With only two episodes to go before Glen Mazzara’s departure as executive producer of The Walking Dead, I thought now would be a good time to look at his run and evaluate AMC’s decision to replace him. I imagine that, from this sentence alone, a lot of you have figured out my desperation at finding something interesting to discuss about “Prey”, which the show’s current Grand Poobah co-wrote with the same cold efficiency he’s brought to the season as a whole. Therein lies the rub.
There’s no denying Mazzara saved The Walking Dead from a disastrous situation last year, what with his predecessor firing an award-winning writing team and exceeding the established budget halfway into the season. However, all this strikes me as somewhat irrelevant, given AMC has no intention of bringing Frank Darabont back. Rather, the network has opted to promote Scott M. Gimple, who’s penned some of the series’ most memorable character pieces so far, including “Save the Last One”, “Pretty Much Dead Already”, and this year’s “Clear”. In contrast, our current show runner has settled for episodes like “Prey”.
We’ve got some interesting ideas here. As the sole representatives of Woodbury’s conscience, the Governor’s counsels have started to undermine his authority, further isolating the increasingly mad tyrant in his bloodthirsty megalomania. What’s more, Andrea and Milton lack the subtlety and the nerve respectively to overthrow their master, which puts them both in tremendous risk. The problem lies in how summarily Mazzara and co-writer Evan Reilly explore these notions and in how little patience I have left for the characters making idiotic decisions to serve the plot.
Take, for example, Andrea’s decision to jump the fence right in front of Tyreese and Sasha, needlessly getting them in trouble with their unstable new leader, instead of asking Milton to let her out secretly as he did just three episodes ago. Don’t get me wrong: the resulting set piece in the abandoned factory delivers its share of suspense, not least because most of us are convinced either Blondie or her new BFF, Mr Mamet, will bite the dust before the end of the season (more on that later). However, none of this changes the fact that the whole thing is predicated on our heroes behaving like complete nincompoops.
As a result, Philip catching up at the last minute to our not so favourite anymore civil rights lawyer doesn’t come off quite like the bit of cruel irony that I’m guessing the writers intended. Instead, it comes across as yet another example of a plot thread on The Walking Dead curling in a circle and eating its own tail in wait for the big season finale. Now, to be fair, the closing act of “Prey” did catch me by surprise in one respect: I would have expected Milton to end up in the chair rather than Captain Stupid.
Lest we forget, Andrea’s brash actions landed him in hot water too. Her self-righteous pep talk before she left couldn’t have helped either: “If you stay, you can’t keep looking the other way!” It seems to me speaking out publicly will only serve to reduce Milton’s influence on the Governor. The rebellious bookworm is better off subtly nudging Woodbury in the right direction as he’s been trying to do than engaging in short-term acts of sabotage like setting fire to the walker pit and getting caught one commercial break later.
Mind you, the way Philip deduces his involvement strikes me as a bit iffy. How hard would it have been for Tyreese to just lie about the gasoline? Granted, the latter has proven himself the sort of uncalculating brute to pick fistfights in front of the very people he’s trying to impress, but then Mazzara has a history of presenting heroic freethinkers as loudmouth imbeciles. At any rate, I’d say Milton’s fate is pretty much sealed. One of the Governor’s Jiminy Crickets has got to go, and I can’t imagine our show runner putting Andrea through so many close calls only for her to get axed anyway.
Then again, if “Prey” serves as any indication, Mazzara has also got a tendency to jerk us around.