Shane Ryan and Josh Jackson review
The Walking Dead
each week in a series of letters.
I am in a fully amped-up state, and I have an ignorance of rapid-fire recaps. We’re going to Washington, baby!
Let me start by saying that “Claimed” was my favorite episode of the Season Four, part two, and the best one since we went on an emotional odyssey with the Governor in “Live Bait.” And the great thing is that unlike all the psychological depth we saw in “Live Bait,” the groundwork in “Claimed” is going to pay dividends for episodes to come, instead of being ignored and abandoned in a week.
And now that Daryl is stuck with Beth in a hell-somehow-worse-than-zombie-apocalypse, I’m ready to make a bold, reactionary, gut call: Sergeant Abraham Ford is my new favorite character. There’s nothing that’s not awesome about this guy. He’s a badass with zombies, a softie with scientists, cool enough to woo a very attractive mate, and he looks like a combination of Ron Perlman and Will Ferrell. I mean, even his NAME combines the two greatest Americans of all time: Abraham Lincoln and Harrison Ford. Also, he’s prone to huge pronouncements like, “the fate of the entire DAMN human race might depend on it,” and though he’s totally invested in his own drama, his companions are less impressed. There’s comedy in this guy, and I think The Walking Dead really needed that. I am so excited for the Abraham Ford era.
Also, though we didn’t get to see much of it, Eugene the mullet-wearing, world-saving scientist intrigues me. At his worst, he might be a cheap knock-off of Shelden (I proudly have no idea if that’s spelled right) from The Big Bang Theory. But at his best, this guy could be super entertaining, especially in contrast with Ford. They’re like a crazy odd couple, and I’m even intrigued by Rosita, though I’m not sure she even had a line beyond, “is this yours?” when Glenn dropped a picture of Maggie.
I’m so into these new characters that I’m more than willing to part with some of the original crew if it gets them more screen time. That being said, though, Rick’s sequence under the bed was hugely tense and exciting. I was hoping he’d re-discover his inner psychopath and go on a murder spree at the end, but I suppose a bathroom strangulation will tide me over. Still, though, if you’re in that situation, everyone around you is clearly evil, and you have a gun plus the element of surprise, wouldn’t you just want to clean up? Why even bother fleeing?
The only part of this episode I didn’t like involved Carl, who, it turns out, can’t act his way out of a paper bag when he’s not playing “sullen” or “quiet.” The Milk Monologue, as I’ll refer to it forever hereafter, was truly a low point of the series. It may have been a low point of American television. (I refuse to re-watch it to confirm.) The long tortured reveal was the episode’s only slow part, and I would’ve preferred something like this at the beginning:
Carl: I’m upset because I think Judith’s dead.
Michonne: I also had someone die.
Carl + Michonne: Let’s eat cheese and laugh on the inside.
Which I realize sounds harsh, and it’s too bad because the backstory on Michonne was super affecting last week. With Carl in the mix, though? Not working for me.
But that’s nitpicking an otherwise great episode. To go back to the comparison to “Live Bait,” that was like watching an episode of an entirely different, excellent show. But “Claimed” was like watching The Walking Dead at its best. I felt like my energy for this show was simmering at a low level over the first two episodes, but now I’m back on board.
What about you? Are you in a fully amped-up state?
As a lover of the comic book, I’m thrilled that Abraham has arrived, and I thought Michael Cudlitz brought the right mix of toughness and goofiness. Now that Hershel is dead, Glenn is mopey and Daryl is stuck with Beth, there aren’t a lot of opportunities for comic relief, but that handlebar mustache alone was funnier than anything in the last few episodes. We’ve seen a dozen different ways people deal with the zombie apocalypse, but there hasn’t been much in the way of gallows humor. I have to think that a world full of walkers would only sharpen your wit. But that’s not even what Abraham’s about. He’s just happy to be on a mission—and he’s going to enjoy his work. He might as well have been whistling when he stuck the crowbar in the zombie’s head.
I’ll avoid spoilers about the new additions other than to say I think you’re going to like them. But next week you get Beth instead. And the trailer looks more like Blair Witch than typical Walking Dead. Creepier than a bright pink bedroom filled with cadavers.
I’m enjoying seeing a more human side of Michonne, even if it takes more sulking from Carl to tease it out. The awkward Crazy Cheese scene showed more personality than anything we saw of her last season. It’s strange that in the security of the prison, she remained so closed, but now that they’re vulnerable on the road, she’s done being callous. I don’t know how much the death of the Governor had to do with that, but it’s good to see another facet of one of my favorites.
I still don’t think the show has climbed back to the heights of the first half of the season, but the Governor as villain is hard replace. Of course, the best of Breaking Bad happened post-Gus Fring, so there’s still hope.
So what do you think Eugene’s mission is? What’s waiting for Rick, Carl and Michonne at Terminus? I’ve got comic-book intel, but I want to hear your theories.
Since this show originated as a comic book, I’m going to guess that Eugene’s mission involves some super-villain in D.C. who spread the virus on purpose, and also he’s the only one who owns the antidote, or something. But I honestly have no idea. But he seemed pretty okay with delaying it after he ruined his truck, so I have a feeling it’ll be a little while before we know what happens there. Although now that you know things because you’ve read the books, I feel like our readers must feel when we do our Game of Thrones recaps. HOW DARE YOU LORD YOUR FANCY READING OVER ME!
As to your point about Michonne, I totally agree. I like this side of her, which is apparently “city-bred art-scene intellectual.” And yeah, she’s miles different from the monosyllabic killing machine who first met Andrea with two de-jawed zombies in tow. In my ideal world, Daryl would come back to their group, and Carl, Beth, and Carol would fight to the death, with the winner getting an all-expenses-paid trip to the zombie petting zoo. (Sorry if I’m sounding darker than usual…it’s 3:23 am, and I’m angry that Daryl is stuck on Beth Island, and that we’re going to have to see it again next week.)
As for Terminus, here’s my hint to people naming new settlements: Don’t give your town a name that sounds like either a) ominous Latin, b) a creepy sci-fi movie, or c) a futuristic drug you take to kill yourself, like Quietus in Children of Men. Somehow, Terminus managed to nail all three. There’s no way I think this is going well for Rick.
You might know this already, BOOK READER, but one thing I’m wondering is if we’ll get to the see the bad guy who was spitting on the porch and almost got iced by Rick. He’s played by Jeff Kober, who also plays Jacob Hale on Sons of Anarchy, and who is kind of a delightfully evil actor. He’s like The Governor, but with more cunning and less psychosis. Are we getting more of him, Josh???
Also, last question, where do you rank “bouncing a tennis ball off walls and floors” in the pantheon of bad-guy affectations? Is it above Dr. Evil stroking his cat, or Javier Bardem flipping his coin in No Country For Old Men? What would your affectation be? I think I’d have a yo-yo, or blow bubbles and give long speeches about the temporary nature of life. Just like a bubble.
I’ll send it your way to finish this thing off, and please don’t forget to finish on a plea for Daryl Dixon’s survival. And look, I know that ritual is sacred, but we need to consider adding Abraham Ford. I’ll leave it up to you.
We Atlanta residents know that Terminus was the original name for our city. It is Latin, of course, meaning “a final goal” or “the end of your journey,” marking the intersection of two rail lines. It was eventually changed to Atlanta, which is an old Cherokee word meaning, “Don’t ever invest in public transportation.” The sign promised sanctuary, though, so I don’t know what you’re worried about.
The TV show hasn’t followed the book closely in all places, so I really can’t speak to the villain played by Jeff Kober, but the fact that he’s played by Kober makes me think we’ll see a lot more of him. One thing that’s already clear, though, is the further we get from civilization, the more that remorseless thugs form their own gangs and the bad guys quit bothering to pretend they’re just trying to build a utopia for all. So I’m expecting someone a little less complex than the Gov.
As for affectations, flipping a coin is cool in a psycopathic, merciless way. Stroking a cat is menacing, giving you a false sense of security. An eyepatch is stylish. Bouncing a tennis ball just means, “I know this is annoying as hell, and I don’t even care.” It’s like he’s daring everyone to come at him just to maintain their sanity—living life in a place where zombies rule and there’s this incessant noise even when you’re trying to sleep or are passed out from a choke hold—and he’s saying, “I don’t give two juicy spits about your sanity.” Mine would be carrying a Pez dispenser and offering all my victims a Pez first because it’s easier to kill people when they’re feeling nostalgic.
Please don’t die, Beth. Just kidding. Please don’t die, Daryl Dixon.