Starting this week, Heave will be adding television reviews under its pop cultural umbrella. Today, Chris Osterndorf kicks off his coverage of The Walking Dead. Check back every Monday for his thoughts, and stay tuned throughout the week; Brooklyn Nine-Nine and New Girl will arrive on Wednesday.
In any given season of television drama, the fourth episode is often a big one. I’ve long suspected that this is because television critics are frequently given the first four episodes of a season to screen, and therefore usually base their reviews of the entire season off of those episodes. But whether this is true or not, it makes sense from a storytelling standpoint for a season to be on its way by this point.
That’s why it’s interesting that The Walking Dead seemingly decided that it would be better to give people more action (those poor pigs!) in their first three episodes, and then slow down for last night’s “Indifference.” (The title follows “Infected” and “Isolation” and preceding “Internment.” Perhaps these four episodes are all linked together in some significant way?) If I had to guess at this point, the first half of this season is going for more of a season two (a.k.a. “the farm season”) vibe, while the second half will return to the swifter pace of season three. It’s not surprising that The Walking Dead is pulling back a little, considering they have a new showrunner and new cast members, in addition to the fact that more happened last season than in the previous two seasons combined.
But that’s not to say that nothing happened in “Indifference.” One of the more interesting observations of last night’s episode was Rick and Carol’s encounter with the young couple who had done surprisingly well for themselves (well, until they met Rick and Carol that is) on their own. The Walking Dead tends to be so focused on showing people pushed to the most desperate physical and psychological states that it was kind of a nice change of pace for them to show the rare exception to that: two people who have been so lucky, they seem almost blissfully unaware that the world has fallen apart around them. Unsurprisingly, however, the show’s bleak futility returned by the end of the episode, once again proving that in the world of The Walking Dead, no one is ever truly safe.
Another recurring theme that was reiterated in last night’s episode was the characters’ inability to escape their personal problems, even in the most desperate of larger crises. In this case, it was illustrated when newbie Bob (Lawrence Gillard Jr.) decided he could no longer control his drinking problem, even as the constant threat of annihilation bears down on on him and everyone around him.
Finally, the big news coming out of “Indifference” is the departure of Carol (Melissa McBride). Considering the place she’s been in this season, the revelation from last week’s episode that she killed two members of the group who were infected with a mysterious virus wasn’t really too surprising. In that light, I guess it’s not all that surprising either that Rick, slowly stepping back into a leadership role, forced her to leave. I thought they might taken a little more time to tease this story out, but since Carol was banished as opposed to actually being killed, I feel like at this point there’s still a good chance we’ll see her again. Perhaps in the second half of the season, maybe hanging out with the Governor?
“Indifference” made sure to illustrate just how much Carol has changed since we first met her in season one, almost obnoxiously so in fact. But admittedly, Carol’s change has been surprising, and McBride has brought more to the character than anyone probably suspected was there. Nevertheless, since The Walking Dead has never truly managed their large and ever expanding ensemble as well as, say, their AMC sibling, Mad Men, it’s hard to really be that sad to see Carol go. As I said before, no one is ever safe on The Walking Dead, whether that means death, banishment, or reasons behind the scenes. But when these characters have such a small impact, does their safety really matter to us?
As a huge plus, there was no Carl in last night’s episode, so we can all be thankful for that.