midst of a similar subplot, and Merle’s lie about killing the latter had to pay off somehow. Besides, I rather look forward to his joining the cast, as our heroes have been in desperate need of a troublemaker since Shane bit the dust last year. Hey, you can’t criticise me for bringing him up if he actually appears in the episode!
Between his hallucinating his best bud (or nemesis, depending on how you look at it) in the middle of a gunfight and his taking phone calls from his late wife in “Hounded”, it does seem like Rick is coming unhinged, doesn’t it? I suspect this will lead to his leadership being put into question again though, this time, with good cause. I mean, the Woodbury raid in “Made to Suffer” goes well enough, but it does result in Prison T-Dog getting killed… What’s that? You don’t think the tribe will give a hoot? I suppose nobody does.
Now, before anyone accuses me of prejudice toward fictional African Americans, I did not call Oscar “T-Dog” because of his race. I did so because of his chronic blandness. Compare him to The Walking Dead’s other black newcomer, Michonne, whose character has been firmly established in the past eight episodes: she’s an idiot. I understand how weird thumping noises might distract the would-be ninja from assassinating the Governor and can even forgive her unchaining Penny before checking if she’s a zombie. However, I draw the line at the woman shoving a katana blade through her only piece of leverage instead of, say, pushing the little girl toward daddy so she can try to bite him and then slicing both their heads off.
It does so amuse me when protagonists behave in accordance to the plot rather than their personalities. This might explain my uncontrollable laughter at Hershel giving his nod of approval at a thirteen-year-old investigating screams of terror in an unsecured cell block on his own. As an aside, I’m ambivalent about Carl’s recent depiction as an action hero. On the one hand, it allows the writers to sidestep the usual issues associated with children in genre shows. On the other, I think Tyler from V might be closer to the mark when it comes to teenage behaviour. Yes, I realise we’re meant to find young Mr Grimes’ harshness eerie, but that only works if the other characters acknowledge it.
Still, I’m grateful for the B plot if only because I didn’t expect The Walking Dead to entice us with a new batch of survivors at this juncture. I’m told Tyreese plays a major role in the source comic book series, and he makes a strong impression here, exhibiting the same balance of cold practicality and human compassion that once defined Rick’s leadership. Otherwise, “Made to Suffers” proves somewhat by the numbers, which I mention without qualm. A genuine sense of payoff with just a hint of surprise is all I ask from a mid-season finale, and, if the writers can throw a bit of social commentary into the mix, then more power to them.
Death toll so far: sixteen. I wasn’t going to count Donna, but then I realised we got to know her about as well as Oscar.