I harp on a lot... A LOT about world building. This right here is an, albeit imperfect, example of getting that done right. Where the characters don’t need to explain their motivations to you before they take an action; it’s already pretty fucking clear.
When you consider the shows and televisual storytelling of this gold-plated age of television, you can’t help but see all the flaws in those shows. Okay, the intelligent observer can’t help but see the flaws. You, after all, might be a moron. With the majority of the shows out there, things can change on a dime. The lover can become the villain, the villain can become your bestie, and the rules of the game can change completely... just ‘cause. It’s bad, it’s bushleague, and it treats the audience like morons. Again, you might like that sort of thing. Who am I to judge?
The Walking Dead has often been about minimalism when it come to dialogue. Sure, there’s exposition, but it’s something of a juxtaposition to the comic which is word-tastic; where everyone explains their feelings until the feeling cows come home. Because of this, the protagonists need to be express a hell of a lot in a short time. How do they do that? By inhabiting their histories. By being the character and not simply a caricature.
While there are many cases of this in this episode, let’s check in with Maggie who explains to Tara what Nicholas did to Glen and Noah. Maggie reminds Tara that she was on the other side of the fence during “the worst day of her life” and today she is one of the most important people in her life. “Things get better” she says. Someone dropping in to the show in S6 having not seen the Governor’s actions at the Prison wouldn’t know specifically what they are talking about, but they would feel the weight. For those who have been avid viewers, this rewards their patronage. They get to remember those scenes, those moments, and remember that the group has gone through a lot.
If I was to be a little negative about this, I would say that it tends to grant the writers the ability to excuse everything that happens which doesn’t result in the death of the perpetrator. Maggie was essentially defending the attempted murder of her husband (and possibly father of her child?).
But, this doesn’t just mean they are using history to tell current stories or to put things behind them. History is a significant aspect of the relationships and relationship woes we can expect to see during the next few episodes.
Stories about people work. Stories about caricatures don’t. Hollywood, please take note.
The only real low point in this episode for me was Jessie. While I really liked how they played the scene between her and Rick, it didn’t feel like it tracked with the rest of the episode or what had gone before. It’s a curious thing to say but while the scene itself was nice, the run up to it and the run out didn’t match with the rest of the episode.
All in all, a solid beginning to a well established show. One must wonder how an episode like this can be crafted so well, and yet they couldn’t summon up an iota of this quality for the spin-off.