More than any other show over the years, we’ve given The Walking Dead the benefit of the doubt.
For all the uneventful episodes, long stretches of bland conversation, moderately constructed characters suddenly having importance inexplicably thrust upon them, and identikit zombie sound effects (don’t know why it’s taken this long to realise that this annoys us), there has always been the guarantee of payoff.
More than that, there was always the promise of some standout moment from the comic getting realised on the small screen. Whether it was the big entrances of the Governor and Negan, familiar landmarks from the panels, or other iconic moments, there has always been something to look forward to.
Now we’ve seen Negan pummel Abraham and Glenn’s faces into mush, what else is there, really? They will fight back, and there will be blood: more characters will die (let’s be honest: Sonequa Martin-Greene’s Sasha will likely be one of them, off to the stars on the Starship Discovery), and then it will go on and on.
In the meantime, we have filler episodes like ‘Say Yes’, which single-handedly displays some of the show’s worst excesses: one group of characters (in this instance Rick and Michonne) head out scavenging and nearly getting themselves killed (punctuated here by a substantial amount of shagging), while others (Rosita, Tara and Gabriel) sit around brooding and making stupid decisions.
Either way, it’s a rollercoaster of emotion: one minute they’re laughing, one minute they’re crying, and the next they’re distraught, thanks to one of the show’s most feeble attempts at misdirection yet, in which Michonne nearly gives up on life after falsely thinking that Rick has been gobbled up by walkers (turns out it was actually a terrible CGI deer that got ate).
Maybe the story has advanced slightly by the episode’s end – the gang have guns, and Rosita and Sasha are intent on self-destructing – but the means it took to get there just don’t feel organic. We haven’t spent enough time with Rosita to really comprehend her desire to avenge a man whose final interaction with her involved belittlement, not with Sasha to really appreciate that she would be a loss.
Then you have Rick and Michonne growing closer – not a bad thing, but it’s done by emphasising how much the two would be impacted by them losing each other. Maybe the scene would have had more impact if there was a genuine prospect of either of the two actually getting killed off, but as it is they’re arguably the two safest cast members. It’s a well-written scene – too bad it was used with the wrong participants.
Maybe next week will be when the action stars proper, but we feel like we know the script by now. And we’re not sure that we like it.