WALKING DEAD: I Know You Are, But What Am I?
What’s it take to get to Washington, DC, in The Walking Dead? Meaningless speeches, action without any progress, and more than a little divine intervention, just like real life
Open on a pair of closed eyes in extreme close-up. Pull back as the eyes open, revealing an isolated figure in the middle of a lush, seemingly untouched landscape. Hey, looks like our director tonight is a big fan of Lost. Are we in for some schlocky, pseudo-religious, potentially supernatural proceedings? You bet your sweet bippy.
But it’s Maggie, not Jack, who opens her eyes in the forest, and it’s a slowly ambling zombie, not a smoke monster, that’s headed her way. There are tears in her eyes as she destroys the creature—but not for the act of violence. Stabbing something in the brain is nothing but tedious for Maggie; her mind is far away.
Cut to Daryl, who is taking his “Nobody likes me, everybody hates me, think I’ll go eat worms” act a little too literally, digging up an earthworm and eating it whole.
(The earthworm, I’ve decided, is named Mr. Wiggles and he overcame a tragic childhood to rescue his high school sweetheart from an abusive dung beetle and marry her. She’s a widow now, with six earthworm children. Why bother giving the worm a backstory? Hey, just getting in the The Walking Dead spirit. Wallow in your existential despair, moppets!)
The gang is searching the woods for clean water. There isn’t any. The creek bed is bone dry, and all the frogs have croaked. (GET IT?!) It’s all very Exodus, and that ain’t a coincidence.
Giving up, everyone reconvenes on the highway and starts trudging along, presumably towards Washington, DC. They’re three weeks out of Atlanta, and they ran out of gas a while back, so there’s nothing to do but walk.
“How much longer we got?” asks Michonne.
“Sixty miles,” answers Maggie.
“I wasn’t talking about that,” says Michonne.
Later. Daryl goes off looking for food and/or water and/or earthworms again. (The entire Wiggles family must die!) Carol follows him into the woods, much to his chagrin.
Carl takes this random moment to present Maggie with a pretty pink music box. It doesn’t work—the box or the gesture, as best I can tell. It’s a pretty big, about the size of a cigar box, and I’d feel pretty annoyed if I was expected to lug this worthless thing sixty miles to D.C.
Preacher Gabriel also has a gift for Maggie: his patience and understanding as a man of the cloth. He’s here to listen any time she wants to talk. In return, she gives him a nice recipe for a bowl of dicks he can eat. He locked his flock out of the church when the zombies came, she reminds him.
What follows is a well crafted sequence of our heroes shambling down the highway, exhausted, dehydrated, defeated… barely distinguishable from the horde of zombies that is now shambling along behind them. It’s not obvious yet, but this is our theme for the evening, folks.
No one’s particularly interested in dealing with the zombies yet; they’d rather confront their feelings instead. This should go well. Michonne tries to console Sasha about her brother Tyrese’s death, and it looks like Preacher Gabriel has someone he’s welcome to share his bowl of dicks with.
And it’s on to attempt #3 at consoling someone for their recent loss. This one goes better. Carol tells Daryl he’s got to feel his feelings, whoa-oh-oh, feelings. She also hands him Beth’s knife. And with a kiss on his forehead, she heads back to the road. Alone. Does that seem stupid to anyone else?
But it’s fine. The gang on the highway has reached a bridge, and it’s time to destroy zombies. The good guys line themselves up just before the start of the bridge, where the shoulder of the road falls off into a steep embankment. When the zombies finally reach them, our heroes easily trip them up and send them tumbling down to whatever’s below. Oblivion, we can only hope. Everything’s going easy-peasy until Sasha gets impatient/stabby. Hell quickly breaks loose, and the gang has to stab the rest of the zombies, leaving them even more exhausted than before.
Later. Our heroes reach some cars and start searching for any supplies worth salvaging. Maggie finds the body/zombie of a woman who was apparently abducted while alive, tied up, and locked in a trunk, where she’s remained until this moment. It’s as pointless as naming the worm Daryl ate and giving it a backstory: depressing for the sake of depressing, pure emotional manipulation that has nothing to do with the story or Maggie’s character. The worst part of the scene is that it makes you wonder how much of the episode so far has been equally meaningless, and the answer is going to turn out to be 85-95%. Filler to pad out the middle of an episode that’s mostly filler to pad out the middle of the season. Filler-ception.
Daryl finds a long dead dear and a long dead hunter and filllllllllllllllllllllllllllleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeerrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.
Abraham starts drinking whiskey in lieu of water, knowing it’ll only make things worse. “I honestly do not know if things can get any worse,” says Eugene. Of course they can, says Maggie. The dialogue certainly has.
So have the hokey clichés: of course Eugene and Maggie’s exchange is the cue for a band of wild dogs to attack. Well, not so much attack as show up and growl. Sasha shoots them all dead, and dinner is served.
Noah is disturbed that one of the wild dogs was wearing an old collar. He tries to broach the subject of Tyrese with Sasha, but she tells him, “don’t think.” Remember what I said the theme of the episode was? It’s getting closer to being spelled out for us. The rest of the meal is silence, including when Gabriel drops his preacher’s collar into the fire.
Later. Glen offers Maggie some of what remains of his water. It’s enough for her to start opening up to him, although only in the most vague terms. She’s not sure she wants to keep fighting. He gives her Samwise Gamgee’s “folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, Mr. Frodo, only they didn’t, they kept going because they were holding on to something” speech. What I wouldn’t give for a good orc attack now because this show has drifted from despair to malaise.
Glen offers Daryl some water, too, but Daryl isn’t about to open up in front of people. He wanders off into the woods again and sits down to smoke a cigarette, then puts it out on the back of his hand JUST TO FEEL SOMETHING AGAIN, MAN. The physical pain brings the other kind to the surface as well, and he cries.
When he returns to the crowd, our heroes are facing a dilemma: someone has a left a pallet of bottled water in the road with a sign saying it’s “from a friend.” Eugene is desperate enough to offer himself up as a guinea pig to see if it’s poisoned, but Abraham slaps the bottle away.
Temptation rejected, the sky opens up. Pure, drinkable rain. Isn’t it nice when your protagonists’ main obstacle is overcome by chance? But don’t start whining about Deus ex machina, because you ain’t seen nothing yet.
Having refilled all their water bottles and other containers, the gang takes shelter in a nearby barn where a solitary zombie resides, with a cursory but bleak backstory, natch.
It’s speech time, girls and boys, so everybody gather ‘round while Uncle Rick shares some words of wisdom. Kids today have it so easy with their iPads and PlayStations lack of understanding that the world used to be anything other than what it is, Rick explains. Carl is one of the lucky ones because this is normal to him. To the rest of them, this isn’t life. They’re all dead until they find a new civilization where they can return to life.
Until then, “WE ARE THE WALKING DEAD,” he proclaims.
ZOMG, that’s the title!! So it means a lot to us, the viewers. To the other characters, eh. It’s about the 20th “we’ve got to soldier on” speech of the episode, and it comes at a moment when their most immediate concern—water—has just been magically solved for them. Who is this bleak pep talk for, and why? The only answer is the people watching on TV. No one on the show is inspired to do anything but go to sleep in the safety of the barn. So whoop-de-shit.
Daryl isn’t sleeping. Maggie wakes up and decides to talk to him for a bit. Turns out Daryl has fixed the music box. Aw, that’s nice. You know what isn’t nice? The eighteen million zombies shambling towards the barn. Daryl races for the door and barricades it with his body. Does he cry out for help? No, he does not. Maggie races over to help hold the door shut. Does she cry out for help? No, she does not. But one by one, people wake up anyway and silent go over to help hold the door shut.
What’s the endgame here? Do they hope the zombies will just get bored and go away at some point? Maybe they figure the zombies have to be at work in the morning and will eventually go home to bed to rest up for their big day tomorrow? Our heroes do nothing but hold the door shut until the whole scene just fades to black. Ah, The Sopranos solution.
It’s morning. Everyone’s asleep and alive. Maggie and Sasha are the first to wake and examine the aftermath of the zombie siege. Apparently a fucking tornado came through in the night and dispatched all the zombies without touching the barn. That’s not sarcasm or hyperbole; that’s actually what happened.
Once again, our heroes’ dire situation is resolved by providence if not outright divine intervention.
While Maggie and Sasha enjoy the sunrise, an attractive, clean, well dressed man approaches. The women grab their guns, but the man claims to be a friend. He introduces himself as Aaron, and he asks to speak with their leader, whom he believes is named Rick.
And if you only caught the last three minutes of the episode, you know pretty much everything you need to before next week.