Episode 3 - Four Walls and a Roof
28 October 2014
Synopsis: Bob reveals his bite to the horror of the Termites. They return him to the church and Rick prepares an attack. Gareth has anticipated this and enters the church. However Rick's group quickly return and smash their heads in. Bob is lain to rest as the group splits up. Maggie, Glenn and Tara agreed to go to Washington if Abraham would remain at the church. Darryl then appears out of the bushes but we don't see who he is with.
The Good: The pace of the plotting remains impressive. That's not always a positive thing but the benefit is that we avoid some of the television cliches associated with delaying obvious plot threads. So we don't have to wait long to learn that Bob was indeed bitten. And far sooner than expected Rick delivers brutal justice on the Termites as the church floor is trule desecrated.
The Bad: That pace can rob us of time to become emotionally invested in a story though. Sadly that happened here throughout the episode.
I can't think of many shows who have introduced a major villain in a season finale, shown his backstory in the following season premiere and then killed him off in his third episode. And yet that's what happened to Gareth. There was no emotional satisfaction in seeing him get dispatched because I'd only just begun to get used to him. The dynamics of him outsmarting Rick only for Rick to double back to the church was too cute for its own good. When I saw the Termites enter the church I began to fear for Carl and the others but it wasn't real emotion, I could just see the danger. The scenario just hadn't been constructed well enough for me to really believe that something terrible was about to happen. The longer Gareth gabbed on at the closed doors the more time he gave for Rick to come rushing back.
But it's not just the villains who are missing characterisation. Although we did spend a good episode with Bob last season the show still hasn't cracked how to make everyone more than two dimensional. I would say Rick, Carl, Michonne and Carol have graduated to that level but everyone else remains 2D. So although I like Larry Gilliard Jr I have no particular reason to mourn Bob's passing. Or to feel sympathy for Sasha beyond a very basic level. I still admire Scott Gimple for ploughing on with serious storylines even with characters who lack definition because that is better than treating them like T-Dogg. But ultimately he will be judged on whether he can make us care about them and Bob failed that test.
It has to be pointed out that Gabriel enters the show and Bob dies. I don't think it's deliberate but the replacement of one black man with another is a pattern which the show needs to break.
The Unknown: In the grander scheme of things though Bob's death may not be a bad thing. Characters need to die to maintain the sense that this world is deadly (the only time I became genuinely tense was when Bob died and Sasha remained by his side). Not every character can die in a dramatic or emotional way either so this could be looked back upon as a break from more abrupt trauma.
The break up of the group and Darryl's return seems to confirm the Gimple formula. Or perhaps that should be the AMC budget formula. Presumably next week is all Beth and maybe we'd even get another episode after that with Darryl rescuing her. Then we will be on the road with Abraham's crew and then back to Rick and the core crew for a bit. Then down the road another emotional reunion. It is easier and cheaper to write for a small number of characters and so this could turn into the show's new norm. On the downside it could start to feel formulaic and cheap. On the upside it could lead to more Lost-like focus on individual characters, giving them the opportunity to develop.
Best Moment: Rick's "we didn't want to waste the bullets" moment was nice. It wasn't as satisfying as it could have been had the Termites been given more buildup. Or indeed if we didn't know that Rick always wanted to wipe them out. However what followed was the one moment in the episode which felt like it was moving our characters forward. Rick, Abraham and Sasha brutally beat their enemies to death while Gabriel, Glenn and Maggie look on in varying degrees of horror. I liked the variation in their responses. Glenn looked pretty saddened by what his life has come to and yet Maggie's "four walls and a roof" comment suggests that although some in the group aren't capable yet of dishing it out they are becoming accustomed to living in this world.
Conclusion: This was not organic enough to make for good television but the overall direction remains positive.
Add your comments on this episode below. They may be included in the weekly podcasts.