The Walking Dead Post Mortem: “Made to Suffer”
Greetings fellow zombie lovers and fans of eye gouging; first things first, I’m going to call tonight’s mid-season finale of The Walking Dead, “Made to Suffer” a success. And I’m going to call the first half of season 3 an overall success as well. The past 8 episodes were the most consistently entertaining I’ve seen from the series. I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. I just knew there was going to be an episode focused primarily on the group at the prison doing their laundry talking while standing around and talking about hope…or the lack thereof. I was wrong, and I couldn’t be happier about it. Now, let’s get this last post mortem examination (until February that is!) underway.
The plot was pretty straight forward: Rick, Michonne, Daryl, and break into Woodbury to rescue Glenn and Maggie and hijinks ensue, the governor loses an eye (and his prized Zombie head collection), and in the final moments of the episode Daryl and Merle are finally reunited in the worst possible way. There were some fairly large scale action/fight sequences throughout the episode, a lot of which fell short in the plausibility department. I’m pretty sure Merle had at least 3 easy opportunities to take Glenn out during their scuffle, and Rick and his stealth ninja crew might as well have been Luke, Han, Chewie, rescuing Princess Leia from the Death Star; and yes, everyone in Woodbury has appears to have Storm Trooper aim…except for the Shane hallucination dude who hit Oscar. That being said, I enjoy it when movies and TV series remember that they are movies and TV series and have fun. This isn’t reality folks, this is scripted drama, and one of the more legitimate criticisms lobbied at TWD is that it takes itself far too seriously at times. So it was nice to see the writers, directors, and actors cut lose for once and tear it up on screen. Part of what made the action so effective (and the dis-belief suspending that much easier) was the strong visuals on display in these sequences; instead of being needlessly chaotic and ‘gritty”, the trashcan fire-lit-Woodbury mixed with the smoke from canisters (which Rick &Daryl dispensed with aplomb) created a warmly stylized tone that juxtaposed nicely with the violent shootout on streets of Wodobury.
A big complaint about the episode, I’ve seen floating around the interwebbs is that Michonne’s motivation for wanting to kill The Governor is kind of sketchy. Yeah…call me a shameless Walking Dead apologist if you want, but I thought her motivation was pretty simple: He sent group of men to murder her, and she is going to make sure that doesn’t happen again. Did he need to do something else horrible to her? I’m all for being nit-picky but I really don’t understand this complaint/criticism at all. She is completely justified in wanting to kill him. Also, I think it’s safe to say Michonne knows that even if they make it out of Woodbury alive, The Governor will come looking for them, and TV quote another famous horror story, “sometimes…dead is better”.
The fight sequence between Michonne and The Governor was brutal and very convincing, (I hardly noticed the stunt doubles) and one of the highlights from the episode. Interestingly enough, if I had to find fault in any of Michonne’s actions, it was murdering Penny. It smacked of excursiveness as she seemed to enjoy doing that a little too much and I didn’t understand why? It’s one thing for her to want to eliminate the threat of The Governor, it another thing entirely for her to revel in killing his zombie daughter. Michonne is a character everyone can enjoy on a visceral level: she’s a badass chick with a cool sword and she knows how to use, but hopefully during the back half of Season 3 we’ll find out more about who Michonne really is, and how she came to be the badass chick with that really cool sword.
The episode also introduced to a new group of ragged survivors lead by a man named Tyreese (Chad L. Coleman). Tyreese, along with his daughter and few other folks who make their way into the prison after barely escaping a zombie onslaught; I’m all for new blood, and their introduction allowed for Carl to take another big leap as a character by stepping up and taking charge when confronted by this group, however,….there was a brief dialogue exchange between Tyreese and Carl that was both staggering stupid and unintentionally hilarious. Carl offers to bring a quick end to a recently bitten member of Tyreese’s crew suffering via bullet to head. Tyreese declines his offer, saying “we’ll take care of our own”….after saying this he goes on to pull out a hammer, flips it around to the business end (if you’re horror/mafia movie aficionado, I should not have to explain which is which) and hands it over to the dying girl’s boyfriend/husband/whatever; forget a quick bullet to the head…a hammer to the head is a way more humane way to end someone’s suffering, right? This whole bit was pure foolishness, I hadn’t seen something so dumb on the show since last season when they were lowering Glenn into that Well on Herschel’ farm. You’re better than this Walking Dead. Regardless of that I am interested to see what happens once Rick gets back to the prison and meets the new arrivals. He’ll need as many warm bodies as he can get to win the war against The Governor.
My only other complaint about the episode was the abrupt ending. I felt like this was the first part of a longer form episode that just sort of cut off mid-scene. Where was the dramatic slow motion face-off between Daryl and Merle? It just ended with them all standing around after The Governor finished speaking. I could have used a bit more showmanship dammit!
As I mentioned above, this has been a really strong run of episodes for The Walking Dead. That’s not to say there haven’t been some minor and major missteps and flaws, but overall the first half of season 3 was a big step forward for the show. The Walking Dead will never be The Wire, Mad Men, or Breaking Bad. And it’s not supposed to be. It’s fun show about killing zombies and the emotional toll having to kill zombies to survive all the time takes on person. As long as they don’t lose sight of that, The Walking Dead will always be watchable, and considering all the other soul-crushingly awful shit that on TV these days…that’s saying something.