Monday, 11 February 2013
Review : The Walking Dead - Season 3 Episode 9 - The Suicide King
It's been a long bleak winter, man...I'm amazed we survived it.
Watching the mid-season finale was a double-edged sword for all of us, wasn't it? Sure it was every bit as awesome as we hoped it would be, and it left us hanging on the wire in a most merciless manner, but damn...Soon as the episode ended, (well, perhaps a few hours later), and the heart started pumping at a rate less concurrent to fatality, we all felt the inevitable post high come-down, and what a fall it was.
As good old 'Ned Stark of Westeros' would say....'Brace yourself....winter is coming'
As Christmas and its merry corporate sponsors circled the waggon's to relieve us of our hard earned cash, buying bullshit we couldn't afford for our kids who didn't deserve it...we waited...
As relatives long lost (usually for good reason), arose from the murk of the past to drink all our most expensive booze and eat all our overcooked and undervalued food...we waited...
As Nicky Minaj's unfathomable fame continued on its gruesome ascent, unabated...we waited.
And then came the real kicker, as the stupefying news reached the net that show-runner, Glen Mazzara, (the man who dragged our favourite series up by the scruff of its neck, slapped it about, and made it the vicious, unrelenting beast it was always meant to be), was to be replaced in Season 4, and AMC shattered much of the goodwill and yes, positive feedback, garnered by a man who truly cared about his work and the show he was running. Still, beaten and bloodied...we waited....
Yet, as good old 'Kyle Scott of The Horror Hotel' would say, 'Calm yourselves....the spring is coming'
Finally, and after so much heartache, alcohol poisoning and drug-addiction, there is light at the end of the tunnel. The universe has decided to throw us a frickin' bone, and make Sundays a day to rejoice in the glory of all that is good once more...THE WALKING DEAD IS BACK!
Yep, put down your suicide kit and throw away the dirty needles...you won;t be needing them anymore. The stellar Season 3 of the most visceral, unnerving and downright brilliant horror series of all time is once again with us. And I think I speak for all of us when I say, its been far, far too long.
Welcome back, old friend, welcome back....
SPOILERS AHEAD - IF YOU HAVEN'T WATCHED YET, GET THE HELL OUT OF HERE!
Or should I say, 'friends', because that's what picking back up with 'The Suicide King' feels like...a long overdue reunion, albeit one seeped in misery and violence. We've all grown to love these characters, and under Mazzara's tutelage, there's not one member of Rik's group who's expendable. The loss is felt every time we see one go, and its to Mazzara's credit that his merciless pursuit of the perfect TV thriller has suffered so many casualties. No one is safe.
Episode 9 kicks off in whats now the shows default setting...'hit the fucking ground running'. Its an action-packed, heart in the mouth scene that picks up right where the mid-season finale left us so tortuously hanging...Daryl and Merle are about to square off....
The scene is indicative of what this season has stood for...razor sharp writing and action that serves to deepen the characters, and enrich the story being told.
When last we saw The Governor, he had just suffered through perhaps the most shockingly brutal brawl in terrestrial history, with the equally vicious yet far less insane, (I think), Michonne. He lost an eye in that battle, but he lost a whole lot more besides. With the 'second' death of his beloved daughter, the ever-loosening grasp he had on any sort of empathy or humanity has been brutally and tragically shorn away, and as we watch his gleeful emergence through the smoke during this episodes opening battle, it's immediately clear that the toll this new world has demanded is finally, fully being paid. He was never a beacon of sanity, but now, he's crossed even more lines. It seems like his desire to control his people and his environment is being replaced rapidly with a hatred for them; one that's long since been buried under a potent concoction of self-delusion and a fathers desperate love. With his eye now gone and the famous patch surely on the way, The Governors emotional descent is beginning to be matched by his physicality. The scars are on the surface now, for all to see, both literally and metaphorically, and it looks like we'll be seeing just how deep they run very soon.
Even more disturbing is Rik's parallel journey into madness. I've often stated that the two characters mirror each other almost perfectly, with the only real differences, being that Rik's great losses came later than Phillips, and that his morality is more deeply engrained. Though now the rot is now fully setting in, the lines are becoming even more blurred between these men. There are some scenes late in this episode that really hit home just how far Rik's mental health has deteriorated. The final moments are, in a show that's no stranger to heartbreak and misery, among its most painful and affecting so far. As we watch Rik completely lose his grasp on reality in front of his full group, including his son, the shows sense of tragedy reaches perhaps a new plateau. His breakdown is all the more excruciating as its brought on by a recurrence of the situation that led to his wife's death. He's had no time to grieve or to find balance, and the losses just keep coming. And now, with the imminent approach of The Governor and his cult, it's not looking like he'll be getting any R&R anytime soon.
More tears are shed this week as Daryl faces an impossible situation, and makes the choice to leave the group rather than leave his older brother behind. Its a frustrating choice, but its the only one a man like Daryl could make. The effect it has on Rik is very telling too, as it's clear he's come to truly rely on the man as a friend and as his strongest ally. It'll be very interesting to see where this story arc goes. Our characters are dropping like flies, either to death, despair or madness. Hell, even the normally collected and docile Glen seems to be reaching his limit with the madness this rotting world has brought in its wake. These people are the walking dead, indeed.
In fact, its the women who are holding things together with the most success at this point. Be it Andrea's reconciling of a damaged and traumatised Woodbury, or Carol's painful yet philosophical approach to Daryl's departure, or even Suzie's nurturing of Rik's new born daughter...the female of the species seem to be coping with the horrors that surround them with wits, intellect and no shortage of understanding of whats important in the dying world. Its a subtle but much welcome change from the women of Season 2, and again, credit goes to Mazzara and the writers for giving the girls some real substance and merit in this tale. (Tyrells wife, though I haven't caught her name yet, seems like another capable, strong and grounded women that will only further elevate the show).
The goodies don't end there, though. If you thought that insanity, power struggles, heartbreak and sorrow weren't enough, we now have yet more dilemma's to deal with...
A third group of survivors, introduced in Ep.8 but now taking centre stage as vital and important players in our bleak tale. Their leader, Tyrell, is an instantly likable and identifiable character, as is his wife. They're moral code is yet to be broken down. Even when faced with an opportunity to improve their less-than-promising situation by use of force, they elect to fore-go this potentially life-saving choice...they choose to trust to human decency.
Sadly, its an choice that doesn't pay off, as Rik's capacity for trust in his species has all but died. And that's where this fantastic episode leaves us hanging. Rik's losing his groups faith, he's publicly shown the true extent of the damage the new world has wrought on his mind and soul, and he's cast good people out into the cold, dead night.
As an opener, you couldn't ask for more. THE WALKING DEAD continues its astonishing ascent to legendary greatness, and we still have seven episodes left. Sadly, as you sit in front of the box with your heart racing and your emotions roiling, you can't help but worry for the shows future. I'm sure things will work out fine, but it stings to think that the fella who handed all the naysayers their asses with this stellar season, will not be returning for Season 4. For these remaining episodes, though, THE WALKING DEAD is in the safest hands possible. The same can't be said for it's gallery of wonderful, tragic characters, but we wouldn't have it any other way. Mazzara and this show were made for each other.
No score needed, as usual... you all know it gets the highest rating.