Cruz: David, you and I strongly disagree about just how deplorable #Glenngate is, but we at least align on this point. Not only has the show failed to develop any new interesting characters, but it’s also started making me apathetic about characters I used to be invested in (Deanna, Jesse, Daryl, Sasha). Maybe this is because everyone’s split up, and the only way—short of little action bursts or bottle episodes—the show drives character development is through those agonizing one-on-ones. This episode, we had Spencer and Deanna. Deanna and Rick. Rick and Jessie. Jessie and her son, who’s apparently too scared to walk a few steps downstairs for a plate of cookies. Carl and Ron. Ron and Rick. Tara and Denise. Aaron and Maggie were maybe the least boring of the week’s pairings, if only because of the cool sewer zombies.
The show has thrown these kinds of dull, catch-our-breath episodes at viewers with such regularity that I question whether The Walking Dead is wasting the potential of its premise. This is the zombie apocalypse. It’s almost unthinkable how much original, daring storytelling the show could do with that. Instead the series defaults again and again to padding its arcs with “what is the meaning of life”-type questions. Those inquiries might be deep at first or second or even third glance, but when every conversation is about “you do what you gotta do to survive” and “yes we can rebuild and still keep our humanity,” it’s boring. Imagine if every other episode of Breaking Bad involved Walt waxing morose about morality or the corrupting effects of ambition, with Jesse or Skyler. Instead, that show wove its emotional and philosophical bits into the broader narrative; it didn’t pretend those elements could make for good storytelling on their own, because they can’t.
And then imagine how amazing The Walking Dead could be if it seriously pursued a storyline about finding a cure, or if the gang ventured back into the city, or if any rebuilding attempt lasted longer than a season and a half—and then addressed these existential questions as it went along. (I don’t watch Fear the Walking Dead like you do, David, but it seems like that show is doing something fresh and inventive along these lines.) The Walking Dead is such a ratings monster; at this point, the show writers can probably do whatever they want, so I’d love to see more experimentation on their part. Anything to avoid another episode like “Now.”
Right after I finished the episode, I thought about how angry a lot of fans were going to be, first because almost nothing happened, and second because Glenn’s fate is still unknown. I was skeptical of your claim before, David, that the show would hold off on revealing an answer until the midseason finale (it’s preposterous on so many levels), but at this point, I’ll admit that I wouldn’t be surprised. A total lack of urgency permeated “Now,” even with thousands of zombies at the gate, even with half of Rick’s crew missing. Denise thumbed through War and Peace before having a medical epiphany (she realized after several hours that the proper way to treat an infected wound is to drain the pus). Rick and Jessie shared a tender kiss. Denise and Tara shared a tender kiss. Carl pushed Ron, who fell and was seized by such malaise that he just kept lying there on the grass. That’s kind of how I felt.