I’m tempted to change the headline to “Worst Episode Ever” but I already feel too much like Comic Book Guy in these grumble threads.

Actual e-mail sent to me by a friend last night:

At this point Kirkman and Company have to be f***ing with us, right? They know ppl think the show is too slow, but they also know we won’t stop watching. “So eff you here is an hour of Norman Reedus and what’s her name doing nothing. You will watch this and be thankful.”

Right. If you made it this far, past the snoozer of season two and Rick mumbling endlessly about Stuff and Things, you’re in for good. That was the true terror of last night’s episode — not the zombies but the realization that they could spend the rest of the season showing Daryl and Beth holding fart contests and you’d still be there on Sunday nights, dutifully waiting for the payoff you keep telling yourself is coming. There’s no way out, just more mindless consumption. We have met the zombies and they are us.

Here’s what’s happening. The writers got loads of good buzz (even from me) last fall for the Governor storyline. Instead of hopping every three minutes from one member of the core group to another, they zeroed in on one guy with an interesting backstory and gave him some interesting new (emphasis on new) characters to play off. It worked — so well that they’ve decided to repeat the formula by zeroing in on … the same old stiffs from the core group we’ve been watching for three years. Evidently this weekly slow bleed will not end until every major character or pair of major characters has had an hour to him- or herself. Judging from the sneak preview last night, next week is Maggie’s turn. After that, who knows? Tyrese? The little girls? Zombie Andrea?

All of this is being done in the name of character development so let me repeat the question I asked last week: Which characters do you feel have “developed”? Maybe Carl’s, a little, but that’s more a function of age than hidden depth. A teenaged character necessarily develops as he assumes adult tasks. What about the rest? What important fact did you learn about them that you didn’t know before? Daryl had a brutal childhood; Beth was more sheltered. You knew that already, even if you didn’t “know” it. You knew that Michonne was badly emotionally scarred. You knew that Glenn is devoted to Maggie. Character development typically involves surprises; the character reveals a side of him- or herself that you didn’t suspect was there. Which member of the core group (except Carol, whose own development happened earlier in the season) has done anything lately to surprise you?

The only bit that interested me in last night’s show was the evidence of murder in the country club. There are three types of characters in most zombie dramas: The scrappy, well-meaning survivors, the warlords, and of course the zombies. The “Rich Bitch” sign hung on one of the dead women in the club suggested a fourth kind, which surely would exist but which you don’t often see in these things — namely, opportunists. Someone or some group apparently decided to use the zombie apocalypse to take revenge on the local millionaires, not for any strategic reason but simply to indulge their id against a disfavored group at a moment when they knew they wouldn’t be punished for it. A better show would have explored that, but instead we got Beth sobbing over a peach schnapps. Oh well. See you next week!