by Thom Yee
Party’s over, everyone. We now return to your regularly scheduled The Walking Dead.
I don’t think anybody could reasonably expect the type of pacing we’ve seen since the beginning of this season to continue indefinitely, and it was more than reasonable to expect a breather episode sometime around now, but all of the forward momentum we’d gained from the first three episodes of season six really just ground to a full-stop hault in “Now”, and it’s that comparative storytelling inertia that made it hard to care or latch on to any of the stories being told this week.
“Now” dealt with everything and everyone else, particularly the remaining residents of Alexandria like… uh… that woman at the pantry… who, uh… has glasses… and that guy… with those things he does…. Basically everyone who’s gotten short shrift over the last few episodes gets major screen time to the point that the absence of key major characters was almost conspicuous. Where’s Carol? And Morgan? And Michonne? And Eugene? And Gabriel? Well, I guess nobody minds not seeing Gabriel, really almost at all so far this season. What a thankless role Seth Gilliam has.
The most important story of this episode deals with Maggie’s reaction to the news that we don’t know what happened with Glenn, a situation that mirrors the way most of us viewers are feeling as we grow increasingly uncomfortable with the ambiguity of Glenn’s situation and desperately hope the writers can stick the landing on his eventual death/unlikely escape/zombification. Maggie attempts to mount a personal rescue mission along with Aaron, whose choice to help Maggie further reinforce why he remains one of my favourite characters in the show. Of course the duo’s plans to travel through a previously unknown sewer passage are foiled because that was obviously a dumb idea in the first place (Dark, dangerous sewers? Count me in!), but along the way we learn the highly eventful news that Maggie’s pregnant, news that… I don’t really care. I can appreciate the potential ramifications of her pregnancy, but right now it feels like a desperate attempt for attention and something for Maggie to do more than it feels like a significant storytelling wrinkle.
On the other side of Alexandria, Deanna’s slowly going mad because her eldest son and husband have been killed and her remaining son is a bit of a d*ck. What starts out as Spencer’s chance to shine quickly turns into a de-evolution of the character as his inspiring plea to the town’s people to not give in to their baser instincts and maintain the civility of Alexandria turns out to be nothing more than a distraction allowing him to take more food when nobody’s looking. It’s a shameful turn for the character, especially because you know that he knows better, and it’s indicative of the type of downer that almost everybody in Alexandria has turned out to be when confronted with the reality of this world. It’s also not surprising since, as opposed to his now-dead brother who was cocky and got himself killed, Spencer’s always struck me as more of a creeper who’s core sleaziness may allow him to survive for longer than he should. I have to give the writers credit for one scene in which he vocally blames his mother Deanna for sheltering and coddling the residents of Alexandria, keeping them from the survival instincts they needed to gain, because when you think about it that’s one of the classic arguments children make against their parents when they realize they’re not ready to face the real world. There’s a truth to that scene that’s more elegant than the show is usually able to deliver.
That truth is probably the greatest strength of this episode as little if anything of what we see in “Now” rings false. Deanna’s eventual desire to live and continue Alexandria, Jessie’s resolve to face this new danger with courage, her son Ron’s hard-to-read reaction to what’s going on and other son Sam’s scaredy-cat routine (which is fine [though laughable]; he’s probably playing, like, a 10-year-old), Betsy’s suicide when her husband is confirmed dead (and didn’t get to give her that note because Michonne). Even that faint vibe in the air between faux-doctor Denise and Tara came to fruition in “Now”, and it felt right given what’s been going on. The worst kind of drama isn’t melodrama, but false drama, and I could at least believe the reactions of the various townspeople in this episode even if I’m also growing increasingly impatient with their cowardice and sad-sack, woe-is-me, everyone-is-dying-from-zombies-and-I-don’t-know-how-to-hande-it attitudes. Get over it!
If anything, though, an episode like “Now” really makes me question the placement of an episode like last week’s Morgan-centric “Here’s Not Here”. That episode was also a strong break from the action-packed, frenetic pacing of the first three episodes of season six, and immediately following it up with an even bigger break of an episode, one that, outside of a brief, dialogue-less appearance, is entirely Morgan-free seems questionable at best.
What I appreciated most about the first three episodes of season six was that they seemed to represent a departure on the part of the creators away from prioritizing overarching, seasonal story arcs and towards simply writing the fast, dangerous, action-packed show that all of us wanted to see. “Now” may be a necessary episode in re-establishing the reality of The Walking Dead, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.
But at least Rick got some.
The Walking Dead — “Now” final score
Items of Note
- Rick got a lot of cardio today. He pretty much ran the whole way back to Alexandria.
- Sewage walkers! I wonder how they died.
- Yeah, Ron’s gonna try to stab (or shoot) Rick (or Carl) in the back.
- Hands up, who remembered Tara’s a lesbian?
- Speaking of (even if it’s a little un-PC to group people together based on sexuality), we haven’t seen Aaron’s boyfriend in a while. I can’t even remember what he looks like.
- Oh sure, now Spencer’s just a little boy stealing crackers, but someday he’ll be a grown man stealing stadiums and… and quarries.
- Please god, keep Spencer away from Rosita.