Thoughtful & Abstract: The Walking Dead: ‘Start to Finish’

In which Kim and Shawn find themselves happy to be on a break.

Kim: Well, here we are. Half-way done with Season 6. Mid-season finale complete. Long break until mid-February. This is the time of year when I’m usually a little bit whiny, wishing there wasn’t so much time between shows. This is just the way it goes when you’re a fan of The Walking Dead.

This year, I’m grateful for a lot of things in my life, but nothing stands out quite as much as the strange feeling of gratitude I have that the first half of the season is over and that there are no episodes to watch until February. I’m grateful that I won’t have to sit every week and write that I’m disappointed in a show that used to grant me an escape every Sunday, and hours of discussion over the following days.

The mid-season finale started off far too artsy-fartsy for my taste. Creepy music, psycho Sam, the ants – (OMG, the ants are symbolic of the walkers flooding in [sigh]). There was appropriate tension and for the first few minutes after the Sam silliness, I sat with my hand over my mouth, waiting. Waiting for terror. Waiting for someone to get bit. Waiting for what I was sure would be a huge gut punch. The only gut punch I got was how the show just kind of trailed off and petered out. Ouch.

By the middle of the episode, I was readily discussing things with my son – we talked about other shows that were on this week, movies we’d like to see, what he’d like to do for his birthday; anything but the show. This, my friends, is telling because my number one rule for watching The Walking Dead is silence while it’s on, except for an appropriate gasp or an audible “oh shit”.

The entire episode, much like everything after the second episode of the season, fell completely flat and so far below expectations for me. So much of what we saw was 100% predictable. Even the Morgan/Carol/Dave Grohl Wolf business. If you didn’t see that coming, you haven’t been paying attention for 5 ½ seasons.

  • Everyone separated due to catastrophic event? Done already.
  • People covering themselves in walker guts to get through a crowd? Done already.
  • Captive guy that you can’t agree what to do with? Done already.
  • Glenn and Maggie separated by a sea of walkers? Done already.
  • Bitten person having a touching conversation with Michonne, then decides that the best answer is to shoot herself? Done already.
  • Even the prologue was done already. Rough-looking gang of dudes taking everything they see? Claimed! Come on, now.

The highlight of this particular episode? Eugene picked a lock. #TeamEugene for the win! I think this was the best thing that happened all evening. I’m certainly not in suspense for what might come in February, and that’s saying something.

The biggest question I had in the show: Glenn knew Maggie was pregnant? I was under the impression when she told Aaron about it that she was partially devastated, because she didn’t know if she’d get to tell Glenn the news. If she told him in a previous episode, then I obviously missed it, probably because the show didn’t hold my attention as it used to.

Looking back at the first half of the season, the one thing that has satisfied me was not on the show itself, but on The Talking Dead. The episode with Michael Rooker on it was the very best thing that went on since October, but it’s not enough to carry the show.

We do see a lot of shows running on empty as they slide into Season 6. I think that Kurt Sutter was a great example of knowing when to end something to go out on top. Sons of Anarchy was never meant to go more than six or seven seasons in order to tell the story he wanted to tell. I’m wondering if the folks at The Walking Dead will come to the same conclusions – that there are only so many things that can happen to keep a show interesting.

I can’t even come up with any thoughts or hopes for the future. If they wanted me to feel the way the characters probably do in this situation, they certainly achieved that goal. I’ll tune in for the second half of the season because I’m a faithful viewer. I’m just not sure how much longer I can hold on.

Shawn: A week has passed for me to think on that mid-season finale. There were computer issues that gave me a break from just having my initial reactions committed to this review. I’m not sure that even after seven days that my opinions have changed too much. My Sundays will be a little lighter on zombies for the next couple months but I’m not sure I don’t need a bit of a break. This is you and I taking “some time off” our relationship, Walking Dead.

1.) Do we have unrealistic expectations for “finales”? By dividing the series into two seasons for every season – is it realistic to expect that twice a year they are going to go balls-to-the-wall? I certainly came to this episode with pretty high expectations. We ended on Maggie seeing Glenn’s balloons and all hell breaking loose with the wall being broken through.

So what did I expect? An all-out zombie march through the town and the deaths of a few minor and maybe a major character. But it’s not that easy to kill off a few paid actors every eight episodes. I got one supporting-actor death that resembled many of the previous deaths (as you correctly pointed out). I didn’t even get any “oh shit – we’re completely surrounded by zombies – how will we ever survive?” moments. Even as they walked out at the end, I didn’t feel like there was about to be a yard full of zombie feast.

2.) Can we agree to pay a little more attention to the freaking baby please? We’re in a world with zombies and Wolves and Ron. Let’s do a little better job than handing the baby around like she’s a football. My expectation halfway through the episode was that they were going to all escape Alexandria and play the “‘but I thought you got Judith?’ – ‘No, I thought you had her'” game.

3.) Carl has zero social skills. We established this last episode. This time around I was convinced that he was going to get his eye shot out. “Hey, Ron, sorry my dad killed your dad – remember that happened a couple days ago? Well, your Dad was a jerk so I mean don’t feel bad about it or anything. Ok, bro? I’m glad we’re cool, right?” And the not telling on him so now we’re friends is the oldest cliche in the teenage TV show book. Sad to see that distraction.

4.) What if a major character died and we didn’t know about it? Are we 100% sure that Carol is alive? I mean, I don’t think she’s dead but we don’t know absolutely. That whole scene was predictable and wrong from the beginning. We knew that Dave Grohl Wolf was bad news and couldn’t be trusted. Then there was the Carol-and-Morgan fight because Carol had to kill Morgan so she could kill Dave Grohl so that no one had to die. I never felt that either Morgan or Carol would die at the hands of the other. Carol’s alive. I’m fairly certain. But what if they come back and start next season with her not waking up?

5.) The woman who carries the sword is mightier with her words. Michonne showed once again that she’s got the best combination of common sense and “let’s just shut up and cut off some heads.” Her talk with Deanna was a perfect tone. She doesn’t sugarcoat the truth but she was had the perfect bedside manner in offering Deanna her choices without it seeming cruel.

6.) The episode is called “Start to Finish” and yet it felt like the least-finished episode of the season. Sam calling for “Mom” as they walk through the zombie yard party. I just didn’t get the closure or the cliffhanger that I have come to expect. Is that my fault as a viewer or have the writers created that expectation? Either way, there wasn’t a “finish” much in the way that there wasn’t a true “start” to the season. Time was disjointed and hasn’t played out in any linear fashion. Characters escaped situations in ways that defied the logic that had been built to this point.

So I still love this show but it’s testing me to see how in love I am with it. We’ll take this break for a couple months. I might even see other shows over the holidays. Don’t sweat it. I’ll probably learn to appreciate you even more Walking Dead. I just hate that we are leaving on such uncertain terms.

– xoxo

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Shawn Bourdo

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