Chaos can be at once beautiful and completely destructive. Chaos captured on film (when done well) is equal parts confusion and intrigue. The mid-season finale of season 4 of The Walking Dead was all of the above, while still eliciting a tinge of the infuriating frustration that it had previously achieved in past seasons.
I’m sure it’s been typed before (maybe by me? Last week?), but this show is at its worst when it gets bogged down in heavy handed dialogue while hitting repetitive plot points over the head with a sledgehammer into infinity. Is it not then at its best when it shortens and simplifies the speechiness and instead lets both the length and the content of the sermons be dictated by action, tension, and suspense?
One way to project utter chaos onto the small screen is to throw so much action, tension, and suspense into one 42 minute stretch that it’s damn near impossible to follow everything that happened. Yeah, I retained the big shit just fine. Mexican standoff with a tank? Got it. Governor killed? Twice? Got it. (For the record, stabbed through the heart, then shot through the head. We’re led to believe. Never showed a body, zombies didn’t devour, so anything’s still in play with the Governor if AMC gets ratings desperate around S6E16.) Prison is completely trashed, turns out Lizzie is a cold-blooded killer after all (and may also be a rat-obsessed serial killer), and Herschel lost his head. Finally, all of the prison dwellers have been scattered to the four winds, with little to no evidence of a fall back plan.
But the real chaotic beauty to this episode is that so much shit happened in so little time that I don’t really know who lived or died, and I have no idea who is grouped with whom going forward. Yes, Governor and Herschel are dead. But is the Governor’s woman Lily? Are the semi-butch lesbians still with us? I think it’s reasonable to assume that at least Lily and Lily’s sister’s girlfriend didn’t make it, and at least the latter took a Lizzie bullet to the forehead. I know that Maggie and Glen are separated, but I have no idea who else is on the bus, if Bob Stuckey’s through and through bullet wound killed him, or if Baby Judith got consumed just like her mommy did. Without watching the ep again, I’ll still have no idea. But I’m not doing it, because watching all of those half-stories unfold over the next 2-3 episodes should make for fantastic TV.
Two major nits to pick. First, if there was going to be a major battle at the prison between Rick’s people and Governor’s, why not do it at the end of last season? Yes, so far the 4th season has been pretty far above average thus far, but inserting a prison battle at this point smacks of “oh shit we fucked up and the fans are pissed, let’s do something about it” syndrome. Anyone binge watching this show is going to get through season 3, and then immediately WTF after they watch S4E8. The show has also been notorious for milking characters and set pieces for every drop of ratings gold. I don’t have a major complaint that they did it with the prison. But they also did it with the farm, so its worrisome that the next time, the results won’t be this fulfilling.
Secondly, the season has been a bit predictable. While the individual episodes have displayed the above chaos, from episode to episode, it’s been pretty damn easy to figure out what comes next. People get sick. People find cure. Governor appears. Governor takes over. Governor attacks. Also, I love the potential of the Lizzie serial killer storyline, but I did predict it about a month ago, and it seems to be playing out exactly as I suspected. If they do it, great, but a few unexpected twists thrown in would be appreciated. How about Tyrese suspects, then kills Lizzie in a fit of rage? Or Daryl kills Lizzie because she was the cause of Carol’s exile? Or one of the kids sees Lizzie being not so tough, and so he/she offs her? But now I’ve predicted all of that shit too, so I just need to stop.
Briefly, I think my favorite scene of the ep was the dormant zombie crawling out from under the mud bank and biting the Governor’s adopted daughter, especially coming right after we were lulled to sleep by the zombie trying to cross the river and getting caught in the current and swept away. It was classic horror movie suspense, and was just a little campy. I loved it.
All in all, an exciting and dramatic conclusion to a thus far entertaining season. Five things I look forward to the most in February:
- Serial killer Lizzie resolution/Tyrese explodes/Carol returns.
- Scattered groups trying to reunite
- Increased zombie threat due to the lack of prison fencing protection
- New locales to be explored, hopefully eventually branching out from rural Georgia (we’re still there in the comic after 112ish issues)
- There’s going to be a grand cliffhanger, and this season I have absolutely no idea what it is