The Last Three Weeks of The Walking Dead Were Terrible


 

The Walking Dead title card

I have a love hate relationship with The Walking Dead, so much so that I’ve banked on this joke three times now. At its best the show effortlessly creates incredibly suspenseful horror with the perfect blend of human emotion and moral ambiguity to pull at your heartstrings, but at its worst it’s a logically frustrating show that loses focus from time to time. Normally the show would find ways to keep drawing me back in, either through high-energy finales or hanging story arcs waiting to be resolved. However these last three episodes of season four may have finally pushed me over the edge, so much so that it’s stirred me out of my two month writing hiatus to try and explain to myself what went wrong. I’ve found nothing but high praise for these last three episodes of Walking Dead and I’ve begun to question my own critical compass. So consider this not a review, but a public plea for help to understand why these last three weeks of The Walking Dead were terrible.

Fair warning the following paragraphs are going to be discussing The Walking Dead in detail with spoilers. If you aren’t caught up with the most recent episode of The Walking Dead then I suggest you skip this until you have watched through the mid-season finale.

The problems with the last three episodes of The Walking Dead can be traced back to last season. Season three had its moments but it was often weighted down with the task of introducing a new cast of characters in Woodbury, specifically the main villain, the Governor. It also didn’t help that the show ambitiously decided that this new cast was strong enough to hold up entire episodes on its own, which didn’t turn out to be the case. Despite the talents of David Morrissey, I never felt the show ever developed the Governor as much as they think they did. I always felt that we were told more about his evilness more than we were shown (save for his treacherous interaction with Maggie) and I only felt like the Governor was ever a big deal because he was a big deal in the comics (which could also be said about Tyreese). Sure, decapitated walker heads in a fish tank isn’t exactly a sign of wholesome goodness, but it’s not exactly evil either. Sure, keeping zombiefied love ones is also weird but isn’t that what Herschel did with like twenty of his family members back in the barn?

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Maybe my memory is failing me but I’m having a hard time coming up with memorable scenes where the Governor acted with pure malice instead of just his own sense of retaliation and justice.* In ways there were few differences between Rick and the Governor and I never felt convinced for this evil reputation the show promised but never delivered. However, I looked past it and decided to buy what they were selling, mainly because the show was still entertaining when it wanted to be. A season of back and forth blows between Rick’s prison group and the Governor’s Woodbury group was seemingly leading to an all out war to end the confrontation between the two. However, the finale was nothing short of unsatisfying, wasting a lot of built up energy that fizzled out with nothing much changed. In the end the Governor was left alive, albeit alone and on the run.

* I’m currently in the process of rewatching all of The Walking Dead and I’m specifically going to track the progress of the Governor with a more critical eye in regards to the show’s ability to create a convincing villain.

This loose Governor plot line hung over the series’ fourth season like a dark cloud. I had many conversations with friend stating that I would be entirely okay with the Governor staying away from the show as long as possible. The Governor’s only real strength was his golden voice and the fact that he had already amassed a following willing to do his bidding. Now that he was alone and exposed for the untrustworthy person he was he had nothing to fight back with. The only way he could serve as a potential threat to the prison group is if he somehow found a new group of mindless followers, or became a super villain capable of taking on the prison who clearly out numbers him. The former option would feel too much like a reset of last season and the latter ultimately ridiculous even for a show about the walking dead.

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However the fourth season seemed to be headed in the right direction. Focusing on the aftermath of the supposed ‘war’ with Woodbury we saw a new prison group working hard to restore a sense of society. A much more calmer Rick turned farmer grappled with his demons and shied away from the gunslinger he once was. The season opener posed the question how far is too far-gone and do we get to come back from the bad things we’ve done? This narrative theme held together an impressive string of five episodes that dealt with an entirely new type of threat that the group hadn’t faced before. A fast moving flu virus outbreak began to plague the prison and set off a chain of events that introduced us to a lot of great stories. New characters were introduced, old favorites were tested, and we ultimately received one of the best episodes of The Walking Dead has seen with Internment. There were a lot of plot lines setting up for interesting conflict among the group. Daryl and Bob were at ends after the incident involving the alcohol, Tyreese was on a war path looking for Karen’s murderer, the prison was left in shambles from flu, and of course the awaited reaction from Daryl after Rick’s decision to let Carol go was on the horizon. The half season could have ended here and I would have been entirely happy with these five episodes instead of what was still to come, but unfortunately the show’s dark cloud couldn’t stay away forever, coincidentally answering its own question posed in the opener.

Coming to a complete halt, season four shifted its entire focus from the prison to the Governor in the sixth episode. My initial reaction was indifferent but after some mulling over I began to warm up to it. Despite the series once again banking on its overconfidence in the strength of a new cast to anchor a whole hour, the episode was able to inject a little more humanity into the Governor than we ever saw last season, even if it did beat you over the head with its symbolism. I actually liked this version of the Governor more than the one we got last year and I actually cared more about his exploits. Realizing his mistakes we saw the Governor try to turn a new leaf, start a new life, and become a better person. It was an interesting way to handle this character and it mirrored the story line we were watching unfold with Rick. I wasn’t fond of the vacation slideshow like progression of the characters, especially the forced love angle between the Governor and Lilly, but even still I was prepared to eat crow for my doubt in the return of his character. That is until the show decided that it wanted to go back on the work Live Bait had started and give us back the super villain like Governor in Dead Weight.

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So it turns out the Governor can’t change who he is and returns to the psychotic killing machine we knew before in Dead Weight. Not that big of a deal but it meant we were entering the first scenario of the Governor’s return that I feared. He brings Lilly, her daughter Meghan, and Tara to a new group run by his former partner Martinez. When Martinez unexpectedly dies (at the Governor’s hands), the next in line to step up is Pete. Then after Pete unexpectedly dies (also at the Governor’s hands) the Governor steps up to take charge of the group. I find it hard to believe that in roughly 48 hours two deaths go unquestioned and the group willfully allows this mysterious newcomer to take charge of the camp. Especially if we take into consideration that Pete’s hot headed brother Mitch knows the Governor killed Pete. Yes the Governor’s power is his golden pipes of persuasion but getting this peek at how he amassed such a following like he did the first time around is like finding out that the force is dictated by a person’s midichlorian count. There are some things better left unexplained. The biggest crime of all is the fact that Dead Weight leaves the previous episode Live Bait ultimately feeling pretty useless. Why spend the time making an argument for a changed Governor just to do away with it the very next episode? It’s a frustrating way to lay foundation for this big Governor return and it only gets worse.

Too Far Gone takes the cake as far as The Walking Dead blunders go. After two weeks of being singularly focused on the Governor we finally make a visit back to the prison and try to pick up right where we left off, but as far as I’m concerned it’s a little too late. The episode tries to rekindle the energy left hanging on the line by shoe horning in moments that didn’t feel nearly as impactful without the proper build up. Rick’s confrontation with Daryl lost the impact it once had after this two-week hiatus. Bob and Daryl didn’t get the time it needed to hack out their differences and Tyreese’s outrage is lazily paired with the almost forgotten rat plotline that doesn’t seem to matter anymore. These little plot lines feel rushed in favor of the Governor vs. the Prison round two in a last ditch effort to make up for last year. However, Too Far Gone is filled with so much annoying frustration and logic that it boils down to nothing more than hollow action. It had its exciting moments but in the end this finale is even more frustrating than the season before it.

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Rallying at the prison fences the Governor calls out to Rick with a small militia and tank at his side. He’s captured Herschel and Michonne and is giving them until sundown to vacate the prison. Despite holding all the cards, Rick pleads with the Governor and his people to take the civil way and share the prison. Although he makes a convincing argument, delivered wonderfully by Andrew Lincoln, the Governor calls Rick a liar and slashes through Herschel’s neck with Michonne’s katana instigating the war.

The Walking Dead is no stranger to dealing deaths to characters that are fan favorites but for a character I loved so much, a character that delivered a powerful performance in Internment, a character brought to life by that amazing talents of Scott Wilson, I felt nothing for the death of Herschel. Instead I was only annoyed by the show’s mishandling of all the emotional build up wasted from the first five episodes in an attempt to bring back a Governor who had long out stayed his welcome. Herschel deserved better than that and the show made a huge mistake not capitalizing on the energy built up from Internment. On top of that, the death of the Governor isn’t even that satisfying. Michonne delivers a heavy blow by stabbing the Governor in the back while he was busy strangling Rick, but instead of finishing the deed Michonne walks off leaving the Governor to lie on the ground.

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It’s not the group we cared about getting to deal the final blow on the Governor, but Lilly who hadn’t even been a factor until these last two episodes. I get that it was suppose to be a big moment for Lilly since apparently she and the Governor were in love, but when the show only took an episode to establish this love it seems like the wrong person got revenge especially when the characters the Governor impacted way more suddenly didn’t care to finish the Governor off for good. Oddly it seems fitting that the writers were so unsure who got to finish the Governor that he gets passed around like the confusing character he was so that everybody gets a piece of him. In the end the Governor left the show much like he reentered it, meaningless and trying too hard to be symbolic.

I’ll concede that the virus storyline may not have been the flashiest string of episodes that The Walking Dead has ever done but it at least made sense narratively and worked well together. Slamming on the brakes to insert the return of the Governor disrupted so much of the season that it questions what exactly the show was trying to accomplish. Was keeping the Governor alive and well last season worth bringing him back for just three more episodes? One of which didn’t matter, and the remaining two that felt like nonsense. The only way the Governor even convinced his camp to take on the prison was by lying to them and telling them that the prison group were murders that could not be reasoned with. It was them who deserved the protection of the prison walls and it was theirs for the taking. However, even after Rick pleads with them to take the civil way and live together, basically offering entrance to anyone of them who wanted to go in, the group still blindly follows the Governors orders to kill them all. They damage the fences, they blow up the concrete walls, and they attract more walkers to the place that they’re supposedly trying to take over for their own protection.

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Where was the logic in that? Why did no one besides Tara decide to listen to reason and realize that the Governor was insane and power hungry? As a whole they were basically faceless characters whose only purpose were to serve as a weapon for the Governor to wield against the prison in this season three reset. It was a huge mistake calling on them to hold up entire episodes on their own, especially when the show isn’t exactly known for it’s great character development. If they were so dead set on this Governor story than why not weave it in and out with the first five episodes to fill out the season? It would have at least been more effective paralleling Rick’s character. Both Rick and the Governor were two sides of the same coin and it’s interesting to see the different paths they took. At least in this way we still get the emotional build up from the virus arc all while knowing that the Governor is slowly stirring against the prison. The inevitable wrath of the Governor paired with the almost insurmountable threat of the virus would have created so much drama and suspense for our beloved group at the prison that it would have been more satisfying. Herschel’s death wouldn’t have felt all for naught and the powerful performance’s that the actor’s gave would have been complimented nicely with good story telling. Despite Too Far Gone being the finale we deserved last season, there was nowhere near the same amount of energy leading up to the conflict like there was last year even without its payoff. It’s such a shame that the show seemed so focus on correcting last season’s wrongs that it hurt this season even more. Instead The Walking Dead should have listen to the advice Rick gave to Carl. Don’t look back. Just keep walking.

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The simplest answer to why these last three episodes of The Walking Dead were terrible is that different people have different opinions and ultimately it’s just a TV show, but the discussion is what makes it fun. So what’s your take on season four so far? Are you happy with the way things have turned out or are you close to calling it quits as well? The only thing keeping me coming back for the second half of season four is the fact that the Governor is finally gone and the hope that Scott M. Gimple and the rest of The Walking Dead crew can pick up the pieces from here. This constant cycle of starting strong and finishing weak is getting old and it won’t be long before The Walking Dead is too far-gone.

The Walking Dead’s second half of season four returns to AMC on February 9th, 2014!

Interested in writing reviews or news posts for Thinking Cinematic? Contact me at ThinkCinematicReviews@gmail.com! You can also send your guest reviews there too!

Connect with me at:
Twitter: @TreyRSolis
Twitter: @Think_Cinematic
Email: ThinkCinematicReviews@Gmail.com

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Community Review: Advanced Documentary Filmmaking (4.06)


Warning: This review features a pretty major plot spoiler, please watch the episode before reading the full review otherwise don’t read past the summary.

Summary:

Overall Advanced Documentary Filmmaking is another solid episode coming off last week’s extremely strong episode. Although this episode isn’t a comedy powerhouse it still featured some great bits, especially with Troy and Annie, and Shirley and Britta. Ken Jeong featured a very strong performance this episode and produced an awesome scene between Kevin and Jeff. It almost feels like a step back for Jeff this episode with the way he perceived the group but his plot resolution works well enough to redeem him.

Changnesia has been the teasing point for all of the promotional trailers for the fourth season of Community. The first episode left us with a nice little cliffhanger and then the plot line disappeared for two episodes. It was teased one more time before we finally got to the episode dedicated to it. I’ve been looking forward to this for quite a while, mainly because I was curious to see how it was all going to be pulled off. After last season’s appearance of Chang as a mad dictator I just couldn’t see the gang or Greendale buying into this strange illness. However, Advanced Documentary Filmmaking (4.06) may have just made me a believer of Changnesia.

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The episode opens up with the definition of Changnesia and a few testimonials from various people including Chang and Dean Pelton. The entire episode is a documentary homage, shot by Abed, which follows the study group as they try to convince the MacGuffin Institute to award the school grant money for the aide in Kevin’s (formerly Chang) recovery. Jeff is the only one who doesn’t buy into the ‘sickness’ and aims to prove Chang a fraud and everyone else wrong.

Community Troy and Britta

Last night’s episode featured a lot of great visual humor such as “rent memento” on Kevin’s arm as well as the name tags in front of each character’s testimonial. The highlight of the episode was the pairing of Troy and Annie as they did some investigation work on the cause of Kevin’s Changnesia. Although it felt like Annie’s new interest in forensics seemed to have come out of left field I am enjoying her new interest and it seems to fit her personality well. Shirley and Britta’s bit at Shirley’s Sandwiches was also another great moment and featured a fantastic exchange between the two actresses. Almost carrying over from last week’s episode Pierce felt great for the first 10 minutes of the episode but quickly devolved back to his racist butt of the joke humor. It’s getting almost uncomfortable to see how much disgust Chevy Chase is emitting on screen and I fear it’ll only get worse from here. Advanced Documentary Filmmaking may not have been a powerhouse of comedy but it still managed to be an incredibly interesting episode.

I have been going back and forth on whether or not I believed Changnesia was real or just another ploy by Chang to be accepted into the study group. I could see him faking for nefarious purposes, and I could also see him being honest only to regain his memory again down the road. The episode worked extremely hard to disprove the skeptics and it does a fantastic job of it. This episode featured some strong performances from Ken Jeong and an fantastic exchange between Kevin and Jeff. The scene alone sold me on the fact that his Changnesia is in fact real and I was excited to see Kevin integrated back into Greendale. I miss the early days of Chang before he was used as a completely insane evil villain and just a mildly insane jerk of a Spanish teacher. If Changnesia is the way to bring a saner Kevin/Chang back into Greendale I’m ready to welcome it with open arms.

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Only, there’s one minor problem. Last night’s tag pretty much undid everything the episode worked hard to accomplish by revealing to the audience that nothing has changed. Chang is still evil and he finally has all of Greendale convinced that he has lost his memory. Although I’m still interested in the direction this season is going I can’t help but feel a little cheated that this reveal was done so quickly. They spent so much timing hyping up this plot line, doing a fantastic job of convincing us that it’s real, only to feature it and do away with it in one episode. I understand the short episode order is largely to blame but I would have like to have seen the reveal written a little later down the road. My only hope is that they don’t go completely off the rails with Chang, like they did in season three, and somehow Chang will find some redemption.

Overall Advanced Documentary Filmmaking is another solid episode coming off last week’s extremely strong episode. Although this episode isn’t a comedy powerhouse it still featured some great bits, especially with Troy and Annie, and Shirley and Britta. Ken Jeong featured a very strong performance this episode and produced an awesome scene between Kevin and Jeff. It almost feels like a step back for Jeff this episode with the way he perceived the group but his plot resolution works well enough to redeem him. If I had to place my finger on what’s going wrong in the eyes of most critics this season, I’d have to say it’s the fact that there’s an imbalance of comedy within the episodes. As a fan of the show I’ve grown extremely attached to these character and being able to see them interact is enough to satisfy me, but as I take a step back I can see how imbalanced the humor has been this season. Hopefully this new revelation with Chang will provide more avenues for jokes in the remaining episodes.

Community airs Thursdays at 8/7c on NBC! Check out last night’s episode here on Hulu!

Interested in writing movie reviews or news posts for Thinking Cinematic? Is TV more your speed? Contact me at ThinkCinematicReviews@gmail.com! You can also send your guest reviews there too!

Connect with me at:
Twitter: @Treyrs20o9
Twitter: @Think_Cinematic
Email: ThinkCinematicReviews@Gmail.com

Community Review: Conventions of Space and Time (4.03)


Overall, the episode is solid with a decent amount of laughs. Despite its Inspector Spacetime setting it’s not overbearing and quite enjoyable. The episode doesn’t change my opinion on this running joke, but I was able to look past it. The plot lines are all enjoyable, but I can’t help but be annoyed with the way they’re handling Chevy Chase’s character Pierce. The thing that’s the strangest about this season of Community is that we really haven’t seen much of Greendale yet. Part of the charm of Community is watching this group of misfits interact with their even stranger school, as well as the lovable background characters that inhabit it. I miss the feel of the gang being in the study room as they hold interesting conversations in lieu of studying. It’s still relatively early though and hopefully we’ll get back to Greendale pretty soon.

Community’s in show TV show, Inspector Spacetime has always been a reoccurring joke that felt like it out stayed its welcome for me. Ever since it was introduced the gang, more specifically Troy and Abed, have made minor references to the show in their daily lives. It was funny at first but lost its appeal after a while. When I heard that season four would feature an episode dedicated to an Inspector Spacetime convention I was worried. It also didn’t help that early reviewers were deeming this episode as easily the worst episode of Community to date. However after watching Conventions of Space and Time (4.03) last night my fears have been quelled.

Community Logo

The show opens up with Troy and Britta together in bed watching an episode of Inspector Spacetime. When Abed approaches the door Troy shoos Britta out the window in an effort to prevent an Abed from freaking out about the intimate relationship. The scene plays off wonderfully and ultimately ends with an extremely satisfying payoff. It’s definitely one of my favorite intros of the series.

The rest of the episode features the gang at the Inspector Spacetime convention, minus Pierce and Shirley. Jeff, Britta, Troy and Abed all figure that the other two would not be interested in the convention and decided to not invite them, however the two end up crashing the convention anyway.

The thing that bothered me the most about this episode is the way they handled Pierce. It’s easy to see why Chevy Chase would leave the show after the way the writers continually keep excluding him from the story lines. I’ve read before that Chevy Chase isn’t exactly the easiest person to work with but it’s becoming more and more evident that the plot lines always seem to exclude Pierce from the group. Which is a shame given that at the end of season three Pierce seemed to have made significant strides in being a better person, yet the rest of the group continues to treat him like crap. That being said I did like the story line he was given with Shirley that provided for some great Meta commentary on Community and other TV shows.

The main focus of the episode features Troy dealing with his feelings of being set aside by Abed after Abed meets an equivalent Inspector Spacetime fan, Toby. Britta does her best to walk Troy through his feelings while he unknowingly keeps blowing off Britta. It’s a little disappointing that we never see Britta speak up for herself but I’m assuming this will play a bigger part as the season unfolds. Once again Troy carries a lot of the comedic weight this episode and produces a lot of great laugh with his unique delivery.

On Abed’s side of the story, he discovers that Toby isn’t quite all he’s cracked up to be and begins to work things out on his own. I’m really enjoying the fact that Abed has been able to get himself out of these situations on his own. It’s shows a significant amount of growth given the fact that in prior seasons Abed has always needed help to work things out. His story ends on a really sweet note with some call backs to his younger bullied years.

Last we have Jeff and Annie’s plot, which happens to be the strangest of the three. Their intentions were always to bail and go skiing during the convention but things change after the resort was closed down due to an accident. Annie decides to hang out in the hotel room where the staff confuses her for Mrs. Winger. She goes a long with this scenario and takes it to the point of creepiness. However, given her teeny bopper tendencies when it comes to her feelings for Jeff it works, but it’s just adding to the feeling that season four is playing match maker a little too much for my liking. Troy and Britta’s relationship has been a major focus for these first three episodes and now it seems like we’re going to start to see more of Jeff and Annie together.

Overall, the episode is solid with a decent amount of laughs. Despite its Inspector Spacetime setting it’s not overbearing and quite enjoyable. The episode doesn’t change my opinion on this running joke, but I was able to look past it. The plot lines are all enjoyable, but I can’t help but be annoyed with the way they’re handling Chevy Chase’s character Pierce. The thing that’s the strangest about this season of Community is that we really haven’t seen much of Greendale yet. Part of the charm of Community is watching this group of misfits interact with their even stranger school, as well as the lovable background characters that inhabit it. I miss the feel of the gang being in the study room as they hold interesting conversations in lieu of studying. It’s still relatively early though and hopefully we’ll get back to Greendale pretty soon.

Community airs Thursdays at 8/7c on NBC! Check out last night’s episode here on Hulu!

Interested in writing movie reviews or news posts for Thinking Cinematic? Is TV more your speed? Contact me at ThinkCinematicReviews@gmail.com! You can also send your guest reviews there too!

Connect with me at:
Twitter: @Treyrs20o9
Twitter: @Think_Cinematic
Email: ThinkCinematicReviews@Gmail.com