Monday, February 9, 2015

(TV) The Walking Dead Season 5 Episode 9 “What Happened And What’s Going On ” TV Review

The world that makes up The Walking Dead is a grim one but that’s only because the minds that dreamt up the hyper bleak TWD world are extremely grimmer.

“What Happened And What’s Going On ” opened with pieces later to appear in the episode as we saw the sadness and desolation in reaction to the death of Beth and not content with the group trying to process of losing another group member, we lose another character in Tyreese.

To say the least, episode 9 was a somber and sorrowful episode as Rick, Glen, Michonne, Tyreese make a trip with Noah back to his old neighborhood with the hope that his mother and two twin brother were still alive which if you watched TWD for any amount of time, was a foolish hope indeed. Much of modern TV is remarkably cynical but The Walking Dead takes it to another level as the group spend most of their time trying to keep hope alive and find meaning in  a world devoid of both and the show seems dead set on punishing them for trying and us for hoping they succeed.

Episode 9 was no different as Noah’s hope to reunite with his family were crushed as after realizing that his neighborhood was overrun and everybody he knew was either dead or a meat-eating monster, he made a break for his house only to find his mother dead on the living room floor brained and blood soaked. That wasn’t the end of the ordeal however as not only was his younger twin brothers dead, one of them takes a chunk out of Tyreese’s forearm before he kills him.

This scene has extra weight as on the trip to Noah’s neighborhood we see a father-son dynamic begin to form between the two as while we get tells from other group members in the truck that they think this trip isn’t going to end well, Tyreese tells a story about his father and buffers Noah faint hopes that his family is still alive. He also elects to stay with Noah after his breakdown and when Noah makes a break for his house, insists that he goes in first.

While just about everybody in TWD universe has bought in to The Governor’s sinister creed of “kill or die” in order to survive, Tyreese has held on the longest to his humanity and has done his best to avoid, in the words of his father “pay the high cost of living”. Once again the show reveals its cynical nature as it disperses of a character that has done better than most to keep his moral center in a world that demands one moral compromise after another.  

Dale, T-Dog, Andrea, Hershel and now Tyreese have all paid the price for attempting to keep their humanity which in some sense is inevitable but it establishes a clear belief among the writers of the show that what we may admire about a character might just be what gets them killed.

This isn’t necessarily a bad premise to work on but it does make the show a little predictable and repetitive. The show already suffers from a lack of a real antagonist as while walkers pose a threat to the group, they are a manageable threat. While the group is sure to run into another group run by a unrepentant psychopath whose only redeeming quality is a disarming but ultimately glib charm, we’ve seen that Rick and co. know how to deal with psychopaths: match them for their cruelty and unerring ability to kill others.

We know full well that the group will encounter one or both antagonists at some point as there’s a world full of flesh eating zombies and the humans still alive and kicking that aren’t exactly the best representatives of humanity by any estimation. We still haven’t seen the group live with another group where they weren’t in total control but I doubt that will ever happen as it won’t be long till Rick and co plan to take over as let’s face it human beings working in tandem to build a new world after the old one went to hell makes for a less than exciting spectacle to say the least.

Episode 9 encapsulates these problems especially in Tyreese’s hallucination as the writers try introducing conflict in Tyreese’s psyche as we see hallucinations with Bob, Beth, Lizzie and Mikka where they all somewhat attempt to reassure Tyreese that his impending death played out how it supposed to. Probably noticing the lack of real conflict throughout the episode, the writers clearly made the choice to introduce one of the members of the Terminus group who Tyreese severely beat but didn’t kill and strangely the Governor who basically held him accountable for his own death.

While the hallunication of the Terminus member makes sense as he did predict Tyreese was going to die trying to keep his humanity, the hallucination of The Governor made no sense. The two spent only a few seconds together in screen time which left no time for the show or Tyreese to establish a connection strong enough for either one to figure strongly in their dying thoughts. One would have thought Sasha would make an appearance in his hallucination as they have strong connection with each other and had one of the most close knit sibling relationships in the show.

While it was good to see David Morrisey return to the show, the fact that The Governor and not Sasha made an appearance in Tyreese’s dying thoughts shows that the writers weren’t being true to the character and made the choice to serve the story at the expense of plausibility.

For me , the writers committed the high crime of all television, taking an audience out of a story. In the end we get to say goodbye to Tyreese but what was noticeable was how worn out rather than sad the group was to lose Tyreese, particularly Sasha, who has already lost Bob and now her big brother.Throughout the run of The Walking Dead, the group has mostly swung between cautious optimism to acute but temporary dejection but it looks like the group has resigned to indifference particularly towards death. In truth, you can’t really fault them for to worn out to grieve as they’re well aware that death awaits them, one way or the other.

And with Rick’s plan to take the group to Washington, expect more group members to pay the price. As all leaders do, Rick has made many bad decisions but his plan to take the group to Washington looks like it’s going to be a whopper of a mistake that may cost him the lives of everybody he loves.

Maybe Rick saw the need for the group to have goal to strive for or wanted to reassure Michonne who came up with the plan, but to take the group on an 100 mile hike to Washington, knowing full well it’s probably overrun by walkers or worse, has been taken over by psychopaths that make The Governor look like the Dalai Lama, is unwise to say the least.

In the trailer showing clips of the next episode, we already see Sasha questioning the logic behind the new mission openly musing about the inevitable losses in numbers the group will suffer in this foolhardy quest. A least next week we’ll see someone challenge the faulty logic that underpins the plan that so far makes no sense.

In sum, episode 9 was a decent episode that dealt rather briefly with the grief of the group in the aftermath of Beth’s shocking death but in the death of Tyreese, the show made a point to kill a character, who didn’t need to die, just to keep consistent with the show’s philosophy of “humanity will get you killed” which instantly took me out the story and clouded what would have been somber but decent episode.

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