Season 3 – Episode 9: ‘The Suicide King.’
It’s been over two years, but The Walking Dead Friday is finally upon us once again. We have much to discuss.
You know, some of my favorite episodes of Lost were the ones that took place before a major climax or plot reveal. The ‘housekeeping episodes,’ as I call them; the scripts that function more in a utility manner than anything, quickly shuffling and moving characters into their correct positions for an exciting (and no doubt violent) showdown somewhere down the road. What you’re left with is a decent (but not great) episode that did its job to create tension and anticipation for the future, but didn’t really introduce new facts or resolve anything.
(Let’s be honest. Atlanta was like this before the apocalypse.)
I like housekeeping episodes. Partly because I literally enjoy housekeeping, but also because I enjoy a show that understands the delicate dance of dishing out equal amounts of information, plot movement and soul-crushing conflict. For the first half of Season 2, The Walking Dead understood this delicate dance about as well as a double amputee. Then, they magically got their swagger back, remaining nearly perfect for the next 15 episodes. At this point, I think that Season 3 of The Walking Dead ranks among the very best dramas on television, having reached the distinct honor of ‘Appointment Television’ in the Zeinert household.
(The Governor, having recently lost all depth perception, successfully shoots out eight windows and a cow before finally hitting his target.)
The act of watching a television show has, in the 21st Century, become ripe with options: We can stream shows off of the internet, we can have our DVR copy them for later, or we can just watch entire seasons on DVD. However, ‘Appointment Television’ is that one show (or shows) that must be watched the night (and usually the moment) they are first broadcast. It’s the show where you invite your friends over (the ones that don’t have cable), make snacks and hypothesize during the commercials (ONLY during the commercials, Ben). In an era where you can essentially watch whatever you want whenever you want, Appointment Television is a rarity reserved for the most treasured of shows, and for me, The Walking Dead was conceived for precisely this method of consumption.
So with that being said, let’s make fun of it. For the first time in over two years, here comes The Thick And Meaty!
The action begins in Woodbury, where the Dixon Boys (a future WWE Tag Team if I’ve ever seen one) have been ordered to fight to the death. Now, I assume this is something Merle and Daryl have had to do at least a few other times in their lives in order to escape a sticky situation, so they pretty much take it in stride, hatching out an escape plan while pretending to fight quasi-restrained walkers (again, the WWE would love these guys).
I, on the other hand, would refuse to punch a zombie in the face under any circumstances. What if you knick a tooth? Even if you knick a living human being’s tooth you risk deadly infection. Too filthy; no way.
(You know, that Merle’s a real troll. In fact…hey…wait a minute…)
(I KNEW it!)
Rick and Maggie save the day, however, by firing shots into the crowd, creating enough of a fracas that they can escape. The Governor seems pleased with the sudden influx of anarchy, because as we’ll soon see, he sort of sucks at being a leader (but is awesome at shooting people in the facehole).
Them Dixon Boys (patent pending) meet up with Rick, Maggie, Glenn and Michonne back at the car, which immediately causes the crew to go apeshit at Merle’s presence. After all, this was the guy that nearly beat Glenn to death and nearly murdered Michonne. However, he shows up with buffalo chicken dip, so he’s accepted back into the group with minimal fanfare.
(So Beth, how old are you? 15? 30?)
Actually, Rick hastily throws him out and Daryl tags along with his big brother. I assume we’re going to see them soon in some sort of Dukes Of Hazzard-esque spinoff.
“Just the Dixon boys,
Never meanin’ no harm,
Daryl’s missing Carol, keeps a crossbow for their peril,
Merle is missin’ an arm.”
Meanwhile at the prison, Tyreese and company are explaining their story to Carl and Hershel about how they came to be in the area. Later on, Allen (one of Tyreese’s crew) hatches a plan to overpower Carol and Carl in order to take their weapons, but Tyreese and his sister (Sasha) refuse to cooperate, and for good reason. At this point, referring to Carl as a ‘kid’ is like referring to Theodore Roosevelt as a ‘man.’ There are levels to these sorts of things. Dude killed his mother, for Christ’s sake. If Allen wants to keep this loser talk up, he’s as good as dead, along with any other non-black member of Tyreese’s group.
(Rick is an amazing protector, but his kung fu is terrible.)
Back at the car, Glenn bitches at Rick for bungling the Woodbury raid. Rick is showing some signs of PTSD, and Maggie attempts to diffuse the situation before Rick decides to scoop out Glenn’s brain and devour the tender goop within. Remember, kids: Real-Life PTSD is not funny in the least, but Zombie Apocalypse PTSD is acceptable of satire. Now, let’s continue.
At Woodbury, the unrest is massive as the Governor has gone Howard Hughes in his apartment, leaving folks agitated and ready to leave. However, all the bellyaching attracts walkers, a few of which find their way inside and attack a couple of residents on the street. OH GOD, NOT EISENBERG! He was the very lifeblood of this community!
The Governor then makes a five-second appearance by showing up to euthanize Eisenberg (SERIOUSLY, WHY GOD?), then calmly walks away without saying a word to the crowd. He either has a stew going, or he’s got some shirts to iron or something. Point is, the dude’s got a lot on his mind. He eyeball fell out; cut him some slack.
(This is what happens in Madison if you say you’re not into Roller Derby.)
Andrea asks the Governor to calm the townsfolk, but he essentially says “The money’s on the dresser,” and tells her to pound sand. He also takes a hard, “No more barbecues and picnics” stance, which I’m sure will come back to haunt him come reelection time. Milton speaks first to the crowd, reporting the facts before Andrea spouts some inspirational nonsense about brotherhood and unity. I guess that Andrea has made so many horrible decisions since entering Woodbury (and since the Governor’s been entering her), that I guess she was due for at least one speech about compassion and perseverance. Good on her.
At the prison, Rick holds Judith, who spittles and bawls in his presence. I had assumed he was used to this behavior, having been married to Lori for so long, but to no avail. He sets the baby down, wandering into the middle of the prison and slowly beginning to trip balls.
(“If we don’t live together, we’re going to die alone. Come on, didn’t any of you losers watch Lost?”)
The rest of the group start to discuss if Tyreese and his group should stay, with Rick finally going out to talk to them. Rick seems to be in a panicky position of getting rid of those who pose the most threat to him, while at the same time ostracizing those who would be the most useful to him when the shit hit the fan. He’s slipping as a leader, and the rest of the group is starting to notice it more so than ever. Rick says that Tyreese and company should go, starts to hallucinate that his wife is back from the dead, and justifiably freaks right the hell out.
I don’t blame him. Some nights I wake up in the middle of the night, sweaty and screaming. Then I remember that Lori Grimes is still dead, and I’m able to dream peacefully once again.
Smash Cut, episode over.
(Say what you want about the Governor, but he did decriminalize marijuana.)
Okay, so it didn’t necessarily set the word on fire, but like I said, I think it was a decent housekeeping episode for the inevitable Woodbury showdown set to take place within the next seven episodes.
This one’s for the old school CDP fans: Let’s Break It Down!
1. The first thing I want to talk about is the jaw-dropping ratings juggernaut this show has become, not just as a Nielsen statistics nerd (which I am), but to attempt to put The Walking Dead’s numbers into perspective (which is nearly impossible to do, because they’re nuts).
Simply put, The Walking Dead is the most-watched show in the history of Cable Television. In a world where it’s all but assumed you will lose half of your audience transitioning from Episode 1 to 2, The Walking Dead premiered with a rating of 5.35 million viewers (a big number in its own right) on October 31, 2010, only to have that number balloon to 12.3 million for Sunday’s mid-season premiere in February of 2013. A number like 12.3 million is not only a rating that a weekly cable television show is never supposed to see (typically high-rated cable shows pull around a 4 or 5), but a number that made it the most popular show in ALL of television for the week, cable OR broadcast.
(Suddenly and without warning, two zombies appear right behind Andrea.)
Think about that. Not The Big Bang Theory. Not Two-And-A-Half Men. Not NCIS. The Walking Dead. This is not supposed to be happening. These are Gretzky numbers; a statistical anomaly that absolutely nobody saw coming, including AMC (their six-episode Season 1 order was proof of their hesitancy). When you watch The Walking Dead, you are actively participating in television history. How cool is that?
(I know the USPS has fallen on hard times, but shipping live infants?)
One final point to put this into perspective. The final season of Lost was watched by an average of five million viewers a week. The final season of Lost! A massive show, on free television, backed by all the money and pop culture hype we could possibly throw at it. Not even the resolution of perhaps the greatest drama of the last 20 years could pull half the numbers our little zombie show is drawing. And on AMC, mind you. A network that no less than five years ago played black-and-white films around the clock, and had no original programming to speak of.
It’s goddamn nanners, and I don’t care what you say in the contrary.
(“Do you remember how old Beth is? 15? 30? They got a pool going out there.”)
2. Despite being the sort of throwaway show you only watch live (or not at all), you should really check out Sunday’s episode of Talking Dead, if only to see the depth and research Steven Yeun puts into Glenn’s character. If you think it’s all mindless fun, dirt-baths and Maggie-kissing (which it usually is), there’s actually a surprising amount of work Yeun put into his current, post-Woodbury mindset, work that’s difficult to appreciate until you truly notice it.
Also, Kevin Smith was on, and he was pretty funny.
(I’ve seen some depressing Christmas photos in my day, but man…)
3. One of the funnier Easter Eggs of this week’s episode happened early on, during Rick’s argument with Daryl and/or pleading Daryl not to leave. A few walkers were seen nearly hundreds of yards away in the background, slowly getting closer each time the scene cut back to their frame. It’s little touches like this that make hardcore fans love the series, and it also reminds us that Rick and company have survived in this for so long that a Walker in the distance barely registers as a threat anymore. The Missus LOL’d.
(Laurie returns from the grave just to tell Rick she’s still having sex with Shane in Hell.)
4. This exchange between Tyreese and Axel:
“I must be the first brother to break into prison.“
“Then I must be the first white boy to not want to break out.”
…Is the single worst piece of dialogue to ever air on The Walking Dead, a show not exactly known for it’s Shakespearean prose to begin with, mind you. One of things that always embarrasses me about the comic (which I think is great, however) is that Robert Kirkman isn’t all that great with dialogue. And while the above exchange could have been moderately acceptable within the panels of a comic, it was downright cringeworthy when experienced in living color. Not in a racial way, mind you. Just in a stupid way.
(“I should buy a boat.”)
5. One last thing in regards to the ratings. Talking Dead, AMC’s version of a postgame show, retained 4.1 million viewers immediately following the premiere airing of ‘The Suicide King.’ 4.1 million people (the Zeinert household included) stuck around to watch Chris Hardwick go over shit we just saw. It’s a dynasty, this thing. They can lose half of their audience and still be the most popular show on cable television.
I’m going to reiterate this every week until your mind is sufficiently blown out your ass.
Well, The Walking Dead Friday has come to an end, and so has the work week, so sound off in the comments section, enjoy your weekend and let me be the last one to wish you a very happy Valentine’s Day.
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