Review: 'The Walking Dead' - 'Home': Follow the leader
A review of tonight's "The Walking Dead" coming up just as soon as you give me a specific answer to a specific question...
Glen Mazzara has said in the past that he looked to "Lost" for inspiration in running "The Walking Dead," and that's especially clear in an episode like "Home," which focuses so much on one of the favorite "Lost" subjects of all: who's the leader, and should they continue to have that job?
So in Woodbury, the Governor tells Andrea that the town might be better off with her running things until he's over the recent attack. And at the prison, Glen struggles to lead an undermanned group while Rick is going walkabout in the tall grass, chasing after Lori's ghost.
But the whole thing feels half-hearted. The Governor isn't genuinely offering Andrea the job; he's just trying to distract her while he's off mounting an attack on Rick's group.
And the prison scenes never really take the idea of Glen running things seriously; it's taken as a given that he's not really up for the job and will likely screw things up before Rick gets his head on straight again. Where "Lost" liked to shake up its leadership structure every dozen episodes or so and see how the group functioned with with Locke or Sawyer or Sayid running things instead of Jack, "The Walking Dead" operates from the default that Rick is and always should be the one everyone else takes their cues from. And, certainly, he has a good track record, especially with the way they cleared out and claimed the prison. But other than Andrew Lincoln having top billing, there's nothing magical about Rick. He's a good man with good tactical ideas, but he has flaws, including this current need to chase after what he can even admit are grief-induced hallucinations. I think it would be interesting to get a stretch of episodes where Glen really was in charge — or Carol (who's much more up to the job than we would have imagined even last season) or Maggie or Daryl — because Rick's either crazy or simply convinced he needs to abdicate the Ricktatorship.
Instead, we just get another episode filled with people talking around in circles (interrupted briefly by the Dixon brothers on the bridge) leading up to the big action sequence at the end, about which I'm of two minds. On the one hand, the idea of having a van filled with walkers crash through the outer gates is a clever one, and much of the action was well-choreographed, as has been a "Walking Dead" specialty. On the other, not all the action was set up properly (it wasn't clear for a while that it was one of the Governor's men up in a guard tower, in part because it wasn't clear how he might have gotten up there), and the plan ultimately seemed half-baked. If the Governor really wanted to take the prison, he'd have brought more manpower and more guns, ammo and vehicles and try to overwhelm Rick's fortified group with sheer numbers. Instead, it came across like he just wanted to harass the prison group and then leave, having lost the element of surprise (and that particular gimmick) for whenever he tries the real attack. If the idea was that he didn't expect Rick (and then Daryl and Merle) to be on the outside of the fence, that didn't come across, because those three ultimately didn't do enough.
Mainly, this was another piece-mover episode — literally, in how it arranges to have Rick, Merle and Daryl on the wrong side of the fence (and with Rick out of ammo) while the prison is as full of walkers as it's been since the season premiere. I'm hoping things pick up soon, because this is two episodes like that in a row after a long break.
Some other thoughts:
* An excellent scene between Glen and Maggie in her cell, where she calls him out for the way he's been distant to her ever since he assumed she was raped.
* I was glad, at least, that Daryl didn't really require that much time being back in Merle's company to realize where he belonged. Also, Merle's revelation that they were planning to rob the group at the quarry makes their presence in such a motley collection of people make much more sense in hindsight.
* RIP, Axel. I should have seen that one coming once he started opening up to Carol about his past, but I naively thought that the show was trying to beef up a character who hadn't had a lot of screentime but might be around a while. (At a minimum, he seemed to be stepping up as a Daryl surrogate for Carol, which would lead to tension when the real version came back.) Instead, it's like when T-Dog said more than two sentences in that episode where he wound up as walker food. If Martinez ever gets a monologue, expect him to catch a bullet within 10 minutes.
* I had been under the impression last week that when Hershel told Tyreese and his group to leave in the middle of Rick's breakdown, he just meant that they should leave the room. Nope. They left the prison altogether, which I confirmed with AMC. I don't expect we've seen the last of that bunch, but that could have been conveyed better, especially since the lack of manpower is such a major topic of this episode.
Once again, let me remind you again of this blog's No Spoiler rule and how it applies to this show, as I've had to delete a bunch of comments the last few weeks that violated it. Basic things to remember before commenting:
1. No talking about the previews for the next episode.
2. No talking about anything else you know about upcoming episodes from other sources — and, yes, that includes anything Mazzara and Kirkman have said in interviews.
3. No talking about anything that's happened in the comic that hasn't happened in the TV show yet. (Or anything that's been revealed, like character backstory and motivation.) As with "Game of Thrones," the goal is to treat "The Walking Dead" TV show as exactly that, and not as an excuse for endless comparisons with the comics. If you want to talk about the comics, feel free to start up a discussion thread on our message boards.
With that in mind, what did everybody else think?
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at email@example.com