This is where episodes like this should happen.
This season of THE WALKING DEAD has been a mixed bag — much like the show itself. We’ve had big moments, small moments and some super funky structural decisions taking place. We got a jaw dropping, potentially game changing moment to start with, but then we abandoned what was important for what was not. This week was also not particularly pertinent to the series many story, it was detached and separate and involved none of the big players. But at this point in the season, this is exactly where such an episode should take place.
When we got the Carol centric instalment in episode two, it was without doubt the wrong time. It was jarring, frustrating and just the plain wrong decision. The much better but still oddly placed, Daryl episode was another odd choice and a real momentum burner. This week’s episode was of a similar ilk. We watched for an entire episode as Tara was separated from Heath and ended up in a quasi Amazonian, Lost like jungle retreat. There was no Rick, no Negan, and only a mention of the Saviors. Just Tara and this new group. It wasn’t a set the world on fire episode, it was just okay, but this is the kind of time when an episode like this should appear. Two episodes out from the mid season finale, these smaller, character driven, focused episodes make sense after we have visited with our pertinent characters, after the big drama and big fallout has taken place. The energy from Negan’s murder rampage has gone now. That’s not a good thing but it is indeed gone, so visiting new places and taking the time to get to know lesser known characters isn’t such a heinous decision.
Tara was actually kind of fun to watch this week. I never thought I’d say that. She actually showed some character, personality quirks that I don’t remember seeing before. It was a little bit jarring, jarring to think “oh, you have personality? Huh”. But it helped none the less and will make her stand out a little bit more once we get back to the meat and bones of what’s going on this season. Her little adventure with this all woman group — a group that lost all its men after the Saviors murdered them, causing them to flee — also potentially introduced a new ally to Rick and co in the future. Obviously there will come a time where our heroes will fight back against Negan, they are going to need friends, and now we know there isn’t just the Kingdom out there, but these Jungle ladies as well. These women are well supplied and more importantly well motivated. One can see down the line that given the right assurances, they will be willing to help come battle time.
One of the episodes best revelations was Cyndie — the young woman who initially found Tara on the beach and befriended her soon thereafter. A lot of focus and time was put on her; it seems more than likely we will see her again, and that would be just fine. She had personality, presence and one could see her becoming a good addition to the group sometime soon. We’ve had some real stinkers align themselves with Rick’s gang of late; it’s about time someone compelling came along. Of course I am still holding out for some major cast trimming, but that is becoming less likely each week. So perhaps the least we can hope for is replacing the many dead weight characters with one’s that have something about them. That would be neat.
It is also very telling that I’ve gotten this far into the review and just remembered a regular character died this week. Heath bit the bullet and I barely noticed. Talk about underwhelming, talk about who cares. The least impact award goes to him surely. He was a plot device, a time filler, someone to fill script pages. It’s good that he’s gone but there are too many more people like him left. What is perhaps even more telling is that I forgot he existed before this episode began, Tara too — but at least she came out to play this week. We all know there are going to be sacrifices with THE WALKING DEAD, sixteen episodes is a long time, so naturally episodes like this and like Carol’s have to exist, and characters like Heath have to be created. But things can always be done better, things don’t have to be as mediocre as THE WALKING DEAD often is. This episode somewhat proved that. Somewhat.
At least some connections were formed this week. Some small seeds possibly were planted. Will they lead anywhere interesting or relevant? Who knows. There is a good chance the answer is no. But there were at least some things happening here. Tara at least took a step in the right direction. This episode at least wasn’t as bad as Carol’s episode two. So there is that. We all wish these straws didn’t have to be clutched so manically. But this is where we are. This is THE WALKING DEAD.