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The Walking Dead Review: "Just Survive Somehow"

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<i>The Walking Dead</i> Review: "Just Survive Somehow"

Shane Ryan and Josh Jackson review The Walking Dead each week in a series of letters.

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Josh,

I want to start with a wild conspiracy theory, because why not?

Here goes: Have you noticed that Morgan never seems to look at the people he’s fighting? He basically stares off at nothing, and then reacts when they react. My theory: Morgan has gone blind in his travels.

Now, there are a thousand reasons why this probably isn’t true, and in fact if I looked at scenes from any previous episode, I could probably find concrete proof that he, in fact, has full vision. Also, it would be weirdly copying Daredevil. Also, I just looked back at the fight scene where Carol kills the axe guy, and he seems to recognize her before she speaks. So look, I’m probably wrong.

However, I’m operating on the sunk cost fallacy here, so I need a sweet transition to justify having wasted three paragraphs on a faulty conclusion. Ready for this?

Even if Morgan isn’t physically blind, he’s still blind to the realities of his world.

I mean, come on, Josh, an anti-gun stance in the zombie apocalypse? Who does that? Also, I can see trying to rehabilitate people who make mistakes, like Glenn saving Nicholas, even if I don’t always like it. But THE WOLVES??? I have no idea what their deal is, but I’m confident in saying they only really want to attack and kill people. There’s a not a ton of nuance there, right? I lost a little respect for Morgan when he let those last three get away, including a guy with a gun. That’s not moral or forgiving or remotely wise in any way. It’s just asking to get someone killed by that guy and his new gun, which, as we know, is absolutely going to happen at some point this season.

From a story standpoint, I’m also not really up for another arc like this, where someone has to learn to be vicious, and someone else has to learn to be less vicious. We revisit this theme over and over again, and I have trouble buying that Morgan the Merciful is a real character at this point. Why did they have to make him less of a badass, Josh? WHY? I only want Morgan to be a badass. I don’t want Morgan to become Dale. I hated Dale. I hate that I’m even writing the name “Dale” right now, because I thought I’d put him behind me.

Aside from Morgan, I basically enjoyed “JSS.” The action was interesting, and even though the Wolves were kind of a disappointment after all the build-up (are we really supposed to believe that the same group of evil geniuses that rigged up that clever zombie-truck-trap brought knives to a gun fight??), it was nice to see Carol drop the innocent house wife act. The episode wasn’t nearly as good as last week’s premiere, but that’s a super high standard.

I have to ask this, though—are original Alexandrians like the Hydra, where you kill one and seven others pop up in their place? I feel like we’ve watched roughly 3,000 of them die horribly since last season, but there’s always more for the writers to kill off in a pinch.

Other thoughts before I kick it your way—I’m digging Enid’s character so far, but The Walking Dead is still 0-for-male-adolescents, as Ron is roughly as intriguing as Carl. I have hope for his younger brother, though, who has now taken a good amount of creepy verbal abuse from Carol (remember the cookie scene? I still shudder) and had to hide from murderers in a closet. Maybe he won’t be annoying.

Finally, did the Wolves teach a zombie to drive a truck, or was a live man driving that truck, then died when he crashed into the wall, then quickly turned into a zombie? I need to know.

Over to you, sir…I hope you have a 2,000-word treatise on the new “doctor” coming my way. JSS, Josh.

—Shane

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Shane,

Let’s ignore your original (and completely faulty) Morgan-as-Daredevil theory and look at his blindness to the realities of this world. In the midst of a sustained attack on your compound by a bunch of psychopaths hacking away with axes and machetes, there’s no justification for taking the time to secure prisoners. You’re trading the lives of still-helpless residents of Alexandria for some inexplicable moral code. Time and again we’ve seen characters on The Walking Dead punished for their mercy, most notably Tyreese. I agree that it’s frustrating to have to endure this from a badass like Morgan. But at least he seems to have begrudgingly learned, and hopefully we can all put that nonsense behind us.

Carl, by the way, learned this pretty quickly, after a moment’s hesitation almost gave one of the Wolves the chance to wrench his gun away.

That was definitely the overriding theme of “JSS”—it’s time for everyone to face the realities that they need to be able to protect themselves, to “just survive somehow,” and it took a bunch of deaths to get to that point. Deanna is paralyzed as a leader in the wake of her husband’s death. The new doctor is too afraid to even try to save the life of her wounded neighbor but pushes through. Jessie, who understands the dangers survivors face, overcomes her fear to fight off a would-be killer.

But while the theme is something we’ve visited several times on this show, “JSS” was full of unexpected action. Just when I’d gotten excited to see my friend Susie Purcell get more lines as Shelly the smoker, she was hacked to death out of the blue. Shelly was just one of many Alexandria residents who didn’t survive the episode. Fortunately, there were a lot of them to spare.

To answer your question, the truck driver was alive until Spencer shot him through the windshield. Dead people become zombies pretty quickly.

So let’s talk about the Wolves. We’ve seen several enemy groups since Rick started leading these survivors, each a little different: Dave’s group, the prisoners, the Governor, the Claimers, Terminus and now the Wolves. The Wolves’ philosophy seems to be that humans shouldn’t exist anymore, and their goal is to wipe them all out. In some ways, that’s scarier than the cannibals at Terminus. I’m trying to imagine what leads a group of survivors to decide that their purpose in this miserable life is to let the zombies win. They put a lot of effort into trapping and killing any human survivors. Is that believable to you? And if so, does that make them the most terrifying group we’ve seen? What do you think of this insane bunch?

—Josh

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Josh,

In theory, the anti-human pro-zombie agenda of the Wolves should make them the scariest group of all, and before last night’s episode, they had definitely creeped me out. Now, though? Not so much. I keep going back to the fact that they attacked a settlement when all the best warriors were out on a mission, and were completely routed because somehow they haven’t found or kept any guns. I was hoping there was some sort of cultist explanation, that death-by-gun was less pure and death-by-machete was more holy, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. I’m not scared of them anymore.

As for their philosophy, and how they got there, your guess is as good as mine. The only clue we have so far is the guy Morgan let escape, who said “they chose it for us,” or something similar. It reminds me a little bit of the silent cult on The Leftovers who chain smoke and seem to be chasing death in response to their own tragedy. I suppose this is one way to react, but do I think it’s realistic? Not really. We’ve had some horrible things happen in human history, and maybe I’m just drawing a blank, but I can’t think of any widespread movement designed to pursue mass death. Groups that have been nearly extinguished tend to adopt a JSS mentality, and when you look at mass genocides, they’re all motivated by (near-psychopathic) politics and economics, not an extinction urge. The closest we’ve come are actual cults, but even though they recruit and brainwash, they tend to keep the death in-house. Basically, the Wolves are most similar to serial killers or mass shooters, but they exist in a large group. That doesn’t happen on a large scale, and the very idea of it is seriously terrifying.

And yet, the Wolves are not terrifying. Go figure.

I’m sorry about your friend Susie. I was excited for some Tuscan cuisine. And this just proves that smoking is very unhealthy.

Here are ten other JSS acronyms that could easily apply to The Walking Dead:

1. Jesus, Stop Screaming!
2. Just Shoot Shane
3. Judith So Small!
4. Jars Save Souls
5. Judicious Stick Samurai (Morgan)
6. Jettison Silly Scruples
7. Jumbled: Sasha’s Sanity
8. Joy Seems Scarce
9. Juice = Spleen Syrup
10. Japan Seems Safe?

I was reaching at the end there, and I apologize to everyone about “spleen syrup.” I’ll throw it back your way—we’ve now got a herd of zombies headed for a very vulnerable community, just when they think the action is over. What do you expect in episode three? Are we going to see an end to Alexandria? I was sort of hoping we might have some peace for a little while.

—Shane

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Shane,

Last night we didn’t see any of the zombie herders except Morgan, who must have returned early to see what that air horn was all about. The previews for next week indicate another split-cast episode, this time away from Alexandria as Daryl, Rick, Michonne, Glen, Sasha, Abraham and the least useless Alexandria residents try to shepherd the mass group of walkers away from their settlement.

What an insane plan by Rick, by the way. It makes for great television, but I think I’d have launched fiery balls of death into the penned-in mass of walkers to at least thin the herd if not exterminate them outright.

But now we have an out-of-control parade of the undead, and it’s the first time in a long time that the dead seem to have an advantage over the living. If you’re looking forward to seeing Daryl and Michonne at their most badass, next week looks like a good opportunity. With that in mind…

Please just survive somehow, Daryl Dixon.

—Josh

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