THE WALKING DEAD Post-Mortem: “The Suicide King” Recap

Greetings fellow zombie lovers and fans of little ass kicker’s makeshift bassinet; welcome to the back- half of The Walking Dead season 3, before we get any further into my review of “The Suicide King”, a disclaimer: if you’ve read my post mortems before, you know I don’t really do conventional/traditional episodic recaps, but I must warn you, this one is going to be even less conventional. I’m going to discuss the episode, but I’m going to spend some time discussing (and offering up commentary) about what’s going on behind the scenes of the show. Buckle up kids. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

Sometimes, I wish I could judge a Walking Dead episode with the criteria I suspect a *portion* of The Walking Dead fan base uses to asses an episode’s quality. Stuff like: were lots and lots of zombies killed? Were Daryl and Michonne sufficiently badass? Was there too much talky-talky touchy feely stuff? Alas, I have a few other concerns running through my head while reviewing an episode, and the bar is always raised significantly higher for season premieres or finales. Tonight’s episode came out of the gate running, kept a pretty good pace going for a while, and then stumbled making it to the finish line. We got the resolution to the mid-season finale’s cliff-hanger, with Rick and the prison crew coming back for one more shoot out with the good folks of Woodbury, and saving the brothers Dixon in the process. There was a great call back to season one with Rick once again being forced to pistol whip a loud mouthed Merle into (temporary) submission . This was easily the most entertaining scene in the episode and it was nice to see some genuine humor injected into The Walking Dead, just because it’s a bleak, apocalyptic, and exceedingly dark show doesn’t mean it has to be humorless one as well. Besides, it’s good to laugh.

Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) - The Walking Dead - Season 3, Episode 8 - Photo credit: Tina Rowden/AMC

However, there were some mildly problematic things about “The Suicide King”. The Ricktatorship is beginning to grate. The idea that Rick remains so fervently against any one joining the core group is understandable to a point, but it also lead to many repetitive scenes throughout the episode: Rick telling Daryl that Merle couldn’t join the group, Hershel telling Tyreese rick probably won’t let him (and his crew) join the group, and then Rick telling Tyreese he couldn’t join the group. Obviously, the writers are setting up the personal conflicts and larger story arcs that are going to drive the remainder of season 3, but after the thrilling opening shoot out, the repetitiveness made the remainder of the episode feel clunky and frustrating. Also, Rick knows that the Governor has a whole town full of un-hinged, well-fed, true believers at his disposal whereas he has a handful of physically depleted and emotionally weary people at the prison. Rick, you really need to do some math there buddy. The scenes in Woodbury during  the aftermath of the attacks were very effective. Andrea rising up and becoming a true leader while the Governor sulked in his apartment was surprisingly stirring. Unlike Rick, Andrea can put past hurts and wrongs behind her, be a leader, and be accepting of others she has little reason to trust. I know everyone likes to crap on her for drinking the Governor’s Kool-Aid during the first half of season 3, but now it appears Andrea is taking charge, and making some Kool-Aid of her own. And of course, the citizens of Woodbury are all too eager to drink it up.

The Walking Dead

The ending of the episode was especially creepy, and it was nice to see The Walking Dead reach outside the zombie genre to bring in some elements of supernatural horror in the mix. Yes, I realize the spectral Lori is merely a hallucination. She’s a product of Rick’s guilt over her untimely death, but it’s all real to him, and any way you slice it, ghost Lori was one of the more unsettling images the show has offered up thus far and here’s the real kicker: it featured no gore or violence whatsoever. It also reminded me of that eerie dream sequence in The Sorpranos where Tony walked into this creepy old house and saw a woman wreathed in black on the stair case.

Behind the scenes

During the show’s hiatus, it was announced that current showrunner Glenn Mazzara would be stepping down due to creative differences with AMC over the direction the series would take in season 4. You’ll recall in 2011 that original showrunner Frank Darabont, award winning director The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile, was given the boot by AMC as well.  At the time, I mixed feelings about Mazzara replacing Darabont as showrunner, but after witnessing the sizable leap in quality the show made from season 2 to season 3, I knew Mazzara was the man for the job. And now Mazzara is gone as well.  He’s overseeing post production on the remainder of season 3, but then after that he’s gone. It’s beyond baffling, especially when you consider that under Mazzara’s stewardship the TWD has been pulling in higher numbers than many network series; averaging about 12.5 million in the coveted 18-49 year old demographic. Many bloggers have gone online to openly speculate about what is causing The Walking Dead show runners to have the life-expectancy of a Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher in a Harry Potter novel. There was even a (fairly tame) twitter feud between Sons of Anarchy creator Kurt Sutter and Robert Kirkman. Sutter and Mazzara are old friends who worked on The Shield together, and Sutter accused Kirkman of getting showrunners fired who refused to stick close to the storyline from the graphic novel.

The Walking Dead - Robert Kirkman

Yeah, Kirkman may have a lot of power and influence over the series…but there’s no way he has that much power. I believe Mazzara wanted to do season 4 free of any story influence from the comics, that way he and the other writers could create an original storyline, allowing them to have far more creative freedom with narrative trajectory of the television series. I suspect it was AMC who had the real problem with this. Sadly, originality is not something that’s well-respected in Hollywood anymore. Everything has to be based on an existing property. AMC wants the show to stick the comic’s storyline as closely as possible, because it’s already a proven commodity, monetarily speaking. And I believe that’s not so good for The Walking Dead in the long-term. The show needs to take more chances with its storytelling or else it will become stagnant and predictable. Oh, and by ‘take more chances’, I don’t mean kill off or seriously injure more characters, that’s a real cheap way to achieve ‘edginess’. I’m not done ranting about this yet, and will be providing more commentary in my recaps as this season continues, but that’s it for now. Thanks for reading.

P.S. Sorry, no horror movie recommendation this week as my brain is kind of puttering out and I’m afraid I might accidentally recommended something like Hocus Pocus or Ernest Sacred Stupid.

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The Author

Chris Baldwin

Chris Baldwin

Chris Baldwin is a sometimes college student, a most of the time pop culture geek, and aspiring comic book writer. He loves: movies, comics, good television, (no Snookis or Kardashians please and thank you) short fiction, long fiction, Stephen King’s fiction, all things Nintendo, music, standup comedy, sushi, and beer. He is from the south; Midway, Kentucky to be exact. GO CATS!! He’s required by state law to say that. He spent the last few years attending college at Western Kentucky University where he studied pop culture, creative writing, and film. Sometimes, he turns off the geek and enjoys the great outdoors, but only sometimes.