The Walking Dead‘s return to fragmented storytelling hearkens back to the back half of Season 4, what I would consider the show’s strongest run. By separating the survivors of the prison ambush and tracing their path to a singular location,Â The Walking DeadÂ took this newfound freedom to tell quiet, contained stories designed around theÂ evolution of our survivors, taking the time to build characters where it never had in the three and a half seasons prior. It was a rewarding, meaningful arc; unfortunately, the show’s second wave of isolated tales, detailing a zombie horde and any number of intense ambushes by strangers, hasn’t been nearly as enjoyable, despite a few pleasant moments and a fun little trip to a cabin in the woods with Morgan. “Always Accountable” continues that recent trend, an hour with its priorities set so far in the future, it can barely give any weight to what’s actually happening now.
For example, takeÂ Abraham and Sasha’s story in this episode: in what little time we’ve spent with them this season, we’ve seen Abraham’s abrupt shift towards mentally unstable, while Sasha’s continued to insist she’s fine while giving the same big-eyed “Crazy Face” looks she got last season, as she ran around in the woods killing zombies after every single other black character on the show was killed (that’s not really why she was out there, but still… c’monÂ The Walking Dead). In this hour, the two of them sit inside a building after being jumped by some random people… which helps Abraham realize he’s falling in love with Sasha.
That’s right: Abraham’s suddenly found a new reason to live: forget the girlfriend he has waiting for him back at Alexandria (whoÂ The Walking Dead‘s relegated to background fodder), Abraham just feels such a strong connection to another human being on the edge of suicide. There really hasn’t been a lot of discussion about the aftereffects of Abraham helping Rick execute Pete (after all, he’s holding him down when Rick shoots him), and it’s a little disappointing to see how this hour goes, holing the two of them up in order to push two future agendas: an Abraham love triangle (which wasn’t all that great in the comics when they did it, I might add) and the rocket launcher he discovers, which might as well have a “We’re going to use this later – promise!” sign on the launcher itself, left hanging on the end of a fence when a walker randomly slides off the pole he’s been impaled on for over a year.
It’s not really even the abrupt turn of story that’s disappointing: hearing AbrahamÂ tellÂ Sasha how she feels about him because “a man knows” is really where the story bothers me, accelerating Abraham’s masculinity beyond acceptably noble levels into something a little creepier and self-serving. When Sasha points out he has “stuff to take care of at home,” he just kind of nods, in that “yeah, ain’t no thang” kind of way, a look that never offers any kind of emotional justification for his attraction beyond “damn, you carry a gun well” – and that’s a disappointing arc for one of the show’s best performers, following up all the fantastic, evolutionary material they offered him last season, and bringing it to an abrupt halt. Forget his inner turmoil: Abraham’s got a crush on a might-be-suicidal woman, so all is well in the world again.
Except of course, that it’s not: and the next s***storm awaiting our survivors gets introduced Daryl, proving that this showÂ reallyÂ has its priorities set too far in the future. We haven’t even dealt with the Wolves problem introduced in the middle of Season 4, and The Walking DeadÂ is already prepared to deliver another large antagonist, one it’s already telegraphed with recent casting news involving one Jeffrey Dean Morgan. After being separated from Abraham and Sasha, Daryl spends his day with three people, and learns an important lesson about trust that we’ve seen time and timeÂ and timeÂ again onÂ The Walking Dead: strangers are the worst, and will always do stupid, self-serving things. Watching Daryl with the “helpless” couple was a nice reminder of the humanity Daryl continues to possess, but it doesn’t do a lot to catch us up with a character whose emotional arc hasn’t existed since Beth died: up until this episode, all his character had done this season was drive up – and then back down – an empty road, and “Always Accountable” doesn’t seem all that concerned with that complete lack of resolution from last season, or in introducing a new, Daryl-specific conflict (internal or external) for him to consider. He’s just another longtime survivor getting robbed by random people, for the sake of a future plot device: again, another long story designed to go absolutely nowhere, except in how it teases future episodes.
All the jumping aroundÂ The Walking Dead‘s done this season should allow the writers to offer the audience something exciting, and meaningful: instead, this entire Alexandria arc in Season 6Â seems built aroundÂ otherÂ stories for the future: Rick’s creepy new relationship with Jessie, the Saviors,Â the story of The Forest That Didn’t Burn (But Everything Else Did),Â Morgan vs. Rick… and of course, the Fate of Glenn, a dangling plot thread that’s clearly held the show back over the past month, refusing to actually push forward in its attempts to build out all these other ideas we won’t see materialized until sometime in 2016. In doing so,Â The Walking Dead‘s pushed back away from the strong character material we saw in Seasons 4 and 5, and have returned themselves to the days of Ultimate Plot Allegiance: and with that comes a certain detachment from characters I thought I was done feeling once the s***t started hitting the fan in Terminus. Unfortunately, that’s not the case: “Always Accountable” is the epitome ofÂ The Walking DeadÂ thumb-twiddling, taking its three most stranded characters and walking them in circles for 40 minutes, until dropping a couple twists and a static-y radio transmission (“Help!”) at the end, which is definitely not theÂ avenue for The Walking DeadÂ to create exciting,Â evocative television.
- What did we learn about The Saviors? Their cardinal rule is “we earned what we took,” they don’t care about people with diabetes, and their members are extremely cavalier about possible zombies being in the immediate area, along with allegiances to their limbs.
- The way two people got bitten in this episode had me groaning… are people that stupidÂ reallyÂ still alive?
- Daryl fumbling in his bag for a crossbow is an absolute vacuum of tension: had he taken four moderately-sized steps away from the zombie before digging through his stuff, there would’ve been no rush at all.
- So… zombies can take naps and sleep now?
- Abraham’s cheating arc is one of my least favorite stories from the comic (totally undercuts the character’s nobility in service of giving him “internal conflict”), so let’s hope they’re not going this route here.
- I love how the woman robbing Abraham is so apologetic, as if this is the first time she’sÂ everÂ done something like this.
- So glad Diabetes Girl isn’t going to be around in future episodes. She was way too stupid to survive out there.
[Photo via AMC]