February 13, 2012


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Written by: Mitch Salem
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Previously On… THE WALKING DEAD:  Our erstwhile humans spent many, many episodes on a farm owned by cranky vet Hershel (Scott Wilson), while they searched for the missing Sophia (Madison Lintz).  There were lots of lengthy conversations about the meaning of life in a zombie-infected universe, and whether it was worth going on–let alone having a baby, as it turned out Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) was going to do.  Meanwhile, her husband Rick (Andrew Lincoln) revealed that he knew about the affair Lori had been having with the increasingly Travis Bickle-like Shane (Jon Bernthal) while Rick was believed dead.  Glenn (Steven Yuen) found romance with Hershel’s daughter Maggie (Lauren Cohan).  And then it developed that Hershel had been keeping a barn full of Walkers, including Hershel’s wife, and even feeding them to keep them “alive,” because he believed that one day there might be a cure.  When Shane found out about the Walker barn, he started with the slaughtering, and at the very end of the fall finale, we discovered that–guess what?–Sophia was in there too, and had been for all the many, many weeks we’d all been on the farm.  Rick shot her in the head, so that this plotline could finally, mercifully end

And Now:  This week’s episode picked up exactly where the fall finale left off, but it marks a key transition in Walking Dead‘s history:  after a season and a half under the leadership of Frank Darabont (best known for theatrical films like The Green Mile and The Shawshank Redemption), the show is now being run–after Darabont exited under circumstances still not completely explained–by Glen Mazzara, a TV vet with stints on shows like Hawthorne, Crash, Life and The Shield
So goodbye to windy expositioning, and hello to lots of gooey zombie bang-bang, right?  No more Boardwalk Empire-style measured pace, it’s time for a nonstop horror joyride, yes? 
Well, not so far.  The ratio of dialogue to action in Walking Dead makes its massive success a continuing mystery.  We’re still on that damn farm, and the first two-thirds of the episode, written by Evan Reilly and directed by Clark Peters, is still pretty much the characters debating the morality of Shane’s actions and life in general.  Hershel gets depressed, and when Maggie tells Glenn she loves him, he doesn’t say it back.  Awwwww.  The only fun is when Andrea (Laurie Holden), transporting a pick-up truck loaded with shot-up zombies, has to nonchalantly retrieve a fallen severed arm from the road.
In the episode’s second half, we do get what could be a big event:  Lori gets into a car crash, and while she’s certainly still going to be alive, that could put her pregnancy in danger, and should eventually also make for zome Walker action.  However, all of that will have to wait for future episodes:  this one let her crash and never came back to her for the next 20 minutes.
Instead, we spent the last section of the episode in a bar where Hershel, who it turns out was an alcoholic who had sworn off the stuff when Maggie was born, had gone to drown his sorrows.  Rick and Glenn go to bring him back, and 2 strangers, led by Dave (Michael Raymond-James) show up.  This leads to a very Tarantino-ish sequence where the 5 men chat with seeming amiability and we just wait for the shooting to being.  That does eventually happen, and it’s a fairly well written and extremely well acted scene (too bad Dave won’t be making a return appearance), but not exactly a cure for the show’s doldrums.
The Walking Dead, for all its success, is intense without being all that interesting, more grim and talky (and not even good talk) than exciting.  AMC could well say “If it ain’t broke…”, because it’s the biggest hit the network has ever had, putting the sacred Mad Men and even Breaking Bad deep into the shadows.  It would be nice, though, if under its new regime, the series could move a little faster, and have more of a plan, than its zombies do.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."