"Walking Dead" grumble thread: Whatever

Just to finish off last week’s analogy, the kick is up and it’s … no good. What a bummer to end the best first half since season one with such a wheezing fart of a finale.

I thought it would be dynamite after the opening scene. Rick Grimes running down a cop with his car was the most un-Grimes-like thing ever to happen on this show. It shocked me more than him taking a machete to Gareth’s head did a few weeks ago. Rick can be ruthless but his ruthlessness usually has something elemental behind it — revenge in Gareth’s case or basic self-preservation in others, like the time he shot those two guys he met in a deserted town during a raid before they could shoot him. Gunning the engine and crippling that cop was the most casually brutal thing he’s done, I think, as if shooting the guy was too much trouble so he might as well just break his back instead. Shane would have done that too — although Shane also would have left the cop to be eaten by zombies instead of putting him out of his misery like Rick did. That’s what’s left of the sheriff in him.

All downhill from there, though. The irony of this season is that the show’s fan base, me included, celebrated when Rick and the gang liquidated the Teminus cannibals after just a few episodes. In years past, the show would stretch a confrontation with a rival group for an entire half-season or longer, which meant plenty of dreary, talky “filler” episodes on the way to the inevitable blockbuster shootout at the prison or Woodbury or wherever. This year they broke with that formula — the cannibals came and went and then we were onto the Grady hospital crew. It was a leaner, meaner show. More action! More villains! Less chatty nonsense to pad out hours as the writers groped towards the (mid-)season finale! But here’s the problem: The whole hospital storyline was boring, far more so than the Terminus arc. It had its moments, like when that doctor quietly poisoned a colleague to protect his own indispensability, but the dynamics of what was supposed to make it compelling were already familiar to all “TWD” fans. Dawn was just a hybrid of Rick and Shane — she’d reached Shane levels of ruthlessness in eliminating people who caused her problems but she justified it to herself with the same impulse towards keeping order in a world gone mad that’s forever nagging Rick. There’s nothing novel about that and there’s nothing interesting about Dawn beyond it. She was a warlord who justified her brutality as necessary to restore civilization. She’s just a variation on the Governor, really.

There’s nothing interesting about Beth either and there never has been. The audience’s small emotional investment in her was purely a product of familiarity. If the writers wanted to send a series regular to his/her death at Grady and have it pack a wallop, they should have made it Glenn or Carol. They’re more developed characters and their relationships with the others are more important to how the group (and the show) functions. In fact, Carol’s stint at Grady is emblematic of the last few episodes: Once she got wheeled in as a patient, I thought for sure she’d end up teaming up with Beth to fight their way out past the cops. As it is, all she did was lie in bed inert until the prisoner swap. Way to waste your most interesting character, guys.

But hey: The show’s ratings are only getting more extravagant, to the point where it beat a solid Sunday night NFL match-up between the Broncos and Chiefs yesterday. One mid-season finale clunker won’t slow the Grimes express. On the contrary, soon it’ll get a new dose from buzz from the introduction of its first gay character — and no, it’s not Daryl. Will Rick finally mellow when he ends up “prison married” to a man? Stay tuned!