Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The Walking Dead Review: ‘Say Yes’

(Photo Credit: AMC)
The Walking Dead
Season 7, Episode 12
By Garrett Yoshitomi

We’re into the meaty middle of season 7B, which unfortunately (although somewhat predictably) means we’re due for a filler episode or two. As far as Walking Dead filler goes, “Say Yes” isn’t terrible. It tells a compelling enough standalone story, and utilizes a fun, unique setting for the majority of its action sequences. It’s not as satisfying as last week’s Eugene-centric episode, “Hostiles and Calamities,” but it gets the job done, and even manages to connect back with the main storyline towards the end. Ultimately, there isn’t anything incredibly special about this episode- how you feel about it will largely depend on how much you like the Rick-Michonne pairing. But, being that they are two of the show’s most popular characters, I imagine most fans are fine with the additional screen time getting tossed their way.

(Photo Credit: AMC)
In a show that can be as bleak and depressing as The Walking Dead, a nice, safe romantic subplot, like Richonne, is a welcome commodity. With Glenn and Abraham’s deaths, Rick and Michonne is really the last pairing of established characters that we’re going to get. Most fans, including myself, boarded the S.S. Richonne back in season 4B, but with the introduction of Jessie in season five, it was fair to question whether that ship would ever set sail. It wasn’t the cleanest introduction, since chronologically Rick and Michonne first hooked up the episode after Jessie died (although there was about two months of “show time” in between these two episodes), but it’s been a pretty solidly written romance since then, and Andrew Lincoln and Danai Gurira have a believable chemistry that’s fun to watch. This episode doesn’t necessarily offer us anything we haven’t seen before on this couple (although Yvette Nichole Brown’s marriage theory on Talking Dead is quite interesting), but it’s still an enjoyable adventure for a duo that doesn’t always get showcased in action scenes enough.

(Photo Credit: AMC)
For those of you waiting for that Rosita redemption arc, I’m sorry to say that that ship might have sailed. Rosita’s likeability has been in a sharp downward spiral for most of this season, as she disregards the well-being of the group in order to exact her revenge against Negan. It’s not a terrible trajectory for a character by any means, but I think this feeling of hell-bent vengeance misses the mark with Rosita because it’s coming, almost literally, out of nowhere. For the longest time, Rosita was nothing more than a piece of scenery- going through significant stretches of seasons five and six without really doing anything (during this time she had six episodes of no dialogue). It feels kind of jarring for her to suddenly be placed dead center into such a pivotal storyline, without any real character development beforehand. Yes, it’s true that her relationship with Abraham serves as something of a catalyst for her current state of rage. But, couldn’t the same be said about Sasha? The same Sasha who has an established history of exhibiting violent tendencies in response to the death of her loved ones?

(Photo Credit: AMC)
I’ve been holding off on talking about all of the recent special effects fiascos because I, unlike some fans, haven’t been bothered all that much by four or five seconds of bad green screen. But, despite The Walking Dead’s typically stellar effects work, these moments of embarrassingly substandard CGI are getting increasingly harder to overlook. The Walking Dead is at a crossroads. In 2016, it was easily the most watched show on cable, with one of the slimmest budgets, and the most sought after ad space for any non-football programming on television. But, ever since the season seven premiere, ratings have been in a freefall, sinking to their lowest point since way back in season three, and staying there. (To give you an idea of how long ago season three was- Merle, Andrea, and Lori were all alive back then.) Now sure, even with this decline in viewership, The Walking Dead is still a ratings juggernaut, with a loyal fan base that most shows would kill for. But, the fallout from the much-maligned season six finale is very real, and even the expected ratings bump from this year’s mid-season premiere was modest and lasted just two episodes. This is all to say, that The Walking Dead really can’t afford to make these kind of sloppy mistakes- not when its merits, as a show, are constantly being judged with each episode.

(Photo Credit: AMC)
And just like that, we’re halfway through season 7B. It seems like only yesterday we were watching the gang unsuccessfully berate Gregory into joining their fight against The Saviors. And, while the going’s been rather slow, since then, for Rick and the gang, it’s only a matter of time before The Scavengers, or possibly The Kingdom, join the fight, and the war against Negan really starts heating up. A fuzzy outline of an endgame for this season is slowly starting to take form, but it’s likely to be thrown off course by Rosita’s shenanigans, for better or for worse. Next week’s preview hints at a return to The Kingdom, as well as an appearance from Carol. The Kingdom is by far the most interesting new settlement we’ve visited, although so far, they haven’t quite lived up to this billing. I’m interested to see how they tie-in to the rest of the season, and what Carol’s next steps look like.

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