Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Walking Dead Review: ‘New Best Friends’

(Photo Credit: AMC)
The Walking Dead
Season 7, Episode 10
By Garrett Yoshitomi

The Walking Dead follows-up last week’s plot churning mid-season premiere with the equally well-paced, “New Best Friends.” Unlike most Walking Dead episodes, “New Best Friends” jumps around to multiple different storylines, keeping the main plot moving forward, while allowing secondary subplots to take shape and support the main narrative. It’s a welcome change from the singular storyline format we’ve grown accustomed to, and I hope it’s something that continues as we make our way into the meat of season 7B.

Back in December, the mid-season finale ended with a post-credit sting that teased a leather-clad mystery individual spying on Alexandria. Last week, nary a clue was offered to help viewers identify this person, although it was strongly implied that they were responsible for kidnapping Gabriel. What we now know is that this mystery individual is actually part of a larger coalition- an all-black everything group of dumpster divers, known collectively as, The Scavengers. After just one episode of screen time, I’m not entirely sure what to make of these bowl cut sporting mouth breathers, other than that they really know how to blow their entire special effects budget on one walker.
(Photo Credit: AMC)
The Scavengers are a welcome change of pace as a brand-new, show-only group, without a direct comic book counterpart, but they’re just so…strange. From the way they dress, to the way they talk (definitely the way they talk) nothing about them feels natural, even within the bounds of this fictional zombie universe. With all their heebie jeebie-ness, The Scavengers seem ripe to eventually betray our heroes, and at the very least, their unusual mannerisms set themselves up as a group that shouldn’t be completely trusted. But, on the other hand, there is something oddly calming about Jadis and her whimsical speech patterns. The Scavengers live by an ethos, “they take, but do not bother,” and it’s possible that a double cross is more of a “bother” than they’re willing to deal with. It certainly would be for Rick and co.

This week, we continue to see The Kingdom teetering between peace and all-out war with The Saviors, with yet another supply exchange ending on less than friendly terms. King Ezekiel’s magnanimity notwithstanding, there’s a pretty clear path that leads to The Kingdom joining forces with Rick. If The Saviors attack a member of The Kingdom, Ezekiel will be forced to retaliate and fight alongside Alexandria and The Hilltop. With tensions so high, and a wildcard like Richard willing to force conflict through any means necessary, it’s only a matter of time until The Kingdom’s uneasy alliance with The Saviors comes to a screeching halt. However, the writers seem content to let Ezekiel’s reluctance linger, and it’s likely that The Kingdom’s involvement becomes the “will they, won’t they” storyline of the season.

(Photo Credit: AMC)
After over half a season, we finally get our long-awaited Carol reunion. I’ve made my thoughts pretty clear on how important it is for Carol to finally meet up with the main group, and learn what happened to Glenn. For viewers, it’s the final piece of closure we need for the most impactful death of the series; and for the show, it’s an important step in Carol’s character development, as she’s forced to face the realities of her decision to abandon the group. Unfortunately, this episode gives us neither, and with the way things play out, it’s fair to wonder if Carol will ever find out.

For the record, I don’t think the writers handled this in the worst way possible. An awkwardly timed, “Glenn’s dead,” from Daryl, followed by generic sobs of regret from Carol, would have been the doomsday scenario for this scene. And, with all the angst-y Rosita dialogue we’ve been getting lately, something to this effect seems right up these writers’ alley. Perhaps it’s beyond the purview of the current writing staff, but there exists, somewhere out there in the aether, the perfect Daryl and Carol scene, or #Caryl scene, if you will. A scene where these two star-crossed soulmates share a tender moment of grief and remembrance, wading through the heartbreak together, while coming to terms with their guilt, and remembering Glenn for all that he meant to the group.
(Photo Credit: AMC)
But alas, that scene (or something much better) is not the one we get. Instead, Daryl withholds Glenn’s fate from Carol, to spare her the feelings of righteous vengeance that would immediately course through her veins had she learned the truth. Sure, Daryl simply not telling Carol, is nowhere near as rewarding, or sexy, as that perfect #Caryl moment that plays upon our every heartstring. But, those types of scenes are risky, and can just as easily end in a giant, heaping awkward mess. The scene we do get is a nice middle ground when compared to the alternatives. Not nearly as ambitious as it could have been, but it’s unexpected and plays well with the rest of the episode. It’s the plot-driven, rather than the character-driven choice, and the writers make it work, for the most part.

As Carol continues to stay isolated from the rest of the group, her long-term outlook grows hazy. Not only is she physically removed from her friends, but she’s also narratively removed from them. Rick and the gang are leaving poor Carol in the dust in terms of shared storylines, and for all intents and purposes, she’s basically operating a half season behind even someone like Tobin, which is not a good sign for her long-term viability. The further Carol gets away from the main cast, the less important of a character she becomes, and the more expendable she is to the plot. To put it another way, Carol’s already been getting way less screen time than she has in any other season, (a troubling trend in its own right), do you really think the writers will then take what little screen time she is getting, and dedicate it to her playing catch-up? In a half-season that already has so much ground to cover in such a short amount of screen time, it seems unlikely.

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