Now, to end on a final note of frustration. I know I wasn’t alone last year in thinking the show bungled Glenn’s almost-death. I respect the creative license of the writers to play with expectations and narrative linearity and all that. Even if that choice was a big risk that didn’t 100 percent pay off, you’d think The Walking Dead would know better than to tease the deaths of other characters in cheap ways. But nah. In “East” alone, the fates of Carol and Daryl were both dangled over a fire, but to no real payoff in terms of story or suspense. The show, I think, knows better than to actually kill a major character off-screen. And if someone like Daryl or Carol is going to actually die, it will milk the hell out of it.
So, yeah, it looks like Daryl got shot at the end, but he’s most likely not dead (who knows though, maybe he didn’t even get shot). The gun going off and the blood splattering on the screen was nothing more than a dumb trick. I think my disillusionment at this point with any efforts to toy with the audience’s emotions has been amplified by the Glenn fiasco. With the show’s current track record of feigning death, why be moved by anything less than a brutal, onscreen end (that can’t be explained away by tricky camera angles)? As someone who has shed a lot of tears for characters this show has killed over the years, I resent the The Walking Dead’s growing comfort with this kind of cynical manipulation. (That said, I really am worried about Maggie’s possible miscarriage. If that’s a fake-out too, I might have to set everything on fire.)
Am I being too harsh, David? What did you think about this whole mess—and the other B-plots? I feel like there’s more to unpack here, but mostly I’m excited for this season to be over, and for Negan to get here and shake things up.
David Sims: You are not being too harsh, Lenika. This was a befuddling episode, both in story and execution. Much like last week, there was a dreamy, impressionistic tone, from that opening in medias res that focused on a static shot of blood dripping from a stake as Carol executed her attackers on the road. It reminded me of some of TV’s best, most unheralded shows, like the Southern Gothic drama Rectify—but there, the dreamlike tone is part of a whole, whereas with The Walking Dead, it’s being deployed to mask odd story decisions and a general lack of forward narrative momentum.
Why did Carol leave? Last week’s episode was supposed to give us that grounding, as she recovers from the horrible events at Negan’s base and decides she can’t live the domestic life anymore. It didn’t make much sense last week, and this week just underlined how baffling her decision was, to pack a bag and drive into the wilderness alone. Days ago, she waged violent war against the Saviors, a society that supposedly governs several settlements in the area. Why on earth would you pick this moment to strike out alone, in a car no less?