On Talking Dead this week, Greg Nicotero commented that “This is really the first time that our group is vulnerable and unprotected since Season 1.” That vulnerability is what has been missing from the show since they arrived at the prison. Not to say that the group hasn’t faced danger, it’s just that the danger hasn’t seemed particularly pressing.
The Governor certainly posed a viable threat, but he was a very different threat than that that the group is currently facing. The group’s formation of a new society led to personal and political issues, while the problem of the walkers was no longer an imminent one. Interpersonal drama can make for great TV, but in a show primarily about reanimated corpses, it seems that the dead should be showcased front and center. They haven’t been for some time, but it appears that they are about to reclaim the spotlight.
Now that the safe haven of the prison has been destroyed, the show will hopefully be forced back to its roots – that being the vulnerability of Seasons 1 and 2. Those early seasons were so good because danger was everywhere and no one was safe. The characters have been thrown back into that world, which is simultaneously exciting and disconcerting. It’s tempting to believe that The Walking Dead is capable of reverting to its former glory, but the show has been consistently bad for the last season and a half. While I am cautiously optimistic for the remainder of the season, I have grown increasingly skeptical that The Walking Dead can be good without the involvement of Frank Darabont. Who on earth would ever fire the man behind The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile, especially on the precipice of the characters moving into a PRISON. I don’t know the details of Darabont’s dismissal, but it has had a crippling effect on the show and Robert Kirkman needs to go beg for mercy and get him back.
Nevertheless, this return to previous scenarios is a definite improvement upon the long-stale prison environment. “After” features some intense teenage angst from Carl, and a perhaps even more intense sense of resignation from Rick. The power play is mildly echoed in the alluded-to situation of Joe and Joe, Jr. of Joe and Joe Jr’s BBQ Shack. Carl finds a note in the shack from Joe Jr. begging the reader to do what he cannot, that being to kill his zombie father. Later in the episode, Carl finds himself in the predicament of having to shoot his own zombie father. In spite of his proclamations that he could survive on his own and that he didn’t care if Rick died, when it comes down to it, he cannot kill zombie Rick. It’s for the best, since it turns out that Rick isn’t a zombie after all, but the ordeal softens Carl to his father. Carl learns that he still needs his dad, while Rick learns that his boy has become a man. A man who really loves pudding, but albeit, a man.
This is the type of interpersonal drama that The Walking Dead thrives on, as it is facilitated by survival and not by personal vendettas. “After” is a promising episode, and hopefully the writers can continue in this vein and salvage the season. Emphasis on the “hopefully.”