Tuesday, November 28, 2017

The Walking Dead Season 8, Episode 6 Review: ‘The King, the Widow, and Rick’

(Photo Credit: AMC)
The Walking Dead 
Season 8, Episode 6 

After a slight uptick in ratings for episode four, last week’s “Big Scary U” backslid, as The Walking Dead experienced its lowest ratings since 2011As weird as it might sound, though, I’ve actually been enjoying this season, and I think a lot of it has to do with all of the multi-character episodes we’ve been getting. Yes, it’s glaring that, despite the show’s effort to incorporate more characters into a single episode, Negan and Father Gabriel were still effectively abandoned for several weeks. But, even last week’s Negan-centric episode briefly ventured outside of the Sanctuary to touch base with Rick and Daryl. And overall, the pace for a majority of this season, has been enjoyably quick, and this is especially true for “The King, the Widow, and Rick.” 

At this point in season seven, there were a lot of single-storyline focused episodes that all led up to, and somehow needed to tie together before, the midseason finale. Predictably, that didn’t happen, and the 7A finale came and went without any sense of a real pay-off, due mostly to the inconsistent build-up. But, I don’t think that’s going to be the case this year. Instead of jumping around from character to character each week, almost every episode of season eight has spent time developing and blending multiple storylines. Maybe the first two episodes of the season were overly convoluted, but at least they laid the groundwork for several plot points that would end up receiving consistent screen time throughout the rest of the season. Because of this, I’m okay putting up with a couple of subpar, confusing episodes. The homestretch of 8A has focus. It has a clear end game that will be affected and molded by several different storylines, and that creates actual stakes worth following during these next couple of weeks. 

(Photo Credit: AMC)
Because this multi-storyline episode structure forces the show to burn through plot at a quicker pace, some unique character pairings are necessarily being pushed to the forefront, in order to round out the gaps in the narrative. At first glance, these pairings don’t exactly scream, ‘compelling, but they’re a welcome change to the same few cast combinations that we’ve seen over and over again for the past several years. For instance, while it’s always fun to see Rick and Daryl in action togetherthis week quietly rolls out team Daryl and Tara- the two survivors who are hell-bent on getting revenge against the Saviors, even if it means abandoning Rick’s carefully tinkered planIn a sense, we’ve already seen this dynamic play out. Last season, Rosita and Sasha went off book, and tried to take matters into their own hands by going on a two-woman mission to assassinate Negan. The Daryl and Tara situation feels slightly different because they’re merely taking advantage of the Sanctuary’s precarious walker situation- a direct result of following Rick’s plan to begin with, rather than going entirely off script on their own. 

However, I’m willing to overlook these noticeable similarities because a) Daryl is a much more interesting character than Rosita and Sasha (individually or together), and b) it feels like Daryl and Tara’s plan has a lot more legitimacy to it, compared to Rosita and Sasha’s half-baked scheme to stroll on up to the Sanctuary, and shoot Negan…somehow. Speaking of, by the end of this episode, Rosita, in a duo of her own with Michonne, join Daryl and Tara on their quest for revenge. Again, the repetitiveness of last season is apparent, but there is some intriguing character development potential here. I feel like Michonne, as a more “senior” member of the gang, should be able to help Rosita stay more level-headed, as opposed to Sasha, who more or less enabled Rosita’s blind vengeance-fueled rage. A big problem I had with Rosita last season, was how unrealistically stupid her entire plan was. A more reined in Rosita, with a more believable game plan, could be fun to watch. 

(Photo Credit: AMC)
I’m also looking forward to seeing what Tara can do in a more prominent role. For most of her time on the show, Tara has existed on the periphery- providing cover fire from some set, safe distance away, while the main characters proceed with the heavy lifting. The one moment she did get at center stage was in her solo episode, "Swear," widely considered the worst episode in the history of The Walking Dead. Luckily, Tara is far from this storyline’s focal point, but because of her insistence on wiping out the Saviors, and her proximity to Daryl in the forthcoming episodes, it seems pretty likely that she’ll get her fair share of action coming- a solid test for a character who’s consistently struggled to find her role, within the show. 

With the incorporation of more storylines per episode, we also get a little screen time thrown Carl's way, as we pick up his gas station stranger subplot from the season premiere. If you'll remember, Rick chased Siddiq off with a few over the head warning shots, while Carl later left some rations at the spot where they had initially met. When Carl runs into Siddiq again, this episode, he makes another, this time, successful attempt at engaging with him, in a touching scene that clearly differentiates Carl from Rick, and further helps to establish him as his own character, rather than just an extension of his dad. The "three questions" make a return, in a nice callback to, what feels like, the yester-years of The Walking Dead; and overall, I'm intrigued by where this Carl-Siddiq storyline is heading. It is frustrating to see Carl and Siddiq struggle with walkers, on their way back to Alexandria, for no other reason than that the plot demanded it, and some of the dialogue the two share is, as the kids are saying these days, quite cringe. But, just like I'm all for new character pairings, I'm also in favor of completely new characters, in general, and I think the introduction of Siddiq could spice up the backend of these next couple of episodes before the midseason finale.

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