When reviewing episode 8 of The Walking Dead, I talked about the behind the scenes changes to the show, and the critical reception it has received. Episode 9 is the first episode where I’ve really understood why critics have been negative towards it.
But before I get there, let’s talk about the positives. The first half of the episode is actually very good. It begins with Lori fighting off walkers after her accident, before returning to Rick, Glenn and Hershel at the (now bloody) bar in town. After killing Dave and Tony, the trio are ready to return to the farm when friends of the dead twosome suddenly appear on the scene, looking for them. When they try to enter the bar, Glenn shoves the door closed, which ultimately leads Rick to try and explain what happened to Dave and Tony, why it happened and how best to resolve it. And let’s just say that the new strangers don’t see things Rick’s way.
It’s a strong scene, as Rick, Glenn and Hershel try to survive this new threat, then the subsequent arrival of walkers, attracted by the gunfire. But while this is good Walking Dead, what comes in the second half of the episode is bad Walking Dead.
After realising that Lori has gone after Rick, Shane heads out to find her. He does so surprisingly quickly, but has to lie to her in order to get her to return to the farm. He tells her that Rick has already returned with Hershel, which literally is the only way he can stop her from trying to get into town to bring Rick home. But when they get to the farm and she realises she has been lied to, she turns on Shane. It’s something that just doesn’t work, as Shane WAS right to lie to Lori. There was no good reason for her to go after Rick, who hadn’t even been away that long when she made her choice.
The writers of the show seem determined to make Shane the bad guy, but in reality, he is always getting things done when he needs to. Yes, he did sacrifice Otis, but he came back with the equipment and medication needed to save Carl. Yes he did lead the slaughter of the walkers in the barn, but he eliminated a threat, and found Sophia at the same time (although slightly less alive than Carol had hoped). It’s difficult to side against Shane when he makes bold decisions that Rick can’t or won’t make, something which is shown again later in the episode when Rick does return to the farm.
Then there is Beth Greene, the seemingly catatonic girl upstairs at the farm. She seemed to appear from nowhere in the show, and to have her thrust into the episodes as an apparently important figure is an odd decision. There’s been no real explanation of who she actually is before this episode, but the viewer is supposed to be concerned about her. It feels like just another reason to keep the show on the farm, when it’s becoming increasingly clear that it’s time for everyone to move on. The pairing of Shane and Andrea suggests that it may be those two that do leave, with the others staying behind, but even then Shane is still drawn to Lori, believing that their relationship when they thought Rick was dead was more real than Lori wants to admit.
So The Walking Dead is a show in a state of flux. There needs to be changes, but the writers seem unwilling or unable to make them. But the ‘next time on’ preview at the end of the episode shows what might be those changes. We’ll have to wait and see, but if change doesn’t come soon, The Walking Dead may be in a bit of bother.