Tonight’s episode of The Walking Dead can be best described with an old, cliche adage: “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” The episode introduced a host of changes to the storyline set up by the comics: there’s a giant mass of new redshirts characters at the camp, the trip back into Atlanta was taken because of Merle as well as the need to get weapons, etc. But at the same time, the same themes are pervading: Shane and Lori are having to deal with Rick’s return — and his departure once again due to his incessant need to fix things (I think “Jack Shephard complex” should be added to the television lexicon). See? The more things change, the more they stay true to the comics.
Instead of getting into the compare/contrast between the comics and the show, I’ll get into what I liked and didn’t like about the episode. Here’s one thing I really liked: the opening scene. While the character of Merle Dixon might be an annoying redneck hick, the actor who portrays him certainly isn’t. Michael Rooker acted his pants off in that opening scene, and if that’s the last we get to see of that character, at least the role ended on a positive note.
And about ending on a positive note: a shot of Merle’s bloody handcuff there on the roof was the most eerie way to end the episode. The show is very macabre in a way very few things on television are, and to end an episode so bleakly, unlike last week’s somewhat lighthearted ending, was a very nice move. This series is one you just can’t predict.
Of course, the moment that stood out in the whole episode was the Grimes family reunion, which was done so well that it almost brought a tear to my eye. It was just sappy enough to be really emotionally heartrending. It teetered on the edge of too sappy with the sunny guitar melody behind it, but then again, the guitar did more to help than it did to hurt.
I didn’t particularly care for the Shane/Lori dynamic, though. Shane’s morose stares were obviously to prove a point, but the camera focused on them a little too long. They started to become cheesy. They started, frankly, to become annoying.
And there’s another thing that is sort of bothering me about the show: other than a handful of characters, I don’t really care about any of the survivors. I care about Rick, Glenn, Carl, and even Shane… But I can’t bring myself to care about many more. Lori is too capricious to really empathize with, and the other survivors — even Dale, one of my favorites from the comic — are just two-dimensional, despite heavy time spent with them this week. The character development is really good in some cases, and really poor in others. This show is supposed to be about the characters more than it is the zombies, and I hope the show can balance it out moving forward. B-