Shane Ryan and Josh Jackson review The Walking Dead each week in a series of letters.
I just finished the episode titled “Convenient Guns and Food Abound” (accuracy of title not confirmed), and I have to say, it ruled. To me, this was the best episode of the half-season so far, and it’s all due to Rick and Michonne’s casual virtuosity in dominating the hell out of zombies. I think this was the first time in Walking Dead where the show actually reckoned with how easy it would be for a skilled fighter with a good weapon to kill a zombie of this universe. Despite Rick’s continued video-game-glitch-like inability to rise to his feet after he falls, he and Michonne totally wrecked, and it felt real. My favorite moment came when he left her to handle eight zombies so he could uselessly push a car, and she was like, “seriously?,” and he was like, “yeah, ride or die.” And she basically accepted it with a shrug, and then easily killed eight zombies.
Rick and Michonne are fun together. I was totally with him in wanting them to extend this road trip into a ‘70s-film-style picaresque. If they had just decided to head south and keep going, that too would be fine with me. Yes, it would relegate the rest of the Alexandrians to death, but I’m pretty much done with them anyway. I mean, what would we be missing?
Rosita? She is pure poison, and this will sound brutal, but somebody needs to take her down before she gets everyone else killed. I get that she’s upset because her guy left her and then got his head bashed in, but she’s a virus that’s going to eat everyone else up. And Sasha, despite the very cool way she stood up in the garden, is like 25% poison, a percentage which is augmented when she’s under Rosita’s sway.
Then there’s Tara. Good God, Tara. All I can say about Tara is that the toddler who plays Judith was clearly very uncomfortable in their scenes because she had to share the camera with such a bad actor. Josh, what the hell is the point of Tara??? This is The Walking Dead’s version of Dr. Oatmeal. (Oh wait, Dr. Oatmeal was also on this show…) I’m glad she’s finally getting the Seasiders involved, but man, it is painful to suffer through her scenes.
Then there’s Father Gabriel. I actually kinda liked his speech this time—it seemed, for a moment, like he wasn’t a total craven whose two action modes are “total coward,” and “seems like a total coward, but may have a plan of some sort.” He actually seemed slightly like a badass for a moment. That said, he has a lot of ground to make up. And apparently Rosita’s takeaway from his “perhaps there was a method to my madness when I stopped you from undertaking a dumb suicide mission to kill Negan”...was “I should try to kill Negan again.”
But back to Rick and Michonne, because that was the heart of this episode. Their light jaunt through the apocalypse was a blast, and I’m glad to see that the writers obeyed the well-known TV rule called “Chekhov’s Carnival,” which says that if you show us a carnival in an early scene, we must use that carnival by the end of the show. They used the sledgehammer-bell thing as a barrier, Michonne got to play on the slides, and Rick climbed a ferris wheel. It was fun! They were smiling, the banter was good, and then Rick almost died from being stupid, but they made it out. And the action was great—the machete toss followed by the instantaneous double-head slice was one of the great Michonne fight moments of all time, and there have been a bunch.
Then we went back to the junkyard weirdos who have managed to lose proper syntax after like three years without civilization, and they want more guns, and etc. But when this ep was just about Rick and Michonne, it was great. It made me want to hang out and fall through roofs with them. I’d even politely wait outside when they had sex. The only thing missing was “I Got You Babe” playing in the background.
What did you think, Josh? Also, is the implication that they just killed those Saviors who were playing golf? They just flat-out smoked them, didn’t they?
Agree 100% that Rick and Michonne made this episode a treat. There hasn’t been a ton of coupling in the apocalypse, but they edge out Glenn and Maggie as my favorite pairing in the show, just because they’ve given each other a little bit of well-earned light after years of darkness. Their ease, their competence, their love that grew out of friendship, respect, trust and reliance upon each other—it just works. At a time when so many of the more recently introduced characters are growing a little tiresome and old-timers like Carol and Morgan have been written into uninteresting corners, it was refreshing to see the two best remaining non-Daryl characters get some quality time together on screen.
And it was good to see the show settle into their competence. There was a time when the writers would have ramped up the drama of them being on the roof of the car surrounded by walkers, but Rick and Michonne never lost their cool until Rick fell off the Ferris wheel. And while Michonne may have fallen for the “Oh no, walkers are eating Rick” gambit, the viewers were never meant to (I think). When the trick is on Michonne (who never saw the dear) instead of us, we can feel Michonne’s overwhelming grief without our own emotions getting manipulated, which has been the standard modus operandi of The Walking Dead ever since Glen crawled under that dumpster.
So kudos, Walking Dead writers. The War of Five Armies (Saviors, Alexandria, Hilltop, The Kingdom, The Junkyard Aliens) is approaching and may involve a sixth group if Tara and Rick can somehow recruit the coastal women. And yet, Tara and Rosita could throw a sniper-rifle-sized wrench into those plans before they get off the ground. Rick still has to pretend to be a beaten-down shell of himself in front of Negan, and that may prove the biggest hurdle of all. I can’t wait to watch.
But what took this episode from good to really good was the Carnival set piece. The success of The Walking Dead have allowed for some pretty cool backdrops over the years. What have been your favorites over the course of the show?
When you wrote “The War of Five Armies,” it reminded me of the “War of the Five Kings,” and now I have an insatiable Game of Thrones craving. THANKS A LOT.
Also, I want to point out quickly that sniper rifles have been severely under-used in this show. If Gang Rick had just one person who could hit a head from 100 yards off, and was armed with a sweet gun, essentially all of the conflicts that we’ve seen would have been over with one shot. I think in a real-life zombie apocalypse, sniper warfare would be huge, especially around settlements surrounded by woods. That’s why I don’t understand the fatalism of Sasha and Rosita—get some camo gear, set up shop overnight, make your shot, get away. There’s no reason to die. Their strategy is also bonkers, since it seems to involve getting into the compound itself. YOU HAVE A SNIPER RIFLE! The reason you have that rifle is so that you don’t have to get close. Is she going to fix a bayonet to the gun, or something? The beauty of the sniper rifle is lost on these people.
And yes, I share your optimism that the writers didn’t want the viewer to believe Rick was dead. Not that they’ve given us much reason to trust them, but I think the idea was to pierce the happy-go-lucky ambience and show how the grief affected Michonne—even after Rick came back to life, so to speak.
As to your question, you’re really putting my memory to the test here. (Googles for ten minutes.) Crap, that is not an easily Googlable thing. I liked that time the zombies fell through the roof in the grocery store, and the walkers that came up through the mud, and then there were fire zombies once, and weren’t there ones that were waterlogged, or covered in slime, or something? I don’t know. I’m failing here, Josh.
I’ll ask you the same question, and add this: What percentage of the landfill/seaside people are going to get killed in the final battle? It has to be above 95 percent, right? There’s no way TWD can incorporate all these new people. I’m really excited to hear the last words from Landfill Lady. They promise to be even more terse than usual!
Not counting the well-established residences, I particularly loved: the quarry where they camped in Season One, Downtown Atlanta filled with zombie hordes, the high-rise where The Governor briefly finds redemption, the grocery store you mentioned and the tunnel full of walkers from Season Four. I appreciate the show’s efforts to find cool locales for big action pieces, and the carnival delivered.
As for all the extras now employed by Walking Dead Inc., I think that will lead to the bloodiest war we’ve seen yet. The population of humanity is about to shrink significantly to a much more manageable number with, say, 50% of the Seaside residents (easy for them to go back about their business never to be on a call sheet again) and just about 100% of the landfill pod people to meet whatever robot alien god they now worship.
As for the main characters, please don’t die, Daryl Dixon.