Shane Ryan and Josh Jackson review The Walking Dead each week in a series of letters.
I come to you with mixed feelings.
First off, there was plenty in “Always Accountable” to wash out the bad taste from last week, and thank goodness for that. For the first time all season, we got to spend some actual time with Daryl, and that’s never a bad thing. His story followed a really familiar arc—one of our heroes meets up with a group that is slightly less knowledgable, slightly more naive, and not nearly as tough. Our hero tries to help them in some way, but they screw up in some way that A) ends in their deaths, and B) teaches the hero, yet again, that any kind of softness or generosity to strangers inevitably gets punished.
This time, though, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the trio he encountered. The man I’m going to call fake-Rick, since he looks like a blond version of him and speaks with a similar cadence (and therefore must die since there can only be one Rick) obviously means well. He’s never killed anyone before, and he can’t kill Daryl even when he has a chance. Sadly, his life has obviously been so awful with the PEOPLE WHO KNEEL (shudder) that he can no longer trust that a better life exists out there somewhere. He basically won the post-apocalyptic zombie lottery by getting the offer of sanctuary from Daryl, and he and his companion screwed it up by stealing the man’s motorcycle AND his crossbow.
You know that song about how you don’t tug on Superman’s cape or pull the mask off the ole Lone Ranger? If that was written today, it would contain a reference about not stealing Daryl’s crossbow, guaranteed. I imagine Jim Croce would probably replace the “spit into the wind” line, since the consequences of that are just kind of gross and annoying, but not deadly.
Quick aside: “You will be” = one of the great badass lines of the whole series to date.
So their longstanding misery has rendered them unable to spot a good person when they see one, and now they’re screwed. But I can’t help hoping that there may be some mercy for them, Glenn-style, when they finally get caught. Maybe they’re not totally worthless…maybe they can give some information about this group of wackos who kneel to somebody or something, and make people do unspeakable things for safety. Because they’re clearly going to be the enemy of the second half of the season, right?
Quick aside no. 2: Twice in that episode we saw a stand-off with Daryl and fake-Rick pointing weapons at each other, and both times the person who drew second conceded. But I don’t understand why—is this some kind of unwritten rule? Do they not know that the person who pulls the trigger wins? I laughed when fake-Rick had his gun on Daryl, and put it down in the face of the crossbow. Talk about losing when you’re ahead…
Anyway, I loved that whole saga. I loved Abraham and Sasha a little less, at least until there was a sudden, unexplained sexual tension between them. Before that, there were a lot of words bandied about to explain away Abraham’s rampant PTSD. And let’s face it, if the zombie apocalypse were real, every single surviving human would exist in a constant state of PTSD unless they were complete psychopaths. I imagine it would get to the point where you were either stressed out and tense, or sad about everyone you know who had died. Probably the only time that isn’t completely awful is when you’re fighting and killing, so Abraham’s plight makes sense.
But the reality of his experience didn’t make all that exposition very compelling. It feels like we’ve been there before, over and over, and the only line that really stood out was Sasha’s insight about how having a roof over your head can actually makes things difficult—now you have choices, and it’s not a matter of simply jumping out of the plane. Still, we went over this when the gang first made it to Alexandria, and it feels like we’re running in circles.
That being said, if you give me a choice between hearing Sasha and Abraham talk versus listening to the non-entities from last week, I’m taking the former every time.
1. I’m with Abraham, I would not be able to sleep with that zombie growling away in the shower. Plus, isn’t it sort of merciful to kill a zombie and free that person he or she used to be from an awful existence?
2. Can’t wait to see what happens with that rocket launcher.
3. The Walking Dead sometimes ratchets up the tension in hilarious ways, like when Daryl was struggling to get his crossbow out to kill that one zombie. Were we supposed to forget that this is the most badass dude left alive, and that he could easily just run away or kill it with a piece of tree branch? Were we supposed to accept that all of a sudden he was just going to sit there and let it bite him if he couldn’t get inside that duffel bag?
4. That girl’s death was one of the dumbest, most pointless deaths in TWD history, and also goes down as the easiest kill a zombie ever made.
5. There’s no way she survived this long needing insulin shots all the time, right?
6. Daryl leading the enemy to the one spot where he could be bit by that pinned-down zombie wins this week’s Breaking Bad Trunk Machine Gun Award for “most ridiculously complicated plan that would never, ever work out in real life but somehow does on TV.”
What did you think, Josh?
I also had mixed feelings about this episode, but mine were more straightforward: When we came back from commercial break to scenes with Daryl, I felt a warm kind of giddiness. When we came back from commercial break to scenes with Abraham and Sasha hiding in an office, I felt sad and a little empty. How great would this episode have been if we’d only followed Daryl, getting to know his new friends a little more before the ultimate betrayal. This was a huge new development, introducing what will likely be the main group of villains (led possibly by Negan?), and could have easily filled all 42 minutes of screen time in what would have been one the show’s most memorable episodes. Instead it kept getting interrupted with Sasah—miraculously recovered from her own trauma—acting annoyed with Abraham for not dealing completely with his.
A Daryl episode, Shane. Is that too much to ask for?
And I know Mr. Dixon can be a man of few words, but why wasn’t he trying to get more intel on this new menacing group they were running from? “So this group that shot at me, how big are they and where are they located? Are they well-equipped with guns? What would they do if they encountered another group of survivors? Tell me more about this code of trading for protection?” These seem like key bits of information for the survival of Alexandria.
But I’d be lying if I said I had any real squabbles with the Daryl scenes while I was watching, even his ridiculous scheme to get the bad guy to walk past a walker pinned by a rock. However unlikely that was to work, I believed it because Daryl—like Walter White—is a badass who can make stuff like that work. And he’s a softie who will take the insulin back his captors and lead them away from their hunters. Daryl is a good guy and the fact that his trust in people got his motorcycle and crossbow stolen doesn’t even mean that he’s going to give up trusting people. Just not these people. These people will be sorry, Shane. They just made a terrible, terrible mistake. You don’t take Daryl’s crossbow—his CROSSBOW—and live.
So my question to you this week is: Is the show trying to develop too many characters right now? With the split seasons, we’re really only getting eight-episode mini seasons. Would it be better to dive deeper on Daryl, Rick, Michonne, Carol, Maggie, Morgan and the kids than trying to make sure we’ve got subplots with the six others who tagged along to Alexandria and 17 Alexandrians? Or am I not giving the newbies enough credit? Who outside of the early season characters do you want to see more of?
This season has felt like watching a Beatles concert where the band’s little known backup singers, The Alexandrians, keep taking the microphone and trying to sing our favorite songs. It’s highly vexing, Josh, and I can’t take much more. Let’s be real—Daryl, Rick, and Michonne are the heart of this show. They’re the fab three. That’s who we really want to see. After that, the second tier of Carol and Maggie and Glen and Morgan and maybe even Abraham and Sasha are all fine in support. Sometimes one of them can briefly step up to the first tier, as with Morgan or a really great villain like the Governor. Everyone else? They do not need to be featured, even in the awful two-minute scenes we saw last week. Just have them in the background until they die, please, because we know that’s what’s happening anyway.
And I totally agree—there were a couple times last night when I was tempted to fast-forward through the Abraham/Sasha scenes, so eager was I to find out what was happening with Daryl. It makes you wonder why the writers would even put them in that position, right? Nobody wants to go toe-to-toe with Daryl, especially if he’s paired with some semi-interesting newbies. (Maybe when he’s with Beth, it’s more of a fair fight.)
So to answer your questions: Yes, they’re trying to develop too many characters. Yes, it would be better to dive deep with the originals. No, the newbies don’t deserve more credit, and I want to spend more time with exactly ZERO of them.
Which brings up a larger question—who are the best characters by the season they were introduced? I’m going to go through and try to determine this in the most scientific way possible—by my GUT.
Season 1: Rick and Daryl (and Morgan)
Season 2: Hershel and Maggie
Season 3: Michonne and the Governor
Season 4: Abraham and Bob Stookey
Season 5: Father Gabriel and Deanna? (Seriously, those are the best two)
Season 6: Heath, the dude with Nicholas and Glenn in the woods
There’s a clear downward trend here, Josh—after season three, there’s nobody I would call indispensable, and it just keeps getting worse. I’d say it’s past time for TWD to introduce another good character, and if it doesn’t happen by the end of this season, you and I should lead the mutiny.
Okay, you’re in New York this week and I’m headed there myself in a moment, so we’ll end these letters here and return to the full four-installment format next week.
Until then, please don’t die, Rick and Daryl,