Episode 13 - Alone
14 March 2014
Synopsis: Maggie finds the Terminus map and insists on following it. Bob agrees but Sasha would rather find a secure location to make home. Maggie leaves them behind so that they won't feel burdened by her mission. Bob insists on following after her. Meanwhile Darryl and Beth come across a funeral parlour and begin to play house. Soon a host of Walkers overrun the place and Beth is seemingly kidnapped. Darryl tries to follow but eventually collapses in despair before being discovered by the gang who Rick recently escaped.
The Good: Once again this was far from perfect but really encouraging in other ways.
I thought the scoring worked nicely here as there was a distinct tone set early and repeated to enhance the Bob story in particular. It was nice to get a flashback to Bob's time alone. It didn't add much to our understanding of him but it gave more highly watchable shots of existence and survival in this world.
Bob's happiness at simply forming bonds with other people was pleasant. As was his decision to take a risk and kiss Sasha. His insistence that they stick together worked thematically (with the growing sense of hope shared by our suvivors) as well as logically (since being alone in the apocalypse is a dumb idea). Maggie's willingness to admit that she couldn't continue alone was similarly pleasing and I kind of bought her argument that Sasha would agree to help her because the cause was worth following. In a world with so little hope these people seem to recognise that fighting to keep their unit together is a better choice than becoming nomads.
It was nice to compare that attitude to Darryl and Beth's situation. With no one driving them toward Terminus they have seemingly given up on finding their friends. However the same spirit of companionship exists. They don't have much chemistry as a couple, perhaps because of the gulf in experience or maturity. But that contrast is clearly what drew Darryl in. Beth's innocence and faith in goodness allowed him to imagine a happier existence with her.
His recruitment by the gang who Rick escaped is a very nice use of the story threads. Clearly that is one of Gimple's strongest suits. Once again Rick's three questions were referenced (which Darryl asked Bob in the tease), while in the present the radio message which we heard briefly (in 403) is connected to Terminus. Now we have Darryl trapped with a bunch of scumbags (we assume) just when he is trying to track down a (presumably) kidnapped Beth. I definitely liked the funeral home as a setup. Walkers being made up for a funeral was yet another creative use of the apocalypse and the clearly occupied residence guaranteed trouble.
Maggie using the gore of a Walker to send Glenn a message was intelligent and appropriately desperate.
The Bad: I think we're beginning to see the flip side of Scott Gimple's strengths. The Lost-style focus on individual stories has been a hugely welcome change of emphasis. However it has begun to neutralise the show's one indisputable strength: the sense that anything can happen.
It seems increasingly obvious that these characters are being invested in. They have arcs and relationships now. That makes it clearer that they aren't about to die. It may well be a worthy trade off in the long run. But in the short run it's making some scenes far less effective than they should be.
Of course a lot of that has to do with staging. When Rick was trapped under the bed the tension was palpable. But twice here the scene looked ridiculous. The effort was there to convince us that Darryl had dropped his guard because Beth is just so damn cute. But really, after four seasons of relentless vigilence it seemed ridiculous that Darryl wouldn't glance through the front door to check who was actually rattling the cans. His escape from a swarm of Walkers was then inevitable while Beth's kidnap felt soap-opera like after all the gritty reality. Just as she and Darryl were about to make out she is taken away, gosh darn it!
Similarly Bob, Maggie and Sasha began the episode fighting in a fog of convenience. The attempt to make some morning mist into a life threatening event was a sensible idea but in execution it felt inconsistent. It went from thick as soup to merely an inconvenience once the Walkers had been dispatched.
Worse was to come when Sasha spotted Maggie lying down by some Walkers. Why was she lying there exactly? Just recuperating from an attack? Ok. Sasha comes to the rescue and naturally the previously quiet spot is now infested but the two of them batter their way out with little trouble. It was an awkward sequence which was designed to bring the two women together but made the zombies appear entirely contrived.
The LostÂ-style emotional connections also felt forced. I'm sure Sasha's behaviour was motivated by fear but her suggestion that they hunker down was also a sensible one. When she admitted she was afraid it felt less like cartharsis and more like peer pressure.
It seemed bizarre that Bob wandered off without her. It seemed like he was persuading her to follow him and then he just left. I have no problem with their smiling reunion but all of them should know by now that splitting up is madness.
The Unknown: Terminus is growing large in the narrative of the show. It seems so unlikely that a genuine sanctuary awaits and yet a giant Woodbury-like trap would seem too obvious. Conidering Scott Gimple's attention to detail I'm beginning to think again about the giant army of Walkers that Darryl drove into when he first heard the radio signal. Could it be that Terminus was a sanctury or is one but is about to be overrun? That's one guess amongst many that you can find in thetvcritic Forums.
Are Joe's gang as bad as we fear or do they have redeeming qualities? Do they know anything about Terminus? Who is the funeral home owner? Did they use their dog to sniff out Darryl and send Walkers in to clear him out? Did they kidnap Beth? If so, why?
Best Moment: Beth giving a coffin-bound Darryl a concert in an empty funeral parlour was a fascinating visual which aided the story.
Conclusion: Despite the length of "The Bad" section I didn't think this was bad television. As much as I love the tension sequences which TWD has excelled at, I wouldn't swap it for real character development. And that's what this is an attempt at. I will forgive a lot when a show understands that that is the most important thing. I completely understand if the logic issues drove you to distraction. But I'm remaining patient because the signs are still good that the show is headed in the right direction.
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