Since The Walking Dead first debuted its six-year time jump last week, it’s doubled down on what is becoming a quickly tiresome tenant. In the opinion of this show, the following is apparently true:
A lack of information is the same thing as “intrigue.”
That appears to be the philosophy that this period of TWD is based around, at least until the revelation of the threat we all already know is coming: Comic book villains The Whisperers. Suffice to say, The Whisperers will be here soon—apparently in the next episode, if the preview at the end of tonight is to be believed—but instead of just hoping they’ll save the second half of the season, let’s simply focus on the here and now. “Stradivarius” managed to unload all kinds of information on us, while raising even more questions at the same time.
Engage bullet points:
— First and foremost, Maggie has departed to “go with Georgie.” What does this entail? We don’t know. Who is Georgie, really? We don’t know. What community are they at, and where is it? We don’t know. Why did Maggie choose to leave all of her friends behind, besides the fact that Lauren Cohan had a new TV pilot to film on ABC? We don’t know. This wouldn’t necessarily be problematic if these were mysteries to everyone else, but Jesus, Tara and everyone else at the Hilltop apparently possesses all this knowledge as common information. This basic information is just being withheld from the audience, in another example of what I’ve now taken to calling “reverse suspense.” As Hitchcock defined suspense as the tension of the audience knowing something the characters don’t, it seems like only a fair descriptor.
— Jesus has become the reluctant leader of Hilltop, but finds himself increasingly drawn to sneaking away into the woods to have mock kung fu battles with Aaron, with whom he may or may not be in a relationship.
— For reasons unknown, lines of communication seem to have completely atrophied between Alexandria, The Hilltop and The Kingdom. Did each community become completely self-sufficient? If they don’t communicate, then why did Michonne choose to bring Magda’s group to Hilltop in the first place? Regardless, the unity of these three communities has completely waned in the years following Rick’s death, for reasons unknown.
— Daryl searched for Rick’s body after the events of his apparent death, and failing to find him, apparently went full Dunedain ranger on everyone’s asses, and has simply been living in the woods with his dog for years, making snake stew. We see quite clearly that he’s bearing the exact same “X” scar on his lower back that Michonne has. Did all of Rick’s friends ritualistically scar themselves following his death? That’s what I choose to believe.
— No one bothered to tell Michonne about Maggie’s departure from The Hilltop, implying that they had some kind of additional falling out after the Negan incident. Also, Siddiq says the following line, which pretty much sums up the opacity of The Walking Dead right now: “I wanted to tell you sooner, but I promised someone I wouldn’t.” SOMEONE? Someone. That’s the best you can do? You might as well beg me to ask you for more information, The Walking Dead. And I refuse.
— In general, the show is somewhat bereft of stakes right now, although Magda’s group encountering their former member in the ridiculously colorful shirt was a nice touch of pathos. But as things are going right now, the show is relying on our concern about the safety of a just-introduced dog as a means to generate tension. That’s not a good sign.
So yeah—The Walking Dead manages the feat it always seems to manage, which is creating a world that continues to be interesting and seemingly full of potential, but then profoundly frustrating you at the same time with incredibly basic lapses in competent storytelling. At the very least, we can hope that next week’s apparently action-heavy episode will kindle some suspense with the potential reveal of The Whisperers—whose whispers seem to carry about a football field in distance, if the beginning of “Stradivarius” is to be believed. How far can you hear someone talking from while it remains a whisper, anyway?
Who knows? Maybe we’ll even get the earth-shattering reveal of “Someone.”
Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer and resident horror guru. You can follow him on Twitter for more film and TV writing.