I don’t know if you’ve noticed this, but after an incredibly shaky start it seems our dearly beloved Walking Dead has found its stinky, rotting, half-chewed-off legs and is staggering towards becoming a compelling show again.
Let’s think way back to Episode 10, “Home.” The Governor brought some serious pain to the prison, shooting up the place and having some anonymous homie clad in riot-gear drive a clown car full of walkers into the front yard and let those puppies lose.
(Aside: my idea for defending the prison against the inevitable siege laid by the armies of Woodbury? Zombie moat. Think about it.)
(Wait, I don’t think you understood what I mean by “zombie moat.” I don’t mean a moat to protect against zombies; I mean a moat full of zombies to protect against the Governor. RIGHT, THOUGH?!)
In episode 11, “I Ain’t a Judas,” Hershel shows off his degree in political science and makes Rick look the fool: “You once said this isn’t a democracy,” Hershel snaps. “Now you have to own up to that.”
It’s totally true! At the end of season two, Rick was all acting all big and mad and bad like a big, bad, mad dictator — “Better to be a dictator than a dick-taster,” that’s what the Religion teacher at my all-boys Catholic high school always said (actually though) — and now he’s acting all crazy like a crazy person. Ain’t nobody got time for that. Leave it to Hershel to slap some sense into the guy.
Hershel was killing it this episode. He found Merle laying back on the bed polishing his arm-that-is-also-a-sword — if there was a phallic imagery drinking game associated with this show we’d all have died halfway through season two — and spits some Bible verses. Merle finishes the verse for him and admits that the part of Woodbury he misses the most is the library. ALERT, CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT: THE REDNECK CAN READ.
There was also the bit when Andrea came to visit and referred to the Governor as “Philip,” which made me laugh and cry because STFU Andrea you’re actually the worst. Then she tried to kill him after she had sex with him again but she couldn’t because like I said, she’s the worst.
This most recent episode, though, is really where TWD got its groove back. Over at Slate, Chris Kirk said some smart things about “a plot that is structurally purposeful,” “mirror-like symmetry,” and “Rather than just reacting to the Governor’s confict, each character has an objective and proactively works to achieve it.”
Yeah, OK Chris, we get it. That’s fine. But also there were JOKES. Actual moments of dark humor, a levity to leaven the overwhelming seriousness this show has allowed itself to become infected with. Because guess what people, it’s still a show about zombies. You can treat walkers as a “bloating signifier” and come up with all kinds of great semiotic readings but at the end of the day we’re still talking about a story about a lone ranger, a kid who has to grow up too fast, and a bad-ass ninja lady who chops off undead heads. You can’t take it too seriously, and if it starts taking itself too seriously, well, that’s no fun for anyone.
Michonne, still as scowly as ever, has been tapped as the character to reinfuse this world with some comic relief. Don’t get me wrong, these aren’t jokes that are going to play well if you try to retell them out of context. But there is humor in Michonne’s honesty, her frankness about the state of things. She knows Rick is hallucinating, but rather than tying him up for a madman. “I used to talk to my dead boyfriend,” she shrugs. “It happens.”
Brendan O’Connor likes TV and Twitter. Millenial much?