After their fundamental falling-out (at the end of ‘Find Me’), Carol and Daryl seem to be heading in different directions. As they reach a fork in the road, that metaphorical split becomes literal as Carol heads back to camp and Daryl heads off in search of more supplies…
But each of them is going to face some very basic challenges on their very different days, overcoming the little and large things that life is about to throw at them…
There’s certainly nothing essentially ‘wrong’ with this episode of The Walking Dead – it’s a quirky, almost day-in-the-life entry, following – separately – Carol and Daryl as they take divergent paths in the woods (in the wake of their time together a couple of weeks ago in Find Me).
But it’s also accurate to say there’s also nothing very remarkable either and, as we get close to the end of this extended run, that feels like a missed opportunity. That would be okay if this was a singular entry, a nice, quieter change-of-pace, place-holding ‘one-off’, but given that Daryl/Carol are arguably one of the dynamic duos of the series when handled right, it makes it a little disappointing that they’ve been given TWO of the six ‘bonus’ episodes and neither has proved to be anything other than passable. It might be that the show-runners are biding their time in the run-up to the proposed spin-off that should come at the tail-end of next year, but either the installments should have found another angle to explore that generated relevant interest or the time should have been taken to give at least one of the bonus-entries to someone else entirely.
It would be wrong to say that Carol’s ‘half’ is (unusually) played more for laughs, but it’s certainly played more as the lighter side of her growing manic anxieties. Melissa McBride is more than capable of delivering sardonic zingers when the script provides them, but here it’s less subtle – more pratfalls and eye-rolls. The scene where’s she’s chasing the rat around the kitchen is both hilarious and frustrating, which – to be fair – it’s meant to be. As she’s slashing at the dry-wall it’s one part The Shining and one part Ratatouille. It has touches of seriousness, with Carol obviously wrestling with her place within the survivors, thinking about how past failures have cost others and finding even the most mundane aspects of her life unusually challenging (never has preparing a soup being more fraught with frustrations) but it all feels like it could be done in half the time, or even a montage, to make the same point.
Reedus plays to predictable strengths, with Daryl out in the wilds, still scavenging for supplies. His obstacles include a mini-horde of zombies and exploring a dangerous car-wreck, but nothing we haven’t really seen before. Again, the oddly-timed announcement of the Daryl/Carol spin-off means that a huge degree of tension has been removed and it’s as if these bonus-episodes have given up on even the pretense of any real danger for them. As an examination of a strained friendship it’s fine, if there was some thawing of that strained friendship that would be something,,, but by episode’s end, the pre-determined distance remains and the status is still quo, however cordial they’re being about it. It’s nicely rendered but with a lack of consequence and its’ hard to evaluate an intermission.
It’s always good to visit with Jerry (Cooper Andrews), the only other ‘regular’ and the gentle giant who has a habit of cheering up his fellow survivors and audiences (it will truly be a dark day if or when the show ever decides to kill him off). He only has a couple of scenes here but he manages to offer his usual sage advice to Carol which probably does more to settle her mood than any upturned stew or demolished wall. Now, an episode about Jerry…there would be the hook, the road less travelled and would make all the difference!
Next week’s ‘Here’s Negan‘ – with its seminal flashbacks and revelations about ‘Lucille‘ – promises to end things with a bang. But this week’s, while fine as an interlude, really wasn’t much more than a meander on a road well travelled…