The latest Walking Dead pares its cast down to the bare essentials and forefronts head stabbings and conversations about feelings. The men go out to hunt and gather and the women remain behind, sniping over who’s skipped laundry duty. It’s hard to tell if the writers are making a clever point about gender roles in extreme crisis, or they just start writing scenes for women with “INTERIOR: KITCHEN”.
In plot #1, Shane and Rick go to deliver one of last week’s antagonists to somewhere zombie-adjacent they can dump him. Shane, in his usual mode of rational, utilitarian cockbag, realises that if they’re going to kill him, they may as well just kill him. Rick disagrees, and voilà, conflict. With this starting point, they step up to the fermenting troubles between them, so let’s talk about those.
Shane’s point is that he’s willing to do anything, from killing to lots of killing, to protect Lori, Carl and Tedious Pregnancy Plot. Rick’s point is exactly the same, except appended with “and they’re my family, you psychopath”. I can see both sides of this, I don’t think Rick would actually have killed Otis in the moment to potentially save Carl in the future, but it’s also debatable as to whether that was even necessary.
While watching, I thought it would have been a bold move to leave Shane on the bus, but it was more true to character for Rick to come back for him. It would have been a bit pointless to kill Shane and replace him with basically himself. Good character work, well done. Also they were attacked by zombies, who follow blood like sharks now apparently, and the kid whose leg was impaled and shredded last week has forgotten that happened.
In plot #2, the ladies are back on the farm. I’ll admit I was glib above about the laundry argument (not that it didn’t happen), because Lori and Andrea also had a discussion on whether suicide is an acceptable choice in the world they’re in. Beth is awake again I guess, and since she’s a half-character nobody cares about, there’s the genuine chance she might go through with a suicide. But because she’s a half-character nobody cares about, nobody will care if she does.
In a similar way to how I can understand both sides of the Rick/Shane argument, I find myself disagreeing with both sides of the Lori/Andrea one. Lori’s opinion is that everything is fine, all the normal rules of society apply so we should try keep everyone alive. Andrea believes that anyone who feels suicidal should just have a go, who are we to judge? She gets left alone with Beth and basically advises her to commit suicide until she decides she doesn’t like it any more. Happily for her family, she decides this before dying.
I wanted to be on board with the domestic half of this week’s story, but every time it cut back to the farm I just deflated. There were no stakes, and, as far as I remember, nobody got stabbed in the head. On the up side, no sign of Carol, and instead of having T-Dog present with nothing to do or say, they’ve just removed him entirely. Conversely, nothing from Glenn or Daryl. But I think this show is going to do its best work with a tighter focus on particular characters, and this was a step in the right direction.