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Thursday, November 26, 2015

THE WALKING DEAD Messes "Up"

Article originally published as TV Review: 'The Walking Dead' - 'Heads Up' on Blogcritics.

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I was wrong.

I have to start my review of this week’s The Walking Dead episode “Heads Up” with that statement because of how vehemently and often I had asserted that Glenn (Steven Yeun) was dead. When last we’d seen the original cast member, he is lying on the ground, seemingly being ripped apart by a huge crowd of Walkers. I was sure he could not have made it out of the alley alive. “Heads Up” reveals that apparently he did.

Now, I’m torn as to how much to go into the way Glenn is brought back, because I run the risk of sounding like sour grapes. I do think, however, that the way The Walking Dead orchestrated his survival is as unrealistic as the show has ever been. Usually, it’s a series that stays as grounded as possible, despite the central, highly unrealistic conceit of a zombie apocalypse. But in this case, they break that trend and go into superhuman territory.

A popular theory floated on the internet and by friends of mine in the wake of his ‘demise’ is that Glenn is safe under Nicholas’ body and manages to crawl under a dumpster, waiting out the Walkers until they leave. I dismissed that scenario because there are a LOT of Walkers in the alley and there is no realistic way they would only tear at Nicholas. They would have ripped into Glenn as well, if not immediately, as soon as they’d eaten their way through Nicholas. Instead, the crowd isn’t so tight that Glenn can’t slip between their legs and under the dumpster, which makes no sense given what viewers previously witnessed. It also doesn’t make sense that within the very small space, in which Glenn is able to maneuver, Walkers don’t crawl under and get him. He can’t defend all sides at once, and there’s enough of them that he should not be able to fight them off, especially not for the day or two in which he’s hiding.

If The Walking Dead had presented a believable way for Glenn to make it out, I’d readily admit I’d been fooled by the shot of the pocket watch and the set up that left no doubt he should be dead. I’d heap admiration and respect towards The Powers That Be, happy to be proven wrong. That would have been brilliant writing. Instead, I feel a bit let down by the show itself. The series failed to meet the high expectations I’d formed based its past excellence. So I am absolutely wrong, not because I misread the situation as it unfolded on screen, but because I trusted writing that did not live up to that trust, which is kinda depressing.

To make matters worse, shortly after Glenn gets out from under the dumpster, he comes across the Walker body of one of the Alexandrian party. This guy hadn’t even attempted to hide when he was attacked (not that there was any way he could have). He is smashed against a fence where a bunch of Walkers were pressed against him. How is enough intact to be recognizable? This makes no sense for the world of The Walking Dead. He would have surely been devoured or at least completely unrecognizable!

Thankfully, the rest of “Heads Up” is up to the usual standards of the show. Rick (Andrew Lincoln) is starting to realize the Alexandrians are part of his family now, as some of his group, like Tara (Alanna Masterson), already accept. Carol (Melissa McBride) catches Morgan (Lennie James) hiding his prisoner, which is going to result in bad stuff. Morgan boosts the confidence of Dr. Cloyd (Merritt Wever) in a very sweet moment. Ron (Austin Abrams) is so plotting to make an ill-advised move against Rick and/or Carl (Chandler Riggs).

I think Michonne (Danai Gurira) realizes that Deanna (Tovah Feldshuh) doesn’t plan to live long, and I will be surprised if she makes it past next week’s installment. And the moment with Spencer (Austin Nichols) on the wire teases that some of the things in the comic book will probably repeat on screen next week, though likely with some twists. These are all really great scenes that further character development and set up what is sure to be an exciting finale. Almost enough to make me forget the missteps at the start of the hour, and enough to keep The Walking Dead in my “favorite TV show currently airing” slot.

Plus, we get a really sweet plot between Glenn and Enid (Katelyn Nacon), in which our miraculously resurrected hero convinces the girl to come home, saving another soul and reinforcing that the reprieve he has been given is probably temporary, as the moral center of the show never lives long. Glenn’s impending death will right the mistake made, though I still doubt that (SPOILER ALERT!) Glenn will meet his fate the same way he did in the comics, as perfectly moving and disturbing as that is.

The Walking Dead concludes the first half of its sixth season next Sunday at 9 p.m. on AMC.

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