At least it’s trying to add a bit of drama – it should be doing this anyway, in fairness – but there’s no disguising it: the longer he’s absent, the more it becomes apparent that Jeffrey Dean Morgan is one of the few things that makes The Walking Dead still worth watching.
Say what you want about the character, but he is a genuine powder keg. When he’s on screen, things could go any way. Hell, he’s not even in this episode, and we’ve spent the first two paragraphs of this review talking about him.
Maybe we’re trying not to think about the confusing decisions made regarding the episode’s structure. Instead of checking back in right away with the garbage-dwelling group that Rick encounters, our first encounter is at the Kingdom, where Richard does his best to provoke a scrap with the Saviours.
In fairness, the David Morrissey lookalike is fast becoming one of our favourite characters. There’s clearly a lot about his past that has been left unsaid at this point, the disclosure of which would go some way towards explaining why he’s so willing to kill Carol in order to kick-start a war. Good thing Daryl’s here to put him in his place.
Meanwhile, Ezekiel simmers away, clearly conflicted but unwilling to actually do anything to assist the situation. We can see his point, but come on, he has a tiger. They wouldn’t have included a tiger if he wasn’t going to chow down on someone at some point, right?
And then suddenly we’re back with Rick and the citizens of Scrapheap Challenge, who promptly go full Thunderdome by lobbing the Sheriff into a pit with a spike-covered walker that strongly resembles something out of Half-Life. Long story short, Rick survives, and his new friends agree to help him.
The trouble is, this was never in any doubt. They were never not going to take his side, so instead the drama comes from other factors: Ezekiel’s indecisiveness, Rosita’s willingness to self-destruct, and Richard’s aim to do the opposite. The seeds are being sown for something interesting, but that doesn’t aid the entertainment factor in the present day.
And funnily enough, the best scene comes at the end via the reuniting of Daryl and Carol. When pushed, The Walking Dead can do emotion, and it can do low-key, as it proves here. These used to be the kind of scenes that it did all the time, but somewhere along the line stopped. Hopefully moments as tender as Daryl tickling Shiva will become commonplace once again.
In the meantime, The Walking Dead continues to be frighteningly inconsistent. Business as usual then.